The Situation With Bahrain

I genuinely hope the positive reports emanating from the F1 crowd of a quiet Bahrain are true, and not because the population has been suppressed by local or Saudi or Pakistani security forces. Sadly that is not the picture emerging from at least some sections of the small country.

We’re being told via Twitter that teams and journos alike are seeing little action on the run from Manama to Sakhir and back save for the odd small fire (and obviously that Force India team incident the other day). However you can expect that road to be heavily protected by the authorities, indeed some journalists counted at least 70 police vehicles along the route.

The reports I’ve seen suggest they are mostly in out-of-the-way villages, journalists had to go and find them, which doesn’t make them any less important but it disproves the theory the country is in chaos. That they are taking place at all disproves the alternative theory that everything is just fine and dandy and nothing is going on. Some protests in the last couple of days have got a bit closer and there’s always a danger there will be a concerted effort to reach the track on race day. The flashpoint was always going to come when the cars took to the track, either on the now-traditional Friday ‘Day of Rage’ or on Sunday’s race day, or both. Thankfully Friday didn’t seem as bad as I feared it might’ve been, even with the sad fatality of a protestor (for whatever reason). I honestly expected worse than that.

Not knowing the specifics of the locality, although I’ve been trying to read up on it a lot in the past week (and indeed 12 months ago), I don’t know if these protests show a sample of a much broader picture. The protesters say the vast majority of the populace supports them. The government says the vast majority of the populace supports the race going ahead, though they have yet to claim the majority supports the government.  I tend to believe the protestors, I can easily believe more people support them than are willing to says so when the government is tear gassing them and firing rubber bullets, this being the same government which a year ago fired live rounds into a crowd armed only with flags, the same government which attacked a hospital.

If the dispute stays within these factions it would remain an internal matter, a desperately sad one with terrible acts committed by individuals on each side of the divide – the official forces have done some horrific things but the protestors are not as innocent as they may like to portray themselves either, the injuries to police show that. If it is self-defence against unprovoked attacks from forces then fine, I agree, do what you can to defend yourselves. But if not? Unacceptable. Regardless, it is a scenario which others shouldn’t be walking into.

It isn’t the fullscale rioting some media outlets are portraying, but neither is it safe, especially when you have a trigger-happy police and army force around. People who beat people to a pulp just because they’ve been arrested.

As a racing fan, my primary concern is the safety and security of the ‘travelling circus’ of F1, GP2 and Supercup teams, drivers and sports media personnel. Quite honestly, if I were a team owner and any single member of my staff were injured as a result of protest action or government response, no matter how indirectly, whether they were the intended target or not, I would take the FIA, FOM, Todt, Ecclestone and whomever else to the courts. There is no way any of them should be in the country right now.

As a private individual, I genuinely hope the Bahrainis work through their problems and in a peaceful manner. Further discussions should be held to progress reform.

After Tianenman Square China went through a long healing process and a period of opening up to the world, there are still huge problems but they are making progress and I am convinced the Olympics played a big part in that. There is the chance the Grand Prix could do something similar for Bahrain and the government seems to be banking on that – but this is much too early. Bahrain has not had that healing period. Another 12 months should pass before a Grand Prix should be held. Sadly it is too late for that now, this race is going to go ahead. I fear for potential lives lost tomorrow.

Positive Thinking

The protest movement is already doing well out of this. The government looks weak, foolish and stupid. Sadly, so does F1 and more specifically Bernie Eccelstone, Jean Todt and the FIA. The teams can (just about) get away with saying they are contracted to be there and would lose millions, potentially their entry to the Championship and thus their jobs, they have no choice.

They protestors now have the eyes of the world upon them. Everyone knows their cause. They have been silenced in the world media by Syria and before it Libya. Now they are front and centre on the world stage – this would not have happened without Formula 1. For better, for worse. They will continue to make the rulers of Bahrain look foolish and careless. This despite the best efforts of Bahrain Government to stop independent news reporters visiting the country.

I am glad some of the F1 contingent remembered they are journalists first and foremost and not press release recyclers, and went out to look for the protests themselves. It was a dangerous move. It paid off.

Will I watch the race? Probably. My feeling is if some protest happens during the race I will be more informed if I watch it rather than if I read about it later. I will better be able to form my own opinions and conclusions. I don’t feel comfortable though and I am fully expecting to switch off – or not switch on at all.

I don’t know that I’ll be paying very close attention to tyre strategies and positions through the field. I may be too busy looking at the corners of TV pictures to see if the cameraman/director is trying to crop something out, the way they do at quiet events when they try to avoid showing empty grandstands.

If I do watch I may elect to withold my usual Twitter interaction and opinion unless a protest does take place, or I may make it exclusively about the situation rather than anything in sporting terms. In terms of racing and sport I am honestly more interested in the London Marathon than I am the result of this Bahrain GP. Even if it does take place in the most exciting F1 season we’ve seen in years.

 

F1 Reaction: Chinese GP 2012

What a brilliant race! It had passing, big groups of cars in battles, strategy calls and tyre changes throughout including a mid-race strategy change from 3 stops to 2 for many, and a popular first-time winner for a marque which hadn’t won outright for over 5 decades – even if the team itself had only gone winless for the 3 years since the season as Brawn GP.

There was enough action to forget the margin of victory, which normally would’ve led to cries of boredom from the peanut gallery. For this race such cries only came from those who only watch racing to see who wins, those who don’t care for the twenty other stories which happen in any race and would still find a reason to complain even if they’d just seen the best race in the world.

This wasn’t the best race in the world, but by F1 standards it was a cracker and by the standards of most other series it was pretty good too.

Runaway Success

Nico Rosberg didn’t win this race through chance. He put in a race-winning drive all day, the strategy was perfect and for once this year the car didn’t let him down, didn’t drop him into the pack as the tyres wore out. I’m not sure what Mercedes GP found since Sepang, both cars were competitive and it was only a pitstop mistake which forced Michael Schumacher to retire. Could it be that the Mercedes team will be the one to challenge McLaren for race wins for the rest of the season?

The Mercedes W03 works its tyres harder than other cars, at least up until now. It meant they were good for one-lap pace (great for qualifying) but ate the tyres much sooner than the opposition (useless in the race). Either the conditions in Shanghai suited them and worked against the other teams, or the team has found a solution to the problem and are a very credible contender for further race wins this year. If the former is true it could explain why Ferrari were slow – perhaps they car works better in different temperatures to the Mercs and that hurt them as compared to Malaysia.

Competition

Had Jenson Button’s pitstop not gone awry he would’ve been much closer to Rosberg at the flag – perhaps not enough to challenge outright, just enough that the race didn’t seem like the complete whitewash it will appear in the record books. The McLarens were fast throughout and were able to pass

The race for 2nd place was so closely balanced, even though some cars were faster than others their strategies meant some were conserving tyres and some were going all out. It was clear Alonso’s late stop was planned for two reasons: to use fresher rubber to make passes, and to cover the early two-stoppers whose tyres should’ve fallen off with a lap or two to go – as it was he didn’t have the top end speed for the former, and the latter only happened to Kimi Raikkonen despite potentially affecting several others.

The season-long battle between Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes and Lotus is fascinating, it seems each are better in different temperature conditions and each uses tyres differently. Each are also throwing upgrades at the cars all the time. Sadly it isn’t the fight for the championship but it is closely poised and could go in any direction!

Red Bull’s fall from recent grace is an oddity, and I wouldn’t put it past them to return to race winning form by midseason. Mercedes could just as easily sink back down as win another race, so unpredictable. Ferrari are all over the shop. Lotus seems a smidge behind on race pace but don’t count them out at all. What’s more, Williams is only a little way behind this group now.

It’s great to see both the team from Enstone and the team from Grove regularly in the points again. Raikkonen is feisty but his tyres fell off just slightly too early for him. Maybe the best thing about Lotus so far is the way Grosjean has been going, okay not his finishing record which has been awful, but he’s been fast and racy and that’s what we like to see. At last he was rewarded with a good points finish.

Sauber returned to their normal level as we mostly expected. Force India seems to have turned as invisible as Felipe Massa, I really don’t remember anything from their recent races apart from Paul di Resta’s helmet camera. See also Toro Rosso and Caterham.

Result

Chinese GP
Jiading, Shanghai, China

1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes W03 Mercedes
2 Jenson Button McLaren MP4-27 Mercedes
3 Lewis Hamilton McLaren MP4-27 Mercedes
4 Mark Webber Red Bull RB8 Renault
5 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull RB8 Renault
6 Romain Grosjean Lotus E20 Renault
7 Bruno Senna Williams FW34 Renault
8 Pastor Maldonado Williams FW34 Renault

Not a Ferrari engine in sight! What a contrast to the 1-2 at Sepang. Norbert Haug looked very pleased on the podium not only with the win but also a top three for his engines!

I think the improvement of Williams is in no small part down to the switch to Renault, much as Caterham’s was when they caught the main field.

Drivers Championship

1 Lewis Hamilton 45
2 Jenson Button 43
3 Fernando Alonso 37
4 Mark Webber 36
5 Sebastian Vettel 28
6 Nico Rosberg 25
7 Sergio Perez 22
8 Kimi Raikkonen 16

Hamilton holds the lead with a run of three straight 3rds, which beats Button’s 1st, 2nd and DNF. It looks as though the McLaren drivers are the ones to beat in the championship this year at this early stage.

The only drivers not yet to register a top ten points finish are those from Caterham, Marussia and HRT….. and Ferrari’s Felipe Massa. This can’t in any way be an acceptable position for the Scuderia.

Constructors Championship

1 McLaren 88
2 Red Bull 64
3 Ferrari 37
4 Sauber 31
5 Mercedes 26
6 Lotus 24
7 Williams 18
8 Force India 9

McLaren hold the early advantage, Red Bull aren’t far away but they will need to work on their race pace or hope for unreliability among the silver cars. I expect the fight for 3rd to be between Ferrari and Mercedes.

Next Event

This weekend: Bahrain Grand Prix, Sakhir, Bahrain

I’ll be writing further thoughts on Bahrain tomorrow.

Thoughts After Attending Brands Hatch BTCC

Until the other week I hadn’t been to a BTCC round since Silverstone in 2008 (where did the time go?) which ended a 6-year run of visiting at least one round per year, at various circuits including Thruxton, Donington Park and even Knockhill. I hadn’t been to Brands Hatch since 2005’s A1GP meeting. It was time to revisit both.

In this post I’ll focus on my thoughts, for photos from the day please see my previous post or my gallery on Picasa.

Trackside

Isn’t it great to be trackside? Especially so when not long out of winter, having been stuck indoors for most of it, and you’ve got your nose up against the fence on a warm, cloudless spring day as cars race by at 140mph or more. Just perfect.

Perhaps it felt all the more sweeter after a 3-hour drive to the track. I was glad to find the entrance fed me directly to the spectator bank overlooking the pits so I didn’t need to spend time finding somewhere to watch, where I arrived as the BTCC was on the grid for race 1 of 3. However once the race began I quickly found I didn’t like it there as the fences (and the people) obscured the racing going on up at Paddock Hill or back at Clearways. Cars flashing past is great but I came here to see racing. It was great to get so close to the grid and it would be an ideal place to watch a race with pitstops as you can see right into pitlane – but touring car racing doesn’t have any stops so it was time to move!

I watched the rest of the race from Clearways. In 2005 I was lucky enough to be in the big hospitality building here which offered a great view. I was surprised to find it was almost as good at ground level, with the added bonus that this time I was watching a race on the Indy loop. There was some great side-by-side action here as you’d expect. Even doughnuts from Rob Collard… for which he was later penalised. An American sanctioning body would celebrate it.. a UK/European body awards a penalty. Idiots!

After lunch I went around to Paddock Hill Bend. I was surprised at how little room there is to watch – there’s an earth bank which suddenly drops away to a path. People were perched on the edge of it, I went up there and couldn’t see well over the people. Scratch that idea.

I found the absolute ideal spot was just where the tree line begins on the uphill approaching Druids. An unobstructed view of Paddock Hill Bend (as unobstructed as can be with this many people around), very fast cars very close to you just as they get off the gas and on to the brakes, and a nice view across to Graham Bill Bend to boot. Trees nearby to shelter under if the sun gets too hot or if it rains. Perfect.

I watched BTCC Race 2 and a few supports from here, and after a walk in the support paddock I came back for BTCC Race 3. This is one of my new favourite places in racing. I would consider the nearby grandstand if only to get above the heads of other people, but I don’t think I really missed anything. The only thing I lacked was a view to the left of me, or ‘downstream’ on the track, so I couldn’t see Druids corner or the 7-car shunt caused by oil on the track. Of course, you can never see everything unless you’re at an oval, and I did see Jackson run through the gravel right in front of me as he laid that oil.

The one thing I didn’t do all day was get a pass for the BTCC paddock. The support paddock was freely accessible and I saw Nicolas Hamilton signing autographs there. I did slightly miss getting up close to the BTCC cars and drIvers too, however I was too busy enjoying myself trackside!

Food

The lunch break fell after BTCC race 1. It was then I, as expected, found racetrack food prices to be as high as ever. £8 for the burger and chips I wanted. I settled for a sausage roll for £3. I will say the food selection at most UK racetracks is immeasurably better than it was 10 years ago, commendably so because it often used to be dire, but now they all stick the word ‘premium’ or ‘quality’ on the van and jack up the price. They were selling hot Cornish pasties for a fiver. I can get a hot one 500 yards from my house for less than that and they pay all the costs of renting a shop not a trailer! The price for being a captive audience and not wanting a squashed sandwich from a hot rucksack.

Chrome Horn

The BTCC has long had a poor reputation as a championship which not only rewards the use of the ‘chrome horn’ but encourages it. Everyone loves a bit of doorhandle to doorhandle racing, that’s a part of this type of racing and long may it continue, I’m not advocating removing it, that’s why we love touring cars. The trouble is, in this series it goes to another level. It was why I stopped attending races after 2008 and stopped watching the series altogether two years ago.

What isn’t acceptable is the continued practice of getting a nose inside and just pushing the guy on the outside, into the gravel. The worst offenders are the biggest name drivers Jason Plato and Matt Neal, who are probably popular because they act a bit ‘bad boy’ on the track, pushing their way around. Most of the rest of the grid doesn’t go in for this type of thing, which is great to see.

I really did miss watching the series so I have actually started watching the races I missed from 2010 and 2011, and I’ve been laughing at some of the post-race quotes. Someone like Onslow-Cole or Shedden would come on, standing next to someone like Matt Neal, and say right in front of him: ‘Well I could’ve easily had him off, but that’s not the way I like to race.’ Even though the guy next to him had already done it to someone else that day. Ha!

I make this point because I’d really hoped the series would’ve clamped down on it by now. They haven’t. Newcomer and polesitter Dave Newsham, underdog hero of the day, was unceremoniously dumped off track into the Paddock Hill gravel by Plato. Penalty? A £750 fine and 3 points on his racing licence. Hardly any penalty at all. I haven’t seen the most recent rounds at Donington Park this past weekend, I understand it stepped up another level with cars off left, right and centre.

Perhaps the more frustrating thing is that both Plato and Neal come across as really nice guys (even when they are complaining about the technical rules!), it isn’t as if they are utter evil bastards, they are merely taking advantage of the series not clamping down on certain actions – they do it because they get away with it. Still, it provokes discussion and ratings and the crowd at any BTCC meeting at every track I visit has always cheered the loudest when Plato wins, so he must be doing something right.

Supports

One of the hallmarks and attractions of the TOCA/BTCC package has long been the plentiful support card. This is again true this year. It was a touch weaker compared to past times, with the closure of FBMW UK a few years ago and the sad failure of FRenault UK this past winter, which is by far the bigger loss for British motorsport being the traditional feeder into British Formula 3. A disgraceful loss and I don’t understand how it was allowed to happen, I really do hope something is done to resurrect it for 2013. FRUK offered the chance for up and coming drivers to make a name for themselves in front of a big crowd on live TV, I doubt the many other FR 2.0 series in Europe offer the same.

Despite being two races down the day was still full of action, there was barely 10 or 15 minutes of dead track all day (excluding the lunch break and red flags). A collection of Renault Clio Cup, Porsche Carrera Cup and both big and Junior variants of Ginettas kept the crowd entertained all day long. Hard to believe they let 14 and 15 year olds loose in the Juniors!

Back For Good

Despite the poor driving standards I still love the BTCC. Everything about the day was perfect and I’m sad I was away for so long. The feeling was just as it was a decade ago. There’s an intangible atmosphere at a BTCC meeting you just don’t get when you visit other series. I don’t know if it is the wheel-to-wheel racing, the near-constant track action from a collection of short, sharp races, or the fact it is our big home-grown success story with passionate fans filling the banks and stands all the way around the track. There’s something about a BTCC meeting you just can’t beat. And I didn’t even buy a paddock pass this time!

I’ll be back. See you at Silverstone? (I’m wondering if I made the right choice in booking Silverstone). I’m tempted to go to Thruxton.. but we’ll see about that. Just maybe, funds depending, I’ll go back to Brands Hatch for the race on the GP circuit later in the year.

Photos: Last Week’s BTCC at Brands Hatch

Here are a selection of photos of my day at Brands Hatch last Sunday for the opening round of the BTCC season. I brought along my new Nikon to try out at a racetrack for the first time, some of the shots are mildly good, most aren’t because I’m not a photographer or because I had fences and people in the way. Still, I had fun, it was a glorious sunny day (unlike today) and a perfect first racing event of the year.

Welcome to Brands Hatch

Rob Collard and Jason Plato

Nicolas Hamilton, brother of Lewis, has a disability but it doesn't stop him racing in the Renault Clio Cup.

I watched BTCC race 2 between Paddock Hill and Druids:

Clios:

Ginettas:

It’s great having 3 BTCC races in a day and a full slate of support races. Here’s BTCC race 3:

The oil from Jackson's car caused 6 other cars to go off

A glorious day for racing

You can see a lot at Brands Hatch if you find the right location. End of the day. Time to pack up and go home. 'Til next time.

You can see more of my photos in my Picasa album.

IndyCar Reaction: GP of Alabama 2012

Honda Indy GP of Alabama

Barber Motorsports Park
Birmingham, Alabama, USA

Not only was this race a vast improvement over St. Pete, it was the best IndyCar race held at this track since the series first started visiting in 2009.

Race

I don’t think there was a ‘magic bullet’. A combination of several factors helped the racing here including the raceability of the car/engine package, the teams and drivers still getting a handle on the new equipment leading to mixed strategies and setups, and the new rules and interpretations coming from the series allowing drivers race each other.

The other great thing about this race was the mix of names running in the top five or six. Okay yes, so the top two featured a Penske and a Ganassi driver, but at least in the first half of the race it was not the Penske driver anyone would’ve tipped based on 2011’s form.  You could even, at a stretch, argue the same about the Ganassi driver, I certainly assumed Franchitti would be fighting for wins. No the fact that James Hinchcliffe, Simon Pagenaud, Graham Rahal and others are involved is great – this is exactly what the series needed.

The eventual winner came from nowhere but it wasn’t the characteristic easy, scythe-my-way-through drive we’re so used to seeing from Will. It looked like a lot of hard work, and yes, luck too. When the other runners struggled with tyres in the pit stops it allowed Will through, without those problems he might’ve only finished what, 2nd? 3rd?

Add to that some close racing right the way through the pack and we had an enjoyable, fun race! You couldn’t really say that about the past three runnings of this event. I don’t think we’ll see anybody calling for this venue to be chopped from the schedule now. At least – nobody sane.

Leading results:

1. Power
2. Dixon
3. Castroneves
4. Rahal
5. Pagenaud
6. Hinchcliffe
FL: Power 1:12.3912

Drivers

Isn’t it great to see Helio Castroneves back at the front? Two races, two podiums. I’m a fan of Helio and I’m glad to see him back where he belongs. We might see some real intra-team rivalry at Team Penske this season.

Two races down, and two races where Scott Dixon has smoked the other Honda runners. What secrets has he found which the others have missed? Why on Earth can’t Franchitti get his head around this car? It is almost the same situation at the sister Ganassi team with Rahal finishing 4th, and Kimball slow all day then registering a DNF. Rahal seems to be driving better than he has in a few years, it was good to see him at the top end. Somehow Franchitti dragged his car into the top ten in the dying laps of the race.

One of the drivers of the race was Simon Pagenaud. All race long he was fast, racy and made several passes on drivers who didn’t seem able to fend him off. There’s a strong chance he could win a race this year. He’s enjoying a pretty good transition from LMP cars.

Sebastien Bourdais put in a similar performance from the back end of the grid which saw him finish 9th, not bad at all in a Lotus-powered car for an underfunded team.

I was also impressed by James Hinchcliffe in what was more than just a solid run, I think it says something when even a 6th place finish looks disappointing given his run in this race. Offer Andretti Autosports a 6th pre-race and they’d have grabbed it after their recent years. His was still the first AA car home. I’m impressed because I assumed Hunter-Reay would be top dog in that team this year. I thought RHR was running higher than 12th but that’s where he’s listed in the results.

I was also struck by Marco Andretti, a fighting drive which I thought would be rewarded with a solid top 6 or 7 finish, yet somehow he dropped to 11th at the end. Regardless of ultimate finishing position it was a statement of intent for the year – he’ll be fighting. Good to see it. Perhaps the minor wing damage sustained earlier finally took its toll. On that note it is good to see these new cars don’t have the fragile front wings you sometimes see in other series, hopefully it’ll encourage drivers to give it a go.

Mike Conway finished 7th. Did you see him? I don’t remember seeing him. Stealthy.

As at St Pete Rubens Barrichello spent most of the day in the 16th-20th area,until the final stint when he somehow got into the top ten. I have no idea how he did this, I think TV missed it. We saw him making a few passes but I never saw it explained how he made up 10 places. He eventually saw the flag 8th, a good recovery given where he’d been all day.

Where was Briscoe? He had to pit very early in the 2nd(?) stint after eating up his tyres. I’m surprised. Similar questions about Wilson and Kanaan. These experienced drivers were supposed to be up front. What’s going on? Wilson’s car looked evil.

Race Control & Rules

It was a good day for Race Control. They kept things under local yellows for as long as they could. Starts and restarts were controlled and released at the right times. The only real black mark was the initial safety car period for Servia was too long, once the car was clear it seemed to take at least another 2 laps before going green.

Some complained the change in ‘blocking’ or ‘defending’ would ruin the racing. Well.. it didn’t! It helped it. The best example of it was the battle between Hunter-Reay, Viso and Barrichello. Rather than being forced to take the racing line, they were all allowed to choose their line into the turn 5 hairpin, and for two of them it didn’t quite work out as planned.

A new rule I hadn’t heard about this year was seen for the first time at this race. Once within 20 laps of the finish, prior to a safety car restart all lapped cars were sent through the pits and told to form up at the back of the train. GREAT idea. I first heard it as an idea during fan discussion about F1’s ‘lapped cars may overtake’ at Sidepodcast. I had no idea a series had actually come to the same conclusion. It worked brilliantly – it gets the lapped cars out of the way without giving them back their lap and without endangering the competitors, which both happen under the F1 rule. The only thing they have to watch for with this new rule is cars reaching pit exit before the back of the train on the racetrack has passed them, because IndyCar doesn’t close the pit exit.

Snippets

The NBC Sports Network broadcast was much better than last week’s effort by ABC/ESPN. The cameras were pointing at the right things, the feed was being sent to our screens, the commentary and pit reporting was top notch. Even the odd mistake from Bob Jenkins wasn’t as bad as the bleating on Twitter made it out to be.

The only thing I found wrong with it, was the tone. It seemed a bit.. calm. Not a lot of energy, with the possible exception of Jan Beekhuis! Jan’s input is invaluable. After recently watching some races from 2010 where Wally Dallenbach wasn’t present, I was glad to hear his input again from the 3rd chair. The pit reporters were excellent and I can’t fault any of the team, but even so I did miss Lindy. I’m also not quite sure why Robin Miller is there.

Now we’ve got two races under our belts I’d like to state my conclusions about the new cars and engines:

- I love the way these cars look on the racetrack now the livery designers have been set loose on them. They look good at speed.

- The exception: Those rear wheel guards. Don’t like ‘em. Especially when viewed from the rear.

- Those engines sound really boring.

- I’ll put up with a crap engine note if it produces good racing without turning into a fuel-mileage race. Fuel strategy and fuel saving is fine and good when some of the cars are doing it and some are not. It isn’t fun when they all do it.

- If you’re looking for an IndyCar podcast I recommend More Front Wing.

Championship

1. Castroneves 86
2. Dixon 84
3. Power  77
4. Hinchcliffe 60
5. Pagenaud 58
6. Hunter-Reay 53

No surprise to see the ‘big two red car’ teams at the top, but not in the order we might expect. Who would’ve picked Helio to lead after two rounds? Not me. Dixon and Power are less surprising and I tip these two to be our title protaganists this season.

What of reigning champion Franchitti? He’s down in 10th, tied with none other than Rubens Barrichello on 37 points (and Rubens breaks the tie with a best result of 8th). Of course these are early days yet when a win is worth a massive 50 points.

It is worth noting the impressive starts from Hinchcliffe and Pagenaud to be in the top 5. Will it last?

IndyCar does not operate a teams’ championship, however there is an engines’ championship which I think is based on the first car home:

1. Chevrolet 18
2. Honda 12
3. Lotus  8

Next Race

April 15th: Grand Prix of Long Beach

The streets of Long Beach are a tough test with close concrete barriers, a very bumpy track surface and a short lap. Like many street races it is difficult to pass here, but unlike some others it is not impossible. Outbraking somebody into Turn 1 at the end of Shoreline Drive is the best shot, though if your rival makes an error through the corner on to the back straight it is possible to get up alongside them there.

These cars seem able to take more hits than the old cars and the ‘bumpers’ around the rear wheels (and those strong front wings) apparently encourange more passing attempts. LB can be a of a yellow-fest, let’s hope that’s not the case this year.

The ALMS will again race on Saturday evening, with IndyCar racing on Sunday in what has become a modern classic double-header meeting. The ALMS race should also be worth a watch.