The Garage at 2013 Rolex 24 at Daytona

The Winners crossing the line!

The Winners crossing the line!

The past 12 months have been just a crazy ride for me as I have traveled around the world covering events for including bucket list events like the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Goodwood Festival of Speed and just this past weekend I went to Daytona Beach to cover the Rolex 24 for the first time. Just an incredible year!

To get my full report on the 24, click here to read my live blog from the race complete with tons of images. The long and the short of it is that Chip Ganassi Racing won their fifth Rolex 24 in ten years. Toronto’s AIM Autosport pulled off a great third spot on the podium in the GT class and west coast Canucks, Bullet Racing, scored second place in the new GX class.

Head past the jump to see a rather huge gallery of images from the 2013 Rolex 24 at Daytona.
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Shutter Speed: Returning Home

It was Tuesday before I could get a flight home. I had planned to stay over for Monaco. By then Gilles had been home several days and was lying-in-state in the vestibule of the local arena in Berthierville. The lines to view his body just went on and on. He was dressed in a white, what I thought was a driver’s suit, but I have heard conflicting reports since. When I went to pay my respects, there were so many people there I almost turned for home. I was undergoing such a range of emotions I had never felt so intensely before. I wanted to comfort the family, but was not sure it was just me I wanted to comfort. Gaston was in hospital under heavy sedation. He had lost the son he never had. He and Gilles were closer than a Father and son. Like many Fathers, Gaston had pulled Gilles out of many of life’s ditches. I drove directly to Berthierville from the airport. After paying my respects I headed for home in Ottawa. I had seen my friend for the last time.

I am still in a fog about most of that week. I am not sure if it was the Thursday that the funeral was held, but I drove to Berthierville with my good friend David Morgan-Kirby, an avid race fan and sometimes journalist who, like I, had watched the rise of Gilles from Formula Fords to Formula One. He had taken the time to interview Gilles when he was in the lower ranks and still would get a good reception from him even though Gilles was now at the top of his game. David and I and my wife at the time sat in the loft to the right of the chequered flag draped coffin. We were within fifty feet of Jody when he gave the eulogy. David, a stoic Englishman was rock solid. My wife was a blithering mess. I was just stunned. In less than a week I had done the final negotiation for our Grand Prix book, received a significant advance against royalties, ventured overseas and returned home broken, but I was in better shape than my friend who was now the centre of a different type of attention.

After it was all over Gilles’ body was taken to Montreal to be cremated. Joanne would then take the ashes back to Monaco. We followed the black Cadillac to Montreal on our return to Ottawa. I thought of the ‘Red Cadillac’ on this drive. David and I reminisced about all we had seen. There was a lot of laughter and tears on that drive. We got seriously drunk that night. [Read more...]

Shutter Speed: They all hoped for better things…

The usual squabbling between the FIA and FOCA was noticeably absent at the start of the 1982 season. Alan Jones had become disenchanted with the almost suspension-less cars and had gone home to Australia. The rumour mill was rampant with as many as three former World Champions to appear on the grid for the season. Jackie Stewart, James Hunt and Niki Lauda were all reported to have been offered large sums of cash to put on a helmet again. Only Lauda appeared at McLaren with John Watson as his backup.

Carlos Reutemann had intended to retire but reconsidered when Jones left the team. Keke Rosburg was his second at Williams. Mario left Alfa-Romeo to return to America and IndyCar racing. Gilles and Didier remained with Ferrari. Piquet teamed with Recardo Patrese at Brabham while Prost and Arnoux returned to Renault. Mansell and de Angelis took up the cores with Lotus and March retained Jochen Mass alongside newcomer Raul Boesel.

Gilles thought 1982 was going to be his year. Ferrari would win the constructors championship, but things would be very different in the drivers race.

South Africa started the season and a rift over the new driver’s super license which the drivers felt they could be traded like cattle at the whim of the team owners. Once this got straightened out the race got underway. Gilles had qualified third behind Arnoux and Piquet. Didier was qualified sixth. Both Ferrari would drop out of the race with Gilles blowing a turbo and Didier having a misfire and finishing in eighteenth.
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Shutter Speed: Two in a row

After the drama in Zolder everyone packed up, lock, stock and barrel and moved to the shores of the Mediterranean…Monaco. Long known as the crown jewel of Grand Prix racing and a serious favourite of the drivers and spectators alike, Monaco remains a very narrow, dangerous circuit that would not pass the required safety standards now in force in Formula One. It is like Kitsbuhel in downhill racing. It is iconic and will continue to be run.

It was felt the turbo-charged cars would be ineffective on the slow, twisting streets of both Monaco and Long Beach. Gilles proved them very wrong by putting the 126C on the front row with Nelson Piquet in his Brabham on the pole. Pironi had a more difficult time taming the powerful Ferrari and sat seventeenth on the grid.
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Shutter Speed: The new kid on the block

The 1981 Formula One season continued with the on-going dispute between the FIA, the sports governing body and FOCA, the Formula One Constructors Association. At the first race it came to a head and only at the insistence of the principal sponsors of the teams would any kind of reconciliation take place and the season got underway at Long Beach.

At Ferrari there was a new kid on the block. Jody had retired having achieved his goal of the World Championship in 1979. He stuck around for 1980 with the T5 disaster falling down around him. Some drivers would have just thrown up their hands and called it a day, but Jody showed his class by sticking to Ferrari so they could capitalize on his achievement. The new kid was Didier Pironi who had moved over from Tyyrell.

“When I joined Ferrari the whole team was devoted to Gilles. I mean he was not just the top driver, he was much more than that,” recalled Pironi. “He had a small family there…he made me fit right in. I felt at home right away. Gilles made no distinctions. I was expecting to be put in my place. I was not number one. I was number two yet he treated an equal all the way.”
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Las Vegas Motor Speedway might just be heaven on earth

When Bridgestone invited us to a new product launch at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, I was somewhat wistful as I thought about the passing of Dan Wheldon at the speedway at the final race of last year’s Indycar season. I knew it would be tough to visit the track without thinking of the popular driver. Still, I had never been to the Speedway (or Vegas for that matter) so I was excited to visit. All I can say is WOW!

Ferrari. Lamborghini. Andretti. Race cars. Fighter planes. Race tracks.

All in one place! LVMS is the kind of place that gearheads dream of.

Arriving on a shuttle, the first building one notices in a long strand of racing businesses is Shelby’s headquarters. As we drover further into the complex, I was blown away by the sheer size of the place. The only big speedway I have been to is Pocono, and LVMS is easily 3 times the size. There are race tracks all over the place. We saw 2 road courses, the big oval, a bullring, an off road truck course and there is the NHRA drag strip. Just massive.

Throughout the day, the background was filled with the sounds of the U.S. Airforce, as pilots performed training maneuvers. The day before, guests were treated to a real show as the Thunderbirds did some practice.

When a Shelby Cobra went by on a test drive, you knew it was the real deal.

To guide their tire industry attendees and us media types through the day, Bridgestone had assembled a star studded cast of drivers. Our instructors in the early morning included Pierre Kleinubing, Peter Cunningham and Burt Frissell. Later on, the big surprise came as we learned that Mario Andretti was also on hand and would be joining us for lunch.

Before lunch though, we had to flog a BMW 3 Series around a fast autocross course, before heading over to Exotics Racing, where we would get to play with a collection of Ferrari’s and Lamborghini’s. I drove a Lamborghini Gallardo LP550 for the first time. For a machine with 550 or so horsepower, it was surprisingly manageable. Equally surprising was how high the limits of the car are. With just five laps, I was nowhere close to exploring the limits of the car. It would be fun to have a bit more seat time to actually get comfortable with the limits of the bull.

To get a taste of our day, head past the jump to check out our photo gallery.
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Prototype Ferrari sets new sales record of $16.39 million!

Classic car auctions are a curious activity. While the economy should affect the prices at auction, and often do, there are occasions where a vehicle comes across the block that blows the lid off an event. The prototype 1957 Ferrari Testa Rossa the sold at Pebble Beach on Saturday night was just one of those cars.
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Ferrari Challenge proves that money does not buy talent

Just how many lines through 3 do they think there are?

The Ferrari brand has a long and tumultuous history of building consumer race cars. Toys for big boys and fat wallets. The 2011 Honda Indy Toronto saw the first ever Ferrari Challenge race on a true street course, which perhaps explains why Ferrari continues to build race cars for the rich and slow: Ferrari sells parts!

I really, really wanted to like the Ferrari Challenge. Sadly, I’m almost at a loss for words to describe how challenging it was to even watch the Challenge.

It became apparent during Friday’s practice that maybe 5 or 6 of the 24 car field were reasonably fast. The middle portion of the field were decidedly slower, while the aft end were downright pedestrian. Even the presence of superstar driving coaches like Randy Pobst and Richard Spenard did not seem to help. A quick scan of the race results showed a time differential of a whopping 12 seconds a lap between the fast guys and the not so fast guys.
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Happy (Belated) Father’s Day from The Garage!

To all the Dad’s out there who read The Garage, we hope you had a very happy Father’s Day, and hope you were able to set aside some time to indulge your automotive passion, whether it be at the track, a car show, or driving your own pride and joy. For me, I drove up to the Farmington Polo Club for the annual Concorso Ferrari & Friends Event, hosted by the New England Region of the Ferrari Club of America. We arrived around the middle of the show, but by then it was clear many cars had already left. With an hour to go, cars were being loaded on trailers or being driven out (MAJOR kudos to the guy that roared out in his Ferrari 250 GTO!). So while it was a limited field of cars, it was a good time to get up close to some beautiful, rare, exotic Italian machinery. I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story.

And if you were wondering, the body shell you see in the picture gallery is a freshly painted 1958 Ferrari 250 Series I Cabriolet. Because there is no better way to spend Father’s Day than showing your five year old son the suspension mounting points on a vintage Ferrari!

The answer to Redbull’s success

Way back when, I bought a 1975 Fiat 124 Coupe and the first thing I did was run to Canadian Tire and buy a Haynes manual to walk me through the myriad of things that needed to be done. Haynes taught me how to set the points on the first 4 cylinder I had worked on and taught me how to install new ball joints. About a half hour after I replaced them, the shaft portion of one of those new ball joints split in 2 and my beloved Fiat did a nose dive at Finch and Don Mills.

Fortunately for the folks at Red Bull, it would seem that Italian replacement parts have improved in the past 30 odd years. But some things never change and Haynes is one of those things. Well, they have changed a bit. Instead of buying a copy, you can download your very own copy of the Haynes F1 manual!

Ok, so it is a press manual and not an F1 car how to manual, but it will tell you everything you need to know about the Red Bull team for 2011.