Sunday, January 31, 2010

Fiberwerx New Frontier Fiberglass Front Fenders!!

Though they haven't seen paint yet and are not installed on a vehicle to this point these new Fiberwerx fiberglass front fenders just came out and are now available. For $350 a pair I will be ordering a set in the very near future to put on the Nismo Stuff Frontier. I have the bedsides in my basement currently beginning the process of painting and installing them in the next month or so. Get your set now!!

Paranormal Activity: Movie Review...

First of all, let me say that I am personally embarrassed to have in any way contributed to the overall success of this film. I'm sure the producers of this "film" probably made a couple cents off of my viewing of it through Netflix and that is a few cents too many.

First off—An "R" rating?? What for? In the theatrical version there is virtually no blood, gore or violence...none. There is no nudity, no sex and fewer F-bombs than you will hear walking around your average American mall. I can only assume that the producers pushed for the "R" rating in order to get teens to think there was something subversive contained herein as what teen wants to go see a "PG" horror movie?

And horror or scares? You are likely to be scared more by your local Boy Scouts charity haunted house than the scares in this film. Ooooo...closing doors and loud thumping...Oh no!!!

Acting?? None...production value?? None. Storyline?? Less than none—absolutely NOTHING is explained in this film. No one knows why the main female character is being "haunted" or what is actually spelled out on the Ouija board (a Ouija board?? Seriously are we in 2nd grade here??)...

Truly I wish to spend no more time on this dismal excuse for a movie only other than to say that this film is a prime example of the gullibility and stupidity of the general American public.

NISMO Stuff Racing T-Shirts!! available are NISMO Stuff Racing T-shirts. Developed and printed locally here in NH by the COEX custom T-Shirt store in the Pheasant Lane Mall you can display your fandom or just burn them in effigy if you like. Regardless, this is how the shirt looks as of today but will change as sponsors come on board (or leave) over time. Available in whatever type of shirt you like (hooded sweatshirt, longsleeve T, children sizes, etc.) the graphic design is the only static part and you can transfer it to whatever style shirt you want. If you want one the cost is reasonable (for a custom tshirt made on a one-off basis each time) at $25 for a black T and less for a white T. You can either contact me at and I can give you the number and contact info to the store that has the design on file. Look for them out at an event near you! Oh, and yes, that is your handsome host posing for these pics...just count yourself lucky that I cut off my own need to offend anyone more than I already do...

Friday, January 29, 2010

Travis Pastrana Leads Day 1 of Sno*Drift...

Color me a bit shocked...I'll give it up to Travis Pastrana for his performance on Day 1 of the Sno*Drift rally. Breaking his collarbone and with two plates and 15 screws newly inserted in his shoulder he goes out and sets the pace for the day so far. Four stages down and four night stages to go and TP is in the lead by :23 over Antoine L'Estage and by :33 over Ken Block. Block in his new AWD Fiesta came out firing and won his first ever competitive stage on Stage 1 of the day! How's that for putting everyone on notice.

Story goes so far that the conditions are brutally icy puting a number of competitors our on the very first stage. One thing of note is that due to Michigan law, no studs are allowed in this rally—all cars MUST be street legal and since studs are outlawed in this area of Michigan, all competitors are just running the best winter tires they can find.

Weather for the stages tonight?? How bout a high of 7 and a low of -2 with occasional flurries? Don't imagine there will be too many spectators and I hope the crews have nice toasty trailers!!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Travis Pastrana Breaks Collarbone!!

Well, now THIS will make this coming weekend's Rally America opener a bit more interesting. TP has evidently broken his collarbone in a biking accident of some sort and has his arm in a sling. Knowing people who have had brokern collarbones in the past I can attest that they are extremely painful injuries. Given TP's numerous prior injuries however, I can imagine he will try and grit this out and still somehow get behind the wheel. Regardless, the injury will be a distraction no matter what and in a sport that is determined sometimes by fractions of a second, this could give Ken Block and his new Ford a shot at a win in its debut...

Monday, January 25, 2010

USRC: Rally New York—Final Results

The first major off-road rally of 2010 is in the books.

Shockingly there were NO Subie's on the final podium and even in the ice and snow, a 2WD vehicle finished 3rd overall--Hats off to them and well done by the Mitsu's to show that Subies are not the be all and end all of American rally racing...

Tom Lawless and his Evo IX put on a clinic and took the overall win by over three minutes (an eternity in rally), finishing ahead of fellow Evo IX driver Enda McCormack who was an additional 4:42 ahead of third place, Mazda 3 driver Claudiu David.

Also of note is the 5th place overall finish for Justin Carven and his "Greasecar" biodiesel VW and that 17 competitors showed up for this event in just plain miserable conditions. Last years first NY event at a much better time of year (April) drew 32 entries, so this is a solid start to the USRC year...

USRC Home Page...

Might Wanna Rethink That Phil Kessel Trade...

Dangerously venturing into the world of ball and stick sports again...

So the Bruins were a preseason pick to make it to the finals on most prognosticators lists and were CERTAINLY destined to be in the playoffs after having a solid '08-'09...

Ummm...not so much.

The Bruins traded away Kessel for a number of draft picks, portraying their former 1st round pick (5th overall) as a selfish puck hog who was a locker room cancer. I suppose the fact that the Bruins pretty much sucked from day one of Kessel's arrival and went through more coaches than a meth addict goes through Bic lighters had nothing to do with it...sure...

As the Bruins currently sit out of the playoffs and sit last in the league in scoring they could use Kessel's scoring (15 goals and 15 assists in 41 games) and would sit second on the Bruins in scoring if he was still there. Oh, and he's a +2 this year as well...So much for that no-defense thing...Ah, somewhere Jeremy Jacobs must be smiling, what better excuse to dump salary than a rotten team...

Regardless of what happens the rest of the way, the Bruins actually had a chance coming into the '09-'10 season to get back into the Boston sports discussion and bring fans back to their games...took less than 1/2 a season to bring them right back to an also ran and a favorite for the "Hey, I've got tickets to the X game tonight...You want them??" award...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Public Enemies: Film Review...

Michael Mann seems to be such a hit or miss director for me.

While Heat and Collateral are two movies I genuinely love and can watch numerous times, both Miami Vice and now Public Enemies leave me cold and disinterested.

Mann's crystal clear cinematography and lovely use of shadows and darkness remain in Public Enemies other details are lacking. For one, there is little differentiation between the looks, speech and habits of the "bad guys" and "good guys" so that in scenes where the edits come fast and furious, it is quite difficult to tell who is doing what to whom and all you get is a mish mash of "bang, bang, bang" left wondering who was killed by whom and when.

As far as acting performances go, well, Bale again proves that "Batman" is his best role as behind a mask is where he belongs. So singular in the note of his performances I don't think he has changed his facial expression or vocal tone in over a decade. As for Depp?? Other critics will tell you how great this performance was just because its Depp and well, don't all critics just love Depp?? In truth he is merely average, playing Dillinger as about as bland as can be.

The violence here is unremarkable, the story covers far too much and involves too many locations, nothing here is established or allowed to sink in emotionally. You are left with an empty and unsatisfied feeling, wondering why you spent the last two and 1/2 hours learning nothing and feeling less.

First Major U.S. Rally of the Year...

Though its the dead of winter in much of the country the 2010 off-road season has begun. One of the first major events is within the United States Rally Championship (USRC) series. The NY Winter Rally takes place in the woods of south central NY State and is known for its cold weather and icy roads. The USRC will return to the area later in the year for another event but this winter rally makes for a good way to stretch your car and your talent to its limit. Day One is in the bag and as expected the Subie's and Mitsu's are at the top of the leaderboard. The Greasecar of Justin Craven is also in the event as he continues to run in most USRC and Rally America events in the Northeast...

After Day One Celsus Donnelly in an Evo VIII are leading by :16 over Tom Lawless in an Evo IX and 2:00 over Joseph Burke and his Subie WRX.

USRC NY Winter Rally...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

This is NOT Making Me Feel Better...

After the disaster that was the Dakar for Nissan vehicles--all top 4 vehicles went down with mechanical issues either self induced (Mironenko's roll over) or from continues shoddy engineering (Lavielle's fuel leak, I mean come on!! How many times can one team almost burn down their vehicle!!) and only two Nissans finishing the race at all (in 30 and 31st place, both Pathfinders) I perhaps held out hope that Jacky Loomans would perform well at what has become the "also-ran" Dakar, better known as the Africa Eco Race. Run at the same time as the Dakar and with far less hype, many fewer competitors and weak competition other than Jean-Louis Schlesser I thought that Loomans and his SA built Navara (virtually identical to the ones that performed so well in the '09 Dakar and the ones I had high hopes for in the '10 Dakar) could perhaps salvage a solid performance in the sands of Morocco, Mauratania and Senegal. Not to be...well...kind of not to be...

Out of the 11 competitors and 11 stages, Jacky did manage to win 4 stages...but a clutch problem put him well out of contention for the overall win which as expected went to JLS and his buggy. The organizers say this race will continue in '11 but I doubt it. With only 11 car entries, 3 bike entries and a handful of truck entries in '10, without the "Dakar" name and top level competition I can't imagine participants and sponsors are likely to come back...

Africa Eco Race '10

Friday, January 22, 2010

Whole Bunch of HUNGARIAN Nissans?!?!

Yup...made in part by an outfit by the name of Sandlander in Hungary who has been working on high end offroad vehicles for a while now. Nice to see what people are creating on the mainland as it were...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Scott Brown Election: My Take...

OK, as a former long time resident of the People's Republic of Massachusetts and current cross border homeowner who laughs at the droves of people coming across the border into NH to save on sales tax and who look with envy on our (relatively) crime free cities and towns, open space, high standard of living, etc. I feel I can perhaps take an insightful look at this issue that everyone is in such a kerfuffle about...

Democrats, communists, liberals, socialists, union members and the meth-addicted—Fear not!! Just as the Democrats WAAAAAYYY overestimated the popularity of Barak Obama's ideas, thinking that because the electorate couldn't stand George Bush that they suddenly wanted to be transported to a late 60's hippie compound where the government would impose a twisted version of "equality" upon all businesses and people, so too are the current Republicans and conservatives overestimating their new found popularity symbolized by the Massachusetts election of Scott Brown.

Scott Brown's election does NOT mean that suddenly Rush Limbaugh is going to be the next president, nor are we suddenly going to see a flat income tax instituted and abortion outlawed. It merely means that the pendulum is swinging back to the center once again and because it swung so far to the left with the election of Barak Obama, so too must it swing as far to the right as to elect a Republican from a state that created Mike Dukakis and kept an alcoholic manslaughter escapee as a senator for 50 years.

We are now in a period what the financial markets love—gridlock. Historically the markets love gridlock. Nothing is more predictable than stagnation. Bill Clinton enjoyed eight years of stagnation and saw the country prosper from it. I only hope that the election Scott Brown blunts the plans of the lunatic left (seriously, Reid and Pelosi should be euthanized or at the very least, committed) and allows the wonderful world of political stagnation to become the "norm" for the rest of Obama's term...

At the very least however, we can always thank the voters of Massachusetts for getting more face time for the Brown female contingent including the lovely Ayla (above), her younger sister Ariana and his cougar wife Gail Huff. Thank god for small favors!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

NISMO Stuff Racing Grabs a 1st, 2nd and 3rd!!

At this weekend's NER SCCA Rallycross event at Stafford Springs, CT the team was able to, at the very least, show that a 4 cyl, 2WD truck can be competitive in this style of racing...

The two day event was divided into three distinct events. All the runs made on Saturday would be counted as the Regional Event #1 for the 2010 season and all the runs made on Sunday would be counted on as the Regional Event #2 for the 2010 season. Additionally, all of Saturday's afternoon runs and all of Sunday's morning runs would count towards the first SCCA National Rallycross event of the year.

So what were the team's results?

How bout a 3rd place in Saturday's Regional event, a 2nd place on Sunday's Regional event and a 1st overall within the National event? Yup, starting off the year well and positioned solidly for the rest of the year.

The picture above is poor I know but hopefully I will have more in the next few days...The course each day was about a mile or so in length and began each day covered in ice and several inches of snow, quickly deteriorating into frozen dirt with patches of ice and small muddy puddles. While traction improved the more times the courses were run, grip was always at a premium. All in all I am quite pleased give this is the first time I have ever driven a rear wheel drive vehicle in my life, let alone on snow and ice and in a competitive environment. Though the results were good, I have no delusions about what the rest of the year holds. It will be difficult to run with the quality drivers present in the Prepared RWD class (moved to P RWD class to face more competition and compete for the season title) and the better equipped vehicles—the vehicles I was running against this weekend were running studded, winter tires!!

Despite the numerous obstacles in the path of NISMO Stuff Racing, the General Tire Grabber A/Ts did surprisingly well. Not at their best on the ice, the Grabbers really began to shine when it started to get down to the dirt and light mud, getting the power to the ground and allowing the truck to climb through the ranks as the days went forward. Additional thanks goes to Bully Dog Technology for their early support in this effort, Nissan Motorsport of North America for parts support and to Red Line Rally graphics for making the truck look so solid in its first day out—now if only we could find some decent pics to show it off!!

Regardless, the next event comes on 2/20 at New England Dragway where snowy, icy, muddy conditions are bound to be present once again. Results from this weekend's event are linked below.

Nissan Sentra SE-R Review from Autoblog...

Good for Autoblog for reviewing this vehicle. Kind of ignored when put up against the Civic and Corolla, the Sentra just keeps chugging along in an also-ran role. While putting up decent sales numbers for Nissan and pulling people into the Nissan family, it has never (outside of the 90's SE-R) been a vehicle known for innovation or passion. The current SE-R (in between the SE and the Spec-V) appears to be no exception unfortunately...too big (basicly Altima size), too heavy, too vanilla and too expensive ($22K). Hate to say it, but Autoblog is right on with their review...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Nissan Motorsports Quarterly Racing Groove...

My first official Nissan Motorsports quarterly publication. Nice to know I'm on their mailing list and they acknowlege my and my small efforts existance. I wish the newsletter and such were longer but, we'll take what we can get.

By far the most interesting note within the two pages is the initial paragraph which states:


Nissan Motorsports is pleased to announce that the Contingency Award and Racer

Support Program is returning for 2010. Performance awards have been added to the 2010 program

and the details will be finalized shortly. Please contact our email for more information or to request

the forms:

Holy crap!! Nissan is kinda sorta back in the motorsports game!! Looks like the absolute freeze on funding is over. I'm not about to get my knickers in a big bunch over this but the fact that they are mentioning the reintroduction of contingency awards and racer support and performance awards is a big step over 2009. Now we just have to get some friggin racers out there to take home some hardware under the Nissan banner...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

NISMO Stuff Racing Buys General Tire(s)...

Yup...I bought General Tire...

OK....OK...I bought General Tire(s) for the NISMO Stuff Racing Frontier and had them slapped on the truck yesterday. Though the OEM 235/75R15 (29"x9") General Tire Grabber TRs were fine for highway and around town use they just weren't going to cut it performance wise in either Rallycross or eventually full on Rally events. I thought a bit at first about going with a strictly winter tire given the ice and snow likely to be present at this coming weekends Stafford, CT Rallycross event but the remainder of the year they would be far from ideal and I can't afford to be havinga seperate set of tires for every single condition when I am paying for it out of my own pocket.

Which brings me to a second part of this story. I could have bought any tire. I'll admit, I first tried to parlay my connections into a free set of Goodyears. Then I reached out to all the normal tire manufacturers (BFG, Hankook, Nitto, Maxxis, etc.) in order to try and save myself some money which could be used towards the eventual roll cage and axle changes. I also reached out to Green Diamond Tire and Treadwright Tires both of whom are tire retreaders that market in part towards off-road efforts. All of this to no avail. Jack at Goodyear was helpful and forwarded me on to the person who handles this now but I received no response back. Kumho asked me to fill out a form and I heard nothing back. Both Green Diamond and Treadwright called me back personally and acted interested in helping out but then ignored my return calls and messages. All in all, I couldn't honestly expect more than this. I have no track record and no big effort underway that would provide them big time exposure.

The only two I harbor any ill will against are Green Diamond and Treadwright who both at first called me back, had a decent discussion with me and asked me to call back in a day to discuss further. Both then proceeded to not respond in any sort of way. As I said above, I have no issue with anyone not partnering with me, just don't respond in the first place and/or just be honest with me—neither of these two companies were that...

Which all brings me back to my General Tires. If I was shelling out my own hard earned coin it was going to be for a tire that met all the various needs I had. I needed a durable tire that would perform well in the dirt, mud and perhaps a bit of snow and ice, be cost effective and come in a size that I wanted (in the 30-31"R15 area) that would fit my 2WD Frontier XE without any trimming. General Tire's AT2s (in the 31x10.5R15) fit all of these qualifications and had the added benefit of coming from a company that is a current, active, enthusiastic supporter of off-road motorsports. From the current Mint 400, to the Baja to short course, General Tire is their supporting the sport as best they can. Lastly, there is the connection to the old factory Nissan trucks that I am patterning my project after—they ran General Tires and adding a big "General Tire" banner down the side of my truck would only be appropriate.

Let's just hope I can perform well this weekend in Stafford, CT in the first SCCA National Rallycross event of the year and do the brand proud.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Big Model News Out of Nissan Today!!

Wow!!! For not being a full participant at the Detroit Auto Show (North American International Auto Show) Nissan sure made a lot of news today.

Between Nissan and Infiniti they will be releasing eight new/substantially remodeled vehicles in under twelve months. You read that right...EIGHT new or vastly changed models in under a year. And we are not talking about a new paint package on the Versa here...we are talking major new undertakings. While all the details are not yet out (such as which plants will be building these vehicles) they are coming...

Here is what we learned:

1—The new "Juke" will go on SALE here in the U.S. in 9/09. The Juke is a small crossover taking many ques from the Qazana concept vehicle that was only began being shown last fall. If this is an indication of the speed with which Nissan is now moving from concept to full design to production vehicle, it bodes well for the future. The Juke will be slotted below the Rogue and will be built off the Versa platform. I would imagine that it will come in both AWD and 2WD versions and wouldn't be at all surprised to see it powered by the ubiquitous 2.5 liter 4-cyl. engine found in so many of Nissan's vehicles already. The taillights are to be modeled after the sweeping versions found on the 370Z along with huge round foglights on the front a supposedly a motorcycle inspired center console and huge wheel well arches. Full details on the Juke are to be released on 2/10. The Nissan plant in Sunderland, England has already been announced as one that will build the Juke for Europe but I doubt that they will export vehicles from there to here...I would look for a display version of the Juke at the New York Auto Show, which Nissan and Infiniti have both announced to be their only significant North American Auto show appearance in '10.

2—Which brings us to the brand new Infiniti QX56. The Titan based luxury SUV will be getting a complete remodel and be introduced at the New York Auto Show. Kind of an odd time to be introducing a new luxury SUV though I suppose those in the market for such a vehicle are less affected by economic fluctuations than most of us. Nissan also hinted that a number of the upgrades to be seen in the QX56 may also be incorporated into the 2nd Generation of the Titan...but that's a whole other story...

3—A 40th anniversary edition of the 370Z to be available this spring. Hopefully offering something more than just a little spiffy "40th Anniversary" badge...

4—Nissan Leaf. Duh?!?! Like anyone not living under a rock didn't know this was coming. Nissan's all electric compact runabout. It will arrive in select markets in the U.S. in December. If Nissan can beat GM to the punch, keep the Leaf in the low to mid $20,000 range and can get the U.S. government to NOT subsidize the Chevy Volt by more than $10K (Volt pricing confirmed at $40K without any subsidies—Hello Mr. and Mrs. U.S. Taxpayer?? We'd like you to pony up some money to buy some cars for people other than yourselves...) Nissan could change the game of the hybrid/electric race...

5—Nissan NV2500, the first ever comercial vehicle from Nissan. To be built in the Mississppi plant that formerly built the Quest and designed to compete with the Dodge/Mercedes Sprinter and Ford Transit vans. The concept version had lots of innovative ideas that are perfect for contractors, if it can keep these and house an adquate drivetrain, Nissan is sure to grab some market share here.

6—Infiniti M37, 6-cyl., coming this Spring

7—Infiniti M56, V-8, also coming this Spring

8—Lastly and the one we know the least about (though before today we knew virtually nothing of the Juke and thought even the Euro version was a full year away, let alone production of an American version arriving here by late Summer). An unspecified Infiniti model...No name, no details, only that it will be a new version of an existing model with a completely new drivetrain, options and features. Methinks I smell a electric/hybrid/alternative drivetrain Infiniti here...

Now as a truck, off-road, performance enthusiast, I cannot say that these leave me completely satisfied though the Juke (sans the name) could interest me if it could be kitted out to be some kind of small cross-over rally style vehicle...But...there was other info out of Nissan in the past couple days that gives me a great deal of hope for the future...nothing definate where there is smoke there is fire...I'll detail more in a bit....

Monday, January 11, 2010

Dakar '10: Nissans in Stages 6, 7 & 9—Disaster!!

What an ugly turn of events...

Nissan had lost one of its best hopes for a solid finish in Alfie Cox earlie on in the Dakar but was feeling confident given Krysztof Holowczyc's 5th place position and Christian Lavielle's top ten spot. Additionally there was Alexander Mironenko's top 25 position. They should have been able to help one another out and get some names up on the final leaderboard...

Not to be. In the span of 48 hours, Lavielle was forced to retire due to a leaking fuel cell (having burned his Nissan to the ground in the '09 Dakar he was taking no chances) and Holowczyc suffered a broken rear axle on his Navara today (first broken Patrol rear end I have heard of from these racing Nissans) which might have been repairable IF his support vehicle had not passed him on the course without noticing his position...Both Lavielle and Holowczyc are both shown as having withdrawn from the has Mironenko, though for unknown reasons. This leaves the top running Nissan in the Dakar now in 33rd place some 26 hours down!! After such a great run in '09 this is truly disheartening. It may be a LOOOONG time before we ever see Nissans running in the top ten in the Dakar again given Nissan South Africa's withdrawal from motorsports and the seeming lack of interest on behalf of Nissan corporate anywhere in any kind of off-road motorsports.......

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Matchbox: Rock Shocker

Like many Matchbox cars, there are a couple versions of this one. There is this grey one and a white one. The white version I have only seen on the internet and not in the stores. The Rock Shocker is part of the Desert Adventure series of vehicles (#2 of 14 in this series) and this is shown as #76 of 100 in what I assume to be the entire Matchbox lineup for this year. All in all a pretty cool little truck. Tube frame back half, lights up above the cab, front bumper, flat paint and a red hood. Not a Nissan but pretty damn cool...

Prepare for Whining Pats Fans...

I normally stick away from talking about stick and ball sports. Much of them does not interest me. Often its only a case of who spends the most money winning (Yankees in baseball, Hendrick in NASCAR) or who can jump higher or run faster winning (all of the NBA). In all those cases, the outcome is pretty predictable and almost always lacks drama. So it also is with the NFL...

I make an exception here to just prepare the world for the whining that is to come. New England Patriots fans are the absolute worst. They whine, they cry, they hole themselves up in their trailers for days without coming outside due to a single loss.

The next three weeks of sports radio in New England will be filled with various losers complaining about how they got jobbed by the refs, how Belichick still knows what he is doing, how Brady is still the best quarterback EVAH!! Blah, blah, blah. The Pats are truly what they have been over the past 5 years—an average team playing in a below average division who think of themselves far too highly. Unfortunately the success the team had in the early '00's turned every New England fan into a know-it-all blowhard who lorded "his" championships over every one else. It made moronic football fans in New England view themselves as superior to all other human beings in the nation. Am I going a bit too far? Then you don't live here and haven't been to a Wal-Mart or roller-rink (yes, New England still has these), or trailer park in New England in the past ten years...

I for one enjoyed New England football more when they were back at Sullivan Stadium, didn't have a left wing looney toon for an owner and didn't put the entire welfare population of Massachusetts into a depressed stupor every time they lost.

Just a warning...stay away from the topic of football with your typical New Englander for the next two months till the Red Sox are back in season and another group (this time the college educated, trust fund babies) take over and bring their idiocy to the fore...

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Nissan NV2500...In The Flesh...Kind of...

So what you are looking at here is the new Nissan NV2500 commercial van. This is what is taking the place of the Quest in Nissan's Mississippi plant during 2010. Now this pic give us virtually no idea what the van will actually look like as it has had Armada sheet metal cleverly (?) placed over its true form...according to the linked article however, the vents visible on the rear driver's side of the vehicle indicate some sort of fan system for a hybrid powertrain...I have my doubts as to that...Nissan hasn't produced ANYTHING on their own with a hybrid powertrain (the Altima hybrid is borrowed from Toyota) so I doubt their first step into the hybrid waters would be a commercial vehicle...but I could be wrong....In any case...look for these cool vans to begin competing with the Dodge Sprinter and others in mid/late 2010.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Dakar '10: Nissans in Stages 4 & 5

Yes, what you are looking at above is a Nissan Navara/Frontier from this years Dakar. Team Dessoude out of France has done some "minor" modifications to it, but it is a true Nissan underneath.

Now on to the news....

And its not all good...As of right now Alfie Cox, who had been sitting 5th overall in the race after the 4th stage (of 14) is unaccounted for. He started the day as expected but has not shown up past KM 224. He had stopped for some time early in the day but then began running again. I fear that he is out of the event though there is still a small possiblity that he may show up overnight and be able to run in tomorrow's stage, though unlikely. This is a real shame as Alfie had shown he was a solid driver in a very competitive machine. Had it held together he would have been a top ten finisher for sure.

On the positive side Krysztof Holowczyc has continued his impressive run finishing 17th and 9th on the two stages and now sits 6th overall and only 3 minutes out of 5th. Unquestionably the best hope for a solid Nissan finish I have my fingers crossed as a gun full of bullets now seems down to a final round.

Christian Lavielle has managed not to burn down his Nissan thus far, finishing 11th and 13th on the last two stages and now stands in 13th overall. With some luck and decent performance Christian could garner a top ten finish.

Krysztof's remaining Team Overdrive partner, Alexander Mironenko, who is also in a SA built Navara stands in 22nd place overall and has driven consistantly so far. He has an outside shot at a top 15 finish if things fall his way.

Given that the race is barely 1/3 over and we're down to one Nissan left in the top 10 and its #2 driver/vehicle are out, I am concerned that Nissan may not have ANY vehicles left in the top 20 by the end. This race is that tough. The attrition rate is already between 40-50% and looks to finish around 60-70%...It will be hard for the factory teams to bring their crews to the finish line let alone the small privateer efforts of the Nissan guys. Like I said before, I have my fingers crossed.

Ken Block to Rally with Ford...

In one of the worst kept secrets in motorsports, Ken Block made it official today that he and his primary sponsor, Monster Energy, are moving to Ford. Additionally, not only will KB be running in the Rally America series but will run WRC events as well. Now personally I think he is in over his head in the WRC. KB ran consistently as a second fiddle to Travis Pastrana who fared quite poorly in the production class of races connected to the WRC (not nearly the top level of competition) during his brief stints with Subaru in international competition. Sure, KB will bring lots of press and fans to the events but seriously compete at that level? Not likely.

On the positive side, this will bring Ford into the fold for competition for the Rally America series which is precisely what that series needs. After seeing Subaru and TP run away with the championship year after year it had gotten kind of stale. With the top two drivers (TP and KB) now on seperate teams with seperate manufacturers it gives the series a proper dichotomy with which to market itself. The only question I have here is what Monster does with Dave Mirra seeing that as far as I know he is still with Subaru and partnered with TP and the Vermont Sports Car guys...Do they dump him outright? Do they continue supporting two competing teams? Your guess is as good as mine but it should make for a good season of Rallying at least here stateside...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Officially Official—No Quest for '10...

OK, I'll admit it...I have no idea where Nissan is going with their product lineup...

Here we have the elimination of the Quest in its current form. '09 will be the last model year for the above looking minivan. Always a polarizing vehicle, its biggest drawback was the center mounted console which has been rejected by the American consumer a number of times now. But its gone now.....just not for long. According to Nissan the Quest will come back as a Japan built vehicle (Quest had been made in Canton, MS) in '11 or '12. My guess is that until Nissan sees some tangible, profitable results from their Leaf and other higher volume models that they are afraid of putting the majority of their eggs in one basket (Altima) and want to try to keep a full line of offerings available. Whether we ever see the "next gen Quest" is a crapshoot. If the Leaf, upcoming Qazana and other models take off I don't think there is any need for the expense of designing a brand new version of something that fit the market 30 years ago and you'll never hear of it again...but, hey, that's just my opinion...

Monday, January 4, 2010

Dakar '10: Nissans in Stages 2 & 3

Wow, what a topsie turvey couple of days. Stage 2 seemed to be relatively straight forward but saw two of the top competitors—Nani Roma (BMW) and Orlando Terranova (Mitsu) both rolling their cars on the same exact corner. With everyone having to run their desert tires (per rules can't change tread design during race) in the rain and mud, the track was super slick.

Qatari Nassar Al-Attiyah (VW) took the day's stage win followed by Chicherit (BMW), Neves (VW), Sainz (VW), and Miller (VW) rounding out the top five. Mark Miller also represents the top American on the day.

The top Nissan came from the Dessoude team from France with Christian Lavielle taking 7th on the day only 6:14 adrift of Al-Attiyah. Krysztof Holowczyc and his Navara finished 13th and Alfie Cox in 17th and Alexander Mironenko in 24th.

Stage 3, earlier today, is where things start to get REALLY crazy...First you have last years champion, Ginel DeVilliers (VW) had major engine issues, has yet to show that he crossed the finsh and may very well be out of the race (stood 6th overall before the day started). Additionally there were multiple issues with Robby Gordon's Hummer team in which his vehicle got stuck in the dunes, went backward on the course for 11 KM and blew an inflation line(?). His compatriots in the other two Hummers blew a clutch and had to be towed in (Chilean team) and cracked a transfer case (BJ Baldwin). Gordon's support team is limping on its last legs and may not be of much use the rest of the way. Gordon himself finished 12th on the day more than 1 hour adrift.

As bad as this sounds, numerous teams remain out on the course as we speak with 87 showing in one way or another having crossed the finish though well over 120 started the day....All this and its only 3 days into a 14 day event. Larger shakeups are sure to come.

The Nissans? Well, they had a heck of a day. Teammates Cox and Holowycz caravaned together over the final 100 or so KM finishing at nearly the same time, impressing all with a 5th and 6th place finish for the day. Lavielle and Mironenko had a bit tougher of a time but both finished well ahead of most entrants completing the course in 21st and 23rd.

With the start of tomorrow's stage pushed back AND shortened due to the difficulty of today's stage the competitors will liason over the Andes early on and face a lot of sand during the special itself. The big guys will continue to suffer attrition at an alarming rate. As in the '09 Dakar, if the Navaras/Frontiers can hold themselves together, they will continue to move up the rankings...

Top 4 Nissans in '10 Dakar:


Though it didn't take place till the second day of the new year, this weekends broadcast of the LOORRS non-points finale was truly the last event of the '09 short course season.

The broadcast on Saturday 1/2 generated a 0.4 rating, equating to approximately 460,000 households and using my conservative 1.1 viewers per household average—506,000 viewers.

We now can look back and compare the major network results of the two series.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about comparing the two series is that each generate identical ratings in their fall/winter broadcasts. TORC generated a 0.4 and 0.5 on 9/6 and 11/8 respectively and LOORRS generated a 0.5 and a 0.4 on 11/29 and 1/2 respectively.

The only significant difference between the two series and their network coverage was TORC's June event on ABC that garnered a 0.7 which was the only broadcast that came close to CORR's ratings in '08.

Other than that I don't really think there is anything significant about TORC's ratings going up 0.1 points and LOORRS' ratings goind down 0.1 between their fall/winter broadcasts as that change is far too small to be specifically attributed to something in particular.

Looking at '10 and whatever (if any) major network broadcasts there will be for either series, I think the only thing we really learned from '09 is that short-course racing benefits from the less crowded summer sports season that does not see competition from either college or pro football. Neither series landed a knockout punch on TV in '09 and both have lots of room for improvement. We can only hope they get the chance.

Brut Sun Bowl: Oklahoma-Stanford, 12/31, CBS, 2-6PM 3.6

Tournament of Roses Parade, 1/1, ABC, 11-1PM, 4.2

Capital One Bowl: Penn St.-LSU, 1/1, ABC, 1-4:30PM, 6.9

Rose Bowl: Ohio St.-Oregon, 1/1, ABC, 5-8:30PM, 13.8

Konica Minolta Gator Bowl: FSU-WVU, 1/1, CBS, 1-5PM, 4.3

Allstate Sugar Bowl: Florida-Cincinnati, 1/1, Fox, 8:45-12AM, 9.2

Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic: Flyers-Bruins, 1/1, NBC, 1-4PM, 2.6

Figure Skating: Brian Boitano Spectacular (taped), 1/1, NBC, 4-6PM, 1.3

NCAA Basketball: (regional), 1/2, CBS, 1-3PM, 1.1

NCAA Basketball: Louisville-Kentucky, 1/2, CBS, 3:30-6PM, 1.8

AT&T Cotton Bowl: Ole Miss-Oklahoma St., 1/2, Fox, 2-6PM, 4.7

Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing (taped), 1/2, NBC, 2:30-3:30PM, 0.4

Golf: "Ticket To The Tour" (taped), 1/2, NBC, 4:30-6PM, 0.5

"The NFL Today", 1/3. CBS, 12-1PM, 2.9

"NFL on CBS": Steelers-Dolphins (70%), 1/3, CBS, 1-4:15PM, 12.3

"NFL on CBS": (regional)*, 1/3, CBS, 4:15-7:30, 9.5

"Fox NFL Sunday", 1/3, Fox, 12-1PM, 4.1

"NFL on Fox": (regional), 1/3, Fox, 1-4:15PM, 11.7

"NFL on Fox": Eagles-Cowboys (79%), 1/3, Fox, 4:15-7:30, 16.3

"The OT", 1/3, Fox, 7:30-8PM, 8.2

Figure Skating: Smuckers Stars on Ice (taped), 1/3, NBC, 4-6PM, 1.3

"Football Night In America", 1/3, NBC, 7:30-8:15, 5.1

"Sunday Night Football": Bengals-Jets, 1/3, NBC, 8:30-11:45PM, 11.4

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: Book Review

I'm not sure if I've ever had such a change of heart about a book or author as I did with this one...

Best known as a writer for SPIN, ESPN and other frontline popular culture outlets, Klosterman is an encyclopedia for all sorts of famous and obscure people and events over the past twenty years or so. Much like Bill Simmons of ESPN (with whom Klosterman has a number of connections) he likes to weave disparate thoughts and events into a coherent thread to show the reader what is actually going on beneath the surface of modern culture.

This book is a collection of brief essays examining a number of issues, including the validity of Billy Joel's career, Pamela Anderson as the modern recreation of Marilyn Monroe, an analysis of Saved By the Bell, etc. Some of these are good and some are very, very poor...

Sometimes you feel like Klosterman is merely throwing every pop-culture touchstone up against a wall, Jackson Pollock style in an attempt to see what sticks. What sticks in my mind is a discussion of the 90's film Reality Bites in which he mentions Winona Ryder having "an amazing rack". This is just one example of many of instances where I was left asking myself "Does he actually ever READ what he has just typed?" as I'm sure this is the first and last time anyone ever described Ryder's "rack" or boyish lack-thereof as "amazing".

I was ready to toss this book in my Ebay "to sell" pile by the time I was 1/3 of the way into it but as a gift from my brother-in-law I felt obliged to read the entire work and give an honest assessment.

Shocked, is the only way I can describe my reaction when in the last 1/3 or so of essays contained in this book I came away impressed by Klosterman's candor and objectivity on numerous cultural fronts. Klosterman skewers the Oprahfication of America where no one is ever wrong and are merely "misunderstood", admits to having been (past tense) both anti-abortion and anti-death penalty—now being ambivalent toward each, and professing an admiration for born again Christians, all the while admitting to his own faults regarding women, drink, drugs and a host of modern "sins".

I think that's what impressed me the most about Klosterman—not his knowledge and analysis of pop-culture (which I often found wrong, overstated or just silly) but his ability to look objectively at his own faults, call them out, show examples of others who have NOT made the same choices as he and yet be perfectly comfortable (apparently) in his own skin. He knows he has treated women like crap in the past and that he COULD have been better, and maybe he will be better in the future but you know what? Maybe he won't, and he's OK with that. Klosterman is something the modern world needs more of, an honest voice in a completely dishonest world. And for that reason alone I am glad I read this book.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

El Dakaro '10--Stage 1 now we're underway...

Clearly the most demanding and difficult of all motorsports events in the world, two weeks with only a single day off, almost 7000 miles, brutal terrain—The Dakar is here!!

Again held in South America and known affectionately as "El Dakaro" it got underway in earnest today. The first few Argentina stages are mostly tight gravel track similar to that of the WRC events that take place there. This terrain favors the 4WD vehicles and the WRC experienced drivers. My "hope" for the event is to see a single Nissan place in the top ten and three in the top 20. I think that is a realistic goal given they put two in the top five and three in the top 15 in '09.

Numerous items going against the Nissans are the reasons for my dialed back expectations, not the least of which is the lack of support from Nissan South Africa who dumped motorsports entirely in late '09.

Regardless, today was a decent day for the more favoured Nissans. Krysztof Holowczyc who finished fith overall in '09, returns in his SA built Navara and was ninth off the line and finished 7th on the day, 6:07 adrift of the leader Joan "Nani" Roma (a guy) in his factory BMW. Christian Lavielle and his Dessoude Navara finished 14th, right where he started the day, 10:05 behind. The other two strong Nissan efforts are driven by Alfie Cox, who is driving the same Navara that Ivar Tollefsen took to an amazing fourth place in the '09 Dakar. Alfie started 30th on the day and came in 17th which bodes REALLY well for this team and lastly there was the third Overdrive Racing entry (Holowczyc and Cox being the other two) of Alexander Mironenko who started 34th and finished 29th.

The race has a LOOOOOOOOONG way to go and for the Nissans to put in a good showing they will have to perservere as others fall out—as happened in '09, but if Lavielle can manage not to burn down his Navara for the second year in a row and the others can drive competitively but not beyond the edge, they could exceed my modest expectations once again...Fingers crossed...

The Hangover: Movie Review

As usual I am a bit behind the times when it comes to seeing the "it" movies of the moment.

For the past six months or so I have heard over and over again how funny a movie The Hangover is. Not only was it being called one of the funniest movies ever but raunchy and subversive and new. Supposedly a new comedic paradigm had been created.

I got around to watching it this past weekend and as usual, the media appears to have done its best to overhype what is only a a somewhat above average film.

Don't get me wrong. The Hangover is funny. There are a number of situations the characters get into (surrounding a bachelor party to Vegas) and events that happen to them that well done and perfectly staged and down right hilarious. Bradley Cooper is awesome, pulling off a delicate balance between lovable jerk and complete a-hole while Zack G. (I'm not spelling that last name again) is fantastic as well.

It's just that to call this the "funniest movie ever" or to tell people that they "have to see it" goes well into the realm of hyperbole. Raunchy? Not hardly...virtually no nudity, zero sex, little bathroom humor—not that this is a bad thing but there is nothing here that should make a grown American even squirm slightly. Subversive? Not even close...

As my film teacher in college taught, virtually all comedies (especially successful ones) are inherently conservative in nature. This is the case with The Hangover as well. A good marriage, loyalty to friends, the impact of drugs and drink, etc.—all are given a profoundly conservative spin when you look at them in the film and thus nothing truly "subversive" can come from such a traditionally structured comedy.

The only true gripe I have with the film is a scene early on wherein (for reasons I'll leave unexplained) Zach G's character is sitting with a baby boy and proceeds to make the baby appear to be masturbating. Yeah, when I say it bluntly like that it sounds pretty disgusting doesn't it? While intended to appear as the sophomoric humor of a borderline "special" character in the film this made me do a double take.

Now some have gone as far as to say this is child abuse, I won't go quite that far, but if I was the husband of the mother of that child and was seeking a divorce, that scene would be Exhibit A in showing a judge why she is an unfit mother and not properly looking after her child. Double standards definitely come in here as well. There is NO WAY a director and actor would have gotten away with taking a baby GIRL and making her appear to be touching herself on film—but its JUST a baby boy and so that makes it OK. This wasn't abuse per se but this certainly was child exploitation in our modern society.

That being said, if you can handle that issue, I have no problem recommending the film as it WAS one of the funnier movies I have seen in a long just wasn't quite as good as everyone around me (and I'm sure around you) are making it out to be.