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diffey tooned

Leigh Diffey copyLeigh Diffey, broadcaster for NBC Sports on Formula 1, IndyCar and the Olympics, assesses the key points and memorable moments from the 2014 F1 season.

 

If I was having a conversation at a dinner party on the Formula 1 season that just passed, it would only be natural to start at the beginning and I will never forget when the cars rolled out at Melbourne in that first session, hearing them on track for the first time and just how drastically, dramatically, graphically different the sound was. It was so alarming; it was almost uncomfortable because it didn’t feel like Formula 1.

Now, 19 weekends later, it’s far less offensive and it is probably a lot more intriguing. All of us – all Formula 1 fans around the world – are now used to it, although I know it still rubs some people the wrong way; but a part of Formula 1 has always been about adapting to the differences and this was a big one.
 
On that Australian Grand Prix weekend, I was also taken aback by the very in-your-face way that Lewis Hamilton was gone from the race and Sebastian Vettel, too. It was like a double whammy for two drivers expected to feature from the outset. Daniel Ricciardo getting his first ever Formula 1 podium at home was another surprise, only to have it stripped away, then Kevin Magnussen, the rookie, finishing on the podium… There were so many unique things about that first grand prix that foretold what was ahead. There was a line drawn between 2013 and 2014, and the 2014 season was going to follow a very different script.
 
When you’re gone most of the year covering races and other sporting events like I do for NBC, it’s easy to lose some of the finer details as time goes by, but Bahrain will be an event that I will never forget, and I’m sure most Formula 1 fans feel the same way. Hamilton was on his first winning streak, Rosberg was determined to stop him, and it was pure fireworks. The whole nature of how Rosberg and Hamilton went at each other – that was the first time the world really got a window into them saying to each other, “OK, do you want to fight? This is going to be a proper fight, so roll up your sleeves, it’s on.”
 
 SBL9265The moves they were executing…whether you felt they were right, they were wrong and whether Lewis was a little bit too dirty or not…to me that was Formula 1 entertainment, driving, rivalry, spirit and raw emotion at its best. It was just extraordinary.
 
And it also told us a lot about the Mercedes teammates.
 
Rosberg surprised me in how much he was willing to fight with Lewis and how far he was prepared to take it, which to me was impressive. I didn’t necessarily expect that from him. But then, conversely, Hamilton showed why, along with Alonso, he’s perhaps the best passer in the world. To me, that shows me that Lewis can go that extra step; Lewis does have that X factor and he also has that little trigger in his brain where he’s going to win at all costs. He demonstrated that to Nico there.
 
Yeah, we can be Monday morning quarterbacks now that we know that Lewis won the championship and we can conveniently tie all that in, but Bahrain is where we saw just how hard Lewis was going to fight for this championship and it played out to the very end.
 
Things got a bit ugly later in the year at Spa, and the vitriolic nature of that rivalry may have softened as the year went on a little bit due to team intervention or whatever, but we can still look back to Bahrain as a timeless, classic duel between championship rivals.
 

 
 79P1329The Canadian Grand Prix, where Ricciardo got his first grand prix win, was special, and not simply due to our shared nationality. From the broadcast standpoint, we were all wondering whether there could be a perfect season because up until that race, Mercedes had won every pole position and won every race. There was no reason why we shouldn’t believe that they were going to pull off the season sweep. Seeing Daniel take that win instead of his vaunted teammate Vettel was a sign of changing times at Red Bull.
 
Reliability, or rather the lack of it, played a major role this season as we knew it would, but I think some of us were surprised at how often problems found the dominant Mercedes team. I gained even more respect for Rosberg in how he handled the car issues in Canada in what must have been an extremely stressful situation with ERS failure. That, of course, affected the car’s braking abilities, and the maturity he demonstrated to be able to manage that and nurse the car home for a decent result was telling. Yes, he lost the grand prix to Ricciardo, but doing things the way he did while his teammate handled the situation differently – shooting the chicane, losing his brakes and being forced out of the race – I thought showed Rosberg driving with a maturity way beyond his years. That was pretty memorable.
 
We were treated to three amazing wins from Ricciardo and if you had to prioritize the storylines of 2014, of course, Mercedes is number one; Alonso and the Alonso/Vettel departures from their natural homes is two; and I think “Smiley” definitely deserves a podium position on the big news of the year because no one expected him to move ahead of his four-time championship-winning teammate.
 
Racing in Russia was extraordinary, and for me to be there earlier in the year for the Olympics for three weeks and then to call the first Russian Grand Prix was a real treat. To cap it off, I’m a big proponent of having Abu Dhabi as the regular season finale venue. I just think it lends itself, the lights and the beauty of the setting, to send off the season in style.
 
I also thought it was so fitting for the year that we just enjoyed to have the championship go down to the wire. OK, so the race didn’t go down to the wire, but the championship did. As I mentioned in the broadcast, to have the top three categories of international motorsports – IndyCar, NASCAR and Formula 1 – all decided at the last  race was just fantastic. Having the championship decided with five more races to run leaves you asking what we’re racing for, so the 2014 closer was a gem because we were treated to a head-to-head battle for the title. I love that natural theater when it builds to a crescendo.
 
 N7T0201Looking ahead to next season, there are a few things that obviously need fixing in Formula 1.
 
First, sort out the money. Fix the revenue distribution. It breaks friendships, it breaks relationships, and it puts people under the most strain and stress. I agree with Bernie Ecclestone about the crowdfunding thing with Caterham; he worded it as though Formula 1 teams' people shouldn’t be going out with the cup in hand and begging. I agree with that, but at the same time, you cannot have Formula 1’s commercial owners boasting incredible profits while some of the people and teams the revenue is being derived from are on their knees.
 
We don’t need 30 cars out there, but we do need healthy teams and a reasonable grid that’s sustainable. People saw absolutely nothing different from the last three races, from Austin through Brazil through Abu Dhabi, with the Caterhams and Marussias absent from the TV screens. There was absolutely zero impact on the TV broadcast without them. And then even when Caterham came back for the finale, it was very obvious they were not meant to be featured.
 
If I was Bernie for a day, I would just cap it about 10 teams and 20 cars and I’d fix the revenue stream. We don’t need three-car teams. Two is enough for me. And I’d work with the individual promoters to lower the ticket prices because there’s no way that we can have a German Grand Prix with a German four-time world champion on the grid, one of the most iconic of German brands in Mercedes with a dominant car and their drivers 1-2 in the championship, and almost nobody in the crowd to watch them. It’s a sport for the fans, and empty seats say a lot about what they can afford. Meanwhile, 100 miles down the road from the German GP at a truck event, they had 100,000 people turn up the same weekend!
 
I’d sit down with Red Bull's Dietrich Mateschitz and say, "Tell me a little bit about marketing. How do I market my series better?"
 
Formula 1 had an amazing season, set some incredible memories for a lot of people, and as the world changes and becomes more mobile, more digital, its next challenge is to engage a new and younger generation to keep the sport relevant and prosperous. There’s a lot of work to do, and I’m keen to see what awaits us when we get to Albert Park next year.

safety3

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Following discussions in this week's meeting of the Strategy Group and F1 Commission in Geneva, it was agreed by F1's teams that two controversial rules should be abandoned next year.

Double points for the season finale was implemented for this season following a push by F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone to try to ramp up interest at the end of the campaign by keeping title fight alives longer. But the move proved hugely unpopular with fans, who saw it as a gimmick, and teams quickly realized that the sport would be better served without it.

In the end, the double points finale played no role in the championship battle this season and only influenced some minor placings in the drivers' standings.

Standing starts after safety car restarts were voted in by the F1 Commission earlier this year, but a deeper look at its implications over recent weeks prompted widespread safety concerns. Following talks in recent sporting working groups, the matter was tabled for discussion in Geneva, and teams have agreed that F1 should ditch it.

The agreement by teams to abandon double points and safety car restarts still needs to be approved by the FIA's World Motor Sport Council, which is meeting next week, for next year's regulations to be changed.

LITTLE PROGRESS ON COSTS AND ENGINES

The Strategy Group and F1 Commission meetings also featured lengthy discussions about cost cuts and a cost cap, but it is understood no agreement was reached on making any changes for 2015.

The only concession given was for leading teams to say they would be open to Caterham and Marussia running year-old engines next year, if it would help them survive. It is also understood that no agreement was reached on relaxing F1's engine freeze further, with Mercedes remaining unwilling to open up the regulations.

The Strategy Group also agreed that F1's radio ban would remain in its current guise for 2015. This means that only direct help for drivers will be outlawed, rather than pursuing the hardline clampdown on all team-to-driver communication as was originally planned.

The WMSC meets in Doha on Dec. 3.

 

 

 

Originally on Autosport.com

 

Simon-LEAD


• Simon Pagenaud will be auctioning his Ayrton Senna tribute helmet from the 98th Indy 500 – read more here

 

Marshall Pruett says…

Small team, modest budget, excellent team manager, excellent technical director, excellent crew, amazing engineer and amazing driver. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ formula for taking on and beating the biggest operations in the Verizon IndyCar Series was put on display in 2014 with Simon Pagenaud just as it was in 2013, and even during his rookie season in 2012.

The Frenchman and his trusty engineer Ben Bretzman went into the new season with a unified vision of consistency and success, and through the first four rounds, the No. 77 Honda held the best average finishing position in the field. Winning from fourth at the GP of Indy was only the beginning of a feelgood month at the Brickyard as the road racing specialist spent the off-season concentrating on improving his oval game, and stunned the Field of 33 at Indy by qualifying fifth.

Leaving the 500 with a decent 12th-place result, a silly, unnecessary clash with Will Power at Detroit 1 sent him into the wall and out of the race for no reason. It was his second incident with the Aussie after being nerfed into the barriers at Long Beach in April. Simon’s anger, while justified, was completely over the top in the LBC. Power screwed up, locked up, and ruined Simon’s race.

I stood about 10 feet away with my colleague Robin Miller after the race Simon-pagodawhen Pagenaud confronted Power, and if we hadn’t known the reason behind his outrage, we might have thought Power shot Simon’s dog and lit his house on fire. Whether it was the pressure beginning to get under his skin, or a newfound determination to attack his rivals in any circumstance, I remember looking at Robin and mentioning something about Simon exposing his belly to Power – revealing a weak spot in his mental game – which could come back to haunt him.

At Detroit, it came to a head. My guess is if it was any driver other than Power in front of him, Simon is less concerned with proving a point and stays out of the wall. Pagenaud has always relied on self-belief, and it’s fair to say he was feeling himself a bit too much at times during the first half of 2014. In private, even some of his rivals began to inquire about the darker version of Pagenaud that was beginning to emerge.

As much as the No. 77 team played the role of Giant Killer and kept most of the field in their rearview mirrors, they also suffered from their lack of size and resources. Putting the entire Andretti Autosport team and three quarters of Ganassi Racing behind Pagenaud was a testament to the quality of their program, but moving higher than fifth in the standings would have required more – more of everything – to equal the preparedness and potential shown by Team Penske and Ganassi’s Scott Dixon.

For all of their unfathomable performances, the biggest surprise for Simon and SPM last season came in qualifying. Missing the Firestone Fast Six on six occasions – half of the road and street course events – was an odd and ongoing theme. As a result, too many of Pagenaud’s races were spent recovering positions that were forfeited in time trials: 14th at St. Pete, 10th at Barber, 17th at Detroit 1, 15th at Sonoma…

Compare that to the drivers Simon was chasing, and the disparity in resources is revealed. Life’s much easier when the distance to first place is just a few spots; when it involves passing half the field, simply making the podium is a treat.

Like most Honda runners in Simon-LongBeach2014, SPM wasn’t immune from reliability issues. Entering Toronto third in points, an ignition problem had Pagenaud running on less than six of the twin-turbo V6’s cylinders in Race 2, leading to an unsightly 22nd-place finish with four rounds left to run.

With the gap to Power and Castroneves widening, Simon put in three solid races en route to the Fontana finale. Ninth at Mid-Ohio was underwhelming, yet paid points, and a seventh at Milwaukee reaffirmed his maturity on ovals. Third at Sonoma – all the way from 15th – was another long trip caused by missing the boat in qualifying. On the flip side, Pagenaud’s march from P15 to P3 at Sonoma was borderline miraculous. It’s the track where passing is impossible, yet Simon went nuts and defied convention. The tense, outwardly aggressive Pagenaud had given way to his more familiar, natural state, and it was from that pure state where the scything drive in Sonoma was made possible.

Simon’s third consecutive fairytale season came to an end in the wine country. He held a slim mathematical chance of earning the championship, but a crash in night practice at Fontana set the team back and a massive downward spiral was awaiting Pagenaud in the race. The car was diabolical to drive, couldn’t be fixed through normal tuning options, and he closed the season seven laps down in 20th place.

The worst part about Simon Pagenaud’s 2014 season is that it came to an end, and with the curtains being drawn on the championship, so too was his time with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. They knew he was Penske-bound; he wanted to end things on a high note, but with an ill-handling car and his charming teammate Mikhail Aleshin in the hospital, Fontana was a disappointing farewell to an incredibly dynamic relationship.

I’m a lifelong fan of underdogs, which makes the Pagenaud+SPM narrative such a tough one to lose, but Hinchcliffe+SPM could write a new chapter starting in 2015.


Simon-helmetRobin Miller says…

The fast, friendly Frog found himself in the thick of the championship for most of 2014 thanks to a couple of wins, always lingering in the Top 5 and his heady driving style. A little more polish on the ovals and Pagenaud might have stolen the title for Schmidt/Peterson but his consistent excellence in the majority of the circuits had him ranked third going into the Fontana finale but with no realistic chance.

The 30-year-old Frenchman led the final five laps to capture the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis in May before reaching the top step of the podium in the second Houston race with a relatively easy seven-second triumph.

Had he not been gouged by Will Power at Long Beach and caught up in another crash in the Houston opener, Simon would have certainly added to his point total and been more of a serious threat in the closing races. Easily one of the quickest at turning right and left, Pagenaud performed like the elite driver he’s becoming for much of 2014. The 2006 Atlantic champion’s average finish on road and street courses was 8.1 and 12.4 on ovals, which he admits he needs to improve on to become champ.

And that figures to happen real quick. His technical savvy and the prowess of engineer Ben Bretzman managed to make them contenders for a third straight season and earned them both a job with Roger Penske. Four-time Indy winner Rick Mears will do for Simon what he did for Helio Castroneves and Power and he’ll be one of the favorites for No. 1 in 2015.


Simon-HoustonDavid Malsher says…

A strange season for Simon Pagenaud and certainly not one I expected would lead to employment by the reigning champions, Team Penske, for 2015. It makes sense that when Helio Castroneves and/or Juan Montoya hang up their helmet, Roger will already have another ace in his prime alongside Will Power in the Penske family. But I’m slightly surprised that Pagenaud earned the gig after a season in which he fluctuated between brilliance and anonymity.

You can argue that even scoring top-six-but-non-podium finishes in a field where the “big three” teams have a combined total of 11 cars is a major achievement. Seven times this year, that’s what Simon did, and that shows admirable consistency – a rare quality among the IndyCar entries this year. But Schmidt Peterson Motorsports was/is packed with human talent (including Pagenaud) and has proven since its full-time arrival in 2012 that it emphatically isn’t a backmarker team. Finishing between fourth and sixth is the least they (and we) have come to expect of the operation at any given race.

There’s nothing lacking in Simon’s fundamental qualities as a driver, of course, other than oval experience. He’s a great thinker, has an engineering-led mind, he’s damn fast and he’s charming for the sponsors – a new Dario Franchitti, perhaps. But I wish he’d been bolder on occasion, maybe taken a leaf out of teammate Mikhail Aleshin’s book. There were times this year when I felt Pagenaud should get his elbows out, when passing opportunities that would have been grabbed by a Power, Scott Dixon, Montoya or Ryan Hunter-Reay were spurned by the SPM pilote.

That does not mean I want to see more of the petulant and doomed-to-failure nibbling at Power’s rear bumper in Detroit. I can’t decide if it was the media, the series or even a team member who was the biggest culprit in the silly verbal hair-pulling that followed Power’s misjudged pass on the NSimon-Toronto-crasho. 77 at Long Beach. I do know that dragging it out for race after race was tiresome, served no purpose and certainly didn’t fit Pagenaud’s image of studious wisdom, learned at the feet of first Derrick Walker and then his de facto mentor, Gil de Ferran.

Pagenaud’s 2014 was strange for two other reasons. I don’t think he got enough praise for his excellent performances, nor did he get enough sympathy for the days when he was let down by the car (Toronto’s second race and during practice/qualifying at Sonoma) or became the innocent party in another driver’s screw-up (Houston first race). Maybe that was karma because the Long Beach clash had been milked beyond its expiration date.

Into the “excellent-but-overlooked” category falls Pagenaud’s steer from the rear in the first Toronto race, where he finished fourth despite getting collected in a first-lap multi-car shunt. Simon driving with a real sense of incisiveness and purpose is a heady sight to behold, and not much can stop him. He has an almost Paul Tracy-like relentless race pace. And of course there’s that magnificent victory in Houston 2; I’m not convinced Helio Castroneves could have held him off that day, even if the Brazilian veteran hadn’t collided with Sebastien Bourdais.

While I think he’s too cautious when racing wheel-to-wheel, Pagenaud is at his best up front and controlling a race, controlling the pace, and the opportunities to do that will surely increase next year. Finally nailing his first IndyCar pole (Houston race 1) will surely have done wonders for his confidence when going up against the stopwatch, as will the fact that he outqualified his highly talented (albeit rookie) teammate Aleshin at 14 of the 18 races. Having said that, Simon’s mediocre qualifying average would surely have been vastly improved had Tristan Vautier been retained as his teammate for 2014. Instead, for the second consecutive year, Pagenaud was partnering a series debutant, and Aleshin was one with no prior knowledge of the cars or tracks. Not helpful for Simon as a potential title contender…

Still after three straight seasons finishing in the top five of the IndyCar Series, you’ve got to conclude that he and SPM have overperformed. So it’s now the moment of truth for Simon and his loyal and talented engineer Ben Bretzman, as they move from Schmidt Peterson to Penske together. Interesting times ahead, methinks.

Simon-pack-sonoma

 N7T0612

Vergne announces Toro Rosso split

Jean-Eric Vergne has announced that he is splitting with the Toro Rosso Formula 1 team, making Carlos Sainz Jr. the favorite for the remaining 2015 seat alongside Max Verstappen.

Vergne had already effectively lost his seat with the team once, when it announced Formula 3 rookie Verstappen and its 2014 driver Daniil Kvyat as its '15 F1 lineup in August. But the possibility of a reprieve for the Frenchman emerged when Kvyat was promoted to Red Bull instead following Sebastian Vettel's defection to Ferrari. That chance ended on Wednesday, as Vergne announced on his Twitter feed that his Toro Rosso stint was definitely over.

"Despite a good season and 22 points, I'll not drive any more for Toro Rosso in 2015," he wrote. "Thanks for those years. Let's go for another big challenge."

Vergne has raced for Toro Rosso since he and Daniel Ricciardo replaced Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari for the 2012 season. Red Bull had previously backed the Frenchman through a junior career that included the 2010 British F3 title.

With Vergne out of the running, Formula Renault 3.5 champion Sainz becomes the most likely candidate for the second Toro Rosso seat. Sainz has been testing for Toro Rosso's parent team Red Bull in Abu Dhabi this week.

FR3.5 runner-up Pierre Gasly is an outside contender for Toro Rosso, but is thought more likely to end up in GP2 with DAMS. He is testing for the French squad in Abu Dhabi later this week. An announcement by Toro Rosso is expected on Monday.

 

 

 

Originally on Autosport.com

 

Force India tries new Info Wing display

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The Force India Formula 1 team tested a new display system developed by Lewis Hamilton's father Anthony in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday morning.

The "Info Wing" is a small carbon fiber component designed to fit to the top of an F1 car's airbox, where onboard cameras are usually mounted.

Hamilton Sr. hopes the Info Wing will improve the spectator experience of F1 by using LEDs to display race information, such as a driver's name, position and the tire compound they are using.

Force India fitted a prototype of the Info Wing to the VJM08 for a trial run around the Yas Marina circuit on Wednesday morning, overseen by governing body the FIA.

 

 

 

Originally on Autosport.com

 

Realities4

With simulation techniques becoming ever more sophisticated and accurate, the digital design and testing of racecars is a burgeoning reality.

Winning any race at the pinnacle of motorsports, be it a Formula 1 grand prix or the 24 Hours of Le Mans, requires the best design of car, constant development of that car, and an ongoing ability to optimize it for any given set of circumstances.

That’s always been a given, but how those goals are achieved has seen a fundamental shift in recent years, with a greater reliance on virtual development tools now absolutely essential.

In the rarefied strata of F1 and the World Endurance Championship’s LMP1-H ranks, and to a lesser extent in other blue-chip series, the process of creating a car, building it and testing it at various tracks to quantify the product is antiquated. Instead, there’s a massive reliance on digital packages and processes that have moved big chunks of learning and exploration to data churned out from server farms hidden from sight.

Realities5As technology marches on, races and titles are now won and lost by successful efforts in the digital realm before the first wheel is turned and throughout the season, as much as by anything accomplished at the track. This odd development – where driving, design and engineering talent alone is not enough to win – rewards those who embrace everything that computer-aided design (CAD), computational fluid dynamics (CFD), finite element analysis (FEA), simulation and driving simulators have to offer.

“They’re amazing in simple terms,” says Wirth Research founder Nick Wirth, whose company specializes in digital services. “They’ve had a huge role in our company since 2006, and they’ve been pivotal in development for our more important cars.”

CAD, CFD and FEA have been regular tools for constructors and teams to use since the 1990s, followed by the spike in simulation use and, recently, the growth in multi-million-dollar driving simulators. Both forms of simulation – with and without drivers in the loop – represent the greatest areas of digital racecar advancement.

“The simulator is basically limited by the quality of models it’s running,” Wirth explains. “It will be running models of the car, the suspension, the aerodynamics, tires, tracks, track conditions, etc., and it’s only as good as the information you put in.

“Take a qualifying run simulation at Indianapolis as an example – very often you’ve got a head wind going into Turn 4 and a tail wind into Turn 2. Regardless of anything else in the simulator, if you don’t have your environmental model right, the wind angle and speed in this case, you won’t accurately predict the car’s behavior and speed. It just won’t be right. And aspiring to get every little detail like that right just goes on and on forever.”

Realities3The constant advancements in these digital tools have transformed what most teams attempt during testing and practice sessions. With most of the guesswork removed by simulations prior to the car turning a lap, teams are often seeking confirmation of what the simulation said to expect, rather than sending out their driver without a clue on what they will find. As simulation tech gets better, the familiar term “testing” could soon be replaced by “verifying” once teams get to the track.

“If you make a change on a racecar – raise a spring, change a tire pressure, whatever – what we try to do in simulation is get all of those changes to affect the behavior of the car in as similar a way as possible to the real racecar,” Wirth explains. “People are successful to varying levels. I can’t go into exactly how successful we are with our simulation, but I’m satisfied with where we are…

To read the full story, you'll need the Fall 2014 issue of RACER magazine: The Technology Issue. Take a video tour of the issue...

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Honda Racing MailbagWelcome to the Robin Miller Mailbag as presented by Honda Racing / HPD. You can follow the Santa Clarita, Calif.-based company at http://hpd.honda.com/ and on social media at @HondaRacing_HPD and https://www.facebook.com/HondaRacingHPD . Your questions for Robin should continue to be sent to millersmailbag@racer.com 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, remember that Marshall Pruett tackles them in his Tech Mailbags. Please send tech questions to PruettsTechMailbag@Racer.com.

 

Q: I recently heard rumors of Simona De Silvestro [BELOW, LAT photo] wanting to return to Indy cars. Since James Hinchiffe, has left Andretti Autosport for SPM, has Simona considered going there? She could actually have potential if she's driving for a proper team. And Andretti fits the bill in my opinion. But then I'm sure Michael ought to consider Oriol Servia too. Unless he has a ride for 2015.
Aaron, Media, PA

RM: They’re more than rumors: Simona does want to come back, as Marshall Pruett revealed here on RACER.com last week but it won’t be with Andretti unless she finds a sponsor. Hinch would still have a ride there if the UFD backing hadn’t gone south.

Q: It would be a sad, pathetic season if IndyCar cannot find a way to get Simona De Silvestro in a car for 2015. If they want to get more butts in the seats, and get more attention to the series, this opportunity is slapping them in the face. Does she have any sponsors left? Does IndyCar have a slush fund to help a gal out?
Mark Suska, Lexington, OH

RM: Not sure about her sponsors but here’s a little history lesson. When Sarah Fisher was the IRL’s most popular driver, she didn’t have a ride and the IRL didn’t offer any financial assistance. When Danica was being courted by NASCAR, IndyCar never tried to keep her. So, if the two most popular American female drivers didn’t get any help, it’s not going to happen for Simona despite the fact she is well liked.

Q: Do you think Gene Haas would consider hiring Simona de Silvestro to drive for his F1 team? Wouldn’t that be a great way to stick it to (really) old Bernie Eccle(needs to be)stone(d)? Now she is looking to come back to IndyCar. Where do you think she will in 2015?
Tim Davis, Detroit, MI

RM: I doubt it. As I said in this video on RACER.com Bernie called Derrick Walker a few years ago to inquire if any of “those girls in America” could drive a racecar. DW said De Silvestro could and sent her the information, only to have her manager tell him to cease and desist. Bernie trusted Derrick so it might have led to something but we all know if Ecclestone wanted a female in F1, she’d already have a good ride. I have no idea if Simona will get an IndyCar ride in 2015.

Q: I assume that there are not enough IndyCar fans (even globally) for Simona to try something like Caterham did with crowd funding?
Wally, Eden Prairie, MN

RM: I would think that’s a real long shot. Different drivers in different decades have been supported by fans but the only time it seemed to work in Indy cars was in the 1970s for Spike Gehlhausen and Sheldon Kinser when $10,000 was a lot of money. Just a couple years ago a project was launched for a second car for Sarah Fisher’s team at Indianapolis but it wasn’t successful.

RM-Simona


RM-Wilson

(ABOVE) Justin Wilson's Newman Haas Lanigan Racing car leads from pole in the final Champ Car race, Long Beach 2008, ahead of Alex Tagliani (Walker Racing) and Will Power (KV Racing). LAT photo


Q: Any news on Justin Wilson's prospects for next year? What a shame if he doesn't get a truly competitive ride for once in his career. And, what's the deal with the St. Pete ticket situation? I see that tickets are available for some races later in the year, but the St. Pete website just keeps promising "in the coming weeks". Since they're confirmed and the first U.S. race, I don't know what the hang up could be.

Steve C., Ithaca, NY

RM: Newman/Haas/Langian was a top level team but JWil was only there a year and RuSPORT was a good start-up team in Champ Car but we’d all love to see him with a Big 3 ride. I think KVSH Racing may be his best chance for 2015. As for St. Pete website, co-promoter Kevin Savoree says: “We’re in the process of changing our ticket software for St. Pete, Toronto and Mid-Ohio and we should have it up and running by mid-December. Thanks for being patient but we feel like it will be a better experience for our fans.”

Q: My question is in regards to the new race coming to NOLA Motorsports Park. I've been looking at it on Google maps and it seems to me that the racing surface is very narrow. The pits seem to be non-existent and there are no grandstands. Do you think this track is ready to host an IndyCar event? Is the racing at this track going to be exciting? I have also noticed that they are planning a second south track that would also connect to the north track. Has there been any talk about running the five-mile course when it is completed? They could even have a great doubleheader weekend, racing two races on two different tracks at the same facility. Is that the goal for this event or is this just going to be another three-year bust?
Clayton Williams

RM: Tony Cotman is IndyCar’s new track consultant and has been actively involved in NOLA and Brasilia. Here’s his take on the new road course outside New Orleans that will host IndyCar on April 12: “It’s not ready yet but it will be good. The barriers, fences and infrastructure are a work in progress. Yeah, it’s flat, kinda like Cleveland was, but I think it will be a good show. There’s going to be a 15-20-foot berm where the fans can sit and see the whole track.”
Also, remember how everyone said Barber would be too narrow and wouldn’t produce good racing, and how we’ve said that about Sonoma, too. But the DW12 has proven to be a very racy car at both those tracks.

Q: Miller, one of your rival websites reported that Brasilia wasn’t going to happen because there was too much work to do and the race would be moved to a former F1 track. True or false?
Mort Rosen

RM: Again, let’s defer to Mr. Cotman, who recently returned from Brasilia. “The road course is still a go and although there’s not a lot of time until March, I’m more confident today than when we started at Sao Paulo. There’s a lot less work to do in Brasilia.”


RM-IowaQ: This is an off-season thought question. If oval racing is the most popular form of racing in the US, which it undoubtedly is if NASCAR's television ratings are anything to go by, are there any theories as to why IndyCar's oval racing attendance declined proportionally so much more than the road and street races? What does NASCAR do right with oval racing that IndyCar gets wrong? For the record: I am pro-1/3 oval, 1/3 road, 1/3 street.
Sanford Santacroce, NYC

RM: The only gauge I have is pre and post-1996 Split. Milwaukee, Phoenix and Michigan were packed in 1995 and ghost towns after the IRL started going there. Indianapolis also suffered, obviously, and once people quit going, they’ve never returned. Iowa (ABOVE, LAT photo) had big crowds the first few years but it’s dwindling  – ditto for Texas – and some of the indifference could be the lack of action at ovals compared to the all-day racing at street and road courses. And, other than Indy and Iowa, the street races were more exciting than the ovals in 2014 which is hard to admit, but true. Having 500-milers at Pocono and Fontana with only 21-22 cars is also a bad recipe.

Q: Today I was doing my normal daily rundown of racing websites. Of course Racer.com is my go-to followed by too many others. Upon reading one of the others, I came across a very interesting number: 7.7. That is the average TV rating for the Indianapolis market. What is really amazing is this is for the 17 NASCAR Sprint Cup races on ESPN's schedule (including three Saturday night races that aired on ABC). This put Indianapolis third for the year behind, Greensboro, NC, Greenville, SC and ahead of Charlotte, Birmingham, Raleigh-Durham, Knoxville, Nashville and Richmond, all huge “true” longstanding NASCAR markets. Yes, we all know NASCAR is on major networks, etc. I was hoping to get an insight into what you, a longtime Indianapolis guy who bleeds Indy car and a media star takes away from these types of numbers. I mean, I know people there love racing of almost any type, but is there a changing of the guard happening in Indy regarding the go-to motorsport series of choice?
David Hinshaw

RM: Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman and Kyle Larson still have a big appeal in Indianapolis and also with the people who watched them come through USAC. People don’t go to the Brickyard 400 anymore but they damn sure watch it. It is surprising we out-draw all those NASCAR bastions but it should also be pointed out that Naptown ranks #1 in IndyCar viewing so obviously we enjoy motorsports.

Q: I've watched both Formula E races now. Yes the cars look slow. But the driver lineup is impressive and the racing itself has been good actually. What are your thoughts on the series?
Bill Jurasz, Austin, TX

RM: I don’t watch and I don’t care. We’ve already got enough open wheel series in the world that nobody pays attention to and I always thought the sound added to my interest. I know, I know, I’m an old, head-in-the-sand, curmudgeon who needs to join the 21st century. No thanks.  


RM-Clauson-2012Q: Here are a few questions regarding Tony Stewart’s sprint car future. Have you spoken to him lately and do you think he’ll ever run sprinters again? What about his teams? Is he still all in with the WoO and USAC? Is someone going to team with Donny Schatz next year? Just wondering what you might have heard. Apparently the hot rumor at the Grove’s National Open was that Clauson was going to move over to be Schatz’s teammate next year. If that’s true, who drives the non-wing sprinter?
Michael Long, Concord, N.H.  

RM: I haven't talked to Stew since the Chili Bowl but I did go to the World of Outlaw finale and heard the Clauson rumor. But it's not true. He was talking with them about running a second car in 2015 but it didn't work out and Bryan (ABOVE, LAT photo) isn't sure what he's got going next year except running the Indianapolis 500 for the Byrd family with KVSH Racing. Got to get Sulli and Jimmy Vasser to the Chili Bowl.

Q: What’s the backstory with Hinchcliffe leaving Andretti? I heard stories that sponsors didn’t jell with the team, but never a word about The Mayor not fitting into the business plan.
Redding

RM: I was told that United Fiber & Data hadn’t paid anything since last April so I guess that classifies as the sponsor not jelling with the team. Hinch didn’t want to leave, he was told to go look for work because Andretti couldn’t promise him anything for 2015.

Q: Been doing some calculations for 2015 and I need you to look over my work to see if I am on the right track:
1. Penske + V8 Super car series = IndyCar race returning to Oz?
2. Conway + Toyota LMP1 + win = Conway out of IndyCar (we probably know this one by now)?
3. DTM + IMSA – TUDOR series (they don’t want a dual series) = IndyCar + DTM in 2017?
4.  Simona + IndyCar = drive with, KV (Saavedra out)/Rahal (second car)/Coyne (Wilson to another team)?
5.  Ganassi – Briscoe = Sage or Wilson?
6.  Shank-Ford = Ganassi DP x2 = Briscoe in second Ganassi DP?
Victor Martino

RM: No indication IndyCar is returning to Australia, but everyone wants to go back. We should have some news any minute now on Conway's future plans. Have no clue whether DTM in America will happen, but here is Marshall’s latest update. Simona is hoping to find something. Not sure about Justin but maybe KVSH. Karam in the fourth Ganassi car. Hope Briscoe lands a good sports car ride.

Q: If I was Dan Andersen, I would write a check or do whatever I could to get Simona in a Lights car. She has a fan base, me one of them, from when she had to carry that POS Lotus on her back and I think it could put butts in the seats for Lights and grow the fan base. BTW, GREAT video piece on the women drivers.
John Boltik

RM: Dan has done a lot for open wheel racing but Simona going back to a Lights car wouldn’t do anything for her career and her fans want to see her in an Indy car. Is it better than watching? I don’t think so. This isn’t NASCAR. When you’ve made it into IndyCar, there is no benefit (financially or otherwise) to going back to Triple AAA. I doubt if Simona would even consider it. I know Sebastian Saavedra did it but he’s a different case. Thanks for your kind words and for reading RACER.com.


RM-Fabi-83-Portland

Q: How much of a stir did Teo Fabi cause in Indy cars in 1983? [ABOVE, Portland ’83, Steve Shunck photo]. I’d always rated him in Europe – very good in F3 and F2, better than Nigel Mansell, for example – but obviously his first season in F1 was in a horrible old Toleman with a  team that favored his teammate. So I was pleased when he got the opportunity to come to Indy racing and was even more pleased that he did so well although 30 years ago, news took some time to arrive in Italy, 4,000 miles away! Anyway, I just wondered what you and the paddock thought of him.
Giorgio Ramboni, Scotland, UK

RM: I went to Teo’s initial oval test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and after a few laps he said "no thanks." The walls really spooked him. But he finally got comfortable and, of course, wound up winning the pole position for the 1983 Indy 500 before scoring wins at Pocono and Phoenix. He was a damn good road racer, obviously, and captured Mid-Ohio and Laguna Seca in '83. He won the most races (4), poles (6) and led the most laps but lost the championship by five points to steady Al Unser.

Teo was very quiet, tough to get to know but a nice guy and I always called him "Ted" and he couldn't understand why yet he always smiled. He was very smart, in and out of the car. Brabham F1 team came calling for 1984 so he only ran a few Indy car races that year but returned to CART full-time in 1988 and he scored the only victory for Porsche in 1989. I ran into him a few years ago at the downtown Indianapolis mall and we talked more than we ever did at the track.

Q: In 40-plus years watching racing and making cars faster, I had never seen a sprint car race. Having grown up with drag racing and road racing in Southern California, I never made it to Ascot Park. I never went to Irwindale Raceway in the 90s because I did not want to support a NASCAR track. I had all kinds of top notch racing in California, why pay to see rednecks? My boyhood pal, now living in Indianapolis, talked me into seeing winged sprint cars at Irwindale. Friggin amazing. I cannot see how this is not better experience for driving an IndyCar than Formula 3? Eight hundred horsepower, simple cars and no driver aids except a wing. These things are a cross between Pro Mod drag racers and Indy cars. I kind of see how one would want to create a ladder for sprint car people. Of course, Mr. George should continue making baking powder and leave racers alone. If Ed Carpenter drove one of these crazy things, he is now one of my heroes. Can you name some NASCAR, F1, and IndyCar folk that have driven sprint cars?
John P, Glendora, Ca

RM: I’m partial to non-wing sprinters but watching a World of Outlaw winged missile sail into a corner is breathtaking. Of course when Indy was front-engine, dirt cars and roadsters, excelling in sprinters and midgets was the fast ticket to the Indy 500. Tony Stewart, Davey Hamilton and Carpenter are the recent drivers that came from USAC sprinters to the Indianapolis 500 while Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne and Kyle Larson graduated from USAC to NASCAR.


RM-Parnelli-Lightnings

Q: I understand the IRL is going to have a new museum in Indy! They are going to buy a two bay abandoned gas station....in the first bay there will be a Dallara any year from 2006 till 2012...and the current car, (any year since 2012 and it'll be around till what? 2018...2030?) in the other. The office will have pictures of every winner since 2006 and (for a fee...Indy has a fee for everything but peeing, and they are considering increasing the price of beer again with what they will call a "pass-to-pee" fee) you then can have the car wrapped to make it be any winner you want and have your picture taken in it...along with the driver, since they are unemployed for over half a year anyhow. I understand the charge will be minimum wage for the driver...which based on what the IRL pays to win a race...that seems a bit high, but since the Speedway is getting $100,000,000 from the state...they'll pay that.

Seriously, think about what made IndyCar racing great. It was new cars, and new ideas, and that brought fans, and fans brought money, and money brought Wilbur Shaw, Ted Horn, Sam Hanks, Vuky, A.J., Nigel Mansell, Jimmy Clark, Parnelli, and Mario, and they brought sponsors. Now the fans are mostly gone, and drivers like Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, and Sam Hornish and now Kyle Larson have all gone to that other series, along with the best sponsors. You know the series that understands that racing is entertainment not just for team owners but (keep this a secret) for FANS. Another secret: racecars do NOT have to be built out of carbon fiber, and they don't have to have some woofer-dilley leased engines. There are at least 15 engines producing over 700hp. I'd rather see 70 cars entered, 33 qualified, and one car win by three laps than what we have today! Come on Robin, defend Mark Miles, Boston Capital and Brian Barnhart (he's the only one left)!!
Terrible Ted aka The Grim Reaper

RM: What better way to celebrate Thanksgiving, I’m always thankful for sarcasm with dressing. I think the IndyCar season is too long. I’d like to see it go from May to July. The Boston Consulting Group is worth every penny, just like TGBB. And I think we need electric engines so we can hear each other talk during the race.

And thank you for giving us an excuse to run this LAT photo of the legendary Parnelli Jones with two of his greatest cars, the Johnny Lightning Colt-Fords in which Al Unser won the 1970 and ’71 Indy 500s.

lola1After watching McLaren dominate the Can-Am series for four years, in 1971 Lola and its American team leader Carl Haas seemed to have it all: a World Champion driver in Jackie Stewart, huge sponsor dollars from L&M cigarettes and a brand-new machine, the T260. But the results were disappointing, and the season ended with Haas' team in search of both a new driver and new sponsorship to back its 1972 entry, the Lola T310. Only one was built, serial number HU-01, and it has survived the years to become a popular entrant in the exciting world of vintage Can-Am racing.

Frustrated by the T260's boxy aerodynamics, Lola designed what would be the longest, widest, lowest car ever to compete in the Can-Am. The T310's slippery low-profile shape was partly the result of information gleaned by Haas mechanic Ike Smith from Porsche driver Jo Siffert in a casual conversation about Stuttgart's aero findings.

Smith recalled, "We were talking about needing more front-end downforce, and Jo took a piece of paper and sketched a profile of something he said Porsche was playing with. Apparently it was very efficient. It made a lot of downforce and also punched a good hole in the air."

FL0115-204259 2It is no surprise then that the T310's scoop-like nose is almost identical to that of its Porsche contemporary, the 917/10K. Indeed, the basic design proved so effective that it is still in wide use today in sports and prototype racing cars. Unfortunately, like the rest of the competition from 1972 to the Can-Am's demise in 1974, the T310 proved to be no match for the turbocharged Panzers from Stuttgart.

Driver David Hobbs struggled mightily with the car after it missed the first round of the 1972 season held at Mosport. Instead of simply racing, Hobbs was forced to also develop the car in the heat of real competition, an almost impossible task in the frantic atmosphere of the virtually unlimited Can-Am. Despite all that was working against them, Haas, Hobbs and crew finished the series admirably in seventh place.

FL0115-204259 3By season's end the car had become reliable enough to finish six races with Hobbs at the wheel, and in late 1972 new owner Jerry Hansen took it to Road Atlanta for the SCCA Championship Runoffs, where he handily won the fifth of his eventual record total of 27 National Championships. Hansen then sold the car to fellow SCCA racer Elliot Mendenhall. In 1977 the car was raced in the highly restrictive second-generation Can Am series by Bruce Langson, who crashed it at Road America, ending its professional racing career.

Years later the T310 was purchased by vintage racer Bob Lee, who methodically researched and documented the car while commencing a thorough restoration. The car was eventually completed and prepared for vintage racing by Scott Drnek's world-renowned Virtuoso Performance in Hayward, California. It has competed in a number of vintage racing events since 2001, including appearances at the Monterey Historics in 2007 and again in 2008, when its new owner Tim Mullins, a longtime Can-Am fan and collector, watched as it was driven from the back of the pack by Bobby Rahal to win its race. It has also appeared at the Goodwood Revival run each September at England's Goodwood circuit.

After another full race preparation by Tony Nicholson of Robin Automotive in September 2008, the T310 was invited to join several other cars driven by David Hobbs in a special "Cars of David Hobbs" display at the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance. In 2010 it was inspected and freshened once again before being photographed for the new Pete Lyons book, "Can-Am Cars in Detail: Machines and Minds Racing Unrestrained."

The last Can-Am Lola ever built, HU-01 is also extremely well documented with several large binders containing period documents, newspaper articles, and dozens of period photographs of the car including several with David Hobbs. Dozens of schematics and diagrams of various components are also included, along with a parts book, photos of the restoration and a folder containing recreations of the decals used on the car in 1972. The car also has two log books, including the original log book from the 1972 season, which is extremely rare. The car is also featured prominently in Pete Lyons' book Can-Am, where it appears in a two page spread.

FL0115-204259 4T310/HU-01 is offered with spares and parts including a complete spare front clip. It remains in exceptional condition, with very good paint and decals that replicate its original race livery from 1972. The interior is typically purposeful for the period and is properly fitted with approved modern safety equipment including outside electrical cut-off switch and Willans five-point harness. Close inspection reveals a very clean chassis and engine compartment, reflecting the car's professional preparation. It is also important to note that the engine and gearbox have just 4 hours of operation since being refreshed at a total cost of over $90,000.

With a well-documented history and an exacting restoration to recommend it, this final Can-Am entrant from Eric Broadley's Lola Cars is literally a world class sports racer demanding a level of skill and courage reserved for the world's top drivers. One of the fastest, most outlandish machines ever created for the world's most innovative racing series, it is eligible for a wide range of motorsports events around the world and a highly competitive contender in any vintage Can-Am racing event.

For more information visit https://www.mecum.com/lot-detail.cfm?lot_id=FL0115-204259

HIGHLIGHTS

- Driven by David Hobbs in the 1972 Can-Am season
- Finished 7th in its debut at Road Atlanta
- Finished 4th at Watkins Glen, 6th at Mid-Ohio, 5th at Edmonton, 8th at Laguna Seca and 5th at Riverside
- Driven by Jerry Hansen to first place in ASR class at US Champions Road Atlanta
- Competed in 1974 and 1976-77
- Discovered by vintage racer Bob Lee
- Restored with the help of specialists Bruce Burness, Steve Ruiz and Matt Weiss
- Refinished in the original livery
- Correct 510 CI engine
- Original chassis tag still on car
- Original Can-Am logbook and brass ID tag
- Driven by Bobby Rahal to first place in Can-Am Group at the Monterey Historics in 2008

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