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Joining the Club – Super Aguri

Against all expectations, Super Aguri survived their first year rather well, developing an ancient Arrows chassis into something like a modern GP car and finishing the last race of 2006 in tenth place. This season they have a development of last year’s Honda, a car that won in Hungary, and have taken a leap forward in performance as a result.

Davidson

Anthony Davidson in the Super Aguri SA07

The big question is: can they maintain the pace of development and consolidate their position in the midfield? Although they are currently embarrassing their parent team, Honda, I feel that sooner or later the car will reach the limit of possible tweaks and adjustments and will begin to slip towards the back of the grid again. This is not to suggest that there is anything wrong with the team (indeed, they have done wonders so far); they are working with last year’s product, that’s all.

Super Aguri provide us with a glimpse of the customer teams that are likely in the future, much more so than Toro Rosso which is more like a B team to Red Bull. They are enthusiastic, dedicated and ecstatic over each small success that comes their way. And they have shown that it is not absolutely necessary to have the latest equipment to compete in F1. They might never win races but points are not completely out of the question.

The team’s choice of drivers is not bad, too. Takuma Sato is no slouch and, on occasions can be very fast indeed. And Anthony Davidson is talented and quick. Although he has taken time to get into his stride, he out-qualified Sato in Bahrain and may be about to show us how good he really is.

Treated as something of a joke last year, Super Aguri have earned their spurs and it is hard not to wish them well. If nothing else, they reflect the overwhelming enthusiasm of the Japanese for motor racing, F1 in particular.

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All Quiet on the F1 Front

Okay, I admit it, I do like a bit of controversy, something that I can throw a few ill-chosen words at to get everyone even more outraged. And F1 has let me down badly this morning, having apparently fixed the flexi-floor debate and the customer car row waiting for arbitration. The only thing happening seems to be testing in Malaysia with times that are all over the place, confirming the old adage that testing proves nothing.

Sato

Sato in the Super Aguri

Silverstone is threatened with a buy-out by a shadowy group called Spectre, prompting PitPass to speculate on a return of James Bond’s old enemy, Ernst Blofeld, but Damon Hill has denied that the circuit is up for sale. So much for any fun with that one.

Even F1 Fanatic is reduced to a post on a Formula 1 photograph exhibition in London. Definitely a day with no pots to stir and no fur to ruffle.

Which leaves me writing what I refer to on my personal blog as “a nothing post”. I am expert on these, having resorted to them often in moments of desperation. Mention of my personal blog reminds me that there are a few motor sport posts on it, however, and it occurs to me that I could duck this one by sending you over there to read them. They’re hugely out of date but might at least assuage my pangs of guilt at not being able to think of anything to write about today.

The Indianapolis Grand Farce

The Other Italian

Motor Racing Memories

Okay, there are only three but I do have other interests, you know…

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A Brighter Prospect for Super Aguri

We tend to forget that, in every race, someone has to come last. And the guys fulfilling this useful role most often in 2006 have been the Super Aguri team. I was fairly dismissive of their efforts in my previous post on them, but it may be that I was wrong. A study of the fastest laps in the Brazilian Grand Prix reveals the surprising information that the Aguri drivers managed to be seventh and ninth fastest.

Party

The Renault team celebrate with Super Aguri

Okay, we can point out that these times were done fairly late in the race after some cars had retired and others were taking it easy to ensure finishing. But the Aguri times are up there with drivers who were still involved in the battle to keep Michael Schumacher back:

4 Jenson Button, Honda, Lap 70, 1:13.053
5 Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault, Lap 70, 1:13.121
6 Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren, Lap 58, 1:13.281
7 Sakon Yamamoto, Super Aguri, Lap 67, 1:13.379
8 Rubens Barrichello, Honda, Lap 48, 1:13.391
9 Takuma Sato, Super Aguri, Lap 47, 1:13.401
10 Vitantonio Liuzzi, Toro Rossi, Lap 69, 1:13.687

To be amongst that sort of company, the car must have become increasingly competitive as the race progressed. The Renault team had the decency to share their championship champagne with the Super Aguri guys, recognizing that Sato’s tenth place finish was an important milestone for the tail-enders.

This was achieved with a car that is still essentially an ancient Arrows chassis, considerably modified and powered by a Honda engine. Next year the team will have to produce a chassis from scratch and that will be an important step forward for them. Their goal must be to move away from the tail end of the field, although it is difficult to see who would take their place. All of the smaller teams go into 2007 with high expectations and it is impossible to predict who will be successful and who won’t.

But things look brighter than I expected for Super Aguri and, when we hear that Anthony Davidson is in with a good chance of racing for them next season, we can have some hope that he will do well.

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