FORMULA ONE: An interesting conversation is going on behind the scenes this season. It doesn't have anything to do with FIA ufaer-dictator Max Mosley and his "should I stay or should I go" routine, or how much more money King Bernie can take in. While the talk of the town is on the remarkable season that Jenson Button and teammate Rubens Barrichello are having aboard the Brawn GP, a more introspective look is going on regarding the designs of Ross Brawn.
Button, once a promising talent, was a perennial back marker until Brawn took over the former Honda outfit, changed powerplants, and debuted a new chassis. Teammate Ruebens Bar-elythereo lost his way after being with Ferrari for so many seasons. So now the former grid fillers are top of the pops, while former World Champ Lewis Hamilton plods along in 15th place. No one ever questioned Michael Schumacher's talent; he drove some fairly evil machinery. However, the bulk of the multiple world championships came in a Ross Brawn Maranello prancing horse. There you have it—was it man or machine? Technology has carried this conversation to the point of entrenchment of those who know how to spell Fangio and those who play with F1 simulators.
AMERICAN LE MANS SERIES: Not the best of times for the ALMS and its supporters. Depleted in quantity and quality, the series is struggling to present a first-class show. The Acura effort has been brilliant and professional, but without Audi competing, it has a hollow ring. Corvette has taken its solo act out of GT1, thus officially closing the book on that class. The Pratt brats have a GT2 Vette to go battle the class with the Porsches and F-word cars. The officials have been forced to take in a few of the Patron GT3 Porsche Cup cars to bolster the field. While this is a great opportunity for the Cup drivers, it isn't what the show should be all about. The ALMS has fallen victim to the economics of being a manufacturer showcase. In the good times, all is well as the money is there to field the product; when it isn't, you get Grand Am.
Manthey 911, but were comfortably in front of the next Porsche. They ended second, just one lap down on the winner. Getting all four Audis to the finish and pushing Porsche all the way was a great achievement. The win could easily have gone their way and Manthey and Porsche knew it.
In terms of the development for the R8 LMS customer program, considerable progress was made. According to Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, head of Audi motorsport: "We'll analyze the problems that occurred on the three other vehicles and feed the findings into the final version of the R8 LMS, which will be delivered to customers starting this fall. We now know that we've got a very good base."
Audi got all its cars to the finish; potential customers will have taken note.
In the end, it was the fourth consecutive win for Manthey Racing. It was a hat trick of wins for the driver lineup of Marc Lieb, Marcel Tiemann, Roman Dumas and Timo Bernhard. A new distance record was set, the weather was great all race long; an almost perfect weekend.
It was also a personal landmark for Marcel Tiemann, whose outright wins tally now stands at a record five times. A former winner of the Monaco Formula Three race and works driver for both Mercedes-Benz and Opel in DTM and sports cars, he has become a star on the VLN endurance racing scene. Who's to say that win number six won't happen in 2010?
As an event, the Nurburgring 24 Hours stands comparison with the
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other great festivals of endurance. A key element in the DNA of any endurance event is the fans, and the Nurburgring 24 Hours attracts a very special breed of follower. They have to be tough, as the elements are frequently harsh; they enjoy the racing, drink beer in prodigious quantities, and generally party hard. Since the weather gods were benign this year, beer flowed in plenty
On my way to Schwalbenschwanz around dawn on Sunday 1 passed an unsteady figure on the dirt track. After parking 1 had to make the same trek to get access to the circuit and he passed me going the opposite way, still unsteady but now the proud possessor of two large beers, one presumably for another soul who was somehow less mobile. That's real friendship for you, walking half a mile at dawn to get your mate a beer. 1t is the spirit of endurance and would be instantly recognized by those who attend Le Mans or Sebring.
1t's a pity that Porsche and Volkswagen cannot seem to find the same spirit of friendship. Maybe in the end Porsche ought to buy Audi a beer.
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