Racing News - April 2001
- (4/30) - Dr. Jack Miller was released from the Atlanta Medical Center yesterday in good condition after suffering a mild concussion from his wreck in Atlanta. 11 cars were involved in the pileup Saturday night and he was the only one who had to be hospitalized. It was such a horrific crash, that it was a miracle no one was killed.
- The CART Texas Race Review
(4/29) - CART has bragged in the past that their cars have more horespower than either the IRL or F1, making them the fastest formula cars on the planet. Today, it seemed to be a detriment.
Some of the most awesome close racing the IRL fans have experienced has taken place the last few years at the Texas Motor Speedway. CART was anxious to get there and experience some of the action on the 1.5 mile oval.
CART drivers had a few compaints about the track at first, and the speedway took care of it (smooth a few spots on the track and add a wall). For some reason, the management questioned CART's ability to run the speeds they were wanting to run a couple weeks ago. CART assured them that things were fine. Qualifying took place and Kenny Brack, the 1999 Indy 500 Champion, qualified on pole.
The night before the race, CART teams began to suggest that things were not alright. CART's doctor reported that most of the drivers were suffering from black-out or vertigo conditions from the high G-forces and from holding their breath. They said that their cars were too fast for human endurance on this track. 5 gees were being felt instead of 3.
Brack qualified this weekend at 233. The fastest pole for the IRL has been 225. The IRL has raced there twice a year since the track opened. Evidently, a speed in the 230's on Atlanta's 24-degree banking for sustained periods causes unforseen problems, for CART anyway. I'm curious what jet pilots have to say about that.
Michael Andretti said, "The G forces were beyond what I could have ever imagined. You feel very compressed when you get down in the corners. Everything is just compressing your body. It's a feeling I've never felt before."
CART considered several methods for reducint speed, cutting turbo boost and adding more wing, but the computer model said it wouldn't slow them down enough to make a difference. I suggest that the drivers control their speed with their right foot, but evidently they don't understand the word LIFT.
The fans showed up, the televisions crews showed up and my VCR was set to record; but the race was cancelled! The Texas Motor Speedway management was miffed. CART hopes to reschedule and really hopes that this doesn't result in trouble with the Speedway Motorsports Inc which could sue as well as cause trouble for CART at the other track they own where CART runs, Las Vegas.
General manager of the track, Eddie Gossage said, "It should have been sufficiently tested months and months and months ago. Both TMS and the fans are frustrated by what has happened."
In 1985, the Michigan race was put off because of concerns over the radial tires
Goodyear was to introduce on the circuit. After three accidents before the race,
several drivers refused to compete. Goodyear solved the problem by withdrawing the radials, and the race was run safely with bias-ply tires.
An alert reader sent me:
What does CART stand for?
1. Cancelled at Race Time
2. Couldn't Allow Reasonable Testing
3. Cars Aint Racin' Texas
4. Can Anyone Run This?
- The F1 Spain Race Review
(4/29) - For several years now, the Ferrari and McLaren teams have had a lock on winning and it has really begun to get boring. However, Williams, the 97 F1 Manufacturer Champ actually started giving them some competition, with the Jordan team not far behind. Today's race introduced active electronics (traction control and no more shifting gears) and it looked like things were back to their boring self, with Ferrari and McLaren filling the top four positions on the grid. DC however couldn't get his engine started for the warmup lap and had to start from the back of the grid.
Montoya made a remarkable start, charging from 12th up to 6th position, directly in front of Villeneuve. Pedro de la Rosa decided he'd rather quit early than let someone by, so he took H-H out when the Jordan was passing him. Ralf, who won the last race, spun off ending his day. DC slowly passed car after car and by lap 33 he was up to 9th! Then the Ferrari of Barrichello slid off damaging his suspension and ending his day. Then Eddie Irvine's engine let go.
Michael Schumacher led all day, but when he pitted, Mika Hakkinen, who had been behind him, stayed out for several more laps and increased his lead until he was able to pit for fuel and return still in the lead at lap 50 of 65. This is a strategy that he has been a victim of many times before from Michael and Ferrari. Michael had a 1 minute lead over 3rd place Juan Pablo and 4th place Jacques Villeneuve. However, he started slowing down due to tire wear, and the interval shrank frightenly quick. He was, however able to hang on until the end.
Mika surprisingly was not! On the last lap, Hakkinen's McLaren rolled to a stop! Mika had won in Spain the last three years, now trails Schumacher by a massive 32 points and team mate David Coulthard by 24.
"I'm super-disappointed - goddamn it, you know - Jesus," Hakkinen, spluttered. "It could have been a fantastic finish for me - it was going so easy. It just didn't work out this time over here for me."
DC, his teammate, managed to bring it home in 5th. Montoya got his first F1 podium (and the first F1 race he has finished) and Villeneuve got his first points of the season.
The IRL Atlanta Race Review
(4/28) - Team Menard and Greg Ray had shown up at Atlanta Motor Speedway earlier this month to run TWO simulated 500 mile races. They showed off their speed this weekend by running away with the pole with a 218.265 mph. Ray qualified 6 seconds faster than the majority of cars and 2 seconds faster than 2nd place Jeff Ward. Cheever, Hatorri and Calkins qualified especially well for this night race.
Rain unexpectedly delayed the race from starting for about an hour. This helped cool the hot track off and forced the teams to make changes to compensate. These cars run fast and close at Atlanta. Al Unser, Jr. started well, moving from 14th up to 6th place by lap 40. Unfortunately, he had trouble during a pit stop, which moved him back to 13th. Sam Hornish, Jr. winner of the last two IRL races, got around Jeff Ward for second place, after running side by side for several laps. Greg Ray stayed a little out of reach.
The pit workers looked cool tonight. They had several flashing triangle lights attached to numerous places on their persons. It reminded me of the Power Rangers.
A spectacular wreck occurred on lap 53. Coming out of turn four, some cars came together. It looked as if Cory Witherill, who made his first IRL start may have sparked it off, but it was confusing. Robbie Buhl sliced across the back of Jack Millers cars as he rocketed into the wall. This ripped open Dr. Miller's fuel tank and a fire ball of flame exited his car as he slammed into and slid along the wall. His car was hit by others as it turned over and over. Casey Mears ramped off him and got airborn. At least 8 cars were damaged. All drivers got up and limped away except for Dr Jack Miller, who was making his first IRL race of the year. He was air-lifted to the hospital to check for a concussion. The drivers involved were jarred and happy to be alive. Ironically, the movie DRIVEN started this weekend and this wreck was as spectacular as anything in that $75 million Hollywood movie. Unfortunately for the IRL, many of the struggling teams were involved in the crash and some may have trouble getting ready for opening day at Indianapolis which starts next week. Interestingly enough, Ganassi and the other CART guys who are running Indy, were not at this race.
Even though John Menard showed up for this race, his car, piloted by Greg Ray, led most of the race and took the win by a large margin. The only race the well funded team won last year was also Atlanta.
- (4/27) - Indy Lights is owned by CART and acts as a feeder series for up and coming drivers. The price to run in the series has been increasing and participation has been declining. The IRL offered to buy the series, but CART declined. So, the IRL is beginning their own feeder series. The cars will be open-wheeled single seaters of course, with 450 H.P. (Indy Lights has about 420) and will run at all IRL events as a support series. The cars can be configured to run on a road course and will also be used as a support series for the U.S. Grand Prix! Cost to run in the new series should be about 1/3 that to run in the Indy Racing League.
- (4/26) - I don't know who has been lining up the music talent at the speedway lately, but good job!! This year, the Carb Day concert in the track's tower plaza, will be Collective Soul! The concert will start shortly after the Pit Stop Challenge at 3:30 p.m.
- (4/26) - The Speedway Lions Club is adding a neat event to this year's first day of qualifying by sponsoring a hot-air balloon race. Breakfast will be provided for the 6 a.m. one-hour balloon race. There will also be coffee and dessert for the 6 p.m. balloon show.
- (4/25) - Michele Alboreto died today at the age of 44 in a race car in Germany. Michele won 5 Formula One races, competed in 5 IRL events including the 1996 Indy 500, and he won LeMans in 1997. He is survived by his wife, Nadia and two daughters.
- (4/24) - At a meeting today in Paris, the FIA confirmed the 100-year
agreement for the commercial rights of Formula One with the company SLEC,
represented by Bernie Ecclestone. This agreement will not affect in any way the current Concorde Agreement, which expires in 7 years and binds all of the F1 teams together.
SLEC and the Kirch Group have confirmed that the F1 Championship will continue to be shown on free-to-air television. (Except in the USA, where it is on Speedvision only.) This may halt the plans of the manufacturers to start a rival series.
- (4/24) - F1 team BAR, has hired a new test driver - Takuma Sato. Prost has hired a 2nd test driver, F3 driver - Jonathon Cochet. Arrows had ex-Indy Lights driver, Johnny Cane, doing some testing this week.
- (4/24) - Another CART driver snuck into the track for some pre-testing before the "Month of May" begins, Michael Andretti ran 30 laps with a top speed of 217.7 mph.
- (4/23) - CART team-owner spoil-sports continue boycotting Indy 500 any chance they get. Last year, Bobby Rahal wouldn't let newly acquired Kenny Brack defend his Indy 500 title. And now, Patrick won't let Jimmy Vasser participate in this year's biggest race. Ganassi wanted to hire him to drive his third car. Ganassi tried to get Paul Tracy, but Green won't let him run either. The bad attitudes and greed of these CART owners does nothing except give themselves a black eye. It damages their drivers' careers and stirs up strife among the race fans. Their short-sightedness is exceeded only by their ill-will.
- (4/23) - Speaking of Rahal, as you know, he is now over in Europe 'running' the Jaguar F1 team. (What must his position be now that Jag has hired ex-F1 champ, Niki Lauda?) He has moved Pedro de la Rosa from test driver to driver and sent Burti packing. Luciano Burti has now joined Prost, replacing Gaston Mazzacane.
- (4/22) - Bobby Labonte won the 2nd IROC race of the year, edging out Kenny Brack.
- (4/22) - Winston Cup ran a caution free race at Talladega.
- ( 4/19) - Greg Ray hit 223.7 mph in testing.
- (4/18) - Autoweek reports Mazda has paid $7.5 million to Laquna Seca so they would rename it "Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca" (for five years).
The same magazine also said there was a rumor that Lola would become a chassis manufacturer for the IRL in 2003. Lola, a British builder, currently builds cars for endurance sportscars (Le Mans), Formula Nippon, F3000, Indy Lights, and CART. Lola cars have won three Indy 500's and three IndyCar championships.
- (4/17) - The Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation will again host a benefit at Morton's Steakhouse in downtown Indianapolis on Sunday, May 6th from 6-10 pm. (This is Opening Day at the track). Indy drivers will be there. A strolling buffet will be provided. Price is $99 and can be ordered by calling (317) 236-9999. I'll see you there!
- (4/15)Imola, Italy - Although the McLarens started on the front row in today's F1 race, neither they nor the Ferraris would win today. DC outqualified Hakkinen! Ralf outqualified his brother!
Williams continued to look like they are stepping up. Although Montoya DNF, Ralf Schumacher passed DC at the start and led him to the finish to capture his first F1 win. This is the first win for Williams since JV's last. This was also a win for new entrants, Michelin tires and BMW engines.
A record set today: The Schumachers are the first two brothers to both win a F1 race. Hmmm. how many brothers have won a Indy 500?
- (4/14) - There will be nine Indy 500 rookie drivers this year at Indy.
Four Americans are joining via the IRL - Cory Witherill, Casey Mears, Jon Herb and Brandon Erwin.
Others also passing their 2001 Indy 500 rookie orientation program include Nicolas Minassian and Bruno Junqueira, driving for Target/Chip Ganassi; Shigeaki Hattori, driving for Vertex-Cunningham; Helio Castroneves, driving for Penske; Didier Andre, driving for Galles; and Felipe Giaffone, driving for Treadway.
Nicolas Minassian crashed later in practice. After hitting the wall the second time, he was taken to the hospital for a a sore neck and a sore wrist and was later released.
- (4/14) - A.J. Foyt Racing has entered a car in the Indy 500 for Robby Gordon. Robby ran in the 500 for Foyt back in 1993 as a rookie.
- (4/11) - Billy Boat has decided to be loyal and stick with his Beck Motorsports team for the Indy 500, instead of "standing them up" in order to run one of A.J. Foyt's cars for the Memorial Day classic.
- (4/10) - Ed Carpenter, the stepson of Speedway president Tony George, ran 65 laps in an IRL car test Tuesday at Atlanta with a fast lap of 208.5 mph.
- The IRL Miami/Homestead Race Review
(4/8) - Jeff Ward started from the pole today at the hot flat mile and a half in Miami. Sam Hornish, Jr. quickly showed his stuff as he raced side-by-side with Greg Ray through the turns passing him for second place. By lap 13, Hornish blew by Jeff Ward for the lead. Ward got him back by lap 34 and then held onto the lead until lap 62, when Sam got by him again, but only after more wheel-to-wheel racing.
Al Unser, Jr. got charged with a stop-and-go penalty for pitting too soon during a yellow. But he would soon turn it on and let it loose! On lap 94, Al passed Greg Ray for fourth position. Ten laps later, he got by Buddy Lazier and Jeff Ward, to take over second place. Sam Hornish, Jr. had looked unstoppable. He held a half-lap lead (12.4 seconds), over Little Al. But somehow, Al started to reel him in. He had cut Hornish's lead to 9 seconds, when he was forced to pit for fuel! (Jeff Ward, in third, also pitted.) Team Hemelgarn couldn't get Al Unser Jr.'s car started for several agonizing moments. Al was losing laps!
As Unser and Ward came back out on to the track, Ray smacked the wall, brought out a yellow, and virtually ended Unser and Ward's day, as now the other leaders could pit under yellow. Greg Ray had been dropping back. In fact he had even came into the pits for a mysterious splash-and-go after Sarah Fisher, embarrassed him by passing him. I think Ray's addage is: "If you can't beat 'em, drive into the wall!". I don't think Greg Ray deserves as good a ride as John Menard gives him. He has proven time and again that he cannot keep it together when things start heating up and the stress level rises. Poor Unser may have won this race, but now he would only finish in sixth.
Like Al earlier, Sam Hornish had trouble keeping the car running in the pits. He went from 1st to 4th during the pitstop. Eliseo Salazar, the 45 y/o Chilean who now resides in Miami; had been having a good run late in the race as he had passed Ray, Fisher and Lazier. He now had the lead in front of Sarah and Buddy after the restart.
On lap 177 of 200, the unexpected happened - Lazier, the 2000 IRL Champion, hit the wall and brought out another yellow. Sam Hornish immediately passed Sarah on the restart. Three laps later, Sam let off early in a turn, so as to prevent his rev-limiter from kicking in, he then was able to floor it longer and get by by Eliseo Salazer to take over the lead. Walker (Racing) must have noticed and radioed Sarah, because she then pulled the same trick! Foyt was furious at his driver, who would finish third behind Sarah.
Sam Hornish Jr; won his second race in a row for Panther Racing! It looks like Andretti is hooking up with the right team. But didn't he hook up with Senna's team in F1? We will all see in a month and a half! At any rate, it should be mentioned that Treadway Racing's new driver, Felipe Giaffone, qualified well, stayed out of trouble all day, and brought his car home in 4th place. Great job Felipe!
Also during the race, Scott Sharp, who was under the weather, hit Glenn Scott, Menard's Crew Chief, during a pit stop. They took him to the hospital for a possible broken leg.
New tv commentator, Jason Priestley, improved from the last IRL race, however he did make some mistakes, such as assuming Scott Goodyear was racing for Panther Racing during the 95 Indy 500 when Panther didn't even exist then.
I think Bob Jenkins has probably been kind of fed up with Jason, who evidently has no journalism experience, but Bob was stumbling all over his words today, so Jason shouldn't feel too bad. Larry Rice did well and of course Jack Arute is a real pro and a real fan. You can catch the IRL under the lights of Atlanta in three weeks!
- (4/6) - Toyota, a CART engine supplier, has announced it will begin competing in the IRL in 2003. They will join Olds and Nissan as IRL engine suppliers. There has been talk of CART eliminating turbos and moving to an IRL formula as well. Toyota and Ford are for it, however Honda is not. Honda is known for their high-revving engines and the way the IRL must control speeds is with a rev-limiter. This would not show off the best attributes of the Honda technology. On turbo cars, they can reduce power by reducing the amount of pressure of the pop-off valves, while still allowing the engines to rev as high as they can.
- (4/6) - Greg Ray is still recovering from his January practice crash in Miami. He broke two bones in his leg. He will attempt to qualify for this weekends IRL race.
- (4/3) - Just a note: CART is "sanctioning" the participation of its members in the Indy 500. This will allow Penske to run their Marlboro colors. I was hoping we could continue to keep tobacco sponsorship out of the Indy 500.
- (4/3) - I've heard that Jim Rathmann, Sr., 1960 Indy 500 winner, is involved with the new Heritage Motorsports program whom Jeff Ward drives for. Jim competed in the 500 from 1949 to 1962.
- (4/2) - George Connor, the last surviving driver who competed in the Indianapolis 500 before World War II, died Thursday, March 29, 2001. He was 94. Connor's best Indy 500 finish was third, in 1949; his best pre-war finish was ninth in 1937. In his final appearance in the race, in 1952, he placed eighth. Survivors include grandson David Bolick III of Laguna Niguel, and three nephews. Services will be Monday at the Kern Hesperia Mortuary in Hesperia, with a private burial in Indianapolis.
- (4/2) - Jos Verstappen has been fined $15k for hitting Juan Montoya in yesterday's Grand Prix. Mika Hakkinen got fined $5k for not replacing his steering wheel.
- The F1 Brazil Race Review
(4/1) - WOW! Today's Formula One race in Sao Paulo Brazil offered intrigue with one surprise after another. Hakkinen never even got a chance to race, as his car stalled on the grid. The safety car had to come out for a bit, and upon the restart, Juan Montoya passed pace leader, Michael Schumacher in a a late breaking ballzy pass in Turn One, where he tapped wheels with him and showed absolutely no fear of Schumacher.
This pass, and the excellent drive Montoya proceeded to turn out, portents a new challenge to Schumacher and Ferrari. The BMW-powered Williams seemed to have better straightline speed than the Ferrari; perhaps better brakes. Not to take anything away from Montoya's skill. Juan would lead Michael until lap 25 when Michael unexpectedly pitted.
When Michael resumed the race, by lap 31, he had worked his way back up to third place, behind David Coulthard.
Rubens, being Brazilian, was the local favorite. Somehow he forgot to brake and ran right into the back of Ralf and thereby took himself out of the race very early. He also mixed it up with Ralf at Malaysia and it seems he ran into the back of Frentzen in Oz. Poor Ralphie's rear end must have a target painted on it - recall Villeneuve slammed into his backside and then went somersaulting into the fence, debris hitting numerous people and killing the crowd marshall in Oz. Villeneve had a disappointing weekend this week also.
Montoya pitted, and upon re-entry, Jos Verstappen, a lapped car, charged right into the back of Montoya, knocking him out of the race as he still held the lead! Coulthard inherited the lead and easily held onto it, as Michael was some 20+ seconds back in second place. Montoya had never raced at Interlagos before, but it looked like he was on his way to his first win in his first season of Formula One. [Montoya won the CART championship in 1999 and the Indianapolis 500 in 2000.]
We saw some trouble in the pits today. Most drivers began pitting around lap 41. Nick Heidfeld started to leave with his fuel hose still connected, but he detected the problem in time. Villeneuve had to wait in line behind teammate Panis who was still in the pits when he arrived. And then after some drivers, such as the Schumacher brothers, left the pits, a downpour started and it was back into the pits to switch tires. Michael switched to intermediates (half-rain/half-dry tires). The rain was forcing DC to slow way down, so he dove into the pits for intermediates also. This opportunity gave Michael the lead! Would Michael make this his 7th win in a row?! Only a few more races to win and he'd tie the all-time record set by Alboreto Ascari in 1953.
Suddenly, Michael spun! He caught it at about 45 degrees, kept it on the track, got it pointed in the right direction and resumed! The Rainmeister showed his awesome car control in the wet once again with that save.
It was quite wet there for awhile, with giant rooster tails of water spraying out from each of the cars tires. The sun came out soon and along with the 90 degree temperatures, the track began drying. They do have a drainage problem at Interlagos and the FIA are concerned about the track conditions in Brazil. They have written the mayor to ask what steps will be taken to improve things before they return next year. There is the possibility that Brazil will lose F1, as they did CART a month ago. Also, numerous F1 people were held up at gunpoint and several teams had items stolen such as wheels and laptop computers.
DC got past Michael around lap 53 (of 71). Michael then lost it and went off into the gravel traps, but kept it going and resumed in 2nd place, which he would hold to the end of the race. Young Heidfeld worked his way past Trulli and Frentzen to take over third place and 4 points for Sauber. BAR's Olivier Panis had a good day and also passed those two to finish in 4th place. His partner, Villeneuve, finished just out of the points, in 7th, behind Fisichella's Benetton.