Monday, June 12, 2017

Next Time Helio

The Indy 500 is one of the most recognized races and sporting events in the world. To be a four time winner of the race puts you in one of the most exclusive clubs in the world- there's only three members: A.J. Foyt, Al Unser Sr. and Rick Mears. Helio Castroneves has an open invitation to join with his three wins.

Helio is one of my favorite drivers. He's earned that spot for me as he has such a positive attitude and he's so down to earth.

That impression is confirmed by additional observations when interacting with other fans. I've captured a few shots of him at the 2016 and 2017 Indycar race at St. Petersburg Florida shown below exhibiting his captivating smile along with the ability to have fun. ( See candid picture of him spoofing the team mechanics at the 2016 race in St. Pete.)  Lastly, I'll finish this post with a story about a conversation I had with him at the autograph session in St. Petersburg back in March that adds to my appreciation for this truly humble driver.

                                              Can He Make Four Indy 500 Wins?

This guy has an ability to keep cool under pressure, even when things don't result in a win.  He always comes away with a good outlook on life.  Take this year's Indy 500 for example. He's won this three times.  Only three people on the planet have won it four times. He's trying to join the Four Timers club and he ends up second. Most people would lose it, have a break down or be really really upset. Helio's response "I did everything I could, trust me. Unfortunately second place is the best for us today."   Wow- he kept it together in the face of disappointment.    At age 42, Helio is in great shape and the experts say he's not too old to win again. ( Al Unser Sr. won in 1987 when he was 47)
I hope he does.  He's a class act!

So here's my little story.  I got in the long line for driver autographs at the 2017 St. Pete Indycar race and had a bunch of 8x10 pictures from the year before of various drivers but I didn't have one of Helio.  What can I have him autograph, other than the standard photo card everybody gets?  I happened to be wearing a hat that says 'Shift Happens' with a four speed gearshift pattern showing on the front. That's what I'll have him sign. So I get up to his spot under the tent and we exchange the usual quick hello and I hand him my hat.  He stops, looks at it and breaks out laughing. Then he pulls out his cell phone and says 'I have to take a picture of this and send it to Will Power'  ( Will Power had crashed in practice the day before and had his car in for repair)   He proceeds to take the picture, signs the hat and hands it back and says thank you 'that's cool'.    NO  I say THAT was cool what just happened!   It shows how down to earth he is and how he likes to have fun.

So here's a few photos of the guy that almost made it four wins at Indy:

                                              A couple of shots of Helio in action

Signing My Hat

Talking To Reporters
Just Having Fun

And My Autographed Hat

Hope You Enjoyed The Story About Helio

See You in Two Weeks At Watkins Glen For The 6 Hour IMSA Race
Paul Ziegler/ Editor and Publisher

Friday, June 9, 2017

Think Muscle Cars Were Fast?

Late 1960's to early 1970's, the golden years for hot American cars.  I grew up with them.  My first new car was in June 1968 when I was still 17.  A green 1968 Plymouth Road Runner with red line Goodyear tires.  This was a bad ass machine by any measure.  A 383 cubic inch V8 with a four speed Hurst shifter on the floor and a mean dual exhaust rumble at idle that became a loud bark when you floored it!

Here's a picture of something close to what my Plymouth Road Runner looked like. It is the exact same green color, but this is the GTX version of that Plymouth only this one had a 440 cubic inch engine.

I thought I died and went to heaven when dad said OK to me putting every penny I had down (about $500.00)  with him being my bank for the balance of the $2,800. purchase.  I was sure I died and went to heaven when I first had a chance to drive this beast with the tires smoking and that engine barking.  It was fast!   But how fast?

Now, as then one of the primary performance measures is a car's quarter mile time. Well, lets take a look at a number of the hottest muscle cars from that era.

Fast Cars of the Past:

Car Model             Horsepower       Standing start 1/4 Mile Time         Speed      

Plymouth GTX        375 HP                       14.96 Seconds                   96.98 MPH
Pontiac GTO            360   "                        15.13      "                          99.49     "
Chevy SS 396           375   "                        15.28      "                         92.00     "
Dodge R/T                375   "                        15.33       "                        92.68     "
Olds   442                 360    "                        15.48      "                         91.37     "
Ford GTA                 335    "                        15.94      "                         91.46     "
Buick GS                  340    "                         15.58      "                        90.36     "

(Source - Motor Trend Road Test Issue June 1967)

Admittedly, these cars were much heavier than the average sporty sedan of today and horsepower figures back then were not as reliable as we would like for a comparison test, but overall this is as close as we will get when comparing these to cars of today.  Also note the observed miles per gallon average for all the above as a group- 11.3 miles per gallon.  


So here we go with some of the sporty sedans on the market today. When looking at the numbers, the good old days were not as good when it came to fast cars.  You will be surprised to learn that what we have available today in the category of fast is really fast when looking back at these ' Muscle' cars!  Next, let's take a look at a new generation of fast sedan sized cars.

I thought I died and went to heaven when I test drove an Alfa Romeo Giulia- and now I own one:

The New Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti  with Sport Package

Fast Cars of Today:  (Note- all are 2.0 liter inline 4 cylinder models)

Car Model   (2017)                 Horsepower        Standing Start 1/4 Mile            Speed

Alfa Romeo Giulia              280 HP                  13.6 Seconds                          103.7 MPH
Audi A4 2.0T                      252 HP                  13.7      "                                 100.4   "
Cadillac ATS 2.0T              272 HP                  14.2      "                                   98.3   "
Jaguar XE 25t                     240 HP                  15.0      "                                    94.0   "
Lexis 200t F Sport              241 HP                   15.4      "                                   89.9   "
Mercedes-Benz C300         241 HP                   14.5      "                                   96.1   "

(Source Motor Trend  2017)

So based on the above, we are seeing a new golden age of performance vehicles! For the majority of us who operate in the $50,000. and under market, these are the new Muscle Cars! In addition the observed miles per gallon for this group is 23/32/26.  Taking the city driving average for a fair comparison since these were speed runs the new breed bettered the old by 10 miles per gallon which is astounding considering they are faster.

It is on to Watkins Glen for the IMSA 6 Hours at the Glen June 30- July 2.  Can't wait to get some great pictures for all of you!     Paul Ziegler, Editor/ Publisher