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MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on April 25, 2014 Comments (0)

An Apology

Constant Contact is our MMR Newsletter distributor. Last Friday, a power outage affected their ability to supply images for our newsletter for over six hours. We apologize to our subscribers for this inconvenience.

F1 China

It has become clear that the new F1 cars come pre-sorted with a set of characteristics that cannot be tuned out. Drivers have to adapt to them or perish. The drivers for the Mercedes team seem quite equal in talent and also seem to have adapted to the car’s idiosyncrasies equally. That doesn’t mean that another driver might not do better, but we would never know until one tries. The Red Bull Team on the other hand is a different situation. Sebastian Vettel was the master of the previous chassis and his then teammate Mark Webber never got it to the same extent. But Vettel definitely hasn’t come to terms with the new chassis. The problem for him is that his new Red Bull teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, has. To the team, this means that the issues to be overcome are not so much the car, though it does need improvement, it is helping their #1 driver adapt to it. And to his credit, Vettel admits he is the problem. If he can resolve this problem he will come out of this not just a better driver but a different person.

Our lead image this week is from Denise McCluggage's column. Her story this week compares today’s cars with a time when a racing driver’s input was necessary to maximize the car's potential. You can also visit her website where you can see more Denise McCluggage images for sale. The remainder of the eye-candy on this page is from this year's Amelia Concours event. Enjoy!

Blue Highways

America is blessed with some wonderful and sometimes little used back roads. As more and better freeways are built for our transportation needs, these blue highways, as they are defined on most maps, are becoming the purview of car enthusiasts exercising cars that were probably built in the same time period. In Europe, the historic Mille Miglia is a huge affair for both spectators and participants and in America the Colorado Grand, the New England 1000 and the Copperstate are rallies giving drivers an opportunity to celebrate and exercise their vintage vehicles in the company of like minded individuals in beautiful settings. In the coming weeks we will have a report on the Mille Miglia from participant and MMR Newsletter subscriber Bruce Male. We will further explore this expanding form of motorsports entertainment and whether it can fit in your plans. So stay tuned.

At the Track and on TV

The Mitty (as in Walter Mitty) is fast establishing itself as the premier event of the vintage racing scene in America and it is this weekend at Road Atlanta. While not quite ready for prime time TV yet, if you are in that area, make the time to refresh your memories of great cars of our past. On the more contemporary front, IndyCar is at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama this weekend. This is the first race of this year on a proper road racing circuit and it will be interesting.

Have a great weekend and don’t forget to share this with a friend.

Peter Bourassa


My Word:
Driving a dilemma, …or driven by one

Posted on April 24, 2014 Comments (0)

By Denise McCluggage

A new race car is a compendium of promise and problems. Only the real world can reveal which predominates and chart the hoped-for realization of the designers’ vision. That route is either complicated or simplified by the other element now introduced to the mix: the driver.

The driver may, while simply standing there in his billboard suit, have the sort of talent and driving style that meshes neatly with the chance characteristics of this race car. Out of the box the car may fit the driver remarkably well or the driver is the sort that can overwhelm mismatches. Anyway the 2014 Renault RB10 and R­­­­ed Bull’s rookie Australian are off to a dancing start that delights almost everyone wearing the same logo—the designer, the engineers, the tire-changers, the crew chief. All…

Unless. Unless standing nearby in matching gear is a four-time world champion, the obvious Number One of the team. But his face is clouded by a puzzled frown, his jaw works slightly. The dance he and his all-but identical car are experiencing involves misheard melodies, trod on toes and a hitch in the rhythm.

You might recognize an imagined sketch of the Red Bull Formula 1 team with Sebastian Vettel and his new teammate Daniel Ricciardo. You might even think you know what has happened in 2014, like those posting their certitude on the internet. “I knew Vettel wasn’t that good. It was the car all those years.” “Ricciardo is making Vettel look silly!” “It wasn’t Vettel, it was the car.” ”It was the car.” Echoing off in the distance—“itwasthecar.” Oh, how Vettel’s non-fans are gloating!

My observations: at the least these people are premature in their judgment. Oh, they could be right, but most likely for the wrong reasons. And only a scant few of them have any real understanding of racing.

Ah, I am claiming more understanding than these ardent folk? Yes, I am. Long ago before there was a known Internet and Formula 1 racing was accessible to the few journalists frequenting the scene I was there. Close up. Watching, listening and talking to the principals over dinner.

First, I’ll tell you one thing I learned from that experience and from my own time racing sports cars. It is never “the car” or “the driver.” It is both. And before you brush it off with a brusque “of course” let me add: it is the car and the driver in a more interwoven manner than many are likely to imagine.

As illustration let me relate a story about when Dan Gurney came to Europe to drive a factory Ferrari. The photograph alongside these words shows Dan at a practice session at the Nurburgring. Phil Hill is interpreting to him what Team Manager Tavoni—blocked from view by Phil—is saying. Dan has just taken a few laps of the ‘Ring—it was Dan so they were impressively fast laps. But Tavoni is frustrated. He has asked Dan what would he like done to the car, what would he like changed. Dan has said, in effect: “Nothing. I like it. It’s fine.”

Phil Hill and Dan Gurney at Nurburgring

Dan had come bursting out of California, loaded with as much native talent as anyone was ever likely to see. He could climb into anything with wheels and drive it as well or better than anyone else could dream of. He was beating internationally experienced drivers. He was making headlines and it was clear he was going places. I later wrote in my paper Competition Press that obviously he would be America’s next champion. (I got it right; it was history that goofed.)

But here he was brand new to Europe and was in some odd way disappointing Ferrari’s team manager because he liked the factory’s car. What was going on?

Phil later told me that Dan was in effect too good for his own good. ”He can adjust to work with a car’s quirks and get a great performance. “That’s fine for the level at which he has been racing, but not on the international scene.” At the top, drivers were expected to work with the mechanics and engineers to adjust the car to compliment the driver’s style, augment his strong points and thus reach a performance level of car and driver in synergy.

Phil had come quickly to that understanding but had made a different mistake, “I’d tell the mechanics what they needed to do to fix a problem.” He laughed. That had broken some code of each to his own specialty. “I learned to tell them exactly what the car would do when I did this or that and what I wished it would do instead. It was like playing charades, but they came to see in their own way what it was I wanted. They did it and we were all happy.” Especially after Phil learned to do that not only in Italian but in Modenese, the local patois. They loved that.

Dan soon realized that as good as he was he was even better getting his race cars tweaked to suit his better self rather than dealing with what the car presented to him. He became so good at that he built his own race cars with admirable successes. (He even learned to adapt champagne to his unique preferences. It was Dan that began the now universal habit for race winners to spray the world with bubbly instead of ingesting it.)

Sebastian Vettel

But back to Red Bull and this year’s trials of a champion. Sebastian Vettel perhaps is less inclined, or perhaps even less able than his competitors, to adapt to a car’s flukes and foibles. (Clearly Ricciardo has had a smoother time of it this year than Vettel.) Historically Vettel has been extremely sensitive to characteristics of his race cars. Some will recall the struggle he had when blown diffusers were banned for 2012. (Thus, in brief, decreasing the downforce.) Mark Webber, the then Aussie teammate, had an easier time adapting than did Seb. But then something else came along and once again the downforce was more to Vettel’s liking and he was driving happy again.

The new V6 turbo cars are as short on downforce as they are on ear-punishing sound. I was wondering which drivers would have trouble with that. I was surprised that Vettel was one of them because I had watched in awe a truly supernatural performance of his in the rain last season. But maybe a general absence of grip, a friction-free swim in effect, is a different coping problem than rather sudden changes in slip angle front and rear can be.

RB10

Whatever it is about the RB10 that makes Vettel uncomfortable and makes him drive in such a way that tire wear becomes a problem etc. it is something he is aware of, unhappy about and is trying hard to figure out. As is the entire team. (Except maybe a clam-happy Daniel Ricciardo.)

Does being so dependent on getting your car to match your driving style make you less a driver than one who can adapt easily to whatever he is driving? If that adaptability makes you collect more points then the answer is yes. But it’s the season-end point-count that matters. Let’s wait for that.

No doubt the process of reworking a car to mesh with the driver takes time, precise communication between the driver and engineers and real-world testing. At this point though testing is racing so time is tight. But the result in the long run is more dependable and more successful. Four championships mean something.

It will be exciting if the Red Bull team can tailor the RB10 to Vettel. It may be character-building for Vettel if they can’t. And he has to change his style or flounder. Can he do that? Either way it behooves us all to watch the process and not jump to judgments too soon.

In the meantime are you not enjoying Hamilton and Rosberg, those “star” teammates, as well? Formula 1 this year, in spite of its goofy green notions, is mighty entertaining though I will be glad when it gets back to a time zone more compatible to my Mountain Time. (I refuse to watch racing in anything but real time.)

Am I, after all, as intransigent as Vettel?


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on April 18, 2014 Comments (0)

Amelia Island 2014

100 years of Maserati was celebrated at Amelia this year and we captured this image of the unique 450S Coupe as it was moving to take its place on the field. 

Our eye candy this week is taken from the MMR Classifieds. Our goal with the MMR Classifieds is to save you the trouble of sifting through thousands of images of vehicles. We will list 400 cars that are of interest to us. The sampling below should give you some idea of what to expect. 

Next week we begin our series on modern day rally-touring. The Michael Furman image was taken from his gallery on our site.

Horch 853 Cabriolet

Horch 853 Cabriolet

Around the Track

Sometime in the 1960s, a Canadian bass-baritone was singing the role of bad-guy Scarpia in Tosca at L’Opera in Paris. It was one of those nights when two other leads, the good guys, were just slightly off. He was fine. At the end of the second act Tosca stabs Scarpia and he falls to the floor. In the moment of silence allowed for the audience to appreciate the drama of the scene, a voice from the audience was clearly heard to say “Quel domage, ils ont tue le meilleur.” What a shame, they killed the best one.

We were prescient; a head did roll. The noble Domenicalli, Director of Ferrari Racing, has accepted full responsibility for Ferrari’s poor performance and resigned. Quel Domage. Stefano, who appeared to be a warm and funny man, was certainly a refreshing change from the sphinx-like Jean Todt. For that matter, Sir Frank and Sir Ron could hardly be described as cheerful. The former Mercedes duo of Ross Brawn and Norbert Haug never threatened Laurel and Hardy either. Must come with the territory.

Aston Martin DB 2 MK III

Aston Martin DB 2 MK III

Penske vs. Ganassi Battle on Track and Off

It was inevitable. Two great teams go head to head in multiple series for years and sooner or later one is going to say something nasty about the other. Surprisingly, the first public utterances come from the polished Penske team. Before the Long Beach IndyCar weekend, which neither team won, Autoweek reports that Tim Cindric, President of Penske Racing, “tried a baseball analogy, making those in Ganassi colors see red. He said Team Penske is the New York Yankees and Ganassi Racing the Miami Marlins.” Ganassi responded that “from time to time Tim probably cashes lots of different checks in different currency that Roger doesn’t like cashing.” The sphinx-like Roger said not a word. Comes with the territory.

Allard K1-544 Sport

Allard K1-544 Sport

Long Beach Weekend

Saturday: The Tudor Sports Car Series race was the main event and even though the classes are still confusing, the racing was great. The final laps were flat-out racing in both the prototype and the GTLM production car classes. Ford Eco-Boost powered Riley with Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas won for Ganassi in Prototype. In the GT Le Mans class Corvette won overall but the battle for second between another Corvette, the BMW, and the Viper was tremendous. It is amazing and a testament to the excellent work that IMSA has done to make cars as disparate as these so competitive with each other.

Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Torpedo de Lux

Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Torpedo de Lux

Sunday: The IndyCar feature race of the weekend was “wild”. Many harsh words exchanged but no fisticuffs and cars did collide; people who know better made dumb moves. And, while everyone talks about Ganassi and Penske teams as the powerhouses, it was the Andretti car driven by Ryan Hunter-Reay that led 51 laps and was followed by a second Andretti car driven by James Hinchcliff. Unfortunately they took each other out. Unkind words were spoken. So none of the big teams won. As for the race, it was excellent! Like most street tracks, Long Beach has issues but the pluses outweigh the shortcomings. The fact that the field is so deep, talented, and competitive makes for great racing. Amazingly, running a single car doesn’t appear to be a disadvantage. Single car teams made up the front row. Ed Carpenter Racing and driver Mike Conway won the race. It was fun to watch. The fuel and tire strategies, the quick young drivers and experienced veterans, a tight course with no run-offs, are the ingredients required for laughter and tears and there was plenty of the latter. If you are looking for an exciting change from F1, give this a try.

And, BTW, pass this on to a friend.

Peter Bourassa

1938 MG TA Tickford

1938 MG TA Tickford

 1932 Delage D8 SS Interior | Michael Furman, Photographer

1932 Delage D8 SS Interior | Michael Furman, Photographer


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on April 11, 2014 Comments (0)

F1

Just when we were expecting the worst, a fine race broke out. This was certainly one of the best races F1 has produced in recent memory. Bahrain is still a Mickey Mouse track but it would have been impossible to duplicate this kind of close racing at Spa. Why do TV racing producers feel compelled to keep the cars racing for the win off of our screens? This is not the first race this year where we are treated to the gripping battle for fifth while the battle for the win is ignored. Meanwhile, Ferrari and Renault need a new plan soon or heads will roll.

Denise McCluggage and Anne Hall in Ford Falcon -- Monte Carlo Rally

But Baby, It’s Cold Outside

It is the 50th Anniversary of Paddy Hopkirk’s Monte Carlo win and our lead image is of Denise McCluggage and co-driver Anne Hall blasting thru the Alps to win the Lady’s Cup and, more important, their class in the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally! Denise also raced and won for Ford in The Shell 4000 Rally in Canada. Read on.

Winter Courting in Quebec

We never really took Summer rallying seriously. We just wanted to drive fast for an hour, find a secluded beach with a campfire and warm beer and neck. Ah necking! It was a far different time.

Winter rallies were different, we would bounce our little AH Sprites at breakneck speeds over snow packed and deeply rutted side roads in the Quebec countryside to finish in some warm little restaurant where we would learn that the winning team, generally driving a Volkswagen Beetle equipped with functional windshield wipers, a heater and a calculator, (The unfair advantage?) had finished an hour ahead of us and we had never even been on the same roads. Then we would fall back into our little cars, race all the way back to St. Jean with one eye glued to a five inch half circle of clear windshield. It is amazing that we lived. Girls wouldn’t come with us on these adventures because, one, they took place on Sunday mornings and they had to go to church, and two, the rallies were stupid and they weren’t. Besides they never necked on Sunday. It was their day off.

Uncommon Classifieds

This week’s classifieds are exceptional. Take a moment to buy one.

Alfas Everywhere!

S. Scott Callan shared images and a vignette about Enzo Ferrari and his days with Alfa—from his book Alfa Romeo: View From the Mouth of the Dragon. This week’s brilliant image of our favorite car (which resides at the Simeone Foundation Museum) is from Michael Furman’s book The Spirit of Competition.

Michael Furman photo

Have a great weekend. Don’t forget to share this with a friend.

Peter Bourassa


My Word: Fifty Years Ago Paddy Won

Posted on April 9, 2014 Comments (1)

But So Did We, With a Falcon!

By Denise McCluggage

The invitation read that fifty years ago Paddy Hopkirk won the Monte Carlo Rally in a Mini Cooper S. To honor that accomplishment there would be a gathering at one of my favorite places, the Candy Store in Burlingame, California. Alas, I sent regrets. Broke a bone the previous month and I’m still hobbling.

It was Paddy’s 80th birthday, too.

I'd been on the BMC (British Motor Corp) rally team along with the incredible Paddy in the early 1960s. Americans on British works teams were rare. Actually nonexistent except for me when it comes to that. Besides BMC I drove for Ford of England and for Rover. And for a couple of American factory teams too—General Motors and Ford. Didn't know they did that sort of thing, did you?

Which brings to mind the year that Paddy took the Mini to victory in the Monte—1964—I also had a bit of a success in that winter dash about the snow-bandaged Alps. In a Ford Falcon no less with Anne Hall, a.k.a. the Flying Yorkshirewoman. Outcome: we won the Lady's Cup and our class. Hey, Ford, remember that? Fifty years ago. The Monte Carlo!

Denise McCluggage and Anne Hall in the Ford Falcon -- Monte Carlo Rally

Well-l-l, never mind the roses. I got a lot of flowers when I broke that bone.

At that time rallies did exist in America but differed greatly from those in Europe. The European rallies were thinly-veiled road races lasting for days. American fans of today’s televised World Rally Championship would not recognize the sedate, intellectually-themed constructs that were American rallies then. Constrained by speed limits and no cultural history, American rallies were mathematical exercises. Time-distance events that depended less on high-performance driving skills and more on the ability for quick calculations, attention to detail, ability to follow instructions and not mess up.

In those contests check points were often unexpected, some even hidden, so adhering to the called-for speed—something like 22.7 mph changing for a few miles to 29.3 then to 30.6 and back—meant being at the correct speed always or risking penalties. Being early could cost even more than being late. Precision mattered and the navigator called the shots.

In Europe, on the other hand, we tried to be as early as possible to the next check point so we could have time for servicing the rally car from the support vehicles, usually station wagons that were driven shorter routes and/or driven as hard as competitors to stake out a spot near the approach to the check point to tend to our needs. Tire changes maybe, headlight aiming, etc. Arriving early was also the only way we could grab a few minutes of sleep or a quick bite of something.

In America the time-distance experts used what technology was available to aid their calculations. The latest thing was a dandy gadget called a Curta calculator. The Curta looked for all the world like a pepper mill right down to its little crank. It was a new twist on the slide rule and used by the brainiacs until computers—not long from being the size of the boy’s gym in junior high—shrank to passenger-seat use. The navigator adept with a Curta was in demand.

Still we scornful philistines who just wanted to drive as unrestrained as possible had figured out the secret to having fun in an American rally. Simply get gloriously lost early on and spend the rest of the event really hanging it out to more or less catch up.

Actually time-distance events are an art form of their own. And fun in their heady way. Some rally proponents, like Satch Carlson, are close to addiction in their devotion to them. I simply prefer the present WRC or the old European model. Didn’t a Harvard president take lots of heat for implying girls weren’t good at math? Sadly, he was right-on in my case. And I missed out on music, too. (I’ll blow a door off if you like.)

The Monte Carlo designated a number of European cities as starting points with all roads aimed for the Alpes-Maritimes, the favored neighborhood for most continental rallies. The teams I drove for seemed to favor Paris for a bon start. All entrants were doing the same transition routes and special stages as we got closer to Monte Carlo.

Studded tires were new about this time and were supposed to be the hot ticket. Studs were obviously best for traction on packed snow. Any further art had not developed to a fine state. The studs in the tires mounted on the Falcon were too long and on the hard ice and the frequent bare pavement they had nothing to dig into. It was like wearing golf shoes on a tile floor. Even worse because the studs were long enough to bend over. The car was all over the place with little rubber ever touching the road surface.

Anne was up to the task as weird as it was and good thing too. We had no time to change tires, even if we could find our support as we plunged down to the Mediterranean. Anne kept on top of the slithers and slides of the Falcon as we hair-pinned the last stretch into Monte Carlo.

The next day with new tires and the studs gone she might have had an easier time going for speed on the course of the Monte Carlo Grand Prix—solo in the car—but Anne’s forte was in the flying elbows of the rallyist of the day. She was a tiger on every turn. Looked fantastic.

So as Paddy and the Mini won the whole thing we took our little part of it, too.

Congratulations to all deserving. And, Happy Birthday Mr. Hopkirk.