Open-Wheeled On Memorial Day

On the track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

For years, when the second weekend of May would roll around, I would go with my dad to Indianapolis for the first day of qualifying for the Indy 500. In those days, there were four days of qualifying over two weekends. The cars would go out one at a time and do four laps, and whoever had the fastest time on the first day would have the pole position, or the inside position on the front row. When 33 cars had qualified, they started “bumping”—the slowest car would be knocked out of the field if someone else came in and did a faster four laps.

For me, in my first exposure to live auto racing, it was very cool. Two aspects of it boggled my mind. First was the …Keep reading

Driving A Formula 1 Car

Since May 1970, when my dad took me to the first day of Time Trials for that year’s Indianapolis 500, I’ve been a fan of automobile racing. Back then it was all the American varieties, of course—USAC, NHRA, even NASCAR. I even rooted for Lloyd Ruby at Indy in the 70s, because I was impressed, that first weekend, by the stars-and-stripes paint job on his car.

At some point, though, my allegiance shifted to Formula 1 racing. Perhaps it was seeing the movie Grand Prix, or maybe it was getting access to broadcasts of the races on some new cable television package. Whatever, I know I was an F1 fan by the mid-90s; I still remember exactly where I was when I heard that Ayrton Senna had been killed in an accident.

Nowadays, I soak up all the F1 I can. The Speed TV network does a great job of covering the sport (although they could prioritize it a little more, in my opinion), and my DVR contains all of the F1 races from this season if I ever need a fix.

There’s a lot to like about F1: the exotic locations, the wide variety of tracks around the world, the wildly international roster of drivers, the precision of every aspect of the racing teams’ work on race weekend, etc. But I think the best might be the cars themselves. They are probably the most highly engineered cars in the world, and the teams spend the entire season trying to tweak them to shave thousandths of a second off their lap times. With each new race, some team or another debuts a new wing shape or some other kind of device, and then the other teams evaluate the change and, if it seems to work, try to imitate it in time for the next race.

The acceleration, braking and cornering abilities of the cars are absolutely breathtaking, and the engines operate at up to 18,000 rpm. — that’s the limit under the regulations; the teams would undoubtedly try to go higher if they could.

There’s a great pair of F1 car facts that I love:

1) A Formula 1 car can accelerate from a standing start to 100 mph. AND brake back to zero in a total of less than five seconds.

2) The downforce generated by the aerodynamic features of the F1 car is so great that the car could theoretically drive upside down. (Believe me, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to visualize how that one might be tested/demonstrated, but I know it’ll never be done.)

So anyway, I was intrigued when I saw this video yesterday. Every F1 fan would love the opportunity to drive one of the cars, for just a little while. The editor of got the chance, and treats the opportunity with all of the reverence it deserves.

Note: the video linked on this page is more than 10 minutes long. They start him out in some lesser cars — Formula 2 or Formula 3, I think — and work their way up to the F1 car.


Australian GP

Formula 1 racing may be the best show in motorsports that nobody knows about. It seems that way in the U.S., anyway, where the media coverage is NASCAR NASCAR NASCAR IndyCar NASCAR NASCAR. But give me a choice between oval racing and road racing, and I’ll take the twists and turns of a road course any day.

Today’s race was the Australian Grand Prix. That race always seems …Keep reading