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.

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.

Fear and Loathing about Fuji

November 13, 2013 at 11:48 am
Just give us a modern version of this and all will be forgiven

Just give us a modern version of this and all will be forgiven

The debut of the new Subaru WRX scares me, I am preparing myself for the disappointment of a bloated Impreza with a hood scoop. But wait, wasn’t the original Subaru Impreza Turbo’s and WRX’s fast cars that weren’t lookers that flew under the radar? That’s true but they weren’t unattractive cars at their core and the addition of  the wing and rally fogs made them more appealing. We were all impressed by the Concept Subaru has shown us of a potential new WRX but the spy shots and renders failed to impress.

What really scares me is where this car will be priced? The current WRX starts at around 26K; will the new WRX be priced higher? If it’s priced higher or even starts around the same price, Subaru has missed the mark. In the  performance Impreza chain, the WRX replaced the Impreza Turbo as the entrance into Subaru performance starting with GD generation which was also the start of Subaru pricing itself out its market with a car that starts in the mid 20’s in it’s base WRX form instead of having a turbo motored Impreza that starts at 20K. The target market for cars like Turbo Subarus and Evo’s is people in their twenties who want a fast car that costs under 25K, not many in this market can afford WRX’s and Evo’s in the current price range.

So Subaru, in order to make the WRX the car it can be, it doesn’t need to be flash but it can’t be bloated and most importantly make affordable so the people that would want to buy it can afford it.

Looking at your sport through Autosport – July 27, 1995

October 7, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Autosport 7/27/95

The July 27, 1995 edition of Autosport focuses on the preview for the German Grand Prix. The clash between Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill at the previous round at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone is still on the mind of everyone with predictions being the German GP would be a fight between these two. The Hill/Schumacher battle is topic Nigel Roebuck brings up in his edition of the Fifth Column. Roebuck talks about how the Silverstone incident is another example of how in current times, the trivial is emphasized and everything is analyzed to the oblivion. Roebuck states “…it seems to me sometimes that we journalists are writing more and more about less and less”. Little could Nigel imagine today’s society with blogs, social media, etc.

On the topic of Nigel Roebuck, this issue of Autosport also features Nigel talking with Bernie Ecclestone about Bernie turning Grand Prix racing into what is, enemies he’s made and the people that are greatfull to him, including Michael Schumacher. It’s typical honest, making deals Bernie in the interview with Bernie telling the story as to how he made Schumacher a Benetton driver. He says that Schumacher is worth close to a second a lap comapred to anyone else. With death of Senna the year before at Imola still a hot topic Bernie addresses those who thought the race should have been stopped by saying, “Senna was dead, clinically but he was alive. And why should the race have been stopped?” Bernie also talks about long term planning in F1 calling anyone who starts talking about four years time “an idiot” due to the fast changing world.

Top story in this issue is the Simek team being sold for 250,00 pounds at auction. Some of things that went under the hammer were Jos “The Boss” Verstappen’s S951/001 minus Cosworth engine and gearbox going for 18,000 pounds and Mimmo Schiattarella’s pitboard going for 70 pounds. News also included  recent Clevland Indycar winner Jacques Villeneuve being close to a test with the Williams team and 20 year old Canadian Greg Moore wrapping up the Indy Lights title with three rounds still to run.

One of the great racing series in the world in the 90’s was the DTM/ITC with the likes of Opel, Mercedes and Alfa battling it out in high tech touring cars. This issue covers the DTM round from Diepholz with Michael Bartels sweeping both races in the beautiful orange Jagermeister Alfa. In second in race one was AMG’s young Scottish gun Dario Franchitti.

Two racing Scot’s were featured in back to back articles. Colin McRae and his toys such as his Honda Fireblade and his Monaco apartment were in one story and British Tourning Car star John Cleland talks about going for his second title and his refusal to let his young hotshot teammate James Thompson get in his way.

In the World of Sport section, German Forumla 3 is at Deipholz with Ralf Schumacher sweeping both races and in Club Autosport, hillclimber (and future BMW touring car ace) Andy Priaulx wins his home hillclimb in Guernesy and closes in a RAC title.

The Last Lap column is by the great Denis Jenkinson reflecting on the great Juan Manuel Fangio who had passed away the week before. Jenks calls Fangio gentle and very  human being until he climbed into a racing car, at that point he became in Jenks words “a tiger”. He also talks about the respect Fangio commanded even years after his racing career.

When a man loves a woman…

September 8, 2013 at 4:59 pm

… he asks for her hand in marriage and hopefully she says yes.

When she says yes, that man asks another man to be his best man

That best man then plans a bachelor party.

If the two men involved are Sons of Taki, the bachelor party is automotive related.

Enjoy some photos from Sons of Taki’s trip to the Baltimore Grand Prix for Jeff’s Bachelor Party

2013 Baltimore Grand Prix

What I’ve Been Up to Lately

August 25, 2013 at 11:53 pm

…clearly not posting, for sure.

Sorry to say, but life does occasionally get in the way. But I’m happy to report that in the time since I’ve last updated you, life has been pretty OK with the E36 M3.

What I enjoy most about this car is how it reflects the basic enhancements needed to make the E30 more modern without abandoning the simplicity that made the elder statesman so great. The E36 carries on the tradition of simple bolts and screws, halogen headlamps and bulbs,  manageable wheel and tire sizes, and so on.

Not to mention, prices for parts are fairly cheap – and in abundant supply. I’ve been amazed over the last few weeks seeing how inexpensive parts can be for the E36, now that it is at the absolute pit of its depreciation curve. $20 for a brake light switch, $190 for an OEM clutch kit, $50 for a replacement 17″ alloy wheel – the list goes on. People don’t love these cars at the moment and it shows, making it all the easier for me to fix the few ills it has and preserve it for the long haul.

That’s not to say the cream of the crop don’t command big money – upwards of $25K for low-mileage examples. But even for those investment grade automobiles, the simplicity of its operations remains the same and the cost of parts stays low. Although I am aware my clutch needs replacing and the driveshaft is starting to bind up, I’m undeterred by making those investments, given how low the projected cost of ownership looks to be.

The bottom line is this: in the weeks since I’ve last written, I’ve only grown fonder of the car. But the wife recently picked up a new Mazda CX-5, and that’s compelling for all sorts of new reasons – especially for the introduction to the new Mazda 6 I had while waiting at the dealer. Until next time, where I discuss the first Japanese vehicle in a while to give me pause.

Is This Thing On?

August 16, 2013 at 2:42 pm


For almost twenty years, Speedvision/SpeedChannel/Speed was the channel that gearheads turned to get their automotive and motorcyle fix. To many of us, Speed was where we tuned in to see great programming and racing. The original Speedvision to me was brilliant as it offered documentary style programming along with racing coverage that didn’t force us to stay up to watch ESPN at 3 AM. In a way, it was if Roger Wheeler found this hidden gem niche of people and brought it to the forefront without it losing it’s coolness.

However, just like most underground cool things, the general public takes gets a hold of it, consumes it and it becomes uncool. The general public in this case being Fox which began throwing the niche racing series to the side and making Nascar the focal point. Great programs like Legends of Motorsport and Victory by Design were replaced by rubbish like Unique Whips and R U Faster than a Redneck. Despite the increase in crap programming, we thankfully still had Wind Tunnel with the great Dave Despain. With Speed becoming Fox Sports 1, we’ll no longer be able to turn on the channel Sunday nights for nine months of the year and watching the self described “Old TV Windbag” and his wide variety of guest.

Despite the downgrade in content since Fox took over, one of the gems of Speed was their website. An informative collection of new stories, opinion pieces in features. No where else could you get icons such as Robin Miller and Dennis Noyes sharing their passion. Speed was a key factor in the development of Marshal Pruitt and the man who would be next dean of Sportscar journalism, John Dagys.

Where will we go to get our fix. Luckily we live in an era where there are more channels than ever and if we can’t get it on our TV’s we can watch it online; but instead of having one hub we are now spread out between Fox Sports, ESPN, Velocity, BeIn Sports, etc.

Will there be another Speed? I’m sure someone has enough cash to make it happen, but most importantly do they understand there is more to racing than Nascar and viewers want programs of substance and not style.

Visit Us On Twitter