Archive for the ‘Grand Prix’ Category

Formula 1 Cars are Fast

That sounds more than a bit obvious of course. But this clip is a rare opportunity to give you some basis of comparison. Of course, we usually only see Formula 1 cars being driven around other Formula 1 cars. One is a few tenths faster than another, but what are these machines like when running next to something we know, like a typical econobox, or even a high performance road car? McLaren answers in this unusual scenario they hosted at Estoril in February of 1991.

Here’s the setup: Gareth Rees leaves the starting grid in a 1.6 liter Honda Concert. 20 seconds later, Alan McNish leaves the grid in a Porsche 911 Turbo. For the next 55 seconds, we watch McNish catch up to Rees. What seems like an eternity (1 minute 15 seconds) after the Honda started the 2 1/2 mile lap, Ayrton Senna departs in his McLaren. A minute later, and still on the first lap, Senna passes them both.

It seems like a foregone conclusion that he would, but watching that McLaren’s closing speed on the road cars really highlights how an F1 machine is just an entirely different animal from a road car.

Final Lap Times:
1) Ayrton Senna – McLaren – 1:14:00
2) Alan McNish – Porsche – 2:08:00
3) Gareth Rees – Honda – 2:28:00

via McLaren Soul

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Marcio Bukowski’s CG F1 Transformations

The video piece created by Marcio Bukowski to accompany TV Globo!’s coverage of the Brazilian Grand Prix got some attention right after the race but I hadn’t seen this “behind the scenes” feature on the transformations themselves until the animated gifs started making the rounds. Here’s a copy in HD glory. That moment when the Lotus windscreen rotates over the driver’s head and his helmet is suddenly Jim Clark blue—perfect. Really all the driver changes do so much to add to the soul of the piece.

For some context, you can also see them incorporated into the finished piece below. Fantastic stuff.

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A Thought Experiment on Racing Safety

Henri Louveau's Talbot-Lago T26 after crashing in the 1951 Swiss GP

I know that increasing safety at racing events was a long, hard road and a heroic fight by Jackie Stewart and others who were just plain sick of seeing all of their friends die. I also know that the transition from haybales and snow fencing to endless runoff areas and HANS was not as knee-jerk as it seems in hindsight.

I sometimes wonder, though, if we could go back and introduce later safety technologies earlier, if we might have avoided sanitizing the sport so much. If we could have given Graham Hill a HANS device, might we have avoided cutting all the hedges out of the run up to Nürburgring’s Antoniusbrücke? If we could give Ascari a modern puncture-resistant fuel cell, could we have avoided endless run-off areas that place spectators so far from the track?

Don’t get me wrong, this photo of Henri Louveau’s Talbot-Lago after overrunning a corner on the 30th lap of the 1951 Swiss Grand Prix doesn’t look pretty. It must have been terrifying… But it also shows that when fire wasn’t a factor, grand prix cars of the era weren’t so very fragile. If Henri also had a HANS, and a decent roll cage, and some crumple areas, maybe the sport would still be a more visceral experience today.

I know that there a lot of very differing opinions on the topic of racing safety. I know that even with the sport being as safe as it is that drivers and spectators still get killed in the modern era. I’m curious what your thoughts are on this. Have we taken too much excitement out of the sport in the name of safety? Have we not yet made the sport safe enough? Is there anything that can even be done about it?

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Maserati Ancestry

Maserati monoposto lineage

As we embark on Maserati’s centennial, this chart tracking the genetics of the 1950s Maserati Grand Prix cars is fascinating. At the time, this might have demonstrated the storied history of Maserati in contrast to the post-war upstarts who’s garages started producing racing machines. Today, however, we can look back at this as quite the opposite: The slow death of Maserati’s monoposto efforts.

Imagine if we could have added another 50 years to to this dynasty of single-seat Maserati racers.

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Scenes from the Woodcote Trophy Race. Goodwood. 1952.

The start of the 1952 Woodcote Trophy. Goodwood.

José Froilan Gonzalez. 1952 Woodcote Trophy. Goodwood.

Seeing vintage images from Goodwood really drives home how good a job the Goodwood organization has done in keeping the spirit of the old track very much alive. I can almost shift these photos to color in my mind thanks to the coverage and imagery from the contemporary Goodwood races.

Some of these photos (maybe all of them?) are by Alan Smith, who has prints available at Rosenstiel’s.

via Librarying.

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A Sleeping Beauty of a Cisitalia D46

Giorgio Oppici sent in his spectacular short film showcasing a perfectly patinaed Cisitalia D46. There are a lot of ways to make a film about a car, but usually they feature quick cuts, loud music, and booming exhaust notes. They get your adrenaline up. They get you excited about the subject. Advertisers and music video directors have known how to pull those emotions out of us for a long time.

Giorgio’s approach is the exact opposite. This isn’t a music video (although the music is perfect). This doesn’t get your adrenaline up. It doesn’t even motivate. What it does do is all the more rare. It forces you to pause… To appreciate… To wonder. It is a love letter to the magnificent Cisitalia D46 that I want to read again and again.

Thank you for sending this in, Giorgio. It’s fantastic. Check out Giorgio’s equally beautiful film on BMW Motorcycles that we featured last year.

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Nuvolari and Hellé Nice at the 1935 GP de Pau

I love how the victorious Nuvolari just shrugs at the end. So confident. And how great is it to see a glimpse of the dancer-turned-racer Hellé Nice?

Dreyfus and Nuvolari at the 1935 Grand Prix de Pau

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Reader Photos: Gary Mason’s 1957 Italian GP Paddock

Ferrari Paddock - Italian GP, 1957

I’m continuing to wade through the box of slides and prints that Gary Mason sent in chronicling his lifelong love of photographing sportscar and formula racing (particularly Maseratis). In addition to these gorgeous images of the paddocks of the 1957 Italian Grand Prix at Monza, there is a large pile of shots that a then teenaged Gary was able to capture from the race itself (they’re coming, I promise). These particular shots of the Ferrari and Maserati paddocks really jump out at me though and are worth sharing on their own.

Maserati Paddock - Italian GP, 1957

It’s been well covered here and elsewhere what a shame it is that spectators are all but barred from the paddocks of contemporary Formula 1. But it’s not just the level of access that strikes me about these photos. It isn’t just that Jean Behra’s Maserati 250F or Peter Collins Lancia Ferrari 801 is just sitting right there, a hair’s breadth away; begging you to casually extend a pinkie and touch it and prove to yourself that it’s real. What catches my eye is what surrounds these magnificent machines or, rather, what doesn’t. This isn’t just access to the paddock; it’s access to a nearly empty paddock. Empty of security to be sure, but also eerily empty of other spectators. Plenty of room to stand back and frame up a photo. Nearly impossible today even at club races.

FerrariPaddock3.ItalianGP.1957

Bonus Denis Jenkinson on the left there gathering notes and photos on the Ferraris for Motor Sport, no doubt. A nearly embarrassing charge of excitement leapt through me when this image slowly revealed itself line by line as the scanner worked its way through the slide: “Hey, that’s Jenks!”

FerrariPaddock.ItalianGP.1957

As Gary pointed out in a comment on this similar photo taken a few years later, note the jump from garage 12 to garage 14. Can’t be too careful when you’re looking for luck on the track that day! No unlucky #13 garage for me, thank you.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Track photos of the main event and support races for the ’57 Italian GP to come as soon as I can get the images properly indexed and identified.

See more of the Gary Mason Archive.

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Art Appreciation: Ferrari 500 Formula 2

Ferrari 500 F2

It’s not just because it’s beautiful. Which it is. It’s not just because of it’s relationship with Ascari. Which it has. For me, part of its allure is because of what it represents as a nod to a time when racing teams wouldn’t let themselves be pushed around.

When the Formula 1 rulebook got too restrictive, constructors embraced Formula 2 as a means to really showcase their engineering prowess. Every few years, this notion pops up again: that Formula 1 is holding constructors back and so begins the threatening and posturing that the series will be abandoned and that constructors will start their own series. Every single time, part of me hopes that they will. This Ferrari 500 proves that racing teams can do just that… and do it brilliantly.


Ferrari 500 F2

Ferrari 500 F2

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Fangio’s W196 Brings In $29,650,095.

Fangio's Mercedes-Benz W196

Ladies and Gentlemen, the ex-Fangio Mercedes-Benz W196 is the most valuable motor vehicle ever sold at auction with a final price of $29.6 million.

I have been guilty of complaining about the skyrocketing prices of classic racing cars (after all, I’m still a buyer in this equation). I have complained about speculators buying these cars simply as investments rather than as an expression of their passion for motorsport… but if ever a car deserved the title of “the most”, it might be this one.

More at Bonhams.

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