Peter Windsor Shows Us Around Montjuïc Street Circuit

The great thing about street courses is that anyone can just grab a rental car and drive around it. As Peter Windsor gives us a tour of the Montjuïc street circuit in Barcelona, I wonder if the scores of other commuters on these streets know that Jim Clark and Graham Hill and Jochen Rindt knew these streets well… not to mention the tragedies that occurred on Montjuïc mountain during the 1975 race.

If only I could have Peter Windsor and his encyclopedic experience of racing history riding shotgun with me on all of these spins around former street circuits. Thanks for sharing this, Peter.

The Joy of Carelessness

Low Tech Elf

The problem with digital photo archive tools is that there’s often little context, little attribution, and even less backstory. As a result, I don’t know anything about this image that I stumbled upon on Pinterest (or maybe it was Tumblr) and all image searches just lead me back to other pins or tumbles.

What I do know is this: Red Bull isn’t going to just tip over their Formula car and see what’s going on under there. This glimpse of race (low) tech of the past was a common thread that united hot rodders and shadetree mechanics with the pinnacle of motorsport. Now you’ll see greater kinship between Formula 1 technicians and aerospace engineers.

The same was true then, of course; but aerospace engineers and shadetree mechanics shared that kinship as well!

From the British Pathé Archives: Who’ll be the Next Moss?

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

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

Nuvolari and Hellé Nice at the 1935 GP de Pau