Tuesday, July 28, 2015

So this time it's big, bad Chrysler. So what?

The media in the USA is all over Chrysler because of the recent fine (more than a billion dollars) and "buy-back" of affected vehicles. I'm not going to defend FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) but let's put this in perspective.

I'm old enough to remember a time when there were no recalls. A time when people died due to defective and unsafe cars and just about no one cared. I've seen the Covair debacle (it was a debacle not for its "unsafe at any speed" tag from Ralph Nader but for the way General Motors handled it. I vividly remember the Ford "Exploder" mess with Ford and Firestone trading insults and accusations. Recently we've seen GM in the cross hairs over a faulty ignition switch. Every single automaker has been involved in a safety recall at one time or another.

And every time a recall occurs it seems like it is bigger, or more expensive, than the previous recall.

The most recent problem, the "hacking of a Jeep", bothers me the most though. Not for the safety threat but more for the national security threat it hints at. If certain Jeeps are hackable then in reality almost every vehicle with a form of computer control is hackable.

I've said this before but it bears repeating - I have been told by knowledgeable people that on some vehicles it is possible to hack into a vehicle's onboard computer through the Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS).

Let's face it if a hacker can get into our nation's sensitive computer systems they can hack into your car. Right now hackers seem to be able to target only one car at a time. But what if they could hack into thousands at once? How many disabled vehicles would it take to shut down a major city?

I know I sound like Chicken Little (The sky is falling! The sky is falling!) but I am genuinely concerned. There is a rush to put more and more computer controlled technology in every car culminating in autonomous vehicles. Imagine if you will a driverless semi with a dual trailer that is hacked. Think of the havoc, the carnage that is possible.

There are more than enough problems facing every automaker. Most of the recalls do not involve any computer controls - premature rust, faulty parts, poor designs, etc, etc, are more likely. So why add in the possibility of hacking?

Other industries might have a higher percentage of faulty products but few have the potential to harm as many people. I don't know what the solution is but I do wish the auto industry would slow down the technology march. We used to talk about planned obsolescence; now it is rampant because that's the world of computers. Let's perfect the systems before they are installed into our vehicles. We deserve that much.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Monterey Car Week 2015 - The Week Gets Busier

I missed Monterey Car Week last year moving back to the Bay Area. I went through severe withdrawal but after a year of rehab I think I'm back to normal.

Car Week runs from August 10th through the 16th unless you count the Pre-Reunion of the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca that runs on the 9th and 10th. There is more car events and stuff than most people will be able to see or attend. Really it is that busy. So chose your events carefully and remember traffic can be horrendous and getting from downtown Monterey to Pebble Beach or the Carmel Valley could take you an hour. Parking is always scarce.

If you plan on dining in the area reservations are recommended for the busiest nights. The Monterey Peninsula has a wide variety of restaurants. Some places I've eaten and would recommend are The Crown & Anchor (British Pub), 150 W. Franklin, Monterey; Baja Cantina & Grill, (Mexican) 7166 Carmel Valley Rd, Carmel; Sandbar & Grill, (Seafood) Municipal Wharf, Monterey; Monterey Fish House, (Seafood) 2114 Del Monte Ave, Monterey; Peppers Mexicali Restaurant, (Mexican) 170 Forest Ave, Pacifica Grove; Goodies Delicatessen (really good sandwiches and salads), 518 Lighthouse Ave, Pacific Grove; and Duffy's Tavern & Family Restaurant, (Bar food, burgers) 282 High St, Monterey.

I could list all the events but others do an excellent job. The best source is Sports Car Digest; they always have a good listing; see it at http://www.sportscardigest.com/tag/monterey-week/. The Monterey County Herald, the local newspaper, always does a supplement for the week but it doesn't come out until just before the start.

I usually try to attend all of the auctions at least once just to take photos. I try to stop by a few to watch the action as well. Russo and Steele is always fun to watch. Gooding & Company's Pebble Beach Auctions are very posh. Check the listings for auctions - some allow free viewing.

When I went in 2013 I tried to squeeze in as many events as possible and I was frazzled. This year I think I'm going to be a little more selective. The Pebble Beach Concours d'Elgance is a given for me; it takes up all of Sunday. Concorso Italiano is on Saturday and conflicts with the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion but they are near each other so it is possible I'll do both, Exotics on Cannery Row (Friday) sounds interesting and it's free. The Little Car Show on Lighthouse Avenue, Pacific Grove is always fun but I'm not sure if I'll be there on Wednesday. If you're in town on Tuesday you have to go to Concours On The Avenue, Carmel-By-The-Sea, also free.

Calling all Hot Cars! Cool Harbor Nights and Half Moon Bay Fourth of July Parade

This just in from those great folks at Cool Harbor Nights:

We've got an exciting week in store for you classic car and motorcycle aficionados. First, it's our standard monthly show this Thursday at 4 p.m. in our usual location (harbor parking lot between Princeton Seafood Company and the ocean) and then many of us will be showing off our favorite vehicles in Half Moon Bay's Old Fashioned Parade on Saturday.

As a reminder for those interested in participating in the parade, we will meet at 10 a.m. on the 4th in front of the old Adult Day Health Center location around the corner from Bank of America. If you get the chance, please contactFrank Besnyi at besnyi@aol.com with any questions or simply to give him the heads up that you're planning on being there. It will be nice to get at least a vague idea of what kind of head/vehicle count to expect.

Hope you can join us at one or both of this week's events!

Carina Woudenberg
Car Show Correspondent
Cool Harbor Nights

Monday, May 18, 2015

Where did it all start?

It all began at a small 500 watt radio station ... Wait! That was Ted Baxter not me. Where did it start for me? It seems so long ago because it was a long, long time ago.

I've always been a car guy; I came by that naturally. My dad was a mechanic back when you didn't need to say auto mechanic and way before they became technicians. By most accounts he was damned good.

My mom was a teacher, an English teacher for a long time (she ended up teaching 5th grade). Also by most accounts a good teacher.

So I started out with an interest in cars and words. I can't say I was particularly outstanding with either at an early age but that's where my interests lay - that and cowboys.

I think my first automotive article (if you could call it that) was an essay I wrote on Mickey Thompson and the Challenger 1 probably in 1961. I think I still have it somewhere. Most of it was cribbed from Hot Rod Magazine.

My writing, like so much of my life, was interrupted by my teen angst and current events. I worked on the periphery of the automotive repair world from the time I turned 16 in 1965 and went to work for Joe Pelletier at his Chevron until I enrolled in the Ontario Apprenticeship program in 1973; a turning point in my automotive life. Writing was not even on my horizon.

In the early '80s I went to work for the Canadian Automobile Association-Toronto as a mechanic in their Vehicle Inspection Center. After a few years I promoted to their F.A.C.T.S. (Free Automotive Consumer Tecnical Services) department as a Technical Advisor. One of the duties was to assist in writing new car reviews. I was pretty good at it and eventually became "the" reviewer.

Writing for the CAA got me into a world I had not even dreamt of; the automotive PR circuit. I think the very first event I was invited to was a Chrysler event at one of the better hotels in Toronto, maybe the Harbour Castle. I remember they had a huge chocolate waterfall and I met Lee Iaocca and - be still my beating heart - Carrol Shelby! Soon I was attending the long leads in and around Detroit. Then new vehicle introductions in plush locations. I was part of the elite! I admit that I was pretty full of myself.

When I promoted out of the position with CAA the writing dried up for a time. I was not happy; I wanted to write. I remember I sent out letters and writing samples to just about every single newspaper in the Toronto area. No dice.

Then I took what I thought was a leap to the big time. In 1985 I saw an ad in AutoWeek for a writer from a company in San Jose, California. I sent some clips and a cover letter. I was asked down for an interview (at my expense - first mistake). I went and I guess interviewed okay because I was offered the position. It was a cut in pay but I'd be writing! So of course I went.

It was my first experience with technical writing and it didn't go well. I was not really suited for writing "how to" articles (basically I wrote captions for photos or pictures of how to repair) and my supervisor wasn't into mentoring. All in all it was a bad mix and after about three months I was fired. I was devastated. I returned home to Toronto with my tail between my legs in the late winter of 1986.

I did get the occasional freelance writing job after returning but nothing of importance until I was hired to edit the Canadian Pickup Truck Guide. I think I did two annual issues. I was not a great or even good editor but it paid and my name was on the mast head.

I attended my last PR trip in 1987, ironically with American Motors, Canada. We went to a tennis resort in Ontario. I wish I remembered the name of the place but I don't. I do remember eating Northern Pike for the first time, getting a pair of Serengeti Drivers (sunglasses) that I loved, and a Scottish lass who was one of the tennis pros. She and some dude borrowed one of the AMC Medallions and flipped it one night on a dirt road.

I said ironically because before the trip but after I was invited I was hired by AMC as an Owner Relations Specialist in their Ontario Zone Office. Not exactly the big time but I was getting there. From my hiring on with AMC in 1987 until I left for California in 1990, I worked for AMC, then Chrysler (after their takeover of AMC) and finally Honda Canada. Once I went to work for an auto maker I stopped writing.

In January 1991, I began my government career with the State of California, Department of Consumer Affairs, Bureau of Automotive Repair. Although there was no written policy against writing it was made clear that it was incompatible.

In 1997, the then Editor of the Pacifica Tribune, Chris Hunter, was judging the "Rustiest Car" event in town. As an East Coast boy I wanted to see what was considered rusty so I went to watch the judging. Much to my amazement coastal (Pacifica sits on the coast just below San Francisco) cars can get severely corroded.

After the judging Chris and I got to talking and out of the blue he asked me if I had ever considered writing about cars. Really? I jumped at the chance even though I was somewhat concerned about the incompatibility with my job.

In my job with the State we dealt with automotive repair shops including dealerships. I figured that as long as I didn't write about automotive repair I was safe. In all the years I wrote I was never called on the carpet for any article.

My first review for the Tribune was of a 1997 Chrysler Sebring Convertible. I had no idea how to get a press car so I either wrote or called some of the auto makers. Chrysler was the first to respond with contact info for one of the companies that handle press cars, Page One Automotive.

From 1997 until 2014, I wrote new car reviews, opinion pieces and general interest auto articles for the Tribune. In 2014, the Tribune decided it was time to go a different direction. I was saddened of course. They had stuck with me for 17 years including the four years I was in Vegas. But all things must come to an end.

It wasn't just me though; newspapers everywhere have cut back. New car reviews can be a good or bad thing for a newspaper that depends on advertising for revenue. They simply do not want to alienate any advertiser.

Once I was lucky enough to get on a local radio station, KFOG. I had pitched the idea of doing a short new car review once a week. They liked the idea of having an automotive segment but not reviews because many of their advertisers were car dealers. So I did one guest spot answering callers auto questions. I guess even that was too controversial, or dull.

Since moving back to California I have tried to find an outlet to no avail. I'm sure part of the problem is I am just not that much of a go-getter. Outside of my letter writing campaign to find a gig many years ago I find it difficult to sell myself.

I am a decent writer; not great but decent. My grasp of grammar could use some improvement I am sure, or at least a good editing. Sometimes I am amazed that I have been successful enough to have kept at it (off and on) for all these years.

If this is the end so be it. If anyone knows of an outlet let me know. But if not I am content that I did it - I wrote auto articles (and even got paid occasionally).

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Cars as Mobile WiFi Hotspots? Give me Autonomous Cars!

I detest the idea of autonomous cars. I enjoy the art of driving. But there is a group, a growing group, of people who evidently see a car as an extension of their home, office or coffee shop.

This became obvious to me when I saw a Chevrolet television commercial recently. A focus group sits around a table; in front of each person are some car badges including the Chevrolet bowtie. They are asked to arrange the badges in order of which company they think is leading in 4g connectivity. All chose a company other than Chevrolet. Then it is revealed that Chevy is the leader. The end tag line is something like, "4g WiFi - it's all you want in a car."

When Chevrolet decides to become a WiFi provider instead of an auto maker I have to rethink autonomous cars.

If there are going to be (or are already) millions of people driving on our highways connecting to who knows what instead of actually paying attention to driving it scares me. It is bad enough with cell phones and texting but now we are going to have rolling high tech cubicles. And it is obvious to even the most casual observer that the police have no real intention of cracking down on people who use their cell phones while driving. Our world has been taken over by people who are intent on multi-tasking behind the wheel and the police have simply given up (if they ever truly cared).

It is a testament to the safety of new vehicles that there aren't more deaths caused by those texting their bff's about who knows what while driving. I see so many close calls every day it scares me.

I really don't know what everyone is talking and texting about; I don't have that much to say to anyone. Business people say their cells make them more productive but I don't really see it. Statistics seem to be all over the place but it seems to me that we may be more productive in the things that don't matter. We were probably most productive during the Second World War and there were no cell phones then. If productivity is holding meetings I guess we rule.

All of this has made me rethink autonomous cars. If the techies don't have a company bus with WiFi to get them around let's put them in an autonomous car. Prevent them from actually controlling a vehicle because they really have no desire to do so - a vehicle to them is simply a means to get them where they need to be next.

But don't take over all the roads for autonomous cars; give them a lane or two but leave the fun stuff to those of us who want to experience the thrill of taming a machine.

I'm not picking on Chevrolet. Many car companies are racing to see who can have the best connectivity. They are all at fault in my book. They all say they are giving people what they want. Maybe but is it really what is needed?

Check out this as well: http://www.autoblog.com/2014/02/08/mazda-ad-showing-facebook-criticized-by-senator-rockefeller/

Monday, April 27, 2015

2015 Pacific Coast Dream Machines - A Great Gathering!

Sunday, April 26, 2015 was the 25th Anniversary of the wonderful Pacific Coast Dream Machines, an annual celebration of cars, flying machines, antique farm equipment, stationary engines and just about everything and anything that makes noise and or smoke.

I have been going every year since 1991 except for the four years I was in Vegas. Sometimes I go as a spectator, sometimes as an entrant - it depends on what I have to drive. This year I entered the fantastic '64 Ranchero (well the finished version will be fantastic, at least in my mind).

I left my house for the Half Moon Bay Airport about 7:30 am and arrived about 8:15 am. Not bad. But then it took almost as long to get to where I parked on one of the runways. It was that crowded.

The weather was pretty good; clear blue skies, temperature in the 60s but with a brisk breeze. There were hundreds of entrants. I didn't go to the airplanes but you could watch them fly overhead from anywhere in the area.

Oh and bands, did I mention bands? The Coastside is home to many great musicians. There was rock, blues, soul.

The event benefits Coastside Adult Day Health Center.

Without further ado here's pictures of what tickled my fancy starting with my Ranchero.
 Yessir, that's my baby! Red air cleaner atop a 260 V8.
In case you're interested those are Ford Ranger 15" wheels.
 Not sure what year - '70 or '71 - but a beautiful car.
 '631/2 Galaxie. The insignia says 427 but it was a 390 w/4-speed.
 Torpedo-nose Studebaker
 Sweet roadster
 Oldsmobile Starfire Convertible
'49 Ford Woodie 
 Nice rodded Mopar coupe
 '65 Buick Skylark Sport Wagon

 '53 Diamond T pickup
'49 Chevy Panel truck; I owned one just like this in 1970/71.
AMC Marlin

 '49 Cadillac Series 62 Cadillac Convertible
 A shot of one runway; cars on both sides and a dual row up the middle.

 '64 Pontiac Grand Prix

 '55 Ford Crown Victoria with glass roof

 '58 Chrysler New Yorker
 Ginetta G4
 Hemi in a Deuce Coupe, what could be better?
 Beautiful XKE
 '60 Pontiac Catalina
 How's this for a disparity?

Ford Tractor but with a V8? Fast farm work.
 Clean early '70s International Travelall
 '63(?) Rambler American
 Cadillac Lasalle
 Hmm, maybe I should swap the Ranchero for this pickup.
 Radical chop on a '49/50 Ford.
 This thing actually ran! 
'65 GTO
'37 Ford Coupe

 '67 Cougar

 '61 Buick Skylark

If I've made any errors in dating or naming any car or you know information on cars not dated and named, let me know and I'll make corrections.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Are Tires Too Good?

Many years ago Patrick Bedard wrote one of his columns in Car and Driver that he thought modern tires were (to paraphrase) too good. His point if I remember was that their limit of adhesion was so high that they instill confidence that the average drive couldn't equal.

At the Western Automotive Journalists after party at the Perry House in Monterey I posed the same theory to two driving instructors from Hooked On Driving. They seemed to agree.

Tires today, even run of the mill tires for your family sedan, are probably better than the performance tires Bedard wrote about years ago. They stick. Heck the average Toyota Camry probably handles better than most sports cars of yesteryear. And folks is a problem.

Performance cars today are so much better all around than cars of twenty years ago and a large part of their ability to corner at speeds well above the posted limits is due to the tires they wear. My opinion, and there was some agreement on this, is that cars and tires perform at limits far over the heads of average drivers. Probably even many above average drivers.

The problem is that when a tire today loses adhesion the vehicle is going so much faster than "back in the day." (I hate that phrase but ...) This was brought into focus this morning when I watched a video of the 1966 Gallaher 500 (later to be known as the Bathurst 1000) in Australia. The race tires used then wouldn't qualify as economy car tires today. If you watch the race (http://www.motorsportretro.com/2013/10/mini-cooper-s-1966-bathurst/) you'll see cars sliding around corners. Watch a modern race and when the cars slide they are going much faster.

If you are an average driver, and I include myself in that group, when a modern car starts to slide your chances of recovering are slim. Not because you are such a poor driver but because the car is going so fast that by the time you feel the slide its too late.

I have other concerns about modern tires. When did a 15" tire become small? Econoboxes are shod with 16" tires today. Why? I'm not advocating a return to what auto writer Jim Kenzie used to call "rim protectors" (cheap tires). But on a family sedan do we need tires that grip the road at race speeds or tires that give a good ride, work well in a variety of weather and last a long time?

Even on performance street cars it seems to me that the tires really aren't suited for the real world. Hit a pothole with a super-low profile tire and you not only may ruin the tire but the wheel may end up on the scrap pile. It's nice that your performance car will pull more than 1 g in a corner but how many roads in this country are smooth enough for that level?

Just some thoughts.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Western Automotive Journalists Media Days 2015

Last week - April 6th, 7th & 8th - was the Western Automotive Journalists Media Days in and around Monterey, California. Monday was check-in day; that evening there was a showing of the movie "Rush." I've seen the flic in a theater thanks to Scott Brown at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles so I skipped seeing it again. Instead I had a nice meal with my friend Doug and his daughter Shannon.

Every year I take some pictures of the cars arrayed for us on the first day. Here are the pictures:

 Charger Pursuit
 Lexus RC 350 F Sport

 VW Golf R
 Corvette Z71
 Mustang EcoBoost
 Subaru BRZ & Scion FRS
 BMW i8 

 Jaguar F-Type

 Toyota Mirai Hydrogen

Tuesday is the day I enjoy the most - driving a variety of vehicles on Monterey area roads. The roster of cars was extensive, listed alphabetically they were (there's an asterisk after the cars I drove):
Acura ILX & MDX; BMW i8, 228i, M4, X5M & X6M; Chevrolet SS Sedan & Corvette Z51; Dodge Challenger Shaker*, Charger ScatPack & Charger Pursuit; Fiat 500 Abarth Hatchback*; Ford Mustang EcoBoost, Mustang GT* & Edge; Honda HR-V*; Infiniti Q50 Sport Tech Deluxe & QX80; Jaguar F-Type; Kia Forte Koup*, Sorento & Soul EV*; Land Rover Discovery* & Range Rover Supercharged; Mazda6*, CX-5 & Mazda3; Mercedes Benz S550 Coupe & GLA250*; Mitsubishi Outlander Sport; Nissan Murano Platinum AWD; Subaru BRZ & Legacy; Toyota Camry XSE*, Prius, Sienna & Mirai Hydrogen; Volvo V60 Cross Country, XC60; VW Golf Sportwagen TDI*, Golf R & Touareg TDI. There may have been a few others that were listed for the track but were also in the road group.

No I didn't drive everything. And I didn't go on the off-road course (I'm just not that into off-roading). I'll give a short synopsis of the ones I did drive - we only drove each one for maybe 5-10 miles. Starting with the Chevy SS Sedan. I doubt that Chevy has sold or will sell too many of these but if you're a bowtie guy and you can afford it ($45,745 base) it should be on your list. It's got a 6.2-liter V8, 415 hp, rear-wheel-drive and available with a 6-speed manual transmission. Even this Ford guy loved the sounds (and acceleration).

Next up was a Dodge Challenger Shaker. I've always had mixed feelings about the Challenger. It's a good looking, retro styled car. But it is big - curb weight is over 2 tons. But damn the Hemi makes power and torque, and it sounds so good.

I've driven a Fiat 500 Abarth before but now they've put a 6-speed automatic in one. The 5-speed stick is more fun but the automatic is almost as good and with paddle shifters you can still play boy racer.

It's been a while since I've driven a Mustang so of course I had to get into the GT. The 5.0 V8 is my kind of engine - 435 hp and 400 lb ft of torque. Send the power through the 6-speed manual to the independant rear axle and hold on. Now if I only had $33,000.

The Honda HR-V is all new and under an embargo to describe how it drives until the end of the month. Let's just say that if you've driven a Honda recently you won't be disappointed. The HR-V is Honda's smallest Crossover. It is based on the Fit platform. You can get it with either a 6-speed manual or a CVT (depending on model).

I drove two Kia models, a Forte Koup and a Soul EV. The Forte Koup is just a nice coup; well equipped and well built. It is not a sports car but a "sporty" car. The Soul EV (electric vehicle) is, well it's an electric Soul. I've like the Soul from the time it was first introduced. Like most EVs range is a problem but EVs are gaining in popularity for around town driving.

Okay I admit it, I am not a SUV guy and I have little use for one, especially one with AWD. But a Land Rover Discovery is more than some off-road brute, it really is a luxury vehicle that just happens to be a SUV. Driving the Discovery you'd be hard pressed to tell that it is a 4-cylinder. With 240 turbocharged horsepower and a 9-speed automatic transmission it feels pretty darn quick.

There were two Mazda6's availabe to drive - a technology model and a more base model. So of course I chose the base model with the manual transmission. I have to say that I am not really taken with Mazda's styling but I was smitten with the Mazda6. The 184 hp SKYACTIV four-cylinder is so smooth that it could have been a V6. The 6-speed manual was perfect. The ride was firm but supple. All in all a really nice 4-door car.

Mercedes has entered the premium compact SUV market with the GLA250. It's a M-B, what do you expect? But you know, if the GLA250 isn't enough for you there is an AMG GLA45 that ups the hp from 208 to 355.

This was my first time in a Subaru BRZ. Quick and fun to drive. But maybe I'm not a kid enough anymore? The ride was choppy and for us older folks getting in and out would become a drag. It still put a smile on my face though.

What can you say about a Toyota Camry? Well-built, reliable and dull? Dull is a state of mind. If dull is being one of the best 4-door sedans available is that a bad thing? I drove a XSE, the top of the line Camry. Dull? No, just very, very pleasant.

Last but definitely not least was a VW Golf Sportwagen TDI. With its 1.8-liter, 170 hp, turbo clean diesel it wasn't the fastest car I drove but you cannot beat its 43 mpg rating. VW's diesels aren't your grandfather's diesels - they are quiet and clean. If I was still working and commuting I would consider a VW diesel.

Tuesday night is our dinner night. The Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa put together a very good dinner. And then we had our keynote speaker, one of my least favorite people, none other than Bob Lutz. Lutz did not disappoint, or maybe he did.

He started off by talking about the poor state of education in this country. He's right about that but then he proceeded to blame the teachers and their unions. It's always the unions isn't it Bob?

Bob went after electric vehicles snarling that if it wasn't for government mandates there wouldn't be any because every company that makes one loses money on it. Yeah Bob, government mandates are a terrible thing. The car companies, heck all companies, would always do the right thing anyway right Bob? I mean no government ever had to force a car company to install safety or pollution control equipment right Bob?

Bob talked about General Motors. At one point he said, and I'm paraphrasing, that "they" would cut corners on anything except safety. I guess you haven't heard about an ignition switch problem right Bob? You know, the one that GM knew about and covered up for years. The one that caused many accidents and some deaths. Yeah Bob, GM would never compromise safety.

Bob fielded a question about the UAW taking some responsibility for tanking the Big Three. You know, those greedy unionists. You know, the ones that got millions in golden parachutes when things went south. Oh wait, those were executives.

Frankly Bob Lutz should take a hint from General MacArthur and "fade away."

But enough about Lutz, let's get back to cars and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Mazda Raceway is a great track with a ton of history. I've been there a number of times and driven some decent laps. This year for some reason it intimidated me.

I started the day off okay doing drive arounds in a M-B CLS63 AMG with an instructor from Hooked On Driving. The instructor takes 3 potential drivers out at a time; first he drives a couple of laps to show us the line then each driver takes laps. First problem was getting into the back seat wearing a helmet. The CLS roof line slopes pretty drastically and I walloped my helmet getting in. Rattled me a bit. When it was my turn to drive the combination of bad hearing (I'm getting hearing aids soon) and the helmet kept me from hearing most of what the instructor was trying to tell me. I did hear that I was missing my apexes and that I'd developed some bad habits.

The end result was that I drove just one car on the track, the Subaru BRZ. I thought I was doing pretty good, not great decent. And then someone in the Scion FRS came up behind me and passed me.

Part of the problem was a lack of low performance cars for the track. I wasn't alone in that feeling. Another member commented that he likes to start the day in lower powered cars to get in his "groove" before moving up the horsepower ladder. My loss because there were some great cars.

Again alphabetically they were:
Alfa Romeo 4C; BMW X5M & X6M; Chevrolet SS Sedan, Corvette Z51 & Camaro 1LE; Dodge Viper, Challenger Hellcat, Challenger Shaker, Charger Hellcat, Charger Scatpack & Charger Pursuit; Ford Mustang EcoBoost & Mustang GT; Fiat 500 Abarth; Honda CR-Z (breathed on by HPD); Jaguar F-Type; Lexus RC-F; Mazda3 & Mazda6; M-B GLA45 AMG & CLS63 AMG; Mitsubishi Evo; Subaru BRZ; Scion FRS; and VW Golf R.

I snapped some pics of cars in the paddock and entering the pits. Here they are:
 Challenger Hellcat
 Alfa Romeo 4C
 Jaguar F-Type
 Honda CR-Z HPD
 Fiat 500 Abarth
 Dodge Viper
 Camaro SS 1LE
 Alfa 4C
 Charger Hellcat
 Mustang GT
 Lexus RC-F
 Jaguar Type-F
 Challenger Hellcat engine
Jon Rosner in the Viper.

Every single car on the track was street legal. Some are a little noisy (good noise) but legal. Yet two or three of them were black flagged for being too noisy on the track - neighbors might complain. I have a hard time understanding how a car can be too noisy on the track but okay on the street. 

I especially want to thank all the manufacturers who brought their cars to our event. It takes a lot of nerve to unleash a group of wanna be racers into cars with so much horsepower and worth collectively probably close to a million. Thankfully nothing was returned damaged that I am aware of.