Saturday, February 10, 2018

Frankly Frankl - Grid Girls and Jackie Ickx - Frankly Frankl-life, luck, love and automobiles

My apologies for the long absence but things have been pretty hectic of late.

Still, I had to find time for Liberty Media’s latest brainwave or should I say brain fade with children taking the place of ladies who were under professional management, have never been harmed and had the times of their lives. One in particular recalled being near Kimi Raikkonen on the gird as one of the happiest days of her life. These ladies-aged from 18 to 36 –were supervised by an mature lady acting  i like a matron so it was so far above board it isn’t even funny.  They were also wearing a great deal more than some college students on Spring break..

Image result for formula 1 grid girlsWith Liberty being an American public company the bosses are terrified of their own shadows so to be on the safe and I dare say pathetic side they’ve decided to use children in the future. How they will select these little Johnnies and Jennifers God only knows but Jean Todt –a former tiger leading the Scuderia turned into a pussycat. I won’t go into the halo which really is for pansies but would respectfully suggest that apart from  one tragedy (hate to say this but it was the driver’s fault and it was a 1000 to one accident) in the last few years F1 has been the safest sport this side of chess. If you don’t believe me check on Google how many  legs or arms were broken during the 2017 season and then compare it to skiing or American football or motorcycle racing. So mostly boring drivers hidden in their carbon fiber bubbles driving around like school kids ‘cos they can’t get hurt is unlikely to get fans spending thousands of dollars for the “spectacle”.

Liberty should thank their lucky stars for Lewis Hamilton and  Verstappen plus up to a point much loved but ageing Raikkonen and what have you got ? Yawn a minute Bottas or thrill a minute Stroll?! If Merc and Ferrari were to quit you would be left with Sauber-is that a Swiss watch?- Toro Rosso-something to do with bullfighting? Or Haas. Haas what ? I think there will be a time soon when the cry will go up-come back Bernie, all is forgiven.
Last word on the pit lane kindergarten. Small children might be ok to hold hands with Messi  and the rest of the  Barcelona soccer team walking on to the field but there are no mechanics running around, no hot engine, no last minute adjustments. Clearly these kids would have to have someone with them who no doubt would want to pester drivers for their autographs a minute before the start. It will be a huge success I am sure especially with Alonso !

Image result for jacky ickx

On a much happier note I am delighted that my old chum Jacky Ickx was honored in Monaco as one of the Sports Legends of the World. A huge family friend, he predicted our twins . A great Ferrari driver , a great endurance driver and altogether a wonderful guy. Michele Mouton was also honored, her exploits in an Audi Quattro are legendary. Armin Zoggeler was Olympic  champion in the luge- and of you think F1 is dangerous just look him up on YouTube.)

And finally one of our neighbors had a visitor from Manchester. England. (This will also appear in Forza)
But for those who are not subscribers just a word about his reaction to the thought of a Ferrari badged Tesla. I cannot repeat his words but he was mortified.

On the other hand we both agreed that a naturally aspirated V12 with skis, kids and all the paraphernalia zapping up to Squaw or Alta would not be such a terrible thing. After all the FF is not exactly a two seater sports car any more than the Lusso is.

As long as they leave that V12 well alone!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Frankly Frankl - Monaco Musings! - Frankly Frankl-life, luck, love and automobiles

Monaco musings

One way or another it has been quite a fortnight to remember. San Francisco-London-Nice and on to the Beach Plaza Hotel in Monaco  for the 33rd consecutive time. Same room, same view, same staff, wonderful. It is of course a complete madhouse during Grand Prix week but I still would not miss it for the World.  This was my 52nd consecutive trip. At the beginning of the week I always use the much loved number 6 bus to get around the Principality.  After Wednesday once practice starts the whole place comes to a standstill apart from the action on the track. We all  know the result of course, simply perfect for Scuderia Ferrari. There was some arguments about whether Kimi should have won but with great respect Vettel was quicker and even though nobody says it he is the Number One driver. Will Ferrari keep Raikkonen? I have my doubts but it is early days yet.

Off the track the action was pretty fast and furious as well. There were parties galore on boats, discos, even on the beach. Of course the perfect weather helped as well.

My only problem was lack of transport. For the past12 years or so we have been flying to Modena to collect a new Maserati which we then drove at a nice, steady 75 miles per hour to Monaco. This of course is  a total lie as speeding tickets have been arriving from the factory with monotonous regularity. At any rate this year we just couldn’t get there. Hail savior Randy Steyer who undertook the thankless task of driving the car all the way from Modena having just visited the Ferrari factory a stone throw away in Maranello. Although both he and his good friend John vehemently deny it I have a funny feeling that they might have had a quick dash round the circuit before getting to the hotel.

Funniest thing is that when Randy and Co arrived at the Beach Plaza they were treated to a cry of “ but it is the wrong color! “ The ever helpful bell captains got so used to a metallic bronze  over the years that a deep metallic red took them by surprise.  In Marin I normally get a Maserati Ghibli as a loan car while my Ferrari is getting serviced so I was familiar with it.

Having said that I did not expect 404 horsepower from the top of the range S 4Q which never missed a beat. I found the instrumentation excellent, quite frankly better than in Ferrari’s new Lusso which was the next car we were going to drive. There are just two things I would complain about in the Maser. Buckling up the safety belts is difficult and changing from P to D or P to R invariably ends up in neutral which is  particularly embarrassing when one is trying to make a three point turn. I have to admit to a tricky moment. Randy and John rented a beautiful villa  in the hills above Beausoleil in France. 

As we stood outside my hotel I did the right thing asking if they would like a lift. Yes please was the answer and we were off. Either the Maser is wide or the streets are narrow but it was quite a hairy trip. I should add that it was pitch black. Anyway, the good news is that we arrived safe and sound. Enjoying the wonderful fresh air you certainly do not find in Monaco it suddenly dawned on me that in the great excitement I left my hotel without any ID, passport or even a cell phone. Had I been stopped-after all it was late and my car had a foreign (Italian) plate the consequences would have been too horrible to contemplate. To cut a long story short I got back and immediately texted Randy who too was somewhat concerned.

It is always wonderful to see  the ever-helpful PR team at Maserati after one more perfect trip.  The engine never missed a beat and the trunk swallowed all the luggage. I cannot think of a more pleasant highway cruiser in Europe or for that matter across the United States.

The navigation system was excellent,  I would not have been able to get down the hill from Beausoleil.

At the risk of getting into trouble in Maranello  the 400 thousand dollar  (luggage included) Ferrari GTC4Lusso is less comfortable for 4 people. Regardless of whether it is a Ferrari or an Aston or any other fast 4 seater automobile with 2 doors  climbing into the back has to be problematical. Once you are in the back of the Lusso it is like being in a gentlemen’s club. The children would certainly love the specially designed Ferrari baby seats, would love to see their faces as Daddy or Mummy rockets down the autostrada at 140 miles per hour.  Have a funny feeling with the exceptional brakes the odd pacifier or two might just fly straight on to the dashboard. Getting to 140 in a genuine 4 seater is the domain of relatively few, the 0-62 mph figure is a stunning 3.4 seconds! I have been fortunate to know Ferrari’s legendary  V12 engine for quite some time. 550, 575, 599,  F12,  FF and now the Lusso. When I look at this list I suddenly realize just how lucky I am!

The best bit of the trip was that my son Nicholas- a pretty decent driver-could not get away from me in Lamborghini’s latest Huracan cabrio. The 514lb-ft torque enable me to keep up on the twisties all the way up to Passo della Futa which sits  at 903 meters. Glorious place. Glorious fun. More of the same next year I hope!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Frankly Frankl - Toys were us! - Frankly Frankl-life, luck, love and automobiles

Image result for Young bernie ecclestone

You may find the title somewhat odd but once upon a time there was a diminutive British gentleman who bought a run-down toyshop. It was called Formula One . He  may have had a bit of an input from Paris, HQ of the International Automobile Federation but essentially it was his toy-lock stock and barrel.

He decided where the races should be, how much the organizers should pay (ouch), which TV companies should have the TV rights, the radio rights, even which cars should be shown on the screen. Oh, I forgot to mention he also owned the TV facilities at the tracks and the producer was his employee.

When sponsors pay a fortune to have the names of their products in front of millions of TV viewers-as promised by the smooth talking salesmen of the various teams and they don’t appear the reason very often was simple. Bernie-for it is he!- didn’t like the team or the owner –be it Ron Dennis or the late Ken Tyrrell-their cars appeared a great deal less  on the screen than warranted by what was taking place during the race. If you think I am making this up just ask someone from Manor, a company that went bankrupt at the end of 2016. When your cars are only shown smashed into the guardrail it is not easy to get a new  a sponsor as they’ve found out the hard way.

So now we have a situation where someone by the name of Liberty Media took the toys away. All of them. So having been the owner of the toyshop Ecclestone is seriously bitter and twisted.

Former owners often are. Still, even former owners of a shop or a factory don’t usually go on about with such bitterness. I suppose the fact that he ran the show for such a long time had something to do with it.

The comments in Autosport magazine were borderline libelous although he was not the only one suggesting that Button’s world championship winning car was not exactly kosher back in 2009. ( He was right, it wasn’t)
Even though he does not rate the new triumvirate running F1  the show will go on-partly because Bernie did put it on very solid foundations. Fees to hold races can be reduced just like the horrendous cost of seats and switching TV directors is not exactly rocket science.

Image result for alonso at indy

As for Fernando’s a foray into the Indy 500 – why not? He  is 35 years old and wants to try something different. Alonso is not the main attraction in Monaco,  loyal Spanish supporters will  see him in Barcelona two weeks earlier. Several Formula One champions had a go at Indy-Jack Brabham, Jim Clark, Graham Hill to name but three so why not Fernando. Incidentally the late Graham Hill remains the only driver in the World to do the triple-champion in F1, Le Mans and Indy. 

Image result for alonso indy 500

There are some folks who regard Grand Prix drivers as ruthless gladiators. Maybe on the track but certainly not when it comes to helping one of their own.

Billy Monger is just 17 years old. He was racing in Formula 4  at Donington, England, scene of Ayrton Senna’s greatest victory back in 1993.

Billy ran into the back of an another F4 car which appeared stationary. After 90 minutes –to make sure that there was no further damage-he was taken to a local hospital where he underwent a series of operations. Unfortunately both his legs had to be amputated. At that point the whole world of motor racing rallied round Billy.

Image result for billy monger

Donations have been pouring in and at the last count it stood at 1 million dollars.
The very first person to contact Billy’s family was Nicholas Lewis Hamilton’s younger  brother who is racing in a specially modified car due to having cerebral palsy. “Look said Nicholas, I was born with a disability but I don’t let it stop me from  motor racing.”

Image result for alex zanardi

Alex Zanardi was a CART champion in 1997 and 98 and quite successful in Formula One as well. But in 2001 he had a horrendous crash in the CART series in Germany. He lost both legs but he returned to touring car racing in a BMW and later in the 2012 Paralympics in London he won two gold medals. It will be a long time before Billy can think this far ahead but with the incredible support he has from all over the World we may see him at the Paralympics in 2024.

His chances of winning the Formula One championship are possible.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Frankly Frankl - Ferrari's 70th Anniversary Tour - Frankly Frankl-life, luck, love and automobiles

Ferrari 125 S and LaFerrari Aperta
 Photo: Ferrari

Seventy years ago the first Ferrari hit the streets of Maranello, Italy for a test drive. It was the 12-cylinder 125 S, the first to bear the name of Enzo Ferrari, and, naturally, the company wants to celebrate.

Ferrari is planning events in more than 60 countries to celebrate the anniversary, giving the company’s rabid fan base a chance to join in the festivities.

Along with a video re-creating the first time the 125 S rolled out of Ferrari’s modest garage, the company has published a website commemorating major achievements from Ferrari’s last 70 years — everything from Formula One wins and championships to the release of iconic vehicles like the 250 GTO, the F40, and the Enzo.

This year at Pebble Beach Ferrari will be having a special display of over 70 iconic Ferrari's on the First Tee and will be moving the Casa de Ferrari to that Pebble Beach location. There will also be a rally to San Francisco immediately following the Monterey Car Week for top clients and a special event on August 26th, stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Frankly Frankl - Reflections on Melbourne, Remembering a Great Friend - Frankly Frankl-life, luck, love and automobiles

Reflections on Melbourne, remembering a great friend

Any race where the first 8 drivers are in exactly the same order  on lap 16  they when the lights went out has to be-by definition-boring. And it was credit though to the Ferrari engineer who found a tiny window which offered a chance for Vettel to leap-frog Hamilton. Also a big well done to Seb for not making a single mistake.
Kimi didn’t make any mistakes either, he just had an off day in an identical car to Vettel’s. I just hope the  fire will return and we will see the Finn the way he used to be-unstoppable. His countryman Bottas got lucky. Very lucky.
To inherit what is probably the fastest car in F1 is a serious stroke of luck. Still, he did what he was hired for-follow Lewis around. Wonder if he will ever risk overtaking him.

You may have seen all the hype in the specialist press-wow, bigger tires. More wow-wider cars. Wow-more aerodynamic gizmos. The results so far: zero. Ross Brawn the new tech boss of F1 promises changes but that it easier said than done and he knows it better than anyone. You cannot change the regulations halfway into the season. Maybe we will see some overtaking on the long straight next week in China, let’s hope so.
My hope is for rain at some circuits-Spa is notorious for changing conditions and the British weather is of course unpredictable.

Still, I don’t know about you but I was on my feet at midnight singing the Italian national anthem just like the
very happy Ferrari mechanics under the podium.

I just hope to do it many times more during the season.

On a more somber note I was devastated to hear that

Terry Page-founder of  Page One Automotive lost his life to cancer. The fact that I’ve just sent my Frankly Frankl column to FORZA’s  Editor Aaron Jenkins for the 159th  time is because of Terry.
Back in 1994 before leaving Europe for San Francisco to join Suzie a friend gave me one name. Terry Page of Page One Automotive. I rang the number, introduced myself and he simply said- how can I help you?
Within days he took me to a function at the Blackhawk Museum and introduced me Jay Lamm who at that time was Editor of Sports Car International. We are just launching a magazine on Ferrari said Jay-go and see the Editor.

That was 21 years ago. Apart from that introduction

Terry  also made sure that I’ve met colleagues in the Bay Area. Test cars, launches, lectures-Terry and his team were behind it all.

His is the quintessential American  success story. He was a taxi driver who picked up a Ford executive at SFO 30 or so years ago.  They got talking, the man decided that there was a great deal more to Terry than taking him to a hotel and to cut a long story short asked Terry to look after the Ford test fleet in the San Francisco region. Page already had an impressive office-his kitchen table! From there he built a company with over 130 employees most of whom are still with him to this day. The Ford account is still with Page One as is GM, Mercedes, Infiniti, Nissan, Bentley, Rolls Royce , BMW and Jaguar to name just some.

Terry remained exactly the way he was when I’ve first met him-modest, helpful, kind and at the same time highly professional. It may sound like a cliché but I don’t think he had an enemy in the World.
Terry old friend-thank you for everything, it was an honor to have known you.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Frankly Frankl - Miami Beach - New Audio Book - Frankly Frankl-life, luck, love and automobiles

Spent some time recently in Miami, to that it is a buzz would be an understatement. Certainly the party I’ve attended was a noisy affair

It was full of people who could have been my grandchildren! Still, it was interesting especially when I found the chef between some brake pads and some new racing wheels.

From what I understand the company called Curated have found some investors in there hope of buying some exotic cars and selling them at a huge profit n a booming market.

I wish them all the luck, as we all know markets have a habit of going up as well as down.

The yellow 360 Spider belonged to Juan Pablo Montoya. 5100 miles n the clock, 6 speed manual, going for 159 big ones. Must say it looked to be in mint condition.

There was also a 1991 Testarossa with 11 thousand miles n the clock with an asking price of 148 thousand dollars.

Must say the Ferrari sign was very cool, very Miami, I am to sure my wife would fully approve.