30 May 2013

Demolition Derby sur Med

"Seems very loose.I can't understand it.It was a very tight fit when Seb wore it at the same age."
I did not watch the Monaco GP but I have seen the TV coverage of the demolition derby and it totally perplexes my why they continue to hold a Grand Prix on the streets of Monaco.Elsewhere wonderful tracks have lost their grand prix because they are not deemed safe and yet compared to Monaco they are very safe.And all the new super circuits have massive run off areas and at Monaco there are none.Silverstone nearly lost the British Grand Prix because the pit and paddock facilities were not adequate for the prima donnas of the F1 circus and yet at Monaco the pits and paddock barely exist.Talk about money talking and rampant hypocrisy.
I guess that Monaco only keeps the Grand Prix because it is Monaco.It used to be a rather charming, slightly seedy place full of greying tax exiles,displaced members of East European royal families waiting patiently for communism to fall so that they could reclaim their thrones as well as other assorted timewasters.The architecture was rather grand and place had a faded charm.Now it is just horrible.Blingsville sur Med.Massive blocks of tasteless apartments crowding each other out have replaced the harbour view villas.The setting is still magnificent but that is all.The streets are full of black supercars and the place is full of Russian oligarchs and people who come from countries the names of which end in"stan".It has to be said that many of the Russian billionaires are big hearted as they bring their young nieces with them to enjoy the delights of Monaco.
That's Monaco today and it really is the sort of place where the current masters of F1 feel right at home.Hence the demolition derby continues.And it will continue until the cost in broken cars or possibly broken drivers becomes too much.
That great shining example of German sportsmanship Seb Vettel came second in the GP and immediately Red Bull lodged a protest as they were under the impression that Seb had been promised that he would win every grand prix this year by fair means or foul and coming second was not in the plan and if he wasn't given first place he would throw all his eight teddys out of his pram- again.
And thanks to the sweet little boy photographed at last weekend's Rennsport.He has nothing to do with the obnoxious Seb.I just could not help myself.

28 May 2013

The Rolling Road on the road

I am off to France this evening for three weeks.I will try and post some blog stories and photos as I travel from the road if circumstances allow..As usual I am taking minimal photo gear - just the X1 with one SD card and one spare battery and the Canon G9 as a's a long first hop Sydney to Dubai-13 hours-but I'll turn on a video of the Abu Dhabi or Bahrain F1 Grand Prix on the entertainment system and I'll be sound asleep in just a few minutes.

26 May 2013

Rennsport reflections

Another superb day and the sun had his hat on again.Not a cloud in sight.Some great racing from the historics and high speed demo runs from the Porsche Museum and locally significant historic cars.Lots of rookie racers strolling around in their borrowed racing suits imagining that they are about to start in the Monaco F1 GP whereas they were actually between runs in the Regularity event.Not that Sydney Motorsport Park in any way resembles Monaco.For starters Monaco does not have a very large and not at all fragrant garbage tip as a neighbour.
I also discovered a class of racing even more boring than formula 1 and that is Porsche Carrera Cup.Not only is the racing very fast and processional but all the participants and their large crews appear to have signed a pledge not to smile during the course of the weekend.I have not seen such a large group of people with attitude since I last went to the Australian Grand Prix.Lighten up fellas it's supposed to be fun not a war.And all that money being spent on it with the large exclusive Porsche Australia catering facility only for the event participants and the mountains of tyres and the enormous transporters and all those earnest people peering at laptops.Has the world gone mad? Well, I think I know the answer to that but I am sure I had more fun driving my 1971 911 down to Rennsport than those guys did in the whole weekend.
Aside from the Carrera Cup races it was an absolutely superb weekend and very well organised albeit rather expensive but then everything Porsche does is expensive.The talk is that Porsche may make this a regular biannual event.Let's hope so.Next time let's not have the Carrera Cup or if they do send them to fun school for a week before.
Photos from my Canon G9 .

25 May 2013

Rennsport Australia

The sun had his hat on.After a very wet couple of days he smiled down on a monster gathering of Porsches at Sydney Motorsport Park today.       What a great day.I'm looking forward to more tomorrow.Some quick photos straight out of the X1.Rob Scheeren,featured,assures me that he was given those shoes foc.Just as well.

24 May 2013

Porsche Rennsport Australia

Porsche Cars Australia is holding the Rennsport Porsche Festival this weekend -25/26 May at Sydney Motorsport Park.It promises to be a big event-sadly not on the grand scale of the US Rennsport - but big nonetheless with Porsche racing and Porsche displays.The weather after weeks of sunshine is the big question mark .
I have entered my 2.2 in the Show and Shine.I thought seriously about entering the Regularity but the cost and my lack of track rubber put me off.Justin has entered his early car -below-and is impatient to get on the track.

22 May 2013

The shop

A rather charming set of photos from friend George over in Pennsylvania showing a local restoration shop, Pollack Automotive Restoration in Pottstown.It looks just how you imagine an old style restoration shop.It's in an old factory,or maybe it was once a mill,not in an industrial unit on some boring industrial estate.It looks as if it has a nice ambience of real craftsmanship.A long nose 911Targa is getting the treatment -they need to get rid of that Ferrari decal though.
It wasn't so long ago that early 911s with tin rot were just parts cars in the US but now prices have risen so much that restoration is feasible.Thank goodness.It's sad to think how many early cars which could have been saved have been broken up for parts in the last 20 years.

20 May 2013

Software magic

 A few weeks ago I bought the Nik Creative Collection of software when it was offered at a special price.It is a very impressive tool - particularly Silver EFX which converts colour photos into black and white.At the time I made myself promise that I would not start over- filtering photos so that they ended up with the same weird looks as all those photos being posted on Flickr and blogs by people who also have the Nik Collection.
However boys being boys I could not help myself and I have been playing with the filters and in one of my trials I converted what started as a pleasant photo taken in a monastery in Myanmar into something which I believe is slightly mystical -see below.For those interested in the technicalities it was taken on the Leica X1 as a DNG file -- converted in Color EFX using a bleach bypass filter and then given a light HDR treatment in the Nik HDR module and then tweaked in Lightroom 4.Not exactly a straight photo I know but hopefully you agree that it has a certain charm and an almost 3D quality.
And talking of software magic if you have not already seen it take a look at  Animation extraordinaire it really is magical and worth giving up 5 mins time for.Make sure that you view it on a big monitor screen and not on a tablet or phone.

18 May 2013

Put a sock in it Gina ...and the rest of you whingers

Another week, another hectoring speech from the world's richest woman, Gina Reinhart,telling Australians how to live their lives.
For readers who are not familiar with the lovely Gina she is the world's richest woman due to inheriting vast iron ore reserves in Western Australia from her father.A fact that she seems to have conveniently forgotten as she regularly lectures us on the virtues of hard work and austerity and telling us that we could be billionaires like her if we worked hard enough.What utter tosh.
She really is a most unattractive person physically and in her actions.Life is one long battle against the dark forces of the left for Gina.If ever there is an example of money not bringing happiness it is Gina.
 She seems to always be in litigation against someone including journalists ,companies and all but one of her own children.She rails against climate change science and cultivates the loony climate change deniers.She espouses extreme right wing economic policies which are singularly self serving.She always seems to be scowling and she apparently eschews philanthropy.
She harbours the ambition to control key media outlets to pedal her extreme right wing agenda- and she now owns significant shareholdings of one TV operator and the major independent media operator,Fairfax.
Her latest outburst warns that Australia will be the next Greece-unless of course we adopt her policies.
Some Greece.Australia has 5.5% unemployment,a very low rate of inflation and consolidated government debt is approximately 25% of GDP - a very low figure by world standards.According to Moodys rating agency "the median debt level for the 14 sovereign countries they rate as AAA is 50% and Australia has the lowest debt level of any AAA rated country with the exception of Luxembourg.".
Some way to go before we are Greece Gina but I am sure you don't want nasty things like facts getting in the way of your preaching.
Mind you she is not alone.Overnight that other appalling rich - former-Australian Rupert Murdoch has tweeted that "country is going broke".My comment to Gina also applies to you Rupert as well as to James Packer and all the other whingers-including the bank CEOs who are paid more in six months or less than I was paid in my whole working life and who last week told us how tough the business environment is as they announced more record profits.
Just to put the above into context take a look at the photo below taken by me in Myanmar last December.It shows a group of people in their "dwelling" on a filthy, garbage littered riverbank.Look at it carefully and let it soak in.

What you see in this picture is all that they possess.
These people are so poor it is beyond my comprehension.It makes me teary looking at the photo.I am almost ashamed that I took it.I move from teary to very teary when I think about the appalling behaviour of people like Reinhart, Murdoch and Packer and the radio shock jocks as well as all the thousands of copycat whingers who complain that they are poor when what they really mean is that they are still driving a two year old BMW.Shame on you all.You are not poor.These people are poor.You are greedy,very greedy and lacking compassion and any sense of perspective.
I am off to France in 10 days.I will see if there are any spare guillotines available to buy.Martin Place,Sydney will be good place to set one up.Bring along a basket.

16 May 2013

As good as it gets ?

Some superb photos of Jaguars at the recent Historic Racing Festival at Donnington in the UK from Peter de Roussett-Hall .Who would risk racing in the rain a genuine Jaguar D-Type worth probably well the other side of $5m?
Peter uses a full frame Canon 5D and the image quality is stunning but it's not just down to the gear as he really knows how to capture motor racing action.When I see photos this good it brings home to me that anything less than a full frame sensor is suboptimal in terms of image quality.But life is a series of compromises and if you shoot with a full frame camera you have to resign yourself to a lot of heavy lifting.

 If you are a fan of historic motor racing get out and take in as many events as you can NOW because this is the golden age of historic motor racing and it will be downhill from here and the number of really special cars - such as D-Types,250GTOs ,GT40s and 917s is going to diminish rapidly.
Lots of factors at play here.The cars are becoming so valuable that the number of owners who are prepared to risk them racing is falling rapidly. And can you really blame them? A Ferrari 250GTO changed hands for $35m back in March.

Sadly super affluent Arab collectors in the Middle East are switching from collecting modern supercars to collecting classic racers.And Chinese buyers are also starting to emerge.At the same time many of the owners and drivers of these cars are getting older and will not be around to maintain the enthusiasm for too much longer.And the cars themselves are becoming even more expensive to maintain and race.
The problem is that the next generation of racing cars from the 1990's to recent times is not going to be suitable for historic racing.This is down to two words -carbonfibre and electronics.Most racing cars from the 1990s (and even starting from the 80s) incorporate high levels of carbonfibre componentry and there are big questions about the longevity and durablity of carbonfibre.
 Crash a race car with an old carbonfibre tub and it may shatter with very dire consequences.And in any case the moulds for the tub may very well have been lost/destroyed so replacing it will be out of the question.
Carbonfibre suspension and brake components have unknown durability.McLaren have replaced the carbonfibre suspension parts on many of their display museum cars in their HQ with steel parts clad in cosmetic carbonfibre.That says it all really.

As for the electronics even now historic racers with 1980s F1 cars are reliant on old laptops running long superceeded software to communicate with the electronics of their cars .If/when this software gets corrupted these owners will have big problems as the electronic interface even controls the start up routines for these cars .And the electronic components in the cars are not durable in the long term and they were not designed to be.This week Jeep announced a massive recall of vehicles because a circuit board is cracking sending an error signal to the gearbox which causes it to engage neutral inadvertantly.The electronics of racing cars lead much harder lives than those in a Jeep.Heat,vibration and just age related decay are the enemies.Maintaining those electronics going forward may well be impossible.And in the last 20 years electronics have taken control of most of the interfaces in sports cars and F1 cars in particular.

As well as the issue of carbonfibre and electronics there are the issues of aerodynamics and tyres .From the late 1980s aerodynamics have become a very critical component racing car design -and it is difficult to see how the sophistication of that science could be understood by essentially amateur racers in the future.Late model racing cars really have pushed out the performance envelope in terms of grip and cornering speeds and a small aero adjustment can literally mean the difference between staying on the track or flying off it.Even the mighty Mercedes can get it wrong as we saw at Le Mans in 1998.What chance will an amateur team in the future stand?

Tyres will also also a major problem for future racers of modern racing cars.F1 cars and the highest level sports cars are literally been designed around certain tyre specifications.Unless those tyres are available in the same specification in the future racing those cars will be compromised in their handling and even potentially lethal in amateur racer's hands.Getting the heat into the tyres requires the very highest level driving skills and when those tyres are not at their optimum temperature they have very little grip.

And finally there is the question of maintaining and operating the modern cars beyond the areas outlined above.Modern racing teams come to the races with a team of specialists who understand the complex systems of the cars.Even starting a modern F1 car involves a detailed sequence of actions which requires specialist equipment.It is difficult to see how amateur racers in the future could replicate this support.

No,it all looks as if the golden days of historic racing are here now and that today's racing cars will only be seen in museums or in demonstration runs in the future.
So get out to the Goodwood Revival,the Oldtimer Festival and next year's Le Mans Classic and the other great events.They may be the summit of historic racing.In the short term enjoy Peter's great photos.

12 May 2013

In praise of the Porsche 911 2.7

There are not many models of the Porsche 911 which are not now revered but the 1974-78 2.7 911 probably falls under that heading and I believe that reputation is undeserved.Yes- the early 2.7s did suffer engine problems in the first few years of their lives but if a 2.7 is still going strong today then you can be pretty confident that the original problems have all been long ironed out.
Another issue faced by the 2.7s was that they were the first of the big bumper cars and the engines in the US were the first to have emission control gear.The big bumpers were a response to the US 5 mph crash requirements but coming after the very elegant long nose cars they were seen as less attractive.The early emission control gear on the US market engines did nothing for the driveability and performance of the 2.7 engine so this also tarnished the reputation of these cars.But it was only the US market engines that were fitted with this gear.
A 2.7 today can be a good buy because its undeserved reputation is still taking the edge off prices.

My 1977 2.7 passed the 200,000 km mark on a long drive last weekend.When I bought it in 2001 it had done 159,000 kms so I have travelled 41,000 kms in it in 12 years.Not bad for a car which is not a daily driver.
I bought it cheaply from a used car dealer in Sydney.It was in a very tired,sad condition.The yellow paint was faded and chalky.The car was dirty.There were lots of small problems due to a lack of maintenance and TLC .Worst of all it was a Sportomatic -a strange semi automatic transmission which was quite clever but is now very unloved and very difficult to repair.
Sounds like a bad buy? Well it was very original and unmolested which was rare for a car of its age in Australia as many have had flares added and wings etc tacked on .It had an almost complete tool kit,the original space saver tyre and original compressor and complete original books-although the service history was incomplete for the last 5 years.It even had original yellow NSW registration plates which look crude but which I have retained against the strong advice of a friend who thinks that I should have changed them for some smarter,modern plates.And it was a beautiful yellow although the paint has seen better days.

The car was imported into Australia in April 1977 coincidentally the same month I arrived here.The first recorded owner was the wife of the Sydney Porsche dealer who apparently ran it for 6 months.Then it was owned by the head of a major advertising agency for 10 years and who gave it a hard life and who smoked heavily-hence the nicotine stained headlining although the smell has long gone.
I set to work to turn this rather tarnished jewel into a good driving car and in the first four years a lot of mechanical  work was done bringing it into shape.The biggest change was pulling the Sportomatic out and putting in a 915 5 speed manual gearbox in 2002.I also had the original factory airconditioning completely rebuilt and it now works really well but it was an expensive way to cool the car and today I would have ripped it all out and fitted one of the off the shelf kits from the US.

I was told very early on by one of Sydney's premier Porsche specialists, well known for the quality of their work and the size of their invoices,that the engine was a"grenade" -just waiting to explode.Since then it has done numerous hillclimbs,rallies,sprints and regularity trials and 41,000 kms and the engine has not been touched and it is only using normal amounts of oil.Some grenade.
It drives very well,is reliable and it is reasonably quick and thanks to the CIS injection it is surprisingly economical.
Was it a good buy? Well I could have bought a better car for much more money at the outset and avoided all the rebuilding costs but the journey has been fun and I ended up with a car which I really know and which I love driving.And it's yellow.

WHQ 164 last weekend on a Porsche club run down to Berrima in the Southern Highlands of NSW with 200,000kms just clocked up.

9 May 2013

Timing is everything

This was the freak sunrise at Terrigal Beach,NSW last week.Produced by a combination of atmospheric dust and cloud location.I saw the very strong colour forming as I left the house for my early morning walk.By the time I had reached the beach a few minutes later it was just coming to its full glory.It only lasted 5 mins at the maximum.
As it faded quite a few people were arriving with cameras and iPhones primed but they were too late.Timing is everything.
This was taken as a DNG (RAW) file on the X1 and the only manipulation was that I have lightened up the shadow area on the cliff.

6 May 2013

Now for something completely different.......

No it's not Porsches,cats,historic motor sport,Paris,France or even Leicas it's what I did last Friday.
Thanks to Craig,the owner of the superb 911S featured recently on the blog I went to sea.
Craig is a pilot with the Newcastle Port Authority.
For the benefit of overseas readers Newcastle is a major city about 160 kms north of Sydney in NSW Australia.It is one of the biggest ports in the world for shipping coal which is mined from mines in the Hunter Valley.Newcastle Harbour is at the mouth of the Hunter River.
The pilots are responsible for piloting ships in and out of Newcastle Harbour and it is a 24/7 activity involving 22 pilots and there are literally dozens of ships drifting off the coast waiting to get into the coal loading berths.As soon as they are loaded they vacate the berth.
My day started with safety briefings and then a trip across the harbour in one of the pilot launches to the helicopter facility.Helicopters are used, weather permitting, to drop of and pick up the pilots or transport them between outgoing and incoming ships.When the weather conditions are too bad the pilot transfers are done by boat.
The pilot launch is pretty small and I certainly would not want to be taken out of the harbour into a heavy swell and then face climbing up a rope ladder dangling over the side of a ship on a stormy night when the helicopter cannot fly.
From the launch it was into the helicopter and a short flight out to the waiting coal carrier.It was a beautiful day and there was a superb view of the city of Newcastle as we flew up the harbour.A quick circle of the ship,the Navros Hope, and then down onto the helipad -actually one of the hatches of the ship.Remove safety harness and headset,check camera,open door,keep head down to avoid decapatation by rotor blades and step rapidly onto float and then onto hatch.It's a very rapid exit -the helicopter does not hang around-and then up a few very steep flights of stairs onto the bridge.We had to wait for an outgoing vessel from the berth to clear the harbour entrance and then the ship was piloted in through the narrow entrancel and then up the harbour into the coal terminal basin then swung around 180º and manouvered into position alongside the coal loader.It sounds easy but the ship is big and the channel is narrow.
I guess my overwhelming impression was of total professionalism in every facet of the operation-the ship and its crew -scrubbed and really tidy--no clues to its cargo-the pilot launch and the helicopter shuttle and the piloting.
You see so much trivial nonsense presented as 'real life' nowadays that it is easy to forget that in the real world gigantic industries are working smoothly everyday and driving the economy without any fuss or visibility.
It was a unique experienceAll Leica X1 photos.
Pilot Craig.Yes collar and tie are mandatory for the pilots-not for me fortunately.
Pilot launch.

Shuttle helicopter .A McDonnell Douglas MD-500.

Nobbys Head and Beach

The ship-Navros Hope bulk coal carrier-Panamanian registered,crew Ukranian and Filipino.Takes coal from Newcastle to Japan.

A quick lap of the ship before touch down

From the deck after a quick exit

Stockton Beach from the ship's bridge

The wheelhouse.Craig directing,captain watching

Tools of the trade.

Navigation officer

The Captain

Entrance to Newcastle Harbour.Tug coming alongside to attach lines

Pilot,helmsman and the navigation officer controlling the engines

The coal loading terminal basin from the wheelhouse.The berth is on the left behind the blue ship

Captain Yatsenko.