Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Who is Going to Buy This Before I Do?

Now here is a fairly rare vehicle...

An '08 Subaru Legacy GT Spec B.

Currently for sale in Hampstead, NH for $14,995.  It has 128K on the odometer as well as some tasteful modifications (likely meaning that the former owner had a good idea of the performance of the vehicle and drove it hard on occasion) such as a short throw shifter, high flow exhaust, and light Enkei rims.

The Spec B was like the STi version of the Legacy with upgrades to suspension, an R180 differential and three driving modes.  If you're reading this than you likely know far more about these vehicles than I do, so I'll stop here.  This is the first Subaru I can think of that I actually want since the old late 90's Outback sedans with the giant foglights and their crosshatch grillcovers and spoiler...

Subaru Legacy Spec B...

Monday, January 12, 2015

Don't Want...Need This For the Rally Truck...

and also need an external speaker for the Rally Truck so I can listen to tunes or the radio net when outside the vehicle.  $100 for music on my transits or when waiting for a stage start?  Done.

 Bluetooth connection for race intercoms...

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Rally America Developments/Status as of 1/1/15

Call me a loser, call me a hack, call me a know nothing, call me a detriment to the rally community.  That's fine.  I accept it.  Fortunately I really don't care.  Whether out of narcissism or a need for attention (both?) I enjoy looking into the success or failure of Rally.  In some instances its success...in others its failure...

In some cases its organizations that don't communicate with their customers what their actual operations look like and what troubles they may be undergoing.  While from a business perspective it makes sense to keep these issues private, from a consumer perspective, it can be very important to know where your money is going and how it is being used.  If you want to attribute positive reasons for my disclosure of this information, great.  If you want to ascribe uglier reasons, that's fine, I accept it.

So here goes...The following information was obtained first hand from various high level sources at multiple Rally organizations with each corroborating parts of the others information.

Rally America is about to see a significant change in the way it receives or doesn't receive the proceeds of competitor funds and its actual role in the sport is being drastically curtailed.

First off...one of the first USRA 2015 events will be the Waste Management Winter Rally.  No surprise here given one of the USRA's board members is one of the WMWR's chief organizers.  Secondly it looks as if there will be a second USRA even in the Northeast in connection with the O'Neil Rally School in '15 given Tim O'Neil's involvement with the USRA and his confirmed displeasure with Rally America at the moment.  The rest of USRA's events are likely to be held in the SouthWest where the majority of USRA's other listed board members are located and have organized prior events.

Now onto the good stuff...

 If you remember a couple years back, RA got into a deal of trouble with Oregon Trail (I believe) and other events/organizers because they never paid the organizers for months after the event. At this point in time the flow of funds from competitors went directly to RA first and RA was then responsible for sending these funds out to organizers, insurance companies, vendors, etc., etc.

Eventually that got ironed out months and months later though whether everyone got paid what they were owed is doubtful (this last part is my speculation).

Well fast forward to now and the situation has only turned astronomically worse. RA is being sued by a previous insurance company who was never paid, causing RA to obtain a new insurance company in the past couple years and pass on a jacked up insurance rate to racers, organizers haven't been paid, vendors haven't been paid, most RA employees (what few there are) haven't seen a check in months and perhaps most importantly, USAC hasn't been paid.

So this USRA thing began development about 10 months ago from a bunch of organizers and others who don't like RA and have numerous personal gripes against RA. Their idea is not much different than anyone else's in Rally. They aren't recreating the wheel there...they just want to put on events and get people to come. Their plan is to start out with smaller events, probly like 6 or so in '15 and move to National level events in years after.

These events will be organized/sanctioned between USRA and USAC, there will be no RA involvement here.

On the RA event side of things, the National events did and have not wanted to operate with RA in '15 for some time. They actually came to the USRA as a group (in part or whole) and asked them to handle the '15 events hoping to drop RA entirely but USRA turned them down feeling they were not ready to take over such a task given that at the time they barely had their BOD set and lots of other beginning stuff to work on.

So the RA National events were stuck with RA for '15--but...USAC is PISSED they haven't gotten their money from RA and how RA has handled their payment of various parties in general, (this is where the 1/1/15 date comes in) and will be notifying RA that as of 1/1/15 that they, USAC, are taking over all the licensing, registration, payment, and insurance,  etc. of the RA National events. RA (the company) will be left SOLELY as a promotional/marketing arm putting their "name" on the events but not really having anything to do with the competitors or their money.

And HERE is where I think the rubber meets the road in terms of the Fogg's interest in the sport and this gets into some speculation on my part vs. what I have been told first hand by those directly involved.

RA as a company owes tons of people, tons of money and can't pay its bills. It also couldn't produce something that NBCSN wanted and couldn't meet its obligations to paying sponsors who had counted on advertising/promotional time on those supposed NBCSN broadcasts.

So where did that money go?? Here's my speculation. Until very recently, RA controlled 100% of the flow of funds for these events. They took all these funds in and then were trusted to pay everyone. Well, that didn't happen very often. So my belief is that the Fogg's were and are, using the funds from competitors to prop up their other businesses or to fund their personal interests and then would "repay" various groups at later dates when they got more funds from somewhere else (cash flow improves, another event happens and they have another inflow of funds, a sponsor signs, etc.)  Whether this is 100% true is mostly besides the point...what matters is that RA took the money in and did SOMETHING with that did not involve paying its obligations related to Rally America events...

Its worse than even a company earning money on the "float" they might earn by holding the funds for longer than they should...it seems to me that they were using these competitor and sponsor funds for operating purposes elsewhere.

Well, this is where USAC's decision is going to seemingly cripple their ability to do that. See, in the past the flow of funds went something like this: Competitor (entry fee) -->RA-->Organizers/USAC/Insurance company and as of 1/1/15 the flow of funds will be like this: Competitor-->USAC-->organizer/insurance company and then if there is ANYTHING left over it will go to RA for their "sanctioning" of the event.

So instead of being first in line for all these funds and RA making all the decisions as to who gets paid and when and getting their hand on EVERY penny an event generates they will now be LAST in line for the funds and won't get them until very late in the process if at all.

So...if YOU were RA and you had been using the funds gathered from various events in order to support operating needs of other companies or personal interests and suddenly had that flow of funds (in the hundreds of thousands of dollars annually) completely pulled from you with no control over the amount or timing of the funds you MIGHT get....and you had no real interest in the sport itself...What would you do?

So...going forward you will be needing a USAC license, not an RA license for competition in RA.  RA will have zero control over the flow of funds with USAC taking complete control over registration, insurance, etc., and the longer term intention for many National events is to leave RA and its broken promises behind.  What is Rally America as a corporate entity left with at this point??  A name, a website and a rulebook that looks the same as everyone elses.  That's it.  There is no TV package.  Their own events don't want them, there is no national level competition, entries are dwindling, they are being sued by multiple unpaid parties, they can't pay their employees, there hasn't been a PR release in over three months...

In the meantime the Fogg's have already made intimations as to their willingness to sue various entities mentioned here over these changes...it will be interesting to see how it all shakes out. 

I hope this at the very least provides a bit of new information as to where RA stands and what some of the behind the scenes maneuvering has been of late.  All this info was up to date as of two weeks ago.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Intro to Antonio Narino the Only American on a Bike in 2015 Dakar

The 2015 Dakar is upon us…

While American entrants have always been few and far between in the world’s most prestigious offroad race the ’15 edition is especially lacking in riders and drivers flying the red, white, and blue.  While Tony Gera was able to win a free entry into the event via his 2014 SCORE Desert Racing performance, it is only SoCal resident Antonio Narino who will be present on a bike from the US in this year’s event (as rider #164).

Originally from Columbia, Narino moved to the United States where he enrolled at Duke University to study business, a background that would result in his employment with Hunter Industries (a major irrigation company).  Like many in our world though, Narino had his priorities “straight” and one of the first things he bought upon arriving in America was a motorcycle in order to continue the passion he had picked up racing numerous enduros in his home country.  

This passion (Narino says he has never considered himself a real racer) lead him to build up his Rally-Raid and ADV resume over the past decade.  His travels (many solo) included two wheeled trips through Cambodia, Patagonia, Bolivia and Alaska.  On the racing side Narino ran in events such as the ’07 Por Las Pampas Rally, ’10 Rally dos Sertoes, and the ’07 Baja 500 and Vegas to Reno races as well as recent NORRA Mexican 1000 events and ’14 Baja Rally.  With this history as well as various desert training sessions including a visit to Morocco this past year and trips in both ’09 and ’12 to follow along with the traveling circus that is the Dakar, Narino is taking his first shot at entering the pinnacle of offroad racing this year.

While Antonio’s “nothing worth doing is ever easy” attitude is a major asset, as is his long term mountain biking and weight training regimen, he is participating in the ’15 Dakar as a Marathon/Malle-Moto entry.  This “pure” type of class allows no engine changes during the event (per Antonio the ASO reserves 20 spots per year for the Malle-Moto entrants for which you have to apply and be accepted into) and requires an individual to perform all their own maintenance and service—no crew, no mechanic, no assistance of any kind (not even to cook your food).  For the “privilege” of running this class the ASO provides you a “trunk” in which you have to store all your gear, spares, tools and equipment and will transport it to each bivouac.  In order to maintain absolute focus on the task at hand, Antonio has left all family and friends at home so as to eliminate any distractions.  Having seen racers at prior events bring their wives along and watched the drain on attention that this can bring, he felt his focus needed to be maintained on the race.
As of this writing, Antonio will have already arrived in Buenos Aires and unloaded his bike and be proceeding through scrutineering where each of the never ending checks administered by the ASO will be finished with a stamp, he has already completed a dream.  Just arriving at the start is a major accomplishment for any racer while an actual finish in the event is near unthinkable.

Having met and picked the brains of fellow American riders such as Andy Grider, Jonah Street, Kurt Caselli and Kellon Walch, Antonio believes he has picked up a few strategies that may get him to the finish.  In seeing the heights that the course reaches one might think that power loss might become an issue though Antonio has seen that the fuel injected nature of his bike largely mitigates that concern.  Communication issues can also present a problem with the ASO speaking all French, the spectators and many entrants speaking Spanish and practically everyone else attempting to get by on butchered English.  Fortunately Antonio speaks English, Spanish and Portuguese easing his communication with nearly everyone present.  Navigation should also be something Antonio has buttoned up having participated in and conducted training with Dave Peckham and Rally Management Services for a number of Dakar competitors who sought to perfect their navigation arts.

The real key to his success Antonio believes is to just keep moving.  Keeping up a minimum pace despite everything the Dakar will throw at him he knows will be a brutal proposition.  Breakdowns and errors are bound to happen, its dealing with them in an efficient manner that will keep him in the event.

Hopefully keeping the repairs to a minimum will be a combination of both Narino’s skills and the quality inherent in his chosen bike.  The 2013 Husqvarna 449 he will be riding will not be his own.  While he has been a long time rider of Husqvarnas, the logistics, expense and hassle of shipping and prepping his own bike from SoCal was actually more of a pain than his alternative plan.  Buying a fully Dakar prepped (Sentinal system with light and noise notification, navigation tower, etc.), yet very light and nimble (comparatively) Husqvarna 449 in Portugal and having it shipped to Buenos Aires along with the vast majority of other Dakar racers drastically simplified the process.

While most of us won’t be part of the millions following the 2015 Dakar in person, Antonio should be able to bring back some his experiences, lessons, tips, and stories for release either here or another publication TBD.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Baja Rally 2.0 Video

Here is the recap of Baja Rally 2.0, a RallyRaid style event for motorcycles in Baja that announced today that it is partnering with a second RallyRaid event to be held in the southern Mexico state of Oaxaca and organized by the Rally Playero Entertainment group to form the Mexican National Cross Country Championship.

These events will also include ATVs and UTVs and are thus targeted squarely at the RallyRaid community participating in events like the Dakar and the European Cross Country Championship.

More info here:  Mexican Cross Country Championship...

How Do You Know the Dakar is Big??

When you can sell out a stadium simply to watch a Dakar winner's bike do a backflip...not the actual guy who won the Dakar...just some standin on the bike that won the Dakar...

Book Review: Annihilation

Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer is the first of three novels that make up the Southern Reach trilogy.  I have only read this initial volume and so I don't yet know if the series comes to a satisfactory resolution or if it trails off into boring drivel.

I do know that this first work is an excellent piece of "weird fiction".  There is certainly a Lovecraftian feel to the entire novel both in its use of language, style and content, though its differences are more than significant enough to stand on its own.

The story surrounds an ill fated expedition that is following in the footsteps of previous ill fated expeditions to an location dubbed "Area X".  The first person speaker relaying the novel is the biologist assigned to this four woman expedition and she recounts her travels around this Area X and all the strange things we encounter.  There are dolphins with human eyes, large lizard creatures waiting in the weeds, nefarious team members, microscopic parasites, strange lighthouse keepers, indescribably beautiful/horrifying/powerful creatures from seemingly another world, etc.  No real explanation to many of these observations is given leaving the reader with the disquiet feeling that they only have a small insight into what is going on.

The locale of the tale is within a Southern "transition-land" between the swamps, grasses, forest and dunes bordering the ocean.  The author's favorite Southern hikes taking place in the St. Marks National Wildlife reserve in Florida is the inspiration for much of the book's geography and gives the tale a great feeling of "being there" as the voice coming out of the novel has a great tone of authenticity.  There is a bit of lengthy Lovecraft-like wordiness to the work which sometimes gets in the way of the story as you can be lulled into lethargy by paragraph length sentences at times, though luckily these are relatively rare.

I'm very interested in seeing where the groundwork put down in this work leads in the next two and hope the author didn't use up all his great ideas, mythmaking and mood creation on this one novel as he's certainly composed a world worth exploring further.  I'll label it as my favorite fiction work of '14.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

NISMOStuff TV Review: Black Mirror

I think this may be only my second TV review that I've done on my site out of the near 1500 posts I've put up on here.

Black Mirror is and was broadcast in the UK but has made its way over here to the States on Netflix.  The series is only two seasons long and each season is only three episodes long.  I am only through the first "season" but I have no problem recommending it as highly as anything I've seen on TV, perhaps ever.  The show is completely episodic in nature with each one a wholly contained world and story that is wrapped up within that single edition.  Each episode is fully formed and rich in detail and characters feeling like each one lasts much longer than its less than an hour length and much more like a feature film than a TV show.  Every show changes its cast, storyline, world, characters, etc.  There is nothing connecting one to another besides the artists behind the camera and the quality in front of it.

In fact this is where I would quibble with other critics of the show.  Others have compared it to things like The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents or similar while I find it much grander in its scale.  I find it more comparable to something like a Fincher or Ridley Scott film with a healthy dose of social satire thrown in.  The show focuses neatly on the intersection of near term technological developments (media, internet, consumerism, entertainment, Artificial Intelligence, etc.) and how they change our place in such a rapidly changing world.  How our modern world impacts our romantic relationships, our governments, media, etc. are all covered here and in ways that will make you laugh and cringe (say the forcing of the UK's Prime Minister to have sex with a pig on live TV/Internet?) in ways I didn't think possible.

The satire, dark humor, insigh,t and skewering of ourselves is at a level I've rarely seen or felt.  Watching a future of ours that is only seconds ahead of where we stand today, unfold and twist our conceptions of what is right and wrong, good and bad is some of the most perverse fun I've had with TV in a long time.  This isn't necessarily "light" fair...I'm as much for some gratuitous violence and nudity as the next guy and blowing away endless hordes of zombies is always a good time but this won't fit in those parameters...it requires a bit more thought, attention and emotional investment but in terms of intellectual and emotional rewards, I have seen little like it.  If you have Netflix or the ability to watch this series, I could not recommend it more highly.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Road To Dakar Part 1

Yup, posting another link to another video...its the holidays and I'm lazy.  Doesn't mean this video doesn't deserve far more views than it has seen so far.  This was originally broadcast on NBCSports channel and the second episode of this will air Xmas eve.  It goes into a lot of the preparation and testing and packing that is involved in an effort of this scale.  It is stunning the investment involved and time required.  Many don't like Robby Gordon but its hard to question his dedication or investment in this effort.