Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Great Photo Recap of Rallye Saguenay 2013

Bootleg Media Group has released their slideshow that was put together during our trip up to the wilds of Quebec for Rallye Saguenay 2013. Unfortunately we, as NISMO Stuff Racing, were unable to put on a good show coming by the designated spectator spots from where the photos were taken due to an ongoing wreck of another vehicle that we had to slow for and a late day horizon level sun--both of which drastically slowed our pace. Regardless, the photos are fantastic and I purchased three myself!

Bootleg Media Photo's From Rallye Saguenay...

Monday, July 29, 2013

2013 NETRA Rocky Mountain Hare Scramble in Alton, NH

Taking place up near Lake Winnipesaukee in Alton, NH, the Rocky Mountain Hare Scramble put on by NETRA (New England Trail Rider Association) was the first one I'd been to since I was about 10 years old.  I still remember the motorcycles racing through the woods at the event I went to with my father some 30 years ago and hopefully my son will remember this day just as fondly.

The weather on 7/28/13 was wonderful.  Sunny for almost the whole day with a slight overcast at the later afternoon.  Everyone at the event was super friendly answering my son's many questions and directing us to the best locations for viewing.  You could get as close as you dare to the riders and yet no one was doing anything stupid and getting in harms way.  Perhaps this was because most of the spectators were relatives or crew members of the various riders but everyone seemed well behaved.

The track itself weaved its way through nine miles of typical New England forest with lots of rocks, roots, brush and mud to contend with.  Even the youngest and least experienced riders had a skill level far beyond my meager dirt skills however and I was super impressed by the number of female riders who were out there putting the hammer down.

All in all it was a great event to attend and inspires both myself and my son to get involved more actively in enduros and hare scrambles and the like.  A compilation of video clips taken with my camera are below.  Quality is low but you get the idea...

Friday, July 26, 2013

Compressed Natural Gas Nissan Frontier/Navara

So as I was stating yesterday there are Hardbodies across the globe using diesel engines.  There are also plenty of Navaras (our Frontiers) that are diesel powered that we don't see here in the US.  And now comes news of another choice in fuel sources for our Frontiers that we won't be seeing anytime soon.

Thailand announced today the introduction of a CNG version of the Navara.  Utilizing our readily available QR25DE (4 cylinder, same as the one I have in the NISMO Stuff Racing Frontier), Thai customers will be able to have theirs fueled by CNG and producing about the same HP as we see in our petrol 4 cyl. versions at 154 HP but with torque figures bumped to 242 ft. lbs.

Beyond the added torque, the switch to CNG is estimated to cut fuelings costs by nearly 70% given the current cost of natural gas and petrol.  For all these benefits you'd expect perhaps a substantial increase price??  No, you can see on the Thai Nissan sites that they are being sold in a range of 535,500 to 641,000 Baht which at todays exchange rate equates to only some $17K to start--right where our base 4 cyl. Frontiers start.

Given our vast and increasing supplies of natural gas here in the States it would be nice to see something like this come here, but I'm not holding my breath.

Nissan introduces CNG Navara...

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Nissan Hardbody Name Celebrates 25 Years in South Africa

While here in the States Nissan has long moved on from the "Hardbody" name to the Frontier, in other areas of the world Nissan continued naming its basic trucks the "Hardbody" as it had garnered an almost legendary status.

Nissan Hardbodies became known for being tough, cheap trucks able to handle nearly any task thrown at them.  This is the reason why the name persists today in places like South Africa where, alongside the Nissan Navara (our Nissan Frontier here in the States since '05) Nissan continues to produce "Hardbodies".  These Hardbodies are not the old school ones we remember here in the States from the early to mid 90's but are instead diesel and de-contented versions of the 1st Generation Frontiers.  That platform still underpins the true working class of Nissan trucks throughout Africa and much of the third world where the diesel powerplant and simple design have been long admired.

The Hardbody/1st Generation Frontier has also been a stalwart in offroad motorsports as well competing numerous times in the Dakar in the early '00s with drivers like Colin McRae and Ari Vatanen as drivers.

South Africa is now offering a 25th anniversary edition with a special warranty to go along with it.  If only we had a small, tough, diesel (or petrol) truck like the Hardbody available here.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Chinese Modified 6x6 Nissan Patrols??

Looks like someone (evidently someone who doesn't want to be public) in China is taking old Nissan Patrols and heavily modifying them.  I don't necessarily agree with the writer of the linked article that these were built by someone with military engineering background.

Nor do I agree that all of these are Nissan Patrols.  The bottom vehicle in the snow is clearly a Toyota (you can read the Toyota faceplate in the pictures on the linked wiki page) and I believe most if not all of the others are Toyota Land Cruiser's as well.  Nor do I believe these vehicles are winning every contest (hill climb and otherwise) in sight as noted either.  These vehicles do not possess roll cages or other serious equipment needed for real competition.

The author of this article appears to be merely a backer of anything Chinese and trying to put out there how great these homemade Chinese vehicles are.  If this is Chinese auto journalism, Motor Trend can sleep soundly.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Book Review: Lost in Shangri-La

It has been a bit since I posted a book review and I wish I had a better one to post about.

Lost in Shangri-La sounded like an interesting book--a crashed military flight leaving a handful of survivors amidst an unmapped area of a tropical island filled with cannibals and Japanese soldiers.  Yup, it sounds interesting till you get into the details.

The plane wasn't shot down, the pilots screwed up and flew it into a mountainside.  The plane wasn't on a military mission they were out sightseeing.  The area may have been generally unmapped but it was known well enough to have earned nicknames and numerous overflights.  The Japanese soldiers that were left on the island were hiding in the jungle hoping to survive without resupply or support from the mainland.  The cannibals might have eaten each other after battle but had little to no interest in the white people who crashed into their midst.

The author sets up all of the dangers present to both the survivors and those who came to rescue them--its just that none of those dangers ever really occur.  The survivors and those who parachuted in to assist them spent a relatively comfortable and safe time recuperating and then were whisked out of the jungle on a specially mocked up glider.

The book just never really captured my attention.  The writing was adequate but nothing more than perfunctory descriptions of events and backgrounds.  You can tell he's really desperate for something to really happen in his tale...its just that nothing ever does.

Is the book worth a quick recap of a somewhat interesting sidebar event that occurred during WWII?  Sure, but an entire novel and being declared "The Most Incredible Rescue Mission of WWII" on its cover gives away its pretense at trying to be another best selling WWII tale that the public can't seem to get enough of--this one just isn't quite worth it and certainly not at some 300 pages, much of which is unremarkable filler.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Found On The Mass Pike: 4x4 VW Vanagon

Have always loved these VW campervan vehicles.  They've fit my camping/exploring mindset without having to schlep tons of crap (both literally and figuratively) around with you.  Here is an especially cool example.  Done with a simple style but beefed up all around to do some serious exploring it looked to be lifted with offroad tires, rock sliders and a sturdy bullbars in front and rear.  Would love to have this as a vehicle to accompany my dirt bikes or other offroad adventures.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Rallye de Saguenay 2013 Results...

So its been a couple weeks since we came back from Quebec--Northeast of Quebec City by about three hours to be specific.  I had been hoping that more photos from the event would come out on the interwebs but it appears that is not to be.

Its not like there wasn't anyone there.  Some 29 entries and lots of locals at both the Parc Expose and on the stages as well---I should know, there were enough of them running out on the road in front of me taking pictures!  I guess either French Canadians don't bother to post their pictures on the web or the NSA is preventing me from viewing photos of the event for fear that I'll leave the US and never come back.

The team also put out a press release regarding the event that got picked up by a couple outlets ( and for instance) and I didn't want anything here to interfere with those releases.  All that being said it was a great event that included what I would call my favorite stage from any race that I have driven to date.  As always the people of Quebec were welcoming and helpful.  We didn't have any mechanical issues which was great for the first time back on gravel in nine months and we finished the race.  No problems were encountered at the border in either direction and I got my first taste of real French-Canadian Poutine (french fries with gravy and curdled cheese).  The scenery was awesome with the cliffs and mountains that are traversed heading up along the Saguenay Fjord were incredible.  I wish we could have performed better but it was no fault of my codriver as once again we suffered no penalties of any kind.  My driving skills and my head just simply will not allow me to keep the accelerator down long enough to really make up time as I quickly run out of talent when taking low traction corners at speed.  Regardless it was great fun as usual and we had a great adventure.  Can't wait to go back in only about a month's time!!

Official Press Release Below:

Nine months can be an eternity in motorsports but that’s how long it took NISMO Stuff Racing to
return to the dirt. Competing in the Quebec Rally Championship for 2013 meant waiting until the
weekend of June 15th to get back to loose road conditions as the QRC’s first rally of the year was
on the tarmac, road circuit of Rallye Sanair.   Under beautiful blue skies and bothersome black fly clouds the NISMO Stuff Racing team consisting of driver Dan Spalinger, codriver David Dennis and crewmembers Matt Weaver and
Amanda McCabe arrived a few hours northeast of Quebec City after a beautiful drive through
GrandsJardins National Park. Situated within a truly wild area of North America (both a lynx and
a black bear were spotted on stages during the event) the roads used for the event were a true
pleasure consisting of a combination of rough, tight and rock strewn twisties and open, flowing,
“crest, crest, crest” rollercoasters. Driver Dan Spalinger was afterwards to claim that stages
four and six of the event were his favorite of any he has encountered during his first nine rallies.
  As has become standard for the team, the two “service” periods of the day became “rest” periods (to the chuckles of surrounding teams) with the only maintenance required on the
durable Nissan Frontier were a tightening of the transmission fill plug and the sourcing of bolts
for the then wobbly LED lightbar. No flats, damage or mechanical issues of any kind were
experienced and a single tank of gas was more than sufficient to complete the 80+ stage miles.   With such a long time away from the heat of stage racing, the initial stages were more of a feeling out process than running at the ragged edge of performance. As the day went on,
however, a rhythm settled in between driver and codriver and stage times dropped with a four
second improvement between SS1 and SS2 (a repeat of SS1) and a 32 second improvement
between SS3 and SS5 (a repeat of SS3). The motto for the day was “small improvements” and
that was certainly accomplished. Speeds for the event topped out around 90 mph in the fastest
sections though even the biggest of crests and jumps did not seem to suck up enough of the
BTF Fabrication suspension travel to get the 4000 lb. truck airborne.

In the end, the NISMO Stuff Frontier outlasted nine other competitors and finished every stage
mile with no penalties. The fifth place in class finish also puts NISMO Stuff Racing in fifth place
in the 2013 standings within the Quebec Rally Championship’s Jon Nichols Cup (Open 2WD)
class only one point out of fourth on the year.   The next event, Lac Aux Sables, comes up on the weekend of August 10th and will be another gravel rally on which the NISMO Stuff Racing Frontier should prove once again to be a crowd
favorite and a growing presence on the Quebec rally scene.   NISMO Stuff Racing would like to thank its sponsors and supporters for their continued backing to include, BTF Fabrication, Radflo Shocks and Braid Wheels.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

More Auto Than Rally Cross...

So only about a week after returning from Rallye Saguenay my weekend schedule opened up and I was able to take my son to his first SCCA Rallycross event.  Rallycross is one of the first places I picked up the competitive motorsports bug.  Its a low risk, low reward style of an event for people to learn basic car control and other skills.

I've always viewed Rallycross as a stepping stone to learning whether or not one might be interested in moving into stage rally.  Now I'll admit, my view may not be the right one and may not be the most popular one...but viewing Rallycross as an event in and unto itself and one to stay "in" long term seems a frustrating and pointless exercise.  Driving around cones at 20 mph might be a good way to get your jollies for a weekend or two but as a recipe for much more than that its not too good.  The SCCA neutered version of Rally is not my cup of tea.

That being said, I have enjoyed participating in RallyX events in the past, both in my old Nissan Xterra and my current Nissan Frontier.  Neither vehicle is well suited to this style of racing but I always enjoy running something odd and unwanted--heck when I first started I had to contact the local group and ask permission to run the SUV and I was very frequently the only SUV in the events.  But I almost always had fun.

The Okemo RallyCross event in Rutland, VT was perhaps the least enjoyable RallyCross event I have attended.  I can see that others may have enjoyed it greatly but it just wasn't for me.  The course was the tightest I've ever seen in the 20 or so events I've run.  My truck is 91 inches wide at its largest and I would estimate that the cones were averaging some 115 or 120 inches apart.  A foot of space on each side isn't much, particularly when you place corner after corner after corner in such rapid succession that you never leave first gear.  I'm sorry, I just don't enjoy rolling around a course at minimal speeds sawing away at the wheel like a madman.  The NER SCCA Rallycross group is going through a bit of a changeover and I wonder if this has bled its way into it course design.  The course doesn't HAVE to look like the Motorweek slalom course...but that's what it ended up as.

SCCA Rallycross is always intended to keep speeds down to safe levels but when I run RallyX courses at Summit Point in WV and see what the RallyCross groups in Quebec do for their events, it appears the antiseptic, overly anal, squids of local New England Autocross have taken over and pulled all the real fun and driving out of these events--at least in this one instance.

Those who have regularly read this blog will note that this is the first time I have EVER had a bad thing to say about an event I have participated in.  I don't bitch when I wreck my vehicle or put it in a pond, I don't bitch when I finish but come in near last (or actually last) amongst those who do finish.  I don't complain about cost or difficulty, conditions or delays.  This is the first time I've ever complained because it was the first time I felt like the "fun" of the event was removed for me.  Maybe its just me, maybe the Okemo rallycross course was like all the others I've run over the years and my vehicle is just now SO unsuited for these events as to make them near worthless...Maybe...

But I've run snow/ice events on 35 inch mud tires in a 170 hp SUV with a 5" lift, bodyrolling from one slow, sliding corner to another, froze my butt off and come in near last and STILL had maybe its just me...but maybe not.

Okemo Rallycross Results...

Upgraded ARRMA Raider...

My son's ARRMA Raider buggy burned out its stock motor after a couple weeks worth of use and we brought it in to get it replaced. The local hobby shop (ABC RC & Hobbies) didn't have a stock 15T ARRMA motor around so they suggested we try the Traxxas 12T Titan motor. While not a perfect fit--the 12T motor just slightly larger, it did fit with VERY minimal finagling. The biggest modification you need to make is to Dremel off about 1MM of the new motor's output shaft as its just a tad too long to fit under the plastic cover.

After installing it, it was time to take it for its first test. The 12T motor seems to provide a solid upgrade over the 15T motor as the Raider's speed is noticeably greater while ripping through the grass and sand with greater ease. Can't recommend this upgrade more. Easy to do, basically a plug and play operation and impressive results.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Russians Should Have Called SpaceX...

So this was a Russian Proton-M rocket the other day.  The Proton-M has been in use since '01 and has had a number of failures--particularly in the past few years--a number of which have been spectacular disasters such as this one.

On board this rocket were three Russian GPS satellites as part of the program Russia is trying to develop to compete against the US constructed standard.  Later this year a Russian addition to the ISS is supposed to go up on one of these things...I wouldn't bet on it reaching there...

Monday, July 1, 2013

Classic Nissans at Nissan Nightmoves Rally...

Australia always brings the hot, classic Nissans and Datsuns to the rally scene.

An all night stages event titled the "Nissan Nightmoves Rally" should really bring them out then huh?  Well it did, with Nissans/Datsuns taking all three podium positions.  Rob Parry and his Datsun 1600 (510) taking the win, Sean Hodgson in second with his similar 1600 and third went to Cary Seabrook and his Datsun Stanza.

And its not like there weren't modern cars in the event with modern Celicas, Lancers, and a WRX all in the field.
Nissan Nightmoves Rally release...

Russell Woollard -- Nissan Bluebird

 Cary Seabrook -- Datsun Stanza

Sean Hudgson -- Datsun 1600

David Lawrence -- Datsun 1600

Andrew Paice -- Datsun Stanza

Brendan Brown -- Datsun 180B SSS

David Lawrence -- Datsun 1600

Timothy Smith -- Datsun 180B

New 2015 Nissan Titan Spy Shots

Here we go again!  The 2015 Nissan Titan is showing up more and more as it gets out in the wild for testing.  These photos continue the trend of testing the Titan as a tow vehicle.  Every spy shot taken so far has had at least one of the visible Titans towing a trailer.

Additionally the chatter surrounding the new Titan having a diesel engine option in general and a Cummins based mill in particular continues.

Of note here is that this test vehicle appear to be PURELY an engine test vehicle.  The only part that appears modified from your standard 2013 Nissan Titan is the very front engine area which has received new bodywork likely to house the large engine.  The rest is completely stock and provided by a '13 (or similar) Titan.  You can even go as far as looking at the rear differential housing in some of the shots and see that it is your standard Nissan axle housing--and not even of the "finned" variety now found present on the Titans to keep it cool.  Somehow I doubt that Nissan is going to crank up the engine power and torque and yet leave the rear differential unchanged and even more brittle than it was before.

It still seems as if Nissan has a long way to go before getting to running a full production version on the road and I'm thinking '15 is a far more likely model year to see the new Titan than any '14 edition and I'm betting by the size and structure of the front end sheetmetal that it is going to be a LARGE truck--likely bigger than the current Toyota Tundra and more on par with the new Ford Atlas that will be the base for the next gen F150.