Motorsport

BTCC 2017 | Croft – what did we learn? | Plus, exclusive photos |

Last weekend saw the British Touring Car Championship make the actual trip to the North East. EngageSportMode dispatched our BTCC Correspondent, ably assisted by Uncle Steve, to cover things on the ground as they happened. 

2017 BTCC Croft (C) BTCC

Shedden arrived at Croft leading the championship table (C) BTCC

On Sunday, BTCC fans woke to the worrying news of the injuries suffered by Luke Davenport, Jeff Smith and Aron Taylor-Smith after the horrifying crash in Saturday’s qualifying. With oil on a wet track, they were simply passengers as events unfolded. It has been a worrying time for the series and support races, as a whole, with some serious crashes in recent weeks. It’s strange to write about because this is something that we have not become accustomed to. It also shows the strength of the cars and the general safety of the series that when an event like this happens, we are so shocked, worried and surprised.

Ever since the eleven, or twelve depending on who you believe, car pile-up occurred on Saturday, I’ve been racking my brains to think of the last BTCC driver to suffer broken bones as a result of a crash. Yes, plenty have been hospitalised over the years, but to break a bone? The best I could come up with was Charlie Cox from 1995, but research suggests he suffered severe concussion rather than broken bones. I know Matt Neal drove towards the end of one of the recent seasons with a broken bone in his hand, but that wasn’t a result of a BTCC crash. Either way, the injuries suffered by Taylor-Smith (broken leg), Smith (multiple chest and shoulder injuries in addition to a broken arm) and Davenport (multiple chest injuries, lung damage, broken arm, leg and pelvis) are horrific, but thankfully rare. ESM would obviously like to send all three our best wishes for a speedy recovery.

With the traditional summer break now upon us, there is an outside chance that Taylor-Smith may be fit to race at Snetterton in seven weeks. However, you feel that it could well be the end of the season for Smith and Davenport.

Following the weekend’s action at Croft, the championship is starting to form a clearer picture. Astonishingly, championship leader, Gordon Shedden, suffered his worst result of the season in Race 15, a not so lowly ninth. However, of course he suffered a disqualification at Donington, a race that he had won. Eleven points behind him is Rob Collard who, given his past reputation, has surprisingly scored points in every single race this season and achieved a podium at each track. This new, steady approach from Collard is proving greatly effective and he will be hoping it continues for the rest of the season as he looks to win his first title. Behind Collard, are the two stars of Croft.

Colin Turkington, ‘The King of Croft’, is a point behind Collard and a further eight points behind is Ash Sutton, who is fast becoming ‘The Prince of Croft’. Sutton continued his excellent Oulton Park form by securing pole position in the truncated qualifying session and made an outstanding start to the opening race as the top six got away in order. (more…)

2017 Indianapolis 500 | Chevrolet’s Indy 500 Pace Car History

Like just about everybody else this weekend, ESM has decided to jump aboard the Indy 500 bandwagon. 2017 Corvette Grand Sport Indianapolis 500 Pace Car

Thanks to Fernando Alonso deciding to ditch the Monaco GP for a shot at Indy glory, outlets who normally wouldn’t give IndyCar the time of day are making a big deal about the Indy 500. However, the Indy 500 isn’t just one of the greatest motorsport events, it’s also a huge marketing opportunity for car manufacturers.

2017 Corvette Grand Sport Indianapolis 500 Pace Car

2017 Indy 500 Pace Car – the Corvette Grand Sport

The biggest prize comes in bagging the prestigious role of supplying the pace car. For many years the race organisers alternated between different marques. However, General Motors has held an exclusive deal to be supplier since 1997, and has used Chevrolet models since 2002, meaning the choice of a C7 Corvette Grand Sport for this year should be no surprise.

We’ve taken a look back at fifteen of the Chevrolet pace cars used in the previous one hundred runnings of the Indianapolis 500.

1948 – Chevrolet Fleetmaster Six Convertible1948 Chevrolet Fleetmaster Indy 500 Pace Car (C) Chevrolet

The first Chevrolet to lead the field at Indy was this two-door convertible. Powered by a 216-cubic inch (3.5-litre) straight-six engine, and with a three-speed manual gearbox, the Fleetmaster was a continuation of a car first introduced before WW2. Despite just 90hp, the Fleetmaster could apparently reach over 80mph. We’re not sure why those guys don’t look more excited…

1955 – Chevrolet Bel Air 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible Indianapolis 500 Pace Car (C) Chevrolet

Introduced in 1955, the second-generation Bel Air bagged the role of Indy 500 pace car for that year. Now possibly one of the most collectable American classic cars, the ’55 Bel Air had the option of a 265-cubic inch (4.3-litre) V8 engine and even air conditioning. Power outputs for the V8 cars ranged from 162hp to 180hp, but performance was still more cruiser than sports car.

1967 – Chevrolet Camaro RS/SS 1967 Chevrolet Camaro Indy 500 Pace Car (C) Chevrolet

Performance was on the cards for 1967, with the new Camaro taking the pace car honours after a twelve-year gap for the Chevy brand. The SS model came standard with a 350-cubic inch (5.7-litre) V8, with an even bigger 396-ci (6.5-l) V8 option available in two states of tune. Naturally, Chevrolet equipped the pace car with the 396-ci engine, producing 375hp.

1969 – Chevrolet Camaro RS/SS1969 Chevrolet Camaro Indy 500 Pace Car (C) Chevrolet

Two years later the Camaro was back at Indy, with the official pace car again featuring the 396-ci V8 engine. More notable was the decision to offer a replica, with the Indy Sport Convertible Option. Buyers got the same Dove White paintwork with Hugger Orange stripes, along with the bright orange interior and cowl induction hood. Over 3,500 buyers took the plunge to pretend to be pacing the Indy field whilst driving to work. (more…)

BTCC 2017 | Oulton Park – what did we learn?

The thrills and excitement of the British Touring Car Championship headed north for the latest rounds at Oulton Park. Tom Ingram had been on top of the standings for the majority of the season so far, but he didn’t leave as a happy driver after a disastrous weekend. This was the major headline from the weekend’s action, but what else did we learn?

2017 BTCC Oulton Park

Ingram wasn’t the only driver to have a poor weekend, as fellow championship rival, Colin Turkington, hardly had a dream weekend either. Ingram qualified relatively well in 11th, considering the weight, but that meant he was in a dangerous track position as the opening race started around the narrow circuit, and so it proved.

Ingram was collected by Jack Goff and was left on the grass as a result, while the rest of the field filed by. However, later in the race, worse was to happen as his back wheel came loose and he retired accordingly. Like Matt Neal’s rather unexpected 2 pole positions in a row, Ingram suffered two DNFs in a row. Things hardly improved for Ingram in the final race with a spin, although he did pick up a solitary point for his weekend’s efforts with a fastest lap. Where does this leave Ingram’s title chances? Realistically, Ingram would have been delighted to be 3rd in the standings after twelve rounds and he’s still in a great position to challenge for the championship.

Similarly, you can’t write Turkington off, especially with his favourite hunting ground of Croft coming up next. Turkington had suffered from electrical gremlins during Saturday’s qualifying and they appeared to return after he bumped into the back of Aiden Moffat during a great battle at the front. The subsequent problem dropped Turkington to the back of the pack, something he did well to recover in the second race to a low scoring points position, before finishing fifth in the final race of the day.

2017 BTCC Oulton Park

(more…)

BTCC 2017 | Thruxton – What did we learn?

The British Touring Car Championship returns this weekend, with the action taking place at Oulton Park. Our BTCC Correspondent recaps what happened last time out at Thruxton.

BTCC 2017 Thruxton

Thruxton may be home to the fastest corner on the BTCC calendar, but the latest rounds won’t be remembered for being a classic. Other than the incidents of a farcical second race, it was, in truth, a fairly processional affair. However, what else did we learn?

First of all, for how many years have we complained about the tyres at Thruxton and, in particular, punctures? This year, there were no major incidents, which ironically meant it perhaps wasn’t as entertaining as we’ve become accustomed to. Whether the tyres will ever be good enough to allow a soft option tyre here remains to be seen, but great credit must go to Dunlop for this season’s tread. A slight change in the compound make-up and width seems to have made all the difference, which is great if the drivers can now concentrate on driving without the worry of punctures.

Another thing we have become used to seeing at Thruxton is front wheel drive cars at the front, especially the Hondas. Saturday’s qualifying and the opening race seemed to continue the form guide as the evergreen duo of Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden in the manufacturer Hondas and Eurotech’s Jack Goff held the top 3 positions. An astonishing point to note is that it was Neal’s first pole in nearly five years. However, from the second race onwards, it was the BMW show – helped by the sunny conditions, which in turn helped their tyres.

BTCC 2017 Thruxton

Wins for Rob Collard and Colin Turkington handed BMW their 100th outright BTCC win. It’s a great achievement by one of the stalwart teams of the series.  Following the BMWs’ performance at Thruxton, supposedly one of their weaker circuits, they must be seriously confident for the rest of the season. Turkington is now less than 20 points behind leader Tom Ingram and must be feeling confident that title number 3 could be on its way if his and BMW’s form continues. (more…)

BTCC 2017 | Donington Park – What did we learn?

The first race weekend in the 2017 British Touring Car Championship failed to excite our correspondent. What did he take away from Donington Park?2017 BTCC | Donington Park

After a rather tepid affair at Brands Hatch last time out, the action and drama heated up at Donington Park on a weekend marred by the horrific injuries suffered by Billy Monger in the F4 support race. Apart from learning there was more brilliance shown from the marshals and medical services at the track, what else did we learn?

It is perhaps time to stop referring to Tom Ingram, Aiden Moffat, Jack Goff and Josh Cook et al. as ‘young guns’ and ‘rookies’ despite their age and experience after yet more sterling efforts at Donington. In fact, Ingram leads the championship, as his outstanding displays from Brands Hatch continued. Ingram was naturally helped in achieving this by Gordon Shedden’s failed ride height in the final race where he’d crossed the line first. However, Ingram followed up a strong qualifying with a brace of fifth place finishes and another win. He is deservedly top of the ladder and it is a great achievement for Speedworks and Ingram.

When you consider that Ingram is already 82 points ahead of Jason Plato, you would suggest the he will be, or is, a serious title challenger, but what is happening to Plato? His new teammate, Ash Sutton, has outperformed him so far and achieved two podiums at Donington, and these were achieved after starting at the back in the opening race after his qualifying pole lap was discounted. Rarely has Plato been uncompetitive in his BTCC career, but this season has been quite disastrous so far, albeit six races in and with a DNS. A serious championship contender can perhaps afford one bad event per season, yet alone two when the competition is as tough as this season’s. Although, I didn’t publicly air my predictions for the season, I did fancy Plato in what looked like a strong Subaru last season. Will he win the championship? No.

Similarly, Moffat won’t win the championship either, but we did learn that his consistent improvement over the last couple of years has been finally rewarded with a maiden win. It was a great effort from the Scot and I’m sure that it will be the first of many in what promises to be an excellent career. He seems a genuine chap, who just wants to race and not be bothered by complaining about boost levels and such like as some of the field mix themselves with.

2017 BTCC | Donington Park

The mere sight of rain clouds often causes panic and more debate amongst teams and drivers, yet sheer pandemonium greets the precipitation and it was no different at Donington. Generally, the drivers hate rain and the fans love it because it makes the racing unpredictable and ups the ante of excitement. Race three was no different. Several drivers took the scenic route on the warm up laps and the race was stopped after a lap with cars strewn everywhere, including leader Matt Neal. It was, as a fan, brilliant to watch. It was, as a driver, a nightmare.

Why? These drivers are meant to be the best in Britain, yet some of them are calling for the race to be delayed, stopped and so on. Motorsport is dangerous, we all know that, but if you’re not prepared to play ball, don’t race. Similarly, the F1 drivers have a tantrum at the sight of rain. They are meant to be the best in the world. Yet, their former supremo, Bernie Ecclestone, even pondered the idea of fake rain via sprinklers to liven up the races. As a driver, the spray is obviously horrendous, blinding, but surely in 2017 there must be some technological advances somewhere to ease the problem in one way or another? Admittedly, there were small streams across the track, but again, remind yourself that these are supposedly the best drivers in Britain. Again, do we not have the technology to easy these problems? A lot of questions, I know, but it seems completely stupendous that we have to stop racing because it’s a bit wet. (more…)

BTCC 2017 | Brands Hatch Indy – What did we learn?

British Touring Car Championship fans rejoiced at the weekend as the first of ten Sundays were taken over by the sound of purring engines and screeching tyres. After the first round of action, what have we learnt?

BTCC 2017 | Brands Hatch Indy

With the grid being as strong as ever, it was important that reigning champion Gordon Shedden made a good start at Brands if he wishes to retain the trophy for a third successive season. And he did. Come 6pm on Sunday evening, Shedden was once again top of the pile following a win, second and a seventh. It appears clear at this early stage that his main challengers will be from the BMW trio of Colin Turkington, Rob Collard and Andrew Jordan as well as his teammate, Matt Neal. I would suggest there’s an outside chance of Tom Ingram realistically challenging Shedden too, if he can maintain his opening round form for the season.

Turkington looked like he’d never been away from the BMW 1-series, with which he won the championship in 2014, despite a two year absence with Subaru. His teammates, however, are still ahead of him in the points chart showing how competitive the BMW was at the weekend and will be, again, over the season. Turkington, of course, was not helped by Neal wiping him out off the start line in the opening race.

BTCC 2017 | Brands Hatch Indy

A similar fate ruined Turkington’s former teammate Jason Plato in the second race too. Worryingly for Plato though, he and his teammates’ Subarus never looked competitive all weekend. A few regulation changes to the Subaru Levorg over the close season certainly looked to have ‘worked’, depending on your point of view. They will need to find some solutions quickly if Plato wishes to mount a serious title challenge this time around. (more…)

Friday Photo | 2016 BMW M6 GTLM Art Car by John Baldessari

If you’ve heard of John Baldessari, then you can consider yourself more educated than ESM when it comes to art. He’s the man responsible for the latest in a long line of BMW Art Cars. So just what is this M6 GTLM all about?

John Baldessari BMW M6 GTLM Art Car #19.

Actually, choosing the M6 GTLM as the basis for an artistic creation isn’t a bad place to start. We already happen to think it looks pretty damn good, and the fact it packs a 4.4-litre V8 with up to 585hp only adds to the appreciation. In actual fact, we got quite excited about it in naked carbon fibre form at the start of the year, so Mr Baldessari had a great canvas to work with.

John Baldessari BMW M6 GTLM Art Car #19.

Ok, we’ll admit it. We don’t quite get what the 85-year-old conceptual artist has done here. There’s some colourful spots and stripes, the word ‘FAST’ written on one flank, and a picture of the M6 on the other. Baldessari is famed for his love of minimalism and once had a canvas, only featuring some written words, sell for over $4m dollars. So seemingly this car must be good too, right? Like we said, we’re clearly not experts at this art game.John Baldessari BMW M6 GTLM Art Car #19.

According to the man himself, the red dot on the roof is there “so you can see it from above” whilst the whole concept turned out “playfully satirical” for him. The picture of the M6 GTLM, on the M6 GTLM itself, is meant to symbolise an ironic play on the multi-dimensionality of the race car as an art object. We’re not going to lie, that last sentence was also gleaned from the press release. (more…)

Motorsport | Can a Porsche 911 really be mid-engined?

With a new Porsche 911 RSR announced, EngageSportMode ponders if anything is truly sacred in 2016.

2017 Porsche 911 RSR

It’s fair to say that 2016 has been something of a rollercoaster ride. From Brexit, to Donald Trump, and even Boaty McBoatface this has certainly not been a ‘normal’ year. However, amongst the madness, there’s always certain automotive things you can count on, right? A Mercedes driver will win the Formula 1 World Championship, more SUV models will be announced at every motor show, and a Porsche 911 has a rear-mounted engine.

After the LA Auto Show, only two of the above statements can be counted on to be true. Yes, 2016 has got to the most hallowed of sports cars – the Porsche 911. Admittedly it’s not a 911 road car, but the RSR racer instead. Yet there’s still something slightly unsettling about a 911 not featuring an engine behind the rear axle.

Porsche claims to have taken advantage of Le Mans GT regulations by moving the engine to “be positioned in front of the rear axle” along with various other technical developments. It’s still powered by a naturally aspirated flat-six – none of the that flat-four turbo nonsense here – but surely a rear-engine position is what makes a 911, well… a 911? It’s probably the key defining feature of the 911 model, as a mid-engined Porsche coupé is actually just a Cayman. (more…)

Editorial | Volkswagen to end World Rally Championship commitment

Another week, another Volkswagen Group motorsport project gets canned. After the end of Audi’s Le Mans campaign, now comes the closure of VW’s highly successful rally programme. ESM’s Editor reflects.

VW Polo R WRC

Just three days after winning the 2016 Rally GB, along with more World Championship titles, Volkswagen officially that there will be no 2017 WRC campaign. The official reason is that the brand must ‘realign’ priorities in the face of enormous challenges. Whilst the statement from Volkswagen is at pains to avoid any reference to last year’s emissions scandal, this is clearly a knock-on effect from dieselgate.

With litigation and product recalls requiring Volkswagen to set aside billions of euros, continuing an expensive motorsport campaign in the WRC becomes a difficult thing to justify. In addition, it may well be that the Volkswagen brand wants to keep a low profile until the fall-out from dieselgate is completely sorted. It’s worth noting that VW-branded cars didn’t appear in this year’s latest Forza Horizon 3 game on the Microsoft Xbox, due to undisclosed licensing issues. Having been paraded through the global media as a cheat, perhaps Volkswagen wants to avoid rubbing noses in the dirt. Literally.

VW Polo R WRC

What’s more depressing is that Volkswagen Motorsport’s campaign with the Polo R WRC has been nothing short of flawless. From entering in 2013, to now, Volkswagen has taken 42 rally wins from 51 entries – that’s more than 83%! It means the Polo R WRC has notched up four drivers’ titles with Sébastien Ogier, four co-drivers’ titles with Julien Ingrassia, and four Manufacturers’ championships. Whilst cynics and critics will point to contemporary WRC being at its lowest ebb in generations – they’re not wrong – it’s still an amazing performance.

(more…)

Motorsport | Audi ditches Le Mans for Formula E

After almost two whole decades of dominance, one of the biggest names in endurance racing has called time on participation. 

2015 Audi R18 e-tron quattro #7

Audi Sport officially announced yesterday that, at the end of 2016, the Audi brand will no longer compete in the World Endurance Championship. That means 18 years of Le Mans competition will also come to an end, as Audi Sport elects to pursue Formula E instead.

2015 Audi R18 e-tron quattro #7

This decision is hardly surprising, and had been rumoured in the previous weeks as a very real possibility. Since the introduction of the R10 TDI, Audi’s LMP strategy for the past decade has been built around the use of diesel engines. Following last year’s dieselgate furore, diesel power has become immediately unfashionable across the Volkswagen Group.

Whilst the motoring world was already pushing towards the greater use and integration of electric power, dieselgate has made this even more important for brands like Audi and Volkswagen. Audi Sport already has a partnership with Team ABT Schaeffler Motorsport in Formula E, meaning the barriers to entry are low. Throw in the fact that Formula E now allows for the development of bespoke powertrain elements, and it becomes a fairly easy decision. (more…)