Monday, December 19, 2011

AC/DC's Brian Johnson on the Top Gear experience

Some leftover snippets from my Brian Johnson story, this bit about his experience on Top Gear in 2009. James May, by the way, was at Johnson's Sarasota, Fla., home in November filming a segment for the upcoming season. Jeremy Clarkson was apparently in Miami doing something also.

BRIAN JOHNSON ON JAMES, JEREMY AND HAMMOND: "They are great lads. They're phenomenal. They're the funniest lads. Went to one of the nicest dinners of me life. They said, 'Brian, you want to go to dinner at the old local pub in London?' It’s called the Pig’s Ear. And we went upstairs at the Pig’s Ear and we all had shepherd’s pie without even realizing we had all ordered the same. We all suddenly realized we’re exactly the same. We all love the same things, old black and white second world war movies, old race car movies like Grand Prix and Le Mans. If I don’t watch that every two weeks ... I’ve got to get my fix of it, you know, Steve McQueen. The Fast Lady, starring Stanley Baxter, it’s an English movie. Fantastic."

Friday, August 19, 2011

Sicking: pit wall, catch fence, T-bone crashes next safety directive after SAFER success

Dr. Dean Sicking, director of the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility at the University of Nebraska and the developer of the SAFER barrier, on the next evolution of motorsports safety.

On NASCAR and INDYCAR currently funding research to develop a SAFER-type system for oustide pit walls, like those at Indianapolis Motor Speedway:
DS: Many tracks have these pit walls. Whichever have them, that’s a danger spot. Safety engineers’ job is to look around the track and find the most dangerous problems they have and go fix those. We think we pretty much fixed the (outside) wall, so now we’re looking at other locations. The two we identified were the end of pit wall because when you hit there, it’s usually pretty nasty and then the other one is the catch fence, which is primarily a problem for the open wheel cars. Still, that’s a significant safety risk that we’ll eventually need to address. NASCAR and INDYCAR have talked about it, but with the economy turning down, they only have so much money to spend. So, we think pit wall is a higher safety risk in aggregate because you have so many NASCAR races than you do open wheel races.

On other areas in need of improvement:

DS: Improving management of the vehicle. In 2001, When (Dale) Earnhardt was killed, (NASCAR) came to us and some other experts and said 'what should we work on first?' Everyone said they needed to work on the cockpit side first, the seats. We said 'Number one, you can improve that a lot, because your system sucks.' They did. They came and really upgraded the seats and the restraint systems and we’ve seen benefit from that.
The second thing we said needed to be done was to mitigate the seriousness of crash by putting up barriers, and we’ve done that. SAFER barriers has been placed, we believe, in practically all the critical spots. There’s a few here and there, but we will get them soon.
The third and final area, which takes longer and is more expensive, is to revise the car. They made a big step forward with the Car of Tomorrow. Now they’re trying to make the step to The Car of the Day After Tomorrow, I guess. They’ve been working on that quite a bit. You think about: if you hit the wall, we haven’t had anybody seriously hurt. Now we need to think of car-to-car crashes and the first thing that comes to mind is T-bone where you get a car that is more or less stopped on the track hit by a car going, say, 100 mph, injures the driver. That’s a tremendously difficult energy management problem and NASCAR is working on that problem now. We’re trying to help them as best we can. It’s a real challenge. What you have to do is get the stopped car up to the speed of the impacting car with available crush distance, which is about six or eight inches. That’s a tremendous amount of structure to make that happen. They’re not there yet, but they’re moving a lot closer.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Off the chain. Off the deal

If Red Bull really leaves NASCAR at the end of the season, I will remember not the aftertaste and heart palpitations, or the fact it sent two cases of that taurine concoction to my former employer every month for four years. (I didn't drink any of it. More about the aftertaste than palpitations). I will remember Red Bull for this one image from its 2007 media guide. I suggest you do, also.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tom Anderson, the day before the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Former Andretti Autosport senior vice president of racing operations Tom Anderson is an accomplished racing professional, and a phenomenally candid quote. That made him a go-to source for me, not only to get smarter, but make better stories.
On Monday, AA confirmed he was no longer with the team and Yahoo quoted IndyCar president of competition Brian Barnhart as saying "We did get an email from Tom Anderson saying he had been let go, that he appreciated his time at Andretti Autosport and that he is looking at every avenue to get back into IndyCars."
Anderson was managing director of Ganassi Racing teams that won consecutive CART titles from 1996-1999, and always seemed confident of asserting himself, which seemed dangerous professionally when running, in essence, another family's business.
So I asked him about it the weekend of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Q: How can you sit in meetings in a room full of Andrettis deeply invested in this operation and assert your opinions?
A: I think that ... my age. I’m older than everybody except Mario. I tend to listen to Mario a little more than I do Michael. But, Michael and I have a funny relationship because I told him, “You know if you hire me you’re not hiring a ‘yes’ man. Because I’m going to tell you what I think. You’re going to do what you want to do, but I’m going to tell you what you’re going to get if you do what you do. And if you don’t want that, don’t hire me.” We’ve gone after each other a couple of times, but it always gets defused because we get to laughing or something like that. Probably (I'm) the right guy for this job because I spent 11 years with Chip Ganassi. My feelings can get hurt every once in a whole but I have a pretty thick skin.

Q: What is your relationship with Michael Andretti?
A: I was Michael’s buffer with Chip, so that’s how we got our relationship and things worked well together, so we have a good time. We get a little hot at each other once in a while but I understand the golden rule and I said if you want to apply the golden rule, OK, it’s your team, but I’m telling, if you do, you’re going the wrong direction.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sunday morning, pre-Grand Prix clickables

INDYCAR embraces the show to sell the game

Roger Penske is pretty sure he's done his share

The Essential Danica

Will Power profiled,-Power-to-succeed

INDYCAR embraces the show to sell the game

Roger Penske is pretty sure he's done his share

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Snippet of Paul Dana interview, March 24, 2006

On moving to a three-car team for the first time

Right now my learning curve is so steep. Just now starting to get to a point where I can contribute to the set-up of the car.
The adjustment has actually been pretty easy. The team (Rahal Letterman) is so successful and so organized. There’s enough going on driving the car at this level, they want to make your job as easy as possible because this series is s so competitive, they just try to free you from distraction. The team was been very welcoming. They obviously had a very successful rookie campaign last year with Danica. They know how to do it. They know how to bring a new driver into this sport at the top level. They’ve been very supportive and they’ve seemed to be happy with my performance so far.
In general, it’s awesome to be back in the series and to have come back from the injury last year. Awesome to be doing it with a bigger team.

Will you be able to compete?
Last year Panther was a one-car team and they won a race. You need everything. You need budget, development time and testing time and an awesome driver and engineering staff. It can be done, but that was with a veteran driver. That same team had a rookie a few years ago and that same rookie isn’t in the sport anymore because he had a very difficult season he wasn’t able to come back from. It can go either way. It’s a tough deal. This is far more competitive than Formula One in that the cars are so identical and people are even on a spec car. Today something like the top 12 cars were within the first second, second and a half, especially on ovals. You’re not screwing around. You can get seriously hurt or killed. I learned that first-hand last year (suffering a spinal fracture practicing for the Indianapolis 500). There are better things to do in life than drive an Indy Car on an oval unless you think you can be competitive. Unless you’re out there to go to the front, it’s a very volatile thing. It’s a very dangerous thing. I’m very confident in my abilities.