Monthly Archives: December 2015

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A Most Agreeable Event

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One of the highlights of my motoring year is the Salon Privé, a fusion of the automobile and a traditional English garden party.

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Held this year for the first time in the grounds of Blenheim Palace, a fitting arena for the show.

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And I was lucky enough to get an invitation to ride with Dirk de Jäger in the Cisitalia 202S-MM that finished fourth overall in the 1947 Mille Miglia. I wrote about that red letter day HERE

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The Cisitalia was a rival for Ferrari back in the immdiate post-war period in Italy.

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I had a closer look at the fabulous Italian sports car HERE

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Another amazing Italian on the lawn at Blenheim was the Ferrari FXX K, a universe away from the Cisitalia.

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Boasting 1,050hp obtained with the latest technology HY-KERS system topping up a more traditional V12 lump. More can be seen HERE and if you get time click on the film of Sebastian Vettel wringing the neck of the FXX K at Fiorano, astounding.

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Going to these high end car events I have come to the conclusion that a Concours can be judged on the quality of the Ferraris on display, arbitrary and unfair, but so is life.

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Salon Privé ticked all the boxes in this challenge as illustrated HERE

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Numerically outnumbered by Maranello’s crop, Porsche was represented by several models from its illustrious past, the pick of the bunch was the ex-Ben Pon 904 GTS, more on that HERE

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One of the attractions of Salon Privé is the range of cars that are assembled each year. Away from the usual content there are always autos on display that have you reaching for the catalogue to figure out what they are. Two of these Lancia Sport Prototipo Zagatos were built in 1964 though this is the sole survivor.

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Another one-off is this Goldmanini, Italian styling from the ’50s at its simple best.

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Even the car park will produce the unusual, a Zagato-styled Bentley Continental GTZ. More can be seen HERE of these cars.

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The quality of the cars on display encourages my photographic side, so the Fujis are fired up searching for THE shot.

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Naturally I cannot find it but it is not for want of trying.

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The full gallery can be seen HERE

The next Salon Privé will be held at Blenheim Palace on 1-3 September, don’t miss it.

John Brooks, December 2015

Autumn Colours at Brooklands

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I have not been able to visit Brooklands this year as much as I would have wished, too many clashing dates but back in mid-October I found a window to go for a few hours to Weybridge for the Autumn Motorsport day.

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There was a very strong Italian element on the day, a close relationship with Auto Italia magazine who stage a day each year on site meant that there was a fine selection of automotive art to admire and appreciate.

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There was a comprehensive turnout of Abarth’s finest with the owners keen to get a run on the Test Track at the neighbouring Mercedes-Benz World.

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And who could resist this Montreal?

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Brooklands is undergoing great changes as the Bellman Hanger is to be moved and the Old Finishing Straight is being brought back to life. Evidence of this work was to be seen and by the time the Autumn Motorsport Day comes round in 2016 it will be a very different Brooklands but with the same spirit that has sustained this corner of motor sport for over a century.

John Brooks, December 2015

This One Is For Bob Carlson 1948-2008

Scanning social media while enjoying a glass of red on a Friday night is a largely pointless exercise, mostly involving dog, cat or toddler videos or folks getting worked up about the latest idiocy from Trump or Hillary (a plague on both of their houses). My attention was caught by a post from Deborah Kay Carlson, the widow of the late Bob Carlson, marking the seventh anniversary of his passing. Being a Brit I did not really know Bob that well but my man, Kerry Morse, did, and wrote a fine piece at the time. I am posting it again as a tribute to Bob and a small attempt at bringing comfort to all those who have suffered a bereavement at this difficult time of the year.

 

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I didn’t see any of the Daytona 24 Hours but I was certainly surrounded by the emotions of what the Porsche victory meant. A late dinner that Sunday evening in a large room of a new hotel in Sicily and PCNA’s head PR honcho, Bernd Harling kept leaving the table to escape the masses of journalists who made the trip to drive the new Boxster around the roads outside of Palermo.

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Aside from sneaking outside to have a smoke, Harling was keeping in contact with his PR ilk at Daytona on the status of the P-cars. He would return to the table and give me the updates. My feelings towards the proto-turtles of Grand Am hasn’t changed and it’s doubtful if it ever will. But David Donohue is one of the genuinely good people out there and he has come close, very close, so many times in so many events. I was there the last time a Brumos Porsche won the 24 in 1978 and then there is the matter of time loving a hero as David’s father won Daytona 40 years ago. The recent passing of Bob Snodgrass, who for so many years was a major force behind both Brumos and Porsche, was also present with us all. If David Donohue could go from Pole to Victory Lane, well… who wouldn’t cheer a story like that?

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Harling vacated once more for the cool air of Sicily and my mobile buzzed as dessert was being served. It was Mr. Brooks who proceeded to describe the final lap and the scene from the Brumos pits. Harling returned, stood up, gave a short speech and then a toast all around. Thousands of miles away in victory circle a whole different set of emotions were on display. David Donohue made it certain that Bob Snodgrass got his due but also for one who had been responsible for what has kept Porsche Motorsport so visible in the U.S.

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Bob Carlson was always in motion. Until cancer finally overtook him, it wasn’t his style to complain, he always was thinking ahead. He spent the last quarter century of his life pulling the levers and oiling the squeaky wheel behind the scenes of public relations of Porsche in America. It may seem like a dream job but this was a time of transition for Porsche and Bob put in a lot of long hours getting such mundane tasks as the “details” done correctly. The man stayed out of the public view and never cared for being in the spotlight, he was far more comfortable being the lighting director and getting that spotlight trained on the task. He never overshadowed his subjects, the cars, the drivers or the company. To Bob, it was Porsche first and foremost.

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Bob Carlson was born and grew up in San Jose which meant that Laguna Seca was his “home” track. He covered motorsports for the town paper, got a fistful of degrees from SJSU and eventually the road led to a full time gig with Porsche Cars North America and in a “I can’t believe my good fortune scenario”, was put in to racing PR. This was the time of the late, great Al Holbert and the 962 era. I can still picture Bob at Daytona during the 24 hour race, running back and forth from the official Porsche truck to the Holbert pits, gathering his notes. He was always energetic while a pack of us burned out hacks would sneer and wonder aloud why we kept coming back year after year. Bob carefully maneuvered through the PR minefield of the Porsche Indy experience, putting the best face possible on a series of missteps and mishaps and then the tragic plane crash, which claimed the life of Al Holbert.

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Porsche was having it’s own internal struggles and the sales slump that hit in the early 90’s stretched the bounds of credibility. Bob Carlson caught a lot of flak from many of us in the business, but it was always in a behind the scenes, good natured but with a point, manner. He caught a break because even within the boundaries he was honest and forthright and while many of the answers were considered off the record, that bond was honored. One must remember, he was a gringo working for a German company. For many, that thought is a migraine in progress. As the company rebounded, both in sales and the overall product, a move for PCNA to Atlanta, gave Bob the springboard for creating some new ideas to modify the dreaded ‘arrive and drive’ staple that most automotive company invites had become.

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My personal favorite was in 2000 and quality seat time aboard the new 911 Turbo. The event was based in Reno which offered up ample opportunity of making the best of a route that covered several hundred miles, the highlight was the chance to make timed runs out in the desert region of Black Route. This was a true USAC sanctioned record run through a series of timed stages. Weather had a lot to do with the overall times, that were set, ground condition, wind direction, just like the real world but it was a great experience and one befitting the car.

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Later that evening at a historic house near Carson City, the after dinner entertainment was Mark Twain, or about as good as you are going to get to the real Mr. Clemens. That was Bob Carlson, eclectic in his choices, but always memorable. Being a hockey fan, he would check to see if there were any games, even in the minor leagues, on any number of press trips. Picture this, a game with so many penalties that there were only two players remaining for each team as the rest had been ejected. Bob leaned over and said, “You think these guys will get to the bigs?”

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Bob Carlson wouldn’t want a tribute, that wasn’t his style but it looks like he has left something that will continue to be a tribute to what he worked for. After the 50th Anniversary of Porsche in 1998 that was a first class bash at the Monterey Historics, Bob hit on the idea of having a get together of like minded Porsche enthusiasts and their race cars every few years instead of waiting for ten years or longer. Support for the idea was tepid at first but after the success of the original Rennsport Reunion held at Lime Rock in 2001, the planning for an even larger event to be held at Daytona in 2004 was put in place. This time, many of the great names of not only the drivers, but the engineers, were to be honored.

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And then again in November of 2007, a gathering of 917’s were the highlight of Rennsport III. Bob Carlson, although thin and suffering the effects of treatment for cancer, happily wandered through the maze of people and cars, smiling and taking it all in. And then the 2009 edition of Daytona and it’s 24 Hours for Brumos, for Porsche and for David Donohue. It’s what Bob Carlson would have wanted and more importantly, deserved.
Kerry Morse February 2009

View from the Perimeter

Lee Self is one of the Elders of the Turn Ten tribe, that mythical assembly that convenes each March in Highlands County to worship at the Great 12 Hours. He is also one of the truly good guys and I can personally attest to him being a mean provider of concierge services. Lee dropped me a note earlier in the week describing his latest adventure and I can think of no finer way of kick-starting DDC back into life this winter than a tale from our favourite piece of Florida real estate.

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The Amazing Randy and I went to Sebring Saturday to the Sebring Vintage and Used Racer Festival.

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I went back over to the track early Monday morning, to see what I could see. Drove straight to the Airport and had a quick breakfast at the Runway Cafe. It was decorated with World War II Hendricks Field vintage photos………

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Did I mention it was Dec. 7th, Pearl Harbor Day here in the US? So I was right in the Period, very cool and most appropriate.

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Went out to my car, got the little camera and shot some of the inside decor.

Walked back out to my car, really didn’t see anything, got back in the car and drove over to the Hotel that Don Built, you know, Chateau Elan.

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I parked, sat for a bit. walked on, then back out to the car to poke around at my camera gear, then down the side towards the track, easy to get to and nobody watching over the area.

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Then back to the car, drove around over to the Office/Gate. I asked if I could go in and look around. Got a stiff “NO!”

Why not?

“TESTING, GO AWAY!”

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So I went back out to the main road, turned left towards the power building and down the outside where they park pre-race staging campers. Well, they’re building an Ice Cream Bar factory in that field, lots of trucks, workers and traffic, so off into the mess I went, ended up at the west most edge of the circuit/airport property at the end of the runway.

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I could see the last turn before the long original straight down to T17, but just a bit of it, and at my max distance with a 200mm lens. Got some shots of the GTLM Porsche 911 turning laps, which he did on and off most of the day.

So anyway, I look to my right and see a Mexican fellow with a jeep looking down the runway, through the fence. He sees me taking shots, no problem. He said the airport called and said there was a cow and calf in the property, he was looking for it.

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So enough from there. I drive back to the track entrance area, and just drive right past the gate, then the hairpin then and then zoom into the industrial park. Drove around in there a bit, to see where I could go, and what I might be able to see of the track… not much luck, but I did notice a perfect parking spot in the General Parking lot right as you enter the park (right where the chicane used to be) pulled up in there, parked and just watched for a while. noticed I could see the cars sweeping past from leaving the hairpin through Fangio Chicane and in places on the outside I’m high enough to see track clearly.

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Maybe 45 minutes, maybe an hour goes by. I drive back over and park at the Airport / Runway Cafe parking lot, right where the cars exit Tower Turn. I have a clear view of the corner. I walk out by the road, and wait, the 911 keeps going by. Then I notice If I look straight ahead, due north I can see the Audi rig, set up next to the former Peugeot building. I can see the mechanics and engineers working around the car.

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Suddenly it comes out and has passed in front of me and is gone before I’m ready. It does a full circuit lap, then right back into their pit box setup. and they push it right back into their “garage”.

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So I wait……and I wait…and I wait….. then I hear radios behind me, I don’t turn around. It’s the authorities. (Sebring Airport Authority)

‘What are you doing?’

‘Watching,’ I said.

‘Who you work for?’

‘Nobody.’ I said I was watching the Audi guys, that I made paintings of racing cars, and that I had the idea to do a Skunkworks-type image, and was watching to see what I could see.

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I had the camera in hand, my kit on my belt, I whipped out my business card, introduced myself. They were cool, I had a Turn 10 hat on, he asked if I was with their crew?

‘Yep, I make the hats and stickers’ I said.

So it turns out his name is Ricardo, and he is best buds with Sammy who is Lola’s husband and the names keep coming………… but the best part is I know all of the folks he’s talking about.

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He says, ‘Ok, shoot away, just don’t go across the perimeter road.’

‘No problem, the sensor will do the work.’ I said I was gonna stick around, walk the perimeter road up to the hairpin and back. He said no problem. So that’s what I did for the next two hours. Got Audis, Got Porsches. Even saw the security guy giving me the eye on one of his passes and got a nice wave in return.

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Eventually I head back to the car, so I drive back to Chateau Elan and order some lunch. Watch for the Audi through the window. then took my Iced Tea and sat on the back porch, by the pool for at least half an hour. The didn’t come back out by 4:00pm, and I was done, If you saw the Audi test video on FaceBook it was shot from right there on Hotel grounds.

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It was nice shooting, never on Raceway property, working all the angles, just for fun, but serious fun, y’know.

 

Lee Self, December 2015 – images copyright and courtesy of the author