Monday, February 9, 2015

Musings From the Weekend: Racing To Obsolescence

Three endurance races totaling 60 hours of racing in six weeks. I am spent. From Dubai to Daytona to Bathurst, I have seen more racing in the last 30 days than some will watch all year. And we are just getting start. NASCAR season begins next week and we know they go from Valentine's Day until the Sunday before Thanksgiving with off weeks for Easter and a random Sunday in June and August. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

Racing To Obsolescence
The recent news about Marussia F1 not being allowed to return to the 2015 Formula One grid as Manor F1 Team with an updated MR03 has me worried. Worried for Formula One but also motorsports in general and this will tie into IndyCar.

We can get into the specifics of how the F1 Strategy Group, which is comprised of Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren, Williams and Force India, rejecting the Marussia/Manor return benefits them because that is one less team they have to share the massive pie that is Formula One prize money with. That is probably why there won't be a tenth team on the grid. The teams, especially Sauber and Force India, want/need the extra money and I am sure Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren won't mind the extra pocket change. It all comes down to money but let's just look at the car for a second.

The MR03 was a crap chassis from the start. It was never going to win races and with the other nine teams having newly developed cars for 2015, a car that was merely updated weeks before the start of the season would struggle to make it within the 107%-rule let alone win a race. Not saying it would be impossible for them to update the car but it would have been difficult. Let's say the teams rejected the Marussia/Manor return because the car was going to be even crappier than 2014 and were going to be a modern example of Life or Onyx where they failed to qualify more than they actually raced (By the way, Stefan Johansson finished third for Onyx, a team that had 27 did not qualifies compared to 25 starts, in the 1989 Portuguese Grand Prix. Johansson benefited from Ayrton Senna being taken out by a black-flagged Nigel Mansell. It was also the only race in which Minardi led a lap, thanks to Pierluigi Martini. But I digress).

I understand why the teams would be hesitant to have the field rounded out with a car well off the pace but the car is still perfectly good. This isn't a chassis that is nearly a decade old being rolled out on the grid. Remember, Super Aguri used the Arrows A23 chassis, a car that was three years old, as the base for their 2005 car and no one batted an eye on that. A year old car on the grid wouldn't be the end of the world and I fear that modern motorsports too quickly rushes to make things obsolete (Actually, is that the way of society today? You get the latest iPhone or HDTV and within three weeks there is something much better out? But I digress again).

Take IndyCar for example. I stated prior my feelings when the DW12 chassis came out that the series should have allowed teams to use the old IR-03/05s chassis and old Honda V8 for the Indianapolis 500 to bolster the entry list and allow teams struggling to get a DW12 chassis and current Honda or Chevrolet V6 to make an attempt. There was once a time where year old cars were all the rage at Indianapolis and some guy named Al Unser even won in a year old car. It happened before and it could happen today and we would have possibly seen more bumping.

Now IndyCar has the same issue but with aero kits. With the Honda and Chevrolet kits debuting this season, the Dallara kit will fade away but my question is why couldn't a team show up to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 with a Dallara kit? The car is expected to be much slower than the new aero kits but who is to say the car wouldn't make the field? A Dallara aero kit most likely would not be competing for pole position but the pole position isn't everything for the Indianapolis 500, making the field is. If a team could run a Dallara aero kit and qualify on row seven, why should the sanctioning body stop them from using the Dallara kit?

With the cost of motorsports being controlled more than ever, sanctioning bodies should be encouraging teams to show up with recently used chassis, aero kits, engines, whatever. Inclusion is better than exclusion and if, for example, IndyCar could get another four or five teams to show up for the Indianapolis 500 with the Dallara aero kit or Formula One can get to twenty entries by allowing an updated year-old car, than by all means allow it.

The tides of motorsports have to change. It is time to start realizing that just because something isn't new, doesn't mean it needs to be scraped.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about the Bathurst 12 Hour but did you know...

Trey Canard won the Supercross race from San Diego.

Coming Up This Weekend
NASCAR returns with their exhibition Sprint Unlimited from Daytona and Daytona 500 qualifying.
World Rally puts on the snow tires for Rally Sweden.
AMA Supercross heads to Arlington, Texas.