MMR Blog

Sandy on Assignment: Formula 1 in Monaco

Posted on May 30, 2013 Comments (7)

…Looking Through the Spyglass

By Sandy Cotterman, Motorsports Enthusiast

So what is it about Formula 1 in Monaco that makes it so special? Unlike all the other races I’ve attended, which I can still count on two hands, Monaco is about being right there... 60 feet above the first turn out of the start. At first I was shattered that I wouldn’t be seeing the pits or mingling with the drivers. But to be hovering above the cars was spectacular.

Perched above the streets of Monaco.

Perched above the streets of Monaco.

First turn out the start then up and around.

First turn out the start then up and around.

What mattered most was that my very first foray into F1 would be Monaco. The uniqueness of this Grand Prix venue is racing a street course… that narrowly winds through one of the most breathtaking coastal cities in the world… and of course watching the elite of the elite… drivers and cars. Although I arrived in France on Wednesday, my real adventure started Thursday after a short train ride from Nice into Monaco. If you’re doing Monaco for the very first time or your tenth, do it with a group that knows what they’re doing and can provide you with a seamless experience and no hassles. Otherwise, stay home and watch the races on television! Tours F1 was my choice after meeting Paul and Biffy Wuori last September during the British Invasion in Stowe, VT. Check out Paul’s story about his early days with Bruce McLaren in MMR’s articles. F1 was still an unknown to me, but after meeting Paul, I had a connection and began reading all I could about McLaren’s remarkable, yet short, life.

My logistic tips for this race and venue are few, but essential. Take the only direct flight to Nice from the States, out of JFK, and do whatever it takes to sleep through to the next day’s early morning arrival. Plan to arrive on Wednesday, which affords you the opportunity to watch the two F1 practice sessions on Thursday and the third practice as well as Qualifying on Saturday. Thursday and Saturday are also filled with all the practice and qualifying sessions for the Porsche Mobile 1 Supercup and Formula Renault 3.5 which start off Sundays races at 9:45 am. Besides getting your fix of racing, arriving early also gives you Friday as a catch-up day to sightsee, unless you’re a die-hard GP2 fan.

There is much to see in Nice.

There is much to see in Nice.

Maneuvering within the train or bus systems is relatively easy so traveling to Antibes, Eze or Cannes is also doable on this free day. I took it easy and strolled the streets of Nice. Staying in either Nice or Monaco is your call. Keep everything in perspective. Like most race weekends, no matter where they are in the world, costs are way out of whack. Plan for your own convenience. Taking the train or a taxi out of Nice just depends upon your personal choice on race days. I did both. An unbelievable treat is dinner at Le Chantecler, the Hotel Negresco’s Michelin 2 star restaurant along the water in Nice. With the dollar still in the pits, my shopping remained strictly motorsports related, so I wasn’t tempted by the plethora of trendy boutiques, everywhere! People watching is free, so enjoy the many cafes… you can’t go wrong with the food in France!

The best viewing for this event is from terraces on residential or hotel balconies lining the street course in Monaco. Although the harbor is dotted with yachts of all sizes, be careful what you wish for when it comes to actually seeing the race. I had just purchased high power binoculars so I could spy. The crowds on these vessels didn’t appear to be actually watching the races… and they did not have nearly the perspective as seen from above or from strategically staged grandstands.

There were around 14 of us staying in a boutique hotel off rue Grimaldi in Nice. All fantastic people and over the top race fans! We met up with others, including Paul and Biffy, who were staying in Monaco, to bring the group up to around 30, the perfect number to enjoy the wrap around 5th floor terraces of the apartment where we were to watch the races... and dine on delectable fare. Outside, on the streets, were stands of official and non-official team-specific clothes and ‘stuff.’ Not much different than any other race venue. The best buy, was a pair of 10 euro headphones that fit nicely over ear plugs!

Lotus started the Crash Fest before Sunday!

Lotus started the “Crash Fest” before Sunday!

So how would I describe the 71th Grand Prix De Monaco? A Crash Fest was pretty much the consensus. Somewhat unusual, Sunday’s race was stretched out beyond the scheduled two hours to accommodate two safety-car-led recoveries and one red call, following the three major incidents of the day. The first two crashes Sunday, starting with Massa in the Ferrari were most likely driver error… the third, more of a victim of circumstances.

Massa is the first crash Sunday, a repeat of Saturday.

Massa is the first crash Sunday, a repeat of Saturday.

Being checked out.

Being checked out.

The cars are lifted off the course.

The cars are lifted off the course.

Maneuvering and passing on this track can often result in overly optimist moves. With the low rear view visibility of the F1 car, there just isn’t anywhere to go, on the 40’ wide track, which narrows around the corners! From my line of vision, I was able to capture images of these first two crashes, adding to quite a few taken during Thursday’s and Saturday’s Crash Festivals. The drivers look at turn one, St. Devote, as very bumpy under braking. With the walls on the left coming into the track, plus the propensity to take too much kerb on the inside, cars were ending up into the wall in front of me!

The start around the first corner.

The start around the first corner.

Around the hairpin and back at me, with the Mercedes still in front.

Around the hairpin and back at me, with the Mercedes still in front.

From my vantage point, I could see the cars maneuvering down and out of pit lane, around the first corner (St. Devote) and up the first steep, somewhat bumpy straightaway to the Massenet corner then on to the Casino. There was a short distance hidden from sight, yet clearly visible on the big screen monitor right in front of us. Suddenly the cars appeared again, descending the fastest part of the road at 280km/h then looping around a corner to maneuver a sharp hairpin turn to avoid flying into the water… and back directly facing me down the straightaway and along the stretch in front of the yachts. Another two turns (Virage de la Rascasse and Virage Antony Noghes) and the 3km340meter course starts all over again working off the total 78 lap countdown.

The intimacy of the street course and viewing vantage, plus the in-car footage on the big screen made me feel like I was right there with each driver. I was tipped off Thursday on how to recognize drivers on the same team. In the case of the Mercedes AMG Petronas Team, Rosberg’s top light would be black and Hamilton’s neon yellow…. a helpful hint that held true for team driver order. It almost looked like the second team car was protecting the first, especially in the case of the Mercedes and Red Bull teams. Knowing this made watching even more of a thrill. Of course, it didn’t take long for the order to be broken!

Victory to Nico Rosberg and the Mercedes.

Victory to Nico Rosberg and the Mercedes.

Watching the victory had to be on the huge screen for this venue, but it still was exciting to zoom in with my camera to see the smiles of the top three drivers, watch the champagne pop and hear the German national anthem.

Following the race, several of us headed off to the Columbia Hotel in Monaco to celebrate. Paul ran into old McLaren friends. Since I had been sent off to the races with a McLaren t-shirt from my local Tampa Bay dealership, I followed Button and Perez pretty closely. I passed the shirt on to Paul who will do his best to get autographs in Montreal!

My summer vacation started in Monaco with Formula 1 and will continue on to the 24 hours of LeMans in three weeks. In reality, this year’s LeMans adventure started two years ago when the tears rolled down my cheeks as I belted out our American national anthem and proudly waved my little American flags. The Corvette had won its GT class.

On Saturday and again on Sunday, in Monaco, I got to meet the driver who had won that 2011 race at LeMans in the Corvette… Olivier Beretta. We were watching the races from his 98-year-old grandmother’s apartment. It just so happened that I had the pictures of Olivier’s victory celebration on the podium right there with me on my laptop! Fast forward to 2013. Olivier will be racing the Ferrari factory car at the 24 and, again, I will be there cheering, this time knowing him and his family. I will also be cheering on the American Viper team and our MMR favorite, American Tommy (TK) Kendall. You know I will also be cheering the Porsches, especially if Americans, Patrick Long and Spencer Pompelli are driving again.

The world of motorsports is simply magical... for me.

Upgrading a 1978 Ferrari 308 GTS: Ignition

Posted on May 30, 2013 Comments (0)

In 1995 I bought a 1978 308 GTS Euro spec Ferrari with a rebuilt engine and 13K miles on the long non-functioning odometer. It had had a serious accident on the right front corner. This is the fifteenth in a series of short articles about how we repaired and updated it.

Leaving Well Enough Alone… Almost


According to my 1978 Ferrari 308 Instruction Book (Owner’s Manual) 308s came with either a standard point set ignition system or ignition with magnetic impulses. Both by Magneti Marelli.

Fortunately for me, we have the single distributor electronic system and it has been flawless. As mentioned elsewhere, I’m sure, I bought the car in the dark in Chicago and drove it home to Boston. When I first brought the car to John Tirell at IFS I asked John for a quick assessment and he told me several important and distressing things. First the car had been hit on the right front and left rear and the engine had been rebuilt. The only thing that had been upgraded was the stereo system. So he went through it, changed all the fluids, put new tires on it, checked every important component and updated what he could. I thought the car ran well when I bought it but it felt bulletproof when he was through. We used factory parts where we had no choice but we used an aftermarket oil filter and John made up a set of wires using Taylor Spiro PRO 8MM Silicone and the Ferrari resistors. Except for a few resistor failures along the way, some of which I caused through careless engine washing, the system has performed perfectly… for well over 100K miles!

308 ignition

308 ignition

At the same time John was doing all this for my car, he was also upgrading his personal GT4 for track use. Among the many things he did to improve that car, he also installed a high performance Electromotive ignition system. That car was strong and is legendary in the Northeast among Ferrari owners who did track at the time. If you are looking for someone to hotrod your 308 for street or track, he’s your guy.

Upgrading a 1978 Ferrari 308 GTS: Lights

Posted on May 23, 2013 Comments (2)

In 1995 I bought a 1978 308 GTS Euro spec Ferrari with a rebuilt engine and 13K miles on the long non-functioning odometer. It had had a serious accident on the right front corner. This is the fourteenth in a series of short articles about how we repaired and updated it.

Let there be lights!

While driving in F1 for Lotus, Ronnie Peterson was famous for being able to take a car straight off the trailer and go fast. Upon returning to the pits the engineers would ask what they needed to do to make the car faster. He would reply: nothing, it’s fine the way it is. His teammate Mario Andretti was the opposite, his background in dirt cars and ovals made him a master at tuning suspension systems to get the most out of his cars. And he did. But he was not perceptibly quicker than Peterson. Peterson was just plain quick and he adapted his driving to whatever the car would do.

To a far lesser extent, many of us are the same. As our vehicles age and wear, they change. And we change right along with them. I remember sharing a car in a 4-hour endurance race once. We set a target time and as brake and clutch problems beset the car, we would slow down and then after a number of laps, we would be turning the target times again. We adjusted and drove differently to achieve our goal.

I bought the WASRED 308 in Chicago and drove it to Boston. When I first turned on the headlights, I thought the low beams were horrible. So I drove on the high beams and since no one asked me to dim I just always drove it that way. Once home, I tried to adjust them, but to little avail.

I have mentioned elsewhere that the car had once suffered a serious front end accident and was rather ham handedly repaired. This past winter I decided that I would upgrade my forward lighting and add auxiliary lighting. The MMR Goods and Services Directory lists a number of suppliers and in my pilgrimage to good lighting I interacted with many of them.

I began with Daniel Stern. He emailed a long and detailed response to my query and was quite familiar with my issues. I had Hella lights and Osram 100/80 watt. He supplied me a well written treatise on the subject of auxiliary lighting specifically for my car. He recommended Cibie headlamps with Narva 100/90 bulbs and suggested that since the original bulbs were 60/55s, upgrades in the wiring and relays were recommended to protect the switchgear. Communication between us was interrupted for a while and I was then helped by Dave Heupchen, an old rally driver who races Volvos. I think I got to him through Dimebank Garage. Finally, Gunther Hansele of Aardvark International was the most helpful and reliable resource. Like many other pockets of specialty vintage parts, the masters of it are slightly off the beaten track and one needs to adjust to their way or little is accomplished.

When it came to auxiliary driving lamps, I chose the Cibie Airport series 35 (H2 – 55 watt bulb) rectangular lamps. These have a clear white lens and they most resembled those fitted to the Ferrari 288 GTO.

That decided, we began our work. My mentor on this project was once again Spencer Guder of Spencer Restoration in Canterbury, CT. I felt the headlamps needed changing because the outside surfaces were pitted. Spencer suggested that the interior surfaces might also be dirty, as these were not sealed beams. When I ran a clean cloth around the interiors I was surprised at how much dirt came off. Before disassembling the old units, we made indications on the back of the garage door showing where the existing Hellas had been focused. The passenger side light, the corner of the car that had been damaged, shone across into the oncoming lane. That explained why oncoming traffic was at times annoyed. Before he could install the new lights he had to straighten out the brackets holding the light assembly and without taking the whole front end apart he was limited in what he could accomplish. But he is patient, resourceful, and diligent and he managed to get it straightened out so it would work properly.

The Airport Series 35s were fitted with a harness and relays which Spencer made up. A control switch which illuminated when the lights were in use was fitted under the dash on the driver’s side. Not an ideal location as it turns out. At some point they were briefly on and, (I think I have mentioned that I am not particularly observant) I never noticed. The lights melted the clever black/silver Cibie covers. I promptly made them completely black with the use of a Sharpie.

The important point here is that once we had the whole set-up completed, adjusted the headlights properly, and measured them against the previous markings on the wall, it was time for a test. Unfortunately it was late and I was leaving the next day for the 17 States in 20 Days and One Pair of Underwear Tour so testing was postponed.

On the first day of the tour I left Philadelphia after dinner enroute to Pittsburgh via the Turnpike. An ideal opportunity to test the lights. First I was thrilled by how well the standard light worked. “Brilliant” was the right word. The moment of truth for the auxiliary lights came on a long stretch of straight road. While more than adequate, the difference between them and my high beams was marginal. At the next stop I adjusted them to aim a little higher. By doing this, I gained a fuller view and a gain in distance.





High Auxiliary

High Auxiliary

High Auxiliary Higher

High Auxiliary Higher

Here is what I draw from this. I was upgrading a 1978 system which had already been upgraded at least 18 years earlier and poorly adjusted. Forward lighting has made quantum leaps since the car was initially built and dramatically more in the intervening years since it had been upgraded. The original car would have benefitted greatly from the addition of the 55W Airport lights. Today’s equipment doesn’t need that help. When weighed, the inconvenience of having to remove the auxiliary light covers before use vs. an actual need for the lighting they rendered diminished them to a form of entertainment. Another toy with a switch. But they do look cool, in a 1960s way.

Dark in the dark

He’s Fast, He’s Funny & He’s Almost Fifty!

Posted on May 23, 2013 Comments (4)

#93 in the program, #1 in our hearts.

On May 8th we wrote the following to Tommy (TK) Kendall, the 46 year old American driver who will be part of the SRT Viper Team at Le Mans:

Hi Tommy, is a Goods and Services Directory and a weekly MMR Newsletter which has 4000 subscribers. We are mostly men and women of a certain age and we follow current sports car, F1, and Moto GP racing. 

Your participation at Le Mans this year, with your permission, will provide us with someone for whom to cheer. We chose you because you are accomplished, articulate, funny and just slightly closer in age to us than many of the other serious drivers both on your team and in the race. We want to root for you! 

While we don’t view this, or much else, with reverence; we are respectful… generally.

I hope you will take this in the fun spirit in which it is intended.


TK replied!

Hi Peter!

I meant to respond quickly with a quick, "#*@& off" in keeping with the spirit of your introduction, but with my tardy reply the chances of that being taken wrong have multiplied!!!

Thanks for bestowing the honor of your support upon me! I am most grateful!!

Enjoying the newsletter too!

Now, leave me alone!!


Great! So now we have someone to root for at Le Mans. Someone who is fast, funny and #*@&ing cranky! Maybe Milk of Magnesia would help. He can’t be out there racing against those Froggies for hours with an upset tummy and an attitude. What do you think? How can we help our pal and the SRT team?

From Beth Paretta – SRT Director of Marketing and Operations:

Please keep the disruptions to our thoroughbred to a minimum. We have someone brushing his mane as we speak.



Gotta run brushing session is complete, but I have a Grey Poupon facial followed by a Perrier bath to get acclimated.


We used to brush… hair and teeth… Don’t forget to bring your own American Depends. You can’t get the same sizes in France.


Duly noted! :-)

 Tommy Kendall

Tommy "TK" Kendall

308 Upgrade: A Cautionary Tale

Posted on May 16, 2013 Comments (3)

This week’s story is not so much about an upgrade, as it is a cautionary tale.

Early in the very late stages of the past century, my wife and I drove the WASRED 308 to Cavallino, an annual Ferrari fest held every January in West Palm Beach, Florida. We used the front tire well and rear trunk for luggage and even took along a set of golf clubs.

We stayed at the Colony Hotel in downtown West Palm Beach. “West Palm” is what we habitués call it. The Colony was, and probably still is, a well kept monument to the glory days of West Palm and nearby, still swishy, Worth Avenue. A number of its occupants are permanent residents whose presence reminds other patrons, and possibly themselves, of grander days.

Other than an ice storm in northern Virginia that forced us off Interstate 95 for a few hours, the trip was uneventful. Getting back on the highway in downtown Richmond we quickly discovered that while the sun had melted the roadway, the underpasses, where the water had been carried, remained glare ice. So the trick was to settle the car upon entry, pray the road didn’t bend and try to keep the front wheels pointed to where you wanted to go if you once again gained traction. Though slightly harrowing at first, it did add a measure of excitement to what is otherwise a thoroughly boring drive. It didn’t last forever but it was quite exciting while it did. At least for me.

Upon arrival at our hotel, I opened the rear boot (trunk) for the bellman to remove the luggage and when I came back it was closed and I parked the car. The next morning I opened the rear hatch to find that the mechanism which allows the lid to remain open had been disconnected and was broken. The doorman, not understanding the proper procedure had simply taken it apart and in the process broken it. The hotel was, as you might expect, mortified, but was immediately forthcoming and offered to pay all repair costs. This was, after all, a Ferrari. I don’t recall the exact costs but it will surprise no one that it was well north of $1,000. I learned a valuable lesson about leaving rear hatch operations to strangers.

Fast Forward fifteen years and some of you may have noticed in earlier pictures that the hatch lid is being supported by a yellow broom handle and may be wondering why. The rear hatch on a 1978 308 is steel. Later models appear to be much lighter and are probably made of aluminum. Later models are also supported by hydraulic struts on either side. My model has a rather ingenious mechanism that supports the hatch in a fixed upright position, the opening height is limited by the length of the supporting rod. The top of the rod is affixed to the hatch by a tough plastic knuckle, or universal joint, which allows the top of the rod to bend and fold down lengthways when the hatch is being closed. Ingenious but unnecessarily complex. The positive side is that it is strong and, being mechanical, not hydraulic, it should never need replacement. Uninformed hotel doormen aside, the only problem with the design is that upon reaching the top of its arc, the momentum of this heavy hatch being lifted is stopped, often suddenly, by it having reached the end of its travel. This sudden stop puts a shock on that little knuckle and it sometimes breaks. This is not uncommon.

Not surprising, Ferrari’s solution is to replace the whole unit.

Enter the MMR Goods and Services Directory and under the heading of Ferrari Parts is listed a small company called Unobtainium Supply Co. Verell Boaen is a retired electronic engineer who has a passion for Ferraris and has dedicated his talents to providing the no longer available (NLA) parts that classic and vintage Ferrari owners might require at reasonable prices.

The plastic cover for one of my seat belt housings is broken; Unobtainium Supply Co. has them. Unscratchable switch plate sets? Unobtainium Supply Co. has them. The part I want is the “latch housing” for the “boot.” Considering the fact that someone had to cast the part and the cost of its original alternative, $97 is a fair price and I have ordered one. It is companies such as Unobtainium Supply Co. that keep the ownership of vintage cars like the 308 fun and affordable and MMR urges you to visit their site and others in the MMR Goods and Services Directory, to purchase their products and to support their efforts. That is what MMR is all about!

Unobtainium Supply Co. created custom molds for, and supplied, these tail light lenses for the 1952 Ferrari 212 Pininfarina Cabriolet—one of the first two Ferraris built by Pininfarina. It is now being restored by Ferrari Classiche. If you watch closely you can see it at the back of the shop in this video.

You can download a catalog with contact information from the Unobtainium Supply web site.