Jacques Villeneuve: Rallying and concerned about F1 in 2014

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The 1997 Formula One World Champion, Jacques Villeneuve, has never been short of candor, even as his active racing career has dwindled over the last few years.

He’s got the racing part back, announcing Thursday he will compete for the Scottish Albatec Racing team in the new World Rallycross Championship. This WRC is a different rally series from the FIA World Rally Championship (also WRC), and is also different than Red Bull Global Rallycross (GRC), which despite its name is a primarily U.S.-based series.

Villeneuve will race a 600 bhp Peugeot 208 in the championship that competes, like both the other WRC and GRC, on gravel and asphalt surfaces with a series of jumps.

Now that that confusing bit is out of the way, here’s the less confusing bit: Villeneuve doesn’t like the direction F1 is going.

“I don’t understand what they are trying to do. I don’t understand the concept,” he told Autosport at the time of his rally program reveal.

“Formula 1 is not epic anymore, the drivers are not heroes. The problem is that the changes are being made in an artificial way and that doesn’t work.”

He also said that when it gets “boring,” the rules tend to get, in his words, more “artificial.”

Villeneuve went through several iterations of F1 in his own career from 1996 through 2006.

His first two years saw some cockpit design changes, the elimination of V12 engines and the shift to car numbers based on the previous year’s Constructor’s Championship. In 1998, grooved tires were introduced, which added another element to the show.

The V10s omnipresent through 2005 before they took a final bow, as the then-new V8 powerplants were introduced that year.

We’re all waiting to see how the 2014 season shakes out before making any harsh judgments, but Villeneuve’s coming at it from a soundbite-worthy, “hope it doesn’t take a turn for the worse” mentality.

IndyCar 2017 driver review: Ed Carpenter

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MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. The 2017 season behind the wheel was better for Ed Carpenter than either of the last two years, but still wasn’t ideal results-wise in his six oval starts.

Ed Carpenter, No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

  • 2016: 25th Place (5 Starts), Best Finish 18th, Best Start 5th, 0 Top-5, 0 Top-10, 1 Lap Led, 11.2 Avg. Start, 21.8 Avg. Finish
  • 2017: 22nd Place (6 Starts), Best Finish 7th, Best Start 2nd, 0 Top-5, 1 Top-10, 5 Laps Led, 11.3 Avg. Start, 12.3 Avg. Finish

Ed Carpenter’s 2017 season was largely one of frustration, both behind the wheel and as a team owner.

While a respectable turnaround in results occurred – Carpenter finished between seventh and 12th in five of his six oval races after a nightmare season of ending 18th or worse in each of his 2016 starts – this is still not what he sets out to strive for in the races he does. Lost opportunities loomed larger than any official result he or the Ed Carpenter Racing team achieved.

Carpenter and new teammate JR Hildebrand, in for the departed Josef Newgarden, dominated preseason testing in Phoenix but Hildebrand could only muster third in the race, Carpenter a season-best seventh. Then at Indianapolis, Carpenter (second) and Hildebrand (sixth) flew the flag for Chevrolet in qualifying and practice pace, but they fell to 11th and 16th on race day owing to a front-wing change and late-race penalty for passing before a restart.

Both drivers got collected in incidents at Texas. Hildebrand qualified and finished a season-best second in Iowa but that result came only after the ECR crew rebuilt his car from a crash in practice. Then Carpenter had a practice crash in Pocono and despite a rapid rebuild, they missed the clock to qualify by mere minutes and were unable to do so. Carpenter’s spin on a slick Gateway track at the start of the race sent him over Will Power’s nose assembly in one of the scarier looking incidents of the year, although fortunately he was OK.

In a similar refrain as we often write, it’s not that Carpenter’s lost his ability to drive and he remains one of the series’ savviest and smartest people in the paddock. There have been a lot of extenuating circumstances of late, and it almost felt as though this team had “empty nest” components. Since September, Carpenter has had to secure his team’s future with a move away from its Speedway, Ind. shop, line up Spencer Pigot for a full-time drive replacing Hildebrand in the No. 21 car, find a new road/street course driver in the No. 20 car, and manage both driving and owning himself.