French Protesters Destroy Porsches and Ferrari in Ongoing Unrest Over Taxes

A Porsche Cayman, Porsche 911 and a Ferrari California were damaged during protests related to the Gilets Jaunes movement in Paris last Saturday. The protest in Paris included around 4,000 people according to French Interior Ministry numbers cited by France24. Violence during the protest led to several injuries.

Footage of the protests posted by Russian state-funded broadcaster RT shows a Cayman getting vandalized before being set on fire, a 911 getting smashed, and a Ferrari with graffiti on the hood and a damaged windshield.

Another video taken later by French journalist Remy Buisine shows that same 911 going up in flames as well:

If you’re confused as to what’s going on here because other Gilets Jaunes beefs against speed cameras and fuel taxes appear to be pro-car, it’s because the protests—which started over a planned fuel tax hike—have grown to encompass many other financial grievances of the lower and middle classes. The Guardian explains:

Petrol prices rapidly set alight other grievances in rural and outer suburban France, some concrete, some more existential: a lack of public services, the high cost of living, a new tax on some pensions, the fact that Macron had partially abolished a tax on wealth.

While the planned fuel hikes were suspended by the government in December in an attempt to end the unrest, the protests rage on, smaller in number but less peaceful than the initial November 17 action. The Gilets Jaunes movement has grown into the longest-running French protest since World War II, and the bulk of their action comes in the form of large Saturday protests. Because they were originally protesting high fuel prices, they usually wear the yellow vests that French motorists are required to keep in their cars in the event of a breakdown.

Many within the Gilets Jaunes are peaceful, however, the protests’ leaderless form means that peaceful tax-haters can end up alongside vandals who take out their frustration on pricey cars, and that it’s hard to get a coherent list of demands from the group, as The Guardian explains:

There is no simple explanation for the gilets jaunes. It is not a monolithic, single-minded movement. It has no leadership structure, no single, accepted program of demands. 

This—along with some who may not even be non-Gilets Jaunes who sometimes appear alongside the group—can make the more violent actions during these protests hard to describe. Some who vandalized these cars over the weekend are donning the group’s namesake yellow vests or yellow armbands that would (at least visually) signify solidarity with the movement, but others captured on video were not.

That being said, it wouldn’t be the first time members of the loosely-arranged Gilets Jaunes movement targeted what the average, non-depreciation-obsessed person would consider conspicuous vehicular displays of wealth. A video from December shows a crowd mostly wearing yellow vests turning a 911 Cabriolet on its roof as a Mercedes roasts in the background:

So, while we car lovers know that the previous-generation 911 and Cayman that were smashed up in this latest round of protests may be attainable to middle-class car fans, to the average person, they’re fancy sports cars and therefore, a symbol of prosperity.

A Ferrari vandalized in Paris last weekend.

The graffiti on the Ferrari left Saturday references the ISF, or solidarity tax on wealth, which was a direct wealth tax on anyone who had assets (including most motor vehicles, with a few classic- and collector-focused exceptions) over €1,300,000. It was discontinued in September 2017, which wasn’t a good look to protesters aghast at new fuel taxes that would shift more of the country’s tax burden on to working-class French people. A tax on real estate partially took its place, but left high-value assets like cars out of the equation, thus translating into a tax cut for France’s rich.

French finance minister Bruno Le Maire told the Evening Standard in December that the government had no plans to reinstate a wealth tax like the ISF, despite calls to do so like the one spray-painted across the Ferrari’s hood.

2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Review: Which Is Best, Classic Convertible or Sexy Retractible Hardtop?

A debate continues to rage in Miataland, that Hobbit-sized shire in which every driver is carefree and happy, whether or not hair sprouts atop their accelerator foot: Should you choose the traditional soft top Mazda MX-5 Miata, or the hardtop RF?

That debate has consumed The Drive’s office as well, with Will Sabel Courtney casting a recent vote for classicism and canvas. (I’m not sure why it matters, because lanky Will barely fits in a Miata anyway). The soft top’s key advantages are less weight—the RF’s hardtop adds 113 pounds—and less mechanical complexity: In a one-handed maneuver, a driver whips the roof open as insouciantly as a nudist flings off a Speedo.

My personal vote hinges largely on geography: If I’m living in Laguna Beach, and there’s no downside to four-season Miata driving, then sure, give me a soft top. But maybe because I grew up in Detroit, where I once owned a second-generation Miata—and because I live in Brooklyn today—my frigid northern heart leans toward the hardtop. Its pros and cons became clear when I drove a 2019 Miata RF Grand Touring (shod with Bridgestone Blizzak winter tires) to the Skip Barber Winter Driving Clinic in northern Connecticut on a miserably rainy, foggy day in early January.

RF, here with its hand-painted black roof, brings fresh, coupe-like style to the familiar Miata

First, a sad disclaimer: After more than 25 years of driving Miatas, this was my first-ever test car with an automatic transmission. I took my first sight of that PRNDL console lever as a personal affront—I had assumed the Mazda would be a manual model—and the Miata’s plastic, wafer-thin paddle shifters weren’t much consolation. But I realized that this particular Miata take was about choosing a favorite topper, not a favorite transmission. (Any Miata fan knows the correct choice there). And my first woodsy run in the Miata reminded me that this is a momentum car, anyway—an ultimate training machine for rookies who think they’ve got track driving all figured out, but actually don’t know shit about how to go fast. I see them all the time, the ones who show up to club tracks in their freshly-purchased 911s, and can’t understand why drivers in, yes, Miatas, are dusting their superior Porsches. So while I dearly missed having a clutch pedal in the wilds of Connecticut, I also realize that I can run just about everything in third gear, with a little bit of second in slower corners; if you’re preserving momentum right, there’s really not much shifting involved.

That’s even more true with the Mazda’s new-for-2019 engine, which has improved punch that lets you run in lower gears more often through the twisty stuff, while requiring fewer downshifts on the highway. I drove a fancy, leather-wrapped RF Grand Touring edition, which starts from $34,320 and hit $35,900 with extras. For 2019, every Mazda adds a standard rear-view camera, and the telescoping steering wheel (in addition to tilt) that fans have begged for since the car’s debut 30 years ago. Those stick-shift loyalists will definitely want the new GT-S pack—offered only with manuals—which adds the Mazda’s most critical performance bits—Bilstein dampers, a limited-slip differential and a front shock tower brace—for just $750. The RF GT-S adds a hand-painted black roof as well (and it looks great).

Even grimed up in Brooklyn, RF still looks good

But the new 2.0-liter inline four is the real draw for 2019, with 181 horsepower versus 155 for the old engine. A 26-hp gain may not sound huge, but in a roughly 2,332-pound car (in manual soft top trim), a 17-percent power bump is significant. Pistons and connecting rods are lightened, the crankshaft stiffened; a reworked exhaust manifold cuts engine pumping losses by 30 percent, while new fuel injectors and intake ports heighten combustion, and a dual-mass flywheel aids smoothness and response. By the imperfect metric of stoplight acceleration runs, the Mazda isn’t markedly faster: You’re looking at a roadster that can spool out a 0-60 mile-per-hour run in about 5.7 seconds, one or two tenths quicker than before. The heavier hardtop is about 0.2 seconds slower than the soft top to 60 mph. But it’s the way the Mazda makes its newfound power that makes the difference: Where the old engine felt pretty gutless below 3,500 rpm, and turned laggy and thin as it approached redline, the new engine has real mid-range punch. The Mazda now pulls eagerly to its 7,500-rpm rev limiter, 700 rpm higher than before, with no sense of strain. It sounds better, too, with a new exhaust system bringing a rowdier four-cylinder bark.

Call me superficial, but the visual transformation brought by the hardtop can’t be denied; it’s not quite caterpillar-to-butterfly, but it’s close. With its body-colored roof and flying-buttress rear, the RF just looks sexy. The soft top Miata has been called many things—cute, adorable, or more-sexist jibes—but never “sexy.” As happens every time I drive an RF, people came to drool all over it—including Danny, my Mini-driving neighbor—yet expressed total surprise that this was a Miata, or even a Mazda. The RF looks like a car that Alfa Romeo or Jaguar might have conjured, especially in flattering colors like my tester’s candy-apple Soul Red Metallic, a $595 upcharge.

Miata soft top makes an argument for simplicity, lower price

In cooler climates especially, even convertible fanatics would acknowledge that the majority of driving is done with the top raised: at night, in uncooperative weather, or even when the midday sun would fry you and a passenger. During those uncountable hours, the hardtop is easily the better Miata, because it’s nearly as quiet and vibration-free as a conventional coupe. Long drives and urban commutes are relaxing instead of wearying, and you can hold a conversation without raising your voice. With rain and sleet pelting my RF, I was grateful to have the hardtop roof over my head. The RF’s pretty C-pillars do create blind spots, but the raised soft top is no better.

I’ll absolutely concur with Will that the soft top Miata stakes its claim on top-down driving, with the beautifully minimalist simplicity of its fabric roof. The RF’s targa-style arrangement doesn’t offer the full al fresco exposure of the soft top. A bit annoyingly, its complex roof won’t open or close at speeds above six mph, because Mazda was worried that some passenger’s long, windblown hair might get snagged in the machinery. But the RF’s biggest demerit is how its exposed C-pillars act as giant wind collectors: Picture an open catcher’s mitt, with just a bit of webbing in the form of a small rear backlight to let air through. Above 70 mph especially, the turbulence can get heavy, though some owners swear that certain side-window elevations will alleviate the issue.

Natty tan leather graces this Grand Touring edition

Fortunately, whichever model one chooses, the Mazda is a star among reasonably priced cars. The shifter-clutch combo rises to Porsche heights of perfection. The chassis balance is that of a 95-pound Olympic gymnast, twirling and flying, yet fully in control. Body roll is surprisingly ample, but that’s part of the old-school charm. And the Miata seems to take up barely more lane space than a motorcycle, so there’s always more room to go faster and push harder.

Having spent most of a day drifting and slaloming at Skip Barber’s school, I departed the track with my confidence high and this balanced, forgiving Miata at my disposal. I immediately realized, first, how easy it is to slide the Miata on moistened pavement, and second, how I should probably stop sliding, before some Connecticut cop with no sense of adventure spotted me.

Now, some reviewers insist on citing a $6,600 upcharge for the RF—but that’s BS, because they’re comparing a base soft top to an RF that’s only offered in up-level Club or Grand Touring models. On that apples-to-apples basis, the RF Club (at $33,240) and RF Grand Sport (at $34,230) add an average $2,650 to the soft top’s price. Are the RF’s arresting style, quieter cabin, and all-season advantages worth the extra $2,650? Only your heart—and perhaps your zip code—can answer that.

Lawrence Ulrich, The Drive’s chief auto critic, is an award-winning auto journalist and former chief auto critic for The New York Times and Detroit Free Press. The Detroit native and Brooklyn gentrifier owns a troubled ’93 Mazda RX-7 R1, but may want to give it a good home. Email him at Lawrence.ulrich@gmail.com

This 1988 Ford Escort RS Turbo is America’s Forbidden Rally Fruit, and Now You Can Buy It

When Americans think of the Ford Escort, they typically imagine a throwaway econobox with nearly zero redeeming qualities to enthusiasts. Things in Europe were and are quite different, though.

Ford was hot on the heels of Volkswagen when the Golf GTi caused a sensation back in the ’70s, starting the hot hatch trend. Ford followed suit with a long line of fast Escorts, all of which were based on models far superior to the ones that wore the Escort nameplate in the US. Some were even sold as rally homologation specials.

This 1988 Ford Escort RS Turbo is a fourth-generation car imported to the USA from Italy. Now, it’s for sale in Florida on trusty Bring a Trailer.

Powered by a high-strung, turbocharged 1.6-liter and backed up by a close-ratio, five-speed manual transmission, this Escort is a far cry from even the sportiest US-market Escort available in 1988, the GT. Truth be told, it’d even give a contemporary Mustang GT a run for its money with its low weight and eagerness to fly down wooded B-roads.

Inside, you’ll find a 220 kilometer-per-hour speedometer and grey cloth Recaro bucket seats. Outside, the Escort RS certainly looks the part, with 15″ aluminum wheels (plenty big on a car this size), aggressive spoilers, red badging, and PIAA fog lights.

Covering just 34,000 kilometers in its life (about 21,000 miles), it’s clear that this Escort has lived a pampered existence. With photographic proof of its squeaky-clean undercarriage and recent services, we’d say that this Escort RS makes for a good buy for the hot hatch enthusiast looking for something different.

Drag Racer Kat Moller Dies in Jet Dragster Crash at Sebring International Raceway

Racer Katarina “Kat” Moller, 24, died from injuries sustained in a jet dragster crash at Sebring International Raceway Thursday night, reports Autoweek. Moller was a well-liked short track and drag racer, and this was her fifth season racing with the Larsen Motorsports drag racing team.

In addition to being a famous endurance race track, Sebring hosts regular drag racing nights on a temporary 1/8-mile course set up on the track’s main straight. Moller’s jet dragster, which is capable of speeds exceeding 300 miles per hour, was there to make exhibition runs during Sebring’s drag night this week.

Eyewitness Mark Silver explained to DragZine that Moller’s parachute failed to deploy at the end of her first exhibition run:

She did her normal staging process, then made a full pass. At the 1/8-mile I did see what looked like a small parachute, which is the one that pulls out to deploy the main chute. But there was no main chute. After crossing the cones, I saw her swerve all the way into the right lane, then she appeared to hit the right lane wall and kept going. All of the safety personnel and the ambulance went down to the end of the track.

DragZine highlights that reports of Moller hitting the wall at the end of her run remain unconfirmed at the time of this writing. The Highland County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the cause of Moller’s crash and has asked any spectators at the event who recorded Moller’s run to call the Criminal Investigation Unit at (863) 402-7250.

Fellow racers have taken to social media to show their love and support of Moller.

Moller grew up around drag racing and started racing Junior Dragsters at the age of 11, and eventually progressed into racing jet dragsters with Larsen Motorsports in 2013. This year, she was pursuing a master’s degree in engineering from Florida Tech.

“We knew Kat well and were big fans of her personality and her driving skill,” said Sebring president and general manager Wayne Estes said in a statement released by the track. “Sebring International Raceway and the entire racing community are heartbroken.”

USAF Frantically Stole Parts From One RC-135 To Get Another Airborne To Spy On A Missile Launch

It’s no secret that the U.S. Air Force’s aging, but vital RC-135 spy planes have been breaking down at an increasingly a worrisome rate for years now, often forcing the cancellation of important missions. Now, information from a declassified official unit history provides an especially clear example of how these problems can have cascading impacts on operational readiness and put the U.S. military’s ability to gather critical intelligence at risk when it matters most.

In 2016, one of the Air Force’s three RC-135S Cobra Ball aircraft suffered an unspecified maintenance issue while deployed to RAF Mildenhall in the United Kingdom. This would have rendered it unable to perform its scheduled mission, which was to collect information on the launch of an unknown ballistic missile system. The Cobra Ball aircraft have specialized equipment to track these types of weapons and gather telemetry and other electronic intelligence data, as well as visual imagery on them and their test flight operations.

“The required part would not have arrived at RAF Mildenhall before the predicted missile launch window,” the 2016 history for the 25th Air Force, the Air Force’s top intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance unit, explained. “If the new part could be found by cannibalizing another RC-135 or KC-135 air refueling aircraft, then the mission could proceed.”

We at The War Zone obtained this document via the Freedom of Information Act. Censors redacted the exact date of the incident, the target of the RC-135S’ mission, and what intelligence the crew was ultimately able to collect.

One of the Air Force's three RC-135S Cobra Ball aircraft.

What we do know is that the Cobra Ball was able to fly its mission, in the end, thanks to some quick thinking on the part of U.S. Air Force Technical Sergeant Michael Smith, a liaison from the 25th Air Force’s Logistics Division. He was the one who the history credits with suggesting that maintenance crews take the necessary parts from another C-135-based aircraft to get the RC-135S flying again.

In the end, Air Force officials agreed to have personnel strip the required components out of an RC-135V/W Rivet Joint signals intelligence aircraft that was also at Mildenhall at the time. We don’t know whether or not maintenance personnel swapped the parts back after the RC-135S returned to base.

The internal history does make it clear that the 25th Air Force was very proud of how its airmen handled this incident. The specific section is titled “625 OC [Operations Center] Saves RC-13SS Cobra Ball Mission.”

The entry from the 25th Air Force history for 2016 covering the RC-135S mission in question.

But, while it clearly allowed the Air Force to gather significant information on a rocket or missile launch, the entire incident highlights the challenges and tough decisions that the sorry state of the RC-135 fleet imposes on the service. In 2016 alone, the 55th Wing as a whole had to abort more than 500 missions due to maintenance issues, according to an investigative series the Omaha World Herald published in June 2018. This unit oversees the Cobra Balls and Rivet Joints, as well as the RC-135U Combat Sent electronic intelligence platforms, OC-135B Open Skies surveillance aircraft, and WC-135W Constant Phoenix nuclear intelligence planes.

The RC-135V/W that sacrificed its mission readiness to so the RC-135S could fly its sortie had been scheduled to perform a flight of its own that day. That got pushed back 24 hours as a result of the need to get the Cobra Ball airborne.

There’s no way of telling what intelligence the Rivet Joint might have missed by not flying its scheduled mission. Operating from bases in Europe, these aircraft typically monitor Russia’s heavily militarized Kaliningrad enclave on the Baltic Sea and other parts of NATO’s eastern flank.

RC-135V/Ws deployed to Mildenhall often fly further on to Naval Support Activity Souda Bay on the Greek island of Crete, where they fly important missions in the Black Sea, monitoring Russia’s activities in and around Ukraine’s Crimea region, and the Eastern Mediterranean, often operating off the coast of Syria. A Rivet Joint flying from Greece helped gather information on air defenses in Syria ahead of a U.S.-led cruise missile barrage against Syrian dictator Bashar Al Assad’s chemical weapons infrastructure in April 2018.

These missions are often critical and time sensitive. The scramble to get the RC-135S up in the air in 2016 was itself driven by new intelligence that indicated the target’s launch time had gotten pushed up. The low availability rates within the small RC-135 fleet make it hard to ensure the jets are ready to respond to these kinds of changes on short notice to begin with.

It’s also important to note that while cannibalization is rife across the U.S. military’s aviation communities that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a sustainable practice. The potential pitfalls are magnified when dealing with low density, high-value assets such as the RC-135S aircraft. The plan worked in 2016, but the Air Force simply can’t rely on there always being another aircraft on hand to strip of necessary parts. Even if there is, there is no guarantee that maintenance personnel will be able to have a broken plane ready exactly when it’s needed.

Air Force ground crew personnel inspect one of the engines on an RC-135S Cobra Ball.

Collection demands, especially when it comes to rocket and missile launches, are only likely to have increased since 2016, as well. Even when they’re all working fine, the three Cobra Balls have to contend with the U.S. governments desire to monitor an increasing number of Russian, Chinese, North Korean, and Iranian ballistic missile developments and contend with the growing proliferation of such systems elsewhere. In the past, Cobra Balls have even flown missions to monitor American allies and partners, such as India, Israel, and Pakistan, as they conducted their own missile launches.

It’s not clear when the state of the RC-135 fleet, in part or as a whole, might improve, but Air Force has been under increasing pressure from Congress to take action to rectify low availability rates and other readiness issues across the service. A spate of serious and often fatal aircraft accidents in 2018 has also been driving demands from legislators and the general public for the service to do some critical introspection into how it operates. Lawmakers did include more than $600 million specifically to support the 55th Wing’s C-135-based aircraft in the most recent defense budget for the 2019 Fiscal year, as well.

At the same time, the Air Force also has no firm plan about how it would go about actually replacing the RC-135s. The service expects to keep the planes flying through at least 2050.

In the meantime, the 55th Wing may well have to continue swapping parts between RC-135s to at least try to ensure they meet the highest priority collection requirements.

Contact the author: jtrevithickpr@gmail.com

Here’s What A Sinister Looking Giant Black Pyramid Is Doing At An Abandoned Military Base

You see all types of crazy looking structures on and around military bases when perusing satellite imagery. But once in a while you find something that is just too bizarre to move on from without an explanation. Looking more like the evil lair of a comic book pharaoh brought back to life than something you would find on an ex-missile test range, the strange installation seen in the banner image above is a burial tomb, but of a different kind.

The peculiar site is situated on the western edge of the long defunct Green River Launch Complex in Utah and measures 530 feet by 450 feet—the Luxor Hotel is 600 feet by 600 feet for comparison—and covers five an d half acres. But the thing is that this imposing fixture isn’t even a structure—it’s a pile. What you are seeing in the image above is a giant, contoured mound of radioactive waste.

Originally a mill on the site was operated by Union Carbide from 1957 to 1961—at the height of the atomic age. During just three years of operation as a uranium upgrading facility it produced 183,000 tons of ore and generated an estimated 114,000 cubic yards of radioactive tailings, a predominantly sandy material, that covered about 9 acres to an average depth of 7 feet.

The mill remained for decades after its closure before the State of Utah took over the site in 1988. The DOE then stepped in to manage the disposable of the toxic tailings on the site in 1989. The mound also contains radioactive waste from 17 other sites from the region as well. Dubbed the Green River Uranium Disposal Cell, it is ringed by chain link fencing with signs everywhere warning of the toxic danger of its contents.

The ominous waste pile site just off a major highway that bisects the abandoned launch site in half. To the west is the Green River.

Geologicnow.com, an absolutely fascinating site, has an awesome little article about what exactly this thing is, and apparently it has plenty of radioactive cousins splattered around the U.S. that were also born out of the Cold War:

Though the underground nuclear catacombs for America’s spent nuclear fuel are yet to be created, radioactive tombs of America’s various nuclear programs already exist today, with more to come. Most are repositories for the remains of uranium mills, processing facilities, weapons plants, and contaminated tailings, bulldozed into engineered isolation mounds designed to limit contact with their surroundings for hundreds of years. There are dozens of these mounds, across the country from Pennsylvania to Arizona, built mostly by the Department of Energy, and maintained by their Legacy Management office.

These disposal mounds are generally low, rectilinear piles with flat, sloping tops – terrestrial umbrellas, keeping moisture out of the pile as much as possible. In arid environments, the outer layer is a coating of coarse riprap rock, a dead space where nothing grows, where no soil forms, and no roots take hold that could pierce the radioactive core. This tough skin allows occasional rains to pass through it to the next layer, a low-permeability clayey mixture a few feet thick. Water drains off to the side of the pile through channels at the base held in place with more layers of crushed stone.

These disposal cells are located primarily in the Southwest, where natural uranium deposits were found and exploited. Some of these former uranium mills were set up secretly for the Manhattan Project. Most started in the 1950s, and many operated until the 1990s. Presently, only one conventional uranium mill is operating in the USA, the White Mesa Mill in Blanding, Utah, in the heart of the uranium district and Indian country. However, that may change as the nation shifts towards more self-reliant energy sources.

Each disposal cell covers many acres and as much as half a square mile. They resemble ancient pyramids or relics from a geometrical mound-building culture, like archeological forms made for the future. They represent the legacy of the most advanced technology of a global culture: the creation of the atomic bomb, the ability to destroy the world at the push of a button. They are part of the nationwide network of industrial sites created to extract, process, manufacture, and engineer nuclear fuel for reactors and weapons–a continent-wide landscape machine to concentrate a naturally occurring trace material into such compressed atomic density that it explodes with galactic energy.

These mound sites, byproducts of this effort, are the end of the line, meant to be unconnected to the rest of the world, like deadly anachronistic time capsules. These are the most negative of spaces, nonplaces, meant to stay inert and isolated for as much of forever as possible, kept from the present, but destined for the future.

A fact sheet that is publicly available online about the site includes details about its particular construction:

The cell was excavated to bedrock and was lined with 6 feet of low-permeability soil. Most of the contaminated materials are below grade. A clay-rich soil layer placed over the contaminated materials extends to the edge of the cell below grade and serves as a lowpermeability radon barrier. Above grade, the radon barrier is covered by a layer of rock (riprap) placed on granular bedding material. The cell design promotes rapid runoff of precipitation to minimize leachate. The walls around the edge of the disposal cell are lined with riprap and bedding material. A large riprap apron extends outward from the edge of the disposal cell for about 20 feet. Precipitation flows down the 20-percent side slopes into the surrounding rock apron. The disposal cell was located and designed to prevent or minimize erosion from storm water. The cell is located 75 feet above the Brown’s Wash floodplain. Existing gullies were filled and regraded during cell construction, and all disturbed grass surrounding the disposal cell were reseeded with native vegetation.

The document continues, stating:

The disposal cell at Green River is designed and constructed to last for 200 to 1,000 years. However, the general license has no expiration date, and DOE understands that its responsibility for the safety and integrity of the Green River site will last indefinitely.

So like the pyramids of Egypt, these are also eternal resting places with the contents within not ever intended to be moved or molested. An indestructible reminder of a very dark time in mankind’s past. One also has to wonder what toxic impact this waste had on its surrounds before it was organized into a neat and isolated, albeit huge pile?

Tuba City Uranium Disposal Cell in Arizona, one of number of uranium tailings disposal sites in various configurations scattered around the country. Some sites have entire mills buried beneath them along with their tailings.<strong data-recalc-dims= ” />

As for the Green River Launch Complex, the largely abandoned site may ring a bell as it was ridiculously claimed by Popular Mechanics in 1997 that operations at Area 51 had packed up and moved there, as well as to Dugway Proving ground that lies about 200 miles to the Northwest. This was totally unsubstantiated and incorrect, but the myth propagated for years and drew attention to the crumbling base.

Now, even as the base’s once important Cold War infrastructure continues to be demolished or just disintegrate with the passage of time, that huge charcoal colored pile of atomic waste will sit begrudgingly for ages.

Some things mankind simply can’t reverse and the Green River Uranium Disposal Cell is a stark and ominous reminder of that.

Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com

This Highly-Decorated, Highly-Original Porsche 956 Heads to Auction

If you thought that Rennsport Reunion at the conclusion of Monterey Car Week would mark the end of Porsche’s 70th Anniversary festivities, you’re sorely mistaken. RM Sotheby’s will host a Porsche-only 70th Anniversary Sale at the Porsche Experience Center in Atlanta, Georgia, and the list of historic models up for grabs just keeps growing. The most recent car to be added to the roster is a 1983 Porsche 956 Group C race car, and it’s certainly worth the $5.2 million-plus asking price.

According to RM Sotheby’s, this example, chassis 956-110, is the only 956 to ever win a race in America. After an unsuccessful debut at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the car secured its only U.S. victory at the 1983 Can-Am Road America with John Fitzpatrick at the wheel. In addition, chassis 110 finished first overall at the 1000 kilometers of Brand’s Hatch, second at the 1000 km Imola, and third at the 1000 km of Silverstone and Mugello. It participated in its last race at the 1984 24 Hours of Le Mans with another third place finish.

Since then, it’s only had three owners in various private collections, and is said to be one of the most original 956s out there.

Chassis 110 at Brand's Hatch

“The 956 model was a highly successful sports racing car and is considerably rarer and more user friendly than its Group 6 sister car, the iconic 917,” explained Alexander Weaver, car specialist at RM Sotheby’s. “Given that the car was raced by one of just two privateer teams to ever beat the Works Rothmans team with a 956 in a 1,000 KM championship race, and the only 956 to win in the U.S., it is especially fitting that the car be offered at the Porsche Experience Center Atlanta during the 70th anniversary year. This is a rare opportunity for Porsche racing enthusiasts that won’t soon repeat itself.”

The 956 is one of Porsche’s most iconic prototype race cars, having held the overall lap record at the Nürburgring for 35 years (until just a few months ago). In addition to dominating the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the 956 is best known as one of the first race cars to receive a dual-clutch transmission, debuting Porsche’s beloved PDK gearbox.

Chassis 110 is expected to sell for $5.3 million to $6.8 million at the RM Sotheby’s 70th Anniversary Sale on Oct. 27, but it will be on display at the auction company’s booth in Monterey Aug. 22-25.

Watch This Ukrainian SA-11 ‘Buk’ SAM System Intercept A Storefront In Kiev

I don’t know what it is about SA-11 ‘Buk’ surface-to-air missile systems but, they seem to have trouble when it comes to participating in military parades. The self-contained, road-mobile, medium-range SAM is most notorious for tragically shooting down Malaysian Airlines flight 17 over Eastern Ukraine, but it remains in service in a number of configurations in dozens of countries around the world. In this case, the straying transporter erector launcher and radar (TELAR) in question was of Ukrainian origin.

The incident occurred on August 18th, 2018 during a practice run for Ukraine’s Independence Day parade in Kiev. Everything seemed to be going as planned before it suddenly wasn’t as the SA-11 careened into a storefront. It’s somewhat astonishing that nobody was injured, but the stricken SAM system made a great subject for social media photos and selfies snapped by pedestrians nearby.

We don’t know exactly what happened here—maybe there was a mechanical issue or maybe the driver fell asleep—who knows. But this may just be the SA-11’s first successful intercept of a storefront in its nearly 40-year operational career.

Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com

Former NASCAR CEO Brian France Faces Possible Lincense Suspension, Year in Jail

Former NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France may face a one-year suspension of his driver’s license and up to a year in jail after his arrest Sunday evening in Southampton, New York, for aggravated driving while intoxicated and possession of oxycodone. The now-former exec already has stepped down from his position with NASCAR and Jim France has been named the interim Chairman and CEO.

“Brian France has taken an indefinite leave of absence from NASCAR as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer,” read a statement issued by NASCAR on Monday. “Effective immediately, NASCAR Vice Chairman and Executive President Jim France has assumed the role of interim Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.”

Jim France, Brian France’s uncle, has been a member on NASCAR’s Board of Directors since 2000.

Brian France’s 2017 Lexus was pulled over when he ran a stop sign while heading northbound on Main Street. His blood-alcohol level was 0.19, more than twice the legal limit of 0.08 in the state of New York, and a search of his car produced five pills that were discovered to be acetaminophen and oxycodone hydrochloride.

France’s court date has been set for September 14, 2018.

NASCAR has a Road to Recovery program to assist competitors who have violated the sanctioning body’s substance abuse policy. If a competitor successfully completes the program while serving an indefinite suspension as a result of a violation of the policy, his or her eligibility to compete in NASCAR is typically reinstated. France is responsible for the implementation of the Road to Recovery program.

The Sordid State of Highway Boondoggles

Ever since Congress green-lit the Interstate Highway System in 1956, Wasteful spending and bad planning have been as much a part of the American roadscape as public toilets and dead raccoons. So has public criticism of highway graft. To counter its early detractors, the U.S. Bureau Of Public Roads released this mild propaganda movie in 1961.

To the contemporary eye, everything in the film looks grim and brown, more like the Kansas City of The Day After than a glowing metropolis-to-be. I suppose it seemed like the future at the time. The film claims that “soon, traffic will flow smoothly in, around, and between every major city and town in America. There will be no traffic tie-ups where the Interstate goes.”

Nearly 70 years later, we can meet that statement with a gigantic LOLLLLLL.

Those were the golden heydays of Autopia, when highways promised a drive into the sunset and beyond toward a golden tomorrow, so we can excuse their optimism. Anyone who drives now knows better, or should. The boring but important Fundamental Law Of Road Congestion basically says that you can’t build your way out of traffic. But that doesn’t stop the government from trying.

Recently, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and the Frontier Group issued their fourth-annual report on highway boondoggles, and it’s the usual catalog of waste, short-sightedness, and smack-your-head-against-the-wall frustration. From Red State to Blue State and back again all around the cloverleaf, governments continue to propose and enact ridiculous and wasteful highway projects.

Ask commuters in Los Angeles how much better their lives are since the widening of I-405, which cost $1.6 billion and took five nightmarish years to finish, completely failed to reduce rush-hour congestion. In Texas, where I live against all reason, the state’s wise transportation authority ruled that Houston’s Katy Freeway would be widened up to 26 lanes at some points, at a cost of $2.8 billion. By 2014, evening commutes were taking up to 50 percent longer. A $1.6 billion project to widen I-35 in Dallas proved so successful that traffic backs up more than four miles during peak hours.

Even in Texas, a state without income tax, the costs to taxpayers are enormous. As of 2015, Texas owed $29.1 billion in highway debt. It paid more than four billion that year just to service the debt. And yet voters. desperate to escape the endless traffic snarl that urban Texas has become, continued to divert more money to road construction, a scheme that hasn’t proven to be their friend.

Texas’ latest proposed boondoggle is an eight-billion-dollar expansion of I-35 through Austin, a road that’s the bane of every Austinites’ existence, simultaneously mind-numbingly dull and staggeringly dangerous. Austin has all sorts of possible transit improvements on the table, from new light-rail lines to pedestrian and bike infrastructure, progressive or at least sane solutions to intractable problems. For now, the proposal remains on hold because people balked at the idea of establishing toll lanes on a federal highway. But anyone who has faith that Texas officials will do the right thing when it comes to transit will be waiting a lifetime.

Gideon Weismann of the Frontier Group, who co-authored the study, says, “Being stuck in traffic is a problem that everybody’s familiar with, so people are willing to latch onto any solution that will help. The evidence that these projects just don’t work hasn’t become common knowledge. People have been making these claims forever.”

Other proposed highway horrors include:

  • A $6.9 billion expansion of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. To cover a small percentage the outrageous costs of modernizing America’s oldest superhighway, state officials are proposing the end of public-transportation subsidies.
  • A $1.5 billion connector highway in Spokane, Washington, that would bisect the city and take funding away from repair of “structurally deficient or obsolete” bridges.
  • Nine billion dollars worth of repairs and lane expansion to highways in and around Baltimore, despite the fact that I-270 and I-495 are already eight lanes across.

The very definition of “boondoggle” is currently underway in Alabama with the Northern Beltline project, dubbed “The Road To Nowhere” by opponents. A proposed 52-mile loop that would ravage the hill country northwest of Birmingham, the Beltway has been spearheaded by powerful and corrupt Alabama coal and timber interests that own most of the adjacent land. Even though it’s not projected to cut down traffic at all—and in fact will probably increase traffic—The Beltway continues to sit on the table at a cost of more than $100 million per mile. Thus far, through several years of development, the state has broken ground on about a mile of road, but it remains unpaved. If the state does manage to squirrel the money from somewhere, it will chew up more than half of Birmingham’s available transportation funds from now until its estimated completion date in the far-off year 2054.

But, Northern Beltline lunacy aside, at least most of these projects involve attempts, however misguided, to fix traffic flow around thriving urban areas. In economically-struggling Shreveport, Louisiana, local politicians who make Huey Long look like Cole Porter are trying to build an approximately $600 million, three-and-a-half mile connector highway that will devastate the historically black neighborhood of Allendale, despite the fact that a sufficient loop already exists around the city. Activists have stalled the project for a year after they discovered the highway construction would destroy a historic Confederate fort, but it remains on the table for, in the usual words of highway authorities, “further study.”

I spoke with John Perkins, a freelance television producer in Shreveport, who’s been part of the group trying to throw a spanner in the highway works. He made the whole project sound ridiculous.

“There’s no traffic here,” he said. “Large cities have more traffic through their alleys than we have on any day through downtown. They’re being sold on the dream—if we build this magic 3.6 miles of highway then maybe people will start driving through Shreveport and spending money. It’s not provable. It’s just a fantasy.”

That could sum up any big road project. It’s all just fantasy and wishful thinking. That was great in 1958, when life was a highway and the American future unlimited. But if anyone really thinks freeway construction represents the future now, they either don’t leave the house much, have access to excellent drugs, or stand to profit at the public’s expense while we all bash our heads against the wheel and choke on the fumes.

“You’d be able to get from Alexandria, Louisiana, to Texarkana two minutes faster,” says John Perkins of his own private boondoggle. “That’s all it would technically do. I drove the same route in my car through town and it took me eight-and-a-half minutes. It’s a preposterous waste of money, unless you are building the highway and designing the highway. Then it’s a great idea.”