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Malsher2014 copyI’m not living in the past. I hope there’s a place for an all-electric racing series (until solar power can be harnessed properly for road/racecar applications). I think the FIA is smart to have given Formula E the green light. I admire the series for daring to be different regarding its race venues. And I do believe this series has staying power…

…But only if the spectacle is radically improved.

I will always hold the belief that the key to making a racing series a must-see spectacle is to make one car running solo look breathtaking, whether you’re standing trackside or watching on TV. My logic is this: for the majority of time, the cars will be following roughly the same strategy and running in approximate order of speed – fast at the front, mediocre in the middle, slow at the back – therefore, it’s inevitable that the cars will get strung out. But that needn’t matter if a single car provides huge entertainment by making visibly huge demands of its driver.

It’s a power vs. grip thing. That’s why we still rave about Can-Am. That’s why the World Rally Championship is still awesome to behold. Just as you were never left in any doubt of the personal efforts of Mark Donohue, George Follmer, Denny Hulme or Bruce McLaren as they blasted past in a 700hp-plus monster, so there can be little doubt that Sebastien Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala, Mikko Hirvonen and Thierry Neuville are on the limit. The cars are twitching under power and under braking, they’re drifting, jumping, understeering, oversteering. In short, these cars require taming, and it’s obvious that it’s not something the common man or woman could do. It inspires awe; it creates heroes and memories that last forever.

Formula E, by contrast, looks far too easy. Obviously it wasn’t that easy, otherwise we’d have had 20 winners at Beijing but,  89P2408considering that was a street course, the cars adhered to the road far too well. And, given that none of the corners looked high-speed, I’m assuming it was rubber-to-ground/mechanical grip rather than downforce that made the cars so well-behaved.

The instant torque of an electric motor which makes, for instance, a Fiat 500e so much fun to drive in the wet – with traction control turned off, it will spin its wheels in a straight line at 30mph – should have made these Formula E cars twitchy. Instead, the Spark-Renault SRT 01Es speared off the grid and thereafter appeared far too docile, power output comprehensively overruled by grip. Through all those 90-degree corners, they behaved as if they were all-wheel-drive – initial turn-in understeer followed by just enough torque to straighten them out on corner exit, but not slide them.


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Formula E is just half a second quicker around Donington Park than Formula Ford, and while this needn’t be a problem in itself, I’d far rather watch a pack of F-Fords because they’re a visual treat, given their power-to-grip ratio. I can witness car control and drifting; I can distinguish between driving styles; I can see kids and veterans do things with a racecar that I never could; I can see the cream rise to the top. Formula E cars – at least in Beijing – looked very much point and shoot, with an individual’s ultimate pace dictated by the machinery’s relatively low performance threshold. On reaching that threshold, there was nothing to separate the best from the not so great. It felt as if, were I brave/confident enough, I could do it myself.

 G7C1781Nonsense, of course. The one thing I could have done as well as anyone else is what Nicolas Prost did to Nick Heidfeld approaching the final corner of the final lap (although there’s no way I’d have matched the guilty party’s lame protests of innocence). But the cars did not look demanding at all, and that’s sad considering the race veterans who filled the field.

Maybe I’ve had it too good: I’ve seen Nick Heidfeld flat-out in the lovely Rebellion Lola while trying to get on terms with the far superior Audis at Sebring; I’ve witnessed Oriol Servia passing Paul Tracy around the outside of Turn 1 at Indy; I’ve seen Franck Montagny starting to master a Champ Car at Long Beach; and I still get goosebumps remembering the footage of Jarno Trulli’s pole-winning lap at Monaco in 2004. Watching these and other highly talented drivers whirring, squeaking and flicking their way around Beijing’s Olympic Park at 100mph seemed tame in comparison…because it was.

The major flaw, in my opinion, is that these Sparks look like conventional open-wheel racecars. Not only has this ensured they’re too well planted, it doesn’t project the image of futurism so well-meaningly peddled by advocates of their power source. Had Formula E consisted of superfast electric karts, or light egg-shaped “Cars Of The Future” running on skinny tires, just think what influence those McLaren-built 200kW power units would have had on the handling of the vehicle, and therefore, the spectacle! Think, too, how much longer the Williams-built batteries might last in a far lighter car with a reduced frontal area.

Of course, that’s a long-standing racing enthusiast talking and not the target demographic of Formula E, which is apparently trying to attract new fans to the sport, rather than overcome the prejudices of traditional motorsport aficionados. Yet if this series is to succeed, it surely needs to appeal to both sides… and the folk who can’t appreciate the sight of a flying lap from Lewis Hamilton at Spa, Will Power at Sonoma or Kazuki Nakajima at Le Mans – never mind the ridiculous thrills of NHRA or World of Outlaws – will be far harder to convince of racing’s merits than us, who couldn’t quit watching racing even if we tried. Based on Beijing, I wonder how many people in either camp were impressed with Formula E.

 A8C9160The idea of an environmentally friendly race series is a worthy one, but if no one enjoys the show, its “green” credentials are irrelevant. As race fans, we’ve all heard people question our fascination with a sport that consists of “just cars driving around and around.” But has anyone been asked, “How can you watch two hours of fossil fuels being burned?” The reply that these cars are electric and aren’t harmful to the environment is not going to persuade the skeptic to sit down and watch people driving “around and around” in vehicles that behave and sound like slot cars. There's still no captivating hook for outsiders.

People “get” racing or they don’t, and if this brave new series is to become popular, as opposed to just a money-earner for participants and suppliers, it must appeal to current (no pun intended) racing enthusiasts as well as potential new fans. And to attract either, never mind both, it must be far more entertaining than Formula E in Beijing.

While we should commend the FIA, Alejandro Agag and all of Formula E’s suppliers for having the courage of their convictions, getting behind this project and not merely creating yet another “normal” junior open-wheel formula, it’s hard to believe this formula will convert non-believers into race fans, any more than it will persuade existing racing enthusiasts that all-electric racecars are more than just a gimmick.

We could be witnessing the start of something big, but I wish we hadn't seen the cars so early in their gestation, before they can complete more than 25 minutes at only 200hp. Watching drivers have to stop mid-race and jump into another car will never convey the right message about the viability of pure battery power in either road car or racecar applications. And however unusual the cars, the race formats and the chosen venues, the basic entertainment element of Formula E is missing that vital electricity.

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WEC LMSAn amazing event awaits North American sports car fans as the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and World Endurance Championship collide at Circuit of The Americas this week.

Be sure to follow RACER’s @MarshallPruett and @DavidMalsher, who will report live trackside beginning Wednesday, follow @RACERmag for regular updates on Twitter, and RACER.com for photos, videos, session reports and feature stories.

IMSA RADIO: MRN (Click Here)
WEC RADIO: Radio Le Mans (Click Here)

IMSA ENTRY LIST: Click Here
WEC ENTRY LIST: Click Here

TICKETS: Click Here
WEATHER: Click Here

IMSA SPOTTERS GUIDE: Click Here

WEC SPOTTERS GUIDE: Click Here

IMSA LIVE TIMING & SCORING: Click Here
WEC LIVE TIMING & SCORING: Click Here
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EVENT SCHEDULE:
Thursday, Sept. 18 (all times Central)
WEC: 2:45-4:15 p.m., Free Practice 1
IMSA: 5:30-6:30 p.m., Free Practice 1
WEC: 7:30-9:00 p.m. Free Practice 2

Friday, Sept. 19
IMSA: 9:00-10:00 a.m. Free Practice 3
WEC: 10:20-11:20 a.m. Free Practice 3
IMSA: 3:20-4:20 p.m. Free Practice 4
IMSA: 4:30-4:45 p.m. Qualifying (GTD)
IMSA: 4:50-5:05 p.m. Qualifying (GTLM)
IMSA: 5:15-5:30 p.m. Qualifying (PC)
IMSA: 5:35-5:50 p.m. Qualifying (P)
WEC: 6:00-6:25 p.m. Qualifying (LMGTE-PRO/LMGTE-AM)
WEC: 6:35-7:00 p.m. Qualifying (LMP1/LMP2)

Saturday, Sept. 20
IMSA: 8:40-9:00 a.m. Warm-up
IMSA: 11:35 a.m.-2:20 p.m. Race - TUDOR United SportsCar Championship (2 Hours 45 Minutes)
WEC: 5:00-11:00 p.m. Race - FIA WEC (6 Hours)

SC1014 previewSportsCar magazine’s October 2014 issue takes a look at the upcoming 2014 SCCA National Championship Runoffs, held this year at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca – the event’s return to the West Coast for the first time in more than 40 years. The storied track will see more than 500 drivers vying for one of 27 class championships. This issue takes a detailed look at each of those 27 races, offering an inside line on who to watch, and what may unfold when the green flag flies.

Technical features help competitors prepare the car, and driver, for the upcoming Runoffs and SCCA RallyCross National Championships. Top drivers, teams and prep shops provide insight and tips to optimizing any competitor’s title chances. 

Also in this issue, SCCA’s favorite son, Randy Pobst, shares his unique insight into the workers who make racing possible – the hero’s on the corners, the statisticians in timing and scoring, and the always brave safety crew. Who are these people, why do they do it, and how can you give back to them?

All that and more awaits readers in the October 2014 issue of SportsCar.

SportsCar magazine is mailed monthly to the members of the SCCA. To join the SCCA, head to www.scca.com.

Digital issues of SportsCar magazine are also available to SCCA members by logging in to https://ams.scca.com.

FE may seek world championship status

Formula E could make a bid for world championship status in the future.

Series boss Alejandro Agag stated during the course of last weekend's inaugural event in Beijing that an application to the FIA for Formula E to become a world championship is a possibility when the rules open up to allow full manufacturer involvement.

"There is a condition of a world championship to have a certain number of manufacturers; you cannot be a world championship as a one-make series," he said. "We hope to attract manufacturers, meet the conditions and hopefully the FIA will grant us world championship status."

Formula E is starting out as a one-make championship, but the rules have been framed to allow manufacturers and teams to develop their own power trains for year two of the series in 2015/2016 and their own batteries from season three.

Formula E would need the involvement of four manufacturers to become a world championship under FIA rules. Renault – which is both a technical partner and a sponsor of the series and a backer of the e.dams team – and Indian manufacturer Mahindra – whose team is run by the British Carlin organization – have both expressed an interest in producing their own powertrains in the future.

Audi also has an involvement through its support of the Abt team, while BMW has admitted that its deal to supply support vehicles to the series is a statement of its interest in Formula E.

According to the Bloomberg news agency, the push to bring in additional auto makers to Formula E is also key to the potential for a possible initial public offering for the series, which to date has been privately financed, including $100 million by Boston Celtics managing partner Wyc Grousbeck and others.

FIA President Jean Todt, who was present for the Beijing event on Saturday, described Formula E "as part of the strong assets of the FIA."

 

Originally on Autosport.com

X15aABOVE: Adrian Newey's "X1" vision of a future Red Bull F1 car included a canopy, although such devices have been little more than styling exercises so far. Could and should such a device be in IndyCar's future?




2014LongBeachMPruettSUN413 605The overall strength of the Dallara DW12 Indy car chassis has been tested in a number of violent crashes since its introduction in 2012, and while drivers have suffered everything from bruises to broken bones, the worst possible outcome has been avoided.


Despite the fortitude and all of the safety features contained within the DW12, the unique marriage of open-wheel, open-cockpit cars and superspeedway events continues to pose exceptional risks that cannot be managed with stronger carbon fiber tubs or additional SAFER barrier installations.

Following the helmet strike that claimed Dan Wheldon in 2011, Dario Franchitti’s career-ending launch into the fence at Houston in 2013, contact made between Juan Montoya’s tire and Mikhail Aleshin’s helmet at Toronto in July, and Aleshin’s troubling trip into the fence last month at Fontana, the need for some form of cockpit enclosure to protect drivers in extreme situations continues to grow.

 
Inaction on the part of IndyCar in the wake of Wheldon’s fatal crash has been the norm, but under the direction of Derrick Walker, who joined IndyCar as its President of Competition halfway through the 2013 season, the first stages of a proper solution could be forthcoming.
 
“It is being considered; it’s been on my radar ever since I came to IndyCar,” Walker told RACER. “I’ve had discussions with Dallara about trying to design a partial canopy, not a fully enclosed, but a partial one that would serve as a deflector for debris that comes at the driver. It’s on the radar.”
 
Provided it was built to withstand high impact forces, a partial canopy could be a solid first step to protect IndyCar drivers from flying objects similar to the spring that struck Ferrari Formula 1 driver Felipe Massa in 2009. Whether such a device would be capable of protecting a driver from heavier items like flying wheels and tires or solid objects like poles in the event a car gets into the fencing is unknown.
 
“It’s going to take developing a model of it and putting it into the simulator and see what would be the shape of it for the visibility of the driver,” Walker said of the first step required in the series’ canopy exploration. “It’s going to take some development with a super plastics company or a special armored glass-type material to actually be able to put something that could do the job that we’re looking for.”
 
243-TonySchumacherIndy-SaturdayThe NHRA took a progressive approach to protecting its 300mph Top Fuel drivers by approving the use of canopies in 2012 and, by 2013, units made by the Indianapolis-based composites firm Aerodine were seen in competition (LEFT). In terms of a consulting resource for an IndyCar canopy, the series would appear to have a company with expertise on the topic located in its home town.
 
2012 IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay has been an advocate for Indy car canopies for many years, and welcomes their timely introduction.
 
 “I feel like it should be a priority; we and Formula 1 are the only big series in the world racing with our heads fully exposed,” said RHR, who won the Indy 500 this year for Andretti Autosport. “The Top Fuel guys are now protected with a canopy, and it’s something we absolutely have to start developing seriously. Especially if we’re going to be running on superspeedways at 240mph.”
 
Adopting a purpose-built canopy for the next-generation Indy car that’s due to arrive in 2018 would be a much easier goal to reach due to the long lead time and the ability to design the device into the tub’s core structure. Retrofitting the current DW12 would be a greater challenge.
 
“It’s a lot of work because Formula 1 and many others have tried looking at this issue,” Walker explained. “It’s not a quick solution just around the corner. I think certainly, if you look at the design of the 2018 car, hopefully, we have something before that, but if you were looking at that design of the 2018 car, you would see that it has a partial canopy. That would definitely be part of what would be the most notable about the car would be it would have that cockpit protection. I think that’s a given.”
 
If a reasonable solution can be found, Walker hopes to see testing of partial canopy prototypes to take place sometime soon.
 
“It’s something we’re going to be working on here in the short term,” he continued. “When I looked at it when we first started, it seemed a lot easier or a lot more practical to build it into a new car. But Dallara are willing to come up with some options for us. We’re going to have some discussions here in the next week or so and some other issues with Dallara on some development.
 
“They had offered to put a [canopy] shape on their simulator to actually experiment when you put something there and see what it would do to the driver’s visibility. You’ve got to reinforce it to some extent, and that might be more of an obstruction than anything else. We won’t know until we test it.”
 
Hunter-Reay is hopeful the series will remain vigilant in its pursuit of developing the first Indy car canopy.
 
“Unfortunately, you think back to what happened with Dan [Wheldon], and if that happened again, it would be the only priority,” he said. “Dario [Franchitti] got lucky because the bottom of his car hit the fence. Mikhail [Aleshin] got lucky because the bottom of his car hit the fence. If we’re racing on Superspeedways with catch fencing, I fear we’re just playing the odds until we have something protecting our heads. It’s a scary thing to say.”​

Image601

Ride with Gustavo Yacaman as he takes The RACER Channel for a lap of Sebring inside the new Honda twin-turbo V6-powered Ligier JS P2 that he and co-driver Alex Brundle will race this weekend at Circuit of The Americas in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship event.

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Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff says Formula 1 teams have broached concerns about ticket prices being too high with the sport's commercial chief Bernie Ecclestone.

As part of increasingly intense talks between teams and F1's chiefs to find out why interest in grand prix racing has declined in key markets, one item that has been highlighted has been high ticket prices. The extreme cost of attending some races is viewed as a turn-off for many, but lowering the price of tickets is difficult for many promoters because the high fee they must pay Ecclestone to host a race makes it hard to recoup income any other way.

Wolff says that teams are aware of the difficulties race promoters have, which is why they have mentioned the issue to Ecclestone, as well as making it clear that F1 cannot turn its back on traditional venues.

"We have dared to discuss ticket prices, and we discussed the impact and the importance of the traditional circuits like Spa, like Monza, like Hockenheim," explained Wolff about talks with Ecclestone. "Races like that need to be part of the race calendar. This is a global sport.

"We need to go abroad and we need to conquer new territories and new countries, this always has been the case, but I guess it is pretty clear what needs to be done to fill the grandstands in the traditional races such as Hockenheim and Monza."

RESEARCH NEEDED

Wolff's comments come in the wake of McLaren Group CEO Ron Dennis suggesting that F1 should do some market research to understand why some venues struggle to attract spectators.

The issue was thrust in to the spotlight at the German Grand Prix when Hockenheim could not fill it grandstands, whereas the three previous races in Canada, Austria and Britain were huge successes.

Dennis said: "How can we go to Silverstone and Austria and it be absolutely full, and then we go to Germany and it's half full? There must be a reason.

"We can all guess, but that's not very scientific. We've really got to understand why these things happen. Is it ticketing prices? Is it national heroes, etc.? Whatever it is we have to address it."

 

 

 

Originally on Autosport.com

marcosambroseTeam Penske announced today that it will form a partnership with one of the most successful motorsport teams in Australia to compete in the popular V8 Supercars Championship, beginning in 2015.

Working with Dick Johnson Racing (DJR), the longest-established motor racing team in Australia, Team Penske plans to race next season in the ultra-competitive touring car series that features events contested at Australia’s top motorsport venues.

DJR Team Penske will compete with Ford Falcons in the 2015 V8 Supercars Championship with a true hero of Australian motorsports behind the wheel. Marcos Ambrose will return to the Series where he drew international acclaim to race the iconic No. 17 Ford for DJR Team Penske. Ambrose is a two-time V8 Supercars champion; winning back-to-back titles in 2003 and 2004. He transitioned to a winning career in NASCAR where he has earned seven wins and eight pole positions while competing in the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series over the past nine seasons.

“Team Penske is excited to partner with Dick Johnson Racing to compete in the V8 Supercars Championship starting next season,” said Roger Penske. “We believe in building our businesses through racing and our success on the track. With our new business ventures in Australia, it makes sense to showcase our brands through the V8 Supercars Championship and the opportunity to work with DJR and Marcos Ambrose convinced us to go forward.”

Ambrose, a native of Launceston, Tasmania, is one of the most successful drivers in the history of the V8 Supercars Championship. In the 65 rounds in which he competed from 2001 to 2005, he won 28 individual races.

“This is a great opportunity to return home to a place that I love in a Series where I’ve experienced a lot of success,” said Ambrose, who has earned two career victories at the highest level of NASCAR competition – the Sprint Cup Series. “It will be an honor to race for two motorsport legends in Roger Penske and Dick Johnson.”

The partnership between Team Penske and Dick Johnson Racing brings together two organizations that have experienced tremendous success in their respective disciplines. Team Penske has produced more than 400 race wins and 26 national championships in its storied history while DJR has earned over 80 victories and seven Australian Touring Car/V8 Supercar titles in over 35 years of racing.

“We are certainly looking forward to this new challenge,” said Dick Johnson, a legendary driver himself who claimed five Australian Touring Car Championships and won the prestigious Bathurst 1000 race three times before he retired from racing in 1999. “I have always admired what Roger Penske has accomplished in business and with his racing teams and it will be a thrill to work with Team Penske and Marcos in 2015.”

Video: The Insider Issue

The Insider Issue is on sale now. Click here for more information.

FROM THE RACER CHANNEL ON YOUTUBE

An American in Formula 1. Episode 3 of "Dan Gurney: All American Racer," presented by Bell.

 

The First 200mph Lap. Episode 5 of "Dan Gurney: All American Racer," presented by Bell.

 

Verizon IndyCar Series: News and views from Robin Miller and Marshall Pruett.

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