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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

CANADIAN GRAND PRIX

This season of ever changing fortunes continued last Sunday with the final result basically canceling out the dramatic last lap of the European Grand Prix two weeks ago. Then Fernando Alonso was able to take advantage of Kimi Raikkonen’s awful luck to add ten valuable points to his hall and extend his championship lead to 32 points. This time Alonso, and most of the other front running drivers retired leaving Raikkonen to claim the win, the 10 points, and get back into the hunt for the title.

The list of retirements was remarkable, given the reliability of the teams over the past couple of seasons. Pole sitter, Jenson Button, both Renaults, Trulli, Heidfeld and Sato all fell out of the race and Montoya was disqualified. All this and a safety car late in the race left Raikkonen at the front ahead of two moderately competitive Ferraris that would have struggled to make the top six had this carnage not occurred. Raikkonen made a good start from seventh on the grid to pass both Sato and Schumacher before the first corner and was then bottled up behind his team-mate and the rather slow Button as the Renaults pulled away at the front. Button had used very little fuel to claim his pole position and therefore pitted as early as lap 15 and that released the McLaren duo to chase down the Renaults. This they did, consistently lapping faster than the leaders and apart from a mistake on the exit from the pits, Montoya would have passed Alonso for second place on lap 25. At this point Fisichella led from his team-mate Alonso, who had been quicker up to this point but could not find a way past, with the rapidly closing Montoya and Raikkonen next up. It all pointed to a grandstand finish with four of the most exciting drivers of the year set to do battle.

Unfortunately for us it then all disintegrated. Fisichella, who had a blinder of a start from fourth on the grid to the lead at the first corner, who had looked comfortable in the lead, had a hydraulic failure on lap 32 and pulled into the pits looking utterly gutted. Alonso took over the lead from his team-mate and upped the pace in an attempt to pull away from Montoya only to clip the wall with his right rear tyre just six laps later and retire with a broken suspension.

Montoya now led from Raikkonen, Button, Michael Schumacher, Trulli, Massa and Heidfeld with Barrichello still down in tenth, having started from the pit lane. On lap 43 Heidfeld went out with a smoking BMW engine and just three laps later Button made an error at the chicane and stuffed the BAR into the concrete wall. In the following slight delay in deploying the safety car, the call for Montoya to pit was left a fraction too late and he then had to do a complete lap behind it while all the other leaders pitted. This gave Raikkonen the lead from Montoya and allowed Schumacher to close up the gap that had been over half a minute. Trulli was next up from Webber, Massa and Barrichello, now up to seventh. Montoya, however had ignored a red light at the pit exit when he rejoined, and would soon be disqualified. Webber, who had been having trouble warming up his tyres all weekend, outbraked himself while trying to maintain position at the restart, held up Massa and allowed Barrichello to leap into fifth place with 20 laps to go. This became fourth when Montoya went out and third just a few laps later when Trulli had a truly frightening brake disintegration entering the chicane. That he didn’t have a huge accident was just luck.

At the front Raikkonen and Michael toured around until the finish with the Ferrari never even looking like it could challenge the leader and in a remarkable fourth place, was Felipe Massa in the Sauber who had started in 11th and had driven an uneventful but steady drive. Webber ended up with yet another fifth placing, which could so easily been third but for his restart error and Ralf Schumacher came home in sixth place. Rounding out the point scorers were the Red Bull twins of Coulthard and Klien ahead of the unfortunate Villeneuve. The Canadian had been spectacular in qualifying to plant his Sauber in eighth on the grid but a nudge on the first lap saw him come in for a replacement nose cone. With all the drama in front of him it is quite possible that he could have been second or third if he had just been able to hold his position. As Murray Walker once said, “If, if, if, - F1 is if spelt backwards.”

RESULT/DRIVER CAR LAPS/GAP COMMENTS 1 Kimi Raikkonen McLaren 70/1"32'09.290 Ave Speed 123.526 mph/198.754 kph 2 Michael Schumacher Ferrari +0'01.137 - 3 Rubens Barrichello Ferrari +0'40.483 - 4 Felipe Massa Sauber +0'55.139 - 5 Mark Webber Williams +0'55.779 - 6 Ralf Schumacher Toyota 69 - 7 David Coulthard Red Bull 69 - 8 Christian Klien Red Bull 69 - 9 Jacques Villeneuve Sauber 69 - 10 Tiago Montiero Jordan 67 - 11 Christijan Albers Minardi 67 - RETIREMENTS Jarno Trulli Toyota 62 Brakes DQ Juan Pablo Montoya McLaren 52 Illegal pit exit under safety car Jenson Button BAR 46 Accident Nick Heidfeld Williams 43 Engine Takuma Sato BAR 40 Brakes Patrick Friesacher Minardi 39 - Fernando Alonso Renault 38 Accident Giancarlo Fisichella Renault 32 Hydraulics Narain Karthikeyan Jordan 24 Accident

FASTEST LAP Kimi Raikkonen 1'14.384

LAP RECORD Rubens Barrichello 1'13.622 2004 Ferrari F2004

LEADERS Giancarlo Fisichella 32 (1-32) Kimi Raikkonen 21 (49-70) Juan Pablo Montoya 10 (39-48) Fernando Alonso 6 (33-38)

POINTSCORE Alonso 59 Raikkonen 37 Trulli 27 Heidfeld 25 M.Schumacher 24 Webber 22 Barrichello 21 R.Schumacher 20 Fisichella 17 Coulthard 17 Montoya 16 Massa 7 Wurz 6 Villeneuve 5 De la Rosa 4 Klien 4 Liuzzi 1

Renault 76 McLaren-Mercedes 63 Toyota 47 Williams-BMW 47 Ferrari 45 Red Bull-Cosworth 22 Sauber-Ferrari 12

Sam Snape

16-6-05

SPANISH, MONACO & EUROPEAN GP’S

Due to some nasty little shit who, if I ever find out their name, will assist me in finding the fine balance between extreme agony and loss of consciousness, hit the computers of Multi Media Motor Sport with a particularly unpleasant virus. The resulting wiping of hard drives & rebuilding of PCs, and of course, not wanting to spread this bug via this website meant a lengthy delay in uploading anything to the site. Including reports on the last 3 GPs which is a real bummer as they were all pretty damned good ones.  

So, a sort of summary of them all, in one hit. As predicted after Imola it has been McLaren who has risen to the top of the pack now that they have sorted out their qualifying dramas. Dominant wins for Raikkonen in Catalunya & Monaco, and almost another at the Nurburgring, have propelled him from 11th in the title chase to 2nd in just those 2 races and he remains in that position even after the last lap disaster in Germany. I don’t think any of us have ever seen a front end vibration of quite such severity before, nor I suspect had Kimi. The result of a couple of front right lock-ups earlier in the race had the entire car shuddering even on the straights and the sight of those suspension arms flexing, and the carcass of the tyre squirming on the rim was not one that we will quickly forget. Even as we were all wondering how long it could possibly last it was just the cruelest of luck that it would cause the suspension to collapse with just under 1 lap, just two lousy miles to go before he could claim a hat-trick of victories and close the gap to Alonso to 20 points. Alonso, the lucky recipient of Raikkonen’s lost win now has what would seem to be an unassailable 32 point lead in the championship. There may be a long way to go before the title race is over but it will take a lot of bad luck to strike the Renault driver for Raikkonen to catch him and on current form, it is only the McLarens that are in with any real chance.

Sure, Toyota’s Jarno Trulli is equal second with Raikkonen at this stage but the performance of the Toyotas is starting to drop back to the rest of the field (they have only scored 4 points in the last two races) while McLaren is now in a class of it’s own. Renault are still second best but who would have thought a few races ago that they would start eating their rear tyres in such a vicious fashion? The site of crippled Renaults at Monaco is one that no-one would have predicted at the beginning of the year. They began the year with so much weight bias toward the rear of the car that their main concern was under-steer but as they have added more downforce to the front it has altered the balance of the car to such an extent that they are now rooting rear tyres in much the same way as Williams were at the start of the year.

Williams on the other hand are on the up with fine podiums for Heidfeld (2nd at both Monaco and the Nurburgring) and Webber in the last couple of races. They have gained this increase in race performance without any loss of qualifying pace. Webber has qualified in the top 3 in the last three races and Heidfeld gave us all a pleasant surprise with his pole in Germany even if he was on a lighter fuel load. One suspects that a win for either of these drivers is not all that far away. Perhaps even this weekend in Canada as Williams always seems to go well there. Had Webber not gone off at the first corner in Germany perhaps he would have been the one to inherit Raikkonen’s lost win, he was on a similar fuel strategy as the Finn and Alonso and had qualified ahead of the Spaniard.

The only major team making no progress at all is still Ferrari. They are either still eating their race tyres like an Ethiopian in a bakery (I was going to use Biafran there but many of you would not be old enough to know what I was on about so Ethiopian will have to do) such as the Red Barron did in Spain where he had two tyre failures in two laps, or using tyres that are so hard they cannot get any warmth into them until after about 10-15 laps, which is 9-14 laps more than they have for qualifying. Their race pace after extended running at Monaco & Germany was quite quick but they are starting too far back and taking too long to get up to speed. It is not just their tyres however. The fact that the cars run faster on heavy tanks than they do on low fuel is a dead giveaway to a serious lack of downforce and balance. It is interesting to note that they had to take downforce out of the car at Monaco to get any sort of balance. Everyone else cranks it on there.

Also interesting to see just how slow the BAR-Hondas were now that they have to run their car at the same weight as everyone else. Neither Button or Sato were able to run in the top ten in Germany, indeed Sato spent much of the race battling with the Jordans. They have a lot of work to do to regain any sort of respectability. Good to see Red Bull still punching well above their weight with excellent performances from DC in both Monaco, where a podium was not out of the question until being rammed by Schumacher in the Mirabeau fiasco and a superb forth in Germany despite a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pit lane. Liuzzi has been a bit of a disappointment but only because he was overhyped. His performances have been no better or worse than any other rookie in his first few races and I believe that he would benefit from being relegated to the third driver for the rest of the year. Klien is back as DC’s team mate for the time being and American GP2 driver, Scott Sharp will be the third (Friday) driver in Canada & the US. Klien impressed everyone with his speed in Monaco especially through Massinet and the Casino square complex and is showing the benefits of a years experience. Liuzzi will be good, he just needs time and practice.

Even the battle for the rear end Charlie is hotting up. With the Minardi PS05 starting to show some (relative) pace they are doing what they set out to do as their objective and that is to battle and beat the Jordans.

The only dark spot is the form of Sauber and Villeneuve. And after Monaco the less said, the better. Five dramatic and exciting Grand Prixs in a row. Just a year ago, who’d a thunk it?

Sam Snape

7-6 2005

Oran Park Touring Car Festival

Oran Park’s Touring Car Festival, originally planned for January, finally kicked off on the last Sunday of April. Due to the abundance of historic race meetings around the country at this time of year, apart from the over 3-litre Group N class, the fields were smaller than the organisers would have hoped but what the event lacked in quantity, however, was certainly made up for by the quality of the races. There was rarely a race that had a winning margin of more than 2 seconds, indeed most were under one, and every race had the enthusiastic crowd giving at least one driver a rousing ovation. Ironically, unlike the entry, the crowd was larger than had been expected to the extent that by 10;30 the organisers had run out of tickets and had to hurriedly arrange for more to be delivered. In the end a crowd in excess of three thousand turned out to see these immaculately maintained, ageing racecars doing their thing once again. With a 17-race programme, numerous parades and the likes of John Goss and Harry Firth meeting the fans and signing autographs, there was plenty to keep the crowd happy.

In the Under 3-litre Group N class there were just eight entries, 4 EH Holdens, 2 Ford Cortinas, 1 Ford Capri and one Volvo 144S and it was Harvey Felton who dominated the class with three wins out of four in his Ford Capri. The most excitement though was provided by Brad Harris in his EH Holden. After a lurid spin in race one that started at the dogleg and ended at the entry to the final turn he fought his way back through the field to fourth in race 2 and won race three by passing Felton’s Capri in the last corner.

The over 3-litre Group N races were the highlight of the day with the largest fields and the best racing. In a field of 16 that comprised plenty of Holden Toranas, Kingswoods, Monaros and Ford Falcons it was Bob Cox in his Mustang, Cameron Tilley in the push button automatic Valiant S and Cameron Warner in a Falcon that made up the top 3 in all three races. Cox in the Mustang won three out of four with a largest winning margin of four tenths of a second over Tilley in the final Trophy race. Tilley in the Valiant won the other race, race 2, by just under 2 seconds and Warner was third in all four. After finishing just six tenths of a second behind winner Cox in Race 1 Warner was left a little behind by the ferocity of the fight between Cox and Tilley in the other three races which saw plenty of sideways cornering, side by side racing and the odd bit of panel banging as these two battled for supremacy. Not by much though, as there was only one race in which the top three were separated by more than 3 seconds.

After this the Group A class had a hard act to follow. The fact that David Towe in the beautiful JPS BMW M3 sat out the first two races while changing diff ratios didn’t help. All four races were dominated by the Nissan Skyline’s of Terry Ashwood and Roderick Markland ahead of a thin field of Commodores and a Mitsubishi Starion. Markland won the first by just two tenths but had to give best to Ashwood for the rest. Towe finally got the M3 working to his liking in the Trophy race to take second at the end of the day.

The final class on show was for the Group C cars and was also disappointingly thin on entries. It got thinner throughout the day to the extent that with just three runners left their Trophy race was combined with that of the Group A cars. Phil Kirkham was set to dominate the day until, having won the first two races comfortably, he lost a wheel in race three and the resulting suspension damage kept him out of the Trophy race. Frank Binding, in the uniquely camouflaged Army Reserve XD Falcon won the final two races easily from Richard Jones in the K-Mart Commodore. The saving grace for this class were the battles between Binding and Chris Hinton in the ex-Bob Morris Channel 7/Breville Torana A9X during the first two races that were equally as entertaining as the Cox/Tilley Group N tussles. Hinton took second ahead of Binding by under half a second in both the first two races but overheating set in and except for a couple of parade laps for Bob Morris himself, the car was not seen in action again.

The final race of the day was for Group N Holden Toranas for the Harry Firth Trophy. Only 5 made it to the start after a hard days racing and except for a fine dice between the first two the field was fairly spread out by the end of the 11 laps. Simon Phillips held on to take the win in his XU1 by just over two tenths of a second from the similarly mounted Scott Gorman.

So ended an excellent days entertainment. The fields may have been a bit thin but this Festival is a fine idea and was very well presented. This was a good basis for an event that will hopefully it will grow into a permanent and larger event in the future. Perhaps they could include additional classes next time, as events such as the Goodwood Revival have shown, the sight of huge Mk1 Jaguars and Chevy Impalas battling it out with Minis is always hugely entertaining and could not but help to add to what promises to be a fine addition to the national Historic racing calendar.

Sam Snape

1-5-04

SAN MARINO GRAND PRIX

Brilliant, superb, outstanding, nail-biting, nerve-wracking, fantastic. Just some of the adjectives that can be used for the San Marino Grand Prix. Ironically enough it is only due to the total butchering of the once over-taking friendly Imola circuit by the introduction of those hideous post ’94 chicanes that gave this race such an exciting finish. Had this been the pre ’94 track Michael Schumacher in his Ferrari would have simply swept up behind Alonso through the flat out Tamburello sweeper, cruised around the outside at Villeneuve, outbraked him on the inside at Tosa and vanished into the distance. Nowadays the atrociously designed chicanes at Tamburello and Villeneuve disrupt the flow so much that overtaking at these corners is now virtually impossible even if you are in a car that is 2 seconds a lap faster such as the Red Baron was in on Sunday.

Winner, Fernando Alonso admitted that his strategy was to slow right down on the entry and beginning of these corners to slow Schumacher and rely on the Renault’s better traction and acceleration to keep him at bay. The sort of tactics you would expect at the Hungaroring, not the once majestic and flowing Imola. It is even more ironic that this emasculation of the track named after Enzo Ferrari’s son, Dino, cost the Ferrari team it’s first victory of the year and allowed Renault to keep it’s unbroken victory record this season. Schumacher however, was the sensation of the race. After his qualifying mistake left him 13th on the grid he was stuck behind his brother until the first stops. The German then unleashed a blistering series of laps to climb from 10th to 3rd before he stopped on lap 27. He then closed remorselessly on Button in 2nd and passed him for the lead on lap 47 after Alonso had made his final stop. He came out from his final stop just 1.5 seconds behind Alonso and this set the stage for the final, nail-biting 12 laps. This is not to take anything away from Alonso. He showed all the skill, speed and intelligence that we knew was there, soaked up a massive amount of pressure on worn tyres without cracking to claim his first hat-trick of wins and give him a comfortable lead in the championship. Even if Schumacher won every race for the rest of the year and Alonso finished second, it would take Schumacher till the second last round to take the lead in the championship. It is not very likely that either driver will have such reliability and even less so that they will finish every race in that order, especially now that McLaren have found qualifying speed so we look to be in for a very, very interesting year. It would be interesting to know where Raikkonen would have finished had the McLaren not broken a drive shaft. He was, after all, pulling away in the lead quite nicely from Alonso when his car let him down. How hard was he pushing? Did the McLaren have the same raw pace as the Ferrari? Assuming he was on a similar fuel strategy to team-mate Wurz (he pitted third last on both occasions) one would conclude that he would have finished well ahead of Alonso. What if Schumacher had not made the mistake in final qualifying and started somewhere in the first couple of rows? The battle-royal between him, Alonso and a reliable Raikkonen would have been an absolute beauty. Maybe in Spain…If, if, if…F1 is if spelt backwards.

These three drivers team-mates had totally opposite weekends. Giancarlo Fisichella in the Renault had his recent woes continue with a failure on the Renault that pitched him off the road at Tamburello and into the tyre barriers. He has not finished a race since his win at Melbourne. Rubens Barrichello in the Ferrari lasted just 17 laps before an electrical gremlin put an end to his day and in the McLaren, Alexander Wurz had all the reliability that Raikkonen didn’t and finished a strong fourth. An exceptional drive for someone who has not started a race since he finished 7th in Malaysia in 2000 in the uncompetitive last Benetton. Will Montoya be back for Spain? Who knows, but if Wurz is to stand in again an even more competitive showing is likely so that is something else to look forward to.

BAR seemed to make just as much of a leap back to the right end of the grid since Bahrain as Ferrari with Button starting and finishing in 3rd and Sato starting 6th and finishing 5th. On paper a fine effort, however, Button’s car was found to be underweight after the race and fuel was removed from a “hidden” compartment. Whether this was an innocent mistake by the team or deliberate cheating is now the subject of an FIA enquiry and the teams placings at Imola are still under question. If the team is found guilty of deliberate cheating, a team official had advised the scrutineers at the weigh-in that the car was empty of all fluids prior to the extra fuel being found, then even harsher penalties are likely to be applied. The last two teams to be found guilty of deliberate cheating, Toyota in the World rally Championship in 1996 and Tyrrell in F1 in 1984 were both disqualified from the championship and banned from competing for the remainder of the year. The results of the enquiry should be made public on Wednesday so watch this space.

With so many teams making great strides forward, someone had to go backwards, Someone was Toyota and Williams. Toyota started 5th (Trulli) and 10th (Ralf) but ended the day in 7th (Trulli) and 8th (Ralf) on the road. Ralf was then penalised 25 seconds for unsafe driving in the pits and this dropped him back to 11th in the final standings. Williams weekend started well with Webber a fine 4th on the grid and Heidfeld in 8th, about where the car should be on it’s current pace. Both drivers lost places at the start but Webber showed great fight to regain 5th place from Sato around the outside at Piratella on lap 1. From there he was stuck behind Trulli’s Toyota until the first stops. It was then that the team made a very bad mistake and called Webber in early for fuel. It meant that he pitted at the same time as Trulli who beat him back out onto the track even though the Williams team had short fuelled him. All this meant that once again he was stuck behind the Toyota until the second stops and as he then had to stop early, he came out with a heavy fuel load while every one else was running light on almost empty tanks. Webber eventually finished in a miserable 9th place behind his team-mate Heidfeld. More points could still be theirs however, with the BAR saga still to be finalised.

The other excellent performance of the weekend came from the Sauber boys. Massa would have started in eighth place had he not changed a down on power engine. Starting 18th effectively finished his weekend but it still gave us a spirited dice with Coulthard in the Red Bull. Villeneuve was finally allowed to set his car up in the seemingly bizarre fashion that he likes and his performance was transformed. Still not quite as quick as Massa, who has had a lot more time to get it sorted out, but he was breathing down the Brazilian’s neck all weekend. He started 11th and had a fine race to finish in a worthy 6th place, taking advantage of every opportunity given to him. Again it will be interesting to see how JV progresses if he is allowed to continue with this set-up.

As for the rest, Red Bull are slowly slipping down the grid as the larger teams get their acts together with both drivers qualifying only in front of the Jordans and the Minardis. Debutant Liuzzi got the jump on Coulthard at the start and there he stayed. It was a fine debut for the Italian as he qualified within a tenth of a second of his team-mate and led him through-out the race. The Jordans had their usual reliable run near the rear of the field with Karthikeyan again out-doing team-mate Montiero in qualifying as well as the race. The sleek new Minardis were never likely to finish and so it proved. The cars were simply too new to either qualify well and with limited testing none of the teething bugs had been ironed out. A lengthy test this week at Mugello should be a great help and we are likely to see a more representative performance in Spain next weekend. Not likely to be on pole though. Even with the new car their stated aim is only to beat Jordan in the Championship. They need a lot more money to do anything else.

RESULT/DRIVER CAR LAPS/GAP COMMENTS 1 Fernando Alonso Renault 62/1"27'41.951 Ave Speed 129.947 mph/209.085 kph 2 Michael Schumacher Ferrari +0'00.215 - 3 Jenson Button BAR +0'10.481 - 4 Alexander Wurz McLaren +0'27.554 - 5 Takuma Sato BAR +0'34.783 - 6 Jacques Villeneuve Sauber +1'04.442 - 7 Jarno Trulli Toyota +1'10.258 - 8 Nick Heidfeld Williams +1'11.282 - 9 Mark Webber Williams +1'23.297 - 10 Vitantonio Liuzzi Red Bull +1'23.764 - 11 Ralf Schumacher Toyota +1'35.841 Includes 25sec penalty-pit lane violation 12 Felipe Massa Sauber 61 - 13 David Coulthard Red Bull 61 - 14 Narain Karthikeyan Jordan 61 - 15 Tiago Montiero Jordan 60 - RETIREMENTS Christijan Albers Minardi 20 Hydraulic fluid leak Rubens Barrichello Ferrari 18 Electrical Kimi Raikkonen McLaren 9 Drive shaft Patrick Friesacher Minardi 8 Clutch Giancarlo Fisichella Renault 5 Accident

FASTEST LAP Michael Schumacher 1'21.858

LEADERS Fernando Alonso 46 (9-23,25-42,50-62) Kimi Raikkonen 8 (1-8) Jeson Button 5 (24,43-46) Michael Schumacher 3 (47-49)

POINTSCORE Alonso 36 Trulli 18 Fisichella 10 M.Schumacher 10 R.Schumacher 9 Coulthard 9 Barrichello 8 Montoya 8 Raikkonen 7 Webber 7 Heidfeld 7 Button 6 Wurz 5 Sato 4 De la Rosa 4 Klien 3 Villeneuve 3 Massa 2

Renault 46 Toyota 27 McLaren-Mercedes 24 Ferrari 18 Williams-BMW 14 Red Bull-Cosworth 12 BAR-Honda 10 Sauber-Ferrari 5

Sam Snape

27-4-05