F1 2015 Primer: The Tracks

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The third and final F1 2015 Primer on MotorSportsTalk ahead of this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix looks at the tracks that will be raced on this year, spanning five continents and 20 different countries.

The calendar remains much the same as it was in 2014, but here’s the complete calendar and a few thoughts on races that are coming and going in F1 over the next few years.

THE NEW ADDITION

Just one new race on the calendar for the 2015 season, with the Mexican Grand Prix returning to F1 after 23 years away. The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City will once again host a grand prix, albeit with a slightly different layout that has removed some of the best sections of the circuit, such as the famous Peraltada final corner.

Nevertheless, it promises to be a wonderful event. In the coming weeks, we’ll be releasing a special digital-only version of Off The Grid where Will Buxton and Jason Swales head to Mexico City to see how preparations for the race are going.

Mexico is an important addition to the calendar. It is a huge market for F1, with Force India’s Sergio Perez and Ferrari reserve Esteban Gutierrez both flying the flag for the home fans. Normally, a large Mexican contingency makes the trip over to Austin, Texas for the United States Grand Prix. Now, they will get the chance for two races close to home in two weeks. Great news indeed for F1 and for motorsport in Mexico.

THE ‘ALMOST’ EVENTS

When the 2015 calendar was first unveiled, it featured an unprecedented 21 races thanks to the addition of the Korean Grand Prix. The race was ambitiously pencilled in as part of a back-to-back with the Spanish Grand Prix – just the 19 hours by plane apart – to ensure that F1 was not in breach of its contract. Unsurprisingly, the event was then canned, with the organizers saying that they had not expected to be included on the calendar. The race was last held in 2013 and appears to stand little chance of returning anytime soon.

Other almost events include France (long-rumored but without any real hope as things stand), Azerbaijan (set for 2016) and, of course, New Jersey. The proposed Grand Prix of America appears to be colder than ever, and wasn’t even included on a provisional calendar for 2015 as it had been in the past. US fans continue to dream of a second race, but for now, it appears that Austin is going to be as good as it gets (which, in fairness, is no bad thing).

WILL THERE BE A GERMAN GRAND PRIX?

The other big question that still needs to be answered for 2015 is whether or not there will be a German Grand Prix in 2015. It seems odd given that a German driver has won nine of the world championships since the turn of the century (five for Michael Schumacher, four for Sebastian Vettel) and that a German team won last year’s constructors’ championship (Mercedes).

In the past, Hockenheim and the Nurburgring have shared the race, hosting in alternate years to ensure that neither makes a loss for two years in a row. However, it emerged at the end of last year that the Nurburgring was not able to host the race in 2015, with Bernie Ecclestone saying it would be moved to Hockenheim – except officials knew not of his decision.

Most recently, Ecclestone said that he had set a deadline of last weekend for the venues, but we’re still none the wiser. Rumor has it that if the race does return in the future, it could be part of a back-to-back with the Belgian Grand Prix as part of a shift in the European calendar, but for 2015, question marks remain.

2015 Formula 1 Calendar

1. Australian Grand Prix 13-15 March
2. Malaysian Grand Prix 29-31 March
3. Chinese Grand Prix 10-12 April
4. Bahrain Grand Prix 17-19 April
5. Spanish Grand Prix 8-10 May
6. Monaco Grand Prix 21-24 May
7. Canadian Grand Prix 5-7 June
8. Austrian Grand Prix 19-21 June
9. British Grand Prix 3-5 July
10. German Grand Prix 17-19 July
11. Hungarian Grand Prix 24-26 July
12. Belgian Grand Prix 21-23 August
13. Italian Grand Prix 4-6 September
14. Singapore Grand Prix 18-20 September
15. Japanese Grand Prix 25-27 September
16. Russian Grand Prix 9-11 October
17. United States Grand Prix 23-25 October
18. Mexican Grand Prix 30 October – 1 November
19. Brazilian Grand Prix 13-15 November
20. Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 27-29 November

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”