Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Nissan Juke Party Last Night and Auto Show Today...

Well, OK, that was not what I expected...

Making sure to be dressed appropriately I showed up in "business casual" attire as advised by the Nissan PR rep who had invited me to the Juke's North American introduction. I did need to rush into a local discount shoestore on the way from my hotel to 1 Rockefeller Plaza as I had forgotten my black socks at home. Throwing my white socks in a garbage barrel as I hustled down the NYC streets trying to dodge the raindrops I tried to think of what questions I might have for the designers and engineers.

Unfortunately I'd never get to ask these...

Cutting costs Nissan has, of late, planned these new model introductions outside of the traditional auto show scene. While having an open bar from 6-9 at the Morrell Wine Bar was nice, the location became very crowded very quickly and while I could place faces as being ones I knew from the Nissan org chart, the atmosphere was not conducive to inquiring as to the thinking behind the models design or where Nissan seems to be headed with a growing Euro influence.

John Davis from "Auto Week" on Speed Channel was there, though like most, he was more interested in consuming the free food and drink and taking up the room usually afforded two people in the small bar. The Nissan execs and PR staff and designers that were there were quite nice, I just wish the event was more about the vehicle and less about who can pick a good red wine and comment upon the salmon tartar.

The reception to the vehicle itself? The most common comment I heard was that it looked far better in person that it does in pictures. And I would agree, though I liked the pictures I had seen as well.

The Juke is quite small and short. At 6'2" the center of my chest is significantly higher than the roofline and the backseat is a bit cramped. The folding rear seats create an abundance of cargo room--sufficient for any normal weekend away or large trip to the grocery store or Wally World. The front seats however are normal in all size respects and provide plenty of room for a regular adult.

Without the designers or engineers to inquire with, many questions remain unanswered. There were no skid plates on this version, though skids have been named as an option for the Juke and there is a weird, floaty, wing looking thing on the dash over the steering wheel (see pic below). Whether its just a fancy way to reduce glare or something entirely different is unknown. Additionally, with the vehicle they were showing here still the right hand drive version I would have liked to inquire as to any potential differences between the U.S. version and any of the foreign versions, particularly regarding the engine options and its production location.

As a way to get the word out to some of the "corporate" automotive world that Nissan has a new model coming out and to generate some friendly, safe, vanilla news stories, an event like this is good. The guys with the large waistbands show up and are sure to get the news of your car in the NY Times or Motor Trend. For the thinner, more enthusiast oriented members of the automotive world, something like this just leaves us hungry...

How Bout We Start With the New A-Team Van...

OK, so there's no chance of me seeing this film in the theater but at least they got the look of the van right--though it doesn't look like there's much uptravel left!! This was the first vehicle to great you when you cam in through the doors of the Javit convention center.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Now in NYC...

Ahhh...NYC...What a grey, grey wonder everyone wears black...

Left at 5:20 this morning and made my flight by a whopping 10 seconds. Then a 1 hour 15 minute delay in Baltimore, followed by a 1/2 hour shuttle bus ride to my hotel which is just off of Columbus Circle (pictured above). For a whopping $100 the hotel is pretty solid. Centrally located, clean and safe (though small) rooms. I would recommend the Savoy Hotel to anyone looking to stay in downtown NYC and isn't hung up on image and names...

Its raining here and flooding all along the East Coast so I don't know how much sight seeing I will get in and may just take a nap. Regardless, I'll be back later with my report in the intro of the Juke from the Nissan event going on at 1 Rockefeller Plaza from 6-9 tonight...

Monday, March 29, 2010

Nissan Juke and Infiniti QX56--Coming Right Up!!

Of direct interest to Nissan and Infiniti fans the new Nissan Juke and Infiniti QX56 (Nissan Patrol in the rest of the world) are to be introduced over the next two days at the NY International Auto Show.

And I'm heading there to cover the two introductions. I will try to post as many thoughts and pics and vids as I can over the next few days/week surrounding the introductions and hopefully the other manufacturers have there stuff set up so that after the Infiniti event on Wednsday I can poke around for a bit before hopping on a plane back home.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Brass Monkey Racing--So, So Weekend...

So, not everything went as planned this weekend for Brass Monkey Racing...

Coming in, their stated goal was to get each vehicle to just finish each of the two weekend races. Steve Ott and the #96 GT-R had typical rookie luck on both days, crashing out on lap #1 on Saturday and retiring on lap #9 with a wheel problem on Sunday.

Tony Rivera who had an excellent 2009 World Challenge series performed well both days in his untested GT-R placing 7th and 8th on the two days.

Given that both GT-Rs were completely untested coming into the weekend and were showroom stock little more than a month ago, just being in St. Petersburg was an accomplishment. Hopefully Ott didn't do too much damage to his GT-R this weekend and they can get it prepped for the Long Beach, CA event in three weeks.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Brass Monkey Racing Qualifies 7th and 9th in GT-Rs...

Using completely untested vehicles the brand new racing GT-Rs came out and were quickly putting down laps with the leaders. During the first two practices the #'s 96 and 97 Nissans were at the top of the leaderboard and when it came to qualifying late on Friday they both ended up in the top ten, 7th and 9th overall out of 16 in the GT class.

The SCCA Pro Racing World Challenge race will start at 5PM on Saturday afternoon with two Volvo S60s, two Porsche 911s and two Dodge Vipers ahead of the Brass Monkey Racing GT-Rs. It will be interesting to see how quickly the Nissans can get up to speed and run in the front. Link to the Brass Monkey press release, Brass Monkey homepage and World Challenge homepage below...

Up in the Air-Movie Review...

Though Up in the Air may not age well, it is a great film to watch NOW.

With its focus on all the little silly things that consume modern American life (texting, cell phones, video conferencing, the bad economy, layoffs, etc.) I have a feeling it will look very dated in just a couple years. For the moment though, it captures a certain point and feeling in American life better than any film I've seen in a while.

George Clooney is great in his roll, mostly because he plays an onscreen version of himself. An itinerant bachelor consumed with remaining as unconnected to those around him as possible. When he states in the film that he really has no interest in being married, you understand that he is talking not only as his character but as himself in the real world.

Vera Farmiga does a fine job as a female version of Clooney's character and shows how women can play the game of careless philanderer as well. Her smackdown of Clooney's character near the end of the film for having read far more into their relationship than was truly there is brutal and you truly feel for him as he is essentially cast aside, much like those employees he has spent his career firing, and treated as merely a quaint diversion from her "normal" life.

Anna Kendrick is cute and immensely likeable in her roll as the recent college grad trying to improve the process of firing people in person by firing them over video conferencing links. As Clooney tries to teach her the ropes of trade, one hopes she doesn't become as unfeeling and unconnected as he can be at times and unfortunately as more and more of her rubs off on him, the more vulnerable he becomes.

The directing, editing and music here are solid. You don't really notice the first two (sometimes the best thing that can be said of a director and editor) and the music choices are perfect, only adding to and not overwhelming the scenes.

A thoroughly enjoyable film that doesn't fall into cliches, it deserves to be seen as soon as possible.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Good Article on Taking a Pathy Exploring...

Anyone who has visited Mesa Verde or other similar "ruins" in North America know what a powerful experience it can be. So imagine exploring a site in its pristine, untouched condition, without any tourists, likely left the same way for centuries. Well, it IS possible. Range Creek, only "discovered" or more like "released to the public" only five years ago is now open to limited...VERY limited visits. Truck trend to a Pathy to the area and here is their short tale...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Star Wars-The Phantom Menace: Movie Review...

Wow...OK, I did originally see this in the theater when it came out over a decade ago (boy do I feel old) and never did I think I would have to view it again...

But, given I have a 4 year old son now I guess it was inevitable. Of course I watched the original trilogy with him before this one and I am amazed at how even he was far more enthralled by those than by this, despite all the new whiz-bang computer graphics and advances in film technology.

Though I had faintly remembered coming away from the theater being disappointed by the film, I guess over the years I had chalked it up to what many reviewers had stated--that it could not have ever lived up to myths surrounding the greatness of the original three films. What I found out was that this truly is one of the worst films for the money ever made.

Everything here is over done. It is over long (those stupid pod races go on and on and on), overly childish (how many poop jokes do we need?), terribly acted (Liam Neeson's worst roll ever and he's the BEST actor in this film), poorly written (dialogue--terrible, story--convoluted) and poorly executed. Remember how great those special effects seemed at the time? Now the computer generated characters and backgrounds look terrible as they have been passed by so much better versions.

That's the thing about computer generated stuff still. Its still improving by leaps and bounds. Put a guy in a rubber mask in 1974 and he still looks like a guy in a rubber mask in 2010, do it well and it looks really good in both periods. Computer generated graphics don't age that way. What looked good in just 1999, looks terrible in 2010. Lucas failed to realize this and these films were poor to begin with and age even worse--which can't be said of the original three...

The Phantom Menace also incorporates a theme that Avatar returns to a little more than a decade later--the evil of technology and the good of nature. On one hand you have all the evil robots and mechanically oriented bad guys. On the other hand you have the worst character ever created in the history of film (he who shall not be named) and his frog/lizard/whatever compatriots who throw little energized water balls at the enemy and are "one with nature"...gheck...

You might think after all this I would recommend against seeing this film for the first time or as a repeat viewing...on the contrary...I would HIGHLY recommend seeing this film again, just to remind you what utter crap it truly is...It takes a lot of money to make something this bad...

Monday, March 22, 2010

Nissan GT-R Takes Round 1 of Super GT Series...

Again dominating the Japanese racing series. The Lexus SC 430s and Hondas just can't keep up...look for a big amount of weight to be added to the GT-R to even the playing field...Maybe they should do that in NAPCAR....Nissan's Press Release below...

SUZUKA, Japan, March 22 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- The HIS Advan Kondo GT-R team withJoao Paolo de Oliveira and Hironobu Yasuda behind the wheel avoided all the spins and collisions created by heavy rainstorms at the beginning of the race to claim victory at the opening round of the Super GT series yesterday. This marks the second year in a row where the HIS Advan Kondo GT-R team has posted an opening round win in the Super GT series.

After a long off-season wait, some 31,000 race fans were on hand for the opening round of the Super GT season despite dark clouds overhead and occasional heavy rain. Spinning cars and contact were common at the beginning of the race in the heavy rain but Oliveira avoided all the carnage in his #24 GT-R and moved from 10th to 4th position by lap 2 in a car that had taken all night to rebuild after a crash in qualifying the previous day. After a brief Safety Car session Oliveira engaged in a fierce battle with the #6 and #1 SC430s as the difficult conditions continued with more rain falling. As the bulk of the cars made their pit stops Oliveira took over the lead and was able to extend it until he pitted several laps later to switch drivers. The team decided to keep the same tires so a quick pit stop saw Yasuda take over driving and he never let anyone get close until he took the checker flag at the end of 52 laps.

Despite qualifying higher up the grid the other Nissan GT-Rs in the race ran into troubles. The #23 Motul Autech GT-R ofSatoshi Motoyama and Benoit Treluyer spun off the track in the first turn in the heaviest rain and required an early pit stop but finished 8th to accrue valuable championship points. The #12 Calsonic Impul GT-R of Tsugio Matsuda and Ronnie Quintarelli also spun off the track at the first turn and was able to return to the race but retired on the 10th lap with mechanical issues.

#24 GT-R driver Joao Paolo de Oliveira's comments:

"After crashing and breaking the car yesterday, I was really eager to somehow make a recovery. In addition, because we chose to run on hard compound tires, it was difficult to generate heat in the early stages, which really restricted us. Being able to come away from here with a win is excellent. I'd like to extend a special thanks to the mechanics for working all night to fix the car."

#24 GT-R driver Hironobu Yasuda's comments:

"Because the tires worked so well in the morning's free practice session, team director Kondo determined that we would be able to run without changing tires in the race. It worked perfectly. In the first half, it was difficult to gain position, but I have to tip my hat to J.P. (de Oliveira) for taking care of the tires throughout his stint. As for my laps in the car, of course the tires, the chassis and engine all worked well. To win the opening round makes me incredibly happy."

The next round of the Super GT series takes place Apr. 3 – 4 at the Okayama International Circuit.

About Nissan North America

In North America, Nissan's operations include automotive styling, engineering, consumer and corporate financing, sales and marketing, distribution and manufacturing. Nissan is dedicated to improving the environment under the Nissan Green Program 2010, whose key priorities are reducing CO2 emissions, cutting other emissions and increasing recycling. More information on Nissan in North America and the complete line of Nissan and Infiniti vehicles can be found online and

Coming...Eventually--Dirt 3!!

Wow...can't believe they're working on this already!! Good news though given how awesome the last two have been. I am betting for a return to more WRC oriented fair given Ken Block's association with Dirt 2 and his entry into the WRC. As long as they don't totally eliminate short course/off-road/rallye style events I'm definately cool with that. Read on...

Credit for article to Edge Online

Codemasters Studios vice president Gavin Cheshire has revealed that the company’s currently at work on a sequel to last year’s Colin McRae - Dirt 2.

The executive made the first mention of
Dirt 3 during an interview featured in the latest issue of Edge, E213, which hits UK newsagents on March 16 and should be in subscribers' hands now.

Speaking about Codemasters’ studio culture and its position as the last of the big British publishers, he said: “Really, it’s all about letting the teams just innovate. There’s some great stuff coming from Birmingham that’s going into
Dirt 3, and obviously you’ve seen Bodycount.

“I guess in today’s world, every day you’re dealing with people from all over the world. So it’s a British company and the last bastion of British publishing, and there is some pride in that, but it doesn’t take control of your life. It’s about the culture we’ve created and making the best games you can.
Dirt 2: brilliant game but it’s all American accents, so maybe we’re a little over the top with those. Maybe we should fly the flag a bit more.”

Addressing the company’s strategy for its racing franchises, Cheshire said that innovation is the key to success.

“There’s an overwhelming arcing vision to all of our racing titles, and
Grid is incredibly strong, but we’re lucky enough to be in a position where we’ve got racing games in different areas. Dirt was a complete reboot – we threw away what was going on and redid it completely – and then we rebooted Grid because it wasn’t top gun, and then we rebooted Dirt 2. I’m not saying we’re throwing all the codebase away, but we’re throwing the thoughts away and coming out with something fresh and new. Because if you don’t innovate, you’re dead.”

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Good Weekend for Nissan's Across the Globe...

Right now at a bare minimum (before I spend more time looking for Nissans that were out racing this weekend) there is a 1st place for Krzysztof Holowczyc in the Italian Baja event and a 5th place finish for the Regent racing team of Mike Whitehouse in the ABSA Adenco 400 in South Africa.

Both of these finishes come from the Navara/Frontier and continue to show its durability and speed. Lets just hope there are no issues with the size any air intakes that would eliminate these fine Krzysztof???

Holowczyc's win in Italy should put him in a three way tie for the lead in the FIA International Baja series as each of the first three events (Northern Forest in Russia, Baja Italy and Saudi Arabian Ha'il Baja) had a different winner with the other winners either DNF/Q'ing or not entering the other two events...

Whitehouse's 5th place privateer finish was in his first event behind the wheel of his Nissan and marks the first full season in over a decade without Glyn Hall running a factory Nissan effort in South Africa. Hall meanwhile has moved over to Toyota and had a most unpleasant first effort with both his factory vehicles DNF'ing. The Adenco 400 was the first event in the ABSA offroad season and at least puts a Nissan name up on the leader board.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Solid Run For Chris Palermo at Desert Storm Rally...

As part of one of Rally America's regional series the Desert Storm Rally is centered around Blythe, CA and features a solid mix of vehicles including a couple of rally trucks and a number of older vehicles.

One entrant in the March 12-14th event was Chris Palermo and his Sentra SE-R. The SE-R is still seen at numerous rally events around the country, driven by a number of owners and always seems to perform well for a 20 year old car. The SE-R is just shy of the 510 in its ability to just keep going and going and going in various rally series.

Palermo is a Hollywood stunt driver/actor having done a number of scenes for such "classics" like The Fast and the Furious and numerous other films as can be seen on his Palermo Productions website.

Chris finished 12th out of 22 entries on Saturday and 8th out of 19 on Sunday. A real solid effort for Palermo and his Nissan. Well done.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Nissans Still Present in Short Course...

Not a lot of them mind you (two to be exact by my count) but there are at least two Nissan drivers left in off-road short course racing. Nissan drivers have taken the past two Rookie of the Year awards in LOORRS ('09) and CORR ('08) and while the '08 winner, Todd Cuffaro, has moved on to another manufacturer, Jimmy Stephensen remains with his Nissan Pro-Lite.

The other Nissan driver is Stephan Papadakis who has been better known for his drifting and drag racing exploits at times in partnership with Tanner Foust. He is now getting a taste for the dirt however in shortcourse.

The first LOORRS event of the year was last weekend in Las Vegas. Jimmy finished 12th out of 17 on Saturday and 8th out of 15 on Sunday. Stephan finished 9th on Saturday but did not run on Sunday. Pics below.