But When You’re Bad, You’re Better

August 16th, 2012 by Tim Grimley

Thanks to the day job requiring a mercy dash to the ‘Tron today, I managed to get a close proximity look at the venues involved with the ongoing saga of the NZ leg of the V8s. If truth be told, my interest in motorsport tends to lean towards the grass-roots end of the spectrum, where you can get up close and personal with the sights, sounds and smells of the experience. And occasionally, if you happen to know someone in the right pair of overalls, then you might even be able to sneak in a couple of crafty laps when the volunteer marshals are looking the other way.

So despite the political ructions surrounding the financial catastrophe of the Hamilton street race and the proposed multi-million dollar payout to Pukekohe, the whole affair has barely registered on my personal radar. But having taken a drive past both the past and proposed future race venues – as well as the alternative track option that Hampton Downs presents – I’m starting to understand why there may be turbulent currents in the rarified air in which the V8s operate.

Let’s be honest, Hamilton is not the jewel in the crown of urban New Zealand, while both Pukekohe and Hampton Downs need a bit of work before they can be mentioned in the same breath as Spa Francorchamps and yet as motorsport venues they all suffer from the same Achilles heel. They’re just too nice.

Motorsport fans are not normal. If anyone doubts this they should make a special effort to watch the next Rally of Great Britain where pitch black rally stages in cold, damp Welsh forests will be chock full of Parka-wearing, thermos-wielding enthusiasts, all cheerfully waiting for their heroes to come rocketing by and spray a tonne of gravel into their faces. There is something about creature comforts that acts as a repellent to the genuine motorsport fan and all of our options are simply way too luxurious.

Hamilton has all the entertainment, nightlife and comfortable hotels of a big-ish city, Pukekohe has a direct rail link to the sins and conveniences of Auckland, while Hampton Downs has been purposefully constructed to be a modern, hassle-free race facility.

Keep the glamour on the track

When you look at great motorsport venues – by which I mean for the average fan and not the millionaires who frequent the floating gin palaces at Monaco – such as Silverstone, Le Mans and Bathurst, you will notice a recurring theme of them all being completely bereft of anything approaching civilization. A long weekend in a tent at the British Grand Prix would give a fairly accurate representation of what it is like to live in a Red Cross refugee camp. It would be easier to catch some shuteye at a bar room brawl than amongst most of the crowd at Bathurst and the lavatory facilities following the famous 24hr race have been outlawed by the Geneva convention.

It is almost as though the crowd is rebelling against the technological tsunami that is rolling over motorsport by subjecting themselves to the kind of backwards living conditions that would make a sewer rat gag. And in these environments of filth, petulance and excessive alcohol the spirit of great events are born. Atmosphere and passion is created that no amount of genteel clapping from the grandstands can ever hope to replicate.

So with this in mind, I propose that we shun Hamilton, Pukekohe and Hampton Downs and focus our efforts on finding the worst place in New Zealand with functioning roads in which to host our most prestigious motorsport events. We can mark out a track old-school style with some piles of tyres; take the millions of dollars on offer to subsidise the booze, dig a few long drops and the resulting mass of fans will take care of the rest.

Which just leaves us with the tricky decision of exactly where in clean, green NZ we can rely on to provide the ultimate in horror. Personally I think that the Moerewa 500 has a lovely ring to it, but if anyone has any better ideas, I’d love to hear them.

Toyota building hybrid LMP1 racer for Le Mans assault

October 17th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Toyota has been the front runner in hybrid-powered passenger vehicles for many years and is now setting its sights on hybrid race car domination. The company’s racing division, Toyota Motorsport, announced today that it will enter the 2012 World Endurance Championship with a new hybrid weapon.

The last time Toyota competed in Le Mans racing was in 1999, before the Japanese automaker abandoned its GT-One program to focus on Formula One.

Now, Toyota is busy developing a brand-new, gasoline-electric hybrid racer that will compete in the top LMP1 class. The chassis is in development with Toyota Motorsport at its Cologne, Germany headquarters, which previously served as the Formula 1 base. The prototype race car’s hybrid powertrain will be engineered in Japan. Continue reading “Toyota building hybrid LMP1 racer for Le Mans assault” »

Audi unleashes big-eyed R18 Le Mans prototype racer

December 13th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Audi has just pulled the covers off its newest LMP1 Le Mans prototype racer, the R18. The new machine looks suitably hardcore and has abandoned the open-top design of its predecessors — the R8, R10 and R15 Plus — for a closed roof to improve aerodynamics and reduce driver fatigue. Audi has been very successful at the Le Mans 24 Hours race in recent years winning it nine times since 1999 with the R8, R10 TDI and R15 TDI. The R18 looks set to continue the legacy.

Unlike the earlier R15, which used a 5.5-litre V10 diesel engine, the new model generates power from a much smaller, 3.7-litre TDI V6 engine, mated to a modified six-speed transmission.

The R18 uses a single-piece carbon fibre monocoque, which keeps weight down and increases stiffness.

In terms of exterior design the headlights are the most eye-catching parts of the R18. The headlights make use of “optimised” LED technology, they incorporate Audi light designers’ personal touch: daytime running lights shaped like a “1”.

The Audi R18 was first approved in mid 2009, while engine testing began in summer 2010. The first track test took place at the end of November and Audi is now planning to enter three cars into next years Le Mans 24 hour endurance race.

Check out more images of the Audi R18 in the gallery below. Continue reading “Audi unleashes big-eyed R18 Le Mans prototype racer” »

Jeff Koons’ BMW art car revealed before 24 hours of Le Mans

June 3rd, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Over the past 35 years, BMW has been periodically recruiting famous artists from all over the world to use one of its vehicles as a mobile canvas for their art. Unveiled at a special event yesterday is BMW’s 17th Art Car that greeted the public in the Centre Pompidou in Paris, France.

Designed by American artist Jeff Koons, it is based on the same type of BMW M3 GT2 racer that took first place at this year’s Nurburgring 24 Hours. For its first outing it will compete with the unique livery at the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans that runs from June 12 to 13.

Koons initially approached BMW about creating an art car back in 2003, but the project finally came to fruition earlier this year. Over the last four months Koons has worked closely with the BMW Motorsports squad on the application of the graphics to ensure they didn’t have any negative affect on the car’s aerodynamics.

Powering the M3 GT2 is a 4.0-litre V8 engine with a maximum output of 500 bhp while an upgraded chassis, racing-spec brakes, and extensive use of lightweight materials is also part of the racing package.

Many of the 16 previous art cars have also been raced at Le Mans including the very first one created by Alexander Calder in 1975 and the 1999 V12 LMR painted by Jenny Holzer. This year the #79 art car will be driven by Andy Priaulx, Dirk Müller and Dirk Werner.

McLaren at Le Mans: The Pursuit of Perfection – part 4

December 20th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Documentary about the McLaren F1 campaign at Le Mans.

McLaren at Le Mans: The Pursuit of Perfection – part 3

December 20th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Documentary about the McLaren F1 campaign at Le Mans.

McLaren at Le Mans: The Pursuit of Perfection – part 2

December 20th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Documentary about the McLaren F1 campaign at Le Mans.

McLaren at Le Mans: The Pursuit of Perfection – part 1

December 20th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Documentary about the McLaren F1 campaign at Le Mans. And check out Gordon Murray’s hair!

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