Monday, May 25, 2015

An introduction

So, its probably time that I do a proper introduction and update since I've been working on this blog for 7 years now.

My name is Gary but a lot of people call me Turbobeep. My location is top secret but I can say I am in the cozy confines of the general Salt Lake City area.

I enjoy learning about cars, I love to drive, and I follow motor racing as much as I can.

I started out like most red-blooded American kids by watching the Indy 500 every year. This was back at the height of it's reign, the mid-70's thru the 80's. I never really hopped on the NASCAR bandwagon, the cars seemed too slow for me. I did however discover Formula 1 in the late 90's and became and rabid Formula 1 fanatic during the Hakkinen vs Schumacher era. That was an amazing time to watch F1, especially if you were a Hakkinen fan like me.

But after Hakkinen retired and Schumacher stooped to new lows to win, (2002 Austrian Grand Prix) I soured on F1 and paid little attention to it until recently, and even now don't enjoy it all that much. But at times I am hungry for open-wheel racing so I'll watch it when I can.

During those years of my F1 exodus I started to watch CART. It seemed a good fit for me, not quite as exciting as the old F1 days but it was more accessible and it was home-grown. This was after "the split" so it was also rather exciting to go digging for information and learn the history of CART and the war with Tony George.

I did become a little frustrated with CART due to the lack of technology in the cars compared to F1. However, that made me even more excited when CART became Champ Car and a new car designed by Panoz was introduced.

My spirit was only that much more crushed when just a couple years later Champ Car gave in and merged with the then Indy Racing League and it's ugly "lawn dart" farting bee Dallara.

The Panoz car that I loved so much disappeared.

I gave the IRL a try, here were almost all of the drivers and teams I had watched and cheered on in Champ Car. But I didn't last very long, the Indy Racing League and its hideous car was too much for me to take. If I did ever pay attention to it, it was only to watch it and laugh at the antics of Danica "the Pouting Princess" Patrick, and to hope that maybe one day the League would implode in on itself.

My interest was perked slightly when there was news of a new car being designed, plus Danican't announced that she would soon be making her way to NASCAR.

But here again the IRL demonstrated its incompetence and I left in disgust after Dan Wheldon, a well known and loved racer died in an accident in Las Vegas, a race that was unnecessarily dangerous and stupidly planned.

4 years have passed since that dark time. I am still frustrated at times with what is now called IndyCar but I can see improvements have been made. I am cautiously watching and paying attention to IndyCar again.

Which brings me to the update of this blog.

I first started this blog back in 2008 as Champ Car was going away. I wanted a place to store the last photos of the great Champ Car races. Also, I wanted a place to store some of the hilarious comments that I read on a daily basis on the Champ Car Fanatics message board know as Crapwagon. is still there but the comments haven't been as funny as they used to be. Every once in awhile I'll come across something that makes me spit my drink out, but only every once in awhile. You can find all the funny comments under the section "crapwagon comments."

Also under the section "obi wan writtings" you can find some very well written thoughts by one of crapwagon's most knowledgeable posters. He hasn't been around in quite awhile, years to be exact.

While I tracked the IRL and waited for its implosion I kept track the best I could of it's foibles and flaws. It was especially enjoyable to watch the fall of the once mighty Tony George. Again, I wasn't around when he first began the slow killing of open-wheel racing in America thanks to his greed and pompousness. But I have dedicated an entire section to news articles that document his downfall. You can find that to the left under "the fall of tony george".

I also tracked the announcement and development of the "2012 chassis". I always thought that the only chance IndyCar has to succeed is to race a car that is safe, fast, and exciting to watch. I was at first disgusted by what they came up with and this whole "aero kit" idea. I am still not totally sold on the concept but it has shown it has potential, mostly thanks to Juan Pablo Montoya winning this year's Indy 500 and his ability to come from as far back as 30th position to the front. He attributes his win to the new car and its ability to be adjusted during the race to meet the current conditions. That shows promise right there.

You will find the articles and photos of the new chassis to the left under "indycar chassis". That only covers though information thru 2011. Anything 2012 and after has been posted in the corresponding indycar section followed by the year.

Also, I have merged a few sections.

At one time I had a section dedicated to Helio Castroneves' tax evasion trial. At the time it was a very big deal. He was acquitted but his squeaky clean image has never fully recovered. Those articles can be found under the "indycar 2009" header.

There was also a section dedicated to the accident that claimed Dan Wheldon's life. That section along with the articles that followed the investigation, etc. can be found in the "indycar 2011" section.

Finally, I had a tab dedicated to all the bad news that seems to follow IndyCar. That section was called "IRL strife" however since the bad news is a constant for our friends from Indianapolis I have gone ahead and merged those articles into each year's corresponding tab.

I hope you enjoy this blog, it has been a lot of hard work putting it together. I guess you could say a labor of love and despair, but such is the life of an open-wheel race fan in America.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Indy 500 produces quite a show

(by Ryan McGee 5-24-15)

"Hell no, it wasn't a great race. We didn't win, did we?!" said the Indy 500's largest living legend.

The 99th Indianapolis 500 was barely in the books. From Gasoline Alley one could hear a wave of roars from the crowd as Juan Pablo Montoya finished chugging his jug of milk and started the traditional convertible ride around the Racing Capital of the World.

Mixed in with those cheers was also more than a little relief.

As a parade of motorized vehicles towed the nonwinning race cars back into the garage, every nose cone was streaked with melted rubber and a handful of sidepods were marked with the beginnings of black doughnuts delivered by the tires of opponents.

That's the kind of bruising that one expects from a stock car race at Martinsville or a sprint car race on some countryside dirt track. But these scars came on a 2.5-mile superspeedway via open wheel cars racing at speeds exceeding 220 mph. Badges of honor earned during one of the most thrilling final stanzas in the history of the world's most famous racetrack.

"OK, yeah, OK ... it was a pretty good race," A.J. Foyt finally confessed as he dismounted the cart he'd just driven back into the garage, his three cars having finished 13th, 17th, and crashed. "The guys up front looked like they were having a good time, didn't they?"

Yes, they did. Finally.

Both the celebratory and the defeated couldn't help but crack grins when they were asked to recap a race that featured 37 lead changes, second most in the event's storied history. A stunning five of those took place over the final 16 laps. And those were only the official lead changes as they were recorded at the start-finish line, a statistic that doesn't include the swapping that takes place all the way around the racetrack.

"I am exhausted, yes. I am disappointed, yes. But you can see that I am also smiling," said Scott Dixon. He walked hand-in-hand with his wife back to the Ganassi Racing garage, having just led a race-high 84 laps, but falling from the final four-car throwdown after making contact with Montoya with four laps remaining. "There is something to be said for an exciting day at the office. And that's exactly what that was. And as exciting as it was, it was also safe."

In the end, safe would have been enough.

The two weeks leading into the race had become testy at best, terrifying at worst, thanks to a series of frightening practice crashes, three of which featured cars sailing into the air. For the drivers, the pre-Indy media rounds became a never-ending series of questions about safety.

Were they scared? Had the cars become too fast? Were their lives being carelessly placed in harm's way? Was this brand-new speedway aerodynamic package doomed to be scrapped before it had barely made it off the engineers' laptops?

On Sunday, they finally answered.

"I think what we saw here today is all the proof people should need that IndyCar racing is the most exciting racing in the world," Montoya giddily pronounced to the crowd as he made his winner's lap around the place they call The Speedway. Then, referencing his time in CART, Formula One and, most recently, NASCAR, he stated, "I know because I have done all of the other types of racing, too."
Though no operating officer of any motorsport sanctioning body would ever admit so publicly, the best races are the ones that consistently ride the razor's edge between thrill and terror. The second half of Sunday's race rode that line like a skateboarder on a stair rail.

There was a multicar crash early. Like, really early, on Lap 1. There was a heartbreaking crash as the race headed for the final segment, involving fan favorite and 2013 Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan. And there was a visually shocking incident that ultimately set up the race's final dash to the finish. The three-car crash created a rain of debris, some settling into the Turn 4 grandstands and along the wall.

There were also two incidents involving pit crews, including an accident that silenced the grandstand and the media center as two Dale Coyne team members were flipped by an onrushing car and left laid out on pit road. One walked away OK. The other was taken to the hospital with an ankle injury.
In the end, they were the only things to flip at Indy all day.

"On a positive note, we didn't go upside down," Kanaan said in typical self-deprecating style after his solo crash. "No one flipped. And some of us really tried."

Yes they did, almost as hard as this 99th edition of the hallowed month of May tried to be a total mess. But as those tattered and torn race cars and egos were towed back into Gasoline Alley, the people who were doing the towing weren't talking about cold weather, clandestine qualifying sessions or aero kits that put a little too much emphasis on "aero."

"What did I tell you the other night?" Roger Penske said as Montoya's celebration began to break up. He had just extended his record for Indy 500 wins by a car owner to 16. On Thursday night at the annual Penske Racing media dinner, the man they call The Captain had explained that all of the controversy and fear and speculation of May's first two weeks could be erased with a great 500.

He pointed to this year's Daytona 500 Speedweeks, a February that was every bit as wonky as May at Indy, perhaps even more so. That strange buildup ultimately ended with a great race and one of Penske's cars, driven by Joey Logano, sitting in Victory Lane.

"Yeah, at the end of it all we saw a tremendous race and one of our drivers won that race," Penske had said nearly 72 hours before Sunday's finish. "Let's hope that this unusual May has the same outcome as that unusual February. All the way down to the team that wins."

And that, race fans, was the only accurate prediction of this most unpredictable Indianapolis 500.


IndyCar gets through mostly safe Indy 500 race

 (Tony Kanaan)
( 5-24-15)
Derrick Walker looked and sounded relieved after Sunday's Indianapolis 500.

Five crashes, no serious injuries and no cars in the air -- a good day for IndyCar's biggest race and a welcome one for Walker, who heads competition for the series.

"It showed the decision we made in qualifying made a big difference," Walker said in Gasoline Alley. "We had a great race. That's the takeaway from today."

For Walker, the race may have been the easiest part of May.

The debate over fast qualifying speeds came to a frightening end when three drivers -- three-time race winner Helio Castroneves, two-time Indy pole winner Ed Carpenter and Josef Newgarden, Carpenter's teammate -- all got their cars turned backward and flung upside-down during a five-day span of practice. None of them was seriously injured.

Walker responded to the flurry of crashes by requiring all cars to qualify in the slower race-day trim. The change worked.

Despite some hard hits and big spins involving big names, nobody's car went airborne over the past seven days at the 2.5-mile Brickyard.

"We finally proved that we don't flip every time we crash," 2013 Indy winner Tony Kanaan said after a big hit in the fourth turn during Sunday's race. "I'm glad I'm OK. I'm glad that we're able to prove a lot of people wrong. It's a very unfortunate thing that happened to me, but if I have to prove that we don't flip cars anymore, here it is for the critics."

It wasn't a perfect day.

IndyCar's safety team, which saved James Hinchcliffe from a life-threatening leg wound Monday, took its time helping Saavedra out of the car then carried him to the ambulance. The Colombian driver was transported to Indiana University Methodist Hospital, where he was diagnosed with a bruised right foot. Track officials said he needed additional evaluation before he would be cleared to drive next weekend in Detroit.

Walker said Saavedra also sustained a bone bruise in his right knee and that several of the hits -- including Saavedra's -- could have created an injury similar to the one Hinchcliffe suffered when the wishbone of the suspension pierced the tub of the car and went into his left thigh.

But the pre-race decision to add a part to the suspension prevented a repeat of Monday's scare and could prompt series officials to add a titanium plate or more bracketing to the driver tub before the next race.

"There were several of those kinds of incidents I saw that could reproduce that situation [Hinchcliffe's injury]," Walker said.

Drivers weren't the only one put in harm's way Sunday.

Three crew members were taken to the infield medical center after getting hit in the pits, with two men hurt in a bizarre accident involving all three cars from Dale Coyne Racing. Pippa Mann and James Davison collided as they left the pits, and Davison's car, which was on the inside, got turned into Tristan Vautier's crew. Greg Senerius, Vautier's chief mechanic, was treated for a left foot injury and released while rear tire changer Daniel Jang was taken to a hospital for surgery on a broken right ankle.

One driver who didn't feel safe Sunday was Castroneves.

"Honestly, I'd rather go airborne than get to the last 15 laps of this race just to see the level of aggressiveness," the Brazilian said. "I am not happy with these guys. I don't care if they crash each other; they can go ahead and hurt themselves. But when they put me into that scenario, that is when I get upset."

Walker acknowledged he will continue looking for ways to race safely at higher speeds.
But at least for one day, he didn't have to talk about flying cars.

"I think the changes we made, although temporary, worked," Walker said. "We know we can do more, and now we have more time to do it before the next race."


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Hundred million dollar baby

(by Kate Walker 5-21-15)

One hundred million pounds sounds like a lot of money. To most of us, that's because it is. But for those rarefied individuals who are accustomed to negotiating in the tens of millions of any currency, £100 million doesn't go as far as you might like.

A one-bedroom apartment in One Hyde Park, London will set you back over £9 million, but a penthouse in the exclusive address - the world's most expensive residence at the time of development - sold for £145 million despite being an empty shell in need of full refurbishment.

A Learjet 85 is a relatively inexpensive $21 million to buy, although operating costs make the private plane rather less of a bargain. And if exclusivity is what you're after, why not go the full-hog and buy an Airbus A380 for personal use - $300 million for the plane, and up to $200 million for the custom interior.

And then there are the yachts. In Formula One there is a saying which goes 'if it floats, flies, or f***s, rent it don't buy it'. In addition to the potential billions spent on a world class yacht - such as the $4.8 billion History Supreme with its dinosaur bones and 100,000 kilos of gold - there are the staffing costs, mooring fees, and endless tipping of harbour masters to contend with.

All of which is a very long-winded way of saying that while Lewis Hamilton's new Mercedes deal might sound like it involves a heck of a lot of money, there are an awful lot of very rich people out there wondering why on earth a racing driver has accepted a deal that leaves him living so close to the poverty line.

In a casual conversation with a team PR earlier this season we discussed the F1 cliche that driver salaries are not paid in order to get the men behind the wheel to commit feats of derring-do inside the cockpit. Racers don't need to be paid to go racing - they would happily do it for free, so strong is the impulse to drive, to compete, to win.

Instead, drivers are paid for all of the rest of the work that their job entails: the sponsor dinners, the photo shoots, the media commitments, the meet and greets... It is here that a driver is said to earn their keep, for without the fan and media interest that makes teams more appealing to sponsors, competitive budgets are harder to come by.

Like any driver at a top tier team, Hamilton's days away from the track involve a number of corporate or sponsorship duties unrelated to pre-race preparations, or to time spent in either factory or simulator.

In his years with Mercedes thus far, the team have been careful to balance Hamilton's off-track duties with time off for the man himself. A motivating factor for Hamilton's switch from McLaren was said to be the endless list of glad-handing of sponsors that a race drive with the team entailed when the Woking racers were riding high in the championship standings.

An excess of sponsorship commitments (and the rest of it) can lead to burnout, and off-track duties need to be carefully managed to ensure a driver remains on top form throughout the season. But opportunities also need to be managed, and a championship-winning team with the title-defending driver needs to capitalise on their success in order to strengthen the foundations for more success in future.

Details of Hamilton's new contract are confidential, but the Briton's increase in salary - widely reported as a reflection of his market value as defending world champion - will also see an increase in those off-track promotional and media duties so detested by those who would rather spend their days in the thick of competition.


Philip Morris renews Ferrari sponsorship on the quiet

( 5-14-15)

Tobacco company Philip Morris renewed its backing of the Ferrari F1 team over a year ago, but opted not to publicise the news.

The current deal was due to expire at the end of 2015, but Bloomberg reports that Philip Morris agreed to extend its sponsorship until the end of 2018 at a board meeting last year. Tobacco advertising is banned in Formula One and Philip Morris has not had clear Marlboro branding on the car since 2008. However, it continues to back the team and uses its association with Ferrari to promote Marlboro cigarettes in certain territories.

The links between the tobacco company and Ferrari deepened last year when former Philip Morris marketing executive Maurizio Arrivabene took over the role of team principal. Philip Morris is the only tobacco company remaining in Formula One and Sports Pro Magazine reports that it is spending somewhere in the region of $160 million a year on its deal.

Marlboro has a long history in F1 dating back to 1972 when it first sponsored BRM and Iso Marlboro. From 1974 to 1996 it had a series of sponsorship deals with McLaren before switching to a title deal with Ferrari. In 2010 the Ferrari deal came under scrutiny when Marlboro was accused of running subliminal advertising on the cars with its barcode design on the engine cover. Soon after a new Scuderia Ferrari logo appeared in its place and is still carried on the cars today.


Friday, May 22, 2015

Sebastien Bourdais: Stop making assumptions Indy is safe

(by Matt Weaver 5-21-15)

Veteran IndyCar champion Sebastien Bourdais accused the media Thursday of overblowing the rash of incidents during the buildup to the Indianapolis 500 this past week, claiming the rhetoric coming from the media center has made fans lose sight of the fact that open wheel racing is inherently dangerous.

Bourdais was not willing to say whether or not the aero kits or changes to the floorboard of the cars may have played a role in the violent crashes that befell Helio Castroneves, Josef Newgarden, Ed Carpenter and James Hinchcliffe over the past week. However, he believes with 100 percent conviction that Indy car racing will never be 100 percent safe, a point he claims both the league and the media that covers it has done a poor job of illustrating to the masses.

“At the end of the day, we need to stop making assumptions that what we do is safe,” Bourdais said. “We need to get on with the program. People are not coming into the grandstands to watch parked cars after someone had a crash. This is part of it.”

Bourdais says that fans and media have forgotten the carnage associated with Indianapolis due to the recent lack of crashing over recent seasons. The four-time Champ Car World Series champion was quick to point out that he saw Chip Gannasi Racing lose five cars in one week back in 2005 “and that was just one team.”

Bourdais didn’t stop there, claiming the perception of safety surrounding the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” has changed and the picture painted isn’t entirely accurate.

“We need to be careful,” he said. “Because the more attention we give to these incidents and more ‘Oh my god, what is going on,’ reactions we give and the more we spin this story around, the more freaked out people are going to get about it.

“This is just what we do. Whether it’s right or wrong, some people actually come to see this — not that I like it but that’s the reality. If we take that away — I’m not saying people need to get hurt — but there is the spectacle [we lose].”

Bourdais added that Indianapolis is the “Greatest Spectacle” and not exactly a great spectacle of safety or the best overall race. The Frenchman says he has to make peace with his own mortality every time he straps into his machine and that this aspect of the sport has to be acknowledged.

In the aftermath of the Hinchcliffe crash, which sent a piece of suspension through the driver’s leg and pelvic region, national and motorsport media alike have been calling for IndyCar to reduce speeds and place canopies over the DW12 cockpit.

These changes are in direct conflict with two of IndyCar’s most cherished traditions — open-wheeled, open-cockpit cars and the pursuit of speed. Bourdais, for his part does not want to see them tossed out in the name of unachievable safety.

“I just think we need to be careful not to lose our heritage, because this is at the root of what we do,” the former Formula 1 driver added. “I’ve witnessed in Europe what improvements in safety can do to tracks that were once awesome and now have no personality.

“I don’t want that to happen to IndyCar. I think it’s one thing to do everything you can to make the car safer, to race better and smarter while improving safety with the SAFER Barrier and fencing and things like that. It’s another thing to destroy the purpose of why we do the things we do and how we do it.”

Bourdais said he was alarmed to see so many fans leave the speedway in the hours following the Hinchcliffe crash on Monday afternoon as IndyCar launched an investigation into the combined cause of all four crashes. In comparison, he recalled a time where drivers and cars would burst into flames, hit the wall at 180 mph and perish only for everyone to stick around. In those instances, cars would be back on track just half an hour after the track officials cleaned up the mess. While the veteran doesn’t want the sport to return to the “killing years” he urged the racing community to hold back on potential major changes.

“Absolutely, (people are overreacting) this month,” Bourdais said. Absolutely. We’ve seen a lot less crashing with the DW12, which is a good thing but we shouldn’t take them for granted and think it isn’t going to happen anymore.

“People make mistakes, whether it’s human mistakes or mechanical mistakes and it’s going to happen. I think it has to be acknowledged and respected. When you travel at the speed we travel, things can go bad. And when they do, there’s no need say, ‘Oh my God, what happened,’ because what happened is the danger associated with what we do.

“That’s the end of it and there’s nothing else to it. Nothing.”

At the end of the day, Bourdais said IndyCar manufactured their own negative reaction to the crashing at the speedway. He believes that stopping the practice session on Monday for three hours ultimately led to the rash of negative media coverage and it was ultimately unnecessary.

“If they didn’t stop the practice, if we kept going when someone hit the fence and turned it around, I don’t think people would have made a big deal about it,” Bourdais said. “You can investigate and try to find solutions without going all out and sending everyone home.

“But again, it’s a personal thing and it’s something I’m going to bring up at some point.”

Bourdais said he understands the modern day pursuit of safety but not the current rhetoric prevailing on the eve of the biggest race of the season.

“This is something else,” he said. “Something different. We’re going close to (240 mph) between walls. I mean, let’s put this in perspective. Did anyone really believe this was safe?”


IndyCar driver raises concern about design of wishbone that injured James Hinchcliffe in crash

(by Nate Ryan 5-21-15)

While airborne crashes have sparked much of the discourse about safety the past week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, one driver is as concerned about what’s happening beneath the cars.

James Hinchcliffe suffered a life-threatening leg injury Monday after a piece of the wishbone – part of the underbody suspension that connects the wheels – pierced his car’s tub. Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Oriol Servia suggested Thursday during Indianapolis 500 Media Day that it might have been avoidable.

“To me, that’s unacceptable,” he said. “I think there were things that we were doing on these cars for 20 years that all of a sudden we have forgotten on this car to avoid wishbones going (through the tub).”

Hinchcliffe’s injury mirrored a 2003 crash at Twin Ring Motegi in which Tony Kanaan’s leg also was speared by the steel piece. Servia said IndyCar reinforced an area to help prevent such injuries, but that the design changed when the DW12 chassis made its debut three years ago.

“We used to have a connecting rod,” he said. “All that did was to avoid one of the two sides (of the wishbone) going in (the car). For 20 years we had that on all cars, and all of a sudden, this car, it wasn’t needed.

“I don’t know why. I might be speaking out of turn, and they’ve done other things to avoid it, but obviously whatever that is, it’s not working. So that’s why I’m not happy. I know there are a lot of smart people working on it. I just don’t know what can be done for this race.”

It’s also uncertain what can be done to keep the cars from going skyward after spinning backward, which was a common denominator in wrecks involving Hinchcliffe, Helio Castroneves, Josef Newgarden and Ed Carpenter. Servia said he watched a replay of the 2014 race and noticed that Scott Dixon spun backward at high speed without his car taking flight.

“It’s very difficult to solve with two days to go without knowing exactly what makes them fly,” Servia said. “There’s something I feel is in the rear bumpers — the whole body is different, so it could be many things playing at once — but it is different, and it’s worse.

“Already we’re having this bad sensation about how the week was going. Then Hinch has this crash, nothing related to the other crashes, just one failure in a suspension (part) that happened. But the way he crashes, and the  wishbone gets into the car. The guy is alive and great, but it’s just so lucky.”
Though Servia said Sunday’s race “may not be as safe as I’d like us to be,” he also accepts there are limits to preventive measures.

“This will never be a safe race,” he said. “It’s an open wheel car going 230 mph over three hours trying to win. Safe is not really what defines it. It will never be. But I think it could be safer than what we’ll do Sunday.”