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LAPS OF THE GODS

 

  There are those brief moments in time when a great driver (or rider) gives free reign to their otherworldly talent and produces a lap, or in a very few cases, a series of laps that enter into folk-law. One of THOSE moments that if you were lucky enough to witness – even on telly – you and others will talk of through the ages. These are the Laps of the Gods. Gilles Villeneuve in torrential rain on a Friday afternoon at Watkins Glen. True the lap was 25 seconds slower than Alan Jones’ dry morning session time, showing just how thoroughly wet the afternoon was, but Gilles was just under 10 seconds quicker than anyone else in that session. A time of 2’01.437 against 2’11.029 set by team mate Jody Scheckter, who you will recall had just wrapped up that seasons championship. Jones, in the stunning new Williams FW07 could only muster 2’37.742. Just wrap your head around that. Jones, who had won four of the past five races in what was now by far the best car, was 36.3 seconds slower than Gilles.

 

  Not that Gilles’ lap there was the (or his) only example. Take Bernd Rosemeyer. The Eifelrennen race at the Nurburgring (the real one) started with rain and at half distance Rosemeyer was 18 seconds down on Nuvolari who was leading. The rain increased and by the start of lap 7 Bernd took the lead. The next time around he was 15 seconds to the good. And only then did he show what he could really do. By the beginning of lap 8 the fog began to set in. It is said that it was so thick that the pits were not visible from the grandstand. So understandably the drivers slowed down. Except Bernd. Lap 8 was 40 seconds faster than anyone else, Lap 9, 41 seconds and lap 10 a mere 36 seconds for the final lap of the race. The final winning margin over Tazio Nuvolari – one of motor sports true greats – was 2 minutes and 12 seconds. Rosemeyer had pulled out 1 minute and 57 seconds in just three laps of the fearsome Nordschleife in fog that brought down the visibility to about 15 metres. The Nordscheife seemed to engender these moments. Fangio overhauling the Ferraris to win his final race in 1957 and Jackie Stewart winning by over 4 minutes in torrential rain in 1968 surely must count as examples of the topic.

 

   Keke Rosberg set the first 160 mph average lap in Grand Prix history at Silverstone in 1985 (before they started butchering it with chicanes) in a Williams Honda, with a deflating rear tyre. And then hopped out and had a ciggie. Michael Schumacher’s series of “qualifying laps” to win the Hungarian Grand Prix in 1998. Moss holding off the Ferraris at Monaco in 1961. Alessandro Zanardi’s last lap lead grab at the corkscrew at Laguna Seca. But not all are laps that produce victory. Some are just stunning because of the performance of the car is transcended. Take Monaco in 1984. And no, I’m not talking about Senna. In ’84 everyone had Turbos except Tyrrell who generally struggled to qualify with their ancient Cosworth V8s. Lap 27. Stefan Bellof overtakes Rene Arnoux’s Ferrari at the Mirabeau – on the footpath - for third place. What would have happened if the race hadn’t been red flagged? Senna was catching Prost but Bellof was catching Senna even faster. Of course we’ll never get to find out and sadly of the three, only Alain is still with us.

 

   I bring this topic up because so far this year there have been some stonking laps that have sadly not been given the prominence that they deserved. For me it started with the Moto 3 race in Argentina. I’d never heard of Khairul Pawi, at just 17 the junior team mate to Hiroki Ono at Honda Team Asia. He had qualified well for the team and lined up 7th on the grid. On dry tyres while most of the field was on intermediates as the track was still wet. You will notice that wet weather often plays a part in these matters. That he led the first lap by a second was superb, but then he proceeded to pull away from the field (again – on DRY tyres) by 3 seconds a lap so by lap 5 he was 13 seconds in the lead. By lap 7 he was 20 seconds in front. In Moto3. Bloody unheard of. From there he started cruising so at lap 18 he was only (gee only) 26 seconds in front. Will he ever reproduce such a performance? We’ll see if they put him on a real front running bike and then some of Marques’ Moto2 and Moto3 heroics may just be relegated from the front rank. Most of the press were rightly enraptured with the dominant performance by Valentino Rossi and his early lap mastery in Spain. Not that I want to down-play that, it was a super ride, but the old dog(ter) is on the best bike and in the best team in a field with really only three competitive teams. Moto3 is vastly more competitive and rarely does anyone even in one of the very top teams put a gap of even 1 second on the field over the course of a race. On drys, in the wet, not on the best bike for the best team, 3 seconds a lap….ye gods.

 

   Nico Rosberg has also pulled out one this year, and again not all that much has been said about it. Most of the talk after the Russian GP was that Hamilton was robbed of a chance of a win due to his water pressure problems. Total and Utter bollocks. True, while Rosberg was dealing with some energy issues of his own and some traffic Hamilton got the gap down to 7 seconds from about 14 and set his best race lap of 1’40.266 on fresh tyres on lap 36. As if to say to Lewis, “wouldn’t have mattered” Nico bunged in an astounding 1’39.094 on knackered tyres on the second last lap of the race, some 1.7 seconds quicker than Hamilton on fresh rubber. That qualifies. Daniel Ricciardo has also transcended his Renault hampered Red Bull twice in qualifying so far this year. Both in China and Spain he produced stunning laps to start 2nd and 3rd respectively, almost half a second quicker than his team mates on both occasions. That’s a lot these days and both times Kvyat and Verstappen were right on the cars ultimate pace. That Max beat Ricciardo to the win in Spain is a great story, but one that owes as much to strategy calls by the team as outright pace. Which Max has in spades. Undoubtedly Max will soon be adding his own legendry moment to this conversation but that’s for another day.

 

 

 

Sam Snape

 

 

 

16/05/2016

 

 

 

HEAVEN AND HELL

 

74th Goodwood Members Meeting

The hunt

 

  The Goodwood Members Meeting on the weekend of March 19-20 was a mix of stunning highs unfortunately punctuated by near catastrophic lows. Where the qualifying and first two races on Saturday ran like clockwork, the racing on Sunday was repeatedly truncated by safety cars and two enormous accidents.

 

 

  For once Lord March was unable to come to an agreement with the weather Gods and Saturday began under a grey sky with an artic breeze that forced many of the crowd to huddle around the fire baskets thoughtfully provided between the on track activities. And the amount of on track action was, as usual for a Goodwood meeting, absolutely packed in. You could never complain about value for money, if anything there was too much value. If you wanted to catch all the action on track there was very little time for all the other activities to be enjoyed.

250F

  And the Goodwood team always provide some very odd things to keep you amused. Have you ever tried to herd ducks for example? Or race ferrets?  These were just two of the funnier member activities in which the spectators could earn points for their teams (all spectators are allocated a team for the weekend to which they and all the teams and drivers can score points for an overall team win). You could play darts, billiards, kick rugby goals, fight out a tug of war or race pedal cars as some of the saner events but they all just distracted from the main focus of the weekend. Although I did miss the Martini making competition of two years ago. My Martini may not have scored too many points but it certainly had some judges gasping for breath.

  The Members Meeting is sort of a mini Revival meeting without the fancy dress and run with a wider spectrum of cars. Whereas the Revival restricts itself to the type of races run when the circuit was operating in period (1948-66) this weekend allows for racing from other periods as well such as the Gerry Marshall Trophy for 1970s touring cars, late 60’s Formula 3 cars and what must have been everyone’s favourite race this year, the S.F. Edge Trophy for Edwardian era cars in which the youngest were 1923 Alfa Romeos and Bugattis and the oldest, a 1903 Mercedes. None were more energetically driven than the 1905 Isotta Franschini Fiat of Mike Vardy, who’s engine was so long that Mike was sitting above the chain drive, BEHIND the rear wheels. To witness this fire breathing monster performing opposite lock power slides out of the chicane had to be the racing highlight of the weekend. This unlikely event also produced the closest finish of the weekend with just two tenths of a second separating the victorious Duncan Pittaway in a 1921 GN Curtis from Mathias Sielecki’s 1923 Delage. Julian Mazjub’s 1916 Sunbeam Indianapolis was just a further 1.8 seconds back. To show just how hard they were trying, Pittaway’s fastest race lap was seven and a half seconds faster than his qualifying time and six seconds under Mazjub’s pole position time.

Isotta

  Possibly the best race was the one hour Alan Mann Trophy for Ford GT40s which ran into Saturday’s twilight. Any one of four or five cars might have won before Steve Soper took the flag. Initially Rob Huff led a squabbling pack before his brakes cried enough after 13 laps. Rob Hall and Mike Jordan then scrapped furiously until the pit stops for driver changes where Andrew Jordan swept past Hall’s co-driver, Scott Walker. The Hall/Walker car then dropped down the order as the Jordans, who had started down in 14th, looked set for a comfortable win from the Ellerbrock/Stippler car which ground to a halt just one lap after setting the race’s fastest lap. With just 10 laps to go though, the leaders suffered a wheel bearing failure handing the lead to Soper who had the Phil Keen/Oliver Bryant GT40 right on his tail. Unfortunately this dice was only to last another three laps before Keen’s oil warning light stayed resolutely on and he retired that car to avoid any engine damage.  That left Soper to cruise home in the dark to take a 22 second victory from Tony Wood/Martin Stretton with Joaquin Folch/Simon Hadfield a further 14 seconds back in third.

GT40

  Unlike the first of the revived Members Meetings a couple of years ago the “high speed demonstrations” were exactly that. After a lap behind a pace car the drivers are let off the leash to circulate as quickly as they are comfortable with. This made for a far greater spectacle for all concerned. In the demo for Group 5 sports prototypes the sight and sound of no less than seven Porsche 917Ks and six Ferrari 512s on full song was worth the price of the trip from Sydney all by itself. It led to one rather dapper elderly gentleman to lean in close to me and whisper, “You know, my dear fellow, this could just make a chap unseemingly aroused.” It was impossible to disagree with his sentiment.

  In another demonstration event for ground effect Formula one cars, unofficial timing suggested that the lap record had been well and truly shattered by Rob Hall in the stunning (both in looks and sound)  Ligier Matra JS17 while Dario Franchitti announced that it would be “impolite not to have a go” in the unique, twin chassis, Lotus 88B. Amongst others, Classic Team Lotus showed up with an example of every ground effect Lotus built although sadly the glorious Martini Lotus 80, in original no wing, all skirt, configuration, was just a static display. In all there were over 30 F1 cars involved including examples from Tyrell, Williams, Brabham, Fittipaldi, Arrows, Shadow, a pair of V12 Alfa Romeos and Gilles Villeneuve’s 1980 Ferrari 312T5.

JS17

  Sunday’s racing got off to a potentially disastrous start with an almighty accident involving Stephen Bond in a Lotus 18 which was clipped by the spinning Cooper T51 of Richard Wilson at the end of the first lap. This sent Bond’s Lotus into a series of barrel rolls which ended with the car plunging into the pedestrian under-pass. Amazingly Bond suffered just a broken collar bone but even more fortunately, no spectators were even slightly injured. (a link to a video of the accident follows  -http://www.speedcafe.com/2016/03/22/video-miracle-escape-in-goodwood-f1-crash/ ) Bond was assisted from his car by one of the lucky spectators using the tunnel at the time and there was a 40 minute stoppage as the mangled Lotus was recovered. The Brooks Trophy was then reduced to a ten lap sprint in which Barry Cannell in another Cooper T51 just held off Nick Adams in the four wheel drive Fergusson P99.

  Thus began a series of races that were interrupted by safety car periods and accidents, the number of which I have rarely seen at Goodwood. The Derek Bell up for Formula 3 cars managed just a handful of laps after some early incidents and was won by Andrew Hibberd in a 1966 Brabham BT18. After the Edwardian leviathans managed to complete their race uninterrupted the Graham Hill Trophy for 60’s GT cars was also blighted by a safety car period after Karsten le Blanc pranged his AC Cobra heavily at Fordwater. After a final three lap sprint James Cottingham held off Andrew Smith for a Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe 1-2.

  Things seemed to be getting back on track after Grahame and Oliver Bryant in a thundering Chevy Camaro doggedly chased down the Rover 3500 SDI of Chris Ward and Gordon Sheddon with just three laps to go to win the Gerry Marshall Trophy. Then followed the days second almighty accident when Dutchman Michael Smits comprehensively demolished both his Lola T70 Spyder and the tyre barriers at Woodcote nearing the end of lap one of the Bruce McLaren Trophy. With a delay of more than an hour while Michiel was extricated and airlifted to hospital and repairs made to the barriers the race was eventually abandoned with just two laps in the books. Happily although Michiel suffered multiple fractures, including several vertebrae, he is reported to be in a satisfactory condition and expected to make a full recovery.

T20

  From then on the remaining races were all reduced to 10 lap sprints and even then the final race was run in ever increasing darkness. The Parnell cup went to Will Nuthall in a Cooper T20 from the similarly equipped Eddie McGuire and Mark Valvekens Gordini T16. The Whitmore up ended in a Lotus Cortina 1-2-3 won by Richard Meaden while the final race of the event went to the thunderous Cunningham CR4 of Ben Shuckburgh from an entertaining battle between Steven Boultbee Brooks in an Aston Martin DB3S and the energetically driven HWM Cadillac of Richard Woolmer.

  So as night descended over the South Sussex dales we departed the scene delighted once again with the amazing programme and array of historic racers that are always provided by Lord March and his team, even though there were so many interruptions on the Sunday, but also a little anxious, as the condition of Bond and Smits was at that time unknown. Every time I leave Goodwood I wonder how the GRRC can outdo itself again and every time I turn up, I find out.

Sam Snape

22-03 2016

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Groupe Renault completes the acquisition of Lotus F1 Team

On Friday 18 December 2015, Groupe Renault and Gravity Motorsport S.a.rl, an affiliate of Genii Capital SA, formally and successfully completed the acquisition by Groupe Renault  of a controlling shareholding of Lotus F1 Team Limited. 
 
The new team name, full management structure, team partners and other details will be announced during an event to be held in Paris in February.
 
In the interim, a new board of directors has been appointed, with Jérôme Stoll as Chairman and Cyril Abiteboul as Managing Director.   

 
Following the signing of a letter of intent by Groupe Renault and Gravity Motorsport S.a.rl on 28 September 2015, the parties entered into the various agreements on 3 December 2015. Since then, all parties involved have been working relentlessly to comply with all of the contractual and legal obligations under the agreements to enable the transaction to successfully complete. The technical teams are making good progress to have the 2016 car ready for testing in Barcelona at the end of February.   
 
Story by Lotus

Renault announces return to Formula 1 in 2016

• Carlos Ghosn announces his decision that Renault will return to Formula 1 with its own team for 2016 season.
 
• Renault, 12-time Constructors’ Champion with nearly 40 years in the sport, is an iconic brand in Formula 1 and intends to play an active role in the sport’s development.
 
• F1 is a technology showcase and accelerates development of Renault’s innovation and range of sports cars.
 
Following the September announcement of the signing of a Letter of Intent with Lotus F1 Team, teams at Renault continued to evaluate the possibility of a return to Formula 1. Particular attention was paid to competing successfully with its own team in a financially sound way starting in 2016.
 
“Renault had two options: to come back at 100 percent or leave. After a detailed study, I have decided that Renault will be in Formula 1, starting 2016. The final details supplied by F1’s main stakeholders gave us the confidence to accept this new challenge. Our ambition is to win--even if it will take some time,” said Carlos Ghosn, Chairman and CEO, Renault.
 
As a full team, Renault will take maximum benefit from its victories. The payback as an engine supplier proved to be limited. The return on the investment necessitated by the new engine regulations and the return in terms of image were low. 
 
Work continues on finalizing the terms of the acquisition of Lotus F1 Team in the shortest timeframe possible. The principal contracts were signed on December 3, 2015. Lotus F1 Team effectively stands out as the best partner. Renault and Lotus F1 Team have known each other for 15 years and were world champions together in 2005 and 2006.
 
Renault has had uninterrupted involvement in Formula 1 for almost 40 years. In 1977, it revolutionised the championship with the introduction of turbocharging, a technique that soon became the norm in the sport. Renault has since taken part in more than 600 grand prix, claiming 168 race wins, 12 Constructors’ titles and 11 Drivers’ crowns.
 
Renault’s decision to continue its involvement in Formula 1 is confirmation that it sees motorsport as an essential part of the brand’s identity. Formula 1 is the ultimate symbol of the passion for automobiles. Passion defines Renault as expressed by its brand signature, ‘Passion for Life’. In addition to attracting many customers, Formula 1 also fuels employee motivation. As the pinnacle of motor sport, Formula 1 demands technological and operational excellence. The championship serves as a showcase for the technological expertise that Renault dials into its products for the benefit of its customers.
 
Formula 1 is a means for Renault to accelerate development and remain at the forefront of the sport’s technological progress. It simultaneously allows Renault to build bridges between the advanced technologies seen in the world championship and its road cars, particularly in the fields of electric and hybrid vehicles. Consistent with its commitment to F1, Renault will develop its R.S. range by stepping up investment in order to be active on every continent and in even more segments with vehicles that meet the needs of their different markets.
 
Formula 1 serves to promote awareness of the Renault brand and its image in all its markets across the world. Formula 1 is one of the sports that enjoys the most media coverage worldwide thanks to a following on five continents, particularly in emerging markets. It attracts 450 million television viewers annually and its scope for growth is enormous thanks to opportunities founded on new technologies, social networks, video games, etc. that have yet to be fully exploited.
 
In January, we will provide more detailed information about Renault’s F1 programme ahead of the 2016 championship that begins next March.
 
Article thanks to Lotus

Lotus F1 Team announce Jolyon Palmer as race driver for 2016

Jolyon Palmer steps up to a race seat in 2016Lotus F1 Team is pleased to announce that Third and Reserve driver Jolyon Palmer has been promoted to a race seat for the 2016 season, completing the team’s driver line-up alongside Pastor Maldonado.  


Jolyon, 24, has driven for the team in the majority of this season’s Free Practice 1 sessions, and will be back in the E23 Hybrid at this weekend’s United States Grand Prix. He joined Lotus F1 Team in January, following an outstanding GP2 campaign in 2014 where he won the championship in dominant fashion, becoming the first British driver to win the GP2 Series since Lewis Hamilton in 2006.
 
Gerard Lopez, Chairman and Team Principal, Lotus F1 Team:
“We are very pleased to announce that exciting British racing talent Jolyon Palmer is promoted to a race seat with the team for next season. We’ve seen Jolyon’s hard work and talent this season in the way he’s approached his third driver role and he is a really popular choice for the team. As well as having a great future ahead of him behind the wheel, Jolyon is an intelligent and highly marketable asset to the team. He deserves this opportunity, and everyone at Enstone is excited to see what he can achieve next year.”
 
Jolyon Palmer, 2015 Lotus F1 Team, Third and Reserve driver; 2016 race driver:
“I’m obviously delighted that I’ll be racing in Formula 1 next year. Lotus F1 Team gave me a tremendous opportunity this season and I thank them for assisting my development to a level where they have put their trust in me for a crucial season in their evolution. I’ve enjoyed and learnt a lot from my year as Third and Reserve driver so I’m looking forward to putting this into practice as a race driver in 2016. I can’t wait for next season to get underway!”

Story & photo by Lotus