Thank you for visiting the Front of the Grid. I have relocated my personal motorsport blog to www.motorsportaccordingtome.blogspot.com, so please check it out!
Thank you for visiting the Front of the Grid. I have relocated my personal motorsport blog to www.motorsportaccordingtome.blogspot.com, so please check it out!
If I were to mention the subject of battles between teammates for the 2011 F1 season, you might think of Vettel/Webber, Hamilton/Button, Alonso/Massa or maybe Schumacher/Rosberg. You probably wouldn't think of Buemi/Alguersuari, yet this battle has the potential to be the most decisive.
The reason for this is that it could make or break their careers. As the pair fought over 17th place in qualifying in Abu Dhabi, there was more than just a place in Q2 at stake. While one of them will probably take Webber's seat at Red Bull Racing when the Australian leaves, the other could be dropped by Toro Rosso and consigned to the F1 scrap heap.
For Red Bull (the company) it makes sense to replace Webber with either the Spainard or the Swiss driver. There is no point in ploughing money into a second team if you are not going to use it to develop talent for the senior team. Webber is under contract for next year, but with Vettel now World Champion at 23, Webber, 34, will find the going tough at the team in 2011, particularly after throwing away his own chances by being off the pace at the season finale.
If he does not impress, he will be dropped for 2012. They will promote the Toro Rosso driver that has shown the most potential to become a future World Champion for the team. This is why so much is at steak between Alguersuari and Buemi.
If one of them does not perform sufficiently at the start of the season, they could find themselves dropped quicker than they can say 'Scott Speed'. The reason is that Daniel Ricciardo is ready for a shot at F1. While Webber was winning the 2010 Monaco Grand Prix, Ricciardo, also Australian, was winning the Formula Renault 3.5 support race, in the colours of Red Bull. Today he topped the timesheets in the Young Driver Test at Abu Dhabi, by some way.
Having finished second in the FR3.5 standings, Ricciardo, the 2009 British F3 champion, is now ready for a seat in F1 as soon a one becomes available. Even if one of the current STR drivers is promoted to RBR (vacating an STR seat for Ricciardo), the other could come under threat from the next driver on Dr Helmut Marko's production line - Jean-Eric Vergne. The Frenchman won British F3 this year, and is already winning in FR3.5 before he has even joined the series full-time. He tested for STR in Abu Dhabi today.
Buemi impressed in his debut season in 2009, but Alguersuari grew during 2010 after being thrown in when he was not yet ready during last season. Despite Buemi scoring eight points to Alguersuari's five, the Spainiard ended the season as the faster driver, scoring better results than his teammate in four of the final five races. 2 years younger than Buemi, Alguersuari appears to be showing the greater potential.
Providing Red Bull don't make any changes prior to 2011, expect the battle between the Toro Rosso teammates to be a great fight next year.
In the first two races at Silverstone yesterday, Tom Onslow-Cole moved over when leading to allow Aon/Arena Ford teammate Tom Chilton win the races, despite Onslow-Cole being ahead of Chilton in the standings going into the weekend. Despite some poor attempts from T-O-C to cover it up, these were clearly team orders. But why, you might be wondering, would the team favour one Tom over another?
The answer is easy. The operation is bankrolled by Tom Chilton's multi-millionaire father Grahame, who is vice-chairman of Aon Corporation, who lends its name to the team. Putting it simply, it is likely that Grahame (who is a big motorsports fan) has a large influence on what goes on at the team. Although he may not own the team, he probably has a larger say on what goes on than anybody else. He and Aon could be offering financial benefits to Arena for everytime Chilton Jr gets a victory. Alternatively, Grahame could just decide to take Tom and Aon's money elsewhere if he isn't happy with the Arena operation.
Thus, it makes complete sense for Arena to favour Chilton over Onslow-Cole. Onslow-Cole should just put up with it. He had to sit out the beginning of last year because he didn't have enough funding to get a drive, despite strong performances for WSR and Triple 8 in previous seasons. Team Aon picked him up later in the year and retained him for this year. Without Grahame Chilton's money, he wouldn't have a drive, and that's why he just has to accept being the number two driver.
The situation could be compared to the Red Bull Racing team in Formula 1, who were at the centre of a favouritism storm earlier in the year. There, the biggest influence on the way the team is run is owner Dietrich Mateschitz of Red Bull. He has funded Sebastian Vettel's career from very early on, so he is entitled to favour him over teammate Mark Webber. Any driver from outside of the Red Bull scheme entering the team should be aware of that.
The same can be said of Team Aon, even if Grahame Chilton is not technically a member of the team.
At the end of the day, motor racing is as much a business as it is a sport for many, and such decisions have to me made.
Photo credit: Pete Mainey (www.psmmotorsportimages.co.uk)
It was announced today that Lee McKenzie will host the BBC's coverage of the Japanese Grand Prix while regular anchor Jake Humphrey is covering the Commonwealth Games. This got me thinking: what if motor racing was a Commonwealth Games sport? Well here are the lineups, with a maximum of two drivers per nation, and F1 drivers not participating:
Australia – Will Power, Ryan Briscoe
Canada – Rob Wickens, Alex Tagliani
Cyprus – Eftihios Ellinas (won twice in FFord GB this year)
England – Justin Wilson, Oliver Turvey
Gibraltar – Tom Gladdis (lived on the Island during his childhood)
Guernsey – Andy Priaulx
India – Armaan Ebrahim, Narain Karthikeyan
Isle of Man – Greg Mansell, Alex Lloyd
Jersey – James Walker
Malaysia – Jazeman Jaafar, Fairuz Fauzy
New Zealand – Scott Dixon, Brendon Hartley
Northern Ireland – Adam Carroll, Will Buller
Pakistan – Adam Khan, Nur Ali
Scotland – Dario Franchitti, Paul di Resta
Singapore – Richard Bradley, Suriya Balakerisnan (both FBMW Pacific)
South Africa – Adrian Zaugg, Tomas Scheckter
Wales – Hywel Lloyd, Andy Meyrick
It's fair to say that Australia has the strongest lineup, with Scotland, England and New Zealand not too far behind.
Is there anybody I've missed? Perhaps someone with dual nationality that I didn't know about? Just drop me a comment.
As F1 has reached its summer break, I thought I would take a first look at how the driver market is shaping up for 2011. After the widespread merry-go-round of last winter, we can expect fewer changes for next year. However, there are still many drivers who will need to impress in the latter stages of 2010 in order to retain their drive next year. Furthermore, there are a few young drivers on form and looking to join the grid next year.
Let's start at the top. McLaren will retain their pairing of Lewis and Jenson, while Red Bull have both Vettel and Webber under contract, so it will take another favouritism row to make Webber up sticks and look elsewhere. Ferrari meanwhile took the paddock by surprise by resigning Felipe Massa despite being generally slower than his teammate Alonso. At Mercedes, Nico Rosberg has impressed and is set to remain with the team. Michael Schumacher has another two seasons on his contract with the team, but questions have been asked about whether he should continue with his comeback. Mercedes reserve Nick Heidfeld is a man who has a lot of experience of getting podium finishes out of unworthy cars from his years with Sauber and Williams, and would most likely step into any void left by Schumacher.
Renault have managed to resign Robert Kubica, while the pressure is on Vitaly Petrov to retain his seat alongside the Pole. Like most of us, the team have been satisfied with the rookie's performance, but are aiming high and are exploring their options. Heidfeld, who Renault turned down in favour of Petrov back in February, and Force India's Adrian Sutil are both options for them, while they have also been linked to another German Timo Glock, despite him being under contract with Virgin. The new team are unlikely to offer much resistence though if Glock wanted to leave the team.
At Williams, Rubens Barrichello intends to stick around with the team for his 19th season in F1, while Nico Hulkenberg has started to put in some consistent performances after a disappointing start to his first season.
While Force India would want to hold on to Sutil, he could well be tempted to move to a bigger team like Renault. Tonio Liuzzi is under threat from Paul di Resta for the second seat, while Karun Chandhok could prove a popular signing in the team's 'home' country with the first Indian GP coming in 2011.
Sauber are still without any major sponsors and this could put pressure on both Kamui Kobayashi and, in particular, the ageing Pedro de la Rosa. The two drivers heading the GP2 standings, Pastor Maldonado and Sergio Perez, are both backed by companies from their home nations Venezuela and Mexico. Both PDVSA and Telmex are known in Europe for their willingness to back drivers from the two countries. Furthermore, Mexican Esteban Gutierrez is a Sauber development driver, and he too is backed by Telmex.
Toro Rosso look set to retain both Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari, although Buemi could yet be tempted by a move to a bigger team and has been linked with Renault. Tester Daniel Ricciardo is next in line from the Red Bull Junior scheme.
Lotus have both Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen under contract next year, while Virgin have Timo Glock, and have been impressed with Lucas di Grassi's performances so far this season.
Hispania's future is in doubt, and would be looking for the right mix of talent and funding for their drivers.
A 13th team is set to gain entry for 2011. The three teams we know to be in the running are Stefan GP (who signed Kazuki Nakajima as part of their optimistic attempt to join the grid for 2010), Villeneuve-Durango (for whom Jacques himself will driver) and Epsilon Euskadi. Maldonado and Perez's mix of talent and money could prove useful for all of these team
I can totally understand why Ferrari would have wanted Fernando Alonso to win ahead of Felipe Massa in the German Grand Prix. Having seen what happened to Red Bull in Turkey, and with Alonso quickly chasing Massa down, they simply wanted Fernando to pass Massa in a way that would not have seen them coming together and wrecking their race.
See the second of the World Touring Car Championship races at Brands Hatch last weekend. Augusto Farfus was leading BMW teammate Andy Priaulx, who is in a much better position in the championship, rather like Alonso at Ferrari. At the Druids hairpin, Farfus left the door open for Priaulx. Nobody minded this. Nobody claimed 'team orders'.
Ferrari would have wanted a similar situation today. All they wanted was Massa not to defend if Alonso attempted to overtake him for the lead. However, Massa did not do this, instead blatently lifting off the accelerator on the straight to let Alonso through. Had this happened, nobody would really have complained. This was a botched manoeuvre. Massa did not do what his team wanted him to do. As Ferrari have said since the race, it was Massa's decision to do what he did.
Do not get me wrong, I am not saying Felipe is to blame for this situation. However, an agreement should be in place for them to make such a manoeuvre in a way that would not be so blatent.
Ford have approached Citroen Junior driver Sebastien Ogier to drive for their team in 2011. Ogier has impressed in 2010, winning his first rally in Portugal. Furthermore, he will replace the disappointing Dani Sordo in the main Citroen team for the remaining gravel rallies this year. Ogier is expected to make a decision on which team he would like to drive for in the next couple of weeks.
There is the potential for quite a lot of movement in the driver market for 2011. New rules will see both Ford and Citroen introduce new cars, the Fiesta and DS3 respectively. In 2010, Citroen have run 4 C4s on each event across its two teams, plus a privately-entered car for Petter Solberg. Ford meanwhile have entered up to eight of its Focus WRCs on any one event this year across its teams. The new rules will cause a problem in 2011, as neither Ford nor Citroen will want to run that many of its new cars.
Ford have said that if Ogier joins them he will drive a third Fiesta alongside Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala, who are already under contract for next year. A further complication is that Sebastien Loeb has yet to confirm his future in the WRC. Kimi Raikkonen is also yet to confirm his future. With Citroen disappointed with Dani Sordo's performances on gravel, they could end up with no drivers next year. Hopefully they will be able to give Petter Solberg a new DS3.
Ford meanwhile may have to run Khalid Al Qassimi in a Fiesta WRC in order to keep the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority happy, who are title sponsors of the team. Add to this son of the team boss, Matthew Wilson, and drivers such as Federico Villagra, Henning Solberg and Ken Block, who all bring sponsors money, Ford could have a headache running cars for all these drivers. The best solution may be to run one Stobart Fiesta for Wilson, who is developing the new car, plus another car that could be shared by Villagra, Solberg and Block across the season. A Fiesta S2000 could be provided for them to use on other events.
There is of course the chance of more manufacturers joining next year. Prodrive have been linked to a project with Mini, while Toyota Europe are looking at joining one of the WRC, WTCC or GT1. The VW group has also been rumoured, either with its main brand or with Skoda, who already run an S2000 programme in the IRC.
This year's 24 Hours of Le Mans promises to be another fantastic battle between Peugeot and Audi for the overall honours. Here, I take you through each car one-by-one and rate its chances.
Andy Blackmore's Spotters Guides are an invaluable aid to help establish which car is which throughout the race. They are available here.
Follow me @Frontofthegrid for the latest news and reaction throughout the week. I will be using the #LM24 hashtag.
1. Team Peugeot Total (F) - Peugeot 908 HDi FAP
Anthony Davidson (GB) / Alex Wurz (A) / Marc Gene (E)
Davidson replaces Brabham in last year's winning car. May not be the quickest of the Peugeot lineups, or have the most Le Mans experience. All three have plenty of F1 testing mileage behind them from the last decade. 9/10
2. Team Peugeot Total (F) - Peugeot 908 HDi FAP
Stephane Sarrazin (F) / Franck Montagny (F) / Nicolas Minassian (F)
The strongest Peugeot lineup on paper, the French trio have plenty of Le Mans and 908 experience. Sarrazin can get a fourth consecutive pole position on Thursday. Staying out of trouble will be key to winning. 10/10
3. Peugeot Sport Total (F) - Peugeot 908 HDi FAP
Sebastien Bourdais (F) / Simon Pagenaud (F) / Pedro Lamy (P)
Klien is replaced in lineup by Pagenaud, who has shown immense speed in ALMS. Is lacking in Le Mans experience, but teammates have both speed and knowledge making this another contender for the win. 9/10
4. Team Oreca Matmut (F) - Peugeot 908 HDi FAP
Olivier Panis (F) / Nicolas Lapierre (F) / Loic Duval (F)
Oreca replaces Pescarolo as the French team using a 908 alongside its own chassis. Lineup may not quite be up to same standard as factory cars, but if it has a consistent race it could challenge for the win. 8/10
5. Beechdean Mansell (GB) - Ginetta-Zytek GZ09SB
Nigel Mansell (GB) / Greg Mansell (GB) / Leo Mansell (GB)
Nigel brings sons along for his first attempt at the 24 hours. Formula Renault 3.5 driver Greg should be fast, while Leo drove a Modena Ferrari last year. Will not be in battle for top petrol honours. 4/10
6. AIM Team Oreca (F) - Oreca 01-AIM
Soheil Ayari (F) / Didier Andre (F) / Andy Meyrick (GB)
Oreca runs one of its own cars alongside its Peugeot effort. Le Mans regular Ayari will lead this car's challenge to be the top petrol runner. 5/10
7. Audi Sport Team Joest (D) - Audi R15 TDI plus
Allan McNish (GB) / Tom Kristensen (DK) / Rinaldo Capello (I)
Audi returns with a heavily modified version of the car that lost to Peugeot last year. This lineup is Audi's strongest with multiple victories and lots of experience between it. 10/10
8. Audi Sport Team Joest (D) - Audi R15 TDI plus
Marcel Fassler (CH) / Andre Lotterer (D) / Benoit Treluyer (F)
All three drivers in this lineup are new to the factory Audi team, although all have their own experience. Trying to make it through the 24 hours will be the challenge for this car, and is unlikely to challenge for the win. 8/10
9. Audi Sport Team North America (D) - Audi R15 TDI plus
Romain Dumas (F) / Timo Bernhard (D) / Mike Rockenfeller (D)
It remains to be seen how competitive this car will be. All three drivers have experience of Audi at Le Mans, so should be in the mix. Despite entry name, car is run by same German Joest operation. 9/10
11. Drayson Racing (GB) - Lola B09/60-Judd
Emanuele Pirro (I) / Jonny Cocker (GB) / Paul Drayson (GB)
Team moves into LMP1 after GT2 Aston attempt last year. Car showed good speed at Sebring in the hands of Pirro, but expect the car to be behind the leading petrol efforts. 5/10
12. Rebellion Racing (CH) - Lola B10/60-Rebellion
Neel Jani (CH) / Nicolas Prost (F) / Marco Andretti (USA)
Car has a fast lineup of single-seater starts, though they may lack experience, particularly Andretti. Along with sister car, will be the greatest threat to the Aston Martins for the petrol crown. 6/10
13. Rebellion Racing (CH) - Lola B10/60-Rebellion
Jean-Christophe Boullion (F) / Andrea Belicchi (I) / Guy Smith (GB)
This lineup has the Le Mans experience that the sister car lacks, and thus should be a greater threat over the 24 hours. 6/10
14. Kolles (D) - Audi R10 TDI
Scott Tucker (USA) / Manuel Rodrigues (F) / Christophe Bouchut (F)
A bizzare mish-mash of drivers in the first of Colin Kolles' cars. Kolles has been busy with the HRT F1 Team, who will be racing in Montreal during the Le Mans weekend. 5/10
15. Kolles (D) - Audi R10 TDI
Oliver Jarvis (GB) / Christian Bakkerud (DK) / Christijan Albers (NL)
A considerably stronger line up in the second Kolles Audi, which could mix it with the best of the petrol cars in LMP1. 6/10
19. Michael Lewis/Autocon (USA) - Lola B06/10-AER
Michael Lewis (USA) / Tony Burgess (CDN) / Bryan Willman (USA)
ALMS regulars return with ex-Chamberlain-Synergy car, with Hugh Chamberlain helping out the team during the weekend. Will struggle to stay with the rest of the LMP1 field. 2/10
007. Aston Martin Racing (GB) - Lola-Aston Martin B09/60
Harold Primat (CH) / Adrian Fernandez (MEX) / Stefan Mucke (D)
AMR maintains a presence at the 24 Hours ahead of developing its own car next year. The 007 appears to be the strongest non-diesel package and will be favourite for that unofficial 'title'. 7/10
008. Signature-Plus (F) - Lola-Aston Martin B09/60
Pierre Ragues (F) / Franck Mailleux (F) / Vanina Ickx (B)
Established F3 team race a Lola-Aston Martin for their second attempt at the 24 hours. Lacks car knowledge or driver lineup to challenge for petrol honours on speed alone. 5/10
009. Aston Martin Racing (GB) - Lola-Aston Martin B09/60
Darren Turner (GB) / Sam Hancock (GB) / Juan Barazi (DK)
AMR regular Turner will be hampered by the quality of his teammates, clearly funding their entry. Hancock's Jota operation has completed a deal to be an AMR customer, expect Barazi-Epsilon to follow suite. 6/10
24. OAK Racing (F) - Pescarolo 01-Judd
Richard Hein (MC) / Jacques Nicolet (F) / Jean-Francois Yvon (F)
Team owner Nicolet gathers together some fellow ageing historic racers to race the first of his Pescarolos. Getting to the end will be the priority here. 5/10
25. RML (GB) - Lola B08/80-HPD
Mike Newton (GB) / Tommy Erdos (BR) / Andy Wallace (GB)
Newton and Erdos race RML prototype for 7th consecutive year. Sportscar veteran Wallace joins duo for the fourth time. Will be aiming to repeat LMP2 wins of 2005/06 having switched to HPD power. 9/10
26. Highcroft Racing (USA) - HPD ARX-01C
David Brabham (AUS) / Marino Franchitti (GBR) / Marco Werner (D)
Last year's ALMS LMP1 champion comes to Le Mans for the first time, with an all-pro lineup in amateur-heavy LMP2 class. Brabham and Werner are previous overall winners of the race. 10/10
28. Race Performance (CH) - Radical SR9-Judd
Pierre Bruneau (F) / Marc Rostan (F) / Ralph Meichtry (CH)
LMP2 regulars Bruneau and Rostan race the Radical they drove for former 'factory' squad Bruichladdich last year. Team was a late entrant following addition of 56th car. 3/10
29. Racing Box (I) - Lola B09/80-Judd
Luca Pirri (I) / Marco Cioci (I) / Piergiuseppe Perazzini (I)
A good team running the car, but trio of Italian gentleman drivers hampers their chances of success. 4/10
35. OAK Racing (F) - Pescarolo 01-Judd
Guillaume Moreau (F) / Jan Charouz (CZ) / Matthieu Lahaye (F)
Having Moreau and Charouz in its lineup will give the second OAK car a good chance of a podium. 7/10
37. Gerard Welter (F) - WR LMP2008-Zytek
Philippe Salini (F) / Stephane Salini (F) / Tristan Gommendy (F)
Regular Le Mans entrant Welter returns, with members of Salini family which funds the team, and Gommendy, who should be fast. Reliability could be an issue. 2/10
38. Pegasus Racing (F) - Norma M200-Judd
Julien Schell (F) / Frederic da Rocha (F) / David Zollinger (F)
Team makes Le Mans debut with new car from Norma. Car is unraced before the 24 hours, making a finish an ambitious target. 2/10
39. KSM (D) - Lola B08/40-Judd
Hideki Noda (J) / Jean de Portales (F) / Jonathan Kennard (GB)
A regular at the 24 hours in recent years, KSM gained a late entry from the reserve list. Kennard gets his first crack at the race. 4/10
40. Quifel ASM Racing (P) - Ginetta-Zytek GZ09SB/2
Olivier Pla (F) / Miguel Amaral (P) / Warren Hughes (GB)
LMS and Le Mans LMP2 regular. Pla has shown himself to be a competent prototype driver, while Hughes brings experience. A podium would be a reasonable target. 8/10
41. Team Bruichladdich (GB) - Ginetta-Zytek GZ09SB/2
Karim Ojjeh (SA) / Tim Greaves (GB) / Gary Chalandon (F)
Was previously the factory Radical team, now running Ojjeh's Zytek. Does not have the driver lineup to challenge for a podium. 5/10
42. Strakka Racing (GB) - HPD ARX-01C
Nick Leventis (GB) / Danny Watts (GB) / Jonny Kane (GB)
All British lineup may have the same car as Highcroft, but has a weak link in the driver trio in former skier and team founder Leventis. 9/10
50. Labre Competition (F) - Saleen S7-R
Roland Berville (F) / Julian Canal (F) / Gabriele Gardel (CH)
Regular Larbre runs the tried and tested Saleen, to the new GT1 regs. Driver lineup will prevent a challenge for victory. 6/10
52. Young Driver AMR (D) - Aston Martin DBR9
Tomas Enge (CZ) / Peter Kox (NL) / Christoffer Nygaard (DK)
FIA GT1 squad run by Fischer Racing races at Le Mans for the first time, using previous class winner DBR9. In Enge and Kox it has 2 Le Mans and Aston Martin regulars. 9/10
60. Matech Competition (CH) - Ford GT1
Thomas Mutsch (D) / Jonathan Hirschi (CH) / Romain Grosjean (CH)
Matech-Mutsch-Grosjean partnership has already yielded two victories in FIA GT1 with its own Ford GT, which relives former Le Mans glory of GT40. 8/10
61. Matech Competition (CH) - Ford GT1
Cyndie Alleman (CH) / Rahel Frey (CH) / Natacha Gachnang (CH)
Second Matech Ford has an all-Swiss, all-Female trio of drivers, who were all in single-seaters last year. Gachnang will want to put leg-breaking crash in her first drive of the car in Abu Dhabi behind her. 6/10
69. JLOC (J) - Lamborghini Murcielago R-SV
Atsushi Yogo (J) / Yutaka Yamagishi (J) / Hiroyuki Iiri (J)
Japanese Lamborghini Owners' Club has had some disastrous showings in recent years, but has upgraded to a brand new GT1 Murcielago from Reiter. 2/10
70. Marc VDS Racing Team (B) - Ford GT1
Bas Leinders (B) / Markus Palttala (FIN) / Eric de Doncker (B)
Belgian squad brings another Ford GT to the 24 hours. The team won the GT1 class at Spa recently and has been running well in FIA GT1. 7/10
72. Luc Alphand Aventures (F) - Corvette C6.R
Stephane Gregoire (F) / David Hart (NL) / Jerome Policand (F)
Alphand brings two Corvettes again, without the usual competition from the factory squad. 7/10
73. Luc Alphand Aventures (F) - Corvette C6.R
Julian Jousse (F) / Patrice Gouselard (F) / Xavier Maassen (NL)
The second Alphand car has the stronger lineup, with Maassen having shown good speed in a Corvette in recent years. 9/10
63. Corvette Racing (USA) - Corvette C6.R
Jan Magnussen (DK) / Johnny O'Connell (USA) / Antonio Garcia (ESP)
Pratt & Miller-run team steps down to the already competitive GT2 field having been a dominant force in GT1 at Le Mans during the last decade. 9/10
64. Corvette Racing (USA) - Corvette C6.R
Oliver Gavin (GB) / Olivier Beretta (MC) / Emmanuel Collard (F)
As usual, there is not much to choose between Corvette lineups, though the two Ollies have generally had the upper-hand. Collard joins the team for the first time at Le Mans. 9/10
75. Prospeed Competition (B) - Porsche 997 GT3-RSR
Paul Van Splunteren (NL) / Niek Hommerson (NL) / Louis Machiels (B)
Prospeed were last year's FIA GT2 champions, but have unfortunately decided to sell the rides in their Porsche to paying drivers, ruling them out of contention. 3/10
76. IMSA Performance Matmut (F) - Porsche 997 GT3-RSR
Patrick Pilet (F) / Patrick Long (USA) / Raymond Narac (F)
Team will be looking to repeat its 2007 class win. Pilet and Long are both strong Porsche drivers, while team boss Narac is not too slow either. 7/10
77. Team Felbermayr-Proton (D) - Porsche 997 GT3-RSR
Marc Lieb (D) / Richard Lietz (A) / Wolf Henzler (D)
This car should lead the Porsche attack with its trio of factory drivers, with all having plenty of Le Mans experience. 9/10
78. BMW Motorsport (D) - BMW M3 GT2
Jorg Muller (D) / Augusto Farfus (BR) / Uwe Alzen (D)
BMW returns to Le Mans after an 11 year absense. Both cars have strong driver lineups, but it may be too much for the car to win here at the first attempt. 8/10
79. BMW Motorsport (D) - BMW M3 GT2
Dirk Muller (D) / Andy Priaulx (GB) / Dirk Werner (D)
Second M3 runs in a striking livery that revives the BMW Art Car concept. This lineup may be the slightly stronger of the two, Dirk Muller having driven the car since its debut in the US last year. 8/10
80. Flying Lizard Motorsports (USA) - Porsche 997 GT3-RSR
Jorg Bergmeister (D) / Darren Law (USA) / Seth Neiman (USA)
Multi-ALMS title winning Porsche squad returns for another crack at Le Mans. Bergmeister is possibly the strongest Porsche driver around, but team is hampered by team owner Neiman's ability. 7/10
81. Jaguar RSR (USA) - Jaguar XKRS
Paul Gentilozzi (USA) / Ryan Dalziel (GB) / Marc Goosens (B)
The Jaguar name returns to Le Mans. This operation has grown out of Gentilozzi's Rocketsports team, which has developed the car, which will stuggle in its 24 hour debut. 3/10
82. Risi Competitzione (USA) - Ferrari F430 GT2
Gianmaria Bruni (I) / Jaime Melo (BR) / Pierre Kaffer (D)
Risi is aiming for a third consecutive GT2 victory at Le Mans. Bruni and Melo have been team regulars in recent years, while Kaffer has shown well in an F430 in the GT Open. 9/10
83. Risi Competitzione (USA) - Ferrari F430 GT2
Tracy Krohn (USA) / Nic Jonsson (S) / Eric van de Poele (B)
As has become the norm in recent years, Risi runs its second car in the colours of Krohn Racing. All three drivers are capable of a good run. 6/10
85. Spyker Squadron(NL) - Spyker C8 Laviolette GT2-R
Tom Coronel (NL) / Peter Dumbreck (GB) / Jeroen Bleekemolen (NL)
The Dutch manufacturer has become a regular fixture in GT2 at Le Mans. The car may not have the raw speed to match Porsche, Ferrari etc., but has a trio of drivers capable of getting a good result. 5/10
88. Team Felbermayr-Proton (D) - Porsche 997 GT3-RSR
Horst Felbermayr Sr (A) / Horst Felbermayr Jr (A) / Miro Konopka (SK)
Second Felbermayr car, featuring Horst Sr and Jr, is unlikely to challenge the GT2 class leaders. 4/10
89. Hankook Team Farnbacher (D) - Ferrari F430 GT2
Dominik Farnbacher (D) / Allan Simonsen (DK) / Leh Keen (USA)
German-run Ferrari races on tyres from South Korea's Hankook, which are becoming more competitive. Keen was last year's Grand-Am GT champ. 6/10
92. JMW Motorsport (GB) - Aston Martin Vantage GT2
Rob Bell (GB) / Tim Sugden (GB) / Bryce Miller (USA)
JMW was an LMS race winner with Ferrari, but has switched to being Aston Martin's GT2 squad. Bell and Sugden are known names to Le Mans fans, Miller is another Grand-Am GT driver. 5/10
95. AF Corse (I) - Ferrari F430 GT2
Giancarlo Fisichella (I) / Jean Alesi (F) / Toni Vilander (FIN)
Fisichella makes his Le Mans debut, and has two equally fast drivers in Alesi and Vilander. Should be up there with the class leaders. 8/10
96. AF Corse (I) - Ferrari F430 GT2
Mika Salo (FIN) / Mattias Russo (ARG) / Luis Perez Companc (ARG)
Despite the inclusion of Ferrari regular Salo, this 'Argentinian' car is unlikely to lead the way in GT2. 5/10 (Car has been withdrawn following qualifying crash)
97. BMS Scuderia Italia (I) - Porsche 997 GT3-RSR
Timo Scheider (D) / Marco Holzer (D) / Richard Westbrook (GB)
BMS returns to running a Porsche rather than Ferrari. It may be an impressive driver lineup, but all three are Le Mans rookies. 7/10
Mark Webber will start from pole position for the third consecutive race in the Turkish Grand Prix tomorrow. Here are the main stories from the qualifying session.
Senna outqualifies Di Grassi on raw pace
Up until now, the HRT cars of Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok have qualified at the back of the grid, except when others have suffered problems. However, Senna qualified 22nd today, one place ahead of Virgin's Lucas di Grassi. HRT announced this week they were splitting from chassis builder Dallara, who had not supplied any aerodynamic updates since the beginning of the season. The fact that they have managed to close the gap to Virgin, who have been developing their cars, shows the work that Colin Kolles, Geoff Willis and the drivers have put into keeping the team competitive. Furthermore, the team looks stronger behind the scenes following the announcement of new board members joining owner Jose Ramon Carabante.
Liuzzi exits in Q1 again
Force India chose not to run reserve Paul di Resta in Turkey to allow their race drivers to develop new parts on the car. However, another poor performance by Liuzzi today puts futher pressure on the Italian. Matching teammate Adrian Sutil's pace at the end of last season was unlikely due to the testing restrictions, but that should have been the target for this season. However, it looks as though he is struggling and the door could open for di Resta before the season is out.
Williams look to be losing the development race once again
It seems that in every one of the last few seasons, Williams' season has begun in promising fashion, but then slipped behind as their rivals develop their cars. In 2010, this appears to have happened again. The team had already lost ground to Renault and Force India since the season began, but at Istanbul the team looks to be behind Toro Rosso and Sauber.
Alonso and Ferrari struggle for pace
Following Fernando Alonso's win on his Ferrari debut in Bahrain, it looked as though his rivals may struggle to keep up with him this season. However, following his practice accident in Monaco, Alonso messed up his qualifying effort today, going out in Q2 and will start tomorrow 12th. Furthermore, teammate Felipe Massa will only start 8th, on a circuit that he has won on three times in a row. All this on Ferrari's 800th GP. Once again, questions will be asked of the team by Luca di Montezemolo.
McLaren find qualifying pace
Since the start of the current McLaren era in 2007, the team has often struggled for pace in qualifying compared to their strong race speeds. Again, it looked as though this would be a problem in 2010, having not yet started on the front row. However, today Lewis Hamilton separated the two Red Bulls in second place, while Jenson Button was not too far off in fourth place. If the team can keep this up, they can challenge Red Bull for the titles.
A good track, but where are the fans?
Istanbul Park is regarded by the drivers as one of the best tracks on the calendar, and certainly the best of the Hermann Tilke-designed modern circuits. Turn 8 appears to be gaining a reputation as one of the best corners in F1. The race's contract is up after this weekend, and on the back of that praise, you'd expect it to get renewed easily. However, take a look at the grandstands in tomorrow's race and you will understand the problem - the fans, or the lack of them. This is something that must be solved if the race is to continue.
BMW confirmed this week that they are planning to enter the German DTM series in 2012. The manufacturer has yet to announce its future in the World Touring Car Championship. If BMW were to withdraw as a factory team, it could pose a threat to the series. I feel though that the WTCC could have a future away from full-manufacturer teams. It could take a leaf from the new FIA GT1 series, which has a format of 6 manufacturers and 12 privateer teams with two cars each.
This is how I reckon the WTCC grid could look if it adopted GT1's team format:
Sunred SEAT / Zengo Dension SEAT
Sunred would take keep regular Tom Coronel alongside champion Gabriele Tarquini. Jordi Gene would be the SEAT factory-supported driver alongside Hungarian youngster Norbert Michelisz at Zengo.
BMW Team RBM / BMW Team Proteam
RBM would keep its BMW-supported lineup of Andy Priaulx and Augusto Farfus, while Proteam would keep its double indie trophy winning lineup of Sergio Hernandez and Stefano D'Aste. RBM would probably go across to the DTM with BMW in 2012, so Engstler Motorsport would step into fill the gap.
RML Chevrolet / Bamboo Chevrolet
Chevrolet would be represented by its two current full-time teams. Car builders RML would keep Yvan Muller and Rob Huff, while Chevrolet would support Alain Menu in a move across to partner Harry Vaulkhard at Bamboo, making up for the loss of any backing from current driver Darryl O'Young.
Hartmann Honda / JAS Motorsport Honda
Hartmann would step up after success with Accord in Denmark and ETC, with regular Tomas Engstrom joined by Dane Michel Nykjaer. JAS have built and run the Accord since 2004, and possible drivers include former JAS-men Roberto Colciago and Alessandro Balzan.
Russian Bears Lada Sport / Colak Lada Sport
The Russian Bears return to the WTCC as a private team with Jaap van Lagen and Kirill Ladygin, while Colak become a two-car team with Marin Colak joined by Timur Sardredinov.
Volvo Polestar Racing / Volvo Dealer Team UK Cleland
The Polestar team will bring Tommy Rustad and Robert Dahlgren across from Sweden where the team has been highly successful. Volvo Dealer John Cleland has long been linked with running a Volvo racing team, and would sign fellow ex-BTCC champs Rickard Rydell and James Thompson.
All of this is a product of my imagination and I have not heard of any such plans for the future of the World Touring Car Championship.