Editor's Note: Peter will return next week with a new edition of "Fumes." -WG
By Peter M. De Lorenzo
Detroit. As I said in last week's column, I have serious doubts that Liberty Media's takeover of Formula 1 will make a damn bit of difference, especially here in the U.S. F1 has squandered every opportunity it has been given here to do well because of its mind-numbing propensity to place greed over common sense. It has never been about the racing for F1 here; no, instead it has been about whether or not the facilities were luxurious enough, or if there were enough decent places to stay, or if the garages would be up to their rigid specifications, and if they would really have to interact with "the people" all that much.
And, as if that weren't enough, then there was the FIA dictating track standards, which is a joke when you really think about it because F1 races at Monaco, and the FIA goes right along with that. Yes, we get it, Monaco is about tradition, and America is, well, America is about the money, pure and simple. So call me skeptical about the "new" F1, because there aren't enough social media orchestrations and pushes to attract younger people to the sport that will matter.
But there is one thing that would. If you listen to the growing grumbles from the people who actually drive the machines in F1, they seem to be echoing each other in their comments. They want more power. They want the machines to be as difficult to drive as possible. And they want more noise, which all sounds perfectly reasonable to me.
Let's face it, the turbo V6s just don't sound like proper racing cars. Call me old-school, but the fact remains that the great sounding racing engines of all time, or in my time are the following (by no means a complete list): A small- or big-block American V8. The Cosworth-Ford V8 F1 engine. The Ferrari V12 or flat 12. The Porsche 917 (normally-aspirated). The Matra V12. The Gurney-Weslake V12. The Honda V10. You get the idea.
The F1 drivers know that the current cars sound like turbocharged tractors, and they're bored to tears with it. That's not what they grew up aspiring to drive, that's for sure. They grew up going to F1 races hearing that blood-curdling, gut-ripping, ear-splitting scream. And they wanted to drive that. It's funny, but racing enthusiasts are the same way. Hell, even casual racing fans expect to hear loud engines when they go to a race, not glorified UPS trucks with glass-pack mufflers.
If the new owners of F1 want to make a splash and make a difference and bring the buzz back, they need to bring back the scream.
And that's the High-Octane Truth for this week.
Editor's Note: Many of you have seen Peter's references over the years to the Hydrogen Electric Racing Federation (HERF), which he launched in 2007. For those of you who weren't following AE at the time, you can read two of HERF's press releases here and here. And for even more details (including a link to Peter's announcement speech), check out the HERF entry on Wikipedia here. -WG
Publisher's Note: As part of our continuing series celebrating the "Glory Days" of racing, we're proud to present another noteworthy image from the Ford Racing Archives. - PMD
(Courtesy of the Ford Racing Archives)
New Smyrna Beach, Florida, 1957. Factory '57 Ford Thunderbird "Battlebirds" getting worked on in the pits before the New Smyrna Beach Airport Races in February of that year. Ford factory drivers selected for the races on the temporary road course included Troy Ruttman, Danny Eames, Chuck Daigh, Marvin Panch and Curtis Turner. The cars were prepared by Peter DePaolo Engineering in Long Beach, California, and were extensively modified with hand-formed aluminum hoods, doors, trunks, firewalls and belly pans. The road racing Thunderbirds were powered by 312 cu. in. V8s with Hilborn fuel-injection heavily-modified by Ford. Carroll Shelby, driving a 4.9-liter Ferrari, won the race overall in dominant fashion, with Marvin Panch (No. 98 Ford Thunderbird "Battlebird") finishing second.