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Posted on October 3, 2014 Comments (0)

Garret Vreeland’s shot of the winning classic Graber-bodied Packard and the Sports Maserati 350S

We write this on the Monday morning after enjoying an excellent motorsports weekend in Santa Fe. Our lead image is Garret Vreeland’s shot of the winning classic Graber-bodied Packard and the Sports Maserati 350S.

The Santa Fe Concorso is now five years old and we have watched it grow in quality and breadth for the three year we have attended. This is truly a wonderful Thursday evening through Sunday motorsports event. Look for more stories and images of the SF Concorso IndyCar Drivers Seminar, The Mountain Tour, and other events in coming issues.

F1

Alonso

The circus moves to Suzuka this weekend. Alonso obliquely supported our criticism of the Singapore-racing-through-dark-garages-in-the-heat-of- the-night GP by declaring that it will be nice to be at Suzuka, a “real race circuit”. In the wake of the eulogies for the departing Montezemolo, the Italian PR departments are cranking up the ‘Marchionne as Saviour” Machine. F1 is never boring.

Denise McCluggage Reigns over Barren Lands

Cadillac Escalade

Several readers commented how much they enjoyed Denise McCluggage’s recent story about her Range Rover off-road excursion to her family’s ancestral home in Tin Cup, Colorado. If you haven’t read it yet, do—it will prepare you for this week’s story about another large vehicle that dominates its native landscape, the Cadillac Escalade.


Michael Furman photo 1937 Peugeot Darlmat Roadster

Our featured image is by Michael Furman and the car is a 1937 Peugeot Darl’mat Roadster.


Have a great weekend!

Peter Bourassa


An Interview with David Hobbs

Posted on September 17, 2014 Comments (0)

By Adrianne Ross, Editor, PCA-NER The Nor’Easter Magazine

David Hobbs

I was so honored to meet David Hobbs. I’ve been a fan for a few years now, and enjoy his commentary on racing and racers.

David was born in June 1939 in Royal Leamington Spa, England. In 1969 he was included in the FIA list of graded drivers—an élite group of 27 drivers who, by their achievements, were rated the best in the world—and he was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2009. Originally employed as a commentator for the Speed Channel, he currently works as a commentator for NBC and NBC Sports Network.

David Hobbs

David currently lives in Milwaukee with his wife, Margaret. They “putter” around the garden in their spare time, and enjoy winter in Florida. David has two sons, Gregory and Guy. His youngest son, Guy, worked for Speed as a pit reporter on their sports car coverage.

David was kind and patient with me, even though he had been running a bit behind, and had the Hockenheim race the next day. I dragged him into the basement of the Larz Anderson Auto Museum, and what follows is our conversation. I’ve left it largely unedited, so that you can get a sense of the man himself.

AR: Take me from 0 to your first race.

DH: My dad was always into cars, but at the beginning of WWII petrol was heavily rationed. He was from Australia and the English government asked him to stay to develop his transmissions, and help with technical innovations in the automotive business.

I wasn't good at school so I went to Jaguar cars as an apprentice. They had a great system; a great apprenticeship scheme in England. It was a full-scale apprenticeship, where you essentially earned a technical degree.

David Hobbs

While there, I got keen on cars and there was a Jaguar apprentice’s motor club which I joined. I would take my Mum’s car, a Morris Oxford, and would rally cross and the like. But I drove like a mad man on the road and so I decided I should race. Back then it was cheap to get a license. You would join a motor club, any car club, and then pay the entry fees; the whole thing would have been about £15.
It was my Mum’s car with my dad's automatic gearbox. I raced a few times and then I finally won a sprint in it. The following year I convinced my dad to let me race his Jaguar XK140, it also had his gearbox (David’s father designed transmissions and automotive technology). Unfortunately I rolled it in the very first race, and did a little damage. (David smiled broadly at this, indicating that he’d damaged the car quite badly.)

He said I had to fix it, so it didn't get fixed very well. Then he got a big injection of capital from BSA, and we decided that a good form of advertising would be for me to race in a proper car. We bought a Lotus Elite, which I campaigned in 1961 very successfully. Won 14 out of 18 starts at the small tracks, Silverstone, Brands Hatch, the ‘Ring.

AR: Who inspired you?

Sir Stirling Moss

DH: My hero was Sir Stirling Moss. But it wasn't like it is today with videos and TV. You had to go to races, read the papers and magazines to keep up, or follow a driver.

I did go to the very first Grand Prix, the British Grand Prix with my mom and dad, and my brother. But even then it wasn't like a bolt of lightning, you know, it was not what I wanted to do. But I did drive fast on the road. I did like going fast and I was good at it.

AR: What do you drive now?

DH: I don't have any exotic cars, I don't have any car at all, and I never seem to have enough cash to get one (laughing).

AR: And when you're not racing, what does a typical day look like for David Hobbs?

David Hobbs Honda Dealership

DH: I go to the dealership most days, although my son Greg really runs it now. We have quite a few customers who don't believe I really come in every day.

AR: What do you do for fun?

DH: We like to putter around the garden and we have a house in Florida, because I don't like the winter. We go back to England two to three times a year. But not in the summer because it's racing season. I like soccer and tennis. I used to play when I was a kid, until I discovered Motorsport.

AR: You’ve had 20 Le Mans starts, what are the best and worst parts of that race?

DH: The worst is the rain, and night can be tricky. It's a long circuit, eight miles. It's not like Daytona, when you're there for hours running around a fishbowl. In my day, there weren't all those chicanes, which is very hard on the car, and hard on the drivers. In my day we did the race with just two drivers. Now they use three or sometimes four.

AR: …about [your] grandson, and his working his way into a racing career…

DH: It's so expensive to start racing unless you find a fairy godfather. Four or five of the F1 drivers pay to be there. In my day there was a lot of stepping into a dead man’s shoes. That seems grizzly, but it was really how it worked.

But I've never raced anywhere when I didn't get paid for it. Even NASCAR.

AR: How was NASCAR?

DH: It's harder than it looks. Massively talented drivers come into NASCAR and they can't do it. Juan Pablo was a good example of that.

AR: What do you think of Senna, and RUSH (the movies)?

DH: I thought Senna was very good. Well put together. To be a world champion you have to be selfish, and greedy, and solely, solely concerned with yourself. He was the epitome of that for sure. RUSH was a good story of human conflict. But the drama and partying was a bit overblown. Grand Prix and Le Mans are my favorites. They did a great job considering the time and standards.

AR: Who's the funniest person in F1 ever?

DH: I wouldn't say anyone in F1 is really funny; it’s not a funny place, the paddock of Formula 1. Everyone is just focused on the race and the cars but Graham Hill was an amazing storyteller. Very good at making jokes at other peoples expense but not good when the shoe was on the other foot. Jackie and Jimmy Clark were not particularly jokey guys. The guy that's really pretty funny, and probably pretty good fun to be with is Daniel Ricciardo. He likes to sort of dance in front of his mechanics.

AR: What’s your favorite track?

DH: The ‘Ring, the Glen, Road America, Phillipston; I've never found a track I don't like, really.

DAvid Hobbs at Indy


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on September 12, 2014 Comments (0)

We have turned the corner on summer and many of our favorite viewing activities are either in the final events in their series or already shutting down for the season.

IndyCar is done. NASCAR begins its 10 race Chase to choose a Champion. The Tudor United Sportscar Championship has two weekends remaining. The finale is a 10 hour Petit Le Mans event at Road Atlanta on October 4-5.


The Boston Cup

The Car Show season winds up in the Northeast with The Boston Cup event on the Boston Common on September 21st. See you there.


In this issue of The Weekly LeekStreaming the Finest in Pale Yellow Journalism, Professor Prosser has scooped the poop on the latest Papal pronouncement. In the best Rocky & Bullwinkle tradition: Don’t miss the next exciting episode of Lewis Whines a New Title! or Papal Palace Promotes Pals!


Sandy (on Assignment) Cotterman visited the Hershey Concourse and her images and story inform this week’s Newsletter.


Michael Furman’s dramatic image of the Porsche 911 GT1 captures the beauty of the beast.

Michael Furman’s dramatic image of the Porsche 911 GT1 captures the beauty of the beast.


F1

In short, the Tifosi (Ferrari fanatics) were disappointed, again. Mercedes dominated, again. The Nico/Lewis battle for hearts and minds continues and many hopes for the future are pinned on the return of Honda engines. As everyone knows by now, Hamilton won and Rosberg appeared to have given it to him. Conspiracy theories abound.

Mark Hughes of MotorSport magazine credits the win more to a difference in driving styles and car set-ups than to a huge driver error under pressure. The podium ceremony was very interesting (who was that animated interviewer?) as were the post race interviews. Hamilton still has a hill to climb and the next six races will be fun for viewers.

Monza in both its original configuration, which included a high banked oval, and its modern configurations of long straights and fast curves has always advantaged the most powerful cars and the bravest drivers. A list of the talented and experienced drivers who lost their lives at Monza says it all: Ascari, von Trips, Rindt, Peterson, and on motorcycles, Saarinen and Pasolini. All among the very best of their times.

At one point, a portion of the banked oval was part of the course. In its later days, it was quite bumpy; its depiction in the film Grand Prix was quite accurate.

Today’s course, even with the new formula’s dumbed down engines, it is still amazingly fast but its challenge to drivers has changed to a challenge for engineers. Where a strong motor and a brave driver were requisites in the sixties, downforce packages, engine mapping, brake systems, brake balance settings and tire management all come in to play now and the engineer’s role dominates the outcome. That is not to denigrate today’s cars or their drivers. Quite the contrary. The Italian GP was a brilliant example of how different teams, dealing with different technical strengths and weaknesses and driver preferences, managed a fast and complex 90 minute race. An analysis of each car’s technical package would go a long way to explain the driver’s finishing position. It is possible to believe that the Monza results, two Mercedes followed by two Williams and two Red Bulls would be the same if those six driver’s names were put into a hat to choose who would drive which car. Could you seriously question the fact that Vettel, who finished sixth would have finished first, had he been driving a Mercedes?

It has been rumored that Ron Dennis is making the rounds of top talent agents to see if he can convince them that their charges can win the Driver’s Championship in a McLaren-Honda next year or the year after. For those of you unfamiliar, only Mercedes and Ferrari enter their own chassis-engine combo. Most teams design, build and develop their own chassis and purchase engines from either Mercedes or Ferrari or Renault. Each component is equally important and to believe that any team (McLaren) will be stronger next year with the advent of a new Honda engine says that engines are their current problem. The reality is that Mercedes (454 Points) Williams (177 points) McLaren (110 points) and Force India (109 points) all have Mercedes engines. What they don’t have is a Mercedes chassis. On the other hand, Red Bull (272 points) is second in the series and has a Renault engine reputed to be 90 horsepower down on the Mercedes and its own Adrian Newey designed chassis. It shares a Renault engine with the Lotus (8 points) and Caterham (0 points). Red Bull, second in the points is well ahead of the Mercedes powered Williams. It has the second best chassis after the Mercedes team and Williams has the next best chassis after Red Bull. For any driver to jump from Mercedes or Red Bull, or even Williams, to any other F1 team with a currently uncompetitive chassis and an unproven engine would be asking him to make a huge leap of faith. McLaren is a great team with great resources but so is Ferrari and both have a long way to go.

If we were building for the future, Bottas and Magnussen would be an interesting base.

Have a great weekend. Please share this with a friend.

Peter Bourassa


Vintage Racing: Home of the Brave

Posted on September 4, 2014 Comments (2)

Several early Saturday mornings ago I was flipping TV channels between F1 practice and a rainy day’s ride at the Tour de France bicycle race.

Tour de France crash

Co-incidentally at virtually the same time on my TV an F1 car left the track at extremely high speed and hit the barrier wall head on at elevated speed. And several TdF riders went down on a muddy corner somewhere in France. The F1 driver walked away from an impact judged to measure 26 G’s of force which totally destroyed the car. He drove the next day. Two of the bicycle riders suffered broken collar bones, one had a broken arm and all were out of the biggest race of their year.

The following week I was in a modern shop that services vintage race cars. While Vintage racing organizations require the use of more safety equipment than was ever required in the day, it struck me that the cars themselves, as required, were as close to original as possible but most had better, safer tires and reliable engines, several had better brakes, and yet many were as unsafe today as they were originally. Shoulder harnesses are a big improvement over lap belts and helmets and fire suits hugely better, but roll bars appeared to be original and in images posted around the shop, some current drivers’ helmets exceeded them by 2 inches or more. Modern open wheel racing at the highest levels requires tethered wheels on single seaters, not here. Fuel cells are mandatory as are external electrical shut off switches. Very good. During practice three weeks ago at Virginia International Raceway a Porsche race car spun on oil at high speed and hit the tire barrier over a hundred yards away.

Spinning Corvette

Within seconds, a factory Corvette hit the same oil and, following the trajectory of the Porsche, crashed into it. The Corvette driver suffered a mild concussion and the Porsche driver had a broken arm. I shudder to think what would have happened had two vintage cars experienced the same crash. Changes to personal gear notwithstanding, the now faster and better handling 1940-50-60-70s race cars are easily as dangerous in a crash now as they were then.

Vintage racing was dangerous when it wasn’t vintage. At the front end of the grid the cars were prepared by professional race teams with proper equipment and were always in top condition. It would be a stretch to say that today’s vintage drivers, though unquestionably more experienced, could be as quick of hand or eye as they were 40 years ago.

MG-PA Special

Last weekend at Lime Rock, a vintage racer lost his life in an MG-PA Special. We love to watch those old cars race. And we all recognize that this isn’t tennis. Accidents will happen and people will be hurt. We also realize that cars must go through scrutineering before they are allowed on the track. We asked the question earlier in the year when a vintage “Penske” Camaro crashed at the Glen: Is it time for vintage racing governing bodies to take a closer look at the cars and the people who are racing to determine whether either or both are capable of handling the demands of their class of racing? After all, they are not alone out there.


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?