Sunday, September 30, 2007

Japanese Grand Prix

Wow, that was an exciting F1 race in Japan. During the first part of the race when they were following the safety car, I just wanted the officials to let them race! When they finally did, it was quite exciting.

I have to say, I approve of paved runoff areas as it allows drivers to re-enter the race safely after a small off. I loved watching Raikkonen catch up to Kovalainen and the insane last-lap battle between Kubica and Massa. I felt really bad for Vettel, though, who ran into the Red Bull car of his quasi-teammate and threw away a potential podium finish. Still, he became the youngest ever driver to lead a race at age 20.

I've been watching most F1 races this year and have often fallen asleep due to the lack of action (and early hour of the European races). Although I briefly fell asleep last night (I have a cold and it was getting late) I found the race extremely enjoyable to watch. Maybe F1 would be more entertaining if it rained more often.
Edit: here's a video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVXRZoQZ9lA

I went for a long drive in the Eastern Townships and it made me wish I had a Miata to enjoy the back roads and fine weather. I saw several cool British cars, including an MGA, TR4, and Jaguar E-Type coupe. Gotta start saving up for a Miata...

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Not much going on with my car projects and no racing coming up any time soon. Went for a long drive in the Mazda. Gas is 94.4 cents, the lowest it's been in months.

I look forward to bringing the blue Civic to Pat so he can get the swap done. I also hope that the red Civic will be back from the shop so I can get in some laps before the end of the season.

Saw some nice cars yesterday and today:

Dodge Viper SRT10
Ferrari F430
Lamborghini Murcielago LP640 (wow!)
Aston-Martin DB9

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Interesting article by Jeremy Clarkson on the London Times website:
http://driving.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/driving/jeremy_clarkson/article2503695.ece

Although the article is officially about a Volvo, he makes interesting observations about how entertaining it is to drive a race car on the track in comparison with a street car. He goes on to say how his diesel BMW is more fun that his Gallardo on the track, and I totally understand where he's coming from.

Nice cars spotted today:
AMG G55
AMG C55
Audi S6 (V10!)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

New motor

I went out to the boonies with my friend and sometimes mechanic Pat to pick up a 1995 Integra drivetrain for the blue Civic. It's nice to know people with pick-up trucks. I don't know what it is, but it's always satisfying to drive out to the distant suburbs to go pick up parts you found on the Internet. Is it because I love shopping? Probably... something to do with the release of dopamine when you buy stuff. I'll be bringing him the car next week for the install.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Why do I drive an old Mazda 323?

You might wonder why I, a die hard car enthusiast, drive a car like a 1994 Mazda 323. Good question. There are several reasons.

1- No car payments. Mainly, I am a cheapskate and don't like to spend a lot of money on anything. I worked very hard to pay off all my debts in the past couple of years and the main thing I changed was reducing spending in almost all categories. The 323 was the cheapest car that is fun to drive and I could easily buy it without borrowing any money.

2- I like the 323. It's really a great car which is extremely fun to drive. I will write more about what "fun to drive" means in a future post, as I believe it is an extremely important factor which many manufacturers have forgotten to take into account.

3- I can't justify buying a "better car". I walk to work, I don't spend much time in my car in any given week, so I can't justify spending more on a car (which is why I'm building a bargain basement Civic to replace the Mazda). I don't think it will improve my quality of life much at all to buy a better car right now. This may come up as the topic of a future essay entitled "What are cars for anyway?", in which I might argue that there is a much bigger difference between having a 1000$ car and no car at all than between having a 100 000 $ car and a 1000$ car.

4- I can't justify keeping the race car if I also spend a lot on a street car.

In other news...

Nice cars spotted today:
Porsche 930
Porsche 996 Turbo
New Audi S8
Cadillac CTS-V
Viper GTS ACR
Astro-turf covered Honda Element

... all this on the walk home from work!

Trac Racing called and asked me what events I had coming up with the race car. Sadly, there are none, so they told me they would start working on the car now... I don't really know what they meant, but I hope it has something to do with body work, a new hood and bumpers...

I got an email from the guy who sold me the blue Civic a few days ago saying that the former owner (before him) received a notice that Canada Border Services had no proof the car was properly imported from the USA. I REALLY hope this does not cause any problems, as I'm starting work on this car in the next few days. I called Border Services and they said that if the car passed the provincial inspection and is registered, there should be no problem. We'll see...

My friend from France was here with her 1-year-old baby this evening. I tried to turn him on to car stuff at a very young age by letting play with an old toy Testarossa from my closet, but he preferred to slide it on its roof like a boat then roll it. Also, he much preferred playing with the lid from a jar of sauerkraut. Does this mean he won't be a car guy? We'll see...

Monday, September 24, 2007

Fall classic and stuff

Yesterday was the final race of the Quebec Touring series organized by the Fédération du Sport Automobile du Québec. My Civic was entered by Stéphane Trahan of Trac Racing, who has been driving the car to its full potential at a few different events this year.

I had driven the car 3 weeks ago at a Solo 1 event at St-Eustache and there were several issues with the newly built LS-Vtec engine. It was not making any power and my times at St-Eustache, in the 1:03's, were well off my best time of 1:01. It was quite disappointing.

I was glad to find out that the car seemed to be fixed as they had diagnosed a problem with the wiring, the vtec solenoid and an injector.

Stéphane managed a strong seventh place on Saturday, losing out mainly to cars with a lot more power. He managed laps in the 1:54 range, which is still pretty darn good for a street legal front-wheel-drive car with only about 210 hp.

He also managed to dent the hood and roof and break the windshield when the crew forgot to check the hood pins. Apparently, this happens to every racer at some point.

On Sunday, I went up to Tremblant to see the action in person (with my mother) and we saw another strong performance by Steph. However, he got punted off by a rookie in a Tiburon and stranded in the sand trap. He managed to drive back into the paddocks after the race with the rear bumper cover hanging off the back of the car. My mom commented that the car seemed to be in need of an extreme makeover, and she's right: it looks like crap. Luckily, the off season is approaching and Steph promised me that he'd help fix up the car's appearance. Also, the car has ended the season in great mechanical condition which is always a plus!

Otherwise, as has become typical of the Fall Classic, there were some pretty bling cars running, including three Ferrari Challenge cars, a Viper Competition Coupe and the track owner's Maclaren F1 GTR (!!!). The owner also had his Ferrari 250 GTO on display (!!!!!) and I spotted a Carrera GT on the way home.

The Fall Classic is always a cool mix of big money racers and grassroots guys, as the event is inexpensive enough for even budget racers. I almost regret not running myself in the GT race. I still feel as if there is unfinished business after I blew my motor there in 2005:



I miss racing, but I don't miss having no disposable income and maxing out my line of credit. Fortunately, there are a few more chances to get out there this year with the Civic as there is a lapping day coming up in two weeks at St-Eustache and at least one more Trac school where I'll be instructing.

I'm also starting to get excited about the new (used) Civic I'm building up as a street car. I've negotiated the purchase of a B18B1 engine and tranny to install in it and it should be ready for the street (and occasional track use?) in a couple of weeks.

This is what the car looks like "as purchased". I don't want to make it too nice so it doesn't get stolen. Stay tuned for updates on the blue Civic project.

Due to the unavailability of my race car on many occasions these past two years, I've been wishing I could have a second car that was also track-worthy.

A couple of weeks ago when I was unable to gain access to the Civic as it was locked in the garage, I decided to throw some R-compounds on the 323 (same bolt pattern as the Civic) and hit the track for some lapping. I had a great time (as can be seen in this photo) and the car was surprisingly resistant to track work.

Photobucket Image Hosting

This has got me thinking a lot about how more modern cars are heavy and just not that fun to drive. The 82 hp 323 in bone stock form was very satisfying on the track with nothing but good tires. Something to think about.

Nice cars spotted today:
Gallardo
BMW 2800CS

Random thought:
I really like the look of the new WRX. I like it so much, it makes me dislike the styling of the old model, even though I never had a problem with it in the past... I've always loved WRX's.

First post!

Welcome to my blog!

Since I like to write about various automotive-related topics, I thought the next logical step was to start up a blog containing my thoughts on all things related to cars, particularly with regards to cars and racing. In comparison with the sheer futility of facebook, this seemed like something more productive and worthwhile.

I'll be posting my thoughts vis-à-vis automotive-related things in my everyday life, including interesting cars I might see or drive or thoughts that might occur to me on a particular subject.

Feel free to contact me with any comments or opinions at v_basile@hotmail.com and enjoy the blog!