What’s with Formula One’s signing of geezers and retreads these days when there’s a whole bunch of young tigers around, waiting for a shot at the Big Time?
Michael Schumacher (on the cusp of 43) is an exception, He’s won seven World Championships, so he gets a pass.
But the signing the other day of Pedro de la Rosa to a two-year contract by the HRT team was a shocker. The guy’s 40. If he was Superman, I could maybe understand it. But he’s not. He’s a very ordinary driver from Spain who’s had a very ordinary F1 career (one podium in 86 starts) and should be retired.
Kimi Raikkonen’s return to F1 as a Lotus-Renault driver in 2012, announced Tuesday, is also a puzzle. Does anybody seriously think he is going to be anywhere near the pace after a two-year layoff?
Remember Jacques Villeneuve? After getting his butt kicked by Jenson Button at BAR, JV was without a ride for 2004. For reasons never completely clear, Flavio Briatore signed him to drive the final three races of the '04 season for Renault and it was embarrassing to watch because not only did he fail to score points, he failed to finish any of the races on the lead lap.
He said it was the layoff that killed him and that was for less than a full season. Kimi’s been out for two years, so he doesn’t stand a chance.
(By the way, the Kimster spent his time the last two years in the World Rally Championship, where he was largely unnoticed. He took a crack at NASCAR and bombed out there also.)
Mark Webber will turn 36 next season and has already said it will be his last year. Good for him, because despite a victory in the last race at Brazil, he was clearly not the driver this year that he had been in 2010 and things will only get worse.
Jarno Trulli, 37 going on 73 (it seems), will again drive for Lotus in 2012 (when it will be called Caterham) and it boggles the mind that he still has a seat. He has done exactly nothing the last two years – no podiums, no poles, no nothing. He finished 21st in the world championship of drivers in 2010 and again in 2011.
Who decides to hire these guys?
Poor Rubens Barrichello is 39 and counting and telling everybody that he will drive for food - er, I mean he'll sign to drive for anybody in 2012 for a very small retainer – whatever that means in F1 parlance. Williams hasn’t called him to say he’s still on the team and they were nogotiating with Raikkonen before he signed with Renault.
Presumably, Kimi was too rich for Sir Frank’s blood, hence Rubens’ public declaration that he comes cheap.
It’s a mystery that the old guys and the comeback artists are being courted, particularly when there are drivers out there of the calibre of Nico Hulkenberg, Robert Wickens, Esteban Gutierrez and others, who could properly be called "racers," rather than all the octegenarian "drivers" we’re stuck with now.
Meantime, here’s something to chew on.
Renault is not anxious to have the injured Robert Kubica return to the team, particularly now that Kimi Raikkonen is the big name associated with it. Although Kubica has said that he won’t be ready for the first race of 2012, the suggestion is that he’s not far off and Autosport has speculated he could do some rehab work at Ferrari.
Now, Ferrari has poured cold water on the speculation but I have a friend who really knows his stuff, who says flatly that the Scuderia’s denial means something is definitely in the works. Writes my friend:
"If Kubica somehow rounded back to form, then the gamble would pay off in a huge way. . . It would put pressure on Felipe Massa if Kubica were to somehow get it back together. Ferrari would not hesitate to dump Massa."
I think he's on to something.
Other racing news:
– There are problems with the new Dallara Indy car for 2012, the car that Dan Wheldon spent most of 2011 testing. In a nutshell, it’s been significantly slower than expected in tests at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and only marginally quicker in road course trim. Dallara and IndyCar have a mere four months to get everything right, with the opening race of the 2012 IZOD season scheduled for March 28.
– Old-time supermodified star Harvey (Leadfoot) Lennox was inducted into the London Sports Hall of Fame recently. Here’s a link to the induction video:
– The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series will operate under a new points system in 2012, it was announced this week.The new structure awards points in one-point increments. As an example, race winners earn 43 points (equal to the maximum number of starters), plus three bonus points for the win. Drivers also can earn an extra point for leading a lap and leading the most laps, bringing the race-winning total to a possible maximum of 48 points.
The points system was simplified, NASCAR says, to make it easier for fans, competitors and the industry to understand. All series under the NASCAR umbrella, from Sprint Cup on down, will be scored the same way.
Posted at 10:49 PM in Auto racing, Formula One, Grand Prix of Canada, Indy 500, IZOD IndyCar Series, NASCAR, NASCAR Canadian Tire, Racing, Racing on TV, Road racing, Sports, World Rally Championship | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
Technorati Tags: auto racing, car racing, Dan Wheldon, F1, Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Formula One, Grand Prix racing, Harvey Lennox, IZOD IndyCar Series, Jarno Trulli, Jarno Trulli, Kimi Raikkonen, Mark Webber, Michael Schumacher, NASCAR, NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, Pedro de la Rosa, racing, Robert Kubica, Rubens Barrichello
Ace F1 reporter Adam Cooper did the interview with Ecclestone and asked all the right questions. Read it and I think you will agree that the U.S. GP at Austin, scheduled for 2012, will likely never be held.
The deadline is tomorrow, Nov. 30, and it will pass without a resolution. What a wasted effort.
You can do your own reading between the lines, but I suggest this is what happened to create this embarrassment.
A promoter made the deal with F1 (Ecclestone) and the state of Texas and became partners with local interests, who would raise money to build a circuit.
The local interests and the promoter then had some sort of disagreement, or falling out. The promoter bailed. The state of Texas, which was on the hook for $25 million, very quickly got cold feet.
The local interests decided to try to go it alone, even though the state and Ecclestone had only dealt with the promoter. So Ecclestone sent them a contract.
Not only did the local interests not sign the contract, which would have left them up the creek without a paddle, but they tried to bluff their way through by sending a contract of theirs for Ecclestone to sign (knowing full well he wouldn’t, thus letting them off the hook because of the realization they were in way over their heads).
The Austin Grand Prix seemed like such a good idea at the time.
If the Grand Prix now scheduled for New Jersey/New York in 2013 falls through (it's also quite possible), the United States may never get another crack at an F1 race - at least so long as Bernie Ecclestone is around.
Here's that link. Read it and weep.
Technorati Tags: Austin, Austin Grand Prix. F1, auto racing, Bernie Ecclestone, car racing, F1 racing, Formula One, Grand Prix racing, racing, State of Texas, Texas, U.S. Grand Prix, United States Grand Prix
'CRAZY LEO URLICHICH' WINS RALLY OF THE TALL PINES; WICKENS LOSES OUT ON F1 SEAT
Mark Webber won the Grand Prix of Brazil on Sunday, with his teammate Sebastian Vettel second and Jenson Button third (see Sunday post below, or click here for race details) but the question must be asked:
Did Vettel deliberately try to make his Red Bull-Renault team look bad when he was asked to give way to Webber, allegedly because of problems with his gearbox?
There are all sorts of conspiracy theories out there about how the gearbox story was concocted by Red Bull in order to throw Webber a bone.
The team’s No. 2 driver had been decimated by his World Championship-winning teammate this season (a record 15 poles and 11 victories in 20 races for Vettel, zero and three for Webber going into Brazil) and the feeling is that Red Bull – as Ferrari did with Eddie Ervine and Rubens Barrichello during the Schumacher years – wanted a win for Webber, if for nothing more than to boost his confidence heading into winter.
Whether there were problems or not, Red Bull notified Vettel about a third of the way through the 71-lap race that he’d have to baby his gearbox if he wanted to make it to the finish. It was suggested he not hold up his teammate, Webber (they were running one-two at the time).
A radio transmission between Vettel and the team was garbled, but you got the feeling that he wasn’t 100 per cent in agreement.
Three laps later, on Lap 28, he turned the fastest lap of the race, to that point. Then, a lap later, he pulled over and suddenly slowed down to let Webber pass and take over P1. He left no doubt in anybody's mind who was watching that he was following team orders.
Despite having to be warned at least twice more to stop trying to take it to Webber (he set another fastest lap on Lap 46), Vettel subsequently held station and drove his car home in second place, well clear of third-place finisher Button’s McLaren-Mercedes.
It must be hard for a racing driver to be told to slow down, particularly a driver who’d recently wrapped up his second consecutive world championship season and one who is clearly – at this point in time – head and shoulders above his competition.
But auto racing is a team sport and selfishness has no place. He didn’t have to stick it to Red Bull with that ultra-quick lap before ceding his position, as well as the one later, and I suggest Christian Horner will have taken note.
Note: With the basketball strike settled, and tons of hockey and baseball news out there, this blog might not appear regularly in the Top 5 sports blogs lineup on the sports home page this winter. But it's updated almost daily and can be found at wheels.ca and thestar.com/sports/auto racing. Have a great off-season.
– An interesting part of watching the last race of the season was guessing which drivers will be back in 2012. As announcer Martin Brundle pointed out, the same five drivers have been on the podium in the last 51 races, so I suggest that everybody outside the top five should be worried about keeping their jobs.
Rubens Barrichello, for instance, won’t be back at Williams (but is Sir Frank really serious about hiring Kimi Raikkonen?) And Jaime Alguersuari likely won’t be back at Toro Rosso because Red Bull wants to promote Jean-Eric Vergne and although Alguersuari beat his teammate, Sebastien Buemi, in the standings, Buemi brings big money to that team and money seems to be the name of the game in F1 again: drivers with money get the rides and drivers without it, don’t.
Case in point. Charles Pic is a French driver with bags full of cash. He has had a very ordinary motor racing career to this point. However, the Marussia-Virgin F1 team announced at Brazil Sunday that Pic will partner Timo Glock in 2012, leaving Canadian Robert Wickens, who has had a pretty successful motor racing career to this point but who hasn’t got a dime, on the outside looking in.
Jerome D’Ambrosio has been dropped to make way for the ultra-quick Pic (ultra-quick, as in nobody can write a cheque faster).
- Quick Monday Morning update: Patrick Head, Sir Frank's right-hand-man at Williams forever, will end his involvement with the race team during the off-season as he moves to another role with the company, director of Williams Hybrid Power.
– I’ve got a call into TSN about F1 coverage in 2012, so that will be a blog entry this coming week when they get back to me (everybody was out west at the Grey Cup).
But F1 coverage could be a problem because TSN gets its feed from the BBC and in 2012, the BBC will only televise 10 of the expected 20 races live. Sky Sports, a British pay-TV channel, will cover all the races live and has announced a dynamite package in which every practice, qualifying session and race will be carried live with all sorts of digital add-ons available.
Anchorman Brundle has already announced that he is leaving the BBC for Sky and analyst/sidekick David Coulthard, Eddie Jordan and the rest will undoubtedly follow.
The implications for Canada are, shall we say, interesting. Hopefully, TSN will be able to make a deal with somebody so that live coverage of all races continues.
– Speaking of TSN, their commercial placement in the first hour of Sunday’s telecast interfered with some serious on-track action.
I know that it’s a crapshoot – they have to stick the commercials in somewhere, and at least we get side-by-side coverage so we’re not left totally in the dark – but it’s still irritating to have a commercial playing (complete with sound) on the right side of the screen and all hell breaking loose on the other.
When they went to commercial the first time at 11:14 a.m., Michael Schumacher and Bruno Senna collided and there were repercussions as Senna was subsequently given a drive-through penalty (yes, there were replays, but that’s like missing a goal in hockey).
When they next went to commercial at 11:24, everybody went into the pits for fresh rubber. Vettel, Alonso, Hamilton, Webber – everybody. Lots of action on a screen the size of a postage-stamp.
Here’s a suggestion: when the checkered flag fell, it was 12:36 p.m. When Webber, Vettel and Button went out on the podium, is was 12:42. If they put six minutes of commercials in there, would anybody mind?
– Everybody in F1 is stick thin – the drivers, the engineers, etc. So when I saw a Force India jack man with a pot belly, I didn’t know what to think:
1, Formula One has an image to protect and what’s a fat guy doing out there?
Or . . .
2, Hey, there’s a fat guy in Formula One! There's hope for all of us fat guys yet!
– I’m confused. Martin Brundle clearly said F1 is so sophisticated now that "you can’t damage your own gearbox any more . . . it’s the luck of the draw whether or not it holds up." If that’s the case, why would a driver be told to be gentle with the gearbox?
– Coulthard kept switching back and forth between pronouncing Vettel’s name VET-ul and Vu-TELL during the telecast (it’s really FET-ul, if you want to know). I don’t know why he can’t get the correct pronunciation around his tongue, considering that he sits (or stands) right beside Brundle, who’s got it mostly right.
Which is reminiscent of Jacques Villeneuve’s years in CART, when Paul Page used to call him "Vellano." I loved Paul Page, the true voice of Indy car racing, but I couldn’t figure out what was so hard about "Veel-noov."
– Being an F1 fan requires effort. Most of the summer, you have to be up at the crack of dawn to watch the races, or else rest up in anticipation of staying up half the night.
Which is why Canada and Brazil are my two favourites. The start times are just so much more civilized.
We had an early lunch Sunday, while enjoying the 11 a.m. race. Delightful.
CRAZY LEO WINS RALLY OF THE TALL PINES
Hey, talk about timing. Two days ago, I posted a feature interview I did on Thursday with rally driver 'Crazy Leo' Urlichich. Saturday, he went out and won the Rally of the Tall Pines in Bancroft.
Here's the report.
“Crazy” Leo Urlichich, of Thornhill, and co-driver Martin Brady of Ireland defeated a record-breaking number of entries at the 2011 Rally of the Tall Pines, their first win at a Canadian Rally Championship event.
The competition was extremely strong, with 2011 Canadian Rally Champion Antoine L'Estage of St.-Jean-sure-Richelieu, Que., second-place Pat Richard of Squamish, B.C. and 2011 Rally America champion David Higgins of Trefeglwys, Wales, in action.
“Wow, this is incredible,” said Urlichich, who literally jumped around on the podium in excitement. “All season the whole team has been working hard to get to this point, and so this win really proves how much the team has put into the effort.”
With the Canadian Rally Championship already decided in favour of L'Estage and co-driver Nathalie Richard of Halifax, nobody was holding anything back and all teams were attacking from the start.
L'Estage won the first four stages, taking control of the event, until disaster struck at the end of the fifth stage. The transmission in his car shattered, with large pieces of the casing falling off.
Said L'Estage: “Well, it's too bad. We were leading the rally, and had a good lead, but it's okay. The important thing is we are Canadian Rally Champions.”
The 2012 Canadian Rally Championship season is only a few short months away, with the season kicking off Feb. 4th and 5th with the Rallye Perce Neige in Maniwaki, Que.
The Canadian Rally Championship is comprised of six events held nationwide in a season that goes from February to November. The series is presented by Subaru Canada, supported by Yokohama Tire Canada and features contingency programs from Subaru Canada and Mitsubishi Canada.
Technorati Tags: Antoine L'Estage, auto racing, Canadian Rally Championship, car racing, Christian Horner, Crazy Leo Urlichich, David Higgins, F1, F1 racing, Formula One, Jenson Button, Mark Webber, Martin Brady, Nathalie Richard, Pat Richard, racing, Rally of the Tall Pines, rally racing, rallying, rallysport, Red Bull, Sebastian Vettel
World Champion Sebastian Vettel set a record for poles at the Grand Prix of Brazil this weekend but couldn’t add to his victory total Sunday when gearbox trouble forced him to finish second to his race-winning teammate, Mark Webber, who mounted the top step on the podium for the first time this season.
Jenson Button drove his McLaren-Mercedes to third place in the season-ending Grand Prix behind the powerhouse Red Bull-Renault constructors champions, with Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa arriving home fourth and fifth for Ferrari.
Webber’s win and Alonso’s failure to reach the podium gave Webber third place in the season’s standings behind Vettel and Button, 258 points to Alonso’s 257.
Adrian Sutil was sixth for Force India-Mercedes, Nico Rosberg seventh for Mercedes, Paul Di Resta eighth for Force India, Kamui Kobayashi ninth for Sauber and Vitaly Petrov tenth for Renault.
It was not a particularly exciting race but an interesting one, with lots of hard racing from third on back.
Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren gearbox tanked out on him during Lap 37 when he was trying his darndest to get past Felipe Massa, with the Ferrari driver doing everything he could to keep his arch-rival behind him (the two collided five times during the 2011 season).
Said Hamilton, who suffered through a somewhat miserable season: "
"Today, I gave it my all. I enjoyed the race and it's a little bit unfortunate that weren't able to get extra points. I was challenging Felipe at the end and was hoping I could get him but the gearbox didn't last. It's been a long, long year and I'm looking forward to a little bit of downtime with family and friends.
"There is a lot to improve on but I feel it's all positive even though we didn't have a great result today."
Vettel, who spun out of the last Grand Prix at Abu Dhabi two weeks ago, served noticed on Saturday that he intended to try to dominate at Brazil by winning his 15th pole position of the season, breaking Nigel Mansell’s record of 14 set in 1992.
And he let everybody know early that he planned to improve on his previous 11 victories this year by leading from the start in Sunday’s race.
He did that by throwing down the gauntlet and opening up a two-second gap in the first lap over his teammate, who’d slotted into second.
But on Lap 25 of the 71-lap event, Vettel was told by Red Bull engineers that his gearbox was wonky and that he would have to nurse it if he hoped to finish the race. On Lap 29, he slowed to let Webber through and then held onto second despite the best efforts of Button to catch him.
Webber was not jumping-up-and-down excited after the contest, saying that he’d felt in good shape all weekend and that he’d enjoyed the drive, particularly the last two laps when he knew he would win.
"Yeah I feel very good, the car has felt good all weekend," he said. "Seb did a great job for pole but today I had the rub of the green. It would have been nice to race Seb all the way though, but he had a little problem.
"It's a win that you'll take. For Seb, that's bad luck or whatever you want to call it, but it's a very important win for me and the team. It's great to finish on a high. I enjoyed the last few laps in particular, as it's always nice to pit later and cover people off."
For his part, Vettel said he thought it "a real shame" that he hadn’t been more competitive.
"It was a real shame as I had a good start and a very good feeling," he said. "Very early on, I got the call to manage a gearbox problem. I had to turn down the engine and short-shift. It was getting worse through the race and I ended up having to use higher gears.
Then he added: "But nevertheless, Mark drove a fantastic race and he deserved to win."
Button and Alonso had their moments earlier. At the start, Alonso pulled one of his banzai moves from fifth place to get past Hamilton at the start and then bombed by Button on the 11th lap to take third.
However, he had tire problems late in the race and Button was able to recapture third by the checkers.
The only controversy during the race was a drive-through penalty handed to Bruno Senna by the stewards after he and Michael Schumacher had a disagreement over a corner and collided slightly in what simply looked to be one of them racin’ deals.
Schumacher had to pit to replace a punctured tire and, for that, Senna was declared the villain.
Somebody should tell the stewards it’s a race, not a parade.
F1 now will shut down for four months. But rest assured, there will no shortage of news, particularly with Bernie Ecclestone around. In Brazil, He was already stirring the muddy waters around the Austin Grand Prix, suggesting it won't be on the calendar next year, as well as pontificating at length on a number of other subjects.
Never a dull moment, eh?
Technorati Tags: auto racing, Brazilian Grand Prix, Bruno Senna, car racing, F1, F1 racing, Felipe Massa, Fernando Alonso, Formula One, Grand Prix, Grand Prix of Brazil, Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Mark Webber, Michael Schumacher, racing, Sebastian Vettel
Urlichich, who’s sitting third in this year’s Canadian Rally Championship and hopes to make a run for second at the final rally in the national championship this weekend, insists his nickname has nothing to do with marketing.
“Everybody thinks I named myself that for publicity,” he told me during a telephone conversation we had this week, “but that’s not what happened. When I first started rallying, one of my teammates asked me why I didn’t take better care of my car. They said, ‘Your car’s all scratched up, aren’t you going to paint it?’ and I said,'Not until I roll it,' and they thought I wasn’t serious.
"But then I did and they said, 'That's it, you’re crazy,’ and that’s been my name ever since.”
One of the largest fields in Tall Pines history will start the rally Saturday morning - 60 cars and driver/co-driver combinations are entered - and although L'Estage and his co-driver, Nathalie Richard, have wrapped up the 2011 title, that doesn't mean there won't be plenty of action.
The Tall Pines covers more than 500 kilometres of twisty roads (including 200 km of stages) around Bancroft, a town about mid-way between Peterborough and Pembroke.
The big matchup of the weekend is expected to be between national champion L'Estage, who was runner-up this year in the Rally America championship, and British rally driver David Higgins, who won the Rally America tiitle.
And the Tall Pines is no picnic. Those roads around Bancroft at this time of year can be muddy, icy and sometimes snow-covered.
Urlichich, who came to Canadian from Russia nine years ago to attend Trent University in Peterborough, thinks he might have an edge in the Tall Pines.
"The Tall Pines is based out of Peterborough," he said. "When I left Russia, I had the choice of three countries - the U.S., the U.K. and Canada. I chose Canada and I came to Peterborough, which is the home of the biggest rally in the country.
"So I know these roads. I have a better knowledge of these roads than any other. I don't want to sound too optimistic but if I stand a chance at any rally, this is the one."
Urlichich nearly wasn't around to follow his dream of rally driving. A big crash on the street three years ago last summer left him seriously injured with six broken bones, including his spine.
"It took me a year to recover," he said. "Thank God that nobody else but me got hurt and I learned my lesson and that's the last time I drove fast outside of motorsport. I have a metal plate in my arm, all sorts of things, as a result of that.
"I like to think that it made me better because the one thing it really made me do is exercise regularly. If I didn’t go to all that physio, all that recovery, I wouldn’t have been able to race."
Besides his success in rallying, Urlichich has also taken a crack at auto racing. His rally team, Can-Jam Motorsports, treated him to an outing during a round of the Castrol Canadian Touring Car Championship at Mosport on the American Le Mans Series weekend in July.
"The road race was a bonus from the team because I didn't crash a rally car this year," he laughed. "The deal was that if I kept the rally car in one piece, and they didn’t have to spend money fixing it, I would get a road race as a bonus. So we went to Mosport.
"I qualified second to last, but finished the first race in eighth place and the second race in seventh. I was off the track, but for me I considered that normal. But the marshals weren’t impressed. One marshal said he counted that I went off 11 times and maybe I went off once but not 11 times. Anyway, I was in a Subaru, so I knew how to handle it in the run-off areas."
Urlichich said he has plans to go rally racing in the United States next year and would like to take a crack at the X Games.
"Next year, we almost certainly have secured the funding to do U.S. events that would allow us to go for the North American rally cup," he said. "I'm really excited about that. Obviously, the X Games would be a dream come true sort of thing, too." (With a monicker like "Crazy Leo," I don't know how he could miss.) Urlichich, who works for a Toronto media company and is busy these days promoting it on social media, says his ultimate ambition is to rally race on the world stage - the World Rally Championship. "Every day I eat, sleep and dream to become a good competitor in WRC. That’s the goal. Between myself, the team and my family, we’re pushing so hard to make it happen. Maybe nothing will come of it, maybe I’m just not fast enough or I don't have enough talent, but we’re doing everything we can to make it there. I’ll do whatever it takes to get there." "Crazy Leo" says he's still single but he wonders how long he's going to be able to hold out. "My mother starts into me, you know, saying that maybe I should find a permanent girl, but not yet. She's not pushing for grandkids yet, but I’m starting to feel the vibes."
"Next year, we almost certainly have secured the funding to do U.S. events that would allow us to go for the North American rally cup," he said. "I'm really excited about that. Obviously, the X Games would be a dream come true sort of thing, too."
(With a monicker like "Crazy Leo," I don't know how he could miss.)
Urlichich, who works for a Toronto media company and is busy these days promoting it on social media, says his ultimate ambition is to rally race on the world stage - the World Rally Championship.
"Every day I eat, sleep and dream to become a good competitor in WRC. That’s the goal. Between myself, the team and my family, we’re pushing so hard to make it happen. Maybe nothing will come of it, maybe I’m just not fast enough or I don't have enough talent, but we’re doing everything we can to make it there. I’ll do whatever it takes to get there."
"Crazy Leo" says he's still single but he wonders how long he's going to be able to hold out.
"My mother starts into me, you know, saying that maybe I should find a permanent girl, but not yet. She's not pushing for grandkids yet, but I’m starting to feel the vibes."
Posted at 10:53 PM in American Le Mans Series, Auto racing, Mosport International Raceway, Racing, Rally of the Tall Pines, Rallying, Sports, World Rally Championship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Technorati Tags: Antoine L'Estage, Canadian Rally Championship, Leo Urlichich, Nathalie Richard, Pat Richard, rally driving, Rally of the Tall Pines, rally racing, rallying, rallysport, World Rally Championship
The rumours have turned out to be true – that Canadian Tire planned to take a pass on participating at the 2012 Honda Indy Toronto.
For now, at least.
NASCAR issued the 2012 Canadian Tire Series schedule this afternoon and there are 12 races on it but the July 6-8 Honda Indy isn’t one of them.
Although there is an asterisk at the bottom that says “tentative, subject to change,” the fact that the sanctioning body chose to issue it without the Toronto race on it is telling.
The Canadian stock car series will race on the same program as the IZOD IndyCar Series in Canada next year but it will be in Edmonton in late July, rather than through the streets of the CNE two weeks earlier.
What once was known as CASCAR was long a partner of the Molson Indy Toronto but that arrangement came to an end early in the millenium when the price to participate got too high (yes, the racers in most support series, or their sponsors, pay to race at big events).
After the series changed hands, NASCAR Canada and its partner, TSN, negotiated the Canadian Tire series back onto the Honda Indy weekend schedule and the series headlined the Saturday program the last two years.
TSN broadcast the race live last July.
But that arrangement has come to an end, apparently.
There are still seven months to go before the Toronto race, so here’s hoping there’s a change of heart on the part of one of the parties. The stock cars always put on a good show.
Meantime, here is the text of the release from NASCAR and the calendar:
NASCAR announced today the 2012 schedule for the sixth season of the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, which includes many of the top racing facilities throughout Canada.
Next season’s schedule features 12 dates at 12 different tracks across six provinces. The slate includes tracks and events familiar to the series, with Edmonton returning to the schedule after a one-year hiatus.
The 2012 schedule has a great mix of tracks that will deliver the exciting racing that our Canadian fans have become accustomed,” said George Silbermann, NASCAR vice president, regional and touring series. “Each year with the help from our friends at Canadian Tire, this series continues to grow and evolve. This upcoming season should be the best yet.”
“For the first time in series history, on May 20, the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series opens its season at the 2.459-mile Mosport International Raceway road course near Bowmanville, Ont.
For the sixth consecutive year, the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series will share Montreal’s legendary Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on IÎe Notre Dame with the NASCAR Nationwide Series on Saturday, Aug. 18.
Additionally, in a pairing with the IZOD IndyCar Series, the series returns to Edmonton on the new 2.256-mile Edmonton (Alberta) City Centre Airport course that debuted last year.
Joining the Edmonton event, the annual swing through Western Canada includes two other stops: At Motoplex Speedway in Vernon, B.C., and Auto Clearing Motor Speedway in Saskatoon, Sask.
In what has become a tradition, the season will close with a new champion crowned at Kawartha Speedway, the .375-mile oval near Peterborough, Ont., on Saturday, Sept. 22.
“Canadian Tire has been a proud sponsor of the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series since 2006,” said Allan MacDonald, Senior Vice-President of Automotive for Canadian Tire. “It’s thrilling to see how the sport of racing has continued to grow over the years alongside the enthusiasm of Canadian racing fans. We’re looking forward to yet another exciting season on the track in 2012.”
Other 2012 highlights include:
• The 2012 schedule includes races on seven ovals: Auto Clearing, Barrie Speedway, Delaware Speedway, Kawartha, Mosport Speedway, Motoplex and Riverside International Speedway; and five road courses: Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Circuit ICAR, Circuit de Trois-Rivieres, Edmonton, and Mosport.
• On June 2-3, the series returns to Circuit ICAR in Mirabel, Que., for the second straight season.
• June 16 will be the series’ sixth consecutive year of competing at Mosport Speedway.
• June 23 will mark the fourth consecutive visit to Delaware (Ont.) Speedway.
• The wildly popular Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres in Quebec is on tap for Aug. 4-5.
• The Barrie Speedway date is set for Saturday, Sept. 8. Each of the past five trips to Barrie on this weekend has resulted in overflow crowds.
• Riverside International Speedway, in Antigonish, hosts the series on Sept. 15. Riverside, with its high-banked turns, is a .333-mile scale version of the legendary Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
2012 NASCAR CANADIAN TIRE SERIES SCHEDULE
Date Track (Length) Location
May 20 Mosport Int'l Raceway (2.459-Mile road course) Bowmanville, Ont.
June 3 Circuit ICAR (2.113-Mile road course) Mirabel, Que.
June 16 Mosport Speedway (.5-Mile) Bowmanville, Ont.
June 23 Delaware Speedway (.5-Mile) Delaware, Ont.
July 14 Motoplex Speedway (.5-Mile) Vernon, B. C.
July 22 Edmonton City Centre Airport (2.256-Mile road course) Edmonton, Alberta
July 25 Auto Clearing Motor Speedway (.333-Mile) Saskatoon, Sask.
Aug. 5 Circuit de Trois-Rivieres (1.53-Mile road course) Trois-Rivieres, Que.
Aug. 18 Circuit Gilles Villeneuve (2.71-Mile road course) Montreal, Que.
Sept. 8 Barrie Speedway (.333-Mile) Barrie, Ont.
Sept. 15 Riverside Int’l Speedway (.333-Mile) Antigonish, N. S.
Sept. 22 Kawartha Speedway (.375-Mile) Fraserville, Ont.
Tentative - Subject to Change
For much of the last five years, Robert Wickens of Guelph and Toronto has been Canada’s next best Formula One hope. He’s turned heads every time he’s been in a car and on a track.
This year, he won the European-based World Series by Renault after finishing second the two previous seasons in GP3 and Formula 2. At Abu Dhabi two weeks ago, he drove a Marussia-Virgin F1 car in first practice on the Friday of the Grand Prix meeting, becoming the first Canadian to participate at that level since Jacques Villeneuve.
There then followed several days of Young Driver testing, in which he was very competitive when at the wheel of a quality car (third fastest on the first day when driving a Renault, for instance) but well down the pecking order (second last, in fact) when saddled with the Marussia.
Wickens is 22, lightning fast, good-looking and media-trained to a fault — everything you would want in a young tiger of a driver.
But he’s not on the F1 radar in Europe. He was mentioned almost in passing in dispatches from the Abu Dhabi test. The guy he beat for the Renault championship, Jean-Eric Vergne of France, got most of the ink and is currently the media favourite for an F1 seat in 2012 at Scuderia Toro Rosso.
Yes, Wickens could drive for Marussia-Virgin in F1 in 2012, but only if he’s able to bring between 3.5 and 5 million Euros to the table and, although there are people beating the bushes in Canada on his behalf, it doesn’t look likely.
And any hopes he might have harboured for a seat with one of the more competitive Grand Prix teams pretty much went out the window on Wednesday this week when Robert Kubica announced that he won’t drive for Renault in 2012 and all the stories then mentioned three or four drivers in line for his seat and not one of them was Robert Wickens (who’d done a pretty good job in that car at the Abu Dhabi test, remember).
Now, Vancouver businessman Teddy Yip Jr. has been a big backer of Wickens' for a number of years, so the driver could take whatever support he has and do yet another season in yet another F1 feeder series (he hasn’t raced in GP2 as yet) but what would that prove? If finishing first once and second twice in three major European series to date isn’t good enough, one more isn’t going to do much for him.
And, yes, there is the slight possibility that he could drive for Marussia-Virgin next season without having to bring money but, again, what would that prove? Trundling around at the back of the pack, seven or eight seconds off the pace, could do more harm to his reputation than good, I would suggest.
So, if you’re Robert Wickens and your dream is a competitive ride in Formula One, what do you do?
I say he puts whatever financial support he has today in a briefcase, and he gets on a plane and flies to the United States of America, and he knocks on the door of one Michael Andretti, who happens to have a pretty good seat available in his pretty good IZOD IndyCar Series racing team.
He hands the team owner the briefcase and he flashes that million-dollar smile of his and he says: “Hi, Mr. Andretti. I’m your new GoDaddy boy.”
And if Michael Andrett is smart – and I think he is – he hires the young Canadian on the spot because he's the complete package: he's got talent, good looks, some money and he's media savvy.
If Wickens then goes out and wins the the IndyCar championship, I guarantee that the top teams in Formula One would take notice. Even if he doesn't win the title, but he's winning races and/or fighting for wins, his name will be in headlines.
Robert Wickens will get more attention, and find it more satisfying being a celebrity front-line Indy car racer in North America, than he ever will being a "maybe" or a "might-have-been" overseas.
Don't believe me? Two words:
Technorati Tags: auto racing, car racing, F1, Formula 1, Formula One, GoDaddy, Indy car, IndyCar, IZOD IndyCar Series, Jean-Eric Vergne, Lotus-Rnault, Marussia-Virgin F1 team, Michael Andretti, racing, Robert Wickens
F1 driver Lewis Hamilton has been photographed with his celebrity ex-girlfriend, Nicole Scherzinger, in a Los Angeles parking lot where they apparently bumped into each other.
Apparently . . .
There has been no explanation about just how they came to meet up, or who tipped off the photographer who just happened to be there to record the reunion.
Nicole is shown giving Lewis a big hug while he appears to be quite stand-offish.
According to the Daily Mail website, the reason he kept his hand in his pocket while she embraced him is because he’s been hurt by their breakup and doesn’t want to get close to her again.
Of course, there could be another reason: his embarrassment over her undraped appearance in the coffee-table book Culo that is being released in the U.S. today (Wednesday) and which features a whole bunch of bare derrieres, Nicole’s included (along with Lady Gaga, Stacy Keibler, Paris Hilton and the rest of the usual suspects when it comes to celebrity women taking off their clothes for the camera).
Hamilton was in L.A. for an appearance on behalf of Rebok, one of his many sponsors. He will drive in the season-ending Grand Prix of Brazil at Sao Paulo on Sunday.
Oh, and why are social notes such as these included in an auto racing blog?
Because Lewis Hamilton is a former world driving champion whose life and career have become, shall we say, erratic in the last couple of years. There has to be a reason for this change in him and it appears that she is a big part of it.
Okay, moving right along to other motorsport topics:
– It seems that Kyle Busch isn’t the only member of that family who has little or no control over his emotions. Older brother Kurt Busch dropped out of Sunday’s final NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Homestead-Miami with transmission trouble and, according to USA Today, had a meltdown while waiting to be interviewed by ESPN announcer Jerry Punch.
Angry that ESPN didn’t cut into the race action immediately so he could be interviewed, Busch let the good doctor have it with both barrels – a "profanity-laced tirade," was the way the newspaper described it. Finally, Punch said to forget it and walked off.
As always happens in these cases, Penske Racing, which employs Kurt Busch, apologized first and then Kurt - just like his little brother had to do a week ago - pitched in with an apology of his own.
Don’t those two guys know that saying sorry isn’t good enough any more?
Maybe it was the first time it happened, but the world is now officially tired of those two. Their five minutes are up. Penske should fire Kurt Busch and if Kyle steps one inch out of line between now and the end of his career, Joe Gibbs should fire him too.
Then I have a great idea: let them go Cup racing on their own dime. They can afford it.
– Meantime, the development of exciting and talented young Canadian racing drivers continues apace. Two-time Canadian Karting League (CKL) Junior Champion Matt Garwood has been selected to compete in a fully sponsored entry for Vallis Motor Sport in the Canadian F1200 Championship in 2012.
Garwood, of Elmvale, Ont., was one of 11 Canadian Karting League drivers who competed in an evaluation day at Mosport a few weeks ago. He learned of his selection to drive when the car - to be sponsored by Chris Bye's Franczak Enterprises Ltd. - was unveiled at the recent Canadian Karting League banquet and his name was on it.
"Being selected by Chris Bye from 10 other finalists . . . is a tremendous honour and definitely an exciting opportunity for me," Garwood said. "Chris is a true racer and Bill Vallis is legend in Formula Vee competition. I think working with Chris and Bill will be a recipe for winning on and off the track. I'm already looking forward to going racing next season."
- While Honda Indy Toronto tickets go on sale today for the 2012 race next July, the Honda Indy Edmonton had an announcement of its own.
The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series will once again be part of the show later next July at the City Centre Airport circuit, Francois Dumontier, president and CEO of Octane Motorsports Events, has announced.
The Canadian Tire race was a fixture at the Edmonton Champ Car/IndyCar weekend from 2007 until 2010. Andrew Ranger of Roxton Pond, Que., earned pole position on three occasions and won the 2009 race, while J.R. Fitzpatrick of Cambridge was the winner in 2007 and 2010, when he also won the pole.
Alex Tagliani of Montreal won the 2008 event - a performance that might well have saved his big-league racing career.
The 2011 IndyCar stop in Edmonton nearly didn’t happen and by the time the race was saved, it was too late to make a deal for the NASCAR race to be included.
– The 2012 Porsche GT3 Challenge Cup series is stepping up. From six races at three tracks in 2011, the series will go to nine races at five circuits next year.
New on the calendar are the Victoria Day Sprints at Mosport, the Canadian Grand Prix weekend in Montreal in June and a mid-summer meet at Le Circuit-Mont Tremblant.
The season will actually kick off in February with a winter test scheduled at Sebring in Florida.
– BMW is returning to the German Touring Car Championship in a big way. In addition to luring perennial contender Bruno Spengler away from Mercedes (the Canadian finished third in the series again in 2011), the Munich manufacturer has also signed multi-time champion Andy Priaulx, Augusto Farfus and then, just the other day, current DTM champion Martin Tomczyk, who quit Audi to make the move.
A powerhouse lineup, for sure.
Posted at 09:43 PM in Auto racing, Formula One, Grand Prix of Canada, Honda Indy Toronto, IZOD IndyCar Series, Karting, NASCAR, NASCAR Canadian Tire, Racing, Road racing, Sports | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
Technorati Tags: Alex Tagliani, Andrew Ranger, auto racing, Bill Vallis, Bruno Spengler, Canadian Karting League, car racing, Chris Bye, Dr. Jerry Punch, ESPN, F1, Formula 1, Formula One, Francois Dumontier, German Touring Car Championship, Honda Indy Edmonton, Honda Indy Toronto, IZOD IndyCar Series, J.R. Fitzpatrick, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Lewis Hamilton, Martin Tomczyk, Matt Garwood, NASCAR, NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, Nicole Scherzinger, Octane Motorsports Events, Penske Racing, Porsche GT3 Challenge Cup, racing, USA Today
The countdown to the 2012 Honda Indy Toronto, scheduled for the streets of the CNE July 6-8, officially gets under way tomorrow with the release of tickets just in time for the Christmas holiday season.
And for the first time since the glory days of CART as the sanctioning body, the Honda Indy will feature competition between engine manufacturers, with Chevrolet and Lotus turbocharged V-6 powerplants going up against long-time IZOD IndyCar Series stalwart Honda.
And there will be a different-looking chassis on track next July, also, with the introduction of a brand new car designed by Italty’s Dallara Automobili. The car will be labelled DW12, in memory of the late Dan Wheldon, who conducted most of the testing of the new chassis during 2011.
“Thanks to growing sponsorships, vendors and quality racing, the event continues to deliver a unique experience,” said Charlie Johnstone, Vice-President and General Manager of the Honda Indy Toronto. “The addition of a new chassis and engine competition will heat things up even more.”
Tickets start at $30 for a single day general admission pass on Saturday and peak at $423 for a weekend Gold-level grandstand pass. To purchase tickets or to view a complete list of prices and ticket packages, visit hondaindytoronto.com/tickets or call 1-877-503-6869.
Support races will be announced as the event approaches, but it’s a good bet that the Indy Lights, NASCAR Canadian Tire Series and Canada’s other best-kept racing secret, the Castrol Canadian Touring Car Series, will be on the program.
Speaking of the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, driver Jason White of Sun Peaks, B.C., driver of the No. 21 A & W Dodge, has been voted Most Popular Driver for 2011.
All this season, race fans were encouraged to vote for their favourite driver by logging on to the NASCAR Home Tracks website. He’ll be presented the award at the NASCAR Night of Champions Touring Awards Gala, which will take place at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte on Sat., Dec. 10.
“I’ll be very proud to be representing all the Canadian race fans that weekend in Charlotte and show how much enthusiasm there is for racing in Canada,” White said. “This is such an honour for me. To have thousands of race fans take the time to cast their votes for me means a lot.”
For the latest off-season news about White and the A & W team, check out the all-new team website at www.jasonwhiteracing.com and be sure to follow Jason on twitter for the latest updates @racinjasonwhite The 2012 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series schedule is expected to be announced shortly. For more information about the series at www.hometracks.nascar.com
Posted at 09:00 AM in Auto racing, Firestone Indy Lights, Honda Indy Toronto, Indy 500, IZOD IndyCar Series, NASCAR Canadian Tire, Racing, Racing on TV, Short track, Sports, Touring Cars | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)