Q: I’m a youngster making his first steps into the business/operations end of motorsports. I’ve been reading Mailbag for a while now and I must say that I have learned quite a bit from it. After reading last week’s edition I must say that I am astonished at the dismay and disillusionment that these race fans have, especially in regard to hybrid tech. As a 20-something who loves racing just as much as the guys who grew up watching Formula Fords and Can-Ams rip around, I simply don’t understand the mindset of the old guard.
As someone who will hopefully make it deeper into the sport, I have to say to these fans that racing will always be racing — I love the noise, the smell and the shaking when a car drives by just as much as them, but if motorsport doesn’t adapt and change then it will die. Racing is in good hands — the guys and girls in the paddocks love racing the same if not more than some of these readers, so the notion that hybrids or electricity or any advance beyond coal- or steam-powered engines is killing the sport is false.
Keep calm everyone, motorsports isn’t dying, and if we youngsters have any say, then motorsports will only get bigger and better. I suppose my question for you is, what can I do as someone who is young and full of ideas do to make motorsport enjoyable for the old guard? Is there something, or will we always have to deal with the those saying the old days were the best? Thank you for your work Robin, it’s much appreciated.
RM: Very well-written letter, and always good to hear from the younger generation. I doubt there’s much you can do to make the old guard appreciate today’s racing because most were hooked on the dirt, roadsters, danger and bravado of Parnelli’s and AJ’s era. I get it, hell I still spend $500 at the Indy memorabilia show each May on old photos, programs, press kits and shirts because I don’t want to let go of the past. But even the most die-hard fans of the ’60s and ’70s have to admit that today’s IndyCar racing is more competitive than it’s ever been. That may not be enough to make them watch, but it’s a fact and all you can do is try and make some of your friends fans through your passion. Thanks.
Q: So we need to move to a hybrid engine formula. Great. Fine. As long as we can hear the beautiful loudness of a high-revving motor (and not a four-cylinder), who cares if we have to install some 50 HP widget down there to keep manufacturers engaged and happy? Finally we get on-board starters. Thank you. My decades-long complaint with IndyCar is the historical lack of starters. I know they dabbled with them a few years ago, but how many hundreds of races have been ruined over the years with the driver pounding the steering wheel and waggling his finger in a circle to the heavens. The weight for battery and starters would have been modest all these years, and performance and audience enjoyment virtually unchanged. So why has IndyCar (and other open-wheel series like that boring one in Europe) been so against starters? It makes no sense.
Marwood Stout, Camarillo, CA
P.S. It has been a pleasure to read your work over the decades, and a thrill to meet you in person (at Gladstone’s in Long Beach. I am the oral surgeon in Camarillo who has offered to get you hooked up with a dental implant. (My offer still stands.) Where you proved what I always thought: that you were a very down to earth and kind gentleman, and one of the best assets of open-wheel racing. Thank you for taking the time to chat it up with me and the little nieces and nephews I am trying to turn into solid IndyCar fans.
RM: If I remember correctly, there was some kind of heating or weight problem with self-starters in the Champ Car days and after the false starts at Indy and again at Houston, I think IndyCar freaked out and forgot about them. But standing starts would be perfect for street races – especially Long Beach and Toronto, where they could get everyone on the straightaway. And the fact this hybrid assist will allow drivers to restart instead of waiting on a safety truck will be the best thing for keeping the race going and not bringing out a yellow for five laps. Thanks for your kind words and offer, but I’m thinking about surgery to remove one of my five chins.
Q: Carryover questions that I haven’t been able to get an addressed yet by you or Marshall. I started noticing mid-year that the right-front tire changer and the crew member who waves in the driver in pit lane has a different colored team uniform that the rest of the crew. This seems to be for all teams. Am I hallucinating or did this change, and is it a rule?
And, all the furor over an engine rule change (that half the Mailbag writers don’t understand) is infuriating. I’m old also, Medicare this November. This hybrid addition to the engine spec is the way of the world. Get used to it. Reminds me of the guys my age and older complaining about the C8 ‘Vette. Get over it. GM needs to sell to people younger than we are. Most people seem to be missing the best part of the new engine – onboard starters. This alone improves the racing greatly. There. I feel better.
Mike DeQuardo, Waukesha, WI
RM: Ganassi Racing boss Mike Hull was kind enough to answer your first question: “Some teams have their outside front tire changer in a different-colored fire suit, or some have a full armband of a different color, while some do not. All teams use a sign board, as well as an additional sign on the top of their fuel tank to help drivers. For the night races, most teams have a lighted sign board. But there isn’t a rule requirement for off-setting uniform colors.”
As for your statement on hybrids, I think old guys like us will eventually embrace what’s taking place – especially if it lands IndyCar another manufacturer.