Could Vettel have been Sandbagging?

Watching Sebastian Vettel last season was watching someone who just didn’t like racing any more.  There was no enthusiasm from the four-time winner.  He complained about the sound of the power units ( I didn’t like them either) and said that he felt the car was just not right.

Meanwhile Daniel Ricardo was driving the Red Bull car and having a blast.  He would grab a podium at every opportunity while Vettel would have a lackluster race that quite often ended early for him with some kind of failure.

Formula One World Championship 

Then the word is out that Sebastian is moving to Ferrari while Alonso moves to McLaren providing Vettel with his seat. 

Tongues were wagging about Vettel being quickly past his prime since he couldn’t seem to cope with the new formula.  Was it that he could only win when his car had a blown diffuser and a mighty V8? 

With the Australian GP opener for this year’s F1 season Vettel  came in third and by the next race he qualified second and finished first!

Was last year’s poor performance an act so that RB would not hold him to his contract?  So he could slip over to Ferrari who couldn’t seem to put together a competitive ride for Kimi or Alonso? 

Suddenly Sebastian is making the new Ferrari fly and is joking with the Mercedes team.

It sure looks like a case of sandbagging to this viewer.

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Formula 1 for 2015–what???

Formula 1 is never without controversy, but this past weekend leads one to wonder – what’s the point?

I can understand that Mercedes is enjoying being top dog.  Who wouldn’t?  But to dominate to such a degree and block all other teams from enhancing their power units is not providing a racing environment.  It is stifling competition.

F1 rules are monumental in their detail and it is difficult to get a view of if you are not directly involved as a competing team.  There exists a bizarre points and chit system whereby teams can spend them to make certain upgrades to their power units.  When teams asked for the ability to make additional modifications and fixes that would allow them to be competitive with the Mercedes power units, Mercedes vetoed the request.  Yes, the way the rules are, a single team has veto power.

So it has gotten unbelievably expensive to fund a complete team in F1 and last Sunday’s race in Australia showed just what has happened as a result.  Only 11 cars completed the race and only 17 actually can be considered to have even participated.  It was pitiful to see that the third place car was over 30 seconds behind the Mercedes winners.  Not even in Vetel’s dominance with Red Bull were there gaps like that.

And Lewis Hamilton’s hair.

lewis hamilton hair

Sheesh, he is starting to look like Grace Jones…


Oh well, to each his own.

Teams are losing interest in F1 almost as fast as the fans, which is an incredible shame.  Its questionable that the “power unit” formula is really appropriate to what should be the premier automotive racing category on earth.

I’m not totally sold on the argument that tight rules restricting F1 car design is really cost saving at all.  From what I’ve seen the more an area of engineering is limited the more money is spent to maximize return within the allowable box.

Bernie Ecclestone needs to get his head wrapped around reality quickly or competitors just might stay at home.  For the moment it would be a more interesting competition if the race was just between the two Mercedes drivers.

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The North American International Auto Show 2015

It was electric.  There I said it.  The E word.  My trip to Detroit’s NAIAS was electric in many ways.  Detroit has come forward with a recovery that shows itself clearly at NAIAS.  Just traveling from the airport to the COBO where it is being held I could tell that the driver was feeling good about his city and what the future might hold.  At the show itself, where over $600 million dollars had been invested I talked to the workers doing their jobs amongst the glitter and lights.  Their attitude was very positive and their perspectives were of the future and their expectations of a bright one.

But the main way this show was electric were the cars themselves.  It looked like every manufacturer had an electric car to showcase.  Walking into the exhibition hall I was immediately confronted with the concept of electric cars.






Yes, even Porsche.


Seeing a Prius at the Toyota stage area was not a surprise.  But here was a hydrogen powered drivetrain…




Chevy showed its Bolt electric vehicle which they claim will provide 200 miles of driving before requiring a recharge.  If so, it will really shake up the industry.



VW’s E car subtly incorporated the letter E into the side of its tail light.

How about a vehicle of the future from the folks at Toyota?


Interesting and while a stretch it is more plausible than a flying car.



The Chevy Volt with more improvements for 2015.



Mazda had a couple examples of the new Miata MX-5.  One in left hand drive and one in right.



A big part of getting fuel economy out of today’s cars is aerodynamics and here is a good shot of the underside of a car where things have been smoothed out as much as possible…



The car companies are going for the revenue in aftermarket parts and accessories.  ford is even offering more aggressive tuning of the ECUs of some of their cars.

Car shows are the place where you expect to see some really amazing concept cars as well as the unveiling of new hot vehicles and NAICS was no exception.



The Mini concept car above shows the BMW influence.  I love the windshield treatment.

Maserati had their car to celebrate a century of their brand.  It was stunning.



I wasn’t sure how Buick feels about the portholes used on Maserati.


Speaking of Buick, they had their own stunner in this long wheelbase sedan that would be a real hit in the China market.




Here is the replacement for the NSX.  Another stunning vehicle that is a hybrid sports car.




Mercedes has their own concept car.  Interesting ideas…



Honda showed off their product line of cars and much more.


Honda’s Indy series winner:


As well as its F1 history…



Honda will be reentering F1 and teaming with McLaren Racing.  This is the engine they use in the Indy Series…


We know of Honda in lawnmowers and motorcycles…


…but now they are ready to introduce their jet!



The most stunning of the new cars debuting were the Ford cars…

…but before we get there let’s whet your appetite with a few Ford historical legends.




the Ford GT40 above…


The Ford GT street car from just a few years back…

…and now…


The NEW Ford GT.




On top of that there is the Shelby Mustang with magnificent handling and 600+ horsepower.


Ford also has their aluminum F-150.


Dodge has its Eco Turbo Ram truck…



Nissan broke a 12 year rut and has come out with a new full-size pickup truck with a Cummins diesel engine.


Take a look at the underpinnings…



Its time to look at the various race cars that were on display…


Not quite sure what I was supposed to take away with this race truck from Toyota.


Not to loan them my truck?  Not to be a passenger?  Tough truck though.




Toyota is in so many forms of racing.

This is a Lexus that while billed as a concept racer is highly likely to be seen in competition.




These vintage race cars from Alfa Romero were eye catchers to introduce their new sports car…



which looks suspiciously like a Lotus.



Hyundai does their share of racing…



And the new Corvette in racing trim…









Formula E


Red Bull


As a special treat the Autoweek editorial staff gave a group of us Autoweek Advisors a walking tour of the show.

There is nothing quite like having all their car knowledge on tap and being receptive to your questions.






This show continues in Detroit through January 25.  It is an amazing show that is well worth a trip.  The venue is fantastic and the displays are outstanding.  The talent that helps to display the cars also know all the technical details.  A big part of their job is to listen to the attendees and gather the comments and information for input back to the automobile companies.


Its not just the car companies that make up the NAICS, there are the key suppliers and vendors.


Much of the thanks for the success of NAICS should go to the people of Detroit that have shaken off the down side of the economy and are coming back with all their heart and soul.

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Coming Soon–North American International Auto Show

Flying out to Detroit soon…

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2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 110,000 times in 2014. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 5 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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PRI 2014–the People

Yes, its all about racing and parts and cars, but there are plenty of things about the PEOPLE at the PRI show as well.  Sometimes its just the unbelievable number of people at the show:


As you walk along you will come across some people that you see in the industry like Tony Stewart:



You continue around the exposition hall and see a familiar face from Overhaulin’.


Why its Cherielynn Westrich!

Of course you don’t have to be a celebrity to be noticed.  There are always the people having the time of their lives, like this lady at an Iracing simulator that Indy had set up.



Keeping on the correct line is tough, but heck, these simulators sure are fun!

Then there was the Racemaker Press booth.  This company out of Boston, MA, produces books on cars and racing.  There was Jim McGee signing copies of the book about his career as a crew chief.


Sitting next to him was the author, Gordon Kirby.


It was great to be able to get a copy of his book as well as have a chance to chat with Jim. 

The quality of the printing of Racemaker Press is exceptional.  Having been in the printing business myself, I am impressed with the quality.

One of the high spots was when I came across the Isky Cam booth.


Isky has a long name in the world of racing as Ed Iskenderian not only became a legend in cam design, but he was instrumental in the formation of what is now known as SEMA, the entity that owns PRI.  He was at the booth and he and Don were nice enough to let me take their photo together.


PRI is a great show and one where you will always make new contacts and friends as well as run into some pretty special people.

Posted in Automobiles, Car Shows, Car Stuff, Cars, Life and Cars, Modifying Cars, Racing, Road Trips | Tagged | 2 Comments

PRI 2014–Some Gems

Here is where I open myself up to more criticism than usual. As I’ve wandered the exhibition floors and hallways I have come across booths where there are things that catch my eye and impress me.  They may not be big names today, and maybe never will, but I think that they are interesting and just might be a big deal some day.



If you have a product that catches Jay Leno’s attention in a good way then you have probably got a good thing going.  Archhoil solved a problem that Jay was having with the lubrication of one of his steam cars.  It uses nano technology which means that its components are incredibly small.  We are talking beyond micron small.  So that constituents such as borate, boron nitrate, and other components that would normally be abrasive are made so small that they become a beneficial additive to oil.  Please don’t call it snake oil.

Race Shoes

OK, maybe this isn’t really in the gem category, but it certainly is in the gee-whiz category.  I dropped by the Sube Sports booth and Chad DiMarco, the president, showed me a pair of shoes that are what the top F1 drivers are using.  They weigh, get this, 8 grams.  For those of you that don’t know, there are 28 grams in an once.  These are incredibly light.




It was hard to believe until I picked them up myself.  So why does this make a difference?  Like unsprung weight carried by a suspension, light weight means quicker movement and less inertia to over come.  Plus, less weight in an F1 driver’s foot means another component can be a little heavier and stronger. Amazing.



DOCOL is a high strength steel tubing with many advantages over even chrome moly tubing, which used to be the “gold standard” of roll cage material.  DOCOL is stronger, and can be just as safe in thinner wall configurations than standard steel tubing.  It welds better and is of far more consistent thickness.  While it is making inroads in the drag racing arena, it still has to overcome the resistance to change in other racing organizations.  While chrome moly tubing is lighter than standard seamless steel tubing, it also requires heat treatment post welding in order to stress relieve the welds.  This step is not required nor necessary with DOCOL.  When subjected to stress such as compression at the welds it doesn’t crack like chrome moly.  This is the future folks.



Do we need another octane booster? This product started out in order to fill a need in high speed motorboat racing.  Its safe for catalytic converters and contains no alcohols.  A quart in 30 gallons provides 95 octane level, and 5:1 ratio provides 110 octane.  Wow.

So who needs this?  Obviously racers and maybe some folks west of the Mississippi that cannot get 93 octane gasoline at the pump, but so do countries like China.  Their demands for gasoline have meant that they have gone from adequate gasoline to poor and so there is a high demand for this product over there.  A container load at a time in fact.


Zenos Cars

What the heck is a Zenos and what do I want one for.  It’s a track car.  Maybe this is what we need now.  Developed in the UK and with left-hand drive versions being made for our market it could be a cheap, high performance track car, that in some states, you could license for the road and drive to the track.


This prototype is right-hand drive but shows off many of the features such as fenders that will act as sacrificial body panels if damaged and be simple to replace.


Still in development, but promising.

Royalton Polishing Co.

I sat next to John Causevic at breakfast and discovered the kind of guy that every restorer is looking for.  He not only polishes components for restorers and custom show cars, but he restores stainless steel and other trim pieces for classic cars.  The kind of damaged trim pieces that appear hopeless he looks at and unbends them, restores them to the factory profile and polishes them to better than new condition.


John’s style says a lot to his work ethic, too.  When a piece is sent to him to be restored or to be polished he treats it as his own.  He even explains to the customer that when they send it to him he now becomes the owner and when he is done he then gives it to them.  What he means is that he treats the piece as if it was his.  He actually takes on the attitude that as it was his own property he will do the finest job possible, better than if he was just doing something to someone else’s property.  He takes ownership.

You can find this amazing craftsman at 11110 Don Mar Road, North Royalton, OH 44133.  Or give him a call at 440-237-1533.

That’s it from my explorations.  There are probably more gems out there.

Posted in Automobiles, Car Shows, Car Stuff, Cars, Life and Cars, Modifying Cars, Racing, Road Trips | Tagged | 1 Comment