Track Maps of the Past: Lockbourne AFB

Look at this map from the program for the 1953 National Sports Car Races at Lockbourne Air Force Base in Columbus, Ohio and try and tell me that it isn’t perfect. What could have that family returning from the rest rooms so grumpy, I daren’t guess.

Bring back the airport races!


It’s a Plaid Plaid Plaid Plaid World

Much maligned and misunderstood, the plaid interior isn’t always a crime against design. In the right car, at the hands of the right designer, it cannot be matched for charm. Every few years VW releases a Rabbit with plaid seat inserts, but I think it’s even been several years since we last saw them. Like our earlier look at blue cars with red interiors, it can look amazing in classic sportscars.

Sadly, I’m having a hard time imagining this looking good on a contemporary supercar. It looks fabulous in this Gullwing Mercedes, but I’m not sure it would be such a showstopper in a modern Mercedes SLR. I’d love to see someone do this in their modern 911. The car has enough of it’s heritage appearance (barely) that it might be able to pull it off.

Ok, so maybe it doesn't always work

Listen Along With the 1959 Monaco GP

There is something beautiful about an imageless audio recording such as this. I don’t know that I’d want to sacrifice the immediacy of the live video from the track, but there’s something about simply hearing the audio that is lost in the satellite feed. Maybe, by leaving something to the imagination, we’re a more active participant; taking the information we have, and filling in the gaps with our mind. I’m surprised that in the age of the podcast this type of field recording hasn’t made a resurgence.

As you know, I’m a huge fan of old racing film. Often they’re homemade 8mm film canisters with no accompanying audio. They’re lovely. Audio recordings such as this LP from the Sound Stories series are much the same. For me, these audio recordings are every bit as precious as the film canisters. Often, I think they communicate more than the film does.

But enough media philosophy—let’s get on with the 17th Monaco Grand Prix. In this first recording, it’s the run-up to the race, with recordings from the pits and brief interviews with the drivers. Stirling Moss tests and discusses the BRM. Von Tripps whips the new Porsche F1 effort around the bends. Phil Hill gives us his impressions of the track—amazing that 50+ years ago, there was still this notion of ‘only in Monaco’. It was already considered by some drivers an outdated racing course even then, but the romance of Monaco continues to win out half a century later.

Nevil Lloyd’s narration of the qualifying is excellent, noting the pieces of audio where we hear gear changes or hard braking. Listening along, it’s amazing how much easily you can imagine yourself sitting behind the giant steering wheel of a ’59 BRM.


Ok then, let’s get down to business: it’s race day, and I won’t spoil the drama by telling you too much. Throw on your headphones and give a listen.


Via Valve Bounce, where you can download the files as well.

1971 4 Hours of Monza

Great footage here from the pits and on track of the 4 Hours of Monza, 1971. What a wonderful grid for 1971’s first event on the European Touring Car Championship, with a pack of Alfa GTAMs, BMW 2002s and 2800s, Fiat 500s, Escorts, and a Camaro for good measure. All the more exciting, this video has real audio with some great engine screaming!

How much would I like one of the Dunlop Racing Division jackets seen in this 1st video at 55 seconds? Very much. Very, very much.

Chopard’s Monaco Historique 2010 Film

A Weekend at the Blackhawk Vintage Classic XVIII

I made the trip down to the VSCDA’s Blackhawk Farms event this past weekend and had a wonderful time. This was, somehow, my first visit to the track and I enjoyed the laid-back environment and comfortable size of the place. This smaller track might be less suited to the big bangers than Road America, but as a spectator it is nice to be able to comfortably wander from corner to corner in the infield and easily take in a variety of vantage points. The adjoining airstrip was hosting a vintage event of their own on this particular weekend. Few things add to the atmosphere of a vintage race weekend than a steady flow of biplanes flying low overhead—it was our own miniature Goodwood!

Also fantastic about this particular weekend is the large numbers of vintage Formula Vees that arrive. Their numbers are such that they have their own grid, without the larger Formula Fords and Bs in the mix. Their event was the highlight of the action on-track of the weekend, with front runners Garrett Van Camp, Frank Newton, and Mike Kitsmiller trading positions at nearly every lap.

Making a return to competition was the H-Mod Crosley Special that we saw at the Intermarque car show in St. Paul, MN a few weeks back. It was an absolute treat to see her back on the track Saturday competing amongst the pre-war group after a very long dormancy.Even better, I was offered a ride in her for the Sunday touring sessions! Unfortunately it simply wasn’t meant to be; the rotor came apart and a replacement couldn’t be sourced in time to get her on the track on Sunday. C’est la vie.

This TVR was my pick of the weekend: gorgeously prepared!

Often the racing community focuses on the large races: the KIC at Road America, The Lime Rock Historic Festival, the Monterey Historics. The biggies certainly bring out the crowds. Their high profile draws the exotic machinery. Do yourself a favor and try to make it out to the smaller vintage events in your area. The atmosphere is more familial, the smaller crowds means you’ll have better opportunity to chat with the drivers, and the tracks themselves feel somehow cozier.

Gran Turismo 5 Release Date Announced. Finally!

Woohoo! We racing and video game geeks have been jonesing for this one for much too long. Gran Turismo 5 has finally announced a firm release date: November 2, 2010. From the screenshots shared at E3 yesterday, it looks like we’ll be seeing more vintage machines than we have in recent episodes of the series as well. From vintage ground-pounders in what looks like a pretty well stocked Trans Am field; to early iterations of the Lamborghini LP400 Countach; and an Alpine—we’ll have some real vintage machinery to sink our virtual teeth into this winter.

From the looks of things, we’ll have some fantastic tracks to try them out on as well. The Nurburgring looks incredibly well detailed with changing surfaces and grafitti. We’ll also get to try our skills on the Top Gear test track! Oh how I’ve wanted to try and keep from lifting in the Follow Through bend. Their takes on some fictional tracks in Rome and Madrid also look spectacular. The Gran Turismo series has always pushed the envelope of what is possible with each generation of gaming platform and the 5th episode looks like it’ll be leveraging the Playstation’s hardware in ways we haven’t seen yet. Looks like it’s time for me to start saving for that steering wheel interface. And with technical direction from Adrian Newey, I imagine that GT5 will stick to the series long history of unparalleled on-track realism, including the long-overdue implementation of car damage on impacts.

I’ve always understood the car manufacturers that license their designs to video game developers have always been reticent to let their cars look all banged up at the end of the race; or become damaged in ways that might not represent the real-life safety systems in the cars. But GT5 has finally been able to sort the hesitation to bring added realism to the series. Hooray!

Pre-Order at Gran Turismo’s site.

Unseen 50s Racing Footage: Torrey Pines Oct. 1955

Here’s another installment from the McClure archives. This time it’s the 6th running of the Torrey Pines Road Races held on October 22-23, 1955. Some wonderful footage from the pits starts off the clip with shots of a Siata 208 Coupe alongside a Paul Berry’s Arnolt-Bristol, Lotus IX, MGAs and Austin-Healeys, and is that Lance Reventlow climbing into the Mercedes 300 he shared with Bruce Kessler before crashing out in the 6 Hours? The LeMans-style running start of which is captured here as well. A fantastic field for the race with cars such as Jack McAfee’s 550 Spyder, Pearce Woods’ C-Type Jag, The O’Shea/Hill Mercedes, and the Ives Cad-Allard.

An excellent race!

24h Spa Francorchamps 1971

Tales from the Pits: Who’s the Best?

The argument over who was the best driver was taken to new heights a few years back by the English journal Motorsports in an article naming the top 100 of all time, thus pitting Jenatzy against Clark, Ascari (pick one) against Hill (pick any) and so on. Comparing drivers of different eras is as silly as comparing tennis players of different eras. Comparing drivers of the same era is hard enough! IROC never seems to have proved much and the early races were run on road courses when many of the pro US drivers had no experience on them.

In the ’50s, drivers of the East Coast seldom came west and vice-versa. Being a California boy, I thought our West Coasters had the edge. Actually, in the big bore classes, it seemed a toss up between the two Phils–Walters and Hill. They were seldom on the same grid. Phil Hill was “pleased” to have beaten his former idol (Walters was a top east Coast Midget pilot when Hill made a few starts in one around LA in the late ’40s) at Elkhart Lake driving an XK C (the Hornburg car recently sold to Europe and visible on this website’s Villa D’Este video) to Walter’s 2.6 Ferrari coupe. At March Field in ’53 Walters waltzed away from the field in the Cunningham C5R’s last race, but failed to finish; Hill’s 2.9 Ferrari hadn’t the speed for an airport course with twin mile long straights.

In the small bore class–F modified__the matter is easier to resolve in the mid 50s because so many of the top drivers were piloting the same machine, the Porsche 550 Spyder. The first four cam engined Spyder raced in the US was Johnny Von Neumann’s which tore up practice at March Field in ’54. My Dad came off the track and reported that “Johnny was passing OSCAs like OSCAs pass MGs.” But an MG pilot pulled out of the pit lane in front of the Porsche and it crashed and burned. John had a second 550 but with a pushrod engine. It would be nearly a year before the next four cammer arrived. In it John had some good races with Pete Lovely’s Pooper and Miles’ R2 MG special, but then he hired Miles to drive for him when all the customer 550s arrived. In ’56-7 we often had six or seven on the grid at a race, and in order of speed the pilots were: 1. Miles 2. Ginther 3. Kunstle 4. McAfee 5. Weiss 6. tie between Porter, Beagle and McHenry. Lovely stepped into a Spyder a couple of times and was up near the top. Only Jack McAfee raced multiple times in the East, and he won nearly all of them, whereas he won only a few times on our coast.

A bit later the RS and RSKs arrived. At our first big pro event, the Examiner GP at Pomona. Miles was in an older RS and Sammy Weiss had a new RSK. Mid way they were running 4th and 3rd, with Miles dogging the faster car but unable to get by. In the turn entering the front straight Miles showed me the Pitt maneuver for the first time in sports car racing, bumping Weiss into a slide and then passing. It turned out to be for the win as the two big bore cars then leading them both retired. Ken raised the bar in the under 1500cc class beginning in ’53, and later became a top high horsepower pilot as well.

The grid for F modified at Santa Barbara in 1956 shows Miles, Ginther and Jean-Pierre Kunstle on the front row, with John Porter, Troy McHenry and Walt Turner also in 550s further back, as well as the 550 engined Lotus of Bill Eschrich with wheels poised in case Miles stalls!  He didn’t, taking the win instead.