MMR Blog

MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on June 4, 2015 Comments (0)

British Beauties at the 2015 Greenwich Concours, by Dom Miliano

Welcome to June! The month named after the Roman goddess Juno, wife of Jupiter, who gives the Northern Hemisphere its last gasp of spring and first taste of uninterrupted warmth. This is the month of 24 Hours of Le Mans. Depending on which you favor, our multi-disciplined sport has several “Greatest Race of the Year” designations: Indy, Monaco, Daytona 500, and 24 Hours of ..., all qualify to someone. We believe that from a historical viewpoint alone, Le Mans is the best. Check our MMR calendar below and reserve a spot on your couch. This year promises an interesting battle between Porsche, Audi, and Toyota.

2015 Le Mans Test

Our lead image this week comes from a class winning Lancia Aurelia at the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance last weekend in Greenwich, CT. It was shot by editor Dom Miliano as were the bulk of the images in this issue. You can view more images by clicking here.

A reminder that Father’s Day is not far away and we will be making not-so-subtle suggestions to be passed on to the appropriate members in your family.

F1 in Montreal

Canada GP

An exciting and excited city will have another wonderful party to support a race at a boring track. Another, “track of convenience”, the service roads of Île Notre-Dame are again pressed into service for Bernie’s Boys. Unlike the truly challenging sections on other public roadways turned temporary racetrack such as Eau Rouge and the Mulsanne Kink, Montreal features the Wall of Champions. Yes, a concrete barrier parked perilously close to an exit on the last corner before the start finish line, and where a number of drivers have crashed, is its main feature. Brilliant! 

The truly exciting “feature” of the Canadian GP is Montreal itself. The women are beautiful, the old city is historic and charming, the restaurants are wonderful, and the city goes nuts for F1.

Tips: Access to the track is via an excellent Metro system. Though organizers graciously sell “open” tickets, there are no “open” viewing areas and assigned seating at the track is a must. “Open” tickets are only good for access to the vendor area and for “hearing” race cars go by. Consider buying tickets for Friday’s practice and Saturday’s qualifying. On Friday you can move from grandstand to grandstand as they are hardly full. Qualifying is different, as it is well attended.

What do Detroit and Boston Have in Common?

IndyCar logo

At the moment, not much. But in 2016 they will both offer an IndyCar race in parts of their city which are little cared for at any other time. Belle Isle is a lovely green island park straddling the cities of Detroit, MI and Windsor, ON in the middle of the Detroit River. The track is a combination of concrete slabs and asphalt on what are essentially the service roads of a public park. Last year’s race, in the dry, showed the track to be a bumpy mess and the race became the poster child, along with Baltimore, of where not to run a race.

This year, the two races in two days, was far better. Despite the rain, which shortened the Saturday race and precipitated crashes in the Sunday event, the racing was very good and neither the Penske nor Ganassi teams exerted their usual dominance. In point of fact, Roger Penske, who is the guiding light of this event had a horrible Sunday when two of his cars, with help, collided, and Indy winner JP Montoya ran out of gas on the last lap. Andretti Motorsports had a good weekend, finishing 1-2 on Saturday and 5th on Sunday. This was also a good weekend for Graham Rahal, who crashed on Saturday and finished third on Sunday. And also for Honda who finished 1-2 in the first race and 2 thru 9 on Sunday. Carlos Munoz won the rain shortened Saturday event and Sebastien Bordais won the Sunday race.

Pardon Our Lack of Enthusiasm

Boston, despite its global image of an old ship, Harvard Yard, and uptight Yankees, possesses a varied and active motorsports community. The advent of very successful Boston Cup and the continued efforts of the very active lawn show season at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum have proven that it can support a major motorsport event, and it would appear that its time has come. 

In many ways, New England motorsports fans are blessed. We have the aforementioned Boston Cup on Boston Common, NH has the NHMS oval and road course in Louden and now has a NHRA sanctioned track, CT has Lime Rock Park and all its rich history of major races, and the CT/MA borders share Thompson Speedway with its 75-year-old oval and its newly reconstituted road course. Tamworth NH is home to what will shortly be a beautiful mountain track called Club Motorsport, and Palmer MA has recently opened a track that has been very highly rated.

So let’s talk about the Seaport District of South Boston. Across the Boston main Channel from Logan Airport, it is an inhospitable piece of flat land that the city and private developers have been trying to promote as a modern living space (on the water and close to downtown) for a number of years. In an effort to bring activity to the area, it is now the home to the Boston Convention Center, the Institute for Contemporary Art and a number of high rise hotels and restaurants. Now it has an IndyCar race.

Our feelings about street races are known and, were there no options, we might even be mildly supportive of this effort. But so far the hype has all been about how much money this will garner and how many hotel rooms will be sold. Strictly from a racing point of view, which is what enthusiasts tend to want, not much is being offered. If the history of street racing in North America is a guide, our expectations are very low.

Michael Furman – Photographer

1928 Mercedes-Benz 680S Torpedo, by Michael Furman

Our Michael Furman Image this week is a detail from a 1928 Mercedes Benz 680S Torpedo from his book, Automotive Jewelry.

Our Classic Classifieds Feature Lamborghinis

Lamborghini Muira SV

The Markets continue to rise and while current owners of every older car are presently looking satisfied with themselves for owning an investment of seemingly unstinted growth; some are growing faster than others. For Lamborghini, this is boom time. The new Huracan is a huge success and has a long waiting list. Older, previously less appreciated models are also growing but not as quickly as Ferraris. Is this an opportunity. Perhaps.  Check out this week’s offerings. With Audi backing and engineering behind it, Lamborghini looks to have a bright future that will reflect well on its past models. These are worthy of consideration while they are relatively affordable.

This Week’s Video is a Message from the Henry Ford Museum

Lotus-Ford

One car and one race changed Indy car racing in America forever. The car was a rear engine Lotus 38, the motor was by Ford and the race was the 1965 Indy 500 won by Jim Clark. But the death knell for front engine roadsters was sounded four years earlier when Jack Brabham introduced his rear engine F1 Cooper with a modified F1 engine to the Indy 500. By the time Clark won, there were only six roadsters that qualified for the race. But Clark’s win was huge for European chassis manufacturers and for Ford who had backed the project. Watch this video and learn which other driver, an American, was instrumental in making it happen:

Vintage Racing at Thompson: June 18 thru 21

Three days of VRG and VSCCA racing at Thompson Speedway, 45 minutes from Boston.  Drop us a line if you have an interest in going. If enough of you want to go on Saturday, we will speak to the track about parking together. Check them out online at thompsonspeedway.com

Next week is our Father’s Day Gift Guide Edition. Have a great weekend.

Peter Bourassa
Publisher


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on May 28, 2015 Comments (0)

Monaco – Indy – Villa d’Este Results

Ferrari 212 Europa

The Memorial Day weekend races dominated the TV screens of America but for New England enthusiasts a pair of happy events meant more. Internationally, at Italy's Villa d'Este Concours d'Elegance, Essex Ma. based Paul Russell & Co presented a 212 Vignale Coupe and won the Trofeo BMW Group Classic award. The award is the jury’s choice for the most sensitive restoration. The 1952 212 Europa, Vignale Berlinetta is owned by Bradley Calkins of the USA. The car is stunning. Congratulations to all involved. The remainder of our eye candy also came from Villa d’Este. Thank you BMW for sponsoring this superb event. On the racing front, New Englanders were absorbing the news, announced on Thursday past, that Boston will host the final race of the 2016 IndyCar season. We have mixed feelings. Read on McDuff and tell us what you think.

F1 Monaco: Rosberg wins – Mad Max Steals Hearts!

Lewis trails at F1 Monaco

Lewis Trails in Third

When enthusiasts tire of the beautiful setting, the beautiful boats, and the beautiful people, there will no longer be a race in Monaco. Long recognized as the most exclusive tax haven in the world (rumor has it that citizenship applications require proven assets in excess of seven uninterrupted digits), its days of hosting a truly competitive F1 race are in its distant past. Its crowning achievement is its downfall. This is the only F1 track in the world where excellence is demanded because there is literally no room for error. Yet the entertainment of racing consists of high speeds and errors, forced and unforced, which allow pressing and passing and in a word, entertainment. Hamilton proved the rule; he qualified best and would have won but for an error by his pit which caused him to lose. Sad for him but good for racing. On purpose-built race courses such as Laguna Seca or Silverstone, or the long course at Nurburgring, or road courses such as Spa or Le Mans, where houses and harbors do not inhibit passing, Hamilton may have had to defend, take chances, make errors and oblige his fellow competitors to do the same. Not so at Monaco. He had the fastest car, and all he needed do was be in front and not make errors.

But even a parade needn’t always be a bore. A comparison could be made to the historic 1981 Spanish GP at the narrow and twisty Jarama circuit. Ferrari driver Gilles Villeneuve (See Villeneuve’s 5 greatest races) qualified seventh in the Ferrari 126CXK, a powerful car with atrocious handling. He dubbed it a “big red Cadillac”. He was third by the first corner. Villeneuve passed the second place car on the opening lap and later, when race leader John Watson made a mistake, he passed him to take the lead. For the remainder of the race, without blocking or weaving, he held off competitors by placing the car in situations that discouraged his competitors from passing. It was brilliant driving. The first five cars crossed the line within 1.24 seconds.

Lewis is still scratching his head - what happened?

Lewis Still Scratching His Head - What Happened?

Sunday’s race, which for television purposes focused primarily on the leaders, was simply another high speed parade. Two exceptions that kept it from being a complete bore were, one, the pass for the lead that took place while Hamilton was in the pits. As a result he came out of the pits with eight laps to go, superior tires, and a superior car to Vettel’s Ferrari but couldn’t pass him. Makes you wonder what Villeneuve might have done. And, two, Max Verstappen. His pass on Maldonado on lap 6 was brilliant, and gutsy. It reminded us of Villeneuve. Later on he crashed while trying to pass the other Lotus driver, Romain Grosjean. Verstappen said Grosjean eased off 10-15 meters early. The telemetry didn’t support that. Grosjean actually braked later. Max VerstappenBut young Max was caught short of room when he decided to pass on the right while sitting too far to the left of the Lotus. Prior to that, after in the process of allowing Vettel to lap him, Max tucked in behind the Ferrari and taking advantage of the blue flags that waved other drivers aside for the faster Vettel, he thus slipped past Sainz and Bottas. But it was a short lived tactic once word got back to the pits. Clever though. My guess is that the Montreal fans will love this “special” kid (Mad Max?) when he arrives at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve for the Canadian GP in two weeks. As for Hamilton, it had to be a huge disappointment. And there were probably several ways to handle it. He was perfunctorily correct. His teammate rival was also in an awkward, though happier, situation and acknowledged same. But grace under pressure continues to elude Hamilton.

IndyCar Indianapolis 500: Penske – Ganassi Driver Wins!

Montoya on podiumThe major difference between Monaco and Indy is striking. At Monaco, the leader into the first turn generally wins the race. At Indy, the car leading the last lap generally loses. On this Sunday, both proved untrue.

Fifteen years ago, 24-year-old Juan Pablo Montoya won the Indianapolis 500 for Chip Ganassi’s Target Team. On Sunday, 15 years later, he won it again. This time for Ganassi’s arch rival, Roger Penske’s Verizon Team. In the meantime he has spent time with McLaren in F1 and struggled for seven years in NASCAR. When Ganassi cut him loose from the NASCAR team last year, it would have been easy to believe that at 38 years of age, he was done. And JPM, whose reputation could be considered mercurial at best, found little sympathy. But Roger Penske, against whom he has competed in both the old Champ Car days and currently in NASCAR, called him and offered an opportunity, not in NASCAR, but in IndyCar. He jumped at the opportunity to come back. It was a mellowed and thankful JPM, surrounded by family, who accepted tributes in the winner’s circle. A pleasant change from the combative and often surly demeanor he has presented over the years. The new Juan Pablo has been a strong addition to the Penske Team and this win for Montoya was validation of his worth. Possibly even in his own eyes.

An aside: The race was between these two major Chevy teams, and for the third IndyCar race in a row, the first single car team was the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda powered team with driver Graham Rahal who finished fifth, is fifth in the points standings, and the leading American driver.

The final five laps were frantic as Will Power, Montoya, and Scott Dixon swapped the lead 15 times in five laps. It was ballsy racing and damned dangerous too. But they trusted each other and each knew when to give up a little space and so it all worked out. This is what racing is all about.

Michael Furman – Photographer

Michael Furman, photo of 1995 Porsche Carrera RS

Our Michael Furman image is of a 1995 Porsche Carrera RS from his book, Porsche Unexpected.

Featured Video

This week's featured video is our interview with Hugh Ruthven from The Finish Line — importers of the Chapal line and other “best in class” vintage style driving gear. Enjoy!

Our featured Classified Cars

Spring time and the open road beckons. What better way is there to enjoy this most-special of seasons than in a new-to-you classic car. Maybe even a convertible. Check out our picks in the  MMR Classifieds.

The MMR featured product, from our  Goods & Services Directory, is the Classic Bell-Chapal helmet from The Finish Line.

Peter Bourassa
Publisher


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on February 5, 2015 Comments (0)

Betwixt & Between

Early February is a little like being a teenager between girl friends. Nothing much goin’ on.

And then again ... On Design Courage

Cadillac CTS exterior grill

The Ford GT has prompted much discussion about design and the historical significance of design cues. As part of the Elegance by Design forum at the recent Arizona Concours d’Elegance, former Cadillac Chief Designer Kip Wasenko spoke of the difficulty he encountered trying to get acceptance for a design change involving the Cadillac grille. Despite the fact that his proposed “mesh” design performed significantly better and, even though it had roots in Cadillac’s historic 1931 V-16, he was still met with resistance. Yet like all good designers, he recognizes the value of history if it can be retained without sacrificing efficiency and performance. In a subsequent discussion about the Ford GT, he applauded Ford designers for maintaining the iconic design features of the classic GT40 in the front portion of the new Ford GT.

Acura NSX

Designers need the courage of their convictions and when the word “bold” is attached to a new car design, translate that into “courage” because someone risked to bring it past the expected, or, the status quo. The second big hit of the Detroit auto show was the new Acura NSX. Any thoughts?

And at F1

Honda Formula 1

First tests of the year for F1 cars at Jerez, Spain yielded surprising results. Usually an opportunity to run cars in and determine if everything works as designed these tests are also a clue as to where everyone is in their development program. From that point of view alone, Ferrari appear to have a car that is quick, reliable and satisfying to its drivers. Ferrari powered Sauber was quickest. The general consensus is that everyone must catch the Mercedes engine. Thus far both Honda and Renault have had troubled introductions. Ferrari has not. Early times but a sigh of relief from the tifosi.

Cavallino!

1965 Ferrari P206 SP Dino, Suixtil-USA

Suixtil-USA have been appointed US distributors for Suixtil vintage clothing for modern enthusiasts. Their handsome products were on display at Cavallino and Managing Partner Lisa Smith shot the eye candy we are using this week.

Somewhere in MMR History

Shelby GT350

We have always unabashedly supported those among us who use their toys, be they cars or motorcycles. Beyond that we encourage the use of newer technology and parts to improve the performance and reliability of older cars. Authentic, no. Better, probably. Our story this week is about a Shelby GT350 that has had an interesting life and as a result of it may be a better car than originally delivered. You judge.

BMW M5 Lives

Rahal, Gordon, Hendricks, BMW President

The BMW Car Club of America (CCA) Foundation announced today that the last unsold example of BMW’s most powerful production model ever – the 30th Anniversary Edition 2015 BMW M5 “30 JahreM5” - was auctioned at Barrett-Jackson in Scottsdale, Arizona on January 15, 2015 (Lot #3002) for a record setting $700,000. Famed NASCAR team owner and BMW dealer Rick Hendrick was the lucky bidder.

This Week

1958 BMW 507, by Michael Furman

Michael Furman’s image is a 1958 BMW 507, shot for a private collector.

1957 Maserati 3500 GT Frua Spider

Our featured Classifieds are interesting Maserati 3500 GTs. When introduced, this car was more expensive than its Ferrari rival, the 275 GTB. It was considered a luxury touring car and was the first in its class to have power windows. It has a wonderful engine and is a joy to drive.

Have a great weekend.

Peter Bourassa
Publisher


Sandy On Assignment: The Bucket List

Posted on January 15, 2015 Comments (10)

Sandy Cotterman
Motorsports Enthusiast

Sandy on Assignment

Yes, a glamour shot, but the suit (not the shoes) gets me into the hot pits!

No matter what your age, I bet you have a list of things you want to do ... someday. Since setting myself loose in this amazing world of motorsports, I realize my someday is now. A bit late to the motorsports party, I have come to peace with the fact that I am neither going to become a race car driver, nor am I going to trip upon a million dollar barn find. So instead, I have been knocking out my very own bucket list ... to get as close to everything motorsports as I possibly can.

Looking at my list got me thinking. Does every car guy have a bucket list? What’s on it? What are their plans? I started asking around and this is what I discovered. Generally speaking, there is no limit to what a car guy wants to do with cars, events they want to attend, and cars they lust over owning or re-owning. What did surprise me was the final hesitation ... someday.

My hope in sharing my adventures under Sandy on Assignment is to get you excited about building and actually tackling your own motorsports bucket list.

You are never too young to appreciate motorsports

It is never too soon to introduce children to motorsports.

I appreciate that this sport or hobby, depending upon your level of participation, requires resources. Although some are financial, many just need some time and planning. This may not be the year to hit Pebble Beach, but it may be the time to take your children or grandchildren to the races or a local car show. It may be the year to hop in your car and do a Club autocross or a road tour.

As for my motorsports adventures, here are my top ten recommendations. See where your dreams fit. Write them down.

Sandy’s Top Ten Favorites

1. Take a high performance sports driving course. My favorites are the 2-day Porsche Sports Driving School outside Birmingham, Alabama and Monticello Motor Club’s high performance courses, just 90 minutes north of New York City. Interestingly, most participants attend as a birthday present from their spouse! What I learned in both courses stays with me every second I am driving on the road.

Bruce Ledoux and Sandy Cotterman

Meeting driver Bruce Ledoux, founder of the  Guardian Angels of Motorsports, opened my eyes to the world of racing.

St. Petersburg Grand Prix

Smaller races, like the St. Pete Grand Prix let you get close to the cars and the drivers.

2. Go to the races. The Rolex 24 hours of Daytona was my first and got me hooked. Whether it’s local stock car racing or Formula 1, the electricity is always there. Splurge on a paddock pass. Meet the drivers. Le Mans can’t be beat. Formula 1 in Monaco is breathtaking. Vintage racing during the Lime Rock Historics and Monterey week at Laguna Seca are favorites. Watching the Elegance at Hershey hillclimb is a blast.

3. Get out and drive. Whether it’s a Club track day, family drive, or week-long rally, just get out and drive. Enjoy yourself in your car. After taking my performance courses, I realized you don’t need a Ferrari or a Porsche to get out and have fun!

Sandy Cotterman, judging a concours

Judging has gotten me closer to the pulse of a concours.

Sandy Cotterman and Norman Dewis, OBE

It is one thing to go to a concours like Villa d’Este, it’s another to meet a legend like Norman Dewis, OBE and the car that made history.

4. Attend a Concours d’Elegance or local car show. A concours can be a step back in history or a waltz down memory lane. It’s like a living history and a chance to meet the owners. The atmosphere is always fun, often lasting a weekend. You would be amazed at the classic cars entered in local car shows! There is nothing that beats the fun during the British Invasion in Stowe, Vermont. Sandy on Assignment has taken MMR readers from Pebble Beach to Amelia Island and across the pond to Villa d’Este and Hampton Court.

Max Girardo, RM Auctioneer and Managing Director

Max Girardo, RM’s auctioneer and Managing Director captivates his audiences.

5. Feel the excitement of an Auction. Whether you experience it live in person or on television, watching a car auction is a blast. I love to hear guys talk about prices as cars roll onto the auction block. What looks like their high school car or the car they almost bought, is now priced out of sight! You can get caught up in the bidding frenzy without even opening your wallet! Preview days are often free, and a great time to walk around and check out the cars. My favorite is RM with auctioneer Max Girardo. Also at the top of my list are Gooding, Bonham’s, and Artcurial auctions.

First Porsche sports car

The first sports car bearing the Porsche name. The 1948 Porsche Type 356, “No. 1” Roadster.

6. Check out your dream car. There is no harm in test driving your dream car. There is no harm in surfing the internet for your dream car. There is no harm in tracking down the car you once owned. Dream it and someday you may own it. I want a Porsche 911 in the worst way.

Goodwood is fun for everyone

The Goodwood Revival is magical and fun for everyone.

7. Head to the Goodwood Revival, Retromobile, or the Mille Miglia. These events are for everyone, from the vintage racing buff to the reluctant spouse. If looking through memorabilia at Retromobile gets boring, there is always shopping in Paris. There are enough trade-offs in Italy to spare a couple of hours watching the cars take off at the Mille Miglia. As for the Goodwood Revival, the entire family cannot help but have a fabulous time.

1902, the oldest Mercedes still in existence

The oldest Mercedes still in existence, the 1902 Mercedes-Simplex 40PS.

8. Tie an automotive museum into your vacation. Automobile museums are everywhere. Admission is often nominal. In the States, favorites on the west coast, besides Jay Leno’s Garage, include the Blackhawk Museum, Mullen and Nethercutt Collections, Peterson and LeMay Museums. Heading east, the Seal Cove Museum in Maine and Simeon and AACA Museums in Pennsylvania are fantastic. Heading to Europe? Take the train from Paris to Mulhouse for a treat — the Schlumph Collection in the Cité de l’Automobile National Museum. If you are flying into Milan, the Museo dell’Automobile in Torino and Museo Mille Miglia in Brescia are unique. Once in Stuttgart, Germany, the Porsche and Mercedes-Benz museums were phenomenal. The crème de la crème was The Collier Collection in Naples, Florida.

Katies, on a Saturday Morning

With over 300 cars on a Saturday morning, at Katie’s, you can always find something to talk about.

9. Get to a Cars and Coffee. If it’s 7am, Saturday morning, you will find me sipping coffee with hundreds of car guys and gals, at the local cars and coffee. I love being around other like-minded motorsports enthusiasts. Classics to exotics, you’ll see everything and just talk cars. My favorites — Katie’s in Great Falls, Virginia and the duPont Registry in Clearwater, Florida.

Sandy's dream come true

My dream come true.

10. Don’t stop at 10 ... keep dreaming. On my bucket list for decades was to own a convertible, something sporty. I never let up on that dream and I’m glad I didn’t. Who would have guessed that dream would change my life.

Rallies enough to last a lifetime

There are enough rallies on my list to last a lifetime.

So what is still on my bucket list? My dreams span the gamut, from tinkering under the hood of an E-Type to navigating in the Peking to Paris Rally. And, of course, there’s the 911.

Donald Osborne at the Mille Miglia

It is just as much about the people as it is about the cars. Donald Osborne at the start of the Mille Miglia.

I hope I have sparked your interest. Get out and have fun with your own bucket list. Sandy on Assignment, under the MMR Blog, gives you a glimpse into many adventures, with specific suggestions on how to go about planning. When it comes to motorsports adventures, it’s all about the cars, the people, and having fun.

Please keep me posted on your bucket list ... and I promise to write about mine.


My Word: Racing – The Way It Was

Posted on February 14, 2014 Comments (4)

Denise McCluggage

By Denise McCluggage (written in 1998)

“You asked what I remember most about those days,” Louise said. “It was the laughter.”

The sand was hard packed. We strolled with three dogs along a deserted stretch of beach on Casey Key just south of Tampa. We talked of the late ‘50s and the racing scene in Europe of which we had both been involved in our different ways. Louise King had been starring in The Seven Year Itch in Miami when she met Peter Collins, an attractive young Englishman on the Ferrari racing team. Within days they were engaged then married and off to Italy and the racing season.

Peter Collins

As a journalist I wrote about the races and as a driver I raced assorted cars—Alfas, OSCAs, Ferraris, Porsches—in assorted races. It was simpler then.

Laughter, yes. A photograph Louise had readied to mount in an artful montage on her wall was testimony. In it Mike Hawthorn, another talented Brit in the Ferrari stable and Peter’s mon ami mate, was arched backward with laughter throwing his open face to the sky, mouth open. The tweed cap, the pale blue racing pants. It was all so instantly familiar I could hear Mike’s uninhibited guffaw across the decades. And I could see Peter and Louise creased with smiles. It ached with memory.

Mike Hawthorn

And. The caring,” Louise added.

That was then. Like most major sports, motor racing has segued from game to industry. Megabucks have a way of settling seriousness over a scene. A great infusion of sponsorship money may well have saved motor racing, but it has imprisoned it, too.

It has even changed its color.

In those days race cars were painted the assigned national colors—red for Italy, blue for France, yellow for Belgium, white with blue for the United States, silver for Germany etc. (Actually, Germany’s assigned color was white but Neubauer, racing guru of Mercedes-Benz, knew how much paint weighed and decided that naked silver was white enough—and lighter.) These days racecars are the color of cigarette packages or whatever else those who pay the bills decree. Only Ferrari has clung to tradition and red.

As for money, in 1961, the year Phil Hill driving for Ferrari, became the first American to win the world driving championship he probably made something well less than $100,000. Now successful drivers most likely tote up some $2 million each race. Plus endorsements.

Let me take you back to earlier days and the ragged orbit of the racing world careening from Monaco to Rheims or Rouen to Silverstone to the Nurburgring and on. Time and places were interchangeable—we spoke of “after Sebring” or “before LeMans.” Our world coalesced around one place or another each weekend, shattered into individual parts then whirled back to a shared life again the next week.

Maybe it is for me the year of the Alfa. A bright blue Sprint Veloce with a snarky engine note. Or the year of the Porsche 356, the color of a wet river stone with an unheard-of electric sunroof and knock-off hubs. Or maybe of the Ferrari 250 GT, a dark blue Berlinetta with a sonorous authority that drew heads to second-story windows even before it could be seen flashing through toy mountain villages. Nothing does more for an echo than a V12 at full song.

And nothing in those days could be cooler than pressing along sharply in that very Ferrari with a crunched fender and the ghosts of racing numbers on its sides, hastening back to Modena and Scaglietti’s little Carrozzeria to get the car’s skin put right after a spot of trouble at the Nurburgring. (That alone shows how long ago it was. Scaglietti’s is now a full-blown factory.)

If it is the Alfa then I might be on the way back to Modena, Ferrari’s hometown, from Monaco. I had spent a few days with Peter and Louise on Mipooka their boat docked in the harbor. There they lived between races, much to the consternation of Enzo Ferrari. He preferred his drivers unmarried and living within his beck. That described Phil Hill. Every year Phil took delivery on a new Volkswagen Beetle, drove it to Modena and checked into the Albergo Reale (now a bank, emblematic of what has happened to racing.) As the season lengthened Phil pined for an American breakfast. I was taking him some Rice Krispies I had found in a Monaco grocery. There were no American breakfast cereals in Italy. Phil was exceedingly grateful. How he bridled when they referred to his cereal as “fagiolini” (little beans) at the Albergo breakfast room.

En route from Monaco I picked up a friendly dice. Often on the highway drivers of sports cars—which were not yet common among the every-day Fiats and Renaults—would pair off for some anonymous sport on the road. We whipped along together, not exactly racing, but exercising each other’s skills. Over one col then another. This time I do not remember the marque just that the car was red. He led. I led. When I blinked my intention to pull in for fuel the red car stopped just beyond the gas station and waited. Then we resumed our dance until the pull of differing destinations separated us. We never stopped to converse and rarely even waved; we just drove spiritedly in parallel play, like tots in a sandbox. That was the way it was then going to and from the races.

Getting into the races these days requires a major effort. In Japan (not part of the scene then) the right to buy tickets is granted by lottery. I doubt that I would even qualify for press credentials now. Then it was easy. There were so few of us covering races. And there were no press conferences. No after-race gatherings where everyone dutifully writes down the same quotes. (And no winner’s podium either where the top three stand at appropriately varied heights and spray the world with champagne.)

Drivers were accessible then. They sat on the pit wall, strolled about the paddock. No motor homes to duck into. No helicopters to whirlybird them off to their private jets. If you had a question you posed it to the drivers in the pits, at the hotel, over dinner. They were your friends. They were there, sharing space and talk.

And laughter.

Language might have been a partial barrier. Now English is the lingua franca of the racing world. Then you learned smatterings of all the languages. By the time Phil Hill’s stint in Europe ended he not only spoke passable French and an excellent Italian but he could even send his Ferrari mechanics into gales of laughter with Modenese, the French-Italian melange that is the local dialect.

There’s that laughter again.

Sometimes the drivers seemed like fraternity brothers after finals, an observation I am sure cannot be made of the current crop. I suspect today’s drivers are totally immune to high jinks. Not then. I recall the year at Rheims when Harry Schell’s tiny little Vespa car (yes, car) proved too great a temptation to the pranksters. First it was driven into the hotel lobby. An early-retiring Harry was sent for to view the joke. He declined to come down. Somehow enough willing hands were found to wrestle the mini-car up the curving stairway and into the salon at the summit. A vase of flowers was set atop it. This time Harry did come out, robe-wrapped, to sleepily shake his rumpled head over his colleagues’ handiwork. (The next day the car had to be taken apart to get it back to ground level.)

I also remember bicycles placed high in trees and mild food fights in tolerant restaurants. And symphonies played by rubbing the rims of wine glasses. (I recall Phil Hill meticulously tuning the glasses by sipping here and there.)

The modern Formula 1 race car probably has more in common with a rocket than the Formula 1 cars of the ‘50’s. Now computers control most of the vital functions, including declutching. Shifting is done with a button on the steering wheel. Telemetry tells more what an engine and chassis are doing than the most sensitive drivers could discern. Today the greater G-forces and higher speeds make driving a race car quite different from what it was then. Today’s drivers score no points for being adept at stirring about with a gear shift. That’s as useful as flicking a buggy whip. What is demanded of today’s drivers is both so little and so much more.

In those days drivers were not the racing specialists they are today. Formula 1 was the elite, as it is now, but factory drivers drove everything else, too—the long-distance sports car races and sometimes even rallies. And most of them did the Mille Miglia and the ten-day rally-race hybrid called the Tour de France. The driving championship was determined in the open-wheeled single-seaters of Formula 1. Factory championships were back then determined only in prototype sports cars. Examples: Ferrari Testa Rossa, D-type Jaguar, Maserati 300S—machines that increase the heart rate of modern collectors. Porsche wasn’t a contender for overall victories in those days because its engine at 1.5 liters was half the size of the big guns. Its hegemony came later.

Some team drivers did only the sports cars while waiting for the chance at Formula 1. Before Phil Hill got his drive on Ferrari’s Formula 1 team he had become a frequent winner for Ferrari in the long races, like the 12-hours of Sebring and the 24-hours of Le Mans. He teamed sometimes with Olivier Gendebien and sometimes with Peter Collins.

That’s another change from the old days. Pairs won the long races then, now the list of drivers on a single car at Le Mans or Sebring or Daytona (not existing in the ‘50s) can be as long as a college team roster. Always at least three now. When there were only two it was easier to keep track of things.

Perhaps I have made the point that in those days the racing community was truly a community with all that implies—brotherly closeness for some like Peter and Mike. And Harry Schell and Portago. Friends, perhaps; friendly quite likely. Truly caring at best; civil to each other at least. I cannot recall the open animosity then that seems to exist today. Back then, Fon Portago used an odd term—“unkind”—in describing driver comportment. He told me: “You are not unkind to someone on the race course because they can be unkind in return.”

It can be said with certainly that unkindnesses have occurred in modern day racing. Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost were more than rivals. Senna actually used his car as a weapon against Prost in a Grand Prix in Japan and removing them both from the race. And Schumacher and Damon Hill have had their problems. Schumacher lost his chance at a third championship when he abruptly turned in on Jacques Villeneuve at Spain in 1997 but, instead of deterring the Canadian, Schumacher ended up stuck in a gravel pit.

No laughter here, at least not the sort born of good humor.

On the same Casey Key beach where Louise and I spoke of the laughter of the old days she fell into conversation on another afternoon with neighboring dog walkers. They had a residence in Monte Carlo. Louise told of her time in Monte Carlo on Mipooka. “I was married to Peter Collins, the racing driver. We lived there,” she explained. As coincidence would have it the Monte Carlo pair knew of Peter Collins and the August before had been at the Nurburgring for a vintage car event. They had participated in an impromptu memorial program at the site on the ‘Ring where Peter had been killed.

The old days had laughter and caring, yes, but they had death as well. It was almost common in those days. The crashes. The funerals. Drivers raced with that awareness always with them—unmentioned, but hard to ignore.

Today’s drivers began their careers and proceeded without that spectre. It was simply absent from the scene. So much so that Ayrton Senna, the extraordinary champion from Brazil, was deeply shocked when Austrian Roland Ratzenberger was killed in practice for the Grand Prix of San Marino in 1994. The possibility of dying in a race car seemed to come as a startling novelty to him. So affected by the revelation was Senna that he sought out Prost to apologize for his past behavior which he now recognized as life-threatening. Ironically Senna himself was killed the next day in the race. These were the first fatalities in twelve years in Formula 1.

The crash at the Nurburgring that killed Peter Collins was in August 1958. He and Louise had been married eighteen months and since their first date in Miami had been apart only the one day when Peter and Mike Hawthorn went to practice for the Mille Miglia. That’s what Louise remembers. That and the laughter.

Peter Collins and friend

Those were the days.