In some 17 years of following the race from afar, the 2018 edition wouldn’t rank in my top ten or fifteen. On the positive side there were some prominent highlights: a worthy winning team, a true test of endurance among the new LMP1 cars, some fascinating F1 visitors with very different approaches, a much better GT race than expected. And I once again enjoyed being a tiny part of the online endurance racing family.
It’s the big one, the 24 Hours of Le Mans!
Times are approximate and in British Summer Time.
There are 60 cars with 180 drivers. 60 stories to follow. Three class races other than LMP1. Please do not belittle all of that just because the race for the win might be boring!
Some of the things happening this weekend.
Times are approximate and in British Summer Time.
Some of things happening this weekend.
Times are approximate and in British Summer Time.
Endurance sports cars are back!
If it isn’t raining I’ll be watching these delayed so you may only see a small weekend recap post on Tuesday.
These are some of the things I’ve been watching.
IMSA Sportscar Championship: Long Beach GP
(from last week)
Long Beach, California, USA
My second attempt to watch this 100 minute race, the shortest of the year, this time via YouTube.
Juan Montoya (Team Penske Acura) started on pole. Opening lap contact at the back of the Prototype field at the fountain prompted an early Safety Car period. Some 15 minutes of green flag racing was relatively calm until Montoya got caught by former Sauber man Felipe Nasr in the #31 Whelen Cadillac. Nasr was clearly faster and made a good move on the back straight after a couple of attempts.
A second Safety Car after 40 minutes, with an hour to go. The yellow #85 JDC-Miller car parked in the turn 8 runoff [track map]. Nasr and Montoya stayed out, everyone else pitted for a driver change, apart from Alexander Sims in the GTLM BMW who had already been in. Since nobody was lapped yet he was 3rd overall, but IMSA now separates classes for restarts to avoid problems with traffic, so he restarted at the head of the GT line behind the Prototypes.
Earl Bamber had a tremendous scrap with Sims to take the GT lead, Sims immediately defending against the others. It was even three-wide! Sims was clearly struggling for some reason, in all the traffic he ended up hitting the wall, having to pit for repairs.
Prototypes pitted only 20 minutes after the yellow flag stops, at the first moment the fuel window opened, worried about more yellow. It was the right call as a Safety Car was out almost straight afterwards. The GT field didn’t need to stop again.
Felipe Albuquerque in the #5 Cadillac found himself in the lead after a faster stop. Ryan Dalziel took 2nd at the restart. Earl Bamber’s GT leading Porsche went out with suspension problems, leaving the two Corvettes sandwiching the two Fords. The #31 Cadillac and the other Porsche had made contact and both dropped back.
Wasn’t it great to see the Taylor brothers battle it out on track? Great too to have Pat Long in the IMSA.tv commentary booth, though annoying to have music blaring at ~4 minute intervals for half the race.
1st Joao Barbosa / Felipe Albuquerque (AXR Cadillac) 35 points;
2nd Scott Sharp / Ryan Dalziel (ESM Nissan) 32 pts;
3rd Renger van der Zande / Jordan Taylor (Taylor Cadillac) 30 pts;
4th Tristan Nunez / Oliver Jarvis (Joest Mazda) 28 pts;
5th Juan Montoya / Dane Cameron (Penske Acura) 26 pts;
1st Oliver Gavin / Tommy Milner (Corvette) 35 points;
2nd Richard Westbrook / Ryan Briscoe (Ganassi Ford) 32 pts;
3rd Joey Hand / Dirk Muller (Ganassi Ford) 30 pts;
91 Joao Barbosa / Felipe Albuquerque (AXR Cadillac);
86 Eric Curran / Felipe Nasr (AXR Cadillac);
79 Jonathan Bennett / Colin Braun (CORE Oreca);
78 Jordan Taylor / Renger van der Zande (Taylor Cadillac);
95 Ryan Briscoe / Richard Westbrook (Ganassi Ford);
88 Oliver Gavin / Tommy Milner (Corvette);
84 Dirk Muller / Joey Hand (Ganassi Ford);
83 Nick Tandy / Patrick Pilet (Porsche);
Next round: Mid-Ohio, May 6th.
IndyCar: Grand Prix of Alabama
Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, Alabama, USA
I watched live on Sunday, but the race got red flagged due to torrential rain and a waterlogged track. It was the right decision.
I’m currently waiting for IndyCar to upload the Monday segment to be able to watch it. Notes will follow next time.
Next round: Indianapolis Grand Prix (road course race), Saturday, May 12th.
MotoGP: Grand Prix of The Americas
Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas, USA
King of COTA Marc Marquez started 4th after a post-qualifying penalty (he did get pole position originally). He pulled clear after half a lap and was never seen again, bar a brief look from Andrea Iannone, to secure win 6 from 6 at this track.
Good to see Iannone and his Suzuki up there, particularly as his team-mate had been shading him lately and he needed a good run. Maverick Vinales got him for 2nd but Iannone held off Valentino Rossi for the final podium spot.
Dani Pedrosa broke his wrist two weeks ago, started 9th and finished 7th. Amazing!
Andrea Dovizioso made up some ground. Points leader Cal Crutchlow was running 6th but the bike looked pretty evil, he wound up on the floor, picked it up and finished 19th. Alex Rins fell out of a top 10 finish.
Not much else to say. You know a track is not the best when even MotoGP can’t put on a show, which is a shame, as it looks so much fun to drive or ride. That said, it was 35 degrees C, very hard work!
1st Marc Marquez (Honda) 25 points;
2nd Maverick Vinales (Yamaha) 20 pts;
3rd Andrea Iannone (Suzuki) 16 pts;
4th Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 13 pts;
5th Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) 11 pts;
46 Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati);
45 Marc Marquez (Honda);
41 Maverick Vinales (Yamaha);
38 Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda);
38 Johann Zarco (Tech 3 Yamaha);
70 Movistar Yamaha MotoGP;
63 Repsol Honda Team;
52 Ducati Team;
=47 Monster Yamaha Tech3;
=47 Team Suzuki Ecstar;
=47 Alma Pramac Racing;
Next round: Jerez, May 6th.
I also watched the two UEFA Champions League games this week. Liverpool v Roma was brilliant, 5-2 after a late Roma comeback. I don’t usually watch a lot of football, why can’t it all be as exciting and flowing as that? After Roma’s fightback against Barcelona last round, the second leg next Wednesday will be worth watching.
I’ll be watching F1 in Baku, Formula E in Paris and the conclusion of the last IndyCar race. I also want to start a ‘catchup’ part in these blogs as I work on my backlog of unwatched races, though have struggled for time to watch any lately. In the early season I always forget how congested it can be!
The usual Weekend Preview blog will appear here tomorrow or Friday.
These are some of the things I’ve been watching.
Two busy weekends in a row! Apologies for 1700 words, this was a big week.
Formula E: Rome ePrix
I was excited for this one though it started a slow burner. Drivers doing energy saving to get to the pit stop – it happens a lot in FE. I relate to why people switch off early thinking the series is boring, but they don’t understand it all kicks off in the second half! There was contact on the opening lap, Alex Lynn getting hit, resulting in a meatball flag.
Just as pit stops began there was a 4-car crash at the hairpin. All eventually got going. Nobody in danger, Race Control sensibly held any intervention until after the pit stops. Lynn came to a stop this time though – an awful weekend of barrier contact for him – so a full course yellow (virtual safety car) was thrown almost as soon as the last car got out of the pits.
What followed was fantastic! Race-long leader Felix Rosenqvist hit a kerb which broke his suspension, out on the spot, promoting Sam Bird to the lead. The four-way battle for the lead was great, Bird held off the battling trio Mitch Evans, Lucas di Grassi and Andre Lotterer who were passing and re-passing each other. Di Grassi got himself to 2nd. Sadly on the last lap Evans ran low on energy and slowed to finish 9th. Points leader Jean-Eric Vergne wound up 5th. And a lot more changed lower down the field!
TV direction was a bit messy, we missed many overtakes live and only caught some in replay. An area to improve. The decision by Channel 5 to bump the race to 5Spike was a disappointment – at least there was the option to watch in HD on Eurosport.
1st Sam Bird (DS Virgin) 25 points;
2nd Lucas di Grassi (Audi ABT) 18 pts;
3rd Andre Lotterer (Techeetah – Renault) 15 pts;
4th Daniel Abt (Audi ABT) 12 pts;
5th Jean-Eric Vergne (Techeetah – Renault) 10 pts;
119 Jean-Eric Vergne (Techeetah – Renault);
101 Sam Bird (DS Virgin);
82 Felix Rosenqvist (Mahindra);
60 Sebastien Buemi (Renault e.dams);
50 Daniel Abt (Audi Sport ABT);
118 DS Virgin;
89 Audi Sport ABT;
Next round: Paris, April 28th.
Formula 1: Chinese GP
Just like in Rome the first half of the F1 race in Shanghai was pretty uneventful after the first lap, where Max Verstappen got a better start on softer tyres to jump from 5th to 3rd, while Valterri Bottas also cleared Kimi Raikkonen. The order for some while was an equidistant Vettel, Bottas, Verstappen, Raikkonen, Hamilton and Ricciardo.
There was more action at the back as Lance Stroll picked up 6 places and Sergio Perez dropped 6 places as the field negotiated the tightening opening corners.
Red Bull played an aggressive strategy, starting on softer tyres relative the others, even pitting both cars on the same lap with quick double-stacked stops executed perfectly. With Mercedes and Ferrari on the same tyres as each other, Bottas pitted earlier to get grip sooner, Vettel shadowing a little later. It worked for Bottas who jumped Vettel into the virtual lead.
Raikkonen was left out there long time, a sitting duck on long-worn tyres while the others caught him. The only option was that he was one-stopping to the others’ two, but they left it so late Bottas and Vettel passed him. With all needing one more stop it negated any advantage. I really dislike Ferrari screwing up their chances like this.
At halfway I noticed no cars had been lapped, the back of the field more competitive now. The media make a big deal of Williams and Sauber being terrible but really they are not that far off the midfield.
It all kicked off when Safety Car came out. Gasly ran into Hartley thinking he was being allowed through for the second time in the race (he wasn’t). Debris everywhere. Gasly later got a penalty.
It appeared the two lead cars weren’t given the chance to pit first, the SC popping out while they were somewhere near pit entry, no time to make the call. Verstappen dove in immediately, the following Hamilton did not and complained about it after the race, Ricciardo followed his team-mate for a second set of double-stacked stops from Red Bull.
Vettel, Bottas and Hamilton had to convert to a one-stop, Raikkonen too had made his stop by then but at least he had newer rubber than these three. The Red Bull stops were done before the field packed up behind the SC so they barely lost any places, they were sitting pretty.
And so the rest of the race was question of how soon could the Red Bulls pass the Ferraris and Mercedes. Verstappen was too impatient – again – and wound up in a tarmac runoff area after trying to pass Hamilton, letting Lewis and Ricciardo through. It happened again when Max caught Vettel later, contact at the hairpin spinning Vettel and attracting a post-race penalty for Verstappen. A victory lost in the first case, a podium lost in the second. Silly. As for Seb, he struggled with damage after that, got passed by Hulkenberg and Alonso and settled for 8th. Kimi caught Bottas near the end but no pass.
Daniel Ricciardo in contrast to his team-mate took his time and made decisive moves, to take the lead with plenty of time to spare.
1st Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull – Renault) 25 points;
2nd Valterri Bottas (Mercedes) 18 pts;
3rd Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 15 pts;
4th Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 12 pts;
5th Max Verstappen (Red Bull – Renault) 10pts;
Driver points after 3 races:
54 Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari);
45 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes);
40 Valterri Bottas (Mercedes);
37 Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull);
30 Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari);
Constructor points after 3 races:
55 Red Bull;
Next round: Baku, April 29th.
IMSA Weathertech: Long Beach GP
Juan Montoya started on pole, managed a first-lap Safety Car period, after which he got caught and passed by former Sauber man Felipe Nasr in the Whelen Cadillac. Another Safety Car came at pit time, this pairing staying out while everyone else pitted. The only other man to stay out was Alexander Sims in the GTLM BMW which had already pitted under green. IMSA rules these days have the classes sorted together for restarts, so Sims dropped back and restarted in front of the rest of GTLM.
It was at this point I had to stop watching. This was about 40 – 50 minutes into the 100 minute race. The official http://www.imsa.tv stream buffered so frequently it was not watchable. You could only see 10 seconds for every minute or two of real time. Add in annoyances with the audio – loud music every 5 minutes got old very quickly – and I wasn’t inclined to stick with it. I could’ve switched to the radio and live timing, but was too annoyed by that point. I’ll wait for the YouTube upload.
[Results to follow next time, after I finish watching the race.]
Next round: Mid-Ohio, May 6th.
IndyCar: Long Beach GP
Alexander Rossi started on pole and was dominant all day long. Yet again this weekend the first half was pretty uneventful following a dramatic first lap.
This time it was Graham Rahal torpedoing Simon Pagenaud out of the race. He blamed the brakes locking “like they did before”. Perhaps it would be harsh of me to suggest that if they did it before he should make allowances… He got a drive-through which would be negated by Safety Car later on.
The choice was 2 stops or 3 and a surprising number went for the latter and did so early. Robert Wickens car stalled at his stop, did a slow lap and pitted again with some sort of software problem, the team unable to get it going again for about 6 laps.
After the first stops Rossi had a big lead. Scott Dixon took Will Power while in traffic.
TV missed a lot of passes that I saw happen on live timing. Unusual for an NBC Sports race.
BOURDAIS. All of a sudden out of nowhere through lapped traffic, Bourdais makes it 3 wide to pass Dixon and then dives another car – and doesn’t hit the wall! Incredible move!
He was judged that two wheels over the blue pit exit line was a foul. I disagree with the rule, but that’s the rule and he had to give Dixon the place back. At least it wasn’t a drive-through. Bourdais got mad and immediately re-passed Dixon.
Unfortunately his day got ruined by his team-mate Zachary Clamen de Melo hitting the wall. Not ZCdM’s fault. Bourdais and Dixon were in the pits when the Safety Car came out, Seb got waved through so he lost time but didn’t get a penalty, Dixon took service and was penalised. Bourdais came in again when the pits opened.
That put Bourdais in the pack, where he got speared by Jordan King making a GP2 move in a place nobody usually passes.
I totally lost track of strategy and somehow the back end of the field got shuffled up behind Rossi, so we had Veach, Rahal, Andretti and others in the top ten. They held their own though at the end and were just as fast as anyone else, so I guess they made the Safety Cars work for them.
Rossi was dominant all day and it would’ve been criminal had he lost this one. Power took 2nd, Jones and Veach were nice and clean, Rahal got 5th despite taking out a competitor.
1st Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport / Honda) 54 points;
2nd Will Power (Team Penske / Chevrolet) 41 pts;
3rd Ed Jones (Chip Ganassi / Honda) 35 pts;
4th Zach Veach (Andretti Autosport / Honda) 32 pts;
5th Graham Rahal (Rahal Letterman / Honda) 30 pts;
126 Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport / Honda);
104 Josef Newgarden (Team Penske / Chevrolet);
93 Graham Rahal (Rahal Letterman / Honda);
88 Sebastian Bourdais (Dale Coyne / Honda);
83 James Hinchcliffe (Schmidt Peterson / Honda);
Next round: Barber Motorsports Park, April 22nd.
A huge amount of racing happened elsewhere, particularly in sports cars. I do watch ELMS and LM Cup on delay so I hope to catch up with those before it is time for Le Mans.
Next week see even more IndyCar, a natural road course this time, plus MotoGP goes to COTA. I’ll have a preview blog by Thursday night.
I prefer it when we have a small handful of races to focus on rather than everything at once!
It is easy to write a preview for the next big race, but actual journalists already do that.
I thought instead I would write a guide for how to watch a 24 hour endurance race, such as Le Mans or Daytona or Spa, if you are watching from home. You can adapt this strategy for 12 or 10 hour races like Sebring or Petit Le Mans.
Search for the website of the championship or event to find an Entry List, see if you can spot any drivers and teams you’ve heard about. This is your ‘in’, your way in to understanding the race.
Check www.spotterguides.com to see if Andy Blackmore has drawn up the liveries for this race so you can spot the cars – and cross them off in marker pen when they retire.
Have a look at some sports car news sites such as Racer.com, DailySportscar.com and Sportscar365.com, so you can see what’s been going on.
Live timing helps a lot. TV graphics are okay, but they never show what you want when you want it.
Live timing shows last lap time for each car and the gaps to the cars – so you can see who is gaining on the cars ahead and who is losing time. It shows the number of pit stops made, so you can work out strategy. It also shows the number of laps done by each car – in this type of racing the gaps can run to multiple laps. If a car falls behind you need to be able to see if it gets a lap back.
When you learn how to read it you almost don’t even need the TV pictures, you can understand and enjoy it from the data feed alone – or data feed and radio coverage.
It is important to find a commentary team providing detail to the level needed, without making it dry. The gold standard is RadioLeMans.com and IMSA Radio. Check to see whether these guys & girls are covering the race you’re watching. They do Le Mans, WEC, IMSA and more.
Countless people watch whatever TV or streaming is provided, put it on mute, and listen to RLM instead.
The Eurosport commentary at Le Mans can be good too, depending what shift it is.
You could just flick on the TV if you like, dipping in and out, which is great if you just want to chill out watching some cool cars racing. And this is a great way to get a taste for this style of racing and just start absorbing who is who without pressure. But you won’t necessarily understand what’s going on with strategy.
A lot of people have at least two screens – which is fairly standard for most motorsport now anyway: many of us tweet during a race for example, and follow live timing. [I usually do both from one PC]
Many more dedicated endurance fans have three or four or more screens. These are showing dedicated onboard videos from their favourite cars. Some might have one tablet/laptop for timing, another for social media, another for omboard, another with a different onboard.
Many fans then have tablets or laptops dedicated to running streams of onboard cameras, which are frequently provided free of charge or as part of a paid streaming service. This is an absolute luxury, though you do see some great car control and some incidents the main broadcast could never catch.
I found this to be overwhelming so I streamlined to this:
Main TV coverage with Radio Le Mans talking (or IMSA Radio);
PC with timing & social media;
Maybe a smaller device with one onboard;
Social media is important, too. I don’t mean just sitting there tweeting from your own account. Look up the championship account, look up your favourite team and driver accounts. Find other fans. Information comes through very quickly, faster than the broadcasts.
Some say sports car racing is boring. At first it looks like cars going round and round, hour after hour. And on the face of it, it is!
Then you think about it. At Le Mans you have 60 cars, 3 per car makes 180 drivers. At Daytona some cars have 5 drivers. At Nurburgring there are 150 cars on a 14 mile track. Add in those team bosses and engineers who have become well-known. Different combinations of teams, chassis, engines and tyres. Different classes of car in each race. Each class with a different rule set, which may differ between championships.
Every one of those people has a story to tell, every team has a history. It is totally overwhelming. It takes years to learn who they are. It is not possible to follow all of it in real time. [Unless you are Paul Truswell.] The nature of this racing means information doesn’t come to light for half an hour or an hour. Or lots of things happen at once.
To manage this, break it into chunks. Just pick your favourites in each class. And pick the likely winners in each class. Or those whose stories you like. Focus on following those on the screens and on the live timing. Everything else will flow from there. You’ll pick up everything else you need to know as you go along.
Often you get close racing, often there are long periods where are you waiting for it to play out. A strategy call might be made at 6pm, you may not see the payoff until 11pm, when all of a sudden that 6pm decision to triple-stint every driver puts a car into the lead. Be patient, but also pay attention.
Your Fuel Strategy
Eat small, eat regularly.
A great tip is to eat small, eat often. Do stick to your meal times but make it a moderate or small meal. Don’t have a great big meal, it’ll just make you sleepy. It can be fun to gorge on a Chinese takeaway or a big pizza just as you would on a film night, but if you plan to follow the race all night long – or have just a small sleep to resume in the early hours- this is the worst thing to do. Over-eating means you sleep for hours.
Get a supply of snacks. Nuts, fruit, chocolate. Mix it up. First it keeps your energy up, second it gets you up and walking around to the kitchen and back, and third it gives you a break from the screen and the concentration.
And fruit is the best. No, seriously. A banana every few hours, or some grapes by your side, or even strawberries and raspberries with ice cream. You can try all the energy drinks and coffee and chocolate in the world – and I recommend having some – but nothing works better for me than the natural properties of fruit for a pick-me-up. Again don’t rely on it, it’s racing, have a bag of M&Ms too!
Okay this is a tough one. Especially if you are like me and drink several cups of tea or coffee every day in the 9-to-5 at the office. Don’t have too much caffeine. Whether it is tea or energy drinks, just have one every few hours. All of these things work best when you don’t build a resistance to them by having them all the time. If your body is used to a lower level, when you do have one, you get a bigger kick.
Instead, have plenty of bottled water nearby. It really does help. Use the caffeine drinks to give you a kick when you start to flag. But not with less than an hour to go, after all, you want to be able to sleep after the race.
- Eat small.
- Get your tools – live timing, video streams, commentary, social media.
- Pick your faves and follow them, disregard others.
I hope these tips help your experience with endurance racing and that you become a long-time fan!