Paul ReganSee other Blog articles filed in ‘Travel and touring’ written by Paul Regan
If you were to poll the man in the street on whether fans of fast cars also loved caravans, you can bet most would assume 'no'. Lazy stereotypes pedalled by popular culture have programmed many to imagine vans and motorsport are like oil and water – and never have I been in such a good position to test the theory.
Why? Well, the good people at Honda Yuasa Racing, one of the teams contesting the 2014 British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) invited Practical Caravan to the championship's Silverstone meeting. They even supplied accommodation, courtesy of Bailey caravans, and a Honda (naturally) tow car. Both wrapped in the racing team's distinctive livery. Shrinking violets need not apply.
Within five minutes of hitching up our combination of race-replica Honda Civic Tourer and Bailey Pursuit 550-4 we had our first 'vote' – a toot at the traffic lights in Twickenham. I braced myself for abuse and turned to my right, only to see a wide grin and a pair of thumbs (yes, both of them) pointing in the right direction to show approval. Later, the M25 had people slowing down and pointing camera phones at us for amateur papping – and we made it onto Twitter (with a nod of approval) before we'd even had sight of Silverstone.
At the circuit, I had a small realisation: there were caravans and motorhomes everywhere. Tin tents lined the public camping areas, sheltering spectators ready for a weekend's action – and it was the same story in-field for various circuit staff, all the way to the paddock for the race team engineers. We barely had a chance to set up on site before the first passer-by began asking cheerful questions – and that before the circuit's gates even opened to the public.
The most compelling evidence, however, woke us up on Sunday morning. With our outfit taking pride of place next to Honda's hospitality, we were used to families of fans pausing for a photograph outside 'our' 'racing' caravan – what we didn't expect, through sleepy eyes, was a piercing burst of first-thing daylight through our door, followed by an enthusiastic racegoer eager to see whether our van had a roll cage! All we had were bacon rolls.
So in the absence of any negative feedback over an entire weekend at the 'home of British motorsport', a question: where does this dimly assumed idea of conflict come from? Is it that caravans 'hold up traffic' and all petrolheads 'want to drive flat out all the time'? It strikes me that the closer you get to the very core of motorsport action, the more likely you are to appreciate that it's a caravan that actually helps you get there.
Only one teeny caveat remains. You could call it an irony. Our dressed-up, diesel-powered Civic was a 100% match for the Bailey and although it pulled it along alright, it wasn't exactly rapid progress. Despite all the goodwill, ultimately we could do nothing but help confirm that lazy stereotype our decal-clad rig had worked so hard to overturn...