L4R3630Red Bull's Formula 1 chassis is now as good as the Mercedes but Renault needs a complete engine rethink as its latest upgrade did not perform, reckons Daniel Ricciardo.

The team will revert to Renault's previous specification power unit for this weekend's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix despite using the upgraded version in Ricciardo's car in Brazil two weeks ago. Although there has still been no official announcement, Red Bull is expected to continue with Renault next season despite its earlier attempts to extricate itself from its contract when it believed it could get Mercedes engines instead.

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Asked how much confidence he had in what Renault was doing given his disparaging view of the latest upgrade in Brazil, Ricciardo replied: "It's definitely obvious they've got some work ahead of them. We put in the D-spec, or whatever, in Brazil and it didn't really show a whole lot. There would need to be a change of direction."

But while he remains critical of Renault's performance, Ricciardo thinks Red Bull has made great strides with its chassis.

"If we had more power, we could probably win races," he said. "We didn't have the quickest car at the start of the year. The chassis had some deficiencies. But I think what the team's done has made the chassis back to pretty much what it was last year, which was as good as the Merc."

Red Bull has yet to formally confirm it will stay in F1 for 2016 after earlier threats to leave over its engine situation, but has gone through the first stage of the entry process and announced numerous sponsor deals for next year.

Ricciardo said the team had continued to reassure its drivers.

"They're just saying we're working on it, we will have something, so don't stress," said Ricciardo. "Obviously there's a bit of weight off, knowing that we will be on the grid, but it would be nice to know how competitive we think we'll be."


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Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button

Jenson Button says Fernando Alonso has been a tougher McLaren Formula 1 teammate in 2015 than Lewis Hamilton was during their time together.

Button raced alongside countryman Hamilton in the 2010-'12 seasons, before the now three-time F1 world champion left for Mercedes, while Alonso joined McLaren from Ferrari this year.

During their three seasons as teammates, Hamilton twice finished fourth in the drivers' championship to Button's fifth, while Button was second and Hamilton fifth in 2011. While they have generally been fighting at the back this year, Button says Alonso has been a tougher opponent.

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"In a race, it's a bigger challenge, I would say, a more consistent challenge," Button said.

"He's always there. On some race days, Lewis was untouchable. And on other race days, it was like, 'Where is he?'

"I'm guessing he's a different driver now, more experienced, but Fernando is always there, always competitive. If he's in front of you, you're holding on, and if he's behind you, he's pushing you a lot.

"That's great, though, I like that. I think that's important in a team. It's definitely helped us this year."

Button dismissed Alonso's self-criticism aired earlier this month – when the Spaniard argued he had not been driving well this year – as "clever drivers say clever things."

He is, though, happy with his own performances, amid the challenge of "trying to hold onto the back of the field," citing being able to mix it with faster cars during the mixed-weather United States Grand Prix as a highlight.

"If you're fighting people it's not such an issue," he said of the McLaren-Honda's shortcomings. "In Austin, we were able to fight people and it's not near the front – sixth is not too bad, but still we could race people and if that was for 14th it still would have been fun, because at least you're still racing people.

"You've got to keep your nose clean, which is a big part of it for us at the moment."


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P1 4In the short term, LMP1 rules tweaks aim to keep speeds in check. Longer term, changes to energy recovery systems and even new fuels could be on the cards.

What’s next in the brave new world of LMP1 in the FIA World Endurance Championship? That’s not been fully decided just yet, but more powerful hybrid systems and reduced amounts of traditional fuels will be part of the landscape in the coming season. Further down the road, the door is open to new technologies that have yet to be seen on the racetrack.

P1 1The regulations introduced in 2014 that limit the fuel used over each racing lap and put an emphasis on energy retrieval were always set to evolve. That was one of the guiding principles of the new LMP1 rule book, and a key aim was a progressive reduction of conventional fuel usage.

The first step will occur next year, when the amount of fuel allocated to each car will be cut. This is set in stone, although the final figures have yet to be made public. But an energy allocation reduction of 10 megajoules for each lap of the 8.47-mile Le Mans 24 Hours track, with pro rata decreases at the other WEC venues, equates to just over seven percent.

A reduction in fuel usage was always planned for season three of the new rules, and 10MJ was the maximum discussed with the manufacturers. The rule makers – the FIA and the Automobile Club de l’Ouest at Le Mans – made up their minds early in the 2015 season that the maximum possible reduction should be made. This was a reaction to the massive performance leap the P1 cars made between 2014 and ’15, although, they claim, not directly to the record-breaking lap times seen around the Circuit de la Sarthe at Le Mans in June.

P1 3The ACO is, however, acutely aware of the ever quicker lap times at Le Mans. Neel Jani took pole position for Porsche with a 3m16.887s flyer, while Audi driver Andre Lotterer set the fastest race lap, 3m17.476s. Those marks compare with 3m21.789s and 3m22.567s in 2014.

Porsche and Audi believe that it makes sense to increase hybrid power, with the possible introduction of an additional 10MJ class above the existing sub-divisions of two, four, six and eight when the new chassis rules come into force. Toyota is against an all-in-one change in the rules.

“Technology is the DNA of the WEC and we have to make sure that we develop that value further,” says Audi’s head of LMP1, Chris Reinke. “We should allow a further step to advance the technology further in 2018, but we have to decide if a series of megajoule classes is still the right solution.”

P1 2

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Marshall Pruett Phoenix 1995 GordonIt took Robby Gordon 42 races to earn his first trip to Victory Lane, and when it finally came at Phoenix in 1995, something changed within the Californian. By the end of the season, Gordon scored another win in the No. 5 Walker Racing Reynard-Ford/Cosworth – the only two in an eight-year CART IndyCar career – that helped propel the former (and future) off-road racing star to fifth in the standings.

The Phoenix win was also memorable for Rob Edwards, Andretti Autosport's director of engineering and race operations, who served as Gordon's race engineer in 1995.

Edwards"You never forget your first win," Edwards (LEFT, LAT photo) told RACER. "It's funny – we were there testing last week, and it has changed in so many ways, but we still have special memories because of that day. The year didn't start off great, but somehow we all came through to win there and then at Detroit. It was good memories of Robby, good memories of Phoenix, and great to think back on that race 20 years ago."

With the Verizon IndyCar Series making its return to race at Phoenix on April 2, Edwards expects to see some of the excitement that surrounded the 1995 event return to the one-mile oval.

"When you look at Phoenix, it's such a vibrant city, and it's in part of the country we're not in, so being able to take the product back there is great, and from what I've heard, the track is doing a lot to promote the event," he continued. "We look at the good short oval events we've had over the years and hope we can keep them going at Phoenix with the new Verizon IndyCar Series."

Gordon made the most of a communication breakdown between race leader Michael Andretti and his team with a handful of laps left in the race, and swept past the Newman/Haas driver to capture an opportunistic win. Andretti would settle for a surprised second and Team Penske's Emerson Fittipaldi rounded out the podium. In an ironic twist, 20 years after beating Andretti, Edwards now leads Michael's team.

Whether it's from a dominant drive by Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, or Carlos Munoz, or involves a little bit of the old Phoenix luck, Edwards hopes the race next April takes a page from the 1995 event.

"Nothing would make me happier than to repeat the experience 21 years later!" he said.

Click on the thumbnails for larger images from that 1995 race.

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What will you remember the 2015 IndyCar season for? Juan Pablo Montoya's teflon coating wearing off right at the time he needed it most? The introduction of the aero kits, several years after they were first mooted? Rocky Moran Jr.'s inspiring hour of track time at Long Beach?

To try to make sense of it all, RACER's Marshall Pruett, Robin Miller and Mark Glendenning asked each other some searching questions about all of 2015's regulars, which for the purpose of this review, includes anyone who started a minimum of half the races. Look for new installments every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

2015 starts: 16

2015 best finish: 2nd (Detroit, Saturday race)
2015 championship position: ninth; 428pts

FPW15D28IMS 10874How much growth is left in Marco's driving game, and have we seen him settle into a comfortable place as Andretti Autosport's second-best driver on most days?

MARSHALL PRUETT: Looking at Marco's 2015 season as yet another good-but-not-great collection of performances is tempting. He did finish ninth in the standings - just as he did the year before - which suggests there was limited growth on display and, possibly, that there isn't much left for Marco to find in his personal driver development game.

Then I look to Graham Rahal and all he achieved after spending years in the wilderness, and realize Marco is more than capable of having a similar Rahal-esque breakout season in his late 20s. The question is whether he has an extra gear to grab and join Graham at the sharp end of the grid.

Like Rahal, Andretti has been accused of letting malaise - and all the trappings that come with a famous last name - take away from his output inside the race car. It was a fair accusation until recent years when Marco's maturity and intensity began to rise, and on a personal front, his willingness to learn has also seen an increase in consistency.

Marco's finished between fifth and ninth in drivers' standings eight times in 10 seasons, which speaks to his obvious talent. And his 2015 season was another fine example of delivering quality results for his team and sponsors with 11 top-10s from 16 races. Andretti is a finisher, and usually finds himself somewhere among the championship contenders by the end of the race, but it's often on the outskirts of where he should be (he had seven finishes between P7 and P11 last season).

How would Marco go about improving those finishes to a steady diet of top-5s? And how would he move from ninth in the standings to something closer to Rahal's P4? Starting with the former, the greatest growth area Andretti has left to conquer is in his head. Marco's ability to analyze his driving, pick out the deficiencies, and zero in on the necessary changes is especially impressive. He's always thinking about how to improve himself and is highly self-critical, and while constant introspection can be a wonderful thing, it can also take a driver out of his or her rhythm - out of the 'zone'.

If Marco can learn to dial down that self-analysis loop while racing, or at least do a better job of burying it in his subconscious so his natural talent can shine through, he should find more success.

lat nelson Fon 06271116Looking at Andretti's championship performances, he's rarely gotten off to a fast start since joining the series in 2006. Granted, he's done well early and earned a podium or two throughout the years, but we've rarely seen Marco make a statement at the opening race and carry it through the first four or five events - the stretch that can send a driver on their way to an impressive place in the standings. Think of how Juan Montoya started 2015, then rode those results to a near-championship. Marco needs to follow JPM's early-season blueprint once the championship kicks off next year, and if he does, P9 in the standings will be a distant memory.

Provided Marco and his team look at maximizing the first third of the 2016 season as a way to make the rest of the year fall into place, and provided he can do a better job of switching into a more primal mode on race day, there's every reason to believe Marco can challenge Ryan Hunter-Reay for the No. 1 position within Andretti Autosport.

Whether it happens is up to him, but it is good to know Marco has more to offer.

Marco finished P9 this year, and has finished P7, P8, or P9 in the championship seven times in 10 seasons. Was his P5 in 2013 a fluke, and if not, what does he need to do differently to crack the top-five?

ROBIN MILLER: Marco is the most puzzling piece of the IndyCar checkerboard. On any Sunday (or Saturday night) he's as fast as anyone on ovals, but remains a conundrum on the rest of the circuit. After thinking he'd turned corner, literally and figuratively, at the start of 2014 with a new driving style, the third generation of Andretti didn't continue his advancement in 2015.

He qualified alright, especially considering Honda's struggles, but we're still waiting on that family road racing gene to surface. He's going to win the Indy 500 some day but to be a title contender he's got to make that big step where 11 of the 16 races are held. Two wins in 10 years is not acceptable for someone with his pedigree and opportunity, and he knows it.

Marco has one more year of IndyCar experience than Graham Rahal. The two have always been measured against each other, but Rahal finally distanced himself from Andretti in 2015. What, if anything, can Marco learn from Graham's season and to apply to 2016 in the hopes of finding a similar turnaround?

MARK GLENDENNING: I don't think it's as simple as the question makes it sound. Rahal's season was a perfect storm: the right team environment, the right engineering focus, a shared mindset, and a driver who rose to the occasion. Part of the reason that it all clicked for RLL this year was that the team was pulling in a common direction. Marco, as part of a multi-car team, had to deal with compromises that Rahal didn't.

Perhaps one thing that Marco can take from watching Rahal's season applies equally to the rest of Andretti Autosport, and it's not something that they need to be told: if you get lost with the car's set-up, you can waste a lot of races finding your way out of the woods.

RLL got a fair bit of the Honda package unlocked as early as Spring Training at Barber, and the team was in good shape right from the first race. Andretti did all of Honda's manufacturer testing of the aero kit last winter which you'd think would have given it an advantage, but instead it spent the first half of the season confusing itself.

Viewed in the context of the rest of the team, Marco had the kind of season we've come to expect: some great oval races (if the oval trophy still existed, he'd have ended up fourth), some great isolated runs elsewhere – he drove a blinder in tough conditions in the Saturday race at Detroit – and a few weekends where you forgot that he was in the race.

But then you look at some of the other drivers in the field, and consider the sort of season that they had, and you end up with the final – and maybe most intriguing – thing that Marco can take from Rahal's season.

This time 12 months ago, nobody forecast that Graham would have a year like he did in 2015. Whatever you think you know about somebody's prospects, they always have the capacity to surprise. Marco, for all of his experience and home comforts, still gives the impression that he is working as hard as ever to iron out the wrinkles in his game. If he keeps doing that, and the planets align the right way, then Rahal's year serves as an example of just how high his efforts might take him.

LAT Ellman 150328 2643

Missed one of the earlier reviews? You can go back and read them here:

 79P4726Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery believes the key to success for Formula 1's 2017 tires could be a return to the hotly debated characteristics of the 2012 rubber.

Since Pirelli returned to F1 in 2011 there has been a marked decline in the number of overtaking maneuvers, season upon season, as the table below illustrates:

2011: 1148 (avg. per race: 60.42)
2012: 1141 (avg. per race: 57.05)
2013: 985 (avg. per race: 51.84)
2014: 636 (avg. per race: 33.47)
2015: 561 (avg. per race: 31.17)

Pirelli's brief when it returned to F1 was to increase the number of pit stops to two to three per grand prix after previous tire supplier Bridgestone was managing just one per race. The Italian manufacturer rose to the challenge by making tires featuring deliberate degradation, which not only increased pit stops, but also overtaking moves.

After its first three seasons in F1, and with the switch to the 1.6-liter V6 turbocharged engine, the emphasis was placed on those systems, with Pirelli taking more of a backseat, conservative role with regard to its tires. The knock-on effect has been considerably fewer overtakes, along with pit stops, with the average this season per race only marginally above that for Bridgestone in its final year in 2010.

It is why Hembery has suggested that for 2017, when tires are to become wider as part of the regulations to help make cars five to six seconds per lap quicker, the rubber should become more aggressive again too.

The 2012 season is viewed as one of the best of modern times – not only for its high proportion of overtaking, but also significantly for the fact there were seven different winners of the first seven grands prix, and a title race that went down to the wire. As Hembery remarks, it all comes down to what F1 wants for 2017. What exactly is the brief being demanded?

Performance? Pirelli can produce tires that will shave four seconds per lap off current times.

Overtaking? It has already shown from 2011-'13 it can develop rubber that will fall away and shake up the racing.

Or both? Again, Hembery claims Pirelli can develop a tire that will perform over a certain number of laps, but then "fall off a cliff," necessitating an immediate stop. As far as Hembery is concerned, a season like 2012 could easily be replicated if that is what is required.

"Maybe we can offer a more aggressive approach, as we did back in 2012, where the conundrum of the tire was very difficult to master," Hembery said. "In 2012 there was a lot of unpredictability, but the drivers didn't always like it."

Sergio Perez passes Lewis Hamilton, Japanese GP 2012, Suzuka

There was considerable criticism, spearheaded by Michael Schumacher – the seven-time champion then with Mercedes – who claimed Pirelli's tires were like driving "on raw eggs." Four-time champion Alain Prost and Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz derided the unpredictability of F1, yet there were also many who claimed it was the best it had been for many years.

As Hembery points out: "It's a question of really deciding what it is you want to achieve."

Romain Grosjean said back in July, the pre-2014 tire meant drivers had to think about racing, something he favors. The majority of drivers, though, according to Hembery, "prefer a different approach" to F1 rules.

"They want something where there is very little aero, lots of power, lots of grip from the tires and to be able to push in the different stints from start to finish," he said.

Conversely, aero reduction and power increases will make little difference to the show if performance disparities between teams remain as great as at present.

"It still comes down to performance," assessed Hembery. "If there is two seconds difference between the cars then it doesn't matter what you do with overtaking, the tires.

"Look at [the race in] Brazil where everyone up to fourth was lapped. It's been quite a few years since we've had that difference in performance level between the cars. That needs resolving before you make any other changes."


Originally on

phpThumb 1Welcome to the Robin Miller Mailbag as presented by Honda Racing / HPD. You can follow the Santa Clarita, California-based company at and on social media at @HondaRacing_HPD and

Your questions for Robin should continue to be sent to We cannot guarantee we’ll publish all your questions and answers, but Robin will reply to you. And if you have a question about the technology side of racing, Robin will pass these on to Marshall Pruett and he will also answer here.

Q: Noted you posted my comments in the Mailbag. Slim pickings, eh? Another example of the long off-season's effect on the series: out of sight, out of mind. Anyway, sorry my posting was not more clear. When I said your comment angered me, what I found irritating was that you pointed out how the Fontana race had generated some buzz for the series and likely had a positive impacted on ratings for the balance of the races. If a race can do that when we need all the exposure we can get in mainstream media, that event should be a no-brainer, attendance or whatever else be dammed. Indy, Pocono and Fontana are three awesome and diverse super-speedways – there is your Triple Crown. And we should have a day of national mourning for Milwaukee, BTW. I do wonder though why Texas has been a bit of a snooze-fest the last few years when Fontana continues to be so exciting. Is the aero that different? Makes me wonder how this car would race in Michigan?

Sean Ogilvie

RM: No worries, thanks for taking the time to write. It's too bad IndyCar didn't see the value in the Triple Crown, at least trying to find a proper sponsor, and staying in Fontana with a fall date that worked for the track. There is no arguing that last summer's race helped drive up the TV ratings and interest for the rest of the season but the grandstands were empty and I don't blame Auto Club Speedway for digging in about an October race. As for Texas, it's been a clunker the past few years because of the combination of the aero package and tire degradation. Less downforce and lots of green-flag laps really strings out the field. Even the last "good show" when Justin Wilson took advantage of Graham Rahal's late slip into the wall had been a clunker because Scott Dixon was long gone before he crashed. MIS would all depend on the aero package.

Q: Just finished reading the interview with Jay Frye. I just hope that he reads some of your old emails that tell about Brian Barnhart's incompetency when he was director before naming a new race director. Under no circumstance should he name TGBB as race director. He also should eliminate the ruling by committee. The best-run races were when Beaux Barfield was in complete control. I know some did not like his rulings but they were made just after the incident and not days later. TGBB rulings were out of the hat and best guesses. I am afraid Frye is looking at TGBB as race director, just based on reading his interview and saying they have qualified people on board. TGBB was on his way out under Randy Bernard but Randy got fired before that was completed – what a shame. Do you have any inside info as to which person TGBB has by the cojones so that he keeps coming up in positions of authority?

Dick Klein, Torrance, CA

RM: My understanding is that Race Director and Chief Steward are different jobs and it sounds like it's still going to be ruled by a vote of a committee – hopefully composed of ex-drivers. I'm with you in that one person needs to make the call and I thought Beaux did a good job but he and Derrick Walker never saw eye-to-eye. Barfield was very complimentary of Barnhart's running of the driver's meetings and he will maintain that position but not be the Chief Steward. Hopefully, it will be somebody like Al Unser Jr. who would have immediate respect with the drivers.

Q: Every May I run into Leo Mehl and ask him when he is going to write a book. He doesn't seem too interested so maybe you could persuade him. If anybody needs to write a book, it's Leo!

Rusty Lewis

RM: Considering he ran Goodyear's F1 and Indy programs, yes, he's got some great stories – just not sure he'd be willing to share them all with the public. Leo is kind of a private person anyway, so I doubt anyone could persuade him.

lat lepage 150718 Iowa 9568
Q: I'm p***ed off about the IndyCar schedule, with regards to the Iowa weekend. The most successful venue for that track has been hot days, cool nights, short-track style racing. It's been thrilling to say the least, and has branded itself as a unique event, with fans to support it. I've been to a race there every year since the track opened, except one. In 2016, they've scheduled it for Sunday frigging night!! What the hell? What are they thinking? I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but red flags go up when I realize NASCAR purchased the track last year. Do you think they're trying to ruin IndyCar's success with the track and hog it all for NASCAR events? I mean, it is a very popular track around here for all events, but having it all to NASCAR events would make it even more profitable. Looking for your unfiltered thoughts.

Jeff L., Des Moines, IA

RM: No conspiracy theory, it looks like a simple maneuver for television. NASCAR runs Kentucky on Saturday night, July 9, so that will be live on NBCSN and that gives IndyCar the Sunday evening time slot on NBCSN. The obvious fly-in-the-ointment is if it rains on Sunday night.

Q: Now that Frye has fancy new position, he's been interviewed unlike when he was in the background. Upon reading those interviews, the impression I get is that he's going to be one slippery son of a gun, because he never answers a question directly. Just misdirection and babble. The true signs of someone who's over his head and incapable of being effective. I hope I'm wrong. You must have had dealings with him since he's been around IndyCar a while – what are your impressions?

Rick in Toronto

RM: As I wrote, Jay can BS with the best of 'em and that could be a valuable ally in his new job but one man cannot "save" IndyCar. It needs a makeover and a new culture but I don't see that coming in the near future. Frye knows a lot about the business of racing and that's valuable but, as I've said, he needs a couple of key lieutenants for rules, aero kits, new cars and the daily power plays inside the paddock because that's not his expertise. I just hope he doesn't get overwhelmed.

Q: I was a little disappointed that Honda is being allowed to upgrade their aero package for next season. Good for the sport, but why penalize Chevy for getting it right? What if Honda comes in next season and blows Chevy out of the water? Would Chevy then be able to react? Perhaps an answer could be Chevy having access to Honda's improvements if they prove to be 'too good' after the season starts. Chevy would then have the option of adapting anything Honda comes up with for themselves. Another question. F1 this time. Is anyone really surprised that Honda has been so bad with McLaren this year? After all, they re-entered the series well after all the other teams had a huge head start with new rules regarding powerplants. Does anyone believe that Honda won't come back charging next year and perhaps in two or three years be kicking everyone's collective asses again?

When is St Petersburg? March? Jeez!

Bill Phypers, Brewster, NY

RM: Both manufacturers agreed on giving each other a chance to catch up but the rub is that Chevrolet doesn't feel like it's got an insurmountable advantage even though the statistics are pretty telling. The problem is that IndyCar couldn't afford to lose Honda and it also can't afford to p**s off General Motors so what happens next is a slippery slope. I can't offer much wisdom on Honda of Japan in F1 but in the CART days it was tough to out-work them. After getting its butt kicked in 1994, Honda roared back to dominate from 1996-2001 and after a slow start in the IRL it kicked ass. So I would imagine things will turn around over in F1 as well because of that Honda culture. By my calculations, it's only 106 shopping days until practice begins at St. Petersburgh.

levitt montoya pitstop2
Q: I see a lot or requests or suggestions from IndyCar fans to reduce the downforce and increase the horsepower. Didn't CART do this in the last few years of the 1000HP engine war? If memory serves me right, the rules package kept reducing the size of the wings and at one point, they were running super-speedway wings at the short tracks (Nazareth, Gateway, Milwaukee and Chicago ABOVE) and drastically reducing the underwing tunnel exits at Michigan and Fontana. During those races, the passing become non-existent. I'm not a mechanical engineer, but perhaps someone (Mike Hull?) has the downforce data from both eras and could weigh in on this? I would hate to see the close racing that we have go away, just to watch a parade on the short ovals.

Matt Fraver, Columbus, OH

RM: Mike Hull was kind enough to respond: "First, in total agreement that the close racing is full of entertainment. The skill set to race close is also dependent upon the trust that drivers have for each other. The cornering speeds of the cars can be altered by IndyCar tweaking of the aero package, as we have seen, to effectively change the race balance. If they get it right (and normally do), it's still really good two-abreast racing. If over-downforced in combination with tires that maintain grip for an entire run, you will see what happened at Fontana.

In 1999 when we ran the speedway wings at short ovals even with the big tunnels, we were at exactly half of the downforce level we have available now. The mid-corner speeds were significantly reduced but the lower drag of the wings meant the speeds at the end of the straights were higher – going over 200mph into T1 at Phoenix in testing – (in testing, we are at 185mph with the current car) – with only a small amount of downforce to try and handle the corner. The CART races in this low-downforce spec at times became processional as with the additional loss of downforce by being greatly affect by the wake of the car in front. There was not enough grip to make a pass even with almost twice the HP that we have now. The only way this low downforce level of racing would work is if the level of grip was so low that tire degradation became significant (like we have now at Texas) with the result that the difference between new and old tires creates the overtaking opportunities."

Q: I was thinking: why doesn't IndyCar adopt a set of rule similar to that of the WEC P1 cars? A pool of engine and chassis/aero manufactures and let the team owners pick what they want and then have a balance of performance to make the cars more equal? Or if biggest problem is the aero packages, why not use the same car and a choice of engine, opposite of the new for 2017 P2 regulations? I know to run P1 in WEC it can cost near as much as F1, but make it cheaper and but keep the same general idea.

Ian Janos

P.S. I have been writing to since I was in middle school (now in college) and I have always enjoyed reading your responses.

RM: IndyCar had the most balanced playing field in motorsports in 2012-13-14 with 29 different winners in 52 races and last year, despite Chevy's dominance, still had nine different winners in 16 starts, albeit only four were Honda-powered drivers. But Honda and Chevy wanted their own identity and got it, so I don't see any kind of pool working. Plus, here's no line to come play anyway.

Q: Will you be reporting on the indoor midget races at PRI, Performance Racing Industries trade show? Will any full-time Indy drivers be there, or will they be too busy driving imaginary racecars, on their laptops, to drive real racecars, in the Bankers Life Fieldhouse?

Chris, Colorado Springs

RM: You mean the 'secret' indoor midget race that nobody seems to know anything about? Not sure I'll be going, haven't received one press release or inquiry about credentials. I know Gabby Chaves would love to participate, but it was by invitation only so I imagine that cuts him out.

15ROC Atmosphere010

Q: I just turned off the TV because I couldn't watch the Race of Champions. It's amazing to see the best drivers of multiple disciplines race each other. But in a stadium? They were so slow, it was terrible.

So I remembered the Paris-Bercy Masters, a kart race held in Paris in the 1990s, where top F1 drivers faced guests from IndyCar and sports cars. I only have a French magazine and internet videos, but I'm sure it was an amazing show. Then I thought: United States is home of the All-Star games, why don't you host an all-star kart race? Well, last September it was the Dan Wheldon Memorial Pro-Am Karting Challenge. But it's Pro-Am rather than All-Star, it had IndyCar drivers only, its held somewhere in eastern Indiana, and it's not even televised.

A proper All-Star Karting Challenge should have Dixon, RHR, Hélio, Rahal and Andretti and Newgarden, but also Earnhardt, Jeff and Robby Gordon, the Busch brothers, the Taylor brothers, Danica, Scott Speed, Ken Block and Pastrana. Hey, there could be a supermoto race too, with Valentino, Márquez, Lorenzo, Pedrosa, Hayden, Taddy Blazusiak, Cody Webber and Chad Reed. It should be held at the Lucas Oil Stadium, Ford Field or Superdome. It should air live on NBC and the Saturday before the 24 Hours of Daytona, where there's no NFL. And it should be aired in Latin America on ESPN (IndyCar, MotoGP) or Fox Sports (F1, NASCAR).

Ignacio, Uruguay

RM: The annual go-kart race at Mark Dismore's track in New Castle, Indiana is damn good racing between a lot of the IndyCar guys and assembling a field like you suggest would take a lot of money. The race in Brazil that TK, Helio and JPM usually run combines F1 and IndyCar and sports car drivers so that puts the Race of Champions on the trailer in terms of star power and competition. I agree with you, watching last week's ROC was a snoozer. Much like Homestead.

Q: Rumor has it that Audi installed autonomous controls in a couple of their race cars and ran them at Sonoma, and the autonomous cars posted faster times than the driver controlled cars! Extend that notion to Indy and it gets somewhat problematic for our heroes: 33 driver-less cars taking the green flag ... to empty grandstands because all the Gen X-ers are watching the live stream on their iPhones at home. If you were a giant multinational corporation who had invested in technology how would you spend your sponsorship dollars?

Jim Scott, Wisconsin Rapids

RM: Not sure about sponsors but think of the money an owner would save – no salaries, no bonuses, no per diem, no first class airfare tickets and no agents. And the engineers could do whatever they wanted with no talkback or resistance. I'd say let's not give anybody any ideas.

Q: Considering his dominant Euro F3 championship, and his second win at the Macau GP, Felix Rosenqvist's stocks are sky-high at the moment. He says he want to do GP2, but he's had offers from the USA. Anything you could shed the light on? How many seats are there left to fill on 2016 IndyCar grid? Anyway, keep an eye on Rosenqvist, he'll be bigger than Kenny Bräck!

Jacob in Sweden

RM: I emailed Brack and here's what The Meatball had to say about his young countryman: "I think Felix is good but its hard to say how good he is in a fast car until he gets to drive one. F3 is F3 and not that representative to IndyCar or F1." A little update on the 1999 Indy 500 winner, he's living in London and working for McLaren as a test and development driver in its sports car division.

Q: Why is there more passing for the lead in IndyCar than NASCAR?

Jim Overmeyer, Islip, NY

RM: That's a good question but I guess the simple answer is that spec cars should produce closer racing and IndyCar teams are limited in what they can modify or experiment on the cars so that also helps close the gap. And the DW12 is a damn racy car on ovals, street circuits and road courses equally. Even though Chevy had the edge in aero kits in 2015, it was still impossible to predict the winner in any race. But you'll be hard-pressed to find more passing for the lead (on the track) than there was at Indy, Fontana and Pocono. I guess you have to credit the drivers, the teams, the cars, the tires, the engines and the aero packages.

Q: It's interesting to hear a lot of IndyCar fans wanting COTA, but after reading RACER's story this morning, how can they even afford the IndyCar fee with the Texas funding gone? And do you think F1 at COTA will now be gone? Thirty-three million, that's a lot of money.

Mark Fellows

RM: Without knowing the inside story, it appears Bernie's blood-letting could claim another casualty and IndyCar is obviously a lot more affordable option. But would IndyCar draw what F1 did? Can COTA survive without the support of the state? It amazes me anyone still wants an F1 race because the economics are so skewed against them.

miller newmans own
Q: I watched 'Winning: The racing life of Paul Newman' on Velocity the other night, and I recommend it to anyone interested in racing or PLN (ABOVE). It got me thinking about non-racers, mostly actors, who attempted to drive and how good some of them were. Certainly people of our age, Robin, know about Newman, James Garner, and of course Steve McQueen. I know Newman and McQueen had success in the pro ranks and I know Garner had a race team (if you get a chance to see his movie about his team, it is worth seeing) and he was the only actor that did his own driving in Grand Prix. I know Tommy Smothers was a racer as well. Later on, Bruce Jenner had a credible racing career and had pro wins, and younger folks will remember Frankie Munoz giving it a try and Jason Priestly, who was doing a good job before his big crash. Now we have Patrick Dempsey and he has proven to have the right stuff. My question is, who do you think is the best of the pack that tried racing, and who do you know that was good that I left out? I am thinking four national championships and a class win at Le Mans is going to be hard to beat.

Tom in Waco

RM: It has to be PLN hands down, although McQueen was decent on dirt bikes and Smothers ran Formula 5000 or Formula A and was credible. James Dean evidently had some chops in sports car racing while Gene Hackman tried sprint cars in Danville, Ill. and Kent McCord of One Adam 12 fame ran little sedans and sports cars for many years and did OK. Munoz was making strides before he quick and Priestley nearly died in an Indy Lights cars, but Priestley seems to have had the right stuff like Newman.

Q: Any book recommendations for this holiday season for us racing fans? Can you recommend the new 'The Indy Car Wars' book by Sigur E. Whitaker? Research shows that you are quoted in that book.

Frank, Minneapolis

PS: A big thank you to your readers a few months ago for mentioning that the 'Gonchi' movie was on Netflix.

RM: I'm going to do another Christmas present video in early December like I did last year, so I won't give it away yet. But I've never heard from or met the author of Indy Car Wars so I'd be a bit skeptical. An IndyCar mechanic pal of mine said he read the book she wrote on Tony Hulman and it was full of mistakes.

Q: I hope you won't mind me writing to your Mailbag address with a bit of old Indy-related info again (previously about Jim Hurtubise and A.J. Foyt running a Corvette together at Sebring in 1963). Here is a photo and comment thread about Eddie Sachs driving an unlimited hydroplane in 1963. It is on the 'Vintage Hydroplane Lovers' Facebook group.

From what I can find, it was his only unlimited-hydro race, although he had hoped to run more. The boat, Such Crust IV, was unusual for being powered by two Allison V-12 engines – each 1,710 cubic inches, supercharged, 1,500 hp stock, 2,000 hp or more race-tuned, depending on how well set up. Most unlimiteds in the '60s had one Allison V-12 or one Rolls-Royce Merlin V-12. The Merlins were more powerful, usually, as had been the case when the two engine types had been used in World War II fighter planes.

Glenn Marston, Bushnell, Florida

RM: Very cool, thanks for sharing with the Mailbag readers. Sachs was as brave as they came and A.J. Foyt ranked him highly as a driver. Obviously, the late Salt Walther ran Hydroplanes but not sure I know of any other Indy 500 vets that tried.

Q: Is there any co-development between the Honda IndyCar aero kits (front wings) and what McLaren are doing? The showed a close up picture of the McLaren Honda front wing and it look similar to the IndyCar wing.

Jim Doyle

Hoboken, NJ

RM: I'd be surprised, but you never know since Nick Wirth has worked on both sides of The Pond.

Q: We have seen NASCAR make changes to the chase to possibly help a certain driver so are we going to see Brian France break Junior's leg at Daytona next year? I am sure DW would be glad to help him. Also, is it me or was Brian's speech when handing over the trophy a little uninspiring? Congrats to Kyle, showing once again as everyone knows, no good drivers have come from the west coast...oh wait.

Miffed Mike

RM: I didn't watch the post-race celebration but Brian isn't known for his public speaking prowess. Busch made a helluva comeback and has been championship material for years. But I hate the fact you can miss that many races and still be the champ – it should be about your performance for the whole season. To think Kenseth, Logano, Keselowski and Johnson had no shot at the title despite all their success is simply unprofessional. It's all Hollywood but everyone makes so much money why bitch? Most don't.

 RD14952A lot of news, developments, and action took place during two days of IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship testing at Daytona last week. Here's a quick rundown of the major items of interest:

BINKS 2015LeMans24 MarshallPruett Weds610 029• Talk about awkward Thanksgiving dinner table conversations. Corvette Racing crew chief Dan Binks was the proudest father on pit lane when his son Phil arrived at Le Mans as a mechanic with the Nissan LMP1 team in June. RACER did a story on the father-son combo at the time, and with Phil's recent move to the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing team, the pride has certainly increased, but with the new Chevy-vs-Ford dynamic in mind, father and son have now become archrivals in IMSA's GT Le Mans category (LEFT, Marshall Pruett photo).

"It's so great for him, and he's come so far," said the elder Binks. "It's great seeing my boy get hired by a team like Ganassi, but we can't exactly talk shop anymore..."

Phil was back at CGR's shop during the test, but it didn't stop his father – or other members of the Corvette team – from prodding the lad. "He's worked with us in the past at Corvette Racing, so he's like a little brother to a lot of the guys here, and we couldn't be more proud of him." Binks was barely able to finish his sentence before one of the Corvette mechanics warmly added, "And we can't wait to kick his ass..."

• CORE autosport tested a new, softer rain tire from Continental on its ORECA FLM09-Chevrolet PC car, and from the team's feedback, more work will go into a new tire for the Rolex 24 at Daytona. The tire tested by CORE was said to be too soft, and did not evacuate as much water as was hoped during the bouts of hard rain that fell during the test. It's believed the revised Daytona rain tire will only be made available to PC and P2 teams, which has led to an appreciable level of grumpiness in the Daytona Prototype camp. A new, post-Daytona rain tire is expected for PC, P2, and DP.

shank22• The purpose for the Daytona test was to give IMSA a chance to benchmark performance levels for all of its cars, to try various Balance of Performance adjustments to gauge the lap time increase or decrease, and to evaluate the separation in speeds between the four classes. The first item is the one that drew more attention than any other as some (but not all) teams pushed hard during the test, while others left a bit of performance on the table. The most fun part was listening to teams that claimed to run at 100 percent, and then declare they knew their rivals were holding back. The team in the next garage would say the same thing, etc., creating a lovely scenario where seemingly everybody was running flat out and sandbagging...

cvette• Continuing the tire theme, Michelin made one set of its buttery-soft tires to its GTLM teams to run for the first time at Daytona. The "low energy" Michelins were introduced mid-season, and offer a significant reduction in lap time. With IMSA heavily monitoring lap times for BoP purposes, BMW Team RLL, Corvette Racing, and Ford Chip Ganassi Racing alerted the series when the low-energy sets were used to help IMSA account for the change in speeds.

• Timing and scoring information was kept private by the series during the test.

• Sean Rayhall was on hand to try the DeltaWing DWC13 and got up to speed quickly.

 RD42105• BMW Team RLL and Turner Motorsport made full use of the test to find speed and weaknesses in the GT Daytona and GT Le Mans versions of BMW's new twin-turbo V8 M6. Although the big BMWs were challenged for outright pace, the November test served its purpose as both programs worked through issues ahead of January's Roar Before the 24.

On the GTLM side, the converted-from-GT3 M6 persevered through axle issues and, based purely on listening from trackside, it struggled in the electronics department when powering out of slower corners. Plenty of sound was happening as traction control and boost control efforts were working furiously, but not a lot of forward movement took place on hard throttle applications. Given the massive number of BMW engineers on site for the test, I'm sure solutions will be implemented before the car returns for the Roar.

• Too many race-winning drivers were sitting idle at the test. Spencer Pumpelly, Damien Faulkner, Dion von Moltke, and Stefan Wilson were among the painfully unemployed at Daytona.

• Audi Sport's presence at the upcoming Rolex 24 at Daytona will be interesting, thanks to its relaxed policy of letting factory drivers sign with other teams. Filipe Albuquerque (Action Express Racing), Marcel Fassler and Mike Rockenfeller (Corvette Racing) are among the known LMP1 or DTM drivers who'll race at Daytona, and with up to four Audi R8s expected for the GTD class, more factory talent could be added to the list.

ford23Ford finally confirmed its full-time drivers for IMSA, leaving its IMSA endurance drivers and its full WEC lineup to be unveiled. Of the drivers at the test who weren't announced, Sebastien Bourdais, Marino Franchitti, and Olivier Pla were seen driving. One driver expected to be announced for the WEC roster was busy in Bahrain for the WEC finale.

• Chip Ganassi Racing is expected to field at least one Ford EcoBoost DP – and possible a second – to defend its overall win with its usual collection of IndyCar and NASCAR drivers.

• In addition to giving PC teams a new top gear ratio to reduce revs on the banking, teams are also expecting new camshafts to be in place for the opening race.

• Although unconfirmed, it's believed Aston Martin and Mercedes-AMG are unlikely to cover the financial agreement required for each manufacturer to have its cars compete in IMSA's WeatherTech Championship. TRG-AMR and the Mercedes-AMG test team were present at the test, but returns in January, at least at this stage, looks unlikely.

• Mazda's speedy new 4-cylinder gas turbo P2 engine was kept under wraps during the test (BELOW). The blankets will come off in January after the Japanese brand decides on a name for the 2.0-liter motor.


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