With the turn of the New Year, two women have achieved new roles of substantial power in the motorsports industry. Both will impact the discussion of women in racing as we know it.
The first big announcement was by the FIA. Also known as the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, they are the governing body that oversees the racing aspect of Formula 1 and sub divisions among many channels of international motorsports. In December, they appointed a Spaniard by the name of Carmen Jorda to the FIA Women’s Commission.
A ‘test driver’ for the Lotus Formula 1 team, Jorda’s racing resume is not the most impressive. More of a spokesperson, shots of Jorda posing in a driving suit or standing in front of an car holding her helmet are plentiful, but actual driving stats are scarce. In her frustration with the challenges she has faced being a woman in racing, Jorda has decided that the industry is rigged. Her opinion is that her gender will never have a decent opportunity in professional racing and therefore a separate, women’s only series should be created. In an interview with the sanctioning body back in 2015, she stated: “Nowadays you see women competing in their own championships: football, tennis, skiing – you name it – and in none of these championships are men and women competing against each other. So the question is: why not have a F1 world championship for women?”
Former CEO of Formula 1, Bernie Ecclestone not only agreed with this thought, but openly contested the role of women in motorsports in general. He has even gone as far as to say that women “should not be taken seriously” in F1 and that “they physically cannot drive a car as fast.” Though in 2000 Eccelstone went as far to share his vision with Autosport racing magazine, saying that if a woman did make it in Formula 1, “What I would really like to see happen is to find the right girl, perhaps a black girl with super looks, preferably Jewish or Muslim, who speaks Spanish.” Clearly as Ecclestone saw it, women in this industry are merely present for visual appeal and to be used as a marketing tool.
This segregation that Jorda speaks of only further feeds the divide. Not only would pulling in sponsors be an issue for a separate female series, but it eliminates one of the biggest appeals of motor racing- equality. When competing for the Champion of the World, all drivers should have the chance to Just be drivers. A women’s only series limits the winner to be the champion only amongst women. This takes a step backwards from the groundwork that predecessors have fought every inch for.
Possibly, unbeknownst to Jorda, she is the Achilles heel to her own cause. By posing for photo shoots she has turned herself into a marketing ploy. Yes, it has gained her access to one of the biggest boy’s clubs in the sporting world, but at the cost of being taken seriously as a competitor. In her new role on the Women’s Commission, it is her responsibility to now uphold the reputation of her gender in the most historically scrutinized form of racing. Here lies the concern.
Jorda’s appointment sparked outrage across social media platforms, particularly from women in the industry. One of the hardest-hitting tweet responses was from an engineer by the name of Leena Gade:
“I chose to compete in a man’s world, like so many other women in countless motorsport roles. WE want to be the best against males & females. Can’t do that? Play another game.”
In early January, Schmidt Peterson racing announced Gade as the first female head engineer in Indy Car series history. This appointment goes in the opposite direction from Jorda’s.
Leena Grade’s race engineering resume is a perfect example that women can share the podium with men. Biggest accomplishments to date include her three 24- hour Le Mans wins, one of which she was subsequently awarded the FIA World Endurance Championship ‘Man of the Year’ award. Gade is quick to say that she is also on the FIA Women’s Commission and hopes to negate the thought of a separate women’s division in racing.
The tides are changing in the motorsports world. This is a topic that is very personal to me as a young woman stepping into this industry. The days of these sexist ideals are on the way out. Liberty Media announced in early February that Grid Girls in Formula 1 are going the way of the dodo as well. This removal, I believe, is a positive one. I agree with Carmen Jorda that women have not have not had a fair shake in racing. I also believe, however, that this fight is also an uphill battle to reprogram societal norms. It is not easy – but retreating to a separate series takes away just how big of an accomplishment an appointment like Leena Gade’s is.
Drivers like Janet Guthrie, Lyn St. James, Lella Lombardi, Maria Teresa de Filippis, the Force sisters, Simona de Silvestro, Danica Patrick, Sarah Fisher, Katherine Legge, Pippa Mann and dozens of others serve as reference material, a testament that women have and will have a place in the top tier of motorsports. As Ecclestone once stated: “women should be dressed in white like all the other domestic appliances.” If you truly believe that Mr. Ecclestone, then it is high-time for us clean house.
Every winter in December there is a Charity Car show/cruse-in at Benny’s Rod & Custom Pizza Café in Vancouver Washington. Some years it’s raining, some not and still other times it’s freezing cold, but none of that seems to dampen the spirits of the die-hard car people that bring their unwrapped toys and food donations along with the cars, out for little gathering.
The attendees are always different cars you don’t usually see. It is put on by the Road Masters Car Club and held at Benny’s, who creates a one day only breakfast menu that’s terrific and very reasonably priced.
It’s worth attending even if only for Benny’s great food and hot rod atmosphere and it’s all for charity.
The Albany Indoor Swap Meet has proven to be a terrific swap meet year after year. One of the best parts is that it’s indoors as the title says. Even though it’s in November, in Oregon, you don’t need to spend much time out in the rain, slopping around in mud. It’s inside at the Linn County Fair & Expo Center in Albany Oregon.
I’ve been attending this meet for many years and I always find things I can’t live without. This year it’s probably good I didn’t have at lot of discretionary income because I found several cars for sale that I’d very likely own if I did have that extra money. I did buy a couple of things for my project I’m working on but the best deal I got was a GM distributor hold down that Bob White from Graffiti Alley in Eugene gave me when I picked it up and asked how much. Thanks Bob.
My buddy found several pieces he was looking for at great prices for his projects. There isn’t usually much to choose from for the car hobbyist during the winter here in the Northwest, but this swap meet needs to be on your list for next fall for sure.
Every January the NWDRA holds a swap meet at the Clark County Event Center and I go every year. It’s a one-day event and usually I end up finding something I must have. You notice, I didn’t say “something I need.” Sometimes it something as simple as valve covers or as large as a differential, or some wheels.
The club, the Northwest Drag Racing Association of course draws vendors with a focus on drag racing but that’s not all you’ll find, not only racing stuff. A couple years ago I found an 8” Ford rear end that a friend of mine needed for one of his builds. It turned out to be a great buy and it was in new condition. This year that same friend was with me and he found a valve cover for a six (6) cylinder that he needed to replace the one he had that was no longer usable. Add this swap meet to your next year’s list, it’s a good one.
Today ”junk yards” or “wrecking yards” are referred to as “auto recyclers.” This change wasn’t made to be politically correct. “Recycler” better describes what the proprietors of these businesses do. I also believe that calling the parts and pieces that fill these establishments “recyclables” acknowledges that they have value. We know as car guys that this stuff isn’t “junk” just because it was scavenged from a wrecked vehicle.
I love wrecking yards and I always have. To me they are magical places filled with history as well as possibilities for the future. I have a very early memory of visiting my uncle Gene when he worked for Schnitzer Steel. From an elevated office I remember watching the crane with the enormous magnet pick up scrap and drop it in the gigantic compactor. You know, the one that transforms the assorted bits into a perfect cube? Wow! How cool was that? I was perhaps four or five years old and I will take that memory to the grave!
In high school I quit my job bussing tables to work for a wrecking yard in San Jose, CA called VW Used Parts Center. I spent my days completely dismantling Beetles with another kid named “Gary”. We learned how to use air tools like impacts and chisels but the cutting torch was by far our tool of choice. (It was supposed to be our last resort but we were always making excuses for using it.) We were two teenagers virtually unsupervised, being paid a couple bucks an hour to PLAY WITH FIRE! Gawd, it was fun! Once we got to assemble an engine and start it on the garage floor. It ran…but not for long. Working for the wrecking yard was all fun and games until I got a mouthful of gasoline while learning how to siphon. Seriously, I’m surprised that neither Gary nor I were ever injured… I guess when you’re a teenager you don’t think about it. I caught the pant leg of my overalls on fire once. Suddenly I felt the heat on my calf! I simply patted it out and kept on cutting.
My senior year in college I bought a ’51 Studebaker Champion. It was a complete running car with cosmetic needs so it was back to the wrecking yards. My girlfriend and I spent weekends seeking replacement parts in any yard where someone had made a “Bullet-nose” sighting. Sometimes the cars ended up being Fords of the same vintage but usually we’d sniff out a Stude. And typically the donor car had something I wanted; an unblemished emblem or a taillight lens. The treasure hunt aspect of the journey made it great fun for my girlfriend and I. Though I was a little older by this time, I was still pretty fearless (reckless?) when I think about it. Eventually the Stude became my daily driver. I drove it all over the bay area without a worry about breakdown and it never did leave us stranded anywhere.
These days my sister is restoring an early edition ’55 Chevy Pickup and her quest for parts and pieces has taken her to all those familiar places. She discovered a wonderful wrecking yard just east of Eugene, OR called: Springfield Auto Recyclers. The place was established in 1949 and specializes in 1930’s to 1970’s vintage car and truck parts. Most of their business is conducted online via an eBay store.
Exploring the grounds (which owner “Chuck” made us feel welcome to do) immediately took me back to my roots. If you are a fan of American Pickers (Rock the Rust!), the sights at this venue will transport you to a lost episode – Magically you will find yourself trudging along behind Mike and Frank!
In addition to multiple acres of donor cars and trucks, the building which houses the parts counter is loaded with automobilia. Sadly these items (excepting the old manuals) are for display only. Chuck explained that like the vehicles themselves, much of the inventory which clutters the office was donated.
“I don’t remember where it came from,” he admits with a shrug. “People didn’t give it to me to sell. They would be disappointed if they came back in and it wasn’t here.” Okay, so it’s like viewing somebody’s collection or going to a museum. Either way, it is a worthwhile visit- it certainly made me feel nostalgic.
It made me want to pull on my overalls and tear into one of those old hulks lounging in the yard…
“Gary! Get the torch!’
At press time we have just entered into the New Year and the CES Show is rolling out their latest in technology with an emphasis on new. But first we must mention a name that should be familiar to many of you Northwest Street Rodders, Mitch Kim could use your thoughts. He has fought his way through a few maladies recently and is now locked in battle with liver cancer.
Now everyone hold your breath. Then let out with a loud, collective, hip hip hooray! Early believers are now receiving shipment of their new Tesla Model 3. As we have previously mentioned, Elon Musk has been experiencing his fair share of problems concerning getting his latest planet saving autocar shipped out to the prepaid buyers. Yay for him.
Now how about this, what if you could get a Tesla station wagon? For those who waited, maybe they can plop down their dollars on one. It seems that Qwest has completed the first working prototype.
Now, most of us know that Elon Musk has been getting his fingers into all kinds of different projects ranging from under the Earth to the furthest limits of outer space. Now, here is one that should make your collective mouths water, GearHeads: Drive Ins. Yes Homer, you heard that right. Now we don’t know if he is talking about the kind with the big screen and teenagers making out in the front seats of cars. But we do know that it involves roller skates. Watch for the first one to pop up down in Southern California somewhere.
How about this, can we talk about something that actually burns good ole gas? Super sly shutterbugs have been releasing camera spy shots of the new C8 Corvette which they are now saying is due to be released in 2020. Of course the shots are all camoed out. But it sure looks like the mid-engined monster that everyone has been talking about. Word has it that it will be powered by the latest LS design with dual turbos. Horsepower numbers? Who knows but up there for sure.
Now wouldn’t it be rad to pull up to one of those Tesla Drive Ins in one of these bad boys? Speaking of bad boys I would like to call your attention to the #BaddazzPortlandCarz list of the baddest Portland area cars featured at GearHeadsWorld. Just go to YouTube and punch into the search bar – Blown ’67 Chevelle Outlaw Street Racer to find the very first feature we ever did. And there are a number of badd Vettes in the list as well.
Okay now let’s get back to the truly important news of our future. That would, of course be what the tech Geeks have in store for all of us. No place better to find out about that, than the CES Show. We are hearing that China has opened an office in Silicon Valley to tout their new future car called Byton. This will be a slick piece featuring what they call an “Intuitive Digital Experience.”
This ride will feature facial recognition sensors that will open your door for you. The first vehicles will be level 3 autonomous, meaning that you will be able to take your hands off the wheel from time to time. They will be capable of connecting to Smart devices such as your phones and watches. Amazon’s Alexa will be integrated into your fine experience. They will be introduced in China in 2019. Expect to see them here in the US of A in 2020.
Then we have Nissan Intelligence Mobility which will leave the Driving Experience to the human brain. Will your brain be ready for that? And with no further adieu we introduce to you this month’s featured wondercar, the Toyota Palette Transport Vehicle a k a Toaster Car.
This fine representation of the future of humanity features the pictured 6-pack shaped vehicle which can be utilized to haul all manner of humans and whatever else. Just pop open the sunroofs in the top and drop the humans down in vertically where they will be stacked side-by-side. Okay… We don’t exactly know how the humans will be loaded into these things.
GearHeads, just make sure you don’t find yourselves in one of these things.
Chuck Fasst GearHeadsWorld@blogspot.com
“I love this show” says Indianapolis Motor Speedway Historian, Donald Davidson. “Everyone that you see, aisle after aisle, booth after booth. Everyone that you see is employed in motorsports. You wouldn’t believe how big it is.” Draped in respect from his peers, the humble racing expert cannot walk more than a couple paces without someone recognizing him. They grab his arms, his jacket, a celebrity based on knowledge. Davidson is one of thousands of racing enthusiasts that flock to the downtown convention center in Indianapolis for the Performance Racing Industry, or PRI show. Though Davidson doesn’t merely attend the show, he is an esteemed guest. He was invited to speak about the four A.J. Foyt Indy 500 winning cars on display at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum booth adjacent to the main thoroughfare. Groups of onlookers gather as the interviewer sets up a professional camera and lights. They listen, eager to hear a tidbit from the Grand Master himself.
Happenings like this occur all over the 3,400-booth showroom floor. Sister event to the SEMA show, the PRI show celebrated its 30th birthday this year. Unlike SEMA, PRI is focused specifically on auto racing. For one weekend in December, this is the center of the racing world.
No one gets into the racing industry by accident. Walking through the aisles, anyone can see that this is a passion-based profession. Booth topics go from shock absorbers to exhaust systems, brake pads, chassis, racing sanctioning bodies and publications. Seminars go on in the morning, hosted by trendsetters and industry leaders. Some are as technical as “Battery, Cranking & Charging System Myths Explained!” While others focus on the human element like “Derek Daly Academy Driver Development Seminar.”
Professionals, team owners, drivers, and engineers are invited. This is not an event open to the public until the last day. In more recent years, both PRI and SEMA have put a larger emphasis on educational development. By investing in college-age students, they are keeping the industry alive and evolving. My personal favorite example of such student/corporate partnership was a virtual reality prototype introduced to me by a student that I happened to meet in the Online Resources booth.
He introduced himself as Taylor, the lead Project Manager for the IU School of Informatics and Computing on the Augmented Reality application presented in front of us. A college student with one of the coolest homework projects I have ever heard of, he pointed to the 1958 Monza 500 winning Indy Roadster and explained. “Me and a team of students worked on this all semester. We made a digital 3D model of the engine.” Holding up an iPad to the Race of Two Worlds Champion, a digital model of the car’s engine appeared on the screen. As you moved left and right, the digital rendering followed, changing perspective. “You can use this technology to create a living dictionary of engines,” he said. With more time and resources, applications like this can be used to peel away components to virtually look into the inner workings of just about anything. Motorsports is just one application of such a program. Students like Taylor are doing research like this all over the world to further development in everything from engineering to biology. This is just the beginning.
As big as the PRI show is, it comes nowhere close to the notoriety that SEMA earns, and I think it should. Though it is not as physically big as SEMA, the PRI show should be a MUST ATTEND for anyone that aspires to work in racing. Simply being there can be educational in every definition of the word. You never know who you are going to meet, what you are going to learn or what connections you can make. The PRI show displays the cutting edge of what is happening now in the racing industry. Mark your calendars for next year. The PRI show returns December 6-8 2018.
This 2018 edition of the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction was its 47th year in Scottsdale Arizona. In 1967 Tom Barrett and Russ Jackson held a special car show that also featured some of their antique, vintage and classic vehicles. The event went so well that they decided to hold an auction in December of 1971. The first auction, was basically to sell some of their personal collection of classic automobiles, including two Mercedes-Benz 770K Phaetons, that were part of Hitler’s staff cars. One of them sold for a world record, at the time, $153,000. That first auction sold some other high-end classic vehicles such as Duesenberg, Packard, Rolls Royce etc. That auction started the annual event that has always been in Scottsdale, where it continues today.
Russ Jackson passed away in 1993 and Tom Barrett in 2004. Also in the 1990’s the auction had gotten so big, attracting nearly 100,000 people, that they needed to find a new location. The sprawling WestWorld Equestrian Center in North Scottsdale was that facility and where it continues to this day. Back then WestWorld consisted of a huge grassy polo field, a few horse arenas, a few barns and some smaller buildings and many acres of desert land. The Barrett-Jackson auction was held in a large tent. Today, WestWorld is a world class equestrian and special events facility with multiple barns and arenas. The auction tent has given way to a massive pre-fab building that can house over 5000 people in the auction stadium. For the last several years, there have been over 4000 registered bidders, making Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale one of, if not the largest vehicle auctions in the world. The beautiful grassy polo field is still there and much of that desert land has been converted to well-groomed gravel parking areas for the hundreds of thousands of people that came to WestWorld every year. The Goodguys Rod & Custom Association now holds their opening (March) and season ending (November) events at WestWorld.
In 1997 co-founder Russ Jackson’s son Craig Jackson who had worked in the company since the beginning, was promoted to President/CEO, and in 2004 Steve Davis was named President. Also in 1997 the Speed Channel TV network began airing live coverage of the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction. With the TV coverage came more and more innovations, including adding other auction locations. When Speed TV ended, FOX TV took over coverage and in 2015 Discovery Network and Velocity TV have televised the Barrett-Jackson auctions with many hours of live auction coverage. The TV coverage has helped raise attendance in Scottsdale to close to 300,000 people, making it one of the two biggest events each year in Arizona, eclipsed only by the Waist Management Phoenix Open PGA Golf tournament, that’s held right after the auction, just a few miles down the freeway also in Scottsdale.
Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auctions are well known for their commitment to helping local and national charities. Just since 2006 they have raised over 94 million dollars for charity and the 2018 Scottsdale auction could increase that number to 100 million. If it doesn’t happen at Scottsdale, it will certainly be reached during 2018 with three other auctions on the schedule. Palm Beach FL. April 12-14, Mohegon Sun in Uncasville CT. June 21-23 and Mandelay Bay in Las Vegas September 27-29. www.barrett-jackson.com for more information.