US Adventure

It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything on here.

What you can’t see is a couple of drafts that have been started but then stalled. But let’s ignore those, shall we?

In under 2 weeks, I’ll be off to the USA predominantly for the F1 race at Austin (where I’ll be doing the same job I do at the Australian Grand Prix of the Officials’ Gazette).

Hopefully I’ll be posting most days about what’s happened during the day. Some days will be more interesting than others – for example, there are 2 days which will be wasted on internal flights.

The basic itinerary is Phoenix-Vegas-Austin-Vegas-Home but it will all unfold as time passes.

So follow how everything goes on here, on twitter (elephino_) and also the Gazette twitter account (@GPGazette) as that will contain most of the postings from the Austin, US Grand Prix.

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F1 Points Battle

It’s mathematics time!

Yes, it’s the time when the maths gets complicated.  This year, the Formula 1 title race still has 5 contendors left with only 2 races to run.  Normally, there’s only 2 or 3 drivers left in contention and with 10 points for the win, it was easy to work out most combination of results. 

For this season, we now have 25 points for the win.  To make life easier, I’ve put up what’s required from each driver left to win (or to not have a chance of winning).

Jenson Button – 189 Points

Jenson is in big trouble.  He’s basically out of the championship hunt, though mathematically still within reach.  Barring a miracle, he’s out.

Alonso only needs to score 8 points (6th place) to put Jenson completely out of reach.

Sebastian Vettel – 206 Points

Vettel had a good win taken away from him in Korea by his engine failing. Well, exploding really considering the amount of pieces pouring out of the car as it rolled to a halt. Along with Webber’s crash, this meant that it was a rather bad race for Red Bull Racing.

This leaves Vettel 25 points, or precisely 1 win, behind Alonso.  Seb can finish equal with Alonso if he wins both races and Alonso doesn’t score another podium.  We get a little messy on countback. Alonso and Vettel are currently equal on 2nd places but Vettel is up by one on both 3rd and 4th place finishes. 

As there are only 2 races left, it will virtually require a failure of some sort from Alonso for Vettel to reach the top.

If we assume no failures, Vettel will need to win both remaining races and Alonso finish 4th or lower.  With more wins for Vettel if he takes out both races, he will overtake Webber though ending on equal points if Webber is able to take out 2nd in both races as well.  To translate, that means Vettel needs to win and hope for others to get in Alonso’s way.

Lewis Hamilton – 210 Points

Lewis is a mere 4 points ahead of Vettel, so his situation is quite similar.  The very slight difference for Hamilton is that he can have Alonso finish on the podium once in 3rd place, along with a 4th place in the other race and can still take the title with 2 wins.

Once more, Alonso still has the advantage in race wins at the moment 5-3 over Lewis.  To be a little different, Lewis is well up on 2nd places 4-2.  If Lewis is able to catch up (with 2 wins) to Alonso but not overtake on points, then the title goes to Lewis on countback.  Anything less than 2 wins, with a points tie, the title goes to Alonso.

Mark Webber – 220 Points

The simplest solution for Webber is that 2 wins means the title is his. Thanks to the 7 point gap between 1st and 2nd place, Webber would be able to jump Alsono. 

If Webber is able to catch up but not overtake Alonso, which means a maximum of 1 win out of the 2 races, then Alonso is in the slightly better position on countback.  As usual, though, this depends less on the results of races past and more on races yet to come.

Webber is up 3-2 on 2nd places but 1 behind (at the moment) on race wins.  3rd places are equal, but from there the advantage is Alonso’s. Alonso has two 4th places, while Webber’s next best result is a single 5th place.

Due to the point gaps for race finishes, Webber can take the title with two 2nd places as long as Alonso finishes 4th or lower each time.  Though I should note that this would also require neither Vettel nor Hamilton winning both of those races – one each would be ok.

Fernando Alonso – 231 Points

Finally, we have the championship leader.  Thanks to the fortuitous result in Korea, Alonso has a very handy 11 point lead over Webber.

A late-season charge by Ferrari, along with the 7 bonus points in Germany, means that Alonso is in the best position of the contenders.  And yes, Ferrari will point to Germany as the correct decision is Alonso wins by fewer than 7 points.

Skipping how Alonso could lose the title, as that has been covered already, Alonso needs to finish ahead of Vettel in Brazil to put him out of the championship.  Hamilton is a little harder to beat, but a couple of positions ahead for Fernando will likely knock out Lewis as well.

That would leave a clear fight between Alonso and Webber for the final race in Abu Dhabi. 11 points are not a lot.  If neither driver wins a race, the Alonso only needs to remain within 1 place behind Webber in each race to clinch the title.  The only way for Alonso to drop Webber prior to Abu Dhabi, without Webber retiring in Brazil, is for a win and Webber to finish in 5th place or lower.

Who will win?

Umm…

I’m not going to pretend I have no bias here.  I want Webber to win the title.

As always, the driver ahead on points has the advantage and that is currently Alonso. While saying that, we’ve seen large point gaps disappear very quickly in previous seasons including those that many would call impossible (e.g. 17 points in 2 races when 10 points were for the win).

The main aim for any of the remaining 5 is to come away from Brazil within 25 points of the points leader. If this happens, then there is a chance of the World Championship. If there’s a chance of the World Championship, there’ll be a hungry driver trying to take it.

If is a lovely word. It means everything and nothing at the same time.  Roll on Brazil.

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Police Give Up On Motorists

Recently, NSW Crash Investigation Unit Commander, Senior Sergeant Peter Jenkins, stated that he’d been beaten and that, essentially he’d given up on motorists.  “I have no idea what we need to do to get the message across to motorists to drive within their capabilities and take time.”

Pardon? Has he not heard of education?

After many years of the police and politicians (and Harold Scruby – look him up if you’ve never heard of him)  pointing loudly at speeding and drink-driving as the cause of all fatal accidents on our roads, there is a wonder that no one has thought to try a new tactic now that the current ones are failing.  The road toll appears to be on the way up again in spite of their  efforts.

So what can be done?  For starters, they can read Mark Skaife’s report on what other countries are doing and what we’re doing wrong.

Once they’ve finished that, they can go out and actually investigate all accidents thoroughly to determine a specific cause for each accident rather than the blanket phrase of ‘contributing factor’.  Using that phrase means speed is always a contributing factor to any car crash as at least one vehicle (or object) is moving at some point.  While there is a crash investigation unit, quite often they won’t attend so-called minor fatalities and merely use an officer’s report.

Most importantly, there needs to be a realisation that most accidents are caused by mistakes.  Overtaking at an inappropriate time, not taking a break, not seeing the car at the intersection, etc.  Speed is usually not the cause of the accident, but if speeding is involved it does make the consequences worse.

While saying that, a higher speed limit on some roads wouldn’t do any harm and may in fact reduce the road toll due to reduced fatigue.  Fatigue has climbed the crash-cause list in recent years as both roads and cars become safer.  If proof is needed, then we only need to glance at the Northern Territory’s road toll since they added a 130km/h speed limit on their previously unrestricted roads.  If nothing else, it proves that a 130km/h speed limit won’t mean that everyone on the road will die.  Mostly it proves that there was nothing wrong with the open road speed limit previously and that a large amount of revenue was lost as car manufacturers could no longer do hot weather testing at high speeds during the European winter.

Above all else, I can’t understand why motorists are bieng given up on without introducing the most obvious way of combatting issues that are seen on the road. 

Education.

Motorcyclists have had compulsory training for all learners for quite a few years and there was a clear drop in their injury toll, yet too many politicians have then come out saying that it would never work for car drivers.

It’s so frustrating that when motoring bodies, magazines and enthusiasts all pipe up in favour of more education that they are shot down as being ‘hoons’.

But I shall be doing my part.  I will be attending a driver training course in November.  This will be my 4th full course, not including a recent VW drive day that was billed as driver training but really wasn’t.  It doesn’t mean I won’t crash in the future but it will improve my skills and give me a better chance of avoiding one.

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V8X Top 10

V8X magazine has produced a top 10 drivers in V8 Supercars.  The ‘Best Ever’, as long as you only count since 1993.

10. Rick Kelly
9. Russell Ingall
8. John Bowe
7. Greg Murphy
6. Glenn Seton
5. Garth Tander
4. Jamie Whincup
3. Craig Lowndes
2. Mark Skaife
1. Marcos Ambrose

Good list?  Well, pretty boring list really.

A very quick analysis shows that it includes the 9 drivers who have won a championship since 1993 and Greg Murphy.  It was probably harder choosing Murphy than the rest of the 10.

The list is a bit of a dis-service of the older drivers in Seton and Bowe, whom I believe should be higher on the list.  Glenn Seton, especially, as for a long while he was the most successful driver of the era.

Greg Murphy in 7th is a strange position.  He hasn’t won any championships but has had some good runs at Bathurst (not to mention, ‘that lap’). But if Bathurst wins was the criteria, where is Larry Perkins as he’s had 3 wins in this period.  10th for Murphy I could understand but 7th seems a touch too high.

What about Jason Bright (Bathurst and bad luck)? Steven Richards (back to back in Ford and Holden)? Jim Richards (always quick)?

From V8X’s website, it states the list comes from the following: “the drivers from one to 10 that you would hunt out for your team if your life depended on a race’s outcome.”

Using that, rather than general perfomance (and assuming Bathurst was quite likely the race in question), I’d make this list:

10. Glenn Seton
9. Larry Perkins
8. Garth Tander
7. Jamie Whincup
6. Greg Murphy
5. John Bowe
4. Russell Ingall
3. Jim Richards
2. Mark Skaife
1. Craig Lowndes

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Amaroo Park

In the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, there is a section called Column 8.  Most days, the paper is worth purchasing just for this small snippet.

Column 8 contains irreverent information and queries from the public.  People are able to point out oddities as well as ask and answer questions.  Due to the small size of the column, it’s difficult to get your name “up in lights” and so it becomes quite an honour to make the grade.

Just this week, I snuck into a question about names of brands that have replaced the product.  As an example I’ll use what I’d sent in.  The brand Kleenex has replaced the tissue that it is.

While coming up with this brand, I recalled another brand that used to also replace the product.  Bitumen.  This worked so well that in my younger days I believed it was all asphalt, but it was eventually pointed out that Bitumen was the brand.

This then led a tiny step to Bitupave Hill.  For those that do not know, this was part of a track in Sydney called Amaroo Park Raceway. Amaroo Park is now just a shadow on Google maps.

Amaroo Park was a brilliant little track that unfortunately had to close due to encroaching civilisation and also that it was essentially outgrown by the racing.

It was a simple track with only 7 corners, one of which was completely out of sight of spectators.  With only 2 main viewing areas, there was also a limit to how big a crowd could get.

I’d been to a few events at the track from state and club level competitions up to Super Tourers and the Australian Touring Car Championship.  The racing was always interesting and usually exciting (noting that every track has boring races from time to time, no matter how great the track is).

The main feature, and one of the reasons the track needed to close, was Stop-Go corner.  This was the second last corner on the track.  The lead in was a right-hand sweeper with a short straight coming up to a ninety degree right-hand corner with no runoff.  When I say ‘no runoff’, I mean there wasn’t any at all.  There was a concrete wall right in front of the driver as they approached the corner.

Stop-Go was an excellent overtaking opportunity but also a recipe for disaster.

In the mid-90s, I saw one of the worst looking accidents I’ve ever seen in person.

Production car racing at the time was supporting the Australian Super Touring Championship.  They ran semi-enduro racing with multiple classes.  At the top of the tree were Porsche 911s and it went down to Nissans and Toyota Corollas.

At the front of the race was Jim Richards and Peter Fitzgerald, both in 911s.  They fought tooth and nail, passing eachother as they went through the very thick traffic.  About mid-way through the race, Fitzgerald made a lunge up the inside of Richards but there wasn’t quite enough space.  On the way through, Fitzgerald went through the dirt just in front of the ripple strip taking a chunk out in the process.

Towards the end of the race, another 911, driven by Terry Bosnjak, was going through some traffic – yes, also coming up to Stop-Go Corner.  On the approach, he had brake failure!

Bosnjak did a very good job avoiding the other cars but was running out of track.  He moved to the right and went through the hole left by Fitzgerald earlier and the nose of the car lifted into the air.  Then came the tyre and concrete wall of Stop-Go.  Bosnjak’s car went high into the air, over five metres high using the advertising hoarding as a gauge, and returned to the ground heavily.

Thankfully Terry had little injury and was able to get out through the windscreen but the car was a write off.  The small divot that had appeared earlier in the race quite likely saved him from serious injury as it put enough movement into the car so that it didn’t hit square to the wall.

It’s a shame Amaroo had to close but all good things come to an end eventually.

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Bathurst TV

It’s looking quite likely that this year will be the first time that I’ve missed watching the Bathurst 1000 live either on TV or in person since 1982…maybe.

1982 is actually a bit of a guess as I was only 5 years old at the time.  Going back through the 2000s and 1990s it’s easy to know that I haven’t missed anything.  Heading through the 1980s and it gets a little difficult.

The late 80s, from 1987 to 1989, I remember quite clearly.  1986 I don’t really remember.  1985, on the other hand, I remember vividly as I really loved the Jaguar XJS.  There was just something magical about the huge green machine to a young lad – not that there was anything wrong with the other green machine of Dick Johnson.

1984 is difficult and is possibly another time I’ve missed the race as I don’t remember anything specific of the coverage other than footage I’ve seen since.

1983.  Well, I clearly remember watching Dick Johnson in Hardies Heroes flying into the trees on the exit of the Elbow.

Is this important?  In the grand scheme of things, no it’s not.  But it has become a bit of a ritual watching and commentating on the conrod.com.au forums in the past few years.  I enjoy the situation and believe that there should be something like that with the live timing provided by V8 Supercars.  Even F1 has this feature for qualifying and racing.

Where does this leave me? Well, with the expected flight times, I should still be able to see the start of the race but will be in the air by half race distance.  I’ll have to keep up to date on twitter and via various TV screens I can find at the airport.  On the other side of the coin, I’ll be seeing a part of Australia I’ve never seen before and it can’t be any worse than my previous destination in the west – West Angelas (http://maps.google.com/maps?q=australia&t=k&num=10&start=0&hl=en&ie=UTF8&om=1&z=13&ll=-23.190074,118.758259&spn=0.07716,0.170288).

Now to at least catch up with the rest of the series…

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Hello world!

Hello world?

Obviously the default post that WordPress enters automatically upon creation of a new blog was written by a programmer.  They’re always defaulting to things like ‘hello world’, ‘widget’ and ‘nigbvorevsa’ (random keys).

So I’ve decided to start a blog.  It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time.  The main trigger is that if I write a full article, such as Conrod, Straight on conrod.com.au, it takes a while to come up with a subject, content and then have it edited so that it makes sense.  With this blog, I’m not limited to V8 Supercars and there’ll be less editing (so less sense-making).

Now to figure out the features of this place…

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