MotoGP’s fight against Tragedy

Lorenzo Baldassarri’s victory in Sunday’s Moto2 race was a timely reminder that the MotoGP paddock goes beyond the world of sport, as the Italian was fully decked out in his Stars and Stripes livery.

The Forward Racing rider has been due a win for a long time, but the main reason for this feature is because of the sheer meaning and significance that the win had. On a day that 15 years ago would never be forgotten, nor could it have ever been predicted, it almost seems strange that we celebrate a tribute just like this.

It was almost scripted. Baldassarri’s home race. His first race win. And on a day that is so often associated with negative events, a breath of fresh air was hovering over to finally cheer something on. Good times were much needed too, after controversy in the Moto2 paddock last time out, it took the sting and all the bad thoughts from Silverstone.

But it was a much needed win for other reasons. Considering he was riding with the American Flag livery, and for the reason he was riding with it, it makes sense to link this to terrorism. The 9/11 attacks were sadly not the last atrocities on Earth, and that makes the win very fitting. This shows that no matter how much terrorism happens or what the political situation is in certain countries, it will always be the people on the side of the victims that show us just how to deal with it.

The victory for Balda today shows that MotoGP is standing up to terrorism around the world. That it isn’t going to let savages win and let innocent victims be forgotten. It shows that the best way to remember the lost and the families affected, is to do your best and win at what you’re good at. Try your best and if you don’t succeed then you keep trying because you don’t know what may happen tomorrow.

It was an emotionally draining event for everyone at Misano too. 6 years ago we lost Shoya Tomizawa and on Thursday, the late great Marco Simoncelli had his number 58 retired at the circuit that is named after the 250cc champion. Wayne Rainey’s career was cut short at this very circuit and on top of all that, Italy was still grieving after last month’s tragic earthquake. Which brings me on to the win from Lorenzo. It has reunited a country; remembered those we have lost to terrorism on a day that connotes tragedy; remembered Simoncelli in a way that he would have wanted and on top of all, highlighted that despite however many difficult periods this track has been through, and how many names are remembered at Misano, success is inevitable and that you have two extremes at each end of a scale. Travesty and terror at one, yet supremacy and delight at the other. A weekend that will be remembered for so many good reasons, a day that finally has something to celebrate. Lorenzo Baldassarri has really done the world proud.

Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko

2016-17 Formula E form guide

FIA Formula E Second Pre-Season Testing Event.
Donington Park Racecourse,
Derby, United Kingdom.
Wednesday 7 September 2016.
Photo: Adam Warner / LAT
ref: Digital Image _L5R3299

September 9, 2016


James Matthews

With Formula E’s pre-season testing complete, we’ve analysed each team’s performance to try and predict the results of the 2016-17 season.

Renault e.Dams

There’s no doubt Renault still looks the strongest team going into season three. Pre-season testing was a display of both outright pace and reliability, headlined by Sébastien Buemi smashing Donington Park’s Formula E lap record and being the only driver to lap in the 1:28s. Based on what we’ve seen so far, it would be foolish at this stage to bet against Renault and Buemi retaining their respective titles this season.

DS Virgin

Powered by a new, lighter, single motor powertrain, I expect DS Virgin to emerge as Renault’s closest competitor this season. Sam Bird has to be a strong tip for multiple wins and championship contention, and it shouldn’t take too long for three-time WTCC champion Lopez to bed in and start delivering the big points as well.

Faraday Future Dragon Racing

Dragon has looked strong throughout testing with its new bespoke Penske powertrain and Faraday Future backing. Although I can’t see a full title challenge from either driver just yet, the solid potential of the Penske 701-EV presents a great chance for d’Ambrosio to add to his win tally and Duval to return to the podium.

ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport

I think ABT will slip back this season. The car is undoubtably quick – quick enough to challenge at the front, even – but with Virgin and Dragon both making significant gains over the summer, I believe ABT will have to wait until it has full Audi factory backing next season before it can contest the title again.

Mahindra Racing

The new Mahindra looked in good form in testing, especially in the hands of street circuit ace Felix Rosenqvist. With such a tight midfield this season it will be tough for Mahindra to defend their previous fifth place in the standings, but with some solid performances and perhaps a few podiums along the way, it’s far from impossible.

MS Amlin Andretti

This should be a strong season for Andretti. Fielding arguably the strongest lineup on the grid in Robin Frijns and António Félix da Costa, regular points hauls and even podiums should be a regular occurrence – even if the car itself does not look as quick as Mahindra’s or Techeetah’s.


New entrant Techeetah was something of a revelation in testing, with a customer Renault drivetrain taking Jean-Éric Vergne to the top of the timesheets on three of the six days. Whether that form will carry over into the rest of the season is another question, though; as is whether Vergne and Ma Qinghua have the consistency and ability to extract the most from the Techeetah package.

Jaguar Racing

A modest beginning for Formula E’s newest marque, but based on what we’ve seen in testing I don’t think Jaguar yet has what it needs to best an established midfield name like Andretti or Mahindra, especially when led by two rookies in Adam Carroll and Mitch Evans. But with what looks to be a reliable car, regular lower points finishes should provide a good foundation for future success.


The Monegasque team has had a troubled pre-season, lacking not only in pace but crucially reliability. Holding on to last season’s sixth place looks like much too tall an order for Venturi – battling to keep NextEV behind seems their most realistic goal in season three.


Whilst NextEV doesn’t look to have returned to its season one performance, its Formula 002 powertrain does at least show some improvement over last season – especially in qualifying trim. But last season NextEV’s troubles weren’t with running at speed so much as running efficiently in the race, and so it remains to be seen whether the team can fare any better than scrapping for ninth and tenth place again.

Exclusive: Lorenzo Baldassarri Q&A

After speaking to Luca Marini, I just couldn’t help myself. In this piece, I talk to Lorenzo Baldassarri, who I will happily admit to being a massive fan of! He dislocated both shoulders in Qatar and had a thrilling battle with Johann Zarco at Mugello, so what does Iron Balda have to say?

What got you hooked into riding bikes?

I started when I was 3 years old in the mini cross. I like so much and this started my passion with pocket bikes.

Who do you want to be like?

Valentino Rossi

What was your aim at the beginning of the season and what is it now?

My aim was to be in the top five because we finish last season in them positions. Now, my aim is to be in the top 3 or top 5 every race.

Has your height ever been against you?

Yes, it was a problem in Moto3. My first year was very tough because I can’t tuck in for the speed on the straight.

What are the plans for next season and beyond?

The plans for next season are that I will remain at Forward Racing in Moto2. My target is to reach the best result, maybe the title.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In 10 years, is so far away. Maybe MotoGP in a top team.

What is your favourite food?

Pizza with French Fries.

What country would you like to visit and why?

I would go to the Maldives. I like the sea, the sun. It is very warm.

Who has the best fashion sense in your team?

Haha, my dad! But apart from him, not many people are very stylish in my team. They are not so cool! Maybe I am the best. In fact, no, no, the boss is very stylish. Definitely him!

How helpful is the VR46 Academy?

It is very helpful for me. It is a great opportunity because we are in a big group with other riders. This is good because we are friends but also we increase our limits and performance. With Valentino, it is very helpful to train with him and have him as a teacher.

Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko

F1 Drivers Stock Value


It is a phrase that is sometimes used in motor racing when teams or sponsors are weighing up their options on what particular driver or rider to sign for them. In fact, if you are a regular viewer of BT Sport and the MotoGP coverage then it is a phrase you will hear Neil Hodgson use quite often. The “Stock Value” of a racer.

We can all have opinions based on results and championships as to who the best performing racers are on the market, the current talk of Max Verstappen is a prime example. What I wanted to know was, if I was to gather all the figures and stats together from races and qualifying, add a few equations in such as their level of performance and the particular machinery they have at their disposal, what would their stock value be?

I sat down with somebody who loves their spreadsheets, formulas and mathematics and we set about compiling all the stats on the current Formula One drivers this season to see what their valuation was, no matter whether they had raced at one Grand Prix weekend or the entire season. The stats entered would then be calculated to find their “stock value”.

This is by no means intended to be 100% serious as we all know motor racing is about talent, wins and championships and the performance on the track, but the table below does make for interesting reading when you look at where certain drivers find themselves. Especially when you consider this is all about statistics and numbers. As the pundits say, a racers stock value will identify how good they are actually performing.

The interesting point I noticed when we were calculating stats is that using the formula we had was that Ricciardo, Rosberg and Vettel had a a better Qualifying stock value than Hamilton. At the other end of the scale, Wehrlein had a better Qualifying stock value than both Sauber drivers.

We took all the stats and all the performances. There is no set figure to compare it against but as an example if you took Mr Fictional Driver who won every Grand Prix so far, got every pole, every fastest lap and basically did everything right in the race and qualifying based on the formula we used, that stock value would be 50.36.

Here are your Formula One Drivers Stock Values.

Please don’t take it too seriously.


1. Stoffel Vandoorne – 29.40

2. Lewis Hamilton – 23.11

3. Nico Rosberg – 20.10

4. Daniel Ricciardo – 17.98

5. Sebastian Vettel – 14.25

6. Valtteri Bottas – 14.07

7. Romain Grosjean – 13.36

8. Kimi Raikkonen – 13.09

9. Max Verstappen – 13.01

10. Sergio Perez – 12.76

11. Kevin Magnussen – 11.31

12. Felipe Massa – 10.36

13. Fernando Alonso – 9.86

14. Esteban Ocon – 9.75

15. Carlos Sainz Jr. – 9.30

16. Daniil Kvyat – 9.05

17. Nico Hulkenberg – 8.57

18. Jenson Button – 7.86

19. Felipe Nasr – 7.17

20. Esteban Gutierrez – 6.29

21. Jolyon Palmer – 6.31

22. Marcus Ericsson – 5.96

23. Pascal Wehrlein – 4.26

24 – Rio Haryanto – 0.74

See You At The Chequered Flag

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing

Parc Fermé

Parc ferme after qualifying.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Korean Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Saturday 23 October 2010.

Neil Simmons

In the first of what will be my weekly Monday column, I look back at the weekend of racing and give my thoughts on what I witnessed.

Welcome to Parc Fermé.

I was fortunate enough to sit in the seat and perform live comms for The Pit Crew Online covering the 6 Hours of Mexico in the World Endurance Championship. The moody Mexican sky gathered menacingly above the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez. The teams and fans alike gazed up, wondering when the weather would change. Audi looked cautiously to the track, wondering whether they could stop the Porsche onslaught. Porsche themselves, in control and leading the championship chase were confident. Toyota a distant ray of hope, possibly still reeling from the heartbreak of Le Mans. The ‘what ifs” and “what could have been” thoughts still swirling round their heads in the paddock, their mood as dark as the clouds that covered Mexico City.

How would the race unfold? What would the reaction of the fans be? How would this new chapter in the story play-out? Dramatically and with incident would be the answer.

As I mentioned in my article!From-Mexico-With-Love/cjds/57cbf54af97b694429bc4d35 this was a new race and it was unknown territory.

It just worked. Tremendously well.

Olly Jarvis losing control of his Audi, sent pirouetting across the track before slamming into the barrier. The team straight on the radio checking to see if he was hurt. He replied that all was well, be it sounding shaken and slightly emotional.

Lotterer, chasing hard, too hard. He locked up and clipped the barrier. That was the race for the win over. Today would be Porsche’s day, again. A Toyota side-swiping the LMP2 car of ESM, they were given a penalty and rightly so in my opinion. The Aston Martin of Dalla Lana face planting the barrier with the gentle assistance of Ford. Another penalty. The raging, tug of war battles across the field and the ongoing conflict between Audi and Porsche which resulted in both cars diving into the pits. Now it was a battle of the pit crews.

The forlorn sight of a Corvette, battered and stricken on the track with pieces of bodywork hanging off. The car was dented, the team wounded. The inter-changeable weather that refused to pay attention to Race Control. “We expect rain in fifteen minutes.” That was the message. It arrived in five. The weather, unlike the race, can’t be controlled.

Mexico produced a race of dramatic steel, but with charm. It was unknown, but it delivered and then some.

And that brings me to the next series I watched at the weekend. Formula One.

Monza. The Italian Grand Prix. Just those words conjure up images of passionate fans packed into this arena. The nostalgic allure of the old circuit, memories of days gone by. It should have been a celebration with fireworks, dancing girls and an Italian street party with loud pumping music.

Except it wasn’t.

It was more like a birthday party for Auntie Doris at the local village hall with bunting, paper hats, party poppers and cup of cocoa. It wasn’t the spectacle it was supposed to, or even deserved to be.

Rather than concentrate on the damp squid which was the race, I will as always try and pluck some positives from it.

Whether you are a Rosberg or Hamilton fan, there is no denying that Nico’s win was dominant and commanding. He controlled the lead he had and managed to put in a totally professional performance. He capitalised on Hamilton’s bad start.

I have seen the idiotic comments on social media from both Rosberg and Hamilton fans over the last couple of years and I saw a few more over the weekend. That’s just what they are. Idiotic.

Jenson, on the back of his news, looked feisty (as much as you can be in a McLaren at the moment). Then we have Fernando Alonso. After pitting towards the end he came out and showboated a fastest lap. Not only did this put a smile on the faces of McLaren fans, it actually proved that unharnessed and released from its shackles, the car is quick. It also reinforces the fact, if it had been forgotten, that Alonso is a fast driver given the right tools. Just needs to work on those mood swings of his.

I was playing catch-up. My recording box primed with times of races so detailed it was a like a master battleplan and I was the General.

Buckle up, it’s time for the mayhem, chaos and excitement that is Moto3.

Brad Binder extended his lead to 86 points in the Championship. He could possibly sit in the garage, put his feet up and have a cup of tea for the next couple of races if he wanted to. He won’t and nor should he. The likeable South African put in a great performance to win the Octo British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

The Silverstone track was bumping the riders all over the place. The old lady is getting on a bit now and it’s starting to show.

Binder was assisted in putting one hand on the trophy after Jorge Navarro was unceremoniously ejected from his bike. At first it looked as though Andrea Migno had clipped him, but on the replay you see that it was actually the wildcard rider Stefano Manzi. Navarro and Migno came together after Manzi’s contact and they both went tumbling. Manzi, who had started on the second to last row of the grid, carried on and managed to put himself in fifth place at the chequered flag. The collision aside I think there might be a few teams looking at this young man.

Last season British fans were in the same position as South African fans. We look at our rider surging ahead in the points, putting in one sublime performance after another and yet there is still that nervousness of what if? If Binder gives South African fans the kind of end of season that Danny Kent gave us Brits you’re in for an edge of the seat finish. That said, I think Binder will be crowned Moto3 champion.

It was Moto2 next and it was time for Sam Lowes.

The battle for the title is on. Zarco, Rins and Lowes (though some might add Luthi to that now). It has been an epic tussle between the three of them and as Sam sat on the grid, pole position, I could feel the butterflies in my stomach. Come on Sam!

The race went off at a furious pace and then Zarco started to come back. In a press conference before the race he had stated that he needed to stop Lowes. He stopped him alright, but it definitely wasn’t sporting. Lowes was catapulted by Zarco as the Frenchman barrelled his way through on the inside. I have no qualms whatsoever laying the blame of Sam Lowes crashing out at the door of Zarco. It was a reckless move from the defending champion and he kept his word. He stopped Lowes.

There is no taking it away from Thomas Luthi, who rode a fantastic race and has put himself back in the Championship hunt, now six points behind Lowes. We should have had a Brit on the podium in the Moto2 race at Silverstone, but it wasn’t to be.

The main race. The big one. MotoGP.

For the entire Silverstone weekend the pressure had been put on Cal Crutchlow. After a second place at the Sachsenring and winning the Czech Grand Prix, the fans were hoping for more. Ever since the birth of his daughter Cal has just looked and raced like a different man. He admitted feeling the pressure.

He delivered.

Cal Crutchlow. British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Pole Position. As I type that it gives me goosebumps.

Aside from Cal the spotlight was also on Scott Redding and the replacement for the injured Bradley Smith. A certain Alex Lowes had moved across from the Yamaha World Superbike Team to take the ride for Smith. His first ever MotoGP ride. With the obvious interest in Rossi (where isn’t there?) somebody forgot to tell Maverick Vinales that he didn’t have a lead role in this production.

The race however would have a scary start as Pol Espargaro and Loris Baz had a coming together at Turn 2. That’s around 180mph. Both their bikes went cartwheeling across the grass, the riders themselves bouncing around with the debris. The rest of the field sped round the corner and the riders went sliding across the track, bikes weaving to avoid them.

My heart was in my mouth. Red flag. Of course there had to be a red flag, though it did take a while to come out.

Thankfully both riders are fine.

The re-start. Vinales skipped by Rossi and Crutchlow and I sat and waited for the Yamaha and Honda rider to close down the gap on the Suzuki. I waited and waited. Nope. Maverick had cleared off into the distance and won the British Grand Prix by over three and a half seconds. Suzuki’s first dry weather win since 2001.

It was the battle behind which had the fans stomping, cheering and shouting. Cal Crutchlow was involved in an almighty battle with Iannone, Rossi and Marquez. Iannone decided to throw his bike at the scenery at Luffield and that left the Brit, the Italian and the feisty little Spaniard to go at it hammer at tongs…..and didn’t they just.

What pleased me the most was the hard, fair battle between Rossi and Marquez. None of those silly shenanigans we saw last season, no bad mouthing after the race. Just good, hard racing. Cal Crutchlow wasn’t ready to be bullied by Marquez either and stuck his Honda in second place ahead of both the factory bikes. He was using the chassis that the factory team had decided not to use. He did not disappoint the British fans in what was an epic race.

Cal Crutchlow on the podium at Silverstone. Smiling again.

It was full of incident and that brings me nicely to my conclusion.

I witnessed four absolutely brilliant races at the weekend in WEC, MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3 and the yawn-fest affair in Formula One.

Now, don’t get me wrong I have been an F1 fan for over forty years now so I am not a hater, just disappointed that the sport which gave me the passion for motor racing as a child is…well…not as interesting as the other series I have watched this weekend….well actually the entire season.

Time to buck your ideas up F1, you are being out-gunned and out-played. Let’s hope this proposed buy-out injects some excitement, I say that more hopefully than with any conviction.

Here are my “Weekend Awards”:


Maverick Vinales


“Look at Cal! Maybe I should go and make a baby.” – Valentino Rossi


Valtteri Bottas blanking David Coulthard on the Grid Walk…..twice.


“When you have played a gig to 400-500 people, must be a bit difficult going home to impress the wife.” – Julian Ryder to James Toseland (married to singer Katie Melua)

See You At The Chequered Flag

Neil Simmons


Photo Credits:

(c) MotoGP, F1, WEC

Introducing: Felix Rosenqvist

Mahindra Racing enter the 2016-17 season with a revised lineup, pairing the stalwart Nick Heidfeld with young Swedish rookie Felix Rosenqvist. During testing, we grabbed a quick word with Felix to get to know Mahindra’s newest signing a little better.

Born in Värnamo, Sweden, 24-year-old Felix Rosenqvist made his single seater debut in regional Formula Renault, taking titles in the Asian, Swedish and NEZ Formula Renault 2.0 series’ between 2008 and 2009. International recognition came with a third-place finish in his maiden European Formula 3 campaign in 2012 and victory in the prestigious 2014 Macau Grand Prix.

In 2015, Felix took the European F3 title in dominant fashion, finishing more than a hundred points over second-placed Antonio Giovinazzi and racking up a run of 15 consecutive podiums – including eight victories – and a second Macau win to tie off the season. After stints in DTM, Blancpain GT and IndyLights – the latter yielding three wins – Felix was called up by Mahindra to replace Bruno Senna for the 2016-17 Formula E season.

TPCO: Is Formula E’s preference for street circuits a big part of its appeal for you, given your strong history at tracks like Macau?

FR: Yes, it sure is. It’s a big reason why I considered to join Formula E. I love every street circuit and I always had good results on them so for me it made perfect sense.

TPCO: Considering the unique technical challenge of Formula E, how much of a confidence boost is it for a rookie driver to make their debut with a team as solid as Mahindra?

FR: For sure it helps me a lot to join a team that has been here since the start of the championship. Even with my teammate Nick being very experienced and a good team leader it feels like I’m in good hands.

TPCO: Are you aiming for any particular results this season, or is the focus just on finding your feet for now?

FR: For now I don’t really know where I am when it comes to the performance. Obviously the first test went well but I think it’s way early to judge lap times for now. I think I will just prepare in the best possible way and then I guess we will see in Hong Kong!

TPCO: How do you feel going up against a teammate as experienced and highly-regarded as Nick – is it a little daunting, or do you enjoy the challenge?

FR: I think it’s first of all very helpful to have Nick as he’s a great teacher when it comes to leading a team – something that takes a long time to learn as a driver. He’s easy to work with and I hope I can push him as well!

TPCO: Speaking of teammates, is there any current driver, from Formula E or beyond, against whom you’d love to test yourself?

FR: I think in the last seasons I had the opportunity to put myself up against very good drivers around the world, a couple of weeks ago I tested the same car as Scott Dixon and I was very impressed with him. I would love to try to go against Hamilton!

TPCO: Who would you regard as the toughest rival so far in your career?

FR: I think Esteban Ocon is a very good driver, and the one that impressed me the most when he won his rookie F3 season in 2014, and also won GP3 the following year as a rookie as well.

Shivraj Gohil / Spacesuit Media

TPCO: Which location this season are you most looking forward to racing in? And is there any location not on the calendar that you would like to visit with Formula E in the future?

FR: I look forward to Buenos Aires and Mexico as I’ve never been to South America. I think the championship should visit Stockholm for sure, and also come back to London.

TPCO: What are the most difficult, and most rewarding, parts of racing all over the world?

FR: The most difficult is the fact that you’re always a bit jet lagged and tired, and also your private life becomes a bit compromised when it comes to meeting family and friends. The rewarding part is that you get to do what you love every day, and as a young guy it’s nice that you can really go for something instead of being home drinking beer every weekend.

TPCO: How do you like to unwind after a race weekend?

FR: Normally I love just being home for one day doing nothing, then I feel ready to go again – as long as I get this day I’m good!

TPCO: Any predictions for the season – for yourself, for Mahindra, or for Formula E in general?

FR: It’s way too early to judge, at the moment we are just looking at ourselves and focusing on our programme. I think the team has done a very impressive job during the off-season and I can’t wait to see our final product in Hong Kong! For myself, I can just prepare as well as possible and then see how it goes I guess 🙂

Q&A with Simon Dolan

Q&A with Simon Dolan

He left school at sixteen. He has gone on to become a very successful businessman. He has also carved out an adventurous career in motor racing. He’s a Le Mans LMP2 class winner in 2014 (finishing 5th overall), LMP2 class runner-up in 2015 (10th overall) and he took the time out to answer a few questions.

He is Simon Dolan and these are his Q&A’s.

LE MANS. You are entered in the LMP2 class with G-Drive Racing. Tell us about the car and the team/your team mates?

Our car is the trusty Gibson. Open top car which is by far the oldest in the field, but still stunningly competitive. I believe it is the most successful chassis in the history of LMP2. This year at Le Mans I will be driving with Giedo Van de Garde and Jake Dennis. Both very, very quick guys.

You’ve experienced Le Mans before. Apart from the race itself, what is the build up like to what basically is the greatest race in the world?

Long! We have to get there the week before the race starts. The build up week covers many different commitments such as scrutineering, driver briefings, meetings, autographs sessions etc, then testing begins on Wednesday afternoon. It’s a long week before the race has even begun.

How do you prepare yourself leading up to Le Mans?

We race in ELMS and the Spa round of WEC – nothing like racing to prepare for racing! On top of that obviously you are training hard and eating well.

Are there certain areas of the circuit you prefer more than others and if so which parts?

For me, Porsche Curves without doubt, the best bit of the track. Always a challenge.

Try and describe to a layman racing fan what it is actually like driving a car on the limit through the night? Even during the day you are on your own in the car, but at night it must be a very lonely experience?

Kind of like driving in a tunnel. parts of the circuit are quite well lit but when out on the public roads it is really, really dark, and the sensation of speed is much enhanced. First few laps at night really keep you focused.

How difficult is it to relax or even sleep when it is your turn out of the car?

Impossible really to sleep, but you rest. We stay in the driver cabins at the circuit and with noise cancelling headphones you can at least lie down and get some peace.

Can you describe the feeling driving at Le Mans as the sun rises. What sort of experience is that like?

It can be beautiful and uplifting. You see the air flow coming off the wings of the cars in front, it warms you up (not really but feels like it), and you have a sense of being on the home stretch.

How has your season been going?

Good so far in ELMS – leading the championship with a win and a 2nd in the two races we’ve done.

Fans are used to other series of racing where radio messages are common place. What’s the radio chatter like during a 24 Hour race and what’s the funniest/strangest radio message you have received?

It tends to be about relative pace, and warnings about LMP1 cars coming up behind. Pace can vary so widely at Le Mans that you have to have an idea of who is doing what around you. The closing speeds of P1 cars are so great that it is vital to know about them. During long safety cars I have heard songs being played down the radio to keep the driver awake!

When, you are flying along and then in your rears you get a face full of LMP1 roaring up behind you. Please explain what that is like and what goes through your mind. What is their approach speed like as you sit there waiting for the pass?

As above, you tend to know when they are coming and to be honest they are so fast past us (top speed 40kph more) that it is rarely a drama. It can get a bit interesting when you have two following in very close succession as in the mirrors they only look like one car. Tricky when you are going into a corner and they are both trying to get through.

In racing who would you say has been your toughest opponent?

No stand-outs really. The level is so high that you could probably choose at least half a dozen.

Imagine you are a team principal at Le Mans. Considering all-time drivers, which 3 drivers would you put in the car?

Same team as I have now!

You’ve worked with some great young talent. Describe what it’s like developing these youngsters and who has been the highlight of your guidance?

It is very gratifying to watch young guys come into their own, but make no mistake – we provide a great car and team environment but they are fast through their own efforts. Harry has to be the highlight.

How did you get into racing? What sparked that passion?

It all started with a track-day a few years ago.

What is the best advice you have been given in racing?

It’s not about having big balls, it’s about consistency and detail.

The brilliant film Journey To Le Mans documented you and the JOTA teams adventure to the great race. What was that experience like?

It was a fantastic experience to watch the film premiere in Leicester Square and see our whole season condensed into a couple of hours. Quite surreal really.

Who is the funniest person and/or your best friend in racing?

Too many to name. There are some great characters around!

I’ve heard you say in the film your teacher said you would amount to nothing. Yet, here you are, a successful businessman and racing driver. How much satisfaction does this give you?

I’d forgotten about that teacher a long, long time ago. It’s satisfying for sure to see what can be achieved if you put your mind to it and work intelligently.

What advice would you give to a young racer of today?

Learn to earn money first!

The day before the race. What is your routine? How do you spend your time?

Usually will be practice or quali, but I also do some relaxing and visualising and always will get an early night,

And finally….you have one word to describe Le Mans. What is it?


Neil Simmons

20 Questions with…. ROB AUSTIN

 20 Questions with…. ROB AUSTIN

In this latest edition of my feature, “20 Questions With….” I returned to the British Touring Car arena to catch up with a driver who has competed in single-seaters and touring cars. He is famed for his approach to racing and his respect towards his fans. He also has a film credit to his name, technically a Hollywood star, appearing as Brett Lunger and driving a Surtees TS19 in the film “Rush”.

This week, it was a great pleasure to catch up with a BTCC cult hero and fans favourite, as I had….


1. What is your favourite circuit?  
It’s a close call between Knockhill and Thruxton…any circuit where bravery pays off I love and they are generally the best spectacle for the fans as well.


2. Who was your motor racing idol?
Win Percy. I was lucky enough to have his guidance early in my career, awesome driver but above all a bloody decent bloke


3. Who would you regard as your toughest opponent during your career?
That’s a tough one! I have raced against a few names, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Piquet Jr, Rosberg, to name a few, but I would have to say Adam Carroll. In different cars its tough to draw a direct comparison but Adam and I were team-mates and very evenly matched, we were mates but my God we wanted to beat each other. It probably worked out about even between us in the end.

4. Do you have a pre-race ritual/superstition and if so, what is it?
Not really superstition but I do have an order in which I prepare myself which I have to do the same every time. Right boot goes on first, right glove first etc.

5. Is there a race or series you have never competed in, but would like the opportunity to?
Well, having raced single-seaters, one make championships, Historics and GTs in the past, since switching to tin-tops and the BTCC I have realised I’ve been missing my calling all my career. I love close, hard, intense racing and you don’t get it in other formulas like you do in a touring car. Really, the only matches I see for the BTCC globally are NASCAR and Aussie V8s…I think I would have to say Aussie V8s are more my thing.

6. What is the best race you have been involved in? For what reason?
The answer isn’t as clear-cut as you might think. I’ve had some awesome races that haven’t resulted in race wins but involve great battles. However, there’s nothing like that feeling of victory even if it was a pretty straight forward race, so I’m saying Rockingham 2014.


7. Personal racing number. What is it and what is the meaning behind it?
It was always 6 for most of my career but I’ve never been that fussed about it and it’s changed quite a few times over the years.

8. What has been the best piece of racing advice given to you in your career?
I always remember being told about Alain Menu and how he was great at getting the whole team behind him and motivating them to go the extra mile to make the car perfect. I always remember thinking that was another skill to being a driver that most people don’t think about, but it’s so very important.

9. Who is the funniest and/or your best friend in racing?
I would have to say the guys on my car are both very funny and great friends to have, I’m lucky to have such good people around me.

10. Considering drivers over all-time, imagine you ran a racing team where money was no object, which two drivers would you have in your team?
Well, clearly I would pick myself as one of the drivers, I don’t trust anyone else, ha ha! But as my team-mate I would have to say Dan Welch just because we would have a lot fun.

11. For fans out there just coming to notice the fantastic world of BTCC, can you briefly explain what 2016 holds for you?
2016 represents a new era for me, I have taken all the best bits from my team and merged them with Handy Motorsport to create a sort of super team. We will finally be on a level playing field with the front runners and I cant wait to fight them without one hand being tied behind my back, as I often felt I was in the Audi. I think we can win races and challenge for the independents title…maybe more, but we will certainly exceed expectations.

12. How did the switch to Handy Motorsport come about, what prompted the change in focus this season?
We had reached the end of the line with the Audis, there was nothing more to come from them and they couldn’t be made competitive and as much as I love racing I do it to win, I’m not there to make up the numbers. I happened to have a chat with Simon [Belcher – Handy team principal] and I was inspired by his vision for the future and the commitment and passion he was putting in now to make his long term plans work. It was also something I felt I could really contribute to and be a part of rather than just a driver. It may only be a one year contract but we are all going into this looking much further down the road.

13. How did you get into motor racing, what ignited that spark to race?
My old man raced Renault 5’s and after years of pestering, when I was 10 years old he finally took me karting, it turned out I was pretty good at it so we carried on and it’s still me and my old man going racing together today.

14. Who would you say has had the biggest influence on your racing career?
There have been a few but it’s got to be Dad, if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be lucky enough to get started and gain the education that has got me here today.

15. At the start of your career you raced in Formula 3, notably for Alain Menu’s team. How would you describe your experience in single-seater racing?
They were great cars to drive, the Dallara F3 chassis are so well developed they are beautiful to drive. But, in hindsight, the racing was relatively dull. As I said earlier in the interview, Tin Tops are where its at and if I had my career again I would’ve made the BTCC my target 20 years earlier.

16. Outside of racing, how do you relax? What are your hobbies or favourite other sports?
All sorts really. I like a pint, I do a lot of sports and training to stay in shape and squash is one of my favourites, but I enjoy running too and then, after all that exercise, I go for another pint!

17. If you could invite 4 famous people (past or present) for dinner and drinks, who would they be?
Cameron Diaz…just her, ha ha (don’t tell my wife!)

18. What was the last film you saw and what did you think?
I went to see London Has Fallen and it was terrible! The story line was so ridiculously far-fetched I was just getting annoyed. I’m more a Dodgeball kinda guy.

19. When it comes to music, who is your favourite band or artist?
Lots of artists really but generally older stuff. I’m really not a fan of modern music, I haven’t heard a new song that I liked in years. AC/DC, Dire Straits, Madness, Cream, Neil Young, Motorhead…I could go on.

20. And finally…..If you could give advice to anybody (in racing or in life), what would that piece of advice be?
There are two bits of advice that I live by. One is the great quote “quitters never win and winners never quit” which applies to motorsport well I think. The other applies to many other areas of life “when in a hole, stop digging”.

I would like to thank Rob for taking the time out to participate in this feature, I would also like to extend my thanks to Simon Belcher of Handy Motorsport and Marc Orme for making this interview possible. It is already shaping up to be a great BTCC season and with Rob Austin on the grid you just know there is always going to be fun and laughter.

I’d like to wish Rob and the Handy Motorsport team all the best for the forthcoming season.

Neil Simmons
8th March 2016

Q&A with Formula E driver – Oliver Turvey

Oliver Turvey is a British racing driver, who is currently driving for the Formula E team,NEXTEVTCR.Oliver was awarded with the McLaren Motorsport BRDC Award in 2006 and with Cambridge’s highest award “Full Moon” in 2008.

TPCO: Describe Nelson Piquet Jr. in three words

OT:“Fast, determined, racer.”

TPCO: What do you think has been the most challenging aspect of racing in Formula E?

OT: “Learning new circuits every weekend.”

TPCO: How often do you visit MTC these days and what’s your favourite thing about the place?

OT: “I am there most weeks when in the UK.The whole factory is an amazing place but I particularly like the boulevard with the historic and championship winning McLaren F1 cars on display.”

TPCO: LeMans is almost upon us, can you describe to us what you felt the moment you knew that the team would win in 2014?

OT: “Ahead of the final stint we were in P2 so I knew it would come down to my final stint in the car. After doing qualifying laps for a whole stint, I got us into the lead after the final pit stop by a matter of seconds ahead of the TDS car. I then managed to pull a20 second gap so realised then that we could win at Le Mans. It was super special to be able to cross the finish line as a winner at Le Mans, especially as a few days earlier I wasn’t even due to be there! It was one of the greatest moments in my career and I hope to be able to stand on the top step again.”

TPCO: In 2008, during your studies, you were awarded the Full Blue award from the University of Cambridge, was that the most important award for you?

OT: “It was very special to be awarded the first ever Full Blue for Motorsport from the University of Cambridge and I am very proud to have graduated with an Engineering degree whilst continuing my racing career. It was also very special to win the McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year award in 2006, due to the list of previous winners and for the prize test in Formula 1 with McLaren which went successfully and led to my role as test driver with the team.”

TPCO: What was the best moment in your career so far, and how did you celebrate it?

OT: “Winning the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award was one of the greatest moments in my career and along with the support of the Racing Steps Foundation allowed me to continue racing. In terms of races, winning at Monaco in World Series by Renault on my first ever time there was amazing, as was winning LMP2 at the Le Mans 24 Hours. I have celebrated all of them with close members of my family, friends and the team members that have made these achievements possible.”

TPCO: You have scored 10 points so far this season, do you think that you can score more points in London ePrix?

OT: “Yes, I am aiming to score more points in London and improve on our best result of the season.”

TPCO: Which is your favourite circuit?

OT: “My favourite circuit in the World is the street track in Macau. It’s fast, narrow, undulating and has a great flow!”

TPCO: How difficult is it to drive in LeMans 24-hour and how can you remain concentrated for so many hours especially during the night?

OT: “It’s a challenging race for the team and driver but as long as you prepare well and get enough rest then I feel I have been able to push flat out throughout all my stints – last year I completed over 12 hours of the race in our come back through the field after a technical issue in the first stint to take the fastest lap of the race and another podium.”

TPCO: Who is better at parallel parking between you and Nelson?

OT: “We’ve never had to parallel park but I did win a parking challenge in Japan at the end of last year so I fancy my chances!”

TPCO: Do you believe that other motorsport series, like F1 and WEC, should follow Formula E example and become more “green”?

OT: “I think that it is important for motorsport in general to be developing technology that will benefit everyone in the World and help to protect our environment.”

TPCO: In which series do you see yourself in three years?

OT: “I hope to be racing in the most competitive series’ in the World.”

Q&A with Nelson Piquet Jr.

Q&A with Nelson Piquet Jr. – Formula E driver

Piquet born in Germany in 1985, he moved and grown up in Brazil. Nelson started his career in karting in 1993 and he is currently driving in Formula E for NextEV TCR.

TPCO: Describe Oliver Turvey in 3 words

NP: Great team mate!!!

TPCO: What sets Formula E aside from all the other disciplines you’ve raced for?

NP: I’ve had a long career in racing (20 years!) and I’ve competed in a lot of different championships. I raced in F1 from 2007 to 2009 and over the past five years have done everything from NASCAR to sportscars and rallycross. When I heard about Formula E I thought it was a really interesting concept and the technology involved is the future. I knew I wanted to be involved and it’s been a great first season learning more about electric technology.
TPCO: When you made your first steps in Motorsport, had you ever dreamed that you could finish on the podium in a Formula 1 race? How did you feel when you finished second at the German GP in 2008?

NP: Getting the podium in Hockenheim was a great moment; that was in my debut season. In fact, I had the most successful debut season of any Brazilian in Formula One. Then a very hard fought fourth place in Japan later that year was a very good moment.

TPCO: How do you prepare yourself before a race?

NP: I don’t have any kind of superstition or anything special, I just like to be calm and maybe listen to some music.

TPCO: If you could dine with three current/past motorsport drivers who of these would it be and where would the dinner take place?

NP: That’s difficult! I would probably pick my father, James Hunt and maybe Niki Lauda – they would all have some good stories to tell! We could go to a great sushi restaurant.
TPCO :How did you take the decision to go from Formula 1 to NASCAR and then to Formula E? And what difficulties did you face during this journey?

NP: I put all my effort into everything that I do. I love racing and I’ve always loved being diverse in my racing career. Formula One was a part of my life for a few years but I have done a lot since then and I’m loving what I’m doing.

TPCO: In your biography, there are listed lots of victories and podiums finish, which one was the most special for you?

NP: I have had some career highlights that I am very proud of. In Formula 1, highlights were my first podium in Hockenheim 2008, my fourth place finish in Japan 2008 and my sixth in Hungary the same year. Before I reached F1 I had some amazing career moments that I will always remember. I won every championship I raced in go-karts. I was South American F3 champion in 2002, British F3 champion in 2004. I set the record in GP2 for the first driver to have a perfect weekend, scoring the maximum points available, in Hungary 2006. In NASCAR, the highlight has to be the win at Road America in the Nationwide Series last year in only my third NNS start. That was an amazing moment. And then of course the championship win in Formula E was so special. I can’t pick a favourite championship!

TPCO: In 2015, you won the World Title in Formula E, how special was that for you? Do you believe that you can repeat this success?

NP: Becoming World Champion of FIA Formula E is one of my best successes, I think even my best success. My aim is definitely to win another title in the future.

TPCO: Formula E is still something new for most of the motorsport fans, if you could change something in the series what would that be?

NP: What Formula E have done to put together this championship is amazing. If you look at the final in London alone, there were 60,000 people there over the weekend, completely packed with people. Also the achievement of getting races in the city centres of places like Paris and Berlin, and Hong Kong where we are going next season. I can’t imagine what’s it’s going to look like in a few years time. I’m scared of how big this is going to get! We just need to keep moving in the right direction.

TPCO: How difficult is it to drive a NASCAR car, and what are the main differences from the other motorsport series you have raced so far?

NP: When I first starting driving NASCAR it was a big learning curve for me as it was a very different way of driving than I was used to. I had to learn an entirely new discipline. But over the past six years my career has become so diverse with me racing in open wheel, NASCAR, rallycross and sportscars that I don’t have any problem jumping from one car to another. Back in August last year there was a crazy week where I tested the Formula E car on the Monday and Tuesday, tested an IndyCar on Thursday and raced in a Global Rallycross car on Friday and Saturday! And I won the race!

TPCO: Your favourite place for vacations?

NP: Well I lived in Miami for a while but now I live back in Europe. So maybe I would say Miami! 

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