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SHEHEEN: The Greatness of Michael Schumacher

Written by 
Published in Racing
Monday, 03 May 2021 13:00
Ralph Sheheen

MOORESVILLE, N.C. — Steve Matchett and I were colleagues during our days of working motorsports telecasts for SPEED Channel.

Recently, we had the opportunity to catch up and I asked Matchett, who claimed two world championships while working with Michael Schumacher and the Benetton Formula One team, what separated Schumacher from other drivers.

He told a story about the 1994 German Grand Prix at the Hockenheimring. During practice, Schumacher returned to his pit stall after running approximately a dozen laps and immediately told the team something was wrong with the car.

Matchett said the team checked the car over and found nothing. Schumacher returned to the track and ran some blistering laps, but upon returning to the pits he again told the crew there was something wrong with the car.

Schumacher then ran laps in the backup car. As he exited the machine, he confirmed something was definitely wrong with the primary car.

Later that night while the team was performing a regular engine change in preparation for the next day’s race, it was determined that one of the handful of studs that bolt the engine to the chassis had a hairline fracture. It wasn’t broken but somehow Schumacher could feel it. That’s how connected he was to the car. Remarkable!

– I asked Matchett what was the most-challenging corner for an F-1 engineers to deal with. He said one of the toughest was the hairpin at Monaco.

“Teams would spend millions of dollars on just this one race a year,” Matchett said, “trying to develop the needed components to get their cars to negotiate such a tight corner.”

Millions of dollars for just one turn!

– Dr. Jamie Meyer, the new president of Performance Racing Industry, tells us this year’s PRI Show has gotten the green flag. The event will take place Dec. 9-11 inside the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis.

When I asked how many people are expected for the show, Meyer answered without hesitation, “65,000.” Make sure you register early at performanceracing.com. You won’t want to miss the return of the industry’s most-important trade show.

The event begins with the traditional Grand Opening Breakfast on Dec. 9, and yours truly will be the host.

While preparing for PRI, make sure to learn about the new PRI Membership program. It’s the perfect way to show your commitment to the racing industry. There are too many benefits to this new program to list here. SPEED SPORT is a proud member of the PRI Membership Program.

– Excitement is building in northern California, not only for the return of the NASCAR Cup Series to Sonoma Raceway, but for the return of fans to the hillside as well during the June 5-6 weekend.

The annual West Coast Stock Car Motorsports Hall of Fame induction dinner presented by World Wide Technology Raceway was the brainchild of West Coast NASCAR chief Ken Clapp. The dinner has become the highlight event away from the track during the annual Wine Country NASCAR weekend.

This year’s highly anticipated event will take place June 5 at the Meritage Resort in Napa, Calif.

As the host, I look forward to the induction of a group of legendary racers including Rick Mears, Tommy Kendall, Tom Gloy and George Snider.

Tickets are still available from westcoaststockcarhalloffame.com.

– It was very sad to hear of the death of Darrick Dong, the longtime director of motorsports for PFC Brakes. Dong and I got to know each other well on a variety of pit lanes throughout the world of racing. He was always friendly and full of helpful information for this inquisitive reporter. RIP Darrick.

– If you were a racer or race fan who grew up in Northern California as I did, Baylands Raceway Park meant racing. Whether you were into sprint cars, drag racing, motorcycles or boats; everything raced there.

So many of the sport’s legends raced at Baylands — Don Prudhomme, Steve Kinser and Kenny Roberts to name a few. Unfortunately, like Riverside Int’l Raceway, Ontario Motor Speedway and Ascot Park, Baylands was another California speed palace that was closed because the land was more valuable as real estate.

Fortunately, for those of us who attended races at Baylands and for those who love racing history, the track’s story has been told in a new book by former SPEED SPORT contributor Dennis Mattish.

Mattish joined forces with David Vodden, who was the general manager, promoter and track announcer at Baylands Raceway, and Stephen Justice, who raced at Fremont Drag Strip on the Baylands property, to keep this unique history alive.

The hardcover coffee-table book is packed full of photos through the years, including Funny Cars, sprint cars and flat-track motorcycles

If you would like a copy, contact Mattish at historysanjoseautoracing.com.

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