Tuesday, 30 April 2013

My Group A Touring Car Favourites...Part 1...

While I enjoy watching the modern day spectacle of the BTCC and WTCC, I often find myself thinking back to the final days of the Group A Touring Car regulations that were in use before the introduction of the FIA Class 2 / Super Touring regulations that replaced them

Ironically as this era was winding down, it was also my introduction to Touring Car racing. So I thought I would share a few thoughts with you all about it.

My first love in the Group A era is the Ford Sierra RS500. This is the case due to two facts. A: My Dad drove a Ford Capri and many of my school friends parents had Ford Escorts and Sierra's. B: Andy Rouse drove one in the BTCC 1987 WTCC and 1988 ETCC and was my first Touring Car hero. So Ford was sealed as my first manufacturer love.

Seeing the 1988 battle at Brands Hatch between Rouse in his Kaliber sponsored RS500 and Steve Soper in his works Texaco sponsored RS500 is a memory that never goes away. They blitzed the field and were locked in their own battle for the lead race long. It was enthralling to see Rouse overcome Soper through Pilgrims Drop and Hawthorn Hill, only for Soper to fight back at Druids.

Soper and Rouse clashed 4 times in 1988. Soper won their first encounter at Thruxton. This was due to Rouse using softer tyres than Soper on the abrasive Thruxton surface. However Rouse won at their second encounter at Brands Hatch. This was due to Rouse's Sierra running a higher boost.

Round 3 took place at Silverstone, scene of the 1988 Tourist Trophy, which was also a round of the ETCC. Ford needed a win from either of the Eggenberger Texaco Sierra's to seal the manufacturers title...

However, things didnt exactly go to plan...

During the race weekend the works Eggenberger cars faced stiff competition. Australian Dick Johnson took part with 2 RS500's, both built by his own team. Andy Rouse entered 2 RS500's as well and the lead of the race was contested by Rouse, Soper and Johnson before the driver changes took place. Johnson had held a comfortable lead until that point while Rouse fought with the Texaco Ford's for 2nd.

Johnson suffered overheating issues and fell out of the lead fight, leaving Rouse and the Texaco Ford's to fight it out. Now remember, a win for either Texaco entries seals the manufacturer titles. Well Rouse had other ideas...

He took the fight to both cars and took the lead of the race, keeping it in the process to win the race. Ford were unhappy with this and pushed every effort to seal the ETCC title before the end of the season. They suceeded in doing this while BMW's Roberto Ravaglia took the drivers title. Shortly after the ETCC was put to rest by the FIA due to the spiralling costs of the Group A Evolution cars that were racing.

However, Eggenberger took revenge in the final envounter, the BTCC Finale at Silverstone and it was Sopers team mate Gianfranco Brancatelli that denied Rouse win number 10 in the race. History records Rouse winning 9 out of the 12 BTCC rounds that year but due to the 4 class system Class B driver Frank Sytner won the overall title in his BMW Finance M3. Rouse finished 3rd in the title behind Class D driver Phil Dowsett.

Again in 1989 and 1990, the Sierra dominated the races outright taking the overall race wins. Jerry Mahoney, Robb Gravett, Tim Harvey and Laurence Bristow offered Rouse the stiffest competition in the last years of Class A. Gravett won the 1990 title, beating Rouse in a Dick Johnson built RS500.

However again due to the complicated BTCC Class system, John Cleland won the 1989 title in his Class C Vauxhall Astra. Even though Rouse won races from the front, he was often defeated by the Class system where win in your own class was equal to the overall race win.

Even now, I recall how the sight of those 300bhp monsters had me hooked as I watched the highlights programmes on a Saturday Afternoon on BBC Grandstand. Spitting flames on gear changes and twitching through every corner as the power poured through the rear wheels. An awesome sight. Often I would be out in the garden afterwards playing with my toy cars in my sandpit.

Its amazing how many times my Ford Sierra's won the races in that sandpit...

The Sierra wasn't just a dominant force in the BTCC, WTCC and ETCC. But it was also the car to beat abroad in the German Touring Car Championship or DTM, with german Klaus Ludwig winning the 1988 title in a Ford and the Eggenberger Texaco Team winning races outright in the 1987 WTCC and 1988 ETCC.

So that was one of my favourite Group A Touring Cars. What I did plan on was writing about my other favourite car, the BMW M3. However this one blog is long enough so I'll write about that next time.

Besides...that Kettle is calling...



Monday, 29 April 2013

WTCC...All Change Please...All Change...

Well the two World Touring Car Championship races from the Slovakiaring at the weekend produced some excellent racing and two more different winners for the 2013 season in Gabriele Tarquini and Tom Coronel.

Yes, thats right Coronel...I'll explain that one later...

Honda's mandate for the 2013 WTCC season was simple. Win races and titles. Thats it. So the testing on the car this year has been aggressive to make sure these targets are acheived.

However, the evidence of this working was shown with not only with the Works Honda's taking a 1-2 finish in Race 1 but also with Zengo Motorsports Norbert Michelisz taking 3rd in the Works assisted Customer Honda. The Honda's have shown pace at Monza and Marrakech (Tarquini took Pole Position at Marrakech for Race 1) and it was only a matter of race weekends before wins were scored.

What was also evident was that the Chevrolets suffered. Muller wrung the neck of the Chevrolet Cruze in both races to fight against the Honda Civic's but they had an answer for everything he tried. Chilton had his hands full fighting off Norbert in Race 2 while Nash, MacDowall and Nykjaer spent both races fending off each other or, in the case of Race 1, Nash defending from Tom Coronel in the lighter BMW.

Now remember that Yvan Muller has driven and developed the Cruze since he joined the RML Chevrolet Team in 2010 and that Yvan is arguably the best driver on the grid. So he knows what he can do with the car. However now that the works support has gone, Muller now has a fight on his hands for the drivers title that he could lose...to his good friend Tarquini.

It is clear already that Tarquini can now fight with Muller for the Drivers Title. He has a works car that is fast and young with an agressive development underway and he reduced the points gap last weekend to Muller and that gap could well be reduced again in Hungary this weekend coming.

In a previous WTCC Blog post, I have  mentioned about how clean both Tarquini and Muller have raced against in previous seasons. This is due to their friendship off track as well as on track. Normally there is no contact between them when fighting for position.

Well, that piece of contact finally happened. In Race 1, Tarquini gave Muller a light tap on the rear left corner and this had Muller sideways. After the race, there were words exchanged between the two drivers. But this wont be the last time this year...

As I said earlier, Coronel won Race 2...at a canter. The reason for this is simple. Since BMW left the WTCC at the end of 2010, support for the customer teams has dropped off the face of the earth. They have built and minimally developed the 1.6 litre turbo, so added with the heavy weight of the BMW Chassis makes the car the slowest on the grid.

However, onwards from last weekend, The BMW's can now have Carbon Fibre doors. This allows the car to be lighter and more competitive against the other WTCC cars. So with Race 2 Pole Position, Tom got an excellent start and controlled the race from the front. He took a well deserved win for ROAL Motorsport and showed that the car could take more wins.

I'm going to say this because its true. BMW made a mistake leaving the WTCC with their works team. But thats a debate that will go on for a while...

Huffy showed excellent pace in his SEAT, starting 17th in Race 1 (due a penalty) and 4th in Race 2. His race 1 fight with fellow brit James Thompson was entertaining and fun to watch. But his Race 2 fight with Muller and Tarquini was yet another reminder of his close fights from 2011 and 2012 when he was Muller's team mate in the Works Chevy's.

However, as is the trait of the Slovakiaring, his front tyres gave up several laps from the end. Muller and Tarquini were through and Huffy had to defend from Monteiro in the 2nd Works Honda. Its obvious that the Munnich Motorsport Guys are quickly getting to grips with the SEAT Leon in WTCC Trim. There are podiums waiting for Huff and Marc Basseng in those SEAT's this year...

Speaking of Thompson, the Lada suffered at this circuit. He was on fightback duties in both races and happily fought against a trio of BMW's in Race 2. The problem is that the team havent tested at the circuit before and this did not show the benefits of the lighter weight given the the Lada. Its the lightest car on the grid!

However Thompson raced the Granta Sport at Hungary last year, so I'm going to stick out my neck and say that he will take a podium finish this weekend.

You heard it here first...

The award for worst luck of the season goes to Tom Boardman and Special Tuning Racing. In 2013, STR is running just one SEAT Leon and unfortunately Tom has been in the wars.

At Monza he was hit in Race 2, breaking a steering arm, a notorious weakness on the Leon. At Marrakech in Morning Warm Up, he hit a wall at 120mph and badly damaged the car, ruling him out of both races. At the Slovakiaring he went through 4 engine changes, rendering the weekend to a test session only. Hopefully Tom will be more competitive next time out at Hungary. As the song goes, the only way is up...

So with the next 2 races at the Hungaroring on Sunday you can be assured of one thing. The track will be full of fans rooting for a home win for Norbert Michelisz in his Honda. He did it last year in the BMW and the place erupted. So with the ever improving performance of the Civic, I'll also stick my neck out and say Norbert will win on home turf.

Now this weekend its not only WTCC in action from the Hungaroring in Hungary (officially the 2nd biggest event after the Hungarian Grand Prix at the track) but also the BTCC is in action at Thruxton. So its Tintops weekend!

I'm sure I've been to Thruxton before...

Already I can hear the groans from the missus about the amount of touring car racing thats on this weekend alone, that we watch. However the DTM starts its season off at the Hockenheimring (I'll be cheering on Priaulx, Farfus and Glock), the Aussie V8 Supercars are in action and the Swedish Touring Car Championship gets itself underway after another rocky off season for the series.

Its a pity that the DTM isnt live on a Channel I already pay for...and I don't pay for ESPN. I have no intention of paying £10 for 1 channel that will be dropped by Sky at the end of July. I did enjoy the ITV4 highlights last year,  however I am reliably informed that they wont be showing DTM highlights via their twitter feed.


Anyway, I'll leave you to your evening and remember its only 5 days until the Touring Cars are racing again!!!



Saturday, 27 April 2013

AGH Images...

Hello fellow blog followers.

This may sound cheesy, but I have been asked to do something by my stepson Aaron and I feel this is a good cause.

On his 18th birthday this year we gave him an expensive camera as a birthday present. This was due to his enormous interest in Photography which began after his first trip to a BTCC event in October 2010.

Since then Aaron has taken many Photo's from BTCC Events in 2011 and 2012. Recently he has also begun taking pictures of the wildlife and landscape of our home on Billing Aquadrome and taking pictures of a local band performing in Bedford.

Aaron is hoping to make a business from this and both Nik and myself are supporting this 100%. The passion he has for Photography is amazing. It reminds me of the passion I have for Motorsport and the passion Nik has for Bon Jovi/Meatloaf...

All I am asking is for you all to take a look at his Facebook Page. If you search for AGH Images on Facebook you will find him.

Once again I thank you myself for reading my blog and I have further posts planned.




Friday, 26 April 2013

01/05/1994...Where were you...

Most, if not all, Motorsport fans know of the date 1st May 1994 and the significance it holds in Formula 1 and the Motorsport world in general.

Normally with significant dates in history, people can place where they were and what they were doing.

As you all know I am a big fan of both Formula One and Touring Car racing and on this date in history, both of them met in the worst way.

On 1st May 1994 I was at Snetterton in Norfolk.

It was my first visit to a BTCC event and was arranged by my Uncle Steve, whom I was living with at the time. In 1994, Alfa Romeo and a certain Mr Gabriele Tarquini were dominating the BTCC in the Alfa Romeo 155. Also in 1994, on the support package for the BTCC was the Historic Saloon Car Championship.

One of his friends was driving a Lotus Cortina, sponsored by Demon Tweeks. As I recall, apart from a quick look around the paddock, I spent the whole day sat halfway down the Revetts Straight watching all the cars qualifying.

Race day was on the Bank Holiday Monday, however at about 2pm, my Uncle called me to the car where he was having lunch and had the San Marino Grand Prix on the radio.

The news had just been released that Senna had crashed at Tamburello and was taken to hospital. I felt sick. I stopped eating as I was stunned by this. I never liked Senna, bit I respected his skill and racecraft in the Williams.

The rest of the day was a blur until we got home and saw the BBC News report read by Moira Stewart, confirming Senna had died. I turned to my Uncle and cried. It was natural to suddenly feel like this, he said.

The following races in the 1994 F1 season were down to a straight fight between Hill and Schumacher. Even the odd appearence of my hero Nigel Mansell back at Williams didnt raise my spirits. I began to support Hill as he was a brit in a Williams but it wasn't the instant support that Nigel got from me.

Tarquini romped to the BTCC Title as Schumacher narrowly beat Hill to the F1 Title, but it still tainted my first visit to a BTCC Meeting.

It would take 16 years for me to return to the BTCC. I actually blamed myself for a time about Senna's death. The fact that I'd watched every race apart from the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix live or as the BBC chose to show it worried me that because I hadn't watched that race live.

I grew up and learnt it couldnt be my fault after all the investigations. To this day I still haven't watched the BBC Broadcast of the Grand Prix. I've seen the Senna Movie and I know a lot more, happily.

In 2010, my partner Nik and best mate Andy surprised me by buying tickets for BTCC Finals Day at Brands Hatch as it fell on my 33rd birthday...10/10/2010. We had a good day, watching Plato win the BTCC Title, meeting the previous Stig Ben Collins and cursing him.

I shook his hand at an autograph signing and wished him all the best for race three.

He spun his Motorbase BMW into the gravel trap at the bottom of Paddock Hill bend on the way to Druids.

I cursed The Stig!!!

I spent that day with my partner Nik, best friends Andy and Darryl and my stepson Aaron and it was amazing. It also made up for my first BTCC Visit back on 01/05/1994.

So, Question is, where were you on that day...



Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Ford back to the WTCC...

This morning, Rotek Racing confirmed that it had purchased the Ford Focus S2000 cars originally built by Arena Motorsport.

They have also confirmed that when they return to the series at the Flyaway races, American driver Robb Holland will be driving one of the cars.

For me, this is excellent news. I was sad to hear of Team Aon pulling out of the WTCC and that Ford Europe decided not to fund another season.

However I like thinking at Rotek Racing. The teams HQ will be at Sonoma and they plan to have a second american driver in the 2nd Focus. This is to attract the attention of Ford USA for possible funding.

I hope it works.

But for now, I'm happy that there will be 6 makes of car on the WTCC grid for the 2nd half of the 2013 season.



Monday, 22 April 2013

How we sponsored a BTCC Driver...Seriously!!!

I thought in the 2 week gap between Donington Park and Thruxton that I would explain how my Stepson Aaron came to sponsor Team HARD boss Tony Gilham in 2011, when he drove for Triple Eight Race Engineering in one of their turbo powered Vauxhall Vectra's.

Better put the kettle on, you've been warned...

This all began with the first 3 races of the year at Brands Hatch Indy. We were sat at home watching the races on TV when Aaron asked who was driving the pink and green Vauxhall Vectra. I explained that it was Tony and he was team mates with James Nash.

I should explain that Aaron is both Autistic and has ADHD. So the bright colours of the Vectra naturally caught his attention.

Anyway Aaron got in touch with Tony, explaining this and how he enjoyed watching him take 3 top ten finishes in the Brands races. Tony asked him if he was going to any races and this led to my partner Nik having her arm twisted to buy 3 tickets for the Donington BTCC Meeting.

At the time Aaron was working at the funfair on Billing Aquadrome where we live and cruel luck would have it that he had to work that weekend. Crestfallen, he kindly offered his ticket to my best friend Andy (Who is as big a Touring Car nutcase as myself) who happily accepted it.

So the three of us travelled up to Donington on raceday where we found Tony just walking out of one of the Triple Eight race trucks. After introducing ourselves and mentioning Aaron, Tony's eyes lit up...only to look sad when we explained Aaron wasn't with us because of work.

Tony kindly gave us some posters and other promotional bits and bobs to take home for Aaron, explaining that one day he hoped he could meet Aaron face to face.

Well, Fate had ideas on this...

As we watched the ITV4 BTCC Programme on the monday after raceday, in Race 3 as Tony retired, Tim Harvey explained that funds were short for Tony and that he might not be at Thruxton. This spurred Aaron into action. Before we knew it he was talking to Tony on Facebook offering to sponsor him with his savings so that he could race at Thruxton.

Aaron had savings of £400.00 at the time and had offered to use this to sponsor Tony. He'd explained about his issues to Tony and Tony spoke with Nik to confirm this was true and how amazed he was at this offer. After a quick chat between myself and Nik, Aaron confirmed that this was a genuine offer.

So several days later after an oil change in our Toyota People Carrier, we are heading towards Thruxton with a quick stop over night in a Travelodge. Figuring out that we're not too far from Stonehenge, we go and pay the ancient monument a visit before settling in for the night.

Before we left, a local mechanic did an oil change on the bus to make sure it would be reliable. During this Aaron assisted and managed to cut his nail on a finger. A quick bandage later and he was all fixed for the trip. Oddly, while we were at Stonehenge, he said it stopped hurting. When we got back to the Travelodge however, it started hurting again...

On the Sunday Morning, we got to the Circuit in our ram-shackle Toyota Bus to be met by Gary, Tony's Manager, who takes us to the Pit Area. Seeing all those trucks parked together like Sardines was a sight to see.

However the biggest sight was when Aaron met Tony. He shook his hand and showed him around the Vectra. Unbeknownst to Aaron, Nik had forwarded some pictures to Tony of him in his Army Cadet uniform. Tony had kindly put Aarons name on the front wheel arches and his pictures across the top of the rear windscreen.

Aaron was so excited with this. During the morning he assisted with handing out posters of Tony during the Drivers autograph session and was filmed on TV. We still have the whole ITV4 BTCC Programme on the Sky Box to this day.

Sammi, Tonys partner, took Aaron onto the grid for race one which made his day. Apparently, the legendary Murray Walker knocked Aaron over on the grid and to this day we still hear about how "That old geezer" pushed him over.

Murray would never do that...Well I dont think so...

Originally Nik was given a Race Tyre of Tony's by a team mechanic, however this was claimed by Aaron and by the end of the day it had a flatspot on it so that Tony and James Nash could sign it for him. The tyre was used at Donington Park in the BTCC Meeting before.

This began Aarons collection of BTCC Car parts. Currently he has the tyre, Tonys Tyre and Wheel from the Geoff Steel S2000 BMW he drove later that same season at Silverstone, where he was fired off into the wall in Race 1, Lea Wood's front Headlight from his S2000 Vectra at Donington 2012 and the Front Tyre Arch from Matt Neal's NGTC Honda Civic from Croft.

Aaron managed to get the whole of Team HARD and almost all of the 2012 BTCC Class to sign that wing except Rob Austin, Jason Plato and Andy Neate. Austin was busy with repairs to Sherman, Plato busy with media PR duties while Andy Neate flatly refused to sign it as it was a Honda part.

Make of that what you will...

So Aaron was thoroughly spoilt by 888 and Mr Gilham's team and since then has supported Tony and Team HARD ever since. He watches all the BTCC races and supports any driver working for Mr Gilham and we've paid him a few visits to his old HQ near the Dartford Bridge.

Aaron has also had the privilege of being flung around the Brands Hatch Indy Circuit by Tony in a Mitsubishi Evo...something, as did Nik that day. We were invited to a Track day run by Tony and his Team. That day Nik, Aaron and Myself went in many cars. For me, a ride in the Nissan 350Z being driven by Abbie Eaton made my Day.

Every time I watch The BTCC cars go round Brands Indy Circuit, the memories flood back.

So there you have it. The story of how a young 16 year old boy was lucky enough to sponsor a BTCC driver and become their number one fan.

And the best part is its my fault as I got him into Tintops...

Anyway, you've sat long enough and earned that cup of tea. I'll write again soon tintop fans.



BTCC... The plot thickens...

So we've had our second weekend of BTCC action and some themes are beginning to appear...

First of all MG. Plato has now proven over two race weekends that the MG can still be a fast car, regardless of the weight penalty imposed upon it. He managed to battle with the Honda's in what I thought was a fair and clean manner last weekend...which is very un-Plato like...

Sam Tordoff is also proving to be a revelation. He has now managed to keep his car in the top 5 of each race so far and stay in the top 5 of the championship. He is showing a maturity and racecraft of a BTCC racer that has been in the series for the last ten years, let alone his first full season. MG now have a driver pairing that can take the fight to Honda.

Next, Andrew Jordan. For me, he is going to be a big thorn in the side of Plato and so far he is proving me right. Last year Jordan placed it safe, maybe too safe and it cost him wins. He made it clear that this year he wants the overall title and he's going about it in the right way with 3 2nd places and a win from 6 races.

He's also not afraid to fight with the works Honda's this year and thats good to see. He hounded Shedden home in race 1 and turned 2nd place into a win for race 2. Jordans already making it clear he'll go toe to toe with the big boys and its great to see.

The works Honda's had good races with Shedden taking a win and both cars scoring podiums in all three races. The fightback began here and both Neal and Shedden know they have 2 fast MG's and a fast Pirtek Honda to deal with.

Next, two men who have impressed me. Adam Morgan and Jeff Smith. Morgan has now had 2 race weekends where he has scored high and in my eyes will be pushing Jordan for the Indie title. He is driving cleaner and with a clear head. This no proves that his top ten drives last year were no fluke.

Smith impresses further as Jordan's team-mate. He made no bones about getting his elbows out with Plato, Jackson and Newsham in race two to fight for position and his qualifying in the top ten shows further improvement. Pirtek now have 2 fast drivers to aim for the Indie drovers and Teams titles.

Tom Onslow-Cole and Colin Turkington however are my heroes from the race meeting. TOC managed to qualify 11th for race 1 and moved up through the field after falling back to take 10th.

This was converted to Pole for Race 3 (Thank you very much David Brabham and yes I yelled the house down when he picked no.10 from the 3rd race draw) and he managed to fight hard and fair to finish 6th. Again this proves that the Passat CC has more to come and will be hassling the works cars before the seasons end.

The Turk however showed his experience with the BMW chassis. Still new itself, he took the lead in race 3 and built a cushion of over 4 seconds to allow him to manage the soft tyre. A perfect strategy that give him his first win since 2009 in his championship winning year.

I'm expecting a few more like that from him and others this year...

For me there are a few drivers who deserve some luck and they are all Toyota drivers. Newsham is showing good pace in the Speedworks Toyota but the bad luck for him is still there after a nudge from TOC bent a wheel in race 3 leaving him stranded in the middle of the Craner Curves!

Dave's time will come and when it does, it will be a popular win in the paddock. Ollie Jackson is still getting to grips with the Toyota after his late deal and once he gets a reliable car will be fighting for top ten points again.

Frank Wrathall is showing amazing speed in the Dynojet car with the works Toyota engine as opposed to the TOCA Engines Speedworks use. His quali lap was "out of control" as he admitted but it netted 2nd on the grid for race 1. However the car seems fragile with the throttle linkage breaking in race two and damage in race 3 forcing retirements.

When his car is reliable, Frank is fast and soon he'll be troubling the front runners...

Worryingly though, the 2 Airwaves Fords were still struggling to get into the top 10 and trouble the frontrunners. When the NGTC Focus was introduced last year it was fast out of the box, however they need to sort out the teething troubles to be able to fight for the title, which many thought would be their's this year.

The Ebay BMW's seem off the pace still but not as far as the Fords. Turkington and Collard ran in the lower ranks of the top 10 however they are well aware with more development that those 1 Series cars will be mixing it as well. However, its proving to be a fast RWD car and in the capable hand of Turks, Collard and Foster, it wont take WSR long to get this car faster.

Rob Austin managed to get "Sherman" fixed for Donington but had a nightmare weekend with incorrect gear ratios and a lack of Top Speed hampering both Audi's in qualifying and incidents in all 3 races hampering them further.

Dan Welch again suffered trying to get the Proton up to speed. His driveshaft broke before race 1 and he was playing catchup all day Sunday. When the Proton works, again its a fast car and Dan like all the others mentioned needs a good boost of luck.

So the season moves on to the country's fastest circuit Thruxton for May Bank Holiday weekend. For certain if its dry, expect MG to be towards the front with Honda chasing hard and the Toyota's in hot pursuit. Its a speed circuit so expect the racing to be fast and hectic.

Lets just hope we dont have a repeat of the torrential downpour that took place last year where one of the days 3 races was red flagged.

I think before then I will do a post about when my stepson Aaron sponsored Tony Gilham in 2011 and the fun we had at Thruxton that year. (Clue, it wasn't wet).



Sunday, 21 April 2013

Blog update...

Good Morning to all.

On this lovely sunny Sunday, I am looking forward to the Bahrain Grand Prix and the 3 BTCC races from Donington Park.

However this post is a thank you to my wonderful and clever partner Nik. She has kindly looked into updating the blog with some tintop related pictures to liven it up a bit.

I am a very lucky person in the fact that she enjoys WTCC and BTCC racing and also F1. However I am even luckier that she tolerates the amount of motor racing I watch and that she tries enjoy the new forms of motorsport I watch and she isnt afraid to ask questions.

Recently I have begun watching V8 Supercars from Australia with more intent than before and I am taking an interest in RallycrossRX aka the FIA European Rallycross Championship along with my stepson Aaron.

I will add blogs later in the year as I learn more.

I have added a picture of Craig Lowndes in his Red Bull Racing Australia Holden Commodore from V8 Supercars and a picture of Liam Doran in his Monster Citroen DS3 from RallycrossRX.

Anyway enjoy your day and the motorsport thats on TV if your watching it.



Monday, 15 April 2013

WTCC 2013...Situation Normal...so far...

Since my promise of a WTCC Post, I've written a couple more posts and we've had two weekends worth of WTCC from Monza and Marrakech and the results have been somewhat interesting...

So I thought I'd share my thoughts with you...

First of all, a driver/team quick round up. Honda and Lada have gone full time, both with 2 car teams. Honda have Tarquini and Montiero, Lada have Thompson and now Koslovskiy. A lesson that Dudakalo has already learnt is never take out your team mate... You get fired...

Aon Ford have left and Chevrolet have gone as a works team but RML are back with arguably the best S2000 touring car out there. The Chevrolet Cruze. Muller has stayed with backing from Lukoil while Chilton arrives with Aon sponsorship. Chevrolet Stalwart Alain Menu has left for the Porsche Supercup as the team has scaled back to 2 cars with the loss of Works backing.

2012 WTCC Champion Huff has left Chevrolet and joined the ranks of SEAT with the FIA GT1 winning team All-Inkl.com running 3 cars. Marc Basseng and Team Boss Rene Munnich are in the other cars. Talking of SEAT, Oriola and Monje return with SUNRED who have merged with spanish motorsport team Campos Racing. Hugo Lavente will join later. Boardman runs on his own at his dad's team Special Tuning Racing.

BMW have the usual suspects in Coronel, Bennani, Engstler and Ng. O'Young joins Coronel at ROAL whilst Barth joins with Weichers-Sport.

With regards to the Chevrolet Independent Teams at Bamboo, MacDowall stays on with Nash joining him. Swedish Team NIKA Racing returns with Dane Michel Nykjaer. Nykjaer raced in the 2012 Swedish Touring Car Championship in a Cruze with the WTCC 1.6 litre turbo engine while MacDowall raced for Bamboo in 2012 so both men are already well versed in the Cruze's capabilities.

So... Whats changed?

Well for Muller not a lot. He began 2013 where he started in 2012: At a soaked weekend at Monza with his usual dominance and took Pole and 2 wins. The Ladas were ruled out after their Qualifying smash (Dudukalo hitting Thompson at the first chicane and wrecking Thompson's chassis in the process) and the Honda's needed more top speed. They showed well but couldn't live with the Chevrolet's in the wet conditions. So the Chevrolets ruled the roost in the speed traps and the track conditions.

What did I say about the Cruze being the best WTCC Car...

However there were sterling drives from Huffy and Basseng. Huffy drove from last on the grid to tenth in race one while Basseng was in the hunt for a podium in race 2. Something that shows promise for the rest of the season and possibly wins for both drivers perhaps.

So situation normal then after Monza with Muller leading the way in a Cruze with only one change. The livery. Chilton and Nash adapted well in their Chevrolet debuts, Chilton taking a podium in race 1 and 5th in race 2. Nash left Monza with the Independent Championship lead after a good weekend. Nykjaer showed good speed with a podium in race two. Another that has promise showing already as the season progresses.

In 2012, NIKA Racing ran 1998 BTCC Champion Rickard Rydell in a 2011 Cruze and Rydell was able to keep pace with the works cars of Mulker, Menu and Huff. So its no surprise Nykjaer had the pace of the RML Cruzes.

The similarities between Monza and Marrakech are quite a few. Both have long straights and chicanes. However Marrakech is a fast tight street circuit.

Cue the expensive repair bills...

Muller showed his usual speed, but Chilton was faster. Last year Chilton was fast in the Aon Ford Focus at Marrakech and his then team mate Nash led the 2nd race. However a mistimed exit by Monje killed his final sector. Pole was for the taking and Chilton knew it.

Honda improved with Tarquini taking pole followed by Nash, who seems to have gelled with the Cruze. Monteiro suffered with a shunt against the wall and would be on fightback duties during both races. Nykjaer too was near the front and poised to take his first WTCC win. He wouldn't be the only driver to do that over the weekend. He fought off both Nash and Tarquini for the win though. With Chilton pitting for damage to his front end, Muller took 4th.

But he had to fight Huffy for this and there was quarter given nor asked as they fought on the streets of Marrakech. The SEAT held its own but the speed of the Cruze soon told. The battle showed all the hallmarks of the battles from 2011 & 2012 when they both had equal machinery.

Besides the usual incidents with cars hitting walls and safety cars being deployed, Monje showed some brain fade and hit Thompson 4 times in 2 races, the final contact causing Jimmy to rightly lose his rag with the young spaniard. However the Lada again showed good speed. That car will win at least one race this year.

However the personal highlight for me was the race 2 winner. Pepe Oriola. Despite a safety car period caused by Tarquini hitting the kerbs hard and taking MacDowall with him, Pepe withstood pressure from Muller and Chilton. Not an easy task. Oriola took the lead from team mate Monje (when he was racing) and never looked back.

Now please understand I have never been a fan of SEAT. When I started watching WTCC I was an Andy Priaulx/BMW fan as statrd in a previous post. I wasnt happy with SEAT's decision to run diesels and the issues this caused. I was also upset that Rickard Rydell was always asked to support either Muller or Tarquini and never given the chance to fight for the title. But when Oriola appeared in WTCC with SUNRED, I saw a spark of talent I liked...

In 2011 he raced in the single format FIA European Touring Car Cup in a SEAT TDI against mutiple touring car champion Fabrizio Giovanardi in a Normally Aspirated Honda Accord Euro R and Nykjaer in a NIKA Racing Cruze. The ETCC was a 2 race event for non-works teams from all over Europe to race against each other in S2000, Super 1600 and Super Production cars. It can be quite fun and 2011 was...

Nykjaer and Giovanardi traded times in qualifying however Gio took pole. The Cruze and the Accord proving equal.

However race day was wet and Nykjaer had issues leaving him unable to start either race. This left Oriola pursuing Giovanardi in both races and he pressured the seasoned driver very hard. Oriola finished second to Giovanardi that day but he showed he could race against the best and hold his own, be it wet or dry.

Since that weekend Pepe's father made him a deal. If he won a race, his father would stop smoking. He almost gave up last year at Portimao where Oriola led race 2 and lost to Menu. So his first WTCC win was well deserved this year and will be the first of many. Not bad for an 18 year old. Lets hope a works team picks this young star up.

So Muller leads the standings as the circus heads to the Slovakiaring for rounds 5 and 6 which is no surprise. There are plenty of drivers who are not afraid to tackle the frenchman but that could also work to his advantage. If too many drivers take points from each other then Muller can pick up the pieces and extend his advantage.

Thats my theory for the championship this year.

However if the Honda improves further, expect a titanic battle between Muller and Tarquini. They may be the best of friends but Honda are pushing for the title this year and will take no prisoners. So while both will give each other respect and racing room on track, I expect an incident on track that will change this dynamic.

Nykjaer is second in the standings and with Nash and Chilton is showing good speed in the Cruze and that he can challenge Muller equally. His win will spur him on further. It wont be long before Muller will find that anyone will challenge him and wont be afraid to challenge him either.

If Andy Priaulx is seen as the "Michael Schumacher" of Touring Cars, then Yvan Muller is the "Sebastian Vettel" due to the fact that once he's in front he's damn near uncatchable and is not afraid of going bumper to bumper to defend his position...but that time maybe coming to an end...

Its amazing how going from Works driver to Independent Driver changes perspective...

However the Slovakiaring adds a new factor in the calendar. Twists and turns. It demands a setup that is fast but needs good mechanical grip for the long fast turns and the hairpins. This will favour the rear wheel drive BMW's and hurt the rest of the field which is front wheel drive. An interesting prospect.

Personally, I cant wait to see what happens...



Saturday, 13 April 2013

The BTCC going soft? Never...

Well since my last blogpost, we've had 3 races from the BTCC at Brands Hatch and 4 races from the WTCC, 2 from Monza and 2 from Marrakech. To keep this simple, I'll concentrate on the BTCC for now.

This season, the BTCC has introduced the "soft" tyre , following the same idea of a choice of tyre compounds at each round in F1. The idea is that the drivers decide which of the days 3 races they will use this tyre after qualifying on Saturday. But no one knows who runs this soft tyre until the dummy grid for each race is formed.

The soft tyre can offer an advantage of up to a second per lap before the grip goes and the driver has to manage his car home. Austin, Tordoff and Neal showed this best in the races with Neal winning on his. That Honda likes the soft tyre...

Anyway, heres my quick-ish run down of the performances...better get that kettle on...

For me, Rob Austin showed how improved his Audi has become. He made rocket starts in races 1 and 2, leading race 1 on merit before giving best to Plato and Jordan. He will be a dark horse every time he uses that soft tyre if hes in the top five on the grid.

Another stand out driver was Frank Wrathall. His Toyota has improved and was in for a good points haul. However some over eager moves on Rob Austin and others meant he incurred the wrath of the stewards. However I think he will be bloody fast when the series arrives at Donington next weekend.

MG proved that their car has gotten even better. The MG6 was fast last year un the dry and that hasnt changed. Plato again showed that at Brands he is the one to beat with wins in race one and two. Tordoff also showed that hes no slouch with 3rd, 4th and 5th place finishes. This shows he getting to grips with the car quickly and that MG can now fight with 2 cars against Honda.

My personal thought is that Jason will take the title. That MG looks bloody fast.

Honda had an enduring weekend with Gordon Shedden suffering mechanical failures and an exclusion due to an over boost issue, his drives through the field in races two and three show his determination to fight for the title he won last year. Matt Neal took a win in Race 3 and points in race 2 however race one was marred with Wheel damage.

Honda never seem to have a good opening race weekend at Brands, so I'm expecting a fight back at Donington.

Andrew Jordan again showed he had good speed at Brands by taking pole and taking the fight in race one to Plato, ending in a risky move at the end of race one. Jordan has already made it clear that he wants the overall title and he opened his account well. Team mate Jeff Smith also showed well with a podium in race 2 after Sheddens exclusion. Both drivers are showing they can bring home good points and there is more to come from Pirtek...

BMW have the 125i NGTC Car and Colin Turkington back. However that didnt confirm they would have it easy. The Turk was hit twice in the race and staged  comeback drives. Collard suffered mechanical woes as did Nick Foster. However, the car shows speed and promise and with development, it will challenge at the front before half term.

Airwaves was another team to suffer a weekend to forget but once that Focus works its fast. Both Jackson and Smith know this and will push to make the cars work. Again confirming the fact that just getting into the top 10 will be hard this year.

The Toyota's have upped their game this year. Speedworks have a fast lineup in Newsham and Ollie Jackson while Adam Morgan runs in the family run Cicely Team Toyota. I have high hopes after their showings at Brands. Morgan is fast and learning to take the points where he can while Newsham finally has a fast NGTC Car. Apart from being involved in mechanical failures and that race 3 crash, he will take a race at least this year. Ollie Jackson also took points and will get faster. All 4 Toyota's look fast this year and will get faster...

Dan Welch ran reliably, showing a good start in the Proton and will show more speed at Donington as the car gets faster. He's not afraid to mix it with the big boys and will fair better. Personally seeing that car mix it with the others shows its no pushover and Dan isnt either. Optimus will show his Prime soon...

So this leaves Team Hard. Virtually no testing and running 3 new NGTC Cars this year, they have already shown the hard work to make them race winners and the dedication to expand and be taken seriously. The key words are testing and time. The Passat looks great as do the Insignia's and with the lineup of Goff, Cole and Onslow-Cole the only way is up. The Passat's quickest time was 2 tenths slower than Plato so there is plenty more to come at least from TOC and he knows it. I'll be watching with interest.

I havent forgotten the S2000 guys and to be honest I see The Jack Sears Trophy a 3 way fight between Kaye, Wood and Griffin. However the experience that Girling, Scott and Nye have gained will mean this will be a 6 way fight for the JST.

Next is Donington and the introduction of Andy Neates NGTC Cruze Saloon. Again it will take time and the team will suffer its niggles. Theres also talk of Michael Caine joining the Airwaves ranks in a 3rd NGTC Focus. So the grid gets BIGGER!!!

I think with the fast flowing nature of the track, again raceday will produce 3 epic races full of incident and close racing. I expect more MG wins, but anyone could could win a race in a grid of 30 cars. I also expect a few safety car periods with the grid size this year.

Donington is going to EPIC!!!