Monthly Archives: September 2011

TMR Game 2011 – Week 36

Hello and welcome to TMR Game Week 36.

9 weeks to go. This post accepts entries for these 5 events. This is the last time we see five events in one week so make your choices count!

- ILMC/ALMS Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta
- IndyCar Kentucky
- NASCAR Cup Dover
- MotoGP Motegi
- DTM Valencia

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 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.

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A Day At Goodwood Revival 2011

I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Goodwood Revival on Sunday, courtesy of Johnnie Walker. Despite having attended five fantastic Festivals of Speed I have never been to the Revival before, so I immediately accepted!

A Unique Atmosphere

The Revival is more than just a normal race meeting for historic/classic racing cars, it has those added Goodwood touches and details we all know and love from the FoS. With spectators in period clothing and the stands selling vintage items, I thought I’d ask Mum to come along to her first ‘big’ race meeting as she’s really into that side of things, regularly attending the local vintage market and so forth.

The first surprise was arriving at the gate and seeing so many of the crowd in period dress. I had expected maybe half of the attendees would do it, and then only in a half-arsed way, but it was a good 80-90% of the crowd! Later as we walked away out to the sticks towards the far end of the circuit it was more like 60-70%, still an impressive figure. It put our minds at rest that if we came back we’d certainly give it a go and not feel silly about it… well maybe only if we stopped for coffee on the motorway.

There were also a lot more ‘acts’ either in their own performance areas or just floating around the crowds at the back of the main grandstands. Dancers, bands, singers, and the Laurel & Hardy boys I’d seen before at the FoS seemed to be following us everywhere as we bumped into them several times, I seem to remember they did that at the Festival too! That’s actually a poor angle of them, in reality they do look a lot like the originals.

This all contributed to a strange crossover in atmosphere between the ‘garden party’ of the Festival, the relaxed feel of historic/classic car racing event with old road vehicles dotted around the track, yet with the attendance levels of a major race meeting. There were easily 50,000 people there by my estimation and likely a lot more.

The Races

Sunday’s card featured seven races, and we arrived in the traffic queue as the second of those got under way. Once we made it in there was an unexplained delay in on-track action, we never found out why but everything was running late by as much as an hour. This meant was had the opportunity to explore all of the above before heading trackside, stopping for a nice organic burger – though I had a hangover and had forgotten that at the Belgian GP it was sausage which was the magic hangover cure, should’ve had that! A cup of tea worked wonders.

The Barry Sheene Memorial Trophy was under way as we walked along the track away from the final corner looking for a space. Neither of us are into motorbikes though I do watch modern MotoGP, it was interesting to compare their 1960s counterparts braking very early in wet conditions.

We got near to Lavant corner and found a good viewing spot, the cars entering our sight directly opposite and heading left-to-right, before driving in an arc to pass in front from right-to-left. The St Mary’s Trophy got under way and there was a great selection of cars of all sizes, from big Ford Galaxies to little Mini Coopers via BMWs, Alfa Romeos, Jaguars and even a Mercedes-Benz 300SE.

Because of the nature of this event I make no apologies for loading this post with big photos and videos where usually I’d have several smaller. I know many don’t like that sort of thing but these are classic cars and deserve to be shown to the world, so an exception can be made here.

St Mary's Trophy (saloons/touring cars 1960-66)

The BMW (2nd in this shot) went on to a dominant win but the Galaxie (leading) and the Mini (3rd) had a race-long battle which was fantastic to watch! The Galaxie usually entered our sight ahead after using its big engine and top speed, but struggled to slow down and turn the corner in this picture, whilst the little Mini barely slowed down at all and nipped through on the inside with far better grip despite having tiny wheels – only for the Galaxie to stretch its legs again straight afterwards.

This was a great race, different types of cars with different capabilities. Touring car racing needs to get back to this and to hell with any thoughts of ‘equalisation’.

Video – St Mary’s Trophy – BMW 1800 leads Galaxie and Mini

The threatening rainclouds dispersed in time for an air display. This was no ordinary air display. This was TEN airworthy Spitfires! Okay I admit they may not all be genuinely from the war, some are rebuilds, but that’s fine if that’s what it takes to keep Spitfires flying. As luck would have it they took off right in front of us!

Spitfire Taking Off

(more Spitfires on my Picasa page)

Then it was the GT race and these were impressive beasts, noisy, tails sliding out on the damp track, fantastic. Yet they are worth tens of millions in some instances!

Video – RAC TT Celebration

Kenny Brack (Indy 500 winner) in the Shelby American Daytona Coupe  leading Martin Brundle (Le Mans winner, ex F1 driver) in the Ferrari 250 GTO owned by Nick Mason. This isn’t a great quality video but I hope it shows the cars well enough. Brack got the tail of his car wiggling under power much more than the others did theirs.

Martin Brundle, Ferrari 250 GTO

This was a good one as well, maybe not so much in the wheel-to-wheel but just the spectacle of it. Despite being slower than last week’s sportscar race at Silverstone these seemed much more impressive. We headed back towards the final corner to watch the end there and as we did so the black clouds drifted over and sure enough, the rain came down very hard.

Wet track for the GTs

The track quickly became treacherous with standing water everywhere and spray being kicked up. In the modern era they’d probably have sent out the Safety Car in such heavy rain. In this case with the race already scheduled to be shortened from 1hr down to 45min, they waved the chequered flag a further 5 minutes early. At a race for historics, particularly one which is delayed, there is no sense in continuing to risk these collectable and highly valued cars.

Another cup of tea sought, we moved location to watch the Tribute to Juan Manuel Fangio and then the short race for 1960s 1.5-litre Grand Prix cars.

The Fangio tribute featured a wide selection of his race cars from his career, in a parade behind a pace car, spanning his early days right through to his succesful Maseratis, Mercedes and so forth. Even his Indy 500 car was there, even though he’d failed to qualify for that race! It was good to see a famous name or two out there in the cars.

John Surtees, Fangio Tribute

We were stood between the last corner ‘proper’ and the makeshift chicane on the main straight. The 60s GP cars took it very gingerly on the wet track, I don’t blame them because if I were in a priceless 50-year old Lotus, Cooper or BRM I’d probably do the same. Still pretty fantastic to see the cars in action even if they were slow.

Grand Prix cars of 1961-1965

Andy Middlehurst took a dominant win by half a minute but the group behind were very close throughout. Paul, Lord Drayson – yes he whose 2010 LMP1 Le Mans car adorns the top of this very blog – finished a creditable 2nd. Ben Collins was also guesting and he was passing cars.. until he slid into the gravel.

We were running out of hours so decided to skip the final race of the day (1950s sportscar world championship) to explore the rest of the Revival.

Paddock

We spent a little while looking around the stalls. Many were the usual sort of thing you find at race meetings or at the Festival of Speed: model cars, books, £30 t-shirts, £300 Steve McQueen ‘Le Mans‘ leather jackets, etc., etc. The rest of the stands were an odd mix of vintage fashions and automotive art.

Surprise of the day? Seeing Sir Stirling Moss signing at one of the book stands surrounded by a crowd! A part of me regrets not getting the book. I like Moss a lot but I didn’t really want that particular book, but I could’ve had a book signed by Stirling Moss.. Irritatingly this was the moment my camera died and I realised the charged batteries I’d brought hadn’t actually been charged.

We ventured through the tunnel to the paddock. Unlike the Festival this paddock was roped off except to badge holders, but they did provide viewing areas around the whole perimeter of it so that was something. It was great to be there though and it looked like the podium finishers for many of the day’s races went out for another celebratory lap, as they came into parc ferme as were stood nearby. I borrowed Mum’s camera to get some up-close shots of those although I’ve not seen how they turned out.

And we (eventually) found the drivers’ club too, but no drivers, it was 5 or 6pm though and most of the racing action had stopped, little potential for seeing famous names. The good thing is that now I know the lay of the land, a future visit can be planned to ‘bump into’ certain drivers as they happen to be walking from place to place.

Oh and we checked out the Earls Court Motor Show as well, some fantastic supercars from the 1960s to today, from E-Type, GTO, Daytona to XJ220, McLarenF1 and Alfa 8C Competizione.

Sadly there wasn’t time to sample some Johnnie Walker (we got lost looking for the right bar.. and I had something of a hangover already!). They didn’t have the big tower from the Festival with the different drinks so I didn’t feel I was missing out so much. I don’t drink a lot of spririts but I’ve started exploring them in recent months so I think I may well buy a bottle as a ‘thank you’.

EDIT – I’ve been contacted by the man from JW who corrected me and said they did indeed serve a variety of drinks, and the bar featured an original Rob Walker car as well. I must say, after VivaF1 sampled some at the FoS and gave a thumbs up I would’ve quite liked to have tried it myself, it was just a shame we ran out of time. Apologies to them for jumping the gun!

In all a great day and I think I’ll be back.

Further Links

You can view my photos at Picasa and I also uploaded videos to YouTube.

Do have a look at these great photos from Lara and from Lynch. Lara also wrote a few words, as did the F1 journalist and writer Maurice Hamilton.

Motor Sport magazine has released a podcast with Sir Stirling Moss, Sir Jackie Stewart, Martin Brundle, Gerhard Berger, Eddie Cheever, Arturo Merzario, Nick Mason, Tom Kristensen, Emmanuele Pirro, Andy Priaulx, and Rauno Aaltonen. I’ve not listened yet but with a line-up like that it can’t be anything other than brilliant.

Thanks once again to Johnnie Walker for the tickets and to Jackie at VivaF1 for making it happen.

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Filed under 2011, F1, history, Other, races attended, Sportscars, Touring Cars

TMR Game 2011 – Week 35

Hello and welcome to TMR Game Week 35.

Ten weeks to go! This post accepts entries for these 3 events:

- F1 Singapore
- LMS Estoril
- NASCAR Cup New Hampshire

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 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.

Continue reading

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Attending the 2011 6 Hours of Silverstone

ILMC/LMS at Silverstone Wing

Sportscars Race Past Silverstone's New Pitlane (photo by P.Wotton)

Sportscar racing is something of a niche branch of motorsport, you don’t really find many casual fans except at Le Mans itself. It is a difficult form of racing to follow at times. Multiple classes, long races sometimes won or lost over laps not seconds.

I firmly believe it is worth the effort.

This apparent inaccessibility has been improved in recent years by the battle between Audi and Peugeot which has captivated many, especially since they’ve mixed well-known sportscar racers with drivers who made their name in Formula 1 and elsewhere.

Plus they built some really cool cars. That always helps.

The New

I got there late (no surprises) and parked up as the cars were on the grid. The best part of the new pit straight is that it is right next to the main car parks so it is very easy to be in the midst of the action straight away.. as long as there aren’t queues at the ticket desk and attendants who don’t recognise their own discount vouchers. Grr. Still, at least the queues meant there was a fairly good crowd, bigger than previous years, so you can’t complain too loudly.

This was the first time I’d seen the new pit buildings in action. I was at the Renault event just a few weeks ago and this area of the track was deserted and unused with all the action at the old pitlane. This time it was a living, breathing pitlane and the atmopshere was transformed. It looked soulless the other week but seeing it in action it just clicked, it works.

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Filed under 2011, ELMS, fans, races attended, Sportscars

TMR Game 2011 – Week 34

Hello and welcome to TMR Game Week 34.

This post accepts entries for these 5 events:

- MotoGP Aragon
- IndyCar Motegi (road course)
- ALMS Laguna Seca (4 hrs)
- NASCAR Cup Chicagoland
- DTM Oschersleben

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 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.

Continue reading

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Filed under TMR Game

A Promising Start For Baltimore

Last weekend’s IndyCar and ALMS double-header event at the new street circuit in Baltimore was a tremendous success.

Ticket sales had been strong since they were put on general release some months ago, support locally was something we haven’t witnessed outside of each series’ main events (the Indy 500, Sebring 12 Hours and Petit Le Mans) for a long, long time. It reminded me of races at Long Beach or Surfers Paradise 10 years ago.

It was pleasing to see the talk of a large attendance wasn’t just pre-race marketing hype, the place really was full!

Officials from the championships racing this weekend said the crowd on Friday was higher than they’ve seen on race days at some venues this year. That’s partly a measure of how popular this event was, and partly how poorly these series draw at some locations.

The region around around Baltimore and Washington DC has been lacking major motorsport for a long time, the only thing I can think of was the ALMS round in Washington in 2002. There’s a significant amount of population in that region and it was time someone hit it. That’s probably why so many turned out this weekend.

Resurgence

I’m glad it was ALMS and IndyCar which took the chance – it paid off for them. Both series are in desperate need of some good news and this was just the tonic, proof that people do want to come out and see their races, and potentially proof that untapped markets are better propositions than flogging dead horses in established locations. Perhaps it will serve as a wake-up call to these series to race where they are welcome and to drop venues which aren’t working any more, no matter how hard that might be.

From the on-the-ground reports I’ve seen in the media, on blogs and on Twitter, it sounds as if the crowd was a mix between the usual smattering of hard-core fans, a good number of existing racing who may not necessarily follow either/both of these series, and a lot of people completely new to racing. From the sounds of the reactions it was a hit with all concerned. I hope they made a lot of new fans!

Difficulties

The weekend wasn’t without its difficulties. Hurricane Irene was luckily downgraded to a tropical storm before it reached Baltimore but the preparations for its arrival and the necessity to wait until it had passed – and repair any damage – caused severe delays to the build schedule. A street race needs a lot of extra work over and above a road course or oval, including laying the concrete barriers and fencing, repaving the streets, building up the grandstands and creating temporary facilities for teams, drivers and media.

Given the delays it wasn’t a surprise to find construction rolling well into Friday. They finished by lunchtime and cars were on track from a little after 1pm. At that point I expected crash after crash as various fault were found with the circuit. Would the chicanes be alright? Would they slow the cars enough for them to cross the light rail tracks safely?

We needn’t have worried. Somehow despite a 5-hour delay they still fit in practice sessions for all series on Friday, no mean feat when you have two top series and 3 junior series all desparate for track time on a brand new track, some of whom needed to qualify as well as practice.

Tony Kanaan’s warm-up crash was horrifyingly scary and he was very lucky. I don’t think there’s anything the track people can do other than smooth out the bumps in case it was those which caused the mechanical failure. If it wasn’t, then it could’ve happened anywhere in the world.

Racing

The racing was very good by street race standards, better than I’ve seen at many other street tracks. The ALMS race was the better one for me and I think that was a function of having multiple classes, faster cars having to make their way past slower ones engaged in their own tight race. For the first time ever there was the question of whether an LMPC car would win overall because the LMP1 cars couldn’t make 2 hours on a single stop as other classes could. That became moot with the safety cars but it was an interesting dimension – I was rooting for the LMP1s to beat the others on speed because that’s what they should do, but I enjoyed the fact they might not and had to race for it!

The real focus was in the GT class which was as fun as always, and the field of Ferraris, Porsches, Corvettes and BMWs looked right at home on the city streets even more so than any of the other classes racing that weekend including the others in the ALMS.

The IndyCar race wasn’t as good, big open wheel cars always struggle on narrow streets like these. It wasn’t a total borefest though. There was concern it could’ve been like many street courses with a single-file parade, the order only changing when someone crashed. That didn’t happen, we actually had a solid race with a bit of drama and controversy, which is all you can ask for from this type of track. I still prefer natural terrain road courses but Baltimore proved to me it has a place in both championships, perhaps even at the expense of an existing street course such as St Pete.

Perhaps the biggest compliment to the event organisers is that the largest problems over the weekend were down to the series themselves and not the track at all. After all, the Friday delays were forgivable given they just had a near-hurricane.

The IndyCar race start was awful and could’ve resulted in horrible injury, with two safety pickup trucks on track in turns 1 and 2 as the green flag was waved at the start line. Both trucks moved to safety in the nick of time but the second truck was a very, very, very close call. It should not have been there.

The other issue was down to reordering the field on a restart after half the drivers got stuck in a Macau- or Pau-style traffic jam at the hairpin. Eventually I think it turned out that INDYCAR (sanctioning body) had moved the delayed cars ahead of those who continued, except for those which caused the incident or suffered damage. My own opinion is that the delayed cars should’ve been left in the order they resumed which is what happens in every other series in the world. Perhaps the bigger crime was the lack of information, to their credit they played the radio call from Race Control giving the field order, yet everyone at home was kept guessing at the reasons WHY that order was given.

Lessons

The track was too bumpy, everybody knows it and I really hope that is fixed for next year. The drivers generally agreed much of the track was like Long Beach, which is a fairly bumpy street course. The rest of the track was much worse and this area needs to be fixed, it was not safe. There comes a point where a good challenge for a driver tips over into becoming unsafe and I think some areas of this track did that, but as a first attempt this wasn’t a massive complaint and they will learn for next year.

The pitlane was very tight. I don’t think there is anything they can do with the available space where pitlane currently is, I hope they can find an alternative location for it.

The chicane before the rail tracks was too slow and too tight. I’m glad they took the cautious approach in year one, it was the right choice, however next year I’d like to see a chicane which is faster which in turn will make turn 1 more of a passing zone.

Summary

A fantastic debut event which got more right than wrong. Lessons were learned as early as Friday morning and continued to be learned throughout, so that by Saturday evening’s ALMS race it looked like fully sorted, and by Sunday evening’s IndyCar race it looked like it had been running annually for years. I have no doubts whatsoever that things like the bumps will be fixed for 2012.

I got the impression this is a can-do city willing to solve any problems in order to make a race meeting happen. The area of the racetrack seemed perfect with the Inner Harbor as a backdrop. The atmosphere was of curiosity mixed with excitement. I hope both ALMS and IndyCar stick together to make this event a long-lasting success. I want to go to this race meeting.

I keep being told by Americans that their people only like oval racing. Well I’m sorry. On this evidence, I just don’t believe you.

Onboard Lap

To see how bumpy and challenging this course is, take a ride along with Gunnar Jeannette in his LMPC ORECA during ALMS qualifying last Friday:

http://vimeo.com/28684848

2 laps around Baltimore Street Circuit with Gunnar Jeannette, #06 CORE Autosport ORECA FLM09, LMPC class, American Le Mans Series

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Filed under 2011, IndyCar, Sportscars