Oh, for pity’s sake.
Oh, for pity’s sake.
Now it can be told: Three times over the past year, Robert Farago and I attempted to buy Thetruthaboutcars.com, also known as TTAC, from its current owners. We had backers, we had writers. We had a man (me) and we had a plan (Robert’s) and if we didn’t have a canal well we at least had Van Halen’s “Panama” on vinyl. Each time we approached VerticalScope/Torstar, they gave us either a California No or a forthright no. Six months ago, things looked encouraging for a brief moment, but negotiations stalled when it was time to talk real numbers.
Their refusal to sell, however, is not why I’ve left TTAC as of 31 August 2018, and it’s not why my final effort for the site was published today.
As some of you know, and others deduced ahead of time, I made my debut in the Pirelli World Challenge this past Friday, driving the same Accord Coupe that I’ve been racing in NASA Great Lakes since May. It would be an understatement to say that we brought a knife to a gun fight; not only did I have the slowest and heaviest car in the race, I was one of just two FWD cars in a 21-car field.
We started 20th of 21 on the same tires we’d used for both practice and qualifying. On the first lap I made up five positions to win the Optima Batteries Best Start award. After five laps, I was running 14th and coming up on the 13th and 12th place Bimmers. That was when the CV joint in my right axle lost all its grease and started wobbling apart. Ten laps later my clutch checked out. I could no longer accelerate in fifth gear because the drag of the axle was so bad. I managed to hold on to 14th, winning the VP Fuels Hard Charger Award for gaining the most positions during the race. You can see the final classification on the PWC timing site.
Unfortunately for us, there was no new axle to be had within 500 miles on a Saturday night, so we elected to watch Sunday’s race rather than try repacking the wobbly axle. I didn’t want to risk our car and the cars of the 7 drivers that would have started behind me. That sucked. It sucks to be poor, at least in this context; I showed up pulling Spike the Accord on an open trailer. Some of the other teams had Prevosts, toterhomes, and spare cars. We were the only team that couldn’t afford a new set of tires for every session. I still haven’t paid for my fuel drum…
Doesn’t matter. I told my friends and my team that I could take them to The Show and demonstrate that we have what it takes to run with the big boys. I believed in them and I believed in myself. It takes a special kind of narcissistic jerkoff to sit on his couch in Ohio and say, “Hey, if I had an old Accord I bet I could whip some ass on television.” I am that jerkoff. If you look at the season points for Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car, you will see me and my team on there. Not dead last.
Click the jump for some more photos and a quick rundown of last week’s work.
The final single released by Jimi Hendrix before his death, Stepping Stone, ends with a kind of intensity crescendo followed by the squeak of a pick (or hand) on his guitar strings, the click and buzz typically intended to suggest a cut-in from the recording booth to the studio, and a voice, not Jimi’s, saying “…made it.”
That’s how I felt at about two o’clock today when Danger Girl crossed the line to finish her first NASA sprint race. All day on Friday and Saturday we had struggled with a random cutout at speed that eventually became a misfire which eventually became the car running on just three cylinders. After no small amount of drama and hassle, I traced it to the trigger wire for the coilpack which had melted inside the intact housing and coil clip.
Naturally, the parts were only available back home in Columbus, so we missed Saturday’s race. And just as naturally for Ohio, today’s qualifying session was a rain-soaked mess. DG elected to start at the back of a 50-car race group. She didn’t finish last and she did not have the slowest lap times. We are going to call that an unqualified success. She also set her personal best lap for Mid-Ohio’s Club configuration in the middle of some unpleasant Spec Miata traffic. Finally, Marilyn the MX-5 Cup Car rang the Dynojet to the tune of 148 RWHP after our quick-and-dirty wiring-harness fix. All good news.
Let’s catch up on the Week That Was.
I have been to the mountaintop, as the man once said. More specifically, to Mount Evans, the highest paved road in North America. This is actually the second time I’ve been to the mountaintop; the last time I was driving a McLaren 650S right after the snowplows had made an icy but usable path for me to follow. This time the weather was good, the car was FWD, and the goats were out in force. For more hot animal action and for a link to the (extremely) short roundup for this week, click El Linko.
Hoo boy, this is a bad picture. But if you’re either a frequent reader of this site or a resident of certain urban areas, you’ll recognize it nevertheless: It’s the Xiaomi Mi scooter used by BIRD as its the base platform for its “mobility solution”. I saw it at a Xiaomi-specific store in Kuala Lumpur. We might consider Xiaomi and the other Chinese home-market brands like it a sort of weird cheapo unobtanium primarily sourced through Massdrop and Alibaba, but in Asia they have stores that are as big and as diverse as the ones operated by Apple. The Samsung store I saw was even more impressive; they’re wayyyyy ahead of what you can get here.
Speaking of Samsung, and of Korea in general: During my twelve-hour layover at Incheon two weeks ago, Danger Girl and I took a “temple culture tour” offered by the South Korean government in cooperation with the airport authorities. We didn’t have to get our passports stamped or anything like that; we were simply released into the wild through customs control without so much as a single question asked and told to meet a bus operator in 90 minutes. The bus took us to some temples. These temples were, by and large, ground-up reconstructions of temples that had existed a long time ago. I was mildly upset by this. Where’s the “authenticity” in a brand-new temple designed to look like an old one? I’ll write a bit more about this in the future, but in the meantime here’s a fascinating essay on the differing ways that East and West regard concepts like “originality” and “copying”.
For some all-original, uncopied content, click the jump.
This past week, about a hundred of my best Malaysian pals and I drove 2,877 kilometers from Kuala Lumpur to Hua Hin and back. Our vehicles ranged from the prosaic (an RHD NC1 MX-5 which has the same “4×4” ride height as its American sibling) to the unbelievable (a pair of Kevlar-bodied Bufori Genevas, about which more later). In the weeks to come, I will be bringing you all sorts of pictures, stories, and analysis pieces from this trip.
This was a true vacation for me in the sense that I hardly worked during the trip. So this Roundup will be a light one, but I do have two full-length print pieces which have just made their way on the Web.
I was talking to a friend recently about addictive behaviors and he introduced me to the phrase “catfish bottom”. It’s well-known within the twelve-step programs that an addict needs to hit “rock bottom” before he can truly have the desire to change. (Not everyone agrees with that; here’s an alternate perspective.) What my friend told me about was “catfish bottom”, where you get about as low as you can go but you’re still functioning, albeit imperfectly. A lot of people can spend years at catfish bottom.
Those of you who knew me circa 2011-2012 would have seen the “catfish bottom” me, particularly with respect to both drinking and relationships. I never missed a deadline or lost a job because of it but I was certainly exhibiting some remarkably addictive behaviors. I can distinctly remember a night when I was in my 911, trying to make it from one “hotel date” to another one, doing maybe 110 on a mostly but not entirely empty freeway, and screaming at the windshield because I’d underestimated my travel time and I was about to be caught out in a lie by Date Number Two. Right as I was executing some 6,900-rpm outrageous six-lane swerve pass on a bunch of tractor-trailers, I had this moment of clarity: “I’m not even having any fun doing this. It’s like a job. It’s like working fast food, except I can’t be sullen when I’m serving the customer.”
Luckily for me, my date was running even later than I was… well, either I was lucky or she was being just as bad. I think she blamed it on her husband at the time, which is the Cheating Wife’s Adamantium Excuse and usually just means she had an extra drink before leaving the house. But that’s a discussion for another time.
Anyway 2018 feels like “catfish bottom” for racing addiction here at Casa Baruth. Between endurance racing, SCCA, NASA, PWC, and vintage, I’m on the hook for 24 days under green. Add Time Trials and noncompetitive stuff; that’s maybe another 14 days on track. A whole month in pit lane. As with alcohol, heroin, or sex, the obsessive pursuit of auto racing can force you into some bizarre behaviors and some even more bizarre justifications. The difference is that if you’re doing it right you wind up surrounding yourself with good people and making memories that fill you with satisfaction instead of unsteadiness. But I’d be surprised if we did this much next year.
After the jump I’ll have some photos of those good people, taken at the recent AER event, plus a link to what Bark and I wrote this week.
Two of my readers took the time this week to send me links to and/or a third-party commentary on a Cosmo piece about an obese woman who decided the world needed to see her in a bikini at Times Square. Note that I’m not calling her “obese” as an insult. It’s merely a medical fact. According to the standard chart, I’m currently obese as well, scaling 241 pounds at six-two. I would need to drop to 234 to be merely overweight, and I would need to be 195 or less to be a normal weight. The writer in this case clearly weighs more than I do despite being perhaps ten inches shorter; medically speaking, she is probably “morbidly obese”.
I found the story fascinating. Not because the writer is an obese woman who wanted to strip in public — there’s a whole social movement about that, called “fatkini” — but because she believed she could exercise absolute power over what happened afterwards. As a parent, I’m concerned about that. Allow me to explain.
After the minor heartbreak of last weekend’s losses at NCM’s American Endurance Racing double enduro, it was really nice to come back and win both days at MidOhio with SCCA in my Neon. Yesterday I qualified 7th overall, 1st in class, and finished 6th overall, 1st in class. Despite being hit four separate times by the same Miata in this morning’s qualifying race, I was able to qualify 7th and finish 4th overall in the afternoon, just 0.6 seconds behind the third-place Mustang and picking up another first in class.
Click the jump for a video of my reasonably strong start, where I grabbed 3 places in the first 700 feet, and to read a rundown of this week’s contributions.