A fair, All-American assessment of what Manor just did

Manor didn’t sign Alexander Rossi. They did sign Rio Haryanto. This is fine EVERYTHING IS FINE CALM DOWN R.J.

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Today, Manor Racing completed their driver lineup for the 2016 Formula 1 season. With new Mercedes power units, a revamped technical staff and management, and two new drivers, it’s expected to be a big year for both Manor and their drivers, the reigning DTM champion Pascal Wehrlein, and the American driver who impressed in his five race slate at the end of 2015, Alexander Rossi. They’re expected to surge up the running order this coming se-

Wait. Wait. Wait wait wait wait WAIT. Hold up. They signed WHO!? 

DAMNIT MANOR

OH GOD DAMNIT! Continue reading “A fair, All-American assessment of what Manor just did”

Who can deny Chiyo’s greatness?

Katsumasa Chiyo began 2016 with another spectacular rally in the Bathurst 12 Hour, and if that won’t solidify his place among the best sports car racers in the world, what will?

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Image Credit – © NISMO Global

I spent the past weekend in a small-ish Alabama town called Anniston making an appearance at a local anime convention as a guest of honour. After a long, hectic day at the convention that involved two panels, one of which I can safely say I bombed, and knowing I would have to immediately drive back home at just past the crack of dawn, there I was, still awake at nearly 1 in the morning listening to the final laps of the Bathurst 12 Hour race on my phone.

Now, to set the scene, I’m staying in a luxurious, 19th century bed & breakfast run by a kind man who lives with his young sons. When I checked in that afternoon, there were dark chocolates sitting on the counter where I ultimately left my phone charger in my rush to head home the next day, and a white rose laid gently on the bed. This is a nicer place than I ever expected to be staying in for a night in central Alabama. It is really late. I’m put up in the house with the other guests, who are all either sleeping, or at least trying to. They have to get home the next day too. And it is so quiet and tranquil in this old, beautiful home that you can only hear the nearby train blasting its horn throughout the town as it departs for the next stop.

And then there’s me, recognizing the need for calm and quiet in the house, yet restraining myself about as hard as I could to do so because of a rally by Nissan Australia driver Katsumasa Chiyo that almost secured his team consecutive victories in the event.

Shane van Gisbergen has had the weekend of his young racing life, and he was basically driving the last few laps in his McLaren 650S GT3 in cruise control at the end to avoid throwing it all away in the last laps of the race. That’s not uncommon. Not when you, in essence, have the win in the bag after twelve hours of flat-out racing.

But what’s less common is for a lead of fourteen seconds, about the length of time it takes to drive the Bathurst circuit’s 1.1 kilometre Mountain Straight at speed, to be slashed down to just 1.276 seconds when the chequered flag fell on Van Gisbergen’s McLaren after 297 laps. Unless the lead car has a mechanical issue, a tyre blowout, or the driver just made a mistake and ran off the road or into a wall somewhere – if all they’re doing is just pacing themselves at the end, having already proven that they were the quickest team and driver combination all weekend long, that shouldn’t happen.

And yet, rattling off the Nissan GT-R GT3’s best laps of the entire weekend, at the very end of a grueling twelve hour endurance race, Katsumasa Chiyo closed to within a margin that made the final margin of victory closer than it had any right to have been. The record-breaking crowd roared in applause. The commentary team could not believe what they were seeing and calling for a worldwide audience. And back in Alabama, I was trying to hold back on screaming like a lunatic and trampling up and down the floor of this house like a stark-raving madman.

Chiyo just missed out on stealing the victory for Nissan, but he stole the show for the second consecutive year at Australia’s new great race, in a field containing some of the world’s greatest racing drivers.

Who, then, can deny the greatness of Katsumasa Chiyo?

Continue reading “Who can deny Chiyo’s greatness?”

Juichi Wakisaka: A look back on a legend

Juichi Wakisaka retired from driving on Wednesday, bringing a legendary career to a close.

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Image Credit – © Toyota Motor Corporation

Juichi Wakisaka announced his retirement from Super GT’s premier category of racing during Toyota Gazoo Racing’s 2016 motorsport press conference, bringing one of the most sensational careers in racing to a close.

Wakisaka’s retirement will likely not be reflected upon to the same degree as that of another recently retired Toyota sports car legend, Alexander Wurz. He never got the chance to test his skill in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, or in the World Endurance Championship or any of its forerunners. He never got to compete in Formula 1. In fact, he rarely competed outside of his native Japan, save for his fairly recent efforts in the Nürburgring 24 Hour race with Gazoo Racing.

But to everyone in the Toyota racing family, his home for the last fifteen years, he is a respected, revered legend, amongst his fellow drivers, amongst the mechanics and engineers who’ve worked with him over a career that spanned twenty-one years in total since graduating from karting in 1995, and amongst fans, young and old, who will so dearly miss him as a competitive driver. Continue reading “Juichi Wakisaka: A look back on a legend”

Adios, Pastor

There is a more complex legacy that Pastor Maldonado leaves behind in Formula 1 than just being the sport’s most prolific crasher.

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Image Credit – © Lotus F1 Team

If you’re reading this today, you now know that Pastor Maldonado is not racing for Renault F1 Team this season. And you know that we may have now seen the last of Maldonado as a Formula 1 driver.

We knew that before Renault could officially confirm Kevin Magnussen as his replacement at their team launch, because Maldonado confirmed it himself in an open statement on Twitter this Monday. A statement which almost reads like a full-on retirement speech, not just an announcement of missing one F1 campaign. He even said he’d try to come back next year, but I’m not optimistic about that.

I’ll admit that I’m way more of a fan of Pastor Maldonado, the F1 driver, than a lot of people who’ve followed the sport for any length of time into today. So for me, quite frankly? It sucks. A lot.

You see, there’s a much more complex legacy that Maldonado leaves behind in Formula 1, if this is indeed his bowing out of the sport – which is highly likely – than that of being the modern-day crash king of F1. Continue reading “Adios, Pastor”

Long Live Queen Kat

 

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Image Credit – Michelin

In writing the preview to the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona for RaceDepartment this past Friday, I remarked that the GT Daytona class would feature the Rolex 24’s leading ladies. Second-generation endurance racer Christina Nielsen, American BMW protege Ashley Freiberg, and Top Gear star/”Queen of the ‘Ring” Sabine Schmitz all featured in competitive entries. In boasting that, I omitted, by an unforgivable case of “just forgetting she was even there because I’m a dumb idiot”, the only woman competing in the premier class of the field – Katherine Legge.

And I sincerely, and profusely, apologize for that. Because from what I saw on Saturday? Katherine Legge should have driven the DeltaWing to one of the all-time great Rolex 24 wins in history. Not just for the best three hour stint of the race by itself, but the best three hours worth of driving in her entire career.

This is to take nothing away from the accomplishments of Extreme Speed Motorsports, who rallied back from a pit lane penalty to take the overall victory thanks to driving from stars like 22-year-old Pipo Derani, who became a breakthrough star. This is to take nothing away from the Corvette Racing team’s sensational 1-2 finish in GTLM – how close was it? This. Freaking. Close. And there was the Magnus Racing team, who made a hilarious Lego Movie-inspired preview of their 2016 season – which even featured Katherine Legge – then showed they meant business by winning the aforementioned GT Daytona class. With Audi ace René Rast on board the winning entry, I’m pretty sure this means everyone in America just won a free copy of Project CARS! Not like it’s selling very many copies right now anyway.

What they all did in victory was amazing and worthy of merit, but I’m sorry to say that they didn’t steal the show the way that Legge did Saturday afternoon. Continue reading “Long Live Queen Kat”