Tuesday, March 24, 2009

(66) F1 2009... sigh

Formula 1 starts this week.

There's been a lot going on.

First and foremost, though, is the FIA's passing of the "medal" system as the championship decider. The championship would be decided by wins, not points. Points would still be awarded to all places as usual, and would be used for tie breaks, but otherwise would be completely redundant.

Meanwhile, FOTA, the team's association, challenged the change with the argument that the FIA (ie, Bernie Ecclestone) didn't have unanimous backing from the teams. And he didn't. So the FIA revoked the change. Back to points, for now.

Now Bernie is forcing the teams to make the change in 2010. And that one WILL pass because the team's wont have paid their entrance fee (25 million Euros) at that time, so after he passes the new rules, the teams will have to agree if they want to participate. The same thing will happen with the 30 million Euro spending cap, which I approve of, as long as they loosen the regulations along with it.

This whole thing reeks of a broken political system. The FIA has too much power, and FOTA has too much power. There's only room for one. I'm pulling for FOTA, obviously.

Anyway, on to something more interesting.

The timing and scoring from the test sessions has been fun to watch. As you probably know, Honda pulled out a while ago, and sold the team assets and personell to Ross Brawn, who founded Brawn GP. Brawn has been pretty dominant on the timing sheets. They're using Mercedes engines. They will be quick in Melbourne. I say good, because we need a new force at the front. Ferrari has been dominant too long and they need some air let out.

At the other end of the scale, McLaren has been, well, slow. They say it's an aero problem, and I think it is, too, because the engines have been on freeze since last year. They started to pick up the pace in the last couple of sessions before the testing season ended, and just after they clipped a strange device onto the rear defuser. Whatever that thing did (it's not on the car any more), they're going much quicker now.

Oher than that, I don't think there will be much of a change in terms of who's who. Everyone seems to be pulling for Sebastian Vettel to get another win or two this season. I don't think that will happen this year (turning into a superstar). He may get another win, that's always possible, but I don't think he's going to turn into the next Ayrton Senna this year.

Speaking of Senna, Bruno has been completely denied a drive in Formula 1. He was scheduled to drive for Brawn, but they re-signed the Honda drivers. In my opinion, he should keep his sponsors and do GP2 for another season. He voiced an interest in the Le Mans series. And that worries me. Formula racers generally view endurance or sports car racing as pasture for guys that can't keep up in open wheelers any more. Senna needs to just hold his ground in GP2 in 2009 and try again next year. Doing something different right now will just make people take him less seriously.

Maybe he'd get lucky this year and not hit another dog and win the championship this time. Who knows.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

(65) 2nd on the first

Yep, P2 on the National track in the first round is mine.

Practice went well enough, a bit slow to start but I picked it up in Qualifying where I put it on the second row (3rd).

In the race I had an atomic start that had even the most experienced of the bunch flabbergasted. Of course, I had to go and blow it a little bit in turn 1 when we went in 3-wide and I had the nasty inside. Having to cut a corner that much means that at anything even close to normal line speed, you'll apex early and understeer like mad on the exit.

Well I did, and I lost a position down to 2nd, and I almost lost that, too, but I was brave in the turn 2 braking zone and I held 3rd off.

Then, about at the end of the first quarter of the race, I clipped the inside curb in turn 3 and it sent me oversteering badly. I lost a ton of momentum up the hill and 3rd place caught up to me more.

Leaving pit lane for the start of the race. I qualified 3rd.

About halfway through the race 3rd place showed his nose past turn 2C at the entrance to turn 3. Now I knew he was putting the pressure on and I managed to hold him off for the last half of the race. The margin at the line had less than a tenth in it. He was right on my bumper the whole way, but I was strong under the brakes today in the right places so he didn't have much opportunity to try and pass me.

Meanwhile, the guy in 1st place and the polesitter checked out. He was out of my sight by lap 10. I didn't have the pace today to catch him. As one of the instructors said, I had a 4th or 5th place car today. My racing pace was about half a second off the guys in 3rd-5th, and I was 3rd slowest fastest lap (57.0) out of 7 drivers... so considering that my car/driver combination was limiting in terms of outright speed, my consistency and race craft brought it home.

The race start. I'm on the left, second row, watching the pole man's helmet carefully. If he twitches, I go. And I did.

And ultimately, even though the spec or sealed series cars will be the most equal out there, there's still a couple of seconds in it if you end up with a car that does not fit your driving style or vice versa. It could be that the guy who won the race today got a kart that he was really comfortable with and that suited him as a driver, while I may have gotten one that was less so.

I'm really happy with that. Next month I'll be in the top points group. We had a small crowd of drivers today, and we ran two groups of 7, so if entries don't pick up next month we may consolidate into one group just to keep the points as fair as possible since two drivers each are tied for 1st through 7th in the championship.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

(64) Blast off!

I remember asking myself in the off season, "is this really what you want to do? Really? Do you really want to try to do this?"

Today I remembered why I want to do this. When you're screaming through a quick left hander and the tires are singing to you and the G forces are daring you to back off the throttle while fending off other drivers who want to be past you, or you're charging into a super fast and tight S curve flat out, barely on the limit of traction, 2 feet behind your opponent and committing to a pass in the very next corner, you just feel... I can't put it into words.

55 MPH, looking for my turn in point for the flat-out S-curves.

So with my passion reaffirmed, what is the state of my talent? Not bad. My fastest lap was 57.4 on the national track, which seems slow compared to last year, but at this time of year that's not bad, plus considering my lack of weight (I usually take 40 pounds of extra weight in the back). My kart is too light otherwise. My style is a little bit more gung-ho than last year, but I think that will wear off quickly. There are a couple of corners I'm nailing, with a little bit of correction from the instructors, and a couple more to fix on race day.

Down the front straight. About 65 or so.

There are plenty of new faces to the series, but there are some familiar ones as well. Usually practice is only about half of the normal group. We'll see the full line up on Saturday. We'll be going along side the ProKart Challenge again, so there will be tons of atmosphere and all the excitement to go with it.

I can't wait. I'm feeling good.

Flat out through the S-curves, clipping the second apex at 60 MPH. Sonoma is beautiful.

See you Saturday.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

(63) Launch in 5... 4... 3...

Finally, the first practice is tomorrow. My only goal for tomorrow is to assess my situation. I've never been through an off-season before so I don't know if I'll be slower or faster, more consistent or less. So I'll use the first session to see where I am and go from there. That's all you can do in life, really.

I've had an idea to bring a pocket notebook and write down my thoughts after each session. Hopefully that'll be a good training aid and it might make this blog a little more coherent.

Oh and I put up a new profile picture. I was getting really tired of that old one of me in the woods. At least I've got my helmet on. Some people say people who wear helmets are dumb, for whatever reason. I don't think so. Helmets change the way you look at the world, somehow. If it were socially acceptable I might wear a helmet all the time. I got some weird looks from my parents wearing the thing around the house to break it in. I had bad experiences with un-broken-in helmets in junior hockey a long time ago.

Anyway, I'll be back tomorrow afternoon to bring you up to speed on me bringing myself up to speed.

Again I say, it'll be so good to get back in the driver's seat. I can't wait!

Monday, March 2, 2009

(62) Act 2

The first practice for the Jim Russell 2009 Sprint Kart season is just 10 days away. It's going to be so good to get back in the driver's seat. These past months I haven't spent a single minute not thinking about racing. Visualizing, strategizing, reading, learning, working on everything I can to make myself a winner. I want that first race win so bad I can taste it. It tastes like chicken.

I've been biking as much and as hard as I can in this weather to get fit. I've been learning about all the past stars of various forms of racing in an effort to understand them and what makes them special (Senna, Andretti, Stewart, Prost, etc etc etc). I've been reading tech books in an effort to understand the car itself better.

In so doing I've also learned what I did wrong last season. What I did wrong in the races as well as in practice, qualifying, the learning process, technique, mental state, and personality.

The series itself is starting a month earlier than last year. We have 10 rounds this time with 2 double-headers (2 races in one day). Hopefully I get up to speed quickly or right away. I'm sure some of the other drivers have taken practice days and touch up classes over the off-season. I haven't. I don't have the budget for that.

I want to win this championship, and the 3-day Formula 3 course that is the prize.