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!

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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)

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.