Saturday, August 31, 2013

And Now For Something Completely Different (From Baltimore)

That is, Bilster Berg.  Road racing as it should be.  Derek Bell's comment about  it being like Brands Hatch seems spot-on: with the elevation and camber changes at both courses, car placement, steering input, and power application must be near-perfect.  The Chicane Blog scores another great post and video link:

Bilster Berg's website says it is 2.6 miles around--about the "standard length" for a purpose-built road course.
But as the video shows, it is a busy 2.6 miles with constant elevation changes and off-camber bends.

Baltimore ALMS: FUBAR

Here's an idea for the United Sports Car Racing series if the new Grand-Am management wants to tinker with rules: ban street racing.

All street races are disasters.  Many street races are unmixed disasters.  Baltimore was FUBAR.  Five GT cars and two P2's were taken out at the start.  When a car gets turned in a narrow concrete canyon at the start (as a P2 car did), it's bowling pins from then on.  The remainder of the mishaps, which were frequent, were magnified into mini-disasters by the concrete canyons.  If it could happen, it did. Baltimore wasn't a race, it was a demolition derby.  This kind of crap has no place in front-rank sports car racing.

There was a time when Dyson Racing was an admirable organization.  It was competitive, and, after its Porsche 962 IMSA days, always looked for technical advantages through design engineering.  Rob Dyson's pit interviews were interesting and informative.  The team is now an embarrassing self-parody.  After the last couple of seasons generally, and Baltimore in particular, Chris Dyson wins my Paul Tracy Memorial A-hole Driver Award.  He caused the starting line wreck, did the same thing on the restart, was penalized, feels wronged, and will protest.  We need a "three strikes" rule for drivers like him.  First strike: a one-race suspension.  Second strike: a half-season suspension and forfeiture of driver championship points.  Third strike: competition license revoked for a year.

Sunday (09/01) update: The IndyCar race was as ridiculous, in more customary ways.  And Baltimore's IndyCar contract is has not been renewed at this point.  There's a no-brainer for IndyCar...

Turbo Scion FR-S

Scion FR-S (it's a Toyota GT-86 in Europe).  The British turbocharged version lacks a body kit, and looks like this.

Of course this had to happen.  In the Scion FR-S we have a small, rear-drive GT with handling journalists rave about, at a bargain price ($25,000).  Even off the showroom floor it has decent power. This British  turbo kit sells for $12,000, and bumps horsepower to 250 and torque to 260 lb./ft., along with upgrades to the suspension, brakes, wheels, and tires.  In a 2700 lb. car.  Surely somebody in the States is contemplating a similar kit, if it's not on the market already.

Which raises the evergreen aftermarket question.  Is a turbo kit FR-S an overpriced entry-level sports car at $37,000, from which you will never recover your outlay at resale?  (Yes.)  Or is it a bargain?  (Yes.  See: the late, lamented, Mitsu Evo VIII.)  All I know for sure is that it looks like great fun at a track day.  And the first thought that came to my mind was "Road trip to the Dragon!"  Pipe dream: Toyota builds a turbo FR-S like this and sells it for a bit north of $30,000.  But I don't recall Toyota ever offering a hot version of their sporty cars (Supra turbo excepted--and that's a big exception).  Here's the Autocar video on the British kit:

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Right Tool For The Job

"You go first.  I can keep up."  A Big Healey can't shake a Sprite on the Tail, I'd say, except maybe for a bit on the few
short straights.  About six weeks to wait, and already I've got the Dragon Munchies.
Pint Pot Country: one of the many maps.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Fun With Search Terms (#6)

More search terms that got people here (of all places), and the thoughts that came to my mind:

"mitchell gt"  That would be the Corvette C-2?

"air-cooled engine car"  New to the hobby, are you?

"fast corvair"

"rsx second gear rebuild"  No idea...  Honda products break???

"2017 four door mustang"  Just buy a Lincoln, and leave our Icon alone.  I'm lookin' at you, FoMoCo.

"nurburgring sticker on my..."  The trunk is where I'd put mine.  Why hide your light under a bushel?  The DGMR will sell you a Tail of the Dragon sticker only in the store: you have to drive it to get it.  Good on 'em.

"vintage 550 spyders"  I'm reminded of what Lyndon Johnson is claimed to have said to a Marine when told that his helicopter was ready: "They're all my helicopters, son."  If it's an authentic 550 Spyder, it's vintage--with a price to match.

"danny sullivan breaks road america..."  Actually, it was Paul Tracy.  ;-)   He crashed three Penskes in one weekend at R.A., as I recall.  Number 3 was a spin/flip in the first corner on the first lap of the race.  Number 2, I fergit.  Here's a link to Number 1, in practice, exiting Turn 13:

(It was interesting to note, on my recent trip to Road America, that camping and close-up spectating are no longer allowed in the infield between Turns 13 and 14.)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

2013 Belgian Grand Prix

This post is to again honor Spa-Francorchamps, my Cathedral of Speed.  As mentioned before, I try not to miss Monaco and Spa on TV.  Monaco for its visual richness and tradition, and Spa because even the best must bring their A-game--and its tradition.  (Suzuka and Rio's Autodromo Carlos Pace are right up there too.)

The Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were 1 second faster than everyone else on Friday in dry weather.  ZZzzzz....  Saturday's qualifying was gripping (ahem) because it was wet-dry-wet, but the usual suspects wound up at the sharp end of the grid, in mostly the usual order.

The race was run in the dry.  Eau Rouge still takes my breath away, especially from an in-car camera. So does the fact that 80% of a lap at Spa is at full power on a computer trace.  So does Fernando Alonso.  Vettel motored off into the distance, as he customarily does, but Alonso drove from 9th to 5th on the first lap and was 2nd by lap 14.  I'll say it again: nobody gets more out of a car in race conditions than Alonso.  But he doesn't take too much out of the car or himself.  As usual (unless there's a disaster at La Source on the first lap), Spa was a fine race.  But management needs to rename Pouhon corner "Jacky Ickx."

Same race, different year: Fernando Alonso's Ferrari in the rain in Eau Rouge.

The Last 917

This is a twin post to the previous one.  The 906 was the first Piech-inspired Porsche and this was the last one, although he had nothing to do with it personally.  (He can certainly take some credit for Audi's Quattro rally cars, and their DTM cars, and the R series of  WEC cars, if only as the executive who approved, and probably inspired, those programs.)

An intentional loophole was created for this car in the 1981 LeMans regulations.  The organizers were transitioning from regulations for Group 6 roadsters to Group C coupes (to take effect in 1982), and they needed some field-fillers.  A one-year-only "sports" category was created for coupes provided they had an opening in the roof.  The Kremer brothers, who had been very successful building their own Porsche 935 clones for the Group 5 "silhouette" class, obtained Porsche factory support in building the car.  In return they provided feedback on closed car aerodynamics for the 956 Group C car already on Porsche's drawing boards.  The opening in the roof was a rectangular hole through which the driver could see the center-mounted exterior mirror--just as on some privately-entered 917's ten years before.

The 917K81 (K for Kremer, not Kurz, and 81 for its competition year) was unsuccessful, despite a driver lineup led by Porsche star Bob Wollek.  It retired at 23% distance with a broken engine mount, or 30% distance with an oil leak caused by an off-course excursion, according to which account you wish to believe.  Nevertheless, it was said to be a fan favorite (probably for reasons of nostalgia and its non-turbo exhaust note).  It was similarly unsuccessful in the few other FIA events it entered in 1981.  If you want a more detailed description, here's a link to a good piece:

At first glance, from the side, the 917K81 didn't look a lot different from the 1971 short tail with fins.  Kremer used
factory chassis drawings for the tube frame, but added stiffness with additional tubes to handle anticipated stress
 from much grippier tires.  The engine was the old, normally-aspirated 4.9 liter flat-12.

This view shows how the nose and sides were modified in conformance with ground-effects aerodynamic principles.
The rules required that the rear tires be fully enclosed with "fenders," which Kremer painted black.  Despite updates
the car's lap times were uncompetitive.

This view shows the 917K81's "not unlike a Porsche 956/962" appearance from the front, with a low-
mounted full-width rear wing.  But, as Norbert Singer pointed out, Porsche completely rethought the
ground-effects tunnels on the 956/962, which shared little with the flat-bottom 917K81 or current F-1
cars for that matter (see the 01/19/13 post on this blog). 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Piech's First Race Car

The 906 in its natural habitat: the Targa Florio.  (It won class victories everywhere.)  The Typ 901 engine had an
integral oil cooler, and the 906 got by without an external front-mounted one.

This is the second of three Porsche posts in a row.  Sorry about that--it just worked out that way.  And here's a good in-car video of two laps at LeMans in a vintage event:

The 906 was Porsche's first race car designed under the supervision of Ferdinand Piech.  It laid down the principles that would typify Porsche designs through the 917: coupes with light, semi-triangulated space frames and fiberglass bodies.  Even though 50 examples were built in 1966, making it eligible for the 2-liter GT class, and even though it was theoretically streetable, it took the company's racing program in the direction of "pure" race cars and away from the GT racer Piech's cousin Butzi Porsche had designed, the 904.

But Piech did not yet have a completely free hand.  The engine was a race-tuned version of the Typ 901 production engine that powered the 911.  His Uncle Ferry insisted that surplus sets of suspension units ordered for the 904 be used.  They included 15-inch alloy disc wheels fastened with lug nuts and heavier steel parts than Piech would otherwise have specified.  The 904 suspension arms compromised geometry.  The wheels gave the car its signature look: high front fender lines.  (By mid-season in 1966, Piech introduced the 910: a lightened and "prototype-ized" 906 with an eight cylinder 4-cam racing engine and 13-inch center-lock wheels.  After the 906 would come the Piech line of 2, 3, and 5 liter prototypes.)

The 906 was successful in the GT class in Europe in '66 and '67, and was raced Stateside by lots of people then and thereafter.  Mike Rahal, Bobby's father, raced one.  I recall seeing a 906 easily take the measure of a Ford GT 40 at a Connellsville, PA, SCCA Regional in '67--as long as it continued to rain.

A signature feature, besides its high front fender line, was its clamshell doors (abandoned on later Porsche racing cars.)
A 6'-2" guy I know sold his example because he couldn't fit into it and the doors would sometimes fly open at speed.
Although the 906 had Porsche's first "true" space frame, it was not as rigid as the later race cars.

The "stock" engine was a 2.0 liter carbureted Typ 901 (from the 911).  A few 906's ran fuel injection.  Porsche also
experimented with 2.2 liter sixes and eight-cylinder engines when they ran the car as a Prototype.  The grey box
is the "trunk," required by FIA GT rules at the time. 

One of the most successful 906 drivers in the States was Joe Buzetta.  He raced an RSK Spyder successfully in '62 and '63
which got him some factory support in '65 and '66, when he raced this 906.  He spent '67 and '68 in Europe for Porsche
where his best finish was a class win in the Nurburgring 1000 Km with Udo Schutz in a 910.  The 906 was Porsche's
first wind tunnel-tested car.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Them Ain't No Pushrods

Looks like a 356, but it don't sound like a 356.   I've waxed poetic about the Type 547 series 4-cam before: it has a throaty growl at middle revs and a blare higher up.  Sounds bigger than it's 1.5 to 2.0 liters.  It won a ton of class victories for Porsche from 1954 to 1964 in Spyders and the 904.  Here's some goood audio:

The race engines usually ran Weber carbs (these look like Solexes with a hokey air-trumpet attachment).

The later, larger, engines had square cam covers and different Type numbers (through 692, I think).  Some had shell
bearings instead of roller cranks.  The view above shows the housing for the shaft drive to the upper camshaft.  The
cutaway view below shows the Type 547 series' signature feature of bevel gear-driven shafts, from a layshaft below
 the crank, to spin each of the four camshafts.  They all had twin-plug ignition.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Local Cruise Night

I've mentioned that I'm about done with cruise nights.  Every town in Greater Chicagoland has them, all summer long, and mostly the same cars show up.  Another overdose of muscle cars?  Been there, done that.

But my own little town is starting them.  What do you call it when you're trying to get something off the ground when everyone else has already jumped the shark?  (A mixed metaphor!)  But this one was only five minutes away--why not check it out?  The car-count was small (maybe 15), but I snapped the most interesting ones.

A nice '34 Ford 3-window, satin black over gloss black.

Rear view.

My artsy "ZZ Top shot,"  a.k.a. underexposure.

My over-exposure shot.  It's really that salmon color popular in the '50's.  Single-headlight '57's are my favorite C-1's. 

It's registered, and driven, on a current plate.

I could quibble, and would, about poking a hole in the hood for dual quads, and running a "drag" wheel and tire
setup on a beautiful '57.  But it's hard to quarrel with the way he did the gauges.  And it's clearly hard to get
parts like window assemblies, door panels, and even exterior door handles when you're bringin' one back
from the dead.  So maybe I should put a sock in it.

Obligatory cruise night car, but nicely original.

More obligatory cruise night (same car): headers on a small-block.

Most customized S-197's, even milds, are not an improvement over stock.  This one is.

I'm not sure what I was looking at here.  It's a 4.6 SOHC, with, apparently, a Ford Racing "shaker" air cleaner.  That's a
lot of induction for a stock 4.6...

Fuzzy dice?  On a 2010 or later car?  Maybe they're an Approximate G-Meter?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Road America 2013 Grand Am: Street Tuner In The Paddock

With Pilote's daily driver being a Honda Civic Si, regular blog readers could see this (last) Road America post coming too.  I enjoy watching Street Tuner.  Its power-to-grip ratio is more balanced than the GS class, in which the power and mass of the cars overmatches the tires and brakes.  But drivers in ST must still manage tires and brake fade.  And ST is pretty much "run whatcha brung" if it's a small-bore car.  The variety is fun: BMW's, Kia's, Mazda 3's, New Minis, V.W. Golf GTI's...  A few years ago, a supercharged Chevy Cobalt had some success.  Last year, Multimatic ran a Ford Focus ST without much success.

And they're not that much slower than the GS cars: 2:33's at Road America vs. 2:25's.  Having slammed Grand Am's approach to sports car racing, I must admit that they've got ST about right.  Now, if they'd just do something about all those full-course yellows, re-setting the field under same, and green/white checkers.  Let 'em race.  But with an "avoidable contact" rule.

This car came second in the Street Tuner class in the Continental Tire race, which combines GS and ST.  Not bad in a
51-car field (no body damage!).

There was a time when Compass 360 Racing ruled the roost in ST.  No longer.

iVTEC power: as Killboy would say, "BWWAAAAH!"

Rear suspension of an ST Civic Si:close to stock, but that's a trick aluminum upper link.  Why do the grooves on the
brake disc slant the "wrong" way?

Cockpit, Compass 360 Racing Civic Si.

 V.W. Golf GTI Street Tuner car.  This team has won some races in the past few years.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Road America 2013 Grand Am: Grand Sport In The Paddock

Well...with Pilote's "toy" being an S-197 Mustang, this post could have been foreseen too.

The Roush Road Racing paddock.  The Jack Roush Jr./Billy Johnson car is in backbround.

Engine room: a pretty-much stock Boss 302 4-cam.  The Roush/Johnson car was used up in its race: a stoved-in front
valence, and a rear valence that had to be removed in an unscheduled pit-stop, ruining their race for them.  No less than
Grand Am, the Continental Tire series follows the NASCAR tradition that "rubbin' is racin'."  And, with the GS cars
in the same race as the small-bore ST (Street Tuner) class, the fields are huge.  There were 51 cars in the race.  That's
a crowd, even on Road America's 4.0 miles.

A closer view of the 4-cammer, not buttoned up.  All that white you see shows the work of the crew in removing the
radiator and front sheet metal from #61 on Saturday after its bumper-cars race.

The post-practice checklist on the Roush Jr./Johnson car.   I remember when an SCCA "amateur" (really a semi-pro)
could win a national championship with a handwritten pre-race checklist that didn't fill one sheet of a yellow legal
pad.  And the car wasn't touched during the race weekend unless it developed a problem.  Maybe adjust the
tire pressures--that was it.  Also note the small round red sticker on the fender lip above and the yellow one
in the picture below.  That must indicate the type of tires the team manager wants mounted next.

Rear suspension of the Roush Grand Sport Mustang: nearly stock.  The springs, shocks, and trailing arms have been
upgraded, but the geometry appears unchanged.  The brakes and calipers appear stock.  The anti-roll bar is adjustable
but the diameter remains small.

Cockpit, Roush Road Racing GS Mustang.

"Bonus" pix: the Multimatic Aston Martin Vantage V-8 Grand Sport cars.  Like the Roush Mustang, they have trouble being any faster than Bimmers and Porsches in this "equalized" class, even on a power circuit like Road America.  But they're pretty cars.  Back-in-the-day (2005-2006), Multimatic made its bones by getting the S-197 Mustang its first wins in GS.  The Astons aren't quite there yet.

Getting teched.

Getting prepped.

The Aston's engine and tower braces.  Serpentine belt schematic for mechanics who have Senior Moments.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Road America 2013 ALMS: Risi Competizione Ferrari

Regular readers had to know this car gets its own post.  Risi Competizione reminds me of when Ferrari was a real factor in sports car racing, with models that were for sale to the general (well-heeled) public.  And Risi's 458 is the prettiest car running in GT.  At Road America, they qualified a disappointing 9th.  In the race, they moved quickly up to 3rd.  Then they had a problem (not car-related, because it was running strong at the end) that dropped them down to 10th.  Sad Pilote.

Risi has prepared the fastest Ferrari in ALMS GT for the past seven years, except when they took 2012 off.  The 458's engine has to be heard, live, to be believed.  TV doesn't do it justice.  It shrieks up and down the rev range with its 7-speed gearbox.  The rev limit of the street car is 9000, so Risi spins it at least that fast.  The only louder car at Road America was the Muscle Milk HPD Honda Prototype.

Yeah, I bought a tee-shirt...  The guy who sold it to me used to work for the team (the "gear" store was next to the car's paddock slot).  "Don't ever change the color of that car," I said.  "No white or black or commercial sponsor colors.  Just Italian Racing Red."  He replied "Oh, Mr. Risi would never do that. He's Old School, like you.  In fact he's old like you."

On the chassis plates.  The "eyebrow" intakes inside the headlights appear to provide front brake ventilation.

Some trick aero bits to go with the "5 m.p.h. crash" aluminum bumper.  The "black box" at the corner funnels air to the
fender-top vents, as on the street car.  The exit vents were closed off at Road America.  This picture was taken after
qualifying, so the laptop is uploading data or downloading changes.

Getting ready to put it in the trailer overnight after Saturday's qualifying.  The "thermos" is for the drivers' cool suits?
The green tank is the onboard fire extinguisher?  The carbon fiber doors have vertical pins that slide into the silver
hinges seen here on the chassis.  They lift out in seconds.  It is expensive to build and run an ALMS GT.

One of the drivers had an "oops" in free practice on Sunday morning before the race, and scrunched the right-front of
the nose panel.  Not everything is high-tech in ALMS GT: it was repaired with red duct tape.

I'm posting this rear view of Risi testing at Sebring in 2011 to show how similar (yet slightly different) the 458's rear
aero is to BMW and Corvette (previous post).  Front and rear aero are closely controlled by ALMS rules.  This pic
has the added merit of showing the car with no advertising: just Italian Racing Red and a competition number.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Road America 2013 ALMS: GT In The Paddock

As always, GT promised to be a great race--and it was.  The cars are bloody fast, the drivers are too, and the teams are as good as any in managing race strategies.  I'm saving the Risi Competizione Ferrari 458 Italia for its own post.

Above and below: the Team West Ferrari 458 Italia: an independent entry (no factory support), unable to match the
pace of BMW/RLL Racing, Corvette Racing, the best Porsche teams, and Risi Competizione's Ferrari 458.  They had
a midrange misfire problem in qualifying.

BMW/RLL: just off the pace of Viper, Corvette, and Porsche at Road America.  The Z-4 has less frontal area than the
sedans the team ran in previous years, but looks to be more of a handful to drive.

Flying Lizard, and several other Porsche 911 GT3 RSR teams, were fast as always.

If you have an engine problem like Team West, but you also have the big bucks, you don't have to solve the problem
right now.  Just swap out the engine.

I didn't get any good Corvette pix.  The tents didn't let in much ambient light, and the cars were pushed well forward
inside them (away from prying eyes).  There was a vibe coming from the Corvette paddock, and that vibe was
"secretive."  If this team has become relaxed and complacent after so many years on top, it sure wasn't
obvious.  The fan sucks cooling air past the transaxle?

It's (a bit) embarrassing to admit that I didn't get any pix of the SRT Vipers, one of which took the pole in the GT class.  The explanation is simple: I've never liked Vipers much.  Where the Corvette at least has a sharpness to its big-bore V-8 sound, the Vipers just sound blatty.  They didn't sound or look fast in qualifying--which is a tribute to their speed: they made it look easy.  (By contrast, the BMW Z-4 drivers were provoking and then chasing oversteer in Canada Corner, where I watched qualifying.)  In the race, a Viper overhauled a Corvette in the last half-hour, so the finishing order was Viper-Corvette-Corvette-Viper-Porsche.

I did get a few Porsche GT3 Cup Car shots:

There's more lattitude (and variability) allowed in rear wing adjustment than I'd have guessed.

The "office" of the same GT3 Cup car.  They had a marvelous rain race on Sunday morning.  We watched from Canada
Corner.  Lots of people went off, including two of the early leaders.  But the cars that finished 1-2-3 chewed on each
other for the last 20 minutes without mistakes.  They put on a driving clinic and got a standing ovation from our
grandstand on their cool-down lap.