Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Haus Ten Bosch

Since Danny B. wanted to know if I was done “whining” about the time difference between Japan and Seattle, I was inspired to post the following story I wrote upon my immediate return from the land of the Rising Sun.

Returning to Seattle on October 23rd, I noted to family ‘N friends that I was seeing if I could make my way thru the day and break the long dreaded Jet Lag “jinx,” with that days two flights possibly helping? Leaving Fukuoka at noon and departing Tokyo around 5 PM before arriving in Seattle at 9:20AM the Very SAME DAY!

And many of you may be wondering what my Halloween costume will be this year? But I’ve already got it all picked out as this is a photo of my costume…

Actually it’s a souvenir picture from just “Juan ‘O” my many adventures while staying at Haus Ten Bosch, in Horseland with my MOST EXCELLENT Hosts Tanja & Albin. (Who are from Holland) They have been living & working at Haus Ten Bosch For the past 3 ½ years taking care of the horses on the premises as part of a six person Dutch squad…

And perhaps you’re wondering just what is Haus Ten Bosch, eh? Well it’s a one of a kind Dutch theme park situated in the city of Sasebo.

Sasebo is located in the northwest corner of Kyushu Island, Japan’s southernmost land mass, part of the four main Islands housing Japan’s 128+ million population.

As I’m not really sure how it came about, other than a Japanese resident was so taken by Holland that he thought it’s treasures should be imported to Japan, which ultimately spanned this unique theme park, complete with windmills, dykes, nightly fireworks and even Dutch styled cobblestone streets. And although this link is a bit dated, it gives you a pretty good idea of what the park is like; see Haus Ten Bosch Theme Park.

Yet Haus Ten Bosch is an eternal money loosing operation, having filed for Bankruptcy at least once. Thus the always financially undermined theme park has opened a few new multi-media exhibits this year, with one being the most surreal. As you first stick your head inside a box with a bright shining light and hold very still until a sequence of four multi-coloured lights commences. This is in order to scan your face into the computer…

Of course I messed up the first time, so I had to do it again, as they wish to get the perfect scan of my face for future “mug shots.” (Taking 4 separate pictures of your face, (Which corresponded to the 4 colour sequenced lights) as a female Japanese employee told me I was ok on the second try. Then we waited in the dark for 4 minutes before being ushered upstairs.

Albin & I were allowed to use the elevator instead of having to take the stairs like everybody else to our seats. And a nice Japanese man asked Albin “English?” Thus our headrests with inset speakers translated the soon to begin adventure into English for us.

So just what was this adventure you ask? Well it’s a mythical Space odyssey, (NO, NOT 2010) where everybody in the current theater session is a “bit player” with our faces being “morphed” into the animated space movie…

And as the show began Albin said “There’s me. And there’s you!” As we both appeared momentarily on the screen together… Unfortunately we were located in the very last row at the very top of the theater, which means I couldn’t make out anybody’s faces… Although I could see the body shapes and follow the story. And Albin kept a running total of my on-screen cameo’s. Which numbered five as well as me speaking Japanese fluently without any accent Albin announced!

Later he claimed I was a central figure in the movie and suggested my role was a “Guardian” helping against the “Bad Guys.”

Then at the very end the walls turned into towering “flat screens” as the whole theater became a humongous movie screen with the entire theater’s cast standing in line in our space suits looking directly at us, before the show ended while we awaited our return journey.

Although I told Tanja & Albin I wasn’t impressed with the overall movie theme, as we’d gone off into space to allow the Earth Restoration Robots to repair Mother Earth that we’d previously DESTROYED before finally returning home. As I commented to Albin; “But will there be anything left to return too?”

Then we were allowed exclusive use of the elevator once more before walking next door to retrieve the “Guardian’s” Star Gazer mug shot. And why yes that’s me in my “Make My Day” pose… As I was waiting for the frilling second scan to be taken…

“To Infinity and Beyond!”

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

India Forcing its way into F1

Not surprisingly the World Motor Sport Council has approved Spyker F1’s name change to Force India F1 for the 2008 season. Thus allowing Indian co-owner Vijay Mallya to capitalize upon future marketing opportunities.

Its worth noting that Mallya is the head of India’s two Grand Prix organizations which the FIA has forced to merge together by the end of this December in order to hopefully smooth the way towards seeing the scheduled 2009 Indian GP take place.

Mallya has installed a former United Breweries executive at Spyker to monitor the teams finances with T.V. Lakshmi Kanthan being appointed after spending 23 years with UB, while currently serving as UB’s British Finance Director.

And surprisingly Toyota’s Jarno Trulli is expected to be one of the four drivers testing in November for Force India’s second seat. This despite Trulli reportedly having inked a further one year contract with Toyota, while his more expensive teammate Ralfanso (R. Schumacher) seems to have the inside track to the seat while Sakon Yamamoto and Vitantonnio Luzzi will also take part in the shoot out…

Spyker scores first point

As the various members of the International BAR Association (Nee, Lawyers; or as Marc of FT fondly refer’s to them as Shyster’s) stay increasingly busy shuffling between multiple cases being heard by the FIA Appeals courts, another has failed.

With Scuderia Toro Rosso’s appeal of Vitantonnio Luzzi’s 25 second penalty for passing Adrian Sutil under a yellow flag in the Japanese GP being dismissed. With the court in question rejecting STR’s argument, thus Sutil’s single point for 8th place stands. This means that Spyker F1 has broken its Duc and now all eleven Constructors’ have garnered World Championship points this season.

Monday, October 29, 2007

A1 GP TV Schedule correction

Once again I’ve fallen prey to the lure ‘O posting TV Times for potential viewing. Last year I usually found the A1 GP DELAYED Broadcasts being played in the middle of the night or wee hours ‘O Morning, i.e.; Midnight – 2AM Pacific time...

So naturally I just ASSUMED this was the standard practice for this years television broadcasts. And y’all know what happens when yuhz ASS-Ume some-thun, eh? Oh Yeah, Uh-huh… Just checked the TV times once again prior to programming the trusty ‘ol VCR and wallah!

The Czech A1 GP broadcast is slated for 9AM Pacific…

So I’ll skip the TV times in the future…

A1 GP TV Schedule


”Ro-Ro...”


OOPS! For those of you interested, this is a little bit late as I’ve missed posting prior to the A1 GP Season kick-off… Having apparently missed SPEED’s EXTREMELY (Tape) Delayed airing of the season opening round in Zanport on Sept. 30th.

Yet while those ‘lil Gouls ‘N Goblin’s are continually ringing the doorbell, I’ll be sequestered in front of the “Telescreen” watching’ the late night airing of the previously contested second round of the A1 GP series, while this weekend’s originally noted TBA event has been scrapped…

Here’s SPEED’s TV info (EASTERN TIME)

Czech Republic
Wed, Oct 31 12:00PM (Noon)

Malaysia
Thu, Dec 6 12:00PM (Noon)

China
Thu, Dec 27 12:00PM (Noon)

Constructor roe

Constructor-Constructor what’s your function? Err, Casey Jones better slow down! Yeah, I’m still a bit loopy from my “Jet Ragg!” Not to be confused with… Oh, never mind!

And I’m still trying to play “Ketsup” over the last two weeks of Motorsports fodder as well as watch all of the Brazilian Grand Prix action along with the Surfers Paradise Champ Car race.

Meanwhile prior to leaving for Japan, the International Court of Appeals announced two upcoming court appointments. First Scuderia Toro Rosso was appealing Vitantonnio Luzzi’s 25 second time penalty that cost him eighth place at Fuji. This was set to be heard on Oct. 12.

Secondly, and far more important is the Oct. 25th date set to hear Williams assertion that Prodrive is NOT a legal entity for the upcoming 2008 Formula 1 season under the guise of customer chassis.

This court date ties in nicely with current speculation over what would happen in the never ending schumozzle of chassis cloning, of which the Spyker team brought to light at the start of the 2007 Formula 1 campaign Down Under.

Perhaps you recall Spyker claiming that Scuderia Toro Rosso and Super Aguri’s race cars weren’t legal under the current Concorde agreement, the sports governing document for all team entrants.

This was due in large part to the nefarious loop holing techniques both squads employed, with Gerhard Berger telling Spyker to go bleep itself! As Berger claimed that the chassis were designed by a “third” party, while Super Aguri utilized a satellite design company to tweak the prior season’s Honda chassis.

And although I assumed this cat fight was over due to the financial enticements Spyker has enjoyed via the FIA’s prize money restructuring along with Super Aguri sending Guido Van der Garde and Sakon Yamamoto to Holland… Nevertheless the issue has not been settled, as the matter was previously scheduled to go to the Court of Arbitration.

This issue has been languishing on the entire season, with reports that Sir Frank Williams is also less then impressed with the Max Mosley proposed customer chassis being eligible beginning in 2008 as the current Concorde agreement expires on December 31st.

Yet it appears extremely unlikely that all of the current Constructors will be in agreement on this issue, which would see the Concorde agreement simply rolling over for another season, This of course would cause big headaches for Emperor Bernardo, Max “Whipping Boy” Mosley and the FIA, as Prodrive is scheduled to become the Formula 1’s twelfth entrant next year. And Bernie claims that David Richards already has the $48 million entry bond secured, along with a brand new title sponsor. Prodrive is reputed to pay McLaren $100 million for a supply of 2008 turn key chassis which of course would be in direct conflict of the Concorde agreement!

And I firmly agree with Spyker, Williams and Professor Matchett that part of the lure of Formula 1 is that ALL teams MUST create their own chassis… Instead of becoming a watered down version of Spec car racing!

Yet with that said one must recall that McLaren ran separate F1 teams in 1974 with a satellite operation known as Yardley Team McLaren, which was spun off after being the teams title sponsor from 1972-73.

In 1974 Emerson Fittipaldi claimed his second F1 Driver’s title with Marlboro Team Texaco, McLaren’s new moniker. Emmo’s teammate was 1968 World Champion Denny Hulme.

while Yardley Team McLaren ran a solo chassis for Mike “The Bike” Hailwood, with guest appearances by David Hobbs and Jochen Mass. While a one-off entry was made for Dave Charlton entered as the Lucky Strike Scuderia Scribante in the South African Grand Prix. (1974-75)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Another day in Court

In what seems to be the “Year of Appeals;” A court date has been set for McLaren’s latest Appeal over fuel temperature irregularities discovered after the Brazilian Grand Prix. BMW Sauber and Williams fuel rigs were found to be below the mandated minimum temperature variance, yet the Brazilian Stewards dismissed this rules infraction.

Thus the revolving door of appearances before the “Now serving #43” International Court of Appeals will squeeze in Ron Dennis on November 15th for a token visit.

FIA “Whipping Boy” Max Mosley has made the following comments regarding this matter:

“For us the World Championship is over – the result is what it is,” he said. “A team presented an appeal; at the moment, this doesn’t change anything – it’s up to them to prove they are right.”Mosley also addressed the question of whether or not McLaren has the right to appeal the decision, given that the team did not protest the results of the Brazilian Grand Prix.“You could argue whether McLaren had a right to appeal,” he said. “They could have protested the result, but they didn’t. Apparently they didn’t measure the temperature of the fuel.“But, even if the cars classified ahead of Hamilton would be excluded, would this change his position? The Court of Appeal will have to rule on that.”

Thus I sincerely hope that these nefarious proceedings will NOT reverse Raikkonen



FAIRLY WINNING the 2007 Driver’s title…

Ferrari re-signs Massa

As I’ve been blathering on about the ridiculousness of Alonso going to Scuderia Ferrari in 2008, Maranello has finally announced the re-signing of Felipe Massa.

Massa will remain a Prancing Horse pilot until the end of 2010 alongside 2007 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen.

Thus as I’ve also previously noted, the most logical choice for “Ferdi the Putz” in 2008 is Renault, with scuttle butt suggesting a swap with McLaren for Heikki Kovalanen? I’m still guessing that Nico Rosberg will land the vaunted McLaren seat alongside Lewis Hamilton. Kovalenen will partner Ferdi and Nelson Piquet Jr. will take over Rosberg’s seat at Williams…

Thursday, October 25, 2007

(The Iceman Cometh


(The Kimster - SMILING! WTF? Source: f1fanatic.co.uk)

Having watched the Brazilian Grand Prix race replay Wednesday morning while awaiting delivery of multiple copies of the most recent F1 and Champ Car races from Captain Kirk, I was gleefully overjoyed to watch Kimi Raikkonen UNEXPECTEDLY claim his very first F1 Driver’s World Championship!

And although you’ll possibly surmise that I’m simply jumping upon the Kimster bandwagon, I can assure you that I’ve been a zealous fan of the Iceman since first bursting upon the scene in 2001.

Although at that time I was still a reverent Michael Schumacher supporter, yet was drawn to the Iceman’s abilities as I’d done so a previous decade earlier with the arrival of a young German driver’s debut at Jordan Grand Prix during the Belgian GP weekend.

Although undoubtedly one of the best racing drivers I’ve ever seen behind the wheel, my dedication to Herr Schumacher seemed to wane in his final seasons after witnessing him break Juan Manuel Fangio’s insurmountable five Formula 1 Driver’s World Championships… As I seem to be drawn to aspiring new talents seeking to upset the apple cart of the F1 driver hierarchy.

So it was funny how I was captivated by the passing of the Finnish torch that late autumn day at Indianapolis, as Mika Hakkinen would score his very final Grand Prix victory while the rookie Raikkonen retired his Sauber upon crashing on lap two.

Recall that Kimi’s arrival in Formula 1 was greeted with much skepticism, having only contested a total of 23 car races prior to being reluctantly granted a FIA Super License under the auspices of a four race probationary period.

Peter Sauber’s defiant hiring of the young Finn also caused much unrest between his then primary backer, none other than the Barron “Deeter Majestic” (Red Bull) whom was adamant against the Kimster’s employment in favour of his “hired gun,” Enrique Bernoldi. As Barron Deeter wished to see the Sauber test driver promoted to race driver status for the upcoming season.

Yet Sauber’s decision to choose the unknown Finn over Bernoldi ultimately saw his primary sponsor (Red Bull) sell its team shares to Credit Suiss, with Bernoldi landing a race seat at Arrows Grand Prix alongside Jos “The BOSS” Verstappen…

Does anybody remember this Brazilian driver? Whose greatest achievement in F1 was holding up McLaren’s David Coulthard for over 30+ laps in the “Hunga-Boring” race.

Meanwhile Raikkonen and teammate “Quick Nick” Heidfeld gave Peter Sauber his best Constructor’s results, finishing fourth overall, while Heidfeld out qualified Raikkonen 10-7 that season. Ironically Heidfeld was a contracted Mercedes Benz driver hired out to Sauber, while the Kimster would be picked as Mika Hakkinen’s replacement at McLaren-Mercedes in 2002.

And I recall watching Kimi potentially loose the driver’s crown in his sophomore season to Herr Schumacher, who pinched the Iceman off track after he’d encountered some “slippery liquids” on track while leading, thus allowing Schumacher to capture his fifth driver’s crown upon winning at Magny Cours.

But Kimi was a quick study, as I recall seeing him perform the same cut-throat maneuver on Juan Pablo Montoya the following year at the same French track enroute to his maiden Grand Prix victory!

And as David Hobbs would claim upon an amazing bonsai qualifying lap, the Kimster NEVER lifted while hurtling into a wall of black engine smoke from the previous car’s engine going “Kablamoe!” Thus causing “Hobbo” to exclaim that Raikkonen has some seriously large attachments…

And I’d have to say one of my favourite maneuvers of the Kimster was his electrifying outside pass of Giancarlo Fisichella on the very last lap of the 2005 Japanese Grand Prix. Seeing Kimi steal the victory from a totally gutted “Fishy Fella.” This along with Raikkonen unexpectedly jumping onto a friend’s yacht in the Monaco harbour and reportedly falling off the ship later upon sipping some Don Perryton…

And the Iceman has always been quick; hell I believe he’s the quickest “shue” in formula 1… Although Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa may disagree…

And upon becoming the dark horse candidate for the driver’s title with the emergence of McLaren’s “Ferdi & Louise” show, Raikkonen never gave up and scored six victories enroute to his maiden World Champion driver’s crown…

Talk about your ultimate birthday present, as the Kimster turned 28 on October 17th. With the cameras repeatedly focusing upon ex-double World Champion Mika Hakinen on hand to witness his protégé’s unbelievable triumph, makes you wonder if Kimi will invite Mika to his celebration party? Of course Hakkinen does have easy access to an unlimited supply of Johnny Walker…

Congratulations, Kimi!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Matched out!

? Funny how this title speaks volumes to me right now, as I’m still experiencing the heavy duty “Spin Cycle ‘O Jet Legg… (Doesn’t anyone wanna shed a tear for me?) Now let’s see… Japan = +17 hours. Carry the 5, subtract 3, divide by 2.125… Err, what day is it? Oh never mind!

And alas, I’ve just finished watching SPEED’s re-airing of this past weekend’s Brazilian GP, so now it’s fairly safe to wander the internets, although I’m obviously way behind over the past two weeks motorsports news… Including the interesting tidbits regarding BMW Sauber and WilliamsToyota race fuel temperatures being too low.

Previously while hangin’ about Chez Sadie Manor; Geez that seems so long ago, yet time flies by when you’re havin’ you know what? Thus while in New York I overheard SPEED’s Professor Matchett extrap-O-latin’ over his recent visit to The Glen!

During the Italian GP Friday practice session, Steve (“Professor”) Matchett chimed in while Bob Varsha was talking about Lake Como in the distance: “Speaking of rolling hills…” Over the previous weekend he’d been invited to Watkins Glen for his very first time by the Empire State & New England regions of the Ferrari Club of America. The event was superb and all of the spectators and participants there were adamant fans of Formula 1.

Matchett then confessed a new found respect for drivers while Varsha said quick get a tape recorder for David Hobbs…
(That’s why I’m saying this now…) Claiming how many hundreds of times he’d pulled, yanked and forced drivers into their six point harnesses. But when the shue was on the other foot and his friend had offered him a ride around The Glen aboard a Ferrari 360 Modena Challenge Car… And the Helmet had been affixed, he became claustrophobic… And told his friend “NO DICE!!!” I have to get out now…

To which guest host and ex-driver Townsend Bell replied that he preferred having the belts synched as tight as possible in order to feel completely secure with no flex in his movements along with feeling the carbon seat and chassis. Saying there was no better feeling to him then being strapped in!

Geez, I’d Killed for a chance to ride around Watkins Glen in that 360 Challenge car, while I guess Matchett would have never tried riding around Indy in the Sinden 2X Seater, eh?

Hey Matchett, I think Scott “Nose” Speed needs some help with his belts!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Home sweet home

Otay, so it’s the price “Juan” must pay for frolicking about the globe, as I’ve just returned from another very enjoyable trip abroad…

And did you guess where I’ve been? As I think I made it pretty obvious with all of the recent scribblings about Japan. Yep, that’s right! I’ve just visited the land of the Rising Sun with stops in Sasebo, Tokyo, Nagoya, Nagasaki and Fukuoka …

And I found it HILLARIOUS that I would be arriving home 2 hours, 40 minutes PRIOR to LEAVING Fukuoka, Japan on the SAME DAY…

Having spent the past two weeks completely devoid of ALL electronic media, I’m still unaware of the previous weekend’s race outcomes… And will try avoiding the lure ‘O ze internets in hopes of obtaining the BRA-Zillian GP & Surfers Paradise Chump Carzs races from Captain Kirk shortly?

Special thanks to my most helpful Blog Meister for manning the tiller while I was away in the Orient.

More stories to follow, as soon as I remember how to use this blast it confuzer… As my wonderful hosts in Sasebo might say, right now I’ve got two LEFT hands. As well as having lifted off from Tokyo at 1:23AM Pacific Coast time…

Which seems destined to be followed by a little Jet Lag, eh? And what the HELL! It’s even SUNNY here today, sayonara…

Super Aguri dumping Honda?

Although a little late, it was tough watching “Jense” get passed by Taku-san going uphill during the Belgian Grand Prix. Talk about how the mighty have fallen! As the Honda factory team was once again out performed by the minuscule “Super Best friends Which is tough for me since I enjoy seeing the little minnow beat up on its Big Brother, but an disappointed to see Jense struggling so mightily!

Perhaps this is why its NOT surprising that Super Aguri has announced that they have NO intentions of running the woefully anemic RA107 in 2008 guise as the teams SA08 chassis, instead focusing upon developing their own race car next season. This comes on the heels of cyberspace rumours of Honda scuttling Super Aguri’s true performance at Spa!

But wait, I thought next year was the beginning of legalized chassis cloning. Hence Honda would build four chassis for use by its two racing teams.

Meanwhile Aguri Suzuki continues looking for possible suitors to become partners of his financially struggling F1 team. With rumours claiming that prior to the Japanese Grand Prix there were four potential bidders interested in buying a portion of the team.

And although I couldn’t find any information prior to watching the Chinese Grand Prix, SPEED’s bob Varsha mentioned on two separate days that a “Mysterious”
(Chinese?) Businessman had invested substantial capital to buy shares of Super Aguri. If the rumours are correct, then perhaps an announcement will be forthcoming at the Brazilian Grand Prix?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Suzuka, 2004 (Part 3)



Sunday, 10/10

Awakening too early (5:40AM) we went back to sleep before arising @ 6AM. We hastily depart for the racetrack around 6:45AM. Turning onto the first main street leading to the circuit, I’m amazed by the amount of people walking towards the track. A few blocks later we encounter heavy traffic.
Clyde drops us off at the main entry gate around 7:20AM, where we’ll wait until he arrives from parking the van.

Once again the main entry gate is packed with people hoping to catch a glimpse of drivers or team members entering the circuit. One policeman is constantly urging pedestrians to clear the entryway. Another policeman paces in front of us, preventing cyclists from chaining their bicycles along the fence and blocking the sidewalk.

When a team van arrives, hoards of bodies rush the barricade. Cameras flashing madly as young girls scream gleefully. The popping flashbulbs create a true paparazzi effect. The traffic is so bad that some team’s members simply walk on foot into the circuit. Clyde arrives and we join the massive crowd entering the facility.

Inside the main gate a sea of bodies is moving in all directions. Clyde asks if I wish to view the Mercedes exhibit. We join the line viewing the 3 cars on display. Facing downward @ 45 degrees, Kimi Raikkonen’s race car juts towards us. The McLaren F1 show car is sandwiched by 2 “Up-Scale” Mercedes 4 door “saloons” Backing our way out of the stream of bodies we angle towards the Ferrari display.

There's another large crowd hovering about the Ferrari booth. A Ferrari F1 chassis towers horizontally above the masses mounted on a billboard as we continue walking towards the second entry gate. Shuffling through the line we flash our tickets before proceeding towards the actual ticket takers gate. Interestingly there are never any searches of backpacks, bags or personal belongings performed as we trudge forward into the actual circuit. With the massive throng of spectators it would take forever to accomplish this!

Walking inside the packed circuit for 20 minutes, we turn at a stairway leading to grassy stepped general admission seating. Unfortunately the typhoons deluge has doused the entire facility grounds. Walking through the slick and muddy grass is questionable at best.

We slither our way down the stairs and along the track fence before finding an open patch of grass seating. Under cloudy skies we arrange our plastic tarp on the muddy ground, eating breakfast at 8AM while patiently waiting for the first qualifying session. More spectators arrive oozing their way past us along the straightaway seating while safety cars circulate on track.
The racetrack’s relative serenity is broken by the barking high pitched shrill of a lone Formula One engine. At 9AM sharp the first car rolls onto the circuit to begin provisional qualifying.

Sounds of screaming RPM’s continue growing as the accelerating race car approaches the uphill portion of track directly opposite us. The sound bleeds off momentarily while the car completes the far away corners. Suddenly the shrieking red missile hurtles past us quickly accelerating to maximum RPM’s!

Disappearing as quickly as it arrived on its warm-up lap, the speeding driver prepares to start his single qualifying lap! Clyde mentions seeing a cloud of spray misting into the sky along the front straight as the Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello continues his second flying lap.

“Rubeenoe” screams past us with the Ferrari’s engine wailing at 19,000 RPM’s. Shortly after a second car blazes past on it’s warm-up lap. Its Jenson Button’s BAR-Honda, having a slightly different engine note, the Honda engine is rumoured to be exceeding 19,200 RPM’s. While “Jense” accelerates into full qualifying mode, Rubens saunters by dramatically slower on his cool down lap. Kimi Raikkonen’s McLaren Mercedes-Benz appears next on track as the single car qualifying proceeds. The twenty car grid will each complete three laps prior to inverting the order for final qualifying.

Since I only partially know the qualifying order, Clyde asks who was that. What number was it Clyde? Responding I don’t know, there TOO DAMN FAST! It was a green car. I attempt identifying the remaining chassis by colour…

Unaccustomed to running 12th, Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari appears to be much quicker then the rest of the field. After the Yellow car runs its cool down lap the sickly sounding Minardi approaches. Being the lowest budget team on the grid they soldier on with inferior equipment. Sadly the Minardi’s are running 3yr old Ford-Cosworth engines which are detuned for reliability, peaking at a lowly 17,500 RPM’s.

While the clouds start burning off during the 10 minute break between sessions a Formula One chassis passes by dangling on the end of a tow truck’s hook. Poor DC (David Coulthard) I gleefully rejoice once Clyde informs me that it’s a McLaren. With the track now ready for action, the “slowest” car takes to the circuit (Slow being a relative term for F1!) Of course the 2 Minardi’s are first, ultimately ending up some 4 seconds slower then pole position. Clyde & I continue our what colour was that routine, surprised to see a Ferrari this early in the order (15th) prior to the “heavy-hitters.”

There’s a great roar of applause as local countryman Takuma Sato completes his flying lap. Running last, Michael Schumacher scores his 63rd pole!

Afterwards Clyde & I depart in search of restrooms and explore the track. Nearing the top of the muddy crowded stairway we come to a complete stop as bodies jam every open space.
Waiting impatiently, Clyde finally forces his way through by shoving past the idly conversing Japanese unwilling to move aside.

Shortly after Clyde spots a row of “Honey-Buckets” at the bottom of a small hill, managing to slide myself down the embankment, we slop through the mud towards a long line. Standing in line opposite the honey-buckets is a row of stalls without doors. Clyde tells me, here ASSHOLE use this one.

I skeptically step into the open door booth thinking something’s really strange about this? Unzipping my fly as I prepare to go to the bathroom Clyde suddenly says; “it’s a sink!”

Trampling through the mud we rejoin the main pathway to explore the various vantage points. The path is completely swamped by hoards of spectators. Scanning the crowd I spot several black & white BAR-Honda Takuma Sato baseball caps being worn.

Walking past a series of curves we discover that every seat is taken. This year the Spoon curve is absolutely jam-packed! After trying to watch the Formula Dream race that’s been Red flagged we decide we’d better go back to our seats.

The pathway has become even more constricted with spectators forcing us to abandon the path and walk through the mud in many places.
Several times I heard people say Santa Claus as Clyde passed by…
After trying to leave the track and missing our stairway, we come to a complete halt in a sea of unmoving bodies. Uncertain of our location Clyde scurries for the first stairway that looks semi-familiar.

Once again we’re forced to shove our way down the stairs as I’m pushed forward by those behind me. I manage to only step on 3 feet while slewing my way down the muddy staircase. Trying to slither my way along the track fence line through the mud, the over-filled row of Japanese spectators nervously monitor my progress. Attempting to not step on anybody I finally fall down on one knee. Knocking over a small folding chair before Clyde instructs me to just start walking on their tarps! Nearing the end of the row Clyde discovers that we’re now at the correct stairway!

Rejoining Nellie almost 3hrs later, she asks where did we go? As all the Formula One cars complete their final warm-up laps, Nellie informs us we missed the driver parade. They’d come by on the back of a classic truck we’d seen being brought in that morning. After a brief pause, the twenty F1 cars left in unison to complete the parade lap.

The cars slowly approached in their typical zigzag swerving motion to scrub and put heat into the tires. The unique aspect of this lap was that almost every car stopped directly in front of us. The obnoxious ratchet sounds of traction control screamed in protest as tire squealing burnouts proceeded as the smell of burnt rubber wafted overhead!

Two women sit next to me with their heads covered by towels, one using her program as a shade against the now blazing sun while awaiting the start.

The scintillating sound of twenty unbridled F1 engines dizzily revving as the drivers anxiously awaited the red lights going out droned over the circuit. The banshee wail of the twenty angry hornets feverishly increased as the cars past us on the first lap. It was amazing to see that Michael Schumacher had already opened a gap on the second place car, which I incorrectly assumed was Juan Pablo Montoya. Thus the Schumacher brothers were having their own “rubber match.”

Behind Michael and Ralfanso ran a four car Japanese freight train as the two Honda’s and two Toyota’s ran in lock step, while the Ferrari and Williams continued to pull away from the rest of the field. As the sun blazed down upon us Michael Schumacher continued stretching his advantage every single lap. Once I counted a 14 second gap over second place with 21 seconds over the third place car!

Dominating the race, Clyde inquired if I wanted to go view the action from other areas? I declined, citing that I didn’t wish to fall in the mud again (prophetically spoken) as the race neared its end we decided to finally change location with Clyde helping me down to the fence line. While Clyde went back for Nellie I proceeded to land firmly on my caboose! Picking myself up, Clyde & Nellie arrived to see me clutching the fence with both hands completely covered in mud.

Unknowingly we reached the top of the stairs as the race ended with Michael Schumacher leading flag to flag! Capturing his 13th VICTORY of the season (84th career victory)

We slogged our way over to a sink where Nellie tried to wipe some of the mud off of my behind before leaving the circuit. Rejoining the overwhelming departing crowd we became engulfed in a sea of non moving bodies. And although the mammoth crowd was constantly shoving forward while trying to hasten their exit, little progress was made. We continued our slow march of being pushed along 15-20 minutes before the solitary pathway splintered into multiple paths.

After a ½ hour of walking we neared the empty ticket taker’s gate where Clyde noticed a Toyota F1 car on display. We quickly looked over the chassis surrounded by fans as a kid was having his photo taken with Clyde remarking how small the car was…

Nearing the main gate’s exit the crowd became mammoth again being forced to wait as police controlled traffic. Corralled like animals in a pen, the shoving spectator’s intensity increased before being released. Sprung like a bottled cork the massive pulsating sea of bodies overflowed onto the single four lane road scattering like crazed ants.

For several blocks we walked briskly in the road as the gauntlet of pedestrians, moped’s and motorcycles overwhelmed the slow moving traffic. While some of the masses headed for the nearby train station, we continued following Clyde’s hectic pace towards the van. Jumping in at 5PM, there was no time for me to change clothes as we needed to leave Suzuka ASAP.

Of course traffic was still horrendous as people continued streaming past the slow moving vehicle lanes. Trying to find the road out of Suzuka became quite challenging. As we lost the route sign once again, detouring onto side streets before reconnecting and noticing a huge line of traffic,

Then Clyde attempted taking the scenic route. Suddenly we ended up following a procession of vehicles driving further and further into a residential district. Retracing our steps, we drove in circles looking for any road signs with names of vaguely familiar cities.

After two hours of harried driving Clyde finally located an expressway entrance leading to Osaka, proclaiming we’re OK now!
The vans annoying warning bell chimed for the next few hours as Clyde pegged the speedometer above 140K. Wishing to get as far past Osaka as possible without getting lost in the city (last year) Clyde sailed past the city’s center via the expressway before Finally relenting for petrol and food as we exited the expressway at 10PM.

Replenishments accomplished, Clyde re-entered the expressway to click off more kilometers. With no Monkey-Davidson & empty jerry cans the three of us settled down to sleep nestled in the rear of the van in a farmer’s field around 12:30AM, approx. half way home…

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Suzuka, 2004 (Part 2)



Saturday 10/09

Waking up as Yasushi prepares to go to work we go back to sleep. Waking up several times to the sound of rain, after eating we finally get up around 11AM just prior to Yasushi returning.

Clyde asks if we can take the motorcycle to his shop now. Prior to leaving Clyde spots a large rainbow coloured puddle underneath the van. Following Yasushi in the rain the vans automatic transmission begins slipping and straining to make it’s up shifts. Clyde casually says I hope we can make it to his shop?

Upon arriving we’re greeted by Yasushi’s small Pug (?) that is guarding the building while backing into the shop to unload the “Monkey-Davidson,” Turning around to park the van partially inside to get out of the rain a fresh dark circle of transmission fluid is spotted on the shop floor.

Spotting Yasushi’s “boom-box” Clyde asks if he can put CD’s in? With the tunes cranked Clyde begins jacking up the van to drain the transmission fluid before unbolting its pan.

Examining the thin gage aluminum pan Clyde discovers that along with a few cracks he’s punched a hole through it after driving over the concrete block! Trying to have Yasushi find a wrecking yard with spare parts is hopeless. Since Yasushi makes custom fiberglass parts at his shop, Clyde asks FRP?

Clyde & Yasushi proceed to clean sand and apply FRP to the pan. A heat lamp is placed underneath the pan, requiring an hour to cure. Clyde & Yasushi leave in search of transmission fluid. Finally returning, Clyde is thrilled over the tortures of trying to find fluid! As the rain turns to intermitted drizzle Clyde reinstalls the newly patched pan and adds fluid. A quick road test is made as the sun begins to come out.

With the transmission shifting harder now, we leave to find more fluid after arranging to meet Yasushi at his apartment for dinner at 8PM.

We drive around town searching for tranny fluid, finally finding a gas stand that also services automobiles. After explaining to the supervisor our dilemma, two attendants wheel out a large contraption that pumps fluid. Another 2 liters are required to bring the fluid level back to normal. While there, Clyde has the gas tank topped off along with checking the badly under inflated tires…. The supervisor wants to check the pan, but Clyde explains how Yasushi has fibre glassed it.

Leaving the station around 3:45PM, driving into bright sunlight we pass Suzuka circuito to see if anything’s happening at the track? We’re very happy staying at Yasushi’s after noticing the large influx of campers and how miserable they must have been... Of course we still have no idea of how to get to Yasushi’s. Driving around in circles Nellie tells Clyde that’s the second time we’ve passed the small shrine in the park. Lost in Suzuka,

A few hours later we end up at the Ocean…
Parking opposite the sea wall, we take a stroll along the ocean. Spotting a stairway we step over the sea wall, taking the short steps down to the beach. Walking over the soft ground I notice garbage strewn about. In front of us lays a giant mound of harvested clam shells. Clyde gets his feet wet while examining the empty shells Nellie & I scurry to escape the incoming ocean waves.

Afterwards we continue driving around Suzuka searching for Yasushi’s, finally returning around 7PM. Yasushi asks if it’s ok for his girlfriend to go to dinner with us? To which Clyde replies; As long as you drive!

Sitting in back Clyde tells Erie, I’m Clyde, this is Nellie. And pointing at me he says that’s “ASSHOLE!” Erie repeats very hesitantly, “Ass-Hole?”

Yasushi drives us to a Viking’s restaurant on the outskirts of Suzuka. In the restaurant Clyde asks Yasushi why there’s so many Spaniards. They’re Brazilians; they work at the Honda factory. (Near by Suzuka circuito) After passing the factory on the way home, Clyde & I try asking Yasushi what type of industrial complex are we passing? Oil refinery we’re told, discovering that Suzuka has a sea port.

Continuing my conversation with Yasushi, I ask him about motorcycle racing. (Yasushi races 600CC “scooters” at Suzuka) We talk about Valentino Rossi. Yasushi explains how Honda won the last round. Shortly afterwards Yasushi stops in front of his favourite store, the local Ducati dealership…

Returning to Yasushi’s we say our good by’s. Yasushi leaves with Erie to walk the dog he’s babysitting for a friend. We go to bed early in anticipation of our big day of Formula 1 ahead!


To continue reading, see: Suzuka, 2004 (Part 3)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Suzuka, 2004


Having spent the previous days traveling about the Japanese countryside with our esteemed tour guide Steve, Tanja, Alvin and I have all turned in for the evening at Steve’s rental flat in Fukuoka...
Thursday, 10/07After our morning coffee, we set off for Steve’s workplace. The walk was quite pleasant as we passed through the nearby park. The park’s lake is surrounded by a 2K padded jogging trail. There’s also room for walking/bicycling with several workout stations. Steve pointed out that the large tent/awning structures were for the homeless.

After passing a remnant of an old castle wall, we past an ancient moat now filled with plant life. Nearing the busy city, I rejoined my friend’s. (The bumps) Steve left us for breakfast at an all you can eat buffet while he ran errands with the van. As we finished breakfast seated outside, Steve pulled up. He took us to a Japanese garden. A traditional style house overlooking a small lake and nearby waterfall nestled on an isolated hectare in the center of Fukuoka. Tanya fed the multitude of quite large carp as we walked through the open-air house. After passing the waterfall, crossing the small stone footbridge we stopped to view a couple having wedding pictures taken inside the house. Dressed in traditional white kimono & black tux, our viewing was cut short by an invasion of mosquitoes. Sitting in the parking lot waiting for Steve to return, Tanya made the comment of how funny their visa’s are. We’re called Aliens… This launched Alvin am me into a “Deep” discussion about Aliens, Roswell, Area 51 and UFO’s.

Steve drove us back to get our belongings from his flat before we said our goodbyes. Giving us directions out of the city, we set off for Sasebo. After driving along the coast past Karatsu with the castle in the distance, we stopped for petrol. Later we stopped at a convenience store for drinks and make change in case we spotted the Hamburger bus.
Standing outside the store we noticed a strange smell. The pungent odor came from a man standing in front of a large metal bucket belching black smoke, as the man was busily burning the store’s gomi. Japan burns all “recyclables.” (i.e.; plastic, paper, cardboard, etc) Never finding our lunch stop we continued non-stop to Sasebo, arriving around 4PM. Tanya & Alvin walked back to Hausten-Bausch, while I prepared for the next leg of my journey. As Clyde, Nellie & I were supposedly departing for Suzuka early that evening!

Clyde & Nellie arrived at 5PM. Nellie made me lunch while Clyde drove the van to Fukuda’s to pick up a motorcycle. Clyde had promised to transport the “Monkey-Davidson” to Suzuka for Mrs. Fukuda’s son. The “Monkey-Davidson” is a Honda trail 90 with police style windshield & saddle bags making the scooter appear to be a miniature Harley.

Returning home Clyde continued loading the van for our trip, including seven 5 gallon plastic jerry cans full of petrol. While Nellie added the final provisions into the van, Clyde & I drove up to his classroom at Darby School (USN) to use the “confUZer” at 9:30PM. We finally departed for Suzuka at 11PM…

Riding shotgun I managed to stay awake for the first 2+ hours of the trip. Driving towards Fukuoka with Stevie “geetarr” Miller cranked, Clyde mentioned how he should probably move over to the right side (left lane) of the road as an oncoming car raced towards us!

After reaching Fukuoka at 12:45AM, (Can you say Groundhog Day?) Clyde ordered Nellie to take over the driving. With Clyde comatose in the rear of the van, I finally fell asleep in the front seat around 1:45AM…

Friday, 10/08
As the van came to a complete stop I awoke to the sound of rain at 4:30AM. As the overwhelming stench of gasoline permeated the inside of the van Clyde awoke, asking Nellie why she’d stopped. Because we need petrol Clyde!

Leaving Sasebo with a full tank, these fuel only fill-up’s certainly lacked the speedy precision of a RASSCAR pit stop. Opening the trunk, Clyde dragged the metal folding chair out along with two 5 gallon jerry cans. Placing 1 can on the chair alongside the gas cap, a siphon was attached and the refueling process started. This method of replenishing the thirsty Toyota Ace van enabled us to reach Suzuka…
Nellie proceeded driving until 6AM after she’d also tried driving on the wrong side of traffic in the rain. We slept for two hours before Clyde resumed his position behind the wheel.

We ran into heavy gridlock in Hiroshima. We managed to crawl a measly 3K in 40 minutes during morning rush hour traffic in the persistent rain. Tired of the melee, Clyde turned onto a relatively non traveled side road meandering up winding hills away from traffic. We slogged along the hillside roads snaking through many tunnels while searching for an entrance to an expressway.

After another rainy refueling stop it was Nellie’s turn to drive again. Driving on the expressway Nellie commented how she could barely see the vehicles in front of her as the spray from slow moving trucks was massive. The further north we drove, the more the rain intensified!

With Clyde driving as we approached our exit for Suzuka, was I supposed to turn there Nellie? Missing the exit which was at a complete stand still we preceded north. Nearing Kyoto we began talking about the numerous temples. Driving through the city passing a temple Clyde said you’d better go see a temple ASSHOLE as he pulled a U-Turn. Nellie & I hopped out and crossed the street to walk up a flight of stairs leading towards the temple.

A long corridor filled with vendors on both sides led to the entrance of the temple’s open structure. I felt slightly out of place walking around in shorts in the rain. (Must be tourists, eh?) As we quickly looked at the many adjoining portions of the temple before dashing back to the van…

Slogging our way towards Noritz we arrive at dusk. Driving through the dimly lit streets profiles of even larger temples are faintly visible. Vainly searching for roads leading to Suzuka, Clyde makes another U-Turn in front of oncoming traffic to enter an overhead causeway. Sensing that we’re going the wrong direction Clyde abandons the road and turns into a giant parking lot of a massive temple, its roof looming towards the sky.

Closed for the evening Clyde pulls alongside another building that turns out to be restrooms. Parking the van underneath the covered entryway Clyde finds a bus driver from a waiting tour bus. Asking for directions she volunteers to draw us a map while telling us you’re a long ways away…

After a final refueling in the parking lot we venture off in search of Kysu, With Clyde threatening to kick me in the “Key-Zoo!” Passing Kysu we’re now approaching the outskirts of Suzuka…Hurray, we’ve almost made it upon finding the sign for Suzuka city! Arriving at 8:30PM we drive around in the dark searching for Bronco Billie’s restaurant.

Now the tricky part! Finishing dinner we’ll need to find Yasushi’s apartment. (Mrs. Fukuda’s son) Of course Clyde doesn’t have directions for finding it. Instead we’ll just simply drive around at night searching the surrounding neighborhoods.

While the first two gas stands are of little assistance, a third gas stand attendant gives us directions towards the cho we’re looking for, as we’ve been racing up & down streets searching for Yasushi’s building.

Driving down a dark unlit road there’s a sudden “BOOM-SMASH-CLUNK!!!” As Clyde proceeds to drive the van over a concrete parking divider…
About 10 minutes later Clyde finds the apartment building! Entering! Yasushi’s 2nd floor apartment around 10PM we wearily lie down on the Spartan floor. Yasushi tells us to please make ourselves comfortable,

Clyde asks what time does Suzuka open in the morning. Yasushi replies, Suzuka Circuit is NO go, Typhoon! While in mild disbelief, Yasushi calls somebody on his cell phone for information. Circuit closed Saturday due to typhoon, Sunday only: Qualifying 0900-0950, 1000-1100. Race at 1430. (JDT) This would be the very first time in Formula 1 history that the qualifying and race would be held on a single day as we drift to sleep with the sound of steady rainfall around 10:30PM…

To continue reading, see: Suzuka, 2004 (Part 2)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Plucking strings

Interestingly I ran across an article about the new way of doing business in the Pit lane, with a String Quartet being hired to Perform during a Formula Nippon event held at Mount Fuji earlier this season.

Funny thing, I didn’t notice this quartet serenading any of the F1 circus during their recent visit to Mount Fuji…

And why all the “hub-bub” about Honda and Japanese F1 drivers? Well I’ll let you try and guess where I’m off to spend another Holiday…

while having my capable blogmeister fill in for me.

(You may wish to also check out his site: Sporty Blog)

Japan and Formula 1 (Part 2)

Following Nakajima’s lead, several more Japanese drivers competed in F1, beginning in the late 1980’s thru the current season, with Aguri Suzuki becoming the second full time Formula 1 driver in 1988.

Ironically, I had the pleasure of witnessing Aguri Suzuki walking into the paddock at Phoenix in 1989. Suzuki was accomping some “dude” named “A-Ayrton” (Senna) and was totally ignored by the fans present. Little did I know that Suzuki was to become the only Japanese driver to stand on the podium one year later in Suzuka.

While Nakajima soldiered on with the fleeting Lotus team before finishing his career with a two year stint at Tyrrell, Suzuki spent the majority of his F1 career with the “Privateer” Larrousse outfit, followed by stints at Zakspeed, Ligier, Footwork and Jordan before retiring in 1995.

Although I simply do not remember this Japanese driver, Naoki Hattori who is also an Automotive Journalist, rose to prominence by winning the Japanese Formula 3 Championship in 1990, before very briefly trying to make his mark in Formula One, where Naoki made two unsuccessful attempts to Pre-qualify for races in the minnow-esqu Coloni team in 1991 As Pedro Chaves replacement.

Japanese driver involvement in Formula 1 then reached it’s zenith in 1994 with four drivers contesting the championship. Newcomers Ukyo Katayama, Taki Inoue and Hideki Noda joined Suzuki on the grid.

Katayama had actually joined the F1 circus as Suzuki’s replacement at Larrousse in 1992 and reportedly was one of Japan’s most eccentric drivers, having gone to Paris to compete in European racing! As well as breaking his neck and both legs in a junior formula.

Nevertheless Katayama planned his comeback immediately and ultimately found his way into Formula 1. After his brief stint at Larrouse, Katayama enjoyed another four seasons in Formula 1 with the fading Tyrrell team.

Inoue and Noda both broke into F1 with the Simtek Grand Prix team, which unfortunately faded from the grid at the end of 1994 largely due to the tragic loss of Roland Ratzenberger a day prior to “Black Sunday.” (Imola; May 1, 1994)

In its struggles to operate the new team, paying drivers were taken on in the later half of the 1994 season, hence Inoue and Noda’s appearances.

After making a single start for Simtek in 1994, Takachiho (Taki) spent the full ’95 season with the Footwork team. But Inoue is best known for his bizarre accidents, first being run over by a course car at Monaco while being towed back to the pits. Then he was struck by an errant recovery vehicle being sent to retrieve his broken down car in Hungary and was sent flying!

Meanwhile Noda was a pleasant “chap” who made three starts for Simtek at the end of the 1994 season with intentions of returning the following season before the team went into receivership with debts of $10 million.

Not to be confused with the current MOTO GP rider Shinya Nakano, Shinji Nakano like most current Open Wheel racers, cut his teeth in go-karts and won several Karting Championships before moving onto single seater racing, where he competed in Japanese Formula 3 & 3000, along with the European Formula Opel series.

Joining the ever revolving door of aspiring Japanese Grand Prix piloto’s during the mid 1990’s, Shinji made his Formula One debut in 1997 for the Prost team, which was powered by Mugen/Honda engines that season. The following year, Shinji was forced to take refuge at Minardi when Prost elected to campaign Peugeot engines instead and struggled with the perennial back markers. For 1999, Shinji occasionally tested for the Jordan Grand Prix team, who were using Mugen/Honda “lumps,” before moving to CART in 2000 for Walker Racing.

Billed as the next great Japanese hope in Formula 1, Toranosuke “Tiger” Takagi was spotted by Satoru Nakajima as a future F1 star in 1994 and spent considerable time racing for Nakajima’s race team, before being selected as a test driver for Tyrrell in 1997. Tiger then graduated to a full time race drive for “Uncle Chopper’s” (Ken Tyrrell) squad in 1998, becoming the sixth Japanese driver to compete in Formula One.

For 1999, Tiger joined Jos “The BOSS” Verstappen for his second and final season at the faltering Arrows Grand Prix team, before leaving F1 and contesting the 2000 Formula Nippon series for mentor Nakajima.

After a brief respite, while Nakano and Takagi plied their trades stateside in Champ Car and the IRL, Japan’s next rising star burst onto the scene in 2002 with Eddie Jordan. As Takuma Sato capped off his rookie campaign with a fifth place points paying finish in Japan before being dropped from Jordan Grand Prix.

Sato then took up refuge as BAR Honda’s test driver in 2003 before replacing Jacques Villeneuve for that year’s Japanese Grand Prix.

Taku-san ran two full seasons alongside Jenson Button for BAR Honda before it was announced that he’d be jettisoned from the squad in 2006. This move created such uproar in Japan that Honda effectively enticed Aguri Suzuki into creating his Super Aguri F1 team as a satellite operation in order for Sato to continue his Formula 1 career.

Takuma has done little to dampen his adoring country’s admiration with solid performances aboard the ever improving “Super Best Friends” chassis over the past two seasons.

With the launch of the Super Aguri F1 team, largely backed by Honda, it was sought to run an all Japanese driver line-up for the team’s debut season. This saw relative unknown Yuji Ide as Sato’s teammate, as Ide had raced for Suzuki’s Autobacs Racing Team Aguri (ARTA) in a Nissan Silvia in 1999.

Yet after a spectacular shunt with Cristijan Albers, the FIA demanded that Ide step down in favour of test driver Frank Montagny. Thus effectively ending his brief Formula 1 career after only four starts, as the FIA has also revoked his Super License

After a brief racing stint Montagny was subsequently replaced by Sakon Yamamoto for the remainder of the 2006 season before being relegated to test driver status for the beginning of this year’s championship.

But the tenuous financial outlook of the Spyker F1 team saw Yamamoto’s suitcases full of Yen eagerly appreciated when the Japanese driver was inserted as Albers replacement mid-season, prior to Vijay Malia purchasing the team and re-branding it Force India.


UpdateWith the arrival of Force India for the 2008 F1 season, Yamamoto was indeed sent packing in favour of Giancarlo Fisichella, returning to GP2 to drive for the ART Grand Prix team.

Yet, Yamamoto wasn’t the only Japanese driver to see his fortunes fade, as Taku-san lost his ride when Super Aguri was forced to shut its doors on May 6th, 2008, upon the team’s unsuccessful search for a new financial backer, with the team’s final outing coming in the Spanish Grand Prix.

Recently, Takuma has been linked as a possible replacement for Sebastian Bourdais at Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2009 and tested for the team at Jerez this past September.

Thus, with Yamamoto and Sato’s drives disappearing, the only Japanese F1 piloto on the grid currently is Kazuki Nakajima, who’s contesting his rookie season in Formula One for Williams Toyota alongside Nico Rosberg. “Kazoo” spent 2007 as the teams test driver and is the son of Satoru Nakajima. He also contested the 2007 GP2 season for the DAMS team.
Meanwhile, fellow countryman Kamui Kobayashi, has been hired as Panasonic Toyota F1’s test and reserve driver and also competed in the just concluded GP2 season for the

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Japan and Formula 1

Have you ever wondered why no Japanese drivers have truly succeeded in Formula 1? And while Japan still awaits a maiden Grand Prix victory from one of its driver’s, Honda has thus far carried the torch while the verdict is still out over its rival Toyota…

Although this season’s results have been horrific for Honda and its “Planet Earth” theme, nevertheless Honda’s storied history in Formula 1 now spans over four decades. With Japan’s first success coming during Honda’s original foray into F1 in the early 1960’s.

The burgeoning team began life with a relative unknown American driver by the name of Ronnie Bucknum after Honda was unable to acquire the services of Phil Hill.

Bucknum debuted the Honda RA271 1.5 liter V-12 in the German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring in 1963, with Honda’s single car effort wallowing about the rear of the grid during 1964 before Honda decided to add a second American pilot to its line-up in 1965.

This driver was fellow Californian Richie Ginther who was known as a very good development driver, which Honda was looking for. Ginther scored Honda’s very first Formula 1 World Championship point with a sixth place finish at Spa. Then in the very last race of the 1.5 liter engine era held in Mexico City, Ginther scored Honda’s maiden F1 victory with Bucknum finishing fifth.

From 1966-68, Honda struggled to come to grips with the new 3.0 liter engine formula as both Bucknum and Ginther left the team at the end of 1966. They were replaced by 1964 World Champion John Surtees for the ‘67 season. Surtees would give Honda its second F1 victory at Monza, Italy in the RA 300’s racing debut before falling out of favour withSoichiro Honda over the portly RA 302 not being ready to race.

Thus in the summer of 1968 the unwieldy RA 302 magnesium chassis, air cooled V-12 race car was given to Frenchman Jo Schlesser to race in the French GP instead. Unfortunately Schlesser lost control of the vehicle, rolled and burst into flames before loosing his life, thus effectively ending Honda’s first foray into Formula 1 at the end of the 1968 season.

Interestingly when the movie Grand Prix was made in 1966, I suspect it was viewed as preposterous that a Japanese entry would ever win the World Championship. But in 1983 Honda began development of a new style racing engine, a 1.5 liter twin turbocharged V-6 running in the back of the minnow-esc Spirit Racing team before jumping to Williams for the 1984 season.

Honda’s World Championship winning ways began in 1987 with their mighty engine propelling Williams Nelson Piquet to his third and final driver’s crown. This began a streak of five consecutive championships with Williams and McLaren, as the two rival British teams wrestled for Honda “Works” status during this time period.

Three Japanese drivers participated in the inaugural Japanese Grand Prix at Mount Fuji (1976-77) with a fourth joining the following year before switching venues to Suzuka owned by Honda in 1987. The fabulous Suzuka circuito was originally built as a test track in 1962 near by Honda’s immense factory.

Suzuka saw many fierce battles between championship rivals Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. It was also here where Senna had his famous punch-up with rookie Eddie “Irv the Swerve” Irvine.

Although Suzuka hosted the Japanese Grand Prix from 1987-2006, ironically this year’s event will revert back to Mount Fuji which has been owned by Toyota since 2000 and heavily updated.

Yet with Honda’s return to Grand Prix racing in the early 1980’s, the resurgence of this Rising Sun manufacturer as a championship winning engine supplier allowed Honda to flex its powerful influence upon Formula 1. Thus triggering a new influx of Japanese drivers with Satoru Nakajima spearheading the charge, as Nakajima’s close ties with Honda helped him land the second Lotus seat alongside Ayrton Senna in 1987, after testing a Williams “mule” chassis with Honda power prior to becoming the very first full time Japanese driver in F1. He also became the first Japanese driver to score World Championship points in only his second race outing…

To continue reading, see; Japan and Formula 1 (Part 2)

Sunday, October 7, 2007

F1: Shanghai Shuffle - China, 2007 edition

Well I just finished watching the Chinese Grand Prix and it certainly was an entertaining race! As I was absolutely thrilled to see “Kimster the Iceman” WIN!!! And he did it in quite typical fashion with another Bonsai move around World Championship and at that moment race leader Lewis Hamilton.

And what can you say about Louise? I mean that must have been heartbreak? Err heartburn to throw your race away on completely destroyed Bridgestone rubber.

And what about those Scuderia Toro Rosso drivers, eh? Sebastian Vettel continues to impress with a superb fourth place, the first time a Toro Rosso/Minardi has finished that high since Kyalami, 1993! And Vitantonnio Luzzi finished sixth ahead of Nick Heidfeld’s BMW Sauber to give STR their very first two car point’s finish… And with the 8 points scored, Toro Rosso leapfrogs past both Honda teams and Spyker in the Constructor’s point’s standings.

And I noticed that Maranello didn’t buckle to the EU’s pressure to not run their “Bad Habit’s” livery this weekend as I spotted both Ferrari pilot’s with Marlboro adorning their driver’s caps during the interview sessions. And speaking of scuderia Ferrari Marlboro, with Kimi Raikkonen scoring his fifth victory of the season, he netted Ferrari its 200th Career victory!

So with one race left in a fortnight at San Paolo, Brazil, will Louise “Jaguar” Hamilton make history as the very first Rookie World Champion ever in Formula 1? Hamilton definitely holds the advantage, being 7 points clear of Raikkonen and 4 points ahead of Alonso…

Red Mist

You may have heard that ex-Ferrari employee Nigel Stepney was to publish a book chronology of his years at Ferrari titled Red Mist. Yet Stepney now claims that original publisher of this book has been manipulated into not publishing Stepney’s manifesto.

And instead of trying to write something clever about this story, I’ll defer to the lengthy article recently published, as it also contains a copy of a letter that Nigel wrote to current FISA mouthpiece Max Mosley detailing various issues involving the “Flexi-gate” issue which was the start of “Stepney-Gate…”

To read the story, see: Stepney says publisher pulled out because of pressure

Alonso toys with Team managers

Geez! Perhaps it’s just me? But I’m getting a bit tired of all of the bleepin’ salivating over where Alonso will land next season, as the War of Words continues between “Ferdi the Putz and Louise Jaguar Hamilton on” whom should stay and who should go.

And I can tell yuh that the Ronster is firmly in favour of prodigy Hamilton staying, which means either Alonso will stomach out the rest of his contract or depart for another team prior to the 2008 Season.

And I just CANNOT believe all the speculation over Alonso going to Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro, replacing Felipe Massa and becoming Kimi Raikkonen’s teammate… Do you really think Alonso would wish to go to Maranello where currently both drivers have “EQUAL” status.

Nope, to me the most logical seat for Ferdi will be back with his ‘ol lightning rod Flavour Flav at Renault as Giancarlo Fisichella’s replacement.

And I’m really getting fed up with Emperor Bernardo stating that Alonso may sit out next season in order to go to Ferrari in 2009, which seems overly preposterous to me. Given the fact that Spain will be hosting two grand Prix’s for the very first time in history next year Err, excuse me Mr. Promoter, Fernando cannot come out ‘N play!

And I doubt that Alonso will be interested in going to Toyota as Ralfanso’s replacement, since I suspect Ferdi is keen to reclaim his Driver’s crown, unless he’s more interested in how much Yen he can pilfer from Toyota’s piggy bank, eh?

F1 Guess Gesser

So I’ve noticed on the blogosphere… That several persons have taken kracks at what the 2008 Formula 1 driver line-ups will look like. And I was gonna throw Jos “The BOSS” Verstappen’s name in at Spyker, but don’t think he’ll be willing to convert Kroners to Ruphies… Nor will Ralfanso be able to stomach the thought of having to PAY for a ride as he’s off in search of “New Challenges.”

it also seems fairly certain that Ferdi the Putz will indeed be sent packing from McLaren after his black mailin’ hi-jinx efforts with Ron Dennis. The only wild card is where he’ll end up at?

Of course it’s all conjecture, but hey… I guess I’d better take a shot at it myself, eh?

1* FerrariKimi Raikkonen
Felipe Massa

2. BMW Sauber
Nick Heidfeld
Robert Kubica

3. RenaultFernando Alonso
Heikki Kovalainen

4. Williams ToyotaNelson Piquet Jr
Vitantonnio Luzzi/Giancarlo Fisichella /Anthony Davidson?

5. Red BullMark Webber
David Coulthard

6. ToyotaJarno Trulli
Timo Glock

7. Super Aguri
Takuma Sato
Davidson/Luzzi?

8. HondaJenson Button
Rubens Barrichello

9. Scuderia Toro Rosso
Sebastian Bourdais
Sebastian Vettel

10. “Orange India” (Spyker)Adrian Sutil
Ralf Schumacher?
Narain Karthikayan (Test/Race Driver?)

11. McLaren MercedesLewis Hamilton
Nico Rosberg

12. ProdrivePedro de la Rosa
Gary Paffet

Champ Car Chatter

While Champ Car is in the midst of another extremely long hiatus, having been out of sight of the majority of US house holds for nearly two months now…

Champ Car held its final 2007 season test at Sebring, (9/25-26) with Conquest, Dale Coyne, Forsythe, N/H/L, PCM and PKV taking part in the two day test session. New recruit Martinez got acclimated to the cockpit of Forsythe’s second Panoz DP 01 chassis, previously driven by Oriel Servia.

And the weirdest part of the testing was that Forsythe asked Servia to test for them on the first day, with Servia being the fastest of the three Forsythe drivers after being previously given his walking papers.

Dominguez re-sumed driving with Pacific Coast Motorsports, whom he’d previously driven for during Ryan Dalziel’s forced absence from the San Jose race after a bicycling accident.

And I suppose it will come as NO surprise that on Day 1 the “Hamburgular” (Bourdais) topped the time sheets.

Day 2 saw Sea Bass drop down the order due to having used up all of his allotted testing miles the previous day. This saw Will Power take over the top spot as well as “Christian Comedy” nipping at his heels…


Sebring Champ Car testing times – Day 2:

1) Will Power, Team Australia, 51.51
2) Tristan Gommendy, PKV, 51.53
3) Mario Dominguez, Pacific Coast Motorsports, 51.55
4) Simon Pagenaud, Team Australia, 51.71
5) Alex Figge, Pacific Coast Motorsports, 51.73
6) Paul Tracy, Forsythe, 51.79
7) Graham Rahal, Newman/Haas/Lanigan, 51.82
8) David Martinez, Forsythe, 51.91
9) Neel Jani, PKV, 52.04
10) Bruno Junqueira, Dale Coyne, 52.30
11) Katherine Legge, Dale Coyne, 52.58
12) James Winslow, Conquest, 53.65


And in another incredulous slight of hand, Conquest Racing has given Jan “Van Hagar” Heylen the unexpected BOOT! In order to make room for Nelson Philippe… Yeah I can hear y’all saying’ Nelson Who? As perhaps many of you have forgotten that the Frenchman is Champ cars current youngest ever winner, apparently being recalled “just-in-time” to defend his last year victory at Surfers Paradise.

“Van Hagar” is the third current Champ Car driver getting an extremely RAW deal! Joining the likes of Servia and Dalziel, who’ve also been shown the door for less than honorable reasons…

But Heylen’s dumping is extremely poor seeing how he brought desperately needed funding to Eric Bachelart’s team that was on life support at the beginning of the year. Then Heylen has done nothing but improve each week after his Portland debut, with a 6th place finish at Road America and runner-up behind Justin Wilson at Assen TT…

And I’ve also seen rumours of Wilson possibly defecting to Andretti Green Racing next season along with major sponsor CDW saying NO Thanks to continuing in Champ Car!

Meanwhile Paul “Sand Dune” Tracy was busy thrashin’ about the mud bogs of Chula Vista in an Off Road Trophy Truck curtsey of Ricky Johnson. Well at least one of Champ Car’s driver’s is enjoying his holiday!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

D-Squared


As previously mentioned in Indy Celebrities; it was rough sledding for me while in Indianapolis. Having to meet ‘N greet so many damn celebrities. And last but certainly not least was the REAL Double D. NOT to be cornfused with Derr-Wreck Daily. To whom I’m not sure whether Mr. Davidson would wish to be associated with? Therefore I’ll nickname him D-Squared from now on!

Donald Davidson is a very pleasant chap, originally from England. Naturally his first interest in motorsports was Grand Prix racing, where he learned of the Indy 500 in the mid 1950’s. (Recall that the Indianapolis 500 was part of the Formula 1 calendar back then)

Folklore claims he wowed the crowd in 1964 upon making his first trek to Mecca. Having written to track announcer Sid Collins, Davidson impressed the crowd by; “being able to recite the record of every driver who had ever competed in the "500." After this, Davidson quickly changed his focus to Oval Track racing and the rest as they say is history.

Davidson immigrated to the United States in 1965, promptly going to work for USAC as a statistician, a position he held for 31 years. In January of 1998 he became the official track historian of the Speedway.

As I mentioned, Danny spotted him coming out of his office while we were perusing the Hall of Fame Photo Shop. Upon introducing Davidson to me, we struck up an enjoyable dialogue. As I mentioned that I’d enjoyed listening to his radio broadcast; “The Talk of Gasoline Alley” on WIBC. To which I listened via the internets.

Danny also told him his newest book was excellent. You may wish to check it out: Autocourse Official History of the Indianapolis 500. To which I’ve just received my very own copy from Motorbooks

Then we launched into several questions. Which soon reminded me of a little ‘ole radio program we have out here in Seattle. It’s called “Stump Slayton.” (KZOK, 102.5 FM) Of which nobody ever stumps the DJ Steve Slayton on Rock ‘N Roll trivia…

I was quite intrigued to discover how the Speedway had gotten its mitts upon Michael Schumacher’s 1991 Benetton-Ford chassis? Davidson coolly responded that they’d purchased it. Yet several race cars are on loan or simply donated by their owners. As many racing cars were either handed down or sold to other teams. Since there was a brief period in history when teams could run older equipment competitively. Yet most racing team owners don’t wish to hang onto obsolete machinery since its just equipment.

Danny then asked about the mysterious Hall of Fame basement collection. To which Davidson remarked is used to hold vehicles in rotation as five cars had just been moved recently. There have been several plans to expand the museum over the years. And it’s been designed for expansion, but things seem to always get in the way. Like the addition of grandstands, etc. Right now it’s on the back burner, but look for it to happen one day.

Next I asked him about the 1972 Penske Sunoco McLaren M16B currently on display in the museum. Telling him I’d seen the exact same Mark Donohue winning race car on display at the Penske Racing Museum in Scottsdale, AZ. Which sparked a startling response from D-Squared. Davidson flatly answered without hesitation; “It’s a replica!” Penske has every Indy 500 winner except for two. *1972, 1981)

Sensing he wished to move along, Danny casually pointed to a picture of an early Speedway roadster parked on a snowy pit lane. Davidson told us that the picture was real. They’d rolled the car out, which was 1 of 3 remaining and he believed it was 90-95% original. Amazing, simply amazing…

For more Indianapolis stories, see; Indy Celebrities

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Doctor Doctor


Upon arriving at Indianapolis, I was chauffered to the Brickyard Crossing Hotel by Danny B, checking into my room we ventured off for some much needed nourishment.

Upon returning to the hotel after dinner, Danny noticed that his friend Dave was still there, so we sauntered back into the bar and pulled up stools to chat with Dave and Dr. Who.

And I certainly don’t know how he got the nickname, but Dr. Who’s real name is Tim Wardrop. Perhaps you’ve heard of him? He’s a quite prolific and well traveled Indianapolis 500 Winning race engineer. As in specifically Arie Luyendyk’s 1997 victory for Tredway Racing. Along with engineering The “Flying Dutchman’s” pole position in 1996. You know when Arie posted one and four lap records of 237.498mph and 236.986mph respectively, which still stand today.

Soon we were waltzing down memory lane as Tim was quite willing to engage us in conversation regarding his motorsports career. To which the conversation soon steered towards Formula 1. Of which Messer Wardrop has a quite distinguished career in. Telling us briefly of his exploits of working for Walter Wolf Racing, Williams and McLaren. Not too shabby, eh?

Tim claims that the inspiration for the white stripe on the Wold WR1 came from his seeing those beloved “copper’s Starsky & Hutch! And he reminisced about that being a star crossed lineup of engineering talent. As he worked with Dr. Harvey Postlethwaite and Patrick Head. With Jody Schekter as the driver of the single car entry.

Wardrop fondly stated that Postlethwaite was a great guy. And it was a thrill to have Scheckter win three races in 1977. They won the season opener in Argentina. Startling the F1 community as it was the team’s debut. Scheckter also won the crown jewel of F1, Monaco. Along with the Canadian GP that season.

Sheckter finished second in the Driver’s championship with Wolf finishing fourth in the Constructor’s championship, the team’s best results. Scheckter then Moved to Ferrari. Where he became the Scuderia’s last World champion pre Michael Schumacher.

Tim then told us an entertaining story about discovering ground effects. As he’d gotten ahold of some pictures of the revolutionary Lotus 78 from an Italian magazine. Tim claims he then set to work in his spare time cobbling together a ground effects chassis from various discarded bits. While the team was busy testing Postlethwaite’s latest creation at the MIRA wind tunnel. Wardrop mentioned his mock-up, which was reluctantly tested and came up with numbers twice as good as Postlethwaite’s “winner.” And when they put moving side skirts upon it, the numbers were even higher.

I asked Tim his thoughts upon CFD. (Computational Fluid Dynamics) and he was quite positive about it. I wish we’d had that back when I was at March. As you can simply input your data points and change everything on the fly. Wind Tunnels are so expensive to operate, as they’re running 100% scale models at speeds up to 200mph these days!

Did you work with Robin Herd? Yeah, I worked at March Engineering for eight years. Then I came to the States in 1995 to work for Newman/Haas with Michael andretti and Kevin Cogan.

Tim asked me if I remembered Willy T Ribbs? Sure, while trying to ask him why Ribbs sat out the 1992 Indy 500 over the din of the bar’s patrons. Tim replied that he’d been Ribbs race engineer for both of his Speedway efforts. (1991, 1993)

Yet the 1992 Indy 500 was a most successful year for Tim as his cars finished 1-2 that day. You see Wardrop was involved with Alan Mertens who designed the Galmer G92, driven to victory by Al Unser Jr. And Tim was engineering Scott Goodyear who came from dead last (33rd) to finish second for Derrick Walker that day in what is regarded as the closest finish at the Brickyard!

And speaking about Walker Racing drivers. Tim told us an entertaining story about Robby Gordon, who once asked a teammate when do you turn-in at Turn 1 of Indy? And the response was when you reach 228mph. So bam, Robby turns into the corner as soon as he reads 228 on the dashboard. Not 229 or 227, but exactly 228mph!

And speaking about straight line speed, Wardrop assured us that Luyendyk’s record numbers are correct. Claiming he was reaching 250mph on the front straight. Never dipping below 236, as the car was completely trimmed out… Tim claims that Gugelmin’s & De Ferran’s “record” runs at Fontana, CA are NOT correct as the track distance was measured incorrectly. Therefore the speeds are approx. 6mph too high!

Wardrop’s ex-Indiana neighbor was a chap named Jim McGee. And he worked on Newman/Haas’s 2004 entry for Bruno Junqueira, which just missed winning the race by about 10 minutes, as everybody was watching for precipitation.

Wardrop also was reunited with Arie Sr. in 2006 to attempt qualifying Luyendyk Jr’s entry, which wasn’t successful. While now having been hired as Chief Engineer for the SWE Racing Indy Pro Series team. The team ran gray beard Jon Brownson (54yrs old) n a limited ISP program this season while searching for sponsors. Brownson’s dream is to become the next Marty Roth and race in the Indianapolis 500…

SWE has moved into a new “state of the art” facility. Currently sharing the space with a brand new IPS team; Team KMA co-owned by the “Red Rocker.” A.k.a. Sammy Hagar. With SWE’s website claiming; “Wardrop has won the Indianapolis 500 more times than any other engineer in the history of the 500.”

And as we kept saying just one more question, Tim told us how he’d worked with some chap named Ross Brawn. I mean he was a true junior machinist at Williams when I worked there. Oh you mean the Ross Brawn who worked with some dude named Michael Schumacher!
For more Indianapolis stories, see; D-Squared