“Ring-Fazination” is an exhibition stationed next to the “GP’ or “new” circuit on the southern end of Nurburgring. Kids and parents alike enjoy games and entertainment in a virtual surrounding. Just a “click” north within the bounds of the facility lie the ultimate amusements..a true parallel. hence my synonym of the Nordschleife.
Journeyman drivers know the feeling. You arrive at a new track and find yourself wrapped in the unmistakable aura of fear. Not for having an “incident”, heaven forbid. Recognition of course difficulty, coupled to peer pressure and loss of youth, an inevitable conflict in a driver of age and wisdom which he must address prior to the drivers meeting.
English Channel crossings can be macabre at the dawn of dank winters end; indeed the powerful sea sprayed salted air under my feet as I stood at the bow of an unfolding French dawn. The vast concreted port of Calais lay before my feet. Loudspeakers tolled as livery and tourists padded their way along the transports decks, and I stole time to unwrap my mind’s thinly veiled trance replete with pictures of turns arriving way too fast for me. Monocratic in tone, the systematic notice echoed our arrival throughout the quarterdeck of this wind swept Channel ferry, becoming more momentous as the enormous gangplank hydraulics moaned in the background. Such cumbersome weight giving way to the marmalade skies of a French embarkation zone. A ticking within me began.
Randy Sesson, our clubman in London, held his Range Rover readying at idle as I proceeded to engage the mandated English lock mechanism of his 993 modified Twin Turbo. With Europeans gripped in fear, the containment procedure of a much dreaded Foot and Mouth disease mandated my crossing a wetted trough upon arrival in territorial France. Subjective delousing complete, we made serious tracks due east along the French coast. Preponderancy occupied my drive with the subsequent morning driver meeting creeping in and around any thoughts of enjoying this continental traverse.
Crossing the boarder into Belgium at speeds averaging 180KPH with nary an official stamp nor gendarme in sight, our efforts led us south then east again. Morning mist burned away hours before as the midday sunlight gave salute to our passing by Spa-Francochamps, a world class race course in which I had my first professional drive. Ahh! Spa and the Ring, duets of an earlier passage of rite, a validaton of youthful exuberance, late braking, and early apexes encapsulated with the hubris of life without end, one big party. Less than two hours later, my lips quenched with the hospitality of a good German beer, we relaxed to plan our driving stints at the most formidable racing venue in the World, the Nordschlief, The Nurburgring! Enjoying a local cuisine consisting of wild boar and venison, an old friend joined us. His 600 Kilometer excursion, made very briskly by the 12 cylinders of his Mercedes, helped in promoting our discussing the purchase of a GT3RS and logistics associated within this process.
Hotel Rieder, pictorially typical to this region, has a guest book in which documents the great motorsports figures who, for more than half a century, awoke to the visual effect that accommodate Eiffel mountain living, in and around the Nordschleif. Their signatures remain a reaffirmation of how this region has been so untouched from the outside world, in the decades since my first stay. Ensconced by this sleepy hamlet a mere 3 kilometers from my temple of the tarmac God, our morning window opened to a picture of endless pastures and mountains beckoning the driver within us all.
Attention is carefully paid at a driver meeting, for the Nordschleife section of Nurburgring. Along with the usual safety discussion comes something unique to this venue, CPR and a host of other ambulatory principles. You see, when you drive 170 turns, drivers must look out for one another. If an accident occurs, one must pull over and minister to the helpless in the wreck, mandated by the shear magnitude of the arena we play within. Several minutes, or more, may pass before medical treatment professionals arrive at the crash site. Novice drivers drew in the flavor of this experience with gaunt looks at each other. Unfortunately, these ambulatory methods would be needed throughout the competition. A comprehensive skill of course recognition and concentration throughout your driving stint was underestimated by the too fast or foolish.
Taught by several veteran regional drivers, my earlier experiences with this track and its 300 meter elevation change disciplined the first several laps. “Mauk”, my teacher had a German affectation with my name, “Mauk, ve moost drife dees truck ass ve drife de roads arooond dit.” Vernacular aside, his meaning was that negotiating these many turns would have to be made as if you were driving a country road-at racing speeds. He also taught me to break down the track into the well-defined sections, mandated on the track map. Most importantly, he stressed the mind and how it would tire of the intense concentration before my young body would succumb with fatigue.
Similarities with Bridgehampton could suffice for any of you who became familiar with blind turn recognition. Blind turn description does little justice to the actual awakening one receives at 220 KPH, negotiating a rise then dropping into a sharp bend in the forests of Adenauer with nary the thought of preparing a set of pedal and wheel movements that went to the left, no, right, no left-BAM, your dead! Better keep your wits about you!
Weather is very much an issue of attention within the confines of this mountain region and at 20 Kilometers in length, “Jurassic Ring” in April was mystifying. Intense rain greets a fast car, very fast indeed; yet three “clicks” further along and the sun warms the spectators aloft in the high sitting perches. Well positioned for best views of short sections of road, festooned with signs greeting their favorite drivers, and some not so popular.
I try to choose a really scary part of the “ring fazination”-as some call it, and I can’t. Maybe it has to do with the volumes of puzzled parts that scare the shit out of me.
Being fast there is remembering every section, intimately! Co-driver Randy benefited by my prior experience, I benefited by a humble approach to certain sections. The first third and last third of this Black forest cake was within my grasp by the third lap, as I re-familiarized myself with the old landmarks taught to me so long ago. It was after Adenauer Forest on our way down to the lowest sections and working back up through Bergwerk that kept me from a confidence level I adopted when younger.
Kesselchem made me look good as my right foot has a comfortable plant on the accelerator and at the 120 degree right turn, before the Karrousel there was confidence in 4 wheel drifting. Viewing several wrecks there, I thought it interesting that the Karrousel was and is very easy for me to drop into and pop out carrying good speed up Hohe Acht, setting up my ensuing drift along Wipperman. Schwalbenschwanz is important as are all turns coming onto any fast section should be. Upon clearing a minor incident, we move onto the fastest part of “Jurassic Ring”, a killer straight that seems to go on forever. Quickly shifting up to 6th, one eye jogs to the gauges and looks for 6200RPM, the complementary eyeball is watching the cars we’re passing. Seeing 300KPH for what seems like forever could be terminated if one does not respect the bridge and its kink to the left; a hint of lift on gas pedal and minor wheel correction and SLAM, the gas pedal is punished again, albeit for a short stint arriving at Hohenrain.
We logged over 70 laps and my best time was 8:04. Randy’s level of skill grew to a point where I felt he was most comfortable. The first day was driven with the GP circuit included, very cool, sadly boring if driven exclusively.
Ten hours of pounding rain dogged our ride back to Calais, then onto London’s Hyde Park, my flat, my respite. There is no substitute, bring on the “Fazination”! It does separate and disintegrate the men from the boys!
Porsche-Doppelkupplungsgetriebe has proven to be the greatest leap in overall performance for the production series Porsche since the advent of the turbocharger. Lightening fast gearshifts and uncompromising reliability combined with two true separate driving fashions result in the most enjoyable and practical Porsche driving experience to date. The most common question from our members is unquestionably “How does it work?”
Let’s begin with the first examples of PDK “type” transmission, campaigned by the Chaparrel Company in conjunction with GM in the 1960’s during the CanAm era. (note: there have been numerous claims to design of the dual clutch transmission, however for the purposes of this article we will concentrate on the one that actually worked fairly reliably on a high horsepower documented racecar with the same principles of today’s PDK.)
The 2J’s rudimentary transmission was the first notable attempt to use this technology in a racing car. It could withstand the horsepower that was being delivered, (though not always reliably) and worked in conjunction fairly well with the parameters set by the engineering in this oddly designed prototype racecar. In years to come Porsche would build upon the ideas of GM and Pete Weismann’s Williams F1 design from the 1993 model year, introducing this technology into the 956 and later 962, and finally into the production 2009 cars. Not withstanding Peugeot and Renault’s versions, the PDK we refer to today and will concentrate on in this article is the 7DT-45 or CG1.00.
Simply stated a PDK transmission always has two gears engaged. The transmission’s computer effectively turns on one wet clutch while turning the other off via solenoid. This was not the case with the 956/962, which from a standstill need human actuation of a clutch. The PDK case has two shafts with gears 184.108.40.206.R on one and 2.4.6. on the other, we now have constant power that gives the driver the ability to shift within 200 milliseconds. To answer the question that is likely burning in your mind right now, yes, this will be expensive to repair should there be a failure. Let me note that the PDK has proven to be one of the most reliable transmissions Porsche has ever developed. At high RPM, in the tightest of corners, on the most demanding road circuits, the shift can be achieved without virtually any disturbance to balance thanks to sensors that determine if the shift is possible on a corner and/or based on overall engine RPM and other factors. Gone now are the days of throttle blipping as this is now done electronically on both the 7 speed manual and PDK transmission, as well as overrev limitation due to gear selection mistakes. I know there are some of you using the tiptronic type transmission via the 964/996/997.1 saying how different can it be? It is not even in the same ballpark.
Granted, PDK paddle shifting and auto mode takes some of the sport out of it, but that is also what we said when ABS came out. Beyond these performance enhancements, a much more profound and exhilarating gearshift sound accompanies the already high-pitched purr of the 3.8 DFI engine found in the acclaimed GT3 model. Over the course of the past 7 years, software updates and design changes have made the PDK experience even more performance oriented with various mapping programs built in and a redesign of the PDK transmission itself most notably in the Panamera models. Whether you’re using the paddle shifter (after uproar over the gen. 1 buttons located on the steering wheel), shifter or automatic mode, the overall driving experience is second to none.
Whether one should purchase a 7-speed manual or a PDK is ultimately up to personal taste and usage. I myself would be unlikely to ever purchase a Porsche without PDK again, and I doubt that was the feeling during the Sportomatic and Tiptronic era of any Porsche driver. But there are purists out there that love the nostalgia of the 7 speed which I personally find rather lethargic in nature compared to the 6 speeds of prior models. Either way, the 991 has, does and always will provide the utmost driver interaction.
As a note for our members: if you experience poor shifting, noise, leaks, or any abnormal driving condition with your PDK transmission, your technician can recalibrate various systems to counteract most of these conditions and therefore restore your driving experience to what it should be: pure bliss.
Nick was out of the game for a long time. Indeed, when he approached me to reenter the fray my concerns were expressed, with punctuation, I may add. Achieving 25 years of club membership is to pay homage when you consider the short attention span any club is capable of drawing to the table. It’s not “their” fault; it simply is the way of organizations such as ours. Nick Ventura has in every position contrived by Metro PCA over the course of time and as controversy can surround my opinion, members, considered antagonists, would enjoy our former chief instructor’s subtle yet capable “Bruce Wayne/Batman” demeanor. Fortunately, his personality has “rubbed off”, as my hubris was difficult to fit through a 12×12 commercial door, only recently to arrive at a comfort level in attitude helped through an emulation of his quiet charm.
With the last engine’s life span terminated due to piston failure at 45 hours and difficulty in procuring many vital parts, did I dare assume Nick may have strapped his helmet on for the last time? Inclusive to germination of this article lies with factual evidence of racing prowess. Skills which have delivered dozens of overall/class wins for Metro PCA and with a mere, Ahem, 914. As non-controversial as this metro driver has been, the “914” he pilots, has drawn a maelstrom where rules were put into place, especially so at National PCA levels. Many believe that this car, stylistically dubbed, The Batmobile, along with its 750 ponies arranged amidships, was the hybrid birthed in Club Hell. National rules were in a constant state of flux, in part based specifically on the Batmobile, finally insulting it through it’s installation in the prototype category; a group inclusive to the 962! Honestly, why would they put this “simple” 914 there? With every component unique and state of art, it was appropriate to leave the rear taillights as a reminder of what was once an “entry level” Porsche. I’ve no intention in rehashing his record as it truly speaks for itself, “Bruce Wayne” and his Batmobile began a legacy which spanned decades only to succumb to a lack of spares. It’s easy to understand his distaste in amassing another ride when nothing would approach performance figures in which this unique creature would put forth on qualifying sheets at Club races across the U.S. As to my satisfaction? It came in the creation of something NO ONE had ever seen before, or after.
Allowing two years for engine completion, this creature and its new power plant left our Gotham cave recently. I cautioned this quiet hunter as to how the competition has been recently, only to look into his eyes and realize caution never comes to Nick’s thought process of speed. I extolled the virtues of the new generation of track cars and factory examples of GT3’s based on the current 996. Graced with experience on the current crop of cars, along with much driving experience in Europe, my comments fell on deaf ears. Nick hears no evil, speaks no evil. Decades preceding, many club drivers opined of his driver prowess, “Nick was not just ahead of the curve, Nick was the curve!” The once famed Batmobile’s reintroduction in competition would prove agonizing to me though healing to its drivers dry spell, culminating in the ever familiar Nick-Brando-Godfather tone; “Build it, I’ll drive it, nothing else matters”.
Procuring Porsche 962 racing engine parts proved to take over two years, vital parts typified by the crankshaft and engine block, once common, would actually be recreated from scratch along with rods, valves, oil pump, and pistons. There were lessons to learn from this exasperating/time consuming project as vintage racing engines waste too much time in the details. My fortunes in racing originate in principle due to the people I hold close to me. Brought forth to this equation is one such person, Ed Pink, a famous/versatile race engine builder. Mr. Pink would prove crucial in the assemblage and testing of this, a most sophisticated and complex assemblage. His L.A. facility is a virtuoso of what true engine shops personify. In addition, Pink’s personality is so “Southern Californian Cool”. Akin to bronco riders on a ranch, we pulled a herd of ponies during our engine test sessions and properly broke in, “mapped”, crated, then shipped back one happy “blown hybrid” to NYC, along with a return promise in the form of “Marks famous artichoke sauce” for Pink’s table. Thank God the Pink man loves my sauce, as I love his shop!
With a pleasurable install/run process completed, the venerable Batmobile’s initial venture would take it to Watkins Glen PCA Club Race in June. The once common 17” tires were no longer available, as everyone of substance went to 18’s. “Batman” would run the week with old rubber and out of date brakes, feeling the pavement like Fred Flintstones feet! Again, veins thickened with ice, no tolerance towards discourse in lack of driving time, Mr. V “ponyed up” in muted volumes, “if the car’s up to it, so am I”.
Lap times, like the weather, changed radically. Rain times were impossible based on our rain tire situation, as in “none”! Dry weather/lap times spelled us on race day and went from paltry 2:18’s (two laps in two years) down to 2:03’s for qualifying position. Allowing for lack of real grip and a brake pedal that “came and went”, the oft soft spoken Metro driver was ecstatic, as was I; noting we were a mere 3 seconds of the pole! Mr. V’s goals were actually achieved in general reliability and a desire to obtain vital track time in honing his driver skills. When asked of his re-entry to competition and hiatus in driving, the mighty warrior of Gotham would again quip in a final indicative epithet, “the King isn’t dead yet”!
Indeed, this “King” would arise subsequent to a brake system correction as he assaulted the banking of Pocono for Metro’s driver ed. “long course” event. This would be a prelim to the next “real” race, with “real race rubber”. For a real sports car driver “life begins at 200”, and that time/space continuum would be gifted to us, along with the “full course” through Andy, Dorothy and Barry, members who ran the event. Those Metro Showman enlivened our show by obtaining permission to running a full, late afternoon session on the Tri-Oval! I, as well as, Nick had not been on the banks of the tri-oval in more than two decades, yet once there we lapped the field twice, as the Batmobile, and Batman would begin the process of being a “curve” for another millennium.
For the Nordschleifes’s 20.8 klicks, my “SPECIAL” 911 should have, at most, an eight minute plus lap. A piece of road unlike any other, on planet Hollywood. An addictive and rushing affair filled with Dips, swoops and the traps of Bathurst, from Klostertal to Arenberg, AKA, the Forest’s Elbow. Multiply that cute little strip of road by 10. I keep coming back in the vain attempt to execute placement, fluency and self confidence, as they are the only shortcuts to fast lap times.
If it doesn’t flow and/or you rush it too fast, go back to your room, for you WILL crash.
As Castles loom and workday traffic scuttles underneath it’s bridges, one can only imagine what it was like behind the wheel of an early Formula One car, ...In the blinding rain and fog. Replete with Balloon tires, jockey cap, drum brakes and a pack of lucky’s in your breast pocket. A time for real drivers.
I’ve run out of options, I’m going in too deep and way too fast. I’m somewhere near the Flugplatz and I’ve forgotten the sequence. Under the bridge then the sweepers. Fast downhill left then right. Almost a straight line if your placement is good. Mine is not. A touch of the brakes, flick the wheel, prepare to thread the needle.
The picture beyond my windshield is of brilliant green forest; layers of battered Armco and rusty chain link fence. In a blink of an eye's it’s gone, but the image remains forever crystal. Funny, how your mind works, slowing things down, enriching the senses. Careful, watch the edge now and fear the grass. Listen, let the engine’s song caress in its chorus.
Feel the oversteer? It’s breakaway progressive, forgiving, every moment so incredibly linear. There are no sharp edges, no surprises. Tip toeing and a deep breath; adjust the attitude with a lift and a flick of the wrist. Wait! Wait for the apex..And PLANT the right foot! Rubber squirms eternally, then BITES. Inevitably, my 911 succombs to the buzzing of the flat honeycomb curbing. Caressing the borders between black and green, the silver bullet ruffles the long summer grass with a rush of wind and heat. We are through. Lungs fill for the first time in perhaps 20 seconds as the throttle is rolled off. I must NOT forget my training at the Elf school, the regular cadence in breath must be maintained as it helps in creating a physical and mental structure for piloting a racecar. The 993 slows on the short straight and I come to terms with it. “That, was too close. Idiot”! Remember the flow. Why Didn’t I recognize the approach? How many years does it take to come to grip with this place?
157 corners around the north circuit. Apart from the few you can safely measure, they loom into view way too soon. I vaguely recognize a dozen others; ones which appear over blind brows or corkscrews out of sight cut through a carpet of fir trees. Paths of light glimmer when novitiates, all too lost, must look up to reposition themselves, thereby losing precious time.
Since 1927, this green, often misty valley, high in the Eifel Mountains has been the altar of motor racing, the Nurburgring. The Ring. From Hatzenbach past the Schwendenkreuz up to Adenau. Then it’s Bergwerk and on to the Karussell. Portraits of Jackie Stewart jumping the Matra high above the spray at “the flying place” in 1968; Bernd Rosemeyer clipping the apex at Hocheichen, his 1936 Auto Union in a delicately controlled slide; Fangio imperious, head straight, arms coiled, gunning his “silberpfiel” through the banked Karussell; then Nicki; poor bastard, trapped at Bergwerk, his Ferrari a fireball. Steamer trunks crammed with ghosts, coal trains of stories laden with glory.
I offer myself to Europe every now and then, excusing it to visit old friends and an auto show. Simply a postscrip to a quarter century love affair. She never lets me know all her secrets. A little international negotiation and I idle by the gatehouse in my “rental” 911. All shiny and glinting in the midday sun. It doesn’t rate a second glance. Gatekeepers, cherub faced and stuffed with wurst have noticed more exhaust heat then a naval flag officer has during his affixation to afterburners lighting a late 60’s night sky as they stream off the carriers deck somewhere in the South China Sea.
Even at eight tenths, eyes WIDE open and the brain in gear, it is unbalanced, ungainly. After a few laps on a normal track confidence begins to flow. At the “real” Ring, you’re still driving it like a blind tarmac rally stage. So much of it lies beyond the line of sight that you’re constantly reacting rather than anticipating. It might be rough but it can be very revealing. If the car isn’t forgiving, you’re unlikely to drive it away. Not enough time to write a book, however the impressions are strong, of car, driver, and circuit.
The faster you go the more to learn. In two places your leave terra firma. In another you get squished into the ground by G-forces strong enough to steal your breath. Every bump is a new challenge, the banked Karroussel, a frightening exercise in precision. It throws cars off into the trees if the driver peels of the wall too early.
There are corners like Wehseifen that literally spit the car across the roads.and Klostertal, where even real men hold their breath. There are more bad cambers than an alignment shop full of NY cabs. Intertwined with the rapid-fire directional changes and the rise and fall is this backdrop of blurred green tranquility.
Please God, let me retire and get the ring around every day of the rest of my life.
PS. I wrote the original story 15 years ago and it still “rings” true.
“Ambition is never content, even at greatness!” It was an over enunciated command issued to myself prior to our quest at the Watkins Glen inaugural PCR race.
One of the last true solitaries, whose mystique illuminates the path to remorseless honesty, Nick “Batman” Ventura, had tested well no less than 4 weeks prior. His machine, a brutish test of manliness with it’s boost level set a 1.5 bar had been purposely set much lower as to enhance the ability of creating a set up to a troublesome suspension. Gearing, tires, spring weight, these critical pieces in the puzzle of testing results were meant as an indication of our competitive strengths for the real deal in August. “Nick, ready to run a low 50?” I quipped. An end of test session remark designed to extract any emotion from a man whose gene pool must have emanated from Juan Fangio, having a sole purpose on this earth to fly on the ground, effortlessly. His Brando-isk voice eventually echoed, “Mark, you make the front stick and I’ll run a $#@* 49!
It’s been a 30-year romance with this remarkable ex F1 racing venue woven into one of the five Finger Lakes located in scenic “upstate New York”. Where corner name are familiar to all great drivers, then and now. Names too intimate for some, where abrupt termination would end their game of tag with an apex. Within the Glen’s varied elevation changes, hides carefully carved high speed, guardrail ensconsed turns with dubious nicknames such as the “esses”, “heel”, “toe”, “laces” and the “bus stop”. During a PCA weekend, “Working” these turns could be synonymous to a boy scout Jamboree, with scouts whittling away on blocks of elm, looking forward for the ultimate in achievement, a badge of FTD earned through carefully shaping, guided by their senses.
Hopefully, we would know this 3.5-mile road course with more intimacy than any of the other front-runners in our competitive field of gladiators. Flanked by Erik Postniek, riding his new factory steed, a GT3 supercup, and our experience could only bolster his position as a rookie in his highly competitive class of GTC.
As hardscrabble as our year had been, uncomforted with it’s amount of weather related DNS’s hurtled in our direction, more obstacles needed resolve before Sunday afternoon and the big show. Overwhelmed at the past weeks fate, we arrived on that Christian saboth with not merely a broken rib to contend with, but a severely wounded Supercup manned by a driver determined to succeed in an arena replete with too many experienced hawks overseeing his progress. Overzealous warm up matched to a weakened lower control arm led a list of implausible occurrences. The results of which would eventually lead the GT3 supercup and it’s suspension through a wave of inability in transmitting feedback, creating an off road excursion of substantial magnitude. The wreck would take days and telecommunication around the globe for the specialized parts to arrive and install. The video would reveal a competent driver having offering up his first off road excursion. However poignant and uncomfortable my sustained guardrail injuries were, they would inevitably and physiologically mend. From the driver’s standpoint, wrecks are hysterically psychological and difficult in its ability at re-creation of wellness. This incident would mandate one refreshed warhorse infused with competition among peers, resulting in a real confidence rebuilder.
Don’t ever forget, we all crash! If you’ve never wrecked, you just aren’t going fast enough. My position was clear, make the repair happen, on time! It was what I do, quite possibly, what I do best.
The GT3 suffered severe trauma, severing both left side corners and displacing it’s chassis suspension points. Many of our competitors offered up their parts as well as a sympathetic hand as we repaired this once virgin machine. By Friday afternoon we patched, adjusted and hammered everything into a temporary “fix”. I was in my element and finished the tasks at hand. The supercup, as well as my bones, would have to do what was expected. I explained to a somber Erik, “it was time to get happy”. He didn’t let us down and won Rookie of the PCR race. Other events would be beyond my control
Nick woke to a somber and ominous Sunday morning. The preceding day would see his lap times drop into the 50’s. We had the setup and the driver to win it all! The skies would open in a soaking, as our Batman would retreat to the garages in an unemotional pitch, only to again be robbed of a pole position in a driving rainstorm. While the trusty steed was readily packed for its trip back to Gotham, mother of nature teased us in tire choices, for the GTC class effort. Erik had his first venture into competition riddled with a compilation of issues usually discovered within the course of a whole season, only to face them in a few short days.
As Mother Nature played good bitch with us in the form of sunshine, an over tenured Batmobile would be hurriedly removed from the transport late in the day. Without the luxury of qualifying “Bruce Wayne” had to start the race from the back of the wolf pack. Experience, as the mother of that nature, could not thwart the venerable lead driver of Metro, on this Bible belt Sabbath. As seamless as a virtuoso, Metro’s own hurtled this stealth 914 with 800 frustrated ponies to an undaunted 5th overall. He passed 25 competitors in 25 minutes summarily exorcising his pent up frustration, feeding it to a racing cultural Cuisinart, and a duly appropriate catchword, COMPETITION, it gets you up in the morning!
I’m confused; shall I write to you, for you, with you or at you? Install crass commercialism in the rawest form possible? Perhaps, boring you with mundane procedures in brake pad replacement and *motor repairs, all while making a somewhat feeble attempt at vaulting my untested yet recently infused/confused abilities. Let’s throw in some grainy snapshots of myself and “buddys” building MONSTER *motors! Yes, that’ll get their attention! Nahh, been there, done that, decades ago!
Candidly, my reading of certain “Porsche Post” pages has been a tad painful as of late, all of which can be attributable to myself and no reflection of great editorial content. OUR editor arrives without privilege of pay and my accolades appropriately aim in his direction. My self anointed license as a President of this club allows a more candid approach towards the hows and why’s of writing in our magazine. The written word remains therapy for me and as I’ve been told, therapy in any form should be part of my daily regimen! While arrogance may be at the surface of my comments, fear no more interpretation in that direction. For, as years have become decades in the service of this thing of ours, my realization has come full circle with the recognition of how my limits of knowledge must be expanded upon. As a younger man in the service of Porsche, the somewhat pointed item balanced between my shoulders morphed into such a HUGE size, IT had difficulty fitting through my 12’X 12’ door. Foolishly seasoned veterans such as me, invariably gravitate toward the enlightened realization of humility. Being irreproachable was a byproduct of early success, so much so that I now look for skill enhancement in overcoming my attitude adjustments of that culture club.
Today, a philosophical viewpoint on building stuff is where we’re headed. Diagnosis, assembly, fabrication, welding, painting, upholstering all on a professional level, require a true respect for the art form. Peers should be duly impressed and in awe, if not, the prostitution proliferates in the false declaration of professionalism..
Days ago, a poorly executed group of repairs were presented to me in a similar fashion as a trip to Disneyland would.. Mr. Turbowner had the tickets and we went on a ride, my sympathy tagged along. Brave soul, through and through; he felt compelled in shouldering responsibility for the abysmal decimation of his turbo. Repairs had been anything other than that. Unfortunately, proverbially, the icebergs tip has been hardly explored as his engine made clear a suffering from the “modification” illness had befallen this once proud 300 pony cauldron of power. Illness such as this is generally induced through a belief of that supernatural formula of HP’s, executed by the clowns of horsepower via the profound belief in the mystical remedies of engine work. Real Porsche guys know the numbers are B.S and as such, take on an air of entertainment.
Body pieces grafted onto our lame dark horse during the collision phase of Porsche decimation were rudely positioned, welded and rust protected. The left front suspension pick-up point was centimeters higher than it’s right side brother; AFTER it was “pulled” on a frame machine! The paint was dissimilar to OEM requirements and along with his *motor, behaved as Michael Jackson did in his latest interview. Turbo man’s only recourse was to “unload” his Mary Shelly Masterpiece, in short, Bail!
Certification, verification, and/or training remain hopeless in the scheme of accreditation of US automotive services. European facilities have a far more comprehensive way to deal with this, dating back centuries, beginning with the term, “apprenticeship”. Trampled upon here, yet sorely needed. You KNOW what sells in the magic kingdom, HYPE! Be it in service or sales. Performance/quality, ahh, that was lost decades ago, at least on this side of the pond.
One of the indirect clues to proper performance in my field lies within performances at the track. Pure competitiveness in REAL racing environments can allow smart people to shine their shoes on fools back. Not to be confused with occasional D.E.’s.
Migrating back to “engineland”, I purge myself of this diatribe to allow a more proper description of engine “builders”. Elementary possession of a chassis/engine dyno does not materialize into the magic and wonders of the genius deep within true builders.. Indeed, by this interpretation, I am NOT an engine builder in its purest form. A captivating arena, the engine building stuff! Sadly, I must travel to the left coast to get happy within the knowledge/applications of proper engine language. When I assemble a proven set of components mutually tested through a real engine shop, an inevitable outcome is reliable performance and durability, akin to when the powerplant was new. Am I outing myself? Judgment must come from results and results are the measure 39 years of not f’ing around. “Keep your engine as a stock component”, is more of what I would suggest than exploring where no engine has gone before.
Try selling your Porsche after you lose emissions capability! Have I arrived too late in the game? Sitting with that albatross around your neck? I hope not! Remember, no one wants your “talked into” courtesan? If you want to thank yourself for an incomplete homework assignment than buddy up to shop owners. NO? Too smart for that, well, seems as if you will be checking shop credentials/accreditations beforehand.
Finally, our monorail has arrived back in collisionland; poor soul with the crooked car and too many ponies is left with little choice but to sell it for pennies on the dollar OR hopefully, the buddyed up shop owners will return original investment paid to him… wait! My breath is getting blue!
Motor-a device that converts electrical current into mechanical energy.
Engine-a machine that converts energy into mechanical force, distinguished from an electric motor by its use of a fuel.
Conclusion-Use of the term Motor is crude and inappropriate in terms of our discussions.
I’m most contrite in my approach to this sporadic inclusion of you, in our journeys through the surreal life of a mechanically overindulgent Porsche major domo. You see, if I have nothing to offer but crass commercialism and self-aggrandizement, touched up through “English 101”, what is there to intellectually digest? Most probably, given fewer years in the “service”, my simplistic approach would be childishly familiar and overenthusiastic. Guidance to the woodshed of the English language has been provided via our Post Host, Professori Ted. The “supposed” demographics of this audience continue to burden a full frontal approach toward “righting” and any wrongs associated with. my column. The truth shall set you free!
A salute to recent racing success forms my next appeal. As my recent letter indicates, our collective hearts go to the Bartone family in their tragic loss of my pal, Joseph Bartone. As we all must move forward, loving brother, Anthony, 1998 Alcohol Funny Car Champion, has craftily managed to catapult his racing career to the esteemed position of driver with the NHRA team of WWF (World Wrestling Federation), no easy accomplishment. “Congratulations on joining the 300 MPH club, give’m a body slam!” And you will!
This recent transfer from Florida, Keith Alexander, is executing another WWF ring move on his group of competitors in PCR, Speedvision and ALMS. His debut at the annual Sebring 12 hour race will astonish many observers. As if it was yesterday, Keith’s C4S was sitting on my frame machine, having been pealed from a guardrail of Lime Rock during our first, ahem, introduction. However, our last year’s trip to Florida changed all the rules. An excursion concluding in a purchase of his first “official factory Supercup”. This move spawned his next overlap into ownership of a 996 Super Cup and a half. This machine has been transformed into stealth GT3R. Keith’s tenacity and talent delivers the goods in this the form of this wickedly fast Cup car, earning “His Keithness a high 2:15 at Sebring, this past winter. “Smokin’!” A “deal’ recently inked takes him to the 12 hours at Don Panoz’s Chateu Elan, teamed with last years Barber GT3R and a European contingent capable of winning their class. Look for him to move up the food chain, his seat time demands this!
Juxtaposed as always is “Metro Man” Michael La(v?)uer. Having completed Le Mans, Daytona and a host of other ALMS and vintage races in “00”, Mr. Congeniality (like I should talk!) has a rendezvous with destiny. His competitive nature is intense and experience with prototypes and sports racing machines will lead to victory somewhere this year! Adding his name next to the livery of Michael Schumacher in a Sauber/Mercedes C11 will make fodder of any Vintage or Historic competitor! As always, Michael’s “lauerism’s” offer tongue in cheek entertainment amongst friends. Armed with a Riley and Scott Prototype, his courageous team almost managed an overall win at Daytona. The Adrelelin could have only been exceeded by his dramatic exhibition of driver control, days earlier, upon approach to a 200 MPH wall. Michael’s skill level was tested in a contest with his Sauber, categorized by an explosion of bodywork precipitated through a cut to a rear tire.
Time is frozen for the moment, this multi-directional “Silber Arrow” is streaming to the wall, harness’s strained. Metro man’s reaction time is tested with minute corrections to a very nasty steering wheel, gas and brake pedal. All the while parts are leaving this machine with rapid dispatch, sounds of explosions surrounds his every movement in the cockpit, hurtling along, a scant few feet from a chunk of concrete that salivates for the carbon fiber and flesh it is entrusted to protect. Good drivers are gifted with elevated levels of our five senses. Immeasurable is the fortunes of luck these soldiers of speed must have been anointed with at birth. Good drivers can gather up the rapid set of movements necessary to deny the wall its lust. For blood. Michael is a good driver, he made that wall wait. Unfortunately it only granted a stay of execution. Dale Earnhart would offer it the moment it lusted after, being fed into this concrete coffin a scant few weeks later.
Our most recent award for “the Ice Man Commeth” is Erik Postnieks. Along with a water-cooled ‘01 Turbo for everyday, he challenges the PCR racing circuit in a 996 Supercup, skillfully; we plot his career, disassemble and reassemble his Supercup and embrace the first places, as we move toward a mutually satisfactory goal of total domination in the GTC class. Make no mistake, “Erik is here!” The experience he is gaining at this country’s most famous road courses will enable him to fulfill the dreams many of us have in motorsports activity. A win at Sebring, enhanced by so many lead changes during a race in January, has fueled our preparation of his Supercup for upcoming races at Atlanta, Mid-Ohio, Road America, to name but a few. I discover ways to ratchet up the systems incorporated within the 996-based factory racecar. This up-from-nothing overachiever possesses execution and instincts akin to veteran pilots, allowing our tutorial in driver training to accelerate at a dramatic pace. The installation of a prototype and/or a GT3RS to his Supercup program is on the horizon and dutifully necessary, as his livery is quickly recognized for it’s reliability and competitiveness.
February brought the usually local and beloved Macaluso brotherhood, joined by Joe “Mr. 996” Doria, “The Iceman” and “His Keith ness”, along with Team Formula and many Metro PCA’ers, to forage in the gray, concrete pastures of their first driving experience over the runways of Sebring airport. A culmination of this long distance event came in the form of a huge reward in viewing a club ensemble manifest their friendships during a competitive 48 hours at Sebring! With all the years of endurance racing behind, along with a track layout changed several times, my journeys to the orange groves always conclude with a phase learned far in the past-”You can win at Daytona, but you must try and finish Sebring!
“Unrelenting, the weight in this air NEVER lightens up”, I mused as heavy perspiration punctuated my planning and execution at Mosport. It was not far from the envisioning I held within, based on many previous competitive excursions to this most northern racetrack on our racing schedule. As regrettable as ensuing on track transgressions would become; prior pontification in respecting the weather would not engage my own natural on-track behavior in overcoming the “delirium” that would soon occur. An inefficient Lacing of driving shoes ran parallel to caution, as this tepid climate would never terminate the over focus I was suffering through. Not only was I held hostage to heat, it created an event in my competitive driving life that would alter my arrogance and aggressive nature in racing forever more. As our ever-charming Andy Spray looked upon this continuing suit up, I sparked in a most gallows humorous manner, Andy, it's a real torch out there, can you hand me the ice!
Somehow, the 996 Cup car version of the production series Porsche 911 has been a playful nymph to the motor skills I still manage to possess, albeit not quite what they once were. This skill set continues in its deliverance toward a station in a life of semi-retirement wrapped in the embrace of all my senses piqued. To be short about it, this machine did everything I wanted it to do and then some. This car became a transport to Valhalla.
That is, until hallucinogens created from the intense heat of the cockpit, delivered mind, body and a magnificent metallurgical steed to Hell. I traveled to a place most appropriately described as purgatory, remaining there for 20, possibly 30 minutes. Chemicals inside my head were dancing, dictating, and indeed demanding overdrive. My resulting resolve, “I'm going faster every lap until the fuel runs out!”
Short lived would mark this delirious thought process, that is until I climbed out of my bent masterpiece and threw up on the course worker. Reaching that almost fatal left hand corner, immediately prior to entering the front straight, the ensuing shunt pulled me back from the precipice, chancing me a spot somewhere between recrimination and “do over”.
A tick faster than any “cup” could enter; this somewhat benign, relatively slow ninety-degree roll to the left snapped my steed around trading “carrera-white” paint with concrete as we were streaming along to barrier wall. My machine suffered relatively minor, yet event ending damage. Sheet metal, suspension parts, the “this and that's, all parts easily replaceable in a collision repair, would be the order of the next few weeks based on “my cups runneth over”. Facing ever more challenging and heavy chassis repair is one of my stronger skills in Porsche service; it would not be necessary in returning this racecar to fitness. Facing what created the weaknesses behind the wheel would require more serious deliberations.
Some may say, how can I he able to make public his mistakes? Because I can! Because, I have a room full of trophies proving my worth as a driver. Because I not only have driven in every major race in the world, I am able to correctly service the machines I have driven, many of the greatest drivers cannot say that! Most important to this article and why I am outing myself lies with a desire to have you experience my mistakes and take them with you the next time you arrive ready to race on a 100 degree day!
Not only is youth helpful but having proper equipment also holds true to a successful competitive outing. One of my failures and the ensuing heat complications could have been overcome by using the pre-existing air ducted helmet arrangement that I, yes ME, installed for the regular driver, Paul Orwicz. I had failed to bring that additional helmet along and declined the use of my co-drivers headgear. The closed cockpit aerodynamic package that we utilized in previous races would become the greatest obstacle that weekend. Although, it was instrumental in my wreck, serious argumentation could prevail in the simplicity of excessive ambient heat, as many other drivers were not fairing much better than I. There are a wide variety of “cool suit” arrangements on the market and an even greater amount of opinions as to there individual merits. Complication in installation and maintenance aspects of these devices continue to prevail in motorsports activities. Therefore, I make no individual endorsement to any or all of them. The bigger picture in being properly prepared must be directed to physical fitness in this type of exhausting environment, as well as rest and a proper diet during the prior and ensuing days events. Remembering that too much fluid, and the type thereof, is as bad as not enough. In between practice sessions and additional on-track experiences, keep yourself as cool as possible and avoid heavy physical work on the car. When I have been paired on professional teams we NEVER turned a wrench while attending the race! If you do to both, remember what I'm suggesting. Also, as the ambient temperature rises for a given event, age of the participants take on a greater differential in competitive stature. Finally, remember, this Mark is one who has been on both sides of the proverbial wrench!
OK, I’m a hundred north on price and the Carrera GT is the Prototype that isn’t, assembled in a town that will be.
For more than a half century, like some complicated and unusually savvy butterfly, Porsche has regularly dared writers/drivers to try and pin it down. Perennially, attempts have taken form of short stories, collections of local-color vignettes and sprawling, motor magazine epics. But the subject is so large that maybe the minimal approach is most effective: the simple seeming but densely layered subjective evocation, nearly free of proper nouns. Come with me on a day at Leipzig; test this ultimatum of automotive expression, along with GT2’s, Turbo’s, C4S’s and a dash of Cayenne for spice!
This UK excursion consists of an invited group of GT buyers and I, not being one of the “fortunate few”, tagged along as a “guest”. All organized to delight the crap out of us! Captains of Industry? NOT TODAY! Ahh, cars and race tracks; it is of Man’s first disobedience.
Part of the former East Germany and dubbed the “City of Heroes” for its role in the democratic revolution of 1989, Leipzig’s cultural roots stem from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. For centuries it rivaled Salzburg and Vienna as a center of European music and its Gowanda’s Symphony, founded in 1743 claiming to be the world’s oldest orchestra. Bach, Wagner, Mendelssohn and Goethe would set a scene from Faust in the Auerbachs Keller restaurant, a favorite watering hole. Within walking distance of our hotel lay the opera house, alongside a huge central market. Striding ever forward you face the astonishing railway station (Europe’s biggest).
The 450 acre Porsche complex in Leipzig, the production site for the GT, is one of the most advanced manufacturing facilities is the world. Built alongside, a new customer center offering a wide range of services including exhibition, race control, cinema and restaurant with panoramic vistas. The distinctive tower spears the Leipzig skyline, reflecting a symbol Porsche serves to this eastern German region.
2.5 miles in length, 12 meters in width, the FIA approved competition standard race/test circuit is inspired by some of the world’s legendary corners. The Corkscrew at Laguna Seca, Parabolica at Monza and Bus Stop of Spa Francorchamps are there, as is an off-road course of 6 Kilometers.
Chatting up a storm, our flight from Stansted brought about a festive occasion. Touring the plant was insightful yet one could not help but notice that Helmets and Piloti driving shoes were de rigueur. Approaching the three very long silver arrows, 10 cylinders barking to pincer levels, only to give way to skin tingling silence. Yes, we boys were given to keys to our playground and parental supervision was NOT the order of the day! Well, almost.
Seems as if the ADULTS had some ridiculous idea that we “kinder” would get in trouble if left on our own! Hah! Walter Rorhl was to be one of three drivers with marching orders from “Mom and Dad”; hands OFF the steering wheel! Indeed, he protested (sure) and was a no show, WE, didn’t care. My factory pilot whipped up a fine recipe through each drive, ultimately offering me an opportunity of getting up to speed much sooner than any solo trip I could muster. As playground rules go, I can’t blame them much, matter of factly, a factory GT pilot was quick to make the point of a U.S. “groupie” who had, only days before, “stuffed” aGT2 big time!
OK, just get me IN and get it ON. Wonderful course layout allowed us a true stretch of performance architecture, akin to my experience with 962’s. YES, faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, it’s EVERYTHING I WANT!!!!!!!!!!!!
GT's right seat focus draws immediately to the retro "ball" shifter…Very ergonomic, hmm…Must be a 60’s term, yes?. Acceleration is steam catapult in feel, through all six flicks of the wrist. Achieving 200+ is child’s play in a “real” drivers hands. Absolutely FLAT is the order of turn negotiation. Neck exercise suggested. 3000 lbs, 10 pistons, 600 "prancing" horses; Enzo...He must allow a wave bye!
Between stints in the GT, I drove the pants off the rest of the stable, along with my friends Randy and Meyhrig. Randy drives great, Meyhrig is an ANIMAL. We cowboys shot up the town, retiring to the fascination of exhibition hall, loaded with “as run” race cars. These are machines left in original race condition saddled with dirt and grease, just what we boys LOVE! A playground without dirt, well, isn’t fun.
As “Mom and Dad” called the slightly soiled boys in for dinner, reflections of sheer enjoyment could be seen on each of our wind burned cheeks. Sitting among epicurean delights for a pre-orchestral tasting encapsulated an already delightful tour of assembly, testing, vintage Porsche examples set out for our pleasure. Jaded as I can be, in this “thing of ours”, please allow a replay of this day or just PINCH ME!
The emphasis is on pleasure. A guilty pleasure can be anything from food (a bucket of fried chicken) to music (country) to down and dirty catfights. It can be where we go (Greek Islands) and what we go for (Victoria's Secret). It is anything we want to keep to ourselves. It is what we work hard to own, but cannot admit to! A pair of Minolo Blaniks; better yet, old comic books. A trampoline, sensen gum, long legs in spike heels. It's almost every single one of Andy Warhol's obsessions.
Now, that I can do IT with more understanding, traveling through Europe, connecting my past with Porsche alongside current racing activities remain first and foremost on this Guilty Pleasure list, my “giveth” and “taketh” away.
The way the world is now, nothing might seem as superfluous as sports car racing. A guilty pleasure if there ever was one. But it's not as though we're (drivers/spectators) ignoring what's going on in the world. It's just that we need a respite. And nothing provides that pleasure more than racing. Even if we might be feeling a little guilty about it right now. Just to remind us why racing makes us feel good, we break out the bubbly with a portfolio of images and sensations that celebrate European racing scenes. Images of the broad swatch of Spa’s Ardennes forest, only two hours from Nurburgring's roiling, dangerous curves, forever carving a path around it’s spired castle, never backpeddling on a fast lap filled with pictorial scenes of Italy’s sun drenched parabolica poised within Monza !
Arguably, ferries remain a favorite means of crossing the Channel. Sure, they’re slow and can grunt when you least expect it, but the ferry from Dover to Calais affects a clean beginning to the competition awaiting my entrance. Accompanying me for the ride is an ending to whatever happened before this continental entrance.
Close friend, co-driver and Ex Pat., Randy Sesson suggests the "Chunnel" trains may cut our excursion by a few hours and I agree. Regrettably, these tunnel dwelling, car crammed monoliths would disallow the cleansing of my spirit. Replaced by contemplation of speed, curves and danger, all which loomed east as our rain soaked coach pierced the tunnels brow surrounded by a frail Calais horizon. A day break; precursor to interpretation of guilt or pleasure. Would it tag us to the end of our journey?
I suppose it is time for stomach ailments to cease. They won't! Every morning, prior to climbing into a cockpit, I'm sick. From music to fasting, nothing helps. This apparent psychosis emanates through fears of first lap embarrassment.
Kept at bay with butterfly vigilance, it knows no ceasefire and will be with me forever!
First day tests completed at the G.P. circuit, on to the Hotel Reidel, across the road from Der Ring, Nurburg, Germany. Gifted a drive in a DTM car, delivered through the smooth, swift G.P. South circuit is comparative to piloting an F 1 with 4 seats!
Time is ripe for relaxation, come late afternoon. One click down from us, RingMeisters overwhelm, Der Nordschleif! Ring taxis abound, chauffeuring tourists, impressing novitiates with power slides wherever opportunity presents itself. Pecking order is a tradition on these public days. Coupling oneself to the local slogan, Master of the Ring, goes a long way in construction of a reputation. People emigrate/participate clueless, explicitly incapable in discovering the known players, indeed, they don’t know thezeitgeist!
On this late afternoon, Wannabe’s clamor from painted divides, comprising Nordschlief’s parking corral. Stop watches strewn about, frauleins wrapped in Gucci; all, toiling, indeed broiling with expectancy through prospecting low lap times. Machines of significant worth, specially treated for this particular venue, their heaves and snorts fill the air along with anticipation as they await their untested Meister and toll booth ticket holder, who must go out to better the sweeping hands of his cohorts chronograph. Maintaining a voyeuristic approach to this perennial ritual would be healthy, in part due to my required drive in official practice, the following day at Spa. Perched above the fray, securely stationed above this cage, I remark to my colleague, “How many of these ego maniacs get scrapped off the landscape anywhere and everywhere? My German counterpart, deadpanned in response “Ve don keep coun, Mark”! On the morning following our largess at a previous night’s festivities, we discover a Ferrari, coupled to an Italian dinner partner; neither would complete an attempt in becoming part of the living legends that are the RingMeisters. Ever evolving within the cruelty which befalls them, incapable of comprehending the capacity of life’s guilt and pleasures; confined to within Nordschlief, directed to its embarkation point.
Upon exiting a Cup Car, days later in Spa, two hours from *Castle Nurburg, a Brit Crew member bounded over, exclaiming, “Mark, Mark, remember the boy with the red Testarossa…the one we had dinner with at Hotel Reidel, the lad bought the farm at *Bergwerk, his girlfriend is in hospital”. Feeling the cruelty which befell this time traveler, all the while knowing what was discussed at our table, hours before his fate caught up to him. My aggrieved response, “can we contact his parents in Italy; they should know who was with him; we should do the right thing, tell them what they want to hear from someone who broke bread with him, someone who spoke to Vitorio last”. Remembering his bravado coursing through our prior evening, richened in colorful broken English, “Mark, you drive ere, not too match, I wit expedience, I know everyting for deez plaize, Victorio drive ere too many times”. We bandied stories related to the drama, unique to this circuit and kept within its boundaries; taming his boundaries was our hope. Alas, it soon became apparent, my diatribe over dinner fell on deaf ears, and our boy was all caught up in this adventitious RingMeister moniker. Too late for admitted guilt in driving pleasure, its lesson would play “hooky”.
According to my sources, the impact was inevitable, occupant unrecognizable, red car from Marinello…no longer red. Understandably distraught, Girlfriend was ambulatory and escorted away from the hordes who dominated this infamous parking lot. Immediately following; interlopers, vacuous yet contrite, scattered back into daily existences awaiting another public day.Kinder, overflowing with the effluence of the foolhardy. RingMeisters, less one.
On to Belgium. Re-introduced by Randy to a pleasurable, long lost friend who has managed a triumphant de-institution in careers. This talented driver tuned in, turned on, dropped out; bought a house in the Ardennes forest, five minutes from Spa. Beautiful house! $125K! By New York standards it was a palace. His days are filled with tutoring talented drivers ….We heightened stories of race days gone by; spent hours over dinner re-acquainting ourselves in nuances associated with the new Spa circuit……the guilt, the pleasures…..what a life!?
* RingMeister-Well respected group of drivers knowing every centimeter of the 300 plus turns of the 20 Kilometers, making up the Nordschlief.
*Nurburg Castle-As you shift up to top gear on the very long, kinked straight, there in view sits the Castle of Nurburg, it resides within the town of Nurburg, which in turn resides within the confines of the Nordschleif. Everything about the Ring is HUGE.
*Bergwerk- Grouping of turns on the Nordschleif (North part) of Nurburgring.
An insomnia-driven dew hazes my tender, surgically improved eyes from the luminescent bulb burning over my typewriter this early morning. Outside, the Autumn rain is gaining strength, beginning its rhythmic beat, which Gotham will subconsciously follow, its traders and players of world markets affected by a dismal commute to the canyons of deal ecstasy. Within my domain dwell many of their spoils and some “leftovers” that you and your friends consider fast or want to be “made” faster.
“BOOM BOOM ROOM” evolved from personal nomenclature. At times, it has characterized either of two crucial, if not redeeming stations of the vital forces within. Events spilling forth from Room One initiate through cataclysmic reactions to the brain -chemistry, upon presentation of seemingly unsolvable issues (Crunch time). Inside that second room, the sonic shattering of silence is created, constrained by the four walls of my establishment, replete with unmuffled horsepower dying to be engaged by some road surfer or track junkie, quite. possibly you.
I cannot express how meaningful your comments to my columns are, and as busy as I can get, the scripting of experiences in this life of Porsche is most impelling. Profound incidents should be lessons to learn from, and this year’s pole positions by Nick Ventura must be heard loud and clear. His horrific, yet captivating crash occurred two years ago. As spectators filled their eyes with the graphic realities of racing, the guardrail of Lime Rock’s “Pit In” surgically sliced his famously successful racecar in half. Not an end. Just another round in the chamber. Both he and I have driven to or been driven from the hospital. And always the discussion, as the rotation of a revolver’s chambers, is about. justifying the next round that must be readied. And it would be.
It is said that a revolution begins with the. first act of violence. The “been there, done that” life of service to the Porsche car has offered me an auspicious career, along with its tutelage on taming crushing defeat and building upon it. Thinking ahead allows us to contain this violence and continue to climb the ladder of significant speed. Late in 1998, work began (again). While simply buying a. ready-made racecar is fantastic-, building one from scratch offers up a much richer reward.
Subliminal accolades aside, realizing a pole position or overall win is secondary to a competitor’s opportunity to sour the air sarcastic! The pits have a propensity for negative enunciation. Racers without talk, those with don’t. F both. Money needs talent: talent requires money. Do your own homework and come to the table with something to offer.
I have been forever spoiled by having the use of a CAD (computer assisted design) program in our construction of Batmobile 11. It proved itself over and over as an invaluable tool for foolproof positioning of a 993 suspension system in a new chassis, when there were seemingly endless ways to achieve this objective. Painstaking measurements of both the chassis and suspension were essential to success of the transplant. With measurements “plugged in,” another software product enabled us to achieve a virtual picture of how components would create a marriage of -sophistication and simplicity. Having this capability would allow a change in ride height and alignment specifications at will. with predictable results.
Armed with this “blueprint,” I began in earnest on the actual hammering and cursing interlude last. fall. *As mentioned in previous columns, the back half of the frame was removed from my elaborate pulling apparatus. Then, we created a “surface Plate” on which the new “tub” would reside. This fixed anchoring on my geometrically square chassis correction machine would offer perfect alignment of parts as I attached newly manufactured pieces of this ‘4120 mph puzzle Bear in mind, that the silhouette of the completed machine had to duplicate its prior appearance, or interpretation of rules might come into play: Completion of the chassis would not be in the cards, until this March, with the first race date looming a mere three weeks later. Nick was, as usual. succinct. His only demand was, “if it isn’t ready for Lime Rock, I don’t -want it.”
Remember that Room One of mine? Boom Boom went my brain’s chemicals for the ensuing weeks. We cobbled together a crew to reassemble the finished chassis. Hotel accommodations were provided, as 24 hour days would be the norm in our reuniting Nick with “The Rock” for PCA Racing. The machine had to provide a safe haven for the driver, good adhesion and predictability, along with an advanced drivetrain delivering gobs of power. However, several questions remained while on our way to the track with a racecar still warmed by my tig welder.
Hours earlier, BOOM BOOM ROOM two had exploded into a cacaphony of eurythmy, escalating to music heard in the only two practice sessions that were allowed on race day. The Chief Scrutineer for PCA Racing salivated at our presence, since he had been forewarned of our inevitable return. Inspectors pored over this innovation, expecting to find our tradition of pushing the envelope. I could remain undemonstrative. They would engage in dismay as we did not register in our typical (justifiable) class. Batmobile 11 was promptly “bumped” into the Prototype class, where we would be competing with 962’s, etc. Thank you very much.
Rational thoughts were clouded in a sea of lost sleep and exhaustion at eight o’clock on race day morning, and any adjustments or changes could only come from the results of two 20 minute warmups. Ugh! Were we WAY over our expectations in this pseudo battle environment” Our machine would essentially compete against itself and its previous “official time” of 55 seconds. To go out on a track after a two year hiatus, with a “new” racecar that never turned a wheel is a feeling tantamount to your first ride on the Cyclone of New York folklore… in the front car, sitting on top of the seat back, locked in only by your feet to the bar as the first drop begins and your hands let go. It’s like that when you get up on boost with 800 horsepower straining to be free. The cold rear tires beg for heat to create traction and make Batbobile 11, like the front car of the Cyclone, stay on the track.
I’ve never before experienced such flawless behavior as I witnessed that day. The driver and car delivered all of my expectations in one fell swoop. First session out of the box, Nick ran a 55, An adrenalin rush offered up the correct adjustments demanded by chassis and engine management for a second trip, and we were ready for official qualifying. Nick drove professionally and took the Pole Position, Fastest Time of Day with a low 54. Elated by this result coupled with our previous racing tenure, I knew our performance window had been only partially opened.
The disappointment which ensued was immeasurable, sending me to my room to ponder our sporting chance. Pacing his race group off the downhill as he has done many times before, and awaiting the drop of the green flag, the only failure Nick would encounter befell him. The car stalled and he coasted in. Disillusionment abounded. A race we had “in the bag” was lost to a @##$ broken battery. Nevertheless, I counted the day as a victory of sorts. One short weekend later, we came home from Pocono armed with another pole position; but another “easy win” eluded us, simply because of “racing luck.” Ahh, the faster you are, the faster you had better be faster.
It was my father’s idea to take me to my first sports-car race. A group of Bridgehampton, Long Island businessmen had organized races for foreign sports cars on the public roads south of town. The 4 mile, roughly rectangular course enclosed the golf club, ran past stately homes, over bridges and around potato and cornfields. The races were held in June, starting in 1949, and the whole town pitched in selling hot dogs, programs and parking places on the front lawns.
Slender men in English clothes carried heavy leather helmets, while lovely women in plaid skirts and camelhair coats sat on picnic blankets with wicker baskets that had been unloaded, along with the spare tire, jack and other nonessentials, from cars that were about to go into combat.
The drivers didn’t look like the burly sports heroes my school friends emulated. They looked like me-or at least the way I wanted to look if only I would grow a little. I guessed that to be a race driver, you needed to be brave, a daredevil, which was my own adolescent self-image. It required some knowledge of cars and engines, which I didn’t have, but I knew I could learn. This was something I might be able to do-and do well.
On the drive home, we passed restaurants and hotels with sports cars out front, some still with their race numbers on the sides. Inside, I pictured those streamlined drivers with their golden-haired women, having a wonderful party.
“This is the perfect life,” I thought. Beautiful cars, beautiful people.
It was a new summer romance. And the beginning of a life-long love affair.
This significant excerpt was culled from the writing of a great driver, definitive gentlemen and a friend to all whom were lucky enough to have been graced with his presence and kindness.
If this small sampling of his motorsports wisdom touched you, if you relate to this youthful experience, well then, he will always be here, in our memories and serve as but a small tribute to this special sportsman..
NEVER FORGET-BOB AKIN
I’ll race with you on the other side of anywhere, my friend
RACING UPDATE-SUNDAY, MARCH 4th. MetroMan-Michael Lauer Wins Rolex 24 in Gentillozi prepared Jaguar. In only three tries, he personifies the spirit of our club, he being a member and my personal friend/client for many years. Trying for so many years, I’m more than envious of that significant Rolex Daytona he will be wearing with pride. Perhaps one of the most qualified sportsman in the field, destiny was apparent years ago in his enthusiasm and spirit with motorsport activities. An inevitable feat! From myself and “our” club-fortuna favet fortibus-“fortune favors the bold!
In similar fashion, I salute Metro members Chris Manfredi, Tom Popodopoulis, together with a personal friend, and NHRA Champion, Anthony Bartone. This year may be their first, but more than likely, not their last race at this field of glory.
“Now, on with Sebring, where just finishing is tantamount to winning!”
My opportunity for admission into the factory program for a new Supercup from Porsche is an acknowledgement of many years of competition with Porsche. Imagination is always part of the journey when owning a unique car and I try, in this passage, to reach those whom may never have the liberty of gaining admission into this exclusive club.
We arrive with an order placed through Alwin Springer, director of Porsche Motorsports U.S.; our contact is the lovely Vera Frank with whom the actual order is processed through. Because of the gradually limited number of new racecars built for customers, their choice of owner becomes more critical every year. Options are few. Color, in my order is always white, however, red and black are additional choices. Sorry, no paint to sample and I suppose anyone placing such a credulous request would not have been on the short list clients at the outset.
Three gear set ratios are available as are additional wheels, requiring insight into what your actual purpose, in racing, will necessitate. Some of the 13 cars, in this years litter, will go to teams in the Speedvision series. “Speedvision” prepared Porsche “Cup” cars will need no options based on the significant modifications they will endure to be competitive in their respective classes. Indeed, the engines will immediately require upgrading to GT3RS specifications for the faster class in the aforementioned races, alongside a radical suspension change incorporating “reservoir” systems for damper control. With the many changes this series mandates the “OEM” Cup car distinguishes itself most radically in lap time capabilities, even with the weight penalty they must endure for the TV audiences attracted to this channel’s concept of a racing format.
A last but most significant handicap to TV’s answer to motorsport parity lies in the “spec” tire and how generally miserable everyone is with their TOYO tire requirements.
Our car will be among the few spared this most unceremonious dismemberment. We will compete in the Porsche Club Racing sanctioning body. The cornerstone of which is to keep these factory prepared 996’s in completely (well almost) stock form. Upgrades to earlier versions have recently been incorporated into the rules. Stupid ME, I pushed for the rules change only to realize that I would have had an “unfair” advantage with this “02” version that would have offered better lap times in the hands of a competent driver!
Taking delivery at the factory of any new Porsche racecar has always been a treat to myself as well as other drivers I know. These machines are completely assembled at Weissach, as such; we travel to this “Mecca” of world motorsport activity to take delivery and or to Stuttgart for a little tour. I like this because of the opportunity to “inspect” all the racecars being delivered around the world within a short time span.
Arranging transport and customs issues can be intimidating if this is your virgin experience. With my contacts already in place, this part of the delivery was the least awkward. To a point! I say that because we lost the keys for the car while in transit only for them to reappear jammed under the on-board fire extinguisher bottle. Whew! A real bummer, although, Porsche would have sent me another set of keys with their knowledge of the code to cut them.
The 02 version has some quality, evolutionary improvements in suspension, brake, aerodynamics, safety as well as significant drive train upgrades. Perhaps the most important may reside within the confines of the engine bay, with the improved valve train and resultant horsepower curve gains, or “grunt”(race guy talk).
March 23 we will all gather at F.M. and view/talk about both the 02, accompanied by driver, Paul Orwicz and his several years of racing tightened into his belt,). We have added the 00 cup car with which we won several races last year, it owner/driver is Bob Glasser (Metro President), who will be glad to field any questions about his new "ride".
The call came. Christmas for Joseph Bartone’s family, friends as well as myself, would be inalterably changed forever! The glib times we live in do not kindly stop for death. Possibly the reason for my own circumstantial defiance lies within the thought of death and curls the corners of my mouth! You see, I want everyone around me to live life large. When called, I’m available. When needed, I’m there. Joey shared in that belief! When a kindred spirit of mine is snatched away, through a horribly simplistic traffic accident, I hate life just a little more. Even the fittest among us survive for only so long. Applying it to words on paper, temper the unfairness we all must endure.
The appropriateness of my feeble attempt to encapsulate Joey’s existence in this journal of Porsche people can only be viewed as one car guy missing another. Yes, Joey was, is, a car guy, as we, who read about him are labeled. Along with his brothers, Tony and Michael they lived cars. He and his family struggled and pulled themselves into a position of managing a burgeoning, tough, ever complicated business; more and more people tugging to get a piece of them, indeed get at them. The solitude of Joey’s opportunities in motor sports activities delivered the much needed relief valve that so many of us enjoy beyond the reach of work and responsibility.
Our lives crossed in the early years of the 90’s. My business had been established in Long Island City for 5 or 6 years, he and his family were consolidating their paving operations in the same zip code. Joey, as the car he drove, a red 78 911 Turbo, was in good shape and set a pleasing picture to one’s eyes. He later gigged as a drag motorcycle pilot along with driving (really drove) a bevy of exotics, doing some of the things everyone dreams about. But in his case there was much more to it than that. Our first encounter led us to drive his Turbo out onto the highways of NYC and bond like car guys are supposed to do-in the Big Apple. The words that came from him were always soft and well natured, never harsh or difficult to listen to, expectations always at the forefront of our conversation. He introduced me to Manducatti’s, a neighborhood Italian restaurant known throughout the city. He brought me to have the finest hamburger in existence at the “airport” diner near LaGuardia. We enjoyed each other. The good are NOT supposed to die young. Myself, as others, witnessed rays of sunshine as he spoke and warmed in his surrounding along with others fortunate enough to come in from the cold, a feeling which, sadly, too many sports car owners project. In retrospect, Joey never took, but gave. Joey embodied a wonderful sense of enjoyment, the continual constrictions of life faded when he was around. The introduction to his older brother, Tony was a giving from Joey. This act allowed myself the addition of a close friend and confidand which, as you know comes few and far between. Our last conversation centered on Joe’s desire to buy another Turbo, a decision which would have moved him back from the army of automotive acolytes and embrace Porsche ownership, thereby rekindling our distant friendship. This irony was closed by the meting out of retributive disapproval in the machine, which took his life.
Irony can be used as a cudgel, as an enemy of subtlety, easy simplicity posing as meaning. It’s why teenagers enjoy it so much. So consider this a plea on behalf of the memory of Joseph Bartone, an appeal to have his name added to a roster of great, cool guy’s who remain remembered, not a momentary reaction equivalent to hustling past a figure surrounded by flowers attached to lines of people paying respect. To paraphrase that aphorism this is another favorite of adolescents: we are all of us subject to the inevitable occurrence of the excretal expletive, and it’s best to remember that no one gets out alive. The wages of everything is death. Sadder still, fewer of us than we care to imagine will expire with anything resembling the dignity we wish for. My thoughts remain for Joseph Bartone, taken from us this Christmas 2000AD, his children, loving wife, brothers and sister, mother and father. “Joey, I’ll meet you on the other side”.
Sunday, MEMORIAL DAY-1962
A warm, early and sun drenched morning.
Dead end Street, East Flatbush, Brooklyn. Oak trees in full bloom, shading the roller-skate rink, we called home.
The end of the WW11 boom. Change is about to encompass this enclave of cops, firemen, Daily News print stained workmen, along with their wives and families. Stick ball, block parties, card games and alcohol scented evening laughter were about to come to an abrupt and impolite end. A twilight zone for so long for so many blue collar moms with so many children. This Sunday morning was aglow with pastels of women’s dresses coupled to brown suited, straight striding dads, juniors in tow, devout with their trek toward a noontime spire of faith.
My Dad…ahh well, his crusade was the NY Times crossword. Pencil in one hand, Bloody Mary in another! Having recently orchestrated the print ads for Jack Kennedy’s “err” successful election. Jack’s father had MANY friends. Jack himself, a man who would unwittingly change and almost end the world as we knew it; fractionalizing entire concepts of urban neighborhoods, to the day he died. His “second” would embark on the removal of half of this neighborhoods youth, forcing their transplant to an ongoing Asian experience of rice and misery, only to be summarily discarded into a new world order on their old turf dozens of months later. Without any reason for losing their chance at the American Dream of adolescence, they sit on their stoops; vacuous, haplessly viewing siblings repeat what they’re desperately trying to forget as they conceal a toke on the smoke of Saigon.
At this age, I’ve been endowed with a Grand Garage replete with enough “stuff” to create my first Empire of the Formula. I pedal my Schwinn to Ebingers on Flatbush Avenue for MY religious host, devilishly tasty crumb cake!
Summer heat waves reveal a somewhat distorted mirage. My bike’s rapid pace creates a quick disappearance of illusion though, allowing a vision that to this day, burns bright. A silver streamlined dome with two stick figures planted within, parked right in front of MY bakery. The scenario and its players were resoundingly out of character with my perception of what “older people” represented to this kid.
“His” descriptive lingo (“I’m a hip cat”) and “her” lengthy, statuesque, almost porcelain quality set against the dark glass, wrapping her sculpted face, successfully hid her secrets from gawking onlookers. Both figures were clad in tight, black cloth and leather. Their vehicle exuded the same persona. Contrasting the blackness and flesh were the colors of deep German silver in the jewelry that adorned them and their machine, a ’58 Porsche Speedster.
Leaning on the fender of their magnificent endangered,hump-backed species, “him” and “Her” sipped coffee, drawing on cigarettes they rolled themselves! ON THIS SIDE OF TOWN? I positioned MY ride against the bakery window and allowed my eyes and ears to draw it all in. The local natives were restless though, having rarely experienced “hipsters” in their midst. “His” clean-lined silhouette was a page torn from GQ. Arrogantly leaning against his ride, he looked in my direction. “Hey man, you dig my wheels?” “WHAT?” I stammered to say. The fluid, yet disfunctional eloquence of his approach was another bolt of lightning to an already heady encounter with “alien” beings along with their spaceship.
I mused, “What kinda car is THAT?” Smiles overcame their somewhat demure coolness. “She” rolled off the fender and approached me like a supermodel, gliding down Coco Chanel's Paris runway. Softly, with an accent, she introduced herself as Genevieve. A virtual art form. “Mon Ami, iz name iz Bobby D. Ee azk hyou iv hyou lak ze carr. Yes? Hyou wood lak a drive, yes?”
At 12 years of age and having a bit of the street in vocabulary, the words fell out of my mouth too fast….”Holy…..er, YEA! Take me to your leader, even if you guys fell off another planet!” The two Village People promised to wait as my somewhat routine disaappearance would undoubtedly raise several questions by my “authorities”. I rode home and lied about something”. Several minutes later the jump seat of this lithe speedster was filled with my lack of worldly experience…..Hell…..on my way to the beach with beatniks….in a machine “he” referred to as a “bathtub”. The playground was filled by the sound of 1600 cc’s of tuned explosions ensconced in a sliver skin, singing songs all the way over the Marine Park Bridge.
We spent this early morning as lounge lizards do, sunning on a salt aired stone jetty. Atlantic around us, European stories in front; perfume mixing with the salty tone of Bobby D. Transistorized jazz and sumptuous foods I had never tasted before were in sync with the ideas of a world unknown to this lad. Bobby D and Genevieve were fervent advocates and professed the virtues of Porsche, jazz, coffeehouses and understanding the essence of being “totally cool”. With this newfound language and the new freedoms of speech; Genevieve, wrapped in Parisian charm along with Bobby the beatnik, I found more of what life was about. “He” was a Porsche mechanic par excellence and a man with whom I would work with in later years; most important, they were both “hipsters. These two cosmopolitans revealed another way, a cool life of not just driving a hip bathtub, but driving into a hip world. As bobby D would say to me that afternoon when dropped off, “When I drive, man, it’s like taking a bath…..It cleans your soul, you dig it?” Yea, I did, “I do!”
You Cannot win at Daytona. You can only manage not to lose. As tile Rolex on the press room wall Swings past 10 PM EST the weirdness of fast paced diminution continues. Rumblings about an louder, especially since the three-car Team Oreca overall win by a Viper (Ugh!) are increasingly
Vipers now run in second, third and fourth overall. That’s right, second, third and fourth overall. Tile unbelievable attrition that rocked the 80 car field has, not abated and there’s almost as much traffic back and forth to the garage as there is going around the circuit.
Hours later, as the result of an engine misfire, the decimated Sports Racers, aka Prototypes, headed by Rob Dyson’s Riley & Scott, would be harried by the onslaught of the eventual overall and GTO winners from tile Daimler/Chrysler consortium. This was a far cry from tile “evacuation” of the “flapjack flipping” Mercedes team at Le Mans. It would mark the first time in the 36-year history of this. tile most important sports car race in the U.S. that a production based American car would cop ail overall win.
I had observed this team at Le Mans and it proved to be the class of the field; but no one expected such a storybook climax to their pursuits, such as we witnessed in this new millennium. Interestingly, one of the Team Oreca pilots from Le Mans moved to an underestimated Porsche GT3R ride and took the top GTU finish. The Harberthur Racing 996, although strong at Le Mans, was not factored in as a front runner, even though they posted an 8th place starting position. Stories along the way? I’ve got a bunch.
As I mentioned last month, we were invited to join tile Champion/Texaco/Gunnar GT3R Team. Having had more than a dozen rides at the Rolex Sunbank Pepsi Challenge, and the Whatever 24 at the French facility, the capturing of that handy wrist timepiece has been somewhat elusive for me, and I was hoping my team’s drivers would get their chance at this, a most coveted prize in endurance racing. Alas, P.L. Newman fans (oldest driver in Daytona history and still very fast, indeed) would see their hero pack up along with the rest of us at the unusually early time of about 9:00 in tile evening. Clearly, P.L., as a prior GTO winner here and multifaceted motorsports entrepreneur who commands significant respect, should and always will be considered a career driver: a no BS kinda driver getting the job done. At 75, 1 hope to be in as good shape as he is.
The race started early this year, an hour past high noon. Why? I guess the traditional 3:00 o’clock cacaphony of engine sounds was too traditional. The Rolex organization intended to change forever my impression of the crudeness of the event layout. They ran an exceptional week of events. Our team’s drivers were flawless in their execution and one was the son of a close friend. Gunnar Jeanette, at 17 years of age, was the youngest driver in the field—ever! Sponsor Texaco offered up a sumptuous array of feasts and accommodations. They suited my style perfectly, as overall tuning or driving are my specialties and the thought of inhabiting a cold, damp pit in the dark before dawn is a thing of the long past.
Who is Michael Lauer? This was the inside running gag on the team. As our Metro members are aware, Michael has been a long time participant at our driving events and has managed to improve his capabilities to the point of being the fastest driver on the team. His exploits Friday were equally impressive when driving the 1986 GTP Championship winning prototype, only to be “shunted” at the end of a fabulous Vintage Race. Incredibly, his nearest risk of personal injury came at the very end of this most serious exercise of fast racing machines. A blown rear tire caused the leading (Le Mans winner) Fat Turbo 962 to head uncontrolled toward “Laver” as he was inspecting his own bruised P-Car. Only a jump over the pit wall saved this “unknown” driver from serious injury. Jokes aside, his moving from prototype to GT3R during the several days here proved a benefit to his style of driving, shown by his ease at executing quick laps in the 2000 lb. 996-based GTU contender.
As Team Manager, my friend Kevin Jeanette has won this race before; and his game plan was simple: Conserve the equipment. As with most front running teams in the GTU category, engine problems on the “waterpumper” were rampant. The “factory” guys were responsible for the engines and water pump failures kept them busy, along with an occasional overall blowup here and there.. Having carefully observed the Teutonic approach the “3R’s” took at “The Sarthe,” I did not come away from “The Beach” nonplused. You come to Daytona with about 20 “new” machines, tested in Europe under relatively unstressed conditions, throw into the mix a “bumped up” power level and voila: Unreliability! Okay, now what? New Ballgame!
This is of major concern. How competitive will these GT3R machines be, and how marketable in the future? In fairness, no one builds a racecar as complete as the Porsche factory and the GT3R is an easy car to drive fast. However, many in the P-Car business realize how popular one-or-two-yearold Porsche factory race cars are on the resale market, because of the long lived qualities they offer. Our car gave no indication of premature engine failure – no gauge deviations – No idiot lights! Nothing but Boom Boom Room time! Hmmmm….
Along with my compatriot Nick Ventura, I did some most enjoyable socializing with my guys Randy Sasson and (King) Henry McClure. An “observation deck” set up at the International Turn enabled us to view most of the track and entertain some of our Metro friends, Speed Slawson included, between stints at the pit wall. Joining the usual suspects (crew) in the pits, we had a great group of mechanical engineering students doing “chores” that freed us to plan strategy. The arrangement of lower end 993 grafted onto upper end 996 seemed to solve prior reliability problems, but alas, I fear not. This too will be resolved. In engine building, the most important part of the process is the disassembly. This separates the men from “the mechanics”; and there will be plenty to disassemble, as usual.
Regarding Water Pump Failures: According to sources in Porsche Motorsport, unusually high engine attrition has been attributed to a factory subcontractor’s improper cleaning of cylinder heads (of manufacturing debris). Ahem… I am bewildered by how quickly this questionable explanation has been manufactured. There is still no answer to the plethora of other engine failures at Daytona.
Drive Porsches Have fun. Solve problems.
The events I’m about to chronicle are accurate. However, the date frame has been slightly altered and I’ve decided to change the names of the players; fairness to their memories could be misconstrued.
Allow me a momentary flash of retrospection: 1968. The spring and summer of my 17th year had been filled with Frisbeeism, school, surfing, Porsches and racing, never in that order. (Fribeeterians believe that, when you die, your soul goes on the roof and you can’t get it back down.) This was NYC and that last part, racing, was not FIA approved. Indeed, our streets offered a sanctioning body all their own. As the blare of sirens assured us, they were mean streets, unforgiving in nature.
I limited myself to a voyeuristic position in a rather abstract form of gladitorial guts: street. racing, dangerous and illegal. Many of Gotham’s young, impressionable Porsche owners, their pathetic silver spoons tied to a leash, enabling them to “heighten the Experience” of speeds their minds had already OD’d on, would form up under the awnings of a night club on the service road of the Staten Island Expressway. “Hadaar” would carry with it an almost necessary signature, made necessary by the comings and goings of its “made” patrons. Located near the terminous of the relatively new Verrazano Narrows Bridge sat this den of the reticent and sociologically disordered, having all the trappings of post adolescence, aching to pay homage to the few who had already been indoctrinated and accepted into NYCs malfeasance and corruption.
This incongruous fellowship would take their thrones as spurious and mock turtleneck juniors, riding in pastel sports cars, engaged in a dangerous game of traversing, at terminal velocities, this very long span of The Narrows that Robert Moses rammed down the throats of Brooklyn and Staten Island. The backdrop of a jeweled Manhattan skyline was framed by the two spires of this portal colossus as these weekend sorties droned on- that is until a fateful foggy evening in October.
That evening’s entertainment was provided by my pasta bellied, directionless, yet every so jolly sidekick, Freddy- “Fat Freddy,” that is. The need for a moniker in Brooklyn has always intrigued me. The “large one” prowled the boundaries of Bensonhurst. His Mamma owned an Italian restaurant and, I imagined, fed half of “the Boys” for “nuttin”: nice suits-no money, always paying with a scheme.
The fat one spent much of his salary in my father’s garage, behind our house. I found the enjoyment of repairing Porsche cars too much to miss. His indulgence always grew from watching mine. I loved Freddy as much as his 911S Targa. Despite his lardness, he drove like Tazio Nuvolari in the Mille Miglia. Unbeknownst to the weekend warriors with whom he would trade paint, Freddy had a trick that made his “Porsh” run away from the “rat pack.” With the changes we created, his gutteral and raspy voice could proclaim, “Hey, Marko! Dis weekend we’re gonna kick dair asses!” While everyone else concentrated on extensive engine modifications, we secretly shoved a 912 gearbox into “The Yellow U-Boat,” allowing him much quicker acceleration on the way up the main span of the bridge.
Freddy enjoyed women as much as his beloved Porsche. He also liked to drink and drive. His girlfriend was a neighborhood “chick” with teased coif, five inch heels and a penchant for confession on Saturday afternoons. I knew her religious rituals through Freddy. “She’s a good kid; she don’t drink, but can she throw bull. Tank God my bookie meets me in front o’ da choich while she’s in deah. ” Yes, she was a good kid in many ways. So was he.
That October “Hadaar evening” was rapidly degenerating, as much from the weather as from Freddy’s drinking. He was always jealous of guys hitting on his chick. Many of us knew the cocktail of alcohol, jealousy and racing the span would some day be a fatal mix. In walked Vinny the Suit. “Hey, what’s happening, Freddy?” quips The Suit. “I hear dat pieceajunk outside is ready for da dump. No, not yer chick. Da car! Haahaa, ahaahhaal” Well, Vinny’s “crew” circled around him, knowing full well that Freddy’s got 100 lbs over “The Suit,” and may be “carrying.” As expected, one thing leads to another and everyone spills outside: The Suit, Fat Boy, both crews and hordes of wannabes. Two well known “Gousheens” settle the argument by “setting up a sit-down” later in the week. Fat Feddy is p****d. Vinny saunters over to his “Furrayree,” settles into the seat, turns around and yells to Fat Boy,” I wouldn’t touch dat skank you’re wit.”
In a cloud of dust, The Suit splits and the Yellow U-Boat is in rapid transit, behind. Freddy has his chick and has been drinking heavily. It’s all hands on deck as both crews and others scramble to follow those Chariots of Fire over the bridge to Bay Ridge. One last time.
The newspapers had it all wrong. Some illiterate redneck, pushing 18 wheels, decided to turn across all the lanes and into the Belt Parkway exit at the far end of the span. Those of you who know this crossing realize that no commercial traffic is allowed on “The Belt.” There’s no room for a big semi.
Freddy and The Suit knew that too, but realized what was happening too late. Later that night, or should I say that morning, NYC Highway Patrol cops couldn’t peel the three players from their fused coffins. Then, three funerals, all with the usual Brooklyn ornamentation, attended by a veritable Who’s Who of the world of the streets- crying and swearing and a lot of cheek kissing.
Sad to say, other Porsche People have followed Freddy, Vinny the Suit and that good girl. It never ends. But drive Porsches, take chances and be good boys and girls.
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