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.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The 2011 Indy Speed Record Farse

( 3-17-11)

Like the author of the attached article noted with respect to Bill Elliott’s NASCAR publicity stunt, Randy Bernard’s proposed “record attempt” at breaking the 14-year-old qualifying record of 237.498 mph set by Arie Luyendyk at the 1996 Indy 500 is “patent nonsense.”

The only way the Rodeo Clown’s ringer could break Luyendyk’s qualifying record would be for him/her to run an ICS-legal race car in an official ICS event at IMS (i.e. in qualifying for the Indy 500). Anything else would be virtually meaningless and certainly wouldn’t be “making history” (in Bernard’s use of the phrase).

Rodeo boy’s proposed stunt meets none of the criteria for a run at Arie’s record: the engine is a special built unit from Honda which is so unique that it hasn’t been durability tested yet, which no doubt means that it is illegal for use in the 2011 ICS; the engine is reportedly going to use boost pressures in excess of those allowed in the 2011 Indy 500; the chassis will reportedly be specially modified for the stunt, so it is illegal as well; and perhaps most relevant of all the “record attempt” will not be made in qualifying for the 500. Additionally, it is not beyond the realm of possibility (given the risks involved) that Bernard has to bring in a special stunt driver to do the job who isn’t even an entrant in the centennial 500.

Moreover, Bernard has missed the thing about Luyendyk’s record which makes it special (assuming it is). It’s not the outright speed, which is what the Rodeo Clown is fixated on, but the circumstances in which the record was set. Arie wasn’t making some stand-alone run at a record, he was a 500 entrant trying to qualify for the big race along with at least thirty-two other entrants. He couldn’t afford to focus on the speed record as his main goal because a mishap or breakdown might disqualify him for the race. Additionally, at least thirty-two other drivers had the same shot at the record at nearly the same time as Luyendyk. In this context, Bernard one-off flier is a joke.

I think it is ironic that thanks to the Idiot Grandson’s attempts to “protect” IMS and its once-iconic race, his league and the 500 are now in the hands of two hucksters – Randy Bernard and IZOD’s Mike Kelly – who know virtually nothing about auto racing in general or the Indy 500 in particular. Both of them have set their sights on wowing supposedly impressionable 18-25-year-olds who are equally ignorant about auto racing with disingenuous publicity stunts. The fly in this ointment is that new fans inevitably look to their peers and/or old fans for validation of their new-found enthusiasms. It won’t take but two seconds for one of the Indy Faithful or a smart-alecky peer to inform the new fan that the “speed record” (assuming one is set) that he/she is so excited about is bogus and that the newbie is an idiot for trusting in Bernard & Kelly’s hype to begin with.

The supposed pinnacle of success for a would-be huckster or snake oil salesman is to sell a refrigerator to an Eskimo. I’ve got one tougher: selling the same Eskimo a second refrigerator after the first one didn't work.



Who holds the world’s closed course record? A.J. Foyt.

Written by George Webster | 16 May 2009

On May 13, Bill Elliot got behind the wheel of a hopped up Mustang in an attempt to set some kind of lap record speed at Talladega. The publicity surrounding this stunt was just another chapter in the sad history of unwarranted claims surrounding “closed course” speed records.

This car had already been taken to Bonneville in an attempt to record an official speed there. Apparently, the car ran one way at over 252 mph but it failed to make the mandatory return run and, hence no official speed was established for the car at Bonneville.

Now the car was reconfigured so that it could run at speed at the Talladega Superspeedway. The press release said that they “would attempt to break the 22-year-old NASCAR speed record held by Bill Elliott. Elliott himself will pilot Hajek’s E-85 Mustang FR500C, which has been reconfigured to NASCAR specs, at Talladega in an attempt to break his 212.089 mph qualifying lap from 1987 at the same track. FIA officials will be on site to verify the attempt and to validate the record.”

The claim that Elliott was going to set some new “NASCAR speed record” has to be patent nonsense. The only way Elliott could set a new NASCAR record would be if he were to run a NASCAR-legal race car in an official NASCAR event – like he did back in 1987. This Mustang running in a private test session met none of these criteria. What the FIA officials were going to validate is a mystery to me – they wold be limited to verifying the speed that was recorded – since there seems to be no kind of FIA record that Elliott could set.

Already, Elliott’s NASCAR record had been bettered here by a NASCAR driver in a NASCAR race car. On June 10, 2004 Rusty Wallace, driving a Penske Dodge race car without the NASCAR-mandated restrictor plate, set a 216 mph lap. Faster than Elliott’s record but it did not meet the requirements to make it a NASCAR lap – even though NASCAR officials were there and they certified the lap speed..

Anyway, this latest publicity stunt ended badly. Elliott went out for a few practice laps and a tire failed sending the car into the wall. Any thoughts of setting speed records are now on hold.

Is there such a thing as an official “closed course record”? Actually the FIA rules has such a category in its regulations but I can’t find any reference to a closed course record in their lists of world speed records. I think any claims to “closed course records’ have to be considered as unofficial – even if the speed has been recorded by an FIA approved authority. (Since I am making the point here that many “closed course record” speed claims are erroneous in some way or other – I should acknowledge that my assertions may be flawed as well even though I believe they are correct.)

Back in the late ‘90s a number of very fast qualifying records were set in the CART series, first at Michigan International Speedway and later at the California Speedway at Fontana. The fastest of these lap records – 241.428 mph – was set by Gil de Ferran at Fontana in 2000. Sloppy journalists and publicists tend to refer to these speed records as “closed course records” without qualification. Actually higher closed course lap speeds had been recorded long before this. These CART speeds stand as record race qualifying lap speeds – and, as such, de Ferran’s lap speed is remarkable.

Going back to Talladega, in 1975, Mark Donahue drove the Can-Am Porsche 917/30 to a lap speed of 221.160 – a true “closed course record”. That’s faster than Wallace’s speed and I believe it still stands as the fastest lap recorded at Talladega. If Elliott wants to set some kind of record with his Mustang, that’s what he should be shooting for.

Mercedes-Benz had an experimental sports car project called the C-III with which they preformed many high speed runs at Nardo, a 7.8-mile circuit in southern Italy. The CIII-IV version was built to beat Donahue’s record and it succeeded, setting a new record lap speed of 250.918 mph in May 1979. Note that this was twenty years before de Ferran set his 241 mph qualifying lap record at Fontana.

But a four-cylinder Olds engine mounted in the rear of a streamlined Indy car chassis went even faster; propelling A.J. Foyt to the current closed course record. Running on the 7.7-mile Firestone test track at Fort Stockton, Texas, he recorded a 257.123 mph lap speed. To the best of my knowledge this still stands as the fastest ever lap run on a closed course. I suspect that this “record” is unofficial for lack of the required FIA supervision of the record run.

Good luck to Bill Elliott. I hope that he betters his old 212 mph at Talladega. I even hope that he beats Donahue’s 221 mph Talladega lap record. But, please, no more talk of him setting some kind of “closed course record” NASCAR-style or not.

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