MMR Blog

F1: Sochi Sucks

Posted on October 15, 2014 Comments (2)

Sochi Sucks! Mickey Mouse Track Designer, Hermann Tilke, has done it again! His name is anathema to enthusiasts and was never mentioned. This was a triple threat come true. The track is boring, the race was boring (Alonso agrees) and the coverage was abysmal.

Hermann Tilke

Our sympathies to the talking trio who sit in Connecticut trying to make an entertaining contribution without any control of the broadcast feed or the ability to review images.

Having said that, their consistent braying “the drivers love it” about absolutely every venue sounds like a directive from F1 management. They and F1 appear to have forgotten who it is they are supposed to be entertaining.

Will Buxton

Kudos to Will Buxton for consistently asking the tough questions, also for his forthright statement to Alonso about the race: “It wasn’t a classic.”

Bravo also to NBCSN for highlighting the issues brought on by Russia’s recent actions in the Crimea, the Ukraine, and the downing of a Malaysian passenger plane. Their showing of the portion of the “Team Principals” Press conference in which Red Bull’s Christian Horner’s gutless response to the question of why F1 was even there, made very clear the teams’ principles.

$150M for five years is clearly the guiding one. 

Christian Horner

From the post race podium interviewer we learned that Hamilton “is a real fan of Russian racing”, “has been back in Moscow”, is “impressed with the ski resorts” and in his own words “(Russia) Is not far from where I live and I will be hopping over for some holidays for sure.”

F1 didn’t do itself any favors today. Lewis Hamilton will not get any Christmas cards from Holland and NBCSN made a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Unfortunately, this overshadows Mercedes’ remarkable accomplishment. On this day they secure the F1 Manufacturers World Championship for the first time in the modern F1 era. Congratulations to them.

Ross Brawn

The genesis of this accomplishment is also interesting and historically significant: In an interview after the race, Paddy Lowe, Director (Technical) of Mercedes reminded all that the winning car was developed last year under the guidance of then manager Ross Brawn. The Mercedes Team was previously the Brawn F1 Team and Brawn actually bought the Team from Honda, purportedly for $1.00, when Honda pulled out of F1. The package he got included a car which Honda had developed for 2009 that was as significantly ahead of the competition in that year as Mercedes is of its competitors now. That car carried Jenson Button and Brawn their only championship.

Honda Team logo

Ironically, Honda is coming back to F1 in 2015 as an engine supplier to compete against its former, albeit significantly changed, team. F1 is a small world.


An Interview with David Hobbs

Posted on September 17, 2014 Comments (0)

By Adrianne Ross, Editor, PCA-NER The Nor’Easter Magazine

David Hobbs

I was so honored to meet David Hobbs. I’ve been a fan for a few years now, and enjoy his commentary on racing and racers.

David was born in June 1939 in Royal Leamington Spa, England. In 1969 he was included in the FIA list of graded drivers—an élite group of 27 drivers who, by their achievements, were rated the best in the world—and he was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2009. Originally employed as a commentator for the Speed Channel, he currently works as a commentator for NBC and NBC Sports Network.

David Hobbs

David currently lives in Milwaukee with his wife, Margaret. They “putter” around the garden in their spare time, and enjoy winter in Florida. David has two sons, Gregory and Guy. His youngest son, Guy, worked for Speed as a pit reporter on their sports car coverage.

David was kind and patient with me, even though he had been running a bit behind, and had the Hockenheim race the next day. I dragged him into the basement of the Larz Anderson Auto Museum, and what follows is our conversation. I’ve left it largely unedited, so that you can get a sense of the man himself.

AR: Take me from 0 to your first race.

DH: My dad was always into cars, but at the beginning of WWII petrol was heavily rationed. He was from Australia and the English government asked him to stay to develop his transmissions, and help with technical innovations in the automotive business.

I wasn't good at school so I went to Jaguar cars as an apprentice. They had a great system; a great apprenticeship scheme in England. It was a full-scale apprenticeship, where you essentially earned a technical degree.

David Hobbs

While there, I got keen on cars and there was a Jaguar apprentice’s motor club which I joined. I would take my Mum’s car, a Morris Oxford, and would rally cross and the like. But I drove like a mad man on the road and so I decided I should race. Back then it was cheap to get a license. You would join a motor club, any car club, and then pay the entry fees; the whole thing would have been about £15.
It was my Mum’s car with my dad's automatic gearbox. I raced a few times and then I finally won a sprint in it. The following year I convinced my dad to let me race his Jaguar XK140, it also had his gearbox (David’s father designed transmissions and automotive technology). Unfortunately I rolled it in the very first race, and did a little damage. (David smiled broadly at this, indicating that he’d damaged the car quite badly.)

He said I had to fix it, so it didn't get fixed very well. Then he got a big injection of capital from BSA, and we decided that a good form of advertising would be for me to race in a proper car. We bought a Lotus Elite, which I campaigned in 1961 very successfully. Won 14 out of 18 starts at the small tracks, Silverstone, Brands Hatch, the ‘Ring.

AR: Who inspired you?

Sir Stirling Moss

DH: My hero was Sir Stirling Moss. But it wasn't like it is today with videos and TV. You had to go to races, read the papers and magazines to keep up, or follow a driver.

I did go to the very first Grand Prix, the British Grand Prix with my mom and dad, and my brother. But even then it wasn't like a bolt of lightning, you know, it was not what I wanted to do. But I did drive fast on the road. I did like going fast and I was good at it.

AR: What do you drive now?

DH: I don't have any exotic cars, I don't have any car at all, and I never seem to have enough cash to get one (laughing).

AR: And when you're not racing, what does a typical day look like for David Hobbs?

David Hobbs Honda Dealership

DH: I go to the dealership most days, although my son Greg really runs it now. We have quite a few customers who don't believe I really come in every day.

AR: What do you do for fun?

DH: We like to putter around the garden and we have a house in Florida, because I don't like the winter. We go back to England two to three times a year. But not in the summer because it's racing season. I like soccer and tennis. I used to play when I was a kid, until I discovered Motorsport.

AR: You’ve had 20 Le Mans starts, what are the best and worst parts of that race?

DH: The worst is the rain, and night can be tricky. It's a long circuit, eight miles. It's not like Daytona, when you're there for hours running around a fishbowl. In my day, there weren't all those chicanes, which is very hard on the car, and hard on the drivers. In my day we did the race with just two drivers. Now they use three or sometimes four.

AR: …about [your] grandson, and his working his way into a racing career…

DH: It's so expensive to start racing unless you find a fairy godfather. Four or five of the F1 drivers pay to be there. In my day there was a lot of stepping into a dead man’s shoes. That seems grizzly, but it was really how it worked.

But I've never raced anywhere when I didn't get paid for it. Even NASCAR.

AR: How was NASCAR?

DH: It's harder than it looks. Massively talented drivers come into NASCAR and they can't do it. Juan Pablo was a good example of that.

AR: What do you think of Senna, and RUSH (the movies)?

DH: I thought Senna was very good. Well put together. To be a world champion you have to be selfish, and greedy, and solely, solely concerned with yourself. He was the epitome of that for sure. RUSH was a good story of human conflict. But the drama and partying was a bit overblown. Grand Prix and Le Mans are my favorites. They did a great job considering the time and standards.

AR: Who's the funniest person in F1 ever?

DH: I wouldn't say anyone in F1 is really funny; it’s not a funny place, the paddock of Formula 1. Everyone is just focused on the race and the cars but Graham Hill was an amazing storyteller. Very good at making jokes at other peoples expense but not good when the shoe was on the other foot. Jackie and Jimmy Clark were not particularly jokey guys. The guy that's really pretty funny, and probably pretty good fun to be with is Daniel Ricciardo. He likes to sort of dance in front of his mechanics.

AR: What’s your favorite track?

DH: The ‘Ring, the Glen, Road America, Phillipston; I've never found a track I don't like, really.

DAvid Hobbs at Indy


My Word: Like a Child

Posted on July 24, 2014 Comments (2)

By Denise McCluggage

When Niki Lauda berated Sebastian Vettel for “screaming like a child” while on the radio to his pits I had an aha moment. Seb was grousing to his pits about the way Fernando Alonso was conducting himself in the pair's remarkable dice at Silverstone.

“Child,” Lauda said. That was the key.

This Formula 1 season, one of the best for some serious racing never mind the obvious dominance of Mercedes-Benz, keeps scratching at something in my memory. And the remark by one three-time champion (Lauda) about a four-time champion (Vettel) and his extraordinary mid-pack 14-lap set-to with a two-time champion (Alonso) put me—zap!—with my big sister in the backseat of a 1936 Oldsmobile on a hot Kansas highway headed for Colorado’s mountains. (“Mama, make her move her foot. She stuck her foot on my side on purpose!” “You touched my arm!” “You touched mine first!”)

Sebastian Vettel    Niki Lauda

Both the champions were complaining to their pits. “Screaming like a child” Lauda said. We were children screaming at a beleaguered Mom in the front passenger’s seat. So “child” fits the scene. But still that wasn’t the element that had been bothering me a few weeks before as I watched a petulant Lewis Hamilton snub a suddenly luckier-than-he Nico Rosberg. “Child” covered that, too.

But Lauda’s remarks swirled it all into focus. These grown men treat competition like children. Just read a few articles by child psychologists on childhood and competition. Some have written books on the destructive effect competition has on little developing egos. You’ve probably seen protectors of self-esteem introduce prizes-for-everyone at kiddy parties—which I certainly don’t object to. Parties are parties. And if you’ve seen kids you’ve seen tears when losing a game is something they can’t quite handle.

Today’s drivers started racing as tots, with helmeted heads barely balanced on reedy necks. Probably their hand-eye coordination developed faster than the neighbor kid’s did. And probably they had the sort of parents who noticed who had greener grass or played more holes of golf on a given weekend. Not competitively really, just noticing.

Kids just notice, too. Particularly how doing something better or earlier or faster or more often can put that special look on Dad’s face. Competition seems to produce the most varied reactions in similar people as anything I can think of. Kids learn early and easily what’s important to parents and that is a guidepost to behavior. Even parents who don’t overtly push their kids in competitive situations (my sister when she was a director of a children’s theater group in California called those parents “Dancing Mothers”) can communicate crushing disappointment to a child. Some kids can handle it, some can’t.

I had two nephews, brothers, who responded as differently as possible to competition. One was blithely oblivious to the pressure. He swam as well as he could that day and sometimes did better than most, but he always had a great time. The water got them equally wet but his older brother would brood the rest of the day if he didn’t win. Yet both as young adults and in different years won a title setting them apart as the best trombonist in all of California. Guess which one—retired from a marketing career now—still plays his horn. And owns a sweatshirt that reads “I may be old but I heard all the great bands.”

The little brother of a friend of mine was a star Little League pitcher. Made the newspapers and local TV. He loved the acclaim. Then he outgrew Little League. The new baseball program he was eligible for found him at the bottom of the heap starting over. Not for him. He simply quit playing baseball. The son of another friend, after he finished second in his first ski race, announced he didn’t like it and would never do it again. And he didn’t.

My own childhood competition was a lot of ping pong with my Dad. And we both were serious. Bright-eyed and eager. When Daddy won he shouted: “Game. Set. Championship of the Wor-r-ld!” That didn’t seem extreme to me. So I’d do the same thing. Girls were not supposed to be competitive and the rules for women’s basketball then allowed only one bounce per dribble. Yes! We could use only half the court (lest we perspire in an unladylike fashion) so we played either defense or offense. Stupid dumb game. Driveway backboards were common enough so after school I played HORSE with the boys. New kids might have to get used to playing with a girl but the regulars were fine with it.

I think I had a healthy attitude toward competition.

Briggs Cunningham Time Magazine cover

But the most unique, and I think healthiest approach to competition I ever encountered was that of Briggs Cunningham, a Corinthian in the original sense of sportsmanship, particularly of yachtsmen. On the water is where Briggs first excelled and he was the skipper of the Columbia when the America’s Cup competition was revived in 1958 after the prewar era of the huge 12 Metre boats.

I was racing some of Briggs’ cars at that time—OSCAs, Formula Juniors and Porsche Spyders. The Columbia was taking on the British yacht in Long Island Sound. And was beating it all hollow. This bothered Briggs terribly. “It’s no fun if the competition isn’t close.”

It was said that the British boat was confounded by the light air; all would be different if there was some serious weather. Yet came a big blow and the Columbia beat the Brits as badly as ever. Now here was Briggs in all seriousness suggesting that to shake things up the American and British teams should swap boats. Maybe the results would be different.

Can you imagine Ted Turner, an American team captain a few years later, suggesting that? His idea of competition was to leave the opponent bloody and pleading for mercy. Nor could Dennis Connor, long an America’s Cup skipper, be called a “sportsman” in the sense Briggs exemplified. Yes, he wanted to win, but mostly he wanted to compete. A challenge.

Here were Vettel and Alonso at Silverstone competing tooth and nail. And complaining to their pits about the driving tactics of the other. Or at least Vettel was “screaming like a child.” What I had felt through this season was an unpleasant tension that made me wonder if these people were actually having any fun. Were they hating what they were doing and who they were doing it with? Is racing only about the boundless money they are pulling in, the rewards, the accolades. I recall falling in love with everyone I had close dices with. At Meadowdale near Chicago Don Yenko (Corvette) and I (250 GT Ferrari) had a terrific go. The race was red-flagged because of some serious incidents among smaller cars also in the race, and we had to stop on the course. Don and I jumped out of our cars and grabbed each other like bears and danced about in what might best be described as glee. That was maybe the most fun I’ve ever had in a race.

Denise McCluggage    Don Yenko

I know racing stopped being a sport and became a costly business when Bernie and his moneymoneymoney culture took over. I was trying to pinpoint just how racing differs today from the days when I was following the scene more intimately and indulging in it myself. Lauda’s “child” remark gave me the answer.

As I said, most of today's drivers started their careers as children—Vettel began his astonishing collection of helmets especially designed for him when he was just eight and already a star. Children like attention, like being told they are wonderful, but they rarely really like competition.

The Formula 1 drivers I was watching weren’t enjoying themselves. Nor were they loving each other. They were doing hard work, displaying great skill. But experiencing pleasure? Not until the flag dropped and they—yippee—won. Children.

Fernando Alonso

But then I had a glimmer. Was Alonso having something of a good time? Even in that Vettel scream fest. And then in the next race, the German Grand Prix, I swear Alonso downright enjoyed himself. And drove fantastically well. 

He and Daniel Ricciardo, the Red Bull rookie from Australia, gave a workshop in tight competition, the art of dicing. And the delight—yes, delight—showed. In both of them. Actual smiles. Maybe a little love.

Now I know who to watch. And enjoy.


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on June 27, 2014 Comments (0)

We received many positive comments about Sandy’s Mille Miglia story. It certainly seemed a feast for all the senses and we thank Jonathan Kirshtein for his post. We have included the image which Sandy took of him and local Alfa enthusiast Andy Kress at the starting ramp. Jonathan lives in New England and this brings it all close to home. Le Mans is all over this issue. Denise McCluggage’s story this week is a personal reminiscence of her salad days with Ricardo and Pedro Rodriguez. As ever Denise finds a clever way to tie that into something meaningful today and how tempus has fugit.

Le Mans Redux

If you had any doubts about just how important this 24 Hour race is to manufacturers, check out the two videos produced after the race by Audi, the winners and Porsche, the losers. And please note the quality of the work.

F1 in Austria

Williams podium

A most entertaining battle of engineering subtleties, their effect on tires and braking and the drivers best equipped by their teams and best prepared mentally to win. Much is being made of the battle between Hamilton and Rosberg, and two more contrasting figures it would be difficult to script, but the weekend really belonged to the Williams Team. With help from a desperate Hamilton, they locked up the front row of the grid and their driver Valterri Bottas, the unassuming and very gracious Finn who finished third, made an indelible impression. He definitely has talent.

The new Red Bull circuit looks interesting and certainly is challenging for both the drivers and the cars. Deiter Mascitsch spent a fortune redoing it and bringing F1 back to Austria, and good on him. But one has to wonder why Turn 8, with its yards of painted surface is still pretty Mickey Le Mouse. I think F1 expects better. And while we are complaining, the ads on NBC S/N are also a pain in the driver’s seat area.

New Red Bull circuit

911 x 911

Adrianne Ross, Editor of The Nor’ Easter, the Porsche New England Chapter magazine, has reviewed 911 x 911, a new Bull Publishing book done in conjunction with Porsche. As she explains succinctly, this is a different take on the 911.

Affordable Classics

Any Enzo-era Ferrari with a racing history and less than 1000 brethren are destined to make auction numbers that are unaffordable for most of us. That is commendable, but it also takes them out of the let’s get out there on the winding cart path or the packed snow and kick the snot out of this thing class. Fortunately, there are still some great cars available for under $75K that can be driven the way they were meant to be driven without worry about whether the kids’ college tuition is on the line if you screw up. Alfas, BMWs, Morgans, older Porsches that don’t have special engines, a lot of these are still affordable to own and fix. Volante Classics (link) in Wilmington MA, specializing in these older affordable classics, is having an Open House at their new Facility in Wilmington on Saturday and Sunday. Stop by and take a look at their inventory and restoration facility. Hope to see you there.

Our images this week are from the Mille Miglia by Sandy Cotterman (below). 

Our Michael Furman image is that of a well-used Vauxhall hood. This is patina of the very best kind.

Michael Furman image of a well-used Vauxhall hood

IndyCars are at Houston this weekend for a double header.

Have a great weekend,

Peter Bourassa

The Mille Miglia by Sandy Cotterman

The Mille Miglia by Sandy Cotterman

The Mille Miglia by Sandy Cotterman

The Mille Miglia by Sandy Cotterman

The Mille Miglia by Sandy Cotterman

The Mille Miglia by Sandy Cotterman


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on June 6, 2014 Comments (0)

June! Glorious June!

Our June calendar lists a favorite racing city party and Le Mans.

Our images this week are from the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance, taken by Editor Dom Miliano and me. Michael Furman’s feature image is that of a 1933 Squire front.

1933 Squire photo by Michael Furman

IndyCar and Detroit Both Survive

In the recent past, images of Detroit have been anything but pretty. But news from the Motor City has been much better of late. People who care about the city, including Roger Penske, have contributed energy and money to make things happen. The American never say die and we can do this attitudes are prevailing. Property values are rising, and neighborhood by neighborhood there is a resurgence of small businesses and community spirit. Ford, GM, and Chrysler are doing well and doing good by investing in their own local infrastructure. Ironically, the same word applies to this turnaround as to the iconic downtown development that was once heralded as its salvation and later criticized as the reason for its ruin. Renaissance. 

Penske Racing is based in Detroit and The Captain has been the driving force and sponsor behind the two day IndyCar races held on Belle Isle, a park island just off Detroit’s downtown. This is another barrier bound street course and its physical condition mirrors Detroit’s finances. It is to be hoped that both will improve. Penske cars won both bumpy races and as bumpy races go it was entertaining. The talented Will Power drove to a solid win on Saturday and the equally talented Helio Castroneves won on Sunday. The close racing on a tight bumpy course made for the inevitable contact and bad feelings and the soap opera is now part of the IndyCar show.

F1 in Montreal this Weekend

The Grand Prix of Canada takes place in Montreal this weekend. Montreal is a great party city and the F1 team sponsors decorate the town squares with product and race car displays. The race track itself is both simple and boring. The F1 community has a speak no evil policy to which all adhere. A boring track is called technical by drivers. This infers that they don’t think it is as boring we do. Named after native son Gilles Villeneuve, it is essentially a park service road on an island in the middle of the St. Lawrence River and in full view of downtown Montreal. Coming off the tight Monaco circuit, this track allows for more passing. It is one of Hamilton’s favorite circuits and he has won here several times. That insures that the Mercedes drama will continue.

Greenwich Concours d’Elegance

Dom and I attended the Greenwich Concours this past weekend. The setting, a wooded park on the Long Island Sound is magnificent. Sadly, the view of the water is blocked by the huge Bonham’s Auction tent installation. The show cars are set out in circular compounds among the trees and while I had heard complaints about this, I found it interesting and not at all a negative issue. The actual selection of cars on display was eclectic and interesting. The whole atmosphere is casual and owners of cars on display seemed more accessible and engaging. 

Greenwich Concours d'Elegance

The Bonhams Auction was a huge success and the pricing on market leading cars did not disappoint. An early Flat Floor E-Type Jaguar sold for $335K and an XK-150S did $203,500. The crowd cheered a local bidder who purchased John Fitch’s Phoenix in part to keep it in Connecticut. This is a good thing. No bubble burst here.

Uncommon Ferraris

A Connecticut resident brought his Carbon Fiber race car to the Greenwich Concours. We thought you might be interested in seeing its pretty sister and the Forghieri-designed original.

Have a great weekend and don’t forget to share this newsletter with a friend. It’s how we grow.

Peter Bourassa