January 20, 2017

Dying for a YouTube video.

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A bad start for the 2017 Montecarlo Rally.

It was the debut of a new formula: faster, more exciting looking cars designed to put some shine on a series that has floundered of recent.    The new cars are not like, but are designed to recall, the glorious and insane Group B cars from the 1980's.

On the very first Special Stage of the rally, Hyundai's Hayden Paddon hit a patch of black ice and slam into a rock wall, flipping over.
Paddon and his co-driver are fine, but a spectator on the road is struck and would later die.

Predictably there has been much handwringing about this.  On the Axis Facebook page, accusation were thrown of "not respecting the motorsport community" for discussing the event.

Not respecting the motorsport community?  Really?

So let's hear the testimony of an eyewitness,  reported initially by the Belgian site DH

" We were just ten meters away on the special stage and had seen this guy putting his GoPro on the road and then sit just one meter away on the embankment.
We yelled at him not to stand there, we figured he would realize it was a bad place after one or two cars went by.
Paddon came by and slid sideways... the man was hit and thrown up the slope and fell down onto the road.
A fireman gave him CPR but it was clear right away there was little he could do.  It took a long time for the ambulance to get there but it would not have made a difference.
It's sad, especially because people will say these cars are dangerous, like in the Group B era, and this has nothing to do with it.  It was just the bad luck of a driver on a patch of black ice"

Ironically, the article was later edited to, you guessed it, blame the now faster more powerful 2017 WRC cars.  Because you certainly can't blame the stupidity of a victim who chose to risk his life standing in an area  forbidden by organizers and that simple logic should tell you is very dangerous.

"He was someone's son, husband, father".   wailed some on the internet.  

Well, most people are and I'm sorry to be harsh but I feel about the same level of sympathy as I do for those who get gored in Pamplona.

I do feel terrible for Hayden Paddon and for Team Hyundai who have zero fault here but will have to bear the brunt of another man's irresponsible behavior .   I feel bad for WRC organizers who will be inevitably blamed for the 20 minute wait for the ambulance and for "not protecting the public".

Respecting the motorsport community means spectators, like drivers, have to use their brains take responsibility for there actions.

Pretending it's about anything else helps nobody.

December 23, 2016

NASCAR comes to ice racing: Merry Christmas!

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Ancient Yuletide carols were trolled at the alpine resort of Alpe d'Huez recently when one racer tried to deck a fellow competitor.

It happened in the midst of an Andros Trophy ice buggy race when fifty year old Olivier Panis, a Grand Prix driver know mostly for crashing and one lucky win,  did not accept being shoved into hay bales as a Christmas greeting.

The well wisher was 25 year old Adrien Tambay, son Patrick, the 1980's Ferrari (and Beatrice Hass) driver.

Oo-la-la, Oooh-pop-pop-pop....   C'est d'homage.

A Gallic version NASCAR ensued.... unfortunately, unlike les amis Americain,  French tv cut away just when it was getting good.

Ah,  Christmas ....   Axis of Oversteer wishes you a merrier one.

December 8, 2016

Another win for Mercedes: under 7 minutes 11 seconds at the Nurburgring

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Remember when Mercedes was the boring grandpa car and BMW were the ultimate driving machines?

Then something changed, Mercedes made a titanic PR investment in Formula One which spearheaded an ongoing repositioning of the marque's branding, away from staid grandpas, back to its mid 20th century glories of ultimate technology and performance.

The Mercedes juggernaut is just crushing it.

Latest case in point, the Mercedes Benz GT R. It's Benz's version of the Porsche GT3 or the Ferrari 458 Speciale. A souped up version of the already gorgeous GT and GT S, if you are an F1 fan, think Bernd Maylander's safety car, think more powerful version of the car competing in endurance races.

Gemany's SportAuto magazine drove a lap at the Nürburgring in 7:10.9 min.

With Michelin Sport Cup 2, same tire specced for the 458 speciale or. the Porsche 918.

There will be an internet food fight because SportAuto claims it is faster than the Porsche 918, which they drove to a 7:13 lap while Porsche has a video of a 918 driven by their pro driver Marc Lieb breaking the 7 minute mark with a 6:57.

The whole Nurburgring lap time thing by manufacturers is shady to begin with so, in many ways, magazine tests have a better chance to be honest since they tend to use "civilian drivers" and be more transparent about their tests.

But in the age of internet "truthers" this is not going to go down smoothly, a quick scan of the youtube comments and you will find a still from this clip someone is SURE are a set of slick tires which must have been used on the car...

To us they look like tires wrapped in tyre warmers, hardly a shocker since it looks like it was cold from the pictures.

Nurburgring's own Pizzagate fires up reddit* (*no I have no proof it's on fire but it could be)

For their part SportAuto confirms the tires were the ones the car can be bought with, a custom compound of the Sport Cup 2, much like the one you can get on the Corvette Z06 or the Ferrari 458 Speciale, a road legal "R-coumpound", similar to the Pirelli Trofeo-R available on may other top cars.

Naturally, being the internet, fanboys of all kinds will cry foul. but the pictures don't lie, driver makes it look easy to get a time that was once the Gumpert Apollo's fastest ever lap record.

Very impressive.

(as always, with all things N, I recommend you have Dale Lomas' Bridgetogantry.com bookmarked)

December 3, 2016

Who is Toto Wolff calling today?

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Can you imagine the number of calls in and out of Brackley in the last 24 hours?    Social media certainly had a good time with it yesterday.

Rosberg's surprise retirement leaves the undisputed number one. team is an odd place:  they. must fill what is arguably the most desirable open seat at a time when all of the sport's stars are (technically) not available.

Of course, F1 contracts have historically shown not to be worth the paper they are printed on and if there is the will and a check there's a way so, who is Toto Wolff calling today?

His easiest call would be to Pascal Wehrlein, he's already under contract to Mercedes.  Moving Pascal up  would mean depending on a Hamilton the team has learned it can only partially do.  You never know when Lewis might skip a tire test because of a "sore foot" or need to go shopping in Malibu.
Certainly Lewis has delivered for the Germans (and the team for him) but Mercedes is not the type of team  happy to put all of its eggs in one basket,

The most obvious choice and the one most would like to see is Alonso.   A talent like his,  in a Mclaren in disarray as it has been in the last eight years, is not good for the sport and, among top drivers, he is the one most likely to have a valid escape clause in his contract.

The downside for Mercedes is that someone has to tell Lewis.  Sure, Hamilton has said he does not care, but then again he has said a lot of things.   Having those two on the team could mean nightmares more than dream team for Wolff.  

For the public?  Pass the popcorn.

Verstappen or Ricciardo?   Not a chance.  A move to Mercedes would not be the smart play for either of them, not with new regulations tailor made to Red Bull's strengths.  

Bottas? Hulkenberg? Why when you have Wehrlein or Ocon?

And then there is Vettel.   Another year with Ferrari and not in a happy place at the moment. Certainly one could imagine a numbers oriented character like Sergio Marchionne not getting especially sentimental if those numbers were right.

A guy like Vettel, four championships, not short of funds, two young daughters,  perhaps the only thing left to prove's that it was not just the car,  does he go for the top team or does he stay on the more difficult road Ferrari is on,  for the satisfaction of seeing it through?

You have to wonder what wheels have been set in motion by Nico's choice.

December 2, 2016

Stunner: Nico Rosberg retires from racing.

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While much of the world's press seemed obsessed with debates overs "worth" as a Champion,  Nico Rosberg had other ideas.

ROsberg's announcement on Facebook:

"“Since 25 years in racing, it has been my dream, my ‘one thing’ to become Formula One World Champion. Through the hard work, the pain, the sacrifices, this has been my target.And now I’ve made it. I have climbed my mountain, I am on the peak, so this feels right. My strongest emotion right now is deep gratitude to everybody who supported me to make that dream happen.
“This season, I tell you, it was so damn tough. I pushed like crazy in every area after the disappointments of the last two years; they fuelled my motivation to levels I had never experienced before. And of course that had an impact on the ones I love, too – it was a whole family effort of sacrifice, putting everything behind our target. I cannot find enough words to thank my wife Vivian; she has been incredible. She understood that this year was the big one, our opportunity to do it, and created the space for me to get full recovery between every race, looking after our daughter each night, taking over when things got tough and putting ourchampionship first. 
“When I won the race in Suzuka, from the moment when the destiny of the title was in my own hands, the big pressure started and I began to think about ending my racing career if I became World Champion. On Sunday morning in Abu Dhabi, I knew that it could be my last race and that feeling cleared my head before the start. I wanted to enjoy every part of the experience, knowing it might be the last time… and then the lights went out and I had the most intense 55 laps of my life. I took my decision on Monday evening. After reflecting for a day, the first people I told were Vivian and Georg (Nolte, from Nico’s management team), followed by Toto.
“The only thing that makes this decision in any way difficult for me is because I am putting my racing family into a toughsituation. But Toto understood. He knew straight away that I was completely convinced and that reassured me. My proudest achievement in racing will always be to have won the world championship with this incredible team of people,the Silver Arrows.
“Now, I’m just here to enjoy the moment. There is time tosavour the next weeks, to reflect on the season and to enjoy every experience that comes my way. After that, I will turn the next corner in my life and see what it has in store for me…”

I'm certain  some will figure out how to turn this into a negative for Nico.  Walking away from a great team, a great car, defending a championship and a new contract., it takes a lot of balls.

Ultimate walking away on top move, Nico!

November 28, 2016

Nico Rosberg: Revenge of the Underdog

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Nico Rosberg became a Formula 1 World Champion in Abu Dhabi,  It took him 11 seasons and 206 Grand Prix.

He did it the hard way, beating arguably the fastest driver of the moment, in the same car.

He did it after being beaten by Hamilton three years in a row.

He did it despite being the butt of jokes for his looks in the paddock (remember the Britney license?), being hammered by a lot of the motoring media as unworthy and "dirty",  criticized by the boss of the sport as too boring and painted as an entitled rich kid by his own teammate.  

Nico and Keke Rosberg.
"He grew up with jets and hotels, I slept on couches",  it was a famous dig by Hamilton towards his rival from their earliest days in karting.  Turns out one of this couches was at the Rosberg residence where he was often a guest in earlier, friendlier days.  
There is no doubt the Rosberg name opened doors and opportunities, but it must also be remembered Hamilton had Ron Dennis behind him since age 13 and that, after winning GP2,  he came into F1 at the top with Mclaren while Rosberg arrived at Williams when it was far from a top car.

At Mercedes, Rosberg was consistently faster than a Schumacher indeed past his prime, but still one of the top drivers ever to sit in a car.  Later,  Nico bested Hamilton on race wins in 2013.

In 2014 and 2015,  with the new turbo hybrid engines,  Hamilton beat him badly.
Tough losses, especially in '14.  A lesser driver might have gone the way of a Massa or Barrichello but Rosberg proved to be way more bulldog that Britney.  He may be a 10th off Hamilton's pace over a single lap but even his most rabid detractors have to acknowledge his remarkable consistency and resilience.

"Lewis is raw talent, Nico is hard work twenty four  hours a day, seven days a week" is a quote from Toto Wolff and in the end it's good for the sport to have different personalities, the jet setting social media star and the hard working family man,  both rewarded.   Kudos to Mercedes for trying to give both

Even Bernie made peace with it eventually and Nico didn't hold a grudge.   Perhaps even the Hamfosi can get past their prejudice and admit Nico drove a better season than Lewis this year rather than moan about it in perpetuity.

Bravo Nico,  now bring on 2017!

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