Monday, July 28, 2014

Formula 1, 2014 Half Way Thru the Season

Yesterday was the F1 race from Hungary, and it was spectacular!  I can only say that even though I didn't see it, because I was driving home from vacation while my wife was reading the race reports from the F1 app on my phone. That must be what all this modern technology is good for, so that we can be going down the interstate for hours on end and keep up to date on important world events, like sports!

Over on our results page we've been tracking our autocross events this year, as well as our pre-season F1 predictions and how the real races have been turning out.  This is just one of those years that one of the manufacturer teams builds a much better car than everyone else, and this year it's Mercedes way out in front. While they've won all but two races this year, those other two races have been won by Red Bull Racing driver Daniel Ricciardo from Australia. What is surprising about this is that Ricciardo's team mate is the defending champ, and four-times-in-a-row-and-expected-to-easily-beat-his-team-mate Sebastian Vettel from Germany.  Big congrats to Ricciardo for not only his first F1 win earlier in Canada, but also for winning yesterday in Hungary!  Not that it matters, but I've been to both Canada and Hungary for other reasons, so maybe a return to watch F1 racing would be great!

As far as the winning team of Mercedes, they had some tough luck in Hungary and "only" managed to take 3rd and 4th places, as both their drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg remain 1-2 for the season long driver points battle.  Which of them will win? Right now it's too early to tell, as they've both had wins, although Lewis Hamilton seems to be qualifying better, at least when his car doesn't have issues!  Even with the best car in the field, the Mercedes drivers continue to have issues like when Hamilton's car caught fire during qualifying this weekend, so he didn't even qualify.  In F1, if  you fail to set a qualifying time at all, they can then let you start in the pit lane, so Hamilton started LAST, came out of the pit to start the race behind the other 21 drivers, and spun out on cold tires/brakes!  Somehow, he recovered from that and 70 laps later took 3rd in the race, so if nothing else that tells you he's a great driver and has a great car.

Down at the bottom of the grid, the three teams having the worst results this year are Marussia, Caterham, and Sauber.  The big surprise here is that both Sauber and Caterham have exactly zero points this year. Nada.  Zip.  Zilch.  Goose Eggs!  Not a surprise for Caterham (no points in their few years in existence), but Sauber has been in F1 for a long time and is a solid competitor. Just like Mercedes got everything right in building their car this year, it appears that Sauber got it all wrong.

That leaves us with Marussia in 9th place out of the 11 teams.  This doesn't sound very impressive, but they are a newbie team like Caterham, and when a whole lot of cars DNF'd at Monaco in May, Marussia was there to score points!  As in their first points in the history of EVER!  So not only are they now ahead of Sauber and Caterham, if they finish the season in 9th place they will walk away with millions of dollars/euros/pounds more in cash/gold and dough-re-me!

The F1 folks are now on the annual "summer break", and I guess it has something to do with labor laws in Europe, but part of the next four weeks they are prohibited from working on the cars!  That sounds like elementary school "time-out" maybe, but maybe it's a good idea that a lot of us should copy. During my vacation out of town I was going to visit the Toyota factory in Georgetown KY, but it just so happens they were shut down at the time, for summer break or maybe re-tooling the production line.  Regardless, I know my two weeks off of work felt great, so today it was back to work.  In a few weeks we'll be back to autocrossing with the South Carolina Region of the Sports Car Club of America at Darlington on Labor Day weekend, so until then drive it hard and drive it safe!

Friday, July 18, 2014

July Double Header

Unfortunately the #77 Abarth was unavailable this weekend for the July points event for SCR, so I thought I'd do my duty to make up for the shortage of NMS drivers by running with SCR in Charleston on Saturday and then with the Triad Sports Car Club on Sunday in Winston-Salem.  Below is the #86 Miata in paddock in North Charleston, with clouds rolling in.

Saturday brought the threat of rain all morning, however proceedings remained dry during the first run group and on to the first runs of the second run group (in which I was driving).  Almost immediately as the cars completed their first runs, the rain came down in force.  Lightning was spotted, forcing a delay.  Unfortunately this meant that the remaining runs for our group would be in the wet and would therefore not be nearly as quick.  The first run was going to be the one that really counted for us.  I put in a time just hundredths of a second behind first place, but hit a cone which demoted me to around 4th place in the class for the day.

Shaking off the disappointment of Saturday, I trekked north on Sunday morning to have fun at the Dixie Classic Fairgrounds in North Carolina.  Again, rain threatened all day but managed to skip the fairgrounds for the whole event.  The ES class was only two cars (two more were registered in Novice as well).  Unlike the smaller lot in Charleston, this course had three sections that needed a shift to third gear for my car, which I struggled with during all 4 runs.  Fortunately, I managed to get enough of the rest of the course right and brought home first place in ES class!

All in all, it was a very fun weekend to hang out with all the other car folks and talk about driving fast.  Above is the view from the grandstands at the fairgrounds.  Below is the first place glass from the Triad group.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Long Distance Autocross

While half of the team was being warned to step back from the cars on exhibit, the puddle of drool is starting to touch the half headed up to Ohio (where it's a LOT cooler in July) to hang out with friends and get some more autcross practice in before the next points event with the SCR this coming weekend.

The drive up was a ton of fun with awesome scenery in the mountains and fun curvy roads, but the terrain slowly flattened out and turned into corn.

The event was run by the Ohio Valley Region of the SCCA at National Trail Raceway, just East of Columbus.  The lot was medium sized but very bumpy.  This was by far the most uneven surface I've ever raced on, so it was a big adjustment.

With 4 runs in the morning and another 4 in the afternoon, it was a great opportunity to push the Miata hard and try to go past my limits.  Sure enough I managed several spins and even snagged a few cones.  In the end I landed in 13th of 23 in my immediate class and 29th out of 84 total drivers for the day.

I'm still placing right around the top third, which is below my target of top 25%, so I'll have to do some video analysis and keep getting better!

Lots of fun and it was great to see everyone from BGSU and glad to have a cheering section come out and support NMS all the way in Ohio!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Dream Cars

This may not sound like what car guys do on the 4th of July weekend, but I went to an art museum.

Not "I went out with a guy named Art".  Not "my family went to an art museum".  I went to an art museum to see some CARS!

The exhibit "Dream Cars" is now open at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta GA, and I give it my highest possible rating that you should attend.  To learn more about it, here is the website for the museum: LINK
Also, thanks to the High Museum and many others that are giving free admission to our active duty military folks, and a 20% discount in their gift shop!  Along with the cars to see, and the descriptions and bit of history next to each car, the museum has a great audio tour that you can also purchase, to learn even more about each car. The audio tour also has some bonus movies and photos to see on a small iPhone-like device with headset.

To talk about the 17 cars on exhibit and point out all the features that these cars had decades ago would probably take a book, so luckily I bought the book at the gift shop!  This exhibit and collection of cars was put together just for this museum, so the experience and the book are unique to the High. If you think retractable hard tops, rain sensing cars, electric jacks on all four wheels, magnesium bodies or wheels, or rear view cameras are all pretty exciting new developments in automobiles, you might be wrong by several decades!

Let's take a look at some of these Dream Cars!
 1935 Bugatti Type 57S Competition Coupe Aerolithe, magnesium body! Aerolithe is French for "meteor".
1934 one of a kind Edsel Ford Model 40 Special Speedster, built for Mr. Edsel Ford himself!
1941 Chrysler Thunderbolt.  Retractable hard top, pop open headlights in the 40s!
 1955 Chrysler (Ghia) Streamline X "Gilda", named for Rita Hayworth in her movie "Gilda".
1959 Cadillac Cyclone XP-74.   Front mounted radar for sensing obstructions, doors that slide back like a modern minivan. Not bad for the 1950s!
 Here are my favorites, two Italian concepts both from 1970. In white, a Ferrari (Pininfarina) 512 S Modulo, and the bronze color Lancia (Bertone) Stratos HF Zero.
The  Ferrari has a V12 in the back, but is only 37 inches tall. To get in, the front top half slides forward.
The Lancia is even shorter, only 33 inches tall, and the front windshield hinges at the top has to open backwards so you can step in.
Maybe you thought a T-Top "Smokey and the Bandit" car was cool, but did you know that probably the first car with a T-Top was this 1948 Tasco, with the top made of a newly invented material of ABS plastic? The name Tasco came from "The American Sports Car".
 Electric cars are becoming a bit more popular, there is even a Nissan Leaf in my neighborhood and several electric car chargers in my tiny town. This little French electric car was known as L'OEuf electrique, or Electric Egg!  Good for about 60 miles on a charge, it had three wheels. Sound modern? It's from 1942.
On the more recent side, here is a 2001 BMW GINA Light Visionary Model, with a fabric skin made of polyurethane coated Spandex! When you open the doors, the fabric just wrinkles, and the headlights and tail lights just shine thru the fabric.
 The newest car in the exhibit is this 2010 Porsche 918 Spyder Concept Car that is now entering production.
The outside of museum has a bit of advertising for this exhibit! You should check it out!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Summer Reading List

I don't know if you had a list of books to read in the summer when you were in school, or if you go out of your way to find things to read in the summer, but one constant for some of us is reading car magazines.  No matter how many are published, it seems like there is always something new and interesting to read about at the local bookstore. So, until on line sellers and ebooks wipe out the publishing industry, I seem to be addicted to car magazines. I've been diagnosed as having Car Magazine Acquisition Syndrome (CMAS), which is not fatal, but just one of many diseases common among men. Luckily my CPAS and GAS are currently in remission, so I can dedicate more resources to CMAS.  Oh, and CPAS is Car Part Acquisition Syndrome, and Guitar Acquisition Syndrome.

Here's a short run down of some of them floating around the NMS garage.

Grassroots Motorsports: This is a classic American mag that covers all kinds of car sports, focusing mostly on local events, cars you can actually afford (more on that later), and lots of car part ads. Plus when you subscribe you get a free t-shirt, so I fell prey to their sales pitch at the SCCA convention this year.

TOP GEAR: The BRITISH Top Gear TV show magazine, and this one I like because it features just about ALL Euro cars in their monthly run down of all cars for sale in the UK.  Lots of reviews of the latest unaffordable cars, and just all kinds of great photography, plus regular columns from the TV show hosts.

F1 Racing: Another British publication, but focused on F1, this issue had several articles on one of my favorite drivers, Brazilian three time world champ Ayrton Senna, marking 20 years since he passed in a crash at Imola during a race.

Sportscar: The official publication of the Sports Car Club of America, just join the SCCA and they mail you this every month. SCCA sponsors all kinds of events from autocross to track races, various race series, rallycross, etc. etc.

Forza:  All Ferrari, all the time! Each issue has a mix of the latest Ferrari road cars, F1 results, historical Ferrari cars, and other Ferrari news.

Hemmings Sports and Exotic Car: This is a US publication, and pretty much spans the globe on older cars of all makes. In addition to articles on restorations, car shows, auctions, there are lots of regular columns that cover DIY repairs, history of famous makes, with a heavy emphasis on European cars.

Motor Trend:  I do have one complaint, and Motor Trend is an example of it: most cars in this magazine are just too expensive!  Sure, I know that the average sales price of cars sold in the US is now over $30,000, but come on, how many more articles and reviews on $60,000 and above BMWs and Mercedes Benz' can you publish? Just the cover of this one says it all, the two new BMWs highlighted in the photo list at $65,125 and $62,925.  In the interest of full disclosure, I have a free subscription to this magazine for attending a car show they sponsored last year. Not a bad deal for free, but I think I've read too many expensive car reviews for now. Maybe there's room for Affordable Car Monthly?

Racer:  One last US magazine, and this title says it all.  They cover all types of big league racing, and from the cover with the  "baseball cards" of drivers from Indy Car, CART, and F1, that tells you where they focus. If you're only interested in one of those types of racing this may not be for you, but it's well done with a wide variety of articles and great photos.

That's the short version, but covers most of my favorites....other than Automobile, Hemmings, Evo, etc.
Happy reading!