Tuesday, September 29, 2015

From The "It's About Time" Department:

Phil Hill (Ferrari 410 S) badgers Chuck Daigh (Scarab) in the  Los Angeles Times Grand Prix at Riverside in 1958.  Hill
ran second until the Ferrari's carbs vapor-locked.  Daigh won.

Bob Varsha said in a recent race broadcast that "Some of us are calling Turn 1 at Circuit of the Americas 'Phil Hill.'"  Good!  Let's make it official.  It's about time that the U.S.'s first World Champion had a corner on an American circuit named for him.  The uphill run into Turn 1 at COTA is even vaguely reminiscent of Turn 7 at Riverside Raceway.

Better yet, name the uphill left-hander Turn 6 at Road America after Phil.  He actually raced there and won the "big bore" event twice, in 1955 and 1958.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Good Luck...

...seeing who's coming up behind you.  Of course, in 1970-1971, not many people were coming up behind you.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Mini vs. Alfa At Goodwood

Couldn't find a still shot of the (only) Alfa GTA battling with the Minis, and, in fact, it was the Lotus Cortinas that gave it
the most trouble.  It finished 3rd on Saturday's race, behind the Fairlane Thunderbolt and sandwiched between two
Cortinas.  It finished 5th on Sunday's race, again behind the Thunderbolt and Cortinas.  But the finishing
order in vintage racing is almost irrelevant to the enjoyment of it.

This video is great fun, if you have 24 minutes to watch it.  Or just use the slider.  Not all of the vid is in-car; there are various camera viewpoints mixed with the in-car.


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Old School

Ferrari 250 TR (Photo: Petrolicious)

Nothing digital for the engineers to analyze.  Nothing adjustable for the mechanics to tweak.  No radio strategizing with the team manager.  No spotters in your ear, either.  Plain old incandescent bulbs in the headlight buckets.  Your job, if you were lucky enough to have it, was to get in a drive for 3-hour shifts. If it rained, you got wet.  Maybe an extra pair of goggles around your neck.  "Deal with it," as we say nowadays.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Trivia Ancien

Who are they?
What is it?
When was the picture taken?
Where was the picture taken?
Why was this car built?

Saturday, September 19, 2015

2015 British Car Festival Pix, Post 3 of 3

Here's another shameless plug for John Saccameno's restoration shop, Sport & Specialty.  John brought this Austin Healey 3000 to the B.C.F. to showcase S & S's work.  And as an example, for a clinic/seminar that B.C.F. sponsored on restoration.  Re-assembly has begun after down-to-bare-metal and paint.

The body is an original Healey 3000, but the frame is new-old-stock supplied by an outside manufacturer.  The car will
have a medium-blue leather interior.  And possibly period-and-car-correct alloy wheels instead of the wires shown
here.  John is building this car for himself, so it will have "Most Mod Cons" (as the Brits say).  His red Big
Healey, which was restored to 100% original/correct several years ago, is for sale.

It's not hard to see where the man-hours go.  Only the wiring harness for the trim is in, because the
trim was installed to spiff the car up for the show.  Rebuilt and correctly refinished engine and
drive train and interior and top &c. &c. &c. still to go.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

2015 British Car Festival Pix, Post 2 of 3

1932 MG TA, actual size.  Humans shown for scale.  ;-)

Engine bay, unrestored 1952 Aston Martin DB 2.

For me, the lines of the XK-150 still works the best of the postwar Jags.  Boulevardier, but so what?

Hotshoe (next to driver's door) couldn't get over this McLaren.  He walked away and came back three times.  He liked
interior and thought the lines of the car made it wear any color passably.  Neither the car nor the color is my cup of tea.
The McLaren doesn't move my needle.  The Ferrari 458 Italia does.  But neither of us has to overthink this: supercars
are from our "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride" Departments.

Speaking of which, if I had to get to the West Coast in a car, comfortably and fast, I'd go in this Bentley.  Can't complain
about the color, either.  ;-)

Even the parking lot is interesting at the British Car Festival.  When I was young, I considered the Mercedes 280 SL a
heavy, slow, ugly, not-really-sporty, girly car.  But I'm all grown up now.  The interior is first rate.  And brown leather
goes well with dark forest green metallic.  Another superb Sunday afternoon car.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

2015 British Car Festival Pix, Post 1 of 3

Above and below: Want to attract big, day-long, crowds?  Bring a SuperFormance Ford GT 40 replica to a show.  The
engine is a Roush fuel-injected unit done to resemble carburetors.  This car was there last year.  Same crowds.

Above and below: The first Rolls Royce Silver Ghost I've seen in the flesh.  The guy in the picture was so absorbed that he
stood there for minutes... and minutes... and I didn't want to annoy him by asking him to move, so I just gave up and
took the pic.  The hood is polished stainless steel, but I couldn't get a good shot of it because of the angle of the sun.
Lotsa brass and copper to go with the cast iron.

Above and below: Even in a big city, you're gonna have to go to an event like this to see two 1950's Jensens.  Must plead
guilty to being too lazy to Wiki this model to write a good descriptive caption.  I took it because it seems to me that
Jensen always marched to its own drummer when it comes to styling.  (Think "Interceptor.")  There are detail
differences between the two cars shown here. I remain a sucker for early postwar British dashboards.

Above and below: When is it OK to restore a car with a non-original color?  When the color is a gorgeous midnight blue
metallic.  This was my own Best In Show among, maybe, 20 MGA's there.  There was little in the engine bay that was
original, either, including a supercharger.  I was around when the MGA was replaced by the MGB, which was taken
to be a huge step forward, with a roomier cockpit, roll-up windows, other amenities, and a unit body.  But now,
for a Sunday afternoon car, I'd take the A.

Above and below: A yummy Jaguar XK-120.

Above and below: A Pilote post about an event where Minis are present that doesn't include one?  Bloody unlikely.
This one retains 10-inch wheels, but with huge, sticky rubber.  Which, it appears, may not clear the fenders in
anything but Grandmother driving.  The engine has an aluminum crossflow head with fuel injection. So we
could guess maybe 110 horsepower, more or less?  What a hoot!  It was for sale for $28,500.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Goodwood Revival

Four-wheel-drifts on skinny, treaded, tires.  On a course that is much faster and harder to drive than it looks on a map.  Aluminum-bodied cars with rivets, no aero, and single body colors with big, legible, black numbers in white roundels.  No advertising to mess up pretty body lines.

Thirty to ninety-minute races with an "avoidable contact" rule.  Good, hard racing--but clean driving.  1950's era lighting technology, sometimes running into the evening, sometimes in the rain.  Brake fade and other design weaknesses that must be managed by sympathetic drivers.

Transponders for accurate lap timing, but all other electronics banned, including radios.  Pro-am driver pairings that require 30-second pit stops to switch, but refueling is banned to minimize danger.

Race commentary that is informative, with humorous passive-aggressvie opinion, but no hype.  Hi-definition streaming video with few commercials.

So, Pilote, 'splain to me again why you watch modern professional road racing on broadcast TV?

Friday, September 11, 2015

THAT'S The Way You Do It (Dragon Pass)

How to drive the Tail of the Dragon, especially  in a front-driver, in one easy lesson.  The lead (camera) car is a Nissan GT-R.  The Gen. 5 Civic is driven by Kamal.


Saturday, September 5, 2015

Purdy Car, Purdy Picture

Ferrari Dino 246, Wolfgang Von Trips, Station Hairpin, Monaco Grand Prix, 1958

A late post for this post title: Usually I look for a noteworthy picture to start a new month, but this month my own Tail of the Dragon run pre-empted it.

I miss the era "When drivers were fat and tires were skinny."  Luckily, we can revisit it (mostly) at club racing weekends in the modern era.  There is much to be said for an engine more powerful than the available grip, and a driver who can waltz with the car and the road.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

August 2015 Dragon Run, Post #2 (Killboy Krew Slayers)

I'm interested in what Dragon Slayers, especially "locals," are doing with their cars.  Most of them do not have a lot of money to spend, let alone go out and buy an off-the-shelf slayer.  So they buy inexpensive "base cars," often used (even well-used) and set about modifying them with forethought and intelligence. The occasional big check may or may not be involved.

Disappointing news: Hayden changed priorities and bought a Toyota 4-Runner to go mudding.  He just sold the Miata he bought for slaying about a year ago (after becoming very quick in a Honda Fit).  He had lowered and stiffened the Miata's suspension.  I was interested to see what he'd do with the brakes and the engine.  Miatas are under-rated slayers, but they do need more power than the stock, normally aspirated, engine supplies.  If I get to follow a Miata build, it will have to be another one.

Darryl "Killboy" Cannon is maybe 80% done with his FR-S build unless he decides to go into a "Stage II" to radically upgrade the brakes.  The suspension and engine are done, although fine-tuning continues.

Above and below: You could say that Darryl's FR-S is almost done, although the Killboy Krew Slayers are always a work-
in-progress.  The Cosworth supercharger blows at 6 p.s.i., which is conservative enough to not overstress the the engine's
interals but provide plenty of low-end torque.  This is ideal for the Dragon's low-speed corners.  The hood prop is a
discarded input shaft from a rebuilt Nissan GT-R transmission (a kind of inside joke between Darryl and the shop
that's doing his ongoing build).  Note the camber plates for the front struts.

Kamal's Gen 5 Civic hatchback is the only one Honda made with adjustable A-arm front suspension, and thus an ideal platform on which to build a Dragon Slayer.  You might think that front wheel drive disqualifies it, but Kamal has built a car with huge grip.  The engine is "built," but to live reliably at high revs.  "Powah" is overrated as a key to unlocking the Dragon, but Kamal runs even less that most of the regular slayers.

Above and below: I'd have guessed that aero was close to useless on the Dragon's tight bends, and I'd have guessed wrong.
First came the splitter, then the rear wing with an adjustable angle-of-attack to balance it out, then the dive planes, which
have a vertical piece (not easily visible here) to increase aero pressure.  The wheels and tires shown here are Kamal's
"everyday" shoes, with enough tread to manage rain.  The Slaying Shoes are DOT-legal near-slicks.

Above and below: the office.  The Sparco racing seat is new, and all interior trim has been stripped out.  The chassis brace
in the rear (not a roll cage) is adjustable.  This car is all about "simplify, add lightness and grip."  Street-legal, of course,
but not something you would want to spend a lot of time in unless it was Slaying time.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

August 2015 Dragon Run, Post #1 (Making Passes)

Southbound, Killboy Corner.

When I go to the Tail of the Dragon with my Great Lakes Area buddies, they like to set aside a day for general tourism.  And I understand this: making fast Dragon passes is intense.  A day, or even a few hours, of relief is the real vacation, especially when it takes 10 hours (each way) to get down and back. But I am a Dragon Freak.  So when I go alone, making as many passes as I can is the name of the game. My "down time" was spent hanging out, roadside, with the photographers for Killboy.com.

On this trip, the Blount County Sheriff's Office and, to a lesser extent, the THP were much in evidence. My radar detector alerted early one morning for what turned out to be a BCSO motorcycle officer, shooting mobile from the oncoming lane.  The detector saved my butt: visually, he was "just another cruiser bike."  Later, one of the locals told me "He's cool--if you're staying in your lane and not crazy-fast, he'll let you slide."  But of course one never knows the luck of the draw as to which officer will be encountered.  Some are on the Dragon to enforce, enforce, enforce.  I used to think "Why bother with the detector?  It 'never' alerts on the Dragon anyway."  No longer.  Don't Leave Home Without It.  Other L.E.O. vehicles were primarily SUV's, which are also hard to spot quickly.  The Ford Crown Vic, so easy to spot, is a vanishing breed.

No car clubs were scheduled for "my" weekend, which was why I picked it.  All the same, "civilians" clogged the road.  They were about equally divided between tourists and locals.  Many, but not all, 4-wheelers used the pull-offs to clear for me.  Cruiser bikes were more of a problem and Harleys remain the bane of my Dragon existence.  These bikes and their riders are loud, flatulent, and slow.  They never use the pull-offs.  OK, one did.  I gave him the standard "thankyou" wave.  If I'd had had an appropriate piece of hardware, I'd have pulled off myself and given him a medal.  I have never understood, and never will, the Harley Subculture.  I clocked their speed through slow turns on my very accurate digital speedometer when I was blocked: 12-15 m.p.h.  They were so slow that the bikes almost lost the momentum needed for stability.  And the cornering skills were just as sketchy.  These are turns that can easily be taken in a 4-wheeler at 20-25 m.p.h., a sportbike at 25-30, and in a bonafide 4-wheeled Slayer at 30-35 m.p.h.  When turns like this come one after another, which of course they do on the Dragon, Harleys are a monumental pain in the a**.

Speaking of Harleys, one crashed in the middle of "Guardrail" on Saturday afternoon.  BCRS was on the scene quickly and took the rider out on a back board.  I mention it here because accident scene management was sketchier than I would have liked to see.  Fortunately, I got the "E-Z" sign from a couple of south-bounders.  Came around the blind corner northbound and the Rescue vehicles were right there, in my lane.  Turned on my flashers, got out of the car and moved to a visible point to warn other north-bounders.  Southbound lane was clear, so I decided to get my car out ASAP.  Proceeded slowly to the Overlook, giving south-bounders the E-Z sign.  Turned right around (the Overlook was jammed most of both days) and went through again.  By then, other "civilians" were manning the corner I'd been at briefly.  But nobody manned a south-bound corner before the accident site.  As usual in these situations, there were half a dozen or more people standing around watching the EMT's work on the downed rider.  At least a couple of them should have walked north to man the south-bound approach.  This is much easier to do if your bike is already parked than if you must find a pull-off to park your car (especially northbound).

Sportbikes appear behind you instantly when you're making a fast pass.  Check your mirror entering a corner, nobody behind.  Check it again and a sportbike is right up your chuff (you'll hear him, so no worries).  The speed differentials between Harleys and various four-wheeler skills and equipment levels, and sportbikes is mind-boggling.  On a crowded Dragon, you must keep your wits about you at all times.  Then there was this:

This guy showed up at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday evening!  Who tries to tow a 53-foot trailer through the Dragon as night is
falling?  The staff at Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort persuaded him to turn around, but only after some "discussion."  The
Dragon is now, clearly, posted in both NC and TN for "NO TRUCKS OVER 30 FEET," but that doesn't mean that you
won't encounter one--even on a weekend.

As for my own passes:  They were noticeably faster on the Michelin Pilot Super Sports.  I didn't put a watch on myself, partly because so many passes were blocked.  But suffice it to say that the tires are better than me: I never came close to exceeding the grip, in a front-wheel-drive car.  The Civic Si now feels like it needs quicker and more precise steering to get the most out of the tires (and me).  The body roll became annoying.  These are problems I never have in fast driving on ordinary roads (and such twisties as can be found) at home.  I used 39 lbs. front, 33 rear, for fast passes.

Michelin Pilot Super Sports: NO graining on the shoulders after a day's worth of hard passes.  My all-season Michelins
had shoulders that looked like Velcro after similar "abuse."  Dragon Locals speak highly of PSS's, complaining only
that they are expensive.  But the locals go through 2 or 3 sets of tires in a season.  I don't press my tires in normal,
summer, driving at home.  So I am a PSS loyalist who will try to get 2 to 3 years out of a set.