Monday, 19 November 2018

Bring Back the Biff - Is Verstappen the new Kyle Busch?

It may seem like a ridiculous question but is Formula 1 ready for NASCAR's Kyle Busch?  Can the North Americans bring WWE to the gentleman's world of F1?
Probably not......not yet, but the tensions from Sundays race in Sao Paulo makes for some great conversation and no doubt a ratings hit for the up and coming Grand Finale in Abu Dhabi.

This blog certainly does not condone violence of any sort - no way, but the spill over at the drivers weigh in after the Race has made for some great TV, dialogue and blogging!!!
The reality is that the incident on track was completely avoidable - one would question why had Estoban put himself in a position racing to unlap himself when no doubt even if he made the move on Verstappen stick he would have been swallowed up by the Red Bull Renault only a few laps later once the tyres on the Force India lost it's fresh rubber appeal.
That said he has every right to unlap himself and the young Dutchman should have just let him go and not get caught up in back-marker games. The incident had most mainstream media talking on the Monday and even made the seasoned AFL punters suddenly become experts in back-marker etiquette.

There is no doubt that hard core passion and rivalry with emotions over flowing  has been missing from F1 for sometime. Max has a serious amount of talent and while the greater media is demanding him to curb his emotion, I am sure the fans can't wait to see him in the lead RBH next year.

On a completely unrelated story, last week Formula E made a huge announcement that they will be live streaming in the UK via various BBC platforms including OTT and "TV Red Button" platform. This is great news for UK residents and no doubt we will see further advances from Formula E team in the coming years with expansion across the planet.

It brings me to my first Blog and my thoughts regarding F1 TV rights. Liberty media needs to move fast in some locations around the world. There is an ever increasing growing demographic which is disconnected from Formula 1. Mark Webber and Daniel Ricciardo has kept some engagement flourishing with the younger generation in Australia and I am sure Brendon Hartley is doing the same in New Zealand, but on a whole the disconnect when Formula 1 went behind the pay wall is growing.

While the Formula E series and premise is not everyone's cup of tea, if you are 13 years of age and it is your only form of accessible/consumable motorsport it is not hard to see Formula 1 will be soon on the decline should they not rethink their telecast platforms.


Nick Dicembre

Thursday, 11 October 2018

2018 Bathurst 1000 - The Craig Lowndes fairy tale sinks Falcons last hurrah

The 2018 running of the Bathurst 1000 was probably not the closest or tightest contest we have seen at the Mountain over the years. Yet it will probably go down as one of the most memorable for a long time to come.

For the outgoing full time racer Craig Lowndes there was only marginal consideration given to him finishing on the Podium. Over the past few years, even with the might of 888 engineering, his third car was not a real player in the Top 10 shootout and from the outside it appeared as though the younger Shane van Gisbergen and Jamie Whincup got what was perceived as the "good parts". That said this year he would qualify the car well, finish in the Top 10 on Friday and finish 9th for the Top 10 shootout.

Those that win Bathurst always preach the "to finish first, you must first finish" and when you look at previous winners of the Great Race their cars, for the main, represent the straightest and most undamaged cars left in the field. The 888 Commodore of Craig Lowndes and Steven Richards definitely reflected this and even though they were lucky to catch the ailing David Reynolds their march to the lead was bourne from clean driving and consistent pace.

My favourite scenes from the race were not shots from over the Mountain, not the helicopter shots into the Chase, but the in-car camera of the 888 Commodore. The closing stint with Lowndes at the wheel was very Peter Brock-esque. Craig had one hand on the wheel, the other plucking the gears and resting it on his lap and soaking up the closing laps atmosphere. If the modern day Supercar did not have the mandate on re-positioning driver closer to the centre of the car (and window net) he could have rested his right arm on the door and given the crowd a wave. It was classic Craig Lowndes, mentored by the greatest Touring Car driver of all time.

Speaking of "all time" the 2018 race would be the last time we would see a Falcon at the Mountain. While the road going version of the FG-X ceased production in October of 2016 the PRA and DJRPenkse Teams would keep the Falcon dream alive for another 2 years....sadly they were not able to bring home the Peter Brock Trophy.

It brings me to my last point. With the absence of the Falcon in 2019 (to be replaced with the Mustang), are we trending towards a new breed of racing rivalries? The ZB Commodore sales are falling well below Holdens expectations and it is safe to say even true Holden fans did not take much solace from the ZB win. Given it is not available in our favourite combination (rear wheel drive with a 6.2Lt V8 up front) there isn't a cult following to be had. Some of the Holden teams are looking into the homologation of the Camaro, but the costing so soon after the ZB is problematic.

For years we followed the manufacturer or race team, but Craig Lowndes broke new ground in 2001 and bought a whole lot of GM fans over to the Blue Oval. That said he no doubt bought Ford fans over to Holden many years later when 888 changed marques. While Craig Lowndes maybe winding down his career his legacy opens the door for a new culture of fans in the Supercars series.

Nick Dicembre

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Nicks 2019 F1 Driver Predictor

It's mid August of 2018 and the driver Merry Go Round has already started. Here are some of my predictions for the remaining unannounced driver/team combinations for 2019.

Scuderia Ferrari
Sebastian Vettel - Confirmed for 2019
Kimi Räikkönen - Nicks Predicts a move to Sauber replacing Charles Leclerc

Force India-Mercedes
Sergio Pérez  Nicks Predicts he will stay
Esteban Ocon Nick predicts to be replaced by Lance Stroll

Romain Grosjean Nicks Predicts he will stay
Kevin Magnussen Nicks Predicts he will stay

Stoffel Vandoorne - Nicks Predicts he will stay
Fernando Alonso - Confirmed leaving in 2019. Replaced by Carlos Sainz Jr.

Mercedes AMG 
Lewis Hamilton - Confirmed for 2019
Valtteri Bottas - Confirmed for 2019

Red Bull Racing 
Daniel Ricciardo - Confirmed leaving in 2019 to replace Carlos Sainz Jr at Renault
Max Verstappen - Confirmed for 2019

Nico Hülkenberg - Confirmed for 2019
Carlos Sainz Jr. - Confirmed leaving in 2019 to replace Fernando Alonso at McLaren

Marcus Ericsson Nicks Predicts he will stay
Charles Leclerc - Nicks Predicts a move to Ferrari replacing Kimi Raikkonen

Toro Rosso 
Pierre Gasly - Nicks Predicts a move to Red Bull replacing Daniel Ricciardo
Brendon Hartley  Nicks Predicts he will stay

Williams Martini Racing 
Lance Stroll  - Nicks Predicts a move to Force India replacing Esteban Ocon
Sergey Sirotkin - Nicks Predicts he will stay

Nick also Predicts In coming
Williams - Robert Kubica to replace Lance Stroll
Toro Rosso - Lando Norris to replace Pierre Gasley

Nick also Predicts Out Going
Force India-Mercedes - Esteban Ocon replaced by Lance Stroll

Nick Dicembre

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Is the World ready for EV Racing?

Courtesy of VW - photoshopped by Torque n Power Media

For the uninitiated of the blog the acronym EV stands for Electric Vehicle. EV's have been around for sometime and when I say sometime I really mean it. There is evidence of Electric Vehicles that date back to early 1800's. By the early 1900's some found their way to the production line including Studebaker. The ability to mass produce petrol engines coupled with the poor technology advances in battery technology eventually saw the end of electric vehicles in the early 1900's.

Even though EV's have made a come back via a number of manufacturers in the mid 90's it took sometime for them to make their way into a form of a sanctioned Motorsport. A Motorsport series showcasing an EV has come to the fore with the advent of Formula E in 2014. The series has served well as a category for those unable to sustain the funding required to maintain a drive in Formula 1. So the drivers are of very good stock and have talent on par with those over at F1.

The success of Formula E captured the imagination of a number of manufacturers. Outside of Formula E, Volkswagen saw fit to develop a racing prototype to take on a number of events. Pikes Peak was in the scope so they set out and built something that was truely amazing. In 2018 VW released the I.D. R which features two electric engines, which generate a system performance of 500 kW 649 Nm of torque, weighing in at under 2,500 lb (1,100 kg).

By June of 2018 they set of for Pikes Peak in California and smashed the record by 16 seconds. The I.D. R steered by Romain Dumas set a time of 7:57.148. The stats would indicate that this is not the biggest HP car to take on the mountain however it's electric drive torque delivery coupled with the fact it does not rely on Oxygen to makes its power would mean it had the odds stacked in its favour. The I.D. R sounded like Ecto-1 from Ghostbusters as it made it way up the Mountain and as history would have it they smashed the record. If you haven't seen the run check it out here.

Not to be out done the guys from VW would then take the car over to the UK and take on the Goodwood Festival of Speed Hill climb. Here Romain Dumas would set a sizzling time of 43.05s up the 1.8km Hill climb in qualifying. This would end up being a record for the fastest EV car at Goodwood and to quantify that, the all time record is held by Nick Heidfeld with a 41.60s set in his McLaren-Mercedes MP4/13 Formula 1 car from 1999.

As it turned out Romain Dumas would come away from Goodwood winning the Final, with a 43.86s which topped the leaderboards. Once again if you haven't seen the Goodwood run check it out here.

Clearly the team at VW are using their non-conventional race car to aggressively target the non-mainstream Motorsport events. Arguably their profile in the mainstream disciplines is non-existent but they have achieved far better results in terms of media coverage from these two events in a car that is going to set the world on fire. 

Lets hope we can see this ride take on the Nurburgring in Germany and some of the other great tracks of the world.


Nick Dicembre

Monday, 9 July 2018

This is either deliberate or incompetence

......"This is either deliberate or incompetence".........Toto Wolff 8/7/2018.

The mere fact I have to write this article is an indictment on some of the key stake holders in F1. If you are unaware of what I am referring to then I take you back 24 hours to the British GP of 2018. On the opening lap contact was made between Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari and Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes. The contact saw Lewis spin out and resume in last spot. The Stewards saw fit for Raikkonen to be given a 10 second penalty at his next pit stop. After video footage was reviewed it was clear Raikkonen locked the inside front right wheel making him run wide and contact the right side of Hamilton's car. The incident saw no damage to either cars and both continued to the end of the race.

No doubt the incident was worthy of a 10 second penalty given Raikkonen continued on unimpeded unlike Lewis having to continue from the rear of the grid. As the race unfolded Sabastian Vettel forged ahead and won the race from Hamilton who came from last into second and Raikkonen finished third after his 10 second penalty was served on his pit stop. 

The post race interviews from parc ferme was really our first glimpse of Lewis's disdain on the whole situation. He completely ignored fellow Brit - Martin Brundle conducting post race interviews as top three drivers exit their vehicles. Lewis saw fit to exit parc ferme and walked directly to cool down room before appearing on the podium. At the podium he would go on to say - "Interesting tactics, I would say, from their side but we will do what we can to fight them and improve in the next races". This left us all assuming that his inference suggested the Ferrari intentionally made contact with him. 

Being good at their craft, Phil Duncan from the Press Association went down this line and asked Lewis to clarify those comments at the post race press conference. This time he left no question about what he was trying to say - "All I’d say is that it’s now two races that the Ferraris' have taken out one of the Mercedes, and a five-second penalty and a ten-second penalty doesn’t appear to feel… ultimately it spoils the race. It’s a lot of points that ultimately Valtteri and I have lost in those two scenarios."

Lewis over the years has had a history of not being completely mature and diplomatic when the cards don't fall his way. Mercedes Team Principle Toto Wolff represents the Mercedes brand in the professional manner it deserves. At this point he either throws his driver under the Mercedes bus or he sides with his perceived conspiracy theory. Toto clearly saw fit to side with his driver....and some......"To put it in James Allison’s words: This is either deliberate or incompetence. It leaves us with a judgement. I am not happy. We had a difficult weekend, qualifying on pole and then getting take out on lap one, it puts you on the back foot.” I would suggest the Toto had a serious re-think of those words and later added on the F1 Twitter show  - "None of these things are done deliberately but it is just tiresome."

I have been following this sport since the early 80's, I have also been following NASCAR from about the same period. Here is a news flash, in NASCAR you can deliberately take out your competitor and continue on can also achieve the same result in an F1 car, but the skill level required in an F1 car is almost unprecedented. In fact I would suggest that there isn't a single driver on the planet that could exact such a move with repeated unimpeded success. Now if Nick Dicembre from the hoon capital of the world knows this I am sure Lewis and Toto do as well. 

It's a natural reaction in adverse situations like the incident in the opening lap of the British GP that your Championship Driver / Championship Car is a moving target, it's how you handle it afterwards that counts.


Nick Dicembre

Monday, 11 June 2018

Trailblazing a new era of Champions in Drag Racing

The Winternationals in Queensland this year (2018) marked the end of a long and tough season in the Australian Drag Racing landscape. This year we saw a new era of Champions, two of them in their first season.

Kelly Bettes comes from a Motorsport background that said she still had to work hard, not only get a Top Fuel drive, but to win a Championship in your first season defies belief. She started out in a Junior Dragster and stepped up to run in Modified, however the step into a Top Fueller is a massive leap, not only in skill but in faith, faith shown from the Lamattina Family giving her the drive in their Nitro Top Fuel Dragster.

As the Championship unfolded it was evident Kelly was up against probably one of the most formidable opponents in the Top Fuel landscape in Rapisarda Autosport International's Damien Harris along with Wayne Newby and not to mention "Privateer" Peter Xiberras.

That said Kelly would win the Championship by a mere 2 points but she needed to go deep into eliminations. While she lost the final she had done enough by virtue of winning the Semi Final to secure her place in history. It truly is a magnificent achievement and one I hope she can repeat again.

The greater Australian Motorsport community should really embrace this moment. Female participation in Drag Racing is something we often talk about on the Podcast but the results of the weekend speak volumes about what we have always been saying. Motorsport, in particular Drag Racing, offers that greatest level of equalisation across both genders. Female Drag Racers across the planet have been on level pegging since the days of Shirley Muldowney so much so she is often referred to as the First Lady of Drag Racing.

The recent success in 2014 & 15 of Erica Enders-Stevens winning two Pro Stock Championships in the NHRA and Britany Force's Top Fuel Championship last year have really turned the spot light on females dominance in Drag Racing worldwide. With that in mind I was somewhat disappointed that the greater mainstream media in Australia have not run with Kelly's achievements. This is something that the 400 Thunder, IHRA and Willowbank Raceway should have reached out to their respective mainstream media contacts and promoted this fantastic achievement.

Over in ProSlammer we had the debut of Paul Mouhayet in the 2017/18 Championship. In his own words he was outcast in the Doorslammer/ProSlammer scene given his Turbo orientation - "turbo cars have always been our passion BUT we were rejected". With that in mind they went out and put together a Blown combination and in one season has won the ProSlammer Championship. The Moits Team went out and put the whole shooting match together and left absolutely no stone unturned. The legendary Billy Stocklin was hired to tune the car and the rest is history.

No doubt competing in the entire 8 round series across Australia is a massive financial commitment. Flying crew in from the US 8 times a year is an added commitment the Moits Team clearly knew they had to commit to in order to take on the long standing Australian Royalty of Doorslammer Racing.

I saw their car in March at the Motorplex and it was blistering fast. That evening it set a new MPH record of 260MPH and was running 60's of the bat like Josh Kennedy kicking through the big sticks from the goal square. To be honest it was so fast it looked like it was running on rails. We have grown so use to John Zappia driving the absolute wheels off the Monaro as he ducks and weaves down the track, that when we see cars like Paul's they almost seem unnatural. I am personally looking forward to Paul and his team stepping up next year and the realm of 40's is looking highly likely.

As the 2017/18 season closes it leaves us looking forward to the next season. What new milestones will be broken, will another new comer take out a Championship in their debut and can we get greater Australia to embrace the new era of Drag Racing?


Nick Dicembre

Friday, 8 June 2018

Drag Challenge - Drag Racings New Marketable Product

Picture courtesy of Justin Van Vierson

Last year Simon and myself attempted building a car with the end game of getting a birth in Street Machines Drag Challenge. What is Drag Challenge? A 5 day tour of 4 different drag strips covering around 1500kms in between.

In 2018 Street Machines Drag Challenge will be starting from Calder Park in Melbourne before heading up to Swan Hill Dragway, followed by Mildura's eighth-mile Sunset Strip, then back to Swan Hill and finally Calder Park for the finish.

As it would happen we were plagued with dramas and quite frankly took the build down the wrong path and by the time we took the build back to where we wanted to be, we missed the Drag Challenge 2017 deadline.

That said we watched the action from afar as the Street Machine crew posted some great content every evening literally only hours after the racing was completed. The cars are quick with some very serious contenders sending these street driven vehicles well into the 8 second zone then driving them for over 600kms that evening to the next track.

I don't think there is any disputing that Drag Challenge is more of a participant event. Most of the people attending the event are the actual racers, crew members and other extended members of the race teams. While there are spectators that attend the event I would suggest that  their presense would not equate to a large number. However this type of event does not require the 1000's in the stands. I think this event has a much greater marketing value over the net or as the industry now calls it Over The Top (OTT).

To a certain extent Drag Challenge already does this via Street Machine site and their Youtube channel. They also release a Free DVD copy of the event in a subsequent Magazine issue months later which is an excellent production and touches on many of the racers and how they are progressing day on day.

While Drag Racing nationally is going through it own personal turmoil through the 400 Thunder and ANDRA entities, the victim of this stand off has been the marketing of the sport (plus numerous others). That said the fresh appearance of these DC racers in street driven 8 second cars is -
a) Cool
b) Appealing to the under 40 year old demographic
c) Enticing to uninitiated of drag racing

While Drag Challenge does not follow an elimination format with the loosing car exiting the competition, it's own "challenge" (pardon the pun) is continuing on to the next track and that in itself is it's attraction. Capturing that spirited competition and over coming adversity as they make their way through 1500kms of Australia's regional landscape is the essence that in my mind is very marketable.


Nick Dicembre

Friday, 25 May 2018

Supercars, have we gone full circle?

Photo Credit SS Media and Trans Am

In 2018 a number of long term decisions have been made in the Supercar scene - some from the manufacturers, some from the teams and some from the administrators of the sport itself.
It goes without saying that the Supercar landscape has changed and there is no going back to an EB Falcon or a VP Commodore.

For 2019 we will see the addition of the Mustang confirmed a few weeks ago by Prodrive Racing Australia. Given Holden's slump in Commodore sales, logic would suggest an announcement from a Holden satellite team considering a Camaro is a mere formality. Clearly the Mustang and Camaro are our future for Australia in terms of Muscle performance vehicles so having them in our top tier of Australian Motorsport is of no surprise.

The new renditions of the Mustang on the outside look very similar to what we currently see in the North American Trans-Am series in particular the TA2 cars. In fact when you look at the TA2 specs they resonate with the Supercars with only engine and transmission configuration differences. Both forms require a mandated tubular chassis "draped" with a composite replica body and in most cases supplied from a small number of vendors. TA2 engines like my self acclaimed Australian cousin require Fuel Injection and although they run more cubic inches they use restrictor plates keeping their horsepower to around 500HP. One big difference is the choice of transmissions - in Supercars they use a rear transaxle however in TA2 the use of a traditional engine mounted 4 speed transmission is mandated.

Clearly a number of Racers and Trans-Am 2 Muscle Car Racing Management have seen TA2 on it's merits and debuted an Australian Championship in 2017, aptly named the TA2 Muscle Car Racing Australia - TA2 Australia has a 6 round championship (plus one non Championship) that covers most of the East Coast of Australia. Should the Supercar administrators be looking over this Championship and mandate TA2 rules (or even TA for that matter) and consider the possibility of mandating those cars in our next generation?

That suggestion probably sounds left of field. Given the investment Supercars have made in Gen 2, I understand that dropping it 18 months into it's tenure sounds outlandish. Given we went from Car of the Future (COTF) regulations in 2013 and welcomed Volvo, Nissan and Mercedes into our sport then in the space of 5 years have the same marques depart, one would suggest that Gen 2 is not seen as an attractive proposition. From the outside TA2 appears to be appealing from a cost control point of view and the supply of vehicles, spares and accessories is not as cost prohibitive as our current Supercar inventory. It would be interesting to know what the current stake holders in the sport think of such a change?

This brings me to my next point, back in the late 60's, argueably the infancy of the Australian Touring Car Championship we had a cross pollination of classes and it was common practice to use a modified Trans-Am car of the day in the Championship (with the exception of Bathurst). So in short we had Mustangs and Camaros running around and quite frankly dominating the podiums. It would appear as though in 2019/20 we may be seeing the same - so it begs the question have we gone full circle?


Nick Dicembre

Friday, 18 May 2018

Are F1 TV Rights just wrong?

Before we get too in depth with this weeks blog I will commence with a wide and overarching statement and say I agree with Commercial TV rights for any given live sport, so I am not anti Foxtel, Optus or Telstra. 

Last week Formula 1 rolled it's new TV subscription service aptly named F1 TV. I have come to the conclusion that I should look into this service. It comes in at $99.00 per year which I thought was ok and was going to foot the bill as Channel 10 are no longer allowed or did not see the value in telecasting F1 live with the exception of Melbourne GP (all races will be summed in in a 1 hour highlights package on the following Monday at 10.30pm). However as it turns out the F1TV Live service is not available in Australia “We have commercial agreements in place that restrict broadcasting in certain territories. We will expand the availability to other countries as time goes on, however there are no guarantees that your country will be included.” 

The only service available in Australia is the F1 TV Access Subscription for $42.00 per year which gives you full race replays from the previous season - yes you read correctly the previous year. This is not even in the fine print and I have to be honest almost misleading. Below it clearly states F1 TV Access "Full replays and highlights from every F1 session" *The asterick means it is not applicable to Australia.

It actually took 4 emails to F1 TV Access to extract out of them what the $42.00 would entitle me to in Australia - "In Australia, you get access to the F1 TV archive (replays from the last season). Rights restrictions mean we can’t offer F1 TV in every country. But we’re always working hard to add more countries each season, so check the F1 TV Content Schedule for updates available at" Out of interest Botswana has the same struggle as Australia.
So in closing Foxtel is the only service where you can watch not only the entire race live but the entire race full stop. Clearly Foxtel have negotiated their position but how long do you think this will be the case in Australia? Would the potential loss revenue from F1TV subscriptions from Australia in future years out weigh Foxtels F1 exclusivity deal?

I am not suggesting F1 should forego it's pre-existing commercial rights but if you are choosing to go OTT you surely need to offer all corners of the Globe something more than a replay that is 12 months out of date?


Nick Dicembre