Monthly Archives: August 2008

British Touring Cars

This is the 50th season of the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC), which started life as the British Saloon Championship. I’ve been to several BTCC meetings over the last few years and you can view photos from those events through the Picasa links on the right-hand side.

For the uninitiated, the BTCC is Britain’s premier motorsport category. The current format is for 3 races of about 20-25 minutes all held on the Sunday of the race meeting. Race 2 grid order is the finishing order of race 1. For the 3rd race the same is true apart from up front, where a random draw is held to determine how many positions are reversed. e.g. if 8 is chosen the poleman moves to 8th, the 8th-placed driver starts on pole. There are 10 of these race meetings per year making for 30 points-paying races.

The racing is a lot closer than the World series (WTCC) who’s drivers are less inclined to push each other. BTCC is very much ‘rubbing is racing’, I usually hate that phrase and I dislike it in every other series but the BTCC would not have its character without it.

I’m heading to Silverstone tomorrow where the 50th anniversary celebrations will be held (I’m not sure what those celebrations will be). Thruxton is my nearest round but I missed it for family reasons, and I need my fix before the season is over!

In preparation for this weekend I’ve been catching up with this year’s races, which I can’t see live as I don’t have ITV4. I ‘acquire’ them in the same way I get other stuff. So my GP2 plans went out the window and I watched BTCC at Snetterton, Oulton Park and Knockhill which immediately precedes Silverstone. Silverstone holds the penultimate meeting of the year, the season concludes at Brands Hatch 3 weeks from now.

BTCC currently uses the National layout at Silverstone, which is only just over a mile long and very fast. As a Grand Prix track it is also very wide. All this makes for a lot of two-wide oval-style action! I will return with pics and a report which I’ll post as soon as I get the chance!

If you have the chance to catch BTCC on TV, do so, it is great fun. It is live on ITV4 from just after midday with highlights shows dotted around hither and thither. Outside of the UK, I believe the full season is shown on a delayed basis on SPEED during the winter in the USA (& Canada?). Not sure if you guys get ‘as live’ or just the highlights. Keep watching those listings.

Note on Superleague: It starts this weekend and I said I’d do a preview. I was wrong, I haven’t had time and I can’t see myself getting interested enough to do one.

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2008 IndyCar GP Sonoma


IRL IndyCar Grand Prix of Sonoma
ESPN2
Anchor: Marty Reid
Analysit: Scott Goodyear
Pitlane: Jack Arute, Vince Welch & Brienne ‘Petticoat’ Pedigo

80 laps of a dustbowl. Hungaroring mk2?

START ORDER
Fast Six: Helio, Briscoe, Power, Kanaan, Dixon, Servia
The rest: Wilson, RHR, Patrick, Andretti, Dominguez, Moraes, Bruno, Viso, Rahal, Wheldon, Scheckter, Meira, Bell, Mutoh, Manning, Rice, Carpenter, Foyt 4, Roth, Camara, Bernoldi.

Bernoldi set no time.

Luczo Dragon have been advertising in Autosport magazine for the last 3 weeks for a race engineer and mechanics, hopefully this means they are expanding for 2009. Good to see them (and Bell) back here.

Warm-up laps. They seem to be using a different configuration of track to last year, up the drag strip into a sharp right.

A quick mention of using the NASCAR bit at the end but only when the IRL feels like it. Bet the timing and scoring guys just loved that idea.

GREEN: 80 to go

Penskes lead them through. Piss-poor formation after row 3 but better than waving them off because it was untidy.. just send ‘em and have a stern chat after.

Wilson fighting nicely. Go Justin! Got to beat the sponsor and driver thieves at KVR.

Dust kicked up by Bruno.

Made a move on Wheldon but was pushed wide.

Firestone have painted the tyre sidewalls white for the 4 drivers who can still mathematically win the title, for easy identification.

Scott says the drivers love the paddleshifters.

L5 Petticoat: KVR say there are no more ‘them and us’. They are the best of the rest, best non-Big 3 team. I call bullshit. Maybe on road courses but not on ovals, got to be both to be true BOTR. I nominate Panther.

Photos of Penske’s truck fire including heavily damaged cars. Great job from Penske to run 1-2 with their t-cars after that. Marty they said they managed to save their tractor which must be American for ‘truck’ because over here tractors work in fields. They seem to think the pickups in NASCAR are trucks.

L10 Not much going on here at the moment. Formation flying. Taking lessons from F1 circa 2000-2005. Vitor pits. Scratch what I said about them being best of the rest, that’s a stupid strategy. Always go long on a road course unless you are qualifying with race fuel or you are reacting to someone who’s already stopped.

L11 Wheldon in. Are they trying to beat the phantom safety car? Vince says they are trying to make the fuel last. That’s nuts. This is lap 11. ELEVEN. Run long and do a short stop halfway through. L11, 69 to go, how do you know what’s going to happen?

Now they insert a pre-record with Helio. That’s fine but just play the audio. I want to see cars on the track, that window over his shoulder is tiny. Bah.

L15 Vince says Penske’s luck got worse, a PR rep had their bag stolen with their laptop and other stuff.
I wonder what’s going on behind the top three? We haven’t been allowed to see it yet. One thing F1 does well (these days – very recently it wasn’t so) is they move back through the field if something is happening, or even if it isn’t, just to mix it up a bit.

YELLOW black car around, is that Roth? What’s he doing here? I thought was only doing ovals and leaving this stuff to the professionals.

Foyt also got into the dust. Roth gets refired and rejoins. In F1 he’d be DQ’d for ‘outside assistance’ which is potentially the most stupid rule in the world.

Scott talks about the different approach to turn 7 now. Explains the layout but doesn’t tell us why. Scott, WHY did they change it? To get more passing? Was the other way too dusty?

Yellow pitstops. Dixon up a spot, RHR up 2, Manning up 3!

L18 GREEN

Brisoe leads from Kanaan, Patrick, Rahal, none of whom stopped under yellow. Top 8 didn’t stop, maybe more.

We seem to be using a different pronunciation of ‘Jaime Camara’. RHR spins, rejoins. He took the Foyt line on to the dust, saved it, but the dirt on the tyres made him slow through the corner and Wilson pushed him around.

L23 Onboard with Power which is immediately obscured by the biggest graphic in the world.

Up To Speed
Vince: Briscoe on pole here in ’05 for Ganassi. Did not pit during the yellow. Can go to L27 or so.
Brie: Kanaan stayed out, working on fuel strategy. Q4 but has a loose car, bottoming out.
Danica similar strategy, also struggling with the car. Track temp is 126deg [that's in old money].
Jack: Rahal is 4th and took Wilson’s setup for his car. Moraes is 5th, had some differences with Bruno last night (?).

Brie: Ed Q23 is now 6th [not bad but he's not stopped, many others have]. Has Bryan Herta as road course advisor.
Jack: Viso pitted early to get out of sequence. Received visit from some guy I’ve never heard of who is apparently famous for sports somewhere.
Vince: Wheldon can do 9 more laps before he has to pit again. Missed a practice session, feels he’s behind compared to others.

Jack: Dominguez Q well, better than hoped. His pit bloke needed 50(fifty!) stitches after an ‘industrial accident’.
Brie: Vitor’s team not sure where their speed has gone.
ESPN’s pit crew are on fire!
Danica pits. No changes. Rahal in, wing adj. Jack Arute calls the car ‘specials’ as if this is a 1950s Indy 500.

L27 Briscoe and TK pit. No changes to either car. Wow big train as they exit. Brisoce beats most of them, TK does now, his pit guys were slower. Wilson takes Power! They are all stuck behind that slightly slower Conquest car, F1-style. Bernoldi I think, and he has the position legitimately.

Viso leading by way of pit sequence. Arute: Viso has been criticised by others but one high ranking person in the pits said under anonymity ‘if I were looking to hire a driver, I’d take Viso, you can teach a fast guy to slow down but not a slow guy to speed up’. Hello Marty Roth.
Dominguez is 3rd now.

L32 Bernoldi is defending well from the faster cars behind. He did this for an entire Monaco GP in an Arrows against Coulthard in a McLaren. DC had to start down the order, don’t recall why, it was expected he would slice through the back of the field like a hot knife through butter. Didn’t happen, Bernoldi held him. The rest of his F1 career was not notable for anything at all really.

L33 Bernoldi in, as is Manning. Briscoe got a warning from IRL officials for blocking, which is nonsense, this isn’t “after you, Claude”, this is racing, and solid defending is acceptable. Weaving and brake testing is not; changing lines taking air away is not. If you take the line early it’s fine isn’t it? These are oval rules applied to road courses and it doesn’t make sense.

I think Viso is auditioning for Pressdog’s circus clowns, Marty says he has been practicing his unicycle skills!

L35 Wheldon and Dominguez pit.
L36 Viso in, Helio now leads.

Notice how the cameras are completely ignoring the stands. Anyone know the attendance?

L39 Viso 12th after his stop. Power in. Power ran 13 laps, strategy change from KVR.
L40 Briscoe on a good strategy, says Marty. Scott says Briscoe knows ‘a-boat’ pit strategy and knows a-boat patience from his ALMS experience with Penske last year.

For some reason ESPN can’t keep a steady lap counter, either incrementing up or incrementing down. Pick one and stay with it please!

37 to go: Helio stops. Wilson also in, an ex John Herb car. Is that good or bad? I’ve never heard of him so I am assuming bad, although with N/H/L on the case it will surely get better. Dixon is in, Vince calls him ‘the champion’ because he’s so far ahead in points. RHR catches Wilson as Justin exits the pits. Good racing.

Now ESPN switch back to x of y laps.. that’s amazing, I didn’t plan that at all! L46 Bruno pits.
Jack: N/H/L had trouble getting the seat into this new car for Wilson. Same story for every new team with Wilson, heard it several times. Servia pits, exits between Dixon and Wilson, who is still fighting RHR.

L49 Great battle between TK and Helio but we can’t see it because ESPN are playing a prerecorded interview with TK. Ah here we go. Gets VERY close on several occasions.

One thing I hate about taking the US coverage is that they take a commercial break every 3 laps. I want to watch a race, not be sold to. I get that you need to sell ads to make money but please, there’s taking things too far.

L53 Briscoe pits. Emerges behind Viso but almost loses it on the hill, slows, gets going.
L54 TK pits. Nasty bump on pit entry. The whole pitlane is fairly bumpy. Patrick pits.
L56 Wheldon pits, a lap later Helio comes in. Helio beats Meira and Manning, Briscoe is behind that pair.
L58 Dixon is in. Penskes are catching a Conquest car. Dixon beats a train of cars coming up fast along the main straight.
L59 Power to get a drive-thru penalty for not coming to a complete stop when missing the chicane – for the third time! Wilson is in. Doesn’t take a full load of fuel, he doesn’t need to with 21 laps to go. Power takes his penalty.
L60 (20 to go) Viso pits from the lead. Penske now 1-2 again.

Marty says if positions remain as they are the points lead will drop from 78 points to 41. Personally I think that’s more to do with the fucked-up points system they use! Helio does get the bonus for leading most laps.

L63 I’m officially fed up with Side By Side as an excuse to run ads every 3 laps. I might switch back to the Intl feed next time because they are just taking the piss here. Has it always been this bad or are they pissed at losing to Versus? We should get a bonus for watching most commercials.

L66 Cars are fairly strung out now, not a great deal of racing going on. Not sure how Wilson dropped back to 12th, maybe a bad strategy. He was running well.

Another Up To Speed! 2 for 1 deal special offer

Vince: Helio will set a new record for wins in 7 consecutive season, ties Scott Sharp. So that’s not a new record then Vince, that’s a tie. Briscoe lapping Power. He has a comfort level to prevent overdriving.
Brienne: TK is getting lonely, wants team to talk to him.
Vince: Wheldon 4th (where’d he come from?). Avg road course finish of 15th, Vince says not good enough. Contract renewal time.

Brienne: For Patrick, 5th would be good enough. Best finish on road/street course this year.
Jack: Bruno needs a splash/go for fuel. Can’t make it (not for the first time this year, Jack). Meanwhie Viso is full-rich.
Brienne: Vitor – wonderful finish considering tough week they’ve had.
Jack: Rahal to go the distance, will not pit. Auctioning a helmet.
Brienne: Rice Q22nd now 10th. [not bad!]
Vince: Series points leader Dixon is 14th, car not running well. Complained that Briscoe ‘chopped him down’ when they were running together earlier. Goal: get the most from today. They don’t feel like they’ve done that.

L70 Another nice job from the team.

L72 Wow they did half a lap after ads, then went to more!! That’s nuts. There are actually rules against that in this country.

L73 Oh, a spin from Dominguez, drops from 12th rejoins 17th.

L75 Vince at Penske: a mention for the team, the men who don’t get the recognition for working long hours and put in the hard work.
Agree completely, avery good job to recover from their setbacks this week.

Dixon has made up a place or two through other cars having to pit for a splash of fuel. Points diff is now 43. He’s chasing Buddy Rice who is stretching the fuel mileage.
People have been congratulating him for the championship win but it isn’t official yet!

Question: The ticker says Marco is 14th but I don’t remember seeing him at any stage. Did you?

L77 Those same stops have moved Wilson up to 9th.
Helio hasn’t won in 29 races, this will finally end the streak!

L78 BANG Power hits the tyre barrier on the chicane runoff, the one he went through earlier. Brake issues? He’s off the racing line so we go local yellow only as the white flag flies at the line to signal L79.

Carpenter spins off at speed!

CHEQUERED FLAG – HELIO WINS!
Fence-climbing time once more, and its about time too! Briscoe 2nd, Kanaan 3rd.

Vince with Tim Cindric, Penske: Wasn’t easy when the yellow came out. See where we end up at the end of the year.

Helio climbs OVER the fence and in among the fans! Excellent.
Back down, Vince catches up. Roger: You’re the man. This group of guys are racers, I want to thank everybody who helped us the last several days.
A VERY EXCITEABLE Helio, I can’t catch what he’s saying at machine-gun speed. I mean I understand it but can’t transcribe, too fast.

Brienne with an irritated Dixon: Everything we did was wrong. Not sure why we didn’t pit when stuck behind a slower car and couldn’t get past.

Okay I gotta post this and get going, late now and need to be at work in the a.m.!

Results:
Helio, Briscoe, Kanaan, Wheldon, Patrick, Viso, Meira, Rahal, Wilson, Moraes, Rice, Dixon, Mutoh, Andretti, Servia, Dominguez, Bruno, RHR, Bell (-1), Foyt (-1), Bernoldi (-1), Manning (-1), Carpenter (-2), Camara (-2), Power (-3), Roth (-4), Scheckter (-24)

Rahal 8th and Wilson 9th, a good day for N/H/L relatively speaking. Can still do better. Anyone know why Tomas was so far back, I didn’t catch that on the coverage?

Points:
Dixon 578
Helio -43
Wheldon -124
Kanaan -130
Briscoe -186

Only two drivers remaining in the title race.

Up next: Detroit this weekend. Last year was boring as hell, the ALMS race was more exciting and that’s not supposed to happen. Year 2 of the Belle Isle Resurrection may just be better.

Okay I’m out of here, see ya Saturday for some words about the BTCC.

Just appeared on Autosport.com: Brisoe to rejoin the ALMS team for Detroit and Petit Le Mans. He’ll race both IRL and ALMS at Detroit!

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F1 – European Grand Prix

2008 Formula 1 Telefonica Grand Prix of Europe
Valencia, Spain
Round 12 of 17
5.440 km (3.38 mile) street circuit
Race distance: 57 laps, 310.08 km, 192.66 miles

The Grand Prix of Europe, because we’re all one big happy European family!

Coverage: ITV1 *LIVE*
Anchor: Steve Rider
Analyst: Mark Blundell
Commentary: James Allen & Martin Brundle
Pitlane: Louise Goodman & Ted Kravitz

You can read my race preview here. I was unable to take notes live by computer when I watched the race, so my notes are hand-written. It’s now Monday and I’m trying to decipher them.. Quotes are paraphrased!

Pre-Race
The info comes thick and fast on the ITV pre-race, they do an excellent job which is only really let down by their main commentator (this is strange as he was one of the best pit reporters I’ve ever heard) and their over-emphasis on Lewis Hamilton. Coverage switches to the BBC in 2009, it’ll be interesting to see how they approach it.

12:05 British Summer Time / 13:05 local time in Valencia

Steve: “This is Valencia’s first F1 race, the track took 9 months to build. It is a high-speed layout with two or three potential passing places.” The track is around several America’s Cup racing yacht bases.

Mark: “This is the first time in years we’ve had a track with a flat out turn 1. I’m looking forward to it. New circuit, new race conditions. The warm temperatures should suit Ferrari. Brakes could be an issue.”

This is because like Montreal and Bahrain, there are several fast sections leading into tight, slow corners.

12:10 Interview with the guy who built the track, didn’t catch a name (not Tilke):
“This circuit cost 70m Euros to build but we’ll save money from now on, now we have the facilities. “
It took 700 workers 270 days to construct the circuit, they relaid the asphalt so we aren’t on normal streets, this is racetrack.

Alonso was fined 10,000 Euros for crossing the pit exit (or entry?) white line during practice. Can’t cross that line, not even an inch.

Trulli: “I like the city, I like the circuit environment, it doesn’t feel like a street track.”

A reported 112,000 fans are in attendance, later we learn the capacity is 120k and the promoters were disappointed not to get a sellout.

Pedro de la Rosa (McLaren test driver), interviewed because he is Spanish: “Great track, a great effort, safety is good. It will get stronger and better.”

Mark (who raced in CART for several years): “It’s like Montreal or the US street tracks. The teams are prepared, McLaren has a laser wot scans the circuit so they can put it into their computer.”
European street tracks are tight, fiddly affairs, there aren’t many in the US mould of wider more open layouts i.e. Long Beach or St Pete. There aren’t many European street tracks at all actually.
He was also referring to McLaren’s scanning system, we learned in qualifying that McL sent a team out several weeks ago with a scanner for their race simulator.

12:15 Here’s James with a quick report from qualifying, blink and you miss it, I did.
Talking to more drivers. Massa, Hamilton, Vettel.
Lewis: “Surprised there have been no shunts yet.” Only in F1 Lewis, the support race guys have been crashing everywhere. Who will win? “Whoever looks after their tyres and stays off the walls.”
Seb Vettel: “I made a mistake in turn 12 so could not improve, but I wasn’t going to be on pole anyway!”

Qualifying order:
Q3: MAS, HAM, KUB, RAI, KOV, VET, TRU, HEI, ROS, BOU
Knocked out in Q2: NAK, ALO, GLO, WEB, PIQ
Knocked out in Q1: BUT, COU, FIS, BAR, SUT

Steve: Surprises in qualifying?
Mark [I'll summarise]: “Massa outstanding job. Vettel. Topsy turvy until the last session when the order returned to normal. Toro Rosso outpaced Red Bull.”

Now we go onboard with Felipe Massa during is pole lap yesterday, commentary from Martin Brundle who talks us around the corner entries, racing lines, gears, etc. I always look forward to this.
Martin: “5.44km, was very dusty but has improved as rubber down. Flag marshals will have to be on their toes as there are a lot of blind-entry corners at speed. The pole position spot was only moved to the clean side of the grid this morning.”
The cars are laying rubber on the racing line, over one half of the grid. The other half is still fairly dusty – same as Hungary. Pole was supposed to be on the dirty side. Later we learn it was changed before Qual but they weren’t given the info in the commentary box.

Feature: After quals, Red Bull drivers from both teams were taken out on an America’s Cup racing boat, the one Red Bull sponsors. While there they talked to Louise.
Bourdais: You’re used to this sort of track from America? “Not actually much like the USA. It’s unique. It’s an interesting track.” He’s referring to it being a normal racing surface but around streets.
DC (sitting next to Bourdais on the yacht): “The atmosphere will build over the coming years. We’re definitely not in America, I don’t see anyone eating hotdogs and hamburgers!”

12:24 Unusual that there are only grandstands here, no general admission. Even Monaco has a little GA section.

The America’s Cup is in a legal dispute over where to hold their event, so they might not even return to Valencia despite them building facilities for them. So they need to find another use: F1!
Bernie was interviewed before quals yesterday and said it was his idea.

DC again, this time on a balcony in pitlane: “It will be better in 5 years when the local redevelopment is complete.” Says something about being a dockyard.

Ted Kravitz: “This is like Monaco but with less money and more room to spread out.”

12:29 Team personnel are now on the grid and engines are firing up in the garages. As Steve and Mark babble about something, the first cars head out on their sighting laps.
Mark had tipped Massa for the title a few weeks back: “I’d better stick to my guns. Out front nobody can touch him, he struggles when he’s behind, and he’s starting on pole. Watch Hamilton, he always starts fast.”

12:36
Lewis: “We’re fast and consistant, happy to be on the front row.” About Massa passing him in Hungary: “No-one ever usually overtakes me, if they do its on the inside! Outside won’t happen again.” And Valencia? “Very wide, don’t get close to the walls, it’s like a car park!”
Have you sent a message to Team GB in Beijing to support them? (FFS what sort of question is that?): “Very proud of GB [looks at camera], very proud of you if you’re watching. Usain Bolt, gobsmacked at the speed of the Jamaicans.”

12:39 Martin’s gridwalk!
“Valencia has character, an unusual first corner, sitting on the grid they are looking at a wall. Corner feeds into the braking area for turn 2. GP2 got through there and they drive like its their last day on Earth. There is no perimeter road, no space for cranes so Safety Cars are expected. No F1 cars in the wall yet though.”
“Superb lap from Massa. Hot temps favour Ferrari. [why Martin, why?] 10-12 guys working on the cars on the grid.”
Michael Schumacher (honestly) is standing talking to Mario Theissen of BMW. No, he’s on the phone! Martin interrupts him anyway.
“Michael, sorry didn’t realise you were on the phone”
Schuey: “Honestly” [hah, his first word was 'honestly'!] “Honestly, the cars and tyres are sensitive to temperatures.” Short answers today from Michael, there was that and some one word answers..
Martin asks if he’d like to drive here? “Maybe on a bike! Martin: “But you keep falling off! Isn’t it unsafe?”
“I thought so too a few years ago.”
“I know what you mean, I ride a road bike myself, thanks Michael and sorry for interrupting your phone call – Mario!” He grabs Mario Theissen who is talking to someone else. Michael says goodbye to Mario…
Mario: “Kubica in a good position, good chance. 1 stop for the cars at the back, 2 stops further up.” Martin: “Sorry to butt in!”.
Bumps into Bernie who is with the Mayor of Valencia, tries to motion Martin to talk to his esteemed guest but he ignores her completely. Bernie: “I’ve wanted a GP since my first time here. That was 14 months ago.” Martin: “I’m sure you’re pleased and so is the mayor, well done ma’am”. [words to that effect]
Walks along, finds Heidfeld: “Track is quite grippy, not our own rubber but should be nice. We took the safer option on brakes which is more comfortable anyway.”
Out of a break, into gridwalk, into the next break.. Commercials bunching means nearly race time.

12:47 Button with Louise: “Disappointing qualifying, we chose the wrong tyres.” Plan? “Go fast, don’t crash!”.
Ted with Alan Permaine, engine guru at Renault. Ted: “Seems to have become an engine circuit with long straights, you struggling?” Alan: “Don’t want to go into that too much for obvious reasons!” He said more but I didn’t take it down in my notes for some reason..

Almost ready to begin, one final ad break before the start, now we join James and Martin upstairs as the official F1 track graphics are rolling.

Barrichello and Sutil will be starting from the pit lane as they had to work on their gearbox after qualifying. That breaks the new ‘your gearbox has to last for 4 races’ rule. I’m not sure why they don’t just put them at the back.

13:02 Cars away on the Formation Lap
James: “This race is 57 laps which is 192 miles, the longest race of the year.”
My comments: F1 races last either 2 hours or 300 km, whichever is soonest. The scheduled laps are normally based on the 300 km but this one seems to be 10km more for no apparent reason. We don’t yet know how long this will be in terms of time, depends on SC. The next race (Spa) is long in terms of time, not sure on distance, the one after (Monza) is the shortest in time.

Grid forms up.

5..4..3..2..1..pause..GO!

57 to go: Everyone gets through the first turns, they are taking it carefully. Amazing sight through T1. Nope – someone in the wall at T3. Alonso is slow. Nakajima has a damaged front wing. DC has also dropped back.
Replay: Nakajima hit Alonso’s rear wing, both wings damaged. James: “Rear wing is structurally attached to the gearbox and will take up to 5 minutes to change. Front wing is easy – change the nose.”

L55: Massa is 8 points back from Hamilton with 6 races to run. Kovalainen gets Raikkonen on the start.

L54: Alonso is out of the car. He’d been told to wait while they fix it, looks like he’s done. Replay: He had to get out of it to avoid another car. Naka didn’t get out of it.

L53: DC runs at Piquet and gets him, nice move!
L52: Heidfeld lost a spot to Rosberg at the start for 8th. Sutil radio: “I’m faster I need to pass him!” Talking about his teammate Fisi.
Louise with Alonso: “2 races in Spain, 2 retirements. We tried to go out for the fans, they came to see me, too much damage to suspension and gearbox so impossible to go out now.”
L50: DC makes a run at Sutil, hits him and spins! Sutil continues.

L48: Kubica in 3rd is now 8.5s behind Hamilton, lost some time. Struggling with oversteer will fix it at next stop. Bourdais has a broken front wing element.

L46: Rubens runs wide, DC goes by him. Vettel is fast.
L45: Kimi 5th 17.8s back from Massa after 12 laps but may be quicker than Kovy. James talked about ‘field spread’, cars spread out more easily at some tracks due to configuration of straights/corners.

L43: Allen: “In F1 if 3 people gather they’ll end up talking about Massa. Is he good enough?” Championship material? Brundle: “He’s beating Schumacher and Raikkonen in the same car, he’s fast.” Massa pits! That’s early and unexpected even by McLaren. Expected 2 laps later. He’s out ahead of Kimi! Massa running heavy is ahead of a light Kimi, he’ll hold up Kimi, that’ll annoy him.
ITV are saying Big Mistake.

L41: Hamilton pits. Lots of dust. Is out behind Raikkonen. Vettel also in, back out 9th.
L40: Now the turn of Kubica and Raikkonen.
L38: Trulli in. Hamilton only gained 1 second over Massa on his stop.
L37: Kovy pits as does Rosberg. HK comes out alongside Heidfeld who hasn’t stopped.
L35: Nick pits now, out 11th, not great but some one-stoppers are ahead.

L34: They are saying Renault is generally down on power compared to the other manufacturers, and that Red Bull aren’t happy with the situation. Glock is asked about his tyres.

L31: Piquet has wing damage. Fisi hasn’t stopped yet, neither have Webber, Piquet, Glock, Button or Sutil.

L29: Hard tyres are getting better lap times as we go through the stint. Webber overshoots his pit box on the dust, hits his jack man. Everyone has to shuffle down a bit. Martin: If you go in too hot that can happen, but if you’re too careful you lose too much time.

L28: Team checks in with Glock again. No wing adjustment for Timo, he’s happy. During the next few laps he pits while we’re in an ad break. He’s 1-stopping and looking to beat Vettel who’s 2-stopping.

L25: This is fairly uneventful. I’m not gonna lie, I’m flipping between this and the Olympic Closing Ceremony which is just starting because a) this race is boring and b) I want to see London’s handover segment. If I miss anything tell me later ‘k?

L22: Hamilton struggling to match Massa’s pace, has he settled for 2nd and the championship points? Raikkonen is catching Kovy. The Ferraris *are* faster in these conditions. If I were McLaren I’d be hoping for cloud cover.

L19: Massa pits and is released into Sutil. Traffic already in pitlane has priority! You can try and beat him but once he’s there you’ve got to give way. Ferrari’s error, no doubt about it. Not Massa’s fault, he goes when the team tells him.

Incident involving car 2 under investigation.

L18: Hamilton pits. Emerges behind Massa. Vettel in.
L17: Kubica in.
L15: Sutil into the wall. Okay the tyre wall. Yellow flags at turn 2, they should be able to recover that without the SC as he’s in a runoff area.
Incident with car 2 will be sorted after the race.
Rosberg now into a runoff, continues.
L14: Kimi hit a man! He left his pit box with the fuel hose still attached, it took a guy with it. Kimi stops immediately. The mechanic is stretchered away to the medical centre. Replay: Kimi goes on the orange light. Ferrari have a light system rather than a man with a stop board. Supposed to wait for green, the orange lit and he went.

L11: Now his engine! Kimi’s engine has gone. Boom! He’s on the pit straight in front of everyone as well.. pulls to the side. This doesn’t help his points battle, and he might be relegated to Massa’s Helper.

L9: Kovalainen 4th is much quicker than Kubica 3rd. Catching him fast. Enough laps left? Fisi gets it wrong on the kerb.

L7: Louise with Kimi: Oh, she’s not got him, he’s walking past everyone, not talking. Will try to get him later.

L6: Team to Glock: “Rosberg catching you.” Shot of people on the funnel of the ship!

L5: Ferrari man to Ted [on Massa incident]: “Nobody lost time”.
Allen (bloke can’t hear him): “That’s not the point! It was an unsafe release, as the caption said.”
Massa’s conception was an unsafe release.

These last laps are really tedious. Where is the passing we were promised? Can I at least have a close battle? Some form of intrigue? No? Nothing?

L2: Brundle cottons on: “Not much overtaking. Hopefully the 2009 car regulations will bring overtaking back to F1.”
Allen: “Vettel is 10 km/h faster than Trulli on the straights here.”
Salient point there James..

L1: Brundle: “Great drive but rules are rules.” He’s been complaining for a while now that Massa should have been given a penalty. Expects a grid penalty next race.

Chequered Flag – Massa wins!
Hamilton 2nd then a biiig gap to Kubica 3rd and the chasing cars.

Finishing order:

MAS, HAM, KUB, KOV, TRU, VET, GLO, ROS, HEI, BOU, PIQ, WEB (-1), BUT (-1), FIS (-1), NAK (-1), BAR (-1), COU (-1)
DNF: RAI, SUT, ALO

Martin’s Driver of the Day? Sebastien Vettel.
I’d choose Glock because he had a much lower starting position and finished one place back from Vettel. Martin gives it to Vettel because of his ablity to run up front at speed.

Rob Smedley, race engineer for Massa: “We released him and he backed off [to let Sutil through]. Silly little incident let’s not dwell on it.” Then into the usual ‘great race’ platitudes the engineers give their drivers when they win.

James Allen says it: “Not a thriller but lots of drama.”
Martin Brundle: “Yes and Kubica is only 2 points behind Raikkonen now.”

This year has seen good racing and an even better points battle. Let’s look at the tables:

WDC
Hamilton 70
Massa 64
Kimi 57
Kubica 55
Kovy 43
Heidy 41

WCC
Ferrari 121
McLaren 113
BMW 96
Toyota 41
Renault 31
RBR 24

Full tables at www.formula1.com as is the transcript of the press conference, I haven’t read that, this is from the TV:

Massa: “Chose the right tyres yesterday. Pole, race, fastest lap what more to ask for? Start was just great, car improving lap by lap. Sutil not clever, should have let me by. I was the leader and he was the lapping (lapped) car.”
Uh, no, there has been a precedent for some time… you’re stopped and a guy is coming past, if there isn’t room for two wide you wait until he’s through.

Hamilton: “Strong weekend, problems healthwise. Nice new circuit, solid weekend. Track not too physical but hot.”
ITV decided that hearing from Kubica was none of our business so cut away to Steve and Mark babbling again, because that’s what we all want to hear.
Louise got a very quick comment from Sutil: “Car just appeared alongside me.”

I think his bit was edited because we’re quickly into the ITV F1 competition then dumped out into adverts and an old Carry On film. Seriously? I can understand Coronation Street, biggest soap in the country. But this shit? Nothing like cutting a post-race debrief short for a 1967 “comedy”.

I really hope the racing gets better next year because Valencia was a fantastic venue! One I would be tempted to visit.

Okay, so that concludes my notes for this event. Sorry if this is too long for you, whaddaya gonna do. Feedback is appreciated.

I missed the IRL at Sonoma on the big fuck-off TV, had to go elsewhere. I’ll catch it later in the week.

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Preview – F1 European GP ’08

First up, I gave the blog a lick of paint.
I was messing around with Google earlier and discovered Pressdog’s old blog from 2006/07. I hadn’t seen it before – it was an identical maroon scheme to the one I was using until now!
I know it is a standard Blogger template but so that I’m not accused of ripping him off too much (hey, I already stole the race notes idea from him and others), I changed it to the more patriotic British Racing Green. OK, so it isn’t exactly BRG but whatever, close enough for me.
I like the header, I’m not so sure about the profile box – let me know what you think!

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F1 Preview: 2008 European Grand Prix
Streets of Valencia, Spain

The European Grand Prix has been running for several years now, largely as an excuse for a second German race during the Schumacher era, held at the Nürburgring. This year, the European GP returns to Spain for the first time since 1997 when it was held at Jerez, that controversial season-closer where Schumacher tried to ram Jacques Villeneuve off the road – only for the move to backfire and for JV to claim the title.

Circuit

Rather than Jerez, we go to a new street circuit around the America’s Cup marina in Valencia. The existing circuit outside town, good enough for F1 testing and races for MotoGP and World Touring, doesn’t have the facilities required of Bernie & Co (and, frankly, it sucks balls as a race track). Also the locals wanted to make better use of the facilities they builts for the yachts, and to get one over on Barcelona and Madrid…

This isn’t your usual street track. It looks wide, lots of runoff, and the track itself seems as smooth as any other race track from the photos I’ve seen. I guess it helps that it runs through an industrial area which can be developed accordingly, and not everyday downtown city streets.

The drivers are saying it will be like Melbourne or Montreal. Fast, but don’t get it wrong or you’ll hit a wall. One novelty is the swing bridge they will cross to get to the other side of the marina. Bridgestone are today (Thursday) saying it may cause punctures with the Super Soft compound they’ve brought, because the road on the bridge isn’t exactly aligned with the road surface on land. It is 15 mm off. It didn’t cause any trouble in the test event (a GT & F3 meeting) but F1 tyres are different. I hope their fears are unfounded, we’ll find out in practice tomorrow.

Form Guide

None as this is the first F1 event here. Right now the Ferrari and McLaren cars are roughly equal on pace, however they’ve just come off the back of a 3 week mid-summer break. The factories and wind tunnels do not stop working during the break. What developments will be on the cars this time out, and how will that affect the performance gap?

This will probably have a bigger bearing on the form than their performance at Melbourne and Montreal this year – although if this place is hard on tyres watch out for Hamilton struggling, he uses them more than Kovalainen and the McLaren generally uses them more than the Ferrari.
McLaren are fast on a single-lap run so my bet is on them for qualifying, but Ferrari are faster over a fuel stint, so they may well come good in the race, just as happened at Hungary. But with this development jump – who knows?

Rest of the field

The teams not in the title hunt are beginning to wind down their developments on the ’08 cars, with the completely new aero regulations coming in for ’09 they want to put their full attention on those cars earlier than usual. Perhaps the guys fighting for 4th in the WCC will still develop a little.
You should expect BMW after the main battle, followed by a big jumble of Red Bull, Renault and Toyota, hopefully also including Williams, Toro Rosso just behind, then Honda, then Force India.

SC

Being a street race, even a wide one, you can expect the Safety Car to be deployed. How this affects the race will depend on when it appears. If it happens midway through the pit sequence it will become a lottery because of the crazy-ass rules they are using this year. We might get another ‘Piquet at Hockenheim’ result.

Live Timing

I highly recommend the official live timing at http://www.formula1.com/ – this is essential during commerical breaks and useful the rest of the time. However it does make you frustrated when you see someone is fast, or you spot their strategy, and the TV guys miss it..

You have to sign up (for free) but that’s no big deal, you have to sign up to lots of sites nowadays, and the only emails I ever get from them are for the FIA/AMD surveys which are a ‘must do’ anyway. No spam from Bernie.
You also need Java installed, best thing is to just go to the timing screen and follow the instructions (when it is up make sure you switch to the Big option).
Not only does the timing look like the pitwall timing screens, which is ultra cool, there is also text commentary for those who are not near a TV or radio. It only updates as cars cross the finish line so if you are used to IRL or ALMS timing it may seem a bit wonky until you get used to it.

Done

Okay, I’m out of here. You’ll next see me with F1 notes on Monday – my first F1 notes! I will usually have them out just after the race but this week I’ll be at Dad’s doing house-sitting. The plus point is that I’ll catch the IndyCars live at Sonoma (on a big fuck-off 50 inch screen) instead of the delay I usually have to put up with, so I hope to get notes for those done by Tuesday.

See you then.

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Superleague Formula

I’m not convinced of this.

Superleague Formula, the crossover between motorsport and football, say they have a large amount of market research telling them that such a crossover is going to be a bit hit. They would say that, of course, or they wouldn’t have launched the series.

Now I’m not big fan of footie – except when England are playing, of course – but I’m sceptical. I know football fans will buy anything with their team logo on it but I’m not sure they’ll stick around if their team does not perform. Many are die-hard supporters but a great deal are not, they drift away when their team does badly and only fill the stadium when the team starts winning again.

I have no idea how this is going down in the football press – if indeed it is at all. I would be interested to hear more. Certainly the racing press is as sceptical as I am but they are also wary because they said the same things about A1GP, so they are giving SF the benefit of the doubt for the time being. A1GP was supposed to die halfway through the first season, it did not, sure it has huge financial problems but I believe it is improving and recovering – and I seriously doubt an operation like Ferrari would invest in a new car and engine for a dying championship.

Grand Prix Masters died instead, and that was supposed to be huge. Perhaps this says as much about the racing press as it does about the series concerned.

The first SF event will be held at Donington Park in less than a fortnight, interestingly the first A1GP group test will be held there just 9 days later so we may well get an intriguing laptime comparison should they choose to run on the same layout. I am going to research the teams running each ‘franchise’ (ugh, hate that word) and do a little preview when we are nearer the time. SF, like A1 before it, is starting off with known racing teams running each operation and like A1 perhaps the idea is that each franchise will later take over their own team.

The other point is that SF doesn’t seem to have run anything like the number of test miles as A1 has. Okay, A1 has done this before, but even then they ran a lot of miles. They still encountered problems in the first few races. SF are going to encounter some big teething problems.

The only thing two things impressing me about SF are the chassis based on the superb Panoz DP01 Champ Car, and two of the drivers, Robert Doornbos and Ryan Dalziel. The rest of the field are makeweights. As I say, I’ll run through them in a preview in a week or so.

The official website of SF is www.superleagueformula.com.

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Conway in IndyCar test

A timely story for this blog given that the last couple of posts are notes on IndyCar and GP2 races, and a story which came seemingly from nowhere today, was that GP2 race winner Mike Conway topped the IndyCar test at Sonoma, California.

Conway won a race at the Monte Carlo round of the GP2 Series, supporting the Monaco GP, and currently sits 11th in points. Not stellar, but respectable given the competitiveness of the midfield in GP2, and a win at Monaco is nothing to be disregarded. I saw that race and he was dominant, it was not a fluke.

The only report I can find about this test is from autosport.com, none of the US racing sites seems to have reported a single thing from this test which featured several teams and drivers. Given the test was on Wednesday and Thursday I would have expected at least something by now. Even IndyCar.com has nothing. If this were F1 or NASCAR there would be reports, even basic ones, on all the major racing sites. Very odd.

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