News Round-Up

I hope everyone had a good New Year! I had a quiet one after spending the last two years in central London, and the previous one in Edinburgh (the Home of Hogmanay and the best New Year’s Eve street party in the world!). This year I just played a bit of Mario Kart Wii before heading into the middle of the little town I live in for the moment itself.

I thought I should catch up on some of the smaller bits of news I missed when I was revising for an exam in December, believe it or not when you summarise it a lot did actually happen even if it seemed very quiet day-to-day. And not all of it was bad, either. I’ll skip the things reported by my blogging colleagues at the time, I mean we’ve all seen that, right?

F1
– Big news in sponsorship as Vodafone takes their primary sponsorship from McLaren to Ferrari for 2009 onwards.

– Allianz will continue with WilliamsF1 for the forthcoming year, however technical partner Lenovo have instead joined McLaren. No word on the plans of RBS after the bank was bailed out by the British government a few months ago, my fellow taxpayers and I now own 60% of the company.

– Teams have been testing the KERS system and new aero package, to varying degrees. BMW, Honda and Williams were among the first to test the new gear, while Red Bull has been running with ’08 systems simulating ’09 rules.

IRL
– 2008 GP2 champ Giorgio Pantano is looking for a ride in the US after the F1 teams showed no interest in him.

– Penske continue to state that an announcement on Helio’s ride – i.e. will he drive or will there be a replacement – will be made ‘in the next few weeks’, although they’ve been saying that since November.

GP2
– Pastor Maldonado has signed with ART Grand Prix for the ’09 European series. His teammate is expected to be Nico Hulkenberg.

– The Asia series is continuing with what is becoming a regularly revolving cast of characters. Seems several teams are using it as an extended driver test for the main series.

– The February round of the Asia series at Dubai has been moved to Qatar, and will become a night event under the floodlights. MotoGP race under the lights there last year.

F2
– At least 20 drivers have been signed up to the revived F2 series for this year and it looks to be oversubscribed, in which case it will be capped at 24 drivers. So far 10 drivers have been officially announced by MSV and more are being added to this page every week, presumably in order to get more PR from staggered announcements which is a good move.

– Great to see Red Bull joining the party and helping legitimise the series further, alongside MotorSport Vision and WilliamsF1.

F3
– Carlin Motorsport have switched from Mercedes engines to Volkswagen, marking a big increase in VW’s presence in both the Euroseries and the British one. Carlin say they are following their backers Red Bull, who announced in November that all teams they are backing in F3 will run with VW.

– VW already confirmed they are dropping RC Motorsport, and will continue with Signature-Plus (both for the Euroseries), while in Britain they’ll join with T-Sport.

Sportscars
– The Le Mans pre-event Test Day has been cancelled to reduce the costs for both competitors and organisers. Wednesday’s qualifying has now become a mandatory practice session.

– Leo Mansell and dad Nigel tested the Ginetta-Zytek 07S LMP sportscar at Valencia. Meanwhile Leo’s brother Greg tested the World Series by Renault FR3.5 car in a group test at Paul Ricard, back in November.

– Barwell Motorsport will not going back to ALMS this year with their bio Aston Martin. They will instead enter the LMS and FIA GT3. I’m not sure if they’ll use that car but they will run Astons.

– BMW have been testing their GT2 class M3 in the US with World Touring Car drivers Andy Priaulx, Jorg Muller and Augusto Farfus. Priaulx says he’d like to take part in some ALMS races in the car, but Sebring clashes with a WTCC event at Puebla. Joey Hand and Bill Auberlen have been announced as the drivers of Rahal Letterman Racing’s M3.

– The Britcar 24 Hours at Silverstone has been reduced to a 6-hour event for 2009 for cost containment reasons. Organisers hope to return the race to the full distance in 2010. It has only been running since 2005.

– Ex-Super Aguri driver Anthony Davidson tested a Peugeot 908 HDi at Paul Ricard and is the running for a race drive. Go Ant!

Other
– Both Subaru and Suzuki have pulled out of the World Rally Championship. Kawasaki looks set to announce a pull-out from MotoGP next week. Seems like the Japanese car and bike makers are in trouble.

– 1998 and 1999 F1 World Champion Mika Hakkinen has become a driver manager, alongside his own manager Dider Coton.

– A1GP has agreed with the Chinese government to run two rounds per season for the next five years. Venues were not confirmed. A1 has raced in Shanghai, Beijing, Zhuhai and Chengdu since the series started in 2005.

– Organisers of the Surfers Paradise street race are building a pit/paddock complex for 40 teams in time for the ’09 event. That should be enough to service all of the A1GP and V8 Supercar teams.

– The Dakar Rally gets under way this week, but in Argentina. The African event was cancelled last year due to terrorist theats which prompted the move over the Atlantic, however a rival series called Africa Race has been set up and will be running at the same time albeit with far fewer numbers competing.

Blog
– Check out the Last.FM radio player in the white sidebar!

– The blog might be quieter than intended between now and June as I am in my final year of an accountancy course. It isn’t quite ‘Accountant’ level, its the level just below it, but that doesn’t make it easy! So I’ll be quite busy doing that.

– It’s New Year’s Day, I didn’t drink stupendous amounts last night yet my head still hurts because I have a cold, only a mild one but I HATE colds. Especially ones I pick up during a stock-take at work on NYE. I need a good rant so might come back soon to tell you all my pet peeves.

All stories shamelessely pilfered from the pages of the last several editions of Autosport magazine and reworded by me.

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)

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.