MMR Blog

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.

Teams:

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.

Drivers:

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


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on June 20, 2014 Comments (0)

Michael Furman’s side view of a Bugatti T-46 Coupe, from his Art of Bugatti book, is our feature image this week.

Michale Furman’s side view of a Bugatti T-46 Coupe, from his Art of Bugatti book

A surfeit of events on TV kept us glued to the tube. Golf’s US Open, the NBA Spurs downing the Miami Heat, Soccer’s World Cup, and of course, Le Mans. What don’t they all have in common? That’s easy; only racing involves real personal risk. (Not, that falling down on grass and grimacing as often as soccer players do isn’t dangerous.) What do they have in common? That’s tougher; they are all entertaining. And until relatively recently that may not have been true. See our Le Mans story below.

This is a read and travel issue. I report on Roy Spencer’s MotorBinder book and the peripatetic Sandy Cotterman shares her Mille Miglia travel adventure and makes it bucket list attainable and desirable watching.


Electronic Book: The Last Open Road

Burt Levy

MMR friend and author Burt Levy has a very special offer for the first (and the best) in the Buddy Palumbo series of racing novels. You can’t beat this deal and his stories about the early days of US road racing are an addiction of which I am proud.



Le Mans

Tommy Kendall and Justin Bell

In conversation with Tommy Kendall, one of MMR’s adopted sons, at Amelia in the spring, something he said stuck with me. We were discussing what Fox might do with motorsports events other than NASCAR, and the role he and Justin Bell might play. He said he felt Fox understood that their broadcast had to be not just reporting but also entertaining.

We won’t even try to tell you what happened over the 24 Hours of Le Mans. By now you know that Audi again won overall but it was a battle for all 24 hours and both Porsche and Toyota also lead at some point. They’ll be back and rumor has it that Nissan will join the fray next year. The GT Pro class was won by Ferrari but it also was a battle. Aston Martin and Corvette both led and Aston won the GTE Amateur class.

Fox put together a fine team to cover the event. Dorsey Schroeder and Tommy Kendall added the depth of their experience and knowledge to the coverage and Justin Bell adds a refreshing dimension to what is a very long event.

The French will be French: One of the more enjoyable distractions from the actual 24 hours of racing is Justin Bell’s mingle with the crowds who come from all over the world to take in the event. Like many other racing events, Le Mans spectators often travel to it in groups. Bell revels in finding these groups, generally men, who have had a pop or two and who, upon seeing the camera, are prepared to behave badly for the folks back home. It should be noted that for all his angelic qualities, Justin Bell is the kid you knew in your teenage years who was consistently the center of trouble but was never caught. While around him, of course, you and others paid the price. He was the one your mother said to stay away from. Forward twenty years to Le Mans where this same character is protesting to the camera about being in a tough spot and needing to get away, all the while backing up with microphone and camera to find the most wasted of the group to interview. 

Grand Marnier

At one point, he finds a clutch of men wearing similar shirts at the Grand Marnier stand where the company is serving plain crepes and inviting patrons to help themselves to a little of their product from 40 oz. bottles on the counter. Encouraged by the site of Justin and the TV camera, one man abuses the privilege. He douses his crepe and then raises the bottle over his head and aims the spigot at his mouth. While a wide-eyed and smiling Bell watches, the man takes on board an illegal amount of Grand Marnier before the sturdy lady in a blue smock reaches over the counter, snatches the bottle from his hands and restores order.

Justin, ever the angel on the side of Justice (Justin is Latin for Justice) and Grand Marnier, attempts to bury the poor bastard and ingratiate himself with authority. He points to the man’s foggy noggin and in an accusatory tone tells the woman in French that the man is sick in the head. All fine except that the words he chooses actually informed her that the dumb bugger had a headache. TK was right. That’s entertainment!

F1 is in Austria this weekend. Next weekend is quite busy. Check out our MMR Motorsports Calendar and join us at Volante Classics Open House next Saturday.

Have a great weekend and don’t forget to share this with a friend. That’s how MMR grows.

Peter Bourassa


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on June 13, 2014 Comments (0)

In keeping with MMR’s tradition of supporting readers who indulge themselves at every given opportunity, we remind all that this Sunday is Father’s Day. A word to the wise man; if your plans include treating yourself to a good book, good food, and affordable wine in copious amounts in the name of Fatherhood, we urge you to consider that in itself, fathering is not so much an accomplishment. The achievement lies in surviving its byproduct, the children from whom you are expecting a thoughtful gift. Don’t expect them to buy you a good motorsports book. It isn’t going to happen. So take care of yourself. This week’s highlighted resources from our Goods and Services Directory feature some interesting reads. And here is where you can really shine. After you have purchased the book and just before you plunk down a C note for that box of backyard cigars, see that some flowers are delivered to the Memsahib. She probably made Father’s Day possible for you.

We review the Canadian GP in Montreal and preview Le Mans which is this weekend. Several short weeks ago we changed over our winter tires to summer and we were trying to figure out just how to read the code on the tires that indicate when they were hatched. Denise McCluggage’s story about tires is a timely review about an important and expensive part of our drive that some of us take for granted and most drivers completely neglect. 

Silver Arrows

Our featured photographer this week is MMR’s old friend Royce Rumsey’s Study in Silver. 

Our Michael Furman image for this issue is the cockpit of a 1936 Delahaye 135 GP race car. It is probably not your resident mental image of a Delahaye, but you won’t be disappointed in this basic racer version. See more of his work in his Gallery or at MichaelFurman.com.

Michael Furman photograph of the cockpit of a 1936 Delahaye 135 GP race car.

F1: Canadian GP – Montreal

By all accounts, neither the City of Montreal nor the F1 race disappointed. We didn’t attend and regret missing the parties but we did watch it on TV and everyone seemed to agree it was an interesting race. Despite their massive support in Montreal, Ferrari didn’t really have an impact and neither did McLaren. But, Red Bull and Mercedes did. It is too easy to say that the race was competitive because of the failure of technology at Mercedes. As enthusiasts we learned a few new interesting aspects of these cars and drivers. For one, we learned that the mighty Mercedes team were vulnerable, not only to hardware failure but also from an engineering point of view. Everyone knew that this track, with its long straight and relatively slow corners was tough on brakes. The new hybrid power system calls on the KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) to slow the car through the drivetrain. Like downshifting. Mercedes felt that would be sufficient and ran smaller than permitted rear brake discs to save weight. When the KERS system failed, they ran out of brakes in the rear. Larger discs would not have solved the problem but they would have helped. 

Brake problems

Full credit to Rosberg who out qualified his teammate, and then, from the moment he had car problems ran hard and smart to salvage a second place. Vettel, who finished third to Ricciardo and Rosberg also showed grace and maturity in his post race interview. Next, we knew that drivers sometimes were obliged to reboot the computers, or more likely reprogram the drive settings, while they were racing. And we learned that some of them are better at it than others. Force India’s driver Sergio Perez, for instance, is not particularly good at it and it took him longer than others to change the necessary settings, costing him time and positions on the track and possibly contributing to his ill advised block on Massa that cost them both points-paying positions in the race. And it could be a clue as to why McLaren dumped him. Who says F1 is boring?

Le Mans: le 24 Heures du Mans

Stake out the couch, pile up the heart arresting, life shortening goodies, and a sleeping bag and tell everyone to close the doors to their room. Coverage begins Saturday at 6:30PM ET and Sunday at 1:00 AM. WOW! Will you be popular!

Le Mans: 24 Heures du Mans is the European equivalent of the Indy 500. Both get weeks of hype and special days to introduce the cars and the teams to the public. In the end, what was once an endurance race, as in will this bloody thing last is now a 24 hour sprint, as in foot to the floor for 24 race. Audi have dominated it in recent years with only a few Peugeot interruptions, to the disappointment of the French. Porsche had a stranglehold on it for years before they did.

The evolution of new engine and aerodynamic technology has presented an opportunity for car manufacturers to showcase their engineering talents and this year both Porsche and Toyota have joined the fray. Audi are there but hardly mentioned. Toyota have won the first two races of this year’s FIA World Endurance Championship and they are looking strong for Le Mans where they qualified 1-2. Now begins the race of tactics.

Around the Newsstands

Classic and Sports Car did an interesting three-way comparison between a ′66 327 Corvette, a ′63 Jaguar XKE and a Toyota 2000 from the ′66 to ′70 period. Thought provoking read.

The June issue of Sports Car Market surveys some of the better known participants in the auction/collection game expounding on current market pricing and whether it is a justified trend or merely a bubble and when/if Chicken Little Syndrome will kick in. As you know, we don’t cover auctions here because so many people, like SCM, do it so much better. But because our MMR Goods & Services Directory deals daily with sales and repair outlets, (we have 2800 suppliers in the Directory) we can tell you that these quickly rising prices are affecting several sectors. For dealers, buying cars is getting tougher and tougher as nobody who can afford to wants to sell a car today that could be worth appreciably more in several months from now. Correspondingly, major used parts for older cars are also rising in price and being withheld from the repair shops for the same reason. As with everything else, where you stand on this issue depends on where you sit. For the average enthusiast, this is a game being played way beyond their ability to compete. While there is some comfort in seeing appreciation for the car you have been maintaining and enjoying for several years, if you are not planning to sell it, you are simply a spectator.

Have a great weekend.

Peter Bourassa


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on June 6, 2014 Comments (0)

June! Glorious June!

Our June calendar lists a favorite racing city party and Le Mans.

Our images this week are from the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance, taken by Editor Dom Miliano and me. Michael Furman’s feature image is that of a 1933 Squire front.

1933 Squire photo by Michael Furman

IndyCar and Detroit Both Survive

In the recent past, images of Detroit have been anything but pretty. But news from the Motor City has been much better of late. People who care about the city, including Roger Penske, have contributed energy and money to make things happen. The American never say die and we can do this attitudes are prevailing. Property values are rising, and neighborhood by neighborhood there is a resurgence of small businesses and community spirit. Ford, GM, and Chrysler are doing well and doing good by investing in their own local infrastructure. Ironically, the same word applies to this turnaround as to the iconic downtown development that was once heralded as its salvation and later criticized as the reason for its ruin. Renaissance. 

Penske Racing is based in Detroit and The Captain has been the driving force and sponsor behind the two day IndyCar races held on Belle Isle, a park island just off Detroit’s downtown. This is another barrier bound street course and its physical condition mirrors Detroit’s finances. It is to be hoped that both will improve. Penske cars won both bumpy races and as bumpy races go it was entertaining. The talented Will Power drove to a solid win on Saturday and the equally talented Helio Castroneves won on Sunday. The close racing on a tight bumpy course made for the inevitable contact and bad feelings and the soap opera is now part of the IndyCar show.

F1 in Montreal this Weekend

The Grand Prix of Canada takes place in Montreal this weekend. Montreal is a great party city and the F1 team sponsors decorate the town squares with product and race car displays. The race track itself is both simple and boring. The F1 community has a speak no evil policy to which all adhere. A boring track is called technical by drivers. This infers that they don’t think it is as boring we do. Named after native son Gilles Villeneuve, it is essentially a park service road on an island in the middle of the St. Lawrence River and in full view of downtown Montreal. Coming off the tight Monaco circuit, this track allows for more passing. It is one of Hamilton’s favorite circuits and he has won here several times. That insures that the Mercedes drama will continue.

Greenwich Concours d’Elegance

Dom and I attended the Greenwich Concours this past weekend. The setting, a wooded park on the Long Island Sound is magnificent. Sadly, the view of the water is blocked by the huge Bonham’s Auction tent installation. The show cars are set out in circular compounds among the trees and while I had heard complaints about this, I found it interesting and not at all a negative issue. The actual selection of cars on display was eclectic and interesting. The whole atmosphere is casual and owners of cars on display seemed more accessible and engaging. 

Greenwich Concours d'Elegance

The Bonhams Auction was a huge success and the pricing on market leading cars did not disappoint. An early Flat Floor E-Type Jaguar sold for $335K and an XK-150S did $203,500. The crowd cheered a local bidder who purchased John Fitch’s Phoenix in part to keep it in Connecticut. This is a good thing. No bubble burst here.

Uncommon Ferraris

A Connecticut resident brought his Carbon Fiber race car to the Greenwich Concours. We thought you might be interested in seeing its pretty sister and the Forghieri-designed original.

Have a great weekend and don’t forget to share this newsletter with a friend. It’s how we grow.

Peter Bourassa


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on May 30, 2014 Comments (0)

Last week’s newsletter prompted interesting responses. A sidebar to Denise McCluggage’s story about rallying behind the Iron Curtain is a precious vignette entitled The Last Supper. An image of a racing Ferrari Daytona prompted Michael Keyser to send us some images he shot of the same car at Le Mans in 1971. And, we received a note from its former owner Dave Gunn. You will be interested in both their comments. The #31 Porsche catching air on the uphill at Lime Rock last Saturday is by editor Dom Miliano. 

Catching air at Lime Rock. Photo by Dom Miliano

Michael Furman’s image this week is a Bugatti 57SC Atlantic from his book, The Art of Bugatti. You can look at this for a long time.

Photo by Michael Furman

F1 - Monaco. Shifting Ethos

As predicted here and almost everywhere else, the pole winner also won the race. Despite the absence of passing, the battle, both in and out of the cars, between the Mercedes drivers, though childish in spots, is entertaining. In the final qualifying session, with Rosberg holding the fastest time, he went off track in a safe spot and that brought out a yellow flag which obliged his teammate and everyone else on a final flying lap to abort their effort and thereby insure the pole for Rosberg.

On several occasions in the past F1 drivers have purposely crashed at the end of the qualifying to ensure that their time could not be bettered. In 2006, Michael Schumacher was penalized for doing just that on this very track. Rosberg was not penalized and rumors flew all weekend that Mercedes telemetry showed his off track excursion was deliberate. Hamilton’s demeanor certainly intimated that he knew his teammate had stolen the race from him and he is quoted as saying that he was two tenths quicker when the yellow flag flew and would have taken the pole. A subsequent interview with Derek Warwick, the designated forth member of the race stewards panel, a veteran F1 driver who participated in 146 races and current President of the BRDC (British Racing Drivers Club), stated that the stewards had access to independent film, overhead shots, and all the Mercedes data. After a lengthy interview, they “could find no evidence of any offence”.

In F1, the drama of the actual racing struggles to equal the theatre provided by the teams, drivers, and locations, not to mention national rivalries that have existed for decades. Hamilton, for all his talent, is a walking soap opera. In Rosberg, he has a teammate so completely different, that it is impossible to believe that they could compete in the supercharged atmosphere of F1 with equal equipment and also get along. And for some, that is part of the entertainment.

Monaco

My only issue with the controversy is more a sad measure of the times. When it was assumed, and even stated on air by a prominent former driver, that only a minority believed Rosberg’s story, one article commended him for knowing that this is what is expected of a driver fighting for the Championship. It was reminiscent of those who commended Vettel for disobeying team orders and passing his unsuspecting teammate Mark Webber in the dying moments of the Malaysian GP last year. If that is the new standard of a Champion, drivers like Fangio, Clark, Graham and Phil Hill, and so many, many others would not be comfortable in their company. And neither should we.

IndyCar: The Double H Win Indy

It was an entertaining battle and in the end, Honda beat Chevy and Ryan Hunter-Reay won the Indianapolis 500. It was a good race and Hunter-Reay’s Honda-powered car was faster when it counted most. His comment I’m a proud American Boy, that’s for sure brought a huge cheer from the crowd.

With this win, Hunter-Reay, a former IndyCar Series Champion, took a giant step forward in the eyes of race fans and he brought Andretti-Green racing and Honda along with him. He is now first in the IndyCar points standings and has displaced Team Penske’s Will Power who finished eighth. Both the Penske and Ganassi Teams took a back seat to Andretti-Green who finished first, third, fourth, and sixth. Andretti-Green must now be considered their equals. Should they win the championship, even better.

Of interest, NASCAR Driver Kurt Busch finished sixth in his first IndyCar race. Nineteen-year-old Sage Karam finished ninth, and former race winner, series champion, and Fi Champion Jacques Villeneuve finished 14th.

This weekend IndyCar is in Detroit and for a two race weekend. Check out our MMR Motorsports Calendar for it and other options.

Editor Dom Miliano and I will be at the Greenwich Concours on Sunday. We hope to see you there.

Have a great weekend,

Peter Bourassa