Friday, January 30, 2009
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Yazeed al-Rajhi completed his first offroad victory in style, leading wire to wire in the '09 Ha'il Baja. Taking a Nissan Navara to victory lane and continuing Team Overdrive's (out of Belgium with South African built Navaras) recent success. Though the Ha'il Baja was stripped of its point standing by the FIA before the event began it will be run again in '10, supposedly with its point status returned...Regardless, it would be nice to see al-Rajhi show up at the rest of the FIA's Baja series during the rest of '09 and perhaps team up with Ivar Eric Tollefsen, Krystof Holoczyc and Lazlo Palik to put a serious beating on the other competitors at the hands of these incredible Nissans.
taken by Nissan of Argentina I believe...It shows Ivar Eric Tollefsen's Navara...I still haven't figured out what the hump is that is in the hood of these racing Navara's....Are they allowed superchargers?? That would also explain the listing of the truck having 340 hp which is significantly more than what the stock 4.0 liter Nissan engine is listed to produce...regardless, I love the sound of this engine and exhaust...Dakar Navara Video
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
at the 2009 Ha'il Baja...in the first properly contested stages, no one had anything for al-Rajhi and his Overdrive Racing Navara as he is now out to a 25 minute lead...baring any mechanical difficulties he should be able to cruise to a win as there is little contested mileage remaining in this short event. I am trying to find some pics but I have come across none so far...Hopefully we can get one of these Navara's over here to race in the near future...they are being shipped to South America, Europe, Africa and the Middle East for races...Why not the U.S. or Mexico??? Nissan Navara dominating Ha'il Baja '09...
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Again...this time at the Ha'il Baja in Saudi Arabia...Continuing his trip around he world, Team Overdrive manager Jean Marc Fortin has traded in his Spanish language dictionary for an Arabic one as less than a week after the completion of the Dakar, he is now assisting the current race leader Yazeed Al-Rajhi and his S.A. built Navara as well, which was actually down a cylindar only hours before the race began before a local bedouin Nissan enthusiast was able to source an identical part for the Navara engine from a Nissan Maxima some 300km away...a fact that not even the team engineers knew as they had already ordered a new Navara engine to be flown into Saudi Arabia from S.A....Unfortunately this race has lost some of its prestige as the FIA has stripped it of its points for the overall FIA Baja championship in response to Saudi Arabia preventing a Russian female driver from taking part in the race due to their strict (backwards?) religous laws...There are Nissan Navaras in 1st and 2nd currently (though only through the first prologue stage--but we'll take what we can get!!) and Yazeed is one of the favorites to win...Ha'il Baja gets underway!!
Nissan released an official congratulations and press release on the fantastic success their South African Navaras had in the '09 Dakar. Given how Toyota uses the durability of its global Hilux's in its American advertising, Nissan could do a heck of a response in showing how well its Navaras are performing given their similarity (nearly identical) to the U.S. Frontiers. Global Nissan Press Release on Dakar Results...
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Another classic film that would just not work in today's world...For those who have not seen the film, you likely imagine the work to be entirely about one younger man's affair with an older woman...
While Ben Braddock's (Dustin Hoffman) affair with Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) does make up the majority of the storyline in the first 1/2 of the film, the second, and just as important 1/2 concerning Braddock's chase of Mrs. Robinson's daughter Elaine (Katherine Ross) is rarely mentioned. An incomplete film without this second 1/2 its a shame that this section is so often overlooked due to the more notorious earlier parts.
A great transitional film showing the U.S. as it transitions from the more "innocent" 50's into the more "forward" late sixties and seventies, Ben Braddock, though younger, is more a product of his "helicopter" parents and the 50's he grew up in than the older and more sexually "progressive" Mrs. Robinson. Some of the most cringe worthy and humorous scenes around are found herein as Braddock's overbearing, typically suburban parents treat him as a "showpiece" in attempting to show what a wonderful and successful child they have raised (making Ben come out at his 21st birthday party in a full scuba diving outfit comes to mind).
Ben and Mrs. Robinson are driven together as each tries to escape the roles they have been forced into--Ben fleeing from life as the son of a successful lawyer who is expected to follow in his father's footsteps and Mrs. Robinson from a loveless and sexless marriage to a man whom she "had" to marry while at college decades ago. Though each provides the escape the other needs, their relationship is one of convenience and not love. In fact when they try to actually talk to one another things become increasingly uncomfortable and untenable.
Though the film ends with Ben and Elaine together as the viewer is brought to want to happen, the audience is left questioning whether this will work out as they too are left in silence, unable/unwilling to talk to each other and avoiding eye contact. They too seem to be merely trying to escape from their lives rather than being truly drawn to one another.
Hoffman here is your typical Hoffman with all the stuttering, stammering and deadpan dialogue that he has carried to other roles throughout his career (Rain Man anyone??) and though effective, I didn't find him enjoyable to watch. Bancroft and Katherine Ross carry the film--one with her truly smokey sexuality and Ross with her apparent 50's innocence. Mike Nichols who has gone on to create such garbage as "What Planet Are You From?" and "The Birdcage" (as well as well received films like "Silkwood", "Biloxi Blues" and "Charlie Wilson's War") likely had one of his best and certainly most famous creations early on here with a film that serves as treasure trove of quotable lines and famous camera shots.
Monday, January 19, 2009
As a Nissan fan, I've always been interested in the underdog or the unappreciated...the rare, the unexpected etc....And so it is with what catches my eye when trolling around Ebay Motors for a project vehicle to dream about...Coming across what looked kinda like an old Nissan Z from
its small gallery picture I paused and looked a little deeper...A Mercury Capri?? Weren't those the crappy little 3 cylinder cars of the early 90's?? Yes...they were...But Mercury (or Ford) Capri's were also little mid 70's 2 door coupes imported from Germany and really weren't Ford's or Mercury's as they were made at a Ford plant in Cologne and often had Ford stamped
engines but were sold at Mercury dealerships (here in the U.S.) and wore neither a Ford or a Mercury logo. This example has supposedly been in storage for 20 years (storage or outside in a carport or lean-to????). Brushing off the snow the car is in expectedly poor shape...typical body rust in the areas where salt and water like to collect--back of the rear hatch, running boards, mirror attachment locations, etc...the engine does not turn over (though that could simply be a dead battery and not enough juice in the portable jumper pack), and the interior is a disaster from top to bottom....On the positive side....the paint (in the non rusted areas) looks quite decent and the mechanicals on the underside of the car seem solid and the tires near new...Many of the the remaining Capri's on the road look to be dragsters or other engine swapped iterations though in their day the Capri was a fairly solid little sportscar...far more European in its performance than its Ford/Mercury birthright would indicate. Currently on Ebay with a no reserve auction and a +/- $250 bid right now, for someone with the time, skills and desire this could be a hot little project car...pics of the actual car (2.0 4cyl OHC) and
of some restored/original Capri's (with the last, red Capri being VERY similar to the model I came across today) follow as well as a link to Murray's Auto Recycling near me in Londonderry, NH who I now have my name on a list with for any older Nissan's that may come in...
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Phenomenal is about the only way you can describe the final standings for Nissan in the '09 Dakar...coming into the event little was expected in the way of the Nissans as without the full factory support they had once had the privateer efforts were underfunded and underdeveloped when compared to the massive efforts of VW and Mitsu. Nevertheless, a couple of South African built Nissan Navara's showed just how dependable and fast they can be when helmed by some solid drivers. Finishing the Dakar in 4th and 5th positions, Ivar Erik Tollefsen and Krysztof Holowczyc will carry #'s 304 and 305 into the '10 Dakar reminding everyone of how well they performed...Though not carrying the top speed of the Mitsu's, VW's and BMW's at the top of the leaderboard, the Nissan's proved better at withstanding the brutal conditions encountered along the way. With another year of development under their belts expect both Tollefsen and Holowczyc to be back and challenge for the front of the toughest race in the world yet again...In the meantime both Holowczyc and Tollefsen will likely be trying their hand at numerous rally races of shorter distances throughout Europe and Africa throughout '09. I will attempt to follow their results in those events as well. Congrats to all who braved the Dakar and especially to any/all of the Nissan teams...Well done...Well done...
Though, as nearly everyone is, I am a big fan of the first two Godfather movies, I have never really delved any deeper into Coppola's films, having only seen Bram Stoker's Dracula (alternately solid/silly) and Jack (enjoyable but not remarkable) in their entirety's...
Watching this film last night though makes me wonder how much of Coppola's talent has been squandered over the past 30 years...Utterly fascinating from beginning to end, The Conversation is a GREAT film...incorporating elements from Psycho, Rear Window, a host of French films and more it still comes off as entirely original. Its pacing is one rarely if ever seen in today's films as it builds slow and allows you to see its main character and all his neuroses.
It is almost humorous to watch the character's fascinations with what was at the time "amazing" technology such as closed circuit TV, audio bugging devices and surveillance equipment that we take for granted today. What was in 1974 a questionable invasion of privacy is now commonplace today...One can easily see someone remaking this film (poorly) today with computer hacking and photoshop'd pictures taking the place of the microphones and tape recorders seen here...
Hackman is great in terms of portraying a man utterly uncomfortable outside the walls of his profession and the equipment he surrounds himself with. He is someone who cannot/willnot move himself to be emotionally connected to those around him, remaining as detached from his "friends" and lovers as he is from the people he is hired to listen in on. When he begins to care about the fate of a couple he has listened in on, his whole world begins to crumble making him irritable, rash and oblivious to those with ulterior motives who move around him.
The jazz/piano music is perfect for this film, never overriding the images on the screen and fitting perfectly with early 70's San Francisco. No MTV editing here...the camera allows the characters to move in and out of the frame at their own pace, sometimes not feeling the need to follow them at all, allowing the viewer to observe visual cues like the emptiness of Caul's apartment and what you can infer from those...
As a film I watched in the cold of winter with a nice fire beside me and a drink in my hand, watching The Conversation made for truly pleasing couple of hours...
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Amazing....truly amazing...what a race...surely now one of the best, most surprising Dakar's ever. With Carlos Sainz starting the day comfortably in 1st and the two top Nissan's in 6th and 7th many drivers were just hoping to ease their vehicles into the finish given the massive amounts of attrition that had already taken place. Then all hell breaks loose...on a stage some competitors were calling the most difficult section of racing Sainz careens into a ravine and totals his Touareg taking the leader out of the race...then Nani Roma's Mitsubishi suffers a mechanical failure ending his race prematurely...And what you are left with is two Americans in podium positions--Mark Miller and his factory VW in 2nd and Robby Gordon and his Hummer in 3rd. Krysztof Holowczyc and Ivar Eric Tollefsen carefully guided their Nissan Navara's into the finish and have now moved up to a truly incredible 5th and 4th positions respectively. Really an incredible turn of events. Before the Dakar started I had hoped for a single top 15 vehicle but to have two now in the top 5 is beyond all hopes for Nissan...Fingers crossed for the final two stages of real racing before the final parade stage!!
The '09 Xterra continues the Xterra's heritage of winning awards for being a true SUV at a reasonable price. Since its inception when it won Motortrend's SUV of the year in '00 and then again in '05 when it was redesigned, the Xterra has been at the top of its class for near a decade now. Four Wheeler magazine is the latest to praise the Xterra for all that it is and all that it is not. If you need an SUV you owe it to yourself to test one of the last of a dying breed before buying anything else...
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
With Stage 11 cancelled due to fog (really???) The Dakar has crossed back over the Andes and will be running on the East side of them back to Buenos Aires the rest of the way. With only four stages remaining Nissan trucks hold THREE of the top ten positions...All privateer efforts, all Navara's they are performing AWESOME...I don't think Nissan could have hoped for a better result given the extremely minimal factory support these teams are getting. So here is where they stand--6th place: #327 Ivar Erik Tollefsen, 7th place: #317 Krysztof Holoczyc and in 10th #331 Laszlo Palik. Can't count you chickens just yet but it looks like a remarkably solid finish for Nissan.
Monday, January 12, 2009
Lucas Oil American Off-Road Series &
Myrl Akerman, PR & Marketing Director:
A Brief Conversation
"Finally"--In a world where '09 budgets are often set before August of '08 and 2010 car models are released in the first quarter of '09, the word "finally" is the one word Myrl Akerman has heard most since releasing the '09 schedule for the new minted Lucas Oil American Off-Road Series...
As the lead PR and marketing director over at LOAORS (I'm pronouncing it "lores" until someone tell me otherwise), Myrl admits next time he may not put out a press release on a Friday as the response that the 1/9 announcement generated has eaten up a majority of his weekend with a ever-ringing cell phone. That being said, Myrl (a busy man with team ownership duties for Team 71 Racing, the General Tire Trophy/Trick Truck driven by Rick D. Johnson), is thrilled by the response he has received from racers, sponsors and fans alike in these early stages of what could be the "next big thing".
To be honest, I don't think Akerman's phone would be ringing very much at all if it weren't for the late season implosion of CORR in '08 and its subsequent inability to release an '09 schedule or infuse its public with a sense of confidence about its future. CORR's prospects going forward can be debated ad infinitum at this point but the indisputable fact is that LOAORS has announced things CORR hasn't to this point, including a schedule with dates and locations, HD TV coverage on SPEED TV (and the Outdoor Network) and three BIG sponsors in title sponsor Lucas Oil and associate sponsors General Tire and Bully Dog. Bully Dog in fact could be said to have defected from CORR to LOAORS with Bully Dog marketing director Mike DeFord saying "...a number of weeks ago we had announced that we would be back with CORR in 2009. Since making that announcement things have not progressed at a level or a rate with CORR that we liked".
Regardless of how well the stars appear to be aligning for LOAORS, there are many serious questions, given the current economic environment, if it is a good idea for any motorsport series to be starting up, no matter how deep its management or sponsors may be. Trying to get answers to a couple of these questions I gave a call to Mr. Akerman this past Saturday. Giving my name and that I was calling from the nismoblogspot.com website I expected either to be hung up on or to have the response be something along the lines of "Huh? yoou're calling from where?" and instead got an "Oh, yeah, I've been there..."
After getting over my initial shock I was able to talk briefly with Mr. Akerman and discover that he and LOAORS founder Tony Vanillo (former competition director for CORR) are not unaware of the opportunity they now have and are determined not to squander it. With over 40 combined years in motorsports of one kind or another, Vanillo and Akerman believe they have the experience to found and maintain a top tier short course series. More than anything in recent years, Akerman says that they have "...learned not necessarily what TO do but what NOT to do...If you are constantly robbing Peter to pay Paul it will come back to bite you..." Take that how you will but Akerman believes "consistency" is the key to creating a successful series. Consistency when it comes to sponsors, consistency when it comes to fans, consistency when it comes to racers. "A positive, strong, adrenaline filled event--every time" is what Akerman says LOAORS will provide in '09.
Certainly Lucas Oil believes it...One of the most dedicated of short course sponsors, having been a major force behind the mid-west based WSORR for years, Akerman calls Lucas Oil "...a class act...devoted to the people who use their product and those who support them..." and believe that Lucas Oil does not sign on to be the title sponsor of a series lightly. With Lucas Oil's long standing support of the WSORR and with the opening of the new Lucas Oil stadium in Indianapolis, it is obvious that they have put their chips down on the right horses in the past and Akerman believes they have done so again with the LOAORS. What this means for WSORR's future and if with the largest mid-west and largest west-coast sort course series now running under the same title sponsor we will se some sort of merged schedule or combined series (assuming LOAORS is successful and Lucas continues to see short course racign as a wise investment) somewhere down the line can only be guessed at...
Beyond LOAORS title sponsor, Akerman is working on the holy grail of short course racing success--non-endemic sponsorship. While both CORR and the WSORR had made recent inroads in developing relationships with non-endemic sponsors (Traxxas being a recent notable example) neither has been able to reach such companies on a wide scale. If Akerman is to be believed, that may change with LOAORS. Though unable to release any specific information, when asked directly about the possibility of bringing such relationships on board, he states that despite the downturn in the economy, companies are "...hungry for something different", something which short-course racing provides in spades and are "ready with open arms...but have to believe that the series they are working with is not going to have financial problems in the future". Whether LOAORS is able to convince such non-endemics to come on board or not has yet to be seen though Akerman hinted at some major announcements for the series in the near future and I can't imagine Akerman talking up the importance of non-endemic sponsorship as much as he did without there being something fairly far along in terms of that as well.
Regardless of what may be in the works behind the scenes at LOAORS at this point, Akerman assures me that if there is one thing that will be a hallmark of this new series it will be its honesty. "If we're not honest with people we have nothing" says Akerman, calling series founder Tony Vanillo "...one of the straightest shooting individuals I've ever been associated with" and firmly believes that Vanillo is "in it for the right reasons", not only to make money (no one starts a business to LOSE money) but to give back to an industry and fan base that has been able to provide employment and personal success to both Vanillo and Akerman throughout their professional lives.
If CORR can be said to have tried to run before it could walk, perhaps one can look at the LOAORS as being in the crawling stage of development. No, there is no live TV coverage on NBC nor any immediate plans to run a race at a NASCAR track, but the groundwork that Vanillo and Akerman are laying today just might lead to a well run, long term, fan/racer driven short course series in the Western U.S.--FINALLY
**As a final note--The author has received no benefit, monetary or otherwise from any person or corporation for the above article**
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Entering Stage 8, after the mid-point break in the action for a "rest-day" there are two Nissan's in the top 10. Krzysztog Holowczycz holds down 6th place, just behind Robby Gordon and his Hummer team and Ivar Eric Tollefsen is in 7th. Both are solidly in place with little chance of dropping down positions unless they encounter major difficulties. For two privateer teams they are performing amazingly and garnering a ton of attention from sponsors and competitors. With the El Dakaro only about 1/2 over there is still a chance for them to move up in the standings (or down) and we will keep our fingers crossed for the best!!
Friday, January 9, 2009
Just a bunch of pics from Flickr that I've come across...Flickr always seems to have the best pics by the best amateur photogs...Just search "Dakar" and click on "most recent" and there are hundreds to look over...
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Ahh...the ups and downs of the Dakar...one day you are sitting in the top 15 of the best offroad racers in the world...the next? Well...the next you are roasting marshmellows on the remains of your engine block. So it is for one of Nissan's best hopes for a top finish at this years Dakar. Christian Lavieille and his Team Dessoude Nissan Navara were only moments from the end of Stage 5 when their vehicle caught fire, was engulfed in flames and completely destroyed in mere seconds. Cause of the fire is unknown but the team is heartbroken. Article here: Dakar Nissan up in smoke...
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Sorry...have to diverge from my Nissans here for a bit as the performance put on by the Americans in today's stage put the rest of the world on notice that we are here to stay and to win. First you have Mark Miller, a factory driver for VW who continued his consistent finishes coming in 5th on the day and very quietly stands 4th overall 19m55s out of first. Then you have Robby Gordon and his privately funded effort in the Hummer. Having a so-so rally thus far, he broke out with some outstanding driving after rolling the Hummer TWICE the day before and finished 3rd on the day and now stands 7th overall 41m48s out of first with perhaps the terrain best suited for Gordon and the Hummer (large sand dunes) yet to come. And lastly, and most impressively you have Jonah Street. Running a non-factory effort with his KTM motorcycle on a shoestring budget in the marathon class (no repairs/replacements allowed outside of tires and a couple other items), Jonah almost didn't even enter the Dakar this year due to lack of support/funds--and he WINS the 5th stage of the Dakar today. Seriously...if you don't realize just how big a deal this is then you just don't get it...Jonah now sits in second place behind Coma 27m12s out of first with a legit shot at winning the whole thing. He is now being looked at as one of the best motorcyclists in the world and getting the respect and coverage he has long deserved. Well done Jonah, well done.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
After the 4th stage, positions 10, 14, 15 and 16 are all Nissan vehicles. Pretty good for a non factory effort. The hardest stages are yet to come...as rough as the race has been so far the large dunes (a 20 Km stretch in stage 5), the high mountain passes and rougher sections are all yet to come...I would expect a full 1/3 of the top ten drivers will not see the end of the race...The Nissans need to just run their own race at their own pace and let the others fall back to them...they simply do not have the resources, technology and top end speed/torque to compete with the massive efforts of VW, Mitsu and BMW...Have my fingers crossed for continued success. Highlights of each previous day's stage can be watched on the U.S. cable channel VS. at 3:30 and 6:30 Eastern time...the pic with this post is of Lazlo Palik during one of the liaison stretches of Stage 3.
Monday, January 5, 2009
Shockingly, against teams with near billion dollar (that's a B folks) budgets, fielding multi-car efforts a number of Nissan vehicles are running well. With four vehicles in the top twenty and two in the top fifteen, Nissan is off to a solid start given the lack of factory support for these racers. All four vehicles are ones that I mentioned in the run up to the Dakar with Krzysztof Holowczyc and his South African built Navara (Frontier) currently in 8th overall some 34 minutes out of the overall lead. As a former pro-rally driver, Krzysztof's driving style suits itself well to the Dakar and its need for highly technical and precise driving.
Saturday, January 3, 2009
Topping better known competitors like Robby Gordon and his Hummer, and only a few moments behind the "big boys" of the Dakar (Roma, Peterhansel, Alphand, etc.) the Nissan Navara of Krzysztof Holowczyc (9th overall and 7:44 behind the leader) and the Navara of Ivar Erik Tollefsen (13th overall and 12:54 behind the leader) both had strong initial runs on the longest special in Dakar history...obviously there is a loooong way to go in this, but its a good initial first step and leads me to believe that my predictions in the recent past of a couple top 15s in this Dakar are certainly possible for Nissan...and perhaps more....
Thursday, January 1, 2009
Only two days away!! And it is in or near the Eastern U.S. time zone (Buenos Aires) so it will be even easier to follow along with. Some pics from scrutineering are coming out already. Here is one of Nissan #429, which is the French team of Paul Crepet and Guy Bouche.