Monday, May 5, 2014

Musings From the Weekend: Tires, TV, Doubleheaders, Speeding, Spelling and the Bayou

Busy weekend with NASCAR at Talladega, the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters beginning their season at Hockenheim (and you thought IndyCar has a long offseason), MotoGP at Jerez and IMSA running two at Laguna Seca. Starting a little behind the 8-ball this week, try to follow along.

Option Tire or Not Option Tire... That is the Question
I was watching the DTM race from Hockenheim and the broadcasters were discussing the option tire on the broadcast as Mattias Ekström was running laps two seconds faster than everyone else. What if racing series didn't give a disguising mark for the option tires and they blended in with the rest?

Wouldn't that throw a wrinkle into a race? Forget strategy, just have it happen out of the blue. Whether it be Formula One, IndyCar, DTM or any other series that have option tires, imagine all of a sudden a team running a second quicker in the final stint and finishing strong. It would get rid of minimum lap requirements and allow tire selection to be by chance. A team would still use the option but when it is used won't be known until a few laps into a stint and I think that is a really interesting proposition.

In more DTM news, BMW driver Marco Wittmann picked up his first career DTM at Hockenheim. Audi driver Mattias Ekström came home in second with his teammate Adrien Tambay finishing third after starting on his first career pole position. Defending DTM champion Mike Rockenfeller finished fourth with Timo Glock leading fellow BMW drivers Bruno Spengler, Martin Tomczyk and Augusto Farfus. Two-time DTM champion Timo Scheider finished ninth with American Joey Hand rounding out the points in tenth. Mercedes-Benz was shut out of the points with Pascal Wehrlein the best Mercedes in 11th.

Spell Check
I struggle with spelling Martin Tomczyk's last name. The "Tom" part I got. I know it ends with a "k" but it's the "czy" part that gets me every time. Is it y before z, z before c? I always stumble over it. Thanks to Twitter, I posed the question, is it the most difficult name to spell in motorsports?

JJ Lehto's full name got a nomination. In case you are wondering, his full name is Jyrki Juhani Järvilehto.

Remember Sergey Mokshantev from the 2009 Indy Lights season?

Another one that sticks out is Lithuanian Kazim Vasiliauskas who competed in the shortly lived Formula Two revival.

Jaime Alguersuari trips me up because that middle "er" isn't pronounced.

If there are any other names that you struggle spelling, feel free sharing on Twitter.

I understand why Fox Sports 1 replays the previous MotoGP race before the next MotoGP race but I'd prefer they show the Moto2 race instead. It's something different and showcases up-and-coming riders. It never hurts to expose people to something new.

Either way, every MotoGP race ends the same way... Marc Márquez winning. Four-for-four from pole position each time. He led majority of the race while Valentino Rossi picked up his second runner-up finish of 2014 and Dani Pedrosa finished third.

MotoGP heads to the Bugatti Circuit Vin Le Mans, France in a fortnight for the French Grand Prix.

IMSA Plays Two
I loved that the Tudor United SportsCar Series split the professional (Prototype and GT Le Mans) and amateur (Prototype Challege and GT Daytona) at Laguna Seca and they each had their own two-hour race. I would be ok if that was done at every race except the four North American Endurance Championship events. Especially with the amount of cars and length of a few of the circuits. Think about it, there are going to be nearly 50 cars on track when the series heads to Indianapolis. I know it has been done before but maybe it would be better if everyone had a little more breathing room.

Former DTM driver Renger van der Zande picked up his first career victory in the PC class as he teamed with Mirco Schultis int he #8 Starworks entry. The #25 8Star Motorsports car of Sean Rayhall and Luis Díaz finished second with Bruno Junqueira and Duncan Ende rounding out the podium in the #9 RSR Racing entry.

In GTD, the #45 Flying Lizard Audi of Spencer Pumpelly round out of fuel on the final lap exiting the corkscrew. Dane Cameron capitalized in the #94 Turner BMW to get the victory. It was Cameron's co-driver Markus Palttala's first career GTD victory. The #48 Paul Miller Audi of Christopher Haase and Bryce Miller finished second with Andy Lally and John Potter rounding out the podium in the #44 Magnus Racing Porsche.

An LMP2 car finally got a victory as the #2 Extreme Speed HPD ARX-03b of Johannes van Overbeek and Ed Brown won comfortably over the the #10 Corvette DP of Jordan and Ricky Taylor. Ganassi's #01 Ford-Riley of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas was third.

The #3 Corvette of Jan Magnussen and Antonio García won their second consecutive race at Laguna Seca. The #55 Rahal Letterman Lanigan BMW of Bill Auberlen and Andy Priaulx finished second after the #911 Porsche of Nick Tandy and Richard Lietz was penalized for avoidable contact. The #62 Risi Ferrari of Giancarlo Fisichella and Pierre Kaffer rounded out the GTLM podium.

Next round will be just the P and GTD classes at Belle Isle Saturday May 31st as they and IndyCar share the weekend. The PC class next gets on track June 7th at Kansas Speedway as they and the Prototype Lites run together. All four series get back on track together June 29th for the Watkins Glen 6 Hours.

Pit Lane Speeding
I watched Senna on May 1st and the one shot that gets me every time is the onboard of his pit stop after contact with Alain Prost in the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix. A simple front wing change and then boom... on the gas, through the gears and triple-digits on the speedometer before he is at pit out. It's provides a shot of adrenaline that is missed in motorsports today.

I understand pit lane speed limits are for safety but they are the worse way for a race to be ruined (Think about it. You're penalizing someone for going too fast in an auto race). Pit lane speed limits should remain when a race is under full-course caution however I am all for pit lane speed limits being removed while under green flag conditions with some provisions:

1. Limit of pit crew members over the wall at two. Reduces potential collateral damage.
2. Crew members are not allowed over the wall until the car is at a complete stop in their pit box.
3. A car cannot leave until all equipment and crew members are behind the pit wall.
4. Blow through your pit box, automatic five-lap penalty right then and there once the stop is completed.
5. Make contact with another car in the pit lane, automatic exclusion from the race and forfeiture of all points from that event.
6. Hit a crew member(s), regardless if it's your crew or another team, automatic exclusion, forfeiture of all points from that event and suspension for the next race.

I think drivers are smart enough to know what the limit is on the pit lane while trying to lose as little time as possible. They know what is safe and what is not. If we can't loosen up the pit lane speed limit then how about how the penalty is enforced? Maybe instead of a drive-through or stop-and-go, five-points for each time a driver is caught speeding. After all, those could add up quickly.

Indy Grand Prix of the Bayou
News broke Sunday of IndyCar reaching a deal to race at NOLA Motorsports Park in Avondale, Louisiana, about 14 miles outside of New Orleans, starting in 2015.

A couple thoughts:
1. Always supportive of IndyCar looking into new markets.
2. Always supportive of IndyCar adding permanent road courses.
3. NOLA is as flat as paper and has some tight corners.
4. It's a country-club race tracks with no infrastructure for hosting very large gatherings of spectators.
5. This could be bad.

IndyCar can't just be taking a paycheck and heading to a track that is not suitable for a race. IndyCar needs to have standards as a series. This can't be just another here today, gone tomorrow event. They need to be heading to places for the long-term and building a following. I am not sure NOLA has that capability. They had AMA Superbike and Sportsbike for one season and have yet to return (to be fair, AMA has been shedding events left and right over the last couple of years). Do they have the means to pay a sanctioning fee year after year and not just for one contract?

I'd rather see IndyCar working on getting to more established road courses such as Road America, Laguna Seca, Watkins Glen and Austin. We know they have fan bases, we know they have the facility capable of hosting an event and we know the tracks are suitable for a professional auto race. Flat road courses are rarely good road courses and while the DW12 has been able to put on good shows everywhere it's been, a place being a dud is bound to happen sooner rather than later.

While NOLA track designer Alan Wilson has also designed Barber Motorsports Park and Miller Motorsports Park, those are different animals. Barber flows, as does Miller with long straightaways. NOLA has neither.

If there is one positive of NOLA that goes along with it being a new market it's that NOLA can host a race in early part of the year (i.e. Late-January through February to early March). Another positive is the Road to Indy went to NOLA for their Winterfest this past February. Indy Lights tested the track while Pro Mazda and U.S. F2000 each had a doubleheader. The whole Winterfest idea could be a great way to kickoff the IndyCar season with all four series (along with Pirelli World Challenge of course) running together for two or three weeks in a row early in the calendar year but I am not sure if NOLA should be one of the venues of choice.

We will have to wait and see.

Winners from the weekend:

The #8 Toyota won their third consecutive round of the FIA World Endurance Championship dating back to last season with Anthony Davidson, Nicolas Lapierre and Sébastien Buemi  going 2-for-2 in 2014. The #1 Audi of Tom Kristensen, Loïc Duval and Lucas di Grassi finished second and the #7 Toyota of Alexander Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin and Kazuki Nakajima was third.

G-Drive won their fourth consecutive race dating back to last season in LMP2 with Romain Rusinov, Olivier Pla and Julien Canal behind the wheel.

AF Corse took victory in both GTE classes with Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander in GTE Pro and Luíz Pérez Companc, Marco Cioci and Mirko Venturi

Joe Gibbs Racing swept the weekend at Talladega with Denny Hamlin winning in Cup and Elliott Sadler in the Nationwide Series.

Mika Kallio won in Moto2 at Jerez and Romano Fenati picked up his second consecutive Moto3 win.

Yvan Muller and Gianni Morbidelli split the WTCC weekend at Hungary. Morbidelli's victory ended Citroën's five race winning streak to start the season as Chevrolet is now on the scoreboard.

João Paulo de Oliveira and Hironobu Yasuda won in GT500 at the Super GT race at Fuji. Nobuteru Taniguchi and Tatsuya Kataoka won in GT300.

Coming up this weekend:
The inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis for IndyCar at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Formula One is in Barcelona for the Spanish Grand Prix.
NASCAR is in Kansas.
World Superbike is at Imola.
World Rally is in Argentina.