What Makes the Monaco Grand Prix So Special?

Monaco has been called the casino capital of the world.  It’s got a lot of wealth squeezed into just 499 acres.  For reference, that’s almost five times the size of Disneyland.  It’s also the oldest circuit of Formula 1, having been a track since 1929.  The route is essentially the same as it was in 1929, which gives you a unique opportunity to see cars with nearly 1000 horsepower blasting around for first place.  It’s also one of the few tracks where race cars get to run through the tight streets of a city.

For those of you who watch motorsports, you’re likely going to agree with me that the reason that people are drifting away from watching various races is that it doesn’t seem as exciting anymore.  I think it has to do with the fact that the tracks are wide (they can usually take well over three cars at even the narrowest corner), and that the cameramen are getting pushed further away from the action.  This last fact might seem trivial and stupid to you, but think about it for a second.  Thanks to GoPros (I have nothing against them), automotive enthusiasts are getting used to punching in a search term into YouTube (again, nothing against it) and seeing POV videos of some motorcyclist or crazy driver blasting their way through traffic.  You can put a GoPro on just about any surface on a car or motorcycle so that everybody can see the action.  That’s all fine and dandy, but we need to do this in the professional racing world.

Many Formula 1 races are actually quite exciting, but they don’t seem like it on your TV. The tracks are so wide that it’s nearly impossible to get a cameraman close to the action.  It just doesn’t seem quite as exhilarating as hearing that unearthly shriek coming towards you, the whirs and pops from the turbocharger, and the crackling downshifts sending flames shooting out of the back of the car.  There’s only so much action a camera can capture when it’s 100 feet away from the action, instead of ten feet away.

I look forward to Monaco for this reason: it’s one of the few races left where I can feel like I’m right there, even if I’m several thousand miles away from the action.  It’s the closest we can get to seeing a modern car whip around one of the most historic tracks in the world.

I feel that Formula 1 has turned into what NASCAR used to be.  Think of NASCAR as the WWE Raw TV show, while Formula 1 is like watching a street fight.  I know this might seem ridiculous, but if you were into watching wrestling, would you want to see a scripted and pre-ordained fight, or would you want to watch a fight where nothing is scripted or agreed to other than the fight itself?

NASCAR used to hold a special magic for me, and I only watch it at Watkins Glen and Sonoma Raceway now, as most of the drivers are inexperienced on road courses.  I’ve talked to several friends about the boring, pre-ordained spectacle that NASCAR has become, even though it’s got just enough reality to make it somewhat worth following.

Formula 1 now holds that magic for me.  NASCAR and Formula 1 used to be the bleeding edge of technology, and now it’s up to Formula 1 to do that.  NASCAR today is this: you have a larger-than-life personality, put the pedal to the metal, and let Dale Earnhardt., Jr. or Jimmie Johnson take the win.  It was a shocker to me when Kevin Harvick became the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion.  It was completely unexpected, and it helped me somewhat re-kindle my interest in NASCAR.  Formula 1 is now truly a test of a driver, his team, and their car.  If you want to make a big splash in the racing world, become a Formula 1 driver.  I know that what I’ve said has been repeated by many automotive journalists, but it’s worth rehashing.

One last thought (promise!): Monaco is a place that should be high on the bucket list of every automotive and racing fan.  It’s incredibly high on mine.  I’ve always wanted to do a road trip through Europe of all of the great European tracks (Brands Hatch, Silverstone, Goodwood, Le Mans, Nurburgring, Hockenheim, Monaco, Monza and Imola) in a Pagani Huayra.

I’d love to hear your experiences of NASCAR/Formula 1, and why you agree or disagree with me on this.  If you watch another form of motorsport that holds this kind of magic for you, please tell me in the comments section.  I enjoy watching all of the off road racing in Baja and the desert.  It’s entertaining, and it’s truly a test of a driver.

One of my friends from school wrote an excellent article about the loss of magic in NASCAR for him, and it’s worth a read, as well as this article. http://www.theoakleafnews.com/sports/2015/05/12/is-nascar-fading/

Monaco 2011

Monaco-GP-05

1957 Chevy Bel Air Returned 30 Years After Being Stolen!

How often is it that you get your car back after it’s been stolen?  What about if it was stolen 30 years ago?  What about if it was a cool ’57 Chevy Bel Air?  What about if it was stolen and returned almost a year before it disappeared for 30 years?  That’s what happened to Santa Rosa, California resident Ian “Skip” Wilson.  When California Highway Patrol investigator Mike Maleta informed him that there was a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air in a shipping container bound for Australia that might be of some interest to him.  Since U.S. Border Protection and Customs does routine checks of shipping containers bound for wherever, it may be no surprise to Customs agents.  Once they found out the car was stolen, it was handed over to the CHP to build a case.  Then, Ian Wilson received a call from Mike Maleta, a CHP investigator about the car.  The VIN matched what Ian gave Maleta, and the car was on its way to Ian’s house after a few days.  This isn’t the first time the car was stolen – it was stolen back in 1983, but returned to him without the engine and transmission.  He had bought the car back in 1975 for $375, and he hadn’t started re-rebuilding the car when it was stolen from his driveway in 1984.

The white-over-yellow hardtop now is a sparkling creamsicle orange with a Chevy 350 V8/Turbo 350 transmission setup.  It’s got disc brakes and rack-and-pinion steering.  A brand-new black leather interior complements the paint beautifully, and the slightly chromed 17-inch wheels also look sweet.  The rebuild is extremely recent, with the odometer showing nine miles showing on the odometer.

Skip had to pay just $900 for transportation, and originally was told by the DMV that he needed 30 years of back registration to get the car registered.  The state backed off for the back registration request.

Yeah, I’d pay $900 for a basically brand-new 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air.