Monday, March 26, 2012

We're moving!

Going forward, this site will be converted over to FlatOutMotoring located conveiniently at.... ! After a few years with Blogger and being disappointed/tired of their interface, it's time to move everything over to WordPress. Going forward, all content will be located there, please feel free to hit the link above to continue following!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

2012 12 Hours of Sebring - Road Trip

If you're a sports car or racing fan and you live within a few hours of Sebring, Florida then you have no excuse for having not attended this race. Seriously, go buy tickets for the 2013 race, disregard the fact that it has a yet-to-be-announced field. The race is a must-attend for anyone in North America who wants to see both the spectacle that is world-class racing and the spectacle that is the infield.

Cayman pre-roadtrip

I was heading down to Sebring to cover the 12 Hours of Sebring for and after last year, where a drunk guy hit my car while it was in the media lot, I had to sleep in my car and I netted about an hour's sleep before getting up at 6:45AM to cover the full race, the aftermath and then drive 4 hours home - I was hoping to avoid a lot of those hang ups. So, I got up at 3AM, dropped a Nikon D90, rented 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, and a few others into the front of the Cayman, gassed up on some Shell Premium and hit the road by 4AM. Being a finance and accounting guy, I'd already mapped out my route - I-95 to I-4 to US-27 South straight into Sebring - and mapped out an aggressive time and speed to hit the front gate within an hour of the gates opening on Saturday morning. God willing and with the help of a 997 Turbo and Corvette as lead cars - I managed to break my pre-conceived time and was walking thru the front gate by 7:30AM. The Cayman performed admirably - returning about 26MPG, comfort and a lot of fun for my first road trip in a Porsche.

A quick tram ride later and I was into the circus that is the infield, standing atop the Gurney Terrace overlooking the pit lane, paddock and a bit of the infield. It was time for morning practice and a few shots in the lovely Florida morning light as the drivers and teams got one last shot at getting it right before the curtain went up on the 60th 12 Hours of Sebring.

#17 Falken Tire Porsche GT3 RSR

For the start of the race, I tucked back into a front row seat on the Gurney Terrace, just above BMW Team RLL's pit boxes. Sitting third and sixth in GT, the team at Rahal Letterman Lanigan had their work cut out for them. With guys like Auberlen, Hand and the two Mullers(Jorg & Dirk) - it was almost a forgone conclusion they'd make it around the Vette's and Ferrari's impeding their progress. My other major interest in the race? Watching what the trio of Audi R18's were going to do.

When trying to take shots I had to remember a few things about the R18's: They're always leading the pack by a good few seconds and if I look away for a second, I could easily miss them bounding between turns. They're literally so quiet that if I looked down to change camera settings - a mechanical whoosh would brush by me only to look up and find an R18 right on top of me and already too far gone to get a shot. The R18's alone are worth trying to make it to an FIA WEC race before they go the way of Peugeot.

Audi plowing thru 17A

I spent the afternoon wandering the infield, grabbing shots from a few small bluffs overlooking a handful of turns before finding a luxurious clump of trees at the edge of the run-off just beyond the Gurney Bend between Turns 6 & 7. From there I could people watch during the full course yellow from an accident a few turns away. Young and old, drunk and sober, clothed and partially nude - the 12 Hours of Sebring has it all in terms of people. The infield is a sea of beer bottles, cook outs, and pick up trucks mixed with high priced automotive exotica. The whole feeling is a enormous dichotomy that unknowingly still manages to work - even with guys wandering around, drunk and in cow costumes. Rumor has it The Pit in the infield of Sebring has been a very raunchy place over the years but it would seem the current iteration has scaled it back somewhat - perhaps less sex on top of RVs in front of everyone to make it more family friendly?

Pair of BMW M3 GT's

By early evening, there were still seven GT cars on the lead lap and contending for first in class with a pair of BMW's some Corvettes and Ferrari's all pushing each other. Ironically, not much later the pair of Luxury Racing Ferrari 458's went out - I'm not sure what the problems were but their day ended prematurely. I found my way back over to the BMW Hospitality chalet on the edge of Turn 17A where I was treated to gourmet food while indulging in deafening racing mixed with another long full course yellow as one of the GTC 911's managed to have an off and plow directly into the tires. No injuries but it definitely took out the GT3 in addition to a big chuck of wall.


Dinner was followed by a quick climb into the BMW Team RLL guest racing suit and it was into the pits right after a driver change with Dirk Muller coming out and Joey Hand going in to close out the last two hours of the race. In addition to the driver change BMW was able to get both cars out ahead of the Corvettes who had been some of the biggest competition over the previous 10 hours. Joey's car was beginning to develop a possible misfire so concerns were growing that the engine's health would quickly deteriorate before reaching the end of the race. Ironically, as everything seems to in ALMS, it came down to the last lap and it wasn't an engine problem which reared it's head but an AF Corse of Gianmaria Bruni who, 90 laps down, tried to make an improbably pass on Joey where there was no room to pass. Thus, Joey was bounced off-track while Bruni's teammate Olivier Beretta, who actually could have taken the lead from Hand after the spin, inexplicably spun as well and gave Joey the chance to rejoin the race and ultimately repass the limping Bruni and take first in the GT class. Amazing - after 12 hours of flat out racing, it still came down to the closing corners of the last lap.


Despite an invite to camp out in the infield, I had to work the next morning. Piling all of my gear back into the Cayman, I extracted it out of the back of Lot 2, a grass and mud pit, and hit the road again drafting behind a Corvette Z06 most of the way to Orlando before getting slowed by late night traffic. Opening back up from Winter Park onward to Daytona and then onto Jacksonville I was hustling to just get home and into bed. Parking the Cayman, I realized I'd just driven over 7 hours in a day along with the fact that I'd been awake for about 23 hours and paced much of the full Sebring track. Yes, I was exhausted but to witness a sports car race of the caliber of Sebring? I'll sleep when I'm dead.

For the full gallery - check out my 2012 12 Hours of Sebring.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The 2012 Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance in Photos

I was lucky enough to spend the entire weekend just 45 minutes North of Jax at the 2012 Amelia Island Concours. If you're reading this - you probably know Vic Elford was the guest of honor and 10 to 12 of the Ferrari 250 GTO's(nearly 1/3 of the word's population of the GTO's!) were present along with a handful of Shelby Cobras.

I also was lucky enough to spend part of the weekend cruising the island in a 1971 Maserati Ghibli Spyder - 1 of 125 produced. More on that later, though! Below are a few of my favorite shots from the Concours and Saturday's Italian car show: The Concorso Atlantico. For those who haven't been yet - the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance is a massive event - Porsches, Chevys, Caddys, Bentleys, BMWs, Ferraris - you name it, they've got a historically important road, concept or race car to represent those brands! This is definitely one of the premiere events in North America for classic cars. We even had a chance to speak with Wayne Carini of Chasing Classic Cars fame on the Velocity Channel. I plan to continue going every year!

You can find the full gallery here on Flickr.

Ferrari 250 GTO #24

Another Balsawood shifter in the Porsche 907

Ghibli and 330GTC

Ferrari 250 Lusso Interior

unknown classic

Car #1 - Ford GT40

Ferrari 250 GTO tour of Amelia Island

The Times They Are a Changin'

For the last 12 years I've been a BMW nut. Big time. For the last 10 years I've had an E46 3 Series in various forms and even segued that into working for the incredible for the last nearly 4 years. After deciding that having a 110,554 mile old BMW might not be practical - it was time to find a new car.

After nearly pulling the trigger on an 2008 Melbourne Red E90 M3 with 48k miles and nearly no warranty left, the same weekend I managed to find a used 2007 Porsche Cayman at local Porsche dealer and race team Brumos Porsche. With the wife in tow, we went to check out the car on Saturday afternoon before shooting down to Daytona to take advantage of free tickets to the Bud ShootOut. In the brief test drive, one thing was readily apparent: the Cayman really is one of the best handling cars in the sub-$100k range and it's a tight car in terms of steering and feel, showing me that the 3 Series is still a lot of fun but feels much more loosy-goosy in terms of the controls. Having a flat-six engine buzzing away over your shoulder is also quite an experience. The Cayman does manage to quiet down some once you're into higher gears - but the noise it makes at 4,000+ RPMs will probably keep you from wanting to grab the next gear.

After a day to think it over, on Veteran's Day I put in a full day at the office then headed back to Brumos that evening to pull the trigger on my first Porsche. The car itself was a 1 owner car with 43,905 miles when I picked it up. The Cayman is fairly stripped down with the only options being:

-18 inch wheels
- Colored Crests on the Center Caps
- Premium Sound Plus package
- Heated Seats
- 5 Speed Manual (Obviously!!!)
- Standard Black Paint over Sand Beige Leather Seats

The previous owner did quite a job on keeping the car both well-maintained and super clean. For a 5 year old car, the Cayman manages to hide its age on the outside while the interior feels basically brand new - I hope I can do it justice over my next few years of ownership.

So far over the course of the last three weeks the car has not disappointed. At just a hair over 2,900lbs and with Michelin Pilot Sports - the car's rear does not relinquish grip one iota. Fuel economy seems to be estimated at an enthusiast rating by Porsche at 19 City / 27 Highway(I've averaged 25 MPG on the highway at best) but perhaps it's my own prodigious right foot that's killing the economy.

All in all, it was time for a change - let's see if PCars will be as rewarding an enjoyable as BMW has been(and continues to be!) I've not left the BMW brand forever - but it was time for a change.

The Cayman will get it's first big test this weekend on my commute to the 12 Hours of Sebring, a 4 hour, 229 mile jaunt from Jacksonville to a tiny speck on the map of Central Florida. Be sure to keep an eye out on BMWBlog for our coverage of the 60th 12 Hours of Sebring and some photos to make an appearance here.