Monthly Archives: July 2014

Superhuman

In a recent interview with U.K. newspaper The Telegraph, the most successful design engineer in F1 history made quite a thought-provoking statement. Adrian Newey commented, “If you watch a sport – it doesn’t matter what sport – you want to come away with a feeling those guys are special. If you watch MotoGP you think those guys are just superhuman. You just don’t get that with the current breed of F1 cars.”

The most successful design engineer in F1 history.

Adrian Newey the most successful design engineer in F1 history.

Newey who is unenamoured with the tightly controlled regulations currently in force in F1, believes they are so constrictive that, “the regulations design the cars.” Even as recently as two races ago in Germany the FIA outlawed FRICS, a front and rear interconnected hydraulic/mechanical suspension system which some teams had been using since 2010.

So disappointed is Newey with F1 he is stepping back from hands on involvement at the end of the season with the Red Bull Racing F1 team and has signed a new deal, where from next year he will be involved in Red Bull Technologies special projects, one of which is believed to be Britain’s America’s Cup challenger.

Newey, of course, has always had an uncanny ability to exploit the “grey” areas of the regulations on his way to designing F1 cars for the Red Bull team that have won four constructors and four drivers world championships between 2010-2113.

Four time World Champion Sebastian Vettel in the RB10.

Four time World Champion Sebastian Vettel in the RB10.

But as justified as the analogy between F1 and MotoGP is the ongoing homogeny in technical terms for Grand Prix motorcycle racing is to a degree mimicking F1 and is of great concern for the “purity” of the sport. Let’s not forget that F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone created Two Wheeled Promotions to form a joint venture with Dorna Sports in the early 1990’s to acquire the commercial rights to the motorcycle Grand Prix from the FIM. Ecclestone sold his companies interest to Dorna and its CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta has often looked to F1 for inspiration, “to improve the spectacle.”

We now have a situation in MotoGP where, just as in F1, there are colour coded control tyres, a freeze on engine development for the “factory” machines during the course of the season and a limit on the number engines available, which for 2014 can only consume a meager 20 liters of fuel per Grand Prix. In 2016 it will be mandatory for all the MotoGP teams to use a Dorna supplied ECU and software.

One major difference, however, is the use of traction control in MotoGP. Banned initially in F1 in 1994 and backed up with the introduction of a standard FIA ECU in 2008, some MotoGP riders and a proportion of the fans are against these electronics as well, as it’s seen as an artificial enhancement of a rider’s ability. But it is also a concession by Dorna to maintain motorcycle manufacturer involvement, who have to justify the enormous expenditure required to go Grand Prix motorcycle racing and who have traditionally seen MotoGP as part of their research and development programs that filters new technology down to their road bikes.

F1 like colour coding of MotoGp tyres.

F1 like colour coding of MotoGp tyres.

The same is true of the new regulations in F1 with the return of a smaller capacity 1.6litre fuel-efficient turbocharged V6 engine that use a more complex hybrid energy recovery systems. Again, if the changes had not happened Renault and Mercedes may have withdrawn from F1, as they too have to justify the massive expenditure to go racing to their respective boards and shareholders by developing technology that is relevant to the road cars they build and sell. Nonetheless, the true racing person that Newey is, he describes F1 as becoming an “an engine formula.”

However, regardless of electronic rider aids and constrictive regulations, MotoGP racers by the very nature of motorcycle design are themselves “part of the machine”. Where they place their body weight under braking or going around a corner and accelerating out of a corner has a major impact on lap times. Indeed MotoGP racers use everything available to them to go as fast as they can, carving angles of lean through bends that defy the laws of physics, and dragging not just their knees but also their elbows on the tarmac.

They also, thankfully, have no radio hookups with the pits and a team of technicians reading telemetry telling them what to do, only pitboards and their own judgment for tactical use of their fuel and tyre consumption over the course of a race.

Jorge Lorenzo becomes airborne trying to avoid backmarker James Ellison.

Jorge Lorenzo becomes airborne trying to avoid backmarker James Ellison.

Also, these racers are not strapped tightly into a safety cell with only a low percentile chance of serious injury should they crash, as is the case in F1. And regardless of the current technology MotoGP riders do crash regularly, and often spectacularly, suffering abrasions and broken bones. Ask Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa and Cal Crutchlow to name a few. No matter what the technical regulators do to the sport of MotoGP, that innate, spectacular and highly dangerous involvement of the motorcycle racer themselves does indeed make them “superhuman.”

Words Geoff Dawes © 2014.  Images courtesy http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk, http://www.nhatnet.com, http://www.vroom-magazine.com, and http://www.zigwheels.com

 

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The Double

 

Bluebird CN7 sits poised on her built-in jackass Lake Eyre In South Australia.

The year 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of Donald Campbell’s incredible double world speed records set on both land and water. No other person has ever achieved this mammoth feat in the same calendar year and it is highly unlikely that it will ever be repeated.

As a boy living in England, I was aware of Campbell and his achievements and it was a shock to see the terrible accident on television that claimed his life on January the 4th 1967 on Coniston Water in Cumbria. It was a moment from the 60’s that stayed with me.

The following month, in February 1967, my family immigrated to Australia, and little did I realise when we settled in South Australia that this was where Campbell had broken the World Land Speed Record.

Some years later, in 1981, two wonderful articles appeared in “Wheels” magazine, which rekindled my interest in Campbell. Written superbly by Evan Green who was Ampol’s Project Manager for the record attempt at Lake Eyre, it gave a remarkable insight into Campbell and the struggles he faced with the record attempt while trying to overcome his own demons.

This set me on course to gather a wide range of research material on Campbell that has continued this day. Part of this journey back in 1991 resulted in funding from Filmsouth, to write a two-part TV mini-series about the events at Lake Eyre. Unfortunately, the project fell over several times due to circumstances beyond my control.  However, in 1997, I had feature articles published about the record attempts in both Australia and the U.K., while appropriately this July I have an article entitled  “The Double” in SALife magazine.

Campbell discusses problems with the track to his team.

Campbell discusses problems with the track to his team.

My reason for mentioning all this is that for many years to have an interest in Donald Campbell was akin to being a Bluebird “anorak” and at times it seemed as though there was a certain amount of apathy towards his achievements.

But what is refreshing, in this 50th anniversary year, is that the communities in Australia that were touched by his record attempts are coming together to celebrate them.  Thanks to those that were involved in some way with the record attempts and others that witnessed them or have heard anecdotes from friends or family, there has been a groundswell of community support.

The people of the Shire of Dumbleyung in Western Australia have been gearing up for a big 50th celebration of Donald’s World Water Speed Record, set on December 31st, and they would welcome any visitors to share in the new years eve celebration. The Dumbleyung Bluebird committee is building a full-size replica of Bluebird K7 and has acquired a former post office building that will become a Bluebird interpretive centre.   Donations to their fund are welcome and they have a terrific web page at www.dumbleyungbluebird.com.au as well as a great Facebook page.

Jean Pearse captured the scramble to get the World Water Speed Record with only hours of light. remaining

Jean Pearse captured the scramble to get the World Water Speed Record with only hours of light. remaining

In South Australia, the community of Barmera is also fundraising towards building their own Bluebird K7 replica to be placed on the shore of Lake Bonney where Campbell set an Australian National Water Speed record on November 23rd, 1964, before it proved unsuitable for the world record attempt.  The Barmera committee is also working hard towards establishing a Campbell and Bluebird museum as well. Their 50th-anniversary celebrations will take place over the weekend of November 22nd-23rd.  They also have a very good web page at www.k7projectbluebird.net and also an excellent facebook page.

Perhaps the most pleasing thing that has occurred through these hard working community committees is a number of unseen photographs, movie film and personal recollections that have surfaced on these marvellous websites for everyone to share.  And just as importantly they are helping Donald Campbell’s outstanding achievements finally get the kind of recognition that they really do deserve.

Words Geoff Dawes © 2014 Photographs John Workman and Jean Pearse  © 1964