Saturday, October 19, 2013

2013 ALMS Petit LeMans LMP2 preview

This season, the LMP2 class should have been called the Honda P2 Class. With the 2 teams involved using the exact same hardware, it has made the class essentially a spec category. The proper upgrades and bespoke tires, would make these cars as good or better than any LMP2 chassis in Europe (see Starworks Motorsport's 2012 WEC resume). While it's only 2 teams competing, one needs to only look at the resources available to them to realize that this is in fact a battle among 2 stellar competitors.

Extreme Speed Motorsports #02; Ed Brown, Johannes van Overkeek, Rob Bell. We can't remember the last time we saw Rob Bell's name in a prototype entry. More like never. But they must have been really enamored by him during their Ferrari days, when he drove one of their cars. By driving this car during this season, Johannes Van Overbeek has crafted a new repertoire in his racing abilities. Next season he might become a hot commodity if a team elects to run a P2 car instead of a DP and wanted an American driver to complement its lineup.

Level 5 Motorsports #552; Guy Cosmo, Jonny Kane, Peter Dumbreck. This is really the best lineup in LMP2 at Petit LeMans. You will only see such all-pro LMP2 lineups in the ALMS/USCC. The WEC, ELMS and AsLMS wouldn't have accepted such an entry. Get these guys a P1 car and they can run with the big boys. But we ranked them next to last because they will be taking their marching orders from the lead #551 car. Their main role would be to help make sure the lead car occupies one of the top 2 positions. The team owner Scott Tucker has to finish 1rst or 2nd to win the title if the ESM #01 car is running in one of those spots.

Level 5 Motorsports #551. Scott Tucker, Ryan Briscoe, Marino Franchitti. This is the lead car, for Level 5. Scott Tucker might only drive enough to clinch his minimum drive time and then let the pros slug it out.

Extreme Speed Motorsports #01; Scott Sharp, Anthony Lazzaro, David Brabham. This car has a stronger lineup than Level 5's lead car. We would have given the #552 the upper hand but it's not racing for its own gain. Scott Sharp's only memo to his co-drivers should be; don't crash, save fuel and go for the win.

2013 ALMS Petit LeMans LMPC preview

If you took a good look at all the classes, you would notice that the teams in the Prototype Challenge class are generally less well known than some of the GTC teams. A few of the GTC teams are actually former heavyweights, and are very well known and regarded around the world. With their relatively "bland" reputations, it is quite fitting that the LMPC teams run in the newest class in American LeMans Series.

BAR1 Motorsports #7; Tomy Drissi, Rusty Mitchell, James French. This car's livery makes it a star even more than its drivers. If a casual fan does not know about the drivers, at the end of the race they will definitely remember the car's livery. Tomy Drissi has delighted us all with his ever changing movie advertisements on the car throughout the season.

Performance Tech Motorsports #18; Tristan Nunez, Charlie Shears. It seems we know much less about this team than any other team on the grid. But we can say that Tristan Nunez is the big gun here. Yet he can't match the artillery some of the other teams are packing.

RSR Racing #9; Bruno Junqueira, Duncan Ende, Gustavo Menezes. Just seeing Bruno Junqueira's name, we should really rate them higher, but they were out for a race, they sold the car, and are actually leasing it from their buyer. So it might not be a full fledged effort in our opinion.

BAR1 Motorsports #8; Kyle Marcelli, Chris Cumming, Stefan Johansson. Kyle Marcelli used to be the darling of this class a couple years ago. Johnny O'Connell was asked sometime last year why Marcelli was no longer as dominant as he once was, and he answered sarcastically. But he basically said the competition has become tougher. Marcelli is still among the highest rated drivers here, and Stefan Johansson being added for this race makes the team a bit stronger.

8Star Motorsports #25, Sean Rayhall, Oswaldo Negri. If we were in the ELMS or the WEC, they wouldn't quite meet the requirements to be in this class. In Europe all classes except LMP1 and GTE Pro require an amateur driver. The two drivers here can be considered professionals. So why aren't they rated higher, since they are rather well financed? We don't think they will run trouble free or a flawless race. The car is new to the team and to the drivers.

PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports #52; Mike Guasch, David Cheng, Dane Cameron. They don't really have to win it, They will most likely run a measured race as a proper championship hopeful should. But with Dane Cameron in tow, they can turn up the wick if needed.

CORE Autosport #05; Jonathan Bennett, Tom Kimber-Smith, Mark Wilkins. Their GTE entry is not the most competitive in its class, but Porsche picked this team to run their USCC factory entry for a reason. They are consummate professionals. Jon Bennett, the boss, has a chance at the championship. The whole team will be motivated to get him the hardware, and to also prove that they deserved to be Porsche North America's selection as factory GTLM team in the USCC next year.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

2013 ALMS Petit LeMans GTE preview

Team West/Alex Job Racing #23; Bill Sweedler, Leh Keen, Eric Lux. It really says something that the best team in our GTC preview is ranked last in our GTE review. Indeed, aside from this squad all the other teams here, have at least 1 full time factory driver and also get factory support. A few of them are really full fledged factory squads.

Paul Miller Racing #48; Bryce Miller, Marco Holzer, Emmanuel Collard. Before we took a good look at the massive crash at VIR we automatically assumed it was another amateur driver getting inthe way of a factory driver. Alas we were wrong it was the factory driver's fault. Marco Holzer probably expected the season to go a lot smoother than it has been. Now he might just be bidding his time waiting for the full fledged 2-car factory effort in the USCC next year.

Team Falken Tire #17; Wolf Henzler, Bryan Sellers, Nick Tandy. We really felt bad for them when they were taken out at Baltimore. They might have won it again or at least been on the podium. Unlike the Core Autosport team, they did not purchase a new RSR chassis but went back to using their 2010 car, which is simply uncompetitive now. The good news is that, they have a lineup that's as good as anyone else's. All they have to do is squeeze every inch of performance out of the car and run a perfect race, just like they did at Sebring to capture 3rd place. But that was with a new 997 chassis.

Core Autosport #06; Patrick Long, Colin Braun, Michael Christensen. Yes he is Danish but he is not related to Tom Christenssen. But if he is driving for this Porsche backed team he might be on his way to becoming a factory driver. Seeing Colin Braun doing well in GT machinery is no surprise. We think we could have advised him that the Endurance path would be more successfull than Nascar for him. The guy was a rising star in Grand-Am and then at the 24hr of LeMans. But the lure of NASCAR's millions pryed him away from sportscars. He might be auditioning for a Porsche factory role next year. The rock solid Patrick Long is always a good addition to any team. But we would much rather have had him as one of the 4 full time LMP1 drivers already announced. Solid lineup, but the car is basically the same since 2007.

BMW Team RLL #55; Maxime Martin, Uwe Alzen, Jorg Muller. Uwe Alzen and Jorg Muller drove here last year, but Maxime has never been here. In contrast, Maxime knows this car very well but this is the first time Uwe and Jorg will be driving the GT2/GTE version of the BMW Z4. All 3 of these guys are professionals of the highest rank, but so are the guys in the other teams. And there are others who know their cars and the track by heart. We think the only reason for Bobby Rahal going with this lineup is to have a clear lead car which will be the #56 with their lone championship hopeful in it. They do not want any intra-squad battles during the race.

SRT Motorsports #93; Jonathan Bomarito, Kuno Wittmer, Tommy Kendall. Solid season, and solid lineup. But as it stands, we simply tend to rate the crew of the #91 car higher on the scale. We personally think the lineups should be mixed a bit more.

SRT Motorsports #91; Dominik Farnbacher, Marc Goossens, Ryan Dalziel. On the official ALMS entry list, Ryan Dalziel is entered under Starworks Motorsports in LMPC. Starworks' entry has since been withdrawn. But did they withdraw because they could not get him to race for them? We'll never know for sure. But in any case it's worth noting that there are several professional drivers out of a ride who would love to be racing here. Yet Ryan Dalziel possibly had to very good opportunities. It speaks of his talents. This car also has Riley Technologies' own in-house hot-shoe Marc Goossens, and Dominik Farnbacher has driven several GT cars all equally well.

Risi Competizione #62; Olivier Beretta, Matteo Malucelli, Robin Liddell. Given their pace at VIR, they have certainly found something on the car. Well it's rather that they have been given something - a more generous restrictor. In truth the Ferrari F458 is really the best GT car around. Ferrari has built a car as fast as any here, but it sips much less fuel. That prompted the ACO to cut down the fuel tank size of all GTE F458's. Despite their car's pace, Beretta is no longer the driver he once was, and Malucelli has proven to be crash prone. There was a time when Robin Lidell too had a penchant for wanting to match his car's paint job with the walls. This is a very fast car so they could end up on the podium by just running at a predetermined and constant pace. If they were to go all out for the win and managed not to hit anything, the others would have trouble keeping up with them.

BMW Team RLL #56, Dirk Muller, John Edwards, Bill Auberlen. With this lineup there will not be any more intramural face-offs between the team's entrenched veterans, mainly Dirk Muller and Bill Auberlen. It was hidden from the laymen but clear as daylight to the connoisseur throughtout the season. Add in superfast "young gun" John edwards (someone get him in Indy or F1) and if the right circumstances produce themselves this team could win it.

Corvette Racing #4; Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, Richard Westbrook. This is really the best lineup up in the GTE class. Last year at Petit, since this car was already champion, the team was pushing for the #3 to win so Jan Magnussen could keep his seasonal win streak alive. It didn't work. Since the #3 car is leading the championship this year, the Corvette brain trust will once again brief this car on its role. But in our humble opinion, the team had a role in the #3 car, rather than this one being the championship leader. They will only be allowed to shine if the #3 car hits trouble.

Corvette Racing #3; Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, Jordan Taylor. This car is leading the ALMS championship, and all the team's favors are being bestowed on them. Don't forget this is also Dan Binks, the team's lead crew chief's car. Barring anything taking it out of the race, or a mechanical failure, the sister car will play the super sidekick to help this car get the victory.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

2013 ALMS Petit LeMans GTC preview

This is not a predicted finish, since anything can and does happen. But this is rather an assessment of each team's strength.

TRG #68; no drivers listed. We scoured everywhere in an attempt to find who the drivers might be but nothing has turned up.

NGT Motorsport #31; Christina Nielsen, Angel Benitez, Nicola Armindo. Nicola Armindo is probably looking forward to have a good showing for the team. He raced with them at Lime Rock in very humid conditions. During the race, his cool-suit system stopped working and he had to pit to be taken out of the car with severe heat exhaustion. Christina Nielsen is racing in the U.S for her first time ever. She has never raced alongside prototypes in her career. So it will be quite an experience for her.

Dempsey Racing #27; Patrick Dempsey, Andy Lally, Joe Foster. With Andy Lally racing full time with this team, we expected stronger results. We're aware that race results in endurance racing does not depend on one driver only. But qualifying does, yet Andy Lally has not been a regular pole position threat during those flat-out jaunts. Perhaps the team has not quite mastered the prepping of this entry level GT3 car just yet.

Flying Lizard Motorsports #44; Seth Neiman, Dion von Moltke, Bret Sandberg. One of the highlights of the season for the whole team and in truth for the ALMS, was when Dion von Moltke drove to victory in Baltimore. His co-driver Seth Neiman is the team owner (very special day indeed), and that was his first race win in a LeMans badged event. Given Seth's investment in the sport over the years, we were genuinely happy for him. We doubt the same "special" circumstances that allowed them to win in Baltimore will repeat themselves here.

Dempsey Racing #10; Charlie Putman, Charles Espenlaub, Darren Law. Not quite the star power in the sister #27 car, but they make up for that with more racing pedigree. The #27 car has essentially one professional driver (Andy Lally), while this car has 2 of them flanking Charlie Putman.

JDX Racing #11; Mike Hedlund, Jan Heylen, Jon Fogarty. The best car livery in the ALMS. But they just seem to be a step behind the real powerhouse teams in GTC. Jan Heylend and Jon Fogarty can be plenty fast, but in these races, it's more than just the drivers.

Flying Lizard Motorsports #45; Nelson Canache Jr., Spencer Pumpelly, Madison Snow. Madison Snow's Mom and Dad won the inaugural GTC championship in 2009. The class was made of real amateurs then. Today Melanie and Martin would have trouble finishing halfway down the order in the championship without an FIA Platinum rated driver at their side. The class now boasts some of the world's best Porsche drivers. Madison Snow being included on a lineup that still has a very faint hope of a drivers' crown, and team championship, speaks of his growing abilities.

TRG #68; Ben Keating, Damien Faulkner, Craig Stanton. They have won the past 2 races, and really seem to have a good momentum going. But it's easier to perform when there's nothing on the line. If those wins came earlier in the season, they would now be aiming for the championship. They will be going all out for the win here. However now that they have won 2 races in a row, the other top teams have become wary of them, and their own expectations have grown.

NGT Motorsport #30; Henrique Cisneros, Jakub Giermaziak, Mario Farnbacher. The team will be rocked by the passing away of Sean Edwards in Australia. He was not scheduled to race at Petit LeMans, but he had been their best driver during the year. You will be missed Sean...

The younger Farnbacher was very fast during last year's Petit LeMans. And this year he will be even more knowledgeable about the track. Because they're in the title chase they might settle for simply finishing ahead of the #22 Alex Job Car. We're not sure if the lack of continuity in the driver lineup is doing them any favors.

Alex Job Racing #22; Cooper Macneil, Jeroen Bleekemolen, Sebastian Bleekemolen. Just the team's name rings bells about their know-how. The crew around this car is one of the best. The driving squad complements itself very well also. Can you tell? This is the strongest squad here. But again like the #30 NGT car, they only have to beat their championship contending rivals. They won't necessarily be racing to win, but it can happen as the result of a fabulous race.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Team feud at Extreme Speed Motorsports

During the Grand Prix of Baltimore it was revealed that Guy Cosmo was no longer with Scott Sharp's Extreme Speed Motorsports squad. Meanwhile Level5 Motorsports' team manager said on TV that he found out through Twitter that Guy Cosmo was available and  he was then able to strike a deal for him to be racing for them till the end of the season.

Nothing has been said publicly regarding Guy Cosmo's defection from ESM.

It's not a secret at all that Cosmo has been the pace setter in the team. In fact we mentioned a while back that a Cosmo/Van Overbeek tag-team would be a potent duo for the team, and a lineup capable of challenging factory GTE teams.

In 2012 at Petit LeMans, Guy Cosmo clinched the pole position in GTE for ESM. Their sister #01 car was second in qualifying at the hands of Toni Vilander. When you can beat an Ferrari factory driver in a machine he knows in and out, you are an elite driver. The 01 car's lineup of Van Overbeek, Sharp and Vilander won the 2012 edition of Petit LeMans. That win has been the team's biggest achievement so far. But the team's best driver did not share in the success.

Since Guy Cosmo was not part of the winning trio at Petit LeMans last year, that left him out as the only professional driver in the team not to have achieved any significant success with the Patron backed squad. Ed Brown mainly races for sport and recreation.

This year the team is campaigning Honda LMP2 prototypes. Scott Sharp was the 2009 LMP1 driver's champion. In FIA speak, he would be rated a platinum driver. Before this year, Johannes Van Overbeek had never raced prototypes before. But as the season has moved along, his prototype driving skills has made him the second best driver in the team behind only Guy Cosmo.

So what caused the rift between Scott Sharp and Guy Cosmo?

Here's what we think happened...this is only speculation from our part; with a drivers' title on the line, and wide open for the taking, it's possible that Guy Cosmo who was co-driving the #01 car with Scott Sharp (his boss), made a request asking his boss to allow him to partner with Johannes Van Overbeek to make a full on assault on the driver's crown.

Considering that Scott Sharp is an SCCA, Trans-Am, Indycar, and ALMS Champion, not to mention the team owner, it would seem a bit out of place to say he is an obstacle to the team achieving a driver's championship. But the undiluted fact is that, between the 4 regular drivers, Scott Sharp in the 3rd best driver in the team, only ahead of Ed Brown.

This season could have been an opportunity for Guy Cosmo to salvage some success, from all the time he has spent paying his dues with the ESM team. Next year it will be a bit harder to achieve, because there will be more contenders vying for the crown.

We're not sure whether such a discourse actually occurred at Extreme Speed Motorsports. But this is the best reason we can of think of, as to why Guy Cosmo left.

When the mood was a lot lighter

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Indycar: Houston races

Last weekend Indycar had a double  header at the Reliant Park complex in Houston. We are very opinionated about all street courses and ovals being off the Indycar schedule, so surprisingly, this is a street course we liked at first glance. The road was wider than expected on a street course. It was a refreshing sight compared to Baltimore and Long Beach, but we still had issues with the layout.

It seems the track designers seemed to want to create unnecessary "troubles" by installing corner-pinching curbs at every corner. Curbs were installed so that they pinched the cars' racing line at the corners. Not that we're expert race track designers, but the competitors should have been given more room to manoeuver at the corners, instead of installing those unneeded curbs. They do more harm than good. There was even a quick left-right complex, where there was only one racing line through. In a series where cars have similar speeds, it should be a requirement that tracks are designed to accommodate 2-3 cars running side by side EVERYWHERE.

A big crash such as Dario Franchitti's are the events that make us cringe at the sight of a street course. It reminded us once again that it's always a good bet something will go wrong during the event. Indycars should take the safety issue a lot more seriously than it is currently doing.


Scott Dixon won race 1 at Houston and was 2nd in race 2. His championship challenger Helio Castroneves, finished 18th and then 23rd in race 2. Huge contrast. Given that the remaining race is an oval, Dixon looks to be able to make the most of the opportunity. The driver makes less of a difference on ovals. Ganassi racing has won 4 of the past five Indycar driver championships. We don't see them screwing this opportunity unless something out of the ordinary were to happen. For Castroneves to pull through, he will need Scott Dixon to have car trouble for .

On our end, we're still holding out hope for a driver's title for The Captain, Roger Penske.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Project "Penske Title"

With only 3 races at 2 venues remaining in the Indycar season, despite Helio Castroneves' leading the championship battle so far, the Penske camp has proven to all in motorsports that it's really not over.

Team Penske's other driver Will Power, has come up second in the championship chase in 2010, 2011, and 2012. This year Power has not even figured at all as a championship contender.  Is he burned out?

In previous years despite Power being the clear championship contender during the twilight of the season,  his teammates were always still after their own personal gain. The intramural squabble has always left the Verizon sponsored driver lacking in points to the eventual championship winner.

But this is 2013. And if there was a time to cheer for a large team with a disproportionate amount of resources, it is now. Roger Penske as the team owner deserves a championship. Chevrolet coming back to the series, was in part due to a team of Penske Racing's caliber campaigning their engines. That in turn has encouraged the development of the engines which in turn is good competition for the series' fans.

There are many other fringe benefits to the series' other teams that Penske has helped bring along. The popularity of Penske's drivers gives exposure to the series. Penske brings to the series another marketing dimension that Andretti and Ganassi have simply not tapped or been able to match.

So how can the Penske team assure itself of a driver championship at the end of the season? It's simple but not easy.

1- Will Power has to become Helio's wingman. He does not challenge him for position, and if he's a ahead he yields his positon to him.
2- Helio should not be racing to win. He should run a strategic race. Theoretically, he only has to finish right behind the highest finishing championship contender in each race.
3- No crashes. No description needed. We need to send a formal appeal to Indycar to make the last race of the season a road course. Ovals are very crash prone. It's never fun when a contender is taken out in a crash he might not have a chance to avoid.
4- Roger Penske should give a Dad to Son advice to Jay Penske, and instruct him to advise his drivers (Bourdais and Saavedra) not to fight too hard when a certain 3-time Indy 500 winner drives by them.

Drivers such as Sebastian Bourdais, Marco Andretti and Even Justin Wilson could still be on a mission for their first win of the season. The driver who has been on a hot tear lately is Simon Pagenaud, and he is set to go for the maximum points in each outing.

Penske racing has enough brain trust behind the pit wall to come up with all the strategies to get Helio the title, so long as he drives to his and his car's abilitities. Another missed opportunity would be very incomprehensible.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Circuit Of The Americas track versus FLM, DP, and LMP1

 One of the features about the Circuit of the Americas track that we have mixed feelings about, is the orange concrete bumps they have at many corners. The object is to dissuade drivers from cutting a corner too close. Those things have proven to be unforgiving. But their real crime in our judgment is that they rob the public of perhaps a great battle.

For a track with such generous run off room, don't these cement mounds defeat the purpose of the run off areas? 

 When Grand-Am had its race at the circuit, while fighting for position with Max Angeleli, Scott Pruett had an encounter with one of those boulders. The impact ripped off the front cover of the Telmex Ganassi Prototype, and they were taken out of the running for the win. This robbed the fans of a great battle

During the ALMS race at Circuit of the Americas, the Rocket Sport Racing Formula Challenge car driven by Bruno Junqueira also had a rendez-vous with one of the orange mounds, and it broke the front suspension. We think that was the end of their championship hopes.

In this case Junqueira was driving by himself and not in a close fight with anyone, so it was simply his fault for trying to short cut the corner. But still, real race fans really like to see all the competitors in the race. Too many crashes and the sport could fall prey to attrition.

In the Sunday race of the ALMS/WEC double-header weekend at the Circuit Of The America, while attempting to evade a Toyota LMP1 in hot pursuit, Marcel Fassler (who had passed the Toyota earlier) ran  over an orange mound, and had a spectacular launch. Unlike the competitors in the Daytona Prototype and the Formula Challenge car, the Audi R18 was able to continue as if almost nothing happened. The only thing that came off was the rear air diffuser by the tire.

One of the announcers did bring to light that the Audi survived its airborne experience much better than the Daytona Prototype did. Though the #1 Audi did have an electrical glitch later in the race, the car was still in one piece.

We can only attribute the reason for the E-Tron Quattro's durability to its nearly unlimited development costs. The Formula LeMans car suffered the most damage during its excursion, and it's also the least expensive for a team to run. The DP is slightly more in price than a cost capped LMP2.

Whereas the DP and the FLM09 were designed to be sold at a particular price point, the Audi on the other hand, to this day no one really knows how much each car costs to build and race. And probably only a few rare folks in the Audi clan know the real development costs of the prototypes.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Missing Porsche P1 pilot

For their 2014 LMP1 campaign in the FIA WEC, Porsche has so far only announced 4 drivers. That exclusive list includes the manufacturer's flagship driver pair of Romain Dumas and Timo Bernard, Red Bull F1 driver, Mark Webber, and former Rebellion Racing driver Neel Jani. This being Porsche, you always knew they would have a strong lineup. But their announcements have left us wanting.

Patrick Long ran a full 2008 season with Penske Racing during the RS Spyder program. His teammate during that year was Sascha Maassen. Out of all Porsche's current factory drivers who drove the factory backed Penske RS Spyders, Patrick Long is the only one who has not been given the nod.

Lucas Luhr, Sascha Maassen, and Emmanuel Collard, were all factory drivers who drove the Penske Spyders. But none of them are still in the employ of the Stuttgart make. We almost expected Porsche's only American factory driver to be a shoe-in for the LMP1 drive. It's possible he is one of the drivers, but if that was so, he would have been announced well in advance. After all the U.S is their biggest market and the American viewing public is not one to be taken lightly.

At the last ALMS race in Austin, the big news from Porsche was their 2-car factory entry in next year's USCR championship with Core Autosport. Since that is the team Patrick is currently driving with, perhaps he will be with, it's likely he will be with them next year. Definitely not a bad gig, but prototype machinery is simply more enticing to watch, and him being in one of those exotic machines would make us and a whole lot of sports car racing fans in the U.S appreciate the WEC even more.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Champion's acclaim

During the podium celebration of the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix, the reigning F1 champion was inexplicably booed by fans, after dominating the race. We did not watch F1 during the Michael Schumacher era to know how it felt, but we can now imagine. It has now been 3 straight races that Vettel has won. We enjoyed his dominance during 2011 and 2012, but this time around it is sort of becoming redundant. There's not thrill, no excitement, no unknown factor. Do we still have to follow the season?

The same person being the star of the show is almost no show at all. Not that we condone booing, but the show has become stale.

Having looked at the remaining F1 schedule, Sebastian Vettel has won before at the upcoming 4 races (Korea, Japan, India, and Abu Dhabi). He has had podium finishes at Brazil and the USA. Theoretically speaking, it's not such a long shot to imagine him sweeping the rest of the schedule or landing on the podium in all of them. He can win the championship by simply finishing on the podium. Even if Fernando Alonso were to win all the remaining races - which is a very, very long shot compared to Vettel - he will only come a valiant 2nd to Mr hat-trick.

With Lewis Hamilton incessantly already conceding the championship trophy to Vettel we wonder if he has the desire to even win another race this year. The only reason we can think of why Hamilton keeps saying the title fight is over, is probably that he has met all his team's objectives for the season and has decided to cruise and prepare for next season.

But we are counting on Alonso, Raikkonen, and even Mark Webber to get one win before leaving F1. It would also be good for Felipe Massa to get a win as well, because it will do wonders for his quest for a new ride.

But in retrospect we could say the boos were not really directed at Vettel, but rather at the rest of the top teams for failing to develop at the same pace as Red Bull Racing, and also to Formula 1 itself as an organization for failing to provide a competitive environment.

2014 Tudor USCR schedule

The ALMS and Grand-Am hybrid series beginning in 2014 has just announced its schedule. A 12-race schedule that everybody will not be completely satisfied with. But it's only normal. While it's a 12 race schedule, each class will only run at 11 venues.

That's right some tracks are deemed too narrow for the whole gang to come through. If you have followed Grand-Am in the past this should be nothing new to you. ALMS fans however need to grasp this concept. The 2 street course venues; Long Beach and Detroit will only have partial classes. VIR while not a street course has a rather narrow track, and there will only be a partial field there too. The way we see it, except for that Oak tree at one of the corners, Virginia International Raceway does have very generous runoff areas on the majority of the circuit. We would have elected to reduce the car count at Watkins Glen instead of at VIR. VIR however presents a very interesting scenario for the drivers in the GTE/GTLM class - the chance at an overall victory. LMPC will also run at VIR but in a separate race. All the factory GT drivers will have this race highlighted on their schedule.

Considering what happened at Baltimore this year during the ALMS race, we would have preferred to not see anymore street courses unless they were made wider. But at least we're free of Baltimore and of its train tracks.

One thing we are happy about the schedule is, the absence of Lime Rock Park. Yeah it's a racing Mecca in the Northeast, but we have our gripes about this circuit. That place used to be so bumpy it was like we could feel the bumps from our couch as the prototypes were bounding over the undulations. And it was just too easy for a competitor to go a lap down, way to sap off the energy of a race fan when your team gets buried by the track.

When you consider there's a 24hr race, a 12hr race, a 10hr race, a 6hr race, and either Laguna or Road America could possibly last 4 hrs, this schedule is a marathon. An expensive one at that too. Such a schedule can not be hoped to be consumed by casual fans, but rather the endurance loyalists.

2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Schedule:

Date Event
Jan 25-26-Daytona International Speedway (24hrs)
Mar 15----Sebring International Raceway (12hrs)
Apr 12----Long Beach Street Circuit (Only LMP2, DP and GTLM)
May 4-----Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
May 31----Detroit Belle Isle (Only LMP2, DP, LMPC, and GTD)
Jun 29----Watkins Glen International (6hrs)
Jul 13----Canadian Tire Motorsport
Jul 25----Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Aug 10----Road America
Aug 24----Virginia International Raceway (Only GTLM and GTD, and then LMPC)
Sep 20----Circuit of The Americas
Oct 4-----Road Atlanta (10hrs)

Monday, September 23, 2013

ALMS at Circuit of the Americas

After qualifying the Muscle Milk car, Lucas Luhr ran straight to the back of his team's pit monitors as if he was running from the reporter. We think he probably wanted to put on a show for all the European teams in attendance for the WEC race.

Perhaps he was a bit underwhelmed by his own qualifying performance since he only had a 3 second gap to the P2 polesitter.

Having compared the lap times of the P1, P2 and GTE cars from the ALMS to those of the WEC, the WEC cars had faster lap times in general.

In P1 Picket racing really did not have any competition so we can understand if they down-tuned their engine just to run a conservative race. They have already proved that they are a match for Rebellion.

In P2 all the ALMS cars are Hondas, which we think are comparable to any Oreca or Morgan P2 chassis. But however the ALMS cars are using standard Michelin tires, while the WEC teams all have Custom tailored Dunlop and Michelins. Meaning the WEC teams are having the tire companies make them tires specifically for their chassis' configuration. The ALMS teams however do not have that luxury.

As for GTE, it was said that the ALMS teams are using 2012 spec Michelin tires. With the series merging with Grand-Am in 2014 perhaps Michelin did not see it as wise investment to make 2013 tires for ALMS teams, not knowing which direction the GTE class would take in the future.

The ALMS GTE cars were as fast as the WEC's GTE-Am cars. Incidentally the WEC's GTE-Am cars use  equipment that is at least a year old.

During the ALMS race, it was almost incomprehensible why Extreme Speed's 01 car stopped just after a couple laps to change drivers. Scott Sharp perhaps does not consider himself on par on speed with Anthony Lazarro. But Sharp knows the car better and is used to faster speeds (Indycar, P1). So the little speed advantage Anthony might have on him, Scott makes up for it with his knowledge of the car and of the racing scene. Sharp is more familiar with ALMS racing.

In the GT battle we felt Corvette Racing could have repaired the #4 C6R to allow Milner and Gavin to continue on and at least get to the 70% of the race distance.

The BMW intra-team rivalry dragged on for too long. Every time the #55 car found itself ahead of the #56, it should have simply moved over. With 3 races to go, there should not be anymore "go for the win and in case that's not possible I will help my teammate". It should be "help the championship contender at all times".  Joey Hand has nothing at stake in the ALMS, the precious time Dirk Mueller spent fighting with him could have been better used to put pressure on Antonio Garcia.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Montoya the Indycar savior?

The news from the Indycar series is that Penske Racing has signed Juan Pablo Montoya for the 2014 Indycar season. Our reaction to this...happening is not one of jubilation.

Indycar can very well do without Montoya. Sure he was past champion, F1 star, Rolex Daytona 24h winner, and is well known in NASCAR as well. But at this stage in his racing career, Montoya has accomplished all he can and really has nothing to prove to anyone.

Indycar would do well to have Roger Penske put one of their rising stars into his 3rd car. When A.J Allmendinger was first given the ride at the beginning of the season, we wondered to ourselves what the team was hoping to accomplish by that move. A.J had a nice and solid run in Nascar, but did anyone seriously in the know about racing expect him to really contribute to the team? He had been away for too long from this type of racing. The reflexes had to be trained again and that could take some time.

We could say Montoya is a bit higher  up the ladder compared to A.J when it comes to his road racing skills and accomplishments. But he is also older (will be 38 in 2014), more accomplished and frankly, he really does not have to be here fending off tireless 20 year olds for a living. Generally, no motivation, no results.

The best marketing present Indycar can give itself would have been to have Roger Penske give the 3rd ride to the best rising star, who currently is Simon Pagenaud. But an even better deal would be to give it to a promising American driver not currently in a top ride: per us that discussion would settle towards Joseph Newgarden or our personal favorite, Graham Rahal. If either of those were offered the 3rd Penske ride with all the mechanical upgrades on Will Power and Helio Castroneves' cars, that would definitely boost the series appeal among younger and more casual fans.

The Indycar brain trust should start taking a slight hands on approach to the driver lineups to get the maximum marketing impact. On the other side of the pond this is an exercise that Bernie Ecclestone has become a master at. For example Indycar, should have pulled a few strings to retain Rubens Barrichello in the series.

We're still Charlie Kimball at Ganassi getting the same hardware as Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti. He has shown enough maturity to merit the investment.... Another missed opportunity.

Track evaluation or secret speed test?

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway race track is considered the home of Indycar racing. But the Indycar series only races there once a year, and on the oval track. When it comes to the infield road course, there are Formula1 engineers and drivers that have more expertise concerning this road course than anyone currently in the Indycar Series.

Indycar last used the road course at the speedway in 2011 when Dan Wheldon was testing the current chassis.

We had longed to see an Indycar race on the road course, and even dreamed of the Indianapolis 500 flagship race being ran on the road course instead of the oval. We have not been avid fans of oval racing and Dan Wheldon's fatal accident on the Las Vegas Speedway oval has further relegated us to our conviction.

The curious factor in the IMS road course test is that we had never heard of a race car being tested on a track in order to determine its viability for future upgrades. We're only deeply passionate fans, so we might be wrong.

But we think the true reason for the Indycar test on the Indianapolis road course is to measure the Indycars' road speed against the speed of the F1 cars which last ran there in 2007.  If Indycars had similar speed to F1 machines on road courses that could be a marketing boon. But we doubt it would significantly improve the show itself.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Ricciardo at Red Bull

His name is Daniel, and his last name is spelled R-I-C-C-I-A-R-D-O. Learn to spell it now and don't forget the two C's. Chances are you'll be blogging a lot about him next year, and even this year.

Almost every year in Formula 1 there's one very prized driving opportunity that comes up. And there are many drivers vying for that spot. The eventual winner of the prized seat is usually thoroughly analyzed and scrutinized against his other contenders.

Last year the coveted seat was Lewis Hamilton's seat at McLaren that was taken up by Sergio Perez. This year, the prized ride was the Red Bull seat alongside Sebastian Vettel.

We say, it's actually good news that Ricciardo ended up with it. Over the years there has been many drivers in Red Bull's driver development program who did not go farther than the company's sponsorship of their Formula Renault 3.5 or GP2 racing activities, and barely over a handful have made it to a full time F1 seat and only one SebastianVettel has been given the opportunity to really shine among the elites.

Daniel Ricciardo in effect becomes only the 2nd driver in Red Bull's driver development program to be confirmed at the Flagship Red Bull Racing team. This move actually validates the program as a bona fide step ladder. Now that he has been selected, look for his Toro Rosso teammate, Jean Eric Vergne, to do his best to outscore him in points the rest of the season as consolation for not being the one selected.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Token Privateer

We are still fuming at Rebellion Racing's decision to ditch the ALMS for the WEC. If they were really worried about escalating costs, and still some meaningful racing for 2013, the ALMS would have been a more than adequate choice rather than the WEC.

So far they haven't had a single overall victory (even though they did get overall race win points at Sebring but not the overall winner's trophies), despite racing in a global series we are willing to bet they have had less fan exposure than either Dyson racing much less Muscle Milk.

We can only speculate as to why they decided to leave the ALMS. We believe during the 3 races they had inthe ALMS this year, Rebellion's Lola B12/60 was already in its final evolution. Meaning the car had all the latest updates it would receive for the season Lola Cars was no longer developing the chassis. Despite being faster in qualifying than the Muscle Milk HPD ARX, in race trim Honda was more than a match for the Lola.

Yet for the first 3 races of the 2013 season, the Honda was running in its 2012 configuration, namely it was an ARX-03a, meaning it had the classical smaller front tires at the front and bigger ones at the rear. During that time at Sebring Muscle Milk was having the best of Rebellion until - ahem - Klaus Graf had a moment of over exuberance. But then Muscle Milk won the next 2 races.

After LeMans Muscle Milk's car became and ARX-03c, that's when it acquired the large front wheels which allow faster cornering, and incidentally it became a faster car. Given Muscle Milk's seemingly generous budget had it been necessary during the season they could have probably commisoned Wirth Research for a wing extension device Toyota pioneered, which might make them even more of a threat.

Maybe at the thought of all that Rebellion decided they rather be beaten by factory teams and collect their token Privateer trophy in the WEC rather than being beaten by an equal.

As we said above this is only pure speculation. In the ALMS they would have been a much more valuable entertainment component then they currently are in the WEC. Despite the global presence we even wonder if the WEC's viewership and fan participation is greater than that of the ALMS'.
On a side note, now that Muscle Milk has clinched the ALMS championship we would love to see them do a one off WEC race during the WEC/ALMS double header weekend at Circuit of the Americas (September 20th-22nd). This would only be logical. Strakka racing had a fully updated ARX-03c, but were not geared for victory the way Greg Pickett's troops are. So yeah we are longing to see how this Honda would do against the Audis and the Toyota.

Championship tactics?

During the ALMS' race at Road America, towards the end of the race, the #55 BMW Z4 was running in 7th place ahead of the #56. Dirk Muller who was driving the #56 car is in serious contention for the GT drivers title with the crew of the #4 Corvette.

We expected the BMW brain trust to give the order to #55 car to cede way to the #56 car so it could muster all the points it could but alas, they finished in those same positions. There was only a 1 point difference in the point haul of the 2 cars the 55 had 4 and the 56 had 3. But doesn't every little bit count.

Given that the manufacturer's and team titles are a longer shot (since Corvette racing leads both of those by over 20 points), BMW should be focusing on the drivers title in our opinion.
A similar incident reproduced itself again at Baltimore. Dirk Muller was leading the GT class, but then a slowdown at the chicane on the front straight caused a chain reaction and he lost his momentum and the 2 Corvettes drove around him. The #4 which is currently placed 1rst in  the GT championship was leading, and the #3 which is currently 4th in the drivers' standing was running second.But just before reaching turn 1 the #3 Corvette passed the #4 car.

In the end the 2 corvettes finished in that order. The win brought the #3 car into championship contention. However had the #3 car been ordered not to challenge its sister car, the crew of the #4 car would have increased their championship lead over Dirk Muller by leaps. They should have gotten maximum points.

Sure Dan Binks is the Crew Chief on the #3 car and is quite popular within the team and has given marvelous tours of the team's garage during race broadcasts, but for a factory team Corvette Racing (as well as the BMW RLL team) should be making more tactical and decisive decisions on track.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

American Le Mans penalties

While watching the 12hrs of Sebring it reminded us of one of our gripes about the ALMS. We have always thought their penalties have almost always been harsher than required. This is really a practice in cruel and unjust punishment.

Allan McNish driving the #2 Audi was given a stop and hold penalty for bumping one of the LMPC cars off the road. But in reality a trained eye would have noticed that he was being shoved off the road. As a racer it is assumed that he will aim to keep his vehicle on the race track, because going off track slows you down and causes you to have an accident. So whether an LMPC driver sees him coming or not McNish's primary aim is to stay on track. It's the responsiblity of the LMPC driver to be aware of his surroundings, and judge the closing rates of different vehicles. That was purely a racing incident.

The ALMS has a penchant for resorting to a "stop and hold" penalty for everything. The logic behind that is probably that it gives the victim some kind of solace from seeing their aggressor's race also hampered.

But penalties are supposed to be given depending on how dangerous and flagrant they appear. Here are the in-race penalties we know off:

-A warning which is really not a penalty
-A drive through penalty: the driver comes into the pit lane and drives through the pit lane at pit speed  and exits back on the track without stopping for service.
-A stop and go penalty: the driver comes to the pit lane stops at his pit stall (or at the official's area in the pit lane) comes to a complete stop, turns off the engine, then is let back out again without any servicing done.
-The stop and hold penalties: these can have different lengths. 10 seconds, 30 seconds, 1 min, 3 min, 5min depending on the severity of the offense.
-Exclusion of a particular driver: we have only seen this at Le Mans. Teams spend fortunes just to get there, the ACO doesn't want to make them regret their investment by declaring the whole squad ineligible.
-The black flag: the entire team is no longer scored and their result is null and void. It's as if they never competed in the race. We can't recall ever seeing this, and we hope to never have to. However we have seen the black flag used to warn a certain Allan McNish in the ALMS during the Audi R10 days.

Keep in mind we stand by the logic that a penalty should only be assessed if a driver had the opportunity of wat lawyers would call "last clear chance". Meaning the driver at fault had a final chance to avoid the whole deal.

Just like anything left to judgement there will be differing opinions and case by case situations, but any stop and hold over 1 minute, should only be applied when a driver commits a flagrant offense

Saturday, March 16, 2013

F1 is back in session

Welcome back Formula1 fans. Bernie Ecclestone is glad you have found his show so appealing. And we really do find the Bernie show very appealing. Here are a few of our musings so far:

Paul DiResta needs to become the team leader at Force India. In our understanding Mercedes helped him get the seat. But manufacturers only invest in talent they want to develop. In his first season we felt he was over rated, and last year against Nico Hulkenberg who had sat out the whole 2011 season, he was over matched. He has another chance to stick it to Adrian Sutil this year. We think this time it will make or break his F1 career. He needs to beat Sutil at the end of the season or at least make 1 or 2 trips to the podium to show promise.

It seems Caterham is behind Marussia in terms of pace. We would have kept Vitaly Petrov in the mix. Despite what everyone thinks he actually bested Heikki Kovalainen in 2012. That makes him the best driver they've ever had.

McLaren did not do too well during the first practice sessions. It's only practice but they were nowhere near anyone expected them. All the complains about lack of grip are becoming very redundant. Jenson needs to take a lead and assertive role fast. Come the halfway point of the season Sergio Perez would have figured out the ins and outs of the team and will begin making a case as the franchise man. Besides, Telmex his sponsor can easily replace Vodafone as the naming sponsor. If they do, they would want  Perez as the headline driver. For Button there is no more copying of Lewis Hamiton's car setup, his immense tactical knowledge and experience needs to come into play.

We're still trying to figure out the pecking order at Mercedes. Common wisdom would say Hamilton first, but Rosberg is showing just as much pace. The car seems to be as fast as where it was expected to be when Mercedes took over from Brawn in 2010. But Lewis Hamilton almost had another head on crash (as during off season testing), and Nico Rosberg had to stop on the circuit. Are those bugs creeping up in the hardware?

The man of the season to watch is....Nico Hulkenberg! Yes we think so. If he can at least match the season that Sergio Perez had last year with Sauber a top ride could be calling.

Red Bull still looks dominant. 2014 can't come fast enough. Hopefully the new regulations will shake up things a bit

2013 Sebring post qualifying notes

At the end of qualifying for Sebring, we felt a little betrayed by the LMP1 class. Mainly by the Audis. During the the test and practice sessions the privateer squads seemed somewhat close to them and the Audis were sometimes the last ones in their fields. Well we now realize they were playing coy to make everyone believe the new technical restrictions were severely hampering them.

Perhaps they had to also, because had they shown their speed during the test sessions the ACO could have swiftly swooped in and imposed newer restrictions on their machines before the regular practice sessions.

The restrictions placed on the manufacturer teams this year only takes account of their existing technical regulations, but it seems no one took into account that their hybrid systems would improve significantly. So now the gasoline engined privateer cars would have been closer to last year's Audi R18 Ultras, but the R18 E-tron Quattros have pace similar to their V12 diesel counterparts.

The P1 pole qualifying time in 2012 was  1:45:820 by Andre Lotterer in the R18 Ultra. That year the best privateer team was Klaus Graf in the HPD at 1:47:536. This year the privateer teams have more pace than last year. Rebellion Racing's Nick Heidfeld qualified first of the privateer cars at 1:46:456. But the Audis have gained even more spread, with Marcel Fassler flying in at 1:43:886

Will there be any more changes before LeMans....

We expected Level 5 to be the dominant LMP2 team. What we did not expect is the pace of the Zytek, and the lack of pace from Extreme Speed. It's actually quite refreshing to see the Zytek being so competitive against the HPD's. We remember when Danny Watts used to carry the flag for the brand during their heydeys. But qualifying and racing are somewhat different, we'll need to see how they hold up. As for Extreme Speed, they might just be a bit behind in their prototype expertise. They should get better during the season.

For Sebring Paul Miller Racing is Porsche's flag bearer (Core Autosport is expected to also be one later), as evidenced by the two factory drivers embedded in the squad alongside Bryce Miller. They now also run on Michelin tires and Marco Holzer will be there for the whole season, signifying Porsche backing. During the practice sessions and then qualifying, they did not have the pace we expected. They qualified 7th out of 12. Let's see how this race and the season shapes out.

In his many forays in the ALMS we still are not convinced that Bryce Miller has the outright pace of the best drivers in this class.This is really a manufacturer's class even more than P1, and only a few drivers have the skills to match factory drivers.

Andy Lally won the pole for Dempsey racing ahead of Jeroen Bleekemolen. These two are drivers capable of matching wits with factory drivers. The best thing about them is that they can literally drive any car on the field, all the way up to the P1 cars. So they are in effect "money drivers". As Johnny O'Connell would say "they're hired guns". When you have the resources and just want the job done no matter the cost, you bring them in. They could easily find factory drives if they looked, but they seem to prefer swinging it from team to team.

Despite the pole position, Andy Lally's contractors mainly Joe Foster and Patrick Dempsey do not have the pace that Jeroen Bleekemolen's bosses (Cooper Macneil and Dion Von Moltke) can deliver. Alex Job Racing, where Jeroen Bleekemolen races is also a specialist team in GT endurance racing. So given that the cars are equal in this class, all those attributes make the #22 Alex Job Racing car the favorite to win the class.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

12hrs of Sebring day 1 of testing

There is less than a week to go before the first race of the ALMS season. At this point we have to assume all the equivalency formulas have been worked out among all the classes. Especially in the P1 class.

During this first official testing day, the times in the top category were rather refreshing. Audi was not the first or second car in the early session. But they were using the new 2013 version of the R18 (the #2 car) which is a bit different than the 2012 version. So it might have just needed a bit of a shake up to adapt it to the Sebring track.

In the second session of the testing day, the 2012 Audi R18 (the #1 car) was ran, and it was the fastest car. But the times are decidedly closer than in previous years. It's still too early to tell whether this will be a fair fight or not, but it does give fans something to look forward to.

During the race it's supposed to take the diesel cars longer to refuel and they are supposed to run out of fuel quicker than the gasoline powered cars. Those are all advantages that Dyson, Rebellion, and Musclce Milk should use to their advantage, but Audi has been in game too long to not have foreseen all that and prepared themselves in consequence.

If the race turns out to be close among the Audis and the privateer cars, would Muscle Milk think twice about not having sought a 24hr of LeMans engagement?

In LMP2, Level 5 and Extreme Speed did not set times during any of the test sessions. Level 5's lineup leaves no doubt about its intentions. The win or nothing. Ryan Briscoe and Simon Pagenaud in one car and Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marino Franchitti in the other. Scott Tucker will drive both cars alongside his hired studs.

Even though all the other hired drivers except Ryan Hunter-Reay have done full seasons in the ALMS, he is the only one to have actually won the race in his class. Both of Level 5's cars can win LMP2.

In the Extreme Speed Motorsport (ESM) camp we maintain that the best driver here is Guy Cosmo. But he usually drives alongside Ed Brown (the real shot caller in the team), and he simply has a lot more money than driving skills. Sure he would probably outgun us, but we're not measuring ourselves against world class drivers.

For Sebring, ESM has put Guy Cosmo in the 01 car alongside Scott Sharp and also brought in David Brabham. This becomes the lead car and the only one that will be able to challenge any of Level 5's contenders. If Johannes Van Overbeek and Anthony Lazarro in the #02 car can quickly master the LMP2 Honda, there could be more to the story.

Well before the Oreca 03, Acura and Porsche LMP2 cars, the Zytek was the package of choice for a competitive P2 campaign. They used to build the entire car - literally. But they don't have an engine currently used in a road car, as mandated by the new LMP2 regulations. The brand is currently seeing a resurgence with the company having adapted the chassis to the Nissan engine. We think they will have to be at their optimum to scare ESM and Level 5.

We'll need to see some P2 testing numbers to be able to tell which team has the right setup on their cars.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Grand-Am at Circuit of the Americas

Grand-Am has had its second race of the season before any other major series can even get its first round in. Despite that the Circuit of the Americas track has pretty wide track width there just seemed to be more crashes than we would have liked. We have watched Grand-Am races in the past, but never with this meticulous attention the show. We used to keep up with Grand-Am just to stay current on what's going on there and compare notes against the ALMS.

On the Grand-Am/ALMS battle we were firm ALMS militants. So since the ALMS competitors will be joining the fray next year, this style of bump and run racing a la NASCAR isn't going to appeal too much to the ALMS fans. Yes racing does have accidents, but it seemed contact was being made as the norm of racing and not as incidental contacts. Going around tight corners and switchbacks, no one wanted to give racing room the the other car. What ever happened to giving racing room?

Grand-Am should spend this 2013 season cleaning up the unnecessary crashes. Crashing is supposed to happen unintentionally not as a mean to pass or keep a competitor from passing you. It doesn't add to the show either. A clean hard fight is preferable in any given race.

Change the guard

At Wayne Taylor Racing we understand that Max Angeleli has been the lead driver for year and is a tough competitor, but the team hasn't won anything in years. We think it's time to make Jordan Taylor the team's closer at the end of races. This is not about an exercise in nepotism, but the whole team just needs a fresh perspective on things. And with the series changing next year, every stone needs to be turned to see where an advantage can be gained.

Or they can just alternate the driving duties from race to race and see how it works. Jordan Taylor has all the speed and qualities needed to pilot any prototype machinery on this planet. His raw speed will make up for his experience.

At Chip Ganassi we always thought they have had it backwards. But over the years they have proven us wrong. Memo Rojas is the one bringing the Telmex sponsorship. We had heard one time from David Hobbs while answering a question on driving orders for drivers, that he who pays decides the order of the lineup. So now we think it's time for Memo Rojas to assume the role of race finisher in this team.

It can no longer be an excuse that he hasn't got what it takes. His record speaks for itself, and he has worked with Scott Pruett long enough to learn the trade. TELMEX as the primary sponsor has all the cards here, and as a marketing tool for them in Mexico Memo Rojas as the race finisher would give the brand more appeal.

The great Bottas!

Apparently Valtteri Bottas, Williams F1's new race driver thinks he only got his race seat because of his talent.

To say the least, we think that's just a very naive comment. All right the guy is a star. He has been champion in nearly every single feeder series he has been in. But then again Williams used to also have Nico Hulkenberg who also had been champion of every single feeder series he participated in. And to cap it off, Hulkenberg was also a GP2 Champion, the last feeder series before Formula1, and is more prestigious than anything below it.

If Bottas is as good as he and Toto Wolff actually think he is, he should have proved himself in GP2, or Formula Renault 3.5. The real reason he was awarded the race drive is because Toto Wolff as a part owner of the Williams team had a say in such matters, and he saw Bottas as a strong talent. In short Valterri is favored by a financially influential backer.

Toto Wolff is no longer involved with the Williams F1 outfit, having moved to Mercedes AMG, but he still possesses the means to make it worthwhile for Williams to retain the rookie in the seat.

While we don't dismiss the fact that Valterri could become someone to keep an eye out for, his statement is simply insulting to the many F1 hopefuls who also have triumphed in lower categories, but just never quite had the required corporate backing, to break into the top flight.

Robert Wickens was the Formula Renault 3.5 (FR 3.5)champion in 2011, he now competes in DTM. Robin Frijns was the Formula Renault 3.5 champion in 2012, and he will be Sauber F1's reserve driver. Mind you those 2 drivers are in possession of an award that carries more distinction than anything Bottas has won. To put all this into perspective, Red Bull recruit drivers for their Scuderia Torro Rosso team from Formula Renault 3.5. None of the Red Bull drivers have been FR 3.5 champions, although Sebastien Vettel was leading the championship in 2007 before he was given the STR race seat, so he never finished the season.

There are talented drivers out there, not driving in Formula1. Talent is only one part of the equation, and is by no means the only requirement for a race seat in F1.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Predicting Le Mans 2013 withdrawals

With the withdrawal of the ALMS' Extreme Speed Motorsports from the Le Mans 24hr (which could almost have been predicted) we decided to take a look at the list of invited entries to see who is likely to withdraw from the French Classic.

Before going any further, here are only a few reasons a team would withdraw: the lemans entry is not compatible with their full season program, a lack of resources, during the season they realize they're over matched in their class, they do not have a compelling reason to be there (WEC entrants have to complete 70% to get points, and winning the race is a nice sales booster for manufacturers).


We do not foresee any retirements from these ranks. All the entrants here have the means to the desire to be here. Rebellion and Strakka were the only privateer P1 teams to be classified in every single round of the WEC in 2012.


Lotus: They have 2 factory invitations for lemans, however none of their entries with actual Lotus badged engines in any other series have had any success. We only need to take a look at their Indycar car and their ALMS GTE adventures of last year to be reminded. Even in the WEC, despite having the services of F1 caliber drivers they were usually at best a middle of the pack runner. We think the learning curve associated with running a new cars, with untested and limited parts could curb their ambitions. We think one of the cars could be withdrawn.

KCMG: They are declared as a full season entry in Asian Le Mans series. Because of their inexperience, they might reconsider their season objective after going a couple rounds against Oak Racing in the ASLMS. So why are they accepted as an entry while a more experienced and proven team like Signatech has their 2nd entry waiting on the reserve list? Simple, the ACO has a policy of diversity, so they get the entry by default as they are the only entrant from China. Same reason JLOC used to receive invitations.

Morand Racing (reserve entry): The sight of Natacha Gachnang is already a draw in itself. But it seems they might be relying on pay-drivers of the Le Mans exercise. The 24 hr race could actually divert resources away from their ELMS season. We think they will pull their name from the reserve list.

DKR Engineering (reserve entry): We rooted for them when they campaigned the GT1 C6R corvettes, ever since then we have had a fond spot for them. So we will again be clapping them in the ELMS. So why do we think they will withdraw from the reserve list? We think their weapon of choice leaves them vulnerable. The Lola B11/40 while only a couple years old is considered outdated, because the cost of acquiring and maintaining a more modern P2 rig has dropped dramatically (relatively speaking). Lola has also stopped development of all their open top cars. Which means while they might still make spare parts for it, they have not designed new parts that would improve its performances. Their Judd engine is also a point of contention. It's not a coincidence that there are 4 Judd engined teams on the reserve list while there is only 1 actual Judd engined team as an entrant.

For a long while, Judd was the engine of choice for any prototype class. But with the arrival of Honda and Nissan on the scene, Judd Power just hasn't been able to keep pace with their level of development. We think one reason the HVM-Status entry, which has a Judd engine was accepted is because of the ACO's diversity policy. They need a diversity of engines. So the strongest team with a Judd engine got selected.


JMW Motorsport: In all respects JMW is a well run racing organization. We used to love watching Rob Bell driving for them during the GT2 days. But it's now called GTE Pro, and the giants of the land have decided this is the battlefield they have chosen to measure themselves against each other. None of the other competitors here have any resource limitations. Dunlop is a major sponsor of the 24hr race and JMW has usually benefited from their generosity. But the Dunlop badging on the car has been less and less obvious to us, and last year the uniforms only sported a tiny Dunlop badge on the chest.

They won the ELMS GTE-Pro championship last year, so unless their sponsors are willing to ante up for the Le Mans foray, they might decide to concentrate the troops on defending their championship.


Larbre Competition: We don't wish to say they will withdraw entirely. After all they have 3 consecutive LeMans class victories running: 2010 with the Saleen in GT1, 2011 with the GTE-Am Corvette and 2012 again in GTE-Am with the Corvette. This year however it seems the LeMans entry is depending more on GM helping them field the second entry. Notice only one entry for GTE-Am in the WEC. The team itself has made it clear that GM will have a say on the lineup of one of the cars. So unless they're having a terrific year in the WEC, the General could pull the plug if they sense a second entry would not be a sure fire winner at LeMans. GM would only be interested in them winning so they could use the driver of their choice for marketing purposes.

Putting our thinking cap on who could GM possibly pick to man the second car....Johnny O'Conell and Andy Pilgrim alongside Pedro Lamy? Just a thought. The C6R for them might seem as if it has 2 engines compared to the CTS-V.

TRG-AMR North America (reserve entry): Kevin Buckler could dice it up with the best of them in his day, and he even won the class GT2 at Le Mans in 2002. But he no longer regularly drives competitively. This entry request is purely motivated by his business revenue model. The ACO only gave them a seat on the reserve list based on their strong reputation.