Like most American kids that grew up in the 80's I watched the Indy 500 every year and became interested in motorsports thanks to that race, but I didn't really get hooked until I started watching Formula 1 racing in the late 90's. My favorite era were those years with the great Mika Hakkinen/Michael Schumacher battles. (I was a Mika Hakkinen fan) So my fondness for Formula 1 waned once Mika retired and Schumacher started winning everything, even at the expense of his teammate Rubens Barrichello. My interest in F1 has only been lukewarm since.

Then I turned to Champ Car racing here in the US for my motorsports fix. However that was quickly extinguished once Champ Car and Indy Car merged and we were stuck with Tony George and his many foibles. (It was entertaining to watch the Hulman/George drama I'll admit.) My interest has been less than lukewarm with Indy Car lately, even without Tony George at the helm.

Over time however, the excitement I once had for motorsports has slowly gone. Maybe it has to do with my age, I don't know. But I think I will pour my efforts into my Trooper and my interests in the outdoors to add excitement to my life.

Thanks for checking out my blog, I hope you enjoy it. I will still post racing news when I find something interesting or noteworthy.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Indy Car paint jobs, St Pete Grandprix

From above these cars actually don't look half bad. But.....

(Hideki Mutoh)

(Alex Tagliani)

(Takuma Sato)

look at them from street level and you'll remember why you hate them so much.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Bourdais too talented not to be racing

(by John Oreovicz 3-22-10)

With all due respect to Hideki Mutoh, in an ideal world, he would not be driving for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing in the Izod IndyCar Series this season.

Instead, the famous open-wheel team would field cars for its 2007 driver lineup of Sebastien Bourdais and Graham Rahal, both of whom have only limited racing programs lined up for the 2010 season.

Rahal tested Sarah Fisher Racing's Dallara-Honda Indy car at Barber Motorsports Park this week in preparation for the two race starts he expects to make for SFR. Meanwhile, Bourdais is racing a Peugeot prototype in the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring, one of his rare scheduled outings for the French manufacturer.

It's easy to conclude that if NHLR founder Paul Newman was still alive, the team would have Rahal and Bourdais as its drivers and would be beginning to challenge Team Penske and Target Chip Ganassi Racing for IndyCar Series race wins on a regular basis. But Newman's death also effectively killed off NHLR's sponsorship agreement with McDonald's and the team's ability to attract other major sponsors, leaving it with no choice but to cut back to one car funded by Mutoh's Japanese backers.

Bourdais raced in the CART/Champ Car World Series from 2003-2007, winning 31 of his 73 races starts and four consecutive series championships. That performance finally earned the now-31-year-old Frenchman his break into Formula One, but after one and a half mostly disappointing years in F1, he was dropped in mid-2009 by the Scuderia Toro Rosso team. Bourdais rounded out 2009 by scoring a couple of race wins in the Superleague series, a minor-league European open-wheel formula.

Bourdais' perceived failure in F1 just gave international critics of Indy car racing more ammunition for their argument that the American single-seat scene is nothing more than a joke. He joined Michael Andretti, Alex Zanardi and Cristiano da Matta as U.S. open-wheel champions who flopped in F1. CART champions Jacques Villeneuve and Juan Pablo Montoya were more successful in their transition to F1, but also arguably failed to achieve their potential on a long-term basis.

The common denominator between Zanardi, da Matta and Bourdais is that they were all extremely active in terms of working with their engineers to get the most out of the car. In F1, they were forced to adapt their driving to the car they were given, with little or no input into changing the car setup. In American racing, drivers and engineers work in partnership, rather than hierarchy.

"In Champ Cars we also had a lot more things to play with in terms of car setup than we do in Formula 1," Bourdais said in an interview with ITV in 2008. "F1 is very much optimized, and whether the car functions or not, by design -- by concept -- it's not adjustable. Everything on the suspension is the way it is; if you want to change the castor, for example, you need a new suspension. So that limits the influence and the impact of driver comments in some respects. It's very different, and obviously when you fight a problem, it's much harder to find solutions and it takes much longer as well."

It's fascinating to speculate how Bourdais would fare if he was able to return to America with a team like Newman/Haas/Lanigan. Now that more than half of IndyCar Series races are run on road or street courses, he would obviously be a force on those tracks. But it's easy to forget that Sebastien won four of his eight oval starts, seven of which came against an admittedly depleted CART/Champ Car field. He was headed to a top-5 finish in his only Indianapolis 500 start (2005) when he was taken out in a late crash.

Craig Hampson, who was Bourdais' engineer at NHLR from 2003-07, believes that Bourdais was rapidly improving as an oval driver.

"Sebastien did struggle at Milwaukee the first couple of years, but I think the Indy 500 effort [in 2005] helped him at Milwaukee greatly," Hampson told me a couple of years ago. "You could tell at Milwaukee that he got it. ... He understood what to do now and what the car's capabilities needed to be so he could do well in the race.

"For sure the best win for me [in 2006] was Milwaukee, because we sat on pole at a place where people really didn't expect us to and we far and away had the fastest car. We had some adversity in the race with the cut tire, but we came back from that. It was a pretty entertaining race with Nelson Philippe, and all in all that was our finest moment of the year."

Bourdais will compete for Peugeot in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June and probably at the ALMS Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta in the fall. But other than that, he has nothing else lined up for the rest of 2010 -- a travesty for one of the most talented open-wheel drivers to come along in recent years.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Andretti uninjured after IRL wreck

( 3-14-10)

SAO PAULO (AP) -- Marco Andretti escaped injury after being involved in a scary accident at the start of the Sao Paulo Indy 300 on Sunday.

The car of Brazil's Mario Moraes spun and crashed on the back of Andretti's slowing car as they approached the first chicane after the start.

Moraes' car finished on top of Andretti's and they slid tangled for several yards. The bottom of Moraes' car appeared to be touching Andretti's helmet.

It took more than five minutes for officials to remove Moraes' car so the medical team could attend to Andretti, who eventually was able to walk away from the scene.

Andretti was briefly taken to the medical center and then released.

The American driver said he slowed because he could not see in front of him as other drivers made contact approaching the first turn and threw a lot of dust into the air.

"It's obviously dusty,'' he said. "I think if you have any common sense, you're not going to stay flat out if you can't see the car ahead of you.''

There was extra dust at the Sambadrome straight because officials had to add grooves to the concrete surface overnight after drivers complained that the track was slippery and unsafe.

The track was washed several times, but not all of the dust was removed ahead of the race.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

2010 Atlantic Championship Season Placed on Hold

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (March 3, 2010) - Due to the downturn in the global economy and the subsequent shortage of funded drivers, the Cooper Tires Presents the Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda will go on hiatus until global conditions improve. The Atlantic Championship has and always will be committed to providing the best driver development series available to the world’s next generation of top-tier driving talent. Unfortunately however this experience cannot be upheld through 2010. Series officials will continue working throughout the year to develop new ideas for the future that will add value to drivers and also lower costs associated with competing in a world-class racing series like the Atlantic Championship.

“It is with a heavy heart and only after deep consideration that I have accepted the recommendations from the stakeholders in the Series to pause efforts related to the continuation of the 2010 Atlantic Championship season,” said Ben Johnston, Owner, Atlantic Championship. “As a former Atlantic racer myself, the Atlantic Championship means a great deal to me personally. I know what this series means to the drivers of the world as well as the heritage that Atlantics carries with it and I will not devalue the world-class experience that each one of our drivers is entitled to just to save face during these tough economic times. I am committed to this series now as much as ever and will assure Atlantic fans that the Atlantic Championship office will be working during the down time in order to deliver an unparalleled racing offering when economic conditions allow.”

“All of us at Mazda are disappointed that the Atlantic Championship will be on hiatus this year,” said Robert Davis, Senior Vice President, Mazda North American Operations. “It was no doubt a very difficult decision made by the Atlantic management in conjunction with the teams. Mazda has greatly enjoyed the past four years of working with outstanding drivers, teams, and partners and we remain committed to our ongoing support of up-and-coming drivers in both open-wheel and sports car racing."

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

It's a brand-new era for the IRL ... again

(by John Oreovicz 3-9-10)

INDIANAPOLIS -- For the second time in three seasons, the Indy Racing League is entering a brand-new era.

The shake-up that occurred in early 2008 was inevitable, when the IRL absorbed most of what remained of the Champ Car World Series to create a unified open-wheel championship for the first time in more than a decade.

The changes for 2010 are more surprising, to say the least. The most obvious (and most positive) change is the addition of a title sponsor in the form of the Phillips Van Heusen Group and its Izod brand. The Izod IndyCar Series will be branded as "The Fastest Race in the World," and sports television viewers no doubt already have seen plenty of the 30-second commercials promoting the upcoming season.

A potentially more significant change is that IRL founder Tony George is no longer involved in the series in any capacity. The family-dominated board of Hulman & Co. voted George out of his CEO position with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corp. in June 2009, and he resigned his remaining board seats in 2010. George elected not to continue as the leader of the IRL and, citing a lack of sponsorship, his Vision Racing team has withdrawn from the IndyCar Series.

The new man in charge is 43-year-old Randy Bernard, the former head of the Professional Bull Riders tour. Bernard has never attended an Indy car race, but he has impressed those he has dealt with early in his tenure as IRL chief with his grasp on the issues he faces in his new job.

"I'm not going to try to come here and pretend that I'm going to become an open-wheel racing expert in one year or two years," he said. "But what I'm going to tell you [is] I'll market the sport the very best we can. If we can't fit more people in those seats and the ratings don't go up, then I would say I didn't do my job."

What Bernard inherits is arguably the most exciting and competitive form of motorsports in America, with a century of history and proud tradition. But Indy car racing is also a sport that lost its prestige and identity with the public and the media over the last decade, and it is mired in indecision about how to remake itself for the future.

The IndyCar Series boasts at least seven world-class drivers: Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing; Ryan Briscoe, Will Power and Helio Castroneves of Team Penske; Tony Kanaan of Andretti Autosport; and Justin Wilson of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. All of them could have succeeded in Formula One, but opted to race in America.

Of course, there is also Andretti Autosport driver Danica Patrick, who in many respects is the IndyCar Series' biggest asset. But much of the focus these days -- Patrick's and the coverage she spawns -- is on her burgeoning NASCAR career, and one of Bernard's most important tasks might be convincing Danica to remain primarily an Indy car driver for the long term.

An overall lack of American drivers is another issue Bernard will have to deal with. Patrick and Marco Andretti are the only Americans signed up for a full season of Indy car racing in 2010. Graham Rahal, the youngest pole and race winner in the history of Indy car racing, can't find a sponsored ride, and 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice hasn't had a full-time Indy car gig in three years.

Rahal, who unexpectedly was dropped from his ride with Newman/Haas/ Lanigan Racing in January, is a fan of Bernard's.

"His enthusiasm, energy and ideas are what we've been needing for a long, long time," Rahal said. "He has a lot of energy, passion and excitement, and you can tell that he's done a lot of research. From what I can tell, he's extremely well-connected and well-respected, which is a huge plus for us."

The IRL's strength is its product. It's easy to complain about the 8-year-old Dallara-Honda spec car, but it still produces safe and highly competitive racing in oval or road-racing trim. Teams like Penske, Ganassi and Andretti match the standard of engineering excellence and presentation set by top teams in NASCAR and Formula One.

"What we've tried really hard to do over the last couple of seasons is hone in on what makes our sport different than other forms of motorsports," remarked IRL commercial division president Terry Angstadt. "We continue to have as our attributes speed, technology and innovation, diversity and green.

"We think not only can people relate to some of the driver personalities we have in our paddock, but to the speed of our race cars, the fact that we run 100 percent renewable fuel, and the international makeup of our race car drivers and where we race. So we think we have a pretty good basket of attributes that should attract race fans. And we're building our sponsorship base. We're getting both suppliers and sponsors to invest in our series."

For the first time in the IRL's 15-year history of sanctioning Indy car races, there are more road-racing venues than ovals. Another IRL precedent will be set when the season opener is hosted on a street course in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama is another new road-racing venue on the IndyCar slate, while the loss of an event at Richmond International Raceway brings the total number of races to 17.

With 22 or more cars expected for every race outside of the Indianapolis 500, the IndyCar Series has held steady on car count. But driver turnover remains a concern, and the championship is likely to be fought out exclusively by the five Penske and Ganassi drivers.

Thanks to the sputtering world economy, the IndyCar Series has not experienced the kind of growth that might have been hoped for or expected from the 2008 unification of open-wheel racing. But in most respects, it is still experiencing a growth trend.

The question now is whether a marketing-savvy title sponsor and an open-minded new leader can combine to help restore the level of popularity the sport enjoyed in the 1980s and '90s.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

BAT 2012 proposed IndyCar

Some unknown group calling themselves BAT have come up with just another ugly ass design for the next age Indy Car. Whatever.