Thursday, June 27, 2013

What Price Glory?

The title of this post does not refer to the stage play, or multiple motion pictures by the same name, which are war related dramas, but rather to a horrendous event of the 2013, 24 Hours of Le Mans. Maybe that does make it war related.

The Le Mans race this year was held under difficult conditions, mainly resulting from repeated bouts of rain that caused poor and mixed surface conditions on the track.

An experienced Danish driver, Allan Simonsen, who drove an Aston Martin in the race, was killed on his fourth lap. I confess that when I came across a video of the accident, I looked at it. I wanted to know what had happened, and why. Thankfully, the crash itself is not visible in the brief video, but some of the driving and conditions preceding it are seen. As you might expect, scrutiny of this event appeared on the Web. Here I quote one person's comment about the video. It appeared on a popular Porsche discussion forum.

"It had been raining.    

"Car looked squirrley before he overcorrected.

"This has turned into a 24 hour sprint race. The teams are driving on the edge the whole time. There was a decent amount of rain and most teams stayed out on slicks anyway to avoid the stop their competitors weren't taking."

To these comments, I responded, "The above sums it up for me. At some point when drivers' lives are devalued in the interest of winning, it's no longer a sport, and no longer interesting."

Oddly, after only 12 posts on the subject of Simonsen's loss, mine was the last and nobody else offered any thoughts. Naturally, this sad event was mentioned in the press (of course, it was sensational) and in remarks made by team bosses and the like. They pointed out that no one has been killed in the race for 27 years. That doesn't make it OK. Somebody remarked, "Bummer . . ." Really?

Today's cars are dramatically more reliable and capable than those of 27 years ago, so keeping a winning advantage often comes down to pit-stop numbers, and the length thereof - almost more than the differences between the various marques of car. Yes, in the midst of this, Porsche is celebrated for its stellar performance, yet again, as it won both the GTE-Pro, and GTE-Am classes, and it deserves congratulations. Not everyone has the history and engineering resources of Porsche.

Nevertheless, does a driver today become a consumable commodity, like tires and brake pads? Do 24 hour sprint races that jeopardize a driver's earthly existence have a place in auto sport? Simonsen was violently killed - because it would have taken too long, in a 24 hour race, to switch to appropriate tires? If so, this is obscene, and can't be tossed off as 'too bad' because it is a risky sport and this happens now and then.

I know I'm preaching about this, but I think people have an obligation to do so. And it's true that the complete cause(s) of the accident are not yet known with certainty; various wet surfaces with different slipperinesses are cited, etc. To me it doesn't matter if subtle additional influences are discovered to have contributed to the crash, because at the root of it they were just pushing too hard. A team can push as forcefully as it can imagine, but not to the point of insanity. A cover-up would not surprise me.

In our enlightened culture today a person can look at Web videos and TV programs that feature 'fails'. Often this means that a person gets hurt, or even killed, and this is viewed as entertainment. No wonder drivers are expendable; this is no better than gladiators fighting to their deaths in ancient Rome.     

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Porsche Personality Type

If you have been referred to this post from another site, please don't stop here. There are posts on this blog that cover a broad variety of subjects and it might interest you to check them out, also.  Click on 'Newer Post', 'Home', or 'Older Post' at the bottom of this page, or the list at the right.

We now celebrate the more-or-less 50th anniversary of the Porsche 911 automobile, and in the field of Psychology, study of Type A personality theory also has been going on for these same 50 years. The term “Type A” is tossed around often, but it’s not always exactly known what precise characteristics make up the “Type A” personality, because even among experts there is disagreement. Therefore, this post is offered as a public service for those automotive sorts who remain confused on this subject.

The Type A personality typically is associated with time urgency, aggressiveness, hostility and competitiveness. Porsche boasts of over 30,000 victories in auto-sport competition. Type A's have a clear drive for success, victory, high ambition and are goal oriented. Doesn't that sound like racing?  What are high performance sports cars supposed to do, if not to perform exactly in the manner we accuse high performance, combative and work-obsessed Type A people of doing? After all, a lot of Porsche owners must admit to some level of Type A drive.

© = ?

Type A persons have short fuses, and one unrelated but often cited trait is that they experience facial sweating, particularly of the forehead and upper lip. Vintage Porsche cars suffer sweating, too, but it comes from the underside of the rump of the car in the form of oil. Maybe that doesn't count. However, the core idea of Porsche's vaunted competition record says that Porsche equals power, speed, precision, and superior design and engineering. We're better than you, it says. The short fuse thing I haven't figured out, because Porsches tend to last - 16 overall wins at Le Mans, and next year they will be at it again . . .

Type B personalities tend to be more creative, imaginative, and philosophical. In other words, they are the people who design Porsche cars in the first place. You need to be creative in order to make a car with the engine in the wrong place perform in an acceptable fashion. What was Ferdinand thinking? Anyway, Type A types get things done, because they have to, or else they blow a fuse. There is a genuine health risk with this, it's not just a joke; heart attacks, strokes - Type B people never die of anything but angst or faded inspiration. 

Luckily most of us are a blend of Type A and Type B. This means that some Porsche owners, like me, can actually think as well as drive like bats-out-of-hell. This combination of attributes is special, so hang in there if you are so blessed, because the world needs balance, especially these days. Yin-yang.

Like so many things in life, the whole story is not as simple as A+B, it's more complicated, because there are Type C individuals running around out there, as well. Type C stands for caviar. These are the persons who collect Porsche cars, but never drive them. They are the creators of the concept of the Garage Queen, and they typically wear gold chains around their necks. Once, when I was in the market for a Porsche, I discovered one that was for sale under very fishy circumstances, in Florida. It looked beautiful in the online pictures, for the most part, and even though the color wasn't right (see post "The Power of Color" below - or, read your way down there) I called to inquire about the details as no price had been listed.

While on the phone the whole story began to become suspicious - it got suspiciouser later. This man who was "not a dealer" was selling this car as a favor for a man, his friend, who lived in Connecticut. The car was in Florida, because this non-dealer had it shipped down there so as to be better able to sell it, he said. He also said that he sold the car to his friend in Connecticut in the first place (causing it to be shipped up to Conn. from Florida to begin with), but now the friend wanted to sell it. The mysterious Connecticut man had had the car for one year, but, I was told, had never even sat in the car during that time. It was just parked in a corner of his warehouse along with many of his other cars. Why was it that a man who could afford a warehouse full of cars could not manage to sell this unwanted Porsche locally? Nobody in his neighborhood could provide this busy man a consignment sale sort of thing?

So, the Florida non-dealer did his best to convince me of the immaculate condition of the car. "I have my doubts about the condition of the car," I said. He became decidedly unsettled. "The car is perfect!" His voice rose. "If it has been sitting, maybe for years, it isn't perfect," I said. "Seals and gaskets dry, gas dries, corrosion sets in, no matter what the car looks like," I said. "If I were to buy that car the lack of use might cause it to break down while I drive it home."

"Drive it home !!" He became apoplectic and I had to hold the phone away from my ear. "Something might happen if you drive it on the road," he yelled. I think he might have been a Type A. "I want a car to drive, not park on a pedestal," I said, "but I'll make you an offer." And then I mentioned a price that I thought favorable. "I won't sell this car for that price !!"  (now he was screaming), and he slammed down the phone.

This image and the above borrowed from the web
 A week later I saw a fantastic Porsche for sale on eBay, but this time the color was so unique that even I was taken aback by it. But, it was a consistent Concours d'Elegance winner and totally amazing - and it was regularly driven. Oddly, the car was in Connecticut. Also, it was too expensive, but somebody did buy it in that auction; I watched the bidding. A few weeks after that I saw the same car (obviously - that color) for sale again, but not in an auction. I didn't want the car, but I was curious, so I telephoned; it was now in Florida. "I'm not a dealer, but I'm selling that car for a friend," the man said, "my friend has had it for a year and hasn't even sat in it in that time . . ."

No doubt this represented a special branch of the Type C personality, but in any case a car is for driving. Collecting, I don't really understand, but then I'm an A+B kind of guy.

"Richness does not consist in the possession of treasures, but in the use made of them. " - Napoleon Bonaparte.