Every Soccer Mom Needs This: Renault Espace F1

I do everything fast and efficiently. Only one brush stroke for my teeth. Only wash half my face. Put only one sock on. Never lock doors. Sleep in work clothes. Never change underwear. Taught my dog to feed itself. Eat meat raw. Park wherever the hell I please. Don’t dot my i’s. Don’t cross my t’s. Never finish sentenc…

I complain often, though, and make sure people know it. My biggest gripe in life is grocery shopping. Hate it. It takes forever, I can never find what I want, and I never leave with what I shopped for (curse you magazine racks…).

BUT! I think I’ve finally found something that will help alleviate the burden… Enter the Renault Espace F1. Yes, the Espace, normally a comfortable, practical, and somewhat reliable French family van. The van was created in partnership with Matra Automobiles, the same group that helped Jackie Stewart to a Formula 1 World Championship in 1969 with a Ford-Cosworth engine and Ken Tyrell running the team. Launched in 1984, the Espace was one of pioneers of the MPV, or multi-purpose vehicle.

This mental version though, is based on the 2nd generation Espace. It features a 3.5L Williams-Renault championship winning Formula 1 V10 (!) engine, making around 800hp. The engine, naturally, is in the back of the car, and is surrounded by a carbon fiber chassis. And don’t worry, the thing will stop. It has the F1 brakes as well. It seems to be just what I need to make the trip to the corner deli almost worth it. I can finally run to the store as fast as I live my life!

Milk and cereal anyone?

You Can’t Do This: Ryuichi Kiyonari – WSBK Donington

You know, it takes a brave soul to drive a car in the rain at full tilt. Four tires searching for grip, the tread bending, stretching, straaaaaining trying to find any sort of dry surface to cling to. The driver, feeling the car through only his/her rear end, back, and hands, must make corrections for every slight slip or twitch. A gentle feel for the throttle and soft, smooth, buttery application of the brakes to fight the car’s stubborn actions while plowing through a turn at the very limit.

But imagine, if you will, trying all of this on a motorcycle…

Ryuichi Kiyonari.

Former World SuperBike rider, Suzuka 8 hour winner, and 3 time British SuperBike Champion (2006, 2007, 2010). It’s more than likely you’ve never heard of him before. That’s okay because, to be honest, I hadn’t either. Not until I started paying more attention to what it takes to ride one of these machines.

Check the video. And don’t act like you’re not impressed…

Cars Can’t Do This…

I’m an idiot. A few months ago, I decided to buy myself a car, not just any car, but one that would be fun to drive while being comfortable, sporty while being luxurious, and it had to come in a manual. I’ve always been a big fan of the BMW 5-series and eventually settled on a 2000 540i. You know, the V8 one. Luckily it is the sport model so it came with a 6 speed gear box. Unluckily, gas prices have rocketed and proceeded to burn a hole in my wallet every few days due to my commute. So what did I do? I began to look at alternate means of transportation. From buses, to trains, vanpools… Etc. I love the thrill of speed though and as much as I LOVE taking the bus (ehh…), there would be no satisfaction in it for me, at least as far as going fast is concerned.

I’ve never ridden a motorcycle in my life. In fact, I only started watching moto racing about a year ago. I’ve come to the conclusion that this may be the way to go, as they are formula car fast in a straight line, are fuel efficient, cost of maintenance/ownership is lower, and you just look like the business. Bonus.
And yes, I realize that their is an inherent risk riding motorcycle, but my logic is that you can die doing anything. Walk out of a building? Whoops, squished by a falling piano. Strolling through the park with grandma? Attacked by a wolverine. Enjoying pasta with your childhood friend? Nuclear missile to the forehead. Point is, it could happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime. I will be going through the state approved motorcycle safety school and will definitely make sure I have the proper safety gear, as should any responsible motorist.

I recently came upon this video of the season opener for the 2011 AMA Pro Daytona SportBikes and my jaw dropped. The race is the Daytona 200 and as the name implies, is 200 miles long totaling 57 laps. The bikes in it are anywhere from 600cc to 1100cc in engine displacement and 120 to 140hp, manufacturers ranging from Ducati, Suzuki, Honda, Kawasaki, Aprilia, Buell, and Triumph, with top speeds reaching 175mph! And these guys are going 6 wide into the final section of the track?!

Oh yes… Do want. Roll the video…

2011 F1 Grand Prix of Australia: Winners and Losers

The 2011 Formula 1 season began last weekend with several surprises and a few unexpected shocks. After a week of deliberation and review, I’ve had an opportunity to watch the race again to analyze a few aspects of the race.

2011 Australian GP Podium - Vettel, Hamilton, and... Petrov???

The least shocking surprise of the weekend was Red Bull’s incredible speed, as Sebastian Vettel and his RB7 car were seemingly untouchable. Even Mark Webber had a chore trying to keep up with the guy, and that’s saying something because Webber often traded times with Vettel in qualifying last year or was at least within a few hundredths of a second of him. During Q3, Webber was .866 off of Vettel, an astounding margin between two title contending teammates. Vettel had a rocket start off the line, despite neither Red Bull having KERS equipped for the race. Once he pulled out a gap, he left the field in his wake and never looked back. He managed his tires better than Webber and made only two stops on his way to the maiden victory of the season.

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2011 F1 Pre-Season Review: The New Teams

Our final segment of our F1 2011 pre-season review concludes with the 3 freshman of the sport, now entering their sophomore year: Team Lotus, Virgin Racing, and Hispania Racing Team.

The teams have struggled to cope with the lack of testing that Formula 1 provides, coupled with lack of funding and sponsorship available in the strained world economy. Fortunately for some of the teams, they’ve had drivers that have been able to provide funding for their own seats, saving money to allow for any developments possible on limited resources.

Team Lotus have been the top of the pops, with the most experienced driver pairing of the newbies. Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen have helped the team develop reliability and drivability out of their T127 chassis, and managed to place highest among the rear-fielders, with Heikki finishing in 12th at the Japanese Grand Prix. Fortunately, the T128 holds promise as the team have acquired a deal with the other Lotus teams’ supplier, Renault. They will be using their engines and rear end and will more than likely be challenging the slower established teams (yes Force India, you…). The team have developed a good looking car with some of the popular bits and tricks of this year but unfortunately will not feature KERS. Their preseason reliability has been patchy, but that’s to be expected with all their new gadgets. Good news is that their aero developments have been working, utilizing new front wings and the blown exhaust to gain grip and confidence for the drivers. Trulli has said that the team have made a great leap forward. And I believe him.

Lotus T128

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F1’s Grassroots: Karting – Michael Schumacher

Our first post here on StartingGrid on the purest form of racing: karting. In the good ole days, there were no plastic pods or electronic controls for the karts, just the driver, the chassis, the engine, and a passion. Today’s karts are quite an offshoot from those times, now with electric push button starts, gearboxes, radiators, rev-limits, protective everything…

But that’s not to say that they aren’t still the best way to get into motorsport, especially as child. Schuey himself started when he was 4.


What did you do when you were 4?

He says he uses karting in the off-season to help train and stay sharp. And we can see why.

Here he is 38 years later, in a Tony Kart with an Intercontinental C (ICC) or KZ engine. The engine produces nearly 50hp and weighs in at about 200lbs, without driver, giving it a power to weight ratio of roughly 500hp per ton! Which, if you didn’t know, is more than a Bugatti Veyron (446hp/ton). This is a race in his homeland of Germany, in a town called Kerpen, where they apparently know about karting. Don’t mind him falling back; he had an engine issue and ended up DNF’ing but came back a few months after and won, alongside his brother Ralph, in a later race.

Fast forward to 5:00 minutes to get to the good stuff…

And here’s an onboard video of the same race with fellow KZ racer Arjan Kievitsbosch.

2011 F1 Pre-Season Review: The Midfielders

Continuing my last post from yesterday on the Top 4 teams in the 2011 Preseason, we’ll now take a look at the so called “midfielders”. These are the teams just within a breath of the top, but just don’t have the extra gumption to take them over the hump… yet. Many of the teams have brought new creations and inventions along with rethought ideas from the past. We’ll take a look at the Lotus Renault, Williams, Sauber Ferrari, Force India, and Scuderia Toro Rosso in today’s review.

Lotus Renault have been busy in the off-season, starting with the dispute in the naming of the team itself. I won’t go into much detail because it will make me want to rip my own head off, but Team Lotus and Lotus Renault are going to court for rights to the Lotus name in Formula 1. Stupid. I know. In any case, the Lotus Renault R31 chassis has gone through quite the face-lift from its predecessor. The car features the nostalgic black and gold of old from the John Player Special days that Mario Andretti and Ayrton Senna made famous. The chassis itself has a few tricks up it’s sleeve though, with what looks to be a front exit exhaust channeling exhaust air from the front of the car all the way back to the rear diffuser. The test times have not yet shown how effective the blown air has been, but again, its only testing and we’re not even sure the team will actually run the exhaust in this configuration for the races.

Robert Kubica’s recent rally crash has hampered the teams chances of scoring some good points this year, but Renault have gone the route of outsourcing a team leader in Nick Heidfeld, Kubica’s old teammate at BMW Sauber. Heidfeld often ran well against Kubica in equal equipment so it will be intriguing to see what he can do to help the team forward. We here at SG all wish Bob a speedy recovery.

Lotus Renault R31

The Williams team look to be on a bit of a resurrection with Rubens Barrichello leading the team to a nice hefty haul of points last year. The departure of Nico Hulkenburg in exchange for Pastor Maldonado wasn’t a big shocker but shows a sign of the times and how motorsport nowadays seems to be run mostly by money and less on merit. In any case, the team looks to shake things up at the front with a deceptive rear suspension package that features a uniquely tiny gearbox on their FW33 challenger. The beam wing and rear suspension are joined together while the driveshafts take a sharp angle back up to the wheels. It’s a bit of a risk but it looks to be working well enough with the relative pace the team have shown this pre-season. The packaging of the rear end looks to be the smallest of all the teams with a definite emphasis on regaining that everlonging downforce at the happy end of the car. Their KERS on the other hand has been a bit rough, often causing the team delays during running and cutting short their precious track time. Despite the issues, Williams are looking good and going into the season, are my favorite of the midfielders. Aside from…

Williams FW33

…Sauber Ferrari. The team were lucky enough to acquire BMW’s windtunnel and CFD centers along with the know how of James Key. The team were quite unlucky last year though as the C29 chassis was not designed around the Ferrari engine they ran in 2010 but was meant for the BMW powerplant that the C28 had. By the end of the year, the team had figured out how to get some reliability out of the car and now start fresh with the C30 and two young, aggressive drivers. Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez, whose entry was made via the departure of Pedro De La Rosa, will be sure to dazzle as they use their rambunctiousness and kamikaze (no racial Kamui…) style attacks on the front pack. The C30 chassis doesn’t feature a mass of technical highlights or outstanding ideas, but similar to the Ferrari 150* and Force India, the team looks to be using clean, simple aero ideas for their car. It does feature a low blown exhaust and Ferrari’s tightly packaged rear end (giggle) and KERS. Key’s technical vision should help the team forward and looks to have done so in testing, with Perez having one of the fastest laps of the pre-season test in Barcelona. Time will tell, but I like where the team is headed. It doesn’t hurt that the car is easy on the eyes, too.

Sauber Ferrari C30

Force India has done a bit of driver shuffling as well. With what was arguably the best remaining spot not really left open for a driver in the balance, the team decided to release Vitantonio Liuzzi to make way for the DTM champion Paul di Resta, cousin to IndyCar champeen, Dario Franchitti. The FI VJM04 looks to be an easy evolution of last year’s car but has been a been disappointing so far. I had high hopes that the team would make another step forward as they had been trending in the past few years, but the loss of key technical personnel has hampered those hopes. Undercut sidepods, a recurring theme this year, are featured on the VJM04, along with a hideous looking nose. Yay. They’ve also taken the Mercedes W01’s airbox inlet and slapped it on, using the blade style roll hoop to separate the area. Their only saving grace looks to be Di Resta’s speed. I believe him to be faster than Sutil and am looking forward to seeing the progress he makes this year in what may be a dog of a car. Another positive? Mercedes power and KERS technology. Should help? Maybe? Ehh…

Force India VJM04

And finally, Scuderia Toro Rosso. Ah, STR. Having brought up the likes of Liuzzi, Speed, Vettel, and… well that’s about it really isn’t it? No matter, the team’s STR6 chassis looks to be pretty good as it features a whole raft of new details and interesting bits (where you at Force India?). A double floor, huge front wing, complex rear diffuser, low blown exhaust… seems to have all the makings of a good car. I like the bold direction the team have decided to take. The double floor looks to be a pretty good idea. Essentially the car has extremely raised side pods that allow air coming from the front of the car over the floor in the midsection directly to the rear diffuser and beam wing. The high pressure air over the top of the floor and low pressure underneath should create a nice hefty amount of downforce that the team may have been missing, and it shows in their pace during testing. Jaime Alguersuari and Sebestian Buemi are in the drivers seats for now, but both only have a half year contract signed with the team. With Daniel Ricciardo right behind, if either driver fails to produce, they can expect to be gone sooner rather than later. The car looks stunning, but will the teams results follow suit?

Scuderia Toro Rosso STR6

Force India’s definitely got their work cut out for them. The other four teams have looked pretty good in testing and have made rather large strides forward. They’ll have Team Lotus breathing down their necks with Virgin and HRT possibly following suit (maybe not HRT so much, but they are surprising with their car this year…). We’ll take a look at the noobs in the next installment.

2011 F1 Pre-Season Review – The Top 4

With the 2011 Pre-Season test sessions in the books, the time for real racing is upon us. The Australian Grand Prix is right around the corner now, and at the time of this writing, only 12 days away. Going into the new season, the question seems to be which team will be able to utilize the new Pirelli tires to the maximum? The teams have been working hard trying to make up for the lost aerodynamic downforce produced by 2010’s cars. The cars no longer have the Double Decked Diffuser, an added weight penalty, a set weight distribution, and KERS/Active Rear Wing to deal with. The drivers are sure to be busy in the cockpits, having already had a multitude of buttons and adjustments to make, but now sorting the new ARW with KERS will add an extra degree of difficulty.

The top teams have wracked up a massive amount of time with Ferrari constantly putting in 100+ lap days save for one incident with Felipe Massa’s prancing horse having it’s arse go up in flames. The team’s Ferrari 150* Italia features seemingly small cooling margins for aerodynamic gain and a re-worked rear suspension arrangement that still uses the pushrod cleverly sorted into a very small and compact package. Meanwhile the sidepods, bargeboards, and floor have been revised to clean up the airflow around the sides of the car.

Ferrari 150* Italia


Red Bull look again to be the favorites for the season, despite Mark Webber believing the Fezza are the team to beat, putting in consistent fast laps and blistering pace during long run simulations. Their RB7 chassis looks to retool some of the ideas used on the clever RB5 that was able to keep up with and beat the championship winning BrawnGP car of 2008. Again, like it’s predecessors, the RB7 is very clean cut, with very sleek and slender rear body lines to maximize the usage of their exhaust blown floor along with a very neatly packaged pullrod rear suspension. The team have decided to tighten up the rear body work to take full advantage of the air available to the rear diffuser and wings.

RedBull RB7


Mercedes looked to have set their mark with the fastest overall time in Barcelona at a 1.21.249 done by the reborn Michael Schumacher in the W02. The team have introduced a rehash of the Brawn001’s front wing element and sleeker side pods that have helped the team find a good chunk of time and have helped to put them right back in the thick of things. Ross Brawn has stated that:

“The car is more consistent now, we are able to make changes to it that have an effect. Everything is moving in the right direction.”

Read the interview here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/motorsport/formula_one/9422249.stm

It will be interesting to see if they can turn their 2010 struggles into 2011 championship points.

MercedesGP W02


McLaren have had a bit of a struggle this pre-season, juggling the radical concepts of their heavily undercut floor along with their L-shaped cooling inlets. Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton have both admitted that their new MP4-26 contender may not be quite the contender they had hoped for. The reliability of the car has been shaky at best and the drivers have said that the balance of the car is not quite right. Although they may be struggling now, McLaren have always had a good reputation for being able to develop a car throughout the season from a zero to a hero.

McLaren MP4-26

Grading the pre-season thus far and how the top 4 teams have managed, I’d say that the Red Bull is still the favorite with Ferrari just behind. Meanwhile, Mercedes’ upgraded body work have seemingly put them ahead of McLaren. There is still some work to do for the Woking team and it will undoubtedly be an uphill battle as the other contenders will be developing as fast as they can.

Tomorrow, I will go through the midfield to review the Lotus Renault, Sauber Ferrari, Williams, Force India, and Scuderia Toro Rosso and see what they have done to bring them closer to the top.