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EXPAT EXPLOITS 8/8/07

This week around the globe

 

  Another weekend, another Grand Prix and another completely reliable race for the Red Bull team. In Hungary, for the second race in a row both cars finished without any mechanical woes although this time, neither scored any points. Coulthard never really looked likely to do so but Webber fell foul, once again, to bad strategy from the team.

This week around the globe

   Another weekend, another Grand Prix and another completely reliable race for the Red Bull team. In Hungary, for the second race in a row both cars finished without any mechanical woes although this time, neither scored any points. Coulthard never really looked likely to do so but Webber fell foul, once again, to bad strategy from the team. It wasn't nearly as bad as that atrocious pit stop call in Canada, but the decision to leave Mark on a three stop strategy when most of his rivals switched to two stop races definitely cost him at least one point, if not two. Webber again out-qualified his team-mate to take 10th place and a spot on the dirty side of the grid. "I'd have been happier to qualify 11th" was his view of the result. After being 7th quickest in the 2nd qualifying session he had hoped that he would have had been a bit further up the grid. The outlook improved over night though when Fisichella was penalised for blocking Yamamoto (why?? - not why was he penalised but why in God's name would you bother?) during qualifying and so lined up 9th on the starting grid and now on the grippier side of the track. He made a fine start, getting past Trulli to end the first lap in eighth place and briefly bounced up to seventh when he passed Alonso who had run wide at the final turn. Alonso soon got back through and Webber ran the rest of the first stint in a solid and safe eighth. This became third for a while during the first pit stop window as he ran a few laps longer but when he stopped, the team turned him around quickly, not changing his three stop strategy as had most of the other teams. This call ended his chances. Through the remaining two stints Webber ran quickly and comfortably in seventh and eighth but had to pit from seventh for a final fuel stop with just 10 laps to go. A stop that dropped him to ninth behind the Renault of Kovalainen, and on a track on which Alonso in a McLaren, who was regularly two seconds faster, could not get past Ralf Schumacher's Toyota, Webber had sod-all chance of getting back into the points. Good to see that they seem to have their reliability issues sorted out but in the end, a wasted opportunity.  Heading north to Finland and the 1000 Lakes Rally where Chris Atkinson’s Subaru team-mate, and former champ Petter Solberg had yet another retirement. Poor Petter actually looked scared from the cars handling and this time at least, was probably happy that his rally ended early. Chris Atkinson, on the other hand, started beautifully. He won the First stadium stage and then ran consistently in fourth place, increasing his lead over Petter's brother Henning with each stage. True, he also lost time to the three leaders on each stage but when those three are Loeb, Gronholm and "hairy" Hirvonen this is no disgrace. If you are wondering about the "hairy" nickname, just check out the footage of his sideways moment on day two. How he didn't roll beggars belief. On the final day Chris extended his lead over fifth place Henning Solberg through three blindingly fast stages and equalled his best finish this year to take fourth. This leaves him in seventh place in the championship with 20 points, just six behind team-mate Petter Solberg and only eight away from 4th place.  Meanwhile over at Brands Hatch the Superbike boys were in action. Race one was dominated by James Toseland, but behind him was all sorts of fun. For the first few laps there was a fine squabble between Haga, Corser and Pole man Bayliss until the latter lost the front end trying to out brake Corser into Druids. After being taken out in the last round in Brno by Muggeridge, this was another blow to Bayliss's title hopes. The first three then settled down to a fairly steady pace each separated by about a second. Behind them was a fine duel between the two Suzuki lads until Kagayama lost it in a big way at Clearways leaving Biaggi in forth. This became third, and Corser moved into second when "Nitro Nori" Haga'd himself going off the road at the exit of Surtees and dropping well down the field before fighting back to seventh. Series returnee Steve Martin finished 11th on his Yamaha while Muggeridge was classified 19th, two laps down on his Honda.  Broc Parkes turned things around for Australia by winning the Super Sports race on his Yamaha taking the lead after pressuring Craig Jones into dropping it at Clearways on lap 5. Parkes was then untroubled to the finish. Josh Brookes on the other hand retired after starting back in 15th.  Race two of the Superbikes was another easy win for Toseland with the best of the Aussies, again Troy Corser finishing just behind his team-mate, Nitro Nori, in third. Bayliss had another troubled race slipping back to seventh by the finish. Muggeridge managed to finish this time, but back down in 14th and Martin could only manage 16th. This has effectively ended any chance of an Australian champion this year with Bayliss now lying fourth, 97 points in arrears with just six races to go. Corser lies fifth another 31 point back. 

2006 Tasman Revival

Despite the best efforts of the weather, which alternated from sub-Saharan style heat on the Friday to Melbournian wind and rain for the next two days, industrial disputes and intransigent dock workers, the Tasman Revival meeting at Eastern Creek was an excellent first step in establishing an historic racing festival that may one day be spoken of in the same breath as England’s Goodwood Revival & the Laguna Seca meeting in the USA.

Let’s get the disappointments out of the way first, the few that there were. The weather over the weekend was chronic enough to keep all but the keenest anoraks away with a blisteringly hot first day. One entrant had a thermometer in the paddock which was reading 48 degrees in the shade. Mind you, plenty of that was coming back off the tarmac. Your current interlocutor made the mistake of sitting on a white concrete wall trackside during a break in the action. I believe that I may have left some skin behind. Come Saturday however, it struggled to break into the 20s and a brisk wind coupled with a thunderstorm made all photographers question their sanity. At least Sunday wasn’t wet. Just cold.

Ah well, not even the HSRCA can do much about the weather. This, coupled with a fairly limited advertising campaign meant that the crowds were quite small all weekend although this made for a rather relaxed atmosphere in the paddock, where one could move about without the aid of a broadsword.

The major disappointment of the weekend was that, due to the IR laws protest meetings on Thursday two containers of cars that had been brought all the way from the UK were either late or too late. The smaller crate containing a pair of Lotus’ arrived just in time for the Sunday final Tasman race but the larger one containing four cars, including the lovely ex-Rob Walker Racing Lotus 49 and the stunning Kieft GP, was still on the docks as the event ended. It is a great pity that Australian fans may never get to see these superb cars nor hear the astonishing sound of the Kieft’s Coventry Climax “Godiva” V8. In my (not so) humble opinion, that sound is only bettered by the 1.5 litre V16 Supercharged BRM. Those of you who ever heard the BRM in real life or on the “Into the Red” CD will know what I’m on about.

Now to the good stuff. And this may take a while. Although the theme of the event was covering the era of the Tasman Series (1964-69) the HSRCA had arranged for the inclusion of some stunning out of period entries. From New Zealand came the 1973 ex Denny Hulme McLaren M23, from the US was the 1972 Tyrrell 004 of Jackie Stewart, a Talbot Lago T26C and “Old Yeller 2”, which is worth a complete storey in its own right. It was built in the early 50s to combat the influx of the expensive European sports cars and took on, and often beat, the best from Ferrari and Maserati. Driven, not just by its owner Max Balchowsky, but also by the likes of Carroll Shelby and Dan Gurney, the car was a collection of parts purchased from local scrap yards. It may have looked like a mangy “Junk yard dog” but under the battered, faded yellow bodywork it was beautifully engineered. Many historic racing cars are now in much better condition than they ever were in period but thankfully the current owner, Californian Ernie Nagamatsu, understands the history of this car and has not made it look any better than its mangy beginnings. With a grin that lights up his entire face he describes the battered bodywork as being designed to make the car go faster. “You know, like the dimples on a golf ball.” With its booming Buick V8 and white-wall tyres it (and Ernie) quickly became a crowd favourite just as they have at Goodwood.

The local entries were pretty spectacular too. Michele Alboreto’s fire-spitting Turbocharged F1 Ferrari 156/85 from 1985, the sublime JPS Lotus 79 that took Mario Andretti to the ’78 World Championship, Jochen Rindt’s Gold Leaf sponsored Lotus 49, the Alec Mildren Racing Brabham BT23 Alfa Romeo V8 and a rarely seen trio of Matich sports cars.

The feature race, the Tasman Cup Revival Race was won by John Smith in the Gold Leaf Lotus 49 after a stirring battle with Spencer Martin in the Brabham Alfa. Martin was the only driver who had actually raced in the Tasman Series that took part in the race, although there were plenty on hand to watch. The likes of 1969 champ, Chris Amon, Kevin Bartlett, Graham McRae, Roly Levis, Clive Millis and Alfredo Costanzo all showed up to watch their former mounts get put through their paces. In the end Smith just pipped Martin by 0.238 of a second after Martin, who had taken the lead at turn 9, led onto the straight.

The other races were run in a slightly more leisurely fashion with good wins to Des Wall in the ex-Geoghegen Mustang and Keith Berryman in the Matich SR3.

With a packed programme of 53 races and over 400 entries this weekend was an enthusiasts delight and one can only hope that the HSRCA can turn it into an annual event. If they do, I’m sure that it will rapidly become the premier historic Motorsport event in the Southern hemisphere bringing in even larger international entries.

Sam Snape

6-12-2006

Goodwood Revival 2006

The advertising blurb describes it as a magical step back in time, and for once there is truth in advertising. Everything, from the stunning array of cars, to the staff, mechanics and most of the 100000 strong crowd who dress in period costume, to the squadron of Spitfires growling overhead. Everything helps you suspend reality and you may well believe that you are in fact at a 1950’s Goodwood race meeting. When Lord March first floated the idea that everyone should come in period dress most cynical press folk thought it would never work. It quickly did however, and now you are more likely to see kilts and deerstalkers than jeans and baseball caps. Those of you who are a bit self conscious may feel a little daft as you get ready to leave for the circuit on the Friday morning but as the weekend progresses you notice that it is the few spectators that dress in modern clothes who stand out like a sore thumb.

From the parking attendants wearing long white coats to the mechanics in their period overalls, women resplendent in dresses and fur stoles, kids in period school uniforms and gentlemen in sports jackets and ties, or those that elect to go in military outfits, everyone gets into the spirit of things for what is essentially a marvelous, three day fancy dress party. And of course, there is some brilliant motor racing as well.

Even getting to the circuit is part of the enjoyment. You could just take the motorway and save about ten minutes but where would be the fun in that? It is best to arrive from the north, even if you are coming from the south, as the drive through the country lanes in the South West Sussex Downs is just splendid. You motor through the rolling hills and valleys that are so green they are almost glowing then you pass through a dark green tunnel of trees through the forest where only a few rays of sunlight break through, ignore the cops attempting to herd you in to the wrong parking area and arrive at your destination.

If you have timed it right you exit the car to the growling roar of a couple of Rolls Royce Merlin Supercharged 12 cylinder aero engines as the Spitfires or Mustangs go thundering their way past at maybe 50 feet or so. The period feel is immediate as you stroll past the ancient busses, breath in the scent of cooking bacon, pass the child playing on the swing made from rope & an old tyre, the mods squabbling with the rockers, the military medical tent surrounded with jeeps, the Bobbies directing traffic. All this even before you see a single race car.

And what a sublime collection of race cars there are. Everything from Alfas, Ferraris, Aston Martins, Maseratis and Bentleys to Mark 1 Jaguars, Morris Minors and Austin A35s. Some of them are there year after year, but there is also something new each time. Like the Gordini T16, that still leaks water everywhere, or Peter Brock’s FX Holden, which had been built up in just three months.

Brock, who also drove a Corvette Sting Ray, was just one of numerous Australians in the field this year. Bob Harborow was there again with the stunning Mark 1 Maybach that Stan Jones had driven with such success here in the early 50’s and Ray Jones had his 1925 Chrysler powered Bluebird Special on hand for the Brooklands Trophy. Former World Champ Alan Jones also turned up to drive yet another Corvette Sting Ray in the RAC T.T. race and a splendid BMW 502 V8 in the St Mary’s Trophy for touring cars. Absent, unfortunately was Greg Snape in the glorious Kieft GP car that he drove with some success at Goodwood last year and also at the Monaco Historic meeting in May. Wayne Gardner again dominated the Barry Sheene Memorial Trophy for motorcycles, this time on a Matchless G50. He qualified an astonishing 4 seconds faster than the second quickest rider and won the first 8 lap heat by over 20 seconds.

Bob Harborow controlled the big Maybach well in the wet Glover Trophy race for pre-war GP cars but could only manage to finish 14th, one lap down one the winning Maseratis. This was followed by an exciting battle in the Chichester Cup for front engined Formula Junior cars in which the winning pair was separated by just two tenths of a second at the flag. Next up was the Fordwater Trophy for sports and GT cars which was dominated by a pair of Morgan Plus 4 SLRs who beat an impressive field that included a lovely Porsche-Abarth Carrera GTL and a pack of Austin Healy Sebring Sprites, one driven to 11th place by Sir Stirling Moss.

Frank Sytner and Nick Whale had a terrific scrap in the Whitsun Trophy for Sports Prototypes in which Sytner in a Lola T70 Spyder just held out Whale’s McLaren M1B for the win. Not only did this race contain the Lolas and McLarens but three Ford GT40s and David Pipers glorious Ferrari 330 P4, one of only three ever built.

The St Mary’s Trophy was split into two heats with Derek Bell in a Jaguar Mk1 just pipping a dramatic Tony Jardine in an Austin A35. Brock finished an excellent fourth in the first heat and was awarded the “Spirit of Goodwood Award” for his performance in the Holden FX. The second heat had the same two cars winning this time driven by Barry Williams in the Jag and Rae Davis in the Austin. Unfortunately the oil pressure had dropped in the Holden so co-driver Bob Harborow was not able to start in the second heat.

Next was the Glover Trophy for 1½ litre Formula One cars, which featured two excellent scraps. Duncan Dayton beat home Bobby Rahal, both in Brabham BT11s and Richard Attwood in his BRM P261 swapped places several times with James Hanson’s Scirocco before cementing third place.

Sunday dawned still damp, which made for some entertaining, and very sideways, driving in the first race, the Brooklands Trophy. This race is a recent addition and has become one of the most popular over the last three years, featuring such beautiful machinery as Bugatti T35s and Mercedes SSKLs. It was won, not surprisingly, by Mark Hales in one of the Bugattis from Andrew Bell in an Aston Martin Speed Model. Unfortunately Julian Majzub was an early retirement in the fire spitting Bentley “Pacey Hassan Special” while Ray Jones in the Bluebird Special finished in 16th place.

Following this was the Richmond Trophy for front engined Formula One cars (1948-61) which was one by Gary Pearson’s BRM P25 from Gregor Fiskin in a Ferrari D246 and the spectacular Barry Williams in the four-wheel drive Ferguson P99. In the RAC T.T. race Barazi and Vergers had an easy win in the lightweight E-Type Jaguar from Bendall and Manning in the earth-shatteringly loud AC Cobra and the exuberantly driven Ferrari 330 LMB of Hardman and Minassian. Both Brock’s and Jones’ Corvettes retired at about mid race. McLaren F1 designer Adrian Newey added to the list of historic cars he has bent recently when he stuffed his lightweight E-Type Jag into the wall on his very first practice lap. He had also destroyed his Ford GT40 at the Le Mans Classic meeting a few months ago. I guess we now know what he will be spending all those Red Bull dollars on.

Both Gary Pearson and Jaguar (this time a long-nose D-Type) had another win in the Sussex Trophy from Jean-Marc Gounon in an Aston Martin DBR2 and Shaun Lynn’s Lister-Jaguar. This race also included two very sexy Ferrari 246S Dinos, two Maserati “Birdcage” T61s and the stunning Chaparral 1 of Rob Walton that finished fifth and set the fastest lap.

The final race of this marvelous weekend was the Madgwick Cup for sports prototypes in which Simon Hadfield in an Elva-BMW had a relatively easy victory over Tony Hancock’s Lotus 23B and Danny Wright’s Cooper Monaco. Carlos Monteverde again bent the nose of his yellow Ferrari 206SP Dino. Some things never change.

Then it was all over for another year. As one mechanic put it to me, “Even when the weather is miserable, it’s bloody marvelous.” A magical step back in time? Yes indeed. Most definitely!

Sam Snape

5-9-06

PREPARING FOR PARADISE

OR, THE TERRIFYING TAILS OF THE (IN)TREPID TRAVELLER.

Evenin all, it’s gloat mail time again.

Sam has once again buggered off to blighty and is preparing, as we speak, so to speak, to enter heaven & worship at the feet of his (mine) Gods at Goodwood. As is usually the case the story begins well before departure and is filled with excitement, near misses, non misses and mirth.

As is always the case, the moment I purchased the airline tickets, planes began to drop with monotonous regularity from the place where they are supposed to be (ie; above the ground) to where they are most assuredly not. (ie; on, or in some parts, below the ground) The actual day I was to go and pick up the tickets from the travel agent (Hi Georgie, love your work – more of that later) I bounded from bed with a glad cry, actually more of a scream of agony – nasty cramp in calf, but I digress, and staggered into the bathroom to have a shower. As is my way I bung on the radio to catch the news of the day & what is the very first subject reported? Airline crash in the Ukraine. If Osama could bring down as many aircraft with such certainty as I seem to be able to do the travel industry would grind to a halt in weeks. No point buggering about with explosives, just get Sam to buy an airline ticket. Don’t even have to use it. Like last year, bought a ticket, planes crashed ( about 5 in 3 weeks) Ross tried to kill himself, hot water system committed suicide, so did cars water pump, didn’t get on plane. Foolproof. Good thing is, at least for me anyway, not quite so good for those flying before me, is that it all comes to a halt as soon as I actually get onto the pane.

As usual subscribers will know, there is usually a series of unfortunate events that occur prior to my departure. It is as if the travel gods must test my mettle every time to ascertain whether I am worthy of relocation. The first such event came on the Tuesday, just seven days before taking flight, when I was in the middle of at least a five car pile-up on the freeway going to work. ( I am aware that some of you already know this part of the story but others don’t so you will just have to scroll down a bit and stop bitching! God some of you people are impatient.) I was in the process of changing lanes to overtake when everyone in front of me decided to stop for some reason. A reason that will not become apparent. The ute to my front right could not decide quite which direction was going to cause the most carnage and after several changes of mind, sideswiped the car to my front left sending it into the rock wall, changed his mind again and drove head first into the wall on his right. Several cars behind me decided that imitation was indeed the sincerest for of flattery and executed the exactly same maneuver. Me? Well straight up the bloody middle of course. Came out without a scratch. Bit of weaving involved, but that’s only to be expected. Crap flying everywhere, didn’t hit a thing that I know of. Out the other side of this carambolage to………nothing. No traffic, no cars, no, well, nothing. No bloody explanation at all. Should have known that this was a forewarning of doom to come.

Wednesday, nothing. Thursday, went to get some milk in the morning. On the drive back, heading into such blinding sun that the car in front of me drove straight into the gutter & took off both left hand hubcaps. Me being the silly bugger I am, has a chuckle all the way home, not thinking that karma lay in wait. Two near misses were not going to go unpaid for. Reversed down driveway. Muffler hanging a bit too low. Catches on lip of concrete at the front of garage and tears out the entire exhaust system. Yeah, yeah, very bloody funny Hughie! Was going to put the car into the mechanics on Monday morning anyway for (yep, you guessed it) replacing the exhaust manifold which had a hole in it. Only needed the bloody thing to last another five sodding days. Instead, hire car, $300 down the drain. Still, that fact that just the previous weekend I had been sold an identical BMW 520i for $300 to use as spares on wheels means that the parts will be cheap. Ah well, what goes around, comes around. And smacks you in the back of the fucking head with a sledgehammer.

Arrived at the airport well ahead of time, had a drinkie with Toni, re-arranged my camera gear & luggage as per new security regs, attempted to use my frequent flyer points to get an upgrade to business class but was turned down, checked in & meandered through to the duty free claims desk. (Had to claim the duty on the monster lens). For those of you that worked at Vendor this will be interesting, for those of you who didn’t, well, just deal with it. Wandered up to the girl at the desk to ask if I was in the right place when she took me by surprise. “Don’t you recognize me?” Errr, nope. Stare at her right tit ( that was where her ID tag was). Bugger me, Rowena Dagelet working for customs. Small world. Spent a bit of time catching up & sauntered off to the Qantas Club for a free drinkie. Got said drinkie & settled down for the long wait until the flight was called. Didn’t realize just how long all this had taken & had to scull said drinkie & do the bolt. Got to the gate & handed over boarding pass and was asked to go to other desk as the boarding pass had to be changed. Machine that printed boarding passes was on the fritz. Waited, waited, waited some more and then waited again. Finally the machine was coaxed into life & it spits out my new pass.

WooHoo… free upgrade to business class all the way over to London. Silly buggers gave me for free what I had offered to use my frequent flyer points on. Champagne on boarding, Glenlivett single malt scotch, cognac in the coffee, Mr Snape this and Mr Snape that (the hosties have to remember all your names), decent food, a seat you can actually lie down & get some sleep in and express immigration checking at Heathrow. Damn, one could get used to this. Seems that some Qantas Club members had been upgraded as they had oversold the cattle class. As the difference between cattle & bus class is usually about $5000, the $3000 I spent on that life time membership just paid for itself. The free booze in the lounges are from here on in just one big bloody bonus.

Arrived & picked up a rather sporty VW Golf GTi (Nice pair of upgrades Georgina, thanks babe) with so many electronic do-dads it has taken two days to figure out how to get the boot to open. Still, the sports option sequential gearbox has been fun to test out. Absolute fang machine. Only thing so far (apart from the boot issue) is an alarming lack of grunt in first gear if you are going through a round-about after cruising along for a while. Seems to need to reconsider if it will actually have any power at all. First time I thought it had stalled but then in came the power. Best way to describe it is like a sort of evil turbo lag on a non turbo car. Weird. Still you do get used to it after a while.

Drove down to Dorchester & booked into a quite ples B&B for the night. Thought I would go back to the Bovington Tank Museum. Shit! School holidays & ten million brats. Damned place was packed. Went back to town, had a cream tea and went to the pub for a pint of bitter or two. Contrary to all conventional wisdom there are some good restaurants in England. Just not English ones. Had a very good Chinese feed, went back to the digs and crashed at about 8;30. Fifty odd hours on the go will do that for you. Damned fine breakie & off again.

Went to see the ancient “White Horse” on the hill. Followed a builder’s truck owned by the comfortingly named Crumbleholme Ltd. Passed through the pretty little town of Poxwell. Glad to know they got over it. Not a very sporting mob though, had signs advising of slow pedestrians. Much more of a challenge to nail the quick ones. Note to self, very disappointing result, must try harder.

Back to Bovington, no brats, had good look around and hit the road again. Checked into the regular digs at Emsworth, had a glass or two (well three to be precise) of red while writing this tosh, downloaded 90 odd pics from the camera to the laptop and will now settle down to await my entry to paradise on Friday. Thank Christ for the pommies, for only they could have come up with the Goodwood Revival meeting.

FUSB

Sam

UNITED STATES GRAND FARCE

What a cock-up. What a bunch of bloody minded, utterly idiotic, moronic fools. The cock-up was all Michelin. Although there were extenuating circumstances, not taking tyres that would survive the race was an enormous blunder. The fools? Yet again Ferrari and the FIA combined to bring the sport into disgrace. By refusing to compromise, they have quite probably ended any chance of F1 becoming a major sport in the United States, a very, very important financial market.

It all began quite normally, just five days after another exciting race in Canada, with the teams all venturing out for the first practice session on Friday morning. Apart from Raikkonen, all drivers went out as the track had been resurfaced prior to the Indy 500 to produce more grip through the banked corners and as none of the teams could test at this track during the year, they all needed the mileage to get the set-up right. For the first time since Michael Andretti’s pathetic attempt in 1993, the US had a driver on the track. Young Red Bull GP2 pilot, Scott Speed gave the locals something to cheer about being given the Friday testing duties again in place of Liuzzi. It turned out that this was about the only thing the locals would be cheering all weekend. And he didn’t do a bad job either. Splitting the two race drivers in the first session just one tenth down on Coulthard for 15th and then finishing 8th in session two would have sent most of the crowd home happy at the end of the day. Apart from that it was business as usual at the front. The McLaren duo sat at the top of the timesheets and probably the only surprise was that for once, both the Ferrari’s were well up. The other noticeable thing was that the Toyotas were further down the sheets than normal. This turned out to be because of a couple of left rear tyre failures. One had gone on Zonta’s car while he was in the slow infield section and he limped back to the pits with no real damage. The other, however, went on Ralf Schumacher’s car as he flew through the banked final turn, and in a repeat of last year, his car slammed backwards into the concrete barrier at well over 180 miles per hour. The car was comprehensively destroyed but luckily Ralf was able to walk away. He was taken to hospital as a precaution, and after complaining of blurred vision, he was ruled out of the US Grand Prix for the second year in a row.

Throughout the afternoon and the night, Michelin technicians tried in vain to replicate and therefore, understand the tyre failures. When they were unable to do this they advised their teams not to run on their tyres until further examination had been done. So Saturday’s first practice session began with just the six Bridgestone runners until late in the session when Coulthard in the Red Bull and Montoya in a McLaren ventured out with vastly different tyre pressures and suspension set-ups than the previous day. Even then, Montoya was able to set the fastest time, more than a full second faster than Michael Schumacher. Checking the tyres after this, Michelin again advised their teams that they could not guarantee the safety of their rubber and that they should not consider racing on them. The failure of Michelin to supply at least one compound of tyre that was durable enough to survive was a major error. Despite the abrasive nature of the new track surface and the inability to test there, it was not something that ever should have happened. Bridgestone for example, had no excess wear or structural issues with their tyres all weekend. Unfortunately, it was at this time that the stupidity started.

Michelin requested that it be allowed to bring another compound of tyre over for the race and their teams accepted that this would incur a penalty. The FIA, stating that this would contravene five different rules, rejected this request out of hand. There was at least an almost understandable reason for this. The reason that tyre suppliers have to nominate their compounds a week before the race, and are allowed only two different compounds per race, is to avoid the use of qualifying specials that would last only a couple of laps. The FIA’s argument being that a tyre company could turn up to each race with super sticky “quallies” which would put them at the front of the grid, then claim that they were not safe and change them for a compound that was designed for the race distance. The problem with that argument is that if any supplier that did that on more than one occasion it would be rather obvious that they were cheating and would most likely be banned from F1. The other reason that no tyre company would do that is the same reason that they are in racing to begin with. Publicity. No tyre company in their right mind would want to let the world know that there product is “unsafe”. That Michelin publicly admitted their blunder instead of denying the problem and allowing the drivers to risk their lives is actually a credit to them.

While this quarrel was going on the second practice session started with all teams hitting the track. Again the McLarens were at the top along with Button’s BAR and Alonso’s Renault. All Michelin runners were using the different tyre pressures and suspension set-ups that would be safe for short practice runs and qualifying but again, could not be guaranteed as safe for the race distance.

The Michelin runners then requested that, if they were not allowed to have new tyres, a chicane be installed prior to the final, flat-out banked turn so that cars would not be at full speed if there was another failure. Even Bridgestone runners, Jordan and Minardi agreed to this suggestion but it was blocked by, guess who, Ferrari, who didn’t want to lose their unexpected advantage over the field. The Michelin runners then suggested that they would accept starting at the back of the grid or even from pit-lane if the chicane was installed but again Ferrari would not agree.

Meanwhile, qualifying went on and Toyota and McLaren, figuring that it was very unlikely that they would be racing on Sunday sent Jarno Trulli and Kimi Raikkonen out with the absolute minimum of fuel and, not surprisingly, captured the first two spots on the grid giving Toyota its very first Pole Position. The runners that carried race fuel loads were at least six tenths of a second slower with Button and Fisichella being the best in front of the Ferraris and this is basically the competitive part of the weekend finished.

From this point thing just descended into high farce. Overnight Frank Williams even offered that the Michelin seven would race and accept no points if the chicane was installed, not even something that Ferrari could refuse. But Ferrari never got the chance. The FIA, incredibly refused to install the chicane on safety grounds. They claimed that installing the chicane overnight and racing on the circuit without any testing was dangerous. What UTTER bullshit!!! Back in 1994, while Mosley was FIA president, a chicane was installed on the night before the Spanish Grand Prix for safety reasons after Andrea Montermini had broken his legs in an accident at the last corner. And what was to stop all teams having another practice session on the Sunday morning, where the qualifying session was just a few weeks ago, to get used to the chicane. Mosley then put forward three absolutely ludicrous suggestions of his own. One was that the seven teams could switch to Bridgestone tyres for the race. That Bridgestone did not have enough tyres for anything more than their three teams, or that contractual obligations to Michelin, or the safety matter of running cars on tyres that they were not designed for seemingly did not concern him. His second bright idea was that the seven teams could all “slow down” through the final banked turn. The after-effects of say, a McLaren in the lead, suddenly slowing in a corner whilst it had a flat out Ferrari right behind it does not bear imagining. The danger to not only the drivers but the spectators would be horrendous. His third, and equally stupid suggestion was that the teams could run through the pit lane instead of the last turn. Great, except that every car would have to troll down the pit lane with their speed limiter on and would be losing about 20 seconds per lap.

Come Sunday morning, the seven teams had been advised by Michelin that they would not be supplying tyres for the race unless the chicane was installed and with the FIA’s intransigence this condemned them all to withdrawing from the race. After a lengthy meeting with Bernie Ecclestone, Charlie Whiting, all team bosses (except Ferrari) and all drivers, Jordan and Minardi also agreed that if the Michelin runners could not race, then they would not either. This would mean that they would run the race with a chicane, as a non championship race, with or without Ferrari, or all withdraw and leave just Ferrari to take the start. Minardi’s Paul Stoddard later reported "Most present felt the only option was to install the chicane and race, if necessary, without Ferrari, but with 18 cars, in what would undoubtedly be a non-Championship race. We discussed with Bernie the effects of the FIA withdrawing its staff, and agreed among ourselves a race director, a safety car driver, and other essential positions, and all agreed that, under the circumstances, what was of paramount importance was that the race must go ahead. All further agreed that since we would most likely be denied FIA facilities, such as scales and post-race scrutineering, every competitor would instruct his team and drivers to conduct themselves in the spirit of providing an entertaining race for the good of F1."As the day progressed Jordan, whose team manager, Colin Kolles, has about as many friends in the paddock as Jean Todt reneged on this deal so that they would earn a large points hall so long as they finished and the Jordans were the first cars to take their place on the grid. Stoddard only realized that Kolles had broken his word when the Jordans drove out of the pitlane and this forced the Minardi boss’s hand. As Jordan is the only team that Minardi is in direct competition with they also had to race. It’s probably wise that Stoddard left his press release until the following Wednesday instead of immediately after the race, his opinions of Kolles were most likely unprintably.

All the cars lined up on the grid and discussions continued. The cars did their warm up lap and the Michelin runners had no choice but to pull their cars into the pit lane and out of the race. The race itself, with just six cars, who gives a toss. In the most important market that F1 travels to, and the one that they have tried so hard and for so long to break into, this fiasco has possibly buried any hopes of another US Grand Prix for at least a decade. The stupidity of the FIA to allow this to happen there is just mind blowing.

The final insult, ITV captured Bernie talking to Paul Stoddard (Minardi), Nick Fry (BAR) and Christian Horner (Red Bull) on the grid before the start. “I don’t care!” said Bernie as he walked away. Well you mightn’t, Bernie, but some of us sure as hell do.

RESULT/DRIVER CAR LAPS/GAP COMMENTS 1 Michael Schumacher Ferrari 73/1"29'43.181 Ave Speed 123.526 mph/198.754 kph 2 Rubens Barrichello Ferrari +0'01.522 - 3 Tiago Montiero Jordan 72 - 4 Narain Karthikeyan Jordan 72 - 5 Christijan Albers Minardi 71 - 6 Patrick Friesacher Minardi 71 - RETIREMENTS NS Jarno Trulli Toyota - Michelin tyres considered unsafe NS Kimi Raikkonen McLaren - Michelin tyres considered unsafe NS Jenson Button BAR - Michelin tyres considered unsafe NS Giancarlo Fisichella Renault - Michelin tyres considered unsafe NS Fernando Alonso Renault - Michelin tyres considered unsafe NS Takuma Sato BAR - Michelin tyres considered unsafe NS Mark Webber Williams - Michelin tyres considered unsafe NS Felipe Massa Sauber - Michelin tyres considered unsafe NS Juan Pablo Montoya McLaren - Michelin tyres considered unsafe NS Jacques Villeneuve Sauber - Michelin tyres considered unsafe NS Ricardo Zonta Toyota - Michelin tyres considered unsafe NS Christian Klien Red Bull - Michelin tyres considered unsafe NS David Coulthard Red Bull - Michelin tyres considered unsafe NS Nick Heidfeld Williams - Michelin tyres considered unsafe

FASTEST LAP Michael Schumacher 1'11.497

LAP RECORD Rubens Barrichello 1'10.399 2004 Ferrari F2004

LEADERS Michael Schumacher 51 (1-26,49-73) Rubens Barrichello 22 (27-48)

POINTSCORE Alonso 59 Raikkonen 37 M.Schumacher 34 Barrichello 29 Trulli 27 Heidfeld 25 Webber 22 R.Schumacher 20 Fisichella 17 Coulthard 17 Montoya 16 Massa 7 Wurz 6 Montiero 6 Villeneuve 5 Karthikeyan 5 De la Rosa 4 Klien 4 Albers 4 Friesacher 3 Liuzzi 1

Renault 76 McLaren-Mercedes 63 Ferrari 63 Toyota 47 Williams-BMW 47 Red Bull-Cosworth 22 Sauber-Ferrari 12 Jordan-Toyota 11 Minardi-Cosworth 7

Sam Snape

24-6-05