Thursday, June 29, 2006

F1 makes up with the US, and more

It was a year ago that the US Grand Prix debacle occurred, and it was probably the most shameful episode that the sport has ever seen. With a field of only six cars, four of which were the slowest F1 cars that season, fans had every right to be upset. What makes it worse is that their class-action lawsuit has been thrown out, making for one more blow to F1 in the USA. For me, the biggest loser that weekend was the public perception of road-course racing. I don't really care about F1's status here because to be honest it's kind of a silly genre of racing. But when the public equates "racing" exclusively with NASCAR, we know that any racing in the US that involves one or more right turns is facing a PR struggle.

This weekend, F1 returns to Indy, and they'd better do a much better job this year...

On a happier US racing note, ALMS is back in action at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut. Quite why ALMS chooses to race on a track with sub-one minute laps is beyond me, but they've been at it for years. The most noteworthy event will be the final outing for the Audi R8, before the Le Mans-winning R10s return for the next round at the Miller dustbowl. Due to the smallness of Lime Rock, those mean yellow Porsche LMP2s might well be in with a shout again. Odds are that the Dyson Lolas, the other main team with a shot at winning, won't...

Once again the planets have aligned to have three touring car series racing on the same weekend, in this case V8 Supercars in Oz, DTM at Brands Hatch and the WTCC in Brazil. This makes for a lot of downloading for me and a lot of sitting in front of the PC over the next few days. Woe is me.

The V8s are at Hidden Valley near Darwin. I'm a big fan of this track, partly because it's one of the most isolated tracks in the world and partly because it gets damn hot, making for silly mistakes from drivers, and lots of ensuing action. The V8 season continues to be highly unpredictable, so let me predict a winner... I'll have to say Todd Kelly, Mark Skaife's team-mate in the Holden Racing Team. Poor ole Todd's had some bad luck lately, especially at Barbagallo where he had not one, not two but three gearbox failures, two of which involved the whole gearstick coming off in his hand! Bizarre...

The WTCC makes the first of it's Western hemisphere visits, at Curitiba in Brazil. This is a new track for the WTCC lads, so it's unclear as to who will have the best form. One thing's for sure - they'll not want to cause too much damage to the cars since they'll not be returning to their shops in Europe before the next event in Mexico.

The DTM makes its first visit to Brands Hatch, a tantalizing prospect! It's a great track, and those cars are seriously quick. In the "isn't that funny" department, ex F1 world champ Damon Hill had a go in a Mercedes DTM car at the recent test at Brands. Although he enjoyed it, he made clear that his recent appointment as chair of the BRDC, the organization that runs the British GP, will limit his ability to get back into racing. Not to worry Damon, at least you can still play your "rock music", you long-haired aging rocker you.

The other notable race this weekend is FIA GT at Oschersleben in Germany. The GT commission has made some performance adjustments, so just as the Saleens were getting quick again, they've been smacked with a rear wing reduction. This same measure in Le Mans Series racing a few years back saw them shuffled to the "also-ran" category, so hopefully that won't happen here. I'm sure that those in charge of the series are eager to see some Astons at the front, but despite performance handicapping in other series (e.g. ALMS) it hasn't helped. Something is stopping the Aston DBR9 from winning, and I'd love to know what it is. Interestingly, those unfortunate folks at the Italian BMS Aston team have three cars, so even though they removed a couple of corners from one at Le Mans, they still have two fresh and shiny cars to run this weekend.

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