Grid Fillers
Random Happenings In The World Of Motorsport

Formula One: For those in this country who continue to follow F1-and judging by the ratings, there aren't many-the 2009 season will be one of the most memorable for a whole host of bizarre reasons. Aside from the daily nonsensical exploits of Mr. Max and King Bernie, it's been one scandal after another. The latest involves accusations of crashing for cash in order to fix races. For those who usually only recognize the names of Ferrari, McLaren or Renault, the recent second place of one G. Fisichella at Spa in his Force India will truly be baffling. As my neighbor said, "I went to the kitchen for a beer and came back to these funny names." They read like a 9-year-old's AYSO team. There is a serious effort underway for India to get a circuit built to hold an F1 race (South Korea is also raising funding); some are against it. The Minister of Sport does not consider F1 a sport but entertainment, and has refused to fund the approximate $37 million, payable to Bernie's Formula One Administration. Seems the King didn't dig the Minister's words. To quote Eccelstone: "That's his view. The rest of the world thinks it is a sport." No, Bernie, most of the world thinks F1 is a scandal.

Grand AM And ALMS: The Indianapolis Motor Speedway always seems to be in the news, whether it's the good (the 500, the 400, MotoGP), the bad (banishment of former honcho Tony George), and now the weird. Grand Am held an "official" test at the Brickyard for its Daytona prototurtles and some of the GT warriors. This quickly generated the usual class warfare, as those who saw the invite connected to the France family's little operation known as NASCAR, and those who would rather see the ALMS. The sight of a Peugeot 908 hurtling down the straight with an Audi or Acura tucked in behind would make for great television. What wouldn't be a good image for either series would be the miles of empty rows of seats. Even the size of the crowd that regularly shows up for the ALMS opener at Sebring would be dwarfed by the Brickyard. The test run at Indy was a win for Grand Am as any positive news is good news for a series that, while competitive, just isn't all that technically interesting.

Touring Car: There has never been any real consensus as to why a official touring car series cant succeed in the U.S. of A. Many countries have national series; DTM is huge in Germany and considered mandatory for manufacturers like Audi. The British have their BTCC and those on-track battles have entered into legend. The Aussies have a crash-and-bash fest that's unique in its running commentary-"He was in my way, so I put him off, mate!" A strong case can be made that NASCAR was our official touring car series at one time, but that's hardly true today. The "car of tomorrow" is still the joke of today, and if the graphics are removed only the most knowledgeable can tell one entry from another.

A proper touring car starts with a real chassis and the exterior matches the product that sits on the showroom floor at the local dealer. It isn't a case of just bolting in a roll cage; today's touring ride is a serious racecar and constructed as such. If the FIA wasn't so damn difficult to get along with, it would be an interesting experiment to host two rounds of the World Touring Car Championship, one on the East Coast and then the West Coast. If BMW is the ultimate driving machine (subject to financing and a good credit report), what Bimmer dealer couldn't get behind the return of Alex Zanardi to America aboard a Munich tourer? -Kerry Morse

By Dan Carney
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