Archive for November, 2011

Pontiac Aztek

Posted: November 18, 2011 in Rants

The #1 feeder of people to this website is google searches for the perenially shitty Pontiac Aztek.

Not what I had in mind when I built this site.

But I’ll roll with it.

My First Rally Cross

Posted: November 14, 2011 in Rants
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Holy shit – what an amazing event.

Now, prior to participating in my first event on Saturday, I had always had the image of RallyCross somewhere along the lines of flat-brimmed hat wearing douchebags doing stupid shit in the dirt while drinking energy drinks.

To be honest, that does describe some of the drivers.  You see, the participants in this event were generally divided into two kinds of people.  Complete rednecks, and socially inept Subaru nerds.  I’m not sure where I fell.

Still confused as to what RallyCross is?  Let me explain.  Or rather, I’ll let the SCCA explain.
Imagine a scaled down version of a rally stage laid out on a non-paved plot of land where the course is delineated by traffic cones instead of trees or rocks.
Sounds fun?  It is.
Essentially, you are attempting to control the car in a seriously low traction environment.  All the skills learned from road racing and autocrossing apply.  From road racing, you need to know how to take the appropriate line and gauge braking properly – this isn’t your typical 50 second long autocross course – you’re looking at roughly 2 minutes per run.  Muscle memory and brain memory of the course takes a lot longer than in autocross.  What you will use from autocross are the skills of car control, or rather, not crashing while the car flirts and exceeds the limits of traction.
A very interesting component of RallyCross is that it rewards consistency.  Unlike Autocross, where you get to take your fastest run time, RallyCross adds up all of your lap times.  At this event, we got 10 runs.  What does this mean?  It means it rewards consistency.  It punishes over reaching.  With a typical autocross, once a good run is laid down you can take risks and try to go faster, and if you blow it, you don’t really lose much – your fastest run still exists.  If you blow it in a RallyCross you ruin your entire day.  This means you have to dial it back and retain a conservative element in your driving so as not to overreach and suffer a horrific setback.  Perhaps this is one of the things I enjoy, as I’m not ultimately a blazing fast driver, but I am a consistent driver.
Of course, driving in the day is fine.  You can see where you’re going.  This event added a completely new element – we only had 3 clean, daylight runs – then we took a break and waited for the sun to set.
Driving at night is a completely different beast.  It is a rush.  You cannot look ahead – you must react as you see.  By the end of the night your muscle memory has somewhat developed, and you can even “feel” your way through the course as ruts developed in the ground to guide us, but those first few outings in pitch black with only your headlights to guide you is simultaneously exhilarating, and terrifying.  A few people at the event actually lost their resolve and slowed to a complete crawl.
The night time is what separated the boys from the men – were you insane enough to push the pace, even without vision?  I was.  My times improved even in the pitch blackness.  My senses sharpened, my adrenaline pumped (maybe it was the Red Bull?).  Whatever it was, it was one of the most fun times I’ve ever had in my life.  Plus, I actually did quite well against the competition.

Porsche is Dead to Me

Posted: November 8, 2011 in Rants
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Yes, folks, its finally happened.

I have since stopped drinking the Kool-Aid and come to the realization that this company is a joke.  It is no longer run by enthusiasts who want to produce the best sports car in the world.  It is run by beancounters, and it is run by sycophants.

Why am I so pissed off?  Lets talk about the litany of issues Porsche has offended its consumers with.

Well, for starters, we’ve got the M96 engine.  This has been covered elsewhere.

One of the biggest problems is the worship of the 911.  Rear engine, rear wheel drive is a dynamically inferior setup.  Porsche themselves admits this tacitly with the creation of the Carrera GT and now the 918 (their top of the line mid-engine supercars) as well as their plans to build a higher end car to compete with Ferrari and Lamborghini – a car that will be mid-engine.  A car that MUST be mid-engine in order to compete.  Because of the worship of the 911, they have engaged in a persistent pattern of crippling their “lesser” cars.

Yes, crippleware.  Deliberately equipping vehicles with inferior equipment so that they cannot be superior to the 911.  Porsche consistently and deliberately limits their mid-engined cars for fear that the vehicles would prove faster than their rear engine cars due to the superior chassis dynamics of a mid engine vehicle as opposed to a rear engine vehicle. This includes equipping them with inferior gearing (2nd gear hits 70 mph in the Cayman and Boxster as opposed to 60 mph in the 911), resulting in slower acceleration. It also includes the refusal to equip the Cayman or Boxster with the larger and more powerful engines from the 911, despite the fact that many enthusiasts and aftermarket tuners have fitted these more powerful engines into the vehicles. It also includes deliberately equipping the Boxster and Cayman with inferior oiling systems which include oil pans that are not baffled, wet sump systems, and air-oil separators that are too small.  For years they didn’t even offer a limited slip differential in the Boxster or Cayman.  Finally, Porsche equips these vehicles with smaller wheel and tire packages (despite the fact that larger packages can fit) and with lower grip rubber from the factory (despite the existence of higher grip rubber).  As I said before, many of these problems can be remedied – resulting in cars that are faster than the halo 911, despite the deliberate disadvantages built in from the Factory.

Porsche learned their lesson – the 944 Turbo was faster than the 911, and cheaper – and the end result was that it cannibalized 911 sales.  Never again will they allow their sacred cow to suffer – the company panders to the geezers who believe the 911 is the ultimate sports car, and as a result, will not allow any other model to shine.  A shame, because the mid-engined cars are rather good.  In fact, they’ve taken this a step further with their pricing – despite the fact that the Cayman is actually cheaper to build than the Boxster (hard top vs. complex convertible top), because it is faster due to the stiffness of the chassis, the Cayman actually costs more than the Boxster.  Coupled with this is the fact that the Cayman makes nominally more power than the Boxster – although my suspicion is that this power bump exists on paper only.

Porsche is very aware of their own self-imposed hierarchy and ensures that it continues to exist.  You wouldn’t want the poseur with his $150,000 Turbo Cabriolet to get his ass handed to him by a $60,000 Cayman, now would you?  That would upset your fat, white, balding, middle aged privileged customer base.

Along these lines there are the special editions.  Cars that do actually come with some neat features, and often offer a “value” proposition – lots of equipment bundled up which results in some savings.  The Cayman R and Boxster Spyder are both wonderful examples – yet still, they refuse to equip these cars with a serious wheel and tire package, and they retain the same engine.  Oh, they appear to have 10 more horsepower, but that horsepower bump is, in fact, just on paper.

What has finally resulted in my outrage is the existence of known defects.  Specifically, Porsche knew their water pumps were garbage when they came out with their new generation of water cooled flat six engines – they had a plastic impeller, yet Porsche, in their arrogance, took years to remedy the problem.  Porsche knew their M96 engines were garbage from the start, which is why they offered replacement engines out of “good will” for so long.  Porsche knew the coolant expansion tank in the Boxster was garbage but never bothered to fix that for years.  And finally, they knew the air oil separator in their mid engine cars couldn’t handle high G loads but only very recently came out with a factory fix.  It is this level of arrogance, refusal to admit a mistake, and placing the 911 on an altar above all other cars (even cars that were inherently better) that has finally caused me to tell Porsche to go fuck themselves.

Yes, I’m getting rid of my Boxster S and while I may go out and purchase an old 944 (probably Porsche’s best car of all time) I’m done with their modern offerings for quite a while.