Friday, 28 June 2013

WTCC 2014: Citroen confirm Works WTCC Entry...

Citroen confirmed this week that they will enter the 2014 World Touring Car Championship with Sebastian Loeb confirmed as one of their drivers.

This is great news to the series as it looks to take its next step to provide a better show and improve the racing spectale with a new set of regulations that include an increase of engine power from the current 1.6 litre petrol turbo engines and increased aerodynamics on the cars.

With Citroen confirming their decision, this makes the current works manufacturer count to 3 with Honda and Lada already committed to the new regulations. It could be 4 if SEAT decide to re-enter as a works team, however it is expected that they will build a new car and provide customer support to teams running the car.

What I also expect soon is confirmations of what these new regulations will be and when they will take effect. There are two options:

1. Let the current S2000 cars run for 2014 alongside any new 2014 regulation S2000 cars and then give teams and manufacturers the chance to build and buy the newer cars so that a full field of 2014 S2000 cars can race in 2015.


2. Outlaw all current S2000 cars and allow only 2014 cars to run in the series, whilst relegating the current crop of cars to race in the supporting European Touring Car Cup.

WTCC Series boss Marcello Lotti has made it clear he would prefer the latter, however the teams have made it clear they would prefer the former. Either way we will know the outcome soon as an announcement is expected to be made in the coming weeks.

With Loeb and Citroen entering the fray  this will further increase interest from France, who already have Triple WTCC Champion Yvan Muller stamping his authority on the series. It will also bring all those loyal Loeb fans who have followed him into the circuit racing arena en masse. It will also raise the profile of the WTCC further as an FIA World Championship showing growth and renewed interest.

What I am expecting is the return of a French round to the WTCC. In the past this has been either at Magny-Cours or on the street circuit at Pau. However with a French Manufacturer entering a works team and arguably France's two top motorsport drivers in the same FIA World Championship, this seems a no brainer...

Its also following the same thinking that as Lada returned this year, the WTCC made it first visit to a Russian Circuit...

So, many poistive and good things are coming from this announcement...including the fact that Loeb will have a team mate in the two-car team.

Start the rumour mill going because everyone will be guessing until they confirm who it will be and what car they will both be driving by the time the season starts at Monza next year.

For me, using my common sense thinking on this one, I'll put my £5 on the table and state I think it will be Alain Menu.


Menu is a seasoned Touring Car driver. He started out in the BTCC in 1992 and won the title twice in 1997 and 2000. He tested both the Renault Laguna and Ford Mondeo, cars he in which he won both titles. He was also part of the team testing both the RML built Chevrolet Lacetti and Chevrolet Cruze for the WTCC. He tested the mockup prototype built by Citroen along with Loeb whilst Citroen debated entering the series.

He would also bring a lot of experience to the table that both Loeb and Citroen could use in developing their car. I also think that Reb Bull will carry on sponsoring Loeb so I wouldn't be surprised to see a pair of Red Bull sponsored Citroen's on the grid next year.

So to me, its a no brainer. But I want to make it clear, nothing has been confirmed and this is my own opiniom only.

Now I can already hear the shouts for a Muller/Loeb team-up and for me I think that its a team up that ranks in a similar vein with Senna/Prost at Mclaren, Vettel/Webber at Red Bull. Two strong drivers in the same team can be good but it can also be bad as well and risks causing more harm than good... Something that Citroen will want to avoid to begin with.

Anyway, its great news from a fans point of view and thats why it's put a smile on my face.

Enjoy your weekend!



Thursday, 27 June 2013

BTCC Croft: Rise of The Turk

Croft provided some of the best racing yet this year in the British Touring Car Championship last weekend and it may also have opened up the title fight for 2013 into a five way fight...

Colin Turkington took Pole Position, two races wins and a 2nd place in race three to cap off a perfect weekend for him in his West Surrey Racing/Ebay Motors BMW 125i Sport and in the process joined Plato, Neal, Shedden & Jordan in the fight for the 2013 BTCC drivers title.

Now while it is common knowledge in BTCC circles that Croft favours rear wheel drive cars, it was also a weekend of wet racing which normally doesn't favour RWD cars and yet all three BMW drivers took top ten finishes during the weekends activities. Collard showed he hasn't lost his edge in talent since Turkington returned to the team and Foster showed his best performances so far this year

So the BMW has improved further and proved a match for the MG's and Honda's in the mixed damp and wet conditions. Hopefully this will translate into the same pace in the dry when the series returns from its summer break at Snetterton in August. However there will be more testing from all the teams during that period so you can bet things will be even closer in August.

Works Honda driver Matt Neal again has gone into the Summer Break leading the championship however while he had a 4 point lead over Pirtek Honda's Andy Jordan before the three rounds at Croft, he only extended that to 19 points. While Neal took the race three win with Turkington second, Jordan finished on the ppdium as well and scored good points over the weekend overall to minimize the damage in the title hunt.

I still maintain Andy Jordan will win the overall drivers title this year.

MG however suffered a nightmare weekend compared to Honda and BMW. Whilst Plato was beaten to pole by Turkington at the dying seconds of qualifying, the race two decision by Triple Eight to have both MG6's on wet tyres was bold but ultimately back fired when the expected downpour didnt appear. Plato and Tordoff finished 21st and 22nd, denting Plato's championship charge at title leader Neal. However this did setup a spectacular come back drive by Plato in race three where he fought through the field to finish 6th while team mate Tordoff finished 7th.

Honda maintained thier good performance with Neal and Shedden taking podium finishes in all three races betweem them: Neal taking 2nd, 4th and 1st whole Shedden took 3rd, 2nd and 4th. With Jordan in the Pirtek finishing 6th, 6th and 3rd in the days races, this proves that the Honda Civic's nimble chassis was once again up to the challenge. With the MG having good straightline speed and the BMW being kind to its tyres regardless of what weight it carries, its going to be a tight battle to the end between all three cars...

The Airwaves Fords had another mixed weekend challenging the fringes of the top ten...except this time there were 3 NGTC Foci... Trust me, thats easier than trying to say Focus's...

2012 British GT Champion Michael Caine joined the series for a so far one off appearance in 3rd NGTC Ford Focus that was in a black Autoglym sponsored livery. He last raced in the BTCC in an S2000 Focus in the 2011 season. My son Aaron met him at Rockingham. Nice chap too. Anyway Caine was a revelation in race one starting from 15th on the grid and finishing 8th, after a stunning move made by passing Collard, Morgan and Onslow-Cole on the last lap.

However his weekend would go downhill from there with retirement in race two and a non starter in race three. Mat Jackson endured a difficult three races and suffered a run in with the stewards as well. Jackson suffered retirements in all three races, in race one he hit the tyres at Hawthorn, in race two he hit Dan Welch whilst trying to pass the Proton into the hairpin (and short-cutting off most of the hairpin in the process...) Whilst in race three he retired after contact with Jack Goff in the Team HARD Insignia.

Aron Smith faired better in a season where he is showing that he can match his more experienced team mate Jackson and better him on points. Smith finished the weekend with 14th in race one, 12th in race two and 9th in race three. This haul of points kept him inside the top ten for the drivers points table.

Tom Onslow-Cole starred again in the ever impressive Team HARD. VW Passat CC. He qualified the car in 9th position on the grid for race one and finished 10th before going better in race two and made sure he kept the car on the island whilst others around him faltered in the mixed conditions to take another podium in the fan's favourite car. In race three he managed to finish 12th after contact damaged his front bumper.

The Audi's didn't repeat the same pace they showed in Oulton Park despite both Audi A4's now using TOCA supplied Enigines. Frank Wrathall suffered more bad luck in his Toyota Avensis. His car has looked more fragile this season than last season with most of his retirements being mechanical rather than damage induced. Adam Morgan showed more good speed in his Avensis after qualifying well but his only high point being picked out for race three pole. However the youngster has shown to be the fastest of the four Toyota's this year.

The Speedworks Toyota's also had mixed results in the mixed conditions. Newsham took his best finish of the year in race three with 5th. However this was preceded with 10th in race two and retirement in race one. Ollie Jackson suffered retirements in races one and three and didnt start race two.
Hopefully with all the testing the team has done, Speedworks can make a step forward in the second half of the season.

Jake Hill starred in the Jack Sears Trophy by taking a win in his first BTCC race driving the S2000 Focus whilst Liam Griffin was away on business. David Nye also took his first JST win of the year in his Welch Motorsport Focus whilst Lea Wood won the JST in race three, a lap ahead of the returning James Kaye. Joe Girling also returned to the BTCC fray, but a huge crash in qualifying ruled him out of race day. Warren Scott was also missing after engine issues during free practice followed into raceday.

Now just to make things a bit clearer as to the finishing order...because even I got confused...

Race one finished with Turkington winning from Neal, Shedden, Foster and Plato with Jordan, Tordoff, Caine, Collard and Onslow-Cole.

Race two finished with Turkington from Shedden, Onslow-Cole, Neal and Collard followed by Jordan, Foster, Morgan, Smith and Newsham.

Finally Race three was won by Neal with Turkington in tow followed by Jordan, Shedden and Newsham. Rounding out the top ten were Plato, Tordoff, Foster, Aron Smith and Jeff Smith.

This leaves the Championship standings in the drivers title at the halfway point with Neal leading Jordan by 19 points followed by Plato and Shedden tied on 188 points and Turkington on 5 points behind the pair of them.

Now is the summer break where teams and drivers will take the chance to rest and test, getting ready and refreshed for the return to action at Snetterton for what will be an action packed 2nd half of the season. One thing that is confirmed is that Neal, Jordan, Plato, Shedden and Turkington will fight tooth and nail for point and position they can with no quarter asked nor given...

And that means even more panel bashing, bumper pushing and mirrors flying...which is what you expect from the BTCC!!

All being well we should see Andy Neate make an appearance in his NGTC Chevrolet Cruze, barring any more financial or mechanical difficulties (thats the 3rd time I've said this. He better bloody well turn up!), also the expected appearance of the BTC Racing Hatchback NGTC Chevrolet Cruze and expected appearances of Howard Fuller and Robb Holland in VW Passat CC's.

However today James Cole has confirmed that he has left Team HARD. to try and secure a 2014 seat in the BTCC. I wish him all the best for the future.

Who knows, we may even see a full 32 car grid...

Now apparently Formula One is having some tyre problems to make the racing exciting this year...

Time to go write the next blog...



Saturday, 22 June 2013

WTCC Russia: Welcome to Mother Russia...

The World Touring Car Championship made its first visit to Russia for the 2013 season and the series made its mark.

You could say Yvan Muller had a typical weekend by taking a race one win and a race two podium but while that seems to be the norm for the Frenchman in a WTCC weekend, that doesn't tell the whole story.

In fact the RML/Lukoil Racing Chevrolet Cruze driver had to work hard to earn both of his podiums from quite a few drivers in both races...although his hard work was aided by that long straight into the final corner and the superb straight-line speed of his Cruze...

At the Moscow Raceway, Tom Coronel's ROAL Motorsport BMW 320 TC proved to be the revelation of the weekend. Not only was his BMW quickest in one of the practice sessions but he also had the speed to take Pole Position, had it not rained in Q2.

Michel Nykjaer also showed that he was a force to be reckoned with again the NIKA Racing Chevrolet. His race two win was inspired in the way he hunted down Mehdi Bennani in his ProTeam BMW who led Pole Position in race two. Due to Engstler Motorsports Charles Ng being sent to the back of the race two grid due to breaching Parc Ferme rules, Nykjaer was promoted to 2nd.

Another driver to shine in the WTCC Event was James Thompson in his Lukoil Racing Lada Granta Sport. Thommo and the Lada have been threatening to take on both the Honda Civics and the Chevrolet Cruzes' in an equal fight but either bad luck or retirement has scuppered this. However at its home circuit, the Lada proved up to the task with Thompson taking his best finish of the season in race one with 5th, fending off Tarquini in the Honda and Nykjaer in the Chevrolet.

But the talking point of the weekend was not just the racing but also the first turn incident on lap 1 that involved the three BMW's of Charles Ng, Freddy Barth and Stefano D'Aste. Barth ran into the back of Ng after being assisted by D'Aste and un the ensuing chaos that followed, Barth then spun Ng around. ROAL Motorsports Darryl O'Young and Campos Racing's Nikolay Karamyshev took damage as they both took avoiding action but the reason for the safety car being deployed and then later a red flag being deployed would be down to a rescue vehicle that was trying to assist in the clean-up and had broken down.

Now, watching the Eurosport feed on TV, it wasn't instantly clear to the reason for the race stoppage, but when the reason was confirmed, the following decision understandably left Martin Haven's co-commentator and former WTCC Bamboo Engineering driver Harry Vaulkhard fuming...

The race would restart behind the safety car before it would pull off and let the field race again, however double waved yellow flags would remain out at turn one due to the marshals' not being able to remove the offending vehicle.

Now I'll be honest, when I see a Safety truck/Caterpillar vehicle on the track during a race weekend, any race weekend and the first reaction I have is A: stop the race so the car/cars can be removed safely and that no Marshalls', drivers or spectators are hurt and that followed by B: hearing Martin Brundle's voice in my head shouting that's a bad idea seeing a rescue truck, on track during a race, because of the accident he had during the 1994 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.

That particular race was a downpour and conditions for the F1 drivers were terrible to drive in. A car had gone off at the very fast 130R corner near the end of the lap. Gianni Morbidelli had crashed his Footwork and as the Marshalls were attempting to remove the car using a Caterpillar rescue vehicle, Brundle slid off at the same corner, crashing into the F1, car and the rescue vehicle. A Marshall suffered a broken leg that day and the race was stopped for good reason.

So for safety reasons I think the rescue truck should've been removed and the race re-started with a clear run off area for safety...

But it wasn't.

What this did was dilute race one to an affair of Coronel harrying Muller for the win. However as the Cruze has better horsepower than the BMW, Tom would lose out down the back straight to Muller. Now passing is possible into the last corner, but the run up the start finish straight could allow an attempt into turn one..

Oh wait, there's a rescue truck stuck there...

Buggered that idea up then...

Don't get me wrong, Coronel tried everything he could to get past Muller and any advantage Muller pulled out on Coronel in the quick 3rd sector of the track, but the BMW would close that advantage in the first 2 sectors and that's how race one would finish with Muller winning from Coronel while Norbert Michelisz took 3rd in the Zengo Motorsport Honda Civic

Norbert had passed Rob Huff's SEAT Leon at the restart and would stay in 3rd with Huffy's attempts to pass the Honda at turn one because... Yup, the double waved yellow flags.

Annoyingly, after race one, it took 10 minutes for a second rescue truck to come out and tow the broken one away...

10 minutes.

Anyway, race two proved to be a bit more spectacular with an incident that involved all 5 makes taking part in the championship...and that was just one of many...

To begin with Charles Ng was demoted for having his car worked on during Parc Ferme conditions (basically this is where the car is left alone until declared its legal by race officials). With him demoted to last this left the grid order as Bennani, Nykjaer, Oriola, Thompson, Tarquini, Michelisz, Huff, Coronel Muller and Nash.

Bennani flew off the line at the start like a scolded cat whilst Nykjaer set off after him. Its the second time this year that the Moroccan driver has had a race two pole and I am convinced that he will join Nykjaer, Nash and Oriola in taking his maiden win during this season. Nykjaer did catch Bennani, however the Moroccan defended hard until Nykjaer dived through on lap 7 to take the lead at the final corner and spun around on his own.

From that point Bennani fell back through the field. At the start, Oriola and Tarquini diced for third position, however Tarquini and Oriola came together at the first hairpin, with Gabriele knocking the young SEAT driver wide and down to seventh position...not the best way to treat old team mates...

The main incident of race two came from the best drivers in this years WTCC Field and three of them are former champions!

By lap 2, Coronel was making good progress from eighth on the grid in his BMW, passing Thompson for fourth and then moving onto attacking Tarquini for third place. Coronel, Tarquini, Thompson and Huff came through the last corner to start lap 4 and were four-wide battling for third all the way up the start/finish straight when Coronel ran across the nose of Tarquini and spun right into Thommo, which saw retire and Coronel fall to the back of the order.

So, who benefitted from this...

Yup, you guessed it... Muller.

Yvan chased Nykjaer all the way to the flag and although both men were in the same cars, Muller closed in on the Dane but to no avail. Nykjaer took his 3rd win of the season and with it became the second man behind Muller this season for wins with 3 wins to Frenchman's many....

Behind Muller and Nykjaer came Huff in third, taking another good position in his SEAT and showing that there is life in the old dog yet, he was followed home by Oriola in 4th and Michelisz in his Honda for 5th. Chilton, Tarquini, D'Aste, O'Young and Nash rounded out the top 10.

So Muller increased his lead to over 100 points from Tarquini and Nykjaer is now 6 points behind Tarquini in the overall championship. Could the Danish man overtake the Italian for second?

Well, we'll know for next weekend when the WTCC moves to the street circuit of Porto. The circuits at Porto and Portimao alternate for the Portuguese round of the WTCC and back in 2011, there was a rather incidental fight for the lead between then team-mates Muller and Huff at Chevrolet. It also showed a cracking comeback to the series by Stefano D'Aste in the BMW 320 TC.

I look forward to it with much anticipation. Its also a track that my son Aaron goes well on when we play the game of Race Pro on the Xbox 360. That kid can make a BMW 320si do things on that track that make me wince....especially his speed through the last chicane...

Anyway I'll leave you to your weekend.



Allen Simonsen, Our thoughts go with you...

Good Evening.

I realise that this weekend is a one of the quieter weekends for my motorsport viewing but it has become a sadder weekend for me as a fan already.

Although I have the fun of the BTCC from Croft to look forward to on Sunday afternoon, it will be tinged with emotions of sadness.

I have been watching the 2013 Le Mans 24 hours, on what is the 90th anniversary of the race being held and only 4 laps in it suffered a fatality.

Popular Danish driver Allan Simonsen was piloting the number 95 Aston Martin Vantage V8 in the GTE Am category, when coming out of the Tetre Rouge corner, his car spun into the barriers. The impact was so hard it actually damaged the Armco barriers causing a Safety Car period of 55 minutes.

As Simonsen was taken away to the medical centre it was confirmed later in the race that he had succumbed to his injuries and lost his life.

The official Statement from the ACO was as follows:

"At 15h09 the #95 Aston Martin Vantage GTE, driven by Allan Simonsen of Denmark, exited the track at high-speed at the Tetre Rouge corner on his fourth lap of the race.

The driver was immediately attended on the scene by the doctors from the Automobile Club de l'Ouest's Medical Service.

In a serious condition, Allan Simonsen was transferred immediately to the circuit medical centre, where he died soon after.

Allan Simonsen's family has been informed immediately by David Richards, principal of Aston Martin Racing."

AS a fan, I extend my sympathies and condolences to Allan's family. At the families request, Aston Martin will continue to run their cars to the finish.

I will continue to watch the race but it will be with a heavy heart.



Monday, 17 June 2013

Volvo in V8 Supercars in 2014...

Volvo Cars Australia have confirmed today that they will enter the International V8 Supercars Championship in 2014 with Garry Rogers Motorsport joining forces with Polestar Racing to become a Works Volvo team running the S60 model.

This means that there will 5 different makes on the grid in 2014: Ford, Holden, Nissan, Mercedes and Volvo. All with cars built to the new Car of the Future rules.

This is great news for the at a time when Touring Car series are looking to attract new manufacturers for their series with new regulations designed to provide close, equal tintop racing. V8 Supercars is some of the closest racing in the Touring Car world.

For example, the BTCC's Next Generation Touring Car regulations have attracted an entry list for the 2013 season of 26 cars built to NGTC regs from different shells of 11 different makes all using TOCA supplied parts to save money and make building the cars cheaper and more open to new competitors.

It is also the 15th anniversary of the famous 2 litre Super Touring win at the 1998 AMP Bathurst 1000 race for Rickard Rydell and Jim Richards in the Volvo Racing Australia S40 against Matt Neal and Steven Richards in the Team Dynamics Nissan Primera... One of the best races from the Super Touring era

And yes, there's a blogpost planned because I love that race!

So V8 Supercars next year will have 5 of the most successful Touring Car Manufacturers racing during the season.  Ford, Holden, Nissan, Mercedes and Volvo have all dominated and won either domestic or global Touring Car series over the decades, especially during the Group A and Super Touring era's.

This announcement is great news and I will be watching the series with even more interest next year.



BTCC: Its amazing what a bit of testing can do...

The three races from the British Touring Car Championship meeting at Oulton Park last weekend showed that two words would sum up the weekends performances:
Improved Pace...
Let me explain...
Better put that kettle on...
Now, since Thruxton, many of the teams in the BTCC took the 3 week break to go testing and get some mileage done on their cars before the Oulton Park meeting. The reason for this taking place en mass at Pembrey, Snetterton, Brands Hatch Indy and Donington was due to the fact off the poor weather during the off season.
And its paid off for everyone in some way, shape or form...
MG had a test at Snetterton, evaluating the setup changes from Thruxton and unlocked a sweetspot for the Oulton track. In qualifying this translated into in MG 1-2 with Plato on Pole position and Sam Tordoff beside him in his best qualifying position yet.
That front row start translated into a 1-2 for MG in race one and Plato would take a win in race two to help his championship chances. Tordoff however would suffer in race two on the soft tyre and find himself in the sore end of a typical BTCC Beating session, being passed by Shedden, Turkington, Neal and Jordan before contact out of the hairpin from Mat Jackson would end both drivers races.
So it would seem that the MG's have found that competitive setup that now gives the Works Honda's a run for their money in the coming rounds. Things are about to hot up between the works teams, trust me on that...
Andy Jordan had a good weekend again. Although he didn't qualify on the front row, both races one and two showed yet again that he is not afraid to fight with the works teams. In race one, he made up a position from 5th on the grid to finish 4th as Newsham fell back to 8th in the race.
There was a worrying amount of smoke from the Pirtek Honda but this was later attributed to a loose exhaust cover and not oil. In race two he was running 4th when Jack Goff's Insignia parking in the Pit Entry bought out the Safety Car. During the run down to Lodge Corner, Neal passed Jordan, taking advantage of the Safety Car rule stating that all competitors can race until they see a Safety Car board at a Marshall post.
In race one Plato led home Tordoff, Shedden, Jordan and Turkington for the top 5, followed by Neal, Jackson, Newsham, Morgan and Collard. Newsham had started 4th however his tyres went off during the race and he fell back but his Toyota showed the same fast pace that Morgan's has this year and hopefully theres more to come after the tests that the team had at Pembrey and Donington. Both the Airwaves Fords have improved in pace with the Focus's being involved in battles for the top ten positions in all three races.
In race two, Plato led home Shedden and Turkington for 3rd, again the Ebay BMW showing it too has improved in pace since its last outing at Thruxton and the test at Brands Hatch. Whats also given the BMW an advantage is that it seems to work its soft tyre the best when its used. His win at Donington was proof of this.
Pretty soon that Beemer is going to be challenging for race one and two wins on...improved pace...
Behind the Turk came Neal, Jordan, Newsham, Morgan, Austin, Welch and Smith. Yes, Dan got the Proton into the top 10 after a torrid season plagued with problems for "Optimus" The Proton Persona and it was great to see for the team to do so well at their home track. With Austin getting "Sherman" into the top 10 for the race three reverse grid draw, race three was looking rather tasty...
And it was!!! But I'm getting to that...
By the way, I am loving the fact that BTCC Teams are naming their cars. I think its a great idea and that TOCA should make this a standard practice in the series. The cult fan following that Optimus and Sherman have is growing day by day on facebook and twitter!!
And so we come to race three...
Now many people I speak to who are fans and first time viewers alike will often speak of race three at BTCC meetings because its all out racing, carnage and great sport for the fans. That's the best part about the BTCC because in the beginning all the way back in 1991 when the 2 litre era began, it was all about panel bashing and bumper pushing and flying wing mirrors...and that's what got the series its good name for exciting motorsport that's a great alternative to Formula One.
Ok, I'm done with the selling, on to race three. Now remember as you read this next part, this was the third race of the day and it ran for 17 laps...
Now of the front three cars on the Grid, Dan Welch was in a prime position having used his soft tyres in the races before so he was expected to move up ahead and challenge for a podium at least... Jeff Smith had been chosen for Pole Position ahead of Welch and Rob Austin in Sherman. However at the start, Austin got an awesome start in the rear wheel drive Audi and jumped from 3rd on the grid to take the lead from Smith, ahead of Welch in third, and that's when Jeff started pressuring the Audi for the lead...

On lap four, Jason Plato pulled into the pits with smoke billowing out of his MG6, which was on fire on the front right corner. The Marshals managed to put out the fire in the pits and Plato escaped from the car unhurt and safe.

Oh, but there's more...

A huge concertina effect at the front on lap five saw Dave Newsham spin off spectacularly at Cascades in his Toyota Avensis, whilst Shedden’s Honda Civic slowed with a puncture. On lap seven, Matt Neal attempted to pass Turkington at the Knickerbrook Chicane, however the two cars made contact and for a scary moment, Matt was tipped up on two wheels. Fortunately both cars were able to continue on

Now since the start, Smith had been harrying Austin in the Audi with the Honda looking the faster car of the two. After a helpful nudge from Smith as the two cars headed into Lodge corner, Smith took the lead on lap eight, with Adam Morgan in his Toyota making his way past as well. Unfortunately Dan Welch retired when he lost power a lap later on lap nine, before Jordan passed Morgan for second.

And we're only just halfway through!!!

Colin Turkington passed Morgan on the exit of Cascades on lap 12 before what I think s the defining moment of the race took place. Now Jeff Smith has upped his game this year leading races at both Thruxton and Oulton Park and fighting with the bigger guns as he usually has qualified in the top ten on a Saturday. However I think that the 2nd opportunity to try and take a race three win got to him. With team mate Jordan in second a possible Pirtek Racing 1-2 was in the offering and that would have sent the team and the paddock wild.

However when Jordan tried to pass his team mate, Smith defended a little too robustly and for a few laps it was obvious as the two Pirtek cars drove through Knickerbrook each time, that Jeff was losing grip through the chicane. Had Smith let Jordan through to gain the "I led a lap" point, I'm pretty sure that Pirtek Boss Mike Jordan would have ordered positions reversed and Jeff might have won. But it wasn't to be and Smith lost it under braking at Knickerbrook.

Smith finally made his day worse his day by flying off backwards at Cascades on the next lap, a spot which also saw a spin for the fan popular Tom Onslow-Cole in his Tony Gilham Racing Volkswagen on the last lap. Unfortunately TOC was moving back through the field in all three races in his Passat after qualifying in the top ten on Saturday. However I am sure that the Passat and TOC will star again in the next few rounds.

Besides, that car looks fast even standing still!!!

Sam Tordoff is proving the revelation of the series this year by far. After his race two incident with Mat Jackson in his Airwaves Ford Focus where the pair touched at the Island Hairpin and both drivers took damage dropping them to the rear of the field, Sam started 22nd for race three...and he would take no prisoners. Starting in his MG6 with no success ballast and also on the normal "harder" tyre, he carved his way through the field to finally finish 7th. I still stand by my statement in an earlier blog post that this boy is going to take a win this year in BTCC and that he is going to be a revelation in future seasons to come.

Jordan kept the lead all the way to the finish with Turkington second and an elated Morgan taking his first podium in BTCC in only his second season by finishing third, holding off Matt Neal by just 0.078 in the end. Behind Neal the top ten was completed by Rob Austin and Will Bratt, both RAR drivers taking the best result this season and also Bratt's best position in his short BTCC career so far. with Tordoff 7th, he was followed by Nick Foster, Frank Wrathall and Aron Smith in the second Airwaves Ford.

So in review, a little bit of testing in the past few weeks, that was denied to most teams during the winter due to the bad weather, has closed up the BTCC field of drivers and now made it even more harder for fans like me to pick their Fantasy BTCC team for Croft onwards!!! Cheers fella's!

But seriously, a field this close is starting to show a trend at each meeting with MG and Honda fighting it out for Pole Position with Pirtek's Andy Jordan on a Saturday. On race day however, the EBay BMW's are moving quickly through the field to make up positions as are the Audis and Toyota's. I am feeling however for Frank Wrathall. The Dynojet Toyota is fast this year, blindingly fast...but fragile too. If the Dynojet guys can get some reliability into the Toyota, Frank will be fighting for wins again with the works teams. His win last year at Brands Hatch in the finale was no fluke and soon it will be joined by others.

The Insignia's of Tony Gilham Racing showed pace again in the hands of Jack Goff and James Cole and pretty soon those cars will be fighting for top ten places in all three races in the same way that TOC is dragging the Passat into the fight. However the team deserves the commendation alone for building at least 3 cars from scratch over the winter and already having taken 2 podiums in races this year. Hopefully Howard Fuller will join them at Croft in a second Passat and the talent he showed last year at Rockingham and Silverstone in the Honda Civic was impressive.

The Airwaves Ford's of Mat Jackson and Aron Smith are again showing improved pace and fighting for top ten positions and hopefully in the coming weeks in the Summer Break after Croft, they will find more speed and come out fighting and faster at Snetterton. Last year the NGTC Focus made it's debut in Mat's capable hands and he showed good pace on its first weekend.
In the Jack Sears Trophy, Lea Wood is now ahead with 5 Trophies to Liam Griffin's 4. Liam did win in race one but he was given a 1 second penalty after contact with fellow JST rival Wood. AmD regular James Kaye was replaced by VW Cup leader Aaron Mason for this round only whilst Warren Scott endured a difficult meeting with the ex STR SEAT Leon. He has confirmed that as soon as the team can make the switch to NGTC machinery, it will probably be a VW Passat. Joe Girling didn't race after taking medical advice and David Nye also had a difficult weekend. Wood took wins in races one and two to maintain his good home record.
And so we look forwards to the weekend's action at Croft, the fifth meeting of the 2013 BTCC Season. Again like Oulton Park, it has fast flowing corners and slow corners, even a hairpin. The racing is fast an close and hectic and expect the rear wheel drive BMW's and Audi's to star again.
Add into the mix that its home territory for the MG fans and that Honda will be fighting back and this is already looking like a cracking race weekend. So I'll leave the racing to the experts and hope that this post hasn't been too long this time.
To add into the already spicy mix, Airwaves are due to have their third NGTC Focus makes its appearance along with Andy Neate's NGTC Chevrolet Cruze. I'm looking forward to seeing how that goes as it looks a great car already. It was due to race at Oulton Park, but Andy decided on safety grounds that more work and testing was needed. Jake Hill will replace Liam Griffin in the S2000 Ford Focus due to Griffin having to see to Business Commitments. Howard Fuller may also make an appearance...we wait and see...
One final thing, apparently there's this 24 hour race taking place in France this weekend. At some place called Le Mans. Something about Audi and Toyota racing diesels head to head...not sure what that's all about...

Saturday, 15 June 2013

RallycrossRX... My new Motorsport thing for 2013...

As you all know, I watch a small amount of motorsport...

Ok, lets try that one again with a bit of honesty...

As you all know I watch a lot of motorsport. To give you an idea, this is what I watch and where...

I watch Formula One on the Sky Sports F1 HD channel, purely because Martin Brundle is on there. I consider that man a God in the world of F1 as he is able to translate the technobable of the technology in Formula One and he is open & honest in questioning the decisions made by Teams, Drivers and those who run the show.

I used to watch it on the BBC as I have blogged before but I have felt that they have lost their focus on F1 in recent years and this saddens me.

Thats a personal thought of mine and my apologies to anyone who disagrees.

On ITV4 HD, I watch the British Touring Car Championship and the Highlights of the DTM. I watch British Eurosport for coverage of the World Touring Car Championship and of the Le Mans 24 Hours.

On MotorsTV, I watch coverage of the International V8 Supercars Series love every minute of it.

I also check the internet daily for any motorsport news. I use,, and

So, as you can see... I keep an eye on things...a little...

Anyway, each year I decide to expand my motorsport experience by watching a new series/championship and see what spectacles I'm missing.

This year, I decided to follow the amazing spectacle known as the FIA European Rallycross Championship or known by its official nickname, RallycrossRX.

And bugger me, I've found a corker!!!

Now my reason for following this sport is two fold. First of all, during the off season in the winter, 2003 WRC Champion Petter Solberg announced that he was embarking on a new motorsport for 2013.

Now I admit, I was one of the many fans hoping that he would turn his hand the WTCC as was rumoured on the internet. The idea of such a talent coming to the WTCC was mouthwatering but as it turned out he announced he would be taking part in RallycrossRX...

At this stage I did a bit of investigating and realised that this year the series went through somewhat of a revamp to re-invigorate its profile as a high level european FIA championship.

So I decided to give this a go. My somewhat knackered memory recalled a stage in my childhood where I watched Rallycross on the BBC, commentated on by the legend we know as Murray Walker.

My decision was also helped by the informative guide produced in Autosport and seeing that there were british drivers taking part in the forms of Andy Scott and Liam Doran, son of Rallycross legend Pat Doran.

What also sealed the deal was the fact that British Eurosport were showing a 1 hour highlights programme a week after the event. So my decision was made to cheer on the brits and Petter Solberg in this series. I knew nothing about the rules or how the event worked apart from the fact that in the Supercar class, the cars have engines of over 500bhp, are all 4 wheel drive and FIA Homologated.

I have to say, I've enjoyed the series so far. I know there is a heat system to get through to the semi finals.

Each heat is 4 laps long with each driver having to take a "Joker" lap during the race they take part in. This way everyone has a longer lap to factor in during the race and the timing of this can often decide if a driver wins or loses a heat race

The route to the Semi-Finals is based on the driver with the fastest heat time scoring the least amount of points and the next slower competitors scoring more points as you go down the order.

In the Semi Finals, the 12 fastest drivers are split into 2 groups of 6 with odd numbered drivers in one Semi Final and even numbered drivers in the other. To get to the the Supercar Final, the top 3 drivers in each Semi Final progress through, leaving the top 6 to fight it out for overall points and the event win.

Add to this the short races and frantic exciting panel bashing and throw in the concrete/gravel mix of racing and RallycrossRX makes for a great alternative to what many will call "boring" circuit racing.

Well, its got me hooked anyway...

Anyway enjoy your weekend!



Monday, 10 June 2013

WTCC Update...Pepe Oriola switches to RML Chevrolet.

Spanish WTCC driver Pepe Oriola confirmed yesterday after the 2 WTCC races in Russia that he will switch to driving a Chevrolet Cruze with support from RML from the next WTCC round at Porto in 3 weeks time.

This will bring the count of Chevrolet Cruze's on the grid to 6.

The young spaniard, who joined the World Touring Car Championship in 2011 at the tender age of 16, has been a SEAT Leon driver from the start and took his first win this year in Marrakech. However his talent has shone brightly before that win as he has regularly hassled the bigger teams in many races over the past 3 seasons.

However, as proven on many occaisions this year, the Chevrolet Cruze is still the car to beat even though its not in a "Works Team" environment anymore. It is still capable of taking Pole Positions as proven by Yvan Muller and 3 drivers have taken outright race wins this year in Cruze's: Yvan Muller, Michel Nykjaer and James Nash.

Now Oriola has already made it clear that they will won't be able to test the car before Porto, but he will get a shakedown run in the UK just before. So effectively the next 2 races at the street circuit of Porto will be an eye opener for him. After that however, he'll get time to settle in as the season heads to its fly away races in the 2nd half of the season.

So I'm going to stick my neck out on what I feel is a sure bet....

Pepe Oriola will take his second win later this season.

Its not a given, but he already proven he has the talent and now has the car to do it in. It will also be good to see how he matches up to Muller, Chilton, MacDowall, Nash and Nykjaer in equal cars...

Whatever way you look at it, its great news for Oriola and the WTCC to see another young driver stepping up.



Friday, 7 June 2013

BTCC Update...

A quick BTCC update for you all...

Andy Neate has revealed the livery for his IP Tech/ Team Club 44 NGTC Chevrolet Cruze that will make its debut this weekend at Oulton Park.

This will be the newest NGTC Car on the BTCC Grid and Neate has confirmed he will be testing the car today before the team head out to Oulton for the weekends 3 BTCC races. This entry now brings the number of cars on the grid to 28. Neate has confirmed a 2nd Cruze from the team may appear later in the season.

However this number will increase over the next few rounds with Airwaves confirming that they will field a 3rd NGTC Focus from Croft onwards, Howard Fuller is expected to appear in the 2nd NGTC VW Passat CC alongside Tom Onslow-Cole at Team HARD. and the BTC Racing NGTC Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback is due to appear at Snetterton in the hands of Chris Stockton.

Finally, VW Cup leader Aaron Mason will replace usual AmD Pilot James Kaye in the S2000 VW Golf this weekend. Kaye has business commitments keeping him out of the car.

Otherwise lets hope for a hot and Sunny weekend of great tintop racing!



Thursday, 6 June 2013

The 1991 F1 season: The year I re-connected with F1...

I have to admit that although I have watched Formula One for 30 years, Man and Boy on the BBC, ITV and Sky, that there was a time that I stopped watching the sport. The two seasons I missed out on watching were the 1989 and 1990 seasons.

Imagine that... Phil not watching Formula One...


This was due to several reasons. At the time I was 12 years old and due to many reasons My Family and I moved from my hometown of Bletchley in Buckinghamshire to a small town called Flitwick in Bedfordshire. With the hassles of moving schools, losing friends and not making new ones, finding life difficult being bullied and the fact that we were used to spending weekends busy around the house or exploring around Flitwick and ending up being bullied all the way home for tea...

Yup, I had a difficult childhood, but thats a different subject.

However, my love of Formula One was re-ignited thanks to the bout of Flu and Hayfever I suffered during the weekend of the 1991 British Grand Prix. I was off school for 2 weeks which back then felt like ages. During my time off, my Mum bought me a copy of the motor racing newspaper Motoring News (now Motorsport News) and a copy of the magazine Motor Sport.

My Mum knew I loved my motor racing. In fact she still loves watching F1 and reminding me when the "buzz buzz" is on and asking if am I watching it. Thanks Mum.

Anyway having watched Nigel Mansell power his Williams Renault FW14 to Pole Position on BBC Grandstand was epic on the Saturday lunchtime. But the race on Sunday was just epic...

Senna had qualified 2nd to Mansell but at the start he took the lead. My heart sank. Before the race I had read up on all the previews possible to learn about the first half of the season and how Senna had dominated the first 4 races at Phoenix, Sao Paulo, San Marino and Monaco. Suddenly the race had a look of Senna Domination heading its way...

But on the first lap at Stowe, Nigel asserted his position and retook the lead. Then he pushed...hard. Setting fastest lap after fastest lap he pushed to open up a gap to his title rival. Each time the Blue and Yellow car rocketed over the start/finish line, the crowd roared so loud the BBC Microphones picked it up clearly. Everyone at home watching TV and trackside was cheering on "Il Leone."

Even me, laid up on the sofa, sweating horribly, cheering on Nigel, shouting at the TV as my heart raced harder and faster, seeing the best in the world race at the home of UK Motorsport.

Having read about the Williams FW14's poor reliability earlier in the season however, I was worried again, hoping the car would not break. Praying that the Adrian Newey designed car would stsy reliable. But that worry never came. Try as he might, Senna had no answer to Mansell and chased him so hard he ran out of fuel on the last lap.

To this day I have never forgotten the quote from Nigel when Murray Walker asked him what it was like to race at Silverstone in front of his home crowd and Nigel's answer was that the support alone was worth "half a second a lap" and the crowd duly rewarded him by helping Nigel break the lap record on his way to his race victory. Mansell won from Berger and Prost on that day, 14th July 1991.

As he drove back to the pits and picked up Ayrton on the way, I was reminded of all the memories of watching Nigel race in the late 1980's in the Williams-Honda, battling his team mate Nelson Piquet, Senna and Prost for the titles he would never win. The tyre explosion in the 1986 Australian Grand Prix, the pass he pulled on Nelson Piquet in the 1987 British Grand Prix. Watching him fight for every point he could score in 1988 in the Williams-Judd before his move to Ferrari in 1989.

And the Passion returned with a Fire in it. I was glued to the TV for the German Grand Prix, again watching Mansell race to his 3rd straight Grand Prix win in a row whilst team mate Patrese made it a Williams Renault 1-2. Senna would again run out of fuel on the last lap and Mansell closed in on the Brazilian in the Championship.

1991 continued to be a historic season where Mansell fought back at Senna after every setback. He chased him in Hungary, dominated at Monza to beat Senna again, lost points in Portugal due to a botched pitstop and subsequent disqualification, took the win in Spain passing Senna in that Iconic move into Turn 1...I can still hear James Hunt even now declaring proudly "This is wheel to wheel stuff here!" and the heartbreak of Mansell's lost wheel in Japan sealing the title for Senna.

I recall watching the highlights of the final race of the season on Sunday Grandstand with my mum and two sisters, roast dinners placed on place mats on our laps. It was the Australian Grand Prix, the shortest race in F1 history at 16 laps and a very wet race. Senna led from Berger, Mansell and Piquet during the early laps, proving his wet weather prowess

Mansell would pass Berger for second but before the red flag came out, there was a massive crash on the Conrod Straight. With Monsoon conditions getting worse, cars aquaplaning off left  and right and safety vehicles trying to recover wrecked cars, Mansell would join the list of cars to spin out and hit the wall. Senna waved frantically to get the race stopped and it duly was. In the final results, Nigel was declared 2nd, sealing his 2nd place in the title race.

It capped off, what for me was and always is my favourite Formula One season.

Why? Because I feel in love with Formula One all over again.

I watched Mansell romp to the 1992 title the following year in the FW14B and watched every race that the BBC showed be it live or recorded after that until 1997 when ITV took on the rights from there. My Passion, Excitement and Fire for the sport never died again regardless of the exciting races or controversey that followed.

It also sparked the beginning of my ever increasing following of motorsport from there with me collecting issues of Motoring News and Motor Sport to find out every detail I could to know what was happening in F1 and the BTCC to begin with and the gradual expansion to DTM, WTCC...

Well you know the rest.

Anyway, enjoy your weekend and any of the motorsport activities that you are watching live at trackside or at home live on TV.



The FIA Touring Car Challenge... A marvel we may never see again...

Before the European Touring Car Cup and its successor the World Touring Car Championship returned in 2005, in the early 1990's the FIA decided to bring together the best of the Touring Car World in a sort of "World Cup" meeting...

Better put the kettle on, this one is a biggie...

After the demise of the European Touring Car Cup in 1988, Domestic Touring Car Championships continued on with the Group A/Multi Class rules until the early 1990's. The BTCC followed its own route with a single class structure with only 2 litre normally aspirated production cars allowed. The DTM followed a single car structure with 2.5 litre normally aspirated production cars with electronic aids from 1993 onwards.

The FIA decided to clarify the two different sets of regulations, calling the DTM set "FIA Class 1" and the more universally adopted BTCC regulations "FIA Class 2." With the majority of the different Touring Car Series in Europe and other parts of the world taking the Class 2 route, pretty soon the best Touring Car drivers in the world were racing in equal machinery.

And so it came to pass that the best drivers and manufacturers met at Monza in October 1993 and 2 races were held. There was a points system for individual drivers and also a Nations Cup.

Names such as Radisich, Cleland, Winkelhock, Larini, Giovanardi, Longhurst, Pirro, Biela, Stuck, Rouse, Soper and many others in the 45 car field drove in such iconic Touring Car Machinery provided by Ford, BMW, Vauxhall, Alfa Romeo, Audi, Peugeot, Mazda, Toyota and Nissan.

It became obvious that the end of season form shown in the BTCC by Ford from their drivers Andy Rouse and Paul Radisich that they would be the ones to watch. Radisich proved this theory correct by putting his Ford Mondeo on Pole Position for both races. However it would be the massed ranks of Peugeot, Alfa Romeo and BMW who would provide the Kiwi driver with the fiercest competition on both races.

But that didn't stop him running away into the distance and taking two wins from two Pole Positions. In race one, Larini got the better start and led the field around in the greasy, slippery conditions. As the field poured through the Lesmo's Rouse, Soper and Aiello would make contact, putting Rouse and Soper out on the spot. Radisich would catch Larini and pass him, taking french driver Alain Cudini in the Opel Vectra (or Vauxhall Cavalier to the rest of us) with him. Radisich won from Cudini and Larini with John Cleland taking 4th in his Cavalier and ex Grand Prix driver Alessandro Nannini 5th in a second Alfa Romeo 155.

In Race Two, Radisich would lead the field away in a better start to a lead he wouldn't lose. Larini would valiantly try to stay with the Ford Mondeo but had to settle for 2nd place again. However the top five for Race 2 would have a different look with Phillippe Gache in the Alfa Romeo in 3rd, Alex Burgstaller in the BMW 318i in 4th and Eric Van de Poele in the Nissan Primera in 5th. Soper would fail to finish again whilst Rouse fought his way up to 19th from the back. Cleland would spin in the greasy conditions and finish in 17th place.

Radisich won the Drivers Title whilst Italy would win the Nations Cup. The event took place again in 1994 at Donington Park where the worlds best would fight it out on the Grand Prix Circuit over just one race this time. At the first attempted standing start Cleland led away from 4th on the grid in his Vauxhall Cavalier followed by Steve Soper in his BMW and Radisich in the Mondeo. However the race was red flagged when Shaun Van De Linde, Phillippe Gache, Keith O'dor, Jan Lammers and David Leslie were all involved in a crash and later in the lap Alain Menu in the Renault Laguna would retire after hitting Frank Biela's Audi.

Radisich led from the restart with Soper, Cleland and Tarquini in pursuit, however Tarquini would outbrake himself at Goddards leading to Cleland and Pirro retiring from contact behind the italian. At one stage the three german drivers Biela, Ravaglia and Winkelhock would fight for 3rd as Soper pursued Radisich, however Ravaglia would fall back into the clutches of Tarquini and Muller in the BMW whilst Winkelhock would take 3rd from Audi driver Biela after contact at the Melbourne hairpin.

Radisich would win the race with Soper, Winkelhock, Tarquini and Han Joachim-Stuck in the top five. This second win would confirm Radisich as the first double world touring car champion whilst Germany won the Nations Cup thanks to Winkelhock, Stuck and Markus Oestrich.

In 1995 the event took place in France at Paul Ricard. The new Audi A4 Quattro's dominated both races and Frank Biela would be Champion as the Audi's and rear wheel drive BMW's dominated the races. In Race One Biela would win from Soper and Yvan Muller whilst in Race Two Biela's team mate Pirro won from Steve Soper and Biela. Audi would win the first Manufacturers title from BMW and Honda.

There was an attempt to run the race at the Austrian A1-Ring but only 10 entries were made leading to the event being cancelled.

Now the sad thing is that such an event may never take place for quite sometime due the fact that the major touring car series all run to different regulations and have done for the past few seasons. But the idea of seeing the worlds best racing in equal machinery is something rare and wonderful and something I hope will happen again in my lifetime.

I suppose that S2000 regulation cars would be the most popular set of cars to try and resurrect the Touring Car Challenge with but you would have 2 classes of car with S2000 1.6 litre turbo's racing with S2000 2.0 litre non turbo cars. Its an idea but with a fully fledged World Championship in operation and a European Cup in operation, this makes logistics and timing difficult. Add to the fact that budgets are tight in touring car racing and getting tighter each day and the revival idea becomes nigh on impossible which is a shame.

Anyway, its another memory I wanted to share with you and you've earned that cup of tea...

Now I've some posts to write about the tintop action from the weekend with the WTCC's first visit to Russia and the BTCC's action from Oulton Park...

See you soon!