Sunday, May 27, 2012

2012 Indy 500 - Takuma Sato crashes, Dario Franchitti wins his 3rd Indy 500

For the second consecutive Indy 500, a crash at the final lap decided the outcome of the race. Dario Franchitti was on a class of his own and proved his quality, but it was Japanese ex-Formula 1 driver Takuma Sato who provided the excitement. Man, what a thrilling final five laps we had at the 2012 Indianapolis 500!
At the restart, with 5 laps to go,  Sato, who was on form throughout the second part of the race leading for a significant number of laps after climbing from 19th on the grid, was back in fifth behind Justin Wilson, Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti and leader Tony Kanaan. As he had done throughout the race, Sato displayed a maturity that was unlike his earlier seasons in IndyCars. The final caution period had eliminated any need for the frontrunners to save fuel as they could come in for a splash and dash. Sato was in the hunt, and when the green flag came with just around five laps remaining he slowly worked his way as Tony Kanaan slipped down the order from the lead to fourth.
With two laps remaining Sato made a bold and unexpected move on the inside of Scott Dixon and was through to second with only Dario Franchitti left between him and the chance to rewrite history as the first ever Japanese to win the Indianapolis 500. As the final lap began, Sato tucked up right behind Franchitti who knew Sato was looking to pass him on the inside like he had done on Dixon. Franchitti moved a little to the inside, and Sato was expected to fall back since there just did not appear to be enough room on the inside of Turn 1 to overtake. But he squeezed through as the fans looked on anxiously to see if he might just pull it off for a historic moment in the history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Sato’s Rahal Letterman Lanigan Dallara DW12 Honda was halfway beside the Ganassi Dallara DW12 Honda of Franchitti. But he was well past the white line on the inside of the curve and was marginally on the grass. This part of the track has hardly any grip and Sato spun and hit Franchitti in the process. Many thought it would take both of them out. But Franchitti’s spotter told him to keep going as Sato crashed against the wall, destroying the rear end of his car. Dario won, followed by his Ganassi team-mate Scott Dixon and KV Racing’s Tony Kanaan.
That white line had proved quite tricky in the race, particularly with Ed Carpenter who spun on touching the line on the inside but somehow managed to keep his car from hitting the wall. But it was not to be for Takuma Sato. He was classified 17th in the end but at Indy it does not matter where you finish unless you win it. Dario Franchitti may have won his third Indy 500, but it was Sato who won the hearts of fans. Let’s hope he has a promising 2012 IndyCar season!            

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Ultimate Motor Racing

Giant Leaps from Formula 1 Safety Standards

How far can driver safety be stretched in motor racing? If speeds much greater than those in Formula 1 need to be achieved, safety needs to be revolutioned. F1 safety standards may be high, but they are not satisfactory for the kind of racing and the speeds (average speeds above 350 kph) I envisage for UMOR (Ultimate Motor Racing). I can't accept death or even serious injury (broken vertebrae, neck, broken limbs, paralysis, head injury, etc.) for drivers. Even speed isn't a worthy cause to die for. Human life is precious. We'll come to circuit and spectator safety in subsequent posts. In this let's concentrate on cockpit safety.

I'm not an engineer or a scientist, so I'm not sure about many things. But I invite suggestions from readers who may be professionals in various fields to contribute their ideas. I'm here only suggesting a few ideas. If they're laughable - forget it. But if not, develop on it and get back to me:

Is it possible for a driver to be relatively insulated from the vibrations and g-forces experienced in the cockpit that generally contribute to driver fatigue? We've heard of Colin Chapman's "double chassis" technology in 1981 but later banned in Formula 1, but is a double cockpit possible? My idea is to place the driver and his cockpit in a cocoon (the second cockpit). Of course, this will require the use of fly-by-wire technology for driver controls. But if the double cockpit technology is successful, safety will make a giant leap ahead in motor racing.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

UMOR - Ultimate Motor Racing

This is to all motor racing and Formula 1 fans and journalists out there: There are plenty of motor racing series , but are these truly living up to the full potential of what a motor race can achieve and entertain? In other words, is motor racing, of the kind we have around us, really giving us the raw experience of seeing some people deciding to race each other hard with their machines to see who wins, which is truly what motor racing originally is about?

Or are we, through Formula 1, NASCAR, IndyCar, Le Mans Series, WRC, rally raid, etc. getting compartmentalised motor racing where team orders, corporate interests, politics, team polemics and personal financial greed interfere and decide the ultimate results? Think, folks! Think deep and you'll find that if you're honest with yourself the answers to the first two questions would be "no" and that of the final question would be "yes."

Time to revolutionize Formula 1 and motor racing
You may think that I'm trying to stir up a revolution, but this is serious. I'm a genuine fan of motor racing, particularly Formula 1. Having watched it since 2000 and read about and experienced through the Internet the earlier eras, particularly the Senna-Prost-Mansell-Piquet era, I - having a genuine love for motor racing and desiring to see it spread all over the world to a greater section of people - have been grieved what the so-called pinnacle of motor racing gives us. Formula 1 has team orders, greed of commercial owners, politics of the governing body, and business motives of corporate-owned teams. Where is the true spirit of people getting together to race the heck out of their machines and win, for the sake of it?

We aren't experiencing unadulterated motor racing through Formula 1. It is all sophisticated (I'm not talking about technology), manipulated and money driven. It isn't a sport or a pure motor race, but just a cash cow to feed some businessmen who parade their product (not sport) around as the ultimate level of motor racing - far from it.

The need for a BIG CHANGE
Having thought quite hard about it, I felt there's got to be a better way of running a motor race, of giving people the true spirt of competition, and getting this sport to a larger section of people around the world, and not just a few rich individuals. That was when I dreamt of a "brave new world," where motor racing is pure, as it should be and gives even more thrill than a soccer game. That was when I conceived the idea of UMOR - Ultimate Motor Racing, not merely a new series but a completely new manner of running a race and governing motor racing around the world.

I'm just framing the rules and all the related stuff. But I'm not in the business, and I live far away from Europe. I need someone (a journalist or anyone in the business) to take my ideas forward and present them to Williams, Ferrari, McLaren, Ganassi, Penske and other Formula 1, IndyCar and worldwide racing teams, once I've completed the rules and polished my ideas. In the mean time interested individuals can come up with their own ideas of UMOR and present them to me. Please, make this dream of genuine motor racing come true. Watch this space in the days and months to come...

UMOR - Ultimate Motor Racing is completely revolutionizing the kind of motor racing we have today to bring the sport back to its original purpose - pure racing and nothing else. Racing shouldn't take a step back every year but always a step forward.

The goal of UMOR is to consolidate the various kinds of motor racing into one series with various classes. The top line UMOR prototype must be able to race on regular circuits, ovals, street courses as well as gravel and other rough surfaces. Apart from regular races there will also be speed runs and rally format racing.

I need engineers, aerodynamicists, journalists and fans to come up with fresh ideas with regard to the following:

Race car design:- Gone are the days of aesthetic racing cars. Modern Formula 1 cars are ugly, thanks largely to the narrow track (width between the tyres),skinny tyres, raised nose and stepped floor. We need a racing series with prototypes (open wheel as well as other types) that are aesthetically pleasing to watch, as in the early 80s.

Safety:- Driver safety concerns cause the FIA to limit top speeds and engine power in Formula 1. But are our safety standards enough? The head of the driver is still vulnerable and however strong the carbon fibre monocoque of the Formula 1 car may be, the driver still risks breaking limbs. Secondly, g-forces and their negative effects led the FIA to reduce cornering speeds (for which the narrow track was initially employed in Formula 1 in 1998 and narrow rear tyres in 1993). What is needed is a cockpit and head protection mechanism that is not only strong but also insulates the driver from experiencing tremendous g-forces (double cockpit or cockpit connected to hydraulic shock absorbers...), so that he can push more and cars can get even faster.

Circuits:- As cars get faster circuits will have to change, in that flag waving by marshalls will have to make way for electronic signals. Marshal posts must be fully closed, be at a safe distance from the track, and made of high strength material. Spectators must also be placed behind much stronger barriers.

Engines:- UMOR is the ultimate form of motor racing and thus the engines must be the among the largest and most powerful racing engines out there to bring in the awe factor and also make cars extremely and blindigly fast. But they also have to incorporate hybrid and other green technologies to dramatically reduce fuel consumption.

That's all for now, but I'll get back with more detailed points, rules, the works. Till then all you bright minds, come up with ideas, add them in the comments. This is to make motor racing withstand the future and bring greater joy to the world at large. So please, help make the UMOR dream a reality.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Painting Motor Racing

Most of us can never become a professional racing driver due to physical, financial, cultural and other reasons. Being in India we're never going to be close to the action as well, unless the money comes in and people in India realize that though motor racing is expensive it's beautiful, and there's nothing like it.

One of the ways to experience the sport is to paint it. By painting motor racing, I feel like getting close to the sport. They may not be perfect or expert works of art but nevertheless give me joy and make me feel that I'm either watching a race, hearing the engines roar and getting close to the stars, or am actually driving those machines.

So if you want to experience something try imagining it, or if you can, paint it. Paint on paper or canvas using crayons, water colour, oil paint, whatever, or use MS Paint on your computer. If you know graphics try creating images in Photoshop or Corel Draw.

Use your mind to imagine. It's a God given skill to help make our world a better place. Remember, the Bible often expects us to imagine the glory of God's kingdon to come, by giving us detailed descriptions of it. So go ahead, be where and what you want.

Here's a description of my paintings : The first one is that of the crashed Williams-Renault of triple World Champion F1 driver Ayrton Senna (fatal crash, Imola, Italy, 1994).

The second one is the side view of F1 driver and double World Champion Fernando Alonso's helmet used in 2009, the year before he moved to Ferrari.

Next, it's the Ferrari 312T5 F1 car, driven by Gilles Villeneuve in 1980.

This is followed by another shot of the Ferrari 312T5 driven in the rain by Villeneuve.

The last one is close-up shot Gilles Villeneuve in his helmet. The Canadian driver died in an F1 practice crash in Belgium in 1982.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Remembering Ayrton Senna

Tribute to Ayrton Senna on 15th Death Anniversary

Ayrton Senna da Silva: March 21, 1960 – May 1, 1994


15 years have passed since triple Formula One World Champion and Brazilian legend Ayrton Senna da Silva crashed fatally at Imola during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix race, and it seems like yesterday. Though a racing fan only since 2000 and the days of monotonous Michael Schumacher and Ferrari domination of the Formula One World Championship, I’ve dug up the past through various media and experienced (though only in a partial manner) what Formula One racing was with great drivers who weren’t just fast in the car, but struck passion in the minds of fans even when they took off their helmets – their flashing looks and manly contours evoking the beauty of speed itself!

Gilles Villeneuve and Ayrton Senna were two of those racing drivers whose eyes, emitting piercing looks through their helmet visors, evoked folk tales of bravery and an undying tenacity to extract the most from the car at their disposal throwing safety to the wind, and WIN! On May 1, 1994 though, Senna’s Williams FW16 Renault got the better of him at the Tamburello corner at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari racetrack, Imola, Italy, sending the Brazilian hurtling to the barriers at 217kph!

A lot has been said about the lack of safety in F1 and motorsport at the time. It was the same weekend when Austrian driver Roland Ratzenberger was killed and Brazilian driver Rubens Barrichello seriously injured as they were pushing the limits of capability of their body and machine. Polish driver Robert Kubica’s spectacular crashing and tumbling at the 2006 Canadian Grand Prix in his BMW and Finnish driver Heikki Kovaleinen’s head-on impact against the barriers at the 2008 Spanish Grand Prix also reminded the world of the massive strides in safety initiated by FIA President Max Mosley and others. Neither Kubica nor Kovaleinen sustained serious injury, and these were probably two of the most horrifying crashes F1 had witnessed in recent times. However, Brazilian Felipe Massa’s serious head injury sustained when a mechanical part from another car hit his helmet at the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix, and Henry Surtees’s fatal head impact caused by another car’s detached tyre at the British round of the Formula Two race reminded us that safety still needs to be improved. Senna’s demise left a massive void in all concerned in the F1 fraternity, and one of the reactions was to give an unprecedented push for safety - of the cockpit, track, marshals and spectators. What happened to Senna should never happen again.

Debates have obviously raged regarding the exact cause of Ayrton Senna’s fatal crash, with a failed steering column and a possible bottoming of the car at the Tamburello corner being two of the most accepted conclusions. The death sent such a shockwave among fans that many couldn’t watch an F1 race for a long time after that fateful weekend. Another question that has done the rounds is what could have happened had not Senna crashed fatally that day. Could he have increased his tally of World Championships? Would Michael Schumacher ever have secured his first World Championship that year? Would Senna have eventually driven for Ferrari, as Ferrari boss Luca di Montezemolo claims Senna declared a few days before the tragedy?

Though these questions remain unanswered, the fascination they spawn enables the memory of probably the greatest driver till date in Formula One to linger on in the minds of his loyal fans the world over. The only good thing that has come from the tragedy is that safety became the No 1 priority in Formula One and all motorsport.