Archive for the ‘Auto Racing’ Category

F.A. Porsche Dies, and Germany Is Winning the Car Wars

April 9th, 2012

2012 Porsche 911 Cabriolet

World War II was of course not the end for Germany, though the country was pulverized. The three Porsches, all named Ferdinand, were still alive, but it was Ferry, son of the founder, who brought the car company to fame and success in the late 1940s.

His Porsche 356 took the prototype Volkswagen—created under Hitler in the 1930s but not produced till after the war—and made it a smartly engineered, rear-engine, desirable sports car. And it caught on in the U.S.

The third Ferdinand (F.A., right), who died last week at 76, in my view really made the company with his 1963 design of the 911 (Type 901), a complete departure from the 356 with a 6-cylinder (some few 912 fours were made) and a more functional and beautiful design that has endured to this day.

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More Geneva: the Lotus Exige S Roadster

March 8th, 2012

Lotus Exige, side view

A few folks have been modifying present Lotus Exige S cars, converting them into soft-tops (see comment by wallabyguy here), but now the factory does it for you. And it has made other alterations to make this a most desirable sports car.

This is part of Lotus’s comeback story. The firm has had lots of ups and downs but has always kept to the “less is more” mantra, and its new cars are finally getting the styling right as well. I think owner Proton (Malaysia) has done well by them.

The Exige S Roadster gives what is basically a track and rally car a little more class and some upgrades in appearance. Worldcarfans called it “an Elise with a bigger engine,” but now it’s better-looking too.

Performance comes from a blown 3.5-liter V6 (345 hp) that moves you to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds and 0-100 in 8.5. Top speed is 145 mph. Best is its light weight—about 2,400 pounds. A 6-speed manual is standard; you can order Lotus’s Serial Precision Shift (SPS), with paddles and automated shifting.

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March 1st, 2012

Daytona 500 crash

I know, it brings in a lot of money even though attendance keeps dropping. It’s a spectacle, yes, though so was throwing Christians to the lions. It takes some skill to drive 200 mph in a pack. Skill does not equate to sport.

The recent series of fiascos at the Daytona 500 just confirms what we all know from watching South Park’s 2010 send-up of NASCAR (wherein Cartman gets Vagisil to sponsor his car after he ingests a tube to make him stupid).

The race was first postponed because of rain, which the media made much of (“first time in 54 years the race has been postponed!”). They also made a continual big deal over Danica Patrick, who’s pretty but not a very good driver. Where are the black drivers, by the way?

Anyway, after a restart, one Juan Pablo Montoya crashed into a track dryer that spilled 200 gallons of jet fuel and caused a massive fire and a two-hour cleanup. Then more crashes, 12 caution flags, and more left-turning in cars that all look the same and use old technology to keep speeds down.

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Peugeot Out, Toyota In for Le Mans Race

January 25th, 2012

Toyota TS030 Hybrid

World racing fans were shocked last week when Peugeot, after some real successes, abruptly withdrew from the Le Mans LMP (Le Mans Prototype) 24-hour competition.

Peugeot has had a great back-and-forth duel with Audi, both running turbodiesels, particularly last year, when the team lost by some 13.8 seconds after much lead-changing. Peugeots finished second through fifth, however, and won in 2009 (and also won the 12-hour Sebring race last year), while Audi took the crown seven years prior. Peugeot’s radical aero changes forced Audi to redesign its R18.

The reason Peugeot quit is money. Peugeot-Citröen has been struggling and has had to cut back to save 6,000 jobs. The company is putting its resources into new product launches, including hybrids.

The race in June will still be fascinating, however. You’ll see Toyota’s new entry, the TS030 hybrid (with support from a 3.4-liter V8 gas engine) and a new kind of capacitor storage. The car (above) is still testing and working out in Europe.

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Man Hopes to Set New Land Speed Record of 2,000 MPH

January 3rd, 2012
Bloodhound SSC

The Bloodhound SSC: Can it be beaten?

“Dad, did you know the fastest car ever went 2,300 miles per hour?”

These were the words of my 9-year-old son yesterday morning, as we were discussing the top speed of various supercars.

“I don’t think so — it seems like the current land speed record is somewhere around 700 miles an hour,” I replied.

“No,” he said, “A car went 2,300… but then it blew up.”

I don’t know where he got his facts, but the current land speed record is 763 mph, set by the Thrust SSC all the way back in 1997. A new vehicle, dubbed the Bloodhound SuperSonic Car and funded through various UK sources, plans to set a new record in 2013 by hitting 1,000 mph.

That’s slow, though, compared with what a California man has planned.

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Auto Racing, Car Industry News, Car Minded, Exotic Cars, General Chat

Subaru BRZ May Revive the Lightweight, Affordable Sports Car

January 2nd, 2012

The BRZ was shown in Tokyo last month, and a bunch of reviewers got to drive it at Subaru’s test track. There were very few niggling comments; most everyone loved the handling of the car and its broad power band.

After so many years of idiotic horsepower wars, muscle-car wars, 0-60 mph wars, maybe it’s finally time to look at what a sports car should be—light, fast and tossable—and how to make one that the rest of us can afford to buy.

The BRZ promises super handing and decent performance (200 hp; 150 lb-ft of torque) at “less than” a $25,000 promised base price when it comes to the U.S. in May. Autoweek’s Mark Vaughn described driving the car:

If driven wimpily, you will say the 2013 BRZ understeers, which is true. But if tossed gleefully into corners like you really mean it, you will find that the BRZ first understeers and then oversteers, depending on how sensitive you are to the car’s balance. Our first laps around Subaru’s Tochigi handling course and giant skidpad were done a little too gingerly, since it was still a little damp and there is just about no runoff on the road course. There’s where we felt the understeer. Subsequent laps, driven with greater throttle input, demonstrated a delightful balance that allowed us to hang the tail out by lifting off to bring the back end over then getting back on it to keep it hanging out there.  The transition was as easy and progressive as we wanted to make it.

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Auto Racing, Car Industry News, Car Minded, Car Shows, Foreign Cars, General Chat

Cars Coming Soon: Audi A4 Allroad and a $100,000 Ford Focus

December 15th, 2011

Ford Focus ST-R

A Focus by any other name is still a Focus. Right?

We see them every day in shopping-mall parking lots across America. We rent them during trips to Dallas. We see them advertised by dealers for low, low monthly payments. We have friends who drive a Focus. We’ve considered buying a Focus.

But a Focus for almost $100,000? That’s just crazy talk. Or is it the bargain of the century?

The Focus ST-R isn’t just a Focus. This is an honest-to-goodness race car launched by Ford Racing back in September at the Frankfurt Motor Show. It’s powered by a 2.0-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder and has a full FIA-certified roll cage, racing brakes and a track-tuned suspension.

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Kyle Busch Hits His Own Wall

November 7th, 2011

Kyle Busch, center

If we needed more proof of the travesty NASCAR racing has become, we got it last Friday when Kyle Busch (above, center) drove a competitor into the wall—while the caution light was on.

The scene was one of NASCAR’s ridiculous truck races at the Texas Motor Speedway. Here’s the nutshell of the story, as Autoweek had it:

Busch was suspended for intentionally crashing four-time champion Ron Hornaday Jr. under caution early in Friday night’s Camping World Truck Series race. They banged together moments earlier, when Hornaday moved up the track just slightly to clear a lapped car, forcing Busch lightly into the outside wall. When the caution waved and the pace slowed, Busch repeatedly banged into the back of Hornaday’s truck until they both crashed heavily.

See video after the break.

Busch was suspended for the remainder of the race and two more on Sunday. He should have been booted for the season, because the guy has a long history of bad behavior on and off the track.

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Dan Wheldon’s Unnecessary and Awful Death

October 17th, 2011

Las Vegas crash

Here we go again. Dan Wheldon, a highly talented, respected and loved race driver dies in a horrifying crash that should have been prevented. IndyCar racing has now claimed six drivers since 1996. Six were injured in this 15-car crash alone. Driver Alex Zanardi lost both his legs in a crash in 2001.

Sunday’s IndyCar 300 race in Las Vegas was just another example of how U.S. open-wheel racing has persistently become more dangerous. In the words of ex-Formula 1 world champion Jody Scheckter (whose son was in the race), the drivers are “wheel to wheel all the time.” IndyCar racing is unsafe, “the most dangerous form of motor racing at the moment.”

The problem is too many cars, all running flat-out on circuits that are too short so that the cars are all bunched up all the time.

The field at Las Vegas was 34 cars running on a short 1.5-mile oval with progressively high banking, sometimes four abreast at speeds of 220 mph—much faster than Formula 1 cars.

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A Pause for IndyCar Champ Dan Wheldon

October 17th, 2011

Dan Wheldon

It’s always difficult to choose a topic after such an intense weekend of auto-related news and events. Unfortunately, the biggest news this weekend was the tragic death of IndyCar champion Dan Wheldon, who died in a massive accident yesterday during the Las Vegas Indy 300.

It makes other news and developments feel trivial, so I’d like to devote this post to the 16-time IndyCar race winner, 2003 rookie of the year and two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500. Dan Wheldon was among the most talented drivers in motorsports.

IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard issued a statement after the race saying that IndyCar “is very sad to announce that Dan Wheldon has passed away from unsurvivable injuries.” The race was stopped, but drivers chose to salute Wheldon with a five-lap run in his honor.

Wheldon, who won this year’s Indy 500 race, was 33. Our condolences go out to his wife and his young children.

The 15-car wreck in Las Vegas raises the question of whether racing has simply gotten too fast and too dangerous. Drivers were hitting speeds in excess of 225 mph during practice, speeds that are unsafe no matter what car is involved. As of this moment it’s hard to understand how pushing the limits of speed is worth human life.

But that’s an argument for another day.


Auto Racing, Car Safety, General Chat