Robb Interview: Mark Webber & Sir Jackie Stewart

We sat down with the two F1 legends – to talk Rolex, Ricciardo, the future of Melbourne’s GP
and why Max Verstappen needs swap the Red Bull for “some valium.”

By Stephen Corby 09/04/2022

No less a luminary than Sir Jackie Stewart, a three-time world champion, thinks Aussie F1 star Daniel Ricciardo’s struggles at McLaren are “all in his head”.

“The thing about driving in Formula One is, it’s all about mind management,” Stewart, speaking yesterday at a Rolex-hosted event at Albert Park in Melbourne, explained to Robb Report.

“It’s all in the head, he really must be suffering a lot right now, with the way he’s struggled to get used to that car at McLaren. He had a very tough year last year.

Will he be able to get it back this year?

“We’ll have to wait and see, but it’s a shame, because he’s a really good racing driver. The thing is, he used to be one of the young pups but he’s not so young anymore.”

Ricciardo’s compatriot and fellow F1-racing legend, Mark Webber, doesn’t like the local hero’s outlook much this weekend in Melbourne, either — largely because of the way to his car has been off the pace in the first to events of the season in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia (Ricciardo had a DNF in the first and finished 14th in the second).

Asked to rate Ricciardo’s chances, the always straight-talking Webber shook his head and chimed: “pretty low.”

Robb Report sat down with the two highly experienced Formula One racers to talk everything from watches to Las Vegas, Leclerc to Verstappen, Drive to Survive and the expected battles of this year’s highly anticipated season.

 

Robb Report: What was the first F1 race you ever attended, Mark — was it the Australian GP, back when it was in Adelaide?

Mark Webber: It was the first, 1987 — I was 10, Gerhard Berger in Ferrari won (Jackie interjects, [“Come on Mark, surely you were only four then?”] I remember the first guy that went past was Martin Brundle in the Brabham and I remember I was sitting on the front straight with my mouth open just going, ‘No way, there’s just no way there’s a human being driving that, it’s just not possible. No human could do that.’ I saw a helmet, but I couldn’t believe there was a person in there — it was just too fast. But I loved it, I was climbing trees, trying to get a better view. I just couldn’t get enough of it, I loved it. And back then I hadn’t even started racing go-karts, I was still just mucking around on motorbikes.”

 

RR: Australia has quite a history with F1, doesn’t it?

MW: It’s amazing, the history we’ve had here for a country this small, pound for pound, it’s amazing how well we’ve done for a country of our size. We should never have been so lucky.

 

RR: Do you believe, as F1 adds more races in the US and with Las Vegas now signed up for 2023 and only a certain number of events allowed in the calendar, that we might one day lose our race in Melbourne?

MW: No, no chance — we’ll be fine. I’m highly confident we’ll be fine in Australia because this is one of the best grands prix in the world, the drivers love it, the teams love it.

And it needs to be a global sport — you can’t just hang around in the northern hemisphere. We will see this weekend what’s going to happen, we’ve got 130,000 people here, and you need that kind of excitement. The sport has moved on, but we will go with the times – and you saw the Dutch GP with 120,000 people there, screaming for Max [Verstappen]. What’s happened in the past two years in this sport, the growth has been like nothing before. We’ve had to build extra grandstands here in Melbourne this year and we will hit that new level that we’ve seen around the world. With the Netflix show [Drive to Survive], the drivers are even bigger superstars than ever before. The impact of that show, particularly in the US, has been phenomenal.
My sister loves Toto Wolff and Lando Norris and my nephew loves him/ Look, the patriotic angle will always be strong here in Australia but the sport has gotten so much bigger, there are so many more people being talked about, and the fans feel like they’re closer to them.

 

RR: Is it true Mark that you purchased your first Rolex yourself – we thought F1 drivers were simply gifted them?

MW: Yes, after winning my first GP in 2009. I thought it was something worth celebrating properly so I bought myself one. But Jackie got given his first one, I’m pretty sure, for winning a race — your first win in Monaco wasn’t it?

Jackie Stewart: It was for setting the fastest lap in qualifying in 1967. And I’ve still got that one.

MW: Wow, that would be worth a bit — probably about the same as the Australian Defense Budget.

JS: I’ve been with Rolex for a long time, more than 50 years and not a lot of sponsorships last that long. And I do love them. I’m staying at Crown Towers and I saw they had a Rolex shop there so I went in yesterday and the guy in the shop didn’t recognise me – which the people with me thought was very funny – so I went up to the guy and said, ‘I’m interested in buying a watch, I’ll have a couple of Daytonas if you don’t mind.’ And he was, ‘Oh, I’m sorry sir, you cannot get those’. I’ve got six Rolexes with me here in Australia, I like to wear different ones during the day and at night.

RR: Qualifying today is so competitive, and so important, with the top six often separated by less than a second — was it like that in your day Sir Jackie?

JS: I never bothered with it. When I was in Formula One, the only thing that mattered was setting the car up properly for the race. Pole position was never very important in my day, all I wanted to do in qualifying was make sure that my car was right. It’s very different today. But like any sport, motor racing is all in the mind. And I worked out, early on, that if I removed emotion from racing, I was better off and most of my races I won, they were won in the first five laps, because everyone else was too uptight in those five laps. I just tried to stay calm.

MW: I remember Jackie telling me that years ago, and it’s so true, being calm in the car is so important, you don’t want to be emotional in there.

JS: It’s a dangerous thing, emotion; it’s dangerous in courting; it’s dangerous in marriage and it’s dangerous in a race car. People make mistakes on the first corner, you see it all the time, and I just couldn’t get that, why would you make a mistake like that? You’ve got 60 laps left, just stay calm. To finish first, first you must finish… You see the same weakness today — too many people diving into the first corner and making mistakes. It’s all about timing – and sometimes Max Verstappen does that, he can be a little over the top. A little valium would help him, I think. More valium, less Red Bull. I think he’s the fastest driver on the track right now, but I still think he’s got an emotional vulnerability. You know, that little kiss he and Lewis Hamilton had at Silverstone last year — there was no reason for that to happen, you just can’t doing things like that. And that was a huge accident. If you had an accident like that in my day, you’d be dead. Simple as that.

“The cockpit of an F1 car today is a survival cell. In the 1960s and ‘70s, I tell everyone that at that time, motor racing was dangerous and sex was safe. That was the swinging ‘60s.

Fifty seven of my friends died during my time racing. Fifty seven! All my best friends died, Graham Hill died in an air crash, but everyone else died on the racing track. The safety levels of the cars today are absolutely incredible. And what the doctors can do. I remember Mika Hakkinen died, twice, in Australia, in Adelaide, after a huge accident. And the doctor, Sid Watkins, got him going again. Twice! That would not have happened in my day, either.

 

RR: With the cars being so much safer these days, do you think that encourages drivers to perhaps take more risks?

MW: Absolutely, you feel that the consequences are lower, but they still crash, and also the weight of the cars has gone up a lot, so the inertia of these crashes is higher. The human body can only take so much, so ultimately you will have these crashes, like that one at Silverstone last year — that was a big, big impact for Max.

 

RR: As you say, the cars this year are heavier and you believe that’s made them easier to drive and that the lighter the car, the better a driver has to be to control it – why is that?

MW: It’s all about the power to weight ratio. When the car is lighter it’s more flighty — it’s trickier to predict. You put more weight in it, it gets easier, like a Touring Car, they’re so much heavier – it’s like an A380 while an F1 car is more like a fighter jet. As drivers, we feel a difference of as little as 50kg. If you make the cars heavier, it’s not as much fun, the drivers want them lighter. There’s no doubt they’re a bit more docile this year, but the drivers have still got to put the tyre on the limit, it’s still a hard job.

 

RR: Have the design changes this year helped with overtaking — have they got the balance right?

MW: We’ve had two samples, two events. Bahrain encourages passing anyway and we’re seeing the DRS [Drag Reduction System] make a big difference — I think they’ll look at whether that’s making it too easy as the season goes on. And they’ve been re-passing each other, which is very encouraging; in the past it was once someone went past they were gone, so that re-passing is a very good sign.

JS: The changes to aerodynamics and the effect it has on the cars is so different today — there’s so much that goes into it. In my day, I would have seven mechanics for two racing drivers and now they have 110 engineers on each team to look after two of these ballerina racing drivers. Technology has gone to another level. The racing is so much closer today as a result — if I got away in those first five laps, it was unlikely someone would get past me. My biggest winning margin was more than four minutes.

MW: Four minutes! Incredible. He could have a shower, get dressed, come out on the podium and the others would still be driving around.

 

RR: Physically, was racing as hard in your day, Sir Jackie?

JS: I had a much bigger neck when I was racing — you had to have those muscles. And the helmets were so much bigger and heavier, too. You had to be fit, even then, and Emmerson Fittipaldi and I were the first two drivers to really concentrate on our physical condition. No one else was worrying about it, but today everyone has to be super fit just to drive the cars.

 

RR: At the recent Saudi Arabian GP, Kevin Magnussen, who missed all the pre-season training and hasn’t had that much time in the new cars, was holding his neck and clearly in pain after the race, why is that?

MW: It’s hard to train the neck for that driving position. You can train your neck, but it’s amazing how far up your neck muscles go, and remember, you neck is only designed to hold your head up, that’s all, and to do that at 1G. So when you’re doing 3.5 lateral G, and 5Gs of inline braking, after a while your neck just says, ‘I’ve had enough, thanks very much.’ And the only way you can get used to that is in the car — you need mileage. Lots of laps in testing. You can prepare for it, but nothing replaces being in the car, so if you haven’t driven enough in the off-season, it’s going to hurt.

F

RR: So, Sir Jackie, who do you rate as a great driver in today’s field?

JS: I think Verstappen is the quickest, but I think he’s more on the limit, on the edge, a lot of time. Lewis Hamilton is not a puppy anymore and the older you get, the more you have to use this, [points to his head] instead of this [gestures enthusiastically to his groin].The fact is, Lewis has been at the top for a long time, but there are a lot of young pups around him. Now, I think if he goes on for a lot more races, I think the chances of him winning are diminishing. The cars are becoming more level, so you have to drive them harder. He must be thinking, when will I retire, and really, ideally, he wants to retire on top. If he’d won last year, he could have gone out on top…Timing in life is everything. In my day, I was driving sports cars, touring cars, Indy Cars, and F1, all at once, and that meant so much travelling around. In one year, I crossed the Atlantic 60 times with all the racing — and that’s not a sensible thing to do. But then, that same year, in 1971, I made a million pounds driving racing cars, and back then, that was a lot of money. Not for an Australian maybe, but for a Scottish boy it was. But then I got sick, I had ulcers, I burned myself out. I won the [Formula One] world championship that yea but I was so ill I couldn’t go to pick up the title. So that was a bit mad.

 

RR: What about Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, do you rate him?

JS: I think Leclerc is a man of the future, he’s not there yet, but to be there you’ve got to be right at the top, competing. He’s got all the makings of a champion, but he’s got to have the car to do the job. He’s also got a very strong teammate, so I think he’s got the potential but I think we’ll see this year how good he is.

MW: He’s good, Charles, and don’t mistake those boyish looks for the eye of the tiger — he’s got plenty of mongrel about him too. Just you wait. It’s going to be one hell of a season.

 

The Australian Grand Prix, Sunday April 10 at 3pm; rolex.com

 

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Watch of the Week: Roger Dubuis Excalibur Spider Flyback Chronograph

Roger Dubuis unveils its innovative chronograph collection in Australia for the very first time.

By Josh Bozin 21/05/2024

When avant-garde Swiss watchmaker Roger Dubuis revealed its highly anticipated Chronograph Collection halfway through 2023, it was a testament to its haute horology department in creating such a technical marvel for everyday use. Long at the forefront of cutting-edge design and technological excellence, Roger Dubuis (pronounced Ro-ger Du-BWEE) is no stranger to such acclaim.

Now, fans down under will finally get a taste of the collection that made headlines, with the official Australian unveiling of its Chronograph Collection. Representing precision engineering, extraordinary craftsmanship, and audacious design, this collection, now in its fifth generation, continues to redefine the chronograph category.

Roger Dubuis Australia welcomes the Excalibur Spider Collection to the market, featuring the exquisite Excalibur Spider Flyback Chronograph, as well as the Excalibur Spider Revuelto Flyback Chronograph (a timepiece made in partnership with Lamborghini Squadra Corse). Each model speaks at lengths to the future of ‘Hyper Horology’—watchmaking, as Roger Dubuis puts it, that pushes the boundaries of traditional watchmaking.

Roger Dubuis

“Roger Dubuis proposes a unique blend of contemporary design and haute horlogerie and the Excalibur Spider Flyback Chronograph is the perfect illustration of this craft,” says Sadry Keiser, Chief Marketing Officer. “For its design, we took inspiration from the MonovortexTM Split-Seconds Chronograph, while we decided to power the timepiece with an iconic complication, the flyback chronograph, also marking its come back in the Maison’s collections.”

The Excalibur Spider Flyback Chronograph is bold and flashy—a chronograph made to be seen, especially at its 45mm size. But Roger Dubuis wouldn’t have it any other way. The supercar-inspired watch is certainly captivating in the flesh. Its multi-dimensional design reveals different layers of technical genius as you spend time with it: from its case crafted from lightweight carbon to its hyper-resistant ceramic bezel, black DLC titanium crown, open case back with sapphire crystal, and elegant rubber strap to tie the watch together, it’s a sporty yet incredibly refined timepiece.

The new RD780 chronograph calibre powers the chronograph, a movement fully integrated with two patents: one linked to the second hand of the chronograph and the other to the display of the minute counter. The chronograph also features a flyback function.

The complete set is now available at the Sydney Boutique for those wishing to see the Roger Dubuis Chronograph Collection firsthand.

Roger-Dubuis

 

Roger-Dubuis

Model: Roger Dubuis Excalibur Spider Flyback Chronograph
Diameter: 45mm
Material: C-SMC Carbon case
Water resistance: 100m

Movement: RD780 calibre
Complication: Chronograph, date
Functions: hours, minutes, and central seconds
Power reserve: 72 hours

Bracelet: Black rubber strap

Availability: upon request
Price: $150,000


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Federer and Nadal Team Up in New Louis Vuitton Ad

Just in time for the French Open, Louis Vuitton serves up a winning new campaign.

By 19/05/2024

They have scaled the dizzying heights of tennis, and now great rivals and friends Roger Federer and friend Rafael Nadal climb a majestic mountaintop in the new Louis Vuitton campaign.

The latest installment of the LV’s storied Core Values series of ads, once again shot by renowned portrait photographer Annie Leibovitz, reunites two tennis legends who have not faced off against each other since Wimbledon 2019. (Federer retired in 2022 and in his last match teamed up with Nadal in doubles, with the pair famously crying and holding hands afterwards.)

Three thousand metres high in the Italian Dolomites and in less familiar attire than their usual on-court drag, Federer sports a classic Monogram Christopher Backpack that is every bit as elegant as his balletic prowess, while Nadal’s is a fittingly dynamic Monogram Eclipse version.

The campaign recalls the brand’s 2010 grouping of soccer legends Diego Maradona, Pelé and Zinedine Zidane.  

Louis Vuitton’s 2010 campaign featuring Diego Maradona, Pelé and Zinedine Zidane in Madrid’s Café Maravillas. Photo: Annie Leibowitz for Louis Vuitton.

“I know how many important icons have been part of this campaign,” says Nadal. “Being part of it is something I am very proud of—especially sharing it with Roger who has been my biggest rival and is now a close friend.”

Federer adds, “It’s a unique opportunity to be working on this campaign with Rafa. How we could be such great rivals and at the end of our careers be beside each other doing this campaign is very cool.” Tennis fans everywhere agree.

Watch the behind-the-scenes video shot of the new Louis Vuitton campaign.

LouisVuitton

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Will Smith, Tom Brady And More Celebs Are Team Owners in a New Electric-Boat League

Will all that star power deliver?

By J. George Forant 16/05/2024

At one point during the debut broadcast of the world’s first electric-boat racing circuit, an on-air host stands on a platform overlooking the water and pummels the camera with enthusiasm: “I hope you’re ready for a landmark moment that can change the future of water transportation. The nerves, the excitement, the energy, it’s electric!” Behind her, a few dozen people mill about, leaning on a rail, drinking coffee, staring at their phones. One turns to look at her as if he’d like to ask her to keep it down.

That singular image might best encapsulate the cognitive dissonance that permeates the new UIM E1 Series Championship.

Take the boats. They look like remnants from a Star Wars movie, with long tapered noses leading to a glass-enclosed cockpit flanked on each side by a curving wing that acts as a hydrofoil, allowing the hulls fly over the surface while sending off huge sprays of white foam—but they’re nearly silent and, while they have explosive acceleration, they reach a top speed that wouldn’t even merit a ticket on an interstate.

The Racebird could be out of a Star Wars movie, which is not far off, given its futuristic foils and hyper-drive.
E1 RACING

Then there are the team owners, a mélange of famous people who don’t necessarily bring to mind boats or racing. For that matter, they don’t really have anything to do with one another. Sorry, but it’s going to take more than a few brief hype videos and a recorded Zoom call in which the eight celebrities playfully talk trash before anyone believes the relationship between, say, NFL legend Tom Brady and pop singer Marc Anthony contains any real competitive juice.

There’s also the meeting of mission and money. The series defines itself as “committed to healing our coastal waters and ecosystems . . . through innovative clean technologies and aquatic regeneration.” But Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which controls more than $USD700 billion in cash largely derived from oil production, holds a chunk of equity and occupies the top sponsorship space. (Disclosure: Saudi Arabia’s Research and Media Group has invested in Penske Media Corporation, Robb Report‘s parent company).

The series had its first race in Jeddah, with the next scheduled for Venice on May 12. Expansion plans include 15 races globally.
E1 RACING

None of it quite seems to go together, and yet, by many measures that first race, held on an inlet of the Red Sea in Jeddah on Feb. 3, was a success. Expect a ninth team headed by a famous Hollywood actor. The series will host seven more races this year, starting on the waterways of Venice on May 12.

All of which raises the question: Can this actually work?

“Boat racing has never really caught on,” admits Powerboat P1 CEO Azam Rangoonwala, who’s been in offshore racing for more than 20 years and is also a principal on E1’s Team Aoki. “We got involved with E1 because we see an opportunity to finally make that breakthrough happen.”

In 2020, Rodi Basso spent a fair part of the year trying to visualise life after the pandemic. Unlike many others, Basso wasn’t so much longing for the way things had been, as attempting to conjure what new world would emerge.

An aerospace engineer who’d transitioned into motorsports, he’d held jobs at Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren Applied Technologies, but he’d recently stepped aside and moved to England in pursuit of some then-undetermined new challenge.

When the world shut down, he started running to stay fit and get out of the house, excursions on which he was often joined by Alejandro Agag, who lived nearby. Agag had founded Formula E and Extreme E, each a successful racing series featuring electric vehicles. The pair had met when Basso, through McLaren, developed an improved battery pack that allowed Formula E drivers to complete a race on a single charge.

E1 founder Alejandro Agag, Racebird designer Sophi Horne and CEO Rodi Basso established the electric raceboat circuit following Agag’s success with Formula E.
E1 RACING

Basso, an Italian, and Agag, from Spain, debated the next big thing as they traversed the streets of London. Agag had invested in a start-up, Seabird, that was working on a foiling electric boat, and he asked Basso to help with the engineering. That simple request quickly morphed into a new idea—an electric boat racing series.

Perhaps no two individuals were better positioned to make it happen, and that night Basso created a deck summarizing the concept. The next day, he sent it to Agag who immediately signed on. The E1 World Championship Racing series was born amid expectations that it would become the next trending motorsports entity.

Within months they’d secured exclusive rights to stage electric boat races for 25 years through UIM, the international racing organization, and landed the PIF deal. Asked about the irony of Saudi oil money underwriting a series with a mission of “promoting sustainable energy use in marine sports,” and about assertions of greenwashing and sportswashing, Basso looked away from his computer screen.

CEO Basso, an aerospace engineer with a background in F1 racing, designed the electric drivetrain while Horne designed the foiler.

Turning back, he offered a joke and then framed his answer in terms of investing strategies: “I focus on the day-to-day job of the people working at PIF who study markets and industries and place bets on what will bring the highest return. In that sense, it’s a privilege to be noticed and have that initial funding.”

Asked a similar question via email, Brady chooses not to respond, but otherwise replies: “This is a new competition and it has great growth potential, so it was a no-brainer for me to be involved with E1.”

Basso later adds another point: “PIF’s money allowed us to get going. It paid for the development of the boat and the series. Now we have to stand on our own as a functioning business.”

What will that look like?

Location, location, location. Part of the difficulty for boat racing has been the “where.” Contests usually took place offshore or on small—often remote—lakes that offered flat calm, neither of which are particularly spectator friendly.

In recent years, the Sail GP series has solved that problem with a global race circuit featuring smaller, more maneuverable versions of full America’s Cup boats slugging it out on metropolitan waterways, such as San Francisco Bay and Sydney Harbor. In contrast to traditional America’s Cup racing yachts, the smaller SailGP boats also reduce the costs of building, maintaining, outfitting, and shipping them to races around the world.

“When I decided to get into electric, I researched how to compete with combustion engines, which led to foils,” says Sophi Horne, the CEO of Seabird, who designed the boat for E1. “I started with a cruiser for seven people, but then Alejandro and Rodi asked me to switch focus to a race boat and that led to the Racebird. At seven meters (23 feet), it can run at top speed for roughly 40 minutes.”
E1 has followed the same approach as SailGP, with one-class, techy raceboats, a global tour and extensive social media exposure.
SAILGP

Besides that, the boat looks sleek, part spaceship, part waterbug, as it skitters above the surface. And while 50 knots (92.5 kmph) on a boat is fast—especially an open boat low to the water—it’s not an attention-getting number to the general public. Still, the Racebirds distinguish themselves with a burst of acceleration that’s visible when they compete.

The power comes from a Mercury outboard built specifically for the purpose, with input from Seabird. It has a booster that jacks the output from 100 kilowatts to 150 for 20 seconds per minute, adding to the notable jumps in speed and putting a focus on driver skill and strategy. Each team has two pilots—as they’re called—one male and one female, who alternate turns behind the wheel through a qualifying round, the semi-finals and finals.

“We’re now packaging the propulsion system to sell to other builders,” says Horne. “What drives me is the mission to electrify boats, so we want to partner with other companies out there and help build the infrastructure with fast charging that we’ll need.”

ach team has one female and one male driver who both race. Team Brady’s Emma Kimiläinen and Sam Coleman won race 1 in Jeddah.
E1 RACING

The series’s green agenda goes beyond pushing the development of electric engines, high-output batteries and hydrofoils, which reduce drag in increase efficiency by lifting the boat’s hull out of the water. E1 intends to employ sustainable practices on-site at events—including the use of local vendors—and install and leave in place high-speed electric charging stations at each locale.

According to its website, organizers will collaborate on coastal restoration projects and education initiatives directed by chief scientist Carlos Duarte, an ocean ecology professor at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.

“One of the barriers to ownership and sponsorship in powerboat racing has been the sustainability question,” says Rangoonwala of Powerboat P1. “E1 answers that question up front by building it into the mission.”

Whatever seeming contradictions arise from the use of PIF funds, the series has already had a real-world impact. Mercury Marine has incorporated much of the technology it developed for the Racebird engines into its Avator electric outboards. More than 12,000 Avators have been built in the last year. “Racebird was a good place for us to start,” David Foulkes, CEO of Brunswick Corp., Mercury’s parent, tells Robb Report. “It was a way to gain experience in a controlled environment, where the boats are centrally maintained.”

F1’s Sergio Perez was the first A-lister to sign up, followed by tennis great Rafael Nadal. The others soon followed.
GETTY IMAGES

Basso calls Agag a “marketing genius” for the way he tapped into existing audiences for Formula E and Extreme E by luring well-known names from Formula 1 and extreme racing—and their social media followings—into the fold. It’s a proven approach, but one that would not work for E1. “Unfortunately, in powerboat racing, there are no star drivers or famous owners,” Basso says.

The alternative involved finding celebrities from other walks of life to invest in teams. “First, we approached Sergio Perez and evidently our presentation was done right because he joined, then Rafa Nadal signed up,” Basso says. “The rest came as a consequence of a sort of missing-out syndrome, which worked out nicely for us.”

The sell might have been easy, but the selections reflect the sort of calculated demographic cross-section that would make a pollster drool. Besides Brady, the white American hero of seven Super Bowls, Smith, the Black Hollywood superstar, Nadal, the internationally known Spanish tennis star, Anthony, the Grammy-winning musician with Latino roots, and Perez, a Formula 1 driver from Mexico, there’s Didier Drogba, a Black European soccer icon from Ivory Coast; Steve Aoki, a world-renown DJ of Japanese descent; Virat Kohli, a cricket star from India; and Marcelo Claure, a Bolivian tech entrepreneur.

All appear engaged at the outset, sitting for video interviews and promoting the series on social media. Four showed up for the opening race and Brady plans to be in Venice. “I’ve been involved in a few things since retiring but this racing series has been incredible,” Brady tells Robb Report. “I love competition and racing. Seeing the vision of the sport come to life has been very fun and fulfilling.”

Basso says he and Agag intentionally created a “business mechanism that would give owners skin in the game and keep them engaged.” The owners put up €2 million (about $2.15 million) to license a team. E1 owns the series and the boats and handles all the logistics, including transportation, for which they charge teams another €1 million. The buy-in, Basso says, will go up for Year 2, since three of the original eight license holders have already resold them at five times the initial investment.

To ensure those values keep rising, E1 plans to cap the series at 12 or 15 teams competing in 15 races, hopefully by Year 3, with five events in Asia, five in the Mid-East/Europe and five in the West, where potential venues include Miami, Mexico and Brazil.

To help control costs, the boats must run as they come out of the box, and though teams can hire as many engineers as they want back at headquarters, they can’t have more than seven crew members, including drivers, on the dock during races.

The concept, launched in Venice in 2022, will return there this weekend.
MERCURY MARINE

“They made some really smart decisions to limit costs at the outset,” says Ben King, one of of Team Brady’s co-principals. “The plan is to start modifying the boats in Year 3, which would mean greater outlays for teams, but by then, hopefully, the circuit will be well established.”

Teams can bring on sponsors outside those attached to the wider series, including everything from patches on pilot uniforms to on-the-boat decals to partnerships that showcase technology. Visibility shouldn’t be a problem. E1 has both linear and streaming deals with 120 broadcasters that range from Asia through India, MENA, Europe, and the Americas, where CBS owns the US television rights.

In all, E1 says its global reach extends to 1.7 billion people, and media coverage of the Jeddah race in February had a total reach of 2.1 billion, with 125 million digital impressions. “For the first race, we are pleased,” Basso says. “We have a long way in front of us, but we are pleased.”

On the course at Jeddah, the four finalists line up for the rolling start of the final race, among them Team Brady. As the boats pass the marker buoy signaling the beginning of the first-ever E1 championship, three surge ahead while the Brady boat founders and wobbles forward, dropping to last.

In the previous heat, Brady’s Emma Kimiläinen finished third, meaning teammate Sam Coleman has to not just win the heat but make up the time deficit to claim the title. As the boats approach the first turn, Coleman mashes the booster and jolts forward, closing the gap and creating a three-boat bottleneck around the first buoy.

The scene turns chaotic as the boats speed through the curve within yards of each other and geysers of whitewater and churning wakes fill the space around them. Emerging into the straight, they jockey for the lead. “Racing these boats is super intense—insane,” says Coleman. “The trick is constantly managing the foil height. Too much power and the boat will drop and you’ll lose speed. The working window is so small, and while you don’t have engine noise, there’s feedback through cavitation and vibration that you have to learn to feel.”

Staying on the foils is tricky, but key to winning.
E1 RACING

Most of the drivers have come from other disciplines, motorcycles, cars, even Jet Skis and WaveRunners. Coleman started in motocross, then teamed with his sister to become a world champion and two-time U.K. champ in P1 Powerboat. Whether it’s that experience or his feel for his craft, Coleman’s boat levels and rises high on its foils as it shoots to the front.

Through the next turns, Coleman’s lead builds, creating another bit of intrigue. The course layout consists of a small oval inside a larger one, something like a paperclip. Over a five-lap race, each driver must circumnavigate the inner oval four times and the outer once. As Coleman continues to pull away, the question of when to take the long lap rises.

The Racebird and electric engines will be redesigned for season 2 if the series is successful.
E1 RACING

And while that gives the announcers something to talk about, it also highlights a shortcoming. The moments of close-quarters racing, the nuance of working the trim and booster and the strategic quirk of the long lap all make for good, engaging viewing. At the same time, the difficulty of keeping the boats running clean on the foils and the long lap spread the field, sapping most of the drama from the action. Those instances of intense, close-quarters racing are few and far between.

Ultimately, that’s what success will come down to: Will people understand the level of skill and strategy on display and will the competition hold up? A sustainability mission and a few 30-second hype videos from Tom Brady (whose team pulled through in Jeddah as the winner) provide a sense of purpose and attract eyeballs, but for people to continually show up and tune in—to pay up—the races themselves have to deliver.

Formula E and Extreme have made it work. Will E1? Ladies and gentlemen, start your very-quiet engines.

 

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10 Fascinating Facts You Never Knew About Porsche

The automaker is a sports car standard-bearer with a long, impressive history in racing.

By Bob Sorokanich 16/05/2024

Porsche has long stood at the pinnacle of automotive achievement. The automaker has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans 19 times—more than any other competitor—and has successfully competed in everything from rally racing to Formula 1. The history of Porsche vehicle production is equally impressive, as the company rose from the rubble of World War II to become one of the most widely recognised luxury and performance brands in the world today. Let’s dive into the history of Porsche with 10 facts you might not have known about the German brand.

Photo: Keystone

Ferdinand Porsche was born in 1875 in what is now the Czech Republic. Despite the fact that he had little formal education, from an early age Porsche was recognised as a brilliant engineer. In 1901, Porsche built the world’s first gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle, a motorised carriage that used a Daimler internal-combustion engine to generate power for electric motors in the wheels. Soon, Porsche was hired as technical director of Stuttgart-based Daimler, where he worked on Mercedes race cars including the hugely successful Mercedes-Benz SSK.

Photo: Fox Photos

In 1931, Ferdinand Porsche launched the company that still bears his name today. It wasn’t a car-building operation: Dr. Ing h.c. F. Porsche GmbH was a consulting agency, supplying design and engineering expertise to various automakers. Soon after launching his company, Ferdinand Porsche received an assignment directly from German Chancellor Adolf Hitler: A project to build a simple, durable, affordable vehicle that could be purchased by everyday Germans, codenamed Volkswagen, or “people’s car.”

Photo: Topical Press Agency

Ferdinand Porsche unveiled the first Volkswagen prototype in 1935; in 1939, the Volkswagen factory began production, with Ferdinand Porsche appointed as an executive. As part of his work with the government of Nazi Germany, Porsche renounced his Czechoslovak citizenship, joined the Nazi Party, and became a member of the SS paramilitary group. Ferdinand Porsche contributed to the design and engineering of Nazi tanks and troop transport vehicles, and after World War II ended, he was arrested for war crimes including the use of forced labor, serving 20 months in prison in France.

Photo: DOMINIK HILDEBRANDT

Following the end of World War II, Ferdinand Porsche’s son, Ferry, sought to build a sports car according to his father’s vision. In 1947, the first examples of the Porsche 356 were assembled in a small sawmill in Gmünd, Austria, where the Porsche family had moved operations to avoid Allied bombing. The 356 bore some resemblance to the Volkswagen, and like that vehicle, it used a rear-mounted four-cylinder engine along with some other VW components.

Photo: Porsche

Porsche built several versions of the 356 until 1965, but by the end, the vehicle was badly out-of-date. Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, grandson of the company’s founder, designed a new rear-engine sports car, this time with an air-cooled six-cylinder engine. The company intended to call this model 901, which was the internal code-name for the project, but Peugeot owned the trademark on all three-digit model numbers with a zero in the middle, so the name was swiftly changed to 911.

Photo: Wesley

Porsche found racing success with the 356, 911, and various competition-only prototypes, but the automaker’s rise to motorsport dominance began with the 917. First shown publicly in 1969, the 917 was the brainchild of Ferdinand Piëch, a grandson of Ferdinand Porsche who would later go on to lead the entire Volkswagen Group. The race car used an air-cooled mid-mounted flat-12 engine, and it was so compact, the driver’s feet sat ahead of the front axle. After some early developmental troubles, the 917 became a dominant endurance racer, winning the 24 Hours of Daytona, the Monza 1,000km, the Spa-Francorchamps 1000 km, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans back-to-back in 1970 and 1971. The 917 was a monster, reliably cresting 230 mph at Le Mans in an era when the typical racing prototype couldn’t break 200, and it launched Porsche on a path to becoming the winningest manufacturer in Le Mans history.

Photo: Porsche

The late 1970s were difficult for sports car companies, and in 1980 Porsche had its first year of financial losses. The 911 had gone without significant updates and was slated for cancellation, with the front-engine, V8-powered 928 intended to replace it. Newly-appointed CEO Peter Schutz, who was born in Germany but was raised in the U.S., realised that the impending death of the 911—considered the quintessential Porsche sports car—was contributing to low morale at Porsche. Schutz walked into the office of chief Porsche engineer Helmuth Bott, where a chart showed continued production of the 928 and 944, and the end of 911 production in 1981. In a scene that has become legend, Schultz took a marker from Bott’s desk, extending the 911’s line off the chart, onto the office wall, and out the door—signifying that the 911 would never be canceled. “Do we understand each other?” Schultz asked, and Bott nodded in the affirmative.

Photo: Porsche

In 1986, Porsche unveiled a supercar that shared the general shape of the 911, but was shockingly advanced in nearly every way: The 959. Developed to compete in Group B rally racing, the street-legal 959 had a twin-turbo engine making 326 kilowatts, Kevlar composite bodywork, wide-body fenders, and all-wheel drive. It soon became the fastest production car in the world, sprinting from zero to 96 in 3.7 seconds and reaching a 317 kmph top speed.

Photo: Porsche

Amazingly, from 1963 to 1997, Porsche never undertook a full redesign of the 911. In 1998, a brand-new sports car emerged. Internally known as Type 996, the all-new 911 had a completely redesigned body shell and an all-new flat-six engine that, for the first time, was cooled by water rather than air. Early 996s shared their front bodywork and some interior panels with the more affordable mid-engine Boxster, causing some controversy among Porsche fans, but today the 996 is considered the model that saved the Porsche 911.

Photo : Porsche

In 2002, Porsche introduced the Cayenne, the automaker’s first sport-utility vehicle. A few years later, in 2009, the four-door Panamera luxury sedan was launched. Today, Porsche’s best-selling model is the Macan, a small SUV, with the Cayenne not far behind. The automaker also sells an all-electric sport sedan, the Taycan, and is moving toward the future with plans for hybrid and all-electric sports cars.

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Sitting on the Dock of Balmain

Is The Dry Dock Sydney’s Hottest New Pub Renovation?

By Belinda Aucott-christie 15/05/2024

At its peak, in the late 1890s, Balmain had 55 pubs. They were noisy watering holes that serviced thirsty hordes after a day’s labour at the suburb’s harbourside coal mine and shipyards. Today, Balmain is dotted with charming workers’ cottages set behind picket fences and stolid corner pubs, which have been converted into restaurants and homes.

One such establishment, the Dry Dock on Cameron Street, has undergone a multi-million dollar renovation. As an original public house built in 1857, it remains fixed in a local backstreet and offers a porthole to the suburb’s blue-collar roots.

Locals can still bring their dogs into the front bar, or retreat to the lounge to sit next to a crackling log fire. 

The renovation carried out by Studio Isgro and H&E Architects combines rustic touches—like the acid-etched sandstone exterior, exposed brickwork and beams  —with elegant light fittings, an incredible sound system and tasteful art. “It has a transportive, escapist quality, where you could be anywhere, or right at home,” says interior designer Bianca Isgro of Studio Isgro, who spent two years on the overhaul. Her team designed a modern gastropub on the site after gutting and stripping the building, which had been neglected for years. 

Founder and managing director James Ingram (ex-Solotel and Merivale) has assembled a warm, friendly service team that matches the pub’s character. He says his team has fought hard to preserve the pub’s long-standing connection to residents and to get the mix of old and new right.

“Balmain is home to so many devoted residents who are rightly proud of the suburb’s working-class roots,” says Ingram over a frothy beer in the warm-toned front bar.

“The Dry Dock has been designed to have that timeless feel that stands the test of time.” 

The large open kitchen features an oyster bar and serves French-style fare, delicious sides, and hot desserts. The wine list is on point, with something in every price range and a friendly sommelier doing the rounds. 

The kitchen is led by seasoned chef Ben Sitton, who previously rattled the pans at institutions including Felix, Uccello and Rockpool Bar & Grill. His kitchen faces a large dining room with unclothed tables, bentwood chairs, tumbled marble floors and exposed trusses that give it a contemporary feel.

The back of the room overlooks a walled garden, with a giant ghost gum at its centre and views of neighbouring residential fences. 

 

Chef Sitton says his team relishes the opportunity to cook from an expansive modern European repertoire with quality produce. The robust flavours and textures are centred around the smoky quality that comes from Josper charcoal grills, wood-fired ovens, and the rotisserie.  

You can order steak frites with charred baby carrots, or baked market fish with a cheesy, potato gratin.

The Peninsula Hospitality Group, the team behind Dry Dock, is now looking to expand its foothold in Balmain by opening at least one other venue.

Visit for the food, stay for the vibe.

The Dry Dock, Public House & Dining Room, 22 Cameron Street, Balmain, NSW 2041. P: 02 9555 1306; drydock.com.au

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