No. 959
August 15, 2018
 

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Fumes


Monday
Jan052009

FUMES

January 7, 2009

Things I'd like to see in racing in 2009.

By Peter M. De Lorenzo

Detroit.
It's another new year - albeit one brimming with enough financial doom and gloom to last a dozen racing seasons - but still, there's always renewed hope and a sense of excitement at what a new racing season will bring in the early days of January. I covered the negatives facing all of motorsport in 2009 in my columns leading up to the holiday break, but today, for the first "Fumes" column of the new year, I thought I'd put together a wish list - some of it whimsical and some of it things I'd really like to see happen - for racing in 2009. Here we go...

Gentlemen, start your Formula Super Fords. I'd like to see an invitational race staged at Brands Hatch, England, which would pit the entire confirmed starting field of 2009 Formula 1 drivers against each other in identically-prepared Formula Super Fords. Split the field and have two ten-lap qualifying heats to determine the final starting grid for a 20-lap feature. And on the same weekend, take the best 20 drivers selected from rallying, IndyCar, NASCAR, ALMS, etc., and conduct a parallel race sequence in Formula Super Fords culminating in another 20-lap feature. For the finale, take the top ten finishers in each 20-lap feature and run a 25-lap main event. For once I'd like to see the sport's best drivers in identical cars - on a real road-racing circuit - just to see who really is the quickest. And do the whole thing for charity.

A proper farewell for the Corvette C6R.
As you undoubtedly know by now, Corvette Racing is going to run their vaunted C6R GT1 machines up to and including the 24 Hours of Le Mans, whereupon they'll switch to new cars configured for the GT2 regulations in order to run the rest of the ALMS season. For a proper sendoff I'd like to see the GT1 cars run one more time, however - even if it's just on an exhibition basis - at Road America, in August, with their engine restrictors removed. If they were running 2:00 minutes flat in qualifying at America's greatest race circuit in restricted GT1 configuration, what would they run with almost 1000HP? We'll never know.

A new NASCAR road racing car. No, not the dreaded Car of Today, but the Chevy Camaro, Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger and a Toyota (TBD) that would be required for the two NASCAR road races. And here's the kicker: include all of the NASCAR safety preparations but within bone stock sheet metal, meaning all the stock bodywork dimensions must be retained. Keep the new-style NASCAR rear wing and call it good. And then do it as a precursor to an all-pony car show in the Sprint Cup beginning in 2010.

Speaking of the ALMS and Le Mans.
Quit dinking around with the four classes and get down to two: Prototypes and GT cars. Even though this change is already in the works, it can't come soon enough. And in the meantime, memo to Speed and the other TV networks carrying the ALMS: make the on-screen "crawl" listing the race leaders be primarily for the overall runners, and only break down the class positions occasionally. Trying to explain the four racing classes "thing" is far too complicated for the casual race viewer and a huge turn-off. And given the precarious situation with missing factory teams and a financial climate that stinks, the ALMS needs all the clarity it can get.

Manufacturers walk away from F1? I'd like to see them just up and pull out of F1 and launch a new series that embraces advanced technological development and great racing. I know, that's way too much to ask - and hope - for, but the Bernie and Max show grew tedious years ago and it's time for a fundamental change.

Fewer races, shorter race weekends, lower ticket prices, etc.
, for NASCAR. Since NASCAR has been totally unresponsive to the financial climate - the ban on testing doesn't even register a blip on the radar screen - I'll do it for them. Eliminate the duplicate visits to Pocono, MIS, Dover, New Hampshire and Phoenix but add a new road race in the fall at Road America for a new schedule shortened by four race weekends. Keep the traditional 500-mile race distances at Daytona, Darlington, Charlotte (keep the 600-miler in May too) and Talladega. Change all the other race distances to 400 miles (or laps), or less, because Corporate America will not support these five-hour TV marathons with advertising as in years past. And NASCAR needs to go to two-day shows whenever it can and cut its ticket prices too. NASCAR has alienated its traditional fan base with a series of flat-out stupid moves, and now it's alienating Corporate America - the very lifeblood of its existence - as well, and they need to wake up before it's too late. And oh, by the way, if the pony car thing is squelched because of the "not invented here" syndrome, throw the manufacturers a frickin' bone and bring back visible product recognition to the cars somehow, pronto.

Dario, Marco, Graham and Danica. I'd like to see Dario come back to IndyCar stronger than ever, I'd like to see Marco live up to the promise with a breakout season, I'd like to see Graham Rahal do the same, and I'd like to see Danica win on a road course this year (I'd also like to see her become the first woman to win the Indianapolis 500). We'll see, because they'll all be chasing Scott Dixon - again.

One more great season for Jeff. He's had an absolutely superb career and has to be considered one of America's all-time great drivers, but I'd like to see Jeff Gordon put together one more memorable run for the championship before he hangs it up for good.

Four in a row for Jimmie? Is four NASCAR championships in a row for Jimmie Johnson impossible? No. Is it probable? I wouldn't bet on it. But if he and his team pull it off it would be one of the most glorious achievements in racing history.

A resurrected Trans-Am? I've seen the plans and the rumblings, but if there isn't direct factory involvement by GM and Ford then it will be a non-starter. The glory years of Trans-Am happened because of the factories, and anything less than that kind of involvement will result in a series not worthy of the name.

In general, the 2009 motorsports year will be challenging for a lot of reasons, but at any rate here's to a great - and safe - racing season, one filled with memorable races and historical achievements and just plain more fun, which should be the point to all of this at the end of the day anyway.

 

Publisher's Note: As part of our continuing series celebrating the "Glory Days" of racing, we're proud to present another noteworthy image from the Ford Racing Archives. - PMD

(Ford Racing Archives)
Le Mans, France, 1966. The Dan Gurney/Jerry Grant Shelby American Ford Mark II in the pits at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Eight of the big-block 427 Ford GTs were entered by three factory-backed Ford teams: Alan Mann Racing from England, Holman & Moody and of course, Shelby American. The Ford Mark IIs had already won at the 24 Hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring earlier in the season (with Ken Miles the lead driver in both wins), so expectations were high for Le Mans. Ferrari was no match for the Ford onslaught that year, as Henry Ford II basically gave the racing program a blank check to win - or else. The Ferrari challenge had evaporated with less than three hours to go, so the flying Fords were steaming to the finish with the Ken Miles/Denny Hulme Shelby American-entered Mark II leading, followed by the Shelby team car of Bruce McLaren/Chris Amon on the same lap. Ronnie Bucknum and Dick Hutcherson were third in a Holman & Moody entry, but they were a distant twelve laps behind. Then, it got all screwed up. Ford minions insisted on an orchestrated finish for the PR photo that would go around the world, because a 1-2-3 Ford triumph at the world's most prestigious endurance race would be big-time news. Bruce McLaren followed closely behind Miles at the finish with Ronnie Bucknum trailing, as everyone expected the outcome to be a win for the Miles/Hulme entry. But the ACO - the organizing entity of the event - declared that the McLaren/Amon Ford had actually won the race because it covered more distance during the 24 hours, having started lower in the field than the Miles/Hulme machine. It turned out to be the closest finish in the history of the event, but it remained the most bitterly disappointing moment in Ken Miles racing career. Miles was the straw that stirred the drink at Shelby American, and his development work on their team cars - from the Cobra days to the Ford GT days - was legendary. Having already won at Daytona and Sebring that year, Le Mans was to be the crowning achievement for Miles in motorsport. Alas it was not to be.