Christmas List

This week’s United Open Wheel Word Butchers Association question:

What’s on this year’s Christmas List for the IRL?

– Start talking about the new chassis / engine formula so we can get excited about it!

– Make sure the international TV package is good. There are a LOT of IndyCar fans outside the USA and we feel like an afterthought sometimes. Gary and Larry made sure to namecheck all the countries their feed reached and it was nice to hear.

– Make sure the Indy Lights champ of every season gets a test with a major team. Do they already? I have no idea. Surely if they get a test, somebody down the grid will take a chance on them.

– I don’t care about a series sponsor as long as the cars are well stickered-up and look good. Make sure each team has sponsors, and try to attract even more. Yes, this is tough to do these days.

– Make sure safety car periods are kept to a minimum, and the clean up is as fast as safely possible. Don’t extend yellows just to squeeze in a pit sequence or a TV commercial break. TV should fit to the sport, not vice versa.

– Ditch Sonoma, a track with no fans looks stupid. See Bahrain in F1.

– Bring in Road America for 2010 (if not 2009). Also try for Michigan Speedway. Keep the street races to no more than 3 per season (Long Beach, Toronto, St Pete). I’d like to see the schedule mixed around a bit. I don’t like having oval-heavy to start with, road-heavy to end with.

– Above all else: survive this downturn intact, even if it means not doing some of the above until things quieten down.

I know that’s a lot of hard things to ask for, and they are all needed…

Thanks to Joel for this week’s question.

Come back tomorrow for my F1 Top Ten!


IndyCar Top Ten 2008

To close out the 2008 season, and to put some content on this thing, I’m using the age-old device of the Top Ten List. First up is IndyCar, then there is Formula 1, and then I’m finishing with GP2 (if I can stretch that to ten drivers).

2008 IRL IndyCar Series

1. Dixon (1st in points)
Performed well for nearly the whole year, with just the blips at Watkins Glen and Sonoma the only real exceptions. A worthy champion although there remains the question mark over whether he’d have done so well without the advantage of his pit position.

2. Castroneves (2nd)
I think he was solid throughout the whole year, wasn’t he? Didn’t quite have enough for the title despite scoring very strongly in the last third of the year (he never finished lower than 2nd in six consecutive races). Just as in the points race, and on the track, deciding where to place Helio and Scott on any list like this is a very close run thing.

3. Kanaan (3rd)
Managed to take what was generally an underperforming AGR team and still finish 3rd in points ahead of Wheldon and Briscoe, in a year when you could make a serious case for Ganassi and Penske having a performance advantage over every other team. All the while he seemed to be the glue holding AGR together as it seemed to be trying to fracture. Not bad Tony, not bad.

4. Wheldon (4th)
Had a generally good year but probably could have done better. I think he’d agree with that. His first half of the year (mostly ovals) was better than his second half of the year (mostly road courses) which pre-season you would have expected. I’m not sure if the tipping point was the whole thing of whether Kanaan had taken his seat, but it seemed that it knocked his confidence in the team. If so, I don’t blame him.

5. Briscoe (5th)
Much improved. Some bad luck early on cost him points and at one point there were suggestions that his drive was in question. He bounced back with a win at Milwaukee which seemed to change things for the better. He’ll show well next season as I think a lot of the little niggles will be ironed out.

6. Hunter-Reay (8th)
Poked his nose among the Big Three more often than you might have expected, and took a great win at Watkins Glen.

7. Servia (9th)
Oriol was the top-scoring ‘transition’ driver because he’s a solid driver with tons of experience, and it showed. KVR’s steadily increasing pace on the ovals was almost certainly down to him.

8. Power (12th)
Servia scored more in points but Power showed more flashes of brilliant driving. Unfortunately some bad luck tangling with other cars meant the end results often weren’t what they could and should have been.

9. Andretti (7th)
He had a reasonable year, less good in terms of results than before but that’s probably down to AGR hitting a bad patch by their standards. I didn’t like Marco much before this season but he seems to have reached a good place in his head and he’s growing on me as a driver. I was impressed by his run at Milwaukee until the crash.

10. Patrick (6th)
Scored her first win in the big cars by being able to conserve fuel while others couldn’t (or wouldn’t). The rest of the year wasn’t much to write home about but again that was probably as much down to AGR as anything. She finished ahead of Andretti in the points and picking between them is a close call, but I’m marking her down because she whines even more than he does, and that’s an accomplishment. Not sure if she’s whining more now or if Marco has cut down, I suspect the latter so I mark him higher accordingly (plus Marco gets bonus points for doing A1GP). If Danica isn’t careful she’ll soon rival Scott Speed or Nigel Mansell in the whining stakes. I guess it keeps her at the top of the Recent Articles lists on the websites.

Surprise Of The Year
Moraes jumping straight from Formula 3 and scoring some decent results through the year considering his experience and the size of his team – even if his first oval at Homestead was a bit of a culture shock for him.
The other surprise was Mutoh, he had some very good races.

Driver I Most Enjoyed Watching
Ernesto ‘EJ’ Viso. How can you pick anyone else? I watched him in GP2 last season (where he had a similar reputation as he gained in IRL) and it was fun to see him adapt to American racing and their unique interpretation of blocking rules. I seem to remember Doornbos struggling with it last year! It would be great to see Doornbos vs Viso in IndyCars.


I have a terrible memory. I’ve probably forgotten some major event/s which should mean a driver is ranked higher / lower than I’ve put them here. And if you disagree with me, make your case in the comments!

2009 News
I’m sure you’ve all by now seen the news that the Belle Isle race has been cancelled*. I can’t say I’m too upset at this news! The race was a procession. It all looked great on TV, particularly the ALMS cars, yet both races were pretty boring in terms of racing. Sorry to all the people in the Detroit region who will miss out but hey, maybe they can bring the Michigan speedway back instead.
* yes we use two L’s in Britain

I mentioned Robert Doornbos earlier, and he has apparently been negotiating with HVM. However, a report in Autosport magazine this week quotes him as saying he’s close to a drive with NHL and the HVM reports are wide of the mark.

“I’ve seen the reports but they are not true. I’ve been talking to HVM but Newman/Haas/Lanigan is the team I’ve been in contact with most. I want to be in the best team possible and hope to have a deal signed by Christmas, but I don’t know exactly who that will be with. I hope I can bring ING to the IRL in 2009.”

ING sponsorship would be huge, racing fans will know them from their involvement with Renault in F1.
There are also reports of Bourdais talking of going back to America which everyone else in the World of Blogs is getting excited about at least on the IRL side, but I still don’t believe it’ll happen. I think he’ll remain a STR driver and I want that to be the case.

Finally, check out the I Am Mindy Show at Go to the site and type ‘podcast’ into his new search box at the top of the page. He’s done two shows now at roughly half hour each, so go now and listen to both!

Word-Butchering Talent Scouts

I’ve kindly been asked to join a co-operative of bloggers known as the United Open Wheel Word Butchers Association, which has been set up to cross-promote a selection of racing blogs to like-minded people.
After you’ve read this post take yourself over to the UOWWBA site and check out some of my colleagues’ blogs in the sidebar there, you might find some you’ve never seen before. I’d never seen Pit Out before and I’ve gone on to bookmark it (I also added it and Planet-IRL and Motorsports Ramblings to my sidebar). Pit Out is close to what this blog would be like if I could find the time / effort to update it as often.

Part of being with the UOWWBA is to answer a weekly question, in order to get our own individual take on any given burning issue. This week’s question is this:

“You have just been appointed to be the new “talent scout” for the IRL. Your first mission is to bring 5 drivers to the series. These can be former drivers from Indycar or from any other series. Which 5 would you pick and why?”

So here are my picks in no particular order:

1. Paul Tracy.
This might only be for the one season because let’s face it, even if Champ Car had continued Paul would be getting close to the end of his open-wheel career by now. His career should end the way it seems to have ended. He should go out fighting, that’s the Paul Tracy Way. I miss watching him race. I wish we could see him adapt to what he once called ‘those crapwagons’. When ‘unification’ was announced he was one of the first drivers I wanted to watch mix it among the IRL crowd, alongside Wilson, Servia and Power. He needs to be back. Just for one season. He just DOES dammit.

2. A J Allmendinger.
I don’t know much about this guy, but what I do know is that once he stepped up from a midfield team to Forsythe he completely killed the opposition. Then walked away. He shouldn’t be trolling around in back-of-the-field N-word teams. Even if Toyota plus Red Bull shouldn’t be back-of-the-field teams. Just like Toyota and Red Bull in F1, in fact.

3. Sam Hornish Jr.
Because he was getting better at road courses, wasn’t he? In any case we need drivers who are stronger on ovals than on road courses, as much as we need drivers who are stronger on road courses than on ovals. And we need flag-bearers from the ‘old’ IRL just as much we need those from the ‘old’ CART. Hornish is the best of that bunch. And the same applies to Hornish as it does to Allmendinger, vis a vis being in NASCAR.

4. Justin Wilson.
It looks like Justin is out of a ride so I’ll include him here, because he damn well shouldn’t be out of a ride. I hope N/H/L get some more funding and are able to run a second car with him in it. I’m sure he must be ‘first call’ in that instance. Look at his progress on road courses this year. He was one of the few to take it to Bourdais regularly in Champ Car. He dragged a half-assed Minardi around the F1 tracks to positions it should never have been, that car being the only one at the time without power steering.

5a. Robert Doornbos.
It looks like he may have signed for HVM, I’m not sure if that’s an announcement or just a rumour I’ve seen on websites. In any case he’s wasting his time in Superleague Formula. His sporadic F1 appearances showed potential, which he went on to prove in Champ Car before the series collapsed from under him. He was supposed to go into 2008 as a serious title contender against Wilson and Power. In reality he spent the year scratching around making a living in SF, A1GP and GT racing. He needs to be back in a top line open wheel car. I think he’d love ovals.

In case he’s signed already, an alternative no.5:
5b. Alex Lloyd.
He’s British, I’m British, and he’s a proven winner in that he’s the 2007 Indy Lights champ. The Indy Lights champ should always get at least few races in the main series during the following year or two. I know running the Indy 500 itself is a big deal, and if the winner of Lights always wins a prize drive at the 500 then that’s fantastic – but I don’t think they do. He needs a run with somebody who can give him a fair shot even if it is only half a season. Maybe he can run the road courses for Fisher (or a second car?).

For the last twelve months the automatic entry to this list was Dario Franchitti. Thankfully he’s back already!

Thanks again to Kohl for the invite to join the OWWBA.

To everyone else, I promise I *will* get the first of my Top Tens posted next weekend! I’ll probably start with the IndyCar one.

Race of Champions 2008

At the end of a hard year of racing, drivers like to relax with a little challenge. A head-to-head competition in equal cars around a circuit laid inside Wembley Stadium. The Race of Champions.

The 2008 event happens tomorrow and the draw has been made for both the Nations Cup and for the main event, the Race of Champions. Britain gets two teams, presumably as the host nation.

You have to take this loosely, some Nations aren’t really nations, some Champions aren’t really champions. Don’t let that spoil it because this is a varied and eclectic line-up.

Nations Cup
Heat 1: France vs Scandinavia*
Heat 2: USA vs Autosport Team GB
Heat 3: F1 Racing GB vs All Stars**
Heat 4: Germany vs Ireland

* Sweden and Denmark.
** The All Stars team was formerly Australia, however Mark Webber broke his leg and his place was taken by the Spanish champion of this year’s British F3 series, Jaime Alguersuari.

Each heat is a ‘best of 3’ and each team has 2 drivers.

Race of Champions
Gareth McHale (rally) vs David Coulthard (F1)

Adam Carroll (GP2, A1GP) vs Mattias Ekstrom (DTM, reiging ROC champ)

Tom Kristensen (Le Mans, DTM) vs Michael Schumacher (F1)

Jason Plato (BTCC) vs Andy Priaulx (WTCC)

Tanner Foust (drifting) vs Jenson Button (F1)

Troy Bayliss (Superbikes) vs Sebastian Vettel (F1)

Jaime Alguersuari (F3) vs Carl Edwards (NASCAR)

Yvan Muller (WTCC) vs Sebastien Loeb (World Rally)

Each heat is a ‘best of 3’. Tanner Foust is in because Travis Pastrana, star of last year’s event, got injured messing with a motorcross bike during the week. And as mentioned above, Mark Webber is out after injuring himself in an endurance event he organised.


You can watch the ROC live on Sunday from 13:50 GMT (14:50 CET) at and simulcast at a variety of websites including Autosport and Pitpass.
In Britain it will be live on Sky Sports Extra and Sky Sports 3 HD (later there is delayed coverage on British Eurosport).
Across Europe it’ll be live on Eurosport International.
Fans in the US can see it live on Discovery HD.
Further coverage details.

The Nations Cup begins at 14:30 GMT, the Race of Champions gets under way at 17:30 GMT. Each competition is scheduled for two hours and there will be activities before and between the events.

I was at Wembley last year. It was a little over-priced, it was hard to see the drivers, there were big gaps in the crowd and it was VERY cold.
But there were solid reasons for all of these and the organisers have worked to overcome them this year. The new KTM X-Bow is open-topped so you can see the drivers more easily. The prices are lower this year. And the newly-rebuilt Wembley is frikkin’ HUGE (it looks great at night) – you can’t expect to fill a place that size first time out. I hope word of mouth and the lower prices make for increased attendance. I’m not going, I said last year it wasn’t worth going to it every year. Now I kind of wish I was.

You can see my 2007 photos here.

Taking stock

Okay, let’s take stock and see where we are. I don’t mean to be downbeat about all of the crappy news we’ve had over the last six weeks, but I do think it prudent to give a summary of what has changed since the end of the 2008 racing season.

Honda out of F1. Big news for all concerned. Since last week, Honda has claimed they have 3 potential buyers lined up. I’m not sure how likely that is. I hope someone does buy the team and continue, even if they have to make swingeing cuts to survive. If nobody buys it we’re down to 18 cars and dangerously close to the other teams having to field a third car per Bernie’s contracts. Team orders? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Audi out of ALMS and LMS. I’d half-suspected they’d only do the LMS for the one year, the bigger surprise to me is dropping the ALMS almost entirely apart from Sebring. Instead they choose to take a new car to Sebring and Le Mans (and I bet they show up at Petit as well). Methinks Peugeot will win Le Mans.

AGR out of Acura/ALMS and into A1GP. I’m sure if they jumped or if they were pushed, either way you have to think running the A1 car is a significant cost-saving over developing a prototype sportscar – I’m assuming they were helping develop it.

Penske out of ALMS, and seemingly no Porsches at all in P2 in America OR Europe. Weird. In the US someone needs to run a customer car to go against Acura, and in Europe there are are easy wins going begging.

– I was going to mention GT1 collapsing globally, but I think that was happening anyway.

SEAT out of BTCC. This was an announcement a couple of months back. SEAT are out of British Touring Cars, although they seem to be continuing in World Touring. The claim at the time was SEAT UK had met its marketing expectations and had reached the end of the programme. Now we’ve had all these other announcements, I’m not so sure that’s true.

– If any of the US carmakers go under (particularly GM) then it will knock on to racing activities somewhere or other, especially NASCAR but all over the world as well in Aussie V8s (Holden), WTCC (Chevrolet), BTCC (Vauxhall), and who knows where else.

– Don’t forget Super Aguri’s collapse earlier in the year.

There will have been more I’ve missed here (let me know in the comments), and more will unfortunately follow I’m sure.

One thing is very clear. 2009 is going to have a VERY different look.

Don’t get too disheartened though, think of this as a natural correction. Things got way out of hand especially in Formula 1. It’s time for a bit of restructuring before we head into the eco era.

Some good news:

Acura is still moving up to P1 in ALMS as well as running a couple of P2 cars.

– BMW will have a new GT2 car in ALMS which will be run by Rahal/Letterman. A group of BMW’s WTCC drivers have been out at Road Atlanta developing it.

– Audi will have their new R8 GT car out. I saw it marked as a GT3 but I’m sure I’ve seen word of it going into GT2.

More independent/privateer cars entering touring cars and world rally. This is a mixed blessing. Sometimes these teams and/or drivers are delusional no-hopers making up the numbers, yet sometimes it allows an underfunded but otherwise excellent team to take part and prove themselves. I like those guys, I always root for them.

– Honda’s F1 woes will not affect their IndyCar, MotoGP, ALMS interests or any other racing activity.

– IRL will seemingly still get 24+ cars at each round.

We still have shitloads of racing – Too Much Racing for one person to follow, and long may it be so.

Again, let me know of any more good news in the comments.

Sorry for not posting on Friday as promised.

Honda out of F1 with immediate effect?

A few of the F1 news websites are abuzz with talk of Honda pulling out of Formula 1 with almost immediate effect. I must stress at this stage: this is just a rumour.
However, this looks to be more than the frequent will they / won’t they rumours we usually see about Renault. From the tone of the reports it looks as though SOMETHING is up at Honda. Whether that is a budget cut, a sale, or a shut down we just don’t know yet. Anyway, to the reports:

—– is reporting that their US car sales are down 32% (and so was Toyota’s) compared to last year. They are scaling back on production and their plans to build more factories are on ice.
In terms of the F1 team the story includes this note:

On Thursday afternoon we received a flurry of reports that Honda F1 personnel have suddenly started applying for jobs in large numbers. We have been trying to contact Honda Racing F1 this afternoon but have thus far been unable to reach anyone.

The very next story on the site suggests that they are looking to sell the team by Christmas. reports that a sale must be made before March 2009. I would suggest either date to be a very tall order although the Pitpass story suggests they have two potential buyers lined up already. Pitpass also says that Honda won’t supply engines to the new owners.

Again that second story notes of much higher than usual staff movement:

There is no confirmation from any Honda company officials, but teams across Europe are reporting that they have received a rush of applications from Honda F1 personnel in the course of the day. The fact that the team is not responding to requests for statements is a bad sign, as if the rumours are not correct they would need to be killed as quickly as possible.

It should be noted at this point that there is always a fairly big amount of movement between the F1 teams at this time of year among all levels of staff. knows this too, so it must be an unusual pattern for them to comment on it, and a ‘flurry’ in one day is certainly unusual.

The lack of activity from the PR / communications department is highly unusual too, as Honda (along with Renault) usually appear to be among the best at supplying info to the specialist press or TV, at least to my layman eyes.
As says, it may be best to wait a few hours and see what the parent company in Japan says after their business day begins.

My thoughts….

This was a complete surprise to me. That this is supposedly a full pull-out is also a surprise as after seeing the news, I thought they’d at least supply engines to the new owners, even if only for a year or two.

While this might not be big in terms of where the team is on the grid at the moment, this is absolutely huge in terms of a major manufacturer leaving Formula 1 – if indeed they are. I hope that they aren’t because, well, this is Honda! If any car company can turn around the fortunes of a badly performing F1 team then surely that company is Honda.

I also feel for the people at Brackley and other sites. I’ve been through a redundancy, it isn’t a nice experience. I hope this is either a) budget cuts, or b) a sale – and I hope it is not c) a shut down of the team.

The other consideration is this: If this is true and they are pulling out, what does this mean for the IRL and ALMS programmes? Are Honda looking at other savings, or are the costs sufficiently smaller that they are able to continue? ALMS can live without Acura/Honda, the series would be weaker (combined with Penske/Porsche out) but long-term it would get over it. IndyCar would be a different story. That would be a world of hurt.

Anyway. This is all conjecture. Let’s see what the Japanese parent company says on Friday.

Just to be clear, I must stress that these ARE just rumours at this point. I hope the websites aren’t putting 2 + 2 together to get 5. Both are known names in the F1 world and both have sources within it. I trust because they keep their ear to the ground when it comes to the business side of F1. I also know that Pitpass does some fact-checking before posting stories like this.
I strongly advise checking both. also fact-checks but they don’t have anything on this as I type – keep an eye out for something soon.

If it had been a lesser site I wouldn’t have pointed it out. I wasn’t going to post anything at all today as I have an exam in the morning and need to cram like crazy, but this couldn’t wait!

UPDATE @ 23.38 UK – an announcement is due in Japan at 4.30am UK time. The BBC now has a report up citing Reuters, it seems Fry and Brawn told the other teams at the FOTA meeting earlier this week. I’ll post more tomorrow.

Quick update

I’m currently revising for an exam I’m sitting on Friday (taxation, yay!), hence the recent lack of updates. I haven’t watched many of my recordings either. I did see GP2 at the Hungaroring a week ago, which was fairly tedious actually. The only decent racing at the Hungaroring happens when it rains, which is hardly ever. I ignored most of it while I was doing coursework. It was that sort of race. Think IRL at Sonoma, you won’t be far off.

Much more interesting was the Live Fast Racing podcast, and I’m still two behind, I listened to #19 about two days before they released #21. I will catch up! Jeff has one as well now, which I’m looking forward to hearing (sorry for not getting around to it yet).

After this exam I’ll catch up on podcasts and a couple of races, and write the first in a series of ‘top driver’ posts. I haven’t decided whether I’ll do Top Tens or just the ones I think did well, could be 8, could be 11… I mean what if there aren’t ten? Or what if it was a great year and the 11th is actually really good?
What I’d like to do is finish it off with the Top Drivers Of The Year (all series combined), a la the annual Autosport Xmas Bumper Issue. I feel I should do some form of quantitive analysis in Excel, a few years ago I would have. But I think I’ll do this the old-fashioned way – gut feel.

Music recommendation: Sigur Rós – Hoppipola
On condition you only watch that video on a cold night, with lights turned down low, preferably wearing headphones. It might be best to ignore the vid and just listen.

See also:
Untitled 1 [Vaka] and especially Svefn-g-Englar.

There are lots of others, go from there to the tracks page and press the little play buttons, anything at random.

I promise to suggest something more up tempo and rockier next time!