Racing Around The World: Venray 2013 World Cup Road Trip

A unique view of the 2013 Venray F1 World Cup, from BriSCA F1 megafan Rhosanna Jenkins

Three years ago, when my dad first asked me whether I was interested in going to Venray for the World Cup, I really didn’t know what to say. I’d always hated the idea of camping and I don’t like going somewhere without knowing a little of the language. Despite these concerns, something inside me still wanted to go. So, I threw my caution flag to the wind and got my first experience of Holland.

This year, just as we had for the previous two years, we decided to go to Venray with KK Minibuses. Based near Milton Keynes, KK Minibuses is the only company who run an annual trip to the World Cup in Venray. The staff are really friendly and even fellow racing fans, so you may have seen them around the tracks.

There are many benefits of going to Venray as part of a coach trip. Not only do you get the opportunity to meet other fans, but you even encounter drivers (and former drivers). So, if you are looking for insider information or tips on how to start your racing career, this could be perfect for you. It can also be a lot less hassle than driving yourself; you don’t have to remember to drive on the other side of the road or make sure you have the appropriate number of fluorescent jackets and breathalysers for each European country.

After arriving at the KK Minibuses HQ, we were able to get refreshments and socialize before beginning the long journey to Venray. There was a mix of Venray trip veterans and those making the journey for the first time. We got the chance to learn new names or catch up with friends before setting off. We headed south to Dover, where we managed to get straight on the ferry to Calais, spotting other BriSCA fans as we went. After the ferry, we settled down to dream about the weekend ahead.

Welcome_to_Venray_Raceway

Over the years, many short oval racetracks have come and gone, but none have fought so hard just to exist as Venray has done. The old Venray circuit, which was located across the road from the current track, lay within the ‘Ecological Network’, a group of environmentally-important areas. Eventually, due to pressure from local residents and political groups, the old track was abandoned.

Instead of giving up, the owner applied for permission to build a new circuit. This opened on Easter Monday 2009, but the opposition soon reappeared. Until this year, there has always been some uncertainty around whether the World Cup weekend would actually go ahead as planned. Now, the future of this premier tarmac track is more secure. 2013 also marked the 35th year of the partnership between BriSCA and the Mainland racing association. The numbers of British drivers taking part in the World Cup weekend has grown rapidly in recent years and, if this pattern continues, there will be very few top names not making the trip in 2014.

We arrived at Raceway Venray around 6:00, Saturday morning. The gates to the camping field didn’t open until 8:00 so we had a chance to catch up on some sleep. Though, by 7:50 we had all bought our tickets (which come in the form of wristbands, à la Incarace). The field was already crammed, with many fans arriving the previous day. We managed to find a space large enough and began unpacking the buses.

Once Camp KK had been set up, it was time to explore. The first thing that hits you about the raceway is its size in comparison to BriSCA tracks. The stock car circuit is surrounded by a larger, half mile banked track used by the Late Model V8s and Benelux Racing League cars, giving Venray the feel of an American NASCAR track.

There is one undercover grandstand on the home straight, which provided much needed relief from the 100ºF+ temperatures of the 2012 World Cup weekend. You can buy a wristband that allows you access to the grandstand for the whole weekend. In addition to this, there are two other (free) grandstands. The larger of the two is located on the back straight and the other overlooks Turns 1 and 2. All provide brilliant views of the on-track action.

As well as the grandstands, there is an air-conditioned bar selling beer, coffee and T-shirts contained within the main stand leading to a large open-air patio area where seats and tables are hotly sought after. Raceway Venray even caters for the youngest generation of stock car fans. As well as a clown and bouncy castle, budding drivers even get the chance to take to the track in their own, special ‘Ukke Pukke’ race.

Young drivers show their skill in the Ukke Pukke race

Young drivers show their skill in the Ukke Pukke race

Another thing that hits you about Venray is the organization – invariably the cars for the next race are ready and waiting before the event on track has even got underway and with no pit gates to open and close delays are kept to a minimum. This year was the first that the Saturday night racing was held under lights which gave it a whole new dimension, although some extra track illumination would have been appreciated by drivers and fans alike.

The Saturday night racing finished around 10pm and then it was back to Camp KK for a barbecue (included in the price of the KK Minibuses trip) and drinks – and a chance to discuss the evening’s racing and speculate on potential World Cup winners.

Before retiring to the tents, we went for a walk around the pits. Even two hours after the last race, they were a hive of activity. Team Hendriks provided heavy metal music to accompany the familiar sound of angle grinders and welders – those not working on cars were chatting, eating, drinking and generally chilling out.

Sunday dawned damp and after a BBQ breakfast (again included in the price) it was time to break camp and get track-side before all the seats had gone. Thankfully the rain stopped before racing began and the sun came out, giving the Gold Cup drivers a dry track to race on. Records will show that Tom Harris retained his Gold Cup title but the driver of the weekend in many people’s eyes was the irrepressible Rob Speak, finishing the Sunday meeting final in a cloud of tyre smoke with a 360º full power spin on his way to seventh place to add to his three heat wins and third place in the Gold Cup.

The 2013 World Cup grid

The 2013 World Cup grid

Even after a weekend with very little sleep, everyone was still in high spirits on the way home, and with the journey back starting in daylight, a chance to see parts of Holland, and Belgium we perhaps hadn’t seen on the way out. Even ferry ports have a certain mystique to the unseasoned traveller, although I’m still not sure how much I ‘respect’ Mick Sworder’s (#150) ‘notorious’ music choices in the ferry bar. Still, his ‘escape route’ demonstration with Jim Bamford was noteworthy, if maybe not appreciated by non-stock car folk.

Overall, the weekend was, as always, amazing and the best bit is that going to Venray does not have to be expensive. This year, I paid £85 for the coach trip, €35 for the weekend ticket, €8 for camping and around €10 on food and drink. Although the drinks at the track are fairly expensive, you can take as much as you can carry in with you without having to sneak it past raceway officials. The language barrier is not a problem, with most Dutch fans speaking English a lot better than we speak Dutch!

Whether you want to support your favourite driver, to check out the Dutch competition before September’s World Final or even just fancy a weekend’s holiday in the (usually) bright sunshine, Raceway Venray will not disappoint. So, whatever your reason, why not head to next year’s World Cup and support this racetrack that has fought so hard just to exist.

The "KK Minibuses" 2013 Venray World Cup Tour

The “KK Minibuses” 2013 Venray World Cup Tour

Words & Pictures: Rhosanna Jenkins

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