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Simon Hildrew is one of the unsung heroes of motorsport photography, he gets on with the job and turns out the kind of results that you would expect from an Old School pro. His background in local newspaper photojournalism stands him in good stead when covering events at Goodwood, the story is told from soup to nuts in full and without drama.

Lord March brought us something new this year, the 72nd Members’ Meeting, OK not actually new but more of an adaptation of an event, but the rave reviews from participants and spectators alike signal that once more a bullseye has been scored. Simon took his cameras and lenses along to witness the action, enjoy the view…………

 

The Book of Job

Server Migrations, don’t ya just love ’em? Still without the amazing Wouter of www.ultimatecarpage.com fame (go there and lose an hour or three) I would be sitting here in the dark. However the juju that is the internet has consumed the last post. As it was rather good I offer it again for your amusement. And welcome to Greg Brown, Porschephile and much respected author, in his first piece for DDC. It is a pity that he had to write this polemic but trashing something as important as the Sebring 12 Hours cannot be allowed to pass without comment. Make your own mind up……….

 

 

Alex Job has seen it all in his long and successful career as a driver and, for the last 25 years, as a championship winning team owner. But even his broad experience with the vagaries of racing couldn’t have prepared him for the chaos and absurdity that marked the 12 Hours of Sebring in 2014.  But first, the good news, which amply demonstrated the difference a year can make.
 In 2013, Porsche’s aging 997-based 911 GT3 RSR couldn’t get close enough to sniff Sebring’s winner’s circle after being left in the debris of its far more potent rivals from BMW, Corvette, Ferrari and Viper. This year, however, the factory-run CORE Autosport 991 911 RSR of Patrick Long, Michael Christensen, and Jörg Bergmeister exhibiting a competitive pace, as well as excellent pit strategy, and taking advantage of fortuitous yellow flags, not only saw the circle, but saw it from the inside as the winner in the prestigious GTLM division of the classic enduro.
Moreover, Porsche also scored its first ever victory in the Tudor Championship’s very competitive GTD class through the efforts of Utah-based Magnus Racing’s GT America, piloted by team owner John Potter, veteran Andy Lally, and Porsche factory test driver Marco Seefried, the trio overcoming an early collision and later transmission problems, to capture the team’s first Sebring win.
Unfortunately, these two victories were marred by a race noteworthy for long delays with over five of the 12 hours being run under the yellow flag, (three of those coming within the first half of the event). Virtually all of these interruptions were due to either unforced driving mistakes , or incomprehensible decision making by race officials. While surviving the various crashes throughout the day might well have been considered victory in itself, reaching that checkered flag first remained the object of the exercise, which why it was a shame that the success of both (albeit deserving) Porsche winners came in part because some unintended help from the apparently clueless Stewards in Race Control.
The potential of Job’s two new 911 GT Americas: the WeatherTech’s #22 entry and its sister, the Team Seattle’s #23 car, gave him reason to be optimistic about a podium finish. After all, Alex Job Racing has won no less than 70 races and five championships since 1995, including, two Rolex 24 class triumphs and, perhaps most impressively, two Le Mans GT class victories. This year he was going for win number ten at Sebring, with most unwilling to bet against him accomplishing that goal.
Unfortunately,eight hours into the race, his WeatherTech entry, having overcome an early tire puncture to run with the leaders up front, was dealt a huge blow with a penalty it clearly did not deserve. Driver Cooper MacNeil was incorrectly given an 80 second stop and go penalty for “avoidable contact” with GT-D Ferrari 458 Italia. This penalty was given despite the fact that the Porsche in question was one of the factory 991 RSRs, something clearly evidenced in the video tape of the incident by the highly visible Michelin tire sticker on its roof. In spite of that, and inspite of the fact that all the GT-D entries ran on mandated Continental rubber, the five officials who reviewed the tape before handing out the penalty made their incomprehensible decision. But which of the two CORE RSRs was it? The answer ironically was both though only the #911 car was ever cited.
Job, who immediately appealed the penalty, was told simply: “Bring your car in for the 80 seconds,, or we’ll stop timing and scoring it.” Faced with such ignorant intransigence, Job had no choice but to call in MacNeil, virtually ending any chances for a win.
Nor was Job’s mood improved by what happened after the race. “I went to the tower to see the video. As they showed it, I and they could clearly see the # 22 was obviously way ahead of the incident and that it was one of the white RSRs which made contact with the Ferrari. You could almost visualize the ‘oops’ coming from their lips. Having reviewed the video, they told me they would discuss the situation and do whatever they could. At the very least, I think they needed to calculate the lost time, the 80-second hold plus the time through the pits. I believe we were running second, so that’s a lot of lost track position.”
But what was done, and the penalty stuck, leaving the WeatherTech car a very disappointing fourth in the results. It was some consolation to Job that his other GT America did extremely well in the tough GTD class to finish third, but it had to be a bittersweet result for the man who’s been competing at Sebring for 25 years and was set up for another win. As for the impact on the finish in the GTLM category, where Porsche’s margin of victory was less than five seconds, had Long, Christensen and Bergmeister been hauled down pit lane to serve an enforced 80-second stop, it would have been the Viper folks celebrating, and not the Porsche camp.
Following the race, IMSA’s vice president of competition and technical regulations Scot Elkins admitted, “The series tonight actually made a couple of incorrect calls during the event. The nature of racing is, that it makes it very difficult for us to take those back. There’s nothing we can do in terms of taking time away and doing anything to the results. We’re sorry, and we made a mistake. We have some things in place to fix it for the next time.”
You better hope so, Scot. After the snafus at Daytona and the insanity of Sebring, some teams are wondering if their future lies with IMSA, or perhaps the Sports Car Club of America’s World Challenge, for which the GT America Porsches are also eligible. The bottom line is simple: if you’re a big time racing organization, then act like one.
Greg Brown, March 2014

On The Skids In New Orleans

on track 3

Today we welcome a new name to the DDC family, far more elegant than the usual correspondents we have but that’s not much of a compliment when I look in the mirror. Lizett Bond has been the acceptable face of the automotive media for ages, recently she went tire testing at the invitation of BF Goodrich and she kindly shares her experiences with us. I sincerely hope that she will become a regular contributor to this site, welcome Liz!

pre run

Tire testing. I’ve observed it, even written about it. But when the invite arrived in my inbox to actually participate in the BFGoodrich media launch of a new tire, taking place in New Orleans? To say I approached this one with a mix of trepidation and excitement is understatement. I was filled with a sudden urge of uncertainty. Turns out, I didn’t need to be.

BF Goodrich knows their stuff. The Charlotte, North Carolina, based tire company also understands how to extend some good old Southern hospitality and the recent media launch of the g-Force Rival in the Big Easy led to the pleasant discovery that BFG is just as savvy when it comes to passing a good time and throwing in a little lagniappe.

the newest

The g-Force Rival Extreme Performance Summer tire, the newest offering from the tire maker, demonstrates a continual quest to improve and add to the brand. This latest addition, the Rival, is a sort of hybrid, falling in between the street oriented g-Force Comp-2 and the g-Force R1, a serious, DOT (Department of Transportation) approved, competition racing tire. The Rival is eligible for those racing series requiring UTQG (Uniform Tire Quality Grading) ratings of 140 or higher, while still suitable for street use. Meaning weekend enthusiasts can drive to the track, race and head home with their trophy, all on the same rubber. In theory at least, perhaps not in practicality as it always looks more professional to bolt on a hot set of tires at a venue.

So, what more appropriate venue to debut a tire with this pedigree than a new racetrack? The NOLA Motorsport Park is located in Avondale, Louisiana, just 20 minutes from downtown New Orleans French Quarter. The public friendly track opened in 2011 as a full-featured events facility that includes two international standard racetracks, an eight-acre autocross pad and a world class kart facility.

lesson time

On the track, it is a given that tires play an integral role in performance and offer a significant impact on lap times. While many enthusiasts consider braking, power upgrades or suspension to be the more crucial upgrade improvements when it comes to enhancing a car’s overall performance, the ‘shoes’ worn must factor into the competitive equation. In any segment of this market, a new tire has to transcend “good enough” and outshine competitors and the Rival g-Force was developed as a “two-fer”, with the ability to turn heads on the street and lower lap times at the track with its extreme grip.

in the classroom

Before heading out to the track, these talking points were relayed to us, the “legal info” according to the manufacturer, as follows:

The Rival is designed for predictability, track level abuse and highlight features, according to the manufacturer,  include:

BF Goodrich’s Performance Racing Core with a reinforced internal structure reduces sidewall flex for instant steering response.

The tire is designed to stick and the Asymmetric tread with large, solid tread blocks on the outside shoulder to optimize cornering grip.

Extreme Tread Edge (ETE) raises the limit as the design brings tread compound farther down the shoulder for increased grip in hard cornering and predictable feedback.

The Equal Tension Containment System (ETCS) ensures optimum contact patch shape at speed. Silica-infused competition compound delivers better grip from start to finish.

The Rival will initially launch in 15 sizes with rim dimensions from 15-20 inches and 205-355 section width.

Laissez les bon temps roulet!

Technically correct, classroom talking points aside, we were in New Orleans to run a comparison test that included a little “fais do do” with a mix of courses, vehicles and tires.

no valets

Shuttling into the NOLA complex, an impressive line up of chariots awaited outside of the media center. Inside, sustenance, including the requisite beignets, insured high energy for a long day. After a short orientation, including a PowerPoint with plenty of tech/spec tire information, drivers were divided into groups and we fanned out to four different driving stations, each with its own task. I was nervous, having never really done any serious track driving and not being much of a speed demon to begin with. I can, however, drive a manual transmission, my saving grace.

on track-7

First up for our group, the Long Course Autocross, where we would be driving BMWE46 M3’s, some equipped with Hankook Ventus R-S3 for comparison to those sporting the Rivals.  My nerves calmed a bit when I realized I’d have an instructor riding shotgun.

on track 5

Focusing so intently on the course, I worried that I would not be able to tell the difference between the two tires. But I could. The first attempt around the course consisted of two laps on the Rivals, then two on the Hankook and back to the Rivals. By round three, the familiarity with the course allowed for a little more attention to contrasts. The Hankooks felt softer in the turn with a slower response time, not as tight in the corners as the Rival. Even with my lack of experience, I could tell the difference and felt the Rival won, hands down.  Feeling a bit cockier after my final lap, I climbed in the passenger seat for a couple of true hot laps with an instructor and humbled down a peg or two. It was also with great relief that I discovered the basket of peppermints strategically placed nearby. Pockets full of mints and great envy for constitutions that do not succumb to motion sickness, I was ready for our next station.

on track 1

In spite of a little queasiness, I was gaining confidence and ready to take on the next task as I crawled behind the wheel of a Mustang FR500 racer for a few hot (or in my case “warm”) laps on the full NOLA circuit. For comparison, half of the Mustangs wore g-Force Rivals with Falken RT-614K’s installed on the other half. We completed two hot laps on the Rivals followed by two on the Falkens and then back to the Rivals. Being a ‘newbie’ to this type of track time, I certainly didn’t even approach the limits, but I could feel the difference between the two tires, with the Rival holding on to the track. I just felt more confident coming into each turn, and going around corners with the Rivals, they felt more stable, like I would not be leaving the track anytime soon.

full run prep

Gaining familiarity with the 2.8 mile track helped as each lap instilled a little more confidence. Again, thanks to BFG for the fabulous instructors at each driving station. One of those coaches, Bill Follmer, yes, of that family, took the first lap with me, and with outward calm, placed my hand wordlessly on the steering wheel, each time I placed it by habit on the shifter. I think his real fear might have been a sudden burst of confidence on my part, and the possibility of being rocketed into the Florida Keys. He did make mention of the fact that he wasn’t sure which track we were on. But each lap came a little bit easier as the new Rival BFG’s inspired confidence that I would be staying on the NOLA track. Could I feel the difference? Absolutely, I felt I could push to my own limited limits with an unexpected assurance.

Time for a peppermint snack.

After a break for lunch, and a little fresh air to calm the stomach it was time for phase three…..

on track 6

Next up, the Autocross featured Subaru WRX STI’s that bore no resemblance to the Subaru Outback I once owned. We were to compare the Rivals to Hankook Ventus R-S3 and Toyo Proxes R1R. We made two runs on the Rivals, and then two on the Toyo R1R and then two on the Hankook RS3, followed by a final lap on the Rival.  Again, the difference in handling was noticeable, even to one with limited experience in driving an autocourse, with crisp turns that held to the line inspiring much more boldness to push to a higher limit. At the end of our runs, all three cars were lined up to compare tread wear, with the Rival distinctly showing more tread and less wear than the competition. For some drivers, this attribute may not seem essential, but as a consumer, I found this to be of great interest and crucial when considering a tire purchase.

on track 2

And those weren’t jus’ flyin’ horses, cher…..

fast run

Departing the Autocross, we headed to the Skid Pad and Mazda MX5 Cup cars, all equipped with BF Goodrich examples, the g-Force Sport Comp-2, g-Force Rival and serious g-force R1-S. At this point in the day, even striped pink candy couldn’t save me and I seriously considered skipping this station. I’m glad I didn’t.

testing 1-2-3

My intrepid instructor pushed me to my own limits as he measured g-force on a car mounted iPad. Our goal; To feel the “break away” point of each tire.  First up, the g-Force Comp 2 tires, followed by the Rivals and finally the R-1’s. Reaching the point of hearing that coveted skidding sound, my own personal best was not depositing my peppermint on his shoes. All the tires held well, I could feel the progression with the Rival very close to the R1 in grip.

So, an A+ to BFG for patient instructors, a mix of tires and cars and for the opportunity to really compare. The Rivals inspire confidence, a huge plus being the ability to get a racer to and from the track. From a vanity perspective, I thought the tires were a more attractive design than the others. I didn’t hear anyone else discuss that, but I liked their look on a car better than the others.

sounds of the crescent city

And as if all that wasn’t lagniappe enough? How about a welcome party and dinner at Arnaud’s French 75 Restaurant on Bourbon Street and a soft bed in a Ritzy hotel. The well coordinated event ran smoothly, without any noticeable glitches. And the peppermints at every station were greatly appreciated.

Topping off an educational 24 hours was the opportunity to meet up in the bar during a layover in Houston’s Hobby airport, for a quick libation with several of my new driving instructor friends from the track.

all friendly rivals

Just one of the boys and better than peppermint…..

Lizett Bond, February 2013

Traditions – Porsche and Sebring

For years Porsche played the role of a supporting player in sports car racing around the world. It played it well – perhaps Academy Award winning well, but nevertheless seemingly destined to remain as a class and not an overall winner capable of standing alone in the center stage spotlight.

 
Yes, there were outright wins in the unique over-the-road events like the Targa Florio as well as the important hillclimb arena. These, though, for all their tradition – the Targa going back to 1906 – were perceived to be outside the mainstream. The general consensus being that such affairs suited well a small displacement entry like a Porsche Spyder because handling and balanced performance rather than a reliance on outright horsepower and speed were the keys to winning.

 
That perception of Porsche changed one March Saturday in 1960 when Hans Herrmann and Olivier Gendebien drove their underrated RS60 Spyder to an overall victory at Sebring, leading a one-two Porsche sweep and humbling the far more powerful Ferrari Testa Rosa in the process. Before the decade was out not only would Porsche repeat its Sebring success in 1968, but would also go on to claim the World Manufacturers Championship just a year later.

 
But, while under Ferdinand Piech, then head of Porsche racing, and today the chairman of giant Volkswagen, Zuffenhausen transformed itself into the mega, global headlining sports racing star it now is, no where has its greatness been more evidenced than at the Florida 12-hour classic.

 
Porsche’s Sebring record shows it has amassed no less than 67 class triumphs, 207 top ten finishes, and led 19,977 miles out of the 2, 4 million miles covered by its cars and their 3,300 drivers that have participated at the Central Florida airport circuit.
Perhaps more important than those impressive statistics is the fact that of the 60 12-Hours held so far,Porsches have won 18, or just under 20 per cent, 13 of those wins being consecutive between 1976 and 1988. And, as if all that weren’t enough, it was Derek Bell who set the existing lap record of just 130 miles an hour in a Porsche 962 during the 1986 event.

 
Will Porsche win Sebring again? With the factory preparing to re-enter the prototype scene for 2014 don’t bet against the engineers from Weissach.. Remember their last overall Sebring triumph came in 2008 when Roger Penske’s supposedly underdog RS Spyders took the checkered flag ahead of the then undefeated headlining Audis. If they could do that, with a car not necessarily designed and made to race at the front, you can bet they’ll be a favorite to carry on what was one of their most proud winning tradition, not only at Sebring, but that everywhere they race.

 
Susann Miller, March. 2012

Susann Miller (susannart@aol.com) is a noted Porsche author and enthusiast, with 12 books and numerous articles to her credit on the subject of Zuffenhausen and its cars. www.porschebooks.org