Archive for Race Reports

Formula 1 hits reverse on refuelling

Following a spate of sadly boring races so far this year, Formula 1 is again looking to change their rules and regs to keep the crowds interested.

A number of changes for the 2017 season have been voted on by F1’s Strategy Group, including the re-introduction of mid-race refuelling.

While the latter is undoubtedly exciting, it was taken out of the F1 show five years ago to reduce costs or the teams. Flying fuel rigs and specialty staff around the world was a cost many could do without, particularly the second tier teams who still struggle today.

However, much criticism has been thrown at the current regs; with teams only allowed the fuel they start with, the starts themselves are slow with the cars fully laden with gas, plus the conservation tactics needed to finish mean the longer races are more reminiscent of enduros than sprints. The fastest cars and drivers in the world should be doing just that: going as fast as they can.

The new turbo sixes, which are slower than the previous generations of cars, will also get  “aerodynamic rules evolution, wider tyres and reduction of car weight” to whittle off the seconds, plus higher rev ranges and exhaust freedoms to make more noise.

These are still only proposals, which now need to go through the F1 Commission and the World Motor Sport Council and meet approval before they will be enstated.

Miller Motorsports Park to close in October

While it is not necessarily the end of the road, it’s not a good sign; Miller Motorsports Park will cease operations as its namesake in October this year (on Halloween, no less).

The Utah track, which always boasts a deliciously rich and diverse calendar, not to mention driver training and race coaching, will be let go by the Millers, who have decided not to renew their lease of the property with the land owners. The decision has been left to the late Larry H. Miller’s wife, following his passing in 2009.

Hopefully another wealthy motorsport lover will jump on the lease and keep the track alive - particularly as the track, originally conceived as a $5 million project by Miller 10 years ago, grew into an $85 million investment with some of the best corners in the country.

OFFICIAL RELEASE: (May 8, 2015) – The Larry H. Miller Group of Companies has elected not to renew its lease with Tooele County and will cease operation of Miller Motorsports Park at the end of the racing season on October 31, 2015. A full schedule of racing events, driving schools, public karting and group activities will be held this summer as planned.

Gail Miller, owner of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies, stated: “On behalf of my family, I would like to thank all of those who have supported the track over the years, both locally and worldwide, for their enthusiasm and use of the facility.”

GTs banned from racing the Ring after fatality

Authorities have revoked the licence allowing GT3 and GT4 cars to run on the Nurburgring Nordschleife following a tragic accident in the opening round of the VLN Endurance Championship last weekend.

Jann Mardenborough’s Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 flipped over a crest and hurled into the crowd, killing a spectator on the hill. The horrific crash was captured by several spectators and uploaded to Youtube - out of respect, we will not post it here.

The governing motorsport body Deutsche Motor Sport Bund (DMSB) has suspended the license for categories SP7, SP8, SP8T, SP9, SP10, SP and SP-Pro-X until further notice, with DMSB General Secretary Christian Schacht stating: “We can not and will not be business as usual after an accident of this kind. We are all still deeply shocked and our thoughts are with the family of the victim.

“The security of the participants and especially the spectators must be a top priority. Therefore, we need to analyze the details of what happened, discuss and then implement the necessary consequences. Only after that vehicles can get back on the Nordschleife…”

Marussia given last-minute lifeline

After many had written it off as lost to the 2015 F1 season (including us), the Marussia Formula One team will indeed line up on the grid in Australia next week after finding a backer.

Now called Manor Marussia, the team was thrown the lifeline by OVO Energy founder Stephen Fitzpatrick. With Jules Bianchi sadly still in hospital after his crash in the Japanese GP, and Max Chilton going to Euro endurance racing, the two licences are to be filled by Will Stevens, who made his maiden race debut late in 2014, and a yet to be named racer - likely another junior with financial backing already aboard.

“The last few months have been a bit of a rollercoaster, to say the least, (but) we are ready to go racing,” said continuing team sporting director Graeme Lowdon.

“We haven’t just taken a 2014 car and shoved a different nose on. It’s a new car with a high degree of carry over and safety upgrades.”

Marussia has passed the mandatory FIA crash tests, and are currently on the boat to Oz for the season opener in Melbourne on the 13th - 15th.

Scuderia Ferrari fire up F1 design discussion

Ferrari Concept F1

After the past year of the ugly, phallic-nosed F1 cars, you may suppress a small shudder when you hear of a marque sketching a future F1 car.

However, free from aero restrictions and strict supp-regs, Scuderia Ferrari has managed to give us an impression of the future that is, quite frankly, Formula porn.

This Concept F1 sketch was the brainchild of in-house studio Centro Stile Ferrari, and apparently, the design could be built as-is without pushing or voiding the current F1 regulations.

While F1 is all about performance, Ferrari admits this design study is all about looks: “Our challenge was to create something that was – to put it short – better looking.” And it is at that.

Marussia joins Caterham on the F1 sidelines

A last ditch attempt to save Marussia F1 team has apparently failed, leaving the team to ponder bankruptcy alongside Caterham on the 2015 sidelines.

Earlier this year, Caterham F1 finally admitted defeat (despite a fantastic crowdfunding project to get them on the grid for the last race of the 2014 season) and listed their cars, garage gear and manufacturing equipment to the highest bidder.

Marussia was still fighting, however a “Formula One Strategy Group” gathering in Paris this week to discuss the fate of Marussia may have finally sealed it.

The small team was asking to run its 2014 car in this year’s Championship. Obviously without the time or funds to develop a 2015 car, the decision essentially came down to the other teams in the field.

And of course, it was Marussia’s main competitors that blocked the petition - not the front-runners, who seemed to be supportive of their appeal, but rather the lower and smaller teams. Needing unanimous support from all teams at the Strategy Group meet, it was the final straw on the proverbial camel’s back.

So despite paying the entry fee and working with the banks to stave off bankruptcy, it would seem Marussia will join Caterham on the sad sidelines this year.

Add to that the tragedy of the still-comatose Jules Bianchi, who has reportedly not regained consciousness since his collision with a recovery vehicle at the Japanese GP last October, plus the accident with test driver Maria de Villota, who in 2013 died as a result of her Formula One test crash at Duxford airfield in 2012, theirs is a very sad tale indeed.

Mini takes top Dakar honors

It may have struggled in the WRC, but there is one rally that the Mini marque undeniably dominates; and it’s one of the toughest in the world.
For the fourth year straight, Mini has taken out top honors in the Dakar Rally, this year with 2011 winner and WRC regular Nasser Al-Attiyah at the tiller.
Following two weeks and 5,600 miles across three South American countries, from dunes to volcanic rock to the sea and back, Quatari Al-Attiyah and French codriver Mathieu Baumel came home more than half an hour ahead of nearest rivals Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz in the debuting Toyota Hilux.
“I promised last year when I was on the podium that I’d be back to win, and now I’m here,” he said. “It was very hard to lead the race from the very beginning and to continue keeping this position on the long distance.
“Also because the race was really hard. I’m very happy about this great result and I want to thank and congratulate all mechanics and the team for the great job they have done during the two weeks. The MINI ALL4 Racing is an incredible car and it was again very nice to drive.”
The pair won more than half the stages to take the podium in the car category, with Minis also finishing in third, fourth and fifth (Krzysztof Holowczyc, Erik van Loon and Vladimir Vasilyev).
In the other categories, the insane Truck group was again dominated by the Russians, and notably the Kamaz team, who took top honours for the third year in a row. KTM rider Marco Coma backed up his 2014 win with the top podium spot in the Motorcycle category, while Poland’s Rafał Sonik won in the Quad class.

FIA admits to 2015 F1 engine regulation loophole

They say rules were meant to be broken, and this is no truer than in motorsport. Regulations have been interpreted, bent and at times broken in the pursuit of speed, and at the pointy end of the scale, Formula 1 teams have time and time again found a way through the thumb-thick regulation handbooks to find that extra 1000th.

For 2015, Formula 1’s current manufacturers will now be allowed to continually develop certain areas of their engines due to a loophole in the rules - a loophole the FIA has admitted to publicly.

It can only be good for the sport - after the total and utter domination of Mercedes in 2014 thanks to its handle on the move to the turbo six, Ferrari and Renault began its mutterings early that the regulations stating no further development of engines can go past a pre-season deadline for the remainder of the year.

The loophole that Ferrari first found states that the engine rules did not actually stipulate a concrete date for the final engine specs to be lodged for 2015.

An FIA spokesman said: “It was always envisaged, although not explicitly stated in the rules, that manufacturers would have to deal with modifications on the engine within the constraints of the rules, and then submit their 2015 engine [at the first race].

“It is simple, but when you read it [the rule book], it doesn’t say that unfortunately.”

It means that manufacturers now have the option of introducing upgrades to their engines throughout the season as long as they stick to a subscribed “development token” limit, which means they can fiddle with about 48 percent of the engine componentry, and do not exceed the four-engines-per-car limit for the campaign.

So Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault can bring in developments over the course of 2015 within these restrictions - though this will will not apply to Honda as it enters the fray in 2015.

“As the existing manufacturers were obliged to homologate their power units by 28 February 2014 it would seem fair and equitable to ask a new manufacturer to homologate their power unit before February 28 2015,” read a paper from race director Charlie Whiting.

“We therefore consider this to be a requirement for a new power unit manufacturer.”

Caterham crowdfund last race of the season

Motorsport enthusiasts are an awesome lot; generous to a fault. “Do I spend that thirty bucks on a nice Sunday roast, or pop the money towards a new exhaust?”

These type of decisions are taken in all seriousness… Off to McDonald’s it is.

After missing the last round in Astin, Texas following the announcement that the team had entered administration (along with fellow backmarker team Marussia, who faces similar stresses), Caterham turned to the fans to get them back on track.

Turning to a crowdfunding appeal, the team offered up money can’t (usually) buy assets such as pieces of the cars and driver paraphernalia, to space on the cars at a fraction of the usual sponsor price, to straight up donations from the fans. They have managed to raise almost three million dollars in the process.

Despite being just over $780,000 short of their set financial goal of $3.7 million, the Caterham Formula One team will indeed be on the grid at Abu Dhabi for the final race of the season anyway.

A representative from the administration firm who controls Caterham’s assets has admitted that this is also the best avenue for the beleaguered team from their point of view, saying “… the best way to keep this team alive and attract possible buyers was to show that it’s still a racing team and be in Abu Dhabi for the finale”.

Unfortunately this hasn’t stopped the administrators from making any unnecessary staff redundant, and the axings continue in the background as the team prepares to fly out.

Still, the effort is a great, if temporary, result for the team, and for motorsport enthusiasts in general.

Vegas next for F1 Circus?

Forget New Jersey - the next US location allegedly on the radar of Formula 1 is Las Vegas.

After a 32-year absence, rumours have started leaking out of the Nevada strip following trips by motorsport circuit designer Hermann Tilke, and suggestive comments by F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone.

While eyeing off the strip, the organisers will no doubt be sure to avoid the trappings of the past, ie the Caesars Palace Grand Prix of 1981 which had limited areas of track, and limited success.

With the Circuit of the Americas, Canada GP, and now Mexico returning to the calendar, Bernie may have found another slot in his busy F1 calendar that can afford the sanctioning fees that cripple other countries and smaller circuits. For where better than to roll the dice than Vegas?