On tap this week:
- Montreal GP boss ready for action
- Good news for Canadian karters
- Porsche success for Lazare
- F1 fans are their own worst enemy
- Quote of the Week: Vickers on blood clots
- Gordon gets in on F1 craziness
Like a young boy waiting for summer to arrive, Canadian Grand Prix promoter François Dumontier has spent the past few weeks repeatedly staring out his window hoping the snow will melt.
The Octane Management boss knows there's lots of work to do before the June 7 Formula One race in Montreal and he's eager to get things moving at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, especially with the F1 season starting a week ago.
"It's always a turning point," said Dumontier. "With the kickoff of the season and spring arriving brings more awareness for us, we are now a lot more busy."
Although the immediate remains important, the Octane crew will be additionally occupied over the next couple of years completing improvements to the venue that were part of the 10-year renewal signed with F1 commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone on the eve of the 2014 edition.
The deal called for upgrades to the garage and paddock area where space and the aging facilities are always a sore spot with the teams. Although construction is not set to begin until after the 2016 race, planning is well underway and more detail will be revealed in early April.
"The city is managing the project and the architect is doing a feasibility study on what can be done with the garages and we will be in a position to talk about it more in a couple of weeks," he said.
"We will not touch the track layout — you do not change a winning formula."
As he patiently waits for the thaw, Dumontier will also hope that Ferrari's podium in the Australian Grand Prix season opener wasn't a fluke and is instead a sign of things to come.
"In Montreal, Quebec and Canada, there's a huge Ferrari fan base and when Ferrari is doing well on the track, it's good for us," he said.
It was a good week for budding drivers in Canada with two positive developments for those just starting out in racing. Last weekend, Ron Fellows announced the Champion Ron Fellows Karting Challenge, an affordable, four-race karting series for young drivers that will alternate between Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and Goodwood Kartways.
"The goal is to raise the profile and notoriety of grassroots karting," Fellows said. "We want to continue the tradition of supporting emerging drivers."
In addition, the Canadian Automobile Sport Clubs Ontario Region and Move Motorsports Management, which promotes the Toyo Tires F1600 Championship and the newly launched F2000 Canada, announced the renewal of its Karts to Cars Scholarship scholarship program late last week. The scholarship gives three young karters an opportunity to test a formula car.
By the numbers
Jesse Lazare missed having a perfect weekend in the opening two rounds of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA at Sebring International Raceway by a minuscule 0.005 seconds. A blink of the eye last Thursday was the only thing that kept the 17-year-old Montrealer from taking pole in the opening qualifying session, but he didn't miss a beat from there. Lazare went on to sweep both opening rounds of the 2015 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA season, put up the fastest lap in the two races, and start from pole in Race 2 on Friday. Despite the dominance, the Kelly-Moss Motorsports driver left Florida with a slim four-point lead in the championship standings over U.S. racer Elliott Skeer, 20, who finished second in both rounds. Drivers get 20 points for a win.
F1 fans who shell $3.49 monthly or $30.99 annually to subscribe to the new pay-only features on the sport's official website are their own worst enemy. Bernie Ecclestone's Formula One Management relaunched Formula1.com just before the Australian Grand Prix, and its new "F1 Access" paywall left no doubt that it remains in the Stone Age when it comes to engaging fans. Essentially, Ecclestone is charging F1 fans for basic data other racing series supply for free, such as detailed live timing during races. Those who don't add to the F1 ringmaster's bank balance are out of luck; the ones who do pay are simply enablers who are helping to ensure the sport remains inaccessible to everyday fans.
Quote of the week
"March is Clot Awareness Month and this is not quite how I wanted to raise awareness about clots, but here we are."
— NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Brian Vickers, 31, on being forced out of the cockpit for the fourth time since 2010 due to recurring blood clots. The No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota driver learned on Thursday he will be sidelined for at least three months because he needs to be on blood thinners, which make racing too dangerous.
The last word
After one grand prix in 2015, it's clear the action off the track during the 2015 season may be more compelling than the racing. So far, there's been a lawsuit over a race seat at Sauber, Red Bull threatening to leave the sport over engine rules, the bankrupt Marussia (now called Manor) showing up in Australia but not completing a lap, the ongoing questions about a testing crash that kept two-time world champion Fernando Alonso out of the season opener, and the cancellation of the German Grand Prix. Things have been so exhilarating, four-time NASCAR Sprint cup champion Jeff Gordon couldn't resist talking about the off-track soap opera when asked whether he has had any thoughts about competing in other forms of racing after he retires at the end of 2015. "Well let's clear one thing up first: Why are we not going to have a German Grand Prix this year?" he quipped during a press conference on the weekend at Auto Club Speedway. "That is the first thing we need to resolve long before we figure out what I'm going to be driving next."
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