Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Random Ventings: Merge Damnit!

If you drive with enough awareness of your surroundings, you've probably developed a particular knack for spotting cars on the road that aren't being piloted with very much skill. You know the scenes. The Crown Vic driver taking the car's boat-on-wheels persona quite literally by gently floating between lanes on the highway. Perhaps the Lumina that suddenly snaps to attention in the left lane after driving onto that insane rumble strip. Someone obviously dropped a Juicy Juice in the back seat. Or maybe the entirely too tinted G35 tailgating some generic vehicle in the slow lane.

We avoid these semi-unguided missiles. We maintain our speed, perhaps change lanes, and do what we can to get away. We blame them for everything that goes wrong. Their fault we're sitting in traffic. Spilt coffee? Their fault. Elevated heartrate? Yep. But are they deserving of our most pointed vehicular disdain?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

No Signs Of Irene In Tremblant Yet...

Another peaceful morning in Tremblant. The track is just minutes from the North Tremblant lake on the picture and the morning mist only adds to the mystique and beauty of this area. Hoping everyone is OK back home and that the worst from the hurricane will soon be over.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Spotted: the Oldest License Plate In MA

This 400k Lexus LFA was recently spotted at Herb Chambers in Sudbury, MA. Super rare car, no question. What I really want to know, though, is how you get the # 1 license plate in MA. According to Wikipedia, Massachusetts and West Virginia were the first states to issue plates, in 1903. So at least in theory, this makes it the oldest license plate in the entire U.S. I think the plate should have gone on an American car. It would look really good on a Viper SRT10!
                                                                         Picture by Jerry Urdang

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Only Hartge H50 In the U.S. Has Top Speed of 200 mph!!

There are fewer than 10 Hartge H50 worldwide. Turner Motorsport has the only one available in the United States. The H50 conversion package is based on an E90 BMW 325i and usually costs roughly $220,000.

More fascinating details Here.  It cracks me up that it still looks like a total sleeper even though it would blow the doors off some super exotic cars!

Widebody Conversion: From Beyonce to Taylor Swift

Our site is issuing a correction and apology (first in its unprecedented history of accurate newsmaking): SMIG's club racer is *not* for sale as previously stated Here. Only the widebody kit is.

To give you a better visual, the car is going from Beyonce:

... to Taylor Swift:

We did not mean to wreak havoc and cause sleepless nights for his competitor club racers who have been scrambling for the past couple of days to predict SMIG's next move and assess the potential impact to their race class. To make it up to them, we sent our secret reporter Clio to take spy shots of SMIG's famous racecar:

While the Beyonce-style widebody kit is still in place, we are excited to report that The SMIG has recently added two extra exhaust pipes through the trunk!! Bluff or real? Stay tuned for more news on this incredible development in club racing!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Slideshow Video From Lime Rock Park - August 19, 2011 With Patroon Club

Great track day at Lime Rock Park with BMW CCA - Patroon Chapter on August 19, 2011. It was good to be back at this incredible track after a long lapse. Kudos to the organizers for running an excellent event. We just beat the weather and wrapped it up for the day before the heavy downpour hit us.

Pictures by Dylan Reid

Monday, August 22, 2011

Top 20 Times From BMW CCA Boston Autocross - August 21, 2011

Here are the Top 20 raw times from BMW CCA Boston autocross - August 21, 2011:

FTD went to a very well set up '95 M3 driven by Hank Wallace. Top car on street tires (9-th overall) was Jonathan Cowen's '98 BMW M3. There were 4 Mazda Miatas in the Top 10 - Mia and Tia from Cars would be proud! They came very close to beating the beast that is the 911 GT3 RS with 305 mm Hoosier in the rear. Full results from the event can be found here.

Got Senna?

After months of waiting, Senna finally opened in the U.S. this weekend. A film about Ayrton Senna's McLaren and Williams years in Formula 1, it has everything a good movie needs- cars, women and even a villain in the form of Senna's arch nemesis, Alain Prost. If you aren't a Formula 1 fan, you'll still enjoy the drama, thrilling racing and classic riches to riches story. If you think you'll have trouble getting your girlfriend to see it with you, keep in mind that mine now thinks Senna is "amazing" (a.k.a. thinks he is hot) and wants to watch more car racing. For me, that alone was worth the price of admission.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Name That Caption! (No. 1)

Here's a picture of SMIG's club race winning car from today's BMW CCA Boston autocross event. If you didn't see it, you definitely heard it. Rumors are the exhaust has been re-routed through the trunk to work better with the wing and improve aerodynamics. The car is for sale and SMIG promises to knock off $100 for each additional piece that falls off the car before the start line!! Help us name that caption.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Will Self-driving Cars Make All of Us Obsolete?

BMW has made a splash with a self-driving car which learns racetracks and takes the "drivers" around for a few laps. The car is a standard E90 chassis with an advanced GPS system and software specially designed to work with the car controls. An experienced driver takes a few laps first, so the software would learn the track map and off you go! People who have "driven" it claim the experience is not as realistic as playing Gran Turismo. I think they are just jaded... Really, does everyone else out there think that track driving as we know it will soon be over? Top Gear's video is funny as always but I detect a lot of skepticism in Jeremy Clarkson's self-driving shenanigan. Maybe we'll still be going to track days but we'll just sit in our self-driving cars and experience how Michael Schumacher would drive the track instead?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Got an Offer To Buy an Extremely Rare Bugatti Type 35. Honest to God!

I am going back to Lime Rock Park for a track day tomorrow. I checked their website for current events and I saw the upcoming Lime Rock Vintage Festival, which reminded me of this Bugatti Type 35 Story (page 6) from that festival a few years ago. On our way out of the track, I found myself right in front of a 1920s Bugatti Type 35, which was being carefully loaded on the second level of a trailer. Back in the 1920s, sports cars were fairly heavy and needed huge displacement to make decent power. The Bugatti Type 35 was one of the very first cars to use a higher-revving smaller displacement engine bolted to a lighter chassis. The design went against the grain and held its own against much bigger and more powerful cars at the time.

“That’s a very nice replica!” I blurted out in front of the Bugatti owner who was standing nearby.
“What makes you think it’s a replica?” he asked.
Well, let’s see: There were only 50-something of them ever made and 20-something surviving. And of those, are 5 really at the Lime Rock festival?!? I was still trying to recover motion in my jaws –
“Because it is such a rare car…”
The car owner looked at me and said:
“I have two for sale in the trailer. Are you interested in buying one?”
This was a priceless offer on a priceless car. Probably the only offer like that I'll get in my lifetime. Now me let me see if I can convince our local Lamborghini dealer to let me sit in the orange Gallardo Superleggera for a quick picture...Anybody have some nice clothes that I can borrow for a couple of hours?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Where Did You Hide the Body?!

I got up at 7 in the morning to wash my car the day after my last track event. I didn’t want the brake dust to get baked into the wheels like they did on the first picture (hard to believe but these are SILVER OZ Superleggeras just like the second picture!). My wife asked her Facebook friends if she should be worried about me washing the car that early in the morning. Told her it would be a lot easier to get rid a of a body than the dust once it’s baked in!! Maybe I should give Wheel Wax a try. 

Has any of you had good experience with it?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

16-Year-Old Girl Wins Dutch Supercar Challenge

Fascinating racing news: In her recent sports car race debut, 16-year-old Beitske Visser took victory in the Dutch Supercar Challenge. Don't let her young age and cute smile fool you: she drives a powerful 500-HP car and beat many experienced race drivers to the checkered flag. She managed this spectacular win despite receiving a 25-second penalty on top of a drive through penalty!
It turns out this impressive win is no fluke: Beitske has been racing karts since the age of 5 as part of a professional driver program and she won a few races in one of the top European Championship karting classes. I'd love to invite her to our local autocross series - I bet she would do really well in it! Can anyone help me pick the airfare? I'll offer my car.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

You Can Have the Discount But Only If You Take the Freebie Too!

I stopped by AutoZone to get a few jugs of Mobil 1 synthetic oil today. I go to the register to pay and the cashier goes:

“Do you want to save some money? We have $7 off on each jug of motor oil you buy, as long as you also get a FREE oil filter with it.”

I’m scratching my head here.

“Wait, what, I get the oil discount only if I get the FREE filter?”

“Yes!”, he says with a straight face and proceeds to scan a few oil filters for me.

It turns out Mobil is essentially paying customers to take their oil filters. I’d love to know what marketing head at Mobil thought of that ingenious plan. Too bad AutoZone did not have any filters for my car. But since they were free, I took a few filters for a Kia Rio: maybe I can fit them on my lawnmower.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Autocross, Track, or Karting: What's Most Bang for Your Buck?

Asking me if I like autocrossing, track driving or karting better would be like asking Charlie Sheen if he prefers brunettes, blondes or redheads. Maybe a driving enthusiast's nirvana would be an event that combines all 3 types of driving. Something like zipping around cones in a fast go-kart at a racetrack like Watkins Glen. Just imagine a few cones strategically placed in the middle of the esses to spice it up a bit; or going flat out side-by-side through the Bus Stop.

Which One Is Really Best?
Recently I had an opportunity to sample autocrossing, track driving and outdoor karting back to back over a 10-day span. I’ve been involved with performance driving for ten years, but I had never combined the three so close together. Truth is, I still can’t make up my mind about which one I like best. And why should performance driving be limited to one type? After all, there are different types of music for different moods. Sometimes when I am pumped up I’ll crank up Led Zeppelin. Or I’ll listen to Lady Gaga if I catch one of her songs on Kiss 108. Or I’ll play Miles Davis if I am driving late at night.

The Case for Autocrossing
Autocrossing is highly technical in nature. You do a ton of transitions in one 80-second run. It teaches you to look ahead. You learn car control at the limit of adhesion in your own vehicle at safe speeds, and there is nothing you can hit if you lose the car. No other type of driving offers this opportunity. Autocrossing probably has the best application to real life driving. It is also a great opportunity for socializing and learning everything car-related from tire pressure through suspension set-up to mental attitude for performance driving – all while having fun. You also get a chance to find out how fast you really are and how much you can improve in one day. I also like the fact that we wrap up the events by 4 p.m., and a good size group gets together for a cold beverage and more socializing after the event.

The Case for Track Events
Track events, also called high performance driving schools, offer the most seat time. If everything runs smooth, you can get 100+ minutes of net driving time in one typical day of driving at the track. Of the three types of performance driving, this is the one that allows you to go by far the fastest. It lets you get a feel for the driving dynamics and overall capabilities of your car at high speed in a controlled environment. To me at least, driving at the track feels safer than driving on busy Route 128. I know that everyone has 100% of their attention on driving and that they are not checking text messages while going through the Fish Bowl turn at NHMS.

The Case for Karting
What I like best about karting is that you get a lot of seat time and the event takes less than 2 hours. Many outdoor karting event offers 30-40 one-minute hot laps in addition to a few warm-up and cool-down laps. This is also the only opportunity of the three types of driving for real wheel-to-wheel racing in nearly identical cars. Many outdoor karts available to the clubs and the public go up to 55 mph, which is plenty fast in a little vehicle not much bigger than a lawn mower. It even has a very similar engine slapped in the back. In addition, $70-80 cover all event costs and expenses. Based on “cost per seat time and thrill,” karting cannot be beat.

You can read all my thoughts on this comparison in my monthly column on page 22 of Boston Bimmer's July/August issue. I'd love to get your thoughts on this as well.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Insert Card "Like Picture"

Here is a great tip to help ease pain at the pump. Just imagine how long it would take to process your credit card if you tried to insert it "like landscape"! Spotted in Burlington, MA.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Beaten to the Blog by a Seven-year Old!

I spent most of the weekend trying to figure out how to get this blog up and running. Finally decided exactly how I wanted to do it. As soon as I created the site, Google reminded me that I was following someone else's blog. Turns out my son had already created an NFL blog all by himself a few years ago and I had signed up to follow it. He was SEVEN years old at the time! Please don’t tell social services - we had no clue. I think I'll let my son stick to NFL coverage and I'll stick to what I do best: performance driving. So welcome to the blog! See you back here soon.