Monday, 22 July 2013

ETCC: Dusan Borkovic... My new guilty pleasure...

Back on 14 July, the 2013 FIA European Touring Car Cup made its visit to the spectacular speed bowl at Enna-Pergusa in Sicily.

Now in the run up to this meeting, it was announced that Serbian driver Dusan Borkovic would be changing from the car he started the season in, an S2000 SEAT Leon, to a S2000 Chevrolet Cruze LT that was raced by Paul O'Neill in the 2011 British Touring Car Championship.

Now normally I keep a weathered eye on the ETCC as this showcases the best talent outside of the well known Touring Car Championships that use 2011 Super 2000. The regular drivers that take part are usually from the ADAC German ProCar Series (Germany's second tier Touring Car series) and there are alway entrants from the various Touring Car Series from Eastern Europe and Scandinavian countries.

Last year Fernando Monje stormed to the title in his S2000 SEAT Leon TDI and this led to the FIA banning any Diesel Super 2000 cars for the 2013 season. It also makes it a bit pointless racing in the S2000 class unless you had a SEAT Leon TDI...

Now this year I have kept an eye on British Driver Nicholas Hamilton who has been driving a SEAT Leon Supercopa in the Single Make Trophy class of the ETCC. While Nicholas has been scoring points in the class he is still learning the ways of Touring Car racing in the ETCC. Whilst his brothers accomplishments in Formula One are well documented, Nicholas' time in the glory and limelight of Top Level Touring Car racing will come and its an achievement already of what he has done so far.

So when it was announced that Borkovic would be driving an 2011 S2000 Cruze LT my interest suddenly peaked. Normally the S2000 class in the ETCC has BMW 320si's, SEAT Leons and the odd Honda Accord or Honda Civic.

The last time a Chevrolet Cruze was entered was back in 2011 when NIKA Racing, under the name of Chevrolet Motorsport Sweden, entered Michel Nykjaer in the car that Rickard Rydell was driving in that years Swedish Touring Car Championship. Nykjaer was driving against Pepe Oriola in a SUNRED SEAT Leon TDI and Fabrizio Giovanardi in a Hartmann Honda Accord.

Unfortunately, the car never took part in either of the two races held that year whilst Giovanardi romped to the 2011 ETCC Title. However, with the form of a Chevrolet Cruze racing at a fast track and its pedigree well known from the World Touring Car Championship where on fast tracks the car has a very good aerodynamic profile allowing it to be very slippery through the air and that makes it a quick car.

So, my thought was, can Borkovic take a win in either race, if not an assured podium? Well my seat was booked for Sunday morning where Eurosport was showing the two races live.

Borkovic started race one in ninth place overall on the grid and fourth in the S2000 class. Once the race started, he stormed through the field, passing the SMT cars with ease and passing fellow S2000 drivers Igor Skuz in a SEAT Leon and Mat'o Homola in his BMW 320si to chase Petr Fulin in his BMW 320si to the line and take second place overall. The pace of the Cruze was once again proven and the old adage of "if he'd had one more lap" couldn't have been more applicable.

For race two, Borkovic would start seventh on the grid as the race one top eight is reversed for race two. Once again, Borkovic guided the Cruze through the field to pass the SMT drivers and also lap the slower Super 1600 drivers to take third place overall on the podium behind Fulin and race winner Homola.

Now the last two races of the  2013 FIA European Touring Car Cup will take place at Brno in the Czech Republic on the 5th and 6th of October (The weekend before my birthday...nice!). Brno is normally a tight and twisty circuit that has often favoured BMW's in the past. Well, I will be cheering on Dusan Borkovic in his NIS Petrol Chevrolet Cruze to see if he can take two podiums or even take two race wins.

After all, this guy is my new guilty pleasure as I have found myself cheering on the WTCC Chevrolet drivers more and more this year. Hopefully Dusan can perform as admirably at Brno and spring a surprise.

What I also learnt as well whilst watching the two Eurosport Broadcasts was that the only entrants allowed into the ETCC are countries that hold a dometic Touring Car championship that has either S2000 or S1600 cars racing regularly and that the drivers taking part must have a Touring Car pedigree with them as well, showing that they can race on the European scene with a possible graduation to the World Touring Car Championship later on.

It also got me thinking about my fantasy usual way of entering Touring Car racing with that expected Lottery win...

Well one day maybe...

Well I decided that my team that I would enter into the ETCC (If I could make it happen) would be to have Tom Onslow-Cole and Andrew Jordan in two S2000 Chevrolet Cruze LT's.

If you have a lineup you would like to suggest, pop me a tweet at @PhillipKinch. I'm always happy to chat about Touring Cars and F1.

Apparently theres some Royal birth supposed to be taking place...

All I know is its bloody hot out there so stay cool and stay safe.

All the best


Sunday, 21 July 2013

The 2014 WTCC Super 2000 Touring Car Regulations...

During the weekend of the two World Touring Car Championship Porto races, two important announcements were made.
Citroen confirmed it will enter the 2014 WTCC season with Sebastian Loeb whilst also looking to secure the services of either Yvan Muller, Rob Huff or Alain Menu to partner him. 


The new 2014 Super 2000 Touring car updated regulations were confirmed...

We haven't been waiting long...Honest!!
We now know what the cars should be like for next season where at least Citroen, Lada and Honda will be represented by works teams. There is the possibility that SEAT will have their new SEAT Leon Racer in the series next year, however this is more likely to be in 205 once the series has had a year of the new reguations in force and this will likely be repesented by Customer teams with Support by SEAT.

There is talk of Renault possibly committing to a programme of cars taking part and other manufacturers reportedly tempted so either way you slice it, these new regulations are enticing in new blood to try and take the WTCC Title from the established players.

So have these new regulation have the desired effect of improving the show and enticing new manuafacturers and teams to the WTCC?


They have done exactly what it was designed to do. Series Boss Marcello Lotti wanted to spice up the show and by tweaking a good thing, you can make it better. the result is a confirmation already from Honda, Lada and Citroen of new cars and also of some form of participation from SEAT.
So what are these new Car Regulations and Sporting Regulations you may ask?

Better go get that Cup of Tea or that Iced glass of Coca-Cola...

Now then, if you're sitting comfortably, then I'll begin...
1. The cars’ minimum weight will be 1,100kg (this is currently 1,150kg)
2. The cars will now have larger 18″ wheels (they are currently 17″)
3. An increase in engine power output from the 1.6 litre Turbo's to 380bhp (this is an approx. 50-60bhp increase)
4. The cars will be a maximum width of 1,950mm (approx. 100mm wider than the current cars)
5. All cars will have a 100mm long front splitter
6. All cars will have a rear wing that can reach the height of the roof of the car, with a single plane
7. Flat floors are permitted now in all cars
8. MacPherson strut suspension will be used
9. New S2000 2014 cars performance target will be to be at least1km/h faster per km than S2000 2011 cars (in 2013 spec)
10. Current S2000 2011 cars performance target to be 0.4km/h faster per km than they are presently
So, simplifying the above, we can expect to see wider, longer, lighter, more powerful cars with an increased aerodynamic profile for next years from at least Citroen, Lada and Honda. What's also been confirmed is that any current S2000 cars taking part will be allowed an upgrade package to allow the current crop of cars to remain competitive until the whole grid of cars is fully 2014 S2000 cars.
Consider this when recalling the last major change to the WTCC Engine Regulations back in 2011 when the engine formula was changed from all cars having 2 litre Normally Aspirated Engines to having 1.6 litre Turbo engines inline with the FIA's Global Racing Engine process. This was the decision introduced by the FIA to cut costs in its major series to have all cars running to 1.6 Litre Turbo engines as this reflects the engine that is in use in most road cars by Joe Public nowadays. the World Rally Championship has this is use as does the World Touring Car Championship. Formula One will use these engines from 2014 onwards.

The 2011 WTCC Grid started with all cars except the Chevrolets having a 2.0 litre Normally Aspirated Engine. By the Japanese round at Suzuka, every car on the grid had a 1.6 litre Turbo engine. This is also the thinking of series boss Marcello Lotti with regards to next season. Whilst Citroen, Lada and Honda have confirmed that they will have new cars on the grid, this still leaves the teams that run SEAT's, BMW's and Chevrolets to decide to either upgrade their cars as permitted or seek new regulations cars as a Customer Team. So in the best interests of the series, he has agreed that Current S2000 cars run with an upgraded package alongside the newer 2014 S2000 cars. Also this allows for a large grid to take place at each round. This year there have been between 22 and 25 cars present on the grid.

Why the increased Horsepower from the new engines? Well there is a lot of fan following for Touring Car racing in the world and different Series have different Engines. the DTM uses 4 Litre air restricted V8 engines, the BTCC uses 2 Litre Turbocharged engines and the V8 Supercars use 5 Litre Normally Aspirated V8 Engines. This also allows to see the cars racing together faster and closed hopefully and harkens back to the days of the Multi-Class WTCC and ETCC where the all conquering Ford Sierra's had cars that produced over 300bhp turbo charged and were twitching as they were pitched into the corner, demand the ultimate skill from the best drivers at that time.
So basically, we can expect faster cars too...

As a possible example of what these cars could look like, SEAT has provided the SEAT Leon Racer which has been on show at each WTCC event since the Salzburgring races took place. Its also had a run out at the Goodwood Festival of Speed as well. Now as far as the Paddock is concerned if something similar joins the WTCC grid in its new regulations, it will be a team running the cars with Works Support from SEAT. However its never a bad thing having more cars on the grid whether its a Full Works effort or Works Supported.
Now its not only the cars that will change for WTCC next year. There is also a change to the Sporting Regulations to try and further improve the show:
1. Race distances will be fixed at 60km. Since the 2012 season they have been either 50km or 60km each.
2. Qualifying will now be in three parts, similar to F1 Qualifying with the top five going into Q3.
3. Standing starts will be used for both races. Previously Race One has had a Rolling Start with Race Two a Standing Start.
4. No balance of performance. Before there has been various waivers and differentiated base weights of cars in effect to try an allow differing types of cars into the championship to keep the racing competitive.
5. Compensation weight however will continue
 to be used.
So, what can we take from this?
Well the races will be several laps longer for starters. Macau for example will go from being 9 lap races up to 12 lap races (without the addition of a safety car period). this should also introduce the tyre wear factor more with cars on the cusp of suffering loss of grip by the end of the races at their current duration, now tyre management with the extra power going through the driving wheels for longer periods will necessitate for more thinking on the drivers part as to when to push and when to save that precious tyre grip.

Qualifying will likely mirror the same format as F1 Qualifying, with the Top Five now confirmed for the Q3 session and this also happens to make it easier to understand who will score points from the Top Five in Qualifying as it is. there will likely be a mandatory number of cars knocked out in Q1 and Q2.

As to the standing starts for both races, this is likely to be the case as the general feeling in the Paddock is that there will be no BMW's on the grid next year. BMW Motorsport have already explained that they can't get any more power from the engine as it is and this is evident from the power deficit all BMW's have against the other makes on the grid. So with an all Front Wheel Drive field expected next year, Standing Start even the odds from the start of each race. It also means that everyone starts in the right position and that the hopeless examples of rolling starts where the cars have to run in formation through the grid hatchings will come to an end.

There are times that the rolling starts have been hilarious...Ask the ETCC Guys...

With no balance of performance because trying to keep different performing cars at a level pace was difficult enough in other series. Example? In the BTCC between 2011 and 2012 this was in force as there were, in 2011, Normally Aspirated S2000 cars racing S2000 Turbo cars and racing NGTC Turbo cars on the same grid. Result...

HEADACHE!!! and a lot of bitching from the drivers *Cough* Jason *Cough* Plato *Cough*...

The series has enough on its plate without Drivers, Teams or Manufacturers complaining that in an FIA approved World Championship, they are being disadvantaged because of performance balancing. Its not right in a World Championship and thankfully everyone starting from a level playing field will also mean that the best Diver/Car combination will come out on top.

Cue Yvan Muller in whatever Touring Car he may drive next year...

So this leaves the one change that hasn't taken place which is the leaving in of the Compensation Ballast. To be honest, this works in WTCC. The fastest car over 3 events is made the heaviest and then the weights calculated based on times from Practice, Qualifying and the two races o work out who should get more weight and who should lose more weight. This works because as the Chevrolet Cruze has been the fastest car in the series for the past 3 season's, its been the heaviest at having 40kgs ballast to practice, Qualify and race with.

Yet its still winning races with Yvan Muller at the helm.

Can you tell I'm an Yvan Muller fan... Don't get me wrong, He's amazing in a Touring Car... I just wish someone else could bet him regularly...

I wonder if he will try RallycrossRX in 2014...

All in all this bodes well for the series and I think is a good move to make. What it also means is that the Works Teams now have the decision to make of who they want to drive for them and the Independent Teams have the choice of what car they want to run as well. It opens up the drivers market as well with at least one new manufacturer on the grid and different cars available in a field that will be as equal as possible.

A Brilliant Idea!

What is also does allow is for drivers who have the talent already in the field could make the step up to a Works seat with a Works Team. Pepe Oriola, Norbert Michelisz, Michel Nykjaer, James Nash... all drivers who could handle the pressure of a Works Team seat and also go on to further title glory. The biggest issue in the past has been so many drivers and not enough works seats available to fill them with.

This also allows drivers like Alain Menu, Rickard Rydell who have had WTCC works Team experience to re-enter the series and show their talent. Both drivers in my opinion should have been racing in WTCC this year, but don't get me started again.

But it also allows drivers like Tom Onslow-Cole to try and have a go at the World championship. Only this week via Autosport the experienced Team HARD. BTCC driver admitted that he would like to increase his GT driving and also have a stab at the WTCC as well. So again, it offers a new opportunity to those that may have been happier racing in their domestic series to have a stab at the WTCC and see what they can do.

For me, as a Touring Car fan, I think the WTCC just got better...Roll on 2014...

Well, I've rambled on enough about these new regulations and what they could mean to the WTCC next year...I'll leave it to the professionals to see what the show is like...

I think its time I caught up on the FIA European Rallycross Championship.
Commonly known as RallycrossRX...

Enjoy the Sun!!!



Monday, 8 July 2013

My Motorsport and other interests...

Now some of you might think that Motorsport is my only interest...hobby...or Obsession???

Well I also happen to like other stuff as well and I thought a quick post in the close season for Touring Cars might be in order to show I'm not just a single minded individual who studies motorsport wishing he was driving one of those cars or at least commentating on them.

(Yes I know... the DTM is racing at the Norisring on 14th July... I meant the close season for the BTCC and WTCC.)

I happen to be a big Scifi fan, ever since I was a young boy and this was due to the wonderful work of 2 men: George Lucas and Gene Roddenberry. With the horrible childhood I had, these 2 men allowed my imagination to expand with ease. While other kids were out playing outside with their friends, I was happily indoors staying away from the bullies watching Men and Women exploring the stars and defending planets.

Basically Star Wars was the first big film I watched on TV and understood. From then I was hooked. Every Christmas/New Year Period ITV would show the original trilogy films over those few days and I loved every minute.

One of the few things I can thank my father for is the favour he pulled at Fenny Stratford Video Store. He managed to convince the owner to allow him to "borrow" a copy of The Empire Strikes Back on VHS before its official release on the monday. I recall that he had to promise to have the VHS tape back before 6pm on the Sunday Evening. I was heartbroken when we took it back...

Only to find the sneaky old bugger had reserved it on Monday when it was released...

Oh, VHS? Thats Video Home System for those of you who are too young to know...

Oh just to add to the debate, I love the Original Trilogy Films but I also like the Prequel Trilogy Films as well. I'll watch the Originals more mind you but you see each film tells a story and I love a good story. I loved Greek Mythology at school and enjoyed all the hero/villain tragedy stuff. As for the new trilogy to come from the House of Mouse, aka Disney, I welcome them because there will be at least 3 more stories added to the saga, introducing yet more imagination and mileage to the ever expanding Star Wars Universe.

It also allows me a 3rd oppurtunity to see a Star Wars film at the cinema. An amazing experience. I've also had the amazing experience of seeing a concert where all the pieces of music were played to a huge audience at the O2.

Truly awesome.

As well as Lucas providing the Hero/Villain balance in SciFi for me (I'm a Han Solo fan btw), Roddenberry introduced the Scientific Exploration into the mix for me in the form of Star Trek. Whilst the Star Wars Films were on at Christmas, every Wednesday Night on BBC2 at 6pm, I sat on the front room floor with my dinner on my lap watching Captain James Tiberius Kirk lead the Starship Enterprise on its 5 year mission into deep space, facing off against Klingons and Romulans and wooing green skinned Orion Slave Girls.

I loved the Classic Series and it led to me deciding from a young age that I wanted to be an Astronaut. Back in the 1980's, Space Shuttle launches were big news and the BBC always showed the launches live or delayed. It was awesome stuff for me as a kid with all this space stuff on TV.

It enhanced my love of Star Trek further watching those brave men and women going boldly where no one has gone before and its quite funny that most of the gadgets or ideas that they used in the series have ended up becoming reality decades later: Communicators have become Mobile Phones, Portable Tablets are a reality and so on and so forth.

Now I can happily say it brings joy to my heart seeing either a Star Trek or Star Wars film advertised on TV as I find myself in my happy place that normally is reserved for motorsport. Hell I have the DVD's and have read many of the books but seeing the films in action is awesome to me.

I've watched Star Trek The Next Generation, Star Trek Deep Space Nine and Star Trek Voyager and I love them to. My favourite is DS9 to be honest.

Again, my own opinion on the two new Star Trek films made by JJ Abrams is that I love them. They blend action with emotion extremely well and I still get the same tingle watching those at the cinema as I did watching the original films on DVD.

I have other interests including being a fan of a certain Dark Knight but thats a blog for another day in the close season.

Anyway its a sunny hot weekend and the Vauxhall, Bedford and Opel Association has its annual Rally on Billing Aquadrome...

So if you need me, I'll be there...



Friday, 5 July 2013

WTCC Porto: Chevrolets to the Front!!

Now, when everyone heard the announcement last year on July 4th that Chevrolet were pulling their works support from RML for 2013, many people cheered, hoping that the domination of the American manufacturer would come to an end with Honda and Lada joining the field with their own works teams for the 2013 season...


Well as Monza, Marrakech and Salzburgring proved, having an RML built Chevrolet Cruze was the car to have. Muller has taken more Pole Positions than anyone else this year whilst Muller, Nykjaer and Nash have taken mutiple wins in the car RML, NIKA Racing and Bamboo Engineering all race respectively...and the two races from Porto were no surprise either.

What Porto proved, like the season so far, is that the car to have in the FIA World Touring Car Championship this year is an RML built Chevrolet Cruze.

However now Spanish Touring Car sensation Pepe Oriola has joined the Chevy ranks after his Tuenti Racing Team agreed a deal with RML to run a Cruze from Porto onwards, receiving support from RML for the rest of the season and my god did that boy fly through the streets of Porto in his blue Chevy...

However lets get down to business regarding the two WTCC races from Porto. Now while the Chevys were racing to the front, SEAT, Honda, Lada and BMW had a mixed weekend.

After qualifying, RML had taken the front row with Muller on pole and Tom Chilton taking second. However I will point out that once again in qualifying Chilton was the faster of the two cars but not when it mattered. That boy will take a pole position at some stage this year and the Chevrolet Cruze is the car to do it in.

In Qualifying, after the whole session was finished, it turned out a timing glitch had occurred and the final grid was adjusted. This affected Tom Coronel in the ROAL Motorsport BMW the most. The Dutchman qualified 10th originally for race one which in turn gave him Pole for race two. After the adjusted grid he dropped to 11th for both races. Coronel showed his unhappiness by not taking part in Sunday morning Warm Up...

The shakeup also helped out Tarquini and Oriola. Oriola crashed after his first run in Q2 which originally left him 12th. Tarquini was left in 6th. After the correction Tarquini went up to 5th and Oriola to 6th. Thompson dropped from 5th to 7th whilst Huff, Basseng, Nash, Coronel and Engstler lost a place each.

This left the race one grid as Muller, Chilton, Nykjaer, Michelisz, Tarquini, Oriola, Thompson, Huff, Basseng and Nash in 10th and now on Pole for race two.

Still with me? Good... At least this time the grid wasnt as confusing as the "Salzburgring Fiasco"...


Muller led Chilton in race one to another RML 1-2 finish on the podium. At the start, Tarquini and Oriola both passed Michelisz to run 4th and 5th behind Nykjaer in his NIKA Racing Cruze (Oh look, Chevy 1-2-3...wonder how many times we saw that last year...). Huffy managed to get past Thompson in a drag race and its not the last time we'll see these two battle. Its becoming a regular thing now with battles between the two brits on track at Moscow and Austria earlier in the year.

Honda suffered a complete nightmare in race one. Michelisz was doing well until he hit a wall whilst on lap 8 when Tarquini suffered the same turbo issues Monteiro had suffered with in Saturday Practice retiring the Civic there and then. Monteiro managed to salvage a 9th place on home turf which is better than his luck has been this year.

That Honda Civic reminds me of the early Adrian Newey designed Red Bulls in F1. Fast, but fragile. The Civic has taken a win already this year, but Honda's title hopes may have to wait until 2014...

However, the final fling of the race came on lap 10 when a recovery truck joined the track to remove Michelisz's Honda only to have Franz Engstler run into the back of it. The German BMW Independent driver pitted with front end damage but himself. Something similar happened to him back in 2009 when Engstler was leading the race at Pau when a safety car period was called due to cars stricken on the french street circuit only to find himself T-Boned by the safety car coming out of the pits, driven by the Chief of Police no less!

Trust me, look that up on YouTube. You have to feel for poor Franz Engstler...

At the restart, Coronel passed Basseng for 7th whilst Tom Boardman on his and Special Tuning Racings return to the series since the Slovakiaring was having a competitive showing until contact with Darryl O'Young retired the SEAT out on the spot. Poor reward for all the hard work theyve done to get the lone Leon racing competitively again.

Unfortunately, the damage from the weekends racing has meant that Boardman and his team will now re-appear at Sonoma in the USA.

So a Chevy 1-2-3 on the podium with Nykjaer 3rd followed by Oriola, Huffy, Thompson, Coronel, D'Aste, Monteiro in the surviving Honda and Basseng taking more points in the Munnich Motorsport SEAT Leon. With Tarquini's retirement, Nykjaer moved up to 2nd in the Overall Drivers Title and kept his lead in the Independent Drivers Title chase.

Race Two was a different matter...

Nash made an electric start from the grid to take off like a scolded rabbit into a lead he wouldnt lose whilst Huff over took Basseng and began the hunt to try and catch Nash. Chilton moved up from 7th to 6th passing Oriola, but Oriola fought back and took back the position and kept Chilton offline as Muller, Coronel and Bennani passed the englishman. Unfortunately this year Chiltons race two's havent been as rewarding as his race one's.

With his race one podium dedicated to his late friend Allan Simonsen, "The Great Dane" began his hunt for another 3rd place by passing Thompson and then Basseng. Nykjaer then caught Huffy in the SEAT but try as he might, he couldn't pass the 2012 WTCC Champion although after the race Huff admitted he was suffering with braking issues late in the race. Nykjaer got his podium though and was happy he could put on such a competitive showing in memory of his late friend.

Whilst Nykjaer hassled Huff for second, Oriola, Thompson and Muller provided the late race entertainment. Oriola had passed Thommo on lap 4 but the Spanish Superstar (Can you tell I'm a fan???) had cut the track in doing so. He gave the position back but this left Thommo trying to fend off Muller and fight Oriola for position until the end of the race. With 3 of the WTCC's best racing on the close confines of the Portuguese street circuit, it was close but fair racing between them.

Oriola would go on to pass Basseng late in the race and the finishing order would be Nash from Huff and Nykjaer followed by Oriola, Basseng, Thompson, Muller, Coronel, Chilton and Bennani.

Again SEAT showed good pace with the Munnich Motorsport entries of Huff and german Marc Basseng in the thick of the action in both races. Considering this is the team that last year won the FIA World GT1 sportscar title, they have adapted well to the Touring Car arena and the hectic format of the WTCC.

James Thompson also showed again that the Lada Granta Sport has improved in both its qualifying and race pace. When he has an incident-less weekend, Thommo and the Lada are regular Q2 competitors capable of a top five grid position and also capable of fighting with and fending off more developed cars like the BMW 320TC, SEAT Leon WTCC and the all conquering Chevrolet Cruze. This bodes well for the future and can only spur on Lada to better things in WTCC.

Porto signalled the end of the European season for the WTCC and the show now moves to begin its "Rest of the World" leg beginning at the new Termas De Rio Hondo Circuit in Argentina on 3rd and 4th of August. This is a late replacement for the usual Brazilian round from Curitiba, but like Moscow Raceway, it offers another level playing field to the WTCC drivers and teams with no clear answer as to how each car or driver will do...

Unless of course you are Yvan Muller in an RML Chevrolet which case you're a sure bet for the win...

Muller leads the drivers overall title chase with a 122 point lead over Michel Nykjaer and a gap of 144 points over 3rd place James Nash. Factor into this that Muller has the most amount of wins this season followed by Nykjaer and Nash who both have 2 race wins to their credit and it becomes clear as to why these three drivers head the table. For Muller, the second leg of the championship will be to make sure he has a points advantage that can't be beaten when the series arrives at Macau in November.

Because as Yvan well knows... Anything can happen in Macau...

Well until then, its a quiet off season until August when the BTCC, WTCC and DTM return to action. In the meantime I, like the rest of you, will be enjoying this glorious sunshine while its around.

So be careful, pile on the suncream and enjoy the summer!!



Wednesday, 3 July 2013

F1: This Tyre Issue is becoming tyresome...

Unfortunately the talking point of the 2013 FIA Formula One World Championship has not been about one driver or one team dominating the season so far. Nor has it been about a car dominating the season because of some new technical innovation that has led to a new team challenging the established order...

This season, the talking point is tyres...

However if Adrian Newey keeps designing Red Bulls for Sebastian Vettel the way he is, the racing being boring will be the next talking point...

Back in 2011, Pirelli took over from Bridgestone as tyre supplier to Formula One. The FIA gave Pirelli a mandate. Make the racing exciting again using the 2010 Canadian Grand Prix as an example.
Now in 2013 that mandate has been tested and pushed all through the season so far and the performance of the tyres has been under close scrutiny. A lot of expectation and hype was made of the four pre season tests. So much in fact that the focus was more on how soon the tyres would hit the "cliff" (the point at which the tyres lose all grip) than on what cars were developed as an evolution from last season.

Now to give some perspective, when I grew up in the 1980's watching F1 tyres were only changed once during the race and that was only if they weren't durable to last the race distance or there was the fear of a puncture. The other defining reason was if the weather conditions changed and the race became a wet race.

Now during the decades, pit stops and tyre strategy became more and more important to taking race wins and this was decided more and more by the type of track surface they raced on or the conditions they raced in. Some track would give little grip and demand high tyre wear whilst other tracks would give lots of grip and demand lower tyre wear.

In 1994 refuelling was re-introduced into F1 and this added further into the equation of tyres and tyre wear due to the fact that a car would start with a heavy fuel load and finish its stint with a lighter fuel load affecting tyre performance. However this would often be confusing as lighter cars had better tyre wear and were faster but with no one knowing exact fuel loads in the cars during the race this didn't give a clear picture.

In 2007 Bridgestone became the sole tyre supplier in F1 and the tactic of using two different compounds during a race was introduced. This stopped competitors using one type of tyre compound in a race different to the others as was employed back in the 1980's when Goodyear supplied compounds named A, B, C and D with each compound being softer than the last. This way using two different compounds during a race meant a compromise on car setup to stay fast with varying levels of grip.

However the racing became boring with little overtaking and certain teams dominating proceedings. So after the introduction of DRS and KERS, the only option left was to use tyres to spice up the show.

Well this year Pirelli has done that...with all the wrong results...

The main issue has been that drivers have wanted to push on their tyres in the race to chase down drivers ahead and pass them. Now this only works when a driver has tyres that give up grip, regardless of whether you have a super-soft, soft, medium or hard compound on the car and regardless of whether that tyre last 10 laps or 40 laps...

But when you have a driver being told in one team "Go Faster" and that driver moaning back "This is as fast as I can go" yet in another team a driver is being told "Slow down, your tyres are critical!"...

Now this defeats the object of drivers getting in their cars on a Sunday lunchtime and racing as hard as they can!!

Whats also happened this season a lot is tyre delaminations. Now up until the British Grand Prix most of these had taken place during friday practice sessions. But last Sunday, 4 drivers suffered tyre delaminations during the race. Hamilton and Massa's tyres let go on or before the Wellington Straight whilst Vergne and Perez's tyre let go on the Hangar Straight at 190mph on the run into Stowe corner.

Now most experts have already split their view as to whether the kerbs at the circuit were responsible or the build structure of the tyre was responsible.

Before I go on I want to make it clear these are my own opinions and thoughts in this blog post.

Previous tyre failures during the season have shown a kevlar belt running under the tyre and with the failures that Hamilton, Ricciardo and Di Resta in practice sessions when the tyre has failed at speed. At Silverstone that kevlar belt was nowhere to be seen with the carcass of the tyre letting go and leaving the car at high speed in four cases.

So somewhere between the Spanish Grand Prix and the British Grand Prix, Pirelli have changed the build of the tyres. Now there was the issue raised of a radical change in the tyres to stop the massive degradation during a race, however Lotus, Ferrari and Force India disagreed with this when the teams were asked for their permission dor this to take place.

Now since that decision was made, the FIA have stepped in and demanded that any changes to the tyres are on safety grounds only...

Well, after the tyre failures at the British Grand Prix, I'd say there are some bloody serious safety concerns!!!

I started writing this blog a few days ago after the race and the situation has since escalated with Pirelli bringing 2012 tyres built to the 2013 process to the Hungarian Grand Prix and the 3 day young driver test is now a fully fledged tyre test for 3 days with the race drivers taking part. There is also the threat of the boycott from the drivers should any similar failures happen in the German Grand Prix.

Now I've read on Twitter and Facebook from other fans that F1 should start using tyres of a similar spec to those used in the FIA World Endurance Championship and at Le Mans. Now those races are 6 hours in duration or 1000kms in length dependent on which comes first.

If thats the next step, then you may as well turn back the clock to 2005 where tyres were made to last for a full race distance of over 200kms which is great until a tyre gives way near the end of the race and cars dont stop unless a tyre lets go. The pitstops were boring unless they stopped for fuel.

Otherwise you had "a garage of 20 men" waiting at each stop.

A great quote from Martin Brundle.

What I suggest is tyres that are durable for 40 laps. Let the drivers push hard on tyres that have plenty of life in them and allow them to chase the driver ahead and fight for position. Let them push hard in the lead and have the fastest cars fight for the win and the podium positions.

After all, thats what F1 is about. The fastest 22 drivers in the world fighting for the world title in the fastest cars.

Anyway lets hope this issue is sorted soon and we can talk about the racing again...

Enjoy the weekend!!