Welcome to the Hooniverse Motorsport News. Formula 1 had a season opener down in Oz. NASCAR went roundy round again…somewhere. The 12 hours of Sebring went off with a bang or two. The Nissan powered Deltawing made its debut to the public, and it didn’t tip over. Aussie Supercars had a two-round non-points race to support the Formula 1 circus at Albert Park. Twenty-twelve has begun with a certain air of promise, let’s not disappoint. This report is aimed at telling you what you missed, and what you will miss in the near future. This round of Motorsport News will include more spoilers than a cars and coffee meet in Jersey.
- 12 hours, fresh from Florida
- NASCAR does the Bristol Stomp (sigh)
- F1 has a season opener in Aussieland
- Aussie Supercars give F1 goers a thrill
- D-Wing does its thing
- A few for the road…
The 12 hours of Sebring
Very few manufacturers ever triumph at the 12 hours of Sebring. The track is very rough on cars and drivers, and 12 hours there is more difficult than 48 hours straight at most European tracks. Therefore, when Audi won it’s tenth overall victory last weekend, they certainly had reason to celebrate. Remaining a clear third behind Porsche with a staggering 18 victories, and Ferrari with 12, Audi is entering that rarified air of significance.
The 60th anniversary of the 12 hours of Sebring brought with it additional prestige this year, as it was not only the opening round of ALMS as has been traditional, but also provided the venue for the premier race in the premier season of a new FIA international championship called the WEC.
Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Rinaldo Capello took Audi to victor’s circle and stood on the top step of the podium. This was Kristensen’s 6th victory overall, extending his record. LMP2 victory in an HPD (nee Acura) ARX03b was driven in the hands of Starworks Motorsport drivers Stephane Sarrazin, Enzo Potolicchio, and Ryan Dalziel. LMPC victory was earned by Core Autosport’s Alex Popow, E.J. Viso, and Burt Frisselle. GTE Pro was taken in a surprising last-lap kerfuffle by Rahal Letterman Lanigan racing BMW M3 with American Joey Hand keeping the car together to cross the finish line, as teammates Jorg Muller and Uwe Alzen looked on, but more on this later. GTE Amateur was taken by Christian Ried and his Italian teammates Gianluca Roda and Paolo Ruberti in a one year old Porsche 911 GT3 RSR run by Felbermayr-Proton. The GTC victory was delivered by the trio of Sweedler, Von Moltke, and Bell in Alex Job’s GT3 cup car.
Frosty and The Geez take non-championship victories in V8s
Race 3 of the V8 season was a violent, and chaotic one. After a five car pileup on lap one, a lengthy safety car period shortened the green flag run to the finish to a 17 lap balls to the wall sprint. Pit strategy earned Winterbottom the top spot, while Tander forced his way through to second place on the final lap, and Davison was forced to take the 3rd position. The victory was Winterbottom’s second in as many races, also having won round 2.
Race 4 was a battle of tire strategy, which was handily driven by Stone Brothers Ford driver Shane Van Gisenberg. While most drivers pitted on lap one to switch from the hard tires to the softs, Gisenberg stayed out until lap 5, using track position, and open air to his best ability. After pitting, the geez came out behind the guys already on softs, however in the closing laps, his 5-lap less tired tires helped him pull through to take the win. Tander again took second position, while F Coulthard took the last step of the podium.
NASCAR at Bristol
Penske’s Brad Keselowski took the victory on Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway. Having taken the same victory last season at the same track, Keselowski has put his mark on Bristol as a track he knows well.
Keselowski said this of his victory. “Matt [Kenseth] raced me hard and I raced him hard. We rubbed a little bit, but that’s good racing. This is one of the best races I’ve ever been a part of and ever seen from behind the seat.
“I’m just thrilled to death to be here in victory lane at Bristol again, one of my favourite places for sure. If this team keeps performing like they are, we’ll get more.”
Formula 1 in Aussieland
In my eye’s the weekend’s second main event (the other being Sebring) could not have come any sooner. I am an absolute Formula 1 fanatic, so when I sat down to watch the season opener, I could not have been any more excited. Who is going to do well, who will faulter?
Qualifying set the story right away with Mercedes powered cars taking the top four spots followed closely by the Red Bull Renaults, with the Ferrari’s way off the pace. Fernando Alonso may have been able to qualify higher, but a spin in Q2 meant he would go no further, having to start the race from a lowly 12th. Lewis Hamilton won Pole in his McLaren MP4-whatsit, but was handily trounced into the first corner by teammate Jenson Button. Button did the signature Vettel by pulling out a lead of more than 1 second in order to avoid becoming victim of the dreaded DRS. Controlling the race and running his own pace, Button led the field and notched another victory for himself and his McLaren team.
Alonso managed to salvage a 5th place finish while driving a terrible car, wringing the most out of it that he could afford to. Qualifying standout and GP2 Champion Romain Grosjean took a phenomenal 3rd place on the grid, but would quickly fall to 6th at the first corner, and a few laps later would have his front wheel taken off by a contretemps with Williams driver Pastor Maldonado.
My observations –
- Ferrari needs to step their game up. Attrition of others meant the team was able to salvage some valuable points, but they need to have some tricks up their sleeve by the time the championship returns to Europe in a few weeks’ time.
- Williams is back. Whether it be their “under new management” attitude, or the Renault powered shove from the back, Williams GP has the come from behind “Cinderella story” that sports announcers love to talk about. While they still won’t be winning championships or even races for a little while, it seems like they are headed in the right direction, and after scoring only 4 points last season, they can only go up from here.
- Renault has game. If they don’t have any more qualifying screw-ups like the one shown with Raikkonnen not even advancing, they will do well.
- Where did HRT go? 107% ? Really, guys? You gotta do better than that!
A few weeks ago, we showed you that the deltawing could, in fact, turn corners, accelerate, and stop. Well, now the Nissan powered lightweight aerodynamic marvel has taken a few exhibition laps before the 12 hours of Sebring, in preparation for its debut at Le Mans this June.
Marino Franchitti has been doing all test driving of the new car, and has been doing surprisingly well. The extraordinary lightweight concept, narrow front track with 4 inch wide front slicks, and lightweight 4 cylinder turbo engine, all point at potential for the future of the sports car. Here is a Michelin promotional video (I have no idea why they cribbed Mr. Despain’s Wind Tunnel music…just go with it), and an in car video of the car testing at Buttonwillow.
A few for the road
I mentioned earlier that I would touch on the GTE battle at Sebring in a little more depth. It seems as though there are many who have seen the video, watched it live, or even were at the event, and still don’t quite understand what is happening in it. So, if you haven’t seen it, watch it now, and come back for a quick dissection.
It doesn’t help that the announcers make a mistake on which car is which (It’s not a mistake that is often made, though announcer John Hindhaugh is known for getting a bit excitable). So, you have Joey Hand in the BMW who has the lead at the beginning of the video. The 71 Ferrari of Olivier Beretta takes the lead from him and crosses the start/finish line under the white flag. Joey Hand re-takes the lead at turn 1. By the time they arrive at turn 3, the 71 has been balked by the Krohn Racing Ferrari, allowing teammate #51 through as well (though he is several laps down at this point). At turn 5, the #51 divebombs Hand, forcing him off track. Simultaneously, though not shown on that video, the #71 spins in an attempt to avoid coming together with cars who have checked up due to the 51 shoving the BMW off track. Before the 71 car can restart, Beretta is passed by Jan Magnussen in the Corvette. This is the order in which they finished.
[Photos : AmericanLeMans.com, Autosport.com, and PlanetF1.com]
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