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Archive for the month “November, 2013”

Notes from Austin

  • _N7T6661Fernando Alonso looked fit and well after qualifying despite his recent nerve/back troubles.  He was beset by headaches for the week after Abu Dhabi (when a hop over the rumble strips did the damage) but he’s fine now, citing adrenalin as the greatest cure in the world.
  • I love the small, relatively cramped team hospitality units at the COTA.  You’re there in Ferrari, chatting to Luca Marmorini about the 2014 fuel-flow restrictors, and the next thing you know you’re shoulder-to-shoulder with Felipe and/or Fernando’s Friends.  After chatting earlier to Sahara Force India’s Andy Stevenson about his team’s third Brembo brake disc failure this year (Adrian Sutil’s broke in qualifying in Texas), the thought occurred that Felipe is going to have a bit of a pedal-shock when he first drives a Williams.  To my knowledge, Felipe has never driven with Carbone Industrie brakes – and they are very, very different from the Brembos.  As different, perhaps, as the new V6 turbo engines will be from the current V8s.  Felipe said that he’d tried CIs a few times at Ferrari and doesn’t like ’em.  “I will have to make some changes at Williams,” he said with a smile.  Hmm.  It’ll be interesting to see where Williams are at, brake-wise, come January/February next year.
  • Speaking of those SFI brake failures, the thinking at Brembo is that SFI have an installation problem.  Ferrari, for example, have had no such issues at any point this year.  Fair enough – but then you would always expect Ferrari to be atop the Brembo totem pole.  It’s a bit worrying, therefore – both for SFI and Brembo.  Add a couple of issues at Lotus with Hitco, and you have a surprising number of brakes failures in a year when other (historically-fragile) car components – hydraulic systems, electronics, clutches, transmssions, engines, etc – have been virtually rock-solid.
  • One of the sights I miss at modern F1 races is that of the washing line – the drivers’ sweaty overalls hanging out to dry between practice sessions.  They all used to do it.  Now, like Vespa scooters, I guess such displays are against Community Paddock Rules.  I did see this, though, after Friday practice, proving that there’s life in (crowded) F1 paddocks after all. I shot these sun-drying overalls through the fencing in the hope that you won’t report the culprits.photo5
  • It’s difficult to have fun on the roads in the US, but that all changes on the motorway leading to the COTA.   Not only does the road have plenty of sweeping bends in amongst the prairies and the grazing cattle;  the speed limit is also an amazing 80 mph (85 mph on the return lanes, oddly).  I can’t think of too many places in the world these days with speed limits that high, so all credit to the Texans.  My Hertz Chevvy loved it – and that’s saying something.photo2
  • I know I go on an on about “F1 improving its show” but I can’t let this race pass into history without commenting about the almost non-existent support package for the US GP.  Last year we at least saw Historic F1 cars – and gorgeous they were too, even if the owners were not allowed to use on-board cameras and the races were confined to the less-populated stages of the day.   We also had Porsche Supercup (American version).  This year the Historic F1 cars were nowhere in evidence – and nor were the Porsches.  The sum total of the USGP race cars was the F1 race (obviously), preceded at 9:30am by an (admittedly fascinating) Historic Formula Atlantic/Formula B race and then a bunch of unruly stockbrokers doing about $50m-worth of damage to expensive-looking Ferrari sports/road cars.   Why no Historic F1s in a country in which (a) F1 is trying to “sell its brand” and (b) has enormous F1 heritage, by which I mean Phil Hill, Mario Andretti, Dan Gurney, Richie Ginther, Peter Revson, Eagle Weslakes and a race history that stretches back to 1959?  Why no Eagle on the circuit before the race, driven by Dan himself?  Why no Mario in a Lotus 79?  And why no Pro-Celebrity race, bringing in some Hollywood stars to spice up the day – especially in a year of relatively-predictable Seb Vettel domination?  Americans like shows – they’re used to shows – and it’s not difficult to enhance the F1 show with a few simple bolt-ons.  As much as I enjoyed watching (late on Saturday and early on Sunday) a Fred Opert Chevron B39 alongside a Ralt RT1 – and the mid-field laps of a nice Lotus 41C – and seeing Mario on the podium, presenting a trophy – I don’t think this is the sort of event that sits particularly comfortably – alone – as the main support race of America’s Grand Prix.  Fred Opert himself?  He was in Texas, supporting his man (Nico Rosberg, son of his former star driver, Keijo).
  • Which reminds me of one of the first Long Beach Grands Prix, when there was a decent Pro-celebrity race.  Poor old Clint Eastwood wasn’t particularly quick but luckily couldn’t hear the large-bellied guy sitting on his Winnebago’s roof on the outside of Turn Two (where I also happened to be watching).  “Hey Clint!” he would say, lap after lap.  “Where’s Dirty Harry now?!”.  Anyway, here’s a flashback to the first Long Beach GP in 1976.  Not a bad guest list:  Stirling Moss, Juan Manuel Fangio, Rene Dreyfus, Phil Hill, Dan Gurney and Maurice Trintignant. Sadly many have passed away.  As I say, though:  why no Dan in an Eagle at the COTA – or Stirling, for that matter?  He did win the second US GP (at Riverside, 1960). 1976 United States Grand Prix West.
  • Tim Mayer (son of Teddy), was a Steward at this year’s US GP.  It was 50 years ago that his uncle, the very rapid Timmy, signed to drive for Bruce McLaren’s new team prior to the (January-February, 1964) Tasman Series.  Timmy was instantly quick, almost dead-heating with Bruce at Teretonga and running right up with his team leader on several other circuits.  Then in March, at Longford, Tasmania, Timmy died when his little Cooper became airborne over one of the bumps and spun into the trees.  Tim, his nephew, is today an FIA Delegate and Director of ACCUS (Automobile Commission of the United States).  Timmy brought his mechanic, Tyler Alexander (left, below) to Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Ltd.  Tyler then went on to become an integral part of the McLaren success story.1964 Tasman Cup Championship.

What do you do when you’re sitting in a Texan taffic jam? Watch the sunset…photo4

Images: LAT Photographic; Peter Windsor Collection

The Elan

When I was a kid in Sydney, Australia, there were, for brief periods of time, very few grey areas.  You were either a “widgie” or a “bodgie” – although thankfully I was well into my early teens when that choice became null and void. You either played football (rugby union) or else you played soccer and were forever cast as a reject. You were either a “surfie” or a “bikie” – no explanation needed there – and, yes, you liked either Holdens or Fords (although the Chrysler Valiant was in there for a while, causing confusion).  Then the Jaguar E-type arrived and a whole new battle began. You could pick your opponent without fear of retribution. MGB? TR4? Sprite? Mini Cooper S? Healey 3000?  Many of my mates, believe it or not, preferred any of these five to the super-snooty E-type, and many a beach barbie was spent with detailed analysis of how the mighty E-type would be slain by any of the smaller, more nimble, opposition. Me? I became an avowed Lotus Elan man overnight. For one thing, Jim Clark drove one.  For another…I loved them. (I loved Honda S600s and S800s when they came out, too, plus Fiat 124 Coupes, but they comprise another story). I was pretty much alone amongst my mates, although Freddy Gibson and Niel Allen very quickly supported my claims with some brilliant drives at circuits like Warwick Farm and Catalina, where their lightweight Elans were every bit a match for Bob Jane’s lightweight E-type.

Anyway, in early 1967 I was lucky enough to join my parents on a three-month trip to Europe (“it will be good for his education,” my Mum said to my unamused Headmaster).  Their itinerary included things like the Parthenon in Athens, the Louvre in Paris and Westminster Cathedral.  Mine included Edington Mains farm in Scotland, Brands Hatch, Snetterton, Motor Books and Accessories in St Martin’s Lane, Charing Cross Road (sadly closed as recently as this month)…and the Lotus factory.  I mentioned all this, on a sunny Australian Sunday in late February, to our local vicar in Manly, the Rev Bryan King.

“We’re going to the Lotus factory,” I said, after a particularly uplifting Matins.  “Ah. In that case,” replied the Rev, “you’ll be wanting to meet my brother.  He works there.”

It was one of those moments with which you will always live.  I can still see the glint in his eye, the smile on his face as he saw my legs tremble in shock and surprise.

Indeed Warren King worked there. He welcomed us.  The Rev’s brother was one of the key accountants at Lotus, working under Fred Bushell. Even then, before Bill Gates, the world was very small.

So here’s a picture of my Mum talking to Warren outside the still very new Lotus factory in Norfolk in March, 1967. That’s a very early, Renault-engined Lotus Europa in the foreground – I always thought it would be mine, given its registration – and below that is a shot I took of what for me just about constituted my idea of heaven – a line-up of yet-to-be-finished Elans.  They were in S3 form then (soon to be S4) and had come a long way from the 1962 prototypes and then the big-production S2s of 1963-64.  I also took (with my new Fujica Half-frame) a shot of the new building and of my Mum standing by the new headquarters.  I was very impressed, of course, that Colin Chapman had built it in green and yellow. It made me treasure even more the green pullover with the yellow stripe down the middle that my Mum had knitted for me the previous winter. I never did get to buy a Europa – although I still might, because the attraction remains strong – but I did finally buy my Elan.  It was 1974, shortly after Nigel Roebuck so kindly hired me to write for Competition Car magazine in England.  I found it in the Classic Car classifieds and paid £750 for it. It was only when I opened the log book that I discovered that its first owner had been Jim Clark’s manager and mentor, Ian Scott-Watson – and that Jim had driven the car many times.  I’m chatting here in my Williams days to another great Jim Clark man from the Borders, Bernard Buss.

So here’s to the Elan. Still beautiful after all these years. And here’s to St Matthew’s, Manly. Thanks for making it happen.8-24-2010 17-50-32_16208-27-2010_48-6-2010 18-57-52_00608-27-2010_365 Elan S3

Postscript

Yes, I did persuade my Mum and Dad to drive all the way to the Borders.  Here’s one of the highland cattle I saw very near Edington Mains; below that is the view of the Clark farmhouse as we drove past; and finally I’m saying good-bye to God’s Own Country, with a tear in my eye, peering out the back of our rented Ford Cortina at the famous red barns.  Note our “Australian Visitors” roundel – UK drivers beware! – and my Clark-esque “Esso put’s a tiger in your tank” sticker8-24-2010 19-7-12_25408-26-2010_458-24-2010 18-17-47_191

 

Abu Dhabi reflections

In Parts Two and Three of this week’s show – specially segmented for YouTube viewers – we have a look at some of the pits-to-car radio transmissions and what they actually meant for the drivers. Rob Wilson remains in the studio to help me analyse some of the instructions and we’re joined, too, by Giedo van der Garde, the Dutchman who is starting to look very suited to an F1 grid. Most of the talk is directly related to last weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix but there’s always room for reflection!  Enjoy – and remember that you can now see (or listen to) the complete version of Episode 36 as an iTunes download.

Why Seb is so quick

I was looking through the LAT Photographic website the other day for some nice Red Bull action when I came upon these two images, courtesy of Alastair Staley. They were both taken during the race in India at the Turn 8/9 complex – a right-left change of direction of the type that in recent years has become a Seb Vettel signature section.  I had to look twice, I have to confess, when I noted Seb’s head position. I rang Alastair to confirm that both photos were indeed taken during the race (ie, that Seb wasn’t on a formation lap) and that they were both travelling at racing speed (ie, that they weren’t behind a Safety Car).  As you can see, the two photos captured almost exactly the same piece of road (which was fortunate, because Alastair then moved slightly, rendering further comparisons slightly more difficult). 2013 Indian Grand Prix - Sunday2013 Indian Grand Prix - SundayWhilst Mark is still looking at “the corner”, and looks to be carrying a little more load, Seb is already lining up for T9.  His car also appears to be “flatter” and carrying slightly less lateral load.  As we chatted, Alastair allowed that he had often noticed Seb’s very different mid-corner head position but that it was difficult to capture this. We’re talking a millisecond here, a moment in time.  I dare say that other great drivers have in the past “been able to get their corners over sooner”; it’s only now that we are in the digital age that the law of averages is coming into play. I don’t profess to have all the answers – and nor does Rob Wilson, who openly admits that he is learning something new (about the business of driving) every day. I could think of no-one better than Rob, though, to analyse these two photos. As well as winning all over the world in a variety of motor racing disciplines, Rob has coached, or coaches, many of today’s stars, including Giedo van der Garde, with whom we talk in Part 3 of this week’s show, Valtteri Bottas, Sergio Perez, Pastor Maldonado, Kevin Magnussen and – right back in his Formula Renault days – Kimi Raikkonen.

I think you will enjoy his detailed observations (below) in Part 1 of The Racer’s Edge, Episode 36.

Mexican scrapbook – 1963

Thanks to David Friedman Collection and The Henry Ford (www.henryford.org) I am delighted to be able to publish an additional collection of images from the historic 1963 Mexican Grand Prix in Mexico City. Many of these are being shown for the first time; and, collectively, I think they paint an almost ethereal picture of that country’s first World Championship Grand Prix: there was the ever-present army. There was the daunting Peraltada corner, which in 1962 had taken the life of Ricardo Rodriguez. There was Pedro, Ricardo’s elder brother, having his second F1 race in a third works Lotus 25-Climax. There was the rain on Saturday. And, on Sunday, after the arduous, two-hour, nine-minute race, there were the laughs in victory circle. Jim Clark, the new World Champion, had won his sixth Grand Prix of the season. I’m delighted, in addition, to show here a little-seen Solana family 35mm film shot over the weekend of the 1963 Mexican GP. Moises Solana, who had practised but not raced a Bowmaker Cooper in Mexico in 1962, had no worries about racing the following year with Number 13 on his Centro Sud BRM. Here we see it being loaded onto the Solana trailer behind a Chrysler Valiant and then in action at the circuit. This film includes lots of rare images from the weekend, including shots of Jim and the Lotus 25s, so I’d also like to say a very big thankyou to Cesar Galindo and the Solana family for the sights and the memories.

10578925075_549c3cf4d710579217993_2e9a7a3fb710579001924_29d047625210579019686_09b9670b8f10579298963_305b974bd110579307323_29c1f68ae710579558203_bdca5efaec10579201015_9204a7f73610579320686_00a6b26f4110579828836_9587e7ce1010579355873_45824a2cbf10579160794_034823633910579521713_4b50a9d54910579253715_3b2d397ee710579300216_b92973da0dCaptions, from top: wide-angle view of the banked hairpin; Saturday scene in the rain, looking away from the Peraltada towards the modern pit/garage complex; Tony Maggs and Richie Ginther within the Peraltada, showing new, two-tier outer Armco and half-tyres on the inside; the army stand guard over the Team Lotus entries prior to first practice; Team Lotus drivers Pedro Rodriguez, Jim Clark and Trevor Taylor prepare for that first practice session; Jim and Colin Chapman confer with the now-retired Stirling Moss while a dusky Mexican fan feigns disinterest; another view of the drivers’ briefing shown in the recent race report post (“Jim Clark in Mexico: 66 per cent at 7,000ft”):  a flash convertible serves as a useful dias as, from foreground, anti-clockwise, Chris Amon, Trevor Taylor (in natty shirt), Giancarlo Baghetti, Tony Maggs (in ski jumper), Hap Sharp, Masten Gregory, Jim Hall, Pedro, Count Godin de Beaufort (in jacket and tie), Jim, Moises Solana, Dan Gurney, Jo Siffert, Jo Bonnier, Graham Hill, Rob Walker, Richie Ginther and Bruce McLaren listen in; Cedric Selzer and Jim Endruweit push Jim’s 25 onto the starting grid whilst BRM’s Chief Mechanic, Cyril Atkins, sits comfortably on the right front Dunlop of Graham Hill’s car;  Michael Tee (left), father of LAT’s Stephen Tee, shares a pre-drivers’ parade joke with (from left), Jim, John Surtees, Godin de Beaufort and Colin Chapman; a lovely, low-line shot of Jim in the 25, pushing hard through the esses. Jim Hall is in the background with his BRP Lotus 24; Jim has his arms fully-crossed in the hairpin; Colin and Jim Endruweit are the first to congratulate Jim as he drives in towards the victory arena; Cedric Selzer (left) joins in the fun as the first three line-up with the race queen; and here are the first three – Jim, Jack Brabham and Richie – posing for the photographers; Colin’s gesture says it all  Images: http://www.thehenryford.org

Down to the wire

Here is the third and final part of this week’s show, specially segmented for YouTube viewers.  In this section we look back at last weekend’s Indian GP and then talk to the GP2 Championship leader, Switzerland’s Fabio Leimer, shortly after his arrival in Abu Dhabi.   Fabio, who drives for the Spanish-based Racing Engineering team, currently holds a slender points lead over England’s Sam Bird (who is well-known to regular viewers of our show).  In our analysis of the GP2 and GP3 title deciders, I’m joined in the studio by Tom Gaymor, the former lower-rung single-seater driver whose promising career was cut short by an accident (from which he has now fully recovered).  As well as voicing the new F1 smart-device, livetream app, Tom also calls GP3 and Porsche Supercup races for Eurosport.  He loves his racing – as he loves all sport – and is as passionate about it now as he was when he was competing himself.   He lives in nearby Teddington, sharing an apartment with the very talented Porsche driver, Richie Stanaway.  Don’t forget that the full-length version of the show can be downloaded from tonight on iTunes;  in the meantime I hope you enjoy this special “preview” segments.

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