MMR Blog

MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on August 29, 2014 Comments (0)

 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance 2014

The process of recovering from the events at Monterey Week has less to do with sleep than sorting out everything that happened there and how to tell the story to you, our loyal readers.

 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance 2014

This week we will share the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance images in the Blind Pig Gallery on our website. I remember standing somewhere in the middle of the field, looking around at all the exceptional cars, the exceptional setting and saying to myself, for a car guy, this is the best place to be in the whole world today. Thank you Pebble Beach people.


Lime Rock Park Historic Festival poster

The Lime Rock Historic Festival will be the best place to be this weekend and we will be there beginning today. 

Vintage race cars will be on track today and tomorrow, Sunday will feature a huge concours and Monday it is back to racing. Tough to beat.

Please note that several notable cars from the Ralph Lauren Collection will be on display all weekend. For a sneak peek at what you'll see, here's a gallery featuring Tony Singer's photographs of the Ralph Lauren car collection in the exhibition “L’Art de L’Automobile”.

See you there.


Racing

Spa, VIR, and Sonoma are road courses and they benefit the sport hugely. Both the drivers and the spectators see racing as it was meant to be. No temporary pit, potholed streets, or concrete walls the whole way round. This past weekend may have been the most entertaining motorsports viewing of the year. So let’s get to it.

F1: Rosberg Turns Whine into Wine

Nico Rosberg

The soap opera goes on. Even after the summer break and the advancements made by Ferrari and Red Bull, Mercedes continues to be the class of the field. On a long track like Spa, they are as much as a second to two seconds better and in F1 that is huge. The drama of the show, decidedly different from the driving of the show continues to be the conflict between the drivers on the leading team. Meanwhile the driving spotlight falls on Red Bull’s Ricciardo, who is both good and lucky, and Williams’ Bottas, who is due a top step on the podium soon. He consistently does well while avoiding conflict. McLaren’s Magnussen’s fight with the far more experienced Alonso, Button, and Vettel on older tires was really entertaining.

Jackie Stewart

The Brits believe they invented F1. Since the F1 industry is based in Britain and Brits have held the major positions at most teams at some point, it is not difficult to understand from whence they come. All European countries support their F1 drivers and in England Button and Hamilton are national heroes. Since North Americans have not had F1 winners since the Villeneuves, our coverage has, of necessity, always had a British filter. Whether it is David Hobbs or before him Sir Jackie Stewart, we have always accepted their analysis of how the cow ate the cabbage. I enjoy reading Denise McCluggage’s view of F1. Unfettered by having to defend or promote an American hero, it seems to me that she writes about pure racing. Read her recent piece on Vettel’s whining. But getting back to the Brits. In Hamilton they have their classic tragically flawed hero. Possibly, and I stress “possibly”, the most naturally gifted driver on the grid, he understands the car and the racing but he is woefully pitiful in what we have previously referred to here as racecraft. His dilemma is that in partnering with Rosberg, who probably, and I stress “probably” is not as naturally gifted, is a master of racecraft. While unquestionably affected by being booed for his second place finish, he immediately explained that only a few of Lewis’s British fans were responsible, thereby marginalizing Hamilton’s constituency to a few rabid Brits, which can only have infuriated them more. Then, while Hamilton woefully pleads that he was in front and he had the line, Rosberg, when questioned, politely explains that he hasn’t yet seen the video and that it would be unfair to comment until he has. From what we could see on the US broadcast, Hamilton unquestionably had the line and didn’t leave room. Rosberg could have backed out earlier and was wrong to expect that Hamilton would leave him room. But he was too stubborn to avoid a collision and so they did. It cost Rosberg a pit stop for a new nose, and possibly the win and it cost Hamilton the race points he would have received for winning or finishing second. It is not hard to believe that had Hamilton’s tire not been cut he would have won the race and had absolutely no sympathy for Rosberg’s plight.

Mercedes was the big loser and management are understandably annoyed. This was an embarrassment to them, and they made both their employees aware of their displeasure. But the gamesmanship between Hamilton and Rosberg continued to fascinate. While Lewis dejectedly lamented his loss to the media, Rosberg, recognizing that the British press would never love him as they do their beloved Lewis, accepted that he could have backed off. His acceptance was brilliant and I wouldn’t find it hard to believe that once he got away from the embarrassing trophy presentation a little birdie whispered in his ear that this could work for him. In one fell swoop he mollified his team management, further incensed a constituency that Rosberg has little chance of winning over and sent a message to Hamilton not to do that again unless he wanted the same result. It was clever of Rosberg to accept some responsibility, even if he didn’t feel it or wasn’t in the slightest bit responsible. He won the points, which was his goal and handed Hamilton a lesson in the mind game known as racecraft.

The Rosberg-Hamilton situation is in many ways reminiscent of the Prost-Senna battles of their day. It is little remembered that while Senna enjoyed the adulation of the masses, he won but three world Championships to Prost’s four. Only two other drivers have won more. And in the end, to Prost, to Senna and to history, nothing mattered more.

IndyCar

Roger Penske

On a far friendlier and less Machiavellian note, the battle for the IndyCar Championship between the Penske drivers continued at the Northern California Sonoma road course. The long (2.4 mile) track, seemingly unaffected by the previous night’s earthquake hosted the second to last race of the season and the quick but erratic points leader and pole sitter Will Power blew the lead and a good points to finish tenth. He picked up 24 points to teammate Castroneves’ 12 giving him a 51 point lead going in to the final double-points paying race this weekend at Fontana California. A win at Fontana is worth 104 points; Power won it last October.

The winner of the Sonoma race was Scott Dixon who has emerged from the shadow of former team leader Dario Franchitti to finally be recognized for the excellent and clever driver he is. A third Penske driver, Juan Pablo Montoya also showed he will be a force to be reckoned with next year. The fiery Montoya has calmed somewhat since his first IndyCar go-around but he is still very feisty and he will definitely be a noisy challenger next year. He lead Sunday’s race at one point and finished fifth overall. This weekend’s race at the dreaded Fontana oval will be very exciting.

It was stated several times over the weekend that IndyCar has never been more competitive. This is difficult to prove but there is little doubt that this new product has the cars, the drivers, and the sponsorship base. It requires a larger enthusiast base and better quality venues. Once the latter has been addressed, the former will come.

Tudor United Sports Car Racing

The verdant VIR race track has only pavement in common with Sonoma. But that is the most important similarity. Virginia International Raceway is 3.3 miles long and hosted the 2 hours and 45 minutes that constituted last Sunday’s Oak Tree Grand Prix feature race for sports cars. Once again, kudos to the people who are adjusting the rules that allow their two series to come together and be competitive. 

Giancarlo Fisichella

The Risi 458 Ferrari driven by F1 driver Giancarlo Fisichella and Pierre Kaffer beat back a Porsche, two BMWs, and a Viper to win a thrilling wire to wire all sports car race. The final ten minutes of this race were epic and the drivers fought bumper to bumper to produce a fantastically entertaining race.

Corvette continues to lead the series but Viper are giving them a great run and were exceptionally fast at VIR. The next race at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) on September 19-20 (circle the date) will be equally interesting as this 3.4 mile track also favors big fast cars.

The final race in the series will be the Petit Le Mans 10-hour endurance race at Road Atlanta on October 3 & 4. Hopefully our hero Tommy Kendall will be co-driving this race in a Viper.

I must confess that the multiple classes in the United Sports Car series still confuse me and that at some tracks the combining of the prototype and sports cars just makes for cluttered racing. I have determined that I like both kinds of racing, simply not together.

 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance 2014


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on August 22, 2014 Comments (2)

In the opinion of some, there may be a better concours than Pebble Beach, and there may be a better racetrack for vintage racing than Laguna Seca. There may be a better celebration of Italian cars than Concorso Italiano and there may even be a better street show and setting than Ocean Drive in Carmel, but all believe there is nowhere else in the car world where they all come together as well as at Monterey Week.

This week we have a wonderful American car story by Denise McCluggage, who judged at Pebble Beach last weekend, and an image (below) from Michael Furman of a 1922 Bugatti T23 Brescia 1361.

Image from Michael Furman of a 1922 Bugatti T23 Brescia 1361

We hope Porsche fans took advantage of the individually signed Porsche poster we offered in last week’s MMR Newsletter. There are very few left and the offer goes out next week to the 12,000 subscribers of Sports Car Market.

Racing

F1 returns this weekend for the Spa-Belgium GP, one of the best on the F1 Calendar. While little testing is done during this period, look for the teams to be much closer in speed at Spa.

The Milwaukee Mile:

Will Power for Team Penske

Before sports car road racing came to places like Pebble Beach and Watkins Glen, there was already a rich history of oval track racing on wooden boards and dirt flat tracks. Founded in 1903, the famous mile was paved in 1954. Front engine roadsters with skinny tires put on a far different show than the modern Indy cars with high down force and fat tires. There really was only one line around here and Will Power took pole and that line to lead most of the race. That single lane limited the passing opportunities and, though a good race, it was not judged to be an exciting one. On camera, the grandstand appeared sparsely populated but organizers announced that attendance was 30K, 2K more than last year.

IndyCar has two races with 200 points left to hand out to the winners; Will Power of Team Penske has a 39 point lead over teammate Helio Castroneves. Stay tuned to your sets for the next two weeks as the battle continues. (Check our MMR Calendar for details.)

Concours

Monterey: Lamborghini wins!

This has been a huge year for Lamborghini in America. Continuing their tradition of unpronounceable model names the Huracan (hoor-a-can) made its North American debut at Amelia and was an instant hit. Two months later Bonhams sold a vintage Countach (Kun ta) for over a million dollars at Greenwich. Gooding sold one for almost $2M and a 400GT for almost $900K. Plus another Lamborghini 400GT won best of Show at the Concorso Italiano. Word on the street is that a Huracan sold today will be delivered in 12 months. Lamborghini is doing well.

Over the next few weeks we will share stories and images of our Monterey adventure.

Pebble Beach

Ferrari wins!

John Shirley’s 1954 Scaglietti bodied 375 Ferrari Coupe won the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and became the first post war car to win Pebble Beach since 1968.

Maserati was the featured marque but John Shirley’s 1954 Scaglietti bodied 375 Ferrari Coupe won the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and became the first post war car to win Pebble Beach since 1968. It was commissioned by Italian film director Roberto Rossellini and was Scaglietti’s first for Ferrari. The car is a fitting winner as no other car on the field matched it for the combination of style and story. At the time Roberto Rossellini owned it, he was married and involved in a notorious affair with actress Ingrid Bergman. Legend has it that the two were driving along the Italian coast and stopped the car to walk on the beach. Upon their return they found a lovely fresh fish, wrapped in newspaper, had been left on the passenger seat with a note thanking them for leaving such beautiful car for them to view.

Twenty Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa’s made for a rather spectacular presentation. All but one had been restored.

Concorso Italiano

Nothing Succeeds Like Excess.

Amidst a sea of red 308-355-360-430-458 and other Ferraris, some rarer pearls do appear. This is a joyous show populated mostly by Ferrari Club of America member cars. The invited designer was Zagato and they displayed a gaggle of Zagato designed cars. The most sought after car of the weekend was the new Alfa 4C. While, like many others, we applaud, nay celebrate, Alfa’s return, we cannot say that we are impressed much by the Lotus derived styling. Here is an image of a Zagato TZ3 Stradale Alfa that really did impress.

Alfa

Also an Intermeccanica Italia with a 351 Ford engine that reminds us all of the glorious ISO-Bizzarini, Apollo, deTomaso era of Italian chassis-American engine cars are also appreciating.

Intermeccanica Italia

The winning car, deservedly, in the heart of Ferrari country, was a lovely Lamborghini 400GT.

Lamborghini 400GT

See you next week.

Peter Bourassa


My Word: Serial Collecting

Posted on August 21, 2014 Comments (1)

by Denise McCluggage

It seemed to Joe Marchetti it was about time to get the Breadvan back. Joe, who died way too early at 68 in 2002, ran the Como Inn—a huge Chicago eatery—as well as more intimate restaurants. He also set up some terrific car events at Elkhart Lake because he probably liked cars as much as food and he knew how to celebrate both.

Como Inn Restaurant

As for the Breadvan, it was a Kamm-backed special Ferrari based on a 250 SWB Ferrari and was a GTO beater in some circumstances. Joe ha­­d maybe owned it a couple of times by then because that’s the way people collected cars in those days; they’d have a handful of interesting cars at any one time and sell them to each other for a few years while they experienced other fare. They’d buy them and drive them until someone else expressed an interest in them or they had a yearning for one they’d owned back when and want another go at it and let the word out.

Ferrari Breadvan

It was a sensible way to experience an assortment of entertaining vehicles and I was fascinated to hear Joe tell about the time when such serial collecting was the way to go. Amassing more permanent collections required more space to keep the cars, more commitment for long-term care and certainly tied up more money. Serial collection done in the pass-it-on mode also offered more flexibility and variety in rolling stock. A good thing for people who liked to experience what they owned, not just list it to impress others.

But the change in collector style inevitably came. When Joe went looking for the Breadvan he’d discovered what seemed like downright treachery. The latest owner instead of enquiring around to see who might want it next had quietly sold it for a goodly sum to a Japanese collector who in turn had swept it off to his home country. The unlikelihood of it ever returning to the US darkened the sky.

The Japanese, heady with a booming economy, were buying everything then—ski areas, Rockefeller Plaza. But those more fixed-in-place purchases didn’t bother car people as much as the portable collectibles did. Cars just disappeared into ship holds without a beep. Prices soared. And that ended the friendly turns-taking approach to collecting. The temptation to literally sell out was hard to resist. Money doesn’t talk; it sidles up to whisper sweet everythings in your ear.

Actually, many of the cars swallowed by Japan at that time found their way back to the US as fortunes changed and the Japanese economy weakened. But I don’t think Joe ever had another crack at the Breadvan before his untimely death.

Not that I had started out in these ramblings to write about the Breadvan and Joe Marchetti’s serial ownership of some appealing Italian machinery. What I had intended to do was write about how you could tell the year that bidders at car auctions had been in high school by the cars they bid on. But did anything up to now even hint I was heading there? No.

But starting now I’ll write about Muscle Cars and how popular they suddenly were on the auction circuit, lighting up the eyes of ball-cap wearers in easy-seat jeans and marking up record prices. And how I never liked the damned things. As a driver I had grown fond of brakes with stopping power. And I admired cars that took to cornering with a pleasing kinesthetic feedback. I found Muscle Cars awkward. Even brutish. You might say their power was a guy thing but I thought it simply loutish.

Yes, going fast in a straight line has its appeal but that quickly fades when you get used to the speed and fast doesn’t feel fast anymore. Phil Hill called that becoming “velocitized” in stories he told me about the Mexican Road Race and how he relied on his tach when going through villages so he knew his actual speed and not how fast he felt he was going. That kept him out of village plazas at the end of long black skid marks. He did go off the road rather dramatically once but everyone was exiting there because on-lookers had taken to removing signs from the highway, especially those warning of sudden road changes. He soon learned to use the size of a collected crowd (and its visible anticipation) at any given spot along the road as an indication of the risk involved. As good a marker as sign posts with sharply bent arrows or exclamation marks.

I think I’m meandering again so let me say that I’ve always preferred “quick” to “fast.” Quick is an esthetic without numbers. You’re not fooled by it, just pleased. Fast can suck you into trouble and wrap you around trees. Quick works with you if you let it. And it has that collected canter feel. Quick is rarely a characteristic of anything called “Muscle”.

When muscle cars at auction started pulling such large numbers some participants in Keith Martin’s client sessions at the auctions started asking questions. Will this surge in prices for these cars hold up? Keith is my favorite expert on values of collector cars. He’s been putting out “Sport’s Car Market” magazine since it was a typed newsletter. He knows the field and I admire his integrity. Living up to that he told his group a simple “no”. He said that the blossoming of muscle car values was the product of guys who cherished the cars when they first appeared and the guys were in high school. They craved them but couldn’t buy them. Now they’re older and richer and can pay anything to realize their high school dreams. And do.

As powerful as such whims can be (especially when you can now afford to be the coolest guy ever if you were still in high school) such whims are not makers of sustainable value. And that’s what Keith in effect told his students. The boom won’t last. But that’s not at all what the auction guys—rubbing palms together—wanted known. Hey, moneeee is involved here. The auction guys, making a lot are ready to make more.

Someone overheard Keith’s questioning the endurance of the muscle car’s popularity and told the auction guys. The auction guys then ordered Keith to leave the building. (Yep. Leave.) And in effect “shut up”. And that after all the good he had done for what is known as “the collector-car hobby”. Thank you from the auction houses. Greed is a powerful whatever.

But all that was several years ago. Both Keith and the auction guys may be okay again. I don’t know. But Keith was right about muscle cars and their bubble of extreme popularity. Didn’t last. Golly, what power high school wields, even in memory.

But what got me thinking about muscle cars in the first place is their return – not as vintage cars but new ones. Will the return bring on a new boom in auction prices when today’s high school kids get rich and nostalgic down the line? No. Because cars don’t seem to matter as much to today’s high school kids. Or the kids today have the ability to get what they want at the time they want it and thus forget the forgettable. It’s only our unresolved yearning that power memories.

Anyway, the new muscle cars are certainly better cars than the old ones. But then all cars are better in that they stop better, take corners more neatly and still go as fast in a straight line as the current culture allows. Old or new muscle cars, I still don’t like them much. Most are still more crude than I like a car to be. Except for one instance which I’ll be getting to after circling the barn another time. A well-mannered but manifestly muscular Muscle Car.

Shoot, I might as well jump right in: 2015 Chrysler Challenger SRT Hellcat.

Hellcat

I’ll let you Google it and note all that appeals to you. Basics: It’s fired by a Hemi 6.2 liter V8 and Chrysler says it is the most powerful production car ever. Doubt them if you like but it does have this: 707 (707!) HP and 650 pound-feet of torque. You can have a six-speed manual or an 8-speed automatic. And a lot of clever engineering.

I find all that quite amusing because what I said to the Chrysler people was “What a sweet car!” And I meant it. Never thought ‘til later they might be insulted that their hairy new beast, their halo car, should be called “sweet”.

I like the 707 HP. It says “flight” right off the bat and it does move instantly and rapidly. I’m more an admirer of torque than horsepower (and why don’t they simply list power-to-weight ratio?). This Challenger has the ability to wreathe the departure zone in billows of smoke and shorten your tire life if you wish, but there are controls that allow you to simply reduce the world as seen in your rear-view mirror at an impressive pace without a lot of showing off.

I put that in the sweet column.

It also is simply a handsome vehicle. Inside and out. Simple. Larger than I like but it is a Challenger and needs some presence for those with memories. Actually it drives small. Neat turning circle which matters to me. (I’m a fan of four-wheel steering, you know.) This is not a show-off hey-watch-me car. It simply performs. Results without visible effort. Now, by damn that is Sweet!

The Challenger comes it two lesser levels of performance but for highway dot to dotting quite adequate. For similar duties the Hellcat can be a slit-eyed pussy too at a sun-bathed purr. That’s another sweet attribute. You rumble when you want. Blast when you wish. The capability is there but you summon it quietly as desired or needed. That’s a trait I found “sweet” in two other vehicles—the GT-R (hoping the Infiniti Eau Rouge follows) and the 1001 HP version of the Bugatti Veyron. Ultra capable non show-off cars.

So that’s my view of muscle cars. Come to think of it there was one I rather liked in that original go-round of the breed—a Barracuda. I can claim a little consistency here. But I’m not sure what all this has to do with Joe Marchetti and his Breadvan.


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on August 15, 2014 Comments (0)

Porsche 917

This is our final issue before Monterey and it turns out to be heavily weighted to Porsche. In Monterey, we will attend the introduction of two new Michael Furman books, Bespoke Mascots and Porsche Unexpected. We will report on both these books shortly. 

Michael Furman image from the Simeone Foundation’s The Spirit of Competition and is their 1975 Alfa Romeo Tipo 33

Meanwhile our Michael Furman image this week is from the Simeone Foundation’s The Spirit of Competition and is their 1975 Alfa Romeo Tipo 33. Stare intently at those exhausts and you can just hear that 2L V8 engine screaming around the Targa.

This week’s The Weekly Leek is a dramatic and amazing revelation from Germany’s Porsche marketing.

Speaking of Porsche, This week’s MMR Goods and Services Directory offering is UNBELIEVABLE! Don’t wait on this one because there are not many left and we think it is the most important Porsche Racing piece we have ever offered.

Tony Stewart

Our Racing essay this week is about the Tony Stewart incident at Canandaigua and the NASCAR race at Watkins Glen.

If you are at Monterey say Hi (508-932-7362). If not, have a great weekend and remember that IndyCar are at Milwaukee this weekend.

Peter Bourassa


Racing

Posted on August 13, 2014 Comments (2)

There is an argument to be made that racing is all about the first and last three laps of any race and that the remainder is just driving. Sometimes, even hardcore enthusiasts will agree, it is not even that.

Watkins Glen International

NASCAR’s annual pilgrimage to upstate New York’s Watkins Glen is the exception. Perhaps because it is so different from the ovals on which they normally run, each team deals with unfamiliar factors differently. Set-up, brakes, transmissions, tire pressures, tire wear, fuel consumption, and sometimes drivers, are all different. And if the quality of the racing is measured by its entertainment factor, take away the hype of Indy and Daytona, the glamour of Monaco and the technology of Le Mans, and this is the best pure race on the planet.

And lest any feel that the driving is only the best of NASCAR, consider that while experienced road course racers are always brought in, Jeff Gordon has won four times, as has Tony Stewart, Mark Martin three, and Kyle Busch has won it twice. My point is that these guys are very good and the cars they are racing allow them to lean on or rub against each other and that makes for an excellent show.

dtm racing alfa

Just to give this a broader perspective, we tend to think of European racing as Formula 1 and the Le Mans fast plastic prototype cars. But, Europeans have a huge appetite for “touring” car racing, as they call it, and several series exist in which factory prepared cars rub against each other rather strenuously on road courses across Europe. It is not rare to find former F1 drivers out there banging around with the best of them. The Australian V8 Supercar series is a cross between NASCAR and Europe and from time to time we hear of them testing the waters with their series on American road courses. If they could be like the Watkins Glen event they would be successful.

Joey Hand race car

Speaking of Tony Stewart; the incident at Canandaigua on Friday night will not go away quickly and may have much greater consequences than ever imagined. At this point, commenting on the incident itself is not in order. It is fair to say that if the other driver involved had not been a famous NASCAR driver, this would not have garnered so much attention. But either way, a young man is dead and that in itself is extremely sad.

Sprint Cars Dirt Track Racing

By way of background, it should be noted that Stewart is but one of many NASCAR drivers who dirt track. They do it because that is often where they began racing and because it is fun. Dirt tracks are simple and devoid of the regulations and hoopla that surrounds other forms of racing and these guys love that. I was at a small track on a weeknight in Connecticut several years ago and Carl Edwards, a NASCAR star even then, flew himself in to drive someone else’s Super Modified car. Al Unser Sr. was there talking to the racers and fans and wandering among the cars. This is grassroots racing in America and nobody, promoters, track owners, or drivers make a ton of money at it.

An unanticipated consequence of the incident has already begun to surface and here Stewart, the driver who loves dirt tracking, may be instrumental in bringing about safety measures and track design changes that will greatly alter the sport he loves. Ironically, Stewart is also the owner of Eldora Speedway, one of the more fabled dirt tracks in America; close scrutiny of the sport brought on by this issue may well affect how his and other such tracks deal with safety and emergencies.

Either way, these incidents give an uninformed public a less than positive view of our sport as a whole.