Autosport International this weekend was made all the more enjoyable when I managed to grab ‘Codders’ in between his interviews with Sam Brabham and Susie Wolff on the F1 Racing stage. Here’s what we chatted about.
Charlie Eustice: Great to speak to you Stuart – how popular has the F1 Racing Grid been this year?
Stuart Codling: Saturday and Sunday tend to be our peak times; the trade people on Thursday and Friday tend to be a little bit too cool for school, you know sort of like “Been there done that, seen it all before darling, I’m going to go any buy myself a suspension upright” so they don’t tend to tarry as much.
Saturday and Sunday are the days when you get people who maybe aren’t able to go to a Grand Prix this year, and even if they are, the ticket prices – which are high – aren’t enough to get you this close to a car. For some people this is the only opportunity to see an actual Formula 1 car. They may not all be the very latest, but they are an F1 car in some description.
CE: Of course, and as you mentioned about people getting to see cars up close, we’ve got the amazing display from Williams here this year. Do you feel that in any way steals the focus from the F1 Grid this year?
SC: For me, the weirdest thing about the display is seeing their motorhome up indoors, because they’ve never done it away from a race. And there’s the idea that if you go and see it now and stand inside it, you’re actually indoors, indoors!
I have absolutely no problem with their display being here as well as ours; they’ve very generously given us Valtteri’s 2014 car for the display here, and I don’t think they have a single showcar left at Grove right now back in the factory!
CE: Yes, they’ve got eight over on the display, it’s quite the car park.
SC: Exactly, it’s absolutely fantastic stuff, with cars from the seventies, eighties, nineties and more recently as well. There aren’t any from years they might want to forget…
CE: Yes, nothing from your ’06-’07 era
SC: Yes, let’s not talk about that, put a discreet veil over those ones.
CE: Sorry, Williams… So anyway, you’ve just been up on the stage with Sam Brabham – one of the many Brabhams at ASI this weekend
SC: It’s so hard to keep track of them, it really is. I had to do a quick search to remind myself which one of the Brabhams is his dad, because Gary, David and Geoff have all got their own kids now. It’s very easy to get mixed up with who belongs to who!
CE: Haha, even though the team is gone, it really is quite a lasting dynasty in terms of the spread of the family tree, all somehow still involved in motorsport.
SC: Indeed, and his mum is Lisa Thackwell, Mike Thackwell’s brother, who was in F1 in the eighties. Max Verstappen, eat your heart out!
CE: Yeah, that’s only two generations! Who else is up on the stage with you today then?
SC: Far more people that planned when I woke up this morning! I thought we were having four today, but my colleagues have grabbed a lot more now. We’ve got a veritable gallimaufry from Damon Hill, Allan McNish, Sam Brabham… after you I’ve got Susie Wolff, Perry McCarthy….
CE: Oh cool, the original Stig!
SC: Yes, and I’ll be milking him for his time at-
SC & CE Simultaneously: Andrea Moda!
SC: That team, I think basically struggled to run one car, so to actually try and run two was a bit more than they had the means to fund. It’ll be fun speaking to him about that. We’re hoping to have Johnnie Herbert up there as well if he can squeeze in an appearance for us, Pat Symonds who is out technical correspondent.
CE: So it’s a real star-studded affair here.
SC: Absolutely, and it’s great that we’ve got tech people as well as drivers. The thing with Pat [Symonds] is, he’s got such a big brain, that when you listen to him speak it’s only then it becomes clear how little we as fans and scriveners actually know about the sport. He really does have this in-depth knowledge.
The only difficulty is making all that digestible. I don’t know about you, but when people explain the tyre rules to me, I see their mouths move, but that’s it.
CE: You’re right; it can be hard to translate, so I think that’s where people like Craig Scarborough and Matt Somerfield come in handy, they’re good at breaking it down from the experts and the fans.
SC: Not the type of ‘breaking it down’ that Lewis Hamilton is used to, though.
*Stuart becomes distracted by a large poster of Lewis Hamilton behind us*
SC: I wish I had hair like that.
CE: One day, maybe. You’ll get there.
SC: I’m not sure I can afford to have the corrective surgery to grow a head of hair quite like that.
CE: *dies of laughter*
So there are a good few F1 cars here on the Grid, but I noticed that they’re not all the most recent models. Have a lot of people noticed the more dated ones?
SC: Some are more observant than others. The hardcore fans can spot something that’s not from 2015 instantly. For instance, the Sauber we used to have was the back end of one car and the front of another!
We did once have a very venerable guest which came back year after year. It had more comebacks than Status Quo; a Ferrari F2002, which came to us courtesy of Bridgestone, because Ferrari didn’t release showcars at the time. Bridgestone very kindly sent us this car every year, and it was getting a bit long in the tooth, and even though it’s a race-winning car, by sort of 2008 time, you were thinking, can we have something just a bit more recent.
It actually used to come with its own bouncer, and I think he was very glad not to have to come any more, because one year someone went through the barrier and started moving the car around!
Mercedes usually step up with something recent, and even the ones that aren’t totally up to date have a bit of history. For example the Toro Rosso is an ex-Dan Ricciardo car, and the Red Bull is actually chassis RB8-04, which Sebastian Vettel won four races with in 2012.
CE: If you know your chassis numbers, look up RB8-04 to authenticate the prestige of that machine!
SC: Sadly the show-goers can’t go up and touch the cars. I actually had to pretend to be security earlier and undo the tensa barrier and look inside the cockpit to confirm the number.
Last year we had a Lotus that was so recent that it still had the 2014 engine and gearbox in, which most of the showcars don’t have. The only drawback with that is it makes it very heavy and harder to move.
CE: I can imagine that being troublesome.
Do you have a favourite car from these events over the years?
SC: I actually really enjoy some of the older cars, like the old Hesketh machine they’ve got here with Penthouse sponsorship, and there are some lovely old Lotuses or… *James Hunt voice* Lotii, including the old gas turbine one, which we tweeted to Emerson Fittipaldi earlier. He hasn’t replied, so maybe we brought back some bad memories for him.
I think we get a bit spoilt, because if you work in motorsport and see these cars every other weekend in the year, and then come and see them here not moving, you can forget how interesting it is for people who don’t follow the sport round the world. And as I said, even if you do get to a race, you don’t get this close because of Bernie being tight and behind the times!
CE: There are seven of the teams here with cars on the grid (Mercedes, Williams, Ferrari, Red Bull, Toro Rosso, Lotus, McLaren) and Force India over in the MSA area, but sadly nothing from Sauber or Manor. Do you wish it was a full grid?
SC: Well, it was before. Like I say, there was a very old Sauber demo car that they used to bring – not quite as old as the venerable F2002, but still not very recent. I think it’s a reflection of the financial status of these teams at the back of the grid that some of these teams can’t afford to send a representation of their cars out for people to look at.
CE: If it’s the car I’m thinking of, it’s a 2009 Sauber with the enormous rear wing that goes all the way to the floor-
SC: Ah, you are a spotter aren’t you! And it had a big droopy nose stuck on the front of it. it doesn’t fool people like you for a second does it?!
A lot of people are quite fascinated at cars with bits of clever tech on them, like the Red Bull with a Coanda exhaust or cars with double-diffusers and F-Ducts. Because those things have all gone now, it’s no disadvantage to show them off. When they were racing contemporaneously, if you pointed a camera in at the bits of the car, you’d have a line of mechanics stood in the way blocking it.
CE: Indeed! Looking at next year, I’m assuming a lot of thinking goes into this event ahead of time. The dates for next year’s show are already up on the wall, so does that mean you have things in place for next year already?
SC: That’s something exhibitions department would be better at answering, but I think once The Clothes Show is done with, that’s when they turn their attention to ASI17. The exhibition crew have been great and a lot of sweat and a lot of aggro have gone into this event, so I think most of them will be retiring to the Williams Motorhome later for a Martini or two.
CE: Stuart, thank you very much for your time, and double thanks for repeating a few answers from earlier when I left the camera off!
SC: Not a problem – we’ve all been there.
CE: And make sure you subscribe to F1 Racing!
SC: Please do!
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