Mario Andretti

February 9, 2009 by  
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Mario Andretti – a name spoken with respect in auto racing circles. A master on the Formula One and NASCAR track, Mario Adretti has certainly left a major mark on the history of auto racing. Andretti, an Italian-American, has had a remarkable driving career with 4 IndyCar title wins and numerous F1 victories.

Mario Gabriele Andretti, along with his twin brother Aldo, was born on 28 February 1940 in Italy. In 1948 due to the occupation of his homeland by Yugoslavia, his family promptly departed, finally coming to reside in Nazareth of Pennsylvania, USA. Andretti’s racing career began in 1959 as he raced around a dirt track in a Hudson. His first year of racing saw Mario Andretti coming in 3rd place at the Indianapolis 500. 1964 was the year Andretti began racing in the USAC series. He also took part in a variety of forms of auto racing such as drag racing.

Mario Andretti also had a keen interest in Formula One. His first race was at Watkins Glen in 1968 and his first win for Ferrari was in 1971. Andretti’s focus really shifted to F1 driving in the mid-1970s. He began driving for the Parnelli team. He took the Lotus to its limit, developing a fantastic racing car that took an amazing full lap lead at Mount Fuji track. 1978 was a remarkable season with 6 wins in his brilliantly designed Lotus 79. Unfortunately after his previous grand successes as a Formula 1 driver, Andretti failed to gain victory from 1979 onwards. However his career in F1 reminded all why he was a champion as he competed with Ferrari in 1982. Andretti continued racing IndyCars during the ’80s.

Through his racing days Mario Andretti received much recognition, along with many awards and titles. Amongst these are the 1978 F1 World Champion, Inductee of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2000 and Inductee of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 1996. He was even named “Driver of the Century” in 2000 by Associated Press and RACER magazine. Andretti was honored by the Italian government in 2006, by being awarded the Commendatore dell’Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana.

Today Mario Andretti is a successful business man. He has set up the Andretti Winery in Napa Valley and has business interests in car dealerships, petroleum, the Mario Andretti Racing School as well as the Andretti Indoor Karting and Games center. However, Mario Andretti will always be remembered as one of the greatest race car drivers ever.

Shanghai International Speedway

February 9, 2009 by  
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Viewed from overhead, the shape of Shanghai International Speedway is reminiscent of the Chinese symbol “Shang,” which translates as “high” or “above.” According to computer simulations, current-generation Formula 1 cars will lap the track in about 1:34 at an average speed close to 205 kilometers per hour (roughly 127.4 mph). On the longest, 1175 meter straight, which links Turns 13 and 14, cars should reach a maximum speed of 327 km/h (203mph). This distinctive speedway – which in sheer size will overshadow every other track in the Grand Prix of Nations – incorporates 14 wide-ranging corners, an equal blend of left and right-handers that combine to form a 5.45 kilometer (3.39 mile) lap.

The Shanghai International Speedway has an overall length of 5,451.24 meters and includes seven left and seven right turns. The longest straight runs parallel to the Dragster track between the turns T13 and T14 and has a length of 1.175 m. The standard width of the track is between 13 m and 15 m, expending up to 20 meters in turns, such as T13.

Further unique characteristics of the Shanghai International Speedway are turns with snail-like narrowing (T1 to T3), turns with snail-like expansion (T10 to T12) and two pointed turns (T5 and turn T13).

The axis of the Shanghai International Speedway is at its lowest point on + 4.50 meters above sea level, the highest point in T2 is on + 11.24 meters above sea level. The maximum upward slope amounts to 3%; the maximum downward slope to 8%, the transverse downward slope of the roadway is 2.5%.

The combination of turns and straight lines, with the rising and falling of the gradient, permits top speeds up to 327 km/h on the longest straight line (between T12 and T13) and a deceleration to 87 km/h is required by drivers in close turns.

The constant change between acceleration and deceleration sections, connected by high-speed sections, presents a challenge to driving skills, offers sufficient opportunities for overtaking maneuvers, resulting in an intense motor sport experience for spectators.

Infineon Raceway

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Infineon Raceway is located close to Sonoma, to the north of San Francisco. It serves two purposes: that of a road course track and that of a drag strip. As it is situated in the northern California hills, the track races up and down these hills, together with challenging turns and complicated twists. Not only does the Infineon Raceway host NASCAR events but is home to the American Federation of Motorcyclists series, which holds a few motorcycle events here. Only one of the NASCAR road races is held at the Infineon Raceway. This track was formerly known as the Sears Point Raceway when it opened in 1968.

The Riverside International Raceway, that was located in California, was closed at the end of the 1988 racing season, and was demolished to make way for a new shopping center development project. This left NASCAR searching for a venue to replace Riverside, and decided on the road course at Sears Point. The name, Sears Point, refers to the geographical features of the location, and has therefore no connection to the company Sears. It was renamed after the Infineon Corporation in 2002, although most people still call it by its original name, and the name they’ve grown accustomed to.

The Infineon Raceway is a 4.05 kilometer road course that features twelve turns, and a bypass road that excludes the number 5 and number 6 turns. The bypass is named “The Chute” and it shortens the course to a total racing distance of 3.14 kilometers. The Chute was added in 1998, and is mostly used for events like the NASCAR Dodge/Save Mart 350. Most drivers do not approve of The Chute, and would prefer racing the entire course. The full course layout is used for most of the races, which includes the Grand American Road Racing Association‘s Sonoma Grand Prix.

In 2003 another modification was made to the Infineon Raceway. It is a course that is 3.57 kilometers in total and has twelve turns. This course excludes most of the twists and has a hairpin bend, for the added safety of the motorcycle riders. The motorcycle course has a runoff at turn number 11, whereas the main courses’ turn number 11 does not feature a runoff, but is a slow turn similar to the Mirabeau hairpin bend of Monaco. In addition to the various courses that are available at the Infineon Raceway, there is also a drag strip that is 400 meters, or a quarter mile, for the NHRA Drag Racing events that are held here.

Races that are currently held at the Infineon Raceway, include the AMA Superbike – Supercuts Superbike Challenge, the Dodge/Save Mart 350 that is part of the Nextel Cup, the NHRA Powerade Drag Racing Series and the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma that falls under the Indy Racing League.

NHRA

February 9, 2009 by  
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The acronym NHRA stands for National Hot Rod Association, the governing body for drag racing in the USA that both establishes regulations and organizes events across the country. The NHRA also seeks to promote drag racing and increase the sport’s popularity with fans while retaining sponsors for events and participants.

Founded in 1951 in California by Wally Parks, the NHRA saw as its prime mandate the need to get Hot Rodders off the streets and onto legal drag strips where safety for both racers and the general public could be ensured. Today, the NHRA is the largest drag racing authority in the world, with 300 employees, 80,000 members and 35,000 licensed competitors. The NHRA has over 140 member tracks throughout North America.

The most prestigious NHRA drag racing event in North America is the U.S. Nationals that are held bi-annually in summer and winter. This popular drag racing competition is held at the Indianapolis Raceway Park, home of the legendary Indy 500. The NHRA also stages the PowerAde Drag Racing Series. This series is made up of four classes: Pro Stock, Pro Stock Motorcycle, Top Fuel Dragster and Top Fuel Funny Car. Other sportsman classes are held for amateur, or “Sunday” racers, who would like to compete.

The NHRA supports many special educational initiatives such as the Youth and Education Services program and the Street Legal program. NHRA events attract thousands of loyal fans, and members are enthusiastic about their chosen sport. Schedules for upcoming NHRA events can be found in newspapers, racing magazines and online.

Plymouth Barracuda

February 9, 2009 by  
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Plymouth is a division of Chrysler Corporation, and were responsible for the productin of the two-door Plymouth Barracuda between 1964 and 1974. Originally, the Barracuda was constructed on an A-body chassis. This chassis was extremely common in the vehicles that were being manufactured by Chrysler, which included the Dodge Dart. It had the characteristics of the Valiant. The Valiant is believed to be the very first pony car, to reach the market, as it was available two weeks before the Ford Mustang.

The Plymouth Barracuda was made famous by the massive fastback rear window, that basically wrapped around, and was the largest automotive glass part that was ever installed at that time. The Barracuda’s performance was at first extremely modest, with a 180 horse power V8 engine, that would improve over the years, but also stood out due to its push button shifter that was mounted in the dashboard. All 1964 automatic Barracudas were fitted with this feature.

The year 1965 was an interesting year for the Plymouth Barracuda as two new options were introduced. The 4.5L Commando, which was a 235hp V8 engine, and the performance package that was called Formula ‘S’, and included the engine together with a standard tachometer, and upgraded wheels, tires and suspension. Over the following years, the Plymouth Barracuda would undergo various facelifts and engine changes, to remain competitive in the changing market. The 1966 model is considered unique, with the Barracuda Fish emblem being added, new grills and redesigned, chiseled features. The Plymouth Barracuda was completely redesigned in 1967. The models that followed had convertible options and notchbacks.

Engine options were improved as the competition grew. With the 7.2 L RB single four barrel carbureted engine being available, on the floors of the showrooms. In 1969 the limited addition 80 Super-Stock was released. It was a Hemi-powered Barracuda, built in 1968, that was not street legal, as it was built for racing and was often used in drag racing. A few Savage GT’s were also manufactured, that came off the second generation Plymouth Barracudas. The 1971 Hemi-powered Plymouth Barracuda and the 426 Hemi are considered extremely rare and almost priceless amongst collectors. There were only 14 Hemicuda’s manufactured in 1970, and at an auction in 2006, one was sold for US$2.16.

Production of the Plymouth Barracuda ended after a successful, ten year run, during the 1973 oil crisis. The third generation was a failure in the market, and after hanging on until 1974, the Plymouth Barracuda was discontinued. The rarity of some of the Plymouth Barracuda models is due to the public not being interested, sales being low, and therefore, not many were produced. Today, it is a classic muscle car, with many collectors just waiting for the opportunity to find one.

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