Sunday, April 29, 2018

New York Region Autocross Results

Lotus launches at the start

Sunday was my first event with the NY Region, and I had a blast! Driving the FIAT for the first time with the new shocks, new springs, and brand new Bridgestone tires, it felt very solid and seemed to handle better than before. On top of that, the other good news is that all the drivers got 8 runs, with 4 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon. Compared to events where you only get 4 runs at setting your fastest time, it's always fun to drive MORE!

Hey, let's look at the video: 

The morning drive out to Splish Splash water park on Long Island was wet, with rain all the way out there and even when we started driving. The first four runs were slippery, but from my driver's seat I think it helped the Abarth rotate and get around the two approximately 180 degree turns out on the course. Unlike driving on a big oval like in NASCAR, the typical autocross course doesn't have nice big banked turns to help you just go at top speed all the time, and we actually have to use what scientists call the "brake" pedal, and negotiate both left and right turns. That's what makes it fun, and allows us lower horsepower cars to compete with the big guns.

All the Italian Cars

So, since it's all about the competition, how did it go? Well, according to the results on line RESULTS, it was a pretty good day for the FIAT, so let's break it down, starting with my favorite made up category.....

Once again, the NMS FIAT has taken FASTEST ITALIAN CAR OF THE DAY! As you might know, there aren't a LOT of Italian cars competing, so this title doesn't really mean anything, other than I did finish a bit faster than the only other Italian car today, which was another FIAT Abarth. We got together and compared notes on tires and springs on our cars, so that was another highlight of the day, getting to meet other drivers and talk cars!

Course Walk: Fun in the Rain

OK, in the "real" competition, let's look at plain old Who Went The Fastest. Out of a total of 63 cars that competed, the FIAT placed 19th, which just might be a record for me. Typically I'm doing fine if I'm even in the top 50%, so hitting top 70% is a good day in a 160hp FIAT.

If we modify everyone's time by what class they are in, or the PAX Time, then the NMS car moves up to 13th out of 63, which again is pretty good for yours truly. Of course that's not first, or even top ten, so don't get carried away or anything, but I am willing to listen to offers from pro race teams that might want to give me millions of dollars. Or even thousands. Heck a pizza and a beer and I'll drive for you!

After 6 months, back behind the wheel

Now, down in the multiple classes that make up Street Touring in the SCCA, today's drive put NMS into 4th out of 14 drivers, so for a car in a brand new region, new category, and new components on the car, on a half wet day, 4th is cool with me!

Finally, down at the tiny level of Street Touring Hot Hatchbacks, or STH, today saw the FIAT in 2nd out of 5 cars, just 0.196 behind a Ford Fiesta ST in the battle for fastest STH.


Other than all those numbers, it was plain old fun to drive the car as hard as possible, even on a tiny cone strewn parking lot for about 25 seconds at a time, and I can't wait to do it again in two weeks.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Autocross Eve

Here it is, Autocross Eve, for the first time in 2018, and I can't wait for tomorrow!
In my Street Touring Hot-Hatch class, here's a look at the cars signed up in advance, although there will most likely be more drivers show up tomorrow to compete. Our NMS technical analysis reveals that the USA, Germany, and Italy are all represented by one car each, while Japan dominates the field with four entries out of the seven. Maybe that would help in the Olympics or the Tour de France, but autocross is each driver totally on their own.  FORZA ITALIA!

34 Street Touring Hot Hatch       Ford Fiesta ST
111 Street Touring Roadster             
      Mazda Miata
198 Street Touring Hot Hatch       VW Beetle 1.8t
374 Street Touring Hot Hatch   Placeholder Avatar
      FIAT 500 Abarth
378 Street Touring Sport       Mazda Miata
437 Street Touring Roadster Placeholder Avatar
      Mazda Miata
912 Street Touring Roadster Placeholder Avatar
      Mazda Miata

The Street Touring category has several classes that will be all lumped together tomorrow and during the year in the New York Region. Hot Hatch, Roadster, and Sport could be run as three separate classes, but as you can see that would leave some classes with only one car in them, so it makes sense to combine all Street Touring classes into one.
This is a new class for the SCCA this year, so who knows how this will turn out. Mostly I notice four Miatas in the class, so even though they range from 1991-2016, well, they will be tough competition! The Ford Fiesta ST is always a tough car to beat in autocross, and I don't know much about the 1.8 liter turbo VW Beetle, but it's got a bigger motor, so we'll find out tomorrow!

In the Hot Hatch class, modifications can include some tweaks to the engine computer, so this is likely to be my weak area, since my FIAT is stock as far as engine mods goes. All it takes is more money to buy an engine tune, so send those dollars and nickels in to NMS now!

Seriously, the competition is more dependent on the drivers than the cars at this point, since we're all in similar cars, although it is interesting to note the rear wheel drive cars (Miatas) vs the front wheelers (the rest of us). If tomorrow's course is as small as last week's event at the same location, each run will only be around 24 seconds, so I'm thinking that driver skill will dominate instead of raw horsepower. 

I've got the car packed up for tomorrow, so other than getting some painter's tape to put #374 on my car, packing a pbj sandwich, and getting some sleep, I'm all set. The new number with this club means I've had to remove the trusty #77 from my autocross magnets, so maybe a new set of permanent numbers for the Abarth are in order. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

FIAT Abarth Upgrades to STH Class

Thanks to El Gato Engineering for Shocks and Springs Installation

No, STH is not some Star Wars code for the evil Sith, it stands for the Sports Car Club of America Street Touring Hatch class of autocross. This is a new class for 2018, so with this weekend's upgrades to lowering springs and Koni adjustable shocks, the Abarth moves from H Street to STH. With the move to the New York Region of the SCCA it will be a whole new ball game this year, but I'm looking forward to meeting some new drivers and getting back out on the autocross circuit next weekend.

Front Koni shock and new Madness spring installed

When we last left the NMS Abarth, it had wrapped up the 2017 HS title and a best-ever 10th overall with the Tidewater Sports Car Club in Virginia last October. Now six months later we're about to crank it up again in competition. In addition to the suspension improvements, the NMS North mechanics will be adding new spark plugs to the awesome 1.4 liter FIAT motor (built in DETROIT USA), and swapping old used Bridgestone tires for a brand new set of Potenza 71Rs for the new season. Believe it or not, I managed to fit the four wheels with old tires, AND the four new tires into the Abarth and still was able to drive it. Getting into reverse on the way to the tire shop wasn't easy, but it was possible! That should make autocrossing without 8 tires inside the car very simple! We should have clear skies and highs near 60 on Sunday, so let's go driving!

Rear Koni shock and Madness spring

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Want to Drive the BMW 530e iPerformance?

Brian in the BMW 135i at BMW Factory South Carolina

Those wacky German automakers from Bavaria are making an offer you can't refuse! For the price of exactly FREE, you can sign up now to drive at one of their Ultimate Driving Experience days in a few locations in the US, and get to drive some of their cars. I just signed up for the May 20th event at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. That should add up to a couple hours with a bit of instruction and a chance to set a time on their autocross course. Of course it's a competition, so if I can somehow magically go faster than everyone else, there will be some kind of prize. Hey, the worst thing that could happen is that I'm the slowest BMW driver ever, don't win a prize, and have to "settle" for only a fun filled day driving BMWs! Sounds like a winner!

The NMS experience with BMW has always been good, and includes Brian's review of an X5 SUV a year or so ago that he rented and drove for a week. On another occasion we both got to drive the BMW 1 series on their test track in South Carolina, so we both are fans of the brand. Not that we've ever bought one, but BMW does have a great reputation.

Brian at the South Carolina BMW Factory

According to the event website BMW   I'll be getting to drive the 530e iPerformance car that has a twin turbo gas engine AND an electric motor, and also the new X2 SUV, so just getting to try out some new wheels sounds like a good deal to me! Competition wise, I've only got a few years of autocross experience, so in addition to that I'll throw in my 1st place in one of the FIAT driving competitions when I got to drive at the Abarth Experience at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet IL. Who knows, I've never driven in any competition events (other than the NJ Turnpike!) in NJ, so maybe there's another victory coming soon.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

NMS Enters Formula 1

Starting Line in China, GO!

Yes, we kid about this all the time, but this time I'm serious! Really, driving in Formula 1! I entered an official Formula 1 race and competed in China last weekend. Guess what, I didn't have any jet-lag at all either!

Well, it's not the Formula 1 where you drive REAL cars, because this is the Formula 1 eSports on-line racing! This racing series started last year, and as you might guess all the best drivers were about 18 years old, from all around the world, and they certainly can drive circles around me on a video game! So, the other day I registered on line, and then last weekend I was racing as Valterri Bottas using the official Formula 1 racing game from Codemasters. This company has sold the official PC/XBox/Nintendo F1 game for many years, so lucky for me I already knew how to play.

This first racing qualifying round recreates last year's China Grand Prix, and with only six laps to go you have to pilot Bottas' Mercedes from 6th place up to at least 3rd place to finish on the podium. From the thousands of gamers around the world that will do that easily, the next round of competition will narrow it down to the top 3 in each of the formats.  For me that's on the PC version of the game.
For the fastest racers, they will eventually be flying off to some of the real F1 races for the final round of competition, complete with steering wheels and gas/brake pedals all hooked into the computer as they race head to head.
Tricky Nest to Last Corner in China.

In my first try at the race, I banged into Kimi Raikkonen and struggled to stay on track with a badly damaged front wing, so that attempt was a failure! Luckily on line, you just push a button or two and you get to try again! After that I played it safe and managed to move up to finish the race in 2nd place, after passing Vettel's Ferrari on the last lap! Sorry Mr. 4 Time World Champion, I beat you!

Now you're probably wondering how far up the leader board I am so far! Well, at the end of this qualifying round, I'm clean up to 1,373rd place! That's not QUITE into the top 3, but at least I'm ahead of some other drivers, since there are a total of 2,183 drivers that set times!

Not so great maybe, but I like to look at the positive side and say that somehow I finished ahead of 810 teenagers!

That's me on the left as Bottas in 2nd place!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Up to Speed at Charlotte Motor Speedway

The sun sets on the 2018 SCR autocross co-drivers' cars.
This year's round of SCCA's Track Night in America Program is in swing and I took the Miata up to Charlotte Motor Speedway with a bunch of the usual suspects to get a taste of the high banking and the roval.  Yep, the roval is the road course within the speedway that mixes road course left and right hand turns with the main oval track.
CMS corner worker looks on as the #86 goes by.

Charlotte has definitely been the most difficult track I've driven.  Concrete walls closely line the track at almost all points and with the long straights and banking, the Miata was close to topping out fifth gear.  The big banked turns were far from smooth and there were a couple of rough sections that wanted to pull the car right toward the walls.
Jason makes the pass easily with his modified 350Z.

The guys and I kept calm, kept looking ahead, stayed smooth and avoided any trouble. There was a good number of higher powered cars (Corvettes, Porsches, BMW M3s, Oh my), but I managed to keep up with them and sometimes go quicker than them in the twisty bits until they could unleash their power around the NASCAR oval section. My brief glances down showed a sustained 112mph through those banked turns.
Each lap I pushed closer to the wall to gain a slight aerodynamic advantage and pick up a few more miles per hour down the long back straight-away.

As always, I'm sure I could have driven a little quicker, but the best part of my evening was a brand new Corvette flying past me on the back straight. As we entered the banked turn 3 and 4 he was on the brakes and the yellow blur on my right side slowly slipped back behind me again as I kept my right foot planted on the gas pedal.  The new tires and wheels on the Miata did a fantastic job and allowed the lightweight Mazda out-grip even the power cars on those super-fast high speed turns.
Quick glamour shot with the new wheels and tires.

Below are my two quickest laps of the evening as a Porsche 911 slowly creeps away from me and the v8 BMW M3 can't quite outrun me. It was a TON of fun, as always.  Track Night in America is an awesome, no pressure, totally-fun way to get on a racetrack and drive as quickly as you'd like and feel like an F1 superstar. Check 'em out HERE.

MASSIVE Thank You to Alec for hanging out with the guys again and taking all of these awesome shots!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

New York International Auto Show Part 3

Lamborghini Miura SV

In our final post about the New York International Auto Show for 2018, we have a bunch of everything from race cars to oddball sights along the way. NMS enjoyed the show and plan to return next year for more automotive goodness in the Big Apple. Before getting to the really cool stuff, I have to show you this CAMRY banner: 

I own a Camry, and admire it for being very dependable, a perennial top seller in the US, and a big money maker for the  fine folks at Toyota. HOWEVER, their continued ad campaigns to sell the Camry as a THRILL RIDE continues to make  me laugh! A few years ago one of their TV ads talked about the fun you'd have in your Camry and showed a family riding a Camry on a roller coaster track. As I stated previously, it makes me LAUGH. 
Race prepped Mazda Miata, courtesy of the Monticello
Motor Club. If you need a place to store or drive your high speed
auto, Google Monticello Motor Club. 

The Formula E folks had this car on display, and they will be back
in Brooklyn this summer for another race weekend. This will be the
2nd year in a row in New York, and this one will be the season finale.
These all electric cars could be a vision of race cars in the future. 

You just never know who you will meet in NYC. Elvis is still a big guy, 
but he didn't say much!

The new Skip Barber racing school guys were back! We met them
at the Philly car show during Superbowl weekend, so it was nice to
see them up in NY also. 

In addition to the new cars, there was an exhibit of older cars courtesy of the
Saratoga Auto Museum. This is a 1931 Duesenberg Model J, custom Tourster

body by Derham. 

1938 Bugatti type 57C Stelvio Cabriolet by Gangloff
in the two toned foreground. The letter "C" means compresseur, or supercharger.
and a 1931 Stutz DV-32 (32 valves, straight 8 cylinders) Convertible Victoria by LeBaron 
in the background.

Detail of the Stutz rear view mirror strapped on to the spare
tire. This car was a winner winner in its category at the Pebble Beach 

Concours and top three overall in 2016.

Here's one you don't see every day, a 1967 Bizzarrini P538 Racer.
In case you are not familiar with Giotto Bizzarrini, he designed a little
thing for Enzo Ferrari called the 250 GTO Berlinetta, and a V12 engine for 
Lamborghini, among other auto accomplishments. 

This is a slightly modified Indy Car, which you can tell it's modified
by the extra passenger seat! The Honda folks run a contest for the Indy
races and a lucky winner gets to ride along on the formation lap!

And here is a real Indy Car racer, which was driven and is currently owned
by a certain Mr.Mario Andretti. This is his 1994 Lola/Cosworth, given to 
Mario by the team owners, Paul Newman and Carl Haas. This car ran at
over 850hp on a 40 gallon methanol fuel tank. 

This awesome green looks great on a Lamborghini Miura SV.
The Miura SV came along from 1971-1973, and at auction today
would likely sell for around 2. Million. Dollars. Each.  

In the Ford exhibit space we spotted this Lego racer guy. 
Not to be outdone by a Ford Lego guy, the Chevy people had this
50th Anniversary Camaro as a special Hot Wheels edition! This 

special version of the Camaro comes in any color you want, as long
as it's ORANGE. 

From looking at the Chevrolet website, it looks like
the HOT WHEELS edition is a $4995 package you can add to 
the standard Camaro. There are a lot of models of Camaro, so see your
Chevy dealer for more info.

Subaru is celebrating their 60th year, and 50 years in the USA. That makes
them only 10 years younger than Porsche, who also pointed out their 

70th anniversary in their exhibit. According to my math, that makes 
Ferrari 1 year older than Porsche. 

One of the Honda cars on display had the hood up, so we spotted this
"Earth Dreams" tag on the engine cover.This is their term for new technology

to be used in engines to result in better mileage, performance, and lower 
emissions. Mazda calls their engines SkyActive, and Ford names theirs
EcoBoost, so pick your name! 

Maybe you'd like to see another Indy Car? How a race winning one?
How about the most recent Indy 500 winning car in person?

The 2017 Indy 500 winning car!
The Honda motor uses a V6 twin-turbo, and delivers up to 750hp at 12,000 RPMs!

Front wing detail. Lots of awesome work goes into these carbon fiber
aerodynamic cars built by Dallara. 

How to win at Indy. 

We spotted a display from Rutgers University, and from talking
to one of the students, they build race cars at Rutgers! 

That is the end of the auto show, but then a block away we spotted
this huge fleet of NYPD vehicles. 

Maybe there are acres and acres of parking where you live, but in Manhattan,
they use these lifts to park more cars (and make more money) in the limited
space available. I assume the sign is not a joke, and that it would have cost
70 BUCKS to park your car there for the auto show. I rode the train, so that
only set me back about 14 dollars, plus I didn't have to pay another
11 bucks or so in tolls to drive into Manhattan. Regardless of the cost, the NMS
team will continue to update you on all kinds of car events and happenings wherever we go!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

California Surfin'

Just another Ferrari on the I-5

The entire NMS team got together recently in California for a big family get-together, and while we didn't make it to Laguna Seca, the Porsche Driving Experience, or any other automotive destinations, we sure had fun and spotted a lot of cars along the way. While we only saw a couple of Ferraris on the road, we know that there are more out on the West Coast than in most parts of the world.

As far as driving goes, I'm going to have to state that the average driver in California is way more polite and laid back than the average driver I've seen on Long Island. Maybe it's the nicer weather, or because it was Easter and April Fool's weekend, but overall the driving was easy! And speaking of driving, we had rented a Nissan Rogue for the trip, and found it to be a nice size SUV for 5 adults, and it easily got us where we needed to go and hauled all our luggage for the weekend as well.

Nissan Rogue

My experience at Dollar rental car was OK, and at the San Diego airport they run your paper work and then tell you where the cars are, and you just pick the one you want. Given a choice of white, silver, and gray SUVs, naturally we picked the blue one seen here! While it didn't handle exactly like my little FIAT, it worked fine. One thing we like in San Diego is that all the rental cars are located in one huge parking garage that is a short shuttle bus away from the terminals.