The Right Decision?

March 6, 2014 at 9:02 pm
The right decision? We think so...

The right decision? We think so…

The cover of the June 8, 2000 cover of Autosport has in big red letters “OUT”. Jenson Button was to lose his seat at Williams in 2001 to Juan Pablo Montoya. Jenson was the rookie sensation in 2000 at Williams in only his third season of single seater racing but he was to lose his seat to the 1999 CART Champion and 2000 Indy 500 Winner Juan Pablo Montoya who Williams had an option on which came from Alex Zanardi’s move  from Ganassi to Williams in 1999.

It was said that Williams were looking for someone to blow current driver Ralf Schumacher away and they expected Montoya to be the guy after his two stellar seasons in America. So, was it the right decision?

Montoya and Button raced against each other in F1 from 2001 to 2006. Montoya raced for Williams from 2001 to 2004 and McLaren from 2005 to 2006. During that same time period, Button raced for Benneton/Renault from 2001 to 2002 and BAR/Honda from 2003 to 2006. In 2001, Montoya won one race and finished 6th in the World Driver’s Championship while Button had no wins and finished 17th in points. So it was clear in the year after, that this was the right decision.

During Montoya’s Williams years he had 4 wins and finished 6th, 3rd twice and 5th in the WDC while during that time period Button had no wins and finished 17th, 7th, 9th and 3rd in the WDC. In 2005, Montoya joined McLaren and had three wins and finished 4th in the WDC while Button remained winless and finished 9th. In their final year together in F1, Montoya had no wins and finished 8th in the WDC while Button got his first win and finished 6th.

In their time together in F1, Montoya won 7 races and had an average WDC finish of 4.8 while Button had 1 win and an average WDC finish of 8.5.

So it’s clear based on the comparable numbers that Williams made the right decision. However, after Montoya left F1 for Nascar in 2007 things began to change. After two horrible years in Honda, Ross Brawn bought the team and Jenson became world champion in 2009 with 6 wins. Since moving to McLaren in 2010, Button has had eight wins and appears to have a chance to increase the total in the next few years.

So did Williams make the right move? At the time yes, Montoya was on fire after his CART title in 1999 and his dominant Indy 500 win in 2000. He was proven in F3000 and had the makings of being the next big star in F1. Looking at the time Montoya and Button spent together in F1 the decision was correct as Montoya had the better statistics. Button’s star didn’t shine until 2009 when he was given a lifeline (and a dominant car) by Brawn.


It’s the stuff that dreams are made of

February 23, 2014 at 11:33 am

Let’s build the perfect car; let’s start off with exterior. Let’s style it in such a way that it looks good as a four door and as a two door. Let’s make big enough to seat four but not too big. Let’s make the trunk big enough to store luggage for a weekend get away for two. Let’s make it simple but elegant, modern but clearly has influences from the past. It has to look sporty but not too sporty. Everyone has to know on sight it’s rapid quick but doesn’t attract boy racers, police and thieves. How about LED lights, maybe a small spoiler and stylish wheels.

What about powertrain? How about a six cylinder engine with direct injection so it’s right where we want to be in regards to weight and power. It has to accept any type of octane of unleaded and get at least 30/40 mpg. As for the transmission, how about a lightweight PDK that’s involving with paddles that feel just right.

So how does get to the road? Our car has to have four wheel drive with a bias toward the rear wheels. Even better, make it adjustable by the car itself and give the driver an option as to the front and rear percentages.

Our car is also lightweight, using modern technology to keep it light and getting rid of the rubbish it doesn’t need.

Inside we have to have sport seats that hold us in place but have some comfort to them since they are placed in the perfect seating position. We also have Sat Nav, iphone/ipad hands free connection and satellite radio. It also has a moonroof and climate control.

So what’s the price of perfection? A properly equipped car should be leaving the dealer floor at 25K.

Four Nascar Questions for ’14

February 15, 2014 at 6:30 pm
Who will upset who first?

Who will upset who first?

The 2014 Nascar season is upon us, here’s four big questions going into 2014

1. Can JJ win number seven?

If Jimmie Johnson wins again, he can join The King and The Intimidator as the only seven time Cup Champions. Does he have a shot? You bet, no one is as good as JJ when it comes to title time. Hendrick Motorsports have some of the best cars, Chad Knaus is still on the pitbox and Jimmie is one of the best drivers. Expect the 48 to be a player when it comes to Chase time.

2. Will Drama Occur at Stewart Hass this year?

With a lineup of Danica, Smoke, Happy Harvick and Kurt Busch the real question is not if but when. Our prediction is that the fireworks will come from the new boys Harvick and Busch as they’ll become unhappy with someone else on the team and the fireworks will start. Could it start as early as Daytona?

3. Which Rookie will shine?

Austin Dillion steps up to grandpa Richard’s team and carries the number 3. Can Dillion thrive under the pressure of racing for RCR and carrying the famous number three. While Austin’s been a champion in Nationwide and Trucks, however he didn’t dominate when he won his Nationwide championship last year. What will be considered a successful year for the new 3?

Kyle Larson steps up to the show after wowing everyone with his talent in the lower series. The questions is, is it too much too soon? Our prediction is Austin wins Rookie of Year and Larson gives us more “wow” moments out of the two.

4. Is this Dale Jr’s year?

If you ran last year’s championship to the new chase format, Dale Jr would have been champion. Junior has gotten better and better over the past few years and all that’s lacking is more wins. If he can maintain his consistency while winning a few races he could be a serious contender. Plus. 2014 is Steve Letarte’s last season on top of the 88 pitbox, don’t you think they want to go out in style?


Lying Pig Farmers

February 2, 2014 at 12:52 pm
The main reason why I've had it with Subaru

The main reason why I’ve had it with Subaru

You’ve probably read about my battles with the Fuji Pig, otherwise known as my 2008 Subaru Legacy GT. A big factor in the hate department of my love/hate relationship with the car has been dealing with Planet Subaru, the dealership I trusted to maintain my car while it was under factory warranty. I’m aware that dealership service costs more, but the ridiculous, over the top pricing and customer service aspect is what has upset me the most.

A lube, oil, filter and tire rotation should not cost over 100 dollars. I should be able to wait for the car without having to book the car a month in advance. If have to drop the car off, I expect at least some sort of courtesy shuttle service. I understand that loaner vehicles can’t be given out to everyone, but at least give me a ride to work and back so I don’t have inconvenience everyone I deal with for the day and especially since I’m paying an arm and a leg for basic service.

I dread phone calls from Planet, especially from the service advisor I’ve titled the angel of death. She has this monotone voice and she’s always calling me about some gloom and doom. Normally her gloom and doom is on the untruthful side of things. Back in October I was in for an oil change, I got a call saying my axle boots we’re  leaking and my front axles need a complete overhaul. I did what someone should do when facing a major repair out of the blue like that and took it to a trusted independent mechanic. They took one look at my front axle’s and said, “No, they just need to be lubed up”.

The second lying phone call from the angel of death occurred a few weeks ago, when there was a leak in my fuel lines and was told because it was a safety issue I had to have all the fuel lines replaced because they only came in kit form. While this service was being done I got a phone call saying my brakes had under 2mm of pad left and they should replaced. I told them to hold off on it. I went to my trusted mechanic for an oil change and asked them to look at the pads. I told them Subaru said I had under 2mm left. An hour later I got a call “Hey Jonathan, you have at least 4mm of pad left, you have a few more oil changes before they need to be changed”.

I understand a dealership service department trying to sell work but lying about the replacement of axle boots or wear on brake pads is embarrassing. It’s a real lack of business ethics. Another reason why it’s time to purchase my next vehicle, I will not be stopping at Planet Subaru.

The issue that has been driving me bonkers has been the mysterious CEL light that comes on during cold weather. During cold weather months, not too long after getting in the car and going a bit, when I get to the first stop light, the car acts as if it’s going to stall. The car hiccups but doesn’t stall. Then after a minute or two after driving the CEL light comes on. I’ve had this happen well over ten times. I bring it to the dealership everytime and they can’t find the problem. They clear the code and send me on my way. I let the car run until the blue light comes off so the car is warmed up enough, I’m not jumping in the car in 20 degree weather and going like hell right away.

If I have another major issue come up soon, I’m going to strongly consider getting rid of it, I’m already developing a new car shortlist.




Rear View Driver – 24 Hours of Daytona

February 2, 2014 at 12:01 pm
The hair, the personality, the talent..a star in the making

The hair, the personality, the talent..a star in the making

Something I’m starting for 2014 is a look back at a race I recently watched and my opinions/thoughts on it; something in the vein of the Steve Matthes and his Observations column he writes for Racer X Online after every race. The first race I watched this year was the 24 Hours of Daytona, which happened to be the first race of the new Tudor United Sportscar Championship.

Jordan Taylor is a star in the making. The second generation driver is a unique personality, has an amazing mullet and can flat out drive (Basically a sponsors dream). The lead driver in the Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette Daytona Prototype took the car by the scruff of neck and went head to head with the likes of Sebastien Bourdais and the guys over Ganassi. Between racing and social media, Taylor is a star in the making

Who was the genius who made the decision to penalize the Level 5 Ferrari for defending it’s position fairly on the  last lap? The Level 5 458 and the Flying Lizard Audi R8 never made contact during their last lap battle. It was just hard fair racing.

Kudos to the person or people who overturned the penalty and gave the class victory back to the Level 5 guys.

GTLM is going to the best racing is TUSCC this year. The combination of equally matched cars and top flight drivers in each team will provide the best racing.

Speaking about GTLM, the new Porsche 911 GT3 RSR is one beautiful car

From the naked eye, it appears the LMP2 cars were non competitive at Daytona, does the tide change at Sebring?

A tip of the hat to safety and techonology; in past years Memo Gidley wouldn’t have survived his accident. While Memo is out for the 2014 season, it appears as if he will make a full recovery and be back on the grid in 2015.


Looking At Your Sport Through Autosport – August 24, 1995

January 23, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Autsport 95

The top story from this issue of Autosport was speculation of the return of Alain Prost to F1 after it was announced he would carry out testing and development work for Mclaren during the 1995 season. As it turned out, Prost would not return to F1 racing and the seat at McLaren was taken by David Coulthard.

In Class 1 Touring car news, Jason Watt is being watched by both Opel and Mercedes for 1996 after his dominance in the Formula Opel Euroseries. Watt was a star in the making before being paralyzed in a motorcycle accident in 1999. While his racing career continued after his accident it’s something to ponder what he could have done if he didn’t get paralyzed.

Nigel Roebuck’s Fifth Column is a tribute to the retiring Keke Rosberg. Roebuck reflects on memories of Keke during his time at Williams in  the early 1980’s. Nigel talks about Spa 1983 when Rosberg finished fifth driving the wheels off of his naturally aspirated Williams against all the other turbo cars.

Across the pond, Andre Ribeiro wins the New England 200 in New Hampshire giving him and Honda their first Indycar wins. Points leader Jacques Villeneuve finishes fourth, which means he only needs to finish fourth at the next race in Vancouver to take the title.

Autosport celebrates their 45th Birthday looking back at where the magazine has been over the past 45 years and reflections from various contributors.

In British F3, Cristiano da Matta wins the race at Oulton Park after Ralph Firman jumps the start. Other finishers include future Red Bull team boss Christian Horner in 8th and future Corvette GT star Ollie Gavin in 13th.

Polish Power

January 15, 2014 at 9:23 pm

If you’re a fan of motorsport, you’ve probably seen it or heard about it by now. Robert Kubica’s amazing win on the ERC’s Janner Rally. Kubica came back to win the rally by nineteen seconds after going into the last stage down eleven seconds to leader Vaclav Pech. Kubica went half a minute quicker on a foggy night stage to take the rally win. I repeat, Kubica went thirty-seconds quicker on a foggy night stage driving flat out and at one point missing a pace note, dealt with broken driving lights and almost having an off. – The link to the in car video of the stage

Kubica’s talent clearly shines in the video of the last stage, what was just as classic was his non-chalantness after finding out how fast he went and that he won the rally.

It’s unfortunate that Kubica was unable to fulfill his potential in F1 between driving what many would consider not top flight cars and the rally accident that almost caused the amputation of his arm and the end of his F1 career. Many rated him a star in the making in F1 and Lewis Hamilton considered Kubica the driver who gave him the hardest time during their years in junior formulas. Many expected Kubica to end up being Alonso’s teammate at Ferrari before his unfortunate incident.

F1’s loss is the World Rally Championship’s gain. Over the past few years, the WRC has lost it’s luster between poor management and promotion, lack of manufacturers and dominance by guys named Sebastien. Perhaps Kubica can raise the standing if he performs well; going off of experience, the talent is there. Can he make the most of the situation?

Some may look at Kimi Rakkionen’s foray into world rallying and give that as the example as to why Kubica won’t succeed. The difference between Kimi and Robert is that Kubica seems fully committed to it whereas with Kimi it was just something to hold him over until the right F1 money came along. In addition, it was said by people in the WRC that Kimi didn’t care about listening to pacenotes.

Do I expect Kubica to win this year? No, I think 2014 will be learning year, there will be times when he shows the ability to be a front runner and times he bins the car due to a rookie mistake. I also question if M-Sport can give him the car to run upfront. M-Sport who was once the works Ford WRC team lost their Ford funding and has developed their WRC Fiesta with private funds.

All I know is that I will be following the WRC more this year due to Robert Kubica

Wreck to Tweet

January 12, 2014 at 4:27 pm


The Bump and Run, an effective way to pass on many tracks

The Bump and Run, an effective way to pass on many tracks

Generally when Sons of Taki are live tweeting during a race, it’s been me who is doing it. I like mixing observation and humor as I comment on a race. During the summer Bristol Sprint Cup race in 2013, I got into a debate with someone over Kasey Kahane and that he should have used the bump and run in order to get past another driver. A person on twitter named Nancy Bramer with the twitter handle @nascarup (and had a Dale Jr #88 avatar responded by saying “Uh. He races clean, means screwed up?” I responded “You can be clean and do the bump and run. Get him to the top lane and not wreck him #NASCAR”.

For those who aren’t Nascar fans, Bristol in the past few years has developed into a high banked short track that really has one preferred line. If you’re trying to pass a driver one of the best ways is to perform the “bump and run”. The bump and run is basically getting to the back of the driver in front of you and making him loose so his car goes up the banking (out of the preferred line) and you go past.

Generally I don’t consider the bump and run a dirty move, it’s a form of passing on track like Bristol, all drivers know they have to give it and they know to take it. It’s only dirty when the driver performing it goes out to intentionally wreck the driver in front of him. You can be a clean racing driver and perform the bump and run.

Nascar fans loved when Dale Earnhardt performed an extreme example of the bump and run on Terry Labonte at Bristol in 1999 and responded by saying: “I wasn’t trying to wreck him, just rattle his cage a little”. Earnhardt said this in victory lane with his famous grin on his face while Labonte had a wrecked car. (Nancy, I’ll take it you were a fan on Junior’s daddy and loved when he did it). Was Dale Sr’s move clean?

To me, bumping a driver to get past him still falls under clean racing. It becomes dirty when a driver goes out to wreck another driver or puts a driver in such an unsafe position (See Schumacher Hungry 2010).

I leave you with Villeneuve and Arnoux from Dijon in 79. Racing where two drivers banged wheels and was considered hard but fair by all parties involved:

Yes there is death in racing

January 12, 2014 at 3:52 pm

I’ve wanted to write about †his for a while. Yes ladies and gentlemen, in an era of racing in which technology and safety are at levels they have never been before driver’s can get killed in racing. My original thought for this post came after the death of Allan Simonsen at the LeMan this past year. It was the first death during the race since 1986. Later in 2013 we had the death of Jason Leffler during a Sprint Car race and up and coming sportscar star Sean Edwards during a test session.

We must remain aware that death happens in motorsport’ not as much as it once did but the potential for death or even great injury is greater than  all other sports. Perhaps the reason why we’re so taken a back by death in motorsport is that we’ve all seen accidents in recent years where the driver has walked away; accidents if they occurred in a previous era would have resulted in death.

Next time when someone tells you racing is not a sport, please remind them of the facts

Detroit Lions?

December 31, 2013 at 4:00 pm
How did two of these end up in GM's collection?

How did two of these end up in GM’s collection?

I was doing some web surfing on Christmas afternoon: sitting on my parents couch, one eye on an NBA game and smelling the ham in the oven when I came across an old news item. Remember when GM did some cleaning and sent some of the cars from their Heritage Center Collection to the Barrett Jackson Auction in 2009? I was looking over the list of cars and two items stuck out. Two Grey 1985 Peugeot 205 Turbos. Why would GM have two Group B Supercars in their collection? I know manufacturers buy each others cars to get an up close and personal view of what everyone else is doing but it’s strange to own two cars that were of very limited production and not for sale in the US at the time. Was GM thinking of making a Group B Opel to fight the 205 and others on the WRC stage?

Looking at this closer, one of the cars is listed as “Active”. During the second half of the 1980’s GM was heavily involved in developing “active suspension”. GM had a fleet of Corvettes developing and testing the system in hopes that it would debut on the 1990 ZR1. The system (which was also being developed by then GM owned Lotus) was used in the Corvette GTP cars being raced on the IMSA circut. Perhaps these cars were used as mules to develop active suspension for the Corvette and at the end of their time ended up in the GM collection.

Doing some research on these cars I stumbled across the website . One of the post on the site was about the Peugeot 206 that Sebastien Loeb used to dominate Pikes Peak in the Summer of 2013. One comment under the post came from a man identified as “Patrick Peal” who commented:

“Having worked on a heavily-modified Peugeot 205T16 as a development hack for an Active Suspension project at Lotus back in the last millennium, I’m delighted to see Peugeot taking on Pike’s Peak with this feast of technology. Awesome!”

A quick search of Mr.Peel  online found that he worked for Lotus as a development engineer in consultancy work and later became engineering sales and head of Communications. So I sent an email to Mr. Peel and here’s what he had to say.

“Thank you for your email, which brought back a lot of very happy memories. So much so that last night I dreamt I was sitting in the driver’s seat of a full works T16 trying to work out how to start it! (Clearly it wasn’t one of the two cars we had at Lotus…)

This was indeed all to do with the engineering relationship between GM and Lotus. The Active Suspension development originally conceived for the F1 team in 81/82 became a major technical offering for Lotus Engineering which ultimately grew into a suite of active systems for vehicle dynamics control.

But back to your question – yes, in 84 or so we secured a massive contract from GM to develop active systems which would be showcased in the Corvette Indy showcar ( )

By this time we’d already built several cars with active suspension for GM – the first contract was for a couple of sedans as R&D cars, and we also did a truck as a show car. We’d also worked with Volvo and had sold an idea for creating active rear steer to them which worked incredibly well (it was at least +- 5 degrees of steer and may have been +-15 degrees – I can’t remember. But it was more than enough to control the steer response not just trim it.).

So we had already gone beyond just active suspension.

The concept we were working towards for the Indy was ‘active everything’ – suspension, rear steer, front/rear torque distribution and front steer – and lots of performance. So we needed some new tech and some mule vehicles to try it out on. 

We knew we needed some cars that would have lots of performance, four wheel drive and ideally quite easy to modify. We did look at building something from scratch but not for this project – so we looked at the then current crop of Gp B rally cars and analysed all the cars around at the time. The Metro 6R4 was a possible as was the Ford RS200 but we eventually bought the last two 205 T16’s from Peugeot Sport (Andre de Cortanze was my contact).

Of course when they were delivered to Lotus they were brand new so we had to run them in as road cars…that was a hoot! I took one from my home to Brighton for the weekend to visit some friends…I discovered pretty early on that if I gave it full throttle for an instant and then backed off I could get a huge flame out of the exhaust. Made for a good effect in the high street at night…

We also decided that the 240bhp of the ‘standard’ car wasn’t enough, bearing in mind the power drains from the hydraulic systems and the added weight, so we bought the Club upgrade which gave us 300bhp.

I could go on (and on) but here are some highlights I can remember:

We modified the four-wheel drive with a second differential driven by a hydraulic motor (check out a Tamiya model tank drive system to see what I mean – that’s what we did!) so that we could control exactly the speed of the front axle compared to the speed of the rear axle and therefore control slip.

To do so, we had to compare wheel speed and true vehicle speed (longitudinally and laterally) which was a challenge – we ended up using two Leitz Correvit optical speed sensors mounted behind the passenger seat. They were a bit like two massive telephoto lenses and were a pig to install, calibrate and keep working. We had to calibrate the lateral speed sensor using a belt sander as a ‘road surface’ whose belt speed we could measure.

One car was built with active suspension and the four wheel drive so we could sort that out while the second ended up with the steer systems as well, so it was the full mule for the Corvette Indy. 

Front steer was weird – basically the steering wheel could be mechanically disconnected from the steering rack (with an emergency reconnecting clutch if things went wrong…) and then it was just used as an input to the computer. You could have opposite-sense steer – turn the wheel to the right and the car would go left – or even load-steer when the wheel wouldn’t move but applying load one way or the other generated a steer response.

And of course rear steer could play whatever static tricks we could dream up as well. Same-sense or opposite-sense giving crabbing motion or a very rapid rate of rotation with a small turning circle. In fact one of the silly party tricks was to apply full lock and full throttle and get massive burnouts in a ridiculously small circle – two very black very small concentric circles on the test track, not much bigger than the wheelbase of the car…oh and a dizzy driver!

So once we’d sorted out all the systems, the main project was to build the Corvette Indy. I didn’t get involved with that one but I seem to remember there were some problems which made it difficult to run. Shame cos the systems were awesome.

We were all very sad to say goodbye to the two Pugs when they were shipped to GM at the end of the project”.

So mystery solved. The Peugeot 205’s in the GM collection were from the time when Lotus was testing active suspension for projects such as the Corvette Indy. Thank you Mr Peal for your response and solving an interesting mystery.

Any other automotive mysteries out there, send them to Sons of Taki.

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