Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Purdy Bike

No idea how it rides, with engine mass that wide, but I love those pipes, fins, and cam covers.
As usual, Killboy nails the image.  Honda CBX 1000.

Monday, September 9, 2013

That Was Then, This Is Now

This amusing (to me anyway) BBC Sports video, with product placement by Mercedes-Benz, accents how much things have changed in six decades.  The only similarity seems to be "no fenders."   Taking the long view, Grand Prix racing in 1955 had more in common with 1925 than it did with 1985.  And 2015 is "Star Wars" compared to 1985.  Like everything else, motor racing has been revolutionized by the Digital Age.

Stirling Moss drove for the factory Mercedes team in 1955 and Lewis Hamilton drives for it now.  The best portrait pictures I could find, though, show Moss in a Maserati 250 F and Hamilton with a McLaren.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Alfiste Heaven And A Time Warp

Back-in-the-day: D/E Production race at the SCCA Nationals at Watkins Glen in 1961.  This picture was taken at
the right-left-right chicane at the end of the long straight.  It is long-since gone, now part of the infield, replaced
with the Bus Stop Chicane that shortens the long straight before it feeds into the right-hand sweeper.

Thanks to the Automobiliac blog for the link below, and to Santo Spadaro for uploading the video of his vintage races in his Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Veloce coupe (whew!) at Lime Rock last weekend. The video is of two races and runs a total of about 20 minutes.

This footage really takes me back.  It looks like an SCCA D/E/F/G Production race from any year in the late 1950's or early 1960's.  It's so much fun to watch the cars run on narrow treaded tires, without fender flares, &c. &c. &c.  I haven't seen this many Giuliettas together on track in one place at one time since back then.  And, as a bonus, there's a rare (silver) Alfa Zagato coupe in both races.

Lime Rock still strikes me as the toughest short road course in the States to learn properly and drive fast.  Turns 1-2-3 go on forever: "ladies and gentlemen, choose your multiple apexes."  The Diving Turn onto the main straight is daunting even in a car with modest power.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Time And Two Seats (Research Resource)

Janos Wimpffen

Here's another of those precise search terms that make me wonder how people arrived at this blog.      They show up in the stats fairly often.  Clearly this searcher was on a mission:

"derek bell porsche 917 monza 1971"

For fellow toilers in the vinyards of sports car racing history, I was going to suggest Time And Two Seats by Janos Wimpffen (1999).  My copy gets used at least monthly to verify some factoid.  Apparently it's out of print.  Used copies are offered for up to $1200 (!) on the internet.  But if you can find a library copy, it will answer questions like "What happened to Derek Bell and his 917 at Monza in 1971?"  Maybe copies come up from time to time on eBay?

Time And Two Seats is a history of FIA sports car racing from 1945 to 1998.  If the event was part of an FIA championship (including hill climbs), it's covered.  The book is a monument of meticulous research. Each event gets a data table including race numbers, chassis numbers, drivers, qualifying positions, finishing positions, and more.  Each event gets a narrative.  Each year gets a narrative covering changes in technical regulations and trends, and a summary table of championship results.  Each epoch gets an overview narrative.  There are plenty of black & white photographs with sometimes humorous captions. Wimpffen writes clearly with occasional apt or funny turns of phrase.  As you may guess, the book comes in two encyclopedia-sized volumes.

Rarely, I've seen a discrepancy between Time And Two Seats and some other (real or apparent) authority.  Wimpffen's sources are the events' organizers' written records, and he took pains to resolve discrepancies he uncovered.  Of course, written records can be wrong.  But eyewitness testimony and personal recollection are equally if not more unreliable.  My own confidence in Wimpffen's authority goes beyond "a discrepancy goes to Janos" to "the burden of proof is on the source that disagrees with him."  Time And Two Seats is to FIA sports car racing as the Oxford English Dictionary is to English.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Notable Giulietta, Notable Driver

The stock windshield has been removed and replaced with a single-occupant wrap-around screen and a tonneau cover (a la D-Type Jaguar).  Otherwise, it looks bone-stock except for the low-mounted driving light and the leather hood straps.  That includes the steering wheel and the "racing mirror," which is simply a standard fender mirror moved to the dash.  It still wears its stock bumpers.  It even has hubcaps.  This was all you needed to enter the Mille Miglia in 1956.  The driver was up at (shall we say) 3:30 for a 4:25 a.m. start.  His effort was rewarded with a DNF.

We can be confident that the Veloce engine was not stock.  It was, at minimum, blueprinted and tuned.  That's because the car was driven by Consalvo Sanesi (1911-1998).  He was Alfa Romeo's chief test driver for many years.  He was also of that generation of racers who's careers were truncated by World War Two.  (Tazio Nuvolari was the most famous one.)  Alfa did not enter Sanesi in their Tipo 158/159 GP cars 1949-1951, but he drove their sports car entries (including prototypes) in premier FIA events including LeMans and the Mille.

His last race was Sebring, 1964, where he led the Alfa factory team of three GTZ's.  Late in the race his car had electrical problems.  He was limping along with dim tail lights in the dark past the pits when Bob Johnson swerved his class-leading Cobra closer to the pits to look for a signal, not seeing Sanesi.
The GTZ exploded into flames as Johnson wrecked against a barrier (he was unhurt but the car was done).  Sanesi was pulled from his burning car by Jocko Maggiocomo, who happened to be standing nearby in the pits.  You might think that Jocko was a fellow Italian, but he was the owner of Jocko's Speed Shop in Poughkeepsie, NY.  Despite Jocko's quick thinking and heroism, Sanesi was burned.  So, in his early 50's, he decided he'd had enough and retired from racing.

Sanesi in early postwar racing garb.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Purdy Car, Purdy Picture

The latest Ferrari 458, the Speciale.  Faster, and almost as yummy as the "plain old" Italia.  Lose the stripes.  In my
opinion, the 458 Italia is the prettiest Ferrari in decades, and the prettiest rear engine Ferrari ever, including
the previously Best-In-Class Dino 246.  Not to mention being the best-looking supercar offered by
anyone since the Lamborghini Miura.  Below: link to "Evo TV" Geneva show walk-around: