Monday, March 31, 2008

Double Dipping

So while I was counting down the minutes ‘til the very first IndyCar race of the season, I figured I might as well watch the Grand Am “ROVAL” road race also taking place at Homestead this weekend...

Yet I was a bit confused, since SPEED’s coverage overlapped with The Deuce’s Indy Car show live from the same race track… Ah-hah, SPEED is showing a tape delayed re-broadcast of today's earlier Grand Am event, since Homestead’s track activities were;
Firestone Indy Lights – 12:30PM (Eastern)
Grand Am – 3PM
Indy Car – 8PM

And although I just cannot seem to get into the UGLY Duckling Daytona Prototype Sports Cars, my curiosity was peaked as I wondered if Robert Nearn was racing in the GT category? Thus I dashed off to ze confuzer and scoured Grand Am's retarded website, pulling up the starting grid while the race was playing in the background...

Scrolling thru the GT field I discovered that Banner Engineering’s #07 Pontiac GXP-R was on Pole (20th Overall) with Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards. Yet the #06 sister car which Robert had co-driven in the Daytona 24hrs was in the back of the grid (44th Overall) as Robert had been replaced by GM Factory Corvette team driver Jan Magnessen.

The SPEED crew then showed Magnessen putting the block onto Patrick 946739629… Dempsey; Racin’ is Rubbin’ after all, eh? As the announcer said that’s probably the only time you can get away with hitting a Hollywood star… As Dempsey is one of the brats from the hit show 90120 from several years ago. To which Dorsey Schroeder commented that Magnessen is a real Bull Dog, enroute to moving into the fourth place in class. And before you knew it the two Banner Engineering Pontiac’s were running 1-2 in the GT class.

And talk ‘bout timing, as I returned to the boob tube. Shuh-zamm! They interviewed some guy named Leighton Reese, who’s the team owner of Banner Engineering, with the pit reporter claiming Leighton to be smiling ear to ear over getting to drive with Magnessen.

Reese said he's known the Dane since 100yrs ago when he saw him win a Formula ford race and never thought he'd get to drive with somebody he's been watching since his Formula 1 days driving for Stewart Grand Prix...

Reese will drive 3 more times with Jan, since Banner is a sister effort to the GM factory Corvette team and Reese said all he could think of while being partnered with Magnessen was’ Don’t screw up!

After a monumental pit stop strategy bamboozlement by Banner Engineering, where they left the leading #06 out for too many laps before coming into the pits during the yellow flag period, Roberts 'Ol sparring pardoner Steve Johnson, co-driving with Jan "Van Hagar" Heylend (Champ Car driver last year) inherited the lead aboard their Synergy Racing Porsche 911 and then it was time to switch over to the Deuce for the Indy Car mop-tops Flinstone pre-race excitement hour. YAWN! ALL the Stars, ALL the Cars, blah-blah-blah… Where’s Danica?

Yet, I did manage to flip back during the OVERLY numerous side-by-side commercial breaks several times to discover that the #07 car finished first in GT with the #06 third, a massive improvement over their 7th and 22nd place finishes at the Rolex 24.

Meanwhile the Cheepster’s hired gun, Scott “Juicyfruit” Pruett, a.k.a. “The Machine” scored another Overall victory for Chip Ganassi. Hmm? Wonder if “Cheep” will do a double at Homestead?

All the Stars?

Ok, I realize it’s just one race and that we’ll probably spend a large portion of the upcoming season debating the ex-Champ Car team’s struggling to come to grips with their new environs… But I have a major problem with the IRL’s new punch-line. (Careful buddy, you better not say those words around some ‘Ol coot named AJ, eh?)

Although I know he’s in the twilight of his Open Wheel Racing career… You simply CANNOT say you’ve got ALL the Stars without CCWS’s biggest (mouth) name Paul “Chrome Horn” Tracy who’s currently ice fishing Up North, eh? Not to mention the talented “Bad Bobby D” (Robert Doornbos) and “TAG: (Alex Tagliani) nowhere in sight… Nor the LOSS of Simon Pagenaud, Jan “Van Hagar” Heylend and Derrick Walker!

Nevertheless, let’s take a quick look at who’s made the transition to the Indy Car World Series, as well as the entire “Rookie” class of 2009, since I’ve not heard of some of these new up ‘N comers.

Interestingly, the Champ Car refugees did exactly what was predicted of them, as they all qualified in the same zip code; mid-pack from 13th to 21st, being split only by the perky Milka Duno!

Two New Veterans

Team/Car No./Driver/Starting position/4 lap Avg.)
Dale Coyne Racing
18 Bruno Junqueira (20; 207.434mph)

Although most of us have heard of Bruno “Whiney Bags” Junqueira, it’s somewhat sad how far down the ladder “Junky” has slipped. Having originally begun in CART alongside Nicolas Minassian as The Cheepster’s compensation for letting Juan Pablo Montoya transfer to Williams Grand Prix in 2001, while Bruno having missed out on a Williams F1 drive to Jenson Button in 2000 rebounded by winning that season’s F3000 International championship, (forerunner of GP2) Junqueira then transferred to Target Chip Ganassi Racing and scored his maiden CART victory in his 14th start. Bruno’s rookie campaign was far more successful than his rookie teammates Nicolas Minassian… (Does anybody remember him?) As Minassian was sacked in favour of Memo Gidley who scored his career best second place finish that season before being dumped from the team.

With Ganassi bolting to the IRL in 2003, Junqueira moved to Newman/Haas Racing where he continued his streak of finishing as the Bridesmaid to the Hamburgular. (2002-03-04) enroute to scoring eight career victories,

After breaking his back at Indianapolis in 2005, Junky was subsequently forced to seek refuge at the underfinanced Dale Coyne Racing upon being replaced by Graham Rahal. Ironically, Bruno’s now one of the seriees veterans on the grid, being part of the trio of drivers remaining from the pre-Unification era. (Servia, Tracy) due to his, ahem… massive Oval track experience. Recall that Whiney Bags captured the 2002 Indy 500 pole and has a total of four starts at the Brickyard…

Yet unfortunately Bruno was completely off the pace the entire weekend at Homestead and opted to park the Z Line Designs car before colliding with the retaining wall, classified 23rd, +160 laps.

KV Racing Technology
5 Oriel Servia (14; 209.021)
Potentially the second most powerful ex-CCWS operation to join the Indy Car ranks, with Kevin “Smiley Face” Kalkhoven funding the way, while co-owner Jimmy Vasser does the majority of the talking.

Oriel Servia has always been fast, just never able to stay at one team for longer than one season. Yet, his best results came in 2005 as Junqueira’s replacement at Newman/Haas Racing, finishing runner-up to Bourdais along with winning his only Champ Car race at Montreal.

And while his lesser experienced teammate was busy tangling with Justin Wilson, Servia simply kept his nose clean and came home in 12th, +5 laps, the highest placed finisher of the eight Champ Car refugees.

2009 Rookie class
Team/Car No./Driver/Starting position/4 lap Avg.)Andretti Green Racing27 Hideki Mutoh (7; 210.508mph)

This 25yr old native of Tokyo, Japan has had some varying success in the lower ranks of Open Wheel Racing, albeit in Japan and Europe. Mutoh, like many drivers began his career in the ranks of karting, quickly ascending to the Honda Formula Dream program before moving to Europe to race in Formula Vauxhall along with taking part in the Formula Ford Festival twice, with a best result of third place in 2001.

Returning to Japan, Mutoh took part in Asian Formula 2000 and Formula Dream, ultimately winning the latter in his second season. (2002) He then took part in Formula 3 the following season with a best result of third place in F3 in 2004.

Next, he contested Formula Nippon and Super GT in 2006 prior to moving to the Indy Pro Series in 2007 where he scored two wins enroute to being the series runner-up prior to his Indy Car debut for Super Aguri Panther Racing at the season finale at Chicagoland where he finished an impressive 8th.

Obviously being Japanese and Honda’s desire to see a homegrown talent succeed in its Open Wheel Racing powered series, helped Hideki land the vacated seat of reigning Indy 500 and IRL Champion Dario Franchitti at Andretti Green when the Scotsman decided to depart for RASSCAR. Yet, such championship winning machinery most likely comes with a great burden for the young Japanese driver to perform. And although Mutoh was the highest placed rookie, starting 8th, (One grid position ahead of Marty Roth) he had a most auspicious race outing, overshooting his pit stall and ultimately finishing 24th, +168 laps. (32 laps down to race winner Dixon)

Conquest Racing
34 Frank Perera (13; 209.230)
36 Enrique Bernoldi (17; 208.130)

Frank Perera cut his racing teeth in the Champ Car Atlantics last season finishing runner-up to series champion Rafael Matos with three wins. Prior to his Atlantics campaign, Perera competed in the European GP2 series, the final stepping stone prior to Formula 1. Perera was the highest starting CCWS rookie and highest finishing rookie overall, coming home 14th, +6 laps in his very first Oval race.

Enrique Bernoldi’s name is familiar to me, since he was the driver that caused Deeter Majestic to pull his Red Bull sponsorship from Peter Sauber’s Formula 1 team, as Sauber was in favour of a young Finn by the name of Kimi Raikkonen!

Bernoldi seemed to be outperformed the entire weekend by his lesser experienced teammate and finished 18th, +51 laps.

Dale Coyne Racing
19 R-Mario Moraes (21; 207.067)

Mario Moraes is an unknown name to me, as he’ll be part of the nine driver Indy Car rookie class this season instead of the two the IRL had last year, with some chick named Milka as one of them alongside Phil Giebler, who was Robin Miller’s feel good story of his On The Bubble video series.

Moraes comes from Brazil and his most notable racing accomplishment to date is splitting the Brothers Mansell in European Formula 3 racing, who finished 10th and 17th and will now soldier on in the Atlantics championship underneath the tutelage of the currently under fire Derrick Walker.

Thus while it appears that Mario is set to continue the tradition of ride buying in the Indy Racing League, he quietly went about his business, becoming the very first car lapped at Homestead, but finishing in 16th, +13 laps, only six laps behind CCWS star Justin Wilson.

Yet although Moraes was somewhat slower then his veteran teammate, he nevertheless managed to complete his very first Oval track outing, with a very respectable finish.

HVM Racing
(Hola Viva Mexico)
33 Ernesto Viso (18; 208.101)

Ernesto Viso is another of the unknown flock of racing drivers joining the Indy Car parade, joining fellow Venezuelan Milka Duno in Indy Car this season, along with providing much needed funding to the scrambling Keith Wiggins, who’s previous partner Paul Stoddart, former Minardi F1 team boss has bolted back to Europe instead of making the jump to Tony’s unified racing series.

Viso has contested the GP2 series the past three seasons (2005-07) as well as a brief stint as a paying Spyker F1 Racing Friday third driver in 2006 and although he was having a fairly quiet race, Viso made the headlines upon spinning into the wall and collecting race leader Tony Kanaan in the final laps of the event, being classified 17th, +17 laps.

KV Racing Technology
8 Will Power (19; 208.029)

The likeable Aussie Will Power comes to KVRT on somewhat heavily disputed circumstances as part of the current rift between Derrick Walker and Craig Gore.

Yet, Power is one of the rising stars in the series, having been one of the few drivers to actually challenge the dreaded Hamburgular last season, while taking his first two career victories. If the team can continue its forward march towards putting all of the pieces together, they could form a future championship threat. Unfortunately the Aussie had a collision with fellow ex-CCWS driver Justin Wilson in the early stages of the race which caused him to retire from the event, being classified last in 25th, +176 laps, Accident.

Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing
02 Justin Wilson (15; 208.757)
06 Graham Rahal (Withdrawn)

Carl Haas and PL Newman’s long running championship operation undoubtedly has the most potential of the transitioning ex-Champ Car World Series racing teams to give the IRL Big Boyzs a run for their money in the near term future, as N/H/L is only the second team in history to achieve 100 career victories, enroute to eight CART/CCWS Championships.

New recruit Justin Wilson finished runner-up to Sea Bass the past two seasons, scoring three career victories along the way and was Bourdais’s biggest championship rival. Although Wilson has five career Oval starts to his credit, he’ll struggle initially to get up to pace on the Ovals along with having to overcome being the tallest driver on the grid!

Having started alongside Milka Duno, Wilson bumped wheels with Will Power and quietly made his way home in 15th, +7 laps after having to stop for a cut down tire during his incident with Power.

Yet, I’m not too sure what to say about “Booby Ruble’s” son Graham, who’s introduction to Oval’s got off to a rocky start with the team withdrawing his entry from Homestead after his pre-season testing crash damaged the team’s only race car significantly.

Yet the 19yr old Open Wheel superstar did finished runner-up to departed Champ Car driver Simon Pagenaud, whom won the Champ Car Atlantics crown two years ago. Rahal then graduated to the top dawg’s at the tender age of 18, foregoing his High School graduation party in order to go Champ Car racing instead!

Of course everybody’s hoping that something can be made out of a Marco Andretti-Rahal 2.0 feud, a la the good ‘Ol dazes of CART’s ‘lil Al (Al Unser Jr) vs. Mikey )Michael Andretti_ heydays...

As far as I can tell? The only visible knock on the team is the POOR choice of car numbers along with Mic Dougal’s sponsoring a BLOODY BRIT! Yeah, it must be some sort of contractual thingy, eh?

Roth Racing24 R-Jay Howard (23; No Time)

Unfortunately I know very little about this Englishman, who has been fairly successful carving his way up the motor racing ladder, prior to ultimately landing a ride at the unknown Roth Racing operation.

Like many English drivers, Jay cut his teeth in Formula Ford and then went on to win the Formula Renault title in 2003. I believe he contested the Toyota Atlantics championship and ultimately going on to win the US Formula Ford Zytec championship in 2005 before capturing the 2006 Indy Pro Series title for Sam Schmidt Motorsports. Having changed teams the following season, Jay suddenly found himself without a serious ride in 2007 after just three events. Jay then sat out the remainder of the season prior to getting the call from perennial back marker Marty “Turtle” Roth this past November, inviting him to join his fledgling Indy Car operation.

Unfortunately Jay crashed heavily in Homestead qualifying and injured his knee, yet somehow the team managed to rebuild the chassis in time for the first race of the season in which the team had a horrific outing with the results simply stating that Team Boss Marty Roth finished in 21st, +147 laps (Behind the leader) with Howard placing 22nd, +150 laps…


So that was a pretty entertaining start to the inaugural Indy Car World Series racing season, this past Saturday night, eh? As the past weekend kinda reminded me of another SORRID era in Open Wheel Racing…

The year was 2002 and I recall being SOO……. DAMN Excited as I’d finally taken the plunge and bought a DISH Network satellite system after I’d spent the previous two years fighting with our STUPID Property Mgmt Co. As they were UNWILLING to help entice their preferred $ingle source TV provider (Castle Cable) ADD the Speed Channel to their PATHETIC line-up. Yep, Equity Corp. based in Chicago was unwilling to get onto the blower to have this ‘lil “Mom ‘N Pop” Santa Clara, CA based outfit step up to the plate… And now thankfully? We have Comca$t cable, but I digress…

As I mentioned, the year was 2002, in what would be the final season of CART and I was ecstatic, as I sat gleefully laughing at my TV set as I was just dumbstruck that I was actually able to watch the Speed Channel after two years of NO SPEED… Which was at that time broadcasting live coverage of final Qualifying. As the bright red “Targe-Jey” Reynard/Toyota of Kenny Brack flashed across the telescreen…

Ah, those were the Good ‘Ol Dazes! Does anybody remember when SPEED actually covered Open Wheel Racing Qualifying sessions live… And not that KRAPY pre-packaged 30 minute filler they forced us to endure during the later stages of Champ Cars pathetic TV coverage.

So, like I used to be able to do via the internets… For Champ Car qualifying, before somebody pulled the plug! I sat down and listened to the Indy Car qualifying at Homestead this past Friday, which was really fun to do, since it was live with Mark James & Davey Hamilton with NO commercial breaks… Followed up immediately by the Flinstone Indy Lites Q-Session, which featured; Arie Luyendyk 2.0, Just Al, Err Al Unser the 43rd, Rafael Matos and some kid named Danny Bonna-doochey… Who’s somehow related to Eddie (“UNDER-Ah-Cheever”) Cheever?

Since I couldn’t figure out how to pull up the Flinstone’s race live via the internets. (Apparently there’s only a live video feed and NO audio only feed?) Thus, you can watch the tape delayed coverage on The Deuce (ESPN2) April 3rd @ 4:30PM EASTERN, if so desired…

As for the Indy Car race itself… It was fairly decent once they got rid of that horrific split screen start. As I was still laughing over the fact that Tony George’s cars got sent to the rear of the grid for cheating…?

And it looked like Dan the man Wheldon was gonna make a mockery of the entire field as he serenely picked off car after car on his impressive march to the front, while isn’t it time for a Princess report? Where’s Danica now and what are her Mum ‘N Pop doing?

And never fear Milka’s HIT the WALL! Wonder how many chassis D & R will get to rebuild this season? Unfortunately I’ll bet they’ll get really good at it, eh? As Ryan Briscoe got DUNO-ED… But at least it wasn’t as bad as the Spinning Ernesto, who haplessly collected race leader Tony Kanaan with only a handful of laps remaining… Thus giving the victory to pole sitter Scott Dixon.

Homestead Results

Podium1. Scott Dixon
2. Marco Andretti
3. Dan Wheldon

Full Race Results

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Miami vice

Well it’s time to begin the much ballyhooed 2008 Indy Car World Series racing season as there will actually be a “FULL” grid taking the green flag at Homestead with 24 of the 26 cars entered, competing underneath the lights.

And although I was gonna write a snappy story revolving around that much hyped 1980’s wunder-series Miami Vice, I just don’t think I can work it out… I mean Dan “SPIKE” Wheldon certainly fits the casting role for Don Johnson’s Sonny Crocket figure, but somehow I imagine Scott Dixon would be less than thrilled to be cast in Phillip Michael Thomas’s Tub’s character, while Tony George certainly isn’t tough enough to play Edward James Olmas Castillo bad boy captain role! Although the Princess and Milka would fit in nicely as the two females on the hit show, eh?

Meanwhile Press Dawg and My Name is IRL have been having great fun over the Newman Haas Lanigan car numbering choice of the half baked Oh-2 & Oh-6 that Buckshot Wilson and Darrell Rahhaul Junior are set to run this season in the Indee Racin' League… Thus, I just cannot resist piling on. As it now appears that the IRL’s new theme song this season will be a clever adaptation of Whalen Jenning’s Dukes ‘O Hazard song. You know the “Juan,” C’mon everyone, y’all sing along!

Dukes Of Hazard Theme Song(Original lyrics by Whalen Jennings)
Just some good ol' boys (and girls) Never meanin' no harm, Beats all you've never saw, been in trouble with Tony George since the day they was born.Straight'nin' the curve, Flat'nin' the hills.Someday the moutain might get 'em,
(Princess don’t feel too good today!)But the long arms ‘O the Cheepster never will.Makin' their way, The only way they know how, That's just a little bit more than Brian Barnhart will allow,

Just those good ol' boys, Wouldn't change if they could, Fightin' Tony’s system like a true pair ‘O modern day Robin Hoods…
(Hmm? So which “Juan” is the boy Wanderer and who’s Batman?)

As I think Wheldon & Dixon are much more suited for the roles of Luke ‘N bo Duke, with Danny Boy playing the role ‘O Bo and Scotty playing Luke, while the Princess and Milka will have a good ‘ol Bitch Slap Cat Fight over who gets to play Daisy. I was gonna cast Ashley Judd in the role since she’s quite good at the requisite wet T-Shirt portion of the show, but I hear she’s busy getting her nails done with Jeffery “Pretty Boyzs” Gordon’s new wife…

Playing the villainous Boss Hawg is none other than Kevin Kalkhoven while Tony George seems adept at the Roscoe P. Coltrane role…

And to think it’s a Dawning of a new era in Open Wheel Racing, although I hear dat Tony George has been busy rehearsing his lines for his upcoming negotiation with Emperor Bernardo over the possible return of F1 to the Speedway as sources in Terra Haute claim that Tony’s been watchin’ a ton ‘O Rodney Dangerfield outtakes…

But seriously folks, on the subject of car numbers, I believe that the #12 is currently being used by Tomas Scheckter and thus NHL would need to ponder the use of #’s 16 and 22 which I believe are currently available? Nah, instead why don’t they go for the numbers 98 and 99? You know the ages of the team’s two elder statesmen.

I mean what’s next? The numbers 6.9 and 9.5? Or 007 and 009? NOPE! The latter two are already taken by the Aston Martin team in the Le Mans series. So, what do you think Newman Haas Lanigan’s two entries should be numbered?

I Am Clabber-gasted!As for the accompanying video clip… Sorry, but I just had to do it! After seeing Hazard’s star John Schneider sing an excellent version of the hit song upon starting the frenzied bidding for one of the last remaining General Lee’s, which fetched a RIDICULOUS WINNING BID OF $200,000 at this year’s Barret Jackson…

I’d take this song ANY DAY OVER the current “I AM INDY!” Now let’s get ready to see the Princess and Milka try to out-do each other for best wall smack…

Friday, March 28, 2008

Homestead Qualifying

And then there were 25… As we now know that Graham Rahal’s entry has been scrubbed from the season opening Indy Car race after young Messer Rahal earned his Darlington stripe during pre-season testing earlier this week. Yet, surprisingly there were two back to back crashes as first rookie Jay Howard lost control of the second Roth Racing entry, immediately followed by Dan Wheldon pirouetting into the wall! Wheldon will start from the rear of the grid in a back-up machine most likely, while Howard was awaiting further clearance after being released from the trackside medical facility sporting a pair of crutches. Surprisingly Tony George’s Vision Racing entries will roll off in P2-P3, as Edward Carpenter flirted thru the first three laps with winning his very first pole before fault erring to second on the final lap, giving TCGR’s Scott Dixon his ninth career pole. As for the rest of the gang here’s a quick look at some of the others participating, as that much beloved Kuh-Nuck Marty “Turtle” Roth has scored his career best starting position… Indeed continuing to lead the Champ Car refugees, as interestingly seven of the nine drivers making the switch have been deemed rookies this season by Brian Barnhart with only Bruno Junqueira and Oriel Servia being granted Veteran status. So, will Scott Dixon win for the Cheepster? Or will Danny Boy blitz the field from the rear of the grid… And don’t forget the Team Penske duo along with the Andretti Green crew. Oh crap, even the Princess has an outside chance tomorrow night…

GAINSCO Indy 300 qualifying results
Pos) Driver, Team, Speed (4-lap avg.)
1) Scott Dixon, Target Ganassi, 213.341
2) Ed Carpenter, Vision, 213.311
3) A.J. Foyt IV, Vision, 212.211
4) Danica Patrick, Andretti Green, 212.129
5) Ryan Briscoe, Penske, 212.108
6) Marco Andretti, Andretti Green, 211.838
7) Helio Castroneves, Penske, 211.581
8) Tony Kanaan, Andretti Green, 211.580
9) Hideki Mutoh, Andretti Green, 210.508
10) Marty Roth, Roth, 211.458
11) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Rahal Letterman, 210.744
12) Vitor Meira, Panther, 210.315
13) Buddy Rice, Dreyer & Reinbold, 209.486
14) Darren Manning, Foyt, 210.315
15) Franck Perera, Conquest, 209.230
16) Oriol Servia, KV, 209.021
17) Justin Wilson, Newman/Haas/Lanigan, 208.757
18) Milka Duno, Dreyer & Reinbold, 208.308
19) Enrique Bernoldi, Conquest 208.130
20) Ernesto Viso, HVM, 208.101
21) Will Power, KV, 208.029
22) Bruno Junqueira, Coyne, 207.434
23) Mario Moraes, Coyne. 207.067
24) Dan Wheldon, Target Ganassi, No time, No speed
25) Jay Howard, Roth, No time, No speed

Thursday, March 27, 2008

You make the call

While recently frolicking about the Lone Star state, the conversation drifted towards racing, which some people claim I have an obsession with…

As I casually mentioned that the two warring factions; CCWS vs. IRL had merged, Mary Ellen said; “So what do they call it now?"
“The names IRL and Indy Car are OBSOLETE!”

We need a NEW series name to commemorate the merging) It’s a TAKEOVER, NOT A MERGER) of these two noble leagues. After all what’s in the name Indy Car? That would be like calling Formula 1 “Lundy Car” (“Bernie Car?”) in deference to F1 Czar Emperor Bernardo’s home town. Or “Silvy Car” after England’s beloved home Grand Prix circuit, as Fortunately Championship Car/CART/Champ Car didn’t take the bait, as the series would have potentially been named “Porty Car” in deference to the very first AAA sanctioned Champ Car race being held in the Rose City (Portland, OR) in 1909.

Therefore, I put forth the notion that we should all put our thinking caps on and see if we can come up with an appropriate series moniker (Keep it clean fellahs, or the PCNA may drop by your residence with a bar ‘O soap) for the newly Unified racing series.

Anyone who is interested may submit as many names as desired by either leaving a comment or shooting an email to Tomaso at

After a little time has gone by to let the pot boil, He’ll post a list of potential selections, which everybody could vote on their favourite selection and then Tomaso would happily forward the suggestion to the esteemed Mr. George…

I’m confident that we’ll ALL be very creative and get behind our new selection, as we are after all, the most important link-in-the-chain. (THE FANS!)

To get the ball rolling, I (Mary Ellen) submit my choice, which is; “unity Cars.” (After all, we are entering the Age of Aquarius and we are ALL supposed to get along!) It could also be called the “URL” for short. (Unity Racing League) So, c’mon Y’all and send those suggestions in…

Mary Ellen
Tacoma Bureau Chief

Editor’s note:As you may already know, Tomaso’s suggestion is the Indy Car World Series, in the hopes the “Roadification” of Indy Cars will lead us back to those glory years ‘O yesterday when CART traveled the globe.

Meanwhile the tag line I AM INDY has already been put forward by former pitchman Gene Simonize, while the folks at 16th & Georgetown have been working overtime with the new punch line I Am Indy, One series, All the Stars along with the rebirth of Firestone Indy Lights, which previously was a CART feeder series, while the Indy Pro Series will thankfully be buried… Hey, perhaps “IOWR?” (Int’l Open Wheel Racers) Nah, it sounds like Tony OWES us something or that ‘lil city of squealing bacon ‘N corn. (Iowa) Geez, what’ll be next? Helmet tosses or Rock em Sock em wrasslin’ in full uniforms plus brain buckets firmly affixed?

And sorry folks, but the No Fenders piggy bank is currently broken after two weeks in Texas/Washington DC. Therefore I don’t have any prizes to dole out to the winners…

IT’S OFFICIAL! (WORST Websites contest continues)

HALLA-Frilling-LUIA!!! (Thanks Press Dawg)

As a legally blind hack that relies upon specialized software in order to create journalism masterpieces which thankfully you continue to read, I’ve been RELUCTANT To say anything too critical about the “”New ‘N Improved”” SPEED TV dot Com website…

As I wasn’t sure if it was just me or my screen reader affectionately nick-named “Lucy” having problems with the site?

C’mon Tomaso I dare you to try writing a story while I hold the pen for you! (Y’all remember Lucy’s antics in Peanuts, eh?)

But now it’s safe to throw another log onto the fire as Press Dog has BROKEN THE STORY BY posting; Seeks to Take Up Mantel of "Least Usable" Web site

Previously Robin Miller commented on Wind Tunnel how he could remember back in the good ‘Ol dazes when reporters actually talked to their sources, pounded away on those ‘Ol blue Xerox Selectric’s for a while while waiting to hear back from some warm bodies to confirm what they were busily hacking away at before having the printing plates set-up. Now everybody just goes to the internets and shuh-zamm… Instant news…

Yet, since I’m residing on the Left coast, Far, Far, Far away from the Motorsports heartland, I depend upon Al Gore’s magnificent creation for the genesis of stories I see fit to scribble about. And unless Robin is willing to cough up his Rolodex to me, I suspect I’ll carry on this way.

Thus I depend upon SPEED’s website for relevant information. Well perhaps depend is the WRONG word as the new site makes me think of DUH-PENDZS!!! Noting to myself how SPEED has OUT FOXED itself by dubbing down the once semi user friendly website, all I can think of when going there is Jim Carey in DUMB ‘N DUMBER…

Thus, I cringed the very first time I was redirected to their new Rhubarb Murdocized “ROXx TV” infomercial style set-up, as the first thing I noticed was that PINKS and Unique Whipes selection tabs had replaced the Commentary and Programs selection bars. SHEISA! Where the HELL did Robin and David Phillips go? And what frillin’ time is the Formula 1 race going to be broadcasted at? Even worse, Lucy frequently CANNOT read the stories in the various “News” sections as they simply will NOT mesh with my screen reader. And WORST of all is the frillin’ video clips automatically playing while I futilely attempt to find the stop button… (As apparently I’m “Juan ‘O” the Lucky SOB’s whose confuzer will actually play the DAMN things! Yet, try having a screen reader running simultaneously while unwanted video clips are audibly playing and there’s NO FRILLIN’ Way to STOP them!!!)

As I fear the FOX 24/7 dribble of this overly graphic intensive website seems incompatible with my screen reader and I seriously DOUBT the site meets current Low Vision/Blindness web default standards for the running of such programs as Zoomtext and JAWS…

Hey SPEED! If I wanted to read RASSCAR Lite, I’d go to the appropriate website, so, Mr. Murdoch take back you’re FRILLING snazzy jazzed up website as you’re simply killing me, as I’m inclined less ‘N less to visit either the website or TV channel as they’re both made for a different demographic…

Finishing in the runner-up position for WORST websites for me to use on a daily basis is as the miniscule Bingo card racing category selections are extremely hard to read and select, while its even harder to select the individual stories for Lucy to read!

Taking the final step on the podium… Podium? We DON’T need NO Stinkin’ Podiums… Is the site that Tony George built… Err, Indy as it’s extremely annoying to try selecting on the rotating ferris wheel rotisserie selection tabs… But perhaps the site will become even more despised with upcoming merging of Champ Car assets, as the CCWS website was also a PAIN IN THE ARSE to navigate. Yet, contrary to popular belief, it was actually navigable once you scrolled down the first three quarter’s of a mile. But, I digress…

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Somebody send Princess a Snickers

So many stories, so little time…
As the majority of the blogosphere seems to be tripping’ over itself in deference to the Princesses latest pity-poo in the USA Today over the IRL’s newly mandated minimum weight limit, thus I’d like to point out the following to Danica as the green flag is set to unfurl in just over 72 hours in Homestead…

As the majority of us Gearhead’s already know, modern Formula 1 racing cars are mid-engine, open cockpit, open wheel single-seaters being primarily constructed out of carbon fibre composites, with the ENTIRE Racing Car, INCLUDING: Engine, Fluids and DRIVER; Weighing ONLY 605kg. (1,334.025lbs) In fact this is the MINIMUM WEIGHT mandated by the FIA.

The majority of today’s Constructor’s chassis are purposely designed underweight in order to allow designers the greatest flexibility of positioning ballast at their discretion to maximize the Centre of Gravity *CG( as low as physically possible inside the chassis’s structure.

And although I don’t feel like hunting for the exact year this design theorem first began in Formula 1, suffice it to say, it has ALWAYS been a key aspect of Grand Prix chassis design, with the practice of lead weight ballasting having occurred for decades.

Careful Danica, have you noticed how ALL of the F1 drivers must be weighed immediately after the conclusion of every Grand Prix and thus we could have those clever IRL marketing goons start publishing driver’s weight’s a la Formula 1 and adding them to the television screens? YIKE’S!!! What’s next in the wurld ‘O Danica mania… The Princess has gained 4lbs… And now she’s doing those dreaded Slim Fast commercials?

And is it fair that Justin “Buckshot” *HMM? Buckshot = lead pellets = weight; PUN intended?) Wilson should be penalized for being the tallest driver on the grid? As I recall last season writing about Justin claiming his lap times were off by three tenth’s of a second vs. arch nemesis Sebastain Bourdais due to his 6’+ frame’s extra weight. And trust me; having met Justin personally a few years ago, he was fit as an Ox with zero body fat!

At 6’ 3 ½” and 185lbs, Justin is at a sizeable disadvantage against the Princess, but in his typical British “Stiff upper lip” fashion, has said nary a word about this subject. NO, I believe it was Robby “Dirtmann” Gourdoun who was the first to cry Mommy about the weight disparity…

Yet, Gourdoun knows a thing or four ‘bout shedding weight, having caused yellow flags by discarding various parts of his racing car’s interior, while tossing your helmet has to be good for at least five pounds… And one may argue that if the Princess kept her undergarments on she may not have to add so much ballast to her Andretti Green mount, eh?

Yet, one of the funniest things I’ve seen in the past was when Scott “Juicyfruit” Pruett was sandwiched in-between Jaguar F1 teammates Mark Webber and Justin Wilson, as Pruett was definitely NOT like the others… Both Jag pilots being in the over six feet tall club… Yet Mark “Dundee” Webber seems to get on just fine in Formula 1, albeit on the largish side of Grand Prix jockeys…

So, as Don Henley sang long ago; GET OVER IT!” PRINCESS! As I personally believe like most out there, this is a GOOD thing, NOT a bad thing! Besides, Paul Tracy will need all the help he can get when he show’s up at the Speedway this May!

And DON’T even get me started on Marty “BACK 40” Roth… Now; “Somebody give me a Cheeseburger!” Err, Justin, send Danica some Quarter Pounders with cheese…

Justin Wilson’s “Sir-name” glummed from My Name is IRL and you may wish to partake in his nicknaming of ex-CCWS Driver’s?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Todt leaves Ferrari

Jean Todt, the man who led Ferrari’s resurgence in Formula 1 with the unprecedented six year domination during the Michael Schumacher dynasty has resigned from his post of CEO at Ferrari, which was confirmed during the just concluded share holder’s meeting March 18th.

Yet, rumours suggest that the 62yr old Frenchman may be positioning himself for a run at Max Mosley’s job as head of the FIA in 2009 when Mad Max’s current tenure expires. Apparently Mosley and Todt are friends and the Scuderia has left Todt as its FIA representative, which could come in handy during the run-up to elections next year…

Is Louise human after all?

Ok, so I know some of Lewis Hamilton’s maladies in Koala Lumpar were beyond his control, nevertheless his five place grid spot penalty in qualifying dropped him to his lowest starting position since Germany last year when he crashed heavily into the tyre barriers…

Rushing up to fifth place, Hamilton was basically unable to get around the notoriously hard to pass Mark Webber and subsequently grained his tires trying to do so. Then a messy 18+ second pit stop caused by an un-cooperating front wheel spat assembly dropped him even further down the order.

Hamilton did indeed go further on his second stint due to the heavier amount of petrol aboard his mount and the usual superb McLaren pit-stop enabled him to shuffle ahead of the most irksome Aussie, leaving him free to nip at the heels of Jarno Tulli’s reborn Toyota. Although “Jaguar” got very close to the Italian who was chasing his first podium in his last 50 starts, the two drivers remained stationary to the flag.

So, with two rounds gone, I know it’s way too early to make any predictions about who’ll be the 2008 World Champion, although may I suggest that Hamilton and Raikkonen seem to have that air of superiority in their step, especially when being interviewed. And I’ll give the Krakow Kid the nod for third over Felipe Massa, with Nick Heidfeld leading the rest of the grid in driver’s standings, although Heikki Kovalainen may be quick to disagree with me, eh?

While I’ll be happy with either Hamilton or Raikkonen winning the title, I’d prefer to see the Iceman claim his second crown so he could join the very distinguished list of two time consecutive World Champions…

Monday, March 24, 2008

Vasser at Long Beach

Last night on Wind Tunnel, Robin Miller scooped us all once again by noting that Jimmy Vasser would come out of his semi-retirement to drive in the Champ Car series finale at Long Beach.

Robin also told Dave Despain he should ask Jimmy if he was getting paid by Craig Gore. This was in regards to the acrimonious split between Gore and Derrick Walker, which had Miller sounding less than impressed by Gore’s scuttling of perennial Open Wheel Racing team owner Walker’s devotion to the sport. You can read more about the possible impending lawsuit here: Walker threatens to sue co-owner Gore

After the commercial break, Dave’s next guess was Jimmy Vasser who said it must be true if Robin says it, in regards to running at Long Beach. Vasser said he hopes to be one of the Really-Really-Really big announcements pending for the promotion of the Champ Car World Series farewell party.

Vasser was most politically correct over the Gore vs. Walker matter, saying he’d like them to both work it out, Gore’s done everything he’s promised and he know’s that Derrick didn’t go three years without any funding…

Jimmy would also like to see his hometown rival Paul Tracy in an Indy Car, but PT’s got some tricky legal waters to navigate.

And on the subject of Vasser and Cristiano Da Matta racing together at Laguna Seca in an upcoming Sports Car race later this year, Vasser in his best Kevin Kalkhoven “I KNOW NOTHING” voice, said that’s news to me Dave, but if it happens, it would be great and I don’t know where you’re getting your info from? To which Despain replied; Miller said it!

F1: Malaysia madness - 2008 edition

OOPS! In all of my excitement of watching and reflecting upon the Australian GP, I forgot to watch the Friday free practice session aired late Thursday evening on SPEED. Not to mention NOT being able to figure out why the recording machine wouldn’t tape the qualifying and race episodes… Oh SHEISA!!! That’s right, the VCR is screwed ‘cause Daylight $avings time has been modified! Fortunately I was able to watch the Qualie session “live” and the re-broadcasted race while y’all were busy searchin’ for Easter eggs…

And there didn’t seem to be too much news, although Peter Winsor noted that the main Talking Point in the garage was the FIA deciding to put Red Bull on notice over the disintegrating suspension failures that David Coulthard has endured over the past two weeks.

Winsor noted that a McLaren design employee who’d remain nameless had scoffed that they used to add 25% more material to all of Adrian Newey’s designs (when he wasn’t around) to ensure chassis reliability… Yet the FIA has painted itself into somewhat of a corner, having previously deemed the RB4 crash worthy upon it’s passing of the current regulations, as there’s currently no structural integrity tests required for suspension components.

And Winsor noted that it was indeed blistering on the grid as the 90+ degrees, 85% humidity had him sweating profusely, while the drivers seemed to not be too bothered by the oppressive heat.

And in a reversal of fortunes, the Prancing Horse managed to lock-up the front row with Felipe Massa scoring his tenth career pole position with teammate Kimi Raikkonen alongside. Originally McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen and Lewis Hamilton had secured the grid places of third and fourth, but the stewards deemed them to have both been on the racing line on their cool down laps while we watched Nick Heidfeld trying to get around them on a last lap flyer… Along with Fredrico Suave, thus both McLaren drivers were docked five grid positions for their indiscretions...

This elevated Truly Scrumptious (Jarno Truly) to third with The Krakow Kid (Kubica) alongside in fourth. Quick Nick (Heidfeld) who’s been slightly outperformed by his teammate lined up P5 with Mark “Dundee” Weber lining up sixth. And isn’t it funny how some Putz named Alonso cannot manage to get away from the McLarens… As Ferdi was in P7 alongside Renault refugee Kovalainen, while Hamilton was joined by Timo Glock on row five.

Nelson Nelson managed to improve his qualifying pace, lining up in 12th, while the Hamburgular wasn’t having such a good time in the oppressive heat of Kuala Lumpar, as Bourdais suffered a brake failure, an engine change, along with being fined over $6,000 for two pit lane speeding tickets.

As the lights turned green, Felipe Massa performed some Herr Schumacher surgery on the Iceman at the start of the race to keep the lead, while not too many fireworks occurred behind the red cars scrum, “Louise Jaguar” (Hamilton) managed to work his way up to fifth behind Mark Webber’s Red Bull chassis.

And I enjoyed the House of Winsor’s cynical comment about how perhaps the young Louise was simply awaiting a brake explosion or suspension failure from the Red Bull car and didn’t wish to get to close to the reportedly hard to pass Aussie… While Massa and Raikkonen traded fast laps while pulling away from the field.

Then the dreaded announcer’s curse was bestowed upon the young Brazilian, as David Hobbs stated that the Ferrari’s absolutely had the field spotted, Massa pirouetted off into the sand trap and beached himself while trying to keep pace with The Iceman, who’d gotten around Felipe during the first round of pit stops. Raikkonen had just blistered the field with a 1:36.1 lap with new second place runner Kubica managing a 1:37.6!

From thereon out, Kimi cruised home to his 16th career victory, coming on the fifth anniversary of his very first Formula 1 win at the same venue. Kubica took second with Kovalainen claiming the final podium position. Jarno Truly came home an impressive fourth ahead of Hamilton…

Driver standings
Hamilton 14
Heidfeld 11
Raikkonen 11
Kovalainen 10
Kubica 8

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Boo hoo hoo… As I’ve just spent the past two weeks frolicking about the Lone Star state, our Nation’s capital for a whole two hours, an aborted farewell send off to Albin, a nightmarish attempt to fly home along with missing the first Grand Prix of the season, which is extraordinary for me!!! As I cannot remember the last time I wasn’t firmly affixed to the captain’s chair in front of the boob tube to watch the season opening round that I wait all winter for…

I’ve just managed to finish watching several hours of Memorex via the ‘Ol School VCR, which has left me gasping for air as I’ve succumbed to the dreaded aeroplane sickness… Better known as Economy Cabin Fever! As I know Y’all will be sheddin’ a tear for me, eh? While still trying to digest the INSANITY of the season opener from Oz.

Aw, the life “O Riley, eh? As in Radar O’Reilly! Now somebody pass me a Halls cough drop! Or perhaps the Easter Bunny will bring me some Nyquil; you know the put you into a coma cough syrup relief medicine. Yeah, don’t worry, I’m NOT operating any heavy machinery right now…

F1: Thunder Down Under - Australia, 2008 edition


That seems to be about the only thing I can think of that appropriately sum’s up the 2008 Formula 1 season opening race just held in the Land of Oz!

Friday practice notes
The Boyzs are Back
The Boyzs are Back…

Now it must “Trulli” be Spring as the SPEED TV gang is back once again to bring us the magnificent sights ‘N sounds of Formula 1! And although they’re not quite the boys of summer, I’ll take the Quartet of Bob Varsha, David Hobbs, Steve Matchett and Peter Winsor ANY day OVER the chalkboard high pitched noise machine affectionately known as the RASSCAR RAT PACK! (Mr. Boogity; DW, Larry Mac ‘N Cheese, Jeffery Arm & Hammond, Kenny “The Beaver” Wallace and Jimmy Mr. Goodbar Spencer)

Vijay Malia’s massive cash infusion into the new & improved Force India F1 team has the squad so enthused, that Chief Technical Officer Mike Gascoyne has brashly stated that if the VJ-M01 isn’t vastly up the grid by the season’s third quarter mark, then he should be fired! Careful of what you wish for MATE! Then again he’s pretty proficient at “Gardening Leave,” eh? Ah, don’t uze just lov’s the smell ‘O enthusiasm? Kinda like those new car deodorants you hang around your car mirror as the beginning of a new season bubbles over with optimism…

My very favourite Pit Reporter (Peter Winsor) was his usual krack-up-self, while interviewing Renault head designer Bob Bell, saying c’mon Bob when are you gonna win? To which Bell replied if they don’t get cracking this season then he’ll probably need to borrow Messer Gascoyne’s seeking employment want ads. And while discussing his much beloved adaptation of the SECU, Winsor rhetorically asked; do you mean drivers may actually have to de-clutch once again?

Winsor’s next target of affection was Honda test driver Alex Wurz, as a good bit of shtick was dolled out over Wurz’s needing to wear sunglasses while missing out on the Honda bloomer’s…

To which Varsha quickly quipped; Honda’s green-green shorts would get his vote as Team Schrek!

And speaking of bloomers, from the Varsha WAY TOO MUCH INFO files came the tidbits of David Coulthard’s shopping junket Down Under, claiming that DC has a penchant for buying up to forty pairs ‘O boxers, size small… To which quickly deteriorated into a bad skit by “Hobbo” over seeing Flavor Flav in a pair ‘O briefs while pooh-pooh-ing Briatore’s impending wedding to Victoria Secret supermodel Deanna Miller…

To which Matchett tried to awkwardly segway into much more serious techno-babble over the miniscule ride height adjustments the teams were currently making in the garages. Yet it is amazing how mechanics are constantly at work shimming the suspensions between half and one millimeter which makes crucial aerodynamic changes. Professor Matchett proclaimed that half of a millimeter is approximately the thickness of a hard back novel’s page… While the teams will need to add shimming to raise the chassis in proportion to the amount of fuel added, as the extra weight actually forces the chassis downwards.

Matchett also commented on the BMW Sauber’s front nose treatment by naming it the Bullwinkle treatment, in regards to the addition of the Viking style appendages that first adorned McLaren’s air box a few seasons ago, by placing a smaller pair of protrusions over the front suspension uprights.

There also seemed to be some confusion over the 2008 rules as Varsha noted that there’s NO spare car this year, although I heard it mentioned that somebody was in their team’s spare chassis for the race. And leave it to the WMSC to make the rules as clear as mud on a rainy day… As although Varsha is theoretically correct, the rules state that teams are allowed only two complete chassis at any given time, yet one may build up a new car as long as the engine and transmission along with all of the other nefarious FIA sealed bits remain intact in the changeover. Although I do NOT like this new rule as there is simply NOT enough flexibility to ensure a “Full” grid of 22 chassis. Nevertheless I suppose this rule was concocted under the aspics of MAD Max’s beloved cost cutting measures, while really trying to persuade drivers from committing any further Senna-Prost intentional crashing shenanigans.

I was also unaware that if you change your transmission prior to its mandatory four race weekend’s duty cycle you will receive a five grid spot penalty, a la premature engine changes, although this year teams are granted a “Mulligan” on the draconian 10 grid spot penalty. And while engine design has been frozen thru 2010, the manufactures are required to run 5.75% biomass fuel content this season as the FIA sheepishly tries to turn green, also having cut the Q3 fuel burning segment.

And I’d also not heard about the 2009 rules changes which will see a massive 50% reduction in aerodynamics, which will see the deletion of many of the countless winglets, flip-ups and aerodynamic aids…

Varsha also proclaimed that Renault new boy Nelson Piquet Jr was no longer wishing to be known as Junior or Senior and apparently will go by the nickname Nelson Nelson… As there will be NO more Junior biz.

Saturday Qualie-Quips
Some of you may already know about the newly revised Qualifying format, which thankfully sees the deletion of the Q3 fuel burning phase… (Note to Tony George, way to go on ADDING laps to Oval qualifying this season) Thus last years three segments of 15-15-15 minutes has been revised to Q1: 20minutes; Q2: 15 and Q3: 10, while all of the other previous rules still apply, i.e.; laps started prior to the checkered flag count and race fuel loads for the top ten must be in the tanks prior to the beginning of Q3, with positions 11-22 being allowed to re-adjust their fuel ballast up to 90 minutes prior to the green flag.

I’d say that the biggest disappointment of Q1 had to be Nelson Nelson not being able to haul his way up to P16, being relegated to a 21st starting position. Hmm? Hey Flavio, now what do you think about making Heikki walk the plank.

And speaking of Renault, reportedly the “Reggie” is paying Fernando Alonso $46 million per season to drive the Bleu machines, while the rumours of Ferrari driver shuffles has once again been wound-up, with German Hot Schue Sebastian Vettel’s name also being cast about. Oh crap, here we go again! And it’s NOT even anywhere’s near the official start of Silly Season, SHEISA!

And what in the HELL happened to the Kimster in Q2? As apparently Raikkonen had a fuel pressure problem, to which The House of Winsor immediately jumped on by proclaiming he was putting his cynical cap on… To which Varsha chided, Who, You? What me worry? While Peter went into his bad Italian accent, quickly proclaiming that it OBVIOUSLY had something to do with the McLaren/Microsof Common ECU control unit…

And Ferdi the Putz was uncharacteristically out of the top ten for only the second time since 2006, while Homeboy Mark Webber was bitterly disappointed to have suffered a front brake disc explosion, as I had a moment of brilliance upon nicknaming Robert Kubica as “The Krakow Kid” upon Varsha’s repeated comments of the Pole’s residence.

So it was a somewhat jumbled starting grid with Lewis Hamilton gaining his seventh pole, followed by Kubica. Kovalainen lined up third with Felipe Massa in fourth while Kimi was forced to settle for 15th. Quick Nick Heidfeld was 5th with Toyota’s Jarno Trulli in 6th. Row Four was filled by Nico Rosberg and David Coulthard, while Timo Glock slotted into P9 and Vettel rounded out the top ten…

Sunday Race notes
”Sunday driver NEVER took a test, out in the wild, wild, west!”

I’m NOT even gonna try to rehash the massive carnage of the race as there were simply too many incidents to cover, from Jarno Trulli’s “Hot Bot,” due to an exploding battery. The antics of Drivers being Drivers by having a multiple car melee on the first lap after the winter’s break… The Iceman loosing his cool by slithering off track twice; “The Krakow Kid’s” untimely undoing behind the safety car by Nakajima, along with poor ‘Ol Rubinoe’s fueling rig schumozzle… Aye Karumba!

As Professor Matchett was “Johnny-on-the-spot” catching Barrichello’s red light running, of which he was correctly DQ’ed one hour after the race, which means that the Australian GP saw only six classified runners at the chequered flag, tying the lowest number since the 2005 USGP Michelin Tyre debacle!

Yet in the end it was business as usual for Louise “Jaguar” Hamilton who thoroughly dominated the race, with Quick Nick and Nico on the podium. It was genuinely nice to see Hamilton hug his karting buddy Rosberg in congratulation’s of scoring his first F1 career podium, as Lewis eluded to during the post race interview it was the first time in eight years they’d shared a podium since their go karting days…

Word of the Week

El Twich-Oe”

Or as David Hobbs proclaimed meant extremely twitchy in El Spanol, while watching Fredrico Suave cutting a rug with the underperforming Renault R28, as I’m still not exactly sure what’s up with all of this talk about Ferdi’s differential giving him grief, as I thought it was Heikki Kovalainen in the McLaren…

Best “Dust Up”
Of the weekend has to go to the scrap between Fredrico and Heikki as Messer Hobbs duly noted that Alonso would be most desperate to keep the McLaren of Finnish new boy Heikke behind him, as the Ronster was forced to wipe the smile off of his mug after Kovalainen’s late race pass for fourth place was gifted back to the Spaniard upon Heikke inadvertently hitting the pit lane speed limiter…

Yet Alonso’s fourth place should have gone to the Hamburgular (Sebastian Bourdais) whose Ferrari lump went KUH-BLAMOE! With only two laps remaining, as I find it most odd to be suddenly rooting for the former Champ Car champ-pee-on! Yet he managed to avoid trouble and was leading the two time World Champion and Heikke’s McLaren in the closing laps before the McLaren boffins cut the spark to the 2.4 liter Ferrari V-8!

And it was so nice to NOT have to listen to Fredrico in the post race interviews!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Luck ‘O the Irish

I recently heard a pair of comedians making fun of VHS’s “Hit Show; Where are they now?”” Claiming this show was cruel and degrading to the entire one hit wonders who now are working in ungratifying desk jobs.

Yet I did enjoy reading a past Linksheaven posting about where various ex-Formula 1 driver’s had gone off to, thus I decided to do a where’d they go rendition of the Irish drivers just profiled on St. Pattie’s day…

Rosemary Smith
This vivacious “Irish lass” whose good looks saw her dress designing career take a back seat as a model before her mother put her foot down and demanded she make use of her designing talents, ended up racing cars instead, after being bitten by the lure of driving fast. Upon her marriage, her husband demanded that she give up her ego trips and hence, Smith retired from racing. Yet, the wail of motor racing could not be extinguished and after the marriage failed, she once again returned to the cockpit and still competes in selected events today, taking part in the Goodwood Revival, along with making trips to Sebring. Rosemary now runs an organization promoting road safety and good driving practice to Irish teenagers

John Watson
Upon retiring from Formula 1, Wattie tried his hand in Endurance racing, along with running a driving school at Silverstone. Afterwards, he became an F1 commentator for Eurosport from 1991-97, then moved to calling the British Touring Car Championship alongside Charlie Cox for the BBC.

Wattie now keeps busy by calling the action of the A1 GP for Sky Sports with Ben Edwards and served as the honorary Grand Marshal at last year’s Zippo Historics at Watkins Glen.

Eddie Jordan
The zenith of this plucky Irishman’s dream of Grand Prix grandeur occurred in 1999, when Jordan Grand Prix finished third in the Constructor’s championship on the back of Heinz Harald Frentzen’s two victories. EJ’s team would ultimately score four Grand Prix wins before funding dried up to the extent that Eddie was forced to sell his beloved team to Carl Schnaider, whom in turn re-branded the team MF1 Racing.

Jordan still keeps himself busy with motor racing by writing a column for F1 Racing magazine along with having been named director of Rally Ireland, part of the World Rally Championship. He recently finished a TV series titled; Eddie Jordan’s Bad Boy Racers.

For recreation, Eddie has played the drums for a number of years in his band first known as V10 and now plays with a revised troupe known as Eddie and the Robbers. He also enjoys Golf and Horse Racing, along with a keen interest in Football, having a season ticket for Glasgow Celtic FC.

EJ also has business interests in V10, a brand of Vodka, along with the energy drink EJ10 and has just written his autobiography; an Independent Man, which was published in 2007.

Derrick Daly
After a somewhat successful career in Formula 1, unable to land a ride in Grand Prix, Daly moved Across the Pond and began competing in the CART/PPG championship in 1983. Derek contested six Indianapolis 500’s (1983-85, ’87-89) before moving to Endurance racing. I believe that Derrick drove briefly for Jaguar before finishing out his Sports Car career with Nissan in the all conquering 300ZXT’s.

Daly next moved to a career as a television commentator for motor racing, covering both Champ Car and the Indy 500. His antics as a colour commentator for Champ Car were noticeable, as Daly’s role has now been reduced to covering just the Indy 500 alongside SPEED’s Robin Miller, although Daly still works for local TV in Indianapolis.

Derrick has also owned a driving school in Las Vegas, along with several other business interests including his motivational company Motorvation. Currently, he’s mentoring his son’s racing career, has taken to road racing track designing and has just released a book title Race to win.

Tommy Byrne
Although Tommy was the second most successful driver in the long defunct American Racing Series and spent considerable time in the States, he never was given the opportunity to race in Champ Car and retired from motor racing in 1992. He’s since taken up residency in Florida, but runs a Teen defensive driving program at the Mid Ohio race track nine months a year.

Martin Donnelly
With many of us fearing the worse upon Donnelly being forcefully ejected from his race car that fateful day, Donnelly miraculously survived the horrific shunt, although he’d be crippled for life.

Martin then went on to manage a Formula Vauxhall team before being coaxed back into the cockpit, racing a Mazda RX8 in a 2004 Britsport 24 hours race at Silverstone, finishing in 27th place.

. He then took task to competing in Lotus track days, after first being invited to a club outing in 2006. In 2007 Donnelly bested 35 fellow competitors enroute to winning the Elise Tourist Cup, scoring two A Division victories. Donnelly currently spends time as a driver development coach for ComTech Racing as well as working at Lotus track day outings.

Eddie Irvine
Although many consider him a playboy and he certainly seems to fancy this role, “Irv the Swerve” was reported to be the fifth richest person of Ireland in 2006, having grown a portfolio of 40+ properties towards a net worth of $160 million.

Yet, Irvine continues to relish his celebrity status, having recently done a television reality show on Sky TV with his team of male drivers competing against David Coulthard’s team of female drivers. Eddie also played himself in the 2004 comedy film; The prince and me. Irv also had a brief romance with Pamela Anderson, who called the courtship off, claiming that Eddie was too sweet for her…

Irvine has also tried unsuccessfully to acquire an ownership stake in various Formula 1 teams. His previous attempts included Minardi in 2005 and Jordan in 2005-06, reportedly with Russian Vodka Czar Routsam Tariko and there are now rumours that Irv the Swerve could be potentially sniffing around Super Aguri.

Ralph Firman
After a thoroughly disappointing season in Formula 1 with the faltering Jordan Grand Prix team, Ralph contested the 2004 24 Heurs du Mans alongside Justin Wilson and Tom Coronel, along with being the official test driver for the A1 GP series, before driving for Team Ireland in 2005. In 2007 Firman and Daisuke Ito won the Japan Super GT GT 500 class for Aguri Suzuki’s co-owned ART team, becoming the first drivers to win the class prior to the end of the season…

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Blarney! (Irish F1 Piloto's)

Aw shucks, I just realized that it’s Saint Patrick’s Day, you know when you’re supposed to pinch somebody when they’re NOT wearing’ green, OUCH! Mary Ellen…

So with that in mind, I thought I’d pay homage to those plucky Irishmen who’ve boldly sat behind the wheel of a Formula 1 rocket ship and see just who’s “Kissed the Blarney stone” and who’s found the luck ‘O the Irish or the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, eh?

Rosemary Smith
Years: 1959-1969

Rosemary Smith actually had no intentions of being a racing driver, instead focusing upon becoming a fashion designer. Yet a co-worker enticed her to be her navigator in a rally and after getting hopelessly lost from holding the map upside down, Smith took over the wheel and became enthralled with driving. Smith then went onto a very successful Rally career as a “Works” driver for the Roots group, winning several class victories aboard different makes. Smith was denied entry into the 24 Heurs du Mans due to her gender and curtailed her driving career upon getting married.

John Watson
Years: 1973-83, 1985
Teams: Brabham, Penske, McLaren
Starts: 152
Wins: 5
Poles: 2
Points: 169

John “Wattie” Watson is considered to be the most successful Irish Formula 1 driver, having scored Grand Prix victories for Penske and McLaren, while being let down several times by the Brabham-Alfa Romeo. (V-12)

The son of a successful car broker, Watson began his Formula 1 career after graduating from Formula 2, debuting in the British Grand Prix with the “Privateer” Goldie Hexagon Racing team. Wattie also made a “one-off” aboard Brabham’s third works entry at Watkins Glen that season.

Watson briefly drove for the declining Surtees team before joining Penske as Mark Donohue’s replacement in mid 1974. Ironically “Wattie” scored Roger Penske’s lone Formula 1 victory exactly one year after Donohue’s death at Austria. Upon winning the race, he shaved off his beard as part of a bet he’d made with “The Captain.”

Moving to Brabham for three seasons (1976-78) upon Penske’s withdrawal from F1, Wattie eclipsed the performance of his World Champion teammate Niki Lauda in ’78 before moving to McLaren in 1979.

Watson was recruited to McLaren after their newly signed driver Ronnie Peterson had perished in the 1978 Italian Grand Prix. The Ulsterman would finish out his career with the Woking based squad, scoring the first victory under the new management of Ron Dennis in 1981.

Wattie’s best Formula 1 season came in 1982 with two victories, while enroute to finishing third in the championship, behind Ferrari’s Didier Pironi and World Champion teammate Keke Rosberg.

Eddie Jordan
Edmond “EJ” Jordan originally planned on being a Dentist, but wound up as a bank clerk instead, upon dropping out of college. Going to work for the Bank of Ireland, during a strike in Dublin, Jordan was sent to the “Isle of Jersey,” a reputed French tax haven where EJ caught the “Racing Bug” while attending a karting hill climb event.

Returning to Dublin, EJ bought a kart and won the Irish karting Championship, followed by a stint in Formula Ford 1600 in 1974. The next year saw Jordan move to Britain where he broke both legs at the end of the season and missed the following year while recuperating.

In 1977, EJ bought a used Formula Atlantic chassis and ultimately won the Irish Championship in 1978 before teaming up with Swedish “Hot Schue, Stevie Johnson,” (A.k.a. Stefan Johansson) for a crack at the British F3 Championship in 1979 for Team Ireland. Jordan also drove a F2 race car at Donnington Park that year along with testing a McLaren Formula 1 chassis at the end of the season.

Yet, while struggling to fund his driving career, EJ set up Eddie Jordan Racing and began campaigning race cars in 1981 for aspiring F3 and F3000 drivers before ultimately forming Jordan Grand Prix in 1991.

Derrick Daly
Years: 1978-82
Teams: Hesketh, Ensign, Tyrrell, March, Theodore, Williams
Starts: 49
Wins: 0
Poles: 0
Points: 15

This feisty Irishman from Dublin worked his way up thru the ladder of racing to Formula 1 the old fashioned way, by sheer driving talent.

Daly cut his racing teeth driving stock cars in Ireland before heading “Down Under” to work in the Tin mines to pay for his future single seater career. Daly’s name first came to prominence upon winning the 1976 Formula Ford festival which landed him a ride in Formula 3 the following season where he won the British championship. IN 1978 Daly raced in Formula 2, winning twice while trying to graduate into Formula 1 which he did with the hesketh team, before scoring his first point upon finishing 6th at Canada for Mo Nunn’s Ensign team.

In 1979 Derek switched to Ron Dennis’s Project 4 team aboard an ICI sponsored March/BMW in Formula 2, finally winning a race towards the end of the season, while continuing to drive for Ensign in Formula 1.

Ken Tyrrell then offered Daly a third team entry for that year’s Canadian GP, which turned into a full time offer for 1980. Derek made quite a splash upon crashing into a hoard of spectators at the Monaco Grand Prix, after flipping several times. This accident garnered team sponsor Candy world wide attention.

Daly then drove for the RAM F1 team in 1981 with a reconstituted March 811 chassis designed by Robin Herd with BMW engines, which were essentially clones of the Williams FW07 ground effects car. Following a disappointing season, Daly moved to the Theodore team for 1982 before finally getting his big break at Williams upon Carlos Reutmann’s retirement. Daly was subsequently let go in order to make room for Jacques Lafite in 1983 and moved stateside to contest the CART/PPG championship.

Tommy Byrne
Year: 1982
Team: Theodore
Starts: 2
Wins: 0
Poles: 0
Points: 0

Tommy Byrne made his name in the lower rungs of single seater racing, first impressing in Formula Fords in 1981. Byrne made the jump straightaway to F1 in 1982, albeit winning that year’s British F3 Championship while missing races to contest Formula 1 with the struggling Theodore team. Byrne appeared in the German and Las Vegas Grand Prix’s.

Byrne briefly returned to F3 before moving to the states and competing in the American Racing Series, (ARS) forbearer to the defunct Indy Lights series. Byrne contested the ARS from 1986-92, winning 10 races in 55 starts. (2nd in series victories) Tommy raced against such luminaries as Jon Beekhuis with his ARS best results twice in 1988-89 as the series runner-up.

Martin Donnelly
Years: 1989-90
Teams: Arrows, Lotus
Starts: 13
Wins: 0
Poles: 0
Points: 0

Born in Belfast, Martin Donnelly made his mark in the junior ranks of single seater racing, winning the Cellnet award in 1988, awarded to Britain's most promising young driver. Donnelly finished third in the British Formula 3 Championship two years in a row. (1987-88) Driving for “EJ,” (1988-89) Donnelly then contested the European Formula 3000 Championship alongside Johnny Herbert, winning three races before moving to the Arrows Grand Prix team,

Donnelly made his Formula 1 debut in the 1989 French Grand Prix and after his debut season with Arrows, switched to Lotus for 1990.
Unfortunately the Ulsterman’s F1 career was cut short upon attempting to qualify for the 1990 Spanish GP.

When I think of Donnelly, I still can vividly recall seeing that bright yellow Camel Lotus Lamborghini (V-12) exploding into a million pieces… As this horrific shunt is one of the most rueling accidents I’ve seen via the “Telie” while watching Grand Prix, as the car simply disintegrated with poor Donnelly lying in the middle of the road strapped to his seat.

Eddie Irvine
Years: 1993-2002
Teams: Jordan, Ferrari, Jaguar
Starts: 148
Wins: 4
Poles: 0
Points: 191

“Irv the Swerve” gained this illustrious nickname for his unique driving style. Having been born into racing as his father was an amateur racer; Edmund first plied his hands at the wheel of his father’s historic racing cars before trotting up the traditional ladder route of most top flight drivers. Irvine’s laid back style confused many, but Marlboro was willing to appoint the Irishman a spot in its young lion’s program and Irvine progressed from Formula Fords and Formula 3 before his career sputtered to a halt in International F3000 competition.

Eddie then moved to Japan to contest the Japanese F3000 series where he won several races and made lots of money which he used to obtain a drive for Eddie Jordan in the 1993 Formula 1 season’s final two events.

Making his debut in F1 at Suzuka, a track he knew well, Irvine garnered world wide attention when he un-lapped himself from Ayrton Senna who punched the Irishman after the race for his overtaking maneuver. When asked why he’d repassed Senna, Irvine replied that Ayrton was simply driving too slowly!

This brand of insolence that Irv the Swerve would become famous for most likely netted him a three race ban in 1993 after EJ had appealed the steward’s decision to give Irvine a one race suspension after triggering a four car pile-up which sent Jos “THE BOSS” Verstappen skywards.

Thus it was surprising when Ferrari announced that Michael Schumacher’s teammate for 1996 would be the laid back Irishman, whom was always good for a quip while puffing away on a Marlboro cigarette. Yet ’96 was truly a learning year for Irvine, as his baptism under fire taught him just how blindingly quick the German ace was. Eddie kept plodding away, improving each season, ultimately winning his first grand prix in Australia in 1999.

Then when Schumacher suffered a broken leg in Silverstone that summer, Irvine was suddenly thrust into the spotlight as the Scuderia’s sole hope for capturing the World Championship that season. Eddie went on to record a further three victories and trailed eventual World Champion Mika Hakkinen by two points going into the penultimate race. Yet Irvine would come up short with Hakkinen securing his second Driver’s title that season.

Irvine’s breakout season enabled him to sign a lucrative three year contract as lead driver for Jaguar beginning in 2000, although the British team was a disappointment, due to inadequate machinery. At the end of Irvine’s contract in 2002, Ford decided to drop Irvine, with nobody else interested in the Irishman’s services, Eddie found himself out of Formula 1.

Ralph Firman
Year: 2003
Team: Jordan
Starts: 14
Wins: 0
Poles: 0
Points: 1

Ralph Firman Jr’s father founded the Van Diemen production racing Car Company and Ralph began his racing career at the age of 11 before winning the British karting title four years later. In 1993 he switched to single seaters joining Paul Stewart Racing to contest Formula Vauxhall Junior. Finishing fourth overall, along with landing a test drive with McLaren,In 1996 Ralph won the British Formula 3 championship in his second try with PSR,

Unable to break into Formula 1, Firman headed to Japan where he ultimately won the Formula Nippon title with Nakajima Racing in 2002. Utilizing his Japanese ties along with landing a testing role with BAR, Firman finally gained a ride in F1 for Eddie Jordan’s Mugen-Honda powered squad in 2003. Ralph managed to score a single point as well as having to sit out two races after a huge shunt at the Hunga-boring race. After a largely disappointing rookie campaign, Ralph found himself once again out of Formula 1…

To continue, see: The luck 'O the Irish

Friday, March 14, 2008

Parade Lap


HOT DAMM! Time to put away the snow shoes, log off of ze internets and settle down for a long weekend of staring at the telie…

Can you believe that its time to kick off another Formula 1 season? And I must say that this year should be quite good with what appears to be more teams potentially trading places upon the top podium step.

Once again, I’ve spent the whole winter reading various pundits’ predictions of who’ll be the driver/chassis to beat. Yet, I’ve tried to purposely stay unmoved over the weekly scribbling's of the Winter Olympics. (Phrase used for describing the antics of teams manipulating the F1’s winter testing time sheets)

But, it does indeed appear that the Ferrari’s look blazingly quick once again along with the McLaren’s. Williams, BMW-Sauber’s and Renault’s who’ve all spent time at the front of the pack. Although I’d expect this year to be even more of a Donnybrook between the top level teams, while the verdict is still out on Honda, whose cars have continued to pound around near the tail end of the winter time sheets, although both Jense and Rubinoe claim the car much more easier to drive vs. last year’s dud. And Williams continues to outshine its factory backed Big Brother Toyota.

Red Bull racing also hopes to have solved its chassis reliability problems with this year’s RB4 while its little sister Scuderia Toro Rosso has spent considerable time running towards the mid-pack with its Sebastian brothers driver pairing.

Super Aguri is definitely the largest unknown quantity this season with its lack of winter testing while trying to find sponsorship and having only run it’s 2008 challenger sparingly.

My personal favourite for “Underdog of the Year” is still the Spyker F1, Err, Force India Team F1, as it appears that the team is finally pointed in the right direction after its latest ownership change and the massive infusion of cash from Vijay Malia.

Yet, ironically this will be the first time in eons that I will be somewhere else instead of firmly affixed before the boob tube on the opening weekend of Formula 1…

While in Japan, my good friend Yutaka noted that since I’m now rooting for nearly half of the grid. Perhaps this is a signal that my enthusiasm for F1 is waning?

Yet, I’m still hoping that “Jense” will pull a rabbit out of his crash helmet? Can “Fishy-fella” miraculously score India’s first Grand Prix win? Or witch of the Scuderia Marlboro brothers will win this time in Oz?

Will Quick Nick get out pipped by the speedy “Pole or finally give BMW their first victory as an F1 Constructor? Or will Fredrico Suave return Flavour Flav back to the winner’s circle? And having gone against my sentimental choice of The Iceman last year and wrongly predicting Felipe Massa as the victor “Down Under,” I’ll skip trying to figure out this year’s winner… As long as it’s ANYBODY BESIDES Ferdi the Putz! (Alonso!)

Piquet Jr playing second fiddle?

So, after last year’s showing up of Fredrico Suave by F1’s undisputed rookie of the year Lewis “Jaguar” Hamilton, some of the assorted media hacks are wondering how Ferdi the Putz will do against his newest teammate.

Nelson Piquet Jr, who finished runner-up to Hamilton in GP2 in 2006 and has spent the past year as Renault’s test and reserve driver, while itching to land himself a race drive, which Flavour Flav had promised him.

Thus it’s entertaining to hear this year’s Indy 500 pace car pilot and fellow countryman Emerson Fittipaldi claim that Piquet junior will give the two time world champion Spaniard fits, as Emmo was quoted telling Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport.

“Nelsinho will be worse for Fernando Alonso than Lewis Hamilton [was],”

“Nelsinho is an excellent driver, is very fast and in the past year has completed more than 15,000km of testing with Renault.

“For all these reasons I believe that he will give more problems [than Hamilton, to Alonso].”

And although the winter Olympics (testing) shouldn’t be taken too seriously, nevertheless Alonso has had the upper hand over the youn Nelsinho, so it’ll be interesting to see just who gets the upper hand at the Reggie this season…

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Women at Sebring

On March 15th, the 56th running of the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring will be held. And while Audi will be seeking to re-establish it’s dominance over the competition with its R10TDI turbo diesel’s, hopefully the Peugeot 908 and LMP2 class Porsche RS Spyder’s and ARC 01B Acura’s can give the Audi juggernaut some competition.

Instead of trying to give a overview of the various teams participating, which I’ve previously done in Sebring redux, I’d like to focus on something a little different instead.

Many moons before I was introduced into the wonderful world of motor racing, an American heiress cracked the gender barrier by becoming the very first female to compete in the twelve hours of Sebring. She was the blonde Isabelle Haskell, who made her Sebring debut in 1955 prior to marrying Alejandro De Tomaso.

Haskell’s maiden outing wasn’t successful, as she failed to finish the event and apparently skipped the next year’s event after tragedy struck her co-driver aboard a Porsche 550 spyder in Europe. Newly married in 1957, the newlyweds not only shared their wedding vows, but also contested several international racing events as a driving duo. Their second attempt at Sebring also proved fruitless, once again failing to finish.

In 1958 with her husband Alejandro and new co-driver Robert Ferguson, Isabelle finally broke her duck at Sebring when the trio aboard a 750 OSCA finished eighth overall enroute to scoring a class win.

1959 would prove to be Isabelle’s final season of major competition and for the occasion she once again teamed with Alejandro and new co-drivers Denise McCluggage and Ricardo Rodriguez, where the quartet finished eighteenth overall at Sebring in their trusty OSCA.

In 1970, nearly three decades before it would become in vogue at the Speedway, three female drivers set out to accomplish something that had never been done before on the lumpy, bumpy, torturous concrete laden vintage airfield that forms the basis of Sebring International Raceway by becoming the very first all female driver line-up in the prestigious event.

These three females came from different racing backgrounds, with American Janet Guthrie arguably becoming the most famous of the trio, enroute to becoming the very first woman to compete in the Indy 500 and Daytona 500. Guthrie was joined by another Yank, Judy Ganley who was an accomplished SCCA racer from the San Francisco bay area, rounding out the driving triumberant was Roots works team rally driver Rosemary Smith. This Irish lass was originally a fashion designer and model before being exposed to rallying by a female patron of hers. Driving a Le Mans Sprite Prototype, they scored a class win and 19th overall in the Sebring 12 Hour race.

In 2004 another all female trio from Europe gained favour with the British public, becoming affectionately known as :Les Femmes Pour Le Mans," planning to enter that year’s Sebring 12hrs race in a TVR 400R. The press release noted that Amanda Stretton, Liz Halliday and a third female to be named later would make up the driving strength. Although Stretton did indeed contest that year’s event, apparently Le Femmes plans fell thru as Halliday did not participate.

Another notable female named Milka Duno was taking part in that year’s Mobil 1 twelve hours endurance race, pairing with ex-Formula 1 British driver Justin Wilson and Phil Andrews aboard a Lola B2K10/Judd V-10, finishing 22nd overall.

And it’s funny to me how the perky Venezuelan has garnered all of the attention as the latest media darling at the Speedway, while Halliday is every bit of the accomplished driver if not more so? While Milka has a total of five Master’s degrees, Halliday is a world class equestrian hoping to represent the USA in the 2008 summer Olympics.

Halliday is the daughter of Don Halliday, a racing driver in his own right, as well as being a winning CART/Fed Ex championship race engineer, who also designed the Truesports 91C race car chassis.

While Milka gets all of the credit for being the highest finishing woman at the Rolex 24, finishing second overall, Liz is the only female to win in American Le Mans Series competition, notching six LMP2 class victories along with finishing second overall aboard the Interscope Lola in the 2006 Sebring 12 Hours. Last year, Halliday contested the event behind the wheel of Team Modena’s Aston Martin DBR9…

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

2008 F1 Preview

Melbourne; March 16, 2008
Whale, it’s that time again, time to kick off another groovy season of Formula 1, as the yearly “Winter Olympics” months of plodding of countless kilometers by various test drivers will now cease, handing over the reigns to the teams racing drivers in order to begin another championship season…

And DON’T be fooled by McLaren being chronicled at the bottom of the grid, taking up the tail gunner position is just part of Ron Denis’s “Double Secret Probation” for his beloved Woking based squad’s Stepney-gate shenanigans.

With that being said, let’s take a gander at this season’s current pecking order while the F1 circus wings its way towards Melbourne.

Let’s get ready to rumble!

(1) Scuderia Marlboro Ferrari
With no major changes to announce, the Prancing Horse has spent the winter months consistently at the top of the winter Olympics time sheets and therefore shouldn’t be a surprise to once again challenge for both FIA Championships. Will Kimi repeat, or will Felipe take his turn as World Champion?

(Chassis/Engine/Car No. /Drivers)
F2008/Ferrari 056B
1. Kimi Raikkonen
2. Felipe Massa
Test Driver(s)
Luca Badoer
Marc Gene

(2) Team BMW Sauber F1 Team
While the BMW Sauber racing driver line-up stays unchanged, the team has added new testers Christian Klien and Marko Asmer
, with Klien filling the role of Test & Reserve driver. The F1.08 is claimed to be a radical evolution of last season’s challenger and there have been reports of the new car having some teething problems. Yet, Robert Kubica has claimed these have been ironed out and the car has been towards the top half of the winter time sheets.

F1.08/BMW P86/8
3. Nick Heidfeld
4. Robert Kubica
Test Driver(s)
Christian Klien
Marko Asmer

(3) ING Renault F1 Team
Disappointed with last year’s results, team boss Flavio Briatore took this frustration out upon the driver pairing of Fishy-fella and Rookie Heikki Kovalinen by duly replacing them with Fernando Alonso and test driver Nelson Piquet Jr, in hopes of elevating the team back to championship status.

Surprisingly, the team has taken on three testers with the announcement of Sakon Yamamoto’s addition to the team, which some F1 pundits see solely as a revenue stream. Yamamoto will feature primarily in the Renault F1 road show while Romain Grosjean and Lucas di Grassi will do the bulk of testing, with all three taking part in the 2008 GP2 championship.

R28/Renault R27B
5. Fernando Alonso
6. R-Nelson A. Piquet (Jr.)
Test Driver(s)
Romain Grosjean
Lucas di Grassi
Sakon Yamamoto

(4) AT & T Williams F1
The AT & T Williams team has been quiet over the winter, eschewing the glitz ‘N glamour of a launch party, in favour of celebrating its 30th anniversary as an F1 constructor with multiple celebratory paint schemes. Reportedly Sir Frank has sold a one third stake in his company to an Icelandic investment company, the Baugur Group, which should see a major infusion of capital invested into the team.

Nico Rosberg returns for his third season and is always a threat for points paying positions, while rookie Kazuki Nakajima is still an unknown quantity. “Kazu” brings free Toyota “lumps” to Grove, while reigning A1 GP champion Nicolas Hülkenberg joins the team alongside Narain Karthikeyan for testing duties.

FW30/Toyota RVX-08
7. Nico Rosberg
8. R-Kazuki Nakajima
Test Driver(s)
Nicolas Hülkenberg
Narain Karthikeyan

(5) Red Bull Racing
Perhaps Red Bull will poor some of its vaunted energy drink into it’s recalcitrant seamless shift gearbox’s, as Adrian Newwy seeks some much needed reliability for his latest creation, the RB4.

The team has remained stable over the winter with no major additions besides new test driver Sebastian Buemi and F1’s “Grey Beard” David Coulthard has teased us with some Winter qualie light tanks running.

RB4/Renault R27B
9. David Coulthard
10. Mark Webber
Test Driver
Sebastian Buemi

(6) Panasonic Toyota
This team continues to disappoint, as the Japanese giant seems to focus more upon its NASCAR operation then its F1 efforts, having given the Colone based squad two more seasons to shape up or ship out.

Not surprisingly, Toyota elected not to continue on with grossly overpaid Ralf Schumacher and has signed another German “Hot Schue” to take his place, the reigning GP2 champion Timo Glock. Glock previously drove for Jordan Grand Prix and has also won rookie of the year honours in Champ Car. The team has also hired Kamui Kobayashi as it’s test driver.

TF108/Toyota RVX-08
11. Jarno Trulli
12. Timo Glock
Test Driver
Kamui Kobayashi

(7) Scuderia Toro Rosso
Now known affectionately as “Team Sebastian,” Scuderia Toro Rosso looks set to move up the grid this season as reigning four time consecutive Champ Car champion Sebastian Bourdais has finally gotten his chance in F1 and looks set to nip at promising German “Hot Schue” Sebastian Vettel.

Apparently the team plans to begin the season with an updated version of last year’s chassis, the STR-02, but I’d expect the team to eventually graduate to a new STR-03 platform before the season finishes.

STR-02B/STR-03/Ferrari 056B
14. R-Sebastian Bourdais
15. Sebastian Vettel
Test Driver

(8) Honda Racing F1 Team
Without a doubt, Honda was the biggest disappointment of last season, as its “Earth Friendly” liveried RA107 chassis was overly sensitive to aerodynamics.

The biggest move forwards for Honda was the signing late last season of Ross Brawn as the team’s new Technical Director, which Honda is expecting Ross to be able to sprinkle some of his Scuderia Marlboro magic upon the woefully underperforming Brackley based squad.

While the race driver line-up remains unchanged, with Jenson Button hoping that 2007 was just a bad dream, Rubens Barrichello is set to make history by eclipsing Ricardo Patrese’s all time start record this season. And although SPEED’s Peter Winsor wished him salutations upon his F1 retirement at last season’s Japanese Grand Prix, Alex Wurz has been lured to remain on the grid, albeit as Honda’s test and reserve driver. Wurz will share testing duties with new recruit Luca Filippi, onew of the many GP2 drivers masquerading as future F1 pilots. Yet, Filippi hopes to be the next Italian to become a Formula 1 star, as his country has been devoid of Italian pilotes since Gergio Pantano’s aborted Jordan Grand Prix drive.

RA108/Honda RA808E
16. Jenson Button
17. Rubens Barrichello
Test Driver(s)
Alex Wurz
Luca Filippi

(9) Super Aguri F1 Team
Super Aguri has spent the winter in crisis mode as Aguri Suzuki’s Honda backed satellite squad is currently suffering huge financial difficulties, although the team was set up in order to keep Japanese driver Takuma Sato in F1 after a massive outcry from his adoring Japanese fans, Honda is reluctant to keep footing the bills.

Thus Super Aguri has hardly done any testing this off season, although the new SA08 is FIA certified, Taku-sun and Anthony Davidson (hoping to retain his drive) will definitely be in a catch-up mode for the majority of the season.

SA08/Honda RA808E
18. Takuma Sato
19. Anthony Davidson
Test Driver

(10) Force India Formula 1 Team
Hopefully the team will not have to endure any further ownership changes for the foreseeable future, as the team has now changed names (Hands) four times in the last four seasons. Yet with Ecclestone’s burning desire to crack the third most populist nation with the upcoming Indian Grand Prix and Billionaire tycoon Vijay Malia’s hefty infusion of cash poured into the Dyke of the little Dutch team, Force India’s future looks bright.

While the team will begin with a warmed over Spyker F8VII brought up to 2008 F1 regulations, having been renamed the VJM01 in deference to the new owner, reports claim that the team is now currently occupying time in three wind tunnels. And Force India will look towards senior driver Giancarlo Fisichella to instill some much needed honing of race craft for sophomore talent Adrian Sutil.
Vitantonio Liuzzi has drank the last of his Red Bull energy drinks and seems most inspired to be testing for the Indian team, hopefully awaiting Fishy-fella’s impending retirement, while Roldán Rodriguez and Giedo van der Garde will see limited testing duties.

VJM01/Ferrari 056B
20. Adrian Sutil
21. Giancarlo Fisichella
Test Driver(s)
Vitantonio Liuzzi
Roldán Rodriguez
Giedo van der Garde

Although not representative of Vodafone’ McLaren’s true placing upon the grid, nevertheless The Ronster’s team will sport very unusual car numbers upon the pointy three star noses of its 2008 challengers as part of their punishment over their involvement in Stepney-gate.

The biggest change in the team is the arrival of Finnish driver Heikki Kovalainen who’s replaced the troublesome Spaniard, Fredrico Suave, a.k.a. Fred Alonso… As we all know how the rivalry between Ferdi the Putz and Louise “Jaguar” Hamilton went down last season. Otherwise the team looks to have stayed intact, minus a few Spanish sponsors jumping ship to follow Fredrico home to the Reggie.

MP4/23/Mercedes FA108V
22. Lewis Hamilton
23. Heikki Kovalainen
Test Driver(s)
Pedro de la Rosa
Gary Paffett

Little Big Horn

Out here on the ponderosa, we are stone, immaculate. As I wanna tell yuh ‘bout Texas radio and the big beat…

As I’m told everything’s bigger in Texas, thus I’ve decided to make my very first pilgrimage to the Lone Star state, just to see what all the fuss is about.

Of course some of motor racings biggest names come from Texas, names you’re probably familiar with, such as Carroll Shelby, Jim Hall, Lloyd Ruby, Johnny Rutherford and AJ Foyt…

Carroll Shelby
What can I say about this automotive icon? As the tall lanky Texan Chicken farmer cut his teeth as a racing driver in bib overalls while flogging private owner’s saloons in local SCCA events, Yet Shelby would rise rapidly thru the ranks to ultimately win the 24 Heurs du Mans for Aston Martin in 1959 before retiring as a race driver.

Yet, Carroll, along with Jim Hall, Roger Penske, and Lloyd Ruby also tried their hand at Formula 1, by taking part in various Grand Prix’s during the early 1960’s, albeit with unsatisfactory results.

Meanwhile, ‘Old Shell was using some of his magic Snake Oil to convince Lee Iacocca and AC Cars to give him the raw materials to complete what would come to be known as the Cobra. This car would be the launching towards Shelby’s immortality as a Ford racing legend, as Carroll would debark upon beating his arch nemesis Enzo Ferrari in International endurance racing, by becoming the only American manufacturer to win the World Sports Car championship in 1965 with his Cobra Daytona Coupes, after having told Enzo the previous year; “You’re ass is mine!”

Ford was so impressed that they had Carroll put the “Shelby Touch” to the Mustang and ultimately the GT 40 programs, as Shelby GT 350 Mustangs dominated SCCA B Production and Shelby won Le Mans in 1966-67 with the vaunted Mark II & Mark IV’s.

1966 was the year that the GT 40’s crossed the line 1-2-3 in the bungled photo op which ultimately gave the victory to Bruce McLaren & Chris Amon over the expected pairing of Ken Miles & Denny Hulme. The ’67 victory was shared by AJ Foyt & Dan Gurney whom impromptly sprayed champagne in victory circle, thereby starting another racing tradition.

Shelby was also instrumental in Ford’s factory backed Trans Am efforts, winning the championship twice with Jerry Titus as well as running such luminary drivers as Parnelli Jones, Peter Revson, Dan Gurney and Sam Posey,

Yet, not one to stand still, Shelby tried working his magic on the Toyota 2000GT’s, but ultimately wasn’t given enough time and has since stuck to fanning the flames of his namesake by being a key representative at multiple Shelby American Automobile Club events.

Jim Hall
Born in Abilene, Texas, Hall is most notably recognized as the creator of the bone white Chaparral Sports Cars that were the most innovative of their time in regards to cutting edge aerodynamics, as Hall was a leading pioneer in this arena. Based out of Midland, Texas, the Chaparrals were always thorns in the two mighty behemoths (Ford vs. Ferrari) quest for overall victory. Hall also contested the Can Am and Trans Am series and was the Trans Am champion in 1969.

Hall also was a leader of ground effects in Indy Car racing with his revolutionary Yellow Submarine Indy cars designed by John Barnard, which won the Indy 500 twice in 1978 and 1980 with Al Unser Sr and Johnny Rutherford respectively.

Lloyd Ruby
While looking up information on this Texas gunslinger, I’ve discovered that Lloyd has just celebrated his 80th birthday on January 12th.

I’ve known of Ruby’s name from his exploits as one of ‘Old Shel’s hired guns during the Ford Motor Co. factory backed GT40 days, when Lloyd won the Daytona Continental, 12 Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Daytona with Ken Miles while being part of the vaunted Shelby American racing team. He also took part in International racing by competing in the ’67 24 Heurs du Mans with Formula 1 World Champion Denny Hulme as his co-driver, while claiming he’d never drank so much wine as when in France with Super Tex.

Yet, Ruby was also an accomplished Indy Car driver, contesting the USAC championship trail from 1958-77, making 177 starts and contested the Indianapolis 500 from 1960-77. Ruby won seven USAC races and was known as the greatest driver to never win Indy, having missed out several times due to mechanical woes. Lloyd was quite the accomplished driver, having cut his teeth as a Midget pilot and loosing count of his total victories after 200!

Johnny Rutherford
Although born in Kansas, Rutherford grew up in Texas and somewhere along the line, when told he needed a nickname, the moniker “Lone Star JR” was anointed upon him. Rutherford, like most drivers of his time, started by racing midgets before getting his shot in the big cars of the USAC Championship Car trail.

While Rutherford was searching for a ride, Team McLaren was searching for a driver and they hooked up with each other, ultimately garnering Lone Star JR his first two Indianapolis 500 victories. (1974, 76) Rutherford then joined Jim Hall’s Indycar effort when Big Al (Unser Sr) decided to no longer drive for him, in the recalcitrant “Yellow Submarine.” Yet Rutherford was able to blitz the field enroute to his third Indy 500 victory in 1980 with the revolutionary ground effects chassis, becoming one of only a handful of drivers with three Borg Warner trophies to their credit.

Rutherford also became one of the youngest drivers ever to win a RASSCAR points race, when he won one of the qualifiers for the Daytona 500 aboard a Smokey Yunick prepared race car. Lone Star JR retired from racing prior to the 1994 Indy 500 and has served as the IRL’s pace car driver since the leagues inception, with the exception of the Indy 500 pace car duties. Rutherford has recently been appointed to the Board of Directors for the Harold E. Lemay museum.

AJ Foyt
Arguably the greatest American race car driver ever, Anthony Joseph Foyt Jr dropped out of school in order to become a mechanic, prior to beginning his illustrious racing career as a midget racer. Foyt went on to accomplish a list of statistics that will probably never be eclipsed in the world of Open Wheel racing, as Foyt has the most USAC victories, 138 which surpasses the late Rich Volgler’s tally of 132.

AJ also won seven times in RASSCAR, including the 1972 Daytona 500, as well as winning several major Sports Car endurance races; the Daytona 24 Hours, (twice) 12 Hours of Sebring and 24 Heurs du Mans. The funniest part about his victories in the Daytona 24hrs, is that he didn’t want to drive with any damn Frenchmen, i.e.; Bob Wolleck aboard Al Holbert’s dominating Lowenbrau sponsored Porsche 962. Yet, supposedly his last major career victory was the 1985 Sebring 12hrs with yep, you guessed it, Monsieur Wolleck.

Yet Super Tex is best known for his exploits behind the wheel of a Indycar, in which he made a record 374 starts enroute to an amazing 67 victories. Foyt is the only driver to win the Indy 500 in a front and rear engine racecar, becoming the very last front engine victor in 1964. AJ was also the very first driver to win the Indianapolis 500 four times, (1961, ‘64, ‘67 and ’77) a feat shared by only two other drivers; Al Unser Sr and Rick Mears.

On his way to his massive victory tally, Foyt won an unprecedented seven USAC National Championships as well as making a record 35 starts at the Speedway. Yet, Foyt will always be idyllically etched in my memory for his outside the cockpit antics. Like when he beat the hell outta a recalcitrant turbo pop off valve with a Craftsman ratchet, or when he destroyed an engineers lap top confuzer in the pit lanes after his car had run out of petrol. Or when he decked Arie Luyendyk in victory lane and to this day refuses to give the Flying Dutchman his winner’s trophy! And that’s not to mention his various bulldozer follies, which have almost cost him his life twice…