Tag Archives: Lizett Bond

The McLaren of Jane Austen – or The Pie, The Bull and other things…

The events that led to this fine story took place a few years back, when my friends Lizett Bond and Kerry Morse paid a visit to the UK. As usual when Kerry is around things get a little out of focus, nevertheless this tale is worth repeating and New Year’s Eve is as good as any time to do so. And it is also an appropriate time to remember those who are no longer here to celebrate a New Year, one such individual was Jim Bamber, the great cartoonist and artist who passed away in the summer. He is greatly missed by his friends.

So to those who persevere with this site, may I wish you and yours a happy and healthy 2015. 

John Brooks, December 2014

2013 General

Think of Jane Austen country. What comes to mind? Landed gentry, leisurely strolls through verdant pastures, sheep, cattle and, of course, the horses? Yet, might there be horses of another type hidden in those peaceful, green hills? Sense tells us this is prime horse country, what if sensibilities were interrupted by the roar of something that travels on four “legs” of a different kind?

I love horses. I cut my teeth on “National Velvet”. One of my favorite daydreams consisted of riding The Pie across a pasture, wind whipping my short hair. In this daytime fantasy, Mi coached from the fence line.

Imagine how I jumped when the opportunity arose to actually spend some time in the English countryside. When I discovered that the village of Bentley, my destination, was in Jane Austen territory, I adjusted, trading in Mi and The Pie for Colonel Brandon, Mr. Willoughby, and romance.

2014 JB General

Jane Austen country, so steeped in history, was soon to provide some modern surprises, and the contrast between historical and modern would prove pretty striking.

2014 JB General
There were several reasons to be in Jane’s neck of the woods.  First, the MP4/3 McLaren.  A Formula One racecar with historical significance and modern interest, I would have the privilege of observing the shakedown of this fine steed at the famous Donington Park racetrack.

2014 JB General

The second was to spend time with a Jaguar XJ and a bright yellow Porsche 997 Carrera. These fine carriages, provided by the manufacturers, awaited our arrival at Heathrow Airport after a flight from Los Angeles on Virgin Atlantic.

2014 JB General

Our destination was the Bentley Mill Inn. Cars aside, during my visit I wanted to meld into the community and meet the locals. I wanted to belong, if only for a short time.

2014 JB General

It was dark as we rolled into the outskirts of Bentley, and after an unplanned tour of the small village, we found our lodgings.  Ann and David Hallett, proprietors of the converted mill, proved the quintessential English hosts. A cross between English country gentleperson farmers and extremely cultured, worldly travelers, we were welcomed into their home.  In spite of the comfort and quaint ambience of this establishment, there was an air of quiet refinement, as one would expect. A paper mill, originally built in 1640, the Bentley Mill sits virtually atop The River Wey.

2014 JB General

And there were more delights to follow. A short walk from the Mill sits the Bull Inn. The classic English Pub, right down to the fireplace, the locals and the atmosphere, The Bull Inn serves breakfast, bar snacks, drinks and dinner.  Oh, heaven!  If I wanted to experience another world firsthand, I’d found it. Or as Ms Austen would say, “one half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other”. The regulars at the Bull Inn are right out of a PBS Masterpiece Theatre production.  Sandy, an occasional bartender at the Bull, is the perfect character to stand behind said bar, a lot of fun, and “Sex In the City” has nothing on her. One would expect an old curmudgeon, but instead, the owner of this establishment is an ultra modern sophisticate, driving a Porsche and vacationing in Vail, Colorado.

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Feeling as if this was now my local, dinner at the Bull became a nightly ritual. One special evening at the Bull was topped off by dinner with renowned race cartoonist and artist, Jim Bamber and his wife Sally.

How could one resist the urge for further exploration? In order to access the hamlet of Bentley from the Mill Inn, one has two choices; get in a car and trek the A31 or, the best to any traveler, stroll right out the front door, turn right on the narrowest country road ever and hit the footpaths through the pastures.  Bentley was meant for ambling and the juxtaposition of historical cottages and new mansions was marked as I sauntered along.  The imagination is well exercised with a pasture promenade and, like Jane Austen, I preferred “taking a turn in the shrubbery”.  I fancied an encounter with Miss Steele as I traveled the footpaths to the little village of Bentley.

2014 JB General

Another day trip included a visit to Austen’s home in Chawton, where she resided for the last eight years of her life and penned some of her best works.  The house is now a museum.

An excursion to the city of Winchester also provided some timeless contrasts. Being December, the weather was quite chilly and rather dreary, but a Christmas Market at Winchester Cathedral, along with street musicians and the aroma of assorted treats, set the mood. I was transported to another century. Walking into Winchester Cathedral, I was struck by the presence of the humanity who had trod these floors before me.

2014 JB General

However, leaving Winchester in the comparative safety and luxury of a new Jaguar XJ jolted me back to modern times.

However, speaking of centuries past, The Bishops of Winchester inhabited Farnham Castle in the village of Farnham, for over 900 years. Bentley is just a stones throw from Farnham.

2014 JB General

Since my countryside reverie was about to be interrupted, combined with, or attached to, a trip to Farnham, I began to wonder just what this little escapade would bring to the table.  How could it possibly compete with Bentley, and Ann of the Mill, or Sandy of the Bull Inn, of sheep in the pasture, or ancient bibles, and, well, all of it? But seriously, as the purpose of the trip was car stuff, what could complete this trip more than a visit to the “shop” of a major historic racecar player?

2014 JB General

Once there, the contrast took my breath away.  Obviously a horse and cattle operation in times past, the fantastic barn had been restored to its original splendor. What was behind those wooden doors?  How about a fantastic collection of vintage racecars.  Vintage, in Jane Austen country, is a relative term.  What constitutes a vintage car?  Well, cars are a relatively new creation and Ms. Austen would not have known them, so we are modern/historical in a relative sense.  Our prejudices are just challenged. But I digress.

2013 General

The purpose of the visit is a photo shoot. And not just any old vintage racecar either; a McLaren MP4 Porsche powered F1 rolling stock. To record the event, eminent racecar photographer John Brooks is on hand, with all his paraphernalia, along with racecar historian Kerry Morse.  Their goal, to photograph the McLaren, in the mist, in the cold, in the historic setting, to express the essense of the car and the people who influence racing.

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But, wait, there’s more! Did I want a ride in an F1 GTR McLaren?  The ex Ray Bellm 1996 F1 GTR still in Gulf Oil colors?  Of course!  Did I realize what I was getting into?  Of course not!  This fabulous looking McLaren rolled out of the shop, still wearing those championship Gulf colors of blue and orange. It was, well, romantic and loud and full of horsepower. It was Colonel Brandon and I was in Jane’s countryside. It was The Pie and a steeplechase. I wanted to cut my hair short and pretend!  Did I turn down the ride? Of course not.

2014 JB General

I pried myself around the roll cage and into a tiny racing seat located to the left of the driver, as the McLaren is a center steer. Strapped into a seat that allowed for NO movement, I decided my safety was in the hands of my driver.  “These cars are built for catastrophe,” I told myself, and, “Hey, this guy knows what he is doing”. I plastered a quivering smile on my face and we were off. Nothing compares to a drive through the English countryside in a McLaren “street legal” racecar with a proficient driver.  Behind us, yet another McLaren F1 followed, this example being of the production type. Bringing up the rear came Brooks and Morse, in the yellow Porsche 997, trying their best to keep up with the McLaren duo.

2014 JB General

I could scarcely turn my head, partly out of fear, and partly out of, well, the inability to turn my head in such tight seating.  Feeling a bit like Plato’s workers in the Allegory of the Cave, I was aware only of what was going on directly to the front of me.  Conversation with my intrepid driver was impossible.  He couldn’t hear my silent screams, and his reassurances would fall on deaf ears. Not that he seemed to feel any need to comfort me.  I could see, in my peripheral vision, people staring at the ride. I focused on the road ahead, foot mashing an imaginary brake pedal.  Seriously though, is there anything cooler than traversing speed bumps, in front of a school full of teenaged students, in an extremely rare and fast car?

2014 JB General

As we sped into the countryside, cows, horses and sheep grazed quietly in a pastoral setting, not even raising their heads at the roar of the McLaren. I was able to see these creatures, sort of…they went by so fast!  I felt as if the cows were tigers about to be churned into butter.  Finally, we pulled into what appeared to be an upscale dairy.  Upscale, indeed. We’d arrived at a warehouse chock full of historic racecars.  Let’s see, historic racecars in a modern warehouse in the middle of land that makes me think that all creatures are truly great and small.   Old, new, old…wow, forget Mi and Colonel Brandon, even Mr. Darcy…bring me Mr. Firth, bring me Mr. Rickman!

2014 JB General

Eventually, I had to come back to reality, to my own half of the world.  I had to say goodbye to Ann and David of the Mill, Sandy of The Bull Inn and to Brooksie….the ‘other half’ of SportsCarPros.  A confession; the countryside, the Jag, and the sightseeing took precedence over Donington. While the intrepid crew of SportsCarPros was shooting away at the track, I was tooling around in that beautiful black Jag or in my own black riding boots, which doubled as walking boots.  After all, as Jane once wrote, “Why not seize the pleasure at once, how often is happiness destroyed by preparation, foolish preparation?”

Lizett Bond, December 2006

Cars, Bikes and The Cooler King: The 2013 Friends of Steve McQueen Car and Motorcycle Show



It has been a quiet time here on the DDC front, in common with almost everyone else, the 2013 Le Mans 24 Hours wiped us out. However green shoots are now emerging and first up is a look at a cool car show that happened earlier in California. So thanks to Lizett for the eloquent copy and to Bruce for the stunning imagery.


There’s something really gratifying about witnessing an event take on a life of it’s own, and after five years that’s exactly what is happening here. That satisfaction intensifies when the gathering benefits a worthy cause. Throw some star power into the mix and you have a potent prescription for long-term success.

Based each year on a McQueen movie theme, The Sixth Annual Friends of Steve McQueen Car and Motorcycle Show, held in June, revolved around The Great Escape. The one-day a year event featured more than 300 cars and nearly 100 motorcycles on display to approximately 5,000 attendees. The proof is in the numbers.


“The first year we made about $14,000 with about 200 cars,” said co-chairman, Ron Harris. “This year we approached $250,000.

The cause is the Boys Republic of Chino Hills, CA. Established in 1907, the school is a private, non-profit community for at-risk teens. Steve McQueen attended from 1947-49 and credited the school for pointing him on the path to success. McQueen never forgot and was a frequent visitor, even after he became a Hollywood star and legend.

“He stayed in constant touch with the school and when he passed away, he left a nice chunk of change to build a recreation center,” said Chad McQueen, son of the famous actor.

The McQueen family continues that involvement through the car show and other activities.


This year, spectators enjoyed a diverse collection of the classic, the expensive and the rare. Highlights included Bruce Canepa’s Coooper T-52 Formula Junior and Chad McQueen’s black Speedster, both owned at one time by Chad’s famous father. A very original 1965 Ford GT40, 1949 Belly Tank Lakester and Roush Mustang were crowd favorites. A 1935/41 Miller-Ford NOVI-Winfield drew many admirers, as did the impressive gathering of Porsches and Mustangs. Steve McQueen’s love of all things two-wheeled are well documented and the motorcycle display paid tribute with affection. The man would have applauded the choice of the 1940 Zundapp motorcycle with sidecar that was the recipient of The Great Escape Trophy.


When it comes to war movies, director John Sturges 1963 film, The Great Escape, is likely on every World War II aficionado’s list of “must haves”. As the car crowd mingled and strolled the Boys Republic campus, a realistic reproduction of Stalag Luft III, the POW camp depicted in the movie, stood as silent sentry, complete with guard tower, cooler, tunnel, and barbed wire fencing.


The set exploded into life as the California Historical Group, a World War II living history association, re-enacted the legendary escape scene portrayed in the film, complete with McQueen’s character, Hilts, infamous motorcycle jump atop a Triumph SR6 650 masquerading as a German GMW R75. Rifle-carrying German soldiers fired on the M4A1 Sherman tank as a P-51 Mustang, complements of Chino Airport Planes of Fame Museum, performed a flyover.

“The show gets bigger and better every year,” said Chad. “Of course, we have the Porsches, which will always be standard fare with my Dad, but also a pretty eclectic mix of cars and motorcycles.”


Chad said he has so many memories as a small boy with a famous father. He offered this recollection of the film Le Mans:

“You had a young kid and his whole life was cars and motorcycles and nothing else. I was there for five months surrounded by racecars and racecar drivers. I was ten. It was just sensory overload. I think the high point was my Dad putting me on his lap for a ride in the 917, that was pretty bitchin’.”

Anyone out there care to disagree ?

Lizett Bond, July 2013



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