Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Lewis Hamilton Crowned F1 World Champion

AUSTIN, TX – It turned out to be a great day for a race, but that was not apparent on Saturday or Sunday morning.  As the remnants of tropical Hurricane Patricia dropped torrential rain on the Circuit of the Americas, Saturday practice sessions were cancelled, and instead, fans were given an unprecedented time with Formula 1 drivers and crews.  Then, Sunday morning, the rains did not appear to let up until around noon.  By the scheduled 1:25 PM start of the race, the clouds receded showing some sunshine allowing the start of the USGP without safety car – and what a race it was!

With some water remaining on the track, the cars started the race on intermediate tires.  As it turned out, the lack of practice time left the teams unprepared for what was about to unfold, and tire strategy was thrown out the door.  Some of the drivers had to use all three tire types to optimize their lap times as the track dried out. "It was very difficult," said Toto Wolff of Mercedes-Petronas, "So many decisions to make, so many marginal calls, with the virtual safety car and safety car. I guess, at the end, we had the luck on our side.”  The danger was clear following Williams’ and Sauber’s early decision to put on slicks causing slow laptimes for Bottas and an incident requiring Nasr to pit for a new front wing.

From the very start, it was clear that his race was to be exciting.  Nico Rosberg had claimed the starting position for the race, but at the first turn, Hamilton pushed Nico off the track and sped off in first place.  Nico could only manage 4th place at this point.  The Red Bull cars showed very good speed at the beginning as Ricciardo was able to reel in and pass both Mercedes cars claiming the lead.  Then on lap 18, Hamilton and the Red Bulls came in to switch to slicks, but the speed was not there and Rosberg, still on intermediates sped away.

After an incident where Ericcson stopped on the track, Vettel brought his Ferrari in for tires preferring the medium rubber gambling on the possibility that he could go the rest of the way.  Then Haulkenberg and Ricciardo collided bring out the virtual safety car once more. This gave Mercedes the chance to bring one of their drivers in for tires.  Choosing Rosberg over the now leader Lewis, the Mercedes pair were a formidable team.  Vettel  challenged Vettel but was not able to catch the Silver Arrows.

The final start left 10 laps to the finish, and Hamilton held all competitors at bay, winning the race and championship.  A dejected Rosberg came in 2nd followed by Vettel in third.  Team Boss Niki Lauda must be very excited with Mercedes clinching both the driver and Manufacturer Championships.  With rumors that he is being considered for F1 boss, what better way to leave Mercedes.

Seeing the excitement of this race, I hope that F1 considers the idea of less practice laps for the teams.  Charting the race with a level of unknowns makes for wonderful excitibg racing as opposed to machines running in Teutonic reliability.  Since we lost the exciting sounds of 20,000 rpm engines, maybe some exciting racing can be had.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Lowndes/Richards of Holden Racing Team Claim Victory At "The Mountain"

BATHURST, AUSTRALIA – The sleepy town of Bathurst in New South Wales Australia comes to life once a year for the run of the epic 1,000 mile race known as the Bathurst 1000.  Mount Panorama Circuit is one of the most fearsome tracks in the world sometimes referred to as the “Blue Hell.”  This year was a memorable year with previous records being smashed.  Team Red Bull’s Craig Lowndes and co-driver Steven Richards won the race finishing in the shortest time on record.  This was Craig’s 6th win at the mountain.  Teammate Jamie Whincup, was the fastest man on the mountain turning the fastest qualifying lap of 2 min 4.9 sec, and a new race lap of 2 min 7.1 sec.

Unfortunately for Whincup, he managed to finish only 18th due to a pit-lane penalty levied on the Holden driver after he passed the safety car following a crash by Scott Pye midway through the race.  No telling at this point to why Whincup made such an elementary error, but he also disregarded team instructions to pit during the caution period.  "Scotty Pye was in the fence and then I understood why we came in two laps early,” commented teammate Lowndes. “I didn't understand why Jamie didn't follow us in.  But look, we'll analyse that this week and make sure that it doesn't become a problem in the future and move on.”

The scariest tale of the weekend was Team Pepsi driver Chaz Mostert’s horrifying crash during qualifying ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_ehZQUAsAQ ).  As Mostert was approaching “the Dipper,”  he missed his apex on turn 16, grazing the wall and ricocheting him nearly head on into the outside wall of turn 17.  Mostert’s car slammed into the track marshal’s safety enclosure resulting in injuries to three of the officials.  "My biggest fear was for the safety of the marshals but to hear none were seriously injured is a big relief," Mostert said in a team statement, "I'm really sorry for the team as it was my error that put us out and also destroyed a car.  I just lost my racing line due to a bit of sun glare and glanced the wall.  I just want to say thanks to everyone in the V8 Supercars medical team for their care following my accident today.  From there I was a passenger and took some pretty big hits."  Mostert suffered a broken leg and wrist requiring surgery.

Another interesting story at the Bathurst was the all-female Harvey Norman Supergirls entry of Indy-driver Simona de Silvestro and Renee Gracie.  The girls did not receive exactly a hero’s welcome with V8 legend Dick Johnson commenting that it was a million-to-one chance of them finishing the 166-lap race.  Adding insult-to-injury, Gracie’s own Ford teammate earned a $25,000 fine for referring to the entry as “the pussy wagon.”  The race did not go so well for the girls when on lap 15, Gracie stuffed the Ford into the wall after driving through some fluid left by the Volvo of David Wall.  After a long stint in the garage, de Silvestro emerged and was able to complete the remaining 108 laps of the race.  "It's a bit disappointing," said Gracie who will return to Bathurst with de Silvestro next year.  "We were off to a great start, had a great strategy and I caught the guys pretty quickly, commented Gracie.  “But unfortunately I was the first who caught the oil and found the wall."

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Porsche GTLM Pulls Upset at The Petit Le Mans

BRASELTON, GA – It was a remarkable end to the 2015 Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta this weekend.  The rain soaked conditions made it very difficult for the blisteringly fast Prototype racers allowing the GTLM-class Porsche 911RSR of Tandy/Pilet/Lietz to the overall win.  This is the first time in the history of this race that a GT-car won the overall race.  The venerable 911, with its rear engine configuration and amazing reliability once again proved itself to be a daunting competitor.  Who would have thought that a car layout conceived in 1964 could still be a motorsports contender in 2015?

Scott Pruett, driver of the #01 Ganassi Racing Ford-Riley DP-car, summed it up best, “We weren’t racing, we were just trying to survive.” Second place went to another GTLM-class car, the BMW Z4 of Edwards/Luhr/Klingman.  The podium was completed by Action Express Corvette DP of Barbosa/Fittipaldi/Bourdais, the highest placing DP-car of the race, and giving Borbosa and Fittipaldi once again, the season championship.  Pruett’s Riley came in fourth.

It was a particularly harsh race for the open-cockpit Protoype Challenge cars.  The highest placing PC-car was the 52 Oreca FLM09 piloted by Gausch/Kimber-Smith/Palmer with Katech power, coming in 14th overall.  Said Kimber-Smith about his stint in the open-cockpit car: “I don’t think I’ve ever been that wet in my life, even in the shower.”  The 52 Oreca also captured the PC championship.

GT-Daytona looked like it might see the first woman champion with 007 TRG Aston-Martin driver Christina Nielsen having a 1-point lead coming into Atlanta.  However, the win went to the 73 Porsche 911 GT-America of Lindsey/Pumpelly/Snow with Christina a distant 9th.  The GT-D championship went to Bill Sweedler/Bell/Segal in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia