Category Archives: BMW Motorsport

Formula One: Jean Todt joins Twitter

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President of Motorsports Governing Body, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), Jean Todt had kicked off 2017 by joining Twitter!

The account, whilst currently not verified, appears to be genuine with the President’s first two tweets coming from a BMW Autonomous driving demonstration at CES in Las Vegas and the Formula E Visa Vegas eRace over the weekend.

 

At this time Jean Todt, or those managing the account on his behalf, are not following any other users on the social media platform seemingly opting to use it to communicate on events attended rather than engage directly. This approach may evolve in the coming weeks and months as the full 2017 motorsport season commences.

During 2017 Jean Todt’s second term as president of the FIA will come to a conclusion. No formal comment has been made with respect to plans to seek re-election, nor have any alternative candidates been mentioned. It had been speculated that Jean Todt would not seek a re-election for the unpaid position following his appointment as  Special Envoy for Road Safety to the UN.

You can follow Jean Todt on Twitter here.

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Kids and Motorsport

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Some of my earliest childhood memories are of watching Formula One on the TV with my dad. Sitting together to watch our heroes racing against each other on a Sunday afternoon created a very special father son bond, something we have maintained to this day. From the moment my children were born I’ve been looking forward to the day I can start taking her to racing events with me.

Over the past year I have set about forging a career in motorsport, whilst the financial aspect of this career choice is taking a bit more time to come together than I might have hoped, developing a network within the industry is coming along nicely. It was through this network I found myself in the position to be able to take my daughter (6) and eldest son (3) to the closing rounds of the European F3 championship and DTM championship in Hockenheim last weekend.

As a bit of a racing obsessive it is very easy to forget the intricacies of motor racing and just accept them as a given. Taking the time to explain them to my children made me take stock and start to question a few of the accepted norms.

This first occurred when explaining qualifying. When the DTM cars first went out on track my daughter, Isabelle, asked if they were racing now. I explained, they were out driving as fast as they can to decide what position they will start the race in. Without any hesitation, she replied “so the fastest starts as the back?” to which I explained the opposite was the case “but that’s boring, no one will overtake like that” came her reply. It’s such a simple point, but entirely fair. If the fastest start first how can we expect an entertaining race? Don’t get me wrong I completely take on board the traditionalists view of going racing, but it’s very hard to argue with a child’s logic.

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Our tickets for the weekend came from friends in an F3 team. At short notice they had arranged Paddock tickets for us. When we arrived at the circuit our host took the time to meet us at the circuit entrance and take us over to the paddock on the back of her quad bike. My son, Ben, would tell you, as he has all his friends, that was the real highlight of the day! Being given paddock tickets for a race is and will always be, a huge thing for me, but when it came to watching racing Isabelle made another observation. “why can’t we sit in the Stadium [grandstand]?” my reply “We don’t have tickets for the grandstand, we’ve got a good view of the track here” to which she replied “but there are so many empty seats, why can’t we just go and sit there?” Again she made a valid point. Why do fans simply accept empty grandstands and find a hill to watch the racing on. Sure I could have paid for a grandstand seat, but to be honest I wasn’t sure they would sit through an entire race. If circuits have empty seats, and fans sitting around the circuit, why not just open up the grandstands. Create a positive atmosphere and people will be more encouraged to come again, and pay for other activities at the circuit.

On to the racing itself, DTM worked fantastically for kids, well for my kids at least. During qualifying we each picked our favourite car, by colour of course, Isabelle went for the Pink Mercedes (Mücke Motorsport, Chrisitan Vietoris, & Lucas Auer) I went for the Red & White Shell BMW of Augusto Farfus, and Ben went for the Yellow BMW post van driven by Timo Glock. Each car has a digital read out on the side window displaying the drivers position in the race. Each lap Isabelle and Ben had to tell me what position their car was in and if they had move up or down from the last lap. As the race progressed this developed into telling me the position of the Red Bull cars, or the make of the car in first. The race flew by and despite our drivers not winning both Ben and Isabelle were able to explain the race to an impressive level of detail.

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Supporting the F3 and DTM was the Porsche Supercup, it was impressive to see that in addition to huge hospitality areas, Porsche had invested in creating a road safety area for young children. Children were given a tutorial on crossing roads safely and watching out for traffic lights and other simple road signs, then given 20 minutes to roam around a specially laid out circuit in peddle powered go karts and scooters. Whilst for an adult it might not sound overly riveting, my kids loved it. Plus, it gave me a chance to sit down for a few minutes!

Overall my first experience of Motorsport with children was positive, The DTM set up feels far more family friendly than my experiences of Formula One, there are activities for all ages, teams and drivers are happy to make time for you and the racing is easy to follow and not too long.  Leaving the circuit Isabelle talked about what she had enjoyed during the day and what our next racing experience would be, casually mentioning informing me I’d be taking her to a Formula One race to meet Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. No pressure then!

Formula E: Qualcomm on the perfect partnership

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With the second season of Formula E having concluded around the tight and twisty confides of Battersea Park, JWGP sat down with Graeme Davison, VIP of Technology for Qualcomm Europe, to discuss Qualcomm’s involvement with the sport and intriguing plans for the future.

Qualcomm are a founding partner to Formula E. Qualcomm operate as series investors, sponsors and technology providers. They are committed to the success of Formula E. The first engagement between Qualcomm and Formula E took place 4 years ago through a meeting in which Formula E founder and CEO Alejandro Agag presented the concept of the series to Graeme in a meeting in San Diego. For Qualcomm, Formula E ticked a number of boxes they saw as crucial to their own development plans. The series offers a strong Sustainability and Environmental message, it creates a platform to make EV (Electric Vehicle) technology fun and interesting, and it brings motor racing to the City Centre, putting it in the hand of a more technology savvy younger audience.

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Through Graeme, Qualcomm act as a virtual technology officer for the series, providing support on technology challenges far beyond the remit of solutions Qualcomm are actively involved in.

Graeme speaks with great pride over the achievements he has seen in the first two seasons of Formula E, reflecting on the first day of testing for the series

I’ve seen it since the first laps of testing in Donnington in which the only car to complete a lap was the rescue truck. Now we find ourselves at the end of the second season, with the championship so closely contented. It’s been fantastic”

On the success of the series Graeme continues:

“The uptake from fans and OEMS (original equipment manufacturers, e.g. Renault, Citroen) coming to the series and looking at how Formula E can act as a showcase for their EV technology and development. Quality of sponsors coming in is amazing. The championship has gone from strength to strength to strength, It has been amazing”

We went on to explore what it is about Formula E that is attracting so many premium sponsors to the sport:

“As a new series, partners can make more of a mark, a unique name and stance coming to the sport than they can coming to F1. Sponsors look for different things from different partnerships. With Formula E they see a different age group, different emphasis on Technology possibly closer to that you might expect to see with the end user.”

Qualcomm are involved in both Formula E and Formula One, using each platform in different ways. They see a clear advantage to being involved in both categories. When discussing who Qualcomm are looking to appeal to with their Formula E involvement Graeme commented:

“The Formula E demographic is a younger audience. The series is targeting the city dweller that wants to walk or use public transport to come to a race. Fanboost proves social interaction works, it’s very much a marmite topic, you either love it or hate it. When teams first started communicating on Fanboost it would be a tweet in Friday before the race, now you see teams running competitions, fan days, complete fan team immersion. What the teams are seeing is that the audience receptive to this engagement are generally the younger markets. That being said, if you take a look around a event today what you find is a complete cross section of followers form the hard-core racing fan, to the younger generation. “

So what do Qualcomm actually do in Formula E, and how is it developing?

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The Qualcomm Formula E relationship is at an event level so it’ about changing the event experience. What’s in it for the fan’s the sponsor’s, for everybody watching worldwide.

Since the inception of the series, Qualcomm have developed and supplied wireless charging solutions for the BMW i8 Safety car, through season 2 and into season 3 they will continue to work on the development of the safety car arena and the wireless charging. BMW are looking at making some changes on the car, Qualcomm implemented power changes between season 1 & 2, increasing the amount of energy being transferred across. A complete charge takes around 60 minutes, with BMW increasing the power and battery size of the safety car in season 2 Qualcomm increased the amount of energy transfer to maintain the charge time.

Qualcomm are working with Formula E on a number of other topics, but at this time were not in a position to disclose too much information on the projects.

One area Graeme was able to discuss was that of wireless charging in the pitlane

“We are looking at what’s involved in putting wireless charging on the race cars. Many factors must be considered to achieve this including; new materials, space requirements, weight requirements and costs. The added complexity when working with an entire series is that you are working with 10 teams, and working to ensure solutions are built into rules and regulations

It’s more than a technology thing, it’s understanding the entire picture. We have completed analysis on the car and what could be done from a technology stand point. We now need to continue the conversation with Formula E on how and when we do it.  Then you have the question of where does it fit in the series? Do we put it in the pit lane so cars can charge while they are parked outside, which wouldn’t be possible under current safety regulations, but would attractive for fans and sponsors, with the cars being on display for greater periods of time”

Thought is clearly being taken into not only finding a technology solution, but ensuring the application is positive for the series.

To round out our conversation JWGP asked Graeme about the ultimate boyhood gamer dream, Mario kart style boosts around a Formula E circuit:

“When Alexandro first came to Qualcomm he asked the question if they could ever have a fully electric track, so you could do a 24hr race. They question is not if but when!

Finally, a question on Roborace and autonomous driving in general

The relationship between Formula E and Roborace is a caretaker tenant relationship. Similar to the Porsche Supercup and F1. Formula E holdings have an asset of a track at events which they want to get more utilisation from to give fans a longer more diverse experience, do more with the track. Roborace is one of those things.

Wireless charging is fundamental to autonomous driving. An autonomous car has to use wireless charging; you can’t expect the technology to find a way to plug itself in.  Qualcomm can support this requirement, It forms part of the Qualcomm autonomous technology toolbox, with automotive snapdragon processor chips, neural networking learning chips, censoring technology that sits on the car, image recognition and computer vision, they are all research programmes that Qualcomm talk about regularly, then the connectivity challenge. Autonomous cars will require 4G and 5G connectivity to function so Qualcomm are looking at ways to support this. Qualcomm can provide these tools to the automotive manufacturers bringing this to the road or to activities such as Roborace. We provide the fundamental building blocks for autonomy, the car manufacturer comes along to utilise the ingredients to make the finished product.

My thanks to Qualcomm and Graeme Davison for taking the time to talk to JWGP on Formula E and the future of Qualcomm within the series.

You can follow Qualcomm on Twitter here and Graeme here.

I look forward to reconnecting with Graeme and the Qualcomm team in the near future to discuss in more detail plans for season 3 of Formula E.

Formula One: Goodwood – The Glastonbury of Motorsport

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Those who know me know of my obsession with motorsport and my love for Glastonbury. In 2016 for one reason and another it has not been possible for my family and I to head to Worthy Farm, so for the first time in a long time I found myself free over the last weekend in June. That was until I saw an email come through with the subject line: Invitation to the Goodwood Festival of Speed!

I was invited to Goodwood by my friends at Shell & BMW. Shell are the fuels and lubricants partner of the festival, BMW this year take centre stage (quite literally! As you will see in the above image of the huge sculpture presented by BMW featuring iconic cars through the ages of the brand) at the festival, celebrating their 100th year of operation.

To do the event justice I would say you say need to give yourself at least two days, there really is something for everyone. I would break down the Festival of Speed in the same way I think of Glastonbury. The Hillclimb which runs through the centre of the grounds is like the Pyramid stage, the key feature, a must see element of the day will run up the hill and you could easily spend a day solely focus on the hill climb and go home satisfied. Adjacent to the hill climb are the manufacturers stands, similar to those you might expect to see at an indoor motor show but turned up to 11. Each stand is trying to out do the other, and the only real winners are the fans. Honda turned up this year with a life size recreation of the iconic Fisher Price garage that many of us born in the 70s, 80s or 90s may have played with us as children. Heading away from here you begin to unearth some of the other manufacturers at the event, supercars you thought you had discovered that it turns out everyone is excited to see, then stumbling on a gem like the FIA stand where you could see, touch and experience the 2017 F1 designed halo system. Everyone involved with the automotive industry it seems, has a presence of some sort at the festival.

Heading over to the other opposite side of the festival you have the excellent collection of classic BMW’s through the ages, and Goodwood house itself. Spending time here felt as exclusive as the moment you stumble upon the Eavis family farm whilst touring the Glastonbury site. Getting to the nitty gritty of the festival you see the temporary garages of every car taking part in the Hillclimb, every car you can imagine is represented, it’s almost too much to take in.  Short of time I made my way to the Toyota LMP1 area, to give homage to the rightful winner of the 2016 running of the Le Mans 24hr, and check out some of the iconic touring cars of my childhood. With more than 140,000 in attendance over 3 days one thing the festival is not, is quiet. The crowds can be substantial but never overbearing, you find yourself with groups of like minded people respectful of the environment they are in and the machinery they are bearing witness to. There must be 100’s of millions of pounds’ worth of cars on display over the weekend, and yet rarely do you find an owner unwilling to let you get up close and personal with the car of your dreams. There is a sense of openness and sharing to the event; a true appreciation of motorsports.

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Returning to my hosts, to celebrate the Shell BMW partnership and 100 years of BMW we were tasked to complete a set number of challenges within 100 minutes. Progress against these challenges was to be reported on Twitter. The challenges included speaking to Shell technicians around the virtues of using Shell V-Power Nitro+, something which despite my initial reservations a number of months I fully subscribed too, not only in terms of performance improvement, but in vehicle maintenance. Checking out the Shell Eco-marathon cars, challenging yourself to drive in the most efficient way possible, which at Festival of Speed did feel a little counter intuitive, engage my followers on Twitter in competitions to win Shell V-Power vouchers, through questions on BMW’s successes in Motorsport, I should say at this point; congratulations to those submitting correct answers to the challenges, I’ll be in touch soon to arrange your prizes! Finally heading over to the BMW stands (of which there were at least five!) to reward a random member of public with a £30 Shell V-Power fuel voucher and a very cool BMW cap.

Following the challenges, our attentions were turned to a somewhat exclusive experience. Under the mindful eye of driver instructors from Palmer Motorsport, we were given the opportunity to try out the very latest BMW M models and be taken for a lap around the Goodwood circuit with Eric van de Poele. I took the opportunity to try out the BMW i8 and M4. The i8 is a car I have adored since concept, but until today never even sat in. The experience did not disappoint; the car is nothing short of spectacular. The acceleration is incredible and vehicle dynamics similar to those I have experienced in other performance cars. Stepping into the M4 was something else entirely, having turned a few laps in the i8 my confidence possibly exceeding skill I set off on my first lap. A BMW driver myself, the car felt instantly familiar. I felt I could push much harder than in the i8. Attempting the Ford Water corner flat out on my first lap was in retrospect a little too ambitious though, with the instructor calmly informing me on the cool down lap the only thing saving us from a rather expensive moment was the active traction control. The car is nothing short of a beast.

As if all this hadn’t been enough, we were then taken back to the festival to interview an idol of mine, Alex Zanardi, if you’ve read my review of No Limits you’ll know what a big deal this was for me! The interview taught me a few things, the first of which being I desperately need to go on a media training course! Zanardi plans to return to the Paralympics in Rio this year, taking part in 3 separate events, determined to secure Gold in each. His motorsport ambition too, remains undiminished. He plans to head back to the Spa 24hr in 2017 regarding the race very much as unfinished business.

So what makes Goodwood the Glastonbury of Motorsport? Is it the; mud? 😉 the sheer magnitude of things to see, do, touch, and feel? The atmosphere? Or the people? The answer is simple. Its all of it! I’m not sure what I expected from the Festival but I know I will be back!

You can see highlights from the 2016 Goodwood Festival of Speed here.

Follow Shell UK here and BMW UK here.

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Formula One: Alex Zanardi – No Limits

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At the Lausitzring on the 15th September 2001 during a Champ Car race, Alex Zanardi was involved in a horrific, life threatening accident in which he lost both his legs. Whilst medical staff worked to save his life, his heart stopped seven times. To medical experts his survival is seen as nothing short of a miracle. As a motorsport fan there are maybe a handful drivers for whom you feel a vested interest, maybe because you followed their early career, you happened to meet them, or something about their personality impacts you. Alex Zanardi is one of the first drivers I felt that way about and as I watched the accident live that day, I was sure I had just witnessed the death of a hero.

I could not have been more wrong.

Alex Zanardi’s career following his accident has been extraordinary, once again finding success behind the wheel and what’s more, becoming an Olympic Gold medal winning athlete!  The documentary No Limits delves into what drives a man such as Alex Zanardi to achieve so much, and offers unprecedented access to all areas of his life.

No Limits follows Alex Zanardi, with Bruno Spengler, and Timo Glock as they prepare to compete in the 2015 Spa 24hrs with BMW Motorsport and the ROAL team. Simultaneously, Alex Zanardi is preparing to defend his World Championship title at the UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships in Switzerland.

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Shot entirely in 4k, the look and feel of the film is sublime. The level of visual detail is outstanding. Shots captured of steam literally rolling off Zanardi’s body as he exits the car at the end of a night-time stint offer a perspective into the human challenge of endurance racing, previously unseen for many. I recommend that anyone seeing this film does so on the largest screen possible to get a true feel for the quality of the cinematography.

This trailer for the film gives you just a hint of what you can expect from the feature:

During scenes filmed whilst training at home, Alex Zanardi talks frankly about his life, his accident, and the choices he has made. His relentless and limitless mentality is humbling. Alex Zanardi is by no means someone people should feel pity for, rather someone who can inspire us.

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In developing a film around a subject matter in which the outcome is not yet known, it is the role of the director to find and capture the story. In No Limits, Tim & Nick Hahne depict the raw emotion involved in bringing a team together to compete in the challenge of endurance racing. The modern motor racing driver is often criticized for lacking personality; this film serves to dismiss that perception as we see a group of drivers come together to work together, pushing each other forward and enjoying themselves along the journey.

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As a Motor Racing fan I can not recommend this film highly enough. If like me you have a partner who for whatever reason just doesn’t understand why you are so passionate about a bunch of cars driving round in circles, get them to sit down with you for 60 minutes and watch this film. I believe their appreciation for the sport will be changed, and your Sunday afternoons on the sofa might become that little bit easier to negotiate!

“Limits exist only in our head” – Alex Zanardi. An inspiration to us all.

No Limits is available to download worldwide from February 1st.  Follow this link to see more details.