I have been meaning to mention this for a couple of weeks, but Yehuda Moon has moved from behind the paywall. When their old comments software went down and was no longer supported they had a choice: lose 4 years of comments or lose the paywall. Since the paywall has been as popular as a porcupine in a nudist colony, and the comments section has been the primary reason people were paying to read the comic, we have today’s headline.
As some of you might know I love cars when they are on a closed track all going the same direction, and not driving around me. Today we have two of those going on TV, the Grand Am Rolex series in Sonoma, and the NHRA Nationals (The Big Go) from Indianapolis. I haven’t been able to follow the NHRA points battles as well as I would like, the “regular job” of this blog kind of monopolizing my time and evening services at church coming at the same time as the ESPN2 broadcast of the races. Having been a road racer from back when Reagan was president, and a hard-working SCCA member (I still have an award plaque from working every event in an entire season back in the 1980′s) I’m very interested in the Grand Am event. I’m a nuts and bolts kind of road racer, I like restrictive rules that encourage design innovations, like Formula Ford. I’m not quite as enamored of rules packages like Daytona prototypes that while they have lots of different engines the rest of the cars are nearly identical in geometry and appearance by rules rather than by evolution. The Gen3 cars have only 2 aero packages that look almost identical, to go with the Gen2 pair of aero packages. So you have 3 or 4 chassis makers that have 2 sets of bodywork that have to interchange as the aero package is tied to the engine manufacturers. The Corvette package is only for use by the GM engine cars, while the other aero package is for the Ford, Porsche, and BMW engines and aside from the side pods and the tail light panel I can’t tell them apart, similar to the Gen2 packages that had a common windshield (I think, they looked almost the same).
Now if you want to talk about a simple, restrictive but open rules book you don’t need to look any further than the ISMA rules for Supermodified racers for oval tracks. Maximum wheelbase, no minimum, maximum width, a near spec-engine rule (cast iron Chevy big-block of 470 Cu. In.) very few engine location rules (the front 2/3 of the wheelbase) a spec tire rule with a choice of left rear tires to adapt the cars for different radius turns (basically everyone is going to use the same left rear tire because stagger is such an important variable and the size gaps between allowed tires are large enough that only one combination will work per track). If I was still building oval track cars this is the rules package I would be building under.
Now a rules package I’m not too fond of as a builder is the Sprint Cup rules that are such that you can change a Dodge Charger to a Toyota Camry with an engine swap and swapping the nose cap, tail cap, and window pillars. For the teams this is great, because it really reduces costs, but for us nuts and bolts geeks it is utter purgatory.
That’s the reason why I like building bikes. Actually I like building recumbent bikes, not those hyper-regulated UCI things that have rules for everything including the rider’s shoes for aerodynamic parity. And the aggravating thing is the bikes are so highly regulated under the UCI that finding any edge requires cubic $ expended in wind tunnels to tune the rider position while the unfaired recumbents we just lay the rider back as far as he can still see what’s out front and call it good. The faired bikes you have to use CFD and wind tunnels to get that last MPH out of it for IHPVA records and WHPSC championships, but for HPRa and WRRA races you can “eyeball” it and call it good and still win races. You can run an entire season with a new bike in HPRa for less than the cost of wind tunnel testing for a single rider in the UCI, and win races if you’re a good enough rider. The thing is that even in the HPRa a good rider on a mediocre bike will beat a mediocre rider on a great bike. You need a great rider on a great bike to be sure of winning, but because this is not a pro series the riders are the biggest variable to deal with. The design of the unfaired (“Stock” class) bikes has pretty much evolved to a fully reclined SWB bike with a small front wheel and lots of chain and leg overlap of the front wheel. The other classes are not so evolved and there are many different variations of what works and what wins in each class, with what works best for the rider being the biggest factor. What works for one rider is trash for another, which makes for some interesting racing, both from the “read about it later” and the “watch it while it happens” points of view.
And that’s what has been running through my mind today (and this week).