Weekend Preview: 31 Jan & 1 Feb

Weekend Preview: 31st January & 1st February 2009

After last week’s excitement at Daytona we have a couple of quiet weeks again, with my listings only showing two events happening at all this weekend and absolutely nothing next weekend. Time for everyone to get their houses in order before the racing madness kicks off again in earnest.

I was actually thinking of setting up a Google Calendar showing all of these events, but actually I’d be better off giving you the link to one of the sources of info for this series of posts.

FORIX Race Calendar < < < Bookmark this page!

Red dots show events upcoming, green dots are past events and are clickable! The list of series expands as the year progresses so don’t worry if it looks small now.

FORIX (main page) is a colossal motorsport database which aims to record the result of any race anywhere. It started out as a Formula 1 resource in the early 90s, until they eventually filled in the gaps in F1 history and started adding other series. Now they cover all sorts of things. I’m not saying their coverage of other series is as comprehensive as their F1 coverage, it’s getting there though.
These days the site is hosted by Autosport.com (hence the banners and domain) but as far as I know it is still free. I have a sub to Autosport so it’s free for me anyway!

You might think giving the link defeats the object of these posts but I disagree – these posts are to flesh out those single-line entries and hopefully provide a bit of background and context.

On to the listings:

World Rally Championship [website]
Rally Ireland
Round 1 of 12
Rally HQ: Sligo, Ireland

The first round of this year’s WRC gets under way with the cross-border event on the Emerald Isle. I don’t know if this is the only rally in the world held in two countries, in this case Ireland and the UK, as the cars will cross the border into Northern Ireland. For that reason alone this event should be supported by everybody – it’s nice to see that kind of positivity.
For the WRC, the loss of the Monte Carlo Rally to the IRC is a bitter blow but one they put upon themselves. WRC is going through a turbulent time at the moment with crazy rules and crazy schedules. If you are able you should watch this year anyway as it may be the last we’ll see of the current-spec World Rally Cars before IRC-style Super2000 comes in, and let’s face it these guys throwing cars at the scenery (and missing) is still pretty spectacular stuff.

Trophee Andros
Clermont/Superbesse, France
Round 7 of 7

The final round of the sideways ice racing series. Take a look!:

Okay I’m out of here, maybe for a few days, maybe not…

UOWWB: Hamilton & Dixon

United Open Wheel Word Butchers Question of the Week:

If Lewis Hamilton and Scott Dixon switched places for the 2009 season, how would each driver fare in the other’s league? Who would be more successful in 2009?

Dixon would have a year much like Raikkonen’s 2008. F1 cars are not easy to get your head around because they are much more ‘knife-edge’ in terms of setup and driving style than any other car. I’m not doubting he has the talent to be a successful F1 driver because he clearly does, I’m just saying it’ll take time and F1 cars can be notoriously finicky things to learn. If you don’t get the car right or it inherently doesn’t suit your driving style you’re nowhere – again see Bourdais who was driving better in the STR2 early in the season than he was in the STR3 for most of the rest of the year. And how else do you explain Kimi’s lacklustre season?
So if he dials it in, and the car suits him, he would do very well. I think he’d end up on the middle road with an ‘average’ but respectable first season before stepping up in performance in 2010. He’d probably win a race in that first season. This assumes McLaren are still a top team in 2009!

The same would be true of Hamilton in the Dallara, he’d have the same kind of year as Dixon in F1. But he wouldn’t be properly up to a Ganassi-level of performance until after the huge mileage they do at Indy over those few weeks. Jumping directly into two street fights at St Pete and Long Beach is going to be a challenge for all the newcomers this year! And then on to the ovals. There isn’t what he’d know as a ‘normal’ track until the Glen in July, so he’d have to completely relearn how to race. And I include the street races on purpose here, American street tracks are not like Monaco, Melbourne or even Montreal, they have to be treated differently.
Again he’s with a top team so a win isn’t out of the question. Ganassi’s guys certainly know how to use strategy to get him there and you have to assume they and Penske will remain top dogs in ’09.

I do think the Dallara would be the easier car to learn but the tracks the IRL races on are a lot tougher, more rough and ready, more physical. F1 drivers are quite pampered when it comes to race track surfaces and run-off areas, so Hamilton would have to mentally adjust himself. Meanwhile Dixon could let it all hang out without fear of hitting much of anything.

There are so many variables which could affect the performances, not least of which is how much pre-season testing they do. There isn’t any doubt though – they’d both get there eventually.

Racing Podcasts

The racing season is quickly approaching and in some places has started already, and that means the racing podcasts are doing the same. I just thought I would mention some of my favourites:

Midweek Motorsport
I’ve known about MWM for a couple of years now and 2009 represents their 4th season. At two hours every week it is a pretty hefty commitment which is why I’ve not listened until now, I until now preferred LiveFastRacing’s podcast which was a similar length but every few weeks. With the demise of that podcast I’ve decided to switch over to MWM. They cover all sorts of racing with several guys from different backgrounds. There’s an F1 guy, a sportscar guy (the legendary John Hindaugh who is the track announcer at ALMS events and the man behind Radio Le Mans), and many more.
Very knowledgeable and actually very much like the Eurosport MotoGP commentary in terms of style, the ‘down the pub with your mates’ atmosphere. I say that having only heard episode 1 of 2009 and they are on to no.3 as of today (there’s a new one every Wednesday), so maybe they’ve settled down a bit? I’m playing catch-up so I get back to the ‘current’ week if you see what I mean, and I highly recommend you do the same.

Check it out at RadioLeMans.com!

FastMachines.com
Chris, Josh and George put together a fast and furious ride through the world of racing, everything from NASCAR to ALMS to bikes to their crazy no-holds barred opinions of F1. And all in about half an hour! I’m not quite sure how they cram it all in but they seem to cover everything and in detail. I’ve been listening since ep9 or 10 and it’s a lot of fun.

Ep.21 is coming soon so keep checking FastMachines.com!

MyNameIsIRL.com
Jeff is the host of the I Am Mindy Show, a run through the latest IndyCar news in 30 minutes or less or your money back. Still relatively new to podcasting although you wouldn’t know it from listening, our mate Jeff is considered by many to be one of the ‘senior’ IRL bloggers out there (along with Pressdog) and his blog is quickly becoming the focal point of IRL fandom. You tend to go there first then link through to other sites. His podcast is equally as good.

Head on over to MyNameIsIRL.com and search for ‘Podcast’!

Try all of these once and then settle on the ones you enjoy most. I fully intend to listen to all of them throughout the year.

Twitter

Okay so I decided to try this Twitter business to see what it’s all about. I know it’s quite big in North America but I think only the ‘early adopter’ techies and media types use it over here… let’s try and change that, shall we?

I’ve been thinking about it for a while but didn’t really understand it, but after Jeff from MyNameIsIRL blogged about it this week and I’d already noticed Wedge from FuriousWedge [check out the Blogathon!] and Meesh from So Here’s What I’m Thinking had signed up I thought I’d take a closer look. Got to balance all that North American content with a bit of British charm, right?

So there you are. My profile is @toomuchracing and you can read my little notes in the nice little widget in the sidebar here. I have no idea if this will work. I have no idea if I’ll stick with it. I have no idea what we’re going to do about spoilers – I might have to ban myself from Twitter until I can see the IndyCar races as I can’t watch them live – but those are problems for another day!

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EDIT – Just in case anyone is wondering, my profile photo both here and on Twitter is nearly 5 years old! I just can’t find a more recent head-on shot where I’m not drunk.

Weekly Question – Foreign Drivers

UOWWBA asks:

Is the prominence of foreign drivers in the league hurting the IRL?

The answer to that depends on which drivers you’re talking about. If you’re referring to the highly successful championship winning drivers Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, Juan Pablo Montoya, Cristiano da Matta and all the rest – then clearly you are insane if you think that somehow hurts IndyCar or any other series they’ve run in over the last decade. Joel at IRL-O-Rama wrote a good piece in answer to this same question, and I agree with him entirely.

On the flip side if you’re referring to the ride buyers which propped up the last few years of Champ Car then yeah, it does hurt. Several of those guys had no business being in a top line single-seater. But then you could say the same about the ride buying Americans which propped up the first years of the IRL.

Us hardcore fans of racing don’t give a monkey’s where the drivers come from if they are talented and are able to get a ride in a good team.
What I think the question is driving at is the appeal to the more casual fan. The guys who only watch when someone of their nationality is winning. We have the same in Britain, many more people watch F1, tennis, golf, etc. whenever a Brit is winning or competing for wins.

Those ‘fans’ will never change and that’s a shame because they are missing some great racing and great sport generally. They seem to miss the whole point of Indy-style (and sportscar) racing as opposed to NASCAR – bringing top drivers from around the world and racing them against the best America has to offer to see who’s best. And guess what guys: sometimes the Americans win!

From my limited knowledge of the beginnings of the Indianapolis 500 I seem to remember something about those first races consisting of drivers from everywhere racing cars from all over the place to see which combination was best over a distance. I’ll wager that’s one of many reasons why the 500 became so huge in the first place. Surely as the Speedway enters what it terms the ‘Centennial Era’, that’s the one thing it needs to hold on to?

Let me compare it to our little BTCC. Ten years ago it was at its height with big fields of British drivers alongside the cream of talent from all over Europe choosing to join them and race here. Result: big crowds at the circuits, good TV ratings, sponsorships, all the rest of it.
Nowadays we have smaller fields of British drivers and only one foreign driver, albeit he’s one of the best tintop drivers around. Result: far smaller crowds, relatively low TV ratings, and less sponsorships (and this was before the crunch).
OK the modern cars aren’t as good as those a decade ago and you didn’t have WTCC then, but still the point remains:
BTCC fans not only appreciate the foreign drivers racing here but consider it something to be proud of that some the best talent from across Europe chose to race here instead of DTM or any of the other national series. There really isn’t any reason why IRL fans can’t look at it the same way.

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Speaking of non-Americans looking for IndyCar rides, check out Dan Clarke’s quotes when he was interviewed by Autosport.com prior to this weekend’s A1GP event.

“I’m still living in Indianapolis, and we’re still gearing up for a season in IndyCar. But if the opportunity arises to do more of these (A1GP) races then I will jump at them, of course. But after this race I will go back to Indianapolis and continue with the negotiations that we’re having there with the teams in IndyCar.”

More on Autosport.com.

Launch Season: BMW Sauber F1.09

BMW Sauber F1.09

Earlier this week the new BMW Sauber was launched at the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia, Spain.

Like the other ’09 cars it is a much cleaner design than the ’08 car, although that wasn’t difficult in the case of the 2008 BMW! Also in common with other teams there are fewer sponsor logos on this car. Long-time backer Credit Suisse, who supported the team long before BMW supplied Williams let alone Sauber, have withdrawn their backing. Given the present condition of the banking sector globally this isn’t a huge surprise, it is maybe more surprising that RBS remains with Williams. It also looks like the Intel sponsorship has disappeared. Again in common with most other teams, BMW Sauber insist they remain on a solid financial footing.

On the whole this looks like a fairly ordinary car compared to the more radical designs of the McLaren and Renault, say. The nose is conventional albeit higher than in previous years, there is no engine cover fin, and the front wing is one of the most basic we’ve seen – particularly the endplates.

This team is widely tipped to continual their steady rise in performance and become contenders for race wins rather than picking up when McLaren and Ferrari falter. They need to be wary of Renault who had a resurgence of form towards the end of last year.

BMW are believed to be the most advanced in their development of the KERS system yet are still claiming they may not use it for the first race or two. I’m not sure I believe that.

Here’s a comparison to the 2008 car, kindly set up by BMW:

Sorry if the pics appear slightly fuzzy, I think I buggered up the upload and resizing and I’m not messing around with it any more, it is Friday night…

There are further details at www.bmw-sauber-f1.com/ – though be warned the site doesn’t work well in Firefox.