Thursday, April 30, 2015

Spring 2015 Dragon Run: Making Passes (Post 2)

Life was complicated a bit (but only a bit) by the Volvo C 30 group and a DGMR parking lot full of Buell motorcycles and the pickup trucks and trailers that hauled them in.  I say "a bit" because the Volvo group was small-ish and the Buell riders were fast-ish.

More problematic was a fairly large Mazda 3 group that showed up unannounced and who liked to run hard, nose-to-tail.  Much loud "tuner pipes" hooning, and much loud talk of hooning.  Of course nobody says clubs have to announce their weekends, and some don't because they believe law enforcement would be less inclined to visit the Dragon.  (We saw law enforcement on both days we were there.  My own view is that LEO's are to be expected on weekends when the weather gets nice.)

A couple of years ago, Killboy asked of the C 30 "'Is it OK to like Volvos now?"  I guess it is, particularly if it's a
2.5-liter turbo with 220 horsepower.  The car looks better--way better-- in the flesh than in pictures.

Being an ancien, I go all the way back to the 122 model with Volvo.  It was rare to encounter a Volvo
owner with a sense of humor, especially a sense of humor about cars.  Another plus for C 30 owners.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Spring 2015 Dragon Run: Car Gawking (Post 1)

"No pictures!" The first thing Hotshoe and I saw as we rolled onto the Tail of the Dragon on Thursday afternoon was
Kamal, shooting for  I am fond of Kamal, not only because he is a good photographer and a superb
engineer of Slayers, but also because he is an all-around good guy with a good sense of humor.  Kamal is
camera-shy for a person who uses one on other people daily.  Here, he prevents me from getting a
good shot of him at work by shooting back at me.

When Hotshoe and I arrived on the Dragon we were too tired after a day's driving to make any passes, although, as Hotshoe pointed out, we had to make a pass just to get to our motel.  Anyway, our plan was to make a quick stop at the southern end and move on to some dinner and much-needed rest.  Passes could wait for the next day.  We wound up soaking in the ambience of the parking lots for an hour.

Hotshoe's "general ambience" shot of the parking lot at the Deal's Gap Motorcycle Resort on Thursday evening.  I haven't
bothered to learn anything about the Corsa Rally, but the variety of cars was spectacular, from the Ferrari 599 GTB in
front if the Nissan GT-R "down" to a Porsche Caymen.  They had been on the Dragon all day and left after one more
pass on Friday morning.

This picture of a 6-liter 4-cam V-12 is its own excuse.  But I will insist that the owner was just showing off.  You
sometimes see cars with their hoods up in the parking lots at the Dragon.  But those cars are cooling off their
turbochargers.  Aren't they?  The 599 is not turbocharged.  (I might show off too...)

Toyota Supra twin turbo participating in the Corsa Rally.  This model is almost famous and deserves to be famouser.  In
its day it was World Class--as good a sports car as anything the Germans were offering.  Hottshoe and I knew a guy
who cleaned up in high-speed autocross with one for several years.

The Supra in the picture above sparked a conversation about car styling between me and Hotshoe that lasted, off and on, for four days.  Generally, Hotshoe does not like "the jelly bean look," and I do. Generally, I do not like "the wedge look" (especially with Giugiaro creases), and he does.  It has taken ten years of an automotive-based friendship to learn this about each other.

Hotshoe insists that car styling is just a matter of personal preference.  Partly, I think, this is just to shut me up.  I insist it is a matter of taste.  Of course, one can argue that taste is just a matter of personal preference, and, in a democratically inclined culture, it is.  But then there would be no need of the phrase "good taste," would there?  ;-)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

(Off Topic) Thankyou, Jon

Jon Stewart announced that his last Daily Show will be on August 6.  He says he's getting off the stage before the 2016 Presidential race heats up, to give his successor a shot at getting established and something to talk about in doing so.

I've noticed a change in tone in Jon's opening monologues lately.  Maybe it goes back to his taking a break to produce and direct a movie last summer, but it's been really apparent in the past couple of months.  He has given up his impressions (Senator Lindsey Graham as a Southern Belle with "the vapors" was hilarious) for simple, straight-up, exposure of veniality and hypocrisy.  Instead of a laugh line at the end, he delivers a coup de grace line and says "We'll be right back."  His friend and colleague from their stand-up comedy days, Dennis Leary, said "Eventually, Jon will just be a little old Jewish man, ranting angrily to himself in the corner."  Or something like that.

Stephen Colbert made me laugh more, and harder.  Colbert was a delight to anyone delighted by language and its uses.  But Jon has connected dots that needed to be connected, and provided more insights and a-ha moments.  He is the best political satirist of the modern era, and I say this as one who well-remembers Mort Sahl and Tom Lehrer from the early 1960's.  Or Bill Maher's political standup from the 1980's, before he became strident.  For that matter, I've read Ambrose Bierce and Mark Twain.  The only political satirist in Jon's league, in my opinion, is Twain.  Let's call it a tie for first place in the Hoisted-By-Their-Own-Petards category.

Where did this brilliance come from?  The writing and on-screen "reporter" teams that Stewart established at The Daily Show, for sure.  But let me suggest another.  It may be that, as a youth, Jon bought into the same civics textbook version of American representative democracy that I did.  He wouldn't give leaders, or political reporters, a pass.  He held them to the reality-based, common sense, standards we all should hold our leaders and media--and ourselves--to.  Like Pogo, he insisted that "We have met the enemy--and he is us."

Thankyou for a great run, Jon.

The Daily Show books: reprising and updating Mark Twain.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Love The Road...

Hotshoe and I are off to the Tail of the Dragon soon.  One road, two cars, two drivers, three cameras, several local friends, and a heap of fun.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

TV Racing Find

The Brands Hatch round of the 2015 British Touring Car Championship was on CBS Sports Network, followed by the Monza round of the Blancpain GT series.  Each was edited down to an hour's length.  I tuned in, and was not disappointed.

CBSSN?  That's a channel I've not associated with motorsports.  Turns out it did a deal with Roger Werner, the founder of the (very good) Speedvision channel.  He later sold it.  He has a new venture, Torque.TV, which is producing tapes of European events, including historic racing.  Apparently the BTCC and the Blancpain series will be covered this summer and fall by CBSSN on a tape-delay basis. These first races were aired on a Thursday evening.  Don't look for them on weekends.  That doubtless remains stick-and-ball territory on CBSSN.

For me, a live event is always more fun than TV, even if it's just a local club race.  Luckily, there are several club circuits within a couple of hours' drive of my house.  And Road America is only three hours away if a pro event catches my fancy.  But the BTCC and the Blancpain series are fun to watch because the cars are about as close to production cars as modern pro racing cars can be. And they run on some legendary European circuits, with plenty of elevation change and interesting bends.

I love the shorter, "club" circuit at Brands Hatch.  And the new Honda Civic Type R won two of the three events at Brands,
making it even more fun for a Honda acolyte.

Monza is... Monza... Not much going for it but tradition.  But it was fun to see the GT's chew on each other, ALMS-style.
Blancpain gets much larger car counts, and more variety, than ALMS did: Audi R 8's, Bentleys, Lambos...

Thursday, April 16, 2015

(Slightly) Off Topic: Vive La France!

My daughter, who is an NGO professional and fluent in French, sent me this link.  We both laughed, and we both love France.  (No, I have not tried to get anything accomplished in France in August.)

Cultural stereotypes exist for a reason.  My own favorite is about the Frenchman who said "That's all very well in practice, but does it work in theory?"  Consider the two most iconic French cars, the Citroen 2CV and DS 19.  They began as clean-sheet design concepts, rooted in clear goals.  They were executed with rigorous logic and creative engineering.

Or consider cultural stereotypes going the other way.  Jeremy Clarkson observed on Top Gear, as he pounded down an Autoroute in Normandy, well above the speed limit in a Shelby Mustang, "There is nothing the French love so much as Englishman flouting their laws in a flashy American car."

Above and below: the Citroen 2CV and DS 19.  You're welcome, World.  It's hard to lead when followers can't think
straight.  Merde!  I wish the French had stuck to their principles.  What is a modern Peugeot?  A poorly done Toyota.
What is a modern Citroen?  A very poorly done Toyota.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

...Ummm... No...

I'd be the last to begrudge a marque with a storied engineering and racing history a chance to go for the Halo Effect.  Marques and nameplates with a less-than-impressive history do it.  But what a Porsche Panamera has to do with a 917 is hard to imagine.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Go Figure... (IndyCar Body Kits)

(Aero) "body kits" are now legal in IndyCar.  The idea, when mooted a few years ago, was to make the cars look different from each other--as in the Good Old Days.  (My good old days were 1980's, when almost everyone was running March or Lola road racing-capable chassis which looked pretty-much the same).  The differences are minor and doubtless hemmed-in by overall dimensional rules.  And the body kits are homologated by IndyCar, paired with, and tested by, each engine manufacturer.  I didn't think it was possible to make an IndyCar any uglier than it already was.  It is.

But it was fun, and pretty, to watch them tippy-toe around in the rain in qualifying at New Orleans.  It's not often that IndyCar drivers are heard feathering the throttle multiple times in multiple corners.  Even with massive downforce, rain brings driver talent and car control to the fore.

Kool Kart

A Lotus 72 "tribute" with 78 side pods?  And a Tyrrell 003 nose?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Sport & Specialty FaceBook Page

John's Alfa race car.  Sport & Specialty has been historically known as a British marque restoration
shop, especially Austin Healeys and Jags.  But S &S can and will do anything for any marque,
from full restoration down to race tuning and repairs on street-driven classics.

I was waiting to do another post on John Saccameno's shop, Sport & Specialty, until I had a chance to visit last winter.  Various considerations precluded that.  Now we're deep into the race prep season and on the cusp of dropping green flags.  John has a new/old Caterham Seven.  He's a busy man.  So  a shop visit is on hold.

But Sport & Specialty now has an interesting FaceBook page in addition to its website.  Here's the link:

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Judge Not, Ancien

Above: home of the wannabes 2015.  Below: home of the wannabe 1973.  Aspirational or posers?  We report; you decide. 

About a year and a half ago, I sold my house and moved into a rental unit in an attached-dwelling development only a couple of miles away.  As moves go, it was painless: nothing changed but my address.  And I no longer mow grass, blow snow, or maintain a house.  Happy camper.

I considered a "retirement community" just down the road.  I asked an 80-something friend who lives there what she thought.  "...Well... you have to like rules... a lot of rules."  I don't.  I also enjoy 30-somethings and school kids.  If everyone in the neighborhood under 55 years of age has to clear out by sundown, it doesn't appeal to me.

Be careful what you wish for.  A 20-something couple moved into a unit across the shared driveway from me.  They appear to be college students, and they appear to be sub-letting.  Their vehicle is a Honda Accord coupe with only slight, tasteful (mostly cosmetic) tuner car mods.  For a while, their garage mate was Mitsubishi Eclipse finished in matte stealth grey with blacked-out everything,  a loud tuner exhaust, and a large rear wing.

The Eclipse was recently replaced by a full-sized American V-8 pick-up, also with loud pipes. When it arrived, it was barely north of Beater Quality.  But the owner has sunk a ton of money and time into it, in the garage of his landlords and our shared driveway.  Which was seal-coated last summer but now has a large permanent oil slick in front of their garage door.

Similar to the Eclipse, the truck is now stealth matte black.  It has a roll bar and auxiliary lights.  "BATTLE BORN'" appears on the tailgate where FORD or CHEVROLET should.  A decal at the top of the rear window says "Come Home With Your Shield Or On It."  Street tires.  The owner has been playing too many video war games.  His latest upgrade is a Spinal Tap Quality stereo.  This is a truck I could take in a 0-100 m.p.h. drag race in my Civic Si without breaking a sweat.  "All show and no go," as we used to say when I was the owner's age.  Poser.  His vehicle and his late-night comings-and-goings annoy me beyond reason.  "Get off my lawn!"  (Oh... I don't have a lawn any more... )

Today the epiphany arrived: he reminds me of... me... 40 years ago.  I was always working on the beater-of-the-year in my apartment complex.  It took a couple of weeks to replace the valves in a Rambler Ambassador, with the driveway as my parts washer.  When I finally got a dependable daily driver, my beloved Datsun 510, I immediately put BRE "go faster" stripes on a completely stock car.  Like the truck, the 510 had go-faster wheels but useless tires.  Those were the days of ignition points and condensers.  I hacksawed the scoop off the air cleaner.  Advanced the static and dynamic timing of the distributor.  Tuned it.  At 4000 revs.  When working on my cars, I often turned up the radio.  All of this in the shared driveway of my apartment complex.

Judge not, Ancien.  You probably once drove 30- and 40-somethings with children and good-paying steady jobs to distraction.  They held their tongues.  Go, ye, and do likewise.  And it's nice to see school kids in my 'hood get off their busses and walk to their houses without a permission slip.  And you don't have to punch a code into a gate to get down my street.  And nobody tells you what kind of flowers you can plant in your Association-approved window boxes.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Internal Combustion Locomotive

"The Beast Of Turin" rides again!

Thanks to The Chicane Blog for linking to the videos re-linked to here:

When I was a youth, Road & Track had a strong technical bent (it was founded by an ex-Studebaker engineer and his wife, John R. and Elaine Bond).  From it I learned all kinds of useful concepts like slip angle and polar moment of inertia.  It tried to explain to me the difference between an internal and an external combustion engine, but I never could grasp the distinction.  It seemed to me, wrongly, that a steam engine had no combustion at all.  Let's call The Beast Of Turin an internal combustion locomotive.  If you were after the Land Speed Record in the Edwardian era, you just threw as much power as you could at it.  Come to think of it, that's still pretty-much true.

Friday, April 3, 2015


National Corvette Museum Motorsports Park

Here's a Killboy "learning which way the road goes" video of the National Corvette Museum Motorsports Park:

Wow.  For a fine text summary and analysis, read Killboy's note in the comments section under this video post on on Facebook.  His "three straights" comment reminds me of Road America.  It's a fine spectator experience to watch fast cars hammer down the R.A. straights between groves of trees.  But trees grow in Kentucky too (I hear).

NCMMP also reminds me of a longer, faster, more butt-clenching Virginia International Raceway.  The Beauty Part is that it's as technical, or more so, as any other North American venue.  It's a World Class "driver's course."  It would be great to see a pro road racing series run here.  But I doubt that Chevrolet is interested in upgrading the pits, paddock, and passive safety just to satisfy a pro sanctioning body.  As long as I'm talking fantasy, NCMMP would be the best Formula 1 venue North America has ever offered.  (It would need to be widened.)

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Purdy Car, Purdy Picture

The Ferrari 250 California Spider remains my candidate for the most beautiful road-going Ferrari.