Sunday, 4 December 2011

On An Island - The Ultimate Motorsports Legend Fights Its Way Back To Worldwide Establishment

A blowhorn from the past. A travel through ages, sanctioning bodies and generations. The nostalgic and cathartic remembrance of heroic figures in the midnight hour illuminated by fireworks of celebration.

In brief, the Targa Florio is back as a world championship event... in WRC IRC.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Iguazú, a fall - in memory of #DanWheldon

When someone leaves the room, a void's created. Some voids are temporary, some voids are permanent. And there are some voids that are painful. This is yet another fall of a great one.

Gustavo Santaolalla - Iguazu by leila m

Fingers are pointed somewhere, trying to find someone to blame. It may be driver XY, it may be Las Vegas Speedway, it may be IndyCar or it may be consumer culture in general.

"This shouldn't happen."

It will happen again. Sooner or later.

Other people give up hoping that the inevitable shouldn't occur. Some of them sign up for a possible death, knowing or not wanting to think about the possible outcome.

That's how life goes.

Eventually, every drop of water will fall the same place. Smaller or big ones alike.

Rest in Peace, Dan! You were a vitalizing drop of water..

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Working Class Hero

So this is it... where I am now. The working class man in England. You'd might be thinking my motoring interests do not reach beyond the boundaries of cars that are good enough for commuting only and you'd be right. In fact, I'd fall for a car that's reliable, takes me from A to B, that is a workhorse, a proper car in other words - for me, the working class man.
When you're enclosed in a space along with a bunch of Polish and Brazilian people among millions of eggs and a production line, you do not think about cars. Jaguars do not drift thgough your imagination sideways, nor Veyrons run flat out close to half of the speed of sound. You only think of a pint of beer to put you to rest and the scent of fresh air as you leave the premises of the factory. You do not care about the dent on the car's door, nor the dust on the floor carpet.
You want one thing only. To get your will established, to get to the next workplace and enjoy the ride while you're at it.
Your mind picks up a different approach about the whole sensation of driving, no matter what your car is. The B-road becomes a road course, the roundabout the Karussell, the indifferent humming of the l4 engine is replaced by heavy metal music on your laughable stereo, crystallizing a grin on your face as if you were commanding a V8.
With a left-hand drive car driving on the left, the proximity of the trees combined with the mild velocity you pass them transforms reality to warp speed.
You're wearing a different licence plate of a country anyone's hardly heard of, getting looks at the red light as if you were a madman tearing up your car to pieces just to put yourself to the wrong seat, blasting into the undisturbed, civilized world with all your shabbiness and still make things work.
You used your car to get here and stay for good, only to defy the rules of commodity that is represented by proper, sub-five-year cars in the streets.
The Escort.
The one with American origin, given birth in England, tossed to Germany, shipped to Hungary and now being returned to the place where it was concieved in the first place.
The underdog.
That's me in the traffic.
That's me at the red light.
That's me in the car park by the warehouse.
That's me when not paying enough attention at one point and almost causing an accident.
That's me through A4.
That's us, me and my car - the working class and the hero.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Light Years Away

What do you do when you have run out of funds, hope of a better future and patience? You set your car's nose England-bound.

It all started over two years ago when talks started between my wife and I that we sould join all those people who in wish to grab fortune's better end set themselves to Western and Northern Europe. There were initiatives taken and withdrawn when finally tensions within our broader family and lack of funds lead to concrete decisions and conclusions at the end of last year and the whole procedure of moving started taking shape.

The setting looked like so: me, my wife, two dogs and all that one could fill in a Ford Escort. Printed Google Maps directions, over three tanks of fuel and 1,200 miles to cover from Kaposvar, Hungary to Keynsham, UK.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Friday, 15 July 2011

Wild East

(Originally published at on 29th May, 2009)

„So, what is it like where you live, Wilson?” I asked my old friend from Tennessee, America. It was quiet. The lake had been within the distance of throwing a stone, the field was busy with crickets and some deers were mating in the forest according to the noises we heard. Besides that, only the exhausted engine was cracking behind us, the only technological monster in this scenery. „Pretty much like this…” he answered. He stared into the distance. So did I for almost an hour. We were enjoying peace for a while. Heading back to the civilization I looked in the mirror while taking the forest route. Wilson was sleeping on the back seat… or praying, I couldn’t tell. Maybe he was just dreaming about God. I was wondering. We were seperated by thousands of miles in distance, a thousand years of culture, approximately 40 years in age but we still had something in common. If he hadn’t been a committed Christian he could have easily been a moonshine runner as well – I was thinking. Although we didn’t have booze in the trunk (for both of us had been on a mission) nor a V8 under the hood we were still riding fast deep in the forest… just like a moonrunner. Wilson just not happened to notice this. But I tell you, it was a real hot ride in the woods, somewhere in South-West of Hungary…

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Monday, 20 June 2011

LIVE guide to weekend's motor racing; June 22nd - 26th

UPDATED! *WARNING!* This page contains live webcams, twitter feeds and further links. It may take a while to load. Races covered in this post: Pikes Peak International Hillclimb, NASCAR, IndyCar, Intercontinental Rally Challenge, GP3, GP2, Formula 1, Seat Leon Cup, Porche Carrera World Cup, ADAC 24 Hours Classics, ADAC Nürburgring 24 Hours and Climb to the Clouds. Click at your own responsibility. ;)

Run to the Hills

Friday, 3 June 2011

Does Bahrain Need F1 Right Now?

The answer simply: NO. Going a little bit deeper the answer is quite obvious, so let's start with the obvious.

We should point out at the beginning: the case of the Bahrain Grand Prix is not a moral question on behalf of the FIA, it never has been. If it was a moral issue, then F1 wouldn't have gone there, or Hungary, or China, or South Africa for decades for that matter.

The Bahrain case is a primarily safety problem (still on behalf F1) which is unfortunately heavily rooted in moral matters. F1 has stayed out of politics so far (quite wisely) and it was words of wisdom cancelling the event from the calendar at the beginning of the year due to the Arab Spring and the unstable situation.

The FIA forcing the series to return to Bahrain later this year however broke that barrier and stepped to a yet uncharted and controversial area. Any move from now on will be examined through a magnifying glass.

First of all, no one wishes to go there. Neither the teams or the drivers, and supposedly their sponsors would stay out of controversy, too.

If a race to be held then FIA should risk the followings, for example:

  • general safety hazard (á la US GP, 2001)
  • self-proclaimed protesters on and off track (á la German GP, 2000)
  • boycotts from teams, suppliers (á la US GP, 2005) [this could lead to highly dangerous outcomes on behalf of a disappointed audience]
  • sponsors leaving, avoiding controversy (á la post-Singapore GP, 2008 case reveal)
  • long-term reputation loss for the sport

...and the list could go on endlessly. Even if a race could be pulled off without any setbacks, F1 would still be accused of intervening domestic affairs of a country. The problem is, FIA had already trespassed that line.

The only reasonable solution would be to back off ASAP.

Agree? Disagree? Share your view!

Thursday, 2 June 2011

The Afternoon of Revving Dreams - Gumball 3000

"Seems you got slightly disoriented right there” said the Hungarian border guard with a smile on his face as I misinterpreted his hand gesture and almost got the car in the opposite lane. “Yeah, wasn’t the first time today” I said, sweating all over in the heat and turning the old Ford four-banger off. It was the miles, the temperature, the rush hour, the foreign capital, the masses of one-way streets, the sometimes strange and seemingly inconsequent road signs, the fear of the car being towed away for parking illegally, the crowd, the cheering, the revving of turbocharged straight-6s, V10s and the applause in the – by all means beautiful – Croatian capital, Zagreb. As I waved goodbye to the guards knowing that neither them nor I would be able to afford the cars I had seen just a few hours prior, it was me putting up the smile and carrying on with my personal “Gumball 250″. This is the story of a small portion of the real deal: the Gumball 3000 in Zagreb, Croatia, on the last day of spring, 2011.

Read the rest of this entry here.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

The Top 10+1 Deceased Racing Venues

*WARNING! This article contains opinions and is a biased one. You have been warned.*

Since the first cars rolling out of the manufacturers' garage doors, people have been racing cars and motorcycles. To do that, they needed some sort of environment to sacrifice at the altar to their passion. Empty fields, public roads in the country or in cities, then purpose built venues all have been serving as arenas for petrolheads and motoring enthusiasts since then. Some of these venues have been there since motoring Genesis, some of them are not. Here is a list of the top 10+1 of them.

(Editor's note: All images are courtesy of Google. click the images for the actual Google Maps/Streetview spot.)

10. Circuit Bremgarten
The Bremgarten Circuit - in the outskirts of the Swiss capital, Bern - was designed with motorcycles in mind, although when opened in 1931, motorcars soon took over and become one of the most fearsome tracks, especially under wet conditions - largely due to having virtually no straight lines and a chain of public roads. It was on Formula 1 calendar from the beginning, but the disastrous accident at the 1955 Le Mans 24 Hours lead to banning all motorsports in Switzerland. To this day, no racing was held at the venue, nor in the country except a few non-track events.

9. Bridgehampton Race Circuit
Bridgehampton, NY, USA has a long history of motor racing, dating back to 1915. Early road races proved to be such a success that lead to the establishment of the permanent Bridgehampton Race Circuit in 1957. In its prime time it served as the scenery of World Sportscar Championship, Can-Am, NASCAR, IMSA GT Championship, and it saw the return of the legendary Vanderbilt Cup in the late 60s. Few, but technical turns for sport cars. Unfortunately, due to a lack of finance, the track was was dating out quickly, and by the early seventies there were virtually no pro-events held at this place. In 1999 it was converted to a golf course. Slowing down the pace a bit, right?

8. Daytona Beach Road Course
The sands of Daytona, Florida is basically the birthplace of American motor racing. In the late 1800s, early 1900s it served as the spot of land speed record breaking, but due to the narrow dry area it quickly became unfitting as speeds were growing higher and there was a constantly decreasing forgiveness for mistakes. Thus, speed hunters moved to the Bonneville Salt Flats, racing enthusiasts went on to race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and those who lacked money started racing here. The Prohibition gave rise the 'moonrunners', who, after the amendment was erased, joined the races with their tuned, outlaw cars and so NASCAR was born. The venue consisted of one long straight line on the beach, and another one on a public road, with two sharp turns. As the success of NASCAR races were growing in the fifties, the scenery was proved to be too small, only to be replaced by the Daytona International Speedway in 1959.

7. Brooklands
The first ever purpose-built racing venue, preceding IMS a few years, opening in 1907. A banked oval with three turns, also serving as an airport for smaller planes. The track is of unpaved concrete panels and was a perfect venues for V-max attempts and Grand Prix races. There was a vibrant scene until WWII broke out in 1939, and racing was stopped, moreover, it never returned for the track. Parts of the circuit are street roads, or just decaying slowly.

6. Pescara Circuit
The Pescara Circuit is the longest ever in the history of Formula 1 World Championship with its near-26km length. Two long straights meeting in an almost 90 degree-corner and zig-zag pieces of roads connecting the open ends, through towns. The track has been not unknown to Italian drivers as it was holding local races since the 1920s, and later non-champ and one official Formula 1 race event in 1957. As with every lengthy course, it proved to be too dangerous, and racing was ended in 1961.

5. Reims-Gueux
It's the beauty of the countryside, the endless hayfields that captures the eye of the trespasser between these small French villages. It hosted sports car and Grand Prix events, too, including Formula 1 races, from the late '20s all the way through the early '70s. The old grandstand and the pits are still at where they are supposed to be, would simply be a perfect backdrop for any vintage racing event.

4. Rouen-Les-Essarts
Laid out on public roads near Rouen, France, the track was a state-of-the-art one concerning its infrastructure along with its 'Nürburgringuesqe' characteristics - running deep in the forest with high-speed blind corners and its roller coaster-like height differences. Opening in one of motor sport history's greatest year, 1950, it saw several French Grand Prix races, and was considered to be technically highly demanding. This resulted in the unfortunate death of Jo Schlesser in 1968. The circuit was still open for F2 races, but ultimately it had to be closed in 1994.

3. Tripoli Circuit
Around the airport of Libya's capital, you can still find stretches of public roads that once belonged to the then-Italian colony's monstrous Grand Prix venue, opened in 1925. Everything was big here. The track with its 13-km length and few and fast corners it was designed for sole flat-out speed. This made it one of the most important events among racing tracks in the horsepower chasing, top speed seeking period. So much, that Mercedes took their regular test track, former motorcycle racetrack and converted it to a similar to it in character - thus Hockenheimring was born. The Tripoli track was an amazing sight with its enormous grandstand, the palm trees, the sand. The motoring proving grounds of the fascist-nazi regimes closed its gates in 1940.

Along with the Nürbirgring, the AVUS in Berlin was an important part of Nazi Germany's propaganda. Conceived in the early 1900s, and after interrupted years' of building, it was completed in 1921, as the first stretch of Autobahn. Two long pieces of roads running in parallel, connected with a sharp turn at the Southern and a bigger one in the Northern end, making up 19km of length. The track went through several changes by cutting it in half and constructing a highly banked brick-paved 'Wall of Death' on the Northern part. Average speed was higher than of the IMS, standing for decades. Later, the 'WoD' was demolished, cutting the track in half again, and once again, concluding in 2.6km with chicanes added. Every major German race was held here, even the 1959 Formula 1 German Grand Prix. 40 years later, in 1999 it all came to an end and races were moved to the new Lausitzring.

1. Montjuïc Circuit
Maybe not the most demanding one, not the fastest, but one of the most classic one. Situated in the park of the same name in Barcelona, Spain, the venue was a host for tragedies, supreme winnings and yet the only female-obtained points in Formula 1. Just think of Jackie Stewart flying through the corners in a Tyrell and you'll see why it is number 1.

+1. Népliget
I have no excuses. I am biased. But I have common sense too, hence +1. Read more here.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Why Formula 1 needs non-championship Grand Prix races?

Not long before the Spanish Grand Prix I went through some older F1 footage to see those mythical races people keep talking about. I came to the conclusion that it is not that difficult to extract awesome scenes from selected races of several decades-worth TV screenings. In fact, everything seemed just the same as nowadays, except the thrill of the possibility of drivers getting killed during races. Actions, moves, wheel-on-wheel battles. That is what you see from YouTube videos and that is what you will remember of recent races twenty years into the future.

Either way, something is missing indeed I had great fun to watch, and I'm not talking about teams, cars, drivers. What is missing are races. Almost for fun. For no consequences. We lack a pitiful amount of non-championship Grand Prix races, that were left to die with the 1983 Race of Champions.

Not long ago I managed to exchange tweets with Peter D. Windsor about this, and almost no surprisingly we share virtually the same opinion:

P: 44 years ago today Lorenzo Bandini crashed at Monaco. I was there. "L'accident a la chicane!" He passed on 3 days later. Very sad. #f1 G: @PeterDWindsor You were there in 1967? That was a great year. One of the best years of the sport. A simulator, GP Legends is based on it. P: @geehalen That year I also saw the Daily Express Trophy at Silverstone (Mike Parkes) and the Oulton Park Spring Cup (Jack Brabham). #f1 G: @PeterDWindsor I do sorry there are no non-championship GPs these days. There could be Olympic races, for example. P: @geehalen Yes, it would be nice again to have non-champ races. Special venues and charities, etc, etc. Some guest drivers.. #f1 G: @PeterDWindsor Definitely there's room and need for special races at e.g. classic tracks or streets. They don't need to be 300km long either

That basically sums up one aspect of the importance of non- champ races, but Keith Collantine came up with another ingenious solution on the f1-fanatic website:

A three-day, non-championship race weekend could include all the testing time teams need on Friday and Saturday, followed by qualifying and a race on Sunday.
There would be other benefits such as allowing them to test changes to racing rules outside of the championship: such as getting rid of the ‘use both tyres’ rule or changes to the Drag Reduction System.
Resurrecting non-championship race could allow teams to give testing opportunities for young drivers but also participate in a competitive event which will offer far more opportunities for promotion than a dreary eight-hour test.
It would be F1′s equivalent of a ‘friendly’ football match.

What a brilliant idea! F1 is trying hard to get messages through, recently supporting green solutions by downsizing and going hybrid. So, by being socially relevant, the event could be used as a means of fundraising for any matters in the world. Also, as a double feature, test restrictions that have been causing serious headaches for all teams so far, 'simulating' a whole race weekend may support more relevant data than a week of testing.

Current series of Race of Champions is rooted in and heavily influenced by rallying with F1 cars making a guest appearance as a part of the show. Why not making it serious and turning it into more than a gala-event?

In fact, where have all the during-race fun from F1 races gone?

Sunday, 15 May 2011

The Hungarian Grand Prix Drivers

May 15th, 1938 was a sad day for Hungarian motorsport. László Hartmann died of his injuries suffered at the Tripoli Grand Prix. With him, a great amount of hope had died as well. No one seemed to follow him down victory lane. With post-war communism blowing the doors on the country a decade later, Grand Prix and Formula 1 remained a legend no one was allowed to talk about. Until one day.

This is the brief story of the Hungarian Grand Prix drivers.

While Hungary has always been successful in rallying, touring car races, Grand Prix competitions seemed truly like a Nirvana out of reach of the imagination. This was a false belief, though, as the Central European country started off with the biggest bang motorsport has seen up to this day.

June 26, 1906. Unknowingly, there is history in the making for motorsport in general. The first French Grand Prix is about to start at Le Mans. The origin and prototype of Formula 1 and the Le Mans 24 hours as well.
Hungarian driver, Ferenc Szisz - great friend of the Renault family and racing engineer and of the factory's competition department - is waiting for the start. He has a great racing experience by completing various motor racing events in recent years, including the Vanderbilt Cup in the USA. This time it is different, as Reanult is in top shape and they are on their home ground at the first event organised by the French Automobile Club.

A two-day endurance event torturing drivers and cars as well, the Renault and Szisz make their stand.

Unbelievable and surprising result for Renault, France and Hungary. With a half-hour lead, Szisz wins the race, with Michelin's ingenious input in the tyre-design.

This single event marked a major blow in motorsports as factories realize the great marketing opportunities in such events. Szisz himself returned for next year's French Grand Prix as well, finishing second. Shortly after he retired racing at such big events and motorsports in general, later on. He died in peace in 1944.

In the years to come there seemed to be noone continuing the legacy of Ferenc Szisz. Partly because history stepped in with WWI and Hungarians weren't much welcomed on international level. There were private competitors in the late '30s, like István de Sztrika (1938 Swiss Grand Prix competitor - Alfa Romeo) or Count Ernő Festetics (10th at the German Grand Prix of 1937 - Maserati) - son of the then fascist leader. Interestingly, the latter got into a bar fight earlier with the son Dunlop Tyres founder, James Dunlop junior in a Budapest night club, both rolling down the stairs.

László Hartmann hadn't been considered much. Even his driving instructor advised him to get a chauffeur, he was that terrible. In the late '20s though, he evolved into an unbeatable champion of the hills surrounding Budapest. In the early '30s he got his chance to qualify to a Grand Prix event with his newly acquired Bugatti, and from that moment on, every race he entered and finished was regiestered around the 7th-8th position, right behind the huge factory teams of Germany and Italy.

 Hartmann in his white Bugatti T35B, at the 1933 Monaco Grand Prix

In 1935, he switched to Maserati 8CM cars, competing on the hardest tracks yet seen. His fame was so high in his own country, that the first Hungarian Grand Prix was held in 1936:

In 1937 he finished 7th on one of the most fearsome tracks ever built, the AVUS, which made Maserati thanking his achievement personally in a letter. He was everywhere from Sweden, through the Copa Ciano,the Nürburgring, South Africa, etc. On 1938 it all ended in a crash at the Tripoli Grand Prix, breaking his spine and dying in the hospital later on.

It was a mournful day for Hungarian motor racing. Especially because history put its death penalty on all future  international Grand Prix hopes. Following WWII, the communist regime took over and dissociated itself from such 'imperialist opium'. The walls were holding tight for decades, but the cracks soon appeared.

Following the 1956 revolution, the Communist Party found that endless supression cannot be viable, the leash was let looser. So much, that in 1986 the first Formula 1 Grand Prix was held behind the Iron Curtain on the newly built Hungaroring, marking the second Hungarian GP.

Hopes were in a return. Will there be another Hungarian Grand Prix driver again? And right then, in 1987, something miraculous happened.

Csaba Kesjár was a fearless gokart driver and hill climb racer. His passion was clearly drawing him towards single seaters. The '80s was a golden age in Hungarian motor racing (especially inrallying). The government was putting money into sponsoring young, talented drivers, entering them into international events. Kesjár was clearly an F1 driver in the making, as he was seen in Formula Easter, Formula Ford and the German Formula 3.

At the weekend of the 1987 Hungarian Grand Prix, it all came full circle. his dreams were realised as he got his chance by sitting in the Zakspeed Formula 1 car, giving it a few laps.

Csaba Kesjár in the Zakspeed Formula 1 car on the Hungaroring in 1987

It was history on wheels: the first Hungarian driver in a Grand Prix car half a century later, and the first driver in a Formula 1 car. Unfortunately, this dream was short-lived, too. Due to a brake-failure at the Norisring F3 race in 1988, he suffered fatal injuries, crashing into the tyre-wall.

When Csaba Kesjár was a star in Formula cars, Zsolt Baumgartner was just learning to walk. In the late '90s he was following the same path as Kesjár, and fortunately for him, he had the family background to make his dream realised. In 2002 he was granted a chance to test drive a Jordan F1 car, and in 2003, he became a regular test driver. At the Qualifying of the Hungarian Grand Prix, something terrible and fantastic happened. Ralph Firman crashed and was taken to hospital for an examination. The very first F1 start for a Hungarian driver at the Hungarian Grand Prix, and the second Eastern European in the sport.

Jordan sacked him et the end of the year, but a new contract (highly supported by the state-owned Hungarian Oil Company (MOL)) was in the way with Minardi. Minardi was one of the smallest teams in F1, but many future starts started here, like the two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso.

...and then, in 2004, something truly unexpected happened at the United States Grand Prix in Indianapolis. The first Hungarian F1 point was wainting at the Brickyard. Watch Hungarian commentator, László Palik, losing his mind as Fishicella's car is giving up:

That is history, right there. Later, he joined the Minardi ChampCar team, but the team later retired from the series.

The question is still open since then: who will be the next Hungarian F1 driver? Norbert Michelisz WTCC race winner? Pál Tamás Kiss GP3 racer? That is a story still to be told.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Vanishing Point - The Future of Formula 1

There has been a lot of talk and discussion about the upcoming 2013 regulations for F1. Which is not surprising, as the sport prepares for a major overhaul - the return of turbocharging, a proposed 1.6l l4 engine configuration and a greater emphasis on the KERS system. What IS surprising is that this will be the second major revision within less than five years. The question arises - what is to come in the future?

Obviously the sport is in a depression at the moment and FIA tries everything to keep up the interest of manufacturers and the audience as well. Unfortunately these two seem to be constantly on a collision course and in recent years tension has built up enough to decide in favour of one party - although this was not intentional.

As far the cars themselves concerned (that are interested in policy the least) they are constantly formed by technical advancement, but from time to time, they get harnessed by motorsport and other policy.

So I made a little investigation into F1 regulations and developments to see the progress in cars in order to set up a trend that may manifest in the next 10-15 years.

At the very early of my research I came to realise (as I suspected previously) that major overhaulings came about every 10 years - almost exactly at the very end or the very beginning of a decade with some minor progress in the middle.

So let's see a little overview here briefly. In brackets, you can see the reasons:

Early '50s - 4.5l N/A or 1.5l supercharged formula quickly dropped in favour of F2 2-litre N/A regulations. Engine in the front.
Mid '50s - 2.5l N/A formula introduced, awakening attention of major manufacturers.
Late '50s / Early '60s - F2 formula introduced again, 1.5l N/A engines. Mid-engine cars start to appear - probably the most important development in F1.
Mid '60s - Engine displacement expanded to 3-litres, remains a general engine formula for decades.
Late '60s - Wings appear, torsion bar suspention introduced (note: the 1967 season is considered to be one of the greatest in the history of F1 as there was virtually no downforce yet but very high output) - the second greatest change in the sport.
Late '70s - Beside the 3l N/A engine regulation, the 1.5-litre force inducted formula is allowed for engines - the beginning of the legendary turbo-era. Aerodynamics makes its second strike as ground effect is introduced (along with the legendary, one-off Brabham "fan-car").
Mid '80s - Ground effect is banned - the first major restriction (SAFETY).
Late '80s - Turbocharging is banned (BUDGET).
Early '90s - Electronic driver aids make their move.
Mid '90s - Driver aids banned (only to be lagalized and banned in subsequent years), safety regulations highly restricted (SAFETY, BUDGET, COMPETITION)
Late '90s - Cars shrunk in width, effect of aerodynamics and grip on tyres decreased (SAFETY, COMPETITION); Bridgestone enters F1, creating a competition with GoodYear.
Early '00s - Engines are expected to last for 1-2-3 race weekends, gradually. Michelin enters F1 (BUDGET)
Mid '00s - 3l N/A V10 engine formula is dropped in favour of 2.4l V8 N/A; Michelin enters F1, Bridgestone leaves (BUDGET)
Late '00s / Early '10s - the biggest overhaul in decades: aero effect tremendously cut down, engine development frozen, Pirelli enters F1, slick tyres reintroduced (note: increasing mechanical, decreasing aero downforce), gearboxes are equal, mobile body parts introduced (F-duct, DRS), KERS introduced; (BUDGET, COMPETITION, ECO)
Mid '10s - 1.6l, turbocharged  4-cylinder engines to be introduced, increasing the role of the KERS system; talks about all electric engines in the future (ECO, BUDGET)

So this is where we are now, and we can see some factors trending: safety, budget, competition and eco influences, with eco and budget getting stronger and budget staying constanty low.

Where is this heading to by around 2020?

The 'competition' factor is an issue, viewer-vise. Due to the nature of open-wheel, winged cars, there's a high amount of aerodynamics involved that makes overtaking difficult. Thus supplementary body kits were banned and slick tyres reintroduced to enhance mechanical grip in favour of aerodynamics, supported by the DRS (Drag Reduction System) to make overtaking easy.

I suspect currently this is the direction the sport is heading to at one point. Reducing aerodynamics, the cars can get closer to each other, pleasing the audience with more 'wheel-on-wheel' action, and bigger manufacturers may be interested if there was more mechanicals involved (with the fear that a budget cap could destroy that hope any moment).

If we take that, we should list the 'items' that are strongly recommended to create greater mechanical grip:
- bigger tyres (wider across and bigger in diameter)
- even less aerodynamic downforce (the front wing could serve as an item only of saving the front wheels from aero-drag), moving the creation of downforce to the rear wing and the body mainly (see the next point)
- four-wheel drive - Now that's something that seems to be truly unexpected, but it's not. I'll explain: in other motorsports, KERS systems are used to drive the front wheels as well. In corner exits this could serve well, if it's an electronically controlled device. If the electric motor is put somewhere in the front, wedge-shaped body designs could be introduced again, creating the missing downforce from the front wing; I do not believe this would make a much higher budget in design than any major revision would. Overtaking could be easily solved by revised DRS systems.
- allowing driver aids - traction control, ABS, launch control, CVT transmission. I mean - let the computers do some work, let's not pretend F1 is in the stone age. If drivers are free from various controls on the steering wheel, they can concentrate on racing more. CVT transmissions can extend engine life and efficiency at the same time.

In other words: let mechanicals and computers create grip while the drivers are busy racing each other.

Another factor in racing is the nostalgy awaken in recent years: drivers like Rosberg, Senna and Piquet racing, classic liveries revived: Reenault, Williams, and two Lotuses. The reintroduction of the turbo is another flashback to 'good ole days'. Revision of some classic tracks could be also a demand in favour of recent Tilke-tracks. Everything was tried lately: night street-race, semi-night race in an arena with a tunnel involved, but in the face of preliminary expectations they didn't prove to be competitive tracks enough.

Also, a move to the arabic world had been made, another move to South Asia recently (India, South Korea), and by their heavy input in F1 teams, a Russian GP should be manifested soon, followed by an African race afterwards. But then F1 still needs to revive some of its old tracks if there is that much nostalgy involved. A Grand Prix of Argentina, Mexico, Sweden, Holland, etc. should be reintroduced on the old tracks, revised.

Now, I don't think this all could lead to the days of the late '80s and early '90s, being 'too fast to race', since there is a heavy influence of electric drive involved. Full electric drive is very compromised yet (and will be for a while), but being pushed that much, there is going to be a hybrid league for a long time, and endurance will be more of a question as opposed to speed.

I may be wrong big time, but clearly there has been a shift from flat-out speed to a strategic game for a while now. F1 needs to get messages through: i.e.: it is still cutting edge, they still use the best solutions, they still can be cheap and eco, and they still have the best drivers in the world.

F1 is heavily formed by policy and expectations - as every king would be suspiciously scrutinized. Surely, old-school is not Formula "1". Most efficient technology is (whether if it is the biggest power output, the highest speed, the lowest consumption - whatever policy and expectations dictate), that is built up of many factors as I detailed above. If something is lost there, it will not be F1 anymore.

Agree? Disagree? Comment, if you wish!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

The Top 10+1 Forms of Automobile Racing

*WARNING! The following article contains opinions. In fact, it lacks almost any objective measures. Arguments are highly appreciated. Thank you!*

...and here we are. Losing all unnecessary words, let's just say, without racing, cars would be just boring metal-boxes, carrying people from A to B, pumping adrenalie no more than a ride on a subway would. But thank God for racing spirit, no sooner the second car left the factory, the setting has been paved for competitive purposes. So now, let's take the ultimate forms of CAR racing here. See if you get hooked on some of them.

10. Truck Racing
No, this is not the NASCAR pickup roundabout (although more exciting to watch them as "general" "stock" cars, IMHO). It is the real deal. The clash of the Titans. A complete nonsense this is - vehicles designed explicitly for commercial trafficing squeezing through corners side by side on tracks that were put down on blueprint with small, competitive one-seaters and motorcycles in mind. Howling tyres, clouds of vapour and smoke as the rig trucks drift on six wheels for the checkered flag. Like skyscrapers going down, the sight and the rumble of the action resembles some sort of apocalyptic scene from the end of the world. Mad Max would approve, too.

9. IndyCar
"Stone-age Formula 1" - one would think. And I agree, but that is the point. But let's hold the horses for a minute and get deeper a little bit. IndyCar is one of the oldest seres out there (not formally though), originating from the legendary Indianapolis 500. Since the dawn of formula 1, there has been a growing demand to extend the biggest motor racing event in the world to a series, thus CART was created. Indy cars in the beginning wore strinking resemblance of F1 cars, but as the time of aerodynamic design moved forward in the late 60s, they took a different direction in engineering - as Indy still being centered around Indianapolis Motor Speedway and other oval tracks. No wonder, general development still went towards engine power, even after F1 started backing down. In general, an Indy car is a much cheaper design than an F1, and lately it has become a spec series. Equal cars fighting through ovals and street circuits, being similar to F1 racers 20-25 years back (especially with the new formula from 2012), they sometimes bring the same excitement as those races back in the day. That alone makes it to be on the list.

8. Rallying - WRC & IRC
Although these are two different leagues and series, they should be mentioned together, as there are barely any difference between them - cars are even shared for the most part. Rallying is probably one of the oldest racing forms out there - cars going from A to a very distant B, crossing the finish line. Although the competition has moved since then to a Super Special mayhem, one gist is still there that cannot be compensated by anything - the complete inability of putting this on live TV. Heck, a whole event goes on for a full weekend, and cameras cannot be put everywhere. People tried and failed: a live SSS coverage is fun, but feels more of an X-games event for the purpose of showing off. It took time to realize: this is a race for the hardcores. For those people who are willing to go out in the forest, at night, in the snow, just to watch the flashes and thunder one at a time, for a few seconds. This is love at its deepest. Although downsizing in the past decades has left its negative mark on the popularity of the sport, it still deserves to be on the list.

7. Dakar
The true meaning of rallying. As detailed no. 9, Super Special explicit runs make up  a rallying event in the World Championship. Not in Dakar rallying. The greatness of a racing event is being indicated whether a whole series will grow out of it, as we saw it earlier, and as we will later on. The challenge on the African sand dunes has been altered from year to year due to political fear. First, not putting the finish line in Dakar, then moving out of Africa entirely, setting in South America. But the name is still there, symbolizing one of the toughest motoring competition known to mankind. Motorcycles, 4x4s, trucks unleashed into the endless savannah, hoping to see the checkered flag in the end, or to achieve a DNF alive for the worst. A journey through the wilderness. Not many motorsports earn its living of that.

6. NHRA Top Fuel
Racing at its main core, in the league of ultimates - concerning the duration of a race, the horsepowers involved, the g's, the top speed, the sound, the adrenaline. There is just no way to top this. F1 cars are always being compared to jet fighter planes, top fuel dragsters then should be matched up with rockets. They are indeed rockets with their 8000bhps, the "driver's" job is to aim the beak to the finish line 1,320 (or 1,000) feet away during those crucial 4 seconds. Nothing compares to the thunder and lightning experience these vehicles give. You have to see it for yourself.

5. Formula Off-Road
Take the previous two contestants and this is what you get. The other one would be top fuel sand drag racing. But this is more exciting. You have the nitrous fire-breathing V8 from a dragster, fitted with the same tyres with treads big enough for speedbumps, putting them in front of a vertical piece of mine-wall, and there you have it. Vehicles seemingly defying gravity, climbing up the wall as quick as other cars at a green-light start. Or put a lake between them and the finish line, and they would cross it easily... on the surface of the water. The craze that started in Iceland, is the most redneck motorsports of all, and it wasn't even invented in America - with this much fury at least. Insane drivers and vehicles. A much watch for every offroader and anyone in general, whoever saw a car at any point of his or her life.

4. DTM
Probably the most significant and yet most underrated spec-racing in existence - a perfect synthesis of NASCAR and touring car racing with a great hint of F1. Cars are very much like their Americans counterparts in their general layout, but they look ridiculously more fenomenal, running on tracks where ususally F1, touring car, and other prestigeous races are dominant. A defunct series with a magnificent revision and revival, quickly conquering Europe, stepping over to China, and rumors say, in 2013 a DTM NASCAR series for America will be launched due to the excessively successful formula. You get all the contacts that are acceptable in any NASCAR or touring car race, a real man-to-man fight, also, equipped with the sound of early 90s F1 cars. Take that, and consider Mercedes and Audi fighting against each other, clashing the Silver Arrows in numbers enough for a whole league. Plus, it is a haven for ex-F1 drivers, who now can show their more immediate, agressive faces pushing each other around. 2012 will see the return of BMW as well to complete German supremacy once more. There is scarcely anything to say against it.

3. Formula 1
The King of Motorsports remains the de facto King of Motorsports. De jure it is a little bit different, for it is a bad king lately. F1 suffers from a serious identity crisis, mostly since the beginning of the electronic age - concerning driver aids. Driving aids were banned, leglized and banned again due to the conflict of interests whether F1 is a drivers' skills sport or a technology-driven one. Literally. With driver aids turned on, it's more of a technological sport, turned off, it's less F1. Along with budget restrictions and simplifications, most of the great companies started losing interest lately, leading to a near split. I, myself have dealt with a possible solution, too, because the problem is permanent. Yet, it is still the ultimate benchmark of automobile racing and will be for a long, long time afterwards.

2. 24 Hours of Le Mans
If big car companies moved from F1, where are they now? Well, they are all here, between two small French villages. Seperated at birth, the Le Mans 24 Hours and F1 took very different routes, with the former gaining full attention of manufacturers. A win at Le Mans means a lot more to a company professionally than three world titles in a row in F1. Because the knowledge and know-how gained in F1 is being recycled into itself for the most part, experience gained from a 24 hours race here can be used on everyday cars as well. That's why it is no sacrilage that diesels are winning all the time lately, and most cars sold in Europe are diesels, too. This is the real proving grounds of automobile engineering. In addition, racing-wise, it is the perfect combination of man, machine and TEAM. A lot less individual sport than F1. Maybe this is one of the reasons there aren't as many followers of this sport as F1, people find it more difficult to build up a relation with it, whereas in F1 it is a lot more easier to get affected by the drivers themselves. The question in F1 is usually whether X driver would be faster than Y that year. In endurance racing, the main discussion travels around whether Peugeot could beat Audi once more or so. There are several series originating from this single event, but this is the holy ground, right here. In my opinion, the de jure King of Motorsports is the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

1. Pikes Peak International Hill Climb
What? How? I just claimed the Le Mans 24 Hours "KoM". How come it only came in second?  Because here is the "King of Motoring Challenge". You can't and won't stay up for 24 hours just to watch Le Mans, will you? I suspect everyone slept one hour or two in the early hours. But the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is very different. It is a well balanced combination of the most exciting motorsports. Of course, it is a hill climb. Which means, you get a solitary time attack with enourmous elevation. It resembles rallying a bit in this respect, even more when talking about cars, including ones that are sometimes basically indy cars converted for dirt roads, but most of the time, vehicles that recall the best days of Group B rallying and Japanese silhouette racing. And some more. Literally, there are no limits but the finish line in the clouds. Hereby I proclaim the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb the ultimate form of automobile competition.

+1. Drifting
Drifting deseves a whole different section, for it is much closer to figure skating than straight racing. Drifting is the motorsport for the YouTube generation who grew up on Group A and Group B videos back in the day. Drifting takes the most spectacular bits of rallying and touring cars, and extends it to a whole event. For sure, a car is most exciting to watch when going sideways. Especially when there are two or more of them trying to get to the front. And where else can you find a motorsport where small Japanese  four-banger hatchbacks are equals of monstrous American V8 and V10 supercars? Truly, truly a drivers' competition. All skill, all handling. That is all that matters for the most part.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Embracing Oval-Track Racing

Oval-track racing is one of the most controversial form of automobile competition. Some adore it, some hate it with disgust, yet it just won't go out of fashion, because - guess what - ovals are the oldest purpose-built tracks in the world. Want to argue with tradition?

The need for racetracks came very early on, as cars were still fresh and new, but people would want to watch head-to-head competition. Surely, there were already Grand Prix races on closed roads, but that didn't really satisfy the needs of the audience and drivers at the time. There were a few problems: roads were bumpy, and a car would quickly dissolve into the vanishing point on an open road.

Since people were pioneering land-speed record attempts, the faster the competition, the more exciting races were. So, if you take a long-long stretch of flawless piece of road, you can push the hell out of the car, and if you take both ends of it and form a circle, it goes infinitely. Plus, the audience can get a great view on ALL the happenings, ALL the time.

Thus, Brooklands and Indianapolis Motor Speedway was born in 1907 and 1909 respectively, and while the former had to close down only after 32 years of activity, the latter is still an living course. hosting - among many others - one of the most prestigeous races in the world.

Americans love ovals, most of their biggest IndyCar, NASCAR and other races are running on the banked turns.

And yes, everything has flaws.

First of all, you just can't race in the rain on an oval. That would be a direct act of suicide. It is just not possible to create a race under such circumstances with cars sliding around, hitting the walls. There would be simply no survivors of such an event after only 20 laps.

Secondly, the problems detailed above do exist anyway, would just be amplified by the rain tremendously. The other direct problem is the great chance of collision. Cars running around in packs at 200mph do open the door for a huge per cent of possibility of contacts, concluding in crashes. The happening that's being exciting for the eye, ruining the pace. Most of the races are series of racing 5 laps, then pacing 5 laps under yellow flag.

The diffenerces in the structure of the races (and hence the mentality of the two worlds) between of ovals and "road cources" are very similar to the ones of American and European football. American football is a fast-pace, full action combat for a few seconds, then strategic mind-game for long minutes. While as European football is more of a "timer has started, just go out and win" sort of attitude in this recpect. Most of the action that's been done on a road course can be squeezed into a few minutes of racing on an oval. People governing NASCAR know this and push the politics of the game into this direction

All this lead up to our most crucial point. Is it fun to watch races like these and is it fun to participate in them?

Referring back to the beginning, attending such an event you get a view like nowhere else. You see all the action, you hear all the roar, you smell everythig. Literally, it is a 360 degree surrounding sense-bombing. Whereas going on TV, it may not be so exciting. Especially when cars are completing their pace laps most of the duration of the races. So, if I had to be at a race and watch all the fun and circus, I would vote for an oval, but would fall asleep watching something like it on TV for four straight hours.

For the drivers? Since ovals are not that demanding for the body, drivers can spend a longer career in motor racing. While Schumacher and Barrichello are old lads in F1, they still may have at least 20 good years in any NASCAR series, and 10-12 in IndyCar.

I do watch oval racing, despite falling asleep eventually, and I still think we need more tracks like these, or similar. The Lausitzring was one great chance that ended up in tragedy, but a European can still watch e.g. the European Late Model Series for a gist of 'merican racing.

In fact, I believe the key in these is their live-audience drawing factor. We managed to find one great solution to get the action. the first one-on-one race of DTM in Munich Olympic Stadium will be held between July 16 and 17. There's an arena, there are the cars, there are turns, it seems all perfect. Two thumbs up.

We might not embrace oval tracks fully, but we will surely get the gist of it sooner or later.

(Watch the webcams on the right and see the track on the Olympic Stadium building. Hopefully we will get a great coverage through it, too.)

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Days Worth Living For

by Gabor Bazso (aka Nino Karotta)

(Editor's Note: This article has been translated and republished from Karotta's personal blog with his permission. Karotta is editor of the Hungarian on-line magazine, TotalCar, and ex co-host of its spinoff TV-version. In addition, he is an amateur drifter, owning several cars. Do not duplicate or republish this without his permission. For more pictures, visit his blog here. And now sit back, 'cause we're taking a wild ride.)

Rolling on the freeway screaming, wearing a hideous grin on my face and being numb of blissful exhaustion. My eyes are sucked dry enough to evolve wrinkles due to the glowing firewall, and my backbone disks are being grinded by the racing undercarriage. Surrounded by the smell of the brake pads, rubber and gasoline and embraced by the peace of the inactive phone and the constant 120 kilometres per hour speed.

Driving on a reacetrack is a liquid feast cleansing to the mind. It leaves perfectly clear and delighted gyral ripples behind within the skull-space. Enough said, I exploit every given opportunity to go. That's how I got to the Euroring, where Gabor Weber - multiple Hungarian Clio Cup and 2010 champion of Seat Leon Eurocup - was to give a driving instruction. You can read about this and our domestic duel here. There's a comparative video at the end for hardcore apex-nerds.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

New Disease: F1-N1 - The Malady of Formula 1

What is wrong with Formula 1?

In one word: boring.

Most people blame overengineering, the ridiculous rules, policy, etc. I agree most of those except 'overengineering'.

Let's think about this for a minute. Yes, Senna was awesome with the manual gearbox, clutch, and there was tremendous excitement on the track - overtakes, crashes, battles, you name it. It was all about racing, competing head-to-head on the track.

But would you really want that back? It may be exciting, or may not be. But sitting in your car on a Monday morning after a race would you realize that your Hyundai is equipped with more advanced technology than any 'F1' car out there.

And then it wouldn't be F1 anymore, would it?

Any stepping back in F1 technology is like Neil Armstrong saying 'Sorry guys, this is just ridiculous, I'm going back' on the Moonlander's ladder.

F1 is 'Formula 1'. The loud science lab of car manufacturing. It would be a huge loss of prestige if all that was taken away.

You want open-wheel excitement? Well, this is what GP2 and IndyCar about. Especially IndyCar. Identical cars with not so advanced know-how behind it. Cheap to enter, cheap to run. No big deal if you crash by 200mph in the 3rd turn of Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

On the contrary, F1 is the sport of geeks. Where off-season developments are as 'exciting' as Sundays. Yes, the drivers are great. They are bred to do this. But indeed, it is the battle of engineers.

So here's an idea. Since I hate drivers playing Kraftwerk songs on their steering wheel during races, let's just get rid of all the buttons and let them do the driving. Meanwhile, engineers back in the paddock could do all the work the drivers were forced to do up to this point, through a reinvented two-way telemetry system.

There could be a seperate point system for the driver-engineers, judged by a committee. Whoever does an excellent job with bad drivers or cars by pushing them more to the front with their cunning aid, could get points. Or whatever.

The thing is, there should be a separation: drivers should do the driving, engineers should do all the background tricks during races in addition the incredible job they have been done, and what the viewr gets is almost pure racing, where you don't need a calculator to decide whether the race will get exciting within 23 laps or not.

In fact, you don't go to a restaurant to learn all the cookery tricks. You go there to enjoy the product, regardless what the ingredients are, but knowing it is high class. That is the difference between a self-help and an exquisite restaurant.

So Bernie, let us just enjoy the meal and you guys do the cooking, is that a deal?

Monday, 28 March 2011

China Syndrome - a loss of pitiful common sense

I just read in the news that the EU would like to see "zero emission" cars ONLY on its roads by 2050, internal combustion engines would be banned (not entirely, though).

In other news, German protesters raise up their voices to close all German nuclear power plants, due to the Japanese earth quake and tsunami caused fission crisis.

1. Earth quakes of this magnitude would never occur in Europe, especially in Germany, because - alas - it's on the middle of a tectonic plate. If it DID happen, then it would mean the European continent submerging below sea level, or being crushed entirely, causing millions of deaths.

2. Tsunami, again, cannot strike the middle of a continent. If it did, then one could associate a meteor hit of a magnitude that would wipe out the living flora of a hemisphere, serious megadeaths or gigadeaths in charge.

3. Guess what. "Zero emission" electric cars are powered by - surprise - electricity. And electricity comes from - surprise again - nuclear power plants for the most per cent.

 4. If you cut back electricity, then there is no power to power "green cars" (horror!),  flat screen 3D TVs (terror!), and most of all - servers that run Facebook, Twitter and the Greenpeace website - and you are not able to organise a protest, a revolution or share infos about whale huntings (apocalypse!).

5. I'm going to buy a car that stays a vehicle for the rest of my life. It should be a Land Rover Discovery, a Toyota Hilux or a Lada Niva. You don't want to see internal combustion engines on the roads? You won't if it's up to me...

Thursday, 17 March 2011

The Top 10+1 FWD Cars

*WARNING: The following article contains opinions and doesn't reflect the view of yours. Maybe a bit. But I don't care.*

Front-wheel drive can be considered the second biggest boom in the industry almost since the Model T. It's consumer friendliness in every way made the second push towards mass productivity. You can get a bigger interior and a better grip and handling under traction-undfriendlier situations than with an RWD car - supposing everyday trafficing, of course. On the downside you lose a great amount of fun factor that the manufacturers frantically try to regain. So now, here's a list of the best attempts of all. Get you seatbelts right.

10. Daihatsu Charade GTti
 The smallest, and the meanest. I mean who would have ever imagined to turbocharge a one-litre DOHC engine? The ultimate essence of what the term "hot hatch" stands more. Most power into the smallest car. While that 114bhp is laughable amount of force, it is enough to go head-to-head with big block muscle cars even on a quarter-mile. Surely, it's not the FWD factor that makes it legendary. It's the finger it gives everyone else.

9. Volvo 850 Wagon
Boring, boring all the way. Square edges, big trunk... Why did I sign up for it in the first place? Well, it's the biggest boot you camn ever get. One awesome chassis that makes it a handler, too, and the ultimate fact that a BTCC racer was made out of it. Name other station wagons in touring car racing or any other competitions that are in police fleets as well.

8. Abarth 695 Tributo Ferrari
The Fiat 500 is one of the best retrocars ever conceived. Surprisingly it's not ripping off the legacy of the vintage car. It continues it. The Abarth 500 came along as a mean machine and the 695 Tributo? Well, it's virtually a bit of powerwise upscaled Abarth 500 with the "Ferrari" name in it. Yes? No? How many FWD cars can you get with the "Ferrari" name in it? Thought so. The Aston Martin Cygnet is not a player here, believe me. Just don't listen.

7. Saab 900 Turbo
Not the first one, but made legends by turbocharging FWD cars. Out of the jetfighter factory (sort of), tested on the Swedish rallies (sort of) it has the power, the handling and the unique Nordic ice-hooning factor you can't get in any other cars. Plus it looks awesome. Not the sort of looks you would expect from a dily driver, like a supermodel with a duckface, but that just adds to the experience.

6. Fiat Coupe
It's all Chris Bangle's fault. The guy who put BMW on the binging line, did this beauty. A nice, enjoyable drive, full of Italian sunshine, and to this day I firmly believe it deserves an Alfa Romeo badge. It has the character, the style, and for a matter, it is a quite reasonable catch for any car-lover. Yes, the MX5 drives better with FWD. Yes, the Lotus Elan is a L-O-T-U-S, and they are both cabrios. But boy, this is heart-racing to look at.

5. VW Golf GTD
I know, and I agree. It should have been the GTI. But the GTD was the next logical evolutionary step. The GTI introduced the "hot hatch" category that is basically the European counterpart of American Muscle cars. Up to that point, no one really thought a family car could be sportish, and up to the GTD no one ever believed a diesel engine could be a performance thing. It is competitive now, and most of the cars sold in Western Europe are diesels. Waaaay ahead of its time. Deserves the spot.

4. Peugeot 205 Gti
Probably the best-handling FWD car Europe could come up with. Following the footsteps of the Golf GTI, Peugeot has come up with its own street and rally fighter. While the T16 Group B version taught a lesson at Col de Turini, the GTi taught another one for daily drivers and pumped fresh life into the industry and made a legend among enthusiasts. You just can't have better handling for the money it costs.

3. Ford Focus RS 500
If you seek the best, go for the best. The RS 500 is the most hardcore drivers' version of the Focus. Limited edition, FWD stealth fighter. The RS line continued where Cosworth left off and made the FWD a performance factor again by reviving and old technology renaming it RevoKnuckle. The theory of the unnecessitiy of putting more than 200bhp into a car has vanished and made its way to a new era of performance cars.

2. Mini Cooper
I'm talking about the original. The one that humiliated every other competitors at the Monte Carlo Rally. The car that basically introduced the hatchback category, made a sporting name as well. The awesome handling due to excessive grip and tricks to bring out the max (left-foot braking, Scandinavian flick). It is indeed Britain's pride.

1. Honda Integra Type-R
The ultimate FWD car. You just cannot top the zen of its perfect match of handling, traction and power. It could almost be cited as a FWD NSX. Japan succeeded to put a period on all the debates whether a FWD car can ever be as good as a RWD. It can. By far. And we love it. Arigato!

+1. Citroen DS
To put it simply - one of the best cars ever made. So much ahead of its time, that some of the solutions are returning NOW as "innovative" engineering features. Air-suspension, dynamic lighting, mid-engine, FWD layout. You just stand in awe and watch the French revolution on four wheels. Definitely deserves a place here, although it is not the FWD factor we love it so much. Hence +1.

(Editor's note: some of the images do not always represent the acutal car highlighted)