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Boullier: Magnussen totally innocent

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McLaren racing director Eric Boullier says Felipe Massa was wrong to blame Kevin Magnussen for their German Grand Prix collision, because the FIA's report proves the Dane was totally innocent.

Massa hit out at Magnussen's driving after the Hockenheim race, suggesting the Formula 1 rookie had been too aggressive in trying to gain positions early on. But with the official race stewards' report into the incident making it clear that only Massa's driving was under investigation, Boullier says that Magnussen should take none of the blame for what happened.

"The stewards report related to Felipe's driving and nothing else," explained Boullier, during a McLaren phone-in on Tuesday.

"There was a driving conduct investigation, and they decided to impose no penalty on Felipe, which is their prerogative.

"But the report makes it clear that Kevin was 100 per cent blameless, certainly."

Boullier: Magnussen totally innocentMassa issues warning to young drivers

The official report issued by the stewards after the race was addressed only to Williams, because there was no investigation into Magnussen's role in the crash as he had not changed his line away from the grid.

In the end, the FIA decided that Massa had not done anything wrong because he had been "concentrating on car #77 [Valtteri Bottas]. There was no intentional turning in by car #19 [Massa] on car #20 [Magnussen].'

BOULLIER "100% HAPPY" WITH DRIVERS

With Magnussen having shown strong form in recent races, Boullier made it clear that he was pleased with the way he and his more experience team-mate Jenson Button were performing.

"So far, I am 100 percent happy with both drivers," explained Boullier. "Jenson is clearly part of the family; he is fast and helps the team to drive where we want to go.

"With Kevin, as part of the learning process, he has respected all the tests we needed him to do and he is starting to clearly deliver in terms of his performance and in terms of result. So far I am 100 percent happy."

 

Originally on Autosport.com

NASCAR bemused by teams' alliance

NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France says that he is skeptical about the potential effectiveness of the newly-formed Race Teams Alliance. He warned that a consensus voice from the teams could actually hold the series back.

Nine of the Sprint Cup series' largest teams announced their plans to form a unified body to represent their interests earlier this month, with Michael Waltrip Racing co-owner Rob Kauffman appointed as the RTA's leader. But speaking during a radio interview on SIRIUS/XM on Monday, France said that he harbors doubts about the group.

"We didn't think it was necessary," he said. "We think the benefits they will arrive at with this association will be much smaller than they do.

"The one thing that is essential to NASCAR is, when you hear once voice, that would probably be the worst thing that we could ever do – listen to one voice, even if it was a consensus voice.

"Every decision we've ever made that's important, the more input, the more people we heard from, the better the results. That will never change in the business model of NASCAR because good ideas come from all over the place. That's the whole beauty of the NASCAR business model. Everybody's in it together."

According to France, the RTA has not given the series any additional details concerning what it hopes to achieve beyond the broad aims of cost-cutting and value-building that were declared when the group's formation was announced.

However, Kauffman has claimed that the teams are not chasing a larger slice of the reported $8.2 billion TV deal that comes into play next year. He has also denied suggestions that the group is effectively a teams' union.

"A union would be for employees," he told the Associated Press. "The right way to characterize it would be a 'business alliance.'"

 

Originally on Autosport.com

Double points unfair - Mercedes

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Mercedes F1 commercial boss Toto Wolff reckons Formula 1 has made a mistake by deciding to award double points for its 2014 season finale in Abu Dhabi.

The team's drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton are locked in a close battle for the F1 world championship, which is likely to swing decisively based on the result of the final race of the season.

Double points unfair - MercedesANALYSIS: How double points would've changed F1 history

Although all teams unanimously agreed to the double points proposal ahead of the season, Wolff believes the new scoring system is unfair.

"I don't think it is fair and I don't think we should have done it," Wolff admitted. "But the commercial rights holder, who takes the sponsorship and cares about the TV audiences, said we need to keep the excitement until the last race – and it looks like he was right.

"I would be very surprised if it [the title battle] wouldn't come down to double points. Even if you are 30 points behind you can turn it around in Abu Dhabi if the leading guy retires. Maybe Bernie [Ecclestone] was right in having double points if it's going to keep the championship open until the last race?

"The last race could be the decisive one, and I would be very surprised if the audiences weren't larger than they would normally be."

Wolff reckons neither of his drivers would care if double points made the difference for them in clinching the crown, but that it would be tough for the loser to accept.

"I think the driver who loses the title because of double points will need some psychological treatment – but we are not there yet," Wolff added. "The racing between the two is so close; retirements are going to play a crucial role."

 

Originally on Autosport.com

James-Garner-1985JG-at-IMS-1977So we've lost another one of those venerable figures who seemed universally loved and respected, a man who surely deserved the spotlight, but never behaved like he needed it. James Garner's easy-going manner probably robbed him of some of the adulation he deserved, but he could live with that. He, like other dignified stars of that generation, probably just smiled wryly and accepted that this world is no longer a place for those who are great at what they do but who aren't prepared to brag about it.

"I came to California, and had an aunt who wanted me to get into motion pictures," Garner told the Television Academy Foundation. "I didn't want any part of that. She had talent scouts come look at me, and I just brushed them off... I read what I read in fan magazines, and I thought, 'Oh my goodness, these people are so phony!' I just hated it."

Yet he knew a means to an end when he saw it, and he took a modeling job (despite hating the phoniness of that, too) while he pondered what he really wanted to do. Thankfully for anyone who cares about good cinema, he chose acting.

Now, I couldn't hope to make this a comprehensive tribute to Mr. James Garner, because acting remained his principal job, and I'm no film/TV critic. In fact, I admit I'm ignorant of even some of his major roles. Yes, I think I've seen all 122 The Rockford Files episodes – some of them many, many times since I have 60 percent of them on DVD – yet only a couple of times have I caught Garner's other great TV role, Maverick. And there are many movies of his that I'd never heard of until spending much of yesterday reading the countless obituaries to this great man. Here, I simply wanted to convey why James Garner became a hero for me.

great-escape-james-garner-and-donald-pleasenceGarner and Donald Pleasence in "The Great Escape."There is the automotive connection, of course, yet at first, my fandom had nothing to do with cars and everything to do with Garner's acting in The Great Escape. For this wide-eyed kid, probably eight years of age, Steve McQueen's dramatic attempts to evade capture on a bike were of course, pure gold. But the other fella I was really pulling for was Garner's character. At the time, I couldn't put my finger on what made him so appealing from the moment he appeared on screen. A couple of decades later, I figured it out; Garner throughout was behaving truly naturally...and emphatically not being an actor. Such realism is rare in an "old" movie. There were no theatrical projections of voice, unrealistic facial mannerisms or overly flamboyant movements. Hendley the Scrounger, Garner's character in this immortal epic, was just like your affable next-door neighbor who says, sure, he can illicitly find something you need, and then actually delivers on the promise.

Then, as the group of PoWs attempted to flee Germany, he was prepared to multiply the risk of getting caught by determinedly escorting Donald Pleasence's character, Colin Blythe, who was now blind. I was dumbstruck at James Garner's nobility. Yes, OK, aged eight, my distinction between an actor and his character was non-existent. But even aged 41, while I'm no longer scared of making Lou Ferrigno angry, I still hold the belief that Garner would have manned up and been that Hendley guy for real.

Grand-PrixSome 10 years after that first memory of Garner, I was reading Graham Hill's autobiography and in his brief description of filming John Frankenheimer's movie Grand Prix, he made reference to Garner's considerable talents behind the wheel – in stark contrast with the other actors forced to play racing drivers in that movie. That certainly caught my interest...and then I saw Grand Prix, which did a lot more than that. Garner was the suave, heroic yet very human figure that any adolescent would surely admire. What's the phrase? The kind of guy that men want to be and women want to be with. Yup, forget James Bond; I wanted to be Pete Aron!

1970 Oldsmobile 442 Goodyear GrabberMore investigation revealed just how deeply into cars Garner was. Here was a celebrity (before that word's default definition became "behaving like a moron and getting your own reality TV show") who, like Paul Newman, wasn't going to make racing his career but who loved it as a hobby, and had the means to get involved. Driving that handsome, rugged Oldsmobile 442 in desert races – the 'Goodyear Grabber' – Garner proved what Graham Hill and Jack Brabham had noted during the filming of Grand Prix: he had genuine talent.

Three-time Indy 500 winner Bobby Unser, who was one of Garner's driving coaches, recalled: "James was a very good student of racing. He really listened – didn't act like he knew everything already. And because he listened, he learned and understood and he became very good, I thought. Yes, I liked him."

And his interests went beyond the instant gratification of driving. Pulled directly from Wikipedia: "Garner was an owner of the "American International Racers" (AIR) auto racing team from 1967 through 1969. Famed motorsports writer William Edgar and Hollywood director Andy Sidaris teamed with Garner for the racing documentary The Racing Scene, filmed in 1969 and released in 1970."

Here's a 5min clip from it:


RockfordTheGarnerFiles

What I love about Garner's presence at Indianapolis for those three years – 1975, ’77 and ’85 – in which he drove the pace car for the "500", is that, although gratified at the crowd's appreciation of him and happy that it would bring more attention to the already hugely popular Rockford Files, more than anything, I suspect he just loved pacing the field at the world's biggest race. Sure, Garner was in a position to be offered some great opportunities in his life, but you can be sure he appreciated them as an enthusiast like you or I.

There's something else massively appealing about Garner, whether you're a race fan or not. If you read his excellent autobiography "The Garner Files" and read or watch any interviews with him, you'll see that he was able to take pride in his accomplishments and show an awareness of his status without ever descending into egotism or self-absorption. He was modest; he accepted there were actors who had more on-screen presence and acknowledged he'd never had any formal training in his art. But he never sounded deliberately self-effacing in order to prompt sycophantic retorts from an interviewer, writer or reader – "How can this great man not realize that he, too, is one of the icons?" etc.

Despite his relaxed demeanor, Garner was certainly not a pushover. Here was a man who always stood up for what he thought was right. His principles are why he wouldn't allow himself to get fleeced by studio executives who apparently went out of their way to live up to the stereotype of greedy, seedy, slimeballs trying to take financial advantage of the talent put in their charge. His principles are why Garner was front and center (to be accurate, third row from the front) for Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech after joining him for the march on Washington. His principles are why Garner fought for this country in Korea.

And at the other end of the scale of importance, Garner's principles are why, in the final two seasons of The Rockford Files, he quit accepting Pontiac's offer of a new Firebird (pictured, TOP) for each series; he simply didn't like the front-end styling of the post-1978 models. I'm with him on that one, too.

There's no getting away from the auto-fanatic side of Mr. James Garner. And it hit me like a brick when Steve Shunck e-mailed me Parnelli Jones' tribute to his friend and golfing buddy; the 1963 Indy 500 winner and the man who de-glamorized the role of private detective shared some very important character traits – pride, determination but also humility. Both of them appreciated fans' respect yet were humble enough to be slightly disconcerted by outright adulation.

That was a major part of Garner's appeal to so many of us, but there was much more of course. His looks combined matinee idol with trustworthy homeliness. He was openly family-oriented and avoided scandal. And yes, there were Jim Rockford's evasive J-turns in that copper-colored Pontiac Firebird Esprit, one of many maneuvers that must have put as much strain on its auto transmission as his stunts outside a car punished his knees. (There's a grim and probably accurate rumor that Garner's circa-50-year-old body demanded on average one knee operation per series of The Rockford Files).

But most of all, he will be missed because of who and how we believe he was. Only those closest to him could confirm this – like most, I can only go by what I've read or seen of the man – but that old cliché about life imitating art appears to be applicable to James Garner, the man. He truly was the standup guy he so often portrayed on screen. Cool, yes, but warm too.

A sad and fond farewell then, to a gentleman who turned acting without artifice and behaving with decency into heroic qualities. James Garner – the genuine article, and a car guy, too.

Massa warning for young F1 drivers

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Felipe Massa has called on Formula 1's younger drivers to calm down, following his first-corner crash with Kevin Magnussen at the German Grand Prix.

The Brazilian believes that the McLaren driver was to blame for their collision at Turn 1 that flipped his Williams upside down and out of the race. Having felt that Magnussen had the opportunity to back out of the move, Massa says he is frustrated by the number of incidents being caused by too much aggression from new drivers.

"It is not the first time he has been in an accident on the first lap," said Massa. "Most of the time, these young drivers, they want the win the race at the first corner. And if you take most of the accidents that happen, it happens mostly with them."

Massa warning for young F1 driversMagnussen says he had nowhere to go

Massa believes there are more collisions now compared to when his generation of drivers were coming through.

"Honestly, I don't remember in the past that this type of accident happening all the time," he said. "I was young and I even crashed many times, but I don't remember following different rules to the ones we have.

"I don't remember myself, Kimi [Raikkonen], Fernando [Alonso], being involved as young drivers in so many things like that. Anyway, it is just the way I think: I am not saying the young drivers don't have the talent to be in F1, it is very good talent. But sometimes you need to understand that you cannot win the race at the first corner."

Magnussen has not spoken to Massa about what happened at the first corner, but the Brazilian says he will offer him some key advice when they do talk about it.

"Take it easy," said Massa, when asked what he will tell Magnussen. "I am not losing alone, he loses as well.

"He spun and maybe his car was not the same, so he lost points as well. I hope it is enough to understand to take it a bit easier at the next race."

 

Originally on Autosport.com

072014 toronto BC 371097

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Bentley-overheadIf you read the promotional literature for the road-going Bentley Continental GT, you’ll learn about its “perfect fusion of supercar performance and handcrafted luxury.” Converted into GT3 competition form and wielded by Dyson Racing, the same descriptors have rung true; the car’s aesthetic merits further reinforced by a strong debut on the fast swoops of Road America.

The second time around, it faced a very different challenge. If Road America was a natural progression from the road courses around which the car was first battle-tested in Europe, then the bumpy patchwork that makes up the surface of the Toronto street circuit is anything but.

Bentley-Chris-Butch“Getting the car to work at Road America was easy,” said driver Butch Leitzinger (LEFT, with Dyson Racing team owner Chris Dyson) who came away from the Continental’s debut weekend last month with a sixth and fourth. “Now, coming here to a North American street track…the car has never really seen a bump before!”

If taking a new car to a new type of track is a little like learning a different language, then doing so in changing conditions can be like learning a different language while locked in a room with a mariachi band. And the conditions in Toronto were tough. An already-tight schedule meant that the Pirelli World Challenge field had just two 30-minute sessions to get a handle on their setup before they went out to qualify.

Rain showers left the drivers facing a wet and slippery track for their first outing, while the subsequent cancellation of the IndyCar race late on Saturday afternoon snowballed into a complete overhaul of Sunday’s schedule that resulted in the PWC field racing three hours earlier than they’d expected.

“In the greater scheme of things, all these variables are good, because we’re getting a lot of different data about different situations that will be helpful next year,” Leitzinger said prior to the first race. “But for this weekend, it makes it a lot easier for us to get it wrong.

“The preparation time has been really short, so we’ve kind of been taking stabs at the setup when we can. We’ve made some progress, but hopefully we’ll make more.”

Bentley-Turn 2


 

Bentley-ViperThere was a final complication to come. Leitzinger was running well in the opening race until he was caught up in a heavy crash with another car. Or as Leitzinger diplomatically put it, “We got caught up in a little extracurricular activity, unfortunately. He just didn’t want to be passed.”

In relative terms, the damage to the Bentley was minor – Leitzinger managed to crawl back to the pits, while the other car involved did not appear again for the rest of the weekend – but it still made for a late night for the team.

Bentley-pit“The race was at 11 a.m., and we got out of here at 9:30 p.m.,” said Dyson Racing technical director Peter Weston. “There was no suspension damage; it was all bodywork – the support structure for the front bodywork.”

By the time the Continental headed out for the second race on Sunday morning the track had largely dried, and Leitzinger was able to bring it home in ninth. It’s not the sort of result that he or the team will be satisfied with in the long-term, but right now, everything Dyson does with the Bentley is about building toward next year. And on that basis, all of the challenges that Toronto threw at it will provide an invaluable platform for future development.

“We started with a Road America base setup and worked back from there,” said Weston. “But this was the first time I’ve engineered a GT car at a street track. And it’s the first time that myself or the team have been to Toronto, aside from a couple of guys who came here years ago. We’re usually racing up the road at Mosport.

“So when you consider all of that, and take into account that the car as a project is only 12 months old and it’s never been to a street circuit, it has been a really productive weekend – we started off 1.7sec off the pace, and had the car within 0.3sec by Sunday morning.”

Teaching the car to handle bumps better will be a priority in the months ahead, given the proliferation of street courses on the 2015 calendar, and Dyson Racing is already in the process of hatching what Weston describes as a “secret test plan” for the offseason with that very purpose in mind.

Bentley-start“The bumps are the key thing,” said Weston. “The surface changes, the level of grip – it’s a street track, so it’s very polished – and the bumps. We’re trying to get grip out of something that’s very smooth and very bumpy, and control the mass of the car without the tires getting hot.”

The team’s other target in the weeks ahead will be to get the tires up to their optimum temperature faster. But the real keys to unlocking the Continental’s potential are simply time and experience. Every time the team takes the car out onto the track, the learning curve flattens by an extra few degrees.

“During a race weekend you just have to field-engineer the car and hope for the best,” Leitzinger admitted. “But we’re learning a lot, and the car was good here. Its strongest suit, I would say, is the high-speed corners. It makes very good downforce. The slower turns are maybe where we’re giving up a little bit, and we’re making a lot of improvements there as we start to understand the car and figure out exactly what it likes. But right now the faster the corner, the better we are.”

The sharp shock of a rugged street course makes way for relatively familiar surrounds when the team moves on to the next event at Mid-Ohio in two weeks. Leitzinger will still be flying the Bentley flag solo – the team retains ambitions to field a second car for Chris Dyson later in the season, although plans are still being finalized. But in the interim, the team has much to be excited about. In a self-described “development year,” Toronto was supposed to be the big curveball. A top 10 finish and a stack of new data has to be considered a solid return on a weekend’s work.

Bentley-pan-blur

Evoving3Bringing GT3-spec cars into the Pirelli World Challenge has swelled the grid, enhanced competition, reduced costs for privateers and set the sprint-based series' future course.

This story is an excerpt from RACER magazine's GT ISSUE, on sale now.

For more than 20 years, the SCCA Pro Racing Pirelli World Challenge formula served it well – take a road car, work some magic to turn it into a viable racer and go compete in professional motorsports for a reasonable amount of money. During that period, the balance has fluctuated between being largely privateers to more factory based teams. Acura, Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Saleen and Volvo all participated at the factory level in what is now called the GT category. Many more manufacturers took part in the other categories.

Always there, though, were the privateers. The cars that came from SCCA Pro Racing's short-lived Corvette Challenge formed a big part of the base in the series' first year. Since then, privately built Corvettes, Vipers and Porsches have been a staple of the GT category. But in recent years they've disappeared; the design and engineering expense had become too great to build a car from scratch unless a team had factory support.

The Porsche 911 GT3 Cup provided the first solution – take a factory-prepped racecar, make a few modifications and race in World Challenge. Then some of the FIA GT3 category cars were allowed, with a different rear wing.

"We acquired the first GT3-spec Audi R8 in North America in January 2012 with a good friend and client, Alex Welch," says James Sofronas, one of the owners of GMG Racing, who also races an Audi R8 LMS in Pirelli World Challenge along with preparing a fleet for customers. "I'd like to give credit to Alex Welch, because he purchased the car himself. And then we said, 'Let's go have some fun with this,' and at that point I thought we'd push World Challenge to allow these GT3 cars because, right from the factory, they're 90 percent done."

Prior to the 2013 season, the series did just that, allowing the R8, the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG and BMW Z4, with some aero modifications. With that experiment deemed a success, GT3 cars running the FIA-homologated aero packages were let in for 2014, and the results are immediately apparent.

Evoving1"The GT field had been shrinking from 45 cars in 2000 to 20 cars in 2008, then 18, 17, 12.... We saw a trend going in the wrong direction," says Scott Bove, president and CEO of WC Vision and Pirelli World Challenge. "One big reason holding us back was the cars were expensive to build. They could easily cost $300-$400,000 and be unreliable. The teams that seemed to be growing with us were the teams that went to Porsche Motorsports, plunked down $200,000 and bought a [911 GT3] Cup car. A couple of modifications and in a month they're racing in winning cars.

"We started thinking about how we capitalize on this, and we looked at the GT3 series in Europe, where there are manufacturers like Porsche Motorsports building cars for sale. Let's say we're average millionaires; we can go to Ferrari or Lamborghini and buy a car. We no longer need all the infrastructure and engineering support. We need a crew. And the cars are reliable, because they're designed, engineered and built by the factory."

That opens the series up to almost 20 makes of ready-built cars – with more on the way – that can also compete in two dozen other series worldwide. Already Audi, Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren and Bentley GT3 cars have competed in 2014...

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