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.

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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!

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)