Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Introducing NMS Car #304

#304 B Street, at least you can read it.

  In preparing to return to South Carolina, I joined the Sports Car Club of America after taking a break for a few years, and just signed up for an autocross with the New York Region. Being a new member to the SCCA, I had to get a new number for Ruby, so NMS is proud to present our "new" car, the NMS #304! On the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, normally I'd be tuning in to a ton of racing on TV like F1 in Monaco, the Indy 500, and the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 from Charlotte, but this year I'll be driving, so that will be even better! Remember, you can always watch something on TV another time, but you can only DRIVE at any one event once!

Memorial Day weekends for me have usually included some music events, like marching in parades, conducting bands, and my regular "day-job" stuff like that, and on Monday I'll be marching in two parades. However, looking ahead to 2024 and in the future, my Memorial Day weekends might be a bit different in retirement. Living close to Charlotte means possibly going to the race in Charlotte, or just heading up the road to Indianapolis for the 500. I've been to the Indy 500 before, but it was just to play in a band for Armed Forces weekends, and on race day to march around the track early in the morning. One year the race was rain delayed for a week (I think) and since the regular Purdue University band couldn't make it, our 74th Army Band stationed in Indianapolis got to play the National Anthem on race day, backing up David Hasselhof! True story, you can look it up. 

I've never driven at Indy, but have done a lap there when I ran the half or Mini Marathon with my brothers, and the 13.2 miles included a lap on the famous track. That was fun! Maybe not as fun as driving there, but yeah, a good 2.5 track comes in handy for running! Charlotte wise, Brian and I have driven the oval for some charity days, and he's run the Roval that includes the infield course, so that is another fun experience to get on the big track with the banking and cruise around there.   

So, Sunday I had a working assignment that was new to me, making sure our photographer was in a good spot and not surprised by any cars on course. That was fun too! 

Photographer Adam at work

Sunday was nice and sunny, and after 10 runs total I ended smack in the middle of the Street Class, 9th out of 18 drivers. Overall on actual (RAW) time, 21st out of 66, and on modified PAX time, also 21st out of 66 total drivers. The morning's 5 runs, looked like this

1st RUN: 35.166     Not a bad start, at the time it was the fastest PAX time of the day, but most people hadn't driven yet!

2nd RUN: 35.385     Slower, not good!

3rd RUN 35.319     Slower than the first run, also not good. For the next run I lowered the tire pressures. 

4th RUN 35.142 +1  OK, a bit faster than the last two, but consistently not faster! Plus I hit a cone (+1) on this run, so that adds a 2 second penalty, call this run a 37.142

5th RUN 34.524     Finally, faster than the first run, and a good 0.642 drop in time. Will have to go faster in the afternoon session. 

After those 5 drives, I had a chance to watch some other drivers on the course and think about how to go faster. Then for my non-driving work session, I was assigned to be a spotter for a photographer, which meant I basically stood by Adam as he took photos for the club, and made sure he was not in danger of getting run over! After that was a lunch break, and then it was time to drive again. 

Here's my afternoon 5 runs. Either the course was quicker, or I managed to drop some more time, but overall I think everyone was quicker in the afternoon. 

6th RUN:  33.942 +1  Wow, into the 33s, but that pesky +1 means I threw this run away. 

7th RUN:  34.031       OK, no cones, and almost 0.5 quicker than the morning. 

8th RUN:  34.255 +1  Still no help, but trying to get into the 33 seconds range. 

9th RUN:  34.395       Nope, a tenth of a second slower, booo!

10th RUN: 34.045       I thought I had a 33 second run, but as you can read, missed it by 0.045, less than half a tenth of a second. Hmm, to be positive, well, these 5 runs were all within 0.4 of each other, so being consistent is OK, but being consistently FASTER would be even BETTER!

Thursday, May 11, 2023

F1 Miami Saturday

Wearing McLaren for Saturday. Sunny in Miami, go figure!

On Saturday the F1 teams had practice session 3, and then later in the afternoon the all important qualifying. We headed out to the track a bit later than Friday, and still got to our parking lot with no troubles. OK, we had to park a bit further away, but still not a bad walk to get to the gate. Part of the fun was spotting a few Ferrari, Lamborghini, and even a Rolls Royce in the parking lot. Not sure I'd drive my rolls into a sandy/grass parking lot, but F1 has fans of all kinds! As it turned out, the qualifying ended with few surprises that would mix up the racing on Sunday. 


Recovery equipment at the end of the run-off at turn 18

Guess what? It was still on the warm side in Miami! After living in NY for the past 5 years, we had to load up on sunscreen again, drink a lot of refreshing beverages, and settle in to watch qualifying. Formula 1 Qualifying is broken up into 3 sessions, and the first session eliminates the slowest 5 cars, then the next session eliminates 5 more cars, and then the finale has the top ten cars going for fastest lap to determine where they start for the race. 

Haas garages. We were across from Aston Martin, and could also see the Alpha Tauri, Williams, and Alfa Romeo team garages too.

Typically in this last qualifying session, each driver will get two attempts, so the normal strategy is to head out early and get a clean run on the board to avoid getting shut out if something happens like a rain-out at the last minute, or a crash that ends the session. Well, we didn't have rain, but just as the 10 drivers were out on track for their 2nd and final shot at qualifying, Ferrari driver Charles LeClerc slid off track and into the wall, which at first brought out local yellow caution flag. With a yellow flag, drivers have to slow to be able to react to whatever hazard is on track, so that prevented any other driver from even setting a time. The yellow flag then quickly turned into a red flag, which tells all drivers to return to the pit, and that was the end of qualifying. 

Ferrari on track for qualifying

 The big drama was that 2 of the top 10 hadn't set ANY time yet, so Valtteri Bottas and defending champ Max Verstappen had NO time, and had to start the race in 9th and 10th. At least they got to stay in the top 10, but their example is a great lesson in the importance of getting out and setting a banker lap early in Q3. With Max in the Red Bull car having to start 9th, he would have to pass a lot of drivers to get near the front of the race the next day. Bottas is one of my favorite drivers too, maybe because he races with #77 too.

King Charles was crowned earlier in the day, but who would be crowned in qualifying? ON TO QUALIFYING!

So, with the quirky yellow/red flag in qualifying, we also had MoneyGram Haas F1 Team driver Kevin Magnussen way up in 4th place, which is the American team's best ever qualifying in a Sunday race! Ahead of him on the grid was 2 time champion Fernando Alonso,  the oldest driver in F1 in 2nd place, once again driving the Aston Martin car like a champ! On pole, crowd favorite Sergio Perez, who would be trying to finish 1st and take the points lead away from his fellow Red Bull Verstappen. 


Bottas #77 in qualifying

Further down the grid, the biggest surprises were from 7 time champ Lewis Hamilton in 13th after a poor qualifying, and Alonso's fellow Aston Martin driver Lance Stroll way down in 18th. If you didn't know, Lance's dad basically bought an F1 team and owns a major part of the Aston Martin company. I guess if I was rich enough I'd do that for my kids too! One big goal for F1 drivers is to beat your team mate, and since you both have identical cars, this is the easiest comparison between drivers to make. 

LeClerc in the wall in Q3, NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!  

Sergio Perez of Mexico takes pole!

So it was a good bit of drama in qualifying, and that meant that the race would likely hold some surprises! Stay tuned and we'll review how things went on Sunday for race day!

Red flag: Drivers must return to the pit lane


Red Flag, session will not be started, not enough time for cars to do a warm up lap and set a time


Tuesday, May 9, 2023

F1 Miami Friday

Red Bull on track, team garages and pit lane on the other side, in front of the Miami Dolphins Hard Rock Stadium

Hello from Miami! It hit 90 degrees during practice 1 last Friday, so we were drinking water and putting on sun screen to keep as cool as possible. Overall, I’ve still got to say that going to an F1 race is like going to the State Fair. Big crowds, lots of food and drinks for sale (just pay the price and keep moving folks), and plenty to see just wandering around. 

The entire track was a new surface this year, so throughout the two practice sessions on Friday, the times kept getting faster. Somewhere I read that this is one of the hottest races of the year, so that plays a big role in how the tires and cars perform. With one hour practice, and approximately an hour and a half race, the cars need to be reliable.

Our video screen

We were allowed to bring in empty waters bottles, and it was easy to find the free water filling stations. As you can imagine, the many food and souvenir vendors had ridiculous prices, so a free bit of water was appreciated. OK, it wasn't as bad as the 18 dollar beer at Madison Square Garden for a Billy Joel concert, I think most beers were more like 9 dollars. Hey, we tried Heineken Silver, it was OK.

Looking straight into the Aston Martin garages of Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso

Friday was the smallest crowd of the weekend, so not too bad walking around, even arriving when the gates opened. Before long the food areas inside big tents were packed, and there wasn't a lot of shade to be had in or out of the grandstands, so I'm still planning on winning the lottery so I can afford the fancy suites in the shade that come with catering!

Ferrari sales

Driving to and from the stadium was probably as good as it gets for a major sports event, and actually surprisingly easy. Our hotel was west of the stadium, so I can't speak for people coming from north and south, or the shuttle buses or trains. Our assigned parking (included with the ticket price!) was close to the stadium, so not a bad walk. Traffic (car) at the end of Friday was quickly out of the lot and back at our hotel. Our previous experience parking at Circuit of the Americas in Texas in 2019 was really terrible, but I think they've figured it out by now. Miami: No Problema!

Red Bull and World Champ Max Verstappen, very popular

There was a reasonable variety of food on the race "Campus," so like I said, you've just got to look at it like being at the State Fair and see what they have. The entire campus was cashless, so debit/credit card only. This mostly worked, but we did run into a beer seller whose machine wasn't working, so we found another seller right away.

Friday I wore Haas to support our USA based team

During the weekend there was a good mix of fans supporting different teams, maybe more Red Bull than others, but plenty of Ferrari, McLaren, and Mercedes, with smaller numbers of the other teams like Haas, Alpha Tauri, Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, Williams, and Alpine. Most of the team hats on sale were going for $90, and I saw an Aston Martin team polo shirt for $150. If you can afford an Aston Martin, those prices won't make you blink!

Our home straight grandstand. Some more shade would be nice!

On our walk through gate 8 to our grandstand, we passed some road cars on display, tons of signs and banners, and everything was looking good. A lot of our walk was also kind of behind the scenes, in between barriers, with just small glimpses of the track, and included one bridge over the track. The bridge was entirely covered in banners and fencing so there was no chance interfering or even really seeing the track, so maybe some day they can come up with a plexiglass bridge and you could stand over the race while it's going on. Just a thought!

Julie has entered the compound!

Waiting to enter when the gates open on Friday

Thursday, May 4, 2023

BMW Ultimate Driving Experience

Here we go again!

The BMW folks did it again! They came to town with the Ultimate Driving Experience and begged me to drive their new cars as fast as possible. These events give you just a sample of the cars, but it's always free, and fun, which are two of my favorite "F" words. There were three events that everyone could try behind the wheel of various cars; a small autocross, a normal street drive with various models, and a short run to go flat out with 100% braking. To see if the BMW crew are coming close to YOU, check out their page: 


Drove both of these cars

In the autocross I drove two different cars (not at the same time, and oh by the way, DON'T try THAT at home!) First, I was in the 330e xDrive, which is a 2.0L twin turbo 4-cylinder with an additional electric motor. This bad boy has a total 288 hp and goes 0-60 in 5.6 seconds. It was very nice! The xDrive in this car is BMW's way of saying all wheel drive. Oh, and if you think that was a powerful and quick car, hold that thought!

BMW 330e XDrive

Next, I drove an i4 M50, which has dual electric motors, 536 hp, and hits 0-60 in 3.7 seconds. Did I mention the 586 lb-ft of torque? That's a lot of power, and it was fun! The course was too short to hit 60, but you could tell it was way more powerful than the 330e. Unlike previous BMW events, they were not timing the autocross runs, so I can't confirm that I was the fastest or slowest in my group. Oh well, no prize money again! Oh, and if you think THAT was a powerful and quick car, hold that thought too!

BMW i4 M50

After the autocross, I jumped into the iX M60. This all electric SUV type of vehicle has 610 hp and goes 0-60 in 3.6 seconds. Torque? Glad you asked! This vehicle has a LOT of it. BMW says 811 lb-ft of torque. In English, EIGHT HUNDRED ELEVEN FOOT POUNDS OF TORQUE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The focus of our driving was to use SOME of the torque, hammer the "gas" pedal, go in a straight line for about 3 seconds, and then hammer the brake pedal and halt. After that we steered through a very tight set of cones to feel the 4 wheel steering. The acceleration was awesome, and the braking was great. The steering was very light feeling and I'm sure it's very maneuverable. The control panels, buttons, and switches were all over the place since I'm not familiar with BMWs in general, much less electric ones. I had trouble getting out of the back seat since I'd never had to hold a button and then push the door open. Like any new technology I'm sure you would get used to it pretty quickly. I'm just thinking that if someone rents one of these they'll need some instructions on how to operate it for sure. The huge amount of torque from electric vehicles is amazing. Here's a video from the back seat: 

Overall, the BMW iX M60 is very nice, and you can pick one up starting at $111,000 or so.

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Formula 1 Weekend Schedule


Ferrari Fan Much?

One thing that sets auto racing apart from many sports for the spectators is that you can make a three day weekend out of one race! Now don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with a big one day sports event like the Superbowl, Kentucky Derby, or the Indy 500, but a three day event should be about 300% MORE! Of course you can spend the entire month of May at the Indy 500 for all the practices, qualifying, road race, and etc too. Oh the World Series does all right with up to 7 games over 10 days or so with the travel days off. And hey, if you want a FULL DAY of sports, there are 24 hour events like the endurance race in France at LeMans too. 

The typical Formula 1 weekend spreads the action out over Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, so if you are attending one of these events, you better gear up and be ready for the weather too! One exception is the F1 race in Monaco, which normally starts practice on Thursday, takes a day off on Friday, and then resumes on Saturday and Sunday. I'm not sure if this is to allow everyone another day to party like a Yacht-Star, or just to allow the entire country to conduct business on Friday. This year's race in Las Vegas will be a bit different also, with the main race on Saturday night under the lights on the strip. Oh well, let's take a look at our upcoming May trip to Miami for the F1 race. 

Friday kicks it off with 2 practice sessions for the F1 race cars, but wait, there's more! In addition to the Formula 1 teams, there is also a Porsche Cup North America race, so the Porsches will be on track doing their own practice sessions on Friday too. So, if we want to catch all the action we'll get to the track after lunch, and watch all 4 practice sessions, and still have time to wander around the grounds, check out the food, see the souvenir stands, grab a beverage or two, and etc.

FRIDAY 5th MAY   Local time
Porsche Carrera Cup North America First Practice Session 16:00 - 16:30
Porsche Carrera Cup North America Second Practice Session 19:25 - 19:55

On Saturday, the F1 teams get a final practice session, and then the important Qualifying session too. For the Porsche teams, they get to qualify first on Saturday, and then return to the track later for their first of two races on the weekend. Oh no, we'll have to get there in the MORNING to watch the Porsche qualifying, the horror! On the other hand, Saturday should be all wrapped up before dinner, and I'll bet there's a Cubano sandwich with my name on it somewhere in Miami. 

Porsche Carrera Cup North America Qualifying Session 10:15 - 10:45
Porsche Carrera Cup North America First Race (40 Mins +1 Lap) 14:05 - 14:50

Sunday is race day for both the F1 drivers and the second race for the Porsche series. On top of that, there is all the pre-race hoopla of a driver parade where the F1 drivers ride around the track to wave to the fans, followed by forming the cars up on the grid, the National Anthem, and finally the actual race. Our seats are on the start-finish straight, so we should have a pretty good view of the festivities, and be able to see into some of the garages on the pit lane.                                                                          

Porsche Carrera Cup North AmericaSecond Race (40 Mins +1 Lap)12:25 - 13:10
Formula 1Drivers' Parade13:30 - 14:00
Promoter ActivityGrid Presentation14:00 - 14:30
Formula 1National Anthem15:14 - 15:16
FORMULA 1GRAND PRIX (57 LAPS OR 120 MINS)15:30 - 17:30