“I’m an artist, the track is my canvas, and the car is my brush”

Site Updates - October 2, 2009

October 2nd, 2009 Posted in Site Updates by Scott Russell | 3 Comments »

The Great Race — the Bathurst 1000 — is just one week away. To get you in the mood, why not take a look at photos from the Shannon’s Lakeside Classic, held at the newly re-opened Australian racing circuit. The meet was a celebration of historic touring cars, with some prime examples of Australian Group A and Group C touring cars on display.

Site Updates - August 15, 2009

August 15th, 2009 Posted in Site Updates by Scott Russell | No Comments »

Long-time contributor to Chequered Flag, ForzaMinardi, is back with another gripping tale from the back catalogue of motorsport history. Forza takes a look at the career of one of the most enigmatic drivers in racing history with his article: Hazy Shade of Winter: The Mysterious Life and Death of Louis Krages

“Dedicated followers of 1980s German racing will be well familiar with the big names of the day: Klaus Ludwig, Manuel Reuter, Frank Beila and the like were all massive stars. With Porsche obliterating the competition at Le Mans and Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Opel and Audi investing in spectacular heavy metal in the DTM, these drivers became stars in their homeland; until the emergence of Michael Schumacher, these guys were German motorsports’ household names.  But one man stood apart; an enigma, for despite a long career in some impressive machinery, not to mention two blue-riband sportscar wins, one man was unique in keeping a low profile. That man was “John Winter”.”

For the full read, click here.

Editorial - The Felipe Massa Accident

July 27th, 2009 Posted in General by Scott Russell | No Comments »

As I write this, Felipe Massa is lying in a hospital bed outside Budapest. The Brazilian was quite badly injured after a piece of suspension from Rubens Barrichello’s car hit him in the head in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix on Saturday. He is in a pretty bad way, but it looks as though he should pull through and make a recovery. He is not out of the woods yet, but fingers crossed.

Coming just days after poor Henry Surtees died after being hit by a flying wheel at Brands Hatch, there was a worrying hint of deja vu with this accident. Thankfully, the result has not been fatal, but it is frightening nonetheless. Massa’s injuries are arguably the worst suffered by a Formula 1 driver since Mika Hakkinen’s crash in Adelaide in 1995 and it is a reminder that racing is dangerous.

There are positives that can be taken. Firstly, it is 14 years since a driver suffered a serious, life-threatening head injury. Secondly, it took such a freak, abnormal accident to cause it. It means that as far as “normal” events go, safety is very good.

No doubt, there will be an investigation into preventing this type of thing from happening again. Which is good. What we don’t need, however, are ridiculous knee-jerk reactions which benefit no one. The FIA decision to ban Renault for one-race after an ill-fitted wheel from Fernando Alonso’s car came loose was just silly - about as silly as suggestions of closed-cockpits and cockpit-bubbles. This is a time for a sensible discussion and review, with appropriate changes if possible.

On a lighter note, who will replace Massa? I do not expect him back at all this year, but it is hard to even come up with a shortlist of possible names. Gene and Badoer are on the Ferrari payroll as test drivers, but neither seem likely candidates, having been out of F1 racing for five and ten years respectively. Some people have been saying Michael Schumacher might fill the seat, but would he really? I don’t think so. Perhaps Sebastien Bourdais will get a call up? Despite being sacked by Scuderia Toro Rosso, he was not as useless as some suggested, and he has experience racing both 2009-spec and Ferrari-engined F1 cars.

Henry Surtees 1991-2009

July 25th, 2009 Posted in Motorsport News, General by Scott Russell | No Comments »

The Chequered Flag family would like to extend their condolences to the family of the late Henry Surtees - the son of 1964 World Drivers Champion, John Surtees.

Henry died in a Formula 2 accident at Brands Hatch last weekend, when a flying wheel bounced into the path of his Williams machine. He was stabilised at the circuit and taken to hospital by helicopter where he later died from his injuries.

This YouTube video created by Toto87 at tbk forums is a lovely tribute to the career of Henry.

Vote for Bridgestone e-reporter Finalist - Filip Cleeren

May 30th, 2009 Posted in General by Scott Russell | No Comments »

Although names like Nigel Roebuck and Alan Henry are instantly recognisable to serious motorsport fans, there are very few men and women who can make a living reporting on the sport we love. Bridgestone know how hard it is, and are doing their bit to help with their e-reporter competition:

In 2009, Bridgestone will give 11 finalists, chosen by an international panel of judges, the opportunity to attend a MotoGP or GP2 Series race weekend. Whilst on-event the finalists will be able to interview top riders and drivers, writing articles that will be published on the Bridgestone website.

The overall winner of this year’s e-reporter competition, chosen for their ability to represent the Bridgestone brand and demonstrate their journalistic skills, will be awarded with a laptop, plus further work experience with a reputable publication.

Last weekend, at the Monaco Grand Prix, it was Filip Cleeren’s turn to report on the GP2 series. Filip has been a long-time friend of GlobalF1.net and Chequered Flag, and a regular IndyCar writer for UpdateF1.

and we would like to take this opportunity to invite our readers to view his work here, and vote for him here. Make sure to register and log-in before voting - or your vote will not count!!

Flashback - The Decline of Motor Racing Developments (Brabham)

May 24th, 2009 Posted in Flashbacks by Scott Russell | No Comments »

The early 1980s were something of a purple patch for Brabham - between 1980 and 1985 the team picked up 14 race wins and twin world championships for Nelson Piquet. The good times were not to last however, and by 1992 the team was extinct.

After a slightly less competitive season in 1985, Gordon Murray and Brabham came out of the gates with a revolutionary new design for ‘86. The Brabham BT55 was built around a specially designed BMW motor which was effectively placed on its side. This was done to allow for tighter packaging at the back of the car, to lower the centre of gravity and allow smoother air-flow to the rear-wing. With the talented Elio de Angelis joining Riccardo Patrese, it should have been a good year.

It was not. It was a disastor. While the design did achieve the desired effects, the negative by-products were abundant. The aerodynamic package delivered far too much drag, while Murray later commented that the complicated engine setup had “incurable oil surge and drain problems”. Reliability was poor, and a pair of sixth places were all the team had to show for their efforts. But worst of all, poor de Angelis was killed in a testing accident mid-season.

Gunnar spent his F1 career at Lotus (Image source: unknown - photo reproduced in the spirit of ‘fair use’).

At the end of 1986 Gordon Murray had departed for greener pastures at McLaren, leaving David North, John Baldwin and Sergio Rinland to design to the BT56. BMW had wanted to pull out of Formula 1, but Brabham team owner Bernie Ecclestone made them fulfill their contractual obligations and supply factory motors for 1987. BMW did hang around, but they would only supply the unsuccessful lay-down engine from the previous year, rather then the classic upright units. The result was another underwhelming season. Perhaps the most telling statistic is that of 32 starts, the team notched up 25 DNFs. The news off the track was not good either, for Ecclestone was starting to lose interest and money was starting to become a problem.

With BMW withdrawing for good, and no engine deal on the table, Brabham did not lodge an entry for the 1988 championship. Ecclestone elected to sell the team, which was purchased by Swiss businessman, Joachim Luhti.

The Luhti-owned Brabham returned to Formula 1 in 1989, with a tidy little car designed by Sergio Rinland and driven by Martin Brundle and Stefano Modena. The performance of the car was inconsistent, and while Brundle finished third at Monaco, on two occasions he did not make it past pre-qualifying. There was high drama when Luhti was arrested half way through the year for fraud. An attempted sale to Mike Earle and Joe Chamberlain was vetoed by Peter Windsor (who had been part of the original Luhti bid), and the team fell into the hands of the Japanese engineering firm, Middlebridge Group.

Gunnar spent his F1 career at Lotus (Image source: unknown - photo reproduced in the spirit of ‘fair use’).

Really, it was never going to a success. The Middlebridge Group had borrowed heavily from Landhurst Leasing to fund their take-over, and with hardly any sponsorship, the debt was always going to catch up. By 1990 Brabham were almost failing to qualify more often then not, and a solitary fifth place for Modena was the only points-paying result of the year. With Yamaha engines in place, 1991 was a bit better, but scoring three points was not going to arrest their demise.

The team could not afford to build a new car for 1992, and so Brabham wheeled out the old BT60 again, fitted with Judd engines (Yamaha had left to power Jordan). Eric van de Poele and lady-racer Giovanni Amati were hired to do the driving. Amati was clearly not there for her talent. Her Formula 3000 performances had been miserable and it was obvious she was only there to attract sponsorship and help pay the bills. However, her sponsors never paid up, and after failing to qualify three times in a row, there was no reason to keep her and she was replaced by Damon Hill. Van de Poele and Hill were both talented drivers, but they fared little better, only making the grid three times.

Mediocre driver, underpowered engine, old chassis, corrupt team (Image source: unknown - photo reproduced in the spirit of ‘fair use’).

However, while all this was going on, the director of Landhurst, Ted Ball, had been taking corrupt cash payments from the Middlebridge Group to keep the money flowing in and keep Brabham afloat. To raise the money required, Ball and David Ashworth, Landhurst’s finance director, doctored the company accounts and defrauded banks into lending money. In August, the Arthur Andersen accounting firm uncovered the corruption - there was a $75m black hole in the accounts. Landhurst went into receivership, and Brabham closed their doors forever. The Serious Fraud Office investigated the collapse, and in 1997 Ball and Ashworth were jailed on corruption charges.

Brabham’s last race was the 1992 Hungarian Grand Prix. Damon Hill came home in 11th, four laps down. Less then a decade before they had been world champions.

Site Updates - May 10, 2009

May 10th, 2009 Posted in Site Updates by Scott Russell | 1 Comment »

A new feature article has been posted. Written by regular CFM contributor, ForzaMinardi, The Trofeo Lorenzo Bandini looks over the history of the award of the same name. To access this great article, click here.

Don’t forget, with the Spanish Grand Prix on this weekend, there is plenty of lively debate over at the GlobalF1 Discussion Forums.

Flashback - Gunnar Nilsson

April 20th, 2009 Posted in Flashbacks by Scott Russell | 1 Comment »

Sebastian Vettel’s victory in Shangai on Sunday terminates his membership in the Formula 1 “one hit wonders club - for drivers with a single victory to their name. Vettel was lucky to get a chance to build on his victory at Monza last year. There are 31 drivers stuck with a solitary victory. Sadly, many of these men never got a chance to add to their CVs before their careers were cut short by tragedy.

Gunnar spent his F1 career at Lotus (Image source: unknown - photo reproduced in the spirit of ‘fair use’).

One such driver is Swede Gunnar Nilsson. His solitary victory came at the 1977 Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder. Mario Andretti was the clear number one driver at Team Lotus that season, but Nilsson had shown some potential in his time at Lotus, bagging a pair of podiums the season before.

Nilsson had started third on a wet Zolder track, and profited when Andretti (pole) and John Watson in the Alfa (2nd on the grid) crashed out on the first lap. Nilsson found himself in second after Jody Schekter had scythed into the lead amongst the chaos.

Nilsson’s chances looked over when a stuck wheel nut relegated him to eighth, but he excelled in the wet, passing Ronnie Peterson, Jacques Laffite and Vittorio Brambilla. A pitstop for Scheckter and a race-ending spin by Jochen Mass made Nilsson’s job a little easier, and on lap 50 he passed race-leader Lauda on his way to a stunning maiden Grand Prix victory.

A frail Nilsson (rear) walks behid Ronnie Petersen’s coffin (Image source: Ronnie Petersen Official - photo reproduced in the spirit of ‘fair use’).

Sadly, for Gunnar, that would be it. There would be no second victory. The rest of 1977 was not kind, and there was only a 4th at Dijon and a 3rd at Silverstone to celebrate. Towards the end of the year, he started to struggle. Nonetheless, he signed with the new Arrows squad for 1978.

But it was not to be. There was a reason Gunnar had been struggling for performance. He had cancer. He had begun to suffer from back pain, headaches and hair loss. Not realising something sinister was at play, Gunnar blamed an ill-fitting helmet. By the time he saw a doctor (apparently on the advice of Mario Andretti), it was too late. At first, he was optimistic about racing in 1978, but soon the cancer took hold and he had to abandon his seat at Arrows before the year began.

Two things stand out from his last year of life.  Firstly, his efforts at launching the Gunnar Nilsson Cancer Treatment Campaign. Secondly, his attendance at the funeral of countrymen Ronnie Petersen in September. Just five weeks before his death, Gunnar was gravely ill but walked behind Ronnie’s coffin.

Gunnar Nilsson lived until October 20, 1978. A bright chapter in Swedish motorsport was over as quickly as it had begun.