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March 20, 2006

BUKC2006 Preview – Rounds 7&8

Follow-up to Unprecedented from Semi-Perfectionism

Not long to go now before the 2006 British Universities Karting Championship draws to a close on Wednesday, at Clay Pigeon Raceway in Dorset. So called because, unsuprisingly, there's a clay pigeon shooting range right next to the track. It looks like Brookes A have already got the championship in the bag, but behind them, things are fairly tight. Warwick A certainly have a chance of getting into the top 5 if things go their way. If they did, it would be a real acheivement – they've finished 6th for the past three years and have been a bit under-strength this season, unlike Warwick B and C.

Warwick A vs Brookes A

Warwick A (no.11) put pressure on Brookes A at last year's BUKC race at Clay

It looks like the Bs and Cs will certainly take their highest ever championship finishing positions as well. As I mentioned in a previous post, both teams have been much stronger this year than in previous seasons. I think the squad that we are taking to Clay is going to be a bit weaker than the squad we've taken to the other races, but they should still put in some decent performances. It will be interesting to see how all of the Warwick teams stack up against SiY's team as well, who will be making a 'guest appearance' in the BUKC. His team probably won't have the depth to challenge for overall success, but I'll be pleased if either the Bs or Cs can get the better of them.

On a personal level, as much as I'm looking forward to the race, it saddens me to think that it will (almost certainly) be my last BUKC race for Warwick Motorsport. I'm confident that I can get a decent finish to round things off. I also have some personal battles to deal with as well…I have friends from the Coventry and Birmingham karting clubs with whom I have struck up some enjoyable rivalries with, so I hope to end my BUKC career by utterly destroying them :-D. I hope I'll have the chance to race SiY on track as well…it will be interesting to see if I've improved relative to him over the past year.

Annoyingly I learnt some really useful driving techniques at the last race (why oh why didn't I pick those up when I was a fresher!?) and I reckon I'll be able to apply them extremely well at Clay. Especially if it's dry…I'm much better in the dry than in the wet; and Clay is much more of challenge in the dry. Since it's a relatively high-speed circuit (the average lap speed is around 45mph for a good lap at Clay, however Buckmore Park is the quickest BUKC track, with an everage speed of 57mph for a good lap…not bad considering it's got four tight hairpins :-o), it's much more enjoyable in the dry. When the rain starts to fall, the grip on the karts we use really suffers, since we exclusively use fully-slick, hard-compound tyres. Consequently speeds drop considerably, especially at Clay, where many of the corners are just flat-out in the dry. In the wet, instead of trying to nail the perfect line through these corners to carry the speed, it's more a matter of just staying on track. Which means going much slower than usual…which isn't as fun. It's still an enjoyable challenge though, of course :-D.


March 19, 2006

Explosive

Follow-up to The Emergence Of A Legend from Semi-Perfectionism

The Grand Prix this morning was an interesting one. It wasn't anywhere near as spectacular as Bahrain, however it gave us another indication of how the season is going to develop. My first point is Jense, who is a cause for concern. Despite only being ten seconds off the lead at the end of the race, he still doesn't look like he's got the fight in him to take a win. Not intending to contradict myself, I would still be very suprised if he did not visit the top step of the podium this season. However, I think this will only come about if he's in the right place at the right time, when the other guys around him are having diffuclties. It will be the sort of race where him, Montoya and one of the Williams sneak onto the podium…the sort of race where the really big players (Ferrari, Renault, Raikkonen) have fallen by the wayside.

Which brings me nicely onto my next point…McLaren. Kimi's season is already looking like it will go the same way that it did last season, which would be a shame for us all. Also, am I the only person who thinks that the MP4-21 is really, really ugly? The media seem to love it, but they've seen it up close. I guess I should reserve judgement for myself until I see it at the Silverstone test sesh on the 26th April.

MP4-21

Oooh, shiny

<quick plug>By the way, Warwick Motorsport will be going to watch that test, there's going to be a considerable number of teams there and it's FREE to get in! Bit of a bargin. I'll sling more details up nearer the time…but if you've never seen/heard an F1 car in anger, you really should join us. Regardless of whether you like F1 or not, these cars are absolutely stunning. Whenever I see one being driven as hard as it will go, I'm always astonished by the thought that people actually RACE these monsters? 22 on track at the same time? Legends, the lot of them.</quick plug>

More worrying for McLaren is Montoya…without any major issues he just hasn't performed this season, and today he was extremely average. Which is strange, considering he is supposed to be fighting for the one remaining McLaren seat for next season. Maybe he's already given up hope; more likely he knows something that we don't. Even more likely than both of those….he's just not very good.

Which once again seamlessly links into my next point, Nico Rosberg, who is indeed very good. He gave a legendary qually performance, especially considering that Webber is regarded (perhaps overrated) as a qually specialist. However Nico didn't have time today to make up for his appalling start. He got off the line cleanly enough, and fair play to him for trying to defend himself against Webber, but he carelessly compromised the pair of them and allowed Alonso to just walk into third. Driving your teammate into the wall at the start is all well and good, it's just not an intelligent thing to do when you both have quicker cars behind you to fend off. Once Alonso was past, the two Williams then fell down the order much too quickly for my liking, and as far as I could see this all stemmed from that start.

Kabooom

Kaboooooom!

Bit of a minger with the two V8 Cossies going as well, which was suprising. I thought that with their extensive pre-season testing, they'd be pretty good with reliability. Top marks for Nico's pyrotechnics though, impressive work.

I suppose I should mention Fisichella as well, considering he won the race 8). He drove well, but to be honest the only challenge was from Alonso, which wasn't too much of a problem. As James Allen pointed out, he's the 'forgotten man' of F1 (probably the only reasonable statement Allen made in commentary all weekend), so it was nice to see him justifying his Renault seat. I hope that in Melbourne, McLaren and Ferrari (and my beloved Williams, hope springs eternal 8)) will be able to push the Renaults harder. Melbourne always produces a great race, so if the competition develops at the sharp end of the field, it should be pretty good indeed.


March 15, 2006

Unprecedented

Time for some more shameless self-promotion. Last night saw the publication of the official results from rounds 5 and 6 of the British Universities Karting Championship, which took place last Wednesday at the fantastic Buckmore Park circuit. Round 6 in particular was particularly notable, as Warwick's B-team really produced the goods and recorded their highest BUKC finish since records began, and by some margin. They finished…wait for it…11th!!! Doesn't sound overwhelmingly impressive, does it? Even considering that there were 50 teams racing? And our prior best finish was a mere 20th place last year? And that we beat all the other universities' B-teams? Here I am, just before nailing some guy driving for Loughborough B (boo! hsss!):

Buckmore

Oh well, we (I say 'we' cos I race for Warwick B, hence the shameless self promotion ;)) were all pretty pleased with ourselves. This year we've been fortunate to have some pretty decent karters join the club. We've not had any new talent coming in ready to win races straight out of the box, but we do more than enough talent to really own the midfield of the BUKC. Indeed, so much so that the B team has spent a lot of time this year fighting off (and succumbing to) the attentions of Warwick C, which is great.

At the start of the year we were hopeful that the Bs would be able to challenge Warwick A, who really do have some top-class karters. Happily, the Bs have done a reasonable job of keeping the As keen. Indeed, the As had a bit of a mare in round 6 and finished 23rd :s. Oh well. Anyway, it all looks good for next year though…hopefully some of the stars of the Bs this year will turn into race winners, and surely some top-class karters will join the club next year. Next week sees the final two rounds of BUKC 2006 take place at Clay Pigeon Raceway in Dorset, and hopefully all the Warwick teams will deliver the goods. Unless this bloke, who is also racing, decides to punt us all off cos he's scared we'll all be quicker than him ;-)


March 12, 2006

The Emergence Of A Legend

Writing about Formula 1 is back baby! from nathanielho :: blog

F1 2006 is looking very good indeed after today's race. For the first time in a long time, watching the TV coverage made me want to be at the circuit. There's a real depth to the grid this year; lots of new teams, the leading drivers all seem to be at the top of their game, and we've still got comedy at the back despite the transformation of Minardi into Scuderia Toro Rosso…I'm so grateful for Super Aguri.

As for the race, it was excellent. Mostly because of the quality of the overtaking manoeuvres, they really were top class. Button, not driver that I especially rate, pulled off some classic textbook moves at the first corner. His move on Montoya (I think, excuse me if I'm wrong) particularly caught my eye. He got a good run out of the final corner, and stayed in Montoya's slipstream, all the way down the start/finish straight right up until the braking zone. Then, just before slamming on the anchors, he aimed the car to go just past Montoya's rear right wheel, and sailed past. However, Jense was not finished.

Montoya knows how to drive, so seeing Jense dive up the inside, he didn't panic. He stayed wide, so that he could turn in later, but get a better exit from the corner than Button and then reclaim the position at the next corner. He did not anticipate that Jense would go wide as well (seemingly intentionally) to block off his escape. Montoya had to wait for Jense to get out of his way before he could get the accelerator down, and by that time Jense was already up to speed and well away, managing to defend himself at the next corner. Credit to you, sir, that was definately a move.

Heidfeld and Couthard also had some notable battles at that first corner, highlighting it as one of the most entertaining overtaking places on the calendar (especially on a Tilke track ;–)). The right–left kink straight after the corner gives some great opportunities for some aggressive defensive/offensive driving, without the risk of hitting anything hard, except for whoever you are duelling with.

However, performer of the best overtaking move, and as Brundle pointed out, star of the show, was Nico Rosberg. Apart from his abberation in qually when he hit the wall (it happens to the best of us ;–)), he handled himself excellently thoughout the weekend; most unlike a rookie driver. Getting points on your F1 debut is quite an acheivement, getting fastest lap on your race debut is even more so (stats fans…who was the last guy to do that? Villeneuve?), and all in a car that is regarded as maybe the 5th/6th best on the grid. Legend.

I of course have to mention his brilliant move on Klien as well, again at that first corner. I loved the dummy he sold Klien, to make him think twice about shutting the door, excellent work indeed. He clearly knows what he is doing, despite his relative inexperience. If Rosberg can continue to race as well as he did today, then he's one for the future, if not the present. Williams are a team that can only improve, especially with that monsterous Cosworth engine in the back, so Rosberg is sitting pretty. Is he a one–race wonder though? Somehow, I don't think so.


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