Thursday, July 30, 2015

Another Weekend of Nixon Motor Sports!

This weekend we've added another autocross on Sunday with the Old Dominion Region of the SCCA, and perhaps a quick trip to the Virginia Beach Cars and Coffee on Saturday morning. Later in August the NMS-North garage will close for some vacation time that will hopefully include at least one automotive stop of interest in Detroit at the Ford museum and factory tour. Call me crazy, but there is just something about factory tours that makes them always sound like fun!

Nice long slalom from last weekend's autocross!

In the last few years we managed to tour the BMW factory in South Carolina, and the small museum there is pretty cool also. Like most factories in the world though, they don't let you take photos, so I guess if you haven't seen your favorite factory on TV you have to go there yourself. At least with the Internet you can Google it yourself and figure out what places have tours and whether or not they charge admission.

Checking for safety!

Whatever you are up to this weekend, drive safely!

Just part of the crowd at the driver's meeting; 113 drivers total!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

July Autocross Report from Virginia: Victory!

Sitting on grid, ready to rock on the Chesapeake!

Video above, and you can find a lot more photos from today's event on my Facebook photo album at: July 26 AutoX photos   

July 26th was another fun filled day of autocross action with the Tidewater Sports Car Club, and even though the FIAT now weighs more (thanks to having doubled the number of license plates!), the mighty Abarth finished 1st in G Street against only one other driver, and a mid pack 47th total PAX time in a field of 113 drivers. This extends my points lead in GS thanks to very little competition, so as long as I can attend all the events into November I should win the class and the billion dollar prize money, free Ferrari, and trip around the world with a new beach house on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Well, maybe just a hearty handshake, there really isn't any prize money in autocross at the local level, but it's still a LOT of FUN!

A little shade goes a LONG way on a hot day!

With my first run I had a 47.802,  and felt that I could certainly go faster, mostly in one long slalom section. On the second run sure enough, I went really fast in the slalom which then made me go too fast into the next corner and wipe out a cone, which meant my run was slower at 48.694. Third run was smoother and I managed to drop almost a full second down to 46.839. On the fourth and final run I thought I could gain a few more tenths, but only managed a 47.151. For my awesomely average driving skills, dropping almost a second felt pretty good, but there is lots of room for me to improve my technique. You can check out all the results on line already, at this link:  July AutoX Results

Today was the last stage of the Tour de France too!


There are so many plain white, gray, and black cars in the world, that I always appreciate anything with four wheels that comes in colors. Hey, that makes an orange Porsche 911 just about the coolest thing you could drive!

I shot video of my 4 runs today, but with an out of town business trip starting tomorrow, will have to wait to get it on line.

 This is the timer display scoreboard that shows drivers their times at the end of their runs. Before the event started today it displayed this little message.

Is it a salute to the Beatles 2nd movie?

Does it mean "H-Emerson Lake and Palmer"?

Is the scoreboard operator in the scoring van sending a May Day Distress Signal asking for help?

One of the newest classes in autocross is called CAM, which stands for Classic American Muscle.

You can't get much more Classic, more American, or more Muscular than with a 60s Corvette that actually drives and competes!

Sure, there are plenty of Corvettes around, but it seems like many just get waxed and only driven to car shows, so it's really cool to see them being driven at autocross!

The Factory Five folks build kit car components like this wonderful orange car, and they look like a ton of fun to drive too. You can buy the kit, then add your own engine and transmission and maybe the wheels and a few other parts, and BAM you've got a modern day Cobra type car that you can build yourself!

Check out their website at Factory Five

Not quite in the Classic AMERICAN Muscle category, but if you can autocross a old Volvo like this, then you know how much fun this hobby can be!

Got a car?

Does it have wheels?

Does it run?

Then you can probably autocross it!

Classic American Muscle again.

Ford = American

Galaxie 500 = Classic

289 engine and racing number = Muscle!

In my head this photo would be zoomed in and you'd see nothing but the Chesapeake, the boat, and the car on the autocross course, with maybe a few cones and the sail boat way in the distance.

But I wasn't out in the middle of the course  holding a billion dollar fancy camera either, so you just have to use your imagination.

I call this: Cars are faster than Boats!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

New Tires, New License Plates, SHAZAAM!

The FIAT Abarth needed some new daily driver tires, so after scouring the internet and a few local tire dealers, I again went on line and ordered 4 tires from Tire Rack. The stock 16 inch Abarth wheel size is a little hard to find, as in many stores don't carry it, so I bumped it up a bit and got a slightly wider tire in a much more popular 205 width instead of the OEM 195 width. You can visit their link at Tire Rack

After comparing plenty of tires, my conclusion is that there are plenty of brands of tires in different price ranges out there, so it pays to do your research and get a tire that fits your driving style. For my everyday tire, I wanted a tire that would last longer than a few thousand miles, and ended up buying the Dunlop Direzza DZ102, and I'm happy to report getting a rebate too. I have no problems with getting money back! Now I just have to get them installed next week.

Tire Rack has always given me great service, and with a couple of locations around the country, they deliver to your house or to your preferred mechanic's shop very quickly. With this set of tires, I ordered them late at night on line, and they arrived at my house less than 48 hours later!
And now for the Safety Tip of the Day: Take a look at your tires once in a while, and if they're getting worn down to no tread or very little tread, consider how much fun you can have getting new tires, and being safer!
Rear plate on the hatch
Today I also went to the DMV two times and finally gave them all the paperwork they wanted to register the car in Virginia. Since you probably already know all about how much fun it is to go to the DMV, I'll skip all the details and just share these two shots front and back, now with a front license plate for the first time ever.

Newly installed license plate holder, had to screw this into the plastic bumper

When the lady at DMV pulled out some license plates and the little red stickers showing that my registration is good through July of 2017, believe it or not the stickers "JUL" and "17" reminded me of F1 driver Jules Bianchi again, since his race car was number 17. At tomorrow's race from Hungary, all the drivers will have a reminder of the unfortunate death of Jules Bianchi just a week ago caused by a crash in a race last year. I'll have this reminder of Jules on my car for the next two years too.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

NMS-North Now Sponsored By Winding Road Racing!

Nixon Motor Sports North is happy to announce that the #77 FIAT Abarth is now sponsored by Winding Road Racing! You can check them out for any racing related gear you need at their great website at this link:  Winding Road

Winding Road Racing is located in Austin Texas, and provides great service in supplying drivers with everything needed for racing, auto crossing, and other driving sports. They carry all the major brands of helmets, racing clothing, seats, on board cameras, and other gear for you and your car.

In addition to their website you can find Winding Road Racing on their Facebook page:  Facebook Winding Road and on their Twitter page:  Twitter Winding Road

If you're an autocross or track driver, you can get into this program too and receive the WR stickers for free, and then earn credits you can use at Winding Road too.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Camry Air Filters: Fun, Excitement, Into New Excellence! (C.A.F.F.E.I.N.E.)

Last weekend I changed the air filter and the cabin air conditioner air filter on our 2011 Camry, so please forgive the ridiculous acronym-ed title. It's hard to make anything about a 4 cylinder Camry exciting, other than the fact that it's the best selling car in the US; is totally dependable; has never had an issue; and is still going strong at about 97,000 miles. Even for drivers that are interested in racing or high performance automobiles, there's still plenty of times in life when all you really need is a car that will get the job done (wheels go round, gets you where you're going) and not break down.

Whether it's a DD-Daily driver, GG-grocery getter, or SMW-soccer-mom wagon, whatever you call a basic car, the Camry has been a great buy for us and now, after five years of payments, it's now all paid for and totally the property of Nixon Motor Sports North! Our goal is to NOT go right out and sign up for more car payments and NOT to trade it in, so hopefully we'll still pay ourselves and put what has been our car payment amount of dough-re-ME in the bank. Yeah, here's why, because then we can spend it on something more practical than a car! Practical I say, you know, like a new guitar amp or a hot-dog crust pizza from Pizza Hut!

Trust me, even if you've never done anything on your car other than drive it or put gas in it, anyone can handle these two air filter replacements, and it's likely you'll save some money doing it yourself too. I like to keep in mind that no matter how complicated car repairs may be, at the heart of it there were real people that designed it all and put it together. Although it's possible in the future that when Skynet goes active and the Terminators are on the loose in a Matrix-like word that the machines will build even cooler machines...

So, grab a 10mm socket and get to work, because that's the only tool with some new replacement filters you need for these two air filter jobs.

Photo 1 = Camry engine bay, just a little dusty.

The air filter is under the upper right corner rectangle with the notch at the top, just above the battery with the red terminal cover.

It comes off easily by loosening three 10mm bolts, one you can see in the front right, one you can't see in the right rear, and then one on an air hose clamp in the upper left of the rectangle.

The air box lid is also hinged on the left side, so it lifts up and out of the way easily.

Quick, guess which air filter is the old dirty darker one on the left and which one is the new clean whiter one on the right?

Times up.

Hope you got this one right!
(hint: it IS the new clean white one on the right)

Both of these were made in China, but keep in mind that the Camry, built in Kentucky America, has the  highest percentage of US made parts of any vehicle sold in the US. You can look it up!

This is just a bit closer view of the clamp over an air hose that has to be loosened, it's just left center in this photo.

Once that is loose, you can easily pull the hose sections apart and then lift the air box cover out of the way.

As they say in the car repair manual business, then you put the new filter in and put it all back together in reverse of how you took it apart.
Here is the inside of where the air filter lives, just a big box with one bit of air hose sticking in that draws air in from the front of the car.

You might notice a bunch of what mechanics call "stuff" in the bottom of the box, such as dead bugs, bits of leaves, etc.

I pulled out a vacuum cleaner and took out the big chunks, then threw away the old air filter and put the new one right in here.

After that, just replace the lid, connect the hose in the upper left, and you're good to go.

The engine air filter was easy, and this next one in the glove box is going to be even easier, because you don't need any tools!

Step 1: Open glove compartment. (no, I'm serious, that's how you get to the AC air filter)

Before moving to Step 2, I'd suggest removing all the manuals, napkins, forks, and whatever else you have in here. Does anyone keep gloves in their glove box?
Step 2:  On the right side of the glove box, unhook this latch. In this photo, I've already  unhooked it, and the hook kind of receded back into it's bat cave a bit, which is normal, since it seems to be on an elastic cord.

Step 3:  On both sides of the glove box, you have to push inwards on the black parts so that two posts (one on each side) will clear the slots that they sit in. Once you've pulled them out, the glove box just hangs down like this.

Don't worry, it's supposed to.

You'll see how it's just some plastic bits sticking into other plastic bits that hold it in place, and you don't have to mess with the hinge at the bottom.
Looking straight on in to where the glove box used to be, in the upper left you see a black rectangle with a cover on it.

Step 4: Pull the black cover out of the rectangle, and then you'll see the air filter.

Step 5: Pull out the old air filter, and put the new one in. I don't think you can mess this part up, since the filter is a rectangle.

Assembly is the reverse of dis-assembly! (Note to self, make a t-shirt with this motto, sell a lot, become a millionaire)

There you go, two easy air filter replacements!

Your owners manual should spell out how often to replace these two filters, and you can do it all yourself with nothing more than a 10mm socket!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

What to do in Milan Italy!

Video game inside an Indy car at the Dallara factory in Indianapolis (not a real simulator)
I'm not in Milan, have never been to Milan, and may never actually visit Milan, but IF I was there, here's a little suggestion: Drive a real Ferrari F1 car simulator!  Ferrari Simulation Center

Driving a simulator even once would be a blast, so that would leave plenty of time during the rest of a vacation to take part in what I like to call "eat some Italian food"! But as the joke goes, over in Italy they just call it eating "food".

From looking at the website in the link above, there are four simulators, and you can book your day and time in advance! You could even send me a coupon good for a visit and I'd be happy to tell you how much fun it is! And while you're at it, why not throw in some airfare and a passport for me and I'll be ready to go!

OK, seriously, before you send me money to drive the simulator in Italy, you should know that there's a few rules for riding the simulator:  

- DRIVER MINIMUM HEIGHT: 55 in. /1.50 m

Let's see if I meet those regulations:

1: Yes, there is only 1 of me (aren't you glad?)
2: Yes, I weigh less than 264 pounds!
3: Yes, I'm at least 55 inches tall!

Looks like I'm good to go!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Jules Bianchi #17

Tous Avec Jules #17
I have just read on line that Jules Bianchi has passed away. His race car number was 17, and I will continue to wear a small reminder of him on my helmet and my car.

The short story background is that Formula 1 driver Jules Bianchi was in a terrible crash during the F1 Grand Prix of Japan last October, and had been in the hospital in a coma ever since. This report states that he has just passed away due to the injuries suffered in that crash.

Jules was a young driver on the Marussia team, and had scored the only points that his team ever scored (finishing in the top 10 of one race) earlier in 2014 at the Monaco race.

In addition to the danger of racing automobiles, remember that driving every car, every day, has the potential of serious injury, so please continue being a safe driver.

A Statement from the Bianchi Family
Nice, France
Saturday 18 July 2015
02.45hrs France │ 01.45hrs UK
It is with deep sadness that the parents of Jules Bianchi, Philippe and Christine, his brother Tom and sister Mélanie, wish to make it known that Jules passed away last night at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire (CHU) in Nice, (France) where he was admitted following the accident of 5th October 2014 at Suzuka Circuit during the Japanese Formula 1 Grand Prix.
“Jules fought right to the very end, as he always did, but today his battle came to an end,” said the Bianchi family. “The pain we feel is immense and indescribable. We wish to thank the medical staff at Nice’s CHU who looked after him with love and dedication. We also thank the staff of the General Medical Center in the Mie Prefecture (Japan) who looked after Jules immediately after the accident, as well as all the other doctors who have been involved with his care over the past months.
"Furthermore, we thank Jules’ colleagues, friends, fans and everyone who has demonstrated their affection for him over these past months, which gave us great strength and helped us deal with such difficult times. Listening to and reading the many messages made us realise just how much Jules had touched the hearts and minds of so many people all over the world.
"We would like to ask that our privacy is respected during this difficult time, while we try to come to terms with the loss of Jules.”

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Proudly Holding Down 41st Place!

#77 Abarth ready for action with ODR
Yes, 41st place out of 70 drivers in the overall Old Dominion Region of SCCA autocross points standings for 2015!
Chalking the course

"You're proud of being only 41st"?

Follow the Cones!

"Yes, considering I've only been in 1 event out of the 4 so far!"

Timer ready for rain!
"Oh, well that's not too bad then!"

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Miata and Abarth Updates

Here we are smack dab in the middle of the hot summer auto crossing season, so let's take a brief look at how the NMS stable of fine racing automobiles is holding up. Excuse me, let's see how the cars are holding up since we're both currently in 1st place in our classes!

The 1999 Miata is currently "resting comfortably" at a secure location in South Carolina, awaiting an engine transplant. Donors are needed now! Callers are standing by and searching Craigslist and other sources for a new engine. Just like a musician wants to go out while performing on stage, the engine in the Miata pretty much ended it all in the middle of an autocross run last month. Prognosis is good for a full and complete recovery. Are YOU an engine donor?

Our 2013 Abarth recently celebrated hitting the 40,000 mile mark, but then  had a minor disagreement with the state of Virginia regarding placement of windshield banners. As of this morning, the FIAT has officially "fought the law...and the law won". Signore Abarth was at the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles inspection station this morning, and after failing the first inspection, passed with flying colors. During this process I noticed a very small line printed on the inside of the windshield, visible from the driver's seat, that apparently marks the ASI line, and sure enough, the decal was about an inch below that line! Who knew?  NMS-North would only comment that "every state has totally different registration and inspection requirements, so what can you do?"

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Pungo Autocross Report!

I hope your Independence Day weekend was great, and just maybe you enjoyed doing something fun too. The FIAT Abarth and I were at Pungo with the Old Dominion region SCCA drivers in another autocross, and it was a ton of fun!

What's cooler than a Morgan?

A Morgan that autocrosses!

Today I autocrossed with the Old Dominion Region of the Sports Car Club of America at Pungo Virginia, and had a great time in five runs.

Out of 46 total drivers my PAX time put me 16th fastest of the day, so not too bad for the only Italian Car driving today!


What's cooler than a Morgan that autocrosses?

A Morgan with Darth Vader riding along!

The Morgans are still made in England, and in addition to the classic roadster types you see here, they also make a unique little three wheeler too!

 What's cooler than a Morgan that autocrosses with Darth Vader on board?

A Morgan that arrives on a trailer pulled by this awesome 1939 Chevy truck!

This has to be the coolest two vehicle that I've ever seen!
This is the timing light at the finish line today, covered in plastic for the predicted rain later in the day.

Sure enough, I was in the last run group, and after finishing my 5th and final run, I noticed a few raindrops on my windshield!

Good job to the ODR folks for getting everyone their runs in before the rain hit. Rain makes everyone slower, so it can be tough when some drivers were dry and others were getting wet!


I've noticed these Mercury Capri little convertibles ever since they were made a while ago, but have never ridden in one or seen one autocross. Until today that is, so at least I've seen one on course.

So I've still never driven one, but they still  have a certain funkiness about them just for being so small in a world of gigantic SUVs where any convertible is unusual.

What's cooler than a Morgan that autocrosses?

TWO Morgans autocrossing in the same event.
This one is a 1958 model, and with two drivers sharing it, we saw a lot of Morgan action out on the course at Pungo today.
Since the US Women's World Cup team just won the world championship today by easily beating Japan, let's keep saluting the USA with this awesome Camaro.

And it's still the 4th of July weekend too, so unless you're eating a hot dog and playing baseball at the same time I don't know how you could possibly be more American than this!

OK, a 1964 Corvette driving around the course on a nice day on July 5th is pretty darn American too!

Rumors keep building that Chevy just might build a Corvette with a rear engine instead of the traditional front engine. I've always been fascinated with rear or mid engine cars, so if Chevy is listening, I vote YES!

Here's a bit of the view at Pungo as the cars are lined up before the first run group.

In addition to the cars you've seen here, there were plenty of Miatas, Subarus, Mustangs, Porsches, and of course the one Italian FIAT Abarth.

Throw in a quick Focus ST that won my GS class and a few other cool cars like a Factory Five Cobra, and you've got all the ingredients for another great autocross.
SCCA autocross rules allow for a lot of different types of cars to enter in a LOT of different classes, and this one right here is my favorite because the class spells out the word "STUN".

We'd all like to think our cars are STUNNINGLY fast, but in this case it's just the short version of "Street Touring Ultra-Novice" class.

Here's my five run times from today below.
1: First run I managed to avoid the cones and stay on course, with a time of 42.875. After the first run I usually manage to go faster, so today was no different.
2: Then I drove a bit faster but pushed too hard through one of the sweepers and ended up going 0.3 seconds slower. 43.177
3: This turned out to be my best time with no cones, and almost a full second faster than run #1, so I felt pretty good at this time but felt that I could go faster. 41.983
4: Managed to go faster, but also managed to hit a cone somewhere, so the raw time of 41.824 gets wiped out with a 2 second penalty. Just one more run to go!
5: Another run faster than my previous best, but somehow another cone went down, so the 41.903 also doesn't count.

77ROBERT NIXON 42.875 0 43.177 0 41.983 0 41.824 1 41.903 1 0.000 0

You can find all the results from today or learn more about the Old Dominion Region of the SCCA and autocrossing at the ODR website: JULY 5 RESULTS ODR AT PUNGO LINK