Sunday, October 4, 2015

Porsche wins Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, October 3,2015

Scoring overall victory at Petit Le Mans in the USA on Saturday, Porsche has written motorsport history. The win of Patrick Pilet (France), Nick Tandy (Great Britain) and Richard Lietz (Austria) with the Porsche 911 RSR on the tradition-steeped Road Atlanta circuit was not only the maiden outright win for Porsche at Petit Le Mans and the first for a GT vehicle in the history of the Tudor United SportsCar Championship, the most important sports car race series on the North American continent. Winning the race in at times torrential downpour handed Patrick Pilet the drivers’ title in the fiercely competitive GTLM class. In this category, Porsche also secured the manufacturer and team classification titles. This season, Nick Tandy achieved the feat of winning both the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Petit Le Mans for Porsche – in two different classes. 

“You can’t get a better race result than this, especially under such difficult conditions,” said Head of Porsche Motorsport Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser. “Our victors drove an absolutely immaculate race over the entire distance. The way Nick grabbed the overall lead during the last stint after a phenomenal performance…words fail me.” Nick Tandy said: “The last stint when the rain became heavier was the toughest that I’ve ever driven in my career. To win the big and the petite Le Mans means a great deal to me. It’s every driver’s dream.

Friday, October 2, 2015

World Endurance Championship: Fuji, Japan and the Porsche 911 RSR and 919

The FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), one of the most important motor racing world championships worldwide, is set to tackle the sixth of eight rounds, this time contested in Japan. The island nation is an established market for sports cars with an avid and informed racing public. The six-hour race takes off on the Fuji International Speedway on October 11 at 11.00 hours local time. There, set against the backdrop of the nation’s sacred Mount Fuji, a Porsche pilot wrote sports car history: In 1983, Stefan Bellof posted the fastest lap time (1.10.02 minutes) at the wheel of a Porsche 956 on the then 4.360-kilometre race track at the foot of Japan’s highest mountain. This track record still stands today.  

The track layout at Fuji poses a special challenge for the race teams: High speed is needed on the extremely long straight, however, for the following 16 corners, some of them extremely tight, the cars require a different setup. Porsche takes up this challenge with two types of vehicle: In the top-league LMP1 (Le Mans Prototype Class 1) the Porsche 919 Hybrid aims to continue its winning streak. So far this season, the lightweight 870-kilogram hybrid-petrol racer, with a system performance of around 1,000 hp, has won the Le Mans 24 Hours as well as all subsequent six-hour races at the Nürburgring and in the USA. Porsche leads the manufacturers’ classification ahead of Audi and Toyota and lies within striking distance of the top of the drivers’ classification. At the same WEC race, Porsche also campaigns the Porsche 911 RSR in the GT class specifically for production-based race cars. In this category, the 911 RSR fielded by the works team lies just two points behind Ferrari, with Porsche works driver Richard Lietz leading the drivers’ classification.  

Despite the differences between the 919 and 911 race cars, both enjoy huge popularity amongst Porsche fans in Japan. With its bold and cutting-edge technologies, the Le Mans prototype catches the keen eye of the Japanese, particularly when it comes to hybrid vehicles. Its drive concept in particular makes it the most innovative racer in the 31-strong field. The 919 features a small combustion engine – a two-litre, four-cylinder petrol unit with turbocharging – which produces a good 500 hp and is regarded as the most efficient engine that Porsche has built until now. But that’s not all: the 919 Hybrid is fitted with two different energy recovery systems with which Porsche is also working towards a better future for everyday driving. The energy from the exhaust gas flow in the rear is converted into electrical energy in the exhaust by means of a second turbine. At the front axle, kinetic energy is recovered under braking. Combined, the recovery systems feed a lithium-ion battery. From there, the driver can call up the stored energy at the press of a button. Now, the 400-plus horsepower electric engine drives the front axle – turning the 919 into a four-wheel drive car. 

Sheer power, however, is not the sole objective in this special world championship. Stringent fuel restrictions force engineers to think outside the box. And this is precisely the reason for Porsche’s involvement. Fritz Enzinger, responsible for the LMP1 programme, explains: “Winning is important for Porsche but in the long term these victories are still only snapshots in time. Right from the start, the most important function for the 919 Hybrid was to serve as a rolling laboratory for tomorrow’s production vehicles.” 

But the technological exchange between racing and production is even more direct with the Porsche 911 RSR in the class for near-production GT race cars. It is based on the seventh generation of the iconic 911 (1) sports car – the top-seller and most successful racing sports car in the world. Like all 911, the body of the 911 RSR rolls off the assembly line in the Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen plant. Especially in the energy efficiency domains such as lightweight design and aerodynamics, motor racing yields important insights, which are systematically and continuously incorporated into production development. A fervent fan base awaits the 911 in Japan. Head of Porsche Motorsport Dr. Frank Steffen Walliser explains: “We enjoy great success in the Japanese market, especially with our two-door sports cars and the flagship 911.” After achieving a 19 percent surge in growth in deliveries, Porsche Japan exceeded the 5,000 unit mark in 2014 for the first time. And after 2013, the number of rear- and mid-engine sports cars delivered reached historic proportions once again (3,169 vehicles). This contributed significantly to a successful annual result. In the first half of 2015 alone, 1,384 two-door sports cars were delivered in Japan. Walliser: “For the Porsche 911 there is no more authentic way to underline this success than to go up against strong opposition on the race track.”Japan

Thursday, October 1, 2015

German Race Car Driver Roland Asch and Mercedes

Racing driver Roland Asch at the Youngtimer Festival Spa 2015 in Spa-Francorchamps, where he drove the Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II factory racing car.

Eifel race at the Nürburgring, 19 april 1992. Roland Asch (number 17) and his AMG race-touring car Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II (W 201).

On 12 October 1950 Roland Asch was born in Altingen – situated between Tübingen and Herrenberg. At his parents' car dealership he was interested in engine technology and automotive engineering from a very early age. This fascination would go on to shape Roland Asch's professional life: in 1974 he successfully passed the examination to become a master mechanic and in 1982 took over his parents' business. By this time the likeable Swabian was already celebrating successes in racing.
His motorsport career began in 1976 with slalom and mountain races, which Asch entered with sporty models of the Ford brand – prepared for use in competitions in his own workshop. He quickly clocked up racing victories, soon followed by a first championship title: with his Ford Escort RS 2000 Asch secured the German Mountain Trophy in 1981. Also legendary was the sequence of three championship titles taken in a row in the Porsche 944 Turbo Cup in the years from 1987 to 1989. Asch achieved further victories with Porsche such as the title in the 1991 Porsche Carrera Cup.
In 1988 Roland Asch then drove a Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.3-16 in the DTM. The racing driver bought himself that vehicle for the princely sum of 80,000 Deutschmarks. "A handy, good car, which did what I wanted it to" is how Asch today recalls this first racing version of the compact class W 201. Working during the week in the family's dealership, he promptly finished runner-up in that DTM season with 242 points, behind Klaus Ludwig (258 points).
It was this success that drew the attention of Mercedes-Benz to the promising DTM driver. Initially the company supported Asch with logistics, then he was given a contract as a test driver for the Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution racing car still under development (used from 1989) and the 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II (used from 1990), and then he became a factory driver in the DTM. As early on as 1989 Asch clocked up his first DTM win for Mercedes-Benz at the race in Mainz-Finthen. The most successful season in the DTM for the man from Altingen was the year 1993 with three victories and his second runner-up spot in the championship in Mercedes AMG 190 E Class 1 racing tourers. Until the 1994 season Roland Asch drove for Mercedes-Benz in the DTM, then the racing driver continued to be active in various racing series on the circuit.
Today the father of three, valued by his fans for the sporting successes as much as for his open and amenable nature, is still active as a Brand Ambassador at the wheel of Mercedes-Benz racing cars. Alongside the DTM versions of model series W 201 – including the 190 E 2.5-16 EVO II constructed for historical motorsport by Mercedes-Benz Classic - Roland Asch also drives other racing cars from the impressive motorsport history of the Stuttgart brand.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Brief Review: Drawn to Speed : The Automotive Art of John Lander (McFarland, 2015)

I just came across this book by chance as I was searching my library's catalog. Since I had access to an electronic version, I started to leaf through the pages, although I am far from finished with it. The book features the images drawn by John Lander; however, the real treat for me were the short explanations that accompanied each of the artistic representations.

What a wonderful set of stories about the cars depicted, and particularly the people she where integral to the cars! The narratives are a treasure-chest of personal reminiscences and accounts that paint a human side to enthusiasts, race drivers, and owners who were at the heart of the history of the sports car.  Whatever you do, don't miss this book!

What to Make of the VW Crisis?

Hi folks,

I was never much of a Diesel fan. It was the turbo lag in a 2009 VW Golf that got me in trouble in Leipzig and resulted in the car being totaled. But what to make of this episode now in 2015?

First and foremost, we must recognize that with the development of electronic and computer controls related to the internal combustion engine and diesel powered automobiles (which has taken place gradually over the past 20 years or so), there are all kinds of new threats to vehicles that consumers cannot adequately sense or measure. What I mean here is that the owner/driver is so removed or detached the the technology he or she owns because of digital technological systems, that personal control over the car has been for all intents and purposes lost. My 1971 Porsche 911 and even my 1985 Toyota Corolla have carburetors, and for the most part I can control their performance and emissions by turning idle and mixture screws, setting timing, and ensuring the vacuum systems operate correctly. Not so on todays cars, including the diesels. They are black boxes, programmed by geeks, and not to be touched by a shade tree mechanic. Far from autonomous technologies, they are the product of a "democratic centralism" that secedes operation and assumes a kind of technological virtue to the manufacturer whose software is incomprehensible to all but a handful of engineers and computer scientists. In fact, consumers have no way of really knowing what their vehicles are all about.

Much has been said about VW's dishonesty. And it may be that many more of the auto manufacturers practiced similar kinds of strategies to get around government regulators. After all, don't they assume that they are smarter than EPA technicians? It would seem that VW engineers are cats, and EPA analytical chemists are mice?

Is the VW brand hurt beyond repair? Doubtful. If a better product is made, people will buy it. Reminder -- the original bug was Hitler's car!  Diesels now on the decline -- and that is a huge hit for European sales. To put the blame on Martin Winterkorn perhaps specious until investigations are conducted and blame is assigned based on concrete evidence.

Will this be the opening that the green manufacturers like Google are waiting for? Maybe, but petroleum prices need to rise before alternative technologies will flourish.

What does all this dishonesty do for air quality? Yes, some 125+ deaths is the result according to risk experts. And our air (and water for that matter) remains in stress. In sum, the price of our prosperity lead to insults to our public health.

Below are useful links on the VW story:

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Bob Poole Orphan Car Show, Young's Dairy, Yellow Springs, Ohio, September 26, 2015

A few images taken on a partly cloudy but overall nice afternoon!

a pair of very nice Mercury Cougars. Hard to believe that Mercury, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac are now considered orphans!

A sparse crowd, with many of the participants bringing the entire family. 

1987 0r 1988 Yugo Convertible. The owner swears that these cars are reliable. He has one with 150k miles!

Nice metropolitan. Note the 8 track player.

The owner of this car has had it since 1982.

a 1974 Javelin Matador