The Truth About Cars » race The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 27 Jul 2014 20:45:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » race $57 Million Chicago Ford Dealership Delayed As Aldermen Play Politics Tue, 13 Aug 2013 21:25:17 +0000 110428wardremap

FMG Holdings, which operates a number of car dealerships in western Michigan under the name of Fox Motors, had planned on spending $57 million turning an abandoned industrial site on Chicago’s North Side into a large Ford store but it has now given Chicago politicians an Oct. 1st deadline to either approve or deny their zoning application after the issue has gotten mired in local politics and injected with the issue of race.

According to Automotive News, FMG had approached Alederman Scott Waguespack about his support of their plan to develop a 102,000 square foot Ford dealership in his ward, Chicago’s 32nd. The store would replace a defunct dealership also in Chicago, and it would employ about 200 people.

Waguespack solicited feedback from constituents, who approved, so he decided to support FMG, though he turned down their request for a tax-increment financing subsidy. The Chicago Plan Commission also approved the zoning request, but then the plan stalled after other aldermen representing predominantly Hispanic wards got involved, asking what Ford has done to give franchises to Hispanics.

One of the aldermen, Danny Solis, chairman of the City Council’s Latino Caucus, also chairs the City Council Committee on Zoning, which has tabled Fox’s request twice. Solis gives Ford’s lack of any Hispanic owned dealerships in the Chicago area as his reason. “We want some form of commitment from Ford,” Solis says. “Ford should be sensitive to giving a fair shake to the Hispanic community.”

While Ford may not have any stores in Chicagoland owned by Latinos, one particular Latino, Jose Diaz, whose family used to own a Miami, Florida Chrysler dealership and who is said to maintain a residence in Chicago, seems to be the person that Solis has in mind, as it is Diaz’s name that Solis has suggested to Ford. Diaz has been promoting his own plan to open up a dealership in a different location than in the 32nd ward. He’s also given campaign contributions to Latino aldermen, inlcuding $6,800 to Solis’  25th Ward Regular Democratic Organization. Solis denies a connection between those contributions and his inaction on Fox’s zoning request.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s office said that the request will come up for a committee vote on Sept. 4 and a full city council vote later in September.

Because of the delay, Fox says that it had to extend an option to purchase that would have expired in early August but a spokeswoman said that it would be the last extension the company would seek and that if a decision wasn’t rendered before October, they would walk away. Still, the company knows it has to be diplomatic.

“From our experience, when you go through zoning, it has to do with whether you’re complying with the law,” Monica Sekulich, general counsel at Fox Motors, told the Automotive News. “We’re frustrated by the [Chicago] process. But we’re optimists. … We are excited about doing this deal.”

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Racing With Skip Barber, Part I: The “Media Challenge” That Wasn’t Wed, 23 Dec 2009 19:46:38 +0000 Down in it.

As far as publicity stunts go, it was an outstanding one. No doubt inspired by the many stories of “10/10ths driving” out there in the motoring press, Skip Barber decided to hold a media-only round of its MAZDASPEED Challenge, dubbing said race the “Skip Barber Media Challenge”. The purpose of this event would be to determine the fastest journalist in North America. Unfortunately, it didn’t really happen that way.

Why not? Consider this. Imagine a stadium containing every self-styled “motoring journalist” on the continent. There would be at least ten thousand people in that stadium. Now imagine that you ask everybody without a valid major-sanction racing license to leave. After the Who-concert-style trampling subsides, you will be left with thirty or so people. Ask those thirty people to accept a $7500 damage liability, a fairly rigorous travel schedule, and post-race publication of the results. Now there will be just one person left, and that person was me. To keep from feeling completely alone, I suggested that Skip Barber invite SHARP magazine’s occasional motoring editor, Brian Makse. I know Brian well, as he was my One Lap of America co-driver in 2005 and 2006.

Two journos does not a race make, so we were given the chance to participate in a regular-season MAZDASPEED Challenge at Laguna Seca Raceway. The race weekend was scheduled to start approximately 36 hours after the conclusion of CTS-V Challenge. I drove home from Monticello to Ohio and then flew from Ohio to California, which left me four hours to sleep. At the conclusion of that four hours, Brian picked me up at the hotel and drove to Laguna Seca, where we were packed into a Ford Econoline van with the rest of the MX-5 racers.

Don’t say “Miata”, by the way. These are modern 2007-vintage MX-5s, not Miatas, and they are worth about fifty grand each thanks to a comprehensive package of safety and performance upgrades. Skip Barber fits the MX-5s with two different types of seats to accommodate drivers from petit to point guard; at 6’2” and a 48” chest I fit easily into the “regular” seat. In terms of performance, these cars are considerably faster than a garden-variety Spec Miata but not quite up to a full Playboy MX-5 Car, largely due to the super-slippery G-Force Sport street tires. Hustling the Barber MX-5s requires putting them fairly sideways at the exit of every turn and the entrance of some.

Having prepared for this “track walk” with a strenuous two-week program of videos, pace notes, and coaching from top-level professionals, Brian cheerfully anticipated each corner and chattered endlessly with the SB instructors. I fell asleep on the Econoline’s vinyl seat, because I was dead-tired, stressed-out from the aforementioned CTS-V Challenge, and I’d never so much as watched a TV race at Laguna Seca.

Eunos better than to call me a Miata

Our first practice session revealed the true superstars in the race group. Two young drivers, improbably named Tyler and Coulter and each attended by a retinue of handsome, California-esque family members, were clear of the field by approximately a second or so. Behind them, a couple of older drivers vied with my pal Brian for mid-pack honors. At the back of the pack was Jack Baruth, who was still trying to figure out which way the racetrack went. It takes me a while to learn tracks, you see. I’m still learning Mid-Ohio, and I’ve been racing there for years.

Unlike at my Mid-Ohio club races, however, here at Seca I had some help available. At the conclusion of every on-track session, each Skip Barber racer receives detailed, individualized feedback from the corner observers who watch more or less every inch of the track. These observers are successful racers in their own right and have been thoroughly trained in the absolutely perfect MX-5 line around Laguna Seca. After speaking to each of the corner observers, I had a much better idea about what I would need to do in order to avoid finishing dead last in the non-Media Challenge.

I will readily admit to being a lousy qualifier. I simply don’t drive well on a timed-lap basis. (See: CTS-V Challenge). Racing is what I do. I love to bang fenders and make dramatic passes, neither of which leads to good qualifying results. Still, I was depressed to see that I had qualified no better than sixth out of thirteen. Luckily for me, however, Brian had broken a swaybar in qualifying and only managed a single lap, which landed him in seventh. Woo-hoo! Still fastest journalist!

It’s worth noting that when Brian came in to the pits, the Skip Barber people had a replacement MX-5 ready to go. They take the availability, and equality, of their cars seriously. I never heard an allegation that any of the cars were “ringers”, nor would I have believed it. The cars were so equal that differences in driver weight were readily apparent going up the hill towards Laguna Seca’s famous Corkscrew.

As I expected, Tyler and Coulter were qualified at the sharp end of the grid. Given that I would be starting seventh, I didn’t expect to make their acquaintance during the race. But I did expect to finish better than sixth, particularly after getting a solid night’s sleep for the first time in a week. I was so interested in doing well, I even agreed to watch a couple of MX-5 Cup races with Brian before calling it a night.

Race results and more MX-5 Cup impressions in Part Two.

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How I Won/Lost/Failed to Understand the Cadillac CTS-V Challenge Fri, 30 Oct 2009 16:53:50 +0000 Don't Panic!

With apologies to Douglas Adams:

Stress and nervous tension are now serious social problems in all parts of the Galaxy, and it is in order that this situation should not in any way be exacerbated that the following facts will now be revealed in advance.

I took my privately-owned 2009 Audi S5 to the CTS-V Challenge, intending to compete in it. This happened because every manufacturer in the industry was afraid to face the CTS-V with their own car, no matter how much we begged and pleaded.

After five practice laps, the S5’s brake pedal was sitting on the floorboards, making it impossible for me to continue in the event. To prevent me from having to sit on the sidelines watching everybody else having fun, Cadillac let me borrow the same automatic CTS-V that Bob Lutz drove. It was not a ringer, and I explain why below.

Michael Cooper is a talented driver, and I took him too lightly. Had I known how fast he was going to run, I’d have taken a few more risks on-track and turned the necessary time.

Now for our story.

The CTS-V Challenge arrived at a most inconvenient time for me, smack dab in the middle of a week in which I would learn three new tracks, drive more than three thousand miles, and fly across the country. My itinerary for the week:

Friday, Oct 23, 10PM: Drive to New Jersey Motorsports Park from Columbus, Ohio overnight to save on hotel expenses

Saturday and Sunday: Instructing for Audi Club NA on the “Lightning” course

Monday: Drive home to Ohio and trade my Boxster for my S5. Why not drive the S5 at Lightning? Simple. I only have one set of tires for the car and they need to last the rest of the year.

Tuesday: Drive to Monticello, NY

Wednesday: Drive to Rhode Island to play pinball with our august founder, Robert Farago

Thursday: CTS-V Challenge then drive home to Ohio

Friday, Oct 30: Write story for TTAC then fly to Laguna Seca

Saturday: MX-5 Cup race at Laguna Seca

Let’s get one thing straight: Robert, Eddy, and I worked very hard to try to find a car in which I could represent TTAC. We pitched everybody from Jaguar (“Show them that your car is faster”) to Honda (“We’ll run an Accord to show who’s winning the sales race in this country”) but the universal response was a cautious refusal. Robert was of the opinion that I shouldn’t participate without a chance of winning or making a serious point, and he may have been right. But I’m a racer and I will race a moped if I can get my hands on one. There was no way I was going to miss this event, period, point blank.

I arrived Thursday morning hopeful that the torrential rains of the two previous days would continue, allowing my S5 a bit of the ol’ Quattro advantage. Unhappily, it quickly became apparent that, although the track would have some standing water all day, there would be no rain in the forecast. I took my S5 out in morning practice to learn the track, hoping for the best.

Five laps later I was in the pits watching the backing plates of my brake pads smoking against the front discs. I’d narrowly missed a 125-mph slide off the end of the curving back straight, pumping a dead middle pedal and trying to catch some ABS activation on the wet track. There was no way to continue. I was done, finished, kaput.

Consider, for a moment, the relationship between TTAC and GM. From “General Motors Must Die” to the present day, there’s been no love lost. Yet the people at Cadillac offered to help me. They offered to assist with bleeding the brakes in my S5, which would not fix the issue. Then they offered to let me borrow a car. I took one of the Monticello “fleet car” CTS-Vs out and got five more practice laps before the session concluded.

During practice, I watched the other challengers. Only one of them — a 20-year-old kid who somehow had a new M3 and a flotilla of hangers-on — was matching my pace in the S5. I knew that the CTS-V was much faster than the S5, and that therefore I could take three safe laps out there in an unfamiliar car, on an unfamiliar eighteen-turn track, and get the time I needed to beat Bob and “win” this thing.

After a ninety-minute grind of television interviews, publicity shots, and other exercises seemingly designed to make sure everybody involved was nervous enough to puke, we were sent out to drive. The “run order” was the first hint of a setup. I would be driving first, on a wet track, along with two other challengers. Lutz would drive sixty minutes later, and Heinricy would drive thirty minutes after him. They would have a much drier track with plenty of rubber laid down.

I ended up being given the same CTS-V that Maximum Bob was scheduled to drive. It was loaded with Video V-Box gear — just what you’d need to coach someone to their maximum performance potential in a short period of time. But as I pulled out onto the main straight, I couldn’t help but notice that this particular V was a bit of a pig. My practice car was 2-3mph faster at the end of the back straight than the Lutzmobile. What the hell? I was expecting a ringer and got a rude surprise.

My three laps were basically 9/10ths excursions, working to extract as much time as I could without risking the car. While I was not driving in spectacular fashion, I knew that I was running consistently fast enough to beat all the non-pros out there, and I also knew that I would be handing Bob effectively a fresh car. There would be no accusations that we’d poisoned the well. With just ten laps of the track under my belt, I knew I’d never touch Heinricy, so I didn’t bother to try. I just sat back and enjoyed myself.

The enjoyment stopped when I got out of the car and looked at the timing board. Michael Cooper, the kid in the M3, had been sandbagging. His grey sedan, hunkered down with no visible gap between tire and fender, had circled the track seven-tenths of a second ahead of my best time. Fuck. I hate to lose. Should have pushed the car. Fuck.

I channeled my frustration into coaching Lawrence Ullrich from the New York Times before his run, trying to show him on the 3-D trackmap in the lobby how I would have run a 2:49. But Lawrence had an off-track incident in his first lap and never managed to put a great run together. At the end of the day, Heinricy and Link used a manual-transmission CTS-V to run three to five seconds faster than my time, on a mostly dry track. I can live with that, I suppose.

I have some regrets. I wish we’d been able to find a car. I wish I hadn’t arrogantly dismissed the other competitors out of hand and treated it like a six-figure milk run set up for my amusement. But I am grateful to Cadillac for helping me out, in the spirit of racing, when I needed a hand. I’m grateful to Monticello for letting a poverty-stricken club racer enjoy their zillion-dollar facility. And I left the event with plenty of respect for the CTS-V. Don’t get me wrong: I’d still rather have an MKS Ecoboost as a daily driver. But if you don’t think the CTS is capable of running against the fastest sedans in the world on an equal footing, you’re crazy. Whether that means anything in this economy, in this environment, in this era… that’s up to someone else to decide. I came, I saw, I conquered nearly everybody. Good enough for me.

At the end of the day...

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