Wednesday, January 30, 2013

That Ferrari 250 SWB... Again...

But with video and good audio...and in Fly Yellow, no less...   Yeah, Pilote has "a thing" for this car.   I wonder if Andy Greene does too: "Let's wait until I have a 250 SWB in the shop to make the promotional video."  And thanks (again) to The Chicane Blog for alerting me to this link.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Ferrari 250 TR

Not many racing sports cars won consistently for five years in the postwar era.  And looked good doing it.  The Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa did.  In the States, it was outrun by "unlimited" sports cars like the Lister Jaguar and the Scarab.  But in Europe its only competition was the Aston Martin DBR1 or, on tight courses, the Porsche Spyder.

The Aston DBR1 won LeMans in 1959.  But the 250 TR won LeMans in '58, '60, '61, and '62 (if you count the 4-liter 330 TR derivative).  There were no significant changes to the chassis, although the body was adapted to meet changing regulations.  The 250 TR contributed as much to the Ferrari mystique as the earlier big bore sports racers, and far more than the sometimes competitive, sometimes not, Formula 1 cars of the era.

And here's a video with excellent audio of a 250 TR in the Tuscany hills:

The 250 Testa Rossa prototype (built and raced twice in 1957), restored to its appearance at LeMans in 1958.  By then
it was a semi-factory car, entered by Luigi Chinetti's North American Racing Team, driven by Dan Gurney and Bruce
Kessler.  Thus the blue/white center stripe in American racing colors.  It was DNF when Kessler crashed it in the rain.

The original 1958 250 TR was famous for its "pontoon" front fenders, which provided for better air circulation around
its drum brakes.  Factory cars were later converted to, and customer cars retrofitted with, disc brakes.  This picture is of
a combination that tore it up in California: Richie Ginther in Johnny Von Neumann's silver 250 TR.  Von Neumann
was the West Coast Ferrari Distributor; Ginther started out as Phil Hill's "navigator" in the Carrera Panamerica and
ended up as a Formula 1 driver for Ferrari, BRM, and Honda.

This 250 TR was used by Phil Hill and Olivier Gendebien for the first of their three LeMans wins in 1958.  It had non-
standard (and more streamlined) bodywork, similar to the big bore Ferraris that ran ahead of it but DNF'ed.  It rained at
LeMans in '58 for 22 of the 24 hours.  Thus Hill's "rain shield" eye protection in this picture.

The 1959 TR refined the Hill/Gendebien car's bodywork with side extractor vents and a clear plastic hood scoop.  The
mechanical specification was the same: why fool with a winning formula?

For 1960, the FIA required a "real" windshield of specified height and a small suitcase compartment, in an attempt to
force racing sports cars back toward some pretense of actual real-world practicality.  Nobody had windshield wipers
that worked at racing speeds and the drivers hated the new regulations.  The 250 TR rolled on in its winning ways.
This is the 1960 LeMans winner (Gendebien/Frere) at the Goodwood Revival 50 years later.  

In 1961 the car became the TR 61 with a streamlined work-around of the FIA's mandated windshield height.  And the
beginnings of aerodynamics with a spoiler to keep the rear end planted.  This is the car that Hill/Gendebien used to
win LeMans--again--in as-restored condition at the Goodwood Revival.

Last of the line: the 330 TR/LM Spider LeMans winner of 1962 (the third victory for Hill/Gendebien).  Mechanically
 it was almost identical to the 1958 250 TR except for its 4-liter engine.  But ugly.  A year later,  LeMans was won by
Ferrari's rear-engine 250 P running in the Prototype class, followed home by two 250 GTO's.  The era of racing sports
cars had ended and the era of GT production cars and prototypes--with roofs--had begun.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Off Topic: Jury Duty Undone

I didn't hear a case last week, and was disappointed about that.  But, as the saying goes, "Be careful what you wish for."

My Illinois County has a very efficient system.  Upon Summons, you call an automated phone number or go on a website twice a day, at noon and after the close of business.  You enter your juror number and a code, and get told if you must report to the Court House that afternoon or the next morning.  In my case, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday went by with no need to report.  It's hard to imagine a system less disruptive to your own personal and work life, given that you've been Summoned in the first place.

On Wednesday afternoon, I was told to report on Thursday.  There were about 30 of us in the jury pool room, which is enough for two 12-person juries with some alternates, or 3 or 4 juries for a civil case with 6 jurors.  I was unsurprised to note that, going by appearances, we were a broad mix of age, race, and occupation.  And that "casual Fridays" lasts all week these days.  Even fifteen years ago, you'd have seen a few men and women wearing business suits to jury duty.  Not now.  (I "dressed up" by my own retiree standards: chinos instead of blue jeans and a shirt with a collar.)

The Courthouse employee responsible for us said "There are two trials scheduled for today--stay tuned," and showed us a video about the basics of jury service.  I plowed through a very good book I was reading.  We were released for lunch at 11:30 and told to be back at 1:30.  At 2:15, our minder came in and said "You're done.  Go home."  I wasn't sure I'd heard him accurately, and asked him as I was turning in my jury badge clip if I needed to report on Friday.  "You can come in if you want to, just to enjoy the experience.  Otherwise, you're off the hook for at least two years."  So I gather, just as in my service 15 years ago in another State, both of the cases "settled" with the threat of going to trial being immediate.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Touring The Targa Florio And Sicily

OK, this is a Porsche Boxster infomercial.  But it gives a bit of a feel for what a 44-mile lap of the Targa Florio was like.  The scenery shots of Sicily are nice too.  The video runs 16 minutes.

As for the Targa: one lap is four times the length of the Tail of the Dragon, but with longer straights, more braking, and nearly as many curves (from the looks of those switchbacks).  One hard pass on the Dragon leaves me ready for a short break.  One lap of the Targa would wring me out.  The Targa usually lasted 10 laps, with the primary driver doing 6 of them.

The Presenter says the Targa makes the Nurburgring's Nordschleife "look like child's play."  Not so.  Nothing makes the Nordschleife look like child's play.  In the 1955 Targa, Peter Collins severely bent the Mercedes Benz 300 SLR he was co-driving with Stirling Moss.  "I hit a wall," he said, "but it wasn't a very good wall--it crumbled."  Three years later, Collins was killed on the Nordschleife when he ran wide in the Pflanzgarten.

Below are some pix of Porsche 908/2-018 in the 1969 Targa Florio, which also give a feel for the race and the roads.  Driven by Umberto Maglioli and Vic Elford, it came second to a sister car driven by Gerhard Mitter and Udo Schutz.

Power-on countersteer nearing the apex; spectators lining the road at the exit.  This is why the Targa no longer exists. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013


"Not that kind of draft, I need a draft!"  And what Formula V doesn't?  Hotshoe Wannabe in his Lynx at Road America.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Tonys' (And Stirling's) F-1 Vanwall

Tony Vandervell owned the Thin Wall Bearing Co. which made the thin shell bearings that replaced babbit bearings in modern cars.  The firm sold bearings or licensed the technology worldwide.  This was how Vandervell was able to buy an early 1950's Ferrari Formula 1 car (to study how to beat it) and "borrow" mechanical fuel-injection technology from Mercedes.

Vandervell had been on the Board of British Racing Motors, which designed and raced a V-16 Formula 1 car in the early 1950's.  BRM was backed by a consortium of British motor industry manufacturers.  The idea was to bring a World Championship to Britain.  The BRM was very complex and owed a lot, conceptually, to pre-war Mercedes GP cars.  But the car was not properly developed and the racing team was poorly managed.  Already late to the starting grids in 1949, the Type 15 BRM never finished a Grand Prix by the time a rules change made it obsolete at the end of 1951.

Vandervell was disgusted with BRM and went off to develop a Formula 1 car of his own.  Laid down in 1956, it was considerably refined by Colin Chapman and Frank Costin for 1957 and "perfected" in its championship year, 1958.  A historical footnote: the Vanwall put a period to the end of Colin Chapman's driving career.  An enthusiastic and sometimes winning club racer, he was allowed to practice for the French GP at Rouen in a Vanwall in 1957.  He had to use an escape road and damaged the car against a concrete post.  So his race entry was a DNS; he turned his attention to designing race cars full time, and never got behind the wheel in competition again.

Vandervell's star drivers in 1958 were Stirling Moss and Tony Brooks.

Moss's Vanwall at the Casablanca GP, 1958.  The car's driveshaft ran between the driver's legs instead of being offset
to the side like the Maserati 250 F's and the Ferrari Dino 246's, resulting in a higher cockpit and center of gravity.

Brooks reunited with the Vanwall at the Goodwood Revival 50 years after his most successful season, 1958.  He won
at Spa, the Nurburgring, and Monza.  But it was a win-or-bust season, and Moss was Vanwall's designated Number One
driver.    Moss and Brooks won the Manufacturer's Championship for Tony Vandervell, though, fulfilling his ambition
to "beat those bloody red cars."  In 1958 Vanwall adopted "wobbly web" alloy wheels.  But as the season progressed
they reverted to wire wheels up front to improve handling (presumably by adding understeer).  Brooks writes that the
Vanwall was hard to corner in the style he preferred, the four wheel drift with all four wheels sliding and the car's
attitude controlled by the throttle.  So he often cornered the car "geometrically," like a modern car on racing slicks.  

Tony Vandervell "went the other way" to beat Ferrari, emphasizing state-of-the-art technology.  Colin Chapman did a
space frame which Frank Costin enclosed in a wind tunnel-tested body.  The Vanwall pioneered the use of disc brakes
in Formula 1.  Instead of a short stroke, multi-cylinder engine, Vandervell went with a long stroke four.  This gave the
car excellent torque off slow corners.  To rival Ferrari's power, Vandervell "borrowed" Norton motorcycle cylinder head
design and mechanical fuel injection from Mercedes.  To this he added equal-length exhaust tubes tuned for extractor
 effect.  This anticipated the "bundle of snakes" exhausts used on Coventry-Climax and Ford V-8's in the early 1960's.
The Vanwall engine was a conceptual home run but it was plagued with strong vibration which shook loose ancillary
parts like throttle linkage, fuel injector pipes,  pumps, and the exhaust system.

The Vanwall was famous for its "tool room finish."  Fed up with his experience with the casually managed BRM team,
Tony Vandervell hired the best to design and race his car, and insisted on meticulous preparation.  In addition to Colin
Chapman and Frank Costin to design the car, he hired David Yorke to run the team and the best British drivers he
could get.  Vanwall was very much a nationalistic effort to show that Britain could beat the best Italy had to offer.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Poetry In Motion (Book Review)

"Tony Brooks is the greatest unknown racing driver there has ever been." --Stirling Moss.

Moss ought to know: he raced with and against Brooks for seven years.  At age 81 (next month), Brooks finally got around to his autobiography in 2012.  He got his start in car racing because his parents wanted him to stop haring around on public roads on his 650 c.c. Triumph Thunderbird bike.  His mother traded her MG TC for a Healey Silverstone, which Tony prepared for club racing.  He quickly earned a reputation as a fast, "safe pair of hands," which earned him guest drives in faster sports cars.

Tony Brooks (left) with Stirling Moss after they co-drove a Vanwall to victory in the 1957 British Grand Prix.  This
was Brooks's first victory in a major international race.  1957 was the last year when drivers could share a car and
split the World Driving Championship points won by its finishing position.  The Vanwall had inboard rear disc
brakes, the pad dust of which was sucked into and through the cockpit.  Thus the grimy faces except where covered
by goggles and helmets.  "We didn't know about the dangers of asbestos," says Brooks.

Brooks's first big break came in 1955, three years after he started racing, when Aston Martin retained him to drive the DB3S for a season--for a bit over $400!  At the time, he says, this was an average monthly wage in England.  Drivers shared in team prize money, but you didn't make the big bucks by turning pro.  An exception, Brooks later learned, was Moss, who already had a reputation and an agent.  Aston Martin paid Moss a retainer of $7000+, and he cleared over $13,000 driving Astons on a limited schedule in 1955 (he drove sports cars for Mercedes in most of the major races, as well as their W-196 GP car).

Aston Martin DB3S at Sebring, 1955.  While it did not have the power of Mercedes, Jaguar, and Ferrari, the DB3S was
a reliable and sweet-handling car.  With John Wyer's careful and strategic team management,  DB3S's finished well and
were in with a chance to win if the marquee marques faltered.

Brooks has no testimony to add to the extensive literature about the appalling crash at LeMans in 1955.
But he documents top speeds on the 4-mile Mulsanne straight.  Not until the Ford GT-40, ten years later, was the 300 SLR significantly surpassed:

182 m.p.h.  Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR (3.0 liters)
176 m.p.h.  Ferrari 410 S (4.9 liters)
174 m.p.h.  Jaguar D-Type (3.4 liters)
156 m.p.h.  Aston Martin DB3S (3.0 liters)

In 1956, Brooks drove for BRM in Formula 1 and Aston Martin again in sports cars.  BRM was a disaster as a team and Aston Martin was not much better for him personally, although the team had a good season.  The most noteworthy event was the appearance of Aston's DBR1, the replacement for the DB3S.  It would go on to great things over the next three years.  Brooks was captivated by the Nurburgring and Spa-Francorchamps in his first drives there.  He has interesting things to say about Peter Collins, Juan Fangio, Mike Hawthorn, and Stirling Moss as he got to know them and their driving styles better.

Brooks was on the Aston Martin sports car team and the Vanwall Formula 1 team in 1957.  He won the Nurburgring 1000 km in the Aston DBR1 which was 38 seconds faster than the DB3S had been.  Brooks credited its speed to the DBR1 being superb in the 'Ring's swoopy transitions.  In those days of 10-11 minute laps, it took 7.5 hours to complete 1000 km (of which the lead driver drove 67%).  He also won the Spa 3-hour race.  In pursuing him, Olivier Gendebien lapped at 126 m.p.h. in a 4.1 liter Ferrari.  Compare this with the Porsche 917's best lap of 162 m.p.h. and you can see that the old-timers were not hanging about on those skinny tires.

Above and below: the Aston Martin DBR1 announced its arrival as a fully-developed 3-liter race car by placing 1-2
at Spa-Francorchamps in 1957 and winning the Nurburgring 1000 km three years in a row ('57, '58,' and '59), and
LeMans in '59.   Pilote would not disagree with what seems to be the consensus in the U.K., that the DBR1 was the
best-looking racing sports car that Britain produced.

At the end of the 1957 season Brooks treated himself to an Aston Martin DB2/4 like this one.  His was black too, with
a silver top and an oxblood leather interior.  Yummy.

Brooks points out something that had not occurred to me: that the change in Formula 1 regulations for 1958-1960 were tailor-made for the emergence of rear-engine cars.  Alcohol blend fuel was replaced with gasoline.  Race distance was reduced from 500 to 300 kilometers.  This allowed "boutique" car constructors to use the commercially available Coventry Climax engine and carry 40% less fuel--in a saddle tank over the driver's legs.  The curve of Cooper race cars "growing up" from 500 c.c. club racers crossed the curve of Formula 1 cars downsizing.  The intersection was the 2.5-liter normally aspirated gasoline engine.  All John Cooper needed was another half liter from Coventry Climax, and all Colin Chapman needed was to ask himself "how do I build a better Cooper?"

Brooks even speculates that the change may have accelerated Juan Fangio's retirement, although he was already 46 years old.  Fangio's racecraft was legendary: his ability to suss out other drivers' weaknessess and to conserve his own tires and brakes.  These skills became far less useful in a 2-hour, 180-mile sprint.

Peter Collins (Ferrari Dino 246) chases Tony Brooks (Vanwall) through Eau Rouge in the 1958 Belgian Grand Prix.  It
was Brooks's first solo Grand Prix victory (Collins was DNF).  Brooks preferred to waltz his cars through a series of fast
bends to outbraking maneuvers.  He loved the "four wheel drift" illustrated by both cars here, where an understeering
car goes through a corner with all four tires operating at significant slip angles, with the attitude of the car controlled
by the throttle.  He was noted for his quickness on fast courses, resulting from a smooth style more than banzai moves.

When Vanwall retired from Grand Prix racing, Brooks was recruited by Ferrari for 1959.  As his 4-year contract with Aston Martin had expired too, he agreed to drive sports cars for Ferrari as well.  Like most others at the time, he loved Ferrari's engines and gearboxes: free-revving, powerful, and silky smooth.  But Ferraris understeered, which cost them time in the corners.  Brooks found the Dino easier to drive than a Vanwall (he could "drift" it) but slower.  At the Nurburgring 1000 km sports car race, his 250 Testa Rossa came third behind Moss's Aston Martin DBR1--which won the race for the third year in a row.  Fifty years on, Brooks's fantasy racing sports car is a Ferrari 250 TR power train in an Aston Martin DBR1 chassis.

In 1959 the German Grand Prix was moved from the Nurburgring to Avus, in Berlin.  Avus was a dumb and dangerous course: two 2.5 mile stretches of Autobahn (separated by 17 feet with closing speeds of 340 m.p.h.), with a hairpin bend at one and and a high-speed brick banking at the other.  But the banking was tighter than the cars' top speed, so they had to be "driven" around it.  The venue was changed because the promoters could not make enough money at the Nurburgring.  (It was changed back after this one race.)  So the current move in U.S. road racing, from "legitimate" road circuits to dumb street courses in major cities, which Pilote decries, is no new thing.  And the reason for it is the same.

Above and below: Tony Brooks in the Ferrari Dino 246/256 in 1959 and 2008.  He won at Reims and Avus for Ferrari
but finished third in the WDC behind Jack Brabham and Stirling Moss in Coopers.  The rear engine revolution had
begun.  And, surprisingly for Ferrari, the Dino had reliability problems in 1959 that it had not suffered the year before.

Brook's first child was born at the end of 1959, and he decided to retire from full-time racing.  Although he'd received his degree in dentistry in 1957, he chose not to join his father's practice.  Instead, he opened a car dealership which would give him more flexibility to race part time, in Formula 1 only.     But he made three bad career moves in a row, the first of which was to leave Ferrari (who wanted him to race sports cars as well as GP).  Tony Vandervell promised a new rear engine Vanwall for 1960, which never materialized.  Brooks raced privately entered Coopers in 1960 with minimal success.  BRM promised their own V-8 in a rear engine car for 1961.  The engine wasn't ready in time and the car was overweight.  He found the new 1.5 liter cars unchallenging to drive, "oversized go-karts," and BRM as dysfunctional as they had been six years earlier.  After a podium finish at the end of 1961, he retired from racing--period--and walked away.

I have a weakness for biographies of English racing drivers who came up in Postwar Austerity Britain:
Stirling Moss, Tony Brooks, and Chris Nixon's excellent dual biography of Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins, Mon Ami Mate.  The English club racing scene was so different from the States, with oddball cars, eccentric drivers, and its emphasis on sportsmanship.  Not that Americans like Phil Hill, Dan Gurney, and Richie Ginther were dirty drivers--far from it.  (Brooks himself has nothing but praise for the Americans, and is far more critical of the racing tactics of Jean Behra, Wolfgang Von Trips, and Graham Hill.)  But individualistic ambition was never far below the surface in the States.  Brits at least tried to disguise it with cameraderie.  And they did have a joint project, of sorts.  British marques were also-rans in the interwar period.  Among English drivers, only Dick Seaman achieved front-rank international status.  After the war, English drivers and boutique manufacturers were determined to make their mark in FIA racing.  And they did.

The tone and approach of European biographers is different, and more interesting.  The American racing biographies I've read are fact-packed, and full of hero-worship.  "He did this, and then he did that, and isn't he amazing?"  The English and continental stuff is written at a much more personal level, and wanders down the byways of road trips, continental tourist notes, and personal opinions tossed off as an aside.  You get a much better sense of the times, the people, the cars, and the places.  I had high hopes for Poetry In Motion, and was not disappointed.

Two other anciens pilotes who survived road racing's most dangerous era: Stirling Moss gives Phil Hill a Lap of
Honor at Goodwood in an Aston Martin DBR1.  Toward the end of his life, Hill could not drive because of his
Parkinson's Disease.  In the 1950's and early 1960's, Formula 1 racers routinely drove front-rank sports cars in
major international events.  Brooks and Moss won the Nurburgring 1000Km race three years in a row in the
DBR1, although they never co-drove.  Hill couldn't catch them.  But he had a much better record in endurance
racing, winning LeMans three times, and Sebring in 1959, with Olivier Gendebien in Ferrari 250 Testa Rossas.
All three won consistently in Grand Prix racing in the order they "came up:" Moss, Brooks, and Hill.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Porsche 962 Video / Norbert Singer Interview

I enjoy some of Chris Harris's videos.  The production is elegant and his interviews are interesting.  This one runs 14 minutes.  The "driving impression" segments are too Gee Whiz for me, but the Norbert Singer interview is educational.

At Road America in 1988, the customer 962's were almost as fast as CART single-seaters were.  Chip Robinson/Derek Bell, in Al Holbert's Lowenbrau car, came second to Geoff Brabham/John Morton in the Nissan GTP.  I enjoyed the race almost as much as I did CART at Road America.  True, the 962's cylinder heads were water cooled, but the barrels were air-cooled by a vertical fan.  So the 956/962 was still a Porsche.   ;-)

As for the difference between spool and locker differentials, I'm still at sea after some internet research.  They seem the same to me in their effect on handling, and very similar in design.  I'll guess that Norbert was suggesting that he'd put a Torsen diff in a racing sports car if he was designing it today.

The aero ground-effects tunnels of the 962 seen from the rear.

Al Holbert's 962 won some IMSA championships and ran at the front for years.  The preparation and appearance were
Penske-like--always the class of the field.  Holbert's race number, going back to his 911 RSR's of the early 1970's, was
14: the same as his father Bob's Porsche Spyders.  (Below: Bob's RS 61 Spyder at Cumberland, MD in '61.)

Friday, January 18, 2013

'Splain This To Me, Please... (The '02-'05 'Bird)

The 2002-2005 Ford Thunderbird

I never understood why this car didn't sell.  My neighbors down-the-street have one that looks just like the one in the pictures.  It's going on 10 years old now, still looks sharp (always clean as a pin), and I'm guessing they'll hold onto it.  It still turns my head when they drive by.

Obviously they're not keeping it for the investment value.  The most recent 'Bird sank like a rock.  And that's what I don't understand.  It's not an aggressive enough car for me--I wouldn't have bought one.  But it was aimed at the personal luxury car market, and I don't see where it missed the mark there.  The specs: a 280 h.p. 4-cam V-8 with variable valve timing and a 5-speed automatic with a manual mode.  That would seem to be right in the wheelhouse of the 'Bird's market segment.

Granted, it doesn't use space efficiently and it's not economical to run.  Granted, it's not a canyon-carver. But since when were those benchmarks in the p.l.c. market segment?  It might not have had the cachet of a Bimmer or a Mercedes--but it looked better than either of them.  The only thing that might explain the 'Bird's failure is the dashboard and center stack, which look uncomfortably close to a cheap GM offering:

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Off Topic: Jury Duty

Pilote has jury duty next week--maybe longer if he gets on a case.  There is a slim thread from which to hang this post on a motorsports blog: a case involving an automobile.

Thirty-odd years ago, I was on a jury that heard a case involving felony assault--with a car.  A guy had taken his wife and kids out for ice cream, and they decided to eat it at a city park overlooking a lake.  The (resident) local park ranger walked out to tell them that the park was, or soon would be, closing--and they should move along.  Hot words were exchanged.  The driver of the car reversed it abruptly in a 90-degree turn and peeled out. The park ranger got his license number and filed criminal charges for assault with a deadly weapon.  It took us less than 20 minutes to acquit the driver.

The judge and the defense lawyers visited us (separately) to thank us for our service, and we talked about the case.  It turned out that the plaintiff had a reputation for getting into disputes.  He was the kind of officious, petty, tyrant you would not want in certain kinds of jobs--like local park ranger.  He insisted, against advice of the local prosecutor, that the case go to trial.  Apparently the prosecutor did not feel able to "just say no."  The judge told us that an FBI agent was in the back of the courtroom while testimony was heard, waiting to get a warrant.  "What kind of idiot brings a case like that?" was his question of the judge.

The other case my jury heard was a civil dispute between the owner of a failed gas station and Sunoco.  His complaint was that Sunoco did not sufficiently support him as a franchisee, causing the business to fail.  The parties settled halfway through testimony, so we didn't hear it to conclusion.  We were told they settled because Sunco's attorney's cross-examination of the plaintiff's expert witness was very effective, undermining his case.  And it was.  The expert witness was an accountant who specialized in doing the books for gas stations.  Under cross, he said "Gas stations fail all the time because people who don't know what they're doing get into the business."

A decade later, I was called for jury duty again in a different State.  I waited with lots of others in the jury pool room: Monday....Tuesday...Wednesday...  On Thursday afternoon, some of us were called up to a courtroom.  We waited again: 10 minutes... 20 minutes...  Finally the judge came in and dismissed us, apologizing for the delay.  "But I want you to know that even this inconvenience, which may look useless to you, served a purpose.  I had two litigants who refused to settle, although I've pressed them for months.  I told them in chambers as you were being called up here that I was taking them to trial right now unless they settled.  Which they did, while you were waiting.  So thankyou for saving my courtroom for a case that needs to go to trial."

I've heard plenty of jokes about jury duty.  Like the one that asks "Would you want to put your fate in the hands of 12 people too dumb to get out of jury duty?"  I've also heard the saying "The law is not about fairness, it's about the law."  True enough.  But I'm old-fashioned: I consider it an obligation of citizenship.  My experience is that potential jurors are unhappy, bored, and even resentful of being called.  But the actual jurors I served with were very conscientious when we heard cases.

I hope to get on a case next week.  Not something appalling, like an axe murder.  Or something that will give me a headache, like a complicated civil case.  But the obligation of citizenship--the duty of a
juror--is to play the hand he's dealt.  I'm taking a book to fill my time.  At worst, I will have finished a good book amid the dull roar of people on their cell phones and iPads.  At best, I will have played a small part in some rough form of justice being served.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The "Tea Tray" March 711

A March 711 at a modern vintage race.  This is the "standard spec" car, as opposed to the one pictured below.

Love it or hate it.  Can't say I loved it, but I thought the 711 was an interesting car.  Not everyone agrees: I pulled a picture (not used here) from a web post about "the 10 ugliest Formula 1 cars of all time."  (From my viewpoint, the list of ugly F-1 cars has become quite long since the 1990's).  The 711 was successful, carrying Ronnie Peterson to second place in the 1971 World Championship, behind Jackie Stewart in his slope-nosed Tyrrell 003.

The 711 was designed by Frank Costin, noted for his low drag body designs in the 1950's and 1960's.  Colin Chapman recruited Costin from De Havilland Aircraft (on a consulting basis) to do the Lotus IX and Eleven.  Frank was the older brother of Mike Costin, the "Cos" in Cosworth Engineering.  The "worth" was Keith Duckworth.  Their most famous product (mostly Keith's) was the Cosworth-Ford V-8 Grand Prix engine, designed specifically for the Lotus 49 as a load-bearing chassis member.  It powered everybody but Ferrari in the late 1960's and early 1970's, and dominated GP and Indy car racing for 20 years.  But I digress...

After the Lotus Eleven, Frank went on to do the Vanwall GP car, a LeMans coupe for Maserati, and others.  The 711 was in that tradition.  Side radiators freed the front of the car for a low-drag solution, and Costin thought his was better than the Lotus 72's wedge shape with end-plated side wings, mounted lower.  The 711 turned out to be a blind alley in GP car development, but the aeronautically-oriented thinking was creative.

 Stripped down: a March 711 back-in-the-day, without fairings around the radiators or an air-intake box.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

...And The ADMAS Nominees Are...

The Academy of Dragon Motion Arts & Sciences here nominates the cars we would least like to drive on the Dragon.  (The ADMAS is the most regular readers of this blog.)

Others may feel differently.  Which is part of the the point of this exercise: further nominations are open.  Including two-wheeled (or heaven forbid, three-wheeled) vehicles.  Just use the Comment Window for your own.  Reasons must be supplied, and they should make an attempt at being fact-based.

Other categories may be established from time to time.  Cars or bikes we would most like to make a Dragon pass with is obvious; the problem is the limited number and general agreement.  How about Rides I Would Most Like To Be Seen In At The DGMR--But Not Drive?  (A Harley Earl Cadillac convertible comes to mind...)  Cars I Want To Drive But Not Be Seen In?  Best/Worst Dragon Pretender?  Let the creativity begin!

Pilote wonders why no newer cars made our first list.  Is this because they are so vice-free?  It's easy to imagine being bored on the Dragon in a Toyota Tercel or a Chevy Aveo.  But it's hard to imagine them biting us in our butts, like these nominees.


The Fiat Abarth 750/850:  The Director's Cut specifies the pass be made on its original cross-ply tires.  Radials would reduce the Difficulty Factor from diabolical to merely breathtaking.  The image was chosen to illustrate weight distribution.

The 1969 Mustang Mach 1:  The Director's Cut specifies the 351 cu. in. 2-barrel carb model, which adds a lack of power to lack of brakes, handling, and steering feel.  The image illustrates the Mach's impressively high roll-center.

The Crosley, any Crosley:  It comes to mind first among many examples of engineering best described using the fraction 1/2 and and a three-letter word beginning with "a."  The image illustrates the sporty model, the Hot Shot: clearly the best Crosley for the Dragon.  Or a golf cart: in the late 1950's, before battery carts existed, Pilote's grandfather and his foursome used a stripped-down Crosley, rebodied with bag racks, to navigate the Hubbard (OH) Country Club.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Unfamous 917's (And A Video)

No Gulf Oil baby-blue-and-orange or swoopy-tailed 917L's here.  Just a stroll down the byways of 917 history.  Yes, the 917 re-wrote the performance expectations for "production" racing sports cars.  And in hiring John Wyer to run the factory team, Porsche insured that the cars and drivers would be ready to play on game day.  (The 10-minute video at the bottom is the 917 segment of Alain de Cadenet's Victory By Design TV show about Porsche).

But the professional teams used only about 18 of the 30 or so chassis Porsche built (and some of theirs were re-sold to privateers 1970-1971).  What about the other 12?  Who raced 917's besides factory teams?  What did their cars look like and how did they do?  Here are six examples.  And yes, this post is partly an excuse to put up some more pix of Pilote's favorite racing sports car...
Rebuilt half-shafts, just because Pilote thinks they look so cool.  The sleeve adjusts for changes in driveshaft length
resulting from suspension travel.  The Giubo rubber joints were commonly used in those days to absorb shock in the
drive train and changes in angular motion.

917-007, the first chassis sold to a private entrant.  (Or second, depending on how you count 005, destroyed at
LeMans in 1969.)  917-007 had an unremarkable FIA race history, followed by a similar one as an Interserie spyder.
(The Interserie was the European version of North America's Can-Am.)  It is now restored to its endurance racing
specification as a coupe.  This pic looks like it was taken at one of the Nurburgring's jumps.

917-010 was the first car delivered to a private entrant, David Piper, in August of 1969.  He raced the car extensively
for three years, in at least four color schemes, depending on sponsorship.  Some podiums in major events, including a
win in South Africa in 1969.  The picture above is 010 at Monza in 1970: DNF, transmission.

Piper (behind car) has vintage raced 917-010 for many years in these colors, a knock-off or tribute to the red/white
scheme of the 1970 LeMans-winning car of Porsche Salzburg, except in "Piper Racing Green," as were all of his race
cars in the 1960's.  This picture was taken at the Rennsport Reunion at Daytona in 2007.  The competition number is
Piper's age at the time and, yes, he demo-ed the car.

917-018 at the Buenos Aires 1000 km, 1971, its only FIA championship race.  DNF, transmission.  This picture is from
that race, possibly upon its retirement: Carlos Reutemann is pointing at the car, talking to a mechanic, while Emerson
Fittipaldi stands between them, hands on hips.  018 was bought new from Porsche by Alex Soler-Roig in 1970.  He
won several non-championship events in it in Spain, but his entry for LeMans in 1971 was not accepted.

917-018 at the 2007 Rennsport Reunion, wearing modern BBS wheels for track demo purposes.  It was restored from
the frame up, including a rebuilt and strengthened frame, in 2000.  018 and 030 (below) are Pilote's favorite 917's:
plain German Racing White/Silver, with few graphics.

 917-021 at the Watkins Glen Six Hours in its Martini & Rossi-sponsored "hippie car" days.  It came ninth.  While its
sister car, the long-tail 917-043, done in the same color scheme, achieved some fame by finishing second at LeMans
in 1970, 021 was always an also-ran or a DNF.

917-021 in its street car days, one of two conversions that actually were street-driven for a few years.

917-021 was recently restored to racing specification and its Martini & Rossi livery.  There is a provenance dispute
about 021, which I'm incompetent to weigh-in on.  It's either this car, or the one recently restored by Gunnar Racing
to 1970 LeMans yellow/red "Sandeman" livery, entered by David Piper (DNF).  917 chassis were sometimes rebuilt
using new numbers (or back-numbered by John Wyer's team).

Dominique Martin's 917-025 at Monza in 1971, where he came 15th.  He and the car did several other FIA and non-
FIA races with similar results (DNF at LeMans, for one).  He offered the car for sale in Road & Track in 1972 for $30,000.
That would be north of $300,000 in today's money, a lot for an obsolete race car.

917-025 at a vintage event, restored to its appearance as raced at LeMans in 1971.  It is now in the Collier Museum.
Dominique Martin was Swiss, a true amateur who raced a Ford GT-40 before buying a 917.  Perhaps the blue accents
in his car's color scheme were a nod to his French heritage.  He named his team Zitro racing and apparently had minor
Lufthansa Airlines sponsorship for LeMans (logo next to Zitro on the rear deck).

917-030, an unraced car used for testing and converted for road use, with a tan leather interior, for Count Rossi.  The
conversion was done in 1975 as a thankyou for Martini & Rossi sponsoring a 917 factory team.  The car is unchanged
since then.  Apparently you could (or can?) license a race car for road use in Alabama, even if it never left Europe.

The first 25 917's built, in the factory yard in April of 1969, ready for FIA inspection.

The video recounts (among other things) the story of how Porsche finessed the FIA, using its own rules, into certifying a prototype racer as a "production car" by building 25 of them.  The talking head at the beginning is Doug Nye, a British racing journalist and author.