Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Weekend Menu - Week 22

I'll be at Miller this weekend, but here's what else is on elsewhere:

  • Mugello, Italy: MotoGP, FIM 250/125cc
  • Lamia, Greece: WRC Acropolis Rally
  • Croft, England: BTCC, Porsche Carrera Cup GB, Formula Renault UK
  • Pau, France: WTCC, F3 Euroseries
  • Miller Motorsports Park, UT: World Superbike, AMA Superbike
  • Ensenada, Mexico: Baja 500 (SCORE)
  • Milwaukee Mile, WI: Indycar and Indy Pro Series
  • Dover, DE: NASCAR Sprint Cup, Nationwide Series and Craftsman Trucks
  • Valencia, Spain: GP2
  • Winton, Australia: Australian Superbike
  • Zolder, Belgium: Belcar
  • Spa, Belgium: International GT Open
  • Gellerason, Sweden: Swedish Touring Cars
  • Estoril, Portugal: Rally Transiberico (FIA Cross Country World Cup)
  • Hustopece, Czech Rep.: Agrotec Rally (European Rally Cup Central)
  • Kigali, Rwanda: Rwanda Mountain Gorilla Rally (FIA African Rally Championship)
  • Llandrindod Wells, Wales: Severn Valley Rally (MSA Gravel Championship)
  • Plovdiv, Bulgaria: Rally Hebros (European Rally Cup East)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Miller World Superbike

My friend Chris and I fly out Friday morning for Salt Lake City, to go see the return of World Superbike to the USA. It should be a terrific weekend. Naturally I've been thinking a lot about what lies ahead and I reckon I've been hit by some divine inspiration about who's going to be a winner there...

Ryuichi Kiyonari.

Think about it: he was nearly a race-winner at Monza, a high-speed track with a long front straight, just like Miller. This time out, he won't be handicapped by being the only guy who hasn't been to the track before. They're ALL rookies this weekend. I think Kiyo's time has come.

Neukirchner's good for another win too, I reckon. That Gixxer is so quick.

Of course I'll be hoping for another Haga win because he's quite simply the coolest rider out there. Check back here next week for a report and some pics.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Nurburgring 24 Hours

It's weird to be out of town attending a wedding in Portland and to be listening to the Radio Le Mans coverage of the fabulous Nurburgring 24 Hours and watching streaming video on the event's website. It simply reinforces my opinion that 24 hour races are terrific fun, and if I was ever to return to competitive motorsport it would be with an eye towards taking part in one.

Just like last year's Britcar 24 Hours, this years N24 is stacked with incredible drivers and professional teams. Check it out:

Sportscar drivers: Timo Bernhard, Marc Lieb, Romain Dumas, Christophe Bouchut, Marc Basseng, Patrick Simon, Claudia Hurtgen, Tomas Enge, Karl Wendlinger, Dirk Muller, Dominik Schwager, Marino Franchitti, Emanuelle Collard, Richard Westbrook, Boris Said, Adam Sharpe, Vincent Vosse, Peter Dumbreck, Hans Stuck.

Touring car drivers: Tom Coronel, Duncan Huisman, Christian Abt, Stefan Mucke, Frank Stippler, Armin Hahne, Pierre Kaffer, Warren Luff, Frank Jelinski, Bernd Schneider, Jorg Muller, Augusto Farfus, Heinz-Harald Frentzen.

Rally drivers: Carlos Sainz, Giniel De Villiers, Dieter Depping.

Industry figures: Ulrich Bez, Hermann Tilke, Volker Strycek.

Journalists: Richard Meaden, Jethro Bovingdon.

What a lineup! And to think that there's nearly 300 cars out there, sharing pits with 6-8 cars per garage, racing on the mad bad Nordschleife in front of hundreds of thousands of drunk Germans. Fan-frickin-tastic!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Load of Bull

This may seem a little bit obvious, but Red Bull spend a lot of money on motorsport advertising, sponsorship and promotion.

It hit me this weekend, as everywhere I looked I saw the iconic logo and typeface, whether it was at Sears Point for the AMA Superbike round to reading Racer magazine to watching the WRC on television. So here's my Red Bull sighting list:

  • Nicky Hayden's helmet in the French round of MotoGP
  • The Red Bull trials demo behind the grandstand at Sears Point
  • The crazy huge Red Bull structure in the paddock of Sears Point which was there supporting....
  • ... the Red Bull Rookies Cup
  • The Citroen WRC cars which were competing on Rally Italia Sardinia, which had a number of stages that featured a...
  • ... Red Bull inflatable banner that went over the stage
  • Red Bull-specific vending stations at Sears Point
  • Saturday morning I happened to catch the bizarre NASCAR pitcrew challenge, won by the #83 team, sponsored by.... you guessed it.
  • Eric Bostrom's helmet in AMA Superbike
  • I checked the results of the Oregon Trail Rally to find Travis Pastrana had won in his Red Bull-sponsored Subaru
  • An article on the early arrival of F1's silly season featured a picture of Mark Webber, in his Red Bull-emblazoned racing suit
It's remarkable just how prevalent the Austrian energy drink is in motorsport. Any large-scale investment in the sport has to be considered a good thing, and Red Bull have contributed a huge amount. They've also opened the door to both the creation and promotion of other energy drinks which have chosen to use motorsport as a major marketing channel. Monster, Relentless, and Amp were all evident in motorsport activity over the weekend.

The only concern I have in regards to Red Bull is the massive impact it would have if it were to ever shift its focus elsewhere. I work for a non-profit organization and in this industry it's considered a very bad idea to take too much money from any one source, because the absence of that source would cripple the organization. Something to consider for the US MotoGP events, VW's Dakar outfit, KTM's racing teams, Andreas Aigner's rally team, two teams in F1, the NASCAR Red Bull team.... the list goes on....

On a related note: Red Bull is now legal in France (albeit due to a reformulation of its recipe).

Monday, May 12, 2008

Close finishes

Followers of World Superbike and World Supersport have had an absolute ball in the last two weeks. If you add up the finishing gaps of the top three riders in World Superbike's two races at Monza, and the top six in the Assen World Supersport race, you'd get a scant 1.165 seconds. That's about the length of time it takes an F1 driver to do a line of coke.

The Assen round of World Supersport was perhaps the closest, craziest bike race I've ever seen. The whole race was like a first lap, with finishing positions very much like what you'd expect to see as the riders come across the stripe for the first time, never mind the 17th....

Yesterday's WSBK round at Monza was another classic, but we've come to expect that from the Italian parkland track. The insane front straight, along with the typically Italian (read chaotic) chicanes make for great overtaking opportunities and we weren't disappointed in either race. What's more, the retirement of Troy Bayliss in race two, along with the superb performances by ice cool German Max Neukirchner and certifiably mental samurai Nori Haga helped make the championship a little less of a one-horse race than it has been so far.

Roll on the next round, which sees WSBK return to the USA, at Utah's Miller Motorsports Park. I'm going to brave that state's bizarre alcohol laws in order to check out this terrific championship. How fucking excited am I....?

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Weekend Menu -Week 19

I've been a bit lax the last two weeks publishing the menu, so here's this week's:

  • Istanbul, Turkey: F1, Porsche Supercup, GP2
  • Darlington Raceway, SC: NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series
  • Monza, Italy: World Superbike and Supersport
  • Barbagallo, Australia: V8 Supercars
  • Spa, Belgium: Le Mans Series
  • Douglas, Isle of Man: Manx Rally
  • Albacete, Spain: FIM Endurance Championship
  • Tsukuba, Japan: All-Japan Superbikes
  • Idrija, Slovenia: Rally Saturnus (European Rally Cup Central)
  • Palermo, Italy: Targa Florio (European Rally Cup Southwest)
  • Canberra, Australia: Rally of Canberra
  • Dijon, France: FFSA GT and Belcar
  • Kentucky Speedway, KY: ARCA/Remax Series
  • Algarve, Portugal: Rally of Portugal (IRC)
  • Mugello, Italy: Italian GT
  • Nurburgring, Germany: VLN

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Irish road racing claims another victim

The sport of "real road racing" has claimed another victim, with the death of Martin Finnegan this weekend in the Tandragee 100 in Northern Ireland. This genre of motorcycle racing is well-known for its inherent danger thanks to the myriad of deaths at the Isle of Man TT over the years, but the frequent additional tragedies during the rest of the season every year tend to go less noticed. The last three years have seen the deaths of Richard Britton, John Donnan, Darran Lindsey and now Finnegan on the Irish roads, in addition to the more high profile losses at the TT that have included David Jefferies and Jun Maeda. Back in 2000 there were eight deaths in real road racing alone...

I'll never call for the banning of this type of racing, because those who do it know the risks, but almost always the news articles include a statement to the effect of "he leaves behind a wife and a young child". That was certainly the case with Finnegan, Lindsay and Britton. I guess I just wish these guys would transition to circuit racing once they become parents.