Thursday, February 28, 2013

2013 Coupe Rallye Promo Video

I'm super bummed not to be at the Sandblast 2013 rally in South Carolina this year playing in the sand. This is my favorite rally of those I've race in so far.  Time, money and family take precedence (to a degree!!) however and instead I'm looking forward to a new challenge in running the entire regional Quebec Rally series.

The first of the Quebec events comes up in about seven weeks.  Can't wait.  Here is the Quebec series' promotional video to peruse.  They seem to run a real professional and high end operation there for being "only " a regional series.

Sony Action Cam Review...

Since I would like to capture more of my on stage rallying in '13 than I captured in '12 I have been looking at various action cameras like the GoPro series which is likely the best known in the business.  Seeing the Sony mentioned got my attention as while GoPro is the industry standard it is also fairly expensive and other up and comers might have a better price point and features.

Evidently Sony's Action Cam is a mixed bag with most of the mixed bag being of the negative variety.  Read for yourself Wired's review here: Sony Action Cam Review...

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Great Review of the Honda NC700X

Since I'm always interested in motorcycles that can do more than just ride around on the pavement (any scooter can do that) this review came to my immediate attention.  While I don't think the bike is offroad oriented enough for my liking its cool to see the reviewer stretching the bike's limits and seeing how it fairs up against some world class bikes capable of Dakar style riding.

I still think I'd get a KLR 650 for near the same money...but this is an interesting option for a more road going bikes which is where I'd still spend most of my time.

Honda NC700X Review...

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

More Classic Rally Cars...

and these aren't just static, trailer queens.  These were at the Race Retro 2013 event in the UK this past week.  Showing how popular these retro car events can be the attendance for the event was nearly 30,000 individuals.  Admittedly these weren't all stage rally fans but the best part may be that from what I am reading, attendees could actually take out some of these incredible machines on a purpose built stage rally course at the facility to get a feel for what they could do.  Oh, and there were a couple Nissans in here as well as a number of cars you are highly unlikely to have ever seen here in the States like the MG above  to start with.  Or the Fiat, Nissan Micra I believe or Mazda below.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Book Review: Detroit--An American Autopsy

This is the first work of Charlie LeDuff's that I have read but it probably won't be my last.

I picked up this book shortly after its release about a month or so ago as I am interested in the debacle that is the American auto industry and the city of Detroit.  I ended up learning a lot more than I had anticipated and that's one the best things you can say about any book.

I learned why Detroit, while firmly located in the Northern United States, is a most Southern city.  I learned about the horrific series of politicians in charge of Detroit over the past 50 years.  I learned that the 3,500,000 square ft. Packard Automotive plant that is set on 40 acres of land has been shuttered since 1958 remaining substantially abandoned.

I learned that I never want to move to Detroit.

To me the first half of the book is the most interesting as it goes into detail regarding the current state of Detroit and the myriad causes for its destruction.  LeDuff doesn't fail in his sskewering of pretty much everyone, from the automotive executives, to Wall Street bankers, to over indebted citizens, to corrupt black and white politicians, to drug abusers, to damn near every privileged and not so privileged class of people we have in this country.  Even LeDuff himself is not immune to his own pen as he pulls now punches in revealing his own faults.

The amount of information contained here is near staggering in its ability to depress and shock a reader over the status of this city.  Detroit belongs with the favelas of Brazil and the ghettos of Johannesburg, not in modern America and its all our own fault.  LeDuff turns an honest eye to it all and is needed reading for those examining modern urban America.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Jay Leno's Garage: 1971 Datsun 510

I don't always follow Jay Leno's ongoing series but when he covers a Nissan/Datsun I definately take a peek.  Here he mentions Bob Sharp Racing with whom I did an interview with for Nissan Sport Magazine last Summer as well as goes into detail on all aspects of the car.

This is a really well done look at the 510 and I love the spatter paint on the inside of the engine bay.  My engine bay in the rally truck is painted no different than the outside of the truck which makes for easy rust spotting and chipping.

This car appears to be a solid racer as well with full rollcage and fuel cell.  A lot of the car has been converted to 280ZX parts so its not an original car but given that it started out as an empty shell this is excellent.  Enjoy!!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Book Review: The Stars in Their Courses

Much like The Beleaguered City Shelby Foote's The Stars in Their Courses is culled from his epic, three volume, 2,968 page, 1.2 million word The Civil War: A Narrative.  Also like the initial work mentioned here, Stars recounts one of the most pivotal and famous events in not only the Civil War but in the history of our country as well.  The title of the work refers to an observation of the South's efforts at the battle of Gettysburg and how it appered fated to fail, that Lee was fighting not only the North but the course of history as well.

Foote's narrative, and that's what it is, not just a recapping of dry facts and figures, is again superb.  I have read no other work of military history that is as thoroughly enjoyable to read as his works.  One is able to grasp the larger movements at work during the various engagements while never leaving the intimate feelings and thoughts of individual players taking part.

Foote masterfully weaves documented evidence, personal journals, letters, reports, recollections, etc. into a true story of the events at the battle at Gettysburg in this work.  It truly was shocking to me how little I knew of this battle upon reading this book.  I always had an image in my minds eye as to what this critical event looked like, derived from those brief mentions in grammar and high school history books but learning what actually occurred was one of the most satisfying experience in reading that I have ever had.

Seeing the blunders on both sides of the battle (but more particularly on Lee and the South's part) and finding out just how close the battle was in swinging one way or the other brought home just how chaotic, random warfare can be and how close the South came to at the worst, winning the Civil War or at best, extending the war by many years.

If you want a proper understanding of the most consequential battle in our country's history, you would do well to acquire this book.  In closing I will let Mr. Foote describe why a historical narrative, such as the style in which he chose to craft his account of the Civil War, can be as, if not more valuable than a simple regurgitation of body counts and dollar signs as is taught to our kids in school.

I am what is called a narrative historian. Narrative history is getting more popular all the time but it's not a question of twisting the facts into a narrative. It's not a question of anything like that. What it is, is discovering the plot that's there just as the painter discovered the colors in shadows or Renoir discovered these children. I maintain that anything you can possibly learn about putting words together in a narrative form by writing novels is especially valuable to you when you write history. There is no great difference between writing novels and writing histories other than this: If you have a character named Lincoln in a novel that's not Abraham Lincoln, you can give him any color eyes you want to. But if you want to describe the color of Abraham Lincoln's, President Lincoln's eyes, you have to know what color they were. They were gray. So you're working with facts that came out of documents, just like in a novel you are working with facts that came out of your head or most likely out of your memory. Once you have control of those facts, once you possess them, you can handle them exactly as a novelist handles his facts. No good novelist would be false to his facts, and certainly no historian is allowed to be false to his facts under any circumstances. I've never known, at least a modern historical instance, where the truth wasn't superior to distortion in every way.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Film Review: The Ides of March

This one sat on my shelf for a while.  Any film where unabashed liberal George Clooney plays a character acknowledged to be based on Howard Dean in part, reasonably is viewed with scepticism.

I shouldn't have let it wait so long.  There is no real liberal agenda here.  In fact, it makes nearly all the liberals in their film, which all the characters are, distinctly unlikeable.  They are all backstabbing, cheating, lying, conniving, philandering scum.  You don't get a much more accurate depiction of American politics than that.

I also credit the film with depicting the pregnancy of an intern by the Clooney's married Governor and her resulting abortion with a decidedly ugly touch.  There is no discussion here of the life within the girl, the pregnancy is merely a political obstacle which must be overcome.  The handling of the abortion carries all the weight of taking care of a cavity--a shockingly honest depiction of the left's view of undesired pregnancies.

Clooney is excellent both in his supporting role as the governor/presidential candidate and the director of this film.  It is engrossing and brisk, coming in at one hundred and forty one minutes with few wasted frames.  There isn't much fluff here and the film is better for it.

Ryan Gosling fills the role of Stephen Meyers, a junior campaign manager for Clooney's Mike Morris is the focus of the film as he is used by both his senior manager (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) and the opposing campaign manager (Paul Giamatti) to their own benefit as well as by Mike Morris and the pregnant Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood).  Gosling's character is skilled but naive and inexperienced in the underhanded dealings of politics.  This film is among the works that have driven Gosling to the top of the most wanted list for actors in the past year.  Between this film and Driver (reviewed earlier on this website) Gosling has put a couple strong entries on his resume.

The film ends with Stephen Meyers looking into the camera and about to go live with his own remarks on...something.  Is he just going to go along with Morris's cheating and abuse merely in the belief that his election "may" bring about the policies he so desires?  Is he really that cynical now?  Or is he going to torpedo the whole campaign by revealing the governor's indiscretions?  We never find out.  But the fact that I couldn't decide which direction the character would go left me feeling I had watched a properly complex and well done film

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Couple Photos From Frozen Rush Event...

Just a couple photos from the Red Bull Frozen Rush event up at Mt. Snow yesterday.  These are some of my ham fisted shots that are not going to make the cut.  The event itself was fantastic and run like an atomic clock.  More to come soon.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Classic Rally Cars Up For Auction...

This is over in the UK at the Silverstone Race Retro & Classic Car auction.  There are a bunch of interesting vehicles included in this lot, a number of which have stage Rally chops.  If you're reading this in the US, just get that boat transport lined up...some of these look worth it!

How about a 1970 Porsche 911 that has been kitted out Safari Rally style and has actually been run by Jimmy McRae in testing and finished 4th in class in the '05 East African Safari?

Or how about a road rally, factory Triumph TR7 with a V8 transplant?  This one has a great pedigree as well, having won and run in numerous rallies throughout the UK.

This next one has no REAL rally history but is in homage to the rallying history of Lancia.  This 1990 Lancia Delta Integrale is pristine and "only" 10-15K pounds.

Another road rally car here.  A limited edition Ford Escort "Mexico" with a strengthened shell, Rally Sport suspension and bolt in roll cage.

A police car converted into a Mini Rally car for this next one.  A 1967 Austin Mini Cooper S was originally built to police specifications but has since been converted into a classic Rally car and has competed across the UK before being stripped down and restored.

Now here's a classic worthy of a "Rally" in its title.  A 1985 Ford Sierra Cosworth.  This is an actual factory racer with the proper "works" registration number and extensive and extremely successful history.

A 1967 Lotus Elan that has been, like a number of these classics, converted to Rally duty.

And lastly, another Triumph TR7 that was originally put into privateer Rally use in the late 70's but has been since restored and comes with full FIA compliant papers for Classic Rally use.

The auction has many more vehicles up for sale, mostly UK/European brands and has a more extensive listing of the details of each of these beautiful vehicles.  The sale is later this month.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Nissan V8 Supercars Liveries Revealed

With the most anticipated Australian V8 Supercars season in many years beginning in only a couple of weeks it was time for Nissan to finally take the wraps off their four car effort before this weekend's testing sessions.

One team (that run by Todd and Rick Kelly) will carry the black and white Jack Daniel's scheme while the other team with drivers James Moffat and Michael Caruso will see a black and yellow "Norton" scheme.  These are certainly the best looking and most aggressive Nissan Altima's I've ever seen.

How the team performs is yet to be seen however and given that the team admits to being down on horsepower as compared to its adversaries and using an engine based on the now aged VK56 platform, I have my concerns.

We may know more after this weekend and getting a look at the lap times.  With the V8 Supercars series running an event here in the States at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas later this year, it would be nice if they were competitive right out of the box.  We'll see.

V8 Altima Liveries Unveiled...

Friday, February 8, 2013

Nissan Juke NISMO RC

While over here in the US Nissan has introduced the Juke NISMO at the Chicago Auto Show, offering a 9 HP and 7 ft. lb. of torque performance increase over the standard version Nissan has revealed an even higher performance Juke overseas.

The Nissan Juke NISMO RC will be a 2014 model and retains the standard 1.6L turbocharged 4cyl engine.  Here, however, its output has been boosted to some 221 HP.  Few other details have been released and it appears that it will be available in Europe, where the Juke is produced and is immensely popular, first.  As with the standard NISMO version, the RC will likely arrive here in the states shortly thereafter.

A few pre-production models have already been tested out as seen in the short video below.
Nissan Juke NISMO RC...

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Red Bull Frozen Rush Update...

About one week away now from the big event up at Mount Snow and preparations are underway.  icky Johnson will be arriving early next week to do some testing and course building before testing out the course on Thursday.

As with any event as complex as this one, there are hiccups.  In this case the hiccup came in the form of the US Forest Service who control the top portions of Mount Snow and who put the kibosh on the event running on "their" turf (problems with the Feds are certainly not restricted to tortoises and Western state events).  So instead of using the whole mountain for Johnson's Pro4 to race up, down and over, the Red Bull event will utilize solely the bottom half.  While this might limit some of the videography opportunities for the Red Bull crew it will likely keep the action closer to any individual attendees.

Also on hand will be the BFG tire crew who have installed half inch spikes on the big Pro4's tires, something never attempted before.

And if you're wondering if the snow and cold in the Red Bull Frozen Rush intro video is fake--its not.  The video, with Johnson exhaling some frosty breaths, was filmed up at Lake Tahoe after Red Bull approached Ricky with the idea for this promotion.

Ricky has graciously agreed to submit himself to a few questions regarding his efforts and this event at some point next week, so if you have anything (intelligent) you'd like to ask of Ricky, please shoot me a message here or send me an email at: and I'll try and fit it in.  Hope to see some of you up there!

Mount Snow homepage...

Monday, February 4, 2013

Red Bull Frozen Rush

I might just have to attend this event just because Mount Snow in sourthern Vermont is as close to a Pro4 as I will get without hopping on a plane to the Southwest or Wisconsin.  Additionally, it will be a unique event as well.

Sure, occassionally you might get a Pro2 or Pro4 or ProLite doing an exhibition outside SEMA or at a Monster Truck Show but never in the snow, with studded tires on a man made course sure to have lots of snow jumps and whoops.  I just wish it was going to be a real race between a couple Pro4s.  We haven't had a ton of snow up here this year so it might be a challenge to get this course built and it very well might be in the 40's of 50's temperture wise on the 15th (a Friday which tells me this is more of a media stunt than an event to draw a crowd) which would turn the course into a sloppy, muddy mess.  Regardless, its nice to see the good people of the NorthEast getting some short course love.

Anyone wanna go?

Red Bull Frozen Rush...

Collection of Group B Cars Back in Action...

 Over in England a number of classic Group B rally cars got together for some good asphalt flogging.

From Audis to Nissans all had a notable history behind them.  The Nissan 240RS interests me the most and it was still set up for gravel vs. tarmac and must have been a handful.  The 240RS is actually a ride that the English reggae/pop band UB40, famous over here for their hit "Red, Red Wine", sponsored in the 1980's.  One of the band's managers has recently purchased the vehicle and is treating it properly--getting it out on the road where it belongs.  Former Michelle Mouton, John Buffum, and Stig Blomqvist cars were also present with some of their American livery (1000 Lakes Rally and Pikes Peak).  More at the link below.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

240SX at Perce Neige...

Once again it is Martin Walter blazing a trail for Nissans.  The long running 240SX of Mr. Walter and his codriver Ferdinand Trauttmansdorff were at it once again.

This time they were up in their Canadian homeland running on the snow and ice of the Perce Neige rally.  Walter finished the event in 18th out of 20 National entries in the event.  Which might not sound so good until you realize that he was the only RWD entry in the event.  Walter usually makes at least one or two visits South of the border each year so I'm hoping to see him at a warmer event later this year.

Front Bumper Done, Shipping Soon...

The BTF front bumper for the NISMO Stuff racing Frontier is finally complete.  The picture here is without its skid plate which will be bolted on before shipping.  The additional center hoop will see two HIDs hang down from it while underneath them, mounted to the main tube will sit an LED bar.  I will need to spray the tube with an anti-rust coating and then a black topcoat of some type for additional protection.  The bare steel might work in the desert but not here in the humid, wet, salty, Northeast.

If anyone has a recommendation for the best (read cheapest) way to ship this bumper I would love to hear it as I haven't had anything this large shipped in many a year and BTF usually works on local projects and doesn't have a great deal of experience in shipping items this large.

Once "home" I'll update here with more pictures of it and its install as well as the lights and wiring duties.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Book Review: Pennant Race

This book is essentially a companion work to The Long Season which Brosnan had written a few years prior.  The earlier work chronicled Brosnan's season that began with the Cardinals and ended with the Reds.  This book takes place entirely with the Reds during a season in which they would win the National League pennant and eventually lose to the Yankees in the World Series.

The Long Season is generally regarded as one of, if not the, best account of day to day baseball ever written. After its success and positive reviews, Brosnan, a pitcher nicknamed "the professor" due to his intellect, glasses and bookish habits, comes back here with another account of another season.  The format is familiar and similar to the earlier work with Brosnan recounting numerous day to day conversations between himself and other players and his views of the occurrences both on and off the field.

While not boring, the first 2/3 of Pennant Race doesn't hold enough of the readers interest to make it comparable to the prior work.  The book moves along with recap after recap of game after game so that they all tend to blend together in the reader's mind.  Nothing much makes an impact as there isn't much of consequence going on.

That changes in the last third of the book as the Reds come down the stretch with the Dodgers, vying for the pennant.  At this point the book begins feeling like there is a direction to the narrative and a purpose to each day's actions.  With this returns the reader's interest. Brosnan's anecdotes of shoddy umpiring, hungover players, players watching the stands for attractive women and the failings of himself and other players finally have bite.  The last few chapters, during which the Reds and Dodgers are locked in a tight battle for a chance to face the Yankees are excellent and the stress and pressure is well presented.

As always Brosnan presents a good deal of political, racial and cultural commentary--from Kruschev to the growing immunity of feeling to the word "nigger" by the black baseball players around him, his recap of the 1961 baseball season captures not only the sporting season but also that particular period in American culture.  This isn't quite the work that The Long Season was...but its not exactly a sophomore slump either.

Friday, February 1, 2013

First Generation Xterra Still Being Produced!!

In China that is...

Originally going under the "Paladin" name and by Nissan in China it has now been handed over to Zhengzhou Dongfeng, renamed the AoTing and is produced as a commercial vehicle.

The body has remained fairly similar to the original design--ther is still a hump in the roofline and a bulge in the tailgate but the engines powering the SUV are decidedly different that what we saw here in the US.  Instead of the Nissan 3.3L gas engine the AoTing receives either a 2.4L Mitsubishi gas engine or a 2.5L diesel.

Per the linked article the 2nd generation Xterra has never seen Chinese shores but some 13 years after its introduction to the world, the original Xterra design soldiers on.

I recently (in November I believe) sold my 2000 Nissan Xterra after 10 years of ownership.  It was a great truck and traveled as far North as Happy Valley/Goose Bay in Labrador and as far South as Land Between the Lakes in Kentucky.  With some 140,000 hard miles on it, it was time to go as I drove it less and less.  It will live on in someone elses garage as the first generation Xterra evidently lives on in another part of the world.

China Car Times article...