Friday, 31 August 2012
This weekend at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, a unique pink Chevrolet Camaro SS will serve as the official pace car for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AdvoCare 500. While the race itself will be something worth paying attention to, the pink Camaro pace car also holds a story unto itself, not because of its color, but because of what that color represents.
See, the car has been dressed in a two-tone pink and white color scene, which is similar to last year’s pink pace car, a clear and distinct nod to Chevrolet’s support of the American Cancer Society and the latter’s "Making Strides Against Breast Cancer" initiative.
?For our 100th birthday in 2011, Chevrolet began its support of the American Cancer Society, and the generous response from our dealers, employees and customers told us we needed to help the Society fight for more birthdays,? said Don Johnson, vice president of Chevrolet Sales and Service.
?At Chevy, we believe everyday heroes can accomplish extraordinary things, and it is in this spirit that we work to achieve a world without breast cancer.?
As part of Chevrolet’s efforts this weekend, the automaker has promised to pledge $200 for every lap the Camaro SS "Breast Cancer Fight" Pace Car leads under the caution flag. A year ago, a similar set-up was arranged by Chevrolet, and when the race ran under 64 caution laps, the BowTie happily sent $12,800 in donations to the American Cancer Society.
?Last year, contributions of more than $900,000 supported the American Cancer Society’s mission to save lives by helping people stay well and get well, by finding cures and by fighting back against this disease,? said Roshini George, national vice president of health promotions for the American Cancer Society.
"As we approach National Breast Cancer Awareness month in October, we want thank the Chevrolet family for its support and remind everyone to take the steps that make a difference in our fight against breast cancer.?
Michael Schumacher's collision with Williams driver Bruno Senna in Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix has once again focused awkward attention on the German legend's lacklustre performances for Mercedes.
A senior member of the Mercedes team used the word "mediocre" last weekend when discussing the 43-year-old's driving, and that was before Schumacher clumsily ran into the back of Senna's car in the race.
It was the sort of error you might expect from a beginner, not a man with 91 grand prix victories and seven world titles under his belt.
Coming at Senna from a long way back, Schumacher seemed simply to misjudge the closing speed of the two cars and, caught in two minds about which direction to go, he ran into the back of the Williams.
Schumacher called Senna an "idiot" on the radio as he sat in the gravel trap in the immediate aftermath, and, even after watching replays, he still seemed convinced it was his rival's fault. The stewards disagreed and gave him a five-place grid penalty for the next race in Monaco.
Schumacher's reaction will have surprised no-one in F1 - he has always seemed to lack the ability to accept he can ever be wrong.
In an aspiring young driver, this is a characteristic one might expect. But age is supposed to bring wisdom and, in this aspect at least, it appears not to be the case with Schumacher.
With the passing years comes an inevitable waning of physical abilities, and it is surely now beyond dispute that this has come even to him.
Michael Schumacher collides with Bruno Senna during the Spanish Grand Prix. Photo: Reuters
How long can he go on raging against the dying of the light? More to the point, perhaps, how long can Mercedes accept it?
There is no shame in Schumacher not being the driver he was - one can argue there is honour in him being able to achieve even what he has as he heads into the middle of his fifth decade.
The facts, though, are that he is now no more than a decent F1 driver - and some may argue not even that.
Statistically, this is the worst start to a season in Schumacher's career. But statistics can be misleading - Schumacher actually started the season well. He was the stronger of the two Mercedes drivers in the first two races.
But then came China and Nico Rosberg's qualifying lap, half a second quicker than his team-mate, who was second on the grid.
The gap was explained almost entirely by a stunning middle sector of the lap from Rosberg, which Schumacher, I'm told, justified to himself by Rosberg managing to turn his tyres on better.
That may well have been the reason, but the gap was there nonetheless. As it was again in the race, when that excuse was less justifiable. Schumacher was simply outclassed by his team-mate.
They have been more evenly matched since, but still Schumacher is almost certainly getting no more from the car than a number of other drivers could manage.
The contrast, with what Fernando Alonso is doing in the Ferrari - which is not dissimilar to the sort of thing Schumacher used to achieve in his early years with the team - is stark.
The tragedy of Schumacher's current situation is that it is leading some people to question his earlier achievements of seven world titles; two with Benetton and five with Ferrari between 1994 and 2004.
His criticisms of the Pirelli tyres after Bahrain drew uncomfortable parallels with the bespoke tyres from Bridgestone which Schumacher enjoyed for much of his Ferrari career, a subject that was largely unexplored during his pomp.
Some are beginning to wonder if seven titles really was such an amazing achievement, given the advantages he had at his disposal?
This would be wrong, though. There is no doubt that the Schumacher of the 1990s and early 2000s was an outstanding racing driver, one of the greatest there has ever been.
But that Schumacher belongs to the past.
The current one is out of contract at the end of this season. This, in fact, was the context in which the "mediocre" remark came up.
So what reasons do Mercedes have to keep him on, rather than try for someone else?
Lewis Hamilton, also looking for a new deal in 2013, may well not be available, or interested. Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button are committed to their current teams. Those left are all unproven.
Schumacher may continue to embarrass himself in wheel-to-wheel racing occasionally, but he's close to Rosberg's pace these days - and Mercedes' top management rate their younger driver very highly indeed.
The other reason is less palatable for those who like to consider F1 as the arena in which the very best drivers in the world do battle. It's commercial.
Schumacher's marketing value to Mercedes is huge. After Rosberg's victory in China, vice-president of Mercedes motorsport Norbert Haug delighted in how "fantastic" Schumacher had been in front of 800 guests at the launch of a new road car model in Shanghai the previous night. It had been, Haug said, "the perfect weekend".
Schumacher may no longer be one of the best F1 drivers, but around the world he remains arguably the most famous - and therefore the most valuable to Mercedes off the track. And in Germany, Mercedes' home, he is largely untouchable, voted recently the greatest national sportsman in history.
Ultimately, though, Mercedes are in F1 to win - and it is no secret that, after two disappointing seasons, the pressure on the team at the start of this season was enormous.
It will have been alleviated somewhat by their win in China, but the team have faded after a promising start and currently look no better than they did through much of last year.
In a season as topsy-turvy as this, that could easily change - and, who knows, if everything comes together perhaps Schumacher can win again. After all, who before the weekend would have predicted Pastor Maldonado's victory in Spain?
But, all things being equal, that looks unlikely. For a team with an average car who need to win, is a "mediocre" driver, however famous, good enough?
Thursday, 30 August 2012
It's not often Fernando Alonso is overcome with emotion, but he only just managed to hold it together as he stood on the podium after a quite stunning victory in the European Grand Prix.
His voice had already cracked as he giggled his delight on the team radio on his slowing-down lap - and in the pits Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali was in the same state as he praised a "fantastic" drive by the Spaniard.
But listening to the Spanish and Italian national anthems, the magnitude of the moment almost got the better of Alonso. He choked a bit, grinned, almost cried, gritted his teeth and then collected himself.
No wonder he was so emotional - in the previous half an hour or so, it had all come together to create a perfect weekend for him.
Fernando Alonso (centre) celebrates winning the European GP with second place Kimi Raikkonen (left) and third place Michael Schumacher (right). Photo: Getty
Alonso has driven some outstanding races in his career - he is generally regarded within F1 as the finest driver in the world - but this one has to be right up there with the very best.
Fighting up from 11th place on the grid, he pulled off some quite brilliant overtaking moves to make his way up into contention, the opportunism and skill never better than when he separated Lotus's Romain Grosjean from second place immediately after a restart following a safety car period.
That move meant Alonso inherited the lead when Sebastian Vettel's dominant Red Bull retired further around the same lap. Then, as he completed a spectacular victory, his day was made perfect when the man he regards as his main title rival, Lewis Hamilton, retired with two laps to go.
Both his main rivals out of the race, a momentous win in his home grand prix and less than 24 hours after Spain's football team made it into the semi-finals of Euro 2012. No wonder he was close to tears.
Of course, luck was involved in Alonso's win. He was not going to beat Vettel before the German's retirement - no one was - and he would not have been in a position to challenge Grosjean at the re-start had it not been for yet another pit-stop problem for McLaren.
But Alonso put himself in the position to gain from others' misfortune, and all the other positions he gained he worked for and won in a style befitting one of the greatest racing drivers the world has seen.
Ferrari's superbly quick pit crew played a part, too - one rival engineer said this weekend that they had moved the goalposts for pit stops this year.
But the fact remains that Alonso would not have had to do what he did had Ferrari's strategists not made the error that left him down in 11th on the grid - a decision for which the driver must share some blame.
Ferrari failed to realise that Alonso would need to fit a second set of the 'soft' tyres in second qualifying to be sure of progressing into the top 10 shoot-out.
Lotus had also planned to follow Ferrari's strategy of running a set of 'medium' tyres in Q2 followed by a set of 'softs'.
But when the English team saw how close it was in Q1, they realised they could not afford to take the risk, and switched to running two sets of 'softs' in Q2 and only one in the top 10 shoot-out.
It's impossible to know where Alonso would have ended up on the grid had he made it through.
Fortunately for Ferrari, their blushes were spared by his stellar performance on Sunday - on a track where it had previously been almost impossible to overtake but which came alive this year with the combination of degrading tyres and a DRS overtaking zone judged exactly right.
Ferrari took a fair bit of stick for the decision - and rightly so. It would be dangerous of them not to learn from it for this is not the first time this season that their strategy has been found wanting.
Alonso might have won in Barcelona had Ferrari not allowed Williams to get Pastor Maldonado ahead of him by making their second stop earlier.
As Alonso admitted himself, a win was also on the cards in Monaco had Ferrari reacted more quickly to his blistering pace on his in-lap and left him out to do a couple more.
And in Canada, where he fell back to fifth, he should have finished at least second - and could possibly have won - but the team failed to react to his tyres losing grip dramatically in the closing stages.
Had Ferrari got those calls right, Alonso could have been heading into the Valencia weekend on the back of two wins and a second place, rather than a second, a third and a fifth.
That's 27 points thrown away even before the error in qualifying this weekend. In a season as close as this, even if Alonso wins the title it is unlikely to be by that much.
In each case, the error has been a result of apparently not being reactive enough - being either too fixed on a specific, pre-ordained strategy, and/or too focused on one specific rival and not looking at the bigger picture.
That was exactly what happened in Abu Dhabi in 2010, when another strategy error handed the title on a plate to Vettel.
Ferrari have now got back many of those points thanks to the problems suffered by Vettel and Hamilton.
Despite Vettel's retirement, the Red Bull showed frightening pace in Valencia following the introduction of a major upgrade, as BBC F1 technical analyst Gary Anderson detailed on Friday.
Vettel would have walked the race had his alternator not failed on lap 34 and the pace shown by Red Bull this weekend will have set alarm bells ringing in Maranello and McLaren's factory in Woking.
At McLaren, though, they have other things to worry about after yet another pit-stop problem for Hamilton.
This time it was a failure of one of the new Ferrari-style angled jacks the team designed as part of a wholesale restructure of their pit-stop operation following problems in Malaysia, China and Bahrain earlier this year.
It lost Hamilton a place to Alonso when the leaders pitted during the mid-race safety-car period - and that of course would have meant he was leading following the retirements of Vettel and Lotus's Grosjean.
Given the tyre problems Hamilton found himself in during the closing laps, it seems unlikely that he would have been able to hold off Alonso for the victory, but it would have meant he was clear of Pastor Maldonado, and therefore the incident that took him out of the race, for which Hamilton was blameless.
Interestingly, if you look back at how many points Hamilton had lost to various operational issues at McLaren this year before Valencia, it was 27 - exactly the same number as Alonso.
Add the 18 or 15 he would have got for either second or third place in Valencia (depending on whether Kimi Raikkonen would have caught him) and that is more than 40.
After Valencia, he is now 23 points behind Alonso. The McLaren has been on balance the fastest car this year, but Ferrari's form is getting better and better and, after Valencia, Red Bull look more formidable than at any time this year.
There are still 12 races to go in an already extraordinary season that clearly has many more twists and turns to come. But Hamilton should be comfortably leading the championship. Have McLaren already thrown it away?
Wednesday, 29 August 2012
For the most part, when you get together a big group of tuners ? we mean real tuners, not some dude that throws 500 lbs of plastic and chrome on his ride and calls it a ?tuner? car ? there are several clear divides. One of the biggest divides is between the Nissan group and the Toyota group. As the No. 2 and 3 import tuner cars, respectively, there is no love lost between them. In real life they respect each other ? for the most part ? but under the hood, they despise one another.
This is why you never see a Nissan-meets-Toyota kind of monster build. You’ll see domestic engines in Hondas and vice versa, but you never ever see someone take a Nissan car and drop a Toyota powerplant in it. Well, until now!
Steven Mills, in collaboration with ISS Forged and Tech 2 Motorsports, decided, like many others in the world, that the VQ35 engine found in his 350Z was not up to snuff, even with a wide array of mods. So he yanked it out and dropped in a Nissan powerplant. Oh, you would like to know what engine he swapped it out for. You will be surprised, we are sure of it.
Click past the jump to find out about the engine and read our full review.
In the round-up: Zanardi hoping for Indianapolis 500 chance ? Senna targets Q3 at Spa ? Boullier says picking Raikkonen and Grosjean was "brave or stupid"
Posted on 08.29.2012 19:00 by Justin Cupler
The Bentley Mulsanne Vision is little more than a concept sketch to all of us so far, but that doesn’t stop us from using our imagination in creating it. We passed the sketch off to our talented rendering artist and he came back with a full scale image of what we think the Mulsanne Vision will look like.
Much like the current Mulsanne, the Vision model will boast the signature circular headlights and marker lights up front. It will also boast the same pronounced hood as the base sedan model that it’s derived from. One large difference on the front end of our rendered Vision and the current Mulsanne is that the lower grille in the Vision is open instead of grated.
As you continue down the front of the car, the Vision Mulsanne shows the same signature styling of the current Mulsanne sedan. The differences really come once you hit the doors. The Mulsanne Vision is, of course, a convertible model and features just a pair of doors, as opposed to the Mulsanne’s typical four doors and hard top. Short of those differences, the doors boast almost identical styling.
Once you reach the rear quarter panel, you catch a few more refinements given to the Mulsanne Vision to make it more muscular looking than its 4-door version. The body line that goes over the wheel arch on the sedan version shows elegance, whereas the Vision model shows some added aggression, as the body line starts lower on the quarter panel and swoops upward before sweeping toward the rear of the car, toward the ground, then back toward the rear of the wheel arch.
We are still unsure what’s under the hood of this massive drop-top, but we all assume that it will carry a 12-cylinder engine, as Bentley is reportedly killing off its 6.75-liter turbocharged V-8 engine.
We’ll keep you updated on the 2013 Mulsanne Vision and get you some official images and information as soon as possible, so stay tuned!