Sunday, October 27, 2019


Shiny new rotor, with new pads!
Stops great now!
One of the most frequently spoken instructions that I've heard from instructors, as I'm driving and approaching a corner, is a little "tip" on how to best prepare to turn in and hit the apex is a little phrase of "BRAKE BRAKE BRAKE!" When someone tells you the same thing THREE TIMES in a row, it's a good idea to follow their "tip" and hit those brakes! Hey, I just thought of a new tip, how about "BRAKES avoids BREAKS!" Oh never mind, I'll keep my day job and let the professionals stick to the comedy.
New pads down below
ancient no good stupid driver worn out pad in hand
I'm an idiot

Anyway, my main point is that maintenance on your automobile is very important, and I made a big mistake by not changing my brake pads before the latest weekend driving on a track. No, they didn't fail, and I didn't "break" anything or crash, but when I changed brake pads later, it was clearly past due time. There was very little brake pad material left, and I'll be more alert to checking things and replacing worn brakes in the future.

Even on your every day car, sure, no one likes spending more money than they have to, but, when it comes to tires and brakes to remain SAFE, you really do need to spend the money. Luckily the average car built today will last a long time on it's original brakes, and most fluids, so it's too easy to be lazy and ignore your maintenance. A lot of new cars (if you buy those) will come with maintenance included, so you really should take advantage of those offers if you have them. For the rest of us, take a visual look at your tires and brake pads once in a while, check that tire pressure, look at the fluid levels under the hood, and you're more likely to catch things before you BREAK something or even worse end up getting hurt.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

How Do You Get To Formula 1?

The answer to this question is amazingly like asking a musician, "how do you get to Carnegie Hall?" The answer is: "Practice, practice, practice!"

For the NMS team, we're going to get to F1 by flying to Austin TX (on Halloween no less), buying tickets for the 3 days of practice, qualifying, and race day, then throwing in a hotel, rental car, eating some ("some" is defined as "a lot of...") BBQ and Tex-Mex, and enjoy the race! Shoot, we might even run into some old friends in the area, you just never know what might happen in Texas!

You might find this hard to believe, but apparently there are people that are NOT really interested in auto racing, or even Formula 1. Since this seems ridiculous to me, I'll grant that it's just possible, because the race folks in Austin are also throwing some concerts into the race weekend, probably in an effort to get every single person in the state of Texas out to the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) at some time during the weekend. After Fridays practices, Imagine Dragons is playing. Saturday night when the cars stop, then P!NK will perform. And, just added but not even on the tickets, following the race on Sunday, you old-timers from way back in the 1980s will want to stick around to CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES with Kool and the Gang! Not just Kool...Not just THE GANG, but Kool AND the Gang!

Like any great trip, we've planned on a few extras to make the spectating more fun. Binoculars, ear-plugs, F1 and COTA apps to keep up to date on info, and of course a phone and charger to take plenty of photos. 

Now to answer the question in the title of this post, you could get to F1 any number of ways. Maybe you're super rich, or own a gigantic automobile company or your own F1 racing team. I'd have to wager that if you OWN the team, they'd let you tag along and watch the races. If Piero Ferrari gets to see some races (and I've seen him at the track on TV anyway), then you can do it too! It's an easy 2 step process.  First, you buy a team, and second, you go to the races! As Woody Harrelson says in Zombieland 2: "You're welcome America!"

Another way to get to F1 is to work there. Maybe you could be a car designer, one of the mechanics, or the chef that feeds an entire team of hard workers at the track. For more info on this method, I'd recommend you read Steve Matchett's  book The Mechanic's Tale, wherein he tells how he did just this, as a mechanic. Any other book by an F1 driver would also give you some insights, and there's a ton of them!

Anyway, there's lots of ways to get to F1, and while it would NICE to get there as a driver, we're looking forward to being fans in the very near future! If you're looking for tickets to an F1 race, or more info on the subject, just hit their official website: FORMULA 1

Monday, October 21, 2019

Quick McLaren Overdose

McLaren 720S. Orange for October!
What brand of car is named for their founder, still races in Formula 1, and builds awesome road cars? I hope you guessed McLaren, because here we go, on a super short visit to Sports Cars of Long Island. Also, I hope you are bored of black, white, and silver cars! In the McLaren world I believe they call their shade of orange "papaya." Bruce was a famous racer and builder of cars, and he won 4 races in F1, as well as at LeMans, and his team won the Can Am series 5 times with Bruce as the winning driver twice. In their history the McLaren F1 team has taken 8 constructor (3rd most all time) and 12 driver titles.

For the 1988 season, the McLaren F1 team had two great drivers, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna. While Senna won his first of three world titles that year, what was more impressive was that the car that they both drove, the McLaren MP4/4 won 15 of the 16 races, making it the most successful F1 car ever. Senna would end up with 3 titles total, and Prost with 4, but 1988 the big story was the car.

More recently, you can pick up the latest issue of Car and Driver magazine to read about their annual test of cars on the great track at Virginia International Raceway, or VIR. They've tested a lot of cars, trucks, and SUVs at this track over the past 13 years, and this year found a new record setter, the McLaren Senna model. Don't take my word for it, go check out Car and Driver today! And please go check out VIR if you're anywhere near south central Virginia.

OK, so it's not a McLaren. Aston Martin!

It's a used Aston Martin, still only $135,888. 

Inside the showroom, maybe this is the new McLaren GT?

OK then, all McLarens aren't Orange. 

It's like a bag of M&Ms, orange, red, yellow cars!

Slightly less M&M color, blue/aqua. 

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Cars AND Coffee

How about an orange Acura, just in time for Halloween!
OK, if it starts with the letter "C", then it's probably OK. Unless it's not OK. But, some things that start with C are good. Let's take a quick trip to our local Acura dealer, Rallye Acura and spot a few Acuras, and some customer's cars from earlier today. Yes, they had coffee too, but I've failed to take any photos of the beverage part of the day.

Let's start with the coolest Acura car of all, the NSX! Here you can see them in orange, silver, black, and an older previous model NSX in red. Whew!

You might not want to buy this car for the cup holders alone. 

This NSX had some custom graphics. 

The original model Acura NSX. Still a cool car today!

Whoa, a second one in ORANGE. 

Black and Red, New and Old. 

Now let's see what else was on site today. The dealership has their own Nitrogen filling pump, saves you weight and loss of Oxygen from your tires. They also operate at least a Mercedes and a BMW dealership.

 Back to the NSX for a moment, here's the rear spoiler of the new black one, parked next to the red older model. I'm pretty sure the newer car goes faster, even with a smaller wing on the back!

Also available, try a few swings in the inflatable simulator with a golf pro to give you a few tips, courtesy of Golf Pro Delivered.

I didn't check out any sticker prices, but saw this notice if you're interested in leasing an NSX, $2179 per month. 

Other cars on display, how about an original 1971 Buick Riviera! I'd never seen or noticed these vents on the trunk. 

Your choice of yellow cars, Corvette or the Hellcat. 

And then another Italian showed up, an Alfa Romeo 4C. This car has a carbon fiber tub main body. 

Monday, October 14, 2019

Watkins Glen: Been There, Drove That!


Yee Haw! We shore had a great time riding the range and runnin' with the bulls at Watkins Glen over the weekend. Maybe I should describe everything in detail from start to finish about how much fun it was to drive on a historic track! Naah, here's the highlights:


NASA, and specifically NASA Northeast does a great job with getting you started on track with an instructor in your car, helping you negotiate the bazillion things you are doing as you drive, brake, release, shift, steer, accelerate, look ahead, heel-toe, check the flag workers stand, look in the mirror, point by the fast guy behind, brake, steer, gas, and much more. And that's just one corner out of 11 in one lap.


The track. If you are a motor head and know about places like Indianapolis, COTA, VIR, Lime Rock, Mid-Ohio, and a lot more, you definitely have heard of Watkins Glen, and likely watched a race from there, either F1, NASCAR, or Indy Cars. NASCAR did the Glen this year, Indy last raced there in 2017. To get to drive on the same track in your own car? F.U.N.


Safety: always important. Every one wears a helmet, and the racers have all the safety gear in their track cars from HANS devices, fire suits, harness systems, roll bars, etc. Better to have and not need, than not have it when you do need it. In the Driver Education (DE) groups, an added safety feature is that before you pass another vehicle, you must receive a point-by from the lead driver. Knowing what the "other guy" is going to do is critical to safety. Hey, just imagine if you KNEW what everyone was doing on the Interstate, if nothing else it would be safer than guessing, like we all do now.


My mighty FIAT Abarth hit 70,000 miles on the way to the track, and I have to admit I had an issue. My wheels with summer tires had a problem, so after experiencing front end wobble between 50-80mph, we pulled one of the wheels, and my instructor Kyle spotted that the wheel itself was no longer what scientists refer to as "round". Yes, ever since the invention of the wheel, one of the key attributes of the "wheel" is that it really needs to be "round." Likely I hit a pothole somewhere, but bottom line, it was toast. I took off all 4 of those, and threw on my regular daily driver wheels/tires, and the wobble went away. So, I managed to stay on track and drive the rest of the weekend. Sure, on slightly less better tires, but I still had fun and was much safer.



The track part II: ELEVATION! In my limited experience on a small number of tracks, most of them were flat, so the Watkins Glen elevation changes, in the corners, was a blast. Makes driving more challenging, but who wants to just drive in a flat circle? Well, OK, some people do, but turning both ways, up and down, on a road course is fun even in a slow car!



How fast/slow? Sorry I don't have any track data devices, so I can say a quick glance at the speedometer on the long straights I saw 103mph. The going fast in a straight line is easy, it's the braking, lifting, steering and going into the next corner where you have to up your game. My car has upgraded brake pads and fluid, so it held up to the weekend. Time to check everything out again,and judging by the sounds my car is now making, it might be time for new pads and rotors. And brake fluid. And a replacement set of good wheels. With good tires. Besides counting the dollar signs, did I mention how much fun this was? A LOT!


Watkins Glen. Besides the driving, it's a scenic part of the world, and there were some good places to eat in town. They even have checkered flag crosswalks in case you forget where you are! Our motel had a great collection of famous racer photos of world champs (Jackie Stewart, Jack Brabham, Graham Hill) and others that had stayed there. F1 hit town from about 1960-1980, so it was an extra charge to be driving where those greats have been, and NASCAR had been just a few weeks before.



The Cars. There were a LOT of cars, so the atmosphere at a track weekend is kind of part car show if you're a motor geek like me. Ferrari, Corvettes, spec racers, BMWs, Miatas, Vipers, Alfa, Lotus, etc. Plenty of nice tow rigs and motor homes too. Maybe driving is not the cheapest hobby, but a lot of people were there giving it a go! At one similar event we were reminded that "nothing you do today will increase the value of your car," and that is true! The NASA Northeast chief Joe Casella reminded us to take our cars home the way we brought them, as in "don't crash." Great advice!


Other drivers. The other drivers were in HPDE groups 2, 3 (like Brian and John), 4 (like my instructor Kyle), an Instructor group, and then there were the Time Trial races, and the multiple racers broken up into the Lightening and Thunder groups, with each group being made up of various classes of racers. Each group got a good amount of driving time, like my groups 8 sessions on track during the two days. Friday was another option, and the die hard drivers like  John drove all three days!


The weather. These events go rain or shine, and we had a lot of shine, with just a few rain drops. That might have made things a bit trickier, but driving in the rain is an important skill to practice also. In fact, maybe you've seen the recent movie in theaters, The Art of Racing in the Rain. To be honest, it has a lot of story involving the driver and his family and life-events going on, so it's not totally about racing, just so you know! We'll call it 80% chick flick and leave it at that. 


Flags. Driving is all about communication. On the one hand, my instructor Kyle was communicating a LOT to me, helping me learn what to do and what not to do. Then there is the communication that I'm terrible at, which is reading or hearing what the car, tires, brakes, and road is telling me. If I could read that communication better, just maybe I'd be a better driver. Also important on track is the communication from the course workers, like with their flags. Checkered flag=finish, that's easy. Yellow flag=caution ahead, no passing. There are other flags, and unfortunately there was an accident ahead of me on one session, so in a few corner worker stations we saw the progression from yellow, to waving yellow, to RED (stop on track, everyone, now), and then black flag to come back to the pits once the accident was taken care of and it was safe to proceed. One thing I learned in a previous track day, when you see a red flag to stop, stop on the side of the track where you can still see a flag worker up ahead, so that you'll know when it's safe to go again. 


The NMS team and friends had a great weekend, thanks to NASA NE. We had tons of fun, learned a lot, and can't wait to do it again. Thanks to my instructor Kyle, I feel like I made some improvements. If you're reading this, I'll once again quote Mr. Junior Brown in his song Highway Patrol: "If you wanna race, then get on a race track!"