Weekend Preview : 1-2 August 2009

Feature Events

IRL IndyCar Series

– Meijer Indy 300
– Kentucky Speedway
– Sparta, Kentucky, United States
– (12/17)

Changes to the aero rules for this race (see previous post) should mean an improvement in the racing on this 1.5 mile oval, as it has been fairly bad on ovals earlier this season. Since side by side open-wheel racing on ovals is the hallmark and unique selling point of this series, let’s hope they work.

Note this is a Saturday night race under the lights.

TV Guide:
UK – LIVE on Sky Sports 1 at 2am Sunday
(repeated 11.30am and 4.30pm on SS Xtra)
USA – LIVE on VERSUS at 8pm ET Saturday

Other Events

Le Mans Series

– 1000KM do Algarve
– Portimao
– Algarve, Portugal
– (3/5)

The is the first evening/night race for the Le Mans Series in Europe, and also the first visit of the series to this new circuit. The race will begin at 7.15pm local (and UK) time and run for the usual LMS distance of 1000km or six hours.

TV Guide:
UK – Eurosport at 7pm for 1h30m.

Formula Renault 3.5

– Algarve, Portugal

Supporting the LMS, both races are on Saturday afternoon.

TV Guide:

Race 1 on Eurosport at 12pm Saturday.
Race 2 doesn’t appear to be covered.

NASCAR Sprint Cup

– Pennsylvania 500
– Pocono, Pennsylvania, United States

TV Guide:
UK – LIVE on Sky Sports 3 at 7pm Sunday
US – LIVE on ESPN at 1pm Sunday

NASCAR Nationwide Series

– Iowa Speedway
– Iowa, United States

NASCAR Camping World Trucks

– Nashville Speedway
– Tennessee, United States


– Oschersleben
– Germany
www.dtm.tv / www.dtm.com

dtm.tv should have live coverage from 1pm UK time.

V8 Supercars

– Norton 360 Sandown Challenge
– Sandown, Australia

Indy Lights

– Oschersleben
– Germany

F3 Euroseries

– Kentucky Speedway
– Kentucky, USA

Superleague Formula

– Donington Park
– Leics., England, UK

World Rally Championship

– Rally Finland

Kimi Raikkonen has entered his home round of the WRC in a Super 2000 spec Abarth. After the first day’s stages he’s performing among the top runners in his class and in the top 20 overall!

Intercontinental Rally Challenge

– Rally Vinho Madeira
– Madeira, Portugal

British Touring Car Championship

– Snetterton
– Norfolk, England, UK

TV Guide:

UK – The usual six hours (3 x BTCC plus lots of support races) on ITV4 from 11.30am!

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Live Sport on TV
and several of the series sites mentioned above


Michael Schumacher Returns

It was too good to be true, wasn’t it?

He’s back. HE’S back. Him. That man. The one we thought we’d got rid of.

We’ve had a great year and a half without him and it has been brilliant to see new drivers come to the fore and make F1 their own, and also watching Ferrari evolve in the post-Schumacher, post-Todt era. I’d even begun to not dislike them.

I do wonder how MS will fit in as a race driver in that changed environment, rather than a ‘consultant’ on the pit wall. Let’s hope none of the old nonsense returns.

I must admit to being curious about how he’ll perform after so long away, in a new-style car with no testing whatsoever – and in Valencia on a circuit he hasn’t driven before vs most of the rest of the field who have.

As much as I dislike the guy and his tactics, you can’t deny that in terms of ability and application he is the best of his generation if not all of them. If he didn’t pull such ridiculous stunts I might even have become a fan of his, and yet… too many, too often, too deceitful. So it’ll be interesting to see it for a race or two, though I don’t think I want to see him for any more than that.

Realistically Massa won’t be in the car before winter testing resumes in January, but still… get well soon Felipe.

BMW Announces F1 Withdrawal

The board at BMW has today announced the company’s withdrawal from Formula 1 racing, effective at the end of the season.

There have been rumours for some time now that this or that F1 team was withdrawing, most frequently about Renault and Toyota and consistently denied by all parties. Announcements may yet prove forthcoming from other teams.

It is a shame that BMW-Sauber is the next team to jump. Just one season ago they were leading the World Championship. Many observers, including myself, believed at the time that had they not dropped the development of the 2008 car (in favour of the 2009 model) they would have had a good shot at winning either title by the end of the year. As it was, the regulation changes were so great the decision was made to attempt to steal a march on the field by switching development early.

It didn’t work. The 2009 car has not been competitive since the early part of the season and doesn’t seem to be improving relative to the competition, even if it has done so relative to where it was before. You would think they’d switch focus to the 2010 car, as is usual when performance falls short of expectation. That they are bailing out and that it was announced by the higher-ups of the company suggest this one was out of Mario Theissen’s control.

I think this is bigger than one underwhelming season, there has to be more to it than that. The announcement talked about changing their focus towards “sustainability and environmental compatibility”. F1 is not embracing this as much as it should be, with even the token-effort KERS looking like being withdrawn next season under FOTA proposals.

I’m sure the global economy, slow car sales, and of course the whole Mosely affair and the Ecclestone/Hitler comments did not help sell F1 to the board of a German company.

A shame. I always thought BMW-Sauber should have achieved much more than they did, and 2008 should have been the beginning of a competitive phase. It was not to be. Let’s hope a buyout can be arranged, either internally a la Brawn, or from elsewhere.

Hinwil is a top notch facility and the engines were produced in Munich. This is ideal as Hinwil shouldn’t have to be downscaled for any prospective buyer, all they need do is slot in an engine of their choice. Perhaps BMW could even be persuaded to supply engines to the team in 2010. All of this has yet to be decided.

A Push To Pass

As reported in several places, the IndyCar Series will adopt a ‘Push to Pass’ system this weekend and for the remainder of the year. This system will provide a horsepower boost for a duration of 12 seconds per button-press. The amount of extra hp will depend on the fuel mixture setting selected (there are several preselected settings from full rich all the way to full lean, to save fuel, and a yellow flag setting). A fully rich setting will gain just 5hp while a leaner setting will benefit from up to 20hp.

These are not big gains. The Senior Technical Director of the IRL said the small amounts were due to the fact these are normally-aspirated engines which are already near their full potential, unlike Champ Car turbos which only needed a boost level change to get big hp gains. Perhaps he’s inferring that the A1GP engines are somewhat detuned under normal conditions, considering they get a rather larger bump from their normally-aspirated P2P…

What is very interesting about this development is that it is being introduced on an oval. No variant of P2P has ever been used on an oval, to the best of my knowledge, since Champ Car had stopped racing on them by the time their system was implemented. On an oval the horsepower and car setup are everything. Perhaps even just this small difference will be enough to create close racing? Maybe less so on the shorter tracks, but at those where their foot is on the bulkhead all the way round, definitely.

I am much more sceptical on the road and street courses where I really don’t think it’ll make an ounce of difference, the jump in power just isn’t enough for those tracks.

What is interesting is a tweet from Allen from The Furious Wedge. He mentioned another change that has been lost among the hoopla about P2P – the removal of the ‘wicker bill’ from the rear wing (as well as the general freeing-up of the aero regs). The wicker bill is a part on the trailing edge of the rear wing which creates drag. I’m not entirely sure why they are there, perhaps in a previous evolution of the aero package they helped the racing but it seems the reverse is true now, for whatever reason.

Let’s hope these changes improve the racing which has reportedly been dire this season. I’ve not really been able to see much of this year but I have recordings which I will watch over the coming weeks.

Felipe Massa

I am glad to hear news that Felipe Massa is recovering well after his terrible accident on Saturday. I’m sure I need not go into the details of the accident, I think all reading this are aware of the nature of it by now. The good news is that he is being brought out of his induced coma and is communicating, albeit ‘sleepily’ with doctors and his family and friends. He faces a long recovery, but a full recovery.

There is some doubt over whether or not he will be able to race again, though this may be doctors being cautious. At first there were reports of long-term damage, then reports of a full recovery. Either way, we must remember the example of Lord Paul Drayson who was advised by some doctors that he was unable to race due to sight problems in one eye – yet he competed in a full ALMS season in 2008 and went on to race in this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, having overturned an FIA ban on people with such conditions. Felipe’s eye may not heal enough for the demands of F1 or other single-seater open-wheelers but a career may yet beckon in sportscars should he wish it.

He’s a very lucky guy and his survival is a testament to the heavily revised FIA helmet regulations of recent years, the cockpit protection measures for surviving the impact with the tyre barrier, and the skill of the doctors both at the scene and at the hospital. I must say I feared the worst when he was not moving in the cockpit, I am very glad that he is on the mend.

I cannot say I have ever been Felipe’s biggest fan, certainly not in the early days at Sauber when he seemed to be constantly spinning off track. His time at Ferrari has been a revelation, he is a completely different driver. 2008 saw a marked improvement and he would have been a worthy champion. Let’s hope he returns in 2010 to fight for it again… not win it of course, he’s in a Ferrari, we can’t have that!

* *

Fellow F1 driver Nelson Piquet forwarded details of a Twitter account which will be passed to Felipe when he recovers enough to pick it up:

Online now @Forza_Felipe Created by @ferrarijr. Leave your message and we will deliver everything, including to account, to Felipe!

No matter your opinions of Felipe as a driver, feel free to send your wishes to the @Forza_Felipe! account and let’s help spur on his recovery.

All this assumes Nelson and Rubens finally convince him to use Twitter – he was refusing last week!

Weekend Preview: 25-26 July 2009

Feature Events

FIA Formula 1 World Championship

– Formula 1 ING Magyar Nagydig
– (ING Formula 1 Hungarian Grand Prix)
– Hungaroring, nr.Budapest, Hungary
– (10/17)

F1 returns to the dustbowl of the Hungaroring, where as usual the forecast is for high temperatures. The dust of the surrounding area has a tendency to get all over the track and make grip very hard to come by, it is this in combination with the circuit layout itself that tends to prevent good racing at this notoriously boring race track – though the changes to turn one a few years ago have created a divebomb-braking opportunity for the brave/crazy (if not in the F1 race, definitely in the GP2 support races!).

I am not a fan of this event although it did bring F1 to Eastern Europe as long ago as the mid-1980s, and track improvements over the last two decades have improved racing.. a bit..

TV Guide:
UK – LIVE on BBC One at 12.10pm Sunday, race starts at 1pm
(qualifying on BBC Two at 12.10pm Sat)

IRL IndyCar Series

– Rexall Edmonton Indy
– City Centre Airport, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
– (11/17)

This is the second visit to Edmonton for the IndyCars but the 5th (I think?) running of the event, with this being a former Champ Car venue – but any advantage the CC guys had has now been erased and there should be a nice level playing field, apart from the actual track surface of this bumpy airport circuit!

Of note this year is the first visit to the circuit of the supporting Indy Lights series.

TV Guide:
UK – LIVE on Sky Sports 2 at 10.45pm Sunday (directly after NASCAR)

USA – LIVE on VERSUS at 5pm ET Sunday


– British Grand Prix
– Donington Park, Castle Donington, England
– (11/17)

The final visit to Donington for the premier motorbike series, for now at least, as it moves in the opposite direction to F1 and will pitch up at Silverstone in 2010, with apparent mixed feelings from the riders. Some love Donny, some can’t wait to leave. I think it makes a great motorbike track with the sweeping curves.

Living in the UK I know the forecast for the weekend. Saturday is due to be warm and sunny so qualifying should be representative – but rain is due to appear for the race on Sunday.

(I can never remember if DP is in Northants or Lincs)

TV Guide:
UK – LIVE on BBC ONE at 3pm Sunday (directly after F1), race start 3.30pm

USA – SPEED claims 6pm ET, which is not possible because the race starts at 8.30pm ET.

Other Events

GP2 Series

– Hungaroring
– Budapest, Hungary
– (6/10)
– (F1 support with F.Master, FBMW Europe and Porsche Supercup)

TV Guide:
UK – Eurosport 2
– Race 1 @ 4.45pm Saturday (this may be slightly delayed due to MotoGP coverage)
– Race 2 @ 7pm Sunday (very delayed – I can’t see any live coverage)

World Superbikes

– Brno
– Brno, Czech Republic
– (with Supersport, etc.)

TV Guide:

UK – Eurosport
– Race 1 LIVE @ 11am Sunday
– Race 2 DELAYED @ either at 3.40pm or 6pm (Eurosport’s website sucks)

NASCAR Sprint Cup

– Allstate 400 at the Brickyard
– Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Speedway, Indiana, United States

TV Guide:
UK – LIVE on Sky Sports 2 at 7pm Sunday
US – LIVE on ESPN at 2pm Sunday

NASCAR Nationwide Series

& NASCAR Camping World Trucks

– O’Reilly Raceway Park
– Indianapolis, Indiana, United States

Firestone Indy Lights

– Edmonton
– Alberta, Canada
– (IndyCar support)

IMSA Atlantics

– Autobahn Country Club
– Joliet, Illinois, United States
(with Star Mazda)


– Total 24 Hours of Spa
– Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium
(with European GT4 and British F3)

Super GT

– Sugo
– Sugo, Japan

Silverstone Classic

– Silverstone Circuit
– Silverstone, Northants, England, UK

A multitude of historic racing series at what used to be known as the Coys Historic Festival.
Featuring: GP Masters, Pre-66 F1, the David Leslie Memorial Trophy for 90s Tourers, BRDC Historic Sportscars, Classic Group C and a lot more.

TV Guide:
UK – LIVE all weekend on MotorsTV

* * * *

Live Sport On TV

The Passing of Henry Surtees

I am sure readers of this blog will know by now that Henry Surtees died yesterday from injuries sustained during a Formula 2 race at Brands Hatch, he was 18.

Will Buxton reminds us of Mario Andretti’s words upon the death of his Lotus team-mate Ronnie Peterson in an accident at Monza.
“Unfortunately, motor racing is also this.”

Despite all of the great strides forward in motor racing safety over the last thirty or more years, it unfortunately remains the case.

These cars are compliant to 2005 F1 safety regulations, including wheel tethers. No doubt there will be an investigation, hopefully the cause of the apparent tether failure will be found and rectified. I have now seen footage of the incident. That wheel should not have come off.

As for the wheel assembly striking the car, this was nothing more than a freak accident and there is no way anybody can legislate for that, freak accidents will always happen.

The driver is as safely cocooned within the bodyshell as is possible without enclosing him – some are suggesting the latter should be the next move, but in my opinion this would bring about other problems, such as extrication from the car in an emergency. Given the very low number of times an accident such as this happens it would seem counterproductive to run closed-top formula cars.

Henry Surtees

Anybody who attended a BTCC meeting in recent times and stayed trackside for the support series will have seen Henry Surtees race, even if they didn’t realise it at the time. He competed in Formula BMW in 2007 and Formula Renault in 2008, both on the BTCC support package. (Ginetta Juniors was not yet on the package when he ran in it, and FBMW has since merged to become pan-European). His name was known to most who follow the junior ladder in this country and perhaps further afield.

On a personal level, I was at a wet and windy Silverstone last year when he took a podium finish in the afternoon race. I don’t recall much of the race apart from a few spinners and a driver who lost a wing and kept driving (not Surtees), and I didn’t watch him specifically though I was very much aware he was there and I remember being pleased that he scored a good result because it confirmed he was more than just a ‘name’ driver, more than just the son of someone famous.

It should be noted that Sunday also saw the death of co-driver Flavio Guglielmini on the Rally Bulgaria, while driver Brain Lavio is in a ‘stable’ condition. Rally Bulgaria has been on the FIA European Rally Championship schedule for 20 years and this year was a Candidate Rally for the 2010 WRC, for which a decision will be made in September.

Also on this dark weekend, Ricardo Londono was shot and killed in Colombia. Londono was entered for the Brazilian GP some 28 years ago but was not able to qualify despite reportedly setting some good times earlier that week.

My thoughts go to the families and friends of each of them.