Monday, April 14, 2014

Musings From the Weekend: Hip-Checks and False Starts

A lot of hurt feelings from Long Beach and MotoGP had a successful weekend at Austin. Here is what I observed and what is rattling around my brain.

Hip-Checks Allowed in IndyCar
A lot of contact at Long Beach and IndyCar officials have set the bar for what will be allowed and what will not be allowed in the coming races. St. Petersburg was uneventful compared to yesterday and a million times less controversial.

There were four incidents that caught my eye on IndyCar making a call and now needing to be consistent from here on out.

Let's start with the Will Power-Simon Pagenaud incident. Going into turn six, Power made a move to the inside of Pagenaud at turn six. Contact occurred and sent Pagenaud into the drives for a brief moment while Power continued running in the top five. Pagenaud would continue and would eventually finish fifth.

Simultaneously with the Power-Pagenaud incident, IndyCar was reviewing Graham Rahal spinning Justin Wilson in the hairpin. Rahal simply got into the rear of Wilson's car and sent him around. Just like Pagenaud, Wilson kept the car going and was able to continue.

Rahal received a penalty, Power did not. 

The precedent has been set.

If contact occurs between cars side-by-side in the corner, it's a racing incident, no penalty. 
If contact occurs with car getting into another from behind, avoidable contact, penalty.

After that their were two incidents that caught my eye.

First is Ryan Hunter-Reay-Josef Newgarden accident after the second round of pit stops at turn four which also collected James Hinchcliffe, Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, Jack Hawksworth and Takuma Sato. 

A lot of people are crucifying Hunter-Reay for attempting the move but it doesn't sit well with me the thought that had Hunter-Reay completed the pass he would've be praised for a ballsy move (same as Zanardi on Herta in 1998) but since it ended poorly, many call amateur hour. 

First, anyone who cried out amateur hour, let's see you get between the wheel of the car and see if you can do one lap without putting it in the tires or tearing up a gearbox or pisses your pants and then you can decide what amateur hour is. 

Second, had Hunter-Reay made contact and forced Newgarden into the wall and continued, the precedent was set and he shouldn't have received a penalty. He was along the side of Newgarden, same as Power-Pagenaud. 

Then there was Scott Dixon making contact with Justin Wilson entering turn eight. Wilson had made a move to the outside and Dixon made contact with the side of Wilson, forcing him into the wall and out of the race. Dixon continued and just like the Power-Pagenaud incident, Dixon and Wilson were side-by-side when the contact occurred and no penalty was issued to Dixon. 

IndyCar was consistent on their calls. Side-by-side contact is viewed as racing incidents. Now the series has to call it that way from now until the checkered flag at Fontana on August 30th. 

Another thought from all these incidents are do the drivers use their mirrors? The distance from turn three to four might not be long but Hunter-Reay made his move early enough for Newgarden to see him. He didn't dive bomb in there. He committed to the move. Same as Wilson. Wilson was along side Dixon for most of the straightaway from turn six to eight. My question is how didn't either  Newgarden or Dixon see Hunter-Reay or Wilson in their mirrors? 

We could spend the whole intermediate between Long Beach and Barber discussing what the precedent is and what is and what isn't a racing incident but we have to move on.

False Start: Lorenzo
Jorge Lorenzo's day started and ended before everyone else's yesterday in the Grand Prix of the Americas from Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. The jumped start for Lorenzo led to a drive-through penalty but the Majorcan would recover for tenth.

His countryman Marc Márquez however dominated again and it is clear the only person capable of beating him is himself and he nearly didn't on the final corner of the race. His Honda nearly stepped out on him but he was able to hold on and still win comfortably (although I am sure his heart rate skyrocketed) over his teammate Dani Pedrosa. There was a phenomenal battle between Andrea Dovizioso, Bradley Smith and Stefan Bradl for third. Valentino Rossi's race started well but his bike faded late with rookie Pol Espargaró and Andrea Iannone dropping The Doctor to 8th. Aleix Espargaró was the top open class bike in 9th.

Nicky Hayden came home in 9th and his fellow American Colin Edwards had a fall while in the points, ending his final race in his home state of Texas. Edwards announced his retirement before the Austin race. It was disappointing to see his home race end that way. Hayden on the otherhand appeared to have his bike improve throughout the race as he passed Yonny Hernández and pulled away from him in the closing laps. 

In other bike news, shout out to Tom Sykes who swept the Superbike World Championship round at Aragón. He holds a four point lead over Frenchman Loris Baz who has finished second in three of the first four races.

Other winners from the weekend: José María López won race one of the World Touring Car Championship season on the streets of Marrakech. It took Sébastien Loeb two races to pick up his first WTCC victory as Citroën swept their WTCC debut weekend. 

The #98 ART McLaren MP4-12C of Álvaro Parente, Alexandre Prémat and Grégoire Demoustier won the opening round of the 2014 Blancpain Endurance Series season at Monza. 

Loïc Duval won the opening round of the 2014 Super Formula Season from Suzuka.

Looking forward to the Easter weekend. No motorsports in the States but plenty in Europe because they take Easter Monday off while North Americans get back to work (God forbid we take an extra day off for some R&R). 

European Le Mans Series and FIA World Endurance Championship both get underway from Silverstone. Formula One is in China. Alex Zanardi returns to competition with the Blancpain Sprint Series on Easter Monday from Circuit Paul Armagnac in Nogaro, France. World Touring Car Championship heads to Paul Ricard. 

That should be enough motorsports to fill in between church and family while snacking on a chocolate bunny.