Start Times: 1-3 July 2011

A guide to this week’s racing.

All start times are UK (GMT+1 / British Summer Time) and are taken from official series websites or those of the circuits. Live TV or web coverage is not guaranteed. I do not include practice sessions or warm-ups or rally stage times.

In square brackets I have included some UK broadcast partners, many of which also apply across Europe. Note that not all of these races are live on TV, many may be tape delayed, but you might be able to watch live or follow timing via the series website.

All weekend: Goodwood Festival of Speed

Friday

12.30am (Sat) – NASCAR Nationwide – Daytona Race

Saturday

Midday – WSbR FR3.5 – Hungaroring Race 1

12.40pm – F2 – Nurburgring Race 1

12.45pm – GT3 – Navarra Race 1 [MotorsTV]

12.45pm – British Superbike – Snetterton Race 1 [ITV4 / Eurosport]

3.45pm – GT1 – Navarra Qualifying Race [ESPN UK]

4.30pm – British Superbike – Snetterton Race 2 [ITV4 / Eurosport]

12.30am (Sun) – NASCAR Sprint Cup – Daytona Race [Premier Sports]

Sunday

9.15pm – GT3 – Navarra Race 2 [MotorsTV]

11.00am – ILMC & LMS – Imola Race [Eurosport (intermittently) / Radio Le Mans]

11.55pm – F2 – Nurburgring Race 2

Midday – DTM – Norisring Race [ESPN UK]

Midday – WSbR FR3.5 – Hungaroring Race 2

12.20pm – WTCC – Porto Race 1 [Eurosport]

12.45pm – GT1 – Navarra Championship Race [ESPN UK]

1.00pm – MotoGP – Mugello Race [BBC2]

3.00pm – Goodwood Festival of Speed [Sky Sports 3]

4.50pm – WTCC – Porto Race 2 [Eurosport]

For more events see the sidebar.

Was the 2011 European GP boring?

I’ve seen all manner of opinion across a variety of internet feeds, be it Twitter, Sidepodcast’s comments, and more, that the 2011 European Grand Prix was the most boring motor race of all time. But was it?

No.

Don’t be silly.

This kind of reaction seems to have become a hallmark of internet discussion and especially in ‘real time’ fora such as Twitter or Facebook. Knee-jerk overreactions just because someone is bored with a race and there is a keyboard in front of them.

Was the race boring? Well, half of it was. The first half actually really interesting, but the second half was awful. It seems people with a keyboard in front of them lose all sense of time and perspective after 25 boring laps, and by the chequered flag they had forgotten the first part of the race wasn’t actually that bad. They seem to have applied 3 previous years of boredom to this year’s event. I’m sorry, you just can’t do that.

The only person I saw with a different opinion was Lukeh in this excellent post, a beacon of common sense. It was not a great race. It might not even have been a good one, but I tell you something, it wasn’t a bad one either.

Afterwards I posted the following comment to Sidepodcast’s ‘Rate the Race’ thread:

I give this a 5 out of 10 simply on the basis that I really enjoyed the first half of the race and it was only from halfway onwards that it got boring (really boring).

People must have such incredibly short attention spans to level the vitriol I’ve seen about this race. There is nothing wrong with having a 5/10 race once in a while.

I’ll admit I didn’t watch live and because I had it fullscreen and was too lazy to boot up a separate device, I wasn’t following internet reaction as it happened (i.e the live thread), so I was just left with my own thoughts. I found the first 40% of this race to be just as interesting as any other. There was racing. There was passing. There was a 3-way fight for the lead which could have resulted in a pass at any time. That it didn’t was neither here nor there, at no stage in the first half of the race did I think it was a foregone result (apart from actually already knowing the result.. but you know what I mean).

There was a battle for 4th. Racing between McLaren, Mercedes, etc. There was a colossal battle for 7th-14th which I loved, Force India, Toro Rosso, Williams. There was split strategy among midfielders, with Jaime in particular proving a lot of people wrong, he shouldn’t be written off. Sutil had a good run as well, no crashes, top ten result.

There was genuine passing as well as DRS-assisted passing. Just because the DRS was useless among the top 5 – and we have to say the FIA got this one wrong with the distance between detection and activation – it doesn’t mean it was useless for everyone.

We also can’t expect the FIA to get the zones right first time at each venue.. they are going to get some wrong in the first year, they got it wrong here. But on the few occasions a car was close enough in the zone, there was a pass.

So it fell flat in the second half. That’s not an excuse to write off the entire thing. It was by far the best F1 race at this track I have ever seen. That’s not saying much but it is positive progress. We had half an interesting race here, that’s half more than we had before. Change the DRS zone next year. Problem solved.

In the second half of this race we’ve proven conclusively – without the effect of rain as per Canada – that the old aero problems still exist and cars can’t pass without DRS (even with KERS and Pirellis). That’s a problem.

By 2009 standards this would’ve been a good race. Leaders sailing off into the distance, bit of battling in the midfield as a sideshow, just like 2009 with different players. We’ve been spoiled this year. Frankly if this was the worst race of the year, we’re very lucky. People are acting like this was Bahrain 2010 and it was nothing of the sort.

And I’m not saying the latter half of the race wasn’t boring, far from it, it was terrible..

I should also add… it probably says something about how low my expectations were, that I was watching on delay in the first place, having prioritised a golf game with my Dad over it. And I always prioritise F1 first.

Let’s just have a sense of perspective, shall we? Two years ago we’d have loved this race and here we are with people saying it is dull. I think that shows just how far we’ve come in such a short time. What a great result that really is for the sport of Formula 1 and motor racing in general.

TMR Game 2011 – Week 23

Hello and welcome to TMR Game Week 23.

This post accepts entries for these 4 events:

- NASCAR Cup Daytona
– ILMC/LMS Imola
– MotoGP Mugello
– DTM Norisring

Housekeeping

Each week you pick 10 entries with a maximum of 7 of those coming from a single championship. You can have any mix of races from those listed in this post, and you don’t have to use all of them.

See this page for the game rules.

Email reminders will be sent on Thursdays or Fridays by either myself or Sebastian. Please leave a valid email address in the comment form. If you do not wish to receive reminders please let us know, otherwise we’ll assume we’re okay to send them. Also let us know (privately if you prefer) if you would like to use a different address to the one you use here. I may also use Twitter or other sites if I happen to see you there on Thursday or Friday.

Continue reading

Start Times: 25-26 June 2011

A guide to this week’s racing.

All start times are UK (GMT+1 / British Summer Time) and are taken from official series websites or those of the circuits. Live TV or web coverage is not guaranteed. I do not include practice sessions or warm-ups or rally stage times.

In square brackets I have included some UK broadcast partners, many of which also apply across Europe. Note that not all of these races are live on TV, many may be tape delayed, but you might be able to watch live or follow timing via the series website.

All weekend: IRC Series Ypres Rally

Saturday

1pm – F1 – Valencia Qualifying [BBC1]

1.05pm – F2 – Spa Race 1

2pm – MotoGP – Assen Race [BBC red button]

2.40pm – GP2 – Valencia Race 1 [Eurosport]

3pm – N24 – ADAC Zurich 24h-Rennen Nürburgring (Nürburgring 24 Hours), Nürburgring Nordschliefe

5pm – Grand-Am Rolex – Road America Race

10.30pm – NASCAR Nationwide – Road America Race

11.40pm – Firestone Indy Lights – Iowa Race

2am – IZOD IndyCar – Iowa Race [Sky Sports]

Sunday

9.35am – GP2 – Valencia Race 2 [Eurosport]

1.00pm – F1 – Valencia Race [BBC1]

1.20pm – F2 – Spa Race 2

8pm – NASCAR Sprint Cup – Sonoma Race [Premier Sports]

For more events see the sidebar.

F1Predict: Valencia

I was asked by Greg at the F1 Results Predictor to make my choices for the upcoming European Grand Prix at Valencia. I had to pick the finishing order for all 24 cars, not easy! It helps that there are three very distinct groups in F1 at the moment:  title protagonists, midfielders, and tail-enders.

You can see my predictions, and Greg’s, at the F1 Results Predictor blog and do leave your thoughts in the comments there, and follow him on Twitter at F1Predict.

Thanks hugely to Greg for asking (it always amazes me when people do), and let’s see who gets the better strike rate!

TMR Game 2011 – Week 22

Hello and welcome to TMR Game Week 22.

This post accepts entries for these 4 events:

- F1 Valencia (European GP)
– IndyCar Iowa
– NASCAR Cup Sonoma
– MotoGP Assen

Housekeeping

Each week you pick 10 entries with a maximum of 7 of those coming from a single championship. You can have any mix of races from those listed in this post, and you don’t have to use all of them.

See this page for the game rules.

Email reminders will be sent on Thursdays or Fridays by either myself or Sebastian. Please leave a valid email address in the comment form. If you do not wish to receive reminders please let us know, otherwise we’ll assume we’re okay to send them. Also let us know (privately if you prefer) if you would like to use a different address to the one you use here. I may also use Twitter or other sites if I happen to see you there on Thursday or Friday.

Continue reading

2011 Indianapolis 500

Hot on the heels of one of the best Monaco Grands Prix for a few years, we saw one of the most best Indy 500 climaxes for a few years. It was on the same level as the year when Marco Andretti and Sam Hornish Jr raced over the last few laps to the flag, though this was dramatic for completely different reasons.

The build-up and pre-race festivities were as captivating as ever. The half hour leading up to the event, starting from the moment the drivers are introduced to the crowds, is one of my favourite periods in sports build-ups. Obviously nobody does preamble and build-up quite like the Americans but even this is something else again. As Steph, a Canadian, said in her must-read recap of the day at the track, that whole 30 minutes was enough to make you feel patriotic even if you aren’t from the US.

I was watching on a web feed because I can’t afford Sky Sports and IndyCar pulled their official live web stream this year, setting back their web presence by several years. My feed stuttered at the start so I missed it.. which was very annoying because I love the start at Indy.

I quickly learned from Twitter that the Dixon had got a bit of a jump start, apparently going before the green went out. I’m not sure if that’s true or if he just had better reactions, still, the race was green! Amazingly the full field of 33 squeezed through the narrow turn 1 and out of turn 2 without any great problem, it is always a nervous time waiting for a near-inevitable crash on any start or restart at Indy.

For the opening laps it was a joy to watch so many cars running so amazingly quickly, drivers ducking around to stay within the draft whilst cars ahead of them moved to break the tow. Every year I forget how that looks, how fast they are.

After a while things settled into the usual form for a long-distance oval race, pounding around making laps between safety car appearances – except this year they were very good, I was pleasantly surprised at the relative lack of yellows this year which meant we had a fairly fast race – it clocked in at just a few minutes shy of 3 hours when it can run 15 or 30 minutes beyond that, what with the speed of cleanups (or lack of it) at Indy.

When we did have yellows the drivers then faced the double-file restarts which most seemed to dread. They all trod carefully and somehow, somehow got through the first restart lap unscathed on all but one occasion. Many were expecting carnage and I commend the drivers for playing it safe yet still racing hard, that looked like the trickiest thing they had to handle all day. Indy wasn’t thought to be wide enough – okay it is a wide track by dimension but as the speed increases the more space the cars need, and at these speeds every minor movement moves the cars a lot, so a lot of space is needed. Hence the perceived narrowness. At 220mph it must feel like a narrow tunnel. There were some fraught, frenetic restarts.

We had some good racing during the green periods too which doesn’t always happen at Indy, or if it does the TV coverage misses it whilst they focus on the leaders (in this rase the Ganassi team were for the most part in control of the lead). ABC did their best to avoid showing us some actual racing but some of it did creep on to the screen and it was great to see. ABC were diabolical from the moment the race began. Pre-race? Fantastic. Post-race? Mostly good too. The coverage from flag-to-flag was largely awful. They missed some restarts. They cut away from battling drivers to show someone running alone seemingly sometimes just because they wanted to talk about the driver they cut to (tip: you can talk about someone without them being on the screen).  They played out too many commercial breaks, one even followed just 30 seconds behind another which is inexcusable. The entire team didn’t seem to be on their game which was disappointing.

However, I do give them credit for sticking with the final 20 minutes of the race without going to a break, I was so gripped by the closing laps I didn’t notice it was that long so thanks to those on Twitter who pointed it out. I also give them credit for, at long, long, last getting the flags of UK participants correct. For so long they’ve run a Scottish flag for Dario and a UK flag for everyone else, this time they ran Scottish and English crosses. You can’t have it both ways, either a UK flag for all or nation flags for all. Pet peeve of mine!

The culmination of the race was fantastic. A handful of cars ought to have made it without needing to stop again but they had to conserve fuel (Franchitti and Hildebrand). Others could stretch it to the end with a yellow flag if they saved fuel under green, but if it went green all the way a pitstop would be needed and their chance of a win would be over. One by one those hoping for yellow realised they wouldn’t make it. It became a game of chicken, how long do you stay out on a lean fuel mix, hoping for a yellow flag before giving in and pitting to give your driver a chance to make up lost time on full-rich with new tyres?

The field got mixed up through the final stops due to people mixing up their strategies, shuffling cars from the pack up to the front. So it was that we had Danica Patrick leading from Bertrand Baguette in the closing stages. First Patrick peeled off, some later Baguette did the same, and then were able to race hard without worring about fuel to claim 10th and 7th respectively.

Incredibly, the dominant Ganassi cars of Franchitti and Dixon had been short-filled! They’d held the advantage between them all race long, only to throw it away by gambling on a yellow.. or simply by making an error.

JR Hildebrand was left in the lead for the final run to home. I have to be honest, I hadn’t clocked he was good to the end at this point. I assumed he would be the next one to duck into the pits.. but the laps kept ticking down. 3 to go. 2 to go. White flag to signal the final lap, he’s going to do it! This was something special, a rookie in the series was going to win their biggest race, one of the big pillars of motorsport.

Except… he didn’t win. Charlie Kimball was minding his own business at the tail of the lead lap trying to make the end of the race. Hildebrand comes up behind him in turn 3, somewhat faster it must be said, and has to make the choice of holding back or passing him through turn 4. People had been lapping cars in turn 4 all day so he decides to make the move.. but goes too high, into the marbles, into the wall. To his credit he still mashes the throttle whilst his car is still at speed dragging along the wall, anything to get to the finish line! It nets him second position in his first Indy 500 which is still an incredible result.

As JR scraped along that wall a white car flashed by in between he and Kimball. For a few moments – which seemed much longer but can’t have been – nobody knew who had won, not on the TV broadcast, not on Twitter or anywhere else. Partly I suspect because the livery was unfamiliar, possibly because we hadn’t seen much of him all day despite having run in the top 6 for a lot of the race. Then it was announced:

Dan Wheldon won the Indy 500 in a one-off entry for Bryan Herta Autosport! A phenomenal result from a man who always runs well at Indy no matter what his fortunes are elsewhere, one of the ‘nice guys’ of the paddock, and that label also applies to his team boss Bryan Herta. I was a fan of Herta when he was driving and I’m so pleased he’s won this race as an owner, along with assistance from the team of the amazing Sam Schmidt.

Chaos ensued. I’ve seen fans at the Indy 500 that cheery and ecstastic once before and that was when Helio Castroneves won the race after acquittal at a tax trial which could’ve seen him jailed. Yet these fans seemed even louder and there were more of them! The place was jumping. Wheldon was crying on the radio and again on the podium. The US was denied a home winner at the last turn but nobody could argue against a Wheldon win, he puts so much into Indy and I sense the locals treat him as one of their own.

If you missed the race or want to relive it, do watch these 15-minutes of highlights from the official IndyCar YouTube channel. You just have sit through some abysmal commentary from the track feed, which is so poor it even makes IMS Radio (also included) sound professional when really it is tear-your-hair-out frustrating to listen to. The video is still worth watching.

What a race. After some lean years Indy is once again back where it belongs as one of the great pillars of world motorsport. Fantastic!

Result

  1. Wheldon (Herta)
  2. Hildebrand (Panther)
  3. Rahal (Ganassi)
  4. Kanaan (KV)
  5. Dixon (Ganassi)
  6. Servia (Newman/Haas)
  7. Baguette (Rahal Letterman Lanigan)
  8. Scheckter (KV)
  9. M.Andretti (Andretti)
  10. Patrick (Andretti)

Driver Points

  1. Power 194 (14th)
  2. Franchitti 178 (12th)
  3. Servia 150 (6th)
  4. Kanaan 135 (4th)
  5. Dixon 129 (5th)
  6. Rahal 120 (3rd)

Amazingly both Power and Franchitti took a similar points hit, so there’s no change at the top.

The next event was the double-header Firestone Twin 275s at Fort Worth on Saturday 11th June, which I haven’t really seen yet. The next event after this post goes up is the Milwaukee 225 on 19th June.