Monday, March 29, 2010

Putting the "Auto" in Auto Mechanics

I never actually get car questions despite the "Auto Mechanics" in the title of this bit, and this time we got two, so let's start with them.

Gwydion asks,

"Can you make a recommendation for a used car model that fits the following criteria:

-- Legroom for one driver who's 6'4"
-- Sturdy construction for another driver who's had her share of accidents and can't really afford another, physically
-- Relatively low environmental impact, given the first two criteria
-- Family-friendliness, loosely-speaking (gotta have room for a baby and, you know, baby stuff)
-- Sticker price under $10K, and preferably under $8K"
My suggestions would be either a 2003 or 2004 Toyota Rav4 or Subaru Forester.

Interestingly, the Forester would also say something about you. In a survey that asked about political leanings and vehicle driven, it turned out that drivers of the Subaru Forester were, of all vehicles on the road, most likely to be liberal. My guess is because it has the room of a small SUV, but the profile of a car, more like an old station wagon just more compact.

Rikki asks,
"Was Tony George right to start the IRL?"
The IRL was a competing racing organization to what had long been the establishment in American Indy racing, CART. He ran the Indianapolis Speedway and once he got himself removed from the governing body of CART created the upstart competitor, the Indy Racing League which took Formula One racing from the twisting turns one usually sees in Grand Prix to the oval of the track.

Formula One racing is a lot like horse racing in that the sport tends to be dominated by a couple very wealthy groups. The IRL offered an opportunity for those shut out of CART races to have a shot and arose as a sort of generic brand until it caught on and then overtook and eventually acquired what was left of CART only to return to pretty much the place it was before the whole mess started.

So was he right to make the move, to create a competitor? I don't think it was morally necessary, but it was not problematic. Sport is an odd endeavor in that it is part institution and part business. Sometimes the business gets in the way, causing changes to the sport that are financially advantageous, but which compromise the competition. Other times, the sporting competition is bolstered by the business competition, by competing for fans, the different leagues are forced to try to create the best version of the sport for the spectators.

In this case, the sport did change by going to the oval. For the worse? Well, it is easier for fans to watch, but with out the tight corners. It means greater speeds and so takes different skills. The sport was not in the healthiest of places and the competition may have saved it by forcing it to think hard about itself. So, while there is certainly a lot of ego involved in the decision to start the IRL, I don't think it was a bad one.

More tomorrow.