MMR Blog

Sandy on Assignment:
An American at Le Mans

Posted on July 3, 2013 Comments (5)

Sandy Cotterman, Motorsports Enthusiast

Celebrating the race and its memories.

Celebrating the race and its memories.

Pushing their way onto victory!

Pushing their way onto victory!

Roll every American endurance race event into one and then some... voila, you have the 24 heurs du Mans. The Daytona 24 and Sebring 12 are only training grounds for what to expect at Le Mans! No other racing event in the world matches the frenetic atmosphere and strong nationalism for the drivers, pilots as the French call them, and the team cars they drive.

LMP2 second place winner… a crowd pleaser.

LMP2 second place winner… a crowd pleaser.

The Porsches let everyone know they were back.

The Porsches let everyone know they were back.

I was ecstatic to see so many American drivers and sponsored cars. The official guide boasted 19 American drivers and eight sponsored cars, in addition to foreign sponsored American cars—like one of the Corvettes. I definitely had my favorites and sought out the drivers to let them know. To my delight, I discovered it meant a lot to them.

Patrick Long is one of the first drivers I started following.

Patrick Long is one of the first drivers I started following.

Even during pit stops, the paparazzi where hovering over the Dempsey car.

Even during pit stops, the paparazzi where hovering over the Dempsey car.

On the grid, ready for the start. MMR’s favorite. Car No. 93.

On the grid, ready for the start. MMR’s favorite. Car No. 93.

Tommy Kendall meets Sandy on Assignment for MMR.

Tommy Kendall meets Sandy on Assignment for MMR.

Our MMR favorite Tommy Kendall, driving the No. 93 SRT Viper, was honored by MMR’s interest. Driving the Ferrari GT Pro car No. 71, Olivier Berretta, whom I had met in Monaco, was the first driver I saw and hugged, within minutes of arriving at the track on Wednesday. Two of our youngest American drivers, brothers Jordan and Ricky Taylor, both Corvette drivers, No. 73 and No. 50, were excited to hear a voice from the States. Number 57 had an early crash during practice and, just like Humpty Dumpty, was put back together for Sunday’s race before retiring early. Owner/driver Tracy Krone appeared touched that a fan had noticed his American sponsored Ferrari 458. Patrick Long was his gracious self, asking me if I was having fun! One of my favorite moments was when Patrick Dempsey gave me a huge hug when I shouted out support for our only all-American team. If only I had a photo! What I do have are more photos of the Dempsey/Del Piero Proton sponsored 911 Porsche, car No. 77, than I have baby pictures of my daughter!

Campers show signs of celebration.

Campers show signs of celebration.

Being a two-year veteran of this event, I am anxious to share what I know. The first year can be a logistics nightmare especially with language challenges. Even buying tickets takes some savoir-faire. My first year, I was extremely fortunate to have been taken under the wings of veteran Le Mans goers Tom and John Brady from my Jaguar Club of New England. Having attended for probably 24 years now, the Brady brothers are experts when it comes to camping logistics… of which I still know nothing. With tens of thousands of gentleman campers, knowing the ropes is essential. The Brits are camped out everywhere and they say percentage wise, there are more Danes at Le Mans than still in Denmark for the weekend. Since Tom Kristensen’s brother owns a travel agency, it’s no wonder the count is high and Tom can be found mingling with the campers. Sightseeing among the campsites is a must!

So here is what I do know. Arrive early. My first year, I slid into town Friday evening which only gave me a taste of race day. This year, I arrived on Wednesday which helped me get oriented with Le Stade and the transit system and it was enough time to enjoy three days of free practice, qualifying, and Ferrari Challenge sessions. If you’re flying into Charles De Gaulle, connections on the TGV to Le Mans are convenient and the ride is just under an hour, with Gares Tram stop right there at the train station. The round-trip TGV fare, just under $100, is reasonable in the scheme of things. Purchasing a ten-ride Tram pass for 12 euros saves you a hassle throughout the week. There is enough signage to tell you to ride the Tram to Antares to reach the 24. If you’re camping, you have your own set of logistics!

The Taylor brothers were both driving the American made Corvettes.

My recommendation, if you have the time, is to arrive Sunday for the administrative checks and scrutineering which takes place at the Place de la Republique in the heart of Le Mans beginning at 1:30p.m… something on my list for next year. Each car has been pre-assigned a time for these tech checks so you can watch for your favorites. I loved following TK’s (Tommy Kendall) daily journal; Sunday sounded pretty cool. Sunday is also one of the only times to explore the historic city center.

The crowds on race day at the start-finish line.

The crowds on race day at the start-finish line.

Before going any further, do what I didn’t do until I was on the plane home. Read the Official Program cover to cover. The Program is what gives you detailed timetables of events and locations along with more personalized commentary on the pilots and cars. What I did take the time to do was practically memorized the Entry List booklet and Practical Guide, both invaluable for maneuvering around the track and learning the cars and drivers. Also, consider buying one of the race radios to hear the race. Again, I did not, thinking there would be enough English. It was limited and muddled. I’m eager to try the radio next year. Also, bring a pair of binoculars, noise blocking headphones and hiking shoes. You’ll be walking for miles, most likely in puddles.

Knowing camping wasn’t an option, I scoured the Internet for B&B’s a year prior to the event. Like everyone else who returns year after year, I’m now on the list! So if Le Mans is in your sights for 2014, start your search now! Tickets for the event are put out for sale in November on the official ACO (Automobile Club de L’Ouest) website. I discovered that anyone could purchase an ACO membership, which gives significant discounts to tickets and the privilege to enjoy the two lounge areas, for lack of a better word. Conveniently located to the grandstands and Dunlop bridge, these centers are a great haven to escape the noise and catch an occasional replay on television and also pick up the hour-by-hour printed time sheets or snacks and a beer. I considered this nominal annual membership the best bargain at Le Mans!

You never know who you will see on Pitwalk.

You never know who you will see on Pitwalk.

Ticket choices will depend upon your budget. A general admission ticket is required by all, but grandstand seating is optional. I highly recommend it, especially covered stands since it always rains at the 24! Even though I wandered around, having a grandstand ticket allowed me access to a seat… and this access is heavily monitored so no sneaking in. I opted for a first time pitwalk pass, which for me was golden. It afforded me the opportunity to walk the paddock, see the drivers, and avoid the crowds. Also, once cars started retiring during the race, it was interesting to watch them transported and laid to rest in the fenced-in paddock area. It’s your call, since the pitwalk is pretty pricey. Again, it’s all relative.

The train got me into Le Mans around noon on Wednesday, my Day One, in time to watch some race practices. You can wander the stands and sit anywhere you like these first couple of days, so enjoy! If you want souvenirs or tee shirts, this is the day to get them, while inventory is high. An official pin is a must… a tip I was given by the guys.

The very first person I met, walking through the entry gates, was Kevin Cantwell, who put so much meaning into my Le Mans adventure. Kevin, a native Britt has been coming to Le Mans for the past 13 years, not only to enjoy the races, but also to coordinate over 350 scouts and 50 leaders representing the Scouts et Guides de France. Guests of the ACO for the past 62 years, it was the Scouts who were first on the scene during the terrible crash in 1955 and will never be forgotten. In return for their campsite just inside the entrance, all meals, and race entry tickets, the Scouts are the behind the scenes workers distributing hourly time sheets to ACO sites, picking up trash Saturday night in the grandstands and assisting handicapped fans to special viewing areas. Several British scouts join the French for this three-day weekend of Christian fellowship and camaraderie. Thousands of race fans walk by their campsite every year, but, I doubt many realize the bond that exists between the ACO and the Scouts. It was touching to learn it myself.

On Thursday, I managed to tear away from the racing and visit Le Musee des 24 Heures, the newly renovated museum within the circuit. It’s a hidden gem with so much history, it’s hard to begin to describe. I loved seeing the Silk Cut Jaguar driven by Andy Wallace. It had been a thrill talking with Andy about that race a couple of years ago when he was at Sebring. To see the car was pretty special. As part of the 90-year celebration, there was another special exhibit in the Village showcasing Le Mans winning cars. Saturday, before the start of the 24, the vintage race cars did a few laps around the track!

There are many opportunities to see the cars and the drivers up close during the week.

There are many opportunities to see the cars and the drivers up close during the week.

Friday at Le Mans is a unique parade day in the Center of Le Mans. Again, I was very lucky to find myself in the front row at the start. Tommy’s journal and my photos tell it all.

Another unique opportunity to get up close to the cars is Saturday mid-morning. Don’t ask me how but I found myself again on the front line watching the cars being pushed onto the grid. Had I been any closer, my toes would have been run over!

The clock keeps ticking as the cars line up after a delay.

The clock keeps ticking as the cars line up after a delay.

Everyone has his or her own way of watching the race. For me, I followed my American drivers plus Olivier. Cars 93, 77, and 71 captured most of my attention. I ran for hourly time sheets to confirm what I was seeing on the big classification monitor. At the end of the day, there was every type of statistic recorded. I had discovered what I’d call a find from where to watch the dusk and night racing... the glass front restaurant to the right of the pits. Just like in Monaco, I was perched about 60 feet above the track with a phenomenal view of pit exits and safety car starts. Le Panoramic takes reservations and again, a splurge well worth the expense. Before start time on Saturday, you have several days to discover where you would like to stand and watch some of the race. Scope it out early.

A rare sight… the final resting place for all the cars.

A rare sight… the final resting place for all the cars.

I know all of us in attendance will remember the moment we learned of Allan Simonsen’s death. The flag of Denmark hung at half-mast and the final podium celebrations were missing some of the special traditions. There were no gold confetti showers. The magnums of Champagne stood in their places, still corked. All signs of restrained celebrations and respect for this tragedy.

Le Mans is the best-kept secret from Americans… and it shouldn’t be. I ran into Don Panoz and he agreed. Where are the American fans? With a little planning you too can live another adventure on your motorsports bucket list. I can’t be the only one waving a 5-foot American flag in the grandstands. Come join me next year!


Upgrading a 1978 Ferrari 308 GTS:
Air Conditioning Part 1

Posted on July 3, 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 Eighteenth in a series of short articles about how we repaired and updated it.

Air Conditioning – The Teardown

As mentioned in the recent Wiper Blade episode, I bought the car in Chicago and drove it home to Boston. I had read, since youth, that Ferraris don’t come with radios because “the factory believes that the sound of the engine is music.” As a result, I was surprised to find a radio in the car but not too disappointed to learn that it didn’t work.

The air conditioning was another matter. Though it blew air about the cockpit with great gusto, unfortunately, none of it was cold or even cool. It was also that point in our automotive history when the government had legislated a change in refrigerants to a more ECO friendly version. Fortunately, John Tirrell at IFS in Easton, MA had stockpiled the old refrigerant on which our system ran and once the system was properly charged it did its job quite well.

Like all older A/C systems it eventually died of a slow leak, which we learned, when we took it apart, was actually a cracked fitting. By that time John’s supply of the old refrigerant was gone and the new refrigerant was not compatible. I simply resigned myself and my lucky passengers to the joys of travelling in a warm black car. Make that a hot black car.

Once we determined that we would make changes to the cooling system and that it required taking the A/C condenser off the front of the rad, we began looking for a replacement A/C system as well.

As in all of our previous upgrades to the 308 adventures, we were far less concerned with authenticity than effectiveness. Because, most suppliers of any upgrade or replacement unit for these older cars cannot duplicate all the factory changes and upgrades over the model period, it is important to go into these projects recognizing that compromises will need to be made. We chose Retro-Air of Addison, Texas, to be our supplier. Rock Browning was a tremendous help. His company makes replacement units for Porsches, Jaguars and Ferraris. The kits are far more complete than I expected, and, while the compressor looks and is different from the original, the cosmetics in the cabin are identical. But you should be aware, and Rock will point this out, the parts going in may not be exact duplicates of the parts coming out. Though, as I said, in the WASRED 308 case, no changes were visible in the cabin.

Old and new compressors

We did the work in the MMR Garage & Art Gallery and Spencer Guder, of Spencer Restoration in Canterbury CT, did the heavy lifting. Once again I was the sometimes helpful hand. Parts of this are a two-man job. I am pleased to have someone who is familiar with the systems and unafraid to tackle a job which would require patience and ingenuity, not to mention strong forearms to hoist and place the compressor, and, small thin fingers to get in all the places you need to place washers and nuts.

In removing the system we learned where our future problems may lie. The first issue would be fitting a different confirmation of pump with a slightly different mounting system that requires shimming for alignment. The second was the removal and replacement of the hoses running from the rear of the car, through the passenger side rocker panels and to the condenser and receiver–dryer. The evaporator airbox under the dash and the blower motor needed to come out. Removing the radio was also essential. The original evaporator box is made of a brittle plastic. It was cracked and broken and no OE replacements were available. It was probably broken during one of the numerous adventures in radio installation. Spencer needed to remove it, bring it home and reconstruct it completely. He used a perforated aluminum structure to re-create the broken and missing bits and used a two part epoxy, as used in the repair of plastic bumpers, which he bonded to the aluminum substructure and then sculpted and painted it. When done, it was a far better product than new and I had no regrets that an original replacement wasn’t available.

The replacement receiver-dryer unit is both of a higher quality and far more attractive, but slightly smaller, than the original. Spencer built a spacer-collar to slip over the R/D to allow it to sit properly in the original bracket that locates it for connecting hoses.

New Receiver-dryer

As we began dismantling the old parts we discovered several things. The condenser is bolted to the radiator and the space between them is about 3/8 of an inch. A significant number of leaves had somehow found their way between both units and that could not have been helping air flow to the engine coolant in the rad. You can see from the images that the original unit is pretty tired.

Old and new condensers

So that is the background. Next week in Part 2 we will discuss installation of the things you can get to make the job a little easier: O-ring lube, two spark plugs, and split heater core hoses.


New From David Bull Publishing
McLaren From The Inside: Photographs by Tyler Alexander

Posted on July 2, 2013 Comments (0)

McLaren From The Inside: Photographs By Tyler Alexander offers a vivid and uniquely personal perspective on two eras at one of racing’s greatest teams. After joining Bruce McLaren’s new team as a mechanic in 1964, Tyler Alexander played a critical role in creating its earliest cars, which quickly scored wins in Formula 1 and dominated the Can-Am sports-car series. At the same time, Tyler was also recording the team’s progress through hundreds of vivid photographs taken during spare moments at the track and behind the scenes at the McLaren factory.

Tyler Alexander with Timmy Mayer on the grid at Teretonga, New Zealand, during the 1964 Tasman Series.

Tyler Alexander with Timmy Mayer on the grid at Teretonga, New Zealand,
during the 1964 Tasman Series.

Lotus founder Colin Chapman and his wife Hazel during practice for the Monaco Grand Prix in 1964.

Lotus founder Colin Chapman and his wife Hazel during practice for the Monaco Grand Prix in 1964.

Mark Donohue is congratulated for his victory in the 1966 Nassau Trophy race as Roger Penske looks on.

Mark Donohue is congratulated for his victory in the 1966 Nassau Trophy race
as Roger Penske looks on.

Bruce McLaren liked to test a new car without the bodywork in order to get a sense of how it performed without any aerodynamic effects. One result seen here is the M6A’s front tire lifting off the surface at Goodwood.

Bruce McLaren liked to test a new car without the bodywork in order to get a sense of how it performed without any aerodynamic effects. One result seen here is the M6A’s front tire lifting off the surface at Goodwood.

A well-armed Bruce McLaren emerges from a tarpaulin covering the M7 Formula One car during a rainy testing session at Brands Hatch in 1968.

A well-armed Bruce McLaren emerges from a tarpaulin covering the M7 Formula One car during a rainy testing session at Brands Hatch in 1968.

Bruce McLaren on the track at Brands Hatch in early 1968, in Denny Hulme’s M6A Can-Am car. In 1967 Bruce and Denny drove the M6A to victory in five out of six Can-Am races.

Bruce McLaren on the track at Brands Hatch in early 1968, in Denny Hulme’s M6A Can-Am car. In 1967 Bruce and Denny drove the M6A to victory in five out of six Can-Am races.

McLaren team principal Ron Dennis with that “We’ve just won” look on his face after Heikki Kovalainen’s victory at the 2008 Hungarian Grand Prix.

McLaren team principal Ron Dennis with that “We’ve just won” look on his face after Heikki Kovalainen’s victory at the 2008 Hungarian Grand Prix.

Flanked by engineers in the McLaren garage, Jenson Button stares at a monitor showing his results from a practice session at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2010.

Flanked by engineers in the McLaren garage, Jenson Button stares at a monitor showing his results from a practice session at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2010.

McLaren From The Inside collects Tyler’s best photographs from two very different eras. Part I covers the team’s formative years in the 1960s through black-and-white shots of Bruce McLaren and company building, testing, and racing cars in England and around the world. Friends and competitors are also included, among them such great drivers as Jim Clark, Dan Gurney, and Jackie Stewart, as well as team leaders John Cooper, Carroll Shelby, and Colin Chapman. In Part II, Alexander captures the high-tech, hypercompetitive atmosphere of today’s Formula 1 with images taken during the first decade of the 21st century. Along with a new generation of driving talent—Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen—Alexander’s lens also focuses on the designers, engineers, mechanics, and other team members who continue to make McLaren so successful today.

Book Details
McLaren From The Inside: Photographs by Tyler Alexander
By Tyler Alexander
Hardcover, 11” by 11”, 144 pages, 115 black-and-white and 10 color photographs
Retail price: $49.95
ISBN: 978 1 935007 18 0
Available July, 2013

Ordering Information: McLaren From The Inside is available through specialty motoring booksellers and directly from the publisher. Orders can be made by calling 602-852-9500 or by visiting David Bull Publishing. For orders in the United Kingdom please contact Chris Lloyd Sales & Marketing Services, which distributes David Bull Publishing books, at (0) 1202 649930.

Contact Information:
DAVID BULL PUBLISHING

4250 E. Camelback Road, Suite K.150, Phoenix, AZ 85018
Phone: (602) 852-9500 Fax: (602) 852-9503
E-mail: tmoore@bullpublishing.com


Final Touches to Recent Stories

Posted on June 17, 2013 Comments (0)

Three weeks ago in a story we wrote about The WASRED 308 lighting system, we mentioned 1978 Lotus driver Ronnie Peterson’s ability to drive any car quickly, no matter the set-up. We also mentioned that he wasn’t perceptibly slower than Mario Andretti who was an acknowledged set-up master.

Lotus

In the June issue of Motor Sport, Editor-in-Chief Nigel Roebuck, addresses the subject of team orders and the incident at the Malaysian GP when Vettel passed teammate Webber in the closing laps to take the win. In 1978 Lotus stated to Peterson when he was hired that they wanted Andretti to win because he had done so much to develop the car. His job was to help that happen. Andretti built up a huge lead in the first half of the season with the Lotus 79, and, by mid-season when Peterson announced that he would be leaving for McLaren the following year, the impression was that Peterson had been hanging back. One driver suggested that since he was leaving anyway, he should race for himself for the remainder of the season. When approached about this Peterson said, “Listen, I had open eyes when I signed that contract—and I also gave my word. If I break it now, who will ever trust me again?” Red Bull do not have such agreements, but they do have team orders. I don’t think Peterson’s view was an anomaly.

Last week in the It All Began in Parma story I mentioned stopping at the Piero Taruffi Museo in Bagnoregio. This week, in conversation with Denise McCluggage, I mentioned Taruffi and asked her if she had ever met him. Indeed, she said, he instructed her and her co-driver Allen Eager at the Nurburgring when they were entered in the 1000K race. He was a wonderful teacher, she said, fast and incredibly smooth. Connecting the dots, I now assume this is the reason he wrote the book and why people bought it. Little touches.

In my summary of the weekend races that included the very successful Indy 500, I pointed out the lack of mention by organizers and the press about recently ousted IndyCar chief Randy Bernard’s contribution to the current success the series is enjoying . In 2010 Bernard led a successful effort to reunite and resurrect the IndyCar program, one portion of which was controlled by the Hulman family that own and control the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Another story which caught my eye ran parallel to the race report in a Boston newspaper. On race day morning, some ticketed patrons were delayed at entrances because their coolers were larger than permitted in the past. Management, reacting to the Boston Marathon bombing, and aware that the Indy 500 could also be threatened, decided to limit the size of the coolers entering the grandstands. It is unclear how much notice was given but patrons were told at the ticket entrance to take the coolers back to their parked cars. For that same reason, they also closed an access road to the facility. Some people never saw the beginning of the race and some people, stuck in traffic, simply turned around and went home. It’s all about management, isn’t it?


Nigel Snowden – Pacem

Posted on June 14, 2013 Comments (1)

Steve McQueen

Our lead image is probably the most recognized image of a racing driver in the world. It is the picture of Porsche driver Michael Delaney indicating to his Ferrari nemesis that, like the longbow man on the winning side centuries ago, his two fingers remain intact. Odd that this image, known universally as the two finger salute so representative of racing, is of a fictional race driver in a fictional race.

The image is, of course, of Steve McQueen, talented actor and driver, and the movie is Le Mans. We share the image today because the man who took it, Nigel Snowden, recently died.

As often happens, the real story behind the fiction is more interesting than what was created.

Nigel Snowden was a successful F1 photographer in the early sixties through the eighties and supplied images for top motorsports books and magazines of the time. This image, was not only his shot, it was his idea.

Steve McQueen’s film production company, Solar Productions, raced in a Porsche 908, equipped with cameras front and rear, in the 1970 Le Mans race to gather footage for their upcoming film. The car was driven by Herbert Linge and Jonathan Williams. (Jonathan’s shorts stories of the day are here in MMR Short Stories.) Driving and working the cameras whenever good opportunities presented themselves, they finished eighth overall. Since Snowden was part of the race day pit action which Solar wanted to replicate, they offered to pay him to do the same thing for their movie. He was delighted. At the end of the movie when Michael Delaney wanted to offer the single digit salute, it was Nigel Snowden who suggested that this might be viewed as vulgar by Europeans and suggested the alternative.

Juan Fangio visits

Nigel Snowden at work

Camera Crew

Steve McQueen and friend say hello

Movie star cars at rest

You can see the images which Snowden shot on that film in Michael Keyser’s excellent book, Behind LeMans, the Film in Photographs.

Nigel Snowden