I’m Watching… #5

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

Before I answer that I’d like to note that I missed this blog’s 2nd birthday (or ‘blogaversary’) on August 5th, I’m very surprised I missed it as last year I had a birthday logo and everything. Thanks to everyone for your continued support and I hope you’re enjoying the blog. I’d also like to wish a happy 4th blogaversary to Alianora La Canta – apologies for not offering a question this year and I’ll make up for it on the 5th blogaversary!

Here are the races I watched between July 21st and August 6th – I’ll cover last week’s live races next time.

Formula 1 – German GP 2010 *live on BBC1*

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”false” link=”term=F1+Germany&iid=9426344″ src=”http://view1.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9426344/2010-german-alonso-wins/2010-german-alonso-wins.jpg?size=500&imageId=9426344″ width=”380″ height=”253″ /]

I thought Ferrari were good now. I thought now the Evil Axis of Todt/Brawn/Schumacher had moved on, the ‘New Ferrari’ of Domenicali & friends were all happy and smiley and open and ready to race fairly with the respect of their peers. Hah! Yeah right, how naïve of me. I’ve pictured the result as it should’ve been..

Aside from the team orders, the race was essentially decided on the first corner when Vettel tried to squeeze Alonso against the wall after a bad start, but turned it into a big push to the right and narrowly avoided collision. The delay to both allowed Massa into the lead. This race showed that Ferrari’s pace has improved significantly and they are now a factor for race wins, they managed to hold off the previously-dominant Red Bulls with apparent ease. Hamilton and Button finished well too, they haven’t been quite as fast all the time but they’ve posted good results all year.

Formula 1 – Hungarian GP 2010 *live on BBC1*

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”false” link=”term=F1+Hungary&iid=9481764″ src=”http://view4.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9481764/2010-rd12-hungarian-webber/2010-rd12-hungarian-webber.jpg?size=500&imageId=9481764″ width=”380″ height=”253″ /]

I was at my Mum’s for this one, which was quite embarrassing because it was a crap race. When I watch with people who never usually see racing I want it to be a good one to show the sport in a good light – when they ask why I watch it I can point at the screen. Why did it have to be Hungary? Of course this meant I was without access to my usual online accoutrements for watching F1 in particular, and live racing in general. I’m referring to things like Tweetdeck, the Sidepodcast live comments, the F1.com live timing and the BBC’s live tracker which shows the position of each car in real time.

Webber’s strategy saw him stay out during the Safety Car period when many had pitted, and he put in a dominant performance to build a gap on the field. He was aided by Vettel’s strange behaviour behind the SC attracting a penalty, you have to wonder how close Seb would’ve run him but to me it seemed Mark had stepped up a gear that day and once he was ahead he was untouchable.

I reckon Mark is ‘doing a Jenson’ – that is, he’s been getting better as a driver for years in midfield cars almost unnoticed by many people, and now he’s able to exploit a good car to make a run for the title at the expense of a perhaps more-fancied team-mate. Jenson did it to Rubens, Mark looks like he’s starting to do it to Sebastian. Good on him, he’s got my backing.

I think the points battles and the drama and incidents mid-race are more interesting than the actual racing competition at the moment, though you can argue F1 has always been that way. It certainly is a tight points battle in both contests – remember in the winter when everyone said the Constructors’ fight would be settled by July? It could still go any of three ways!

Very little else happened in the race, the only other thing of note was Michael Schumacher attempting to kill Rubens Barrichello and the team personnel and marshalls stationed on the pitwall. Michael on very worn medium tyres was travelling several seconds per lap slower than a charging Rubens, who was on a fairly new set of soft tyres and trying to make up for ground lost with what turned out to be a poor strategy. Given the blood between them you can appreciate Rubens wasn’t going to back down – a facet I love about the modern Rubens, he’s still the same warm gentle guy but in a racing car against Schumacher he’ll keep his foot in to the last. Needless to say, Schumacher swerved violently to the right just as Barrichello was passing him on that side. Bully-boy tactics that have scared off many in the past, Rubens has had enough of the man and he wasn’t passing up the opportunity of having a superior car than Mikey. Rubens kept his foot down, moving to the pit exit rather than backing off, and was heading for the grass effectively saying to Michael, “if you don’t give me room I’m going to have an accident”. Michael backed off and gave him the room. Score one to Rubens. You can bet those old demons have been slain once and for all, and Michael now has that marker against him. That it was done in a Williams made it all the sweeter, for me at least and I believe many others (not least Sir Frank).

IndyCar Series – Edmonton *live on IndyCar.com*

One of the most uneventful races of the entire IndyCar year, or even the entire racing year. I am struggling to think of anything noteworthy that happened prior to the controversial incidents of the final laps, perhaps I should take notes!

On the final restart of the race just a few laps from the end – and I must say, this Safety Car for debris seemed like a ‘phantom yellow’ to bunch up the scattered field for the finish, we certainly weren’t shown any debris on the web feed – as the field took the green flag Helio Castroneves took the defensive inside line into the first corner, while most of the rest of the pack took the normal racing line on the outside (if not all of the pack – I can’t recall if someone lower in the order jinked out). All fine and dandy in every series on the planet, the leader has the choice of where to place his car and as long as he’s not weaving across the track, changing line or chopping across the nose of the guy behind he is entitled to do so. This is no longer the case if you’re in IndyCar. Helio was given a penalty for blocking, which he either refused to serve or didn’t have to time to do so while the point was being argued.

It later transpired that the officials draw an imaginary line through each corner and if you deviate from the racing line, you are deemed to be blocking. You’re only allowed to do it if you’re attempting a pass on the driver ahead. Absolutely crazy. It basically moves the leader to one side and waves the 2nd-placed car through. It prevents the chasing driver from trying to force the leader into an outbraking error, forcing him to go wide on the exit and then executing the classic switchback to take the lead. That’s one of the classic hallmark moves of racing and it is now banned in IndyCar. Just as the series looks like it is building solid foundations for the future, it goes and pulls a stunt like this. Instant loss of credibility.

MotoGP – Sachsenring 2010 *live on BBC2*

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”false” link=”term=MotoGp+Germany&iid=9374412″ src=”http://view4.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9374412/motogp-germany-race/motogp-germany-race.jpg?size=500&imageId=9374412″ width=”380″ height=”253″ /]

Aside from a large accident involving Randy de Puniet I don’t remember much about this one either. Randy made an error in practice/qualifying, got patched up and started the race anyway, as these crazy motorbike riders like to do. The risk is that you crash again and make it worse. Randy crashed again – big time. Cue a red flag while he was recovered, hopefully he’ll get well again in time. This being several weeks ago now, he may well be already well on the way.

One thing I do remember is a damaged and recovering Valentino Rossi basically doing the same thing as Randy, in danger of crashing and making it worse – yet after initially falling behind the pace he somehow managed to catch and race hard a perfectly healthy Casey Stoner who was giving it the full beans. The two traded places for a few laps before Stoner came off best, but with those injuries Rossi should’ve been higher than 8th (in this depleted field) if he should’ve been riding at all. Dani Pedrosa won the race.

MotoGP – Laguna Seca 2010 *live on BBC2*

A couple of years ago this venue, Stoner and Rossi fought another epic battle and hopes were high of something similar, if not involving those two then perhaps Pedrosa and Lorenzo. It was not to be. Pedrosa led comfortably until he crashed, which left Lorenzo to take a relatively straightforward win from Stoner. There were a string of bikes up next and these swapped places but for some reason my attention was lost. Rossi won that battle and took the final podium spot. Lorenzo leads the points by a quite ridiculous margin.

GP2 Series – Istanbul Park 2009

I’m so far behind on GP2 it’s not funny. Okay, maybe it is.. I’d recently set the goal of at least completing the 2009  season before I saw the 2010 series for real at Spa at the end of the month, but it looks like I’m not going to achieve that aim.

The Feature race had a fair amount of action, there was a great moment when race leader Nico Hulkenberg was challenged by Luca Fillipi at the final sequence of corners, only for the pair to run wide and Vitaly Petrov drove around the pair of them. Meanwhile Andi Zuber took 3rd in the process – Petrov took saw it coming a mile off and took a wide line into the corner. Quite a lot of attrition in this race for some reason.

It’s funny watching a junior series when the participants are in F1 now.. Petrov ran Parente off the road briefly, and Chandhok had a very slow start from 5th to fall to the back where he set about running a string of fastest laps. Hulkenberg put a superb move on Villa near the end, really well executed – thought of course Nico had only dropped back due to a problem in the pits. A dominant performance from Petrov once he’d got in front.

The Sprint race started in complete madness with cars dicing everywhere on lap one, contact and spins in turn 1 and elsewhere, Chandhok’s car failed to start properly again, and Grosjean moving from 26th to 12th in two laps. Crazy stuff! Settled down somewhat after that until Grosjean and Nunes got into a battle for 11th, and Parente caught Mortara for 9th. Neither managed to make the pass though.

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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.

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”false” link=”term=IndyCar+Toronto&iid=9376643″ src=”http://view2.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9376643/honda-indy-toronto/honda-indy-toronto.jpg?size=500&imageId=9376643″ width=”234″ height=”351″ /]

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.

I’m Watching… #3: NASCAR road courses, F1, F2, more

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

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

Formula 2 – Valencia 2009
Race 1 of 2. This was the ‘comeback race’ for the F2 name, unfortunately it was at the Ricardo Tormo circuit so it was rubbish, really boring. I don’t think I’ve seen a good race at that circuit in my life, any series. Maybe MotoGP. Martin Haven did his best to inject enthusiasm and a great deal of knowledge of ‘old F2’ and of drivers parachuting in from other series, but really you need the on-track stuff to be good as well and it really wasn’t. I missed the 2nd race, I have a feeling I watched it live on their site but I can’t remember, it was a year ago..

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”false” link=”term=Nationwide+Road+America&iid=9161555″ src=”http://view1.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9161555/bucyrus-200/bucyrus-200.jpg?size=500&imageId=9161555″ width=”380″ height=”294″ /]

Nationwide Series – Road America 2010 *live*
I was curious to see the 2nd-tier NASCAR series on a road course, and it had Jacques Villeneuve guest-driving and a couple of guys were pulling the double with this race in Wisconsin on Saturday and the Cup race in California on Sunday. I was disappointed. JV and Carl Edwards had a great battle at the front, unfortunately the rest of the field were hopeless and it came to a head with a lengthy red-flag delay after a multi-car pile-up which is when I gave up following it. I didn’t expect a ‘Dega-style “Big One” on a road course! Apparently once the race restarted it was brought back under safety car multiple times, and finished some hours after I’d left it. Needs work.

IZOD IndyCar – Iowa 2010 *live*
This was a great race, you could tell that from the few times the Race Control cameras were pointing in the right direction. I’m going to have to watch this again with the TV feed. To give them credit they did stick with the lead battle for a good while, unfortunately the lack of direction meant I missed the battling in the pack. Tony Kanaan had a brilliant run and it was great to see him win and to do it with a pass for the lead as well, excellent. I wasn’t sure what happened to Marco Andretti’s early run, I guess the car went away from him just as TK’s was coming to him. Needless to say the ‘red cars’ were all up there in contention throughout, but I do think Andretti Autosport are regaining the relative pace they had against them some time ago. Good to see.

Sprint Cup, Sonoma 2010 *live*
Again I wanted to see how the stock car people handled the road courses. I expected something more professional than the Nationwide race and that’s largely what we had, after all most of them have driven at Sonoma for some years now. It was a pretty good race with a mixture of strategies throughout the field, it was great to see DTM driver Mattias Ekstrom lead the race for a while on his debut but it was former V8 Supercar driver Marcos Ambrose who was in control much of the time – until he threw it away with a driver error under caution, allowing Jimmie Johnson to win. It was interesting to see how the race turned into a knife fight in the closing stages, it was like a 25-minute BTCC race with cars being pushed all over the track and spun around. This race also had a red flag period caused by a multi-car shunt, thankfully it was cleared up significantly faster than in the Nationwide event. There was the usual problem of going full-course yellow for someone spinning and resuming within 30 seconds, though it wasn’t as bad as usual and some incidents were allowed to develop and recover before the safety car was called so there is some progress.

Formula 1 – European GP 2010 *live*
A moderately interesting race, it was better than I was expecting for this circuit so that is a small victory. Mark Webber was exceedingly lucky and that’s a huge victory. Kobayashi really proved his worth by staying out on one set of tyres for that length of time when nobody else seemed able to, then using his fresher tyres to put a move on Alonso. Well played, Kamui. There was that dodgy safety car call with Hamilton and his penalty, we’re a few days on and now I’m a bit talked-out about it but you can read more here.

The World Cup
A lot of prime motorsport viewing time has been taking up with the World Cup instead. Some of it really wasn’t worth bothering with and I’m by no means a fan of the game, yet others have been enjoyable. There was a game last Tuesday between Japan and somebody which was the best game I’ve seen in ages.

Looking Ahead
Le Tour de France starts this weekend and over the next couple of weeks I’ll be watching the nightly highlights on ITV4 if they are as they were last year. I’m also heading to Goodwood for the Festival of Speed on Sunday.

Blog note.
You may have noticed I’m not very good at sticking to ideas, the weekly review each Monday/Tuesday hasn’t happened lately due to one thing and another (mainly the World Cup) so I’m reworking it into an ad-hoc approach to be done whenever I feel like posting an update. Better to be more ‘organic’ that way rather than doing a post for the sake of it.

Race Review: GP2 Asia Sepang ’09

GP2 Asia Series 2008/09
Sepang, Malaysia
Held: 4&5 April 09
Commentary: Martin Haven & Gareth Rees

Continuing my Race Review catch up series, this was the primary support event to the Malaysian GP and is the penultimate round of the series.

Points coming in:

Kobayashi 39
Valsecchi 29
Hülkenberg 27
Perez 25
D’Ambrosio 23

Feature Race – 33 laps
(the Sprint Race is noted below)

Qualifying:
1. D’Ambrosio (DAMS)
2. Nunes (Piquet GP)
3. Jakes (Super Nova)
4. Kobayashi (DAMS)
5. Villa (Super Nova)
6. Petrov (Campos)

The top 22 are covered by under 1 second, which the guys say is a surprise, and as Gareth says “this isn’t Mallory Park this is a proper Grand Prix circuit”.

Drama as the coverage begins as D’Ambrosio has NOT taken his pole position! His car broke down on the warm-up lap and he had to pit, he won’t take the start, could rejoin later but will be many laps down.

The other omission is Nico Hülkenberg who is not racing this weekend, Pastor Maldonado has reclaimed the seat.

START

Several slow starts and the cars fan out wide, Villa stalls it from 5th on the grid. Lots of bumping and contact through that twiddly bit at the start of the lap.

Lots of side-by-side action throughout the first lap, but Mortara is out on lap one.
Nunes leads Petrov, Kobayashi and Maldonado.

32 to go – Parente passes..someone. Hard to tell. These liveries aren’t easy to ID.

30 – Perez started 18th but is already up to 10th.

27 – Nunes leads, in 2nd and 3rd Petrov and Kobayashi are all over each other!

26 – Early pit stop for Kobayashi. He was sort of caught behind Petrov.
Ooh, Petrov runs VERY wide and allows Jakes into 2nd place.

25 – Maldonado pushing hard runs wide, scoots across the grasscrete or whatever it is, rejoins with dirty tyres and some positions down. Gareth: “Typical Pastor”. The guys say he’s a charming chap but he’s a rough diamond.

Nice move by Yelmer Buurman on Vitaly Petrov, who is really struggling to get his car stopped yet still made Buurman work for it.

23 – Petrov loses another place as someone drafts him down the back straight, so he dives into the pits for new rear tyres.
Slow car on track: Razia crawling in 1st or maybe even coasting.

22 – Maldonado pits.. he’s got damage on the nose. He’s out in 15th with more yet to stop.

Shots of F1 personnel on the pit stand watching the race, including Nelson Piquet Jr and Felipe Massa. Remember this race happened shortly after F1 qualifying. Parente takes Gonzalez, who then pits..

20 – Nunes pits from the lead, as does Valsecchi who has a very slow stop with a sticking right rear.

19 – Perez has stopped in the pit entry, nearly blocking it. Dark clouds are approaching!
Perez has been pushed to his pit – replay and it looks like his radiator has been holed.

17 – Jakes is pushing Kobayashi for what will end up as 2nd after the pitstops.

15 – Al-Fardan finally makes his stop, the last to do so.

8 – Jakes is still close behind Kobayashi but can’t seem to do anything about it.

7 – Maldonado smokes his tyres in an attempt to pass Petrov, can’t make it by at the hairpin, tries it again at turn one and still can’t do it! Couple of flat-spots on those tyres now, Valsecchi watching on.

4 – Discussion on the merits of KERS and how GP2 could have it if F1 develops it to be cheap enough. Hmm, hindsight.. 🙂

3 – Maldonado makes an error and allows Parente to draw alongside, both have patience and Parente takes the position. Comment from Gareth that the Maldonado of old would’ve taken Parente out there and then.

2 – Maldonado and Valsecchi are close together as they lap a backmarker, both are just a little behind Petrov.

Diego Nunes wins!

Result:
1 Nunes (PiquetGP) 33 laps
2 Kobayashi (DAMS) +8.36s
3 Jakes (Super Nova) +9.15s
4 Rodriguez (PiquetGP) +13.87s
5 Buurman (Ocean) +16.81s
6 Petrov (Campos) +41.46s

Summary:
Pretty flat end to the race. Lots of drivers in little close groups but not seemingly able to do anything to make a pass. Good job from Nunes and Jakes, complete change of fortunes over previous form, well done. Amazingly, Al-Fardan came 9th after looking utterly hopeless back in Qatar.

Sprint Race – 22 laps

It is wet for Sunday’s race, which was held a couple of hours before the F1 race. As ever the grid is the result of the Feature with the top 8 reversed.

1 Valsecchi
2 Maldonado
3 Petrov
4 Buurman
5 Rodriguez
6 Jakes

As it turns out this race has been delayed by 30 minutes by the wet conditions and we will have a Safety Car start (and no formation lap).

START

Yamamoto has stalled at the start and so has one of the FMS cars, could be Chen. Both cars are pushed into the pitlane. Yamamoto gets fired but stops at the end of pitlane, while they are taking the engine cover off Chen’s car. I’m not sure why Yamamoto stopped, he has a green light which now turns red as the field comes by behind the SC to complete lap 1.

18 to go – Safety Car is in, green flag!
Contact on the last corner between Maldonado and Valsecchi.

A couple of spinners at turn two including James Jakes – that’s a shame after his race 1 run.

No rain but the track is very wet, the cars are kicking up spray so it is hard to see who is close behind someone.

17 – Maldonado tries several times and makes it by Valsecchi, Petrov’s coming with him. Meanwhile Buurman runs wide and loses a couple of places. I was doing the same at that corner on the Wii last night..

16 – Kobayashi brakes far too late and runs into the wide runoff at turn one, loses a position.

15 – Maldonado leads, followed by Petrov, Valsecchi, Nunes, Al Fardan, Buurman, Parente and Gonzalez. Kobayashi is 11th, D’Ambrosio 17th.

12 – The DPR cars are off course and out of the race.

Nice dive from Petrov at the final corner to pass Maldonado for the lead! Interesting to see Petrov is quite a bit faster today, relative the rest of the field.

11 – Petrov, Maldonado, Valsecchi, Nunes, Al Fardan, Gonzalez, Kobayashi, Buurman. Points only go to the top 6 in the Sprint though.

Petrov just set the fastest lap of the race. Apparently Jakes got the point for FL yesterday (Villa was faster, Jakes was fastest of the top ten finishers, a rule to prevent pitting for tyres and going for a time).

Replay of D’Ambrosio running off track into an area where several marshalls and a tractor were working on two cars already – dangerous stuff, he should’ve backed off under yellow and he didn’t. Commentary guys are saying he should get a penalty, I agree.

9 – Rodriguez off course, too much speed and into the gravel. I think he recovers eventually.
Pics of Razia walking back to the pits.

The track is drying now and there’s not much spray. Due to the Safety Car start and the wet conditions this is now a timed race and there are 11 minutes to go.

D’Ambrosio does indeed get a black flag, hooray for the stewards! Replay again, the car in front checks up and Jerome just drives by and off course. He pits and shuts down the engine – looks like a straight black flag and not a time penalty!

8mins – Replay of Al Fardan running wide at turn one, same way Rodriguez did.

Perez vs Gonzalez – Perez makes the pass through turns 1 and 2 but loses out at the switchback, he makes it stick a few corners later.

5mins – Nunes sets Fastest Lap. The guys are talking about setups, some of those who have gone for dry or intermediate setups should be getting faster than the guys with wet setups now.

2m30s – Parente is now fastest. Kobayashi is pressuring Al Fardan for 4th, he’s closed up but doesn’t seem to be able to make the move.

The clock hits zero, last lap.

Vitaly Petrov wins!

Kobayashi and Perez cross the line side-by-side!! Who got it? How did Perez get up to Kobayashi?
Replays: Perez gets the position by half a nose! Fantastic, and it was the final points place as well..

Result:
1 Petrov (Campos) 22 laps
2 Maldonado (ART) +2.91s
3 Valsecchi (Durango) +4.34s
4 Nunes (Piquet GP) +6.36s
5 Al Fardan (iSport) +21.54s
6 Perez (Campos) +24.49s

Summary:
A drying race track saw some desparate moves, some worked and some didn’t and it was fun to watch both those and the struggles to control the cars on the slippery surface.

POINTS:
1 Kobayashi 47
2 Valsecchi 34
3 Petrov 28
4 Hulkenberg 27
5 Rodriguez 27
6 Perez 26

Next up is final round of this GP2 Asia season supporting the Bahrain GP, and with 22 points available for two wins and two fastest laps it isn’t over yet.

Race Review: NASCAR Auto Club 500

2009 Auto Club 500
California Auto Club Speedway, Fontana, California, USA
22 Feb 2009
Round 2 of 36

I watched the 1 hr highlights edition and will note edits with “[jump]”. There are a lot of edits.

I’ve decided to post this just for the hell of it – since I’m watching these short shows anyway in order to learn NASCAR for the 2010 season I may as well blog about them!

Green Flag

This is a fast 2 mile superspeedway, Jamie McMurray started on pole but fellow front-row man Jimmie Johnson takes the lead from the start. The guest starter is getting very animated on the stand!

After only two laps we jump to Lap 72.

[jump]
L72 – Johnson leads with Jeff Gordon in 2nd after Jeff passes Kurt Busch who was running a very high line.

L73 – Pit report saying Tony Stewart’s car is a little ‘loose’ but the commentary guys say it should get better as the track will come towards them later. He’s 6th.

Another pit report mentions the word ‘carburettor’. I chuckle.

L76 – Ex-F1 driver Scott Speed is in this race and he has been lapped, yet we’ve just been told 38 cars are on the lead lap. Oh dear.

L78 – Jeff Gordon takes the lead from his teammate, on-track pass.

[jump]
L119 – 21 of the 43 starters are on the lead lap, 41 cars are running. Replay of someone sliding the back end to avoid the wall!

Talk of the Chevrolets and Fords getting the best fuel mileage, and the Dodges and Toyotas not being as good. Interesting. This is what I like about multi-manufacturer competition, even if they are tightly controlled. I wonder which develops more power?

[jump]
L177 – Restart after a mystery yellow (we are not shown or told why). 73 laps to go, Matt Kenseth leads. Mark Martin’s car slides and his tyre smokes, he has to pit.

Johnson and Gordon are still in contention changing position between themselves.

Apparently they are using the brakes here more with the new car than they did with the old regulations. I’m surprised at this, I wouldn’t expect them to even touch the brakes here.

Even though these are heavily-edited highlights I can tell this race was pretty boring.

60 to go – Nice to see Montoya working his way up to 9th.

[jump]
L215 – Kenseth takes another restart. Again we do not see the reason for it. 35 to go. Now we talk to Dale Earnhardt Jr who is talking about something breaking with the engine, he’s very disappointed…

Kenseth builds a lead on the restart, then Gordon reels him in again when his tyres are up and working properly.

26 to go. Some good advice from the commentary for the rookies, stop trying to imitate the established stars and just drive the car the way you want to.

[jump]
15 to go – Nothing has changed except the gaps are growing. This is like an F1 race! We are told Gordon is cooling his tyres ready for another push at the end.

8 to go – Hamlin takes 4th from Kurt Busch.

We are told about a ‘Monster Moment’ and hear swooshy noises for graphics, no graphics appear on screen. This happens often on these highlights packages.

7 to go – The rookie Eric Almirola slows down with an apparent engine problem.
5 to go – Gordon is now pushing hard and catching Kenseth.
4 to go – ..and they are among lapped traffic.
2 to go – Kenseth has used the traffic to build a bigger gap, nicely played!

Final Lap

Matt Kenseth wins!! 2nd race win in a row after winning the Daytona 500, only the 4th driver to achieve feat of winning both Daytona and the race that followed it, the last time was in 1997.

Result (top 10):

1. Kenseth (Roush Fenway)
2. J.Gordon (Hendrick)
3. Ky.Busch (Gibbs)
4. Biffle (Roush Fenway)
5. Ku.Busch (Penske)
6. Hamlin (Gibbs)
7. Edwards (Roush Fenway)
8. Stewart (Stewart-Haas)
9. Johnson (Hendrick)
10. Vickers (Red Bull)

I’ve decided to include the teams rather than the manufacturers as NASCAR does it as I think it is more telling, and in any case that’s what I’m used to in other series.

Points (top 12):

1. Kenseth 385
2. J.Gordon -81
3. Ku.Busch -91
4. Stewart -91
5. Biffle -117
6. Bowyer -119
7. Waltrip -121
8. Ragan -123
9. Edwards -125
10. Montoya -129
11. Sadler -137
12. Reutimann -137

Still early days at this stage of course.

The next races were at Las Vegas and Atlanta but I don’t have those, so the next race I’ll see is the first visit of the year to Bristol.

On The Limit: DTM highlights – with a difference

It is about time I resurrected the old ‘On The Limit’ feature, where I either link to or post here a motorsport video on anything that takes my fancy. I’ve been negligent in updating what was supposed to be a regular feature.

The reason I bring this up now is the appearance of a clutch of season highlights videos, both official and unofficial, appearing all over the web at this time of year. One of the best of these was found by Scott from the Zero Downforce blog and is an artistic and really rather good look at the 2009 DTM season. I don’t care if you don’t like DTM or that it is mostly in German, it is a high-quality piece of work and well worth a look for any fan of racing in general.

Scott found it so I asked him to post it to his blog rather than steal all the credit here, so I urge you to watch this video by clicking here RIGHT NOW!

If you find a great video, if they are highlights or just a fantastic bit of car control, post it to your blog and I can include it in this series. Let’s get a bit of inter-blog linkery goin’ on.

Race Review: A1GP Kyalami

A1GP World Cup
A1GP Gauteng

Kyalami, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa
Held: 22 Feb 09
Watched: 6 Dec 09
Coverage: Sky Sports 2
Commentary: Ben Edwards and John Watson
Pits: Diana Binks and James Hinchcliffe (@Hinchtown)

This is the first visit of A1GP to Kyalami, replacing the crashfest that was the Durban street race of previous years – it was a great location on the coast but a poor layout.

Sky have Georgie Thompson, Tony Jardine (racing pundit and insider) and Olly Jarvis (former driver for A1 GBR, now in DTM) in the studio in London.

Points coming into this event:
Ireland 65, Switzerland 52, Portugal 49, France 41, Netherlands 38, NZ 35, Malaysia 31, Australia 30, South Africa 17, Britain 16

Germany have been absent for the season to date and they finally join in this weekend. Sky show a recap of their last involvement the previous year where Ammermueller picked up a reputation for crashing into people – oh dear!

*Sprint Race

Grid (top ten):

Bleekemolen (Netherlands) Albuquerque (Portugal)
Jani (Switzerland) Piccione (Monaco)
Karthikeyan (India) Carroll (Ireland)
Prost (France) Zaugg (South Africa)
Fauzy (Malaysia) Piscopo (Italy)

Bleekemolen took pole for the Dutch team. Interesting to see India are up there, Karthikeyan can be a good driver on his day.

Diana is with Alan Jones, seatholder for A1Team Australia. Alan tells us about the black armband he is wearing for the people who lost their lives in the Australian bushfires, and the car is also bearing the logo of a ribbon.

Hinch has Bleekemolen on the grid:
“Our last pole was at Zandvoort and we didn’t win it, so we have to win it now.” He’s talking about low grip so the cars are getting sideways.

14 lap race, standing start.. didn’t they used to have rolling starts for this one?

START
Jani takes 2nd immediately, Bleekemolen has a big lead straight away. Karthikeyan is up to 4th at the expense of Piccione.

13 to go – Piccione repasses Karthikeyan, great pass!
Carroll also passes the India car using PowerBoost.
12 – Netherlands are running 2sec per lap faster than the field. Ho-Pin Tung makes a move on Bamber, he dives inside but runs too wide and the NZ car repasses him.
10 – China now makes a mistake, Germany gets alongside but has to back off. Lebanon are in the garage with a problem of some kind. Ben says the pit window is now open.
9 – Bleekemolen and Jani pit from 1st and 2nd, many cars further down follow them in. Jani is held up by the Malaysian car which is blocking his exit, parked at an angle. Commentary talking about a narrow pitlane but it is wide, the problem is there isn’t enough length between pit stalls and these cars have a very wide turning circle.
8 – Portugal in, Ireland in, Monaco stays out. Netherlands retakes the lead among those who have stopped.
7 – Piccione pits the Monaco car. Germany made up places through the stops.
6 – Order after stops: Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland, Monaco, Ireland, India, South Africa, New Zealand
5 – GB in the gravel at turn one, after fighting with Brazil. Replay: Contact! The two collide and Watts runs off course. Yellows at turn one.
3 – Bleekemolen has a 4.3sec lead now although Portugal just set Fastest Lap. There’s not much actual racing anywhere in the field.
1 – All sorts of different onboard and offboard TV shots are being used to fill the time while nothing is happening on track..

Jeroen Bleekemolen wins the sprint race for Netherlands. Somehow Ireland took 4th ahead of Monaco? Not shown on TV.

RESULT (top ten)

Here is the result of this race, keep reading for the Feature race.

Driver Team Gap Pts
1 Bleekemolen Netherlands 14 laps 10
2 Albuquerque Portugal 4.407s 8
3 Jani Switzerland 10.600s 6
4 Carroll Ireland 12.925s 5
5 Piccione Monaco 14.363s 4
6 Karthikeyan India 18.474s 3
7 Zaugg South Africa 21.178s 2
8 Bamber New Zealand 26.539s 1
9 Fauzy Malaysia 26.925s
10 Prost France 28.101s
FL Albuquerque Portugal 01:29.072 1

I’ll recap the points after the main race.

*Feature Race

Nicolas Prost (son of Alain) starts 11th and is with Diana: “The atmosphere is fantastic, beautiful event. 11th is disappointing but a lot of people are in my situation after the red flag. It will be a long, hot race, very physical. Anything can happen.”

John Martin of Australia start 4th and is with Hinch: “Sprint race quali didn’t go our way but Q3 went okay, and we have a fast car so let’s hope it goes our way.”

Grid (top ten):

Piccione (Monaco) Fauzy (Malaysia)
Bamber (New Zealand) Martin (Australia)
Jani (Switzerland) Carroll (Ireland)
Albuquerque (Portugal) Guimaraes (Brazil)
Bleekemolen (Netherlands) Watts (GBR)

Monaco on pole! Qualifying was red-flagged so a fairly jumbled order.

South African national anthem

A1GP command from the premier of the Gauteng region: ‘Gentlemen, for the pride of your nations, start your engines’

40 lap race, standing start..

START

Monaco away well, terrible for Portugal who drop back to last.
Andretti going outside of Prost! It sticks, good move.
Adam Carroll spins! He tried to pass Malaysia and he’s thrown it into the gravel – he’s out of the race.
Netherlands and USA are making rapid progress up the order. NZ and Malaysia battling. Brazil v Australia.

39 to go – Australia passes Brazil over the line for 5th.
38 – Malaysia really pushing NZ hard over the last couple of laps. Fauzy and Bamber. Australia has now caught both.
Start replay: Australia was pushed partially on to the grass and lost several positions.

37 – Malaysia punts New Zealand off the track! Fauzy braked too late and now Bamber is out of the race. Someone else has gone off.. could be France. Fauzy continues having lost a couple of places.
Just in the replay you could briefly see Mexico push France and Duran went off track, Prost pitted.

35 – Malaysia pits with probably damage. The official pit window isn’t open yet. China is off course and Malaysia rejoins, but will still have to take 2 stops later. Replay of India running off course too.

Proper replay of France/Mexico: Prost was tipped into a spin and stopped on track to rejoin, Mexico kept running but only into the gravel.

Diana with Adam Carroll: “Got a good start, Malaysia were slow on the back straight so I used push-to-pass and I knew I was ahead, I even gave him some room and he hit me in the back corner. I’m pretty angry to tell you the truth.”

33 – Great battle between GB, Netherlands, USA and Germany, as Fauzy spins off to cheers from the crowd! Caught his rear wheel on the dust and 360s.

32 – The first pit window is open.
Order: Monaco, Swiss, Australia, Brazil, GB, Ned, USA, Ger, SA, Por, Leb, Indonesia, China, etc.

31 – Monaco pits. Very slow stop, 15.9 seconds! Australia stalls leaving the pits, Germany is in their way, now Australia has an exhaust fire! They are trying to push-start it.. it isn’t going anywhere.

30 – Jani is in. Watson tips Portugal as one to watch as he’s running fastest of all. Swiss pitstop was about 10 seconds. Portugal’s stop is about 11 seconds.

Andretti now running faster than before, Ben suggests he may have been caught behind the GB/Ned fight.

29 – South Africa pits, USA stay out. Quick 9sec stop for RSA and he is out alongside Portugal, but they have momentum and take the place.
Jani is right up behind Andretti, despite Jani having pitted. Marco stays out for another lap.

28 – Jani uses powerboost to pass Andretti on the front straight. Lebanon is running close to Andretti, haven’t pitted either.

27 – Lebanon pits but USA does not. A couple of laps of the pit window remain. Diana is in the Malaysia pit where the car is in the garage, ‘Fauzy reported a puncture – there was no puncture and he went back out and came in again, something is broken on the back of the car’.
Heheh, you could hear an echo as Diana’s voice was also on the circuit tannoy for the spectators, and as she said there was no puncture Fairuz looked rather sheepish…

26 – Andretti pits, 11 second stop, he’s out ahead of a train of cars but Zaugg gets him and so does Ammermueller as he gets up to speed.

Morad (Lebanon) passes Andretti, now Indonesia takes him. What’s Marco doing out there? Bad tyres perhaps, or struggling to get heat and grip into them.

25 – Order after the first stops:
Switzerland, Monaco, Brazil, Netherlands, Britain, Portugal, South Africa, Germany, Lebanon, Indonesia, USA, China, Italy, India, Australia

Where did Brazil come from?? Zaugg slows and pulls to the side of the track, problem..
Radio: he says he has a problem downshifting.
He’s made it to the pits.

23 – Lebanon passes Germany! Morad is on form today, I’m very impressed with him.

22 – Brazil is in 3rd and running 1sec/lap faster than Monaco in 2nd. Andretti has lost a position to China. His grandfather won at this track in its original configuration when it was an F1 circuit. Watson says “this is not what I’d expect of an Andretti”. Perhaps he hasn’t been watching IndyCar..

19 – Brazil has now caught Monaco. Replay of Ammermueller running wide into the gravel, and his tyres are caked in dust and dirt.

18 – China now running very slowly just as South Africa’s was.

17 – The second pit window is now open. Monaco runs wide at turn four and Brazil passes him! Slip-up from Piccione, he was low on grip and the pit window opened a little too late for him. Thumbs-up from Emerson Fittipaldi on the pit wall.

16 – Brazil, GB and Netherlands pit. Very slow stop for Britain.

15 – Switzerland pits from the lead. Good stop, he’s out in clear air. China seems to have fixed their issue as they leave the pits and get up to speed. Many others stopping.

14 – Monaco pits from what should be a temporary lead. Second stop better than the first stop. Danny Watts sets fastest lap of 1m30 or so. Now Marco Andretti goes quicker, he’s finally found some pace, I’m not sure if he’s pitted again. Spin for China at the chicane.

13 – Ho-Pin Tung has brought his car into the garage to retire. Lebanon are pitting late and he’s running at a good pace.

12 – Lebanon pits now. Malaysia rejoins after a long time in the pits, many laps down.

Hinch is with Earl Bamber of NZ: “We came down into turn 12 and he just hit us up the arse and that was it, we were in the gravel trap.”

11 – Order after the second stops:
Switzerland, Brazil, Monaco, Netherlands, Portugal, Britain, Lebanon, USA, Indonesia, Italy, India, Germany, Australia, China (7 laps), South Africa (14 laps), Malaysia (19 laps)
Malaysia are back out and could be trying to get the point for fastest lap.

7 – Italy and India having a fight.. Karthikeyan slides the car, runs wide and now has Ammermueller on his tail.

6 – John says Malaysia just set the fastest first sector of the last lap. Australia currently holds the fastest lap. Fauzy now takes it, 1:28.306.

4 – India has caught Italy again and he does the same, slides, runs wide!

2 – Replay: Lebanon passes Britain on the front straight.

Last lap

Neel Jani wins for Switzerland!

Ammermueller passed Karthikeyan on the last lap for 11th. That was a really entertaining race, I enjoyed that.

Emmerson Fittipaldi on Felipe Guimaraes: “Very proud, for the last ten laps we had a fuel pressure problem and were losing 1 second per lap, very proud. He’s a talent, he’s going a long way.”
Ben says Guimaraes is only 17! I have to admit I’ve never heard of him before.

RESULT (top ten)

Driver Team Gap Pts
1 Jani Switzerland 40 laps 15
2 Guimaraes Brazil 13.176s 12
3 Piccione Monaco 14.193s 10
4 Bleekemolen Netherlands 17.024s 8
5 Albuquerque Portugal 17.995s 6
6 Morad Lebanon 31.210s 5
7 Watts Britain 34.328s 4
8 Andretti United States 59.000s 3
9 Ali Indonesia 63.995s 2
10 Piscopo Italy 64.856s 1
FL Fauzy Malaysia 01:28.306 1

Another win for Jani, well done to the Swiss team. Impressive performances from Guimaraes and Morad, and Piccione scored the first podium for Monaco!

POINTS (top ten)

A1.Team Prior Sprint Feature Closing
1 Switzerland 52 6 15 73
2 Ireland 65 5 70
3 Portugal 49 8 6 64
4 Netherlands 38 10 8 56
5 France 41 41
6 New Zealand 35 1 36
7 Malaysia 31 1 32
8 Australia 30 30
9 Monaco 9 4 10 23
10 Britain 16 4 20

Good points hauls for Switzerland, Netherlands, Portugal and Monaco.
Terrible weekend for France, NZ, Malaysia and Australia who all lose ground.
Monaco’s scoring was good enough to bring them into the top ten.

Summary

I really enjoyed the feature race, lots of action all the way through and cars could pass even on this difficult circuit. The battle for the lead wasn’t much, with the action in the rest of the field it didn’t need to be. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the sprint race, which has long been a problem of A1GP racing.

Olly Jarvis seems to be becoming a clone of Tony Jardine with his sayings and mannerisms, the same way of finishing the sentences with a slightly higher intonation.. should we be worried?

It is quite bittersweet to be watching these races after the fact with the knowledge we have now of all A1GP’s financial problems. It was bad in the ’08/’09 series, it is much worse this time – the cars haven’t even turned a wheel. Such a shame.

The next event was a mammoth seven weeks after this one, at the new Portimao circuit on the Algarve in Portugal. I plan to do reviews of that race and the Brands Hatch finale although I appreciate this is probably for my own benefit rather than anyone else’s.