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Artifical Rain Opportunities in F1


The Cahier Archive


A recent suggestion from Bernie Ecclestone that Formula 1 races should experience a bout of artificial rain is a fantastic idea – make it happen!

The official tire supplier, Pirelli, is on board, but how and when to go to the sprinklers?  Weather arrives and leaves, but usually with some warning in the form of clouds and pressure, and always without regard to who’s leading the race or who’s on which type of tire.  How do you implement the idea fairly and safely?  Sudden heavy storms?  Light drizzle? Short squall? Leave it to Charlie Whiting to turn on the taps? Who pushes the button and for how long?

The main idea behind artificial rain is to improve the show for the fans, so why not put them in charge of when the rain comes? Formula 1 fans are online and under engaged in a big way, so in the ultimate form of fan engagement, why not drive the Formula 1 audience to their mobile devices and laptops to make it rain at the track?  I cannot imagine a more engaged live TV audience immediately following a fan-induced storm, fantastic for eyeballs on the screen, and more brand exposure for sponsors.

How to engage the existing sponsor base? Aside from CFD currently used to develop Formula 1 cars, one of the world’s most computationally intensive endeavors is weather modeling.  Predicting weather patterns and events is a real world problem that drives how the world farms, travels, eats, drinks and lives. Weather touches all of our lives, so here’s a great opportunity for the sport’s technology partners like Intel to showcase work on their latest processors.

On the consumer side, there’s plenty of wet weather products that would love the exposure a guaranteed artificial rain event would provide.  Pirelli, for one, would love the idea that they could activate a media campaign for their wet weather road tires.  As for a former Toyota F1 sponsor and pressure washing equipment manufacturer Kärcher, there may just be an opportunity to demonstrate the arrival of the next Zamboni.  Everyone from wet weather clothing companies to wiper blade manufacturers would have a huge stage to demonstrate their latest products to a dry, live studio audience.

Finally, it would be great to bring a non-profit element to the sport, especially given the idea of a worldwide audience watching a precious natural resource, water, used in the name of entertainment.  The United Nations World Water Day is March 22, and one way determine when to turn on the taps at the track would be to arrange a tweet race in support of raising awareness of those in need of fresh water, in combination with a donation campaign of some sort.  Set a high water mark for donations and twitter followers during the race and you’ve got a trigger to let the rain dance begin . . . so how would you add rain to Formula 1?

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A Visit to the Bruce McLaren Trust


I had the opportunity on a recent road trip through New Zealand to visit the Bruce McLaren Trust. My visit made for an afternoon full of memories of Bruce, his legacy, and life growing up above a service station in an Auckland suburb.

Bruce McLaren's childhood home

Just a short drive up the hill from the local motorway, this inconspicuous building marks genesis – the spot where Bruce McLaren’s boyhood home met the world of his father’s service station beneath. This small neighborhood service station is the childhood home of Bruce McLaren, and currently home to the Trust run by his sister Jan for the preservation of his memory.

Easy to miss, but look for the kiwi, the door's open

Once inside, a staircase lined with posters, photos, and family memorabilia overwhelmed my girlfriend and I as we walked inside. This was a welcome sight after the long drive we had just made from Wellington, but it was just what I had been imagining we’d come across. Space was extremely tight as this was the small flat Bruce and his family lived in. Every inch of wallspace is covered with important photos, posters, awards, and letters, and helped tell the story of Bruce McLaren’s life growing up, absorbing the world of automobiles from childhood.

Memorabilia line the walls inside

Still a little dazed admiring posters from the old Can Am circuits, a doorbell alerted those above that we’d arrived. We were greeted by David, a volunteer at the Trust who guided us down a main hallway decorated with photos, where we arrived at the ‘wall of fame’. This was an amazing signature tribute to Kiwi racing heroes and the people in motorsport who worked with and for Bruce, and are now known simply as the mob – or the ‘McLaren Old Boys’.

Further down the hallway were posters, trophy cases, and a moment with Bruce’s two CanAm trophies from 1967 and 1969, made from a beautiful floating sculpture:

Off the main hall, the kitchen serves as offices for Jan McLaren, Bruce’s younger sister. Jan is both co-founder and board member of the Trust, and took the time to talk a bit about her brother and the Trust’s aims and objectives. McLaren International Limited and the Bruce McLaren Trust have a special relationship which guides the coexistence of the two entities, and the Trust is involved in preserving the memory of New Zealand’s legendary driver and his cars through activities both locally and internationally.

The author and Jan McLaren, co-founder, The Bruce McLaren Trust

In Jan’s office, photos from Bruce’s childhood show him as a small boy photographed in the very spot I stood as I admired portraits of a loving family life. Bruce’s father ran the garage below, and as I learned more about the family history in their very own home, my visit became more and more engaging. Across the hall from the office was the room Bruce grew up in, where we learned how he would watch the trains outside his bedroom window as they arrived.

Visiting here has to be the most immersed one could get in a legend like Bruce’s life, and the amount of personal and team memorabilia throughout the home only helps to reinforce the impact his life had on so many. It wasn’t long before a sense of wonder took over when I got a call to the next room to see something from my girlfriend, however . . .


Bruce McLaren's original racing overalls - amazing

David had shared some crown jewels with us, and while there’s plenty of orange treasure throughout, there’s also a fair bit of red – with much of the history of the team well taken care of and collected after Bruce’s passing in 1970. Along with Bruce’s overalls came out none other than James Hunt’s firesuit.

James Hunt's original McLaren firesuit

Never have I ever felt more treated to a display of Grand Prix history in such a friendly and enthusiastic way – Jan also took the time with me to talk a little about the Trust and their organization’s goals. I’ll have edited video posted shortly. It’s worth noting that the Sonoma Historics will feature McLaren as their marque this year, and Jan did mention to me she may be planning a visit in June for the event. She also mentioned that progress is being made on the film about Bruce’s life, many will be happy to hear.

Bruce's first Formula 1 win at the USGP Sebring 1959: Guinness World Record, Youngest GP Winner: 22y 104d

If you do decide to drop by, send an email in advance to the staff to let them know you’re coming. Please note that this is a very tight space full of memorabilia, so a small group is nearly too large to accommodate inside. Tour buses are not a fit for the size of the space, but for more information on your trip, or to join the Bruce McLaren Trust, please visit http://bruce-mclaren.com to make a donation. This is truly a special place for racing fans everywhere, and as more donations arrive, they are sure to be able to share Bruce’s memory with a wider audience. Their website is currently undergoing a renovation, but check back with the site for more updates and online gift shop in the near future.

After visiting, we stopped off at the grave of Bruce McLaren, located about a 20 minute drive West. I can’t imagine what meeting the man in person would have meant, but after my experience at his home and listening to the stories about him from his sister, I know it would have been a brush with greatness.


Bruce Leslie McLaren: 1937 - 1970

McLaren’s longevity as a team is a testament to it’s founder, and its history crosses several country borders as well as many nationalities throughout it’s existence. Today, racing fans usually associate McLaren with the UK based Formula 1 team, but many may not know that it was an American, Teddy Mayer, who played an important role in the continuation and development of the team after Bruce’s passing.

Connecting the dots to McLaren’s roots in Auckland, I separated the team’s history into three distinct phases, beginning with it’s roots with the team’s founder, chief designer and driver, Bruce McLaren, who from 1958 – 1970 raced in and then developed a variety of cars, winning his first Grand Prix in 1959 at Sebring, then dominating Can-Am in later years with his own cars. Bruce was tragically killed in a testing accident in his Can-Am car at Goodwood, and American Teddy Mayer (whose late brother Timmy Mayer raced with and for McLaren) led the team at this time.

In this second phase of McLaren, Teddy, through a partnership setup in 1966 with Bruce, grew McLaren Racing Ltd., which developed and raced to win at the Indy 500 and take Can-Am championships while continuing development on their Grand Prix cars. In this era of Cosworth power, James Hunt (1976) and Emerson Fittipaldi (1974) won two world championships with McLaren with Marlboro sponsorship. The distinctive red and white paint would signal the start of phase three at the team, and the arrival of a new regime at McLaren.

Finally, after a period of decline in the team’s fortunes on the track, McLaren was merged in a takeover deal involving Project 4, whose F2 and F3 teams led by Ron Dennis had existing sponsorship from Marlboro. My research online shows Ron entered into a partnership with McLaren in September 1980, with Teddy Mayer remaining on board until 1982. The team since has gone on to win quite a bit as the sport’s grown and ‘evolved’.

Formula 1 is, as ever, about change, but after seeing so much history on display at the Trust, it was remarkable to see this this note of appreciation to Bruce signed by nearly everyone involved with the 1962 United States Grand Prix.

Bruce McLaren's 1962 Certificate of Appreciation from the USGP

Just a basic thank you note – but it strikes me as an incredible example from history of how racing together forged the unity and sense of kinship felt and shared in Bruce’s time. Many thanks to the Bruce McLaren Trust for preserving and displaying these important memories, and special thanks to Jan and David for sharing their afternoon with us.


Filed under American F1 circuits, American F1 drivers, American F1 Fans, American F1 history, Americans working in F1, F1 cars in America, F1 in America

Welcome to F1 in America

Phil Hill, 1960

The Cahier Archive

Welcome to F1 in America

I’ve been connecting and engaging US-based Formula 1 and open wheel racing fans both in-person and online  for the past 5 years, and have become  more convinced that not only are F1 fans unique as a group, but they are also very loyal to their sport.

F1’s recent past history in the US has faced several different challenges, and today the ability to create a dialog with fans presents new strategies and opportunities in markets where sports and entertainment strive to create the best experience in a competitive marketplace.

This blog began as part of the many conversations I’ve had on Twitter at @F1US and on Facebook at F1 in America.  It’s starting out life as a meeting place for people and ideas, and aims to include the growing US-based F1 community’s thoughts and views on how the sport’s doing stateside as well as ideas on ways how F1 can move forward in this country.  All sides and points of view are welcome, from bloggers and fans to professionals in sports and marketing, and I look forward to sharing and reading your thoughts in the future.

Peter Habicht

San Francisco, California

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