…chance doesn't exist; there's always a cause and a reason for everything – Elahi

Archive for the month “April, 2012”

Jack Harvey on a very wet Monza

From Oulton Park, the Cooper Tires British F3 series headed to Monza, Italy.  Carlin’s Jack Harvey had never seen conditions like it….

In Jack’s race bag:

Arai carbon helmet
Alpine Stars race suit, gloves and boots
Fireproof clothing
A mixture of visors; clear, coloured, smoky
Rainex for cleaning the visor
Helmet dryer
Mr Sheen for cleaning the helmet
Tear offs with union jacks on the edges
Rayban sunglasses
A keyring which I got given when I first started racing that goes on my kitbag
Racing Steps Foundation jacket

The legend begins….

In October, 1978, in the cold of the Canadian fall, Montreal staged its first Grand Prix.  The race also enabled a young driver from nearby Berthierville to win his first Grand Prix.  And so the legend of Gilles Villeneuve was born.  We join that momentous week in the newly-completed Hyatt hotel, headquarters of the Labbat’s Grand Prix of Canada

Wednesday, October 4

The Hotel Hyatt Regency is a $50m tower in the south of downtown Montreal.  It is one year old;  it is in keeping with the newness of this part of the city.  It is also serving as “Grand Prix Headquarters”, which means that you collect your credential from the basement of the Hyatt, that the pre-race festivities, like the Gilles Villeneuve Ball, are held at the Hyatt, and that most of the Grand Prix teams, including mechanics, stay at the Hyatt.  Some remain aloof – Walter Wolf’s team for one, Michelin for another – but, otherwise, this is already a Grand Prix with a difference: the paddock area is effectively marble-floored and graced with Muzak.

This morning, with most of the teams together again after two or three days in New York, or brief trips to the Goodyear factory in Akron, Ohio, is to be much like any other.  Emerson Fittipaldi is clad in a red-and-white track suit as he sits down to breakfast, and Jody Scheckter is wearing his white outfit from TV’s “Superstars”.  Emerson will later train at the nearby, indoor athletic track;  Jody will hit a tennis ball or two.  Everything is within easy reach, within calling.  Clay Regazzoni, with “Klippan seat belts” emblazoned on his track suit, has booked a court for two hours.  Patrick Tambay will play with John Watson, Jacques Laffite and Riccardo Patrese.  Lauda and Hunt?  They are to stay at the hotel today, recovering from what must best be described as a quick trip to New York.  The weather was better down there – but that would appear to be all.  Here, in Montreal, only two miles from the circuit, there are facilities to make out-of-town Grands Prix look positively ancient.  The shopping malls are so large you need a golf cart to cover them.

This, then, is a glimpse of the future:  the more the Grand Prix business expands, the more inclined will be the business to stage its races near or in major cities.  Who wants to camp at Mosport when you can be in the Hyatt ten minutes after practice?  At Montreal, you do your next Goodyear deal in the air-conditioned bar, 30 minutes before dinner (and not in sokme steamed-up, hired motorhome).  Is there a downside to it all?  Will the Montreal “street” circuit justify the Hyatt?  We shall see on Friday, when practice begins.

There is an end-of-year feeling in the Hyatt this winter’s morning. The Championship has been won;  for drivers like Niki Lauda the race is of only academic interest, even if this is his – and also Carlos Reutemann’s 100th GP start – even if second place in the title chase is still wide open.  For drivers like Jean-Pierre Jarier, Keijo Rosberg and Rene Arnoux, by contrast, there is everything – including a good drive for 1979 – for which to fight.  And for teams like Ligier this is the time to say goodbye to the Matra engine.  Indeed, this is the over-riding, pre-practice mood:  such has been the dominance of the Lotus 79 that a good number of cars will be having their last race at Montreal:  next year they’ll all be going ground-effect.

That’s your first glimpse of this first Canadian GP in Montreal:  it is at once a glimpse of the future and a last look at the past.

Thursday, October 5

You reach the track by turning left out of the Hyatt, driving 500 yards on the freeway and taking the “Ile Note Dame” ramp.  Over a bridge, onto the island – and you are there, at the sight of Expo 67 and the 1976 Water Olympics.

The island is small – artificially built out of earth moved when the city’s underground railway was constructed.  And, necessarily, the circuit seems small.  It stretches the length of the island, with hairpins at either end and six chicanes in between.  It is also brand new: the timber is still light-coloured, the grass verges recently-placed, the paint still tacky.  Everywhere, artificiality prevails.

The cars are garaged in the old rowing sheds, back-to-back and side-by-side, as at Monza.  And the pits are a short walk away at the exit of the hairpin, before a quick chicane.

We are out on the course now, tooling around in a road car, when up comes Hans Stuck Jnr, completely sideways in his Mercury Monarch.  A grin splits his face:  it must be Hans’ sort of circuit.  Then Mario Andretti passes us, his station wagon on opposite lock out of the hairpin, avid journalists round about him.  (And ready to cause him some bother, it turns out:  remarking the circuit seems a little tighter, and a little slower than it might have been, and concluding lightly that the track seems designed for Gilles Villeneuve, he subsequently is quoted out of context by the local press.  Mario is impressed with the organizers and with the circuit build overall, but the locals whack him hard re his Villeneuve comments.  By Sunday morning he is saying to the media: “My criticism was over-emphasised and mis-directed.  I am not critical of the race organizers.  I am more critical of our own FOCA officials who were sent over here to approve the track”.)

Gilles in the wet on Friday, when his team-mate, Carlos Reutemann, had the advantage

Friday, October 6 Read more…

Alexander Sims: “Signes was flat….”

When last we spoke to Alexander Sims, the young Englishman whose F3 and GP3 wins have earned him a McLaren Young Driver contract, he had just returned from climbing Mt Kilimanjaro for charity.  We caught up with him again last week to find about his first LMP2 race at Le Castellet (in which he finished third)

Paolo Coloni – GP2 team and AutoGP series owner

Between running his own, race-winning, GP2 team and overseeing, with his father (Enzo), the burgeoning AutoGP series, Paolo Coloni is one of the busiest men in motor sport.  He took a brief pause to talk to us about his passion for racing – and for easing the path for talented young drivers

The Renault engine problem in Malaysia

Within the very controlled environment of F1 it is extremely unusual for a manufacturer – particularly an engine manufacturer – to be up-front and public when something goes wrong.  I make no apologies, then, for reproducing the question-and-answer document provided by Renault after Pastor Maldonado’s late-race engine problem in Malaysia.  I think it makes fascinating reading

 What was the cause of the Williams’ engine failure?

Initial inspection at the track showed a piston failure. We shipped the unit back to Viry after the race where it was inspected thoroughly yet again when we stripped it down. We then confirmed that one of the eight pistons had suffered a surface crack that had allowed fluids to leak through, causing a sudden loss of engine pressure. It appears that the crack came from a machined radius on one of the piston legs. This sudden failure was restricted to just one piston – the remaining seven were fine. This was the first time for some while we had experienced this problem and we were particularly surprised considering we had had a trouble free winter in this area, both on the dyno and on track.

Has this happened before?

No. This is the first time we have experienced this problem. We feel this was a one-off failure, but as we still do not fully understand the root of this problem, investigations are still ongoing and we will take some time to introduce complete counter measures. It is fair to say that we were very surprised, particularly as it happened so early in the engine life.

What safeguards have been put in place?

We have specifically built new engines (two per customer) for China which feature a new piston specification we know will address part of the problem. This has been approved by the FIA via a formal request. As we could not find any problems with the actual broken piston (the inspection process and quality control from the piston supplier could not find any further issues), we will also put in place some safer engine settings for China.

Williams had some engine problems before in pre-season testing? Was this linked to the Malaysia problem?

No, it is not at all linked. This was a one-off issue that occurred suddenly. We have obviously run through the way the engine was operated so far this season but we could not find anything out of our usual scope that would explain the failure.

Can this engine be used again?

The actual engine can be used again but not in a race situation for Pastor as it has been taken out of his engine pool. Nevertheless, as only one piston was affected, we will put the engine back together with a brand new piston and re-run it on the dyno to determine if it could have lasted its entire life. This work is in progress and we already have some indications. In the meantime, as we only have seven engines left for Pastor, we have worked out an alternative engine plan for the rest of the season so Pastor will not be penalized beyond the position lost in Sepang.

Jack Hawksworth – a Star is Born

For most young British racing drivers the choice is simple – especially if you’ve excelled in karts and won races in your first F Renault season:  you think GP3, GP2, F1.  Jack Hawksworth is no less ambitious – but he is also creative and wise enough to know that racing anything, anywhere, is a privilege afforded only to the very few.  Accordingly, he made plans in the autumn of last year to join the “Road to Indy” in 2012.  He joined Team Pelfrey in the ultra-competitive Star Mazda series – and has been instantly successful.  I spoke to him during his first, brief return to the UK

In Jack’s track bag:

  • A bag of Arai GP5 Tearoffs
  • My Torgoen Swiss watch (T29104)
  • 2 Pairs of Red Oakley Race Boots
  • 1 Pair of Black Oakley Race Gloves
  • 1 Pair of White Sparco Race Gloves
  • A light smoked visor
  • A Dark Blue tinted visor
  • A Clear visor
  • 3 Nomex Tops
  • 2 Balaclavas
  • 1 Arai GP5 painted with the design that I have carryed for most of my career with my Blue and Red colours and JH logo on both sides.
  • Helmet Cleaner
  • Helmet Wax
  • Visor Cleaner
  • 2 Pairs of ear plugs
  • FIA/MSA Licence
  • Indycar Hardcard
  • Spare set of Arai visor screws

I’m pretty obsessed about my race bag. I like everything to be in the right place and I actually quite enjoy preparing it all before I leave for a race meeting! I think it annoys all the guys in the team, though, as my bag is so big it pretty much takes over the majority of the truck. Sorry guys!


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