Looking Ahead

The US sportswear racing season is over. It is during this downtime between seasons, I enjoy looking to what’s going to be different for the upcoming 2016 season.  There is a lot.

What’s in a Name?

The IMSA series has its 3rd name change in as many years.  I loved the change to the Tudor!  Its easy to say and exudes the class of the Swiss made watches it represents.  But it is gone.  In its place comes WeatherTech.

WeatherTech, however, doesn’t roll off the tongue quite the same way.  They have a strong history in racing, sponsoring the Alex Job team for several years and almost everybody knows who they are.

That said, WeatherTech is a bit of a hero company for me.  My background is in manufacturing and WeatherTech is an ALL-American company!  A family company too. They use Toyota’s lean manufacturing philosophy to make great products for cars and trucks.  They represent what is good about American businesses and they have a DIRECT connection to racing.  I like that!  No, I mean I LOVE THAT!

Welcome WeatherTech.

The More Things Change, The More They Remain The Same

The prototypes generally get top billing, and this year is no exception.  The new international rules for LMP2 coming in 2017 will have a number of teams looking at changes now so to be competitive by then.

I think IMSA did the right thing by keeping the engine and bodywork options open.  Unlike the WEC, IMSA is manufacturer driven. If our manufacturers were interested in the F1 budgets of LMP1’s high tech hybrids, they would be there.  Mazda is a perfect example, running their diesel LMP2 to develop the concept.  The did get caught out with the rules change outlawing diesels and are now working on the gas version.  The story for Prototypes, though =, is still being written.

The change from GTD to GT3 this season will transform the series.  The influx of new cars already listed and the potential for cross over from Pirelli World Challenge has me just giddy with optimism.

Last year’s GT mix (GTLM and GTD) was a great mix with Porsche, Audi, Ferrari, Dodge (Viper), Chevy, Aston Martin and BMW all fighting for wins!  So far, we have Lamborghini committed to running, with Cadillac testing at Sebring with the Pratt&Miller team.  Flying Lizard?K-Pax are discussing a possible McLaren for at least the NEAC.  I also want to believe that Dyson Racing won’t completely turn its back on IMSA with the brutish but beautiful Bentley!

The field is full of opportunity!

History Returns

Saving the best for last, the Historic 24 is in November.  IMSA has heroically added its name to the race and it should be somethings see.  I for one will be there with my boys.  Camping in the infield old-school style.  I will post pictures.

Here is how it works.  There are 6 classes ranging from 50’s cars to more modern cars from the 2000’s.  Starting with class A and going through F, each class runs for 1 hour.  Once all classes have run, they start over and repeat the process for 24v hours.  Each class runs 4 hours total over the 24.

There will be some great old, and not so old, cars there!  This may be IMSA’s next hidden treasure.

A Reformed Opinion of F1

Something has happened to me this summer.  I can’t explain it.  No, I don’t know why, but something has changed.

For the first time in years, I have found myself watching F1 again.  I’m getting up on race day Sunday morning and watching it on NBC.  I find it unsettling, as I have as recently as this spring railed against the sport, its direction and technology.  I have spoken out against the Ecclestone Mafia.

But, I have found myself watching it again, for the first time since Shumacher left Ferrari.  I watched the Italian Gran Prix and was enjoying the race for second, and Kimi Raikkonen racing his way through the field for a fifth.  OMG!  I have become that person who I railed against previously.  I am that which I feared.  I am enjoying the racing.  Now, where did that come from???

Is there room for improvement?  Hell yeah!  I have been sucked into the F1 soap opera of manufacturer intrigue, 50 position penalties and feuding drivers.

However, here are my thoughts on improvement…..

50 place grid penalties?  Really, who do you think we are? Rubes?  If your putting someone at the back of the grid, just do it!  Or, add a stop and got 10 laps into the race, along with the grid penalty.

Grid Penalties for changing engines, oh, I mean POWER UNITS….  Come on!  Teams are going to spend money somewhere.  If they want to change the engine 3 times a race, let them.  The drive to reducing team spending has only moved that money elsewhere.  Renault is not spending significantly less then Mercedes or Ferrari, but their performance requires a reallocation of finances.  Mercedes, however is balancing their own budget successfully.

Speaking of Power Units, F1 is a spec engine series with no Balance of Performance, and the spectacle has suffered.  While I don’t want to penalize Mercedes for building the better mousetrap, I don’t want Renault suffering from design decisions made when the whole formula was changed.  The current state, however, has the potential of Renault quitting because it seems no legitimate way of being competitive.  Honda is in the same boat.

I hate live telemetry and the millions of Dollars (Euro’s?) it requires.  First, half the personnel at the races are technicians watching live telemetry.  While there is a radio ban, remove the live telemetry and all those people at the computers, you will save teams enough money to actually spend on the chase and power units.

Now, I have a thought how to make the telemetry work, though.  SD cards!  Yes, SD cards.  Use it to collect data.  Have the technicians review the data.  Program the PU and suspension.  During the race, when changing tires, swap SD cards.  Then leave it to the driver to make the adjustments based on his feel of the car, not a computer tech calling over the radio.  No need for a $10million supercomputer on wheels and a team of techs.  This will help bring racing back to the driver, with the team only involved when th strategy and giving the driver the tools to compete!

I have issues with the aesthetics of the aerodynamic appendages on the body of the cars.  I like simplicity.  A wing up front and one at the back, plus the diffuser underneath the car.  Everything else, to me, is ugly.  Plus, so much of a teams budget is spent on the aerodynamics, which is now concentrating on all these doodads and doohickeys.  Eliminate them, bring front and rear wings to simple dual or triple elements, without the art deco waves we see now.  This will create a reduction in the need for spending horrendous amounts of money on aerodynamic development.

I would bring back more in season testing, though.  Make the testing open to the public and allow tickets to be sold.  This would help teams like Force India and Manor Racing create a bigger fan base.  Similar to the IMSA’s Roar Before Daytona, where people con go and see the teams up close, meet personnel and buy souvenirs.

I am seeing the light with F1 again.  Let’s see what happens during the next few races.


Does America Need F1?

Does America need F1?  Does F1 need America?  Given the current state of the US’s only F1 track, the struggling Circuit of the America’s (CotA), as reported by Motorsport.com last night, they seem to me to be good questions.

I believe America wants F1, but does it need it?  No.  Wants and needs are two different things.  I WANT an Aston Martin Vantage Volante, but I don’t need it.  In fact, having one would put upon me an un-needed and un-wanted financial burden.  This does relate, believe me.

The US has the largest, most diverse and most financially secure sports environment in the world.  Its an alphabet stew of the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and MLS.  Add NASCAR, IndyCar, NHRA and IMSA for the 4 wheeled world and WOW!  I haven’t even touched the so called amateur sports of the NCAA.  By contrast, Europe, South America, the Middle and Far East do not have as wide a range of popular, and profitable, sporting events as does the US.

F1 is an extremely expensive endeavor to host.  The cost to simply purchase the RIGHTS to host a race are phenomenal.  A couple of years ago, a report out of Australia stated that the 2010 Australian Grand Prix cost the Australian state of Victoria $31millionUS.  On top of that, there is an escalator clause increasing the fee 10% per year, meaning this years race will cost almost $40millionUS!  Much of that is covered by various parts of the local, regional and national governments.  The state of Texas pays the Formula One Management (FOM), through CotA, about that much for the US Grand Prix. It has become a political hot potatoe in Texas.  It is not very popular as the $27+ million the state pays out of a tourism trust fund far exceeds most anything else, combined, paid by the fund.  But there’s more.

The general agreements have FOM getting 100% of any on track advertising.  This is in addition to the total control of TV revenue from the rights they already control.  This allowed them to force the removal of the stars painted on the run-off area (representing the state of Texas) and the DeJoria Tunnel signs (as in Paul Mitchell Products/Paul DeJoria, a major contributor to the building of the track) off the tunnels among other issues, as both were considered unpaid advertising by FOM.

Consider this, no American sports league has this much control over their venue’s on-site advertising.  In fact, it’s this on-site advertising that supports the venue’s continued survival.  Ask Jerry Jones if he would  have built the Dallas Cowboys (you know, America’s Team) ATT Stadium if he COULDN’T get this advertising!  I would say not!

So what does CotA have to work with?  Attendance!  Believe me, if the Jacksonville Jaguars had to survive on attendance alone, they would have been done and gone YEARS ago!  According to Christian Sylt, in an April 2014 Forbes article, CotA had to raise their ticket prices this year 24% to $409, and even then this brings them only to the break-even point!  I can’t afford this.  Neither can most people.  So how do F1 races survive?

Many nations, particularly in the Middle and Far East, and Russia, pay $400+million for the races in the name of National pride.  The rest, barely make it.  CotA isn’t alone.  Both the German and Italian Grand Prix have had, or are having, serious financial issues due to what we westerners call government oversight and taxation issues.  CotA is having the same struggles too!

So, does the US need F1?  NO.  Like my Aston Martin Vantage Volante, an American F1 race is an in un-needed and un-wanted burden that we cannot politically, or financially, afford.  With the current FOM contract, it frankly does not make business sense.  There are other, better, opportunities provided by so many other sports where there will be more revenue.

Does F1 need the US?  Yes!  Given the above described sports environment, the potential financial opportunities and the market the F1 teams themselves cater to, F1 NEEDS to be here.  If given a more realistic contract, and CotA getting a larger percentage of on-track advertising, both FOM and CotA can make a lot of money.  Any way the ticket cost can be reduced, the attendance will rise significantly, again, benefitting both!

Does F1 want the US?  I think not!  The contract itself is one sided to the point of “take it or leave it”!  Bernie Ecclestone knows motorsports, ALL of it.  He knew/knows that NASCAR had a race planned for the same day, yet refused to make even that seemingly minor (to him) concession.  Why would someone spend $400+ for an F1 ticket when they could spend one quarter that amount for the NASCAR race and still have money for a beer.  That decision alone leads me to believe he was setting the US Grand Prix up for failure.

So there it is.  I believe that F1 needs the US but doesn’t want it.  The US, on the other hand wants an F1 race but realistically does not need it.  I’m thinking that unless something changes with FOM, in the next 2 to 3 years we’ll be traveling to Canada or Mexico to see F1.

A Brief Look Back At 2014

I sit here on the last day of 2014 looking back at at the year.  Overall, it was interesting and enjoyable.

The Good

GrandAm merged with ALMS and created the IMSA/Tudor Series and the North American Endurance Cup (NEAC).  It brought together the widest range of machinery we haven seen since the days of the GTP Uber-Prototypes.  To unify endurance racing in the US was necessary for both to survive.

While there were areas of concern, especially after Sebring (See “An Open Letter To IMSA“), it ended where it should have started, with P2’s being competitive with the DP’s.  The new P2 Coupes look great and can run with the DP’s, even win against them.  I want to believe there will be a better balance of power (BoP) going into the 2015 Rolex and Sebring races.

Having P2’s race in both the World Endurance Cup (WEC) and the NEAC puts some well known American Teams on the world stage.  In particular, Scott Sharps ESM and Patrick Dempsey’s efforts will show how racing in the US stacks up against the European ands Asian LeMans Series’.  For years, I have felt that our lack of representation internationally was bad for our domestic racing scene.  I look back at the days where the same teams racing at LeMans were at Daytona and Sebring, and our drivers had a yardstick which to compare to themselves to those across the pond.  This is a big plus!!  The dream of having an American winning LeMans, even a class win, now has traction!

Ford has become involved in the series with what I believe is the sweetest jewel of an American built engine.  The 3.5Ltr twin turbo-charged V6 is simply the best small(er) displacement motor around.  I have it in my Lincoln MKT and love it.  Any new manufacturer in the series is good for the series.

Porsche is back in the prototype classes with Mark Webber and the 919!  I simply love it!

WEC/Tudor double header at COTA.  Now we can compare the DP’s to the LMP1’s on the same track on the same day!  We can compare the GTLM’s to the GTE’s too!  Simply awesome.

The Bad

The initial officiating at both Daytona and Sebring was horrendous!  I figured Alex Job Racing would have left for the Pirelli World Challenge (PWC).  They didn’t, but several did, notably Flying Lizard, Turner Motorsport and Bob Stallings/Gainsco.  The officiating was the start, the costly changes to all the BoP changes and, well, the general cost increases for the “low budget” GTDaytona made the PWC’s format very appealing.  While GTD and PWC comparisons are generally apples and oranges, money is money and GTD is costly.

With that said, we have lost at least 7 teams: the 5 mentioned above, Level 5 motorsport (due in part to owner Scott Tuckers pending legal issues) and Pickett/Muscle Milk Motorsport (I have no idea why they left after Sebring).

The Ugly

The wreck of the Red Dragon at Daytona!  It was violent and a near death experience for all involved.  That anyone survived surprises me.  I Wish the best for Memo Gedley and Matteo Malucelli’s recovery and hope to see them both in race cars soon!.

The soap opera that is F1.  Need I say more…



Looking Towards 2015

the 2015 season kicks off in 3 weeks and I start fidgeting with excitement just before Christmas….  So, what do we have to look for?

What We Lost

Well, we are losing 3 teams to the Pirelli World Challenge!  GTD Champion Turner Motorsport, for one.  Flying Lizard and Bob Stallings/Gainsco have also left IMSA for 2015.  That’s 3 teams with 5 cars, 4 of them in GTD alone.  With them goes 10 drivers. (Anyone who argues that GTD has not gotten too expensive, remember this!  They left due to the costs of the series.)

We lost the Dodge/SRT Viper team in GTLM.  Thats a shame, right after winning the GTLM championship and screwing Jonathan Bomarito out of a championship that he rightfully won WITH Kumo Wittmer.  They both ran the same car throughout the season.  To put them in separate cars, though…  I understand the strategy but after all the work to get there only to split the drivers for the last year is an insult to the drivers.  It’s like pulling your best wide receiver for the Super Bowl!  No sir, I don’t like it!

Scott Sharp’s Extreme Speed Motorsports (ESM) and Patrick Dempsey Motorsports leaves full time Tudor for the WEC.  Both intend to do all 4 of the Patron North American Endurance Cup (NAEC) races.  OK, ESM kinda has to as driver Ed Brown is Patrons CEO.  However, I think that’s a good sign.  They are moving up from Tudor’s regional series to the World Cup of Endurance racing.  If they are competitive, and I see no reason for them not to be, it speaks volumes to the quality of the racing in the IMSA/Tudor series on the world stage!

What We Gained

We have a new prototype team and the return of two former stalwarts.  RG Motorsports is fielding a Riley/BMW for Ohio neurosurgeon Richard Gewirtz.  While they have yet to name drivers, its a start.

Starworks Motorsports is back, this year with a Riley-BMW in cool Martini colors!  After last year’s debacle with the Riley-Honda that struggled at both Daytona and Sebring, they bring a solid, competitive, package for 2015.  Its a package that will work, something they couldn’t do with the Honda in the DP chassis.

Krohn Motorsports returns with a Ligier-Judd for the full season!  The solid green cars return with the state of the art P2 package.  With the speed that OAK Racing showed with their coupes last year, this should be very competitive.

What’s Changed

Michael Shank losses Ford but gains Honda!  Not only that, they go to the Ligier-Honda P2 package. They should be fast!

Chip Ganassi (Ok, I AM NOT Spelling out the entire name…) drops Memo Rojas and his TelCel sponsorship and gains American Ace Joey Hand and Ford as primary sponsor.  This is a very interesting story to follow for 2015.  Ford IS releasing a new GT car at next months Detroit Auto Show with plans to attack LeMans in 2016.  That year is the 50th anniversary of Fords first win with the GT40.  Ford is teaming with Chip Ganassi to make this happen.  Ironically, Chip has both Chevy NASCAR and Indycar teams.  Though Roger Penske (a hero of mine) splits Ford in NASCAR and Chevy in Indycar, I see a big change in the future on the other side as neither manufacturer usually tolerates this kind of conflict of interest.

The FIA drivers ratings are kind of screwy.  ( I can use that word, my blog).  How is it Jordan Taylor goes to Platinum with only a win this season and Joao Barbosa drops to Gold after winning the championship?  Why are there so many top line drivers NOT able to get rides and so many people who, frankly, I don’t care to know, getting (or paying for) rides.  I mean, REALLY!  Ryan Eversley, Guy Cosmo, Spencer Pumpelly and others are not going to be here.  I think GTD should be broken up to a GTD-Pro and a GTD-Am (or Pro/Am).  But, maybe if the purses were bigger…  A story for another day!

What I Expect

I expect there to be another year of GREAT racing, with fewer controversies.  I think the P2 Coupes will be even more competitive with the DP’s.  I feel the Depth in the Prototype class is better than in many years, including 2014.  I think fewer cars in GTLM and GTD will actually improve the racing throughout.  2015 is going to be a great year.

Something to look forward to will be 2016, which is just out of sight.  With GTD going GT3, I feel many PWC teams, many who have wanted some endurance races, will come over.  Maybe only for the NAEC.  But the depth of machinery will be very exciting.

Ford’s Return

Ford is back!  I am excited because the car Henry built is making another concerted effort to win the big one, LeMans! One of my favorite books is “Go Like Hell” by A.J. Baime.  It is the story of Ford, Ferrari and LeMans.  To be able to watch Fords attempt glory is too cool to ignore.

I have to back up a moment here.  I have a Lincoln MKT.  Old man car, I know. (REALLY, I know…)  My friends make fun of me.  BUT, tt has what I believe  is Fords VERY BEST motor!  The 3.5 lire twin turbo is a jewel of an engine and needs to be in a sports car.  Fords Q-car.  I can drive past the local gendarmerie without them bothering to consider whats happening.  (That said, I NEED to be careful now…) The best motor NOT in a Mustang.  The F150 IS NOT A SPORTS CAR!!!  REALLY!  That said…

I saw it in a Michael Shank Racing Riley chassis 2 years ago at the Rolex and had hoped, one day, it would race.  It did last year.  After Michael Shank’s awesome closed course speed record, Chip Ganassi saw the potential and joined MSR as the Ford team.  Chip Ganassi is such a huge operation, with IndyCar, NASCAR and Tudor, Ford seemed to drop MSR for a better opportunity. (MSR did win for Ford with A.J. Allmindinger, though.)  It may be the best opportunity for them to win!  (MSR’s switch to Honda power  in the P2 Ligier is too cool, but a story for another time.)

It is official, Ford is a title sponsor for Ganassi’s #1 car with Scott Pruett and Joey Hand.  I grew up watching Scott Pruett driving Jack Roush’s killer SCCA and GTO Mustangs in the 80’s and 90’s!  A sort of homecoming…  It all seems to be coming together for a mid-life revival!

Next month, Ford appears to be ready to announce its plan to attack LeMans with a new car to be unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show.  Chip Ganassi Racing seems to be in the drivers seat as Fords designated team.  I have no idea if it is going to be an LMP2 design, using a version of their EcoBoost engine, or a GT3 based on a very secret GT40-esque design.  I am leaning towards something that can go for the overall win.

The trickle down effect is simple.  Ford is going to have a huge presence at the Rolex24 at Daytona.  And with that, I am excited!!!


F1 as a Business… Not Working for Me…

The F1 season is over, and though I have only been a casual fan, watching very few of the actual races, I have been observing the politics with keen interest.  Chris Harris wrote a very interesting article on Jalopnik.com on F1, stating that Americans expect everything to be a sport (to paraphrase) but noting that F1 is actually a business.  With F1 in apparent crisis, I have some thoughts and opinions.

Let’s look at F1 as if it were a business.  F1 is owned by the Formula One Group (FOG, which seems to be what they are in at the moment, a fog), which itself is owned by Delta Topco, out of the Jersey Isles in Great Britain.  It is made up of CVC Partners, Wadell & Reed and LBI Group and they are effectively the board of directors.  What is not owned by them is owned by Bernie Ecclestone (along with other much smaller interests) and he is its CEO.

The individual teams and tracks may be looked at as either franchisees or semi-autonomous divisions of the much larger business.  Each keeps a separate set of financials but are tied to the overall well-being of the larger corporation.  I say this as all teams share in the revenue with the Strategy Working Group (AMG-Mercedes/Petronas, McLaren, Ferrari, Red Bull and Williams) getting a majority of that money.

The product they sell is F1 racing; the glamour, the technology, the personalities and, lastly (it seems), the on track action.  This is what FOG sells this to the TV broadcasters.  They buy the rights to televise the races in their respective media markets.  Now, this is what makes the sport run.  From here, several entities make the money.  The television rights holder gets money from companies wanting to advertise in the various specific markets.  The Teams get money from companies putting advertising on the cars and drivers. The Tracks get advertising dollars from race naming rights.

But all of this is driven by the belief that enough people are watching the race to make it financially worthwhile.  And what they are watching are F1 races.   People want to see a compelling story on the track; the popular driver winning, the under-dog boxing above its weight, the new driver making a headline.  Like a soap opera, they want an evolving story line, changing race to race.  As the season winds down, people want to see a fight for the title.  We Americans want to see “Game 7 Moments”, those last minute upsets when the title is decided at the last second.

So, where are we now?  

By the fourth race of this year, we knew 2 things; AMG-Mercedes/Petronas would win the constructors title and either Nico Rosberg or Lewis Hamilton would win the Driver’s Championship.  Knowing that, why watch the season?  It’s like reading the last chapter of a book first.  And, as I have said before, I don’t watch a race to see who finishes 3rd, 4th or 5th.  I want to see the winner fighting for it!

The finances are taking a toll…

At the start of the season, F1 had 11 teams.  With Marussia is out of business and Caterham close to dead, F1 is down to 9 for 2015.  The top 5 richest teams get a significant amount of the shared FOG revenue, making them richer, with the bottom teams getting a very small amount.

There are essentially 2 pots of money FOG distributes to the teams.  The first has TV revenue equally among the top 10 teams with new teams getting $10 million. On top of that teams get a prize pool based on the previous years results and “success, results, heritage and longevity”.  In other words, FOG can give more to any team for just a good old boy.

In order to get the sale of TV rights tied down under threat of the collapse of F1, Bernie Ecclestone made a deal at the time with the top teams for their support.  This deal created the second pot.  It is a $230 million budget specifically for those 5 teams: Ferrari gets $100 million, Red Bull gets $70 million, McLaren gets $40 million and Williams and AMG-Mercedes/Petronas each get $10 million.

The economy has not helped.  With the economy in a slump, companies normally willing to sponsor teams and drivers held on to their money to see how the economy would improve.  This meant there was less money around and the money that was there is going to the teams with F1 history and a record of success.  This forced many teams to lower what they charged, offer smaller sponsorship packages with the hope of getting more smaller sponsors. And the small teams now have a bigger hurdle to deal with.

When the subject of distribution of F1 money is raised with many team principals, the big teams argue its better to make the whole pot bigger, rather than change the percentage they make.  AMG-Mercedes Toto Wolff even went so far as to blame Caterham and Marussia of spending too much!  It’s easy for him to say, AMG-Mercedes gets $20million more from both pots than the 2 little teams. This attitude only continues the to widen the separation between big and little team.  This mindset is not at all healthy for a business…..

The engine that drives everything.

The change in engine formula (Power Unit is PU…whatever) has hurt everyone, with the smaller teams, who voted against the change, being forced to accept the significantly higher lease costs passed on by the big teams, I mean the manufacturers.  With a plan for $9 million leases more than doubled with the new engine, and the budgets shrinking due to the economy, the small teams were, well, screwed….

To me, it doesn’t make sense that the small teams are forced to rely on the manufacturers who, essentially, have their own teams competing directly against them.  Why would AMG-Mercedes give Force India its best engine when it has its own team competing directly against it!  And with results helping, to a small extent, determine the next years revenue sharing, there is a serious conflict of interest here and the small teams lose!   (That’s a story for another day).

The way the current rules are written basically legislates no room for adjusting the balance of performance (BoP).  While BoP has been an issue for years in sports car racing with many teams complaining about fairness, it generally works.  Look at the WEC, ELMS and Tudor for proof.  If all the teams are complaining, than balance was found, sort of.

In F1, there has historically been a method of maintaining competition.  The recently adopted rules (the new Concorde Agreement or CA) mean that if a manufacturer got a significant advantage, they could have it for years. This is because any changes have to be unanimous among the Strategy Group members.  Why should AMG-Mercedes accept any change?  It could have been any team that got it. Where the Strategy Group missed was with changing the basic design (from V-8 to turbo-charged, hybrid V-6’s), no method of balancing during the early development stages was considered.  Worse yet, they put in a restrictive design freeze.

Red Bull’s Christian Horner has even gone so far as to say Renault/Infiniti is considering leaving the sport.  If that is not a big red flag, I don’t know what is.

Bernie Sounds Off..

Bernie Ecclestone, the CEO of this business we call F1, continues to speak from the heart.  When your Bono or Bob Geldoff, its OK. But as a CEO, everything you say is considered the official word of the corporation.  AS I see it, F1 is targeting 70 year old men who own Rolex’s and not people on social media, like Twitter and Facebook. Young people need not apply.  It goes further, saying on one day F1 doesn’t need the bottom teams, then saying the next day they do.  This coming from a guy who compared women to appliances.

He has no filter for what he says in public.  I can only imagine what he says behind closed doors.  Ask Marge Schott and Donald Sterling about that.  As F1’s CEO, he needs to act more professional by keeping his thoughts to himself and speaking only to promote the whole of F1.  He doesn’t and that lessens the value of the product.  From just watching the news, how many CEO’s have lost their jobs to one or two off-handed comments?  A good board of directors has little tolerance for for this in the real world.  F1 is not the real world, unfortuntaely.

There is Good News!

There are some good things happening, though.  HassF1, with Ferrari power, are set to race in 2016.  Haas either has or has access to everything an F1 team needs.  Through the Stewart-Hass Nascar team in North Carolina, he has engineering from a number of universities, about a dozen composite companies and even owns the only full sized rolling bed wind tunnel in the US.

Audi, who has been extremely successful in the WEC with V6 turbo hybrids is looking closely at F1.  They have hired Stefano Domenicali, formerly of Ferrari, for a“non-motorsports” position. It doesn’t make sense for VW, who owns both AUDI and Porsche to have them both competing in WEC.  WEC’s loss would be F1’s gain.  I’m already imagining the Silver Arrows fighting it out again.


I still feel F1, the F1 Strategy group, FOG and Bernie are not taking care of the quality of its final product, the racing.  Bernie can’t shut up and The choices being made by the F1 Strategy Group are only in the best interests of the top 5 Teams and are not in the best interests of F1 as a whole.  If the top 5 teams get their way, we’ll have a 10 car F1 race  with little action at the front of the pack.  That’s not an F1 I would spend money, or time, to watch.

Too Many Questions…. My Rant About F1

I woke up this week and to my surprise, I realized I have become a casual F1 fan.  There, I said it!  I am.  I haven’t watched an entire F1 race all season.  Actually, I can’t remember when the last time I actually did!  I’ve had them on, but didn’t really focus on any of them, except maybe Monaco and COTA.  Even then, I really can’t remember much…

I used to get up at 2:00AM to watch the races live. On ESPN, no less. I got CompuServe to get the up to the minute news before everybody else. Then, I got Autosport, imported from the UK, to learn the latest from McLaren, Ferrari, Tyrell, and Brabham.   What happened to me?  What have I become?

I have lost interest.  It’s that simple.  I just realized that I no longer care what happens.  To me, it has become a kind of parade, like a vintage race.  Theres some passing, but…. not a whole lot.

So I ask myself, what is racing and why do we watch it?  It’s a very simple question, but one that, over the years, I feel many a series seem to have overlooked, including F1.

What is a race? In its simplest interpretation, it is to see who the fastest driver/car/team is over a set distance or time for a given set of design rules.

Why do we watch?  That’s easy.  TO SEE WHO WINS!

Now back to F1.  I commented on a couple of motorsport news sites (Motorsport.com, Racer.com and Jalopnik) that I didn’t see racing in F1.  I got blasted!  I was told that there was great racing, for 5th, 6th and 7th!  And there probably was.  I don’t watch racing to see who’s 5th, 6th or 7th!  I don’t watch racing to see who’s 2nd, 3rd or 4th, either.  I watch to see who wins and I want to be surprised.  I want a reasonable expectation that anybody COULD win on any given day.  There is NO fun in a forgone conclusion.  I can’t watch expecting the leader to fail or to crash, therefore somebody else wins.  I want to see people racing each other for the win.  Is that too much to ask for?

And, frankly, that doesn’t happen in F1 any more.  It hasn’t happened for a long time.  I’ll go back to the Schumacher/Barrichallo days of domination with Ferrari.  Hell, I could go back even further, to Senna/Prost winning 15 of 16 races.  No, I really did not enjoy that, and I am still a Prost fan!

Now the big question I have is why?  Why is Mercedes winning every time they finish? Why can’t Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari and Willliams even come close?  Most importantly, why doesn’t someone in F1 realize their show is sub-par?  Why do we accept a Michael Schumacher/Sebastian Vettel level of domination as “normal”?  What happened to a team coming up with a lightning strike idea that beats everybody else, then only to have another team one up them?  Why do so many drivers look like they barely made it out of drivers school?

I want drama on the track, not on the side lines.  I want to be surprised!  I want my guy to win!  I want my guy to lose a close one!  I want better racing at the front of the pack.  I want everybody fighting and clawing for a win, not 3rd place.  And most importantly, I want to feel that someone there cares for the end product and feels my pain.  I want someone who will say that it’s the racing that brings in the fans, not the advertisers or the manufacturers or the technology. Someone who realizes that while all these are important, its not that the cars are on the track, or even how many cars are on the track, but what they ALL do on the track that I am interested in.  And it is simply not happening!

There it is.  I have found a way to blame someone else for my problem (my wife would be so proud).  But, there are too many whys and too few answers from those who should know better.  And that, my friend, is a story for another time.

Open Letter to IMSA

Dear IMSA,

I am a lifelong sportscar racing fan.  My earliest memories are of Al Holbert dicing it with the Rob Dyson, Bayside Disposal car, the Group44 Jag and the Kreepy Krawly March.  I have been to many a race, ate many a hotdog, been rained on and got sunburns that lasted weeks.  I climbed the fence on Daytona’s front stretch to get a better view of the Nissan’s flying underneath me at 200+MPH.

As a lifelong sportscar racing fan, I found the 64th running of the Sebring 12 Hours simply confounding. Like Charles Dickens Tale of Two Cities; It was the Best of times, It was the Worst of times.

Daytona, we have a problem.  More than one, actually.

I am personally very enthusiastic about the “Merger of (in)Equals”. That being Grand-Am and ALMS joining under the IMSA banner, bringing together a pair of very diverse racing series, each with its own unique history, under a very historic banner.  I truly feel that this new series may be the most technologically advanced, diverse and compelling racing series in the world.  More so than NASCAR, IndyCar and F1.  You have all the keys to making it work. However…

At Sebring, I saw a large number of doubters, many camped in Green Park by Sebring Pit Crew’s “Shrine of Extremely Low Expectations” containing among other things, a dart board framing a picture of Jim France, blaming the NASCAR family member for all problems, both real and perceived.  Let us not forget history: it was a France (specifically Jim Frances father Bill France Sr.,) who, along with John and Peggy Bishop, started it all to begin with and formed IMSA in 1969.  Jim France is following his passion.  He has invested a great deal of money into road racing.  For the sake of fairness, I am from Daytona Beach and when a France screws up, it’s in the paper.  We in DB do have a Love/Hate relationship with the France family, but by and large, it has greatly benefitted Daytona Beach and Volusia County and it has also benefitted the racing community as a whole.  Enough on that.

After Sebring, here are my personal observations.  There is more of everything!  There are more people at the races then I have seen in years.  That’s good.  Last year was the last chance to see the mighty Audi’s and I expected a great turnout.  This year with the combined series, I expected a lot of people, and got them.  However, it was a much more tamed group than recent years, though I did see a number of sofas and recliners ablaze by the end of the race!

There are a lot more cars on the track, which is both good and bad.  Good because it’s good for the series and makes for constant racing.  With as many cars on track as there were, with vastly different speeds and racing experience, (suggestion here) I would like to see the “No Contact” rule reviewed and possibly dropped.  There is going to be contact, whether we like it or not.  The Bronze level drivers racing among Platinum drivers can be a recipe for disaster. Don’t get me wrong, we need them as they directly sponsor or pay for the drives they get, keeping many of the cars on track.  But we may have to expect some ugliness from time to time, and the rules need to reflect this.

The officiating has been extremely embarrassing to fans of the sport.  As if the “No Contact” rule alone is bad enough, its implementation has been horrendous.  The officials need to allow time for teams to challenge a call.   Ask Alex Job!  An overall poor level of officiating along with a refusal to not only review the available material but to not allow him to challenge the call, caused him to lose the race.  Yes, I said “caused him to lose the race”! This “No Contact” rule I don’t like was wrongly applied.  Again.  After the debacle in Daytona, someone should have learned by now, only weeks after Rolex24. Had there been room to challenge a wrong call, he would have at least had a chance to win.  IMSA and Sebring track official’s took that opportunity away.  So they cost him a win and the financial benefit of winning.  To add insult to injury, the cars which actually caused the infraction were never punished and were allowed to win the race.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Alex Job took his cars to the Pirelli World Challenge!  Now that would be bad for the sport!

The racing has been close.  The balances of performance (BoP) are good, not perfect, but close enough to be fair.  This takes time and it is a moving target.  As IMSA changes the BoP, the teams find an advantage that may need another BoP.  And on and on.  However, it was a good sign that of the top 5 Prototypes, 3 were P2.  There was no run away as there has been when the P1 Audi’s were racing.  There was some close racing that was very enjoyable, and some bone headed moves by some of the Bronze drivers.  But I enjoyed much of the racing there actually was.

Which brings me to my next officiating issue: the full course cautions.  Let’s face it, the red Corvette pace car lead the most laps.  While 3 of the cautions are understandable, running 5 of 12 hours under Yellow is unacceptable.  It’s not called Race CONTROL for nothing.  Control the Race.   Realize the impact cautions have on the final product and use more local cautions.  This was where everybody makes a NSACAR connection with the mysterious cautions for “debris” on the track.  If rules need to be changed, change them.  While the race was closer than expected, it’s the second time in two races a caution impacted the outcome of the race.  If you’re going to call a full course caution at the end of the race, I have a suggestion.  There’s enough traffic to go through during the race.  Why lock it in during cautions?  The current way benefits only the leader. Group them by class, so the 2nd, 3rd and 4th place cars have a clear chance to challenge for a win. From my point of view, THAT would have been an even better race!

Oh, lastly, on the North American Endurance Cup, scrap the points system.  It’s confusing and contrived.  There is no logical way the winner of a race should get less points than the 2nd loser (third place finisher).  You will lose fans with it.  You’ve lost me.  At this point, I really don’t care how close it’s supposed to make the final race.  F1 is doubling points and did a good job of annoying both their fans and the teams.  You’re making the same mistake.

Now don’t let the above listed issues get in the way of the fact that I really had a great time at Sebring.   The atmosphere was fun, the weather was great and I saw some very entertaining racing, saw some very state-of-the-art machines and met some of the world’s best drivers.  I will be back!  I will be watching all the races too (I’m not even getting into the TV/Radio thing….) Despite the problems, I still feel that IMSA is off and running in the right direction.  Changes do need to be made, but…  I look forward to the sprint portion of the series.


A Sportscar Fan


Pictures from the Roar Before Daytona

Here are some of the pictures I took at the Roar Before the Rolex.  It is a great way to start my own tune up for the season; hunting good viewing angles and getting to know the teams and cars.

Yes, the cars!  There are a bunch of new ones, the P2’s and PC’s in particular are great to watch.  The Delta Wing, WOW!  This race is gonna be fun to watch.  Hopefully the Fords get their exhaust header issues worked out!

The Corvette DP’s were, again, on the top of the timing charts. With a good 2 years of development under them, they may win the race. Ford, however, has work to do. MSR and, importantly, CGFS has the resources in house to help develop the new engine. If it didn’t have great potential, Ganassi wouldn’t have dropped the powerful Dinan BMW’s for it.

The P2’s are close in speed, though. Close enough to challenge for a win! They will need to utilize superior pit work and reliability to do it. I feel that over 24 hours, P2’s will bring it to the DP’s for an overall win.

Now we have a number of TRUE factory Teams in GT with Aston Martin, GM, Chrysler, BMW and Porsche. And this is now in both GTLM and GTD and it is good. Good to have them run along side the many privateers out on the track.

One thing I did notice is who was NOT there; Dyson Racing, BGB Motorsport, and Sahlens Racing (I know, their in the Continental, but I’ll miss them come Saturday). Level 5 is there, but may be in too diverse a position this year to make a difference.

But the race will go on and we will start the season with a blast!