Located around seven miles west of Willows in California, Thunderhill Raceway Park is a popular racing venue for both cars and motorcycles and is used by the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) for its events. The three mile track has a total of fifteen turns, but is designed to allow event organizers to reconfigure the course to suit their needs. Thunderhill hosts the longest race in the United States – the annual 25 Hours of Thunderhill – a National Auto Sport Association event supported by the US Air Force.
Fans play an important role in the sport of auto racing. Not only do they bump up the excitement level with their enthusiasm, entrance fees help towards the many expenses incurred in keeping a racing track in peak condition. Following a three week break from racing action, Thunderhill Raceway Park reopened on 23 April, and racing fans no doubt noticed the changes that have been introduced, specifically with them in mind. Improvements made to the facilities at Thunderhill include the expansion of the Midway area under the grandstands, with more kiosk options including a souvenir shop. Families will no doubt appreciate the new play area, complete with inflatable bouncers to keep the children occupied. “Meet the Drivers” sessions will become a regular feature of racing at Thunderhill, where fans will have the opportunity to chat with the drivers and obtain autographs, as well as to find out more about their favorite drivers through live interviews by the announcing team.
Thunderhill owner, Mary Ann Naumann, noted that keeping the fans entertained was a priority, and she wanted people to have a good time from the moment they arrived until it was time to leave. To this end Naumann has appointed Ryan Conine as the track’s production director. With years of experience in the entertainment business, including working on The Longhorn Sports Network; Texas Music Series (KVET 98.1 FM); and Texas Radio 2.0 (live365.com), Conine knows what it takes to keep a crowd happy, and visitors to Thunderhill can look forward to a memorable occasion at every racing event. Thunderhill Raceway Park is gearing up for months of summer entertainment and action, so be sure to keep an eye on their events calendar and enjoy the vibe at the track where fans rule.
Bruce McLaren was the founder of the McLaren F1 Team. He was born on 30 August 1937, and started his interest in racing by competing in motorcycle races, before moving over to cars. It was the heritage he left behind after his death in 1970 that formed the platform for a world known racing team, and a name that is carried with pride.
The partnership between McLaren and Mercedes started in 1995. It was a year full of new beginnings that not only included Mercedes as their new engine partner, but new regulations as well. Mercedes was the fourth engine partner since the 1970’s and there was a lot on the line. The new Mercedes engine, which was designed and built according to the new regulations, was smaller than the engine McLaren had used previously. This made the car design teams’ life a lot simpler. Refinement details on the engine and chassis meant that the units were almost completely new, and McLaren Mercedes worked hard on the balancing problems that came to the forefront in 1996. The new engine was modified with regard to its mid-range torque, and McLaren Mercedes managed to make the unit lighter and increase its power by 5%. By 1999, McLaren Mercedes had become a force to be reckoned with on the racing track.
The new century kicked off with close rivalry between McLaren’s Mika Häkkinen and Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher. Following Häkkinen’s retirement from Formula One at the end of the 2001 season, Kimi Räikkönen stepped into his position on McLaren’s F1 Team. The 2003 F1 season started off well enough with teammates Coulthard and Räikkönen each claiming a victory for the first two races, but rival teams soon caught up. The unreliability of McLaren’s newly developed MP4-18 put the team at a disadvantage as they were forced to use the older MP4-17D model car. Nevertheless, Räikkönen proved his impressive driving skills by consistently finishing in the points, closing the season just two points short of victory. Car problems continued to plague McLaren during the 2004 season, but Räikkönen managed to clinch a victory at the 2004 Belgian Grand Prix breaking the winning streak of Michael Schumacher. 2005 saw Colombian driver Juan Pablo Montoya teaming up with Räikkönen for most of the season, but persistent car problems robbed Räikkönen of possible victories. The 2006 F1 season presented a number of challenges, including Montoya crashing into Räikkönen on the start line, putting them both out of the United States 2006 Grand Prix. This resulted in Montoyo parting company with the team. After the Italian Grand Prix that same year, Räikkönen signed with Ferrari to replace Michael Schumacher.
Dissent in the McLaren team during 2007, as well as a scandal regarding the team being found guilty of obtaining technical information of a rival team, were some of the setbacks to be dealt with, and at the end of the season, Fernando Alonso was released from his contract after just one season. Both the 2008 and 2009 season saw the McLaren F1 team recover to some extent, with Lewis Hamilton and Heikkii Kovalainen as drivers. At the end of the 2008 season, Hamilton became the youngest ever driver to win the Formula One Driver’s Championship. It was also the first time in nine years that McLaren had clinched this title.
For 2010, the McLaren F1 Team has a contract with Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, both world champions with promising careers ahead of them. This double champion driver line-up, the first for McLaren since the Senna/Prost partnership in 1989, along with the new MP4-25 car, promises great things for the coming year.
Diandra Leslie-Pelecky is a professor of physics, researching biomedical nanomaterials at the University of Texas in Dallas, USA. As a devoted NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) fan, she is fascinated by the science behind this popular American sport. This intense interest has been channeled into writing what is being haled as one of the most educational and intriguing books that has ever been written about NASCAR – “The Physics of NASCAR“.
Although some may be tempted to dismiss the book as being too technical for the average NASCAR fan to comprehend, this would be a misconception. The author manages to superbly balance the numerous scientific aspects of the sport with its human element and this is reinforced by the appealing stories of her visits to the racing tracks and the development facilities during her research for The Physics of NASCAR.
Professor Leslie-Pelecky was given access to race shops, crew chiefs, pit crews and mechanics to research her book, and she has displayed the ability to translate technical jargon into something that the majority of fans can readily understand. She acknowledges that she did not fully appreciate the extent of the science behind NASCAR at the beginning of her project and emphasizes that her greatest reward has been to become acquainted with an exceptional group of people who are united in their passion for racing. Critics agree that the people discussed in the book as well as the bits of history and general information are very interesting and because these are balanced with the technical aspects of auto racing, the book is both educational and entertaining – even if best read with a dictionary at hand.
The information for the book has been taken from different areas in the United States. For example, in one chapter Professor Leslie-Pelecky talks about tires at a shop in North Carolina and includes the history of vulcanized rubber as a point of interest. In another chapter she examines track safety improvements, such as more efficient barriers, that are being tested in Nebraska.
Interestingly, research reveals that 75 million people are NASCAR fans, forty percent being women. Television broadcasting of NASCAR events reaches 100 countries in 21 languages and NASCAR generates over two billion US$ in sales of licensed products each year. Just with these figures in mind, there is certainly a market for “The Physics of NASCAR” – a book which combines the curiosity of an auto racing fan with the expertise of a physics professor resulting in a book that NASCAR fans are sure to appreciate.