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.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The current 2012 Dudlara timeline as outlined by Cotman

May 2011: Two completely different mock ups of the car will be on display at IMS to show the range of its possibilities (read extremes).

Would-be aero kit manufacturers are “open” to announce their “intention” to become aero kit manufacturers.

May 2011-late July 2011: The would-be aero kit manufacturers can try to sell their vaporware kits to potential customers; they better hurry because at some point Cotman threatens to impose a “hard deadline” on joining their ranks.

Somewhere in here the “brain trust” at 16th & Jonestown is supposed to announce which of three versions of the car’s specifications they are going with and hand them off (when “the time is right”) to the aero kit manufacturers.

Late June-July 2011: The Dudlara-Honda prototype takes to the track in testing to finalize the details of the production car. By necessity the prototype and its spare parts are manufactured in Italy.

Late August-September 2011: The engine manufacturers start their testing with the new car – which due to the fact that the Indianapolis Dudlara factory isn’t scheduled for completion until October-November 2011, will probably also be built in Italy.

November 1, 2011: The promised opening date for the Indianapolis Dudlara factory if there are complications (note: there are always complications).

December 2011: Each IICS team is issued ONE Dudlara safety cell and discounted aero kit. Every one of these will be manufactured in the Indianapolis Dudlara factory.

January-February 2012: The teams will receive their second and third Dudlaras; all presumably with the Dudlara aero kit (which won’t be discounted; i.e. get ready to pay 75 large).

May 2012: All the wonderful aero kits will debut at the Speedway. Hopefully, the Pagoda will have decided on the car’s final specifications by then.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Vasser urges holding off

(by Obi wan 4-26-11)

I don’t see a probability of a variety of aero kits beyond the one that is going to accompany the Dudlara and perhaps one from Chevrolet (aka Penske). To see why, read Cotman’s muddled outline for how and when the kits will be produced:

The intent at the moment is to allow aero kit manufacturers to announce their intent to participate from May 2011 onwards, so they’ll be open to announce their intent to participate in 2012 and probably have a three or four month period where people can decide if they want it or not. It's going to be, there has to be a hard deadline eventually. People need time to go about design and manufacturing. And ultimately supply. I would say I have two or three different versions written right now. Really, very shortly, there's a couple of things that I kind of need to see how they fall into place and that will directly relate to which option we pick. But everything is on schedule and I think, like most things, people want information as soon as they can get it and we’re in a position to provide it. But we'll provide it at the right time. I don’t want to provide it and then be forced to make a change two weeks later.

So, according to Cotman aero kit manufacturers will “be open to announce their intent [i.e. a resolve or determination to do (something)] from May 2011 onwards” and then they [manufacturers] will “probably have a three or four month period where people [read customers] can decide if they want [to buy] it or not.” Cotman goes on to say that there’s “going to be a hard deadline [to announce one’s intent] eventually” because “people [manufacturers] need time to go about design and manufacturing” of the aero kits.

Which immediately raises the question of what the aero kit manufactures are going to be selling to prospective customers between May 2011, when they get to announce their intent to become a manufacturer, and August or September 2011 when Cotman says they will need additional time to design and manufacture their product (aero kits)??? Taking Cotman literally, the aero kit manufacturers will only have their “intent” to sell. In the real world, this likely means that Cotman and his bosses in the pagoda will finally decide on the exact aero kit “option” to finalize – according to the quote he has two or three versions (of the aero specifications) right now – but Cotman et al won’t release the final version “until the time is right;” which sounds like the end of May at the I500. Then, assuming the aero kit manufacturers are given the specification in May 2011, they have until August or September (when the engine manufacturers get to start testing) to brainstorm their ideas for spiffy-looking aero kits on their computers and then try to sell artist’s renderings of their ideas to potential clients. Will that work? Probably not.

Here’s why. Cotman et al are exhibiting confusion about what the function of the aero kits is supposed to be. Their main notion, expressed several times in Cotman interviews, is that the aero kits are supposed to uniquely “brand” the Dudlara “safety cell” so that a person can tell at a glance if it is a Dudlara safety cell or a Honda (branded) one or a Chevy (branded) one or a Lotus (branded) one. This is supposed to give the fans the diversity of equipment that they are clamoring for. However, Cotman goes on to assure us that some of the aero kit manufacturers will be other than auto manufacturers; rumors floated by the pagoda name NASA, Boeing, Oreca, and Swift. Okay, but these non-automaker aero kit manufacturers have a BIG problem. They’re not selling their potential customers a brand of automobile; rather they have to sell PERFORMANCE. The teams who opt to run a non-automaker aero kit have only one reason to do so: the kit performs better than the one that goes with the engine they are using. So, let’s say you’re an also-ran IICS team owner and you’ve leased your engines from FKK/Cosworth/Lotus. Lotus, for one, is probably going to want you to run an aero kit that identifies (brands) your car as a Lotus (otherwise, why are they funding an IICS program?). Lotus will probably give you a lower cost engine lease if you use their brand of aero kit (or conversely penalize you with a higher cost one if you don’t use theirs). So, it’s going to cost you in more ways than one to run a Lotus engine in your Dudlara safety cell but with somebody else’s aero kit. I can see only one reason (besides sponsorship from an aero kit company) why you would do that: the NASA or Boeing or Oreca or Swift aero kit makes your racecar perform better (faster, corner better) than the Lotus aero kit, so you’re willing to pay a premium to use it.

Ah, but the fly in the ointment is that according to Cotman the only 2012 car being tested before September or October 2011 is going to be the Dudlara-Honda prototype, which is trying to nail down the production specifications of the new car. Come September or October, the engine manufacturers are going to get a car each to begin to field test their engines and especially their installations. But the teams aren’t going to get a car – one each – until December 2011. SO, where are the various aero kit manufacturers going to get a car to do aerodynamic testing of their aero kits? Cotman glosses over this problem for the engine/car manufacturers by saying that they are supposedly already testing their engines on dynos as we speak; Honda is, Ilmor might be, but it is highly unlikely that Lotus-Cosworth is up and running. Be that as it may, Cotman quickly acknowledges that dyno testing is not enough. The engine makers have to test their engines in a real racecar on a real racetrack in real time to learn all the things they are going to need to know in order to succeed.

The same is especially true of the aero kit manufacturers. Their computer CFD analysis and CAD/CAM software can tell them only so much; scale model wind tunnel testing a little more; but to nail down their performance envelope they need to test the full-size aero kit in the real world. Are they going to be able to do that (according to Cotman)? No. They haven’t even got hard dimensional data for their computers yet; and they’re not scheduled to introduce their new aero kits until May 2012! Cotman and his bosses put so little thought into this that they don't even have a part-time staff aerodynamicist on their payroll.

Imagine you are a Boeing or NASA or Oreca or Swift salesman plying your wares between May 2011 and whenever the hell it is that your firm can get its hands on a real Dudlara safety cell to begin real-world testing of your aero kit and you approach, say, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing to try to entice them into buying one of your $75,000 aero kits. What have you got to show them? Maybe some 3D CAD drawing and/or an artist’s rendering of your aero kit. First thing that is likely to come out of their mouths (after greeting) is a question: “How does your [fill in the blank] aero kit compare in performance to the stock Dudlara aero kit and/or the Chevy and/or Lotus?” What are you going to say? The truth is, you don’t know; the best you can say is “We hope so.” Is that wish enough to get D&R to part with 75 large to buy your vaporware aero kit? I don’t think so.

But that’s just the start of the problems. Who are you going to get to test your aero kit when you finally get your hands on a mule and have some prototype aero kit pieces knocked together? In all probability you’re going to have to wait until the teams have all gotten their second and third cars before the League will give you access to one. Are you going to put together a beaucoup expensive test team to wring out your product (because most of the regular teams are probably going to be busy testing their own equipment)? How much are you willing to spend to fine-tune your computer-generated prototype aero kit in testing and then gear up to mass produce the kits? Especially, when you’ll probably be lucky to sell a half-dozen of them? If the design is a dog, you won’t sell any. What’s the big pot of gold at the end of the rainbow worth? Six times $75,000 or $450,000? Are you willing to spend $4.5 million to prove the potential worth of a $450K project?

Of course, the propagandists at 16th & Georgetown are probably going to prattle on about the “priceless prestige” of having your aero kit in the I500; but we know that’s a crock; nobody is watching and fewer people care. Your money would be better spend on a minute advertisement during a NASCAR Cup race (and keep the change).

And that’s why the “other” aero kits aren’t going to materialize (IMO). No team is going to use an off-brand aero kit without it first being demonstrated to them that it can win. That’s a classic Catch 22: One can’t win without the aero kit being on a competitive racecar and one can’t get it on a competitive racecar without it winning a race (or at least leading one for real). To get your spiffy new aero kit on a competitive car, you’re probably going to have to sponsor a team; i.e. pay them to use your kit. But wait! Isn’t this supposed to be a business? Aren’t Oreca and Swift, for two, supposedly in this to make a profit (they already have a name and a brand)? How are they going to do that if they have to pay $5 million (minimum) to sponsor a team to get a half-million back in gross revenues? It’s that sort of business plan that has nearly bankrupted the clueless Hulman-Georges. Are there really other rich people (or firms) out there as stupid as they are such that they’d be willing to pour their limited resources down a rat hole in imitation of the Hoosiers (rhymes with Losers)?

This whole Indy farce is like that hoary old joke: “How do you make a small fortune in auto racing? Answer: start out with a large fortune.” The Hulman-Georges “business plan” just flushed more than a half billion dollars down a sewer – never to be seen again – with a strategy that calls for paying dollars to earn back pennies. It’s conceivable that there is another sucker out there with bucks – ones he/she no doubt inherited – willing to buy into the H-G’s pipe dream and lose his/her shirt/blouse; but more than one, or public companies (besides GM)? No way!

I’ll believe it when I see it.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

On the state of American Open Wheel Racing

(by Elmersboy 4-23-11)

I think it's not just a question of the Hatfields and McCoys perpetually fighting. It's been so long that no one else cares, and they've moved on to other things that fully engage their attention. At best, AOWR [American Open Wheel Racing] is like someone you haven't seen since high school calling and asking to come over.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Cottman admitts NO 2012 kit-car debut Indy

( 4-22-11)

Honestly, I think it is two things:

One, from the moment the League was formed is has been fueled by promises. Next year is always going to be its “breakout year” and there’s always some new reason given for false hope.

Ordinarily, this game of three-card Monte could only go on for so long and then the available suckers would wise up and quit playing and the whole con would come to a grinding halt.

However, the second reason is that we have a unique situation in which AOWR was once the nation’s most popular motor sport and hugely valuable and this gave validity to the hope that a turnaround was always just around the corner and the effort would be worth the expense. Especially as many potential sponsors both inside and outside the sport were unclear about the reasons for the sport’s sudden decline; save a general belief that the Split was responsible for it. Hence, “reunification” became another impossible goal and another false promise; i.e. “just wait until we unify, then we’ll have our breakout season…yada, yada, yada.”

Still, I don’t believe even the most optimistic backers of the sport would have deluded themselves for so long if not for one unprecedented circumstance: the architects of this nightmare, the largely insane Hulman-George family were willing to spend nearly all their inherited wealth – perhaps as much as $600 million or more – in support of their folly. For a while this sort of spending was matched by Pook and the CART public company, who poured the $100 million IPO money into the fray. When CART went bankrupt, the Amigos stepped in and infused another $50-100 million into the sport trying to turn things around. Given the contributions of the sport’s major stakeholders on both sides of the conflict – e.g. auto manufacturers, Oldsmobile, Chevrolet, Nissan, Toyota, Honda, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, etc. – one could easily imagine that more than a billion and a half dollars was collectively spend in trying to keep the sport alive and somehow return it to its former glory.

I think Honda remains in the sport because a series of incredibly stupid corporate decisions have left them holding the bag for the sport’s other manufacturers and they keep hoping that their next decision will get them out of the corner they’ve painted themselves into. Firestone is easy; they bankrolled both sides of the Split so as to inherit the sport and remained too long at the party. Their recently aborted departure means that they have finally given up all hope of the sport’s recovery and are only remaining to try to make themselves whole and keep their R&D arm intact. PVH/IZOD are simply clueless suckers who’ve been sold on the idea that marketing can sell anything, no matter how rancid, and they simply can’t believe that the sport is currently worthless (except for the money they are pumping into it). I expect an agonizing reappraisal (to quote an old 7-Up commercial) will come sometime after the I500.

And that’s really the key; even the Hulman-Georges have made no real plans beyond the centennial I500. This is their “make or break” deadline, which the Idiot Grandson admitted approximately three years ago. The “Centennial Era” was supposed to magically transform the league into a success as everyone got misty about Indy and its traditions (most of which have now been discarded or soiled) and remembered how much the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” meant to the nation and Indiana. The family even sold their last motorsport assets outside of Naptown (e.g. Chicagoland) to get the league to the 2011 I500 and one last roll of the dice.

Well, guess what, it ain’t happening. The supposedly “bulletproof” I500 is dying of self-inflicted gunshot wounds. Moreover, 2011 is supposed to be a year for celebration and building momentum for a renewed vision of the sport. The loonies at 16th & Jonestown have the “partners” they’ve been dreaming about all these years in IZOD and Versus/NBC, who are knocking themselves out to market the sow’s ear League to the general public, and the results get worse month by month as the consumers en masse turn their back on the unwanted motor sport product from Indy.

The only way that the sport will be reborn to the H-G’s specifications in 2012 is if a lot of somebody’s (or just the family) spent a boatload of cash for all new equipment. The only thing that is going to induce them to do that is the promise of a rich return and the League is basically all out of promises (that anyone will believe). If, for any reason, the 2012 car is delayed a year or more…they’re dead. The classless clowns from Terre Haute literally can’t afford ONE more season of television with 0.02 ratings and empty grandstands without a believable promise to sell or hope for the future.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Owners are bitching

( 4-21-11)

I think these first few signs of team owner unrest are just the tip of the iceberg. The Hulman-George family exercised their control of the sport with respect to the 2012 car in exactly the same way that Tony George proposed he rule Indycar when he tried to buy the sport in November 1991: he would hand pick a bunch of puppet “advisors” and then, supposedly after consultation with them, he would unilaterally make all the decisions and the team owners were to be given only the choice of playing along or quitting the sport. The crucial difference is that then (1991) the sport had multiple brand-name sponsors and worldwide popularity and Tony presumed that they would pay for his inevitable mistakes; just as they had at the Indy 500 whenever the Hoosier family screwed the pooch.

The Gomers are so gullible (and stupid) that the family and the Rodeo Clown have them convinced that the team owners had some input into the 2012 specifications – which it should be noted have yet to be completed (hence the delay of the show cars) – and thus they think the owners are being unreasonable in objecting to its implementation now. This played into the Gomers’ near universal paranoia about “evil team owners” (which is almost a requirement to become a card-carrying Gomer). Additionally, Cotman made it clear in his most recent interview that almost no one outside of the Dallara factory has been able to proceed with plans and/or designs for the 2012 car because he (and the League) are keeping them “close to their chest” (meaning secret). Thus, the Gomers don’t see the contradiction between the team owners’ supposed participation in creating the new specifications and the fact that they won’t know what they are until League officials like Ropin’ Randy present the specs to them as a fait accompli. In short, the first that the team owners will know that there might be something they should object to will be when the nearly completed project element is presented to them in piecemeal fashion; which is exactly what is taking place now.

For us haters the beauty of this situation is that the iron-fisted control of the Hoosier family is an illusion; and without their realizing it the team owners have retained veto power over the entire process.

The reality of the 2012 Indycar is that the Hulman-Georges had their minions draw up a list of 110 possible “advisors”, who once selected by them would be given eighty days to “report their recommendations to Bernard, who would then make the final decision on the series’ new chassis and engine.” That, of course, was a crock; Ropin’ Randy no more made that decision than I did. Instead, the Hoosier family had already mapped out a select list of favored firms and old friends (aka “partners”) who would be given the contracts to produce the new car. The H-G’s had a shopping list of bullet points – chief among them being that the new car had to cost half of what the current car costs – and the ICONIC seven-member committee’s only task was to suggest how the family’s list might be turned into reality. Once that was accomplished, the family took it from there and unilaterally negotiated the contracts for the new car.

Right there, however, is where the family is most vulnerable: because they refused to share power and/or ownership of the next generation of Indycar, it is their name(s) and collateral on the contracts and not the team owners. Yet, the arrogant Terre Haute family is certain that they can force the team owners to buy their pig in a poke and save them from financial ruin. Unfortunately for them, Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves and the team owners are relatively free to buy or NOT BUY the H-G’s 2012 pipe dream. And, contrary to the assumption of most Gomers, not just anyone can come in off the street and run an Indycar team no matter how cheap the equipment is.

As if that wasn’t enough bad news, the H-G’s screwed up as usual and already the new car is starting to approach the cost of the old car with such things as an uncapped tire supply and expensive kit parts and it hasn’t even turned a wheel in anger yet. The bottom line here is that the H-G’s have pinned their hopes for getting out from under their ruinous support of their boutique motor sport on a cheap 2012 racecar and that is more and more proving to be a false hope. Meanwhile, all the external financial support for the league is being put in jeopardy by the public’s wholesale rejection of the current Indycar product. The chances are very good that before the end of the 2011 ICS season that one or more of the league’s primary sponsors will announce their intention to disengage from the sport. If that happens the ICS will continue to exist solely on the basis of the Hulman-George checkbook; and their bank account is getting thinner with each passing day.

Couldn’t happen to a more deserving bunch of coconuts.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

IndyCar grasping at straws

Hot Wheels, Indy 500 team up for race day stunt

( 4-12-11)

Hot Wheels is bringing its miniature world to life at this year's Indianapolis 500.

The toy brand that produces everything from tiny cars to customized tracks will install a 100-foot door with an attached orange ramp at the historic speedway - hoping to break the world record jump by a four-wheel vehicle.

"It is a feat of engineering, and it's a jaw-dropping sight when you see it," vice president of marketing Simon Waldron told The Associated Press.

There's no doubt the stunt will grab attention.

Organizers plan to suspend the large door, which will include a huge replica of the brand's so-called V-Drop off the door. It will take three weeks to put everything in place.

The stunt will take place in the fourth turn of Indianapolis Motor Speedway just hours before the May 29 race begins. Company officials expect the driver, whose identity is being kept secret until after the stunt, to break Johnny Greaves' current world record of 301 feet.

The driver could make more than one attempt if necessary and if conditions permit.

The door will be visible to fans throughout qualifying, which begins May 21, and all of race day.

"We'll set up a perimeter to keep people away before the race," Indianapolis Motor Speedway CEO Jeff Belskus said. "Once it's over they'll be able to go back, but the large structure will still be there."

Though the driver will not be jumping over cars, motorcycles or any other props, organizers were concerned about obstructed views for fans and television cameras.

Waldron said they have come up with solutions though he did not provide details. Belskus insists the view shouldn't be a concern for those seated in the grandstands and that the track intends to sell ticket packages for the stunt.

Waldron is hoping this doesn't become a once-in-a-lifetime event at the 2.5-mile oval, which celebrates the 100th anniversary of the first Indy 500 this year. He'd like it to become a part of the track's annual tradition.

Hot Wheels is a part of Mattel Inc.'s Wheels unit.