Archive for Race Reports

The Prancing Pony switches trainers

If your eyes were peeled at last weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix, you would have seen Luca di Montezemolo’s face after the start, watching the Mercs and Red Bulls pull away, and leaving Ferrari in their wake. he diodnt just look disappointed, he actually turned and walked off in disgust.

It may come as no surprise to eagle-eyed viewers that Stefano Domenicali, the long-serving team principal of Ferrari’s F1 team, has resigned.

Domenicali has been at the head of the team for six years, and began his career with a constructors’ title in 2008. However in recent years the team has faltered, finishing up last year with a dismal result to the Merc and Renault-engined cars.

More embarrasing is that the problem is clearly not the drivers; Massa was outed in preference of Raikkonen, who won his fair share of podiums last year for Lotus. Now, Massa is further up the field than either Raikkonon or Alonso; in a Williams no less!

With all the money spent on the sport of F1, it is simply not feasible for the Prancing Pony to continue without results, though it is hardly Domanicali’s fault.

Marco Mattiacci will move up form Ferrari North America to the role from this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix.

Seat’s Leon Cupra is a surprisingly hot hatch

Seat has revealed its new Leon Cupra at Geneva, the car that was rumored to be the new FWD Nurburgring title holder.

The rumors have now been confirmed by the carmaker, its hot hatch cracking the 8min barrier with a 7:58.4, nearly 10 seconds faster than the previous record set by the Renault Megane RS Trophy (8:07.97) in 2011.

Given the Cupra shares much of the Golf’s skeleton, and shares a four-pot 2.0-liter turbo, it may be high time for VW to crack its Golf R into gear and aim for the title itself. The best a Golf has done at the ‘Ring is a 8:36 back in 2009, and that was a Mk5 VW R32 DSG.

OFFICIAL RELEASE: Leon CUPRA sets new Nürburgring record

Geneva, 04/03/2014. - SEAT presented its ‘Leon CUPRA Performance Pack’ at the Geneva Motor Show today. The Leon CUPRA has already proven its incredibly sporty performance on the Nürburgring, the world’s most demanding race track. It lapped the famous Nordschleife circuit in a time of 7:58.4 minutes, beating the previous best time for front-wheel-drive vehicles by around ten seconds. The thorough, painstaking work done at the German circuit has been applied by SEAT to its series-production model, another of the brand’s attractions at the Geneva Motor Show, where its performance, compelling design, everyday usefulness and top-quality places it in a class of its own.

The Spanish brand is also putting the new Leon Cup Racer on show at Geneva, the competition vehicle developed and built by SEAT Sport, and which will be the major player in the Leon Eurocup, to begin in May. Another attraction on the SEAT stand is the new Mii by MANGO, a fashion edition city slicker created in collaboration with the design label MANGO, present in 104 countries around the world.

SEAT is currently demonstrating impressive performance in its sales figures. With 355,000 vehicles delivered worldwide, the Spanish manufacturer achieved growth of 10.6% in 2013, in a market that shrank by 1.8% in Europe. In Germany, for instance, SEAT achieved a market share of 2.8% following growth of over 22%, placing it in the top ten. In United Kingdom, registrations of the brand increased around 17% and close to 8% in its home market of Spain. The new Leon family made a major contribution to this success. No less than 102,000 new SEAT Leon were marketed in 2013, 44% more than in the previous year.

“SEAT clearly has positive sales momentum. The new Leon family is a key contributor to this growth. We are about to create a second strong pillar of business next to the Ibiza family. We expect to continue this success with the new Leon ST launched in the past months. First customer reaction is very positive, with over 20,000 factory orders already since launch period. We have momentum and plan to continue our growth path in 2014,” states Jürgen Stackmann, President of SEAT S.A. “SEAT is a young spirited brand made in Barcelona. This young spirit is defined by two dimensions: we are design driven and we are dynamic. Our ultimate expression of the successful Leon formula is the all new Leon CUPRA. It is the fastest and the most powerful car we have ever built and yet is a comfortable family car. The CUPRA is our new icon.”

State-of-the-art technology and stunning design, coupled with compelling performance and perfect everyday usability – the new Leon CUPRA embodies SEAT’s brand values in the best possible way. With up to 206 kW / 280 PS, the new CUPRA is not only the clear top model in the exceptionally successful Leon family, it is also the brand’s most powerful ever series-production car. And the fastest, too. The Leon CUPRA’s drive and chassis guarantee precision driving fun of the highest order. With its extensive equipment and excellent quality, the new CUPRA represents exceptionally good value-for-money. This new sports icon from the SEAT range is offered for the first time as a five-door and as the Leon three-door Sport Coupé.

F1 celebrates with circlework

It’s a stupid rule; one that gets flauted by the drivers who care nothing for it.

Drivers such as four-time F1 Champ Sebastian Vettel have certainly shown their lack of respect for the “no burnout’ ruling, despite the rather hefty fine that accompanied it - a $35,000 fine and an official reprimand.

He then did it twice more, in Abu Dhabi and Brazi after taking the checkered flag, prompting team boss Christian Horner to tell him over the radio: “You’ll be paying that one”.

For 2014, though, the rules have been changed, with drivers ‘allowed’ to perform burnouts providing they are the race winner.

“The winning driver who may perform an act of celebration before reaching parc ferme, provided any such act;

-Is performed safely and does not endanger other drivers or officials.

-Does not call into question the legality of his car.

-Does not delay the podium ceremony.”

RoC canned due to political unrest in Thailand

The annual and absolutely awesome Race Of Champions, which sees top drivers of all disciplines converge on a makeshift double loop in various automotive weapons duke it out for individual and national pride, has been cancelled for 2013.

Allegedly, political unrest in Thailand, where the race was to be held for the second year in a row, is to blame.

“The Sports Authority of Thailand and the organisers of the 2013 Race Of Champions have announced that the event cannot take place as planned on December 14-15 due to the current political situation in Bangkok,” reads the official RoC release.

“Our thoughts are with the Thai people during this difficult period and we wish that a peaceful solution will soon be found. The Race Of Champions has been held all over the world for 25 consecutive years and we are currently looking at options of repeating the success of last year’s event in Bangkok on another date.”

Raikkonen conveniently out for rest of F1 season

It would seem that Kimi Raikkonen has found the best way to back away from his increasingly tumultuous final days with Lotus F1 - by undergoing elective back surgery on an old injury with two races still remaining.

Lotus said in a statement yesterday tat Raikkonen will miss next week’s United States Grand Prix and the season-ending Brazilian GP, with his interim replacement to be announced in the next few days (likely to be reserve driver Jerome d’Ambrosio).

Raikkonen has already announced that he will move back to Ferrari in 2014, and soon after revealed that he had not been paid by Lotus for the better part of this year’s season.

He also threatened to pull out of the final two races of the season in protest at the last race in Abu Dhabi, following the continued stalling of his payments, and after Lotus race director Alan Permane warned him not to hold up teammate Romain Grosjean in quali by impolitely telling the Finn to “get out of the !@#$ing way” over team radio.

While Kimi is obviously not the easiest character to deal with in the F1 paddock, we can certainly understand why he may elect to fix his back now and be fully recovered for his Ferrari seat rather than stick it out for two more races with Lotus.

Neuville to lead Hyundai WRC charge

Thierry Neuville and codriver Nicolas Gilsoul, who have shown such speed and promise in this year’s WRC in a Ford Fiesta, have signed with Hyundai on their return to the sport in 2014.

It’s a blow for Ford and M-Sport, who stepped up in their negotiations as Thierry’s star continued to rise - Neuville is currently second in the WRC drivers’ standings with one round left - but Hyundai had the goods for the Belgian.

Neuville will also be the lead driver for the new team, who enter the fray next year with their i20.

One seat remains, with Aussie Chris Atkinson a current favourite after testing and tuning for the Korean carmaker all year.

Kubica offered main game factory rally drive

Ex-F1 driver Robert Kubica has been thrown a drive in the top-tier WRC at the season-ending Rally GB on 14 - 17 November, after an impressive first full season in the Juniors which will likely see him wrap up the WRC2 title in his Citroen C2.

The surprise seat selection comes after a lacklustre year for the Citroen WRC team, with the French automaker falling behind in the standings this year for the first time in many years of WRC domination.

Newcomers Volkswagen are currently atop the table, after their ex-Citroen driver Sebastien Ogier wrapped up the championship last round, and with two rounds to go. Nine-time world champ Sebastien Loeb’s retirement has a lot to do with Citroen’s struggles, and ex-Ford drier Mikko Hirvonen has not shown consistent strength in the C3.

The team has also thrown Dani Sordo and Chris Meeke into the mix this year to try and find a new standout driver. Perhaps Kubica is the answer.

It’s good to see the Polish driver excelling in the sport that ironically ended his F1 career. During the 2010 - 2011 break in the F1 calendar, Kubica crashed while competing in the Ronde di Andora rally; his Skoda Fabia S2000 sliced through the centre by a guard rail in the impact and almost severing the driver’s left arm in the process. He is still to regain full movement in his left hand.

OFFICIAL RELEASE: ROBERT KUBICA ENTERS WALES RALLY GB

- Grand Prix winner steps up to top-flight rallying
- Pole admits Wales Rally GB will be ‘huge challenge’

Former Formula One star and this year’s driver of a Citroën DS3 RRC, Robert Kubica will step up to the DS3 WRC for the final round of the World Rally Championship (WRC), competing with co-driver Maciek Baran at the highest level, on Wales Rally GB (14-17 November). It will be the first time that the 28-year-old Pole has competed at the WRC’s highest level since switching from F1 to rallying following the serious accident in early 2011 in which his forearm was partially severed.
Read the rest of this entry »

Maria De Villota dead at 33

Spanish Formula One reserve driver Maria De Villota, who was found dead in her hotel room in Madrid on Friday, died of natural causes according to the latest autopsy reports. She was just 33.

Maria’s family have revealed that her sudden death on Friday was linked to the severe injuries she suffered in her testing crash last July. De Villota suffered serious head and facial injuries, including the loss of her right eye, after crashing during testing for the Marrusia team at Duxford Aerodrome in Cambridgeshire, England.

“Maria died around six in the morning whilst she was sleeping as a consequence of the neurological injuries she suffered on July 3, 2012, the forensic doctor has informed us,” said Isabel de Villota, Maria’s sister.

“Maria has gone but she has left us with a very clear message of happiness and hope and that is what we are moving forward with at this time.”

Isabel de Villota added that her sister would be buried in a private family ceremony in Madrid.

Countryman Fernando Alonso issued a statement: “Today is a very sad day for Spanish sport. We have lost a fighter with a huge smile.”

Ford Ecoboost Daytona Prototype smashes three lap records

Ford has laid claim to not one but three speed records at Daytona after a successful test at the Florida track.

The Riley Technologies Daytona Prototype, running the new 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost race engine, was steered across the line by Colin Braun and the Michael Shank Racing team, busting apart some long-standing times.

On the Daytona tri-oval, a speed of 222.971 mph over a single lap broke the 26-year-old record held by Bill Elliott in a Ford Thunderbird, while a new standing start 10-mile and standing start 10-kilometer record was also claimed by the heavily-kitted prototype car.

Braun wasn’t even born when Elliott set the previous speed record!

OFFICIAL RELEASE:
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Oct. 9, 2013– After 26 years, there’s a new King of Speed at Daytona International Speedway.

Colin Braun drove a Riley Technologies Daytona Prototype race car, powered by the new 3.5-liter, V-6 Ford EcoBoost race engine, to a new Daytona single lap speed record of 222.971 mph during a special record run attempt today, topping the 26-year-old speed record of 210.364 mph set by Bill Elliott in a Ford Thunderbird during qualifying for the 1987 Daytona 500.

Braun and the Michael Shank Racing team also set new world speed records for 10 miles from a standing start (210.018 mph average), and 10 kilometers from a standing start (202.438 mph average). All times from today’s session are subject to Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) homologation.

Braun, at 25 years of age, wasn’t even born when Elliott set the previous speed record. But he knows the significance of what was accomplished during today’s speed trials.

“It was a challenging day,” said Braun afterward. “There was a lot of work put in by a lot of people to accomplish these records. The power in the new EcoBoost engine was incredible, and it was amazing how fast it came up to speed on the runs.

“Our first run this morning was 209 mph, and it was an edgy drive at that speed. I can only imagine how edgy it was for Bill Elliott doing those speeds in his Thunderbird stock car. But our crew kept working and adjusting on it, and it was a great feeling coming down pit road after the record runs and seeing how happy everyone was.”

The new Ford EcoBoost engine was prepared for the record run by Ford Racing engine partner Roush Yates Engines, and Continental Tires did a special tire for the run that was lighter and had less rolling resistance than the standard race tire, along with a harder compound than the tire used for a typical road course race.

Both the new car and new twin-turbo engine will compete in the 2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship that kicks off with the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

“It’s a very proud day for all of us at Ford,” said Allison. “To take a Ford EcoBoost race engine that is basically production technology, and to beat speed records that have been on the books for decades really says something for our new engine and the program we launched last week.

“It’s a great way to kick off a new era of EcoBoost and sports car racing for Ford in the 2014 United SportsCar Championship, and we couldn’t have done it without Shank and his team, and the team at Roush Yates.”

“We’ve been working on this for probably nine or 10 months,” said team owner Michael Shank. “We did a first shakedown of the car and engine last January and we saw the potential even then of what it may do. For someone like me, to come from where I started in racing to be part of this today at Daytona, is just so cool.

“We’re so excited about the Ford EcoBoost engine. It’s relevant, production technology from Ford coming into a race program, and we need more of that in racing.”

“This is an engine project we started probably two years ago,” said John Maddox, road racing program manager, Roush Yates Engines. “There has been a lot of hard work by a lot of people to get it to where it is today, but this EcoBoost engine is relevant, state-of-the-art production technology in racing, and it brings with it power and high efficiency in the same package.

“When we broke the track speed record today with it, well, that was big. But to come back and set two world speed records that have been around since 1979 … well, that’s something you can tell the grandkids some day.”

Preparation for the 2014 USCC season began almost immediately after today’s record run. After switching the car over from an oval configuration, the MSR team took to the Daytona road course for the first test of the new car and EcoBoost engine on the track where it will debut in January.

Kimi confirms Ferrari swap

Surely, Kimi Raikkonen wrote his own press release when he announced his defection from Lotus. it reads below:

Welcome back Kimi
Maranello, 11 September 2013 - Scuderia Ferrari announces that it has reached an agreement with Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn will join Fernando Alonso in the driver line-up for the next two racing seasons.

So, confirming rumours that have circulated the pit paddock for the past few months, Raikkonen will return to the team with which he won the 2007 Formula 1 World Campionship in 2014 for at least two years, ousting long-time Prancing Pony stalwart and almost-F1 Champ (a year after Kimi in 2008), Felipe Massa.

His vacated seat at Lotus is expected to be filled by Nico Hulkenberg.

Poor Massa has never been quite the same since being king-hit my a suspension component at 200 clicks during qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2009, and we are not sure where he will head to next…