Sunday, 25 March 2012

Team Orders at Sauber?

As I noted in my my previous post, WeBuyAnyCar(F1), I'm broadly in support of customer cars in F1 - but only if a high degree of Independence can be maintained. The events of the Malaysian Grand Prix, where some have accused the Sauber team of ordering Perez to stay behind Alonso in deference to the team's relationship with Ferrari, have reinforced some of these thoughts.

First thing to make clear is that I do not believe Sauber did order Perez to hold off today. The radio message was, “Checo [Perez], be careful, we need this position, we need this position”. Though this was a disappointing message to hear as the race built to a thrilling crescendo it sounded more like a team telling their young driver not to take too many risks while battling for the lead. If I was to paraphrase, I would understand the message to be, "Checo, have go at him, but don't be daft sunshine"!

At the end of 2009, when BMW unceremoniously pulled the plug on its F1 programme, Peter Sauber came back out of retirement, presumably investing huge sums of his own money again, to rescue the team bearing his name. The last two years have been tough, with sponsorship hard to come by (compare the number of adverts on Perez's overalls in the press conference compared with Hamilton and Alonso). But the team has survived. At the end of the race Peter Sauber was in tears, along with others in his team, with this result not only vindicating the personal investment and struggle of the last two years, but also going a very long way to sealing the team's future, with the prize money, points and exposure to potential investors. All that would have been wiped out if Perez had taken off a front wing in an ambitious late-lunge on Alonso. Personally I think it's to Sauber's great credit they allowed Perez to push as hard as he did for as long as he did - it would have been so easy to ask him to maintain the gap back to Hamilton. Not only did they not do that, but they also still allowed him to fight for the win - but to just be a bit sensible in doing it.

It's also been asserted the radio message also put Perez off his stride, leading to the slight off-track excursion at Turn 14. Again, I disagree. Remember the infamous 'maintain the gap' message to Mark Webber at the British Grand Prix last year? Well, when we heard that on the world feed it seemed like it came on the last two laps - it later turned out it was several laps before then. It's perfectly possible that the message to Perez was a few laps before we heard it - and the fact that he was pushing enough to go off track a few laps later could then be read as further evidence Sauber did not call off the chase.

A final contention I've also seen on this is that Perez ignored the team call. This makes even less sense to me. Not only then would he be damaging his relationship with Sauber, but also with the Ferrari team so many think he will be driving for sooner rather than later. Can anyone see Ferrari replacing Massa with someone who clearly can't cope with the radio message, "Checo, Alonso is quicker than you"?! My personal belief in this instance is well and truly that there was no order - from either Sauber or Ferrari - and that the two teams/drivers were racing, and racing hard - albeit with a nervous team management asking Perez to keep the car out of the wall.

However, I have digressed in this post even more than Maldonado digressed across the gravel in qualifying, so back to my original point about customer cars. When teams are perceived to be beholden to other teams, it affects the credibility of the sport. In this case, although the relationship between Ferrari and Sauber does seem to have some political dimension, it is predominantly a simple engine supply relationship. But even that has allowed discussion which detracts slightly from what should be seen as one of the best feel-good results of recent seasons. Look at the sheer number of conspiracy theories generated by one small radio message! Imagine how much more of this we'd get if Ferrari did have a full customer team!

I'm still in support of customer cars, if they can help bring in new teams who will go on to be serious and independent race teams (even if they use customer cars permanently). But to open the door to relationships where teams are believed to have no independence would have a negative effect on the sport, with more and more talking points becoming about how the parent team has held back their customer. The sport should think long and hard before allowing changes that permit this to happen.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Lewis Rocks! In Defence of Hamilton

As the impassioned Lewis Hamilton fan I am, I read Neil Goff's post on F1Podcast with interest. It makes some good points about Lewis' career, but on others I disagreed, and thought Lewis needed a defence - so I'm writing this post as a reply to Neil to say - Lewis will rock F1 again, just you wait and see!

Neil is pretty spot on when he says many (or all?!) of Lewis' seasons in F1 have contained some serious errors. But which driver can honestly look back at a season and say they haven't done the same? Senna, Schumacher, Prost - they all made their fair share of mistakes too. The mistakes are part of the reason I find Hamilton such a joy to watch too. As a Mansell fan in the 1990s you were never entirely sure if his next move was going to be one of sheer genius or folly, and you get the same rollercoaster ride with Lewis. Its a shame the pair seem to have a bit of an antagonistic relationship, because they are actually quite similar racers - in a positive way. Saying that I do think Hamilton has a clear edge over Mansell in natural ability and speed. And as a huge Mansell fan that's a major compliment.

So does Lewis make more mistakes than others? There were moments in his rookie year he did make mistakes, but they generally came at the high-pressure stage at the end of the season, and its unfair to criticise a rookie for feeling the heat of a title charge, especially when he still beat his team mate. 2008 had, arguably, more scrappy moments, memorably the pit lane incident in Canada and the famous penalty in Spa. But I still hold firm in my contention that he won the championship in the 2nd best car - that Ferrari was quicker. And this I think is the key point - excepting his first season Hamilton has, I believe, never had the quickest car on the grid. And when he is in that situation he has a clear tendancy to over-drive in an effort to reach the front of the field, a position his head tells him is where he should alwasy be. Often this leads to race like last year's Chinese or German Grand Prix, when he was absolutely on fire. There are also races however where the head really need to over-rule the heart and accept the win is not on, and the fight is to simply get what you can from the race.

His lifestyle outside of F1 holds little interest for me (heck, not much outside motorsport does hold much interest for me!). It's his life and he can live it how he chooses. But I would agree that last year, amongst some other issues, he did let his life outside F1 impact on his racing. I imagine no-one is more disappointed with that than Lewis himself, and, while I'm not sure I agree with Neil that he has taken his F1 career for granted, I do agree he would benefit from refocusing on what he does best. I hope the tail end of 2011 showed signs of that being to be the case.

I'm also not sure I can agree that Hamilton was any less of a rookie by the time he came to F1 than other drivers. He certainly had a great apprenticeship at the team, but I remember there being serious doubts about whether he was being brought into F1 too soon in 2007. He may have had a great deal of support through the feeder series, but he nailed his opportunities in each one - this was a driver that was coming through come Hell or high water. No matter how much Hamilton had his feet under the table at McLaren there is really no way that a rookie should be beating a double World Champion, who has so much more experience of the sport. The only way to do that is through your racing ability. However bad their relationship got, Alonso clearly sees this himself, as he always picks out Hamilton as his biggest rival. Detractors often say the team was moulded around Hamilton and Alonso never stood a chance. I can't disagree with this more - McLaren are far too astute an operation to hire a double World Champions and to then throw their resources at a young rookie. The way Jenson Button has (to his great credit) come into McLaren and made it his home show that the team is genuinely an open operation, giving a fair crack of the whip to both drivers.

Why the above make make it sound like I am an unabashed Hamilton-apologist this couldn't be further from the case. He makes mistakes and often I sit shaking my head at some of his decisions on track. But 2011 is the one year that stands out to me (and I'm sure many Lewis fans) as the first where, on an overall level, there was a sense of real disappointment. The car wasn't quick enough, but as said already, he has outperformed his car before, in 2009 especially. In 2010 too its pretty clear to me that Hamilton was taking his car to levels of performance it really didn't warrant. But in 2011 the pressure of constantly feeling the need to try to out-perform his car, and still not being able to fight the leaders, clearly exposed cracks that led to a pretty torrid season. It really all started to go bad in Monaco. The poor grid slot (which was out of his control) led to that reckless and impetuous move on Massa at the hairpin, which set the tone for much of the season. There is a clear case to be made that over the last five years Hamilton has been F1's best overtaker, but 2011 was littered with errors in this passing attempts. From half-moves that went terribly wrong (on Massa in Singapore), to over optimistic moves, doomed to failure (like the one on Massa in India),  and to moves which were just plain odd (the Spa overtake on Kamui) it seemed like Hamilton had lost his touch.

But lets write 2011 off now. There were clearly a range of issues going on in Lewis' head last year, and we can only hope these have been ironed out so that we get the old Lewis back, hopefully seeing his at the very least win the inter-team battle at McLaren. I'm not ashamed to say I was one of those thinking Jenson Button had made a big mistake joining McLaren (though I respected his balls in taking on the challenge). I'm also not ashamed to say just how wrong I was to under-estimated JB. It's impossible to know how well he was really performing in some of the cars BAR/Honda provided for him, but it definitely seems he is currently in the form of his career. However, I still believe an on-form Hamilton will beat Button - but the battle for supremacy at McLaren is all set to be a tasty fight, and it's making me look forward to 2012 almost as much as the battle for the title!

Monday, 12 March 2012


The issue of customer cars has reappeared on the F1 radar over the last couple of weeks, initially as a result of comments from Bernie, who said they could be used as way of bringing in new teams. Entrants could, he argued, be given two years grace with customer cars before needing to make the step to become full manufacturers. And now Luca di Montezemolo is using the lack of Italians in F1 as an excuse to peddle his desire to see customer cars in F1 again. I suppose you can't blame him for trying.

In broad terms I'm in favour of customer cars. Anything which could help expand the grid a little is a good idea. As far as I'm aware the F1 rule book still allows for a grid of 26 cars, since the grid was expanded in 2010. Personally I think 28 is probably the maximum the grid could hold, so we could realistically have at least two more cars on the grid, possibly four.

The issue I have with schemes like Luca's is that I would want to see incoming teams be able to compete and develop their own style, without being overly bound to the organisation they are buying a car from. Ferrari struggle to give equal treatment to the two cars they are allowed already - imagine how they'd treat a third car, whether it's an in-house entry or a privateer entering a customer car!

The Red Bull / Torro Rosso partnership gives a good indication of how the junior partner in such relationships can be left at a disadvantage when they are beholden to the main team. In 2008 Torro Rosso beat Red Bull in the championship, scoring the Red Bull family's first win on the way. But this was in the organisation's formative years, with Adrian Newey yet to mould the main Red Bull team into the race winning behemoth we see today. In the coming season I'd argue that the relationship is likely to hurt Torro Rosso, as the team acts as an incubator for Red Bull's latest pair of Bright Young Things - in a similar vein to di Montezemolo's thoughts on mandating Italian drivers at a Ferrari customer team. The mid-field battle looks likely to be very close fought this year, and Torro Rosso's two rookies could well cost it dear in the final championship standings - but placing well in the championship standings is not what Torro Rosso is there to do. It's there to act as a test team for Red Bull, and as fans I can't help but feel we lose out from that arrangement.

Though I'm sure those with better knowledge of the sport's history than myself will be able to give multiple examples of this happening throughout F1's past, I don't believe it would have to be that way with customer cars. After all, Lotus' first F1 victory in a World Championship event didn't come from the main Team Lotus entered cars, but from a Rob Walker Racing customer Lotus, driven by Stirling Moss. It would be great to see more team's coming in as customers with the independence to use their package to its full potential, without being made to move over for the main team should they find themselves ahead. That would risk doing the sport more harm than good.

The Prodrive organisation was due to enter F1 as a customer team in 2010, but complaints from other teams ended this possibility*, and for now customer cars have been banned in the sporting regulations. If we give Bernie the benefit of the doubt on his comments, and assume it wasn't just another rent-a-quote moment it's quite easy to picture an organisation like Prodrive coming in as a customer team while they ramp up their capacity to construct their own car. Strong performances with a customer car, combined with their proven engineering ability would help entice sponsors and a serious new team could emerge.

The desire to see fully independent customer teams may be unrealistic for a variety of reasons and, despite my criticism above, there is a clear argument that Torro Rosso would not be competing at the level it does now if it was still Minardi. Its debatable if they would be in the sport at all now if they were still Minardi. So maybe I should give more credence to Ferrari's point of view. If being beholden to a 'parent' team was a temporary measure to help get an organisation like Prodrive on the grid, could I see it as a bad thing? In a perfect world maybe not, but we live in the real world, and I think that even with my concerns there is plenty of scope  for customer cars to be one of the options the sport re-examines more closely, along with the budget cap idea, to ensure a health grid in the years to come, especially with the current rumours of financial difficulties within some teams.


*Williams was one of the principle teams to raise objections to Prodrive entering with customer cars, which seems ironic considering they started in the sport as a customer team. However times change, and the landscape Williams started their F1 journey in was a far cry from the landscape in 2010.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Women in Motorsport - #IWD

Marussia's announcement yesterday that Maria de Villota has joined the team as a test driver caused a fair amount of consternation on Twitter, and was, depending on your level of cynicism, well timed to still be relevent for International Women's Day (IWD) today, or spectacularly badly timed to miss IWD by 24 hours. I suppose I can't talk - this post will only make it out on IWD with 15 minutes to go!

The two stories (de Villota and IWD, keep up) have reminded me of a couple of related thoughts that regularly slosh around my brain which gives me an excuse to let them loose onto this blog! The first of thoughts is that I would genuinely love to see a female racer breaking into Formula 1. I see no reason why a woman couldn't compete in the sport, and I'd love to see it happen. But F1 (and motorsport in general) is a testosterone-driven environment, and historically many have been dismissive of female drivers. In her book, The Pits, Beverley Turner (1) for example suggested that many in the sport recognised that women could have the talent to race in F1, but either lacked the kind of motivation to win that a man has or, even worse, just weren't pretty enough to be promoted to the sport. That's a pretty major pair of prejudices!

It seems attitudes are changing however, as evidenced by Christian Horner's recent comments that he expects to see a woman race in F1 within a decade. But, while team managers may be becoming more open to the thought of women drivers, again I have to put my cynical hat on. Its impossible to mention women in motorsport for more than a few lines without coming to mention Danica Patrick. Danica has proved two things to the male dominated world of motorsport. Firstly, positively, she has proved that women can race with, and beat the boys. Secondly, with more negative consequences, she has also proved that women can be pretty in a race car, and be a highly marketable commodity for teams and sponsors. Do an image search for Danica on Google - you will struggle to find a picture of her in clothes, let alone in a race car. I have no issue with this per say. Its up to every individual to choose whether to pose for semi-naked pictures - certainly many male F1 drivers have no issue when the pay check is right! But for female racers it does serve to confirm the stereotype that women need to be 'marketable' in order to get into the sport. And that is a negative trend, and may help explain to some extent some of the thawing of views on this subject.

It should be said that Maria de Villota seems to have avoided the Danica Patrick route off getting her kit of to stoke attention (amongst other things). Do a Google search for Maria and you do get a page full of pictures of a racing driver, rather than of a swimwear model. But the news has still been met with regret from many commenters, such as F1 Kate, an F1 blogger. This time however, the concern is that her racing career to date simply doesn't support any claim to a place in F1, even as a test driver, and that she is simply buying herself some F1 seat time (probably a token amount), and giving Marussia an easy headline. The reactions seems to suggest that I'm not the only to think therefore that Maria's appearance in F1, however limited, could actually do further damage to women's place in the sport, as covered excellently by Joe Saward in his blog post, 'Lets Get Real'. There is still a lot of prejudice in the sport towards women, and by bringing in a pay-driver in order to raise funds and grab some headlines can only confirm the prejudices to many people. It has been refreshing however to see so many commenters (see this on F1 Fanatic for example) taking a positive mindset towards the idea of women in F1, if not to the idea of Maria de Villota in F1.

Instead of forcing women through the ranks, we need to look at helping women access the sport, and encourage those with talent to stay in the sport. In this way more women drivers will be able to emerge through the ranks with, hopefully, many talented women starting to rise to a level where they too can show they can beat the boys, as Danica has done in Indycars. More can be done to promote the sport and break down any barriers stopping more women taking up the sport - I hope initiatives like the FIA's Women & Motor Sport Commision can start to tackle this, working with those women already in the sport, and identifying those outside the sport who may get involved to find out what can be done to help more women and girld into the sport at all levels.

All of which brings me to the second thought bouncing around the hollow space between my tabs, which is, to my mind, one of the main reasons many women are put off motorsport - grid girls. Bloody grid girls.There still exists the out of date notion in our sport that draping semi-naked girls over cars in some way adds 'glamour' to the sport. The only sense in which the word glamour can be used in this sense in in the same way as it is used to describe 'Glamour Magazines' - the particularly cheap and tacky end of the men's mag market. As noted before, I was always a big Jordan GP fan, but hated the tendency of the team to use flesh to promote itself. As soon as I heard there was a new 'glamour' model named Jorden I realised there was a sad inevitability to seeing her ample charms poking out around various bits of yellow Jordan GP carbon-fibre.

This is the image many women see when they look at motorsport. They see the tacky grid girls. They see the dolly bird lined up as the drivers go to the podium. It doesn't put all women off, but it does put many off. They see their roles defined on the screen - the boys do the racing, the girls get their bits out and applaud the winner. Even low level club racing falls into this trap, trying to raise a series' profile by making it more glamorous by adding flesh to the podium/grid. I really can't say how much this irritates me, and I know it irritates many of the female fans I watch the sport with.

The worst part is that this doesn't even accurately reflect the real role of women in modern motorsport. Last August I attended a taster day to get experience of marshaling before doing a full day on the banks. On the day we met a range of people around the circuit involved in the operation of the event, and many were women. At one point I was on the grid, seeing how race starts were organised. The chief start line marshal, the post chief on Post 1, the Clerk of the Course, the driver on P3 (and other drivers on the grid) and the Chief Marshal for the meeting were all women. In the next week I found a video of the event online (yes, OK, I was looking for it to see if my heroic pushing of a stranded car was on there!) - the only women in the video were the presenter and the grid girls. Technically only part of the grid girls got in many shots - their arse and legs mostly. Of course you can't thrust behind-the-scenes people in front of the camera to prove the point - but to anyone watching that video, yet again, the roles were clear - men are drivers battling for victory, women are scenery, battling to keep their cheeks in impossibly tight pants.

To be clear, I do not want grid girls banning - I want the sport to grown out of them. I also do not mean any disrespect to grid girls themselves. They are all committed to what they do - and no doubt put up with a lot of hassle while doing it. Many are big motorsport fans themselves, often involved in other areas of the sport too.

And so I leave this post with some links for any aspiring girl racers out there. Celebrate International Women's Day by seeing what motorsport can offer you and get involved -
British Womens Racing Drivers Club

I'm off to await hate mail from fans of grid girls (and possibly from gird girls themselves)!

(1) Beverley Turner's book is a string of unrelated complaints about F1, some of which are spurious in the extreme, and some of which hit the nail bang on the head. From the point of view of someone from outside the paddock, the chapter on women in F1 seems to be more valid than many other of the complaints, even if some of the points in that chapter are still a bit wide of the mark. Its worth reading though just to see how much one person can dislike Eddie Irvine!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Cum On Feel The Noise?

While marshalling at the Eastwood Stages rally at Mallory Park a month ago I started to pick up the first rumblings of potential issues regarding noise levels at the circuit. In the last week I read on the Motorsport Musings blog that, sadly, there are indeed issues around noise at Mallory, which could see in-week testing being restricted, amongst other petty restrictions on the circuit.

We tend to think of any litigious trend as being a thoroughly modern phenomenon, alongside the rise in personal injury claims by people lacking the required intelligence to walk walk down a street without being attacked by inanimate objects. However, noise complaints about motorsport probably started on the day the first internal combustion engine was fired up, and will no doubt be with us for a long time to come (ironically the likely long-term trend towards the much reviled electric / hybrid cars could actually help save the sport from noise issues in the future).

Noise complaints from local residents stopped the Crystal Palace circuit in London from getting back to its pre-war halcyon days when the Second World War ended, restricting the circuit to only 5 days racing a year - a condition that lasted for most of the post-war racing years at the venue (1). Although there was a clear history of racing at Crystal Palace, the intervening years of the Second World War saw huge social change in the country. Pre-war people 'knew their place' and had little power to complain about noise even if they chose to. The war changed all that, and you can see why those living around a tranquil London city park would have concerns about racing being held on too regular a basis. Only five days a year seems harsh though which ever way you look at it!

When reopening Donington Park in the 1960s, Tom Wheatcroft also came up against noise complaints, from both residents of Castle Donington and from Rolls-Royce, who had set up a base at the venue in the years the circuit had fallen fallow. The complaints from both sides however were dismissed when it was considered that Donington is smack-bang next door to East Midlands Airport. Tom Wheatcroft gives an example of the ridiculousness of the noise complaints in his entertaining autobiography (2), recalling how Rolls Royce told an inspector race engines would stop their staff communicating safely, only for an incoming plane to virtually deafen the inspector. When the inspector enquired when the Rolls Royce manager didn't seem too perturbed he answered, foolishly, that they'd all got so used to the planes they didn't even notice them! Despite winning this earlier fight however the circuit still, frustratingly, had more issues after the recent troubles. Despite becoming a key venue in the British (and World) motorsport scene over the 40 years since Tom reopened it, it seems the gap in racing of less than a year caused by the failed British GP bid was enough to give the NIMBYs a new chance to attack Donington, with last year's race schedule needing to be cut back due to restrictions on the number of loud days it could hold.

Some of the complaints made are even more blatant examples of NIMBY-ism than at Donington however, with people seemingly determined to have their own way no matter the consequence on others - such people often seem to be in a minority of the local population too. In recent weeks an appeal court judge ruled in favour of Mildenhall Speedway, when a local couple complained that noise from the venue was causing them distress. The couple had claimed not to know when moving in that the speedway was so close to their house. It's pretty astounding to think that anyone could move into a house without doing enough research on the area to know a motorsport venue is only 500 yards away. Even more astounding is that the case needed to get to appeal - the original High Court ruling was in favour of the couple, leaving Mildenhall Stadium facing costs of £1 million. In this instance justice was, eventually, done, and it has to be hoped the judgement can be called upon as precedent in any future case. (See Matt Salisbury's blog for a more commentary on the Mildenham case.)

As a motorsport fan I find these noise complaints depressing in the extreme. The actions of a few grumpy neighbours can have a serious effect on the sport - not to mention the livelihood of those involved in both running the venues and the wider motorsport industry. Motorsport technology is one of the success stories of modern British manufacturing. That success story is built upon a bedrock of sporting activity over the past century (and more) at circuits across the UK. The track days and experience events that have become so popular over the last decade also fuel British industry, from the cottage-manufacturing level all the way up to some of the country's major manufacturing companies, employing thousands of people. Motor racing is a part of the UK's recent heritage (especially, ironically, its rural heritage) and its such a shame to see it being restricted by the complaints of a minority of people.
Despite my natural reaction to noise complaints, the legal cases for noise complaints are rarely cut and dry, as the well-known case at Croft illustrate. While we fans may want to characterise each complaint as being clear cut, historic agreements around the number of days allocated to noisy events can often underpin cases, as seems to be the case in the Croft example (though there were many 'intricasies' to that case, including defendants and claimants being divorced from each other!). I can understand why someone would not be happy if they saw a constant increase in the number of days their peaceful meditation was disturbed. Plus, although the sound of race engines is a key reason we love the sport, in some instances a small reduction in noise levels can be enough to satisfy planning conditions. In the Mallory case quoted above it seems that increased enforcement of an existing 105db limit for testing could prevent the sessions being removed. At Croft there have been indications that keeping cars under a 100bd limit could enable some races (in certain circumstances at least) to run outside of the restrictions on the number of 'noisy days' the circuit can host. Would we really rather see events being canned than stick to these noise levels? How much would we really lose in terms of car performance and the sound of the cars by sticking to such limits? If sticking to these noise levels could safeguard racing at the great venues we have across the UK I would be in favour, but this would need to be seen as a clear commitment from the sport - with a corresponding commitment from planning authorities to respect the sports efforts to reduce its impact and to reject speculative complaints from minorities in the local population which go against decades of motorsport precedent.


(1) - Motor Racing Circuits in England, Peter Swinger
(2) - Thunder in the Park, Tom Wheatcroft

Monday, 27 February 2012

The Bourne Supremacy (Sorry)

A few weeks ago I head about an event coming up later this year on the Marshal's thread on Ten Tenth's. More details are now coming out, so I wanted to share it, as it sounds like an absolutely fantastic day. The town of Bourne in Lincolnshire will be inviting motorsport fans to line the streets on Sunday 7th October for a celebration of its historic association with Formula 1. The day will involve static displays and a parade through the town's streets featuring classic Grand Prix machinery.

For such a small town, Bourne really does have quite a remarkable pedigree in Grand Prix racing (and in wider motorsports). The historic ERA and BRM teams were both based in the town - usually in workshops owned by local resident, entrepreneur and racer Raymond Mays, who played a leading role in both teams. The involvement of Bourne in motorsport continues today, with the Pilbeam Racing Designs company, founded by ex-BRM designer Mike Pilbeam*, still based in the town.

Bourne has held an F1 demonstration in 1999 to mark the 100th anniversary of Raymond Mays' birth.This year's event will commemorate 50 year's since BRM's 1 and only World Championship winning season, when Graham Hill brought home the driver's title, while the team brought the Constructor's Championship home to Bourne. To mark this achievement the event will be aiming to bring as many classic GP cars from the 1962 F1 season to the streets, with BRM, Lotus and Lola cars on show. In addition there will be a wide range of cars on display from BRM's history, and a general 60's theme to the day.

As soon as I heard about the event I threw my hat in for marshalling duties, and its one of the events I'm looking forward to most this year already. Just in case you were in any doubt as to whether you should attend, have a look (or rather, have a listen!) to the video here, and tell me you don't think its a great idea!

You can find out more about the plans for BRM day at the following links:
BRM day website
BRM Day on Twitter
BRM Day on Facebook

*Father of Ciaran Pilbeam, Mark Webber's race engineer at Red Bull.

(Picture credit - Raymond Mays Memorial)

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Motorsport Statues

I had an email today from someone at The University of Sheffield who is running a project to catalogue sporting statues. The project has a website (Sporting Statues), which will eventually act as a gateway for people to explore details of these global sporting monuments.

The aim of the project however isn't simply to catalogue statues*. As its being run by a university there are rather loftier ambitions for the data they collect. I must admit to being unsure what interesting output one could make about statues, but have a look at the video below, showing the rise in numbers of football statues across the UK. The way the numbers skyrocket from the mid-1990s took me by surprise, and you have to admit it does make an altogether more interesting research proposition than you would have initially thought - why did we suddenly become so obsessed with commemorating our sports stars in this way?

Anyway, in order to make clever maps (and I'm a sucker for a map at the best of times), the team behind the project need data. They have already logged the following motorsport related statues in the UK - 
  • John Surtees, Colin Chapman, Stirling Moss, Roger Clark, Mike Hawthorn and Jim Clark at the entry to Mallory Park
  • Senna/Fangio and Roger Williamson outside the Donington Collection (for these statues the team are missing details of the sculpter and dates - so any more info would be great)
  • Hawthorn/England at Goodwood 
  • Jim Clark at Kilmany
  • Jimmie Guthrie and Steve Hislop at Hawick
  • Steve Hislop and Joey Dunlop on the Isle of Man
  • Joey and Robert Dunlop at Ballymoney
  • Donald Campbell in Coniston 
  • Bernard Hiett in Reading cemetery
There is also a memorial to Tom Pryce in Ruthin, but the project is focused on actual statues (rather than memorials or busts).

It's always good to ensure motorsport is well represented in any project like this, So if anyone out there knows of any other motorsport statues across the UK that are missing from this list lets pass the information on. Put any extra information down as comments to this blog post and I'll pass them on. Details of the people involved, reasons for the statue (e.g. was it a fan-led idea), and the sculpters and dates are all needed if possible. Alternatively you can send them direct to the project team via either email ( or via Twitter (@sportingstatues)


* For the record, even if Sporting Statues was just an anoraky site I would still be wholeheartedly in favour, being as I am quite an anorak for motorsport. Two great motorsport sites I can spend hours on are the Motor Racing Programme Covers and the Motor Racing Circuits Database sites. Both do exactly what they say on the tin and both are fantastic!