Category: F1

It’s no secret to anyone not wearing rose-colored glasses that Motorsports is approaching a crisis. This is not confined to the U.S. but is a global issue. Whether you are talking about F1 or road racing in the U.S. unsettling things are happening. Things that do not bode well for those concerned.

In F1, generally considered to be the pinnacle of racing, the HRT team barely made it to the end of the 2012 season. They are not listed on the FIA’s list of teams to contest the 2013 championship. While many of the world’s major companies are involved, I doubt if other than Ferrari, McLaren, and Red Bull any of the teams are awash in cash. (Forgot Mercedes, but it may be approaching put up or shut up time for them.

Nascar had declines in both attendance and viewers from 2010. I don’t mention 2011 because that was a slight increase over 2010. In other words the decline has resumed.

Road racing in the U.S. is a total basket case. Grand Am has been on life support for its top class, Daytona prototype for some time. ALMS, while enjoying a wide range of manufacturer, primarily import, support had been for sale for a few years now. Now it has agreed to be purchased by Grand Am. (Remember Grand Am is owned by the France family, i.e. Nascar)

Trans-Am is gamely trying to recapture  the glory from the days of manufacturer involvement with the pony cars in the 60’s and 70’s. While the introduction of what are in essence stock car chassied pony cars bodes well, the lack of a viable TV contract is a MAJOR constraint.

Even vintage racing has taken a hit. Car counts are down at many venues, despite the fact that this is one of the most affordable ways to participate, maybe not race, that there is.

So what is to happen? Will all the brave talk of the “new car” in Nascar bring fans back? Will Twitter return Nascar back to its glory days of only a few years ago? Or, will a Generation 6 spec race car provide the same type of racing that has caused fans to abandon the sport in droves? And is Twitter another way to keep up with the sport without actually attending races?

As to GrandAm/ALMS what are they going to do? Will they try to make it a road racing version on Nascar? Or capitalize on the strengths of the two series?

Trans- AM is returning to the classic road racing circuits in the coming year. The addition of Sebring and Daytona, plus a return to VIR can only be viewed as positives. But even more so is the alignment with SVRA. That is probably the most natural fit for them. But still the major players aren’t coming in without a TV contract. Hopefully that will be addressed, because it is great racing.

Hopefully 2013 will be a year for growth in motorsport. But there is something going on in the world regarding Motorsports beyond the economy, and the powers that be need to address it. Iphones sell millions on the day they are introduced, but Nascar was down 24% in the 18-34 demo. Hmm? That should be speaking to somebody.

Now lets see, I have a car, all it needs is a few upgrades, and  if I could find a driver with some money………..


It’s probably not a good idea to start a post with an apology, or an excuse. But in this case it’s probably necessary. Seems like this entire summer has consisted of  a series of events that kept me from writing here. When you’re young you have a vision of a quiet old age with little to do.  Perhaps sitting in front of a cozy fire in the armchair with a good book, and an adult beverage, while the trusted hound lies at your feet.

While it’s a comforting picture I suppose that time hasn’t arrived for me yet. Too many interests and things to do yet still only 24 hours in a day. So for the first and last time I apologize.

But a quick review, partial I am sure of what has happened this year.

In Formula One it looked like Red Bull’s dominance of the last several years was ended. McLaren and Lotus (formerly Renault) had cars that were noticeably faster than the Bull. At the same time Fernando Alonso was doing miracles with a Ferrari that was at best the  fourth fastest car on the grid.

Now  however it looks like Red Bull has found its edge again, Ferrari may still only be third fastest, and McLaren has lost its way. The prediction here is Red Bull all the way.

Indycar which I had hoped would make use of the out of the box talents of Randy Bernard to reclaim its glory has reverted to form. A palace coup by the owners has forced Bernard out in the past few days. Does anyone believe that the owners, who created the split of open wheel racing in this country, with disastrous results, can pull this one out? If so I hope you are right but I doubt it.

Panoz after years of trying to sell ALMS finally was able to sell it to another competing series, Grand AM aka Nascar secret twin. Its been no secret that Grand AM has been struggling in recent years to attract cars, other than those owned by the Nascar teams or associated manufacturers. ALMS on the other hand had a more diverse group and was heavily supported by international manufacturers. So what does this portend, that Nascar will try to impose its brand of “entertainment” marketing on road racing? Or, is this an attempt to stop the bleeding in Daytona?

Trans Am continues to limp along and I think this is a subject for another time.

Nascar is an interesting study. One looks at TV ratings which week after week are stagnant at best, attendance that continues a gradual decline. Yet they continue to make amazing amounts of money, so what is the real story there? Is it just a victim of an economy that continues to limp along? Or, as some have said, is it a sport that has lost relevance with its audience.

Vintage racing seems to be struggling as well. This would be the one area that I thought would not be impacted as much as it has been. SO like Nascar the question is why.

Anyway, during the coming weeks we intend to address these plus a lot of other stories.

We all know that racing costs a lot of money. And to an outsider it sometimes seems that the large professional teams are almost swimming in it. f course that brings the inevitable chorus of “I hate them, they only win because they have the best drivers, the best equipment, blah, blah, blah”.

That complaint ranges from the club racer in SCCA road racing, or your Saturday night short track right up the ranks. Well, today there was an interesting article on the website which I have shamelessly copied. Here are the thoughts of the chief executive of the Sauber F1 team. An interesting comment of a form of racing that we think is immune to financial woes. Check it out:

Sauber throw weight behind budget cap

Tuesday 3rd April 2012

Sauber throw weight behind budget capSauber throw weight behind budget cap

Sauber chief executive Monisha Kaltenborn has backed Bernie Ecclestone’s calls for a budget cap in F1, saying it would make the sport “more interesting”.

Formula One commercial rights holder Ecclestone recently re-opened the debate about a budget cap as he felt there are still too many people “running around with rose-tinted glasses” when it comes to the spiralling costs.

“The teams have to learn to be competitive without tonnes of money,” he said.

“They have to refocus again on the basics – on racing, spending on the sport – and not on baronial motorhomes and all kinds of entertainment.”

Kaltenborn says the Hinwil-based Sauber is in favour of limiting the spending by teams.

“We started it with the Resource Restriction Agreement (RRA), and that in itself was already an important step, but of course it is far from the only one you need,” she told the official Formula One website.

“We now have to evolve it to the next step, and in my view the future should indeed lie in some kind of budget cap under which each and every team could do what they want to, because we all have different strengths. Looking at our team, for example, we have a good infrastructure and a good wind tunnel, so it would allow us to benefit from that.

“Others have other assets. Overall I think it would make Formula One more interesting as it would also mean that we would all use different strategies and take different approaches to the business and the sport.”

Ecclestone suggested cap could come into force from 2013, and Kaltenborn also feels it should be introduced “very soon”.

“I think we should have the next step already in place for next season and take it from there,” she said.

“Next season for me should already see a major step forward in the financial feasibility of a team.

“When the current Concorde Agreement comes to an end at the end of this season, I think it would be a good time to set some kind of rules.”

When the budget cap idea was first mooted by former FIA president Max Mosley a few years ago, some of the big teams refused to back it with Ferrari even threatening to pull out of the sport.

Kaltenborn, though, believes all teams know that something has got to give.

“By now even the big teams should appreciate that Formula One with four teams would not be overwhelmingly attractive to fans,” she said.

“That would be a very wrong message.

Perhaps there are other forms of racing (Nascar?) that would do well to heed her comments. Preparing a Plan B before you need it isn’t a bad idea.

Obviously the title for this article is a cheap shot at Nascar’s oft stated claim that its drivers are the best in the world. Many people have rolled their eyes or snickered about that statement, in the 20 laps between caution flags sometimes. But for the sake of argument we’ll let it slide for today.

So what did we see at Martinsville yesterday? Was it another in an ever growing list of boring races? Or, were you excited at what you saw? How did it compare to the F1 race in Malaysia a week ago?

What does it say about the sport when the only excitement is, arguably, a staged caution flag which brings out a manufactured finish. And then the two cars that have led virtually the entire race get spun out and somebody who hasn’t during led the entire race is handed the win.

NOW, before the flame wars start let me say, Nascar did not stage the caution flag this time. David R. in the TBR #10 did. He had to know it wasn’t going to make it to the end, so why not pit? Was he given the Black Flag, and if so when?

But is it real when the leader gets taken out? I guess it depends on what your definition of racing is. But it seems that the wrecks are the only excitement left.

Just saying.

This past weekend provided a variety of action for the sports fan. NCAA tournament, preseason baseball, free agency signings in the NFL, and of course Motorsports. Since motor sport is what we talk about, that’s what we will do.

F1 had its season opener in Melbourne and it was a pretty good race. Button beat his teammate to the first corner and was never headed. But behind him it was wide open. Although the top five were the same characters as last year, the order was jumbled, and a couple got there by attrition. Then you had a pretty exciting race among the mid packers, Maldanado had a solid 6th for Williams until he put it in the barrier with half a lap to go. Kimi’s return went pretty well, salvaged a 7th from a poor starting position and made some great passes.  Michael outqualified his younger team-mate and was lying third when the gearbox decided that less gears would be a better idea.

All in all it looks like a great year ahead, and great entertainment. Six World Champions in the field can’t hurt either.

A last point on F1. The teams want the FIA to start enforcing the Resource Restriction agreement more closely. This is an agreement whereby the teams agreed to limit the amount of money that could be spent by a team during the year. In addition there are limits on testing, as well as a mandatory factory shutdown during the year. Two teams did not sign the letter to the FIA. Red Bull and Torro Rosso, you can make of that what you will.

Nascar was at Bristol, and what can you say. I can’t say much because I didn’t watch it as I had to work. But when I saw the highlights last night I was shocked. Not by the racing but by the crowd.  It appeared to be far from the announced 102,000. Why so small? Gas prices? Hard to believe that’s really the case. Even if you use 50 gallons round trip, and its up .50 a gallon that’s a  $25 increase. So you don’t buy the tee-shirt and cap.   Is it the racing? Or just a general malaise about the sport. I couldn’t say, but I would love to hear your thoughts.

On a more positive note, it appears that every week we are hearing about a new car and driver going to participate in the Trans-Am series this year. Hopefully the folks running it now have the right formula. They certainly have the experience to know what is needed. I think this could be a breakthrough year for the series.

This is going to be a great weekend. The winter is finally over, F1 is back! And in between sessions there is NCAA basketball.

The season opening Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne Australia is underway. The first two practices have been on a damp track, so its hard to tell who has what. However, the usual suspects are on top so far – McLaren, Red Bull, Mercedes, and Ferrari. Seems like McLaren is as usual pretty good, Mercedes has improved, and Ferrari may not be as bad as we were led to believe. The midfield looks close, and Williams looks better. The question is how good is Red Bull? They havent shown brilliance so far, but that was the pattern last year, nothing on Friday, but come qualifying look out.

More and more manufacturers are entering hybrids in international road racing. Audi and Toyota have entered prototypes in the 24 hours of LeMans. Honda and Toyota will go head to heat in the GT class. Makes sense as more and more hybrids appear on the street. I’m really interested to see the result of this one.

Nascar will be at Bristol, Tenn. this weekend. The first Nascar race I traveled to see was at Bristol back in 71. Used to look forward to it, but haven’t been in years. But I dont think that is why they haven’t had a sell out in 3 years.

Just a thought: What would you think about Nascar loosening up some of their rules, and do this. Allocate every team enough gasoline that the cars would have to get a certain mileage to finish the race. Say, 20 miles per gallon?  Anything you want to do, but this is the mileage you have to get. Put some real world engineering back into it again.  Dont do away with the templates, or safety stuff just mandate a mileage.

Crazy huh? It may take something like that to turn it around.

Lastly, name one major sport, other than Nascar or another form of  auto racing, that isn’t run by a commissioner appointed by the team owners.

For the past several years one of the great sports in road racing has been the one of bemoaning the lack of success of the Trans-Am series. This series, once the best and most competitive road racing series in North America, had fallen on hard times.  There had been several attempts to rescue it from extinction, each perhaps less successful than the last.

And of course it seemed like everybody and his brother had the answer as to why it wasn’t working. No TV, no advertising, too expensive, etc., etc. The SCCA of course got its fair share of criticism for the way they were attempting to run the series as well.

Finally at the end of last year a group of people, all of them experienced in the series, either as racers or administrators took over the series. Now after a slow start it appears they are putting the pieces together to really give the series a fighting chance. They have a new website, a dedicated PR person, and yesterday they made a major announcement. will be providing video vignettes during the race weekend as well as a weekly show on Trans-Am racing.

While some will be dissappointed that this isnt live coverage of the races it has proven to be highly successful in other motorsport venues. Look at “The Flying Lap” with Peter Windsor and his coverage of F1. If they can emulate him it will be up to the racers then.

Now if they can get a emagazine like they do for F1  life will be good!

Speaking of F1, the series starts this weekend in Melbourne and we can see who has what. Is Red Bull still got the dominant car? Or has McLaren caught up?  How much closer to the midfield is Caterham, and have they succeeded in reviving Williams?

Nascar in Bristol this week, not sold out again for the third year in a row I believe. I used to go every year, but no more.

And a question: What would be the reaction if a manufacturer sold you a car where the fuel injection system had as much trouble as the ones that Nascar is using?  Is it the great leap forward they claim?



Several quick things this morning before we go try to earn an honest living.

First, F1 testing is over and the teams have a short time to get ready for the first race in Melbourne. And not all is well with several of the teams. Two of the newer teams, HRT and Marussia, were unable to get their 2012 challengers ready in time to do the test. Obvious they will do some testing in the form of “filming days” or straight line tests, but hard to see where they wont be way behind at the start of the season.

A couple of the major players dont appear to be in that great a shape either. There are continuing whispers about how bad the new Ferrari is, and Red Bull is saying they will have a “B” spec car at Melbourne. The surprises of the testing have to be Lotus, (formerly Renault) and Sauber. But we will see the truth come the first race as to who has what. My money is on McLaren, while no fan of theirs they have the organization to take it to Red Bull.

On the Nascar front, to me the big news is not that ratings and attendance are back down to 2010 levels. Rather to me its this: the announcement that HMS has signed a Chinese Solar Panel Manufacturer to a sponsor deal on the number 5 car driven by Kasey Kahne. Think of the precedents this sets. To my knowledge there aren’t any other foreign sponsors. Multinationals sure, foreign no. But a interesting move nevertheless.

Speaking of sponsorship was the case of Kenny Wallace pleading for sponsors for his RAB Nationwide series car. Saying that they were broke, and that they could race on a 100k a race where others were getting 150-200k per race. Wonder does this show us why the Nationwide series is struggling? Many small and medium size companies just dont have that kind of money to spend on a race car, far away from their home market, unless they get a LOT of TV exposure. At some point Nascar, or the teams themselves, are going to have to address the issue of cost control.

Wonder is Aurora having trouble supplying rod ends these days? Have gotten a lot of calls both internationally and domestically from people I hadn’t heard from before.

Still trying who was the voice on the telecast from Phoenix last week who, right before Harvick “ran out of gas” came on the radio and said “we have a problem”. Remember according to the rules the teams are not supposed to be monitoring telemetry from the cars during the race. So, whose voice was it? Inquiring minds want to know.




So Nascar finally got the Daytona 500 in this morning. Must admit I didn’t see much of it. Had things to do for the business, deadlines and commitments as Bob Seger would say. But when I did stick my head in the wife told me it had been boring. That evidently changed when Montoya nailed the jet dryer. Now that was something you dont see every day. But how did it end? We went to bed during the red flag period.

Any thoughts on how Danica performed this week at Daytona? Three races, three wrecks, but was she just in the wrong place at the right time.

My question for the day is this: Do Nascar fans equate wrecks with hard racing? And why do they condone wrecking, when in road racing wrecks get you at least a stern talking to, if not a suspension.

In F1 it seems like a couple of the new teams have been having trouble passing the crash tests. HRT finally did pass and now the word is that Marussia, formerly Virgin, failed the last test. With the new rules requiring that all the crash tests be passed before a car could even test this has to put them behind the eight ball.

Lotus, formerly Renault, missed the first Barcelona test, because they had problems scheduled to test. The plan to use the car which had run at Jerez fell thru when it was found that it too had the same problems. Think maybe they are pushing the limits?

Looks like things are coming together for the Trans-Am. New web site, a few new cars and some new faces. Hopefully we will see more in the coming weeks.

QUESTION: Notice how Nascar cars appear to try to keep the air from getting under them. F1 cars try to get it under there so that, properly directed, it increases downforce.  Wonder how you could accomplish that trick with a full bodied car?


If you live in this country and have any interest in motor racing you can’t avoid Nascar. Like it or not they are the 800 pound gorilla in the room. A gorilla with two left feet mind you, but I digress.

Now its no secret that they had been in a downward spiral for several years, what with the major corporations finding other places to spend their advertising dollars and declining attendance in the stands. While there is room for debate it appeared that they had slowed if not actually reversed that decline last year.

This winter they have had a major media blitz to drum up interest in the newest hero(ine) Danica Patrick, as well as a very strong presence on social media. All of this of course is to culminate with the biggest race of the year, the Daytona 500. This is the capstone to whats known as Speedweek at Daytona. It started of with the wreck filled Bud Shootout, went thru two boring “qualifying ” races last Thursday. Then we have the big day yesterday and — it rains. No race, and its postponed until noon today. Not prime time but noon Monday.

My question is, if you care, will this effect them the rest of the season? Will this anti climactic event mean much now? Or with the expected decline in rating will it take the wind out of their sails for a good while.

Do you still find Nascar interesting? Or, is it a sport that is increasingly out of step with the times?

On a separate note there was the withdrawal from the Barcelona test by Team Lotus. There were problems with the chassis they were scheduled to use, and the one used at Jerez was found to have similar problems. Bet they are burning the midnight oil in the composites department at the factory.

HRT has passed the crash tests, finally, and can test the new car now. Prior to this they had been using an updated 2011 car.

Aston Martin has announced that they will contest the World Endurance Championship, with cars in the iconic Gulf colors from days gone by.

We may have found a customer for our car this year. And in the Trans-Am of course John Baucom will be running the Roadraceparts Mustang.