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“F1: Thoughts on Gasly, Albon, Red Bull and Maturity”

Alexander Albon. © Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Monday’s announcement that Alexander Albon was to replace Pierre Gasly at Red Bull Racing may not have been the biggest shock in the world, but its timing most certainly was.

With Monday morning came another change in Red Bull’s Formula One roster, as Alex Albon and Pierre Gasly swapped seats at Red Bull and Toro Rosso.

It marked an early shift in the Formula One driver market. A move, of some sort, had been expected, but not until the end of the season; however, British Grand Prix aside, Gasly’s continuing poor performance – particularly when compared to his race winning teammate Max Verstappen – proved impossible for the Red Bull top brass to ignore.

On the other side of the paddock, the likeable Albon has proved something of a revelation at Toro Rosso. While not soundly beating his experienced teammate Danni Kvyat, Albon has shown enough speed, nuance and intelligence to prove that he is a race driver of high calibre – something that wasn’t always obvious as he rose up the junior ranks.

Through these years, Albon did a reasonable job, but rarely showed himself to be an out-and-out star. From his sole year in Formula 3, he took five podiums with the returning Signature team and showed himself to be quick. It was form that followed through his time in GP3 and Formula 2 as well – numerous race wins and podiums, but there was little to say he was heading for a top seat in Formula One.

And yet, with Toro Rosso, Albon has for the most part looked at home. The definition of his inner speed is improving and his understanding of the task at hand must not be understated.

But… it still feels very soon. Let’s not forget Albon’s Formula One career is after all only twelve races old. The Anglo-Thai racer is still a young man and is still developing and maturing.
In partnering Verstappen, Albon needs to be careful that the swimming pool he has just dipped his toe into is not filled with piranhas and sharks looking for blood. His performances will be closely scrutinised, but if he can keep to a reasonable measure of performance against Verstappen, then he may be in a position to carve a career at Red Bull.

“The Prince of Motorsport: B Bira”

However, factors outside of his control will also be playing their part. There is little doubt that the Albon/Gasly swap plays against Sebastian Vettel’s rumoured return to the Red Bull team, following a stint at Ferrari that has left him damaged.
Should Albon not perform to the required level, will he be moved aside and if so, what to do with Gasly should he still be seen as destabilised material with Toro Rosso? And were Vettel to return, would that further demotivate and disenfranchise both Toro Rosso and the junior programme as a whole?

Beyond their Formula One quartet (Verstappen and Kvyat included), the Milton Keynes based squad and their little sister team from Faenza, near Bologna, are running short on spare drivers that can promptly move to Formula One should the need arise.

For now, there are a total of nine drivers in the Red Bull young driver programme, but only three – Jüri Vips, Liam Lawson and Yuki Tsunoda – have the possibility of entering Formula One in 2020 on the basis of accumulated Super Licence points {note 1}.
Having dropped Dan Ticktum following a disappointing start to the Super Formula season (and an undistinguished part-season run in Asian Formula 3), Red Bull imported Patricio O’Ward from IndyCar to take his place; however, the Mexican O’Ward has no Super Licence points to his name {note 2}. Even then, there is a big question as to whether they would be remotely ready for such a leap – my belief is “no”.

Such is the focus on Super Licence points, the value of maturity has been all but forgotten. Drivers need to grow, to develop and mature – not just as racing drivers, but as people – so that they can acknowledge, process and properly deal with events that happen in and around them at such an extraordinary pace.

Back in 2014, Carlos Sainz’ situation was a rare one indeed, as he was allowed the space to evolve as a person and that evolution and gradual maturing did as much to save his young career as did his Formula Renault 3.5 title. That helped hugely when it came to dealing with the consequences of Verstappen’s promotion ahead of him to Toro Rosso.

Meanwhile for Gasly, this marks not just a very public demotion, but deeply difficult time. Whereas the Frenchman showed well at Toro Rosso last year, it is difficult to gauge just how to good that performance was, given then teammate Brendon Hartley’s difficulties with the 2018-generation Formula One car.
For now, how he deals with this demotion is just as important as the results he can obtain on the track. Should he re-align his head, he could get his career back on track; however, if he struggles to accept his new place in the order and his performance continues to suffer as a result, then his career could be finished very quickly.

Like Albon, there is little doubt that Gasly is a very quick driver; however, his stints in GP2 and Super Formula in 2016 and 2017 respectively took some time to come alive.

Yet underlying all of these movement is the concept of development and maturity and the manner in which it is lacking from the Red Bull’s driver development programme and many of its competitors therein. Not everyone absorbs the world by the age of 18.

{note 1}
Jüri Vips has accumulated Super Licence 22 points over the course of the past two years and he would require a 3rd place finish in the FIA Formula 3 Championship standings to qualify – he currently sits 2nd in points.
Of the three that could go to Formula One, he has the most relevant experience. Liam Lawson and Yuki Tsunoda could also qualify for a Super Licence, but both are desperately far from ready to make the move.

{note 2}
Although O’Ward won last season’s Indy Lights series, there were not enough full-time competitors in the category for Super Licence points to be applied. He will also not qualify for any Super Licence points from 2019, as he is required to complete 80% of a qualifying championship’s season in order to earn them.

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“DTM: Wittmann takes Brands race one victory”

BMW racer Marco Wittmann closed in on DTM championship leader Rene Rast today, following victory at the opening Brands Hatch race of the weekend.

The double champion only just edged Rast over the line, taking the win by a mere 0.3s from his Audi rival.

Nico Müller – currently 2nd in points – ended the race a solid 3rd position.

From pole position, Wittmann initially dropped to 2nd place behind the fast starting Paul di Resta (R-Motorsport Aston Martin); however it was quickly deemed that the Scot had just jumped the start, earning di Resta a five second pit penalty for his mandatory stop.

Until his stop, the Aston racer stayed out in front, with Wittmann holding station and keeping the gap to approximately 0.5s, until di Resta pulled off for his stop on lap 16, with the additional five seconds stationary costing di Resta at least seven positions.

Wittmann had already pitted at this stage, having stopped on lap 14 – a factor that came close to altering the final outcome. Emerging on the periphery of the top ten, Wittmann rose back through the order as others pitted for new Hankook’s.
A spectacular move splitting the tyre-worn Jamie Green (Audi) and freshly pitted Rast through Paddock Hill Bend, followed by a slip by Bruno Spengler (BMW) temporarily slowed Wittmann’s progress on the clock, but gave him a few more positions. As final stoppers Robin Frijns (Audi) and Philipp Eng (BMW) pulled away for new rubber, Wittmann took the lead with Rast chasing, some 5.9s adrift with 24 laps in the books.

With two-thirds of the race in the bag, this was proving a vital save for Rast, who had started poorly, with a different starting procedure and wheelspin dropping the 2017 champion from 2nd to 4th by the first turn. Rast changed his Hankook’s one lap after Wittmann – enduring a sluggish stop – but like his German rival, garnered several positions as strategies un ravelled around them.

For a time, it seemed as if the gap between Wittmann and Rast was going to stay at the 5s-5.8s mark, only for the gap to reduce slightly as race entered its final six laps. With four tours to go, that shrank to under five seconds for the first time, before Wittmann dropped another 1.8s and 1.6s in the next two laps.
As the battling duo started the final tour, Wittmann led by 1.4s, as Rast visibly gained on the BMW with each turn, but it would not be enough. As Rast charged hard exiting Clark Curve, Wittmann moved across the racing line to disturb Rast’s efforts and held the lead as they crossed the line to take a close and hard-fought victory.

Behind the Wittmann/Rast battle, Müller secured the final podium position, albeit some eight seconds adrift and with a further seven seconds of a gap behind him. Starting 8th, Müller took three places at the start, but stopped early on, as his Hankook’s began to fall away in the early tours.
It proved a clever strategy. Once his tyres came to temperature, Müller set a good pace, eventually gifting the Audi racer several positions as those ahead set slower times on aging tyres. Müller found himself ahead of Rast once the latter stopped, but could not hold the championship leader at bay, once Rast was in DRS range in the back end of the circuit at the half way mark, dropping Müller to 5th.
Knowing his Hankook’s were going to have to last, Müller kept a solid pace, dropping off of Rast’s tail, but also allowing him to build a gap on those still on their starting tyres and allowing the Swiss racer to claim 3rd once the last of the stoppers removed themselves from the action out front.

Frijns secured 4th with a late charge. As the last driver to stop, the Dutchman led for a brief period in the middle section of the race, but fell to 8th when he peeled off on lap 25. Passes on Green (lap 26), di Resta (lap 27), Rockenfeller (lap 35) and Duval (lap 36) gave Frijns a reasonable top four finish – a reasonable result following a bad start from 5th left him 7th by Druids on the opening tour.

Duval came home 5th in his Audi. From the second row, he lost a place as strategy unfolded and then another when Frijns when by. Duval had to work hatrd to keep a charging Eng at bay in the final tours. A good start from the sixth row propelled Eng to 9th on the opening tour, with the Austrian Eng staying out late in a similar fashion to Frijns.
Eng emerged further down the order, but a late charge taking Jonathan Aberdein (R-Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage), Sheldon van der Linde (BMW), di Resta (around the outside of Paddock Hill Bend, before finishing the move around Druids) and Rockenfeller brought Eng to the tail of Duval. It was as much as he could do – the BMW racer ended the day some sixth-tenths shy of Duval at the line, but still earning solid points in the process.

Mike Rockenfeller enjoyed a quiet race to claim 7th. Once Eng had passed, the former Le Mans winner fell away from the top six fight but held more than enough of a gap over van der Linde to ease his RS 5 DTM home.
Van der Linde secured 8th and four points, several seconds ahead of the Aberdein and Dani Juncadella fight over 9th and 10th places. It may have a case of “what if” for both drivers, as Aberdein went off during qualifying, forcing him to start last, while Juncadella was involved in a clash with Timo Glock at the start that earned the Spaniard a drive through penalty.

Green endured a tough race to finish 11th, ahead of Spengler (12th), while a hampered Glock took 13th and last. After being hit at the start, the former F1 driver was helpless and could not avoid Jake Dennis (R-Motorsport Aston), with the Briton receiving severe damage, forcing him to retire immediately.
Ferdinand Habsburg’s (R-Motorsport Aston) race became a test session, when his internal jack failed during his pitstop. This forced his team to manually jack up the car to allow a tyre change. He pitted a second time later in the race, as the Austrian secured unfussed laps around the Kent circuit.

Joel Ericsson did not start. The Swede had his qualifying times deleted when his car was worked on during Parc Ferme conditions. The BMW was hampered by broken front and rear anti-roll bars, ending Ericsson’s day before it had even started.

“DTM: Fittipaldi out of Brands Hatch Race 1”

Pietro Fittipaldi will not be taking part in today’s opening DTM race at Brands Hatch, following the Brazilian racer’s big crash during qualifying this morning.

According to WRT Audi’s Sporting Director and Team Manager Thierry Tassin, the team ran out of time to repair Fittipaldi’s car – a task made all the more impossible when the other WRT Audi of Jonathan Aberdein also crashed during qualifying, albeit suffering far less damage as a result. Aberdein will be starting from the pitlane.

Tassin acknowledged that the team are working hard to ensure Fittipaldi’s car will be ready for day two at the Kent circuit.

Meanwhile BMW’s Joel Ericsson had his qualifying time deleted when his M4 DTM machine was worked on during Parc Ferme conditions.

DTM: Wittmann takes Brands Saturday pole”

Marco Wittmann made the best of damp, but drying conditions at Brands Hatch this morning to claim his fourth DTM pole position of 2019.

The twice-champion jumped to the top of the standings late in a disrupted session, heading Audi’s Rene Rast and Loïc Duval.

Before drying out, Jake Dennis led the standings for a time, but he fell down the order as the BMW and Audi runners settled into slick running. Initially Rast took control, setting laps over a second ahead of the pack, with only Duval and fellow Audi racer Robin Frijns getting close.

Then with only ten seconds left on the clock, Wittmann set the marker, putting his BMW M4 beyond his Audi rivals – his best of 1:15.654 taking his seven-hundredths adrift of Rast. Wittmann had enough time for one more lap, but could not improve, whereas those chasing began to filter back to the pits, having completed their respective runs.

Rast maintained his front row start at least, with Duval taking 3rd, albeit it three-tenths off of his Audi stablemate.

Paul di Resta end the session the best of the R-Motorsport Aston’s, with the Scot assuming 4th place, just a few hundredths shy of Duval.

Frijns scored 5th place, sharing the 3rd row with BMW DTM rookie Sheldon van der Linde. Dennis fell to 7th, just heading championship challenger Nico Müller and BMW stalwart Timo Glock, the latter of which was lucky to escape an off in the gravel at the beginning of the session. Dani Juncadella rounded out the top ten, having run as high as 4th at the halfway point of the session.

Philipp Eng secured the sixth row alongside Mike Rockenfeller, while Jamie Green will take row seven alongside Bruno Spengler, the latter of whom missed the early portion of the session due to a technical issue in the pits.

Joel Ericsson (15th), Ferdinand Habsburg (16th) will line up on row eight, while the final row of the grid is made of two drivers whose session ended very early. In 17th, Pietro Fittipaldi ran wide at Paddock Hill Bend, going hard into barrier backward, while Jonathan Aberdein ended the session last having gone off and nosing into the barrier at Clark Curve.

“Motorsport Diaries, Episode 6 (July 21st 2019) – DTM, W Series, Assen & reverse grid races”

In this episode of Motorsport Diaries, I look at DTM’s 2nd race at Assen and a first win in two years for Mike Rockenfeller ahead of wonderful race through the field by Marco Wittmann, and some odd tyre strategies.

Also, I look at the reverse grid W Series race, and why I think points paying reverse grid races are a mistake.

Twitter: @LeighOGorman and @WorldInMSport

Don’t forget to like, comment and subscribe and then come back for more.

“DTM: Rockenfeller steals Assen victory”

© DTM Mike Rockenfeller (GER), Audi

Audi’s Mike Rockenfeller claimed his first DTM victory in two years at Assen today, heading Marco Wittmann (BMW) and Nico Müller (Audi) to the flag.

Championship leader Rene Rast led for much of the race but dropped down the order following a second stop for tyres mid-race.

From 3rd on the grid, Rockenfeller surged past the slow starting Jonathan Aberdein, to slot into 2nd place behind the polesitting Rast, who maintained a reasonable, if not overly comfortable lead in the opening stint.

With rear tyre wear a primary concern, drivers began to stop within the opening third of the race, as excessive damage to the front left took hold on many entries. Loïc Duval (Audi) and Bruno Spengler (BMW) were the first to give way on laps six and eight, while the fast starting Wittmann stopped on lap 13.

With a lead of just 1.7s, Rast stayed out for a further two tours, taking new Hankooks and a drop to 8th position. For the 2017 champion, his next set of tyres lasted only six laps, before dramatically falling off of the cliff to the point where he was losing over four seconds per lap to the chasing Wittmann and Rockenfeller.

As Wittmann also began to struggle, Rockenfeller pressed and took the BMW racer and then assumed the lead once Rast made an additional stop for new rubber, dropping him down to 10th.

Having driven a relatively uneventful race up until that point, Rockenfeller drew a solid gap over Wittmann, as the BMW-man continued to suffer on his now ageing Hankook’s. Bring the lead to just over 5s, Rockenfeller eased the pace and brought his RS 5 machine home for 25 valuable points, promoting ahead of Spengler in the standings.

Despite his slowing pace, Wittmann spread his own gap to Müller, whose championship charge is beginning to take shape.

Aberdein assumed 4th place following his torrid start. With overheating brakes on the grid, Aberdein fell from the front row to 8th by turn one. The South African set a solid pace in the opening stint, losing out only to Wittmann in the opening laps, but managed to climb up the order as pitstops played out.
On fresher tyres, Aberdein made his Hankooks keep shape and a series of moves on Jamie Green, Pietro Fittipaldi and Robin Frijns promoted him up the order, as did several 2nd stops for top and midfield runners. The Audi man had built enough of a lead to keep the charging Rast at bay come the chequered flag to score his best result of the season.

Rast had to make do with 5th come the end, but considering he was 10th with four laps remaining, this represented a key drive for the Audi racer. Despite his extra stop – which could have dropped him further down had he not stopped – Rast drove exceptionally well and fought hard to go around the outside of Frijns and Dani Juncadella on the final tour.

Frijns held on to 6th, despite losing nearly 4s per lap in the final few miles. He was challenged hard by the Aston Martin Vantage of Juncadella in the final tours, but even though he scored reasonable points, he rued a race where he had run as high as 3rd during its mid-point.
Juncadella took some good points for Aston Martin, ending the day just half-a-second ahead of teammate Paul di Resta at the flag. This was a good result for a happy di Resta, who had lost positions with an off on the first lap.

Jamie Green took 9th ahead of Fittipaldi, while Duval could not recover fully from his 2nd stop and came home 11th. Habsburg ended the day 12th ahead of Philipp Eng (BMW, 13th), Timo Glock (BMW, 14th), Sheldon Van der Linde (BMW, 15th) and Joel Eriksson (BMW, 16th).

Neither Spengler nor Aston’s Jake Dennis finished the race, with the latter suffering from brake issues.

© DTM Mike Rockenfeller (GER), Audi

“Motorsport Diaries, Episode 5 (July 20th 2019) – DTM, W Series, Assen & Super Formula”

In this episode of Motorsport Diaries, I look at DTM’s first race at Assen and a great battle between Marco Wittmann, Nico Müller and Rene Rast.

Also, I look at the penultimate round of the W Series, with its finale coming at Brands Hatch next month.

And finally, a brief look back at last week’s stellar Super Formula race at Fuji Speedway.

Don’t forget to like, comment and subscribe and then come back for more.

“DTM: Wittmann takes first blood at Assen”

BMW’s Marco Wittmann claimed the first DTM win at a sodden Assen track this afternoon, with the double champion edging Audi’s charging Nico Müller to the flag.

Rene Rast took the final podium place in his Audi RS 5, having run in 2nd place for much of the race.

With heavy rain having rolled in for the hour prior to the start, the race began behind the safety car, before finally getting going on lap four.

Poleman Wittmann kept a feisty Rast at bay, but the race was neutralised almost immediately after Dani Juncadella’s Aston Martin Vantage DTM stopped on track with a mechanical issue, necessitating another – albeit brief – safety car.

Restarting on lap six, Wittmann spun a gap to Rast, building a lead to 1.2s within a tour and then further extending it to over two seconds by the one-third marker. Rast kept the gap in and around the margin until he stopped for fresh Hankook tyres on lap 15, dropping the 2018 champion to a temporary 6th place.

Müller, meanwhile, having started 6th, gained two positions when Pietro Fittipaldi suffered a brief off on lap seven in a battle with Timo Glock, Müller assuming Glock’s place in the melee. That became 3rd when Loïc Duval pitted on lap ten, leaving the charging Müller under five seconds shy of Rast and seven behind Wittmann.

With Rast out of the way, Wittmann pitted a lap later to counteract any advantage Rast might obtain, but in doing so, Müller was released into the lead and the Swiss racer went about building a gap.

By now, the rain has eased and was beginning to filter away into nothing and the track – slowly – began to form a less wet line; however, it was by no means going to dry out. From laps in the 1’53s, the times dropped to 1’48s come halfway and a further three seconds was taken off of that as the race aged.

Sensing an opportunity, Müller stayed out for a further eight laps, building a 43s lead by the time he entered the pits, but as he stopped for fresh rubber, his stop was just slower than that of Wittmann.
He emerged from the pits some five seconds ahead of the chasing BMW man, but in cool conditions on already cold tyres against Wittmann’s warm rubber, Müller fell towards former champion, before eventually losing the lead in a helpless manner as the lap drew to a close.

Wittmann made the most of Müller’s struggles and drew a lead of over 3.6s within a couple of tours and held it there as the race drew to a close on 31 laps.

Once up to speed, Müller lodged a couple of faster laps and he chased the BMW-man, but it was too late. Whenever Müller clocked a quicker lap or sector, Wittmann responded in kind, leaving to assume a 3.1s gap come the chequered flag.

In a race that marked the halfway point of DTM 2019, this was a stellar performance by Wittmann who claimed his 3rd win of the season, but remarkably he remains 45 points adrift of Rast in the standings.

For Müller, the Audi man was happy with his effort – after all, he took the runner-up spot despite qualifying 6th and it was a result that promotes him to 2nd in the standings. With this run of results, for the first time in his DTM career, Müller looks like a real championship challenger.

After the pitstops, Rast could do nothing to keep up with the leading pair, with the points leader falling some eight seconds adrift of the win come the flag. Useful points, but Rast showed some frustration late in the race, gesticulating at Müller from inside his RS 5 as the runner-up kept Rast at bay.

Philipp Eng took a confident 4th place in his BMW M4, albeit only two-tenths ahead of fellow BMW racer Timo Glock (5th). Starting 9th, Eng instantly claimed two places when he passed Bruno Spengler after the latter tapped Sheldon Van der Linde into a spin. That became 6th when Glock had a brief off on lap eight and 5th when Duval stopped for new tyres on lap ten.
The Austrian made another place when Fittipaldi ran wide on lap 12. Eng stayed out until the 21st tour, where upon he slotted back into 4th place once all the stopped panned out. Thereafter he kept Glock at bay, while Jonathan Aberdein closed in somewhat to take 6th.

Jamie Green enjoyed a quiet race to 7th, finishing ahead of Duval, who struggled for balance after his stop. Mike Rockenfeller claimed 9th position for Audi. The former Le Mans winner held Van der Linde and Fittipaldi at bay, with Van der Linde taking 10th and the final points position from Fittipaldi on the last lap.

Jake Dennis (12th) led home a trio of R-Motorsport-run Aston Martin Vantage’s. The Briton managed to stay ahead of Ferdinand Zvonimir Maria Balthus Keith Michael Otto Antal Bahnam Leonhard von Habsburg-Lothringen (the Archduke of Austria, Royal Prince of Hungary, Bohemia and Croatia) and a charging Paul di Resta – the latter of whom lost 35s during a confused pitstop early in the race.

Spengler came home a dispirited 15th having taken a drive through penalty early in the race, following his collision with Van der Linde, while Joel Eriksson was classified last in a race once again hampered by a constantly shifting balance.

Robin Frijns did not finish his home race – the Audi racer spun into the barriers after putting a wheel on the kerb on lap 22. He had some choice words post-race, questioning why his car failed repeatedly, which in this instance left him at the back of the field for the race.

“DTM: When it Rains, All Signs Point to Assen”

The TT Circuit Assen is a new one for me. Known primarily as a motorcycle track, one is met by a large sign on the way to the paddock declaring Assen to the be Cathedral of Speed.

It is a warranted designation. On a motorbike at full pelt, I can imagine that this is might be something of a daunting venue, but for DTM and its catalogue of high downforce, high speed – in comparison to Moto GP – tanks, the circuit is somewhat less daunting, but still challenging.

For many years, Zandvoort had been the base for any Dutch adventure, but with the machinations of Formula One ticking under the surface of the famed seaside venue, the winds of change were signalling.

From the heat of Friday, Saturday started bright, but come midday had turned windy, while trickles of mist took shape and began laying damp seeds. Within an hour, the weather had turned to the worse – hard rain is falling and falling harder.

So, it was a pleasant surprise that in spite of these conditions, there was a reasonable turn out for the DTM’s Saturday schedule. Not many people in the grand stands admittedly, but the foot traffic around the general admission areas is impressive and a great start for a new era of DTM in the Netherlands.

In the dry of Friday, BMW’s Marco Wittmann hadn’t fully shown his hand, but with qualifying taking place under much cooler conditions, the twice champion took charge and took pole, while Friday fast-man Robin Frijns – of Audi – was disqualified from his mid-pack position. With Frijns starting from the rear, Rene Rast assumed the mantle of leading Audi and will start from 2nd position.

Meanwhile, the R Motorsport-run Aston Martin Vantage’s continued to struggle in dry conditions, but have shown well in the damp and cooler climes, as long as tyre wear does not inhibit their progress.

But with the rain continuing to press had, now it remains to be seen if Wittmann can hold his lead…

© Leigh O’Gorman

“Motorsport Diaries, Episode 4”

In this episode of Motorsport Diaries, I talk about about the upcoming 4th round of the 2019 Super Formula Championship from Fuji and go through events in qualifying.

Also, I discuss the driver swap between Pato O’Ward and Dan Ticktum at Team Mugen and Red Bull.

Coverage starts from 5.30am (UK) at Youtube.com/LetsGoRacing

“The Pink Cards”

Following this morning’s Super Formula race on Let’s Go Racing’s YouTube channel, I was asked about the info cards I use for comms.

It’s all quite simple really, but helps a great deal for live, fast-paced sessions, such as races or qualifying.

I always try to make the info shorthand, so it’s easy to digest in a moment. A lot of it is already known or memorised, but it is always good to have something to flick to in a moment.

In this sample are four “driver cards.”

Here are Naomi Yamamoto (reigning champion), Nirei Fukuzumi (rookie), Kamui Kobayashi (international driver) & Nick Cassidy (successful continental driver, with potential international success.

The section under driver and team names is key info of career successes and other notes.

“Best Res Track” is best results at each given circuit (denoted by a three letter abbreviation), when it was achieved, and/or how many times. Then there are columns noting 2019 Super Formula qualifying and race results.

Lastly on the bottom right is live championship position and points. As the year passes, more info will be added, but must remain as shorthand as possible.

Very, very useful aids.

Motorsport Diaries, Episode 3

Ahead of Sunday morning’s 3rd round Super Formula race at Sportsland SUGO, Racecar Engineering’s Sam Collins and I discuss qualifying, the upcoming race and other random stuff.

“Motorsport Diaries, Episode 2”

 

After a little bit of a delay, I finally got around to recording the 2nd episode of ‘Motorsport Diaries’ last night. In this edition, I talk briefly about last weekend’s Le Mans 24 Hour Race and the conclusion of the World Endurance Championship Super-Season.

From that, I discuss the events of last weekend’s Rally Sardinia and a surprise victory for Hyundai’s Dani Sordo.

Lastly, I look toward this weekend’s action, particularly the 3rd round of this year’s Super Formula Championship, which will shown live from SUGO Sportland at youtube.com/letsgoracing
Commentary will come from Racecar Engineering’s Sam Collins and myself and the broadcast goes live from approximately 5.50am (UK).

“DTM: Eng takes pole for Hockenheim Race 2″

Philipp Eng heads an all-BMW front row for today’s second DTM race at Hockenheim, ahead of Marco Wittmann and Audi’s Robin Frijns.

On a dry, sunny – but cold day, the team RMR driver headed yesterday’s race winner Wittmann with a late run that capitalised on improving track conditions, to earn pole by four tenths.

Wittmann had, for the most part, been the star of the qualifying and spent much of the session at the top of the standings, but once Eng jumped to lead of the times with a 1:28.972, Wittmann could take any more out of his BMW stablemate.

The pole gives Eng his first points of the season and came as a pleasant surprise for a driver who sat out second free practice and yesterday’s qualifying session, following issues with his new-spec M4 DTM.

Frijns ended the session some eight-tenths shy of the pole in his Audi RS5 DTM, but he led a close knit fight, with only half-a-second covering the next twelve drivers. Frijns has Audi teammate Nico Müller next to him on row two

Row three was an all-BMW affair with Bruno Spengler heading former-F1 driver Timo Glock, Jamie Green and Loïc Duval made the most of conditions to place their Audi’s 7th and 8th respectively.
Joel Ericsson and Sheldon van der Linde secured row five in the BMW machines, ahead of Audi duo Mike Rockenfeller and Jonathan Aberdein; however Pietro Fittipaldi recorded the 13th quickest time in his WRT-Audi entry.
It was a difficult session for Rene Rast in the remaining Audi. The former champion ran wide over a kerb through the stadium section and hit a kerb hard, propelling the front of his RS5 into the air briefly, before coming down hard on his front end. He could not improve and ended the session 16th.

This dry qualifying session proved to be a rude awakening for the new R-Motorsport team with their quartet of Aston Martin Vantage DTMs. In dry conditions, the team could do no better than 14th (Dani Juncadella), 15th (Paul di Resta), 17th (Ferdinand Habsburg) and 18th (Jake Dennis).

“DTM: Wittmann takes first pole of DTM’s Class One era”

Marci Wittmann claimed the first pole position of DTM’s new Class One era this morning at a wet and windy Hockenheimring.

The double champion spent much of the twenty-minute session at or near the top of the standings in his BMW M4, threatened only by the Audi of Mike Rockenfeller in his RS5.

R-Motorsport made an impression with their new DTM-spec Aston Martin Vantage’s, with Paul di Resta taking 3rd, and Jake Dennis eventually securing 5th having spent much of the session in the top four.

Following a wet morning, further rainfall just prior to the start of the session made conditions particularly tricky, although Wittmann made the most of the damp surface, holding the top spot with a 1:51.2s.

However, as the session aged, the rain eased and while not drying out by any stretch of the imagination, the deeper puddles of water were swept aside allowing times to fall somewhat.

Wittmann closed in on the 1:50 marker, but Rockenfeller was the first to breach it, setting a 1:49.209 inside the final five minutes, putting him some eight-tenths clear of the next fastest.
Wittmann improved to 1:49.6s, but was momentarily jumped by Audi’s Rene Rast, before the BMW retook the top spot at 1:48.9s, bringing him ahead of Rockenfeller. Wittmann then took another eight-tenths out of that to finally secure poll and the first points of the year.

Rockenfeller improved, setting a lap of 1:48.281s, but he fell just six-hundredths shy of his BMW rival. Di Resta jumped up to 3rd late on, while Rast fell to 4th in his Audi. Robin Frijns (Audi) and DTM-rookie Dennis (R-Motorsport) secured the third row.

Sheldon van der Linde recorded the 7th fastest time in his first outing in the DTM, ahead of the experienced Timo Glock (BMW). Fellow BMW racer Joel Ericsson suffered from balance issues on his way to 9th, but was quick enough to pip Nico Muller (Audi, 10th).

Outside the tip ten, Dani Juncadella (R-Motorsport) and Loïc Duval (Audi) completed the sixth row, ahead of Jamie Green (Audi, 13th), Bruno Spengler (BMW, 14th). Pietro Fittipaldi took 15th on his debut DTM weekend for WRT-Audi, but only after his earlier time was deleted due to exceeded track limits. His teammate Jonathan Aberdein ended the morning 16th, ahead of the final DTM rookie, Ferdinand Zvonimir Maria Balthus Keith Michael Otto Antal Bahnam Leonhard von Habsburg-Lothringen (R-Motorsport, 17th).

BMW racer Philipp did not set a time. His M4 stopped at the exit of the pitlane on his outlap at the beginning of the session, bringing out a brief red flag. This follows his loss of FP2 yesterday, when his engine failed before he could set a lap.

© DTM.

“DTM and Super GT joint race confirmed”

Motorsports: DTM race Hockenheimring

DTM and Super GT series’ promoters – Internationalen Tourenwagen Rennen (ITR) and GTA Co – have finally confirmed a date to hold a joint end-of-season race.

Following the conclusion of their respective 2019 campaigns, DTM’s three manufacturers will convene at Fuji Speedway in Japan over the November 23rd-24th weekend to compete against Super GT’s GT500 contingent.

With both categories either running Class One technical regulations or operating close to them, the race marks the first time a standalone event will take place to accommodate both categories.

Both categories have worked hard to come to an agreement over technical regulations since discussion began in earnest earlier this decade.
Whereas DTM exclusively uses Hankook tyres, Super GT enjoys the participation of four separate tyre manufacturers for the GT500 class; however for the purposes of the joint race, the GT500 entries will also use Hankook’s.

The Class One regulations will also see new aerodynamic and cooling packages, new underfloor, rear diffuser and a reduced protrusion from the front splitter. The rear wing width is increased and DRS will comprise of a single plane.
Although GT500 have being running variations of the engine package for some years, the new 600bhp turbocharged engine will be new to DTM in 2019. Rather than twin-exhaust outlets, the DTM will run exhausts from one side, toward the mid-section of the car.

Following its October conclusion at the Hockenheimring, Audi, BMW and R-Motorsport Aston Martin will be sending a group of twelve cars to Japan, while it is not clear at this stage how many GT500 entries will be present.
The event is to be hold two sprint-style races, involving driver changes, allowing the DTM manufacturers to be somewhat more flexible with their driver line-ups.

The race at Fuji will not strictly mark the first time the DTM and GT500 machines will compete together this year, however, as Honda, Lexus and Nissan will send a car each to enter this year’s DTM finale in October.

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‘Formula E to return to London in 2020.’

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The Formula E Championship announced this morning that is is to return to London in the summer of 2020.

Running over the July 25-26 weekend, the race will take place in the Docklands area of the city, with the event to be run at a partially indoor event at the Excel.

Hopefully this will mark the beginning of consistent calendar stability for Formula E – an area where the category has not quite nailed down since its inception, although events in Paris, Hong Kong, Berlin, Monaco, Mexico and New York are showing indications of strengthening foundations.

It is an interesting move for Formula E, as this announcement not only marks a return to the UK capital for the series, but it does so at a time when discussions between the BRDC and Formula One regarding the future of the British Grand Prix are at something of an impasse.

With effort – and a touch of luck – the Docklands event will avoid many of the mistakes made during Formula E’s shortlived running at Battersea Park during seasons one and two and can see out Formula E in the capital far beyond this initial five-year deal.

Ultimately, does this mean Formula 1 will be moving to London just yet? Well, no. If anything, Formula One’s toe may just have been stubbed.

“Some Small Thoughts on Rally Sweden”

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Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

Following last week’s Rally Sweden, there has been plenty of criticism both during and following the running of the event from drivers and teams as to the conditions of several stages, particularly through Friday and Saturday’s second loops.

Complaints mostly seem to centre around the running of the Historic class between the first and second loops, as the narrower track of the older machines (following on from also from both WRC2 classics and the junior category) tore through the slender sheet of ice, rendering some of the stages rugged in a Rally GB fashion.

Certainly not the best conditions for studded snow tyres.

It has been noted that the inclusion of the Historics brings in an additional financial buffer for the event promoters, helping to keep Rally Sweden alive, but it is also understandable that some drivers were left dismayed by some of the stage conditions. On the other hand, the complaints from the drivers are understandable; however they are competing at the highest level and need to drive to the conditions as such.
There needs to be compromise though between the organiser, the drivers/teams and the FIA and I have no doubt each party could concede a little to better the event, but this may be a case of watching to see who budges first.

As an aside, this was not just about the Historics. The event organiser cannot perfect the weather – February was much warmer than usual and we really saw the result of that on Saturday’s stages, but even I could tell that the conditions for the 2nd run through Karlstad on Saturday were quite ridiculous, as what little ice and sludge that was present on Friday turns into large pools come Saturday evening.

Whatever the case, a better solution needs to be found – not just in terms of the running order, but for the event itself.

That such a prodigious event is just about keeping its head above water thanks to the inclusion of the Historics is indicative that, maybe, wider reaching solutions need to found. Certainly the WRC is on something of an upward trend at the moment, but considering the difficulties faced by M-Sport prior to Monte and with teams suggesting that fourteen events in a season may be the current limit, there are indications that, in some ways, the top level of rallying is still carefully treading water.

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Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

“WRC’s Shifting Sands”

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Sebastien Ogier testing the Citroen C3 WRC pre-season. © Aurelien Vialatte / Red Bull Content Pool

There was a point during last year’s World Rally Championship when it appeared as if Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul were finally going to break Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia’s run of titles.

It came to a spectacular head come the final stage of Rally Sardinia, when Neuville overcame Ogier during the final stage to win by just 0.7s. Neuville, so confident in his resplendent Hyundai i20 WRC machine, drew a twenty-seven-point lead and was beginning to make such circumstances look easy.

Behind the leading pair, after some small errors, misfortune and unreliability, Toyota’s Ott Tänak had dropped 72 behind the leading Neuville. No way back surely…

Fast forward five months and in his final rally at the wheel of his Ford-powered M-Sport contender and Ogier and co-driver Ingrassia were celebrating title number six.

Neuville’s rally had ended prematurely, as at Hyundai heads had dropped somewhat, just as they had in Finland (9th), Turkey (16th) and Spain (4th), where a podium was lost on the final stage. A retirement on the final day in Australia merely rubbed salt into what was already a wounded weekend. Indeed, a solitary 2nd place – coming in Germany during mid-August – would prove to be the Belgian’s sole visit to the podium in the latter half of the season.

At times, Neuville made his i20 sing on the stages, but too often following Sardinia mistakes and a difficult road position got the better of him. Had he lost his lead in one-foul swoop because of an accident, that would have been one thing, but the reality was far more demoralising. Neuville’s lead was whittled down gradually over five gruelling months, piece-by-piece, point-by-point until Ogier edged ahead at the penultimate round. By year end, Neuville had fallen eighteen points adrift of a triumphant Ogier.

The gap between the leading two might have been greater had it not been for Tänak’s near dominant form through the Finland-Germany-Turkey events, that brought stoic Estonian into the title fight late on. He was also leading with ease during both Wales Rally GB and Rally Spain when a couple of mistakes coupled with a rather frail Toyota Yaris dropped him down the order.
Ogier seizing the day ensured Neuville took the runner-up spot in the championship for the third year in a row and the fourth time in six years. It is a statistic that will gnaw at him, but also kicks life into the questions as to whether he truly has the strength to beat Ogier over a whole season, rather than a portion of year.

Whatever the final result, the three-way battle for ultimate rallying honours marked 2018 a standout year for the championship, helped too by the introduction of WRC All-Live format.

Rally Australia does not actually seem that long ago. The season ended in mid-November, just a week before Formula One wrapped things up for the year, but whereas F1 will wait until March before that revs up once again, the WRC hits the roads in a few days having launched at the Autosport International Show at the NEC in Birmingham last week.
There are expectations that this year could produce a repeat of 2018, and while it might to a degree, I cannot help but feel that the field may spread slightly once again, although that is not to say there will be a repeat champion, nor does it forecast an easy run to the crown.

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Neuville lost out in the latter half of 2018. He will need consistent form to win the title this year. © Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

While his efforts to overhaul Ogier were valiant last year, it is possible that Neuville may have missed his best opportunity to take the WRC crown, but situations change.

The Frenchman has moved back to Citroën and where that settling-in period and a tricky C3 could hamper Ogier’s immediate challenge. However the oft-criticised C3 was still a winner in 2018, albeit at the hands of the legendary Sebastien Loeb, himself on the move following a decision to take a part-time season with Hyundai.
Over at Toyota, Tänak will need no such bedding-in period. In his first year with the Japanese manufacturer, Tänak showed plenty of pace in the early part of last season, taking an impressive win in Argentina, despite an early mistake in the event. However, while the Yaris was designed with a nimble, but delicate front end – particularly the around suspension system – it failed too often from seemingly minor hits and bumps, costing the Tänak / Toyota pairing victories and points.

Looking at the form over the course of 2018, it is not unreasonable to think that Tänak could have taken the title with a reasonably handsome margin had some silly errors and repeated mechanical failures not got in the way.
But Toyota are constantly improving, and in the second half of 2018, it was clearly the fastest car. If they continue to strengthen the front-end of the Yaris, while maintaining its nimble response and without adding undue weight and shifting the weight distribution significantly, then it could place the Estonian in an enviable position come Australia this November.

Tänak is maturing as a driver. The fast, but crash-prone driver of 2011-2015 has had the rougher edges smoothed down and now the 31-year-old is looking more like a driver who can take the challenge to Ogier and maybe jump ahead of Neuville in the process.
Alongside their driver, the Toyota team continues to mature, and this could prove problematic for Neuville and Hyundai, particularly if the former’s resources outstrip that of the latter. If Ogier and Citroën gel, could he prove a potent mixture in the fight too..?

These are all questions that must wait and while there is little doubt that we will see this trio fighting it out again, I have a niggling feeling that maybe Neuville’s best chance for the WRC title may have just passed him by.

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Could Ott Tanak leave the field in his dust? © Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

‘When No News is News’

Just remember this thing for today; this is December the 26th.

Any motorsport “news” you see today was most likely jotted by a desperate or bored peddler trying to keep their site’s hit rate up, while meekly discarding context and intelligent framing.‬

A large number of these stories will probably have been clawed from interviews conducted toward the end of the traditional racing season, in order to safeguard against an empty winter.

Others will be pulled from poorly translated stories, often of questionable source.

All one can ask would be use one’s judgement and absorb these tales with a pinch of salt.

Such is the way of the world.

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