Thursday, September 29, 2011

More Video From BRS 2011...

Again the NISMO Stuff Frontier comes in toward the end at about the six minute mark.  Again, she is near dead silent and just floats over the whoops.  Whereas the other cars can be seen slapping their bottoms and with numerous wheels off the ground the Frontier hugs the earth and its suspension smooths everything out...I just need to get the confidence to go faster!!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Why Pikes Peak is Being Paved...

I have consistently decried the paving of the Pikes Peak road over the past few years.

Why make it easier??  Why make it something less unique?  Why open it up to NAPCAR vehicles?

Its character and special place in motorsports was derived by its raw, untamed nature.  The dirt/gravel made it something different in the world of motorsports dominated by asphalt tethered wuss mobiles.

I still whine about the ever encroaching pavement to this day with the final sections due to be done at any moment.

What I always failed to ask was this: Why is Pikes Peak being paved?

I suppose I always chalked it up to the steady drumbeat of "progress" and a desire to get more giant RVs to the top of the damn mountain.

Not so.

The paving of Pikes Peak is the result of a Sierra Club lawsuit settled by the town of Colorado Springs in 1999.  The Sierra Club sued saying that the town was damaging the mountain (National Forest land) in terms of runoff and excess gravel and was violating the "Clean Water Act".

The town fought the lawsuit briefly out of concern for what impact it would have on the race and the cost to pave the road to the top of the 14,110 mountain but then gave in, seeing the writing on the legal wall with the Sierra Club likely better and more aggressively funded in this effort than the taxpayers of Colorado Springs.

And so some 12 years after capitulation, Pikes Peak is almost paved from top to bottom and I guess the environment there is "saved".  I'll miss seeing real cars on a real surface tackle this race.  And now I know who to blame...

Colorado Springs 1999 Settlement with Sierra Club...


Just a reminder that the Japanese submarine from WWII, the I-52 still sits at the bottom of the Atlantic.

Her whereabouts are fairly well known and she went down with a confirmed 2.2 metric tons of gold on board.

At today's gold prices this equates to a value of $116,241,200 before you even get to the historical significance of that gold.

Located some 5,240 meters beneath the waves of the Bay of Biscay between Spain and France the I-52 was to drop off the gold, opium, rubber, caffeine and other items to German occupied France in exchange for uranium oxide and other German technologies.

The submarine is in good condition.  So good in fact its conning tower numbers are still visible.  There have been some small time enterprises who have talked about getting to the gold and have gone as far as making arrangements with the Japanese government for the recovery of the assets in place and raising one crate of opium.  This is where the recovery has stalled however and nothing more has been done.

So there it sits...$100 million dollars....

I-52 Article...
Operation Rising Sun...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

More Photos from Black River Stages 2011!!

Finally some really good ones!!  Enjoy!!

First Simpson Desert Crossing by Vehicle--50 Years Later

The first vehicle to successfully cross the infamous Simpson Desert in Australia was a lowly Nissan Patrol.
Now some 50 years later Nissan is celebrating this journey with a recreation of that original trek and an overall celebration of the Patrol itself.

While Nissan long ago traded away the rights to sell the original Patrol in the US in order to sell its smaller, sportier vehicles while Toyota agreed to sell their LandCruiser and not their sporty vehicles here, one wonders which one would be the "go to" offroad vehicle import in the US if the playing field had been level.

First Video from Black River Stages 2011...

You can see my partner in crime Anthony Burden and his Jetta begining at about 3:56 of the video and see the NISMO Stuff Frontier at beginning at about 7:41 of the video.  Nothing truly earth shattering here, just cars going by...

The interesting part to me is in viewing how each vehicle's suspension handles the little whoops that are present in this section...

If you time both the NISMO Stuff Frontier and Anthony's Jetta across the field of vision from the moment they fully appear from behind the large tree on the viewers left hand side of the road to the moment the vehicle leaves the screen it takes 8 seconds for each to travel that distance.  So both vehicles are travelling at roughly the same speed.

Yet while the Jetta sees its front driver's side tire leave the ground at least twice, once by a significant amount, the NISMO Stuff Frontier keeps all four tires firmly planted on the ground with the suspension travel nicely cycling up and down to absorb the bumps and drops.  While this does make for better control of the vehicle, the driver's inherent lack of skill prevented it from travelling faster through this section as my inexperience keeps me from pressing harder at this point.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Black River Stages 2011: Finished!!

Wow....what a weekend...

Right off the top the NISMO Stuff Frontier finished 26th out of 36 "car" entries in the event.  A quite respectable finish for a first time out.

We received no timing penalties of any kind and suffered no mechanical issues.

Only a single flat tire caused by a rock slicing the front passenger tire's sidewall prevented us from having a nice clean race.  As the puncture occurred during a racing stage we were forced to limp the truck the three plus miles to the stage finish at about 1/3 of racing speed.  This was a much better option that stopping during the stage and changing it there as the "transit" time between the stage end and "service" allowed us to swap the tire in less than five minutes and still make it in an appropriate amount of time.  If we had stopped and changed during the stage, the tire change would all have been made against the clock.  I figure we saved about 2 and 1/2 minutes by limping her to the end.  Fortunately the tire did not shred itself and no further significant damage was done.

With two stages left after the puncture and having driven the vehicle to the event and no more spares available, I took a very conservative pace in the remainder, making sure to get my finish.

I would say I ran at near the limit of my current comfort zone--not in terms of personal safety but in terms of vehicle safety.  Going much faster than my weekend's pace and I knew I would be putting more bullets in the chamber of my game of Russian Roulette.  Which is pretty much what stage rally racing is.  At some point your skill or luck will run out...Just how often that will be depends upon your skill and willingness to push the limits.  Given my lack of skill, I choose not to push the limits and thus save the car (and my budget) to have fun again another day....

Oh and what fun it was.  Ripping down roads at what (to me) were stupidly fast speeds given the single lane and tree/rock lined nature found therein was astoundingly exhilarating.  Sliding the 4000 pound vehicle around gravelly turns and being brave enough to keep my foot on the floor no matter which way the steering wheel was turned were lessons that I have only begun to learn.

The above picture is the first one I have found of the NISMO Stuff Racer in action.  Hopefully more photos and video will be popping up in the next few days and I will post them here as well.  I can't wait for my next race!!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Off To Black River Stages...

So the truck is packed as best it can be with groceries, personal crap, an additional 10x10 EZ-up, a case of beer, tent, sleeping back, last minute bin of fluids and more.

The rest of my gear (tools, jack, more fluids, more tools, tarps, another EZ-up, etc.) is all on board Anthony Burden's box truck that he graciously allowed me access to as we are partnering up for the weekend.

I'm off for the NISMO Stuff Frontier's first stage rally event after running in two hillclimb races in the past two months.  One of these went really well, the other not so much.  I only aim to finish this weekends event as I won't be carrying many (OK, almost no, spares) and after damaging the truck in the last hillclimb, I'm gunshy regarding running the truck as fast as I might be able to.  Add that to the likely wet weather conditions and it would be a perfect scenario for a first time stage rally racer to total their vehicle.

Other items of note--I actually planned the preparation fairly well.  All the gear is packed away in time, I'm not rushing around, the truck is in good shape with all fluids replaced and all parts repaired.  I actually will get a good night's sleep before leaving for Harrisville, NY in the morning.

Tech and registration is tomorrow and the race begins in the middle of the afternoon on Friday.  Total racing mileage is 90 miles split between Friday and Saturday with Friday's racing going until at least 11PM.  It should be interesting to say the least.

Updates results are to be posted on:

See you soon!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Do I Sound Like a Broken Record?

By now I should...The ratings from this past Saturdays LOORRS race broadcast on CBS was again stuck with very low ratings.  In fact, since the series high rating of a 1.2 last November, the LOORRS ratings have been on a steady decline quickly returing to their more normal 0.4 ratings on a number of occassions and now down to a 0.3.  The time of the broadcast being early in the afternoon East Coast time doesn't help and neither does football season.

That being said, this has to be dissapointing given what they were able to generate for one shining moment nearly a year ago.  Will we see those peaks again?  At least not in the short term.  It's wonderful that short course racing is even ON network TV but the convergence of events that generated those ratings last year do not seem easy to reproduce...

The weekends ratings are below.  1 point equates to 1% of the 115.9 million TV households in the US.  The 0.3 rating thus equates to some 348,000 households tuned in to the broadcast.  With each household conservatively estimated to hold 1.1 actual viewers of the broadcast the LOORRS event can be safely said to have reached 383,000 sets of eyeballs.  I just hope that this is enough to keep Lucas Oil and the producers of these races happy!

NCAA Football: Auburn-Clemson
NCAA Football: (regional)
NCAA Football: Oklahoma-Florida State
Lucas Oil Off Road Pro2 & Pro4 (taped)
"CBS College Football 2011"
"College Football Today"
NCAA Football: Tennessee-Florida
MLB: (regional)
PGA Tour: BMW Championship: Third Round
NCAA Football: Michigan State-Notre Dame
"The NFL Today"
"NFL on CBS": (regional)
"NFL on CBS": Chargers-Patriots (74%)
"Fox NFL Sunday"
"NFL on Fox": (single)
EPL: Chelsea-Manchester United (taped)
Golf: "Big Break 101" (taped)
PGA Tour: BMW Championship: Final Round
"Football Night in America"
"Sunday Night Football": Eagles-Falcons

Rally America or RallyCar Has Been Sold....

Now confirmed from a number of sources, the top level of stage rally racing in the US has changed hands once again.

When the SCCA exited stage rally racing in 2004, Doug Havir purchased the series and began operating it in 2005.  With entrants such as Travis Pastrana, Ken Block, Dave Mirra and other "name" drivers along with an annual display of racing at the XGames, Rally America operated well for a time.

In recent years however the loss of Pastrana and Block to other ventures as well as reduced car counts and a bastardization of the XGames events and an attempt at developing a "RallyCross" series along side their stage rally events had resulted in divided interests and resources.  Compound that with significant issues in their dealings with long term photographers, the always blamed poor economy and governmental regulations that put a squeeze on the profits of owner Doug Havir's primary business (credit card processing) and the time has come for a change.

Confirmed by Block's co-driver Alex Gelsomino and others who are tightly connected/knowledgeable of RallyCar's operations, the series has been sold in approximately the last two months with word leaking in August and really picking up steam in mid-September.  Website changes to the RallyCar/Rally America site are now evident as are some interesting rule changes.

Speculation abounds as to who the new ownership is but the current leader in the clubhouse is Vermont Sports Car out of Vermont, home to the Subaru teams fielded previously by the aforementioned Block, Pastrana and Mirra as well as the 2011 series champion David Higgins.  They have certainly operated closely and for a long time with RallyCar and would have the knowledge to run the series.  Whether they have the resources to do so and how they translate from car managers to impartial series owners would be some big questions.

Other questions include the status of RallyCar's current management and PR staff in the form of JB Niday and Ananda Siverts, both who have endured some whithering criticism in recent years for a number of their operational and personal decisions.  Keeping them aboard may signal a mere shuffling of the deckchairs vs. a real change in direction for the series.

I would look for more changes to the website and an announcement in the very near future.  RallyCar has gotten bit by being slow on the PR field in recent periods and with the word already out, it would behoove them to start off on the right foot with the public--if they're smart.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

NISMO Stuff Racing Tee Shirts!!

So the tshirts are done just in time for the team's first event next week in New York at Black River Stages.

The shirts are about as simple as I could make them, without lots of silly logos and such.  Keeping it clean was the theme.  I hope my racing is just as clean.

The saying on the back is done in terms of a "can't take it with you" ethos as applied to a racing effort as there is no predicting tomorrow so you might as well make the best of it today.

For anyone interested I have these shirts available in S-XL and are only $15+ shipping and are made on Anvil knitware, 99% preshrunk cotton--a step up from your usual el-cheapo tshirts.  Feel free to email me with any questions or to order any of these at:


New Hot Wheels: 1971 Nissan Skyline H/T 2000GT-X

Had to pick this up today.  Hot Wheels seems to have a thing for Skyline's in the 2011 releases as I counted at least three different versions of the Skyline at my local Toys R Us.  The other two however were your typical "Fast and Furious" looking pieces of crap.

This one however with its green and white livery and flared wheel arches is an all around classic.  The detail is actually fairly good, even showing the external oil cooler mounted on the front bumper.  Really a nice little toy.

Soooo Want....

I've always been a big fan of the modern Lotus Exige as its swooping lines and ducting just screams sportscar to me--and not one that is just fast in a straight line either, instead one that is small, nimble, light and built for road turning adventures.

And now this...

Partly in celebration of the Lotus win at the 1981 Italian Rally and as part of Lotus' re-entry to WRC competition in 2012 (asphalt only races at Monte Carlo, Tour de Course and San Remo) Lotus is releasing the Exige R-GT which is fully FIA rally compliant with roll cage and all the goodies.  It will be available for purchase after Lotus' teams get theirs in the near future.

Just a gorgeous vehicle...The Lotus at the bottom is the 1981 Italy Rally winning Lotus Sunbeam.

Motortrend article on Lotus Exige R-GT...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Comic Review: Animal Man #1

With my recent reawakened interest in comics I was mildly interested in DC Comics relaunch of all its major titles.

I do say "mildly" as I really have no interest in Batman, even less interest in Superman and less than no interest in Batgirl, Spiderman, etc.  The standard DC (and Marvel for that matter) superheros bore me to tears.

Then I heard about Animal Man.

Every Tuesday I read over a brief summation of what comics are coming out on Wednesday in hopes that something of interest may appear.  More often than not I am vastly disappointed.

With Animal Man though I was presented with a character who, while existing within the DC superhero universe was far more of an ordinary person with a wife, two kids and all the troubles that come with it.  The comic itself was described as a mix of both standard superhero fair, everyday life and horror.  This sounded interesting.

I picked up two editions of issue #1 (one to read, one to put away untouched) without knowing it was already sold out and selling for more than double its face value on the Internet.  Reading issue #1 I was at first put off a bit by the art which I still am not sure I enjoy.  Its too flat.  Not nearly enough detail where needed and too much where its not needed.  The depictions of Buddy Baker's (Animal Man's "normal" identity) wife come foremost to mind as she appears blank, without features and blocky.

So why do I intend on picking up the second issue of this series?  The final four pages of issue #1 and the overall writing are to blame.  In the final few pages where we go from a dream sequence to Buddy Baker's back yard are phenomenal.  The art here is MUCH better with the detail on the horrific monsters invading his dreams, really well done and then the final frame where Baker's daughter (who must have some similar powers) has called the local dead pet population up out of the earth to come play with her, is just great.

The level of writing is excellent throughout the book, containing humor, empathy, fear, boredom and a whole host of emotions that are well conveyed.  We get to see Buddy Baker's home life, his superhero work and some of his inner demons.  Jeff Lemire, the writer, is currently best known for writing the comic title Sweet Tooth but has evidently found time to pen this title as well.  His depictions of normal humdrum life mixed with terror and superhero action is top notch and suspension of disbelief easy.

If Animal Man #2 can continue where the final pages of Animal Man #1 left off I could be hooked for some time...

Food Review: Burger King's California Burger

In the interest of full disclosure here, I will divulge that I was, at one time in my long ago youth, an employee at a Burger King for a little while.

There, now that is out of the way...

Ditching the "King" mascot and now going to a more "healthy" and "feminine" marketing, one of BK's first new items is the California Whopper.  I am a big fan of guacamole and knew I had to try this as soon as I saw the add.

So how does it rate?

At 820 calories, 56 grams of fat and 1200 milligrams of sodium, this is not exactly what Mrs. Obama wants you to have for lunch.  Then again you are getting your veggies, your milk products, your protein and your grains in one fell swoop!

I found one of these burgers plus the fries and drink that come with it to be very filling but not roll me home I feel ill filling.  You know you've eaten a REALLY large lunch when having this meal but you don't yet have the urge to throw it up--perfect.

Taste wise the California Burger comes without pickle so that is a bonus for me as I hate pickles.  The bacon, Swiss cheese, mayo, guacamole combination was really good.  Each ingredient could be tasted individually without one overpowering the other.  The burger itself was standard BK flame broiled goodness and the bun held everything together nicely.

All in all, the burger isn't a large departure from the standard Whopper with bacon--only substituting the guacamole for pickles and Swiss for the usual cheddar (?).  I don't know how long this version of the Whopper will be around but it is worth a try.

Monday, September 12, 2011

What's Cuter Than Kittens??

Glowing kittens of course!

Developed by an AIDS researcher doing research on FIV (the feline version of AIDS for the most part) cats carrying a gene to produce a protein that glows has been developed.  This allows for better tracking of the animals supposedly.

Personally I just think its really cool...

Researchers develop glowing cats...