Red Bull Formula One team driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia talks to a member of his pit crew on the starting grid before the start of the Australian F1 Grand Prix at the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne

The date is set for the FIA and Red Bull – but who will win out in Paris?


There have been many court-room tussles in Formula 1 over the past ten years or so. 2005 saw the FIA appeal against its own stewards in order to disqualify BAR from the San Marino Grand Prix; ‘Spygate’ in 2007 saw McLaren chucked out of the constructors’ and fined $100m; the diffuser debate in 2009 soon defused itself; 2013’s ‘testgate’ was more annoying than anything. The sport rarely gets through a season without at least one visit to Paris for a hearing.

However, 2014 has wasted little time. Just one race into the year, and we have our first court date set. Following Daniel Ricciardo’s disqualification from the Australian Grand Prix last weekend, Red Bull appealed against the result and triggered the first case of the season as the team looks to get its driver re-instated in second place.

The Australian driver was disqualified after the team was deemed to have exceeded the maximum fuel flow of 100kg/h on his car during the race, according to the FIA’s measurements. Red Bull on the other hand has its own measurements that the management opted to follow, and the team insists that this was under the limit, making the car legal.

The fall-out of this debacle has led to a few questions being asked and plenty of finger pointing. Essentially, it comes down to a yes or no question: did Red Bull exceed the fuel flow limit of 100kg/h on car #3?

One of the facts that might be working in Red Bull’s favor is that the FIA made a change to the frequency level used to measure the fuel flow on the Saturday night following qualifying. This might suggest that the initial measure was not entirely accurate, and perhaps the change will not have successfully fixed this problem.

Red Bull was not the only team to have reservations about the FIA measure, either. All of the other teams did raise concerns about it.

However – and here’s the kicker – the other teams kept to the FIA measure to ensure that their cars were legal.

The measurement system is also interactive. Teams can see in real time what their ‘figure’ is, and race control (led by Charlie Whiting) issued warnings when they were exceeding the limit of 100kg/h. Red Bull were warned on three occasions that Ricciardo’s car was above the limit, yet the team still ignored the orders.

A big question also comes in Malaysia. The FIA has reinforced its faith in the measurement sensor supplier, but with the hearing set for April 14, a lot can still happen.

In Malaysia, if there is a similar situation, what will Red Bull do? By flouting the limit once again, the team risks getting both of its cars disqualified again (although it would show unbelievable and perhaps misplaced self-confidence). By adhering to the limit, though, would the team not be admitting guilt? That the FIA measurements are the right way to go? That Ricciardo’s car ran illegally in Australia after all?

With two races between now and the hearing, a lot can still happen. The odds are stacked against Red Bull, though, and they have few allies that will come and help.

NHRA: Looking at where things stand at midpoint of Countdown

Top Fuel's Antron Brown has been the most dominant driver in the current NHRA Countdown to the Championship.
(Getty Images)
Leave a comment

The NHRA is now halfway through its six-race Countdown to the Championship and there have been a number of surprises – both good and bad – thus far.

When the series gets back to racing next weekend at Texas Motorplex in Ennis, Texas, those drivers who have dominated their respective categories in the Countdown so far stand a good chance of pulling away.

Not to mention potentially see several drivers start falling by the wayside and be eliminated.

Let’s take a look at each of the four pro classes and analyze the haves and have not’s thus far:


Biggest surprise: Antron Brown. It’s not so much a surprise that Brown is leading the standings, but it’s more so the way he’s doing it. The 2012 Top Fuel champ has been on fire, having won all of the first three Countdown races and a personal-best seven races overall this season. Brown set a NHRA record of 12-0 in final elimination rounds this past Sunday at Reading, Pa. You can’t get much more perfect than that. Brown has been so dominating that only teammate and defending eight-time champ Tony Schumacher is within reach points-wise. The other eight drivers still in contention are between 194 and 274 points behind. At the rate he’s going, Brown could potentially clinch the championship in the second-to-last race at Las Vegas.

You Go Girl: Brittany Force, daughter of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, has been a surprising upstart in the Countdown. While she’s 194 points behind Brown, Force is ranked third heading to Texas. She’s shown significant confidence and moxie in the first three races and if she keeps it up, she could potentially overtake Schumacher at some point for second place.

Different Team, Same Drive: Shawn Langdon lost his ride at the worst possible time, just before the Countdown began, when team owner Alan Johnson suspended operations. But give credit to fellow team owner Don Schumacher, who “borrowed” Langdon from Johnson for the Chase to replace Spencer Massey, who was released just before the Chase. Langdon has done well, but time is running out if he hopes to make one last shot to win yet another championship.


Biggest surprise: Del Worsham won the first two races of the Countdown and appears headed towards becoming only the third driver in NHRA history to win both a Top Fuel and Funny Car championship in his career. Worsham has been absolutely solid this season.

That’s The Fact, Jack: Jack Beckman has enjoyed arguably the best season of his career, a complete turnaround from last year’s draining struggle. Having left John Force at the end of last season, co-crew chiefs Jimmy Prock and John Medlen have reinvigorated both Beckman and his car. Worsham has been strong, but Beckman is only a mere 16 points back in second place. And with his win this past Sunday at Reading, momentum could potentially turn in Beckman’s direction heading to Texas.

The Numbers Game: Kudos to third-ranked Matt Hagan (90 points behind Worsham) and fourth-ranked Tommy Johnson Jr. (-98) for their strong efforts in the Countdown. Ditto for Ron Capps (105 points behind Worsham) and John Force (-150), who are both still within striking distance. However, two drivers have uncharacteristically struggled thus far in the Countdown: Alexis De Joria (ranked ninth, 207 points back) and Robert Hight (10th, 221 points back). Unless they right their respective ships, they run the risk of being eliminated at Las Vegas.


Biggest Surprise: Chris McGaha (third, 104 points behind series leader Erica Enders) and rookie Drew Skillman (sixth, -173) have definitely opened eyes this season, with each earning wins thus far in the Countdown. Also enjoying a strong run in the Countdown and a welcome resurgence overall this season is veteran racer Larry Morgan (fourth, 145 points back). Enders could potentially have her hands full in the final three races to keep these three hungry drivers at bay.

You Go Girl: Defending champ Enders has looked cool, calm and collected – just like she did en route to becoming the first female Pro Stock champ last season. With a 72-point lead over former champ Greg Anderson, Enders has become one of the best drivers when it comes to reaction times at the starting line, having won close to a dozen or more rounds just because she got the jump on her opponent at the so-called “Christmas tree.”


Biggest surprise: It would be hard to find two riders who have not been more surprising than Hector Arana Jr. (ranked third, 101 points back) and Louisiana alligator farmer Jerry Savoie (fourth, 119 points back). Arana is one of the most promising young riders on the circuit, while Savoie – after a 30-year layoff from racing – is proving that 53 (years old) is the new 23.

Back in the saddle again: Andrew Hines is gunning for his fifth bike championship, and second straight, and has done what he’s needed to do thus far in the Countdown. While Arana and second-ranked Eddie Krawiec (-89) are proving to be formidable foes, Hines appears to be ready to start pulling further away for the title.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

NHRA: New book a celebration of life, love and drag racing

jim oberhofer horizontal
Leave a comment

The overpowering smell from nitromethane that powers Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars in the National Hot Rod Association oftentimes brings fans to tears after getting a whiff of the stuff.

Now there’s a new inspirational book that will also bring tears to the eyes of die-hard drag racing fans.

Veteran crew chief Jim Oberhofer has released “Top Fuel For Life, Life Lessons From A Crew Chief,” a touching homage to both his late wife and persevering and overcoming adversity in the highly competitive world of NHRA drag racing.

oberhofer 2

Oberhofer wears a number of hats as vice president of one of the sport’s most veteran and successful teams, Kalitta Motorsports, including serving as crew chief for Top Fuel driver Doug Kalitta’s dragster.

Oberhofer relates a number of stories about overcoming adversity in the book, but none more touching than how he watched his beloved wife “Tammy O” lose a long and painful battle to stage 4 metastatic lung cancer.

While Oberhofer has spent his life using wrenches and tools working on 10,000-horsepower engines, his new book shows that he is also a very gifted writer.

Known in the sport as “Jim O,” Oberhofer describes the fight his wife went through in gritty and descriptive prose, but with a foundation built upon what the love of his life meant to him – and continues to mean to him more than two years since she passed away.

“When you take a long hard look at your life, I guarantee you that being a winner has little to do with crossing the finish line,” Oberhofer said. “After many mistakes and a whole lot of heartache, I learned that happiness comes from a deeper, simpler place. That’s the big win.”

“Top Fuel For Life” is available on Amazon for $19.95.

Follow @JerryBonkowski