Not long to go

While we are suffering from the F1 summer break, I am also getting fed up waiting for the new WEC season to kick off. I love LMP1 Sportscar Racing and not even my wife fully understands how deep my love for Le Mans and the 24 Hours really is.

So as you can imagine, I kicked myself today when I thought – ahhhh there is so long till the Belgium Grand Prix. How long till Le Mans’

For those good at maths, you will know it is a while.
For those bad at maths – you will still know it is a while.

And for idiots like me, google has told me that it is 302 days away.

Awwwwwww.

And that is my thoughts on the matter.

I am getting bored!!!

There is no F1 on this weekend. There is no WEC but there is Indycar at Pocono.
However, living in the UK with two kids means finding the time to watch it means that it is probably a no go for me. So I am bored. But to help pass the time I have been watching some old classics from the youtube vault.

There are always some go to videos I watch every now and then when I need a motorsport fix. One of them is Montoya vs Andretti in Champcar in 1999. Montoyas first season and a prime example of a young, hungry driver and a wise old fox.

And this weekend, the help pass the time, when there is nothing on I may just rewatch the 1995 Formula 1 season review. THat is bound to be there somewhere. And maybe a top ten closest Indycar finishes of all time. And maybe the best Nascar battles of all time.

And then why not a bit of Opel vs Alfa Romeo DTM battles from the 90’s.

And the final thing, I need to watch some BMW 3 Series BTCC from 1997 I think with the Fina Oil livery. One of my absolute favourite liveries of all time.

So after writing this, I am not as bored as I was. Ia m actually a bit excited because I have quite a few things to watch this weekend.

And that is my thoughts on the matter.

Has Verstappen signed for Mercedes?

While the main story right now is all about Gasly being demoted to Torro Rosso and Albon going the other way to take the top seat at Red Bull. A seat, I might add which most drivers on the planet would like to be sitting in. There is, in my opinion another, far juicier story coming along.

Now let me make this clear – this is just my theory. I do not have any sources down the local Mercedes F1 pub though that would be a good reason for moving to Brackley.

No this is just one of those – ‘maybe that’s what’ moments.

So Christian Horner has been getting some stick because it was only a week or so ago that he said that Gasly had the seat till the end of the season. And now….now he doesn’t. But why? What changed since he said that?

Well the engineers could have gone over the data in more detail and highlighted more areas in which Gasly has been behind his teammate. Or maybe they have realised that they are now the second top team in F1 and they need another strong driver in the second seat to try and get that second place in the constructors championship. Or maybe, and this is where my theory comes in, maybe Verstappen has told Red Bull that he will be leaving for Mercedes next season and Red Bull, in a kind of panic are basically throwing Albon in to the seat quickly to better prepare him for the 2020 season.

It kind of makes sense. The next Grand Prix on the calendar is the Belgium Grand Prix. A kind of home race for Verstappen until Zolder comes along anyway. So what better time for Mercedes to announce it. The race afterwards is Monza so they might not want to do it at Ferrari’s home track out of politeness.

So Gasly was all set to have the seat for the rest of the season then Red Bull discover that shock horror – they are loosing their top driver. What do they do? Promote Albon next year and hope he doesn’t do a Gasly. Or accept that Gasly is taking too long this year, promote Albon to see what he can do and then make a decision later in the year.

Because, as I have written before, if Verstappen did go to Mercedes then Red Bull have a bit of a problem. They don’t have a new super star to directly replace him with. They lost Daniel Ricciardo to Renault because they were putting their eggs in the Verstappen basket and Daniil Kvyat hasn’t worked out for them so far. So who else is there? And don’t say Alonso. He has moved on from F1. All the other top drivers are tied up to contracts. Mercedes wouldn’t let Ocon go to Red Bull. Bottas is not good enough to beat Hamilton so why would Red Bull want him. Daniel is tied in with Renault, Hulkenburg is along shot. Mclaren drivers are locked in (though I bet Red Bull wish Carlos Sainz was still available to them). And so on…

You see my point. And this is why I think Red Bull have reacted by switching Gasly with Albon.

Something has happened that we don’t know about that has made them have to react to solve a problem which just two years ago, you would never have dreamed Red Bull would be having.

And that is my thoughts on the matter.

WRC Should take a page out of the DTM book

I am currently watching some highlights of the WRC Rally of Finland and I keep seeing the Toyota Yaris WRC and thinking ahhh my eyes.

I get that the cars of the WRC are taken from the road cars and pumped up but my question is this – why?

Why do they have to do that? Why do rally cars have to be taken from production based cars which therefore means that they are all hatchbacks?

In the DTM, what you currently have is a BMW, an Audi and an Aston Martin. All running on a base Dallara chassis. The bodywork on these cars closely resembles the pumped up M4, RS4 and Vantage. But really they is because a) those are good looking cars and b) are not hatch backs.

So why does the WRC not get a hard core ‘safety cell’ chassis that any manufacturer can then bolt on their bodywork to?

It doesn’t even have to be a real car. Remember the marketing promotion benefits that Citroen got when they created the virtual Gran Turismo Concept car >>>

They never intended for it to be a real road car but the promotion they got from it was excellent.

These days, Ferrari makes a nice wee extra bit of cash from making specialised concept cars based on existing car running gear. So Eric Clapton is running around in a cool Boxer inspired Ferrari that I think is based on a 430 chassis.

Why can’t Toyota create a cool Celica inspired rally car that looks amazing, makes the brand seem cooler and if the demand was high enough – make a couple of hundred at a couple of hundred thousand a pop?

The Group B cars looked amazing and they looked mad. Modern day rally cars look average and they look ridiculously pumped up in way that I would not be putting on my bedroom wall if I was still a kid.

So, rule makers of the WRC, get rid of the rules that demand that cars are production based. Get a super safe safety cell chassis tender going and then Ford can produce something amazing (shame they have decided to reuse the Puma name for a mini sity SUV already), Toyota can produce a Celica and Lancia can come back with a cool 037 tribute which they can then make in small numbers as part of a new effort to return the brand to the top.

As I write this I realise that I may have just saved Lancia.

You are welcome.

And that is my thoughts on the matter.

Mercedes and their F1 driver problem

So Mercedes have a problem. It is a strange problem but one that a lot of people seem to be overlooking in the F1 paddock.

So many people are thinking about whether Mercedes should replace Bottas with Ocon. But it shouldn’t be a case of who will be in the drivers seat of the second Mercedes F1 car. The question really should be – who is going to take Lewis Hamilton’s place at the team when he decides to step down from F1.

Yes I know he has said that he wants to race for many more years but he is getting older and could easily do what Rosberg did and simply step back with minimal notice.

So, do Mercedes keep Bottas as a solid number 2 driver and then worry about what to do when Lewis does step down? Or do they replace Bottas with Ocon and ‘groom’ him to be the next Lewis?

Or, do they try and catch a new big fish by the name of Max Verstappen?

If they keep the system as it is then it will work to the advantage of the team. All the eggs go in the Lewis basket and Bottas becomes a solid number two in the same way that David Coulthard did for Mika Hakkinen, Rubens Barrichello did for Felipe Massa did for Fernando Alonso. It then becomes a battle in 202 between Lewis and Max in the Red Bull.

If Mercedes however managed to poach Max away from Red Bull then they get a double hit. They get arguably the next best driver on the grid who is still incredibly young and marketable. AND they take a silver bullet away from what is looking like a revitalised Red Bull Racing with Honda finally getting their act together.

Red Bull are in a bit of a tricky spot because their driver academy is looking a bit of a mess. Gasly has been incredibly poor this season. Too often I have looked at practice and qualifying times and seen him close to a second behind his team mate. And TWICE this season already, Max has lapped him. Completely unacceptable. Albon is not ready to move up to Red Bull, running the risk of doing a Gasly himself. But what happens if Max did go to Mercedes. Where does that leave Red Bull? Who can they realistically bring in who can mount a championship challenge. Alonso? Forget it! Vettel? Maybe.

But when you consider how this could mess things up with Red Bull, it is in Mercedes interests to try and grab Max while they can. Let Bottas go. He can replace Grosjean at Haas. Ocon can be lent out to Renault for a ‘three year’ contract so that by the time Lewis does call it quits, Ocon can step into his seat and become Max’s teammate.

And that is my thought’s on the matter.

My thoughts on DAMS boss Jean-Paul Driot

It’s not like I met him myself but growing up with motorsport in the 90’s when my obsession really became a bit too much, DAMS was always one of those teams whose name kept on popping up.

So it was very sad to hear of the passing of Jean-Paul Driot, the boss and founder of DAMS.

From their single seater exploits, F1 ambitions and sportscar racing exploits, DAMS grew to become one of those teams that you could never overlook on the entry list.

I was ready a list of some of the drivers who have simply made it to F1 having raced at some point with DAMS. The list is impressive.

Graham Goodwin wrote a nice obituary on the Dailysportscar.com website which you should read.

We have lost another significant figure from so many of the top categories of motorsport. Jean, you will be missed but not forgotten. From you epic looking DAMS Panoz in black Motorola livery to the professional E-DAMS Formula E team that you ran so successfully, you have been involved in so many of my motorsport memories as I grew up.

And that is my thoughts on the matter.

Why Hondas GP2 comment should not be looked at as being funny

So Verstappen won the German Grand Prix. Well done of course. What a great race!!!

And afterwards, Honda tweeted a joke that this was GP2 races they have won (a word play instead of 2GP) and directed it towards Fernando Alonso who famously shouted out those comments during the Japanese Grand Prix in the 2015 Season.

So Honda can poke fun at him now. But that way I see it…my daughter was just learning to crawl at the time of the Japanese Grand Prix in 2015. And next month she starts school. So while Honda may mock. It’s not like they turned it around in a matter of months. The Mclaren Honda relationship had to go incredibly badly. Honda had to go through a season with only Torro Rosso as a team and only now with Red Bull, do they have the opportunity to win. And it’s not like it is the same engine. I would question whether there is any component shared between the 2015 Honda Engine and the 2019 version – minus the actual Honda badge that is.

It is good for F1 that Honda have shifted their backsides and now produce a good engine. If they hadn’t then this season would have been even more of a Mercedes domination that last.

And that is my thoughts on the matter.

My prediction for the Spa 24 Hours

I should have been there this year but then, considering there is a bit of a heatwave going through Europe, I am not as gutted about missing out. Especially because there are strong rumours that after all this heat, it is going to properly chuck it down with rain sometime in the night.

So what is my prediction?

Simple. A Mercedes will be on pole. A Porsche will lead the most laps and an Audi will win. BMW will struggle to get in the top ten at all so there will be a lot of moaning about BOP. Lexus, Nissan and Honda will appear on the TV every so often just to remind you that they are competing.

It will chuck it down with rain so much that they will have to red flag the race for a while (which will at least give me a chance to catch up on some sleep). There will be a couple of big safety car periods because of some big crashes at Eau Rouge.

And there you go. I love the Spa 24 Hours. It is one of the big events of the year. And while there are those that complain that there are too many cars, I am not complaining. I find that in races where I do not have a strong allegiance to a specific driver, team or car then having these variables can make a race a lot more interesting. Throwing up variables that we used to have with reliability but don’t really have anymore.

I am particularly looking forward to that magic hour in the sunday morning when there is space on the track for some of the faster drivers to really stretch their legs. And if there is a lot of rain then we will see a couple of drivers really shine in the same way that JJ Lehto did at Le Mans in 1995.

Anyway, here is to a good race.

And that is my thoughts on the matter.

What did we learn from the WEC Prologue

If you have been watching the Prologue for the next season of the FIA WEC then you will no doubt have your own views on what it going on. But let me indulge you with my own thoughts on the matter.

So there were no surprises that Toyota were fastest. What was good news however was how close the Rebellion AND the Ginetta both were. I was slightly worried that Ginetta would arrive and be a bit like ByKolles. An LMP1 team running around LMP2 pace. But what we saw was very promising.

I still feel confident that Toyota will win all the races in the 19/20 season but there will now be more pressure on the team to make NO mistakes because a puncture or false puncture as was the case at Le Mans may now drop you more that one position back.

The new rules to balance things out seem sensible. I remember when the American Le Mans Series and Grand Am merged. You had LMP2 cars and Daytona Prototypes in one class. But the Daytona Prototypes were at the time running only marginally faster than GTE/GTLM. So the rule makers have to increase their power, allow more aero and upgrade their brakes. It ended up being that the ‘balance’ went too far on their side. THe torque grunt from the V8 engined Daytona Prototypes was more of an advantage in traffic than the Nissan V8’s of the various LMP2 cars running (and the Honda V6). In the same way, the hybrid advantage that Toyota have will simply be too much for the privateer teams to deal with when lapping traffic. But I do expect quite a few pole positions to go to the privateers who might even manage to run the first stint of a race leading. It is when pitstops come into play while the opposition is lapping backmarkers – that is when Toyota can sneak ahead.

Either way – while 19/20 may be a transition year, I am looking forward to it a lot more than I did last season.

For LMP2, it is a shame that bar the Dallara, it will be an Oreca class exclusively. Some of the liveries are at least pretty good but with the tyre war, there will be some cracking racing. It could easily end up being that one tyre is faster so takes all the pole positions while the other is more durable and takes all the wins – we will find out.

In GTE, I am a wee bit frustrated that Aston Martin have continued with the techno vomit yellow colour. I know it is the AMR brand colour BUT, they could have had that as a highlight colour rather than an out and out main one for the livery. Ferrari will be strong but unless BOP significantly slows the Porsche train, I can’t see past them for the Championship.

GTE-Am will be great as usual and really, the whole field is looking strong. Yes it would be nice if SMP racing was still there up front and the ACO/FIA should think about a clever way to allow them to compete in some races rather than nothing (the LMP1 class has a rule that states you have to compete in the whole season).

Anyway, now that the prologue is out the way, we now just have to wait until the season really kicks off at Silverstone in September.

And that is my thoughts on the matter.

So why did Toyota update the TS050?

WIth the Prologue about to begin in Barcelona, Toyota took the wraps of a newly updated Toyota TS050 LMP1 Hybrid. But the big question is – why? Toyota won every single WEC race last season and yes I am including the disqualified Silverstone event.

ANd they didn’t just win the races, they dominated. Some races more than others but with each one, they finished LAPS ahead of the competition.

So why on earth have they decided to update it? Why invest more money on it? Well for one, you can never sit still in motorsport. The racing competition will always be catching you up somehow. And while the gap is still there, towards the end of last season, the non hybrid LMP1 cars were catching up. They will always have a disadvantage with traffic but in terms of pure pace, the LMP1 rivals were catching up. So Toyota have pressed into service a new updated package. One thing I particularly like is the rear view mirrors now being integrated into the bodywork. This was first pioneered surprise surprise by Audi in the 2015? season (though it might have been 2016). Anyway, it was copied by Porsche with their last iteration of their 919 Hybrid in 2017. So I wouldn’t be surprised if this new Toyota has actually been on the drawing board for some time. With Toyota only being allowed one bodywork change a year which they use for their Le Mans spec kit, they may have just held off on the radical change going into the 18/19 season purely because they new the competition would be limited and they really really wanted to win Le Mans.

But now that they have two victories under their belt, they can introduce the new bodykit which, on top of things, will help with the history books and photos of the car. If they had three years (going on the basis that they win Le Mans again in 2020) of Le Mans wins with visibly the same car (which was the same looking car from 2017 as well), then that might not look as interesting. I mean that in the sense that if you look at Audi through the years, you can muddle the early wins up because they were all with the R8. The R10 won three in a row so you have to use the other cars around it to differentiate about which year was which. The R15+ was a one off, so was the R18 in 2014. Does that make sense? I have no idea what the cost of a new LMP1 car is but there must be some genuine good performance and marketing reasons for Toyota to improve on a design that has easily won the last two Le Mans.

And that is my thoughts on the matter.