• Racing Roundup

Racing Roundup: Saudi Arabia GP looms; Lewis win no big deal

champs crowned, Rossi retires, Bondurant dies

Norris McDonald By: Norris McDonald November 15, 2021
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It’s ironic that the world met in Scotland the last two weeks to figure out how to save the planet (they’re wasting their time) but when it comes to basic human rights, nobody seems terribly concerned.

As we know or should know (unless we’re so busy worrying about Earth that we’re not paying much attention to anything else), Formula One will be going to Saudi Arabia to race in early December. This is the place where they kidnap, murder and dismember newspaper columnists, throw dissidents in jail, torture women’s rights activists and execute LGBTQ people.

It is not a nice place.

The columnist was Jamal Khashoggi, who wrote for the Washington Post (which seems much more upset that Donald Trump was elected president than they’ve ever been about his butchering); the women’s rights advocate, who fought for women’s right to drive, was Loujain al-Hathloul. This came at great personal price. She was arrested, jailed, charged with seeking to undermine the security of the kingdom, raped and tortured. She has since been released but her sister, who lives in Europe, says she is broken.

This is where Formula One is going to go to race – which essentially says they will go anywhere and do anything for money.

Although it took a few years to convince him, Bernie Ecclestone, who used to run F1, agreed not to race in South Africa because of the government’s apartheid policies. Pressure from other governments and the public finally made him see the light.  Pressure from governments and the public is the only way to stop F1 from going to Saudi Arabia and places like it. Canada, for instance, could tell F1 it’s not welcome in Canada so long as it insists on going to race in that cesspool. (Fat chance of that happening, but that’s what has to happen if the world is going to force change there.)

A group called the Human Rights Foundation, which is attempting to make people see the light, has asked Canadian singer Justin Bieber to cancel his concert scheduled for the Grand Prix. I’m not sure that’s fair. It’s one thing for something as large as F1 to pull the plug, or not renew the contract when it comes due. It’s another for a Justin Bieber, who might find himself in serious trouble if he deliberately pisses that place off. Remember, if it hadn’t been for the vigilance of Canadian customs officers who intercepted them, Crown Prince bin Salman had sent a hit squad to Canada to kill one of his critics. That’s how serious this has become.

So sing Justin. Just don’t do it again.

Now everybody was going crazy about Lewis Hamilton’s drive-for-the-ages in Brazil this weekend. He started last in the sprint race and battled his way up to fifth in 24 laps and then, in the GP itself, started 10th and won.

I saw it differently.

The Mercedes car is so much better than any of the others out there, with the sometimes exception (these days) of Red Bull, that Hamilton’s fete shouldn’t be seen as being all that difficult. Michael Schumacher would find himself in a similar position on occasion and just fly through the field until he got to the top five or six and then he would really have to work for it. Same with Senna and some of the others who were lucky enough to have the car to beat. They would have no trouble driving through the skim milk but once they got to the cream, it became a challenge.

And while I agree Hamilton is a great driver, Williams driver George Russell got to drive the Mercedes in a race last year after Sir Lewis came down with COVID. George qualified second and would have won except the Mercedes team screwed up one of his pit stops. Once, not too long ago, it was generally understood that an F1 car counted for 60 per cent of performance and the driver 40 per cent. Now, I’d say it’s 90 per cent and 10 per cent, which means Hamilton’s Sunday drive wasn’t all that terrific.

For a complete story of what went on in Brazil this weekend, please click here

Hamilton outduels Verstappen for Sao Paulo GP win | RACER

Notebook Jottings: Do you ever get the idea that F1 racing is a bit like a David Copperfield or Penn & Teller act? That’s where the magician gets you looking one way while he’s doing something else in another. Good ol’ sleight-of-hand stuff. So, this weekend, Max Verstappen wanders over to Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes in Parc Ferme and “examines” the rear wing. Suddenly, everybody is looking at that wing. The FIA seizes it; the journalists are writing about it and the SKY TV crew can’t seem to stop talking about it. And I’m wondering, “what is Red Bull doing with its car that nobody’s noticing because everybody’s attention is on Hamilton’s Mercedes?” I don’t know what it was, but I can bet there was something.

What was with this Sao Paulo Grand Prix? I thought it was the Grand Prix of Brazil? If a county pays for a Grand Prix, they are paying for the name. That’s why I get angry at references to the Montreal Grand Prix. It’s the Canadian Grand Prix, which would not be held in Montreal if the taxpayers of Canada weren’t putting up the lion’s share of the loot to bring in the show.

Martin Brundle had started his walkthrough before the Grand Prix when our Lance Stroll came walking along. Before Brundle could even start to ask a question, Lance said, “This is the first time we’ve done this, you know. I’ve been a Grand Prix driver for five years and this is the first time you’ve talked to me on the grid.” Brundle didn’t have a lot to say. He has his favourites, of which Lance isn’t one of them. Johnny Herbert, who did the walkthrough before Saturday’s sprint race, actually talked to our Nicholas Latifi. Maybe Johnny didn’t get the memo.

SKY’s subtle putdowns of Latifi continued. As usual, they couldn’t understand how this guy from the colonies could beat their homeboy George Russell in time trials and the sprint race. They were aghast that Latifi had the nerve to say that his time-trial laps could have been better. I mean, really.

For instance, after Q1 qualifying, Latifi said: “Right from the start in FP1 it was tricky, as we just couldn’t get the feeling from the car that we needed. We always seem to make a step in qualifying, but we didn’t quite manage to make a big enough step today. I would’ve loved to progress into Q2 but the good thing about this format is that we have another chance to make up some places in Sprint Qualifying tomorrow.” Then, after the GP race itself: “The race was easier to manage than I anticipated as we had decent pace, but it was a very lonely Grand Prix as I was by myself for most of it, which is quite frustrating.”

Answer me something. An American businessman owns a Formula One team. That’s Gene Haas and the team is Haas F1. As of now, the team hasn’t scored any points because neither of its two drivers has scored any. There are two young American drivers who, given some time to practice, could easily handle those cars. In fact, they might actually score some points. They are Colton Herta and Kyle Larson. I do not understand why Gene Haas doesn’t give them a shot.

There are now three races remaining to settle both the constructor’s and driver’s championships. The circus now flies to Qatar for a race next weekend (that country, incidentally, is called “Cutter,” not “Kay-tar”), before taking a week off. Saudi Arabia is scheduled the first week of December and then, finally, the UAR GP in Abu Dhabi will be held Dec. 12.

Racing Roundup

IMSA 

Note: As I did not see this race, information for this part of the story was taken from an IMSA press release. Some passages are lifted entirely. 

As what seems to be the case in Formula One this year, the top finisher among the two contenders in the final race of the season would win the championship.

But the finish of the Motul Petit Le Mans this weekend at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta was anything but straightforward.

Felipe Nasr held on as Ricky Taylor tried to pass him on the final lap Saturday night and managed to recover after Taylor bounced through a gravel trap and came back on track in front of him, to claim the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Daytona Prototype international (DPi) championship.

Nasr, who actually finished second in the race, was chasing eventual race winner Harry Tincknell but leading the championship battle when Taylor tried to pass heading into Turn 10A on the final lap. The two cars made contact, and Taylor’s No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05 bounced off course and returned to the track ahead.

But Nasr’s No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R passed Taylor heading into Turn 11 and held on for second place in the race – and the championship – through the final turn of the final race of 2021 to prevail by 0.405 seconds.

“I knew he was going to try to make a last-minute move, but that was a little too wild,” Nasr said. “All the way to the gravel and then coming across the track. If there was grass there, he could have just continued. He had to go through the gravel, and then I had to drive to take the position back.

“There are many ifs. If I was behind and I had to do something, for sure you’ve got to try it. Maybe it was a little too much, but I get it. He’s a racer, too. He’s got to try something.”

While Nasr was going out as a champion, Tincknell, Oliver Jarvis and Jonathan Bomarito were helping Mazda go out as a Motul Petit Le Mans winner in its final race in DPi. Tincknell drove the No. 55 Mazda Motorsports Mazda RT24-P past Nasr for the lead in Turn 7 with 22 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race and held it to the finish.

Nasr’s championship run came in his final race with Action Express Racing, which announced last month that Tristan Nunez will replace him in the No. 31 car next season. Nasr’s co-champion, fellow Brazilian Pipo Derani, spoke of the emotion behind the championship.

“For me personally, it was very emotional to look back and slowly start to realize that I’m a champion,” Derani said. “I’ve learned from the mistakes I’ve made, and I’ve grown so much as a person over the last year. To finish this chapter with Felipe was great.”

Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Alexander Rossi had the same mission as their rivals – keep the No. 10 Acura ahead of Nasr, Derani and Mike Conway in the No. 31 Cadillac. That mission was in reach for almost all of the race’s 410 laps.

“The championship literally came down to the last corner,” Taylor said. “I just have to say I gave it everything I had. There’s going to be a lot of nightmares before Daytona (the 2022 season opener) just thinking about what I could have done differently.”

While Nasr and Derani shared the drivers’ championship, Action Express claimed the DPi team championship – its fifth since 2014 – and Cadillac claimed the DPi manufacturer’s title.

But at times, Nasr’s final stint was difficult for his teammates to watch. .

“It kept us on the edge of our seats all the way to the end there,” Conway said. “It was hard to watch. I had to walk off a couple of times from the TV and catch my breath. This is what this championship is like. The IMSA series is really tough. It always goes down to the wire.”

TSN’s Velocity Channel carries the IMSA Series. Hardly anybody watches it. Which is a shame, because most of the races are like this one – down to the wire.

In the LMP2 class, Mikkel Jensen and Ben Keating won the championship.

In LMP3, Gar Robinson, Felipe Fraga and ScottIn GT Le Mans  Andrews took home the hardware.

In GT LeMans, Mathieu Jaminet, Cooper MacNeil and Matt Campbell drove a Porsche 911 to the championship. In GT Daytona, the Pfaff Porsche 911 wheeled by Zach Robichon of Ottawa and Laurens Vanthoor and Lars Kem won the title. Robichon was emotional afterward.

“It’s been pretty special,” he said. “For Laurens, Lars and myself, it’s the last race as a team so it’s a little bittersweet. But I couldn’t be more proud. It’s super special. We’ve worked together as a team and Laurens came in and this whole team – every guy and girl – it’s what they deserve.”

Mulimatic young driver Sebastian Priaulx has become the first-ever Porsche Carrera Cup North America Champion and the first winner of the Al Holbert Cup. The 20 year-old fourth-generation racer from the Channel Islands took the title in the first of three 45-minute races at Road Atlanta but then kept the performance up and finished a close second in race two and achieved another impressive, close fought win in the final contest of the inaugural season of the Porsche Carrera Cup in North America.

For complete stories of every class, go to www.IMSA.com

Racing Roundup

MOTO GP 

Francesco Bagnaia riding a Ducati won the race but the significance of the Moto GP at Valencia Sunday was that the incomparable Valentino Rossi rode for the last time.

A friend of mine attended the Goodwood Festival of Speed in England a few years ago and the organizers brought Rossi in as a special guest to ride some vintage motorcycles. Said my friend: “Just like it was when Ayrton Senna was in a Formula One car, there was something magic about Rossi when he rode out. Something unwordly.”

Rossi has often said he would like to drive for Ferrari when he retired but that is unlikely to happen. On the other hand, you never know. An Italian racing legend in the cockpit of a Ferrari would certainly have the tifosi talking.

His record is out of this world itself. He raced for 26-years, started 432 grands prix, had 115 wins and 235 podiums and won nine world championships.

Wow.

The championship was won by p was won by Fabio Quartararo aboard a Yamaha.

NHRA 

The world’s top drag-racing series called it a season Sunday at Auto Club Raceway in California and here are the champions:

Top Fuel – Steve Torrence, followed by Brittany Force and Mike Salinas.

Funny Car – Ron Capps, followed by Matt Hagan and Bob Tasca III.

Pro Stock – Greg Anderson, followed by Erica Enders and Dallas Glenn

Pro Stock Motorcycle – Matt Smith, followed by Angelle Sampey and Steve Johnson

Racing Roundup

AND FINALLY 

Bob Bondurant, who came to Toronto in 2009 to watch as his friend and business partner Carroll Shelby was inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame, has died at age 88. He had suffered a stroke and was not in the best of health when he and Shelby attended a special induction ceremony at the Canadian International AutoShow at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre that February and was in an assisted living facility in Scottsdale, Ariz., when he passed last Friday

In the early 1960s, Bondurant and guys like Dan Gurney, Phil Hill, Shelby and Richie Ginther went to Europe to take on the Europeans in Formula One and sports car races. He’d taught himself to race by driving at circuits like Riverside and Orange County raceways in California and won 30 of 32 races in Corvettes. He switched to Cobras when he went to work as a driver for Shelby.

He won the GT class at Le Mans with Gurney, the FIA Manufacturer’s Championship and the World Sports Car Championship for Ford and drove the Ford GT40 and Ferrari 365 P2 in famous endurance races like Spa, the Targa Florio and at the Nurburgring. In Formula One, he raced for BRM and Ferrari and his best finish was fourth at Monaco in 1966 in a BRM. He was racing Can-Am cars with his pal Peter Revson in 1967 when fate stepped in during a race in Watkins Glen.

He crashed, badly, at 150 mph and promptly gave up his race-driving career. Film-maker John Frankenheimer hired him to coach the actors – James Garner, Yves Montagne – during the making of the classic racing film Grand Prix and he did such a good job that he was then asked to teach Paul Newman and Robert Wagner how to drive Indy cars for the move Winning. Newman fell in love with the sport, as a result of making that movie, and he and Bondurant were close friends for the rest of their lives.

At about the same time, he started the Bondurant School of High Performance Driving. His copyrighted “Bondurant Method” worked for everyone from other race-car drivers to housewives, celebrities, police officers and teenagers sent by their parents. It ran for more than 50 years but ran into problems and went out of business in 2019. Everything except Bondurant’s name was sold and the new school is known as the Radford Racing School, which hired many of the Bondurant’s school’s instructors.

“I knew Bob really well, he handpicked me to go work for his racing school right after I graduated high school and worked there for about four years,” racing driver and instructor Tommy Boileau told AutoWeek.

“I spent almost every day with him for about four years. Bob was just, he was absolutely incredible. He was just a kind soul and to listen to him tell the stories of back when he was in his prime and racing in Formula One for Ferrari, doing all those cool things, and then just all the amazing actors and celebrities he worked with over the years of the racing school, he was just one of a kind for sure. He was a character.”

Bondurant’s widow Pat still owns his name and plans to continue the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving  business.

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