RUNNING THE RACES |
So how does one person run an entire Grand Prix on his own?
Well, the actual method has not really changed since I started racing on my own in 1966. Now that I am running series of races from the 1950s, most races have two practice session while some (e.g. Monaco) have three. The order that the cars run in the first session is radomly selected by a computer programme that jumbles up the car's numbers. Then, any subsequent sessions start with the slowest car from the previous session, etc etc etc.
At one time, I ran the fastest first, but I got some very odd grids because, naturally, I get quicker and quicker the more laps I do. Sometimes, tail-ender teams were getting artificially high grid positions. During a qualifying session, every car is driven as hard as possible, to obtain its best possible lap time. their would be no point in doing otherwise, as I have stated on my first page. Since the introduction of the 12-lap qualifying rule, I limit my cars to the same restriction.
Once all the cars have run, a grid order is established. A car's grid position dictates which row it starts the race from. The first runs are started from the grid, while all succeeding runs begin with a flying start. As to the race itself, I take the correct number of laps from the real race, if there was one, and divide that by 6. In the case of an odd number, say 71, that would break down into 5 runs of 12 laps, and 1 of 11, which would come first.
This is what a race summary sheet looks like.
I fill one of these in as each race progresses. So what do all these numbers mean? Each vertical column represents one car, the number of which is at the top of the column. The numbers on the left are the laps - black for each run, and red for the running total. This Spanish Grand Prix was 65 laps, so the first run is 10 laps, and the other 5 runs are 11 laps. The fastest qualifier, (#6) is on the top row, far left; while the slowest (#19) is on the bottom row, far right. (Incidentally, I should point out that the cars are numbered based on MY previous year's World Championship results, NOT the real ones.
O.K. Still with me? Man, you must be as sad as I am!!!
As I said, the first set of runs begin from each car's correct grid line and from a standing start.
The first car to run would be the one which was slowest in qualiflying.
(I used to begin with the pole-man, which is more logical, but it gave me a silly race order in the early stages,
for the same reason as I mentioned above with the qualifying.) Car #19 does 10 laps, and records a time of 76'03 seconds,
which goes in his column on the 10-lap line. Then car #18 runs - 77'84, and so on through to poleman #6 who recorded 71'72.
You will notice that car #8 did not complete the 10 laps, but is posted as a retirement after 9 laps.
Retirements can come about through various ways; a car can simply begin to run poorly, due to a motor problem, or maybe a
stripped cog. These would be reasons for retirement: 'engine trouble' or 'gearbox trouble'. A wire may come loose;
'electrical failure'; or a car may simply leave the track on a bend, and thus become stranded in the 'gravel'; (I have
no gravel!); that car would be deemed as out of the race.
Should a car come out of the groove, but stay on the track surface, or spin, I stop my hand-held stop-watch
as quickly as possible, replace the car, then start car and watch simultaneously. The action of stopping and re-starting
the watch loses the car about 1 second, which, on a circuit with a lap-time of 7-8 seconds, is quite a handicap.
So it pays to be quick, but careful.
As you can see from the table, the times are added up as the race progresses. The cumulative times are in red; and you will see that after 4 runs (43 laps) car #6, (which happens to be Harry Frentzen) had taken 308'31 seconds, and led #4 (Fisichella) by 1'30 seconds.
During the early years of my hobby, all the cars that finished a race were on the same lap as the winner. This of course, is not logical! So I had to develop a system by which cars could be 'lapped'. If you look carefully at the box for car #22's 3rd run, you will see a $ (dollar) sign next to the time that the car took on that run. This signifies that on that run, that car did one lap less (10) and therefore fell a lap behind. How do I know that it has done that? GET READY!
Right, after two runs (21 laps) the leading car's total time was 150'69 seconds. Car #22 had taken 159'29. Now, the AVERAGE lap time for the leader over those 21 laps (150'69 divided by 21) - roughly 7'1 seconds, and he would therefore have completed his 22nd lap in around 157'8 seconds, which is faster than #22 would complete 21. By doing one lap less, #22 gets back to with 7'1 seconds of the leader, but is now one lap adrift. Over the course of a race, this process would repeat several times, and therefore, cars would be several laps behind. Whereas, others may only lose a single lap, with others remaining within one lap of the leader. GET IT? When the surviving cars have completed their 6 runs and the total times are added up, the race result can be written down. Again, years ago the final race result would not look realistic, because the average sort of time for a car to run in any race is about 7-8 minutes. Eventually, I invented another little 'wrinkle' to give my races realism. Every one of my circuits has a 'reference' number. This reference number is obtained the very first time a circuit is used. I take the fastest lap in qualifying for the real race, and divide it by my fastest qualifying lap. Whatever number that gives me is made into a five digit number. From then on, every lap, or series of laps done on that circuit, when multiplied by the correct reference number, gives me a realistic lap or race time. Using the above Spanish Grand Prix, the reference for Barcelona is 10884, so the fastest actual race lap, timed with a one thousandth of a second electronic timer, (what a wonderful invention that is) was by car #6 (Frentzen) on his very last lap - (thereby hangs a tail) was 6.869 seconds, which, when multiplied by the reference number, gives a lap of 1 min. 14'762 seconds. Much more realistic. Similarly, the winner, #4 (Fisichella) took an actual 469'01 seconds which multiplies up to 1 hour 25 minutes 04'70 seconds. It makes no real difference, it just looks better on paper. Having obtained the electronic timer, I am now able to produce a comprehensive list of each car's fastest lap time in each race. To be honest, it is just 'making paper' but I love to see those sorts of statistics in real racing, and therefore in mine too.
And I think that that's about it! Running a Grand Prix takes me around 4-5 hours, and I have to confess that while some races are fantastically exciting, others can be crashingly boring. Nevertheless, believe me when I say that I get enormous pleasure from this hobby; I must do, after all I've been doing it for over 45 years!