Power does what it says on the tin

After last week’s opening round of the 2012 IndyCar series season, I didn’t have high hopes for today’s race. But what a race it was! It seems all Indy needs for a decent race is a proper track and fewer caution periods. Surprisingly, there were only two in the whole race!
Strategy was still important, but Will Power capitalised on a pit stop error from Scott Dixon’s team to take the lead after the second restart. With only a few laps to go, he pulled slowly away for his first win of the season. Behind, polesitter Helio Castroneves was third after a tussle between himself, Graham Rahal and brilliant rookie Simon Pagenaud in the final laps.
Sixth was James Hinchcliffe, while Mike Conway capitalised on the restart and a struggling Andretti to take seventh. Barrichello was challenging Conway in those final laps, having gained several places on the restart, but lost distance to the Brit while trying to overtake Andretti. The Brazilian finally managed it and finished eighth. This left Sebastien Bourdais sandwiched between Andretti and Dario Franchitti. Bourdais in the Lotus-engined car did brilliantly, and took ninth. In a race to the line, reigning champion Franchitti just beat Andretti to tenth.

Auto GP
At Valencia it was chamionship leader Adrian Quaife-Hobbs who shone. The Super Nova driver, still in his 2011 Marussia Manor overalls, got up to third by the end of the first lap but made an early pit call to get fresh tyres that saw him in the lead after everyone had pitted. Meanwhile Facu Regalia took second, holding off Sergey Sirotkin. Daniel de Jong managed fourth for Manor, while Victor Guerin was able to finally have a good race and finished fifth. Rounding off the points were Max Snegirev, Chris van der Drift and Pal Varhaug.
Quaife-Hobbs now leads the championship by 21 points from Pal Varhaug, while Sirotkin is only 5 behind the Norwegian driver. Both Manor drivers are on 37 points, with Facu Regalia 2 behind them.
In the teams’ championship, Super Nova have overtaken Manor and lead by 11 points. Euronova are third, with Virtuosi UK sinking to fourth. Campos Racing, who have scored points with at least two of their three drivers in every race, are fifth.

The Superstars series saw some brilliant racing from former HRT driver Tonio Liuzzi. Starting from the back row in the first race he finished third. This left him sixth in the reversed grid second race, where he dominated and won the race. The Italian is definitely going to be one of the title favourites, though he is currently second in the championship as Max Pigoli – who won the first race – came second in the second race.

In the first BTCC weekend, there was some incredible racing. A seven-car pile-up in the final race caused a red flag, and experienced racer Jason Plato was fourth just after the restart. As the cars ahead faded, Andrew Jordan and Jason Plato fought through and Plato keep pushing the Honda driver. Finding a gap, Plato got into the lead with five laps to go and won the first race for his new team despite their not testing until a week ago. The other races were won by Rob Collard and Matt Neal. Plato now leads the championship ahead of Neal and Jordan.

The WTCC races were won by Yvan Muller and Alain Menu respectively.

IndyCar: The 500

I did promise on my Twitter that I would write a blog post about IndyCar if four or more British drivers qualified for the Indy 500 on Saturday: ‘Pole Day’. Well, four did: Jay Howard from Basildon is P21, Justin Wilson from Sheffield (who drove for Minardi and Jaguar in 2003) is P20, and most impressively Dario Franchitti from Bathgate and Dan Wheldon from near Milton Keynes made it into the top 9 for the special shootout. In that shootout, Wheldon came 6th but Franchitti failed to properly qualify after his car ran out of fuel before the end of his run so will start 9th.
The other four British drivers faced the challenge of making it into the bottom 9 on the Sunday: ‘Bump Day’: Pippa Mann from London, Mike Conway from Sevenoaks (who recently won an IndyCar race), James Jakes from Leeds, and Alex Lloyd from Manchester. Pippa Mann and Alex Lloyd both managed to qualify, in P31 and P32 respectively, but James Jakes failed – he’d been slow all weekend – and so did Mike Conway! Please note that this system of qualification is NOT used for regular races.

IndyCar is the American Formula One. The chassis are all made by Dallara, and there’s currently a single engine provided by Honda, and a single tyre supplier in Firestone. Races take place mostly in the US on street circuits and ovals, but there are also Canadian and Brazilian races.
The current IndyCar champion is Dario Franchitti, cousin to Force India’s Paul di Resta and also Scottish-Italian. He’s won the championship for the last three seasons, and has also won the 2007 and 2010 Indy 500 races. The Indy 500 is the Monaco GP of IndyCar, and the race is on the same weekend. But the race is just the climax of a whole month of events around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Indianapolis is an oval, and at the start of F1, the was an F1 race. But F1 doesn’t do ovals these days.
One man has won the Triple Crown of Motorsport: the Indy 500, the Monaco GP and the 24 hours of Le Mans. That is Graham Hill, father of Damon. But it’s very unlikely that anyone would repeat this feat. Anyone who wins Monaco is unlikely to ever go to IndyCar, and anyone in IndyCar has basically no chance of getting into F1 despite the FIA being willing to issue super licenses to IndyCar drivers. It’s a shame really, because some IndyCar drivers are good. I’d love to see Dario Franchitti up against Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamiton or Fernando Alonso (in equal cars, of course).
It is possible to go the other way. James Jakes was in GP2 before beginning IndyCar this year; Takuma Sato was F1’s best Japanese driver, but left when the Japanese engines did; Sebastien Bourdais the former Toro Rosso driver does street circuits for his team (as well as driving in ILMS), and Scott Speed another former Toro Rosso man is involved in this year’s Indy 500 (although he ended up not even attempting to qualify). Although Bourdais hasn’t got a chance at the triple crown, he at least has participated in the three series that those tracks are part of.

This year of the Indy 500 is very special. It is 100 years since the first race was run there. There were no races run during the war years, which is why this is only the 95th race. The build up is incredible, with a month of events around the track. People can enter the 500 as part-time entries with a regular team or teams can enter just for one or two races. I think this helps give IndyCar a different dimension, pulling it on a different line to the 12 teams of 2 drivers each that is F1. Privateer entries don’t exist any more. It would be interesting to see drivers making a special entry for Monaco or Spa, for example.
Another benefit of IndyCar is the cost, which is another reason you get part-time entries there. The series was formed indeed as a protest against costs in Champ Car, and has survived beyond the collapse of that series. F1 cars cost so many millions to make that you’d never be able to afford to make your own these days, despite successful attempts by the FIA and FOTA to cut costs dramatically.

For my next post about IndyCar, I’ll try and explain the points system, amongst other things.