Friday, October 30, 2015

Formula 1 Returns to Mexico This Weekend!

Viva Mexico Baby! F1 returns to South of the (US) Border for the first time since 1992, with an a newly updated and slightly re-designed Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit, sold out tickets, a really long straight, and hopefully another fun filled race. Hamilton and Mercedes have already clinched the championships, so the main attraction is watching how some of the other team mates duke it out.

Another odd TV weekend in the US, with practice, qualifying, and race coverage on 3 different NBC networks. Note that the actual race on Sunday afternoon is on the main channel of NBC. 

All parts of the weekend are also available on various APPS like the official F1 APP, the NBCSN APP, and if you're tech savvy you can find other streaming stuff too. If you are in the US, don't forget to set your clocks back one hour on Saturday night also!  (FALL BACK)

 Here's what I could find for listings:


Friday October 30

11:00 AM Practice 1 APPS
1:00 PM F1 Mexican Grand Prix Practice 1 Rebroadcast NBCSN
3:00 PM Practice 2 APPS
11:30 PM Practice 1 Rebroadcast NBCSN

Saturday October 31

11:00 AM Practice 3 APPS
2:00 PM Qualifying CNBC

Sunday November 1

1:00 AM Qualifying Rebroadcast NBCSN
7:00 PM Race Rebroadcast NBCSN

After Mexico, we still have Brazil and Abu Dhabi coming to finish up the season, both later in November!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Racing Cars: Open Cockpit Survey

The Motorsport Safety Foundation is running a survey on line that you can participate in by going to this link cockpit systems Survey

They are asking for motorsport drivers and fans to participate as they look for ways to make open cockpit racing safer. Various racing series around the world have varying degrees of safety requirements, and certainly the Nixon Motor Sports team supports making driving as safe as possible, for both drivers and fans. In our blog we've discussed various aspects of safety from tires to roll bars.

Please take a few minutes and take the survey, just click the link above.

You can learn more about the Foundation at their link: Motorsport Safety Foundation LINK

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

NMS News Round-Up!

From around the virtual world of Nixon Motor Sports, here's today's very latest update of various vivacious victuals of vital news:

NMS South (Brian in South Carolina) recently visited Virginia and was showing off this version of the NMSouth log on the Ford Fiesta ST.

With the letters rounded out with the top silhouette of the NMS Miata, I think it's a very clean and sharp image for a logo.  Clearly Brian does great stuff as the creative director of NMS, and continues to give us a nice look on the website and elsewhere.
Up north here at NMS North (Robert in Virginia), a recent birthday included this battery powered DeWalt driver. This one is 1/2 inch drive, so that required a quick trip to the Sears store for a set of deep impact sockets.

With two batteries and the recharger included, that adds up to a very handy birthday in my book! Or blog. Or whatever!

Remember to take care of your tools, keep them clean, and they will take care of you.
The Craftsman tools from Sears continue to be a good bargain in the tool world for those of us that like to work on cars in garages and elsewhere.

There are plenty of other tool companies out there too, so I don't really have anything bad to say about any of them, although I can observe that the few times I've had a tool just flat out break or fail, it's always been some cheap brand that I wasn't really expecting to last anyway.
Also in the birthday department, Brian provided the FIAT with it's own set of NMS stickers, highlighted with the outline of the FIAT.

Even with all the weight of so many stickers and decals, remember that each sticker adds 10 horsepower to your car, so keep sticking!

Coming up this weekend, Brian will be autocrossing at ZMax in Charlotte NC with the Central Carolina Region folks, and on TV I'm planning to watch the new Mexican Grand Prix F1 race from Mexico City, 2pm Eastern on Sunday.

NMS course walk: Shadowy characters. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015


Today in Austin Texas, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton clinched the Formula 1 F1 LINK World Driver's Championship! This makes two in a row for Hamilton, who is now a three time champion, and joins the ranks of great drivers such as Ayrton Senna, Sir Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda, Jack Brabham, and Nelson Piquet with three titles.

The race itself was the most exciting of the season, with heavy heavy rain interfering with the practice sessions and qualifying during the weekend, including delaying qualifying from the normal Saturday afternoon until race day morning. During the race we had a large number of lead changes, many tire strategies to deal with the drying track, crashes, and even an American driver getting close to the top ten at the end! That US driver, Alexander Rossi with the Manor team finished 12th, which matches his team best result of the entire season!

While we're not in Austin enjoying Champagne with the winners, you might want to check out the Mercedes teams websites and join in the fun on-line:

Mercedes on Twitter

Mercedes AMG F1 LINK

Now that the team championship (Mercedes) and driver's title (Hamilton) are decided, we still have a few more races before the season ends up, so check out the Mexican Grand Prix race next Sunday too. This will be the first F1 race back in Mexico since 1992, so the new facilities in Mexico City and a sold out crowed should be ready to give us another great race in one week!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Off With It's Head

This week the Miata finally went under the wrench and we explored the four cylinder paperweight to get a better understanding of what I did back in June.  Step one was removing the head and inspecting the top half of the motor for damage.

At least getting to the oil filter will be easier for now.
 From what we can see so far, the head appears to be salvagable and not terminally warped from the overheating experienced on the track in May.  Step two will be to take it to a machine shop to get cleaned up and given a more thorough inspection.

Some yummy gunk clogging the bottom end and restricting coolant that should have been flowing through it.

Above we see that there was a clogged passage in the block, which may have been preventing the flow of coolant around the number two cylinder and lead to the over-heating.  So far we cannot see any additional gunk clogging up the passages flowing through the engine, but we are suspicious.
Surface of the under-side of the head appears to not be warped.
On the surface everything seems in relatively good shape, so the NMS South team is hopeful for a cheaper re-build budget.  The team is working on a schedule to have the Miata back in action for March 2016 and on the road to the Solo Nationals competition in Lincoln, Nebraska next fall!

More to come over the winter.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Ferrari Stock Symbol: RACE

The FIAT Chrysler Automobile company is spinning off their Ferrari brand into it's own company today, complete with the stock symbol "RACE". In case you didn't know, the Ferrari company was started by a gentleman in Italy by the name of Enzo Ferrari. Mr. Ferrari wanted to build racing cars, and as a side business he made enough road cars to make money to pay for the racing. That is the heart of Ferrari, which today mostly means their Formula 1 team the Scuderia Ferrari. His son Piero Ferrari is still involved with the company, and owns 10% of Ferrari.

Business wise, the big news in the past week has been that the initial offering price of Ferrari stock (symbol RACE, in case you forgot already), will be $52 per share. Now I'm no business expert, but I know that the odds of the average guy on the street buying any RACE stock today at $52 is about zero, so if nothing else, it will be interesting to see how the stock price performs in both the short term and long term in years to come.

You can certainly do an internet search and find all kinds of information on stocks, Ferrari, and Formula 1, so I'll just highlight that this weekend is the F1 race in Austin Texas.  Like all other racing weekends, Friday will have two practice sessions; Saturday morning is a practice session followed by the all important afternoon qualifying for grid positions, and then Sunday afternoon will be the race.
You can find the race and all practice sessions on the NBCSN app "Live Extra", and hit the highlights with race coverage on NBC TV. More info at the F1 website: F1 LINK

Also of note this weekend, American driver Alexander Rossi will be driving for the Manor team, so this marks the first American driver in the US Grand Prix since 2007. Good luck to Alex!

Gentlemen, start your engines, and RACE!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Yesterday's Results, Victory!


Over 100 drivers competed in auto-cross yesterday in Virginia, and some of them were victorious in the different classes, in RAW time, and in modified PAX time. You can find the link to all results at the bottom of this blog post, but for the NMS squad, the Victor was Brian Nixon in the Fiesta ST. Brian clearly set a faster time than Robert, so he's our NMS Driver of the Day.

Course walk before driving, all smiles!

It was a chilly day with temperatures in the upper 40s when we drove in the morning, and the breeze coming off the water made things even chillier. After four runs on a really fun course, the bottom line was that the mighty NMS FIAT took another first in GS class, while Brian's Fiesta took 4th out of 5 drivers in HS class.

Fuel stop before driving
In the overall results, Brian took a solid 23rd place out of 104 drivers, so clearly in the top 25%! Robert was way back with 72nd place out of 104, so nothing to write home about on that one! When interviewed after the event, the FIAT driver pointed out that he was driving on his regular slower  street tires, it was cold, the sun was in his eyes, he forgot to turn off the ESC control in his car on every run, and about 10 other reasons for going so slowly.

When informed of his team mates reply, Brian stated that "the only thing that matters is how fast you go, and my car went faster than his", so we'll leave it at that until the next event!

Can you spot the slightly battle damaged cone?
Thanks again to the Tidewaters Sports Car Club for putting on a great event! We've enjoyed driving with them for a full year now, and look forward to November's year ending event at Pungo! You can learn more about TSCC at their website: TSCC LINK

NMS South-winner of the NMS showdown!

The full results from yesterday's auto-cross are at this link: TSCC October 18 2015 LINK

Friday, October 16, 2015

Autocross Sunday, Sunday, SUNDAY!!!!!!!!!!

This weekend the NMS team will be competing with Brian driving the Fiesta with the South Carolina Region at DARLINGTON on Saturday, and then both of us on SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY on the Chesapeake Bay in autocross competition with the Tidewaters Sports Car Club TSCC LINK.  If you'd like to see who is registered for this event, check out the driver's page on Motorsport Registration Motorsport REG LINK.

(and if you are a careful, literal, and smart-alecky reader, go ahead and ask us "do you  mean you're driving ON the Chesapeake? Like, you dudes invented a car that goes on WATER?)

One thing that is NEW AND IMPROVED on MotorsportREG is that each driver can enter their photo and a car photo, just to make it look cooler on line. You'll see both NMS drivers have updated their photos, and Brian's new Ford Fiesta looks something like the following:

We have a cool clear day predicted for Sunday, so we're anticipating a chilly morning in the 50s and then a high around 60 degrees (Fahrenheit, not Celsius in case you were wondering). We will report later on who won the battle of North and South, Fiesta and Abarth, FIAT and FORD, and see who takes the bragging right for fastest raw time, and fastest PAX adjusted time.

My prediction is that of course the FIAT will be fastest in both categories, AND hit fewer cones that the orange Fiesta driver from South Carolina named Brian. (I also predict that I'll find a way to cleverly turn his number sign upside down so that his car reads "SH 98" just for fun, but don't tell anyone!).

Have a great weekend whatever you do, and drive safely!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

My Car Does What?

According to the National Safety Council, we have over 30,000 traffic deaths every year in the US, and 90% are related to driver error. If you are interested in driving safety, and how cars can make us all safer, you might want to check out a website titled "My Car Does What?" at this link:

I'm not going to make this political at all, so please understand I'm only interested in driving safety. I'm not going to talk about self-driving cars, because the reality of right now is that I don't have a self driving car. One thing I know is that many cars have safety features that I don't know about or fully understand, so this new website that is trying to educate more people on what safety features are available makes sense to me.

From our experience with auto-cross and driving on a track in a controlled environment, the drivers at Nixon Motor Sports know that the most important thing is safety, both in how we drive, what we drive, and every other safety tool in our tool kit. Regular maintenance, driving appropriately in bad weather, wearing safety gear like helmets (in certain types of driving) and seat belts (always), are simple steps we can take to be safe drivers.

A quick glance at, (developed by the National Safety Council and the University of Iowa) shows that the website explains some of the latest technology available to drivers that are useful tools in making any driver (like you and me) safer on today's roads. Here's a partial list of some car features explained on the website that you may not not have experienced:

     -Forward Collision Prevention
     -Adaptive Headlights
     -Automatic Emergency Braking
     -Obstacle Detection
     -Pedestrian Detection
     -Night Vision
     -Adaptive Cruise Control

One of my favorites that we have on our Camry, and I never thought I'd need until I had it, is the back up camera. I believe that these cameras will be mandatory on cars in a few years, so many vehicles have these now. On the website it even states that this educational program is funded by Toyota, so I have to give them an A+ for working to improve auto safety.

(The My Car Does What logo is used with permission)

Monday, October 12, 2015

The DMV Experience

One of life's greatest pleasures is....   No, really, the one part of life that I could do without is visiting the Department of Motor Vehicles. The bottom line up front, or "BLUF" (which is supposed to mean FACTS but amazingly the acronym as a word means you're NOT telling the facts) is that my most recent visit was simple, quick, to the point, easy, free, and painless!

Believe it or not the planets must have lined up and all the cosmic tumblers slipped into place on Friday morning, because the DMV visit was as good as it good be! First off there was plenty of parking outside the usually crowded building. Then there was no one in line at the first screening station when I arrived. After that I only waited for about three other numbers that were called before it was my turn. At the service window I handed over my old title from another state, and the friendly lady handed me a shiny brand new Virginia title in a matter of minutes. Free, true story, believe it or not, still amazed, newsworthy, like-winning-the-lottery, wow!

Stay tuned to this blog for more amazing TRUE stories in the future. (and some that won't be true too!)

Friday, October 9, 2015

Today's Tool Thoughts

They've got sockets

If you're a car fan, you probably have some tools. Well, unless you are literally a car fan, in which case you are an inanimate object that lives under the hood of a car and spins like crazy to force or pull air into a radiator.......(awaiting groaning from our loyal blog reader).......I'm back now, and ready to share today's tool thoughts!

They've got the cheap basic set

With a glorious day off from work, I spent some time at the nearby Sears store, which believe it or not is still in business! It's fun to realize that the Sears and Roebuck company hit it big in their early days with home-shopper catalogs and mail order business. As the decades passed, Sears continued to be be a major retailer, and eventually added Land's End and Kmart to their company. Today however, the retail business isn't what it used to be, as today's version of mail-order, which means Internet sales, has taken much of the business away from Sears. What goes around comes around I guess.

They've got the torque wrenches

But enough about business, let's talk tools! At Sears, you can still find nearly any tool you might need, and specifically that means the Craftsman brand with their famous lifetime warranty. For the most part, if any Craftsman tool breaks, just take it to your nearest Sears store and they will give you a new one to replace it. Free. That's good old fashioned customer service in my book, and in my blog!

They've got the all-in-one garage jack stuff

So the Craftsman brand is not the most expensive brand in the world, and maybe not the top drawer super high quality used to build nuclear reactors, but for the every day guy like me, their tools are great. I've got a lot of wrenches and sockets of various sizes to use on the NMS fleet, mostly in the 3/8th and 1/2 inch sizes. One of my favorite wrench sets is a Craftsman ratcheting set of box wrenches that I found at a good discount at a Kmart store that was going out of business. If you haven't experienced this yet, I can tell you it's a blast to find a Kmart store going out of business, and then if they have any items you might want to buy, just stop by every week as they start lowering the prices. In the case of the wrenches I bought, the store started selling everything somewhere around 30% off, and slowly worked their way to the final day when everything was 95% off. I think I've stopped at four different Kmarts in the past few years, but only at the first one did I find the huge inventory of tools that led me to buying anything at a great price.

They've got the basic metric and inches sets

Oh, and when you've got to find a place to put all your tools, you need more storage boxes! And if you have empty spaces in your storage boxes, then naturally you need more tools to fill them up!

They've got the storage boxes

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Motoring Magazine Mash-Up!

Sometimes a driver just has to read about driving instead of, well, DRIVING, (you know, those times like sleeping or eating), so here' s a look at some of the latest automobile magazines. WARNING: Motoring Magazine Addiction Disease (MMAD) has no cure, so be careful about reading this blog or anything on the Internet, as reading short articles on motoring may be a gateway drug to serial magazine addiction. If you need help, see your medical professional, or just put the magazine down and get behind the wheel!

Automobile: Cover story on "BMW at 40 in America", highlights plenty of cool BMWs. New car reviews include Porsche Boxster Spyder, Mini John Cooper Works, Dodge Viper ACR, and the new electric/gas Chevy Volt.

Speaking of BMW, their small museum in Greer SC is a great place to visit and take the factory tour. If you buy a new BMW, you can even take delivery there and do a bit of driving on their test track.

Like many automobile magazines, most of the cars they write about are well beyond the average new car price in the US of $31,000, so sometimes it seems like a never ending parade of $60,000 Mercedes and BMW car reviews that aren't in my price range.

Forza: Cover story on a modified Enzo that makes 840hp and hits 235mph. New car review includes the 488 Spider. If it's about Ferrari, from old to new and racing in F1, then it's in Forza!

Now, if Automobile and Motor Trend focus on cars I can't afford, I expect Forza to talk about cars I can't afford! I mean, honestly, a guy has to do some financial planning on what to do with three hundred million dollars just in case he wins the big lottery!

One feature of the magazine is a regular column with letters from readers asking for expert advice on parts and service on their Ferraris, so there is at least some practical advice in every issue too!

Grassroots Motorsports: Probably my favorite magazine because it focuses (Ford fans should like that word) on many types of motor racing in the US, to include auto-cross. The cover story covers the magazine's annual "Ultimate Track Car" event where dozens of drivers compete to set the fastest single lap at Virginia International Raceway (VIR). Project car articles this month include a BMW 235i, Chevy Camaro, Nissan 350Z, and the magazine's own home-built Factory Five 818. Another feature article covers performance tips on the Subaru WRX. Tons of advertising for every imaginable after-market performance car part available make it a resource for more ideas on spending money, and who doesn't need help spending money!

Hemming's Sports and Exotics: The Hemming's folks have several auto themed magazines, and this one covers mostly imports from the past, such as the cover story on a Sprite, and other articles covering the Volvo 1800S, Mercedes W123, and a Mercedes Biturbo just for starters.

Featured on the cover is a 1965 Austin Healey Sprite, which HAS to be the greatest sports car named after a soft drink ever!

Every issue typically includes photos and coverage of major car shows in the US, and an ongoing update on the driving condition of various cars that the magazine staff have in their garages. I can confidently say that in each issue I discover another cool old sports car that I think I need.

Motor Trend: One of the "big three" of US based magazines (Road and Track, Car and Driver being the other two), this month's cover features their annual "Best Driver's Car" review, and I'll just give you the answer of their top pick; the Mercedes AMG GT S. Geeze, , another great car normal people can't afford! According to the Mercedes AMG website, the GT S starts at $129,900.

I'm really considering taking out a small business loan and starting a magzine or website titled "Cars You Can Afford" or "Cars Under $30,000 For Real People".

Top Gear: Yes, it comes from Britain and is chock full of odd English words, but that's half the fun! The other half of the fun of this magazine is that every issue has a brief listing of all cars sold in England, so if you're curious what the Renault, Skoda, or other brands we don't get in the US are up to, here it is! Cover story is a sick green McLaren 675LT, but a more practical article is their "What is the UK's Best Hot Hatch" that actually discusses cars that normal people can afford! Hint, the winner rhymes with "Volkswagen Golf R", priced at 30,000 Pounds. If that's a bit expensive (probably $45,000 if you could buy one here), then you'll be happy to know that in their top 3 was the Ford Fiesta ST, at a much cheaper price. For more info on the Fiesta ST in the US, you could ask NMS-South driver Brian Nixon since he drives one!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

NMS Combines North and South!

North, and South. Shake, and Bake.
Our Nixon Motor Sports teams of both the North and South flavors will combine forces on Sunday October 18th in Virginia Beach and be driving at the same event for just the second time this year. At the Tidewater Sports Car Club's TSCC LINK auto-cross event, Brian will be driving the Ford Fiesta ST in the H Street class, while Robert will be wheeling the FIAT Abarth in G Street. You can read more about this particular event, and SIGN UP yourself at this link: Motorsports Registration LINK.

Weather in VA today, why this week's event is cancelled

In what could be the biggest news since the end of the Civil War, both NMS drivers will be driving at the area's favorite auto-cross location, on board (as they say in the Navy) Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, either JEBLCFS or just "Little Creek". Drivers and spectators that are not military must sign up in advance to be added to the access roster to the military base.

Good guys wear white hats...or black. Or helmets.

The last time we both drove at Little Creek this summer, the NMS Miata had an unfortunate incident that left the motor terminally wounded, so we anticipate that the Fiesta and Abarth will not suffer the same fate. With both cars in closely rated classes (it doesn't get any closer than G and H, unless you use some language/alphabet that I don't know about), this could be the 2015 duel of the century for bragging rights for NMS that will determine "Driver of the Year", or "Fastest Draw in the East", or just plain old "I Beat You on the Same Day on the Same Course so You Owe Me A Beer".

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Toyota Yaris: The 800 Mile Test

Just got back from an 800 mile quest for the city of gold...I mean, After 800 miles of trekking across the tundra, mile after mile...errrr ummm....800 miles in a Toyota Yaris is both good and bad! Yeah, that's it, good AND bad! Like Christmas (which is good), but it includes FRUIT CAKE (which is bad).

In truth, the rental car Yaris took us round trip 800 miles mostly on Interstate from Virginia Beach to Columbia SC and back, including the passing of the infamous South of the Border on the SC-NC line. No, we did not stop at SOTB in either direction, and thereby maintained my perfect record of NEVER stopping there! Now maybe if it was a classy tourist trap, like ALLIGATOR FARM, or ROCK CITY, or FIVE HEADED WILDEBEAST I'd stop, but South of the Border isn't on my dream list.

So back to the Yaris. Toyota's smallest car, this one was a rental dream! Yes, it was automatic, but it also had roll up windows (by hand crank like in ye olde days). It had air conditioning, but not cruise control. Right now, I'm willing to state that any car without cruise control, especially on the Interstate highway is NOT something I'd wish on anyone, unless that anyone was an alien being invading the planet earth.

While we're talking about highway driving, the car averaged around 29-30mpg. That's a little 4 cylinder car with two passengers, medium luggage, and highway miles, no more than 30. I'll have to conclude that mileage, comfort, ease of audio system use, and many other features, it made my FIAT look like a 25th Century transportation dream come true!

Sure, the world needs some basic, cheap, no frills transportation, but come on, if it takes me 100 miles to figure out how to tune the radio or turn OFF the radio, then either I'm a hobgoblin with mental issues or the radio is just not user-friendly. Please humor me and agree that the radio wasn't user friendly, because I'd hate to be a hobgoblin with issues, even this close to Halloween.

Audio controls should make it easy to tweak the bass and treble, and just maybe the mid-range. It should NOT have generic setting for "talk radio" and "music", with no other easily used audio settings. Why not just go with "1960s AM Radio Quality" and "Recycled Tin Can With String Quality" instead, because that's about what it sounded like to me. I'm just a professional musician, so don't take my word for it; go rent a Yaris and check out the audio for yourself.

Believe it or not, while it's easy for me to list these issues with the Yaris, it felt pretty solid on the road, and quite a bit of the driving was in rain. Yes, once or twice a light came on to indicate that some kind of traction control was helping with the aqua-planning, but even without the rain the car was fine to drive on the highway, and really did a good job of getting down the road. Well, getting down the road as long as you don't need to accelerate very fast, but it was OK.

Seating comfort wise, the Yaris would not be my choice for anything more than around town, but again keep in mind this has to be about the cheapest car in the  universe. Or at least in the US. Or from the rental lot that my employer let me use since we have to use the cheapest car. 400  miles at a shot left me wanting better seats.

Another trivial matter that I noticed in the rain is that the front windshield wiper has just one blade that covers the front for both driver and passenger. It worked OK, just unusual with one central blade. The rear window also had a wiper, so while that was nice to have in the spray, the half circle it cleared on the glass was off-center to where the driver looks with the rear mirror centered. I'll mark the rear wiper as "needs improvement" and further solve this issue by never driving a Yaris again.

Final summary: If you can afford a new car, yes the Toyota Yaris meets that description, but I think you'd be happier with a gently used car in the same price range that offers more features and comfort. Toyota makes good cars in all segments, so I'm thinking a 3 year old Corolla or Camry could beat the Yaris in every department at about the same price.