Monday, June 16, 2014

Musings From the Weekend: Exhaustion

A terrific Le Mans weekend was cameoed with another MotoGP thriller and NASCAR. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

Le Mans
One of these days fortune will have me in France in June. After watching nearly 20 hours followed by a busy Father's Day with family, sleep deprivation is seeping in. It was worth it. Had I slept like a normal person I would have missed the #7 Toyota breaking down while comfortably leading, the battle between the #97 Aston Martin and #51 AF Corse Ferrari for the GTE-Pro lead, the turbo failure on the #2 Audi and the sun rise over the French countryside. Of course, I would have also missed Justin Bell's annual walk around the grounds, bumping into every inebriated individual with Grand Marnier pancakes and dressed up as if it was October 31st. 

It's hard to say the Indianapolis 500 is better than the 24 Hours of Le Mans or vice versa. Each one is uniquely great but share similarities that putting one ahead of another would be a complete disservice to each races' histories. Fortunately, we aren't forced to pick one over the other. We can enjoy both and sit the following day wondering what will be in store the following year. 

Code 60
The first time I saw the use of Code 60 was at the Dubai 24 Hours earlier this year. For those who do not know what Code 60 is, it pretty much a local yellow where cars are limited to 60 km/h (37.28 MPH) between the first double yellow (or purple flag, which has been used for Code 60s at other events) and the last double yellow (or purple flag) in that section of the race track. Once a driver has exited the Code 60 zone, they may continue at race speed before reaching the Code 60 zone on the following lap where they must once again drop to 60 km/h. Code 60s are used to prevent full-course cautions from slowing down a race while safely slowing cars down in the section of a track where an accident must be cleared. 

Could Code 60 be brought to other forms of motorsports besides sports cars? Why couldn't open-wheel series such as IndyCar and Formula One or touring car series such as DTM or even NASCAR adopt Code 60? Obviously for IndyCar and NASCAR, it wouldn't make much sense on ovals but for road/street circuits it would be feasible. My biggest gripe in IndyCar is the full-course cautions for something as simple as a car in the gravel trap or stalled in a run-off area. Instead of bringing the race to the stand still, slow the cars through the particular section and let them race elsewhere. 

Take this year's Barber race. When Takuma Sato had a lazy spin and stalled off course on the outside of turn ten or when Juan Pablo Montoya beached it in the same section of the track, instead of wasting even as little as two laps under caution, they could have place the part of the track between the exit of turn eight and the middle of the straightaway after turn 10 under a Code 60 and allow the cars to race outside of that zone while the car is either restarted or pushed further off course to a safer location. 

Code 60s will not totally eliminated full-course cautions. When Mikhail Aleshin's late accident caused damage to the tire barrier, a full-course caution must be thrown to fix the problem. But even after watching that incident again and thinking about it, couldn't a Code 60 have been used to push the car off track and get the barrier repaired? I guess a better example of where a full-course caution would be the only choice would be the start of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis where the track filled with debris after Sebastián Saavedra was run into by Carlos Muñoz and Aleshin.

Now for those wondering if this sounds like an evolution of the pacer lights system once used in the Indianapolis 500, it kind of does but unlike the 1970s where Bobby Unser could work the system to his favor and make up time, monitoring devices such as GPS are being looked into by the VLN (the German equivalent of SCCA) to keep teams honest as well as harsh penalties, such as those used at Le Mans, for those caught violating the Code 60. If a car was caught speeding in a Code 60, a team would've been penalized five seconds for each km/p over. So if a team was caught doing 100 km/p (62.13 MPH) in the Code 60, it would've been a 200 second penalty or 3 minutes and 20 seconds. If a team was doing 200 km/p (124.27 MPH), it would've been a 700 second penalty or 11 minutes and 40 seconds. To me, that seems like a fair enough penalty for the violation.

If Code 60s means keeping on-track action going while an minor accident can be taken care of at another part of the circuit, a series should consider using Code 60 for it's own benefit. It wouldn't hurt to try something new.

One Race Le Mans Weekend
When Le Mans weekend comes around each June, the French classic should be the only professional motorsports race on the planet taking place. I love MotoGP and this weekend's race between Marc Márquez, Dani Pedrosa, Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo was spectacular, easily a potential Race of the Year nominee, but the two races should not be finishing within ten minutes of one another. Same thing with NASCAR at Michigan. If there is any track that should have one NASCAR race, it is Michigan. Take the weekend off. For years I've heard Jeff Gordon say he wants to run Le Mans. Take the week off and allow the few drivers who want to participate to do so.

I understand each series has to look out for themselves and shouldn't necessarily cater to other series but if it is one weekend a year, it shouldn't be a problem. Formula One has a gentleman's agreement not to run Le Mans weekend, IndyCar took off Le Mans weekend this year, others should follow their leads. 

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Audi, Marc Márquez and Jimmie Johnson, but did you know...

Esteve Rabat won in Moto2 and Álex Márquez won in Moto3.

Darrell Wallace, Jr. won in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series return to Gateway.

Paul Menard picked up his second career Nationwide victory at Michigan, 2912 days after his first career Nationwide victory at the Milwaukee Mile in 2006.

Coming Up This Weekend:
Formula One returns to Austria.
For all those who want more sleep deprivation, 24 Hours Nürburgring.
NASCAR at Sonoma.
Pirelli World Challenge at Road America.
V8 Supercars at Hidden Valley Raceway in Darwin.