MMR Blog

Letter from a Reader

Posted on August 7, 2014 Comments (0)
I have started using Evans' waterless Coolant and I am a total believer. I put it in my Mini after a hose and radiator change, took it out on the highway, let it sit and idle till the auxiliary electric fan cycled and then shut it off.

I then did something NO sane person would do... I loosened the pressure cap and, contrary to what one expects, there was no rapid escape of pressure followed by "massive coolant vomiting". In fact I don't recall even a "piff" of pressure relief.

The point is that the boiling point of Evans waterless coolant is so much higher than that of water-based coolant that it doesn't build up pressure which contributes to seal leaks, weakens hoses, etc.

Because there is no water in the coolant, there is no free oxygen and hydrogen (the components of water) plus minerals, to promote electrolysis and corrosion of the dissimilar metals in the block, heads and pump and to attack the hoses.

Think back to the last time you opened a cooling system or let older air out of a tire... Remember the "rotten rubber" smell? That is the smell of oxidized rubber having been attacked by heat and the free oxygen in either water or the moisture in the air inside the tire.

Not only does the heat and oxygen attack the hoses from within, but the expansion pressure weakens hoses AND radiator seams too.

Evans coolant removes all those problems except heat... BUT, it also REDUCES heat because Evans is about 30-50% MORE efficient in transferring heat which turns a vintage British car cooling system into one that acts like it was engineered properly in the first place AND allows one to install a higher temperature thermostat which actually enhances the performance and fuel mileage of an internal combustion liquid cooled engine, which just isn't possible with coolant that has a 212 F boiling point that must be compensated for by allowing pressure to build to up to 18psi. to prevent coolant boiling.

The "kicker" is that Evans coolant is truly "permanent". In fact, over the road truck fleets rotationally transfer coolant from retired trucks into new ones with no ill effects. Truly an unheard of economy of "investment".

I liken Evans waterless coolant to using silicone brake fluid for cars that do a lot of "sitting". All National Guard military vehicles specify silicone brake fluids for this very reason. I converted my DB5 to DOT 5 silicone brake fluid almost 40 years ago and still ZERO hydraulics failure or wear or typical corrosion around metal reservoir caps, fittings etc.

Chemistry marches on and it's NOT wrong to abandon the old and take advantage of those advances to improve and preserve our vehicles.

~John Gallagher

MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on August 1, 2014 Comments (2)

The market for vintage classics continues to climb from week to week; there is much speculation that this year’s Monterey auctions will top the season. Oophy Prosser handed in his Weekly Leek story early this week and ever, we are in total disbelief. Amazing! This week’s eye candy and main story is Sandy on Assignment: Initiation to the Villa d’Este Concours d’Elegance.

Michael Furman image is posed at the Simeone Museum in Philadelphia and is of a Porsche 917LH which ran at LeMans in 1970 and was driven by Gerard Larrousse & Willi Kauhsen and finished second.

This week’s Michael Furman image is posed at the Simeone Museum in Philadelphia and is of a Porsche 917LH which ran at LeMans in 1970 and was driven by Gerard Larrousse & Willi Kauhsen and finished second. Images and story are available in The Spirit of Competition.

F1’s Mid-Term Review

As we reach that point in the F1 season when all the teams take a one month hiatus we take a quick look back at the Teams and the Drivers. Overall, based on how the first half ended, the second should be far more competitive.


Despite management changes at all but Red Bull, the major teams have not fared as well as expected. The final race at the Hungaroring only highlighted their shortcomings. Mercedes “let them race” policy reverted briefly to a more typical, “let them race as long as they do what I say” policy and they are in disarray. Ferrari have fired people back home in an effort to shake things up but trackside they are only mildly better. McLaren brought back “Big Ron” and stole Eric Bouillon from Lotus-Renault. Despite early signs of promise, the car is no better, possibly worse. Mercedes coasted through the first half with a better aero and engine package. All remnants of the Brawn era. Toto will own the second half and the jury is out on him. Lotus-Renault is a disaster, as is Sauber. The only positive hope in the second tier is Williams who have an excellent aero package and the Mercedes engine that dominated the first half. Based on Hungary, that advantage is not what it was originally and given a month to work on it Ferrari and Renault engines are likely to be stronger beginning the second half. Red Bull have won two races with Renault and their aero package is coming together. They are simply too good not to be a force in the second half.


More than the racing, Rosberg and Hamilton have provided the entertainment in the first half. Their soap opera will continue but they will face far greater opposition at the sharp end of the grid and their green management team will be severely tested. At Red Bull, Vettel is getting a better grip on the new car and has been very impressive of late. He will be heard from sooner rather than later. Alonso is still the class of the pack and deserves far better than his ride. Kimi continues to be governed by the cycles of the moon. The McLaren duo are okay but have to be disappointed that after a brilliant beginning in Australia, and the strongest engine in the paddock, their chassis is dirt. Button isn’t going anywhere but home and can still race. Magnusson has shown he can race but still needs seasoning. At Williams, Massa has been severely out paced by his team mate Bottas and hasn’t helped his cause by regularly making stupid mistakes. Bottas has proven to Williams that they can do better and they will. Bottas is destined for better things but if Williams can hang on to him for another year, improve their racecraft, and replace Massa, they will be a force. Grosjean and Maldonado at Lotus-Renault are better than their rides. J.E. Verne, Danil Kvyat, and Bianci deserve better and with Raikkonen, Button, Massa approaching their “sell by” dates, they will get better rides.

Alonso Real Winner of Hungarian GP. Hamilton More Lucky Than Good

There is a thin line between adulation and admiration. Nationalistic race announcers everywhere cross it with abandon. The British-Australian trio that give America its F1 commentary are no exception.

Weather and luck were the major factors in determining the winner of the Hungarian GP and some had more of the latter than others.

Starting from the pit lane should be an insurmountable handicap and prior to the safety car era, it was. Before Sir Jackie came along and mercifully put an end to the carnage, there were no safety cars and races were only stopped if the entire track was blocked. The advent of the safety car and the frequency with which it is deployed, (think of the last race when there was not a safety car) pretty much means that you could start from the parking garage and still be competitive once it has come out and closed up the field. Plus, unlike every other car on the real grid, cars beginning in pit lane can change parts and more importantly suspension settings up to the start of the race, while those on the grid are obliged to race with their qualifying set-ups. So starting from the pits is perhaps not as bad as Lewis makes it sound. Particularly if you have one of the two fastest cars.

Once the safety car is deployed nobody is more than 20 seconds from the lead and if you have one of the two fastest cars and sixty laps left, moving up is not genius. And if you have the fastest car, finishing third might be considered failure. In this case the first safety car came out just in front of Rosberg, forcing him and three others to slow and follow it around at a reduced speed. All the cars that were further behind the front four, if they hadn’t passed the pit lane entrance, had an opportunity to dive into the pits and change their tires to slicks. By the time Rosberg pitted to get slick tires his 10.5 second lead over the field had been wiped out, plus he was balked getting into his pit box and got back into the race in 11th place. Hamilton’s 33 second initial pit lane penalty was wiped out.

In our opinion, probably shared by Spanish commentators, Alonso really won that race. In reality, at the end, Ricciardo had fresher tires and was lucky. Alonso was second in a car that was possibly fourth best on the grid, on tires that had twenty laps more on them than Hamilton’s and was being hounded by a better car with fresher tires. If Alonso was ecstatic on the podium and Hamilton wasn’t, that’s why. Alonso had just given him a driving lesson.

We have mentioned elsewhere that the Mercedes team began the year taking bows as a result of the departed Ross Brawn’s effort. It was his car then, and unfortunately, it appears to be his car now. With the edge that they had at the beginning of the season they had considerably less incentive to improve it. Others, with their backs to the wall have been burning the midnight oil and they definitely have improved. All but McLaren.

Racecraft is the art or science of how to race. Preparation, strategy, and execution are all elements of racecraft. Ferrari racecraft is what failed Kimi Raikkonen during qualifying for Ferrari in Hungary. When Mercedes and Brawn parted, the Mercedes board was happy to promote home boy Toto Wolff to the position and then appointed former World Champion Niki Lauda to oversee the racecraft portion at which Brawn was a master. The Hamilton-Rosberg cock-up on Sunday demonstrated a lack of racecraft and Toto Wolff’s comments afterward demonstrated for the remainder of the paddock the chink in Mercedes’ armor. The engineers gave Hamilton and Rosberg conflicting messages and as a result, a race that might have been won by either, wasn’t. Later, Wolff admitted to the team’s error and said “If Lewis had let Nico go, he could have won the race, but as a racer, a driver, I can understand why Lewis didn’t obey. I could have gone on the radio, but we didn’t. I don’t want to play the vicious general and demand they obey the rules.” Bad news Toto. You aren’t in Kansas anymore and you just lost control of your team and probably your job. Race team management is not democracy. In case you didn’t read your contract, your job is to see that the team wins races, whether your drivers like it or not.

Spa on August 22-24 weekend should be interesting indeed.

TV: Check our MMR Motorsports Calendar. IndyCar racing this weekend from Mid-Ohio. The Tudor-United Sports Cars (which is fabulous racing) is at Mid-Ohio.

In New England the Vintage Racing Celebration is on at Loudon, NH and Tutto Italiano is on at Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline MA. See you there!

Peter Bourassa

Sandy on Assignment: Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este…

Posted on July 31, 2014 Comments (2)

…It’s the Arrival that Counts

By Sandy Cotterman, Motorsports Enthusiast

Corrado Lopresto with his Alfa, hands off the Coppa d’Oro di Villa d’Este in front of Villa Erba.

Corrado Lopresto with his Alfa, hands off the Coppa d’Oro di Villa d’Este in front of Villa Erba.

Before starting to write this article, something sparked my curiosity. I began scrolling down past Sandy on Assignments and there they were… images of the very same cars I had just seen in Italy! It got me thinking. Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este is not so much about winning… it’s about having arrived.

Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este from Lake Como.

Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este from Lake Como.

Going into this event, I didn’t know quite what to expect. Although hovering at the top of many enthusiasts bucket list, this event is private… a tribute to the world’s most celebrated automobiles and their owners and guests. I am speaking of Saturday at Villa d’Este, the ultimate motorsports garden party… an elegant affair for Concours level collectors, many of whom have already defined their success at Pebble Beach, Amelia Island, Cavallino, and other European Concours, prior to gathering on the luxurious grounds of the Hotel Villa d’Este located in the quaint city of Cernobbio, northern Italy, on the shores of Lake Como. It is a weekend to enjoy themselves with their guests and mingle among their motorsports peers.

Friday afternoon scrutineering check-in at Villa d’Este.

Friday afternoon scrutineering check-in at Villa d’Este.

Friday check-in. The Trofeo Auto & Design prize for the most exciting design will go to this 1953 Maserati, A6GCS, Berlinetta, Pinin Farina.

Friday check-in. The Trofeo Auto & Design prize for the most exciting design will go to this 1953 Maserati, A6GCS, Berlinetta, Pinin Farina.

We wandered the grounds of Villa d’Este Friday afternoon, as the 51 exceptional and historic automobiles were arriving for the weekend and going through their initial check-in, a sort of scrutineering before heading down into the Hotel’s parking garage. We were excited to see several of the cars from this year’s Mille Miglia. So where were we on Saturday when this beauty pageant of automobiles, as the organizers define it, was taking place? On the ferry crisscrossing Lake Como, soaking in the breathtaking scenery of this beautiful lake with its seaside Villas… getting a glimpse of the event from a different vantage point!

The cars leave Villa d’Este early Sunday morning to line up here, on the lawn at Villa Erba.

The cars leave Villa d’Este early Sunday morning to line up here, on the lawn at Villa Erba.

Sunday, we attended the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, same name and same cars but the ‘sister’ event as I call it, which is open to the general public, on the grounds of neighboring Villa Erba. Also referred to as the Concours of Historic Cars, Sunday’s event, still lovely, is definitely not to be confused with… the real thing.

Open to the general public, Sunday’s Concorso at Villa Erba.

Open to the general public, Sunday’s Concorso at Villa Erba.

The Concorso was the other bookend to our two week stay in Italy and a wonderful opportunity to tie in a car event if you are anywhere in Italy the fourth weekend in May. After the start of the Mille Miglia, we headed out of Brescia to Sirmione on Lake Garda then down to Portofino and on to the Cinque Terra villages for several days, before visiting friends outside of Torino, another motorsports mecca and home to the Museo Nazionale Dell’Automobile in Turin. Going into our trip, I knew we would not be able to attend the private Concorso on Saturday, so it wasn’t a surprise, yet it may be to others heading off to this adventure. Plan accordingly.

The Concorso is steeped in Italian history. It was back on September 1, 1929 that over eighty entries from Italian and foreign car and coach builders and private owners were invited to Villa d’Este to take part in a contest to judge the beauty of what had become the most common means of transportation and leisure of the time. The publication, La Gazzetta dello Sport best described that first event in 1929, which is pretty much the same today. “All of motoring aristocracy will be required to parade before a cosmopolitan aristocratic audience gathered at Villa d’Este – a public that knows how to appreciate beauty – in this artistic contest of which the victor stands to win an exceptional prize: a solid Gold Cup, which in addition to its actual material worth in gold, will also have an enormous moral value.” The Coppa d’Oro di Villa d’Este still coveted today, and selected by Saturday’s invited public , was awarded this year to Italian collector Corrado Lopresto and his stunning open car entered in the Gone with the Wind category – his 1931 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 GS Spider, Zagato/Aprile. It was one of my favorites at Pebble Beach in 2012 and was Best in Show at the Boca Raton Concours in 2013!

For the best overall appearance of car, driver and passenger by the Jury, the Trofeo Roeckl prize went to the 1922 Hispano Suiza, H6 B, Sedanca Landaulette, Chapron and owner Alexandre Schaufler.

For the best overall appearance of car, driver and passenger by the Jury, the Trofeo Roeckl prize went to the 1922 Hispano Suiza, H6 B, Sedanca Landaulette, Chapron and owner Alexandre Schaufler.

From the Mille Miglia two weeks prior to the Concorso, the 1957 Ferrari 500 TRC, Spider, Scaglietti is stunning, in front of Villa d’Este.

From the Mille Miglia two weeks prior to the Concorso, the 1957 Ferrari 500 TRC, Spider, Scaglietti is stunning, in front of Villa d’Este.

Harking back to the roaring twenties and the roots of the event 85 years ago, this year’s theme was The Great Gatsby. In true Concours d’Elegance fashion, entrants in The Great Gatsby, Gone with the Wind and Gentleman Driver classes were dressed the part! After the first four years of the original event, venue and organizational changes began to occur, even the name of the event changed over the next eight years. Like the Mille Miglia, the event was suspended over the war years. It was the Italian coach builders who re-initiated the event in 1947. Unfortunately, after the last Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este was held with the new post-war vehicles in 1949, the industrialization affecting the coach building industry reached a crisis level, becoming so economically severe that the Concorso never took place again, in its original form. The event was basically forgotten for 40 years. Numerous attempts, with some success, were made to revive it between 1986 and 1997. At the end of the 1990s, the event attracted the attention of the BMW Group, which took sole responsibility as the patron of the Concorso between1990 to 2001. Since then, the Grand Hotel Villa d’Este and the BMW Group have jointly supported the event.

The Trofeo FIVA award went to the best preserved pre-war car, the 1908 Rolls-Royce, Silver Ghost, Roi des Belges, Barker.

The Trofeo FIVA award went to the best preserved pre-war car, the 1908 Rolls-Royce, Silver Ghost, Roi des Belges, Barker.

Maserati Class winner, the 1929 Maserati, V4Sport, Spider Zagato.

Maserati Class winner, the 1929 Maserati, V4Sport, Spider Zagato.

This year, the Concorso was also paying tribute to the 110-year anniversary of Rolls-Royce, which debuted its models at the Paris Auto Salon in December 1904 and the anniversary of the legendary victory of the Mini in the Monte Carlo Rally 40 years ago. Another highlight was the centenary of Italian sports car maker Maserati. A relatively new addition to the Concorso Villa d’Este is the Concorso di Motociclette, with an array of 35 historically significant motorcycles. Also on display at Villa Erba were six concept cars and prototypes… quite the eye-candy.

For the most sensitive restoration, the Trofeo BMW Classic prize went to the 1936 Lancia, Astura Type 233, Cabriolet, Pinin Farina and owner Orin Smith with restorer Richard Gorman at his side.

For the most sensitive restoration, the Trofeo BMW Classic prize went to the 1936 Lancia, Astura Type 233, Cabriolet, Pinin Farina and owner Orin Smith with restorer Richard Gorman at his side.

As you can imagine, this is a who’s who of motorsports, so it wasn’t surprising to see several familiar faces. Collector and vintage race driver Andreas Mohringer from Austria, ever gracious and always willing to share anything you would like to know about his cars, was there with his 1957 Maserati 150 GT Prototype, which I had seen drive onto the fairway at Amelia to make its debut in 2013! Collector Orin Smith from Florida brought his 1936 Lancia, Astura Type 233, Cabriolet, Pinin Farina, which I had witnessed make its debut at Pebble Beach in 2012. Norman Dewis was front and center during the tech check-in next to the 1952 Jaguar XK 120, in which he had made the famous high speed run (172.412 MPH) on the Jabbeke/Ostend Route in Belgium in October 1953. A small select group of vendors were invited to Sunday’s event. Friend to MMR, the Suixtil historic clothing line was very popular.

The Concorso de Motociclette had its own award program in the same spirit of a Concorso d’Eleganza.

The Concorso de Motociclette had its own award program in the same spirit of a Concorso d’Eleganza.

If you are thinking of checking this event off your bucket list, I would suggest making Lake Como and all it has to offer your destination. Attending Sunday’s event at Villa Erba will be the icing on the cake! If you have a historic, concours ready vehicle, treat yourself and apply for an exclusive entry to Saturday and the weekend’s events! Getting to Cernobbio from anywhere around Lake Como, or northern Italy for that matter, is very easy. Entrants are guests at the Hotel Villa d’Este. For everyone else, available lodging anywhere in the immediate vicinity to Villa d’Este is booked months in advance and the rates inflated during this week. I would suggest doing your homework and staying at one of the quaint B&B style homes on the water, within an hour’s drive. We stayed on the eastern side of the Lake and the early Sunday morning drive was about 45 minutes. Once in Cernobbio, we followed the signs to P1 and P4 for parking, as there is none on the grounds of Villa Erba. Parking is a mere six euros and entry to Sunday’s Concours another 14 euros, a bargain for this prestigious event!

Spectators at Villa Erba enjoyed both a parade of automobiles and fashion models, all in the spirit of this magnificent Concorso d’Eleganza weekend!

Spectators at Villa Erba enjoyed both a parade of automobiles and fashion models, all in the spirit of this magnificent Concorso d’Eleganza weekend!

Once on the grounds of Villa Erba we walked between the show field, with glistening Lake Como as its backdrop and the staging area with open seating, to watch the car parade and awards presentation taking place early afternoon. Pictures speak louder than words, so I hope you get a feel for this magnificent weekend.

MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on July 25, 2014 Comments (2)

In our continuing series of images from prior Monterey Weeks, this issue’s eye candy is from the Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway in 2013.

My Word

The subject of Denise McCluggage’s column this week, as we move into the second F1 race in two weeks, seems particularly apt.

The Weeky Leek!

Regular readers of our MMR Newsletter recognize how hard we work to keep up a semblance of journalistic integrity. Last week’s report by Rocky Beech (net worth $370) about the proposed 2017 Vatican GP was wildly inaccurate. We have released him from our employ. To set the record straight, no one at the Papal Racing Dept. of the Vatican has denied that the Vat GP is on, but the Vatican has flatly denied that Bernie Ecclestone has been canonized. The two conditions for sainthood, they say, are having performed miracles and being dead. They confess (it’s something they do regularly) that in Mr. Ecclestone’s case there is some doubt about whether either condition has been met.

Book Review: Hard Luck Lloyd

In the Sixties, Lloyd Ruby was one of those drivers that was everywhere. One week at Indy the next driving a Lotus 19 at Mosport. John Lingle has written an excellent biography of this fast and quiet driver and Sabu Advani of reviews it for us.

Michael Furman Image

Michael Furman photography

In keeping with our racing theme, Michael Furman’s image of the 1936 Bugatti Type 57G is from the book by Dr. Fred Simeone for which he supplied the images, The Spirit of Competition. The car is a treasure and so is the book. The car is posed against factory preparation notes for the June 20th, 1937 Le Mans race, which it won. The original notes appear to have been made on June 9th, and penciled in beside the line describing the pistons, are the words “too weak” in brackets. (Fr. trop faible)

F1 Racing

Fans of F1 and IndyCar racing had a full day on Sunday as the early morning F1 German GP at Hockenheim was followed by a mid morning IndyCar race in Toronto, postponed by rain from Saturday, and a second mid afternoon race. It was all good racing.

In F1, generally when one team dominates, boring racing follows. Not so this year. The rivalry, antipathy, and animosity between the fair haired multi-national/multi-lingual German Rosberg and the talented but emotionally mercurial “pride of the English streets”, Hamilton, has made each race a compelling opera. The cars are equal and on any given day, the drivers are very close to equal. The Team however has a goal to win the Manufacturers title first and the driver’s championship second and plans its race with those priorities in mind. To maximize their opportunity, they have each driver on a different tire strategy. Ideally, in the dying laps of the race, one car will be ahead on worn tires and being caught up by the other on fresh tires. Who gets which strategy is their determination. Though only at the half-way point, these decisions will come into question more and more as the season winds to a close.

Meanwhile, the race for second place was dramatic and exciting. Qualifying failures and penalties relegated Hamilton to 20th position at the start and always bearing in mind that he and Rosberg had the use of the best cars on the track, his passing skills were none-the-less remarkable. Continuing to impress however was the actual second place finisher, Valteri Bottas, in his Mercedes powered Williams. The car is good, but so is this kid. Williams is good, but it will need to up its game to the top step of the podium if they expect to keep him. Alonso’s attempts at passing Ricciardo’s Red Bull were a fine display of the mixture of aggression and remarkable reflexes that are a requirement of all drivers wishing to compete at the sharp end of this grid. Both appeared to enjoy their tussle and the fans were served a rare F1 treat. Passing.

IndyCar Racing

As mentioned, the rain-delayed Saturday IndyCar race from Toronto was shortened to 65 laps and run on Sunday morning. The concrete barriers, along downtown city streets, defined the track. It was like all the others, bumpy, unimaginative and prone to inducing crashes. But, the field was good and the racing spirited. In the first race, four time Champ Car Champion Sebastien Bourdais won his first race in six years and so another small team was taken to the winner’s circle. The second race was won by Mike Conway who benefitted from a smart call to change from wet to dry tires and caught a lucky break when a full course yellow prevented his competitors from getting into the pits to do likewise until it was too late. Smarts and luck are a nice combination and you definitely need both to win championships. While F1 is going into its second half, the IndyCar season has but four remaining races, two on road courses and two on ovals. The finale being at the dreaded Fontana oval.

Attendance Falls

A note about attendance. It was noted at the German GP at Hockenheim that despite the fact that Mercedes is leading the Manufacturer’s Championship and a German driver is in the lead for the Driver’s Championship, it did not sell out. According to European pre-race reports only one-half of the 95K available were sold and it was politely suggested that the ticket prices at $700 for good seats and $225 for the cheapest were the cause.

On this side of the Atlantic, the IndyCar series has woeful numbers for both on-site and TV viewership. IndyCar may need to look partially at its history to see its future. At one point CART was poised to rival F1. With the series splitting into two competing series from 1996 to 2008, the quality of the racing was compromised and the fan base just went away. IndyCar are back now with a very competitive field and an overall superior product, but they have some tweaking to do to get the fans back. Do you follow IndyCar? Share your thoughts.

Final Broadcasting Thoughts

David Hobbs spoke to a packed crowd at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookilne MA last Saturday. He is very entertaining and had nothing but positive things to say about NBC’s support of F1.

Bob Varsha announced on Sunday that this was his final broadcast of IndyCars. Whither goest Varsha? Does anybody know and will you share?

Hungarian GP this weekend. Enjoy!

Peter Bourassa

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.