December 16, 2014

A Tifosi's guide to loving Sebastian Vettel.


The internet's view on this...
Let's be honest, the idea of Sebastian Vettel in red  will be will make a good portion of the Tifosi gag.

This is,  after all,  the man synonymous with the worst thing that has happened to Ferrari fans in recent years: those cheating soft drink salesmen who conspired to keep from them what should have rightfully been theirs: every world championship since 2010.

Sebastian Vettel, the guy who only won because Adrian Newey gave him a car that was so much better than anyone elses.  The driver who could not make a pass to save his life,  who conspired to make Mark Webber look bad and whined whenever he did not get his way, coddled by his Germanic overlords.

In other words, the devil incarnate.

But come the first track tests in the new year,  Vettel will be transformed in the Ferrari fan psyche into a new teutonic knight riding atop the prancing horse, slashing at all foes.  He will be hailed as the savior of Maranello.

Funny right? Well,  nothing new of course.

Before he landed at Maranello in 1996, Michael Schumacher was slammed for his "dirty driving" and having won two championships with cheater Benettons, the Red Bull of the era.

Schumacher was at Ferrari for 10 years and never learned to speak Italian beyond a mangled phrase of two yet, by 2000 when he won the first driver's championship in red,  he was a national hero.
Somewhat forgotten now is that he almost bailed to Mclaren that year, after four years of frustration.
In the end, Schumi was the best thing that could have happened for Ferrari as Ferrari was for the German.

Fernando Alonso was also not especially well liked by the "Tifosi":  he had beaten Schumacher, he had driven "cheater cars" and he had the nerve to say "Ferrari is not the team he dreamed of driving for" as a kid.
Nando's dream team was McLaren and when he finally got there it turned out to be quite the nightmare for all involved.

Alonso was a much better fit with the Tifosi, latin, fluent in Italian, he was loved for being tenacious like Mansell (Il Leone) and being a Gilles who actually finished races.

Will history repeat for Sebastian?     Will the Tifosi embrace him as they did former enemies Schumacher and Alonso?

We have no doubt but here is a primer of reasons to help Tifosi accept Seb in Red.

1. Vettel is a 27 year old German joining the Scuderia at a particularly low point.

The last 27 year old  German arrived at Maranello after decades of shame for the Italians.  The first couple of years were rough but eventually it worked out quite well for both.

2. Vettel actually had Ferrari posters in his bedroom as a kid

For Vettel, Ferrari is both a challenge and a dream.  This was clear (and in retrospect a clear hint at the future) this past summer, when he had a chance to drive a historic Ferrari F1 car at the Red Bull Ring in Austria.  On his debut at Fiorano, his helmet was marked with "November 29, 2014.  My first day at Ferrari".  He probably won over half the Tifosi right there.

3. Vettel comes to Ferrari with more world championships and wins than Schumacher

Make that more championships and wins than anyone who has ever moved to Ferrari  or any other team if you discount Schumacher's disastrous "comeback" with Mercedes.

4. Vettel's first F1 win was with a Ferrari powered Italian team.

Vettel's first win,  2008 at Monza in the rain with a Toro Rosso,  an improved Minardi not only made him the youngest GP winner ever,  but should be hailed alongside the likes of Senna's early moist  exploits.   Having spent time with the Faenza based squad also means Seb's Italian is much superior to Schumacher's.

5. Seb has a good sense of humor.

Schumacher was never a champion in that category. Vettel will probably need  some that sense of humor at Maranello next year.

6. Vettel is his own manager.

Despite having just a high school education (like many professional drivers) Vettel has been able to successfully navigate F1's shark infested waters without the aid of a manager.

7. He's good friends with Kimi Raikkonen.

Both he and Kimi are intensely private, keeping as much distance as possible between their on track lives and their family lives.  Plus anyone who's cool in Kimi's book has got to be alright.

8. He's a workaholic.

After hours at Red Bull, he would hang with the mechanics and engineers to understand and tweak as much as performance as possible out of the cars.   Hopefully Ferrari will successfully replicate that atmosphere in their pits.

9. He's a perfectionist.

Like the other famous German savior, he wants things done a certain way. Yes, he will squawk if he doesn't get what he wants.  His competitiveness goes beyond his day job, he notably tried to tune the Top Gear "Reasonably priced car" by changing tire pressures.

10. Vettel is the new chapter

It's a shame Fernando Alonso's tenure at Maranello worked out as it did.  In many ways he was the perfect driver for Ferrari but it was not to be.  Schumacher too almost left in frustration but then, after four years, it clicked in a big way.    Alonso does not have that luxury, he's six year further in his career than Schumi was,  he made the move and Ferrari let him go.  
Ferrari is undergoing an epic revolution:  for years the Scuderia was being told to think outside the box, now many of those same people have been literally put outside the box.   Nobody has been safe, not di Montezemolo, not Alonso, Domenicali, Mattiacci and those responsible for both the engine and the chassis designs.  Robespierre would have been proud.
Revolutions take time to resolve so the ideal driver is one who has something to prove and the time to prove it.

Vettel is that man.

Isn't a Turbo GT3 RS a GT2?

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By now you have seen pictures of a presumably not disguised Porsche GT3 RS romping in the snow.

One of the questions everyone is asking is about what's under the hood (the one in the back, where suitcases DON'T go). Mules have all shown an intake just in front of the rear wheels. in the past this was only on Turbo cars including the GT2.

For this latest RS, did Porsche just add that intake for something other than intercoolers, are they just trolling everyone?  Or are we simply looking at a 991 GT2?

Perhaps this clip from a more disguised mule, earlier this summer can give an aural clue.  It's came to us billed as a GT3 RS (and yes, it's PDK).  

Can you divine what's under the hood by its sound?

December 11, 2014

McLaren finally makes it official, invoking the myth of Ayrton Senna.


McLaren finally made it official: Fernando Alonso, and Jenson Button will drive in 2015, Kevin Magnussen will be the reserve driver.

The official release is accompanied by a picture of the drivers, Ron Dennis and Honda's Yasuhisa Arai standing in front of of a MP4/4 in their regulation gray suits.

Much is made of the Senna legacy and the dominating 1988 season when Mclaren won 15 of the 16  races.  It was a triumph for Honda but it's worth remembering it was also a year the majority of teams sacrificed by not running turbo engines ahead of their ban in 89.   Of course Honda trashed everyone in 89 too but that's another, long story.

“We do not need myths. We need examples to be followed – examples of courage, determination and hope. We need to believe it is possible to win, and it is our duty to pursue that belief.”  A quote from Ayrton is included, without apparent irony in the release along with this from Alonso:

“I have never hidden my deep admiration for Ayrton Senna, my favourite driver, my idol on track, my reference.

“I still remember, as a kid, the posters in my wardrobe, my toy cars in which I dreamed I would one day emulate Ayrton, and the kart that my father built for my older sister, and that I ended up falling in love with. That kart had the livery of one of the most legendary partnerships in the history of Formula 1, McLaren-Honda, the car that Ayrton drove, the same partnership to which I am now honoured to join, to take part in the next Formula 1 world championship."

and Button:

“I admired Ayrton Senna enormously, but, for me, it was the exploits of his McLaren-Honda team-mate Alain Prost that inspired me most as a boy. The way he stroked those beautifully brutal red-and-white cars to grand prix wins and world championships was to my mind poetry in motion, and I have tried to emulate his driving style ever since."

This brings to a conclusion a bizarre soap opera, with Fernando's silence, Jenson's public humiliation and Ron Dennis' rumored internal power struggles with his Mclaren partners.  Things may have been chaotic at Ferrari but at Mclaren, with Alonso brought on by Honda and the history between him and Dennis it will be a situation fraught with drama potential.   It's telling that, while much is made of driver statistics and seeming justifications for their "advanced" ages,  no mention is made of the length of the contracts.   It is speculated Alonso has a out clause that would allow him to leave after a single year should he choose to and, presumably Jenson would out at any time if Magnussen secures sufficient sponsorship, perhaps from a certain Danish brick maker.

It will be something to watch,  history says Alonso at Mclaren, a team he first joined chasing a myth,  is an almost comical bad fit but shotgun marriages do work... sometimes.
Alonso is the only one actually smiling in the picture!

December 6, 2014

How fast is the the Corvette Z06?


By now you've read all there is to read about the C7 Z06 and Z07,  you know that in pure cost/performance, it blows everything else out of the water.  

But how fast is it?   Well, this clip Corvette published showing a lap of Road Atlanta puts it in a context understandable to most of us tracktards.

The lap shown is 1:29.8 but at the beginning of the clip, you see the lap before was a 29.6.   Tommy Milner's talking his way through the lap, presumably he might do even better with full concentration.

NASA held it's eastern national championships at Road Atlanta ealier this year and 1:29.8 would have been good for first place in TT2 by 1 second flat.   TT2 is unlimited mods with an 8 to 1 weight to power ratio.   Those are some wicked fast time attack cars on slicks.

Need a BMW centric comparison?  Epic's Randy Mueller driver of one of the fastest BMW club racers in the country won the GT4 championship and qualified with a 1:31.9.

The Z06 with (presumably) streetable tires, sat-nav, air conditioning, built in data / video recorder and possibly even heated seats lapped sub 1:30 with a dude talking.

OK the "dude" is one of Corvette's pro drivers but still, there's just no denying the Z06 is one sick, sick car.

Week end viewing: Do cars have soul?

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If you don't believe machines have soul then you might not understand why anyone would want their car restored in the place it was born.  After all,  there are fine "panelbeaters" in the UK,  the United States and in many other places.

But if you do believe a panel molded in Modena is not the same as a one beaten in Birmingham or shaped in Sonoma because the air is different, because the dirt is different,  because the artisans in the shop with over a half century of experience had something different for breakfast, then you'll get why collectors the world over will send their car to Carrozzeria Brandoli.

People and companies like Brandoli are true treasures a thank you to all those who believe in machine soul!

December 3, 2014

The Ferrari FXX K just landed.

Looking like something from the future, the Ferrari FXX K  will make it's first public appearance in Abu Dhabi at the annual Ferrari World Final event.

1050 HP combined from the thermic V12 and the Electric Kers, active aero generating from 30 to 50% improvement over the LaFerrari.  The successor to the original Enzo based FXX is sure to dominate all track days for years to come.

Press release:

Maranello, 2 December 2014 – Ferrari’s new FXX K research and development programme receives its world premiere next weekend at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. The laboratory-car is based on Maranello’s first hybrid model and will grace the world’s tracks from next year onwards. The K in its moniker is a reference to the “KERS” kinetic energy recovery system it adopts in maximising its track performance.

Unfettered by homologation and racing regulations, the FXX K will never be used in competition. It was, in fact, developed to be completely uncompromising, incorporating technological innovations that will guarantee an unprecedented driving experience to the exclusive group of Client-Test Drivers with whom the Prancing Horse will roll out a test programme over the coming two years.

The car’s enormous potential is attested to by two significant figures: a total power output of 1050 cv (860 cv delivered by its conventional V12 engine and 190 by its electric motor) and maximum torque in excess of 900 Nm.

The FXX K’s 6262 cc V12 features new camshafts and a modified valve train with mechanical rather than hydraulic tappets. The intake manifolds have been redesigned and given a special type of polishing treatment. The exhaust system has been modified as its silencers have been eliminated.

The HY-KERS system has been evolved specifically for pure performance with the result that the driver can control the function logics from the specific 4-setting Manettino on the centre console: Qualify, for maximum performance within a limited number of laps; Long Run to optimise performance consistency; Manual Boost for instant maximum torque delivery; and Fast Charge, for a fast recharge of the car’s battery.

A focus on delivering maximum efficiency at every stage of every track lap has resulted in extensive but integrated work on the entire car body in terms of both active and passive aerodynamics.

The front of the car is dominated by a twin-profile spoiler and a larger splitter, which is 30 mm lower, with a gap in its centre. This design is an application of the concepts developed to improve aero balance in the GT category of the WEC, which Ferrari has won for three consecutive years. Two pairs of vertical elements, an endplate and, externally, a dive plane, together with vertical fins channel the air towards the car’s flanks, generating a longitudinal vortex that creates a localised depression. This in turn sucks the wake from the wheels to the outside of the aerodynamic underbody. Along with the side skirts that extend out from the sills, the vortex helps isolate the airflow from the underbody to boost its efficiency.

The solutions on the rear of the car are highly sophisticated, too. The tail section is now higher and the mobile spoiler extends further for a total increase in extension of 60mm when fully deployed. A vertical fin and a small wing each side of the tail act as guide vanes in the low drag configuration and boost the spoiler’s efficiency in the high downforce one. This system also creates considerable downforce at the rear of the car, allowing the use of an extreme diffusion volume for the rear diffuser which optimises air extraction from the underbody. The section of the flat underbody just ahead of the rear wheels is also exploited to the full to generate downforce thanks to the reduced pressure in the wheel arch guaranteed by the direct connection to the rear of the car by a by-pass duct.

The result is a 50% improvement in downforce in the low drag configuration and a 30% improvement in the more aggressive downforce configuration, resulting in a figure of 540 kg at 200 km/h.

Vehicle dynamics are further improved by the adoption of Pirelli slicks complete with sensors that monitor longitudinal, lateral and radial acceleration, as well as temperature and pressure. This ensures an accurate analysis of the interaction between the tyre and track surface, providing even more vital data to enable the traction control system to guarantee maximum performance.

The intervention level of the E-Diff electronic differential, F-Trac traction control, Racing SSC (Side Slip Angle Control) – now specially calibrated to suit the car’s slick tyres – and the high-performance ABS can be controlled using the five-position Manettino on the steering wheel.

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