Weekend Preview: 16-17 May 2009

Feature Events

MotoGP

– Grand Prix de France
– Le Mans Bugatti Circuit
– Le Mans, France
– (4/17)
www.motogp.com

Much as last year the forecast for this weekend is for rain, it could be fun! I have to say I don’t usually enjoy events at this racetrack – the short Bugatti circuit, that is – but last year’s was very interesting due to the different tyre strategies involved. In fact the DTM race at same venue was under similar conditions. Is there a micro-climate we should be aware of?

TV Guide:

UK – LIVE on BBC Two at 12:30pm

US – DELAYED on SPEED at 1pm ET

Support races: 250s, 125s, etc.

Other Events

NASCAR All-Star Race

– Lowe’s Motor Speedway
– Charlotte, South Carolina, USA
– (non-points)
www.nascar.com

Not a part of the Sprint Cup but featuring all of the drivers and teams, this is basically a race for the sake of entertainment and a shedload of prize money. I don’t really understand how it works and quite honestly I don’t care.

TV Guide:

UK – LIVE on Sky Sports 2 at 12.30am Saturday night / Sunday morning, repeated on three times across Sky Sports during Sunday.

US – LIVE on SPEED at 7pm ET Saturday

Support races: Nationwide Series (Saturday), Truck Series (Friday)

American Le Mans Series

– Grand Prix of Utah
– Miller Motorsports Park
– Tooele, Utah, USA
– (4/10)
www.americanlemans.com

Last week the European LMS held their last round before Le Mans and this week the Americans do the same. Simon Pagenaud and David Brabham raced last week for Peugeot at Spa (Pagenaud won) and this week both are on ALMS duty for Acura in the de Ferran and Highcroft entries respectively.

Of note here is the high altitude of the course which adds an extra dimension to the challenge of the race. The ALMS isn’t in as great a form as it used to be and they’ve had to bring in some GT3 cars as field-fillers, yet while the quantity is down the quality of entrants at the sharp end of each category is as high as it ever was.

Note – while many ALMS races are on Saturday, this race takes place on SUNDAY.

TV Guide:

UK – DELAYED BY ONE WHOLE WEEK to 5pm on May 24th, that’ll be shortly before the Indy 500 then… :stupid:

US – DELAYED at 10pm ET Sunday on SPEED (the race happens at 2.15pm ET)

Support races: Atlantics, Star Mazda, IMSA GT3 Cup, IMSA Lites

DTM

– Hockenheimring
– Hockenheim, Baden-Wurtemburg, Germany
– (1/10)
www.dtm.tv

At long last the DTM gets started! After what seems like an eternity since the end of their 2008 season in October the German tintops heavily reliant on little aero tabs finally start their season. I’m not sure which genius decided they’d start in May but I suppose it separates them from all the other championships which start in March/April.

Mercedes vs Audi once again then and it looks like the 2-yr-old cars have been ditched, which is great news. It means Kat and Susie can finally demonstrate their known abilities against the rest of the 1-yr-old field, and a well-driven 1yr car can mix it with the current cars and certainly gets noticed. It could be a good year to watch DTM – unfortunately the FTA coverage on MotorsTV has vanished to be replaced with coverage on the pay-monthly Setanta.

TV Guide:
UK – DELAYED at 10pm on Setanta Sports 2

Support: Formula 3 Euroseries


FIA WTCC

– Race of France
– Pau, France
– (4/12)
www.fiawtcc.com

Pau is a crazy place. Imagine Macau if it only had the narrow part, and fast. The racing isn’t always great but it’s worth a look to check out the precision driving, particularly over the chicanes with walls very close by. Of course it could all get horribly embarrassing very quickly indeed.

TV Guide:
UK – LIVE on Eurosport at 11.45am (race 1) and 1.45pm (race 2).

Support: Formula Master (LIVE between the two touring car races)


Grand-Am Rolex Series

Laguna Seca, California, USA
– (4/12)
www.grand-am.com

TV Guide:
UK – highlights at silly o’clock midweek on Five
US – SPEED at 4pm ET


FIA GT

– Adria, Italy
– (2/8)
www.fiagt.com


BTCC

– Donington Park
– Leicestershire, England, UK
– (3/10)
www.btcc.net

It’s on!! Donington Park has finally corrected the problems which blighted the running of events between February and this month by realigning the run-off area at the new tunnel and the circuit now has a licence! The BTCC races at Donny are always a lot of fun so make sure you check it out. Those outside the UK can surely get a stream somewhere…

TV Guide:
UK – LIVE on ITV4 from 11.30am, they will flash up the race schedule during the programme so that you can plan your day according to which support races you want to watch.

Supports: Clios, FRenault, Porsches, Ginettas


FNippon & JF3

– Suzuka, Japan

* * *
That’s it, if ever if you think I’ve forgotten something please point it out in the comments.

Don’t forget, in addition to these races there are also the final two qualifying sessions for the Indy 500. Third Day qualifying is on Saturday to fill positions 23-33 and on Sunday there is Bump Day as the last-chance qualifying. I’m not sure how many bumps there will actually be, it doesn’t seem like many so unlike last week I won’t be following it all that closely.

I tried an experiment on Twitter on Thursday night. I tweeted some race results, just the top few places, as an idea to promote discussion of series people may not usually follow. It turned out to be a bad idea! It doesn’t work at all on Twitter – but I think it may just work on the blog. I will be writing a test post at some point over the next few days using the format as these Previews and we’ll see how it goes.

Finally, an apology for the lack of updates recently. I am in the final stages of an accountancy course and I have been concentrating on that!

Enjoy your weekend!

Weekend Preview: 4-5 April 2009

Here it is people, it all kicks off this weekend! Tons and tons of racing!

* * * *
Feature Event

FIA Formula 1 World Championship
– Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix (2/17)
– Sepang International Circuit
– Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
www.formula1.com
Track Map

Please see my F1 Preview here.

Support events:
GP2 Asia Series (x2); Formula BMW Pacific (x2);

A much quieter support card to Australia. GP2 Asia is holding rounds 9 and 10 of the winter series with just one double-header remaining in Bahrain (again supporting F1).
FBMW Pacific kicks off their year here this weekend.

* * *
Other Events:

IRL IndyCar Series
– Honda Grand Prix of St.Petersburg (1/17)
– St Petersburg, Florida, United States
www.indycar.com

Please see my IndyCar preview which follows imminently!

UK TV: Race LIVE on Sky Sports Xtra from 7.30pm BST Sunday.
US TV: Qualifying recap at 5pm ET Saturday.
Race LIVE on VERSUS from 2pm ET Sunday, race starts at 3.

Support races: Firestone Indy Lights (x2)

American Le Mans Series
– Acura Sports Car Challenge of St.Petersburg (2/10)
– St Petersburg, Florida, United States
www.americanlemans.com

A very low entry of just 17 cars is a cause for concern with just 6 prototypes and no GT1 cars. GT2 is the battle to watch here.

UK TV: Race DELAYED by one day, from 3.00pm BST Sunday.
US TV: Race LIVE on ABC from 1.30pm ET Sunday.

Le Mans Series
– 1000km of Barcelona (1/5)
– Circuit de Catalunya
– Barcelona, Spain
www.lemans-series.com/

The European endurance racing season gets going with an entry list of 43 cars this weekend! Aston Martin are currently topping the times in the absence of Peugeot and Audi, which means the LMP1 entry is fairly thin in number compared to last year – but it does boast Aston, Pescarolo and the two Kolles Audi R10s.

UK TV: The start can be seen LIVE on Eurosport at 10.15am BST for 45 minutes, with further coverage at 11.45am for 30 minutes. There will be highlights at 11pm. Eurosport are busy with GP2 Asia, World Rally, Superbikes, cycling and European basketball so they really had to fit in what was a late deal wherever they could.

NASCAR Sprint Cup
– Samsung 500 (7/36)
– Texas Motor Speedway
– Fort Worth, Texas, United States
www.nascar.com

Yet another 500, they seem to have a lot of them in NASCAR. Didn’t 500 mile races used to mean something?

UK TV: TAPE DELAYED on Sky Sports Xtra from 10pm BST Sunday.
US TV: LIVE on FOX from 1:30pm ET Sunday.

The reason for the UK tape delay? SSX is showing IndyCars at St Pete live instead! Three cheers for the ICS bumping Cup! Hooray!

Support races: Nationwide Series (Saturday)

FIA World Rally Championship
– Rally de Portugal (4/12)
– Vilamoura, Portugal
www.wrc.com

Intercontinental Rally Challenge
– Safari Rally (3/12)
– Nairobi, Kenya
www.ircseries.com

Formula Nippon
– Fuji (1/8)
– Fuji, Japan
Support races: Japanese Formula 3;

HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship
– Brands Hatch Indy (1/10)
– Brands Hatch (Indy)
– Kent, England, UK
www.btcc.net

Time for some proper tin-top wheel banging! The BTCC season opens on the one mile Indy configuration of Brands Hatch, with the three fast and frenetic 20 minute BTCC races and a packed support card.

UK TV: LIVE on ITV4 from 11.45am Sunday with uninterrupted coverage until 6pm including a whole bunch of support races.

The reason for the UK tape delay? SSX is showing IndyCars at St Pete live instead! Three cheers for the ICS bumping Cup! Hooray!

Support races: Porsche Carrera Cup GB, Formula Renault UK, Renault Clio Cup UK, Ginetta G50, Ginetta Juniors

* * * *
Hectic!!

I think that covers everything, please add your comments if you find anything more!

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!

I was at… BTCC Silverstone

On Sunday I made the 3 hour journey to Silverstone to see the British Touring Car Championship. You can view my photos here.

I usually go to the Thruxton round (which is half the distance away) but missed it for a family commitment. It was raining so I nearly didn’t go but my resolve to FINALLY see some racing in 2008 won through! Just ridiculous that this was my first race of the year, I’ve normally done at least one by mid-summer.

The journey time, plus being delayed by traffic in the rain, and the race timetable this weekend meant I missed Race 1 of 3 of the headline BTCC event, which I was pretty pissed off about because it ended as I was pulling into the car park. Not to worry – still over 5 hours of racing to go! BTCC races are run over 25 minutes and the support races are 15-20 minutes or so.

Short, sharp action is the order of the day which means the drivers take risks. There is also zero gap between races, as soon as one field enters pitlane at the end of a race the next field is leaving to form on the grid before their formation lap.

Once I’d moved from the car park and bought my ticket the SEAT Cupra race was under way, so I picked up a bratwurst roll and headed to the nearest stand where the view was pretty damned good. I found myself at Luffield corner, which is slow but has good sightlines. Thankfully it was a covered stand – the intermittent rain had returned.

I knew there was a break in the programme now and was now desperate for a hot cup of tea after the food and the drive, also I love to wander around getting different views and taking in the atmosphere – so I gave up this view. Little did I know that this was when the ’50 Years of BTCC’ parade of old cars was happening! Luckily I would meet them in the paddock later.

Tea bought and a wander had, I sat myself in a stand to drink the tea and warm up a bit, finding out that the chosen stand was on the pit straight. Unlike most events, this time I had no plan for where I would be at each race, just take it as it comes and explore. The pit walkabout had just started. I took a photo, sent a text and joined the long queue for the bridge.

It took a very long time to get over the bridge and it was a shame this was the only way in other than walking all the long way to Bridge corner and crossing there. So long that the gate to pitlane itself was closed when I arrived, I ‘only’ had access to the paddock – which is more access than with most racing series in this country!

I found Tom Chilton and Gordon Shedden of Team Halfords (the rebranded Team Dynamics). ‘Sonic’ (the hair) is being interviewed in the team hospitality unit, ‘Flash’ Gordon is the guy in the hat in the foreground. Deciding not to bug them I move on.

I had lots to see in the paddock and wanted to get back trackside before the Clio Cup started – those guys are nuts. It was then I found the historic touring cars from earlier.





I could hear engines firing up in the support paddock, which I never did find, this meant the Clio Cup guys were getting ready to go out. Plan: Quick nose in the back of the pits and then head back over.


(FRenaults were in pitlane not support paddock)

Trackside at Copse corner (turn 1), from this location the Clios were underwhelming, not much happened. I missed lap one getting back over that bloody bridge. I think what action there was was happening elsewhere. Also not much atmosphere as there were only a scattering of people here.

I took to a seat back on the start straight for the second BTCC race of the day. It wasn’t eventful from my position but a lot happened elsewhere, suddenly we were down to 15 cars from the 24+ starters. This is a good place to sit for the speed – but you don’t know what’s going on because the commentary can’t be heard over the engines.

There were three support races held between the 2nd and 3rd BTCC encounters. These were the Ginetti Juniors series for teenagers, the Formula Renault 2.0 UK series for developing talent, and the Porsche Carrera Cup GB. One pic from each:


I slipped away during the Ginettas to buy some merchandise, which I believe is a legal requirement at any race circuit. I certainly feel guilty if I leave a track having not bought any. I got the BTCC 50th Anniversary polo shirt in blue, which I recommend to anyone. Returning for the FRenault grid I sat through the rain to watch both this and the Porsche Cup. I’m not entirely sure why I did that, sheer determination to see as much racing as possible I think. Yet there was a covered grandstand a hundred feet away (albeit full).

Up next was BTCC race 3, the partly-reversed grid race. Top x positions from race 2 are reversed, where x is determined by a draw live on TV.

I enjoyed this one. The BMWs were shit-hot off the line, Jackson passed a complete row before my eyes! Amazing traction. Then later Turkington got knocked into a spin by Neal. You could better hear the commentary from this location, the end of the main stand, the large green one with ‘SILVERSTONE’ written along it.

And so the end! After being disappointed earlier I had significantly improved my mood as the racing went on, despite the rain, by the end I wanted more racing!

This time the BTCC closed proceedings, I have been to other tracks where there is a closing support race to help ease the traffic out. This ought to happen here because the new approach road doesn’t solve the problem of leaving the car parks.


Click this for the track map, they used the short layout, turn right at Becketts, rejoin at Priory.

On the whole, if you ever get the chance to visit the BTCC anywhere in the UK, make sure you do so, you get great racing all day long – as long as you pick your viewing spots wisely.

I’m happy I’ve finally attended a race in 2008. This may by the only one I make this year. I’d like to go to the Le Mans Series at Silverstone in a fortnight but I’m not sure if it will be possible yet.

Finally, there was a fairly big crowd at Silverstone, most of whom were in the covered stands. Check out Autosport.com’s photos of Superleague’s inaugural event at Donington Park where literally tens of people turned up! I’m glad I didn’t go there.

See you in a couple of days for the Detroit IRL notes. I already know the winner because I went to GrandPrix.com and got spoiled – I didn’t expect them to report it, they don’t always!

British Touring Cars

This is the 50th season of the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC), which started life as the British Saloon Championship. I’ve been to several BTCC meetings over the last few years and you can view photos from those events through the Picasa links on the right-hand side.

For the uninitiated, the BTCC is Britain’s premier motorsport category. The current format is for 3 races of about 20-25 minutes all held on the Sunday of the race meeting. Race 2 grid order is the finishing order of race 1. For the 3rd race the same is true apart from up front, where a random draw is held to determine how many positions are reversed. e.g. if 8 is chosen the poleman moves to 8th, the 8th-placed driver starts on pole. There are 10 of these race meetings per year making for 30 points-paying races.

The racing is a lot closer than the World series (WTCC) who’s drivers are less inclined to push each other. BTCC is very much ‘rubbing is racing’, I usually hate that phrase and I dislike it in every other series but the BTCC would not have its character without it.

I’m heading to Silverstone tomorrow where the 50th anniversary celebrations will be held (I’m not sure what those celebrations will be). Thruxton is my nearest round but I missed it for family reasons, and I need my fix before the season is over!

In preparation for this weekend I’ve been catching up with this year’s races, which I can’t see live as I don’t have ITV4. I ‘acquire’ them in the same way I get other stuff. So my GP2 plans went out the window and I watched BTCC at Snetterton, Oulton Park and Knockhill which immediately precedes Silverstone. Silverstone holds the penultimate meeting of the year, the season concludes at Brands Hatch 3 weeks from now.

BTCC currently uses the National layout at Silverstone, which is only just over a mile long and very fast. As a Grand Prix track it is also very wide. All this makes for a lot of two-wide oval-style action! I will return with pics and a report which I’ll post as soon as I get the chance!

If you have the chance to catch BTCC on TV, do so, it is great fun. It is live on ITV4 from just after midday with highlights shows dotted around hither and thither. Outside of the UK, I believe the full season is shown on a delayed basis on SPEED during the winter in the USA (& Canada?). Not sure if you guys get ‘as live’ or just the highlights. Keep watching those listings.

Note on Superleague: It starts this weekend and I said I’d do a preview. I was wrong, I haven’t had time and I can’t see myself getting interested enough to do one.

This Week in Racing w/c 4th Aug 08

I thought I would write a weekly post with short comments on the racing I watch every week. Some weeks this is more than others. Some weeks I don’t see much at all during the week. This wasn’t one of those weeks, this was a Catch-Up Week.

I tend to concentrate on watching F1 and MotoGP live, with IndyCar very shortly after the event. In many weeks I don’t watch anything else. I prefer IndyCar to MotoGP, I just don’t have immediate access to live coverage of IRL. I might even do Pressdog-style notes. I tried taking notes for the British GP and it is harder than it looks, big up to the ‘Dog and any of the other bloggers who do this.

Anything else I want to watch goes into a backlog. Mainly, this is to see me through the barren winter months and that’s how I started collecting so much of it in the first place, this time last season. F1 has a 5-month offseason and IndyCar is worse so you need to pass the time. But the pile can get too big, and when F1 and IRL aren’t running I need my fix, so I do a Catch-Up Week where instead of watching TV or what have you, I watch racing. Yes, I said I was a nerd, look at the profile.

On to the comments.. I’m going to insert logos here and this could look embarrassingly amateur.


Greece
, 1hr highlights
Took place: 1 June
Watched: 3 August

I’m not a huge fan of rallying but I’ve been giving it a shot this season. These are the most talented, craziest drivers in the world. A little less since Marcus Gronholm retired but they are up there. So I put the WRC on whilst I was sorting some food. I can’t say I paid much attention – it was yet another gravel rally in some dusty faraway place. Seen several of those this year already. Unfortunately my expectations were met. I just can’t get into it. What’s wrong with me? So far I’m only watching for the car control and the excellent TV coverage, but for sporting contest – I’m struggling.

I can’t remember who won.




EuroSpeedway Lausitz (‘roval’), Germany

Took place: 18 May
Watched: 4 August

Now the DTM is an entertaining championship. Big powerful V8s with star drivers and enough aero grip to get good speed through the twisties.
This particular instance wasn’t the best example but I think that was due to the silly pit rules this year. DTM races last an hour and a bit. Drivers must make 2 compulsory pit stops in which they have to take on a bit of fuel and change at least 2 tyres. Great, no problem here, makes for good strategy races.
The problem is the pit window. This year they have to pit in the middle 1/3rd of the race when previously they could stop on lap 3 and lap 50, if they thought that was the best strategy. This means everyone is forced into almost the same strategy. If that’s the case, why force the pitstops at all?
I understand the rule has been changed for subsequent events in response to critisism from drivers, teams and fans – I look forward to seeing how that pans out.

Paul di Resta won for Mercedes, he’s a very good driver and should be in single-seaters. He’s Dario and Marino Franchitti’s cousin.

Throw some ALMS in here from Utah, the SPEEDTV coverage. Not sure I agree with P2s beating P1s on outright pace so it was nice to see the P1s stretch their legs for the time it lasted..
The only two reasons I didn’t watch this closely was because a) it was after work and I needed to clean the flat and cook food, and b) the race is so fucking long! And this is only a 2h 45m race, not like the 5h LMS races in Europe. I tend to only half pay attention to these races which is why they make good Catch-Up Week or Off-Season fodder. Hmm I could put music on instead..


Croft, North Yorkshire, England
live recording

Okay so this one was a strange event.

Race 1
Two red flags caused by heavy monsoon-condition rain flooding the track. Race abandoned. Doesn’t look good.

Race 2
Possibly the best BTCC race of the season! Turkington coming up through from near the back, started 18th and passed almost every car to finish 2nd. The other BMWs made it to the front but they were visibly slower by a long way.

Race 3
Also entertaining in a BTCC-type way. Wheels banging, cars passing.

I never usually like Croft but this was a good one, even with the first race red flag. I’ve become a fan of Jackson’s – and of Adam Jones in the independent petrol SEAT outclassing the superior diesel factory cars. I always root for the underdog.

Coming up this weekend:
IRL at Kentucky
Since this isn’t an F1 week, in that timeslot I will hopefully get a chance to catch up with some GP2.