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November 2008

Seven Days: Vermont Car Blog

November 26, 2008

What Is Rally?

Pastrana2 This is the first in a three-part series about rally competition and the internationally renowned drivers and organizations right here in Vermont.
See also-
Part II: Rally Redux with rally great John Buffum
Part III: Vermont's Rally Royalty with Lance Smith of Vermont SportsCar.

Rally is a motor sport in which drivers navigate from point to point. It is different from NASCAR or Formula 1 racing, in which drivers lap the same course over and over. The unmatched variability in rally provides a constant challenge, with hills, dips and turns coming often at breakneck speed and with little advance notice. A common saying sums up the sport: “Oval track racers see the same two corners 500 times, while rally racers see 1000 corners just once.”

Rally, the first form of auto racing, started in the late 1800s. At that time it was primarily a competition between auto manufacturers as they tested their new machines. Courses were thousands of miles long, often running from city to city, such as Paris to Madrid or New York to Seattle.

As you can imagine, having vehicles racing through small towns and city streets was dangerous — injuries and deaths were not uncommon. As the 20th century wore on, most top-level rally races were moved to either remote corners of the world or closed courses. The primitive nature of the courses resulted in the “standard” road surface being anything but. Furthermore, rallies are at the mercy of weather conditions, as races are run in all seasons, in snow and rain, and on pavement, dirt and ice.

Sport seems to inspire human innovation, and rally is no exception. Cars that are now popular for normal transportation, such as the Mini Cooper and the Audi Quattro, were originally designed specifically for rallying.

Rally teams are composed of a driver and co-driver, or navigator. The latter shouts out directions about fast-approaching corners and hills just in time to enable the driver to take on the terrain at the fastest possible speeds. It is a unique relationship with both participants sharing responsibilities that can make or break their outcomes.

Rally comes in several types, including stage, road and rallycross.

Stage rallies are where you’ll likely find the pros. A race will usually include a number of “special stages” that take place on very fast, closed courses, and a series of “transit stages” in which the vehicles navigate between the special stages on public roads. The cars used for stage rallies are full-on racing vehicles with roll cages and safety equipment, but, like all rally cars, they must be registered for travel on public roads.

This type of rally, somewhat modified for television, was added to the Summer X Games in 2006. Well-known X Games competitors such as Travis Pastrana and Dave Mirra are helping to grow the popularity of rally in the U.S. The ultimate race in this country is the Rally America National Championship.

Road rallies, also known as Time-Speed-Distance, or TSD, rallies, take place on public roads and focus on navigation and maintaining a set speed rather than attempting to drive as fast as possible. Anyone can enter, and you don’t need a special vehicle. A recent example was the Covered Bridge Rally at Sugarbush on November 1, in which participants navigated some 150 miles back and forth across gap roads in the Green Mountains. These events provide opportunities to build the skills and teamwork a rally group needs to be competitive in more challenging events.

Rallycross Rallycross is the amateur version of a stage rally, except there are no stages, and takes place at a single location. Anyone can enter but must have a helmet. Events are generally organized by local branches of groups like the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA). Similar to autocross, drivers race around a course outlined by cones or snow banks, but, rather than driving on pavement, they’re on a limited-traction surface such as grass, dirt or snow. Courses are short — it usually takes about a minute to get from start to finish. Drivers run the course over and over throughout the day, and the fastest or best-accumulated time for the series determines the winner. While road rallies challenge navigation and teamwork skills, rallycross more directly challenges individual driving skills.

I checked out my first rallycross in Huntington a couple of weeks ago, and am hoping to debut as a driver on December 6 at the SCCA Wolf Cross Rallycross in Proctorsville. This is a great way to practice driving skills and have fun in a safe and supportive environment.

Speaking of learning driving skills, Team O’Neil Rally School & Car Control Center in New Hampshire is another great place to start. It runs multi-day classes almost every month throughout the year. I’ll be heading over there in January to report on what the school is all about.

One of the most successful and popular rally teams in the U.S. is Subaru Rally Team USA, winners of the Rally America National Championship for the past three years. It may come as a surprise to some readers that the Subaru team is based in Colchester, led by Lance Smith and Vermont SportsCar. There must be something in Colchester’s water, because John Buffum, the most successful rally driver in American history, also lives there.

Part II: Rally Redux with rally great John Buffum
Part III: Vermont's Rally Royalty with Lance Smith of Vermont SportsCar.

November 25, 2008

Ford Has Most Top Safety Picks

Fth_iihs_logos The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) issued its awards list of Top Safety Picks for 2009 and Ford comes out on top with 16 awards. If there is any doubt that these guys are working hard to compete with their foreign counterparts I think this helps clear it up. And if that doesn’t convince you Consumer Reports also gave Ford serious kudos last month reporting that Ford vehicles are now on par with Toyota and Honda. The CR survey is in the Best & Worst for '09 guide on newsstands now.

Honda comes next with 13 awards, then GM and Toyota tie with 8 each. The IIHS also calls attention to Honda, Acura and Subaru for having at least one Top Safety Pick in every vehicle class that they compete.

Electronic Stability Control (ESC), which senses when a driver is losing control and adjusts accordingly to avoid a skid or rollover, is required in all vehicles by 2012, but mandatory now if you want to achieve a Top Safety Pick.  The adoption of this feature among many important others is behind manufacturers doubling the number of vehicles that achieved the safety this year versus last.

That’s good news for everybody on the road.

November 24, 2008

2008 Green Car Of The Year

Volkswagen_jetta Here’s some more news from the 2008 Los Angeles Car Show. The 2008 Green Car of the Year award goes to Volkswagen for its new Jetta TDI, a turbo-charged low sulphur diesel powered car. With mpg ratings of 30 city and 41 highway this vehicle outperforms some hybrid vehicles with a simpler and less-expensive powerplant. The base MSRP is $21,990 and the direct injected 2.0L four-cylinder puts out 140hp.

The award was created in 2005 by the Green Car Journal and was voted on by nine jurors including representatives from the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Jay Leno and Carroll Shelby.

Volkswagen_jetta_tdi To prove the performance (and marketability) of this new vehicle Volkswagen is sponsoring the Jetta TDI Cup at Virginia International Raceway. They’ve given a bunch of young drivers the chance to come together, get racing instruction with 30 identically prepared clean diesel vehicles (and a carbon free footprint) and compete for $100,000.

November 20, 2008

Los Angeles Auto Show Opens Today

The curtain rose today on the Los Angeles Auto Show which runs from Nov. 21-30. This annual auto show is typically all high spirits, glitz and technology, but this year the backdrop certainly has to be the broken economy. GM and Chrysler have cars on view, but didn't even bother to send high-level representatives. Ford on the other hand is doing their best to make a good showing.

Both Ford and Nissan brought new or re-designed vehicles to the table that are worthy of mention.

2009_ford_mustang_2 Ford Mustang has updated the successful retro version that launched in 2005. The new model is similar to its predecessor, but has a more aggressive look. The interior received a complete redesign and is reported to be very well done.  The V6 and V8 engines get a bump in both horse power and fuel economy. A new and improved suspension system based on the one used in last years special “Bullitt” edition will be used across the entire model line.

2009_ford_fusion_2 Ford has had the Ford Escape Hybrid SUV since 2004, but this year they have finally smartened up and introduced a hybrid car. The Ford Fusion Hybrid will be available in 2009 and will get an estimated 39 mpg city and travel 700 miles on a tank of gas. It can also reach speeds of 47 mph on electric power alone. This car is designed to compete directly with the Toyota Camry Hybrid which it beats out by 6 mpg. That’s a good start.

Nissan_370z Nissan launches its sixth-generation Z, the 370Z. Like the Mustang it doesn’t look dramatically different from the previous model, in this case the 350Z, but virtually every part has been redesigned. They’ve also launched a national Z tour with Car and Driver  so Z fans can get a peak at the new vehicle.

Nissan_cube_3 Brand new for 2009 is the Nissan Cube. To American tastes this vehicle looks somewhat like a Scion XB clone, but in fact the Japanese have been building small boxy vehicles for decades and the Cube started production overseas in 1998. It's space engineering at its finest with maximum space for a minimum footprint. The wrap-around rear/side window is certainly a head turner.

November 19, 2008

Share The Car, Not Just The Road

Green_car CarShare Vermont is an interesting new nonprofit that will open for business in Burlington in just a few weeks. Its mission is to provide an affordable, convenient and reliable alternative to private car ownership that will also reduce the community’s overall car usage. I sat down with founding Executive Director Annie Bourdon to find out what’s driving CarShare’s efforts.

BOB KILPATRICK: Where does the idea for car sharing come from?
ANNIE BOURDON: Car sharing is a national trend. I moved here from San Francisco in 2004, where I helped a friend start City CarShare, which was the first nonprofit car-sharing organization in the country. Right around the time I moved up here, I got connected with some folks from Burlington who were really interested in car sharing and we said, “Let’s do it!”

BK: Tell me about the model — how does it work?
AB: It’s a pretty easy concept. We have a network of cars, we own the cars, we insure them and we insure our members. The cars are all decentralized, so, unlike a rental car company where you have to go to a designated site and fill out the paper work and the cars are all parked in one lot, our cars are all self-accessible and parked around town. You have to reserve a car before you use it. You can hop online and use our website or pick up a phone and use our automated phone system. You can reserve the car for as little as half an hour or as long as you want. You pay $4.95 an hour and 25 cents a mile. That includes comprehensive insurance and gas.

BK: How many vehicles do you have?
AB: We are planning on launching with eight. They will be located at six pods around the city. A pod is simply where the car is parked, and there will be a sign designating that it is for CarShare only.

BK: What types of cars are they?
AB: If everything goes according to plan, we will have hybrid Toyota Priuses and all-wheel-drive Subaru Impreza hatchbacks. That’s a good mix of having really fuel-efficient cars and cars that will be great in the winter.

BK: What if a business such as Seven Days wanted to become a member of CarShare?
AB: Car sharing is ideal for businesses, not just for mobility needs — like, you need to get to a meeting — but it also encourages employees not to drive to work. Oftentimes employees will drive to work just because of the fear that they might need their car during the day. So, by having access to CarShare, employees can use alternative transportation and know that if they need a car, they can use one of ours. There’s a modest monthly fee, which ranges on the number of employee drivers, and then they pay the exact same hourly and mileage rates. The business receives a detailed, itemized invoice. We really take the hassle out of fleet management, so we save on administrative costs for the business, too.

BK: How does providing people with cars reduce car usage?
AB: People often don’t make the connection, but car sharing inevitably results in a dramatic reduction in the amount people drive. The carbon reduction is about a ton a year for each member. That’s significant. When you buy a car, you’ve already sunk money into it. You rationally want to get your money’s worth. When you pay by the mile, something shifts; it’s a behavioral change and you just decide, Do I really need to drive, or could I walk, could I bike, could I take the bus? If you own a car, you drive it. So just by not owning — and even though it’s significantly less money to drive a CarShare vehicle — people just drive less. What we think is so phenomenal about our service is that it’s convenient, it’s cost effective, it’s super practical, and it still results in all these benefits for the community and the environment. We also help increase mobility for folks who just can’t afford to drive, and when it’s freezing cold and they’ve got to bring their kid to a doctor’s appointment, we give them access to a car. There’s really not a downside to car sharing.

BK: How can people find out more so they can decide if they’d like to become a member?
AB: They can go on our website, which is carsharevt.org. It has a great overview of how it works. They are welcome to call me at 861-2340, or to stop by our office at 131 St. Paul Street. I’m more than happy to sit down and answer questions.

November 18, 2008

Exciting News For American-Canadian Tour (ACT) Racing

Nhms_copy New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, NH has added an exciting event to the ACT racing season announcing that it will include a field of 36 drivers in a 50-lap all-star race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series SYLVANIA 300 weekend, September 17-20, 2009.

Act To choose the field of 36 drivers there will be three ACT invitational races, one at the CARQUEST Vermont Governor’s Cup 100 at Thunder Road International Speedbowl here in Barre, VT, one at the TD Banknorth 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway in Oxford, Maine and one at the Coors Light 200 "Showdown at Chaudière” at Autodrome Chaudière in Vallée-Jonction, Quebec. Champions and point leaders from the 2009 season will round out the field.

Brent_dragon This is a unique and historic opportunity for Late Model stock car racing, its fans and especially for local drivers like Brent Dragon of Milton, VT who may now get a chance to showcase their skills on the premier super speedway in the northeast and in front of the Sprint Cup Teams! This will surely raise the stakes and the competition this racing season.

I imagine there will be quite a contingent of local fans heading to Loudon in September to see their favorite short track teams and drivers compete. I will likely be one of them!

November 17, 2008

Bob Sr.'s Weekend Racing Highlights

NASCAR - Jimmy Johnson Wraps it Up
Homestead, FL

Driving an ultra conservative race in his #48 Chevrolet Impala, Jimmy Johnson only needed a mid-pack finish to clinch the title and he did just that winning his 3rd consecutive Sprint Championship (2006-08).

Legend Cale Yarborough is the only other NASCAR driver ever to have matched that feat (1976-78). It was a lot easier back in the day to win three in a row than it is now, the competition today is much closer by far.

Number two in Chase points, Carl Edwards didn’t let it go without a battle winning the race again. In fact he won more races this year (9), than Johnson but was still some 60 points shy of him at the end. Take nothing away from Jimmy though, his consistency was nothing short of brilliant.

Jimmy is not one of the "good ol boys" as Cale was, hard drinking, brawling, always ready to throw a punch or two. On the contrary Johnson is clean-cut, quiet, self-effacing - a popular and well-liked Champion. He is married to a gorgeous fashion model and has a magnificient apartment in Manhattan. Nothing like the typical NASCAR legend of yore. Just a nice laidback kid from El Cajon, California.
My, how things change.


Editor's Note: Bob Sr. is my dad. He has been racing cars for almost 50 years. If he's not racing on the weekend you'll find him watching auto racing on TV. Every Monday he'll post an update with highlights and the inside scoop on the previous weekend’s big races.

November 14, 2008

Outlook Gets Worse For The Big Three Automakers

I have to admit to be suffering from a little media overload over the current economic crisis, but what is going on in the auto industry is just too important to substitute a cheerier post.

Big_three My earlier prediction, that given the current bailout-mania some help for the big three American automakers was likely coming, now looks like a bad bet.

Democrats are in favor of a bailout package, while Republicans say the situation the automakers find themselves in is not caused by the economic downturn but by “the legacy of the uncompetitive structure of its manufacturing and labor force.” The heart of the question, I believe, is whether this money would be poorly spent. Would it just hold off the inevitable failing of one of these enormous companies? Do they have a plan to restructure in a way that would make them sustainable in the future?

Democrats nonetheless are working overtime to prepare some measure of help that will be voted on next week during the lame duck session of Congress. They concede however that there is likely not enough support to pass whatever legislation they come up with.

Help from the president, by way of the Treasury Department is possible, but Bush is not in favor of using the existing $700 billion package for that purpose. Obama takes over in January and Democrats say help can possibly wait until then. The reality is that there is a good chance one or more of the automakers won’t make it that long. If one or more of the American automakers fail one estimate puts the potential loss of jobs at 2.5 million.

What do you think we should do? Bail them out or let them face their fate? Please post a comment.

November 12, 2008

Top Tips For Saving Gas

Gas_handle_2 You can’t do much about the price of gas, but you can actually do a lot to reduce the amount you use.

Americans account for less than 5 percent of the world’s population, but consume about 25 percent of the world’s energy resources. According to the Energy Information Administration, this includes about 390 million gallons of gasoline a day. Each gallon burned releases 20 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. If we reduced our consumption by just 1 percent, we could stop more than 28 trillion pounds of carbon dioxide a year from being released. Holy carbon reduction, Batman! Collectively, we would also be saving about $4 trillion a year. That’s one hell of an incentive plan.

Many of these tips offer much greater than a 1 percent fuel savings. They are good for both our environment and for your wallet.

Keep it steady
You can save more than 30 percent of the fuel you regularly use by keeping your speed at a steady rate. That means avoiding fast starts and backing off the accelerator sooner as you approach a traffic light or stop sign. Let the car coast to a stop instead of braking hard at the last minute. The best possible situation is to avoid stopping at all. If you time it right and get a little lucky, the light will change to green before you get there. There is a huge difference in getting a car up to speed from a stop versus one that is already moving.

Slow it down
My 4-cylinder Scion XB is rated at 30 mpg city and 34 mpg highway. When I drive it on Interstate 89 — usually at 75 mph — it actually seems to suck gas like a 1970 Cadillac. When I take it down a slower road such as Route 22A, traveling at closer to 55 mph, the gauge barely moves. The difference is amazing. Each car has a “sweet spot,” and it’s typically going to be in the 45-60-mph range. At 70 mph, your mpg really starts dropping off. You can save 12-20 percent in fuel by driving more slowly.

Replace your air filter
Driving around with a clogged or dirty air filter can reduce your gas mileage by up to 10 percent. So replacing your air filter could be compared to reducing your cost for gas by almost 30 cents per gallon. At about $20 for the filter, it could pay for itself in a month. To test your existing filter, shine a light through it. If you can’t see the light passing through, then it’s time for a change.

Denver Webb at Advantage Automotive in Williston, who services and inspects my vehicles, recently found a mouse nest in our Scion’s air filter. The hole the critters chewed through it could have resulted in costly repairs, so kudos to him for checking it during a recent inspection. Webb told me this is an all too common occurrence.

Properly inflate your tires
You can improve your mileage by about 3 percent by ensuring your tires are properly inflated. That won’t result in as big a savings as will some of these other tips, but every bit helps.

Don’t idle
Rule of thumb: If you’re going to be stopped for more than a minute, turn the car off. This is exactly what Hybrids do, and it’s a significant factor in their low mpg ratings. Turning the engine off for periods of less than one minute, however, really isn’t worth the additional wear on your vehicle, so use common sense.

Use your overdrive transmission
An overdrive transmission reduces rpms by switching to a higher gear, typically at speeds above 45 mph. Your engine is working less to achieve the same speed; in other words, you’re achieving the same speed and using less gas. If you’ve got overdrive, use it. No-brainer.

Gas prices have lowered slightly in recent months, but they are going to remain relatively high. As third-world economies continue to rev up their fuel consumption, their needs will compete aggressively with ours. The sooner we practice driving smarter, the better off we — and the planet — will be. It’s not going to be easy — I’d be the first to admit I have conflicts. I like to drive fast, but I also ride my bike to work on most days. If we all do a little, it can add up to a lot.

www.fueleconomy.gov — This is a great website with tons of information, including ratings for new and used vehicles, new and developing vehicle technologies and, of course, a variety of ways to improve fuel economy.

www.eia.doe.gov — This site provides an almost overwhelming amount of info on all the energy sources the U.S. consumes. It also has an Energy Kid’s Page with games and classroom projects.

November 11, 2008

General Motors In Critical Condition

Big_three GM stocks followed a 23% loss on Monday with a 15% loss today. Stocks closed at $2.81, lower than they’ve been since WWII.

The plunge was initiated by a third-quarter operating loss of $2.5 billion announced on Friday. Deutsche Bank’s Rod Lache told investors “Without government assistance, we believe that GM’s collapse would be inevitable”. GM acknowledges that they may run out of capital necessary to continue running the business by the end of the year.

Congress has already approved a $25 billion loan package for the big three American automakers, but that money is for re-tooling, not for a bailout. When GM asked for government assistance for a merger with Chrysler they were denied.

The current $700 billion financial bailout package has so far been limited by Treasury Secretary Paulson to financial institutions. He is being lobbied hard to open it up, not just by the automakers, but also by many politicians including President-elect Obama.

The Center for Automotive Research predicts that if one or more of the US automakers collapsed it could cost the nation up to 2.5 million jobs. This includes the many suppliers, retailers and others who also make their living as part of the US auto industry.

Congress meets next week and may weigh-in with their own package. Given the current crisis and the government’s recent response to it, I imagine that something will be done.

Will it be too little too late? Will it just extend the potentially inevitable collapse of one of the big 3? I guess we’ll find out…

November 09, 2008

I Punk'd My Bro

My brother, his wife and three kids (from Washington state) were in Florida visiting my grandmother and dad for my grandmother's 98th birthday. Nobody knew it, but my wife and I were coming for a surprise visit.

I got them all in one place by requesting to do a video chat. As they sat there preparing to chat I called my brother and set him up to get punk'd.

November 05, 2008

All In The Family

In Swanton, Vermont, there is a small, family-owned Ford dealership by the name of EJ Barrette & Sons. The sons have long since grown up; these days a customer is likely to be greeted by EJ’s 3-year-old great-great-granddaughter Bella, or Maggie the showroom dog. I met these nice folks through Auto Finder and recently drove north to take in the down-home atmosphere and query the descendents of EJ Barrette about what makes them unique.

Ej_barrette BOB KILPATRICK: How long has EJ Barrette been in business?
JON BARRETTE: It was started in 1922 by my grandfather, Elias Jeffrey. That’s where the EJ came from. My dad took it over after that. I was the next generation, and now we have the three kids here to follow on.

BK: How old were you when you started working here?
JB: Probably 9 or 10 years old, washing cars. I went on to college and graduated in 1968. I was in the Air Guard for 29 years and, other than deployments, I’ve been here.

BK: 1968 was pretty much the middle of the muscle-car era. You guys must have seen some sweet rides come across the parking lot.
JB: I had a very limited-edition Boss 429 — that was in ’69. I had a 1968 Cobra Jet 428 and a 351 Mach1 in ’71.

BK: Those must have been some fun cars. Did you get yourself in any trouble?
JB: Not any more than anyone else!

BK: How many of your family members work here?
JB: There’s the three kids, my sister, my wife and myself.

Photo Front Row: Maggie, the showroom dog, and Bella, the greeter
Back Row (L to R): Linda Barrette, Aaron Barrette, Meredith Barrette, Jon Barrette, Paula Barrette Howrigan, Sara Barrette

BK: Is Ford doing anything new that would be of interest to car drivers?
JB: Quality. Our quality is equal to, or better than, Toyota or Honda. There were eras where we didn’t do as well as we should have, but we’ve certainly surpassed that now. We have more to offer, we really do. Buying foreign, even if it’s built over here, the components come from overseas. With the economy struggling, people don’t realize that 80 percent of the content comes from overseas, which is jobs. They’re glued together here, but these big companies take their profits and they bring them back overseas. People do not understand that. They want the economy to flourish, but they don’t want to participate.

BK: What’s your role here, Sara [Jon’s daughter]?
SARA BARRETTE: I think everybody does a little bit of everything. Mostly I do the advertising, Internet sales, computer repair and some selling.

BK: What’s the advantage that your dealership brings to its customers?
SB: We know everybody by their names. We often know what vehicle they have and what vehicle they had five years ago. A lot of customer loyalty, a lot of repeat buying, because they know where to find us if they’ve got a problem, if they’ve got a question, if they need a loaner. We get calls all times of the day and night. [Customers] know we’re going to be honest and give them the truth. Sometimes it’s good news, sometimes it’s not, but they know they’re going to get the truth from us.

BK: How does that work for the customers?
SB: Most people who end up buying here buy here because they immediately feel like they’re one of our good friends or one of the family, even if they’ve never walked in here before. I’ve had a few people say that to me; they just immediately felt it, with the kids running around and the dogs coming up to them. Their kids can go and play with Bella’s toys that are everywhere.

BK: What would surprise people about EJ Barrette?
SB: I think that we’re pretty competitive with our price. People think that because we are small we can’t compete with big places on pricing. We’ve been around so long, we don’t have a lot of overhead — we own our building. We’re not big and splashy. When you come here and buy a vehicle, you’re only paying for the vehicle, you’re not paying for our building, or our trips to Italy. When you look at the bottom line and you’re comparing apples to apples, I think we’re very competitive on price — and above and beyond on service.

Suddenly joined by Bella Barrette:
BB: Bwa wa wa wa

BK: What kind of car would you buy?
BB: A pink one and a purple one.

SB: Would you ever get a truck?
BB: No, I’m not a boy.

SB: Nothing cracks me up more than when I’m sitting in here doing my work and I hear her say [to a customer], “Would you read me a book?” while they’re waiting for their car to get serviced.

Editor’s Note: That’s just the sort of experience you’ll likely have if you venture up to this family-owned Ford dealership. If you ever find yourself in need of a new or used car or truck consider swinging by EJ Barrettes and see for yourself what they’ve got to offer. From what I’ve seen I’d expect that they’ll do their very best to make sure you’re another satisfied customer.

November 04, 2008

Joey Kale - King of the Hill & Rookie of the Year! (Almost)

Editors Note: Looks like I jumped the gun on naming Joey as Rookie of the Year when I posted this story. This honor is voted on at the Annual Awards Banquet which has not taken place yet. Sorry about that guys, I'm still learning the ropes.

Recently I interviewed Joey Kale of Kales Custom and he hoped at that time he would finish his first season of racing hillclimbs by being named Rookie of the Year and also getting King of the Hill honors for posting the best set of times at the last race of the season, the Mt. Philo Hillclimb.

Well guess what? He did it! Congratulations Joey! That should help to erase the pain of crashing into a tree on his last run... oops!
Hey, that's racing, and it exemplifies Joey's favorite saying "Going Fast, Taking Chances."
And an update, Joey rebuilt a whole new tubular front-end for his Subaru last weekend. So he's ready to go again and I feel sorry for the next tree that gets in his way.

Thanks to Steve Jones of Sports Car Club of Vermont and the New England Hillclimb Association for this video of one of Joey's last runs at Mt. Philo

November 03, 2008

Bob Sr.'s Weekend Racing Highlights

Editor's Note: Bob Sr. is my dad. He has been racing cars for almost 50 years. If he's not racing on the weekend you'll find him watching auto racing on TV. Every Monday he'll post an update with highlights and the inside scoop on the previous weekend’s big races.


Interlagos, the Final F1 Race of the Year
Sao Paulo, Brazil

Ferrari's Filipe Massa dominated qualifying sessions taking pole position with ease on Saturday to his hometown fan's delight. Each time he went past the jam-packed grandstands you could hear them cheer for their hero even over the screaming roar of the 20,000 rpm Formula One engines. To win the championship Massa needed to finish 1st or 2nd and Hamilton no better than 6th.

Just before the start on Sunday an unexpected cloudburst sent the teams scurrying for Intermediate and Full rain tires. The start was held up for 10 minutes to allow the changes. Filipe immediately got a great start and started to pull away from the field. He absolutely dominated the entire race and with just a few laps remaining rain fell again.

At this time the order was Massa, Alonso, Raikkonen and then Hamilton comfortably in 4th in front of  Sebastien Vettel. They all had to pit for rain tires and resumed in the same order Massa, Alonso, Kimi in 1,2,3, but Timo Glock did not pit and Hamilton and Vettel had to fall in behind him. Hamilton now in 5th, where he had to be to take the Championship, the ever dangerous Vettel just behind him. Moments later in the pouring rain Hamilton made a tragic mistake going wide. Vettel pounced and took over 5th place leaving Hamilton 6th and his Championship hopes smashed with but a few laps left.

The crowd, the announcers and the pit crews were going wild and had conceded the race win AND Championship to Massa. He crossed the finish line, the winner and World Champ. BUT WAIT A MINUTE... further back, last lap, last corner, Glock, who had not changed to rains, bobbled and gifted Hamilton with the position, the 5th place he HAD to have to win the Championship. OhMiGod!!!

Meanwhile Filipe, his loyal fans screaming with delight was running the cool off lap having been told by his crew that he was World Champ. It was only when he pulled into the impound area that he learned that Hamilton had gotten by Glock for 5th... taking the crown. Filipe walked  to the edge of the grandstands acknowledging the roar of his fans with his hand on his heart and tears in his eyes. Filipe had done all he could - pole position - fastest race lap - complete race dominance - only to lose the Championship by one lonely point.

No Hollywood script could have topped this ending.

The McClaren team was also in shock finally realizing that they had won the title with Hamilton scraping by in the last corner to take 5th.

Ferrari did take the Constructor's Championship handily for the eighth time in the last ten years.

Kimi, 2008 World Champ finished third in the race, third in the Championship.

Massa swallowing hard, graciously saying to the post-race media whom were also in shock, "...we must recognize Hamilton as Champion, he won because he got more points, that’s racing".  I'm sure Filipe was thinking of the two races when he scored zero points because of mechanical failures while leading. If only...
…but that's racing.

Covered Bridge RallyCross at Weaver Farm

The New England Region of the Sports Car Club of America hosted the Covered Bridge RallyCross presented by Team O'Neil at Weaver Farm in Huntington, VT on November 1st and 2nd, 2008. My friend Noel and I got out there just in time to see the last runs on Sunday afternoon. Man that looks like fun. I can't wait until I can get out there next year.

Probably more than half of the vehicles were Subarus, then some Audis, A Toyota Tacoma and others. If you recognize (or are) any of the drivers in the video please comment below to share that information.

I made the mistake of looking at a map to choose my route out to the Rally Cross. From Rt. 116 in Starksboro we headed up dirt roads that eventually turned into logging roads that were finally too much for my Scion XB. We had to turn it around and find another route, but we saw some nice Sugar Bush (stands of trees tapped for maple sap) along the way. When we did finally get over to the farm what a great spot for some Rally Cross action! The farm sits more or less on the northwest slope of Molly Stark and Beane Mountains. Kudos to the Weaver family for sharing it!

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