Saturday, March 30, 2013

That Other U2L Trans-Am Car (Alfa GTA/GTV)

Horst Kwech was born in Austria, raised in Australia, and emigrated to the States in 1961.  He developed an Alfa Romeo tuning (and race car manufacturing) business in the Chicago suburbs.  He  was a front-rank SCCA competitor in Alfas from 1966 to 1971.

The power train of the GTA/GTV came straight from the Giulia series of sports cars and sedans of the early 1960's: 1.6 liter DOHC engine, 5-speed gearbox, solid rear axle.  Both versions had aluminum body panels and plastic windows.  The principal difference was that the GTV's engine was taken out to 1.75 liters.

In the early days of Trans-Am, the Porsche 911 was competitive with the Alfa GTA (and also "owned" C-Production).  But Porsche was concentrating on prototype racing in Europe, so lightweight versions of the 911 were not available to SCCA racers in the States.  It fell behind in development and out of contention, especially as preparation rules for the Trans-Am pro series were liberalized.

By 1971, Kwech was the only Trans-Am Under Two Liter competitor who could consistently run with the factory-supported B.R.E. Datsuns.  (The other principal competitor in the U2L class was the BMW 2002.)  And run with them he did.  He gave the B.R.E Datsuns fits all season long; the championship went down to the last race of the season at Laguna Seca where it was decided in favor of Datsun.  For those who cared about U2L, the competition between between Alfa and Datsun was just as captivating as the "Mustang-Camaro Wars" in the big-bore class.

Although Kwech was born in Austria and his business and racing career were based in the Chicago suburbs, he was
raised "Down Under" and considered himself Australian.  Thus the Kangaroos on his GTA and helmet.  This car was
built by Autodelta, Alfa's racing subsidiary, thus the four-leaf clover logo.  Note the lack of a full roll cage and a
"proper" racing seat: the mid 1960's were the crossover from amateur to "full pro" preparation standards in the SCCA.

The color and the car's stance in this shot say "Alfa Romeo:" nose lift, nose dive, and body roll.  Kwech won both the
amateur B-Sedan and Trans-Am U2L championships in 1966.  In terms of street cars, the GTA was a reintroduction or
revival of the Giulietta Sprint coupe of the 1950's, sold side-by-side with the updated Spider--"The Graduate" version
used by Dustin Hoffman in the film of the same name.   

The story of the 1971 Trans-Am season: just reverse the cars from race-to-race or lap-to-lap.

Kwech's "all pro" (sponsored) Alfa for 1971 was a GTV, not a GTA, although they were essentially the same car.  By
now it had left-hand drive, a fully caged roll bar, and stiffer suspension.  This is the restored car at a vintage event.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Durty Gurl (Spring, '13 Dragon Run)

This what the car looked like in the parking lot of the hotel on Monday morning.  For Tuesday morning's look, add 5
inches of fresh snow.

I've never thought of my cars as gendered, but Durty Gurl came to mind after two days on the Dragon. It resulted in more salt, sand, and just plain crud than "she" had seen in one place at one time before.  A plow went through early Monday morning and left coils of road salt mid-corner on the tightest bends.  Monday's four passes were crunchy.

My fellow Dragoneer for this trip was Hotshoe Wannabe, as he was a year ago (when the weather was mild and sunny).  We arrived Sunday evening just before the snow.  On Monday morning, we checked the Tail of the Dragon Store's on-line cameras: wet, but not slushy.  "Let's take a shot..."  The Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort was closed, so we drove into Robbinsville for gas.  The stretch of U.S. 129 between the dam and Robbinsville winds along the Cheoah River--gorgeous.  It was the discovery of this trip.

We decided to go to Franklin on NC 28 on Monday afternoon, hoping that the Dragon would be dry on Tuesday.  NC 28 is great fun at each end--almost Dragon-like.  The history of Franklin is worth exploring, from an Indian burial mound to the last surrender of Confederate forces east of the Mississippi (a month after Appomattox).  The town's Historical Museum has good artifacts and maps. Monday evening, in the hotel lobby, I heard something I hope never to hear again.  A young man with a melodic tenor voice, playing a ukelele, did a rendition of "The Weight."  Dude!  You're covering Levon Helm's reedy tenor and The Band's powerful descending chords?!?!?  Simply awful.

Tuesday morning, Durty Gurl had 5 inches of fresh snow on her and the Dragon Store's camera showed a snow-covered road.  We waited it out.  By lunchtime, the Dragon was just wet.  But the DGMR now had a sign taped to the door saying "Closed Due To Inclement Weather."  So much for Hotshoe's souvenir baseball cap.  Wusses!  ;-)

Needless to say, we had the road almost to ourselves for eight passes.  A crew was clearing small trees (and sawing them up in the road) around Mile Marker 3.  The worksite was well-marked with temporary signs a few bends before.  At the Overlook we talked to a guy driving a Saturn crossover SUV with Virginia plates.  He was just passing through.  He'd heard about the Dragon and wanted to see it. We also chatted with a couple of guys from Michigan driving a Subie WRX who where there for serious passes.  A Honda S-2000 with Florida plates made a couple of passes.  We saw one cruiser motorcycle make a single careful through-pass on his way north.  The rider deserves an award for something: the ambient temperature was right at freezing.  

It turns out you can have almost as much fun on the Dragon when it's wet.  Our passes were at about 80-85% of dry pass speed (as measured by speedo readings mid-corner).  So if a dry pass is at 8/10's, these passes were at 6/10's+.  While you can't bear down, the sense of rhythm is still there.  You can have plenty of fun on a Damp Dragon.

Although this pic does not show it as well as I'd hoped, the front wheels and tires are encrusted with completely dry
road salt.  The rears are wet.  Of course, in a front-driver, the rears are just along for the ride.  The pic was taken after
a 6/10's pass with moderate braking at 32 degrees ambient.  After an 8/10's pass in 70 degrees ambient last fall, the
front spokes were too hot to touch.   The Dragon pumps a lot of heat through the brakes, hubs, wheels and tires of a
street car.  I like to let my wheels cool down to "warm to the touch" before making another hard pass.  And as the end
of a pass nears, I slow down to let the airstream cool the brake rotors (a Killboy tip that works well).

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Aerial View Of A Fun Fest

My spring Dragon run with Hotshoe is at hand.  Last year (almost to the day) the weather was sunny, in the low 70's, with a light breeze.  This year we'll settle for tolerable--if we can get it.  (I've wanted to make some Dragon passes in the rain.  Be careful what you wish for...)  And again we'll throw in a day of relaxed tourism on roads we haven't driven.  Part of the fun is not over-planning the fun.

If you haven't been to the Dragon, videos give a good feel for it.  My favorite, for teaching purposes, remains Killboy's "Jay Multistrada:"  As you watch how he handles his car on his southbound pass, remember that the Dragon looks and feels different northbound.  Northbound videos are on Killboy's site too.

The Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort's map (above) is the best for "feel" because it's to scale and includes topography.  The other maps, with labeled turns and features are useful for picking out landmarks (guardrail, Parsons Branch, stone wall).  These in turn help you to remember the bends near them. After a few runs you begin to learn parts of a full pass.  But there is no way to memorize the entire Dragon unless you drive it frequently.  That's one of the things that makes it fun.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Phil Hill's Stills

Phil Hill at the Portuguese Grand Prix, 1959.

Nice bit of filial piety, Derek.  And how many young men or women get to drive a car (OK, a recreation) that took their father to a World Driving Championship 14 years before they were born?  The video is obviously a promo for a forthcoming book.  Pilote is all-in for it when it comes out.  Authors: Dawson, Nye & Hill; title apparently not finalized.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Maserati 3500 GT

Here's a link to Jay Leno's video of his restored 3500 GT:

I loved this car when it came out: so classy.  The body was designed by Touring (Milan).  I thought it was introduced in 1960, but Wikipedia says 1957, which makes the styling even more impressive.  It looks better in dark colors like the blue above, and without the rear vent windows on Leno's car (the early cars had better tail lights too).  But Leno's retention of the original color was a no-brainer with the paint in such great shape.

Even to a 15-year-old, it was clear that the Maserati was a GT, not a sports car.  It was obviously big and heavy (although I'm surprised to learn from Leno's video that the controls are heavy too).  Its solid rear axle, hung from semi-elliptic springs, was hardly state-of-the-art.  It was built for the Autoroutes and Interstates then beginning to spider over Western Europe and the States.  While not as sophisticated as the Ferrari 250 GT, the Maser's huge trunk made it a better road trip car.  The dash and interior were the best Italy had to offer.  It was priced to compete with the 250 GT and the Aston Martin DB 4.  (I remember the XK-E costing half as much, not the 1/3 Leno mentions, but there's no arguing against it as the best value in the GT market).

But when it came to styling, the Italians led the world in the postwar era until the early 1970's.  They cranked out car after breathtaking car.

Monday, March 18, 2013

My Club's Indoor Driving School & Conga Line

How to join the club, register for events, what to expect, safety equipment, basic car preparation, tech inspection,
corner flags, driving technique, and "Do As I Say, Not As I Did That One Time I Just Told You About."

Each March, my sports car club has an Indoor Drivers' School.  It's partly about pitching prospective new members and partly orientation.  For me, it has become the Official Notification of Spring.  In the past few years, the Indoor School has been at Autobahn Country Club.  And I've "worked" the school, which involves the onerous duty of greeting newbies and answering questions.  ;-)   The payoff for workers is free laps in conga lines behind experienced wheel-to-wheel drivers (the newbies pay $20) --all of us in our street cars.

Leaving the pit lane in my conga line.  Somewhere up there, ahead of three Bimmers and a Mercedes station wagon(!)
is our Leader in a Dodge Neon SRT-4.  Behind me, a Miata.

The conga line is a great way to shake off winter doldrums.  I unlearn some of my lazy road driving habits, hone some good habits, and focus once again on driving a proper line.  Renewal.  And lately it has become my annual tune-up for the Tail of the Dragon.  This year our conga leader took it slow: 45 m.p.h. on the straights and 6/10's in the corners.  At the end we did two "fast laps" laps at 60 m.p.h. and 7/10's.  I drove the entire 3.6 miles in 3rd gear.  No shifting or heavy braking lets you concentrate on your lines.  Last year we jumped right in at 8/10's.  I worked hard and erratically to keep up.  It's easier to sort yourself out at moderate speeds before using the wheel and pedals harder.

After three seasons of conga, I'm finally getting the hang of ACC.  Especially the South Loop's Turns 1 and 2 double-apex complex and the North Loop's deceptively tightening Turn 6.  Autobahn is more challenging--and fun--than its flatness might suggest.  My retirement from High Speed Autocross is probably permanent.  It uses up the consumables (tires, brakes) and brings out the limitations of street cars fairly quickly.  My Civic Si feels agile in daily driving; body roll is rarely noticeable.  After a few laps at HSAX cornering speeds, it begins to feel slow to respond to steering inputs and sloppy in the body-roll department: tedious to drive.

But 12 to 18 laps in a conga line, after a long winter, is ideal for blowing the cobwebs out.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

46 Years Ago At Sebring (Ford GT 40 Mark II)

Ken Miles in Chassis 110, in the Webster Chicane at Sebring, 1966.

When I posted that Ford built only one GT 40 roadster, I forgot about this one.  Ken Miles and Lloyd Ruby won Sebring 46 years ago next weekend in this Mark II.  They had already won Daytona.  It has passed into legend that Miles was denied a Triple Crown when Ford staged a photo-finish at LeMans. He was a lap ahead of the Bruce McLaren/Chris Amon Mark II when Ford ordered him to back off near the end of the race.  His car had been gridded one spot the behind the McLaren/Amon car at the start, and thus covered a few feet less total distance.  Miles was partnered with Denny Hulme at LeMans because Lloyd Ruby was racing Indy cars in the States.  Nobody has ever won Daytona, Sebring, and LeMans in the same year.

But I learned in preparing this post that, at Sebring, Miles had lost a lap to the Mark II coupe of  Dan Gurney and Jerry Grant when he pitted to change a cracked brake disc.  He got the lap back, but was still well behind when Gurney's engine blew on the back straight on the last lap.  An astonished Miles cruised by to win.  So, if he was robbed at LeMans, Miles was Sebring's Cinderella.  He was killed at Riverside Raceway early the next year, testing the successor to the Mark II, the Mark IV used by Gurney and A.J. Foyt to win LeMans in 1967.

Chassis 110 had an unusual and star-crossed history too.  Ford Advanced Vehicles (England) asked Abbey Panels, builder of the steel GT 40's, to do an aluminum roadster tub early in 1965.  It was sent to Kar Kraft in Detroit, who built "X-1" using a 7-liter NASCAR engine and an experimental automatic transmission.  It had Ford's 1965 LeMans Prototype front bodywork, including lights.  They ran it in four Can-Am races that fall with little success: it was bigger and heavier than purpose-built Can-Am cars.  At the end of the season, Ford shipped it to Carroll Shelby in Los Angeles.

That winter, Shelby American rebuilt the car into a new "standard" GT 40 Mark II for the 1966 championship season--the one pictured above.  Chassis 110 was slated to race at LeMans too, but took such a pounding from Sebring's bumps that it was parted-out for other Mark II's after its return to Los Angeles.  The aluminum tub was scrapped.  So, while two GT 40 roadsters were built by Ford, a steel Mark I and an aluminum Mark II, only the Mark I survives.

Friday, March 15, 2013

When Two Bales Are Barely Enough

Jo Bonnier's Cooper-Maserati on the outside of Burnenville at Spa-Francorchamps.  Good thing it wound up with the heavy end pointing toward the course.  He climbed out (one guesses carefully) and walked away.  It appears that his spin went through a full 360 degrees plus 90 (or even 810), so it must have started soon after corner-entry.  With luck or skill or both, he scrubbed off enough speed that two hay bales slowed him just enough.  Belgian Grand Prix, 1966.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Sublime On The Ridiculous: Ciudad Alcaniz

Alex Soler-Roig winning the VI Premio de Ciudad Alcaniz in his Porsche 917 in 1970.  Look at the spectators!

This picture is surprising.  The Mille Miglia "went under" in 1957 because it was too dangerous for spectators.  The Targa Florio would go under in 1973 for the same reason.  By 1970, all international races, including the Targa, had Armco guardrails between the spectators and the cars at "authorized viewing areas."  Other pictures of Alcaniz show guardrails.  But not here.

Although Alcaniz was part of the Spanish national championship series, the picture has the flavor of a local club race.  Another picture of the start of this race, partially obscured, shows five cars including another 908 and two small GT's: a skimpy grid.  A 917 at Alcaniz reminds me of the scene in Blazing Saddles when The Waco Kid asks Sheriff Bart "What's a dazzling urbanite like you doing in a rustic setting like this?"  (Speaking of dazzling urbanites,  Alex Soler-Roig was a wealthy Barcelonian who raced internationally with mixed results in sports cars and poor results in Grands Prix from the mid 1960's to the early 1970's.)

The map shows that (however it was laid out) the circuit was tight, and ran at least partially through the city.  It's hard to imagine a car capable of 200 m.p.h., built for World Sports Car Championship events, in a more muscle-bound situation.

Google map of Alcaniz today: population 16,000, about 150 miles west of Barcelona.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Fun With Search Terms (#1)

I sometimes check the stats for this blog.  It's interesting to see which posts are read the most (Porsche stuff, by a long way; after that, it's all over the map).  Like most bloggers, I post mostly for myself and whoever's out there with similar interests.  But the stats give some insight into what might entertain readers.

"Search Keywords" is useful.  What are people looking for?  Most keywords are unsurprising: iconic cars or racing names.  Or very specific, like "BRE Datsun SCCA specs" or "NHRA Super Stock rear suspension" or "Porsche 917 Kyalami 1969."  These searchers were on a mission.

Some of them are funny.  In fairness to the mis-directed, I've posted about one or more of the keywords, and the search engine plopped this blog into their laps.  Here are a few collected over the months, and the thought that came to my mind.

"hanging ship engine"  Huh?  And how did that get you here?

"American car colors"  Would you say I have a plethora of colors, Jefe?

"Meadowdale"  It's heartening that people are searching on Meadowdale.  Hope they're not all over 60.

"Allard chassis plate"  Like the Shelby GT 350 plates you can buy on Ebay for $2.50?

Saw this on a GT 350 that looked authentic enough at a vintage race.
Mentioned it to a guy knowledgable about Shelby Mustangs.  He said
"You can get those on Ebay for $2.50"

"Pininfarina spider restoration experts"  Uh...not on or near this blog...

"ultimate 458"  Redundant.

"Lotus nice"  Yes, they are.

"small block 331"  You must have had a ton of hits: decades at the top of the racing tree.

"Maserati Birdcage rolling chassis"  Good luck with that.

"Lotus XI for sale"  Ditto.

"Lotus Eleven inside"  If you find one, it won't have much of an inside.

"Alleggerita Honda Fit"  Why yes, they will!

"slot pilote 1960"  We didn't have slot cars back in the Cretaceous.  Our Matchbox cars fell off the banister.  Guess what this was:

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Driverless Car Rant

Driverless cars are coming, and sooner rather than later.  They're not just for techno-geeks any more.

"Highway safety" and environmental advocates want them.  The insurance industry wants them: way fewer accidents.  The Peeps will want them: you can multitask, or turn yours into a family room.  I've seen TV and web pieces on driverless cars published by reporters like the one below who are scared of driving, or think it's a waste of time that could be spent doing something--anything--more interesting and useful.

Public authorities want them: fewer traffic stops, accident investigations, and signage.  Red-light-runner problem in your town?  Viola!  The driverless car.  Police officers can be freed up to investigate crime. Fewer patrol cars and associated costs.  (This presents some interesting public policy problems.  Some states are already moving away from gasoline taxes to fund road repair because fuel-efficient cars are drying up the revenue stream.  Driverless cars won't help to fund police departments with traffic fines either.)

Perfectibility of driverless technology aside, most people just don't care about sensual and psychological engagement with a car.  Performance-oriented drivers complain that electric power steering removes road feel.  Traditionalists  among us prefer stirring the gearbox and mastering three pedals to "floppy paddles." This puzzles normal drivers: "Why would you want to manipulate the transmission?  That's what D and R are for!  If you can feel the tires' slip angles working, you're going too fast!"  We who like to drive cars are, and always have been, 10% of the population at best.

Jay Leno rightly predicts that twenty years hence, maybe sooner, the only place we'll be able to use our toys is at track days.   We'll take public transportation to work, or carpool in very clever 4 to 6 person modules inspired by Leafs, Priuses, LaCrosses, and hybrid minivans.  In urban and suburban areas, anyway.  (It will be surprising if the first vehicles to go driverless aren't fleet trucks, from 18-wheelers down to UPS and Fedex.  The human aboard will perform functions now done in the office, like dispatching and route-planning).

Here's a taste:

I'll be convinced that the technology is perfected when a driverless car can navigate the Tail of the Dragon in 15 minutes.  On my current cars, I usually leave the Stability Control switched on.  I would switch the ABS off most of the time if I could.  If I'm forced to buy driverless car capability, it'll be switched off all the time.  Except when commuting in freeway rush-hour traffic.



Ugh, ugh, UGH!

If he thinks he'll have his feet up, and not be belted-in, he's got another think coming.  And why is he reading a codex
book instead of a Nook or an iPad?  If we're gonna do this Brave New World stuff, let's do it.

The "styling" of the green car reminded me of this, which is more what I have in mind for "the driving experience."
Stan Mott did a series of cartoons for Road & Track around the turn of the decade in 1960.  According to Stan, the
Cyclops was built by Piero Martini from aluminum Cinzano signs he stole from Italian roadsides.  Automobili 
Cyclops installed a highly-tuned single-cylinder motorcycle engine in the back.  This is Martini himself
demonstrating the LeMans model, with a suitcase air-brake for the Mulsanne Straight.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Some FINE Old 8mm Film (Sebring 1958)

The link is to an Etceterini Blog page, and thanks again to The Chicane Blog for the link.  If you were  paying attention to sports car racing in the late 1950's, you'll recognize some of the drivers, cars, and teams at Sebring.

The small Modified classes in the SCCA were well-suppored in the Upper Midwest in the late 1950's into the late 1960's: Chuck and Suzy Dietrich, Al Beasley, and "Doc" M.R.J. Wylie (to name three) had very competitive, beautifully prepared, cars.  Suzy often ran in "Ladies Races" because she shared the car for the weekend with Chuck.  But she also competed with men, and in international events.  Both Dietrichs were fast.  Here's a 15-minute interview with Suzy Dietrich in her later years:

Suzy Dietrich with her blown MG TC.

Chuck and Suzy Dietrich taking a victory lap in his Elva Mk. VII at Mid-Ohio, probably in 1965.  While Chuck stuck
mostly to Elvas, Suzy drove a wide variety of production and modified cars.  He won the G Modified Championship in
a Bobsy in 1963.  A year earlier, "Doc" Wylie won the same class in a Lola.  Dietrich's customary competition number
was 57, which appears on his early Elvas in the videos in the Suzy Dietrich Collection.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Off Topic: Language Rant

I don't want English, American or British, to be a "dead" language, frozen in time and form.  The French have an Academy to tell them how to speak and what words are approved.  We don't need that. I'm all for newly invented words, and I don't complain (much) about turning nouns into verbs.  I Google.  It takes too long to say "I used a search engine to find..."

But some stuff still grates in the ears of an Ancien.  Like "graduate high school."  My kids say it.  Even our Columbia and Harvard-educated President, and Princeton-educated First Lady, say it.  (It's graduate from high school, people!)  If you lose the "from," you did something to your high school; you turned graduate into a verb.

One knows his language goose is cooked when the error shows up in TV commercials.  In one, a woman with yellow teeth says she got them whitened because she "doesn't want my daughter embarrassed of me."  (It's by me.)  Prepositions are clearly an endangered species: they're disappearing or switching places faster than I can keep up.

Now the proper use of plurals is under attack.  Xerox informs us on TV that they can help us with our "accounts payables."  It's accounts payable, people!  The plural form follows the verb, not the subject: you pay your accounts, you can't pays them.  Yet.  Unless you "pays your money and takes your choice."

Ranting against a usage becoming customary is futile.  But it makes me feel better.  "Graduate high school" still grates on my ear like fingernails on a blackboard.  Like "embarrassed of me" and "accounts payables."

Mostly Unsurprising Answers To An Interesting Question

The April issue of Road & Track published answers to a question posed at the Detroit Auto Show.  Here they are summarized in boldface, with my own observations in italic.  (See pp. 10-11 of the magazine if you want the names of the responders and their longer quotes).  Why nobody from G.M.?

Question: "What will have defined the U.S. market in five years' time?"

Audi: several approaches to energy efficiency; wi-fi connectivity.  So much for the fun of pre-planning a road trip with a Rand McNally Atlas, and enjoying the scenery, the drive, and the car.  When your co-pilot isn't plugged into the virtual world instead of the real one, he/she will be a necessary accessory to avoid distracted driving: your app concierge and amanuensis.

Ford: fuel economy.  Period, full stop.

Volkswagen: besides fuel economy, vehicle cost.  Fewer nameplates, more consolidation.  Porsche, the guppy that tried to swallow the whale in an unfriendly takeover bid, is now owned by VW.  Look for further acquisitions coming to a nameplate near you.

Bentley: CO2 emissions.  Thus that "Bentley Smart" urban concept car: get that CAFE up.

Mini: the customer experience; we want them to be part of "the Mini family."  Sounds like a recipe for the consolidation predicted by VW.  "The Saturn Family" didn't work for G.M. as a stand-alone brand.  It won't work for BMW either.  A Mini model sold from BMW showroom floors?

Dodge: fuel economy and styling. might want to get to work on that second part.  And don't Dodge Rams have the biggest engines you can get in a pickup?

Mercedes-Benz: more electric cars and alternative powertrains.

Tesla: electric cars.  What else would Tesla say?  Sounds like they want to get bought by Detroit, too.

Lincoln: value-for-money; not necessarily cheaper, but people will want value more than they want to make a personal statement. mean that Ininiti, Lexus, Mercedes, BMW, and Cadillac don't offer value for money?  Lincoln remains a brand in search of an identity.  It will take more than an ugly grille.  Maybe you could buy Tesla.

Jaguar: cars and engines will become smaller, but still internal combustion.  Americans will take a more European approach to purchasing decisions.  Marketing that new turbo 4-cylinder, eh? 

2013 Jaguar XF: "luxury car of the future," according to Jag, with a 240 h.p. turbo inline 4. 

In our various depths of in-the-tankness for the Ford Focus ST, Hotshoe, Pilote, and Watchtower have seen the future of the high-performance car: a turbo 4 or V-6, not an 8.  Maybe even a twin-turbo 1.4 liter four.  (G.M. can always sell enough Chevy Cruzes to offset a 6-liter Corvette; not all nameplates have that luxury.)  Despair not, however: a fix for the distracted driving of your internet hot spot is in my upcoming driverless car rant.   

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Monday, March 4, 2013

Another ADMAS Nominee

Now and then, another nominee for the Academy of Dragon Motion Arts & Sciences comes up: a car Pilote or others would least like to use for Dragon passes.  Here's one.  In 1963, Ford shipped two Galaxies with the 7-liter NASCAR engine to England.  They ran in the British Touring Car Championship.  When they set sail down a long straight (which most British courses lacked), they were uncatchable--until the next corner.  More often, they ran out of brakes before the races were over, and functioned as mobile chicane.  The white car, driven by Jack Sears, had some successes in the BTCC.

ADMAS nominations are always open.  To qualify, a car should have some pretense to performance or agility, and be offered for sale to the general public.  The Ford Galaxy barely makes the cut, because it was offered for sale with the big block engine and 4-on-the-floor, although the car in the pictures had a racing unit.  The nominees so far:

1) The Fiat-Abarth 750/850
2) The '69 Mustang Boss 302
3) Any Crosley
4) The '62-'66 Ford Galaxy 390/406/427

Either the right bank just let go or this is "normal" brake smoke  ;-).

Trying the outside on a Lotus Cortina and a Mini entering Paddock Hill Bend at Brands Hatch.  Optimism!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Brief History Of Times At Road America

This chart makes me think: about engines, tires, bodywork, and design engineering.  The one below is pulled from data compiled over the years.  It is as close to an every-five-years snapshot as I can force the data.  By "force" I mean that when the time itself is a benchmark, it trumps the "every 5 years rule."  (Mark Donahue's time in the Porsche 917/30 was one such--it stood as the lap record for 11 years.)  Road America and Road Atlanta are the only courses in the U.S. that are unchanged since they were built.  (Mosport in Canada is also unchanged.)

So the baseline for historical comparison is there.  Mostly.  Road America has been resurfaced twice, widened once, and it now has extra pavement at some corner exits.  So it is a faster course than it was 50 years ago.  But it is four miles around: long, straight, and fast, by road course standards.  Corner improvement has less effect on lap times at Road America than elsewhere.

Data in normal typeface is for race-winning speeds.  Data in italics is for qualifying speeds.  The early races were 500-milers, and included pit stops.  Can-Am and Formula 5000 races were sprints with no pit stops.  CART races included pit stops, but most of the data shown is for qualifying laps.  NASCAR Nationwide and ALMS races include pit stops, but the speed shown is for a "hot lap,"not the average winning speed.

Despite all the disclaimers above, the lap speeds are comparable.  For example, a current ALMS GT car is about as fast as an "unlimited" Can-Am car was in 1969--with an engine 20% smaller and maybe 60% more weight.   If you had offered me a bet that a current Nationwide car is faster around Road America than a Chaparral 2B was, I'd have taken it...

The highest trap speeds I'm aware of are 202 m.p.h. by Bobby Rahal, circa 1991, in a CART car trimmed out for qualifying, and Jonny Cocker's 190 m.p.h. in the Lola-Judd ALMS P-1 car.

YEAR   CAR                                    DRIVER                        LAP TIME        SPEED (MPH)    

1955      Ferrari Monza 3.0                Phil Hill                              3:00:0                  80
1960      Scarab 5.4 Chev                   Augie Pabst                         2:44.4                   88
1965      Chaparral 2B 5.4 Chev        Jim Hall                              2:28.8                   97
1969      McLaren M8B 7.0 Chev      Denny Hulme                     2:08.4                  112
1973      Porsche 917/30 5.4               Mark Donahue                   1:57.5                   123
1976      Lola T-332 5.0 Chev            Brian Redman                    2:01.3                   119
1980      Lola T-530 5.0 Chev           Stephen South                     2:03.4                  117
1985      March 85C Ford 2.7           Danny Sullivan                   1:52.0                  129
1990      Penske PC19 Chev 2.7         Danny Sullivan                   1:49.7                   131
1995      Reynard 95I Ford 2.7         Jacques Villenueve             1:41.3                   142
1999*    Reyanrd-Honda 2.7            Dario Franchitti*               1:39.9*                 144*
2007     Panoz-Cosworth 2.7            Sebastien Bourdais             1:45.x                   137
2010     NASCAR Nationwide 5.9     Carl Edwards                     2:13.x                   108
2010     Lola 809-Judd 5.5                Jonny Cocker                     1:52.4                   128
2012     Corvette C6R 5.5                   Jan Magnusson                 2:05.9                   114
2013     HPD Honda ARX03a 3.4     Klaus Graff                          1:51.x                   130    

* absolute lap record

This Michael Turner painting is based on a photograph of Augie Pabst in a Scarab at Meadowdale.
But for me it evokes anybody in a fast car, hammering up the hill from Canada Corner to Station 13.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Purdy Car, Purdy Picture

Maserati 250 F, Stirling Moss, Parabolica Corner, Monza, Italian Grand Prix, 1957.