Friday, March 31, 2017

Golobic wins USAC midget
Short Track Showdown

The Light up the World Beverages United States Auto Club (USAC) Western States Midget series was in action Wednesday night March 29 at Placerville Speedway as part of Brad Sweet’s “Short Track Showdown” program with the World of Outlaws (WoO) touring sprint cars.
The field of the USAC midgets staged in the Placerville Speedway infield

A huge standing room-only crowd was on hand to watch eighteen midget cars and drivers do battle on the red clay high-banked 1/-4 mile oval. Due to time constraints, in lieu of qualifying, the 6-car lineups for the three 8-lap heat races were set through the draw process. Passing points earned through the heat races were used to determine the evening’s feature line-up.
The midgets of Nate Wait and Robert Dalby await the first heat race

The heat races were only marred by a single caution flag for a harmless spin, but interestingly, the initial starts of all three heat races were called back by track officials. Geoff Ensign started from the outside of the front row of the first heat and dominated to win over rookie Mason Daniel and Courtney Crone.

In the second heat race pole-sitter and 4-time USAC Western States champion Ronnie Gardner led wire-to-wire over Michael Faccinto and Ryan Bernal in Del Morris’ #71R. The final heat race of the evening was captured by Shane Golobic the only midgeteer doing double duty with the WoO over Alex Schutte and Randi Pankratz.

Schutte and Crone paced the field for the start of the 30-lap feature and Schutte in the #28 jumped into the lead using the high groove trailed by Gardner and Golobic.  Schutte held the point for the first twelve laps until Gardner grabbed the lead by using the low groove. Once clear of Schutte, Gardner in the Six8 racing Esslinger powered midget stayed in the low groove with Shane Golobic in the Wood Racing #17R closing fast around the high side of the track.

Golobic grabbed the lead on lap 18 with Gardner and Schutte falling back while Cory Elliott in the family-owned #11E began his late-race charge, as Cory grabbed fourth on lap 25, then two laps later Elliott passed Schutte to take over third place and began to chase down Gardner.  

At the drop of the checkered flag Golobic was trailed across the start/finish line by Gardner, Elliott, Courtney Crone and Alex Schutte in fifth place. The evening’s Esslinger Engineering Hard Charger award went to Anaheim’s Robert Dalby, who started seventeenth in the eighteen car field with his #4D Van Dyne Engineering Esslinger powered machine  and finished ninth.

Two races completed defending champion Ronnie Gardner leads the championship hunt over Elliott with Crone third. The Light up the World Beverages United States Auto Club (USAC) Western States Midgets will be in action on April 8 at the Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway in a program along with the USAC CRA sprint cars.   



Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Both Pink Force India cars
scored valuable points at the
Australian Grand Prix

Sahara Force India scored seven points at the 2017 season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne as Sergio Perez raced to a well-earned seventh place finish, while Esteban Ocon scored his first point in Formula One with a strong drive to tenth place.

Both drivers started the race with their VJM10-02 race cars shod with the Pirelli New Ultra Soft (purple sidewall) compound tires then changed to Pirelli Soft (yellow sidewall) compound tires during their single pit stop. Ocon pitted first on lap 15 followed by Perez on lap 17.
Sergio Perez in action during the Australian GP

Perez was quoted after the race “I am very pleased with the result and I don’t believe there is anything we could have done better today. Seventh place was the most we could achieve and the team had to make all the right calls to get this result. We had the correct strategy and we managed the tires well to bring the points home. Driving these cars is so much fun: you can push a lot harder than in the past and I was doing my fastest laps towards the end of the race. We know we still need to improve this car and there is more performance to come, but this is a positive start to our season and we can be happy this evening.”

Esteban Ocon in action early in the Australian GP

In his post-race comments Ocon said “Scoring my first point in Melbourne is a very nice reward after what has been quite a tough weekend. I spent almost the entire race fighting against Fernando [Alonso] because we were side-by-side for the first lap of the race. He was able to stay ahead and I had to chase him for the rest of the afternoon. It was a hard fight because Fernando is a tough opponent and it was so difficult to get close and overtake. Eventually I found a gap in the last few laps and took my chance going into turn one. It was a big moment for my race and took me into the points. I’m happy with the result and I feel I’ve learned a huge amount from my first race weekend with this team. I hope this is the first point of many this season.”

To come away from the first race of the year with seven points is a fantastic reward for all the hard work over the winter and this weekend. Starting the season with a good bunch of points is always an important boost for the team and shows we have good reliability too. We know there is more performance to come, but we’ve started with our best foot forward and will head to Shanghai determined to build on these results” according to Robert Fernley the Deputy Team Principal.  
The Chinese Grand Prix is scheduled  for Sunday April 9 2017 at the 13-turn Shanghai International Circuit.
Information and graphics provided by the Sahara Force India Formula 1 team

Monday, March 27, 2017

Jon Kaase Mercury offshore marine engine

At the Jon Kaase Race Engines booth at the 2016 Performance Racing Industry (PRI) trade show they proudly displayed a bright yellow Mercury Racing QCV4 engine built to power the 50-foot long Miss Geico offshore catamaran racing boat.
Equipped with two of these 520-cubic inch engines, each generating 1650 horsepower, the 13,000 pound stern drive boat can attain speeds approaching 200 miles per hour. The team owns a total of six engines which in a constant race-ship-rebuild cycle.
Photo courtesy of  AMF Riviera Beach, LLC
The all-aluminum double overhead camshaft twin-turbocharged V8 engine was originally developed by Mercury Racing, a division of Mercury Marine specifically to power the massive off-shore speedboats. The engine is a bit large for automotive application as it measures almost three feet across from camshaft cover to camshaft cover and as shown at PRI weighed over 900 pounds.
The dual-overhead-cam cylinder heads use "finger followers" to activate the 32 valves (4 per cylinder). The camshafts are driven by three chains: one from the crank to a cam-drive sprocket, and then two chains drive the twin cams in each bank.

From the Mercury Racing factory without the wiring harness, electronic control unit and turbochargers the QCV4 crate engine is priced at $68,000. We will leave it to you the reader to guess the price of the engine shown by Kaase fitted with custom stainless steel headers and a custom Wilson  Performance intake manifold that featured twin intercoolers to feed the twin turbochargers.

Check out the boat at

Photos by the author except as noted

Friday, March 24, 2017

Sahara Force India extends technical partnership with Univa until 2020


Univa, the automation data management specialists, will continue their technical partnership with Sahara Force India Formula One team for the next four years. The successful working relationship began in 2014 and since then the team has made use of Univa’s software to manage the movement of data during large scale computational projects.
One of the key tools used by Sahara Force India is ‘Univa® Grid Engine®’, which is the most widely used resource management platform by industry across the globe. This technology allows organizations to run large quantities of mission-critical, compute-intensive applications faster, more efficiently, and with lower overall costs. It has played a pivotal role in developing the team’s CFD capabilities allowing the team to evaluate aero concepts more efficiently.

Otmar Szafnauer, Chief Operating Officer of Sahara Force India said “expanding our technical partnership with Univa is great news and will make an important contribution to our car development program over the next few years. As a Formula One team, we rely more and more on simulation tools so it’s especially important to have access to Univa’s technology to help us process the huge amounts of data we generate.”

Univa, the Data Center Automation Company, is the leading provider of automation and management software for computational and big data infrastructures. Our products and global enterprise support give our customers the power to manage all their compute resources, no matter how big or where it is deployed. Many of the leading brands in the world depend on Univa’s unsurpassed expertise, and premier services and support. Univa is headquartered in Hoffman Estates, Illinois.  For more information, visit
Information and graphics provided by Sahara Force India

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Davey Hamilton Jr.'s
2017 BCRA schedule announced
On March 21 third-generation racer Davey Hamilton Junior confirmed that he will be in the seat of Bob Rosen’s Mr. Espresso #4 midget for a least five Bay Cities Racing Association (BCRA)  pavement midget programs. Hamilton’s BCRA season will begin at the April 1 “Pombo/Sargent Classic presented by Allied Storage & Containers” at Madera Speedway. Davey Jr. is scheduled for two BCRA appearances during the month of May - the “Vukovich Classic” at Madera on May 6 and at Ukiah Speedway on May 20.

The 20-year old Hamilton, whose father Davey appeared in ten Indianapolis 500 miles races, returns to BCRA competition on July 8 at Madera for the “Gerhardt Classic.” Hamilton will make his final scheduled BCRA appearance on October 14 at Stockton 99 Speedway where he will also be in action with the King of the Wing Orchex National Series.  

In advance of the “Pombo/Sargent Classic” there will be an open practice session at Madera Speedway on Friday March 31, 2017. The pit gates are set to open at 3:00 PM followed by on-track practice from 5:00 to 8:00 PM. The pit fee will be $40.00 per person. The schedule for April 1 will be announced soon.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Mazda MX-5 Cup race car

The Mazda booth at the 2017 Silicon Valley Auto Show at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center featured a “spec” race car that competed in the 2016 Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup series presented by BF Goodrich.

The MX-5 Cup which began in 2016 is the first rung in the “Mazda Road to 24” which is the sports car equivalent to the “Mazda Road to Indy” open-wheel ladder series. The champion of the MX-5 series receives a $200,000 scholarship to race in either the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge or Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda. The final rung on the “Mazda Road to 24” ladder is the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship on Mazda factory-owned race team.

The 2017 Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup presented by BF Goodrich schedule features eight racing weekends with two races each weekend at venues that include Barber Motorsports Park, the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Watkins Glen and Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca.  In 2016 the series was sanctioned by the SCCA but in 2017 it will be overseen by INDYCAR officials.
Mazda MX-5 Cup race cars start life as MX-5 passenger cars built in the company’s Hiroshima, Japan factory before shipment to Mazda’s engineering development partner Long Road Racing in Statesville, North Carolina.  There the car is gutted and fitted with a full roll cage and according to Mazda, more than 250 motorsports-specific parts. The Mazda SKYACTIV 2.0 liter engines are sealed “to ensure even competition and a cost-effective platform.”

This Winding Road Racing sponsored MX-5 was driven in 2016 by San Jose’s Mark Drennan, who began his racing career in the nineteen nineties with “sim racing” (computer gaming) for six years before he advanced to driving karts and the spec Miata racing series. Mark who as the series “Rookie of the Year” finished seventh in the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Cup standings with two race wins lists his hobbies as “winning, beer and bacon” (hopefully not at the same time)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Modified imported street cars at the 2016 SEMA show

Today we share modified street cars seen at the 2016 SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) show shown by three Asian import manufacturers – Toyota, Kia and Hyundai - and one that is beyond description.   

Toyota had the wild ‘Land Speed Cruiser’ based on a 2016 Toyota Land Cruiser SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle) which produces a purported 2000 horsepower and is capable of 220 miles per hour (MPH).

Toyota’s Motorsport Technical Center took the standard 5.7- liter DOHC (double overhead camshaft) V-8 engine and beefed it up with JE forged alloy pistons and Oliver connecting rods while Port Flow Design re-worked the cylinder heads for better performance.

The Toyota crew then added two Garrett GTX4718R forged billet ball-bearing turbochargers with the charge air cooled by custom MTCI intercoolers and the wastegate controlled by a TurboSmart unit adjustable to 55 pounds per square inch of boost.   To get the SUV to ride lower Toyota used Fox Shox and Eibach springs and installed custom TBM brakes. The Momo wheels are fitted with Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires.

The Land Speed Cruiser’s interior is complete with a fairly intrusive roll cage and Momo driving seats   
Hyundai offered the Gurnade Veloster Concept of the popular Veloster turbocharged sports coupe. The automotive rendering company that specializes in custom artwork and automotive design specified a new interior complete with Cobra Nogaro racing seats and a roll cage, cold air intake with NEO Motorsport coil over suspension and 6-piston caliper brakes.

The original Gurnade rendering
On the exterior the Gurnade Veloster features a front splitter, custom rear spoiler, a carbon fiber hood and hatch, and fender flares to stretch over the three-piece forged 19-inch Rotiform OZT wheels wrapped with Toyo tires and finished off with PPG Refinish Vibrance  Collection Crystal Pearl Magic Magenta 1180-7 paint with mica pgiments.

Kia had a very unique display as they unveiled four concept cars re-imagined as autonomous cars. This Kia Sorento SUV fitted with Dominator rubber tracks was envisioned as a ski gondola to transport skiers up the slopes without the need for a driver.  

Last but not least we feature this oddity- a 2006 Porsche Cayman fitted with a Ford 5-liter Aluminator  crate engine by Limitless Motorsports for owner Yu Fang of Miami Florida who apparently blew up the factory 300 horsepower 2-liter 4-cylinder boxer engine during a track day. Instead of paying more than $15,000 for a factory replacement engine, Mr. Fang chose a different route.    

Kennedy Engineered Products Inc. of Palmdale California fabricated a transmission adapter to connect the Coyote to the factory Gertag 6-speed transmission while Limitless fabricated all the required bracketry and exhaust yet somehow coordinated the Porsche and Ford ECU (electronic control units).  Now Mr. Fang’s Cayman GT track car produces a claimed 424 rear wheel horsepower and 364 foot-pounds of torque in a 3000 pound car wrapped in a scheme reminiscent of the famous Gulf Oil racing cars.    

Photos by the author unless otherwise noted.       

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Sahara Force India will race pink cars in 2017


At the 2017 Formula One season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne  the Sahara Force India race cars will sport a new look with pink magenta and silver livery following the signing of a partnership agreement with Europe’s leading water technology specialists, BWT.
click to enlarge

The VJM10 will race in pink, magenta and silver to mark the beginning of a long-term relationship with the Austrian-headquartered water brand.  The partnership represents BWT’s first involvement in Formula One as the brand takes advantage of the sport’s global footprint to promote its unique water treatment products, such as the BWT Magnesium Mineralizer. BWT’s presence is also reinforced with the BWT pink helmets of Sahara Force India drivers Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon to complement the unique BWT pink car.

The all-new VJM10 design features a carbon fiber composite monocoque with Zylon™ synthetic polymer side anti-intrusion panels powered by a Mercedes AMG V-6 Turbo 1.6-litre engines connected to a Mercedes AMG F1 8-speed, semi-automatic seamless gearbox. Force India n cars use Petronas lubricants and fuel and ride on Pirelli tires
Dr. Vijay Mallya

Doctor Vijay Mallya, Team Principal and Managing Director of Sahara Force India stated that “the arrival of BWT in Formula One is huge news and represents one of the most significant partnerships in our ten year history. It’s a sign of how far we have come as a team with our strong results and completes a solid commercial performance over the winter."
Mallya continued "for 2017 our cars will sport a vibrant new color scheme with a smart matte finish. Changing the color of our cars is an indication of the strength of this new partnership and a real statement of intent from BWT as they begin their relationship with the sport of Formula One.”

The Best Water Technology Group (BWT) is Europe‘s leading water technology company with 3,300 employees which supplies private, industrial, business, hotel and public sector customers with economical, innovative, and ecological technologies that guarantee maximum safety, hygiene and health in the daily use of water.

BWT provides state-of-the-art water treatment technologies and services for drinking water, pharmaceutical water, process water, heating water, boiler water, cooling water, water for air-conditioning systems and water for swimming pools. Research & Development teams use the latest methods developed to work on new processes and materials to create products that are both ecological and economical. A key development issue is a reduction in the products’ consumption of operating resources and energy to minimize CO2 emissions.

Check out BWT at

Esteban Ocon, left and Sergio Perez, right
will drive the BWT Specials in the 2017 Formula One season

Over the last ten years Sahara Force India has risen to become one of the sport’s most prominent success stories. Year-on-year the Silverstone-based team has continued its journey towards the front of the grid with a fourth place finish in the FIA Formula One World Championship the reward for a remarkable 2016 season. The team’s global appeal has increased thanks to its strong on-track performance, growing partner portfolio and the arrival of world-class drivers.
First year 20-year old French driver Esteban Ocon, will race alongside 27-year old Mexican driver Sergio Perez who enters his fourth year with the team in 2017. This paring creates one of Formula One’s most exciting line-ups and gives the team fresh energy to build on its achievements ahead of the new season.

Check out Sahara Force India at
All images courtesy of the Sahara Force India Formula One Team.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Dodge Firearrow II

The Blackhawk Museum located in Danville California displayed just one classic car at the 2017 Silicon Valley Auto Show – the Dodge Firearrow II
photo courtesy of FCA archives

The Dodge Firearrow concept cars were designed and built by Carrozzeria Ghia in Turin Italy as part of agreement with Chrysler Corporation’s Chief of Advanced Design Virgil Exner. The first Firearrow, finished in brilliant red, was a non-running design on a 1953 Dodge chassis.
Photo by the author

This car the Firearrow II roadster was built on a Dodge Royal 119-inch wheelbase chassis powered by the Dodge “Red Ram” 241 cubic inch 140 horsepower engine connected to a column-shifted PowerFlite two-speed automatic transmission. Painted in an understated pale yellow hue, the two-seat Firearrow II is notable for its frameless windshield but does not have a top or side windows.
Both Firearrow II and III were built on the chassis of a 1954 Dodge Royal Coupe
photo courtesy of FCA archives
Firearrow III was turquoise colored coupe also built on a Royal chassis and the final Firearrow, IV, was a full-functioning four-seat convertible with roll-up windows and a folding top that Chrysler briefly considered for production.
When Chrysler elected not to proceed into production, Eugene Casaroll of Automobile Shippers Inc. stepped in to finance the Dual-Ghia which used a Dodge chassis and running gear with similarly styled bodies built by Carrozzeria Ghia.
In addition to  the Firearrow II the Blackhawk Museum owns Firearrow IV and its successor the 1955 Firebomb.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Clay modeling in the modern era 


In this modern electronic era with 3-D modeling, 3-D printing and virtual reality headsets, you would think that the age-old practice of modeling a new automotive design out of clay had been abandoned, but you would be wrong. Although computer modeling has reduced it significantly, automakers still use clay models because computer models cannot replicate that way light plays over a well-turned fender. The Mazda exhibit at the 2017 Silicon Valley Auto Show at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center featured a display that illustrated how clay models are built.
Photo of early GM clay modeling
courtesy of
This method of shaping industrial plasticine (artificial clay) dates back to the nineteen thirties in the General Motors Art and Color Section under the direction of Harley Earl. In a process still used today the completed clay model covered with a colored stretch “Diloc” film so it looks like a finished car is shown to a committee of upper management for a final vote on the design. The early designs may only be 1/10 or ¼-scale, but the final design is full-scale with the clay model that might weigh close to 5000 pounds.  

This neat Mazda display showed off the tools used to sculpt the clay  a video of the process and partially completed model. 
In researching this subject, the author found a fascinating website that offers a 1/10 scale clay sculpture model kit that you can buy; check it out at

To learn more about the clay material and the tools visit

Friday, March 3, 2017

1921 Mack AC “Bulldog” truck

The Mack Brothers Company was established in New York in 1902 but by 1911 the founding Mack brothers sold their interest in the company.  The AC, Mack's all-time most famous product introduced as a 1916 model was manufactured continuously for a remarkable 24 years through the end of 1939 with a total of 40,299 units built. 
The AC with an available load capacity of 3½-, 5 ½-, or 7 ½ tons, is powered by a massive 471-cubic inch inline-four cylinder engine rated at 45 horsepower. The engine uses a cast-aluminum crankcase and separate, cast-in-pairs cylinders with five-inch bore and six-inch stroke connected to a three-speed manual transmission with an aluminum alloy case. Interestingly the 15 ½ gallon radiator is located behind the engine which is hand cranked to start.   

Like all AC trucks, the maximum speed like our feature, a 1921 model on display in the Grand Gallery of the Columbia Gorge Interpretative Center, is determined by the diameter of its chain-drive sprocket; in this case, the top speed is 17 miles per hour (MPH).  Which is plenty fast when one considers that the rear axle provides the Mack's only stopping power with a pair of expanding-band mechanical brakes.  
This particular AC with a unique 204-inch wheelbase chassis was used up until the nineteen fifties hauling timber on the Oregon/Washington Coast and is fitted with what the Museum says are the original hard rubber tires. The AC’s load of cedar logs was donated to the Museum by the US Forest Service from trees blown down in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest; the forest’s southern boundary is directly across Route 14 from the Museum.

Visit the Museum’s website at
all photos by the author