Improving 1

Improving 1When motorsports adopts and adapts technologies, it's almost always for entirely selfish reasons: to find a winning advantage. If it helps make better street cars, then that's a bonus.

That "improving the breed" bellwether has rung increasingly hollow since the unseen hand of downforce began to exert a tightening grip on motorsports. When Texan Jim Hall feathered his Chaparral's suspension-mounted high wing in 1966 (above), he flipped the bird to the man (and his automobile) on the street.

Why should/how can a purpose-built racecar on – by the early 1970s – slick tires and festooned with aerodynamic devices that cause/want it to "scrape" the road have a bearing on our daily driver?

Formula 1's grudging attempt since 2014 to redress this has been a damp squib, the remarkable efficiency gains of its turbocharged V6 gasoline-hybrids drowned by "noise" about their lack of noise.

Just four years ago the FIA World Endurance Championship's LMP1 category was held up as a beacon of automotive worthiness when Porsche preferred it to F1, due to it being a willing and flexible high-speed laboratory for a hybrid tomorrow. Now it's yesterday's news.

A car industry blackened by the emission scandal of 2015 is even keener (to be seen) to be greener – and Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche have joined Renault in Formula E's "vow of silence." Expect budgets to spiral and piety to wear quickly thin.

Improving 3It's time for motorsport – the show, not the business – to look after number one, starting with Liberty Media's F1.

Which shouldn't be difficult for a fundamentally selfish pursuit, should it?

Influential driver/engineer Mark Donohue was nicknamed "Captain Nice," yet spent a decade seeking what he termed "The Unfair Advantage." The stress this caused him – notwithstanding the success it brought – coined his other nickname: "Dark Monohue."

In 1969 he qualified fourth and finished seventh at Indy in a four-wheel-drive Lola; from 1971-'72 he was at the sharp end of a 25mph spike at The Brickyard caused by spreading wings; and from 1972-'73 he proved turbochargers could prevail on stop-start road courses. He wanted to please his team, its sponsors and partners – Porsche in the latter case – but he wanted to please himself more. Pissed when a works McLaren bumped his privateer version from the pole at Indy in 1971, he didn't blink when the misfortunes of others allowed him a victory the following year.

Improving 5That's not a bad thing in context. Donohue was the epitome of George Bernard Shaw's "unreasonable man" upon whom "all progress depends." He was, in the words of rival driver/engineer Dan Gurney, helping "accelerate the evolution of ideas" – at 200mph, given 1,000hp-plus.

Motorsports has been a technical hothouse since Count de Dion steamed (literally) the 1894 Paris Rouen race at 12mph. Occasionally a catalyst of innovation, but more usually its incubator, it's not only regularly raided aerospace's temptingly exotic parts bin, but also used rat-like cunning to feed its need.

Ferodo's DS11 brake pad was originally intended for earthmovers and their ilk, yet won all bar two grands prix from 1961-'81; and the carbon-carbon system by Hitco of Gardena, Calif., that replaced it was inspired by Dunlop's design for Concorde.

The Brabham that won the F1 titles of 1966 featured a modified Alford & Alder front upright – a light steel modular forging easy to adjust – that was first fitted to a 1930s British daily driver.

Improving 6And the Heim joint used wherever a low-friction, low-compliance adjustable pivot with zero play was beneficial to the 1967 Lotus 49 was either lifted from a late-1930s Ferguson tractor's lifting mechanism or a Luftwaffe plane brought down during the Battle of Britain.

The rubber-bushed joint between road and track, stretched and twisted by wings and fatter tires, failed totally when skirted ground effect – channelled by complex underbody shapes made possible by Owens-Illinois/Corning's 1936 Fiberglas (yes, that spelling) patent – forced a tenfold increase in spring rate by the 1970s' end. This in turn triggered widespread use of structural carbon-fiber composite – invented at Britain's Royal Aircraft Establishment and patented in 1964 – during the 1980s.

Even the latest breed of hypercar merely scratches at the unreal-world potential performance numbers of these technologies. (Though that's expected to change with the delivery in 2019 of Adrian Newey's next-gen Aston Martin Valkyrie.)

But even humdrum street cars have benefited from racing's most efficient aero mod: the Gurney Flap, or wickerbill. An educated guess at controlling soaring Indy car speeds, Gurney fashioned a right-angled aluminum strip during a 1971 test at Phoenix and fitted it to the trailing edge of the rear wing on Bobby Unser's Eagle.

The powerful effect, with minimal disturbance, that it had on the pressure across the wing surfaces astounded even McDonnell Douglas when Gurney let it in on the secret. But although it has featured
since on helicopter horizontal stabilizers and high-lift airplanes – a twist from this story's norm – its patent foundered against the rediscovery of the 1931 Zap Flap...

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 ONZ6078Lewis Hamilton believes McLaren could become championship contenders as a result of its switch to Renault power units in 2018.

McLaren opted to end its Honda contract after three seasons of struggle, initially chasing a Mercedes deal earlier this year before announcing it would be supplied by Renault from next year onward. While Hamilton is confident Mercedes will again provide him with a car capable of winning the drivers' championship, he suggests his former team could make it a four-team battle for honors.

Asked when he felt he could win this year's title, Hamilton replied: "When I arrived for the first race. That's my mindset every season. I have that same mindset now for next year. When I'm training and preparing for a new season, I firmly believe that we can be contenders for the next championship. It may turn out to be not possible, but you have to have that mindset. If you go in with expectations of finishing fifth, it's not going to work. You've got to gear yourself up to win.

"Next year, McLaren will have Renault engines, then we may see four teams fighting for the championship. I think Red Bull will be quicker and Ferrari for sure will be fast again. We can't stand still – we have to keep moving forwards."


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Despite such a strong performance from himself throughout the year, Hamilton still sees plenty of room for improvement heading into next season.

"It's been an amazing season but by no means a perfect one. There are always areas you can improve on. I won nine races and Valtteri [Bottas] won three, but there are 20 races, and a perfect season is when you win every single one of them. But it's a positive thing, because it means you can always improve.

"It was definitely one of the strongest seasons we've ever had. The beginning of the season was a little bit up and down, but the second part of the season was very consistent. Reliability has been the best it has ever been. In terms of my performance, my starts were much better this year, and I was much more comfortable with this year's car so that I was able to extract a lot more from it race by race."

 X4I6258Guenther Steiner believes the finishing position for Haas this season does not show the progress the team has made in its second year in Formula 1.

Haas impressed during its debut year in 2016, scoring a sixth and a fifth place in the opening two races and going on to end the year in eighth in the constructors championship. Last year's points tally was 29, and while the team managed to increase that to 47 this year it remained in eighth place, something Steiner feels does not give enough credit to the team's improvement.

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"I think we are better than last year but we cannot show it – we are in the same position with more points," Steiner said. "Eight points more would make us heroes. If you finish sixth in your second your then your heroes but we are eighth like last year, it's like we haven't made any progress – not enough.

"We have made progress and I think the competition – which I think is a good thing and is not meant to be negative – means there is no really bad team anymore here, which is a good thing. It's very difficult and competitive. How is the feeling? I am happy with the progress, but disappointed that we cannot show that we made it as we are still where we were last year in the championship."

While Haas entered the final race weekend of the season with a chance of overhauling both Renault and Toro Rosso to finish sixth overall, Steiner (pictured below) says the team's failure to score a point in Abu Dhabi did not feel like an opportunity missed.

 ONY3454"The good thing is that we did not lose anything. It's not an excuse but it was a long shot. We tried. We finished 11th and did our best, I think we didn't do bad, but it wasn't enough. We knew our chances weren't big, and it didn't happen. The season wasn't wasted."

Romain Grosjean finished 2017 with 28 points – one fewer than the previous year – while new teammate Kevin Magnussen added a further 18 on his first season with the team. Despite previous requests from Ferrari to run one of its junior drivers, Haas will retain the same driver line-up for 2018.

TK1"I'm telling you, it feels so good to drive this car," was the first thing Tony Kanaan had to say about sampling the new 2018 universal bodywork at Sebring with his new team, A.J. Foyt Racing. With the significant drop in downforce for road and street courses, Kanaan is fond of what he found from inside his No. 14 Chevy-powered Dallara DW12.

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"I like this car 100 percent better; I think the thing I struggled with in the past was the [DW12] with all the downforce, and it never really fit me the way I like," the Brazilian told RACER.

More than 20 years into his career as an IndyCar driver, Kanaan has completed countless tests with the best cars and engines CART, the Indy Racing League and the Verizon IndyCar Series has produced. It made the one-day outing in Florida, as part of Chevy's final Manufacturers' test of the season, a welcome trip back in time to a place where he felt at one with an open-wheel car.

"I like the 1000hp cars I've driven in the past; they move around a lot on you, you had to hustle them, and when I pulled out this morning for the first time, it was like, 'holy s**t this is fast' at the end of the straight," he said.


"And then you get to the brake zone, you have to go 200 feet earlier because the speed is higher, and it was like, 'Holy s*** it won't stop...' I was like, 'I remember this feeling...this is what I've been missing.'"

Kanaan's happiest days in IndyCar came when making speed, and managing it at the edge of adhesion, was mostly in the driver's hands. With the excessive downforce produced during IndyCar's aero kit era now a thing of the past, Kanaan sees a brighter future ahead – at least with his Foyt entry.

"I strongly think it's a lot different, and to me, I'm not saying I'll be better or worse, but I'm more used to this than the other style which was a lot of downforce, not a lot of effort, carry a lot of speed into the corner, keep the minimum speed high, minimal throttle lifting," he said.

"Now, you can't do any of that. The car does less of the work for you, and I believe this is going to be better for me, because it's what I did for so many years of my life."

A late allowance by Chevy to use Kanaan and the 2018-spec No. 14 chassis as part of its last test day was a worthy exercise.

"It was a positive day for us because we got this test last-minute and Chevy, and it was really nice of them to squeeze us in," Kanaan added. "Us getting this car together so quickly to make the test was a hassle, but big props to the team because it ran all day with no problems. We didn't have any expectations, so it ended up awesome."

TK also enjoyed getting to know his new team in a track environment, although with his considerable experience, few introductions were required.


"If you've been around as long as I have, you end up working with just about everybody, and I think I already knew 80 percent of the team," he said with a laugh.

"There's a lot of people I've worked with in the past, and it was just awesome to spend time with them and with the car because it looks so good. It looks like a real racecar. Finally."

Getting an advance look at how the Foyt team operates as a unit with new technical director (and race engineer) Eric Cowdin in place, and the to-do list involved with turning the No. 14 into a winner was worth the trip to Sebring alongside Team Penske and Ed Carpenter Racing.

"It's a merging of mentalities and work ethics," Kanaan said of what he and Cowdin bring from their time together at Chip Ganassi Racing. "Me and Eric have worked a lot together, and we didn't come in and say, 'this is what we did before so that's what you need to do.' There's a mix of people that worked with me at Tasman, at Andretti, and we've all been around. We all know what to do and how to do it right.

"One thing that I had to reset, which I prepared for before I signed, is we have a lot of work to do. It's not a plug-and-play situation. But I've been in this situation before, like at KV. It isn't like it was at Ganassi where everything is there, it's all done, just drive the car. Here, what we're trying to do, it's big, and it's going to take a lot of work. And we don't mind that at all. We're just getting started."

Pippa IMSSix-time Indy 500 starter Pippa Mann joins Marshall Pruett as guest host of the #WeekinIndyCar podcast to discuss the announcement of Michael Shank Racing and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports partnering to field Jack Harvey, the intra-team swap of Marco Andretti and Alexander Rossi, the confirmation of Carlin Racing's two-car program for Max Chilton and Charlie Kimball, SPM formally abandoning its Indy 500 plans with Didier Calmels and its interest in hiring Le Mans-winning engineer Leena Gade, and the final test days of the year at Sebring that are under way.

The two close by covering almost two hours of fan Q&A as Mann, who took a vocal stand against the FIA's appointment of Carmen Jorda to its Women in Motorsports Commission, shares her thoughts on the situation and fields a number of impressive questions – along with one that was decidedly unfiltered – during a long stint with MP.

Daniel Ricciardo is optimistic that Formula 1 will eventually move towards a rule package that will diminish the car's role in determining performance, and will better reflect the talent of drivers further back in the field.

"Lewis [Hamilton] has won three of the last four championships, but if he was in a midfield team, he wouldn't have three of the last four championships," Ricciardo said. "The car is a big part of it, but you need to be a good driver to get the equipment to the top. You need both. It's still a bit more dominant with the car than the driver – I'd say maybe 75 per cent to 25 per cent.

"If we make it a bit more equal by bringing the driver in a bit more and taking the equipment out, then that would be better. A 50/50 would be something more realistic in the near future, and hopefully that's the case.

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"Even from Lewis to the guy that's coming last, maybe the lap time says 3.0s, but the driver is maximum 1.0s. We are all a lot closer than that, and it would be great if we could all stay within 1.0s with the equipment because then the racing would be pretty fun."

While acknowledging the role of Mercedes' dominance in Hamilton's recent title success, the Australian reserves special respect for the way his rival maintains a high performance level in F1 while simultaneously pursuing numerous interests outside of the sport.

"Lewis, even if with the best material, he still had pressure and expectation, and he's had that since he started F1 ten years ago," Ricciardo said. "I think he's always been on a very high level, and he's also got a lot of other distractions in his life, and can still perform when it counts. I respect him and take my hat off to him – as a driver, he is very competitive."

Park place burkePatrick Lindsey's Park Place Motorsports GT Daytona program will return next season to make a run at the North American Endurance Cup title.

Following the Porsche team's strongest performance to date in IMSA's pro-am WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT category, Lindsey would like focus his full-time efforts on the FIA WEC's 'Super Season' that spans 2018-2019, provided an entry is granted by the French sanctioning body.

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"Right now, the plan is to continue in IMSA for the endurance races with Park Place," Lindsey told RACER. "It's too early to define who the drivers will be for the NAEC, and there could be some one-off races by drivers other than myself. We're happy to be coming back to IMSA because they have been impressing us and I think everyone else with how well they've managed GTD and how transparent they've been.

"I'm really happy with the series and all the technical people they've put in place. I wish we could be there for the full schedule, but our competitors will know when we turn up."

Lindsey and co-driver Jorg Bergmeister won the GTD race at Lime Rock, and thanks to a string of four podiums over the last five races, the team owner/driver was able to secure third in the championship. After years of competing in Grand-Am and IMSA, Lindsey says he would like to add to his experience by taking on new international sports car challenges.

"That's been one of my dreams and we're in the process of making it a reality," he added. "A lot of planning is going on and I'm the first to say that if we can go outside of our routine and race at world famous sports car events, we'll be there in a heartbeat."

A continuation of Lindsey's alliance with Porsche for a GTE-Am program would not be a surprise if an invitation is received.

FujiThe Borg-Warner Trophy has returned back to the United States from Japan after its first-ever departure from the country. Tens of thousands of Japanese fans and stars from Honda's motorsports family, including Jenson Button, Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa, were on hand as Takuma Sato was celebrated for his Indy 500 win during a two-week tour.

"It's been an amazing two weeks with the Borg-Warner Trophy," said Sato, who drew a large crowd at Motegi for the Honda Racing THANKS DAY event, which featured the trophy and some demonstration laps. "It's special having so much support from the fans from east to west – it's been a busy trip but such an incredible experience. I'd like to give the whole team a big 'Thank You' and to everyone who has supported this special, once in a lifetime project – especially Honda and BorgWarner – without both of them, this would have been impossible.

"Having the Borg-Warner Trophy at my annual fan club meeting (over 800 fans in attendance) is an incredible feeling to share with everyone, unbelievable. A big thank you to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum to help make the trip to Japan happen – thank you, I really, really appreciate it!"

The trophy's trip included a visit to Mt. Fuji before heading to the BorgWarner plant in Nabari – a six-hour drive from Tokyo – where Sato was surprised with a conference room named in his honor.

Trophy handlers A.J. Fairbairn, manager of restoration services, and IMS Museum assistant curator Jason Vansickle traveled with the trophy to Japan and were responsible for packing and re-assembling for each appearance – not an easy task, since the trophy travels in three separate custom shipping cases that weigh close to 200 pounds each.

Members of Sato's fan club were treated to a photo with the 500 champion and the trophy. At the end of the event, Sato replicated his Victory Lane celebration, wreath, milk bath and all.

"The people's reaction to seeing the Borg-Warner Trophy in person was something I'll never forget," said Scott Gallett, BorgWarner vice president of marketing. "BorgWarner is proud to help support all Takuma's and Honda's celebration events and we would like to publicly thank Takuma for personally supporting our BorgWarner events. Takuma is a happy and humble champion for sure."

Click on the thumbnails below for larger images from Japan.

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