Magic at Monterey
The IndyCar season only has two races left, but it’s been a busy few weeks.
After the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on August 5 I managed to head home for nearly a week, but come mid-August I was in Monterey to see the historics.
I was just spectating, as since I had the wee crash in the E-type back in 2006 at Goodwood I’m not really allowed to drive anything mid-season. But I went to look at the Concours on the Avenue in Carmel, saw various different events and had a good catch up with lots of people. It’s a great few days spent talking cars, going to the auctions, heading up to the race track at Laguna, and then to Pebble on Sunday. I even fitted in a day’s testing with the Indycar in the middle of all of that!
Image courtesy of caracingnews.com
The racing was great even if in America historic racing is more about the show, which I’m completely fine with. There are more cars that are as they were in period than you might see at some of the British meetings when you spot these E-types that don’t have any body roll and have 400bhp… It’s definitely more about the spectacle.
There’s a wide range of ability as well. I wouldn’t call it a demonstration, because that’s a disservice and the guys are racing hard, but there’s definitely a wide range of car performance and driver talent. It was great, though – I stood at the Corkscrew and watched a Ferrari 250 SWB being driven very well with big power slides out of there. I watched some of the old USRRC cars and those things looked like real handfuls. Watching the Porsche 935s go round – that’s always a fun race seeing those with the boost turned up.
Image courtesy of caracingnews.com
It’s nice to be around cars and actually get a chance to catch up with people like Klaus Bischoff and the rest of the guys from the Porsche museum. If anybody does come to one of my IndyCar races I don’t get a chance to chat because we’re so busy. Monterey is a week of total immersion in car culture. There are so many good guys there whether it’s the person with a multi-million dollar car collection, or some guy that’s there with a camera taking pictures of cars. You go and have a good natter and it’s good fun.
The highlight of Monterey for me, though, was on the Monday after, when I got to drive a Porsche 2.8 RSR round the area there. It’s one of my top five dream cars. It was great to have a good old blast in that and it was everything I hoped it would be. It was amazing, absolutely hilarious. It was on period racing tyres with megaphones at the back and it was just the best. A stunning car.
The end of the IndyCar season approaches
We’re now out of championship contention after the last race at Sonoma on August 26 and I have to say that I thought we were out of it after the race before. Not mathematically, but realistically.
It was good to get a podium at Sonoma. Obviously we’ll be trying to win the last two races and help Scott [Dixon] to get the championship. But that’s looking more difficult after the last race when Hélio [Castroneves] took him out on the first lap.
Apart from the Indy 500 [which Franchitti won for the third time] it’s been a fairly tough old season for a lot of different reasons. In general we’ve been pretty good in qualifying – we’ve been on the front row eight times. But we just haven’t managed to convert those qualifying performances into race results for a load of reasons. That’s frustrating.
The fun is definitely in the winning, but I think if it’s given to you and it’s easy to achieve, it’s not interesting. The fun is in the winning because it’s so tough. This year has definitely proved how tough it is and it’s almost reminded myself, the team and others that what we did achieve – winning three championships in a row – was pretty difficult to do and something we should be proud of.
It’s not just the championship being so competitive this year, but we’ve also struggled to get to grips with the new car. In the races it’s been hit and miss with the setup. Then throw in a couple of mistakes by me, by the team, the pits, some strategy mistakes, some engine problems and also some car and mechanical problems – it all adds up. I think because of that the championship has been more open than it has been in years past. The competition level has maybe ratcheted up a bit more, but it’s more wide open because more people might miss the setup on any given day. The old car we knew really well so it tended not to happen.
I’ll give you an example of how tight things are… You have three stages of qualifying and in stage two there are 12 cars on track and the fastest six get into the Firestone Fast Six. The difference between first and sixth at Mid-Ohio in Q2 was a tenth of a second. Six cars in a tenth of a second on a road course. That kind of shows what you’re up against. Still, I read Nigel Roebuck’s piece in the last issue with Martin Whitmarsh on F1’s Pirelli tyres and their peaky performance, and that just looks like really hard work!