Saturday, April 22, 2017

Fernando Alonso: Excellence Misused.

Time for the radical truth and truths of the situation at McLaren....also a few truths about the "spectacle," of an F1 driver coming to drive at Indianapolis. 

It's come to my attention, and I suspect a few others in the F1 fan-club, that Team McLaren, well they're doing as well as they have since 2015, appallingly. So their solution? Send Fernando Alonso some 3,000 miles from the Monaco Grand Prix, to Indiana, at Indianapolis, to the world renowned Indy 500. Now there is one justification for this, surprisingly, Honda does much better in the V6 Turbocharged power-fest that is Indy-Car, which is odd because presumably if Honda is so good at making a regular 2.2 liter V6 Turbo, why are they so bad at making a 1.6 liter turbo with extra juice from an electric motor? I am not going to say the two are exactly the same, the budgets alone can show you Indy-Car is different than Formula 1, it still leaves that question on power though.

Now here are some of the reasons why Fernando Alonso, who is a World Champion driver make no mistake, is not the Big Three from the almost mythical 1966 Indy 500. For one, McLaren isn't lending Indy their No. 1 driver because he's bored or up for a new challenge, the team is in serious trouble, both points and position wise and Monaco won't probably help that, short of a miracle. Another point is, unlike 1965/66 and other years, McLaren isn't showing up with radical new technology and their drivers to literally annihilate the Yankees concept of open wheeled motorsports. In 1965 Jim Clark came over here, with a fellow named Colin Chapman and his team called Lotus, and they had a interesting car called the Lotus 38, it had a rear mounted V8 engine which was made by a company called Ford. The rest as they say, was not only history, it was fact. The front engine open wheel race car was dead in America now and in 1966, the Brits had the affront to do it again! This time a few other Brits joined in, one was Graham Hill, who won the race, another was a young Jackie Stewart, who was voted Rookie of the Race!

They all drove rear-engined Ford V8 motored vehicles, but another point is they all three were or would become World Champion drivers, Clark and Hill had already won championships, Jackie would win his first in 1969 and win two more. Clark and Hill came from a Championship winning team Lotus was one of the best teams in Formula 1, and in the 1960s, they were the team to drive for, Jackie was a rookie at the time, he had only been in F1 for a year and a half at the time of the Indy, but he came third in the championship in 1965, and in 1966, 8 days before the Indy, he won the coveted Monaco Grand Prix.

Which does bring up yet another point, these drivers didn't actually miss the Monaco Grand Prix. Jackie won it and also had been at Indy before that race and after along with his compatriots. This situation we have in 2017, is one of the McLaren team basically giving up on a Grand Prix because the car is not good enough and it certainly is passing it's number 1 driver to Andretti Autosport, which is powered by the Honda Indy engine instead of the almost sad Honda F1 engine. As for how Fernando will do, that is not the question here, there are enough differences between this scenario and the F1 drivers coming over in the 60s as stated above, to make the other points an actual issue.

While admittedly, Ford itself would not come to dominate Formula 1 until 1967/68, and then with a different engine from the one used at the 1966 Indy 500, the immortal DFV by Cosworth. It was abundantly clear which motorsport was ahead in many terms due to the British Invasion of American Motorsports at that time. This invasion not only brought the concept of engines behind the driver, but the drivers themselves, who were in a class of their own when they did take the lead. Now, in 2017, not per-se with other teams, like Mercedes or Ferrari, but in McLaren-Honda, you have a team that could be taught a thing or two by the less glamorous and less watched IndyCar Series teams and their Honda and Chevrolet Engines.

Now finally, the concept of sending F1 Drivers here to Indy to do a good turn, Fernando isn't the first, and likely he won't be the last. There are also a few notables who made a full time career of CART and USAC and IndyCar itself, my personal favorites include, Mario Andretti, Emerson Fittipaldi, Juan Pablo Montoya, and for 2 years in his racing career, Nigel Mansell. So let us not sit in too much awe when an F1 driver crosses the pond for a race not of the Formula 1 variety. Perhaps Fernando will win, I figure it will be the bright spot in a three (15, 16 and 17) year stint that has not gone very well and is not going very well. I myself, am rooting for Scott Dixon, being a consistent winner in IndyCar and also a driver for Ford at LeMans 24 Hours race, but I hope that Fernando does well in Indy too, he more than deserves the win if he is as masterful a driver at Indy as he was with Renault and Ferrari.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Formula 1 is Coming Back...LIVE!

Now that I have the 1980s-esq title out of the way, lets be honest, the cars are faster, fatter, and lower to the ground, but is that the recipe to solve the issues that have transpired during the break from the Flying Circus. I list them in order of magnitude to show how serious the state of affairs is being taken by those now leading F1. I also list my expectations for 2017 too!

1.) The removal of Bernie: There is no other way to put it, the regicide, (and for the record, I am not saying it was some sort of revolution against Bernie, but he was in-fact, removed,) of Bernie was the most significant event of the off season, it brought an end to the reign of the long running titular head of F1 who for better or for worse was running F1 through some of the most spectacular racing and some of the most controversial changes in motorsports history. He had suffered some defeats at the hands of teams and their heads over things like race refueling, but until he was brought down, you can count this F1 fan as being totally shocked that there was enough power gathered to bring him down. Liberty are running the show now and we will have to wait and see what is going to happen there, they have plans that are well written about for F1 so 2018/2019 will be critical.

2.) The removal of Ron Dennis: This was another shocking event, I am going to say something controversial and say this was the most unnecessary act ever committed by a team in Formula 1 history. Ron was not perfect, and he was leading the team during a particularly difficult patch in their racing, but to remove him with no real reasons given, then make superficial changes like ending the MP4 program, and changing the paint scheme to an unrecognizable black and orange, the original McLaren colors had no black  if this is what McLaren or Honda think is going to cause some up turn in performance. I point to the testing in Spain, it just does not hold water, and even more importantly, you took away the most singular talent to ever run an F1 team.

3.) The Issue of McLaren...again: Will the team possibly preform better? Considering I was rather hoping for them to have podiums last year, I am probably wrong this year too. I also have pointed out Honda took from 1983 to 1986 to win Championships but only to 1984 to win the first race and by 85, Williams came 3rd in the Constructors Championship with 4 wins. Now we have had McLaren working with Honda for 2 years, and the results are not quite as good, Williams rose less than 50 points under the old 9 point per win system from 1984 to 1985 the first two full seasons they used Honda engines. McLaren on a 25 point per win system, they rose 49 points from 2015 to 2016, which is appalling if you consider that there were overall 8 more races available to McLaren and ironically, similar circumstances on the dominance of teams, in 1984/85, McLaren themselves dominated with Lauda and Prost each winning the Drivers Championship, in 2015/16, Mercedes did the same thing.

4.) Will Ferrari bring it's A game in 2017? The answer to that question is yes, it would be unfair to say they have not been performing fairly well in the face of Mercedes ruling the roost and Red Bull rising to win two races in 2016. If you want to watch competition, it will be between these three teams again, the 6 best drivers in Formula 1 today are in those three teams, and Ferrari truly has the talent, with the calm and cool Kimi and the dedicated Seb Vettel. History shows that while Ferrari is the dominant team in F1, this may be due to it's longevity as much as it's ability to build a good car or recruit the right drivers.

5.) Haas, will they be up or down this year? Definitely and hopefully up, 29 points in 2016, my prediction is hopefully about 50 or so in 2017, they have K-Mag and Grosjean is back for another year and I expect both young guns will be on the hunt for points. Also Haas and Dallara have had another years worth of testing and familiarization with F1 and various other technical points, also the fact that these new cars are not the same as 15/16 gives the chance to shake the field up potentially. What would really be fantastic is to see them score a podium, or finish consistently in the 4th to 10th position all year long because in 2016, they had a strong first 5 races with Grosjean, (he scored points 3 out of the first 5 races,) he only scored twice for the rest of the season,which is not reflective of his driving so much as it's the teams first year. Gene Haas is a man who can claim the fastest drivers in NASCAR and he will probably look to claim that title in our time for F1 as well.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Pearl Harbor Pt 3.

The United States Army and Army Air Force

Led by Lt General Walter Short the Army and Army Air Force were responsible for many shore installations and the like including the large number of P-40 Warhawks and for December 7th, incoming B-17 Bombers transferring in from the West Coast. Another factor was that the Army was running a brand new Radar Station that had just been installed. This station actually picked up the incoming air planes and did all they were supposed to, and relayed this information as was their duty.
One flaw however was the placement of aircraft, the decision was taken to put the airplanes as closely as possible, instead of either dispersing them to various fields or placing them at the edges of the runway. The quality of pilots was unquestionable however and their primary aircraft, the P-40 Warhawk was a decent enough aircraft, inferior to the Zero, but was having success enough in China. On the other hand, a few brave men managed to get aircraft off the ground, including a P-36 Hawk, which was beyond obsolete. If asked I will give the names over, but one thing is certain, all did the outstanding work of the day in the air and all went on to have brilliant service records like so many others in the war. It is a little more difficult to leave iconic photographs here, but it is clear that like the Navy, the men of the US Army/Army Air Force did their best during the attack.

The Day of the Attack

Of course the attack came on the potentially most lax day possible. For one it was December, I expect officers and sailors and airmen were preparing for Christmas in addition to the fact it was Sunday. The primary duties of a Sunday were Church, cleaning the ships and getting back to the ship after a Saturday night ashore doing what most sailors do well, all of this meant that it was very easy to guess why Pearl Harbor was surprised by almost 200 Japanese planes attacking the naval and army/air-force installations. The attack was immediate as it was brutal, the aircraft soared into the harbor to hit various targets. One of the first ships to go was Oklahoma, which capsized with multiple torpedo hits, many of her crew would be trapped in her hull, and only a few would be saved by the efforts of their fellow sailors. Maryland, which was inboard of Oklahoma only suffered minor damage and was like Tennessee capable of sailing under her own power later and actually was the first ship returned to service in June 1942. Other ships began to suffer damage, West Virginia took 7 torpedo hits and sank quickly, with her Captain being mortally wounded by flying debris from Tennessee which only took two bomb hits but was trapped for ten days being inboard of West Virginia in the area known as Battleship Row. Arizona, which is the saddest story of all, was hit by a bomb penetrating into the forward magazines and causing a cataclysmic detonation which left the forward half of the ship a shattered wreck and over 1100 crew dead in an instant, a most horrific sacrifice of the men of the United States Navy. The explosion was felt all over Pearl Harbor, and knocked men from their posts and off ships and blew out windows, planes in the air did feel the shock wave as well. The only other battleship in Pearl on active service, was Pennsylvania, which was fortunately in dry dock and suffered light damage as well, it was the second Battleship to return to service after Maryland. The USS Utah, a long since decommissioned WW1 Veteran, was torpedoed and also capsized, she and Arizona are the only two remaining warships left in Pearl Harbor from that day today.

The attacks on the airfields were just as catastrophic, while 8 pilots did manage to get airborne, 300 plus planes were destroyed or damaged, which severely curtailed the Army Air Force. On the other hand, various other installations were left untouched by the fact that the Japanese did not focus on those targets and only launched two waves. Thereby leaving the fleet and army fuel supplies untouched, the Submarine pens were left untouched and various other facilities vital to the future war effort were also untouched. The loss of life was still substantial, 2,403 Military Personnel, 68 Civilians were killed, 1,178 personnel were wounded, and 35 civilians were wounded. It is then fitting that the comment to end this section comes from Admiral Kimmel himself, he was watching the horror of the attack unfold, when a spent fifty caliber bullet crashed through a window and hit his uniform, he stated, "It would have been merciful if it had killed me." Kimmel would be demoted to Rear Admiral just ten short days after the attack, his career and life in tatters like so many on that day. Lt General Walter Short was also demoted to Major General and retired as well. Both officers have not been reinstated to their ranks and the expectation of this happening is low. The entire day really will go down for ever in infamy and it is to the credit of this nation, that for four years afterwards, we did remarkable deeds to both win WW2 and avenge the fallen there at Pearl Harbor. It is with nothing short of astonished pride I have met in my life time any WW2 veteran, to meet any of those that ever survived Pearl and went on to serve further, should count among American citizens the highest honor possible. FDR rallied us the very next day and the rest as they say is history.

Pearl Harbor Pt 2.

The United States Pacific Fleet

Led by Admiral Husband Kimmel and described as the most powerful force in the Pacific and a great threat to the Japanese Navy in it's efforts to conquer the rest of the Pacific. This fleet consisted of many different types of ships, all of which I shall try to describe in this article. I will also try to organize a "Order of Battle" on the day of the fateful attack to give you an idea who was in command and where the ships were and other things.

The Battleships 

The Battleships were still the pride of the United States Navy, and had some of our best officers and sailors aboard them in 1941 and for the duration of the War. At the time however, several Battleships were not near or around Pearl Harbor, and I would like to account here their whereabouts before going into the specific ships at Pearl that were attached to Battleship Force, Pacific Fleet. The New Mexico Class had three ships, New Mexico, Idaho and Mississippi, they had been part of the fleet, but had been transferred to the Atlantic, thereby probably saving them from being damaged or destroyed at Pearl Harbor. Arkansas New York, and Texas were also all in the Atlantic as well, they were the three oldest Battleships and Arkansas herself was nearly 30 years old, but all three ships were either on active patrol against Germany or in refit. The brand new North Carolina class Fast Battleships, were laid up still, having difficulty with vibration. The Colorado was the only ship actually assigned to the Pacific Fleet not at Pearl Harbor and it was in California having minor work done.

That brings us to the ships actually at Pearl. They were from various classes, the oldest being the Nevada class, with Nevada and Oklahoma being the ships of this class, they were a notable class as they introduced a concept called "All or Nothing" armor principle, which meant that the vital areas of the ship were heavily armored, with either end of the ship being lightly armored. They also were the first US warships to come equipped with triple turrets, which as the picture below shows allowed them to be relatively stocky looking ships but also had a 4 turret arrangement which was also to be kept up until the fast battleships were built.

The next class was the Pennsylvania Class, which needs no picture here, the iconic picture of Arizona and the sheer recognizable nature of the class is belied by the fact they were built differently from Nevada in that they had 12 x 14 inch guns in the same 4 turret arrangement. They were also slightly faster and better armored than Nevada. Pennsylvania also served at this time as Flagship of the Pacific Fleet and therefore would be where Admiral Kimmel would fly his flag if the fleet was at sea. The class had served well during the interwar years, but on December 7th, Pennsylvania was in Drydock and Arizona was next to USS Vestal on Battleship Row.

The other two classes represented were the Tennessee Class (Tennessee and California,) and the Colorado Class's, Maryland and West Virginia. The Tennessee class was pretty much run of the mill, though I expect if I said that to a sailor or officer from either ship, I would likely eat teeth. Both ships were built post WW1 and unlike the first two classes had unique lattice masts with the fire control directors atop them, this was held over for the Colorado Class as well. The major difference in these two classes belonged to Colorado and her sisters, they were equipped with 8 16 inch guns, the heaviest armament in the US Navy until the North Carolina class commissioned with their 9 16 inch guns. These then represent the Battleships of the Pacific Fleet, I provide a picture of the Colorado Class for some perspective though, this is West Virginia in 1934.

On December 7, 1941, these were the ships that were the primary targets of the attacking force of Japanese planes, fortunately, thanks to weather, and a few other factors, the carriers were away! As was one of our best Admirals, Vice Admiral William F Halsey.

The Carriers 

 The Carriers were soon to become the last capital ships available to the US Navy, and it was fortunate that they were at various ports of call and the like during the attack. I will not go into as great a detail as I did with the Battleships, but the primary carrier to look at would be the USS Enterprise CV-6, commanded by temporarily promoted Vice Admiral Halsey, who was commanding Carrier Division 2 as well as all of the Carriers of the Pacific Fleet. There were three carriers attached to the fleet in total, the other two were first two fleet carriers of the US Navy, Lexington CV-2 and Saratoga CV-3, all were away at this time, with their air-wings available almost immediately post December 7th and Halsey also carried the fight to the enemy. Among other orders, Kimmel had made it clear that if Halsey ran into the Japanese he had orders to engage. Halsey was so keyed up, according to Time Magazine his operations officer actually got into an argument, but Halsey silenced him stating that he would take full responsibility for all actions. It was all over by the time Halsey got back to Pearl, but that was enough, the rest is history when it comes to the Carriers. I have one image here of Enterprise for historical purpose.

Credit sources on Pictures to my favorite website for pictures, NavSource and a few other places as well.

Pearl Harbor Pt 1.

December 7th, 1941, unfortunately for quite a few of my generation, it's in black and white and there might have been something happening that day. For some of us however, we remember what happened in the then territory of Hawaii at an anchorage called Pearl Harbor.

The Background 
The United States of America in 1941 was a nation of mostly peace, the real war was in the Atlantic, where US Destroyers were actively engaging German U-Boats and the US was giving active support to the British war effort. In the Pacific, until December 7th, it was a game of politics, the United States was trying to find a peaceful solution to Japans rapid advance across all of China and its' very obvious threat to the Dutch, French and English colonies in South East Asia, all very oil rich and all capable of sustaining Japan in a major war for many years if unimpeded. The most significant course of action by the US was to impose sanctions on Japan in July after the Japanese grabbed French Indo-China and was poised again on the remaining French colonies and Dutch and British Colonies. According to our alien loving friends at the History Channel (Older readers ask about that meme!) Japan in one fell swoop, lost 75 percent of overseas trade, and 88 percent of imported oil. The problem then was clear for Japan, either back off and get the oil back, or do something else, unfortunately, they did something else, and it was to have tragic consequences for Pearl Harbor just a few months later.

The Plan

The plan was devised by the likes of Japans best and brightest, and very probably most reluctant, it's a matter of record that Isoruko Yamamoto, the Commander in Chief of Japans largest fleet, and essentially the senior Admiral of the Japanese Navy, was very probably against every militaristic action taken by Japan up to and including the eventual sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. He was well known in Western Circles as a brilliant officer and with good reason, he served at Tsushima and gained experience for almost 15 years interacting with US, UK and other nations naval establishments in various postings. He also studied at Harvard and was keenly aware of the US military. He also kept appraised of other events, especially a raid on the Italian port of Taranto, in which obsolete Swordfish Torpedo planes attacked and sank a substantial number of capital ships in a daring night time raid which proved again, (see Bismarck for an earlier proving of Naval Aviation being a factor in battle,) that planes were rapidly overtaking Battleships as the most effective weapon on the high seas. The Japanese took notice, and had advantages over the British, for one, they included 6 full fleet carriers in the operation, a formidable strike package, they also included the most modern planes, A6M Zeros, the Aichi D3A Codenamed: Val dive bombers, and the Nakajima B5N Codenamed: Kate Torpedo Bomber. All of these planes were brand new compared to the Swordfish, the Zero could engage any fighter in the US Arsenal at the time of the attack and could ensure almost total air superiority very probably even if the strike waves had been met by more than just a few P-40s. The Bombers and Torpedo Planes also were ready, the crews were not per-se green, they had trained during China for almost 4 years before 1941. Commanding this Task Force of Carriers was Vice Admiral Nagumo, considered a steady hand for the job and his deputies on the aerial side of the attack were Minoru Genda and Mitsuo Fuchida, the former who helped plan the attack and devised the methods and the like and personally lobbied for the latter to lead the attack. The primary strategy was to both achieve surprise if possible and launch multiple destructive waves. This then was the attack from which three immortal words were uttered Tora! Tora! Tora!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Jeff Gordon IS BACK! Also Monster and NASCAR

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hark the Angels sing, Jeff Gordon is back in the saddle again and this time he's going to come to us at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. That gentleman racer of NASCAR has decided that he wants to drive a "Slick Black Cadillac," credit there to Quiet Riot, and well Cadillac, their Prototype racing car is of course, black! It's the signal we've all been waiting for, he does not want to stop driving cars, he drank for too many years from that cup of Sunoco and Mobil 1 racing fuel and oil.

What are my expectations, I will not guarantee a win, but I will say, he will finish very high on the ladder, this Cadillac is what Endurance racing calls an LMP2, which is one of the top classes you can race in races like the 24 Hours of Daytona or Le-Mans in France. Also it's signals a major shift from GM from only racing Corvettes to now building a dedicated top of the line endurance racer, and also by the way, outdoing Ford, who only races in the GTE, which used to be GT2, a much lower class in the endurance racing at Le Man and Daytona. What reactions from the rest of auto industry, Ford will very likely have some of it's egg heads and gear heads working on something special for 2020's Endurance season, not to be outdone is the motto of companies when it comes to motorsports. So welcome back Jeff! Many more years of talent and happiness in sports for you!

Now we come to that latest decision from NASCAR. I am really annoyed that people are ragging on Monster and by extension, Coke-Cola from taking a proper bigger place in this industry. Do I agree this is what is going to drag the young back to the sport. The answer is no, engine formula, transmissions no longer extant and a host of other non-stock problems in stock-car racing are what keep the youth away in my opinion. But, Monster is a company with bright ideas and deep pockets, and that's the kind of sponsorship that NASCAR needs in the 2020s and beyond. I heartily approve unlike others, I even like the sound of the name "Monster Cup," it rolls off the tongue in a way like Winston Cup, and Grand National, Sprint and Nextel Cup just did not roll off the tongue and Sprint cars probably weren't thrilled with their being confused with NASCAR. Now obviously they'll come up with a different name, but it just goes to show, the decision was a good one.

Nico Ends in the Gold and F1 Puzzles

Oh Lord, in our time give us another Rosberg winning the championship. Ladies and gents, 1982 was many moons ago, but 2016 gave us that second Rosberg championship. Young Nico decided to win this year and did it in grand style, with a tough teammate and tough challenges all year. All this high riding made 2017 look bright, and this amateur author and professional fan predicted Mercedes locked in for 2017 to do a brilliant job, well I can predict still that Lewis Hamilton will do well. But now, now I have to bid farewell to Nico. He's done what F1 drivers used to do in the past, either retire the season they win their championship, or a single year after they win, mostly with dismal results, Jody Scheckter and Niki Lauda come to mind on that.

Now let me admit quickly, the guy shocked the hell out of me. He's blown me away from all my predictions, things can change quickly in motorsports and Nico proved it here. Now the big question has come, who will replace him, for those of you in the loop, stop saying Alonso. McLaren said they will do better in 2017, he will not break that deal lightly, even for the chalice that is Mercedes. 2017 brings changes to the sport, and he is a calm calculating driver, he will wait and see. Toto Wolff already had people in the very back of his mind, but he never thought he'd have to make those calls starting now. Look to see who is not outright committed to a team passed 2017 and you may get an idea of who could be picked up from inside the circus, outside, there are a host of brilliant drivers in multiple disciplines who would love to jump to F1. Indy Car drivers also seem to be available.

Now I come on to what really puzzles me about F1. You sign Imola up for a contract, (Imola being the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, mouthful that it is,) but you publish a 20 race season that doesn't include this race. What possibly could be the reason, I think myself that maybe a 2018 surprise over a 2017 21 race season. Who knows? Bernie Ecclestone and that's about it. Also! The French Grand Prix is among us in the whispers and hushed triumph, 2018 looks to bring back 21 to 22 races. Looking more and more like the 80s every day it seems. The Turbo Era is going to soon be in it's 3rd year, and looks to be staying around for a long long time. Look forward to 1200 Horses in our future. 230 mph isn't fast enough for the Flying F1 Circus. Also a note on that, the top cars, Mercedes, were not recorded as the fastest cars, that fine distinction goes to Williams!