Wednesday, June 29, 2011

24 Hours of Le Mans, 2011

Guest Blog by @MrWebbi: 24 Hours of Le Mans, 2011 (all words are author's own)

June has not only been a classic month for Grand Prix racing, but it was also a classic for endurance racing too. The infamous Le Mans 24 hour race was an absolute blinder this year – It genuinely had everything – Big-time, life endangering crashes, glamorous machinery, international flavour and the closest finish in decades!

I made the journey from Manchester to my first ever Le Mans this year having wanted desperately to go for the last 10 years or so and never quite managing it. After a very clumsily booked package deal was hastily cobbled together, a friend and I embarked upon the 1200-mile round trip in a diesel van and a Eurotunnel train, hoping to find the amazing sights and sounds this legendary race is famous for.

Well, what we found was an experience I have already pledged to repeat as often as I can. Right from the moment we arrived the fun began (well, perhaps just after we arrived and had some deranged French teenager on a bike - staff - take us to the wrong campsite). 
The camping grounds were instantly recognisable as an international affair, with Danish, German, French and British campers amking the majority, but plenty of Dutch, Belgians, Spaniards and Swiss intermingled too. They were loud but friendly, orderly too, with festival-style facilities in non-festival style conditions (read CLEAN!). A perfect crowd to immerse yourself in to soak up the anticipation. 

The race itself was a classic, with exception to around three hours in total behind safety cars – including one stint where they had to bring out a spare while the original refuelled! 

Audi vs Peugeot was the big rivalry again, with both manufacturers once again running diesel power, and there was extra interest thrown in with the Aston Martin team running in the top class. Resplendent in the all-time great Gulf livery and carrying the numbers 007 and 009, they were by far the best supported team. Unfortunately their two cars managed only six laps between them before retiring.

Le Mans AUDI Safety car, 2010
Lower down the classes, Signatec Nissan had a driver line-up that included a Spaniard by the name of Lucas Ordonez. He had won his place via winning a competition on the Playstation game Gran Turismo 5 and coming through the Nissan/GT5 drivers academy; quite a story for one of the most promising young drivers on track, finishing an impressive second in class in the Playstation sponsored Nissan.

PlayStation stall, Le Mans
Corvettes won both of the GTE classes, and in close proximity they sound like angry thunder (video), providing a soundtrack to the night time that made it almost impossible to fall asleep. A Ford GT, entered by husband and wife team Robertson Racing, managed to finish 3rd in class, despite it being by far the slowest thing on track. It must have been terrifying to have been overtaken constantly for 24 hours solid, but they earned their place on the podium for fantastic reliability and composure on track.

There were two huge crashes, both involving Audis that provided heart-stopping moments. Both Alan McNish’s and Mike Rockenfeller’s involved clipping a slow GTE car whilst overtaking, sending them hurtling into the barrier, both left wreckages that it looked almost impossible that a human could walk out of alive, but both did exactly that, a testament to the amazing safety structures now mandatory in the sport.

So Audi won overall by just 14 seconds from the chasing 3 Peugeots. Staggeringly close considering how long the race is. Dr Ullrich, team boss of Audi, showed just how much the race meant to them with his outpouring of emotion after the chequered flag had fallen.

Le Mans pit lane, after the race

Crowds flood the track after the gruelling 24hour race
And as for my experience? Well, much beer and broken sleeping patterns mean I can’t coherently explain what it was that made my Le Mans 2011 so utterly compelling and satisfying, beyond a great race, and awesome venue, wonderful people and an atmosphere you wish you could bottle. Worth a week’s camping in changeable weather, worth the marathon drive and even – dare I say it – worth the horrific queues on the Eurotunnel!

Try it yourself, you will be glad you did…
Photos from 2010 Le Mans by @duskyBlogF1. For more photos, check out

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

European GP: Race Summary

General concensus from the F1 watching public is that the European GP lacked any real excitement. In fact, it is currently being recommended on Twitter as a cure for insomnia. So I hope you will appreciate my lack of enthusiasm to write at length about a snoozeFest.    

Jaime Alguersuari, Toro Rosso driver
Main highlights (the ONLY highlights) were (1) an impressive drive by Jaime Alguersuari to finish 8th from 18th which should stall talks about his imminent replacement by Toro Rosso & Red Bull reserve driver, Daniel Ricciardo and (2) a fantastic F1 concert with David Guetta headlining. The most 'interesting' stat of the day was that it was the first race completed by ALL 24 runners, the highest number of finishers ever. Yes, that's how dull the race was.


Next race is Silverstone, now THAT definitely promises be an exciting race.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

European GP: Qualifying

A harbour-side street circuit in a dry, hot Valencia was the venue of Qualifying for the European Grand Prix.

Drop-Outs from Q1 were the usual suspects of ALG, KOV, TRU, GLO, LIU, DAM, KAR (Alguersuari, Kovalainen, Trulli, Glock, Liuzzi, d'Ambrosio, Karthikeyan)

Q2 got underway shortly afterwards with Ferrari's Massa first out on track. Session was RED FLAGGED when Maldonado stopped in the middle of the track with 8 minutes to go - due to what seemed to be mechanical or electrical failure. At this point, Buemi and Petrov hadn't set a time. Session restarted soon afterwards and all 17 drivers got a time on the board.

However Sutil pushed Petrov out of the top 10 in the last few seconds of Q2. This also means Sutil outqualifies his team-mate for only the second time this season since Turkish GP; partly due to di Resta's lack of running on Friday (Hulkenberg crashed his car during FP1) and a wobble in the last few seconds of Q2. Sutil was later fined €18,400 for 2 incidents of pit-lane speeding in Q2. Mike Gascoigne of Team Lotus suggested that was perhaps for an error in his pit-lane limiter.

Out of Q2 are PET, DIR, BAR, KOB, MAL, PER, BUE (Petrov, DiResta, Barichello, Maldonado, Perez, Buemi) leaving Vettel, Hamilton, Button, Alonso, Webber, Schumacher, Rosberg, Massa, Heidfeld and Sutil to battle it out for the top 10 positions.

With 2 minutes left in the session and with Vettel on provisional pole (Imin36.975), all the front runners went back out including Schumacher who hadn't set a time yet.

Top 3 Drivers (courtesy

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lewis Hamilton and Tony Stewart 'Car Swap' Mobil1 Event

Few days after another sub-par performance at the Canadian Grand Prix, Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton took part in a 'car swap' event on June 14th with NASCAR Racer, Tony Stewart. (This event was initially scheduled for July). 
Both drivers expressed admiration of each other's skills and seemed to enjoy their time in their 'borrowed' cars. Here are videos of the event (via TheNARLtv YouTube channel)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Canada GP Race Summary: The Tale of Two Races (and Two Winners)

Rain was forecasted for Sunday afternoon at the Gilles Villeneuve circuit so the race started behind the Safety car and all drivers were on extreme wet tyres.

Once the Safety car withdrew and real racing began, the first casualty of the race was (unsurprisingly) Lewis Hamilton who tried to overtake his team-mate along the pit straight, but had a collision when Jenson Button swerved to the left suddenly. Hamilton suffered rear-puncture and some suspension damage and was forced to retire. Button later explained that although he looked in this mirrors, he didn't realise his team-mate was there.

By lap 25, the rain was too heavy to continue racing due to lack of visibility and the race was red-flagged. At this point the Top 3 were VET, KOB, MAS. If the race had been called off at this point, half-points would have been awarded. Vettel would have won and have 155.5 WDC points. However the cars stayed on the grid and waited for the rain to stop.

At race re-start, there were more collisions and the second top team casualty was Alonso who tangled with Button and got beached on a kerb. With 20 laps to go, a dry line was appearing on the track and dry tyres were coming into their own. Button's 2-lap-old tyres were at the perfect operating mode to catch the drivers in front of him and he set the fastest lap of the race with 1min16.956. On the penultimate lap, watched by his team-mate in the hospitality area, he closed the gap to race leader Vettel and pressured him into making an error. Button pounced on the opportunity and took the lead and kept it till the waving chequered flag.

Kobayashi who had been running 6th was overtaken on the finishing line by a DRS-enabled Ferrari driven by Massa. Top 10: Button, Vettel, Webber, Schumacher, Petrov, Massa, Kobayashi, Alguersuari (first point scoring position this season), Barrichello and Buemi.

No penalties were awarded after the race so the results stays. Button celebrates his 'best career' win and his first win since Chinese Grand Prix last year. The 'second' winner of this race is now second place in the standings. Vettel 161, Button 101, Webber 94, Hamilton 85, Alonso 69

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Rosberg receives Bandini Trophy.

As reported in March earlier this year on a post on this blog (#111), Nico Rosberg, Mercedes Petronas GP racing driver is the 2010/2011 recipient of the Lorenzo Bandini trophy. He joins the ranks of other Formula 1 greats such as Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso, who have been presented the same trophy in the past.

Nico's ceremony was earlier today Sunday 5th June 2011. The Mercedes GP driver posted this photo on his Twitter/Facebook page. Congratulations Nico!