I was recently interviewed on the Garage Heroes in Training podcast and they asked me a lot of really interesting questions. I want to follow that up in a series of posts on YSAR where I get into a little more depth on a few topics.
This is one of the silliest posts I’ve ever made. There’s basically no useful content.
There were a surprising number of questions about favorite cars. 5 favorite cars? Tap-root car? Car I’d want to build? Car that got away?
Every car I’ve ever driven on track has been fun. Honda Odyssey? Yes. Kia Soul? Absolutely. Ford Ranger? Loved it. I’ve also driven some sporty machinery like a ZL1 Camaro, Boxster S, and E46 M3. In the end, how much does the car matter? A little, but not that much to me. Why is that? I think it’s because modern cars are generally built really well. It’s hard to find a really bad car. But even if a car was bad, it would offer an interesting optimization problem.
When I daydream, I don’t think about high performance cars. I can’t afford one. I also have no intention of driving such a thing on the street. However, to get closer to the spirit of the question, if I could drive any car on track just for fun, it probably would be a low-powered purpose-built racecar like a Formula Ford, Thunder Roadster, or Spec Racer Ford.
I said I didn’t daydream about high performance cars, but I do daydream about low performance cars. I don’t belong to many car groups on Facebook, but the ones I belong to include “Y U RUNE KLASSIK?”, “Safari all the Cars”, and “Wagon Elitist Jerks”. Apparently I want to modify a classic station wagon by kitting it out with off-road gear. Rally wagon? 1000 times yes!
On the podcast I said Alain Prost was my favorite racer (just to irk all the Senna fans). Although I own a book Prost co-authored, I’ve actually never seen him race. I don’t watch much racing and never F1. I’ve had the good fortune of having some pro drivers race on my team such as Randy Pobst, Roger Eagleton, and Matt Shinnors. But I don’t really follow those guys. If you asked me what racer I’ve watched more than any other, it’s definitely Pablo Marx aka stupenduzzman on YouTube. Pablo is a NorCal racer who does budget endurance racing like Lemons, Lucky Dog, and ChampCar. I think he also used to do Formula D (pro drifting). I really like watching him drive because he drives with 100% commitment. He drove with my team one race and we had a great time racing through the night.
Manual vs. Auto?
I’m not a manual transmission purist. While I feel like heel-toe shifting is a challenging and worthwhile technique to master, it’s not a big part of my driving. So I’m okay with driving an auto. That said, the auto on my Elantra sucks on track. It’s great for the Meals on Wheels gig, but it has its own idea about when to shift, and it’s never my idea. Some modern transmissions do rev-matched downshifting. Is that cheating? Maybe, but it also saves the engine from over-revving. I put this in the same category as tire-saving ABS: 51/49 in favor. Which is to say, if it’s me driving my car, I’d like to go all analog. But if I’m driving someone else’s car or they’re driving my car, I’d rather have a few nannies.
RWD, FWD, AWD?
High powered RWD cars are good old-fashioned fun. Everyone knows this. But here’s a less well known fact: FWD cars with no weight on their rear wheels are a fucking riot. If you’ve never driven a FWD car that is tuned for oversteer, you’re missing one of the great pleasures in vehicle entertainment. Imagine gently bending into a corner, lifting, and having the back end do all the steering for you.
You: “Wait, did I just go through a corner without turning the wheel?”
Car: “Yes, that’s how it works around here”
I’ve actually never driven an AWD aggressively. I wonder if I’d love it as much as RWD and FWD… only one way to find out… rally wagon.
On the podcast, I said that Thunderhill West was my favorite track. I also mentioned that Pineview Run in upstate New York is a hidden gem. Recently, both tracks made their way into Assetto Corsa. Are these great sim tracks also? Yes! I think that what is true in the real world is generally true in the virtual world and vice-versa. This reinforces my desire to drive Mid Ohio, Brands Hatch, The Ridge, and about 20 other tracks on the list. On the other hand, I have no interest in driving Watkins Glen again in the real or virtual world. I’m sure it gets more fun as speeds increase, but it also gets even less safe.
They asked me what song I would like to hear again for the first time. That caught me off guard. I chose “Sour Times” by Portishead. I think there are a lot of songs I wish I could hear again for the first time. Most of the those are linked to old memories, and I think choosing based on nostalgia isn’t the same as choosing because the sound was somehow profound. So here’s a list of some of the most amazing music I know.
- How Soon is Now? by the Smiths. In retrospect, this is the most impactful song I’ve heard. Some people call it the Gen-X anthem, and it’s hard to disagree.
- Sour Times by Portishead. I like music that sounds like it could have come from a spy movie, and the best in that category is the Peter Gunn Theme by Henri Mancini. But here it is from The Cramps. If music was racing then The Cramps and B-52s would be in the 24 Hours of Lemons. I guess that’s why they are two of my favorites bands.
- Everything Turns Grey by Agent Orange. Agent Orange is one of the premier “Skate Rock” bands of the 80s. It’s 51/49 Punk/Surf.
- The Guns of Brixton by The Clash. Speaking of Punk Rock, my favorite of that era is The Clash. The Clash weren’t your typical Punk band and this isn’t a typical Clash song. In the video, you can see that Paul is singing and playing guitar while Joe is on bass.
- Miserlou by Dick Dale. And speaking of Surf, this is where the conversation starts and ends.
- Foxy Lady by Jimi Hendrix. For me, this defines Rock-n-Roll more than any other song. Like racing, I didn’t discover Jimi Hendrix until later in life.
- Split into Factions by Curve. I could have put any of the early Curve songs in here. Shoegaze is my favorite genre of music, which includes bands like My Bloody Valentine and Jesus and Mary Chain. Shoegaze’s less noisy side is Dreampop, which includes Joy by The Sundays, I Know by Trespassers William, and Fade into You by Mazzy Star.
- Did I stop listening to music in the 90s? Sort of, but just to prove otherwise, here are some modern Shoegaze/Dreampop songs that I adore: High Rise by Cross Record (featured in The Black List), Sun Baby by the High Violets, Hare Tarot Lies by No Joy, Shoulders by Fazerdaze, Ghost by Megumi Acorda, The Race by Sungaze, and Bleed by Soot Sprite.