Saturday, April 30, 2011

F1 journalist Joe Saward interview

Joe Saward has been informing and entertaining Formula One fans for over two decades.  Joe’s reports and musings on his blog are insightful and honest.  He took a few moments out of his busy schedule to answer questions that have been on many fans’ minds.
Williams F1 have been in a long, depressing slump.  Do you see the team turning around within the next two to three seasons?  What needs to change?
- I hope that Williams will have a turnaround. It is one of the great F1 teams and it is sad to see it in such difficulties. I am not on the inside at Grove but my feeling is that Frank Williams has allowed others to run the show and they are not in the same league when it comes to passion and expertise. This is important in a racing team. A team must be willing to follow its leader anywhere and I get the impression that if the current management asked the team to march off a cliff they would politely say "After you", rather than follow without question. I also believe that a technical director needs to be an aerodynamicist, if only so that he can understand when his staff are heading in the wrong direction.
The Bahrain GP was canceled recently due to safety issues stemming from civil unrest.  Should countries hosting races pass a political litmus test, i.e. no political prisoners, no use of live ammo on peaceful protesters, etc.?  Where should the line be drawn?
- I do not think it is for F1 to judge countries. That is a can of worms. The line should be drawn, based on common sense. Bahrain seemed like a perfectly sensible place to be racing. They seemed keen to develop and progress. We were aware that there were problems under the surface but the real damage done was in the reaction to the protests. F1 should not go back as there is nothing to be gained from an association with people who have no respect for the rights of others. One can say the same thing about other places that F1 visits but until the problems blow up it is hard to make a judgment.
What is going on with Red Bull and their KERS difficulties?
- I suspect that they have pushed the design to the limit and now have to work out how to make it reliable.
You have attended every race since 1988.  What are your three favorite venues (past or present)?  Why do you like them?
- That is not an easy answer. I love Spa because it is Spa. It is full of history and a great race track, even if the weather can be a bit horrible from time to time. In the sunshine it is wonderful. I love Monza for the same reasons. They say that when you go to heaven and ask the way to the nearest race track, St. Peter will say: "Follow the signs for Monza". I love Montreal because it is just a great combination of the city and the race track (along the same lines as Adelaide and Melbourne). I can think of about 10 other tracks I'd like to add, but a list of three is a list of three...
Who is currently the most underrated driver (active or reserve)?
- Tonio Liuzzi
Can anything be done to encourage teams to hire drivers on talent rather than how much sponsorship money they can bring?
- It has always been the way. The good news is that the best drivers always attract money. There are lots of middle-ranking guys who are "good enough" but do not make it because of money, but the real stars always come through.
Is there a bright future for kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) and drag reduction system (DRS) in F1?
- Absolutely. KERS is essential for the future of F1 and the next generation of the system will be 10 times more powerful than today. The car companies love this kind of development and this is why F1 must go down this path. It has to be relevant and sustainable to survive. It is not enough these days just to go racing. The sport needs to give something to the automotive industry.
From reader F1O: You are admired for your (sometimes brutal) honesty in your coverage.  Have you ever gotten into hot water with a team or driver for what you wrote?  If so, how did you deal with the situation so that you could continue getting valuable information from that driver or team?
- I have often fallen out with teams over the coverage, but as long as they feel that I am being fair then they do not generally mind. Sometimes they even listen! There is no point in being wishy-washy or dishonest in the sport. If you do not have opinions why would anyone want to read what you write? If you are dishonest you will not survive long as a journalist. Credibility (and very large readership numbers) open doors and get the right mobile phone numbers.
Kiwi Chris Amon (11 podiums, 5 pole positions) is often mentioned as the best F1 driver to never win a race.  How does Nick Heidfeld (13 podiums, 1 pole position) compare?
- I have a problem putting Nick at the same level as Amon. Added to which statistics these days are all skewed as there are many more races, so the achievements cannot really be compared.
Why do you love Formula One?
- I came to F1 33 years ago, when it first started appearing on British TV (in black and white) and I was fascinated. I wanted to know what motivated people to risk their lives by racing round and round in circles. I have since discovered that every driver has different motivations, all of them interesting. I love the people involved. They are people who do things, rather than just talking about it. They get up and do it. That is exciting. I love the brilliance of the engineers and the skill of the drivers. I love the travel, although there are downsides in that. It is just a great life, a great sport and all I can tell you is that there is never a morning when I wake up and don't want to get out of bed. When we are kids we sometimes dream of running away and joining the circus, I like to think that I did it!

Saif al-Arab Gaddafi's car collection

"Yo dawg, shit just got real."

In trying to take out the elder Gaddafi, NATO killed his son Saif al-Arab (not to be confused with his high profile older brother, LSE-educated Saif al-Islam).  The poor chap apparently played the role of the dictator's son perfectly.  Here is his understated, classy fleet in Munich.

1985 Australian Grand Prix photos

Unknown to even racing aficionados, Renault was able to clone Ayrton Senna.  The clone was used for qualifying and the original was used for the actual race.

This weekend's content is going to be a bit F1 heavy.  The centerpiece will be my interview with F1 journalist Joe Saward.

Australia's Bolly Blog posted some extraordinary photos from the inaugural GP in Australia at Adelaide.  The cars were equipped with tiny 1.5 liter units with enough collective turbo boost to wipe out Japan's current energy deficit.  

Stefan Johansson's Ferrari 

 Canon Williams Honda

 Benetton garage

Renault-powered JPS Lotus

Lounging with Nigel

This shall fulfill my craving for AGP support vehicles.

More pictures here, here, and here.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Heikki hoons a Caterham Seven

30 Rock's American CIA Helicopter is a Peugeot 504

Unfortunately, 30 Rock has not been funny since Tracy Morgan took a leave of absence due to medical issues.  This scene from last night's episode was the highlight.  Tracy's character starred in a North Korean film with Kim Jong-Il.  The role of an American CIA helicopter was played by a Pug 504.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Billy Idol White Wedding video

2003 Great Plains road trip

Was doing some spring cleaning and found my 2003 trip notes.  This was my first "proper" road trip/vacation.  I was finally out of school and had more than $25 in my checking account.  I bought a nice 3 megapixel digital camera and rented a full-sized Chrysler Concorde.

I would do a lap.  The starting point was Chicago.  I would drive west to the Idaho border and then drive back.  I would visit Illinois-Wisconsin-Minnesota-North Dakota-Montana-Wyoming-Montana-Wyoming-South Dakota-Minnesota-Wisconsin-Illinois.  I had a week to drive 3,500+ miles.  This is what I saw.

Day 1: As soon as I got out of Midway Airport, I got lost and I was stuck in traffic for an hour.  I took a detour that wasted another couple of hours.  It rained continuously until 11 p.m.

Wisconsin and Minnesota are flat and unremarkable.  Only the skylines of the Twin Cities were cool.

I stopped at a Perkins in central Minnesota for a midnight dinner.  A 50 year old guy with a heavy Minnesota accent struck up a conversation with me in the restroom (no foot tapping or wide stances were involved) about Fargo and the weather.  I stayed at a $38/night motel room in Rothsay, Minnesota.  It was really comfortable and clean.

Day 2: I begin driving at 8:30 a.m.  It rained for most of the day.  Had a great breakfast (but poor service) in North Dakota.  I visited Teddy Roosevelt National Park, one of the least visited parks in the country.  It was wet and foggy.  A buffalo was 15 feet from me (my car) and I even saw a white tailed deer.

I had a $6 dinner in Montana-- 2 chicken fried steaks, soup, and big toast.  Delicious.  There was no sales tax.  The meal was cooked and served by two old ladies.

I met an old man named Jim at my motel in Butte.  He was very helpful and made suggestions on what I should visit tomorrow.  I had to drive through some mountains to get to Butte.  There is still snow on the ground (it's May) and it's 32 degrees F.  I may have to skip Yellowstone.

Day 3: Butte is a cool ass city.  It's a mining town and there are a lot of fancy buildings from the 1900s.  There's mining equipment everywhere.

I went to the Berkeley Pit (7000 foot deep copper mining pit) just outside town.

I had a lot of time so I briefly visited Yellowstone.  Saw elk, a bear cub, and Old Faithful.  Buffalos caused several traffic jams.  One even brushed up against my car while I was sitting in traffic.

It snowed heavily for 30 minutes while I waited for the great geyser to gush.

I end the day in Hardin, Montana, near Little Big Horn.

Day 4: I visited Custard's Last Stand at Little Big Horn.

Then it was to Devil's Tower.  Stunning.

I stopped in Deadwood and visited the grave of Wild Bill Hickok.

Then it was to the Crazy Horse monument, which will take forever to complete.  I kept two dynamited rocks as souvenirs.

I finished the day with a buffalo burger for dinner.  It was so-so.  I only drove 350 miles today.

Day 5: Saw Mt. Rushmore.

Then the Badlands.

And the world-famous Wall Drug Store.

There was a heavy storm between the Badlands and Wall Drug.  Am in Worthington, Montana tonight.  "Tired of driving, eating greasy food, staying in motel rooms.  Just tired."  End of notes.

Day 6: I have no record of the remainder of my road trip except for this shot from the Spam Museum in Austin, Minnesota.  That wall is made of Spam cans.

Princess Diana's Fords

We end the royal retrospective with Diana's Fords.  Here she is getting in her Escort RS Turbo.  It is the only one that came out of the factory in black and has a different grill than the rest.

XR3i convertible 

Belgian-built Ford Sierra Sapphire Cosworth

Lady Diana's Austin Metro (and Corgi toy car)

This diminutive hatchback belonged to Diana before her engagement to Charles.  It was even commemorated as a Corgi diecast.

More Corgi pictures here.

Prince William and Kate Middleton royal wedding Papa John's pizza

Mazel tov!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Princess Diana's Mercedes 500SL

Our retrospective of Charles and Di's cars continues.  Diana shocked the British public when she traded in her Jaguar XJS for a leased and German 500SL.  She couldn't stand the heat and quickly returned it.  No doubt the taxpayers ended up paying an exorbitant early lease return penalty.  The car now resides at the Mercedes Museum.

Putin on NATO bombings in Libya

Russia has a long list of geopolitical and selfish (as opposed to altruistic) reasons for opposing NATO's campaign in Libya.  But this sound bite is worth a listen.

Lotus T128 and Caterham Seven photo


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Carspotting: VW Microbus truck

Spotted this today while waiting at the light.  The father of a childhood friend had one of these, along with a 356 cabrio and a Chevy Nova.  Does anyone know what that owl (?) sticker signifies?  I've seen a lot of them on cars lately.

Princess Di's Jags

 Princess Diana's XJS.

 Princess Diana's XJ40.

Not Diana's XJ220, but a cool shot nonetheless. 

Prince Charles and his Mini

Prince Charles and his MG MGC GT

Monday, April 25, 2011

Nissan checking cars for radioactivity

Via Ripituc.

Princess Di on top of Prince Charles's Aston Martin DB6 Volante

As the Royal Wedding quickly approaches, I will be featuring the cars of Princess Di and Prince Charles.

Before and after: Libyan Jeep J8

Date: February 21, 2011
Location: Tripoli
Owner: M. Gaddafi

Date: April 23, 2011
Location: Misrata
Owner: Rebel

Sunday, April 24, 2011

What is Darryl Strawberry doing now?

In the 1980s, Strawberry was an incredible baseball player.  But fame, fortune, and cocaine ruined it all.  Recently, he has found God, sobered up, and is apparently helping hock Nissans in Connecticut.  I wouldn't be surprised if at his peak/low, he spent more in one month on coke than the MSRP of that Murano.

Happy Easter, everyone!

V is for vibration

A-aa F-f-ford Gr-r-ranada b-b-being t-t-tested.