Usually I do a ‘Racing Round Up’ on a Monday and I don’t want to mess with the standard, so this is called ‘Mini Motorsport Update! Rather than actual racing news this will be an update on news from the motor sport world.
It’s winter still and that means for the most part the motor sport is on hold, which means racing is at a minimum and that is a shame because I really like racing. I’ll just have to stick to racing my hot wheels around for the time being.
That being said it doesn’t mean there isn’t any news at all, there have actually been a few developments in the racing world over the last couple of weeks so that is why I’m writing this.
It seems Formula One has seen an awful lot of controversy over the last few months, more than the normal amount of controversy that constantly surrounds the sport, I mean. It is almost impossible to stay fully up to date on the shady deals, peculiar rule changes and outrageous things that F1 top man Bernie Ecclestone is doing but we do try.
Some good news to start though, although news might not be the right word for it as anyone who follows the sport will undoubtedly know this but there might be a few newbies out there so this one is for you. Honda has decided they will be returning the Formula One grid in the upcoming season.
This is really important for the sport right now, even with Caterham and Marussia still around the grid was looking a bit stale and now that they have made their exit from the sport it was vital that someone else came to fill the space. Mercedes are currently the only large volume manufacturer involved in the sport, everyone else has moved over to WEC which we will talk about later. Someone needs to challenge them for the title this year because watching Mercedes absolutely dominate last season was not that interesting as racing goes and I am so glad it is Honda.
The Honda-Mclaren partnership should be a potent one, with McLaren’s technical ability surrounding F1 car design and Honda’s history of producing awesome engines they will definitely be giving Mercedes something to worry about and that is important. Without somebody ready to snatch the lead away from them at any point, Mercedes have no real reason to constantly innovate and that is after all one of the key selling points of Formula One. Innovation.
The iconic Malboro sponsored Mclaren-Honda.
There are fewer teams on the grid, less people in the stands and less action in Formula One right now than ever before and it’s because of the constant tightening of rules and regulations imposed by the FIA and Mr Ecclestone. Up until a couple of days ago the FIA had planned to seriously handicap Honda in their very first returning season. Madness.
The situation is a bit complicated and would take a long time to write out so I’m going to attempt to simplify and condense it down so it’s easier for you guys to read but ultimately it’s less for me to write. Here we go:
Usually teams have to have submitted a final engine design for the season before the season begins, which makes sense because then everyone know where they stand. Ferrari noticed that there was not due date set for engine submission for the 2015 season and brought this up with FIA. The FIA then decided it would actually ‘unfreeze’ engine development throughout the 2015 season, meaning all teams would be able to continue developing and making changes to their engine throughout the season (which if you ask me makes it a whole lot more interesting). The changes are only allowed to certain aspects of the engine and teams are allowed only a certain number of changes measured with ‘tokens’ but that is a whole different story and not that important right now.
Guess who would be the only people not allowed to make changes during the 2015 season under current ruling? Yep, Honda. A new engine supplier enters the sport and is then immediately handicapped to the point where there would be no chance they could ever compete with Mercedes on their first season back. That doesn’t sound like something that would make Honda want to stick around does it? In a time where F1 needs innovation more than ever they would be scaring off the first new entrant in a while.
Luckily recent developments may mean that the FIA could open up the field and allow Honda to develop their engine throughout the season just like everyone else. This is not confirmed however and it is based upon the fact that a high ranking member of motor sport community has spoken out and said that Honda would be well within their rights to lodge a formal complaint to have the rule reversed. We will hopefully find out soon and I will make sure to update everyone when news arrives.
The Dakar rally is pretty much the polar opposite of Formula One in almost every respect. Formula One is constrained by endless rules and regulations whereas the Dakar is essentially a scramble across whatever is in the way to be the first one to the finish line.
Despite being one of the most exciting and varied motor sport events on the calendar the Dakar does not seem to get the coverage it deserves and that is a shame because I think the general public would absolutely love it. Rarely do you get to see such a wide mixture of different vehicles competing in one event and over so many different terrain types as well. You might like to have a read of James’s awesome guide to the Dakar Rally to find out more.
The Dakar is not without its downsides though and the combination of distance travelled, weather conditions and lack of in-race support means that serious injury and even death do occur on a fairly regular basis compared to other motor sports.
Unfortunately this year there has been another death on the rally. Polish motorcyclist Mikal Hernik has become the 27th competitor fatality since the rally started and the fifth since the rally moved to South America. The rally is dangerous for all contestants but motorcyclists are more exposed than the car and truck drivers and it seems as though this was the cause of Hernik’s death as he was discovered to have died of hypothermia. James has written a whole post on Mikal Hernik which does the adventurous man far more justice than I can here.
In other Dakar news, two competitors were arrested last Thursday after they managed to lose the trail and ended up riding a little too close to a nearby archaeological site! Motorcycle rider Matteo Casuccio and quad rider Kees Koolen were taken into custody accused of damaging the archaeological site. Rally officials did accompany them to where they were being held and they were released 30 minutes afterwards.
Although they were released it certainly wouldn’t have helped their stage times.
The other thing is how many manufacturers take part, as I said earlier, in Formula One there was only one mass producer on the grid which was Mercedes, although now there Honda are joining in it still pales in comparison to WEC. Audi, Nissan, Porsche and Toyota all have teams and Aston Martin and Ferrari also have factory backed teams in the mix and there are plenty of other smaller teams. This means that innovation and improvement in car technology is happening in WEC not F1. There is a reason than almost all the manufacturers have withdrawn from F1, it just does not offer enough flexibility in the rules to allowed teams to test and develop like they can I WEC. Which for me is exciting because I want to see improvements in racing all the time, not just when some governing body deems they are allowed. Even if you only do it once, I recommend checking out a World Endurance Championship race if you can, you never know you might like it!
So that’s it, my Mini Motor Sport update that ended up not being so mini.
To round off the Dakar news here are the current leaders in all categories. Cars: Al-Attiyah (QAT) and Baumel (FRA) lead by 28 minutes in their Mini.
Trucks: Mardeev (Rus), Belayev (RUS) and Svistunov (RUS) lead by 13 minutes in their Kamaz. The top three are all in Kamaz trucks, which are absolutely dominating their category.
Bikes: Coma (ESP) is leading by 7 minutes on his KTM. KTM currently hold third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh as well. A lonely Honda ridden by Goncalves (PRT) holds second, preventing a total KTM white wash.
Quads: Sonik (POL) leads by nearly three full hours on his Yamaha. Well Sonik is known for being fast after all! I’ll show myself out.
My news from the World Endurance Championship is that the WEC exists. That is by no definition news but I felt like it should go in this report because it is something I’ve been thinking about after the F1 season was overshadowed by weird rule changes and paddock politics.
I managed to catch a couple of the WEC races last season and I thoroughly enjoyed them, particularly as the F1 season was entirely dominated by just two drivers. The attractive thing about WEC is the sheer number of cars that take part, it is such a contrast to Formula One and it makes a real difference, I actually want to watch WEC, it is exciting.