MMR Blog

MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on May 30, 2014 Comments (0)

Last week’s newsletter prompted interesting responses. A sidebar to Denise McCluggage’s story about rallying behind the Iron Curtain is a precious vignette entitled The Last Supper. An image of a racing Ferrari Daytona prompted Michael Keyser to send us some images he shot of the same car at Le Mans in 1971. And, we received a note from its former owner Dave Gunn. You will be interested in both their comments. The #31 Porsche catching air on the uphill at Lime Rock last Saturday is by editor Dom Miliano. 

Catching air at Lime Rock. Photo by Dom Miliano

Michael Furman’s image this week is a Bugatti 57SC Atlantic from his book, The Art of Bugatti. You can look at this for a long time.

Photo by Michael Furman

F1 - Monaco. Shifting Ethos

As predicted here and almost everywhere else, the pole winner also won the race. Despite the absence of passing, the battle, both in and out of the cars, between the Mercedes drivers, though childish in spots, is entertaining. In the final qualifying session, with Rosberg holding the fastest time, he went off track in a safe spot and that brought out a yellow flag which obliged his teammate and everyone else on a final flying lap to abort their effort and thereby insure the pole for Rosberg.

On several occasions in the past F1 drivers have purposely crashed at the end of the qualifying to ensure that their time could not be bettered. In 2006, Michael Schumacher was penalized for doing just that on this very track. Rosberg was not penalized and rumors flew all weekend that Mercedes telemetry showed his off track excursion was deliberate. Hamilton’s demeanor certainly intimated that he knew his teammate had stolen the race from him and he is quoted as saying that he was two tenths quicker when the yellow flag flew and would have taken the pole. A subsequent interview with Derek Warwick, the designated forth member of the race stewards panel, a veteran F1 driver who participated in 146 races and current President of the BRDC (British Racing Drivers Club), stated that the stewards had access to independent film, overhead shots, and all the Mercedes data. After a lengthy interview, they “could find no evidence of any offence”.

In F1, the drama of the actual racing struggles to equal the theatre provided by the teams, drivers, and locations, not to mention national rivalries that have existed for decades. Hamilton, for all his talent, is a walking soap opera. In Rosberg, he has a teammate so completely different, that it is impossible to believe that they could compete in the supercharged atmosphere of F1 with equal equipment and also get along. And for some, that is part of the entertainment.

Monaco

My only issue with the controversy is more a sad measure of the times. When it was assumed, and even stated on air by a prominent former driver, that only a minority believed Rosberg’s story, one article commended him for knowing that this is what is expected of a driver fighting for the Championship. It was reminiscent of those who commended Vettel for disobeying team orders and passing his unsuspecting teammate Mark Webber in the dying moments of the Malaysian GP last year. If that is the new standard of a Champion, drivers like Fangio, Clark, Graham and Phil Hill, and so many, many others would not be comfortable in their company. And neither should we.

IndyCar: The Double H Win Indy

It was an entertaining battle and in the end, Honda beat Chevy and Ryan Hunter-Reay won the Indianapolis 500. It was a good race and Hunter-Reay’s Honda-powered car was faster when it counted most. His comment I’m a proud American Boy, that’s for sure brought a huge cheer from the crowd.

With this win, Hunter-Reay, a former IndyCar Series Champion, took a giant step forward in the eyes of race fans and he brought Andretti-Green racing and Honda along with him. He is now first in the IndyCar points standings and has displaced Team Penske’s Will Power who finished eighth. Both the Penske and Ganassi Teams took a back seat to Andretti-Green who finished first, third, fourth, and sixth. Andretti-Green must now be considered their equals. Should they win the championship, even better.

Of interest, NASCAR Driver Kurt Busch finished sixth in his first IndyCar race. Nineteen-year-old Sage Karam finished ninth, and former race winner, series champion, and Fi Champion Jacques Villeneuve finished 14th.

This weekend IndyCar is in Detroit and for a two race weekend. Check out our MMR Motorsports Calendar for it and other options.

Editor Dom Miliano and I will be at the Greenwich Concours on Sunday. We hope to see you there.

Have a great weekend,

Peter Bourassa


Le Mans 1971

Posted on May 29, 2014 Comments (1)

by Michael Keyser

Here are a few more [photographs of the Daytona]. One is just after the race with people crawling on the car. Not sure if you know the story, but the car was driven by Luigi Chinetti, Jr. and Bob Grossman. They finished 5th and thought they’d won the GT class … until the French did some slight of hand. Somehow, the ACO decided the Ferrari wasn’t a GT car and awarded the class win to the 911S that finished 6th and was driven by … guess … two Frenchmen.

Le Mans 1971 - Photo by Michael Keyser

Le Mans 1971 - Photo by Michael Keyser

Le Mans 1971 - Photo by Michael Keyser

Le Mans 1971 - Photo by Michael Keyser

Le Mans 1971 - Photo by Michael Keyser


The Last Supper

Posted on May 29, 2014 Comments (0)

by Denise McCluggage

The Brits call it a recce, short for the pre-rally reconnaissance run teams do to make the pace notes that the navigator reads to the driver—“crest, straight, max; 30 yards blind-left, max.” etc. (I once had a look at Timo Makinen’s pace notes. Everything was “max.”)

After their recce for the Liege-Sofia-Liege several rally duos met by chance at a restaurant near the Yugoslav border and joined for dinner. As one of the group told me later the intent of all was to spend as much of the local cash they could. It turned worthless at the border and they were forbidden to take it out of the country anyway.

Eat up, everyone. And they did. But they still had wads of the currency left after the bill was paid. Everyone cleaned out his pockets. They called the waiter over and presented it all to him as his eyes widened. He left and came back with his boss. The rally guys assured the proprietor that it was all for the waiter, they were leaving the country and could not take it.

As they were finishing their coffee one nudged another and all followed his look. Their waiter was removing his apron, took his jacket off the hook and shrugged his way into it as he headed for the door. My informant told me there was even a spring in the old guy’s normal waiter’s shuffle and a prideful finality in the way the door closed behind him. One of the rally guys whispered: “Cor. How much do you suppose that lot was worth?”

Liege Sofia Liege


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on May 23, 2014 Comments (0)

Reading Ferrari Concours d’Elegance

Indianapolis 500

Memorial Day weekend is traditionally the first big motorsports weekend of the season. On this side of the pond, the Month of May Marathon known as Indianapolis 500 dominates the news and the Charlotte 600 will occupy NASCAR fans who can stay awake that long. Something to look for at Indy: All the race cars have identical Dallara chassis. The differences are the drivers and the engines. The engines are by Honda and Chevy and each has five cars in the top ten starting spots. As in multiple pit stop races, this one will come down to which engine and driver combo gets the best mileage and makes the fewest, shortest stops. It should be a great race.

F1: GP of Monaco

AMG Mercedes F1

On the very same day, F1 celebrates its crown jewel, the Grand Prix de Monaco . Tickets are still available for Saturday and Sunday at just over $1K US per seat. Paddock Club Seats, with free refreshments, are $6.3K US each. Perhaps they call it the Crown Jewel of F1 because you almost have to hock yours to get a seat. If all goes to form, the winner may actually be chosen on Saturday at the end of qualifying. If you recall last year’s winner, Nico Rosberg, led from pole with a slow car that no one could pass. That is the nature of this track and that’s why this is the most important qualifying session of the season. Don’t miss it.

Monaco Video

This week’s video is a fascinating side-by-side look at Michael Schumacher’s lap of Monaco to win the F1 GP pole in 2012 and Nico Rosberg's 2013 Monaco pole. It is really quite remarkable just how devoid of imagination one needs to be to drive an F1 car there.

Monaco Books

Speaking of Monaco, check out David Bull Publishing who have a special offer on their signed copies of Hunt vs. Lauda and Chris Amon’s book A Year of Living Dangerously. The latter is reviewed in our Racemaker Press Book Reviews.

The Lotus-Etc I Left Behind

Denise McCluggage’s story about rallying a Ford Cortina in the sixties is the kind of adventure that just couldn’t happen today. Dammit.

In Praise of Older Cars, Part 2

Those of you who loved the ‘60s and ‘70s will enjoy it. Those of you who missed them will yawn or think me daft. Or both. We welcome your thoughts.

Passings

Sir Jack

An apt title for this paragraph as the death of Australian Sir Jack Brabham, three time F1 Champion, engineer, and car constructor reminds us of a winning driver who was hard to pass and difficult to keep passed. Putting aside stories of his driving style, Brabham’s accomplishments are not inconsiderable. He introduced rear engine cars to the Indianapolis 500 with Cooper in 1961. He is the only person to ever win an F1 World Championship with a car of his own construction. In 1966, he saw the potential of the Buick 215 CID aluminum engine which, with Australian parts company Repco’s help, he turned into a championship winning Repco V8 engine. He is survived by sons Geoff, Gary, and David. All successful racers.

Reading Concours. Pietro Castiglioni

Last weekend, Editor Dom Miliano attended the Reading Ferrari Concours d’Elegance where he shot this week’s eye candy. The event celebrated the life and Ferrari times of its founder Pietro Castiglioni. He is featured in this painting.

The Furman Image

Michael Furman photography. Side view of a Bugatti Type 35

This week’s Michael Furman image is a side view of a Bugatti Type 35.

Have a great weekend.

Peter Bourassa

Reading Ferrari Concours d’Elegance

Reading Ferrari Concours d’Elegance


In Praise of Older Cars – Part 2

Posted on May 22, 2014 Comments (4)

I awoke on Saturday morning at 4:00AM. I knew I had a hell of a day ahead of me. By 5:00AM I had pushed the 308 out of the garage and far enough away from the house that I would not startle the people and animals in the house when it fired up, I had topped off the gas tank and was on the Mass Pike headed for Trenton New Jersey.

The sun was up and, being a Saturday, the traffic was light. I was going to a photo demonstration by Michael Furman. He was shooting a collector car and invited interested and would-be photographers to attend. I was in the latter category. The location was a small aircraft hanger at the Trenton-Mercer Airport in New Jersey. Being a man, I didn’t look it up but I estimated the trip was about 230 to 250 miles. I had driven by the Trenton exit on the Jersey Turnpike a hundred times and I had 4½ hours to make it. Michael said it was right off exit 3A on 95. Easy peasey.

According to the manual, the WASRED 308 was originally equipped with 14” wheels and 205x70 TWX tires all round. It currently has 205x55x16s at the front and 225X50X16s at the back. And it looks better that way. The car does not have power steering and at low speed and around town it is definitely an upper body builder. Once past 40mph the steering is comfortable and once past 60mph it is pure joy. The speedometer on this car has an optimistic bent and despite the fact that it read 90mph I was running somewhere between 75-80 and some traffic was still passing me. Now for breakfast! A bottle of water and a PRO BAR meal in my favorite flavor, Koka Moka! This is unquestionably how the rich and famous live!

After three hours I crossed the George Washington Bridge and pulled over at the first rest stop on the NJ Turnpike to look at the map. It was now eight o’clock and (Surprise! Surprise!) Trenton was another 100 miles away and 95 was NOT the NJ Turnpike at Exit 3A. So I pedaled like hell and with the help of my cell phone arrived at the designated hanger at exactly 9:30AM. The odometer read exactly 300.1 miles. Cool.

Michael’s subject car for the day was a silver Ferrari 275 GTB. A lovely car. It sat on a dolly about 18 inches off the floor and for the next four hours the car was positioned and lit and highlighted in multiple fashions. Michael’s work is what a friend described as a study in the control of space and light. Just when you thought it was perfect. He made it better.

The clinic was excellent. Michael was very open about everything going on and took the time to explain both the physical aspect, the draping of the windows, the covering of the floor, the positioning of the car in relation to the light bank but also all the details of the camera and the software he uses to capture the image and then manipulate it to the finished product.

Sometime after noon, Michael took a break and ordered pizza. Things were getting down to the technical details about which I know little, or more precisely nothing, and so I bid everyone farewell and fell back into the Ferrari for the ride home.

In anticipation of the forecasted bad weather I had tucked a hand towel behind the passenger seat to block or mop up the inevitable rivers of rain that occur whenever heavy rain and the WASRED 308 meet. I filled up at the earliest opportunity and got back on the turnpike headed for the George Washington Bridge. About 50 miles from my goal, it began to rain heavily and rain dripped from the joint where the top, windshield and window meet. It dripped onto the window control switch located on the driver’s side armrest. Oh Joy! So I found the hand towel and put it over the switch. We were still maintaining a steady 50mph. As I passed the Newark exits and approached the end of the turnpike, the road became a series of very high bridges over the NJ wetlands and the wind gusts picked up considerably in intensity. This terrified drivers of the slab-sided SUVs surrounding me and they all slowed down to 15mph. The wind gusts also gave the gods of wind and rain attacking the 308 more impetus to find a way inside the car and, being determined as they were, they did. My poor little hand towel didn’t have a chance. I felt like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice for twenty or so miles. The wind and rain abated as we approached the GW Bridge and then the cheerful overhead signs indicated that there would be a delay of 45 minutes to cross the bridge. This proved a very optimistic forecast.

This delay and three subsequent ones in Connecticut, caused by various accidents, turned what was a one way 4½ hour journey into a 7 hour return trip. During these delays, other than the constant manipulation of the very heavy clutch, watching the coolant temperature needle rise and fall, and an excellent view of the hubcaps of the surrounding SUVs, I had little left to do but think. So, to the sound of the engine and little else, I began a review of my situation and what had brought me to it. I opened another bottle of water and another Koka Moka PRO BAR (my favorite drive ‘n drink road lunch).

As I sat in traffic inching along, I felt that the French expression “etre bien dans ca peau” to be “well in one’s skin” seemed to apply to my state of mind and that I should share that with you because I often feel that way when I am driving my 308. Like a number of our readers, I am well past the “poring over the latest auto magazine to see which new vehicle I should purchase next” stage. I frankly don’t see enough difference between them all. But I still get excited at a car show when I see certain cars from the ‘60s and ‘70s period. While it is true that today’s cars are far more reliable, comfortable, faster, safer, and unquestionably drier, the cars of the sixties and seventies, which is 50 plus years ago, were probably more fun and certainly more of a treat for the senses. Dealing with the visual first. It is difficult to find a car today as elegant as the 1961 XKE Coupe or the Ferrari 250SWB or the 275GTB. Or for that matter as muscularly attractive as the ‘62 and ‘66-‘67 Corvettes. And there are dozens more. You can fill in your own favorites here, but consider that these were Street Cars. Here at MMR World Headquarters, I am surrounded by images and models of beautiful race cars that I have collected for the past 30 years. Among the models, a recently arrived Ferrari 250LM, a Ferrari 250SWB and a 330/P4, a Chaparral 2A, a Maserati Birdcage, and two Ford GT40s. I’d love a Porsche 904. I also have a model of a Shelby GT350R that a friend once owned and poster size pictures of a Corvette Grand Sport and a McLaren F1. Today’s wing and winglet bedecked racers are a tribute to efficiency and down force but, all day long, I’d rather be looking at a lightweight Jaguar racer of the ‘60s.

Sound is very important to enthusiasts. The exhaust sound of a sixties Ferrari V12 street or race car is unmatched. Small block V8s with dual exhausts and glasspacks are also sweet. But my favorite engine sound is that of a big block Chevy. Bear with me here as I try my best to describe what is happening in the engine and exhaust systems. Exhaust sounds are pulses of air and burned fuel being expelled from the engine and channeled through metal pipes, sound modifiers (mufflers etc.), and away from the car. Eight cylinders being channeled through a single exhaust pipe forces the pulses together and the sound is rather homogeneous. The same eight cylinders divided into two tubes allows for spacing between the pulses and the different timing sequences for different engines gives each exhaust a distinctive sound pattern. Engine sounds, not exhaust notes, are affected by gearing. Much like a bicycle, the engine (you) needs to first turn the easiest gear to gather enough momentum to power the second gear and so on. The engine changes sound as it stresses to reach its optimum power band where, due in part to momentum, things become easier and faster and sounds different again as it reaches its maximum capacity to breath in and exhaust out. The more gears the easier the load on the engine. The driver of a 427 street Corvette with side pipes hears primarily the four cylinders exhausting on his side of the car and the passenger side exhaust is background. The engine itself has so much torque and power that when mated to the optional close ratio gearboxes, it provides the driver with consistently equal power and sound through all four gears. Every time you shift this car under power the engine virtually sounds like it is in first gear again. That is quite a thrill. And in the sixties this amazing package came from the factory at an affordable price. Today’s laws don’t allow those sounds on street cars. Score one more for the sixties and seventies.

I don’t like the musty smell of old, but I like the smell of the sixties cars. Leather seats were “all” leather, not simply the part you sat on. Door panels also were leather covered and all this leather imparted a certain odor which when mixed with the woolen rugs was very comforting and home like. For some reason the Brits were best at this possibly because they were the last manufacturers to abandon wood in the passenger cabin. Actually, I think that Morgans still use ash chassis frames. We use metal, plastic and carbon fiber these days. As I consider it, perhaps I do like the smell of old. I certainly miss the smell of Castrol R engine oil. And one became familiar with it because many engines leaked oil.

Today’s tires, stiffer chassis and suspension options make today’s cars clear winners in the turning a corner without leaning category. And in that respect the cars are also safer. Driving down a slightly bumpy road, the comfortably soft sixties-seventies suspension might be viewed quite favorably in comparison. My recent trip to the Delmarva Peninsula in a Ferrari 365GTC/4 and subsequent brief ride in an Iso Grifo reminded me that performance cars needn’t be skateboards with big engines.

It is important to note that within that twenty year window of 1960 to 1979, huge advances were made. Many of the cars discussed were virtually obsolete by then and much of their charm was sacrificed on the altar of progress. The early sixties 250SWB Ferrari whose praises we have been singing was, by the mid-seventies, supplanted by mid-engine V12s and V8s powered Ferraris like the one in which I was sitting. Think of the technical changes between the SWB and the first 308. Gone was the worm and sector steering, V12 - 3 liter 240HP front engine, 4 speed with overdrive transmission and solid rear axle, all replaced by a more sensitive rack and pinion, a slightly more horsepower V8 – 3 liter 250HP mid engine with a 5 speed transaxle, and an independent suspension. Completely different cars whose price points never met. But it exemplifies the technical changes which even a change-resistant Enzo Ferrari was capable of making in less than 15 years. Ask me which I would rather own if I had to keep it for life and given how I use a car, the choice would be difficult.

In our final traffic interruption of the day as we all crawled towards Hartford, a man in a big white SUV looked down at me and took a picture of the car with his sunglasses.

When I pulled into the driveway at home it was 9:30PM and the odometer read 593.

I need another long drive to figure out why I really want one of those big old touring beasts of the thirties. Huge engines and plenty of room for people and food and wine. Now that’s touring in style… unless, of course, they leak.

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