Issue 2 • 2010
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e d itor’s note s
elcome to Issue 2 of P1, and the ride continues. Like many of our readers I have always harboured the desire to go motor racing. Well since launching P1 magazine I thought, what the hell and took the leap. Did a few laps of Hampton Downs in my 09 Audi RS4 Sedan with A1GP Team NZ star Jonny Reid, and that was it, I was well and truly hooked. From there its been a great learning curve. I have done a few sessions with very well respected Kiwi driver coach Andy Neale at Canterbury Motor Racing School and have progressed into the very quick and nimble Formula Ford, a car which has launched the career of many a star of today. The photo at left shows yours truly during one of the sessions at Ruapuna racetrack and is the first step in a path which will get me into the seat of a Holden V8 which I will be racing in the NZGTR series, a Tier 2 series run here in New Zealand. The car is currently being built up by Jacko, Steve and Tony at AV8 Motorsport in NZ and should be out on the track for some testing by the time Issue 3 comes around so keep an eye on this column next issue. What really came as an eye opener in the Formula Ford was how quick your reaction times need to be and how much further ahead you have to be thinking to make sure you get the car through the turns ahead. Its no use being “with” the car, you need to be “ahead” of it. That’s why when I sit down and watch the Australian V8 Supercar series, Indy Cars or Formula 1, I have a whole new respect for the talent it takes to get those cars around the track at those speeds.
the team Publisher & Editor Ned Dawson Project Manager Cathy Horton Deputy Editor John Brooks Assistant Editor Craig Lord Sub Editors Matt Trulio, Leigh Neil F1 Editor David Tremayne Safety Bernie Gillon United States John Dagys South Africa Paul Bedford Toyota Racing Series Bob McMurray NASCAR Amanda Vincent INDY CARS Jeremy Shaw Proofreading Barbara McIntosh Graphic Design Dot Design Printers GEON Group Digital Edition GEON Group Web Design Fuel Design
John Dagys is a motorsports journalist who specializes in the coverage of sports car and endurance racing. For the past five years, he has traveled across the USA, reporting on the American Le Mans Series and Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series for a variety of motorsports publications. In 2009, John took up a new opportunity with SPEEDtv.com as its sports car racing reporter, primarily covering the American Le Mans Series. He graduated from Columbia College Chicago in May 2009, with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism – News Reporting and Writing and is a co-author of the 2009 American Le Mans Series Official Yearbook.
But we all have to start somewhere, and to those reading this column who have been contemplating going motor racing or getting their kids into the sport, I have just a couple of words for you – DO IT. It will be the best decision you ever make. Yes your wife or partner might despise you, your accountant will hate you, your kids will forget what you look like – but bottom line you will LOVE it and life is too short for regrets. So while you read this issue of P1 with some great features and images in it from our very talented group of writers and photographers around the world I am off to fit my new Sparco seat into the V8. And on one last note I have to express my sincere thanks to Andy Booth and Jacko for making this possible. Thanks guys and lets have some fun.
Bob Murray has had a long relationship with motorsport – especially Formula 1 and currently contracts as a commentator to various media companies in New Zealand, He spent over 30 years with the McLaren Formula 1 organisation. He was responsible for the initiation, development and bringing to operation of various projects including the development of “high rise” team hospitality trucks to enable two useable and operational decks (a system in use with virtually all the Formula 1 teams today) and the development of a live television broadcast system from the pit garages to the sponsor’s village. Bob left McLaren in 2002 and returned home to New Zealand.
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Re gula rs 5 from the pitlane 11 F1 update
contents 16 V-8 Supercars Shakers and Movers
13 The anzac column 15 european connection
With driver James Courtney, the wellfunded Ford team in the V-8 Supercar team is poised to shake up the longestablished order of things this season.
26 IndyCar Series on the Rise The history of the IndyCar open-wheel racing series is full of controversy and push-me / pull-you friction among race team owners. And yet despite all odds, the series looks stronger than ever as it heads into 2010.
34 White-Hot Rivalries. Welcome to NASCAR Harsh words, fist fights, intentional wrecks – and many of those have been between drivers on the same team. Rivalries are as much a part of NASCAR’s heritage and its future – as Ford and Chevy.
42 Last Man Standing – 2010 Nurburgring 24 Hours
With numerous plot lines among the factory teams, the 2010 Nurburgring 24 Hours came down to a battle of talent and attrition. But the biggest battle was between Porsche and BMW.
52 Car of the Future – Bring It On Despite a long and storied history, V-8 Supercar continues to compete. It also needs to reduce costs. Spearheaded by Mark Skaife, AVESCO’s “The Car of the Future” strategy is to design exactly that.
60 Endurance Kings
With more than 10 years of success in the sportscar world, Risi Competizione have emerged as the endurance racing specialists of GT racing. What is the key to the team’s unprecedented level of achievement?
68 Toyota Racing Series 2010 Season Review – Kiwis Triumph on Home Turf A diminished field, thanks to a weak global economy, fortunately did nothing to diminish the action for the 2010 Toyota Racing Series.
76 Red faces at Red Bull They have the fastest car, but right now they aren’t converting that into dominant race wins.
86 Craig Baird – One of a Kind and Ready to Roll
For drivers considering the V-8 Tourers and Porsche GT3s – you can excel in one or the other, but not both – unless you are the incomparable Craig Baird.
From The P itlane FINES HANDED OUT FROM AVESCO
WTCC CALENDAR CONFIRMED
eam Centaur racing (Tony D’Alberto) were fined $25,000 for holding an unapproved corporate ride day in the lead up to the Darwin event. It is understood the runs were done at a MG Club day at the Sandown Raceway with genuine and innocent intentions, given that a few of the rides were apparently a fundraising auction. $22,500 of the fine was suspended until the end of next year rather than this year – as long as no other similar rules are broken before then. Avesco look upon the ride day as a test session. Chief Steward, Steve Chopping explained that the rules clearly state no team is to run a V8 Supercar at a track outside of the two team test tracks where an event will be held – which is the reason why a number of teams who did meeting rides in Perth early June would have no action taken against them, because the Barbagallo track is not a round this year. Had D’Alberto chosen to use a ride car or promotion car or any other vehicle, it would not have been a problem. The mistake was that he used the V8 Supercar. The highest ever fine from V8 Supercars was back in 2004 when Team Dynamik were smacked with a $50,000 US penalty when they tried to attempt secret and illegal testing sessions.
orld Touring Car Championship organisers have now confirmed that they will not be replacing the abandoned Mexico round this year as thought. The 2010 April event to be held at Puebla Mexico was cancelled due to severe flooding, and the Mexican authorities were unable to guarantee the safety of teams or spectators. The round was scheduled as the second of eleven, and at one point the WTCC were looking at either returning later in the season, or moving to an event in China or the Middle East. The more likely case of China was recently abandoned when negotiations for a satisfactory event agreement could be made. The series will conclude with the November round at Macau. On brighter news 2011 will see the WTCC heading to the states with the track and location still t o be confirmed, but one track that has been approved of is Suzuka in Japan. The famous track will take over the Japanese round from Okayama where it has been held since 2008.
HOPEFUL CHANCE FOR KELLY
ASCAR’s Red Bull car driven by Brian Vickers needs a fill-in driver for the Watkins Glen road course on August the 8th. That happens to fit nicely in the gap of the V8 Supercars calendar and Rick Kelly – one of the worldwide Red Bull linked drivers – is a possible chance to fill the gap. Vickers is out of NASCAR for at least six months due to health problems and Mattias Ekstrom who races in the DTM German touring cars is the number 1 choice, however he is unavailable for the Watkins Glen round and that could mean the big call-up for someone – like Rick Kelly – who is part of the Red Bull clan.
PRETTY MEDAL FOR THE CHIN
he Former Williams, McLaren and Red Bull driver David Coulthard has been awarded an MBE in the 2010 Queens Birthday Honours List. The Scot retired at the end of 2008 after 15 years in the game where he won a total of 39 times, was on the podium 62 times and scored 535 points over the career – the most of any Briton. The 39 year olds best overall season result was 2nd in 2001 behind Schumacher.
MORE LEGAL ACTION IN F1
he Force India Formula One team has started legal action against Lotus and wind tunnel testing company Aerolab with civil proceedings in both the UK and Italy. They claim that the Malaysian owners of the Lotus Racing team had unauthorised access to intellectual property including components and tyres exclusively licensed by Bridgestone to the Force India F1 team, and on its wind tunnel model design for the current Lotus T127 chassis. Both teams utilised the services of the Italian aerodynamic company Aerolab. Team Lotus uses a former designer from Force India.
F r om T h e P i t l a n e PASSING OF A LEGEND
AMBROSE BLOWS CHANCE AT NASCAR
ell, if you missed it the biggest juice over the last month of NASCAR is the “Blunder from Down Under”. Marcos Ambrose had a shocking finish to a wonderful start at Infineon Raceway – one of the few ‘genuine’ circuits that the NASCAR’s jump on. It wasn’t a shock to see Ambrose at the top of the board after three practice sessions, the 33 year old was of course a twotime Australian V8 Supercar champ and has therefore had plenty of experience in turning right after a left, and as the green flag fell, he was the man to beat. Things however turned turtle for the man when after a caution with only 7 laps remaining, the field was able to close up. Not expecting any problems Ambrose was then ordered by the crew chief to save fuel – this required a strange procedure of switching the engine on and off. Unfortunately when he was on a steep incline the car stalled and he was unable to restart until 5 cars had gone past. Not a problem thought he, a bit of the loud pedal and he would skim his way back to the front of the pack, sit in behind the safety car and get ready for a restart. Ummm.... nope. NASCAR has a very simple rule and to convert it into a simple understanding: “You can’t slow down or stop”. The official term is “failed to maintain speed”. Due to this stalling of the race behind the safety car and then the stalling of the car itself, the race bosses proceeded to send him back into 7th position – Ouch. Ambrose had a very simple take on the matter “My bad, Just feel really disappointed. I Might not like the call, but it is what it is. I know the rule. It’s a judgment call.” So, instead of Ambrose claiming his first ever NASCAR victory – he handed Jimmie Johnson his first on a road course....
ASCAR lost two of its stalwarts recently, Raymond Parks, NASCARS first championship winning owner, passed away aged CEO & Chairman Mike Helton, Raymond Parks and 96 on the 20th of June and president Brian France. former Vice President Les Richter on the 12th of June. Parks was the last living member of the groundbreaking 1947 meeting to form NASCAR at the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach where he helped shape the future of the sport and its eventual incorporation in 1948. He owned the championship winning car in both NASCAR’s first Modified season of 1948 and “Strictly Stock” season of 1949. Both championship-winning cars were driven by Red Byron. Parks’ car won two of the eight races in the inaugural 1949 season of what is now known as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series – at historic Martinsville Speedway and the Daytona Beach & Road Course. Parks had recently donated an epic collection of NASCAR memorabilia to the Hall of Fame which included Red Byron’s original 1948 championship winning trophy, along with the 1941 Daytona Beach race and 1947 Championship trophy. The list of other trophy’s and memories are enormous from 62 years of the sport.
Craig Lowndes goes bush
ust like his mentor the late great Peter Brock, V8 Supercar Star Craig Lowndes is expanding his driving horizons. While Brock was a enthusiast for Targa racing, Lowndes has decided to crack a few shots towards Off-Roading. With three V8 Supercar championships and four Bathurst titles notched into his bedpost, Lowndes is to compete in the gruelling Australian Safari – behind the wheel of a specially modified Holden Colorado Ute. To keep things in a slightly normal phase for the man, the Colorado has been fitted with a V8, whether that helps him across the eight day 3500 km event is yet to be seen. From September 17 to 25 one of the world’s toughest endurance events will test a varying selection of machines, which includes motorbikes, quads, standard format road running cars and of course the freakish high performance buggies. Lowndes will run the event in the gap between the Phillip Island and Bathurst events – let’s hope his fitness is at its peak!
PRESSURE ON PATRICK
he is the ‘darling’ of Indy and now equally so for NASCAR. ‘Bankable’ is the usual term made to someone that pulls crowds and interest into their sport or business, but Patrick has her work cut out for her to continue that trend, as the hectic schedule set down for the rest of the 2010 Indy and NASCAR Nationwide series will certainly put pressure on her. Normally Patrick will put forward an image of a lady in control, but her nerves are already starting to show as she publically admits to the difficult challenges ahead. With so much to learn on the Nationwide tour, not only in the car but on the track itself, Patrick is facing an uphill battle. She has recently had her best stretch with Indy, slotting three top-ten finishes in a row, but match that to the awful Nationwide results of 35th at Daytona, 31st at California and 36th at Las Vegas, Patrick will need to do more than just impress people off track, for her driving future, the performances need to be at their best from behind the wheel. 6
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Fr om T h e P i t l a n e CHEATS CAUGHT IN NASCAR
RACE OF CHAMPIONS SCORES A GREAT
ASCAR has issued fines, suspensions to the #38 and #10 teams of the Nationwide Series. Both teams were caught with illegal parts on their vehicles, as the parts did not conform to the NASCAR rules. They also broke the regulation of using another crews tyres and wheels without NASCAR permission, and, identification numbers had been changed on previously approved tyres. As a result, Stewart Cooper, crew chief of the No. 10 car and Sean Whisenhunt, tyre specialist on the No. 10, along with Trip Bruce, crew chief for the No. 38 car and Kevin Bellicourt, tyre specialist for the No. 38, all have been suspended from the next two NASCAR Nationwide Series races, suspended from NASCAR until June 23 and placed on NASCAR probation until Dec. 31. Bruce and Cooper also were each fined $25,000. And another #38 is in trouble, this time in the main Sprint Cup series, where Steve Lane the Crew chief for #38 Kevin Conway was fined $100,000 US and banned from the next 12 events for violations of both race equipment and engine restrictions.
BMW gone from F1
t’s only the word, but it’s still a big deal as the Sauber-BMW team applies to officially drop the BMW part of their title. The German carmaker BMW pulled out of F1 at the end of the 2009 season but Peter Sauber retained the moniker in its team title. Apparently the commercial rewards due from the Sauber team participations in 2009 would have been in jeopardy after they finished 6th in the championship race. The team has slowly removed the BMW branding from the car and have gone so far as to have stopped mentioning BMW. The car now runs with a red ‘S’ logo and Sauber Motorsport Branding. The C29 vehicle is even more awkward in its naming than just the BMW part – due to it running a Ferrari engine it is in fact a BMW Sauber Ferrari – not very clean at all. It is now up to the Formula One Commission members to accept or reject the name change.
t the end of each year is the annual Race Of Champions (ROC) where the world’s greatest drivers gather for a meet of egos. The event this year will be held in Germany at the covered and heated ESPRIT Football arena in Dusseldorf. It is the 23rd running of the prestigious event and this year will see Formula One legend Alain Prost making his debut in the event at age 55. Over his stunning career Prost won 51 Grands Prix and four drivers titles, and on November the 27th and 28th he will face off against current F1 drivers Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher. Sebastian Loeb has also been confirmed into the drivers ranks. The grass of the football stadium is covered with a special tarmac circuit and two parallel lanes that the drivers must wind their way through – setting it up perfectly for the likes of Loeb, although we are certain that Prost will make his presence felt.
or only the second time in its famous history, the Daytona International Speedway is about to get an overhaul. In July the NASCAR teams will run their final event on the current paving which was placed down back in 1978. After the 2010 Daytona 500 the engineers and tarmac specialists conducted a thorough inspection and made the call to give the old girl a birthday. The work will commence immediately after the July running of a NASCAR event – an event where the teams have been gifted with a wee bit of a boost – the carburettor restrictor plates will go from 63/64-inch to 1 1/32-inch. NASCAR believes the cars need a bit more power since switching from rear wing to rear spoiler design this season. The track will then receive a haircut in time for next year’s Daytona 500.
TYRES STILL A PROBLEM IN F1
ole tyre supplier to the Formula One competition Bridgestone are taking radical steps to try and please everyone involved with the sport – including the fans. The tyres are being dramatically complained about by the drivers who claim the tyres are difficult to work with. Felipe Massa cannot get his rubber to stick and is frustrated that Lewis Hamilton can do so on the first flying lap. Both Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher are puzzled with the tyre carcass that seems to be much stiffer than in the past – apparently to prevent the problems experienced by Michelin at the 2005 Indianapolis Grand Prix. Ross Brawn puts the aggressive driving style of Hamilton as the reason for his early lap success – but it’s not a style roundly used by all the drivers. Bridgestone are to take a different approach – the art of data evaluation – by supplying the teams with both the super soft and hardest compounds available for the German round at Hockenheim, hoping to come up with a suitable solution for the future. The same selection is apparently not feasible for Hungary, Belgium, Italy and Singapore due to their difference in track types.
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By David Tremayne
t seems an age ago, doesn’t it, when there was all that fuss about Lewis Hamilton hooning in Melbourne back in March, and the local cops decided to nail him to the cross for a bit of light-hearted showing off that was, at worst, foolish. To nobody’s surprise, in the week prior to the Turkish Grand Prix the boys in blue went ahead charging him with”‘intentionally losing control of a vehicle” during the incident on Lakeside Drive. What they mean is that he indulged in a bit of wheelspin and sliding while passing a virtually stationary Bruno Senna. There was never a moment when the 2008 World Champion was actually out of control. “I was driving in an exuberant manner, and as a result I was stopped by the police, and I want to apologise for it,” a contrite Lewis admitted at the time. Nobody was hurt in the harmless bit of tomfoolery. Of course, it could be argued that this was a pretty irresponsible thing for a public role model to do, especially a champion admired by so many young people the world over. That is the view all are expected to take in this dull age of political correctness, and there was no shortage of the righteous brigade who wanted to make an example of him. Personally, I took it for what it was – a guy of immense talent behaving like a kid. If something had to be done, a slap on the wrist would have sufficed. But there you go. Victoria is the world capital of automotive Fascism. In the same week as the cops declared their intention to “hound the hoon”, a fabulous book arrived at Tremayne Towers. Called Collage, it’s a £295, 1500-copy limited-edition publication of the scrapbooks Helen Stewart kept of the great moments from Jackie’s career, available only from Genesis Publishing via www.genesis-publications.com. It’s a fantastic, emotive record of a bygone era, and was a lot of fun to delve into. And there it was, proof that there really is nothing new under the sun. “Motor ace Stewart faces dangerous driving charge.’” In the 1967 Tasman Series BRM team-mates Stewart and Richard Attwood headed off from Auckland to Chris Amon’s parents’ beach house in Paraparaumu. Jackie was at the wheel of a 3.8-liter Jaguar MKII, and Jimmy Clark gave them a cheerful promise that he would “catch them up” in his E-Type.
Well, of course there was no way one Scot was going to hang around waiting to be caught by another. Eventually, in Bulls where Chris was born and lives today, Jackie was pulled over by the Bill for speeding. He had been doing 100 mph for the last 20 miles in a country where the speed limit was an enlightened 50… “The worst thing was that my co-driver, Richard Attwood, got out and rushed up breathlessly to the cop and said, “Thank goodness you stopped him, the man is an animal!” “When I later tried to introduce myself to the Head of Traffic, the man wouldn’t even shake my hand. He just glared at me and said loftily, “We know all about you, Mr Stewart!” Eventually Jackie hired a lawyer called Trevor de Cleene, who wanted £1100 – in cash – (£15,000 today) which the wee Scot admits really hurt. But he was facing a criminal charge. “He said to me when I called him, ‘Ah, I wondered how long it would be before you got in touch.’” De Cleene eventually cleaned up. Cannily he got the case transferred from the original court to one where it would not be heard by the “hanging” judge who was to have officiated, and got it dropped altogether when it transpired the cop who issued the ticket was 15 meters out of his jurisdiction, and that Stewart’s summons had been served incorrectly. “The poor guy who served me, at the next race at Levin, called me Jackie as he leaned into the cockpit after the race when I was following Jimmy into parc ferme,” Jackie added. “He was a Scottish policeman, very deferential and clearly very embarrassed, and at first I thought he was asking me for an autograph because of this bit of paper he was waving under my nose. I nearly signed it! He was very apologetic. When I mentioned all that to Trevor he said, ‘So, he called you Jackie? But your full name is John Young Stewart, right?’ And then he also used that as the basis for getting the summons negated too.” De Cleene eventually became New Zealand’s Minister of Taxation, and years later JYS could not resist telling a television chat show audience that their minister had “demanded that I pay him in cash and I didn’t even get a receipt…” Sadly for Lewis, whose case comes up on August 24, de Cleene died in 2001. P1
By Craig Lord
The ANZAC column
ersonally, I’m all for new ideas, and especially if those new ideas will be good at whatever they were thought up for - but I am at a loss when a potentially wonderful new idea gets lost in translation by those who present it. I’m talking specifically about the new Endurance Race recently organized to be held at the equally new race circuit known as Hampton Downs ,which was labelled as the “Altherm 1000”. Let’s step back a bit in time. In early February it was announced with a great fanfare that two – yes – two exciting new 500km endurance races would be held at Hampton Downs on the weekend of 5th and 6th June. Great! It would encompass six national endurance titles, and on each of those said days, would be run with a four-hour or 500km limit, whichever came first. Great again! There would be a minimum of two drivers per car, and on Saturday the race would feature an open class, free for all no-holds-barred competition for the top open class honors – and also include a Porsche GT3 title. Then Sunday’s race would be for the V8 Touring class only. Whoa … stop the press! – The V8 touring class only on Sunday? Let’s take back those first two “Greats” now, shall we? At school I was certainly not at the top of the class - no shame in that. But I did well enough in math to suss out quite quickly here that those who race on Saturday are NOT doing a 1000. Something is not quite adding up here. But wait – there was more. Another little issue with the entity, in the fact that when the initial release came out, there were shouts of it being “New Zealand’s Bathurst”. Ugh... I cringe. Those who did such things had for some reason missed a big detail. If you race in a particular class on Saturday that ain’t running on Sunday, then it ain’t no 1000. Why do these people insist on using such dramatic icons as Bathurst, when there is clearly no comparison aside from the number 1000? I, for one, was certainly starting to feel a little deflated about the initial idea. My early euphoria had slipped into a mild raising of the eyebrows. But, I needed to give it a chance. This was just the early February information after all, and there would surely soon be some wonderful pick-me-ups. Ummm – sadly no, there wouldn’t.
I should have also realised the other small issue – the fact that the launch of the event was in early February, right in the middle of the V8 Touring car season. I am sure I am not alone in seeing the problem with this; expecting the V8 teams to finish the regular season in March, then entertain the crowds in a non-championship event at the ITM400 in Hamilton, before proceeding to a new endurance event in June. Oh, I am sure all the bean-counting accountants for the teams would have loved the idea. Still, one needs to stay as positive as possible. I mean, the thought of a “1000” with our premier V8 tourers would naturally be a sensational event. Plus, it would be made more interesting with the addition of other vehicles in the mix .Oh yes! Sorry, that’s for Saturday only – but still, it would make for an interesting Saturday. Somehow the title of “ Altherm 500 x 2 “ doesn’t flow too well. And then, it happened. The organizers’ statement came out early in May , “What we have now decided to do is run one four-hour race on the Saturday that will be an ‘all in’ race with cars from Porsche GT3 Cup, Open Class, NZV8, Production Racing, MINI Challenge and Suzuki Swift Sport Cup. We currently have 40 entries and will accept a maximum field of 46 cars.” Ouch... it’s the “Altherm 4 Hour” now lads. By the end of May the entry field was down to around 30 cars. By race day it was 24 – and not one of the NZ V8 Tourers had entered. From the Porsche GT3 Series only four had turned up, and along with two other Porsche GT3 cars that were not part of the regular championship, it pushed the number of the flat engine beasts to six in total. There can be no doubt that being in the shoes of the organizers was not on top of anyone’s wish list. One also has to wonder how the sponsors’ discussions went. It was, as I am sure everyone will agree, a real shame that it didn’t go to plan, but no matter what the reasons or even excuses are for the event not coming up to the standard that was initially touted, the fact remains that the Altherm 1000 was a failure. New Zealand race fans want a 1000, but something needs to be dramatically changed in the mix for it to get over its first embarrassing hurdle. P1
By John Brooks
his year saw the launch of the FIA GT1 World Championship, a big fanfare from Paris and a big jump into the unknown for the previously successful FIA GT Championship. The flipside of the coin was the eventual cancellation of the proposed FIA GT2 European Championship now truncated to just the Spa 24 Hours or FIA GT2 European Cup – to give it the official title. So GT2 is dead and GT1 is the place to be? Well, up to a point. Cynics were convinced that the GT1 World Championship would never get off the ground, and certainly trying to launch such an enterprise in the current financial climate is an act of faith. On the other hand, Stephane Ratel has a track record second to none for pulling the rabbit out of the hat in the GT world. He launched the BPR Series back in 1994, and three years later was awarded FIA Championship status. The FIA GT Championship was by any standards a success. So that should continue with the new improved World Championship? Yes, but no – but yes, but no............. Getting 24 cars with 12 brands to the first GT1 round at Abu Dhabi in April was a real achievement, but questions arise about the business model that the whole edifice is based on........Where does the money come from? In the longer term, the Aston Martin, Corvette and Maserati cars fall out of homologation at the end of 2011. Where will the replacement supercars come from? This is a section of the market that was hit very hard by the financial turmoil of the past two years - no spare cash for racing there. These are serious questions that need serious answers. Contrast this with the GT2 arena. Currently there are factory projects from Porsche, Ferrari, BMW, Corvette, Aston Martin, Jaguar and Spyker, with the likes of McLaren and Audi waiting in the wings. There is an agreement that these brands will run to ACO rules and achieve a level playing field through balance of
performance measures. At present the cars are all running to the same weight – 1250 kilos, and therefore can use the GT1 tires. Engine power will be restricted and allowance will be given for the different aerodynamic and drag properties of each car. This means that the most expensive part of a race car’s development budget, extracting the last 5%, will be made redundant. The announcement that the ACO’s Inter Continental Challenge will not only apply to the Prototype class but also GT2, gives the manufacturers a global platform to display their wares. This ties in with the prevailing mood in car marketing, that everything must be based on the existing product that can be bought in some form in the showrooms, and that halo marketing such as Formula One is no longer considered desirable in this age of relative austerity. The factories will consider the opportunity to compete at some of the world’s greatest endurance races like the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Spa, Nurburgring, together with Sebring and Petit Le Mans at a budget, is too good to miss. The factory money will provide a budget to both develop and race the new and existing cars – and to a high level. The most cursory glance of the standard of GT2 competition in the American Le Mans Series, or in Europe, the Le Mans Series will show that this class is easily the best around for producing close, competitive racing. So it would appear that the momentum is with the GT2 brigade. They have the factory teams, the classic events and a growing fan base. Will it be enough? It certainly looks that way. However, GT1 racing in 2010 form also has a strong appeal with big, bold, loud cars in one hour sprint races. Attending one of these reinforces the sense of spectacle – but is it sound and fury – signifying nothing? Time will tell, but in the meantime get to one of these events if you can, they may not be around for long. P1
C OV E R FE AT URE With driver James Courtney, the well-funded Ford team in the V-8 Supercar team is poised to shake up the long-established order of things this season. Like all the drivers this season, Courtney has to contend with new vehicle specifications, tires and driver rules â€“ not to mention the always-competitive Craig Lowndes. But Courtney, like all top drivers, has enough talent and confidence to take it all in his stride.
story by craig lord Jim Beam Racing, Team Vodafone, Brad Jones Racing, Ford Performance Racing, Stone Bros Racing, HRT, Paul Morris Motorsport photos courtesy of
C OV ER FE ATURE
ell! Well! Well! Who would have picked it? The odds were stacked against them and the formbook wasn’t 100 percent in their favor. But as sure as the tarmac is black, Ford is yet again giving the Holden a bit of a scare. Let’s take the odds factor into account first – 19 Holdens and 10 Fords - pretty much a 2:1 ratio going on there. And who would safely back that under normal sporting conditions? As for the formbook, the Triple 8 Holden machine of Jamie Whincup was initially performing just as though he was still in the Championship winning Falcon – but now is not. So what’s the deal for the current status of the competition as it sits on the halfway mark? The deal is simple. James Courtney has come on song. He and the DJR Team are tuned, primed and ready to give anyone the biff. He traveled to the last round at Winton 24 points behind Jamie Whincup and flew home 114 points ahead. Rip up the odds sheet and burn the formbook, because nothing in this sport is a certainty. But don’t be surprised that Courtney is at the top. He does have a fairly substantial racing background. Let’s take a short moment to look at that point. He was Junior World Karting Champ in 1995, and two years later he was the 1997 World Formula A Kart Champion. In 2000 he grabbed the British
Formula Ford title and then ended up as the F3 driver for Jaguar, along with being a test driver for their F1 team. He even had time to become the All-Japan F3 Champion in 2003. Yes, Courtney has been there and done that, so there should be no shock to see his name either near or actually on the top. There are plenty of other factors to also take into account about his current placing. One of those is budget, which makes where he sits even more special. DJR is quite frankly not one of the big spenders but they hold their ground like many others. Along with that they had to deal with the loss of Ford’s backing at the end of 2008. But so too did Triple 8 Racing, who as we all know infamously ran their rigs with the “pig” logo and subsequently removed all Ford branding. Ford, however, has returned to DJR this season, but the grapevine suggests that they receive less than Stone Brothers and, of course, the FPR Factory team. And there pops a question – FPR who? Mark Winterbottom is currently sitting eighth on the table, a cool 411 points adrift of Courtney, and that will certainly be a strong part of next season’s financial negotiations with Ford. With only eight weekends left which contain a total of 14 races, Winterbottom and the FPR team will need to make the big charge – and in the back of his and his teammate
Thumbs up and smiles when outside the car.
FPR’s Mark Winterbottom has to reaffirm his position as a Ford Factory driver.
Team BOC are performing well below their own expected standard.
Steven Richard’s head will be the fact that driver and sponsor negotiations are always performance-based. But back to Courtney and team DJR, where money is nice – but not everything. Smart contenders work budgets into their favor and yes, you can only do so much with what you have. But clever cookies put it into the right places. At the moment Courtney seems to be “the right place”, his four consecutive wins prove that this is no flash-in-the-pan moment. Yes, he is currently leading the championship and yes, he could still easily drop out of contention. But right now he is the money-man and he is also the first driver to take a lead away from Whincup after 18 months of effort. Asked if he could pin down any particular reasons for the form peak, Courtney said he believes it is not a peak but a progression. “There are several reasons,” he said. “After winning the last four races and taking the championship lead, it may look like my team and I have suddenly improved. However, we have been getting more consistent since the middle of last year. First we
won in Townsville, and then finished the year with another win in Sydney. There were also quite a few podiums in other races, so the momentum was building for quite a while before I won four in a row at Queensland Raceway and Winton last month. “Another factor behind the improved results is that I’m now in my second year with Jim Beam Racing,” he continued. “When I joined them there was the usual settling in period, and now everyone is working well together. Our guys have also stepped up to the mark with pit-stops, race strategy, reliability and everything else. Ford is also now back supporting us and that’s another plus.” We should not forget where other drivers are placed though. Craig Lowndes has been quietly clocking up the points to sit in third only 222 points behind Courtney, and with 150 points available for a win, it would not take much for Lowndes to make the push. Then, of course, there is Shane van Gisbergen whose season has been without doubt one of dreams. Like Lowndes he has not had a win so far in 2010, but he has stood on the podium
Smart contenders work budgets into their favour and yes you can only do so much with what you have but clever cookies put it into the right places.
enough times to make the top 3 players look over their shoulders; his blue machine with the big blue oval is certainly set to pounce. And in the top 5 is also Garth Tander. The first four races of the season are ones to forget as he only received points from two of them, but then he made the great comeback with back-to-back race wins at the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide – suddenly going from nowhere to somewhere. The numbers are not so strong for those outside the top five – but all is not yet totally lost. Lee Holdsworth is fighting hard in the Fujitsu Holden to stay in the chase, but like those below him on the leaderboard, the gap is starting to get a little big. That also includes drivers like Rick Kelly, who found some strength again from his Jack Daniel’s Holden when he grabbed pole for Sunday’s race at Winton. Unfortunately he couldn’t turn that into a winning checkered flag. It was, however, a positive showing from what has been a tough year so far, particularly as he and his brother Todd are not only having to look after themselves, but also deal with the joys of being team-owners for the Bargwanna and Ricciardello camps. One of the hottest talking points in the season so far is the tires. While the round rubber has always played a big part in any calendar year, it is more so with this year’s use of the soft compound. That has played into the hands beautifully for Courtney who has had plenty of time with the sticky stuff on board. As he stated post-race at Winton, it seems like he would love to have it available full-time as it has been a key part to his recent success. “I put it down to experience with the compound,” said Courtney. “It’s all I’ve ever driven on through my years in Karting, Open Wheelers and Super GT, so it’s not foreign for me to know how to work, feel and look after them.” Both the Queensland and Winton rounds used the soft compound and that was where Courtney made his move. Only time will tell if the
Ford is yet again giving the Holden a bit of a scare. 20
Shane van Gisbergen could be the thorn in 888â€™s side.
Its tough in the middle of the pack for Will Davison. Rick Kellyâ€™s trying to muscle his way into higher points.
Contracts come from performance.
This is the way Courtney wants it to stay.
Rollercoaster ride best explains Brights season so far.
Could only get better for Murph as it canâ€™t get much worse.
Still smiling at 888.
Still plenty to learn during Tim Slades 2nd season of Supercars.
Mr smiles not so smiley.
Courtney getting used to the silverware.
Steven Richards season isn’t going to plan yet.
return to the normal routine will change the way things work in the DJR camp. There is no doubt though that Courtney is riding a wave full of positive energy. “Now we will be going back to either the durable “control” tires or a mix of soft and hard rubber at some rounds,” he explained. “Different tires usually mean different pit-stop strategies. I’ve won races on both the soft and hard tires so I expect to be competitive whatever we’re using.” And that positivity doesn’t seem to have waived the way the team will work. “My team and I will approach race days the same as before – go for the win and if we can’t win we will try and get as many points as we can,” said Courtney. “It’s great to be leading the championship by 114 points, because the pressure is now on the others to see what they can do. However, there is still a maximum of 2,400 points to be won, so it’s much too early to say who the favorite is for the title.” There is also the question as to whether Team Vodafone is actually going backwards or others are simply catching up.
Courtney, of course, is not privy to what happens inside the Triple 8 camp, but certainly doesn’t feel as though they are going backwards. He believes it is more likely a case of them simply learning more about the new car. “Team Vodafone switched from racing Falcons to Commodores, so they have had plenty of adjustments to make in terms of engineering, car set-ups, fuel economy and various other things,” he said. “They are still very competitive. For them the biggest challenge is probably coming to grips with a change of car.” But when it comes to the happenings in his tent, Courtney knows exactly where things lie. “By comparison, my team is in its second year with the FG Falcon. We have good continuity and set-up data from last year for the various tracks,” he said. “In the off-season our team worked hard on development and we have made some gains. You can’t afford to “stand still” in this business or you go backwards. The challenge for us is to keep improving, because we know Team Vodafone and all the other big teams will come
Courtney, just like every other team does of course also have to contend with the new driver rules attached to the enduro rounds, and will need to keep his fingers crossed that things work in his favour.
Lowndes – slightly down but certainly not out.
out firing for the rest of the year. My team is very motivated because we haven’t won a championship or Bathurst for a long time. We are also enjoying being the underdogs this year. There are almost twice as many Commodores on the grid compared to Falcons, and some people were saying before the season started that Holden would dominate, but it hasn’t worked out that way. It seems as close as ever.” But tires and drivers are not the only ingredients in the recipe that could change things. The first segment of the Car of the Future has come into play for the second half of the season - that being a controlled cam for the engine. Courtney is of the same mindset as many. “No one knows for sure how things will be affected by the control camshafts until everyone gets on the track together at the Darwin round. Things could change - or maybe they won’t,” he said. “We will have to wait and see.” There is one team that seems to have a minor advantage on this case – the lads at Jack Daniel’s Racing. Todd Kelly has run the control item at both Queensland and Winton. They had no issues with the unit and it has given them a head-start to the engine management. The rules were previously scripted in a way that allowed teams to engineer the camshaft for maximum horsepower, and of course why wouldn’t you if the rules allowed it. However, the counter to the horsepower gain was of course the longevity of the engine and the cost of development; both are items that AVESCO are working hard on to solve. 24
So, the possibility that the new cam will change things does seem unlikely because everyone will be playing with the same toy. However, that doesn’t change the fact that we will all be trying to work out if anyone has gained or lost momentum with it, and it will quite simply add a squirt of sweet or bitter juice to the favorite’s mix. Courtney, just like every other driver, also has to contend with the new driver rules attached to the enduro rounds and will need to keep his fingers crossed that things work in his favor. One of his closest opponents, Craig Lowndes, has no doubt that the enduro sections will make a difference to the scheme of things. Lowndes has stated that working with Skaife is a big opportunity to get some good points, and the enduro events could certainly make or break anyone’s season. Courtney has to hope that it’s only a make. Regardless though of the introduction of the new camshaft specs, having to come to grips with the tire swaps, and dealing with the upcoming endures, the mover and shaker for the season thus far is James Courtney. He is representing the Ford clan and seems to be highly proud in doing so. While heading into the second half of the season at the top of the leader-board may be new ground for him in the V-8 Supercars and been a long time coming for the DJR Team, being at the front is something he has done before and the pressure should be bearable. P1
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The history of the IndyCar open-wheel racing series is full of controversy and pushme / pull-you friction among race team owners. And yet despite all odds, the series looks stronger than ever as it heads into 2010. Could it be that the series organizers and team owners are finally on the right track? One thing is for sure â€“ fresh leadership and a new sponsor certainly donâ€™t hurt.
Jeremy Shaw John Dagys
Target Chip Ganassi Racingâ€™s Dario Franchitti heads into the 2010 season as defending champion.
he IZOD IndyCar Series is in a period of transition, and to the surprise of many seasoned observers, the outlook appears quite bright. Long-time fans of the sport are well aware of the difficulties that have faced North American openwheel racing over the past 15 years or so. During its heyday in the middle 1990s, when the series was under the control of Championship Auto Racing Teams, even Formula 1 was looking over its shoulder as IndyCar racing went from strength to strength. Its mix of traditional American oval tracks and an eclectic selection of road and street courses made it popular with fans and drivers alike. The addition of overseas talent such as former F1 world champions Emerson Fittipaldi and Nigel Mansell further broadened its appeal massively and rapidly. Within the space of a few years it went from being merely another national championship to an entity that captured global attention. Boy, does that seem like a long time ago? In 1994, having grown tired of being regularly spurned in his desire to have more control over the sport, Tony George who presided over the Series cornerstone event the Indianapolis 500, decided to take matters into his own hands. And so the Indy Racing League was formed. Looking back, his decision still seems to defy logic. It ended up bringing a thriving entity to its knees. Of course, at the time George had some laudable aims, which included placing more of an emphasis on traditional oval tracks and a mandate to promote American drivers, especially those with an oval racing heritage. Sadly, his “vision” was myopic. The notion of top drivers from the USAC midget and sprint car ranks graduating
directly into “Championship cars” might have worked in the 1950 and 1960s, but not in this increasingly specialized era. Furthermore, CART still boasted a healthy fan following, a great technical package, solid sponsorship and a virtual stranglehold on the star names. What it lacked was the courage of its own convictions - and leadership. In 1978, CART had been formed by a consortium of team owners who broke away from their previous overseers, the United States Auto Club. Its latest president, Andrew Craig, like all his predecessors, was unable to make any fundamental decisions without the singular support of his board of directors. Thus, when the fledgling IRL came a-knocking, CART team owners gladly, greedily and misguidedly took the money and happily sold them out-of-date cars and engines with which to go racing. If the owners had stood their ground and resisted the temptation to part with their equipment, the IRL would have been hard-pressed to get off the ground. It took a few years, but the sport gradually unraveled. The fans became intensely polarized, supporting either the “traditional” Champ Car (nee Indy Car) World Series or the upstart IRL, but not both. Crucially, too, the sponsors were all too aware that the Champ Car series lacked a jewel in its crown. It boasted several top-quality events, including the Grand Prix of Long Beach in California and Surfers Paradise in Australia (which, tellingly, never was able to shake off its “Indy” moniker), but none had the luster of the Indianapolis 500. Confusion reigned. The IRL never did achieve its goal of providing more opportunities for American drivers, but gradually it made
The sights of Long Beach.
Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves. Fan favorite Danica Patrick.
Brazilian Tony Kanaan has played the team leader role at the fivecar Andretti Autosport squad.
An impressive tally of 24 cars made the trip to Sao Paulo – two or three more than originally anticipated – and, against the odds, the field has continued to rise since then.
IZOD came on-board as the title sponsor of the IndyCar Series in 2010 and also supports Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Rea
Second-year IndyCar driver Raphael Matos.
Fans come out in full force to Long Beach.
IndyCar has expanded its roots internationally to Brazil and Japan.
Fan interest continues on an admittedly modest upward trend as open-wheel racing has been stabilized following the rapprochement in 2008, and TV viewership also is on the rise in the U.S. Dreyer & Reinboldâ€™s Justin Wilson.
Former F1 ace Takuma Sato has found a new home in IndyCar with KV Racing Technology.
Dario Franchitti has excelled in both ovals and road courses, making the Scot one of the most versatile drivers in the field.
inroads into CART’s popularity. The conflict took its toll. Ten years after the IRL’s formation, both series were virtually on life support. Just weeks before the 2008 season was due to begin, the latest band of owners who controlled the Champ Car series threw in the towel and forged a bond with George and the IRL. The new association was tenuous to begin with, as old allegiances had been wrought asunder by years of bickering and acrimony, but gradually peace was restored. A predictably painful period of consolidation ensued, during which several under-achieving teams fell by the wayside – and many top-quality personnel were rendered jobless. The average grid size in 2009 dwindled by two, from 25 to 23, in comparison to the inaugural year of cooperation, and the signs for this season weren’t looking too bright as the first race in Brazil drew near. Since then there has been a miraculous turnaround. Every team is required to make a commitment to Honda and Firestone as the sole engine and tire suppliers prior to the season, and both entities admitted being surprised by the late surge in interest in the weeks leading up to the first race. An impressive tally of 24 cars made the trip to Sao Paulo – two or three more than originally anticipated – and, against the odds, the field has continued to rise since then. A record-equaling field of 27 cars lined up on the grid for the recent oval event at Kansas Speedway, and as many as 40 drivers are expected to attempt to qualify for this month’s
Indianapolis 500. Perhaps, just perhaps, we will witness the first meaningful “Bump Day” – as drivers vie to make it into the 33-car starting field – for the first time since 1995, the year prior to “the split.” Moving forward
To be perfectly honest, the apparent IndyCar Series resurgence this season remains somewhat of a mystery. The global economic downturn of the past couple of years took a heavy toll on motor racing as a whole in North America, such that even the previously rampant NASCAR SprintCup series has taken a substantial hit – in terms of both spectator attendance and fresh sponsorship. Nevertheless, IndyCar’s procurement of a new series sponsor in well-respected clothing company IZOD has provided a welcome boon to its credibility. Fan interest continues on an admittedly modest upward trend as open-wheel racing has been stabilized following the rapprochement in 2008, and TV viewership also is on the rise in the US. (Having said that, the numbers could hardly have diminished much further after the widely criticized decision to switch coverage of the majority of races from ABC/ESPN to the relatively obscure Versus cable network.) The open-wheel community is reveling in its new-found success and a new figurehead has been installed to lead the way forward. Tony George was ousted by the family-controlled
The familiar Lotus colors have returned to open-wheel racing, albeit as a marketing exercise.
Marco Andretti and Dario Franchitti.
Mike Conwayâ€™s Dreyer & Reinbold Dallara-Honda.
board of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway midway through last “If we crown a road champion then an oval champion, and season, and after a period of uncertainty Randy Bernard was come right back with the IZOD IndyCar Series champion, I tabbed earlier this year as his replacement. Bernard, 43, freely think it really speaks volumes for the driver who wins the IZOD admitted he had never even attended an IndyCar race and knew IndyCar Series championship because you have to be great at next to nothing about motor racing. What he had done was both disciplines in order to do it,” he adds. “It also assures our lead the Professional Bull Riders Association from obscurity fan base that we’re committed to giving them both ovals and into a multi-million dollar organization with lucrative television road/street course events, and I think that’s very important.” contracts with Fox, NBC and Versus. Amen to that. Many racing insiders scoffed at the notion of someone with And even more credit to Bernard for including the fans in absolutely zero racing experience being entrusted to such a the process by inviting them to vote for whichever icons of the role. In reality, that could be exactly what the sport needed – a sport they believe would be the most appropriate to grace the fresh beginning unencumbered by old allegiances. It’s still respective oval and road course trophies. early days. Bernard has been in office only a few months but “By bringing our legends into it, we’re bringing back the already has made his presence felt. He has a positive attitude names that America remembers in the sport and honoring their and outlook, and has willingly engaged in dialogue with a wide legacy,” he says. “I think the addition of the legend’s name will variety of sources. He forms his own opinions based upon make it a prestigious honor to win one of these trophies.” sensible research. About the only criticism I have heard is that Do the drivers agree with Bernard’s vision? So far I haven’t he perhaps listens to too many people. come across any dissenting voices, and while recent Long Beach Among Bernard’s early edicts have been revamping the winner Ryan Hunter-Reay accurately describes the oval and qualifying procedure at Indianapolis and the instigating of road course trophies as a “sideshow,” with the Indianapolis 500 separate “championships within a championship” for the top and IZOD championship as the undisputed primary targets, he point scorers during the season in both oval and road/street nevertheless approves of the concept. course competition. “I think it’s great to highlight the fact that we do have two I do wonder whether the new qualifying rules for Indy might completely different disciplines of racing within one series,” be overly complicated and potentially confusing, but I applaud says Hunter-Reay. “It’s the only racing series in the world that the concept of awarding championship points, because the level does that with the street courses, road courses, mile-and-a-half of pressure and commitment on drivers to complete four perfect super speedways and short ovals. laps around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway unequivocally “That’s what I love about it - you’re always changing up matches those same attributes that are required during a race. I disciplines of racing,” he adds. “That’s what makes this series wholeheartedly approve of his decision to offer tangible rewards what it is. It’s really cool.” to the top protagonists in both oval and road/street course It’s been a while since anyone described the IndyCar Series disciplines too. as “really cool,” but maybe, just maybe, the sport is on the right In fact, I have been extolling the virtue of that same concept track again. P1 ever since escalating costs began to pose potential problems to car Among the new qualifying counts in the late rules, awarding championship 1980s. From my perspective, points will offer tangible it offers an rewards to the top protagonists opportunity for a driver who might in both oval and road/street not have the budget course disciplines. to complete an entire season but who might be able to contest either the road courses or the ovals, depending on their particular expertise. Bernard, meanwhile, sees additional benefits. “After my first six weeks, I kept saying to myself we need to be able to deliver a consistent message about our sport that separates us from other forms of auto racing,” he says. “What hit me is that we have the fastest and most versatile drivers and race cars in the world – and no one can deny that – and now we have to show why we’re the fastest and most versatile. We have 17 events but how do we create better storylines? “I think there are two different demographics. I’d be willing to bet you that the oval demographic is more like a NASCAR audience, opposed to a street/road course demographic that is considerably different,” he continues. “How do we attract both of these? How do we bring them together and how do we create storylines that allow for a great ending to our season? Briton Mike Conway has excelled on the road and street course events.
Harsh words, fist fights, intentional wrecks – and many of those have been between drivers on the same team. Rivalries are as much a part of NASCAR’s heritage and its future – as Ford and Chevy. story by
photos Courtesy of
NASCAR Media & Amanda Vincent
ivalries are nothing new in NASCAR. As a matter of fact, they’ve been around pretty much since the beginning. There was Richard Petty battling David Pearson, and then there was Richard Petty versus Bobby Allison. There was Darrell Waltrip against Cale Yarborough, and then you had Darrell Waltrip battling Dale Earnhardt and Cale Yarborough dueling with Donnie Allison. The Yarborough-Allison one an especially exciting, even if it was a shortlived rivalry. The two drivers generally got along, but a difference of opinion in the 1979 Daytona 500 took center stage, because it produced a fist fight that was seen on national television as part of the first-ever live flag to flag television broadcast of the Daytona 500. Former driver and car owner Junior Johnson found the Waltrip-Yarborough rivalry especially amusing, at least enough so to use it as a motivational tool. After Johnson replaced Yarborough with Waltrip behind the wheel of his Cup car, he’d often “mistakenly” call Waltrip “Cale” when Waltrip would complain about the car, or when Johnson felt that Waltrip wasn’t “up on the wheel.” Waltrip was always good for an amusing rivalry. Another driver he had a rivalry with early in his career was Buddy
Baker. According to Waltrip, when he’d get behind Baker, Baker would always shake his fist at him. He said he went to fellow driver A.J. Foyt for advice. Waltrip said that Foyt told him to hit Baker hard the next time he took his hand off the steering wheel to shake his fist at him and he’d never do it again. According to Waltrip, Foyt was right. He said he tried it and Baker never shook his fist at him again. Like Waltrip, Earnhardt played his role in stirring up excitement by being part of several rivalries. In addition to his rivalry with Waltrip that went on throughout the 1980s, he also developed a pretty intense, yet short-lived rivalry with Geoff Bodine. When the ’90s rolled around, Earnhardt had a new rival – Jeff Gordon. Granted, some of these rivalries didn’t produce bitter feelings between the drivers involved, at least not publicly. But some of them did, and those kinds of rivalries – the kind that result in drivers expressing frustrations in front of the camera – are the ones that race fans seem to yearn for and are amused by. Kurt Busch and Jimmy Spencer delivered in 2002, when the two drivers made contact on the track at Phoenix. Busch was a rookie then, and Spencer hadn’t been to victory lane in Cup competition since 1994. Spencer accused
Busch of “dumping” him and retaliated later that season at Indianapolis. The animosity between the two didn’t end there. Instead, it carried over to the 2003 season. After a race that season, Busch stopped his car in front of Spencer’s hauler, claiming that he had run out of gas. Spencer rammed into Busch’s car in the garage. Then he climbed out of his car, said a few words that were unfit for young ears, and punched Busch through the window. Maybe Spencer took offense to Busch previously referring to him as a “hasbeen” or “never was.” In the years since, there have been feuds between drivers here and there, but they’ve typically lasted a couple of race weekends or so and then been forgotten, with a few exceptions. Fans soon started complaining that drivers had become too venial and the sport was growing boring. They were asking, “Where’s the personality?” Maybe Brad Keselowski has the answer to that question. “I think that rivalries are good for the sport as long as they are in good taste and not mean-spirited,” Keselowski said. His most recent dust-up began at Atlanta Motor Speedway earlier this season – or at least that’s when it came to a head. Keselowski and Edwards got
When drivers race in large packs, sometimes multi-car accidents are the result, like this one involving Marcus Ambrose, Ryan Newman, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Kasey Kahne, Brian Vickers, and Bobby Labonte.
The fans definitely embrace rivalries, especially when they get drivers all worked-up and emotional and that emotion carries over into the media for all race fans to see and enjoy. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (88), bump drafts with Denny Hamlin (No. 11).
Ryan Newman surveys damage to his race car.
Jimmie Johnson (48), Brian Vickers (83), Scott Speed (82), Bobby Labonte (71), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (88), and Tony Stewart (14) run in the draft.
Crew chief Darian Grubb (left) and driver Tony Stewart (right) listen to the national anthem during pre-race ceremonies.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (left), Kasey Kahne (center), and Greg Biffle (right) talk things over.
Kevin Harvick (29) bump drafts Jamie McMurray (1).
Jimmie Johnson waves to the crowd during driver introductions.
Denny Hamlin greets race fans.
together on the track early in the race, and as a result Edwards spent much of the event in the garage. Feeling he was wronged by Keselowski, Edwards returned to the track some 160 laps down with his heart set on getting Keselowski back. The resulting retaliation in the closing laps of the race sent Keselowski’s car airborne and up into the wall before flipping over and finally returning to a right-side-up position. Edwards was parked for the remainder of the race, which was about three laps, and was later placed on probation for three races. Following the race though, Edwards seemed proud of what he had done, even though he did say that he regretted that Keselowski’s car got airborne. He went on to say that he and Keselowski had had issues in the past and maybe this would be the end of it. Maybe the past incidents that Edwards was referring to included the 2009 spring race at Talladega that Keselowski won and Edwards finished on foot – after
contact between the two drivers sent Edwards’ car airborne and into the catch fence coming to the checkers on the final lap. “I hoped for the best, and I got the worst,” Edwards said of the 2009 Talladega incident. Keselowski, however, saw the matter at Atlanta from a different perspective. Because of his car getting airborne, he said that not only he, but also many fans in the grandstand could have been killed. Maybe this rivalry climaxed a little past that sometimes fine line that defines good taste. NASCAR must have thought so. The setting for the following race weekend just happened to be Bristol Motor Speedway, a track notorious for bringing out raw emotion. Prior to racing action there though, NASCAR officials met with Edwards, Keselowski and team owners Jack Roush and Roger Penske, and whatever was said apparently cooled tempers. There no longer seems to be an issue between the two, at least not yet.
Brad Keselowski (left) and Carl Edwards (right) exit a closed-door meeting with NASCAR, following their incident at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
But then again, that was just a few weeks ago and the season’s still young. An older rivalry with Keselowski seems to have a longer shelf life, though. A rivalry was born between Keselowski and Denny Hamlin back in 2008, even before Keselowski had ever competed in the Sprint Cup Series. The two got together in a Nationwide race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and Hamlin retaliated during a yellow flag. This rivalry has seen most of its action on the Nationwide Series stage, with Keselowski a full-time Nationwide Series competitor, now with the added duty of full-time Sprint Cup Series competition, and Hamlin who runs full-time at the Sprint Cup level but runs part-time in the Nationwide Series. The two drivers had run-ins several times in Nationwide competition throughout the 2009 season, culminating in Hamlin spinning Keselowski out in the season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.
Most of the race field hits pit road.
In the time since, Keselowski has extended an olive branch – whether it be to get under Hamlin’s skin some more or as a sincere gesture to call a truce. He says that he sent Hamlin a Christmas card this past holiday season that featured the popular Christmas sentiment, “Peace on earth,” and signed it, “Your friend, Brad Keselowski.” He also claimed on Twitter earlier this year that when he saw Hamlin at a restaurant during dinner, he sent a bottle of wine over to his table. Sometimes drivers don’t even have to look far for a good rivalry - not that they’re out looking for a rivalry in the first place. Sometimes a good rivalry can crop up within a race shop between teammates. At Texas Motor Speedway in April, a rivalry between Hendrick Motorsports teammates and four-time champions Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson festered when each of them was unhappy with how he was raced by the other. This is a rivalry that seems to have died and resurfaced several times over that last several years, but it’s never been one to produce huge fireworks – at least not yet. “We’ve raced hard for years,” Gordon said. “In a way, I hope we see more of it (rivalry). We don’t want to be bumping 40
and banging, but I do want to be changing positions with him for the lead and swapping those positions. I love racing with Jimmie, because you know when you’re racing with Jimmie, you’re funning good.” This time, like the times before, the two HMS drivers buried the hatchet pretty quickly. Or did they? “We’re fine,” Gordon said the following weekend at Talladega. “Everything’s good.” Maybe Gordon just wanted everyone to think that things were fine between him and his teammate. Or maybe he really considered everything to be “fine” until he and Johnson, once again, had a difference of opinion on how best to race each other later that same weekend at Talladega. Following the Talladega race, Gordon again expressed disappointment in Johnson by saying that he didn’t know what Johnson’s problem was. Whatever issue or issues the two HMS teammates and four-time Cup Series champions have, they usually seem to not let it get in the way of their friendship, at least not during the week. Things also seemed to have cooled off overall, for the two drivers in the time since Talladega, even when the circuit
visited Richmond International Raceway – a short track famous for putting emotions under a magnifying glass. Edwards recognizes the phenomenon of rivalries among teammates, going so far as comparing them to sibling rivalries. “Teammates are some of the guys you want to compete with the most,” he said. “I’d say Greg (Biffle), Matt (Kenseth) and I (all Roush Fenway Racing teammates) have had the hardest races and most fierce, intense competition of anybody that I’ve raced with, and I think that’s just normal. It’s kind of a race within a race.” With NASCAR supposedly loosening its reigns this season, per an announcement made back in January that the sanctioning body was going to step back somewhat and let drivers begin policing themselves, maybe some more good old-fashioned rivalries, like the ones from days before, will work their way into the NASCAR culture. “I think the sport is doing a good job of embracing them (rivalries) and engaging them,” Keselowski said. The fans definitely embrace rivalries, especially when they get drivers all worked-up and emotional and that emotion carries over into the media for all race fans to see and enjoy. P1
The No. 98 team of Paul Menard performs a routine pit stop.
Team owner Joe Gibbs (left) talks to one of his drivers, Kyle Busch (right).
Teammates Joey Logano (left) and Denny Hamlin (right) compare notes in the garage.
Short tracks provide close quarters, bumper-to-bumper racing for David Ragan (6), Greg Biffle (16), Martin Truex Jr. (56), Paul Menard (98), Denny Hamlin (11), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (88), and A.J. Allmendinger (43).
With numerous plot lines among the factory teams, the 2010 Nurburgring 24 Hours came down to a battle of talent and attrition. But the biggest battle was between Porsche and BMW. In the end, BMW prevailed and again secured its place as the dominant player in endurance racing.
2010 Nurburgring 24 Hours story & photos by
It was a triumphant return for BMW AG and Team Schnitzer to the Nurburgring 24 Hours. The #25 BMW M3 GT2 ably driven by Jorg Muller, Uwe Alzen, Pedro Lamy and Augusto Farfus outran and outlasted the opposition to take a well deserved victory at the Nordschleife classic.
eld on a combination of the classic Nordschleife and the less-classic current Grand Prix circuit, the Nurburgring 24 Hours is the biggest race in the world – at least if you run your thumb over the numbers. The track is 25,378 meters long or 15.769 miles. This year 198 cars in three groups took the start flag, and they were driven by around 800 drivers. These were kept in some sort of rough order by 1,300 marshals and officials. Event organizers claimed an attendance of 220,000, and I estimated that 10,000,000 liters of beer were consumed. Sadly, my own contribution to this stellar performance was limited by the demands of the job. If the complex ADAC Zurich 24h-Rennen were a film, Robert Altman would surely have been the director. His multi-layered epics contained a few themes that were stronger than the rest, such as natural selection if you like. So, too, with this race. There was the struggle for the overall victory. There were the various objectives for the factory teams not in contention for the top spot. Finally, among the majority of the field there were those issues and motivations that need to be addressed. Why do people go racing? There are many reasons I found from personal discovery; the challenge – or even just good old fashioned money when it comes to professional drivers. And some just do it for fun. Perhaps it was expressed best in a film about another famous 24 Hour Race, “Le Mans”. Although fictional, it summed up why men and women went and still go to the tracks and compete.
Another class win for the Volkswagen Scirocco GT24-CNG, powered by 44 p1 Magazine p1 magazine natural gas. The VW factory car managed to post 16th place overall.
“A lot of people go through life doing things badly. Racing’s important to men who do it well. When you’re racing, it’s life. Anything that happens before or after is just waiting.” I am sure a psychologist could have a field day with the likes of Michael Delaney, or even more so with the kind of person that stands at the side of the track witnessing the whole show. But we all know that photographers are crazy. There were ten factory outfits that showed up in the Eifel Mountains, and three of those had a shot at the win. There were Audi, BMW and Porsche, who were all desperate to acquire the bragging rights to a victory in this race in their domestic market. Porsche with their Manthey Racing satellite were on a roll, with four wins in a row. Rule changes had forced them to bring a new car to replace the trusty GT2-based 911, but there was a quiet confidence, especially in the case of the No.1 car crewed by Marc Lieb, Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas and Marcel Tiemann. They had special Michelin tires reputed to be worth 10 seconds a lap over the opposition and with minimal performance degradation over a stint. Supporting Porsche’s spearhead were a number of other 911 GT3 Rs for the likes of Haribo Team Manthey and Mamerow, with Werks drivers of the quality of Wolf Henzler and Richard Westbrook strategically placed. Perhaps in terms of the future of Porsche Motorsport, the most significant car was No. 9 of Porsche Team Manthey. It was the GT3 R Hybrid. With Jörg Bergmeister and Richard Lietz backed up by Marco Holzer and Martin Ragginger there was no shortage of driving ability. During the past decade, the Audi team has assumed the mantle of endurance top dogs with its prototype success at Le
A dramatic start as the phalanx of Audis head down to the first corner.
Sign of the times? The Porsche GT3 R Hybrid looked set to take the winnerâ€™s crown until the engine stopped with just two hours remaining in the race.
Why do people go racing? There are many reasons from personal discovery, the challenge or even just good old fashioned money when it comes to professional drivers, some just do it for fun.
The Sun makes a welcome, if brief, appearance as the H & R Spezialfedem Porsche GT3 Cup S heads out into the forests.
Marco Werner took pole position with a breathtaking lap in his Audi R8 LMS but the car was retired midway in the race after getting involved with back markers, damaging the rear suspension beyond repair.
A huge and enthusiastic crowd turned out as ever for the Nurburgring 24 Hours. Most of them seemed to end up on the grid before the contest began.
A great second place result for the Hankook Team Farnbacher Ferrari F430 GTC.
Night time in the pits for the Hybrid Porsche.
Running strongly in the first few hours was Mamerow Porsche.
Mans, a title held by Porsche for the previous 30 years. However, Audi had no tradition in this form of GT racing until last year when they showed up with a battalion of R8 LMS racers and ran the Manthey Porsche squad very hard. That is a reflection of the street-car situation where the R8 is making inroads into territory that Porsche considered to be the province of the 911. Indeed, when the fallout from Porsche’s failed attempt to take over the VW group finally gets down to the motorsport level it is certain that there will be a rationalization of activities with the enlarged VW group. Some within the management favor Porsche returning to the prototype class, and there are rumors of a hybrid project to attempt another Le Mans win. Where this would leave AudiSport is anyone’s guess, but it is not likely that we will see Porsche and Audi go head-to-head at races like Le
Mans with two big budget projects from the same conglomerate. Audi arrived at the Nordschleife with two top line teams – Phoenix Racing and Team Abt Sportline and two R8 LMS for each outfit, both staffed with top line driver talent. DTM hooligans Timo Scheider, Mattias Ekstrom and Oliver Jarvis joined sportscar stars like Marco Werner, Marc Bassang, Mike Rockenfeller, Emmanuel Collard and Hans Stuck jnr. A late switch from Dunlop to Michelin took another variable out of the equation, so this all looked like of a repeat of the 2009 contest. However, there was a new element thrown into the mix chasing overall victory – BMW. While Audi does not have much heritage at the Nurburgring 24 Hours, the cars from Munich certainly do, having won the first 24-hour race back in 1970 (a 2002 Ti with one Hans Stuck jnr.
The mantle of pre-race favourite seemed to be entirely justified as the Manthey Porsche led without anyone matching their speed. Then came the night and being collected in backmarker���s accident putting them into retirement.
“A lot of people go through life doing things badly. Racing’s important to men who do it well. When you’re racing, it’s life. Anything that happens before or after is just waiting.”
A class win and 18th overall for the #50 Gazoo racong Lexus LF-A
Another visitor from Japan and another great result, 12th overall for the Falken Motorsports Nissan Z33
on board). A further 17 victories followed over the 40 years of competition. They last had a factory presence back in 2005 when the fabulous M3 GT-R made its final appearance and signed off with a win. In common with most of the automobile industry, the marketing focus for BMW is product, the whole product, and nothing but the product. The M3 is the poster boy for all this effort so many late nights have been endured in getting cars built for Le Mans, Le Mans Series and the Nurburgring 24 Hours. Having Schnitzer on board was a major advantage as they know how to win – in any set of circumstances. A brace of BMW M3 GT2s were on hand with BMW regulars Jörg Müller, Dirk Müller, Augusto Farfus, Andy Priaulx and Dirk Werner being joined by Uwe Alzen, Pedro Lamy and local expert Dirk Adorf. Qualifying was pretty much a waste of time on Thursday as damp conditions and then dense fog brought the affair to a premature conclusion. The next day things picked up weatherwise, and so did the times. Marc Lieb scorched round in the Manthey Porsche early in the session, but a last minute charge by Audi taking advantage of the much-improved track conditions saw them occupy the top four slots. Marco Werner had pulled out all the stops to record an 8:24.753 in the Team Abt Sportsline R8 LMS, pole position for what it was worth. All the leading cars made it through the session more or less unscathed; the race might be a different story. As indeed it was. The pack took off at 3 p.m., and even before leaving the Grand Prix circuit bound for Hatzenbach, Marcel Tiemann had vaulted the Manthey Porsche to the front, from seventh on the grid. He continued to run away from the phalanx of Audis with the BMWs struggling to keep up with the pace set by the leaders. So it continued for the first two hours till Dirk Werner in the No. 26 BMW was sent off course by an errant backmarker at the Schwedenkreuze. The result? Replacement for the left front suspension, rear
shock absorber and radiator. Six laps lost, victory chances gone. One of the favorites down. At this time BMW also came to the conclusion that trying to run at the pace of Audis and Porsches was not possible, so they eased off and concentrated in getting nine laps rather than the eight of those others. This would prove crucial in the long run. There were then several extended caution periods after some big accidents involving backmarkers destroying sections of Armco, that was replaced as the action continued. As the sun dropped below the horizon the Manthey Porsche still commanded the field pulling away from the Audis. Then the fun started. First to blink was Audi, as the No. 98, once again avoiding an out-of-control backmarker near Planfzgarten bounced over the high kerbs, ripping the sump, causing the engine to blow. Another Werks challenge ended. Almost immediately the timing screens flashed up a problem for the leader. The No. 1 Manthey collected someone else’s accident destroying much of the left side of the 911. Even Manthey’s experienced crew could not make repairs to get the car back into the race. The dream was over. Win number five would not happen for the team this year. Twenty minutes later Marco Werner in the No. 1 100 Audi had a similar experience in the same part of the track. The rear suspension was damaged beyond repair. Another favorite out. This elevated No. 99 Audi into the lead and they would stay there till dawn when problems with the transmission forced a change of the rear axle. This was managed in an incredible seven minutes. This did not solve the Audi’s troubles, and a full gearbox change was next on the menu and that ended their chances of winning. So the lead switched once again, this time to the Porsche GT3 R Hybrid, with Jorg Bergmeister giving a champion’s performance behind the wheel. The battle for lead was down to the survivor from each of the factories. No. 2 kept Audi’s hopes
Uwe Alzen takes the chequered flag in the BMW M3 GT2.
Team Schnitzer and BMW celebrate.
Once again Audi gave Porsche a very hard time but were the victims of some outrageous luck.
alive; having recovered from some problems early on they tried to get onto terms with the Hybrid. All in vain, as a driveshaft failure stranded Lucas Luhr at Pflanzgarten – and the last factory Audi joined the list of retirements. So this meant that Porsche’s main challenge was from the No. 25 BMW, which was keeping the pressure up all the time trying to force a mistake or uncover a weakness in the Hybrid. As the Porsche had completed six days of testing at the Nordschleife, trouble free, it seemed a tall order. One team that had put its demons behind them was the Farnbacher Ferrari 430. Fastest in Thursday Qualifying, disaster had struck in Friday’s session when the car speared off the road causing considerable damage. After repairs they started from 46th place, so the team of Allan Simonsen, Dominik Farnbacher, Marco Seefried and Lehman Keen were discounted. The drivers 50
all agreed to avoid kerbs and look after the engine and gearbox and hope that the race would come to them – third place with three hours to go proved the worth of that strategy. There was to be another twist in the tail of this amazing race. The bulletproof Porsche falters. First an exhaust manifold needed replacing, then in an act of wanton cruelty by the Racing Gods, with less than two hours to run, Jorg Bergmeister had the engine stall on him at Breidscheid, ending Porsche’s dream of a Hybrid victory. “I heard a loud noise at the rear of the car and suddenly the power went,” said Jorg Bergmeister. So, as Last Man Standing, No. 25 BMW M3 GT2 took the flag at 15.00 hours. Even then there were some anxious moments in the BMW pit as the gearbox started to have problems during the final hours, and with the Ferrari on the same lap there
Director of BMW Motorsport, Dr. Mario Theissen, receives the silverware on the podium surrounded by his drivers.
Gazoo racing savours the moment at the conclusion of the race.
would be no relaxing before the checkered flag was waved. In the end there was just under four minutes advantage over the Farnbacher car. This win was number 19 for BMW at the Nurburgring 24 Hours. It was Pedro Lamy’s fifth victory in the event, tying him on the winners list with Marcel Tiemann. To make BMW and Schnitzer’s race complete, the No. 26 car recovered to take seventh place – a great team effort. The Hybrid was one development at the 2010 Nurburgring 24 Hours, perhaps the most significant – perhaps not. Another theme that ran through most of the factory projects seen was that of running cars based on stuff you could buy in the showrooms. Porsche were at the vanguard of this movement too, and in this case they enjoyed considerable success. No. 11, a white Porsche GT3 RS, was driven to the Nordschleife from
the factory at Zuffenhausen, presumably off the assembly line. It then completed 145 laps during the race in the hands of two local pros, Roland Asch and Patrick Simon, supported by two magazine editors, Horst von Saurma and Chris Harris, (Sport Auto and EVO). A trouble-free run translated into 13th overall and 4th in the competitive SP7 class. The final result was a triumph for BMW and Schnitzer, proving once again that being around at the finish is more important that being quick at the start. The team were overjoyed; celebrations continued long into the night. Now they will turn their sights to the West – first Le Mans in a few weeks, then Spa at the end of July. Who would bet against a triple crown? Mind you, there are some folks with Ferraris, Porsches and Corvettes around who might disagree with that thought. The Nurburgring 24 Hours – like no other race on earth. P1
Despite a long and storied history, V-8 Supercar continues to compete. It also needs to reduce costs. Spearheaded by Mark Skaife, AVESCO’s “The Car of the Future” strategy is to design exactly that, while opening the series to additional manufacturers and maintaining at the same time. story by
Craig ‘Sooty’ Lord
Photos Courtesy of
Regardless of the changes in event organisation, changes in event format, changes in the broadcasting aspects, for the last ten years (with some driving personalities aside) â€“ it has been all about the single battle between the Ford and the Holden.
In fact it is difficult to find any other class in the world where two manufacturers share the tarmac alone – but this may soon come to an end, and if it does then the history books will have new items of interest to file away. Mark Skaife shows his enthusiasm for the new project.
t has been a glorious run for the V-8 Supercar circus, and the growth of the code since the full conversion to Ford versus Holden has without argument become one of the greatest motorsport rivalries of all time. In fact, it is difficult to find any other class in the world where two manufacturers share the tarmac alone. But this may soon come to an end, and if it does then the history books will have new items of interest to file away. Still, before that happens there is a burning question that needs to be answered: Is this the right thing to do? To answer that clearly is in all honesty impossible, because only Madame Tarot can apparently read the future with great accuracy, while here we try our best to spark up a reasoned debate from both sides of the stage - for and against. However, to engage in a reasonable debate on the future we first need to know the past, meaning the basic history and the background of what has become the wonderment known as the V-8 Supercar Series, and that comes in the simple form of facts and figures. It all began with the Australian Touring Car Championship (ATCC), which was first held back in 1960. That means, of course, that at this point in time, in a way it is having its 50th anniversary. Although the original form of the championship is no longer contested, the title in a somewhat different form is still handed over to the winner of the current V-8 Supercar Championship Series. Ford and Holden have been a series staple throughout the years with the Cortina, Capri and Falcon putting up a fair fight against the General Motors Torana
and Commodore. Tucked in amongst them were the likes of Jaguar, BMW, Volvo, Nissan, Mazda and Mercedes, to name a select few. But while the other brands joined in on the tarmac tussle, the tribal war between Ford and Holden was growing with clear consistency. However, it wasn’t all roses in the ATCC ranks because those “others” were making the Fords and Holdens look rather pedestrian for quite a while. For what seemed an eternity, these different manufacturers were having their time in the sun, much to the disapproval of many true blue Aussies who only wanted their self-produced Fords and Holdens on the podium. And it polarized even further when the motorsport scene of the late ’80s and early ’90s had two particular bandits on circuit – the famed turbocharged machines from Ford and Nissan, namely the Sierra and the Skyline. The Sierra was at its peak from 1987 to 1989, which of course kept the more youthful Ford fans happy, with the older clan still muttering about hairdryers under bonnets. But when the mantle was handed over in 1990 to the world’s new sensation the Skyline, which quickly adapted the moniker “Godzilla,” things changed dramatically. Then, in 1992, we saw the boiling broth spill over when the Skyline’s controversial Bathurst 1000 victory was met with little joy from the parochial fans – Jim Richards and Mark Skaife taking the full brunt from a crowd that had seen enough of what they considered to be the “toys of the tarmac.” It may never be publicly stated as such, but many
suspect that was to play a huge part of the upcoming historical change. There were plenty of issues to deal with off the track as well, since the motorsport regulations were in fact a little blurry during the period of the Sierra and Skyline. The official FIA Group A International Formula was in actual fact non-existent from 1988, but the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS) had decided to keep the format until the end of 1991 while they waited for the new rulings to be created. This was a long-winded process that stretched out and eventually saw the Australian motorsport fraternity go their own way for the start of the 1993 season, meaning 1992 was the last time the Sierra and Skyline would appear in the mix. New rules were created that had excluded them from further competition and the sports history books were changed yet again. The Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS) converted the ATCC to a new Group 3A system, which had three different machines out on the track. The Class A Australian 5.0-liter beasts, the Class B 2.0-liters, and the “one season only” Class C two-wheel drives – the class under which the likes of the BMW M3 competed. No turbocharged or four-wheel-drive cars were put onto the track. This system continued until 1995 when the 2.0-liter cars were excluded from the ATCC. Instead, they contested for their own trophy as the “Super Touring Car” series. They were also not part of the action during the endurance races of 1995, which is where history
AVESCO Chairman Tony Cochrane at the announcement.
With the new rules the door is open to any manufacturer now.
once again had a spot placed on the motorsport timeline, because Bathurst and the likes were now the sole domain – well, kind of – of the 5.0 liter V-8s. From 1997, the organization, marketing and television rights changed into what would slowly become what we see today. But it certainly wasn’t without its start-up problems. Squabbles among the new organizers and Australia’s television Channels 7 and 10 would see the 1997 and 1998 Bathursts run twice – once with the 2.0-liter cars and a few weeks later with the V-8 Supercars. Both events claimed to be the official running, but when the fans basically ignored the 2.0-liter spectacle, the Super Touring Class disappeared for good. From 1999 it was finally all about the cubes. So there we have it, the brief history lesson that leads us to what we see on the tracks today. A full field of V-8 muscle that has grown in fame with leaps and bounds, and not only inside the shores of Australia, but equally in the homes of New Zealand as well. The last ten years has seen the spectacle rise to become a worldwide brand, with the Australian Vee Eight SuperCar Company (AVESCO) making the evident and major improvements to its marketing and
in particular its now famed television production of each event. But one must keep one thing in mind: Regardless of the changes in event organization, event format and the broadcasting aspects, for the last ten years (with some driving personalities aside), it has been all about the single battle between the Ford and the Holden. With all that taken into account, we can look at the changes that are once again afoot. Based on the initial information coming from the team at AVESCO, it seems as though it is a very carefully thought-out and wellconstructed plan of attack. The reason for the need of a change is simple – money. Less needs to be spent on the cars to allow the brand of motorsport to continue. This is not a new or surprising feature, because many other forms of motorsport have or are currently going through the same process. This format of change, however, is to be done in a way that won’t stop other manufacturers from joining the fray. The term being used by AVESCO is “The Car of the Future” (COTF) and it’s an aptly named description. The head of the planning team is Mark Skaife, who of course is well-qualified to be at the front
with both his mechanical and driving experience to work from. Skaife has created a master plan that sticks with AVESCO’s Project Blueprint – a parity system designed to keep the equality between the current Ford and Holden cars in check – but it also allows any other manufacturer considerably easy access into the code. As Skaife puts it, “The shop front door is now open.” Skaife also confirms the strategy of the COTF. “By releasing our thoughts on the Car of the Future, we have given current teams and other car companies enough warning and given all the stake holders time to prepare for 2012,” he said. And again, it seems as though plenty of thought has been put into the policies. “Even if no other car company comes in and it is maintained as Ford and Holden for the next 5, 10 or however many years, what we are doing is reducing the price of the cars, making them easier to build, lighter, safer – and most importantly ensuring they are market relevant to the fans with their own DNA intact,” Skaife added. This new vehicle format is to be done in a simple packaged form described by AVESCO as a Flat Pack Kit, and it is a
Dealing with human emotions is not so simple and only time will tell if a new manufacturer would create a divide between the supporters and the series as a whole.
novel approach indeed. The Chassis and framework of the vehicle would have a controlled floor plan and roll cage with minor variations to accommodate various bodywork. The engine must be normally aspirated, and of course must be in a V-8 configuration and need to run on the new E85 fuel. The electronics would be a controlled ECU that would also assist with reduced fuel consumption during pits and yellow flag. The suspension and steering would be controlled along with the gearbox which would remain a mid-mounted Holinger. The wheels and tires are also fully controlled along with the brakes, and all of this is to fit within a target vehicle mass of 1,200/1,250 kilograms. Now in our eyes, that is certainly a pro for change, but what about the cons? There seems to be very little, if any. But arguably, there is at least one, and it wouldn’t be anything new to the sport as it was seen in the late ’80s and early ’90 when those somewhat pesky Sierras and Skylines created so much discussion. But, in fairness, it would not be the same scenario now. Any new entrants would have to fit into the blueprint of the V-8 supercars, rather than conforming to the seemingly more open regulations that FIA racing classes of those bygone days held. But regardless of the actual car plans, some thought does have to be put toward 58
the ticket-buying and television-watching supporter, because without them there is no point in racing at this level. It’s been fairly obvious during the last ten years that the fans – mostly Australian and New Zealand – can be somewhat parochial to the code. Even the mention of a Toyota, Mercedes, Nissan or BMW encroaching on their territory would be enough to start sacrificial burnings – the fact that they have a V-8 and fit within the COTF system is irrelevant. But Skaife and the team are fully aware of this, and have promised that you will be able to easily pick the difference between the cars. “The heritage is a big part of our success. Yes, but looking to the future, regardless of the brand they need to be identifiable, and then as a consequence of that, people will attach themselves to a brand, a team or a driver,” said Skaife. That is the big hope. Will they attach themselves? Brand awareness and ease of access for new rivals is the core of the COTF plan. But what if, such as happened in NASCAR, a vehicle joins the tarmac tussle and is immediately successful, such as the Toyota Camry? Skaife has clear thoughts on that as well. “For another manufacturer to come in and out-do a Ford or Holden, has to mean that the current factory teams aren’t
operating well enough,” he explained. “That’s the fact and reality of it. Ford and Holden have selected what they believe to be their best factory teams, but if someone comes and beats them then they simply are not doing a good enough job.” That is a very fair point but does little to please the die-hard Red or Blue supporter. Then again, if you were to look at it in the code of football – any one of them – a new team in the mix winning the competition simply provides an even bigger warfare that is great for the overall sport. There should be no reason why it would not be the same for the V-8 Supercar Series, and if the Red or Blue were to be beaten by a Silver or Maroon, Gold or a Green, the loyal fanatics will probably stick with their clans through the highs and the lows, which in turn creates a stronger following and adds more sting to the competition. The answer to the question on whether it is the right thing to do seems clearly a “Yes” when it comes to simple business practices. But dealing with human emotions is not so simple, and only time will tell if a new manufacturer would create a divide between the supporters and the series as a whole. And to be totally blunt, if a fan was to suddenly ignore the sport because a Camry, Beemer or Merc arrived, it would have to be asked if they were really a fan at all. We say, “Bring it on!” P1
1939 - 2009
Risi Competizioneâ€™s latest string of success has come with Ferrari F430 GTs.
With more than 10 years of success in the sportscar world, Risi Competizione have emerged as the endurance racing specialists of GT racing. What is the key to the teamâ€™s unprecedented level of achievement? A perfect blend of preparation, drivers, tires and teamwork. story by
Team owner and managing director Giuseppe Risi.
Whether it’s the Twelve Hours of Sebring, the 1,000-mile/ 10-hour Petit Le Mans or the granddaddy of them all, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, each event holds a special place in the sport’s history books. Now imagine a team that has not only won them all, but rides a six-race win streak in the endurance classics dating back to Le Mans in 2008.
hile prototype juggernauts Audi and Peugeot have stolen the headlines in the sportscar world lately, there’s been an equally impressive story developing in the production-based ranks of GT2. In a category where tenths of a second often mean the difference between winning and losing, one team has stood out from the pack. Many dream of some day winning one of the world’s classic endurance races. Whether it’s the Twelve Hours of Sebring, the 1,000-mile/10-hour Petit Le Mans or the granddaddy of them all, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, each event holds a special place in the sport’s history books. Now imagine a team that has not only won them all, but also rides a six-race winning streak in the endurance classics dating back to Le Mans in 2008. Look no further than Risi Competizione. And their recent success is only the latest chapter in the squad’s sportscar racing legacy. Risi burst onto the international motorsport scene in 1997, when Houston-based Ferrari and Maserati dealer Giuseppe Risi joined forces to form Doyle-Risi Racing to campaign a pair of Ferrari 333SPs in US and European competition. The team enjoyed wins in two of the “Big Three” right out of the box, with a class victory at Le Mans in 1998 and overall honors in the inaugural Petit Le Mans later that year. As the revolutionary Italian prototypes neared the end of their competitive lifespan, Risi’s “Prancing Horses” were competing in both the newborn American Le Mans Series and Grand-Am championships before they were retired for good. While it marked the end of an era for one of the generation’s most storied prototypes, Risi’s story was just beginning. While the move to the production ranks didn’t bring instant success, it helped the team strengthen its ties to the iconic Italian brand. From the early uphill battles with the reliable yet underpowered 360 Modena, to the jump to the second-
generation F430 GT which delivered more than a dozen wins, two ALMS titles and a pair of Le Mans crowns, Risi quickly became a force to be reckoned with. So what makes this well-oiled team from Houston so successful? The level of achievement can’t be narrowed down to one or two elements, but it’s rather a combination of factors, as the team owner and managing director explains. “There has to be a marriage between preparation, drivers, tires and team,” Risi says. “You can prepare a car well at the shop, but when you get to the racetrack if the team isn’t all there and people aren’t working together, it won’t be a success. There is no one thing that one can pin on, but every single one of those things is very important as to the ultimate success.” Car preparation has always been the backbone of Risi’s program, and that is the one element that sets it apart from many other teams campaigning the same Michelotto-built cars. The crew, led by veteran team manager Dave “Beaky” Sims, has proven that to go the extra mile with preparation will deliver the best possible product for the racetrack. While some teams elect to run the standard configuration F430 GT delivered to them by the factory, Risi takes it a few steps further by outfitting the mid-engined supercar with its own line of components. From in-house built drivetrains to upgraded electronics system and even small optimizations such as dashboard switch placements, no stone goes unturned in each car’s transformation to Risi’s specifications. “It ends up not only being the attention to detail, but it’s the knowledge we have within the team of what details to pay attention to that are important,” technical director Rick Mayer explains. “It’s also the wealth of knowledge and information within the team that is the key too. All of our mechanics could be number one mechanics at other teams for sure. And they’re all good at taking on initiatives and working through problems and
With two consecutive victories at Le Mans, Risi searches for the hat-trick in June.
getting things done. They’re all very self-motivated. Everyone’s working towards the same objective.” The same could be said for its drivers too. While names like McNish, Brabham and Taylor have all been with the Houston-based organization one time or another, Risi’s recent string of successes can be credited to the likes of Melo, Salo, Bruni and Kaffer. After a few challenging seasons with the 360 Modena, and a one-year campaign with a Maserati MC12 in GT1, Risi returned to the GT2 category in 2006 with all of the key ingredients. Sporting a brand-new car in the F430 GT, a switch to Michelin tires and an influx of new drivers, the team immediately began making inroads on the competition. More than a dozen drivers rotated through the team’s two entries that year, from Ferrari Formula One test driver Marc Gene, to Champ Car refugee Mario Dominguez and French sportscar star Stephane Ortelli, all contributed towards the ALMS teams’ championship. But two drivers – F1 veteran Mika Salo and Brazilian up-and-comer Jamie Melo – stood out from the rest. The duo, who accounted for half of the team’s wins in 2006, competed in a limited schedule that season, but teamed up for a full-season campaign in 2007 and were virtually unstoppable. Winning eight races, Melo and Salo walked away with the drivers’ and teams’ titles. But it was the season-opener at Sebring that produced the most fireworks and put Melo on the map. After enjoying a healthy lead for much of the 12-hour race, the Ferrari’s brakes began to fade away in the dying moments, setting up a memorable last-lap duel between Melo and the Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche of Jorg Bergmeister. The two swapped paint numerous times, with Melo making a daring last-corner move on the German to take the somewhat controversial win.
“People still come up to me and talk about the race, even now,” Melo says. “Straight after the race I flew to Italy and went to the Ferrari factory in Maranello. Signor Felisa (Ferrari’s CEO) was there and I went to see him, and it was obvious how happy everyone was at Ferrari about the win. In Ferrari it is usually all about Formula One, but we have given them a lot of good victories to be proud of now.” That race at Sebring some three years ago remains one of Giuseppe Risi’s most cherished memories, not only for its thrilling finish, but also for seeing the rise of Melo as one of the sport’s new stars. While the potent Salo-Melo combination continued the following year and delivered wins at Le Mans, Mosport and Petit Le Mans, the Finn stepped down as a full-time driver in 2009 to pursue his ambitions in NASCAR. Risi’s success in the endurance races continued though, with Salo making guest appearances at Sebring, Le Mans and Petit Le Mans, and winning all three. Together with Melo and German Pierre Kaffer the team took the triple crown, thanks to a strategic call which helped them finish on top in the rainshortened enduro at Road Atlanta. But for Melo, whom the team boss rates as high as any driver he’s run before, everything comes back to that dream season. After all, it was 2007 that not only saw him break through as a driver, but also prove to the world that he has what it takes to win championships. “I think it helped establish me in people’s minds as one of the best GT drivers in the world, and professionally I feel very confident about myself,” Melo says. “When we have a problem on the car, I know more or less how to fix it and this has helped us a lot. Even though we have problems in some races, we know we have a good car and that better results will come to us. Rick (Mayer) trusts my knowledge of the car and my opinion, which
With many of its own technical developments, Risi’s Ferraris are often at the top of the pack in GT2.
builds my confidence even more. That makes me feel very good in myself.” “While the majority of the team’s victories have come in the endurance classics over the past two seasons, it hasn’t been by choice. A different approach hasn’t necessarily been taken for the regular length two-hours-and-45-minute ALMS events. Instead, the competition has simply gotten a leg-up thanks to rule breaks and balance of performance adjustments,” Risi explains.
But that’s nothing entirely new. In 2002, when the 360 Modena made its debut, GT2 was a category populated by Porsche. It took Risi nearly two full years before breaking through for victory number one. Today, no less than six manufacturers – Porsche, Ferrari, BMW, Chevrolet, Jaguar and Ford – are all represented in the ALMS, and the majority of them have visited victory lane in the past 12 months. “Look at the people we’re racing against,” Risi says. “I respect these guys incredibly. They’re the best in the world in
“There has to be a marriage between preparation, drivers, tires and team. You can prepare a car well at the shop, but when you get to the racetrack, if the team isn’t all there and people aren’t working together, it won’t be a success. There is no one thing that one can pin on, but every single one of those things are very important as to the ultimate success.”
Endurance racing requires teams to prepare for all types of conditions, and the Dave Sims-led crew are some of the best in the business.
2008 Le Mans winners Gimmi Bruni, Jamie Melo and Mika Salo.
The 2010-spec Ferrari F430 GTE features wider tires than its predecessor.
Risiâ€™s latest success came at the Twelve Hours of Sebring in March.
Quick pit work and perfect strategy put Risi out front at the Petit Le Mans last year before the race was cut short due to torrential rain.
Increased competition from BMW and Corvette has made GT2 one of the closest-fought categories.
Giuseppe Risi and Jamie Melo celebrate.
GT racing. These boys aren’t going to go to sleep. After every race, they’re going to analyze everything they’ve done and try and make it go better the next race, whether it’s performance, whether it’s tire changes, whether it’s fueling, whether it’s car handling. That’s the name of the game once you get up there. You can’t just start off the season saying, ‘Well, we have a car for the rest of the season, we’ll just maintain it.’ We’re always looking for those little gains.” And after a year of being out-powered by the competition, primarily in the sprint races, Ferrari upped its game again for 2010. Michelotto rolled out with an upgrade kit for the F430, giving new blood to the aging horse. While weighing in heavier than last year, the car, now designated as an F430 “GTE” enjoys a 10-percent power increase and larger Michelin tires, bringing it in line with its main rivals from Porsche, BMW and Corvette. Risi put the additional power to work and was triumphant right out of the box, with Kaffer, Melo and new full-season codriver Gianmaria Bruni scoring a dominating victory at Sebring in March. While it was a huge confidence booster in their pursuit of the ALMS championship, the team’s third Sebring win in four years kept Risi’s endurance race win streak alive. Now with one of the most highly regarded driver lineups in the paddock with Melo and FIA GT champion “Gimmi” Bruni, 66
the duo will not only be hoping to rekindle the team’s past success in the nine-round ALMS championship, but they’ll also chase their third consecutive win at Le Mans. Fellow US-based squad Corvette Racing was the last GT team to complete the trifecta, taking GT1 class honors in 2004-06. And you don’t have to ask Giuseppe Risi what three-in-a-row would mean for his organization. “Le Mans has to be the hallowed track of all time,” Risi says. “From the time I first went there as a spectator in 1969 and watched these cars go around, having read about it. Especially back in those days when Formula One drivers were all driving at Le Mans. Le Mans is right up there with the three top races in the world. It’s a tremendous race. There’s no substation.” With 2010 also marking the last year for the F430 before Ferrari’s stunning new 458 Italia hits the track in 2011, there’s even more motivation to make history in the twice-around-theclock June classic. “It’s a car we know so well – but we are finding ways to improve it all the time, which we have to do with the increased competition this year,” Melo says. “We need to enjoy the last year of the F430, and to be able to win for a third time in three years at Le Mans would be a dream. It would really place the F430 in the history books as something special.” P1
RACE CARS & CLASSICS FOR SALE
PORSCHE GT3 997
Factory built race car. Purchased new from us in 2008 – Refreshed engine and gearbox, 8 spare wheels, top car with great history, very hard to find and buy a NZ new late model # 997 with all the updates MANZ log book - $245k
PORSCHE GT3 996
2004 – Bridgestone Targa, Long Distance racing, F.I.A. Long distance bag tank with dry break, Carbon bonnet, Adjustable shocks, Refreshed Engine and gearbox ready to run in. Spare wheels, MANZ log book, 2 seats, speed pilot, MoTeC dash - $199k Road registered
CLASSICS FOR SALE PORSCHE 356 SPEEDSTER
by Chesil UK – Known to be the best model available. Imported to NZ in 1997, 6 NZ owners, Vin number 7a8jx000797905525, Reg number 356SPD - Engine 1835 cc, The car has been completely rebuilt including gearbox, suspension, brakes, new imported factory carpet and hood. Drives exceptionally well - $65k
PORSCHE GT3 996
Factory built race car. Sold new by us in 2002, spare wheels, ideal beginners car for the 996 class, being sold on behalf of client, 996 Trophy winner 06/07 MANZ Log book - $80k
TOYOTA SINGLE SEATER
Championship winning car as used by Mitch Evans this season and Mitch Cunningham’s winning 08/09 season. This car has the best history of all the Toyota’s, maintained regardless of costs, many spares including wheels, MANZ log book. $65k +gst
The last car we built for both Fogg and Pedersen – has all the latest specs, Strong engine and late model gearbox, was a race winner and lap record holder last season, completely rebuilt, to many spares to list including body panels, suspension and wheels and tyres - P.O.A.
PORSCHE GT3 996
Factory built race car. Purchased new from us in 2004, 8 Spare wheels, Refreshed engine and gearbox, suspension, new drive shafts, brakes and shocks for this season, great car for the new comer in the exciting 996 class MANZ log book $ 90k (sold on owners behalf)
www.internationalmotorsport.co.nz International Motorsport | 9-11 Pollen Street, Grey Lynn, Auckland | Ph. +64 9 376 5064
One of our Team Cars which we have run and maintained since arriving in NZ in 05 good strong reliable well maintained little car, spare wheel, MANZ log book - $30k
A diminished field, thanks to a weak global economy, fortunately did nothing to diminish the action for the 2010 Toyota Racing Series. Four rounds with three races per round produced tight competition for the top-three positions. In the end, the international series ended with New Zealand drivers taking the series title as well as the New Zealand Grand Prix, and Sten Pentus taking the New Zealand Motor Cup title. story by
photos by ned
2010 Season Review
Mitch Evans was the standout driver of the TRS series.
A packed field coming through the turn at Ruapuna in NZ’s deep south.
ough economic conditions worldwide threatened to disrupt the entry list for the 2010 Toyota Racing Series, but drivers from four nations lined up to take the start for the first race of the season at New Zealand’s and the world’s southernmost FIA-approved race track at Teretonga Park Raceway, situated just outside of Invercargill. Provisional entries from drivers in the United Kingdom and the United States never materialized because of their own funding issues, but Estonia, Brazil, Australia and of course New Zealand were represented by a mixture of precocious new talent, experienced home-grown internationals, and drivers wanting to gain valuable track time before embarking on their international campaigns in the northern hemisphere summer. Apart from some small developmental updates, the Toyota Racing Series
formula for the new season was essentially the same as the proven, fast and reliable cars of the previous season – Single seat, wings and slicks cars with a state-of-the-art, purpose-built monocoque carbon fiber chassis, made by Tatuus in Italy, and powered by a Toyota 1.8-liter engine producing around 220 bhp. As in previous years, the cars were running on E85 Ethanol fuel. The event schedule for the season was changed slightly from previous years to make it easier and more economic for visiting overseas drivers to take part. Four rounds make up the prestigious International Series, and they are compressed into just five weeks over the months of January and February – the traditional New Zealand summer months – and culminate with the New Zealand Grand Prix at the Manfeild circuit. The remaining round for the overall
Championship honors was held in March. This format proved to be a success so will be retained for the 2011 TRS season. With each round having three races, there was a lot of competitive action crammed into a short period. That made for a riveting Championship with the huge enticement of a total prize pool in excess of $NZ100,000 - the largest prize pool ever offered in New Zealand motor sport. There was also a new team on the block for 2010 with the entry of Triple X Motorsport expanding their operation from the Porsche GT3 Cup cars and running the FT40 chassis of new-to-theseries and ex-New Zealand Formula Ford driver Stefan Webling, the A1 Team New Zealand driver Earl Bamber, and newcomer from Australia, Chris Wootton. They joined the established team of Giles Motorsport, run by the very experienced McLaren Formula 1 team exchief mechanic Steven Giles, running
A1GP star Earl Bamber was on a charge in the latter part of the season.
the chassis of Estonian Sten Pentus, Brazilian Lucas Foresti, New Zealander Daniel Jilesen and 15-year-old Aucklander Mitch Evans. The Australianbased European Technique team brought to the series Australian Nathan Morcom and another young New Zealander Andrew Waite. The rest of the grid for the first race was made up of the single car New Zealand efforts of Dart International with Alistair Wootten and Neale Motorsport with young Jamie McNee. A small field for the first event, but full of enthusiastic class and talent. An unusually hot weekend at Teretonga got the season underway with a very closely contested test session proving that the 2010 season could be the most competitive yet, with the fastest drivers going under the existing lap record by some margin. Australian driver Chris Wootton was the season’s first casualty, hitting the tire barrier on the outside of the very fast turn one “sweeper”, necessitating a complete chassis change as the damage to the carbon fiber “tub” was too extensive for an on-the-spot repair. Although uninjured, the comparatively inexperienced Wootton was never to figure at the top of the time sheets and departed the International Series after round two at Timaru. The expected front-runners came quickly to the fore with the staggeringly quick Mitch Evans and Estonian Sten Pentus fighting it out for top honors, closely followed by an ever-improving Jilesen. Brazilian Lucas Foresti, the protégé of manager and former Formula One, Cart, IndyCar et al driver Roberto Moreno, was feeling very jet-
lagged but also proved he was going to be one to watch. Earl Bamber was getting used to being back in the Toyota Racing Series car again, but was strangely off the pace by his own standards after feeling very unwell with some flu-like symptoms that were later in the season to be diagnosed as glandular fever. The first event of the season saw three different winners for the threerace weekend. Auckland schoolboy Mitch Evans took race one, Sten Pentus the feature, and after the on-track race winner Andrew Waite was penalized for a jump start, Lucas Foresti was awarded the third victory. A great start to what was obviously going to be a hardfought series. A drive north to the seaside town of Timaru for round two brought cool and blustery conditions, but Evans was clearly relishing the TRS car now and set the fastest times in practice and qualifying. But once again Pentus was just fractions of a second behind. After his accident at Teretonga Chris Wootton decided to opt out of driving for the weekend, so the New Zealand Grand Prix winner and 2008 TRS champion Andy Knight was drafted into the Triple X team car to work with the ex-Formula One
and A1GP engineer Greg Wheeler – and remained driving the car for the rest of the series. In ever-changing conditions, the weekend honors were split with Evans taking race one, and Bamber still feeling the effects of his illness, taking races two and three. Race three also saw Evans crashing heavily on the last lap in a slightly ill-judged overtaking maneuver on Bamber, which caused heavy damage to the car but nothing more than a bruised ego for Evans. The ongoing championship battle had closed up with Pentus leading by just five points from Evans, with Bamber a further 22 points behind and Jilesen and Foresti well within striking distance with 75 points available for a race win. With four different winners from the first six races, the TRS camp moved up to the North Island for round three – to the brand new, international standard Hampton Downs track. With its tight corners, long straights and big elevation changes, this track was almost made for the Toyota Racing Series, the fastest series currently racing in New Zealand. This visit by the TRS was the very first international series to race at this modern facility, located midway between the metropolis of Auckland
Apart from some small developmental updates the Toyota Racing Series formula for the new season was essentially the same as the proven, fast and reliable cars of the previous season.
Two international visitors in Natham Morcom and Lucas Forresti provided some challenging competition for the kiwi drivers.
Alastair Wootton put on a creditable showing for the only true privateer in the series.
and New Zealand’s fourth largest city of Hamilton, and both the track and the series earned acclaim from the visiting international drivers. New Zealand driver Richie Stanaway entered the series at this point having had his testing schedule for the German Masters Series curtailed by the bad weather affecting much of Europe. The arrival of eighteen year old Stanaway threatened the front runners of the series as although this would only be his second ever event in a TRS car, his first event had resulted in two wins out of two at the previous year’s Hamilton International street circuit race weekend. Also joining the series was perennial crowd favorite and a TRS competitor since the series inception, Kenny Smith, who at age 68 now finds himself racing against 15-year-olds. A veteran of more races than one can count, Smith always gives the young chargers something to think about on track. Predictably, the testing was very close with Pentus and Evans leading the way, and Stanaway, Bamber, Waite and Jilesen making up the top six cars with only half a second separating all six. Come qualifying and the times were even tighter with the top ten cars covered by just six tenths of one second and Evans claiming pole position. Not only would the fastest race lap this weekend most probably be the outright lap record, the weekend also had some serious silverware on offer to the winner of the feature race. The New Zealand Motor Cup, one of the oldest trophies raced for in New Zealand dating back to 1921 and with a collection of
some of history’s finest drivers etched on its magnificent surface, including names such as Moss, Clark, McLaren and so many others, would be brought out of its safe keeping and put on display for the weekend. Formerly awarded to the winner of the New Zealand Grand Prix, there can be few more prestigious trophies than this in world motor sport. Evans took out race one and yet another name was added to the season’s winners list in race two with Andrew Waite coming through, in a race marked by spins and contacts aplenty, to claim the flag. The feature race and the New Zealand Motor Cup was won by an overjoyed Sten Pentus after taking the race lead from the start and dominating it from then on. Evans suffered some electrical problems that slowed his progress from the front row of the grid and he slid off the pace as the race wore on - but nothing was going to stop Pentus winning from Stanaway, Foresti and Bamber with Evans struggling to fifth. The next and final round of the TRS international series was just one week
away and the points battle at the top was as close as ever with Mitch Evans on 558, Bamber on 533, Pentus 533, Foresti 491, Andrew Waite 463 and Daniel Jilesen with 405. The Manfeild racing circuit near Feilding in the lower part of New Zealand’s North Island is also the current home of the New Zealand Grand Prix and close to the Palmerston North national home of Toyota New Zealand, and therefore the spiritual base of the Toyota Racing Series. Round four of the international championship weighed heavy on the minds of the competitors as the international championship itself would be decided, come what may, this weekend as well as the New Zealand Grand Prix title. The New Zealand Grand Prix is one of only two events allowed by the FIA to carry the title “Grand Prix” outside of Formula One. The other event is the Macau Grand Prix run for Formula Three cars so this event is reported around the world and as such carries an added kudos for the winner. Yet another driver joined the grid
With each round having three races there was a lot of competitive action crammed into a short period and it made for a very exciting Championship with the huge enticement of a total prize pool in excess of NZ$100,000, the largest prize pool ever offered in New Zealand motor sport.
Jaimee McNee had a mixed season.
for this event in Sam MacNeill, a series regular in 2009 but struggling to find a budget for the complete 2010 season. There was some tension in the lead up to the weekend as Pentus desperately wanted the NZGP title to take with him on his upcoming European Formula Renault series campaign as well as the series title. Evans has his eye firmly on a career in the big leagues of motorsport after he finishes school in New Zealand first that is, but must also overcome his barren score of race wins on a Sunday to achieve the NZGP title. Bamber needed the NZGP title to help get his career back on track after his drive in the A1GP came to an abrupt end with the demise of that series. Foresti was about to embark on his British Formula Three campaign so the NZGP title would look good on his CV as well, and that also went for Stanaway and his German Masters hopes. This NZGP trophy also comes complete with an impressive list of winners – Bira, Brabham, Moss, Surtees, McLaren, Hill, Amon, Rosberg, the list goes on. A lot was riding on this weekend for many of the drivers. Evans was dominant in qualifying and took pole position for race one and the NZGP itself. He was pushed all the way 74
by Pentus and Bamber with the three drivers swapping pole times throughout the two sessions and Evans coming out on top of Pentus by just .006 seconds. A frantic and very wet race one with pole man Evans sliding off the track, two race leaders also spinning off and two safety car periods saw Richie Stanaway win the Dan Higgins Trophy and a $NZ5,000 cheque, as well as add his name to the list of season race winners. Race two, a top six reverse grid format, was a precursor to the main event with Andrew Waite taking his second win of the season. An Estonian versus Brazilian on- track battle resulted in both drivers going off the track, severely denting their championship hopes in the process, and Earl Bamber suffered some car damage, which did nothing for his aspirations. Race three then and the New Zealand Grand Prix as well as the International Championship was to be decided in an almost “winner takes all” shoot out. Evans looked set to be the man to “take all” – leading the race from the start until Webling went off the track just seven laps from the end of the race causing a safety car. At the restart Earl Bamber was as close as possible to the gearbox of Evans and slipped past him on the exit of turn one, just clipping
the rear of Evans car causing Evans to momentarily lose control, he then went on to take the race. Still it remained that Evans could not win a race on a Sunday. Sten Pentus was third with Stanaway in fourth. A clearly disappointed Evans was philosophical after the race refusing to put any blame on Bamber for the touch. Bamber received the plaudits, as well as the $NZ10,000 cheque from John Fowke of Toyota New Zealand, and declared the victory to be “the greatest win of my race career so far.” Second placed Evans did not go home empty-handed having collected enough points to win the international component of the Toyota Racing Series and a $NZ5,000 cheque from Toyota New Zealand as well as a Tissot watch to go with the many others he has collected, as a prize for winning pole position at all the previous rounds as well as for the NZGP. He also won the “2010 TRS Rookie of the Year” title. So the international series ended with New Zealand drivers taking the series title as well as the New Zealand Grand Prix, but with Sten Pentus taking the New Zealand Motor Cup title. The final round of the 2010 series was held at the Taupo track but without the
Stefan Webling leads Mitch Evans, Daniel Jilsen and Sam MacNeil through the first turn at Taupo Motorsport Park.
visiting international drivers who were well on their way back to Europe with a hard- fought, twelve race championship under their belts, to put them head and shoulders above their fellow competitors who were still waiting for the snow to thaw out to get some driving miles in. The Taupo event was still one to fight for from a New Zealand driver’s perspective, with not only the overall championship title to be won but a test drive in Europe and a handy cheque from Toyota New Zealand for $NZ10,000 – plus the Chris Amon Trophy. In effect only Bamber and Evans were in with a real chance at the title and they went into the weekend split by only 34 points in Evans’ favor. With that points deficit being so slim every finish was going to be important, but for Evans all he really had to do was finish immediately behind Bamber and he would still take the title. A sign of the determination that a now fit-and-well Bamber brought to this event became clear when he deposed Evans from pole position for the first time in four events this season. A fairly sedate Race One saw Bamber win with Evans his shadow and close behind. The points battle had closed up yet again to just 26 points in Evans’ favor so Bamber knew that all he could do
was win and let Evans take care of himself. Race two was again a fairly calm affair with just young Jamie McNee failing to make it off the grid and the rest of the field playing the laps out at this hard-topass circuit. Bamber again came home first with Evans in second place. Race three was altogether a different affair with team tactics, clever driving, Evans twice out of first place in the championship and Bamber going to take it – only for Evans to regain his second place and take the title by just three points. Bamber knew that Evans only needed third place for the championship and so controlled the pace from the front and slowed down so that the field would be able to attack Evans and demote him to lower than third, the minimum placing he needed for the points. This ploy was successful on two occasions, but Evans kept his head, made sure of third and the title was his. He still couldn’t win a race on a Sunday though. The 2010 Toyota Racing Series was a huge success despite the economic climate and the lower than normal entries. Loyal partners of the series including Toyota Financial Services, Post Haste Couriers, Hino Trucks, Karcher, Toyota Genuine Motor Oil and Yamaha got exceptional value for their involvement.
The racing was highly competitive and entertaining and showcased some new and very exciting talent for the future. Sten Pentus has gone on to be one of the leaders in the Renault 3.5 series, Lucas Foresti is competing in the British Formula 3 series, Richie Stanaway is winning races in the German Masters series, Mitch Evans, while still at school in Auckland, is leading the Australian Formula 3 series, has had test drives in Europe and has been taken under the wing of Formula One driver Mark Webber, and Andrew Waite is in the Australian Formula 3 championship. These drivers join the many other graduates from the TRS such as Brendon Hartley (F3, FR3.5, Shane van Gisbergen (V8), Daniel Gaunt (A1GP, V8), Eduardo Piscopo (A1GP, F3), Chris van der Drift (FR, GP2 Asia, A1GP, WSR) Wade Cunningham (Indy Lights Champion) Jay Howard (IndyCar) and too many more to mention. With a total and ongoing commitment from Toyota New Zealand to the series, the TRS is destined for a bright and secure future with plans continuing around an expansion into Australia and possibly further afield. P1 For more information about the TRS go to http://www.toyotaracing.co.nz/about-2/faqs
They have the fastest car, but right now they arenâ€™t converting that into dominant race wins. story by
Red Bull Racing
hen Red Bull Racing announced early in June that it had extended Mark Webber’s contract until the end of 2011, you had to smile. If ever you wanted to know the truth of what happened in the celebrated incident between the Australian and his much-vaunted team-mate Sebastian Vettel on the fateful 40th lap of the Turkish Grand Prix, that was all you needed. If Webber was the one in trouble after that, would the team really have timed the announcement so soon after? “It was an easy decision to remain with Red Bull Racing,” Webber said, and you had to admire his understatement. There had been some silly talk about Ferrari being interested in him around Monaco time, but that smacked of being one of those carefully planted rumors designed to boost his value to a team, that following two excellent back-to-back victories in which he defeated Vettel fair and square, no team could be stupid enough to ignore. But therein lies the intrigue that surrounds the man from Queanbeyan. Red Bull is owned by Austrian Dietrich “Didi” Mateschitz, a straight talker who likes people to pay attention to what he says. And while Briton Christian Horner is the team principal in charge of the operation at Milton Keynes, few doubt that the man on the ground who really calls the shots is Mateschitz’s lieutenant, Dr Helmut Marko. A no-nonsense guy, who was best buddies with Jochen Rindt in the crazy days when they used to get expelled from school together and raced on the roads in Graz in the early Sixties, he was no mean racer himself until a stone was thrown up in the 1972 French GP and blinded him in one eye. When you know that in his first outing in a BRM P160 Marko was hustling hotshoes Ronnie Peterson and Emerson Fittipaldi at the challenging Clermont Ferrand circuit, you appreciate that he was no wallflower as a driver. Nor is he as a team manager.
After watching “his” boy Vettel go spinning across Webber’s bows, and an easy Red Bull 1-2 – that’s 43 World Championship points in case you were wondering – going down the pan in Istanbul, he was understandably apoplectic with rage. The trouble is, the Doctor blamed the wrong guy. Marko has always been hard on Webber, and privately believed him to be three-tenths of a lap slower than Vettel. Until recent races. Since Spain Mark has really risen to the challenge, and with three poles to his credit on the bounce since then, he was the man in form. Yes, Vettel had braking problems in Barcelona that blunted his performance. Yes, he had a slightly defective chassis in Monaco, but it had the same defects that Webber’s had. After that race the wunderkid was looking poleaxed. Then came Turkey, where for 39 laps Mark had the clear upper hand until he was told to wind down his Renault motor to save fuel. Suddenly, Vettel got a run at him, pulled alongside on the dirty left-hand side of the track, then simply cut across too sharply to try to get back on line for the approaching left-hander. Now, in Malaysia Webber led but got blind-sided by the silly remote rear-view mirrors Red Bull used until the FIA banned them. Seb overtook, and Webber was left fuming and feeling stupid. So this time he was hardly going to make it easy for his team-mate, especially as he clearly knew that something was afoot. “No,” he said quietly in the post-race press conference, “I didn’t get a slow run out of Turn Eight…” He stayed exactly where he was on the track, refusing to be bullied, and Vettel was the one who misjudged it. Perhaps he lost control on the shitty side of the track; perhaps he just did what rookie kids do in indoor kart tracks and cut across too sharply, clipped his mate and spun… You decide. In all the hoopla that followed, Webber was the scapegoat
– even though he was the guy who went to Canada leading the World Championship. You couldn’t escape the feeling that in an Austrian-owned team, German-speaking Vettel was the man they really want to see crowned champion. All of the team management seemed minded to excuse him and blame Webber. At least until they began to gauge the majority view of sporting insiders and punters alike, and began to tone down their criticism. In the week after the race, Red Bull Racing issued a carefully worded statement in which team principal Christian Horner said, “We had a unique situation during the Turkish GP where the first four cars were separated by two seconds, with Mark having led every lap until lap 40. The race was the fastest of the season to date with all four drivers pushing each other extremely hard.” [The other two being McLaren drivers Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button who went on to become the grateful recipients of victory after the Red Bull snafu.] “On lap 38, Mark changed his mixture setting based on his fuel consumption to a slightly leaner mode, which had an average lap time loss of about 0.18 seconds, whilst maintaining the same revs. Sebastian had conserved more fuel than Mark during the race and therefore was able to run in a slightly better mode for an additional couple of laps. On lap 38 and 39, Sebastian’s pace picked up and he closed right up to the back of Mark while under considerable pressure from Hamilton behind. After a very strong run through Turn 9, Sebastian got a run and strong tow and moved to the left to pass Mark. Mark held the inside line and adopted a defensive position, which he is entitled to do. When Sebastian was three quarters of the way past, he moved to the right. As Sebastian moved to the right, Mark held his position and the ensuing result was contact that resulted in Sebastian retiring, Mark damaging the front-end of his car and
It’s fun when a good guy wins. And it’s even better when that good guy has often been panned by his critics.
the team losing a one-two finish. Ultimately both drivers should have given each other more room.” Horner did not, however, explain why Webber had turned down his engine. Was he told to do so? There is no reason why he should have given Vettel more room to pass. F1 isn’t a game of tiddlywinks, and Vettel historically has never given Webber any slack in similar situations. It was interesting to speculate whether the lap on which the incident occurred was the last one available to Vettel to make such a move before he, too, had to detune his engine. That would account for the seemingly desperate move to intimidate his team-mate into giving way. “What we expect from our drivers, as team-mates, is that they show respect for each other and allow one another enough room on the race track,” Horner continued. “Unfortunately neither driver did this on Sunday and the net result was an incident between the two. During the previous six one-two 82
finishes we have achieved, there have been many incidences of close racing between our drivers and they have previously always abided by this understanding.” That was all very well, but he ignored the fact that Vettel didn’t show much respect for Webber on that first lap in Malaysia, and that Webber showed respect to Vettel in Turkey by not closing the door on him. Cleverly, he let him make his own mistake, while showing him that he won’t be a pushover in the future. “If I wasn’t there, there wouldn’t have been contact obviously,” Webber said, “but we were there together and it wasn’t the easiest thing to predict what he would do in that split second. Unfortunately there was contact. “I wasn’t totally happy with the situation because obviously he was coming down the inside, and I thought that at that stage I was pretty much not giving the lead up but it was pretty much his corner – well, not his corner but his situation, because he
was on the inside. But I just stayed on the inside, tight, to make sure that he was still staying on the dirty stuff. And then on the run over the crest, after the crest, he started to come back my way and that’s when we touched. “Seb had big top speed advantage and went down the inside and we went side-by-side and then it looked like he turned pretty quick right and we made contact. It happened very fast.” As he walked away from his car, Vettel made an unsubtle finger twirling gesture, indicating that he thought his team-mate was crazy. Webber dealt with that with dignity. “The adrenaline was flowing and obviously there’s a great deal of frustration when you’ve just crashed out of a race. It will be discussed and I am certain that the air will be cleared before Canada.”
In the end, Red Bull Racing admitted that everyone had finally sat down and talked about it in Milton Keynes - the drivers, Horner, Marko and chief technical officer Adrian Newey. “It was a positive meeting, which draws a line under the incident,” a statement said, before quoting Vettel as saying, “The team had got us into a great position and it wasn’t good for them what happened – so I’m sorry for them that we lost the lead of the race. Mark and I are racers and we were racing. We are professionals and it won’t change how we will work together going forward. We have a great team and the spirit is very strong.” It was an apology of sorts. “We began talking very early this year and were in a
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There is a confidence in Webber now that makes him a very dangerous contender, and anyone tempted to fall into the trap of writing him off should be cautious.
position to sign for the Barcelona Grand Prix,” Webber revealed cheerfully, no doubt relishing the moment as his new deal was announced soon afterwards. “The decision to extend for a further year was a mutual one. It’s widely know that I’m not interested in hanging around in Formula 1 just for the sake of it and at this stage of my career, I’m happy to take one year at a time. I continue to feel very comfortable here – I have a fantastic relationship with the whole team and the factory at Milton Keynes feels like home. It’s been incredible to be part of the team as it’s moved forward from a mid-field competitor to one that is challenging for the Championship. I hope we experience more success together in the future and achieve our ultimate goal of winning the World Championship.” Then Christian Horner threw in his own saccharine words. “The decision to retain Mark was very straightforward. He is an important member of our team and is currently in the best form of his career, as the current leader of the Drivers’ Championship. The team is extremely happy that the driver pairing of Mark and Sebastian will remain unchanged for a third season in 2011.” It’s fun when a good guy wins. And it’s even better when that good guy has often been panned by his critics. When Webber went to Jaguar I remember feeling sorry for him, because I 84
really believed that Antonio Pizzonia would take him apart. But it turned out the other way around. Who remembers Pizzonia now? Then there was the time here in Monaco in 2005 when had it not been for William’s team-mate Nick Heidfeld showing him the way past a tire-fading Fernando Alonso, it seemed that he would never have overtaken the Spaniard. Or the races in which he seemed to go to sleep. He was always quick over a single lap, always seemed to have blinding qualifying speed, but there were times when he just plain faded in a race. And sometimes his racecraft was a bit suspect. Look at Australia this year, when after a botched pit stop he went to pieces. You’d sort of figure that if you had, say, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton et al up against him, Mark would be the one to crack first. But God knows what he must have gone through just to get into his Red Bull last year, after that biking accident in Tasmania. The injuries he suffered weren’t confined to his legs, and they weren’t nice. It’s easy to admire people who physically hurt themselves yet push through the pain and say little about it. Webber used to get stick in press conferences because he always seemed to feel hard done to; “Mate, it’s so unfair, how come I have to be the one to finish second…” It seemed like
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he would moan about the smallest things in a kind of reverse whingeing Pom “why does all this have to happen to me?” sort of way. But we never heard a word of complaint or self-pity last year as he sought to hold himself together while also trying to match the raw speed of upcoming hotshot Vettel. Like going up against Pizzonia, it seemed like a one-way ride to oblivion. But… in Germany last year he finally broke through. And it was a pleasure to seek him out and shake his hand, just like so many of us did on Sunday when he had to walk past the desks in the press room to reach the post-Monaco GP conference. Because he’s one of the sport’s genuine good guys. He sees the big picture of life in general and sport in particular, and he’s the kind who remembers his mates and keeps his feet on the ground. With that victory he showed that he had found his level, and the next one in Brazil, was also solid. But this year it all looks even better. Two wins in eight days, against a team-mate like Vettel? You don’t need to know how to split the atom to figure out that both were significant achievements. They were both brilliant! He was the class of the field on both occasions, and if Vettel had an excuse in Spain, he had no such explanations in Monaco, where Mark just plain beat him. 86
There is a confidence in Webber now that makes him a very dangerous contender, and anyone tempted to fall into the trap of writing him off should be cautious. For sure, Vettel will have his days again, just as Alonso and Hamilton and Button and Massa will. But Mark has been turning corners recently, figuratively and literally, and like Nigel Mansell back in the fall of 1985, he’s suddenly become one of those people you have to factor very seriously into any “potential winners” equations. Yes, he’s currently driving the best car. But so is Vettel, and it’s Seb who is beginning to look rattled. That’s why so many people in Turkey took the view that it was not Webber who was at fault. It’s not his job to make life easy for his team-mate, especially if he feels he was given the advantage of being allowed to turn his engine up when he himself had to turn his own down on that fateful lap. The fact remained, however, that up until Canada Red Bull had converted seven pole positions into only three race wins, and overlooked in all the hoopla was that McLaren had caught them up on performance in Turkey. The rest of the season is going to be fascinating, but don’t expect Webber to roll over now that he’s hit the best form of his life. If Sebastian Vettel is going to be World Champion this season, he’s going to have to fight for it tooth and nail. P1
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For drivers considering the V-8 Tourers and Porsche GT3s â€“ you can excel in one or the other, but not both â€“ unless, of course, you are the incomparable Craig Baird. In 2009/2010, this remarkable racer captured both series championships. story by
Craig Baird showing a clean pair of heels to the rest of the field around Taupo Motorsport issue 2 Park. 89
hen the time came to sit down, plan and create two particular articles for this magazine issue I was of two minds. My first was relaxed as the task was simple – diagnose, analyze and make sense of New Zealand’s 2009/2010 Tier 1 motorsport season – in particular the V-8 tourers and Porsche GT3 series. The second had placed me into a small sense of panic – because as a self-confessed petrolhead, I was embarrassed with the fact that I knew little about a particular subject within Tier 1 that had played such a big part of the season. As you can imagine that is quite a dilemma and is not a good feeling to have. I mean how can one have an interest in the sport of speed and yet know so little? I guess the only defense on my part is that motorsport being such a huge entity, it makes the ability to spit out facts and figures to a train-spotting level, in my case anyway, almost impossible. I take solace in the fact that many others may hopefully be in the same situation as I am. So, what is the problem topic? It’s not a what, but a who, and his name is Craig Baird. You see, we know “Bairdo” as a household name in motorsport. We know he has had a successful career that does not seem to be slowing down. But only a select few could rip out his stats and talk up his game. Then I also realized after hours of contemplation and endless cups of coffee that I did not need to create two separate pieces of literature, but a combination – because Craig Baird ended up being the result of the 2009/2010 Tier 1 season in New Zealand. There is no train-spotting required for the knowledge of the NZ V-8 touring car. Its current form mimics, to a lesser extent, that of the Australian one and we also know what a Porsche GT3 is. But who can honestly put up their hand knowing plenty about the man who tamed them both in one season? And I mean more than just knowing he is good, but knowing how he did it. One can easily surmise that experience is probably a big part of the equation. Baird has been in the mainstream driver’s seat since 1991 when he claimed a string of New Zealand titles, namely the Formula Pacific three years in a row, followed by another three-year stint winning the Touring Car Championship. Those early wins were all supported by his previous seven Karting titles – the pedigree is certain because the man has been circulating at speed since he was five years old – and in July 2010 he will be partying hard as he celebrates 40 years on the planet. And just think, 35 of those have been in some form of racing machine. So with a successful early start to the racing pattern, Bairdo then moved to other tarmac circuits in 1997 when
he had a crack at the Australian Touring Car Championships. Unfortunately it was the season that was filled with controversy, when the Australian Racing Drivers Club and V-8 Supercar had a split at Bathurst. That split forced the Group 2 Touring Cars (based on the British 2-liter) to have their 1000 on October 5, and the V-8 Touring Cars to have their 1000 just three weeks later on October 19. Bairdo was part of the 2-liter clan – and pulled through to win the race, only to be disqualified from the results after it was found that an error in calculation had him in the driver’s seat for a longer period of distance than was allowed. But, regardless of that end result he had once again proved his mettle and his worth behind the wheel. He then chose – among other things – to have a crack at the British Touring cars for 1998, and it wasn’t his best of seasons. But that brought him back Down Under to start his time behind the wheel of a V-8 Supercar for a relatively new team called Stone Brothers Racing. The team matchup only lasted the one season before Bairdo skipped across a various selection of teams for the next seven years – not really finding his feet with any of them. It seemed the combination of many things never really allowed him to gel within a group and there were plenty of genuine reasons. Whether it was the chassis and engine, the team structure and operating processes, or simply the budgets – there were issues. But whatever the issues were that the teams had, there was no way you could say that the results were from a lack of skilful driving. Confidence is quality shared among all top race car drivers. There are those who think they can do OK, and those who know they can. Baird is in the latter section. From his results when he has had the right team around him he wins races – and for the Phillip Island and Bathurst rounds he will be in an HRT car. That is without doubt a top team, something he has missed out on for many years. On paper it will become one of his best chances at a V-8 Supercar result. There has been, however, a shining beacon during the seven-year period of V-8 Supercar challenges, because Baird did manage to find something that suited him perfectly – the rear-engine Porsche. In 2004 he had a crack with the VIP Pet Food team in the Australian Carrera Cup. He only competed in two races but it sparked something deep inside the man because he then proceeded to try the class again, immediately winning the New Zealand 911 GT3 series in 2005. From there it became crystal clear that Bairdo was a mold for the Porsche. He returned in 2006 to win the GT3 titles on both sides of the Tasman Sea – all that while swapping seats with a V-8 Supercar, one of the few to have done so.
Andy Booth and Angus Fogg, two fierce competitors, with Booth being the leading Holden.
Celebrating the NZV8 Championship with John McIntyre and Kayne Scott.
magazine In the92 NZV8p1 series, no quarter is given as the field heads to the first turn at Taupo in the last race of the season.
The United Video Ford Falcon was Bairdos mount for the NZV8 series.
To the uninitiated, it would look like a simple case of four wheels, a roof and an engine, so what’s the big deal? Well, Baird is quick to clear up any questions of similarities between the two classes. “There are none,” he says. “One is a factory-produced sports car built for a purpose, the other is a taxi with a roll cage.” One can quickly sort out which is which. But how then can you switch the brain between cars given all the differences? Baird’s answer to that question was again clear, and from his description it comes down to one simple item – brain matter. “For a start, one is left hand drive, the other is right,” says Baird. “One is a sequential box, the other is an H shift. One is a rear engine, the other is up front. There’s a big clutch and a little clutch, different brakes and suspension, rolling start, grid start.” The list went on, and it became blatantly clear that the transition from one car to the other is monumental. “If I was to put you into each car and told you to go and do a lap, you would be trying to change gear with the wrong hand,” says Baird. Those who do it successfully are quite simply special. Baird has placed himself into that class of driver. “When I’m on the grid with the engine off I remind myself of which vehicle I’m in,” he says. “I go through all the start procedures in my head and will be pressing the clutch to get the feel again.” From the outside looking in it seems so simple, yet after only a few minutes of conversation it was obvious that there was more to the task than meets the eye. That then leads us into the 2009/2010 season of NZ V-8 Tourers and Porsche GT3s – the whole crux of the matter. Both were set to become epic battles, not just because of the classes themselves, but because they both had Craig Baird behind the
wheel attempting to put his knowledge into practice. In one series he had been untouchable for five years, yet in the other series when he was only in his second season, his third place overall certainly made a point. That meant those in the GT3 cars wanted to knock the king from the throne, and those in the V-8 clan wanted to make sure the veteran new-boy was not going to steal their crown. They were all hoping that the effort required to drive both wagons on the same weekend would be too much to handle. The NZ Tier 1 Series runs with only six rounds, but that also means there is more pressure as every championship point becomes so vital; there’s no second wind or chance to make a comeback. This however is something that Baird is certainly switched on to. “I’m good at manipulating a season. If I only need a third placing then I will work on that,” he says. “It’s all about knowing when to hold ’em, and when to fold ’em.” The V-8’s opening round at Pukekohe was not, however, in Baird’s favor. John McIntyre had not only won the race but done so with a lap record of 1 min 01.159 seconds, certainly an ominous sign for the season. Then a DNF in the second race from a blown gearbox seal put an early setback into Baird’s season – but he wasn’t alone in the issue department. Race 1 winner John McIntyre was denied access to the circuit as it was deemed he had not left the pit lane by the due time, and David Besnard had an engine compartment fire. This obviously put McIntyre in a bad mood but he had to accept the setback and carry on. This in turn gave pole to the relatively unknown Canterbury driver Eddie Bell who led throughout the race – to win despite it being only his second season in the category. Then on the reverse grid final race Bell scored a sixth to take the opening
From A1GP to Porsche GT3s, Jonny Reid started to mount a challenge late in the season.
“One is a factory-produced sports car built for a purpose, the other is a taxi with a roll cage.”
Bairdo in the GT3 Office.
Craig enjoying the spoils of being the GT3 Cup champion.
round of the season in dramatic style, ahead of the more wellknown entities like McIntyre, Fogg, Booth and Scott. For Baird there was no V-8 podium for round 1 – something he was set to resolve. The GT3 season was more to the norm for Baird, even with the addition of Matt Halliday and Jonny Reid to the grid. Halliday was coming into the series fresh from receiving the Rookie of the Year trophy in the Porsche support class to the F1 series, and Reid was looking to make a name in the tin-tops from a great career to date in open wheelers. Baird did win the first race of the season – but only by gift of a puncture to Halliday, with Daniel Gaunt coming into the mix to claim second, ahead of Courtney Letica. Baird finished the round in front after another win and a third (albeit behind Halliday and Reid). But it was clear that Baird was in for a fight. For round two of the season, the Porsche battle became harder for Baird. Melbourne-based V-8 Supercar driver David 94
Reynolds was given an opportunity to join the GT3 fray, and it gave the series some dramatic results. The previous season saw him runner-up to Baird, and although both were part of the same Triple X Motorsport team it didn’t mean they would be taking it easy on each other. Reynolds made this a certainty by winning all three races of the second round at Ruapuna, with Baird having to settle for two second spots and a third. When it came to the V-8s though, things had improved slightly for Baird when compared to the opening round at Pukekohe. He still had no race win to his credit, but with a couple of second positions and a fourth from the reverse grid race the points were continuing to rise on the leaderboard for him. But so too was it for John McIntyre, who also had a much better showing in the second round by taking the checkered flag twice, and scoring enough points to take over the championship lead. McIntyre continued his path to glory by winning the third
The Mad Butcher Porsche 997 was a familiar sight leading the rest of the field.
round at Teretonga. However, the win didn’t come easily. The second race of the weekend was a direct tussle with Baird that became one of the great ones, with McIntyre eventually taking the win by just 0.036 seconds, making it one of the closest finishes in the series history. Then in the third race, which was the reverse grid scenario, he managed to finish in ninth, just one spot behind Baird’s eighth. McIntyre then headed to the fourth round at Timaru with what seemed like a commanding lead over Craig Baird. Teretonga was also another tough round with again no wins for Baird in the Porsche. Twice he had to settle for third position before finally grabbing a second to finish the weekend out, but more importantly the consolidation of points was wearing in his favor. Reynolds and Halliday may have taken the bigger trophies on the day, but the defending champion was doing enough to maintain a lead – missing the first round was always going to make it difficult for Reynolds to play catch-up. The game got tougher for Reynolds when Baird further opened the gap by taking more spoils in the fourth round at Timaru – two wins and a third for his tally, and if you take into account the results by Reynolds along with the win of the third race by youngster Courtney Letica, Triple X Motorsport were reaping some serious rewards. 135 points was enough for him to regain second place, and when you consider that the top three cars were from the same stable it was safe to say that the team was cleaning up. Back in the other hot seat Baird was also making the serious moves and Timaru was going to be a season-changer for both him and McIntyre. It had not been seen before, but the rain-sodden track of Timaru was going to provide the series with an unheard of three DNFs for a current leader. John McIntyre’s run for the money was halted when he slid off the glassy track and into the wall at the start of race one. He then leased a car to continue the weekend but suffered from mechanical problems on both outings and subsequently scored no points at all for his efforts. The same was not to be said for Craig Baird. The word is often used, but “dominating” is the correct term for Baird’s performance during the weekend. He cut through the bad weather to take two wins and a ninth which was enough of a points haul to place him 115 ahead of McIntyre. It was a controversial weekend for the V-8 organizers, who were put under pressure due to the conditions. But it was also tough for the teams, and race one was the decider. Baird was one of the few who chose to change to wet tires during the formation lap and therefore had to start the race from
the back, coming out of pit lane. For those who decided to stay with dry tires, they would pay the price of their gamble after a chaotic crash-fest of slicks on wet tarmac. The resulting red flag gave the survivors time to change to wets, but the damage was already done for them. For Craig Baird and Tim Edgell who had already done the rain tire deed, the race was theirs for the taking. Edgell had the initial glory, but pressure from Baird saw Edgell slide off the track allowing the Queensland-based driver to sneak through. Baird’s fortunes had taken a turn for the good. In the penultimate fifth round of the championship season, Baird was able to place one hand on the V-8 trophy. He had a pure battle with Tim Edgell who had quickly become a rising star in the field, but Baird’s overall round win had put him – literally – in the driver’s seat for the final round at Taupo. It was as they say – his to lose. As for the Porsche series, things were toughening up when Jonny Reid claimed the spoils from the Manfeild circuit, with David Reynolds taking second. Baird was able to strengthen his position with a third overall, but it was not yet set in stone that the title was his. Baird would need to play the right game in the final round at Taupo if he wanted to put two championship trophies in the cabinet. It wasn’t shocking to see the results of the first two races at Taupo – it was more of a slight surprise. Then again, the field of drivers in the Porsche GT3 series was stronger than ever before. The stars like Jonny Reid, Daniel Gaunt, Matt Halliday and David Reynolds, just to name a few, were certainly not going to hand the series to Baird with open arms, but when he came home after the first race in fourth position with Reid taking the win, eyebrows were certainly beginning to rise. Had he secured third he would have secured the title. Baird may have had the lead since round one, but just like the V-8 series he was still capable of losing it. Race two then provided the same amount of tension, but a third placing behind Halliday and winner Reid was enough to secure the title. The final race would simply be a chance for Baird to finish in the best way possible – being first to see the checkered flag. He achieved the goal of a final round final race win, and now it seems like six consecutive GT3 titles is a record that would seemingly be impossible to equal given the current talent on show. It would become even more implausible if he was to stretch it to seven next season. There was of course one other item on Baird’s plate that final weekend in Taupo – he still had to secure the V-8 Championship. He was without doubt the favorite to do so with his 131-point
The Focus of a Champion.
lead over John McIntyre and only needed the equivalent of three sixth-place finishes to cement the title. But racing in any form is never a given, and Baird has over the years learned about points consolidation. He was, however, as consistent as always and the third, fourth and first placings were good enough to secure the title – his final race of the season was arguably his best coming from the rear of the reversed grid to take over the lead on the final lap for the checkered flag. Just as he had done in his Porsche, he was able to finish the season in the best possible fashion. In total, Baird has now won 25 motorsport championship titles, 23 of those in New Zealand with 2 in Australia. He currently races in the Porsche Asia Carrera Cup but there is no doubt we will see him back here to defend his titles, and of 96
course we shall see him with HRT in the V-8 Supercar enduro series. His results to some may make him seem almost subhuman, but two circuits put him firmly back into the standard human race confirming that he is indeed still one of us. He has had stints at both Nurburgring and Spa. “They are my favorite tracks,” he says. “When I’m putting my helmet into my bag on Sunday night they are the only circuits where I can say I’m glad I made it. No other circuits can do that to you”. So it seems that even he can get scared. Now I, as much as you, can understand a little more about the person who is able to jump from a sports car into a taxi and back again on the same weekend – with success. In the end this all combines into one simple fact – Craig Baird is one hell of a racing car driver. P1
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