News and views on motorsports

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Team Strategy vs Team Orders

The British media calls it team orders, Ron Dennis insists that its strategy. The FIA has just said that no further action is to be taken but prior to that Bernie was calling for blood.

In the first place, if it is team orders, I would be incredibly surprised these early on in the season from a team that has in the past let both drivers loose on the racetrack. Anyone remember when Prost and Senna were both at McLaren? McLaren has mostly been fair to its drivers unlike some other teams. But there have been incidents. Exceptions rather than the rule. Jerez 1997 for instance.

Be that as it may, the British media and Lewis Hamilton himself has expressed displeasure at Hamilton being told to take it easy and hold station behind his teammate in last weekend's Monaco Grand Prix.

But seriously, what the hell could Hamilton have done if indeed he were given a free hand? In 1992, Senna held off a charging Nigel Mansell who was 5 seconds quicker than himself towards the end of the race. Monaco is not a place where you can overtake. And before anyone brings it up, Rubens Barrichello was a fool and did not defend his line when he let Michael through in the 2005 Monaco Grand Prix. Fernando Alonso however has proven himself adept at defending his position in far more difficult circumstances. Turkey last year and at San Marino in 2005 for instance. At Monaco, overtaking is nigh impossible against one such as Fernando.

So what the hell does Hamilton think he could have done? Play bumper cars with Fernando perhaps? Far better to have saved his car and engine for Montreal than do something really stupid as he did in free practise for last weekend's race. If the little prick wanted to win then he should have kept his car on the island during free practise and put a perfectly good car on pole on Saturday and driven a faster starting and middle stint than his teammate on Sunday. He did none of these things and the blame for not winning lies squarely on him. If the British media had any sense, they would have picked this up instead of harping on about holding station.

The British media are well known for this sort of action and in fact have been harassing poor Fernando over the last few months. Whatever may be the case, Fernando simply cannot win with these idiots. You would expect this sort of thing from The Sun or The Daily Mail but even broadsheets like The Times have joined in the melee, acting very much like the yobs who buy their rubbish newspapers.

You see this sort of behaviour from the British media after football matches. And now here it is again (a repeat of Mansell mania) in racing. The only thing for Fernando to do is simply to beat this young brat Hamilton to shut him up and shut the damned yobs up for good.

Ron Dennis claims that it is the best strategy for Monaco. And perhaps he is right. But once upon a time, he asked Ayrton Senna to slow down, also at Monaco. Ayrton lost concentration and hit the wall. Funny how McLaren always seem to run into trouble when asking their drivers to slow down.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Indy Awards - Round 5

Here are the results for the Independent Team awards after the Monaco Grand Prix. For more information regarding the scoring system please consult this post.


There a number of real surprises this weekend. First of all, the pace of the Williams and Red Bulls in qualifying was a revelation. Nico Rosberg managed to qualify his car in fifth on the grid and first of the independents. Mark Webber followed him closely, qualifying sixth on the grid and second independent.

More surprising to me was the lack of pace from the two Super Aguris. On average this season, Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson would manage qualy times that are within two to three tenths of a second of Nico Rosberg's Williams. At Monaco this weekend, the pair were two seconds down. There were a number of reasons for this. The first qualy session was quite a mess with rain falling just before the start of the session. This led to traffic problems for the Super Aguris and then a bad call from the team saw them miss their third qualy run during the first session. Purely a timing mistake. Else I would have thought that if they did go on their normal pace relative to Williams, the pair of them would have made it into the top ten. But as the team themselves humbly admit, they are a young team thats still learning.

The final surprise were the two Toro Rosso. Vitantonio Liuzzi managed to qualify fourth in the first session although as mentioned earlier, conditions this had more to do with conditions than raw pace. In the end though, the Italian managed to 13th on the grid, a marked improvement for the Red Bull sister team. In the race, the Italian crashed but teammate Scott Speed was there to pick up the pieces. Scott ended up finishing in 9th just outside the FIA points. But he did beat Nico Rosberg's Williams, so all credit to the American in this, his best result of the season.

In my previous post today, I praised Nico Rosberg's efforts in the Williams. Its true that he is the leading independent in these awards. But we should spare a thought for Alex Wurz who took the Indy win today. Alex has suffered reliability issues with his Williams, failing to finish in 2 out of the 5 races so far. But when the Austrian has finished a race (on 3 occassions this season) he has beaten Nico 2 out of 3 times. The Austrian is now second in the drivers standings.

Unless Red Bull get their act together soon, it looks like the Indy Awards for both drivers and teams seem destined for Williams. However, I believe Monaco is a very unique and atypical circuit. Normal service should resume as soon as we hit Montreal, where I suspect the Red Bulls once again will be challenging for Indy honours (and who knows, overall FIA honours as well) and I suspect, will be beating Williams. It all depends whether they have the reliability

In the Wag The Dog awards, Williams has become the first team to score maximum points in an event. 6 each goes to both drivers. This means that the both of them have outqualified and outraced both the works Toyotas and also the both of them have had fastest laps quicker than both the works cars. At what that means is that the works Toyotas have been comprehensively and summarily dismissed by the customer. Keep up the good work Frank!

I never thought it would happen but even Toro Rosso has now scored a Wag The Dog point when Liuzzi ended up with a higher grid position than Kimi Raikkonen in the works Ferraris.

Colin Chapman Award - For Best independent drivers / teams

1. Alexander Wurz (Williams)- 10 (9 for race, 1 for fastest lap)
2. Scott Speed (Toro Rosso) - 6
3. Nico Rosberg (Williams) - 5 (4 for race, 1 for pole)
4. David Coulthard (Red Bull) - 3
5. Takuma Sato (Super Aguri) - 2
6. Anthony Davidson (Super Aguri) - 1

1. Williams - 15
2. Toro Rosso - 6
3. Red Bull - 3
=. Super Aguri - 3

Overall Drivers
1. Nico Rosberg - 33
2. Alex Wurz - 25
3. Takuma Sato - 15
=. David Coulthard - 15
5. Mark Webber - 13
6. Anthony Davidson - 12
7. Andre Sutil - 6
=. Scott Speed - 6
9. Vitantonio Liuzzi - 5
=. Christian Albers - 5

Overall Teams
1. Williams - 58
2. RBR - 28
3. Super Aguri - 27
4. Spyker - 11
5. Toro Rosso - 11

Wag The Dog Award - for independent drivers / teams who beat their respective factory teams

1. Alex Wurz - 6 (2 for qualy, 2 for race, 2 for fastest lap)
=. Nico Rosberg - 6 (2 for qualy, 2 for race, 2 for fastest lap)
3. David Coulthard - 2 (1 for qualy, 1 for fastest lap)
4. Mark Webber - 1 (for qualy)
=. Vitantonio Liuzzi - 1 (for qualy)

1. Williams - 12
2. Red Bull - 3
3. Spyker - 1

Overall Drivers
1. Nico Rosberg - 23
2. Takuma Sato - 13
3. Alex Wurz - 11
4. Anthony Davidson - 7
=. Mark Webber - 7
=. David Coulthard - 7
7. Andre Sutil - 1
=. Christian Albers - 1
=. Vitantonio Liuzzi - 1

Overall Teams
1. Williams - 36
2. Super Aguri - 19
3. RBR - 14
4. Spyker - 2
5. Toro Rosso - 1

TV Coverage

So serious are the Malaysian government in re-signing an agreement for future of the Malaysian Grand Prix, they have pulled the broadcast of grand prix from the terrestrial channels. Nowadays it seems, that all terrestrial channels have been compelled to show the prime time evening news whether they like or not.

This year of course TV3 has dropped live coverage and it was taken over by the government operated RTM 2 (or was it RTM1). What I do not fathom is why they have to show the evening news on both RTM 1 and RTM 2 simultaneously? They're both the same broadcast. Anyone wishing to actually watch the government news can choose either one and therefore they could leave the live coverage on the other.

And therefore, we are forced to rely on Star Sports for our grand prix coverage. I've said this before. The ITV broadcast is heaven compared to the babblings of Steve Slater. Just in case you don't realise the Star Sports crew do rely upon the ITV coverage for their information. And so I find it better to actually watch the ITV broadcast.

If Ross Brawn complains about the lack of situational awareness in the ITV broadcast, then he'll absolutely "adore" the Star Sports coverage. And we in South East Asia (or me at least) suffers for it.

In addition, the coverage shown on our Astro satellite channels are a few minutes delayed due to the government's patronising and condescending censorship regulations. So, inevitably the live timings from doesn't synchronise with the telly pictures.

Thank you very much to the Malaysian government for once again taking away our choices. Your services once again, have been absolutely splendid.

Nico Rosberg

Amidst all the hype surrounding Lewis Hamilton, spare a thought for the 2005 GP2 champion Nico Rosberg. Nico had a great debut race last year, finishing in the points and taking the fastest lap of the race. From then on, his results had largely gone downhill. Sometimes the fault lay with him but in large part it coincided with the worst ever season for Grove in grand prix racing.

This year, Nico looks like he's having a far better time. The Williams of course is no match for the Ferraris or McLarens up front but against cars of similar (or even slightly better) performance, Nico has been doing a splendid job. Both in my Indy awards and in the official FIA standings, Nico is currently the top independent team driver.

In the Indy Awards, Nico has had a couple of wins, a second and a fourth position. The last comes despite having failed to finish in Malaysia, through no fault of his own. Whilst the Red Bulls are looking increasingly quick they haven't had the reliability. In the Indy points standing, Nico has a massive lead and if you follow the Wag The Dog points, you can see that he eats the works Toyotas for breakfast, consistently faster and finishing ahead of them.

All things being equal, its easier being in a quicker car than an average or bad one. Narain Karthikeyan for instance was absolutely amazed at the ease with which the Williams can be driven as compared to the Jordan he was used to. Likewise, I am certain the latest McLaren is better balanced and has limpet like grip compared to the Williams. Thus, Hamilton up front has a far easier time and its easy to praise his successes, considerable though it may be.

However, Nico has a year's experience under his belt and that experience has been hard won on the back of a terrible season for Williams. With those hard times, comes maturity in addition to the raw speed and natural talent. Something that Hamilton has yet to exhibit, for he hasn't had the need to, lucky sod that he is.

God knows if Williams will ever make the necessary quantum leap required to once again challenge for honours at the front but should McLaren or Ferrari require a new driver (not that they really need it right now) then they could do worse than Nico. In fact, if BMW were smart and the time came to replace Nick Heidfeld then their former driver would be a most excellent choice. Its one thing having an exciting hotshoe like Sebastien Vettel in the car. But for the overall package, I think Nico represents an excellent choice.

I do hope however that Williams, now with Toyota power behind them are able to rally in the next few years to give Nico Rosberg the car that he deserves. Inevitably one does compare drivers to that standard benchmark called Michael Schumacher and it would be interesting to see if Nico can develop some of the leadership skills that Michael possesses to lead the Williams team to glory once again. Tall order but not impossible.

Whatever it is, Nico deserves a chance at the big time as much as Hamilton does.

Some Concern For Ferrari

I must be out of my mind writing this. Its no secret, I loathe the Ferrari team. Yes, their successes over the years are admirable but here is a team high on politics and low on sportsmanship and fair play. It has always been so. However, I am a great fan of the road cars. What can I say? They're usually good looking, fast and have plenty of that inimitable Italian style.

More than any other car manufacturer, their successes in racing have built up the romance and passion of their road cars. Here is a manufacturer that can truly make a link between competition and their products, for they have managed somehow or another to incorporate their racing technologies with their road offerings. From a technical perspective, its all good. However, if Formula 1 goes "green" come 2011, I don't see how a biofuel engine fits into Ferrari's road car plans. But lets leave that aside.

So why or what am I so concerned about? The June 07 issue of the UK Car magazine celebrates Ferrari's 60th year as a car manufacturer. It features a test of 10 of the greatest Ferrari road cars ever made. Glad to see all my favourites made it in. Not least the 288 GTO, F40, Dino 246, 308 GTB and of course, the incomparable 250 GTO. Jeez. Don't you wish car makers still did a 3 litre V12 engine? Sweet!

The magazine also had an editorial feature with some disturbing things to say. Its nothing new of course, for the issue had already been discussed on a few F1 websites not least and Pitpass, and it is the rampant commercialism by Ferrari. of course must be truly happy. They have been advocating all sorts of ideas (usually taking some NASCAR example) for yet even greater promotion of Formula 1. The dumbest of the lot was the idea for some silly romance novels based on NASCAR. F*****g romance novels?! So surely I would have imagined they'd be thrilled about the idea of a bloody Ferrari theme park, in some damned fool Middle Eastern country.

These are the worst of it but there are other bad ideas that Maranello are involved with. Ferrari notebooks, badly designed t-shirts, sunglasses and oh my god.... even barbie dolls, teddy bears and musical toys! Then of course there's that extremely frumpy dealership they have at that Las Vegas casino hotel where the extremely tasteless can partake in Maranello magic.

To be sure, old man Enzo was a racing man first, road car manufacturer second. By all accounts, he viewed the manufacture of road cars as a necessary evil to finance his racing cars. Stories of his distaste for customers are legendary. How do you think Automobili Lamborghini got established? Ferrucio was one dissatisfied customer. Now, we all know the price of competing succesfully in Grand Prix racing these days, but would Enzo have resorted to some of this blatant and tasteless commercialism to finance it?

The old man, wherever he is right now, simply cannot be at peace and surely he must be turning in his grave from all this commercialism. I realise the importance of economic realities. Ferrari can no longer dig into Fiat's coffers for its racing budget, because its parent no longer has much in the war chest. Hence Ferrari needs to resort to other methods of financing including relying on tobacco money and of course, expanding its production to sell to ever eager and status hungry customers in the East. I know that they have other shareholders apart from Fiat to please, such as Mudabala for instance who want returns not romance. I know merchandising is easy money. A 20 pound sterling t-shirt for instance costs about 50p to make. But do they really need theme parks and barby dolls?

All this commercialism simply dilutes the name. Out the door goes all that history, all the heritage, all the... shock horror... exclusivity. The name ceases to become special. Just another stupid brand like MacDonalds or Nike. I mean really, does the average Ferrari fan (I refuse to call these people tifosi) really get it? Do they understand why that badge carries so much prestige and magic? The true tifosi who do get it I suspect are far fewer in numbers and some Ferrari owners I know do not count as one of these.

There's nothing much I can do about these things but its still very sad. And in the long run, could counteract as the Ferrari name and image becomes all too common, being increasingly associated with the tacky and tasteless. At least they're smart enough to hire some bloke to do brand management. But why should that position be needed in the first place?

Would all of this ever stop me from aspiring to Ferrari ownership? I must say that its an extreme turn off but a Ferrari 308 GTS Quattrovalvole going for under 25,000 pounds sterling is a bloody tempting offer and one that I may just one day decide to succumb to. Nimble, petite and pretty unlike its Eurotrashy descendent, the F430, with lots of style and some small measure of pace and excellent turn in. Brilliant. But soon enough some time in the future (if it hasn't already), I'd wish the Cavallino Rampante wasn't on the bonnet. I'd still drive my car every Sunday though.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Hope You're All Happy Now

I guess we've all heard the news by now. If anyone's still reading my posts, you'll know that I am vehemently against Max Mosley's plans for the future. But as I've said previously, I grow tired of tirades and diatribes against Mosley. So far I've tried hard not say anymore negative things about the sport of Formula 1 I've followed for so long. I am going to fail here.

My argument has and always will be that grand prix racing should be the pinnacle of racing technology. The art and science of going fast. However, I also hold that there should be sensible limits placed upon such technologies so that the driver plays an important role in proceedings and isn't relegated to being the monkey that steers the wheel.

Anything else is rubbish.

But I can see there are lots of things in the new proposals that should make a lot of people happy. I've read calls for limited aero development, increased mechanical grip, road and industry relevance so that you can think that your stupid hybrid MPVs and SUVs has some racing pedigree in it.

To satisfy such needs, you now have standard bodywork which cuts aero development to near zero at the cost of resembling a glorified GP2 championship. You're going to have boost buttons which really doesn't add anything at all in terms of action and excitement. And in the same vein, neither will bloody energy recovery systems.

Never mind that grand prix racing is now going to promote biofuels that are going to result in greater deforestation of the planet as third world countries scramble to take advantage of increased world demand.

Oh and isn't traction control due to be banned in 2008? Yes I thought so but they'll be back shortly. In addition, four wheel drive will make a return as well, ensuring that living tissue in the car actually is the monkey that turns the wheels. Brilliant!

All of this so that more manufacturers will come in and they can sell more cars and use F1 as the ultimate promotional tool. And so that we can attract more casual fans to the sport and hey Bernie and CVC can then make even more money. is going to be so pleased. But as more of these manufacturers come in, Minard-coolness is going to be even more confined to the past.

But hey, we all seem to have wanted it, so Max is now aiming to please. Funny. If road relevance is important, shouldn't the FIA be increasing the profile of and developing racing categories like rallying and touring cars? After all, they look uncannily like the cars you and I can drive.

If these new proposals are passed, then Formula 1 as we know it for the past 57 years and beyond will cease to exist. We should all mourn its passing but unfortunately I think many people will actually applaud it.

Rant over. Looking forward to the next instalment of the BTCC.


I almost forgot. As if 2 weekend race engines aren't enough, now Max wants engines to last 5 bloody weekends! Oh the horror...

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Indy Awards - Round 4

Here are the results for the Independent Team awards after the Spanish Grand Prix. For more information regarding the scoring system please consult this post.

Colin Chapman Award - For Best independent drivers / teams

1. David Coulthard (RBR)- 11 (9 + 1 for pole + 1 for fastest lap)
2. Nico Rosberg (Williams) - 6
3. Takuma Sato (Super Aguri) - 4
4. Anthony Davidson (Super Aguri) - 3
5. Andre Sutil (Spyker) - 2
6. Christian Albers (Spyker) - 1

1. RBR - 11
2. Super Aguri - 7
3. Williams - 6
4. Spyker - 3

Overall Drivers
1. Nico Rosberg - 28
2. Alex Wurz - 15
3. Takuma Sato - 14
4. Mark Webber - 13
5. David Coulthard - 12
6. Anthony Davidson - 10
7. Andre Sutil - 6
8. Vitantonio Liuzzi - 5
=. Christian Albers - 5

Overall Teams
1. Williams - 43
2. RBR - 25
3. Super Aguri - 24
4. Spyker - 11
5. Toro Rosso - 5

Wag The Dog Award - for independent drivers / teams who beat their respective factory teams

1. Nico Rosberg - 5 (1 for qualy, 2 for race, 2 for fastest lap)
=. Takuma Sato - 5 (1 for qualy, 2 for race, 2 for fastest lap)
3. David Coulthard - 4 (1 for qualy, 2 for race, 1 for fastest lap)
4. Anthony Davidson - 1 (for race)
=. Christian Albers - 1 (for race)
=. Andre Sutil - 1 (for race)

1. Super Aguri - 6
2. Williams - 5
3. RBR - 4
4. Spyker - 2

Overall Drivers
1. Nico Rosberg - 17
2. Takuma Sato - 12
3. Alex Wurz - 7
=. Anthony Davidson - 7
5. Mark Webber - 6
=. David Coulthard - 5
7. Andre Sutil - 1
=. Christian Albers - 1

Overall Teams
1. Williams - 24
2. Super Aguri - 19
3. RBR - 11
4. Spyker - 2

BTCC Thruxton

I don't get the British Touring Car Championship on the telly and therefore I have to wait a while before I can watch each round. But so far this season, I haven't been disappointed. Especially not in last weekend's round at Thruxton.

Thruxton is an absolutely fantastic racing circuit. Like Silverstone and Snetterton its an ex World War 2 airfield converted into a racing circuit. Unlike Silverstone that has been chopped and changed over the years and slowed down, Thruxton's layout has remained the same since its inception. It currently claims to be the fastest circuit in the United Kingdom and I say amen to that.

To be sure, the racing was perhaps not as bumper to bumper as the previous round at Rockingham or even Brands but the track itself is incredibly fast. Bloody hell, the slowest corner is a chicane and there are no hairpins! But on this circuit with its fast sweepers you can really watch a touring car lean hard on its suspension, skipping and sliding on the bumps and really testing the driver's bravery and commitment. The sheer speed of the cars round the corners is enough to keep one enthralled.

All the races were good especially early on but Race 3 was absolutely spectacular. On lap 2 with Colin Turkington in fourth (and slowing the fast guys behind) as a result of the reverse produced a real heart in the mouth moment. Quite how these guys can go side by side into Church corner is beyond me, but Gordon Shedden managed to take Colin into Church.

But what happened next was even more amazing. They were 6 abreast coming out of it, 7 cars altogether jostling for position (see image above). Giovanardi desperate to find a way through has his wheels on the grass doing 140 mph. Going into the chicane they were still 5 abreast (see image below). Somehow amazingly they all made it and funnelled through the chicane. I swear they weren't going to make it but somehow they all did. Fantastic stuff.

I'm glad to see that the latest Team Dynamics / Halfords Honda Civic Type Rs are exhibiting real speed now. They still need a lot of work though if they are going to regularly challenge the Vauxhalls and SEATs. Bad luck to Mat Jackson this weekend (again). The top 10 though are very mcuh close in terms of pace. Thruxton with all these fast corners is hard on tyres and it seems to me that the Vauxhalls and SEATs have only a slight advantage in speed but a big advantage in tyre management last weeked. Darren Turner in last year's Dynamics Integra Type R was looking bloody good for second if not first but alas his tyres gave up on him.

One of the attractions of touring cars is of course the cars themselves are modified versions of road cars. And therefore I am rather disappointed that BTC Racing simply cannot do a better job with the Lexus IS200s (rebadged Toyota Altezza RS200s). How I wish these cars are being run by Dynamics or WSR. These guys are simply off the pace in a car that theoretically could give the Beemers a good run for their money. I should know, I used to own one.

As I said before it looks like Fabrizio Giovanardi and Jason Plato all the way to the wire this season. The championship battle between these two is close and with Giovanardi taking two wins last weekend the gap between the two stands at 8 points. I'm certain that the others will play a big role in their battle.

The WTCC catchphrase is Real Cars, Real Racing. Real cars, for sure. But in the world of touring cars, the title of real racing belongs to the BTCC.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Circuit de Catalunya

Watching the qualifying session for the Spanish Grand Prix, I've just had my first glimpse of the new changes at the Barcelona circuit. Oh Christ. What the hell did they do to the final two corners?

I wonder, do the FIA think that people enjoy watching the cars taking slow corners? I wonder if most fans actually love this sort of thing? Maybe I'm completely outdated these days but it seems to me that its only the fast corners that really show off the true abilities of grand prix cars. Barcelona's final two corners used to do this.

The attraction of Spa is not La Source but corners like Eau Rouge, Pouhon and Blanchimot. Pouhon especially is a spectacular corner where you can see a grand prix car lean hard into the turn. It also tests the driver's bravery and commitment and his skill and consistency in negotiating the best line in. Thats why Spa is a drivers' track.

I am saddened by the latest changes at Barcelona and to me, they've taken one of the more interesting features of the circuit. These are the sign of the (grand prix) times. Increasing commercialism and corporatisation hand in hand with overzealous obsession with safety taking all the fun out.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Touring Car Overload

This weekend features a total of no less than 4 touring car championship rounds. This being the two major ones the WTCC and BTCC and also the German Touring Cars and Swedish Touring Car Championship. Fastest Lap was right. Sometimes there's just too many racing championships to watch.

So far this season I've managed to catch the WTCC, BTCC and the Australian V8 Supercars. Out of the lot I have to say that the BTCC takes the cake as the best one so far. This weekend is round 3 of the championship in Thruxton. Since Alan Gow retook the reigns at the head of the BTCC, the championship has been transformed from a nearly dead post Supertouring championship into one that goes a long way to recapturing the glory days of 1990s.

If the first round at Brands was good, the next round at Rockingham two weeks ago was even better. Rather like the Indianapolis Formula 1 circuit, its raced partly on the oval and partly in the infield section. But it really is a lesson on how it ought to be done. For the action was extremely fast and furious. Bad luck to Matt Neal because I felt that he could have won again two weeks ago but for the hooligan antics of Tom Chilton (in the ever disgusting Vauxhall) which got Matt all over the place before slamming into the back of Colin Turkington.

Chilton, who looks like a member of a boy band should perhaps actually be in a bloody boyband and leave racing to adults. Look, I understand that in touring cars a little tap and a bit of argy bargy is perfectly acceptable but eejit takes it a bit too far and does it a little too often. He damned nearly t-boned Darren Turner's SEAT in the third race. But perhaps I'm just being biased because Chilton is a Vauxhall driver and I hate that stupid rep-mobile.

But then again, Chilton's teammate Fabrizio Giovanardi exudes class as well as pace. His tactics against Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden both in the Halfords Civics is an example of masterful defending, frustrating last year's champion Neal into a mistake that let Shedden through.

The BMWs look good in the BTCC despite being of 2006 vintage. Colin Turkington and teammate Onslow Cole certainly proving quite fast but the guy I am most impressed with is Mat Jackson in the Jackson Motorsport ex-Andy Priaulx BMW 320si. He's certainly got some speed in the car even if he is a little erratic at times. He reminds me a bit of Pedro de la Rosa and like the Spaniard, he tries really hard and is fun to watch. Matt Neal in fact thinks he is a contender.

Realistically though, this year definitely will be a battle between the Vauxhalls and SEATs for the drivers and team titles. But the beauty of the BTCC is that there are many dark horses. Matt Neal has shown pace in a brand spanking new, untried and certainly untested car. Mat Jackson if he can pull his socks up can certainly challenge the manufacturers as could Colin Turkington and Onslow Cole in the WSR prepared Team RAC BMWs. Its going to be a bloody good season no doubt.

The BTCC is definitely back, which is more than I can say for the WTCC. As I write this, I've just finished watching race 1 of Round 2 at Zandvoort on the telly. And like the Curitiba race, I'm left a little cold. Sure, the Chevrolets have provided a nice surprise this weekend and its great to see cars other than BMWs on the front row but the racing leaves a lot to be desired. The cars are bumper to bumper of course but perhaps its the world championship or perhaps they're all works teams but hardly anyone tries anything. Its early days yet in the championship so it all could improve. I hope it does, I have confirmed tickets to the season finale at Macau!

There are perhaps a number of reasons why the BTCC trumps the WTCC. First and foremost, the sheer number of privateers. All but two teams are private teams. And one thing about these guys, is that they try extremely hard. And privateer teammates seem to have no reservations about battling their teammates for position including all the attendant argy bargy. By contrast teammates in the WTCC try awfully hard not to tangle. There are exceptions of course but in general WTCC teams and drivers are a little shy. Well, this year at least.

Secondly, circuits. I love British racing circuits. Converting a whole bunch of ex World War 2 airbases to racing circuits was always a brilliant idea for those circuits end up being extremely quick. Then of course there's Brands which is a natural bowl and wonderful parkland tracks like Oulton Park. Somehow, the nature of British racing circuits always manages to produce some excellent racing. Surprisingly even the new Rockingham oval manages to produce the goods.

Third is the television coverage. Now, a lot of people complain about ITV's grand prix telecasts but if you compare Eurosport's coverage of the WTCC and ITV4's coverage of the BTCC, I'm sure you'll agree that the BTCC coverage is miles better with a lot more depth. And I much prefer the informal nature of the press interviews with the drivers. Ted Kravitz and Louis Goodman, like in Formula 1, go around the pits although in the BTCC the camera does follow them. In the box, 1992 BTCC champion Tim Harvey and Ben Edwards provide the commentary. And when they talk to the drivers, their questions are far more interesting. Compare that to a WTCC press conference. The lady who asks the questions sounds like she knows bugger all about racing and is merely following a script.

Added to the nature of the circuits, ITV4s camera positions also seem to convey a better sense of speed and puts one in the thick of the action. Whereas Eurosport's cameras make the WTCC cars look like garden lawn mowers, that is to say, they look unbelievably slow and from a telly viewers perspective, a yawn fest.

Apart from these touring car championships, I've also managed to catch highlights of the Swedish Touring Car Championship. I know what you're thinking. Sweden???!! Yes, but consider this, where else can you see BMW battling Mercedes and Audi in the same place. In addition to the big three Germans, there's Opels and of course, the local Volvo. Honda is represented and so is Alfa Romeo. The WTCC can only wish for variety of this sort.

However, I don't undestand a word of the commentary for naturally its in Swedish. Secondly, I have no idea who the drivers are and having just watched my first ever STCC I can't yet form any opinions on who's good and who's not. Third, I think the STCC has got it wrong by running a single race with a compulsory pitstop. They run to the same S2000 specifications as the WTCC and BTCC unlike these championships that feature 2 or 3 short sprint races, the STCC decides to be a bit different. From watching the first race, I think its not a good idea for it results in a spread field with little close racing action. As I said before, only Formula 1 can get away with things like that. But the Sturup racing circuit reminds me of one of those quaint Japanese racing circuits always featured in Best Motoring videos. Narrow and short they may be but perfectly suited for touring cars. I look forward to seeing the next round highlights nevertheless.

Finally, I've also attempted to follow the Australian V8 Supercar Development Series. I've heard so much about this that I actually want to like it. But it suffers two problems.

Firstly, there's no variety. There are only two makes of cars. It might as well be a one make championship. No matter how good the racing might be, I always feel there's just something missing.

Secondly, like the STCC, I have no idea who these guys are apart from James Courtney and Paul Radisich and only because these guys have raced in Europe. Craig Lowdnes? Who he?

But rather like Britain, Australia has some nice, fast circuits like Eastern Creek, Oran Park and Adelaide, so I will continue to follow this championship this season and look at developments.

This year's going to be a bumper year as far as watching racing. Eurosport is finally available on Astro, which is a relief since Astro Supersport and ESPN Star Sports are so bloody golf obsessed (fcuk Golf!!). But already I'm feeling a little overwhelmed trying to watch all these championships. GP2 is on my list and I haven't even started watching the Super GT yet. I don't think I'm going to bother with the FIA GT and Le Mans unless it happens to come on the telly when I switch it on. But I'm glad to see that the BTCC has returned in a big way. If grand prix racing goes pear shape, looks like the alternative is looking good, as it did in the 90s to Bernie E's chagrin.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

India's Bid

I've always been astonished by India. Here is a country of startling contrast. On one hand India has never lacked ambition, having a large armed forces including aircraft carriers and nuclear weapons. India's exploits in information technology are known throughout the world. And when China sent men into orbit, India announced plans to send men to the moon.

And yet, there is widespread poverty amongst the people and sadly these include a huge population of street children in and around its cities. I do not know the exact figures but the population of street children number in the hundreds of thousands. Just Google it and you'll find out. I've only been to India once as a child, and it was an experience I do not remember. But colleagues and friends of mine who have visited the subcontinent tell sad tales about the homeless. One friend of mine said he could hardly bear to look out the car every time he was driven around.

And yet we now have India trying incredibly hard to organise high profile sporting events such as the Olympic Games (a bid that thankfully failed) and of course, Formula 1 Grand Prix. has this story about the current plans for a street circuit in Delhi. Herman Tilke has already been spotted in the city. And now it emerges that the investment for the grand prix will be as high as USD 100 million, after suitably compensating Mr B. Ecclestone and friends.

Wouldn't it have been better perhaps to have found some wiser means of investing that money to help the plight of the poor and homeless? Street children are being abused physically and mentally. Am I alone in thinking that the many millions is urgently needed elsewhere?

Its one thing to do grand prix in oil rich countries (and even this is questionably sometimes) but surely the Formula One Group must have limits to its avaricious drive for bottomless government money. Surely these people must have a sense of ethics about them, right?