Thursday, November 30, 2017

Don't Worry, Formula E is Back!

Formula E Pre-Season Testing, Valencia Spain, October 2017
We know you're sad about the end of IndyCar, NASCAR, Formula 1 and a bunch of other motor sports activities for the year, but THIS SATURDAY the Formula E season kicks off again! Formula E is all electric cars racing around tight city circuits in some of the biggest cities on the planet, with a season that stretches from December to July. You can find out tons of information on Formula E at the official website: FORMULA E

We've watched a few races on TV in the past, and a few key points really stick out. Firstly, well, they're electric, so they don't sound like NASCAR or anything else you might be used to. Next, the batteries only last so long, so instead of pit stops with tire changes or refuelling, the drivers park their car, hop out, and hop into a 2nd car for the rest of the race. Driver wise, if you've followed other motorsports (mostly F1), you'll recognize at least some of the names of the drivers who've competed in F1 or LeMans, or a couple of them that are sons of world champion drivers (Nico Prost, Nelson Piquet Jr.) On the team side, more and more of the big players in auto manufacturing are getting involved with this sport, and with the increase in electric cars and hybrids, this is probably a good thing (Renault, Jaguar, Audi.)

Another unique feature of Formula E is the "Fan Boost" voting, where normal people like you and me (OK, like you), can vote once a day for one driver to get an extra boost of power during the race. Somehow they do this with the electric powered cars, so if nothing else it's a way to get more interactive with fans. 

With the NMS-North relocation to just outside New York City, we'll see if we can get into the city next summer and report on the race there. Or maybe both, since NY like several other stops on the tour will feature not 1, but 2 races in a weekend. This kind of format works well in other series to give fans more on-track action to see if they've paid to attend in person.

On the not so perfect-happy-good news side, naturally with races all around the world they will be happening live in the middle of the night here in the US, so this weekend in Hong Kong's races are at 2AM Eastern. On the good news side, you can sleep normally and catch them on Fox networks and the Fox Sports Go app anytime, since it seems that no one watches boring old live TV anymore: Hong Kong Fox Schedule


Race 1 | 02 Dec 2017
Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Race 2 | 03 Dec 2017
Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Race 3 | 13 Jan 2018
Marrakesh, Morocco

Race 4 | 03 Feb 2018
Santiago, Chile

Race 5 | 03 Mar 2018
Mexico City, Mexico

Race 6 | 17 Mar 2018
Sao Paulo, Brazil

Race 7 | 14 Apr 2018
Rome, Italy

Race 8 | 28 Apr 2018
Paris, France

Race 9 | 19 May 2018
Berlin, Germany

Race 10 | 10 Jun 2018
Zurich, Switzerland

Race 11 | 14 Jul 2018
New York City, USA

Race 12 | 15 Jul 2018
New York City, USA 

Race 13 | 28 Jul 2018
Montreal, Canada

Race 14 | 29 Jul 2018
Montreal, Canada

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

NMS-North 2017 Season Review

Right here on this blog on January 3rd of the year 2017, the NMS-North squad listed their goals for the FIAT Abarth, so now that the season has finished up and the results are posted, let's take a look at how things turned out! Was our crystal ball right on the money, and if so, why doesn't it work for bazillion dollar jackpot lottery tickets? Were the team directors overly optimistic regarding the FIAT driver's abilities, or is that just a silly question for someone driving a FIAT?

Hey, the FIAT works on track too! Carolina Motorsports Park, South Carolina, May 2017

Preseason Goal #1: "Win my class with the Tidewater Sports Car Club."  

--Nailed it! This turned out to be easy mostly because the fast drivers in HS class during 2016 didn't compete in enough events in 2017, so once again, the FIAT took 1st place in a class without other drivers meeting the minimum number of events. But, first place is still first place! I missed two of the nine events myself, but that worked out fine since only the best seven events count. 

Preseason Goal #2:  "Move up from 20th to at least 15th in the overall TSCC PAX points championship." 

--Nailed it!
After November's event, and the end of the season I ended in 10th, so I'm very happy with that placing. Following October's event I was sitting in tenth overall, and guaranteed to finish no worse than 11th! That was better than I had been hoping for, since this club is chock full of fast drivers. To be honest, I think some of them didn't compete in enough events this year since we were limited to a smaller location at Pungo, but, well, you've gotta play the game if you want to win, so I'm not going to worry about things (like other drivers) that are beyond my control. There were almost 200 drivers that competed this year, but again, you've got to enter enough events to score near the top, and only 29 entered enough events to be listed in the final standings. 

Driving in the rain? Just add Gore-Tex!

Preseason Goal #3: "Improve my average points per event from 92.10 to 94.0."  

--Missed it by a hair! According to my math, I averaged 93.92, and since events are timed to the thousandth of a second, maybe I could round that up to 94 and claim victory, but no, I didn't hit 94 per event. Still, missing it by 0.08 of a point is very, very close! Instead of improving the average by 1.90, I only managed to improve by 1.82 points per event.

Preseason Goal # 4. "Upping the average points per event would bump my total points (in the best 7 events) from 644.71 to 658, and from there maybe the top 10 will be in range." 

--Result: Well, this is pretty much based on Goal #3, so since I didn't achieve that one, I didn't quite make this one either. However, with a final score of 657.45, my total is so close to 658 that I'm still feeling good about it. No excuses, but just maybe I could have hit the target if I didn't miss two events this year...AKA: the Coulda-Woulda-Shoulda-Hypothesis-Excuse!

Preseason Goal #5:  "Those are the tough goals; the easier ones will be to drive safely, have fun, and find some other events and track days to drive in too." 

--No doubt, I really had fun, went to a bunch of car shows, Cars and Coffee events, the open house at Moss Motors, toured Fantomworks in Norfolk, drove three autocross events with the Old Dominion Region of the SCCA (27th overall out of 72 drivers), and met goal #5 with room to spare! Safety wise, I kept the car in good shape, upgraded the brake pads with Brian's help, replaced the brake fluid, threw two new tires on it at the start of the season, and always used seat belts and a helmet when competing. It would have been fun to do another autocross down in South Carolina, but I just couldn't squeeze that into the schedule with all the other events, moving, and job searching going on this year. However, I did make it to the state of SC, and during the two day HPDE track day at Carolina Motorsports Park I had a blast and was able to drive 9 sessions on track with an instructor while camping out with Brian and Team Coronautski. Oh, and mostly I learned how bad I am at track driving and what areas (all of them) I need to improve. 

In addition to this year's autocross season, here's my results from all three years with the Tidewater Sports Car Club in Virginia. I'm very happy to have seen some improvement each year, as you can see in the chart below. They say that good public speakers don't read their slides to the audience, so I'll let you read it yourself!

So, how to sum up another year of driving? Never surrender, never quit! Winners never quit and quitters never win? There is only winning, because 2nd place is first loser! Pick one of those, drive safely, and have fun! Here's the link to the final results: TSCC 2017

Saturday, November 25, 2017

How Many Tires Do You Need?

I know what you're thinking, that "I only need 4 tires on my car and I'm good." You might even then say, "Hey wait, let's include a spare tire, so I change my answer to 5." All well and good, four or five makes sense to me. Some folks might add, "Hey wait, I live where it really snows, so I have four snow tires, and four all seasons for the rest of the year, so 8 all together." Fine, 4, 5, 8, whatever.

Then some racer is going to point out that they go through tires like babies go through diapers, so they might have a stack of 8 slicks and 8 rain tires sitting around somewhere, so they win the who-has-the-most-tires competition.

The Formula 1 folks require that everyone uses Pirelli tires, and for each race they provide two different types of wet rain tires, and three different types of slick race tires. For each race, those three slicks are chosen from about 5 different tire compounds ranging from ultra soft all the way to hard. That's how they do it in 2017, but next year, guess what?

MORE tires, more compounds, and more names! According to news announced this week, next year the F1 teams will have a choice of:

  • Superhard--Orange band
  • Hard-Blue band
  • Medium--White band
  • Soft--Yellow band
  • Super Soft--Red band
  • Ultra Soft--Purple band
  • Hyper Soft--Pink band

Now what would be really cool is if they just let every team pick whatever tires they want, instead of the current rule that mandates you HAVE to use 2 specific types of tires. Maybe they'll come up with something creative, so we'll wait for next season to find out.

Here's the link to the Pirelli Formula 1 tires for next year: Pirelli

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Track Time

There are three great chances to get your car on track listed on our Driving Schedule page.

Brian Driving at Charlotte Motor Speedway

 First up, the annual day after Thanksgiving NASCAR teams souvenir blowout sale and charity laps day at Charlotte Motor Speedway. When is the annual day after Thanksgiving event? Good question, because it's THE DAY AFTER THANKSGIVING! We've attended this event several times and always had fun, gave to a good cause, and usually walked away with some real bargains from the NASCAR teams that want to sell off all their inventory at low low prices now that the season has wrapped up.

Big Crowd at VIR Last Year

Next, exactly one week after Charlotte, on December 1st,  is another charity lapping event at Virginia International Raceway, located near Danville Virginia. Unlike the big oval at Charlotte, VIR is a real road track with turns that go BOTH ways, elevation changes, and typically hundreds of cool cars and drivers show up to get on this great track.

Brian on Track at Carolina Motorsports Park
One day after VIR, on December 2nd, there is a fun day of touring laps on the track at Carolina Motorsports Park, which is located north of Camden SC, up close to the North Carolina state line. CMP is a really fun track too, and the chance to just get on track and do some laps in your daily driver doesn't come up very often.

These events are not races, and don't require any special safety gear like helmets, so if you're in the area we hope you check out one or more of them, have fun on track, meet up with more drivers, and stay safe!

We have links to these events with more info over on our Driving Events page.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Happy Thanks for Racing Day!

Tomorrow is our annual NMS "Thanks for Racing Day", which is held the 4th Thursday of every November. While there are millions of people driving their cars every day in the USA, the drivers that are having the most fun are the ones that are competing. By competing, we mean safely driving NOT on a public road. As Junior Brown sings in his song "Highway Patrol",

"If you wanna race then get on a race track!"

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Ferrari Documentary in Theaters: 312B

Advertisement for the Italian release of the film
If you go to movies you might be a fan of the comic book action films like the current Thor, or Justice League. Without starting a big argument over which comics are better between Marvel and DC, let's talk about a new auto related movie!

For race fans only, this documentary tells the story of the Ferrari 312B that was raced in the 1970 F1 season. While today's F1 cars  use hybrid V6 engines, this film features glorious 12 cylinder power, so I'm thinking a soundtrack of about an hour of V12 Italian power would be a pretty good recording to buy for Christmas!

In addition to telling the story of the development of this car back in the day, the film also gets into a more recent effort to race a 312B in a historic race at Monaco, bringing the car and motor back to life. Something tells me this movie won't be as popular as the new Star Wars movie coming out, so be sure to see it in November or December if you can. Here's a link to find out where it's showing:   Movie Link

List of locations and dates: 312B

Friday, November 17, 2017

DMV 1, NMS 0

Speaking of roadblocks!

There are a lot of scary things in the world, but for me, the DMV is way up there in the top ten list of scary things! Thanks to moving every few years for work, I can only claim experience with the motor vehicle people in seven states, but let’s just say they all can be frustrating. OK, frustrating and not really scary, let’s not be overly dramatic about this. Here’s my latest experience.

Move to a new state, read the rules for getting a license and changing the title of my car to get plates in the new state. Read the website that explains the process. Read the list of REQUIRED documents about 10 times. Make a list and physically check off that I have everything before going to the DMV. CALL the DMV and make an appointment. Hey, this state lets you make an appointment, how bad can that be?

Arrive on time, check in, and the checker-inner hands me some forms to fill out. Hmmm, the online information didn’t say anything about filling out a form, here we go. Fill out forms, check in, and get a number. Sit in large waiting room with about 30 service desks, just like the pharmacy it has the automated voices “Now serving, at counter 22, A10, A10.” It was like being at bingo, with so many counters, letters, numbers, announcements, but no one ever shouted BINGO!

Finally get called up to the counter. I present all the documents it said to have on line, so I’m feeling like I’ve got this one nailed. Problem. As proof of residence, I had printed out my bank statement with the new address in this state. The problem is that this isn’t good enough, because it wasn’t MAILED to the new address in this state. I have a pleasant discussion with counter 27 guy, and they are just here to enforce the rules. I point out that NO ONE gets their bank statements in the mail, I don’t get ANY bank statements or bills in the mail. They acknowledge that “this has happened before,” but it doesn’t really help me today now does it?

OK, let’s just stop here and remind ourselves that it’s 2017, and the ideas of a “paperless office” or “paperless billing” or “bank by mail, online, deposit by phone” ARE NOT BRAND NEW!

To be honest, I was applying for the “enhanced” driver’s license that would allow me to fly in an airplane, and to even visit Canada, so I can understand that the government really wants us to prove that we live where we say we live, and that we are who we say we are, etc. I don’t know how this will work when we all have self-driving cars, maybe we won’t need a driver’s license, and we’ll just get those chips implanted in our brains. At least with that I wouldn’t have to stand in line at the DMV.

So, I had to back off from the “enhanced ID” and get a standard driver’s license. That just means that when I change my bank statements to good old fashioned snail-mail that I then have to decide if I still want an enhanced ID, go back to the DMV, show them more paper, pay more money, and get another driver’s license.

On a positive note, I signed up to be an organ donor. I guess they didn’t want any trumpet donors or guitar donors.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Probeable Cause Racing

Three weeks ago, myself and a few other guys pulled together a stack of pennies and bought a 1996 Ford Probe for $500. It had a smashed in windshield, snapped timing belt, and a rough interior.  Jason and Zack swapped in the new timing belt a week ago and got the engine to cough and stumble.  Just enough hope that we planned a work day this Friday to hopefully pull it together for the Sunday rallycross.
The 2.5L Mazda V6 powered Ford Probe GT.
Friday Jason and I picked up a few more small parts while our local Safe Lite guy installed a new windshield.  We added some fresh gas to the tank, adjusted the distributor a little and managed to get the car idling.
Probe maintenance in progress.
Jason got to work buttoning up the engine bay while I went to work on re-assembling the interior.  Amazingly, the sunroof still worked, but the passenger window was bolted into place inside the door and the driver door was only held up by one ball point pen jammed into the track. I found almost all the parts but in the end we opted to zip-tie the glass in place to be a little more secure.
The only thing holding up the whole window. 
Saturday night, Kyle and I spent some time rigging an old Miata battery into the car. The Probe is almost completely rust free, runs and drives, and for $500 is in pretty good shape other than the battery tray was rusted and the bolts to hold it to the body snapped off. Fortunately we found a block of wood and more zip-ties to secure it down and then loaded the car on the trailer.

Wood. What Can't it do?
Sunday morning we arrived at the rallycross and immediately got to work replacing the fuel filter, re-set the timing and put some numbers on the car. Kyle and I were first off the line and immediately had an issue with the car completely bogging down on the turns.

Ready to take on the dirt!

 Taking a guess that the 1/4 tank of gas wasn't enough to keep the fuel pump happy, we ran to the gas station and made it back to finish all of our runs, now with mostly full power. Jason also noticed it was only running on 5 of the 6 cylinders, found the one spark plug wire that was disconnected, plugged it in, and it was off and running for the whole rest of the day without issue.
Kyle floors it through the muddy starting line on Sunday.
At the end of the day, the car held up tremendously well. Jason took first in our class, Kyle took third (due to our lack of power in the morning), and I again missed a few gates on course but did managed to barely cone away the fastest raw time run of the group.
Racking up the trophies already!
With the dark tinted windows, no license plate (yet), and a shady-looking paint job, we all think it looks like a drug dealer's car.  Welcome to Probeable Cause Racing. We'll have it back out at Myrtle Beach with SCR-SCCA on December 2nd to wrap up the 2017 autocross season!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Fun Filled Job Applications

An FCA product I drive

While doing some job searching earlier this year, I had applied for some jobs just on the odd chance that they'd hire me to do something I really love doing, such as driving or working for a Formula 1 team. Things went a different way and my real job is not in racing or driving or car related at all, but I just had to share this latest bit of news from one of my applications.

The job was as a temporary endurance test driver at the FIAT Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) test track in Michigan. From the job description they needed someone who could drive cars or trucks, on a test track, all day long. I can imagine that before any new vehicle is put into production gets a lot of computer simulation testing, and then a lot of real world testing to make sure it operates as intended. On top of basic functioning, I imagine the auto makers would want to test their vehicles on real roads, in real weather, and find out how they hold up on more than just a lame 2 mile test drive around the factory. 

From what I remember about the job posting, the ideal employee would have to be able to drive standard and automatic transmissions, up to 8 hours a day, as well as perform basic car care such as filling it with gas and checking the tire pressures, oil pressures, and other fluid levels. Hey, that's stuff I do every day anyway, so why not get paid to do it! Just so you know, I applied for this position on June 13th, so if you're applying for a job that you need tomorrow, you might want to plan a bit more in advance for most gigs!

Long story short, this did not turn out to be my dream job. Here's today's rejection letter, many months later. Oh well, maybe next time!

Dear Robert,
Thank you for taking the time to consider opportunities with FCA.  Your interest in FCA as a potential employer is appreciated. The Temporary Endurance Driver in Chelsea, Michigan that you applied for is no longer available. We will, however, maintain your application in our database in the event that a future opening matches your qualifications. Please click here to review any new openings that may be of interest to you as opportunities change frequently.

FCA Talent Acquisition

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Grand Tour (AKA: Top Gear ) Guys Return!

Yes, there are lots of TV, Internet, streaming, and other media ways to watch car shows, but the BEST way is if it includes these three particular blokes: Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson, and "Captain Slow" James May. You know, the guys from the old British Top Gear show, now on Amazon Prime as The Grand Tour. Last year was the first season of this new format, so it's going to be great to have them return in Season 2, starting December 8th.

Other than general silliness all focused on automobiles, well, mostly about automobiles, the show tends to feature high performance exotics, as well as ridiculously cheap cars. Spanning the globe as it were, they'll cover popular cars and things we've never even heard of or imagined.

One change to this season is that "The American" recurring bit will not return. If you've seen the old Top Gear shows you know they had an unknown driver dressed in white who never spoke, known only as "The Stig." There seems to be some legal requirement that any show other than Top Gear can't have a silent, white clad, fast driver character without violating some trademark, so the Grand Tour last year came up with an obnoxious stereo-typical American type that was brash and bold and drove quickly. The concept was OK, but it was the weakest part of the show, so maybe this year we'll get some other character to drive cars quickly!

You can watch the season 2 trailer now on Amazon Prime or on their YouTube channel at YouTube

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

NMS-North Places 7-11?

Top Two Drivers: Jason Lisner and Stephen Fehr

What's this 7-11 thing all about? Is it 7-11 the convenience store? Are those the operating hours at my favorite BBQ joint? No, 7-11 will be my final place in the standings for autocross in 2017.

In a nutshell, this shows the current standings for the top drivers in the TSCC autocross championship. The monthly events started in March, and there will be one more event on November 19th to wrap it up. The club awards the TOP TEN every year, so there is a chance that I'll make it even though I won't be driving the last event. Here's how:

Tidewater Sports Car Club Current Standings, Top Eleven Places

The GREEN column shows the current top SIX events points standings. Somehow I'm up to 10th so that's very cool! You can see it's very close from 9-11 too!

The BLUE column shows points for ALL events so far, but since only the top SEVEN events will count, these numbers don't mean a lot until you project how everyone will do at the last event coming up on November 19th.

I won't be in Virginia to drive, and apparently my remotely controlled robot Lamborghini would be "illegal" to enter, so I can say my final best SEVEN will be the blue number. From there it's possible to calculate the best and worst that the other drivers will do on the last event, ranging from 0 for not competing to 100 for being the fastest. With the top ten though, they're all averaging in the 90s per event.

Bad news for me, one of those fast drivers that can score 100, (and has done it before), is Tony right behind me, so he will drive fast and pass me up, which will drop me to 11th. That's still really good since I was shooting for top 15, and he's faster than me anyway too!

Other than that, if someone ahead of me has a bad day or doesn't compete, I'll move back up to the top ten (with my blue number score). Yes, this can be kind of confusing, but once you understand it, I think it's a great way to run a club championship, since it allows ALL drivers in all the many classes to compete. The NMS team has driven with several different clubs, and I like how the TSCC does it best.

Those drivers ahead of me that have missed two events are so far ahead that they will easily tack on enough points to beat my "blue" score in November, so it wouldn't be so nice to wish they missed the last event just so I could beat them. Either way, I suppose the big NASCAR and IndyCar teams will want to be calling me up to offer a contract soon, so I better stop right here and let you go!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Good Bye Stock/Street Class

My goal for 2018 is to spend more time on track with the Miata and the Coronet. To do that, I'd like to add more safety modifications to the Miata, which will bump me out of street class.  Well heck, if I'm out of street class might as well add some go-fast parts too, right?

I removed the factory wheel, careful not to detonate the airbag. Remember, that IS an explosive device on your steering wheel.

With safety gear, you need to consider all of the components as a system and not just individual pieces.  The factory seats and standard three point seat belts work together with the airbag to create a safety system that is both effective and comfortable and convenient enough for street driving.  Altering just one piece of that configuration is compromising the whole system so I need to address everything together. 

All installed, here's the new view from the driver's seat. 
The seat belts will be replaced with six-point harnesses to keep my body firmly glued to the seat at all times.  The HANS device works with the harness to prevent my neck from over-extending and significantly reduces whip-lash. With the full harness, my head won't risk impact with the wheel, making the air bag more dangerous than helpful, so the new wheel is added to remove the explosive charge and make entry and exit easier.  New seats will be installed to more securely hold me in place laterally, drop me lower in the car (safe clearance under the rollbar and hardtop), and also are designed to accommodate the ideal geometry for the harness.
Pull on the NRG collar tabs attached to the wheel to release it from the car. Firmly push it back on to snap and lock it into position.

In the next few weeks the seats and harnesses will arrive.  I'll take everything down to Panic Motorsports and let their years of experience install and fit everything properly. More to come this month with those performance mods too! November is going to be busy. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

NMS-North Unveils New York HQ

77HS Magnets, Now Living in New York

Somewhere on the outskirts of Gotham City, the FIAT "Bat-Cave" was recently established as the new HQ for NMS-North. For the first time, here are some exclusive photos of the downsized garage.
Getting to live in different places all the time makes you appreciate even having a garage in the first place, much less one that is big enough for all your stuff! NMS had the luxury of a two car garage in SC and VA, but the new garage appears to be about 50% smaller than two cars!

Look for further developments at NMS-North over the winter, as we target competing with the Long Island Autocrossers and further adventures in driving in 2018.

Current "1 Car Garage" Without 1 Car