Saturday, September 26, 2015

Unrealistic Expectations - Why owner of some cars feel like the red-headed step child

 I was curious about something while looking at the Scion iM website. There is a feature that allows you to compare it to other cars they consider direct market competition. One of those cars is Mk7 Golf 1.8T aka Poor Man's GTI.

 I was curious what sort of power you could get out of one of these things and I came across a post on the Vortex forums one of the most popular VAG (Volkswagen AG). This particular owner was whining that more tuning options weren't available. Apparently he either doesn't want the APR Stage 1 flash (which requires removal of your engine control unit) or is waiting for something that may never come.

 Having been on that side of the automotive community before, he has no idea what it's like to have virtually no choices when it comes to increasing engine performance.

 I've seen this play out on the internet since car forums became a popular thing to do with your time. I've been hearing that some forums are seeing less traffic, but that's due to changing demographics, especially when your talking about compact cars.

 Yes I am going to go there. I've seen it posted more than once, that some guy has to trade in his high performance sedan or hatchback for a more "sensible" large SUV or Cute SUV because of a baby on the way or adding to the family.

 This is their wives talking actually, the relationship dynamics in Western/Anglo culture.... It's totally off-topic, I will not go there, I will talk about subjects like this on my other blog that I haven't officially launched yet.

 Anyway, guys whine about the choices they make (usually economic) then get mad when the performance aftermarket (about 2-4% of the entire automotive marketplace) doesn't cater to their every whim.

 Recently I emailed BC Racing, makers of coil-over suspensions for cars to ask them if the product they offer for the Focus ST was rebound AND compression adjustable. I wasn't mad they didn't offer a product for a car I don't even own (yet), I asked what would it take to make a product like this possible?

 The person I emailed said about 20 pre-orders (IE pre-paid) would get the ball rolling.

 One thing I will cover on this blog when I get back into the high performance world maybe as soon as after the first of the year is how to get companies to make products for you, no matter what is it.
 If they believe there's no demand they won't make it. So you have to manufacturer some (demand).
 Since BC's manufacturing is in China, it's far less expensive to make this product for twenty people and maybe sell a few more for profit. He did mention external reservoir which is similar to a type of coil-over you see in racing applications. This isn't needed, so come clarification needs to happen before moving forward. 

 So let's say the pre-order cost is $700 per set or $14,000 in developmental cost ($700 x 20). For your $700 you will get the product at a discount for help covering those cost. People that come after you will pay closer to retail pricing which could be double.

 You just created a market where there wasn't one. This isn't the first time I have done this, again I will explain this more in-depth when the time comes.

 PS -

 The past few months I've been trying to buy a 2015 Focus ST. So far it hasn't gone as expected as my credit report still has some issues on it. I will break down what it took when I  likely will pick this car maybe as soon as February 2016.



Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Haven't posted since mid 2014, but I have a reason this weekend...

 Firstly I would like to congratulate Nick Tandy, Earl Bamber and Nico Hulkenburg (yes Sahara Force India F1 Hulkenburg....) on their maiden victory today at Le Mans.

 I am still gutted about Ferrari snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. With about two hours to ago Toni Vilander who I consider a "safe pair of hands" was overly aggressive over the curbs at possibly at Muslane Hairpin and damaged the transmission.

 After a very animated Gimmi Bruni started directing what his #62 crew what to do in order to get the car back out, it became apparent any chance of winning in-class was gone and gifted to Corvette.

 Corvette Racing had a difficult week, the lost Magnssen/Garcia when Jan crashed it heavily. But as I told them on twitter they better enjoy it, it's short-lived because the Blue Oval is coming.

  In what is one of the worse kept secrets in motor sport Ford is returning to Le Mans in 2016 with a GTLM version of its new Ford GT.

 This is a mouth-watering prospect and my mind turned automatically to who would drive for the Blue Oval.

 It was revealed in the announcement on Friday that two programs will be pursued. In what can only viewed as great news for the Tudor series; Ford as committed to two cars run by Ganassi who will shelve it's DP program after this season.

 Chip generally likes loyalty and experience (Kanan signing over say somebody much younger). So it's very likely one car will be assigned to Scott Pruett and Joey Hand.

 After that, it's up in the air, let's look at some possibilities -

 Looking at the current crop of Indycar drivers with 24hr/Endurance experience but currently unemployed:

  1.  Ryan Briscoe*
  2. Justin Wilson
I put a * by Briscoe's name because he's currently the 3rd driver for Corvette Racing and has won Daytona and Sebring this season. 

 He would be an excellent pickup.

 Justin Wilson would be perfect for a OEM program like Ford's and deserves a chance.

 Outside of that, pickings are slim. I would take a hard look at former Ford driver Colin Braun who's been dominating LMPC for the past couple of seasons proving he's still very fast. He also finished 3rd in GT back when there was no separate class at Le Mans.

 If Ford is in this for the long term, they can't have too many drivers over 30 in the seats. Braun is under 30 but so is Ganassi driver Sage Karam.

 I could have just easily named all six seats for the Tudor program, Patron Endurance Championship and Le Mans.

I actually have more interest in what George Howard-Chapel is going to do with his WEC effort.

 If the four best GT drivers out there are -

  1.  2 Time WEC Champion and 2 Time FIA GT Champion "Gimmi" Bruni 
  2. Defending Blancpain Endurance and 2013 Sprint Series Champion Laurens Vanthoor
  3. 2013 Blancpain Endurance Champion Max Buhk
  4. McClaren factory driver Kevin Estre
  Bruni has been approached before but he's Italian with a successful Italian team, I doubt even if you throw a ton of money at him he would leave.
Vanthoor is an interesting case. Former European F3 driver, he and Max Buhk have the field covered in Blancpain currently the toughest GT championship in the world. He is only linked to Audi via it's customer racing team WRT, IE his contract is with WRT. Audi may want to retain his services for possibly a seat in their LMP program (if they don't move to F1) or DTM program.

 If Vanthoor has any long term interest in any of these programs, it might be a tough sell even if it's a factory GT program.

Max Buhk is signed to HTP and does what ever HTP does. HTP was linked to Mercedes Benz AMG Customer Racing from 2011-2014 but made the switch to Bentley this season; I think to get access to Buhk as well, because Buhk drives for the Bentley factory team in Blancpain not HTP. HTP runs their own Bentley with other set of drivers in the same series.

 Long term I don't know what Buhk's goals are, I think he's only driven GT cars up to this point in his career.

 Either one of these guy would be a surprise to many. Both have endurance experience and 24hr victories under their belt. Vanthoor just won the Nurburging 24 last month and Buhk beat Audi with HTP Mercedes at the Spa 24hr race in 2013 with Max Gotz (who's in DTM) and long time Mercedes driver Brent Schneider.

 Kevin Estre came out of no where with a one-off drive in Baku in 2013. He was then signed by McClaren to factory contract. He has plenty of Porsche experience. 

 Out of all these guys, I don't think you can go wrong.

 What I haven't mentioned is the slew of GP2, GP2 European F3 and WSR drivers.... There just too many to name. Still more driver that used to drive in those series are now trying to ply their trade in sports cars in the hopes of becoming a factory driver mainly in LMP1.

 Ford is going to have two teams and four cars. How often they run four cars remains to be seen. Most teams in the WEC like to trout out the 3rd car for Spa; since the last race in America is Laguna Seca in early May; the Ganassi cars could be sent over right after that race. All four cars don't need to do the Le Mans Test Day but that being said, usually with terrible weather conditions for the test (more often than not), how you going to cycle through upwards of 12 drivers in and out of cars on such a limited schedule with just two cars?

 That is if Ford picked the majority of it's drivers with little to zero or recent Le Mans experience. This is why I think both teams may go after veterans like Darren Turner, Richard Westbrook, Rob Bell, drivers from the defunct Viper program and some of the current LMP2 drivers.
 Exciting times and I will end up writing more about this soon, cheers. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

International GT Open Round 2 Portimao + Jerez

Once again Ben Evans has been gracious enough to give us his thoughts on both races the last two weeks.

 Ben take it away!

  So some thoughts from Jerez and Portimao:

- The championship is going to be awesome this year, as there are four cars all with a good chance of claiming the title. The challenge for the Ferrari squads is to get a good result in Budapest next weekend, as thereafter all the tracks suit the Corvettes a little bit more. How the teams manage the pit stop handicaps will be key. In particular don't expect either Villorba or SMP to look too glum if their cars are off the Super GT rostrum next time out.

- The transmission failure for the SRT Corvette could be a game changer for the title, to miss out on points in both races is a big blow, but I still expect them to be on pole in Hungary.

- Car balance. I think Jerez really showed how nicely the performance balances out. The Corvettes like long straights and fast corners, the Ferrari's the mid and low speed turns. A key factor in the title race this year will be compromise set-ups. Both SMP and Villorba have gone the wrong way with race set up at least once this year, particularly noticeable with the SMP car in R1 at Portimao, where it looked very twitchy.

- The weather has been kind to the Super GT runners, Jerez was a good 15C cooler than everyone expected, which meant the Dunlops lasted a lot longer. A hot weekend in Budapest will really put the cat amongst the pigeons.

- It was mega to see the Nissan on the grid in Jerez, and Craig Dolby is super-fast driver. If they decide to continue for the whole season I think they could challenge for GTS honors. Amazingly that was just the second race with the car for the Nova Race team. At this stage I don't know their plans for the rest of the year.
- I am also intrigued to see how the Novadriver Audi goes for the rest of the year. It always goes well in Jerez, but there was a notable step change in Aditya Patel this weekend, who seemed much more assured behind the wheel.

- The Autorlando Sport driver pairing is great fun, Joel and Matteo really complement each other. I would suggest they could be very strong candidates for the GTS title, where consistency is often key.

- Miguel Ramos is having a really good season, he and Nicky are making a good driver pairing and Nicky's very analytical approach suits Miguel well. Plus he seems much more relaxed out of the car. His performance at Portimao was no great shock as it is his favorite circuit.
- There are some interesting, lower profile, but high caliber drivers achieving success this year. Particularly Dennis Retera as you pointed out, and also Jose Perez-Aicart who has been rapid in each and every race. Paolo Ruberti is also a class act and a welcome addition.
- The clashes are unfortunately one of those things, especially in June where there are lots of F1 races, several WTCC rounds, and the Le Mans & N24 hours. Ultimately however GT Open is playing to a different audience and customer to the big endurance races. I think the Silverstone round will be a showpiece round for this season, with as I understand it a number of additional cars on the grid.
- The only date clash I don't understand is October 18/19 when every major series in Europe seems to be racing, with nothing on the surrounding weekends. To that end, I am also surprised that nobody has taken the plunge to schedule a couple of August races this year, given that there will be a dearth of live sport on European TV


Friday, June 20, 2014

The Death of Racing Supplemental - Terrible Le Mans Coverage!

 The technology showcased at this weekend's 24 hr of Le Mans (refreshing to not see any corporate sponsorship of the race, yet) is very relevant to the road cars you will be purchasing in the future. However the presentation that Fox (Speed) does is TERRIBLE and is just as old as carburetors and bias-ply tires.

 First they are too cheap to send a crew over on location. They figured if this works for F1 (they pioneered this) it will also work for sports car racing especially Le Mans and nobody will notice.

At the very least they could fly out on Test Day weekend or even up to Thurs qualifying race weekend and talk to the teams and drivers. But they don't; they don't the teams or driver's well and I get tired of Dorsey Schroeder always referring back to his limited experience with the Audi R8 when he drove it briefly in the early 2000's. Dude that was over a decade ago and the R18 has about as much in common with the R8 as it does with a A8 road car.

 Brian Till is really pushing my buttons as well. A guy with middling success behind the wheel, he should be assigned to pit road or color duty, but they let him lead broadcast which he's not best suited for. I am not one to mess with a man's money, but something needs to be done here.

 Bob Varsha and Calvin Fish at least know personally many of the younger drivers (and veterans) at Le Mans because they have come up through the feeder series ranks, like GP2 or F3000. In my personal opinion these should be the only two guys to lead Tudor races and lead the extended broadcast of races like the 12 hours of Sebring or the 24 hrs of Le Mans.

 We don't need a 3rd person in the booth. For some series it works, for most it doesn't, especially when they have almost nothing to add of value, except to constantly refer to his belief that technology has made the race cars of day easier to drive (Dorsey Schroeder).

 If you must have a 3rd wheel, Tommy Kendall's information is relevant as he was at Le Mans in 2013 with the SRT (Dodge) Viper team.

 I finally had enough about mid way through the race and switched to Eurosport. That's not the complete truth. I had errands to run on Saturday and spent 8 hours getting caught up to the live coverage.

 Next year I may purchase the WEC stream and use RLM for audio, I've had it. I am tried of the commercials that have to be run every 15-20 mins, cutting right away from a great GTE Pro race. Even worse is to cut away to talk to their friends at Corvette and Audi.

 The coverage of major motor sport in America is TERRIBLE! If that offends hardcore fans like myself, imagine what it does the so-called casual fan?

 Congratulations to AF Corse #51 of Bruni, Vilander and Fisichella for winning the GTE-Pro class without one mistake and changing the brakes further into the race than anybody else.

It was also the best race of the weekend, if you watched the race or was there, then you know what I am talking about.

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