News and views on motorsports

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Aero Developments

A good article appears on Pitpass explaining the various aspects of the current "moving floors" controversy. It provides a good explanation of the mechanics of these new aerodynamic developments without the need for the reader to have a degree in aeronautics.

Explained in this manner, what sounds like yet another infringement by the Ferrari team similar to the row over flexi wings, has been made to look, well, kinda cool. I'm actual a sucker for developments of this sort. Its a purely racing innovation, which is the one of the main points of Formula 1 in my opinion. That is to be the pinnacle of racing technology.

Rules of course are rules. And at the end of the day, we can all shout and swear at cheats but as we have seen in the past it really depends on what the FIA say. And we all know they tend to show favour towards Maranello. But also, as the article on Pitpass maintains, the FIA generally will not take any strong action unless new innovations result in a compromise of safety or results in an unacceptable competitive advantage.

I think we can discard the argument regarding unacceptable competitive advantage, for isn't that the job of the teams and the whole point of innovation? Besides, what is new today would have been copied by all teams tomorrow. That being the case, there is a question of whether innovations such as these compromise safety. It may not have a direct safety compromise (such as make the car dangerously unstable or put the driver at risk) but then the FIA are always trying to slow the cars down in the name of safety. Of course there is a risk that if and when these aero parts break (and some examples are given by the Pitpass article), the situation then becomes dangerous and poses a safety concern.

But don't you love it that despite increasingly oppressive regulations, the designers are still trying everything they can to innovate? Its a pity that most of these inventions are not visible to the naked eye. But far be it from being irrelevant to fans, as alleged by Max Mosley, they are actually a source of fascination of the sport.

A good article, with a better explanation than the one attempts to give and with less of's sweep this under the rug away from the public eye attitude. That belittles the public and assumes that they "can't handle the truth."

All in all, I hope the FIA does nothing and doesn't ban these types of innovations and long may it continue.

Monday, March 19, 2007

More Thoughts On The WTCC

I watched last Sunday's WTCC race from Curtibia once again today. The current situation in the WTCC seems quite dire and I just wanted a reminder of the issues at hand. Especially now since SEAT is threatening to leave the series. That would would be disastrous as far as this championship is concerned.

The fact of the matter is the WTCC does tend to pull in the crowds on race weekends. But unlike Formula 1 which not only enjoys better promotion but enjoys better visibility as well in the mainstream media the world over. Whereas the WTCC depends on the championship being close and hard fought. It simply would not do to have a single make of car dominating the championship even though teams running that make of car are battling it out amongst themselves.

In other words, it would be commercial suicide for the KSO or the FIA not to intefere to equalise the performance of the cars in order to ensure close racing. In this day and age where other sports are competing for viewers and all professional sports rely on sponsorship, the entertainment value must be high even though this leads to a dilution of the sport's purity.

In motor racing this means that measures must be taken to ensure the competitiveness of the entire field and to ensure the spectators are fed with entertainment packed races. To me, racing should be free of such "match fixing" but I realise the pressure the folks like KSO are under.

So really, KSO and the FIA must consider very hard the measures to take next. On one hand, there's BMW who over have been very industrious over the winter particularly in the aero department. All that hard work is now paying off and the cars are simply unbeatable. Should they not fully enjoy the benefits of all that effort?

On the other hand, there's SEAT. I completely missed one fact in my previous post. And that is the FIA gave the 15kg advantage to BMW in return for the new rolling start regulations this year. The rolling start is meant to negate the advantages of rear wheel drive cars i.e. BMW during the start of the race. As you know rear wheel drive cars enjoy better traction off a standing start whereas the front drivers are scrabbling for grip.

BMW deftly negotiated with the FIA to hand them an advantage whilst taking away another. But in a championship such as this, where the regulations are formulated to give an equal chance to all types of machinery whether front or rear driven, did the FIA agree to such a thing? It bloody well makes no sense at all. The fact of the matter is front wheel drive will always be at a disadvantage on the circuit. The regulations are meant to equalise this.

And yet the FIA agreed to give BMW the weight advantage. This is complete bullshit. Of course BMW would agree to it. A 15 kg weight advantage is always advantageous to them. For one, a rolling start only equalises performance between the different types of cars. Whereas a weight advantage penalises the front drivers. Plus, the weight advantage is one that lasts throughout the entire race whereas a rolling start is only useful when the lights turn green.

Looking at BMW of course they would find any excuse the get a weight reduction. Thats the reason why they chose to stick with a standard H 5 speed gearbox rather than choose a 6 speed sequential tranny. The 50 kg reduction in weight by choosing the standard H is far more valuable than the time or convenience gained from a sequential box. Otherwise, you can bet that BMW would choose the sequential shifter.

Didn't the FIA see this at all? I'm sure when they offered BMW the deal, Mario Thiessen was simply licking his lips with glee.

As I said in my previous post, now we shall see if it all comes good when the success ballast rules kick in for the next round of the championship. But then again, the SEATs of Yvan Muller and Garbriele Tarquini will also be hit by ballast. I should think the BMWs will still have an advantage and potentially a big one still.

I should think they ought to keep the rolling start and take back those 15kg to make it fair. Anymore than that would be penalising BMW's hard winter work which would then make it unfair to them.

SEAT on the other hand should accept that BMW have worked hard and they should enjoy whatever success they get.

The KSO on the other hand is in between a rock and a hard place. Yes, they can allow the BMW to romp through 2007 to the title. Even though they give back the 15 kg to BMW, I should think there's nothing to stop the Priaulx, Farfus and Muller trio. But can KSO afford the BMWs to run away?

NASCARs success has always rested on the fact that all cars have been made equal and the championship itself marketed as entertainment to the "casual fan." Its disgusting to me and it reeks of "wrestling." But this is a matter of principle. I like my racing pure. On the other hand though, the entertainment value of NASCAR is undeniable particularly to NASCAR fans.

The KSO might dislike Volkswagen Audi Group, of which SEAT is a member, because of all the money they like to spend. But the hard reality is, where else shall the competition come from if not from SEAT. The Alfas have all but packed up. N Technology is the only team remaining but they are competing with a car introduced way back in 2001 and is very long in tooth now. If SEAT leaves (which I really doubt) the series would lack the variety needed. And the entertainment value will also diminish. (The BMW teams are unlikely to engage in argy bargy and high risk overtaking maneuvers no matter how hard they battle)

I don't know if Alan Gow and the BTCC will adopt the rolling start / 15 kilo adjustment in the British Championship. After all, they are running to Super 2000 rules this year. But in the case of the BTCC, the SEATs and Vauxhalls, both running front wheel drive racing cars, are the only works teams. Those running BMWs and Toyota Altezzas (both rear wheel drive) in this series are all privateers. Perhaps Alan will consider giving the 15 kilos to help the privateers along the way.

But I shall stick to my theory which I posted last time. The FIA and KSO are wary of VAG. Perhaps they sought to negate their advantages and spending. But I think it may have backfired in a big way. We await the next round of the WTCC to see how it all works out.

One last thing before I go. Why the hell did the two works SEATs make it so simple for Priaulx and Muller to go past them? They hardly defended their line at all at the end of the main straight in Brazil. For a proper defence, one should look at the way Tom Coronel defended against both the works BMW. The GRAsia car mounted a very stern defence of his position now that they are considered by the regulations to be a manufacturer squad. (They aren't really... no in actuality) And there was just one of him whereas the BMWs were up against two works SEATs. Pathetic!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

2007 Australian Grand Prix

The Steeles of the recently revived F1Talk feared a Ferrari domination this year. They may be right. The way Kimi Raikkonen quite serenely won the Australian Grand Prix is an ominous sign for the other contenders. Serene is perhaps the right word for this race because nothing much really happened. Unless you're English and are absolutely over the moon with Lewis Hamilton's debut.

As in qualifying yesterday, I would have liked to see how Kimi stands against Filipe Massa during a race. Yesterday the Brazilian experienced gearbox and engine troubles. Today, he was following a completely different strategy having to come from right at the back. Yes, Kimi managed to lap him during the course of the race. And that must have been a psychological blow to him. But it would have been interesting to see how Massa would have run under a normal race strategy.

Do I sound like I'm behind Filipe? Well, actually no. For I still think Kimi will beat him over the course of the year. I just hope though that Ferrari will let the both of them duel it out together come what may.

The other team that had any hope of matching the Ferraris were McLaren. But lets face it, Kimi was really toying with them today. Setting that 1m 25.235s fastest lap was just rubbing it into Ron Dennis' face. He didn't need to go anywhere near that lap time and he was still simply pulling away from the two McLarens.

Alonso or Hamilton? For pure speed I think there's very, very little to choose between them. They are both equally as fast. My word, this could be quite a driving partnership for Ron. They've both got long careers ahead of them. One is a double world champion, the other can match the former. One slip, and its easily one or the other. There is very little margin if today's performance is anything to go by. Still, Alonso's strategy was the better one. Yes, Sato got in the way but even if he didn't I estimate Alonso would still have come out ahead of Hamilton at the end.

The ITV commentators were over the moon with Hamilton but lets put things into perspective. The 2005 GP2 champion, Nico Rosberg also had a great debut in the first race last year. Somehow it seems the GP2 championship does prepare a driver quite well for the challenges of Formula 1. And why not? The GP2 cars do have some massive performance all without traction control and other driver aids. But the challenge for Lewis now is to sustain this performance and not fade away like Nico did last year. Although one could say that Williams did not give Nico a great car to show off his talents.

Can McLaren catch up? Well, if you look at their qualy performance particularly on low fuel they do have some pace. Its when the fuel goes in and the races progresses that they seem to lose out to Ferrari. I think McLaren will need to work very hard to get the best out of those Bridgestone tyres if they are to have a chance. On some of the tighter circuits however, I think McLaren have an excellent chance of besting Maranello. The Ferrari you see has a longer wheel base. Great on circuits where aero performance is all important. Not so great in some of the slower bits. Still I think for McLaren, optimizing the aero with the Bridgy tyres is the key. As for driving talent, the do not lack any.

The BMWs much touted long distance pace could eventually was not enough to sustain a challenge to the front runners. But nevertheless, they have vastly improved and I believe they will improve still further as the season progresses and they have a better understanding of the new Japanese rubber.

And I was somewhat disappointed that the Super Aguris could not beat the works Hondas during the race. But Sato beating Jenson was a nice thing to see. Nico Rosberg did well I thought beating both the works Toyotas to seventh ahead of "I'm one of the top three" Ralf Schumacher. The fact that the Toyota engined cars have had a years greater experience on Bridgestone rubber is perhaps one of the reasons why the Hondas simply could not get on terms with their deadly rivals.

Again, if there is to be a Ferrari domination of 2007 I hope the two teammates will put up a good show for the rest of us. Kimi did a supreme job of the race today bar the odd mistake whilst fooling around. It'll boost his confidence and standing with the team and I'm sure he's going to get even better still in the car.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

BTCC 2007

More than any other tin top championship, I'm really looking forward to this year's British Touring Car Championship. The entry list has been confirmed and just look at the variety on offer.

Whereas last weekend's Aussie V8 at the good old Adelaide circuit was a pretty decent affair, it really is a battle between two makes. And likewise in the WTCC, you have basically 4 makes of cars battling it out. And really it boils down to the Beemers vs the SEATs.

The BTCC is boasting a grid of 27 cars comprised of 21 Super 2000 spec cars and just 6 of the outgoing BTC machines. You've got Hondas, BMWs, SEATs, Vauxhalls, Alfas, Toyotas (or as they insist on calling it, Lexus) and MGs, some running different models of the same make. Sounds like a Super Touring series of yesteryears doesn't it? Some bemoan the lack of proper works entries. Only the SEATs and Vauxhalls are run by the factory. But I don't think this is a bad thing. And as Team Dynamics proved last year, its possible to beat the works teams.

However, Matt Neal's going to have a hard year ahead I think. His new Civic Type R is a new car thats never before run on Super 2000 in any other championship. Despite what some folks think, its mainly a private entry. Run by his dad of all people. If he does win some races this year, I would be surprised. As it is they have missed the first testing session of the season which leads many to believe that the car will not be fully prepared come the first race in April. BMW fans will be happy for it buys them a year of bragging rights. Next year should be far different.

I'm always going to have my eye on the Japan only Toyota Altezza, having once owned one. They call it a Lexus IS200 but no Lexus ever ran with the 2 litre Yamaha developed 3SGE engine. The interesting thing of course is that the Toyotas (oh alright, Lexus if you insist) is, like the BMW, a rear drive machine which means that they too will enjoy the latest weight advantages. Unless Alan Gow takes that away. I just hope they develop that car properly and I wish that it was Team Dynamics who're running them. Forget bloody Lexus giving any hand. They're too busy trying to sell luxury.

Fabrizio Giovanardi was fastest in the first official test in the Vauxhall. But if they thought they'd seen the last of the Honda Integras, they are sadly mistaken for Mike Jordan was close to them in testing taking second fastest time. Thankfully for the Vauxhalls, the BTCC spec car will not be competing for main honours this year. Only the Super 2000s will be eligible to take the overall title.

Since the Honda Civics are unlikely to be competitive, I'd back the BMWs for honours. For I simply cannot abide the bloody Vauxhalls and barely can stand the SEATs. Here's to a great year.

Melbourne Qualy Notes

Despite a clear victory for Ferrari in the winter, qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix confirms what many have suspected. Its going to be close.


I would have liked to have seen Filipe Massa complete his flyer for the second part of qualifying. I would like to have seen how he would perform when its game time. Alas, his Ferrari would let him down. I suspect though that when the chips are down, Kimi Raikkonen still has that edge on him. But for sheer value for money, Massa seems like a rock bottom bargain. Massa paycheck being USD 8 million a year compared to Kimi's reported USD 51 million.


In bloody good form I think. Alonso it seems has transitioned very well at Woking and showing the young pup just who carries the world title. Nevertheless, I am impressed by Lewis Hamilton for his very mature debut. Alonso is a dependable driver and you can bet that he is in with a very great chance in tomorrow's race.


The dark horse. Has been quick all winter and nice to see them translate that to big game performance. People have been impressed by their long run performance during testing and this should make these guys quite a dangerous proposition this weekend.

Super Aguri

The story of the weekend if you ask me. Both Sato and Davidson were considered surplus to the factory Honda team's requirements. And see here, they are both ahead of the works team. Superb! When it was first announced that from 2008, teams would be able to purchase chassis, this was the sort of situation that I had hoped would happen. Think RBM vs Schnitzer or Joest Racing vs Porsche or Team Green vs Ganassi. Its great to watch.

Now this won't happen every year or as this very season progresses I suspect. If we look back into the past, I think this is similar to the case of the McLaren MP4/17D of 2003. A year old design suitably updated turned good. But the difference is the MP4/17D had the whole winter. The new Super Aguri had its first run during the practice session.

But given Super Aguri's performance today, you can bet that Frank Williams and Spyker would have been on the phone to the solicitors even before qualifying had ended.

Oh and Clive? Its ahem... Sato not Davidson. But still I think Ant is doing a great job.


Rubbish. Losing Alonso is obviously hitting the Enstone based team really hard. Has been so all winter and so it is today. Say that Alonso is half a second quicker than Fisi on average, and Alonso is still driving the Renault. That would only put him fifth on the grid today and about a second away from Raikkonen's Ferrari. The car is suffering because it now runs on Japanese rubber. This is good if only to shut that perma tanned thrash talking gigolo up. He's been mouthing off during the winter against his former driver and his former driver's new team. Well, eat shit Flav.

Given that the engine freeze has started this year, the only way Renault will catch up is through aero and mechanical development. Well, if Flav and the FIA had their way, there would even be an aero freeze in the future. All very nice if your team is on top but if you want to catch up you're shafted. Well, the Renault is no longer on top and you can bet that Flav will not be so vociferous in his support for Mosley's madness.

Toyota and Williams

I'm a bit surprised by these guys. All weekend the Williams have looked quicker. But on low fuel qualifying they've proven quicker. Just what is up? We'd need to see what happens during the race but I suspect it should be a lot closer between Toyota and Williams. However, the factory team making it into the top 10 is totally unexpected. Lets see if they last the race.


Drop the cynical corporate paint job and call Aguri Suzuki. And start acting like a racing team again rather than simply another corporate department.

Red Bull

Inconclusive but I'm hoping Adrian Newey's design will come good as the year progresses. Still not as quick as the works Renaults but its close.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Bully Boys

The FIA WTCC kicked of at Curtibia last weekend and saw the Schnitzer run Team BMW Deutschland taking two out of two races in the hands of (ugh) Jorg Muller and Augusto Farfus. In both races, reigning champion Andy Priaulx came in second.

The way the Beemers were going there was bound to be protest from the other teams, particularly SEAT. Jorg Muller pretty much sealed the argument for SEAT when he himself confessed to being surprised at just how fast his 320Si was in the straights.

We all know the reason of course. Rear wheel drive confers an advantage on the circuit. And now that the FIA, via its hateful World Motorsport Council, have decided to take away 15kilos out of the rear wheel drive weight limit, the advantage is pressed even further.

Its quite inexplicable why this should be so. However, I shall offer a wildly speculative theory. SEAT you see, falls under the great umbrella of the Volkswagen Audi Group (VAG). And in this group you will also find that other great competitor, Audi. The VAG isn't at all shy about spending money on racing if this brings about their utter domination. Need we mention the Audi R8 and R10. Or howabout one off Le Mans special like the Bentley Speed 8 of a few years ago.

Clearly the VAG want to win and at all costs. Its never said in public but many an organiser fears the presence of the VAG with all their spending power. The WTCC organisers, the Kigema Sports Organisation (KSO) are just one them. **1 VAG have this nasty habit of spending beyond all recognition which forces the other manufacturers to spend more to remain competitive.

Pre season, the SEATs have been through some relentless development work and the intent of VAG is apparent in the number of stars that have been employed to pilot their cars. I would speculate that the FIA deliberately then reduced the weight limits for rear drive cars, effectively meaning BMW.

Now of course, the weight penalties will come into effect after the first round and the Beemers will be saddled with maximum penalties. Will this be enough? We'll wait and see but if previous seasons are any guide, then it ought to be. But yet, SEAT are not happy about the situation at all. After all, the regulations are meant to equalise the cars before the application of weight penalties.

Given that the WTCC rules so tightly formulated, catching up on equal terms will be nigh impossible. With the rules defined as it is, even large amounts of money, VAG amounts of money, will only buy so much improvement. This is precisely the FIA's intentions. But when competitors do not start on equal footing, the weaker party will forever be on the back foot with no way of catching up again.

You might beg the question why SEAT did not make a faster car in the first place. Well, they did given the rules but as usual in this day and age, the FIA loves to arbitrarily change them.

Still I think it could still be a good championship ahead. After all, they mught just rob BMW of their advantage mid season if they start running away with it. And you can bet the FIA will do this. After all, this isn't a "pure" championship in the sense that equalisation and fan entertainment is stated objective. And what do the casual fans care, right?


1. The American Le Mans Series (ALMS) are another one I would imagine. They way Audi loves to run away with championships year on year is proof of their spending abilities. The ALMS favourable nod to the LMP2 class is a way of balancing that out.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Sidewalls And The Dumbing Down Of F1

I found this great article on Linksheaven recently that discusses the latest moves to colour the sidewalls on Formula 1 tyres to differentiate between compounds. It was well thought out and it pulled no punches.

Formula 1 has or is being changed drastically. I would say that in the next five years it would be beyond recognition to the sport I first watched all those years ago. And all for what? Well, Linksheaven (at least in part) has explained it quite nicely in its concise article.

The article mention the dumbing down of grand prix racing to attract the so-called casual fans to the sport and by extension to bring in more revenues. Oh yes, how can one disagree that money and profit are perhaps the only attraction these days. Especially when you speak of CVC and Bernie Ecclestone.

Linksheaven mentions Max Mosley and I would argue that being joined at the hip with Bernie, he would be in full support of any measure to bring in more revenues. However, I believe Max is more motivated by power and image. And therefore witness the attempts to change what is essentially a gloriously rebellious, indulgent, anti-social activity into some sort of green car laboratory.

These miscelleneous goals are in contrary to what the Formula 1 should be which is motorsport in its ultimate form. And since when was motorsport about going green or making money? Motorsport has always been since its early days all about spending money and going fast.

Well, I am glad to see some bloggers (and publications) taking a stand and not afraid to express their true feelings with some colour, instead of so desperately trying to be the next Nigel Roebuck or worse still agreeing to everything the FIA throws at them.