All 14 entries tagged Motorsport
September 10, 2006
I was extremely pleased when today it was formally announced that the remains of the old Jordan F1 team has been sold to Spyker, a small Dutch supercar manufacturer. Well, kind of. It’s a pretty bizarre transaction. Allow me a brief history lesson to set the scene.
As many of you will know, two years ago Jordan was sold to Midland, an obscure, but seemingly very rich, Russian company. Restructured and rebranded under the unevocative moniker of MF1 (Midland Formula One? Could they have come up with a more uninspiring name even if they tried?), they moved swiftly towards the back of the grid. MF1 took even less time in losing the affections of Jordan’s formerly very strong fan base.
It quickly became apparant that Midland weren’t quite prepared for trying to build a decent racing team, and were only in it to try and gain some brand exposure. I still can’t tell you what Midland actually do, and I’ve never heard of them outside the context of Formula One, so that hasn’t really happened. No-one will really notice you anyway unless you’re any good (like, pretty much all the other teams on the grid) or really cool (like Super Aguri). MF1 have been rubbish. I think this largely stems from a lack of motivation and funding, from the top of the Midland board, to get results.
When Midland realised that running a Formula One team is actually quite hard, they began to look to sell MF1 for a profit. They had bought Jordan for a knock-down price, and to give Midland credit they did make the team finacially stable. Rumors of the names of potential buyers circulated, Midland made token attempts at pretending to want to be staying in F1 for the long term, and life went on.
Stepping back a bit further in time to October 2000, the Birmingham Motor Show saw the world debut of the Spyker C8 Spyder. Having orginally ceased trading in 1925, the rebirth of Spyker was not one that many people really cared about, but the astonishing elegance of the C8 Spyder certainly grabbed attention. The car was full of gorgeous quirks, such as the gaping radiatior grill, the handbrake positioned in the passenger footwell, and the lush interior, sprinkled with toggle switches. Plus, and this is probably the most important factor, ‘Spyker’ is a really cool word.
Just for the record, this isn’t the C8 Spyder, but the most recent version of that model, the C12 LaTurbie.
The last ten years or so has seen many tiny startup supercar manufacturers arrive in a brief blaze of publicity, only to vanish into obscurity (and liquidation) in less time that it takes their products to do the 0-60 run. That’s not long at all. I expected Spyker to go the same way, but I’m glad to say that they quickly found their place in the market, and have recorded impressive growth since. However, they remain tiny in comparison to the traditional supercar names of Ferrari, Lamborghini and even Pagani.
This brings us back to the present moment. Rumors recently emerged that this tiny supercar manufacturer would be buying MF1. In a similar manner to the Tevez and Maschareno affair, this didn’t quite seem to make sense. Why would they do it? Where does the money come from? There are some pretty hefty manufacturers thinking about getting into F1, and plenty of existing teams are keen to start running their own ‘B-teams’. The easiest way to do this is by buying another team. Spyker are not one of these hefty manufacturers, and they don’t need to get into F1 to improve the quality of their business. Consequently the only reason that I think they’ve got into F1 is sheer enthusiasm. Evidence of this, and the source of the money, is provided by looking at the latest member of the Spkyer board.
Michiel Mol has been involved in Formula One for many number of years as a sponsor, largely through his Dutch media group Lost Boys. I don’t know much about Lost Boys, except that their simple typed logo looks insanely cool on racing overalls. They’ve backed a variety of teams and drivers, most notably Jos Verstappen and Arrows. Now, in a similar manner to Dietrich Mateschitz and Red Bull, Mol has decided to take an active role in F1 by buying into it, providing some major finance for Spyker’s deal.
I also suspect that Mol approached Spyker with the idea first, but no matter. Either way he’s helped to introduce a wonderful new name into Formula One, one that’s very far removed from the mainstream names traditionally associated with the sport. BMW, Mercedes, Honda, Toyota, Renault, and…Spyker? Cool. I think having the Spyker banner above the door will be a big help in transforming MF1 into a remotivated, interesting race team, and one that will be worth following. I hope they swiftly move to clear out all the lingering remains of MF1, and plaster the car in as many Spyker logos as they possibly can, as soon as possible.
They do, however, need to be careful to maintain the mystique surrounding the brand. It’s the mystique of the product that really bring in Spyker’s clients, so they definately do not need the mass-market appeal that comes with being a manufacturer in Formula One. If they can do that, and actually turn out a performance, then we have an excellent new team in the sport.
And in other news…the most successful racing driver of all time announced his retirement today…
August 06, 2006
I never thought we would ever see this sight.
Jenson deserved the victory today, everything fell into place for him and he simply drove the best race. By and large he kept his nose clean, ran an excellent strategy, and managed to stay calm when the win was still within touching distance. He wouldn't have been the first racing driver to throw it into the wall, when their first race victory is within touching distance.
I'll be interested to see if this does have a noticable effect on him, and the team, in the next few races, as the media seems to think it will. Somehow I don't think the 'Mika Hakkinen phenomenon' will repeat itself for Jense, and I hope he doesn't come back down to earth with too much of a bang in Turkey. Surely a return to mediocrity is inevitable though…
Oh yeah, and was I the only one who almost collapsed with disgust at the sickening commentary from Allen and Davidson when Jense crossed the line :–D!?
July 09, 2006
July 08, 2006
July 07, 2006
I can't let the first day of Goodwood pass without a mention in the blogosphere, so I leave you with this until I can be bothered to write something a bit more descriptive. They do say that a picture speaks a thousand words, so I guess this will be enough.
May 08, 2006
It occured to me last night that the star of this weekend's Grand Prix festivities at the tedious Nurburgring circuit was Lewis Hamilton. This is quite significant, considering that, for those of you who don't know, he's not even a F1 driver. Hamilton is a young (English!) racing driver, who from a very early age has received support and development aid from McLaren. This is unusual. Most people thought Williams went out on a limb when they signed a 19–yr old Button to race, with only two years of car–racing experience beneath him. However, McLaren had decided to take Hamilton under their wing in the late nineties when he was only 12 years old, with a view to develop his career. That's impressive, and I believe unprecedented to this very day. He's also black, which is notable only because bizarrely I can't think of any decent black racing drivers…you'd think that there would be more, considering most of the world's top athletes, with the required pyhsical build for Grand Prix–style racing, are black.
Happily the McLaren arrangement appears to have produced results. Over the weekend Hamilton seems to have totally embarrassed the opposition in the GP2 support races, preceeding the main F1 race. This has caught the attention of the media, which is a great help in securing a young driver a seat in F1. As one of the favourites for this year's GP2 title, I'm glad to see that Hamilton has delivered on the promise that McLaren saw in his pre–teen racing career. How many sporting protoges over the years have let the thoughts of future brilliance go to their head, and then simply vanish from the scene?
I watched the Grand Prix yesterday with some of the Motorsport clan, and someone commented that Hamilton would probably win an F1 race before Button. I wouldn't be suprised if this was to be the case. I think Prodrive may already have a seat for 2008 earmarked with Hamilton's name, and I'm hopeful it won't take them too long to give Honda a spanking…
As for the Grand Prix itself, Nico Rosberg (who won the GP2 series last season…spot a trend here :–)?) was probably the stand–out performer, even if Schumacher put in one of his classic "I'm going to win five titles in a row"–type race performances. We were hoping that Rosberg, starting from the back of the grid, was in fact going to go for a 0–stop strategy…there's nothing like surreal race tactics to liven things up ;–). However, he did eventually come in for fuel just after the half–way mark of the race, having made his way up into the points…fifth place, I think.
We were dismayed when he stopped again, not much later, for another scheduled pitstop. You'd have thought that considering he did the first half of the race on one tank of fuel, he'd do the second half on one tank as well. No matter. However our dissapointment was removed when he emerged in 7th place, ahead of Montoya. On the same 2–stop strategy as him! From the back of the grid! Excellent work indeed…now all he needs to do is qualify well and that's a race win in the bag. Hope springs eternal….;–)
April 28, 2006
As has already been commented on by some of my Silverstone–visiting comrades, yesterday's F1 test was excellent, and well worth the visit. It was the usual (free :–D) display of some of the most astonishing machines to ever traverse the face of the planet. I'm always taken aback by how much more sedate they appear to be on the TV in comparison to seeing them for real…but I guess that's the limitation of TV for you. I'm glad to say that, in my opinion, the V8s do not sound dramatically different to the V10s. They essentially make the same sound, and sing the same tune whilst zipping through the gears. Excellent.
However, it wasn't all good news. Unfortunately they've repainted the wall down by Abbey, so the BMW–shaped mark I left after a 'slight off' earlier in the year is gone :'(. I was hoping it would remain forever, as a monument warning all purchasers of £200–eBay–specials to ensure that you never take to a greasy racetrack with slightly perished tyres…
Star of the show for me was the McLarens. They seemed visibly faster that the other cars, but I guess that could have been an illusion caused by their shinyness. They really are very photogenic, despite not being pretty racing cars in the traditional sense. The sheen gives them extra impact, compared to the flat, slightly dull finish used by the other teams.
The STRs look good as well. I thought the design was a bit tacky when I first saw pictures of it, but when you see it hurling down the road at 160mph it is suprisingly effective. Poor old STR, why do they bother? If they go too fast then people complain it's because their V10 isn't restricted enough, and if they go too slow then people complain that they're rubbish. Disaster.
The Williams drivers who were here today, Webber and Wurz (both of whom are legends) also provided some amusement. For reasons beyond the scope of our knowledge, during the day's lunch break, they took a couple of Caterhams out for a spin round the circuit. I guess since these were the new CSR260s (you can tell….puts geek hat on…look at the squared–off front wings…), that there was some marketing going on. Both the CSR260 and Williams FW28 have engines made by Cosworth, so it would be careless not to milk that connection. I was informed that some fellows from F1 Racing magazine were also involved, so I guess we'll find out all about it in a future issue.
We also spent some time up at Copse, which for most of the cars is taken flat out. It's hard enough to get through this blind, narrow corner in a road car at reasonable speeds; but in an F1 car, I believe they can take it at around 180mph. Respect. These guys know what they're doing. Montoya did have a few 'moments' through there, which raised our eyebrows a bit. It was quite a spectacle, to say the least.
Hmm, I don't seem to have included any pictures of my beloved Williams lashing round the track…this will never do. Here's one from Luffield, leading onto the main straight. I thought this was an excellent place to watch the cars from; because here, you can see them accelerate at their most violent, and it's stunning.
Take a gander at the Motorsport website for the rest of the decent pics, if you're interested…link.
To finish, Nathaniel truly gave the circuit's Audi RS4, used for corporate entertainment (not just for corporates though, if you've yet to spend the student loan on anything useful ;–)), some proper loving. Happily he refrained from actually licking it, but I'm confident he only exercised restraint because there were small children around at the time ;–)
In short, I had an excellent day, with some great company and some unreal cars. The BURGERS OF DEATH weren't too bad either. What a combination.
April 22, 2006
I'm pleased to say that one of our exec members has arranged to have the Union screen tomorrow's Grand Prix in Cholo. This is great, since traditionally the Union/Hospitality seem keen to go out of their way not to put F1 on. Gah, the troubles that gave me in my TV-less first year. If a reasonable crowd turns up then it's more likely that this can be made into a regular occassion…and makes it less likely that some awkward employee will decide to turn over to the snooker halfway through the race 8-). Word on the street is that the projector is broken, but meh, if you're a TV-less campus-dweller, you'll get over it!
Also, we're going to go to Silverstone on Thursday to watch the testing. We've got a couple of cars going down and perhaps a minibus, so if you're interested in taking a look, we might be able to give you a lift. Details to follow, but of course paying club members take priority ;). Last I heard, there were at least six teams signed up, so there's going to be plenty of action. I'm looking forward to it; 'tis my first chance to actually hear these new V8s, and to check out that shiny McLaren.
April 02, 2006
WARNING - MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS so if you want the race result to remain a suprise, then look away...there's only a few pictures of some cars getting destroyed :-D
This morning's race in Australia was fascinating. Littered with a series of unusual incidents, it was one of those races where the time just flies past. Apparantly it was as good as last season's epic race in Japan…I say 'apparantly' because, unfortunately, I never saw that one :-s.
The first lot of incidents made Jense's task of winning (or at least making another pathetic attempt to do so) considerably easier, with Fisi removing himself from the front row with a stall. Montoya is also officially a living legend, having spun on the final corner of the parade lap…what a move!
The second bouts of incidents just after the first corner of the race were equally amusing. Klien and Rosberg made a Massa sandwich, and speared him into the wall. Much carnage and unleashing of in-car fire extinguishers took place, which would have given Massa a nice suprise. The whole thing looked like a racing incident, with no-one to blame, but unfortunately Rosberg incurred race-ending damage. I was looking forward to seeing what he could do from the back of the grid, but never mind.
The Massa sandwich opened the door for the star of the first half of the race to shine.
I feel like an F1-uber-geek by rattling on about the safety car…but…wow! Did you see it move!? Like Brundle pointed out, it was clearly going flat out, and it was a pleasure to watch. It looks great, it looks fast when you see it move, and if you ask Mercedes-Benz very nicely indeed, I think they'll build you one. I'm not a fan of the new CLK, but in the safety car configuration it looks great, very similar to the superb limited-run CLK DTM road car of 2004. Shame it sounded like a sewing machine on the in-car footage, but no matter…it was good to hear the unusual sound of squealing tyres at an F1 race.
Happily for me Mr Maylander got plenty of chances to take the CLK out for a spin, as people kept ditching it into the walls in spectacular fashion. Happily none of the accidents were serious in a driver-life-threatening way, but they were very serious in the car-life-threatening way. Guys like Klien, Liuzzi and Schumacher just trashed their cars completely…extremely watchable stuff :-D
Whilst all this was going on, Jense had inevitably succumbed to the likes of Raikkonen and Alonso, and was steadily falling back. Webber had suffered a mechanical failure whilst in the lead, so both Williams were out early :(. Kudos to Sato and the Toro Rossos though, they were driving extremely well at this point. Especially Sato…the guys stuck behind him were people like Barrichello, Coulthard and Fisichella, and they (should) know what they're doing. They'll probably haul out the Racing Driver's Big Book Of Excuses 2006 to explain why Sato was holding them up. Regardless, they should be pretty appalled with themselves. That Super Aguri is rubbish (did you see Ide spin THREE TIMES in the same lap in qually!? Surely that can't all be down to Ide's uselessness?), and even with the best driver in the world in it, the guys with Hondas and Renaults should just have cruised past.
Maybe Sato's 'reputation' preceeded him, and they were scared of taking him on, just in case…which in fairness, was probably wise. Although Sato did eventually fall behind these quicker guys as the race progressed, he finished the race (third time this season, I believe), without incident. With Ide getting to the finish for the first time as well, the SA people should be proud of themselves.
As race began to draw to a close, Montoya was next on the bizarre-incident hitlist. It was almost a copy of Schumacher's demise, where he ran wide at the final corner, and then hit a bump at the end of the kerb, which flung him into the wall. However, Montoya pulled off the save of the season by copying Schumacher in every way, apart from the hitting the wall bit. He showed some great skills, and whether it was luck or judgement that meant he hit the bump straight on (which made the car easier to control when he jumped over it), we may never know. We may also never know why, inexplicably, as soon as he had escaped a trip to the wall, his car just…stopped. The engine died, and it rolled to a halt underneath the pit wall. Very bizarre. Speculation as to what could have caused this is most welcome.
The race had a few more twists in the final few corners of the race. Alonso had the race in the bag, with Ralf Schumacher having one of those suprising drives that was so effortless no-one noticed him get onto the podium, behind Raikkonen.
However, Jense and Fisichella were now battling it out for fifth position. This is highly concerning…I probably shouldn't keep going on about how overrated Jense is, but he started from pole…and Fisi started from the back of the grid. What more can be said. Anyway, with two corners left, Jenson's Honda decided to explode, and try to barbecue Fisichella in the face for good measure. Fisi probably had mixed emotions about this…being gifted a place just as you're crossing the finish line is lovely, but getting a engine-fuelled roasting isn't. Jenson's Honda stopped just short of the line, so zero points for him. However, the strange manner of this failure will go some way to masking that throughout the race, both Honda and Jenson were mediocre at best. Not a hint of their claimed race- or world-championship winning potential.
The twists of the race were no longer over, though. It turns out that Jenson could have rolled over the line to take three points, but for some utterly inexplicable reason, Honda told him not to. The argument being that it was worth trading in those three points for not having to change the engine after 'completing' the race, and not incurring the 10-place penalty on the grid for the next race. What a stupid decision.
The fact the Fisichella, from the back of the grid, was right on Button's tail at the end of the race shows that a 10-place grid penalty is relatively insignifcant for a team that can't win races. If it were a McLaren or Renault in that position, then I can see the logic. It's much harder to actually win a race starting from the bottom ten, than it is to get a good points finish. Honda showed today, they can't win even starting from pole, so they need to take all the decent points-finishes that they can. The chances of them recouping those lost three points by virtue of not taking that penalty is very slim. Indeed, at this stage of the season, three points is just over 25% of Jenson's points haul for the season. 25%! Oh well…most likely Jense will win the next race purely to spite me.
My final point on this great race was the silent exchange between Alonso and Raikkonen at the post-race press conference. The pair inadvertantly caught each other's eyes at one stage, and instead of quickly looking away and ignoring each other, Raikkonen broke into a big smile. It was clear that he had geniunely enjoyed chasing Alonso, who returned the gesture with sincerity. It was a nice touch to see that the two top men in the sport really respect each other, and value their rivalry.
March 28, 2006
I'm glad to say that, as hoped, the BUKC race at Clay turned out to be nice and dry. Before Wednesday, four of the six races I'd done this season had been in greasy/damp conditions, so it was great to really be able to push the limit of the karts and feel them working. Having been pottering round in the wet so often, to be able to hang on powerslides out of corners, and experience the massive acceleration at work again, was a joy. However the day was, as has so often been the case for Warwick Motorsport in 2006, a bittersweet one.
The 6 sprint races of Round 7 took place in the morning, with each four-man team entering one driver in four races and sitting out the other two. By and large, this round was a bitch for Warwick…the As came 8th overall; whilst the Bs and Cs were 24th and 38th respectively. There once was a time when the Bs would have been pleased with coming 24th, but happily those days are long behind us :-D. There were some notable individual performances from some of our drivers though; and (raises own trumpet to mouth and blows, hard; apologies for doing so) I managed to take my highest sprint-race finish ever! Woohoo! A whopping 5th position from 12th on the grid…my prior best sprint finish was somewhere in the low teens, which isn't especially specatular. However, my result was made dissapointingly easier by this incident during the first lap, shortly after crossing the start/finish line:
This little pileup was one of the biggest I've seen in the BUKC. My Warwick C counterpart (making his dry BUKC debut) had started from 4th on the grid (grid positions are randomly allocated, btw) and managed to get airbourne after some guy gave him a massive shunt from behind. This particular corner is not the one to get punted off at, since it comes at the end of the fastest straight on the circuit, so you're doing maybe 60–70mph. Now, it doesn't take a genius to work out that when you're airbourne, you don't have much traction…and consequently my Warwick C teammate flew (literally) into the gravel. This guy that sent him airbourne also lost control, and it seems the pair of them managed to collect all the karts around them as they spun out. In total about 10 karts were taken out; I believe all of them were able to continue, and my teammate's nemisis got a severe reprimand from the race steward.
However, since I started from 12th on the grid, I was right behind when all this chaos unfolded. Happily I've always been good at keeping my nose clean whilst racing, so I managed to find a gap through the outside of the corner and managed to sneak round all of the spinning karts. Unfortunately there wasn't much grip through this particular gap, and so about four or five karts sneaked past me up the inside. Oh well….that was still about six or seven places gained almost straight away. I then drove pretty well for the rest of the race, had a super-smooth pitstop and brought home the goods. Get in.
The afternoon saw the three hour-long endurance races of Round 8. Each team enters a pair of drivers into two of the races, and sits out the other race. This round was much better for the As and Bs, although the Cs kept getting punted off and having their kart/s broken. Although the karts are allocated randomly to each team at the start of every race, the Bs ended up using the same kart for both races…which sucked, because it had 'gash' brakes. Even my flambouyant fresher teammate, who wouldn't back out of a risky overtaking move if his life depended on it, told me it was impossible to outbrake people with this particular kart. I heeded his advice; and unfortunately the gash brakes meant I had to compromise my braking distances. This meant I ended up having a suprisingly entertainly battle with a comrade from York, whom the formbook suggested was considerably slower than me. However, he kept outbraking me, but would then overshoot the apexes and I'd reclaim the position at the exit of the corner. Credit to him for keeping the racing clean; out of mutual respect he refrained from punting me off with a risky move, which I was genuinely impressed with. If I was in his position, I wouldn't have been quite so generous with myself ;-)
Regardless, despite the gashness of the brakes, me and my teammate managed to bring it home in 11th. Not bad. Unfortunately it would have been 9th position, but some backmarkers decided it would be amusing to try and take me out with two or three laps remaining…which I was not impressed with. I came up behind this bunch of about four or five backmarkers, and dispatched the first three with ease. The next two were to almost be my undoing…I was much quicker than the first guy through the chicane, so I got a good run at him and just drove round the outside of him along the proceeding straight. The next guy was only a few kart lengths up the road. Since he was clearly not that good, I decided to outbrake him (erk! earlier warning ignored!) and drive up the inside at the hairpin at the end of the straight. Not wise. As we were turning in, I was level with him and would have been ahead by the end of the corner. However, the first guy decided to outbrake himself for some reason and drives into the back of me. He forces the back end of my kart to step out of line, and so to keep it facing in the right direction I put on opposite lock, and stamp on the brakes. Happily this just about keeps me facing forwards, but the kart had slowed down dramatically and almost stalls…since it's clutchless, if you stop in one of these things, the engine dies. Fortunately I just about manage to coax the engine back into life, and into the meaty bit of the torque curve, but not before 7–8 karts have zipped past me. Including two guys who were chasing me for position. Bah.
However, the other B-team pairing also finished their race in 11th. I was very impressed with this, as that pairing (one of which was my flambouyant fresher teammate) had started to develop a reputation for crashing out. They kept things clean and drove really well, and the B-team finished the round in 13th overall. Not bad when you consider the brakes on our kart were gash, did I mention that? :-D
The As brought things home in 8th again, which was pleasing, as most of their endurance races this season have been a bit poor. The Cs were down in 42nd…one of their worst performances of the season. However, they did finish both endurance races in the pits with a broken kart :-s
Not wishing to sound like a broken record, but the announcement of the final Championship positions for the season were…bittersweet. Warwick C came 32nd, the Bs in 23rd and the As in 7th, out of 59. Last year, those results were 43rd, 28th and 6th out of 55. So, dissapointment for the As, but we're extremely pleased for the Bs and Cs. The three teams ahead of the Bs were Kingston A, Bristol A and York A, who are three fairly-well respected teams…indeed, the Bs are the 'sixth best B-team in the country' :-p.
So, despite the lack of a headline-grabbing result for the As, 2006 has been an excellent year overall for Warwick Motorsport, with the emergence of some serious talent from the Bs and Cs. Hopefully these new hopefuls will soon make the transition from merely 'very good' to 'race winner'...time will tell. Shame I (most likely) won't be around to see it happen, with this probably being my last BUKC race. I've raced against FRenault champions, GT drivers and Formula 1 hopefuls in the BUKC, and loved every minute of it. I'm also pleased to say that I've had a 100% appearance record in every BUKC race over the last three years..and I'm grateful for the people in the club who gave me the opportunity to do that.
(On a side note, did you know Nico Rosberg almost took up an Aerodynamics degree with Imperial? If he had, then it would have been us racing against him this year instead of likes of McLaren and Ferrari :-o. There's an interesting thought…)
If you've made it this far through this fairly sizeable post, then congrats…you're either a member of Motorsport, bored and looking for any outlets of procrastination, or very keen. If you're in the latter camp, I leave you with this thought, and blatant plug. One of our finds of the season had had NO prior experience of karting – in any form – since join Warwick Motorsport at the start of the year. In his third BUKC race he finished in 4th out of 35. It took me three years to finish 5th, and I'd been indoor karting for years before uni! So, if you're interested, please do get involved…we really do welcome newcomers to the fold and are proud of our non-elitist attitudes. You may turn out to be one of these naturally gifted people that can just win races without even trying ;)..and honestly, if you're into F1 it does give you a better insight into what is going on out on the track. Racing is always racing.