A Road with Many Turns – Why There Are No Americans in F1 Part IV

June 30, 2013 at 11:51 am

The Last Chance?


Meet Alexander Rossi, a twenty-one year old from California who serves as the reserve driver for the Caterham F1 team. In addition to his reserve duties, Rossi drives for the Caterham team in GP2 and participated in the 24 hours of LeMans this past year.

If you look at the ladder Rossi has taken to get to his current position, it’s been straightforward and unlike his American predecessors in F1. Rossi starred in Skip Barber and Formula BMW but instead climbing the IndyCar ladder, Rossi jumped across the pond to Europe and has competed in series such as GP3, Formula Renault 3.5 and the previously mentioned GP2 series. Rossi isn’t a Red Bull protege like Scott Speed (and what seems like 90% of the young drivers in the world). His place in F1 has been achieved on merit. Rossi has proven his talent in the European training grounds so perhaps teams have viewed him as less of a risk than taking an American who has competed in only American series.

The path Rossi has taken is perhaps the path any American who really has a desire to get to F1 must take; jumping across the pond and taking on the world and competing in the traditional training grounds to get to F1. With Rossi being associated with one of the backmarker teams in F1, the chance of him getting a race seat sooner rather than later (especially with rumors flying that current Caterham driver Guido Van der Garde is on the hot seat). What Rossi must do if given the opportunity is perform better than the car is capable of and use it to get a seat with a better team and help destroy the stereotypes about American’s in F1.

No pressure Alex.

A Road with Many Turns – Why there are no Americans in F1 Part III

June 12, 2013 at 11:40 am


Part II left off in 1995 when Elton Julian’s possible ride at Larrousse vanished due to financial reasons. 1995 can be seen as the turning point in the CART/F1 war with the emergence of the Indy Racing League (which could be another multi part post in itself). The emergence of the IRL divided open wheel racing in America which destroyed the power CART had as it no longer had the Indy 500 and allowed Nascar to develop into the 800 pound gorilla it became. The fall of CART and the rise of Nascar caused a change in direction in the development of young racers in America. Young drivers who wanted to be rich, famous and race in the biggest series only thought of Nascar as sponsors and manufacturers began throwing money at the series.

By the end of 90’s, CART was still offered great racing, but was no longer a threat to F1. It was now seen as a second rate series where there were some talented American’s racing against foreign drivers who were either “rejected” from F1 or waiting for an F1 seat to open up.

One of the criticisms of F1 during this time period was that in order for F1 to be a true World Championship, it needed to have a race in America. Many of sponsors and manufacturers in F1 viewed America as one of if not their biggest market. In 2000, F1 returned to America in 2000 with the USGP at Indy. Yes, the famed brickyard built a road course inside the oval. Perhaps it was Bernie Ecclestone’s way of saying thank you to Indianapolis Motor Speedway boss and IRL creator Tony George for starting the IRL and destroying CART.

The first USGP was a major success with and estimated crowd of 225,000 which is estimated to be the largest attendance for a Grand Prix in the modern era. The races after however were less attended and featured controversies such as the 2002 Ferrari “Dead Heat” and the 2005 race where all the Michelin teams withdrew after the formation lap leaving only six Bridgestone shod cars left to run the race. The 2007 race was the last USGP held at IMS due to dwindling attendance, the high sanction fees of having a Grand Prix and lack of a title sponsor

In 1997, Red Bull entered the US market. Red Bull was already know to fans european racing as it sponsored teams and drivers in a wide variety of series including F1. Trying to link their passion for racing with their new market of America; in 2002 Red Bull teamed up retired CART star and former F1 driver Danny Sullivan to create the Red Bull Driver Search. The program’s goal was to create an American F1 Champion, by taking young American talent and develop them in the open wheel racing ladder with Red Bull backing.

One of the first driver’s chosen was young karter with the perfect name for a racing driver: Scott Speed. Speed was a young karting star from California who had shown promise by winning the Formula Russell Championship in 2001. In addition to living up to his name, Speed was young, good looking, personable and very much an individual; the type of driver Red Bull could easily market.

Speed’s first year under Red Bull’s wing was a disaster. Speed was running in British F3 championship when he began suffering from Ulcerative Colitis and had to return to the US to take care of his condition. 2004 was a better year for Speed as he won Formula Renault 2000 Eurocup and the German Formula Renault championship in Red Bull colors. For 2005, Speed was promoted to GP2 and finished 3rd in the Championship. In addition to his Gp2 duties, Speed also acted as the Red Bull F1 team’s test driver at Canadian and US GP’s.

By 2005 it looked as if the US would finally have an American in F1 with Speed having success in the European Formula ladder, something an American hadn’t done in many years. Speed with combination of talent, Red Bull backing and the need for F1 to make ground in the US had a solid chance at being in F1.

Speed was not the only young talent Red Bull had under their wings. By 2005, it seemed as if 90% the young promising driver’s on earth were involved in the Red Bull Junior Program. In 2005, Red Bull bought the struggling Minardi F1 team and re named it Toro Rosso. Toro Rosso acted as junior team to Red Bull’s main F1 squad. A place where there young talent could develop in F1 without being on the main squad.

For 2006, Speed was a Toro Rosso driver, a team part owned by Red Bull and run by Franz Tost and Gerhard Berger. Speed and Toro Rosso struggled with reliability and crashes, usually finishing in the bottom half of the table. As the season went on it became clearer that he was favorite son of the Red Bull duo of owner Dietrich Mateschitz and racing guru Dr. Helmut Marko and not team principles Tost and Berger.

In 2007 was beginning of the end, Speed was confirmed as a Toro Rosso driver late in the pre-season and was tipped by many to be on the hot seat. Speed suffered with poor reliability and crashes. Speed’s time as an F1 driver would end with European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring.

Tension were high in the Toro Rosso camp between the drivers (Speed and Tonio Liuzzi) and Team Principles Tost and Berger. Speed went public with the tension telling the media that weekend that the team was trying to get rid of him and Liuzzi. The principles blamed the drivers for team underperforming while the driver’s blamed the car and poor management.

As for the race, Speed started 18th on the grid. One highlight of Speed and the Toro Rosso was that they worked well in the wet. Earlier in the season, Speed had been the fastest in a wet session at the Monaco GP. The European GP became a rain soaked race, Speed worked his way up from is lowly starting position a up to 6th when everything began to unravel.

The Toro Rosso pit crew expected Liuzzi to come in first and fumbled Speed’s pit stop, over a minute was lost during Speed’s pit stop. During this long stop, the rain became worse. After his pit stop, racing into turn one. Speed followed five other cars into the gravel trap. After this, the race was red flagged and Speed was forced to retire.

When returning to his garage, an upset Speed was met by a just as upset Tost. Tost yelled at Speed for crashing and Speed in return yelled at Tost for the botched  pit stop. When Speed turned away, he was then punched in the back by Tost, Speed walked away and was then grabbed by Tost and shoved against a garage wall. Speed moved into the center of the garage and in front of the whole team told Tost that if he wanted to punch him to do it in front of the whole team. Tost declined, Speed then told Berger that if Tost ever touched him again he would knock him out.

On July 31st, Speed was released from his Toro Rosso contract and replaced by Sebastian Vettel (what ever happened to him). It would be the last time that an American would be part of the driver line up (not counting 3rd and test driver’s) for an F1 team.

So why did something that seemed so promising go so wrong? First, the shotgun marriage of the team and drivers was a failure with Tost and Berger being “forced” to take young Red Bull drivers. In association with that there were differences in why the team was not performing up to expectations. Team management blamed the drivers while driver’s said the car was not able to do what was expected.

Second, one of the criticisms of Speed in the wake of the everything that had gone wrong was his demeanor. Speed’s confident attitude was received by some as cock and arrogant. Acclaimed F1 Pundit Peter Windsor blamed Red Bull driver coaching and development in part for Speed’s failure in that Speed wasn’t self critical enough. Windsor noted that Red Bull driver’s have not been taught self assessment and blame others for the lack of result.

While Speed may have burnt the Red Bull F1 bridge, they were not ready to let go of their investment. After F1, Speed with Red Bull backing started a Nascar career. The Red Bull/Speed Nascar partnership was unsuccessful and Speed was released by the Red Bull team at the end of 2009. Speed currently drives for a backmarker team in the Sprint Cup series.

The F1 circus would return to US in 2012 with the Austin Grand Prix with no American F1 drivers on the grid which takes us to Part IV. Is there anyone on the horizon and what will it take to get an American into F1.

Crapwagon of the Day – The Fast and Furious Probe

June 12, 2013 at 10:56 am

Found this gem outside the office today. The Ford Probe is a terrible car to begin with,throw in the color yellow and THEN add a terrible fast and furious bodykit and you’ve got yourself a crapwagon of the top kind. I’m not sure what it’s trying to be here. Do those air intakes by the rear fender help in anyway?


Summer Crusin’ in Vegas

May 25, 2013 at 12:14 am

I live in a town that’s know as a beach community. During the summer months it’s estimated that the population in my town increases by 15,000 people. That means more vehicles at the beach, at restaurants and other places in town that I frequent. So here’s five vehicles I expect to see a lot more this summer in Marshfield.

1. Jeep Wrangler


The white suburban beach vehicle. YJ’s are driven the by the diehards or the long time beach bums. They’ve been roughed up over years by carrying board and other materials to the beach. The drivers are usually well tanned from years hanging on the beach. The TJ’s are the younger crowd, the high school kids or the middle aged folk who have them as summer vehicles as they go through their mid life crises and try to recapture their youthful summer memories. JK’s are for the yuppies or Massholes with cash or the trust fund kids

2. Jeep Grand Cherokee

jeep gcwj

WJ’s are a frequent site at the town beach, Haddad’s or Blanchard’s Liquors. The Grand Cherokee is the one tick more reasonable or richer sibling of the Wrangler. Most these SUV’s can be found in their Laredo version.

3. Toyota Camry


Face it, they’re everywhere. A large amount of them can be found in any place and being in a town whose population increases by 15,000 for a few months each means there’s going to be more of them. The Camry is the car for people who are soulless. All they care about is getting to their destination and making sure there is enough room in the car to take everything they need.

4. Kia Optima


In the past year I’ve started to see these everywhere, it’s as if all of a sudden out nowhere a quarter of the world’s population bought Kia Optimas. What is it? Is it the commercials? bang for the buck? Could someone please tell me why? It really racks my brain.

5. Small Four Door Sedans


Take your pick from Nissan Sentra’s, Toyota Corolla’s, previous generation VW Jetta’s etc. It’s the car of women aged between 16-22 who are spending their summer going to and from the beach. These cars always carry four females (driver and three passengers), all wearing aviator sunglasses and blasting some various form of top 40 music or whatever college kids are listening to these days. All these cars feature a lay hanging from the rearview mirror.

A Road with Many Turns – Why there are no Americans in F1 – Part II

May 22, 2013 at 8:45 pm
Al Jr. Tests the Williams

Al Jr. Tests the Williams

If you can’t beat them, get them and embarrass them

In the early 1990’s the world had two top open wheel series to pick from. In the old world, F1 was the grand stage and the new world had the ever growing CART; with full grids, star drivers, competitive racing and expansion into Australia, a place that was once the domain of F1.

One thing that Bernie Ecclestone doesn’t like, is something that could fight F1 in being the premier motor racing category. When the World Sportscar Championship threatened F1, Bernie got the rules changed so that the cars had F1 powerplants which increased costs and gave him a chance to say to manufacturers “Hey, you’re wasting your money in sportscars, come to F1, you’ll get a bigger bang for your buck. And what do you know, you already have an engine”. While the World Sportscar Championship was under the thumb of the FIA, CART wasn’t.

The threat became greater when Nigel Mansell, F1’s reigning world champion after a fallout with Williams over a new contract decided to retire from F1 and drive for Newman Hass in CART for the 1993 season. The international interest in the series exploded with the ever polarizing Mansell winning the CART championship in his red number 5 Lola-Ford.

In December of 1992, Ayrton Senna, one of greatest driver’s of all time was distraught over the state of F1. He was upset that a driver of his great talent could not beat a driver of much lesser talent in the gizmo laden Williams. His offer to drive for Williams for “free” in 1993 was rejected as Alan Prost had a clause in his contract not allowing for Senna to be his teammate for the 1993 season; leaving his only option to be back at McLaren which would be using a customer Ford engine for the ’93 season (note: Senna drove for McLaren on a race by race contract in 1993 with his rumored salary per race being over one million dollars).

Senna was then invited by his great friend, CART star and two time world championship Emerson Fittipaldi to test his Penske. Senna accepted the invitation which was made easier as he was in reality a free agent and two of his biggest sponsors (Marlboro and Hugo Boss) were also Penske sponsors. Senna drove the Penske at Firebird and enjoyed the experience. He refereed to the Penske as being a human car, a car that relied on the skill of the driver and not a computer.

It was then decided the best way to destroy CART was to steal it’s best drivers. In 1992, Al Unser Jr and Michael Andretti, two second  generation drivers and CART’s two biggest stars attempted to cross the Atlantic and try their hands at F1.

1992 was the year of Al Jr. He had won the Indy 500 and was arguably the best road racer in America. Unser had a seat fitting with Bennetton but rejected their offer because it was half of what he was making in CART. Little Al also tested the Williams in Portugal and was quicker then Riccardo Patrese and then test driver Damon Hill (who would get the seat for 1993). After the test Junior went to the Williams factory to make a deal to race the car in 1993 but was rudely turned down by team principle Frank Williams and Technical Director Patrick Head. Unser would stay in CART and go onto win the championship and the Indy 500 for Roger Penske in 1994.

Andretti signed for McLaren in late 1992 for the 1993 season. At this point, McLaren were no longer the dominant team in F1. Their engine supplier Honda, had pulled out of F1 leaving them customer Ford’s and they fell behind in the technology race to Williams. McLaren had also signed Mika Hakkinen in case Senna decided he didn’t want to race. A few other factors went against Andretti in that he decided not to live in Europe and instead flew to races and testing. Also, testing rules had changed for 1993 leaving Andretti not enough time to gain experience at the F1 tracks and the gizmo laden cars which were the opposite of his CART Lola’s.

The 1993 season started off as a disaster for Andretti as he completed only three laps in three races. His results improved but was then sacked after the Grand Prix of Italy in Monza. He went back to CART for 1994, driving for Chip Ganassi and winning the first race of the season beating Nigel Mansell.

Andretti later said that he was put in a position to fail at McLaren and in F1. Andretti claims the car was sabotaged by McLaren staff and that Bernie and McLaren Principle Ron Dennis conspired to the make the season a disaster. Andretti later commented that the F1 paddock viewed CART as a threat and the best way to make them look bad was to have a CART star fail in F1.

In 1994 there were no Americans in F1, in 1995 Elton Julian, an American who came though the European racing ladder and had tested several times for the Larrousse team in 1994 was a candidate for a race seat. Sadly the Larrousse closed its doors due to financial issues right before the start of the 1995 season.

As the decade reached it’s halfway point the last thing American road racers were thinking about was going to F1.

Part 3 – A return to America and mysterious lack of Speed


A Road with Many Turns – Why There Are No Americans in F1 – Part 1

May 11, 2013 at 11:30 am

mears brabham

A discussion that can be kicked around for ages by American F1 fans is Why are there no Americans’ in F1. Truly, there has to be drivers in the US who are talented enough to compete at what many consider the pinnacle of motor racing. Doesn’t F1 in it’s quest to be a global brand have to have an American driver? In this multi part post, we’ll take a look at where we’ve been, why we are where we are and what would it take to get an American into F1.

A la CART?

Thanks or blame (depending on who you are) Bernie Ecclestone for making F1 into the hybrid of the highly exclusive country club/grand corporate spectacle that it is today. Gone are the days when a team could buy a competitive chassis from March or McLaren, put a Cosworth DFV in the back and select a few races to run and with a good driver, have more than a puncher’s chance of being competitive.

In addition to buying a competitive car, driver’s raced multiple series at a time. There was a point when Mark Donohue in the early 70’s was running Can-Am one weekend, USAC the next, the Trans-Am and then the occasional F1 race thrown in. With the cost of racing going up, teams began to protect their investments and have their drivers sign exclusive contracts; everyone was now stuck to one series which didn’t allow opportunities like drivers such as Revson, Donohue, Lunger and Folmer had in F1 in the 70’s.

The emergence of CART and the F1 Concorde Agreement in the early 80’s can be seen as when the fate of American drivers and teams jumping in and out of F1 began to be sealed. F1 was now an exclusive club and CART gave American’s a well paid, organized and prestigious series on their home soil. The door for American racers to F1 was offically slammed in 1980 when Rick Mears tested for Brabham (whose owner was…Bernie Ecclestone). Mears tested for Brabham twice and was fast as their world champion driver Nelson Piquet. An offer was given to Mears but Mears declined it. According to the way the story has been told, a number was in the contract that Mears (who at this point was a CART star and probably the most talented driver in America) thought he would be paid, but instead it was the amount that Bernie wanted him to bring to the team for the seat.

While the 80’s rolled on, CART began to look a bit like what F1 looked liked before Bernie, there were top teams but a team could buy a competitive chassis and engine and with right preparation and driver could be competitive. F1 became a place of the have and have nots, with only a handful of teams at the sharp end of grid. Foreign drivers began coming to CART in late 80’s/early 90 as they could be in a competitive car and get paid instead of being at the tail end of the F1 grid paying for a ride.

By the early 90’s CART was the best racing series in the world with a full competitive grid and was beginning to make a global expansion that had started with the Surfer’s Paradise race in 1991. It had stolen F1’s thunder in the US starting in 1984 when the Long Beach Grand Prix became a CART fixture, while the F1 race in American finally died out with Phoenix in 1991. Any American star was now in CART with a competitive ride and a multi million dollar retainer. The last American in F1 during this time was Eddie Cheever. An American who had grown up in Rome, Cheever was talented driver who spent his F1 career driving for mid pack teams. At the end of 1989, Cheever left F1 and joined CART running for Chip Ganassi’s team.

As the 90’s began there we no Americans in F1 as CART had all the American stars and was starting compete as a global rival to F1,

Coming Soon – Part II – The Biggest is the Smallest.

The Last Ride

April 30, 2013 at 5:00 pm

Ask this question to automotive enthusiasts and you’ll get a wide range of responses: If you had one last tank of petrol to use in your life, what car would you put it in?

It’s a question I’ve been pondering for the past few weeks, for me the car of choice would have to be in all likelihood a homoligation special. A car that has a racing influence, can rapidly get from point A to point B by eating up straights and being able to handle the twistys. It would also have to be involving, giving me feedback as to what it was doing with the road but at the same time engaging the me in a sort of dance.

The shortlist contained the Subaru STI 22B, Ferrari 288 GTO, and the BMW E30 M3. All of them pure and wonderful but for my last tank of Petrol, I’ll take a Porsche 997 GT3 RS 4.0.

2 Icons

Two Icons

The RS 4.0 is the ultimate point A to point B car, it’s pure, it has a roll cage and everything that’s in the car is in it for a reason. There are no luxurious thrills. It has a power to weight ratio of 365 bhp per ton, it has front dive planes and a close ratio six speed gearbox, not the PDK which is in the new 991 GT3.

In addition to that, it’s a Porsche. Is there any other car company that makes such amazing and pure sports cars? Porsche makes the amazing by using what many wouldn’t use in creating pure driving machines (rear engine-rear wheel drive and a flat six engine).


I highly recommend finding old copies of EVO and watching old clips of the web video series Drive to see Sons of Taki Icon Chris Harris feature his own 4.0. Harris’ describes the 4.0 in the only ways it can described, pure amazing.

So what say you? What car would you put your last tank of petrol in?

Let Me See You Stripped Down to the Bone

April 27, 2013 at 1:34 pm

So after reading Jeff’s post about a tape deck and his E30, I decided to offer some music selections to listen to for when he doesn’t want to hear the sound of his M20B25 I-6. I picked six albums that someone would have been listening to when his E30 was new. Why six albums you ask? To match the number of cylinders in his E30.

As a side note: Jeff, maybe you’ll find a wedding song in one of these albums

Cylinder no. 1 – Depeche Mode – Black Celebration

black cel

This album is very car fitting in its song titles: “Stripped”, “Breathing in Fumes”, “Fly On the Windscreen”, “But Not Tonight”. All things Jeff will be saying if he’s driving the E30 on a night when he really can’t afford to have an issue with the car.

Cylinder no. 2 – Van Halen – 5150


Why can’t this be love? As we all know Jeff loves his E30, he posts about his E30 so much that the site should be called Son of Claus Luthe (The man who designed the E30). The fact he used the E30 of getting his missus out so he could propose to her is another reason for his album’s inclusion. The missus in this case being a wonderful lady, not a car or a part.

Cylinder no. 3 – Crowded House – Crowded House


“Something so Strong”, the love Jeff has for his E30, it’s his pride and joy, his labor of love. When fears rise about the E30 being on it’s way out of the door, my recommendation to Jeff is “Don’t Dream It’s Over”.

Cylinder no. 4 – Cure – Disintegration

cure disint

I love the Cure, I think they write brilliantly beautiful and at the same time gloomy music. Robert Smith wrote “Lullaby” as wedding present to his wife, Jeff in this case will sing it to the E30 when he drops in a significant part in the E30 and I don’t think I need to make a comment on “Pictures of You”

Cylinder no. 5 – Echo and The Bunnymen – Ocean Rain


“The Killing Moon” was in an Audi commercial, “Seven Seas” might be a better song and we’ll use that when Jeff does a video on one of his BMW’s

Cylinder no. 6 – The Style Council – Our Favorite Shop

style our fav

There isn’t really a car reference in the album. I love “Down in the Seine” (especially the version Weller has done in his solo career). I can also picture Jeff bopping around to “Shout to the Top” while driving the E30.


Sons of Taki Fantasy Garage Godzilla Edition – Jonathan’s picks

April 25, 2013 at 7:10 pm

When Matt announced the Fantasy challenge Godzilla edition my first though was to find an R32 Skyline but that would either break the bank or I’d end up with something illegal. Instead I picked a solid threesome that would serve me well.

The Japanese Driver – 2004 Nissan Sentra SE-R V Spec (Price – $5,950)


The V Spec will chirp third as I haul away from what ever monster a Japanese film studio has created. I wanted to find a B13 SE-R but one was nowhere to be found. I prefer the B13 as it reminds of a 510 (sigh) and doesn’t have the fast and furious look this V Spec has. This however does have the 3.5 V6 and a nice NISMO exhaust system.


The Vehicle for Mowing Down Zombies – M548/M548A1 Tracked Cargo Carrier (Price – $30,000)


Military Camo? Check! Tracked? Check! Potential to mount a big honkin gun? Check! Ability to run over zombies? You betcha!

I was thinking of a loaded up truck /SUV or a retired military truck but when I saw this I said to myself this is it. This is the vehicle I want when the rapture arrives. I can throw a gun on it, run anything over and save some people at the same time


The Bike – 2010 MV Agusta F4 (Price – $10,00)


I have a thing for bikes, if I wasn’t such a car guy, I would definitely be a bike guy. I have a thing for dirt bikes or sportbikes. I love my supercross/motocross and World Superbikes, TT, and MotoGP. I think the MV is a work of art. When I wasn’t riding it, I would have it in the middle of my living room just so I could look at it when I’m at home. As for the sound, don’t get me started; if Ferrari made a bike, this is what it would sound like.


I’m not dead yet…

April 22, 2013 at 2:00 pm

It’s been a while since I posted on this beloved site. As you’re aware my beloved Legacy GT decided to eat itself which ended up with a long term vacation in a bay at Planet Subaru with a new shortblock, turbo and other parts ordered. The second reason for my lack of recent posting was a few weekends ago I was using a chainsaw to cut some fallen trees from this past winter when I had an accident and cut my left hand open. A trip to the hospital resulted in nine stitches between two cut open areas, so I was car-less and one handed for a while.

But as of today things are back to normal, the Leggy GT came back this morning with a brand new motor and my hand is healing well and I can actually type with it. It’s a busy work week for me but I plan putting some posts up soon.



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