Friday, November 1, 2013

A Peon's Thought on Scheduling

I had a thought last night relating to scheduling that I tweeted out to Kevin Lee for trackside.  It has several moving parts and I doubt twitter really did it justice.  So since I never took this site down and I am sure Pippa was getting tired of my last post being front page anyway…

It would be nice to imagine a world where nascar and IndyCar worked together on things like scheduling and cross promotion, but reality nascar does what it wants and IndyCar tries to react. 

A concern most have heading into next season is the race at Fontana.  Racing in the Mojave desert on Labor Day weekend sounds like a formula for Heatstroke.  Will any fans bother to show up?  Same question I am sure Gillian Anderson of Auto Club Speedway is also thinking.  But unlike IndyCar or its fans she may be in a position to do a little more about this. 

It generally seems that nascar, drivers and fans haven’t been all that enthused about the season ender at Homestead Miami.  The gruff, lovable, borderline…well…however you might describe him, Bruton Smith once questioned why nascar would ever end its season down in “Little Havana”.  Not the biggest market out there nor is it one that has truly embraced nascar as much as having the privilege of hosting the season finale should carry.

But the 10 year contract for that arrangement is about up - 2015 (I think).  Which also happens to be the year that both IndyCar and nascar execs have implicitly pointed to as destination years for schedule movement, if the tagging of 2014 as a “Transition” year means what it suggests.

So here’s the thought and the downstream implications.  What if Fontana lobbied to be the new home for the nascar final race, ending the season in MMM#2?  Homestead takes Fontana’s former spring slot in the cup schedule.  IndyCar now has the chance to not impact the success of their Fontana event by a Labor ending of the season and can START their season in MMM#2.

The nascar season is minimally impacted otherwise so we can leave that be and talk about what else might be in store for IndyCar from the change.

First question – what would Long Beach think of this?  Not sure it is an issue.  After all how do NFL teams fill 70,000 seat stadiums with back to back home games at ticket prices much higher than IndyCar?  MMM#2 is big place.  If Indy can support two races two weeks apart, you would have to assume the same is possible for MMM#2.  The Media attention in MMM#2 from hosting the season opener may translate as well into more tickets sold for Long Beach, and to build on an idea I have long championed, GPLBA and AutoClub speedway really ought to get together and offer a combo ticket for the two.

Second Question – where does IndyCar go for its finale? 

I thought perhaps MKE or Iowa as both have been moved on the schedule and have pretty good crowds and growing or established traditions.  But I would be surprised if IndyCar really wants to end their season in media markets that small. 

What about either Road America or COTA?  Awesome tracks that need to be on the circuit but I think a lot of fans like ending the season on an oval and I think current management is attuned with the fan base enough to get that clue.

Another oval…How about Ind…….ummm scratch that one.  DON’T POKE THE ANGRY BEAR WHEN HE’S SLEEPING.

Moving Pocono or adding Michigan or Chicagoland back to schedule would be enthusiastically received by many and ending the season in MMM#3 would make sponsors happy but unless there is more drastic surgery done to the cup schedule, labor day is too close to nascar dates at those locations.

So here’s a thought.  TEXAS.  Yep – the relationship has been strained as of late, but that would be an oval that most current fans love.   It scratches Eddie behind the ear and gives him a big event to promote which happens nearly two months before his final cup date.  Yes, Dallas it hot that time of year, but if you keep it a night race, the darkness comes sooner in September than it does in mid June. 

Just please fix the aero package.



*MMM#2 denotes Major Media Market #2 – otherwise known as Los Angeles.

**MMM#3 – do the math – I have faith in you.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Gift of the Magi

News came on Tuesday that  Pippa Mann had secured a ride for this year’s Indy500. Within the small IndyCar Twitter-node the news was reason for an overflow of heartfelt rejoicing.  The IndyCar Twitter-node loves Pippa and rightly so.  More so than any other driver in the series she embraces the twitter-node letting them know she was their biggest fan and as a result they became her fans as well.  After a year out of a car, the release was Cathartic for all.
I was happy to hear the news as well.  Probably not for the exact reasons as everyone else, a slightly cynical outlook on my part dismisses many of the reasons most people were happy. 
Pippa engages the fans and responded personally to all their congratulatory tweets - Cynical JP said: “If IndyCar had the fan base it ought to have, the number of thank you’s would have been too overwhelming to address individually”. 
Pippa is such a hard worker chasing her dream” Cynical JP: “Bad people work hard to get what they want as well
But I am thrilled for Pippa, and it is for a reason that melts away my cynicism to the very last drop.
Looking back to when Pippa was last in the car, she raced a partial season.  She bumped her way into the 2011 Indy 500 on a drama filled Sunday that we had not seen the likes of for years before or since.  Conquest was not a strong team and she persevered through a tough 500 miles.  But she finished, having completed a life’s dream, elated with the sense of having been there, joining an elite fraternity.
From there, the dream that season took a turn for the worse.  Pippa was picked up by Rahal Letterman Racing to drive three more ovals that season.  New Hampshire was a nightmare, several trips into the wall during practice and quals, left her a scratch on race day.  Kentucky, the site of a win in her Indy Lights days resulted in a forgettable 22nd place finish. 
Then came Vegas.  We all know what happened that Sunday afternoon.  Sitting in the crowd that day it still sparks several visceral reactions for me.  For Pippa, Vegas meant getting caught up in the melee and coming out on the other side with a portion of her hand nearly burned off.  Surgery commenced and rehab lasted six months. 
The season went from the highest of highs for a rookie to achieve to the lowest of lows.
The Aftermath of Vegas for the IndyCar community was a time of huddling together around the Wheldon family.  To help them in their time of need, a charity auction was put together.  Drivers from this series and many other donated items to it as did various other celebrities. 
I looked through the items each day as new ones became available.  Most of the items would be classified as memorabilia.  Special because of association, but completely unique because there were others in existence similar to those being auctioned.  A race worn helmet from Driver X, but then Driver X probably had 20 race worn helmets.
Then one day I came across something that clutched my attention – An Indy 500 worn race suit from Pippa Mann.  The FIRST AND ONLY 500 Race Worn driver suit Pippa had.  I thought about how much that suit must have meant to her.  I am not a driver, but I can think of few other things that might be so precious to me if I were.  But there it was, on auction to benefit Dan’s family. 
Pippa began her IndyCar career with the Panther Racing Indy Lights team.  She began her journey in the sport with Panther the same time Dan was their IndyCar driver.  We all know how Dan Loved Indy.  It was his life and his passion, unrivaled until the days his sons were born.  I see the same love for Indy in Pippa that we saw in Dan.  I imagine her love for Indy is a part of the legacy he left behind.  She paid respect to the gift of a dream instilled by giving back to the source, the greatest fruit the dream had yielded.
It was the Gift of the Magi. (Reference HERE)
I took away two thoughts after seeing the suit up for auction.  I should bid and if I won I would give it back to Pippa.  But the price got beyond what I could rationally afford and I never placed a bid.  Second, I hoped deep down that a day would come when she would have the opportunity to keep a suit she wore during a 500 for herself.  A worthy return for the most selfless of acts.
Pippa, If you make the starting grid this Memorial Day weekend, Congratulations and Enjoy the moment.  You deserve it.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Leftovers From Barber Weekend

This year in addition to taking in the race at Barber we decided to stretch the weekend a few days.  So after the race, we drove to Tennessee and rented a small cabin in the mountains for a couple days.  Which implicitly implies – I haven’t seen the race broadcast yet.  SO my impressions will be based on what I saw at the track.

The race itself was Good for the series (a minimum rating I score for any race that has a green flag pass for the lead after the final pit stop not assisted by a yellow and restart).  Relative to the course itself, the race was “Very Good”.  It wasn’t the Excellent we saw last year, but compared to the first two races here both are good events. 

One thing that concerns me a bit is what next year’s race will be like.  Last year was an adventure as no one really had the new car sorted yet and there were a lot of performance delta’s because of that.  This year, from the experience of last year’s race in the new car and the testing a few weeks previous, most teams (other than Panther – and we’ll talk about that at some point in the future) had their cars on blacks sorted pretty quickly.  The variable that made qualifications interesting and the race compelling was watching the teams sort out the new Red compound. 

As we head into next year, What is the “change” variable that will keep teams and drivers scrambling and off balance enough to make for a compelling race?  Some probably still feel the league still owes them Aero kits, but I have low expectations on those and thus have moved on.  These teams (EXCEPT Panther) and drivers (INCLUDING JR) are talented enough that when everything is familiar, run so closely, even optimally, that we are likely to get a very uninteresting race on our hands. 

Unlike Mid Ohio (where I gather there are few challenges for an IndyCar caliber driver to have individual moments) Barber can squeeze a mistake or two out of a few drivers and provide some position exchange potential.  But as the formula becomes completely sorted, will that be enough for a great event next year?  I have my concerns. 

I have a pet experiment I would love to see IndyCar experiment with one day.  Spend the whole weekend running blacks.  All Practice sessions, all qualifying sessions are on the black tire.  Then during the 20 minute Sunday morning warm up – bust out with a red tire of unknown formulation.  Let the teams and drivers take that session the get a handle on the new rubber.  Then during the race require teams to do at least 2 stints on these alternate tires.  The introduction of this random variable and the delta’s it would create as teams and drivers both scramble to get a handle on this new element could make for some compelling on track action.

But then I am just a fan.  There must be some compelling unintended consequence that I am not thinking about. 

One Blogger’s Financial Impact on the City of Birmingham

Heading into the Barber event there was some angst in the air regarding some city council votes that would finance the event both this year and for years future.  As with all news related to IndyCar some took this as a sign for the end of the world, or at least the Birmingham event.

As we checked into our hotel Friday, the desk manager asked us if we would consider taking a slightly different room than we were booked for.  He said the website had overbooked my room type and that the hotel was packed for the race and he was having to turn people away.  I struck up a conversation with him about how much business they did for the race and he told us the race weekends at Barber were some of their busiest of the year (right along with move in and Graduation for UAB).

I asked him why then would the city decline to continue funding the event that brought the city so much business, he said that the city was broke.  They had just been through a major embezzlement scandal with the previous mayor.  Between the money he pocketed and spent w/o oversight, the city was over the edge of bankruptcy.  Apparently the former Mayor and some combination of former officials were tried and sentenced to over 450 years for their looting of city finances.

We now know that the city paid up for its portion of this years race.  This year’s event drew over 56,000 for the weekend and the Sunday crowd, representing ~2/3rds of that number was the largest crowd ever.  An extension was signed with the race for another 3 years and the race will go on.

But I got to thinking what was my financial impact for the city of Birmingham for the race?  A quick summary:  Tickets - $250;  Residence Inn Downtown/UAB - $330;  John’s City Diner - $55; Piggly Wiggly - $57; Gas - $50; Landry’s Seafood - $75; Two 2012 Race Credential Holders and one 2013 commemorative pin - $8;  Stealing beer out of @oilpressureblog’s cooler while he was smoozing on the starting grid – PRICELESS.  $825 total. 

Now suppose 1500 other race fans that were not Birmingham residents visited and spent similarly, that would be $1,237,500 of revenue dropped into the city’s economy.  Most economists apply a multiplier to the impact of that infusion as that money diffuses through the community and is spent and re spent.  So let’s say that builds 5X to a $6.2M impact for the city.  Shave taxes off that represents ~$300 - $400 k of revenue for the city and over $5m for those living within the city.

I mention this as a potential tact or strategy for the league and promoters to persuade other municipalities with EXISTING race facilities to support an IndyCar race in their community.  Portland OR, or Salt Lake City might fit such a strategy well with the tracks near those cities.

Anyway – another thought.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Barber Saturday - A Familiar Face and a Few Images

I spent most of Saturday schlepping around Barber Motorsports Park toting my camera and a tripod hoping to capture some "Phantom Car" images.  No such luck - The GrandAm series which is usually money for 3 - 4 yellows that bunch the field up and make the images look good mustered a single caution period. 

But I did bump into John Edwards in pit lane.  I have commented on John before and my thoughts on his potential addition to the IndyCar field HERE.  A quick summary - Coming up the ladder, John is a former Star Mazda champion and was the Formula Atlantics champion in the series Finale Season, beating out Jonathan Summerton and Simona DeSilvestro for the title.  Hailing from Cincinatti, Ohio, he was young at the time and remains so, 21 or 22 (I am too lazy tonight to look it up). 

He currently drives for Stephenson Motorsport in both the GrandAM and Continental Tire series and is a developmental driver for RLL in the ALMS series.

Saturday was John's day - Winning the GT class in the GrandAM feature and placing second in the Continental Tire race later in the afternoon.  I said it two years ago and I say it now.  I wish someone in the IndyCar paddock would give this kid a chance.  Of course, any time you talk about adding a name to the series, you also have to ballance that with a subtraction.  But for starters, How about the 500?  Bobby?  Sarah?  JB?   Ed?  Anyone??  Bueller?  Bueller?

Anyway - a few pictures...

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Annual Pathetic Season Preview - Part 1

It seems like every year we get to this point in the year where the first race is just a few days away, everyone else is doing it and I succumb to the peer pressure…So Here Goes.


Scott Dixon will win the Series Championship.  Last year I declared 2012 to be the year of RHR and despite just stopping short of predicting a championship for Ryan, things played out much as I had anticipated.  Looking forward to 2013, this just has to be the year the random occurrences of bad luck stop finding Scott Dixon.  His driving stints at the Rolex 24 this year were nothing short of breathtaking, including hacking 4 laps off a six lap deficit during a double stint early on Sunday morning.   Dixie is the best driver across all four disciplines in IndyCar and 2013 will reward that.

JR Hildebrand  will be the 500 champion.  Yeah I whiffed on this pick last year but there’s reason for optimism this year.  Last year with the DW12 new on the scene, 500 stalwarts Panther Racing seemed lost.  Throughout the month I expected them to get things sorted and snap back to the form they had shown for the past several years at Indy.  Form never came.  Panther started to find speed at Texas two weeks later, but a breakthrough was not seen until late in the season at Fontana where it seemed JR had the field covered in the early laps until grip left the tires and JR brushed the turn 4 wall.  Last season’s gains along with the addition of Timo Belli to the engineering staff should bring Panther back into contention on the four big ovals, including the biggest of them all.

2013 will see FOUR first time winners.  The future is now for the greatest infusion of young talent IndyCar has seen in quite a while.  Sophomore Jinxes are over, Lotus has gone away and the French will rise like the baddest assed mother F-ing SoufflĂ© ever.  EVER.  JR, Hinch, Pagenaud, DeSilvestro, Newgarten and Vautier are your suspects and 4 of them will break through and for a series that needs new heroes, it can’t come soon enough.

Neither can the racing itself, But first you will have to endure part 2 of this Preview which will appear either Wednesday or Thursday.

If I feel like it.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Fans Really Don’t Want Aero Kits

But it’s the pittance they’ll accept in lieu of ever getting what they actually want.
It’s Sunday night and having caught up on my twitter timeline, it seems that one of my Blogging peers will be making the case tomorrow that IndyCar adopting aero kits will be a step towards putting the series right with fans or perhaps that differences in the appearance of cars will captivate the fascination of new fans to the sport. 
I disagree.
I probably should give George the courtesy of posting his thoughts before disagreeing with him, but I have been thinking quite a bit about this subject of late and his preview tweet has been a catalyst to finally pen what I have been thinking on the subject.  I am posting this now because I won’t have time to once the week hits.
If we were to go back three years and ask most fans what they wanted the new IndyCar to be, I am certain we would have gotten a multitude of responses.  In Fact, most of those responses are the same things bandied around in flourishes now.  “Multiple chassis manufacturers”, “Stock engines”, “a free for all run what you brung” or “a common set of bad assed spec cars that so ooze horsepower that they separate the kids from the grown ups on the race track” are all mentioned by some subset of fans as the best bold vision of the future. 

None of these things are Aero kits.
I look back at the decision to adopt aero kits as part of the DW12 platform as Randy Bernard’s attempt to please fans even though the dynamics and reality of the time indicated that what fans actually wanted wasn’t economically feasible.  There’s nothing wrong with that, I applauded the concept at the time (Link to the Way BackMachine).  But things have changed since that announcement and the nature of that change has killed the spirit and the potential that the Aero Kit program had to offer.
Initially when the aero kits were announced, while the possibility of engine manufacturers creating kits was not ruled out, a lot of emphasis was placed on the kits as a new technological platform to get a different set of participants into the league.  Quoting Tony Purcell, member of the Iconic committee at the time:
“Our goal is to reach out and challenge the automotive and aerospace industries. So come on, Ford, come on GM, Lotus, Ferrari, come on Lockheed, come on Boeing, come on you engineers working in small technology businesses. We want you to rise to the challenge. “ (Complete transcript of theavailable from Pressdog HERE) 
But the problem became that of those companies called out to participate, none chose to join the cause. 
A political battle brewed and owners dragged their feet on Aero kits.  It came to a showdown where the owners asked the league to indicate who exactly was stepping up to build these kits other than the current engine manufacturers.  There simple weren’t any.  In that moment the Aero Kit program was dead.
The problem with an Aero kit program supplied only by engine manufacturers, is that someone is going to be better out of the gate, and then it gets complicated. 
In theory, teams are allowed to use up to two kits per season and anyone who makes a kit has to make it available to anyone else.  It is also likely the case that the current Dallara kit leaves a lot of room for aero dynamic improvement, and nobody would want to retain it going forward.  So when it was time to register kits for the season, if all the teams each said they would select both the “Honda” and “Chevy” kits going forward, what would happen?  Well if one was markedly better than the other, the teams with the manufacturer who made the bad kit would want to use the other kit or risk winding up in the chronically dire situation shared by the ill fated Lotus teams of last year.  If teams were allowed to switch it would be an embarrassment to their engine manufacturer, who may become fickle partners in their long term association with the series.
Allow manufacturers to constantly refine and recreate the kits?  This wasn’t originally part of the plan and if it was allowed, then you would see a spiral of increasing development costs that would again likely chase one of the engine participants out of the league. 
Submit the two kits to testing and impose equality restrictions?  This is the Grand Am solution to the problem.  Engine and chassis are tested and then the series attempts to equate the cars on tracks by penalizing the superior entry to level the playing field for all.  Of course, in Grand Am you hear theories about manufacturers sending soft engines to testing or how one manufacturer was guaranteed some aero “wink and nods” as reward for participating.  More controversy, just what IndyCar needs and of a flavor IndyCar is in no position (expertise wise) to police.
And if the Cars were equalized what would we have?  Cars that looked superficially different but performed qualitatively identically.  Is that really what fans were asking for in 2009?  Honestly, are superficial cosmetic differences enough to reignite YOUR passion for the sport?    
In reality the Aero Kit idea died when no third party manufacturers chose to participate.  The existence of a competitive, viable third party option is what stirred the pot for the Aero Kit program to begin with.  Without one, the program is doomed and once I realized that, my support of it has faded as well.
SO what now?  What should fans do?  Where should the league go?  At this point, I view Aero kits as a cynical way of stretching the lifespan of a chassis platform no one really wanted (remember: fans wanted new car(S), but not simply a new spec car from Dallara to replace the old). 
It is time to go back to the drawing board, sooner than later.  Enjoy the refreshing competition that the DW12 has brought, but it should run its last race in 2015.  A new vision for the future should replace it in 2016. IndyCar must decide if it wants to entertain or inspire.  Perhaps the show that the DW12 puts on will bring enough new fans onboard to bankroll a more technologically captivating formula for the next generation car. 

We can always hope.  But we should never settle.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Too Many Steps in the Ladder???

IndyCar made some seemingly dubious news on Thursday, announcing that the proposed formula upgrade for the IndyLights series was to be delayed until after the originally determined 2014 timeline.  This was met with typical angst and frustration by those deep enough into the sport to know that it even had a feeder series.  My initial thought was “that’s too bad”, and that “they couldn’t find anyone willing to step in as a sponsor to bankroll it”.  Others proclaimed another glaring “Lack of vision and foresight” by IndyCar or that “Lights will never grow or attract sponsors with the same lousy machinery”

Instead of jumping to immediate fits of anger, on occasion, I try to wait for the proverbial “Rest of the Story”.  A delay in selection of a new IndyLights spec could mean a number of things, some of them what we have come to cynically expect from IndyCar.  Owners went to the series and said “We can’t afford this”.  We’ve heard plenty of this recently.  IndyCar’s counter to that might be “But we have a new engine and tire sponsor lined up to ameliorate the costs”.  Unless of course they have neither, in which case, why would they launch a new car, unless they were looking to chase teams away? 

It could be that the Lights car could have been delayed because the story from IndyCar was “We are taking a strategic look at ALL parts of the Road to Indy Program and how they work with each other and the parent series”.  While I have no indication this is the situation, I would be very patient with and encouraged by IndyCar if that was in fact the reason.

The Road to Indy Program was a cobbling together of disparate junior elements into a clearly defined stepping stone pathway to the IndyCar series.  This effort was needed, visionary and noble.  But remember, these “Steps” were developed in isolation of each other, before they were linked together for a common purpose.  Now that a common purpose has been established, any re-engineering of the elements (or even the continued existence of any single piece) needs to place “Serving the Common Purpose” above all other historical considerations. 

From what I see now, each and every step needs work.  Specifically I simply see the bottom end of a development series formulated for road course racing (that denies the existence of ovals), married to a an upper level development series that was never meant to turn right, with both feeding into a final series that mixes genres.  Bluntly – the shadow of the split still casts a long shadow over the developmental program.

Starting from the top, an airing of grievances about all levels of the RTI goes like this:

·         Lights cars were meant for Ovals, are too heavy, with insufficient brakes and they source downforce in way inconsistent with the current IndyCar formula.

·         A year in Lights costs too much money, it is cheaper to stay in Mazda Pro until a driver wins the scholarship instead of progressing when the development curve suggests the driver is ready.

·         The lights cars, introduced in 2002 are too damn old.

·         Other than being defunct, the Formula Atlantic cars scattered in random garages are road course only machines needing an overhaul to be appropriate on ovals.

·         Like FA, Star Mazda was developed for road racing and is entirely inappropriate for big oval racing.

·         The price gap between mazda and lights, causes drivers to stagnate in Mazda for too long creating an overly deep field into which young talent gets lost relative to experienced talent.  Think of it this way, the big kids who know the cars and the courses don’t go away up and wind up beating up on the little kids who make their debuts, stifling their opportunity to develop.

·         Star Mazda cars are nearly as old (2004) and inappropriate looking as the lights cars, just in a different way.

·         Despite differentiation in the formula, star mazda cars don’t outperform  USF2000 cars by the margins you would expect on certain circuits.

“Strategic thinking” needed for Growth and Sustainability of the MRTI may not be simply buying a new car for Lights, even if the platform chosen does prove to be a better prep for the DW12 than the current car.  (Frankly who’s to say the DW 12 will have more than a year or two more life in it when a new lights car came out anyway – I got black helicopter theories here man…).  Strategic thinking for the MRTI may mean a rethinking of the parts to serve the larger good.  Some questions worth asking (I am sure there are many more):

·         How many Tire and Engine manufacturers can you reasonably expect to attract and participate in the program?  Enough to support 2 levels?  3 Levels? 

·         Are the financial commitments to jump series as evenly distributed as are the necessary skills in race craft? 

·         Do you have financially unattainable levels in your ladder?

·         Do you set a limit on the number of years a driver participates in each level?

·         If F1 aspirants can Jump from FR3.5 directly to F1, then do you need a 450 Hp Lights car? 

·         When and what types of tracks should enter the MRTI and in which series? 

·         DO you need to engage young race aspirants at an earlier age than you do now?

An option I discussed with @xorpheous and @teamcanada1 on Twitter Thursday (and mentioned by Marshall Pruett in his piece) pondered the removal of both aging spec formulas for Mazda Pro and Indy Lights, replacing the two with a new spec series that straddled the two in performance, but which trended towards Mazda in price to participate.  That new spec series would be retained by Current Pro Mazda owner Gary Anderson who would pay a franchising fee back to IndyCar which would serve as the sanctioning body.  IndyCar would divest itself of any direct management in a development series, allowing it to focus solely on building the IndyCar series.  In a couple years, USF2000 would receive an update to its formula that split the current formula with the current spec of Star Mazda. 

In many ways this 2 level program would be VERY similar to the Formula Renault F2.0 and F3.5 series that has proven to be a cost effective alternative to the GP3 and GP2 series development ladder in Europe.  If this was done correctly, the possibility exists that these two programs could be used outside North America as well.  League franchises (the 2000 series first to market) could be sold to parties in South America as well, broadening the base.

IMO Efficiency of cost management and of driver development should be the goal of the MRTI.  A visionary approach extends beyond simply the acquisition of new toys and needs to reconsider the placement of all the pieces in the program.

It sure seems like there was more I was going to say here.  But hell I cant remember a damn thing these days, so If it comes to me, look for an update. Also - I am not meaning to rip on the MRTI - just looking for ways to make it better going forward.   

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