Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Steve Millen to Run GT-R in Targa Newfoundland...

Co-Founder of Stillen a multiple time champion of the MTEG (Mickey Thompson Entertainment Group) short course series and long time Nissan driver/supporter has announced that he will be coming from his home country of New Zealand to drive a purpose prepped GT-R in this Summer's Targa Newfoundland.  One of the most interesting and remote road rallies around this should make for some great pics and competition...Steve Millen enters GT-R in Targa Newfoundland...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dirt 2: A Preview...


IGN got an early preview of the new Colin McRae Dirt 2 video game.  While the early pics look incredible (as they always do with video games) I am a bit concerned about the focus on what looks like solely rally driving.  What I loved about the original Dirt was the inclusion of CORR trucks/buggies and Dakar style T4 class trucks amongst others.  I hope they include those and more in Dirt 2 as it added a great variety to the game and allowed for the player to use vehicles they may be familiar with vs. a preponderance of Citroens and other Euro specific vehicles.  Regardless, it should be a very good game and one I plan on picking up upon its release in September...Dirt 2 Preview

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

NORRS: Elaborate Con or The Future of Short Course???

OK...is NORRS the real deal or is it some sort of elaborate shell game played with front companies and multiple websites??  In a world full of Nigerian email hoaxes and Bernie Madoff scamming hundreds of billions of dollars out of the richest and most powerful individuals and banking intitutions, that is the question that has the offroad world abuzz at the moment...From Dirt Newz to Sand Addiction Magazine to UTV Guide to Side by Side Action and on and on and on, numerous media outlets have been posting the NORRS' press releases over the past few months.  These press releases have promised the start up of a new short course off road series in the San Diego area and recently have indicated the signing of a number of sponsors for the series and a potential network TV deal with CBS.  Only recently have people begun to look deeper into what and who this truly out of nowhere series is.  The answers one gets when looking into the series have, to date, been unfulfilling at best and troublesome at worst...
For a little background I contacted Rhiannon (Sweet Devil on RDC) over at PCI Race Radios, who are listed on the NORRS site as the radio sponsor of the series to see what the connection was there.  Rhiannon told me that NORRS had contacted her through RDC asking if PCI would be interested in attending their races.  Rhiannon responded that PCI likely would have interest in attending and offered to put together a quote for the radios they would need for the series.  While CORR had 100 radios (at a minimum) on hand for their races, NORRS asked for 24.  Rhiannon also stated that she met both Wesley Carr and Aryn Oswalt (the listed COO and Media Coordinator for NORRS) at the recent Parker BITD race and recognized Oswalt from his time working with tickets at CORR.  No funds exchanged hands between the two companies and no agreements of any kind to my knowledge have been signed.  As Rhiannon states "there is no [formal] affiliation whatsoever other than a few RDC PM's and a handshake and hello at Parker".
Then it was on to Sunoco, who is listed as the NORRS fuel sponsor.  I was provided the name, number and email address of Mitchell Hart (Western U.S. & International Sales Manager for Sunoco) by Aryn Oswalt at NORRS who I contacted directly to set up a time for a brief interview on 2/17.  Mitchell responded to my inquiries that yes, NORRS and Sunoco do "have a sponsor deal" but that "It would not be appropriate for [him] to discuss details regarding the group" (meaning NORRS itself).  Both the Sunoco and PCI sponsorship/relationship have been confirmed by others in the RDC community besides myself and though do not constitute enormous sums of money or very "sticky" relationships they do indicate the beginnings of a groundwork for a legitimate enterprise.
Not knowing what or who exactly I was dealing with at this point I gave NORRS call back today, speaking again to Aryn Oswalt (NORRS Media Coordinator) hoping to flesh out some of the details surrounding this surprise entry into what is sure to be a chaotic '09 in the world of short course racing.
I first tried to get to the corporate structure of the series to determine what companies are involved here and how deep the pockets might be that are funding this new series.  According to Oswalt NORRS is way down on the corporate food chain that at the top starts with E-TSI (E-Tickets Software, Inc.) which he says is a company that provides ticketing solutions for events worldwide and underneath which is Venue Support.  Oswalt states that Venue Support does the engineering for and building of various entertainment facilities.  Then underneath Venue Support is VSS Entertainment who I was told is a combination media/event production company who has done everything from commercial films to consultation.  VSS Entertainment is the one company that can be confirmed to be at least somewhat legitimate as some may be familiar with them from their handling of the ticketing for CORR during its events.  NORRS is the final leaf on this branch receiving its funding from E-TSI who, per Aryn, has committed whatever funds are necessary to run the series for a planned five year period...
A quick Google of these companies and a look at their websites does reveal some peculiar things.  For what is a supposedly large, international company, the top three companies all list the same address of 2700-65 East Valley Pkwy in Escondido, CA while NORRS lists its address as 2550-21 Valley Pkwy in Escondido.  The websites themselves (all except for the NORRS
 site) are VERY basic in their design, mimic-ing one another and providing little to no information--not exactly what one would expect from a company with the funds necessary to run not only a race series but an international ticketing/infrastructure provider.  Additionally, I could only track down one of their listed references which was "The Bottling Company" which is a bar/concert hall in Mississippi, who shows Ticket Web as their electronic ticket broker, which lists their corporate headquarters as being in San Fran and appears to have no connection to E-TSI...
As far as the background of the two principals operators of NORRS (Wesley Carr and Aryn Oswalt), neither is exactly an offroad lifer.  Per Aryn, Carr claims motocross/dirtbiking as a serious hobby, being out every weekend on his bike and he has closely followed short course racing, familiar with all the drivers and classes but is not nearly as ingrained in the sport as say Ricky Johnson or Tony Vanillo/Myrl Akerman.  Aryn on the other hand claimed no depth of offroad experience to speak of.
Per Oswalt, NORRS may seem like a spur of the moment, seat of the pants operation but in actuality its development has been underway since early '08 and has tried hard to adjust its schedule to avoid conflicts with other series as a courtesy to its "competitors" which Aryn is hesitant to refer to LOORS and TORC as.  Oswalt feels that LORRS can offer greater flexibility and a lack of being sponsored by a particular racing team or manufacturer so that they could even do something like having Rally America vehicles come and race the NORRS events.  Additionally, Oswalt feels that with the stability of having a single main racing venue in the San Diego area and the excellent payback of entry fees (claimed to be 120% of total entry fees by Oswalt), NORRS will attract the necessary racers, particularly the buggie and sportsman racers, they they will need to put on a good show.
In reference to sponsors, Oswalt repeats the now familiar mantra of going after non-endemic companies saying that they have reached out to "any company with an INC. after their name" and though he was not willing to divulge any names he did say attracting sponsors was going well.
Sponsors, however, will not be the primary funding source for the series.  Instead, NORRS intends to run a profitable series based on ticket sales and vendor/food service revenue.  How can they do this?  Oswalt says that due to being part of a large corporation who has TV facilities, grandstands, bulldozers, etc. IN HOUSE they can build, maintain and run their facility at costs far lower than any other series, resulting in not only a profitable series and one that offers significant paybacks to its racers but one that can keep ticket prices low enough for an affordable family outing, even in this economy.
So where did this leave me??  Uhhh....to be honest??  Right back where I started...I'll state right now that I just don't know what exactly is going on here and I humbly apologize to Wesley and Aryn if I am wrong here but something here just doesn't seem right...
None of the companies named herein that are supposedly related to NORRS have ANY footprint...no posts, no news, no info at all out there on them, they're ghosts.  No one has written an article on them, their "press releases" listed on their site do not link to actual press releases, their client logins do not work at ANY of their sites, I called a couple of their contact numbers and extensions listed on their sites--and who answered each time at each of the different numbers and extensions??  Aryn...  The tone and demeanor of Wesley Carr's posts on RDC also speak volumes...Ever known Jim or Cissy or Tony or Myrl or Ricky to get into arguments on an internet forum?  Is that something a COO of a major series involving (in theory) millions of dollars does?  Do multimillion dollar corporations have a single address?
Now maybe, just maybe this is legit and its just a small time operation trying to appear larger than it is...maybe its a big company that feels no need advertise itself and put itself out in the public eye...maybe they have a lot of specifics that they are keeping under wraps at this point...Maybe in Wesley's next post on RDC he'll name the CEO of E-TSI and its board of directors...Maybe someone besides Aryn will answer the phone at NORRS or VSS...but at this point...I doubt it...
Perhaps I'm too cynical, too jaded, too much of a fan of taking the devil's advocate position on everything but I think a number of us have gotten the same hairs rising on the back of our necks feeling on this one.  This may be the single benefit of the disintegration of short course off road racing--with both TORC and LOORS out there all ready, the only way someone is going to hand their hard earned money over to a brand new series with a number of outstanding questions is if they PROVE IT.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Li'l Hustler From 1969 Mexican 1000...


Another wonderful Ebay find...this advertisement is from Playboy (no playmate pics on the backside of the ad unfortunately...) and shows Datsun's Li'l Hustler truck which was one of three Datsuns to complete the Mexican 1000 that year including a 4WD Patrol and a 4 door sedan (a 510?).  While Datsun sedans and Z's of the late 60's and 70's are common to find on Ebay and other locations I do not know if I've ever seen a Li'l Hustler up for auction though one would probly go for at least the original listed invoice of $1,796!!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Recent Nissan Rally Results...


Though it may be cold and snowy here in the Northeast still and there are few to no Nissan's running in any of the major desert racing series currently (SCORE, BITD, SNORE, etc.) that doesn't mean there aren't Nissan's out there racing...
The Sandblast Rally in Cheraw, SC on February 7th had two Nissan's entered--A Datsun 280Z driven by Greg Healey of NY and a Sentra SER driven by Rodrigo Monterey.  Healey's 280Z finished an impressive 3rd out of 18 starters, beating out many cars more than 15 years newer...Monterey's SER also had a solid day, finishing 9th.
On the same day but a lot colder and in VERY different conditions was the Perce Neige Maniwaki rally up in Maniwaki, Quebec.  Here was the 1991 240SX of Martin Walter of Ontario who finished a respectable 23rd of 33 entries.

Now if we could only get some friggin Nissans out in the deserts again... 

1969 Mexican 1000 Datsun/Nissan Ad...


Its wonderful what you can get on Ebay...5 years before I was born, Datsun/Nissan began their off-road reputation building in North America with a solid performance by a number of their vehicles, cars and trucks at the 1969 Mexican 1000 which was to become the better known Baja 1000 a few years later.  I picked up the above ad from a magazine that was published a few months after the race which details their performance to the American public who was just coming to know the Datsun/Nissan name.  Pretty damn cool artwork...it'll look great on my wall...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Nissan Titan: One and Done...

Unfortunately it looks that way...Nissan and Chrysler announced today that they are ceasing cooperation on the development of not only the Nissan designed, Chrysler built 2nd Generation Titan but also what was to be the Nissan built, Dodge Hornet.  With Chrysler on the verge of bankruptcy and likely to cease existing in anything resembling its current form within a month or less and Nissan posting its first annual loss in a decade and promising to rework its entire lineup, canceling many models and introducing a number of others, this is not surprising but it is disappointing for Nissan fans in general and offroad Nissan fans in particular.

The Wall Street Journal article from 2/15:
By Jeff Bennett

Detroit--Chrysler LLC Thursday said its work with Nissan Motor Co. on the development of the Dodge Hornet and Nissan Titan pickup truck have been put on hold as the two companies evaluate their financial futures.

"Due to the current economic conditions, Nissan and Chrysler leadership directed their teams working on the two projects to work together in the first quarter of 2009 to improve the financial objectives for both companies before the projects move further forward," Chrysler spokesman Dave Elshoff said in a written statement late Thursday.

Chrysler announced in April that Nissan would build a fuel-efficient small car that Chrysler would then sell in North America and Europe under the Dodge Hornet name.  In return, Chrysler would build Nissan a full size pickup truck -- based on Nissan's design -- at its Saltillo, Mexico, assembly plant.

A third project, in which Nissan agreed to supply Chrysler with a new car based n the Nissan Versa sedan for limited distribution in South American in 2009 is still progressing.

Earlier Thursday, Vice Chairman Jim Press said work with Nissan continued when asked about a news report from Japan saying Nissan had shelved the joint venture.  Kyodo news service said Nissan had suspended preparatory work for the Chrysler tie-up, citing sources close to the deal.

Mr. Press didn't provide further details in his keynote address and the Chicago Auto Show.

Nissan, Japan's #3 auto maker, said earlier this week it will revise its product portfolio, including the cancellation of selected future programs after its first annual operating loss in 14 years.

Mr. Press also cautioned that the industry should not expect a rebound to historic sales levels when the economy rebounds.

"We need to accept and come to grips that sales could stay at this 10 million level for four more years," he said in reference to overall U.S. light-vehicle sales, which fell to 13.2 millin last year from a recent average of 16 million.

Chrysler and General Motors Corp. executives are racing to pull together the final pieces of their viability plans that must be submitted to the U.S. Department of Treasure on Tuesday.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Goodyear Releases Two New Off-Road Tires...


One an AT and one an MT...#1 special feature on the AT is the tread located IN the grooves...and the #1 feature on the MT is its Kevlar construction...Now I'm not a tire expert but BOTH tires look like they are heading in more of an "on road" manner style in that the voids are smaller than they have been in prior tire versions from Goodyear...Though I have not tried them I have a hard time believing that these new MTs are better in the mud and rough stuff than the most recent generation of MTs...Tougher and less prone to sidewall cuts, sure...but better traction?  I have my doubts.  Let us know what you think of these new designs...New Goodyear AT and New Goodyear MT

Video of Goodyear MT...

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

3 Customized Equators at Chicago Auto Show...

The writers over at 4Wheel & Off-Road, Off-Road and Truckin magazines each brought a different customized Equator (Frontier) to the Chicago Auto Show which is going on now...After the Equator won 4Wheel & Off-Road's 4Wheeler of the Year award they came up with this idea to show off the Equator in a number of different forms...You may recognize the front bumper and sliders on the 4Wheel & Off-Road Equator (the best looking of the three) as they are both from Shrockworks and look REAL nice on the Equator...If I was in the market for a truck right now it would be between the Equator and the Frontier and come down to who gave me the best deal...Plus I would LOVE to run one of these (Equator especially) in a desert racing series out West...Would be a truly unique and highly noticed competitor....3 Custom Equators at Chicago Auto Show


Monday, February 9, 2009

Jeremy Lusk Crash...

in Costa Rica during an X Knights motocross expo this weekend...One of the nastiest crashes I've seen...Jeremy is still in Costa Rica and is in a medically induced coma at the moment, supposedly with no broken neck or jaw though they have not been able to do a cat scan to determine if there has been any spinal cord damage.  Jeremy is well respected and loved within the motocross community and Oakley and Monster Energy are both lending their weight to a fundraising effort to get Jeremy home and help with his medical costs...for more info go here:  Jeremy Lusk Recovery Blog...
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Edit to add:  Sadly this morning it was confirmed that Jeremy has succumbed to his injuries.  More info here: Jeremy Lusk passes away...  RIP Jeremy...Vaya con dias...

Eddie Vedder U2 Karaoke

Ahh...We'll see how long it is till I get the cease and desist from Pearl Jam but this is a video of Eddie Vedder in a hotel room(?) at the recent Chicago Cubs fantasy camp in AZ...Awesome of him to hang out like a regular guy...just makes me love him even more...

Eddie Vedder sings "Where the Streets Have No Name"...

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Eddie Vedder sings "Yellow S(C)ubmarine"...

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Friday, February 6, 2009

'09 Nissan Cube--First Drive...


From Automobile Magazine.  OK...I admit it...I like this car already...I don't know what it is but if I didn't already own a Kia Rio (for commuting reasons only) I would want to buy a Cube for my everyday, grocery getting, dropping the son off at daycare activities...It is hitting the market at the right time as well with Americans looking for inexpensive, reliable, stylish transportation...Now if Nissan can STICK with the ideas that created the Cube and not ruin them in the Cube's 2nd generation as Toyota did with the Xb they could have a hit on their hands...Regardless, here is Automobile Magazine's first impressions--Cube first drive...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Get Your Quest, QX56, Armada and 1st Gen Titan Now!!!

Cause they aren't going to be around much longer...Nissan announced today the end of U.S. production of all the above listed models.  Now supposedly these models are not being cancelled and that the next generation of each will simply be produced in Japan but I think we all know what the chances of that are...the only model with a future already in the works is the Titan which for some time now has been due to cease production in the U.S. with its 2nd gen model (2011 MY to arrive sometime in 2010??) to be produced at a Chrysler plant in Mexico and based somewhat off the Dodge Ram platform.  Of course that all depends on whether there actually IS a Chrysler at that point which is a tossup right now...The other models??  The QX56 and Armada are one and the same and just out of step with the current economic and cultural climate.  The Quest?  A nice try that never caught on and I don't see Nissan giving the minivan (at least in the traditional form) another go round...On the positive side...this certainly will pare down Nissan's offerings a bit and give much hope for those of us in love with any of the remaining Nissan models....Nissan To Stop U.S. Production Of Multiple Models...

Monday, February 2, 2009

Brief '09 Maxima Review and Ride With Dave Mirra...

From the boys over at Garage 419...They met up with Dave Mirra (BMX star and now factory rally  Subaru driver) recently in upstate NY as he ran his Subie through its icy paces at the Monticello raceway in preparation for his upcoming race in Dalton, NH (Team O'Neil Rally) which he went on to win in some deep snow and ice.  Also in this video is their overview of the new Maxima...don't see too many test drives include 360 spins, but this one does...Garage 419 with Dave Mirra and new Maxima...