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MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on April 16, 2015 Comments (0)

F1 - China Ho Hum

Empty F1 Grandstands

Shanghai, China: Following an exciting Malaysian GP, hopes were high that China would produce another close race between two teams. It didn’t and it did. The first six spots returned to form and Mercedes, chagrined by their loss in Race #2, emphatically and depressingly controlled every facet of Race #3.

Meanwhile back in the remainder of the field, the once mighty Red Bulls were beaten by lowly Lotus and Sauber and McLaren, the perennial challenger with the second most successful GP record of all modern day teams finished one lap down and trounced only Marussia. Sad.

For the top four cars, Mercedes and Ferrari, this was a race determined by tire degradation. For those watching on TV, color commentators, with the aid of intercepted team-driver communications, interpreted what passed as drama. Pity the poor people in the stands who, without access to even that sad explanation, paid serious money and watched a 90 minute parade interspersed with lightning fast pit stops.

Press: Autoweek.com reports that after the event, China GP organizers lamented the steadily declining quality of the F1 show. Their accompanying image showed stands filled with empty seats. Fascinating.

IndyCar - Nola Contendere

Rainy Pit Lane at IndyCar in New Orleans

New Orleans, LA: It is really quite amazing how, blessed with a field of competitive cars and many talented drivers, the crucial ingredient for good racing (and quite the opposite of F1), IndyCar still manages to produce a mediocre product. Sunday’s event on the outskirts of New Orleans was halted after 47 laps because TV time ran out. James Hinchcliffe stayed out when everyone else pitted on lap 33, and the race was called before he ran out of fuel.

Press: Racer.com ran an excellent commentary by print and oft times TV pit lane reporter Robin Miller. In it he decried the suitability of the track, the size of the crowd (8,000 maybe), and the IndyCar organization. In a piece entitled IndyCar Fans Deserve Better, he complained about the shame of running races on such courses when real race courses like Watkins Glen, Mosport, CoTA, Road Atlanta, and Road America go begging. Not to mention Mt.Tremblant and Lime Rock Park.

WEC Silverstone 6 hours: Audi Again

Silverstone 6 Hours

Silverstone, UK: First race of the season and primer for Le Mans in June, last year’s LMP1 World Endurance Championship (WEC) winning Audi finished first and fifth. Porsche was 4.6 seconds behind in second and Toyota Racing was another 10 seconds back in third and one lap down in fourth. Ligier/Nissan cars were sixth and seventh overall and first in LMP2. In GTE Pro, Ferrari beat Porsche and Aston Martin. In GTE Am, Aston Martin beat Ferrari and Porsche. This was the first race of the year, next comes SPA, on the same weekend as the Tudor IMSA race at CoTA. This is great racing and hopefully some broadcaster will pick it up for TV. We will, of course, see the Le Mans race.

Michael Furman - Photographer

This week’s Michael Furman image is detail of a 1959 Porsche 356A Carrera GS GT from his book Porsche Unexpected.

1959 Porsche 356A Carrera GS GT by Michael Furman

Classifieds

This week’s selected cars from MMR Classifieds are several interesting Porsches.

Eye Candy

Ferrari Interior, Amelia Island, by Bengt Persson

The eye candy this week is from the recent Amelia Island Concours event. We thank friend and MMR supporter Bengt Persson for his wonderful images. Circumstances dictated that Bengt was actually unable to attend the Concours but was fortunate enough to be there on Saturday and his work proves that people and surroundings contribute much to making images of even the most beautiful cars just a little more interesting.

Sandy’s Dino Image

Ferrari Dino, Amelia Island Concours, by Sandy Cotterman

Also at Amelia, Sandy Cotterman took a picture of a winning Ferrari Dino that had recently been prepared by Paul Russell and Co. of nearby Essex, MA. Unbeknownst to us at the time, this car is also the cover image for a forthcoming book by Michael Keyser about his close friend Jonathan Williams.

Shooting Star on a Prancing Horse, book cover, by Michael Keyser

Michael brought Jonathan to us and you can  read his Le Mans 1970 story here. The book will be available late summer.


From our MMR Goods & Services Directory we feature a brilliant garage lift for us amateurs. It’s finally getting warm enough to do some work out there.

F1 is in Bahrain this weekend.

Have a great one. And don’t forget to subscribe a friend who will thank you forever! And so will we.

Peter Bourassa
Publisher


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.


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on October 10, 2014 Comments (0)

With a slight bump and a bound, the midsize commuter jet lands in Santa Fe and disgorges twenty passengers. It is early evening Wednesday and 24 hours from now we begin our Santa Fe Concorso adventure.

My companion is a fellow Bostonian and motorsports friend who owns a place in the northwest quadrant of the city and has generously offered me lodging and transportation. He is a former Brit and an admirer of all things BRG. It’s genetic. Concurrent with the Concorso, a local British Car Club is also having a conclave and he anticipates attending a few of their functions.

Santa Fe Concorso 2014

This week’s issue is populated with images from our Santa Fe Friday gathering at the airport, the Saturday Mountain Tour, and the Sunday Concorso. Read about our adventures and view more photos in our gallery.

Santa Fe Concorso 2014


Michael Furman’s photograph is an image of the c-pillar vents on a 275GTB Ferrari.

Michael Furman’s contribution this week is an image of the c-pillar vents on a 275GTB Ferrari. Beautiful.


Classic Car Pricing “Bubble”

The Goodfellow Perspective

What’s in a name? A rose by any other name… Ah, but Shakespeare was wrong! There is much more in a name. Consider that few of us choose our own. Roughly half of us change one part of it at some point, and others ascribe to us, often wrongly, an ethnicity, heritage, and a financial value based solely upon hearing it. So names can hugely influence our lives. To wit, several years ago an excellent and now defunct magazine called Sports Car International had on its masthead the name of a contributing writer named Winston Goodfellow.

What better beginning to a writer’s name than “Winston”, a name synonymous with the capacity to inspired with words the English speaking world. What fitter ending for the name of a writer than “Goodfellow”. The OED says a good fellow is “an agreeable or jovial companion; a reliable or true friend”. In sum, a true friend of words. In the ensuing years I have read his thoughtful pieces and his measured prose in numerous magazines and books and have never been disappointed. He lives up to his name. Imagine my elation therefore when I was introduced to him in Santa Fe by a mutual friend. Over the weekend we chatted on several occasions and during one such conversation about the current vintage car “pricing bubble”, Winston offered to share with you, our MMR community, his thoughts on that subject which he had recently published on his website.


F1

Lewis Hamilton F1 Grand Prix Japan

The Japanese GP was a disaster. Uncommonly bad weather conditions and scheduling commitments elsewhere that narrowed the time frame in which the event could be run put organizers in a position where they either gambled on running the race or losing a fortune. In one way, organizers are not different from the drivers; neither believes that anyone will be seriously hurt racing in an F1 car. Both are wrong.

As for the race, we have come to recognize at this stage of the year that the main competitions on the track are within, not against, each team.  Mercedes has won the Manufacturers Championship and one of the Mercedes drivers will win the Drivers Championship. The question and the entertainment factor is which one? In third and fourth place are Ricciardo and Vettel. The latter has picked up his socks and may still catch and beat his young teammate before going to Ferrari next year. Alonso has solidly trounced Raikkonen at Ferrari and Bottas has beaten Massa at Williams. Button won’t be caught by Magnussen but Perez could catch Hulkenberg. No one cares about the remainder.

Vettel leaving Red Bull to drive for Ferrari could be a triumph of hope over history. Schumacher didn’t work those miracles alone. He had Todt, Brawn, and Montezemolo experience right there beside, behind, and in front of him. Vettel brings more F1 experience to Ferrari than both Marchionne and Mattiachi combined.

Alonso should think twice before committing to McLaren. This will be Honda’s first year with a new engine. Renault and Ferrari have both suffered through a humiliating engine building program but have learned a lot. Red Bull will have a new Renault engine, so will Lotus-Renault, if they survive. Alsonso is in fifth place in the Drivers Championship behind the Mercedes and Red Bull drivers. McLaren is in sixth place behind five other teams. He should stay with Ferrari because his options are worse elsewhere.

The inaugural Russian GP, at Sochi, is this weekend.

Have a great one.
Peter Bourassa


2014 Predictions - Confusion Reigns

Posted on January 9, 2014 Comments (3)

As 2014 begins, F1 is praying that the decisions it made regarding engine and chassis will allow more teams to be competitive. Sports cars are struggling to find a formula that will be entertaining and also doesn’t exclude good racecars, and IndyCar is timorously emerging from its own stretch in the wilderness.

The business of racing is business. The public, that’s us, seeks entertainment. The racers, that’s them, seek fair competition and money. Between us and them is each series management. If management can satisfy both camps, everyone will be happy and they also will make money. History tells us that the only management style that has thus far satisfied both camps is one that is intelligent and autocratic with the ability to withstand pressure from teams, advertisers, suppliers, broadcasters and fans. No mean feat.

Bill France

Bernie Ecclestone

Only two people have managed to do that for a prolonged period and only one is alive. Big Bill France and Small Bernie Ecclestone ran/run their operations to suit their visions and the bottom line. Like them or not, both have made wealthy men of themselves and those who chose to follow them.

Here are some thoughts about three major series for 2014.

F1 – Difficult to Predict

If you believe that the four major components of a race team are engine, chassis, driver and management, the fact that two of them are in flux for everyone this year has created a level of excitement and anticipation for followers of F1. The advent of new engine and aero packages could wreak havoc with the current order. As we left them, Renault had the top engines and Red Bull had the top chassis.

Beginning with a clean sheet, it is theoretically anyone’s game. But if you believe that people win because they are experienced winners and appear to have the most talent, you have to give the nod to the Renault-Red Bull package. The fight for second could favor the Renault- Lotus package. Lotus arguably had the second best chassis last year and the same winning engine as Red Bull. But in the driver department, Grosjean has yet to mature to the Vettel/Alonso/Raikkonen/Hamilton level. Maldonado, despite his experience, is an unknown factor at this level.

The most solid one-two driver line-up belongs to Ferrari. Like their drivers, their management is solid and experienced. The engine-chassis portion of their package, we will learn about at the first race. And so will they.

McLaren, considered the engineering team, have proven to be weak in engineering. Plus, half their driver line-up is on a learning curve and their engine fate will be in the hands of Mercedes until next year.

Mercedes are the enigma and the enigma is fascinating. They have two strong drivers, and like everyone else, an unknown chassis/engine package. What makes them particularly interesting to follow is their management structure. Having recently fired Ross Brawn, the canniest racer in the paddock, they have new management which is unproven at this level. At the top sits Niki Lauda, the non-executive Chairman of the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team, and who, undoubtedly, at the very least, agreed to the Brawn dismissal. Totto Wolff, who has a racing history with Mercedes in the DTM series, is the Business Manager and Paddy Lowe, formerly Technical Director for McLaren will, be Sporting Director with responsibility for building the cars and running the team. They all report to the board.

Time will tell if firing Ross Brawn was a bright move. Last year when Mercedes appeared to be having a high level of tire degradation, it was Ross Braun who engineered a secret tire test that solved the problem and also contravened what many considered to be strict rules against such actions. Not many people in F1 could have done that. Fewer still could have come out of it with so few negative consequences. New Mercedes Business Director Toto Wolff will be benefitting from Brawn’s 2014 planning and efforts for the first part of this year but after that Toto will discover that, as Dorothy said, he is not in Kansas anymore.

Brawn has said he will take six months to review his options. Here’s a prediction: Don’t be too surprised if someone has suggested he not commit to anyone until the board sees how the new management team does. His track record in F1 management is considerably better than Niki’s, Toto’s, and Paddy’s put together. At the very least Mercedes should keep Brawn on retainer not simply for what he can add but to keep him from adding it to someone else’s pit box.

Toto Wolff’s interview with Fox sports regarding Lotus Renault’s delayed payment of their drivers was at best tactless and equally ill informed historically. If this is accurate reporting, it would indicate that Mr. Wolff will be exciting to watch, if only briefly.

Sadly, the remainder of the F1 field will continue to soldier on at the back of the grid.

Tudor Sports Car Series  A Shotgun Marriage

Two series, ALMS (American Le Mans Series) and Rolex Grand-Am, have struggled with confusing classes, hopeless schedules, and lack of the necessary funding to properly establish distinct products. They have now merged to form a new series, the Tudor Sports Car Series, that will allow cars from both series to be competitive.

Tudor, I recently was informed by a watch aficionado, is Rolex’s second line, just as Tissot is Omega’s. A fine watch, to be sure, but still an acknowledged cut below the top level. And it does pose a simple question: Why a second level product?

They face challenges. Merging at the second level will be difficult but made easier because major car manufacturers are involved. They see a link with sales in showrooms and they will find a way, with time, to accommodate the new rules. The Ferrari, Corvette, Porsche, and Viper people all want a system that will allow them to be competitive. They want the series to have value in the eyes of the consumers and if it does that, they can afford to build the cars and the teams to make it work.

The biggest problem is at the top of the ticket. The Grand Am Daytona Prototype was initially a France family product designed to impose on sports car racing what they imposed on NASCAR. They introduced it as the Car of Tomorrow (COTA). The fans didn’t buy the homogenization and it is now, happily, the Car of Yesterday. The initial Daytona Prototypes were ugly slugs and still remain hugely different from the ALMS FIA derived Prototypes that run at Le Mans and in the remainder of Europe. The difficulty is that both sides have huge investments in these cars and nobody wants to, and many can’t, make obsolete their equipment and start from scratch. Management is struggling to find a way to make them even without destroying the cars or the racing.

Now is the time for IndyCar to anoint a strong leader and to find either a much higher profile title sponsor or co-sponsor who can invest the needed funds to help the teams through the expensive transition they will need to make to stay in the game. Like NASCAR, their biggest event is also their first. The Daytona 24 hours will be held at the end of this month and we will learn then what progress has been made.

IndyCar: Chasing the Carrot – Getting the Stick

The four major components required for a successful IndyCar program differ somewhat from the four determined for F1. These are IndyCar's requirements for a strong series: Strong teams, affordable car/engine packages, decent venues, and strong visionary leadership.

They have the first two. Randy Barnard rescued open wheel racing in America from the inept stewardship of the Hulman family and in the process learned that no matter how bright or right you are, when you are beholding to the folks who created the mess you are cleaning up, the likelihood of them being clever enough to let you take a bow and a buck, is highly unlikely.

IndyCar management believe their destiny is bringing their races to downtown streets all over downtown America and obscure racetracks in the hinterlands. F1, by contrast, have enough confidence in their product to believe that people will pay a lot of money to see good racing on real race tracks no matter where in hell they are. Their problem is supplying a consistently good race.

IndyCar finally has good racing and a deep field of driver talent, but their venue lineup is a joke. Other than the Indy 500, Birmingham and Mid-Ohio, the remainder are second rate and hard to watch. Long Beach, the most celebrated, tries hard, but it isn’t Monaco. Monaco has movie stars, Long Beach has TV stars. Bumpy city streets between ugly cement walls and 20’ catch fences is hardly glamorous. Inexplicably, they persist in believing that Laguna Seca, Elkhart Lake, Lime Rock Park, and countless other interesting tracks couldn’t fill their coffers.

They have a great product that has the potential of someday rivaling F1 as they once almost did. But history has demonstrated that as long as the France family control the major venue and the series, it will continue to fumble on!


Reflections on F1 2013

Posted on November 26, 2013 Comments (2)

Brazil is done. A race made interesting mostly by the threat of rain which never came. But didn’t the commentators and viewers wish it had. Other than that, it was notable for a couple of things.

First, of course, was the departure from F1 of Red Bull stalwart Mark Webber. A man of talent but also unlucky and inconsistent. Vettel may miss him most because he was not a serious threat. If it wasn’t clear before Malaysia, Mark’s position was very clear afterwards.

Frank Williams

Sir Frank Williams

Massa departs Ferrari. He appeared at times this year to require motivation. If driving for Ferrari is not motivation enough, he will surely disappoint at Williams. Sir Frank is not a cheerleader.

We learned, at this race, that in 2013 Ferrari and McLaren went to a different front suspension that allowed them an aero design advantage. This was apparently the major cause of their lackluster performance.

Heikki Kovalainen was consistent, sadly. Surely someone else could have done better and helped Lotus, themselves, and the viewers in the last two races. Management error.

Speaking of error. Red Bull’s on a pitstop for Vettel. A rare occurrence and a comfort to competitors.

Musical chairs will shortly end and many will be fitted for new uniforms and seats, but in the end, it is the cars that are the stars and Lotus, who do not have the budgets of RB, McLaren, Mercedes, and Ferrari appear to be punching above their weight. Where they will be after McLaren and Ferrari sort themselves out is an open question. On a positive note, they will have a Renault engine and a good chassis and a deserved reputation for being fast. Good drivers will be attracted to them.

Will Buxton’s interview with Nico Rosberg was a highlight of the interviews. Asked if he felt better about his improved performance this year over last, Rosberg replied no. It was due to an improved car and he left no doubt that he felt his performance was always good. He reminded Buxton that he had driven with Schumacher for three years and beaten him consistently. This is a driver who knows where he is at mentally and, should Mercedes deliver the car, he will deliver a championship.

Great credit is due and is paid to the Red Bull team, its drivers and management. Nobody on their side appears to say a word of thanks to their engine supplier Renault.

Red Bull

Finally, Vettel and records: A wonderful accomplishment for which he rightly thanks his whole team profusely. He is very good. He also owes thanks to Webber for not contesting his unexpected pass in Malaysia. That would have stopped the streak half way. Webber also deserves credit for taking 199 points that might have otherwise helped his competitors. He will miss Mark Webber.

In Will Buxton’s summary of the year he credited Vettel with finally realizing that he had to be ruthless to be a champion and that his pass of Webber in Malaysia showed he had come of age as a Champion.

This certainly fits the Senna–Schumacher mindset mold. Hardly fits the one from which Fangio, Clark, Stewart, Graham, and Phil Hill were cast.

As for Buxton’s comment, perhaps it is the times and perhaps it is the difference in our ages but when the goal is more important than the manner by which we achieve it, I lose interest. Fortunately for F1, I believe the majority of the drivers competing would not have needed to be reminded of team orders. It would never have crossed their minds to take a win away from a teammate.

NBC are to be supported for saving F1 from the Fox troglodytes. They have developed a first rate product and, if for them alone, the motorsports community should work like hell to grow F1 in North America.

As for the TV show itself, the sooner they get away from podium interviews the better. They are at best inept and mostly embarrassing to watch, and I would imagine to perform.

Despite all that, or perhaps because of it, F1 remains compelling.