Sunday, October 31, 2010

Transsiberian: A Movie Review...

Miscast and kinda snore-worthy...

While not a bad film, Transsiberian is a mostly forgettable film except for the complete miscasting of Woody Harrelson.  Whoever thought that Woody Harrelson should play a meek, simple, church-going, train geek should never work in Hollywood again--as should the makeup artist responsible for his awful hair-piece found here as well.

The rest of the film contains a premise I thought had potential--two disparate couples find themselves colliding on a train making week long journey from China to Moscow.  The claustrophobic conditions lend themselves to the creation of tension and the near-arctic environment leaves a blank slate on which the characters can develop.

Unfortunately the story lets them all down and despite Harrelson, Ben Kingsley and Emily Mortimer (whose performance and character was the near sole reason the film remained watchable) being in featured roles, no single image or scene stands out.  This could easily be a TV movie that you flip by or watch momentarily on a lonely weekend but then move on to something else...just about anything else...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bear vs. Bison: Who Ya Got?

I'll take the 800 pound grizzly thank you.

With all the Photochopped garbage out there one's first thought is that this must be faked.  Certainly I've seen higher quality Photochopped images similar to this (huge waves, large animals, etc.) and questioned their legitimacy immediately.  This, however, has confirmation from the National Park Service that the photo was taken last Winter near Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park.

The buffalo looks good sized but certainly not a dominant male and thus likely made for an easy choice for the bear.  Good for the grizzly, I understand his hunger--Bison burgers are good eatin...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

5th Ain't Great...

But it ain't too bad right?

Well, whether its that good or not, that's what we have at this past weekend's Human Auto 400 race in South Africa.  The top Nissan in this event (out of 27 entrants in the production vehicle category) was SP05, the Regent Racing Navara, piloted by Terrence Marsh.  Two other Navara's were entered in the race--SP11, the other Regent Racing Navara, which finished in 11th and lastly the SP22, the Barden Tyre Navara of Thomas Rundle which DNF'd.

At least the pictures came out great!

ABSA OffRoad Championship--Human Auto 400 Results...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sumo GT Team on Podium Again...

Been a while since I talked about these guys but I should mention them more often given the results...

For a first year team they are doing amazingly well as evidenced by the team's 3rd place standing in the overall GT1 2010 team championship.  Fielding a two car effort the Sumo GT boys have been lucky most of the time that when things have gone poorly for one of their cars, the other one has picked things up a notch.

As was the case this past weekend in Navarra, Spain.  While the number 23 GT-R of Dumbreck/Krumm was punted early on and DNF'd after only 6 laps, the number 22 GT-R of Campbell-Walter/Hughes ran really well all day and ended on the podium in third.  With numerous podiums and one event win on the season the Sumo GT team sits in third place for the year with two South American events left on the calendar.  Anything less that rounding out the year in third will be a disappointment at this point but the team should be rewarded by Nissan regardless of how things finish up as they have run near the top of the leaderboard all year and put the GT-R on the map across Europe and the world.

Sumo Power GT-R, Navarra, Spain report...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Seats and Harnesses...

Closing in on the date for the truck to go in for its cage and finalizing some of the accessories that will go inside at the same time.

Here are my chosen seats and harnesses, both picked up from HMS Motorsport in Peabody, MA.

The seats are the least expensive FIA compliant seats I could find (hey!  I'm not made of money you know!) but will still fit the bill just right.  The Cobra Monaco seats are comfy without being soft and supportive without being confining.  They are tube frame in nature vs. a carbon fiber shell (which is what makes them relatively inexpensive) and weigh slightly more than their expensive brethren as well.

The Schroth Racing harnesses are made of 3" webbing and do NOT have the camlock latching mechanism picture on the box as those are not allowed in the dirty environs of the desert/rally due to the danger of jamming.

Now back to sorting out the technicalities of building the roll cage...

Last King of Scotland: A Film Review...

Meeting a near dictionary definition of a "thriller" The Last King of Scotland will not satisfy action fans looking for gunplay and explosions.

It does, however, slowly build tension and suspense from the beginning and culminate in an end that resolves little, leaving the viewer without a nicely tied up package, and without a clean ending for anyone.

Whitaker's portrayal of the psychotic/schizophrenic Idi Amin is fantastic and McAvoy is just as solid as the fictional and naive Dr. Garrigan.

The story mixes both the historical and the fictional to take a closer look at Idi Amin beyond just the surface headlines that most are familiar with.  Still beloved by many Ugandans to this day for his "connection" to his people, his is a familiar story of a dictator whose people often look beyond the horrors of a regime they have been deluded into believing is operating for their betterment.

This is not to say that "whites" are given a free pass either.  McAvoy portrays your typical over educated, idealistic Westerner who travels to the ends of the Earth in an attempt to satisfy his lust for "adventure" under the guise of helping others and delving into another culture.  In fact, like most Westerners, he is driven out of a lack of satisfaction with his comfortable life at home in Scotland, can't keep his pants on and has no thought for the repercussions of his actions.

Lastly, the film is directed by the same man, Kevin Macdonald, who helmed Touching the Void, another  very good film (better in my opinion that this) that can also be thrown into the "thriller" category.  Macdonald, a Scotsman himself, concentrated early in his career on biographical films and has branched into biographical recreations (Touching the Void), and mixtures of history and fiction (The Last King of Scotland) with equal aplomb.

This is one to defiantely enjoy.

Friday, October 22, 2010

8th Internext Rally Vsetín: Four championships' conclusion

Cross country rally Vsetín is the only Czech race that has survived for more than two years. Since 2003, when the first edition took place instead of another cancelled race, "Vsetín" became extremely popular amongst drivers and fans. This rally is very specific and is more sprint than long-distance rally. Special stages are usually 10 kilometers long with eight or nine timed sections.

This year’s edition of "Vsetín" has been hit hard by bad weather. Five days of heavy rain has made part of the track very difficult to cross and organizer had to skip this most attractive part of the race. Nevertheless the race didn’t suffer from lack of competition or thrill. The stakes were high, Czech and Polish international championship titles were still in games as well as FIA CEZ Trophy.

In previous seven years only two men shared the title; Miroslav Rís (2003-2005) and Miroslav Zapletal (2006-2009). Now two pilots had a chance to become new Czech champion; provisional leader Zdenek Porízek and Viktor Chytka. Under normal circumstances Chytka with T2 Mitsubishi Pajero wouldn’t stand a chance against Porízek’s X-Raid-produced BMW X5 CC. But with last-minute change for state-of-art Hummer H3 Evo Chytka’s chances rose significantly.

The first to hit the road on Saturday Chytka fully took the advantage of a clean track. He stormed the selection with stunning 24 second advantage on the second Wlodzimierz Grajek (Mitsubishi Pajero MRT). This section was repeated twice and while almost everyone improved its time only Chytka and Grajek were slower due to much dirty track. The second portion of the race consisted of three gravel specials across the forest. Chytka utilized the familiarity of home track and maintained his lead. Chytka is the only one to take part in every “Vsetín” since its creation. Relatively quietly Porízek moved up the order, he overtook Zoli Garamvölgyi (Nissan Pathfinder) and Károly Fazekas (BMW X5) and was only 4 seconds behind second placed Grajek.

The last part of 8th Internext Rally Vsetín happened on the same track but in reverse order. Chytka gave Hummer the second win in Vsetín after last year Zapletal’s triumph. On the very last special Grajek failed to keep Porízek behind and lost the second place. Six minutes behind the winner Dariusz Zyla (Mitsubishi Pajero) finished the race on eighth position to get third place in Czech championship.

Legendary five time Dakar winner Josef Machácek (Yamaha Raptor) came to Vsetín to get his first national title and he succeeded. Second placed youngster Václav Bazika (Yamaha Raptor) tested new machine from Machácek’s production. In thrilling fight for the third place Vlastimil Tosenovský (E-ATV 690) lost to Rudolf Sajan (Gas Gas 450 HP) but kept trio of Polish rivals behind. The only woman behind the handlebars of quad was only 17-year old Sandra Ulrichová.

Note: Cup of Slovak Republic was running concurrently with Czech championship with the same race schedule and classification and thus with the same results.

Final standings of Czech international championship - cars:
1. Zdenek Prízek / Marek Sýkora 85 points
2. Viktor Chytka / Zdenek Ulehla 75 points
3. Dariusz Zyla / Malgorzata Zyla 62 points
4. Juraj Ulrich / Daniela Ulrichová 44 points (1st in T2 class)

Final standings of Czech international championship - quads:
1. Josef Machácek 100 points
2. Klaudiusz Rostowski 82 points
3. Vlastimil Tošenovský 49 points

Thanks to slightly different points’ distribution four pilots were supposed to fight for Polish title; Porízek, Chytka, Zyla and Grajek. Chytka as an event winner took maximum of possible points which shifted him to second place in general ranking of RMPST (Rajdowe Mistrzostwa Polski Samochodów Terenowych) just one point ahead of Grajek.

Note: Rumors that last event of RMPST, planned to take part in Sopot, would be cancelled turned up to be true. This made Zdenek Porízek Polish champion, too.

Final standings of Polish international championship – T1 class:
1. Zdenek Prízek / Marek Sýkora 24 points
2. Viktor Chytka / Zdenek Ulehla 20 points
3. Wlodzimierz Grajek / Rafal Cieply 19 points

Final standings in Polish international championship – T2 class:
1. Juraj Ulrich / Daniela Ulrichová 17 points
2. Zbigniew Wieclawek / Ryszard Wieclawek 12 points
3. Grzegorz Szwagrzyk / Piotr Brakowiecki 8 points

Final standings in Polish international championship – TH class:
1. Robert Lyzwa / Michal Krotiuk 6 points

For second year cross running country rallies have their own Central European Zone Trophy. Premiere edition was won by Balázs Szalay. He had the best conditions to regain the trophy but decided to skip “Vsetín.” So the doors became open for a whole bunch of others. Károly Fazekas was provisional leader, Zdenek Porízek was two points behind, Dariusz Zyla another three and Viktor Chytka with 20 points also had a chance to replace Szalay. At the end Porízek managed to outrun Fazekas and took the honors.

Note: Last round of CEZ Trophy, Baja Montenegro, was called off again this year.

Final standings of CEZ Cross country rally trophy – T1 class:
1. Zdenek Prízek / Marek Sýkora 34 points
2. Károly Fazekas / Péter Maurer 32 points
3. Viktor Chytka / Zdenek Ulehla 30 points

Final standings of CEZ Cross country rally trophy – T2 class:
1. Juraj Ulrich / Daniela Ulrichová 57 points
2. Grzegorz Szwagrzyk / Piotr Brakowiecki 32 points
3. Zbigniew Wieclawek / Ryszard Wieclawek 25 points

Final standings of CEZ Cross country rally trophy – TH class:
1. Robert Lyzwa / Michal Krotiuk 30 points
2. Dávid Czirkelbach / Péter Szász 18 points

Thursday, October 21, 2010

ESPN2 and RallyCar: A Match Never Made...

One of the stories that has been floating around the Rally community in the US over the past six months or so has been that ESPN2 had signed on to broadcast the newly formed RallyCross series taking place this fall over three weekends at the New Jersey Motorsports Park. This was to be the launch of Rally in general and RallyCross in particular into the mainstream. Heck, RallyCross (in the form of Super Rally) was even added to the '10 XGames.

So what happened?

It's now almost November, no broadcast has ever been made of either of the first two RallyCross events and no news is forthcoming from Rally America, I mean, RallyCar about the situation which has left fans, competitors and sponsors wondering.

So lets recap the situation using Rally America, I mean, RallyCar's, own "News" page and then I'll throw in a little tidbit at the end...

8/9/10--Quoting directly from the news release entitled America's First RallyCross to Make History, it reads that the new RallyCross series "...will be televised on ESPN2. Details about format and broadcast dates to follow." This seems pretty cut and dry. RallyCross has a TV deal in place and is only finalizing details...

8/27/10--Quoting directly from the news release penned by Rally America, I mean RallyCar's, media partner World Rally Sport and entitled 10 Things to Know About RallyCar's US Rallycross, reads "RallyCar is working on finalizing the TV deal for US Rallycross events." mention of ESPN2 here, but Rally America, I mean, RallyCar would make up a story to one of its media partners, would it??

9/28/10--Then, just prior to the second RallyCross event at NJMP we get RallyCar's own press release, Top Drivers Coming to RallyCross #2, in which there is now no mention of ESPN2 and no mention of TV of any kind. But the saving grace here is that a full, nationwide championship with three West Coast events and three East Coast events is mentioned being in place for 2011. Yeah!! Maybe they just didn't bother to mention TV this time AND we've got this thing going NATIONWIDE now!!

10/2/10--In the Tanner Foust Takes the Win release from Rally Ameri...I mean RallyCar, we now have no mention of ESPN2, no mention of TV and no mention of any nationwide series....Uhhh....

10/12/10--RallyCar announces its Stage Rally schedule for 2011 but contains not a word of RallyCross...

10/13/10--Under the release entitled US Rallycross Exploding on International Stage, we have no mention of ESPN2, TV or the 2011 season and we have an announced reduction in ticket prices to $20 a car load, down from $13 a person on Saturday and $22 a person on Sunday...

Now let me be clear. I am in no way saying that there is not going to be a 2011 RallyCross season, nor am I saying that it won't be a Nationwide series. What I am saying is that there is NOT going to be any TV coverage on ESPN2 of any kind, and unless Rally Am...I mean RallyCar forks over a ton of coin to pay for the footage obtained by ESPN2 at the first event, I wouldn't anticipate ever seeing it anywhere.

I spoke today to a highly placed PR employee at ESPN today who has first hand knowledge of what actually occured and it was relayed to me as follows:

"...this was something that was talked about with RallyCar, but was never confirmed and definitely not announced. It was decided to not air the series..."

The source did/would not disclose the reasoning behind the decision but given the low car counts and shockingly uncompetitive distances between finishers I think we can safely assume that it did not make for compelling television...

Maybe this will change in the future but with ESPN getting burned by a roundly panned introduction of Super Rally at the XGames followed by a decision not to continue involvement in the series by ESPN2 after viewing the initial NJMP event, I find it unlikely that any major TV package will be forthcoming for 2011and many questions remain.

Is splitting your already low car count between East and West events a good idea at this point?

Most importantly--How much does the obvious failure of RallyCar (there, I said it the first time) to present reasonable and dependable expectations for its fans, racers and sponsors damage faith in their current announcements?

RallyCar flat out LIED to its public when it announced it had a TV deal in place with ESPN2 and has shown a decided lack of business acumen ever since. I've said it before when observing the downfall of another American motorsports series that I heavily criticized but PERCEPTION IS REALITY.

If sponsors, racers and fans begin questioning the truth of what you are announcing (and at this point they certainly should with RallyCar) then your series is on its way to a rapid fold whether you are NOW telling the truth or not. Being up front, honest and forthright is the ONLY way for a series, especially a small one, to succeed.

It's past time RallyCar (PLEASE go back to the Rally America name!! RallyCar is just plain dumb...someone should swallow their pride, admit their mistake and correct it) starts moving in this direction.

What 420 MPH Looks Like...

when you look back from the rear end of an internal combustion streamliner on the Bonneville Salt Flats...

This is from the recent speed record set by Charles Nearburg.  The vehicle is single engined, naturally aspirated and runs on gasoline.  Reaching a top speed of 422.6 mph the "Spirit of Rett" averaged a speed of 414.5 mph on its two runs, breaking a 45 year old record.

The team's safety equipment (parachutes, firesuits, etc.) were all provided by DJ Safety.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Datsun 510 Roars Again...

Great looking car, great number and great result...

At the season ending Lake Superior Performance Rally out of Houghton, MI this past weekend the Datsun 510 of Jim Scray and Colin Vickman finished in 7th out of 17 2WD entries.

The color scheme here on the 510 is a take off of the NISMO color scheme used in a number of factory efforts and marketing efforts from just a few years ago.  The red, black and silver never got the brand recognition of the earlier red/white/blue factory racing liveries but it still looks damn sharp....

LSPR 2010 Results...

Monday, October 18, 2010

How Long is the Coast of Great Britain??

Or New Hampshire?  Or any land mass??

Your best answer if asked this question??

It depends...

What???  If I look in my encyclopedia or atlas it will tell me right away what the length of the Florida coast is!!  Right?!?!

Not really...

Mr. Benoit Mandelbrot, who just passed away on 10/14/10 in Cambridge, MA posed this interesting question with an even more interesting answer back in 1967 in Science magazine.  The acknowledged father of fractal geometry and overall great contributor to the fields of math, finance, physics, and other hard sciences detailed that the answer to the above question really depends on your chosen scale of reference.  If you measure the coast of Britain in whole miles you will get a completely different answer than if you measure it in inches.  And as your measured frame of reference decreases, so the length of the coastline increases...

Now I don't have the mind or background to delve too deep into Mr. Mandelbrot's theories and work, advanced math always came hard to me, but some of his work translated over from the theoretical into the visual--such as with the beautiful example of fractal geometry shown below and the idea that if you look at a mountain it looks essentially the same as if you grabbed a rock and inspected it under a microscope--and it is in such examples and the coastline example herein that my poor mind can find reason and beauty in math.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

You Want Nissans Racing in the Desert??

You got it...

These shots are from the recent Rallye des Pharaons in Egypt where the Nissan Pathfinder you see here (diesel I believe) of Technosport SPA and driven by Traglio Maruizio finished 2nd.  This was a top tier event which saw such world class competitors as Jean Louis Schlesser and his buggy (who won the event) and French born, American residing and former Robby Gordon teammate, Eric Vigouroux (finishing 5th) as entries.

Nicely done...

Why Don't Terrorists Give Nissan Some Love??

Doesn't Nissan make the Patrol?  One of the world's toughest most capable vehicles alongside the LandCruiser, various Land Rovers and the Jeep Wrangler?  Hasn't Nissan made the Navara or Hardbody trucks available all over the world for years?  Does Nissan not have an Iranian, government owned factory running under the name of Pars Khodro?  Where is the love from terrorists, Marxists and malcontents worldwide?  Please don't discriminate!  Nissans make for great .50 cal mounts too!!

Regardless...this is a cool article from Newsweek (probably the only time I'll say that...) on terrorist love for Toyota trucks of all kinds around the world.  The love of Toyota's in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, etc. is something I already knew about but this just expands upon the topic...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

NISMO Stuff Racing's First EPIC National event...

I can't honestly say that it will be the team's first true National level event.  That would go to the snowy, National level Rallycross event at Stafford Speedway earlier this year that qualified me to show up at the Colorado Rallycross Championship (that I did not attend).

THIS however will be a whole different ball game.

It is my now announced intention to make the 2011 Climb to the Clouds on Mt. Washington in New Hampshire the first full "stage rally" style event for the NISMO Stuff Racing team.  With Pastrana setting a new, unofficial record just a few weeks ago and a ton of press, hype and a full week of events leading up to the racers tackling the hill, this will be an EPIC event--even more so since it has not been held for the past 10 years and is just being reintroduced now and that 2011 will be the 150th anniversary of the Mt. Washington Auto Road itself.

Given its relatively local location to me, short length, number of practice runs and big exposure, this will be a near perfect introduction and shakedown for the team.  The hope is to run this event and then a few weeks later, run the New England Forest Rally in Maine/NH.  First things first though...We've got a mountain to conquer!

Monday, October 11, 2010

More Prep Purchases...

Ahhh....Columbus Day...

A day when banks and the Post Office are closed but most stores are open.  So it is with HMS Motorsport, a local (Peabody, MA) motorsports store.  They have nearly everything I need from helmets to seats to HANS devices and I can go and try the stuff on and see how it feels--far better than ordering by mail.

So I spent my free time down there picking out some seats, harnesses and other required safety items.  The seats and harnesses won't be ready for a week so I'll wait on posting about them but here are the items I brought home with me today.

First are the Oakley Carbon X long sleeve shirt, pants, socks and balaclava.  Not only does the Oakley Carbon X undergarments meet all FIA/Rally America/SCORE requirements but it is super soft, wicks moisture better than Nomex clothing, and looks damn cool too.

Second are the Alpinestars Tech-1 Race gloves.  Nomex for fire protection, thin for feel and grip areas on the palm and fingers to ensure a secure handle on the wheel or shifter.

Third and last but not least are the G-Force High Top Racing Shoes.  High top shoes are required for safe ankle coverage and these budget shoes are both built with fire resistant Nomex and are thickly soled and stiff enough to be appropriate footwear if one has to get out of the vehicle during a stage or desert race and traipse over rocks, roots or other non-asphalt surfaces.

Like I said...the seats and harnesses arrive next week so I will have more on them then.  Now I need an appropriate racing suit and helmet...Things are moving forward nicely...

NISMO Stuff Racing Clinches 2nd Place Overall For 2010...

This past weekend saw the 8th event in the SCCA New England Region Rallycross season.  The "Rest & Be Thankful Rallycross" event took place in Maine and had four entries in the Prepared Rear class.  NISMO Stuff Racing ended the day in second place.  Again, this second place finish came at the hands of Tim Chevalier and his incredible, Team O'Neil Rally School honed skills.

This 2nd place finish also locked up 2nd place for the 2010 season (again behind Tim) for NISMO Stuff Racing with two events remaining.  Of more positive news, the time difference between the NISMO Stuff racing runs and Mr. Chevalier's runs is now down to one second.  Earlier in the year the average time between the two efforts was as much as five seconds per run.  The gap has likely been reduced by both increasing experience on my part and changes to Tim's vehicle (not for the better) on his part.  Regardless...I'm closing in!!
Rest & Be Thankful Rallycross Results...