You make the call

Posted by Iannucci | 11/24/2008 | 8 comments »
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Years ago during NFL (that's American football for those of you outside of the US of A) games there was a commercial feature caled "IBM presents: You Make the Call" where a weird play would be shown and you the viewer would get to decide if Eric Dickerson scored a touchdown or Terry Bradshaw fumbled or whatever. There's no equivalent in racing - or any other sport - because football has so many rules that literally no single person on earth knows all of them.

Racing is usually much simpler, but every once in a while something happens that's either the fault of Driver A, Driver B, or simply "one of them racin' deals". Today, we have such an example.

Here is footage from the A1GP race last Saturday or Sunday, depending upon your hemisphere. For those who do not know of A1GP it is a World Cup style of formula racing, where each team represents a nation. And they're all driving Ferraris. There are certainly worse forms of racing.

What you are about to see happened right before the start of the Sprint race feature, which may confuse stock car fans because it has nothing to do with mobile phones or "The Cup". Why might you ask am I discussing A1GP footage? Because the first car you see launching is driven by none other than American driver Marco Andretti.

Here's the Harry Callas voice-over for today's "You Make The Call": "As the race is about to start in Malaysia, Marco Andretti of Team America (World Police?) appears to accelerate, while directly in front of him Team India's Narain Karthikeyan slows down, resulting in Andretti launching over the back of Karthikeyan. Who's at fault? You make the call."

Marco said he was shifting up when it appeared everyone was suddenly slowing down, but I gotta admit it sure looke like he suffered a brain cloud at the start. Confirming this was this picture from the A1GP site.

Uh oh. Looks like Marco jumped the gun before the green light was on.

However, check out the next picture from a car behind Andretti.

Now, I don't know about your eagle eyes, but I sure as heck can't see any freaking red lights down the course from that cockpit. The best I could tell is that a driver in Marco's position probably needed to be watching the cars in front of him and not trying to squint for red or green in the distance.

So - you make the call. What happened here?

As a footnote, all cars were repaired in time for the Feature race where Andretti finished third. Hooray for America!

(Thanks to our buddy meesh for finding the video.)


  1. AZZO45 // November 24, 2008 9:16 PM  

    If you are blaming Marco... does the Brazilian car glued to the Team USA Ferrari share any blame???

    It was a rolling start in a series that used to practice standing starts... $h*t Happens?

    Plus this is a F1 track.. are there green lights even installed? F1 starts obviously light up 5 RED lights to signal a start... all 5 were lit. Flashing yellows were seen immediately after the accident.

    I saw it as a racing accident + young Marco recovered to finish a fine 3rd... lets focus on the positive eh?

  2. Mike // November 24, 2008 10:16 PM  

    Pretty hard to make the call against Marco, really. I did initially lay all the blame on him when I heard about it (without seeing it) on the A1GP website during the Feature race webcast. He's certainly made some moves in ICS that lead some (me included) to automatically assume it had to be his mistake. But with the 'slow, GO, brakecheck' shenanigans that happened in front of him, I'm inclined to give him a pass on this one. I'd say the series needs to bring themselves up to speed (no pun intended, but I'll take credit for it anyway) on how to conduct a rolling start, tell the drivers what they're looking for, and tell them how to properly pace it as they head to the line.

  3. The Mapster // November 24, 2008 10:20 PM  

    I call it racing incident for two reasons. #1 Felipe (Brazil) followed Marco over India and Australia and another car (not sure who it is) dive into the grass to also not run over cars in front of them, clearly the back of the field thought they were going.

    #2 more importantly; all 20 drivers called it a racing incident and blamed no one for the incident.

  4. Brian from Florida // November 25, 2008 3:51 AM  

    I'm not a Marco fan, but he assumed that they were going green (forward at high speed) approaching the START line at the START of the race and CANNOT see the starter stand or lights. Marco (and the racer behind him)just wanted to race forward, as that's what he's paid to do.
    No one groused or pointed fingers afterward... "It was a rolling start in a series that used to practice standing starts..."

  5. AGRfan26 // November 25, 2008 11:11 AM  

    Here's Marco's quote on the Accident. Let's see what he had to stay about it:
    "You can say its unavoidable but at the time I thought everyone was going and I could only see two rows ahead of me,” said the 21-year-old .I couldn’t see ahead of the whole field.

    “I was about to grab fourth gear, and as soon as rear tires were hooking up, that was needed to stop the car. There was no hope. In the States you either go or you don’t. Here, they went, and then stopped. No one was to blame, it was just racing, but ultimately I crashed out two cars.”

    Kudos to Marco for taking the blame, even though his fellow drivers didn't point fingers at him.

  6. AGRfan26 // November 25, 2008 11:17 AM  

    I used blame and I should have said he excepted responsibility for taking gout 2 cars.

  7. Anonymous // November 25, 2008 1:47 PM  

    You say he excepted responsibility. I say he accepted responsibility.


  8. Too Much Racing // November 26, 2008 12:01 PM  

    I've heard that the field checked up because the GBR car ahead of them was suffering gearbox problems, which later put that car out. Look at the 3rd car back in this clip, right at the very beginning.
    I tell you what though, if the GBR car hadn't slowed Marco would have had a demon start! Using his IRL rolling start advantage to the full.

    Two other related points:
    A1GP has used rolling starts for the Sprint race ever since the series started (I was at the first event in '05, it was used then). I'm not saying the rotating cast of drivers are used to it...

    Secondly, A1's format for the rolling start is for the pace car to set a very slow speed, then peel into pit lane. They don't do an IRL or ALMS-style flying start.