I’m Going to the Belgian GP (and London)

I am moments away from departing to London for the Sidepodcast Meetup at the Coal Hole, a pub on the Strand in Central London. Have a look at the link for more information and directions, and come along!

Wednesday is a day of rest and recovery from an expected hangover, and also for final last-minute planning.

Thursday, two cars will be ferrying 8 of us over to Spa-Franchorchamps for the Belgian Grand Prix! I am one of the drivers. Yet more people will meet us there to take our group up to 12.  I’ll be watching qualifying and the race from Eau Rouge. Yes, that one.

Please keep an eye on my Twitter account @toomuchracing, the Sidepodcast.com Daily threads and live commenting, and of course this blog, from now until Monday.

I am not promising much in the way of blog posts but the caravan site has wifi and I will have my netbook although our plans aren’t known yet, so we’ll see. I am also hoping to upload photos to my Picasa album if the connection is fast enough, but that might have to wait until I’m home.

TMR Game – Week 31

Welcome to Week 31 of the Too Much Racing Game!

Here are all the results from last weekend’s racing. Please note these have been produced in a bit of a hurry while I prepare for my F1 holiday, apologies for any errors and I will correct them upon my return. There will be no reminders via email or Twitter this week, it is your responsibility to enter.

You should not expect to see next week’s post until Wednesday, though I’ll do my best to get it done on Tuesday.

Quick-Start

Racing this week:

F1 – Belgian Grand Prix, Spa-Franchorchamps, Belgium;
IndyCar – Chicagoland Speedway, Illinois, USA;
ALMS – Mosport, Canada;
(there is NO Cup race – thought I’d point it out as it is unusual)

Usual restrictions apply, pick up to 7 drivers in any individual race up to a maximum of 10 drivers.

The cutoff is Saturday 28th August at 4.59am BST (British Summer Time = GMT+1), that’s 11.59pm Friday night US EDT.

For the full results from Week 30, read on. Continue reading

Blogger Swap Shop: Perception

As part of the VivaF1 Blogger Swap Shop, I was given the honour of writing for the host blog of the Swap.

Please be sure to head over to VivaF1 to read my thoughts on the perception, talent and prestige of racing drivers both in and out of Formula 1, and where I question what could have been. Enjoy.

If you missed it before, Leigh from the F1 & Motorsports Archive was guest blogger on this very site, you can read his excellent post right here.

TMR Game – Week 30

Welcome to Week 30 of the Too Much Racing Game!

Here are all the results from last weekend’s racing, and a guide to what’s happening this week.

Quick-Start

Racing this week:

Ok.. concentrate:

ALMS – Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin;
LMS – Hungaroring, Hungary;
IndyCar – Sonoma, Sears Point, California;
NASCAR Cup – Bristol, Tennessee;
DTM – Zandvoort, Netherlands;
WRC – Rally Germany;

Usual restrictions apply, pick up to 7 drivers any individual race up to a maximum of 10 drivers.

The cutoff is Saturday 21st August at 4.59am BST (British Summer Time = GMT+1), that’s 11.59pm Friday night US EDT.

For the full results from Week 29, read on. Continue reading

Blogger Swap Shop: The Grand Débutante

As part of the Blogger Swap Shop initiative led by VivaF1, I volunteered to act as host for a guest writer while I would go off and write an article for another blog. When the line-up was revealed I was pleased to find Leigh from The F1 & Motorsports Archive would be IWTMR’s guest blogger. Thanks to Leigh for the excellent post (which I was lucky enough to find a photo to illustrate) and also to Saltire and Maverick for the concept. No doubt when they are all posted you’ll soon find links to the entire collection of Blog Swaps on VivaF1. Over to Leigh.  – Pat

The Grand Débutante

In terms of startling Grand Prix débuts, few will ever rank as highly as Lewis Hamilton 3rd place finish at the 2007 Australian Grand Prix, not far behind race winner Kimi Raikkonen and then team mate, Fernando Alonso. However, while Hamilton’s initial steps in Formula 1 were indeed impressive, they will always fall short of the marker that one Giancarlo Baghetti set during 1961.

Discounting the first World Championship race and that year’s Indianapolis 500 (in the days when the marquee event was part of the World Championship), Baghetti is the only driver to win a Formula 1 race on his first outing. Whereas Hamilton would eventually take the world crown nineteen months later at Interlagos, Baghetti’s career faded thereafter and the Italian would eventually fall into the depths of obscurity.

Born on Christmas Day 1934 into an affluent household in Milan, Baghetti was the son and grandson of wealthy industrialists. With money not being a problem in his family, the young Giancarlo would often borrow his father’s car with the intention of running it in the famous Italian road race, the Mille Miglia, something he would finally do in 1958.
Admittedly, by this stage the Mille Miglia had been downgraded to being a street-legal rally event following a number of fatalities in previous years, yet even the event’s diminished status the speed and the talent were still clear. Baghetti would split the running of the road rally with his brother and indeed finished 2nd in the GT1300 class (7th overall), but his real influence would come from Milanese tuner and engineer, Angelo Dagrada.

Baghetti continued to run touring cars through 1959; however Dragada would soon convince him to purchase a purpose built Formula Junior car to compete. It was Dragada that had actually designed the racing machine, based around a Lancia engine and with it Baghetti secured a podium at the Coupe du Salon de Paris. From the very beginning of the 60’s, the 25-year-old would start winning.
Baghetti’s improving form would eventually see him selected to be part of FISA (Federazione Italiana Scuderie Automobilistiche) – a scheme that gave young drivers an opportunity to take out a loan of a Ferrari and drive in competition. Given the time and the changes in car development during the late 50’s, Baghetti was lucky enough to be seated in a rear engined Ferrari Formula 2 car, while some of the Italian marquees primary machinery was still front engined. Baghetti faced opposition to get the seat, mainly from Albino Buttichi and Lucien de Sanctis; however the 25-year-old Milanese racer was not going to let this opportunity slip away.

For a great many years, it was not unusual for drivers to compete in many events outside of the World Championship for prize money; in fact some would even compete in multiple disciplines during any given year. It was something that would decline through the years, with 1983 being the final year non-Championship Grand Prix would run; however in 1961, non-Championship races were still in full swing with an amazing twenty-one Grand Prix taking place outside of the World Championship – seven of which ran in Britain alone.
A further four of those events would be run in Italy and FISA entered Giancarlo Baghetti into the first two – the Syracuse Grand Prix and the Naples Grand Prix. Come April, the youthful Italian would finally get the opportunity to race at the top level. First though, Baghetti ran a shared Ferrari at Sebring with Willy Mairesse – the duo picked up second in a sportscar event when their respective seats were later taken over by Wolfgang von Trips and Richie Ginther.

As part of the FISA deal, Baghetti was loaned a Ferrari 246P for the Syracuse event, but despite this being a non-Championship run, the Italian faced some very stiff competition in the form of Jack Brabham, Jim Clark, John Surtees, Graham Hill, Dan Gurney, plus a whole host of other big motorsport names. Amazingly at his first attempt, Baghetti lined up 2nd on the grid, alongside Gurney and ahead of Surtees.
Once the starting flag dropped, the FISA supported man fell down seven places from the line, yet with the raw power of the Ferrari’s 1500cc Chiti engine, Baghetti took the lead ahead of Gurney of the sixth lap of 56 and stayed there, taking a popular victory ahead of the factory teams.
Baghetti’s Syracuse victory shocked many in the paddock, a feat that he repeated at Naples some weeks later; however with much of the grid competing at the Monaco Grand Prix – held on the same day, the depth of talent was somewhat lower, with only the names of Roy Salvadori and Lorenzo Bandini being somewhat recognisable.
Starting fourth, the Italian had another poor start, but pulled into the lead on lap 4 – Baghetti would go on to lap the entire field by the chequered flag, despite nearly spinning out of the race on the 53rd lap.

During the 1961 Formula season, Ferrari ran three ‘regular’ drivers (eventual Champion Phil Hill as well as Ginther and von Trips), however for the Belgian Grand Prix, the Italian squad ran a fourth car for Olivier Gendebien. However, after the race at Spa-Francorchamps, Gandebien suddenly left Ferrari, leaving the team with spare car for the upcoming French Grand Prix.
The departure of Gandebien and Baghetti’s incredible show of strength at Syracuse and Naples convinced FISA to enter him into the World Championship event. On June 18th 1961, Giancarlo Baghetti would contest the French Grand Prix at the famous Reims circuit in the powerful Ferrari 156, under the banner of the Scuderia Sant’Ambroeus.

Whereas, his first two victories were down to skill and power, Baghetti now found himself up against much tougher competition under Formula 1 rules, with Italian qualifying down in 12th while his team mates all lined up first, second and third on the grid. This would indeed be a Ferrari victory, but no one thought Baghetti would take the flag first.
As the race took place in the intense July heat, the excessive temperatures would take their tole on a number of engines as unit after unit blew itself to smithereens, including that of von Trips. Others would either stop or slow considerably as oil pressures reached tension point – something that Brabham and Ginther would fall foul of.
So hot was the summer pain, that even the tarmac began to tear up under the tortuous pressure of the Formula 1 machinery – so much so, that the third Ferrari of Hill would spin out under the breaking road, as did Surtees.

In a slipstreaming battle with the Porsche’s of Dan Gurney’s and Jo Bonnier, Baghetti would constantly exchange the lead with his foes lap after lap, at no point bowing to pressure from his more experienced competitor. On the 53rd lap, Bonnier – beginning to experience engine difficulties – drew back from the battle, leaving Baghetti and Gurney to have at it.
The leading pair continued to swap the lead on Reims’ long straights, yet as the exited the final turn on the way to the chequered flag, it was Gurney that had the lead, but it was still not over. With one desperate final lunge down the inside of Gurney from the final corner, Baghetti had just enough momentum to pip the Porsche to the flag by 0.1 of-a-second. It was a major upset, but the grand débutante had won!!

Following this success, things quickly went downhill for Baghetti. He next competed at the British Grand Prix a month later at the fast Aintree circuit and later the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, retiring from both events. The FISA driver would set the fastest lap in the Italian race, but this – and everything else about the race – was overshadowed when von Trips collided with Clark approaching the Parabolica sending his red Ferrari careering into a full viewing area.
Von Trips would die in the tragic incident, as would fourteen spectators – a crash that would gift fellow Ferrari driver, Phil Hill the 1961 title in the most horrible of circumstances.

Before the year was out, Baghetti would take one more minor victory in the Coppa Italia at the Vallelunga circuit just north of Rome, thereby claiming the Italian Drivers’ Championship. Lorenzo Bandini was Baghetti’s main rival; however with Bandini not in attendance, it was hardly a fair fight. Even Ferrari saw little point of supplying Baghetti with a car for such a minor event, leaving FISA to borrow a Porsche to enable the Italian an opportunity to take the title.
Baghetti was moved to the works Ferrari team for the 1962 season, but with new rules in place, the red cars were nowhere. With only a 4th and 5th place finish to his credit, Baghetti left Ferrari at the end of the season to move to the uncompetitive ATS squad alongside Phil Hill. In a disastrous 1963 season, Hill finished a highest 11th with Baghetti achieving 15th on one occasion, their year being peppered with unreliability and slow machinery.
The next year saw Baghetti with Scuderia Centro Sud team, but a highest finish of 7th at the Austrian Grand Prix meant that Baghetti once again scored no points, whereas team mate Tony Maggs secured four points with top finishes at the Nordschleife (Germany) and Zeltweg Airport (Austria).

That was Giancarlo Baghetti’s final full or mostly full season in Formula 1. Between 1965 and 1967, the Italian would routinely show up for his homeland’s race at Monza and a couple of non-Championship events at Syracuse and di Pergusa. Later, Baghetti would drive a number of touring car events for FIAT Abarth, Alfa Romeo and Porsche before disappearing completely from limelight.
His final race was the 1968 Formula 2 Lottery Grand Prix at Monza in a Ferrari Dino 166, but with a batch of new young stars coming through the ranks, Baghetti found himself comfortably outpaced and ended the event in the midst of a huge multi car accident while running in 6th spot. Baghetti chose then to retire from motorsports – alive – at the ripe old age of 33.

With his racing career now firmly behind him, Baghetti became a photographer for Playboy magazine, before starting a weekly magazine called Auto Oggi.

In 1995, just one month shy of his 61st birthday, Giancarlo Baghetti died from cancer.

I’m Watching… #5

I watch too much racing. What have I been watching over the last three weeks?

Before I answer that I’d like to note that I missed this blog’s 2nd birthday (or ‘blogaversary’) on August 5th, I’m very surprised I missed it as last year I had a birthday logo and everything. Thanks to everyone for your continued support and I hope you’re enjoying the blog. I’d also like to wish a happy 4th blogaversary to Alianora La Canta – apologies for not offering a question this year and I’ll make up for it on the 5th blogaversary!

Here are the races I watched between July 21st and August 6th – I’ll cover last week’s live races next time.

Formula 1 – German GP 2010 *live on BBC1*

I thought Ferrari were good now. I thought now the Evil Axis of Todt/Brawn/Schumacher had moved on, the ‘New Ferrari’ of Domenicali & friends were all happy and smiley and open and ready to race fairly with the respect of their peers. Hah! Yeah right, how naïve of me. I’ve pictured the result as it should’ve been..

Aside from the team orders, the race was essentially decided on the first corner when Vettel tried to squeeze Alonso against the wall after a bad start, but turned it into a big push to the right and narrowly avoided collision. The delay to both allowed Massa into the lead. This race showed that Ferrari’s pace has improved significantly and they are now a factor for race wins, they managed to hold off the previously-dominant Red Bulls with apparent ease. Hamilton and Button finished well too, they haven’t been quite as fast all the time but they’ve posted good results all year.

Formula 1 – Hungarian GP 2010 *live on BBC1*

I was at my Mum’s for this one, which was quite embarrassing because it was a crap race. When I watch with people who never usually see racing I want it to be a good one to show the sport in a good light – when they ask why I watch it I can point at the screen. Why did it have to be Hungary? Of course this meant I was without access to my usual online accoutrements for watching F1 in particular, and live racing in general. I’m referring to things like Tweetdeck, the Sidepodcast live comments, the F1.com live timing and the BBC’s live tracker which shows the position of each car in real time.

Webber’s strategy saw him stay out during the Safety Car period when many had pitted, and he put in a dominant performance to build a gap on the field. He was aided by Vettel’s strange behaviour behind the SC attracting a penalty, you have to wonder how close Seb would’ve run him but to me it seemed Mark had stepped up a gear that day and once he was ahead he was untouchable.

I reckon Mark is ‘doing a Jenson’ – that is, he’s been getting better as a driver for years in midfield cars almost unnoticed by many people, and now he’s able to exploit a good car to make a run for the title at the expense of a perhaps more-fancied team-mate. Jenson did it to Rubens, Mark looks like he’s starting to do it to Sebastian. Good on him, he’s got my backing.

I think the points battles and the drama and incidents mid-race are more interesting than the actual racing competition at the moment, though you can argue F1 has always been that way. It certainly is a tight points battle in both contests – remember in the winter when everyone said the Constructors’ fight would be settled by July? It could still go any of three ways!

Very little else happened in the race, the only other thing of note was Michael Schumacher attempting to kill Rubens Barrichello and the team personnel and marshalls stationed on the pitwall. Michael on very worn medium tyres was travelling several seconds per lap slower than a charging Rubens, who was on a fairly new set of soft tyres and trying to make up for ground lost with what turned out to be a poor strategy. Given the blood between them you can appreciate Rubens wasn’t going to back down – a facet I love about the modern Rubens, he’s still the same warm gentle guy but in a racing car against Schumacher he’ll keep his foot in to the last. Needless to say, Schumacher swerved violently to the right just as Barrichello was passing him on that side. Bully-boy tactics that have scared off many in the past, Rubens has had enough of the man and he wasn’t passing up the opportunity of having a superior car than Mikey. Rubens kept his foot down, moving to the pit exit rather than backing off, and was heading for the grass effectively saying to Michael, “if you don’t give me room I’m going to have an accident”. Michael backed off and gave him the room. Score one to Rubens. You can bet those old demons have been slain once and for all, and Michael now has that marker against him. That it was done in a Williams made it all the sweeter, for me at least and I believe many others (not least Sir Frank).

IndyCar Series – Edmonton *live on IndyCar.com*

One of the most uneventful races of the entire IndyCar year, or even the entire racing year. I am struggling to think of anything noteworthy that happened prior to the controversial incidents of the final laps, perhaps I should take notes!

On the final restart of the race just a few laps from the end – and I must say, this Safety Car for debris seemed like a ‘phantom yellow’ to bunch up the scattered field for the finish, we certainly weren’t shown any debris on the web feed – as the field took the green flag Helio Castroneves took the defensive inside line into the first corner, while most of the rest of the pack took the normal racing line on the outside (if not all of the pack – I can’t recall if someone lower in the order jinked out). All fine and dandy in every series on the planet, the leader has the choice of where to place his car and as long as he’s not weaving across the track, changing line or chopping across the nose of the guy behind he is entitled to do so. This is no longer the case if you’re in IndyCar. Helio was given a penalty for blocking, which he either refused to serve or didn’t have to time to do so while the point was being argued.

It later transpired that the officials draw an imaginary line through each corner and if you deviate from the racing line, you are deemed to be blocking. You’re only allowed to do it if you’re attempting a pass on the driver ahead. Absolutely crazy. It basically moves the leader to one side and waves the 2nd-placed car through. It prevents the chasing driver from trying to force the leader into an outbraking error, forcing him to go wide on the exit and then executing the classic switchback to take the lead. That’s one of the classic hallmark moves of racing and it is now banned in IndyCar. Just as the series looks like it is building solid foundations for the future, it goes and pulls a stunt like this. Instant loss of credibility.

MotoGP – Sachsenring 2010 *live on BBC2*

Aside from a large accident involving Randy de Puniet I don’t remember much about this one either. Randy made an error in practice/qualifying, got patched up and started the race anyway, as these crazy motorbike riders like to do. The risk is that you crash again and make it worse. Randy crashed again – big time. Cue a red flag while he was recovered, hopefully he’ll get well again in time. This being several weeks ago now, he may well be already well on the way.

One thing I do remember is a damaged and recovering Valentino Rossi basically doing the same thing as Randy, in danger of crashing and making it worse – yet after initially falling behind the pace he somehow managed to catch and race hard a perfectly healthy Casey Stoner who was giving it the full beans. The two traded places for a few laps before Stoner came off best, but with those injuries Rossi should’ve been higher than 8th (in this depleted field) if he should’ve been riding at all. Dani Pedrosa won the race.

MotoGP – Laguna Seca 2010 *live on BBC2*

A couple of years ago this venue, Stoner and Rossi fought another epic battle and hopes were high of something similar, if not involving those two then perhaps Pedrosa and Lorenzo. It was not to be. Pedrosa led comfortably until he crashed, which left Lorenzo to take a relatively straightforward win from Stoner. There were a string of bikes up next and these swapped places but for some reason my attention was lost. Rossi won that battle and took the final podium spot. Lorenzo leads the points by a quite ridiculous margin.

GP2 Series – Istanbul Park 2009

I’m so far behind on GP2 it’s not funny. Okay, maybe it is.. I’d recently set the goal of at least completing the 2009  season before I saw the 2010 series for real at Spa at the end of the month, but it looks like I’m not going to achieve that aim.

The Feature race had a fair amount of action, there was a great moment when race leader Nico Hulkenberg was challenged by Luca Fillipi at the final sequence of corners, only for the pair to run wide and Vitaly Petrov drove around the pair of them. Meanwhile Andi Zuber took 3rd in the process – Petrov took saw it coming a mile off and took a wide line into the corner. Quite a lot of attrition in this race for some reason.

It’s funny watching a junior series when the participants are in F1 now.. Petrov ran Parente off the road briefly, and Chandhok had a very slow start from 5th to fall to the back where he set about running a string of fastest laps. Hulkenberg put a superb move on Villa near the end, really well executed – thought of course Nico had only dropped back due to a problem in the pits. A dominant performance from Petrov once he’d got in front.

The Sprint race started in complete madness with cars dicing everywhere on lap one, contact and spins in turn 1 and elsewhere, Chandhok’s car failed to start properly again, and Grosjean moving from 26th to 12th in two laps. Crazy stuff! Settled down somewhat after that until Grosjean and Nunes got into a battle for 11th, and Parente caught Mortara for 9th. Neither managed to make the pass though.