The Truth About Cars » formula one The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Jul 2014 15:46:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » formula one Mental’s At The Money Circus: Day One Fri, 01 Nov 2013 15:36:50 +0000 IMG_2638

It would seem that I’m not the only one excited for the Abu Dhabi F1 Race this weekend. Check out Susie Wolff’s Instagram (but NOT AT WORK!!!!!) for a stopover in Dubai… With the big guys at TTAC unable to attend the F1 festivities, it fell onto my weak and thin shoulders to share my experiences at the Abu Dhabi F1 race with you, the B&B.

Here goes.

Thursday is still a work day and I am held until the early afternoon with two of my 6 cohorts for the weekend. So we get to the track at 2:45 by the time we park in our assigned area and catch one of the 100’s of shuttle buses. Roughly 50 flaggers guide us to our spot. They are all are Third Country Nationals, known as TCNs. Getting on the bus, we notice most of the others are exiting. They are all covered in Red Bull Infiniti gear. Bandwagoners.

The Shuttle bus drives around island and 30 minutes agonizing minutes later finally deposits us at security checkpoint. Its segregated security, ladies then males. I am impatient because the pit walk will close at 3:45. Some Australian D-Bag, possibly the first I have ever met, blatantly cuts in front of us. I love Aussies and have several friends, they are all awesome. How did you let this guy through? We clear security but have to walk across the track to the Pit Lane. I’m close but not there, we now have 30 minutes.


We are prepared to spent the weekend paying $10 for water, but they actually are handing it out for free at every corner of the walkway. Despite my compressed schedule, I detour past a Porsche 911 anniversary stand. Mommy, I’m home. After the distraction we press to pit lane. Two more security checkpoints and more scanning of our passes. No one notices my impatient glances at my watch.

At last, we make it to pit lane with 10 minutes to spare. Or did we? My two cohorts clear the last gate and a guard stops me. I am about to go Hulk Smash when he motions that a vehicle is driving down pit road. After it passes I am allowed through. I should probably calm down.

Ferrari puts on a show practicing tire swaps.

Up and down the pit wall, impossibly beautiful women and their perfume mix with the aroma of rubber and carbon fiber. We take it in. On the actual track, I lay flat on my back and feel the heat through my shirts. Others are literally meditating, sitting cross legged on the soft black tarmac. It is certainly a visceral experience.


At the end of the pit lane, we meet up with two others who made it and their new friend Sian (“Sean”). She is a lovely British National. She had to see the race, so she is there with her suitcase fresh from the airport. She is supposed to meet up with friends of friends for a place to crash this weekend, but right now over $10 beers, she is giving us a lesson in F1. She is very devoted.


Before they close the midway at 6, I elect to return to the Porsche display. Walking across the track at 5:30, the 2 safety cars are chasing each other on the track. An AMG Gullwing and AMG 6.3 wagon and I am mesmerized by the sound.

The track closes and we catch the bus back to my truck. We drive the truck to “Stars and Bars, a pub just across the water from the back curves. Unfortunately parking is reserved for the marina customers. We cross the traffic circle; “you can’t park here, but I am going to let you.” Then we catch a smaller shuttle van to the marina. On board we are surrounded by money. But outside, the uber-privileged are transported in Jaguar XJKs and Range Rover courtesy vehicles to their yachts.


In the marina restaurant area, there is a Maserati and 2 Jaguar displays. Our waitress is striking, her name is Alexiandria and she is from the Ukraine. It is still Halloween; so Freddy Krueger, a monkey and Power Ranger sit next to us. Dinner is $30 and we head to the marina. Welcome to the rich and aimless. Victoria Secret model-esque women in black dresses strut past private vessels the size of cruise ships. I question every decision I have ever made.


We walk around to the Viceroy Hotel and through the lobby past 2 McClarens on display to find a bathroom. But my cohorts are nowhere to be found. We make a phone call. John and Nick have crashed Bernie’s private party and are drinking Champagne. We follow them and are shooed away one from balcony to another. I am wearing shorts, Chuck Taylors and an old Porsche t-shirt. Bernie buys me three Heinekens before security takes notice. I should have kept my work clothes. Our cohort Chad sees three security personnel pointing at me. We finish our drinks. Thanks Bernie!

More to follow!

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Push To Pass Out – Nigel Mansell’s 1984 Lotus 95T Comes Up For Auction Thu, 04 Jul 2013 07:51:01 +0000  

Click here to view the embedded video.

One of my favorite Formula One memories is from the inaugural (and only) Dallas Grand Prix, in 1984, involving my favorite team, the Colin Chapman era Lotus (though by 1984 Chapman had already died) and one of my favorite drivers, Nigel Mansell, forever shattering a stereotype of F1 drivers as prima donnas. Now you can own the Lotus 95T that he drove that day. Today’s F1 cars have a Drag Reduction System, DRS, as well as being able to use energy recovered with regenerative braking by the Kinetic Energy Recovery System, KERS. Both allow the driver to push a button and go faster, not entirely unlike IndyCar’s “push to pass” system that momentarily increases engine power. Twenty-nine years ago this week, Mansell had no such technical aids. Instead of push to pass, he pushed, literally, until he passed out.

1984-Lotus-Type-95T Photo: Mecum Auctions

As would be expected at a Texas race in July it was hot, very hot. Air temp at race time was 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40º C). The F1 circuit did not include warm locations like Bahrain and Malaysia then and teams struggled to cope with the heat. So did race organizers. There were concerns that the asphalt of the street course, mostly made up of perpendicular bends that circled the Cotton Bowl stadium, would break up from the heat, stressed by the sticky tires and ground effect suction. Because of the extreme temperatures it was decided to move the start of the race to late morning. Mansell led the first half of the race from the pole in his Lotus 95T but a late pit stop for new tires put him back in fourth place.

800px-Mansell_Lotus_95T_Dallas_1984_F1 Wikimedia Commons Photo

Mansell at speed during the 1984 Dallas Grand Prix in the same JPS Lotus 95T as Mecum is auctioning.

It was a brutal race, with only 2 cars finishing the complete 67 laps. Mansell’s 95T was powered by a twin turbo Renault V6 with approximately 700 HP. The engine’s power combined with what some described as a point-and-squirt course doomed the 5-speed Lotus/Hewland transmission, which finally failed on the finishing straight, within sight of the checkered flag. To salvage some championship points, Mansell, who was two laps down in fifth place having been passed by Jacques Laffite in a Williams-Honda, unbuckled his safety harness, and got out of the car. After racing for two hours in the Texas sun, Nigel took it to 11 and started to push the car by himself to the finish line.

Back in the ’80s, F1 drivers had the reputation, particularly in the States, of being effete, maybe even a bit soft, always complaining about this thing or that. That reputation was vaporized in the few short seconds between the time Mansell got out of the car and when he collapsed, passing out from the effort in the triple digit Dallas heat. Though he was passed by Piercarlo Ghinzani in an Osella-Alfa Romeo for P5, his effort seems to have not been completely in vain as he finished 6th, the last points paying position. I say “seems to” because Mansell would still have been awarded that position even had he retired when the gearbox failed as Corrado Fabi in a Brabham-BMW was even farther behind when the race ended. Not counting Mansell’s Lotus, 18 of the 26 starters DNF’d, spinning, crashing, or from mechanical issues. Keke Rosberg won the race in another Williams-Honda, followed by René Arnoux in a Ferrari in second place and Elio de Angelis, Mansell’s teammate at Lotus, took the final podium spot. If you mention the 1984 Dallas race to most racing fans, though, if they remember it, it’s because of Mansell’s valiant effort just trying to finish the race in position, not Rosberg’s victory.


The Lotus 95T that Mansell put on the pole and so dramatically tried to finish with at Dallas has now come up for sale. Mansell’s 95T will be crossing the block at the Mecum Auctions‘ sale in Monterey, California next month, held in conjunction with the concours events at Pebble Beach. Though not a race winner, the car is historically significant beyond the events in Dallas, primarily because of Mansell’s provenance, but also because it sat on the pole and led races. The 1984 season more or less situated Mansell for a long, successful career in F1, culminating in his 1992 world championship driving for Williams. In addition to winning his first career pole and leading the race at Dallas with this same car, in 1984 he also qualified it on the front row at Monaco, passing Alain Prost for the lead in the rain before spinning out of the race. For the first time, Mansell finished the season’s championship in the top 10 and when Lotus team owner Peter Marr (who had little regard for Mansell’s talent) replaced him with Ayrton Senna, promising that Mansell would never ever win a F1 race, Mansell had offers from both the Arrows and Williams teams, finally signing with Williams, where he became a F1 star, winning 13 races and competing for titles. After a stint with Ferrari in 1989 and 1990, the last Ferrari F1 driver to be picked by Enzo Ferrari, he returned to Williams where he had even greater success than before. Winning the F1 championship in 1992, he retired from F1 and moved to CART, winning five races and the 1993 championship in his “rookie” year, holding both the F1 and CART championships at the same time, the only driver to do so. Mansell would never again reach the same level of success, but for a couple of years you could argue that he was the best race car driver in the world and he’s probably one of the best ever, certainly one of the best in F1. Not quite fulfilling Marr’s prophecy, Mansell ended up winning 31 grands prix, the most by any British driver including Sirs Moss and Stewart. Only Michael Schumacher, Prost, Senna, and now wunderkind Sebastian Vettel have won more F1 races than Mansell.

After an unsuccessful 1994 CART season marked by an acrimonious relationship with Newman/Haas teammate Mario Andretti, Mansell returned to F1 to briefly race for Williams a third time after Ayrton Senna’s death, replacing young David Coulthard for the last three races of the ’94 F1 season, winning at Australia, his last F1 win. Teammate issues would follow Mansell throughout his career. At Lotus in 1983, Peter Marr gave de Angelis the Renault turbo engine for 9 races before fitting it to Mansell’s car. Mansell also had teammate issues with Alain Prost at Ferrari, feeling relegated to the #2 driving position, and with Nelson Piquet during his first ride at Williams. The relationship with Piquet was probably the worst, having been fierce rivals before being teammates. Piquet publicly disparaged not only Mansell, but also Mrs. Mansell, Roseanne. When Keke Rosberg and Mansell were teammates, though, they had a good personal and working relationship. His relationship with Frank Williams also had its ups and downs. When he won his championship with Williams, according to Wikipedia, his contract with the team gave him “undisputed number one status, guarantees of support in a wide variety of areas with each guarantee in writing, and assurances from suppliers such as Renault and Elf that they would do everything necessary to help him win.” Mansell’s first retirement from F1 and move to CART was reportedly provoked by his feeling that Williams had reneged on promises made.

Following the 1994 season, Williams went with David Coulthard, passing on Mansell’s contract option. Mansell moved to McLaren, but the car had handling problems and he retired from F1 for good only two races into the 1995 season. Competing in only five races, his return to F1 was really only a postscript to what was a fairly illustrious career. In addition to his CART and F1 titles, Mansell was F1 runner-up three times, on the podium another 28 times in addition to his 31 wins, and he took the pole position 32 times in F1, including 14 times in his championship season, winning nine of those races. Whatever his teammates and team owners may have thought of him as a man, Mansell had chops as a driver.

The Lotus 95T for sale is one of four of that model race car that Lotus constructed for the 1984 season. Finished, as it raced, in the distinctive and beautiful gold over black livery of team sponsors John Player Special cigarettes, the 95T has been fully restored, with modern electronics added, making it suitable for vintage F1 events and other public displays. Just don’t try to push it across the finish line.


Mecum auction catalog description follows:

This 1984 Lotus Type T95 John Player Special is one of 4 such cars built by Lotus for the 1984 Formula 1 season. Designed by Frenchman Gérard Ducarouge, the 95T helped re-establish Lotus as a Formula 1 contender. The first newly designed Lotus F1 chassis since the 1981 88, the 95T was the third generation F1 Lotus to employ Renault’s supremely powerful V-6 engine using twin KKK turbochargers and a Lotus/Hewland FGB 5-speed manual transmission. It also took full advantage of contemporary construction techniques and ground effects design, using a one-piece Kevlar upper body over a carbon fiber monocoque and ground effects undertray. Suspension followed common contemporary F1 practice with double wishbone control arms, pull-rod operated inboard coil springs and shock absorbers and front and rear anti-roll bars.

A compact and carefully packaged design, the 95T was 166 inches in overall length, 84.5 inches wide and just 39.5 inches high. Riding on a 105-inch wheelbase and weighing in at just 1,188 lbs, the 95T was capable of over 210 MPH, with 1,100 HP on tap for qualifying and approximately 700 in race trim from the 1,492 cc V-6. Resplendent in its Gold-on-Black John Player Special livery, the 95T was the first regular Team Lotus ride for future World Champion Nigel Mansell, who answered the faith placed in him by his late mentor, Lotus founder Colin Chapman, by qualifying second at the Monaco Grand Prix, taking the pole at the Dallas GP and finishing in the top ten driver standings for the first time in his career. The 95T thus helped establish Mansell’s stature in F1; today he still rates fifth in all time Formula 1 career Grand Prix wins with 31.

This historically significant Turbo-era Grand Prix Lotus is no trailer queen. Renowned engineer Dean Sellards was retained to restore the car’s twin-turbocharged Renault V-6 engine to top tune, and the car has been upgraded to accept a starter jack and the electronics set up to run off a laptop computer, making it perfectly suitable for vintage F1 parade laps and events such as the Goodwood Festival of Speed.


- Formula 1 Team Lotus Type T95 John Player Special
- Lotus’ third generation turbocharged F1 contender
- 1 of 4 cars built with this designation
- Driven by Nigel Mansell in the 1984 F1 season
- First career Pole Position at the 1984 Dallas Grand Prix
- Second on Pole Position at the 1984 Monaco Grand Prix
- One piece Kevlar top body with carbon fiber undertray
- Renault EF1 Turbo 1492cc V-6 engine rated at 700 HP
- Engine restoration by renown engineer Dean Sellards
- Twin KKK turbochargers, Lotus/Hewland FGB transmission
- Front and rear 11 inch outboard disc brakes
- 166″ length, 84 1/2″ width, 39 1/2″ height
- 105 1/2″ wheelbase, weighs 1,188 pounds
- Double wishbone front suspension and steel rocker rear suspension to pull-rod operated inboard coil springs/dampers with front and rear anti-roll bar
- Goodyear Eagle radial tires, sold on Bill of Sale
- Rebuilt to accept a starter jack and electronics are setup to run off a laptop
- Nigel Mansell’s first factory car with Team Lotus
- Mansell is currently fifth in all time Formula 1 career Grand Prix wins with 31

Note: Yes, I copied and pasted what is essentially a press release from an auction company, something one of our readers objected to in my post about the Lambrecht Chevys. In researching certain cars I’ve found that the catalog descriptions provided by many of the large car auction houses are outstanding resources for information on that particular car, model or car company. Yes, they’re trying to sell something, but in my opinion, catalog descriptions from companies like RM and Mecum are professionally written and generally reliable (though the point about the 95T being Mansell’s first factory car with Team Lotus is a bit of a stretch – 1984 was the first year that Mansell had a full season ride in a Lotus car that was the equal of his teammate’s car).

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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McLaren, Powered By Honda Thu, 16 May 2013 14:02:19 +0000 Picture courtesy

Thursday-afternoon press  conferences at Mitsubishi and Nissan remained mostly deserted  as the Fourth Estate congregated at Honda to hear the not so secret news that Honda will return to F1. I didn’t go because I thought we don’t cover F1. When I remembered that we now do, it was too late. Did I mention that running around Tokyo covering the auto beat is a world of tough decisions?

Honda had exited the sport in 2009 after what the BBC calls “years of poor results with its own team.” Of course, the global meltdown had something to do with it also. Honda will be back as an engine supplier to the McLaren team, or, as its statement says, “Honda will be in charge of the development, manufacture and supply of the power unit, including the engine and energy recovery system, while McLaren will be in charge of the development and manufacture of the chassis, as well as the management of the new team, McLaren Honda.”

Formula One will introduce a blown 1.6 liter V6 engine with energy recovery systems, a move that fits into carmakers’ plans of disengaging from 8 cylinder engines.

With Nissan drinking Red Bull and Honda powering McLaren, all eyes are on Toyota. There are off and on rumors that they might be back as Lexus, but nothing official yet.

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F1 Report: Hamilton can’t drive any slower, Alonso can’t go any faster. Mon, 13 May 2013 17:06:29 +0000 Forza Alonso. Picture courtesy BBC UK

Some of TTAC’s readers have made it absolutely clear that they cannot abide it when I pick on Red Bull’s Mark Webber. So let’s say something nice about the man: he made up for his usual an unexpectedly poor start to finish in fifth place, just behind his teammate, Sebastian Vettel. If you’re a Mark Webber fan, now would be a good time to feel good about the whole thing and look forward to the next race.

Everybody else should click the jump.

In a pre-race interview with NBC Sports’ Will Buxton, the Wobbler summed up the conventional thinking in quite woeful fashion, complaining that in 2013 it was all about the tires and that nobody could race hard any more, and so on, and what are you going to go, and isn’t it a shame. This line was duly parroted by the commentary crew: this race will be won by conserving tires. It was suggested that Kimi Raikkonen might be a good bet to win this one, since the Lotus is uniquely (some say suspiciously) easy on tires. The Mercedes Silver Arrows were expected to fade early in the race due to camber control issues in the rear.

Another expectation: that Fernando Alonso would make another one of his excellent starts to improve his position from fifth. When the lights went out, he met expectations and then some by driving around the outside of Hamilton in Turn Three and challenging Vettel before settling for third. It was then time to conserve tires. Vettel’s crew reminded him that “only the last five laps matter.” Hamilton tumbled down through the order, unable to keep rubber under the car at any pace. At one point, the Hundred Million Dollar man responded to corrections from the pit wall by moaning, “I can’t drive any slower.” He would finish the day out of the points in twelfth, while his dour teammate Nico Rosberg, who is perfectly used to driving slowly, managed to conserve a sixth out of it.

Alonso, meanwhile, had surged to an early lead and continued to increase it. The math was plain to see: it takes twenty-five seconds or so for a pit stop at Barcelona. Therefore, if you can get a second and a half extra out of the car per lap for sixteen or seventeen laps, it’s worth taking an extra stop. Kimi, meanwhile, was on the other side of that math, trying to run a three-stop strategy and keep the time loss from a more conservative pace below what he’d lose by pitting a fourth time.

In hindsight, it’s plain that Alonso was never really in danger of doing anything other than winning. His start was about perfect, his pace was blinding, and he was completely mistake-free. It was one of those rare occasions where the truth unfolds along the lines of fiction: the man actually ran along the fence before the race, touching hands with the thousands of fans who had come to see him and him alone. He delivered touching comments beforehand about wanting to make sure the fans got their money’s worth in what is currently a difficult economic time for Spaniards. It was almost too good to be true. Given the way the FIA operates, maybe it was too good to be true. Unless Nelson Piquet Jr. has some information he’d like to share after the fact, we’ll probably never know.

What else is there to cover? Oh yes, McLaren is in a very deep hole right now and it came as no surprise that they were beaten by Paul DiResta in his Force India. With the imminent retirement of the Wobbler to DTM, NASCAR, prototype-into-treeline gymastics, or whatevs, the battle between the teammates at Scuderia Toro Rosso all of a sudden starts to look fairly relevant to the future. There are rumors of financial problems at Lotus (are there ever not?) which means that Kimi’s astounding consistency, pace, and development work could be undone by lack of cash to improve the car. There are Kimi-to-Red-Bull rumors but it seems unlikely that Mr. Vettel would permit that to happen. He’s probably the only person in the world who is genuinely satisfied with Webber’s performance these past three and a half years.

All of that belongs to the future. The present, this day, belonged completely and rightfully to Fernando Alonso. Even if you hate Ferrari or don’t care for the wide-jawed Spanish driver himself, this was a wonderful and perfect day, from start to finish.

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If You Waste Your Time Watching Just One Video Today, Let It Be This One Wed, 20 Mar 2013 19:46:48 +0000

This has been done before — most notably by Top Gear in the Stewart-Ford days — but this time it’s live, and real, and fantastic.

Part of the greatness of this video is that you can clearly see the difference in cornering speed between the AMG SL and the Aussie Supercar. After all, they have similar power, with the street car probably having a bit of an edge through most of the rev range. But real race tires, a proper cage for stiffness, and brutal alignment settings make a BIG difference.

Meanwhile, Coulthard simply destroys the sedans. Surely he wishes he could be driving alongside Seb Vettel in this year’s RB. It’s tempting to suggest that he really wouldn’t do any worse than Mark Webber and might in fact be more amenable to the idea of helping Red Bull defend the fourth driver title for the young German superstar. As it is, however, given the fact that the car can’t be full race-spec, can’t be optimized for Coulthard, and can’t have had enough time in his hands for him to be fully comfortable with it, it’s reasonable to assume that the Red Bull, unlike the other two cars, probably left five seconds on the table.

Or more.

This year, I’ll be writing about F1 for TTAC on a semi-regular basis. If you want me to cover anything specific, let me know in the comments. Thanks!

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The Start Wed, 27 Feb 2013 15:19:03 +0000

There is a majesty in Formula One that is rarely found elsewhere. This six-minute film documents that majesty in completely convincing, and satisfying, fashion.

The 2013 season promises to be enjoyable; Red Bull looks vulnerable and the move of Lewis Hamilton to Mercedes should be very amusing both for fans of close-run racing and those of us who look forward to seeing what Mr. Hamilton can accomplish without McLaren’s competence to back him. I’ll be cheering for Fernando Alonso to match Senna’s three WDCs myself!

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“Greener” Formula One Made To Measure For Toyota Wed, 05 Dec 2012 12:24:33 +0000

Toyota dropped out of Formula One in 2009, and said it won’t come back, claiming that the sports is “too elistist” and out of touch with Toyota’s customers. Now, the company is dropping hints that the door is not closed forever. Asked by The Nikkei [sub] whether Toyota might come back to the sport, Toyota Managing Officer Kiyotaka Ise was much less dismissive than in the past:

“ First, we’ll need to raise the profile of our hybrid vehicles through the WEC races and accumulate more technological expertise. Next year, we want to win the WEC’s Le Mans 24-hour race in France. We’re preparing for that now.”

Toyota won three out of eight races at this year’s World Endurance Championship. Its hybrid-race car uses a capacitor that can quickly charge and discharge electricity, which is created when the driver hits the brakes. The stored power helps accelerate the car when the driver turns around corners.

This sounds like the perfect system for 2014, when Formula One increases the capacity for Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS) from 60kw to 120kw, while fuel consumption is restricted. That “greener” Formula One appears to be made to measure for hybrid-heavy Toyota. Said Ise::

We withdrew from Formula 1 races in 2009 and needed to clearly define ourselves when it came to motor sports again. And we have zeroed in on hybrid vehicles.”

So does Formula One.

In addition to its WEC engagement, Toyota plans races with its hachi-roku, and possibly “a similar event for our luxury Lexus line.,” Ise said.

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Adrian Sutil Is No Sergei Rachmaninoff… Music and Driving Sun, 31 Oct 2010 18:27:01 +0000

After this week’s article on Sergei Rachmaninoff and his connection to the world of automobiles, I thought it might make sense to look around to find other interesting music/auto combos. I ended up constructing a mental two-axis graph in my head, where X was musical ability and Y is driving talent. Some people, like Damon Hill, are close to the left side of X and pretty far up on Y; others, like noted collector and Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, are the reverse. I think of myself as being more than halfway up Y but less than halfway along X; you can decide for yourself where the autojourno group Exhaust Tones would place.

Since this is a car blog and not MOJO magazine, however, we’ll focus on the best driver we can find with musical cred, and that is… Force India stalwart Adrian Sutil.

Sutil’s parents were professional musicians and he pursued the concert piano path until his fourteenth birthday or thereabouts. I have not been able to find any recordings of him playing “proper” music; in all the available YouTube and other vids, he’s goofing off in one manner or another. It’s clear, however, that he can operate a keyboard with reasonable facility.

As a driver, Adrian is perhaps a bit too cautious and methodical; just what you would expect from a child prodigy piano player. This season is his best yet and he’s made short work of his teammate, ol’ V. Liuzzi. Liuzzi personifies that old joke, “He’s the driver of the future… and he always will be.” He’s unlikely to ever sit atop the Formula One world, but make no mistake: just to get an F1 test drive requires talent, discipline, and development of almost unimaginable proportions, and Sutil’s well beyond test-driver status.

It’s reasonable that talented musicians would do well driving, and vice versa; they are both fine-motor activities which require a solid sense of timing and the ability to pick up subtle cues from the surrounding environment. There’s courage required for both, I suppose; I am far more nervous playing a small gig at a restaurant or bar than I am when racing. Unless you’re a recreational autocrosser or solo performer, chances are that you are part of a team in both activities, and your interactions with that team will determine how you fare. Imagine what the Beatles could have given the world if they’d been able to put up with each other for another decade; imagine what Fernando Alonso could have accomplished with McLaren had he not felt slighted in favor of the local boy.

It goes without saying that both musicians and drivers can be difficult, to put it mildly, and that both are prone to self-destructive behavior (Kurt Cobain, meet James Hunt). Still, there’s solid money to be made, and respect to be earned, if you show up every day and do your best for a long time (Pat Metheny, meet Mark Martin).

If I had the chance to have truly world-class talent in either activity, I think I’d pick driving. As wonderful as it is to stand in front of a crowd and play great music, there’s something majestic about winning a race that soars beyond any mere entertainment. Perhaps it’s competition, perhaps it’s mortality. Your mileage may vary.

The real question is this, however: What does it mean when you have three Godin Synth Access guitars (two LGX-SAs and an LGXT) but can’t afford to put new back tires on your Porsche? I’d better come up with a few more decent article ideas, pronto:

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NASCAR Tech: It’s A Lot More Than You Think Thu, 05 Aug 2010 15:43:11 +0000

I’ve heard a lot of derisive comments about NASCAR lately on this site, many of them from people — my fellow racers and fast-road drivers — who should know better. While it’s true that the common template is a disgrace, the idea that NASCAR is a low-tech ghetto compared to the oh-so-modern sports-car series like the ALMS is, to put it mildly, false. There’s a reason that the abortive USF1 team wanted to locate near the NASCAR guys. It’s where the tech is. Click the jump to find out why racing NASCAR takes more brainpower than any Touring Car or prototype series out there…

Let’s start with engines. NASCAR just runs old small-block Chevys with carbs, right? Not so simple. Let’s compare F1 engines to NASCAR engines using Brake Mean Effective Pressure (BMEP) and Mean Piston Speed (MPS). These are measurements of how hard and fast an engine runs. Surely the F1 engine runs at pressures and piston speeds that are FAR beyond those of NASCAR, right?

According to Race Engine Technology, The BMEP of the Formula One engine at peak torque (table line 13) is 15.17 bar while the Cup engine produces a peak torque BMEP of 15.12 bar (0.3 % less). At peak power, the Formula One BMEP value (table line 22) is 14.6 bar while the Cup figure is 14.0 bar (4.1% less). As far as piston speed,

Even more revealing, at peak power RPM (table line 19) the Formula One engine MPS is 25.5 m/s (5025 ft/min), while that of the Cup engine is less than 3% lower at 24.8 m/s (4875 ft/min). At redline, the Formula One MPS is 26.5 m/sec, while the Cup MPS is a stunning 27.5 m/sec. To put those numbers in perspective, Professor Gordon Blair wrote (Race Engine Technology, issue 27) that 26.5 m/sec was the highest he had seen.

How’d those stupid hicks get their pistons to move faster than the mighty engine builders of Formula One? Note that some street cars reach into the same piston-speed zone, but they are incapable of operating under those BMEPs for very long. F1 engines run with much greater friction to create those piston speeds because their crankshafts run faster… but NASCAR engines have a much longer stroke, thus imposing a much greater acceleration load on the parts.

Now let’s talk aero. With millions of dollars at stake, aerodynamic improvements are critical. ALMS designers can draw almost anything they want, because the rules are loose. F1 presents a much stronger challenge, which is why Nick Wirth’s CFD approach was so dominating with the LC75-based Acura ARX but has struggled to keep Virgin Racing from the bottom of the field. The limits to what you can “draw” in F1 are considerable, and any bright ideas don’t last too long, as was shown with the F-duct and flexible front wing that arrived this year and were promptly written out of next year’s rulebook.

NASCAR teams have an even tougher job. They are limited to a common template, so they can’t change the aero at all. Right? If that’s the case, then why is the Holy Grail of aerodynamic testing — the “coastdown tunnel” — rumored to exist right now, in the hands of Chip Ganassi? The answer is that NASCAR teams work at a level of aerodynamics unknown outside the world of military aviation: surface composition aero. A NASCAR Car of Tomorrow is a matrix of multiple surfaces, some smooth, some rough, all designed to manage the airflow at the near-molecular level. Jimmie Johnson’s remarkable pace last year? All the product of rough-surface aero development.

We could go on and talk about the massive effort put into the “little things” of racing — from the kind of brake compounds required to slow a NASCAR-sized sedan from 195+mph to the astoundingly complex calculations of shock absorber valving required to keep a car that big from becoming murderously loose on a bumpy superspeedway — but I hope I’ve encouraged at least some of you to go take a look at what actually happens in NASCAR. It may not be Formula One, but it’s not ALMS P2 either.

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