Monday, January 31, 2011

Rally America Sno*Drift Results...

All year long I will recap (results wise) the larger Stage Rally events in the US and continue building upon them all year long so that everyone can have a single source and update as to the year's finishers.

I will make only two breakdowns which will be between the two clear classes of vehicles--AWD and 2WD and list the top three drivers and models of vehicles in each class.  This to me captures the most important results from each event.

These results are from the first significant Stage Rally race in 2011, held on the snowy roads of upstate Michigan.  The two top contenders for the 2011 Championship (Antoine L'Estage and his Mitsu and David Higgins and his Subie) both DNF'd on day one, sending the race into a free for all--even more so after Dave Mirra suffered tire problems and dropped off the pace early.  Good to see an underfunded privateer effort like Hanson take the win.

Edit to add:  Oh, and there were no Nissan vehicles to be found entered in the event.  For shame.

Sno*Drift AWD (National)
1-Travis Hanson, 2007 Subaru Impreza WRX STi
2-Dave Mirra, 2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STi
3-Joseph Burke, 2006 Mitsubishi Evo 9

Sno*Drift 2WD (National)
1-Dillon Van Way, 2011 Ford Fiesta
2-Christopher Duplessis, 2010 Scion Xd
3-Chris Greenhouse, 1995 Plymouth Neon

Sno Regional AWD
1-Henry Krolkowski, 2000 Subaru Impreza
2-Peter Hascher, 1995 Subaru Impreza
3-Tim Smigowski, 1994 Mitsubishi Eclipse

Sno Regional 2WD
1-Chris Greenhouse, 1995 Plymouth Neon
2-Sean Murphy, 1988 VW GTi
3-Evan Moen, 2000 Acura Integra Type R

Drift Regional AWD
1-Erik Zenz, 1988 Mazda 323
2-Henry Krolkowski, 2000 Subaru Impreza
3-Carl Siegler, 2004 Subaru Impreza STi

Drift Regional 2WD
1-Matt Bushore, 1985 VW Jetta
2-Chris Greenhouse, 1995 Plymouth Neon
3-Billy Mann, 1996 Honda Civic

Full Rally America Sno*Drift Results...

Dacia Duster with GT-R Coming to Pikes Peak...

So even if there is no Nissan present at this year's Pikes Peak Hill Climb event, there will be at least one Nissan powered vehicle to root for.

The above is the ice racing version of the Dacia Duster (discussed a ways back in this blog here: Dacia Duster...).  A similar vehicle, to be kitted out with a engine swap from a Nissan GT-R (likely one of the VR38DETT crate engines being sold now: GT-R Crate motors...) will run with a VERY capable driver at the wheel in this year's event.  Given how new and inexperienced the effort is, I doubt they will set any records, but should push to be the fastest up the hill--especially given, if the vehicle retains its ice racing vehicle heritage, it will have AWD and 4Wheel Steering as well.

As an aside...I continue to love the looks of the Duster and think it could make a really solid replacement for the Xterra if the Xterra were to go away and a "softer" vehicle was to replace it...

Dacia Duster with GT-R Coming to Pikes Peak...

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Krider Racing: 25 Hours of Thunderhill Documentary

As seen both here in this Blog: Krider Racing in 25 Hours of Thunderhill and in the most recent issue of Nissan Sport Magazine the Krider Racing Nissan Sentra based team recent performed extremely well in the endurance race out in California.  They made a documentary of their efforts which is well worth watching.

And here it is:

Watch live streaming video from goracingtv at

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Cool Hand Luke: Film Review...

Back to a good film this week.

Make that a fantastic film.  Even while watching Cool Hand Luke I thought of Jack Nicholson's character from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and to find out afterward that numerous others have made the same comparison lets me know I haven't completely lost my film analysis skills after all these years.

The film itself is a bit choppy at first as Luke is imprisoned and introduced to the prison population but after Luke (Newman) and Dragline (Academy Award winning role for George Kennedy), the top dog as far as the prisoners go, bond together, the film moves with proper pace and clarity.

Newman's loner, Luke, is the prototypical non-conformist.  He is a war hero, yet had obvious discipline problems that resulted in his demotion (discharge?).  Luke is intelligent and crafty and yet evidently can't keep a job or a relationship.  His mother loves him dearly but knows he is fated to a cruel end.  The Christ-like imagery surrounding Luke beats you over the head at times in the film and isn't needed for the viewer to know early on that despite the humor in the film and constant smile on Newman's face, how things will turn out.

Newman and George Kennedy's charisma both with the camera and each other is palpable and comes across like few relationships in film while other supporting actors provide excellent backup--Dennis Hopper, Wayne Rogers, Harry Dean Stanton, etc.

One point brought up elsewhere that I found insightful surrounds the realism found in this film.  If this movie was done today the chain gang scenes would be shot with "strategically placed" sweat and dirt on the actors and likely would be shot on some back lot in Hollywood with masseuses and on site catering just off camera.  Not here.  Newman, Kennedy and the rest, I have no doubt, really did bust their hump and get truly filthy in the process of shoveling dirt, cutting weeds and mopping tar as part of their fictional chain gang.  Newman was a strict devotee of method acting and one would doubt he would have "faked" much of the stress, sunburns and beatings he takes in this film.

There really is so much more here that could be delved into--the homosexual overtones (shocking given its a "prison film" right?), Luke's relationship with his mother/brother, how the film fits into the 1960's atmosphere, etc., but really, just go and enjoy what a wonderful film this is.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Egypt To Fall...

With the protests continuing to accelerate in Egypt and the military now being called out on behalf of the Mubarak regime it seems likely El Baradei will be the singular figurehead that the population rallies around and pushes to take power in the power vacuum to come.

In the long run nothing is known--Will the Muslim Brotherhood usurp the popular uprising and install an Islamic theocracy?  Will the military depose Mubarak itself and place itself in charge?

In the short run however, unlike the popular protests in Iran last year, I do see this movement going somewhere.  As in Iran, if these protests slow in any way, they will quickly die off and thing will return more or less to normal but I don't believe that to be the case here.  Egypt is a far more "liberal" country than Iran and has a populous more exposed to Western unrest than Iran--they actually believe they can topple the Mubarak regime whereas in Iran, the movement just hoped they could with the help of outside influence.

Additionally, Egypt's military is not likely to be filled with such hardliners and true believers as Iran's was and is thus far less likely to start rolling the tanks over tens of thousands of demonstrators.

What this results in, to my thinking, is a relatively rapid (less than one week, perhaps this weekend) transition in which Mubarak and his son Gamal (who was likely to take over for Mubarak in a change of dictators in the near future) are deposed and leave the country.  What comes after??  Who knows but the wheels of democracy do not always turn the way you want them.  I think the US would have preferred Mubarak and sons to remain in control rather than hand one of the largest and most powerful Middle Eastern countries over to a weak mish-mash coalition of various unknowns and downright enemies of the West.  Additionally, with the fall of Tunisia's leader and now likely Egypt's as well as the handover of Lebanon to Hezbollah and Iran, this cannot be making Israel comfortable, nor the leaders of Jordan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Middle East where large, young, poor, restless Islamic youth are governed by the old and rich...

GW Bush may get his wish that Ddemocracy comes to the Mideast through the influence of a "free" just may not look like he thought it would.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

I Love Basketball Again...

OK, maybe love is a strong word.

How about: I am very interested in certain players in both professional and college basketball again.

In high school and college I really followed basketball on both levels.  Never really had a favorite player or a favorite team.  I just loved the competition involved and the enthusiasm of college fans in particular.  Shortly after the early to mid 90's though, my interest waned and dropped to the point of disinterest and derision.  I couldn't stand the "new breed" of players like Iverson, Kobe and to this day their ilk like Lebron.

Some players of late--Deron Williams of the Jazz for instance, have popped back up on my radar.  Players who excel due to a rare combination of not just talent but hard work, determination and quiet force of will.  It's not just a track meet or mere exhibition of physical skill, its a gorgeous mix of strength, speed, intelligence, perception and selflessness.

This growing re-interest in basketball has recently culminated in observing two players, one college, one pro that embody everything I enjoy about basketball:  Jimmer Fredette of BYU and Blake Griffin of the LA Clippers.

The two couldn't be more different.  One excels at the inside game, the other is deadly from the outside.  One is a staggeringly athletic freak.  The other more "normal" in appearance and attributes but in reality is anything but.

Blake Griffin will be the NBA Rookie of the Year for the '10-'11 season and Jimmer Fredette leads the nation in Division I scoring is likely to lead his BYU Cougars deep into the NCAA Tournament.  Each has been the most dominant player in their respective leagues at times this year.

If you don't know Jimmer Fredette, you owe it to yourself to watch him play some of these last few games he will play in college over the next two months while with Griffin you likely (baring injury) have a more extended period of time to admire from afar.  I think you'll agree that even if you don't enjoy all aspects of basketball, if you are a fan of effort, heart and emotion over flash and trash, that it was worth your time to sit back and enjoy.

Jimmer Fredette ESPN Page...

Another Nissan Powered LeMans Racer...

They are seriously coming out of the woodwork now...

There will now be a number (1/2 a dozen or more) or racers this year in various sports car endurance races both on this side of the Atlantic and in Europe that will be using Nissan power.  The above is the rendering of the TDS Racing ORECA chassis.  They are moving to contest all five of the LeMans series races in Europe and have some solid drivers on board.

TDS Racing announces 2011 plans...
TDS Racing Facebook Page...

Race Touareg 3 Concept...

So if Carlos Sainz had won the Dakar this year do you think they would have unveiled this in Spain?

Unveiled in Nasser Al-Attiyah's home of Qatar this week is the street legal Race Touareg 3 Qatar production vehicle concept.  No, this is not a production vehicle yet, but it is about as close as we are likely to get.  With a cushy interior, full cage and an engine derived if not identical to the one in the actual race Touareg this thing will haul ass to the local daycare.

With the Ford Raptor now available and the recent Dodge RamRunner parts being produced, is it really that much of a stretch to think that VW could produce a retail vehicle similar to this?  In fact, one VW source indicates that this vehicle WILL get a limited production run.  Now whether any of those produced will be available here in the US is another question entirely...

VW Race Touareg 3 Unveiled in Qatar...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

RallyCross #2 Ratings on NBC From 11/24...

Just the facts right?

OK.  The 0.4 rating for the RallyCross airing from the 2010 season on NBC this past weekend was better than the previous World of Adventure Sports broadcast a few weeks earlier that featured the Baja 1000 (which had a 0.3 rating) and the first "rally" oriented World of Adventure Sports program that featured TP running up Mt. Washington (also gathering a 0.3 rating).

However, (and you knew there was a "however" didn't you?) the 0.4 rating did not improve upon that generated by the RallyCross broadcast on 11/14 (also with a 0.4) and was still the lowest rated sports broadcast on Network TV this weekend, losing 60% of its lead in audience from the hockey game and then seeing the program following it (another "extreme" sport broadcast) actually pick up in the ratings.

Still, this rating does mean that 0.4% of the 115 million TV households in the US were tuned to the broadcast, equaling 460,000 homes and a likely (at a conservative 1.1 viewers per household) 506,000 individual viewers, and really, how can you put a negative spin on that many viewers for the sport?

"Smucker's Stars on Ice" (taped) 1/22 NBC 3:30-4:30pm 0.7

Winter Dew Tour 1/22 NBC 4:30-6:00pm 0.8

AFC Championship: Jets-Steelers 1/23 CBS 6:45-10:00pm 31.3

"Fox NFL Sunday"1/23 Fox 2:00-3:00pm 9.7

NFC Championship: Packers-Bears 1/23 Fox 3:00-6:15pm 30.0

NHL: Flyers-Blackhawks 1/23 NBC 12:30-3:00pm 1.0

World of Adventure Sports (taped) 1/23 NBC 3:00-4:00pm 0.4

Winter Dew Tour 1/23 NBC 4:00-6:00pm 0.5

Monday, January 24, 2011

Pearl Jam Quote O' the Day...

"Climbing on a mountain

Floating out on the sea

Far from lights of a city

The elements they speak to me..."

From the 2002 album Riot Act and the song "1/2 Full"

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Yazeed Al-Rajhi Looks for Three in a Row...

In early February in Saudi Arabia, Yazeed Al-Rajhi will look for his third consecutive overall win at the Ha'il Desert Challenge.

A full FIA sanctioned event and the first in the Cup for Cross Country Bajas series, to be followed by Baja Russia-Northern Forest Rally, the Italian Baja, Baja Espana, the Hungarian Baja and the Baja Portalegre.

Yazeed won his first Ha'il Desert Challenge in '09, also with a Nissan and then switched to Mitsu Racing Lancer for '10 and is now back in a Nissan Navara for '11.  Glad to have him back and given that this will be the same vehicle that Nani Roma was running so well with at this year's Dakar before a broken rear differential took him out, Yazeed will likely have the best vehicle in the event, hands down...

Yazeed Al-Rajhi to defend his title in a Nissan...

The Soloist: A Film Review...

If ever there was an example of a pretentious disaster, this is it.

With a story that goes no where and can't decide what it wants to be--Is it a critique of how White America has failed Black America?  Is it a thinly veiled attack on GW Bush?  Is it an attempt to get Jamie Foxx and/or Robert Downey Jr. an Oscar?  Just what is the point here?

Truth is, there is no point.  Taking some of Hollywood's most persistent and annoying cliches--what we have here is the selfish, well to do, progressive white character trying his best to "save" the poor, disturbed, broken but talented and heroic black character and ultimately learning more about himself than about the person he is trying to save...Zzzzzzzz...

Jamie Foxx comes off as his previous film character, Ray Charles, except this time dressed in funny hats and draped in tinfoil.  Downey?  He's a one note character who waffles between two emotions--anger and annoyance--which just annoyed ME even more.

I really have to blame the director more than anyone as the film has no beginning, no middle and no end.  There is no story arc and is merely a number of scenes strung together to show just how ugly, disgusting and pathetic both Los Angeles and American society as a whole is.  The whites are relegated to their ivory towers of wealth and privilege while the blacks are ignored and left like wild, drugged out animals in the streets.

The film apparently used a number of actual homeless individuals in the filming to fill the roles of various supporting characters and also cost over $60MM to make, most of which went to pay Foxx and Downey.  Only an American film helmed by a dolt of a British director would create a boring, pointless, cliche, pedantic tale designed to make us all feel bad about how white society treats some of the "underclass" and spend $60MM almost entirely to upper class white and already well off actors/technicians to do so.

Wouldn't that $60MM have been better off spent on helping those we are supposed to feel bad for here, get clean, educated and employed rather than creating the bloated, intellectual abortion of a guilt trip that this film became?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

It Takes 25 Tons to Raze a Village...

25 tons of heavy ordnance that is.

What we have here is a village in its before and after stages that was held by the Taliban in Afghanistan and used as a base of operations for making suicide bombs and IEDs.  US Forces and Afghan forces had swept the town a number of times only to see the Taliban melt into the landscape and/or blend in with the regular population.  Meanwhile, American men were having their legs and other body parts blown off.

The primary complaint in the attached article is that this is no way to go about conducting a counter-insurgency campaign.  And I might agree with that--if American lives were not at risk.  Unfortunately, as in Iraq, the Afghan population has not the cajones to stand up and fight for themselves and allow the Taliban to do what they want when they want, leaving it to the foreigners fight it out on their land while they sit back and do nothing and then complain when heavy handed methods are used to weed the bad guys out of their homes.

Personally, as in Vietnam I would prefer if we stand back and bomb the Taliban and any others who facilitate the Taliban (yes, civilians who allow the Taliban to "take over" their towns) into dust.  I say well done by the US Army/Air Force in this case.  Now I just wish they'd refuse to rebuild the mud huts that were demolished and tell the villagers to go screw--you housed and abetted the Taliban by allowing them into your town and homes and we've spilt enough blood on your soil, tough luck, start making mud pies for your new homes...

US Army Razes Village and Saves American Lives...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Volvo Dakar Racer Revealed...

Showing up much earlier that I would have anticipated the Volvo Dakar effort displayed its XC60 race vehicle recently and announced that its first event will take place at April's Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.

While not based off a production XC60, it is Volvo powered and certainly LOOKS like a Volvo.  One of the stated purposes of this vehicle is to increase interest in cross-country rallies, such as the Dakar, in the Scandinavian countries.  I love it and am always psyched to see new manufacturers getting involved in these sports--this is a great addition and hope it does well.

Volvo introduces its Cross-Country Rally Racing XC60...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Dakar '11: Final Nissan Results...

So the World's premier off-road race is over for 2011.  The full Nissan results are below.  The list of Nissans listed in the event has shrunk.  The list you saw in earlier posts contained info gathered from the Dakar home page which listed a number of Chinese teams as running Nissans--they weren't.  They were running either Chery or Great Wall vehicles and thus have now been excluded from the list...Kinda good news as they all DNF'd.

Highest placing Nissan this year?  Christian Lavielle and his Team Dessoude Nissan Navara (Frontier).  Team Dessoude remains dedicated to the Nissan marque through thick and thin and his 8th place finish this year is excellent, falling only behind the much larger factory efforts of VW and the near factory level effort of BMW.  Nani Roma had an excellent run going and was also within the top 10 overall until his Stage 9 DNF while Alfie Cox put forth an solid effort for 18th place.

The other Nissans involved were not even remotely capable of running with the leaders and were there just trying to survive.  Of the 17 Nissan entries out of the 140+ entries who began the event, five finished the 2011 Dakar.  This is slightly below average as 55 entries finished the race.  Nothing to be ashamed of and given that most of the Nissan driven vehicles were not top end efforts, one cannot expect a finishing rate to equal that of VW of BMW. Take Robby Gordon's two team effort for example which is a much higher budget and advanced operation than most of the Nissans seen this year.  For all his travels and expenses, what did he get?  Two cars entered, two DNFs and an early plane ticket home.

So I am left feeling satisfied but not happy with this year's results.  Could be better, could be worse.  It is what it is and there's always next year for improvement!

#306  Nani Roma, Gilles Picard, Nissan Overdrive--DNF Stage 9
#312  Christian Lavielle, Jean Michel Polato, Team Dessoude--8th
#317  Andrew "Alfie" Cox, Jurgen Schroder, Nissan Overdrive--18th
#324  Alexander Mironenko, Sergey Lebedev, Nissan Overdrive--DNF Stage 11
#330  Boris Garafulic, Nissan Overdrive--DNF Stage 8
#331  Francisco Luis E Silvia Inocencio, Nissan Overdrive--DNF Stage 5
#334  David Deslandes, Team Dessoude--DNF Stage 8
#339  Frederic Chavigny, Team Dessoude--23rd (2nd in T2 Class)
#381  Carlos Machado de Oliveira, Team Dessoude--DNF Stage 6
#384  Phillipe Porcheron, Team MMO--27th
#394  Jose Manuel Salinero, Guardia Civil Rally Raid--DNF Stage 6
#402  Herve Toscano, Biscauto Team--DNF Stage 8
#409  Dominique Laure, Biscauto Team--DNF Stage 6
#434  Hongzhi Guo, Team Dessoude--DNF Stage 3
#435  Juan Carlos Caceres Simons, Peru Rally Raid Motorsports--DNF Stage 6
#443  Roberti Hernan Javier, Raid 4x4 TV Team--DNF Stage 9
#451 Adriano Vagnini, Raid 4x4 TV Team--53rd

Bring Me My Mammoth Burger!!

It's not quite Jurassic Park but its damn close.

Researchers at Kyoto University in Japan plan on bringing a Mammoth back to life within the next five years via implanting genetic material obtained from the frozen carcasses of long dead Siberian Mammoths into the embryos of modern elephants.

Though this not a brand new idea, the effort here is far from some of the crack-pot schemes that have been proposed in the past and that you have seen on the cover of "Weekly World News.  It is being run by well respected scientists who have used this method to clone mice from other dead, frozen mice.  It is not that much of a technological leap from their current work and most in the know agree that it is well within their capabilities.  I am far from alone in believing that this will happen in the immediate term, though at first I expect the positive results to be kept quite quiet.

In the longer run however it will become accepted by the general public merely as another, reasonable scientific step forward and will instantly become (if they decide to put the Mammoth on display) the #1 attraction in all of Japan and perhaps the world.  Soon following this advancement I think you could also see other Pleistocene animals "resurrected" and an entire "zoo" created that would house other, similar creatures such as Smilodons, Giant Sloths and Cave Bears--all of which have relatively decent genetic material available to scientists and close relatives still in existence today.

I for one, can't wait to see where this is headed!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Book Review: Summer of '49

Got this book from one of my Brother-in-Laws for Christmas and was really pleased with it.

Ted Williams and Joe Dimaggio are just names in the record/history books to me.  While my father has real recollections of each, I never saw either play and am totally separated from the days of listening to baseball on the radio.

This book captures the 1949 baseball season as seen from the perspective of both the Yankees and Red Sox who would play to the final game of the season to determine the American League pennant winner. The Pulitzer Prize winning author, David Halberstam, presents this season as a turning point in so many ways, for both baseball and the Nation.  The country was fresh off WWII and was not yet involved in Korea while Radio was beginning to transition to TV, athletes were still working at the whim of ownership and management and not yet in possession of the large sums of money and power that they would attain in the near future and blacks had yet to make meaningful inroads into American professional sports.

Into this period of change came an aging Dimaggio and a rising Williams, each helming the most storied of baseball franchises and trying to lead them to victory.  Halberstam's tale here is more of a collection of obscure but highly entertaining anecdotes strung together across a single season rather than an individual narrative.  The names included in the anecdotes range from the obscure to the famous and infamous including Rizzuto, Mize, Stengel, Ford, Berra, Doerr, etc., though these are just the names you might recognize.  Far more interesting are the tales of lesser known players and those individuals who surrounded the great game of baseball at that time.

I truly could feel the innocence of the game at that point through this book (whether real or imagined) and come away from it wishing for a return to such a similar time and similar individuals.  Most of all, I came away with a much better understanding and knowledge of what was truly one of the "Golden Ages" of baseball and for that, I could not thank my brother-in-law more.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Film Review: The Baader Meinhof Complex

I had previously known about the Red Army Faction in passing over various European history from the past 40 years but this film greatly increased my knowledge base regarding the group.

Generally regarded (at least in every account I have seen) as a mostly accurate portrayal of the RAF terrorist group and its beginnings.  The film doesn't include details surrounding Andreas Baader's homosexual prostitution nor his heroin addiction (gee, there are two characteristics I'd want for my group's leader) but otherwise creates a reasonable portrayal of the main characters.

The director here walks a fine line in trying to accurately portray what are mostly loathful human beings while not so turning off its audience that they lose interest.  And he (Uli Edel) succeeds.  I was frequently torn between despising the characters for their actions and darkly admiring them for their determination and sense of purpose.  One thing that can be said for the characters in the movie and in real life is that they were certainly passionate about their beliefs--something missing from many these days.

That is not to say that the film glorifies Ulrike Meinhof, Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin and the rest.  They come off here as dumb, naive, over-educated, hypocritical, untalented, self important criminals, who  as is quoted at one point in the film, end up with more of their members dead or in prison than existing as an operational unit.  Intelligent and skilled this group was not--despite their pretensions to the contrary.

I watched this film on the recommendation of a friend of a friend who said it was on par (in terms of well done violence) as say something along the lines of Heat.  That is not the case.  Though the film is well done, it just doesn't have the emotional weight (despite its non-fiction topic) that Heat does.  Nor does it feel as if you are watching a documentary either.  However, if you want to learn more about one of the worst (in many senses of the word) terrorist groups to have sprung out the moronic social revolutions of the late 1960's--this is a relatively entertaining way to do it.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Nissan Leaf Aero Concept

 I'm not really sure if the extra plastic cladding on this Leaf Concept (though it looks far more production ready than any usual "concept") is really going to improve its mileage.  Any aero efficiencies I would think be outweighed by the extra weight.  I'm not really psyched about the white plastic wheel covers either.

I applaud Nissan for being so quick to modify its new, high profile electric, wunderkind, but this just isn't going to put any more fannies in the seat than there already would be.

Nissan Aero Concept at Tokyo Auto Salon...

Barrett Jackson: 1984 Nissan Safari Fire Truck

Now wouldn't this be a great truck to have out on the trails!

Up for sale at Barrett Jackson, in lot #23 is this Nissan Safari which was never available in the US.  It is right hand drive, only 22,000 kms on the odometer and powered by a 4 liter, 6 cyl. engine.  If nothing else it would be a great vehicle for your local Memorial Day parade!
Nissan Safari Fire Truck up for Auction...

Nissan Juke -- The Sporty Package

As I have since first seeing the Juke at its North American unveiling in NYC last spring, I will maintain that I REALLY like the way it looks.  Yes its odd and divisive in terms of its styling choices but I personally think it goes together well.  Given the rave reviews its engine, if not its exterior, has received, I really would consider buying one if I was in the market.

Over at the Tokyo Auto Salon they are showing the above, which is a Juke with what they are calling the "Sporty" package with upgraded wheels, tires and body kit including a really nice spoiler.  Unlike the NISMO Elgrand seen in my most recent post, the "Sporty" package will be available to consumers throughout North America and Europe in the immediate future.

"Sporty" Juke at the Tokyo Auto Salon...

Would You Rock This Mini-Van?

I'm still not sure...

While the above, the Nissan Elgrand in Japan and the new Nissan Quest here in the States, is one of the better looking minivans I've seen, I'm still not digging the breadbox look.

The Elgrand you see here is the NISMO, uber tricked out version displayed at the Tokyo Auto Salon (Japan's version of SEMA) currently.  See??  It even has that little itty-bitty NISMO graphic on the front fender!  For now, this is just in Japan and just a concept.  No worries about it coming here for now...

Nissan Quest (Elgrand) at the Tokyo Auto Salon...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Nissan is Back in the Grand-Am Game!!


Now I have some new U.S. efforts to cheer on all throughout the year.

In 2010 I had high hopes for Brass Monkey Racing and their GT-R effort in the SCCA World Challenge series.  Those hopes were dashed when they had continued problems with the engine management of their vehicle and withdrew for the year early on.  Whether they make it back for 2011 is unknown.

But never fear, A.M. Performance will arrive in 2011 at the Skip Barber 200 in Alabama to take on the Grand-Am racing series.  Possessing three 370Zs, Mike Sweeney and Brian Lock will be competing across the country in one of (the?) top road racing series in the US.  Its a shame they won't be at Daytona but the three cars are in the tear down and build back up stage currently, hopefully in line for some March testing with their debut in early April.

I love the livery as show above and love the large professional shop with numerous employees shown below, a real business behind the effort, and Brian Lock's experience as the driver and head of Cobb Tuning Motorsports I have faith that this will be a solid team.  I also love the idea of a "spare" car.  If one has an issue in practice or qualifying, they should be able to swap out to their backup and keep racing.  All in all I am very excited and can't wait for some of the local tracks (Lime Rock, Watkins Glenn, etc.) to host some Grand-Am racing this year.

A.M. Performance Website...
A.M. Performance Facebook page...
Grand Am Racing...

Moto Mundo: Around the World in an Electric Nissan...

I guess I'm going to have to resign myself to someday driving an electric vehicle as it certainly seems to be the way things are going.  For now I'm quite happy with my dino-burning Frontier, Xterra and Altima but at least little projects like this one give me hope that someday I might be satisfied with the performance of an electric vehicle...

What is seen above is a Nissan Qashqai (not available in North America) that has been upgraded by a company (A Future) in Denmark with an electronic driveline and a ton of lithium batteries.  Perhaps the unique feature of the Qashqais available for sale/rent/lease through A Future is that they offer differing levels of vehicle performance depending upon how much you want to spend and what your needs are.  The lowest end electric Qashqai has a range of 100kms and goes from 0-100 km/hr in 25 seconds (holy crap is that slow) while the top end unit has a more robust range of 250 km and takes only (?!?) 12 seconds to get to 100 km/hr.

Given that we are in the very early stages of the electric vehicle movement the underwhelming performance of electric vehicles at reasonable prices should be no surprise.  Did the first car drive faster than a horse?  No.  Did the first steamboat move faster than the big clipper ships of the day?  No.  So we need to understand that we are in just such a time period with electric cars.

Is this to say I'm an electric car convert?  Not hardly, but I'm smart enough to see where the industry is headed.  Regardless of how much coal will be burnt to charge these things, how many mines have to be dug to get the battery material out of the ground (just how much coal will have to be burned and mines dug to power electric cars for a billion Chinese and another billion Indians?) and the host of other evils that surround the production of electric vehicles, fossil fuels are the evil of the day in many mind's eye (funny how now that gasoline is back up over $3 a gallon we don't here the cry of "It's all Obama's fault for trying to make his Islamic, oil loving brethren rich!" or "It's all Joe Biden acting behind the scenes pulling Obama's strings to make himself more powerful" but I digress) and we are going to get electric vehicles whether we want them or not.

Back on topic--the above vehicle gives me hope.  A husband and wife team in partnership with A Future is taking the Qashqai around the world, detailing their trip on the Moto-Mundo website, and has made it from Denmark across Asia, across the US to Detroit where they were showing it off at the NAIAS (Detroit Auto Show) this week.  Charging the vehicle off of regular old home outlets along they way they have encountered numerous weather and temperature variances and all the road conditions one would expect travelling across such regions as Mongolia and Siberia.  I just hope I'm not too old to enjoy the first, reasonably priced, reasonably capable, electric truck/SUV.  Until then, I'll keep burning extinct reptiles.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Dakar 2011: Stage 9 to the final days of the 2011 Dakar...

While the event started with over 140 entrants in the "car" category, there are only about 70 left...and boy do the Nissan's show that wear and tear.  All the top Nissan efforts were still alive--until today.  Nani Roma who was the fastest Nissan in the event suffered an unknown problem and had to withdraw during Stage 9.  While this still leaves Lavielle and Cox remaining, it knocks out the only other top 10 finish possibility for Nissan besides Christian.

The best news of the day was Jonah Street in the motorcycle category bringing home the first stage win for a US competitor in this year's Dakar.  The stage win was the second of his career and the first stage win for a Yamaha bike in a number of years (ever?)  Congrats to Jonah and the Rally Pan Am team!

#306  Nani Roma, Gilles Picard, Nissan Overdrive--DNF Stage 9
#312  Christian Lavielle, Jean Michel Polato, Team Dessoude--8th
#317  Andrew "Alfie" Cox, Jurgen Schroder, Nissan Overdrive--14th
#324  Alexander Mironenko, Sergey Lebedev, Nissan Overdrive--18th
#330  Boris Garafulic, Nissan Overdrive--UNK
#331  Francisco Luis E Silvia Inocencio, Nissan Overdrive--DNF Stage 5
#334  David Deslandes, Team Dessoude--DNF Stage 8
#339  Frederic Chavigny, Team Dessoude--29th
#358  Ningjin Lu, Rely Double Star Tire Team--Never made the start
#372  Yong Zhou, Team Great Wall--UNK
#381  Carlos Machado de Oliveira, Team Dessoude--DNF Stage 6
#384  Phillipe Porcheron, Team MMO--28th
#394  Jose Manuel Salinero, Guardia Civil Rally Raid--DNF Stage 6
#402  Herve Toscano, Biscauto Team--UNK
#409  Dominique Laure, Biscauto Team--DNF Stage 6
#426  Kun Liu, Colcar Racing Team--UNK
#434  Hongzhi Guo, Team Dessoude--DNF Stage 3
#435  Juan Carlos Caceres Simons, Peru Rally Raid Motorsports--DNF Stage 6
#443  Roberti Hernan Javier, Raid 4x4 TV Team--UNK
#451 Adriano Vagnini, Raid 4x4 TV Team--UNK

Monday, January 10, 2011

Let's Pump the Brakes on This a Bit...

OK, with an commentary in the most recent Dirt Sports magazine on the boffo ratings generated by the LOORRS CBS broadcast on 11/28 the world of Short Course racing seemed to believe it had turned a bit of a corner in terms of national recognition...Maybe that was overstating things a bit because this past weekend's ratings were right back down where they have been historically--in the 0.5 or thereabouts range, vs. the 1.2 rating seen back in late November. The 0.5 rating this past Saturday, 1/8, equates to 560,000 TV sets and a conservative estimate of 616,000 viewers for the broadcast.

Factors acting against the broadcast were its early starting time (a 1PM for a broadcast aimed at a decidedly non-East coast audience?? Really?) and its lack of a decent lead-in as in most markets the broadcast was preceded by either children's cartoons or the mid-day news broadcast (uhhh...yeah...)

The '10 season for short course broadcasts can be best summed up as "two steps forward, one step back" as TORC had its innovative and focused broadcasts on HD Theater while LOORRS had some acceptable and one outstanding ratings broadcast on CBS. Here's hoping to an expanded and continued LOORRS and TORC broadcast schedule in '11.

"ESPN Sports Saturday" 1/8 ABC 4:00-6:00pm--0.6
Racing: Lucas Oil Challenge Cup (taped) 1/8 CBS 1:00-2:00pm---0.5
NCAA Women's Basketball: Connecticut-Notre Dame 1/8 CBS 2:00-4:00pm---0.9
NCAA Women's Basketball: Ohio State-Iowa 1/8 CBS 4:00-6:00pm---0.5
U.S. Army All-American Bowl 1/8 NBC 1:00-4:00pm---1.7
NFC Wild Card: Saints-Seahawks 1/8 NBC 4:30-8:00pm---18.3
AFC Wild Card: Jets-Colts 1/8 NBC 8:15-11:00pm---20.8
"The NFL Today" 1/9 CBS 12:00-1:00pm---4.7
AFC Wild Card: Ravens-Chiefs 1/9 CBS 1:00-4:15pm---18.8
NCAA Basketball: Kansas-Michigan 1/9 CBS 4:30-6:30pm---1.8
"Fox NFL Sunday" 1/9 Fox 4:00-4:30pm---13.3
NFC Wild Card: Packers-Eagles 1/9 Fox 4:30-7:45pm---24.4
PBR: Built Ford Tough Series: MSG Invitational 1/9 NBC 2:30-4:00pm---0.6
Progressive Skating & Gymnastics Spectacular (taped) 1/9 NBC 4:00-6:00pm---1.1

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Movie Review: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Another good Western...

I seem to have a thing for genre pieces and two of my favorites include Sci-Fi and Westerns (and Sci-Fi Westerns!).  This Western is well known, famous even, as at the time of its release Newman was already a star and this film brought Redford to America's attention and made over $100MM in the currency of the time.

The film itself is a bit schizophrenic with odd musical choices and tangents that don't always make much sense.  Its almost as if part of the director wanted to make a film in the style of the French New Wave but  another part wanted to make a straight up, crowd pleasing, standard Americanized Western.  Because of this, I can't say the film is "complete" but it is pleasing and certainly keeps your attention.

Newman and Redford have fantastic chemistry and come across as if they actually had been best friends for years.  Their interaction with the lead female character played by Katharine Ross is excellent as well and one wishes that the filmmaker spent more time going into their tri-party relationship.

Visually, the film is stunning as the backdrops of the American West are breathtaking and deserve a more dynamic range of colors and definition than the filming in the late '60s can provide--still, you often find yourself wondering--Just where is that location??  I want to go there.

I'll put this near the top of my favorite Westerns so far...not at the top...but as one of the better ones made.

Dakar: Rest Day...

The "rest" day marks the unofficial half way point of the Dakar and the last two days have been epically tough.  As it stands right now there are only 71 "cars" left in the event out of the original 140 that started.  At nearly a 50% attrition ratio the number of DNFs will continue and likely leave somewhere around only 1/4 to 1/3 of the competitors standing by the end.  Unfortunately a number of the lesser Nissan efforts are either officially out, or soon to be officially out as a day after the last stage finished a number of Nissan teams are still not scored.

That being said, the top five ranked Nissan efforts are all still running, though some, like Alfie Cox, have had major troubles (in his case a broken rear differential after hitting a rock).  Still, repairs have been made and the top teams are soldiering on.  As long as they keep running, regardless of their troubles, notable finishes await.  Hopefully the rest day will give the mechanics to give the vehicles a needed "freshening" and allow them to finish strong as the last few stages return to the "easier" (in terms of vehicle stress) WRC style tracks.

#306  Nani Roma, Gilles Picard, Nissan Overdrive--19th, 8:55
#312  Christian Lavielle, Jean Michel Polato, Team Dessoude--10th, 3:07
#317  Andrew "Alfie" Cox, Jurgen Schroder, Nissan Overdrive--24th, 11:46
#324  Alexander Mironenko, Sergey Lebedev, Nissan Overdrive--39th, 14:47
#330  Boris Garafulic, Nissan Overdrive--15th, 6:07
#331  Francisco Luis E Silvia Inocencio, Nissan Overdrive--DNF Stage 5
#334  David Deslandes, Team Dessoude--59th, 1:10:12
#339  Frederic Chavigny, Team Dessoude--46th, 18:17, 
#358  Ningjin Lu, Rely Double Star Tire Team--Never made the start
#372  Yong Zhou, Team Great Wall--UNK
#381  Carlos Machado de Oliveira, Team Dessoude--UNK
#384  Phillipe Porcheron, Team MMO--46th, 15:47
#394  Jose Manuel Salinero, Guardia Civil Rally Raid--UNK
#402  Herve Toscano, Biscauto Team--48th, 19:20
#409  Dominique Laure, Biscauto Team--UNK
#426  Kun Liu, Colcar Racing Team--UNK
#434  Hongzhi Guo, Team Dessoude--DNF Stage 3
#435  Juan Carlos Caceres Simons, Peru Rally Raid Motorsports--UNK
#443  Roberti Hernan Javier, Raid 4x4 TV Team--UNK
#451 Adriano Vagnini, Raid 4x4 TV Team--UNK