Autosport International Show Gallery 2020

At this years Autosport International Show, there were some pretty iconic cars on display, from all parts of the motorsport world.

The main feature included Seventy Years of Motorsport, and there were some incredibly beautiful cars on display from Le Mans, World Rally Championship, Indycar, British Touring Car Championship, Formula One and Formula E.

All were game changers in their own way.

The decades of the 1950’s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, ’00s, ’10s are all represented.

Away from there, there were other amazing displays. The Le Mans Toyota TS050 from 2018, the car that finally gave Toyota the victory that it has craved for decades, with Sébastien Buemi, Fernando Alonso and Kazuki Nakajima sharing the driving duties.

There was a display of Formula One cars as well.

Below is a group of classic rally cars – Some iconic machinery here, from the seventies, eighties, nineties and two-thousands. Three cars driven by Colin McRae featured as well.

Well, we hope that you have enjoyed this look back to this year’s Autosport International Show, while we wait for the racing season to re-start.

 

All photos courtesy of Warren Nel

International Women’s Day 2020: Interview with Sophia Flörsch

  Sophia Flörsch has what promises to be an exciting season ahead of her. The German racer is making the step up to FIA Formula 3 with Campos Racing, as well as entering several races in the European Le Mans series, including the 24h of Le Mans. She’ll be part of an all-female line-up, sharing the car with Katherine Legge and Tatiana Calderon. We asked Sophia her views on the season ahead, as well as talking budgets and her aims for the future.

Alison Finlay: An exciting year ahead for you Sophia, with an all-female Le Mans entry and Formula 3. What are you most looking forward to this season?
Sophia Flörsch: I’m looking forward to each single race I am able to do to be honest. There is no difference for me between a FIA Formula 3 race or an ELMS race. For me it was really important to be racing FIA F3 this year. The F3 car is great and all 30 drivers are one of the best in junior formula classes. The complete starting grid is very close together. It will be a great season with a lot of learning and fighting for me. Each race weekend has something special. It’s always on F1 weekends which is something new to me. The tracks are great and some are even new to me, like Bahrain or Sochi, for example. As the Red Bull Ring is one of my favourite tracks, I am looking forward to that one in particular. The atmosphere in Austria is one of the best. On the other hand I am going to do ELMS in an LMP2 with Richard Mille Racing and 24h of LE MANS! It will be a new and different challenge for me as it’s endurance racing but it’s going to be great. Of course Le Mans will be amazing. I am really thankful to be able to race there this year. That’s definitely a dream come true. 100 million TV viewers worldwide – wow. This one week will for sure be one which I will never forget.

AF: You’ve tweeted recently about the costs of the junior series. Can you describe the barrier this creates for young drivers?
SF: Well, I think everyone knows that motorsport is really expensive. Even in F1 you see teams having different budgets performing differently just because they do not have the same possibilities. That’s pretty much the same in junior classes. If you are lucky, and your parents can afford the yearly budgets between 1-2m, without any problems, and even pay for you to go testing or keep racing during the winter period, then that’s amazing. You are a privileged driver because of more and better testing and possibilities. But if your family is not able to afford it, you need people to believe in you and support you. Already when you start with F4 people spend up to 800k per year. That’s a big bunch of money. The higher you get, the more expensive it gets. F2 is more than 2m a year, F3 in a top team more than 1.3 to 1.5m. The most expensive cockpit I heard this year is 1.9m – don’t know if it’s true. The [team’s] experience, their race engineers and so on – the better it is, the more expensive it is. So there is a reason why parents are paying the highest price. The struggle is that not having the money you need to perform well [means having] to find people to give you money to race. But to perform well you should be able to go testing as much as the others, or at least drive in a team where you can do good races just because the car is quick enough. But for that you need money… so it’s kind of a circle which you need to try to get out of by having good races, fighting, showing people that it really is your dream and that they are the ones making it possible to live my dream and achieve my goal.

credit © Dutch Photo Agency

AF: How are you preparing for the 24 hours of Le Mans? And how exciting is it to be part of an all-female entry?
SF: Well, we are racing the ELMS as well which will be two race weekends before Le Mans already. It’s just going to be 4h races but of course that’s already going to help to get a feeling for endurance racing. I will for sure do a lot of simulator preparation to get into the rhythm and focus on long stints. Watching videos and some 24h races from the years before to learn. A lot of contact with the team and the other two women. It’s an huge honour to be racing 24h of Le Mans and also with an all women line up is super cool. We want to perform – that’s our goal to 100%! To get the possibility thanks to Richard Mille and FIA Women In Motorsport is amazing and we will make the best out of it. Of course in an endurance race everything can happen and there are more things you have to take in account, but the luck will be on our side.

AF: Are you happy with your performance in the F3 test? What are your aims for the season?
SF: I am only happy when I am winning a race or I am P1. That’s 100% sure. But to be realistic it was the first time for me back in a formula car again since Macau 2019. Not a single test day during the winter season. No experience on new tyres. And to understand the Pirelli tyres is really important. In those three test days at Bahrain my main goal was to develop myself, work together with the team and get in a rhythm with the car again. I think I ticked those boxes in Bahrain. In testing you never know where you really stand because everyone is doing different tyre strategies and everyone tries different stuff. Free practice and quali will be the sessions when we really realise where we are. As it’s my first season in F3 and as I did not prepare during the winter in F3 there are no high expectations. This season will be a year for me to learn, to get used to the car, to enjoy, to get better as a race driver and to have good races. If I am ending the season with Top 10 finishes and also well performing [well in] quali then I think it should be a good starting point on which to build up for 2021.

AF: What does the future hold beyond 2020 for you, and is it dependent on performance this year?
SF: The plan is to do FIA F3 again in 2021, and after that, two years of FIA F2 with strong partners and an equal backing would be great. That’s how my next years should look. I want to sit in a race car as much as possible. When I make it to be highest class of formula racing, either F1 or maybe than Formula E, I want to be a proper racing driver who has had enough preparation and years in the junior classes. Of course performance is always important. I want to show that I am the quickest. In motorsport this key factor does not just depend on talent. Money and the budget you have for every single season is probably even more important as I mentioned before. To be able to go testing during the winter, or maybe even do another series during the winter, and to race with a leading top team, you need money. That’s what I need to be able to perform and to reach my next goals

International Women’s Day 2020: Women and Motorbikes

  Women have always had a love of two wheels with the start of the bicycle which gave them freedom and mobility and then when motorcycles came along they enjoyed them as much, if not more, as they were economical and fun – a perfect combination.

  It was after the introduction of front and rear shocks that people began to consider riding for longer distances and in 1915 a mother/daughter team, Avis and Effie Hotchkiss covered some 5,000 miles riding from New York to San Francisco and the following year, two sisters, Adeline and Augusta Van Buren rode up and down Pike’s Peak on a pair of Indian Powerplus Bikes covering some 3,300 miles over two months. Can you believe that they were arrested at one point for publicly wearing trousers!

  In the 1920’s, Bessie Springfield, who was known as the Motorcycle Queen of Miami, couldn’t get a motorcycle licence to start with until a police officer intervened on her behalf. She then went on to make 8 solo cross country trips and was a dispatch rider. Can you imagine today not being able to go and get a motorcycle licence simply because you are a woman.

  Of course during the war, women played a vital role many of whom were motorcycle disptach riders delivering urgent messages and orders between headquarters and military units at a time when telecomunications were limited and insecure.

  In the 1930’s motordromes or ‘wall of death’ were increasing in popularity. This is basically a giant barrel which riders on their motorcycles, commonly known as ‘daredevils’, ride around the inside of the walls at speed. There is a giant platform at the top for spectators. Early lady daredevils were Margaret Gast, also known as ‘The Mile a Minute Gal’, May Williams and Jean Perry.

  By 1940 The Motormaids had been established which was the first women’s motorcycle club in the US. Today there are hundreds.

  How or why do women get into riding motorcyles? Well pretty much how or why the same reason that men do. Because their other half rides; their mum/dad used to ride; their mates ride, transport to work. Just because they want to.

  For me, my journey into motorcycles progressed from my love of anything with an engine in it. I used to compete in off road motorsport for a number of years. I have had several classic cars. I have always liked bikes but my parents would never let me have one.

  I used to go pillion with a friend and after a while I thought ‘I want to ride a bike myself’.

  I told my other half that I wanted to get my bike licence and he said it was too dangerous and I wasn’t allowed to!

  So I did what any normal petrol head girl would do – I went and did my CBT and bought a bike to learn on without telling the other half. Six months later I passed my test and bought a Honda Hornet 600. I now ride a Kawasaki Z900 and an MV Agusta Brutale 910.

  I have now been riding for 6 ½ years and I absolutely love it, I wish I had got my licence years ago. I try and get out for a ride most weekends. I have been on three European holidays and already have two more booked for the coming year.

  In the short time that I have been riding I have seen a rise in the number of women riding motorcycles and the bikes geared for women, for example, lower seating positions available, modern lighter bikes have also made it easier. Of course, woman are just as capable of riding the same bike as a man just as a man can ride the same bike as a woman.

  Also on the rise is the range of clothing and accessories available for women. Indeed when I first started riding I found it hard to find clothing that would give me the protection I need whilst offering me comfort, style and value for money.

  I am pleased to say that over the years manufacturers have stepped up and woken up to the fact that women are a big part of the motorcycle community and what a fabulous, welcoming community it is and one that I am proud to be a part of.

International Women’s Day 2020: Interview with Juju Noda

   Juju Noda has a lot of pressure riding on her young shoulders.

The Japanese star – who turned 14 last month – has received a lot of international attention over the past few years as a result of driving various single-seaters in her home country despite her young age.

By the age of nine she had already tested F4 cars, holds the F4 lap record at the Okayama International Circuit, drove a Formula 3 car at the age of 12, and competed in a Japanese category called Formula U17, which uses F3-spec cars, when she was 13. Bear in mind, Max Verstappen was 16 when he first drove an open-wheel car.

Unable to progress any further in Japan until she is 16 due to minimum age restrictions, Noda has moved to Europe for the 2020 season, where she will be competing in Danish F4, and was kind enough to speak to us for International Women’s Day here at The Pit Crew Online.

Jenny Rowan: How would you reflect on your 2019 season?

Juju Noda: It was a very good season. I managed to drive F3 hard and I even managed to break lap the lap record of F3N Class (Dallara F312 with Volkswagen Cox engine) at Okayama International Circuit. I also won all four races of the season.

JR: There has been a lot of hype surrounding you and your career – how do you feel about the attention you’ve been getting and how do you deal with it?

JN: I think it is something necessary if you want to be competitive and professional. If you cannot deal with it, that means you are not good enough. To be honest, sometimes it is a bit hard to handle but I always do my best.

JR: Do you see your age as an advantage or a disadvantage when it comes to competing against drivers who are potentially several years older than you?

JN: In the future it will be an advantage but right now it is not. Instead, there are many limitations regarding what to drive and where to drive and it is a bit inconvenient.

JR: Have you already tested the car you’ll be driving in Danish F4 and, if so, how did it feel?

JN: Yes, I drove it in Spain in January and February. The car is quite heavy and not very forgiving but I must get along with it if we want to be competitive. I feel like I want to be friends with it and get along well!

JR: What ambitions do you have for the 2020 season?

JN: I want to learn and enjoy the season as much as possible. Hopefully towards the second half of the season I can be competitive. But I don’t want to be impatient.

JR: What are your ambitions more widely regarding your career?

JN: I want to be one of the best drivers in the world and reach places like Formula 1, Formula E, Le Mans, IndyCar or NASCAR. I will do my best to succeed!

Featured image courtesy of  Sergi Garcia”

International Women’s Day 2020: Women In Motorsport by Emily Linscott

  I’ve been in motorsport for just four years now and if it weren’t for my mum and dad, I doubt I would have even thought about getting involved in it to be honest.

  Since starting I’ve raced very few girls in karts or cars, and I’ve often talked about why there aren’t many of us in it to my parents. My feeling is that parents of boys and girls have historically chosen to keep with stereotypical roles, so the boys might get taken karting and girls to dancing or stuff like that. I think it’s changing but it needs to change rapidly and at an earlier age, and that way teams, organisers and the like will understand that girls are every bit as worthy as boys, they can be as fast as boys, faster even, and that the physicality side of driving any race car is not beyond a girl. We are equally good.

  I’ve been lucky enough to have great support from another female driver, Indy 500 driver Pippa Mann. Initially that came from a chance she gave to six deserving young drivers through her scholarship with the Lucas Oil School of Racing, but since I proved I had serious pace, she’s gone way beyond to help me reach my potential.

  Shift Up Now, run by Lynn Kehoe and Karen Salvaggio, is a collective of women helping women in motorsport for whom I became an ambassador from 2019 onwards. They too have been supportive of me and a number of other girls through their tireless work to get more girls into better cars, more often. Without people like Lynn, Karen and Pippa, there are a lot of girls who wouldn’t be driving anything at all by now, so imagine what number of girls would be getting behind the wheel of a car or kart if more of us did the same. If just a few more drivers have their time to helping other young drivers develop, or even start something that helps you g girls get into Karting then the chances of a girl reaching F1 and IndyCar would be massively increased.

  But motorsport isn’t just about drivers, it’s about so many other roles too, such as engineers, data analysts, mechanics, team owners, bosses, crew chiefs – the list is endless, and all can be filled by women. It’s very cool that diversity is coming through into these jobs and more and more girls are seeing their dream jobs in motorsport materialise more and more frequently.

  I very much hope to push my career as a driver further and further up the ladder to F1 or IndyCar for myself, but in doing what I’m doing, and every other female racing driver out there doing the same, we’re showing young girls that they can get involved in racing and be great at it and hopefully, we are also changing the way people perceive the motorsport world too.

 

If you want to learn more about Emily, visit her website www.emilylinscott.com or her social media channels
Insta emi_racing
Twitter: @emily_linscott
FB: @emilylinscottracing

Young talents in motorsport – an interview with Emily Linscott

 Teen British driving sensation Emily Linscott has been making waves in the motorsport world since she began karting less than 4 years ago. Fresh from wins in the Britcar GT4 as well as podium finishes in the US Lucas Oil series, she has made bold moves both on and off the track. 

 Speaking to the PitCrew Online earlier this month, Emily described how a trip to a karting session with her father, ignited her passion for motorsport saying, “the adrenaline rush you ger from driving round on the limit is amazing…the feeling I get from the sport is like no other”

 Despite this, every day off track considerations come calling forcing Emily to make difficult decisions to “sacrifice time with family and friends and work harder than anyone else”. The one thing she could not sacrifice however, were her exams which she put ahead of the opportunity she had to race aboard. We asked Emily how tough a decision it was, “obviously turning down racing anywhere is hard as it’s a passion, but I’ve been taught and understand that if you want to play hard you must work hard”. She acknowledged that it is tough for every participant to establish a full-time motorsport career that would be lucrative enough to that they can rely on without a backup qualification and that it was “the right thing to do” to write her exams, which she passed. 

 One of the proudest moments of her flourishing career is the back-to-back wins she took at the hallowed Brands Hatch finale in 2019. Describing it as an “incredible weekend”, Emily said the wins, which were her first in cars, were even more special due to the “toughest conditions” that weekend. They were wins that she credits to her teammate. However much of Emily’s success can be attributed to her off-track training and preparation which allows things a more “natural” feel on the track. 

Credit “Paul Cherry Photography”

 While Emily says that her father is one person that she admires most in motorsport for the advice and support she has been given over her career, she has recently been given the opportunity to work with Indy 500 driver Pippa Mann. Emily describes working with Mann as “…one of the most inspirational times of my career, she’s so forward thinking and positive that some of her personality is rubbing off on me”.

 She credits Mann with changing how she approaches motorsport and life. Their collaboration has extended to their #GetInvolved campaign which has been helping support Emily’s racing in the USA in 2020, “It’s a great way to get my supporters more involved in my racing”. The campaign aims to get Emily on track by supporting her career and in turn, supporters can own her limited-edition merchandise such as her Bell Helmet, Torq race suit and Walero base layers. The campaign launches 1 February 2020. 

 Emily has much in store in 2020 with an exciting special announcement soon involving her new sponsors FASTR, which we are looking out for on their social media channels. 

 Emily ultimately aims to take her racing as far as she can, winning championships and inspiring more females to take up motorsport by overcoming their fear of not being able to achieve success in what has been a traditionally male sport. 

 Emily is currently inspiring her community in Essex who have backed her from day one and whom she hopes will keep backing her as she attempts to fly the Essex flag at F1 or Indy Car someday. 

Make sure that you follow Emily:
Website: emilylinscott.com
Twitter: twitter.com/emily_linscott
Facebook: facebook.com/emilylinscottracing
Instagram: instagram.com/emi_racing_

The decade that was: F1 in the 2010s

A lot can change in a decade. This time ten years ago, Jenson Button and Brawn were the reigning F1 champions, Fernando Alonso was preparing to take on the mantle of Ferrari’s title hopes, and a 12-year-old Max Verstappen was just about to step up to international karting.

As we approach the start of another new year and a new decade, we’ve taken a look back at what’s characterised F1 throughout the 2010s and how these last ten years might be remembered.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

The decade of dominance

Let’s deal with the elephant in the room first. When people look back on F1 in the 2010s, they will see one headline figure: that Red Bull and Mercedes cleaned up every available title between them, and won 149 out of the decade’s 198 races. It’s the first time in F1’s history that two teams have had such a stranglehold on the sport—and hopefully the last.

Mark Thompson, Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

The decade of record-breaking

Sebastian Vettel, the youngest-ever World Champion. Lewis Hamilton, the most pole positions. Max Verstappen, the youngest-ever Grand Prix entrant and winner. Kimi Raikkonen, the fastest-ever F1 lap. Mercedes, the most consecutive Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships. The 2010s weren’t just about dominance, they were about excellence.

Mercedes AMG

The decade of comebacks

When Michael Schumacher came out of retirement to lead Mercedes in 2010, he probably had no idea he’d started a trend. Before long, Kimi Raikkonen was back in F1 with Lotus, Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan were brought out of the noughties, and Brendon Hartley, Daniil Kvyat and Alex Albon were all given second chances by Red Bull after being dropped from the junior team.

But of course, the biggest comebacks of all have to be Felipe Massa returning after being placed in an induced coma in 2009, and Robert Kubica stepping back into an F1 cockpit this year for the first time since his 2011 rally accident.

Pirelli F1 Media

The decade of rules changes

Fans of F1’s rulebook were treated to an absolute feast over the last ten seasons. After 2009’s massive aerodynamics shift, the tweaks, refinements and total overhauls kept on coming. DRS, stepped noses, the halo. V6 turbos, the virtual safety car, and the fastest lap point. And of course, knockout qualifying and 2014’s double points finale. Not all of them were popular, but they’ve certainly kept us on our toes over the years.

Foto Studio Colombo / Pirelli F1 Media

The decade of silly season

Lewis Hamilton leaving McLaren for Mercedes. Kimi Raikkonen returning to Ferrari, then to Sauber. Sebastian Vettel leaving Red Bull for Ferrari. Fernando Alonso rejoining McLaren. Nico Rosberg’s shock retirement. Red Bull’s midseason merry-go-rounds. F1’s driver market has never been tame, but the 2010s really set it alight.

Mark Sutton, LAT Images / Haas F1 Media

The decade F1 returned to the US

F1 has spent a lot of time since the disastrous 2005 US Grand Prix at Indianapolis trying to repair its relationship with the States. Things started going in the right direction with the return of the US Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas and Alexander Rossi’s brief F1 appearances with Manor in 2015. But now with Haas on the grid and Liberty Media in charge of the sport itself, F1’s standing in the US finally looks to be on the mend.

Foto Studio Colombo / Ferrari Media

The decade of farewells to old friends

Rubens Barrichello. Michael Schumacher. Mark Webber. Jenson Button. Nico Rosberg. Felipe Massa. Fernando Alonso. Robert Kubica. So many key figures of F1’s recent past hung up their helmets over the last ten years. Thank goodness we still have Kimi Raikkonen for another year at least.

What’s been your favourite moment from the last ten years of Formula One? Let us know in the comments below.

Legendary Races Week: 1992 Senior TT

When the Isle of Man Post Office conducted a poll back in 2011 to discover which race the fans thought was the Greatest TT race of all time, the clear winner was the 1992 Senior TT, and for good reason. The six laps had everything – record breaking speeds, drama, and nail-bitingly close racing with some of the best-known names in motorcycle racing history.

Steve Hislop, the Scot who eventually made the Island his home, was aboard the Norton NRS588, aka The White Charger, while Carl Fogarty contested on the Loctite Yamaha OW01. Although these were unfamiliar bikes to both riders, the spectacle that unfolded was in no way affected. Fogarty and Hislop both had spells leading the race, and between them set a record lap of the course and the fastest ever speed.

Talking about the race, Hislop recalled setting off with a determination to win, but rather than go flat out aggressive, he decided to change his tactics and settle quicker – aiming to improve speeds by riding more smoothly and improving on his braking points. At the end of lap one though, it was Fogarty who had the early lead of 1.2 seconds. Completing the top 3, Robert Dunlop was just 3.4 seconds down. All three had lapped at over 121mph.

Over the course of the second lap, Steve had the edge, leading Carl by 2.8 seconds. Dunlop held 3rd but was already some 15 seconds down. In the pits at the end of the second lap, Hislop’s rear tyre was changed, meaning that he would have good fresh rubber to last the remaining four laps, and hopefully give him the edge should the later laps become close. Setting out from the pits, Hislop knew he had time to pull back, and as they completed the third lap he was just one second behind Fogarty. Dunlop remained in 3rd.

By Christof Berger – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=219313

Having maintained his approach with the riding style and braking, Steve pulled the lead back and by the end of lap 4 had a 7.4 second advantage. The fifth lap played out in much the same way, and this was the first lap that the lead didn’t change. At the end of the lap, the gap between first and second was just 5.4 seconds. Whilst brother joey had retired during the previous lap, Robert Dunlop still held the third place.

It was now the final lap, and Foggy knew he had to pull something special out of the bag. He found a blistering pace, setting a new absolute lap record of 18 minutes 18.8 seconds (3 seconds under the old one). That equated to a speed of 123.61 mph, but even that just wasn’t enough. Hislop was as close as he could be on the final lap – also inside the old record and just one second slower. Giving Norton their first TT win in just under 20 years, and their first Senior since 1961 Steve Hislop and the White Charger, topped off with the familiar pink, white and blue helmet, took the win by 4.4 seconds.

It was a record-breaking race in many ways – the previous race record had been held by Hislop on the RVF at 121.09mph, 1hr 52mins 10.2 seconds. It was broken by the same rider on his Norton mount, with a new record of 121.28mph in one hour 51mins 59.6 seconds. It surely must have been some consolation to Fogarty that he broke the previous lap record held by Hislop (18 minutes, 21.8 seconds, 123.27mph) with his 18mins, 18.8 seconds, 123.61mph lap – not just a new lap record but an absolute record.

Legendary Races Week: 1999 European Grand Prix

The underdog. Why do we love them so much, huh? There’s just something about witnessing the flawed become bulletproof; when a driver’s stars align for that one glorious time, a team defies all the odds, or even both, it’s an occasion like no other.

And when I think of underdogs in Formula One, I catch my mind thinking back to the 1999 season. Heinz-Harald Frentzen challenging for the championship with the privateers Jordan after a sour exit from Williams, Eddie Irvine mounting his only title challenge, Mika Salo’s mid-season super sub duties… there were plenty of them.

That year’s European Grand Prix symbolised the theme of the season perfectly in that regard. The weekend started with the Drivers’ Championship in the balance – both Mika Hakkinen and Irvine were level-pegging at the top on 60 points, Frentzen’s annus mirabilis had him just ten points behind on 50 and David Coulthard was just behind on 48. Michael Schumacher was still nursing his broken foot sustained at the British GP, leaving Mika Salo to fill his vacant seat at the Scuderia.

The day belonged to a team that would cease to exist as we know it the next year, though: Stewart Grand Prix. Late in the day, short on the margin, it never seemed as though three-time World Champion Jackie’s namesake outfit would replicate even one of his wins. Neither did it seem like their elder driver, Johnny Herbert, would have time left to add to his two Grand Prix victories, and was fast becoming a set-in-stone figure in the history books. 

So when he qualified 14th for the race, all hope of that changing was a pipe dream. Frentzen took pole to continue his own underdog story, while Irvine was 9th, behind Coulthard and Hakkinen in 2nd and 3rd. Herbert’s teammate Rubens Barrichello, he himself a Stewart defective to Ferrari for 2000, was just behind him in 15th.

The race began with a delayed start, as Williams’ Alex Zanardi and Minardi’s Marc Gene lined up out of sequence on the grid. The top five cars all jumped the start, but their blushes were saved. When the start did take place, it wasn’t long before the real drama started – Damon Hill’s Jordan suffered an electrical failure on the first lap, causing Alex Wurz to swerve into Pedro Diniz and send the Sauber driver into a dramatic barrel roll. 

Diniz was able to walk away from the shunt, and while the race began to mellow as far as the rigidity of carbon was concerned, the fate of other mechanical parts across the grid were to be far worse. The top six remained static for the opening stint – Frentzen led with aplomb from the McLaren duo led now by Hakkinen, Ralf Schumacher, Giancarlo Fisichella and Irvine. Not long after the Irish title hopeful passed Fisichella though, did the rain begin to pour.

And the raindrops sparked the rising of a tech-xodus. Hakkinen and Irvine were the first to blink, but Ferrari’s pit crew had their new hope wait 28 seconds in a delayed stop, dropping him down the field. The dice of retirement rolled on race leader Frentzen first, striking down his Jordan with the same technical failure his teammate Hill suffered. His title ambitions were dented, and the story of the underdog had its ink smudged.

The racing gods sought to clean up that ink, when they oversaw the next drop-out – Coulthard gambled on dry tyres in the worsening conditions, and on lap 38 his McLaren met its maker in the barriers. Fisichella inherited the lead ahead of Schumacher after Hakkinen was forced to conceding into replacing his wet tyres with new dries, and under the radar unexpected stars were emerging.

Lap 49 saw Fisichella spin out in another botched case of leader’s demise, kissing his maiden victory into the arms of a man seeking his own first. As soon as it was sent his way, however, a rear tyre puncture cruelly denied him the chance to notch Williams’ first win in almost two years, and left him ruing what could have been along with a string of broken-hearted challengers. But the next inheritant of the lead was to have his day against the odds.

Herbert had been building a head of steam all race long, and emerged from the lower reaches of the podium before the final double-blow into an unlikely lead, shouldering the weight of his team’s prayers. Hakkinen and Irvine were scrambling to keep their title hopes alive while a sea of malnourished drivers were enjoying the photosynthesis of World Championship points – they just had to cling onto them. Minardi hadn’t scored in four years, so when Luca Badoer found himself in fourth with 13 laps to go tears were beginning to flood in the eyes of Faenza faithful.

There were tears that lap, but they were ones coming agonisingly from Badoer – his car broke down, and he broke down with it by the side of the track. Jarno Trulli was a fine second for Prost Grand Prix just ahead of Barrichello in the second Stewart, and it was to stay that way come the end of the race. The podium was filled out for the first, and so far the only, time with teams named after and owned by ex-F1 drivers. Gene managed to salvage a point for Minardi, taking the private champagne back off the ice. But this was Johnny’s day, and even Hakkinen’s fighting fifth couldn’t dampen the energy around him and his team.

With just one more season on the horizon, this marked the end of Johnny’s podium escapades. None tasted sweeter. Unlike the other two, there was no shade of a World Champion hanging over him, nor a winning machine expecting of such results. This time the underdogs had their day all to themselves. Aside from the attrition, aside from the battles, aside from the conditions, the reason Europe 1999 was so brilliant is because of the message it sent. You can be in a race against time, with the worn tyres of doubt and the broken front wing of resignation, but as long as you stay in the race, your day will come. It’s why we love the underdog, after all. 

Legendary Races Week: Le Mans 1966

The 24 Hours of Le Mans 1966 is such a legendary race that a Hollywood film about the fierce competition between rivals Ford and Ferrari is being released later this year. But so much about what makes this race legendary isn’t just what happened during the 24 hours itself, so much as the months and years leading up to it.

For Ford, active involvement in racing had been limited by Henry Ford II’s position in the Automobile Manufacturers Association and the focus on safety that it championed, with Ford finally entering the racing world after seeing its competitors’ success in racing fuel their sales on the road. Meanwhile, for Ferrari, the years preceding 1966 had been hugely successful, but somewhat bloody, with Enzo Ferrari having been cleared of manslaughter for the deaths of aristocrat racing driver Alfonso de Portago, his co-driver Edmund Nelson, and nine spectators in a horrific 1957 crash.

In 1963, Enzo Ferrari had put his company on the market, entering talks with Ford. Ferrari wanted to protect his racing team, which he intended to continue running, while handing the majority of the road car business to Ford. However, the contract proposed by Ford outlined that Ford would have control of the budget for racing and the deal was called off, with both parties determined to beat each other on track.

Ford unveiled their first Le Mans challenger, the GT40, in April 1964. By all accounts, it looked good, and Ford boasted of its power, but in reality there was little idea how it would perform on track. Ultimately, it failed to live up to expectations, and Ford suffered a humiliating introduction to Le Mans in 1964, while Ferrari celebrated their fifth successive victory.

For 1965, Henry Ford II sought the involvement of Carroll Shelby, who had enjoyed some success with his own 1964 entry which had finished top of the GT class and placed 4th overall. With Shelby’s involvement, 1965 finally saw speeds Ford could be happy with, but in the race their cars were dogged with unreliability and failed to go the distance. The winning car, yet again, was a Ferrari, run by Ferrari North American Racing. The result was a further bitter and ironic blow to Ford, who had hoped to be the first American team to claim victory at the prestigious event.

And so came 1966. Ford had finally been able to balance speed and durability stateside, with Ken Miles and Lloyd Ruby winning the first ever 24 Hours of Daytona.  For the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Ford fielded three cars built by Shelby, as well as five cars built by other manufacturers. The plan for the race was clear, however: they would work together to secure a win, with drivers following clear orders and being instructed to stick to pre-agreed lap times, with Gurney having the fastest target, to avoid intra-marque battling. All teams would run Goodyear tyres, with the exception of the #2 car, whose driver Bruce McLaren had a contract with Firestone.

Ferrari had a total of seven cars, including two factory cars. Following months of rehabilitation after a crash, John Surtees was ready for the race at the helm of the Ferrari 330 P3, and came prepared with a plan to help take Ferrari to victory once again, despite the growing might of the Fords. Surtees was confident in the Ferraris’ reliability, and so he suggested attack the Fords heavily early on, forcing them into responding and causing them to fall foul of unreliability problems. However, Surtees would not get the chance to put his plan into action.

Surtees’ position at Ferrari had been on shaky ground for some time. The team’s manager, Eugenio Dragoni, had convinced Ferrari to oust him, only for Surtees to win the Belgian Grand Prix, causing that idea to be abandoned, or, at the very least, postponed. Now, however, Dragoni had suggested that Surtees take somewhat of a back seat at Le Mans, suggesting instead that Ludovico Scarfiotti start the race in his place with Surtees’ driving duties reduced, apparently because of concerns over his health. Surtees was adamant that the suggestion had nothing to do with his health, and refused to race, with Scarfiotti and Mike Parkes sharing the car without him.

Enzo Ferrari himself had all but admitted defeat before the race had even begun, viewing a Ford victory as an inevitable consequence of their practically uncapped budget. Qualifying soon confirmed his fears: Dan Gurney’s #3 Ford set the fastest lap, with Ken Miles’ #1 car in second. The top-placed Ferrari was fifth.

On race day, Gurney set the initial pace in the #3, as Ford had planned. The #1 car, piloted by Miles, was forced to pit as soon as the race had started due to door damage. The setback meant that the pre-agreed lap times went out of the window and Miles fought back to third place, with Fords running in first, second and third at the 1 hour mark.

Without Surtees and his plan, the Ferraris stuck to a fairly conservative pace, but remained close behind the leading pack of Fords, waiting to take advantage of any problems they might face. As the cars started to come in to the pits for their first scheduled visits, it became clear that while the Goodyear tyres were holding up well, the Firestones were struggling with heavy graining. Bruce McLaren, despite being contracted to Firestone, made the call to switch to Goodyear tyres as well, knowing that there would be little chance of victory otherwise.

By ZANTAFIO56 – https://www.flickr.com/photos/zantafio56/4771000677/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=82896324

After the first round of driver changes, Denny Hulme had taken over for Miles and the #1 car now sat in the lead. By 10pm, however, the Fords endured long pit stops, allowing the Ferraris to leapfrog into the top two positions. This was to be short-lived, however.

Rain hit overnight, and the Fords set staggering lap times and charged ahead. The Ferraris, meanwhile, were not so lucky, with Jean Guichet spinning in his factory Ferrari. Scarfiotti, in the other factory car, suffered an accident, ploughing into the wreckage of an earlier incident. He escaped relatively unscathed, but his race was over. Before morning came, Ferrari suffered more bad luck, with their non-factory entries running into mechanical problems, and one-by-one, retiring from the race. Ferrari had now given up the fight, but would Ford go on to win?

Gurney and Miles had been trading lap times throughout the early hours of the morning, ignoring any ideas of pre-agreed lap times. At around 9am, disaster struck. Gurney was forced to retire the #3 car with a radiator leak. Had the Fords been pushing each other too hard?

However, the other Fords managed to go on without problems. With the clock ticking, and with Ford running in the top three positions several laps ahead of any other competitors, the race was all but won, but the controversy was far from over. The team instructed Miles and McLaren to cross the line side-by-side, with the third placed car behind them in formation, to create a tie for first place.

However, what looked like a dead heat resulted in McLaren and Amon in the #2 car being declared the victors on the basis that they had started further back in the field, and therefore had travelled further over the course of the race. Ken Miles and Denny Hulme would be second, and Miles especially was far from happy. Debate would rage for years about whether Ford knew what the result would be, and if they should allowed a race to the finish. But Ford had won the war with Ferrari, and they would go on to take victory at Le Mans for the next three years.