Motorsport

BTCC 2017 | Brands Hatch Grand Prix – What did we learn?

With the 2017 BTCC title going down to the wire, Brands Hatch was set for a knockout battle. 2017 BTCC Brands Hatch GP

After another thrilling weekend of action, the British Touring Car Championship has a new name on the coveted trophy – Ashley Sutton. Sunday was certainly another day of twists and turns, but even Saturday’s qualifying session made headlines.

Sutton went into the weekend with a 10 point gap over nearest, and only realistic rival, Colin Turkington. A rain and red flag affected qualifying certainly went Sutton’s way as he qualified third behind Jack Goff and Aiden Moffat. Turkington’s BMW suffered electrical problems, not for the first time this season, and it meant he could only qualify in 17th.

Another disappointment for Turkington was that potential ally, in the form of teammate Rob Collard, had to withdraw from the weekend’s action after free practice as he was still suffering the effects of his heavy crash at Silverstone. Turkington’s other WSR teammate qualified a place behind him in 18th. While two of Sutton’s teammates qualified well down the pack, Jason Plato qualified in a handy 10th, although none of the teammates had particularly much impact on Sunday.

Race one certainly went Sutton’s way as Turkington struggled to make progress while Sutton took 3rd. Conditions appeared tricky at the start of the race as the track was damp, but drying. Astonishingly, no safety car was needed throughout the race, although Goff lost it at Paddock Hill bend on the opening lap and Adam Morgan had a few encounters with the barriers too. By lap 6, the cars on the slick tyres were starting to go quicker than those on the wet versions. The race was generally quite good, with the top 3 of Moffat, Tom Ingram and Sutton challenging each other well and by lap 10 they had a 15 second gap to 4th.

Towards the end while Sutton was, stupidly, considering what was at stake, attacking Ingram for 2nd, Turkington who’d make his way up to 12th started to lose places and after a final lap incident with Matt Simpson. He finally finished a lowly 15th to gain a solitary point. The gap to Sutton was now 24 points. (more…)

Friday Video | Even closer to the edge – Ken Block’s Climbkhana

What’s the best way to tackle the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb? With a 1,400hp twin-turbocharged Ford Mustang, obviously.  
KB Climbkhana (C) Hoonigan Racing

ESM doesn’t quite know what to make of Ken Block. Here’s clearly an immensely talented driver, and proficient businessman, yet success in top-level motorsport has eluded him.

Maybe it doesn’t matter. He’s built up an empire from DC Shoes, and created a number of toys to play with, like the latest Hoonicorn V2 Mustang.

In his latest video in the Gymkhana series, Block reenacts the epic Climb Dance short film created in 1988. In it, legendary WRC driver Ari Vatanen set a new record at Pikes Peak, when the course was still predominantly loose dirt and gravel.

Kenny B had the benefit of Pikes Peak being paved all the way to the top, but that doesn’t stop it still being an epic drive. Climbing some 4,720ft along a track measuring over 12 miles, Pikes Peak requires skill and concentration to master. Oh, and bravery, for when you get a little too close to the edge:

Is it more dramatic than the record-setting run by Sébastien Loeb in 2013? Undoubtedly. Is it as achingly cool as Ari Vatanen’s 1988 effort? Hmmm, we’ll let you be the judge of that…

Image: (C) Hoonigan Racing

Opinion | The BTCC needs to decide what it wants to be

The fallout from the recent Silverstone rounds of the 2017 British Touring Car Championship isn’t going to go away. ESM’s Editor gets stuck in to the debate.

Things should be perfect in the BTCC world right now. The grid is packed, fans are flocking to circuits, and ITV is broadcasting the entire race package live and free from subscription. It might not have the same number of manufacturers throwing huge budgets around like the peak of the 1990s, but all that aside, the British Touring Car Championship should be in rude health. But it’s not.

If you’ve read the report from our BTCC Correspondent on the events that took place at Silverstone last weekend, you’ll know that driving standards are a subject nobody can escape from. The fact that Mr. BTCC himself – and Series Director – Alan Gow had to wade in and release a statement specifically addressing the issue, suggests how serious this mess is. However, Silverstone wasn’t the only rounds which saw driving that could be classed as poor and unprofessional.

Both Snetterton and Knockhill saw races ended for drivers thanks to contact from other competitors. Andrew Jordan’s statement at the weekend that some drivers lack ‘spatial awareness’ may be true, but the carnage created by his mistake at Knockhill means that nobody on the grid can take a ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude on this issue.

BTCC 2017 (C) BTCC

Gow asserts that the drivers themselves are the root cause of the problem which, of course, is the obvious assumption to make. Nobody but the 32 individuals out on track can decide whether to ‘bung an optimistic pass up the inside’ or perpetually nudge the back bumper of the car in front to unsettle it. Only they cause those actions, and there is only so much the race organisers and stewards can do. Yet if drivers are doing this, surely it’s because of the situation that has been allowed to fester. For some on the grid, the chance of being penalised seems low, and in many respects the BTCC likes to make hay from contact and controversy. (more…)

BTCC 2017 | Silverstone – What did we learn?

You certainly cannot accuse the 2017 British Touring Car Championship of being anything but controversial. Silverstone ratcheted the tension up even further, but is the BTCC reaching breaking point?

BTCC 2017 SilverstoneThe latest rounds of the British Touring Car Championship certainly did not disappoint in the drama stakes. Everything is still very much to play for as we now head to Brands Hatch GP for the final rounds on the opening Sunday of October. At times, Silverstone seemed to descend into chaos, but at the end of it, the gap between the two title protagonists, Ash Sutton and Colin Turkington, hardly changed. Sutton started the day with a twelve point gap, but only conceded two points to Turkington. However, what else did we learn?

One of the main talking points from the weekend’s action proved to further focus on driving standards, or the lack of. So much so, it would appear to have hit a nerve with Series Director, Alan Gow, who felt the urge to speak out on Monday.

BTCC 2017 Silverstone

The opening race of the day saw Turkington start in eighth and Sutton tenth as the whole of the field was separated by an astonishing 0.886s during qualifying. The short lap obviously helped lower the gaps, but it also helped increase the action. Turkington battled his way through the field as Matt Neal, Mat Jackson, Dave Newsham and Ant Whorton-Eales did their best to halt his progress. Unfortunately, from Turkington’s point of view, Sutton did likewise and come the end of the much curtailed race, they were a place apart in fourth and fifth.

BTCC 2017 Silverstone

Who knows what would have happened had the race gone to full distance plus three extra safety car laps, but sense prevailed with a red flag eventually coming after the damage caused by a huge shunt involving Rob Collard. Having already seen Neal punt Jackson around in the race, the incident involving Collard appeared to be less clear cut. Aron Taylor-Smith appeared to lean on a rival amongst a group of cars, which in turn, resulted in Collard being touched and spat out on to the wet grass with an apparent lack of steering. Collard skittled across the grass and back on to the track, where he was hammered into by Will Burns and Andrew Jordan.

The damage to Collard’s BMW was massive. Luckily, the damage to Collard himself seemed to be less, but he wouldn’t compete for the rest of the day. Burns, took longer to be extricated from the car and it was because of this, the red flag came out. Jordan, although his car was damaged, managed to limp back to the pits before complaining about others’ “spatial awareness” on track. This did appear to be a racing incident with unfortunate consequences. A small lean would generally be classed as acceptable, but the trouble was this time a series of events followed that never could have been predicted. The stewards also issued no penalties for the incident, again backing up the racing incident line.

The shortened race itself saw Tom Ingram take victory from pole sitter Jack Goff, after a better start, with Adam Morgan finishing third.

In the second race, Jordan’s own “spatial awareness” caught him out as he appeared to be at fault for a collision with Stephen Jelley, but again the stewards took no further action. However, action was to be taken at the end of the race against Sutton following an incident with Turkington. (more…)

BTCC 2017 | Rockingham – What did we learn?

The 2017 BTCC title race is heating up, and the action on track at Rockingham was closer than ever. ESM’s BTCC correspondent gives his views on what we uncovered.

BTCC 2017 Rockingham

© BTCC

Rockingham is like no other track on the BTCC calendar and the sight of 32 cars heading towards the Dean Hairpin on the opening laps of the races was quite some spectacle. We, the viewers, were treated to yet another feast of close and highly competitive action over the weekend, but what else did we learn?

BTCC 2017 Rockingham

© BTCC

Most significantly, perhaps, there has been another important change in the championship standings.  After Knockhill, Colin Turkington was at the summit for the first time this season, but we learnt at Rockingham that this lead was to be short-lived. The man in form, Ash Sutton, produced yet another set of stunning drives to secure top spot ahead of Turkington. The question now is: Will he be caught? As previously mentioned in race reviews, Sutton has produced a series of brilliant drives recently, scoring high quantities of points, regardless of ballast penalties or even tyre selection. At present, it would take a silly person to bet against him winning his first championship.

Similarly, it would take a serious show of faith to now put your money on Gordon Shedden or Rob Collard after what for them, was a disastrous weekend, leaving the championship as now seemingly a two-horse race. The pair scored just four and eight points respectively. With their championship hopes in the balance as it was, this was a weekend neither could afford to go wrong. A poor qualifying session for both on Saturday set the tone for an unhappy Sunday. (more…)

Friday Video | Five cylinders of fun from Audi Sport USA

Even if you’ve only got twenty minutes for lunch today, this is probably the best way you can spend it. We promise.

1987 Audi Sport quattro S1

It’s now officially September, the holidays are over, the nights are closing in, and the world is still just as big a mess as it was at the start of the year.

But forget all that, as Audi USA has shared this video documenting the history of the five-cylinder engine. From the Ur-quattro, though to the awesome 90 IMSA GTO, and eventually the insane assault on Pikes Peak by Walter Röhrl – it’s all here in full competition glory. Add to that on-track action with the new RS3 Sedan Saloon and TT RS and you’ve got the perfect lunchtime entertainment.

1989 Audi 90 IMSA GTO

Just make sure you have your speakers turned up to appreciate the offbeat sound of the five-cylinder motor:

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BTCC 2017 | Knockhill – What did we learn?

The annual trip to Scotland produced three entertaining races, helped by more incidents of dubious driving standards. The series left Knockhill with a new leader at the top of the standings, but what else did we learn?

2017 BTCC Knockhill

Colin Turkington now leads the way following a hat-trick of thirds from Ash Sutton, while the former leader, Gordon Shedden, sits third and twelve points off top. Saturday’s qualifying saw a Subaru 1-2 with Jason Plato finally producing what we’ve come to expect of him, just ahead of the championship charging Sutton.

Plato duly converted his 50th pole position into a 96th BTCC victory and incredibly his first since the opening race at Knockhill twelve months ago. Although Sutton raced hard, and after a failed switch to try to gain an extra point for leading a lap, this race deservedly belonged to Plato. Their challengers, Turkington and Rob Collard, were a small gap behind the top two, but miles ahead of the rest of the field, which were headed by James Cole, who achieved a career best hat-trick of fifths over the weekend.

2017 BTCC Knockhill

The Subaru dominance continued in the second race, although the drivers switched finishing positions, further enhancing Sutton’s title credentials, while the three behind remained the same as before. The main talking point of the second race came within the first twenty seconds as a large crash, triggered by Andrew Jordan, wiped out several drivers. Jordan out-braked himself which meant he rammed Matt Neal, who in turn went into Senna Proctor who then collected Jordan. A few others had to take evasive action and ended up in the gravel trap, ruining their races too.

It was good to see Jordan admit his mistake afterwards, although it didn’t save him from a hefty fine and penalty points on his licence. Jordan has never shown championship form since winning the title in 2013 and this was a poor mistake. A championship challenge isn’t helped by moving teams each year, but he just doesn’t look as formidable as he was once.

However, the Subarus at Knockhill certainly looked formidable. In the second race, all four were inside the top seven – quite incredible. Just why did they go so well? Sutton’s looked great all season, but the other three have been nowhere to be seen. In Scotland, real wheel drive power was a huge advantage as the top five in the first two races were all powered from the rear. But then, why weren’t the BMWs seriously challenging? This could be down to the Subarus’ boxer engine which allows for a better centre of gravity and on a circuit such as Knockhill, this extra edge could well have been the difference. (more…)

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

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