Saturday, November 22, 2008

Mark Webber Injured in Bike crash

The news of the day is that Red Bull racing driver Mark Webber was badly injured in a bicycle crash in Tasmania, Australia yesterday. The Australian collided head on with an SUV while running a charity bike tour of the island and suffered multiple fractures to his right leg and some minor scrapes. The event in question is the 250 km Mark Webber pure Tasmaia challenge, a multi-discipline sporting event. Webber underwent surgury to reset the leg and is expected to make a full recovery. It is unclear as to whether or not this will affect his upcoming season, but both Webber and the team are expecting him to be in the cockpit for the start of the new season, although he will miss a considerable amount of testing time.

Mark Webber is a spirited driver and I can't imagine him not being ready for the start of the season, unless there are complications. These things are freak accidents that can happen to anyone, and he was doing something for charity, which is admirable. He has been one of the most unfortunate drivers in F1 recently, having always managed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, including a move to Williams as the team was in decline and missing out on a Renault seat just as they were in their prime. At 32 his odds of winning a world title appear to be slimming, and with young Hotshot Seb Vettel joining him at Red Bull he may just end up being number two driver should a championship challenge materialize.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The final nail in the coffin of the Canadian Grand prix

WARNING: The following blog entry contains mature subject matter and language that may not be appropriate for all readers, reader discretion advised.

Let's start right off with one sentence: Fuck you Bernie Ecclestone!

Now ha we know where this is going I need to get into the specifics. This week a group of representatives of the Montreal Grand Prix were in Europe to meet with the Fuhrer of Formula One Bernie Ecclestone to hammer out a deal. The figures were for an improved dollar amount for the next few years, ever increasing. Apparantly Mr. Wankerstone turned it down flatly, refusing to budge without a $175M bond to guarantee payment over the next five years and fees starting at $31M canadian increasing. The people representing Montreal had thought that there was going to be negotiation not just callous stonewalling by that cum sucking little 78 year old twatface but apparantly Bernard Echlestone didn't want anything to do with reason, instead he just wanted a way to either suck the Montreal organizers dry or take races to far away countries who don't give a fuck about formula one, all while denying some of the most fervent F1 fans in the world a chance to see their heroes in action. From what I understand the Montreal organizers put forward a fair package that was in line with most of the European races but Douchebag McAssmunch wanted no part of it.

What pisses me off the most about this is not that Dickhead Ecclestone wanted such a high dollar amount, it is that he refused to negotiate knowing that the Canadian GP organizers could not afford his demands, as if he intentionally wanted to cancel the Canadian GP. If he wants to shit on his best fans well then he can just go take his money and his greedy little ass and never come back. Notice to Canadian customs, flag this little twerp and never let him in the country for gross economic damages to the country. If he wants to be an asshole then he can be an asshole with other countries because it won't happen in our backyard.

Fuck You Bernie Ecclestone

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Franck Montagny

Former Renault F1 test driver and Super Aguri racer has been testing recently with Andretti-Green Racing's IRL team. While this may not mean anything in regards to their 2009 driver line-up, it could mean something about their testing and setup work. Montagny has alot of experience in many forms of motor racing, and most recently was racing sports cars in the ALMS and has lots of experience as a test driver. AGR is most likely using his testing expertise to work on setups and other data for the upcoming season as one of their main shortcomings this year was setup. TOny Kanaan cannot do all the setup work alone and although Danica Patrick and Marco Andretti are slowly learning, they still have a long way to go. Montagny appears to be a very good fit for them and he may be auditioning for a job at another IRL team with AGR backing, seeing as the silly season is far from over.

Montagny would be a very good fit for a smaller team, and with Ryan Hunter-Reay appearing to be the number one candidate to replace Helio Castroneves at Penske next year should Helio not be able to race due to his spot of legal bother, one could legitimately see Montagny move over to Rahal-Letterman Racing to replace Hunter-Reay. Montagny's setup abilities would be invaluable to a small team like Rahal-Letterman and he could score some very strong results, most likely on the road courses but you never know.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Is it time to rethink F1's eastern shift?

As many of you know (and repeatedly gripe about), F1 has been adding more and more races in Asia. First came Malaysia in 1999, followed China and Bahrain in 2004, and this year Singapore. In the next few years we are expecting to see India and South Korea join the party, paying exorbitant fees that no European or North American promoter can afford to pay, all this for the privelege of dealing with Bernie Ecclestone's repeated demands for night races and later starting times for European television while taking away races held in that very market. Normally it would sound like daft business sense to keep doing this, but the Ecclemeister is pocketing the 50 million bucks per year and is generally happy. Unfortunately these promoters, usually governments, are nowhere near able to make any semblance of a profit, but they have thus far shut up and paid, leaving the bitching and moaning to the Europeans.

However things appear to be changing as the Chinese Authorities are starting to balk at having to pay Bernie so much money for a race that the locals don't care about. The empty grandstands this year are a testament to this indifference on the part of the Chinese people, even after the organizers gave away tons of free tickets and bussed them in for free just to save a little bit of face. Now they are grumbling about having to pay so much and are considering the possibility of letting their contract lapse at the end of 2010. The empty grandstands are a similar sight in Malaysia and Bahrain, and the novelty of the race in Singapore is sure to wear off in a couple of years. The Chinese GP has been a financial disaster for the city of Shanghai and I don't suspect that the city of Kuala Lumpur is reaping any great financial rewards for their race, unlike the Canadian GP which is huge for the city, these Grands Prix go largely ignored by the local populous.

If F1 is going to remain relevant in the places where the most ardent supporters live it will have to start bringing the races back to these fans, not taking them away and giving them to people who for the most part don't give two shits about it. Hopefully this will serve as a wake-up call to the FOM people that their asian expirement is not working and should be stopped before more cities waste hundreds of millions of dollars on race tracks that will not have any chance of making a profit.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Toro Rosso dreams and realities.

Scuderia Toro Rosso are in the process of deciding who their drivers are for 2009 and will be testing a bunch of them in the coming weeks. The most obvious two contenders are Sebastien Bourdais, who raced for the team this year to mixed results and up and coming Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi, but apparantly Gerhard Berger has contacted other drivers as well. Takuma Sato is the most notable of these drivers contacted to actually accept the offer after his old job at Super Aguri collapsed under a pile of non-paid sponsor obligations and could be a good fit, while the names of Bruno Senna and Rubens Barichello have been thrown into the mix, depending on which one Honda choses. One name that was apparantly contacted may surprise many is the name of Juan-Pablo Montoya.

JPM had a pretty good F1 career with Williams and McLaren before falling out with Ron Dennis and taking his toys and going to NASCAR, where he has wasted little time in criticizing F1 whenever possible. He has called F1 boring and he is much happier in NASCAR, depsite being a race winner in F1 and a midfielder in NASCAR. This it seems quite unrealistic that he would ever accept to return to Formula One with a midfield team and it seems surprising that anyone in F1 would actually want him, given that he had seemingly nuked the hell out of all bridges back to this class of motorsports. While one might praise Gerhard Berger and Franz Tost for their optimism of landing a big name like Montoya, one can't help but feel that it is just a lame attempt at scoring some cheap publicity in Latin America for Red Bull with the idea of seeing JPM in a Red Bull sponsored car as they must have known that there wasn't a snowball's chance in hell Montoya would agree to enter a shootout for a seat with an average team. Juan Pablo rather unpolitely said no thanks to the offer of a test and will continue to do waht he does in NASCAR and complain and moan the way he did in F1. I for one am not disappointed to hear that he won't be back as he is nothing more than a big (figuratively and more recently, literally) whiner.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What really happened to Roth Racing?

Roth Racing has been in the IRL in some capacity since 2004 as a rich toy for owner/"driver" Marty Roth to play race car driver with. At first it was an Indy only thing with Roth qualifying for both the 2004 and 2005 500's in 32nd and 29th respectively as essentially a field filler. He did not finish either year but it did not deter him and the determined, if not slightly delusional, Roth pressed on and ran a few selected ovals in both 2006 and 2007 with a best finish being 18th (in a 19 car field). Re-unification came at the same time that Roth decided to go full time with a two car effot and the influx of talent from Champ Car exposed Roth's shortcomings in a drastic way as the 50 year old Toronto native was well off the pace, especially on the road courses, and quickly became the ridicule of the paddock for his on-track antics. His on-track antics were quickly matched by off-track shuffles in his second car as he unmercilessly fired rookie Jay Howard before the Indy 500 and replaced him with veteran John Andretti. The move appeared to have worked as Andretti put in some very good performances in the next few races, all ovals, before he had a particularly lousy weekend at Richmond and he himself was canned by Roth. The firing of Andretti was also the end of the line for the second Car as ROth decided to focus on his own efforts, which were dismal at best. Apart from a brief return of Howard at Watkin's Glen, it was Roth all the way in a very painful way. Little sponsorship and shitty driving did not appear to deter Roth as he planned for his 2009 assault, but then something went wrong......

What actually happened is a bit of a mystery, but what we do know is that Roth decided to close his doors because he though that the IRL wanted to revoke his license and he said, in no uncertain terms, that he was unhappy at this decision in an interview with Norris McDonald of the Toronto Star. It appeared black and white, the IRL was fed up with Roth's driving and revoked his license, sounds logical right? Well as it turns out not exactly. Roth apparantly was not actually contacted by anyone at the IRL confirming his lost license, and there was no offer of him doing "a bunch of ovals" as Roth claimed they said they offered him. The story goes that he heard he had lost his racing license through a third party. This was confirm a few days ago when someone from the IRL contacted McDonald saying that they had never told Roth that they were taking his license and they wanted to work with him to get sponsors. This does not exactly sound like the IRL was trying to prevent Roth from racing now does it. Whatever did happen, Brian Barnhart or another top IRL official should come out and actually tell us what is going on. I don't necessarily want to see Marty back in a car, but it seems rather silly that he would have shut down his team over hearsay, Roth is not an idiot. Believe what you want about this, but it seems all rather bizarre and might be a convenient excuse for Roth to pull out of the IRL and keep his dignity by trying to play the victim card. I will be watching this story closely and will post anything else.

I know that it seems a little trivial compared to the bigger news of the week like the loss of surfers paradise and the speculation surrounding the future of Helio Castroneves, but someone has to talk about it right?

Oh, and by the way, I plan on posting more often, probably daily or every second day from now on unless I announce otherwise.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

News and Rumour roundup and analysis

Hi there folks, here is a quick roundup of the driver and team news and rumours from F1 and the IRL of the past couple of days.

We will start with F1 and the big piece of driver news was at Renault where after months of speculation as to potential trigger happy driver changes that Flavio Briatore likes, what happened.... Nothing!!! They have re-signed Fernando Alonso and Nelson Piquet for another year. The Alonso signing is not surprising but there were some eyebrows raised about Piquet. For all intents and purposes Nelsinho was blown out of the weeds by Alonso and his only result of note was a lucky second place at Hockenheim. The rest of the time he was off the pace of Alonso and very accident prone. He did show improvement as the season wore on, but not nearly to the level that Fernando did. I guess the Renault philosophy this time around was the better the devil you know than the devil you don't.

Honda has still yet to confirm their drivers but Nick Fry has hinted that Jenson Button at least will be back. Keep in mind that these days Fry has no authority in this matter, but he still is a bigwig at the team and knows alot. The team are also planning to test Bruno Senna as a possible replacement for one of the drivers, likely the aging Barichello. Barichello has been the better driver for much of the year, but he is 36 and not getting any younger. That team needs some youthful energy soon at unfortunately neither Rubens or Jenson have it.

Moving stateside for the IRL and there are plenty of rumours going around, some credible, some not so, here are the big three that I have heard thus far.

The first has to do with three time champ Sam Hornish Jr, who has had a dreadful season on the track in NASCAR this year. is reporting that he may return to the IRL for next year as he is unhappy in stock cars. This is unlikely to happen because for one he is making assloads of Money in NASCAR for finishing 20th while he could theoretically be a winner in the IRL again, the money would be significantly lower. Secondly is that there are no top drives available for 2009 unless someone runs a third car or Helio Castroneves can't drive, which does not appear to be the case. He will not return to the IRL for peanuts with a midfield team, and Roger Penske is not going to let him join Ganassi or AGR without a fight, especially as the captain has invested significant amounts of money in his stock car adventure. Chances of seeing Hornish in an Indycar fulltime next year are slim to none, but we were not expecting to see Dario Franchitti back either........

The second has to do with KV racing and their ever bleak future. An article on reports that Aussie Vinyards owner Craig Gore has decided to back out of motor racing for family reasons. This coincidentally comes at the same time the negotiations over the future of Surfers Paradise are happening. If this is true then it will be a big blow to KV racing, but not necessarily a fatal one. Kevin Kalkhoven and Jimmy Vasser are smart men and have a pretty good racing team with very good drivers, potentially an attractive proposition for any potential sponsors. Both men are also well connected and very wealthy and will probably have the funds to start the season sponsorless while courting sponsors. While this may not be a fatal blow to KV racing, it may be a fatal blow to the surfers paradise race. Here is the Link:

There are rumours floating around that Sarah Fisher is trying to get sponsorship for a full season next year and drive on the ovals herself and hire Darren Manning for the road and street courses plus a second car for Indy. If this happens it would be great, but I imagine that the odds of that are happening are quite slim, although not out of the question. Sarah is a charismatic woman and a pretty good race car driver and could very well convince Dollar General to fork out the cash for a full season. I will believe it when I see it, but I hope it happens.

That's all for now folks. If you have any questions feel free to post them in the comments section and I will answer them as soon as possible. I may look into getting a tagboard for Q & A, but I don't know if they are free and I don't know much about HTML, so if you can help me with that as well please do so in the comments!!!!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Race Report: It ain't over till it's over


The 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix can be summed up by that one single word really as Lewis Hamilton pinched the world championship from Felipe Massa at literally the final corner of the final lap of the final race. It was heartbreaking for Massa who drove an absolutely brilliant race up front to comfortably win his home race in the wet, something Felipe is not supposed to be good at. It was sensational in the minor points as the changing weather threw everything for a loop all race and in the end, the world championship was effectively won by Toyota, not exactly the way the team from Cologne aspire to be in the championship headlines.

Interlagos is an interesting place. It is bumpy, it is twisty, it is a place where you can overtake, the facilities are considered to be the worst in F1, yet is has soul, it has character, and the fans just go nuts. The Brazilian fans have had a long dry spell of homegrown title contenders until now, as the last Brazilian champion was Ayrton Senna in 1991, but they are an optimistic lot and with Felipe Massa able to be competitive at home (something Rubens Barichello never managed in his six years at Ferrari) they really have something to celebrate. Even though the Brazilian GP usually features crappy weather they go out to the track and celebrate, it is an all-day party in Sao Paulo and that's why Mr. Ecclestone has extended the race's contract until 2014, although it may have to do with a tidy cheque being signed by the local governments..........

The race started in the wet as a downpour came literally two minutes before the scheduled start. This threw everyone for a loop and the start was delayed by ten minutes as the teams scrambled to get full wet tyres. When the lights finally did go out all the men at the front got through cleanly, there were no unsporting shenanigans going on but at the back there was trouble as Nico Rosberg rammed the back of the retiring David Coulthard, pitching the scot into a spin. Unfortunately for DC this spin put him right in the path of Kaz Nakajima who had no choice but to run into him. DC was out on the spot and Kaz had to pit for repairs and the safety car came out, not only for this little mess but for Nelson Piquet, who crashed of his own accord at the next corner.

The safety car came on lap four and we went racing again as the track dried out. Pitstops for dry tyres came around lap 10 with Massa maintaining his lead, despite a heart-stopping wobble on lap 13. Hamilton found himself stuck behind Jarno Trulli, who had a spin on his own and then rather cruelly punted Seb Bourdais into a spin, but due to pitstop sequence Lewis was still in the 5th-6th place range, with Massa motoring off into the distance at the front. It looked really touch and go and the naysayers were sharpening their knives at the prospect of seeing Hamilton lose a world title in the last race again.

The only man that looked really capable to catch Massa at the front was Fernando Alonso, whose second half to the season has been truly remarkable when you consider where they were at the start of the season. He could not hang on to Massa in the end and finished a credible second in the race. The order shuffled itself here and there throughout the race, with everything coming to a head with 10 laps to go, that's when the rain came back. This has been a season with numerous exciting wet races, making a wet finale a fitting end and on lap 62 the raindrops returned. At that point the order was Massa, Alonso, Raikkonen, Hamilton and Vettel. Everyone pitted between laps 65 and 67 with the exception of the Toyota team, who kept their drivers on dry tyres. The immediate effect of that decision was that Timo Glock was promoted to fourth with Hamilton and Vettel nose to tail in fifth and sixth. If the result held Hamilton would be champ, but there was more to come.

The drama really came with just two laps to go. That's when traffic held Hamilton up just enough to allow Vettel to get on his tail and then at the end of the lap Lewis ran wide, allowing Vettel to sneak through into fifth. It looked as though it was game over for Hamilton and McLaren. Hamilton was sixth, tied with Massa but set to lose again. The fanboys were weeping, the naysayers were rejoicing and the Brazilians were dancing, but it did not end there. Massa was cruising but Hamilton was desperately trying to pass Vettel. Unbeknown to Massa, the Toyotas were in trouble. They were 18 seconds off the pace on the final lap and the Vettel-Hamilton duel closed dramatically on Timo Glock. At the final corner they were right there with them and at the final corner Glock went wide allowing Vettel and Hamilton to sneak through. Massa was already celebrating, Ferrari assumed they had won the title and the Brazilians were in ecstasy. Not even Hamilton was sure he won and most of the commentators had announced Massa as champion until the timing boards flashed Hamilton in fifth. They had to look back on the video to realize that Glock had not been lapped he had been passed for position and Hamilton was world champion. The Ferrari team went from delerium to devastation in a few short seconds as reality sunk in, Felipe was second in the world championship.

You couldn't write a better script with the best writers Hollywood has and it was a fitting end to a controversial, an exciting and a topsy turvy world championship. In this race we did not have any political bullshit, we had two honourable competitors battling on the track, the way it is supposed to be. Felipe Massa was honourable in defeat, he took it like a man while Hamilton was respectful to the team and to Massa. This is what Formula One should be. It should not be about backroom dealing, about harsh penalties, about conspiracies, it is a sport and one that should be enjoyed as such, a concept that so many in formula one can't seem to grasp. Congratulations to Lewis Hamilton, a worthy world champion if ever there was one. Had Massa won the title I would have said the exact same thing as he truly impressed me today and his class in the news conference and on the podium has been wonderful for the sport. If F1 can put aside the bickering and the political garbage for just one second we will realize just what an exciting time this can be for the sport. We have three world champions in the sport and a fourth driver who is championship Material right now, plus we have some exciting young drivers coming through. The days of the big Red Machine are over and we are back to the good old days of true competition and close title chases.

Three stars of the race
1. Felipe Massa
2. Fernando Alonso
3. Sebastien Vettel

Three Jean-Denis Deletraz's of the race (hard to pick because everyone was well behaved
1. Nico Rosberg
2. Nelson Piquet
3. Jarno Trulli

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Race Report: Briscoe sends Aussies home happy

It just had to happen, an Aussie winning the Australian Indy Car race, and it was Penske's Ryan Briscoe who did it, this with a little help from fellow Aussie Will Power who screwed things up spectacularly. In a bit of a surprise the race did not feature rain, something which is normally seen at Surfers and also in a little bit of a surprise most of the drivers were fairly well behaved on the track, with one notable exception, more on that later......

At the green flag there was some jostling and down at the back there was a spot of bother at the back when Mario Moraes and Vitor Meira tangled, pitching Meira into a spin and doing some cosmetic damage to Moraes's car. A few laps later this slight damage would turn into bigger damage as the suspension broke, pitching Mario into a wall and bringing out the caution flag. Will Power led from the start, looking very comfortable with a stable 3 second lead over countryman Briscoe before the yellow and after the caution he pulled out a lead again. This lead came to a horribly embarassing end for the polesitter when on lap 17 he screwed it up royally at turn five, clipping the wall. He limped down to turn 6 and pulled off course, handing the lead to Briscoe. A sheepish Power was apologetic when he talked to the cameras, taking full responsibility for his error which is refreshing, as excuses and finger pointing seem to be the norm in most forms of racing as opposed to manning up and taking the blame. From then on it was pretty much all Briscoe, relinquishing the lead briefly during the pitstop shuffles but led until the end. Meanwhile down in the field there was trouble here and there. At one point Danica Patrick got on television for all the wrong reasons by running into the back of Helio Castroneves. Her broken front wing and Helio's punctured rear tyre said it all about who was to blame for the incident as she went for repairs. The biggest and most notable incident came on lap 22 when there was trouble in the midfield as Road-Course slowpoke Ed Carpenter and the excitable young Graham Rahal came together, pitching Ed into a spin. This blocked the track and both AJ Foyt IV and Danica Patrick came around, got flustered, and stalled their engines. A frantic Danica was seen on TV waving her arms to get restarted, but it was lesson two from the Danica Patrick school of how not to run an automobile race. This whole mess brought out the safety car (a legitimite Safety Car for a change) and the resulting pitstops screwed a few people's races, most notably Dario Franchitti. What happened was that most drivers pitted just before the caution came out, shuffling Dario to the lead. Unfortunately for Dario the pits are closed after the Safety Car comes out and so he had to let everyone bunch up behind him before making his stop, dropping himself down the pack. He tried to charge hard to return to the front but dropped the ball on lap 29 and spun, bringing out the third and final caution period. When the race restarted the order was Briscoe, Scott Dixon, Alex Tagliani, and Ryan Hunter Reay, the last two having very good races. There wasn't a whole lot of action at the front, but there was one incident between Tagliani and Hunter-Reay in the pits where Tags slowed more than Hunter-Reay was expecting and Hunter-Reay made light contact with the rear of Tagliani's car. Nothing serious but the pitstops did allow RHR to leapfrog Tags. The real action was over fifth, sixth and seventh between Oriol Servia, the accident-prone EJ Viso, and Helio Castroneves, who recovered nicely from the assault by Danica. There was plenty of passing, EJ Viso got himself in hot water first for blocking (being forced to cede a place to Servia) and then for cutting the chicane, which earned EJ only a warning. In the end he held of Castroneves, but there were some hairy moments (as there often is when people get close to Viso) but rather surprisingly there was no contact at all. In the closing laps Briscoe had a two second lead over Dixon but had it erased via a third display of terrible driving from Ms Danica Patrick, who was being lapped and did not seem to realize that she had mirrors and spent the better part of a lap holding up Briscoe. Whether she takes driving tips from Andrea De Cesaris or she was exacting revenge on Briscoe for their contact during the Indy 500 we will never know, but suffice to say the Penske people were none to amused with her and walked down to the AGR pit to ask some questions. This was definitely a day to forget for Danica Patrick and only adds fuel to the fire of the detractors. This allowed Scott Dixon to close up on Briscoe and the two raced hard until the end of the race, with Briscoe holding out. The final notable incident was on the last lap when Ed Carpenter, another driver not having the best of days, stuffed his Vision car into a tyre barrier. Ryan Hunter-Reay finished third, another good road course result for him. After his little love-tap on Tagliani in the pits (not the first time this kind of incident happened between those two) he managed to pull away to grab the podium place while Tagliani held on to fourth, coming under pressure from Servia in the closing laps. This was a very good race for Tagliani, scoring a much needed result for Conquest, Enrique Bernoldi who? Fifth went to Servia, who saved face for KV racing after Power's horrendous boob, followed home by the always exciting Viso, Castroneves, Hideki Mutoh, Graham Rahal, and Dan Wheldon. 13 drivers were on the lead lap and there were only five retirements. Moraes after his crash, Townsend Bell for "contact" although due to TV issues I don't know who or what he hit, Tony Kanaan with a Mechanical failure, Will Power with a brain failure, and Ed Carpenter with a case of crashitis.

The three stars of the race are
1st Star: Ryan Briscoe,
2nd Star: Alex Tagliani
3rd Star: Ryan Hunter-Reay

Three Boobs of the race
1st Boob: Will Power
2nd Boob: Danica Patrick
3rd Boob: Ed Carpenter

Now a word about television coverage. I am very unhappy with how race coverage was made available. Firstly the race was only on ESPN classic in the United States, not exactly a common channel, and secondly it was not on television at all here in Canada. OK, this kind of thing happens with a non-championship race but I can let it slide. The big problem was that race coverage was not available on the IndyCar website as it usually is. It was on ESPN360, a service only available in the United States and only available through certain Internet Providers. Those not blessed with these conditions were stuck listening to the radio and the live timing service, with the exception of the more resourceful of us who managed to find some semi-legit video streaming elsewhere. This is a downright stupid way to try to market a sport and encourage potential sponsors as one of the basic ideas of marketing is to get your message out to as many people as you can for the least amount of money. I do not know how much the IRL pays ESPN to put their coverage on the IndyCar website, but I can't imagine it not to be worth it. The IRL only served to alienate and piss off it's most loyal fans, which is something the league can't afford to do in such delicate economic times. Way to go IRL.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Talking IndyCar

After some time off without blogging (sorry for no Chinese GP report, did not have time to see the race). I am back and talking about the IRL with a preview of tonight's non-championship race in Australia as well as some news and rumours.

Will Power will be on pole for the Surfer's race, on a track that rewards experience and Road Course skill. The Surfer's track is very fast for a Street course with some high speed chicanes that leave no margin for error. This is also an event that usually features rain and surprise winner, in fact the only driver to win at Surfer's more than once is Sebastien Bourdais, who won there twice, more on Mr. Bourdais later. The starting grid highlights the experience and road course skill required with drivers like Alex Tagliani qualifying very well in 7th while the oval specialists like Danica Patrick, AJ Foyt IV, and Ed Carpenter were in all sorts of trouble and start near the back. This is a street course where passing is possible, rewarding the bravest and most talented drivers, thus I think that we will probably see a Ganassi victory tonight, with Dario Franchitti as my favourite, although he starts fourth as opposed to Dixon's second. Dario has won here in the past (1999) and has made a total of six starts at surfers. He appears not to have missed a single beat in Open wheelers after his unfortunate foray into NASCAR and has looked very strong. The Aussie pair of Will Power (1st) and Ryan Briscoe (3rd) will be the crowd favourites and also have a real good chance of winning this, as does dark horse Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 2003 winner here, who lines up 5th. This could be a very interesting race, unfortunately here in Canada we won't be able to watch it live as TSN2 has decided to re-air a CFL game that they just finished showing on TSN instead of showing something live, thanks TSN.

The Rumour mill
The Rumour Mill starts turning in the French directon of Sebastien Bourdais. His future at Scuderia Toro Rosso in Formula One is up in the air, despite some really good performances recently and the four time Champ Car champion is pressuring team boss Gerhard Berger to clarify his future sooner rather than later. He is also looking for alternatives and has said he would want to come back to North American if he loses his job. Whether this means a return to Indycar remains to be seen, but in this hack's opinion it is not bloody likely he will be in a Dallara full time next year. For starters there are very few good seats available unless a top team decides to expand and I can't imagine Bourdais wanting to drive for Dale Coyne or Dreyer and Reinbold. Newman/Haas/Lanigan have yet to formally confirm Justin Wilson in the 02 car for next year and some people are suggesting that they are waiting on Bourdais for a decision, but I still don't see Bourdais replacing Wilson. I think the most likely scenario for Bourdais is the ALMS. He is a Le Mans boy through and through and desperately wants to win the famous 24 heures. He also has close ties to the Ambitious Peugeot Sports Car team who are rumoured to be interested in running some ALMS races next year. Bourdais will probably race for Peugeot in these select ALMS races and in the European LMES for them with maybe an appearance in the Indy 500. It would be great for the IRL to have Bourdais in a third NHL car, but not necessarily at the expense of Justin Wilson.

There are rumours of yet another small Indy Only team moving up to full time for next year. The team is Jason Priestlay's Rubicon race team who, according to Curt Cavin, have lined up somewhere around $6.5 Million dollars from 19 companies and are looking to run full time next year. $6.5 Million is a decent chunk of change, but still would be tight for a one car team and close to impossible for two cars. No word on who might be the drivers, but their 2008 Indy 500 drover Max Papis is planning to run some NASCAR races next year and with the money they have they will be hard pressed to pay an establised veteran like a Paul Tracy the money he will want. If this materializes I hope that they bring in someone from Indy Lights or Atlantics like a Richard Antinucci, an Ana Beatriz or Atlantic driver Jonathan Summerton. Many fans are clamouring for more American drivers in the series and small team are ideal to bring these young talents into the top flight. Although hiring drivers out of Europe may help the international exposure of the series, a lack of North American stars and drivers coming out of the feeder series sort of defeats the purpose of having a feeder series at all. The team may be able to snag an unemployed veteran like Tomas Scheckter or Darren Manning, but the series would be better off with new young talents.

Surfer's Paradise appears closer to a full time stay on the IndyCar schedule, although nothing is confirmed. Race Organizers have been quoted as saying the race will happen, but others are saying that a decision will be finalized within a few weeks or so. The stumbling block is the date. The Australian organizers want the race to be run in late October, but the IRL wants it in late September. The problem with September is a conflict with the Aussie Rules Football playoffs, which the organizers fear will sap fans from the race. The IRL wants to twin the event with the Motegi race, which is scheduled for September 19, making the 26th the most logical date for the Australia race. The Aussies want the race as the season finale, but the IRL wants the title showdown on an Oval in the United States and have promised that honour to Homestead-Miami speedway on October 11th. Theoretically they could push Homestead back by two weeks and run Motegi on October 4th and Surfer's on the 11th, but it may be too late for that as it could come into conflict with other events at those tracks, particularly Homestead which has a NASCAR race in early November. Hopefully an agreement is reached as Surfer's is a great event, but bickering and complication is what the IRL is all about so I will only believe any news that is officially confirmed as there is alot of negotiation still to come.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Race Report: Fernando 2.0

The 2008 Japanese Grand Prix was certainly an entertaining one. Even in the dry weather the Fuji Speedway circuit has proven to be a track where overtaking is possible and with the title contenders getting it spectacularly wrong in the opening laps the door opened for a winner from another team, and the man who took the bull by the horns was two time champion Fernando Alonso, who drove an incredible race to easily win the race from Robert Kubica and Kimi Raikkonen (remember him?). The race had numerous incidents, assloads of controversy and plenty of overtaking, making for a good spectacle. The fun and games began at the first corner when pole sitter Lewis Hamilton made a poor start and attempted a daft maneuver to regain the lead from Kimi Raikkonen. This resulted in Hamilton making contact with the defending world champion and forcing a bunch of cars wide, allowing Robert Kubica to lead Alonso and with the McLaren's and Ferrari's 5th-8th. Further back there was more drama as the scattering cars resulted in veteran David Coulthard getting tagged by someone. A couple of corners later his suspension broke, pitching the scot into the barriers. Lewis would end up getting a drive through penalty for his efforts which was justified. The next talking point was the following lap at the chicane complex at the back where Felipe Massa rather cruelly punted Hamilton into a spin, dropping the championship leader to the back of the pack and leaving him with a wounded McLaren. Felipe would get a drive through of his own for that boneheaded move. So as things calmed down it was Kubica from Alonso, but with Alonso running with a lot more fuel. At their first pitstops Fernando managed to leapfrog Robert, which essentially won him the race while ahead Jarno Trulli, Sebastien Bourdais, and Nelson Piquet took their turn at leading the race before they pitted. From then on the race at the front was between Kubica and Alonso, with the double world champion winning the battle. At the end of the race Kubica came under pressure from Kimi Raikkonen, resulting in a ding-dong battle which Kubica won. The second place, coupled with Felipe and Lewis's woes vaults Kubica back into championship contention. The Pole is 12 points back with two races to go, but with the two contenders working so hard to lose the championship there may still be an opening for him to surprise, or at least remain in contention going into Brazil. This race also featured some potentially job saving drives from Nelson Piquet and Sebastien Bourdais. Piquet finished fourth, right on the tail of Kimi Raikkonen, while Bourdais finished sixth on the road, ahead of Sebastien Vettel. Bourdais would cruelly have his points taken away after a ridiculous penalty for an incident with Felipe Massa. Bourdais came out of the pits and had the inside line while Massa tried to go around the outside. Bourdais had nowhere to go and Felipe chopped in front of him and clipped the front of the Toro Rosso, pitching his Ferrari into a spin. Somehow, maybe after too muck Sake, the stewards managed to rule that Bourdais was at fault when in reality he was a passenger in the whole mess and gave him a 25 second penalty, dropping him to tenth. This decision crucially boosted Felipe Massa to 7th, and an extra point, cutting the gap to Hamilton to five points. The Bourdais farce lifted teammate Seb Vettel to sixth, Massa to seventh, and Mark Webber to 8th, the "A" Red Bull team getting soundly beaten by the "B" team again. Of the other teams, Williams had yet another shitty day with Nico Rosberg being nowhere and Kaz Nakajima busting his front wing in the first corner shenanigans and finishing last. Honda as usual were crap again, this time Barichello beat Button while neither Force India finished the race, Sutil having a puncture break his suspension and Fisichella a broken gearbox.

This race has proven two things, one that Fernando Alonso is still probably the best driver in F1 and that Formula One needs to have permanent stewards. The Bourdais penalty went against Race director Charlie Whiting's orders and could have an important impact on the championship. I hope that the issue of stewarding gets addressed because the FIA does not need dubious stewarding decisions to be the main headline as opposed to the fact that the race was pretty entertaining when all is said and done.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Future of Roth Racing

Roth Racing, in their first full(ish) season were perpetual backmarkers who were saddled by an owner-driver who was out of his league and terrible management decisions regarding driver choices and it appears that the shit is about to hit the fan for this team once and for all. The word on the street, according to Curt Cavin of the Indianapolis Star, is that the IRL told Marty Roth that they would not renew his racing license. The 49 year old Roth (the oldest driver in the IRL this year) was apparantly outraged and has now decided to put his team up for sale. The team is reportedly asking $2 Million dollars for their factory, four cars, and two transporters and have already laid off a number of staff. Regular readers will know my opinion of Roth's driving abilities, but the team had some good people in the backroom who were able to put together some decent cars, especially on the ovals, and they had some good runs in the season, so long as it was the car that Roth himself was not driving and his staff could make a pretty good crew for a potential buyer. There are rumours that one of these Indy-only teams, like Rubicon Racing (owned by actor Jason Priestlay) could be interested and can afford the initial price tag, but can't afford to keep paying the remaining staff until they get some sponsorship ready, and Mad Dog Marty is naturally unwilling to foot a wage bill for a team he no longer owns. This will probably end up with the rest of the assets and staff being acquired individually by the existing teams and Roth Racing ceasing to exist. Although I will be happy to see Marty Roth out of the cockpit, it will be sad not to see what the team can do when not managed by an egotistical buffoon. If someone like Derrick Walker could put something together to buy the team and make it competitive. The issue, as always, is money and while Walker has management skills, he does not have enough money to buy Roth out and pay the staff until he gets the sponsorship to put the team on the ground. Walker would be more likely to buy the cars and transporters only and wait until he gets the necessary cash to build a team, leaving Roth's existing staff to join existing teams, but this scenario would be highly unlikely. Obviously a good solution would also be for Marty to step out of the cockpit and concentrate on management, putting someone like Jay Howard (who Marty is still paying not to drive) in the car, or cars, but with Mr. Roth's ego that could never happen. One less car in the grid will leave Stanton Barrett as probably the league's chief backmarker, unless Milka Duno keeps racing, and will deny a worthy driver (like erm, JAY HOWARD) an opportunity in the IndyCar series. Sad that despite the progress the league has made we still have clowns like Roth making the league look amateurish.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The dropping of the Canadian Grand Prix

In recent weeks there has not been a heck of a lot to talk about in the open wheel racing world, but today we all got a real shock, and that shock was the dropping of the Canadian Grand Prix from the 2009 Formula One schedule. Montreal has been a fixture on the F1 calendar for the last 30 years, with one exception being 1987 where a sponsorship row got the race canceled. There was no indication from any news source that this was going to happen and when the world motorsport council released their preliminary schedule in June there were no asterixes next to Montreal, no conditions, it was a done deal, the Canadian Grand Prix was scheduled for June 7, 2009, the 47th Canadian Grand Prix in total (if you count the pre-F1 years on the 1960's).

This will come as a major shock to the car manufacturers who are pressing the FIA to have more North American presence for Formula One and it will come as a major economic shock to the city of Montreal. The Grand Prix is the biggest event of the year with hundreds of thousands of tourists descending on Montreal for the weekend spending millions of dollars in the hotels, shops, and (especially) bars and restaurants. The Canadian Grand Prix is a major party, and there isn't a snowball's chance in hell that NASCAR or the IRL could create anything close to the same buzz that the Canadian Grand Prix creates year after year. Montreal and Quebec are the closest things you will find to Europe on the North American continent and the province of Gilles and Jacques Villeneuve are Formula One crazy and show their support for the race year after year by doing something that most other Grands Prix struggle to do, pay money to go and watch the race. Every year for the last few years the race has been a sellout and setting records in the process. This year alone over 300,000 people descended on the Ile Notre-Dame over the three days of the race, most likely (I would have to check some figures) the biggest attendance of the year for the three days of an F1 race. Not only is the Canadian Grand Prix well attended, it is also massively popular among the drivers and teams, with the buzz and atmosphere of the city-wide party being passed on to the drivers and teams.

One wonders what the reasoning for axing Montreal could be, as there was no indication this was coming and the FIA have yet to say why Montreal was dropped. There had been some issues with the circuit breaking up this year, but that was temporarily solved by a patching mechanism this year and is very easily fixable, and the other reason could be transportation costs, although I can't imagine it being much more expensive to fly from Europe to Montreal than it is to fly to Singapore or Shanghai..... There have also been suggestions that the FIA has decided to leave North America to NASCAR, but to me that seems silly. If the FIA were to do that it would indicate to me that they have no clue about Quebec, and they are incredibly stupid to abandon one of the largest and richest markets for cars in the world. The likes of Honda, Toyota, and BMW sell massive amounts of cars over here every year and know full well that an F1 presence over here will only help, not hinder their sales figures, so I can't imagine that the new Formula One Teams Association had much to do with decision. This also does not appear to be one of Mr. E's money grabs where he puts pressure on the organizers for higher fees because in June they had come to an agreement for 2009. To me this all points to the greed of FOM and the FIA. They saw that the teams wanted a summer break and were not about to drop a European race so they looked at the calendar and decided to drop the race that payed less in race fees than the likes of Bahrain, Singapore, Abu Dhabi et al, and tag Montreal is it!!! This is a ludicrous decision that lacks foresight and only smacks of a quick money grab at the long term detriment of the sport. Watch out Melbourne, you are next....................

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Race Report: Fantastic Fernando!!!

What can you say really, Fernando Alonso won the Singapore Grand Prix, an unlikely victory given Renault's year and the two time world champion has been decidedly non-commital about his future. Make no mistake it was a brilliant drive from Alonso and a not so subtle reminder that he is still one of the top drivers in F1. Not only did Alonso remind us of how good he is, Renault also reminded us that they still have the tactical know-how to win races, despite average cars and gutless engines. Alonso's joy was Ferrari's misery as once again they had a race winning car and once again they managed to screw it up so bad so as they end up with no points. Felipe Massa had a comfortable lead but when he pitted behind the safety car it all went to shit as his crew released him while the fuel hose was still attached. This led to some red mechanics being strewn across the pitlane and a drive through penalty for driving out into the path of Adrian Sutil (again). The dramas and resulting penalty left Felipe at the back of the field, to let him get frustrated and cause problems, ironically for Sutil again. Kimi Raikkonen was also delayed by the shenanigans in the Ferrari pits and he was back in the pack. The world champion recovered to run fifth in the closing stages only to screw up and crash on his own. At the front Fernando Alonso pitted early to be rewarded in spectacular fasion on the following lap when his teammate made yet another mistake and stuffed his Renault violently into the wall, bringing out the safety car. Fernando thus stayed out while everyone else pitted, some having to do so while they were closed. At the restart Alonso rocketed away in the lead, aided by some slower cars between him and the main contenders. Fernando looked set for the victory, with a 35 second lead, when the safety car came out once again, this time when Felipe Massa messed up and spun causing some confusion, Felipe himself rejoined, but in doing so got in the way of Sutil, who had to take avoiding action which ended up meaning stuffing it into the tyre wall. With the arse-end of a Force India car in the middle of the track the Safety car was the only option and the field was bunched up again, with ALonso leading the surprising Nico Rosberg and Championship leader Lewis Hamilton. If Lewis could get by Rosberg at the restart then we could have been on for a grandstand finish, but thus was the nature of the track he couldn't and the top three cruised home. Fouth place went to Timo Glock, who was much better than Toyota teammate Jarno Trulli all afternoon and the points were rounded out by Sebastien Vettel, who was the class of the four Red Bull cars and destroyed under-fire teammate Sebastien Bourdais, Nick Heidfeld, who was solid and uspectacular, David COulthard, who reckoned he could have had much more had he not had a fuel rig problem in the pits, and Kaz Nakajima, who was promoted to 8th after Kimi Raikkonen's late race boob.

This result leaves Lewis Hamilton now seven points up on Felipe Massa with just three races to go. If he wins the title this year it will be helped largely bu Ferrari's errors. The Ferrari pit crew were the best in the business for so many years and now they are mistake prone and slow. Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen have not helped matters by making more mistakes than Hamilton, but as a team, Ferrari are struggling to perform consistently. Maybe they need a leader that can rally the troops, maybe they need Fernando Alonso..........

Thursday, September 25, 2008

IRL Musical chairs continues.

The music plays on as Vitor Meira secured himself a seat with AJ Foyt enterprises starting in 2009. This leaves Darren Manning the next man looking for a seat as it is he who is losing his job. Manning and Meira finished within one point of each other in 2008 with both men being consistent challengers for the top 10 and both men having a season best finish of second. I like Vitor Meira and am happy that he has landed on his feet, but at the expense of another quality driver is unfortunate. I think that Manning deserves a ride somewhere and this move is more of a step sideways than a step forward for AJ Foyt enterprises. AJ is still dreaming of running a second car full time, possibly for Franck Perera, but that does not seem likely. This move also rubbishes any rumours that Meira will replace Tomas Scheckter at Luczo Dragon racing, although we still may see Darren Manning jump to Jay Penske's squad, if they run next year.

The other piece of news comes way out of left field and it has to do with a brand new team and a brand new Indycar driver. The team is called 3G motorsports (or three guys motorsports) and is run by Greg Beck, who has previously fielded a cars in the IRL as early as 1996 and ran two races last year with Roger Yasukawa, at Motegi and the Indy 500, where Roger failed to Qualify. There had been rumblings that Beck was trying to get something together but nobody took them really seriously until this announcement. The big surprise is the choice of driver, NASCAR veteran Stanton Barrett. Barrett will be 36 when the season starts and has no open wheel experience. He also has very little in the way of road racing experience and was a journeyman in NASCAR at best. He will probably struggle mightily in the first few road races and may end up in the wall at some of the street courses, but he will probably improve as the season progresses. He is a veteran who knows full well that you are only as good as your last race. He may start the season in Milka-Marty land, but will certainly improve as the season progresses, especially on the ovals. It is nice to see new teams having a go at it and hopefully this becomes a permanent thing. This announcement brings the confirmed car count up to 20 with teams like Dale Coyne, KV, Dreyer and Reinbold, and Roth yet to confirm their 2009 plans.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

News and notes from the world of single seater racing

There has been very little in the way of news on the driver and team front recently, but I will do my best this time out.

Toro Rosso have said that they want to bring in Sebastien Buemi for next year as one of their drivers. This has yet to be confirmed, but it is obvious that Red Bull wants Buemi in one of the smaller teams cars. If this does come true, then it would be a worrying sign for Sebastien Bourdais as Gerhard Berger has said that next year he wants an experienced driver with a young hotshot, and one year of experience may bot be enough for Herr Berger. Hopefully Bourdais keeps his job, he has been very good of late after a slow start to the year and he is a really talented driver.

Fernando Alonso is going......Nowhere. After all sorts of speculation regarding a move to BMW or Honda for next year it appears that Alonso has decided to stay where he is. Renault plan to increase their budget, especially for engines, in a desperate plea to get back to the highs of 2005 and 2006. Winning championships may be unlikely for the team given how good McLaren, Ferrari, and BMW have come along recently and how much money they have to spend compared to Renault. Even if they don't have the budget, the right ingredients are there to build a race winner again, providing that Fernando's heart is into the project.

The A1 Ring in Austria appears to be getting a rebuild with money from, surprise surprise, Red Bull. is reporting that Red Bull are planning to invest 100 million dollars into rebuilding the A1 ring as a test venue. The chances of getting a race back are slim due to the underwhelming enthusiasm from the locals to the idea. This will provide a good test venue in a very scenic, if not out of the way, location. The Osterreichring if the 70's was a grand old circuit with ast sweeping and ultimately rather dangerous corners. It was eventually scrapped and replaced by a decidedly ordinary track that at least had overtaking opportunities. An Austrian Grand Prix there would be really good for the television spectators, but the locals and the teams may not be as enthusiastic.

In the IRL, most of the new signings will be with their new teams in the non-championship race in Australia, meaning that Dan Wheldon will be driving for Panther and Dario Franchitti will be in the car for Ganassi. This is not too surprising and should make for an interesting race.

In other IRL news and notes Alex Taglani has been confirmed by Conquest racing as one of their drivers for 2009. Tags will provide some experience to the team and their second driver, who has yet to be confirmed but the team website is saying that they will be hiring a driver "with equal grit and gift". This is really vague but it suggests that it will be neither Enrique Bernoldi nor Jaime Camara. Camara had flashes of brilliance throughout the year but was largely average while Bernoldi proved to be a spoiled, whining, backmarker. Tagliani will be a great addition that should provide some leadership that the likes of Bernoldi could not provide to the team as it moves forward. Elsewhere Robin Miller is reporting that Vitor Meira will be replacing Tomas Scheckter at Luczo Dragon racing, should that team continue. I don't know if this is a step forward for the team or not as Meira, although stable, will probably end up just in the middle of the pack, but will keep the car in one piece, while Sheckter will go balls out and crash. At least with an accident the sponsors get some airtime. Maybe that's why Marco Andretti is so marketable........

Thursday, September 18, 2008

IRL Team By Team Reviews amd Grades.

Hi there folks. Now that the IndyCar series is done and F1 has been quiet on the rumour front of late, I have decided to do a team by team and driver by driver Report Card for all the entrants.

Target Chip Ganassi Racing.
The Overview: The best team in the IRL this year they won 8 of the 17 races they entered, including the Indy 500. Scott Dixon was the class of the field and a deserved Champion.
The Good: Scott Dixon was easily the best man for most of the year and was good on pretty much all the tracks. But for some bad results late on he would have locked up the championship early.
The Bad: The way that the team made some crucial errors in critical races, such as strategic blunders at Sears' Point. They very nearly grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory as a result.
The Ugly: The way that Chip handled the Dan Wheldon contract situation. Without telling Dan he went after Tony Kanaan through the media, prompting Dan to become disillusioned.
The Grades: Team: A Dixon: A+ Wheldon: B+

Team Penske
The Overview: The second best team all year who garnered four wins out of 17 races. They were consistently able to come close to Ganassi for pace and were unlucky not to get more wins. Helio Castroneves made a spirited championship charge and always kept his spirits high despite continually coming in second throughout the year.
The Good: Helio Castroneves's consistency and determination. The two time Indy 500 champion really deserves an IRL title as he has been one of the biggest stars of the series for many years. Ryan Briscoe also had some brilliant performances but was not consistent enough. They also showed that they are still the masters of strategy by getting results that they really did not deserve.
The Bad: The team was also not able to match Ganassi at some of the ovals in terms of speed and had to rely on Roger Penske's genius to get some results. If they want to win the title next year they will have to shore up this part of their game.
The Ugly: Ryan Briscoe's incident filled start to the season did not do wonders for team morale. He recovered nicely but he will have to be more consistent if he ever wants to be considered a championship contender.
The Grades: Team A- Castroneves: A Briscoe: B+

Andretti-Green Racing
The former powerhouse, AGR were nowhere near their former self and although they got some good results, including two wins, they were a team rife with internal conflict.
The Good: The team has lost some of it's major players and found themselves with a relatively inexperienced crop of drivers. They kept themselves in the headlines with Danica Patrick's memorable win, but it does not hide that last years champs only had two wins this year. Tony Kanaan still managed to seven podiums and was instrumental in keeping the team in the big three.
The Bad: The woeful driving of two of the so-called stars of the team, Marco Andretti and Danica Patrick. Both showed flashes of brilliance but neither could stay out of trouble or put together full races. Marco spent far too much time in the wall and Patrick spent too much time complaining about everything. These two need to be better if the team ever wants to compete for a championship again.
The Ugly: Team Chemistry. AGR spent much of their year dealing with internal strife and had more than one incident where drivers forced each other into the wall. Michael Andretti held a closed door meeting where he apparantly berated his drivers in Edmonton, but a team boss should not have to yell and scream at his drivers not to run into each other, it should be established.
The Grade: Team: B Kanaan: A- Patrick: C+ Andretti: C Mutoh: B

Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing
The Overview: The former Champ car superteam showed that they have the means to break into the elite in the merged IRL in the coming years. Both Justin Wilson and Graham Rahal managed wins on Road Courses and they managed to be fairly fast in turning both ways. They are still not up to scratch on the ovals, but that will take some time considering how quickly they had to adapt to the new cars.
The Good: Two wins from two very good drives by the drivers. The team was also very quick on the road courses in qualifying and they managed to use their strategic experience to get some better results than they deserved.
The Bad: Were still unable to be competitve on the ovals and did not seem to improve in this aspect as the year went on.
The Ugly: Graham Rahal was mature in front of the cameras, but tended not to be on the race tracks as he was involved in too many accidents. He is only 19 and can be forgiven, but it was the main sore point of his season.
The Grades: Team B+ Wilson: B+ Rahal: C+

KV Racing Technology
The Overview: The surprise of the field, KV managed to consistently be up front on the road courses and had some decent results on Road courses. In my mind they out-performed the more expereinced Newman/Haas/Lanigan boys despite not getting a win.
The Good: Both Oriol Servia and Will Power proved to be very consistent throughout the season and they got some surprisingly good results on the ovals. They managed to adapt much better to the ovals than the other "transition teams".
The Bad: Despite getting some great qualifying runs on the road courses they could not seem to seal the deal. Consistently making it into final qualifying is great, but they should have converted it to more top 5 finishes than they got.
The Ugly: Their future. It seems as though KV's 2009 may be tied to the Australian race, which does not seem likely at the moment. It would be a sad loss for the series as both Servia and Power were great all year.
The Grades: Team: A- Servia: A Power: B+

Rahal-Letterman Racing

The Overview: The team were quiet but effective throughout the year and Hunter-Reay rewarded the hard work with 1 win and an eight place finish. Hopefully this can springboard the once great team into having two cars and being back with the elite.
The Good: Ryan Hunter Reay Quietly went around his business of getting result after result. Apart from his win at Watkin's Glen he did not have a top 5 finish but had 9 top 10's. He also had a great finishing record with only 3 DNF's, although all of them due to accidents.
The Bad: Although a spirited bunch they never seemed to be able to move forward. Hunter-Reay just seemed content to bring the car home in 8th or 9th without making a spirited charge, it may be just as well as when he did make a charge he was taken out by Marco Andretti.
The Ugly: Nothing really, although the turquoise paint job leaves a lot to be desired.
The Grades: B Hunter-Reay: B+

Vision Racing
The Overview: Tony George's band of Merry Men continued to be decidedly average, with some great runs on ovals and abysmal ones on road courses. If they are going to be seen as more than just a grid filler they will have to be better all around.
The Good: On the ovals they were right up there and Ed Carpenter especially showed himself to be adept at oval racing, consistently running in the top 10 on the ovals and getting a couple of top five finishes. Anthony Foyt IV was also decent on the ovals, but not quite as good as Carpenter.
The Bad: The woeful performance on the road courses. Both Carpenter and Foyt were dreadful when they had to turn both directions and despite hiring Bryan Herta as a road course coach, there was no improvement shown. With more road courses coming next year Ed and AJ will have to improve in this aspect.
The Ugly: Ed Carpenters car, get ride of the vomit-yellow colour PLEASE!!!!
The Grades: Team: C+ Carpenter: C+: Foyt IV: C-

Panther Racing
The Overview: Another former IRL standout team, Panther did not seem to be going anywhere this year and despite Vitor Meira's valiant efforts they were still only midfielders.
The Good: Meira's flashes of brilliance. When they can get it together Panther have shown that they have still got it in terms of technical ability, they just don't have money. Vitor's run at Indy where he finished second was the best non-winning performance we saw thus year.
The Bad: For a once great team they have sort of become afterthoughts in the IndyCar world. Vitor is a great driver but he must have been banging his head seeing all his effort lead to average finishes and a few too many accidents.
The Ugly: The way they jerked Meira around. Yes Dan Wheldon is a former champion, but giving Meira the sack via email was just classless. Hopefully he can find himself in an IndyCar next year.
The Grades: Team: B- Meira: B-

AJ Foyt Enterprises
The Overview: One of the original IRL teams, AJ Foyt's team continue to plod along in the midfield not making any headlines.
The Good: Darren Manning was solid if unspectacular. Managed to take advantage of good strategy and some luck to get second at Watkin's Glen and had a few other top 10's, but nothing spectacular otherwise. Their car is pretty sharp looking as well.
The Bad: Aside from his second place, the only time the team really made headlines was when Manning retired due to fatigue at Iowa, drawing the ire of the usually colourful AJ Foyt. The seem to be stuck in a perpetual cycle of mediocrity.
The Ugly: Nothing really, hard to have anything Ugly when we rarely see them on televison.
The Grades: Team: C Manning C+

Dreyer and Reinbold Racing
The Overview: The underfunded men managed to punch above their weight a few times, but were mostly solid backmarkers
The Good: Buddy Rice's driving. The former Indy 500 winner managed to capitalize on circumstances to get some good points finishes. Occasional teammate Townsend Bell also managed to score a couple of decent results.
The Bad: Despite having one of the best drivers on the grid, money will always be a problem for the team and they have to revert to hiring woeful pay drivers.
The Ugly: Milka Duno's driving. Ms Duno is way out of her league in the IRL and here habit of getting in the way of other drivers caused some hair-raising moments. Her altercation with Danica Patrick at Mid Ohio, although humerous, highlights just how other drivers feel about her driving "skills".
The Grades: Team: C- Rice: B Bell: C Duno: F

The Overview: Keith Wiggins' men were a small but fiesty bunch who improved throughout the season.
The Good: EJ Viso's enthusiasm and aggresive driving were a breath of fresh air to the series. Viso had some great runs and was unlucky not to score more points than he did.
The Bad: Viso's enthusiasm and aggresive driving was a little uncontrolled at times and he ended up drawing the ire of other drivers on more than one occasion.
The Ugly: Viso's severe brain fade at Edmonton where he was a long way back and kamikazeed Graham Rahal. If the team are to improve, Viso will have to be a little less wild.
The Grades: Team: C+ Viso: C+

Dale Coyne Racing
The Overview: After flying high in Champ Car last year, Coyne are back to their roots as perpetual backmarkers.
The Good: The team spirit. Despite the adversity of a new car, and very little money, they managed to score some top 10 finishes with some fine driving by both Junquiera and Moraes.
The Bad: The team were relatively nowhere all season in terms of results, and although they never quit, they tended to be quite slow all year and had to rely on a bit of luck to get the points.
The Ugly: We would have expected former race winner Bruno Junquiera to wipe the floor with rookie Moraes but he didn't. Junky seems to have lost some of his edge and is going through the motions.
The Grades: Team: C- Junquiera: C- Moraes: C-

Conquest Racing

The Overview: After some early season fireworks the team were nowhere.
The Good: Two top five finished to start the season had some promise and Jaime Camara managed to lead at Richmond showing flashes of Brilliance.
The Bad: They seemed to regress throughout the season and just seemed to be going through the motions at the end. Enrique Bernoldi was nowhere for most of the season and Camara was fast but fragile. Far too many DNF's were counterproductive to momentum.
The Ugly: The way that team had a revolving door driver policy and were just waiting to throw Bernoldi under the bus. Alex Tagliani came in and was unspectacular, but he seemed more appreciative than Bernoldi and his ego were. Oh yeah, Franck Perera drove for them as well at the start of the season.
The Grade: Team: D+ Camara: D+ Bernoldi: D-

Roth Racing
The Overview: The smallest team to attempt a whole season and it showed.
The Good: Roth seemed to be able to put together some decent cars on the ovals.
The Bad: The team started as a two car effort but somewhere along the line the 24 car mysteriously disappeared, and the worst driver remained in on the grid. Marty Roth was woeful in all the races, despite some decent qualifying performances on the ovals.
The Ugly: Marty Roth's driving, especially on road courses. How the league can continue to allow a guy to race who is five seconds per lap of the pace is beyond me, but he only served to get in the way of everyone else. The way that Marty treated Jay Howard and John Andretti is lamentable and they are effectively paying Howard not to drive at the moment.
The Grade: Team D- Roth: F- Howard: C+ Andretti: C+

Of the others I won't do a full summary, but a little paragraph about each of them.
Pacific Coast Motorsports
Mario Dominguez and his spirited bunch but ultimetely could not keep going all year. Too many accidents stretched budgets thin and the death knell came when it was discovered that their sponsor, the Mexico City tourism board, were not paying what they said they were. Team claims they are trying to continue next year, but I doubt we will see them except for Indy.

Luczo Dragon Racing
The team added races to their schedule throughout the year and ran well at the oval races, but mechanical troubles meant the team only finished on of the six races they entered. Jay Penske is saying he will be back, and it seems far more likely than Pacific Coast Motorsports.

Sarah Fisher Racing
The feel-good story of the paddock were small but fiesty and deserved better results. Bad luck ended her day at Indy and the other two races were blighted by mechanical problems. Hopefully they will be back, but we may only see her at Indy next year.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

GP Report: Fairy tales do come true

Sebastien Vettel is now officially the youngest Grand Prix winner, winning his first Grand Prix and after 23 years the first Grand Prix win for Minardi. I know that the team has changed owners and the cars are designed for the most part in Milton Keyes, but the factory is still in Faenza, they are still the smallest team in terms of staff in Formula One, and they have a bit more money, but much of the staff are the same that were there when the team was Minardi and were the lovable backmarkers. The Same men and women who celebrated enthusiastically when Zsolt Baumgartner scored a point for 8th place at Indianapolis in 2004 are celebrating a win, yes a Minardi/Toro Rosso win. You couldn't ask for a better story as they not only won a race, they won their home race, becoming the first Non-Ferrari Italian team to win a Grand Prix since 1957. The main championship protagonists did not end up figuring in the result, although for a while Lewis Hamilton was looking as though he could challenge for the win only to be beaten by the weather.

In a wet and rainy afternoon it was a race which rewarded good driving, good strategy, and a bit of luck. Vettel was on pole and blasted away from the field when the race started (behind the Safety Car). Unfortunately for STR his teammate, Seb Bourdais, suffered a gearbox malaise on the dummy grid and had to be towed back to the pits. He ended up getting going a lap down and lapped very well all day, but could not recover. Vettel then proceeded to pull away from the field and the cynics started to wonder how much fuel he had. He ended up pitting on lap 17, four laps before second placed Heikki Kovalainen and third placed Mark Webber. After the pit stop shuffle he was back in the lead and running well as the track started to dry. Meanwhile behind him Lewis Hamilton was putting on a show charging through the field after a poor 15th placed qualifying performance, showing why he is the best wet-weather driver in F1 at the moment. He was on a one-stopper and Vettel was on a two stopper so it was looking like the race would be a Vettel-Hamilton duel. Hamilton put more extreme wet tyres on at his stop as the forecast was calling for more rain. Unfortunately for Lewis, and fortunately for Vettel this did not happen and the track continued to dry and up and down the pit lane everyone waited for someone to have the courage to put intermediate tyres on to be a guinea pig. That Guinea Pig ended up being David Coulthard who, after going off on his outlap, started to lap as quick as the leaders. The next man to go for it was Fernando Alonso, who was faster than the men on wets and it became obvious that Inters were the way to go. This played beautifully into Vettel's hands and it was right in his pit window and so he stopped and put inters on and went on his way, while Hamilton had to stop again. Lewis stopped and emerged back in seventh, where he stayed until the end. Vettel duly cruised home to his and his team's first victory, a very popular win in Formula One circles. Second place went to Heikki Kovalainen, who was solid but unspectacular. On the extreme wets he was decidedly average while his teammate was blowing past anyone and everyone who was in his way and was 2 seconds per lap quicker than anyone else. Kovalainen was also on a two stopper and his second stop was also perfectly timed for him to finish where he started. Third went to Robert Kubica, who was also one of the hard charges and who also profited from the weather. He did not have the greatest first stint, but in the middle he was very good and his pitstop was timed to perfection to get a well deserved podium. The rest of the points finishers were Fernando Alonso, Nick Heidfeld, Felipe Massa, and Mark Webber, who all drove solid races and for the most part lucked out with the tyre choices. The only notable exceptionw as Hamilton who for most of the race was incredibly quick, much faster than the field, but a second pitstop put him seven seconds behind Massa on his Inters. Lewis quickly closed the gap but in the process burned his tyres and so once he got to Massa he couldn't do anything about him and had to settle for seventh. He still leads Massa by one point in the championship with four races to go. And what of Kimi Raikkonen you ask? Well Kimi had one of his very inconsistent afternoons where he farted around in the midfield not doing anything special and then put on the afterburners late in the race and set fastest lap after fastest lap and overtook multiple cars, but he still could only finish 9th and out of the points. Kimi is now 21 points behind Hamilton in the drivers championship wih four races to go, certainly he can't catch Lewis unless the McLaren driver suffers a monumental meltdown, which does not look bloody likely. Of the rest both Williams and Toyota flattered to decieve having been caught out by the changing weather. Nico Rosberg ran very well at the beginning of the race but his strategy meant having to make an unscheduled stop for inters and he ended up 14th while teammate Kaz Nakajima started from the pitlane and ended up being able to profit from tyre strategy only to end up stupidly trying to go around the outside of David Coulthard at the entry to the Parabolica. It was never going to work and there was a collision, taking DC's front wing and damaging Kaz's car sufficiently to slow him down, given the circumstances 12th is not bad. Speaking of COulthard he was in the wars today as well, he started somewhere in the midfield and was battling Giancarlo Fisichella's Force India when, while overtaking, there was contact that resulted in a broken wing for Fisico that ended up causing the Italian to go off into the barriers. DC then putzed around in the midfield until he was caught out by the daft actions of Nakajima and ended 16th, a lap down. Honda were there woeful self again with Button 15th and Barichello 17h. There only notable action was when Rubens pitted for full wet tyres while everyone else was on dries. The gamble was never going to work, but when you are in craptacular land you try anything you can to get some points. Force India were looking decent in Fisichella's hands only for him to end his day in the barriers while Adrien Sutil did absolutely nothing and was last, even behind who started more than a lap behind the rest of the field.

All in all it is the feel-good story of the F1 year thus far and the result has kept the championship finely balanced. Bring on the night race at Singapore!!!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The F1 title chase

Formula One enters it's critical stage with Lewis Hamilton temporarily (pending result of Belgian GP appeal) leading Felipe Massa by 2 points with defending champ Kimi Raikkonen 17 points back after having failed to score in the last two races. This appears to be setting up to be another Ferrari vs McLaren duel with both Felipe and Lewis very evenly matched this season. Kimi Raikkonen may end up as the wild card in this chase as the Kimster is insisting that he is not out of it yet while at McLaren there is no question that Lewis Hamilton is numero uno and Heikki Kovalainen is his reargunner. That Kovalainen tends not to be too close to Hamilton is besides the point but for the most part at the Scuderia Kimi has only occasionally been on the pace of Massa. Ferrari really should just tell Raikkonen that from here on in Massa is their man and he should play wingman to ensure that Felipe triumphs over Hamilton much in the way that Massa helped Raikkonen last year. Unfortunately this is easier said than done because Kimi is a major star and the defending world champion and thus has an ego the size of Maranello. Kimi has never had to play second fiddle to any teammate in his F1 career and I am sure that he is not willing to start now. Kimi Raikkonen is a never-say-die racer who has said many times that second place means nothing, victory is the only object, which may explain some of his accidents and mistakes when not in the lead. Ferrari are also mindful that Kimi is still sort of waffling on his future, will he retire after next year or won't he? Rumours suggest that Ferrari are already lining up a back up should he decide to call it quits, but if he continues not to drive as well as his teammate the replacement might be for him without his wishes. Either way, as long as Kimi Raikkonen continues to race his own teammate he is only helping one driver, Lewis Hamilton, and that is certainly not what Ferrari need. Lewis Hamilton has driven like a man possesed in the second half of the season and has recieved the full support of his teammate while Massa has been much better than his teammate in the second half, he has yet to really stamp his authority on his team and has yet to prove that he is a better driver than Hamilton due to his lack of adaptability. My conclusion is that if Kimi Raikkonen does not decide to help his teammate then Lewis Hamilton will win the world champion, if Kimi does decide to step in line and play support man then Massa has every chance of winning, but Ferrari have to sort their reliability out because, as scandalous as this seems given the recent history of this rivalry, Mclaren have had much better reliability than their red foes.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

News and Rumour Roundup: Wednesday September 10

Hi there loyal Reader(s) it's time for an epic-level news and rumour roundup. Lots to talk about with th F1 silly season getting exciting and the IRL game of musical chairs is getting to be fun. I will sort my news in two sections, first the F1 and then the Indy Car news.

Formula One
The juiciest rumour to come out of F1 recently is one reported on Italian TV on Sunday that suggests that Fernando Alonso has signed a three year deal to drive for BMW starting in 2009. As shocking as this seems it is not entirely implausable, but unlikely. The first stumbling block to a potential Alonso to Beemer story is that there have been swirling rumours that Alonso has signed an agreement in principle to join Ferrari in 2010. It is obvious that Fernando wants to win races NOW, not in a few years when Renault can get their act together and if this Beemer story is true then it raises some interesting questions. If Fernando does go to Munich/Hinwil then it is obvious that Nick Heidfeld will be the odd man out. If that happens then Nick could end up taking Fernando's place at BMW, or he could end up with another mediocre midfielder like Williams or Toro Rosso. An Alonso move to BMW would also get Robert Kubica hot and bothered because he at the moment is BMW's designated number one and as we saw last year Fernando doesn't play second fiddle to anyone. If Alonso does go to BMW then it could mean that Kubica could head to Ferrari for 2010. Either way this years silly season hinges on Fernando Alonso once again.

The next piece of note is the rumour that the USGP may be back on sooner rather than later. The story goes that the manufactures are putting pressure on Bernie Ecclestone to get the US Grand Prix back on the schedule. At the moment the only logical venue is Indianapolis and the Speedway and Mr. E. are very far apart on the manner of money, Bernie wants a truckload more per year than Tony George is willing to pay. The manufactures ideally would want a race closer to their bigger markets on the east and west coasts, but nobody in those places has stepped up to the plate thus far with money to build a track and pay Mr. E the money he wants.

IndyCar Series
The big piece of interest in IndyCar racing is the future of KV racing. The former Champ Car team was mighty impressive this year but could face financial problems if there is no race in Australia next year. The number 8 car of Will Power is sponsored by Aussie Vinyards wine and they are saying they will pull the plug on sponsorship if the Surfers Paradise race does not re-appear. This could leave the team with no money and two talented drivers, Will Power and Oriol Servia would be unemployed. CDW sponsored Servia in Chicago and may pony up the money to run Servia all year, but Power, one of the real talents in the sport, could be out of luck.

The next story surrounds Justin Wilson. Wilson has revealed that he does not have a contract with Newman/Haas/Lanigan for next year despite winning a race and out-scoring teammate Graham Rahal. The speculation is that NHL are waiting on the future of Sebastien Bourdais to decide what to do with Wilson. Bourdais would be a great addition to the sport, but at the expense of Justin Wilson it may not be that big of a gain. Bourdais would be great for the team and he could probably compete for the title immediately but Wilson is an amazing talent who should be a regular in the IRL.

The future of Vitor Meira is very much up in the air but there are rumours that he may end up in a second Rahal-Letterman car if they can come up with the money. A Meira-Hunter-Reay lineup for Rahal-Letterman would be a very good lineup and could go a long way to returning the team to contender status. I hope Vitor gets a ride for next year as he is one of the sports true good guys.

Vision Racing have confirmed both Ed Carpenter and AJ Foyt IV will be back for 2009. Both drivers drove very well at Chicago but have struggled on road courses. I still don't think that Vision are done and we may see Bryan Herta at some Road Courses or a third car all year. If Vision want to be taken seriously they will have to be better at turning both ways.

A new team may enter IndyCars next year called 3G Motorsports led by former team owner Greg Beck and Steve Sudler. Beck ran a team for a few years in the IRL and I have never heard of Sudler. They are saying that they will run in the Indycar series and in Indy Lights but I am skeptical. They are claiming they have the money and sponsorship but they will not reveal any details. That either means they are lying about having sponsorship or they only have sponsorship to run part time. Either way it is not exactly confidence inspiring ans do I file this team rumour in the "I'll believe it when I see it" file. is reporting that the IRL may be asking Marty Roth to retire and focus on team management. The IRL are trying to get some of their Indy Lights drivers in the top flight but the influx of drivers from Europe and the talentless hacks like Marty make seats few and far between. If this is true then there should be dancing in the streets as Marty is the worst race car driver the open wheel world has seen since Jean-Denis Deletraz. Marty is a very smart businessman and could be very succesful as a team owner, but nobody will sponsor his team as long as they have him in the car, because Marty as a driver makes the whole team look amateurish.

Alex Lloyd has re-signed with CHip Ganassi as Chip tries to get him in the IRL. There are rumours of a third Ganassi car, or of Lloyd getting farmed out to a smaller team, but as with all rumours of this nature, I'll believe it when I see it.

HVM appear to be on the verge of running a second car for RObert Doornbos for next year. Bobby D has already said he has a deal in a "good team" for next year and Keith Wiggins has said he wants to expand to two cars. Doornbos can bring sponsorship from Trust, Muermans, and ING and could be a very attractive choice for any team. The Personable Dutchman would be a great addition to the IRL as the series tries to gain international credibility.

Monday, September 8, 2008

F1 race report: F1 throws up a thriller and then screws up the result.

Lewis Hamilton has every right to feel aggrieved by the the result. He won the race fair and square only to be screwed by some over zealous rule nazi's in the stewards room. In all fairness to Kimi Raikkonen, had the rain not come he would have coasted to victory, but the rain did come and Lewis Hamilton did what Lewis Hamilton does best in the rain and forced the issue, Kimi trued to defend but Hamilton would not be defeated. At the new bus stop chicane He tried around the outside, Kimi pushed wide and forced Lewis to cut the corner. Hamilton smartly let Kimi back before then fooling him at the next corner. Charlie Whiting told McLaren that Lewis had done nothing wrong and so Hamilton went on his merry way while a frustrated Kimi Raikkonen made a spectacular mess of things by first spinning later on the lap and then crashing just before the bus stop, throwing away a certain 8 points and all but eliminating himself from the championship. The backroom shenanigans finally gifted the win to Felipe Massa, who did not deserve it at all, but had proven his critics sort of wrong by not making a complete ass of himself in the rain, as he is prone to do and kept out of trouble. Second, but really third, went to Nick Heidfeld who did a lot to boost his stock in BMW land. Quick Nick gambled on intermediate tyres in the late race wet weather and was lapping 20 seconds per lap faster than anyone and if he had a few more laps he would have won the race, alas he did not have those laps and had to settle for third, only to inherit second after the insanity. That Lewis Hamilton was classified third is scat consolation considering how well he drove, but he does lead the championship by two points, but it should be more. Fernando Alonso finished fourth from Sebastien Vettel, Robert Kubica, Sebastien Bourdais, and Mark Webber. It was an impressive result for the Toro Rosso drivers, who were very good all weekend, taking advantage of the Grunt of the Ferrari engines. For the most part Seb Bourdais was on the pace of Seb Vettel and a few more performances like this could be enough to save his job, although with the likes of Takuma Sato, Sebastien Buemi, and Bruno Senna breathing down his neck nothing is certain. Timo Glock had finished seventh on the road but was also dinged with a 25 second penalty, this one for overtaking under yellow flags, a penalty which was justified. It was a pretty dismal day for both Williams and Honda, both teams failing to get anywhere near the points and Honda in particular being particularly woeful. With Force India improving, suddenly Honda are getting closer and closer to being the worst of the worst. It was a good race, they usually are at Spa where the men are separated from the boys, but FOM always goes with their money, not what the fans want when it comes to circuit selection.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

IRL race report: Helio wins a thriller, but Dixon is champ

Ooh baby, the two championship protagonists going wheel to wheel on the final lap with a photo finish, and in the end the closest finish in IRL history. Helio Castroneves finally, after several minutes of debate, won the race by 0.001 seconds from Scott Dixon after having started from the back of the field. There were the usual number of accidents, not surprising for a 28 car field, plenty of passing and close racing, some good runs by surprising sources, and an amazing finish. Ryan Briscoe started on the pole from Dixon and Kanaan with Helio Castroneves being demoted to last place after a dubious decision by the stewards after qualifying to send him to the back for repeated crossing of the white line below the track. Either way it did not matter as it made for an exciting first few laps as Helio scythed through the field like a hot knife through butter. By lap 10 he was up battling for the top 10 and by the time the first caution came out on lap 36 he was eighth. The first caution was for the fourth placed man Ed Carpenter who had a suspension failure and was pitched rather dramatically into the wall at the exit of turn 2. His fiery car came to a rest in the infield and an unfortunate Ed jumped out of his car uninjured. At the stops the Penske boys went to work and helped get Helio a couple of positions. At the restart the Brazilian continued to climb and managed to get the lead before Vitor Meira brought out the safety car again for an accident caused by a mechanical failure. At the restart Helio led and we had some great battles including three wide for the lead between Castroneves, Briscoe, and Dan Wheldon and other great battles that saw the likes of EJ Viso and AJ Foyt IV running in the top 5. The third caution was for debris and under said caution Graham Rahal blotted his copybook for the first time by stupidly running into Buddy Rice in the pitlane. Buddy was understandably infuriated and one starts to question whether or not Rahal is as mature as the pundits say he is. Later on he would bring out a caution for nudging the wall while running several laps down. After this restart we had more great racing as Dixon temporarily fell down the order, at one point Castroneves was mathematically leading the championship. Two cautions came out in the meantime, one for Sarah Fisher who had a mechanical failure and another for EJ Viso who just screwed up and crashed. The dust settled and we had just over fifty laps to go with Milka Duno, yes Milka Duno, leading at the restart. She was quickly overwhelmed by the drivers with talent and drifted back to 14th. The ding-dong battle at the front pursued with most of the top driver involved, including both Penske's, both Ganassi's, Tony Kannan and Danica Patrick, plus the surprising Mario Moraes, who unfortunately rubbed the wall late on and dropped back. This set up what would become one of the most dramatic finishes we have seen. For lap after lap Helio and Dixon diced it up, runnign side by side with Helio desperately trying to get around Dixon. COming around the final turn they were neck and neck and crossed the line side by side. At first the commentators thought that it was Dixon who won the race but the computers reveal the tiniest of secrets and a couple minutes later it emerged that it was in fact Helio Castroneves who had won the race, by the closest margin in IRL history. A great race brought to a close (well sort of) to the first merged season of open wheel racing since Tony George made his bone-headed split in 1996. Scott Dixon is a deserved champion for 2008 having won the most races, although Helio was consistend as hell, he did not get the wins he needed to take the title. There is always next year for him, but how many next years can a guy have? The top 10 was completed by Ryan Briscoe, Tony Kanaan, Will Power, Dan Wheldon, Darren Manning, Marco ANdretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Danica Patrick.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Weekend Racing Preview

There are two major races in open wheel racing this weekend, the Belgian Grand Prix at the awesomely awesome Spa-Francorchamps, and the Indycar series title showdown at the decidedly average Chicagoland speedway. The Belgian Grand Prix could be the race that makes or breaks the championship because a win here could be the momentum that a Lewis Hamilton or Felipe Massa need to win the title. Lewis Hamilton is talking up his chances this weekend, as he usually does, but Ferrari have been the best car out there the last few races and with the modern day Spa-master, Kimi Raikkonen, in a red car, we could be looking at a Ferrari win. I could really see the Kimster run away with this race and make it a three mat title chase, but I could also see Lewis Hamilton or Felipe Massa win to all but eliminate the defending world champion Raikkonen from contention. Spa is a track that separates the men from the boys, so I expect the cream of the crop to rise up and make an impression. The Car is important, but Spa is a track that rewards the driver more than most tracks do and it could be an interesting Ferrari-Hamilton duel this weekend. Of the rest it is hard to say, I can see Fernando Alonso outperforming his car, but Spa is a track that rewards engine power and the Renault engine has very little of that compared to the rest, something which could hinder the Red Bull team as well. This dependence on Engine Power could give an advantage to BMW and the Toyota engined cars, who look more likely to take the minor points than the Renault engined cars, although Renault do have Alonso. We will see what happens, but it could be an exciting race, especially if Spa throws up it's usual cocktail of interesting weather.

The IndyCar boys will be deciding their championship in Chicago with Scott DIxon holding a 30 point lead over Helio Castroneves. In reality this means that all Dixon has to do is finish eighth to clinch the title, regardless of what Castroneves does. There are 28 cars in the field for Sunday with Sarah Fisher returning and with AJ Foyt running a second car for Franck Perera, which could be an audition for a potential second car all year next year. Elsewhere in backmarkerland Alex Tagliani will be back in the 36 Conquest car to replace the wounded Enrique Bernoldi, and that Tags will race in the non-championship race in Australia. The team insists that Bernoldi hasn't been fired, but I am skeptical of the truthiness of that statement. Back to the race, I would be surprised if Dixon does not win the title, but anything could happen, and with some of the idiots at the back in this race he very easily could be collected in an accident among backmarkers. Helio has been dynamite the last couple of races and has every chance of stealing the title. He has to go balls out and pray that a calamity befalls Dixon. This race could be exciting due to the number of talented drivers with nothing to lose, this includes the more accident prone of them like Marco Andretti. This should be an exciting race, hopefully it will be on Television up here in Canada.