Saturday, August 15, 2015

Jules Bianchi dies from injuries suffered in 2014 Japanese GP crash

( 7-18-15)

French Formula One driver Jules Bianchi died early Saturday from head injuries sustained in a crash at last year's Japanese Grand Prix.

The Bianchi family issued a statement, which was posted on his official Twitter feed and later confirmed by the Manor F1 team.

Bianchi, 25, had been in a coma since the Oct. 5 accident, in which he collided at high speed with a mobile crane that was being used to pick up another crashed car.

"Jules fought right to the very end, as he always did, but today his battle came to an end," the family said in its statement. "The pain we feel is immense and indescribable."

Bianchi competed in 34 races over the 2013 and 2014 seasons, scoring the first ever championship points for Manor -- then known as Marussia -- by finishing ninth at last year's Monaco Grand Prix.

The Manor team tweeted: "We are devastated to lose Jules after such a hard-fought battle. It was a privilege to have him race for our team."

Bianchi is the first driver to die of injuries sustained in an F1 race since three-time world champion Ayrton Senna was killed at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.

Bianchi died at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire in his hometown of Nice, France, where he had been since his emergency treatment in Japan in the days after the accident.

"We wish to thank the medical staff at Nice's CHU who looked after him with love and dedication," the family statement said. "We also thank the staff of the General Medical Center in the Mie Prefecture (Japan) who looked after Jules immediately after the accident, as well as all the other doctors who have been involved with his care over the past months.

"Furthermore, we thank Jules' colleagues, friends, fans and everyone who has demonstrated their affection for him over these past months, which gave us great strength and helped us deal with such difficult times."

Bianchi's accident occurred at the end of the race at the Suzuka circuit. In rainy, gloomy conditions, Bianchi's car slid off the track and ploughed into a crane picking up the Sauber of German driver Adrian Sutil, who had crashed out at the same spot one lap earlier.

The section of the track where the accident occurred was subject to double yellow caution flags from race marshalls, because of Sutil's crash, but they failed to prevent a second accident.

A working group of the sport's governing body, the FIA, investigated the accident and found that as Bianchi went off track into the run-off area, he "applied both throttle and brake together, using both feet" and thus overriding the fail-safe mechanism. His front wheels had also locked.

It also said that Bianchi "did not slow sufficiently to avoid losing control."

The findings of the working group prompted F1 to alter its rules, allowing a "virtual safety car" in which stewards can neutralize a race, forcing all cars to proceed slowly into the pit lane rather than continuing to lap the circuit.

The start times of some races were also moved forward to prevent them continuing in dim light conditions.

News of the death broke when most people in the F1 world were sleeping, but fans immediately began posting tributes and sympathy on social media.

Former F1 champion and motor racing great Mario Andretti tweeted: "My heartfelt condolences to the @Jules_Bianchi family for this very sad ending of a promising young life. My prayers are with you."

Bianchi's family had already lost a member in a crash. In 1969, Bianchi's great-uncle, Lucien Bianchi, died in an accident during testing at the Le Mans race track when he crashed his Alfa Romeo into a post, a year after winning the prestigious endurance race.

The family statement was issued by his parents, Philippe and Christine; his brother, Tom; and sister Melanie.

His death came only days after Philippe Bianchi had said his son would not have wanted to go on living if he was severely disabled.

"If he had a severe handicap, we are convinced that is not what Jules would want," Philippe Bianchi told France Info radio on Monday.

"We talked about it. He discussed with us that if one day he had an accident like that of Michael Schumacher, that even if his only handicap was not being able to drive, he would have a lot of difficulty living. Because it was his life."


Friday, June 12, 2015

Christian Horner: F1 needs to be flat-out from start to finish

(by Nate Saunders 6-10-15)

Christian Horner says F1 "needs to be a flat-out sprint race from start to finish" after the drab Canadian Grand Prix led to criticism about the current spectacle.

On top of Mercedes recording an easy one-two, the Montreal race was dominated by drivers being told to lift and coast to preserve fuel. The predominance of the one-stop strategy also limited entertainment as the Canadian event failed to live up to expectations.

After the race, Horner said there are multiple issues F1 needs to address to improve the show.

"I think we had more downforce a few years ago that abused the tyres a bit more but I think one-stop races are not good for F1 - you need to have two-three stops - and that's important," he said. "We have tyres that are just a bit too conservative. I think the other thing that's not good for F1 is fuel saving - it should be a sprint race and 'lift and coast' doesn't belong in a sprint race, that's not the message F1 should be putting across."

Pressed on whether he had a solution, Horner replied: "Shorten the race by five laps or whatever it is. Either a bit more fuel or a bit less distance, but it needs to be a flat-out sprint race from start to finish."

The Red Bull boss thinks the radio messages telling drivers to lift and coast give fans a negative impression of F1.

"Of course it's the wrong message. If you're a fan sitting at home, you don't want to hear that, you want to see the guys going flat out, racing each other, and I think it is something we need to take on board and react to. It sounds like coaching if they're telling them where to lift and how much to lift - they might as well get in and do it!

Horner believes Pirelli has gone too conservative in the time since the criticism it received following the 2013 British Grand Prix, which was dominated by tyre blowouts.

"Managing the tyres is more about how the driver is using his right foot - he's not lifting at the end of the straights, so I think that's an easier issue to deal with. Pirelli did go too far if you think back to Silverstone 2013 and I think, as a result of that, their reaction was that we've ended up with a pretty conservative tyre, and the changes that were made over the winter, going into this year, went a bit more conservative again. The tyres that we had last year were, probably, about the right balance for strategy and degradation."


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Mclaren MP6/P

'2056, Cancer is cured, Formula one piloted by Navigators is the pinnacle of motorsport once again. In a bid to go back to thier roots and hopefully regain previous dominance as seen during the Senna / Prost times, Mclaren have turned to their classic Marlboro racing livery powered by Honda. The MP6/P's development has been a long one, original prototypes where developed and tested by human drivers dating back at far as the early 90's ( secret heritage photos can be found ), but were deemed too radical for track design at that time, boasting a hybrid of an electric four wheeled system mixed with full on combustion drive at the rear, these prototypes although having very simple aerodynamic design had incredible low speed traction.

 Body design purposefully primitive to punch a non turbulent flow of air out of the rear boasted overtaking opportunities, but in return would have unpredictable results within heavy breaking overtaking manoeuvres to the delight of onlookers.'

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Slowly coming around to the new car

Sebastien Bourdais' road and street course aero kit Chevy

I have made my opinion known from the start, I have not been sold on the new Dallara chassis. I've called it a "joke", "ugly", and a "POS".

However, I have to admit I am starting to warm up to the new car........slowly.

If it can somehow keep the costs down, if the "aero kits" are consistently tinkered with and improved upon, if it provides competition between Chevy and Honda, and if it creates good racing with the little guys at times fighting up at the front, then I am all for it.

I think we have seen that so far this year with 7 different winners out of 8 races, with Chevy showing a superior car to Honda, and with Juan Pablo Montoya coming from 30th position to win the Indy 500 thanks to "tweaks" made to the car during the race, I am becoming a believer.

I am not completely on board yet, I think the rear bumpers need to be done away with for road and street course races seeing as they provide no protection against wheel-to-wheel contact since they break off at the slightest touch. They are completely useless and do nothing but provide work for the clean up crews since they are constantly out picking up pieces which slows the race down and frustrates the fans.

I can see a benefit however for the rear bumpers on oval races. If they improve the aerodynamics, which I think they do, then we can see higher speeds on ovals but at the same time we are getting a safer car.

Stefano Coletti's oval aero kit Chevy

We still have a long way to go but I can see progress being made, I just hope it is not too late.

I'd like to see IndyCar succeed, even after all the negative things I have said over the years. But my love for open-wheel racing in America trumps the past and the open-wheel war that is over. I am on board with the new as long as they don't repeat the stupid mistakes of the past.

Working with the new car and making improvements is priority #1 and I can thankfully see that happening.

Marco Andretti's original street course Honda

Carlos Munoz' modified street course Honda in Detroit

Monday, June 1, 2015

List of race winners half way thru season

March 29th - St. Petersburg - Juan Pablo Montoya
April 12th - Louisiana - James Hinchcliffe
April 19th - Long Beach - Scott Dixon
April 26th - Alabama - Josef Newgarden
May 9th - Indianapolis - Will Power
May 24th - Indy 500 - Juan Pablo Montoya
May 30th - Detroit 1 - Carlos Munoz
May 31st - Detroit 2 - Sebastien Bourdais
June 6th - Texas -
June 14th - Toronto -
June 27th - Fontana -
July 12th - Milwaukee -
July 18th - Iowa -
August 2nd - Mid-Ohio -
August 23rd - Pocono -
August 30th - Sonoma -

Interesting to note thus far:

3 drivers have finished in second place twice;
Will Power (St. Petersburg, Indy 500)
Helio Castroneves (Louisiana, Long Beach)
Graham Rahal (Alabama, Indianapolis)

4 drivers have finished in third place once;
Tony Kanaan (St. Petersburg)
James Jakes (Louisiana)
Charlie Kimball (Indy 500)
Simon Pagenaud (Detroit 1)

2 drivers have finished in second place once;
Marco Andretti (Detroit 1)
Takuma Sato (Detroit 2)

Sunday, May 31, 2015

IndyCar’s Winter of Discontent: Where Does the Series Go from Here?

(by Steven Cole Smith 2-2-15)

Because we’re cockeyed optimists (or at least cockeyed), we have to assume there’s a plan percolating somewhere inside the office at 4551 West 16th Street, the Indianapolis address that houses the main offices of IndyCar. Among the highly paid and exceptionally well-dressed executives that work there is Mark Miles, chief executive officer of Hulman & Company, which not only oversees Clabber Girl baking powder and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway but also the IndyCar Series.

(Pause for a kick-ass piece of trivia: What exactly is a “clabber girl”? Well, prior to the invention of baking powder, cooks used a variety of items to leaven baked goods, including sour milk. Milk was “clabbered,” or soured for several days, so it could be used for leavening. Presumably, then, a clabber girl is a girl who sours fresh milk. Insert your own Rachel Maddow or Ann Coulter joke here.)

Mark Miles looks a little like a younger version of automotive executive Bob Lutz, so he immediately engenders within observers an impression of both competence and mild unease. He has become the face of IndyCar in the aftermath of CEO Randy Bernard being sent packing in 2012. But where Bernard was an unabashed, if initially uninformed, cheerleader for IndyCar, Miles seems more like an uncomfortable custodian there to stem the bleeding. Presumably he has not done a bad job—IndyCar remains the “Number-One Open-Wheel Series In America,” just as Clabber Girl is the “Leading Baking Powder in the United States.” But exactly where IndyCar goes from here is anyone’s guess.

It was Miles’s decision—based on a study he commissioned—to end IndyCar’s season early. In 2014, the last race was on August 30, as the study suggested that, given a choice, it would be unwise to go up against the almighty NFL. This makes sense on many levels. But a 2014 season that began March 30 and ended at the end of August provided just five months of activity and seven months of, well, inactivity. There is no press agent extant who can keep the sport at the forefront of minds and media coverage for seven race-free months.

Arguably, NASCAR’s February-to-November juggernaut of a schedule is exhausting, but there’s a lot of time on the calendar to build momentum in terms of public interest. (And to lose momentum, and to build momentum again.) Yet as IndyCar tries to do the same leading into its 2015 season, two strange things have happened, the first being that the series announced on January 28 that Brian Barnhart, the IndyCar race director from 1997–2011, would serve as race director for 2015.

This is remarkable because several drivers and Barnhart did not, shall we say, see eye-to-eye during his last tenure as race director. In 2011, Helio Castroneves said this: “It’s impossible to accept the decisions of a race director who is inconsistent, who issues different punishments to identical situations, and who is condescending with some and harsh with others.” That same season, an animated Will Power flipped off, with both middle fingers, race director Barnhart on live TV, after the latter had drivers restart a race at New Hampshire in the rain that resulted in unfortunate events.

The move to give Barnhart back his old job also did not go over well with some avid fans on a prominent racing website. One post asked, “Do the people who run IndyCar get up each morning asking, ‘How can we screw up today?’ ” Another response said, in part, “How is this man still affiliated with open-wheel racing? This man couldn’t run an amusement park go-kart track, and every single fan knows it. I’m at a total loss right now.” Amazingly, the website in question is the official IndyCar site, which at least can be commended for allowing a wide-open expression of ideas.

Whether Barnhart is the best man for the job is, frankly, irrelevant. But when his re-appointment results in such visceral reaction from fans who care enough to go to, one wonders if there wasn’t someone out there who could do this job and not rile so many people.

Then came the second major blow in less than a week: IndyCar’s heralded return to Brazil, scheduled to be the season opener March 8, was canceled by that country’s government last Thursday. To add insult to injury, apparently IndyCar found out pretty much how the rest of us did: via news reports.

Terracap, a government-run company that owns the Autódromo Internacional Nelson Piquet host racetrack, pulled the plug just one day after the race promoter announced a title sponsor and said that two-thirds of the tickets were sold. The government is in financial trouble and it seems the race became a casualty. While the series is not to blame, it’s nevertheless a black eye for IndyCar and a disappointment for Brazilian drivers like Castroneves and Tony Kanaan. Losing Brazil also means the 2015 season now will open, once again, at Saint Petersburg on March 29, making the 2015 season longer than the 2014 season—by one day.

All this adds to ongoing IndyCar issues, including a lackluster TV deal and a field of competitors that no longer includes well-known drivers like Danica Patrick, Dario Franchitti, Paul Tracy, and Dan Wheldon. Aside from Castroneves, Kanaan, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Power, IndyCar is somewhat short on stars.

Having Montoya back in the field after running NASCAR is a positive, but even accomplished drivers like Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay haven’t resonated with the public. And famous-last-named Marco Andretti and Graham Rahal need to start winning to do IndyCar much good, as does James Hinchcliffe, who could be a next-level personality. Further, of the top 10 drivers in 2014, the only Americans are Hunter-Reay and Andretti. Of the 36 who earned points in 2014, 11 are American, and that includes non-full-timers Kurt Busch and Buddy Lazier.

But there are plusses. For one, new aero kits will debut at Saint Petersburg that hopefully will make the cars look somewhat different from one another. Aside from the choice of Honda or Chevrolet engines, IndyCar was a spec series with all teams running the same bodies, chassis, and tires. (Of course, if one of the approved aero kits turns out to be more “aero” than the others, that will become another headache for IndyCar to deal with.)

The main thing IndyCar has in its corner is some damn good racing. It’s damn good on ovals, damn good on road courses, and damn good on street courses. The Indianapolis 500 remains, far and away, the most anticipated race in America. Long Beach is always a success. High-quality competition is, as you might suspect, a key ingredient in creating a compelling racing series.

And despite early concerns, the Dallara DW-12 car introduced in 2012 races very well, seems pretty safe, and the looks have even grown on us. The engines are reliable and the sound isn’t objectionable. In fact, IndyCar president of operations Derrick Walker has yet to really put a foot wrong. Further, now that Dan Andersen has taken over Indy Lights in addition to the other “Mazda Road to Indy” formula feeder series, Indy Lights should actually become something worth being proud of, no longer running eight-car fields and using 13-year-old unbadged Infiniti engines.

So why does IndyCar seem so stagnant, so lacking in forward momentum? Why can’t it seem to capitalize on the continuing and often confounding popularity of Formula 1? We don’t know. But we do now know what a clabber girl is. Hopefully that counts for something.


Saturday, May 30, 2015

Upgrades to IMS planned before 100th Indianapolis 500

Indianapolis Motor Speedway is in a race against time.

Officials are planning to renovate the historic track in time for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 next May. That doesn't leave a lot of time, given that there are races scheduled at the Brickyard in July and August and the construction won't begin until after those are run.

"It's intensive," Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles said. "There's some things that we can do in the beginning stage to get ready, but basically all of this work has to be done from the end of this racing season this year before May of 2016. It's a lot of work to do."

The next phase of this roughly $90 million project will improve gateway entrances, grandstand seating, and the overall fan experience. It's all part of a broader plan to modernize the facilities.

Upgrades started last offseason with the installation of large, high-definition video boards and a new LED scoring pylon on the main straightaway -- all part of the track's historic image that officials are trying to preserve.

"It sort of signaled that we can keep the traditions, but improve them and modernize them without substantively changing the feel of this place," Miles said.

Now the plan is to replace the upper-deck bench seating in the front straight with seats with backs and add better wireless internet capabilities. Miles wants what he describes as the most iconic real estate in motorsports to give fans the kind of comfort they associate with watching NFL or NBA games.

An estimated five elevators will be added, too, for better handicapped accessibility to the sections overlooking the area between the start-finish line and the first turn of the 2.5-mile oval. Miles also said there are plans to change some suites near the fourth turn to give them a more club-level feel.

"You don't have to buy an 80-person suite," Miles said. "You can get your two seats and go up there and share the club-like hospitality with whomever else is in there."

The track's entrance gateways will receive a makeover, too, including the gate between the first turn and the street outside the ticket office. That's where fans set up an impromptu memorial to the late Dan Wheldon after he was killed in a 2011 crash at Las Vegas.

"We want that to be an iconic front door to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway," speedway president Doug Boles said. "We have people 365 days a year that stop by Gate 1 and have their picture taken."

Both entrances will have large, colored pylons and a structural look that gives the entrance a historic feel.

Miles said that over time, with the changes to and around the track grounds, Georgetown Road where revelers have long partied on Saturday before race day could eventually become part of the track and be closed to all vehicles and foot traffic outside the track fences. That part of the plan isn't expected to take place within the next year.

Right now, that part of the facility can become crowded and event organizers are limited on what they can do in terms of fan amenities.

But modernizing the historic Brickyard is never easy.

"It's a balancing act," Boles said. "But it's a balancing act that we all feel is very important so we work really hard to make sure that we pay attention to what's important and the historic feel of this venue, but at the same time give our fans a more modern experience that they expect when they come to a stadium."