1. Racing rougher in my day, Gerhard Berger says
2. Formula Atlantic film from the Seventies surfaces
3. NASCAR roundup: Chase excitement mounts; Ranger wins in Canada
Gerhard Berger, the ex-F1 driver who hasn’t been heard from in a dog’s age, came out of the woodwork in the past week to defend his old pal Michael Schumacher, who’s been under fire for trying to run Rubens Barrichello into a cement wall at the last Grand Prix in Hungary.
Berger last had his name in dispatches two years ago when he managed to sell his half of Red Bull’s B team, Scuderia Toro Rosso, to Red Bull team owner Dietrich Mateschitz. Since then, he’s been "advising" ex-teammate Ayrton Senna’s nephew, Bruno.
ESPNf1.com quoted Berger as telling this to the Austrian newspaper Tiroler Tatgeszeitung: "We drove harder and more brutally" in the ’80s and ’90s. "Three times a lap we drove each other into the walls without complaining. This was just part of it. We would have thought nothing of an action like Michael’s against Barrichello."
I would suggest that, for whatever reason, Berger is exaggerating. Or maybe he’s been watching too much NASCAR and is confused because the only F1 driver who’s consistently and deliberately crashed into other drivers – or tried to crash other drivers out of races over the years – has been Michael Schumacher.
He did it to Damon Hill, he did it to Jacques Villeneuve and he did it to any number of other drivers who dared start on the front row of Grands Prix beside him. He did the latter bit by lining up on the grid at a 40 or 45-degree angle so he could drive straight at the guy beside him (rather than having to go to the trouble of turning his steering wheel after the start) and I still wonder to this day how or why the stewards let him get away with it.
Yes, there was cases over the years of other drivers getting carried away when they were blocking (oops, in F1 it’s called "defending your position") but they never did it anywhere as often as Schumacher.
I remember at the 1976 Canadian Grand Prix at Mosport when Clay Regazzoni blocked Carlos Pace into the concrete wall on the front straight (there was a mighty spark and the outline of a wheel was immediately visible on the wall). Right after the race, though, Regazzoni sought out Pace and apologized profusely, swearing that he hadn’t known the other driver was there.
For the record, Pace told reporters later that he hadn’t believed the Ferrari driver but it was nice that he’d said he was sorry. Schumacher, of course, said he was going to apologize to Barrichello but Rubens said this past week that he still hadn’t received one. (See that story and photo here.)
In any event, I have a friend, Clive Rayman, who was a pretty good Formula Ford driver in his day (Gary Magwood, Brian Stewart, Gilles Villeneuve, et al), and he writes me frequently about how soft racing drivers are these days. In his latest missive, he says that Berger’s comments are right on because, in his day, men were men.
"There are few drivers with any real balls left," he writes. "Racing was meant to be dangerous . . . now, we've got a bunch of prima donna scaredy cats driving race cars."
I have all the respect in the world for Clive and the rest of the guys of that era, from Formula Vee on up to Formula One, because many of them didn’t survive it. In fact, in the 1970 season, seven F1 drivers died.
But because it was so dangerous, I don’t believe for a minute that drivers went out to deliberately wreck another driver, as Gerhard Berger says. I also don’t believe that anybody driving a racing car in combat today is any less brave, even if it is safer, because the speeds are way higher and the potential for calamity still exists.
If anything’s changed, it’s the coverage.
Back in the day, there wasn’t the intense focus on all aspects of the sport as there is today. Few reporters attended; TV wasn’t as sophisticated.
Now, 200 writers are accredited for every race. Speciality magazines like Autosport cover every aspect of the races in minute detail. Racing websites coming out of your ying-yang do the same, and invite their readers/viewers to comment. There is intense pressure – sporting and political – on the stewards to deal with every indiscretion, regardless of how minor.
Michael Schumacher’s move on Rubens Barrichello was replayed again and again on TV, discussed and analyzed ad nauseum, and it will be available on the Internet probably forever.
So, it’s not that racing is any less dangerous; it’s that you can’t get away with anything any more and, as a result, everything gets exaggerated.
Back on July 17, I was interviewed by Karen Gordon for the CBC Radio show Fresh Air. The focus was the Honda Indy Toronto, but I got a chance during the 15-minute interview to explain my passion for motorsport generally.
At one point, I mentioned how romantic auto racing can be and Karen interjected, "What do you mean, ‘romantic?’ " I wish I’d known then about a film that has since surfaced on the Internet to help me explain myself (although I think I did a pretty good job and if you want to listen to the interview, you can do that here and agree or disagree with my personal assessment . . .)
In any event, the film that I’ve now watched twice (it runs close to 30 minutes; you can watch it here) was produced for Player’s by Chetwynd Films of Toronto and tells the story of the 1975 Formula Atlantic Series season.
It’s built around Bill Brack and his third straight national championship and includes footage, interviews and voice-overs with the likes of Brack, his public-relations rep Sid Priddle, Gilles Villeneuve, Keke Rosberg, Elliott Forbes-Robinson, Bertil Roos, Bruce Jenson, Craig Hill and Bobby Rahal.
There are scenes from the long-gone Westwood circuit near Vancouver, the airport runways at Gimli, Man. (where they raced in torrential rain), and Atlantic Motorsport Park as well as Mosport and Le Circuit-Mont Tremblant.
Written by James W. McLean and narrated by Ted O’Reilly, the film was edited by James Robinson, who’s still active in race coverage. His company produces the TV programs for the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series.
Brack does a lot of running through what looks to be High Park as well as playing squash while Villeneuve talks about the sacrifices everyone has to make when they go racing.
Take the time to watch it. It’s a great record of a great time in Canadian motorsport history.
Although Kevin Harvick became the first driver to clinch a place in this year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship when he won Sunday’s Carfax 400 at Michigan International Speedway (Denny Hamlin was second, Carl Edwards was third, Greg Biffle fourth and Matt Kenseth fifth; full race report here), the post-race focus was on the 12th and final playoff position.
Mark Martin had a terrible race and dropped out of the top 12, with Clint Bowyer now holding down the final spot.
With three races remaining – Bristol next week, Atlanta on Labour Day weekend and then Richmond – it’s pretty safe to say that, after Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Hamlin, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Jeff Burton, Kyle Busch and Kenseth – barring catastrophe – are pretty certain of a spot in the Chase.
Which leaves, in my estimation, Kurt Busch as well as Biffle and Bowyer "on the bubble" so far as the Chase is concerned. I say that only because of the talent stalking them.
Besides Martin, who’s only 35 points behind Bowyer, Ryan Newman, Jamie McMurray and Kasey Kahne are also on the charge. Although Dale Jr., David Reutimann and Juan Pablo Montoya are still mathematical possibilities, I don’t expect them to make the cut – Montoya mainly because there are no more road races on the schedule.
The pressure to make the Chase was never more evident than during Sunday’s post-race confrontation (live, on TV) between Joey Logano, who got loose during the race and hit Newman, thus spinning him out and ruining what could have been a strong finish, and Newman.
Newman is close to making the Chase while Logano is right out of it (the Chase, I mean . . . ). Newman was obviously angry about what had happened and wanted to know what Logano had been doing and Logano was trying to explain that maybe Newman also had some responsibility for the collision but the problem was that both men were talking and neither was listening to the other.
Suddenly, Newman shoved Logano and it looked like he was getting ready to slug him. Too bad security personnel arrived at that very moment because NASCAR’s new "have at it, boys" philosophy could have been tested right there on international television.
On Saturday, Brad Keselowski won the Nationwide Series race, with Carl Edwards second and Kyle Busch third.
In Trois-Rivieres, Que., meantime, defending NASCAR Canadian Tire Series champion Andrew Ranger of Roxton Pond, Que., showed why you should never give up in a road course race.
After being involved in an incident with J.R. Fitzpatrick of Cambridge that sent him off course, Ranger rebounded to pick up his third consecutive win at Circuit de Trois-Rivieres winning the GP3R 100 Sunday.
After falling back several positions following his contact with Fitzpatrick, Ranger was able to move up to third by Lap 19 and back into the lead on a Lap 29 restart when he made it three wide to get past Fitzpatrick and Kerry Micks of Mt. Albert.
Ranger enjoyed a comfortable lead until Maryeve Dufault of Sorel, Que., spun on Lap 38 to set up a green-white-checkered finish. Ranger was able to stay out front and keep Micks behind him for his second NASCAR Canada victory of the year (he won the race at the Honda Indy Toronto) and fourth road course win of 2010.
Fitzpatrick followed in third with D.J. Kennington of St. Thomas fourth and Jeff Lapcevich of Grimbsby, fifth.
Kennington, who brought a 14-point lead into the event, now trails Fitzpatrick by a single point. Fitzpatrick and Kennington have traded the points lead back and forth all season.
Scott Steckly of Milverton was sixth, J.F. Dumoulin of Trois-Rivieres, seventh, Jason Hathaway of Appin, eighth, Peter Klutt of Halton Hills ninth and Mark Dilley of Barrie tenth.
Ranger has also recorded wins this season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series with triumphs at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., and Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn.
With this win in Trois-Rivieres, Ranger has 10 wins and 17 podium finishes in his 18 road-course starts in NASCAR including his third-place effort last season in Montreal’s NASCAR Nationwide Series event.
As I predicted, the Trois-Rivieres race attracted 28 entries, 10 more than entered the last race in Saskatchewan.
In the Castrol Canadian Touring Car Series races, Sasha Anis won the Super Touring race Sunday, with Karl Thomson winning the Touring class. On Saturday, Marc-Antoine Camirand was first in Super Touring while Anthony Rapone won in Touring Class.
David Ostella, of Maple, driving for AIM Autosport of Woodbridge, finished fifth in the Star Mazda race at Trois-Rivieres, which was won by American driver Alex Ardoin.