2008 Chicago Indy 300

2008 Chicago Indy 300, or..
2008 Peak Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy 300
Chicagoland Speedway
Joliet, Illinois, United States
Round 17 of 17 points races
Round 17 of 18 in total

I’m guessing the TV name is what you’d call it if there were no sponsors. Maybe PEAK didn’t want the TV exposure.

Held: 7 September 2008
Watched: 8 September 2008

Coverage: ESPN world feed
Commentary: Gary Lee & Larry Rice
Pitlane: Jack Arute, Brienne Pedigo, Vince Welch

Here we go for the final points-paying round of the 2008 season – there will be a non-points event at Surfers Paradise a few weeks from now, a later addition to the schedule.

Scott Dixon has a 30 point headstart over Helio Castroneves going into this round, this means Dixon only needs to finish in 8th position even if Castroneves scores the win and the bonus points for most laps led.

Cars are lined up on pit road.
Drama in qualifying! Drivers were told NOT to go under the white line which marks the change from racetrack to the warmup lane or whatever it is. Helio crossed that line on each of his 4 qualifying laps – and was sent to the back of the grid.

Vince with Helio, who had a long talk with Brian Barnhart: “I want to thank all the fans who emailed their support, they keep pushing me, they have a great spirit. Its going to be a great show. We’re ready to race.” Vince keeps asking him about Barnhardt, lots of deflections from Helio! He never did answer the question.

Video about Scott Dixon getting married, both of them speaking some boring mushy crap. You can tell they are loved up. You can tell I’m a bitter singleton. Basically the whole of this five minutes is to make the point that he’s more laid back than he used to be. Brienne is with Chip Ganassi who makes similar points.

Jack is with Scott: “Tough couple of weeks. Credit to the team for the whole season. We got our fingers crossed.” Major concerns today? “Biggest problem is a DNF, a mechanical failure will destroy our day. Keep doing what we’ve been doing all year and win the race.” Had to get up at 6am on race morning to run the dog to the vets!

Gary Lee says if Dixon wins he’ll set a record of 7 wins in one season. I think he may refer only to the IRL rather than all of US open wheel history – they really need to unify the histories for 2009 because going back to 1996 now just sucks. They unified the teams, drivers and tracks, let’s do the histories too, right? If someone sets a record for wins I want to be sure that it goes right back to the era of the first Indy 500. The days of fighting ‘the other side’ are over. Run two sets of stats if you must: IRL and overall AOW. Personally I’d rename the series for 2009 and merge the overall stats, noting which series the stats were scored in when relevant.

Ryan Briscoe: “After all these road courses it will be nice to be back on an oval! Got to keep the momentum of the season.”
Briscoe starts on pole.

Cross to public address system, who’s announcer mentions ‘race fans’. He means ‘racing fans’, to use real English.
Some old guy called Tom Hervis (sp?), we are told nothing more than his name: “Ladies and Gentlemen – Start Your Engines!”

Engines are fired!

Biggest starting field since Texas. Sarah Fisher is back! So is Tags!

START ORDER

Briscoe, Dixon, Patrick, Kanaan, Andretti, Wheldon, Scheckter, Meira, Roth(!!!), Power, Mutoh, Servia, Carpenter, Rahal, Foyt IV, Hunter-Reay, Camara, Fisher, Tagliani, Duno, Wilson, Rice, Manning, Perera, Junqueira, Viso, Moraes, Castroneves

Franck Perera is in a second AJ Foyt entry, he started a few races early in the year for Conquest but got bumped for Camara.

Race distance: 300 miles / 482.803km / 200 laps.

Kanaan in a yellow car, usually green, blue last week. Stop changing it! Makes you look amateur. Field-fillers change their liveries every week – top teams do not.

Start was waved off despite being in good formation. Larry says Race Control tells them the cars were not spread out ENOUGH! They actually want the bad starts.

Okay here goes.

GREEN FLAG

Small onboard Window on Helio. He’s up several places already before they hit lap 2.

Kanaan outside of Briscoe. Y’know that paint scheme reminds me of the old Team Rahal car in Shell colours, the one driven by Kenny Brack in CART in about 2001.

Dixon and Patrick fighting with Wheldon in proximity. He’s in his last race, moving to Panther possibly as soon as Surfers Paradise. Dario Franchitti back in the IRL in Dan’s current seat!

L6 – The laps tick by quickly here. We’re only a couple of minutes in. Roth is at the back already, was he moved there or did they all pass him?

L8 – Helio just passed someone, think it was Wilson, VERY closely. Now he gets a red CDW car and then Mutoh. Who’s got CDW? Looks like Servia. Wilson’s colours from last year – nice to see them back.

L10 – Wheldon washes out, Larry Rice suggest his air was taken away.

L13 – Ed Carpenter has been passing cars, he’s up to 4th now. Just got Patrick. Wheldon is trying a move. Alongside.
Helio has got half the field already, more than that, he’s 12th. Wow he closes down on Rahal as if Graham is not moving!
The big problem with the ticker on an oval is it gets in the way during onboard shots, because of the banking and curvature of the turn. I like the position ticker, unlike the vanishing F1 ticker it keeps you up-to-date constantly – but maybe they could shove it at the bottom like the F1 ticker so we can see where we’re going.

L19 – Gary is explaining the Franchitti/Wheldon/Meira shenanigans.

L25 – Viso is trying to go outside of Scheckter. This is for 12th. Larry says Tomas has understeer. Helio is ahead of them and Rahal ahead of Helio – Graham got the place back!
Wilson is catching all of these cars it seems, but this whole group is falling away from the group ahead of them.
They’ve gone single file in this group now.

L30 – Helio gets the tow from Rahal, tries to pull out and go outside but can’t make it. Tries again, alongside, s.l.o.w.l.y. goes around the outside of him (relatively) and makes it stick this time.
Now Viso goes to the inside of Rahal. Gets him. Not sure I like this aero package. They get alongside and hit the air, it matches the speeds of the two cars. It comes down to who can get away with not lifting the throttle. I’d prefer to see the cars a little faster but having to brake into the turns – whoa Carpenter in the wall! Orange flames.

YELLOW

That was a shame, he was running well. Car comes to a rest. He’s struggling to get out.. the marshals get the fire out but Ed still can’t get out. That’s bad. You should be able to extricate yourself very quickly.
Replays. Larry immediately says something broke, the car bottomed out. Sparks. Can’t see what broke because of the camera angle.
Pits are open. What lap are we on? We lost ticker a while ago during the Viso/Rahal racing.

Gary says we’ve gone 38 laps. Like he read my mind despite the race being recorded 24 hours earlier. Cars enter pitlane. I should note that for the first time in 3 races I go into this not knowing the result – I saw spoilers for Sonoma and Detroit.

TK and Dixon up 2 places, Briscoe drops 2 places, that’s for the lead.

Order: Kanaan, Dixon, Briscoe, Wheldon, Patrick. Although there is an orange Conquest car between TK and the pace car. Is he lapped or did he not stop?
Marco Andretti is 11th after starting 5th.

Gary says this is their last international broadcast after doing it for 7 years. Sad for those guys, feel for them here. Larry thanks everyone around the world for watching for the last 7 years, and Gary thanks “the guys in the remote truck that let us talk about all the action”. Nice touch.
So.. who’s doing Surfers in the world feed? Will that race even get coverage outside of Oz and the US – or do we get the US domestic for that one?

Jack Arute with Dario yesterday (err, Saturday), leads in with a mention of a domino effect as if it had just been referred to by someone – when was the deal done? “Deal was done Sunday in Detroit, Chip and I started talking about it Thursday. Thought OK we’re gonna talk about the 41 NASCAR but we went on to talk about IndyCar.”
Gary says it will be nice to have Dario back, ‘he has been a good ambassador for the sport, he ‘gets’ Indianapolis, the history, because he was a fan of Jimmy Clark.’
Larry: “I’m not sure he ever liked ovals, he prefers road courses, but some of his best races were on the short ovals like here and Richmond.”

Are we still yellow? This is taking ages to clear up. Lap 44 now.

Graphic – 2008 win list: Dixon 8, Briscoe & Wheldon 2 each, followed by Rahal, Patrick, Kanaan, RHR, Helio, Wilson all tied on 1. Does this include Long Beach? I know Meesh questioned IRL’s stats at her blog.. It goes back to what I was saying about stats earlier.

GREEN
Not sure what lap, my coverage jumped from lap 45 to 52.
RHR vs Viso vs Rahal, and Rahal looks faster. The other two are side-by-side and Graham doesn’t have room to pass. Power comes up now. We’ve got 2 x 2 wide!

L54 – Power lost momentum and drops back, but gets the tow behind Scheckter to stay with them. There’s so much going on its hard to take notes! This is NOT a complaint.

L58 – Gary says Danica is on the radio complaining about Wheldon. I’m not sure why we don’t get radio on the world feed. She’s behind Dan right now, Helio behind her.
Helio drives around Danica and Dan! Now here comes Vitor fast, he gets Patrick. Wheldon and Patrick must have slowed each other!

Helio is 4th now. There’s a big freight train led by Rahal. Loads of them there. Larry: “There’s a whole bunch of ’em there, I don’t know exactly how many!”
L62 – Larry: “Helio appears to be the fastest guy on the racetrack.”
Gets a run – Helio alongside Dixon. Can’t make it, drops behind again.

L66 – Lapped traffic, Helio goes around Dixon because Dixon had to lift in the queue. Someone further ahead had to lift for slow traffic, it had an effect along the line of cars.
Kanaan leads Briscoe, Helio, Dixon, Wheldon. Will Briscoe let Helio through or stay ahead to help Helio save fuel? Helio wants those bonus points for leading, remember..

Foyt passes Wheldon – next up for him is Dixon.

L73 – Power gets Rahal, Wilson gets the draft from Power and gets a nose alongside Rahal briefly, but lifts. Scheckter is the current leader of the freight train.

YELLOW

Meira is in the wall. His last race for Panther ends in the wall, this isn’t how he wanted to end his time with them. Lap 74. Gary Lee says if Panther can get another car next year Vitor would be the likely driver.

Gary: 37 laps since last pit stop, everybody will be in.
‘Thank You Vitor’ on the pitwall of Panther. Nice touch. I was quite hard on them in a comment at MyNameIsIRL for firing Vitor by email. Maybe that was the agreed method? They seem to think fondly of him and if he’s thinking of staying.. okay pitstops are here.

We get pit-car radio here.

Helio +2, TK -2, Power and Viso also up 2.

Penske 1-2! Helio JUST ahead of Briscoe coming out of the pits, very close at the exit line.

Top ten on Lap 80 – Helio, Briscoe, TK, Dixon, Wheldon, Foyt, Patrick, Power, Viso, Rahal
Some ‘transition’ guys in good places which means they are making progress. We are going to get some incredible oval races next year. They’ve been pretty good this year. Penske vs Ganassi (with Dario) vs AGR vs NHL vs KVR vs Panther. Not bad at all.

Jack Arute reports with Mike Hull, Dixon’s strategist, who calls his opponent Heeelio. “Lot of credit to Heeelio, heck of a segment for him, mark of a true champion no matter what happens today.” Jack talks of fuel conservation. Mike: “The numbers are good, it’s as good as what we’ve seen it’s not any better, let’s see what happens.”
Vince with Tim Cindric of Penske: “Try and win the race and lead some laps, we’ll just do things we can control.”
Brienne with Vitor as we’re about to go green: “Something on the right rear, a puncture or the suspension, got loose and crashed it. Appreciate the 3 good years I’ve had with Panther.”

GREEN FLAG on lap 84

TK mixing it already, Briscoe has him covered.

Wheldon has passed Dixon and is working on Kanaan.
Foyt is outside of Dixon. No.
Slow car on the apron.
Foyt is going again, Larry says Dixon will not be enjoying this! Dixon wants to see a parade with no passing. Viso is there too. He’s the last one Scott wants to see.

Championship ‘as of right now’ tracker is at 10 points, advantage Dixon.

Moraes is 8th, he passed Patrick.
L91 – are laps like 20 seconds or something?

Briscoe alongside Helio with Wheldon there. Shit this is close.
Gary: “Larry this is a crash waiting to happen. If these guys don’t crash they missed a wonderful opportunity.”
THREE ABREAST for one whole lap.
This can’t happen. Shit I can’t look.

TWO lots of 3-wide now.

Someone restores sense to the field and they go to just the two wide..
Who is where..
Viso is 4th or 5th now..

L98 – Dan credited with the lead of one lap. According to the scoring, Tags in 23rd place is only 9.5 seconds behind the leader. That’s just crazy! That’s not possible. This isn’t NASCAR, you can’t do that in open wheel cars.

HALFWAY – LAP 100 – crossed flags green and chequered furled flags.. don’t see that in other series, I like the meaning.. doubt the drivers can see it but what the hey.

Dixon is suddenly 10th now. He dropped back in traffic.

Gary and Larry are saying this is the best race they’ve seen in the seven years they’ve covered it. Gary was tracking the leaders, writing them down each lap, he stopped because it changed so often.

YELLOW for debris
Gary: “I’d like to see the debris. Was that a debris yellow or was that to slow everybody down? I want to see the safety vehicle pick something off the race track”
I think he’s been reading Pressdog.
Cut to debris! “Wow we do have something out there!”

Okay.. calm it down.. where is everybody? It was too hard to keep up with the position changes.
Pits are open so let’s sort it out in a minute. The debris was Servia’s mirror. Again.
Cars are in the pits.

Helio emerges in the lead but CRASH – Rice has contact in the pitlane. Wing damage.
TK, Viso, Patrick, Dixon all +2 places. Moraes -4. Foyt -2.
Rice has new sponsorship I think – I’ve never seen those colours before (or heard of the sponsor ‘Dad’s Root Beer’ – you couldn’t make it up!).

Replay: Someone hit Rice hard and spun him around, can’t tell who it was right now, camera is too far away. Gary: “Rahal made contact we are told.”
View from Wilson’s car, the camera doesn’t track around quickly enough though.

Lap 112 – top ten after the stops: Helio, Briscoe, Wheldon, Kanaan, Viso, Foyt, Patrick, Dixon, Moraes, Wilson.
Larry says they should pit Rahal to check for damage. Gary shortly after that tells us the IRL have ordered Rahal to the back. Larry: “We’ll now they should bring him in, they’ve got nothing to lose.”

Points As Of Now tracker: Dixon 630, Helio -4
Gary and Larry talking of Larry’s visit next week to Brisbane, Australia for a classic car event and Gary tells him to take lots of pictures!

L115 – Rahal is in for a damage check. Servia is in for a new mirror.
L116 – Pace car pulls in, one lap to green. We are told Mutoh currently leads the Rookie of the Year standings with Wilson close behind.

L117 – GREEN FLAG

Cars are more spread out now.

YELLOW again

Sarah Fisher out! Bummer. She’s on the tri-oval section with a broken rear wing and damaged front wing. Europeans: She’s the Susie Stoddart of the IRL. A likable fan favourite.
She’s out of the car, but limping.. Tough break for the small family-run team.

During this yellow a Conquest car ran through the pits but we don’t know who or why.

L123 – top ten under yellow: Helio, Briscoe, Wheldon, Kanaan, Foyt, Viso, Patrick, Dixon, Wilson, Moraes. Foyt passed Viso and Wilson passed Moraes on that one lap of green.

Aerial shots of Chicagoland, nice to see a good crowd in the stands.

L125 – GREEN FLAG

Wilson goes around Dixon. Briscoe is keeping Wheldon back. Dixon got back past Wilson.
Larry: If Helio doesn’t get the most laps bonus, Dixon only has to finish in the top 10.
This is useful information, could have used that earlier.

L130 – Where did Wilson go? He’s suddenly dropped back.
Dixon gets a run on Patrick, passes her and is now among the next group. He had to lift.

T131 – Tony Kanaan! Passes both Penskes on the inside, great move.
Tony gets clear but Helio gets into the tow again and closes in.
Dixon now passes Briscoe for 3rd. Not sure where Wheldon is now.. looks like 7th.

L136 – TK, Helio, Dixon, Briscoe, Patrick, Wheldon, Foyt, RHR, Wilson, Power

L137? – YELLOW

Ernesto ‘EJ’ Viso in hard contact with the wall. Rear wing and suspension major damage AND the whole left side.

Gary: “Viso was 18th, last car on the lead lap.”
He’s okay, waves to the crowd.
Larry: “It’ll be interesting to see how many laps this yellow is, if it is 6 or 7 laps somebody may attempt to stretch the fuel.”

Replay: Viso alongside Manning.. he lost it himself, it came around. Not sure it was his fault. Just snapped on him.
Larry: “On the second look it looked like the front end got away from him.”
Pits open, cars coming in. Several stayed out.

Helio first, Briscoe 2nd, Patrick 3rd?

Marco +4, Moraes +4, Patrick +3, Kanaan -3, Dixon -3
Mechanic not happy.

Replay of Dixon stop: Tyre rolled away, mechanic had to recover it.

L142 – Milka Duno leads! She did not stop so will have to in a little while, which makes zero sense unless they are only after sponsor airtime.

Duno, Helio, Briscoe, Patrick, Wheldon, Kanaan, Dixon, Moraes, Andretti, RHR.
Milka Duno is leading her first laps in her IndyCar career, she managed to stay on the lead lap until now. Foyt has fallen back to 14th.

Marty Roth is between Duno and Helio, Roth is 2 laps down. Two slow cars to negotiate although she is much faster than he…

L145 – GREEN

3 wide on the restart between Dixon, Moraes and Kanaan.
Roth is dropping back but Milka holds on to lead another one. The Penskes held back for a bit there to take it easy past the slower cars.
Helio now leads.

Larry says the only stops now will be a splash and go, no tyre changes. (apart from Duno)

L150 – 50 to go Wheldon tries Briscoe but it doesn’t go.
L151 – Dixon almost collects Patrick! Moraes goes by Dixon. Dixon takes it back.
L154 – Dixon now gets Kanaan and then goes alongside Patrick, he’s working for the win.
Both Penske cars vs both Ganassi cars! 2 AGR cars just behind.
Wheldon is harrying the two Penskes who are running side by side at times, or at least an overlap. Dixon holding station behind them.
L160 – Very slow car on the track which the frontrunners fly past. Larry says it was Mutoh.
3 wide with Wheldon in the middle. He broke them up!
Dan side by side with Helio now.. with Briscoe bouncing back as Kanaan trying to pass Dixon.
Moraes has got Patrick (unseen).

L164 – They are still at it! We have a five-car breakaway now, Penske and Ganassi with Kanaan as the interloper in 5th. Patrick has dropped away but has got ahead of Moraes again, he may have held her up and she’s giving chase again.

L169 – Mutoh is in the pits having work done, long stop and they aren’t hurrying.. May lose his Rookie of the Year if Wilson moves up a few places..
2 x 2 at the front.
Patrick, Moraes and RHR are catching the leaders again, who may be holding each other up by running side by side as they are.

L175 – They are STILL 2 x 2 wide, haven’t moved single file for several laps now.
Ryan Hunter-Reay is now 6th and closing.

Gary saying the racing used to be like this 2 or 3 years ago but we haven’t seen it lately because of the harsh winters and the way the track changes year to year.

L178 – Danica has pitted. Leaders with Milka again, she stays in the middle! They go either side. Top Gun – break!

L179 – Larry: If there is a yellow and the others pit, she’ll be leading.
I’ve had enough of the shots of Emma Dixon now.

L181 – YELLOW

Danica’s prayers are answered.

Moraes has made contact with the wall. He was running well, his best race of the year easily.
Larry: Patrick should be leading after these stops but she doesn’t make good restarts.
Gary: Patrick lost a lap on that pitstop so she’ll go to the back of the lead pack.
Larry: Guess not so smart after all.
Gary: That’s why we’re in here and not calling the strategy!

Gary shouts out to Johnny Rutherford in the pace car.
Tongue-in-cheek Larry: “And he only crashed it twice!”

Gary again saying this is their last race for the IRL, the two have covered IRL for the last 7 years but have worked together for 19 years, thanks Larry for his friendship and his brotherhood.
Larry – “same to you and thanks to all our listeners in Europe, UK, South Africa, South Pacific, Australia, New Zealand.”
They have a great rapport, it would be a shame for them to break it up. Versus should consider them for the 2009 international feed.

Pitstops. Big traffic jam getting out.
Dixon +3 to lead, Foyt +1, Power +1, Wheldon -2, Helio -1, RHR -1, Manning -1

New top 10: Dixon, Helio, Briscoe, Wheldon, Kanaan, Foyt IV, RHR, Power, Manning, Wilson.
Interesting names in there from Foyt down.

Gary: “If Dixon can lead 5 laps he sets a record for most laps led in one season.”
Again, is that ever in AOW or just in the IRL since 1996? I assume the latter.

14 laps to go. Dixon leads with a mass of cars between him and the pace car, they will get the wave by. This is going to be a sprint finish for the championship, however I’m not sure why we are still yellow for what was only a whitewall for Moraes.

Danica is now back on the lead lap, the last car on the lead lap running in 14th but physically at the back of the pack with all those lapped cars mixed in.

L189 – GREEN FLAG

Rahal touches the wall, whitewalls it.

YELLOW – really, for that?

FFS. All the cars cleared him, he dived for the apron, he was out of the way – STAY GREEN. Short yellow. One lap slowing down, one behind pace car, one speeding up.

RESTART…. no. They waved it off for no apparent reason. Larry says Helio wasn’t nose-to-tail so they waved it off.
They do the same again! This is stupid – you should allow him to get a run as long as he doesn’t pass before the line. This is nuts! What a stupid rule.

L194 – we finally get RESTARTed

Helio is making several attempts, an attempt every lap into turns 1 and 3. They are pulling away from everyone else. This isn’t for the title, this is for honour. Bragging rights.

White flag as they are side by side.
Almost touching!
Briscoe comes up to push Helio.
THIS IS VERY CLOSE

A PHOTO FINISH!!

I thought it was Helio on the line, scoring shows Dixon so commentary says Dixon, someone spins on the tri-oval grass. No idea who.
Dixon wins by 0.001 seconds. Unbelievable.

I want to see the photo-finish, that looked like Helio. Here we go on the replay.
Too close to call.. too fast..
Freeze-frame shows Helio winning!! That’s got to be conclusive. If Scott is scored as winning, his transponder was mounted in a different place on his car, compared to Helio.

They say it is the closest finish in IRL history whichever way it goes. This I can believe.

Jack Arute with the Champion, Scott Dixon. Jack says we are still awaiting the photo finish. “I can’t believe it, we were back and forth, some of the guys we didn’t expect to be racing with were super-fast today.” Jack on machine-gun questioning.. Scott responds same way.. You are the Indy 500 winner and championship winner. “It’s been amazing. My year in general, getting married, having the season we’ve had has been amazing.”

Vince with Helio – ‘We just found out YOU have just won this race’. He goes crazy! Jumps around with Briscoe! “I knew it I knew it!!” He thanks the team and leaves Vince, probably to look for a fence.
Confirmation that Helio is the official winner.

Larry makes the point I just made about the transponders being mounted differently in the cars – he says they are supposed to be in the same place on every car for this very reason.

Gary: “For the final time, from Larry Rice, I’m Gary Lee, so long from Chicagoland Speedway.”

And that’s it, the coverage bailed out here. Goodbye to Gary and Larry, they will be missed, I wish I’d watched more of their races this year instead of US domestic super-patronis-a-vision. We don’t see Helio climb a fence, or the championship trophy being presented. That’s a shame, maybe those yellows were too long for the allotted time. I look forward to seeing the video in the pre-race montages for Surfer’s Paradise.

RACE RESULTS

1. Castroneves 200 laps
2. Dixon +0.0033sec
3. Briscoe +0.0788
4. Kanaan +0.6095
5. Power +1.3580 [where he come from?]
6. Wheldon +1.8729
7. Manning +2.3224
8. Andretti +2.4627 [despite being crap all day]
9. Hunter-Reay +2.7993
10. Patrick +2.9276 [got a couple at the end]
11. Wilson +3.0218
12. Tagliani +4.2072
13. Foyt IV + 1 lap [he was the last lap spinner]
14. Duno + 1 lap
15. Perera + 2 laps
16. Roth + 3 laps
17. Servia + 4 laps
18. Camara + 13 laps
19. Rahal + 14 laps
20. Junqueira + 16 laps [any ideas why he’s out?]
21. Moraes + 19 laps
22. Mutoh + 23 laps
23. Viso + 64 laps
24. Fisher + 84 laps
25. Rice + 90 laps
26. Scheckter + 113 laps
27. Meira + 126 laps
28. Carpenter + 164 laps

Results from Autosport.com

Scoring monitors showed 0.001sec gap initially, and the official results as declared several hours after the race confirmed it at 0.0033sec for the second-closest finish in IRL history.

Whenever scoring monitors show a margin of victory of 0.006 or less, IndyCar officials revert to photo evidence to determine or clarify the winner and the precise margin of victory. Within minutes of the cars reaching the finish line and Dixon being declared the unofficial winner, Castroneves was declared the official winner – after Dixon had already celebrated in Victory Circle.
– Jeff Olsen on Autosport.com

Points (top ten)
1. Dixon 646
2. Castroneves 629
3. Kanaan 513
4. Wheldon 492
5. Briscoe 447
6. Patrick 379
7. Andretti 363
8. Hunter-Reay 360
9. Servia 358
10. Mutoh 346

I may come back with a separate post with the full list of points later in the week, depending on the time I have.

That concludes the points race for this season but we’re not finished yet – the next event is the non-points race at Surfers’ Paradise along with the unspoken debate about where to put the apostrophe, if indeed there is one. It will be interesting to see how many cars make the trip to Australia.
Right I’m out of time – I gotta get to bed else I’ll be late for work tomorrow, and sorry this one has run on so long. I need to make the margins wider somehow. Someone let me know how. Catch you later in the week!

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Race Notes: 2008 ING Belgian Grand Prix

2008 ING Belgian Grand Prix
Spa-Franchorchamps, Belgium
Round 13 of 18
7 September 2008

*LIVE* on ITV1
Anchors: Steve Rider & Mark Blundell
Commentary: James Allen & Martin Brundle
Pitlane: Ted Kravitz & Louise Goodman

12.05 Coverage begins and immediately we see the dark clouds – it isn’t raining but it looks like it will soon!

Steve – “We’ve had heavy showers followed by drying conditions.”
Mark – “Big concern for the teams.”
Obligatory ‘how will this effect Lewis’ question. Puhlease. Same as every other driver.

Points going in:
Lewis 70
Massa 64 (-6)
Kimi 57 (-13)
Kubica 55 (-15)
Kovi 43 (-27)

Season recap, short clips from every race.

While they do this.. there are six races to go including this one:
Belgium, Italy, Singapore, Japan, China, Brazil

All except maybe China are unmissable. Belgium and Italy are classics, Brazil is always exciting, Japan is effectively new because it was too wet last time to get a read on it, while Singapore is a brand new event and the first F1 night race. China has the longest straight and the championship pressures can cause some strange incidents so is worth a look but it isn’t one I’d make a point of watching if I were a casual fan.

BELGIAN GP START ORDER
Q3: Hamilton, Massa, Kovalainen, Raikkonen, Heidfeld, Alonso, Webber, Kubica, Bourdais, Vettel
Out in Q2: Trulli, Piquet, Glock, Coulthard, Rosberg
Out in Q1: Barrichello, Button, Sutil, Nakajima, Fisichella

Alonso (P6): We’re fighting for 5th & 6th positions after McLaren and Ferrari, we got one of those so we’re happy.
Heikki (P3): Nothing to compain about, good balance in the car.
Massa (P2): If I have the opportunity I have to try for sure.
Hamilton (P1): Going to be interesting off the start if a guy gets a run on you but I don’t intend to let anyone past.

Teams have driers pointed at the ground outside their pits. The circuit and pitlane are damp but drying. Don’t want a wet pit stall when the stops come around.

Martin’s circuit guide, onboard Lewis Hamilton. Longest track of the year.
190mph into Eau Rouge, negative G through the compression and then over the crest at Raidillon. [Yesterday he said Eau Rouge isn’t the challenge it was due to modern downforce]
Pouhon corner is the real challenge around here now.
Over 200mph into Blanchimont, full throttle, brake hard to 55mph for the chicane into the start/finish straight.

Ted with Gerhard Berger (Scuderia Toro Rosso, ex-driver): “It’s a gamble, typical Spa, I hope it starts raining, a bit more risk but more fun. If it is wet there is no secret, try and control your car, stay off the kerbs and white lines.” Paint is slippery when wet.
Mark B says Gerhard wants rain because Vettel is fuelled heavily. Other cars will have to pit earlier and make the tyre decision earlier, while Vettel can cover those bases and react to those decisions.

After the chaos at Valencia we take a look at Ferrari’s light system.
The fueller presses a button to change the light to green. There is an override from the chief mechanic, but he didn’t override for Massa.

Martin Whitmarsh (McLaren, Kimi’s old boss) on KR’s problems: “We think he was watching the fuel hose rather than the light. When the hose started to lift he went. This is why we tell our guys not to do that.”
Webber: “We’ve looked at the light system to reduce time lost.”
Heidfeld: “We have the quickest pit stops of everyone all year, we’re very happy with our pitstops!”
Kimi said something but I didn’t catch it.

The drivers’ parade (on the back of a truck) took place in the rain, bet they loved doing that at the longest circuit of the year!
Martin talked to Sebastian Vettel earlier (may have been yesterday after quals). Eau Rouge not the challenge it was? “Eau Rouge is a very nice corner, if it went we would miss it, same with Blanchimont.”
He says the team are improving. Moving to the A-team, RBR, next year. Regret the decision? Lately you’ve been beating them! “Not at all. There are only a few tenths in it.”
Where are you looking to finish? “Top ten. Cannot expect results every race, the midfield is a very hard fight.”

12:30 (13:30 local)
Pitlane is now open for cars to go to the grid. They perform recon laps by passing back through the pits, if they reach the grid that’s it, no more recon laps.

I swear I just saw a team member with a Tony Kanaan 7/11 racesuit on. It was only a fleeting glimpse. Ah, another shot, some of the Honda people have green and white overalls. Looked similar.

Recorded interview with Lewis: “I didn’t do the perfect lap, I locked up the tyres in turn 1. Massa said he did the perfect lap and they were behind us.” Replays of Lewis and Alonso last year off the start, both in McLarens, going into Eau Rouge two wide! Says he knows what to expect now.
Trickiest corner is Pouhon. “You can’t brake, you’re not allowed to brake, and you have to have reasonably big cajunes to do that!”
Title fight with Massa now? “Feels different to last year, we had all that negativity last year and this year is different, we’re ready to win the race.”
We’re live at the track again. Lewis may have clutch problems, could struggle off the start line.

Martin’s gridwalk! “We might be about as welcome as a toothache today, a lot of decisions (about weather) to be made.”
The last part of the track to dry has been the last few corners and the pitstraight – the new section. Massa’s car was late to the grid, may have gremlins. With a Red Bull team member: “We think the weather will stay about the same, quite dry at t8-t9, most cars will start on inters, will be brave to start on dries.” Webber: “Most of the track is dry except for this bit at the bottom here. Intermediates here but rest of the track is dry. Wouldn’t say its warm, it’s warm for the English mate!”
Martin pushing through everyone.. Trying to get Alonso.. Has to wait for another interviewer, tries to listen but he’s speaking Spanish!
How’s the track? Alonso: “Some parts are damp, some are dry. It will be a last minute decision (on tyres). If you are right on tyres you have a big opportunity.”
Martin trying to find Kubica.. he says no. Throws back to Steve because everyone is too busy, they won’t take an interview. He’s an ex driver so he knows when to push them and when to leave them alone.

Guitars on the grid! Belgian national anthem. ITV talking all over the host nation’s anthem as usual. Steve: “I don’t know what that band was on but it certainly wasn’t intermediates.”

Louise with a Toyota bloke: “We used the lap to the grid to give the drivers a feel. First half of the race will be like this, second half will be dry.” Since the drivers always use the lap to the grid to get a feel for the track methinks that was a deflection..

ITV’s Ted Kravitz gets international air on the FOM world feed, walking past Alonso! RBR are advertising Red Bull Cola. I’ve seen a lot of ads for it but never found it sold anywhere.

Lots of atmosphere shots of the fans from the FOM TV director, love it.
Obligatory shot of Lewis Hamilton’s dad Anthony, this time texting someone. No doubt we’ll see more of him later.
Caption: No rain expected during next 30 minutes.

New caption innovation: Graphic showing a driver’s results over the season. Like it but disappears too soon. Team personnel leave the grid.
Green light. Cars away. Formation lap.
The only man on intermediates now is Piquet, everyone else has chosen dries. Looks like the track has dried enough now.

Some cars have rain lights on. Wet at the end of the lap, Piquet will look to pass there. Everyone else will push through the lap and just hang on at the end.

This is a 44 lap race, low lap count because of the length of track but the total race time is comparable to other GPs.

Grid forming.

5..4..3..2..1..GO!

It has all gone crazy into turn one. Wheels banging. Cars wide. Awesome helicopter shot through Eau Rouge / Raidillon. Ferraris race each other. Kimi ahead of Massa! Alonso 4th. Where is Heikki?
Bourdais 5th. Replays. Lots of cars went wide at turn one. Piquet has gone from 12th to 7th, Kovi is 13th. Trulli spins, a Williams goes off.
Hamilton ran wide in turn one, didn’t see it but Kimi has a run and outdrags him!
It was a spin from Hamilton. Forced Kimi wide. Got back alongside and ahead, Kimi’s momentum carried him through up the hill.
Lap 3 – Kovi passed Glock for 10th.
I can’t get live timing fired for some reason. Kovi takes Heidfeld now.
Fisi had to stop for a nosecone change after contact on lap one.
Heikki takes Piquet AT SPEED. Piquet on inters needs a rain shower or he’ll drop back quickly.
We go to adverts for a breather.

Lap 7 – Kimi is going for 4 wins in a row at this track.
Fisi has been lapped already due to his stop for the nose change.
Massa is falling away.
L8 – Kovi is now 8th and catching Kubica quickly, just ahead of them Bourdais is with Webber.
I can’t make f1.com live timing work so I have no coverage during ad breaks. Java error. Annoying.

Kovi just drives by Kubica on the long uphill straight. Better run from La Source?
Sutil goes off road.

Kovi goes for Webber! Too late, Webber wasn’t ready, Kovi pushes him around. Kovi tries to back out of it but too late, Webber turned in. Half-hearted effort from Heikki, too far back, not committed enough so Mark took the racing line.

L11 – ITV guys say Hamilton is pitting shortly, Kimi in later. Here is Hamilton. Ted says this was a planned stop for Lewis. He emerges alongside Heikki, slots in behind.
Drive through for Heikki! For causing a collision with Webber. I call racing incident and no penalty but what do I know? Heikki backed out of it but it was too late. He should have backed out earlier or remained committed to the move.

L12 – Kimi pits now, only one lap more of fuel. ITV say ‘paddock wisdom’ had it at two laps more. Lewis had a 6.8sec stop, Kimi 7.1. Kimi emerges ahead of Bourdais who is ahead of Kubica and both McLarens.
Heikki trying to pass Kubica. Kubica is slowing Heikki, who in turn is slowing Lewis and possibly taking away a potential win. Heikki has 3 laps before he MUST take the penalty. He also needs fuel soon.
L13 – Massa pits. He’s out behind Hamilton and Heidfeld. Kovalainen stops for fuel and tyres, he’ll take the penalty next time.
DC is fighting Barrichello. They are old friends.

L16 – we’re back from an ad break. Bourdais and Kubica pitted during the break. Piquet spun off at the Fagnes chicane and into the wall. He’s out. Martin says that barrier used to be much closer and with only a short gravel trap – it used to hurt! Says Piquet’s only headache now is finding a way back to the pits and facing Flavio.
DC’s radio during an onboard shot: “Heikki has done his penalty, he’s now behind you.” HK took the penalty during our ad break. We cut to outside of the car and he’s RIGHT BEHIND Coulthard. Heikki is 14th. DC is still trying to get past Rubens, he does it now at Les Combes and simply drives away! He was being held up a lot behind RB.

L17 – Vettel pits. Out ahead of Glock and Heidfeld for 7th, that’s two places gained from running longer. Heidfeld moves on Glock around the outside at Les Combes and makes it work. Brundle says the outside has more grip, that move works in every formula.

L20 – The track has now dried everywhere. Bourdais is having an excellent run here, the Team B STRs are still faster than the Team A RBRs.
Kubica is told: “Bourdais is one lap shorter than you.” Martin decodes that: Stay with him, do a better in-lap.

ITV cuts to yet another ad break, not long after taking one, just as we see a Honda parked up in the garage with the driver getting out. Was it Button or Barrichello? We cut to ads too quickly to see which helmet it was.
This is a part I won’t miss about ITV when the coverage moves to BBC next year.

L22 – Halfway already?
Kimi is 5.8sec up on Lewis. The rest of the field is quite spread out but in groups it seems. The Honda out was Rubens Barrichello who is with Louise. “I lost 6th gear, with this [sequential] gearbox you have to go through 6th to get to 7th, it was overheating and damaging the engine so we decided to stop. We need this engine for Monza.”
Monza is very hard on engines so they need it in the best condition.

Top 8 at halfway: Kimi, Lewis, Massa, Alonso, Bourdais, Kubica, Heidfeld, Vettel
Just 5 seconds covers Bourdais to Vettel.

L24 – Kimi set fastest lap on L23. Shot of a camera helicopter following the cars, James says he’s been flying very close to the track all weekend, different angles.
L25 – Kimi pits! Lewis was expected to pit now and Kimi a little later. Lewis does indeed pit.
Ferrari would have known how much fuel Hamilton has because the fuel hose delivers at a standard rate for everyone. Pit Kimi at the same time and cover him. Kimi still ahead of Lewis. Gap seems a little closer now?

Rosberg pits. Ted says Massa has a sickening engine, he will go down to Ferrari and investigate. Kimi has a new engine here, Massa is using the one from Valencia. Kimi’s engine went bang in Valencia.
Now they are saying rain expected in 20 minutes. Massa has set a personal best lap but still needs to pit. Maybe they will soon turn the revs down a bit to protect the engine.
Raikkonen to Hamilton is now 3.8 seconds.

L26 – Glock pits and he is one-stopping. Hamilton took 8 tenths out of Kimi this lap! Looks like Kimi had traffic, there’s a Toyota between them. 17 laps to go, ITV take another break.

L29 – Pits to Bourdais: “Pit in 3 laps. Poosh! Poosh!”
L32 – Ted on Massa’s engine, they haven’t had to turn down the engine yet but they did have to change some parts before the race. He must have pitted during the last ad break.
Yet another ITV ad break. They are coming up fast today and they are all about car insurance or banking.
During this break Kubica and both STRs stopped but Kubica was delayed for some reason, meaning Vettel and Heidfeld got ahead of him. Bourdais was already ahead. No replays of this from ITV. Alonso is now running 4th again, then the two STRs, then Heidfeld and Kubica.
Alonso radio: “Build a gap in case we need to stop.”
Scheduled stops have been done, they are worried now about rain and possibly stopping for intermediate tyres. 9 laps to go.

L35 – Hamilton is 2.3sec behind Raikkonen now. Dark clouds are visible again, they had cleared for most of the race so far. It will rain, the question here is whether the race can be completed before then.

Massa is catching Hamilton. These three are miles ahead of the rest and it looks like every driver out there is pushing.
More Alonso radio, he asks: “What do you think about the rain?” Reply: “Still a possibility, it will be light.”

L37 – Kazuki Nakajima gets lapped by Kimi. Hamilton is closing down on Kimi, Massa seems to be catching both. Kaz jumps out of Hamilton’s way. Alonso says drops of rain in turns 1 and 14. Ted chimes in – there are drops here too. Red Bull’s Christian Horner has sent a guy on a moped to the other end of the circuit with instructions to call him if it rains there.
Webber is catching Glock for 10th. 13 cars on the lead lap with 18 running from 20 starters.

L39 – Both Kimi and Lewis are pushing hard. Lewis is still catching, the gap is now 0,9 seconds. Massa is 7sec back from Kimi, 4th is Alonso who is a massive 40sec back. No Safety Car periods and the field really spreads out on this type of track without yellows.

L40 – Hamilton slides at the last corner, he’s now 2 seconds back. It was a slower lap anyway and then the car slides.

Rain in the pitlane! Martin says it is too late for a tyre change unless it comes down torrentially. I’m not sure that’s a word but I know what he means. 3 to go.

Hamilton – He goes for it! Side by side! Bang! Hits Kimi, cuts the chicane, backs out to give Kimi the place back. He’ll get a penalty if he doesn’t. Straight away tries again, gets him in turn 1!!
Up the hill together. Raining up here now, cars sliding, somehow they keep on track. Kimi runs very very wide. Heidfeld pits for inters. Lewis is off! Williams in the way. Kimi also misses him. Evasive manouvres! Kimi spins!! Fuck me!! He’s in the wall. Out. No points. Lewis vs Massa now. Tiptoe the last lap, or pit? What do you do?
Man this is nuts. Replay: Kimi puts the power down and SPINS, then can’t brake enough on the wet surface, hits the wall, out, he’s done. Reports of cars pitting for wets except for Lewis and Massa who continue. Both are slow slow slow. They had a massive lead over the opposition so they are gambling on making it around. If there was another lap left they would have pitted but this is the last one.
They are 36 seconds slower than they were in the dry – THIRTY SIX.
Where are the guys on inters? They must be catching very quickly indeed because these two are crawling. I can go faster than this in my road car. Can Lewis make it around before they catch up? What of Massa surely he’s a sitting duck? Stop showing us pitstop graphics, show us timing!

Bourdais is third!! He’s also on dries on a wet track. Alonso stopped for inters.

HAMILTON WINS!

Amazing. The most action-packed ten minutes I’ve seen for a long, long time.

Massa 2nd. Kovalainen stopped on the grass before completing the last lap. Heidfeld gets 3rd, Alonso 4th, Vettel 5th, Kubica 6th, Bourdais 7th. Replay: Heidfeld goes outside of two cars! One STR and another. Then gets Bourdais. Both Heidfeld and Alonso stopped for inters and passed Bourdais and Vettel.
I’m not sure it worked for Alonso who was 4th anyway, if he’d stayed out would he have been 3rd ahead of Heidfeld, would Nick have caught him, or would he be in the wall?

Ron: “It was like talking in a jumbo jet with one pilot. Great job, fantastic race.”
Kimi walking back to the pits.
There’s no slowdown lap here as it would take too long, cars are straight into the pitlane in the wrong direction.

Martin Brundle: “Those who stopped for inters were half a minute faster on the last lap than those that weren’t.” I think that includes their pitstop. Amazing. I’d love to know what happened further back in the field, I look forward to reading about that.
Martin’s driver of the day: “Bourdais drove well but it has to go to Hamilton.”

Podium ceremony. Anthem. Champagne.

Steve and Mark in pitlane. Mark on Lewis: “He’s earned every penny of his retainer today.”
I’d say Kimi did up until the penultimate lap. Too much throttle when it counted.

Back from an ad break and ITV tell us both Lewis and Kimi are ‘under investigation’, speculating it was when they both cut the chicane. I thought only Lewis cut the chicane…

Press conference with Peter Windsor (of F1 Racing mag and Speed TV).
Lewis: “It was experience and a half. Could see Kimi ahead. I would catch up, then he would pull out a bit of time. I was like ‘please rain rain rain’. I know how to deal with it, then the heavens opened, Kimi backed off. I went wide and Rosberg was coming back on, he was coming back on at the place I was going off! Kimi pushed me wide. I had no room, he pushed me, I had to go on the escape route.”
You led at the start but half-spun.
“I got a good start, got away, feeling comfortable. Bits of the track were still wet. I think the last downshift locked the rears.”
“I think 3 or 4 laps from the end I thought, I can’t catch this guy. But then I thought what if he makes a mistake?”

Felipe – a difficult day?: “I saw many people going off including Kimi. I don’t want to risk 8 points so I was comfortable going slow [at the end]. Made a good start but then a mistake so Kimi passed me. All three of us were doing similar laptimes. We fight race to race to close the gap.” Talks about Kimi closing the door on him when he passed.

ITV cuts away here for a commercial break because we don’t want to hear from Heidfeld. He was only involved in a race-long tight four-car race until the rain came, before gambling on wets and passing 4 or 5 cars, what do we care what he has to say?

They only play one ad then come back to talk about Lewis again. Okay – so this time he earned it..
Ted with Ron again – what’s the investigan about?: “We don’t know, we assume Lewis & Kimi at the chicane. Lewis was ahead and got pushed wide. Was in the lead out of the chicane, we radioed him to let Kimi pass, then overtook him again before the line. We checked with Charlie [Whiting], who’s not the steward, he said it was okay.”
Charlie Whiting runs the race but doesn’t make the call on penalties, that’s the job of the Race Stewards. This frees Whiting to concentrate on calling yellow and blue flags instead of worrying about penalising someone.

ITV pretty much bail out of the coverage at this point. They ran a few replays but I had to take a phone call, sorry about that.

Results at the line [see below!]
1. Hamilton 1h 22m 44.933s
2. Massa +14.461 sec
3. Heidfeld +23.844
4. Alonso +28.939
5. Vettel +29.037
6. Kubica +29.498
7. Bourdais +31.196 (shame he got caught by those guys at the end)
8. Glock +56.506
9. Webber +57.237
10. Kovalainen + 1 lap
11. Coulthard + 1 lap
12. Rosberg + 1 lap
13. Sutil + 1 lap
14. Nakajima + 1 lap
15. Button + 1 lap
16. Trulli + 1 lap
17. Fisichella + 1 lap
18. Raikkonen + 2 laps
DNF Barrichello, Piquet

Points at the line
Drivers
Hamilton 80
Massa 72 (-8)
Kubica 58 (-22) [+1]
Raikkonen 57 (-23) [-1]
Heidfeld 47 (-33) [+1]
Kovalainen 43 (-37) [-1]
Kubica passes Raikkonen and Heidfeld passes Kovalainen.

Constructors
Ferrari 129
McLaren 123 (-6)
BMW 105 (-24)
etc.

Results taken from Autosport.com.

Next up is the Italian Grand Prix at the Autodromo di Monza in 7 days time. I will see you again for the Chicagoland IRL points finale in a day or two, and then the Monza preview later in the week.

* * * UPDATE * * *
After the race the stewards announced two decisions. In chronological order:
1. Timo Glock is penalised 25 seconds for passing Webber under yellow flags flying for Kimi’s crash. This moves him behind Webber who now claims the 1pt for 8th.
2. Lewis Hamilton is penalised 25 seconds for cutting the chicane when fighting Kimi Raikkonen.
(These were my words not those of the stewards. 25sec is a standard post-race penalty, the only other alternatives are a 10-place drop at the next race, or exclusion).

I understand Glock’s penalty. Passing under yellow isn’t on unless you are avoiding someone. But Hamilton gave the place back! He fell behind Kimi, okay they ran side by side but he didn’t just drive away ignoring it, he lifted off! Decisions like this suck and reinforce the opinion that the FIA stewards, whoever they are, remain favourable to Ferrari. Even if

The revised results are below, please note that these remain provisional because McLaren have lodged an appeal.

Results after penalties
1. Massa 1h22m59.394
2. Heidfeld +9.383
3. Hamilton +10.539 [inc 25sec penalty]
4. Alonso +14.478
5. Vettel +14.576
6. Kubica +15.037
7. Bourdais +16.735
8. Webber +42.776
9. Glock + 1m 07.045 [inc 25sec penalty]
10. Kovalainen + 1 lap
11. Coulthard + 1 lap
12. Rosberg + 1 lap
13. Sutil + 1 lap
14. Nakajima + 1 lap
15. Button + 1 lap
16. Trulli + 1 lap
17. Fisichella + 1 lap
18. Raikkonen + 2 laps
DNF Barrichello, Piquet

Revised gaps taken from GrandPrix.com.

Points after penalties
Drivers
Hamilton 76
Massa 74 (-2)
Kubica 58 (-18) [+1]
Raikkonen 57 (-19) [-1]
Heidfeld 49 (-27) [+1]
Kovalainen 43 (-33) [-1]
The gap to Massa has been reduced from 8pts to 2pts. Heidfeld gets 2 more points.

Constructors
Ferrari 131
McLaren 119 (-12)
BMW 105 (-24)
etc.

McLaren’s appeal goes to the FIA International Court of Appeal, a process which keeps the decision independent of the stewards of the meeting, this is a good thing, the downside being the length of time involved. The true result of this race may not be known for a couple of weeks yet.

Note – according to Autosport.com’s report on tyre strategies, with info supplied by Bridgestone, Piquet started on hard tyres not intermediates.

* * 2ND UPDATE * *
Comments taken from the ITV highlights show late this evening.
Lewis (paraphrased): “I cut the chicane, then moved clearly behind him.”
Kimi: “There is an investigation going on about it, clearly there’s rules about cutting chicanes.”
Massa: “I was driving really slow, like a grandmother, just to bring the car back.”
Heidfeld: “I called the team for wet tyres. It was obviously the right choice, it was pretty close, 2 laps. I didn’t see anyone for the first one and wondered if it was the right choice! But on the final lap I caught and passed some cars so it worked.”
Bourdais: “I don’t even know what position I finished because people pitted. There’s one thing you can’t do that’s crash the car. Frustrating.” He looked pissed off. Like his career depended on it and he blew it… Personally I think he might have saved his drive.
Matt Bishop, formerly of F1 Racing now of McLaren, looking very Ron-like, reads the press release which you can read on all the F1 news sites.
Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren: We will focus on the next race.
Ron Dennis, McLaren: Nothing that’s happened is new to us. We are leaving here totally focussed on Monza.
Steve Rider isn’t impressed. No doubt this one will run, more news during the week or in the Monza notes, whenever it happens.

Preview: 2008 Belgian GP

Race Preview: 2008 ING Grand Prix of Belgium
Spa-Francorchamps, nr. Francorchamps, Belgium
Round 13 of 18

Formula 1 heads to Belgium for the classic circuit at Spa-Francorchamps (or just Spa- its easier). This just-over-7km circuit in the Ardennes hills is famed for the rolling up and down nature of the track, for the driving skill required, and for the rain. The unique microclimate means it can rain at one side of the track and be dry at another – leading to strange calls from the pits if the rain is there and the rest of the place is dry, or vice versa!

The circuit used to be all public roads at 14.9km in length, until it was revised in 1983 to roughly the current length for safety reasons. Unlike other redevelopments, Spa retained it’s character in the new section between Les Combes and Stavelot. Only within the last five years or so has it become a full-time race track with traffic permanently diverted around it, allowing safety upgrades and a complete reprofiling of the last corner, the Bus Stop chicane, so-called because it used to leave the road and rejoin in the shape of the perimeter of a bus stop..

The pit facilities were demolished and rebuilt in time for last year’s event, with the start/finish straight actually becoming straight at long last! It used to be the back of the grid couldn’t see the start lights up front.

If you get a chance to watch a full onboard lap of this place – do so. Hell I’ll even provide the link.
Check this out: Mika vs Michael, Spa, 2000
Michael blocks him and tries to run him into the grass (for which he was widely criticised). This makes Mika mad. Watch him at Eau Rouge next time through, he almost loses it he’s so fast. He tries again next time. Enjoy the lap and the sound of those glorious V10s. I miss those, and I miss Mika fighting Michael.

Ferrari often dominate this race, but unlike other circuits where this happens, nobody minds at Spa because hey, we’re at Spa! Equally, nobody seems to mind only seeing the cars 44 times and having no victory / cooldown lap after the race, the cars are stopped after La Source. A cooldown lap here would take too long for TV. 44 laps of 7km is 308km, which brings us over the 300km per race guidelines. Personally I would like to see it extended it a little now the cars are more reliable than ever before.

My tip for the podium: Raikkonen to find some form and win, Hamilton 2nd, Kubica 3rd.
My tip for the weather: Dry qualifying – Wet race.
Let’s hope this doesn’t happen: 1998 race start with the biggest accident seen in years, luckily the worst injuries were to Irvine’s knee and DC’s pride. This is why the medical car follows them around and had already done so for years. Back in ’98 the teams were allowed one spare car between both drivers. Now they can’t have any which is a crazy rule.

Anyway, enjoy the race and let’s hope for more of the Mika 2000 and less of the DC 1998!

Check http://www.formula1.com to find out when the race starts in your local time zone and for kickass live timing replete with live text comments (Java needed for the timing), essential during those commercial interruptions.

Race Notes: 2008 Detroit GP at Belle Isle

IRL IndyCar Series
Detroit Indy Grand Prix
The Raceway at Belle Isle, Detroit, Michigan, USA

Coverage: IRL world feed from ESPN
Commentary: Gary Lee & Larry Rice
Pit reporters: Jack Arute, Vince Welch, Brienne Pedigo

I go into this with a bit of trepidation after reading on the DigitalSpy forum that the world feed commentary for this race was pretty bad compared to the usual standards. But after the debacle of the US coverage at Sonoma, the ad-fest truckfire-fest of California, I’m jumping in anyway!
It has been about a year since I last heard the international feed so let’s see if they have changed. Both of them know their stuff very well indeed, but they don’t have the ‘excitableness’ of the domestic feed, if that is even a word.

For the second week running I got spoiled so I know who the winner is. On Monday I went to GrandPrix.com, one of the best F1 news analysis sites there is, to be faced with the story at the top of the page. They don’t usually report every IndyCar race result although it looks like they are doing so more often this season.

Okay let’s start this thing.

Quick recap of how Sonoma changed the points standings, the gap is now 43 points. Now we go to Detroit which last year ‘created bad blood and bad memories’ because of the Dixon/Franchitti incident.
Titles. Same as the US coverage! Excellent, I like that.

Helicam over Detroit, pan to the Isle, nice. Clips of Helio at Sonoma, then qualifying at Detroit.
Dixon on pole, Helio starts 2nd!
Arute with Scott after quals: “I had a smoking lap going and seemed to balls it up in the middle of it. Just need one more point than Helio and we’re looking good.” You’ve been making fuel all year. Dixon says it’s going to come down to the wire.
Gary says this place is always – and sometimes impossible – to pass on.
Vince with Helio: “We’re going to take a lot of chances, was difficult. We have a very fast car. Going to be a lot of fun!”

Gary with the points, they put national flags on the graphic although Dan is shown with the English rather than British… why is that I wonder? Hah, hey Pressdog, Gary dropped a ‘markers’ reference!
Graphic showing how points are scored, bonus points for leading most laps.

Gary – Canada is the Northern border of the US but look at the map, North is Detroit and South is Canada, get out your maps and work that out! Goes on to some history of the place.
Larry – pretty amazing you can build a 900 acre island by hauling dirt out here.

I just noticed the Canadian flag alongside the US one on pit straight.

Graphic of previous winners, Kanaan last year and Helio in ’00/’01 in CART. Bruno J. and Servia also raced here with CART.

‘Drivers start your engines’ from a Detroit hockey player.

I found some Earl Grey in the cupboard while cleaning it out earlier, so that’s my drink of the race this evening. [……………………..] Here’s some space for you to make your own Jean-Luc Picard reference!

15 turn, 14 and a slight dogleg, 3.3km, 90 laps just under 300km. Gary is giving kilometres rather than miles for this international audience (despite us in the UK still on miles).

Start order complete with national flags:
Fast six: Dixon, Helio, Servia, Wilson, Briscoe, Rahal
Next six: RHR, Kanaan, Viso, Patrick, Wheldon, Power
Remainder: Andretti, Vitor, Manning, Mutoh, Foyt, Rice, Moraes, Carpenter, Tags is back!!, Camara, Duno, Junky, Roth, Scheckter
Roth will not start, Gary says “he’s been scratched”.

Good Q runs from N/H/L’s two guys and from KVR for Servia, but Power must have struggled.

Circuit guide – Onboard complete with map!

In the UK, Sky Sports would skip everything noted thus far to show us some people talking in a studio in London. Luckily I found this other recording..
Graphic:
Race distance 188.64 miles / 303.586km
Pit window 27-31 laps
Temp 30C
Gary – This is a holiday weekend in America.
Cars increasing speed, two wide, GREEN
Gary strangely quiet… no screaming and shouting about it…

L1 Duno spins already, local yellow.

YELLOW – we got FCY for this as the cars get halfway around the circuit.
Oh she made contact with Bruno. Did she turn in too soon or did you brake too late? She’s on the racing line so that’s why we’re yellow. Looks to me like six of one and half a dozen of the other, I call ‘racing incident’.

Gary says the racetrack isn’t very wide, 10 metres in places up to 20m in others. Love the use of a measuring system I can visualise. He also says this could be a timed race because of the cautions.
“Tagliani is a relief driver, Bernoldi with a wrist injury”. Caption says he usually races in NASCAR Canadian Tire Series.

Lap 3 – Both Conquest cars pit to get off-sequence. I’m not sure if I were a team owner I would commit both cars. Scheckter is in. Gary says of Viso: you either love him or hate him.

Gary: “We anticipate these guys to get off-sequence. I remember the first race I did in Champ Car racing on television in 1981, Mike Mosely qualified dead last at Milwaukee and won the race by passing on the racetrack.”

Scheckter is still in the pits and is about to lose a lap. This team is hoping to go to 2 cars next season.

L4 – GREEN FLAG

Larry – you can see everyone wants to go into turn one pretty much single file, its not a slow enough corner. Tyres not up to temperature yet, sliding around.
This race track is very bumpy. Surface changes from asphalt to concrete to asphalt.

L6 Panther Racing are sending a transporter with supplies to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Gustav. Great gesture but they are still assholes for the next day firing Vitor BY EMAIL! You just don’t do that to a guy you’ve hired for what, four years?

L8 “Question mark right now, who is going to be Dixon’s team-mate next year? Wheldon’s contract not signed and guess who is here this weekend – Dario Franchitti. Could he be back in IndyCar” I had to laugh when I heard this given what we know now!

Brienne with Tomas: “Just broke another driveshaft. I’ve broken more driveshafts this year than I ever have.” Struggle to hear him over engines. They will try and get another driveshaft fitted and use the race as a test session as they don’t test much.

L10 – On this feed the captions for the drivers show useful facts and a slightly zoomed in flag of the driver. Oriol Servia has a degree in mechanical engineering. I didn’t know that. It’s such a shame that on forums and such the Americans seem so anti non-American drivers, they should use the flags on the domestic coverage. There are quite a few US flags in there.

L12 – Tone of the coverage is fairly flat and factual. I like the factual but it needs some excitement. So does the race. Wheldon pits, fuel only, we don’t cross to a pit reporter because frankly we don’t need to. I love not being patronised during an IRL race, a breath of fresh air.

L13 – Larry – around lap 20 we’ll see these frontrunners pitting
L14 – Wouldn’t mind a rundown of the field… Pictures are showing the leaders (and Danica). Oh! Power passed Patrick, banzai move and nearly loses it, well held. I think the divebomb is the only way to pass here. Send it up the inside and hope it works. Actually I think the ALMS guys relied on that last year.
L16 – focussing now on Bruno at the back, he hasn’t made any impression in this race since the start despite his experience here and in these types of cars generally.
Now aboard RHR for a little bit, cut to Wheldon who is catching Camara fast. Both stopped but Wheldon dropped back because his was under green. Dixon will be on these guys soon to lap them so Dan needs to get a move on.
Crash! Dan goes for it,t akes out Camara. Local yellow.

YELLOW – FCY – they held it for a few seconds then reverted to full course caution.
Wheldon is restarted.
Replay: Camara just turned in on him, Larry says he didn’t see him, didn’t intentionally take him out but just didn’t see him. Gary wonders how, Larry says no spotters here, nowhere to put ’em. Maybe they have a few dotted around the track.

L19 – Larry expecting everyone except Dixon and Helio to pit because they’ll want to stretch the mileage and go to say lap 30. He’s wrong, Dixon pits, but he’s right about Helio who stays out. Penske covers Dixon by pitting Briscoe. I’m not sure if that was a late call or if that was pre-planned by Penske, maybe it was a case of “do whatever Dixon does”.

Distinct lack of pit reporting on this coverage.
Pre-race interviews with Helio and Scott about the championship but we got back for the restart.

GREEN
Manning outside of Vitor, Patrick going past Milka who is 5 laps down, Vitor follows. Dixon is now 18th, make that 17th as he takes Rice.
Rahal takes a look at Rice but thinks better of it. Tags does the same to Ed at S/F with Dixon on the tail of both. A crash between Tags and Ed could end Dixon’s race, he needs to be careful!
L23 Ooh close..
Tagliani gets Ed in a very good move and is clearly faster, he pulls away. Dixon still bottled up.
L24 – Dixon gets Ed into turn one for 16th, he’s now 19 seconds behind the leaders. After half a lap he catches the train again, where Tags is now working on Bruno. There’s a long line of cars in front of them, can’t see who’s the one holding them up because the colour scheme on that car is so vague. Could be Mutoh. They keep pulling the leaderboard ticker so I can’t tell.

L27 – Up To Speed graphic appears but we don’t cross to the pits for the reports, we just get the map with the leader and current driver icons. Frustrating. I like those quickfire reports, I don’t see them in any other series.
Actually I’d quite like F1 /FOM to do this. Just run through the order with a map, timing, icons, without pit audio. Let the each TV company talk about each driver if they want to.

L31 – Larry – “The current frontrunners will be stopping soon. Looks like somebody is running slow back there..”
Servia pits from 3rd, looking to get out ahead of Dixon who is now 27sec back. Several others stop including Kanaan, we don’t see who the others are and are not told.
Remember Dixon did not change tyres.

L32 – Helio and Wilson pit from 1st and 2nd. Larry says pit speed is 96km/h.
Helio is out but Wilson has a slow stop, loses time but not position and actually gets out ahead of Servia.
Danica Patrick slow on the track, not at racing speed but not far off, enough to hold up others, blocks Rahal and Meira who go three wide – Vitor is punted off! He has a puncture. Danica parks it in the middle of the road, now Viso is in the wall. As this happens enough people have pitted that Dixon is now 5th.
Blatant blocking from Danica, that wasn’t defending (which IMO is okay), that was a block (which isn’t). Looked almost like a brake-test which is absolute no-no. Oh on the replay, something broke on the car, it doesn’t turn right (ha!) so she doesn’t make it around the corner.
Viso replay: runs wide and hits the wall, unassisted. Back end got loose but there’s no runoff so he hits the wall.
L35 – Danica somehow back to the pits, Vitor crawling around to get his tyre fixed. Wow lots of action at once! Okay let’s calm down…
L36 – Tagliani is two laps down. Did we see why? Can’t remember but I don’t think so.
Scheckter heads back out, unmentioned by the commentary. Danica is running again but the pits were closed when she pitted then.

Gary – too bad for Meira, in the last few races he moved from 18th to 11th in the points standings.
Gary – there’s a tunnel to Canada just a mile from here.
There’s a seemingly random fact of the day.

Vince – where are we next going to see Dario Franchitti? “I’m talking to Chip this afternoon and see what he says, we’ll see what happens with the 41 car”. 41 car is in NASCAR where they are obsessed by car numbers. Gary said he hopes Dario returns, he brought a lot to IndyCar. I agree, this year didn’t seem right without him. I’m glad he’s back for the real unification next year when the ChampCar guys are more up to speed on more tracks. Next year will be excellent with the type of competitiveness we’re seeing here at Detroit! Really mixing it together.

Road course points: Helio 190, Briscoe 154, Kanaan 153, Power 146, Servia 143, etc.

L39 – GREEN
Manning takes Mutoh. Moraes then gets Mutoh, Mutoh may have a problem. The problem may be with the car, may be the nut behind the wheel.
L41 – Wilson is pushing Helio, looking racey. Helio has clear air and is trying to pull a gap on Dixon, doesn’t need Justin in his mirrors!
Bruno and Manning touched on the last lap, replay. Manning braked and Bruno ran in a little hotter. IRL charges Darren with blocking and tells him to move behind Bruno! Did Manning brake too early to block Junky? Brian Barnhardt obviously thinks so..

L43 – Larry says Wilson was okay but not as fast as Helio in the 1st segment, now the car is better and he’s fast. Dixon won’t lose as many points as last weekend if he stays there. Gary says he’ll still lose up to 25 points if you count the bonus points so it could still go all the way to Chicago.
Larry suggests Dixon’s tyres may have gone off because he didn’t change them earlier and hasn’t pitted since.

L45 – Timing graphics show Wheldon has unlapped himself after his clash with Camara. I’m not sure how he did that, must have been during the Helio/Justin stops. Larry says Dixon will have to pit in about 3 laps, maybe 4.
We are at half distance.
RHR is closing on Dixon with Power coming along for the ride.

L48 – Helio laps Vitor and has opened a big gap to Wilson now. Oh man Duno is just in the way here. Run at full speed and let them through at the slow corners, don’t drop to 80% pace, it puts you in everybody’s way. You’d think someone lapped as often as this would know how to do it properly by now. Ironically she’d be lapped less often if she did this. This also applies to Marty Roth. BTW, Duno is better than Roth.

L52 – Penske are trying to salvage the burned out tubs of the cars in the fire last week, clean them up for use next year. The cars running here are the ones used in Sonoma last week.
L53 – Dixon is still out there but his tyres are shot. Marco is 11th being chased by Briscoe, who hasn’t been able to follow Dixon through on that same strategy, maybe he changed tyres which put him back more spots?
RHR has dropped a way behind Dixon now, Power looks faster, makes a move and gets bit of wing stuck on his own wing, probably his own wing come loose. Blasts by RHR now. Ryan is slowing, he has a flat. Power’s wing hit H-R’s tyre.
L55 – Dixon pits. Can he go 35 laps on a load of fuel? That’s the remaining distance. Might need a yellow. RHR pits to get that tyre changed. Power still circulating, you’d think they’d flag him to fix that.
Replay: Power got an overlap, Ryan turned in, fairly light contact but enough to derange the wing and cause a puncture.
L57 – Wilson pits. Should be his last stop. Kanaan is also in, Power is now in and takes a new nosecone. Briscoe also in.
Helio and Servia still need to pit.
L58 – Helio is now in. Larry thinks Helio came in quite quickly, maybe too fast?
Servia leads, temporarily. Helio was in and out and is still in 2nd, Gary says when Servia pits he will retake the lead.
L60 – Servia is in now. He emerges just behind Kanaan. Helio leads.
Bruno is in from 6th, will drop back several places to 11th. Emerges ahead of a charging Will Power.
Helio leads, Wilson +12, Kanaan +15 to Helio, Servia +18, Dixon +18, Moraes +30
Dixon is on the tail of Servia. Dixon wants those points for the title, Servia (and KVR) wants another good result on a road/street course because they might not get the chance on the oval next week.

L63 – Caption: Points as of right now: Helio will be 20 points behind Dixon if the race ends now.
Hell of a comeback to go from 75 to 20 points gap in two races.
Dixon takes a look inside Servia, thinks better of it. Both are catching Kanaan who seems stuck behind a slower-than-earlier Wilson.

Larry is saying he’s surprised at the pace of Dixon, he’s fast right now and should be saving fuel, short shifting etc., to make the 36 laps he needs since his last stop to to the end of the race. If he keeps this up he’ll need a splash and go.

Moraes has dropped from sixth (see above positions) to 11th, Rahal is now 6th at 30sec back from Helio.

Gary realises Scheckter is back on.

L65 – YELLOW – Wheldon in the tyre barrier. Moraes stopped in the runoff.
Gary – Did Wheldon do this to help his team-mate?
Larry – Ahhh I don’t think so!!
Gary – Nah I don’t think so.

Moraes is refired.
Replay – Wheldon by himself with a tyre donut on his side.
Moraes runs straight in to the runoff. Larry insists there must be liquid on the racetrack somewhere. These were independent incidents at different places, they didn’t take each other out.

L67 – Tagliani pits but he’s now 12 laps down, no clue as to why. Wheldon took his steering wheel off, can’t put it back on to refire the car, so he jumps out of the car.
This yellow will help Dixon’s mileage.

Replay of Helio winning in the Lola in 2000 and 2001, I keep forgetting how fantastic those cars looked… I watched CART in that era before moving away from it in ’02 when I lost access to Eurosport. ’07 was my first year back to what had become Champ Car and my first year with IndyCar. 2000/01 were great years of racing.

Gary is hoping this doesn’t become a timed event.

L70 – GREEN
Single-file through the first section.
16 cars are on the lead lap.
Wilson is faster in the tight sections, Helio is faster in the quick stuff.

Wilson going for a move while Gary is talking about Dancing With The Stars.
Whoa darting around everywhere. He’s suddenly at speed everywhere, was he saving fuel before??
Race Control has just said Helio has to give up the place for blocking!! FFS that’s stupid. He held his line, didn’t brake early, Justin was trying every move but Helio was solid. Nothing wrong there. That’s crazy.
Helio responds by pulling away!
Now he runs wide on the straight and lets Wilson through, but doesn’t lose too much, just breathes out of the throttle.
L73 – Larry agrees with the call, he says it was a blatant block. I disagree. This is not how I wanted to see Wilson win, I bet he’ll say the same when he gets out of the car. (note – I haven’t read his post-race quotes)
What happened anyway, I thought they gave several warnings before they actually moved someone?

The yellow closed up the field which put 6th-placed Rahal right behind Dixon, he’s close behind Dixon now. Bruno doing well, started 24th now 8th. We’ve got a slippery surface flag shown in the first sequence of corners.

L79 – Shots of Carl Haas replete with unlit cigar, as ever. Gary asks if he has actually ever smoked one of those cigars or just chewed them! A mention of Paul Newman.
L80 – we are switching to a timed race, they say we’ll be 2 or 3 laps short of the scheduled distance even though they are at full tilt now.
As L81 ticks over, the clock appears at 8m 15s to go.
Helio isn’t making an impression on Wilson. Ticker shows Rice is out, didn’t see why.
L83 5:50 The leaders are now 15 seconds up on 4th placed Servia, who is holding up Dixon, Rahal on his arse and another three cars close behind him. Ticker now lists Andretti as ‘Out’ – yet we get no mention of it.

L85 2:50 oh Rahal has to pit, splash and go they surmise. That’s a shame I was hoping for a good finish from him. We get a look at Marco now who is out of his car sitting on the pitwall. No clue as to the reason for his retirement.

Gary drops a ‘winningest’ which isn’t a word. During the BBC Olympic coverage they showed a clip from NBC where they used it, they couldn’t believe it! Took the piss out of them a bit there, asked if they could invent a word.

L87 White flag.

L88 – JUSTIN WILSON WINS!
Great job from Justin and the ecstatic Newman Haas team.
Results graphic broke so I’ll grab the other finishers shortly Helio is pissed, he’s still at race speed to get back to the pits.
Carl Haas: “It sure gives us a good feeling, wonderful, very very happy. We’ll try and speak to him [Paul Newman] and I’m sure he’s very happy.” Good thinking from Brienne to ask about him.

Wilson stalls on his in-lap trying to do a donut!
Helio is out of the car, shakes hands with his guys. Arute trying to get him.
Helio – “Let me tell, I’m happy, I do not have anything smart to say right now.” Walks off. Good thinking Helio, don’t say anything stupid get yourself fined!
Replay: He made one move on Wilson before retaking his line. I thought one move was allowed, that’s the F1 rule. Any more than one move and you get a penalty.

Wilson is refired and making his way home.

Results:
Wilson, Helio, TK, Servia, Dixon, RHR, Bruno, Power, Briscoe, Foyt 4, Mutoh, Manning, Rahal, Carpenter, Moraes (-1 lap), Patrick (-1), Meira (-4), Andretti (out), Rice (out), Wheldon (-22), Scheckter (-31), Tagliani (out), Duno (out), Viso (out), Camara (out)

Those crazy strategies finally worked out for Bruno, good result. Not sure why Dan wasn’t listed as ‘out’.

Wilson has arrived in pitlane.

Points:
Dixon 606
Helio -30
Kanaan -125 (+1 place)
Wheldon -142 (-1 place)
Briscoe -192
Patrick -247
Servia gains two spots, Andetti drops one, RHR up, Mutoh down.

Jack Arute with Tim Cindric, Penske: “Usually we get a warning, the officials today chose not to do that. Helio will do best to put +ve spin on it. Good to see Paul Newman and that group win a race. Don’t know what else we could’ve done. We’ve been racing in the series since 2002 and we’re not sure that’s occured.”

Vince with Wilson, take us to the blocking: “I had a great run, got the power down, he obviously didn’t, I started to overlap, I was looking to get by before the brake zone, he kept coming over and over until I thought we’d crash. We would have been ahead anyway. Great to finally get a win. This is the most important win of my career, this has been a long and difficult year, this one means a lot, and this one’s for you Paul.”
Classy.
Paul Newman, who is ill at the moment, has been calling him and wishing him well during the year.

Dixon: “You get guys 2 seconds off the pace on alternate strategies and you can’t pass them.” Thanks Newman-Haas for winning the race.

More replays of the Helio/Justin thing. The more I look the more I see a deliberate move by Helio to push Wilson off. It isn’t what I would call “blocking”. I would call it “trying to ram the guy into the wall”, so perhaps the penalty is deserved after all.. I’ll think more on this one.

I enjoyed the coverage of this race and I liked the competitiveness of the ex-CCWS teams here. I think this race will be more representative of what will happen in 2009 as a whole – including the ovals – than next week’s Chicagoland race will be – and that’s a good thing. Newman-Haas vs Penske vs Ganassi. Indy racing as it should be.

Okay I’m done here, catch you on Sunday for the F1 Belgian Grand Prix which is a race you WILL NOT miss if you are any kind of race fan. Best track in the world.
My next IndyCar notes will appear on Tuesday (or Monday if time permits) for the Chicagoland finale and you CAN’T miss that race.
Like I said before, for every Sonoma/Valencia double-header you get a great one and Spa/Chicagoland is exactly that.

I’m off to read everybody else’s Detroit notes – cheers.

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.

2008 IndyCar GP Sonoma


IRL IndyCar Grand Prix of Sonoma
ESPN2
Anchor: Marty Reid
Analysit: Scott Goodyear
Pitlane: Jack Arute, Vince Welch & Brienne ‘Petticoat’ Pedigo

80 laps of a dustbowl. Hungaroring mk2?

START ORDER
Fast Six: Helio, Briscoe, Power, Kanaan, Dixon, Servia
The rest: Wilson, RHR, Patrick, Andretti, Dominguez, Moraes, Bruno, Viso, Rahal, Wheldon, Scheckter, Meira, Bell, Mutoh, Manning, Rice, Carpenter, Foyt 4, Roth, Camara, Bernoldi.

Bernoldi set no time.

Luczo Dragon have been advertising in Autosport magazine for the last 3 weeks for a race engineer and mechanics, hopefully this means they are expanding for 2009. Good to see them (and Bell) back here.

Warm-up laps. They seem to be using a different configuration of track to last year, up the drag strip into a sharp right.

A quick mention of using the NASCAR bit at the end but only when the IRL feels like it. Bet the timing and scoring guys just loved that idea.

GREEN: 80 to go

Penskes lead them through. Piss-poor formation after row 3 but better than waving them off because it was untidy.. just send ’em and have a stern chat after.

Wilson fighting nicely. Go Justin! Got to beat the sponsor and driver thieves at KVR.

Dust kicked up by Bruno.

Made a move on Wheldon but was pushed wide.

Firestone have painted the tyre sidewalls white for the 4 drivers who can still mathematically win the title, for easy identification.

Scott says the drivers love the paddleshifters.

L5 Petticoat: KVR say there are no more ‘them and us’. They are the best of the rest, best non-Big 3 team. I call bullshit. Maybe on road courses but not on ovals, got to be both to be true BOTR. I nominate Panther.

Photos of Penske’s truck fire including heavily damaged cars. Great job from Penske to run 1-2 with their t-cars after that. Marty they said they managed to save their tractor which must be American for ‘truck’ because over here tractors work in fields. They seem to think the pickups in NASCAR are trucks.

L10 Not much going on here at the moment. Formation flying. Taking lessons from F1 circa 2000-2005. Vitor pits. Scratch what I said about them being best of the rest, that’s a stupid strategy. Always go long on a road course unless you are qualifying with race fuel or you are reacting to someone who’s already stopped.

L11 Wheldon in. Are they trying to beat the phantom safety car? Vince says they are trying to make the fuel last. That’s nuts. This is lap 11. ELEVEN. Run long and do a short stop halfway through. L11, 69 to go, how do you know what’s going to happen?

Now they insert a pre-record with Helio. That’s fine but just play the audio. I want to see cars on the track, that window over his shoulder is tiny. Bah.

L15 Vince says Penske’s luck got worse, a PR rep had their bag stolen with their laptop and other stuff.
I wonder what’s going on behind the top three? We haven’t been allowed to see it yet. One thing F1 does well (these days – very recently it wasn’t so) is they move back through the field if something is happening, or even if it isn’t, just to mix it up a bit.

YELLOW black car around, is that Roth? What’s he doing here? I thought was only doing ovals and leaving this stuff to the professionals.

Foyt also got into the dust. Roth gets refired and rejoins. In F1 he’d be DQ’d for ‘outside assistance’ which is potentially the most stupid rule in the world.

Scott talks about the different approach to turn 7 now. Explains the layout but doesn’t tell us why. Scott, WHY did they change it? To get more passing? Was the other way too dusty?

Yellow pitstops. Dixon up a spot, RHR up 2, Manning up 3!

L18 GREEN

Brisoe leads from Kanaan, Patrick, Rahal, none of whom stopped under yellow. Top 8 didn’t stop, maybe more.

We seem to be using a different pronunciation of ‘Jaime Camara’. RHR spins, rejoins. He took the Foyt line on to the dust, saved it, but the dirt on the tyres made him slow through the corner and Wilson pushed him around.

L23 Onboard with Power which is immediately obscured by the biggest graphic in the world.

Up To Speed
Vince: Briscoe on pole here in ’05 for Ganassi. Did not pit during the yellow. Can go to L27 or so.
Brie: Kanaan stayed out, working on fuel strategy. Q4 but has a loose car, bottoming out.
Danica similar strategy, also struggling with the car. Track temp is 126deg [that’s in old money].
Jack: Rahal is 4th and took Wilson’s setup for his car. Moraes is 5th, had some differences with Bruno last night (?).

Brie: Ed Q23 is now 6th [not bad but he’s not stopped, many others have]. Has Bryan Herta as road course advisor.
Jack: Viso pitted early to get out of sequence. Received visit from some guy I’ve never heard of who is apparently famous for sports somewhere.
Vince: Wheldon can do 9 more laps before he has to pit again. Missed a practice session, feels he’s behind compared to others.

Jack: Dominguez Q well, better than hoped. His pit bloke needed 50(fifty!) stitches after an ‘industrial accident’.
Brie: Vitor’s team not sure where their speed has gone.
ESPN’s pit crew are on fire!
Danica pits. No changes. Rahal in, wing adj. Jack Arute calls the car ‘specials’ as if this is a 1950s Indy 500.

L27 Briscoe and TK pit. No changes to either car. Wow big train as they exit. Brisoce beats most of them, TK does now, his pit guys were slower. Wilson takes Power! They are all stuck behind that slightly slower Conquest car, F1-style. Bernoldi I think, and he has the position legitimately.

Viso leading by way of pit sequence. Arute: Viso has been criticised by others but one high ranking person in the pits said under anonymity ‘if I were looking to hire a driver, I’d take Viso, you can teach a fast guy to slow down but not a slow guy to speed up’. Hello Marty Roth.
Dominguez is 3rd now.

L32 Bernoldi is defending well from the faster cars behind. He did this for an entire Monaco GP in an Arrows against Coulthard in a McLaren. DC had to start down the order, don’t recall why, it was expected he would slice through the back of the field like a hot knife through butter. Didn’t happen, Bernoldi held him. The rest of his F1 career was not notable for anything at all really.

L33 Bernoldi in, as is Manning. Briscoe got a warning from IRL officials for blocking, which is nonsense, this isn’t “after you, Claude”, this is racing, and solid defending is acceptable. Weaving and brake testing is not; changing lines taking air away is not. If you take the line early it’s fine isn’t it? These are oval rules applied to road courses and it doesn’t make sense.

I think Viso is auditioning for Pressdog’s circus clowns, Marty says he has been practicing his unicycle skills!

L35 Wheldon and Dominguez pit.
L36 Viso in, Helio now leads.

Notice how the cameras are completely ignoring the stands. Anyone know the attendance?

L39 Viso 12th after his stop. Power in. Power ran 13 laps, strategy change from KVR.
L40 Briscoe on a good strategy, says Marty. Scott says Briscoe knows ‘a-boat’ pit strategy and knows a-boat patience from his ALMS experience with Penske last year.

For some reason ESPN can’t keep a steady lap counter, either incrementing up or incrementing down. Pick one and stay with it please!

37 to go: Helio stops. Wilson also in, an ex John Herb car. Is that good or bad? I’ve never heard of him so I am assuming bad, although with N/H/L on the case it will surely get better. Dixon is in, Vince calls him ‘the champion’ because he’s so far ahead in points. RHR catches Wilson as Justin exits the pits. Good racing.

Now ESPN switch back to x of y laps.. that’s amazing, I didn’t plan that at all! L46 Bruno pits.
Jack: N/H/L had trouble getting the seat into this new car for Wilson. Same story for every new team with Wilson, heard it several times. Servia pits, exits between Dixon and Wilson, who is still fighting RHR.

L49 Great battle between TK and Helio but we can’t see it because ESPN are playing a prerecorded interview with TK. Ah here we go. Gets VERY close on several occasions.

One thing I hate about taking the US coverage is that they take a commercial break every 3 laps. I want to watch a race, not be sold to. I get that you need to sell ads to make money but please, there’s taking things too far.

L53 Briscoe pits. Emerges behind Viso but almost loses it on the hill, slows, gets going.
L54 TK pits. Nasty bump on pit entry. The whole pitlane is fairly bumpy. Patrick pits.
L56 Wheldon pits, a lap later Helio comes in. Helio beats Meira and Manning, Briscoe is behind that pair.
L58 Dixon is in. Penskes are catching a Conquest car. Dixon beats a train of cars coming up fast along the main straight.
L59 Power to get a drive-thru penalty for not coming to a complete stop when missing the chicane – for the third time! Wilson is in. Doesn’t take a full load of fuel, he doesn’t need to with 21 laps to go. Power takes his penalty.
L60 (20 to go) Viso pits from the lead. Penske now 1-2 again.

Marty says if positions remain as they are the points lead will drop from 78 points to 41. Personally I think that’s more to do with the fucked-up points system they use! Helio does get the bonus for leading most laps.

L63 I’m officially fed up with Side By Side as an excuse to run ads every 3 laps. I might switch back to the Intl feed next time because they are just taking the piss here. Has it always been this bad or are they pissed at losing to Versus? We should get a bonus for watching most commercials.

L66 Cars are fairly strung out now, not a great deal of racing going on. Not sure how Wilson dropped back to 12th, maybe a bad strategy. He was running well.

Another Up To Speed! 2 for 1 deal special offer

Vince: Helio will set a new record for wins in 7 consecutive season, ties Scott Sharp. So that’s not a new record then Vince, that’s a tie. Briscoe lapping Power. He has a comfort level to prevent overdriving.
Brienne: TK is getting lonely, wants team to talk to him.
Vince: Wheldon 4th (where’d he come from?). Avg road course finish of 15th, Vince says not good enough. Contract renewal time.

Brienne: For Patrick, 5th would be good enough. Best finish on road/street course this year.
Jack: Bruno needs a splash/go for fuel. Can’t make it (not for the first time this year, Jack). Meanwhie Viso is full-rich.
Brienne: Vitor – wonderful finish considering tough week they’ve had.
Jack: Rahal to go the distance, will not pit. Auctioning a helmet.
Brienne: Rice Q22nd now 10th. [not bad!]
Vince: Series points leader Dixon is 14th, car not running well. Complained that Briscoe ‘chopped him down’ when they were running together earlier. Goal: get the most from today. They don’t feel like they’ve done that.

L70 Another nice job from the team.

L72 Wow they did half a lap after ads, then went to more!! That’s nuts. There are actually rules against that in this country.

L73 Oh, a spin from Dominguez, drops from 12th rejoins 17th.

L75 Vince at Penske: a mention for the team, the men who don’t get the recognition for working long hours and put in the hard work.
Agree completely, avery good job to recover from their setbacks this week.

Dixon has made up a place or two through other cars having to pit for a splash of fuel. Points diff is now 43. He’s chasing Buddy Rice who is stretching the fuel mileage.
People have been congratulating him for the championship win but it isn’t official yet!

Question: The ticker says Marco is 14th but I don’t remember seeing him at any stage. Did you?

L77 Those same stops have moved Wilson up to 9th.
Helio hasn’t won in 29 races, this will finally end the streak!

L78 BANG Power hits the tyre barrier on the chicane runoff, the one he went through earlier. Brake issues? He’s off the racing line so we go local yellow only as the white flag flies at the line to signal L79.

Carpenter spins off at speed!

CHEQUERED FLAG – HELIO WINS!
Fence-climbing time once more, and its about time too! Briscoe 2nd, Kanaan 3rd.

Vince with Tim Cindric, Penske: Wasn’t easy when the yellow came out. See where we end up at the end of the year.

Helio climbs OVER the fence and in among the fans! Excellent.
Back down, Vince catches up. Roger: You’re the man. This group of guys are racers, I want to thank everybody who helped us the last several days.
A VERY EXCITEABLE Helio, I can’t catch what he’s saying at machine-gun speed. I mean I understand it but can’t transcribe, too fast.

Brienne with an irritated Dixon: Everything we did was wrong. Not sure why we didn’t pit when stuck behind a slower car and couldn’t get past.

Okay I gotta post this and get going, late now and need to be at work in the a.m.!

Results:
Helio, Briscoe, Kanaan, Wheldon, Patrick, Viso, Meira, Rahal, Wilson, Moraes, Rice, Dixon, Mutoh, Andretti, Servia, Dominguez, Bruno, RHR, Bell (-1), Foyt (-1), Bernoldi (-1), Manning (-1), Carpenter (-2), Camara (-2), Power (-3), Roth (-4), Scheckter (-24)

Rahal 8th and Wilson 9th, a good day for N/H/L relatively speaking. Can still do better. Anyone know why Tomas was so far back, I didn’t catch that on the coverage?

Points:
Dixon 578
Helio -43
Wheldon -124
Kanaan -130
Briscoe -186

Only two drivers remaining in the title race.

Up next: Detroit this weekend. Last year was boring as hell, the ALMS race was more exciting and that’s not supposed to happen. Year 2 of the Belle Isle Resurrection may just be better.

Okay I’m out of here, see ya Saturday for some words about the BTCC.

Just appeared on Autosport.com: Brisoe to rejoin the ALMS team for Detroit and Petit Le Mans. He’ll race both IRL and ALMS at Detroit!