Wednesday, April 24, 2013

deja Bahrain

Whoa is Rosberg and the Mercedes on race day.  This is the same kind of performance we saw time and again last year.  One of the fastest cars on the track for one lap and some possibly good qualifying speed, but then slowly losing position throughout the race.  Is this a tire issue?  That might explain why Hamilton was able to gain position.  He is very good in dealing with a squirrelly car with low traction.   And if Rosberg's rear tires were going off prematurely, then that would explain why he was so easy to pass.  Not being able to lay down the power out of the corners would make him a sitting duck.

The opening laps were amazing.  Heck, the first corner was crazy.  Rosberg defended his P1 position so aggressively from Vettel, that he nearly opened the door to Alonso to pass them both from 3rd.  But Vettel eventually regained not only his 2nd position from Alonso, but then passed Rosberg to take the race lead and basically hold it for the rest of the race.  Because, really, once Vettel took the lead he just walked away from the rest of the crowd.  At one point he had a 24 second lead over di Resta and was able to pit and return in the same position.

The Force India of di Resta did a great job and nearly made the podium.  But it was still a great result for the Scotsman as he showed a great deal of car control and maturity as he let the Lotus of Grosjean past with five laps to go.  The fresh tires of Grosjean were no match for di Resta on his two stop strategy.

About the only people to have a worse day than Rosberg would be Alonso and Massa.  Alonso's broken DRS really inhibited his progress, but even with two extra pit stops, he did make a valiant effort.  Massa with his broken front wing led to all sorts of problems with his tires.  First, the wear rate was far higher than expected, then multiple punctures on his right rear didn't help either.
Yeah, that'll affect handling.
What I'm a bit confused about this season is the passing.  Or more specifically the defending.  As was beaten into the collective minds of the sport for the last few seasons is one move and you must leave a car width on track if you are the defender.  On top of that, if you have two cars side by side with even a marginal overlap, the car in front is supposed to allow space for the other car on track.  We saw a lot of cars being pushed off track.  The top three culprits being Rosberg, Perez, and Webber.
F1 meets WRC
 Last year we would've seen notices of a steward's investigation of an incident.  And like 99% of all investigations, they would determine something after the race, which is annoyingly pointless, but that's another article.

Still, we had a lot of action.  And again, action between teammates.  This time Perez and Button.  Sadly, Button just sounded like a whiny bitch on the radio.  But it was a bit ridiculous to get tapped in the rear tire by you own teammate.
Team players.
So, overall, a really entertaining race.  It would've been interesting to see where the Ferraris ended up had they not had the myriad mechanical issues.  But, still a fun race even if we got a repeated podium.  Well, except for this:
This is a race EE.
Which gets to my last and only real gripe.  To Leigh Diffey, Steve Matchett, and David Hobbs, the constructor's representative on the podium is an engineer who happens to be a woman– not a girl, a woman.  Holy crap, guys, it's like you'd never seen a woman who worked in motor racing other than holding a grid sign!  I realize that you had no idea who this person was until Vettel mentioned her name and function in the interview with David Coulthard, but you could have attempted not to be blubbering blithering idiots for a few minutes up to that point.  Maybe you could've noticed that only 1 of the 3 governmental representatives actually shook her hand, because, well, women are scary.  But, fuck, just because some folks have ridiculous misogynistic institutional fears doesn't mean you have to stoop to their level of cluelessness.

Gill Jones is responsible for all the electronics in the car and garage.  That's right, all the fricken wiring, telemetry, radios, computers, fiddly buttons on steering wheels, ecu, KERS, etc.  She's been at this game for a good number of years along with a good number of other folks who just happen to be female.  You might want to take note, she is part of a large and growing segment of the population.  Try not to act like a sexist neanderthal.

Alcohol content: buzzin' (dark and stormy ++)

Monday, April 8, 2013

2013 Malaysian GP

Took me way to long to get back into writing and thankfully there are three weeks between Malaysia and China, otherwise, this would be completely irrelevant (versus the normally mostly irrelevant) by the time I hit publish.

The race started damp, but amazingly had a clean start.  Well, cleaner than expected.  Alonso had his typical aggressive and excellent start, but clipped the rear of Vettel's car breaking the Ferrari's front wing.  Why Alonso (or the team) thought dragging the wing for more than a lap instead of pitting is beyond me.  Sure, it did seem that Alonso was somehow able to keep pace with the rest of the leaders, but his broken wing was dangerous and I would hope that if it hadn't broken at turn 1 after blowing passed the pit entrance, that the stewards would have black flagged the car.  Maybe Massa should speak to his teammate about the dangers of high speed flying debris.

In many respects, though, this was a race about pit stops.  My favorite being Lewis Hamilton having a bit of nostalgia and trying to park it at his old team.

Good concentration there Hamilton.
But really, the story was around the fact that Red Bull, McLaren, and Mercedes all had pit stops under 2.3 seconds, breaking last year's record repeatedly.  Amazing how fast you can stop, change 4 tires, and send a driver off when everything in working.  Not the case for the Force India duo.  Both cars ended up being retired with some sort of issue around the wheel nut.  And then McLaren had a flashback of Silverstone 2011 and released Button without a properly fitted right front wheel.  All that and he had been in the lead.

Lots of good passing in this race as well and not all of it required the use of the DRS zones.  Raikkonen made a number of early passes in the damp before DRS was enabled and the general lineup of the top 10 was completely jumbled before the first pit sequence.  Regardless of the good racing though, the story almost everyone is wagging their tongues over is Vettel passing Webber.

It's the tale of two teams with Vettel seemingly ignoring team orders and taking the fight to Vettel, while Rosberg followed orders.  In the latter case, Rosberg certainly showed his displeasure throughout being told to hold back by tailing Hamilton very closely for the last laps of the race.  And he was faster than Hamilton, lap for lap, almost the entire race.  Rosberg's position was lost in the pits on a delayed release which saw him lose multiple places.  He earned those back, but was told to hold off Hamilton.  Good for Rosberg to be the team player, but a shame he didn't feel he could be aggressive and make the move on his teammate.

Obviously, Vettel had no such problem.  Whether he violated team orders or didn't see/hear the message from the pit is irrelevant.  At a certain point he decided to make the move and pass.  It's not like Webber didn't fight back.  In fact, he nearly drove Vettel into the pit exit wall.  That alone would've gotten him a stern warning if not a penalty last year from the stewards.  Even better, Webber then continued his dangerous angry driving after the race by speeding up and cutting across Vettel so he could give him the finger.  I guess some people feel sorry for Webber.  In some respects, I do too.  Just not for this pass.  Does he have a right to be pissed.  Sure, he does.  He did have 13 laps to return the favor, but instead he sat there and steamed while Vettel continued to pull away.  So if there is one answer to the question about Webber's status and whether Vettel should have passed him, the answer is all over Webber's car and his suit.  He is number 2.

If this were any other team and any other pair of drivers, there wouldn't have been a question of giving up position.  Had Massa been leading Alonso for the lead with a few laps to go, Ferrari would've made Massa park the car if need be to have Alonso win the race.  Regardless of all the PR BS which would claim that Red Bull treat their drivers exactly the same, there is no way that would be a reasonably accurate.  On any other team the world champion will be your #1.  With Vettel as the 3-time consecutive reigning world champion, nothing more should be needed to indicate who the number 1 driver in Red Bull should be.  If team management can't understand that, then the thing which makes Vettel a champion– the aggression, determination, skill, training, and ego will continue to do whatever is necessary to win the championship again.  That's what champions do.

For the last two years Webber has had his panties in a bunch on a number of occasions.  "Not bad for a 2 driver," summing up his feelings after winning the 2010 British GP.  Yeah, sometimes Mark will win a race, but overall his performance has been far worse than Vettel's.  Whether it's Webber's atrocious race starts, losing anywhere from 2 to 6 positions on average, or just an inability to aggressively pass (except at Spa passing Alonso at O Rogue, that was great), Webber and his car just do not perform.  Rarely does Mark Webber out qualify or finish ahead of his teammate.  Since 2009 when Vettel became Webber's teammate, Vettel has had 37 poles (26 wins) to Webber's 11 poles (9 wins).  Same car, same team, radically different results.

Will Vettel make it 4?  I dunno.  I wouldn't bet on it.  But if the drivers will just shut up and drive, it looks like it'll be fun to watch.

Alcohol content: need more booze (jinond-o-nicks)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Track Day: Laguna Seca

January 21st turned out to be an amazing day in Northern California.  It's hard to call it winter when it's sunny with a high of 23ºC (74ºF).  A few weeks earlier a buddy of mine had invited me to a track day and I had always wanted to run at Laguna Seca.  I'd also told myself that this year I was going to get out and do more than one high performance driving event.  Which meant, actually committing to going out there and getting on track.

Equipment is important.  And one of the things I was missing was a current full-face helment.  My old helment was rated SA2000 rated and open-faced.  I could get away with it for another year under Porsche Club regulations for autocross, but I figured it was time for an upgrade.  Or at least an update.  Times have changed a bit and carbon fibre is coming down to the masses (or at least my price range).  At a hair under 1.5kg (3.3lbs) the Pyrotect Pro Airflow is the lightest helmet I've worn since downhill running in a Soapbox Derby car.  SA2010 rated, partial carbon fibre construction, and removable padding make a nice package.
Pyrotect Pro Airflow SA2010 Helmet

But let's get back to the track.

Laguna Seca Race Course Map
Since I'd never run at Laguna Seca, and it is considered by many a very technical track, I was a bit nervous.  Thankfully, I had a trusty copy of GT5 in the PS3 to take many laps on the course.  Even with a wheel and pedals, it's no race simulator.  But what it lacks in providing the seat-of-the-pants feedback, it makes up in the visuals.  I can safely say that the course was at least visually familiar and never felt lost on course.  I knew which corner I was at and what the next corners were on track the entire time.  That was a great help in getting up to "speed" especially on where to aim for corner 8, the corkscrew.

 The Northern California Racing Club runs a well organized event.  From the check-in, driver's meetings, and sessions, everything pretty much ran exactly on schedule at a very reasonable price.  Our only hitch came in the afternoon when near the end of run group just prior to mine, someone dropped oil near turn five.  This lead to closing the track down while they cleaned that up and we ended up losing one session for my group.  The organizers made it up, though, by letting us our early for our last session.  So, last session was closer to 35 minutes on track versus the normal 20 minutes.  Overall, an awesome day with about 90 minutes of track time (down from the scheduled 100 minutes).

Some of the highlights for me were around my improvements on track.  Getting the Cayman S up to 4th at the start-finish line and on occasion actually making a decent approach through turn 1 to setup turn 2 was satisfying.  Hitting turn six at speed to get good compression through the corner was fun, even if one time I picked up a large piece of klag and thought I'd blown a tire (thump, thump, thump around the rest of the course until I could pit).

Hot Grid
Hot Grid
passing S2000
point by passing
Miata giving a point-by to pass

Alcohol content: none (too busy driving)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Code of the Curve

Last year I got an invitation via the Cayman Registry for a special event in Las Vegas.  It was sponsored by Porsche Cars NA and Speed Channel (okay, that's an interesting combo).  Very limited space (typical).  Had to take the car (road-trip).  Had to go to Vegas (would I have time for pinball).  Had to skip out on work (twist my arm).  Had to get put up in a nice hotel on the Strip (it was really nice).  Be fed (food is good).  And yet not know exactly what we were going to be doing (hrmmmm, verdy intarestink).  A very loving and caring wife actually gave me permission to go (I'm so loved).
ODO at start of trip- 16,000 miles
ODO at start of trip... 
At around 4:30 in the morning, I started the car to begin the journey.  A few miles down the road, I picked up my co-pilot and we bombed south and then east to the city of sin.  With a few stops for gas, caffeine, and food, we made the 600 miles to the Wynn Encore in a shade under 9 hours.   Special desk for event and hotel registration, a couple hours nap in the suite, then a presentation from Porsche on the new 2013 Cayman, a drivers meeting and safety briefing, then this:
leaving the Encore...
...cruising down the strip.
A parade of Caymans down the Las Vegas Strip with police escort and running red lights.  And lest we forget the camera truck zipping up and down the third lane filming the entire thing.  Found out later that the lens on the camera had a higher value than the entire rest of the setup- car, camera, equipment combined.  That's some piece of glass that got to haul ass.
Matte black Cayenne Turbo camera truck.
After our parade down the strip, with the gawking crowds and stopped traffic, we headed north to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.  And straight onto the track where we got behind the two pre-production 2013 Caymans and proceeded to take some hot laps around the dusty track.  All the while, the camera truck came flying up along side, between, and around the fifty Caymans from all model years.
Hot laps around the Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Straight from the LA motor show- 2 pre-production 2013 Caymans.
After about a dozen laps, we were parked on the track at the start/finish line so that the production crews could take family portraits.  That's not a mis-type (although, I'm good for a few of those), there were multiple production crews for this event.  But I'll get to that later.

There happened to be a few more mid-engined Porsches at the track.  An ancestor to the Cayman in the form of a 904 Carrera GTS race car sat all alone in the paddock.
our ancestor

And then the future- a 918 Spyder hybrid prototype.  This car and a few more copies of it were doing testing in the desert.  This example in Martini livery was the only one we were allowed to photograph since it was outside the garage.  Inside the garage were the others along with the rest of the 2013 Porsche model line-up.
the future
It's just a model... er prototype.  Lots of bits were not fitted.  Just look at the panel gaps and the turn signals. Inside, the interior was a mess of wires for telemetry computers and other bits of testing gear.  The Porsche guys were gracious enough to let us poke and prod and ask questions and generally make fools of ourselves around several million dollars worth of test-bed.  I think they were somewhat embarrassed by the state of car and kept reminding us that it wasn't finished, was still in testing, not all the parts fit right, etc, etc, etc. Yeah, whatever, it's not like I can buy one.  Still, when they took it around, the V-8 made an awesome noise.  Although, watching it go with the whine of the electric motors and the V-8 off was pretty eerie.

Once parked at start/finish and finished gawking at old and new hotness, we were fed.  The head of Cayman development was at the event and provided us with more details of the new model.  Throughout the evening he was around to take questions and generally be sociable.  When I had my chance I asked, "So, with the 991, the 911 is really just a GT car.  Don't get me wrong, it's a great GT car, but it's no longer really a race car.  When is Porsche going to finally take the restraints off the Cayman and really race it?  It's got a superior chassis and engine placement.  All it needs is the horsepower."  All I got was a wistful sigh and a shrug.  This was a man who knew the truth and it stunk.  History dictated that the 911 would remain the top car on the totem pole, even if that meant engineers had to figure out how to hobble the true potential of the Cayman.

Anyway, moving right along...

As I mentioned, there were multiple production crews at this event.  For the most part, the first part of what we've been a part of was brought to us by Porsche Cars NA.  For the rest of the night, we would be in the hands of Speed Channel and their "reality tv" crew.  With Justin Bell as our talking head, we went about finding out who go on to compete in the next round in Fontana, CA in February. There were two initial exercises we had to perform in a Porsche Driving School Cayman R.

The first was a threshold braking test.  In a fixed distance, reach at least 60mph, then brake and stop within the stop box.  Something most people have never done before, even as an experienced autocrosser or time-trialer. Driving instructors were on hand and gave explanations of the activity, how to best go about stopping quickly without setting off the ABS, etc.  But really, unless you've done it before, well, let's just say the first time through I was too timid and the second time through too aggressive.  But at least I learned something valuable- Cayman R with PDK under full throttle will kick the rear end out to the left when flat shifting from 1st to 2nd.

The second activity was the high speed slalom.  Here I felt more comfortable even if the slalom cones were spaced farther than just about any AX course.  For filming and consistency purposes we were required to pass the first cone on the left. The distance from the standing start to the first cone meant that as you were passing it, it was time to shift to 2nd.  Knowing that the car would try and kick out, I gave less steering input for the second cone, and got to 3rd gear just after the last cone.  After my first run, the instructor told me, "smoothest run today."  I like to believe he was being honest.  I did have the 2nd fastest time overall at that point, but there were 24 more drivers to go.
Suffice it to say, my time did not hold up through the night.  I was not one of the top six who then competed in an autocross around the infield course to determine the top 3.  Those top three will compete in February for the show against professional drivers and "celebrities."  <sarcasm>Got to love reality tv.</sarcasm>

By this time I had been awake nineteen hours and the adrenaline was finally starting to wear off.  To back to the Encore to crash... er sleep.  

Woke up at the crack of 10 the next morning and went right back on the road to get home.  Less than 24 hours in Las Vegas, but it was a great event.
...and we're home.

Alcohol content: none during (drunk on high octane)
Caffeine content: off the charts

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Long time, no writing...

A whole F1 season passes and nary a word on this blog.  For shame.  For shame.  It was an exciting season to watch with more passing at Valencia alone than all of the previous decade.  We saw Alonso whip his initially pathetic Ferrari around in amazing fashion.  We watch Massa finally return to form.  The implosion of Hamilton at McLaren couldn't have happened to a nicer person.  Red Bull did not look so invincible, and yet, we now have the youngest three time world champion.  And he did it in consecutive years.  Historic and yet, somehow Vettel became dull.  Maybe it was the pressure or his increased need to focus in order to stay ahead.  Or maybe I've just been watching and reading about the earlier years of Formula 1 and the characters which were on display before Bernie and the billions came in to reign things in.

Not sure if I'm going to talk to much more about F1 for the 2013 season, but I am going to endeavor to put up far more content on a slightly wider range of topics.

Alcohol content: mildly buzzing (Cuba Libre with Sailor Jerry)