Monthly Archives: April 2016

Rosberg-Russia2016Quali

2016 F1 Grand Prix of Russia — Qualifying results

Mercedes yin-yang: Rosberg’s charmed start continues with pole while Hamilton again hobbled by engine trouble; Ferrari’s Vettel qualifies P2 but dropped down 5-spots due to gearbox change; Williams’ Bottas impresses with speedy P3

The luck that seemed to cover Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton like a cloak on his way to two consecutive championships seems to have transferred entirely to his teammate and arch-rival Nico Rosberg in 2016. Thus far, Rosberg has had the charmed season with three straight victories to open his campaign, while Hamilton has been plagued by mechanical gremlins that have cost him valuable points. That dynamic continued in Saturday qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix from the gorgeous seaside Sochi Autodrom, with Rosberg grabbing pole by a large margin over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Hamilton having deja vu all over again with the same power plant problem that doomed him at the last race in China. In this case the issue arose after Hamilton had made it into Q3 so he will provisionally start from P10 on the grid. However, it remains to be seen if he will incur any additional engine change penalties that will push him further back (he was reprimanded for cutting a bollard in qualifying but received no further punishment for that). Either way, it will have to be another race of slicing and dicing for the reigning world champ, which he did beautifully in China to salvage a P7 finish after starting from dead last. Sochi, however, is not as optimal a passing track as Shanghai and also sees much less tire deg so don’t expect another crazy 5-stopper. Though Hamilton will surely give his best effort to claw his way to the front, it’s Rosberg who is clearly sitting in the catbird seat for Sunday.

Definitely facing a 5-spot penalty for changing a gearbox before quali, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel qualified P2 but will start from P7. His teammate Kimi Raikkonen posted the 4th fastest time and will start P3 after Vettel’s demotion and everyone above the German Ferrari driver also moves up a spot. Williams’ Valtteri Bottas had the team’s best qualifying effort this season after downforce upgrades on the car with a solid P3, so he’ll start P2, while his teammate Felipe Massa managed the 5th fastest lap and will start P4. Daniel Ricciardo of team Red Bull was quick enough for P6 and will start from 5th on the grid and Force India’s Sergio Perez was able to put in an excellent flyer for P7 and will start from 6th. That split the Red Bulls and leaves Russian-born Daniil Kvyat starting in P8 behind Vettel at his home Grand Prix. Rounding out the Top 10, Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen starts from P9.

Top 10 qualifiers for the Russian Grand Prix:

POS. NO. DRIVER TEAM Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 6 NICO ROSBERG  MERCEDES 1:36.119 1:35.337 1:35.417 16
2 5 SEBASTIAN VETTEL*  FERRARI 1:36.555 1:36.623 1:36.123 16
3 77 VALTTERI  BOTTAS  WILLIAMS 1:37.746 1:37.140 1:36.536 17
4 7 KIMI RÄIKKÖNEN  FERRARI 1:36.976 1:36.741 1:36.663 17
5 19 FELIPE MASSA  WILLIAMS 1:37.753 1:37.230 1:37.016 16
6 3 DANIEL RICCIARDO  RED BULL RACING 1:38.091 1:37.569 1:37.125 22
7 11 SERGIO PEREZ  FORCE INDIA 1:38.006 1:37.282 1:37.212 20
8 26 DANIIL KVYAT  RED BULL RACING 1:38.265 1:37.606 1:37.459 22
9 33 MAX VERSTAPPEN  TORO ROSSO 1:38.123 1:37.510 1:37.583 20
10 44 LEWIS HAMILTON  MERCEDES 1:36.006 1:35.820 13

*Vettel will start P7 after 5-spot grid penalty for gearbox change.

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com.

Tomorrow’s race airs live on NBC Sports at the civilized hour of 8AM Eastern. Should make for some very entertaining and picturesque Sunday breakfast viewing.

Prince

RIP Prince, 1958 – 2016

2016 has officially become one of those singularly awful periods in Rock history, like 1959, when Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper all died in a single plane crash. Or that fateful stretch from 1970 to 1971 when Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison all OD’d. Continuing this year’s traumatic trend, the world lost the whirlwind musical talent known as Prince this past Thursday, April 21st. The Purple One joins his fellow chameleonic, gender-bending artist David Bowie, as well as Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey among the colossal figures in the Rock pantheon who’ve passed away this year. (Another we lost in 2016 is fabled Beatles producer George Martin, who thankfully lived to the ripe old age of 90).

Prince’s New York Times obituary is here.

An excellent essay on Prince’s wonderful mix of carnality and spirituality is also available at the Times.

It’s easy to forget with the passing of time what a controversial figure Prince was when he broke onto the scene in the early 1980s. But then, with album titles like Dirty Mind and Controversy he made it clear he was courting it. It was the Reagan era, a promised return to straight-laced, wholesome American values after the free-love 1960s and the if-it-feels-good-do-it pre-AIDS 1970s. Yet here was this diminutive, light skinned African American emerging fully formed from Minneapolis of all places, dressed like an English dandy and singing some of the dirtiest come-ons ever put to vinyl. A wonderfully unusual lover man — handsome yet pretty, satyr-like but delicate and petite with his pencil thin mustache, long hair and soft speaking voice belying his powerfully expressive singing style — it wasn’t hard for the manly men and hair metal rockers to make fun of Prince. Except that while they and their buddies were down at the local watering hole drinking Buds and listening to Slayer, Prince was systematically bedding their women and bringing those lucky ladies to previously undreamed of paroxysms of ecstasy.

With his utterly unique musical gift for passionate eclecticism, effortlessly blending Soul, R&B, Funk and Rock into one heady hedonistic potion with which to intoxicate listeners, he wasn’t just upsetting to uptight macho guys or self-appointed moral police like Tipper Gore’s dumb Parent’s Music Resource Center. Prince was downright revolutionary, challenging the established musical order of that era. A light-skinned black dude who could shred on guitar like a latter day Hendrix or Ernie Isley while simultaneously promising to ravage America’s daughters of all colors — was he an R&B/Funk sensation or a crossover artist like Michael Jackson, another rare performer who couldn’t be contained or labeled by the then-prevailing radio segregation between “R&B,” “Pop” and “Rock”? Was he just a borderline obscene libertine provocateur or in fact a sensitive sensualist poet-prophet for a new generation? The answer to all of those and many more questions about Prince was invariably Yes.

Prince was aided and abetted in his cross-cultural takeover by the coincidental rise of an even greater societal force, MTV, becoming one of the budding video network’s omnipresent early stars with his seminal (literally) video for the double-entendre filled “Little Red Corvette.” 1984 saw the culmination of Prince’s conquest with the spectacularly popular, semi-autobiographical film Purple Rain, the massively successful album of the same name and its host of high-charting hits, not least of them the gospel-infused title track, which became as close to a theme song as the ever-changing Prince ever had (or maybe it was really “Dirty Mind”). As someone who went to that movie upon its initial release in a small-town theater while away at school, I can testify to Purple Rain‘s impact on a bunch of horny teenaged white kids, even if today we might look back and see nothing much more than a long form video with a typically 80s outsider-makes-good storyline. With the United States still very much on Cold War footing with the Soviet Union and the threat of nuclear annihilation pervading the darkest corners of our young minds, when Prince sang “We’re all excited/But we don’t know why/Maybe it’s ’cause/We’re all gonna die!” on “Let’s Go Crazy” it was pure catharsis. Not to mention a fine excuse to live it up to the fullest right freaking now.

If Prince would never achieve those Olympian heights again his place in the pop music firmament was nonetheless firmly enshrined. He dabbled with Bowie-esque gender bending, as on the especially erotic yet thoroughly empathetic “If I Was Your Girlfriend.” He went through backing bands like Kleenex and collaborated with other artists with a similarly hyperactive drive, writing hit songs for the Bangles, Sinead O’Connor, Stevie Nicks and many others, while also shepherding new acts like Vanity, Bria Valente, Morris Day and the Time and Sheila E. He split from his record label, self-released his music and changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol, then returned to a major label and started using Prince again. All the while, as he cranked out a ton of amazing music with or without further chart success, it was clear that he was not only his own unique phenomenon but also the spiritual heir to all those great musicians who merged the sacred with the profane, from the Delta bluesmen to Ray Charles and Sam Cooke to Sly and the Family Stone, James Brown, Marvin Gaye and Rick James. In the process he created an unsettling, stimulating, booty shaking mix of something close to sexual Gospel music for the modern age.

Most of all, Prince refused to be pigeonholed. He was simply the greatest singer/producer/arranger/guitar player/keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist and showman of his time, the fantastic culmination of 20th century African-American music in one diminutive, hyperkinetic package. In the end there was no one like him, before or since. The purple light’s gone out all too prematurely. But we can thank the heavens for his tragically brief but utterly amazing 57 years on this humdrum planet. Because the eternal soul of Prince will always be here to guide us, his dearly beloved mere mortals, and help get us through this thing called life.

terre d hermes

Men’s Cologne — Terre d’Hermès Parfum

Terre d’Hermès is a strange creation in several respects. This nouveau Woody Chypre is both very popular and highly regarded yet also has a lot of detractors, particularly among the more elite bloggers and taste makers. A thoroughly modern fragrance originally designed in 2006 by Hermès’s in house superstar nose, Jean-Claude Elena, Terre enjoyed a meteoric rise both critically and in terms of high end sales, particularly with guys in their 20s and 30s. And as with so many super successful fragrances, I think that likely led to a lot of blowback from the self-appointed cognoscenti, a la Bleu de Chanel. Purposely designed to be a world away from the then-reigning sweet and aquatic creations, Terre was meant to be a return to something like the citrus-forward/woody-based masculine qualities of Dior’s original Eau Sauvage, only amped up on 21st century steroids. And at least for the Parfum version that is pretty much what you get (full disclosure: I haven’t tried the original Eau de Toilette so there may be more nuance to that version).

The Parfum, which I feel is really more of an Eau de Parfum in terms of actual strength, does come on like gangbusters with a mighty waft of oily orange peel. Some have described a “rotten orange” quality but I don’t get that. For me the orange comes across as fresh, a trifle sweet but really heavily like a big chunk of peel that you’ve just wrung out to drop into your Old Fashioned. The note pyramid states there is grapefruit there at the top, as well, but I feel like the orange is so strong that I don’t really get any of that, which is a good thing in my book because grapefruit in cologne is definitely hit or miss. Almost immediately after this big opening a heavy duty balsamic (as in pine not vinegar) quality muscles its way into the action. It’s green and sharp and plays off the citrus with a bracing effect. Now there’s no evergreen notes listed so perhaps this is a trick of the professed “shiso” and “flint accords,” which I take to mean sort of minty/herbal for the shiso and a sharp high note for the flint, mingling with the cedar-infused “woody notes” in the base. But to my nose I get a definite “pine grove” sharpness commingling with that orange. And maybe that’s just the limitation of my nose… or at least how I perceive the massive amounts of Iso-E Super in Terre, that omnipresent modern chemical stand-in for sandalwood.

And then… well, then it pretty much just stays like that for the duration, which for a Parfum is not overwhelming at around 6-8 hours (there could well be olfactory fatigue at play in that perceived modest longevity — others may well smell it on you longer after your nose has been fried). Now the Parfum pyramid, while still a simple one, claims additional notes of oakmoss and benzoin (a sweet smelling resin of the styrax tree). But aside from vague whispers amidst the shouting of the top notes I don’t really get a lot of those. To my nose, Terre d’Hermès is an extremely linear fragrance, meaning that it essentially stays the same from the time you apply it until far into the dry down. The smell is nothing so much as one of those homemade holiday crafts projects where you stick a whole orange full of cloves, only in Terre’s case you’ve stuck the orange full of pine sprigs and cedar chips.

orange

And while some use this consistently limited two-note quality to bash Terre, I won’t. It is a fairly unique scent and the Parfum version is powerful without being offensive (there are zero animalic notes). The sillage is quite significant but not that of a real divisive powerhouse-type fragrance. I don’t really see how any man could offend while wearing Terre d’Hermès Parfum, particularly a few minutes after the somewhat riotous initial blast upon application dries down. That may also be why it receives its fair share of disdain from the connoisseurs — it has the feel of something designed scientifically rather than a fragrance that has been born of inspiration or passion. As mentioned above, Terre has a massive amount of Iso E Super in it, a chemical that is used to boost woodsy notes. And you do get that in spades, in this case for me it’s like a freshly cut conifer sapling (and the brighter side of a much danker effect that Iso E Super creates in the vetiver-heavy Encre Noire from Lalique. With its very recent creation, it makes sense that rather than using something like organic sandalwood or cedar Mr. Elena would use his modern-day perfumer’s tools to achieve a similar effect in heightened form. I don’t begrudge him or Hermès that even if Terre is nonetheless quite a pricey juice for such a clearly artificial creation (the Parfum lists for $115 for a 2.5 oz bottle though can be had for cheaper on Amazon). But then I also don’t feel like Terre d’Hermès, at least in Parfum form, is all that brilliant a creation, either. More like a chemically clever one.

Once you get past its seeming daring and boldness in mixing orange and woods into such a relatively potent cocktail then you are left wondering just what exactly are you trying to convey when you wear it? Again, I think it is consummately inoffensive, fresh without being sweet or cloying and certainly somewhat elegant. But I don’t feel its very sexy in and of itself. If you’ve already got a significant other, chances are they will like it on you when you cuddle up. But I don’t see this one as mating call juice at the local bar. It’s a bit too perplexing to be sexy. Yes, you’ll smell good but probably not hot and steamy good, just “nice” with all that entails. But maybe its “safe,” non-threatening quality can work to one’s advantage more than I’m giving it credit for. I do think this one works well at any age and probably best in fall and spring, where the cool but not cold weather allows the heady citrus to float off the body in an appealing way. I can see how this could come across as a bit too heavy in the summer and there is something about genuinely cold weather, despite the likely Christmas connotations of its profile, that seems to choke off Terre, stunting its power (unlike, say, Eau Sauvage Parfum, which thrives in frigid temperatures). So that’s it really. I guess I feel like Terre d’Hermès neither deserves the fawning praise of the masses or the scorn of the elites. It’s good, it’s a little weird but it’s never freaky or funky. A solid pick for daytime, especially causal rather than office use, or a night out with friends or a committed partner. You’ll smell good, you’ll smell like a piney orange and you’ll smell classy. But if you’re like me, you won’t want to smell like this all the time. Terre d’Hermès will likely be a solid addition to your collection for occasional use — it is definitely distinctive! — but not a signature fragrance. Frankly, the world of cologne is much more interesting and far ranging than this simple, straightforward beast.

2016F1China

2016 F1 Grand Prix of China — Results & aftermath

Mercedes’ Rosberg scores hat trick in China; Vettel recovers from first lap collision to take P2 for Ferrari, Kvyat P3 for resurgent Red Bull

When people say Formula 1 is a boring form of motor racing it’s probably best to ask if they’ve seen an F1 race in the last three years. The Chinese Grand Prix’s opening lap once again put the lie to such ignorant bloviating, as collisions amongst several contenders scrambled the running order and made the 56-lap contest a desperate struggle for survival much less points. In the end, pole-sitter Nico Rosberg avoided the melee at the start and ran a flawless race, winning by a whopping 37.7 seconds over the damaged field. It was his third straight victory for Mercedes to open the season and his remarkable sixth straight win dating back to last year. That puts the previously much maligned German in the elite company of Sebastian Vettel, Alberto Ascari & Michael Schumacher as the only F1 drivers to achieve such an impressive win streak. It also continued a perfect points haul for Rosberg in 2016, consolidating his early season lead in the quest for his first ever Drivers’ Championship.

Pictures courtesy GranPrix247.com

Pictures courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Better yet for Rosberg, his arch nemesis and teammate Lewis Hamilton had a nearly disastrous weekend. The reigning champion was not only relegated to the rear of the field due to mechanical issues in qualifying but also saw the team’s decision to start him from the back of the grid rather than the pit lane backfire spectacularly. Hamilton got caught up with the dreaded backmarker scramble and lost his front wing to a collision with Sauber’s Felipe Nasr down into Turn 1. That required a desperate rethink by Hamilton’s strategists to get him back in the points, which eventually led to a mind numbing five pit stops for tires and repairs. In the end, however, Hamilton pulled off an epic drive in a badly damaged Siver Arrows to come home P7, a valuable points haul a long season when a lesser driver may well have settled for early retirement and nothing at all.

Ferrari’s quixotic 2016 continued with good results that still could have been much better. Teammates Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen collided at the start when Red bull’s Daniil Kvyat tried to make an overtaking move inside of Vettel into Turn 1, forcing the two Prancing Horses into each other. Vettel’s car was damaged less so than Raikonnen’s but both Ferraris required premature pit stops for repairs. With determination and excellent strategy after that unfortunate incident, Vettel was able to will himself to an amazing P2, while Raikkonen drove a gritty race of his own for P5. Vettel was contrite towards Raikkonen for his part in the shunt after the race but spared no words of contempt for Kvayt in the podium green room for the Russian’s perceived recklessness.

Despite Vettel’s harsh condemnation of his aggressive driving at the start, Red Bull’s Kvyat unapologetically claimed his opportunistic P3. His teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, who showed impressive pace all weekend, was hobbled by an early puncture after running over debris which hamstrung the Aussie’s overall ambitions of taking the fight to Ferrari. Ricciardo still managed to finish P4 and the combined results showed that the improved Red Bull chassis has the pace to challenge for the podium once again after an off year in 2015.

Williams had an OK result with Felipe Massa taking P6 and Valtteri Bottas coming home P10. But they have got to be concerned about their rivals’ steady improvement to start the year, which appears to be pushing them backwards in the results. In fact, the ostensibly inferior Toro Rossos of Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz split the Williams team with a solid P8 and P9 respectively.

All in all it was crazy contest, with Ferrari showing championship challenging pace and Red Bull making remarkable strides to put themselves back into serious contention. But it looks like once again they’ll all be chasing Mercedes for the Championship. Only this year the racing gods seem to smiling on Rosberg rather than Hamilton.

Top 10 finishers from China:

1 NICO ROSBERG GER MERCEDES 1:38:53.891 25
2 SEBASTIAN VETTEL GER FERRARI +37.776s 18
3 DANIIL KVYAT RUS RED BULL RACING +45.936s 15
4 DANIEL RICCIARDO AUS RED BULL RACING +52.688s 12
5 KIMI RÄIKKÖNEN FIN FERRARI +65.872s 10
6 FELIPE MASSA BRA WILLIAMS +75.511s 8
7 LEWIS HAMILTON GBR MERCEDES +78.230s 6
8 MAX VERSTAPPEN NED TORO ROSSO +79.268s 4
9 CARLOS SAINZ ESP TORO ROSSO +84.127s 2
10 VALTTERI  BOTTAS FIN WILLIAMS +86.192s 1

Complete race results available via Formula1.com.

The next race weekend is in two weeks, April 29 – May 1 from Sochi, Russia. Hope to see you then!

RosbergChina2016

2016 F1 Grand Prix of China — Qualifying results

Mercedes’ Rosberg continues hot start with pole in China; Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo sneaks into P2; Ferrari start a disappointing 3-4, while Hamilton relegated to the back

Sanity ws restored on Saturday as Formula 1 undid their gimmicky new 2016 qualifying format and went back to the tried and true down-to-the wire knockout qualifying that has served them in such good stead through the years. As a result, fans were once again rewarded with nail-biting tension as the teams rolled the dice and played strategy games right up until the Q3 checkered flag flew.

Coming out on top of all that late scrambling was Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg, whose charmed start to the season continued with his first pole of the year. While it looked for most of the last session that Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen might just grab the top spot, Rosberg was able to put in a corker of a last lap at 1:35.4, advancing his ambition to rack up a hat trick of victories in the first three races. Making things even sweeter for the German points leader his teammate Lewis Hamilton, who was already facing a 5-spot grid penalty for a gearbox change, failed to emerge from Q1 with an ERS problem. The current reigning Drivers’ Champion will start from the back on Sunday and will have to pull of a typically furious Lewis Hamilton sort of drive to secure decent points. As well as the prior two years have gone for the Englishman, 2016 has so far been nothing but star crossed.

Ferrari may be once again rueing strategy calls, as they waited until the dying moments to send out their ace Sebastian Vettel for his one and only Q3 lap. But in the tricky damp and windy conditions at the Shanghai Circuit, the German could manage a time only good enough for P4 against the more practiced drivers ahead of him. They included his teammate Raikonnen, who nonetheless must have been disappointed with his P3 after dominating the leaderboard for so much of the final session. Pipping him was Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo with a very fast P2, a mere .5 behind Rosberg, showing that the Red Bull chassis has improved greatly over last year’s pig and is back in the mix for solid points and perhaps at Ferrari’s expense.

Williams’ Valtteri Bottas laid down a strong final lap good enough for P5, Ricciardo’s teammate Daniil Kvyat was P6 and Force India’s Sergio Perez was a solid P7 after a very bad race for the team in Bahrain. However, Perez’s teammate Nico Hulkenberg was undone by a loose wheel nut that caused his tire to come off early in Q3. While Hulkenberg technically finished P10 he was demoted to 13th on the grid for the unsafe release infraction. (That moved Williams’ Felipe Massa into P10.) Rounding out the Top 10, the dueling Toro Rossos of Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen were P8 & P9 respectively.

Top 10 Qualifiers in China:

POS. NO. DRIVER TEAM Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 6 NICO ROSBERG  MERCEDES 1:37.669 1:36.240 1:35.402 16
2 3 DANIEL RICCIARDO  RED BULL RACING 1:37.672 1:36.815 1:35.917 13
3 7 KIMI RÄIKKÖNEN  FERRARI 1:37.347 1:36.118 1:35.972 13
4 5 SEBASTIAN VETTEL  FERRARI 1:37.001 1:36.183 1:36.246 10
5 77 VALTTERI  BOTTAS  WILLIAMS 1:37.537 1:36.831 1:36.296 13
6 26 DANIIL KVYAT  RED BULL RACING 1:37.719 1:36.948 1:36.399 14
7 11 SERGIO PEREZ  FORCE INDIA 1:38.096 1:37.149 1:36.865 15
8 55 CARLOS SAINZ  TORO ROSSO 1:37.656 1:37.204 1:36.881 15
9 33 MAX VERSTAPPEN  TORO ROSSO 1:38.181 1:37.265 1:37.194 15
10 27 NICO HULKENBERG*  FORCE INDIA 1:38.165 1:37.333 10

*Hulkenberg penalized 3 grid spots for unsafe release after tire came off on track.

Complete qualifying results available via Formula1.com

The broadcast for the Chinese Grand Prix begins at the ungodly hour of 2AM Eastern on NBCSports. Unless you plan to load up on NoDoz I suggest you set your DVR and watch it at your leisure. Hamilton fighting his way from the back of the field should be worth the price of admission alone.

McQueenLeMans

Documentary view — Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans

(This article was co-written with tomvox1, who helped fill in the biographical blanks of McQueen’s Hollywood career)

Legendary screen icon Steve McQueen was not only one of his generation’s most interesting and successful actors but he was also a serious motorsports addict. An accomplished racer on both two wheels and four, McQueen began spending lavishly on racing machines just as soon as he started making money as an actor after his discharge from the Marines, where he had even attempted to soup up his squad’s tank. Tearing around Greenwich Village in a wire-spoked 1950s MG, he graduated to ever more exotic fare upon moving to California and hitting the big time with his starring role on the Western TV series, Wanted: Dead or Alive. As well as means, McQueen had exquisite automotive taste and would come to be identified with some of the most remarkable cars of the second half of the 20th Century: the 1958 Porsche Speedster, the stunning Jaguar XK-SS, the 1963 Ferrari 250 Lusso and, perhaps most famously, his personal gunmetal gray 1969 Porsche 911S and the Highland Green ’68 Mustang GT fastback from Bullitt.

Throughout the 1960s, running parallel to his rise as a Hollywood superstar, McQueen honed his craft as an expert racer. While truly gifted on a dirt bike, the King of Cool worked hard to become one of the top amateur sports car drivers in the US. In fact, despite being hampered by a broken foot in a cast, McQueen and co-driver Peter Revson drove their Porsche 908 Spyder prototype to an impressive second overall at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1970, and first in the P2 class. After a gritty and inspired run, McQueen and Revson only missed out on the overall win when Ferrari drafted the great Mario Andretti into their second car as the laps wound down. It was the pinnacle of McQueen’s racing career but it was almost incidental to the real reason for purchasing the 908 in the first place: he was bound and determined to make the greatest racing movie of all time.

And that’s where the excellent documentary, Steve McQueen: The Man and Le Mans, picks up the story. In exhaustively researched detail, the film, a 2015 Cannes official selection, delves into how McQueen put the full force of his stardom and clout behind making his racing epic for good and for ill. Grabbing hold of a project originally titled “Day of the Champion” but now renamed simply “Le Mans,” his vision was to capture as realistically as possible the thrills he himself was experiencing in the cockpit of a high performance race car. And as the title now suggested, the indispensable backdrop for all of the action would be the greatest race of them all, the world famous 24 Hours of Le Mans. With a cast full of real-life professional road racers and innovative filming techniques, including converting the Sebring Porsche 908 into a 150 mph camera car, the aim was to mix actual race footage with realistic recreations executed at speed by top pros along with McQueen driving a Gulf-liveried Porsche 917 as the movie’s protagonist, Michael Delaney.

MOTORSPORT / STEVE MC QUEEN

But despite the dedication and advanced technology brought to bear for the driving sequences and McQueen’s personal desire to eclipse John Frakenheimer’s 1966 Formula 1 epic, Grand Prix, as the the greatest racing movie of all time, production of Le Mans was star crossed from the get-go. Continue reading

LauderForMen

Men’s Cologne — Lauder for Men

My renewed interest in exploring men’s fragrance began after I had been wearing Armani Eau Pour Homme for over a decade as essentially my signature scent. I always felt that if I had my cologne figured out why bother changing it up too much? Eventually, though, I found myself increasingly bored wearing the Armani day in and day out, craving a bit more variety to my scent life. More than that, while always pleasant it started to go missing after about an hour. Yes, it still remained present as a skin scent (something you really have to put your nose close to to smell) but I wondered if continual reformulation through the years hadn’t neutered it, a common problem with classic colognes. Most of all, though, I came to realize I was looking for something to break the monotony and break out of my olfactory ennui. So I started doing some research, going to the local Sephora for samples, reading Fragrantica and looking at some opinionated men’s perfume blogs like Pour Monsieur and From Pyrgos. That piqued my curiosity to try new things, change it up and give several other colognes a chance. And one of the pleasures of this new scent journey has been finding out just how much variety there is in good men’s cologne these days, as well as how much wearing different fragrances for different occasions and circumstances can give you both personal enjoyment and a leg up in terms of confidence and polish to one’s sense of style.

So let’s talk about one of my new favorites, Estée Lauder’s Lauder for Men. Now, Lauder for Men is not a new scent at all, just new to me. It was created way back in 1985, in what some consider the golden age of power fragrances. But Lauder for Men is not a typical 80s badass like Drakkar Noir, Kouros or Lapidus. In fact, it seems to harken further back to more restrained, less spicy aromatic fougéres of the 60s and 70s. There is nothing ballsy, hairy chested or in your face about Lauder for Men. It opens crisp and green with pleasingly bracing notes of juniper and clary sage. This is freshness in a bottle, a classic cologne smell with the longevity of an Eau de Toilette. There’s also a pleasant hint of sweeter citrus — lemon and mandarin orange peel — to balance out the galbanum, though I don’t really get the cardamon or coriander listed in the notes in my modern formulation.

Not just for your gin Martini!

Not just for your gin Martini!

The dry down is equally lovely, the green vibe lingering  for certain but opening up with pleasant notes of masculine flowers like carnation, jasmine, lily of the valley and rose. Continue reading

Vettel-Bahrain2106

2016 F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain — Results & aftermath

Rosberg streaks to 5th consecutive win with victory in Bahrain, Hamilton settles for P3 after more problems at start; Raikkonen lifts Ferrari with P2 after Vettel’s engine blows up on formation lap

Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg made the best possible start to his 2016 campaign with a dominant win in Sunday’s GP in Bahrain giving him victories in the first two races of the year. Starting from second on the grid alongside his pole-sitting teammate, Lewis Hamilton, Rosberg had a better getaway than his archival and overtook the reigning World Champion going into Turn 1. Worse yet for Hamilton, Williams’ Vatteri Bottas, who got a blazing start from back in P6 on the grid, tried an over ambitious underneath pass on the Englishman and smashed into the side of his Silver Arrows, sending carbon fiber all over the track and partially spinning Hamilton. Other cars swamped him while he struggled to point the Mercedes in the right direction again and Hamilton’s race was essentially one of damage control from then on out. While Rosberg ran away from the chaos behind him to a dominant lead & eventual victory in the well-lit desert night, Hamilton nursed his injured car to a decent P3 finish. That makes it 5 consecutive Grand Prix wins for Rosberg dating back to the end of last season and the German seems well and truly determined to end his irritating role as Hamilton’s foil and capture a first ever Drivers’ Championship of his own. And if Hamilton can’t figure out how to make better starts from the line when the lights go out he’ll surely be helping Rosberg achieve his dream.

Pictures courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Pictures courtesy GrandPrix247.com

Ferrari had another decidedly mixed day despite showing potentially Mercedes-challenging speed over the course of the first two races. Their ace Sebastian Vettel suffered a shocking engine failure on the formation lap, the second DNF for Ferrari to open the season and a troubling display of unreliability for this year’s car. That left Kimi Raikkonen to shoulder the whole load for the legendary Scuderia and the veteran Finn, who had his own race ending turbo failure in Australia, proved up to the task of saving Ferrari’s blushes on the day. Showing excellent pace after recovering from a sub-par getaway of his own, Raikkonen managed to come home with a reasonably comfortable P2, keeping Hamilton securely behind him and with no signs of any further technical trouble on the SF16-H.

Below the top 3, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo drove another strong and smart race showing off the much improved engine and chassis to take P4. And the Cinderella season for first year American F1 team Haas continued when their French veteran leader, Romain Grosjean, made a risky tire strategy work and fought with gusto for a remarkable P5. Coming on the heels of his stunning P6 in Australia, that makes two excellent points scoring fishes in a row for the Frenchman and the debutante Ferrari-powered team from Kannapolis, North Carolina. Now if they can just get Grosjean’s teammate Esteban Gutierrez to finish a race — the young Mexican crashed out after his terrifying tangle with Fernando Alonso in Melbourne and suffered engine failure in Bahrain — the upstart Yanks could put together something that is nearly unprecedented for a team in this most demanding form of motorsport: a successful first year.

Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen recovered from his tantrum in Australia, channeling his aggression into dicing hard with his competitors rather than yelling at his team to come home a solid P6. Continue reading

Hamilton-2016BahrainGpQuali

2016 F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain — Qualifying results

Like an undead zombie, Formula 1’s bewildering new 2016 Qualifying format shambled on for yet another week this Saturday in the lead up to the second race of the season in Bahrain. But however ill-conceived this revision to the previously superlative F1 qualifying format one still has to give credit to team Mercedes and their remarkable duo of drivers for continuing to come out on top. Lewis Hamilton gave maximum effort in the twilight of the Arabian desert, attempting to claw back his alpha status by grabbing an impressive pole at the Sakhir circuit and setting the all-time fastest F1 lap there in the process. It was the English Triple World Champion’s astounding 51st career pole position.

Hamilton’s Silver Arrows teammate and archival, Nico Rosberg, winner of four consecutive GP including this year’s opener in Australia, came up short by a whisker-thin .077 seconds. So Mercedes locked out the front row yet again. It remains to be seen, however, if this almost bulletproof team can resolve their niggling starting issues under the new “no clutch coaching” rules, which nearly proved their Achilles heel in Melbourne when they were overtaken as the lights went out by the two Ferraris. Ferrari are certainly hoping that history repeats, as their two aces, Sebastian Vettel & Kimi Raikkonen, posted very representative times to claim P3 and P4 respectively. It seems evident, at least in the early going of this new season, that the Prancing Horses have made up ground on the factory Mercedes team in terms of straight-line speed. Given the right circumstances they may well harry the champions for wins and more than a punter’s chance for a serious duel for the Constructors’ Title. But what the Sucderia has sacrificed in terms of reliability vis a vis performance to get on near-level terms with this era’s predominant team could well prove to be their undoing, as evinced by Raikkonen’s DNF in the first race & Vettel’s rear axel issues in Friday practice.

Daniel Ricciardo was a very impressive P5 for the improving team Red Bull-Tag Heuer, while Mercedes-powered Team Williams was solid with Valtteri Bottas in P6 and Felipe Massa in P7. Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg had a dubious success with P8, which under the current daffy qualifying rules means that he actually has one less set of tires to work with in the race despite making it through to Q3. That left upstart Hass F1’s Romain Grosjean grinning like a Chesire cat in P9 despite being knocked out in Q2. Rounding out the top 10 qualifiers was fiery teenager Max Verstappen for Toro Rosso.

While it wasn’t as dull as the session in Australia, qualifying in Bahrain still wasn’t up to the old standard of excitement that we F1 fans have come to know & love. Continue reading