TURBO

“Turbo” is IndyCar’s best chance to hit mainstream, new fans in a dozen years

6 Comments

There’s one very important thing I’ll say up front about DreamWorks Animation’s latest animated film, “Turbo:” It’s not about “us.”

By “us,” I mean racing insiders, veterans and observers who are already hooked on IndyCar racing, or have followed the sport for generations, through any and all peaks and valleys, management turmoil and political unrest.

No, “Turbo” represents IndyCar’s best chance in the last dozen years to re-enter the mainstream consciousness, and attract new, particularly younger fans. It’s a rare chance that can’t be squandered, given the last film attempt trying to pump open-wheel racing out to a broader audience was “Driven.”

A dozen years later, the film starring an aging veteran (Sylvester Stallone) coming out of retirement to help develop a talented rookie (Kip Pardue, better known as the guy who played Ronnie “Sunshine” Bass in “Remember the Titans”) is still a running joke in racing circles.

It’s with that as a backdrop that I’ll say that DreamWorks has managed to make a movie about a snail entering the Indianapolis 500 – an unrealistic premise in anything other than an animated film – more realistic than “Driven.”

Of course, “Turbo” aims much higher than that. If the social media and marketing tagline at this year’s Indianapolis 500 was “Indy 500 or Bust,” “Turbo or Bust” might be an appropriate one for this film.

The visionary on the project is director, co-writer and story creator David Soren, a Toronto native who came home to see an advanced screening this past weekend ahead of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader.

Soren said ahead of the screening that the inspiration came from his children’s love of speed and his own snail infestation problem in his front yard. He was one of several who spoke to the Associated Press for a preview piece.

The idea was one of dozens he’d submitted to DreamWorks, and it got approved after years of trying.

Without giving anything plot-wise away, the concept behind the film is simple: your all-American dream of rags to riches, except in this case, it’s a snail (Theo, who becomes Turbo, voiced by Ryan Reynolds) who gains supernatural speed in a freak accident and escapes the drudgery of his home to attempt to race in the Indianapolis 500.

Objectively speaking, the film starts out great for the first half hour or so, with perhaps a slight lull in the middle, and a build to the climax at the finish. At barely 90 minutes, if that, it’s short enough to keep an attention span without dragging.

One of the things I was impressed with from the screening was the attention to detail. If you’ve ever been to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, either as a fan or working, you’ll appreciate every little observation that has been perfectly adapted.

They’ve ensured it’s not some generic IndyCar in the film, but that it is the current Dallara DW12 in low-downforce speedway configuration. Plus the legendary/notorious “Yellow Shirts” appear, the Pagoda and the scoring tower are depicted accurately, and other elements along the way immediately strike a chord that DreamWorks “gets it.”

Dario Franchitti’s presence on the film as a technical consultant clearly helps the racing sequences. The super-imposing of a snail racing in-between 32 other cars shouldn’t have been as seamlessly integrated as it is, but it looks promising.

The thing I was most impressed with on Thursday night? The laughter. The actual engagement for the kids of drivers Scott Dixon, Sebastien Bourdais and Ed Carpenter, who were either rolling on the floor laughing or had their eyes so big because they were captivated.

Yes, these kids already have the internal workings of IndyCar at least somewhat tattoed on their brains. But if they’re anything close to a representative sample of how younger kids who have no idea or concept of IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500 might react, that’s going to be a benefit for all parties.

My advice going into the film? If you’re currently involved with the series, remove yourself from the internal day-to-day workings of IndyCar and how race weekends tend to go. Sit back, relax, and appreciate the detail that’s on offer.

And if you’re not into IndyCar, or racing, it seriously has the potential to convert you. I walked out and heard a couple kids asking questions about IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500, and that was all I needed to hear.

“Turbo” opens nationwide July 17. See the trailer above and see a list of other “Turbo” related stories we’ve done on MotorSportsTalk listed below.

Jaguar pleased to support Massa’s FE test, kick-start season four testing

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 26: Felipe Massa of Brazil and Williams in the garage  during final practice for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 26, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
© Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jaguar Formula E chief James Barclay was pleased to support Felipe Massa’s first Formula E test earlier this month as the team began its season four test cycle.

Massa previously expressed an interest in moving into Formula E before re-gaining his Williams Formula 1 seat for 2017, but continued to lay plans for his post-F1 days by testing for Jaguar three weeks ago.

The test saw Jaguar begin its season four on-track development, with 15 days of private testing permitted for all teams before the start of the new campaign in December.

“It was a really great opportunity,” Barclay told NBC Sports in Buenos Aires last weekend.

“Formula E asked us to support that, Felipe had expressed an interest so I’m really pleased we could support that. Great to give him the opportunity.

“He enjoyed it which was nice to be part of really. Obviously useful time for us in terms of our season four development as well.”

While Barclay remained coy about the extent of Jaguar’s testing looking to season four, he took heart from the fact that it had commenced running so early in the year.

“Well you can imagine there’s only so much we can say, but the point is that we started our season four development fairly early on, and our focus absolutely is on our performance this year,” Barclay said.

“One of the nice things is we have a longer lead time for season four for development. So the lessons we’ve learned from season three is really how we can apply that for season four.

“There aren’t a lot of test days, so we’re making the most of those. It’s one of those early tests that allows us to ratify where we’re going, nice to get under our belt at this stage.”

The test has led to suggestions that Massa could be in the frame to join Jaguar in Formula E for season four, but Barclay said it was too early to begin discussing its future driver plans.

“Felipe has a Williams Formula 1 drive,” Barclay said.

“We’re really happy where we are with Adam [Carroll] and Mitch [Evans], really early in our program at this point in time. Just nice to give [Massa] the opportunity to be honest.”

Jaguar enjoyed its strongest weekend in Formula E yet in Buenos Aires as Evans qualified seventh and flirted with the points, but the team remains at the foot of the teams’ championship three races into its debut season.

Lewis Hamilton hopes Liberty ‘do something new’ with Formula 1

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 26: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP waves to the crowd after qualifying on pole position during qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 26, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
© Getty Images
Leave a comment

Three-time world champion Lewis Hamilton hopes Formula 1’s owner Liberty Media will “do something new” with the sport as he believes it has become “outdated”.

Liberty completed an $8 billion takeover of F1 in January, with American executive Chase Carey becoming the racing series’ new CEO and chairman following Bernie Ecclestone’s departure.

Liberty’s plans for F1 remain largely unclear, but areas that have been hinted at include greater fan engagement and a push to expand the sport in key markets such as the United States.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, Hamilton expressed his desire to see change from Liberty and make F1 great again.

“I don’t feel Formula 1 is winning, and it hasn’t been for a long time. That is to do with rule changes and not engaging the fans enough,” Hamilton said.

“There still is a great following in Formula 1 and I am excited for the new owners coming in and I hope they do something new.

“Formula 1 is a bit outdated. If you look at other sports, they are further ahead in the entertainment factor. Formula 1 is really catching up and they have a lot of catching up to do.”

Hamilton enters 2017 chasing a fourth world title, having tasted success in 2007, 2014 and 2015, the latter two coming with his current Mercedes team.

Mercedes launched its new car for the 2017 season, the W08 Hybrid, earlier today at Silverstone in England, with Hamilton on hand for the unveil.

Force India’s Mallya, Renault’s Abiteboul clash over F1 2017 chances

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 22:  Vijay Mallya, Team Principal and Managing Director looks at the VJM10 car during the Sahara Force India Formula One team launch at Silverstone on February 22, 2017 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
© Getty Images
Leave a comment

Force India owner Vijay Mallya and Renault Formula 1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul have clashed following comments made by the latter regarding the chances of privateer teams in 2017.

Force India finished as the leading privateer outfit in 2016, securing its best-ever constructors’ championship result of P4 at the end of the season, while Renault struggled during its first year back in F1 as a constructor, ending up ninth.

2017 sees the introduction of new technical regulations that are set to shake up the pecking order, with the rate of development also set to become more intense through the campaign.

Abiteboul told reporters earlier this week that he thought private teams such as Force India would struggle to keep up with its manufacturer rivals, believing that 2017 would become an “arms race”.

“I think this season will also really be an arms race,” Abiteboul said, as quoted by crash.net.

“I really feel for the teams who are under-resourced because clearly when I see this car that we are presenting today is not the car that will test in Barcelona and the car in Barcelona is not the car that will race in Melbourne.

“I think most of the car build budget for Force India will be gone by now just to cope with the new regulations. So that is something that we are also taking into account.

“With the level of resources that we have we should be easily capable of beating teams like Haas, like Force India and so on and so forth.”

Mallya hit back during Force India’s car launch on Wednesday, saying that he hoped Abiteboul would come to regret his comments.

“We have always dreamed big. We have never had conversations even in private that we cannot break into the top three,” Mallya said.

“That is going to be our objective. We will certainly give it our best shot.

“I read an article this morning where Renault’s Cyril Abiteboul said teams like Force India may struggle in an arms race. Good luck to him. He may have to eat his words.

“It’s not the amount of arms you have, but the quality of your weaponry.”

Mallya also fired back at Abiteboul on Twitter late on Wednesday evening.

Force India and Renault will go head-to-head on-track for the first time in 2017 at the Australian Grand Prix on March 26.

Wolff: Mercedes factory ‘buzzing’ over W08 launch

xxxx during the launch of the Mercedes formula one team's 2017 car, the W08, at Silverstone Circuit on February 23, 2017 in Northampton, England.
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Mercedes-Benz motorsport chief Toto Wolff has extolled the new W08 EQ Power+, formally revealed Thursday at Silverstone after months of development and preparation.

The car that will attempt to deliver Mercedes AMG Petronas its fourth consecutive driver and constructor championships is distinctly different from the other three revealed so far, Sauber, Renault and Force India. The nose isn’t stepped and the car first premiered today without a shark fin over the engine cowling.

Wolff said the car’s preparation at Brackley and Brixworth has been a thoroughly exciting process.

“The new rules for 2017 were designed to make the fastest F1 cars ever through a big increase in aerodynamic performance. They should be more physical to drive and hopefully more spectacular for the fans to watch. The proof will come in the opening races but we have probably achieved that target,” Wolff said.

“Of course, in terms of relative performance, it’s clear that any rule change brings with it a big reset but also a big opportunity. This is the time to stay humble and keep our feet on the ground. None of the teams has raced under these rules and we all have the same points right now: zero.

“But the dominant feeling in the team right now is one of excitement – the factory is buzzing with anticipation. It has been a really motivating challenge to develop a brand new car concept and I have never seen our determination to succeed higher than it is right now.”

Wolff continued with his initial positive praise of new recruit Valtteri Bottas, who steps into the seat vacated by last year’s World Champion Nico Rosberg.

“Of course, we had a curve ball from Nico late last year that left us scrambling a little bit in the winter,” he said. “But we found a great solution with Valtteri and I am sure that he will form a strong partnership with Lewis. They have both been working hard in the factory with the technical teams and, although we have a different dynamic to manage than in recent seasons, I don’t expect the competition between them to be less intense. And that’s how we like it.

“This year, in-season development will play a big role in determining the championship outcome. None of us know where we will stand at the first race but I am confident that, whatever that position is, we have the people and the capability to deal with every challenge that comes our way. This will be the season where our full works team can show its true strength.”

Mercedes added the new EQ name to its chassis designation as part of its overall brand launch for electric mobility. Mercedes says the name EQ stands for “electric intelligence.”