• INDYCAR: SO YOU WANT TO DRIVE THE INDY 500?

    We’ve suspected this for many years and now it’s official. The Indianapolis 500 is no longer a reasonable aspiration for most racing drivers, blogs Stephen Cox.

    Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) president Doug Boles was kind enough to talk with me briefly at the annual PRI trade show in Indy. I asked him what his plan was to increase the number of entries at the Indianapolis 500. His answer took me by surprise.

    “We grew up falling in love with the sport when you had that number of entries,” Boles said. “A lot of those entries were guys who sat around in December and said, ‘You know what? We’re going to build a car in our garage and we’re going to enter it at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indy 500.’”

    “But first and foremost in my mind is just really safety. I don’t think it makes sense for us to get back to fifty or sixty cars just from a safety standpoint,” Boles continued. “I’d love to see fifty or sixty or seventy cars entering and guys just being able to decide that they have a driver who’s running at Putnamville and we’re going to give him a shot to run at the Speedway. I just don’t think it’s practical anymore.”

    Let that statement sink in. American short track drivers – who routinely filled the field until the 1980s – are now considered unsafe and incapable of running the Indy 500.

    Don’t ever go back to the speedway and expect to find the next A. J. Foyt or Parnelli Jones. There won’t be one. Nor will you ever see another Stan Fox or Rich Vogler claw their way up through the ranks and make it to Indy. For that matter, we’re also unlikely to ever see another Rick Mears or Robby Gordon. Those guys got to Indy through off-road desert racing, not Indycar’s current ladder system. They would likely be considered unsafe at the speedway today.

    Boles countered by saying, “We have the best on-track product that we’ve ever had in the history of the speedway with the last five years. The number of lead changes we have, the number of cars in the field that have a chance of winning it.”

    True, recent events have had a certain NASCAR-green-white-checkered-overtime excitement to them. However, this was not achieved by eliminating drivers of sprint cars, off-road trucks, midgets, late-models or amateur sports cars from the speedway. It was achieved – if indeed, this can be called an “achievement” at all – through regulation.

    More teams are in contention because everyone is forced to use the same spec car. The additional lead changes were artificially created through “push to pass” legislation and turbo boost mandates. Using this logic, even better races could be manufactured by enacting a rule disqualifying anyone who leads two consecutive laps, thus assuring 249 lead changes in every 500!

    The bottom line is this – SCCA drivers are welcome to compete at IMS in the Run Offs. SVRA drivers are welcome to Indy’s vintage event. Short track drivers are welcome to buy tickets and sit in Turn Three.

    But the speedway has no intention of enlarging the field past forty cars and creating space that could be filled by new drivers from other disciplines. That is bad news for thousands of very good racing drivers worldwide. And it is even worse news for the Indianapolis 500 itself, whose relevancy continues to fade.

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  • Jorge Lorenzo wants MotoGP race in India

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    MotoGP World Champion has said that he feels India deserves to host a MotoGP in the not too distant future. 

    Lorenzo flew to India to visit the Vicente Ferrer Foundation which is based in Anantapur. The foundation was formed by Spanish philanthropist Vicente Ferrer who spent his life working to improve the lives of the poor in the mission he founded in Southern India. Whilst out there, he took the chance to do some promotional work for Yamaha. 

    Lorenzo was on track at the Buddh International Circuit where he took 30 owners of Yamaha R3’s out on a very special track day. A competition was run in the summer to decide who would get to share the track with the World Champion, and Lorenzo spent the morning with the lucky winners before going to visit some projects from the charity in the afternoon.

    India has a recent issues with world motorsport. Both Formula One and World Superbikes had brief spells in India at the Buddh circuit, but political issues has hindered future events in both sports. There had been talk that India wanted to join MotoGP when a big shake up of the calendar is expected, and the Spaniard said he would love MotoGP to come to India.

    “This was my second visit here, not only in India but also at this track,” said that 28-year-old.

    “I have to do six laps, not in a row, but with stops to change the group. I was leading three groups on the track and it was difficult as it was wet. Therefore I left a margin for not crashing and just enjoyed the track. It is unbelievable as it is so modern, so wide and so long. I just had to take care of the ones following and make sure they stayed safe and just enjoy the moment.

    “I would love it if MotoGP came to India because the market is so huge and it could be very important for MotoGP! There is a lot of love for motorbikes here, as there are more bikes than cars in the cities. They are lovers of motorbikes but they don’t have a Grand Prix where they can appreciate the best motorcycle racing championship in the world.”

     

  • Adrian Newey and the bar-headed goose

    The April edition of Motorsport Magazine contains a fabulous F1 season preview from Mark Hughes, which includes the news that Adrian Newey has recently been taking a break in the Himalayas.

    Now, whilst it’s likely that the principal purpose of this expedition was to enlighten the Dalai Lama on the importance of using large-eddy simulation to understand the interaction of brake-duct winglets with the spat vortex, it’s also possible that Adrian was drawn by the legendary bi-annual migration of the bar-headed goose.

    These birds are amongst the highest-flying in the world, and travel across the Himalayas in a single day. William Bryant Logan claims in Air: Restless Shaper of the World (2012), that “the bar-headed goose has been recorded at altitudes of over thirty-three thousand feet. This is the altitude where your pilot remarks that the outside temperature is 40 degrees below zero, where the great fast-flowing rivers of the jet streams set weather systems spinning. The air here contains only one-fifth of the oxygen near sea-level, where the goose winters in lowland India wetlands and marshes. Yet in the space of a few hours the bird can fly from the wetlands to the top of the high peaks and then out onto the world’s largest high plateau. There are lower passes through the mountains, but the goose does not take them. It may even preferentially go higher.”
    However, research led by Bangor University tracked the bar-headed geese with GPS as they migrated over the Himalayas, and reached the following conclusion in 2011:

    “Data reveal that they do not normally fly higher than 6,300 m elevation, flying through the Himalayan passes rather than over the peaks of the mountains…It has also been long believed that bar-headed geese use jet stream tail winds to facilitate their flight across the Himalaya. Surprisingly, latest research has shown that despite the prevalence of predictable tail winds that blow up the Himalayas (in the same direction of travel as the geese), bar-headed geese spurn the winds, waiting for them to die down overnight, when they then undertake the greatest rates of climbing flight ever recorded for a bird, and sustain these climbs rates for hours on end.”

    Furthermore, The roller-coaster flight strategy of bar-headed geese conserves energy during Himalayan migration, (Science, 2015), suggests that “geese opt repeatedly to shed hard-won altitude only subsequently to regain height later in the same flight. An example of this tactic can be seen in a 15.2-hour section of a 17-hour flight in which, after an initial climb to 3200 m, the goose followed an undulating profile involving a total ascent of 6340 m with a total descent of 4950 m for a net altitude gain of only 1390 m. Revealingly, calculations show that steadily ascending in a straight line would have increased the journey cost by around 8%. As even horizontal flapping flight is relatively expensive, the increase in energy consumption due to occasional climbs is not as important as the effect of reducing the general costs of flying by seeking higher-density air at lower altitudes.

    “When traversing mountainous areas, a terrain tracking strategy or flying in the cool of the night can reduce the cost of flight in bar-headed geese through exposure to higher air density. Ground-hugging flight may also confer additional advantages including maximizing the potential of any available updrafts of air, reduced exposure to crosswinds and headwinds, greater safety through improved ground visibility, and increased landing opportunities. The atmospheric challenges encountered at the very highest altitudes, coupled with the need for near-maximal physical performance in such conditions, likely explains why bar-headed geese rarely fly close to their altitude ceiling, typically remaining below 6000 m.”

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  • Dorna want to expand MotoGP into India

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    Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta has said he wants to expand MotoGP into India sooner rather than later. 

    India is currently the second biggest motorcycle market in the world, and there is willingness to push through a deal to get racing into India from both organisers and teams sooner rather than later. Ezpeleta appreciates how big the Indian market is, and is looking to get it on the calendar for 2017.

    Should MotoGP get to India, it wouldn’t be the first international motorsport series to go, or try to go to India. Formula One raced in India from 2011-2013, at the Buddh International Circuit, before tax and bureaucracy problems prevented Formula One from returning.

    Dorna have also had their troubles with Indian law. World Superbikes had hoped to race in India back in 2013. However, shipping and logistical difficulties meant that the race was postponed, and eventually cancelled. This is one major hurdle that MotoGP would have to overcome should they put India on the calendar.  

    “It’s different, Formula One is another aspirational level. Motorbikes are something very popular in India and are much closer to normal people,” Ezpeleta told Reuters.

    “We need to focus on different things here, like we have no [local] promoter. But the cost of organising a MotoGP race is less than Formula One and we have a manufacturer in Mahindra who are participating in Moto3.”

    Mahindra’s participation in MotoGP is continuing to grow in 2015. The Indian manufacturer will supply four bikes to Moto3 teams in 2015, as well as being the official Aspar Moto3 team for 2015. On top of their added Moto3 commitment, they have also expressed an interest in ultimately entering a bike in MotoGP. 

    “We need three things to be successful in a country like India. First a manufacturer being part of the deal and in this case we have Mahindra, secondly, we need to have Indian riders but unfortunately we have none presently and for that we have the Asian talent cup. And finally we need to have a Grand Prix.”

    He continued, “I think we are putting all our first steps right to be successful in India but nothing is easy from the beginning. We have a lot of demand for Grand Prix all around the world, especially from Asia, and we are talking to different countries.” 

    Dorna’s commitment to expanding into Asia and the South American market has been known for a long time, with Superbike races in Chile and Thailand be run, with the understanding that should all go well, MotoGP could follow the following year. 

    Photo credit MotoGP.com

  • 2013 Season Review- Part 4




    It was a slap in the face for Red Bull’s rivals when Vettel won at a canter in Belgium, hitherto not one of the best tracks for Adrian Newey’s high-downforce cars, and at Monza where low downforce was again the order of the day, but the most crushing victory came for the German in Singapore where Red Bull’s phenomenal traction made him completely untouchable. Within three races Vettel has stretched his lead from 38 points to 60 points and would have been even further ahead were it not for the heroics of Alonso who somehow kept the his slipping Ferrari team in touch.

    By then the emerging pattern was already prompting discussion of how likely it was that Vettel would win all the remaining races, and to everyone’s consternation Vettel did just that, equalling Michael Schumacher’s 2004 record of 13 wins in a calendar year, but claiming one of his own for nine consecutive wins in a season. First came a dominant win in Korea, then another at his happy hunting ground of Suzuka, before further victories in India (where he sealed his title with a jubilant display of donuts), Abu Dhabi and the United States. Heading into the final round in Brazil the only question was whether Vettel would ‘gift’ Webber one final win, the Australian having announced his F1 departure for sportscars earlier in the season. The answer was an emphatic ‘no’.

    Clearly, the revised tyres introduced in Hungary suited Red Bull more than anyone else, whilst Ferrari and Force India, whose season’s both unravelled somewhat in the second half of the year, were the worst compromised – harsh luck after their careful winter preparation. Raikkonen’s campaign also began to fall apart as the new rubber made his Lotus understeer. That suited Grosjean more, and in the latter half of the season he and Webber, whose car was at last more reliable, proved to be the only men capable of getting anywhere near Vettel.

    Korea, Japan and India brought Grosjean a trio of third-place podium finishes, followed by a second in Texas, while Webber was third in Italy and Texas and second in Japan, Abu Dhabi and Brazil to pip Hamilton to third place overall in the drivers’ standings behind Vettel and Alonso.

    Mercedes also dipped in the latter half after a promising opening half of the season that included three wins and eight pole positions, four of them in succession for Hamilton. But far from building on his success in Hungary, the Englishman struggled somewhat in the final flurry of flyaways. His races in India and Abu Dhabi were compromised by damage to his Mercedes’ chassis, but when the problem was discovered in time for the races in the United States and Brazil he was right back in the picture. What is undeniable is that Nico Rosberg proved far greater a match for Hamilton than many had predicted, and indeed the German’s strong form helped Mercedes take a much-improved second place in the constructors’ standings, behind Red Bull but ahead of Ferrari, despite some tyre wear trouble over the final races.

    Raikkonen’s career at Lotus came to an end two races ahead of schedule when he opted to miss the races in Austin and Sao Paulo to have surgery on a recurrent back injury. The enigmatic Finn should be healed by the time of the first tests of 2014 when he’ll be reunited with Ferrari alongside Alonso.

    Raikkonen’s absence, allied to stand-in Heikki Kovalainen’s failure to score points in the United States or Brazil and Grosjean’s dramatic final race engine failure, compromised Lotus’s chance of improving on fourth place in the constructors’ table.

    Fifth place in the standings was an embarrassment for McLaren, whose ambitious plan to move ahead of their rivals backfired when the MP4-28 failed to enhance the MP4-27’s excellent competitiveness. They persevered with the car and steadily improved it, but failed to score a single podium for the first time since 1980. Somewhat ironically in a season without major success, they did become the first team in history to have both its cars classified in every Grand Prix.

    At one point Force India were ahead of McLaren on merit, but as they struggled to unlock the VJM06’s potential on the revised tyres they slipped backwards, coming under serious threat from Sauber as the Swiss team’s fortunes conversely took an upturn. This was partly because of the new rubber and also because they introduced a revised exhaust system which made a big difference in the C32’s handling characteristics. Hulkenberg was arguably the most impressive driver in the second half of the season after Vettel – his defensive drive in Korea an obvious highlight – but in the end the British team held fast, taking a highly respectable sixth overall with the evenly matched Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta.

    Toro Rosso were only eighth, which did not reflect what a competitive car James Key’s STR8 was at times. The Italian team’s season was notable for the fierce but friendly battle between Daniel Ricicardo and Jean-Eric Vergne for the vacant 2014 Red Bull seat. The contest eventually went the Australian’s way, though Vergne finished only seven points back from his team mate in the final drivers’ standings.

    Williams endured another miserable year, reshuffling their technical team mid-season and scoring just five points. The sole positive was the glimmer of hope offered by rookie driver Valtteri Bottas. The Finn starred in qualifying in both Canada and the United States and he should continue to develop alongside Ferrari exile Felipe Massa next year.

    At the back, the battle for tenth place in the constructors’ standings between the two youngest teams, Marussia and Caterham, was as competitive as ever. In the end, Marussia’s superior early season form – and crucially reliability – enabled them to get the better of their rivals for the first time with young Frenchman Jules Bianchi impressing on numerous occasions.

    For 2014, Formula One racing will embrace a new dawn of technical change that will impact car and driver alike, in ways some of which aren’t yet known. What is certain is that as the normally-aspirated F1 era is finally bid a fond farewell, it could not have had a greater last hoorah – one in which a young driver, who some already rate as the greatest ever, set new standards of success, the likes of which may never be matched again.

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