Saturday, January 30, 2010

MAC gives Luir the Knife

So ‘Monty “MAC” Montoya once again is puttin’ on a driving Clinique in this year’s Rolex 24, having just dusted off Lucas Luir in another typical display of his cold tyre mastery…. Puttin’ on a power move to take over P1 by going deeper, faster, further into the first turn… Even better yet, although I’m not sure if its just to spice up the TV coverage, but reportedly Luir was smokin’ hot after he got out from his driver change over Monty’s tactics, saying he gave him a WHAP! While runnin’ behind the Pace Car, to which Lucas said C’mon, I mean this isn’t CUP! WRONG Bubbah! MAC wants his third Rolex. As Dorsey Schroder had the best ‘Juan-liner so far sayin’ Montoya’s LUV-Tap was just like having Robby Gordon running behind you every lap!

Meanwhile I’m quite pleased with all of the Facetime Team Seattle’s getting due to some dude named Dempsey spearheading their efforts, as his No. 40 was up to 9th in class as SPEED went off the air… And as of Hour 6 the two cars were running in lockstep 22nd-23rd overall.

Team Seattle website

Meanwhile, there’s supposedly some sorta Bloggerthon going on over at the Furious Wedge… And although I’m not participating, I’m running my own sorta Madcap Marathon… As I’ve decided what better way to spend a Grey ‘N Rainy weekend by watchin’ ALL 16hrs of SPEEDS coverage via le Telescreen. As SPEED’s coverage picks up again tomorrow at 4AM PACIFIC; SHEISA!

GO Team Seattle!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Johnson tries Spin-cycle

Heralded 4-Time RASSCAR Champion Jimmy Johnson managed to crash the No. 99 Bob Stallings Daytona Prototype during Qualifying when Jimmy reportedly stuck his nose into a spot it shouldn’t be… getting pinched by a slower GT car and thus slamming ARSE-Backwards into the Day-Toner concrete barricades… Hmm? Perhaps there really is something more to turnin’ Left ‘N Right instead of just goin’ round ‘N round in circles, eh? No word on whether or not the Full Moon was to be blamed for the accident…

Grand Am: Rolex 24

So its time once again to properly “Kick Off” the New Year’s Motor Racing season with the 48th running of the Daytona 24hrs, better known as the Rolex 24. And while Y’all are waitin’ for some ‘lil ‘Ol Pigenskinen game, perhaps you’ll wanna tune into the SPEED Channel this weekend instead, as they’ll be hosting a monster 16hrs of action with TV coverage beginning Saturday at Noon PACIFIC. (Check local listings)

GT Class
Although not running with the Big ‘Dawgs, nee DP class, nevertheless I’ll be rootin’ for my Homeboyz to kick ARSE ‘N Claim victory in the GT category,

Team Seattle/Dempsey Racing
The ‘lil Team that could is none other then Team Seattle in partnership with Dempsey Racing, as in Television Heartthrob Patrick Dempsey. As once again Team Seattle will be raising money for our Childrens Hospital via Donations for every lap completed. So look for the Numbers 40 & 41 to claim a 1-2 sweep in the GT Category, albeit the No. 41 ahead, as this would be a great result for long time Endurance specialist Don Kitch Jr.

Team Seattle Test Weekend notes

DP Class
Here’s a quick look at some of the Daytona Prototype competitors, as I’ve also heard that Massimiliano “MAD MAX” Papis will be joining the fray, just don’t know whose racecar he’s piloting…

Bob Stalling Racing
The defending Grand Am Champions John “Creedance” Fogarty & Alex Gurney, will once again be joined by some cat known as Jimmy Johnson, with 1996 CART Champion & KV Racing Technology Co-Owner Jimmy vasser rounding out the Team’s single car entry, which will now run under the banner of Chevrolet power after the demise of the Pontiac brand.

Brumos/ Action Express Racing
Brumos will once again return with its famous No. 59, with a massive five Driver line-up, in hopes of giving legendary Sports Car Ace Hurley Haywood an appropriate send-off into his reluctant retirement… As the 61yr Old Floridian will be partnered by defending Overall Rolex 24 winners David Donohue & Darren Law, along with Endurance stalwart Butch Leitzinger and current Luczo Dragon Indy Car Ace ‘RAFA. (Rafael Matos) As the victory would also be a great Pre-40th Birthday present for Leitzinger.

And although Brumos is reportedly cutting back to just one entry in this year’s Grand Am title chase, its sister No. 58 will be replaced by a Cooperative effort run by Action Express Racing, a new Racing Team with Drivers Terry Borcheller, Joao Barbosa And Champ Car & Sports Car Pilot Ryan Dalziel plus Audi Factory Driver Mike Rockenfeller behind the wheel of the No. 9 Riley Porsche V-8 DP.

Ganassi/Sabates (CGRFS)
Once again Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates (CGRFS) will focus its primary attention upon the duo of venerable Scott Pruett and rising Star Memo Rojas in this year’s upcoming Grand Am competition. And while the team continues on with its Riley Daytona Prototype (DP) chassis, once again the “Cheepster” has taken a calculated gamble by switching to Bavarian power, by replacing its Lexus lumps with BMW in 2010.

And this most successful Sports Car Team will once again attack the High-banks of ‘Day-toner with a stellar two car line-up, which interestingly sees Justin ‘BIG UNIT Wilson paired with Pruett, Rojas and Marino Franchitti in the No. 01 Telmex Riley BMW DP

CGRFS’s second car, the No. 2 Riley BMW DP will be piloted by Ganassi’s IndyCar Champions Dario Franchitti & Scott Dixon, along with Chip’s two ‘BOMBER (RASSCAR) pilots Juan Pablo (“MAC”) Montoya & Jamie McMurray

I first heard about this in the USA Today Sports section of all places, as after all it’s RASSCAR related, or as the ‘CAM-WOW likes to call it: Spin-Cup… Max Papis has replaced Marino Franchitti in the No. 01, as there’s NO word on whether or not the switch has anything to do with the younger Franchitti still being on his Honeymoon?

Level 5 Motorsports
Running a brace of BMW powered Riley DP chassis, look for the Number’s 55 & 95 to run towards the front of the pack with its Star studded Driver’s line-up including Ryan “The IZOD Dude” Hunter-reay and The Hamburgular, nee Sebastian Bourdais… Along with other Hotshue’s Sasha Massen, Lucas Luir and Emanuel Collard to name a few.

Michael Shank Racing
MSR will once again return with two Riley Ford DP’s, with its No. 6 being piloted by Mark Patterson, (ex-IRL Driver) Michael Valiante, (ex-Champ Car Star) RPM’s A.J. Allmendinger, and Brian Frisselle.

The No. 60 will see Team Regulars and MSR Full Season competitors Oswaldo Negri & John Pew partnered with Mark Wilkins in and Burt Frisselle; as the Brothers Frisselle take on the Flying Franchitti’s in the Daytona Prototype class.

Spirit of Daytona Racing
This somewhat unknown Team will contest this year’s Rolex with the Eddie Cheever produced Coyote chassis motivated by the Porsche Cayenne V8 powerplant developed for Grand Am racing.

2009 Overall Rolex 24 winners Buddy “Hot Rod” Rice, (2004 Indy 500 winner) & Antonio Garcia Will be joined by Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) new recruit Paul Menard along with late signing Darren “Dangermouse” Manning…

F1: 2010 launch - McLaren

(McLaren MP4-25; Source: F1

Having decided to not arise at Oh-DARK 30 in order to attempt watching the live sheet pulling exercise in Newberry, nor go outside to view the Full Moon… (Was that the ‘Ronster I heard abarkin?) Nevertheless, McLaren did launch its 2010 challenger the MP4-25 today, while I’m certain that ‘JENSE ‘N ‘JAGUAR (Button & Hamilton) along with Messer Whitmarsh said all of the repository “Right Things,” eh? Can you say PR-Speak?

No word on whether or not today’s launch date was chosen to coincide with the extra luminous Full Moon… Or if it had any effects upon the Team, as it apparently was a “Wide-track” Moon; as in wider is better, eh?

2010 Car launch: McLaren MP4-25

McLaren MP4-25 in pictures

Fernandez to race Aston Martin?

While the majority of Sports Car media attention is affixed to this weekend’s impending Rolex 24, news has spread that venerable Mexican Motorsports racer Adrian Fernandez could possibly pull a deal together to campaign a “Works” prepared Aston Martin LMP1 Coupe in a few selected American Le Mans Series events this year along with the 24 Heurs du Mans, which would be great news, although it’d be even better if it blossomed into a full season ‘Gig…

Fernandez to race Works Aston Martin?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

F1: 2010 launch - Ferrari

(Ferrari F10; Source:

As noted below, today the Prancing Horse followed in the footsteps of Mercedes GP by launching their 2010 Challenger, the F10, as the Scuderia seeks to reclaim it’s place at the head of the Grid in 2010 with either Felipe Massa or Fernando Alonso, along with also wrapping up its record 16th Constructor’s title. And while hoping to have given it a whirl next Dorr at Fiorano, conditions were deemed to icy today…

2010 Car launch: Ferrari F10

Ferrari F10 in pictures

USF1 new Chassis revealed

Recently the fine Folks at Racecar Engineering, a very technical ‘Rag I used to subscribe to a long-long-long time ago... Popped into the Ultra-secret lair of Pete Winsors Charlotte hangout known as the USF1 HQ to grab an exclusive sneak peak at its impending 2010 Type 1 Chassis which you can check here for (possibly) more info…

Racecar Engineering visits the USF1 Team

And while hunting for those rather esoteric pics of the vaunted type 1, hey! You don’t really think they’re gonna give the whole thing away before their big launch party – Do Yuhs? I went to the Team’s Official website which I notice has been totally updated and actually looks quite a bit better… Click here.

Time to launch the Formula 1 Balloons

Err, its time to begin the traditional new season F1 Car launches, as news continues leaking out selectively over various Constructors plans.

January 25
So we’re back to the Good ‘Ol Dazes of the Schumacher era, as BRAWN GP, Err Mercedes GP was first outta the box to launch its much anticipated 2010 Formula 1 Challenger in its return of the Silver Arrows as we anxiously await the chassis’s nomenclature, before turning our attention to what Herr Schumacher’s helmet will look like?

F1 Car Launch: Mercedes GP

January 28
The Prancing Horse will play second fiddle to Der TERMINATOR’S return by launching its 2010 Challenger today, just three days after Mercedes GP at Maranello, which will most likely be followed by a brief Shakedown run around its Fiorano Test Track(?) before joining the others in Valencia.

January 29
McLaren will unveil its new MP4-25 replete with the No. 1 & No. 2 plates firmly affixed upon its front nose, with the last two year’s World Champions Jenson Button & Lewis Hamilton on hand, while the ‘Ronster lurks in the shadows during the Woking PR blitz which will take part live Online McLaren’s website, when debuting at Vodafone’s London HQ.

You can catch the launch live on McLaren’s Official website at 1100 local time… Which I believe is sometime in the wee early morning hours over here, eh?

January 31 - February 1
Reportedly four rival Constructors will unveil their new Racecar’s at Valencia, a day ahead of the first official Test session. Breaking cover there will be Renault, with its new R30 chassis. Sauber will unveil its C29 while Scuderia Toro Rosso will show off its very first own designed STR-5, with Williams debuting its FW32 before the quartet joins others in testing from Feb. 1-3; as both the “Reggie” ‘N Williams have fired their V-8 lumps in anticipation of Shakedown runs in Valencia just some mere 4 Days away…

February 10
Red Bull has now confirmed that its latest Adrian Newey designed Formula 1 Challenger, the RB6 will be unveiled at Jerez on the Wednesday of the FIA’s second Test session. No word on whether or not they’ll run a 2010 “Mule” during the prior testing days?

February 12
Lotus will debut its return to Grand Prix racing, albeit in namesake only as the Malaysian backed Mike Gascoyne penned chassis is clearly not a derivative of the late Colin Chapman era; while its expected that the other three “Newbies” (Campos Meta, USF1 & Virgin) will all break cover in this same time period in order to potentially show up for the final F1 Pre-season test on Feb. 25-28 in Barcelona, although speculation now suggests that Campos Meta may miss the entire Testing period?

Meanwhile Force India is reportedly angling for also launching their new VJM-03 on Februray 12th, so stay tuned and see if you can follow the bouncing ball, eh? As reportedly there are now some “live” pics of US F1’s first completed Monocoque of its vaunted Type 1 chassis circulating the either… So check it out!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Desert Car Auctions perturb Mother Earth

“Semi-Official Barret-Jackson Auction Pace-vehicle…”

So that contraption above may look somewhat familiar? As I believe it also saw duty at the Twenty-oh-Seven I500… Nah, it’s actually an Amphicar which I’ve scribbled ‘bout before in: Indy’s Newest Pace Car?

Whale (Thar She blows… R-R-R!) initially I’d hoped to have been attending my second Barrett-Jackson Hyper-fest Car Auction last week in the Valley of the Sun… Which fortunately I missed, as in case you didn’t know; there was a Humdinger of a Storm cell that blanketed Arizona & California. Thus, I missed the monstrous deluge of wet stuff that blanketed the Southwest, eh?

And perhaps since I wasn’t there, this is why I had very little enthusiasm to watch the 396hrs of live TV coverage on SPEED, or was it something to do with the excessive amounts ‘O Moohlah being whimsically discarded while others were perishing in Haiti…

Thus I can only deduce that Mother Earth was sending all of those would-be Car Collectors & Auctioneering Companies a potential message by unleashing itself upon the Scottsdale area, when it reeked its harshest havoc on Thursday when its Gale-force winds caused some major damage to Russo & Steele’s Auction.

Russo & Steele's auto auction gets major air

Now don’t misinterpret me here, as I certainly am glad that nobody was injured and feel somewhat sorry for the multiple automobile Owners who suffered damage to their vehicles… Butt I just wasn’t impressed that there seemed to be so little attention given to the plight of Haiti.

And it seems a little embarrassing that the OTHER Charities garnered more attention along with their respective vehicles grabbing higher donations, Err Auction prices… As C’mon Chrysler, Ford, GM & Toyota; you four major Auto manufacturers couldn’t come up with some special vehicles to promote relief to Haiti? As I only caught one vehicle being auctioned off for Haitian Relief by GM, which I think was for the American Red Cross and netted a final sales price of $200,000 in the final hour of “Super Saturday” nites action… So, perhaps the other Car Companies stepped in? But I still think they could have done a special commemorative vehicle and gotten more then a paltry $200k, eh?

And since Barrett-Jackson is primarily a Muscle-car-athon between what was once the Big 3 I suppose Toy-yoter is excused, although they coulda done some sorta cool Prototype vehicle which would have been a first...

Help Haiti - A Guide to Haiti Relief Funds

Swedes going Dutch

General Motors has finally unloaded its Red-headed Stepchild SAAB to one of its original bidders, the tiny Boutique Automaker Spyker Cars NV in a deal reportedly set at $400 million; as Spyker will pay GM $74m in cash and the remaining $326m in preferred Shares.

Sweden regulators suspended Spyker trading upon frenzied Stock acquisition upon rife speculation that the deal was near after Uncle Bernaughty ‘N his Genie (Ecclestone & GenII Capital) pulled out of the bidding for the quirky Car Company, essentially leaving Spyker Cars as the remaining bidder as GM prepared to Wind-down the Swedish Auto manufacturer.

GM has twice seen potential sales of SAAB fall apart at the 11th hour, initially planning to spin off the company to Koenigsegg and then Spyker, but having balked at the latter deal over fears of the “Rooskies” gaining valuable Technology access. Yet Spyker’s new deal is welcome news to the Swedish Government along with SAAB’s approx. 3,400+ workforce…

G.M. Enters Agreement to Sell Saab to Spyker

Monday, January 25, 2010

Charlotte: We’ve got a Driver!

After letting Mercedes GP bask in the limelight of its New Team racecar unveiling in Stuttgart, USF1 Team apparently decided to continue on its understated tone by merely announcing the confirmation of its first Paid Driver; 26yr old Argentinean José Maria Lopez late Monday afternoon…

Jose Maria Lopez confirmed at USF1 - Peter Winsor insists He’s good enough

Mercedes GP launches its new car

Today in Stuttgart, Germany the launch of the new Mercedes GP challenger was unveiled at Mercedes Benz Museum in front of a crowd of approx. 600 guests, as the new Team’s new Silver Arrows livery was debuted upon a 2009 spec BRAWN GP chassis, while the new 2010 Mercedes MGP W01 racecar will break cover in the upcoming Valencia test…

Mercedes launches Mercedes GP racecar

A Different Mechanic’s Tale – Part II

As noted previously, Open Wheel Racing Mechanic Steve Roby worked in Formula 1 before coming Stateside to build a car for Bill Simpson, then working as Chief Mechanic for McLaren, Chaparral, Machinists Union (IAM - International Association of Machinists) and Mayer Racing…

Tomaso) so you came over and built a car for Bill Simpson, he’s a pretty interesting character; what was it like working for him and what type of car did you build?

Steve Roby: I put together a ‘74 (AAR) Eagle, with direction from Mike Devin, for Bill (Simpson) to drive at Indy. Bill is a good guy; excitable, but with a heart of gold. His products have saved many lives and he was definitely not due the hassle that he received from NASCAR. Bill thinks about improving his product from the safety perspective all the time, not from the perspective of making money.

I think I must be one of the few people who formerly worked for Bill, who are still good friends with him… He is pretty sharp business and talent wise. Although Roger (Penske) seems to get all the credit for discovering Rick Mears; it was actually Bill who first discovered him, as we ran Rick in 1976 as a second car to Bill at the Ontario Motor Speedway.

T) From Simpson you landed at the McLaren Indy Car Team; how did that come about?

SR: When Bill did not qualify for Indy in 1976, I worked that race for McLaren and they won. From that they offered me a position for 1977.

T) As you know, I wasn’t heavily into Indy Cars way back in the day. As I’m assuming you worked with Teddy Mayer, Tyler Alexander, etc. Where was the McLaren Indy Car Operation based at, and what can you tell me about the aforementioned “Head’s” of the Organisation?

SR: Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Ltd. was actually based in England. In the US BMMR worked out of a shop shared with McLaren Engines in Livonia Michigan. It is still there; in fact we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the inception of McLaren Engines in Detroit last August

Tyler (Alexander) ran the North American side of the business and Teddy (Mayer) ran the Formula 1 side. In North America we had the Indy Team and we had a new BMW IMSA operation which developed the turbo engine for IMSA, this engine ultimately became the BMW turbo F1 engine. Roger Bailey ran the BMW operation with Wiley McCoy developing the engines. David Hobbs drove the IMSA BMW Turbo Car and Rutherford drove the Indy Car.

T) As a Chief Mechanic you’re responsible for the preparation of the whole car? What does this entail (briefly) and how many crew members did you typically oversee?

SR: I was Chief on one car and Phil Sharp was chief on the other. Each car had another mechanic and we had one general purpose fabricator and a truck driver. We planned to alternate cars but it often worked out that one car was predominantly a short track car and one was a long track car, but at each race they were in the same spec; one the race car and one the back up. When you crash on an oval there often is not much one can do at the track to fix the car so a spare, ready to run chassis, with hopefully the right engine in it is a must.

The entire team was five guys plus Tyler. For races we had one engine shop person and some weekend warriors as it took eight people to race the car. I would say the best description was that we collaborated on most things. Tyler, Phil and I made all the decisions. Physically on the car, the Chief Mechanic was responsible for building the gearbox and rear end and for being at the Dyno when the engine was run. The engines were quite different track to track. At the track the chief (mechanic) was responsible for all the activity.

Interestingly, in the off season, Phil and I built exhaust manifolds, I built and developed wastegates and Tyler built the inlet manifolds. Phil would often go back to Colnbrook (McLaren’s HQ) to help build new chassis.

T) So you were Chief Mechanic at McLaren’s Indy Car Team when Johnny Rutherford was there?

SR: I ran J.R. (Johnny Rutherford) at McLaren from 1977 ‘til 1979, but I was not crew chief in 1976 when McLaren won the Indy 500.

T) Did you enjoy your time working at McLaren and Chaparral running “Lone Star J.R.?” As I’m assuming Rutherford was a good driver to work with.

SR: Yes. One really great thing about Team McLaren was that it was really a team… We worked, lived and traveled together and pretty much lived by the rule that you either got on with one another or you left. It was a team effort, there were no Superstars; J.R. fit that ideal like a glove. He was part of the team. He gave his all and Betty (his wife) always had him ready to race when they rolled in.

He was tough and brave, as I remember one time he broke four ribs in an accident in Texas and he could only get in the car very gingerly. We kept his condition pretty quiet and resolved to just get to the end of the next race (Trenton) in one piece. Towards the end of that race, obviously in some pain; as he was pretty quiet on the radio, he asked what position we were in and who was next? Once we told him the car, which he could see in front of him was a place ahead; he sped up and passed that car to finish third or fourth… A really gutsy effort!

Most drivers need to be managed pretty tightly and from some perspectives he was no different from the others, but he was definitely a team player. He, along with Tom Sneva and Rick Mears liked a racecar that’s a bit loose which was the trick on short ovals like Milwaukee.

J.R. was hell on wheels at those short tracks; some years we won both races at Milwaukee and Phoenix. It takes a spot-on set up at all stages of the race, but it also takes a driver who can press on and keep the tyres working at all stages, keep the stagger up for the entire race and he was really good at that.

He was so good at Milwaukee that he passed Bobby (Unser) and won on about 6 1/2 cylinders one year. The tube, which seals the spark plug hole in the head has a water jacket on the outside and the plug wire on the inside, split and was spraying water on the plug which was making it short out and the engine misfire so we were way down on power and were expecting the lump to let go at any time. We still won!

On big tracks, although he had a reputation as a crasher he was exceptional. I don’t think we ever crashed at Indy or Ontario and only once at Pocono on the bump over the turn 2 tunnel.

We went through a tough time at McLaren on road courses as John has a right arm which is fixed in one position (the result of a big sprint car crash), which did not make road racing that easy for him. He could not accept being slow so he would revert to going really deep under braking whenever he had to find some speed which often got himself into trouble. I think we crashed at nearly every track for every road race but did manage to finish most races in reasonable condition. “Slow in - fast out” was our mantra and it took a few fraught practices to get that protocol through his head. He developed enough as a road racer, with a lot of help from Jim Hall, that we won a wet race at mid-Ohio which was really quite an achievement.

T) What was it like working for Jim Hall and how did the Texan’s Team compare vs. McLaren?

SR: At Chaparral my responsibilities were much greater. I was responsible for hiring and firing, the technical development of the car, the design of the car, hotel booking, budgets etc. I actually did not see much of Jim. He was at the shop only a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the afternoon.

Jim looked after sponsorship and finance and some of the tactics and strategies in the races. Jim was really helpful on the design side and he would come around after his dinner when I was doing design work and discuss various aspects of the development I was working on. There is no book to tell you what to do so we would discuss design strategies at a 20 foot long drawing board, agree and then I would execute. His basic focus was that until you were flat all the way around a track you did not have enough downforce. We tried some way out stuff and tested the ideas on the race track we had out back. If they worked then we made real parts and ran them at the track. I can see why they did not finish many races in Can Am. He loved to try new ideas and parts but never wanted to develop them to be reliable. My cars were always pretty reliable so we probably complemented each other well.

That was another physically tough deal. I would go in early in the morning to talk to England because of the time difference, do my Crew Chief and car prep management work during the day and then do design work at night. I actually worked myself to a standstill at Chaparral. At one point I could not get out of bed I was so used up!

I did have a great bunch of guys at Chaparral. Bernie Ferri, with whom I had worked at Surtees, ran one car with a new guy I had plucked out of a bagging job at a supermarket, John Tzouanakis, (whose brother Mike worked for Penske). Tom Anderson, who I knew from his Hogan days with help from the others, worked the spare car. Dennis Swan stayed with the team from the previous group and did the Gearboxes and Fab work. We hired Eloiza Garza from shooting a chopper gun making pickup truck canopies, and taught her to do carbon work so she ran the “gup shop”. (Gup is what Jim Hall called the resin/fiberglass shop; SR) Mike Fanning and Gerald Davis did the engines; a very focused group.

Although I made all the molds and some parts, at the track the guys would rightly not let me work on the car. They did a really good, focused, job as can be seen by the reliability record. What has provided me with pleasure is what these guys did after Chaparral: Bernie went back to Australia to rear sheep, while Dennis, Tom and John now have a lot of Indy wins and leadership of teams under their belts so we must have been doing something correctly on the people side.

T) Was it a whole new ballgame working upon a Ground Effects chassis?

SR: That is an interesting question as it was still just a race car, but it just developed huge downforce numbers. We were at the beginning of the understanding of the ground effects phenomenon. What it meant to us was that whereas a McLaren M24 has a nose, cockpit surround and engine cover for bodywork and the rest was tub, the Chaparral had a basically hidden tub and sports car levels of bodywork, both on top and underneath the car.

The chassis had to support the bodywork-derived aero loads and still perform functions in common with older cars. The amount of heat generated by a turbocharged engine was not an insignificant problem in a car with fully enclosed bodywork. The gearbox had as big a cooler as did the engine when I arrived in Texas! We took a slightly different route than other teams in that we developed wet lay-up carbon fiber bodywork for both top and bottom sides of the car, all done in-house. That is no small order when one considers a car which is 15 feet long. Our carbon fiber tunnels went as far as the leading edge of the rear wing. Other teams had Aluminum tunnels which terminated in front of the rear wheels. We believe we had more downforce and less drag than did our competitors.

When I first got to the car there were grooves in the tunnels which had to be caused by the tunnels sucking down on the road, unbeknownst to the team. We strengthened the tunnels and started work, with improvement coming in big chunks. This period was before personal computers were common so we had a paper roll device with two push-pull morse cables connected to the suspension. These would mark the paper roll with a pencil lead, showing the ride height. From that crude Chaparral developed (before my time) device we could ascertain downforce levels. We had a two mile track in the scrub behind the shop and Bernie would drive the car out there with the rattlesnakes to generate data for each development.

The aerodynamic development path we took was different from that taken by other teams both in F1 and in Indy Car in that our tunnels went right to the leading edge of the rear wing, and we worked at maintaining the center of pressure position by not loading the tunnels as much as other designs but maintaining the loading under most conditions.

T) And do you consider 1980 to be your most successful season as a Chief Mechanic? Since after all JR won five races that year enroute to his lone CART title.

SR: For sure. The team was a bit of a disaster when I arrived so I had to build pretty much a new team and get to understand a new car and a new technology. What I appreciated the most was that the guys were very focused on maintaining the car so I could work on development. They (with J.R.) did such a good job that until we crashed 10 laps from the end in Mexico we had completed every single lap of every race, and a lot in the lead. That was an astonishing feat considering the engine troubles that we often had in practice. In fact we, the team, did not even know that until Deke Houlgate, the Pennzoil PR guy told us.

We had a protocol of something new on the car for every race and the guys kept most of that work away from prying eyes with a lot of mis-direction. Some of the things worked and some did not. The point was that we continued to develop a faster and faster car, while helping reliability all the time.

T) How fun was it being in Victory Lane at the Speedway in 1980 as the winning Chief Mechanic.

SR: I don’t know that it was fun. Somewhere I have a photo of me, sitting on the pit wall, with my head in my hands with relief that we did it. We knew that if nothing went wrong we would win. Nothing going wrong is a few words for a very difficult task, as we were really focused in 1980 at Indy. We only ran in the heat of the day and were fastest for all but one day when Tim Richmond did a happy hour run in the cool of the evening.

But it was not at all as smooth as it looked; as I actually built a set of large diameter headers in the truck during the first week of practice to use just for qualifying. On the morning of qualifying we had a magneto fire which trashed the top of the engine in the primary car so we had to qualify the back-up, but we still got it on Pole (without the headers).

The guys were so focused on getting the car home that they came to me and asked that we not do the Pit-stop competition so they could maintain their focus on finishing the race. That was money in their pocket and a lot of sponsorship coverage but we agreed to do so.

T) Any funny stories you’d like to share about Lone Star J.R.

SR: There are a lot that I probably should not tell. But there is a common laugh that we have together. At the Ontario Motor Speedway the trophy for the Ontario 500 Pole position is a really neat copper and brass1909 Reo Coca Cola delivery truck. It stands about ten inches high and about sixteen inches long. We were on pole for both races (Short and the 500) in 1977 so J.R. promised me that the next time we were on pole at OMS the trophy would be mine.

In 1978 we missed the pole by .003 (or something) mph which is virtually nothing. We were not on pole at OMS for the 500 again. In 1980 we had the speed with a new Schwitzer turbo but decided to go for durability with the old turbo so we could tie up the Championship and missed the pole in that configuration…

John was very good on the radio as befits someone who grew up around aircraft (His father was an Air Force mechanic) and piloted his own P51 Mustang. We could talk to him anywhere on the track whereas with some drivers you dare not talk while they are in a corner. We were testing at Phoenix with the Chaparral and in my ear I hear “Damn-it!” We hear the car hit the wall, ” Damn-it, we broke a driveshaft” as the car rides the wall down past us in the pits; he is talking to us like a true fighter pilot in the right stuff as the car is dragging down the wall in front of us.

T) Did you get to see Rutherford driving the “Yellow Submarine” at Indy when he took it out for a few ceremonial laps recently?

SR: No.

T) Did you enjoy your time as Chairman of the Louis Schwitzer Award and what did you do as Chairman?

SR: Yes it was fun. As Chairman I organized the members into a committee, chased the sponsorship money, organized how the voting would take place, vetted and edited the individual reports from the interviews with the LSA (Louis Schwitzer Award) potential winners so that when the winner was selected the write-ups would be ready the next day. The time line from voting for the winner to the press release is pretty tight so a lot of pre-work has to be done to ensure that the final releases are factually correct and appropriately written.

T) Did you have a favourite recipient of the prestigious award?

SR: As the Chairman I had to remain unbiased. I did ensure that the applicants’ stories were factual which took some effort. Sometimes the committee pick was not the pick I would have made but that’s life.

T) And do you follow the Indy Car Series today? And if so, how does it stack up against the time you were involved in it?

SR: From discussions with people who work on IRL teams now I am repeatedly told that I would not like it now. I really enjoyed the car and engine development aspect and they cannot do any car or engine development now. Personally I think it is too safe and too easy.

In my day drivers were killed almost regularly and although I am not saying I want to see drivers killed, I want to see the drivers have more respect for each other. In my day the drivers tried really hard to not hit each other as the results of wheel contact were never good, now the majority of the drivers do not seem to care if they touch one another.

As for too easy, I would like to see a situation in which the drivers have to lift for corner entry. Whether that is done with less downforce, or more power I cannot say but it is a lot more difficult to apply the power once one has lifted than it is to keep your foot down and hope to make it. In my day there were sometimes some pretty weak fields also but the guys at the sharp end were separated from the lesser drivers by more margin and that margin was caused by the driver waiting until he was confident enough to put power to the rear wheels off a corner.

T) As for drivers, do you like Ryan Briscoe, Will Power or Scott Dixon better?

SR: I don’t know any of them that well although I have spoken to them all.
I like that Briscoe seems to have calmed down a bit and it shows in his results. Most really good drivers need affirm hand guiding them and Roger seems to be doing a good job in that aspect. Dixon is to me like Prost… Doesn’t do too much stupid stuff early in the race and is there running strongly when it counts. Will seems to be very intense and quite quick, still a bit mistake prone but that will smooth out in time.

T) And besides leaving out Machinists Union & Mayer Racing, is there anything else you’d like to say?

SR: The less said about the IAM the better. Never have I worked with such divisive management in my life. The only highlights of that episode were the social interactions with Ed Pink, the engine builder and Roger Mears and their wives.

Mayer Racing was fun for me. I had decided that I was done with racing/traveling and living out of a suitcase and was looking for a job in the real world. I was coerced into helping Tyler and Teddy set up MMR but I was only doing it till Indy. May grew to July but in July I left that world…

The highlight for me was getting Howdy Holmes onto the Front row. We really should have been on pole but he forgot to turn up the boost during qualification. Never the less we had Tom Sneva on pole.

Yet once again there was tumult under the perceived calm. As the fast 1984 Marches had very serious wheel bearing problems as we went faster than the car was designed to go (or they made a design error) and the night before the race both of our cars and both of Penske’s cars were sitting on stands with no axles in them as we figured out what to do.

We ran each car a little differently and only Mears and Howdy made it home. Rick (Mears) luckily won with balls missing out of his right rear wheel bearing. Howdy, who likes a pushing car, had damage in his right front bearing, and Tom (Sneva), who drives his car loose, lost the bearings in his right rear challenging for the lead with about 20 laps to go – the difference between understeer and oversteer!

Once again Steve; Thank you for taking the time to grant me this interview and for all of the excellent answers, as you certainly had a colorful career and I really enjoyed the insight into the life of Yester-year…


Tweeting for Ellen

Otay, so I’m a little late to the “Tweet-Up,” but here’s an interview with Sarah Fisher on her ongoing campaign to woo Big Time TV Show host Ellen DeGeneres, as Sarah tries to convince her to attend this year’s Indy 500; click here.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Strous returning to Indy Lights

Just saw this good news over at Junior Open wheel Talent, where Ryan notes that “Great Balls ‘O Fire” Dutchman Junior Strous who set the Indy Lights series alight last year with his season opening clean sweep on the Streets of St. Pete, which I scribbled ‘bout in Three’s Company has apparently just inked a deal to run for Team Moore Racing in 2010, as you can read more about it here.

A Different Mechanic’s Tale

As you may be aware of, ex-Formula One Mechanic and current SPEED TV Commentator Steve Matchett has previously penned a book titled: The Mechanic’s Tale. After having been contacted by an ex-Formula 1 and Indy Car Mechanic in regards to a previous story I’d written, he’s graciously agreed to give me a chance to interview him about his life in the Pit lane and whatever else I can think of asking him…

Steve Roby:I worked on open wheel racing cars non-professionally (when I was still a student) and professionally in Australia from about 1967 or ‘68 beginning with Repco Brabham V8’s and Ferrari Formula Two (F2) 2.4 liter V6’s, then on McLaren M10A’s and M10B’s in the Tasman Series.

I guess the only car I ever worked on with fenders was a Lotus Super 7 which was where I started as a “Grunt” in about 1966. I remember that well as it was the first race I ever went to. Jack Brabham did a few show laps with the (Brabham) BT19 with which he was leading the championship and that was 1966…
(Rolf Stommelen)
I worked in Formula 1 for Surtees, Brabham, a little with Ensign over a winter break and then with Graham Hill.

I was in Australia on vacation when Graham Hill was killed along with the remainder of the team but for the “Truckie”, another Mechanic and Allan Jones, before I retired from F1; then I came to the United States where I built a car for Bill Simpson. Then was Chief Mechanic at McLaren, Chaparral, IAM and Mayer Racing, before Retiring from Indy car racing.

Afterwards I got a “real” job in industry at LABECO, along with becoming the Louis Schwitzer Award Chairman for ten years. (Schwitzer and BorgWarner Trophy) before retiring…
)Tomaso I am not sure what you mean here The Louis Schwitzer award had nothing to do with Borg Warner only that they bought Schwitzer and thus I worked for Borg Warner. The award is still the Louis Schwitzer Award)

Tomaso) Speaking of Steve Matchett; during the just completed Brazilian Grand Prix, I heard David Hobbs mention your name in reference to a lightning strike at the Interlagos circuit as you were apparently a guest in the SPEED studios… What’s it like watching the Broadcast and do you know ‘Hobbo (David Hobbs) from your Surtees days?

Steve Roby: It is fun to see how the On-air talent responds to what they see on the screen in conjunction with the Timing & Scoring screen and some communication with Peter Windsor on the ground at the track in question. It sounds like a cheap version of the real thing (coming from Charlotte instead of on-site) but in fact when I was in the live broadcast booth in past years (I did some work on CART and F1 races for NBC) the predominant feel is the broadcasters there also match their output to what is on a tube in front of them; not the action on the track.

A big difference is that when the broadcast is done live from the track (like CART IRL or F1 in the 80s) the broadcast team is responsible for both the commentary and the video.

When the Speed TV team do the commentary from Charlotte they do the commentary and some video content but the live video feed is the video feed from FOM. They are in a more relaxed studio, definitely a lot larger room and they have more data at their fingertips; it is pretty impressive that there is basically no time lag between the action at the locale and the commentary that we hear at home so the race content is pretty much real time live.

I knew David (Hobbs) from the Tasman Series where he drove a McLaren M22, then when Tom Anderson ran him in F5000 for Carl Hogan. I had been to his house in Upper Boddington (near Silverstone) and then he drove for us in the BMW so we had crossed paths a lot before his Speed TV gig.

T) Well you’ve certainly had an impressive career as a Mechanic and I’m really not sure where to begin? So I guess at the beginning, eh? Did you apprentice as a Mechanic in school before going to work on Racing Cars?

SR: No I trained in Automotive Engineering at British Leyland in Sydney. That training was part hands-on and part academic. We did apprentice type training in tool making etc. for a few years and then branched out into “engineering” tasks as we worked further into our degrees.

By the time I was at British Leyland I was working as a Gofer on the Lotus Super 7 so I leveraged that experience into two separate terms in the British Leyland Competitions Department which progressed into another period on a service vehicle on the London to Sydney Marathon, which was fun. At that time British Leyland successfully ran “Works” Mini’s all over the world in racing and rallying. For the London to Sydney Marathon we ran Austin 1800’s so I guess I did work on cars with fenders.

T) So you worked on a “Fenders” car early on in your career, which apparently served as your springboard into “Mechanicing” Professionally. Did you enjoy working on the Lotus Super 7 and do you recall who the team and driver were?

SR: I was just a kid who watched the owner/driver/mechanic work on his car. At that time we lived in Queensland and had a small beach house at Miami Beach (on the Gold Coast in Queensland) and while there on holidays I would surf in the mornings then watch Bill Page in the afternoons when he was working on his car. That grew into cleaning and polishing and that then advanced to more esoteric functions like rebuilding parts.

The first proper motor racing event (other than Speedway quarter mile) I ever saw was at Surfers Paradise where I was a team member (the team member) with Bill on his Super 7.

T) Then you worked on Repco-Brabham’s and Ferrari F2’s. Were the Repco-Brabham’s for a “Privateer” outfit and what series were they being campaigned in?

SR: Actually at that same race Bill’s Brother Brian had a twin cam F2 style Brabham or Renmax open wheeler. When we moved to Sydney I hooked up with Brian, who by then had purchased an ex Scuderia Veloce (ex Brabham) Repco Brabham V8 BT23A-1. I helped on that car for a few races till he crashed it at Warwick Farm in Sydney and then I helped Brian build a new space frame for the car and helped put it back together.

T) What was it like working on the Ferrari’s (F2) and the McLaren’s in the Tasman series? Which did you enjoy more?

SR: I had become friendly with a lot of the crews in the premier form of Australian racing and when the opportunity arose to work with Jimmy Stone on Graeme Lawrence’s Ferrari (The ex Chris Amon Tasman car) for the Tasman Series I jumped at it. Then I did more Tasman Series races with Ian Gordon on Kevin Bartlett’s McLaren M’10A’s and B’s and really learned the craft from Ian.

Ian had been around forever and at one time worked for Ron Harris Racing in England where his drivers were Peter Revson, Pedro Rodriguez and sometimes Jim Clark; he worked some with Frank Gardner also.

The Tasman may have been fun for the drivers but for the crew on an F5000 car it was a hard slog. Eight races, in two countries, in 8 weeks. Every Saturday night the base work load was a new gearbox crown wheel and pinion and two new cylinder heads for the engine, plus whatever other prep work needed to be done. This usually went into the early (sometimes late) morning; we did the race on Sunday afternoon, then loaded up and drove to the next site. The drive was often 500 miles or so. I learned a lot about the cars but also about nutrition as you had to eat to keep your energy at an acceptable level.

T) What was ‘Ol “Black Jack” (Sir Jack Brabham) like back in those days? Was he keen to have “Aussie’s” in his team and what did you do/work on the Repco Brabham (F1) cars?

SR: I did not have much contact with him but ironically we became good friends with his son Geoffrey and his wife in Indianapolis. By the time I was at Brabham in F1 it was owned by Bernie. (Ecclestone)

T) Somehow I found your name associated with Elf Team Tyrrell, but you apparently never worked there. Did you have any associations with “Uncle Chopper?” (Ken Tyrrell)

SR: I never worked with Tyrrell; my only deal with Ken (Tyrrell) was for the cricket scores. But there were lots of Aussies and Kiwis in Formula 1 in that period, in fact at least one in each team, even that most British of teams BRM (British Racing Motors) had Vern Schuppan, so the cricket scores were all-important and Ken always knew what was happening and usually his runner was Rob Walker who, despite being the epitome of the English Gentleman was pretty close to being an “Aussie.”

Rob would go from team to team telling the colonials the scores during practice or the race. When I worked for NBC on Indy Car racing, the director was always passing the college basketball scores to his broadcast team through the headsets.

T) So you were friends with Ken; what was he like in those days and any stories you’d like to share about him?

SR: I just knew who he was. I would say I was friends with Jackie (Stewart) but not Ken other than to say Hi or rib each other about cricket.

T) You worked for Surtees, Brabham, Ensign and Graham Hill in F1. Can you briefly describe some of your duties with these teams?

SR: I was always the lead guy on the car. That meant my responsibility was to build the car, prepare it, run it at the track. In those days there were two mechanics per car. The lead guy had the basic responsibility and always did the rebuilds on the back of the car (gearbox and engine) and the second guy did the front. During practice the lead guy would time and do tactics on the pit wall and the second guy hung out the board.

We made all the changes to the car sometimes engineering the change and sometimes just doing it, depending on the team. At Surtees John (Surtees) would tell us what to change; at Brabham Gordon Murray would do the engineering, but at Graham Hill I would discuss with Graham (Hill), or whoever was driving and work out set up changes. During the race we kept our own lap chart and timing and did the tactics (what tactics there were) while usually the driver’s wife would do a more comprehensive full lap chart.

When there were decisions on when to pit during a wet to dry, or dry to wet race they would come from me on the pit wall. We had no radios back then so when the driver came in the pit it was always a negative surprise and it was difficult to hear what an excited driver was yelling at you over the sound of the engine!

T) Were you in the Pit lane changing tyres during the heat of the battle in those days? Or did the cars primarily run from start to finish without pitting except for emergency repairs?

SR: In those days if you pitted you were done. I shudder to think about it now but usually we did not even have pneumatic guns but those nasty wheel hammers. If it rained it was chaotic as you had two guys changing 4 wheels and making wing and damper changes. Adding fuel was somewhat dangerous – pouring fuel from a churn into a funnel with the car hot! Sometimes it was funny to watch…

I remember one time at Silverstone with Alan Jones in the car, I waited a lap too late (in retrospect) to bring him in when it started to rain as there was trouble in the adjacent pit box. Ferrari in the next pit with all their Sports Car expertise had pneumatic guns with those long yellow curly plastic hoses. Clay Reggazoni came in and the team manager sent him off before the Left Front guy had his hose back from the car, so this curly yellow hose was wrapped around the Airbox getting longer by the moment… We all hit the deck to miss the caroming Airgun!

The Left Front guy was in shock when Niki Lauda came in and once again there was chaos, as the team manager sent Lauda on his way as the Left Front guy turned to pick up his gun to do up the nut. The Left Front wheel wobbled, Niki put the car in reverse and the nut came off and rolled to my feet! I picked it up and put it on the wheel and could see the universal “wanker” look in his eyes, expressed by his hand motion…

The unfortunate thing about this incident was that we should have been on the podium but the Red flag went out and the results went back a lap, to the lap we were in the pits!

T) And I’m assuming there was a lot less staff in those days? None of the 500+ “Mega” Organisations of today, so the Mechanics had a lot more work/job responsibilities?

SR: Oh yes. At Brabham, for three cars, the F1 team was Bernie, Gordon Murray and his assistant Geoff Ferris (who also did the F2 car), Herbie Blash, the Team Manager Keith Greene, Bob Dance the Chief Mechanic and two guys per car. There were 3 fabricators who built the tubs, for all of Brabham’s F1 and F2 Teams, a bodywork guy, and the truckie. (16 in all)

T) And did you work with the Driver’s of these various Teams? (I.e.; strapping them in, arranging their pedals, etc.) If so, which Driver’s were they?

SR: My responsibilities were everything to do with the car, sometimes even driving it to the track on a trailer if we missed the truck, or were at a test and the others came from the factory. We built up the car from the tub and suspension and a pile of parts, rebuilt the gearboxes, made a lot of parts like water pipes, brackets and hoses, made the seats for drivers, fitted the drivers, drove the cars from garages to pits and back.

I had many drivers: John Surtees, Mike Hailwood, Tim Schenken, Sam Posey and Andrea De Adamich at Surtees; De Adamich, Rolf Stommelen and John Watson at Brabham; Graham Hill, Stommelen, Vern Schuppan, Tony Brise and Alan Jones at Graham Hills Team.

T) Did you work with Sam Posey or Derek Bell at Surtees?

SR: Just Sam at Watkins Glen. (At Surtees) We have stayed friends for a long time. Their effort was hopeless as each year we wasted the first day trying to make a Firestone car run on Goodyear tyres.

T) And what was it like working for John Surtees?

SR: He was cheap and tough. He did not let the drivers get what they wanted technically; it was always his way whether it suited the driver or not. For Mike (Hailwood) this did not matter as he was disinterested in the technical side but Tim (Schenken) could not get along with this mode of running a team. I did learn a lot though; we tested at Goodwood at least once a week a lot so I learned a lot there.

T) And I’m assuming Ensign was just in its beginning stages when you went there?

SR: In Formula 1 that was correct but the team had been around in F3 for a period. My time with ‘Mo was just for a winter after a deal Bernie did in Italy to run two Brabhams fell apart. The team was built on Rikky Von Opel’s money but he did not like the basic work part of the deal. The car was actually quite good, and Ricky could be fast at times but lacked discipline and work ethic.

T) What was Maurice (“Mo”) Nunn like back then?

SR: ‘Mo was time disorganized. I remember once going down the M1 to catch a plane from Heathrow and he insisted that we were not late until the plane took off. We were still on the M1 when it took off and only then would he accept that we were late.

T) And you were at Graham Hill’s Team when he died. I’m guessing you were working for him prior to this? Did you work on the Customer Lola Chassis or the Hill GH1’s?

SR: I worked on the Lola’s, which used to break with regularity, then we built the GH1 which was really just a Lola built correctly by my buddy John Thompson with a stiff tub. It was really a mechanic’s car; simple, light and neat, and it went very well. Then Andy Smallman came on board and cleaned it up, started some real development and it went much better.

That was hard work. We crashed an absolutely brand new car at Barcelona so Allan Howell and I then had to start to build another new car from nothing, while preparing one of the old Lola’s for Graham to run at Monaco. We finished the car the Thursday night of Zolder (I think, maybe 4 weeks after Barcelona) and then trailered it to Zolder after a few all nighters on the trot. We were so tired that we were afraid to kip on the ferry for fear that we would not wake up at Zeebrugge in time to disembark. We made it to the track but slept in till about 9:00 AM and still only missed the first practice.

T) Was Hill’s Team on the upswing when his death occurred? As he did have future World Champion Alan Jones as one of his (part time) drivers, along with Tony Brise; how far do you think the Team could have gone?

SR: I think the drivers were excellent. Rolf (Stommelen) was leading in Barcelona when the car broke; once we got Alan (Jones) in the seat that car went very well and he put in some really strong drives. Tony (Brise) was every bit as strong as Alan, perhaps even faster so he would have become a top line driver. Alan and Tony were always on for a top five finish.

I am not sure the team had the leadership or funds to beat the top teams though; we used McLaren-built customer engines and would have needed control of that aspect if we were to get to the top.

T) So you worked on three World Champions Teams, how do they stack up against each other as Constructors? And did you have a favourite amongst these three?

SR: Brabham was easily the technical class of the trio. We had good cars, Gordon Murray was brilliant while still learning the business, Carlos Reutemann was very good, and Wilson Fittipaldi was replaced by Carlos Pace who also was very good so they had the best drivers of the three.

I think it’s a misnomer to say that they were three World Champions Teams at that stage as Surtees was Champion at Ferrari and walked out on that deal. The old Brabham group was gone and Bernie (Ecclestone) was just placing his mark on the Team and Graham Hill was long out of Lotus and BRM.

T) What was your favourite Formula 1 chassis to work on?

SR: During that period the Brabham was the neatest and best designed although I had more input into the GH1. Gordon (Murray) would hang around at night watching us work on the car and if something was difficult he would change the design to make it better. He was very open minded. The nose of the BT42 was designed on a napkin at the White Hart pub over lunch by a group of us.

T) Any favourite Drivers you worked with? And how do they compare with the drivers of today?

SR: For Formula One that is a tough question. For the greatest gentlemanly aspect that was definitely Rolf. He was the kind of guy who would sneak out of dinner, saying he was going to bed and you would find that the bill was paid; a really nice guy…

Hailwood was a mechanic’s driver. He would rather have a beer with the guys than dinner with the boss. Not at all interested in the technical aspect but a hell of a racer... It was an absolute shame that he died in such a stupid accident after such a wonderful (and dangerous) career. Real bike racers always say there was Mike Hailwood and then the rest.

Alan Jones was just a young guy when I got him, but he went pretty hard and then became so self-centered. Tony was so grateful for the drive he had, but I did not know him that well as I was on the other car. I liked Carlos Reutemann but he was a bit of a strange duck, really switched on in some aspects of life but completely out to lunch in others. It staggers me that he has become a successful politician. Before a race he would give me £5 and say he would finish in such and such a position. If he did finish in that position then I kept the money. If he did not then I would give it back to him. Such a deal!

T) How do you like the Formula 1 racing today?

SR: You cannot really compare one period to another. One thing which has never changed is that a great driver cannot make a bad car go fast. (Look at Chris Amon) when you see the grid, lined up row by row with team cars it is difficult to believe that the car is less important than the driver, but the press would have you believe that it is all drivers. In my day the drivers worked hard to not hit each other as they unfortunately died with great regularity. There were unwritten ethics of battle that were never broken, like giving each other room. That is not the case today and I think both Senna and Schumacher have some responsibility to motor racing in that aspect…

To continue reading, see:  A Different Mechanic’s Tale - Part II

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

TAG ‘N FAZZT complete Sebring test

So may be the racing season is beginning to Hot-up? As today not ‘Juan but Two Press Releases arrived at the No Fenders inbox… And although Carmen Jorda is possibly better looking… Hey Pressdog, what’s up with hogging all the ladies? Hellooooooo, Carmen Jorda

Sebring Test - Alex and Crew
Sebring Test – TAG and engineer Allen McDonald

FAZZT Race Team Completes Road Course Testing at Sebring
Indianapolis (Jan. 20, 2010) -The FAZZT Race Team and driver Alex Tagliani have finished their second and final day of testing at the 1.67 mile Sebring International Raceway road course. By all accounts, the team is very pleased with their first outing in road course configuration with the #77 Bowers & Wilkins FAZZT Race Team entry.

"The test went incredibly well," said Alex. "I am at a loss of what to say because things really ran perfectly both days. The crew did a super job throughout the test and the car ran flawlessly over the 241 miles we ran. We really had no issues, no mistakes and that is just incredible when you take into account that we are basically running this car for the first time on a road course. We accomplished everything in our test plan and the crew even had time this afternoon to work on their pit stops which is just amazing considering everything we had to get done."

The crew began their test on Monday morning with temperatures hovering in the low 70's and clear weather forecasted for the whole of the test. "It was another great test for the team and they really did not put a foot wrong over the course of the two days," explained General Manager Rob Edwards. "The dynamic between Alex and his engineer, Allen McDonald, has been awesome and Allen has done an excellent job of keeping the team on track and getting through our test plan. Between this test and our test at Homestead-Miami Speedway at the beginning of the month we have achieved way more than we had even hoped for and we are really looking forward to our next test at Barber Motorsports Park in mid-February."

Alex and Rob both were enthused by the cohesiveness the first year team has been showing both in this test and in the previous test at Homestead-Miami Speedway. "It was nice to just be able to run and test everything we had planned on testing," explained Alex. "When you have these types of people around you who are so professional in what they do, you don't have to worry about a thing. When it's time to run the car, I run the car. When it's time to wait for changes, I wait. I don't have to worry about anything but driving and that is such a pleasure." Rob also was enthusiastic in his praise for the newly formed team. "Alex is as relaxed in the race car as I have ever seen him and everyone on this team is 100% behind the effort and that really makes all the difference. Everyone is very focused on their jobs and doing their part to make us competitive when we unload the car in Brazil on March 12 and it so apparent when you run a test where literally, there was not issue one with the race car."

The team is now returning to Indianapolis to continue preparations for their next scheduled test which will be held on the road course at Barber Motorsports Park on February 24 and 25. The test at Barber Motorsports Park will be the final test before the season opening event for the IZOD IndyCar Series on March 14 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

You can check out FAZZT at:

Double you’re Oomplats, Double your fun in Finland

We already know that the Kimster, nee Kimi Räikkönen has joined the World Rally Championship this year for Deeter Majestic’s Red Bull “Junior” Rally Team and will be piloting an Citroen C4 this year… thus, what to do with The Iceman’s old WRC ride; his FIAT Abarth Grande Punto S2000? Whale Finland’s MTV-3 (I want my MTV?) is reporting that Kimi has given the FIAT away to his older brother Rami in order for the Räikkönen Bros to compete in this years Arctic Lapland Rally in their Homeland later this month.

2007 F1 World Champion Kimi will race his Citroen C4 in preparation for his upcoming WRC campaign while Rami will race the Gran Punto, ironically the very car used in Kimi’s WRC debut in the very same event one year ago.

No word on whether or not the Flying Räikkönen Bros Plan on performing matching pirouettes in this year’s Arctic Lapland Rally…

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

ICS prefers Nestle over Swiss Miss

J.P. Patches and Gertrude

So originally I wasn’t gonna Bite after hearing this ridiculous sound bite from the lips of Curty cavin in his IndyStar Colum, as the news seems extremely PATHETIC! As really Indy Car? You’re gonna keep a female competitor from racing in your down on entrants racing series because she’s never run an Oval… Tsk-Tsk!

So props to my Open Wheel compadres ‘CAM-WOW & Ryan for scribbling ‘bout this, as Matt chamois most correctly points out how Indy Cars NEGATIVE view of letting Atlantics Standout Simona de Silvestro not compete in the Indy Racing League REAKS of Politics…

As in its ‘Juan ‘O our Competitors series and we AIN’T havin’ NO Atlantics Piloto’s show-up our vaunted ‘Flinstone Indy Lites Drivers… By Gumm-it! You’ll go thru our Ladder to Indy or Else Simona; Kapishe! (And that goes for you to Mr. John Edwards)

OTAY! Those were my sentiments and NOT Matt’s… While Ryan took a more PC approach to De Silvestro’s SNUB!

Nay-Nay Indycar

Slight Setbacks for Simona

And I have to admit this is the very first article I’ve read from JP’s IndyCar Blog, of which I must admit that those initials make me think of a most legendary personality up here in the Pacific Northwest known as J.P. Patches… (But hey that’s a good thing JP; Hmm? That’s not Johnny Parsons is it?)

When Marty and Milka are Ready but Simona and John aren’t…

Which seems to sum up the whole You’re NOT Gonna race in our Premiere Series: DO NOT PASS GO, DO NOT COLLECT YOUR $200 until you properly participate in OUR Firestone Indy Lights series; Yuh Hear Simona? As JP points out how it might look a bit SAD if J.R. Hildebrand and ‘Bia (Ana Beatriz) cannot find rides in the Big Boyz while De Silvestro and Edwards are competing for the Bombardier Rookie of the Year: Can you say bombs Away?

And speaking of J.P. Patches… I’m wunderin’ if Brian I.H.J. Barnhart is perhaps auditioning for a cameo as Gertrude. Then again perhaps ‘Ol Braveheart uses his ICU812 TV Set to keep tabs on whoevers tryin’ to bust in on the IZOD Indy Car Party, eh?

I mean c’mon, if Milka-licious “N Marty “Geritol” Roth can be given the green light to race at the Speedway, then surely Simona deserves a crack without having to go thru this fowl smelling ‘DUNG HEAP Crackerjack-fest of NOT being Worthy, eh?

Then again how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie-pop? Or goodness gracious me? Could I just be crying some more “O those Crocodile CART Tears… But I thought The Split was over and Tony G. won? As after all it wasn’t a TAKEOVER, it was a Merger.

HE-LL! I even had to Google ‘DannaCar to discover that she had a most LIMITED amount of Roundy-round racin’ before jumping to the Big Leagues… As in she began in Go Karts, then moved Across the Pond to compete in British Formula Ford & Vauxhall, then back to Star Mazda and Toyota Atlantics, with only the latter running in conjunction with CART, Err Champ Cars few remaining Ovals. And where’d that Mike Conway come from?

‘Nah, its gonna be Alright!

Monday, January 18, 2010

DAKAR 2010: El Finale

It’s always funny to find out some sliver of information on the final day of a race outing, as I was surprised to hear Robby “Purple” Floyd utter that American Bike rider Jonah Street was from the sleepy little town of Yakima, Washington; Say What? So it was even funnier when I went to the Rally Pan Am website which noted that Jonah’s Hometown was Ellensburg, WA, which makes his efforts even more impressive as there AIN’T a whole lotta Desert in Ellensburg! (Which is known more for its Rodeo) And although I recall Jonah’s DAKAR exploits last year where he had to retire due to a wrist injury, I paid little attention to him since after all he was ridin’ a “Scooter.” Yet Jonah is a very accomplished rider having won the Baja 500 twice along with finishing runner-up twice in the grueling Baja 1000, as the Ellensburg rider finished a very respectable seventh overall on his Privateer KTM 690 in his fourth DAKAR. (Although I’m certain he’s somewhat disappointed with that finishing position, eh?)

Cyril Despres of France won his third DAKAR in the Bikes category by 62+ minutes over Norway’s Pal Anders Ullevalseter with Chile’s Francisco Lopez third; having won three stages aboard hisAprilia RXV 450, as it was the Italian make’s inaugural running in the DAKAR.

As Despres has now won in Africa twice (2005, 2007) along with this year’s Argentina-Chile Rally Raid, while Three-time winner Marc Coma (2004, 2006, 2009) was 15th after being caught changing a rear tyre illegally during a Stage and being given a 6hr Time penalty for this infraction.

And although the Organizer’s had hoped to favour the smaller 450cc’s Bikes by placing Air restrictors on the (KTM) 690cc Bikes, to which KTM protested by not Officially competing this year, nevertheless 8 of the first 12 places were taken by KTM 690’s, which will be banned outright next year with only 450cc Motorcycles participating.

Overall Bikes winning Time = 51:10:37

Meanwhile the hotly contested Car category became a battle of wills between el Matador and ‘Skeeter, as Volkswagen Motorsports Boss Chris Nissen was happy to let the Drivers compete for the overall glory without Team orders…

And although his lead was nibbled away in the closing stages, nevertheless former Two-time World Rally Champion Carlos Sainz won this year’s DAKAR over teammate Nasser Al-Attiyah by a very scant 2min 12 seconds behind Sainz with American Mark Miller finishing third overall (33mins adrift) giving the VW Race Touareg 2’s a clean sweep of the podium, as Volkswagen finished 1-2-3 in the Rally’s closest ever finish!

Overall Cars winning Time: 47:10:00
Distance/Stages: 9,000 Kilometers/5,536 miles; 14 Stages/15 Days
Times = (Hours/Minutes/Seconds)

Interestingly this year’s Car’s runner-up Al-Attiyah was an Qatari Olympic Skeet shooter, a la “The Wee Scot,” (JYS) nee sir Jackie Stewart.

While Robby “Dirtmann” Gordon was his usual brash self, having wowed the fans with his jumping anticts at the races start and then delighting the huge crowds in Buenos Aires with a slew of “Victory” Doughnuts after having crossed the line in seventh place in his Monster Hummer and finishing eighth overall… Yet, I’m not sure how much of a friend he made with El Matador? As on Stage 12, Sainz who was starting in P9 was anxious to pass the “slower” vehicles in front of him to catch the disappearing Al-Attiyah, since after Gordon had let the Spaniard pass him, Robby decided he was going too slow and gave Carlos his patented “BAJA BUMP!” BOOM! Hitting him squarely in the rear… BASH! ‘Ol PT AIN’T GOT NUTTIN ON MEESE…

Thus reportedly as Sainz was doing a live French TV interview where Gordon walked up and slapped him on the back, Sainz simply walked off into the distance without a further word said, while Gordon immediately made hay for a SCORE Off-road event after finishing the DAKAR. Hey uze ‘RASSCAR BOYZ, you’d better watch out since reportedly bump Drafting will be reinstated this season…

Schuey tests GP2 racecar

In his quest to get a head start on his impending comeback in Formula 1, Michael Schumacher has just completed a three day test session behind the wheel of a Development GP2 chassis, which he used to evaluate new bits for the series 2011-13 GP2 Series racecar, while waiting to get back behind the wheel of a current-spec Formula 1 chassis…

Schumacher GP2 Test recap

Friday, January 15, 2010

Will USF1 Team make the Grid?

This past Sunday the Speed Freaks busted loose upon the US F1 Team’s woeful state of affairs, even going so far as to call it S.U. F1 Team; YOUCH! As Kenny Sergeant went off on how can they be called an U.S. Team if they’ve got a Foreign Owner and Foreign Drivers, along with a Foreign Base of Operations…

While the Stat Mann chimed in with the comments of how they’ve already missed 1 practice session (Dec. 1-3, 2009 Young Drivers Test; Jerez, Spain) along with having a British Owner and being a British Team...

And Crash said I don’t get it, as we’ve got plenty of Young Americans; like Conor Daly, Josef Newgarden and John Edwards to name a few.

As the Freaks made light of the fact that USF1 was gonna give it a Whirl at the ‘Barber’s, Err Barber Motorsports Park sometime in February – as I’ll admit: USF1 has done little to impress any of us to date, as The Sarge noted that his 1954 house’s bathroom has more High Technology gadgets in it then revealed upon Professor Steve Matchett’s exclusive ‘Walkabout on his RPM finale.

So let’s take a look at the facts, shall we? As in the FIA has given USF1 special dispensation to test Stateside before flying Across the Pond to join the rest of the F1 Circus, which makes sense to me, especially if the chassis is behind completion.

But to be fair NONE of the current thirteen Constructor’s cars have broken cover to date, with their respective Challengers turning wheels for the first time on Feb 1-3 at Valencia; while let’s NOT overlook the fact that there was something known as the FOTA-MAD MAX Mosley War occurring this summer, as we didn’t even know if there would be a series this year or not, which undoubtedly cut sizably into the New Teams design times.

Yet nobody seems to be making a stink over the fact that Virgin Racing will debut at Silverstone, with no word on Campos Meta, while Lotus’s new car won’t be unveiled until February 12th in London, before shakedown testing at Silverstone.

And we know the USF1 Team’s HQ, Design Office and Factory is based in the ex-Hall of Fame RASSCAR Shop down south in Charlotte, NC, while its European base of operations will be housed at Motorland Aragon Park in Alcañiz, Spain, which makes sense, especially with half of the racing season taking place in Europe, not to mention the two Spanish rounds.

Regarding the Squad’s missing of the December Young Driver’s Test; NONE of the four New Teams took part in this, as it was basically an excuse for the current Constructors to receive a little more test time, albeit in their 2009``racecar’s, which Team’s then simulated the increased Fuel loads required for 2010.

And while I agree its disappointing that most likely NO American Driver’s will be behind the keyboards in 2010, which was a large premise of the Team’s philosophy, it seems fairly understandable in Today’s economy, I mean HELL! Even Ryan Hunter-Reay, IZOD’s Poster boy can net a Fulltime drive in the Indy Car Series!

American Idols: F1 Style

Crash pointed out a few Up “n Comers, having left out J.R. Hildebrand, Alexander Rossi and US F1 Team “golden Boy” Jonathan Summerton; while there was NO mention of the fact that reputedly another of the New Teams Campos Meta 1 is having huge difficulties in wooing any Spanish Backers after having inked the legendary name of Senna as part of its Driver line-up, albeit being Ayrton’s nephew Bruno.

Nor the fact that Pedro De la Rosa, like other notable talent is being forced to bring suitcases ‘O Moohlah in order to secure a Formula One ride, as Nick Heidfeld and others scurry to find any available Dinero in order to gain one of the few remaining seats in F1.

But the Team does have Bernie Ferguson onboard as its Cosworth liaison, which should give the team a lift, since he previously worked for Kevin Kalkoven & Jerry Forsythe’s Company, nee Cosworth Engineering…

Yet I’ll admit that USF1’s website is less then stellar, with the House ‘O Windsor providing comedic relief with his vaunted Driver lists, but hey Kenny, the last time I checked, Ken Anderson is a U.S. Citizen, and they do have Chad Hurley’s checkbook to drain, so I think its gonna be alright…

Although I do indeed hope they carry their banner high and don’t flop, since they are after all representing the Stars ‘N Stripes I suppose. But let’s wait ‘N see what really happens, eh? As I wouldn’t find it overly surprising to see Jonathan Summerton named as Test/Reserve Driver while contesting the 2010 F2 Championship in preparations for a future seat fitting…

John Anderson joins USF1

According to Open Wheel Racing Soothsayer Robin Miller, De Ferran Motorsports loss is to be US F1 Team’s gain, as 64yr old ‘Aussie John Anderson has been hired as Team Manager for the vaunted U.S. based Formula 1 outfit, which will potentially roll out its 2010 Challenger before Valentines Day, while Anderson’s name should be of little surprise to Y’all. After all he has won the Indy 500 with Dan Wheldon & Dario Franchitti before being enticed to go run Gil De Ferran’s Acura ALMS project…

Thursday, January 14, 2010

T minus Sixty

So if I’ve done my math correctly… Then today marks two months exactly until the ‘Big Boyz racing series kickoff their 2010 campaigns on March 14th, with Formula 1 commencing in the Desert Sands of Bahrain, while the Indy Cars samba their way thru the streets of Sao Paolo.

Formula 1While Uncle Bernaughty is busy trying to wind-us-up with his comical short cuts to replace KERS talk in the Ski Chalets of Madonna di Campiglio, I’d hazard to guess that all of the F1 Constructors are in full tilt Thrash-mode, as I’d expect at least three of the New Teams: Campos Meta, USF1 and Virgin to miss the first test in Valencia, (Feb 1-3) with no word on Lotus’s plans. And we’re still awaiting the naming of 6 Driver confirmations. (Campos Meta, Renault, Sauber, Scuderia Toro Rosso, USF1)

IndyCarWith just 60 Days remaining, I certainly hope the Sao Paolo race course will be completed in time and we don’t have to put up with any track surface breakups. While Dale Coyne is set to run two cars, Townsend Bell has just been confirmed as the pilot of the No. 99 Sam Schmidt/Ganassi Indy 500 entry. Justin Wilson has been playing the BIG STORK role with “TAG & FAZZT having already gone testing in Homestead while we’re still waiting to see who’ll show up for the first test session of Barber and who’ll fill the remaining open cockpits.

RallyWhile we await the World Rally Championship’s season opener on Valentine’s Day weekend, (Feb 12-14) the Swedish Rally’s Snowbanks should be the perfect place for the ‘Kimster ‘N Ken Block to Faceoff against Mr. WRC; Sebastian Loeb. Will it be Muskrat LUV or Siberian Snowbanks for Messer Raikkonen?

Meanwhile, the world’s most grueling Rally Raid is in the final stages of completion, where upon the beginning of the DAKAR’s Week-2, 147 of 362 entrants had fallen by the wayside, while El Matador holds a slim 4min lead Overall, with 64 Cars & 92 bikes remaining.

Sports Cars
With the just concluded Roar before the Rolex, we’re just a fortnight away from the Annual All Star Endurance kickoff, which will include a multitude of ex-Formula 1 Drivers, Past ‘N Present Indy Car Boyz and a few RASSCAR Ringers sprinkled in for good measure. You can watch it live on SPEED during the Pro Bowl weekend of Jan 30-31.

And I don’t know ‘bout Y’all, but I’m definitely NOT ready for the season start, as there’s simply too much scribblin’ to do!