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Posted on December 6, 2013 Comments (2)

Fixing F1 – Step 5: Shared Engineering

If you have been following this series you recognize that we have had two goals in mind. First, to make F1 more entertaining for spectators and TV viewers and, second, to level the playing field among the competitors. The disparity in resources available to each team makes that last goal most difficult. Just last week grumblings were heard that the FIA needs to cap previously unlimited spending because Red Bull now spends considerably more than Fiat/Ferrari, Mercedes, and McLaren. So let’s consider the model followed by horse racing. Assume a car is worth a million dollars; the winning car of every third race is offered to the last place team for $1M. If, for some reason they don’t want it, it goes to the next lowest team and so on. Just a thought.

Formula 1 Back Marker

On a Similar Note

Gordon Kirby, well known author and motorsports correspondent, sent along a link to an interview he did with designer Nigel Bennett which discusses how F1 and IndyCar might be made more exciting.

Denise McCluggage: The Centered Driver Workshop – January 28th, 2014

Two years ago Denise McCluggage visited New England and gave an enjoyable and informative series of talks to several local clubs and the MMR Community. This January 28th, Denise returns with an interactive driver’s workshop entitled The Centered Driver. The event is being offered first to the MMR Community. In January we will open it up to the public. Please read more about it at and reserve your spot now. Our thanks to Michael Ricciardi and European Motorsports of Lawrence, MA for making this event happen.

A Conundrum

What to call it? In Italy, the 1960’s, automobile manufacturers bought serial numbers from the government in advance of building the cars. A form of pre-paid tax. Our feature car this week is a recently completed ISO A3/C. While several components, notably the 327 CID Chevy engine have been updated, the basic car, including the stamped period frame is either NOS (new old stock) or, in the case of the interior and many body panels, totally new. So what is it?

Going Fast Smoothly

Several years ago Porsche produced incontrovertible data which indicated that faster shifting, some call it “hard” or “speed” shifting reduced lap times dramatically. Though unquestionably slower, what we know as normal shifting is based on often personal evidence that the gearbox could not withstand the abuse of speed shifting. Metallurgy and transmission design have both moved light years ahead since the ‘50s and ‘60s. New racing transmissions are designed to withstand electronic milli-second paddle shifting and the clumsy “rowing” of those among us who still prefer a foot clutch. But what about vintage racing or simply good fast driving? Our video this week is of Jackie Stewart on the secrets of going fast.

A final note

The Porsche Carrera GT is an exceptional performance car. Few among us are capable of driving it near its limits. While we are saddened by the unexpected death of actor Paul Walker and his friend Roger Rodas, focusing blame on the car as the cause is just plain wrong. Had an innocent third party been injured or killed the public would have been rightly outraged. There are closed courses around the country offering ample opportunities to exercise these and similar cars in relative safety. Industrial parks are obviously not one of them.

Porsche Carrera GT

Dom Miliano and I hope to see you tomorrow at Dragone Auctions in Westport, CT. The show starts at 1:00PM. See you there.


Time Flies

Posted on August 23, 2011 Comments (0)

I was checking out the cars for the feature F1 race with another guy in his early twenties who wrote for the Canadian motorsports magazine, Track & Traffic. His name was Lance Hill. There were no drivers in the pits and we got reasonably close to the cars. We were just two young guys talking about yesterday's practice times and somewhat mystified by what we were looking at. These cars were only familiar to us from magazine pages. I remember him now as a very nice guy, very approachable, and with a good sense of humor.

Time moved on. At some point I was in an airport and picked up a soft cover edition of "King of White Lady" by Lance Hill. The author's description left no doubt that this was the same person I once met. It was a good read and I had it around for years before it somehow disappeared.

Several decades went by and my wife and I drove our newly acquired Ferrari 308 to Florida in winter to attend the Cavallino Classic at the Breakers in W. Palm Beach. Crews were unloading Ferraris on the closely cut lawn. Here and there a V-12 engine was being blipped. I looked up and into the Passport van and watched it disgorge a stunning red 250LM with California plates. To my mind, this is the most beautiful road car Ferrari ever made. Two men were gently handling it. The owner was close by and was an attentive observer. At some point, as the car was being moved away, I approached him. I told him that he seemed familiar to me and I told him my name. It didn't mean anything to him and he said he was Lance Hill. It clicked for me and I asked him about Track & Traffic and whether he was still writing about cars. He said he was, but that his professional name was now R. Lance Hill. I pointed to the car and he said that, yes, it was his. He told me that after his stint at T & T, he moved to California and wrote the book I once had. It was optioned several times for a movie, but the topic fell out of fashion, and the movie was never made. He subsequently wrote another book that was made into a movie with Charles Bronson. He now made a living as a "script doctor" for movies that were stopped in production because their scripts needed help. He said the pressure was hell but the money was steady and he had done very well.

Tony Singer's image of Ralph Lauren's Ferrari 250LM in our gallery and Chris Szwedo's story and sound track reminded me of those encounters.


The Senna Film

Posted on June 28, 2011 Comments (0)

There is an aspect of human nature that tends to forgive shortcomings if they walk arm in arm with redeeming charm. People so fortunately possessed are called ‘rascals’ or ‘clever devils’. It can be the most hopeful aspect of our beings that we forgive transgressions committed with humor or style.

Ayrton Senna 1989

Ayrton Senna 1989

Film works best when celebrating that conflict. Famous movies such as To Catch a Thief, Dirty Harry, The Magnificent Seven, all pit unorthodox, even disreputable characters against the bad guys and the establishment, and we love it. A very successful feature film about two loveable train robbers, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was based on real-life characters. The originals robbed and killed innocent people and were not quite as lovable, handsome or funny. When news of their violent death in South America reached the good folks back home, most breathed a sigh of relief.

Seventeen years after his death, a compelling new feature film celebrating the life of Aryton Senna, is about to reach the theatres. It has been released in Brazil and Europe and exceptionally well received. Based on rare archival film and interviews with those close to him in the sport, the filmmakers bring us their portrait of a brilliant racer who loved God, his family, his country and winning motor races.

To say that Ayrton Senna was a complex person would be an understatement. His ruthless intensity behind the wheel, his overt love of God and family, his generosity to those less fortunate, his combative relationships all made him the stuff of legend.

Formula 1 is a car vs. car, team vs. team, and at times in its history has been a country vs. country competition. Set in glamorous locations around the world, during the season these intense rivalries are renewed every two weeks. For a brief period, at its center was where Ayrton Senna needed to be. In a world where time is measured in 1000ths of a second, winners are those most often on the edge of perfection and disaster.

Not all teams or cars are equal, so winning in Formula 1 racing means having the best equipment matched to the best drivers. Each team has two cars. Theoretically the difference between them is the drivers. For a driver to lose to a competitor in a better car is no shame. However to lose to a teammate in an identical car requires explanation. Drivers generally begin their careers in lesser cars, prove their worth against other proven drivers, and if they are judged qualified they move up the ladder of better cars. Senna was exceptional and was soon paired with the then World Champion, the Frenchman Alain Prost, at McLaren Cars.

The elements of a classic tragedy were thus set. The passionate Senna’s belief in self was total. He had dominated previous teammates and intended to dominate Prost. The cerebral Prost’s proven worth and ego could not allow anyone else to win. Racing for the same team in the equal cars meant that between these two men, someone had to lose. The argument would be settled at speed.

Every sport has what participants consider sporting rules. Motorsports first competitors were generally men of means: sportsmen. Winning honorably was as important as winning. Senna and Prost did not so much race as war. In doing so, they obliged the rules keepers to either ban them or rewrite the rules. So compelling was their battle that the governing body of the sport, the FIA, changed the rules and thereby changed F1 racing forever.

Many could argue that it was not for the better.

Just as Senna’s death was mourned by his many fans, it could be argued that many fans of Formula 1 breathed a sigh of relief.

pb


MMR 2011 Competition Headlines Preview!

Posted on December 21, 2010 Comments (0)

MMR Competition Headline Predictions!

MMR has consulted the oracles, gazed deeply into our crystal balls and read the sediment at the bottom of countless bottles of mediocre wine to bring you these predictions! Look for these headlines coming soon to a website just like this one. Or... only this one.

2011 Formula 1:

  • Adrian Newey has been found guilty of "over designing" and will only be allowed to do one line on the 2011 Red Bull car! Competitors insist it must be the tire! 
  • The traditionally inept FIA race stewards will now have expert help: "Rex" the Seeing-Eye Wonder Dog will attend every race and bite every little driver who does a "no-no" on the track or "wee-wee" in his driving suit!
  • Hermann Tilke has been commissioned to design “the most exciting country in the world”! Based on his F1 experience, he has chosen Switzerland as a model. One person in Switzerland recently yawned! The remainder are lying about waiting for Prince Charming to come and kiss them on the lips!  
  • In order to put an end to the confusion, every car on the grid will be called a Lotus! Except the Virgin... which will be called a Virgin because…God knows, Virgins are hard to find in racing.

 Nascar:

  • Rather than simply give him the 2011 Winston/Verizon/Holiday Inn/ Nextel Cup, Jimmy Johnson has been asked to retire!
  • The Association of Mental Health Professionals has released the results of their study showing that every Nascar driver, except for Jimmy Johnson, needs sociopathic adjustment counseling!
  • Michael Waltrip is missing! He may have disappeared six years ago but his family didn’t notice until they turned on the TV and noticed he was not starring in consecutive ads for Maytag, Preparation H and Baby’s Own Shampoo.
  • Road races, exceptionally popular with the fans, have been eliminated! Nascar officials fear drivers will cheat once they get out of sight of the tower.     

 Indycar:

  • Rules have been changed to allow rodeo clowns in fiberglass “pretend” barrels to run out on the track during caution periods to try and distract the drivers. Car owners say “We fought Randy tooth and nail on this one. He wanted to stampede bulls on the track during qualifying. We settled for the clowns.”  
  • Roger Penske has bought the Indianapolis 500!

 Moto-GP:

  • The 2011 rules have been changed to compensate for over-talented riders! Valentino Rossi will be forced to compete this year on a uni-cycle!
  • Upon receipt of his signed agreement to the change, Moto-GP promptly cancelled the season and awarded him the title, thus saving all the manufacturers a fortune! Racing will resume when he is old!

 LeMans:

  • All non-French cars will be compelled to use Mercedes aerodynamic packages in 2011!
  • Audis have been banned because French announcers cannot pronounce the name of the car without sounding like lonely cowboys.

 That’s all the news that’s fit to print…here?


Red Bull Gives You Wins

Posted on November 18, 2010 Comments (0)

Red Bull have won it all! And deservedly so.

Excited and exciting Seb Vettel wins Drivers Championship

Excited and exciting Seb Vettel wins Drivers Championship

The energy drink people at Red Bull have proven once again that unfettered money can beat the Fiats, Mercedes and Renaults of the world at what should be their game. Benetton were the last wholly owned non-automotive oriented team to win both Drivers and Constructors Championships and that was fifteen years ago.

But this was an interesting season. Not as much for the racing as for the people. We appear to have a group of drivers who have let their personalities shine through the corporate sponsorships and we find they are a diverse group.

The following are the impressions they left with me as the year ended.

Sebastian Vettel: His little-boy exuberance can be alternatively refreshing and annoying but there is no doubt that he can drive. He had the best car, he won the Championship and he really deserved it.

Mark Webber: Flashes of brilliance but not enough of them. Nobody ever thought he would accomplish what he did at his age and stage of his career. He has a sympathetic following but a dim future.

Hamilton: Quick and competitive. Somehow appears one dimensional. He will be better as he matures.

Alonso: Quick and competitive and smart. Interesting to see him being consoled by Ferrari after the race. I would have thought the check was enough. He has been with four teams in nine seasons.

Massa: Great guy who needs to step up his game. He is number 2 at Ferrari. The new Barrichello.

Button: In two years he has built a reputation for being smart, fast and easy on equipment. Moved from Mercedes at the right time and can give his teammate a run on any day. He was impressive this year.

Schumacher: Gave every aging F1 driver hope. Then dashed them with uncompetive drives. His crash on the first lap of the final race should be a message.

Rosberg: Quick and smart. Handled being Schumacher's teammate very well. He deserves a better team and car. I would love to see him at Red Bull.

Kubica: Very quick. Needs a top ride and then will be very, very competitive.

Kobiyashi: Exciting to watch and would be interesting to see what he could do in a better car.

Domenicali: The most refreshing team principal in years. After years of Dreary Ron and Silent John, he is a breath of fresh air.

The only difference between the cars is Adrian Newey and Renault power.

The last two races were good strategic battles on boring courses. If Abu Dhabi would have been the first race it would have been called a disaster for its lack of passing opportunities.

Formula One drivers are pretty evenly matched. Vettel had a car in which at least five other drivers could have won the championship.

A lot of people seem to speak for Red Bull but we never hear enough from the guy who really makes it all work, Adrian Newey.

Hopefully next year will see more teams competing at the front. Mercedes and Renault seem poised, Williams, less so, but could surprise. A few less boring Tilke tracks would help.

On to 2011, let the testing begin!