Grönholm takes first WRC win of the year

Marcus Gronholm & Sweden

Finland’s Marcus Grönholm has taken his first world tally victory of the 2007 season with a comfortable margin over Sébastien Loeb in the Rally of Sweden.

The Ford Focus cruised to victory once Loeb conceded defeat on day two. But the three times World Rally Champion still leads the drivers’ standings by only two points.

“It’s been a good weekend,” said Grönholm. “We’ve had no problems with the car, everything has been perfect.”

Sébastien has admitted that it would have been a difficult task to beat the Finn but overall he was pleased with the performance of the new Citroën C4 in only its second outing.

“To finish second behind Marcus here is a good result,” said Loeb. “I was happy to see the car had the pace to fight with him, and it looks like we will have a good battle all year.”

Mikko Hirvonen completed a good weekend for Ford with third place.

Williams aims for past glories with new FW29

Williams-Toyota FW29

British motor racing squad Williams have unveiled their new Toyota-powered FW29 in its bid to return back to winning ways after a disastrous 2006 season.

The AT&T-sponsored team finished in eighth position in last year’s constructors’ standings after a winless season and hopes that the new race car will help regain their past glories.

“Without question, 2006 was not our finest year but I am delighted to see how the entire Williams workforce has pulled together and redoubled its efforts over the winter,” said team boss Frank Williams.

“We begin this year with a completely new brand identity courtesy of our new partners AT&T, four new or upgraded sponsors including Lenovo, a wealth of new engineering talent and, of course, what we hope to be the focus of all these efforts and ambitions, the FW29.”

The FW29 will be powered by a Toyota engine and will be the same specification as the works Toyota team.

The new car certainly looks great and I like the dark blue and white colour scheme. As for the aerodynamics, it is quite aggressive-looking in particular the radical front wing.

Hopefully in the hands of Nico Rosberg and Alexander Wurz (who is making a return to racing after years as a test driver), the new car can reward the Oxford-based team with solid points finish and maybe that elusive win.

Red Bull – gives you wins?

Red Bull Racing RB3

Finally! A 2007 Formula One car that looks great thanks to the renowned top F1 designer in this modern generation – Adrian Newey.

The new Red Bull Racing RB3 was unveiled at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya and you can see the obvious Newey design touches with its narrow, sweepingly curved nose and triple-deck, bowed front wing. In addition, the beautifully sculpted sidepods that tightly wrapped around the new Renault engine.

David Coulthard and Mark Webber will race the RB3 this season and I expect a strong performance from the team. Consistent top ten finishes and a chance for the overall win will do nicely.

As for lively, I quite like it. The stripes running on the surface of the car gives the illusion of going quickly. Hopefully it does so on the race track.

Renault’s F1 new look

Renault F1 R27

French manufacturer Renault have unveiled their new lively for the R27 chassis. The new Formula One car will carry the orange and white corporate colours of Dutch financial firm ING, replacing the previous Mild Seven light blue.

Personally, the overall look on this car is hideous. I thought the old Winfield-sponsored Williams back in 1998-99 was horrible, but this is even worst.

Despite that I am exciting to see the driver pairing of Heikki Kovalainen and Giancarlo Fisichella this year. Kovalainen in particular, as the Finn is competing in his first season of Formula One racing (as a replacement over the outgoing champion, Fernando Alonso).

Team leader and Formula One’s most experienced driver Giancarlo Fisichella has said recently that he will be aiming for the ultimate prize – to become world champion. But during today’s Amsterdam launch, the Italian has admitted that this season could be ‘tough’.

I really hope the R27 is successful on the track, so that the team can win another championship double. And yet, I wished the Renault graphic designers could have done a better job than that livery…

Loeb’s fourth WRC win in Monte Carlo

Loeb Monte Carlo Rally 2007

World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb took his fourth Monte Carlo Rally win with a fine performance in the new Citroën C4 rally car.

The Frenchman finished the four-day rally event with a comfortable lead over his team-mate Dani Sordo, as Citroën marked their return to the World Rally Championship with a one-two finish.

This is an impressive achievement when you consider that Loeb is still nursing a broken right arm…

Finland’s Marcus Grönholm could only manage third and he hopes that the next event – the Swedish Rally in two weeks time – could signal the start of his title fight back.

Villeneuve’s 24-hour Le Mans racer

Peugeot 908

The 1997 Formula One World Champion Jacques Villeneuve will be driving this beautiful-looking Peugeot 908 in this year’s epic endurance event – the Le Mans 24-Hour race.

The French-Canadian driver left Formula One after a frustrating time at BMW/Sauber even though his short stint last year was actually not too bad.

After leaving the sport, there were rumours of him joining the American stockcar series – NASCAR – like his fellow racer Juan Pablo Montoya. The Colombian also grew tired of racing F1 cars after a disappointing period at McLaren.

With the news that Villeneuve is taking part in the 2007 Le Mans, this will be a fascinating challenge for the driver. He has already won the Indy 500, the Champ Car title and the F1 title. Winning at Le Mans will be the ultimate prize for the French-Canadian.

Villeneuve will drive the Peugeot 908 alongside Nicolas Manassian, Stephane Sarrazin, Pedro Lamy, Marc Gene and three-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais. Eric Helary, who won Le Mans for Peugeot back in 1993, joins the new race team as a test and back-up driver.

The Peugeot 908 follows the overwhelming success of the Audi R10 diesel racing car with an all-aluminium twelve-cylinder common-rail direct-injection twin-turbo diesel with the latest advanced particulate filter system.

Between the green power, the star drivers and the return of the French carmaker to the series, there are many reasons to keep an eye on Peugeot this year, kicking off at Monza in April.

Alonso’s new Vodafone-sponsored McLaren

McLaren 2007

This is the car that the double World Champion Fernando Alonso will be driving in his quest to win his third drivers’ title.

The brand new Vodafone-sponsored McLaren Mercedes MP4-22 was unveiled to the world’s media at Valencia, Spain today.

Even though the new car design is similar to last year’s troublesome MP4-21, the British team says the MP4-22 features “some advanced engineering concepts” and “novel aerodynamic solutions”.

British rising star and GP2 champion Lewis Hamilton will join Alonso as the team’s driver line-up in 2007. It will be interesting how well these two will perform in a crucial year for McLaren, who didn’t win a single race back in 2006.

As for the livery, the Vodafone ‘red’ looks reasonable on the car. Not so sure about the drivers’ overalls though…

Felipe and Kimi’s new Ferrari

Ferrari F2007

This is the new Ferrari Formula 1 racing car, the F2007. Drivers Felipe Massa and new Ferrari signing Kimi Raikkonen will be driving in this new chassis in an aim to win this year’s world championship.

The F2007 features a new and revised front suspension, improved aerodynamics and better cooling around the sidepods and airbox.

The car is also longer than last year’s 248 car due to an innovative quick-shift gearbox system.

I must admit the livery of this year’s Ferrari is a bit ghastly – too much red to be honest. Plus sub-consciously, the livery still reminds me of the cigarette brand Marlboro, who is still sponsoring the Italian race team.

Will this car win races and the championship? I reckon it can especially in the hands of Massa and Raikkonen, with Jean Todt managing the whole situation.

Autosport International 2007

Autosport International 2007 images

Wow! What a fantastic event with a huge range of gorgeous models on display – racing cars and promotional girls including! This year’s Autosport International show at Birmingham’s NEC was truly spectacular and the obvious highlight was the 75th anniversary of the Le Mans 24-Hour race. The cars that took part in the legendary endurance race was on display and to see the likes of the Ford GT40 alongside a Jaguar D-Type, McLaren F1 GTR and the Audi R8 was breathtaking.

It was also nice to meet up with my friends, in particular Mike and Yas. I have managed to convince them both to see this show the last time we met (back in October for the anime show in London’s Docklands). Both said it was a wonderful experience to see racing cars up close, especially the Live Action Arena.

The Live Action Arena is a 45-minute performance featuring stock cars, rally cars and the awesome Aston Martin DBR9. These massively powerful racing cars sounded great and despite suffering a lack of grip on the slippery surface, each driver drove these cars with great care not to hit the wall and yet entertaining the crowd.

At the end of a tiring and long day (most of us got up really early to attend the show), we left with a range of photographs stored on our digital cameras and fantastic memories of racing cars in action.

Motor racing action in Birmingham

Autosport International

This weekend is the Autosport International held annually at Birmingham’s NEC. It’s the place to go and see the best of motor racing.

I have been to the Autosport show several times over the past few years and even though it can get quite busy during the public days, it’s worth the trip alone to see the range of racing cars on display.

The opportunity to meet the drivers from the world of Formula One, Touring Cars and Sportcars is also great, especially as it is becoming more difficult to meet face-to-face with your racing heroes.

The best part is the Live Action Arena, where the sound and sights of these awesome racing machines are put to test right in front of you! Seeing the Subaru World Rally Car performing some ‘donuts’ is truly spectacular and the noise is simply unbelievable!

This year, I will be meeting up with my old University friends as well as Mike and Yas (I have managed to convince them to come). It should be a fun day out and I look forward to seeing the special Le Mans 24-Hour display arranged for this year.