Biplanes and Grass Roots – 5 minutes with Jake Humphrey

Published 7th July 2012 - Written by Grant Ruetemann

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On Thursday morning, with our very own Benson Jammichello looking on, The Three Musketeers – the BBC’s Jake Humphrey, Eddie Jordan and David Coulthard – arrived into Silverstone in spectacular style, atop the wing of a biplane.

After making their entrance on a three-man bicycle last year, Jake was speaking to Badger about how they wanted to continue the BBC tradition of making an “extra special” entrance to the British GP.

“Myself, David and Eddie will be wing walking above Silverstone,” Humphrey proudly announced on Wednesday.  Although he admitted that “we aren’t quite sure how we’ve convinced Eddie Jordan to strap himself on to the wing of a biplane that dates from about the 1950s and fly above Silverstone.”


Ever the jovial interviewee, it isn’t difficult to comprehend how Humphrey has inspired his BBC team to partake in features that have moved F1 coverage to another level since 2009.   It is this incredibly high standard, which has led the vast majority of fans to angle some pointed criticism at Sky.

Asked if he does any post-race assessment of Sky’s offering, Humphrey said he always goes home and watches the coverage his rivals produce.  He is also far from critical with his remarks.

“There’s no point sitting here and saying Sky are doing a rubbish job; Sky are doing a really good job.”

“We moved the bar on… we worked out new ways of doing things.  They clearly looked at what we do and thought ‘let’s replicate some of things that the BBC do’ “.

Repeating a phrase previously published on his Twitter feed, Humphrey made the point that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” and, therefore, that he hasn’t got a problem with what Sky have been doing.

Mind you, this really puts his ‘Sky are doing a really good job’ into context.  Not that thoughts of his opposition will be in his mind as he stares down on the campsites of Silverstone from that biplane.

“The camp sites around Silverstone are the most vibrant of any I have ever seen… which is why we often go and film in them. Eddie wets himself when he sees a Jordan flag,” he chuckles.  We couldn’t agree more (with the passion of British people for camping, that is).

To explain the enthusiasm and knowledge of the British fan, and Humphrey himself for that matter, it’s important to acknowledge the extent of grassroots motor sport in this country.

Like myself, he grew up in Norfolk and spent many a weekend attending one of its various Motorsport venues – Snetterton, Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn to mention but a few.  These types of venues are the backbone of our enthusiasm for the pinnacle of motor racing.  Snetterton was the first place I drove a car. at 7 years old around the in-field; the only place I have ever seen a Mini and Morris Minor crash on the last corner of the last lap; the first (and, until now, only) place I met Jody Scheckter.

Thanks to the circuit’s open-pits policy, not only did I meet my heroes – my Dad claimed to have met Ayrton Senna when he was racing Martin Brundle in Formula Ford – but I could see the mechanics working on the cars, smell the motor oil and feel the tension in the paddock.  It was an inspiration, the reason why I saved up for the latest Scalextric set or a 10-lap run around the local kart track.

Jake Humphrey has similarly fond memories.  His Uncle Mike was a super-stock racer, and he fondly remembers weekends at the Yarmouth Stadium and Norfolk Arena (King’s Lynn) – as they are now known.  At 7 and 8 years old, he remarks, he “saw no difference between my Uncle Mike driving super stocks, and Aryton Senna.”

These multi-purpose venues – used for speedway, super stocks and ‘banger’ racing – and Snetterton, a converted airfield (like Silverstone), are our heritage.  They are the reason why the ‘garagistas’ – Enzo Ferrari’s name for the like’s of Lotus – came to dominate Formula 1; they are the reason why the majority of Formula 1 cars continue to be engineered, designed and built in Britain.

It is all the above – “proper grassroots motorsport” as Jake calls it – that makes the British GP so special.

In an era of globalisation, F1’s economic future has been safeguarded by Bernie’s shrewd expansion into emerging markets.  However, it is crucial to remember how these venues underpin F1’s heritage, fire our enthusiasm for the sport and inspire the next generation of engineers.  It makes our camp sites the most vibrant celebration of F1 in the world.

Plus, who’d ever want Eddie Jordan to stop wetting himself?

The British GP is live and uninterrupted on the BBC this weekend.  Full coverage details are as follows:

Saturday, 7 July

Practice 3: 0955 – 1105, BBC Red Button/online

Qualifying: 1210-1430, BBC Two/BBC HD/online/BBC Radio 5 live (from 13:00)

Sunday, 8 July

Build-up: 1205-1255, BBC One/BBC One HD/online

Race live: 1255-1530, BBC Two/BBC HD/online/BBC Radio 5 live (from 13:00)

Forum: 1530-1630 BBC Red Button (except on freeview)/online

Highlights: 1900-2000, BBC Three/BBC HD/online