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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

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