Weekend Preview: 28-29 March 2009

This blog covers a great many racing series to a greater or lesser degrees, and as regular visitors know this Weekend Preview strand is intended as a ‘broad brush’ to briefly touch on as many races happening in a given weekend as possible.

However, the main focus of the blog is Formula 1. For this reason I have elected to write separate preview posts for each F1 round of this season as well as ‘special events’ such as the Indy 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Australian GP preview follows shortly, in the meantime here is a quick run-down of what else is happening in the world of racing this weekend.

* * * *
Feature Event

FIA Formula 1 World Championship
– ING Australian Grand Prix (1/17)
– Albert Park
– Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
www.formula1.com
Track map

I will post a full preview shortly!

Support events:
V8 Supercars*, Australian GT, Australian Formula Ford, Aussie Racing Cars, Historic Formula 5000, Mini Challenge, Minardi F1x2 two-seaters, Ultimate Speed Comparison (road car vs V8 Supercar vs 2008 BMW F1 car)

* non-championship races billed as a manufacturer battle between Ford and Holden. This has to be one of the best support race bills of the entire F1 season, and you can add several air displays from the Royal Australian Air Force into the mix too.

Absolutely brilliant that they’ve included the old F5000 cars for this year. I’ve not seem them myself, but hear they’re quite a sight! A packed programme of events as always at Albert Park.

* * *
Other Events:

NASCAR Sprint Cup
– Goody’s Fast Relief 500 (6/36)
– Martinsville Speedway
– Martinsville, Virginia, United States
www.nascar.com

Another short track for the Cup boys.

UK TV: LIVE on Sky Sports 3 from 7pm BST Sunday.
US TV: LIVE on FOX from 1:30pm ET Sunday.

Support races: Camping World Truck Series (Saturday)

Stock Car V8 Brasil
– Interlagos (1/12)
– Autodromo Carlos Pace
– Interlagos, Sao Paulo Brazil
www.stockcar.globo.com

Brazil’s answer to NASCAR? The first race of the season on the F1 track at Interlagos.

* * * *
Notes
I believe that’s all there is this weekend. You’ll thank me for the F1 split-out in a few weeks when this post gets busy!

Weekend Preview: 7-8 March 2009

Some more championships get going this weekend with the WTCC and IRC both starting their seasons in Brazil, and interestingly they will be at the same location. More on that later.

Note – My copy of Autosport hasn’t arrived today due to snow, so I’m relying on internet links and prior notes – this means no ‘minor races’ this week.

* * * *

NASCAR Sprint Cup
– Kobalt Tools 500 (4/36)
– Atlanta Motor Speedway
– Atlanta, Georgia, United States
www.nascar.com

Yet another 500 miler, those guys get through a lot early in the season don’t they? This time we head to the fast Atlanta track. Midweek Motorsport said this week that you get 8 lap manic sprints followed by 15-20 laps of running on worn tyres. Can they not do what they did in Days of Thunder and back off for the first bit, then in the later bit pass them all as if you have another gear?

UK TV: 6.00pm, Sky Sports 3 & 3HD
US TV: 1.30pm, FOX

Also racing at Atlanta:
Camping World Truck Series
UK TV: No deal.
US TV: 1.30pm Saturday, SPEED.

* * *

FIA World Touring Car Championship
– HSBC Race of Brazil (1&2/24)
– Autodromo Internacional de Curitiba
– Curitiba, Brazil
www.fiawtcc.com

The WTCC gets started for 2009 with another visit to Curitiba, where for the 3rd year running there is a charity initiative to help the less well off of the locality, of which there are many. If a spectator brings 2kg of food they can watch the racing for free. I absolutely love this idea, last year the stands were packed and they collected 52 tonnes of food!! More here.

It’ll be interesting to see if one manufacturer dominates again. It took a few rounds last year for the balance to be restored. This year there is a new performance balancing formula to replace weights, which I’ve forgotten to read up on because I didn’t realise these guys were starting already…

UK TV:
Race 1 at 4.00pm, Eurosport 2
Race 2 at 7.00pm, Eurosport 1

US TV:
No deal.

* * *

Intercontinental Rally Challenge
– Rally Internacional de Curitiba (2/12)
– Autodromo Internacional de Curitiba
– Curitiba, Brazil
www.ircseries.com

The second round of IRC is under way already and comes to a close on Saturday afternoon. That’s not a typo in the location section – the service park is stationed behind the main grandstand of Curitiba race circuit. Both IRC and WTCC are backed and promoted by Eurosport Events so this marks an interesting cost-saving move whilst bringing a variety of motorsport to one location. It’s certainly the first time I’ve heard of a race and rally being held in the same place.

UK TV:
Updates throughout the weekend on Eurosport’s channels.

* * *

Other:

AMA Superbikes at Daytona. I imagine this is on SPEED in the US. It isn’t available here, not live anyway.

Weekend Preview: 21-22 February 2009

It’s all about A1 and NASCAR this weekend, and in the UK both of these will air live on Sky Sports 2.

A1GP World Cup
– Gauteng (5/?)
– Kyalami
– South Africa
– Website: www.a1gp.com

The World Cup of Motorsport pays its first visit to Kyalami, although for some reason A1GP calls it Gauteng. South African rounds were previously held on a street track by the beach in Durban which was far too narrow, there were always silly little crashes at the hairpin first turn, but despite that it was still entertaining! Let’s see how the newer bigger cars get on at the former home of the South African Grand Prix.
(I put a question mark in the # of rounds section above, ‘cos really, who knows?)

British air time: Sunday 11:30am GMT, Sky Sports 2
Elsewhere: check listings or use a1gp.com

NASCAR Sprint Cup
– Auto Club 500 (2/36)
– Auto Club Speedway (which is really California Speedway)
– Fontana, California, United States
www.nascar.com

I’m not sure why, but NASCAR thought it would be idea to make the teams drive from Florida to California in a few days between a couple of 500 mile races. Good plan, NASCAR, nothing like tiring out your teams at the very beginning of a 36 race season. Tune in to see how the boys cope. It’ll be late here and I’ll be sleeping.

British air time: 11pm GMT, Sky Sports 2
American air time: 5pm EST, FOX

Support races at Fontana include:

Saturday:
NASCAR Nationwide Series
– Stater Bros 300

:shrug: I know nothing.

British air time: Not found.
American air time: Saturday 7pm EST, ESPN2

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
– San Bernadino County 200

Is that a local county? If they are sponsoring it, times must be tight..

British air time: Not found.
American air time: Saturday 3pm, FOX

Seems the 3rd tier event gets to run on Fox while the 2nd tier doesn’t, not sure of the logic but there you go.

* * *

This is all very interesting but probably the most interesting events of the next seven days happens on Tuesday where we will have two important announcements:

1) USF1 making an announcement on SPEED.
2) BBC announcing full details of their F1 coverage, I’m looking forward to that more than the USF1!

Okay, have a great weekend.

A roof over your head

So.. I watched the Daytona 500 last night. You may have seen my Twitter feed at the time (see side panel) and my comments on Meesh’s recent post.

I think some of those experienced NASCAR fans following me on Twitter might have been getting a bit annoyed at my newbie-ness. I was going for the ‘F1/IRL fan discovers N-Word ovals’ take, because that’s what it was. I’m not going to apologise for that, I make it clear that I’m not a NASCAR fan, so if I annoyed you that’s your own fault for following me! (Yes, I am a bit of a racing snob.)

Someone even asked how long I’d been following racing so surprised were they at my reaction to the US feed I was watching. It was tongue-in-cheek (err, I think?) but perhaps not realising that British sports coverage doesn’t have sponsored discussion topics and anthropomorphic camera angles – or maybe it was to suggest I’m a noob for not being aware of the $$ in N-Word. Perhaps it was said not knowing I was British although I’m not sure why – I bang on about it far too often.

I just couldn’t believe how many ad breaks were taken, and during the coverage how many times a sponsor was mentioned. They couldn’t go more than 20 seconds without mentioning a brand name! It was ridiculous. Talk about over-commercialisation of sports.. and they say the Premier League has got it bad.

Just to rub it in to my American readers, our Formula 1 coverage switches to BBC1 this year – no commercials AT ALL! (apart from lots of BBC self-promotion)

Back to Daytona, and once I found a steady video feed quite late into the race I did actually enjoy it. I’m not stupid enough to expect real racing on a restrictor plate track, you need to look for strategy and leave the driving to another race. Some great strategic racing was developing before a yellow flag was thrown because a car was sent into the infield. I didn’t see much debris on the track on this occasion, but that yellow did breed further yellows (for bigger incidents) which spoiled the flow of the race for me, and that persisted until the red flag for rain. As many sites and blogs have noted, it was an anticlimax.

I don’t know why I persisted with the less-good feed for so long. I think it contributed to my lack of enjoyment for the first half of the event, however others have noted on other blogs (and on Twitter) that NASCAR races aren’t actually that interesting or enjoyable until 50 to go anyway, so maybe it wasn’t the video feed…

In summary, it was more enjoyable as a whole than I was expecting and you can’t blame them for stopping for rain. If anything the stupid start time did them in. 3.30pm? Madness. Races should always start on the hour unless they are on the undercard. I’ll be trying NASCAR ovals at random intervals again this year, follow my Twitter if you can bear it.

Full disclosure: On Twitter I said I’d not seen a full NASCAR race before. That was a little white lie. I’ve watched Watkins Glen, and I watched a chunk of Nationwide at Montreal last year. I had never seen a full NASCAR oval event before. I used to watch the odd highlights package – they cut so much out you couldn’t figure out what was happening so I gave up on that idea fairly quickly.

Before the oval action I took in BTCC at Brands Hatch (Indy) and DTM at Barcelona, both recordings of events held in September, and still found time to go to the laundrette.
The DTM was boring once it had settled down, the field got far too spread out although I liked the battle between Paul Di Resta and Timo Scheider early on.
The BTCC at the short layout of Brands is always fast and frenetic and this was no exception! It won the day for me in terms of tin top entertainment. Giovanardi is a worthy champion and it is a shame to see his adversaries SEAT leave.

Tonight I’m watching WTCC at Imola, the first time I’ve seen the place since the redevelopment. They’ve done a great job with the revisions but F1 was right not to go back, even though the revisions were only done to please Bernie. It’s a good bike and touring car track but is in no way suited to big open wheel cars. WTCC isn’t as entertaining as BTCC but watching Thommo working hard for some good results was fun.

After this sudden binge of racing I’ll probably take a break from watching any for a few days – I still have plenty on my hard drive – BTC and WTC have short races which is why I’ve got through so many this weekend. Knowing me I’ll probably be on the podcasts tomorrow instead!

Weekend Preview: 14-15 February 2009

After a short quiet period following the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, racing gets under way again this weekend and at the same venue, this time for the Daytona 500. This weekend truly marks the beginning of months of uninterrupted competition throughout 2009 – I can’t see a completely clear weekend again for months – three cheers for racing!

* * * * Main Event

NASCAR Sprint Cup
– Daytona 500 (1/36)
– Daytona International Speedway
– Daytona, Florida, United States
www.nascar.com

When we reach the weekend of the Daytona 500 we know the racing season is well and truly upon us. There have been a lot of changes in what is a very short off-season relative to other series, with mergers, driver deals and sponsor changes aplenty. I’m not going to insult you by fumbling my way around this because I know very little about NASCAR, although I am tempted to watch the 500 out of curiosity.

I’ve watched NASCAR before but never a full race. The UK network Five airs a short highlights show of about an hour, in the depths of the night midweek. I got hold of some of those shows last year and it was interesting to watch – for that length of time. I don’t think I can last three or four hours of droning around in packs waiting for big accidents to happen, which is why I’d prefer to try a full NASCAR race at a non-restrictor track. Perhaps some of you NASCAR fans could recommend an event to watch, and remind me nearer the time.

The event is actually already under way, with the Gatorade Duels already having been completed earlier this evening. I’m not entirely sure what they achieved because they’ve already had qualifying and the quali process at Daytona is mega-weird.

The Daytona 500 will air live on Sky Sports 2 and in Hi-Def on Sky Sports HD2. Coverage begins at 8pm Sunday. I should note that in 2008 Daytona was in HD and the rest of the year was SD only, there is no word yet on whether that will be repeated this year.

American coverage is on FOX at 3.30pm ET. So that’s half an hour LESS pre-race build-up than we get here.. hmm. Walk through this with me will-ya? Say it’s 3pm in Florida. Add 5 hours to get British time. 3 + 5 = 8pm Am I missing something here? Maybe they are doing that strange American thing of having the race build-up on a completely different channel beforehand, and I missed the listing.

Support races:

Saturday:
NASCAR Nationwide Series
– Camping World 300

The Nationwide Series gets under way on Saturday afternoon local time.

American air time: 1pm ET, ESPN2
British air time: Not found. This race used to be on the North American Sports Network (NASN), which changed to ESPN America over the winter and they don’t seem to be covering it this time. I’m hunting around forums as I pull this post together and nobody else can find coverage either.

Friday:
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
– NextEra Energy Resources 250

The trucks-that-aren’t-trucks-but-are-really-pickups kick off the proper racing this weekend, as opposed to the ‘racing to qualify’.

American air time: 8pm ET, SPEED
British air time: Not found.

* * * * Other Events

FIA World Rally Championship
– Rally Norway (2/12)
– Hamar, Norway
– Website: www.wrc.com
– Twitter: @OfficialWRC
– Video: YouTube and Joost

Every other racing series may only just be waking up, and some are several weeks off yet, but WRC is already on to it’s second event of the year as they head north to Norway. It looks like they’ve had some heavy snowfall and the drivers are very happy to have a ‘proper’ snow rally for once. The last few years have seen very little snow on what are supposed to be full winter rallies and the guys can’t wait to get stuck in, metaphorically speaking.

The Production WRC entrants are also competing on this event.

I should mention that WRC’s commerical rights are controlled by David Richards (yes, that one) and it looks like his team is doing a good job of embracing new media! Ironically one of the broadcast partners is a channel called ‘Dave’ (so-named because everyone has a friend called Dave).

There are daily updates on Eurosport from Friday to Sunday, and an event roundup on Dave on Sunday at 6pm.

GP2 Asia Series
– Qatar (4/6)
– Losail International Circuit
– Doha, Qatar, UAE
– Website: www.gp2series.com

The GP2 Asia boys head over to Qatar for more fun in the desert. Yet more driver changes mean this series isn’t really being taken as seriously as the main GP2 Series, though it does serve as a performance indicator for the coming year and a lot of guys are getting some good practice in. The extra track time is certainly helping some of them.

The event is supported once again by the Speedcar Series which is holding a night race.

NOTE – as with all Middle Eastern GP2 Asia events the Feature race is on Friday and the Sprint is on Saturday.

Coverage is on Eurosport at 10.30am on Saturday, I believe this is the live sprint race – it may also have some footage from the feature race because there doesn’t seem to be anything at all on Friday.
There appears to be absolutely no coverage at all of Speedcar (there may be something in locally).

Okay that’s it. I’ve decided I will not be posting all the little logos and icons when the main season gets under way, it takes too long!

Next week: A1GP and more NASCAR.