Porsche factory driver Patrick Long was headed for an open-wheel career until sports cars became his permanent home. Although he missed out on a life spent in IndyCar, he achieved a dream at Rennsport Reunion VI by shaking down the newly-restored 1990 March Porsche at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca--the last place it ran 28 years ago.
Posted 30 September 2018 - 07:00
Posted 02 October 2018 - 14:24
Factory driver Patrick Long takes RACER on a tour of Porsche’s rich heritage display at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca during Rennsport Reunion VI, held September 27-30:
Posted 04 October 2018 - 14:56
Flying Too Close to the Sun
By: Paul Fearnley | 19 hours ago
Brabham designer Ron Tauranac, though somewhat more wary than Lotus’ Colin Chapman of unchecked development in an unexplored area, upstaged his rival at the Italian Grand Prix in September 1968. Not only did he introduce a radical new rear wing, but he also repurposed the old, lower item across the front of his BT26. (This just one year after trying a drag-reducing bubble canopy at the same Monza circuit.)
Conceived with British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) aerodynamicist Ray Jessop, the new wing hinged at the centre of its span and its loads were shared between sprung and unsprung elements via canted inner as well as outer vertical struts. A wire from its trailing edge to a cockpit lever (calibrated in Jack Brabham’s case) flattened its incidence – a process reversible only in the pits – but even when “locked,” the wing oscillated from dihedral to anhedral under braking.
Jochen Rindt put his Brabham-Repco BT26 on the pole for the 1968 Canadian GP at Mont-Tremblant. Designer Ron Tauranac had trialed the car’s high, suspension-mounted front wing at Monza as F1’s “wing war” reached a new level of complexity and fragility.
“Tauranac was a canny bugger,” says Peter Wright, who joined BRM from Cambridge University in 1967 and was responsible for its aerodynamic R&D. “He may have set the wing so that the incidence changed according to ride height; when the rear comes up under braking it may well have increased the incidence and given more downforce. Who knows?
“Everybody was experimenting. Tasked with a self-adjusting wing, my solution was electrohydraulic, with a button on the steering wheel. John Surtees tested it at Silverstone [in 1969]. He did a couple of laps before pressing it. Then came straight back in: ‘Hmm, interesting. The car jumped from one side of the track to the other.’ That’s how it was then.”
Brabham’s front wing, mounted to the suspension’s inner pivots, was shelved after a few laps of Monza. But a fortnight later Jochen Rindt, canards removed (because of overheating), used one to set pole for the Canadian GP at Ste. Jovite, Quebec.
Chris Amon, overriding his Ferrari’s automatic adjustment of its rear wing at two points on this undulating track – for a total of three seconds – equaled Rindt’s time and dominated much of the race, despite a failing clutch that eventually broke the gearbox. Thus Denny Hulme, fixed wing restored above his McLaren’s M7A engine – he’d won at Monza without it – claimed a consecutive victory.
Everyone had a rear wing by now.
Cooper joined the club at the Nürburgring in August, its Vickers Aerospace aerofoil mounted amidships on tall, close-coupled struts and, by Monza, self-adjusting via sprung plungers that held it shut until overcome by air pressure as speed increased.
BRM’s BAC wing – a thin aluminum skin on a balsawood core, autoclaved in a mold – was fitted first to a P126 at England’s non-championship Oulton Park International Gold Cup that same month. Hub-mounted via inclined struts, it was braced laterally and also by cables running from the roll hoop.
Graham Hill clinched the 1968 F1 title at the season-ending Mexican GP.
“Those struts were my idea,” says Wright. “They redirected load into the middle of the contact patch without putting a tilting load into the uprights. Not having endplates wasn’t necessarily a mistake. It would generate more downforce, yes, but more drag too. A decent span didn’t need an endplate was the theory.
“There was a wonderful book [“Theory of Wing Sections” by Ira Abbott and Albert von Doenhoff, first published in 1949] that collated all the research, mainly NASA’s. It was our bible before simulation, finite-element analysis and data systems.”
Hulme had drawn level with Lotus’ Graham Hill with two rounds remaining. His title challenge, however, would end with a brace of accidents – the second caused by rear suspension failure, despite running without a wing – whereas Jackie Stewart’s United States GP victory in October halved his gap to Hill, runner-up at Watkins Glen, to three points.
Posted 04 October 2018 - 19:10
To celebrate No. 9 Scott Dixon, we’re digging into the vault for classic wins by each of the 9 winningest drivers in Indy car racing history. Enjoy Al Unser Jr.’s 9th career win: The 1989 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Posted 06 October 2018 - 22:12
Hakkinen drives title-winning McLaren at Suzuka
By: Adam Cooper
Oct 5, 2018, 12:00 PM
Mika Hakkinen was reunited with his 1998 McLaren MP4-13 in Suzuka on Friday, 20 years after he won the Formula 1 world championship at the same venue.
The Finn was invited by the circuit to take part in a gathering of historic F1 cars to celebrate the 30th Japanese GP to be held at the venue.
Although he used the MP4-13 for demo runs later in his McLaren career, this was the first time that he had driven the car on a circuit since he retired from racing.
On Friday he just had a short shakedown run, and he is scheduled to drive again on Saturday or Sunday, although rain may have an impact on the plans.
He had one minor hiccup during the shakedown when he found that the pit entrance had changed since his last visit.
“You can imagine what it was like, particularly on this race track,” he told Motorsport.com. “It’s a fabulous race track, so many unbelievable memories, winning a world championship here against Michael Schumacher.
"Of course it feels like yesterday, it’s logical, because it’s such a strong memory.”
Hakkinen admitted that after so many years away the speed of an F1 car – even one from two decades ago – came as a shock to the system.
“The g-forces are so heavy, and you cannot compare it with a road car. What is amazing is that of course the car is so quick, all the common sense that you are thinking, is how is it possible that the cars can have such high performance?
"I feel that the engineers of the McLaren team, when they built that car for me, they did a brilliant team work.”
Asked if he ever thought he’d be driving an F1 car at 50, he said: “No! That’s a really good one. I could never imagine, but I tell you what, it’s good to be here.”
Mika Hakkinen, McLaren MP4-13 at Legends F1 30th Anniversary Lap Demonstration
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Sutton Images
Posted 10 October 2018 - 15:24
For Immediate Release: October 10, 2018
WORLD’S LARGEST GRAND PRIX RACING CAR MUSEUM
TO CLOSE ON NOVEMBER 5
News is released today of the Donington Collection museum’s imminent closure. Its doors will close to the public for the final time on November 5 this year, after 45 years as an absolutely must-see Mecca for motor racing enthusiasts worldwide…
Situated at the Donington Park motor racing circuit on the Leicestershire/Derbyshire border, the Donington Collection Museum has housed the World’s largest display of purebred Grand Prix racing cars, including many rated as being amongst the most historically and financially valuable of their kind.
The Museum – full title ‘The Donington Collection of Single-Seater Racing Cars’ – was the brainchild of Leicester-based builder Frederick Bernard ‘Tom’ Wheatcroft.
A lifelong motor sports enthusiast he had first visited Donington Park in 1935 to watch motor-cycle racing on the British mainland’s very first true road-racing circuit. He would recall: “From then on I was a confirmed enthusiast. I saw most of the bike and car meetings that followed, and in 1937 and 1938 I was hanging on the fence with the best of them, watching those giant German cars running in the Donington Grand Prix”. Those two sensational races were the pre-war equivalent of today’s British Grand Prix.
After six years of wartime Army service Tom Wheatcroft launched his building business in 1946. It thrived, making him a wealthy man. In 1964 he bought a 13-year-old Formula 1 Ferrari single-seater racing car “just for fun – and I caught the collecting bug”. Over the following six years he acquired more historic Formula 1 machines, observing sagely “There’s nought so cheap as last year’s racing car”.
Initially the cars were housed in a cramped garage building at his Leicester home. But in September, 1971, he bought the circuit section of Donington Park from its long-time owners, the Gillies Shields family. His long-term plan was to restore the old circuit – unused since 1939 - for modern racing, but first he built the museum there to house his fabulous fleet of purebred competition cars.
Tom Wheatcroft opened the Museum on March 16, 1973. Core of the display were three groups of the racing world’s rarest and most valuable treasures; the BRM group preserving ‘British Racing Motor’ team cars including the legendary 1950-55 V16-cylinder design with Rolls-Royce supercharging – the Vanwall group of cars which won Britain’s first Formula 1 Constructors’ World Championship title in 1958 – and a stunning group of such truly Historic cars as the Ferrari in which the sport’s first double-World Champion Alberto Ascari scored the majority of his 11 title-qualifying Grand Prix wins through 1952-53, the Lotus 18 which Stirling Moss drove to win both the 1961 Monaco and German GPs against vastly superior opposition – and the very first Formula 1 car built and raced by triple-World Champion Driver, Jack Brabham.
With these core cars backed by many more of the World’s finest designs, including dozens loaned to the Collection by such leading still-active teams as Mercedes-Benz, McLaren, Williams and many more, The Donington Collection became an absolute magnet for a global audience. Over its 45 year career more than 2.5-million visitors have viewed its treasures.
Since Tom Wheatcroft passed away in October, 2009, the Museum has been run by his son Kevin. Today Kevin Wheatcroft says: “Closing the Museum after 45 years has been a really difficult decision, but family responsibilities simply make it the right thing to do…”
Further details will be released shortly.
Posted 11 October 2018 - 14:59
Helle Nice: The incredible life story of the first Women's Grand Prix winner
Helle Nice was known as the Bugatti Queen
A new motor racing series aimed exclusively at women is to launch in 2019, with the aim of finding the world's first female Formula One champion.
Motorsport remains largely dominated by men, a detail the inaugural W Series hopes to change. But high-level women's racing has, over the years, produced some extraordinary talent - and the almost-forgotten life story of Helle Nice, winner of the first ever Grand Prix for Women in 1929, is among the most extraordinary of any driver in motor racing history.
"It's all I ever ask for, just to show what I can do without a handicap against men," said Nice in 1930. At the time she was one of the most famous women in the world.
Even now, nearly 90 years later, it seems remarkable that she achieved such prominence in her profession - because today it is one in which women barely feature.
Nice took on and beat the great racing drivers of her day, broke the world land speed record, had affairs with Europe's richest men and appeared on the front page of magazines across the world.
Yet when she died alone in a small house in Nice in 1984 - after years of being so poor she stole milk left out by neighbours for their cats - her name was left off the family gravestone and until recently, seemed lost in history.
Nice's real name was Helene Delangle. She was born in 1900 in Aunay-sous-Auneau, a tiny village 47 miles from Paris.
When she was three, the epic Paris to Madrid motor race passed through her village. Its status as the most important event of the day was underlined by the entrants - including Charles Rolls of Rolls-Royce, Vincenzo Lancia, founder of Lancia, and the brothers who founded Renault, Marcel and Louis.
Nice in motor racing
Whether the memory of 224 mechanical beasts thundering through the village is what inspired her love of racing cars is unknown. She had two other careers before her driving seriously took off.
- Raced in 78 Grands Prix
- Winner, 1929 Women's Grand Prix
- 18 speed track demonstrations in US
- Raced at Reims, Monza, Oran, Casablanca, Marseille
- Competed in Monte Carlo Rally in 1936 (best finish: 18th)
- Broke 10 world records with all-women Yacco team
- Final race - Nice Grand Prix, 1951
She moved to Paris as a teenager and soon settled into life as a nude model, posing for artist Rene Carrere who was famed for titillating drawings used to advertise music hall shows.
Encouraged by Carrere to take ballet lessons, his muse moved from appearing in the adverts to the shows themselves. Performing came naturally to her, and it lead to her adopting the stage name, Helle Nice.
She was immediately popular and earned enough to buy her first car, a Citroen.
Nice's best friend was racing driver Henri de Courcelles, who introduced her to the great motor circuits just as Grand Prix motor racing was beginning to bloom across Europe.
In 1921 she went to Brooklands in Surrey, England, and sought to enter a race. But when her application was rejected because she was a woman, she was infuriated.
Her fury maintained throughout the 1920s. She raced when she could but was never allowed to compete properly. Instead, she took to skiing to fulfil her desire for fast thrills.
Meanwhile, her dancing celebrity continued to grow, reaching its peak when she performed in a show titled Les Ailes de Paris (Wins Over Paris) in 1927.
But in 1929 her showgirl career came to an abrupt halt. While skiing, she heard an avalanche behind her and leaped a vast gap to escape it. Had she not made it she would have been killed, but the landing damaged her knee badly.
No longer able to dance nor ski, but fired by a desire to continue to push the limits of speed, Nice decided to commit to a life as a racing driver.
That year, the first ever Women's Grand Prix was staged as part of the third Journee Feminine de l'Automobile - a weekend of female-only races - at Montlhery, France's first purpose-built racetrack.
Nice was determined to win, driving 10 laps of the circuit twice a day in preparation. But before the race on 2 June 1929, she indulged in a long night of champagne, morphine and sex.
She won regardless, driving an Omega Six given to her to car by manufacturer Jules Daubecq, who had been persuaded that pictures of a glamorous female champion in one of his vehicles would help shift stock.
"The driving was magnificent: nobody who saw it would feel able to argue that women drive less well than men," wrote the newspaper L'Intransigeant.
The next day, Nice received a message from the Bugatti company asking her to be their driver.
She accepted and immediately rewarded them, winning the Actors Championship in their car - a major tournament of the day and one in which men competed too.
Nice also secured a contract to advertise the 'cigarette of the championship winner', Lucky Strike, and thousands of posters appeared featuring her face. Within just a few months, she became one of the most famous people in France.
The Bugatti Queen
The next couple of years saw her fame extend worldwide.
She returned to Montlhery, this time in a Bugatti, in December 1929 to set a new land speed record for women of 197.7km/h.
In 1930 she went to the US to race on dirt tracks in supercharged Miller cars. Initially she was signed as a salaried exhibition driver, taking the wheel without any helmet "because the crowds always like to see my hair when I am driving."
She signed another massive advertising deal, this time with Esso, and became known as the Bugatti Queen.
Wealthy and now globally famous, she returned to Europe in 1931 with the determination to be taken seriously as a Grand Prix racer.
And seriously she was taken. In the first Grand Prix of the season she finished fourth in a race at Reims that featured top drivers Philippe Etancelin, Rene Dreyfus and Louis Chiron.
She raced across France and Italy, receiving the equivalent of what would now be $100,000 as an entry fee for each race she attended.
She won the Women's Grand Prix title time and again.
In men's races, her Bugatti 35C never crossed the line in first place. But Nice was still the centre of attention, often stealing the limelight from the actual winners. And she was rarely less than competitive.
Disaster in Sao Paulo
In 1933, Nice stopped driving for Bugatti and moved to Alfa Romeo. She finished third in one heat when competing in that year's Monza Grand Prix, though it was a day marked with tragedy as three drivers were killed in a crash. The day is remembered in motor racing as Black Sunday.
Then in 1936, she experienced her own run with death while racing at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix in Brazil, a country in which she was hugely popular.
She was in third place on the final lap, and as she came up behind Manuel de Teffe in second, she swerved and her car went into the crowd, killing six people.
Nice was in a coma for three days, but survived - though photographs taken after the crash show her laid out as if one of the dead.
The severe head injuries she had sustained, coupled with damage to her reputation, left her unable to find a manufacturer willing to take her on.
In an attempt to prove herself, she signed up to the Yacco endurance trials for female drivers at Montlhery. With a team of four other women, she drove for a straight 10 days and 10 nights, breaking 10 records that still stand today.
But still the sponsors stayed away.
Then came the war.
Death in poverty
How Helle Nice got through World War Two without suffering too much interference from the Nazis while they occupied France remains a subject of intense debate.
What seems certain is the allegations that she had been a Gestapo spy, made against her by Chiron on the eve of her planned comeback at the 1949 Monte Carlo rally, were untrue.
But despite being false, Chiron's claim was deemed true by both Nice's potential sponsors and her family, with whom she had long been distant.
Her career was effectively over.
The final 35 years of her life were a slow decline, made worse when her lover left her for a younger woman in 1960.
Penniless, she came to rely on donations from an actors' charity - the same sort of organisation she helped to raise money for during her time as a showgirl.
At the age of 75, she was forced to move into an attic in a run-down part of Nice, where she later died, aged 83.
Neighbours told her biographer, Miranda Seymour, they remembered seeing Nice "taking the milk out of the cats' saucers because she had nothing to eat or drink."
Nice's family, from whom she had long been estranged, refused to add her name to their memorial stone, and it took Seymour four attempts to find the unmarked grave. But a foundation set up in her name 24 years later did put a memorial plaque beside her grave, which is working to restore Nice's reputation as one of the world's greatest female racing drivers.
A name lives on
In 2010, The Helle Nice Foundation erected a plaque by the racing driver's unmarked grave, celebrating her achievements
When the names of motorsport greats are listed - from Juan Manuel Fangio to Lewis Hamilton - they have one thing in common: they are all male.
In the 1960s and 70s, one or two women did compete in the Formula One World Championship. Italian Lella Lombardi got the only (half) point achieved by a woman in the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix. Others competed in F1 cars in non-championship events - one such race being won by South African Desire Wilson, which resulted in a grandstand at Brands Hatch being named after her. And today in the US, Danica Patrick is a renowned top level driver.
But far more famous than all of them, in her time, was Helle Nice.
Much of the detail of Helle Nice's life was established by Miranda Seymour in the book The Bugatti Queen.
Posted 11 October 2018 - 20:06
This week's Classic Rewind takes us back to Will Power's first career win.
Posted 12 October 2018 - 00:01
2008 Petit Le Mans: McNish's finest moment?
By: Marshall Pruett | 6 hours ago
Allan McNish started the 2008 edition of Petit Le Mans sitting on a five-mile deficit.
The two-time Le Mans winner – one of the best to grace the world of sports car racing – reinforced the notion that even the all-time greats can make giant mistakes. Pulling away from pit lane in his No. 1 Audi R10 TDi to drive at a modest pace around the 2.5-mile Road Atlanta circuit on the way to stopping on the front straight and parking for pre-grid, McNish hurled the big LMP1 car off the track and into the concrete barriers.
Crashing along the downhill section between Turns 4 and 5, Audi Sport’s leading entry, set to start second next to Peugeot’s brutal 908 HDi FAP, limped back to pit lane with front and rear bodywork missing, suspension bent or broken, and the gearbox in a sorry state of affairs. Crabbing badly, dragging carbon fiber, and dangling a front tire in the air due to a puncture at the rear, McNish pulled into the paddock, came to a halt under the team’s tent, and watched as the blended Audi Sport and Champion Racing teams sprang into action.
The good news was the car could be repaired. The bad news was the 10-hour race was drawing near, and despite Audi’s role as a headliner at every American Le Mans Series event, the stewards weren’t going to delay the start as a result of McNish’s gaffe.
A Herculean effort to repair the No. 1 Audi – some of the crew from the sister No. 2 R10 TDi also pitched in – returned the car to mint condition, but due to the long laundry list of fixes that were required, the other 36 cars in the field took the green flag and ventured off on a 10-hour journey while McNish and his co-drivers Dindo Capello and Emanuele Pirro stood under Audi’s awning.
After sitting stationary while the Peugeot Sport team, the No. 2 Audi, privateer LMP1s, all manner of rapid LMP2s from Acura and Porsche and Mazda, plus a deep field of GT cars began their battles, McNish finally rolled out to pit lane. Mashing the throttle to join the fray wasn’t an immediate option.
The first order of business was to follow the arcane pit lane procedures established by the ALMS that called for stopping in his pit stall, powering down the stump-pulling 5.5-liter twin-turbodiesel V12, then re-firing the motor before he could head towards the entry to Turn 1 to take part in the fight. Two laps down.
The mission was as simple as it was risky: go forth and pass those 36 cars – twice, if possible – and seek redemption for an unfathomable and uncharacteristic crash. Taking nothing away from Capello and Pirro, it was McNish’s performances inside the R10 TDi that produced the craziest comeback drive Petit Le Mans has ever seen.
Image by LAT
Five miles in arrears and with more than 70 passes for position required, McNish and his teammates made the 2008 race into the unlikeliest of spectacles. The No. 1’s charge forward became the story within the story at Road Atlanta; there were class leaders to follow and fine clashes among the best drivers, but there was no escaping the fact that one car was ripping around Road Atlanta in a private race against time.
Would McNish and Company catch the Peugeot before the checkered flag waved? Was it even possible? On the 10th anniversary of their improbable win, we already know the answer to the question, but at the time, it was a mystery that enthralled those who were following the drama unfold.
McNish’s efforts to catch the leader gifted us unforgettable in-car footage as the he used the almighty R10 TDi – with a rumored 650hp and nearly 1000 ft-lb of torque on demand – to depict how frighteningly fast the former ALMS LMP1 machines were around the winding road course.
Where most of today’s LMP2-based IMSA Daytona Prototype internationals labor to pass the quicker GT cars in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, McNish’s R10 TDi behaved like a guided missile that blasted by almost everything in sight. Even the privateer LMP1s were easy prey during the race-long attack.
Add in the split-second decisions on when to pass, where to pass, and all of the risk vs. reward calculations being formed on the fly, and McNish’s talents were pushed to the limit. It’s hard to imagine another endurance race where the Scot has driven harder or more decisively than Petit Le Mans 2008.
In the end, he broke Peugeot’s will, shattered any mystique 908 driver and former F1 man Christian Klien possessed, and turned the race into a career-defining moment that continues to shine.
“It’s like he becomes a different guy in the car when he has prey in front of him,” Audi Sport engineer Brad Kettler said after the victory celebrations. “His voice changes – it’s more sharp and urgent. He’s all about the hunt. I think of a National Geographic show where the tiger is crouched in tall grass with his eye on a caribou. The tiger knows the caribou is about to go down, you know the caribou is about to go down, but the poor dumb caribou just keeps munching on grass without a clue… that’s what Allan does to them. The Peugeot boys are nice guys; I really like them, but their eyes kinda gloss over when they see Allan coming. It can’t be fun.”
To celebrate the milestone, enjoy the original in-car edits done shortly after the race (that have been lightly freshened for 2018), and listen to a new podcast with McNish where he takes us inside the wild day-to-night drive that was, as he reveals, capped off by wolfing down a box of Krispy Kremes in the Road Atlanta media center…
Image by Marshall Pruett
Allan McNish: Last to First at Petit Le Mans 2008, Pt. 1
Allan McNish: Last to First at Petit Le Mans 2008, Pt.2