MMR Blog

Last Week We Wrote…

Posted on November 19, 2014 Comments (2)

Last week we wrote a piece about the troubles within F1. Alain de Cadenet chimed in with his thoughts about the genesis of today’s issues. We follow up this week with a few suggestions. What do you think?

Money in Formula 1

F1 has two issues but they both boil down to the same thing. Money. The cost of running a team in F1 is too high but for a few. Initially supported by racecar manufacturers, wealthy businessmen and sportsmen, the advent of tobacco company money and big advertising changed all that. Today there remain two self-funding car company teams, one is rich and the other is struggling. The remainder of the teams is dependent on sponsorship to survive. That brings us to the second issue. The price of staging a race is prohibitive. Organizers depend on ticket sales for the major portion of their revenue. It is judged that attendance was down 50% in Brazil and the numbers for Russia were not good and not publicly available. These are not the only places where the gate is down. All is not well in paradise.

Alain de Cadenet added…

Peter… take a look back into the history of all motorsport and you'll see that just as soon as additional funds became available through so called sponsorship, the whole aspect of that formula became contaminated. Everyone putting in wants something to take out. Traditionally it was a sportsman obtaining joy. Drivers obtaining glory. Spectators obtaining thrills and experiencing danger second hand. All real, tangible activities. Rather analogous to traditional investments in tangible substances like gold, silver, platinum, iron, corn, wheat etc. even pork bellies. Lo and behold along came derivatives, bank products, .com and other surreal ways to profit. And lose plenty when it goes wrong.

Isn't this the path that motorsport has followed? The show-business factor excels way more than the racing. When you have to invent ways to overtake and ways to conserve fuel then that's not really racing. Gold bars or certificates? No wonder the vintage-classic car market has gone ballistic. It's all gone wrong and we've lost plenty. Unless you still own the old banger you bought years ago.

Alain

What do you think?

In a few lines we have identified a few of the issues and some history; question is, what to do?

A quick view of open wheel racing would show that F1 eats money. The team that just collapsed had 200 employees. And they bought engines and transmissions. How many do you think Ferrari and Mercedes employ for their F1 effort? Competitive IndyCar teams consist of as few as 20 people. How about taking the best of both and making a 20 race series on both sides of the pond.

Who’s in?

IndyCar had 11 different winners. F1 had 3. The F1 engine manufacturers have made it plain that if the formula goes back to the previous V8 models preferred by fans, they are out. Say goodbye. Chevy and Honda are competitive and their engines don’t cost 10% of an F1 engine. Do you care who builds the engine? Do you care who builds the chassis?

Changes: IndyCar needs to stop racing in parking lots and get back to racetracks, even if they aren’t near a major shopping mall. F1 has to race where people who give a damn can see the race. And ovals can be part of the deal. Ten races in Europe and ten in America. Bernie and his greedy buddies have to be out. 

What do you think? Leave a comment below and let us know.


Racing | IndyCar: Ends on a Whimper Not a Bang

Posted on September 4, 2014 Comments (0)

The IndyCar season came to a fast speedy, but listless, end last Saturday night in Fontana CA. Will Power is the new IndyCar Champion.

Tony Kanaan

He didn’t win the race and he didn’t have to. The race itself was interesting and Tony Kanaan deserved the win. But after all the hype about the championship, it lacked drama. All Power had to do was survive and be close to Helio Castroneves to win. In the end he beat him.

Helio was far more gracious in losing than Power was in winning and that will not serve Power well. The “gosh all I want to do is win” thing has to go away. Now he needs to be a Champion and class up.

The most interesting part of the marathon show was the interview the previously reticent Roger Penske gave to his former and at times least favorite employee, the now quite entertaining color commentator Paul Tracy. When asked what he looked for in a young driver he said: Three things. He must have won a race, he needs to be able to communicate with his engineers and he needs to be a saleable product to the sponsors. A basic and excellent formula.

The Penske Team won the championship fair and square but the Ganassi Team finished strong and the Andretti team, which dominated early, simply faded.

Auto Club Speedway logo

Unfortunately, the track determined the outcome of the race. Auto Club Speedway, once the title of a sixties pin-ball game is a horrible place to race. Built in 1997 by Roger Penske ISC group, the concept was to build a track that would rival Indy… only bigger and better. But it never worked out. The track turns out huge speeds but the surface is in such poor condition, it hasn’t been repaved in almost twenty years, that changing lanes at high speed is life threatening. The track is divided into five lanes separated by tar-filled lips that are not even or of the same consistency as the pavement. The whole track is simply dangerous.

This is not good racing, it shouldn’t be on the schedule let alone the final double points paying race. It highlights the biggest problem that the series has—poor quality tracks.

They have the teams, the drivers and even the rules to be the best series in the world. What they lack is real racing venues. Instead they have opted for circus circuits where they can terrify downtown sewer rats and race between makeshift highway barriers separating them from and cotton candy vendors and T-shirt stalls. Mercifully the Houston Parking Lot Grand Prix has been dumped, only eight more to go. Unfortunately, almost one half of their venues are a joke and the sooner they dump them the sooner they will become the serious series they once were under CART and are capable of being again.

Our humble suggestions: First—Forget South America, go to Europe; Dump downtown Toronto for two days of racing at Mosport; Drop Florida and Long Beach entirely. Go to Road Atlanta and Laguna Seca; Drop Detroit and go to Road America; Cancel Auto Club Debacle go to Montreal or Mont Tremblant.

Add four races in Europe and assume Spa and Monza are unavailable: Goodwood in England; Paul Ricard in France; Nurburgring in Germany; Portimao in Portugal.

What do you think?


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on August 22, 2014 Comments (2)

In the opinion of some, there may be a better concours than Pebble Beach, and there may be a better racetrack for vintage racing than Laguna Seca. There may be a better celebration of Italian cars than Concorso Italiano and there may even be a better street show and setting than Ocean Drive in Carmel, but all believe there is nowhere else in the car world where they all come together as well as at Monterey Week.

This week we have a wonderful American car story by Denise McCluggage, who judged at Pebble Beach last weekend, and an image (below) from Michael Furman of a 1922 Bugatti T23 Brescia 1361.

Image from Michael Furman of a 1922 Bugatti T23 Brescia 1361

We hope Porsche fans took advantage of the individually signed Porsche poster we offered in last week’s MMR Newsletter. There are very few left and the offer goes out next week to the 12,000 subscribers of Sports Car Market.

Racing

F1 returns this weekend for the Spa-Belgium GP, one of the best on the F1 Calendar. While little testing is done during this period, look for the teams to be much closer in speed at Spa.

The Milwaukee Mile:

Will Power for Team Penske

Before sports car road racing came to places like Pebble Beach and Watkins Glen, there was already a rich history of oval track racing on wooden boards and dirt flat tracks. Founded in 1903, the famous mile was paved in 1954. Front engine roadsters with skinny tires put on a far different show than the modern Indy cars with high down force and fat tires. There really was only one line around here and Will Power took pole and that line to lead most of the race. That single lane limited the passing opportunities and, though a good race, it was not judged to be an exciting one. On camera, the grandstand appeared sparsely populated but organizers announced that attendance was 30K, 2K more than last year.

IndyCar has two races with 200 points left to hand out to the winners; Will Power of Team Penske has a 39 point lead over teammate Helio Castroneves. Stay tuned to your sets for the next two weeks as the battle continues. (Check our MMR Calendar for details.)

Concours

Monterey: Lamborghini wins!

This has been a huge year for Lamborghini in America. Continuing their tradition of unpronounceable model names the Huracan (hoor-a-can) made its North American debut at Amelia and was an instant hit. Two months later Bonhams sold a vintage Countach (Kun ta) for over a million dollars at Greenwich. Gooding sold one for almost $2M and a 400GT for almost $900K. Plus another Lamborghini 400GT won best of Show at the Concorso Italiano. Word on the street is that a Huracan sold today will be delivered in 12 months. Lamborghini is doing well.

Over the next few weeks we will share stories and images of our Monterey adventure.

Pebble Beach

Ferrari wins!

John Shirley’s 1954 Scaglietti bodied 375 Ferrari Coupe won the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and became the first post war car to win Pebble Beach since 1968.

Maserati was the featured marque but John Shirley’s 1954 Scaglietti bodied 375 Ferrari Coupe won the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and became the first post war car to win Pebble Beach since 1968. It was commissioned by Italian film director Roberto Rossellini and was Scaglietti’s first for Ferrari. The car is a fitting winner as no other car on the field matched it for the combination of style and story. At the time Roberto Rossellini owned it, he was married and involved in a notorious affair with actress Ingrid Bergman. Legend has it that the two were driving along the Italian coast and stopped the car to walk on the beach. Upon their return they found a lovely fresh fish, wrapped in newspaper, had been left on the passenger seat with a note thanking them for leaving such beautiful car for them to view.

Twenty Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa’s made for a rather spectacular presentation. All but one had been restored.

Concorso Italiano

Nothing Succeeds Like Excess.

Amidst a sea of red 308-355-360-430-458 and other Ferraris, some rarer pearls do appear. This is a joyous show populated mostly by Ferrari Club of America member cars. The invited designer was Zagato and they displayed a gaggle of Zagato designed cars. The most sought after car of the weekend was the new Alfa 4C. While, like many others, we applaud, nay celebrate, Alfa’s return, we cannot say that we are impressed much by the Lotus derived styling. Here is an image of a Zagato TZ3 Stradale Alfa that really did impress.

Alfa

Also an Intermeccanica Italia with a 351 Ford engine that reminds us all of the glorious ISO-Bizzarini, Apollo, deTomaso era of Italian chassis-American engine cars are also appreciating.

Intermeccanica Italia

The winning car, deservedly, in the heart of Ferrari country, was a lovely Lamborghini 400GT.

Lamborghini 400GT

See you next week.

Peter Bourassa


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on August 8, 2014 Comments (0)

Monterey Draws Nigh

Monterey

This week’s eye candy is from Monterey’s Concorso Italiano in 2010. As I look back at them I am not certain I actually took these pictures. One clue is that I appear in one of them. If these images look familiar to you, dear reader, please drop me a note and we will happily give you full credit anon. 

An 11-minute Alfa video feast from Pebble Beach Concourse (turn the sound way up), was shot by Bill Leatherman for MMR in 2010. They are Grand! And the final minute is worth the wait.

Michael Furman Photography - Porsche 356 dashboard

Michael Furman’s image this week is of a Porsche 356 dashboard.

The Weekly Leek: European Correspondent Oofy Prosser Reveals Stunning News from Ferrari’s Past!

Evans Coolant

Evans Coolant

Last week’s Goods & Services directory link to Evans Coolant drew an interesting response from MMR Newsletter reader John Gallagher and it is reprinted in part here. Your thoughts on this topic, particularly if you have specific knowledge or experience with the subject, are welcomed.

Strategy, the Intellectual Aspect of Racing

It is generally recognized that while most top race drivers, with some notable exceptions, are equally gifted regarding the physical parts of driving, not all are good strategists and few, if any, are when beginning their careers. The concept of saving fuel or tires or, the engine itself, is not natural to people who simply want to go fast. In my sports car racing days when races were 20 laps, at most, my sponsor’s strategy was simple. “Go fast” he would say, but quite intensely, and that seemed uncomplicated and plenty good enough direction for me. It also occurred to me that as a strategy, it was probably universal among my competitors and not likely to provide me much of an edge.

Scott Dixon

Last Sunday’s IndyCar race at Mid-Ohio was a race determined by strategy. Last place starter Scott Dixon was the first finisher. And that happened for three reasons: one, he had a fast car; two, he is a very good driver who knows better than most how to go fast and save fuel; and three, someone in the pits put the first two together and figured out a fueling strategy that allowed him to continue on the track while others were refueling and then stretch what little fuel he had to the end. Actually, the end plus 300 yards, which is as far as he got before running out of fuel. This was a great race on a beautiful road (not street) course, with people sitting on the grass of the hills overlooking the circuit. Perfect. The competition was good and the race entertaining.

But the winning was the result of racecraft, something we referred to last week in relation to F1. There was a time when racecraft in IndyCar appeared to be owned only by the Penske squad. That stemmed from Roger’s early racing years when his interpretation of rules often gave his cars, particularly in Trans-Am, an unfair advantage. Truth is that his real advantage was his ability to interpret the rules, prepare meticulously, demand excellence from all around him, including suppliers, and seemingly always have top drivers who followed orders. Plus the simple fact that he was and is basically smarter and more experienced than most of his competitors.

Chip Ganassi Team Racing

That sounds like a simple strategy but many of Penske’s competitors didn’t or couldn’t employ it and he won. Not that he wouldn’t take advantage of the rules if he could, but in today’s spec engines and chassis racing series, there are fewer opportunities. He doesn’t go through the we learned a lot today stuff. He learned it a long time ago and prepared for it yesterday. 

Michael Andretti

Chip Ganassi and Michael Andretti have learned how to be the same way and the Penske advantage has been somewhat neutered.

The sports cars from the Tudor United series are at Road America this weekend. Locally, the BMW people take over the lawn at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline.

Peter Bourassa

Monterey Field

Monterey

Monterey

Monterey

Monterey


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on July 18, 2014 Comments (0)

Le Mans is done! The world Cup is settled! The Tour de France is moist and shambling and so now a young man’s fancy turns to Monterey! This week we whet your appetite for the upcoming feast by sharing images from Pebbles past. 

Michael Furman’s image this week is a 1927 Bugatti 35C racer

Michael Furman’s image this week is a 1927 Bugatti 35C racer. Stunning! And fitting too!

Last week’s descent into the tabloid world via The Weekly Leek was great fun and enjoyed by most of you who wrote. We also received several suggestions for The Weekly Leek motto but nothing struck a chord; several were funny but too ribald for print. Keep trying team! Of greater import is the offer to write The Weekly Leek from British Motorsports writer Rockford Cantwell-Beech. In his day, Rocky was a hot Formula Ford driver with a bright future until a shunt, as the Brits call it, put paid to his career. I met Rocky at Monza three years ago where he was helping a British team organize their vintage Alfa effort. He is funnier than hell, much closer to F1 than anyone on our team, and I think he will bring credibility to The Weekly Leek. We have separated his column from the editorial and have created a spot for it Short Stories.

Andretti Autosports Stuns the Clever Ones

Masters of the 7/8 mile oval, The Andretti Autosports team won its fifth consecutive IndyCar 300 race and they did it by racing smarter than the Penske and Ganassi teams. Regular readers know that oval races are not our favorites. Indy is redeemed by its history, just as Fontana is condemned by its. In between, the remainder are what they are. But the last two races, at Pocono and Iowa, were interesting and far more entertaining than expected. In the end, with 15 laps to go, the Andretti Autosports team put on new rubber and when the race went green with 10 laps left they beat the cars that had been faster all night. Historically, that is a Penske kind of win. Ganassi driver Scott Dixon, who led 17 laps and was fighting teammate Tony Kanaan for the win, finished fourth. The TV camera caught a none-too-pleased Dixon sharing his disappointment with Ganassi team manager Mike Hull. He said the one-word expletive that said it all for everyone else.

Weekend Reminders:

David Hobbs speaks at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum tomorrow afternoon. Ticket are not for sale at the door and can be purchased via the New England Region Porsche Club of America.

We hope to see you there.

F1’s German GP is this weekend and the IndyCars are once again bouncing between the concrete barriers for a Saturday and a Sunday race in Toronto.

Have a great weekend and don’t forget to share this with a friend.

Peter Bourassa

Pebble Beach - Alfa 7011

Pebble Beach Mascot

Pebble Beach

Pebble Beach - The American