A Farewell to Porsche

While the flat six of the Porsche made a very distinctive sound, I think the first thing I noticed about them was what sounded like a small explosion when it shifted gears. However it is a sound we will now only hear in the GT3 class.Porsches decision to pull out of IMSA’s GTLM class further reduces a field that was suffering from the loss of Ford at the end of 2019. I’m assuming that they will continue their GT3, and Porsche cup series participation.

We are left to imagine what could have been if…
– Ford had extended their contract for one more year
– Ferrari would decide to spend a dollar and field a team
– Porsche had remained
– All with the new Corvette coming on line

As far as I know this does not effect the GTE series, or other overseas racing. We have seen it before, and will see it again. Teams come and go as priorities shift. We can only hope this drought won’t last long.

In the past other teams besides the factory entries have carried the Porsche banner in IMSA’s top GT tier. So we honer them as well.

2017 Year in Review

Once again it’s time to take one last look back, then look forward to the next year. As most years lately have been, 2017 was full of highs and lows. I guess you can say that about life in general, but we will look at it strictly from a photographic point of view.

First the lows, 2017 was not kind to me financially. Causing me to cut back on, and forego some events on my calendar. The one that hurt the most was missing the Hawk vintage racing event. I also had to beg off of the Ferrari challenge, an event I had been trying to get to for some time now. Illness caused me to miss the Wings Over Waukesha fly in, and some others were cut from two days to one. Probably the oddest thing about the year was the number of airshows, or lack there of that I attended. You have to go back to 2004 for the last time I was at three or less airshows. However most of this was out of my control.

Now the highs, adding two new events to the portfolio. I finally remembered to register in time for Professional Bull Riders Chicago Invitational. It was well worth the effort, and I hope to do it again. I have tried for some time to find pro horse jumping or steeple chase events in the area to no avail. Thanks to HITS Inc. Balmoral Park in Crete Illinois has been converted into a world class show jumping facility. This event I truly enjoyed, and I am already looking at their 2018 calendar to plan which competitions I will attend.

As it stands now 2018 should be much more stable, and barring any medical issues I should be able to take on a very aggressive schedule. Being semi retired should also help with this. So here’s wishing for the best in 2018.

joel

The Sport of Kings

It was once called the Sport of Kings. In the past, races, meets, derbies, or what ever you choose to call them would attract royalty, nobles and the most affluent in society of that day. Today if you were to quiz any ten people most could maybe name one horse race (The Kentucky Derby), maybe two. Most would not know if there was even a horse race track anywhere near them.

Just when the first horse race took place is lost to prehistory, however the first known purse to be offered for a race took place during the reign of Richard the Lion-Heart. £40 was offered to the winner of a race over a 3 mile course with knights as riders. The first national racing rules were drafted during the reign of Charles II between 1661 – 1685.

I must admit that it had been years since I had gone to the track. My vision of what the experience would be like was probably the same as most others. A bunch of cigar chomping curmudgeons in rumpled sports jackets with rolled up racing forms in their back pockets, lamenting how much they had lost that day. What I found when I finally did go was the polar opposite of that. A friendly, fun, family and friend atmosphere is what you find at the track these days. Families, groups of co workers, and birthday parties are the norm. The one that surprises me the most is that Mothers Day and Fathers Day are two of busiest days of the year.

We have several race tracks in the Chicago area. The three main race tracks are:
Arlington Park – Thoroughbred
Hawthorn Park – Thoroughbred and Harness
Maywood Park – Harness (now closed)

We will not go into my thoughts of harness here, we will just focus on Thoroughbred racing. Thoroughbred racing has a rich history in the Chicago area. Presently two of racings major events are held here. The Illinois Derby which in past years has been a points qualifier for the Kentucky Derby. I am not quite sure why that distinction has been taken away. The Arlington Million is currently the one of the highest purses for a single thoroughbred race in the U.S. Million day at Arlington consist of several stakes races, and attracts competitors from around the world. If you even remotely like horse racing, it is a day well spent. Regular days at both Arlington, and Hawthorn parks normally consist of an eight race card of varying purses. Although they are not always big money stakes races, they are still very good quality competitive races. And still a day well spent.

 

The racing industry in Illinois, and the country as a whole has been in a slow decline for years as people seem to favor other forms of gambling such as casinos and sports betting over it. For me the thought of just sitting in a dark room feeding money into a machine with bells and flashing lights is not very appealing. Watching the action as a thoroughbred sprints around the track, and cheering it on to victory gives more of a sense of participation than just watching wheels on a machine spin. Even if your horse doesn’t win you still feel as if you were part of the action. All in all it makes for a much more enjoyable experience. We can only hope racings fortunes improve in the coming years, and that peoples interest return to the excitement and beauty that is thoroughbred racing, the sport of kings.

Wildcard: Mazdas P2 Program

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Mazda Skyactive P2

For the up coming Weather Tech SportsCar Championship season, all the talk in the prototype class is about the last season of the Daytona prototypes, and the phasing in of the P2 cars from makers like Ligier. There has been very little said about the one car that could trump them all, Mazda.

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Mazda Skyactive P2

Since 2013 Mazda has been pioneering it’s Skyactive diesel powered cars. First running a pair of Mazda 6s in a small GX class of the Rolex Grand AM series with only a few other competitors. In 2014 they premiered two P2 cars based on a Lola B08/80 chassis, and using the same 2.2 liter four cylinder turbodiesel engine. However two years of development produced only mediocre results. A consummate mid pack runner, their best results were two 7th place finishes at Monterey and Mosport. An ongoing problem of heat dissipation that lead to power falloff constantly plagued the cars.

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The pioneer platform for the Skyactive Diesel programed the Mazda 6.

For the 2016 season Mazda has shelved the diesel engine in favor of a more traditional gas powered one. Based on a reengineered Lola chassis, the new car uses their MZ-2.0T inline 4 cylinder turbocharged power plant. Developed in conjunction with AER, the 2.0 liter engine produces 570 horsepower at a maximum 9000 RPM. Test sessions conducted last year yielded results so promising that Mazda would not release the exact numbers. All they would say is they were very impressed with the cars performance. If they perform anywhere near as well as the Mazda powered Dyson P1 cars of the past, it could make for some great racing in the prototype class in 2016.

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Mazda Skyactive P2

Ford GT Racing Announcement

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When I saw that Ford Performance was going to make a major announcement just days before the 24 hours of Le Mans, I knew it would be a big non surprise to sports car racing fans.

Back in February when I decided to attend the 2015 Chicago Auto Show, my primary mission was to photograph the new Ford GT, and ask a few question of the company reps. I had to smile when the representatives on hand quite literally said there were no plans to race the car at Le Mans, in TUDOR, or any other series. We were supposed to believe that Ford had a few million dollars laying around, so decided build a supercar with all sorts of new design technologies and innovations just for the heck of it. I don’t think they fooled anyone.

 

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When a manufacture suddenly pulls out of a major series like NHRA where they are dominant, I begin to suspect they have a need for that cash elsewhere. Upon asking the Ford reps about this, I was told the two were not at all related.

So we fast forward to June and surprise of surprises, Ford intended to compete in both TUDOR and the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2016. Needless to say I did not fall out of my chair.

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Now with all the posturing and politicking aside we can get on with the racing. From what I have seen of it, it should do well. Lets hope it can bring another Le Mans trophy home.

TUDOR United Sports Car Championship

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Well, I have held out long enough, but I feel now is the time to give my take on the TUDOR United Sports Car Championship. It is now mid January. The start of the 2015 sports car racing season is upon us. The TUDOR Rolex 24 hours of Daytona has already taken place, and yet still nobody knows exactly what will happen this year. If last year was any indication it could be yet another tumultuous year.

First of all last year was full of ups and downs, hits and misses, elation then disappointment for a lot of teams. I don’t think I’ve ever seen any one series where at some point just about every participant was mad to the boiling point. Everybody from drivers to car owners, team members, mechanics, and even series officials. All at one point in time were very upset with the series in general. The constant changes in rules, balance of performance, and competition rules just seemed to be a bit daunting for a lot of them. Especially considering that a lot of them were introduced very close to race dates, not giving teams enough time to really prepare or adjust the cars for the pending changes.

Going forward in 2015 it’s hard to ignore the many changes that occurred in the off-season. Entire teams that have left to go on to other things or a series. No one is sure how many sponsors will still back the programs they currently do, or will discontinue the programs altogether. All of these issues have resulted in reduced car fields starting off this year, and a fair amount of uncertainty for some. While a lot of teams have been very politically correct about what exactly are their reasons for not competing in this year’s series, it’s hard to ignore what has already taken place.

Dodge wins the GTLM championship and then pulls the plug on the program. Stalwarts of the IMSA and American Le Mans series Flying Lizard after 10 years have decided to move to another series altogether, and participate in only a couple of races. Extreme Speed Motorsports who carried the series sponsorship for several years have decided only to compete in the World Endurance Championship races. With the now disbanded Pickett Racing, and Dyson racing having left last year, I can’t help but believe that balance of performance issues have made a lot of the teams (particularly the P2 teams) feel as if they’ve been a bit hamstrung in comparison to the Daytona prototype cars.

Weather they want to admit it or not, the powers that be at TUDOR are eventually going to have to address these, and whatever problems are causing teams and drivers who would just assume be in the series move on to others. We as sports car racing fans can only hope that decisions made going forward, will serve to solve current problems, bring back some who have left, create an environment that encourages new teams to feel they can compete, and help grow and the sport.

 

joel

The BMW M1

Since there have been cars, there have been discussions and arguments about which is best or coolest. All of us, myself included have our favorites. Weather it be affordable production cars or expensive exotics, any of us can go on for long periods about which we would or would not own.

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Henry Schmitt’s 1979 BMW M1 at The Hawk with Brian Redman.

Speaking for myself, I can think of car companies who make some models I would consider owning, and a couple who do not make anything I would spend money on. Among these are Volkswagon, Suburu, and BMW.

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Henry Schmitt’s 1979 BMW M1 at The Hawk with Brian Redman.

That brings us the subject of this article. While BMW does not make anything I would ever buy, they have made a couple of cars which I admire and respect. Both the BMW M3, and M5 make good looking cars in race form. Both are popular in various racing series from SCCA to Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, and have had a measure of success. The M5 in particular has a solid winning record in GT racing. Run in the American LeMans series by Rahal Letterman Lanigan, they recorded several wins in the M5 before moving to the Z4.

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The BMW M3 of Rahal Letterman Lanigan at Mid Ohio in 2012.

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The BMW M3 of Rahal Letterman Lanigan at Mid Ohio in 2012.

The one car made by BMW that I can honestly say I truly like was the M1. Manufactured between mid 1975 to 1980, the M1 is a sleek exotic sports car with stunning looks and performance. The total production run of this car was only 430 units. I can only remember ever seeing one on the streets. I was pleasantly surprised to see two of them running in “The Hawk with Brian Redman” at Road America this year. I can also say I like it as much now as I did then.

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Fall Line Motorsports BMW M3 at Blackhawk Farm Raceway.

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A pair of Fall Line Motorsports BMW M3’s at Blackhawk Farm Raceway.

The Coming Airshow Season

With sequestration being all the talk of the airshow industry, I believe some very important points are being overlooked. It would seem, judging by popular belief, that you can’t hold an airshow unless you have a military jet team. I guess we have been spoiled having had the Blue Angels, Thunderbirds, and ACC demos for so many years. Now might be the time to take a step back and give some thought to just what makes an airshow. Truth is airshows began and evolved long before the first jet aircraft was invented or flown.

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Let’s go back in time. It is late 1918 early 1919. The first ever professional pilots are coming home from World War I. The military still not completely sold on the strategic value of aviation, is all too eager to get rid of many of the aircraft in their inventory. Many pilots are able to buy the planes they flew in combat for very little money. Now, with flying skills, an airplane, and no real market for either what are they to do?

Some find work as crop dusters, and some carrying mail. Air mail was still in it’s infancy (having just been started by the U.S. Post office), and there was only so much crop dusting work to be done. This left a lot of planes and pilots with no real marketable skill.

It was then that some took to barn storming just to earn gas and a little pocket money. They would often show up unannounced, land in a farm field near a town, and find a kid to go to town and announce their arrival. Informing the towns people, (many who had never seen a real airplane) they would be performing daring aerobatic feats for just a nickel. I can’t help but think that the excitement those people felt at the time, was the same we feel seeing the high speed jets of today.

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While there may not be as many, or any jets at airshows this year, the airshow will still go on. The form may be a bit different, but the essence of what airshows began as will still be present. So think of this season as a chance to take a closer look at the aerobatic acts we kinda took for granted at previous shows. The level of performance and skill these men and women exhibit, has it’s roots in the original barnstorming days.

If we were to have no jet teams for 2013, what can we look forward to? Airshows to put it simply. Fewer of them, and most with more variety than they have had in past years. Great aerobatic performances, and a lot of very cool and rare warbirds.

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Come to think of it taking a year off from shooting the same jets we have been shooting for years is probably a good thing. If you are just a fan of your local airshow, then Chicken Little is right, your sky is falling. However if you are a true lover of aviation and airshows, you will have no problem finding good things to shoot this year.

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Joel Love