I’m Watching… #4: F1, IndyCar, DTM, WTCC, TdF

I watch too much racing. What have I been watching over the last three weeks?

Formula 1 – British GP 2010 *live*

Modifications to Silverstone promised much but didn’t really live up to the hype, but I kind of guessed that much after seeing it in person a few months ago – it seemed there was just as much an opportunity to pass as there was at the old Abbey chicane with no net improvement, I guess Brooklands is a better place for it though with the entire Luffield stand there (and the BRDC clubhouse of course.. Cynical? Me??).

The race was fairly straightforward for the most part with Webber and Hamilton checking out on a field which had got bottled up behind Kubica and Rosberg if I recall correctly, not aided of course with some fast guys starting lower down the order so unable to give the leaders a good race. Things livened up considerably following the Safety Car for de la Rosa’s broken wing, it was good to see Vettel carve his way through the field and apparently putting to rest this myth that he can’t pass. The question is, how much was he aided by the f-duct? It also seemed like some drivers weren’t defending fully and seemed to leave the door open a bit between the new section and Brooklands, that was until he reached Sutil who made him fight for it. Adrian had a good race all round in fact, he was combative all day and it was great to see.

I wasn’t as bored as I might have been because this was the debut of the ‘race tracker’ on the BBC site, a tool provided by FOM which shows the location of the cars on-track in real time. This proved to be very useful because TV can’t show everything at once and I reckon it’ll quickly become an indispensable part of following F1 for those of us who don’t already have one of the various live timing mobile apps.

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IndyCar – Toronto *live*

I missed the Watkins Glen race as I was travelling back from the Festival of Speed (final instalment coming up soon, folks!). There was a lot of Twitter excitement in the lead up to Toronto with the current staff of Planet-IRL on the grounds as well as the incomparable Meesh, with two of those three being residents of the city and the third trying a non-oval for the first time there was a bit of a buzz even from them let alone everyone else. It is good to have the race back on the schedule because it is a real test for the drivers and it attracts an enthusiastic and knowledgeable crowd.

It isn’t always one of my favourites though – it is always a crashfest and this year was no exception. It was really embarrassing to have so many accidents and incidents throughout the race, often it barely got started again before the next crash happened. Yet this race was still exciting. Who was the next to go out? Who could hang on?

They were all trying to win the race on each restart despite Turn 3 being a notable overtaking opportunity which could’ve been exploited with patience, Toronto rewards drivers who keep their head and remain calm – all too many fell victim to red mist. Perhaps surprisingly two of those in the former camp were Paul Tracy and Danica Patrick, it was interesting that Tracy was the only KVRT driver not to suffer accident damage given his old reputation! Patrick put in a solidly impressive drive, perhaps not passing all that many but not getting involved in stupid accidents either, very professional and a marked return to old form. Got to feel for Justin Wilson who dominated the entire weekend before spinning late in the race of his own accord, he put in a stirling recovery drive passing many cars to finish 7th. This one was a hard-fought battle of survival and the ‘usual Penske-Ganassi 1-2’ absolutely doesn’t reflect that, this race’s story was bigger than the headline result.

DTM – EuroSpeedway 2009 (Rnd 2 of 10)

A largely boring and tedious race which suddenly picked up after 50 minutes when the strategies unwound. Paffett and Spengler stayed out while everyone else made their first stops, and remained on track even while some drivers made their second stops. It worked for them – after their first stops it was hard to see what was going on for a while, until it became apparent their lap times after their first stop were faster than Ekstrom and di Resta who had stopped twice. It was midly interesting to watch the time gaps increasing as Gary and Egon Bruno tried to build up a buffer in which to make their stops. I was surprised by the margin of their advantage when they did eventually come in and emerged a good 3 or 4 seconds up on the others, that’s a long way in DTM terms.

WTCC – Valencia 2009 (Rnds 9+10 of 24)

I said last time that I’d never seen a good race at the Ricardo Tormo circuit.. Well you can strike that, because in the very same weekend as that dire F2 race the World Touring Cars put on a great show, for the first race at least. Passing up and down the order throughout the field – okay the front three were static almost throughout with the SEATs driving away, but the race wasn’t any worse off for it as we saw battling throughout. The second race was somewhat calmer and the BMWs walked it after their customary excellent standing starts.

Tour de France – Highlights

I’ve been geeking out on ITV’s hour-long highlights shows, often leaving them a few days before gorging myself on 3 or 4 in a sitting. I now have Phil Liggett’s voice imprinted in my brain, but this is no surprise as the same happened last year. This has really distilled down into a two-man fight between Spain’s Alberto Contador (quite Alonso-like I think) and Andy Schleck of Luxembourg. The great thing about this type of racing is you have a new race every day with different participants from down the field putting in a great stage-winning performance, with the continuing storyline of the leaders battling wherever they are in the day’s results. Sometimes they come in with the pack and nothing changes, the story is about that day’s winner (unless the bunch comes across together), sometimes they are fighting each other in the top five of the day. I actually haven’t seen Wednesday’s stage yet (hope to in the morning) and as the last mountain stage it should’ve pretty much decided the overall standings, the stages to come should have smaller time gaps available and the story may switch to the green jersey for sprint points. Of course, anything can happen in the Tour.

Coming Soon

I usually tick off more in 21 days but Le Tour has taken up a bit of my time as has a desire to cut down a little to give my brain a rest. I thought I’d watched the Catalunya MotoGP but I have absolutely no recollection of it so it can’t have been that good. I’ll be watching German MotoGP within a day or so, and of course this weekend we have Laguna Seca, the German F1 GP and Edmonton IndyCar. There’s more happening too, but even I can’t watch everything..

I’ll post another update in a couple of weeks.

Tin Tops

And so begins the off-season. Here in Britain the temperatures have dropped, the radiators are on and the hot drinks are being consumed in earnest.

Already there is the noticeable drop-off in forum/newsgroup posts, which happens every year yet seems always to take me by surprise. On F1NGers there were over 100 posts after the Brazil race, now they are barely 15 per day. This year for the first time I am following motorsport blogs and I’ve noticed the same pattern. There’s just not enough news – interesting news – to drive the content, what is around is just test reports and speculation about drivers in lower-order teams. Anyway, frankly some of my blogger friends deserve the rest after the amount of good stuff they’ve written over the year! I don’t know how they keep up the post rates.

Not much rest for me though, I’m obsessed with this stuff so I’m gonna keep on trucking, if only a couple of times a week. I’ve built up a nice archive of recordings to watch to keep me going. This blog was partly set up to rattle on about what I’m watching, as much as comment on latest results and reports, so you might get a few posts like this until March.

I’ve spent the last few days watching cars with roofs (1). DTM Norisring, WTCC Estoril and WRC Finland.
(1) It should be rooves. One hoof, two hooves. One roof, two rooves.

The Norisring is an interesting place. Basically it is a short, bumpy street track of about 1.4 miles situated in the German city of Nuremberg, the track running around the Steintrib√ľne where Hitler held his rallies. It is also FAST! These DTM cars are no slouches and the track is wide, they get decent speed along the front straight into the hairpin which looked like producing a major smash up on lap one, they did well to avoid one.
The race was entertaining, not the best I’ve seen and not the best I’ve seen at the Norisring despite this only being the second race I’ve seen at the Norisring. Last year’s race was more fun. This is my first season watching DTM in full. I like the speed and power of the cars!
Jamie Green won the race despite driving away with a fuel car still attached to the car, which fell off down the road. In any other series he’d get a penalty so the commentary – and me – were wondering how he kept the win. It was a good drive though.

The World Touring Cars were at Estoril in Portugal a week later, this is back in July. S2000 cars are not fast, at least not on tracks of this size, I don’t know why WTCC insists on visiting them. 2-litre tourers work better on shorter tracks because they just look slow, slow, slow on GP-length circuits. And you only get 12 laps per 25 minute race! A shorter track provides more laps and more chances to try that overtaking spot. Touring cars are all about fast frenetic action over 25-30 minutes, and F1-style tracks don’t provide that. (I don’t class DTM as ‘touring cars’) Okay the racing was reasonable and Tiago Monteiro raced hard to win the second race. But I just didn’t care – and I like touring cars.

World Rally was at Rally Finland in August, the craziest rally of them all. Seriously if you think you’ve seen rallying before, driving quickly along narrow roads, then think again. You’ve seen nothing until you’ve seen a Finn on Rally Finland! They push like crazy, take risks over the jumps and I don’t know how they get the cars to turn like that, but they do. Loeb won, becoming only the 4th (or 5th?) non-Scandinavian to win the event in 35 years or more.

There has been talk about taking the S2000 rules from WTCC, souping them up a bit, and using that as the basis of a new WRC car. Why can’t they also use it as the basis for a new WTCC car? They need pepping up.

I said last week that I’d recommend some music or a podcast whenever I could, just for the off-season. It might be well known or it might be relatively obscure. The first song is in the latter category.
This is from their first album, they have just released their second album. Despite being a video just play the song and look away, love it, then watch the vid later. I love the low-budget quirks like when he carefully places the drumsticks down to clap!

DARTZ! – Once, Twice, Again

If you like it check out the Buy Album link when the video ends or use the other links to see their Last.fm profile to find out more (go to the L.FM artist link to find your way to their MySpace page).

(sorry if my constant edits buggered up your feeds, I was trying to make the video not autostart)