2nd Furious Wedge Blogathon

The drop of the green flag for the start of the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona today will also signal the start of the 2nd Annual Furious Wedge Blogathon, featuring 24 hours of continuous blogging about Daytona and a host of other sports happening during the race

The Furious Wedge is a blog covering IndyCar racing and a variety of American ball sports so these (plus Daytona) will be the focus of attention.

Last year Allen Wedge and Ron Furious took on this mammoth task by themselves, and I believe Allen was the only one crazy enough to stick the whole 24 hours. This year they’ve called upon the assistance and resources of the IndyCar bloggers to support them.

Madly, I have been asked to take part, and since I know only a little about Indycar and almost absolutely nothing about the Daytona 24, NFL, MLB, NHL and the rest, I of course agreed without hesitation. I was promised a live chat roundtable discussion and some Mario Kart, who could say no? My only task is to stay awake long enough.

The other bloggers expected to take part are: Roy from Silent Pagoda, Andy from The Speedgeek, James from 16th and Georgetown, George from Oil Pressure, Paul from the Planet-IRL empire, Will from Is It May Yet?, Tony from Pop-Off Valve and the blogging luminaries Jeff from MyNameIsIRL and the master himself, Bill from Pressdog.

Check the inaugural FW podcast for more details, and be sure to read this preview post.

I’m not quite sure what I’m letting myself in for.

Thursday Thoughts: New Tracks, Deleting Tracks

This week’s Thursday Thoughts question comes from Dylan of Triple League Racing, who asks:

What Track or Tracks not on the current F1 season calender do you want added?  Also, what current tracks need to go.  And finally, if this isn’t enough, how many Grand Prix’s should F1 have?

To answer the last question first, I like racing, I like lots of racing and the more the better yet despite this I’ve always felt F1 should feature no more than 19 races per year (too many is overload) and no fewer than 17 races (too few means an agonising wait between events), so the calendars we’ve seen for the last few years have had the right number of races for me. I also like having an odd number of races – I don’t know why – so that leaves either 17 or 19.

People lose interest quickly and with too few events I can see interest waning. Yet most of us like to have off-weekends in the summer months to enjoy that time of year properly, so we don’t want to bombard everyone with weekly races. I believe F1 works best with fortnightly events. Back-to-back weekends can work in some seried but I really don’t think they do in F1 more than once or twice per season, so I’d ensure most races were followed by an off-week, with the exception of some of the ‘flyaway’ races.

F1 seems to be different to other series in that it can take a week to dissect the events of a Grand Prix, and then you spend all of the next week building up the talking points for the next GP. It isn’t just ‘oh I’ll turn the TV on to watch the next one’, there’s a whole cycle and that’s why we love it.

So… which races would I drop, and what would I bring in?

Let’s list the 2010 season and mark in bold the races or venues I consider to be essential.

Sakhir, Bahrain
Melbourne, Australia
Sepang, Malaysia
Shanghai, China
Barcelona, Spain
Monaco
Istanbul, Turkey
Montreal, Canada
Valencia, Spain (European GP)
Silverstone, UK
Hockenheim, Germany
Hungaroring, Hungary
Spa-Franchorchamps, Belgium
Monza, Italy

Singapore
Suzuka, Japan
Korea
Interlagos, Brazil
Abu Dhabi

That’s 9 essential races out of a possible 19, call it 18 if we discount Korea because it hasn’t held a race yet, so that’s half. That’s much better than I thought before I started, but still not enough. If Formula 1 is to keep calling itself the world’s premiere racing series then *every event needs to be unmissable*.

Some on the list have the potential to be better if the car tech specs are changed, yet there are others that will never be good. What’s immediately for the chop with no reprieve?

Valencia – the circuit is too long, too boring and uninspiring and runs through a dockyard. I’d tell the organisers this:  change the layout to run past something interesting like the Arts & Sciences building, any kind of landmark at all. While you’re doing that you can think of a circuit that does not involve 25 corners in 3.5 miles, which is as guaranteed a creator of bad races if ever I heard one. Or drop it completely – if we’re to have a second Iberian race, how about the new Portimao circuit in Portugal? Okay it’s in the middle of nowhere, but so is Silverstone. If Valencia can’t be changed let’s go to the Algarve.

Shanghai – nobody in China cares, and the races are tedious. I can’t suggest an alternative in the region, so let’s use this slot to bring back the United States Grand Prix at Indy, run on the current MotoGP course rather than the previous F1 course.

Hungaroring – the circuit has invested in upgrades continually since it first held a GP in 1986 and the circuit today is FAR better than the one we saw back then… but really, I think we’ve had enough. Let’s go to Brno instead, that’s a fantastic course.

Nurburgring – given the choice of the two emasculated German venues, I’d choose Hockenheim. Nurburgring doesn’t generate good racing, and at least Hockinhalf is wide enough for passing. We need a German race and Hockenheim is it. Plus the atmosphere in the stadium section looks awesome – it has dropped off in recent years, expect the place to be packed again this year with Schumi back and in a German(-badged British) team.

Let’s be controversial - I think there is an argument for retaining Bahrain, some races have been boring but others have created great overtaking so let’s leave it in – ignoring the proposed new fiddly loop. I also think it is too soon to make a judgement call on Abu Dhabi despite the dire race there last year – I’d give it one more year before ejecting it.

I also retain Korea on the schedule because we have to give opportunities to new venues – though we’re all sceptical because of the maps, I’d like to wait until we’ve seen a race there before we completely slate it as I have no doubt we will. I’d keep it for 2010 and be ready to remove after a couple of years.

Also unchanged of the non-bold items:
I quite like Sepang and contrary to many Tilke circuits it has evolved a character and is reputedly developing bumps, so it isn’t ridiculously smooth any more. It has always been an interesting challenge in its own right anyway and it remains my favourite of the new-generation circuits.

Barcelona stays in because we need a Spanish race and I can’t think of anywhere else suitable. The racing is not great at all, I know that, but where else do you go? Jerez doesn’t seem suitable, the Ricardo Tormo Valencia circuit is a bit Mickey Mouse for my liking and I’ve already ditched the street track..

Singapore – Today they announced they were reviewing the circuit layout for the 2011 event to make the circuit faster. I like that kind of thinking and they’d already made good changes between 2008 and 2009, so they can stay. I’d probably tell the F1 personnel to stop being so silly in staying on European time when they run on Japanese time the following week.

I’d move the races around to be more like a journey around the world, mainly to aid personnel travel. Start in Australia, stop in Asia a few times on the way back to the summer in Europe, with a quick visit to North America, before flying back out to Singapore/Korea/Japan and ending in Brazil. I’d also separate the two night races, one early in the year and one at the end.

Rules:
Albert Park to start the year and Interlagos to end it.
Monza always follows Spa.

My schedule would look like this:

Melbourne, Australia
Sepang, Malaysia
Sakhir, Bahrain
Abu Dhabi*
Portimao, Portugal
Barcelona, Spain
Monaco
Istanbul, Turkey
Montreal, Canada
Indianapolis, United States
Silverstone, UK
Hockenheim, Germany
Brno, Czech Republic
Spa-Franchorchamps, Belgium
Monza, Italy
Singapore
Korea*
Suzuka, Japan
Interlagos, Brazil

* to be replaced in 2011/2012 should it prove to be boring

Game Week 1: 30-31 January 2010

Welcome to the Too Much Racing Game..thing! I haven’t thought of a good name yet (help please?).

This is the entry post for the first round of the year, which only covers one race, the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Wait don’t run away! There are plenty of familiar names so just pick your favourites!

If you already know your picks just hit reply and list your entries for this week. You have until FRIDAY at 7pm UK time (2pm US ET). If not, read on.

* * * *

RULES

See here for a further discussion of the Game’s rules, but the following is all you really need to know:

- Pick 10 drivers per week, maximum of 7 drivers per race (e.g. you can pick up to 7 this week, there is only one race).

- The game includes F1, IndyCar, NASCAR, DTM, WRC, ALMS and LMS events, as well as Daytona and Le Mans. This sounds confusing at first – don’t worry, you should only ever have at most a choice of 4 events per week… And you should be able to get by perfectly fine just by picking just two, like F1 and NASCAR.

- I will post updates every Wednesday from now until November. Updates will show points scored that week and provide details of the upcoming races.

- Don’t worry if the only race that week is unknown to you. I’d imagine for most reading now this is one of those weeks. You only need to ask a question and either myself or somebody else will do our best to answer. Or, just guess! It doesn’t matter, the game is only for fun so have fun with it, take risks, do what you want!

- In any case, I’ll try to walk through what’s on each week so that nobody gets lost – this week I have gone into extra detail because it is week one, and because this race isn’t really followed outside of the US. Its included in the game because the driver mix is interesting. The NASCAR champ racing the IRL champ, who’s sharing a car with Montoya, with Bourdais thrown into the mix? Can’t resist that.

- Tip: Picks carry over from week to week, so later on you may like to have a NASCAR driver or two in there just in case you forget to enter, since they race most weeks.

Ready? Let’s go.

* * * *

WEEK 1

Events:

Rolex 24 at Daytona  (Entry List)

Several notable names are joining the series regulars for this race, here is a selection of cars with ‘name’ drivers you may recognise:

Juan Pablo Montoya (NASCAR, ex-F1, ex-CART), Scott Dixon (IRL) and Dario Franchitti (IRL) share a car for Chip Ganassi;

Justin Wilson (IRL) and Max Papis (ex-F1, ex-CART, NASCAR) share the other Ganassi car;

Pedro Lamy (Peugeot Le Mans, ex-F1) and Max Angelelli (sportscars) drive the SunTrust car;

Sebastien Bourdais (ex-F1, ex-ChampCar), Sascha Maassen (LM) and Emmanual Collard (LM) drive a Crown Royal car;

Ryan Hunter-Reay (IRL) and Lucas Luhr (LM) share another Crown Royal car;

Raphael Matos (IRL) and Butch Leizinger (lots of sportscars) share the Brumos entry;

Jimmie Johnson (NASCAR) and Jimmy Vasser (ex-CART) drive the GAINSCO / Bob Stallings entry;

Ricardo Zonta (ex-F1) drives for Krohn Racing;  Buddy Rice (ex-IRL?) is in the Spirit of Daytona;

And of course, lots of series regulars including Scott Pruett. Consult the entry list for more. These are all in the main Daytona Prototype class, scroll down to look through the GT entries – you never know which of the DP cars will hit trouble, might be worth a punt on a GT if you’re feeling lucky.

Important Note - the Game scoring will be based on the overall finishing position, not class position.

*If you have no idea what I’m saying, just pick 7 of the above!*

It is up to you how you pick your entry. You can pick Montoya, Dixon and Franchitti if you like, but remember that they are driving the same car so if it breaks down you’ve lost 3 of your 7. That said, they are one of the hot tips for the win. It is up to you whether you want to spread the risk among cars that might not be good, or place your eggs in one basket. Nobody has the right answer until Sunday night.

Final note - qualifying is on Thursday. I’ve held entries open until Friday because this is the first event of the year and I think maybe less than half of my readership know anything about it – and it is a 24 hour race so qualifying is almost meaningless. For the rest of the year I would like to close entries before qualifying – there may be an exception again for Le Mans, we’ll see!

* * * *

HOW TO ENTER

Two easy steps.

1 – Pick your 7 drivers (that’s individual DRIVERS not cars).

2 – Type it as a reply to this post.

That’s it!

Deadline –  Friday 29th January 2010 at 7pm GMT, that’s 2pm EST in the US/Canada. You have 2 days, and entries MUST be made in reply to this post. Emails and tweets won’t count.

Have fun, and good luck! Don’t forget to ask plenty of questions.

EDIT – This race is covered on SPEED TV in the US and Canada, with patchy coverage on Eurosport across Europe. The race starts at 3.30pm ET Saturday, that’s 8.30pm UK.

On The Limit – Kimi Goes Rallying

It is about time I posted another On The Limit, the occasional featured video of drivers on the ragged edge.

Just in case you were wondering whether to follow Kimi Räikkönen’s exploits in the World Rally Championship this year, perhaps this will help?

Yep, does it for me.

With thanks to Scott in the Sidepodcast comments for pointing this out. Be sure to hit the original file for full widescreen goodness, because WordPress sucks and won’t let me change the size.

Proposal – All-Racing Fantasy Game

I have a proposal for a new competition to be hosted on this blog. The idea is that you submit a selection of drivers every week as a comment on the blog, and score points based on their finishing positions.

I’m sure most of you will be familiar with the idea, it has been around forever in various forms, and I think most of us take part in at least one such competition already (I play at SofaF1 and plan to play at F1Wolf too).

So why set up a new one? Well, instead of being just about F1 or IndyCar, I plan to open it up to cover both. I’m not sure of the level to go to yet but I want to include sportscar races and NASCAR – I’d welcome some thoughts in the comments.

Some background –  I play in Andy The Speedgeek’s All-Racing Fantasy League. This is a game where you ‘own’ 14 drivers and each week you nominate 5 oval racers and 5 road course racers. You can trade drivers between weekends. It is a tricky game and I enjoy it, and it looks like being an even closer contest this year than last.

Recently Andy was looking for team owners and while a cross-motorsport game was well received, some were put off by an email game limited to 13 teams, or baulked at the attention it may demand. I happen to enjoy the format but can see their point, so I suggested a simpler version of the game hosted on a blog, without the trading/ownership rules.

Thankfully Andy didn’t evict me from the game or dock me 50 points for corrupting his idea, and since his family has recently welcomed a baby in to the world (congrats again!) he’s a bit short on time, so has generously allowed me to go ahead with it here.

Proposed Rules – All of these are up for discussion and I hope to hear your thoughts!

1: The game will run every week from the Daytona 24 Hours until the final NASCAR event of the season.

2: There is no requirement to retain the same drivers, just pick the ones you think will do well that weekend.

3: It will include the following series/events:

- Formula 1   – IndyCar
– NASCAR Cup   – Daytona 24 Hours
– Le Mans 24 Hours
– Sebring and Petit Le Mans from the ALMS (maybe the full season but I’m really not sure?)
– I’d like to find a way to include WRC if possible

4: Original rule: Pick 5 oval and 5 road drivers per week
Proposed modified rule: Pick up to 10 drivers, with no more than 7 from one series.
7 could be made 6 or 8, I’m fishing here really. For example I’d imagine most of the SPC visitors will only want to pick F1 guys with the odd exception (I may be wrong?). And why yes, this is a shameless attempt at bumping up participant numbers!

5: The original game has a carry-over rule. If you forget to make changes, your team from last week is entered for this week. Shall we retain that rule or remove it?

6: If a driver is racing in more than one event that weekend you may nominate them for one event only, the entry must specify which event you are choosing.

7: The scoring system will be the one used in the original ARFL game, that is:
50-40-35-32-30-28-26-24-22-20-19-18-17-16-15-14-13-12-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-2-1-1-1 (and 1 down to 43rd).

I’m aware that this means an F1 win is equal to a NASCAR win, but this is just a bit of fun and not an allegedly definitive ranking system, so it doesn’t matter! It probably means you need to be picking NASCAR in the non-F1 non-IRL weeks.

The ARFL system also awards 3 for pole, 2 for FL and 2 for most laps led – will that be too complicated or is it fine? Shared drives score equally, so if Kristensen and McNish win Le Mans both would get 50.

8: Penalties. If a driver is awarded a points / position penalty after the event, it will be applied to this game retrospectively. Deductions will be made to the same fraction of a win as the actual series. e.g. a 10 point deduction in F1 is 10 pts divided by 25 pts for a win  x 50 points for a win in the game = 20 points deducted in the game.
Penalty = 10 / 25 * 50 = 20.
Penalty = ((actual penalty) / (points for a win in that series)) x (points for a win in this game)

9: The game is free to enter and the prize is to proclaim to the world, that “I Watch Too Much Racing”!

I plan to post an entry blog post every Wednesday or Thursday, with entries to close every Friday at say 6pm UK time (1pm US Eastern). Le Mans week may be a bit earlier because qualifying is on Thursday.

I think that’s it. I have attempted to balance the rules of the original game with the expected preferences of my regular visitors (and myself, if I’m honest), and the need to make a pick’em game easy to play. I’d appreciate any thoughts you may have, and thanks again to Andy for his help.

The point of the game is to get people interested in more than their own little world, and hopefully one or two will like the idea enough to join the original ARFL game in 2011, where there is prize money on offer.

All being well, the first entry post will be posted on Wednesday for the Daytona 24 Hours. There are a lot of IndyCar, NASCAR and ex-F1 drivers taking part so it should be easier than it sounds, and I’ll go through that on Wednesday.

Karting Meetup

Following the visit to the Autosport show last weekend, a few of us moved on to the centre of Birmingham to meet with some more people from the online motorsport community at the Bloggers & Friends Karting Competition, organised by Alianora La Canta.

It was a good evening’s racing with good organisation from TeamWorks Karting despite their being understaffed on a cold January Saturday evening. There were a couple of instances of technical issues with the karts which were resolved in a professional manner, and they did try and get through the programme quickly as they previous group were a little late leaving, though I did think they were moving a little too quickly at times.

Unfortunately one of those issues happened to me during my best race of the day! I was 2nd at the time and confident of finishing in that position, having run 5th or 6th in the 6- or 7-strong heats all night. Then the power in my kart just died. All the worse – it was my final heat of the day. Still, a good time was had and the karts and circuit posed a bigger challenge than I had expected, so it was satisfying after each heat to realise you were getting faster in every race.

I was more surprised because the karts were electric and we were warned not to brake and accelerate at the same time. My expectations were therefore low, but those things accelerated well and certainly felt quick through the left-handed sweeper after the starting grid. It didn’t feel underpowered at any stage (well..apart from when mine died on me) and for novice/occasional karters such as myself, they are the right speed for the course.

The circuit is very bumpy in places, and it felt fast, partly because karts are so low they always feel quicker than they are, and possibly because the karts were squirming around a lot on the slippery surface. Despite the bumps and slipperiness it was actually a well-designed layout featuring every type of corner you can think of, from sweepers to hairpins to the tricky double-apex right-hander where you have to brake later than you think.

Needless to say, like any racing driver I’m convinced I could have done better with a few more laps and without the technical error, but those are just excuses – it was a great night out and in reality I wouldn’t have got that much higher up the rankings given the strength of opposition – our group of 8 or so had been joined by what seemed like regulars to the circuit, to make up numbers. Eventually I came 17th of 22 (was it 20 or 22?), but I think I beat Chris and Alia and wasn’t far behind some of the others, so I was pleased with that.

Scott deserves a special mention because a) he kicked the asses of everyone in our get-together, and b) managed to get himself among those people who had patently been here a few times before, and he made the Final of the top 8 karters of the day (including beating his Dad). Sadly there was a bit of a Trulli Train going on and he couldn’t get around the group of three holding them up (in fairness neither could the others also stuck) so he finished 8th overall – yet that was a fantastic achievement having never seen the circuit before, or this type of kart.

It was really great to meet everybody even if they decided just to spectate, and if I go to Autosport again next year I will definitely be joining in with the already-announced karting meetup. I may even come up anyway, we’ll see what the money situation is like nearer the time.

Note – There are plans afoot for a summer karting event. Contact Alia for details. Unfortunately I doubt I can’t make it as it looks like it will be held somewhere North of Birmingham and I am on the South coast.

Thursday Thoughts: Borrowing Ideas

This week’s Thursday Thoughts question comes from the intriguingly-named Turkey Machine:


What features or regulations from other racing series would benefit F1, and why?


Sounds like my kind of question! Generally-speaking F1 does a good job, yet there are areas from other series it can learn from.

Openness
F1 is notorious for its secrecy. On the one hand it has been an integral part of the game for many years. On the other, we are in a different era now and fans expect a certain degree of openness, and thankfully some F1 teams and drivers are responding, with Twitter accounts and roadshows and so forth. But what at a GP weekend? BMW had the Pitlane Park, and I think it was Indianapolis that pioneered the pitlane walkabout at an F1 race (it having being commonplace in US racing for years).

Other series are still far better at this than F1. I recognise this is semi-deliberate in order to retain F1’s percieved ‘superiority’ and ‘exclusivity’ compared to other series, yet I feel it can be more open while still remaining top of the pile. How?

Let’s have a pitlane walkabout at EVERY Grand Prix, and on EVERY DAY of that GP. There isn’t a packed race schedule at most events (exceptions I think being Albert Park and Silverstone) so time can be found. You can mandate that teams must leave their garage doors open and unobstructed during the walkabout – because as we already know from past walkabouts, some teams put up screens. Some time before an ALMS race starts they line the cars up on the pit straight and allow the fans to walk up and down the straight, taking photos and meeting team personnel and drivers. I’m not necessarily suggesting going that far, but it could be an option.

Then let’s bring in mandatory driver signing sessions in an area outside Bernie’s security wall, with a fine for those who don’t show. This seems to go down very well in IndyCar and NASCAR. I’ve read reports of murmurings from some drivers that ‘extras like this aren’t part of their job’. If any drivers still feel this way, they need to have their attitude adjusting. They are paid millions in order to show their teams and sponsors off to the paying fans, they should give an hour of their time on a Sunday morning to meet them and let the fans get to know them. I argue that if a fan gets to meet their favourite driver they are more likely to associate themselves with that driver’s sponsor/s, whereas if the driver brushes them off that fan may decide to lessen their support or even drop it completely.

Media
HD TV needs to come in and it needs to happen immediately, from Bahrain onwards. No more testing the systems or whatever they are doing. We’ve been promised it every year for the last three or four and the excuses are wearing thin. IndyCar, NASCAR and even World Touring Car are in HD. Admittedly the other series that have gone HD have close relationships with broadcast partners, and F1’s coverage is produced in-house by an subsidiary of FOM – yet surely FOM makes enough revenues to be able to make this investment. I know, because they’ve blogged and tweeted about it, that the broadcasters are pushing hard to have an HD feed released to them – they can’t show what isn’t there. HD channels are currently ‘upscaling’ the standard feed.

The F1.com website needs improving. It is getting there, yet other series sites have tons of photos and videos available, either free or paid-for. Live timing is reasonably good though there’s room to include more information as some other series do.

Consistency of Rulings
Okay, I know you’d be hard-pressed to find a series anywhere that has consistent decision-making when it comes to things like penalties for blocking or running someone off-track. Wishful thinking. It would be nice if they could keep the decisions consistent, whatever those decisions are.

Finally, I’d make the numbers on the cars bigger. Maybe take up the whole rear-wing endplate like in IndyCar. Have you tried identifying drivers by looking at helmets? It’s not always easy.

TM went on to expand to a further question, let’s see if we can answer that as well:

If you can’t think of any that way, what about vice-versa, i.e. what’s F1 got that would benefit other borefests (sorry, motor racing series) around the world?

Certainly with IndyCar and NASCAR I’d bring in the yellow flag rules – don’t throw a Safety Car out there just because a car slowed down for 10 or 20 seconds and cleared the track immediately. I can see why you would do this on ovals where the speeds are so high and laptimes are 25 seconds – on road courses you definitely shouldn’t be going to a full-course yellow unless there’s a car in a dangerous position. It seems both IRL and NASCAR apply their rules to both types of track rather than making adjustments for each, which is a mistake. On a road course you usually have a bit more time and a bit more leeway to let the incident develop and see if it clears itself.

I wouldn’t necessarily take F1’s safety car procedure though, F1 has never really got the hang of when to deploy the car, or run the wave-by.

The producers of the TV feed for most series could probably learn how to cover a race, certainly a road course race, from the FOM crew. The way F1 races are shot is generally very good these days, this has been one of the biggest improvements F1 has made over the last ten years I think and that’s all down to bringing it in-house, not relying on ‘host broadcasters’ as we used to.

Great question. There’s bound to be plenty of other suggestions, feel free to add them either here or in a blog post of your own.