July 04, 2005

Another coupla reasons to like Google Maps

As much as I watch racing on TV, I never really get a good sense of the shape of the track. Ovals are self-evident, of course, but road and street tracks are often a little bit difficult to visualize from ground level.

Once again, Google Maps comes through.

Here, for example, is the Magny-Cours track in France, site of yesterday's Grand Prix of France. Check out the long left-handed hairpin, a rarity in Formula 1, where the vast majority of races run clockwise, including this one. Had Michael Schumacher won the race instead of Fernando Alonso, he would have broken a record: no one has ever won the same Grand Prix event more than seven times.

And here is the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, the 1.5-mile tri-oval where yesterday's IRL Argent Mortgage 300 was held. Tony Kanaan won this race in one of the closest finishes ever in IRL, edging out Dan Wheldon and Vitor Meira by a nose. I'm not the biggest fan of oval tracks, but the speeds open wheel race cars can attain on tri-ovals and other super speedways make for good racing. (My favourite race of the season, prior to the CART/IRL split, was not Indy, but the Michigan 500 held at the Michigan International Speedway in Brookyn, MI.)

Finally, here's one of my favourite courses: Burke Lakefront Airport, home of the Grand Prix of Cleveland, always one of the best races in the ChampCar World Series. Paul Tracy took the checkered flag last Sunday for the first time since 1993, which also happened to be the first time I watched this particular race. Even though the airport is a very busy one for the rest of the year, the race lays so much rubber on the track that the racing lines remain visible in the satellite photo.