News and views on motorsports

Friday, January 28, 2005

Manufacturers On The Future Of GP Racing

Having been shellshocked by Ferrari's signature on the new Concorde agreement, the other remaining GPWC members together with Honda and Toyota have come to some sort of agreement for a framework for Post 2007 GP Racing. So reads this story on PlanetF1.

A notable principle objective of the framework is to establish "an open, transparent and fair in commercial, technical and sporting governance." Obviously a reference to Concorde cannot help but spring into mind here. The use of the GPWC as a commercial bargaining chip is also apparent. The section on Commercial and Sporting Governance dwarfs all other sections. Lots of salient points relate this including transparency in financial governance, equitable share of revenues to "stakeholders", the inclusion of all revenues in the division of funds, and expansion of overall revenues.

Points relating to television make up a significant portion of the Commercial and Sporting Governance section as well. The one I like most says : "To ensure access to the sport on free to air TV on a worldwide basis in order to reach the broadest possible audience." This is in direct contrast to Bernie's plans of taking Formula 1 to pay per view. Grand Prix racing should remain free for all viewers. It makes sense for the manufacturers as well, since they and their sponsors are paying to reach the widest possible audience. If GP Racing became pay per view then this objective would not be met and you can bet that the revenues from pay per view will only end up in Bernie's pockets and not the manufacturers.

On paper at least the manufacturers do have the fans in mind. The first point of the Sporting Framework is "To entertain, excite and attract spectators, viewers and sponsors." One interesting point in the Sporting Framework is "To reward good teamwork." That's interesting. Asides from the Constructor's championship, I wonder how they would go about achieving this.

The Technical Format looks encouraging in the sense that there is nothing in there to suggest that Grand Prix racing should be the exclusive domain of the big car manufacturers. It does include salient points on cost cutting but at the same time an expressed aim is to ensure "Sufficient opportunity and technical freedom for teams, engine manufacturers and suppliers to use the sport to showcase their technology through differentiation and innovation and to challenge their engineering skills." Hopefully, this means no silly technical codes like a single brake suppliers or single monopolistic tyre supplier. I venture though, this means no standardized computer boxes as well, which to me would really cut costs. Ditto rev limiters. Well, whatever, so long as it leads to some good battles on the track.

Although the point about eliminating "high cost technologies which do not provide differentiation or have relevance to other industrial sectors" is a little unclear. High cost technologies that have relevance to other industrial sectors? Whatever do they mean by that?

Overall I think its pretty good. Whether or not it will be applied to Formula 1 as we know it today or in a rival series is now the question. Bernie wants a wrap on the future by Melbourne. Ferrari of course can have no complaints with the current system especially now that they've got what they wanted i.e. the increased revenues. But surely they would also agree to the other points within this framework, right? We shall see. As James Allen of F1-ITV puts it in this article, it will be an exciting month ahead.

More on this topic later.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

F1 Technical Code Changes

This story on is interesting for two reasons, the first one obviously is about the increased isolation of FIAT errr no.. Ferrari. More interesting is that the article mentions a meeting with the FIA scheduled this Friday but is now set to be postponed.

This meeting is apparently to discuss further changes to the F1 technical regulations beyond 2006. Some of the changes being proposed are:

1. single monopoly tyre supplier,
2. elimination of telemetry,
3. standard brakes and
4. mandatory engine rev-limiters.

My take on that is :

1. rubbish,
2. yes,
3. bollocks and
4. why not introduce rev limiters this year and throw out two weekend engine rule?

Imagine everyone using Bridgestone tyres that are currently tailor made for Ferrari. That's advantage Mr Todt when he doesn't need further advantages. Imagine Ferrari running on Michelins. The Bernie, Max, di Montezemolo Axis of Evil would probably pressure Michelin to provide extra support just for Ferrari. It couldn't happen you say? Well it did before. When Ferrari first used Bridgestones in 1999, they insisted and got special engineers assigned to them from the Japanese concern. This despite maiden championship winning performances with McLaren in previous years. When Williams really piled on the pressure later on, Bridgestone began to pay attention only to Ferrari's needs. The thankless, ungrateful skunks. In any case, I don't think neither tyre manufacturer will agree to this and in fact both Michelin and Bridgestone have been discussing this issue.

Elimination of telemetry. A double edged sword but in general I am in support of this. It eliminates costs and what the computers can't sense, they can process. Whilst some may argue that Formula 1 must be in the absolute bleeding edge of technology, I feel it need not be in the bleeding edge of electronic technology. Much effort can still be made in the mechanical engineering aspects of racing development. Electronics are I would imagine just as expensive as mechanicals but go obsolete at breakneck pace. Mechanical solutions take a slower pace of development and last longer. I say that this proposal is double edged because teams like Ferrari will eventually find a way to spend their many millions and channel it elsewhere. Perhaps more supercomputers like Sauber's Albert will be built for ever more sophisticated finite element and computational fluid dynamics models and computations.

Standard brakes? Now what sort of bullshit is that? Let mechanical development go forth I say. Again, which manufacturer would win the contract? Shall they all use Ferrari's Brembo brakes? I think AP Racing and Carbon Industrie would not agree to this. Neither would Brembo as well if I were them. Brake technology perfected in Formula 1 directly feeds into road cars making them safer. Ceramic and carbon brakes are beginning to be let loose on road cars. Let Formula 1 be the testbed for newer and better brakes for our future and safer road cars.

Mandatory engine rev-limiters is something that I've been arguing for in this Blog for the longest time. Such as in this article that I wrote last year. With rev limits set to the level of 10 years ago, we'd have engines that would last many many weekends without the current artificial regulations like the two weekend engine rule. The current ruling is just plain silly. If you want artificial rules then it would be better to introduce weight penalties instead. That would equalize the field and not favour the ultra reliable Ferraris. In fact, I argue that with rev limiters in place, we can see the re-introduction of the specialist engine manufacturers into the championship. Some chaps argue that Formula 1 should be the premise of the big car manufacturers. I argue that it should be open to all. With these rev limiters you'd pretty much equalize power outputs among all engines. Of course BMW and Honda would still win the power stakes but their advantages would be small. The Cosworths behind those Minardis would be able to challenge them still. However, there are some players like Toyota for instance that are absolutely against rev limiters.

Well I hope at least some of these proposals will make it into the new technical code. The good ones anyway. Well, these days of course it all depends on whether Ferrari agree to it. If they do, then it will be regulations. According to Paul Stoddart, Ferrari are the ones writing the damned code anyways. So, if he is right then the teams meeting with the FIA are simply a waste of time. Why not simply give us a GPWC eh guys?

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

If Looks Could Kill...

then McLaren are in trouble. There is an old saying in motor racing that if the car looks good then it generally is good. I think the Ferrari F2004 is the most gorgeous racing car I've ever seen and just look at how it went. The new McLaren MP4/20 at first glance looks... strange. Then I logged on to the McLaren website and it had a picture of it from dead side on and it reminded me of an elephant. Ok so it doesn't look like an elephant but it sure as hell got me thinking about one. The engine cover is short but tall and looks a bit fat. The rear end though looks incredibly low and narrow. I'm not a terribly technical but perhaps this is a consequence of the new rules. The nose section is slightly broader than the MP4/18/19/19B design. The sidepods to an untrained eye such as mine nevertheless reminds me of the Ferrari F2004. The chimney exits of the sidepods shoots off at an angle. The flick ups at the rear of the sidepods ahead of the rear wheels look like they are pieces independent of the sidepods, so narrow has the end tapered off. has a pictures here.

Well I won't pretend how the aerodynamics of the car works so I'll just wait for some expert commentary elsewhere and the times from testing. On related news though, rumours aplenty about Adrian Newey taking a sabbatical, perhaps going off to design an America's Cup challenger during that time. It is generally well known that Adrian has had interest in trying his hand at other design challenges outside Formula 1.'s story here. The story also mentions rumours about Adrian possibly leaving McLaren for Williams, his former team, where quite frankly, he enjoyed far greater successes that established himself as the top technical director in the paddock. After the MP4/14 and MP4/15, his cars leave much to be desired, although part of that blame must be taken by Mercedes.

If the rumours are true, then Williams must be dying for a brilliant new technical director. Losing Geoff Willis to BAR must have hurt quite badly. Geoff Willis is a key member of the BAR team, more indespensible than Jenson Button. As much as it was David Richard's success in pushing BAR to second last year, acclaim must also be given to Geoff Willis. Had Williams retained him, then perhaps last year's FW26 disaster could have been avoided. 2004 was a complete waste of time for Williams as it really should have been a championship win for them. I'm sure the BMW lads after 5 years in Formula 1 without championship success must be getting really nervous. Beating arch rivals Mercedes year on year isn't enough. With the investment they put in, only championship wins will do.

I read somewhere that incest is rife in Formula 1... or something to that effect. Rival teams only recruit people from other rival teams into top positions. Very rarely do you get new blood in senior positions, despite the fact that other pretty technically advanced motorsports goes on outside Formula 1. So if you look closely in the pitlane, there really isn't that much of a choice for Williams. Gascoyne and Willis are perhaps the only other choices and they are pretty tied down to their Japanese employers. Brawn and Byrne rule the roost at Ferrari and why would they leave considering they get everything and more from the Italians.

I'm sure Adrian would want to leave but I feel he should leave Formula 1 altogether. I feel as though this person has battle fatigue (a term once used by Ron Dennis) and he really needs a break from this ultra competitive atmosphere.

In other news, whilst the latest McLaren looks largely different from last year's challenger, the new Renault pretty much looks the same from the outside. The R25 is being shaken down at the Valencia track whilst McLaren has exclusive running in Barcelona. Hmmm.... I wonder how Bob Bell is coping running the technical department once Mike has left. Still sometimes, an evolution works better than a revolution. Just ask Ferrari what it did for them last year. New rules however would probably dictate a completely new direction but Renault seems to be sticking to the tried and true.

Another month and half till the Australian Grand Prix. That's probably going to go in a flash. I can feel the excitement already. Hopefully, the season will be a competitive one, so we can all focus on the on-track action rather than the politics. Smart money however wouldn't place itself against Ferrari. New rules however just might change the landscape. But just one set of tyres???? 'Tis not Formula 1 methinks.

Friday, January 21, 2005

GPWC Update

Just as a follow up to my previous article (Do you believe Paul Stoddart?, I point you to an article by Andrew Davies of PlanetF1. Read it here. The article says it all and reinforces my comments in my previous article.

This might just end up as another version of the FISA/FOCA wars of the early 1980s. In those days of course FOCA, the forerunner to the Formula One Administration (FOA) and headed by Bernie Ecclestone represented almost all the other teams save Ferrari, who sided with the FIA. The FIA President in those days of course was the infamous Jean Marie Balestre, who still sits on the FIA board. These days of course, Ecclestone's mate, Max runs the FIA and hence are in full accord with the FOA and of course Ferrari.

Will anyone trust Ferrari now? The GPWC was meant to serve the interests of all teams collectively. Ferrari used it in my view as a bargaining chip. Now they have what they want, the GPWC has in the words of Ferrari, "served its purpose." Well, their purpose at any rate. The other teams collectively still represent a powerful group. Without them of course, there is no World Championship. As Andrew Davies points out, who would Ferrari race against?

But on the other hand, the other teams also have commitments, large substantial commitments to sponsors to race in the world championship. Without these sponsors, those big, expensive windtunnels and state of the art construction facilities will not be paid for.

Personally speaking, they should just stick to the GPWC and form their own championship as they originally planned. Otherwise its like gambling in a casino. The house always wins. The house in this case is the FIA/FOA/Ferrari triumvariate. Whether its winning on the track, running to rules set by the house or obtaining the lions share of the revenues, the rest simply have the odds stacked against them. But if everyone stopped going to the casino, eventually they'll fold.

I think the GPWC members now have to take that brave step that Tony George of Indianapolis took when he set up the Indy Racing League in America, taking with him the jewel in the Indycar crown, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Except of course, the GPWC doesn't have the equivalent jewel. But if they did set up a rival championship, then I think a lot of people would still turn up to watch it. There are still many great places they can race at as I outlined in my previous article here. They can still come together to cut costs. More importantly, they'd get all the revenues from the sport.

Many TV commentators and fans have pointed out that if you removed Ferrari (or at least Michael Schumacher) from the championship in the previous years, you'd find some fantastic racing amongst the rest of the field. Renaults versus Williamses and McLarens. These mid field battles can be enthralling, if you manage to catch a glimpse of it when the cameras are not focused on Ferrari. There would be plenty of that. At the end of the day, fans and spectators are more interested in seeing these great battles rather than a red car always out in front.

I do hope the rival GPWC championship does still continue. If it does it will only happen in 2008. In the meantime, between now and then, I do hope someone at least will beat Ferrari on the circuit and show them that despite the odds being so stacked against the rest, the house can be beaten.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Do you believe Paul Stoddart?

This headline is one of the most interesting ones I've read so far this week. Minardi, claims Stoddart, under the terms of the secret Concorde agreement, must write a cheque to the Scuderia every year "in recognition of their historical contribution." You what? Furthermore, he asserts that "an 18-man squad of Ferrari men actually wrote F1's new technical code."

Now the contents of the Concorde Agreement are known only to the participating teams in Formula 1, so I will not pretend to know whats in it. This revelation though is quite sensational, although a little perplexing. Ferrari of all people do not need more money from the little lambs like Minardi, they've got bags of it already. Actually, the amounts paid to the Scuderia are not disclosed but it still seems highly dubious clause in the Concorde Agreement if it does exist at all. I can't help but wonder all these years since the inception of the Concorde whether this really happened. Consider the teams who have come and gone. Teams like Arrows, Brabham, Andrea Moda, Fondmetal, Leyton House March, Dallara and even American teams like Lola Haas. They all had to pay for this? I would have thought someone like Haas would tell Ferrari and Bernie to kiss ass.

Now consider the other allegation Stoddart brings to public. That a group of Scuderia men writing the new technical code. This is easier to believe if you realise that Ferrari have such a great say in the regulations over the years. Look at the banning of rear brake steer, berrylium (I don't know the right spelling ok?), the insistence of V12 engines and refuelling in the mid 90s. All were at the behest of the Maranello concern. Consider also, further evidence from last year, when Ferrari in the midst of the in season testing ban, ran so called "aerodynamic evaluations" of the 2005 regulations at Monza, supposedly at the request of the FIA. One might argue couldn't the FIA have chosen some other team? Who? Oh I don't know, Williams perhaps? One might also argue that Ferrari are in the best position given their resources for this kind of "evaluation." Perhaps my memory is letting me down in this advanced age of mine but I've never known Formula 1 regulations of any kind needing any sort of "evaluation" in the past.

Well, if all this is true then perhaps it should be clear to everyone just why Ferrari are being isolated by the other teams. Alright, I'll perhaps give Ferrari the benefit of the doubt and say that yes, there are perhaps some sour grapes circulating the ranks. However, if you look at Ferrari's political machinations past and present, starting all the way from Enzo Ferrari himself to the current Luca/Todt era, then you can understand the discontent of the others.

Well, if these allegations are true then no wonder Ross Brawn is so supportive of the new rules. So too, is Jean Todt who "agrees with the 05 plan." A lot of other people and I have always believed the one engine per weekend rule in 2004 and the now one engine per two weekend rule is something that penalizes the other teams tremendously given Ferrari's surreal reliability. Never in history have I , or anyone else for that matter, ever witnessed reliability of this magnitude. Whilst Mercedes seem to be popping their engines with alarming regularity, a fact you can attempt to ask Kimi Raikkonen whilst dodging a right hook at the same time, Ferrari engines just go and on. And on and on Energizer Bunny style.

Yes, you all are probably thinking this is all fodder to a Ferrari basher as myself but as I said, I will acknowledge that these are Paul Stoddarts allegations with no direct evidence in support. So its whether or not you believe in this man.

After this story, comes the latest development in that Ferrari have committed themselves to the Concorde (or is it a new Concorde now) until 2012. Read this story on PlanetF1 here. Bernie Ecclestone of course would be totally chuffed by this. He's won the battle and one can say the war. With Ferrari on his side he doesn't need the rest. The side that wins Ferrari's support automatically wins the support of the vast majority of fans worldwide. However, would it be such a surprise given Ferrari's favoured status in the current world championship? A couple of years ago, I speculated in this Blog that Ferrari's membership of the GPWC was puzzling given the arse licking it receives from Bernie and Max.

Perhaps the best answer to that comes from Ferrari themselves who said that "the group had 'served its function' by securing a better commercial deal for everyone." Ah of course, a bargaining chip. An elaborate negotiation tactic between the rulers of Formula 1. The rest of the GPWC members of course are expected to fall in line, although there are no official words from the likes of Mercedes and Renault. Paul Stoddart however, "admitted that the agreement signalled an end to the plan to start a rival world championship, but not GPWC," according to this article on

Silly rules. Political intrigues galore. Secret Documents. Unjust and uneven application of the sporting code and technical regulations written by a team. This is what Formula 1 has degenerated into. Will I still watch it this year? Absolutely, but with a sense of stranger times up ahead. Formula 1 is changing. Like Galadriel, I feel it in the air and the Earth. If I were to distill these changes to a root cause I'd say it's all about the money. Its effect seems to rob the "sport" out of Formula 1 motorsport and instead of being a battle between drivers, its a behind the scenes battles that dominate the headlines these days. GPWC? It was all about getting more money. Ferrari, will get more of it now from Bernie. In addition, they'll still be getting it of poor blokes like Minardi. Well, according to Paul Stoddart the will.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Haves And Have Nots

When we first brought Formula One to Malaysia, we had only karting and Formula One in our country -- Sepang Chairman.

This headline of and this one on PlanetF1 I'm sure would have caused a few raised eyebrows in Malaysia.

No arguments with our former prime minister's son. Malaysia has benefited from hosting a Formula 1 event every year since 1999. I know quite a few retail people for whom the Formula 1 weekend is an absolute make or break time during the year. With lots of foreign cash flowing in, retail outlets stand to make a killing during this time. Not to mention, hotel, lodging and tour operators as well. Plus, knowing that a can of Coke goes for 50p or more (RM 3.50) in the UK, you can squeeze those Mat Sallehs for some good dosh if you were fortunate enough to be selling refreshments during race weekends.

As a Formula 1 fan of more than twenty years, I can't help but feel very fortunate and thrilled that a race is held in my backyard every year. As I was growing up, it was always a dream of mine to see one held here. And its largely fulfilled. Although I never watched Senna race and despite the fact that Sepang is designed by a complete moron, nevertheless I'm quite chuffed by it all.

Those of you who read this Blog regularly would know that something's up. And you'd be right. Sepang's chairman had this to add: "If you look at the kind of facilities that we have in Sepang, they have put us on the world map and it has helped us develop a local motorsport industry." Really? Interesting, very interesting. I'd really like to ask the Malaysian racing teams, in what form did this development take place? According to Sepang's chairman: "We have seen a massive growth in local championships, with series such as Formula BMW Asia. When we first brought Formula One to Malaysia, we had only karting and Formula One in our country."

I think a lot of Malaysian racing teams beg to differ. When Formula 1 first ran in 1999, there was a lot more than just karting in the country. Does the Sepang chairman forget that there was a strong Proton championship being held at the time? Did he not know that races, even though they were amatuer events, were being held regularly at the former Shah Alam circuit and even more so at the Johor Pasir Gudang racing circuits? Surely he must remember that the Merdeka Mellenium Endurance race evolved from the all Proton Merdeka race?

I see their point of view now. As you may know, Formula BMW and Karting in Malaysia are the sport of the rich. Look at the competitors in these events and you'd quickly realise they are either rich on their own merit, or are the sons of well connected, affluent Malaysians. Most of these lads are talentless but they have cash.

Of course, one may argue that motorsport takes up a lot of dosh and talent amounts to the square root of bugger all if you don't have it but does it necessarily have to be the case all the time? The Sepang chairman cites the case of our Alex Yoong, recently rated 0 out of 10 in PlanetF1. Here was a well connected individual who somehow managed to reach the pinnacle of motor racing. And failed, miserably and is now quite unheard of and perhaps best kept so. And yet, I know of many Malaysians, who had bags of talent but simply did not know the right crony or businessman to finance themselves. I argue that for every one of these talented individuals that I know of, there has to be another 100 others hidden somewhere in Malaysia, destined never to receive their chances because they do not have the "right parents." Of those talented individuals that I know of, I would say they could all take on Alex Yoong and blow his doors off.

Maybe I take the Sepang chairman's words wrongly, but it would seem that recognition is given only to the Haves and the championships that they run in. Formula BMW is supposed to be the glamorous stepping stone to single seater glory but to a vast majority of Malaysians, it is completely irrelevant. The average Malaysian doesn't get to drive single seaters of that sort and does not identify with the rich kids who do get to drive them. They are just left forgotten and are mere annoyances I suppose to the people in Sepang.

Because of this lack of identification with the drivers, the average Malaysian largely ignores them. It is ironic that when the Super Series races are held in Malaysia, the grandstands in Sepang are woefully empty. Ever wonder why there are no pictures of crowds attending these races? Because there are no crowds to speak of. If you wanted a serene and relaxing time, come to Sepang. The grandstands are as clear as the Scottish highlands. Oh, just noisy every couple of minutes or so.

The Merdeka Millenium Endurance Race is another example. In previous years when the vast majority of entrants ran Protons, there were enormous crowd support. That's because the blokes that usually run in Protons are your average Malaysian. They in turn attract their friends, friends of friends, family, friends of family, fiances, in laws and practically the entire village to come out and see them compete. Again, the point is whether or not the crowd identifies with the competitors.

Nowadays with the rule changes, the race attracts a lot of foreign entrants and of course the Porsche driving businessmen, but the crowds simply find these people irrelevant. And so, as I watched the 2003 MME, I was simply confounded that the premier racing event in Malaysia failed to attract anyone at all. You'll find more people attending the Saturday night Drag Battle at Sepang than at the MME or a Formula BMW race for that matter.

The point here is if you can't attract the crowds then how are you going to attract the big name sponsors who are just interested in big crowds? If you don't attract sponsors, how will it make it worth the while of the talented but averaged income Malaysian to make themselves known and compete? And what about the Malaysian teams? Without sponsorship how would they compete against foreign teams. Motorsport development should not just be about drivers. Local motorsport expertise should be developed as well. And I'm not just speaking of some select few engineers in Petronas getting posted to Sauber. If one looks at Hong Kong for instance, because of the support they get from crowds and sponsors, their local teams get enormous benefits and are able to develop their own technologies and expertise. Some Japan GT teams evolved from illegal street racing to become top teams in one of Japan's premier motorsport category. This wouldn't have come about had they not received the grass roots support from the crowd and sponsors over the years. Now isn't that real motorsport development?

A whole motorsport eco system needs to be developed starting from the very bottom and encompassing drivers, teams, sponsors and support from the crowds. As it stands in Malaysia, that eco system is either non existent or is very weak. To say that the introduction of Formula BMW is a motorsport development for the country is ludicrous. Formula 3 and Touring Cars are the top categories in the UK but below them are sustained and thriving championships that feed into these categories. From racing old Porsche 924s, E30 BMWs, Minis, Citroen 2CVs to Formula Ford and Formula Vauxhall. All of them enjoy the support of crowds and sponsors. All of them involve teams and competitors developing their own expertise to be the best and be the next Adrian Reynards, David Richards, Ron Dennis and Mika Hakkinens. Anyone observing championships run in the UK will note that the vast majority of them are budget racing categories aimed not at the super rich but at those who are trying to make it. Hell, I've even had a few friends racing old BMWs and Porsches for an entire summer in the UK spending less than 3000 sterling a year! That's cheaper than racing karts for a season I think. These categories are aimed at seperating the geniuses from the merely talented and the hopeless. But this I think is something the establishment in Malaysia fail to see.

If everything is biased towards the rich select few, the really talented get missed out. I see a lot of individuals with petrol running in their veins but without money to burn simply walk away never to be seen again. It is a sad state. In frustration, a lot of kids who've got speed in their blood end up endangering their lives and worse still the lives of others on the roads on weekends because they'll never get a shot at proper racing. As it stands, the powers that be simply doesn't care. To them motorsport development is simply development of the rich man's racing. I hope he proves me wrong someday but I'm not holding my breath.

If only the establishment would simply open their eyes to an entire class of forgotten talent, then the racing industry of this country would really have a chance to flourish. Quite rightly, the Sepang chairman points out, we have superb infrastructure. So where is the industry to use such great facilites? Forget about pampering the rich, they can fend for themselves. It is the financially challenged talent that needs your help Mr Chairman of Sepang, sir. They do deserve consideration and not merely something to ignore or forget. If you do this, you'll quickly find that a whole phenomenon waiting to happen, recalling the glory days of the 70s and early 80s when motorsports were actually big in this country. Those massive crowds waiting to cheer on their heros, people they know and identify with, are going to quickly fill up those empty grandstands of yours and in turn make your circuit and the government a helluva lot of cash. In turn, you'll create a sport that brings out the best. Peopl who will make this country proud at the world stage. Then, we wouldn't have to apologize for another embarassment in the world's premier racing series.

Mr Todt's Comments

Michelle Yeoh's beau appears in the news once again here on PlanetF1, here and here on, with comments on qualifying, testing limits and the so called "isolation" that Ferrari are faced with by the other teams.

Todt seems to think that the isolation is simply the consequence of winning too much in recent times. When Ferrari weren't so dominant reasoned Todt, such isolation was not as pronounced. Its all arguable of course. Some may point to the Ferrari's political behaviour in the past and unlimted supply of Fiat lires providing them unrivalled facilities and financial firepower as the cause of the isolation. Teams obviously can't spend as much as they do, so how the hell do you compete? And yet hope still remains that some will. At least they will once Michael Schumacher retires. Others may point to Ferrari's chumminess with the FIA as another source of isolation. There are many causes Mr Todt and Ferrari themselves have as much to do with this as the others being sour grapes.

Ferrari according to Todt will be limiting their in-season testing to some 15000 km. A few weeks ago the party line was, we'll test till we drop. Our money to waste, blah, blah, blah. We'll see about testing limits Mr Todt. I wonder if Williams or McLaren are leading you mid season, whether you will indeed keep to this so called self imposed limits. Or will Luca, now at the helm of Fiat, be pouring the Euros and Lires to your rescue.

Ferrari have a big habit of presenting themselves as the innocent injured party time and time again. They've got this routine down pat. When the other teams do it, it comes of as whining. When Ferrari do it, they potray themselves as this sweet innocent little team simply trying to do their best against the hordes of big car manufacturer teams trying to gobble up the rabbit. That's just good PR I suppose. Same tactic the mafioso used to employ back in their heydays. Like the mafioso though, Ferrari conceals more political intrigue, money, facilities and sheer size than any other team. I would venture even more so than Toyota. I think the figure stands at 1.5 billion pounds sterling over the last five years. Try asking Minardi to do the same.

But I think Jean Todt's comments on the qualifying format are absolutely true to the point. The old 12-lap quali system being a much better spectacle than this current sad state of affairs. Jean Todt of course speaks from Ferrari's ass when he says that the present format was introduced with the sole intention of penalizing Ferrari. Its original itention I believe was to limit mileage and tyre usage. Plus it was thought that there would be more chances for top drivers to end up at the back thus improving the spectacle with more overtaking during the race. This of course has failed miserably I believe. Yes, bring back the 12 lap format. In fact bring back the unlimited lap format. Watching qualifying back in those days was even better than watching the race itself.

Speaking of qualifying, I'm getting confused just reading about the new system for this season. I don't know if the FIA is becoming such a bureaucratic organization that its actually spilling off into its regulations. I simply fail to see how it will spice up the show. I imagine the TV companies have something to do with it, but really they're going to lose out a lot of audiences worldwide with this silliness. KISS. Keep it simple, stupid. Just let them all go banzai for as much as they want. After all, testing is going to be extremely limited in this 19 race season. So let em go during qualifying.

GT4 Update

If the Nurburgring is the Matrix then you can call me Neo. If you've ever watched Kurosawa Motoharu aka Gan-San belting the Honda NSX-R at the Ring in 7m 56s, you'd know that he probably needed every ounce of his considerable skills, thrashing the poor NSX to within an inch of its life. The guy looked exhausted after his banzai lap. Me, I did the trick in comfort in 7m 47s.

Hmmm Kazunori. Its a little bit cloud cuckoo land right now. Much as I love the NSX, I know that there's no way it'll make it in 7m 47s. Not when the likes of a Pagani Zonda can only do it in roughly 7m 44s in real life. But as I said, call me Neo. The only thing missing right now is a cool looking bullet time slow mo crushing all my rivals to oblivion.

I've amassed enough cash and some cools cars in my garage. I bought myself an M3 CSL the other day (if only real life is as cool as the GT4 MATRIX!). Took it for a spin round the Ring. Found it to be understeering and proceeded to lambast it as a waste of credits to my rivals. As happens in real life, I ended up shooting myself in the foot with that one. Having switched off the traction and stability controls, the car proves to be well... just right and 7m 46s round the Ring later, I had to eat my words. Dammit!

I won myself an M3 GTR in the "M" Power BMW one make race. I expected this bad boy to be a lot quicker than a CSL. But there really isn't much difference between the two. A quick glance at its specs shows 380bhp V8 and 1350kg for the GTR and 360bhp 6-cyl and 1385kg for the CSL. They feel the same.

So I took the GTR for some races. I had it lightened to race specs, fitted with race suspension and gearbox. Unlike some rivals though, I like to leave the engine untouched as it gives me a nicer challenge against the computer. Hey man, you're talking to Neo here ok? The GTR thus equipped feels better than standard but at the Ring, it can't get the better of bumps and dips. The backend's a bit too loose. I think I'd need to adjust the corner weights backwards in this case. After lightening the car its very nose heavy. An even better solution would be an aerodynamic one. So into the tune shop I go and fit it with a absolutely gigantic GT rear wing!! That's more like it. My rivals would probably regard this as blasphemously Japanese-like but I don't care. So finally some BMWs worth driving. Unlike the awful 328Ci in the previous versions of Gran Turismo.

For a great challenge try competing in the Japan GT races with a Nismo LM concept race car. Turn off the traction and stability controls. Rely solely on you thumbs or right foot to balance the car's traction. Its simply transforms the game. I do admit to keeping traction control in GT3 but if you switch it off in GT4, the game becomes absolutely thrilling. Of course, some rivals I know of will keep everything switched on because they are wusses.

With traction control switched off, the slightest twitch of your thumbs will light up your rear tyres in a blaze of tyre smoke. So you'd better learn how not to simply jump on the power. You need to feed it in smoothly for a good lap time. Of course the computer controlled cars are doing this automatically and much easily so they'll quickly catch up with you.

All in all, great fun so far providing hours of thrills and spills. A little more realism for the next version, Kazu? In fact make it hyper realistic. Neo could use more of a battle.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Piquet Jr Talks Too Much

I can't believe these young punks these days. Take Nelson Piquet Jr. In, they carry a headline about him. He claims he's like Senna. Read it here.

No Mr Piquet, Ayrton Senna you are not. Besides, I don't think your dad would like you very much if you were a lot like Senna. Piquet Sr. after all, never allowed discretion to keep him from heaping scorn and filth on the late triple world champion. Among his kinder description of Senna was to call him "handbrake," after being stuck behind Ayrton for the entire length of the 1987 Japanese Grand Prix. Ayrton, of course drives with eyes behind his head and there was simply no way for Piquet Sr. to get by. In the end, Nelson's brakes ironically gave away and he retired in the pits.

But back to the discussion at hand. This lad Piquet Jr. has some small talent, I suppose. A quick check of his profile here will reveal some successes particularly in the South American F3 championship. There's also the win in the British Formula 3 championship last year, his second in Formula 3. In his first season in Britain he finished third despite a clutch of pole positions and fastest laps. Well, just how many Formula 3 championships does little Piquet need to compete in? Ayrton Senna only did it once in England and dominated the championship beating Martin Brundle.

And then there's Macau. Again, at this, perhaps one of the toughest race tracks in the world Ayrton Senna came, saw and conquered. QED. Little Piquet has competed in two Macau GPs, both times he found himself hapless in 22nd or something or other. I can probably forgive the first time but if after that you still haven't got the hang of things, you probably aren't very good. If this guy was battling out front, I'd say he's got it. However, he doesn't and it really doesn't bode well for him. The Macau GP together with the Marlboro Masters the one of THE events a young driver must master. Little Piquet has failed miserably.

To put his achievements into light, even the always hapless Alex Yoong, one of Malaysia's biggest embarrasements, managed 10th or 11th on the grid at Macau before he went about doing his greatest party trick i.e. crashing. Even this poor soul has managed better results than our Little Piquet.

Well, I might be wrong about him in the future. But hey, up until now, if one judges his achievements against Senna, as our Little Piquet has done, you will find him wanting. Senna roared relentelessly from Formula Ford all the way to Formula One. There was a sense of inevitability about him. You could tell he was a world champion and nothing could stand in his way.

Piquet does not have that ruthless Genghis Khan-like crushing competence of a Senna let alone a Schumacher. Williams and other top teams would be best advised against taking him on board in the future. I feel this lad will end up the way of Jan Magnussen. Won the British Formula 3 championship but completely fizzled when he stepped into Formula 1 and McLaren. He ended up on his merry way to Indycars instead.

Some people are born to be world champions. Nelson Piquet Sr. was one of them. Nelson Piquet Jr is a waste of a top teams time.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Gran Turismo 4: Kurosawa Motoharu Beaten

Well Gan San, it had to happen. Inevitable in Playstation land I guess. Your 7m 56s record with the NSX Type-R has been smashed by yours truly last night. My time? 7m 54s. A sense of mission accomplished is prevalent right now. I had help though, from Mr Gan San himself. I watched a Best Motoring video of him in the NSX Type R during his Nordschleife run.

I noticed that apart from a couple of corners in second, he takes the vast majority of the tighter bends in third gear. In GT4, the game itself would recommend taking the same bends in second. In the end, I followed Gan San and where I would normally use second, I now used third. The effect of this I think is to maintain smoothness in the turns. Especially important given the dips and bumps of the Nordschleife.

If you watched Gan San's lap of the Nordschleife, you will notice how violent it seems in the in-car footage. Gan San absolutely canes the engine to within an inch of its life. Gan San of course is able to take corners a lot more smoothly since he's operating a steering wheel whereas I'm hacking away on the PS2 controller. From the Best Motoring footage, you'll also notice that the circuit is a lot bumpier in real life than in the game. But I suppose if they made it too realistic in PS2 it would be near impossible for you to operate the controller.

GT4 creator Kazunori has smoothed out a lot of the real world bumps but nevertheless he has kept the major dimps and bumps and quite nicely as well, the camber changes of the Nordschleife. I guess if you really wanted the real experience, you must go to the Nurburgring to get it. Which I will, in my lifetime. I don't care when but I must go there.

When playing the game in PS2 its easy to forget the harsh realities of the Nordschleife. After all, one is probably sitting on a sofa when playing the game. All nice and comfortable. So its easy to forget how scary the track is in real life. All those fast corners can be really hazardous to your health if you get it wrong. The bends are incredibly fast. Exciting for sure. Fun to play and even better to drive in real life. But you sure need a lot of minerals.

Playing GT4 has made me realise exactly why the circuit has been banned from Formula 1. It simply is too dangerous. Put it this way, its fast enough in the BMW M5 and Ruf RGT, road cars to be sure. The sense of speed you get in them is incredible. In Formula 1 cars it would probably seem like suicide. But this is no reason for morons like Hermann Tilke to ignore classic circuits like the Nordschleife, Brands Hatch and Spa. There are lessons to be learnt here. Drivers love to drive flat out on fast circuits. And by fast we mean circuits with fast flowing corners. The idiot Tilke insists on giving us hairpin after hairpin. This is incredibly boring. I'd bet that if you analysed overtaking in Formula 1, you'd find that happen a lot on fast circuits and hardly any in Tilke's works of horrors.

Oh well. Enough of ranting. Selected times from last night:

1. BMW M5 - 7m 39s (I can confirm this. But I still made a few mistakes here)
2. Honda NSX Type R - 7m 54s (Mission accomplished. Will Gan San hire me now?)
3. Honda Integra Type R - 8m 34s (At last, a more decent time besting my Altezza and the BMW 330i)

A little bird whispered in my ear that one of my rivals has done an 8m 32s lap with the 330i. Hmmm..... I suppose battle has really commenced now. I ought to be able to top that but I don't think it'll be in the Altezza. Pity. But of course the Altezza is an old car and I hadn't been using Gan San's technique during the banzai lap.

The Integra is still beset with understeer which really ruins it. At the Schwedenkreuz bend for instance, in a rear wheel drive car you could probably take it anywhere between 210-225 km/h, but even at 210km/h the Integra is understeering badly and needs to slow down some more to take the bend. Plus in the tighter turns like Aremberg and Berkwerk you can feel the PS2 controller tugging away as you put the power down. Of course there is also understeer. While it lacks the nth degree of handling balance, it makes up for by its gear ratios. The ratios are short and close. As if someone put a lower final drive in it. That's quite nice.

My favourite stretch of the Ring? Probably from Bergwerk to the Karussell. Although the run from the Karussell to the Schwalbenschwanz gives you a good sequence of third to fourth gear technical workouts. My favourite single place is probably Adenauer Forst. Prior to that you'll be flat out in fifth or sixth, then you'll need to drop to fourth for a fast sweep then third for Adenauer Forst. That fourth gear bend is incredibly satisfying if you get your brakes tapped just right. Hohenrain is pretty damned hair raising. You're in seventh coming from Tiergarten in the M5 at 290km/h. Get it wrong and you're completely f@#%-ed. Oh I just don't know. It all seems bloody good to me. The only boring part is probably the last bend of the circuit. The rest are just brilliant works of art.

Well, seems like now that I've beaten Gan San, I'll start concentrating more on getting along in the Simulation mode. Time to take my EK4 Civic for some Honda one make races and earn some serious cash to buy better machinery.

Watch this space!

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Gran Turismo 4 : Ring Update

Last night, I was feeling dreadful, with a massive headache and a slight fever. However, this is nothing that a couple of Paracetemols and a spot of GT4 driving couldn't fix. Right now, in the Simulation mode as you can expect wish limited credits, you have to slowly build up the garage before some real fun begins. So, for now serious fun means Quick Race - Time Trials at the Nordschleife. And why not? The track is massive fun and its a tough one to remember.

My selection of cars were described in my last article, a short review of GT4. Anyway, without further ado, here are some selected times below. Now remember, these are standard cars with no modifications whatsoever, driven with the ASC and TCS very much switched off.

1. BMW M5 (2005) - 7m 42s (I think! I'm not exactly sure but I think this was the time)
2. Honda NSX Type R (2002) - 7m 58s (Very satisfying)
3. BMW M3 (2003 - non CSL) - 8m 05s (Tricky car with massive understeer!)
4. Toyota Altezza RS 200 (1998) - 8m 38s (Very proud of my baby!!)
5. BMW 330i (2005) - 8m 40s (A massive blow to my Mat Salleh car obsessed GT rivals!)
6. Honda Integra Type R (2001) - 8m 42s (Very suprised about this - see below)
7. Peaugot 206 S16 - ???? (I was so bored with this slow car I stopped halfway)

As you can see from the times, I am still in the process of learning the 'Ring. With all of these times, I was kinda making one mistake or another. The BMW M5 I described to you guys yesterday. Its absolutely unbelievable. But on second thoughts despite its surprising agility and undoubted straight line speed, 1700kg does tell. The NSX feels a lot more agile and with its downforce more stable. Perhaps its because the M5 is so bloody quick on the straights, its also a much more hairy ride.

I don't quite like the BMW M3. Yes its quick. In a straight line its 340 bhp has the NSX licked. But in the sweeps, it had more understeer and was not particularly agile in the slow ones. Its got grip but it hasn't got balance. I was quite disappointed by it and expected a whole lot more. You know the problem right? No, my rivals, I am good at GT, so its not me. The M3 has too much weight like all modern BMWs. Yes, yes I know an M3 CSL would cream it and there's the M3 GTR. Still a sports saloon ought not to be heavy.

With the NSX, I was looking to beat its real world Ring time of 7m 56s. Bloody hell, I could've beaten that too had I not be too enthusiastic a few corners from the end. Coming into the 3rd last corner (a second gear right), I approached it way too fast from 260 km/h and had a sort of half spin and lost loads of time. To Add to that I made some small errors in the middle sector. Otherwise, Mr Gan, you're going down baby! I believe a 7m 55s or even lower is entirely possible.

One time I was particularly proud of was the 8m 38s posted by my very own real world car, the Toyota Altezza RS200. Woo wooooo! It beat a car 7 years its junior (BMW 330i). So where's the 255 bhp now bozo? I'll tell you where, all gone to support your fat ass weight. Jeez, I mean BMW are so into cossetting cronies and mistresses in order to broaden its appeal and raise its sales that I sometimes think its lost all its essence. No, actually the essence is there but all this added weight gained to comply with regulations and please wannabes has completely hidden it. To the boys in Munchen. Please remember you once built great cars like the original Mk 1 BMW M3. That's the sort of car you ought to be building. Not these mistress mobiles.

OK, to be honest, the BMW 330i was the car I was using to learn the Ring with. Its actually a very good handling car, much more forgiving than the overrated M3. And it rolls less than my Altezza. So on its Banzai lap, I must admit to being a little cautious. I know I should be able to make up that 2 second gap to the Altezza. I'll bet it would actually be handy in a fight with the Altezza. Playing a two person game against your mates, one using the 330i and one using the Altezza should result in massive fun.

So we turn our attention to the Altezza RS 200. I was so proud of my little baby. Only 2.0 litres, but with good balance, neutral handling and massive body roll! She lacks ultimate grip. But when she breaks away, she does it nicely. As the people at Best Motoring and Hot Version would say, she's an adult sports car. If you and your mates organized a standard production battle limited to normally aspirated 2.0 litres (No Touring Cars!!), this would be the weapon of choice. Forget the BMW 120i, it would get creamed.

Last but one is the Honda Integra Type-R. Now, I'm a bit mystified but this one. I did make mistakes on its banzai lap. But still, I'd expect it to cream the Altezza and the 330i. That it did not was massively disappointing. Hmmm..... I'm not sure if I should get one in real life now. The problem is front wheel drive. It actually makes the Type-R very stable on the high speed straights. Its hard to unsettle the car over the Ring's dips and bumps. But it suffers frustrating understeer. Whereas with the M5, you can use its power and rear wheel drive to tighten your line, such antics will cause you to go straight ahead in the Integra. Its very quick in a straight line, enough to rival the 330i. But in the 2nd to 4th gear bends you have to slow down way too much to kill off the understeer. Very disappointing but this is probably true to real life.

The Peaugot 206 S16 suffers pretty much the same symptoms as the Integra. Understeer, understeer and more understeer. By now, it should dawn on you that I bloody well hate bloody understeer. I just don't know how my GT enemies cope with so much understeer. Oh well, I know for sure that if this is the quality of cars they expect to take me on with, I'm in for a winningly good time. Mwah ah ah. In the middle of the lap, I got really bored with the 206 and just stopped.

Yes, my rivals are by now screaming foul play. After all, there were no modifications to the cars. "Settings" have not been done, blah blah blah. But we'll get to that ok? In the meantime, I'm particularly looking forward to sampling cars like the M3 CSL and GTR, Bentley Speed 8, the Williams built BMW V12 LMR and especially the McLaren F1 GTR. Yummy. There's a whole host of other cars as well too many to list down.

I do have one particular gripe with the game though. Whilst the number of cars have increased, most of it are K-Cars, antique cars, sport trucks (what the f!@# ?), mini vans and the like. That is to say, lots of car irrelevant to the world of high performance. Of course if you were the sort thats into K-cars and sport trucks you can now really join in the fun. I suppose my rivals and I will be setting up some sort of categories for racing sport trucks. But no crony cars!!! No BMW 7 series or S Class Mercedes. I was bloody well looking forward to these but its not available in GT4. Not this Japanese version anyhow.

Some websites were mentioning the availability of the Lamborghini Murcielago and Gallardo (my favourite) but checking the credits on GT4 does not reveal any mention of Lamborghini at all. It seems that the big supercar makers Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche will not be joining us in GT. Such a pity. I'm not sure why this is the case but it must have something to do with perhaps Electronic Arts locking up the rights to these manufacturers. But good of Kazu to find us a way somehow to drive the McLaren F1.

Enough talk. Must go back to work. Tonight, more GT action!

Monday, January 10, 2005

GT4 Review

Toyota has just launched their TF105. So what? It's that time again that happens once every two or three years. Yes ladies and gents, the good folks of Polyphony Digital have done it again. The latest edition of Gran Turismo is now out. Its been out in Japan since December 28 in fact. Its time again to ignore your partners and give full attention where its due. On the racetracks.

Graphics, Sound And Music
I was a little disappointed with the graphics. That is to say, I had expected a lot more. Of course the background scenery has been improved tremendously but the rendering of the cars themselves haven't changed much. It is an improvement but not a quantum leap. Think of the difference between GT1 and GT2 and you will begin to understand. An evolution rather than the revolutionary leap between GT2 and GT3. I suppose Kazunori and his team have done the best they can from the Sony PS2 graphics engine. We'll just have to wait for PS3 to see vastly improved graphics.

Whilst I did mention improved rendering of the cars but then again, some things, like no driver in the driver's seat makes it look awfully wierd. This only applies to tintops. If your car is a convertible or open top, then you'll see a driver in the seat complete with action movements.

I'm not sure if its rendering errors or if its intentional but on distance shots the picture does tend to get jittery. Not necessarily bad but I'm not sure what they intended right there.

On the music front, I really miss the Cardigans and "My Favourite Game" on the title screen. Now it starts with an operatic score leading to some electric guitar muzak. Not very inspirational. The background music during the games are not so bad. I did hear Elvis though. Could've been someone else and you can check this. Before a soundtrack plays, the title and musicians name appears on the bottom of the screen.

All in all, the graphics, music and sound effects are of the usual high standards you'd expect from Polyphony. These folks have a way of squeezing every ounce from the PS2 but you'd of course expect that if this were an XBox game it would look way better. I must say though it does not in any way make the game less appealing. After all, those people who emphasize too much on graphics, people like pretentious art directors and graphics card geeks, are simply missing the point of the game. That is the driving.

Driving Impression
This is the heart and soul of Gran Turismo. Thankfully for the latest installation, the driving is much much improved over previous versions, living up to its name as the "Real Driving Simulator." As I said at the beginning, those of you who're used to GT3 will quickly acclimatise. For immediate thrills you can go to the Quick Races (or whatever it says in Japanese). There you may choose between "Real" circuits i.e. the ones that do exist in the real world, "Street" circuits for those who enjoy a spirited drive along the roads of some famous cities around the world, "Original" circuits that have been created by Polyphony. Of course, you must go the the "Real" section first. And why not? The first track you get is the Nordschleife.

As you may imagine having only received the game yesterday I haven't yet had time to go over most cars so I selected just a small sample to get a feel for the driving. This included the 2005 BMW M5 (standard), the standard BMW M3, Honda NSX-R (standard), Ruf RGT, the Spoon S2000 race car and my very own real life car, the Toyota Altezza RS200. I chose the Altezza because its the only comparison I have to a real world car.

The first thing you notice is the brakes. Standard cars dive and dive a whole lot. Its quite disconcerting at first but you get used to it. The Spoon race car had enormous brakes but if you brake hard for a hairpin for instance, the car begin its fishtailing rituals. The RUF's rear weight bias tells on hard braking, the momentum of its rear engine makes the car spin around like Kylie. The simulation of braking performance is much much improved over GT3. In GT3, braking was always a sedate affair no matter what car you drove. What I mean of course is that the car would always point where you want it to even under extreme braking. The only worry you'd have is understeer. With GT4 you'll have to contend with nosedives, fishtails and step on oversteer.

The other thing you notice especially at the Nordschleife is that during fast straights, standard cars will "float." This is especially frightful at the Nordschleife where you often will be in 5th or 6th gear balls out flat into a corner doing some ridiculous speed. The car's floating and suddenly there's a bump or the camber of the road starts to change. You're guaranteed to have a "Whoaaa oh me god" moment. The Nurburgring though is the perfect race track. Drive it people, and you'll know what I mean when I say that its the best track in the world. Its the definition of fast and flowing. Plus its got every conceivable type of corner there is. You'll quickly realise why all the major performance car manufacturer test their products there.

The Nordschleife tests all the major aspects of a car. You'll need mechanical grip, straight line speed, handling balance, high speed stability and aerodynamic downforce, suspension compliance and every other thing bar the kitchen sink to do well over there.

The modelling of road surface and camber changes have also been vastly improved. If there was one thing I thought very strange in GT3 was the fact that tracks were too smooth. In the real world though, circuits do have their bumps and undulations, that unsettle cars. GT4 has brought this to the fore and it feels great. I would imagine, you could use GT4 for finding initial base settings in a car. A pity then that circuits close to me like Sepang are not in. I bet you'd get loads of racerboys using GT4 for setup work then.

Of the cars I tested the BMW M5 impressed me the most. Sure it has a 500bhp V10 but it weighs something like 1700kg, so you'd expect rhinocerous like agility. Not so. Somehow in GT4 (and I assume in real life) BMW has completely sorted this car out. Not only is it stupendously quick in a straight line and it brakes on a dime as well. Like all modern BMWs it has a tendency to understeer but not so much that you'd be pulling your hair out in frustration. At the Nordschleife I managed to take it to 290km/h plus in seventh on the back stretch prior to the start and finish. The Nordschleife is not an easy circuit to learn what with the endless number of corners. So having those enormous brakes help a whole lot.

Nevertheless, there was one particular run I did that resulted in a huge spin. I somehow was on the verge of the blacktop and a wheel touched the grass at 290 km/h. Whereas in GT3 you'd still be pretty safe, in GT4 the car started to gyrate from side to side as I tried to counter and added to the aerodynamic lift and the fact that I lifted the throttle, at that speed I eventually lost it and round and round it went. Brilliant. This is much more like it, more realistic. Oh and of course I switched off the traction control and automatic stability control. Only wimps need to use that.

I also tested a Peugot 206 S16 for good measure since its a front wheel drive car and also I know for a fact that it will be used by many.... enemies. So I just wanted to see what my garage collection will be faced with. A front driver like the 206 feels like crap what with all that understeer it faces. For sure, it was only a standard model but the Civic EK Type R I purchased in the simulation mode has got it licked. Another car that disappointed was the BMW M3 although this was a standard version and not the CSL. It simply did not perform as well as the BMW M5. Put it this way, the M5 easily put the Ruf RGT to shame. But again I must stress, these were the standard cars and not the race varieties.

GT4 is a massive piece of gaming software. Its going to take months if not years to complete it all but I'm sure its going to be spectacularly good fun. In GT4, I would say that a steering wheel control and brake pedals would really benefit the player. Again, the physics model of the game is far far superior to GT3. The revolution may not have happened in terms of graphics but it sure as hell happened with the gameplay. Get your copies today maties. And see you in a couple of years!

Friday, January 07, 2005


PlanetF1 has this interesting editorial here discussing among other things, the plans for the GPWC rival series in 2008. Underlying this of course is the share of revenues allocated to the competing teams. The article goes further and discusses the structure of those F1 revenues. Revenues from Formula 1 come mainly from the payment from the circuits themselves, TV products and from that corporate fat cat crony pampering Paddock Club, which as you may guess provides corporate entertainment.

As is widely known, the teams receive some 45% of the revenues from the main source of revenues that is the TV revenues. The market for this of course runs into the billions but then the teams collectively spend billions as well to compete (successfully or not). The teams quite understandably want more of these revenues. After all, in the spectacle that is Formula 1, the cost of providing that spectacle is borne mainly by the teams.

As an example take that brand spanking new hideous Hermann Tilke creation, the Shanghai circuit. Granted it costs something like USD 300 million or so. But if one considers that Ferrari's budget for the year exceeds this amount then one will have an understanding of the team's grievances. Essentially the Greedy One gets a free ride. I would estimate that 90% of the cost of Formula 1 is borne by the teams but they get only 45% of the revenues.

One might argue that actually its the sponsors that bears these costs but then one would forget that the sponsors are there as part of their marketing efforts and gain back tons more from the worldwide exposure. Sponsors like PC Suria (Oh My God!!!) being the exception of course.

Despite his greed, people like Luca di Montezemolo agrees that Bernie has done much good to raise the corporate marketability and awareness of the sport. However, there are limits to what the teams will consider acceptable. Despite getting preferential treatment from the FIA, in the end the bottom line counts. For all you bimbo Ferrari fans out there, the cost of the Ferrari team are actually paid for by parent company FIAT, incidentally now under the control of Senor Montezemolo. Essentially the Ferrari team ARE the FIAT team. The Planet F1 editorial article paints a good picture of the dire straits FIAT are in at the moment. Put simply they can't afford to bankroll the Ferrari budget in perpetuity. If the editorial is correct, very soon their bondholders will have a controlling stake in the company.

Well, there are two ways of getting out of this. First would be to cut cost. This then would be easier on the FIAT coffers. This is something that Ferrari with its wealth of testing and development facilities are loathe to do. So Luca opts for the next approach. That is, to gain more revenues to cover the costs instead. Despite The Greedy One's USD 500 million dollar enticement to the teams, I somehow do not think that will be enough and he is not going to relinquish more monies to the teams any time soon. So, the manufacturers of course band together to create the GPWC, essentially their way to ensuring that more of the profits from the sport reaches their pockets.

If a GPWC breakaway series does kick off, my main interest is in the circuits the series will race on. It is certain that the Greedy One will do everything in his considerable power to prevent the GPWC from racing on so called "Formula 1" circuits. With the exception of Imola, Monza, Suzuka, Spa and Silverstone, I really couldn't give two raised fingers about the rest. Well, maybe I'd still care about Montreal. However, I'd be overjoyed (and many would be too) if I don't see another Tilke designed dog ever again.

Let's speculate. What other circuits could they race on? Well, how about those who don't host Formula 1 races anymore. Circuits like Estoril, Jerez, Paul Ricard, Brands Hatch (yummy...) Brands is particularly apt since most drivers love the back section on the Grand Prix track and why not? It's full of fast flowing corners. Paul Ricard has been refurbished but I hope it still has the ultra quick Signe curve. If not Paul Ricard, the how about a race on the Circuit de La Sarthe? Grand Prix cars at Le Mans? Why the hell not?

Zandvoort in Holland hasn't seen F1 action in a while. Neither has Kyalami in South Africa. We could also bring back the Argentinian Grand Prix and perhaps the Rio circuit in Brazil. Japan could take on another Grand Prix in the Toyota owned Fuji raceway. Australia? No problem. There's always Surfer's Paradise (much more viable then London for instance) or even better yet, the much loved and sorely missed Adelaide street circuit. If Tony George of Indianapolis doesn't agree then the GPWC could go to places like Road America or Laguna Seca instead. Road America especially.

I know this must sound crazy but why don't we simply dispense with the new Nurburgring and go on the Nordschleife instead? Yeah, I know that's mad but I just had to put that in. If all else fails there are still some wonderful circuits in the UK such as Donington Park for instance. Zeltweg in Austria is another fast circuit unspoilt by the hand of the moronic Tilke (I think!). Of course Ferraris' Mugello circuit is another good option.

Hmmm.... it would seem that if they could rope in classics like Spa and Suzuka in their series, I would imagine that from a circuit driving and RACING standpoint the GPWC could prove more interesting than watching Michael Schumacher doing spins on some silly circuit modelled after a Chinese character.

Well, we shall wait and see. Whatever the pinnacle of motorsport turns out to be, F1 or GPWC, that pinnacle will still be faced with a ton of corporate and money politics. As I have often said, it is sad to see the "sport" in motorsport degenerating into a sea of greed and money. But there has to be a pinnacle to decide the true world champion. Hmmm... which brings me to another question. Could a driver compete in both series if the calendar permitted? Another thing to look out for.