The Motor Sport Month - Formula 1 News

In Brief

• The Racing Steps Foundation, which supports GP2 driver Oliver Turvey and Formula 3 racer James Calado, is monitoring two new rising stars for a fully-funded seat in the 2011 Formula Renault UK Championship. Karter Oliver Rowland and Formula Ford driver Dan Wells are competing in the Formula Renault Winter Series to secure the seat.

• Peugeot UK has signed double British Rally Champion Guy Wilks to drive its 207 S2000 in the 2011 Intercontinental Rally Challenge. The ex-Skoda driver will be joined by long-time co driver Phil Pugh. "It was a difficult decision to leave 8kocla UK, but the chance to drive the 207 with the support of a team like Kronos was too hard to resist," said Wilks.

• The Henry Ford museum in America has announced a new 22,000 sq ft permanent exhibition, called Racing in America. It will cover the history and innovation of US racing, with interactive displays, stories and collections from drivers, plus historic vehicles.

• British Touring Car Championship boss Alan Gow has become the new president of the FIA Touring Car Commission. The Brit-based Australian replaces Jonathan Ashman. Former co-driver Robert Reid is to be vicepresident of the FIA World Rally Championship Commission.

• A new LMP2 coupe built in the US by Riley Technologies could be on the grid for next year's Le Mans 24 Hours. Riley believes it is close to selling at least one Riley MkXX.

• The new Lotus Evora GT2 car looks likely to race in the Le Mans Series with the Jetalliance squad. The team, a multiple winner with Aston Martin in FIA GTs in 2006-08, is "very close" to a deal, according to Lotus motor sport director Claudio Berro.

• Ross Kaiser, 2010 Radical UK Cup champion, will race Doran Racing's Dallara-Ford in January's Daytona 24 Hours. The drive is the 28-year-old Brit's prize for winning the Sunoco Daytona Challenge.

• The Le Mans Test Day, which is returning to the calendar after a two-year hiatus, is scheduled to take place on April 24 next year.

Peugeot LM car is a mystery

Peugeot has unveiled its 2011 Le Mans 24 Hours challenger but has refused to say whether it is powered by a turbodiesel or petrol engine.

The French manufacturer confirmed the new car, code-named 90X (right), was up and running after it was photographed testing at Monza at the end of October. It has revealed few details of the car or its test schedule, but it is understood that the 90X has undertaken tests at Barcelona and Magny-Cours since its first shakedown at an undisclosed circuit on July 27.

Peugeot Sport boss Olivier Quesnel would only say: "As you can see from the photographs (taken at the shakedown), it is a coupe."

The lack of disclosure over the choice of engine is suitably 'fuelling debate' among rivals. Peugeot's technical director Bruno Famin insisted it was "still exploring options" in this area.

Pictures of the car offer conflicting evidence on its fuel source, but Peugeot's rhetoric in rules meetings suggests it is committed to staying with diesel. One rival team principal said, "all their politicking means I cannot believe they are going petrol".

The 90X retains the family look of the four-year-old 908 design. The most dramatic changes are at the back of the car, which incorporates the F1 -style shark fin mandatory on all new prototypes in 2011.

It is unclear at this stage whether the 90X has been testing energy-recovery systems. Peugeot said last January that its 2011 car would be a hybrid, but it has backed away from that in recent months, stating only its intention to race in hybrid specification.

Tin-top target for Ford teams

Ford will make a low-key factory return to touring car racing in 2011. The manufacturer, a tin-top stalwart from the 1970s until the early 2000s, is trying to pool the resources of private teams running Ford machinery to develop the latest Focus ST for touring car racing. It aims to co-ordinate development of a common design that can then be modified to different rulebooks, including global Super 2000 and the Next Generation Touring Car rules that come into force in the British Touring Car Championship next season.

Jost Capito, director of global performance vehicles, said: "Many Ford programmes around the world get a bit of support. Let's put all the resources together and produce a car that is 80 per cent common, then adapt it to different series. We're offering technical support in terms of CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) and wind tunnel time."

Ford also has its own S2000-spec engine available, thanks to the introduction of common engine rules encompassing the tin-top category, S2000 and world rally formulae. The 1.6-litre turbocharged unit is being developed for the factory M-Sport team by Pipo Moteur in France.

End of the road for Spyder

Porsche has called time on the ultra-successful career of its RS Spyder LMP2 prototype.

The German make will not extend the car's life into 2011, despite at least one team wanting to run it in the American Le Mans Series. Porsche motor sport boss Hartmut Kristen said investing in the necessary parts wasn't possible.

Following a career that started in '05,the Spyder claimed LMP2 titles in the 2006-08 ALMS and 11 outright wins with the factory Penske Racing team, including the '08 Sebring 12 Hours (below). The private CytoSport squad took two overall wins in 2010, and the car won LMP2 at the 2008-09 Le Mans with the Van Merksteijn/Verschuur and Essex teams.

Chevrolet and Lotus add power to IndyCar series

Chevrolet will return to Indycar racing in 2012 with an engine developed by Ilmor, where it will be joined by Group Lotus which is building its own powerplant. Chevrolet's 2.4-litre twin turbo, direct-injection V6 lndycar engine revives the partnership with Ilmor Engineering that produced the Chevy Indy V8, winner of 104 lndycar races from 1987-93, including six straight Indianapolis 500s between 1988-93 and six CART drivers' championships.

Ilmor was founded in 1984 by Roger Penske, Mario IIlien and Paul Morgan. Penske then got General Motors to buy a quarter-interest in the company, resulting in the Chevy Indy V8. Ilmor has also designed and built Formula 1 and lndycar engines for Mercedes-Benz. In recent years its American operation in Michigan has built and maintained Honda's lndycar engines, meaning the company is up to speed with the latest technology.

Chevrolet's lndycar return with Ilmor and the arrival of the Lotus will provide much-needed competition for current engine supplier Honda. It is also hoped that Chevrolet in particular, and possibly Lotus too, will pump marketing and promotion dollars into the IndyCar Series to help expand media coverage and sell tickets.

"We need to get more people in the grandstands and watching on TV" said Roger Penske. "We also need to see that this becomes a worldwide series with competition from around the world. This is the first step."

Penske's power and influence stretches far and wide, and it's long been debated whether it's a good or bad thing. Some people argue that Penske's team will get the best Ilmor/Chevy engines, but IndyCar's technical chief Tony Cotman emphasised that it's his job to write the rules to guarantee all teams get equal engines and are involved to some degree or another in the development programme.

"Any other team who runs a Chevrolet will have exactly the same specification as Penske," declared Cotman. "It's in Chevy's and Lotus's best interests that they have as many teams as possible participating in the development programme. I think that will lead to a far more level playing field in the long run."

Less is known about the Lotus engine. "What we're trying to do with the Lotus brand is leverage our heritage, which is all about motor racing," said Dany Bahar, Group Lotus CEO. "We're taking it seriously. We don't just want to put a sticker on a car that we didn't have an interest in building. We want to fight with the big guys. So we took the decision to build our own engine. By doing that we're going to be the underdogs fighting Chevy and Honda. But that's fine. It's all about competition."

Both Chevrolet and Lotus will also build 'aero kits' for 2012 to provide cars powered by their engines with distinctive and hopefully superior aero packages. Chevrolet will design its kit in partnership with Team Penske. Bahar said Lotus will also sponsor as many as four cars next season, having backed Takuma Sato's KV Technology entry in 2010: "We'll be expanding our activities in IndyCar with our partner KV Technology. There will probably be three or even more cars in our livery next year." Gordon Kirby

Cars of the future on show

The day before the Veterancars made their traditional journey from London to Brighton, the cars of the future went the other way, from the coast to the capital.

In one weekend, therefore, we wallowed in nostalgia and wondered what we'll be driving in years to come.

A great deal of affention was paid to motor racing people who'd pulled out of the fast lane and into fuel-saving mode. There was veteran rally star Paddy Hopkirk, in a Mini of course, but with a diesel engine. In an electric version was David Richards (right), whose Prodrive team will bring the Mini back to world rallying in 2011. Then there were Nick Mason and Perry McCarthy in a pair of Tesla Roadsters.

Typically different and suitably stylish was Gordon Murray's latest version of his T25 city car (far right), making its first public appearance.

The driver sits in the middle, as in the McLaren F1, with two passengers behind. Packed with new technology, and weighing virtually nothing, the T25 has a three-cylinder 650cc petrol engine which used under a gallon of fuel from the seaside to the city.

The inaugural RAC Future Car Challenge also featured the first public outing of the all-new electric version of the VW Golf Blue E-Motion, not due on the road until 2013. Ecotricity founder and wind-power pioneer Dale Vince brought his conversion of a Lotus Exige, named the Vince Nemesis, and powered of course by electricity.

Over 60 cars took part in what was surely the quietest motoring event since the first car took to the road. An estimated 250,000 people watched the cars arrive in Pall Mall. The RAC hopes this will become an annual showcase for new automobile technology. Rob Widdows

Calling all virgin F1 race engineers

Motor Sport will team up with Formula l's Virgin Racing at the 2011 Autosport International show to offer fans an unprecedented pitwall experience that will allow them to step into the shoes of race engineers and team managers at 'virtual' Grands Prix.

From January 13-16 at Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre, visitors to the Motor Sport stand will be able to sit up on a Virgin F1 'pit perch' as seen on pitwalls throughout the Grand Prix season, and experience the role of a race engineer. The aim will be to help your driver hit a target lap time on a simulation programme by making set-up changes to your car. Participants can adjust front wing dimensions, damper settings and ride heights to modify the aerodynamic and mechanical efficiencies of a virtual VR-01, in a process similar to that used during a real GP weekend.

After securing a position in this year's championship, Virgin Racing shocked F1's established teams by announcing that its new-for-2010 car would not be developed using traditional wind tunnel technology. Instead, Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) — a system in which numerical methods and algorithms measure the simulated interaction of molecules with surfaces — would be used to design the car in its entirety. Despite many teams' scepticism, the CFD-designed VR-01 ran on schedule in February's official pre-season test at Jerez, and Virgin has vied with Lotus all season to be the best of the new teams in Formula 1.

At Autosport International up to three visitors at a time will be able to experience Virgin's pitwall simulation. Aided by experienced race engineers and technicians from the team, participants will analyse genuine aerodynamic and mechanical data before choosing their set-ups. Real computer software as used during a race weekend will then reveal how the changes would affect lap times and overall pace. Virgin technical director Nick Wirth will also make an appearance on the stand during the course of the show.

Both Virgin Racing and its technology partner Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) are keen to showcase the pitwall environment and the practicalities of using CFD as the primary and only tool in race car design. While the experience mixes a family-friendly activity with technical intricacy needing careful thought, CSC believes this interactive experience should be a useful insight into the Formula 1 world and CFD's potentially revolutionary impact on motor sport.

Along with Virgin's interactive experience, the Motor Sport team will be on hand all weekend to meet readers — and look out for a special show subscription offer, too. Come and see us on stand number 6251. James Gent

Also there...

• Classic Team Lotus as war rages over Lotus Racing's designs on the Team Lotus moniker, fans can enjoy their own blast from the past by voting ahead of the event for the cars they want to see. Hot favourites to appear are Jim Clark's 25 from 1963, Mario Andretti's 79 from 1978, and Ayrton Senna's 99T from 1987.

• Historic McLaren Racing The team will showcase an array of iconic machines at the NEC. Alongside team founder Bruce McLaren's striking M7C from 1969 will be a veritable timeline of the Woking outfit's title successes, including Ayrton Senna's MP4/4 from 1988, Mika Hakkinen's MP4-13 from 1998 and Lewis Hamilton's MP4-23 from 2008. For the supercar enthusiast, the new twin-turbocharged MP4-12C will be displayed ahead of its 2011 debut in the showrooms.

• Britain's touring car stars in action From the World Touring Car Championship, threetime champion Andy Priaulx and eight-time race winner Rob Huff discuss their season-long battle for this year's crown. Newly-crowned British Touring Car Champion Jason Plato will also be in action, capping his appearance on the Autosport Stage with some adrenaline-fuelled competition in the Live Action Arena against Fifth Gear co-presenter Tiff Needell.

• "And it's go, go, go in Birmingham!" Legendary F1 pundit Murray Walker joins old mate and current F1 commentator Martin Brundle on the Autosport Stage, while the BBC's Jake Humphrey makes his first appearance.

• Caterham drive experience Fans wishing to scare themselves silly can enjoy powerslides, donuts and a lap in anger around a purpose-built drift course in a professionally driven Seven at the Caterham Drive Experience.

• "I could do that.." Prove your mettle on the BATAK wall, a device designed to hone reaction speeds by recording how many lights illuminated at random a driver can spot and hit in a minute. Jenson Button has managed 114 hits in 60 seconds...