Cars

Awesome Video Overlap: F1 Vs GT

I wouldn't normally post just a random YouTube video, but I love this one.  What a fantastic perspective of the astonishing speed at which an F1 car devours a track.  Keep in mind the "slow" cars are hauling ass! This section called Eau Rouge at Spa-Francorchamps is a wickedly abusive downhill left-hander, on what's regarded as one of the trickiest tracks in the world. It is very twisty and there are a lot of hills, wreaking havoc on the stomach and brain - truly a rollercoaster.

 

Ferrari FF at Pelican Hill...And Driving A Dream

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A fairly absurd Saturday in anyone's book… The day started at 5:30 am, groggy but willing, knowing that I was digging out a driving hat and scarf to hop in a Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe (mouthful!) to head to Cars and Coffee. I've gone to C&C in some random stuff, but this one takes the win. It seriously is a land yacht, complete with teak deck on the back. It was such a laugh to drive it and was every single bit as detailed as luxurious as I hoped it would be. I did manage to find a wobbly air vent control on the passenger side and a few BMW components, but other than that, my biggest issue was continually forgetting it had suicide doors!

After C&C we ended up at a ride and drive hosted by Ferrari of Newport Beach at Pelican Hill. The FF is a little bit of an enigma to me and is certainly their most polarizing offering in recent memory.  I have such a weak spot for three specific cars: The Shelby Daytona Coupe, the BMW Z3 M Coupe and the Datsun 240Z.  The Ferrari FF has, to me, taken all of them and Ferarrified them - it looks killer. Personally I don't think it is likely to be many people's first Ferrari, it's a little too removed from the poster car that so many of us have in our head, but spectacular nonetheless. I don't foresee many backyard bbq, bravado filled conversations where guys speculate about one day owning a Ferrari FF:  the lusted, rip-snorting, mind blowing 458 it is not, but I do believe it will become the second in many collections. It's a heck of an alternative to a Panamera Turbo for the wife if you are a 458 owner already... 

Somehow the day wasn't done yet. On returning from Pelican Hill, I had the opportunity to drive the poster from MY college dorm, the V12 Lamborghini Murcialago. The icon, the heavyweight,  the car that at 11 years old still looks like it was designed yesterday, and the car that every time I see it, still makes me shake my head a little.

However, the Murcie (in this case a MATTE red one) could be compared to scoring a date with Kate Upton and then finding out she farts at dinner, has absurdly big hands and a small cocaine addiction. Let me explain: I'm 6'3 and don't fit, I can't steer it properly because my hand gets jammed between my leg and the pedal box is vehemently against Nike Dunks unless you like something I termed accellebraking. Oh, and it hates to turn where you want it to, a scary predicament when the owner is sitting beside you!  I was starting to feel like the Murcie was better enjoyed as a bystander simply appreciating the aural/visual spectacle from the outside.

BUT, as Kate was about to get left at the dinner table after first course, the world was miraculously righted and she stood up and did the Cat Daddy.  I forced the grumpy brute of a V12 up off the sofa and asked it to sing. It really is a bit of a lazy motor until forcibly poked, but OH MY GOD when it wakes up. HELLO supercar, hello poster, hello noise you tried to make when you were 12, hello screaming horses and wailing banshees, hello Thor throwing rocks at thunder and hello Zeus beating mountainsides with trees. I'm getting chills thinking of the noise right now.  Pacific Coast Highway, I am Murcielago - hear me roar.

Poster status confirmed.

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CORE Autosport Headquarters

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This was a week of awesome facilities. Core Autosport is the dream of one entrepreneur - Jon Bennet, who took a fascinating route to becoming a professional race car driver. Most that I have met grow up racing as a kid and try to follow it into adulthood on the constant Holy Grail search for solid, long lasting sponsorship to fund the racing. This can be a nightmare journey as more often than not, your life resets at the end of each year when sponsors re-evaluate their spending. This was NOT the journey for Jon. Jon decided the best way to become a race car driver, was to go into business, eventually start his on and simply make enough money to have that business fund his racing. I guess it's not rocket science, but when you see the set-up he has created for himself and his American Le Mans Team, you realize that it was damned smart. Take note - this is something we should all plan to do, guys. CORE Autosport races 2 cars in American Le Mans Series LMP Class. This is a series style I love. The engine is a sealed unit based on a Chevrolet LS model and no real modifications can be made to the chassis either - the team has to adhere to a strict set of rules. It's essentially a series that keeps the costs down a little for the teams as the high dollar world of engine and aero development are not a factor - though let's be honest, we're not going to call this cheap racing!

Most race shops I have visited are impressive, but they are focused race shops. CORE's facility is gorgeous throughout. The attention to detail that made Jon's company successful has clearly ben applied to all areas of building CORE's HQ. The stairs are one of the nicest set's I have ever seen and even the table in the conference room is built from giant Carbon Fiber box beams. This type of attention fascinates me. Working on a race team would be an honor anyway, but arriving at your work every day, these guys get a visual reminder of the passion of their team owner. This is an expensive step to take, but I think it's wonderful, CORE is a giant step above a regular race shop and the environment of the facility will help lock down the sense of pride in working there.

Pride = passion = better performance = winning races

What I find interesting is that in the shop area, there is WAY more area than one team is ever going to need, but it was mentioned to me that it was designed with the ability to possibly host their partners and manufacturers in the future as they grow...possibly aiming at vertical integration in a race team. That would be really cool.

It was a very interesting find in Rock Hill South Carolina, not exactly a location I expected to stumble upon a leading edge race team, but I suppose it is very close to the NASCAR epicenter of Charlotte. I look forward to supporting CORE at the next California ALMS race.

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Fuller Hot Rods - Bryan's Shop Of Dreams

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There are not so many times that I'm lost for words. I get it, I talk a lot.  To those that know me, "speechless" is never a word they would consider using in reference to my behavior, but this past weekend I spend good periods of time truly speechless.

What brought on this onerous feat? A weekend at Fuller Hot Rods in Atlanta. I can only describe it in a manner that still does it little justice -it's a man-stuff dream cave. Bryan Fuller went to Atlanta in 05 after honing his craft back here in So Cal with names like So Cal Speed Shop and Chip Foose - a killer education that he has grown and grown from.

The now home of Fuller Hot Rods is a bit of a "rough" brick building, with a chain link fence, corrugated roofing and scattered, well, crap outside.  It's also in an area of Atlanta that when darkness falls, you may well choose to stay behind that chain link fence... but what a brilliant decision that would be as you might end up inside the greatest  man cave I've ever spent time in.

I'm struggling already to try and form my thoughts on how to explain the shop. I think the pictures will just have to do it the little justice they can.  Bryan has MAD skills, a simple google search will prove that, but he also has crazy patience, attention to detail and authenticity that can be hard to find in the overly commercialized world of car land.  At the end of the day you could roll around in a white t-shirt on the polished concrete floors and still end up with a white t-shirt.

Though Bryan is a wizard with sheet metal and prone to chopping and building, he isn't morphing his newest purchase into a new beast. While we were there I got to hear the bark to life of a 1974 Ducati 750cc with the famed bevel drive cam gear. That's one for you to search, but it's a classic and it sounded incredible.

Some notables in the shop..

  • The 32 roadster body..that's no rat rod, in fact, it's not even a hot rod. It is destined to be a race car. 900Hp Ford race engine and, oh, you know, all wheel drive spinning vintage magnesium Nascar rims... I'm giddy about seeing that one finished.
  • The 33 sedan is rapidly becoming the family car. Look closely and you'll see the sheet metal recessed seats going in the back between the frame rails for his kid. The stitched headers dump exhaust gasses from the 750 Hp motor.
  • The Indian chopper is a customer build with a freaky, crazy carb set-up.

Anyway, enjoy the pics.

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OFFICIAL! Red Bull Soapbox Atlanta

We are confirmed! We're disassembling, packing up and shipping the whole "Fire In The Hole" team to Atlanta, Georgia on June 9th for the 2012 Red Bull Soapbox Race. Oakley is the only representation outwith the South and we're coming en-force.

The P51 Mustang is in the chop-shop for some serious upgrades. Pilot George is getting a roll bar to protect his expensive designer noggin, some front suspension is being installed to cushion the jumps and the entire steering geometry is getting a little more aggressive.

It's a serious production to get the car and all of us over there in 4 weeks, the to-do list is growing rapidly!

You may enjoy our documentation we submitted to explain our car...

"Let it be noted that numerous treaties and 2 protocol of the Geneva Convention are being broken by sharing this information with you. 4 Military secrets are being shared, 2 Federal offenses committed and worse than all that, a bond of secrecy between Fire In The Hole and a small African goat is being broken. However, in the interests of fair play, here goes…

The Body is fabricated from mild steel tubing in various wall thicknesses and diameters (where required for strength or weight saving).  The main frame rails were shaped by pie cutting, bending, sprinkiling pixie dust and welding to the desired profile shape. The tougher welds were reinforced by liberal binding with Unobtanium (Copyright Oakley. Don’t use that, we’ll sue…haha, that’s cute, you think we’re kidding).

With the frames created, cross braces were then put into place to establish the width of the body. We knew we wanted to use a 20" BMX wheel because of the ride height we wanted to achieve. We also wanted to integrate proper disc brakes (front/rear) found primarily in Mountain Bikes. Our driver, George is not only cute, but he likes being able to walk and requested some safety features. Some of us couldn’t quite understand this, but he’s Asian and they are all ninja’s, right?  Nothing existed in this combination, so we had to figure out how.  We had planned on re-lacing MTB hubs to a 20" BMX rim, but time was not on our side and George put the remainder of the pixie dust in his hair.  While driving around Santa Ana (a locale in Orange County without the Maserati’s and big fake breasts) looking for a taco truck, we came across a homeless fellow with exactly what we were looking for. Why his recycling cart was outfitted with 20" BMX wheels, custom fabricated to hold with MTB Brakes, we will never know.  Anyway, we rho-sham-bo’d him for George’s hair and luckily won.

The underside belly pan is a 1/16" thick Aluminum plate. We ran a very simple traditional Go Kart steering system with homemade spindles and a hot rod dropped front axle (cutting edge design for Nick, who’s newest car is a 1934 pickup truck). The rear is a solid axle with built in camber plates. We found a Fiber glass Go Kart seat and fab’d up a small steering wheel with a quick release hub and, of course, Oakley B-1B grips...(shameless plug! Woo!)  The body was inspired by a sketch from Jae of a WW2 

P-40 Tiger, morphed into an open wheeled race car. We scoured a few of the local homes in Orange County for a P-40 tiger and only found 3 Bell helicopters, 27 Lamborghini’s, 16 Gulfstream jets and 612 barrels of botox.  We wanted to keep the weight down so resorted to cladding the car in sheet styrene. The airplane 

Jae had drawn worked easily for sheets of styrene. A blast of paint and Cool Graphics to finish it off and we were set. Agh! Wait! A final touch from Jae was the REDBULL can exhaust manifolds - sugar free on the right bank and regular on the Left bank. You’ll notice we veer to the right, something about that damn fake sugar freeness. "  

http://www.redbullsoapboxusa.com/#/event/atlanta-2012

Driving On Two Wheels

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Every now and then I get a “drop everything” phone call from Sam (www.hubinetteracing.com). If I’m lucky, part of that phone call involves the words “Oh, and bring your helmet.” Past phone calls have led to shakedown testing of the 860Hp Dodge Challenger drift car, Movie sets, go kart racing and a launch party on the docks in LA for Ken Block’s Gymkhana 2. These calls are very much welcomed.

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Last week’s call was about as random as it gets. For an upcoming project, Sam has to be able to drive on 2 wheels, comfortably, in a large fast car. I guess we’ve all seen 2 wheel driving at some point in time, but have you ever thought about how you’d learn how to do it? You cant really just take your BMW and drive it up a ramp onto 2 wheels…that would be a wee bit nuts. What we actually did was take his BMW and drive it up a ramp onto 2 wheels. Except, this BMW is a little different. It’s what I’ll call Brad-ified. Samuel’s crew chief, Brad, bought a 1989 BMW 318, stripped it naked and got to welding. The car now cunningly sports a 5th wheel by the driver’s window that acts as a stabilizer for the grown-ups doing dumb stuff. It’s actually a genius piece of fab work. He hooked the car to an overhead pulley, tilted the car to it’s balance point and mounted the wheel on a quick release just a few inches past balance.

Off we went to Irwindale Speedway where we had the track to ourselves – one of the perks of being a professional racecar driver –tracks donate themselves to you for practice - NOT fair for the rest of us mere mortals, but GREAT when you get to tag along.

Sam is one of these disgusting drivers that is good at anything involving an accelerator and a wheel. After 5 tries he was balanced and a short while later he was literally driving around the banking (Since I’m a good friend I’m conveniently ignoring the part where he had a brain fart and drove straight into the ramp tearing a tire and sending us off to the middle of nowhere to find a used 14inch tire.)

It was a blast watching it and I couldn’t wait for my turn. The excitement quickly morphed into some form of terror-nerves as soon as I was harnessed in. The 2 foot wide steel ramp somehow now looked to be about 3 inches wide and I had to hit it at 30mph. The theory is this: Drive up the ramp, throw the steering wheel to the right to tip the car, balance. Even though I knew I had the safety wheel it took me easily 10 tries to get it over onto that tire, I cant describe how random it is to be on TWO WHEELS trying essentially to flip the car, no matter what I tried to do, my body refused to believe that it was OK. I did eventually “get it” and it is incredibly fun. I couldn’t steer it yet, but I was definitely driving on 2 wheels and I felt like I was master of the universe for about 9 seconds. I will absolutely be doing it again and am available for 2-wheel driving stunts that don’t require any directional predictability...

Big thanks to Samuel Hubinette, check out his work – www.hubinetteracing.com.

Snow Karting in Cortina

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Disclaimer: I failed epically with the camera on this one, but it wasn’t my fault, I swear. I was doing everything in my power to retain any form of feeling in my fingertips and taking a picture simply wasn’t an option. Europe was in a cold snap and I was being snapped. The 2 artsy pics are mine, the others are from the Snowice website. I just returned from a business trip to Europe. It was one of those great work trips where everything goes right and all the productivity you hope for does indeed happen. The trip required a weekend away from home, so we managed to sneak in a little fun alongside some serious goggle testing on the ski slopes of Cortina D’amprezzo in Northern Italy.

I have an uncanny magnetism to anything “car”.  I can’t help it and it drives my wife insane. However, on this trip, my partner was Brandon, a former professional Supercross rider and someone with a matching affinity to all things internally combusting.  It took all of a minute in the hotel for me to spot the flyer for “Snowice Driving School” and all of another minute to stumble through Italenglish with the purveyor to establish the track's location.

We’d have been there in a heartbeat had the diesel fuel lines not frozen in our AWFUL Lancia (it breaks my heart to see something so unrelated to the epic Lancia Delta Intergale bear the same name).  Eventually we mde it and the gigglefest began.  Unfortunately the rally prepped Mitsubishi Evo 8 on snow tires was a little expensve for my blood, though it looked like a BLAST. However, sitting squarely in my price range were the 150cc race karts running studded snow tires.

I love rear drive vehicles. They beg to move around under power and should you choose to move them around a little too much, you get a slide. Well, “too much” on snow is a very smal poke of the accelerator. This resulted in some of the most fun driving of any vehicle I’ve ever been in. The Karts simply do not steer conventionally on the ice, the front wheels think about turning the kart, but require a healthy dab of power to rotate the rear around. Too much and you are chewing snow from a snow bank, too little and you’re, well, chewing snow from a snow bank. But get the throttle just so, with just the right amount of opposite lock and you find yourself in a glorious slow-mo, Hollywood, snow spitting drift. Neil it even better and you connect that drift to the next corner and become convinced you are a driving God.

Then you probably hit a snowbank again.

I spent my laps laughing hysterically, but sadly was forced to stop far too soon. I simply could not feel my hands or feet any longer. I was steering with my palms and accelerating with my heels, it was just too cold.

It was an incredible morning and I can’t wait to return in slightly milder weather!

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Check out www.snowice.it

Koenigsegg's R&D

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This morning I read on Jalopnik.com that Koenigsegg is deep into researching engines without a cam for their next supercar.  If you find yourself reading this and have little technical interest in cars, hang with me, this is the future of the internal combustion engine as we know it. Previously reserved solely for the playtime of F1 engineers, Cam free engines are undoubtedly in our future.

Tech side note: The cam shaft in an engine is a big metal rod with different sized lumps on it (cam shaped) that spins with the engine. As is spins, the protruding cams move the intake and exhaust valves in a fixed pattern decided by the shape and position of the lobes.  It’s a hunk of metal - it's not exactly fancy.

If the valves could be moved by another method, it could offer up infinite tuning of the intake and exhaust characteristics of the engine, allowing massively better fuel economy and indeed power.

Think of the variability like a dimmer switch in your house. Without it, you have on or off and will use a fixed amount of electricity. Add a dimmer and all of a sudden you have infinite control over your light and energy usage. Not the greatest analogy, but hey, it’s what I’ve got right now.

This current research revolves around hydraulically actuated lifters moving the valves, but I think we should assume valve train efficiency is a heavy research topic in general. As a mechanical Engineer, this truly mechanical solution to achieve greater economy and performance is really exciting. Everyone like to talk electric and how it’s the future, but the internal combustion engine has a LONG way to go. Clean diesel is relatively easy and successful, a couple of years ago BMW did direct injection en-masse and Chevrolet has followed. As turbo charging and smaller displacement engines become all the rage, the stage is set for someone to successfully address the dinosaur cam.

Who’s first to mass production?  My bet is that BMW nail it first, but how fun would it be if someone like Hyundai came out of left field and shocked the industry?

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The Impulse Buy

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This life sure throws some fun things at you every now and then. I was 6 months into looking for a Norton, Ducatti or Guzzi restoration project and jaded from the lost auctions and things being just too damn expensive. My wife suddenly announced one night, "you know, you get all the fun stuff, I want to get an old beater Mercedes sometime, can we do that?"

Somehow I said "hell yeah, let’s do it, start searching". By "somehow", what I actually mean is we were one bottle of 2006 Retzlaff Cabernet Sauvignon down the hatch and feeling good... After Meg checked out 7 horrific Merc’s (seriously, who ever thought beige with brown interior was cool?) and a 300SL that she neglected to notice the 125k price tag on, she suddenly bounced over to me and showed me this car on Ebay ...

 

 

...NOT a Mercedes and I ADORED it. I also had NO idea what it was!!! We all have our knowledge bases and mine is pretty good with cars, but it does not extend to air-cooled VWs . Anyway, it was a good price, good description, killer feedback and reminded me of an old Aston. I was in love with it and after a small bidding war, it was ours.

So, oh boy... better start learning. My normal style is fast – nothing is ever fast enough, stops quick enough or handles tight enough from the factory and I like to sink into the black hole of trying to fix that. However, this car is going to be a little different, for starters it has a grand total of 42hp. As with any old car, it has been “creatively” worked on by the previous owner, but the key things are still there. It’s not had any weird Porsche or Type 1 axle conversions, still has a stock rebuilt motor and most importantly, retains the factory fuel injection. On these cars that is really cool as most owners get tired of working on it, can’t find parts, or want more power, so they move to carbs.

 

The front right caliper was as good as seized. A call to a work buddy at StopTech was my solution. Their parent company is Centric Parts and they have a disturbingly large back catalogue of OEM parts back to the beginning of time. A day later I had new front loaded calipers, discs and hoses and he had the StopTech gang make some slotted discs for fun.

For me, this car is now going to be an exciting project of returning mostly to stock and staying true to the way the car was designed. I’m excited about the challenge and hope I don't set our neighborhood on fire.

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24 Hours Of Lemons

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It’s been over a year since our team competed in the 24 hours of lemons at Buttonwillow raceway, but rarely a day goes by that we don’t mention it at work or are driving somewhere, spot a beater and yell “lemons car?!”.  It is probably one of the greatest events I’ve ever taken part in and I still can’t believe we have not done another one yet – to be remedied this year. There have now been a great number of articles done on the event and a quick Google will tell all.  However, the brief details are thus: find a team of idiots, find a “race car” for under $500, make it a bit safer, pass an inspection where bribes are openly encouraged, race the pants off it and hope it lasts for 24 hours.  In the course of all that there will be beer, boxes of beer, kegs of beer shots of tequila, blood, bribery for parts, all nighters and wives wondering where you are, but best of all there will be epic, hairy chested MAN TIME. We built a racecar, WE ARE MEN!

Our chariot stands before you in all its glory, a 1990 Mazda Miata won on eBay for $361.  Having rested in a junkyard for 14 years, it had housed many animals over its time, but thanks to the climate of Apple Valley, Ca, was remarkably unmolested by rust. Within a few months we had is spitting our rat fur and burning up some old oil.

Actually, we were very almost complete failures as men. On the day we left for the race, the car wouldn’t start. We thought if it didn’t work then, we were done, there would definitely be no point in taking it 5 hours up to Buttonwillow. Luckily, Hutch did something he claims was genius and I am convinced was a complete mistake - the car started to run fine. On arriving at Button the evening before the race, we realized our camp spot neighbors literally did not even have an engine in their car. Over the course of the weekend, they would change their engine twice more. To think we were going quit the event because ours didn’t start…. That was the beginning of the learning! We really had it pretty easy in terms of things going wrong – the worst being that one of the guys left a ball joint loose, resulting in a dangly wheel and basically putting any of us at risk of death.

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The race was incredible. It’s the closest we can ever dream of getting the feeling of multi-million dollar backing. Doing a track day in your own “pride and joy” car is not nearly the same. They will always be driven with some level of trepidation, after all, it’s your car and has important and expensive things like paint and bodywork and good looks – our Miata has none of these features and it makes it incredibly easy to simply accelerate and find out if that gap between 2 cars really is wide enough or not.

We did ok – simply finishing was the greatest feeling ever, but we realized that our 34th out of 110 could have been a LOT better without 8 visits to the penalty box….we still have some learning to do.

24 Hours Of Lemons. I heart you.