Pit Notes July 2009

“Fraud” is a tough call to make publicly but “Landspeed” Louise Noeth says she has chronicled and photographed, “too many people struggling and sacrificing, some even giving their lives to set a landspeed world record, to allow the heritage and community of landspeed racers to be demeaned or ‘hi-jacked’ by a television stunt.”  Accordingly, she issued a press release titled “TV’s Jesse James fraudulently claims besting BMW’s FIA ratified hydrogren-powered World Record Speed Record.” She should know when to call a fraud a fraud in the landspeed community. She was part of Don Vesco’s world record-setting team and she authored “Bonneville, The Fastest Place on Earth,” now in its seventh printing. Her complaints with the TV show’s claim are: 1) The requisite flying mile runs in both directions within one hour were not done; 2) There was no independent FIA or USAC sanctioning personnel timing the event, all timing was done by personnel from the TV show; 3) Instead of being timed over a one mile course, the stunt was timed one way for 132 feet in a drag racing style top-speed trap -“5,148 feet short of a world-record.” 4) Even assuming the speed trap figures are correct, Noeth notes, they prove nothing with respect to BMW’s hydrogen-powered world record of 185 mph because that was the average of two mile-long runs in opposite directions. And, the El Mirage, California course where the stunt was staged is too short for a flying mile record run. Sounds as legitimate as reporting on the war in Afghanistan from a set at Universal Studios. Noeth says 47 of 48 responses so far to her news release are favorable and many blogs and online sites are taking down the TV show’s news release on the stunt. While she has reason to believe the show knew the full requirements for setting a world record before they began, she says the show’s response to her objections to the claim was “unprintable.” Click here to read Noeth’s press release.

Not yet descended into name-calling, is a situation in New England similar to one of the many Carroll Shelby legends. He allegedly convinced AC in Great Britain that he had powerful engines coming from Ford and convinced Ford he had chassis’s coming from AC and was able to create something from nothing – the Cobra. Car schlepper STI, in an apparent attempt to compete against the benign semi-monopoly for bicycling press cars out of Boston, cold-called many media outlets in the region – ostensibly at the urging of STI’s car maker clients – and dangled the prospect of a new cars to test drive, provided weekly from STI’s Boston office. All that was needed to get a new car to drive every week was initiating a car column/report/review. Convince outlets to create auto coverage and convince its car maker clients to pay to have their vehicles delivered to them. A familiar if not popular gambit used around the country. In Boston, however, STI’s cold calling ran into Ezra Dyer, current president of the New England Motor Press Association, who raised some questions. One of the nation’s better-known auto writers, Dyer was surprised to learn STI had a Boston office and a fleet of press cars to draw on whenever the managing editor might choose to initiate a car column. For example, at The Improper Bostonian where Dyer has been writing for nine years – and has never missed an issue. When he asked STI which manufacturers were urging the cold calls, STI’s replies were as dismissively stonewalling as any from a D.C. politician’s office. Classic PR non-speak. Click here to read the Dyer-STI correspondence.

From a June 21 piece entitled, Reliable Automotive Reviews, that appeared on the Travel Insurance Review web site, “the Internet is reliable as far as automotive reviews are concerned because there is no pressure from any manager or editor to cut down on the criticism because it is bad publicity for the car brand.” Really?

World’s fastest female swimmer, Fredrica Pellegrini, with the new Maserati GranTurismo S Automatic

No socially correct inhibitions here! Good-looking, fast and Italian were reasons enough for Maserati to issue a news release and photos showing the world’s fastest female swimmer, Fredrica Pellegrini, with the new Maserati GranTurismo S Automatic delivered to her recently. No, swimsuit shots were not included. . . . In case you missed it, a host of consumer groups petitioned the FTC to make it easier for consumers to compare fuel economy ratings when car shopping. You can check out the requested changes on our blog.