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Posted on January 24, 2014 Comments (2)

“My Maserati goes 185… I lost my license and now I don’t drive.”
Joe Walsh – Eagles

This year we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Maserati. To a now aging segment of the general public, the word Maserati means Italian speed and racing sports cars. The word Maserati has stuck in the minds of today’s senior generation, just as Lamborghini is the first Italian car name on the lips of the subsequent generation and Alfa Romeo of the generation that preceded Maserati. Each generation is reasonably ignorant of the one before. To many readers, the Alfa Romeos of the sixties and Dustin Hoffman’s ride in The Graduate are their points of reference for this historic marque. Unfortunately for us, in their day, North America was never exposed to the classic Alfa racers and the beautiful road cars that dominated the European motoring scene before WW2. Alfa came to America long after they had abandoned Grand Prix racing. Their offering was aimed at entry level post-war buyers and competed with the British MGs and Austin Healeys.

Ferrari, heir to the Alfa race team, competed with Maserati on the tracks of Europe and both came to America to sell luxury sports cars at the highest level of an emerging market for European automobiles. Maserati more than held its own against Ferrari and in its day was synonymous with fast and stylish Italian cars. At its introduction in 1967, the straight six Maserati 3500 GT competed for customers against the then three-year-old Ferrari 275 V-12 and was more expensive. Ferrari manufactured 650 of the 275 GTB coupes and 10 convertibles; Maserati produced 245 convertibles and 2000 coupes. The company also produced a series of stunning and very capable road racing and street cars. The A6GCS, the 300S, and Tipo 65 Birdcage sports cars were icons in their day. So it was with good reason that for several decades, after their departure from Grand Prix racing, the name Maserati continued to be synonymous with Italian exotics. Also, the name Maserati, like Gina Lollobrigida, Alfa Romeo, and so many more Italian words, is laden with vowels and actually sounds like a fast car when you say it. And so it must be, because Eagles singer Joe Walsh, who should know, never sang “My Lamborghini goes 185…”

Maserati

Daytona 24 Hours – Tomorrow!

Tudor United

For those of you who, like me, shiver when you hear people describe anything as “very unique”, (since the word means “absolutely without equal”), we promise that the Tudor United Sports Car Championship Series or TUSC for short will be “unique”. The United in the title is the key word. This is the first race in which the former Daytona Prototypes will race against the former LMP2 cars. Both have been “adjusted” for equivalency. This being the biggest race of the season for the new TUSC series, everyone has pressure on them to win. I would say that by the end of 10 laps we will know which of the two types of cars is more “equivalent”. Incidentally, the Ganassi Team is the big dog at this track and they have switched from BMW power to Ford. Chevrolet is also running in the prototype class with their factory team. Chevy vs. Ford. C’mon Ford, build a car. It’s time.

Tommy Kendall

The GT field will be most interesting. These are race cars most similar to street models. Corvette, BMW, Ferrari, Porsche, Aston Martin, and Viper will be competing. Where are McLaren and Audi R8 we ask? Where also is our official MMR Hero Tommy Kendall? Cast aside like an old shoe? This will not go down well with the MMR tifosi. C’mon Mr. Ford, phone TK and have him field a team for you! He’s smart, fast, and speaks English properly. What more could you want? MMR readers, what do you think?

In this issue we preview the February MMR Motorsports calendar which includes this weekend’s races.

The 2014 Scottsdale Auctions are now history. And yes, we did watch a portion of the televised Barrett-Jackson Salon segment. Other than a Ferrari F1 car once driven by Eddie Irvine making $1.7M and bringing a huge sigh of relief to the 50 or so owners of other virtually useless F1 Ferraris, not much was accomplished. We predict that as a result of this, more such garden ornaments will come to auction this year. The bidders appeared uninterested in the other European classic cars offered.

Ferrari

Peter Bourassa


Bernie Debates Going to Hell…
the Green One

Posted on January 23, 2014 Comments (0)

Nurburgring

There was a time in the sixties when the original Nurburgring was 17.6 miles long and still on the F1 calendar. That is when the iconic image of Jim Clark cresting one of its many steep hills and flying his Lotus a foot off the ground was taken. The place was tough on cars and on drivers and, considering the safety standards of the day, exceptionally dangerous. Niki Lauda’s accident, as recently recreated in the film RUSH, put an end to F1 on that circuit.

Jim Clark

Map

Jackie Stewart gave the circuit the name that stuck. The track was bankrupt in 2012. Locals were divided over rescue plans; the amusement park and shopping mall built to revitalize the area failed miserably. In 2013, it was put up for sale and last week Bernie Ecclestone was reportedly negotiating to buy it. This is not his first attempt to purchase the Nurburgring. Tough to negotiate with a man who has the time to wait, the power to make it successful, and the money to make it all happen. Time will tell if they can come to an agreement but either way, the thought of Bernie Ecclestone being in a position to own his own hell, green or otherwise, is amusing.

Nurburgring 600

Nurburgring-nordschleife

We’ll follow that. Meanwhile, this week’s video is a promotional piece by McLaren Cars. It is another in a long line of manufacturer made in-car and overhead shots of their cars breaking mythical lap records. This one, as you might expect from McLaren, is both high quality and slightly different. Tell us what you think.


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on January 17, 2014 Comments (0)

Ah Paris!

Our images this week evoke Paris from two of our past issues. Sandy Cotterman’s images from last year’s Salon Retromobile reminds us all of this year’s show to be held on February 7-8. And in the summer of 2011, Tony Singer took these shots of the L’Art de L’Automobile exhibit which featured a selection of Ralph Lauren automobiles. Enjoy.

Scottsdale, We Miss You!

If I am the prototypical motorhead, then you, like me, aren’t going to Scottsdale and don’t want to talk about auctions anymore. That isn’t to say I wouldn’t want to be in Scottsdale because I would. And the reason I would want to be there is to be around cars and car people, several of whom are friends, live there, and are great company. I want to walk on warm grass, smell the fresh wax, and take pictures of beautiful cars. I want to wear summer clothing and maybe even play a round of golf. And as attractions like Automobilia and the Arizona Concours get bigger and better, and perhaps a track event is thrown in nearby, I will be there. But it is not yet there and neither am I.

Detroit Auto Show, Looking Good

Corvette

For the immediate moment, the Car Show season has begun and the Detroit Auto Show has stolen some attention from auctions. Not too surprisingly, the Corvette Stingray was named North American Car of the Year and it is tough to think of an American car that garnered as much attention since its introduction almost a year ago. The new 625HP Corvette Z06 was introduced and, as you would expect, it has all the muscular boy racer qualities a Z06 should have. The display model was in Corvette Racing yellow which serves to highlight all the track day winglets, vents, and attachments which are black. Oddly enough, the car, in another color, could actually be more attractive than the Stingray. It has a brutish excitement to it that is reminiscent of the first Vipers and the 427 Cobra. Mikey likes it!

Lambo

On another note, mea culpa, I confess I don’t really care much for Lamborghinis. With the exception of the early GTs, the serenely lovely Miura and the groundbreaking Countach, the remainder is simply design dreck with attitude. There is little joy about these beasts. The odd thing is, I suspect, Lamborghini designers would actually be pleased to hear this from all traditionalists. Lambos have always been the anti car. The car that thrives on negative achievement: it doesn’t go racing; it doesn’t come in red; it doesn’t care to be round and smooth; it doesn’t have rearview vision; and, other than its founder and test driver, it doesn’t have a hero or a champion. It simply doesn’t care whether you like it or not. Or… didn’t. And then one day the little Kingdom of Sant’Agata Bolognese, received a short message from a powerful king in a neighboring land. The message was simple. Fix your attitude. Design a pretty car or you will be an R8 assembly line. Have a nice day! And, behold, the Huracan was born. It is more stunning than beautiful but unlike its predecessors, it doesn’t need explaining and is a huge leap forward. What do you think?


This week’s video is a collage of the better racing scenes from Steve McQueen’s Le Mans.


We still have tickets for the Denise McCluggage driver’s workshop, The Centered Driver, to be held on January 28th. Join us for a wonderful evening of motorsports camaraderie and learning.

Peter Bourassa


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on January 10, 2014 Comments (0)

Our images this week are by Sandy Cotterman. And so is the main story!

Cadillac! Oh Cadillac! – Where Art Thou?

Thank you all for your candid remarks about the new Cadillac. One is lead to believe that, by and large, most people WANT Caddy to be competitive with the Euro cars but feel that although they have made excellent progress, they are not yet there.

Going Once!... Going Twice!... Yawn…

Things are about to start happening. The Daytona 24 Hours is on for the end of the month. Check the MMR Motorsports Calendar for details of other events. Friends in Scottsdale are looking forward to a new show next week and, of course, the auctions. The Arizona Concours d’Elegance has limited its field of entrants to 77 for its inaugural event. Good beginning and good luck. The absence of agreeable weather and car events for over two months is what draws people to Arizona now. The world of auctions has split into two camps: Bonhams, Gooding, and RM on the snooty Sports and Classic side; and, Barratt-Jackson, Russo & Steele, Mecom and the remainder on the old American iron team.

Auctions, once held in barns and parking lots are now TV entertainment. To his profit and credit, if that is what you take for this, Craig Jackson has made buying or selling a car in front of thousands of strangers entertaining… to a degree. I freely confess that in the beginning I was as glued to it as everyone else. Initially it was all about looking at real cars and the anticipation of the next car on the ramp that I hadn’t seen in 40 years or more. But when, not many years later, the hammer fell signaling the sale of the 20th “rotisseried” Camaro SS of the weekend, or a similar amount of ‘64 Ford Galaxy 500 convertibles with 390 Automatics and chromed undercarriages, I plain lost interest. To me it is about the cars and when all the cars are all the same and all better than perfect, there is little appeal. The only intriguing cars remaining in that show are the hot rods and even they are beginning to look “assembly line”. The Bonhams, Gooding and RM side will sell vehicles that were interesting from birth. Theirs, not ours, and sadly, they won’t be televised. What’s wrong with this picture?

Sandy on Assignment!

This week we feature a story and pictures we saved for just this issue. Sandy (as in: on Assignment) Cotterman, our intrepid globetrotting reporter attended the 2013 Goodwood Revival last fall and shares her story and pictures with us. Read the story and tell us if you would like to go next September. If there is enough interest, perhaps we can put something together with one of the touring companies listed in the MMR Goods and Services Directory under Specialty Services.

Sandy Cotterman

Screaming Down the Years

Check out this week’s video. We haven’t featured it in a little while. Thank you Shell.

From the If we waited any longer they would be reports not predictions! Department

Some folks take longer to think than others. So, at long last, some thoughts on F1, IndyCar, and the Tudor Sports Car Racing series. Take your time, share your thoughts and have a great weekend.

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!