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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Tire problems at Indy

No, you didn’t fall asleep and wake up in 2005. And this time we can’t blame Max Mosley. But while Jimmie Johnson won this year’s Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, it was less a race than an exercise in survival, as teams were plagued by troubles with the series’ Goodyear rubber.

In Friday's and Saturday’s practice sessions, teams reported tires wearing out in as little as five laps. Goodyear took the extraordinary step of trucking in 800 tires slated for next week's race at Pocono, to be used if teams ran out of their Indy tires. The series also announced it would throw in “competition cautions” - yellow flags - as necessary.

It was a situation eerily similar to the 2005 USGP, where tire problems led to 14 Michelin-shod runners pulling out over concerns with their rubber.

This time around the series in question, NASCAR, handled things a little differently. The series mandated “competition cautions” accounted for six of the race’s 11 yellows.

Track president Joie Chitwood was quick to point out the difference.

“What you're seeing now is what's different, that we have Goodyear and NASCAR talking with us," Chitwood was quited during a news conference. "The goal is to make sure fans enjoy the event. The key is we're all in it together. That's most different from 2005.”

A quick glance at the SpeedTV forums show Goodyear, NASCAR and IMS might have fallen a little short in the “make sure fans enjoy the event” category.

Tire wear is not a completely new problem for NASCAR at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but conditions usually improved as rubber was laid down over the course of the weekend. It was much worse this season as NASCAR’s new car, which is heavier and harder on the right-side rubber, made its debut at IMS.

Several drivers, including Dale Earnhardt Jr., Mark Martin, and Carl Edwards suffered with tire-related issues in the race, but were able to get back to the pits.

Not so lucky were Matt Kenseth and Juan Pablo Montoya. Both of their days came to an end thanks to tire failures.

Montoya’s was laced with a bit of irony. He was in one of the McLarens which were withdrawn that day in 2005.

DC expects investigation into Toyota’s woes

Making note of back-to-back Toyota failures at Silverstone and Hockenheim, David Coulthard used part of his regular ITV column to say he expected the Cologne-based squad should soon come under FIA scrutiny.

“As an aside, I notice that the rear wing fell off the Toyota at Silverstone and it was a right-rear suspension failure that caused Glock’s crash at Hockenheim,” Coulthard noted.

In a section of the column titled “Double Standard,” the Scot made note of Red Bull’s experience earlier in the year, when suspension failures in Melbourne and Sepang led to the FIA demanding a detailed investigation proving the car was sound for racing.

“I didn’t hear of any investigation into the structural integrity of the Toyota,” he continued. “But presumably that will happen because when we had a suspension breakage in Malaysia we came under the spotlight of the FIA in a way that was publicly uncomfortable for the team.”

Alonso still loves F1

Renault’s Fernando Alonso hasn’t let a difficult couple of seasons cool his enthusiasm for the sport.

“I still love this sport. There are ups and downs. The good moments are hard to forget. I can't get those feelings from anything else in life,” he is quoted by Fox Sports.

Despite suffering through the world of McLaren last year and a slow Renault this season, the Spaniard can now see himself staying in the sport for many years to come.

“It is true that two or three years ago I was thinking I would not stay that long in F1 like Michael (Schumacher) did,” he said. “I started at 19 with Minardi. Back then I was thinking that 19 or 20 years in F1 would be too many. F1 can sap your energy so I was thinking I did not want to lose my life to F1.”

“Now my opinion has changed. I'm 26 and thinking, 'why not another 10 or 11 years?' I want more success and I'm ready to spend the time needed to get that success back,” he continued.

Where the next part of that future may be is something Alonso has yet to reveal.

“Nothing will be decided until the end of the summer. Then I will sit down with my advisers and decide what is best for me and Renault,” he said. “There are many things to consider. Anything is possible."
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