Archive | July 2013

Record-breaker in Hungary

F1-Grand-Prix-of-Hungary-Practice-2093448With near-record high temperatures in Budapest on Sunday, the stage was set for some exciting racing at the 2013 Hungarian Grand Prix. MercedesLewis Hamilton walked away with his fourth win in Hungary, tying the winning record of F1 legend Michael Schumacher and surpassing the total number of laps lead, previously held by Ayrton Senna. Hamilton gained his first win of the season, braking a stale 10-race slump since his last win in Austin, Texas. The second Mercedes however was not so lucky. Nico Rosberg retired with an engine fire just 6 laps from the finish, after falling off the pace early on following contact with Romain Grosjean.

Grosjean once again showcased his talents as a young driver. The Frenchman held a top three position throughout the first half of the race until a questionable drive thru penalty set him back to finish 6th. Lotus‘ recovered a podium finish with Kimi Raikkonen, who finished second on the podium, despite Raikkonen qualifying three places behind Grosjean.

Rounding out the podium was Sebastian Vettel, who managed to maintain his points lead in lieu of an undoubtedly challenging race. Vettel battled a damaged front wing as well as KERS failure, identical to the issue which ended Mark Webber‘s Saturday qualifying. Webber rebounded from tenth position on the grid to finish just off the podium in fourth place.

Onto Ferrari, the Scuderia finishes with both drivers in the points: Fernando Alonso at fifth, Felipe Massa at 8th. Both cars seemed to be aggressive but neither could compete with the speed of Red Bull or Lotus. Is it a step back for Ferrari? Definitely not – the team has been hot and cold since Monaco and Sunday’s race builds upon Alonso’s German Grand Prix efforts.

In a strange turn of events, McLaren seem to have recovered quite a lot of speed following the new tire specifications. The Woking-based constructor finished with both cars in scoring position: 7th for Jenson Button and 9th for Sergio Perez. The tire strategy seems questionable to say the least (starting on Mediums then to Softs), but this is the best result we’ve seen from them so far this season. Force India was not so lucky today. Both of its cars were retired, Adrian Sutil very early on after a hydraulic issue and Paul di Resta with only 3 laps to go. Pastor Maldonado finishes 10th, collecting Williams’ first championship point of the season.

Rumors persist surrounding who will be appointed to the Red Bull #2 spot, vacated by Mark Webber at the end of the season. Red Bull has said that Toro Rosso‘s Jean-Eric Vergne is no longer in contention, which leaves the battle between Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo. Raikkonen topped Red Bull’s #1 man today, however Ricciardo fell from 8th on the grid to 13th at race end. Does the young Aussie have the legs to keep up with the front-runners? We think so.

Constructors will close up shop for two weeks, unable to work on the cars at all over this duration. So as they rest up for summer holiday, we hope you do as well!

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There’s Monsters in the Glen

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(more pictures below)

The clock reads 7:29 AM as I pull up to the entrance, but already the beasts have awoken. These creatures have huge wings, howl like Banshees, and spit fire, but you need not look for them in the pages of a fantasy novel. No, these monsters are very much alive, and their presence means only one things – it’s race weekend at Watkins Glen.

This past Fourth of July weekend, the Sports Car Club of America hosted the Majors Super Tour at Watkins Glen International. The race marked the end of the Eastern Conference Majors schedule; a tour encompassing a 12 race series and boy was it one to remember. Clear blue skies made for terrific conditions for drivers to squeeze every last second out of their cars as they screamed around this historic upstate circuit.

Rising above Seneca Lake, “the Glen” has been home to full throttle road racing since 1948, when Cameron Argetsinger organized a twenty-three car race around the outskirts of town, which became the first American road race since the end of World War II. Following a slew of accidents, the town built an official track in 1956, and has held numerous forms of racing since such as NASCAR, IndyCar, Trans-Am, and at it’s pinnacle – Formula One. The Glen served as home of the United States Grand Prix from 1961 to 1980, revered by many as they heyday of Formula One.

Just walking around the circuit was a case of sensory overload. At every turn I could smell that unmistakable whiff of cooked brakes, burnt rubber, and the sting of race fuel. And what a symphony of motorsport! Every ensemble filled the park, with the low bark from the American V8s, the whine from Formula-style cars, the wail of a rotary Mazda, and crackle from carbureted classics. It was truly a wide-eyed, grinning ear-to-ear kind of day.

DSC_0568I caught up with Gary Hutchinson, a driver in the C Sports Racer category, who gave some advice for amateur drivers looking to compete at the Majors level of the SCCA. “Keep pursuing coaching, no matter what level you’re at.” Hutchinson has raced in BMW sedans for over 9 years before climbing into his new track day racer, a black and red Radical SR3. “People lose races by hundredths of a second, a good instructor can help you drop a few tenths – or maybe even a few seconds – in one session.”

This 2013 season also marks the inaugural year of SCCA Majors racing. The trend of the increasing number of events on the Nationals club racing calendar has contributed to fewer and fewer cars entered in each race event, which has lead the SCCA to introduce the Majors class. This class embodies the highest level of sports car racing, bringing the best of the best together to compete at the ultimate level of wheel to wheel racing in the SCCA. But don’t worry, although the Nationals and Majors race events may overlap and combine at some venues – the points gained in both are attributed to their own individual standings. National events will score points for Divisional and National Championships, while Majors points will dictate standings within the four US Majors Conferences (Eastern, Mid-States, Northern, and Western).

Although this new adjustment to the SCCA hierarchy will take some time to adopt fully, seemingly the racers couldn’t be happier. We saw lots of full heats, close racing from front-runners and between stragglers, plus lots of great bring-what-you-got racers. Not everyone in the field is going to score points, but for these guys – getting to show off their cars and lay down their best laps is the real trophy at days end. So if you’ve got a Miata (nearly every driver did – there must have been over 100) or have even the slightest inkling of interest for motor racing, come on down to Watkins Glen and check out an event!

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Vettel wins at home, Lotus excites!

vettel-german-gpThis weekend the F1 calendar took us to James May’s favorite place in the world… the Nurburgring, and what a race it was. Luckily we were spared from the Pirelli fireworks of the British GP as a new kevlar banded tire construction was used. No blowouts were a plus, especially since this drivers statement came out just before practice began. With tire tensions mounting, the weight was on Pirelli this weekend, and they delivered.

Lewis Hamilton looked good in qualifying to edge out the boys and put the Mercedes on pole, but thats about the extent of his dominance. Off the start the W04 was swarmed by the ever dominant Red Bulls of Vettel and Webber. Hamilton slowly made his way back to 5th at the end of lap 60. Sebastian Vettel finally takes a win at his home Grand Prix, but you get the sense that nobody really cared. Just a few weeks ago Vettel’s winning comments were cut short by exuberant Canadian’s chanting “A-LON-SO, A-LON-SO!”

Fernando Alonso put his Ferrari in 4th place thanks to tire strategy. Felipe Massa had another good start, but spun into the gravel and retired early. Mark Webber looked to be in good shape until a catastrophic accident occurred in the pits. Webber’s RB9 was released before his rear right tire was securely fastened and the tire broke free, impacting a cameraman. Thanks to a lengthy safety car, Webber fought his way back from last up to 7th. All the talk is about who will replace Webber at Red Bull, but Ferrari must be accepting CVs for Massa’s spot already this season. Maranello can’t be pleased with his performance.

And now the elephant in the corner. Lotus made a terrific showing on Sunday, locking out the second two podium slots (Kimi Raikkonen followed by Romain Grosjean). Whether it was down to the tires or midseason tweaking, the two E21’s looked mighty quick bearing down on the lead Red Bull. Even Vettel admitted “I’m very happy that the race ended after 60 laps and not 61 or 62.” Raikkonen closes the points gap between Alonso to 7.

McLaren begins to show some signs of life after finishing 6th and 8th (Jenson Button and Sergio Perez), largely in part to stellar driving. It looks like the days are numbered for Button at McLaren. Wonder how he’d fit in as Sebastian’s #2?

Oh yeah, Bianchi’s Marussia was on fire and rolled back across the track. Make’s you wonder what is going on in that factory…