Friday, April 21, 2017

World Endurance Championship Results at Silverstone, Easter Weekend, 2017

After six hours of racing in the FIA World Endurance Championship season-opener on the challenging British Grand Prix circuit, the trio of Earl Bamber (NZ)/Timo Bernhard (DE)/Brendon Hartley (NZ) crossed the finish line just 6.173 seconds behind the winning Toyota of Sébastien Buemi (CH)/Anthony Davidson (GB)/Kazuki Nakajima (JP). Buemi had clawed in Hartley in a breath taking final stint with only seven laps to go. The second Porsche 919 Hybrid of reigning world champion Neel Jani (CH), André Lotterer (DE) and Nick Tandy (GB) finished third.
The first race of the 2017 WEC was accompanied by typical cool and changeable British weather with rather low ambient and track temperatures of around 11 degrees Celsius and occasional light rain. However, this did not hamper the atmosphere with 50,200 fans attending over the weekend. The Porsche LMP Team – Le Mans winner and world champion in 2015 as well as in 2016 – leads the manufacturers’ classification after the first of nine championship rounds on 33 points with Toyota second (26.5). In the drivers’ standings, the Porsche crews are currently second and third.
How the race went for car number 1:
Jani starts three on the 27-car grid but slips behind the sister car in the first part of the opening lap. He pits after 28 laps for fuel only and continues in P4. At the second regular pit stop (fuel and tyres) after 57 laps, Tandy takes over and resumes in P4. He is up to third on lap 64 ahead of Toyota #7 which appears to have an issue. After 86 laps, Tandy comes in for fuel only and afterwards attacks the #8 Toyota. When rain sets in, Tandy stops again only three laps later (after 89 laps) and takes intermediate tyres. Having completed 98 laps, Tandy hands over to Lotterer who continues on slicks in P3 behind the leading #8 Toyota and the #2 sister Porsche. On lap 117, the #7 Toyota crashes causing a safety car period that Lotterer uses for refuelling. With 141 race laps completed, the tyre performance has dropped significantly and the team decide to stop early and let Tandy take over again. At his final stop for fuel after 171 laps, the Brit only changes the two left hand tyres – used ones from qualifying and comes home third.
How the race went for car number 2:
Hartley moves up from his fourth place start to third in the opening corners on the first lap. At the end of lap 29 he refuels and resumes in P3, consistently matching the Toyota lap times. After 59 laps, Hartley hands over to Bernhard, the German rejoining second and now ahead of Toyota #7. After 87 laps, Bernhard initially comes in for fuel only but on short notice, has intermediate tyres fitted. He rejoins the race in P2. Bamber jumps into the car 99 laps into the race, the car now on slicks again and continues in P2. During the safety car period triggered by the #7 Toyota crash, Bamber comes in for refuelling after 117 laps. On 149 laps, Hartley takes over again to chase the leading Toyota. When Hartley pits for his final refuelling after 178 laps, he leads the race by almost one minute. This and a perfect service from the pit crew enables the Kiwi to rejoin with a lead of eight seconds. It is still half an hour before the chequered flag and the Toyota not only benefits from better aerodynamics due to the high downforce configuration but also is on fresher tyres. On lap 190 of 197, and in light drizzle, Buemi squeezes himself through on the inside of Hartley’s car to take the race win.
919 Hybrid, WEC, Silverstone, 2017, Porsche AG

The new 919 Hybrid in Silverstone

How the race went for the GTE classes
At the Silverstone six-hour race, the new Porsche 911 RSR started its maiden season in the Sports Car World Endurance Championship WEC with a podium result. Richard Lietz (Austria) and Frédéric Makowiecki (France) planted the 911 RSR with the starting number 91 on the third grid spot in the GTE-Pro class on Easter Sunday in front of more than 50,000 spectators. With four automobile manufacturers, this category is the most strongly represented and treated fans to 171 laps of thrills and spills right from the start of the season. For 2017, the completely newly developed 510 hp race car from Weissach is fielded by the Porsche GT Team in the WEC as well as the IMSA SportsCar Championship in the USA and Canada.
Twenty-seven cars lined up on the Silverstone Circuit to kick off this year’s Sports Car World Endurance Championship WEC. The sky over the storied racetrack in the British Midlands was overcast, a cold wind blew, and light showers fell especially in the second half of the race. However, this dampened neither the spirits of the enthusiastic British motor racing fans on the grandstands nor the pilots, who, instead of switching to wet tyres on the partially wet track, stayed out on slicks and treated the spectators to gripping fights and spectacular overtaking manoeuvres. The Porsche GT Team used the entire qualifying session to prepare for the race and to save the tyres. This season, only four instead of six sets of tyres may be used per race weekend.

Consistently fast lap times

This strategy paid off. In the #91 Porsche 911 RSR, Frédéric Makowiecki made up three positions in the first lap; after nine laps he was already running in third. In his slipstream, his works driver colleague Michael Christensen (# 92) turned consistently fast lap times and was within striking distance of the frontrunners. After just half an hour, the Frenchman was in second with the Dane in third. In his pursuit of the leader, Frédéric Makowiecki didn’t let the first drops of rain halt his charge. After 26 laps, he snatched the lead for the first time, which he then had to reclaim again and again over the course of the race. After two hours he handed the 911 RSR off to his teammate Richard Lietz. In the #92 vehicle, Kévin Estre took the wheel and continued to chase down the front group. However, at just over the halfway mark, he had park his 911 RSR with a technical problem.
Frédéric Makowiecki on the other hand seemed unstoppable. When the safety car was deployed a good two hours before the finish, he took over driving duties from Richard Lietz and promptly turned the fastest lap of the race. With one hour and twelve minutes to go, he pulled into the pits as the leader. Even as he pitted for a splash-and-dash fuel stop shortly before the finish he was still running at the top. Since his rivals had already made their final pit stops at this stage, Makowiecki returned to the race action in fourth. Still, with a breathtaking final push in the final laps he managed to snatch third – which everyone had believed to be lost – and made the much hoped for good start into the WEC season.
In the GTE-Am class as well, Porsche had every reason to celebrate. With the 911 RSR campaigned by the customer squad Dempsey Proton Racing, the Porsche Young Professional Matteo Cairoli (Italy) joined forces with his German teammates Christian Ried and Marvin Dienst to claim third place after a dramatic final lap. Matteo Cairoli was also one of the pilots who secured second in the 911 RSR of Proton Competition at the season-opening round of the European Le Mans Series ELMS at Silverstone the day before.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Red Light Cameras

Do red light cameras actually make for safer streets?  Are the fines just revenue generators for local government? Do these programs line the pockets of the companies that work with the local governments in setting up the equipment and maintaining it?

WHIO-TV in Dayton had a news story today on this topic and the effect of turning off the cameras. Police argue that a 40% spike in crashes this past year was in part due to the absence of cameras.

An Ohio State Supreme Court mandate decided that an officer must be present at the site of the camera surveilled intersection for an arrest to be made.  Dayton police have said that they will comply with this additional caveat within another month.

Cameras, cameras, becoming commonplace in our everyday world, although not at the same level as the British.

50 Years of the Mercedes-Benz Test Track

A Mercedes-Benz 123-series Vehicle on the rough-road section of the test track at the Untertürkheim plant.

In 1967 the roads of the world converged at Mercedes-Benz in Stuttgart: the scenarios that can be replicated on the company's test track in Untertürkheim range from storm-swept motorways and slippery wet tracks to bumpy country roads. It was completed 50 years ago, following extensive expansion work. To mark the occasion, the company presented the otherwise top-secret track to the media, on 9 May 1967. The work to extend the test track made it ideal for high-speed, endurance and rough-road testing. The possibilities for testing are as varied as the Mercedes-Benz product range – and, to this day, they continue to provide important input into vehicle development.
Stuttgart. Saloon and truck, Unimog or sports car, bus and racing car: by the 1950s, Mercedes-Benz had the perfect product in its portfolio to suit virtually any automotive purpose. And the model range was steadily being extended, refined and further developed as demand in those early days of the "economic miracle" continued to grow. All of which presented the development department with some major challenges. What was missing, in order for the engineers to meet these challenges as efficiently as possible, was a versatile test track located at one of the major plants. It was an issue whose importance was stressed by Dr Fritz Nallinger, Head of Development of the then Daimler-Benz AG, to his colleagues on the Board of Management as early as November 1953.
Nallinger's suggestion: a long stretch of company-owned land directly adjacent to the Untertürkheim plant, known as the "bottleneck", should be given over to building a test track. A planning application was submitted to the City of Stuttgart in January 1955, and in July 1956 the Board of Management of Daimler-Benz AG gave a green light to the proposed investment. As 1957 dawned, the first phase of the test track was taken into operation. The layout at that time already included a skid pad featuring concentrically arranged circular tracks with different surfaces: vehicles can be tested here on blue basalt, concrete, slippery asphalt and large cobblestones. The integrated sprinkler system allows wet-surface testing.
It soon became evident that the test track was still inadequate for the many and varied demands of the passenger car and commercial vehicle testing departments: the engineers were keen for better facilities that would allow high-speed, endurance and rough-road testing. They also wanted to be able to test commercial vehicles on steep inclines. The site was therefore gradually extended to accommodate all these ideas.
Major stage for future potential
Activities on the test track are normally conducted in secret since, after all, this is where Mercedes-Benz also tests the prototypes for forthcoming series models. However, once the extended and improved facilites had been completed, Mercedes-Benz seized the opportunity to present the full details of this new, major platform for vehicle development to the media, on 9 May 1967. The cumulative length of all test sections is 15,460 meters, including 3018 meters of high-speed test track. The two parallel tracks are connected by steep-bank curves with a diameter of 100 meters. A source of wonder back then were the seven different incline sections with gradients of between 5 and 70 percent, along with the steep-bank curve with a transverse inclination of as much as 90 degrees. A maximum speed of 200 km/h is theoretically possible on this steep banking, but this would physically be almost unendurable for a human being.
For long-term testing purposes it is particularly important instead to be able to drive through the steep-bank curve at 150 km/h with no hands on the wheel. At this point, namely, there are no longer any lateral forces impacting on the tyres and the vehicle remains on track through the bend without any steering input. The driver's weight nevertheless rises by a factor of 3.1, pressing him or her into the seat.
Another indispensable part of endurance testing is the "Heide", or heathland, test section. This rough-road track in Untertürkheim was built to scale to replicate a particularly poor stretch of road in the Lüneburg Heath in the north of Germany as it was in the early 1950s, hence its name. Here, as on other so-called washboard, boneshaker and potholed sections, is where Mercedes-Benz submits its newly developed products to lengthy endurance testing. Tests like these are so stressful that drivers have to change over every two hours. Further features of the circuit include extreme distortion tracks for commercial vehicles and off-roaders, along with ramps used to force extreme spring compression and rebound.
Handling safety in adverse weather conditions is tested with the help of a 34-metre-long crosswind section. This features 16 blowers, designed to produce gusting side winds of speeds up to 100 km/h. A world first was the slalom section introduced by the head of vehicle testing at the time, Rudolf Uhlenhaut. This was a stretch of track designed to test the driving stability of suspensions at high speed and during abrupt changes of lane, using measurement loops embedded in the road surface to deliver electronic data. Such data is used in conjunction with the test driver's personal assessment to evaluate the suspension tuning. For the purposes of precise analysis, the tests have also always been recorded using radar, other measuring equipment and on film.
Since the expansion work was completed 50 years ago the 8.4-hectare site, with its cumulative 15.5 kilometres of different test tracks, has continued to be adapted constantly to new conditions. A section of road with a low-noise "whisper asphalt" surface, for example, was created for the measurement of noise. This continual updating of the test track in Untertürkheim means that it remains, to this day, an important development tool for new technologies and vehicles.

Monday, April 17, 2017

1932 -- The Ford V8 Engine: A Remarkable Video

Hi folks -- this video is surprisingly good. Representative of the times and the people. It tells a remarkable tale in the history of technology using period film footage.

Historic Vehicle Association Registry -- Cars Designated to Date

This is what I have so far on the HVA list of cars to make their registry. It is eclectic to say the least, and seemingly scattershot in terms of relevance and impact on American life.  One big question is how are these cars chosen?  Is there any system to these decisions? How does personalities, power, influence and possibly investment come into the equation?

This list takes on importance beyond just a list established by an organization funded by Haggerty Insurance when the Department of the Interior and the Federal Government gets involved. Senate Bill 3381 makes the beginning of taking this activity to an entirely higher level.  Who will be entrusted, if this bill is passed, to write narrative descriptions of each vehicle, collect photographic records, 3D scans, line drawings and engineering drawings that will be archived at the Library of Congress?

Here is my take on these cars.

1. 1907 Thomas Flyer -- well it was a product of a fine company in Buffalo, NY, and winner of the race around the world.  Plenty of recent promotion by the grandson of one of its drivers, George Schuster. More important but unanswered is the role of French engineers who worked at Thomas at this time.

2. 1918 Cadillac Type 57 -- I saw this car in Allentown last October. A representative Cadillac perhaps, but what makes this Cadillac more significant than many other years and models?

3. 1938 Buick Y-Job -- OK, Harley Earl's longer, lower, chrome light-value demonstrator. I agree on this one.

4. 1920 Anderson Convertible Roadster -- Yes, I know this was manufactured in Rock Hill South Carolina and thus is distinctive for that reason alone. Did this car have much impact on American life?  I doubt it.

5. 1940 Ford Pygmy (Precursor the the Jeep) -- Sure.  But one should stress the imacpt on the home front as well as in WWII -- literature, film, song.
6. 1947 Tucker "48"-- no quibble with this choice.

7. 1964 Shelby Daytona Coupe -- maybe from the standpoint of racing history.
8. 1964 Myers Manx "Old Red" -- on a scale of 1 to 10 a 5.
9. 1911 Marmon Wasp -- yes, because it won the first Indy 500.

10. 1967 Chevrolet Camaro -- why not a number of other choices, including the GTO, Barracuda, Mustang?
11. 1938 Maserati 8CTF -- the Mike Boyle special.  Read Brock Yates book on this car.

12. 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL -- it captivated the automotive imagination of many Americans.  Germans were maybe not as bad as thought previously.
13. President William Howard Taft's 1909 White Steam Car  -- yes, presidents and their cars.
14. 1962 Willys Jeep CJ-6 -- Why?
15. !940 GM Futurliner -- Motorama had a vision of a future of American automoblity that was patricianly realized with unintended consequences we live with today.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Cars and Coffee, at the Greene, Beavercreek, Ohio April 15, 2017

Hi folks -- I got there quite late own Saturday morning, and did not spend a lot of time at the event.  By the time I got there a good number had left, although maybe 60% of the lot was still filled with cars.  Lots of kids on the  side of the road leading up to the parking garage, and on the ramp going up.

My only complaint is that the younger crowd with high performance cars really should be more respectful when leaving -- you don't have to peel out to show off your stuff. The noise can be offensive to some, and the site could be lost if a number of outsiders complain.

So three cars featured here -- a DeLorean, a newer version of the Avanti -- I don't know what iteration this one was, although it is not an original -- and a low-rider.