Ten Years Of Too Much Racing

On August 5th, 2018, I reached a milestone:  10 years of blogging!

There have been periods of downtime along the way. On and off, I have been writing words about motor sport for a decade. And soon it’ll be 20 years since I first joined a Formula 1 newsgroup, at age 18 at the end of December 1998, which is where it all began. Now I am 38 and I feel very old.

The Changes Over A Decade

A lot has happened in the last decade. The blog was set up to look at F1, IndyCar, Le Mans and other endurance races, plus whatever else took my fancy.

For one thing the original version was on Blogspot and is still there.

First Blog

In 2008’s Formula 1 season, on the face of it it looks familiar:  the young upstart Lewis Hamilton in a Mercedes-powered McLaren racing the Ferraris of defending champion Kimi Räikkönen and his team-mate Felipe Massa. It would be Hamilton’s first title – and Massa who would take it to the last race and win a legion of fans for his sportsmanship in defeat.

There the similarities end. It was the era of multiple manufacturers:  BMW were still with Sauber with Robert Kubica finishing 4th in points (including a race win). Honda and Toyota both still had their own full F1 teams. Fernando Alonso had gone back to the works Renault team after the “spygate” scandal – and this was the year the “crashgate” scandal would unfold. Tyres were grooved and V8 engines screamed and a lot of us complained it wasn’t as good as slick tyres and V10s.

In IndyCar the reset button had just been pressed. “The Split” of the CART/IRL war was over, the two factions had come together for the 2008 season. As it happened late in pre-season with very little time to prepare, the Champ Car teams had to adapt to the IRL cars in less than a month. They looked hopeless at Homestead-Miami as the IRL teams dominated, then just a week later Graham Rahal won at St Petersburg for Newman/Haas, giving hope to those of us who were on the Champ Car side of the fence.

It was a long road to recovery for IndyCar racing after that and it took a lot longer than I think anybody expected. They’re still travelling that road today. It took arguably until 2016 to really make traction. Now though, you have to say that after 10 years the series is in excellent health and has a bright future. The peak of quality was never in question all along, what’s changed is the depth of quality of both drivers and teams is the highest seen in 20 years. In some neat symmetry, Scott Dixon won the 2008 and 2018 titles. Dare I say this year he’s driving better than I’ve ever seen him. And the current cars are cool too, which wasn’t the case in 2008.

In sports car racing, the continual cycle of boom and bust is never far away from throwing in a curve ball.

In Europe we had the Le Mans Series, five races of 1000km with the Le Mans 24 Hours itself being a non-championship race. Audi and Peugeot went toe to toe in LMP1, a healthy field of privateers scoring podium finishes all year long when any of the lead quartet fell off. LMP2 was dominated by the Porsche Spyder which brought LMP1 engineering and reliability to a class previously renowned for cars breaking down.
We still had the glorious GT1s, Corvette C6 vs Aston Martin DBR9 vs Saleen S7-R. And GT2 was the Pro/Am Porsche vs Ferrari class with cars that were much closer to road-relevance than today’s GTs.

There was a defined route from ‘upgraded road car’ to ‘really mega road car on steroids’ to ‘baby prototype’ to ‘fast prototype’. Today we have ‘a prototype that looks like a GT’, then ‘fast prototype’ to ‘even faster really expensive prototype’. It feels like we’ve lost something along the way. I suppose that’s why LMP3 and GT4 now exist.

The good thing is we now have a World Championship – and we kept the European LMS underneath it so we’ve gained a load of racing. We had a great mini-era of LMP1 Hybrid in the WEC which was a joy to watch. The new era though, it all still needs work. Whatever happens to the WEC and LMP1, down at continental level, I’d argue the ELMS should adopt IMSA’s DPi as its top class.

Over in the US, the IMSA American Le Mans Series was at the height of the battle between a nearly equalised Audi LMP1 and Porsche LMP2. It had a strong GT2 field. And yet a rival series in Grand-Am with its own bespoke cars and NASCAR backing. Peaks and troughs in both series led to a merger for 2014. Lessons were learned from the bumpy and rushed IndyCar merger and the new-era IMSA has worked very hard to solve some tricky problems. That 2014 season was itself bumpy. But the recovery is happening very quickly, aided by the DPi concept of upgrading LMP2 cars and tapping into GTE and GT3 resources.

There is still a risk IMSA will take the backward step of having its own rules, Grand-Am style. They should avoid this and work to share platform with the ACO – even if it means running a “dumbed-down” version of the cars. Maybe it would work as a base platform for IMSA and ELMS, then if you want to go to WEC P1 you add a Special Nifty Widget that makes the car faster. (I specialise in these highly technical solutions.)

And then a wildcard. Formula E was launched. Like a cross between A1GP and Scalextric and the Toronto IndyCar track and a good dose of FIA weirdness. I’ve loved it since it started. Not necessarily for the same reasons as everyone else. I think the eco message has a problem when you jet the cars around the world and power them with generators. The tracks need a bit more space. But the racing is fun and frantic, the talent level is top notch and the future of cars is electric so you might as well have a championship for them now. Though I can’t help feeling it should’ve been a touring car or GT series, maybe a silhouette series with a spec chassis underneath and a manufacturers’ bodyshell to make it look like their road cars.

I don’t even have space to talk about the globalisation of LMP3, GT3, GT4 – and the remarkable TCR. All this has made previously national or regional events accessible to others around the world.

I haven’t even touched on MotoGP which year after year is the best racing around.

There’s an obsession with nostalgia in racing. I happen to think we’re in a golden era right now.

The Future

I know in my head what I want the blog to be. The same as it was in 2008 – short pieces of snippets every few days, intermingled with a lengthy weekly or fortnighly column. The problem is finding the time or the motivation in the depths of the season. You’ll have noticed I stopped the latest project back in July when the summer got too hot!

The goal is to get people to pay attention outside their own bubble, be that the F1 bubble, or the IndyCar bubble, or the sportscar bubble, or even the Formula E bubble these days.

I’ve tried various formats of race report, showing points progression and including race video, but few people read race reports, and I’m wary of video now due to copyright rules. I think the future of this site is in personal comment and reflection.

The racing e-calendars for iCal and Google Calendar will continue. They are laborious at times, yet very popular and a focal point of the blog. I even considered flipping it, so the calendars are front and centre and you had to hunt to find the blog posts.

As for the future of racing? We are in interesting times. We’re going back to the future.

IndyCar has shown the way. The nail-biting close finishes are gone. Instead we have cars visibly difficult to drive. They may not set lap records compared to last year’s very-high-downforce kits, but they do allow a difference between nailing the setup and missing it. Between top driver/team and those further back. And reducing the wake so cars can get close.

F1 needs to follow suit. It can find a way to do this while retaining the fastest cars. It also needs to go back to tyres that allow drivers to go flat out in a race. Cruising around to save super-ultra-hyper-soft tyres isn’t good enough and makes a mockery of changing the cars themselves to be faster.

Sports cars among GT racing is in rude health. They just need to be careful not to spend GT3 out of existence. In the prototypes there’s a golden opportunity lying just ahead, in blending LMP1 with DPi. If they get it right… well, special things could happen.

And Formula E will be the first of many series with what we presently call ‘alternative fuels’. Fast-charging electric cars are coming. Longer-range batteries are already here, with no need to swap cars in the 2019 season. Other electric series are coming. And elsewhere, hydrogen cars are coming.

The rest of the motor sport world needs to pay attention. If Governments are banning cars powered by fossil fuels from sale, how long will it be before they ban racing other than anything emission-free? 40 years? 30? 20?

The change over the next five years could be bigger than the whole of the last ten.

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Preview: 2018 Australian GP

f1 2018

2018 Rolex Australian Grand Prix

Albert Park, Melbourne
Lap Distance:  3.296 miles (5.303 km)
Race Lap Record:  1m24.125 (Michael Schumacher, 2004)

Multiple Total Wins

Australian GP World Championship races (Adelaide 1985-1995, Melbourne 1996-current).

Drivers
4  Michael Schumacher;
3  Jenson Button;
2  Alain Prost, Gerhard Berger, Ayrton Senna, Damon Hill, David Coulthard, Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Sebastian Vettel;

Constructors
11  McLaren;
8  Ferrari;
5  Williams;
3  Mercedes;
2  Renault;

The Australian GP has a history going back to 1928 but didn’t join the F1 championship trail until 1985. It moved to the current Albert Park circuit in 1996.

Last 5 Wins

2017  Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari;
2016  Nico Rosberg, Mercedes;
2015  Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes;
2014  Nico Rosberg, Mercedes;
2013  Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus-Renault;

Set Up

Albert Park is a unique place, it is a parkland track running around a lake yet it is in the middle of city suburbs. It is only used for racing once every year so like Monaco the track changes a lot from Friday to Sunday.

There is also a lot of support race action which is great for fans, one of the best of the year. Australian Supercars events are now full points-paying rounds of the championship for the first time so if you are going, expect some action. There are also GT races and more. But for F1 teams it means rubber from other brands gets laid down, so it can take a few laps for the F1 rubber to come back in. This mixes things up and makes it unpredictable.

With this being the opening round and only two short pre-season tests this season, those being colder than usual, the competitive order hasn’t yet been established. If you are looking for an upset the place to find it is in Melbourne.

It also has that tricky, narrow and fast first corner which always catches people out at the start, so even a driver in form may find himself bundled out of the race straight away.

Then again, as I’ve said in my season preview, there is definitely pecking order as we stand right now.

Bookies have a good idea about these things and this is reflected in the odds for the Australian GP where Hamilton is marked as clear favourite. They think the Mercedes dominance will continue for the season. But don’t let that put you off. Anything can happen at Albert Park and we really don’t know how things will settle until race day, so it is worth a punt elsewhere – at those odds I’ve put a cheeky £5 on Ricciardo to win at home! Bottas is also worth a shout. If you like a little flutter there are some good things out there.

Again it’ll likely be a battle between Hamilton and Vettel. Their team-mates will be in the mix. Ricciardo and/or Verstappen will surely be up there. And what might Alonso do, now he has a Renault engine?

If the first race was somewhere like Bahrain, as your race prediction you might write down the testing results and you’d be mostly right. The beauty of Melbourne is that we could be completely wrong!

My Podium Prediction

1. Hamilton;
2. Vettel;
3. Ricciardo;

I hope to write about all F1 rounds for 2018 along with other championships as well, do check back weekly!

2018 F1 Team By Team Preview

Preview:  2018 FIA Formula 1 World Championship

f1 2018

A Year Of Changes

2018 will see many changes, not least in the presentation of Formula 1, as you can see with the logo above! New owners Liberty Media start their second season and are beginning to make an impact. It’ll take too long to go through it all so here are some bullet points:

  • Increased digital presence, including hiring journalist Will Buxton to present video content across platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
  • That new logo.
  • New theme music, which we’ll probably hear around the podium ceremony.
  • Increased promotion.
  • Change of race start times.

The cars are largely unchanged. The biggest change is the addition of the halo safety device. Opinion is divided of course. The aeroscreen or IndyCar windscreen seem much better options but those haven’t been tested fully – the halo is ready now. The FIA would be open to legal challenge if they had a system ready to go, didn’t install it, and someone got seriously hurt. Really they have no choice but to install it while developing alternatives.

Otherwise the cars still look badass. A 2018 car is basically a 2017 car with a halo and no “shark fin” engine cover. A 2018 car with a halo looks miles better than a 2012 car with those disproportionate front and rear wings. I’ll take a 2018 car every time.

Pirelli have introduced two new tyre specs, the “hypersoft” at one extreme and the “superhard” at the other. Yes, those really are the names. There are further restrictions on “oil burning” (feeding oil into the fuel mixture). And there are changes to the way penalties are awarded. Chain Bear F1 made a good video about it.

Continue reading “2018 F1 Team By Team Preview”

2018 Calendars: VLN

2018 VLN Langstreckenmeisterschaft Nürburgring

VLN

A series of 9 races on the Nürburgring Nordschliefe, including most of the Grand Prix circuit. Races are 4 hours in length, except VLN-5 ‘ROWE 6 Hour ADAC Ruhr-Pokal-Rennen’ which is for 6 hours.

Grids include all sorts of GT and Touring Car machinery from GT3 down to Clio Cup, in one race. The classes – and entrants – are very similar to that of the ADAC 24 Hours Nürburgring, though the race is not run by the VLN and is not part of this series.

Google/iCal Calendar links:   ICAL  -or-  HTML

For more championships click here.

Continue reading “2018 Calendars: VLN”

2018 Calendars: Britcar Dunlop Endurance

2018 Britcar Dunlop Endurance Championship

DEC_Logo

British GT racing series, every round with 2-hour and 50-minute races all on Saturdays, culminating in the ‘Into The Night’ season finale at Brands Hatch.

Google/iCal Calendar links:   ICAL  -or-  HTML

For more championships click here.

Continue reading “2018 Calendars: Britcar Dunlop Endurance”

2018 Calendars: British GT

2018 British GT Series

logo-british-gt

British GT racing series for FIA GT3 and GT4 cars with two drivers per car, these days run by the SRO using Blancpain BoP.

Three race meetings feature 2 x 60 minute races.
Three race meetings feature 1 x 120 minute race.
And the Silverstone 500 is a 180 minute enduro.

Google/iCal Calendar links:   ICAL  -or-  HTML

For more championships click here.

Continue reading “2018 Calendars: British GT”