Busy doing nothing. Hence the post.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

-I am guffawing everytime I recall this bit from Jezza's column featured in the Times today:

"..Nor could I understand how someone from Tooting could possibly support, say, Manchester United, a team sponsored by those hateful bastards at AIG and made up of players from Portugal, France, Holland and, in the case of Wayne Rooney, Walt Disney. Where’s the connection? What’s the point?"
The Wayne Rooney bit is fan-effing-tastic!

- I finished reading the Hamster's autobiography - 'On the Edge : My Story'. Great entertainment, much like the man himself!

- Saw the trailer of 'The Fast and The Furious : 4' whilst channel-surfing. It's got a rather unimaginative tagline which goes : 'New Model. Original Parts'. If somebody tried to sell a car or a bike with such a tagline, the message sent out would be screamingly obvious : "When we first made it, it was hopeless. In fact, it was so bad that no one noticed. Giving it a new set of snazzy decals and new marketing bullshit in the product brochure, we expect to sell more units than we sold last year. Err...we sold none last year. We have an overflowing inventory." I sincerely hope I can laugh as much at this movie as I did when I saw 'The Fast and the Furious : Tokyo Drift'. Muahahahaha.

- I just discovered that my 'Scientists and Innovators' course presentation is on the 1st of April! We'll be doing a presentation on SN Bose. Or was it JC Bose? Damn.

- I watched a rerun of the BNP Paribas Open semifinals on Star Sports. The one involving Federer and Murray was... weird. Federer played brilliantly in the 2nd set and in the 1st two games of the 3rd. Then, inexplicably, he caved in, making a string of unforced errors. That was extremely disturbing. How on earth did his game fold up after he had clearly settled into a good rhythm? I don't know. Neither does anybody else, including Federer.
The other semifinal ensured that normal service was resumed. Nadal beat Roddick 6-4, 7-6. The strong winds made things a little dicey, but every time Rafa let that forehand rip he made A-Rod look slow-witted and ponderous. Duh.

- Saw the 'Every Second Counts' commercial aired by Star Sports as a part of the 2009 Formula One season's advertising campaign. Liked it. Looking forward to what promises to be a cracker of a season! Rock it, boys!

- As you must have realized by now, Star Sports has been my companion for the day.

- I need a new pair of aviators. Now. I need 3 grand to pay for them. I don't have 3 grand. So I shall shut up.

- I am also wondering why I never talk to my parents for more than 90 seconds. This is in stark contrast to my other hostel-mates. I just mutter a few 'hmm's and 'yeah's, followed by long silences, until my mother says,"You don't have anything to tell me. Bye.". And hangs up.

- Checked out the wedding pics of my maternal cousin, who got married on the 14th of February. I wasn't there. Darn.

- I learned that there exists a racing series called 'The Middle East Rally Championship'! Surreal, I say!

- I added the tags for this post, clicked on 'Publish Post' and sat back to watch 'Engine Block'. On Star Sports :D

Happy birthday, sie biest !

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Porsche 917 at the Daytona Historic Event

Over the years, there have been many manically fast and technically magnificent race cars which have now become part of automotive lore. Enthusiasts discussing them do so in hushed, reverential tones and manufacturers lovingly preserve surviving examples in their heritage museums, or even the hallowed precincts of the factories in which they were conceived and built.

Presently, I’ll go in a completely different direction. As a 4-year old, I remember my favourite toy being a dark blue pull-back toy car – it had stickers screaming '69' on its flanks and several others saying ‘Gulf’, ‘Koni’ and ‘Tag Heuer’ – I didn’t know what any of that meant. It was my most prized possession and I had a great time playing with it all over the house.

It was a model of the Porsche 917, THE Porsche 917, the fabled Porsche 917, the car that annihilated all its opposition and occasionally its own self in a fiery ball of aluminum, titanium and magnesium. Apart from blitzing the Le Mans, the Can Am, the Targa Florio, and several other racing classes, it was also immortalized on celluloid in the Steve McQueen starrer, Le Mans(1971). Endorsement from the King of Cool, no less! 2009 marks the 40th anniversary of the 917, and Porsche is commemorating this occasion at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in July. The world is celebrating and so am I!

It was born under interesting circumstances, to say the least. The FIA, in a way, had a hand in this. In those days, Le Mans witnessed insane speeds and cars like the Ford GT 40 MkIV and the Ferrari Ps (the 250Ps, the 330Ps, the 412 Ps, etc) with their massive engines and immense power outputs were the undisputed kings. The FIA then tweaked the rules a little to allow cars with smaller engine capacities to be a part of the World Sports Car Championship and to entice more manufacturers to line up on the starting grid. There was a catch, however – the manufacturer couldn’t just set up a race team, devote the finances and manpower and build a precious few cars to compete in the championships. The cars had to be homologated as well. That is, they had to be built and sold as road-legal machines to people like you and me. A manufacturer could take its cars to race as long as it had made at least 25 units for road use.

Ferdinand Piech(right) and Gerhard Mitter(left) at the first presentation of the 917

So, Porsche got started on its project. A super-lightweight 42 kg aluminium spaceframe, several titanium and magnesium alloy components, a glass fibre body-shell and a 4.5 litre flat-12 naturally aspirated engine putting out a substantial 520 horsepower were thrown into the mix, and the 917 was born. It was not without its share of pitfalls, though – the spaceframe was barely able to contain the immense power that the engine belted out. It was riddled with mechanical and aerodynamic faults and if it were not for the iron-will of Ferdinand Piech (currently President, Volkswagen AG), it would have most certainly died a silent death. It was not good at changing direction, and was extremely unstable at high speeds. Drivers did not want to drive it because it was a total bitch to drive. This called for a revision of its specifications and the aero components. The result was the 917K(Kurzheck) which got a choppy, wedge shaped tail, which was the idea of engineer John Horsmann. Later, an LH(Langheck) version was developed for the high-speed circuits, with enhanced aerodynamic efficiency and greater stability. These days, engineers with their laptops, wind tunnels and CAD simulations sort out these problems in the conception stage itself, before a single body panel has been created. Things were slightly different back then. They had to tack on new components and test it on the racetrack. Still no luck? Go back to the shed and try again!

And when Porsche got it right, boy oh boy, did it deliver! It won Porsche it’s first Le Mans Championship in 1970, and then again in 1971. Its speed, as Jezza would say, was biblical. 0-60 came up in 2.5 seconds and it maxed out at over 250 mph. Shudder. However, it is remembered not just because it made winning a habit – many cars have done that. It was the manner in which it did it – by blowing all the opposition to the weeds, by making them look limp wristed and clumsy. It lapped Le Mans at a record average speed of 222.09 kph, a feat which no other car has been able to overhaul ever since a chicane was added to the Mulsanne straight. And talking of the Mulsanne straight, that was where it did 386.24 kph, driven by Vic Elford in 1970, that too at night in wet track conditions. After conquering Le Mans, Porsche set its sights across the Atlantic and entered it in the Can Am Series in 1973, where it became the 917/10. The 917/10 was slightly different from its elder sister – Porsche uprated the power to a nuclear 1000 bhp (as if 520 was too weeny). Needless to say, its rivals could only watch it walk, no, fly away with the title . Porsche came back the next year with another 500 horses in its powerhouse, and won again, before the FIA had to change the rules again to try and control the rampaging monster that was the 917. Eek. Bow down.

So, was the 917 the greatest, most balls-out racer ever?

You bet!


Today, seven of the most important 917 models – among them the Le Mans-winning cars from 1970 and 1971 and the 917/30 CanAm Spyder – are currently on exhibit in the new Porsche Museum in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen. Most of the other 917s are in the hands of proud collectors around the world, and have been seen – and heard – at the most prestigious vintage events, including Goodwood, Amelia Island, Monterey Historics, and Porsche’s three Rennsport Reunions in the U.S. in 2001, 2004 and 2007. Porsche Motorsport North America, the racing arm of Porsche in North America, services, restores, rebuilds and maintains many of these 917s for collectors at its shop in Santa Ana, California.(Source - http://993c4s.com/)


Friday, March 6, 2009

As I lie sprawled here
On this burning hard shoulder
The midday sun in my eyes
I feel a hundred years older

My ride's wrecked, it sure seems like 'tis all over
I'm only hoping for a miracle, some lucky clover

A pick-up looms in the distance, from the heat haze
Thought it changed colours a few times,
before it went stable on red

She pulled up alongside my battered machine
And beckoned me in
I staggered into the passenger seat
Wondering where to begin

Her looks could burn asbestos, I thought
And never could I have imagined
The ride was going to be disaster-fraught

The next thing I know, I'm gulping down my own blood
My mouth felt like it was full of gravel
Which actually were the powdered remains of what used to be my teeth
I've lost my left hand, and am unable to make my legs do my bidding
The pick-up is wrecked, the gearlever's gone through my gut
And I don't know what became of her

I am waiting for the end
Waiting for my pain to go away
Not too different from my state a little while back
Except that I want to be put out of my misery

Thoo. Never again. Sorry.

Someday, I'll be Sunday morning

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Hell, this is good. The Sunday Afternoon Syndrome has taken over me. There’s nothing to do, it’s 5:20 PM, I’m sitting in front of the laptop, listening to ‘Always’, reading Graphiti online, wondering how to raise Rs. 1080 for 'James May's 20th Century', sipping some soup I made a little while back and trying to suck in the vegetable pieces which seem to be in love with the sides of the coffee mug (??!!) for good. All this after doing something for the first time – washing clothes.

Time’s ticking over slowly, like an engine idling. No hurries, no worries. Not for now, at least.

Looking around my room always gives me that sinking feeling. It’s in complete disarray – the bed is not done, the cupboard is a picture of utter chaos; clothes, books, and magazines are strewn all over the place, etc, etc. Adding insult to injury are the $%#^@#*&@& pigeons outside my window, who’ve shat all over the clothes-hanging bar. Eeek.

Haven’t been to 41, 5th Cross Street this weekend as well. It’s been a long time now. Strangely, the urge is missing nowadays, unlike the first couple of months, when I’d run off everyday. Haven’t roamed around the city on foot in ages. It was something I so often used to do during the first semester. Can’t forget the evening I walked from IIT all the way to Palavakkam – took me 2 hours, two cans of coke, music on the iPod and a pair of extremely tired feet. By the way, I must say these oat-sesame crackers are quite good.

One line from 'Someday I'll be Saturday night' weirdly stands out:
‘I’m sleeping in my car, my dreams move on.’

What’s happened? What has changed? Has something gone wrong?

I’m as clueless as you are. I think I’ll just have a cup of coffee. And move on.