Two 'Tranes Running Kerry Morse on being off schedule
Aside from the night and fog of what makes up the daily grind by getting up in the
morning, making enough money to pay the bills that lubricate the social injustices,
what can be accurately said about 2004 and what the halfway point of the new
decade will bring?
I really don’t know…. However, for those who asked what's been going on, here
are a few scrambled eggs of places, people, photo ops and performances above
and beyond the plane of obliqueness from then to when.
Here's the deal, we make the cars…. You buy them!
Porsche continues to be immensely successful in the profit area while failing to
take stock of the firm's brilliant capabilities of creating front line racecars. The
much-criticized Cayenne has done well enough in the market place to prop up the
slump in overall sales of the Boxster and 911 models worldwide. However in
countries like Australia, where sportscar sales have dropped off dramatically,
there is concern in Zuffenhausen that after the Cayenne variations have reached
the saturation point, what will be next in line?
One area that Porsche has had record sales is the GT 3 Cup car. At less than
120K U.S. the GT3 cup is one of motorsports' greatest bargains. From Sebring to
Sepang there are GT3's running in club races, Carrera Cup and national
championships. While there can be no questioning the wisdom and profitability of
Porsche continuing to offer the GT3, the one trick pony has extreme limitations and
this also includes the more sophisticated (and more expensive) GT3 RSR. It is
difficult to understand the company that mass-produced the 962 unable to come to
terms of the damage done to their image by concentrating on 996 variants.
A word of caution: For all those who think that the new consulting agreement
between Porsche and the recently retired Norbert Singer will result in a new LMP
for 2006, I say let's wait and see what shakes out in the market. The very same
weekend Singer was in China with the FIA GT, I was standing in the parking lot
across from the Staples Centre in L.A. watching the Williams sisters, among other
tennis pros, driving Cayennes around a temporary course. So much emphasis
has been put forth convincing the public that the Cayenne was the right decision
that it will take a lot more than a revamped Boxster to make a Porsche the must
have for a new year.
L.A.'s Shows of Shows
How does the old C&W tune go? Oh yeah, it's not love but its not bad…
That would sum up the differences between the L.A. Auto Show and
the journalistic love fest that takes place in Detroit this time of year. Who really
cares that the corporate offices for most of the manufacturers are located on the
eastern seaboard. If we went by that warped logic then the convention centre in
Las Vegas would be storage shed. Detroit is a place you want to leave, especially
with temperatures in the "is it hockey season" climate. Spare me the " it's a
tradition " nonsense. Cars are built all over the U.S. and Motor City is more Motown
than happy motoring.
No clearer opinion has ever been offered of coastal customs than what was
uttered during the Ferrari press conference. Maranello was showing the new
SuperAmerica but it was supposed to be Detroit that got the nod. Not so, as those
sharp dressed men pointed out. Most of our clients are in So Cal and not Lake
Michigan. Detroit has lots of journalists, L.A. has our customers.
Meditate on that!
The boys from Wolfsburg received a somewhat more reserved response on their
new release. The Jetta has been redone rather blandly as what VW hopes will be
competition for the Toyota Camry. The Jetta has always enjoyed a small but loyal
following in the U.S. and the air had a certain sense of betrayal for the faithful.
While a larger sales volume is in reach the sacrifice of what made the Jetta
somewhat unique has been sacrificed. VW may discover it wasn’t worth the
For your consideration…
On the other end of spectrum of VW product was the latest offering from Bentley.
The new Arnage Drophead Coupe is a stunning example of how Crewe has
figured out how to remain faithful to their roots while being funded by the mother
ship. Anyone who has witnessed the silliness that has become Rolls Royce can
take comfort that Bentley may be building the last of what can be considered the
best of British coachbuilding. And the Arnage is a trip and a half to drive. I will get
to that some other time.
And in a best supporting role…
Jaguar is on the road to recovery from the ill-fated excursion in to F1. Those of us,
and there were many, that let fly rants on the cat's misadventure don’t take any
solace in being correct. Jaguar is supposed to be a sports car or a grand touring
machine. The mystique of the older cats has a real hold on many an enthusiast. A
perfect example is Jo Powell. Her husband Mark has put together a decent
collection of Porsches but Jo wanted a Jag. Her patience was rewarded with the
find of a perfect example but then that is what it is supposed to be all about.
Jaguar seems to be sincere on getting it all back together. Hey, the Trans Am isn't
my first choice of where Jaguar should be but at least they are racing and winning.
No one is willing to say anything about future motorsport plans but I give the Cat
three years before they return to La Sarthe.
Would everyone at Aston Martin just shut up. We love the damn road car, the hell
with the Robb Report award and let's get to Sebring. A test is scheduled at the
Panoz owned circuit before Daytona and anything less than success from the
former tractor firm will not be acceptable. Get with the program, punks, lies and
videotape. Also wouldn't it benefit the press side if Fiona Miller was moved from
Prodrive directly to corporate side? If Walter Hayes were still with us it would be a
BMW gave us a concept hydrogen car that looked like a Veritas and that comment
baffled many a Bimmer stand personal who had no idea what a Veritas looked
like. Nine speed records from a dual mode gas bag. No word if future cars will be
built at Lakehurst. The beer hall boys also launched the M3 with a competition
package while a loop of Team PTG's Grand Am season ran non-stop on the
monitors. I have yet to find anyone impressed with BMW winning in Grand Am as
where was the competition? At least Alex Job had the Lizards in the ALMS to keep
his effort honest. PTG just had to unload the cars and proceed directly to the
podium in Grand Am. Remember when Munich hated Stuttgart and vice versa?
Ford has the new Mustang which really is an old Mustang but that's OK. They are
cool and have that right kind of attitude. The GT was shown again as was a Shelby
concept but cars on turntables are not what people wanted from the majors. Feel
me, touch me, heal me… the public should be able to get close and personal with
the GT. For some it may be their only chance.
Saleen showed off the new version of the S7 as well as the Saleen versions of
the Focus and a new Mustang GT. The true entertainment was courtesy of Jack
Gerken with a phone glued to each ear, Pirelli brass on one channel and Steve
Saleen on the other, Jack in the middle as a human boom box.
The Fan Man
The whole Grand Am and ALMS mess has been debated in to the dead zone. I
tend to agree with Bill Oursler in his columns but it may be David Soares who
figured it out. What good is " for the fans " if the fans don’t have the funds? As
Soares pointed out, it's the well off that continues to enjoy their lifestyles when the
economy has traditionally turned sour. The entries for the upcoming Daytona 24
hours certainly show that somebody has surplus cash. The teams from Europe
that traditionally enter the race no longer are part of the equation but drivers from
Europe certainly are. And I mean top pros, so who is picking up that tab for that? Is
Grand Am a racing chapter of a restricted hunting lodge? The myth of cost effective
racing as pushed by Grand Am is just that, a myth. No motorsport is cost effective
and never will be. What Grand Am has delivered is job security for a great many
people in motorsport who would be unemployed. As a business plan, it is hard to
fault Grand Am. It's the other part, the one that involves why sportscars were once
so exciting. Note I said sportscars, not how close they race on track.
Let's leave both Grand Am and the ALMS to represent their strengths and cover
up the weak areas. If you don’t want to watch Daytona because you can't stand the
looks of the chicken coupes then don’t. If old Audi R8's are not your gig, ignore
Sebring. But get off the fence.
Like a Volcano
Last year was a weird. From a cultural point of view, a lot of people that made
their mark departed the place. People we met, ones we never met. I used to see
Susan Sontag at a bookstore in L.A. several times a year. She browsed the
shelves like a prospector looking for gold. Her passing was surprising if only
because her presence was always so strong. Using that as a metaphor, what are
the sportscars and drivers that we will look back at the first part of the new century
with that same feeling?
Our friends and related SCP family have their own problems but will continue to
churn out good work. There are a few new friends that will be showing up on a
regular basis. John Brooks and I never intended the site to be anything more than
a place to feature a different viewpoint without the fear of annoying an advertiser.
To this we have succeeded but it is also a lot of work. We owe a lot to the people
who have supported us and they know who they are. (Take a bow Harald…. and
thanks to Michael Knauthe of MSK) One area of the site that will be more
prominent is " Baby you can drive my car " which is loosely based on road tests
and driving impressions. Why? Because it matters and we want to do it. Also we
get the chance to abuse a lot of different rides. They will not be all sportscars
strictly speaking but anything we deem that has a sporting manner.
It's just a matter of going…
So who is doing what at the moment? Note that some have nothing to do with
SCP at all. They are just our friends.
John Brooks is getting ready for another season of globetrotting at minimum
wage., FIA GT, Le Mans, LMES, WTCC, ALMS, Grand Am will once again be
featured in his images if he remembers to take the lens cap off.
David Lister will continue to supply top quality images when he is in the mood to
do so. A man not to be rushed and who can drink with the best of them.
Andrew Cotton is enjoying being a father but that costs money therefore is now
charging by each individual letter of the alphabet for every article he pens.
Michael Cotton is enjoying semi-retirement by working in his garden and digging
the weeds. Several book projects have been given the go ahead so all the
knowledge that is part of Michael's past will be coming to a bookstore near you
Sherri Collins left european car Magazine this month after what seemed like
decades keeping the ship true to compass. She says she will be tossing in a few
stories now and then for our benefit.
John Elwin has taken up residence in Northern France, rumours that he is
starring in Hollywood remake of the classic Brit sitcom ‘Allo, ‘Allo are wide of the
mark. He will continue to test cars and cover the shows.
David Soares has bailed out on the idea of building a 911 to race and is going to
use the funds to take his family to the racetracks he has always wanted to
experience. By day he is a nasty bit of work in a suit practicing like an episode of "
Law & Order " and after hours it's music, photography and GT racing.
Terry Burkhart has been studying black and white photography in between her
farming and ranching in Firebaugh. Burkhart Farms ships a lot of almonds and
Terry is considering going retail for a limited amount to be marketed on the East
Coast with the family name. She can also be found at Laguna Seca on almost any
weekend involving racing. The rest of her free time is spent with her horses, which
she prefers to being with most people.
Bill Oursler continues to be in the mainstream of motorsport coverage. Aside
from weekly columns, Bill has been a monthly regular for Porsche Panorama for
decades. His background covers television production as well as the publishing
arena. Chances are if you own a Porsche, you have one of his books. If you don’t
own a Porsche buy one of his books anyway.
John Dinkel is a former engineer, editor of Road & Track, baseball coach and
one of the most knowledgeable automotive people on the planet. Currently he is
working with Saleen and Pirelli as well as contributing to a number of
publications. John will drop in a road test here and there, schedule and Jack
Jim Bamber is Jim Bamber. Enough said, buy his new collection of cartoons at
www.jimbamber.co.uk and Praise the Lord.
Lizett Bond came back to Southern California to continue her gig in the
publishing field but will return in the spring to the ranch near Pyramid Lake where
"The Misfits" was filmed. Aside from her research project on the early California
cowboy, Lizett plans to continue to help run cattle near Sutcliffe to Bridgeport.
That's what horses are used for I hear.
Cara de Vlaming continues to recover from the illness that sidelined her while
working with Ralliart. Our favourite tall Dutch beauty is working in the legitimate
stage theatre and is doing just fine, thank you very much.
Chris Syfert will continue utilizing her timing and scoring skills for IMSA's benefit.
A class person if ever there was one.
Steve Soper continues to sneer at people and has let loose on the world a
couple of drivers through the Formula BMW project. Presenting the Steve Soper
Experience, " Are You Qualified" coming to a venue near you. Let's hope not.
Dave Price is feeling better these days but not feeling like taking Brooksie's
Allan McNish (see Dave Price)
Jurgen Barth has learned that he is a German.
And last of all, there is a rumour going around that David Donohue is somehow
involved in a racecar project. (I can't wait to get a note from DD on this!)