Leftovers

Sometimes a thought pops into my head that would be fun to expand into a column, but then I start writing and it turns out there’s just not 800 words of interest there. So here are some of those snippets stuffed together to make a nice casserole of quick bites.

1. From time to time, a story circulates around the Internet claiming “autocross isn’t ‘real’ racing” or some such thing. The results are predictable: a flurry of loud defenders or detractors, long message board posts explaining why the writer is a genius or a moderately high-functioning idiot, counter-essays and general social media posturing.

Well, they’re all wrong.

The real answer is that it’s a stupid question to begin with. It’s like saying, “This Szechuan Beef isn’t a “real’ cheeseburger.” It’s pointless. You’re making a value judgment on two disparate activities that just happen to involve similar skills. Both the Szechuan Beef and the cheeseburger contain beef, are delicious and filling, and even the post-meal gas from both will give you pleasant memories, but no one is saying the existence of one decreases the value of the other.

It’s cheap and pointless, and if you get suckered into the argument, you should go somewhere and be alone with your shame for a while.

2. Like it or not, self-driving cars are coming. Personally, I look forward to the day cars can handle the mundane commute on their own, even if I’m just saying that so I don’t get put at the front of the murder line when the robots eventually take over.

And speaking of taking over, not only are self-driving cars coming, but Stanford built one that actually lapped Thunderhill faster than a human driver. Stanford’s Audi TT, nicknamed “Shelby” likely because it made absolutely no contextual sense, lapped Thunderhill a full 0.4 second faster than David Vodden. If that name isn’t familiar to you, trust me when I say he knows a thing or two about getting around Thunderhill quickly: He’s the CEO of the track as well as an accomplished club racer.

Stanford is now busily programming their fully automated race car to make message board posts complaining about rules creep, to backhandedly accuse faster robots of cheating, and to promptly produce a list of excuses should it ever get bested in the future.

3. I’m utterly in love with my new MR2. You may have seen a story in the previous issue about the guys at (Prime Performance Auto)[primemr2.com], who build these awesome resto-mod, second-gen MR2s with updated powerplants. Well, I bought one, and it feels like coming home every time I step inside.

There was something about the Japanese sporty cars of the early 1990s that made them as close to perfect as we’ve seen in any era of automobile. Yeah, there were a few misses, but if you look at those years you’ll see that pretty much every Japanese manufacturer had a sporty offering that has gone on to become iconic, if not downright legendary.

This MR2 has features that we’ll never see again: low windowsills, a huge windshield with a great view, a snappy (some may say too snappy) chassis, and one-of-a-kind looks. Safety and bumper regulations have taken much of this away, and while I applaud increased safety for the masses, I do miss a few of the unsafe things that made that era great.

4. After my first few autocross outings in my new Formula 500, I came to a realization: Having a body with some sort of usable muscle structure would be a great benefit to driving a car that placed physical demands on the driver.

So earlier this year I contracted with a personal trainer and have been undergoing his abuse twice a week. I’ve learned the following:

a. Weights are heavy. Seriously. Have you ever tried to lift them? In today’s amazing world of high-tech materials and space-aged fibers, I really think weights should be made from carbon fiber, or graphite, or that foam they use on runways during a plane crash. They’d be much easier to lift.

b. The main reason to work out is to make the next workout easier. Beginning a workout program pretty much means you’re just going to hurt all the time. So you focus your attention on the stuff your trainer is making you do, hoping that any extra gym time you put in makes the next session’s torment somewhat more bearable. This, however, is spurious logic because:

c. Personal trainers are evil people. They know how to get in your head, and furthermore, they seem to enjoy watching grown men cry. Just when I thought I had mastered that damn step-up box, it was whisked away and replaced with a device far more malevolent than anything I could have previously imagined.

But the good news is it is paying off a bit: The car isn’t tossing me around so much anymore. Everything still hurts from working out, though, and by the time the autocross rolls around on the weekend, I’m ready to just hire Shelby to do my driving for me.

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GameboyRMH
GameboyRMH MegaDork
5/21/15 11:57 a.m.

I can do better on the "autocross isn't real racing" debate, I think I've come up with a rock-solid counter-argument.

What's the difference between autocross and stage rally or time trials? They're all timed competitions along a finite course where cars do not race head-to-head. Yet, curiously, nobody has ever argued that the WRC or Isle of Man TT aren't "real racing."

There is one thing that's different about autocross though, this difference is the crux of the "prosecution's" argument but it is only implied by them and never stated. If you work down the list of potential differences you'll eventually pin it down - the difference is danger, and relatively speaking, autocross has practically none of it. Instead of celebrating this safety, the "prosecution" romanticizes danger, implicitly arguing that it's a necessary element of "real racing." This is what Bark M. of TTAC did on the latest go-round.

Edit: Yes it is a cheap argument, a bit of a "no true scotsman," but challenging it could eventually strike it down, while dismissing it leaves it to rear its ugly head another day.

bmw88rider
bmw88rider Dork
5/21/15 12:47 p.m.

Damn you JG....Quit talking about your MR2 before I send mine to Jersey for a summer vacation. :)

Oh and yes...Trainers are evil. I have 2 good friends that are trainers and I swear they get off on seeing people in pain. One was a drill Sargent in a former life so I know be gets off in seeing people in pain.

Apexcarver
Apexcarver PowerDork
5/21/15 1:04 p.m.

I think many who view autocross through the lens of the words on Burt Levy in Last Open Road, "Wheres the bloody penalty?"

Stage rally and Isle of Mann TT are real to them because of the enhanced risks.

So I guess the question is, is it racing when the risks are limited?

MrJoshua
MrJoshua PowerDork
5/21/15 1:49 p.m.

Unlike pretty much ANY other form of exercise weight training never gets easier, we (trainers) can just raise the weights or change the exercise. Yes we are slightly sadistic, but it takes masochistic people to keep us on business.

Brett_Murphy
Brett_Murphy PowerDork
5/21/15 2:05 p.m.

It's the trainer's job to take you to your limit without hurting yourself. Many people don't find this fun. Having played numerous RPGs, both in tabletop and computer form, I just look at it as leveling up.

wbjones
wbjones MegaDork
5/21/15 2:32 p.m.
GameboyRMH wrote: What's the difference between autocross and stage rally or time trials? They're all timed competitions along a finite course where cars do not race head-to-head. Yet, curiously, nobody has ever argued that the WRC or Isle of Man TT aren't "real racing."

LOL … there are some on here that would argue that those aren't "real racing" ….

lateapexer
lateapexer New Reader
5/21/15 4:57 p.m.

Racing or not autox is my sport because of one thing... no practise. Get it right;right now.

ronbros9
ronbros9 New Reader
5/21/15 5:38 p.m.

J.G. interesting topic. like when a thought pops up, self-driving cars and robots,robots eventually taking over! back a few yrs ago 1954,when some one said becareful, or you could be replaced by an OBSOLETE robot. that said by a 15yr old girl,YIKES.

do agree Japanese cars of the late 80-early 90s, were some of the best(at least for the money). i was an RX7 guy, but much respect for most of them!

as a matter of course you should always treat your body like a Temple, not like a dumpster.(Jimmy Buffet).

thinking about gameboys argument"Dangers of racing", after some thought on it, its all about the money, the more you spend in a racing class the more danger involved, think autocross vs Indy 500, or Le Mans,or F1, list goes on, autocross is fun/family thing,relativly low cost, and dangers are minimal. but its still a lot of fun!

914Driver
914Driver MegaDork
5/21/15 7:34 p.m.

Bless you JG.

  1. Auto-X is real racing. More importantly it's a stepping stone for young folks and Newbs to get a taste and possible be enticed further into track days or more.

  2. Did you know the self driving Google Car got planked; self driving race cars take the fun out of it.

A self driving race car is like sex without a woman.

  1. MR-2. Why not?

  2. a. b. & c. You didn't gain weight overnight, you won't lose it overnight.

Since retiring Mrs. 914 thought we should go to the gym 3 days a week, Oy. One night we do TRX training, it's tough but worth it. Picking up a dumbbell? Where you gonna use that skill in real life?

  1. I've been coveting an F-500 for decades !

Dan

Jerry From LA
Jerry From LA Dork
5/23/15 12:47 p.m.

Is autocross real racing or not?? The only proper answer is, "Who cares? It's fun."

Giant Purple Snorklewacker
Giant Purple Snorklewacker MegaDork
5/23/15 1:00 p.m.

You seriously couldn't get 800 words out of a couple of those?

Quit fapping to internet porn. It's sapping all your creativity.

Knurled
Knurled UltimaDork
5/23/15 2:24 p.m.
GameboyRMH wrote: I can do better on the "autocross isn't real racing" debate, I think I've come up with a rock-solid counter-argument. What's the difference between autocross and stage rally or time trials? They're all timed competitions along a finite course where cars do not race head-to-head. Yet, curiously, nobody has ever argued that the WRC or Isle of Man TT aren't "real racing."

Yes they do. All the time.

jstein77
jstein77 SuperDork
5/27/15 11:01 a.m.

The 'real racing' debate reminds my of something my daughter showed me. She's a competitive swimmer, and occasionally a classmate gives her the "swimming is not a sport" line.

She has some perfect comebacks:

"Swimming is the ONLY sport; the rest are just games."

"Swimming is the only sport where you can get yelled at for breathing."

There's a bunch more like that.

rcutclif
rcutclif Dork
5/27/15 11:22 a.m.
jstein77 wrote: The 'real racing' debate reminds my of something my daughter showed me. She's a competitive swimmer, and occasionally a classmate gives her the "swimming is not a sport" line. She has some perfect comebacks: "Swimming is the ONLY sport; the rest are just games." "Swimming is the only sport where you can get yelled at for breathing." There's a bunch more like that.

"Going in hard, coming out wet." Is a common swimmers saying.

Use your own judgement telling your own kids though.

Knurled
Knurled UltimaDork
5/27/15 12:22 p.m.

Nobody's saying that it's not motorsport. It just doesn't require any psychological games to win, just driver skill.

In a race, it's not the fastest guy who wins, it's the first guy across the line....

ZOO
ZOO UltraDork
5/27/15 12:24 p.m.
lateapexer wrote: Racing or not autox is my sport because of one thing... no practise. Get it right;right now.

Great turn of phrase, Dad!

GameboyRMH
GameboyRMH MegaDork
5/27/15 12:34 p.m.
Knurled wrote:
GameboyRMH wrote: I can do better on the "autocross isn't real racing" debate, I think I've come up with a rock-solid counter-argument. What's the difference between autocross and stage rally or time trials? They're all timed competitions along a finite course where cars do not race head-to-head. Yet, curiously, nobody has ever argued that the WRC or Isle of Man TT aren't "real racing."

Yes they do. All the time.

I'm happy to ignore those people

Knurled
Knurled UltimaDork
5/27/15 12:42 p.m.

In reply to GameboyRMH:

There are people who will jump on your throat for even using the phrase "rally racing"...

Mr_Clutch42
Mr_Clutch42 Dork
5/27/15 1:05 p.m.

JG, I think you could have turned #1 and 2 into one column fairly easily.

In reply to MrJoshua: Working out does get easier, but that doesn't mean that you're not supposed to get tired when you're done. Also, people can do other fitness activities like hiking, jogging, rock climbing, basketball, football, soccer, etc. plus, the fitness videos where you're doing basic movements. I did a few of those in my PE class, and I was surprised at how tired I got.

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