The Truth About Cars » Racing http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 04 Sep 2015 12:00:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 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 editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » Racing http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Convert Your Significant Other Into A LeMons Nerd With This Video (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/convert-significant-lemons-nerd-video-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/convert-significant-lemons-nerd-video-video/#comments Fri, 21 Aug 2015 19:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1149825 The fine folks over at The Atlantic (yeah, the fancy magazine) have posted a 5-minute short film on the experience that is LeMons. We love it. (Spot fellow TTAC scribe Murilee Martin in the robe at 1:45.)  For the uninitiated, it’s a expertly captured glimpse at the personalities that make home-grown racing the best kind of racing. […]

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The fine folks over at The Atlantic (yeah, the fancy magazine) have posted a 5-minute short film on the experience that is LeMons. We love it.

(Spot fellow TTAC scribe Murilee Martin in the robe at 1:45.) 

For the uninitiated, it’s a expertly captured glimpse at the personalities that make home-grown racing the best kind of racing. For the car nut, the film serves as motivation to get out and work on your race mongrel — now.

I know I’m preaching to the choir in some respects, but the film accurately captures the enthusiasm and personalities that race veterans can take for granted.

The film doesn’t go heavy into the details about how the cars are built or how the pits work all weekend to keep them ready, but perhaps those could be sequels.

But really, if you’re new to the game and want a cheap way to get into motorsports, the film should prime your passion for entry-level racing. There are plenty of series, including LeMons, like Chump Car or the United States Lawnmower Racing Association (“Let’s Mow!”) or SCCA …

That list goes on and on and on.

Feel free to leave a link to your local association in the comments below.

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Geely Buying Miller Motorsports Track in Utah, May Expand Facility http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/geely-buying-miller-motorsports-track-utah-may-expand-facility/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/geely-buying-miller-motorsports-track-utah-may-expand-facility/#comments Thu, 20 Aug 2015 22:00:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1148993 Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah (about 45 minutes outside of Salt Lake City) has a new lease on life, Hot Rod is reporting. The racetrack will be purchased by Chinese carmaker Geely and renamed Utah Motorsports Campus. The facility could receive $50 million in upgrades to host more racing events in the future. The track had […]

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Miller Motorsports Park Circa May 2008

Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah (about 45 minutes outside of Salt Lake City) has a new lease on life, Hot Rod is reporting. The racetrack will be purchased by Chinese carmaker Geely and renamed Utah Motorsports Campus. The facility could receive $50 million in upgrades to host more racing events in the future.

The track had been on the ropes after the Miller family, who took over after patriarch Larry H. Miller died in 2009, said they weren’t renewing the lease and walking away from the world-class racetrack. 

After Larry Miller opened the track in 2006, the facility hosted American Le Mans Series, World Superbike and Rolex Sports Car, although those races abandoned their events after 2011. Part of Miller’s own extensive collection of Shelby race cars, including four versions of the Ford GT40, are displayed at a museum at the track.

Utah motorsports campusAfter Larry Miller’s death in 2009, the family expanded the track to include an off-road course that hosted Lucas Oil Off Road racing events, a zip line and other attractions, but none gained traction — or made the facility profitable.

As reported by Hot Rod, the track’s designer, Alan Wilson, who also designed Gingerman, piqued Geely’s interest in the track. Wilson was designing five tracks in China for Geely, when he mentioned that Miller in Utah would be up for sale. According to the report, Geely was among two potential buyers Tooele County Commissioners were considering for the property. Details of the sale were not made public.

It’s unclear if the Ford racing and performance school, which operates at the track, will continue under the track’s new ownership. (Polestar Performance School, anyone!?)

The losing bidder, Andrew Cartwright, told KUTV in Salt Lake City something about Chinese people coming to take our jobs. (He doesn’t sound bitter, at all.)

Instead of pumping up land for pie-in-the-sky development that’s fairly out of the way of a major metropolitan area, it appears the new owners of Utah Motorsports Park legitimately want to keep one of the nation’s best facilities running and bringing in faster cars to the track.

(Note for readers: I covered Miller Motorsports Park for years as an editor for the newspapers in Aaron Cole Miller MotorsportsSalt Lake City. I attended the performance school and raced at events there. All signs point to good news for a track that is too-often overlooked and sorely needed new ownership. I hope for good things for that track.)

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Possible Break-In At Lime Rock Leads To Crash, Injuries – UPDATE 2 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/possible-break-in-at-lime-rock-leads-to-crash-injuries/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/possible-break-in-at-lime-rock-leads-to-crash-injuries/#comments Thu, 20 Aug 2015 13:55:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1148209 Update 2: Connecticut police have sent over a statement. Update: We’ve received a reply from Lime Rock Park’s Press, PR & Editorial Director, Rick Roso, detailing what happened last night. It is included below. Police say several teens broke into Lime Rock Park on Wednesday night and crashed go-karts, injuring two teenagers. According to police, a […]

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The start of a Lime Rock race,

Update 2: Connecticut police have sent over a statement.

Update: We’ve received a reply from Lime Rock Park’s Press, PR & Editorial Director, Rick Roso, detailing what happened last night. It is included below.

Police say several teens broke into Lime Rock Park on Wednesday night and crashed go-karts, injuring two teenagers. According to police, a 15-year-old girl was transported to a Hartford children’s hospital via helicopter and a 15-year-old boy was transported to a local hospital, both with non-life threatening injuries. Both teens are in stable condition.

In the area, multiple local news sources are reporting the crash.

Police were called out to the track around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday.

“CSP reports individuals broke into Limerock and were racing,” says a poster on a local fire department and EMS Facebook group.

Another poster on a racing forum said, “It appears at least two kids broke in, stole enduro karts from the infield autocross course, raced on the main course and crashed. Speculation is there’s spinal injuries involved.”

Lime Rock Park’s Press, PR & Editorial Director, Rick Roso, said in an email to TTAC, “Five teens, exact ages unknown, broke into Lime Rock Park, took five go-karts from a karting school which is scheduled to hold its programs Friday and Saturday, and drove them on the race track.

At some point, two of the five kids crashed the go-karts near pit lane. We don’t know how 911 was notified.”

Jalopnik was in touch with Endurance Karting who confirmed their karts were the ones involved in the crash. From Endurance Karting:

1) There was an incident involving several of our karts.

2) The incident did not occur during an Endurance Karting sanctioned event. The sanctioned event is on Friday and Saturday.

3) The incident occurred while the Lime Rock Park facility was closed.

4) No one was authorized by Endurance Karting or Lime Rock Park to be operating a kart on the grounds at that time.

5) Those involved were not Endurance Karting customers, employees, or guests.

The extent of the injuries and number of people injured remains unknown at this time. Inquiries to Connecticut State Police were not immediately returned.

[h/t Chris Tonn]

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Penske Parades Pace Cars on Woodward, TTAC Talks Toilet Seats With Bobby Unser http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/penske-parades-pace-cars-woodward-ttac-talks-toilet-seats-bobby-unser/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/penske-parades-pace-cars-woodward-ttac-talks-toilet-seats-bobby-unser/#comments Tue, 18 Aug 2015 14:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1142449 Here’s a little bit of racing trivia you may not have known. In addition to getting a check with a couple of commas in the amount, the winning driver of the Indianapolis 500 is also awarded the pace car for that year’s race. I’m not talking about one of the thousands of replicas they sell […]

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Here’s a little bit of racing trivia you may not have known. In addition to getting a check with a couple of commas in the amount, the winning driver of the Indianapolis 500 is also awarded the pace car for that year’s race. I’m not talking about one of the thousands of replicas they sell at the dealers or even one of the dozens of courtesy cars with pace car graphics that they use at the race. I’m talking about the actual vehicle used to pace the drivers as they come into formation for the flying start and then functions as a safety car when yellow flags are unfurled. That means that racers driving for Roger Penske’s team have won sixteen of those pace cars.

Apparently those drivers’ contracts give the team the right to buy the pace car if they win because Roger owns all sixteen paces cars from the years that his team has won the 500. To celebrate this year’s edition of the massive Woodward Dream Cruise, the Penske organization paraded their collection of authentic Indy 500 pace cars from the Penske Corp’s hospitality tent in Royal Oak all the way up to Pontiac and back, with the spiff that many of the cars were being driven by current and former Penske racers.

When I saw the announcement at one of the Detroit dailies’ website about the parade, it mentioned that some Penske drivers would be there. I figured since NASCAR is having a Cup race at Michigan International Speedway this weekend, Joey Logano and some of the other stock car drivers were what they were talking about. Logano was there, but Penske also brought in current IndyCar drivers Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud, as well as former driver’s of his such as Rusty Wallace, Gil de Ferran, Rick Mears, Sam Hornish Jr., and the Unsers — Bobby, Al and Al Jr. In addition to the racers, Penske Corp. executives drove some of the cars. The Oakland County Sheriff’s Department provided a police escort, which may explain why Sheriff Michael Bouchard got to drive one of the cars. Roger Penske led the parade in the Hurst Olds Cutlass that paced the 1972 race, which the late Mark Donohue won for the team’s first Indy win.

 

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Joey Logano (far right), Simon Pagenaud (3rd from right), Bobby Unser (4th from right), Al Unser Sr. (left)

There hadn’t been much publicity about the Penske pace car parade so there weren’t that many members of the general public lining up behind the barricades where the cars were corralled by a furniture store. There also were very few members of the media; a relative handful of photographers and videographers. The result was it was essentially a private event for the Penske team and corporation family. I got a chance to introduce myself to Walt Czarnecki, Roger’s #2 guy since their first car dealership. I had interviewed him not long ago about his time as a 24 year old running American Motors’ performance car program, but we’d never met. According to Czarnecki, the parade with the pace cars and the racers was all Roger Penske’s idea and Czarnecki described the experience as “very cool”. As head of Penske Racing, he’s probably done a few cool things before, so he knows about what he is talking.

After the parade, the drivers were hanging out with each other. The mood was casual and relaxed. I tell people that the second best part of this job is that I get to do some very special car guy things, including special access to events and people. How many chances will you get to see Rick Mears talking shop with Brad Keselowski? “Once I’m out of the pits, I accelerate on the apron and pull out onto the track, everything else is outside of my hands. I just have to drive.”

Considering that most of them have made their livings driving at ~200 mph, they were all pretty geeked up about the parade speed jaunt on Woodward.

 

Al Unser Jr.

Al Unser Jr.

Remember, pace cars are chosen based on business deals, so not every pace car has been exactly a sporting machine. Sure, there are some Vettes, two V8 powered Mustangs, a turbo T-topped Buick (from whose loins the mighty Grand National sprang), and a 1980 Turbo Trans Am, which I believe was GM’s first forced induction V8, but some were more mundane.  The 2001 pace car for the Indy race was an Oldsmobile Bravada SUV. It didn’t matter what they were driving, however, the race car drivers thought the parade was extraordinary.

Bobby Unser was briefly standing by himself so I told him that I saw him run in the 1974 race at Indy. That was the only time I’ve been to the 500. Unser came in 2nd that year. I drove down to the race with my best friend Stevie Margolin, whose family owned a wholesale plumbing supply. We had just finished our sophomore years in college, one of our first road trips without parental supervision. We had terrific seats, about half way up in the grandstand on the main straight, between the start/finish line and the first turn. The start of that race is still the single most exciting thing I’ve ever experienced in sports. Even more tense than the seventh game of a Stanley Cup playoff in sudden death overtime. I could see my heart pounding.

 

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Brad Keselowski (right), Ford product chief Raj Nair (facing camera)

We were cheering for Unser because of Steve’s family business. The tickets had been comped to the plumbing supply by Olsonite Toilet Seats and Unser was driving a Dan Gurney-built Olsonite Eagle. Ozzie Olson’s father had started Swedish Crucible Steel in the early 20th century and by the time the younger Olson started his career, the company’s products included hard rubber toilet seats, like you’d see today in a commercial or institutional setting. Homeowners and builders could choose those, which weren’t exactly decor friendly, or traditional wooden toilet seats, which could split, pinch or splinter. Ozzie had the idea to make solid plastic toilet seats in a variety of colors. They were a huge hit. For more than a decade the Olsonite brand had a monopoly on something that was found in almost every American home. Olson was a very wealthy man and he loved racing. His sponsorship allowed Dan Gurney to build his Eagle race cars. When Gurney retired from active racing in 1970, Unser got his USAC/Indy ride.

In the 1974 Indy 500, as the race neared its end, Bobby Unser was in second place, the only other car on the lead lap besides Johnny Rutherford. Unser seemed to have the faster car and was closing the gap, originally at about 20 seconds, and we cheered him on, but we had done the math and realized there weren’t enough laps left. Still, it was fun and a great memory.

 

1972 Hurst Olds Cutlass pace car from the first Indy 500 Roger Penske won as a team owner. He drove this car in the parade.

1972 Hurst Olds Cutlass pace car from the first Indy 500 Roger Penske won as a team owner. He drove this car in the parade.

A couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Rutherford at the Detroit Grand Prix and we talked about that race. At the Penske parade, I asked Bobby Unser about about his checkered flag ring. Johnny Rutherford had shown me his, describing it as not gaudy like the ring given to current winners, but rather a relatively simple ring “back when a local Indianapolis jeweler awarded it to those joining the ‘Ring of Champions'”. Unser had a similar ring. He pointed out that it was embossed with three dates, for his three Indy victories. I told him about watching him race in 1974, sitting in seats supplied by Olsonite. “I still have some of those toilet seats at home,” he said and laughed. When I asked him what he thought of driving in the parade, he replied, “It was very cool.” When a three time Indy 500 winner says that something car related is cool, you can rest assured it was cool.

Photos by the author.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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TTAC Goes Karting, And So Should You! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/ttac-goes-karting/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/ttac-goes-karting/#comments Fri, 14 Aug 2015 16:00:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1140994 One of the great secrets of TTAC is how little we, the writers, know each other. I have met our fearless leader, Mark Stevenson, exactly once. I have met Sajeev exactly once — and he was wearing a judge’s robe and a headdress. I have met Murilee exactly once, and he was berating me for […]

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barkkarting

One of the great secrets of TTAC is how little we, the writers, know each other.

I have met our fearless leader, Mark Stevenson, exactly once. I have met Sajeev exactly once — and he was wearing a judge’s robe and a headdress. I have met Murilee exactly once, and he was berating me for driving over the blend line at Carolina Motorsports Park. I’ve met Steve Lang once, and I was mostly drunk. I’ve never met Cameron, or Aaron, or Ronnie, or Tim, or several of the other contributors.

So when the opportunity arose to go karting with noted wheelman and TTAC author W. Christian “Mental” Ward this week in Atlanta, I eagerly accepted.

Mental and I are scheduled to drive together at Gingerman Raceway in the American Endurance Racing series later this month, so I was interested to check out his mad racing skills. Also along for the evening was TTAC contributor and noted Porsche Club of America member, J. David Walton.

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We met at my home-away-from-home, Le Meridien, for a drink (or two, or perhaps three) before heading over to Andretti Karting in Alpharetta. When we arrived, we were told that we would have to wait a little over an hour to drive, at which point I pulled the “DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM? I’M BARK M., DAMNIT!” card. Surprisingly, it worked — we were inserted into the very next race.

I won’t go into too much detail about the three races in which we participated, other than to say I dominated all.

ttac karting

Karting can be an awesome way to have some competitive, adrenaline-packed fun with friends on a Tuesday night, for sure. It can also teach you a little bit about your own racecraft in a real car. Let’s take a moment to talk about what a night at the local rent-a-cart facility can teach you about real-life track driving, and what it can’t.

You can learn how to drive “the line.” Most karting tracks have a track map posted on the wall with an ideal racing line drawn on them. Some will even have braking and passing zones identified. This is not unlike most actual racetracks, which have course maps with lines as well. Following the line will likely result in a safe, fast(-ish) lap — it may not be the best line, but it’s a good one. However…

Karts don’t turn like racecars. You can dive into turns much harder with your average kart than you can with the average Lemons/Chump race car. If you turn too hard with a kart, the worst thing that will happen is that you’ll tap a wall; I probably rubbed the inside wheel of my kart on nearly every wall in every turn. Most of the time I made up on my competitors was by taking turns extra tight and shortening my distance in each corner. Do that in a car, you might put two wheels off and hit a real wall.

You can learn how to induce and control oversteer. One of the most entertaining moments of any karting session is feeling the back of the kart come around on you as you enter a corner. This normally happens when you’ve entered a corner too hot and applied too much braking while turning. Guess what? That happens in a real car, too! Most people freak out when they encounter oversteer, and they make one of two mistakes: they either dial in more steering or they brake harder. Doing either or both of those things will cause your kart to spin in the middle of the turn, and you’ll have to sit there and wait for an eighteen-year-old to get off of Snapchat and come help you. Think of how many times during the average eight-minute karting session that you’ll see a kart facing the wrong way on track. Oversteer is almost always the cause. Making small, precise movements with your hands and using smooth application of the throttle will keep you going straight. However…

Real cars are more likely to understeer. You’ll almost never see somebody straight-line a kart into a wall. Meanwhile, with the notable exception of the AP1 Honda S2000, the vast majority of mass production cars are geometrically designed to understeer. Think about it: If you are sitting in a courtroom as a juror, and the plaintiff says, “The car spun out of control,” who are you more likely to blame? The OEM or the driver? The OEM loses that argument every time. So, by the time you’ve induced oversteer in your average production car, you’re already traveling at a pretty high rate of speed. Your brain is going to go into fight-or-flight mode, and you’ll want to make big, fast movements, which is exactly the opposite of what you’ll need to do to save yourself from a big body shop bill, whether that be the body of the car or your own. Practicing this at slower speeds with less potential damage in a kart will definitely help, but there ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby.

Passing, Passing, Passing. Passing people on the kart track is one of the most enjoyable things you can do for $25. Tracking down the kart ahead of you for two or three laps, setting them up, and then making your move in the turn — it’s a blast. Also, unless you’re karting with a group of people who really know what they’re doing, you’ll have to deal with off-pace traffic which drives completely unpredictable lines — not unlike driving in Lemons or Chump. Unfortunately…

You can’t bump and spin real cars like that. Many of my karting passes the other night occurred because I got so frustrated with the kart in front of me that I used the PIT maneuver on them in turns. Again, your typical eighteen-year-old karting track employee won’t really mind that so much. Race officials? They aren’t fans of it. Prepare to be black flagged. If you want to pass in real racing, you’ll need to learn to go offline and pass them.

So, while not everything may translate from the kart to the cage, you’ll still have a blast learning the things that do. And if any of you have a great karting track close by, hit me at @barkm302 on Twitter and let me know and we’ll go karting next time I’m in town.

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Jenson Button, Wife, Gassed and Robbed in France http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/jenson-button-wife-gassed-robbed-france/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/jenson-button-wife-gassed-robbed-france/#comments Sat, 08 Aug 2015 17:00:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1136538 Jenson Button (pictured above) and his new wife (not pictured) were the target of apparent Bond villains last weekend after robbers allegedly knocked the couple and their guests out with gas pumped in through the vents and made away with $465,000 in jewelry, the BBC reported. The Formula One driver, his wife and their guests, […]

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Formula 1 Testing, Jerez

Jenson Button (pictured above) and his new wife (not pictured) were the target of apparent Bond villains last weekend after robbers allegedly knocked the couple and their guests out with gas pumped in through the vents and made away with $465,000 in jewelry, the BBC reported.

The Formula One driver, his wife and their guests, who were all staying in St. Tropez, weren’t injured in the robbery. A spokesman for Button muddled things further (emphasis ours):

“The police have indicated that this has become a growing problem in the region with perpetrators going so far as to gas their proposed victims through the air conditioning units before breaking in.”

So you’re saying this happens a lot? That doesn’t sound right.

Local officials quoted in the story by the BBC were skeptical of the claims.

“To our knowledge there has never been a burglary like this in St Tropez where gas was used to knock out the victims,” said Philippe Guemas, deputy prosecutor in Draguignan, France. “We have taken blood samples, which will be analysed.”

And anesthesiologists weren’t as hot on the idea too. The BBC reported that a spokesman for the Royal College of Anaesthetists said it was “highly unlikely” the group had been rendered unconscious by anaesthetic gas.

It would require “massive amounts of gas” to knock out those people.

“When you combine that with the fact that these gases are expensive and difficult to get hold of, we are very skeptical.”

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Nissan GT-R LM is Officially on Life Support http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/nissan-gt-r-lm-officially-life-support/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/nissan-gt-r-lm-officially-life-support/#comments Sat, 08 Aug 2015 16:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1136514 After Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn said they would have to reassess whether their GT-R LM program was fruitful, the company announced Friday it was pulling the car out of competition. “We know people will be disappointed, but be assured that nobody is more disappointed than us,” said Shoichi Miyatani, president of NISMO. The car had […]

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Nissan GT-R LM NISMOAfter Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn said they would have to reassess whether their GT-R LM program was fruitful, the company announced Friday it was pulling the car out of competition.

“We know people will be disappointed, but be assured that nobody is more disappointed than us,” said Shoichi Miyatani, president of NISMO.

The car had struggled in competition this year with one car finishing at Le Mans well behind the leaders, one disqualification and one DNF at the famed race in France. 

Nissan said the car’s complex Energy Recovery System was to blame for the poor results. Although the car developed around 1,250 horsepower — nearly half from the electric motors in the rear wheels — most of it never materialized. Nissan said the system was disabled on all three cars at LeMans and the lone finisher limped to the end of the race.

Nissan said testing the car — which is widely expected to share some of its powertrain with the next-generation GT-R — will continue in the United States.

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Formula E as an Olympic Sport? Probably Not http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/formula-e-olympic-sport-probably-not/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/formula-e-olympic-sport-probably-not/#comments Tue, 04 Aug 2015 22:00:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1133841 Topped only by FIFA, the two next-least trustworthy international sports associations have joined forces today to speculate that we could see Formula E cars race through Tokyo streets for the glory of games and country in 2020, according to F1Insider (via Road & Track). The original report, which was written in German, says FIA executives pitched […]

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Richard Branson, his Virgin Racing Formula E team, and the Miami Dolphin Cheerleaders

Topped only by FIFA, the two next-least trustworthy international sports associations have joined forces today to speculate that we could see Formula E cars race through Tokyo streets for the glory of games and country in 2020, according to F1Insider (via Road & Track).

The original report, which was written in German, says FIA executives pitched the idea to Olympic organizers and offered the Formula E cars for competition.

Canadian driver Jacques Villeneuve said he would “definitely” participate and added that 30 years ago tennis wasn’t part of the Olympic program, but now it’s a staple.

But that’s not even the best part.

In the story, organizers speculate on a possible procedure for the event. Three drivers from each country would be nominated for competition: i.e. Nico Rosberg, Sebastian Vettel and Nico Hulkenberg from Germany; Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Will Stevens for the U.K.; Felipe Massa, Felipe Nasr and probably someone named Piquet from Brazil.

(America would presumably hold open tryouts in non-consecutive weekends until our losing team could be selected.)

Anyway, that is a fun game.

It wouldn’t be the first time motorsport would be at the Olympics. In 1900, motorsports were a demonstration game in the Paris Olympics, alongside ballooning, lawn bowling and possibly cannon firing.

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QOTD: Why Are Today’s Race Cars So Ugly? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-todays-race-cars-ugly/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-todays-race-cars-ugly/#comments Mon, 27 Jul 2015 12:30:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1125457 When was the last time you saw a pretty race car? Maybe I’m turning into Walt Kowalski, but it seems to me that the racing machines of my youth looked nicer. Is there a purer shape than Jim Clark’s Indy 500 winning Lotus 38? Is not the Lola T70 sensuous? Some of Jim Hall’s Chaparrals, […]

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When was the last time you saw a pretty race car? Maybe I’m turning into Walt Kowalski, but it seems to me that the racing machines of my youth looked nicer. Is there a purer shape than Jim Clark’s Indy 500 winning Lotus 38? Is not the Lola T70 sensuous? Some of Jim Hall’s Chaparrals, like the 2H “vacuum” car and the 2J streamliner with its center mounted high wing look a little odd, but even the 2J has an aesthetically pleasing shape, something you can’t say about a modern Formula One racer, with it’s dizzying array of airfoils, winglets and canards.

red bull f1

I suppose we can blame those aerodynamic aids. You could say that those F1 cars are flying on the ground, balancing between increased downforce for cornering and decreased drag for straight line speed. Ironically, though, the machines that popularized the management of aerodynamics and downforce were actually attractive. Jim Hall and Colin Chapman were aero innovators, but their cars still looked good. Most of the Chaparrals looked great, and I don’t think anyone ever said that a Lotus 72 or Lotus 78 was anything other than beautiful. One reason why the Porsche 917 has become such an iconic race car is that it looks good in addition to being brutally fast.

ferrari f1

“Form follows function” often does result in nice styling and design. Modern race cars, however, might be too functional to be concerned with aesthetics.

Can you name a modern race car that looks good? Alternatively, what do you think is the best looking racing car of all time?

Photos by the author.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Just A Reminder About Adding Shoulder Harnesses To Street Cars, Even Vipers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/just-reminder-adding-shoulder-harnesses-street-cars-even-vipers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/just-reminder-adding-shoulder-harnesses-street-cars-even-vipers/#comments Wed, 22 Jul 2015 13:00:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1122025 Somewhat oddly for the site that used to prioritize being FIRST POST above everything else, Jalopnik was last out of the gate with their review of the Viper ACR. I think it was worth the wait, because it was written by legitimate sports-car-racing hero Andy Lally. You can check it out here. As competent a […]

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Somewhat oddly for the site that used to prioritize being FIRST POST above everything else, Jalopnik was last out of the gate with their review of the Viper ACR. I think it was worth the wait, because it was written by legitimate sports-car-racing hero Andy Lally. You can check it out here. As competent a racer and driver as I think I am, Andy’s obviously on the proverbial next level.

Which is why it made me sad to read one of the story’s last paragraphs.

Andy tells us:

Last but not least, if you are serious about buying this car please take these next words as serious as you will take any other advice. BUY THE SIX POINT SEATBELT UPGRADE. I did three flying laps in this car with a regular belt and had to pull into the pits because for as much grip as you can generate, a regular shoulder belt does not keep you in place well enough.

In Dodge’s defense, I was vocal about this right away and they explained that they are prohibited from selling a street car with these belts. They did have a car on-site with six-point belts installed and it was much more pleasant. The car is built so that you can easily install them. Check that box when ordering.

In Andy’s defense, I think he has about as much experience with “trackday specials” as I do with any kind of lambskin condoms. He is what they call a “real racer” who “really races” in “real race cars”. So when he gets in a car on-track it has six-point belts and a full rollcage and, more often than not, a monocoque designed to distribute crash impact.

The Viper ACR is capable of hitting a wall at a racetrack at nearly the same speed a World Challenge GT car could achieve. But it has absolutely no additional rollover protection besides what is built into the body. It is designed to roll over in a way that protects conventionally belted passengers. The interior is made of things that are softer than a steel tube. If the roof collapses because there aren’t enough steel tubes around the driver, the three-point belt will allow said driver to slide a bit to avoid said collapsing roof.

Unless, that is, you have shoulder harnesses, in which case your neck will be the fulcrum on which the car’s entire weight is focused. Do not expect to be able to resume your place in your high-school track team after that happens.

This is not the first time I’ve written about this. Nor will it be the last. Because it’s important for you to know. If, however, you happen to be able to drive a Viper ACR as quickly as Andy Lally undoubtedly can, you can make a change to your car that will bridge the gap between the loosey-goosey but rollover-safe feel of a three-point belt and the strapped-in immobilization of a proper racing harness. It’s called a CG-Lock, and it works well enough that Bob Lutz put one on his car when he and I did the CTS-V Challenge way back in the Stone Age.

And if you, like many TTACers, thought the Chevette photo was the coolest part of article, go check out Darren’s site, why don’t ya?

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Bonneville Speed Week May Not Happen, Final Decision Pending http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/bonneville-speed-week-may-not-happen-final-decision-pending/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/bonneville-speed-week-may-not-happen-final-decision-pending/#comments Thu, 16 Jul 2015 21:00:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1118161 The final decision on Speed Week will come down July 22, organizers said this week. The Southern California Timing Association, who hosts the event in Utah at the Bonneville Salt Flats near Salt Lake City, said Thursday that they’re still planning on test runs on July 21, ahead of a final determination. A smaller event was cancelled […]

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Cheese Car at Bonneville courtesy of LATimes.com.jpg

The final decision on Speed Week will come down July 22, organizers said this week. The Southern California Timing Association, who hosts the event in Utah at the Bonneville Salt Flats near Salt Lake City, said Thursday that they’re still planning on test runs on July 21, ahead of a final determination.

A smaller event was cancelled last week at the salt flats because of poor conditions, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

The annual Speed Week event, which has more than 600 racers registered this year already, could become extinct in coming years.

Salt mining operations on the lake have deteriorated the track conditions, some race organizers say. Coupled with a rainier season than normal, it may not be possible to find a suitable track.

In a letter to racers last week, SCTA organizers said “Mother Nature is still not cooperating with us.

“We are hoping to find the 7 Miles of dry/smooth salt necessary for the event,” the letter states. “We are also considering the feasibility of having a ‘short course only’ event if we are able to find 4 miles of good course.”

The mud layer beneath the salt crust can break through if the top salt isn’t dry or thick enough.

Dennis Sullivan, head of the Utah Salt Flats Racing Association, said the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has promised a study on the salt depletion at the flats by 2018, but results from that study may be too late to save the annual race, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

The Truth About Car’s Salt Lake City bureau is reporting sunny skies and 88 degrees today.

 

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Volvo Could Be Buying Polestar To Exit Motorsport http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/volvo-buying-polestar-exit-motorsport/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/volvo-buying-polestar-exit-motorsport/#comments Tue, 14 Jul 2015 16:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1115153 The fraternity of automotive journalism was atwitter when blue Polestar Volvos arrived at the Chicago auto show last year. While the cars delivered increased performance and looks to match, Polestar also gave the high-performance Swedish offerings credibility with racing programs in Scandinavia (STCC) and Australia (V8 Supercars). It’s no secret, though, that Volvo’s marketing head, Alain Visser, sees […]

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Polestar STCC

The fraternity of automotive journalism was atwitter when blue Polestar Volvos arrived at the Chicago auto show last year. While the cars delivered increased performance and looks to match, Polestar also gave the high-performance Swedish offerings credibility with racing programs in Scandinavia (STCC) and Australia (V8 Supercars).

It’s no secret, though, that Volvo’s marketing head, Alain Visser, sees no future for the brand in motorsport. Purchasing Polestar might be the Swedish manufacturer’s way of ending at least one of its racing contracts while still holding on to the blue-hot Polestar brand.

Speaking with Swedish media late last year, Visser plainly stated, “Motorsport does not conform with our brand, where we stand for smaller engines and safety. We are therefore pulling out of STCC, for example, as soon as the contracts permits.”

This goes along with Volvo’s official statement this morning where the only mention of Volvo’s motorsport involvement with Polestar is the automaker intention to not purchase the racing part of the Polestar organization. That’s it. Nothing is mentioned regarding the successes shared by the two parties in the Scandinavian Touring Car Championship or V8 Supercars Australia.

But, what exactly is Polestar, anyway?

Polestar can be split into three distinct parts: the racing team contesting both STCC and V8 Supercars series; Polestar Performance AB, which makes go-fast aftermarket parts for Volvos; and Polestar Holding AB, the owner of all of Polestar’s trademarks.

Volvo, in their effort to exit racing, has chosen to purchase the last two, opting to leave now-former Polestar owner Christian Dahl with the racing team that will be renamed later.

This is a clever move by Volvo. It allows the company to continue its use of the Polestar name and also retain engineers and other knowledge at Polestar for future branded models while no longer having to fund the expensive endeavors of motorsport. By purchasing Polestar, Volvo can effectively end the contract it now has with itself. Christian Dahl is then free to continue his passion for racing, funded by a Viking Karve-sized load of cash from the Chinese.

Will Polestar be as successful now that its motorsport links have now become heritage? We will just have to wait and see.

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Volvo Buys Polestar, Maybe Won’t Be Unicorn After All http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/volvo-buys-polestar-maybe-wont-unicorn/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/volvo-buys-polestar-maybe-wont-unicorn/#comments Tue, 14 Jul 2015 15:00:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1115105 Volvo has purchased Swedish high-performance tuner Polestar, the automaker announced Tuesday. The company will own and operate Polestar as an in-house performance division much like Ford’s SVT division or Subaru’s STI group (anything other than another Mercedes-AMG or BMW M Division reference). You could be forgiven for thinking Volvo owned Polestar already — the Swedish […]

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Volvo-V60-S60-Polestar-Models-03

Volvo has purchased Swedish high-performance tuner Polestar, the automaker announced Tuesday. The company will own and operate Polestar as an in-house performance division much like Ford’s SVT division or Subaru’s STI group (anything other than another Mercedes-AMG or BMW M Division reference).

You could be forgiven for thinking Volvo owned Polestar already — the Swedish automaker already exclusively contracted with the Swedish tuner in 2013 to produce the V60 and S60 Polestar editions and the two have worked together since the 1990s.

Volvo said in the medium-term it would double output of Polestar branded cars — which could mean more than 80 sedans and 40 wagons a year coming to the United States.

Polestar’s racing team, which races in the Scandinavian Touring Car Championship, won’t be included in the deal. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Volvo Global Marketing Vice-President, Alain Visser, stated last year, “Motorsport does not conform with our brand, where we stand for smaller engines and safety. We are therefore pulling out of STCC, for example, as soon as the contracts permits.”

Christian Dahl, now former-CEO of Polestar, will remain as the team’s principal and the touring car team will be renamed.

“We are extremely satisfied with the way the performance business with Volvo has developed. But we are a racing team first and foremost. This is an opportunity to return our full attention to our core business – to develop and race Volvo cars,” Dahl said in a statement announcing the deal.

Volvo said Polestar would be involved with the automaker’s plug-in hybrid cars in the future.

Financial details of the deal were not disclosed by Volvo.

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Volkswagen Builds Race Golf for Touring Car Customer Teams http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/volkswagen-builds-race-golf-touring-car-customer-teams/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/volkswagen-builds-race-golf-touring-car-customer-teams/#comments Fri, 10 Jul 2015 18:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1112929 Chances are you probably won’t see this Golf in the Volkswagen showroom anytime soon. Volkswagen Motorsport rolled out its race-tuned Golf on Thursday, built to compete in the Touringcar Racer International Series. The 2.0-liter turbocharged four, which has been tuned to 330 horsepower and 302 pound-feet of torque, is mated to a six-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission […]

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Volkswagen TCR-Golf

Chances are you probably won’t see this Golf in the Volkswagen showroom anytime soon. Volkswagen Motorsport rolled out its race-tuned Golf on Thursday, built to compete in the Touringcar Racer International Series.

The 2.0-liter turbocharged four, which has been tuned to 330 horsepower and 302 pound-feet of torque, is mated to a six-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission and is front-wheel drive.

The huge rear wing, front air dam and side skirts obviously add 15 percent more go-fast.

The Golf sits on a track widened by 40cm (16 inches) and 18-inch tires.

The car was developed for the TCR series, which is already underway. Volkswagen said Liqui Moly Team Engstler will race the Golf at the Red Bull Ring in Austria before heading off to Singapore and the car would likely be available for other teams in 2016.

Volkswagen TCR-Golf

Volkswagen has been successful with its WRC Polo so far this year, and is second place in Global Rallycross behind Ford.

No word on how much the customer car will cost interested teams.

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New V8 Supercars Rules: Smaller Engines (Maybe), More Cars (Maybe) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/new-australian-supercars-rules-smaller-engines-maybe-cars-maybe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/new-australian-supercars-rules-smaller-engines-maybe-cars-maybe/#comments Fri, 10 Jul 2015 17:00:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1112857 Guidelines for the new Australian V8 Supercar series outline specifications for its new cars, including an option to use smaller engines for the manufacturers who compete. According to the racing series, the new platform “allows more flexibility in terms of body style and engine configuration, provided they comply with the regulations. The V8 engine, which has been mandated […]

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Guidelines for the new Australian V8 Supercar series outline specifications for its new cars, including an option to use smaller engines for the manufacturers who compete.

According to the racing series, the new platform “allows more flexibility in terms of body style and engine configuration, provided they comply with the regulations. The V8 engine, which has been mandated for more than 20 years, is also expected to continue as the dominant power plant of the sport.”

The guidelines allow for 4-, 6- or 8-cylinder engines, as long as they meet power specifications. The plans also call for a minimum noise limit of 85 to 95 dB. Take that, Bernie.

Currently, five manufacturers compete in the series: Ford, Holden, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan and Volvo. Two of the five manufacturers — Nissan and Volvo — don’t offer their production cars used in the race series with V8 engines.

The new regulations also allow for a wider range of body styles — presumably to entice more manufacturers to compete such as BMW — provided that the cars are right-hand drive, four-seat, front-engined, rear-wheel drive and “accurately reflect” the look of a production model. GT cars with four seats would be allowed under the new rules.

Currently, cars race with different engines on a uniform chassis. Both Mercedes-Benz and Nissan use fundamentally different engines than Ford and Holden. 

The new generation supercar program was started last November and will be implemented at the beginning of 2017. The V8 Supercar season runs from February to December.

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Tommi Mäkinen Leading Toyota’s 2017 WRC Team http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/tommi-makinen-leading-toyotas-2017-wrc-team/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/tommi-makinen-leading-toyotas-2017-wrc-team/#comments Tue, 07 Jul 2015 21:00:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1109433 Rally legend Tommi Mäkinen will lead Toyota Gazoo Racing’s World Rally Championship team when it begins competition in 2017, the automaker announced today. Mäkinen was announced as team principal, which will race a Yaris-based car, for the WRC team. Toyota boss Akio Toyoda, who will be the team’s chairman, said the 51-year-old Mäkinen was an ideal fit for […]

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Tommi Makinen will lead Toyota's new WRC team

Rally legend Tommi Mäkinen will lead Toyota Gazoo Racing’s World Rally Championship team when it begins competition in 2017, the automaker announced today. Mäkinen was announced as team principal, which will race a Yaris-based car, for the WRC team.

Toyota boss Akio Toyoda, who will be the team’s chairman, said the 51-year-old Mäkinen was an ideal fit for the team.

“Tommi has abundant experience and fresh ideas for vehicle development, both of which will be valuable assets to us. With Tommi behind us, Toyota will forge ahead with our return to the WRC and also our efforts to make ever better cars,” Toyoda said in a statement.

Mäkinen is widely known for his success piloting a Mitsubishi Evolution to four consecutive world championships in the 1990s. Mäkinen moved to Subaru in 2002 and retired from the sport in 2003.

His four world titles is second on the all-time championship list behind Sebastian Loeb and tied with Juha Kankkunen — who won one of his world championships driving a Toyota in 1993. Mäkinen’s 18-year rally career also includes 24 wins.

Toyota has not raced in WRC competition since 1999.

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How to Make Motorsports Relevant – the North American Racing Championship http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/make-motorsports-relevant-north-american-racing-championship/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/make-motorsports-relevant-north-american-racing-championship/#comments Tue, 07 Jul 2015 14:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1108777 Our recent post asking what possible relevance most automobile racing has to the consumer side of the auto industry has me thinking about a race series idea that’s been percolating in my head for a while. The goal of the concept is to come up with a racing series that will resonate both with consumers (read: […]

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Our recent post asking what possible relevance most automobile racing has to the consumer side of the auto industry has me thinking about a race series idea that’s been percolating in my head for a while. The goal of the concept is to come up with a racing series that will resonate both with consumers (read: auto manufacturers) and racing enthusiasts. So far, I have a pretty good idea of what kind of cars, rules, tracks and schedules would be involved, but as yet I haven’t come up with some kind of catchy acronymic name.

To begin with, it would be based on production cars in North America and the races would be run in all three countries that make up the continent — Canada, Mexico, and the United States. That should get some manufacturers involved, if not fielding works teams, at least in terms of funding, PR, and technical support.

Perhaps the result of NAFTA, automotive assembly and component plants in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico are now effectively interlinked into one logistical whole, so making a racing series aimed at those three countries make sense. Also, it would allow some weather scheduling advantages.

In terms of a formula and rules, the series would be open to any production car made or sold in North America that meets all applicable safety and pollution standards in the countries where it is marketed. I’m not sure there needs to be a specified number of homologated vehicles, because meeting gov’t regs would almost necessarily mean we’re talking about cars made by the hundreds at least. Rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, front-wheel drive; they’re all eligible. Same thing with engines. No restrictions on cylinder count or layout — inline, vees, Ws, and flat engines are all permitted. Naturally aspirated mills, turbos, superchargers — they’re all welcome if they’re factory. If that car is sold with that engine, you can run it. Hybrids, too, though they’ll have to use stock motors and battery packs. Since some of the sports car racing series have handicapped some production engines (the Corvette and Cadillac racing teams have at times run with less power than the production versions of their race cars) to keep them from dominating their competition, restricting the series to production drivetrains shouldn’t be an issue.

Basic architecture, powertrain and layout has to remain factory, though stiffening via roll cages will be allowed. Suspension layouts and mounting points have to remain stock. Production engines will be used, although some performance mods will be permitted, like gas-flowing heads and bigger throttle bodies.

1280px-WIRDragStreetEliminators

The tracks that the series would run on are chosen to appeal to a variety of motorsports fans, close to the grassroots level, but still professional. There would be a rotating four week schedule with the series visiting road courses, 1/4 mile dragstrips, 1/2 mile ovals (some of them dirt tracks), and rallycross setups (perhaps in stadiums). I don’t know if in total more people go to races at big NASCAR/IndyCar level events or at smaller scale events, but there are undoubtedly a bunch of folks who go out to watch those more grassroots races. The number of people who race at smaller venues is unquestionably greater than at the rarefied levels of the sport.

Tires, springs, and suspension settings changes would be allowed for the different tracks, but the cars would still have to be mechanically the same. The events on courses would be relatively short — one hour of green flag racing, to keep things television friendly. I’d bet that a measurable number of folks doze off in front of their television during a 100+ lap race.

In terms of the schedule, the series would start in Mexico in February, after the National Football League’s Superbowl, but before NASCAR’s season opener, the Daytona 500. Those three weeks are a deadzone for televised sports. Spring training for baseball doesn’t start till mid February. The only sports you’d be competing with would be the second tier major league sports, basketball and hockey. [Second tier? Hockey? -Mark] After races in Mexico, have events scheduled in the U.S. from California through the southwest and Texas and maybe some events in the southeast. When it’s warm enough, the series moves to Canada, with events in eastern and western provinces. Then back to the U.S. to wrap things up in September, before the baseball playoffs begin and before the NFL season starts dominating sports news.

There would be championships for each racing discipline, plus overall championships for both drivers and manufacturers.

The cars that would be racing would be cars that people drive so consumers can identify with things and car companies can go back to the “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” mindset, well, at least a little bit. They’d be racing in the formats that are the most popular participatory motorsports in North America, so racing enthusiasts of differing stripes will appreciate it. By keeping things more or less factory, that would keep costs down, and by making it open to all cars sold or built on the continent, there’d be interest from more than just the domestic American automakers.

I think the idea has potential. If you agree or disagree, let us know in the comments. Also, if you can come up with a name for the series that works out to a clever acronym, feel free to suggest it. I was going to use North American Racing Championship, but I’m not sure if NARC would yield positive Q scores.

[Images sourced from Ford, Wikimedia Commons]

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

 

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Porsche Takes LeMans http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/porsche-takes-lemans/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/porsche-takes-lemans/#comments Sun, 14 Jun 2015 13:28:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1092089 Nico Hulkenberg in the #19 Porsche 919 Hybrid has taken the German sportscar maker to victory over sister company Audi. The car was also driven by Earl Bamber and Nick Tandy. Second place was claimed by the #17 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Brendon Hartley, Mark Webber, and Timo Bernhard. Audi filled the third and fourth spots with […]

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Porsche Wins LeMans

Nico Hulkenberg in the #19 Porsche 919 Hybrid has taken the German sportscar maker to victory over sister company Audi. The car was also driven by Earl Bamber and Nick Tandy.

Second place was claimed by the #17 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Brendon Hartley, Mark Webber, and Timo Bernhard.

Audi filled the third and fourth spots with its Audi R18 e-tron quattro and the third Porsche car took fifth.

Other notable finishes:

The top finishing LMP1 Toyota took sixth overall ahead of one of the Audis.

LMP2 was won by KCMG campaigning an Oreca Nissan.

Corvette Racing claimed first in LM GTE Pro.

SMP Racing in a Ferrari 458 Italia took the LM GTE Amateur win.

The only remaining front-wheel drive Nissan GT-R LM Nismo finished in 40th overall but was not classified as a finisher as it did not complete 70 percent of the distance covered by the lead Porsche.

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Smooth is for Suckers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/smooth-is-for-suckers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/smooth-is-for-suckers/#comments Tue, 02 Jun 2015 19:00:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1082201 Smooth is Fast. Slow Hands on Corner Entry. Slow In, Fast Out. The Holy Trinity of proper racing technique is completely wrong — at least if you want to be a champion driver. Onboard videos from F1, WRC and the various touring car series show there is so much more to it. The racecar is […]

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Pontiac Solstice

Smooth is Fast.
Slow Hands on Corner Entry.
Slow In, Fast Out.

The Holy Trinity of proper racing technique is completely wrong — at least if you want to be a champion driver. Onboard videos from F1, WRC and the various touring car series show there is so much more to it. The racecar is thrown into corners with supreme confidence and caught with the deft but quick hand movements that seemingly defy all laws of physics, running completely counter to the smooth is fast dogma.

So why do modern ultra-competitive racing techniques look nothing like what you were taught in driving school or read in a book?

The answer lies mostly in reducing the transition times between maximum acceleration and maximum cornering.

If a driver knows a car can go through a corner at a certain speed and steering angle, there is no reason to waste time getting to that precise velocity. Lost time is simply that — you lost.

The next time you’re strapped to your couch watching a Formula 1 race, take note of the driver’s hands on corner entries. The movement should be confident and fast and then slow down just as the maximum cornering forces build. The steering wheel is used to balance on the hairy edge of adhesion with little flicks that vary only with grip levels. It seems easy, until you realize the velocities at which these folks are trucking along. Lewis Hamilton’s pole-setting lap at this year’s Monaco GP is just one such example.

This fast and nasty driving is sometimes called “Pitch and Catch” as the car is chucked violently into a corner and then carefully gathered up as it nears the apex. There are subtle differences in technique when applied to different types of driving. The high grip of race tires on a dry track will have lower amplitudes of hand motion mid-corner, while the low grip of a rally car will have more relative hand motion during this dance of speed. It’s quick and looks incredibly violent from a cockpit camera point-of-view.

Ari Vatanen’s epic run at the 1983 Manx Trophy Rally (Isle of Man) is a textbook lesson on this:

Transition times during braking must also be reduced. There should be little or no time lost between wide-open throttle on a straight and a braking point before the next turn. Coasting between gas and brake isn’t going to win you anything, nor is being light-footed with the middle pedal. You must use your brakes hard — but not for too long.

One common characteristic of champion drivers is not slowing the car too much on corner entry. A faster driver will trail off the brakes earlier in the turn at a higher velocity. This can be seen on data acquisition traces of velocity vs time as a slower driver’s speed will trend downwards earlier and lower than the leaders. Slow in, fast out is replaced with fast in, fast out as the racer progresses through the field.

By entering the corner at a higher rate of speed, the overtaking car will appear to be doing the passing under braking. This can create an illusion of a faster driver adhering to the slow in, fast out mantra. In reality, it’s more correct to think of this racer ending the braking sooner than a slower competitor. The faster car is faster at that point on the track and has the skills to back it up mid-corner.

This holds true for autocross as well. Witness champion autocrosser, Mark Daddio:

Before you run off and plant your car firmly into a ditch (or into a tire wall — too soon?), we must remind you there’s a reason schools preach slow hands and smooth movements are better. And they are, especially for novices who still need to learn basic car control skills or even the way around a racetrack.

It’s very easy to overload the tires with quick jabs and stabs. If an instructor tells a novice driver to move their hands quickly on corner entry, they’ll typically overshoot their hand movements. This will upset the car and the novice doesn’t have the talent and experience to adjust and countersteer midway through the curve, especially if anything unexpected happens. This goes double on the street.

How do you get from slow hands to fast driving? Like the old joke about how to get to Carnegie Hall — “Practice!” With experience, you build speed incrementally, one almost-botched corner at a time. The act of saving your ass lap after lap slowly trains your eyes, feet and hands to work together at the limit.

Don’t worry about being smooth — smooth is for suckers.

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Trackday Diaries: Civics Lesson http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/trackday-diaries-civics-lesson/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/trackday-diaries-civics-lesson/#comments Tue, 19 May 2015 12:00:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1070562 Trust me on this: You will start your trackday career because you love cars, but if you are any good at it you will end up hating cars. Allow me to explain. I took my first lap around a racetrack (Mosport, back in 2001) because I wanted to eventually race wheel-to-wheel and I knew I’d […]

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Trust me on this: You will start your trackday career because you love cars, but if you are any good at it you will end up hating cars.

Allow me to explain.


I took my first lap around a racetrack (Mosport, back in 2001) because I wanted to eventually race wheel-to-wheel and I knew I’d have the greatest chance of success if I followed a defined path of individual coaching and patient but consistent escalation of speed and and risk. I wanted to race wheel-to-wheel because I’d had a series of injuries that had effectively murdered any chance I had of racing BMX competitively into my thirties. In that respect, I was unlike the vast majority of the people I’ve met at the over two hundred open-lapping days I’ve attended since then. Every once in a while I will get a student who is focused on a future in club racing and/or LeMons-style enduros, but most of my guys (and girls) don’t want to have anything to do with racing.

The typical “track rat” is, first and foremost, a car enthusiast, not a would-be racer. He’s there because he wants to drive his car as fast as possible. Very few of them drive an entirely stock vehicle; whether it’s swaybars, a turbo kit, or an engine swap, there’s usually something going on with their cars. But even the stock ones are fast. Lots of five-liter Mustangs, boosted Volkswagens, cambered-out Z-cars. They’re knowledgeable about the history of their preferred marques and nameplates. They can speak at length about everything from options codes to the differences between various manufacturing locations. They own a lot of T-shirts from Blipshift and various car clubs and tuner shops.

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By and large, they’re nice people, and most of them will enjoy their time on-track, but it’s important for me to remember that their goals are fundamentally different from the goals I had when I started – and the goals I have today. For me, the car was, and is, secondary to the purpose of racing. If auto racing didn’t exist, I’d be racing something else. I’ve been racing something for three-quarters of my life. I continue to attend open-lapping days and coach students because it makes me a better driver and therefore a better racer. The more seat time I have, the better I get. Even seat time as a passenger helps; it makes me think about how to get around a track better.

My students, on the other hand, primarily want to enjoy their cars in an environment without speed limits or oncoming traffic or SUVs. They want to take endless GoPro videos and bench race at lunch and maybe experience a moment where the car is sliding around on its tires a little bit. If they were transported back in time and found themselves in a situation where the only trackday opportunity involved forty-eight-horsepower MG TCs around a narrow track like the old Waterford Hills at an average speed below that of their commute, they wouldn’t bother to leave the house. Most of them would rather drive a Z06 Corvette at four-tenths the limit than run a Daihatsu Charade around just as fast as Lewis Hamilton could do it.

This fundamental disconnect between me and them causes friction more often that it does not. I ask them to go home and read a Ross Bentley book; they go home and buy a new ECU that promises ten more horsepower. I suggest they watch track videos and learn reference points; they log onto their favorite car forums and argue about option packages. When I ask them to attend additional weekends to get faster, they stay at home and do entire seasons of iRacing or, G-d forbid, Grand Theft Auto.

In short, they treat being the owners of performance cars the way I treat being a guitar player. I’d rather work extra hours to buy a new (insert name of exotic wood instrument here) than stay at home and practice the modes and scales. I’d rather visit vintage musical-equipment stores and argue about “Murphy aging” than memorize jazz standards in Nashville-number notation. Most of all, I’d rather shop for guitars than fix the ones I already have.

Whenever I start to become frustrated with my students, I just remind myself how my guitar teacher(s) must feel, and it really helps me put things in perspective. They love cars more than they love driving; I love my Paul Reed Smiths more than I love creaking through a twelve-bar-blues with one of them.

This past weekend, however, I was lucky enough to have two of my favorite students return for the Trackdaze season opener at Summit Point Shenandoah. My novice student was Benny Blanco, now resembling a Platoon-era Willem Dafoe due to a program of exercise and nutrition, cheerfully reporting a complete brake-system service on his Boxster in preparation for the event. My intermediate student was a TTAC reader and occasional contributor who had swapped out his rental car for his own high-mileage 2008 Civic EX 5-speed, fortified with Akebono pads and rotors. We met at the hotel Friday night and discussed goals a bit. I was pleased to see that they’d both been devoting some time to the theory of performance driving over the winter, although neither had driven on-track since last October.

While there were three car-into-wall incidents before lunchtime on Saturday, none of them involved my guys. They were both fast and smooth, if a bit rusty from the time off. By Sunday morning, they were both very quick, and by Sunday afternoon neither one of them required much input from me other than the occasional reminder to stay off the throttle in the midcorner. It was a true pleasure to see how well they both did and how much improvement they were able to demonstrate over the course of four hours on-track.

Here’s the funny thing; although both of them were among the best students I’ve ever had, they spent much of the weekend letting faster traffic by. Time after time, my student in the Civic would get through three or four corners in a row in a manner that wouldn’t disgrace a good mid-pack club racer, only to have to put his hand out for a far less talented driver behind the wheel of a turbo VW or V8-powered roadster. In the “green group”, Benny strung together four kick-ass laps, gapping the new-gen WRX behind him at each corner exit, only to have the blue Subaru eventually pull out and pass him on the main straight from ten car lengths back.

I knew going into the weekend that our 2008 Civic would be painfully slow, even if it could be coaxed into some oddly heroic slip angles in my hands, with the help of the emergency brake. (See above.) But I wasn’t prepared for just how slow a 1997 Boxster is nowadays. True, Porsche never claimed it was terribly quick, and buying an entry-level model from Zuffenhausen has never been a recipe for massive horsepower, but when a VW Beetle (with a VR6) can drop you like you’re towing a trailer, it really opens your eyes as to the progress in modern automobiles.

When Sunday drew to a close, I stood with my students and we watched people load perfectly street-legal Corvettes and Mustangs onto trailers pulled by Denalis and F-250s. “I got pretty sick of waving people by,” my Civic driver noted with resignation in his voice.

“Buy a new C7. Or a C7 Z06.” But what I wanted to say was this: I’d rather be the kind of truly skilled, talented, and dedicated trackday driver who can get the most out of a Civic than any mere owner of a high-performance automobile. And there are those of us who can watch someone go around a racetrack, even at a distance, and pick out the very few drivers among those owners. A true driver shines at a trackday like a polished nugget of gold in a field of anthracite. There are few satisfactions in the world like the one you have knowing that you extracted what Michael Schumacher used to call “today’s maximum” from an automobile.

Even if that car is a Civic, trundling down Shenandoah’s back straight at eighty-nine miles per hour.

For a true driver, a car is just a tool. And to operate that tool perfectly, only to be forced to yield again and again to people whose lap times come from the showroom instead of the woodshed…

It’s enough to make you hate cars, really.

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Bribery Overload at The 24 Hours of LeMons http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/bribery-overload-24-hours-lemons/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/bribery-overload-24-hours-lemons/#comments Tue, 02 Dec 2014 12:54:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=954097   Though I’ve been a Judge at The 24 Hours of LeMons for over 5 years now, it wasn’t until a brush with Stevens-Johnson Syndrome that I decided to amp up my Mad Bribery Skills. Not just with cash, that’s horribly un-entertaining unless it involves getting busted F1 style.  So like any good criminal, let […]

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cashisking

 

Though I’ve been a Judge at The 24 Hours of LeMons for over 5 years now, it wasn’t until a brush with Stevens-Johnson Syndrome that I decided to amp up my Mad Bribery Skills.

Not just with cash, that’s horribly un-entertaining unless it involves getting busted F1 style.  So like any good criminal, let me boast about my bounty of ill-gotten booty in a tale that’s sure to please.

(photo courtesy: murileemartin.com)

Food and BEvERages are appreciated as 24 Hours of LeMons Bribes. After trying gourmet jellybeans in bizarre flavors, I was hoping these bribes would rock my world.

 

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They did: I’ve never marinated rotten meat in pumpkin spice and 90-weight gear oil, but these sodas taste like that. Sampling them didn’t trigger another attack of Stevens-Johnson, so it’s more of a character building exercise. Win.


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Oh yes!  A fine scotch for a fine man.  This Ron Burgundy themed team got me something good, including the fantastic jacket.  It made my Movember celebrations even more festive. Nicely done, gents!

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While not technically a bribe, one particularly horrible team running with a certain Mister Jack Baruth earned enough black flags in a short period to deserve to do my dirty work. The now three-year-old Ranger ticked over 24,000 miles, well past due for its first tire rotation…even if the tires look close to new.

While they did a better job than the average tire store jockey with an impact wrench–hammering away before “finishing up” with a pointless click of the torque wrench–and I was happy…and they were super detail oriented Porsche-like dudes…there was a problem.

And it wasn’t that Jack was MIA and not doing my bidding.  I was cool with that.

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Judges don’t litigate, but you still wonder if this is legal trouble just waiting to happen.  But I did appreciate it, as Stevens-Johnson Syndrome ain’t no seasonal flu. So thanks for that!

On to more bribes…

IMG_3785Is this a malaise-y air cleaner from a 460 V8 powered Lincoln in my possession?  Oh yes.  Would you believe that a LeMons Judge gave it to me as a bribe to get my recovering self out of bed, into a robe and back to the race track?

Judge Phil actually packed this in his checked luggage.The plan is to use it for a factory looking dual snorkel intake on a modified 460 Lincoln Mark V in the Mehta fleet in lieu of the horrible aftermarket open air (hot air) intake. Fingers crossed on that plan, but an epic score for the Judge.

IMG_3824

Phil wasn’t done, here’s something straight from his Junkyard Find series. This FoMoCo pamphlet circa 1968 is full of oft-neglected common sense motoring tips and fantastic mid-century graphics. And unfolding it led to some holiday cheer at the Mehta dining table.

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Because, while you’re supposed to place this on your dashboard while looking for some petrol, it has other benefits.

More photos below.  All of which made this the most memorable time in Automotive Motorsports bribery since…well???

 

 

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Nissan Canada Launches One-Make Micra Cup Race Series http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/nissan-canada-launches-one-make-micra-cup-race-series/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/nissan-canada-launches-one-make-micra-cup-race-series/#comments Wed, 15 Oct 2014 13:36:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=931514 The Nissan Micra has already staked itself out as the most affordable new car on sale in Canada, with a base price of just $9,998 CDN. And at $19,998, it’s also the cheapest race car in the country. Nissan and Quebec performance outfit JD Motorsports are launching the one-make Micra Cup, intended as a stepping […]

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The Nissan Micra has already staked itself out as the most affordable new car on sale in Canada, with a base price of just $9,998 CDN. And at $19,998, it’s also the cheapest race car in the country.

Nissan and Quebec performance outfit JD Motorsports are launching the one-make Micra Cup, intended as a stepping stone series to bridge the gap between karting and more costly forms of motorsports.

The Micra race cars will be based on the lowest trim level Micra S, and be sold as a turnkey package prepared for racing. Modifications include a NISMO suspension kit, better brake pads, alloy wheels and performance tires, a new exhaust and the requisite safety gear.

While the Micra Cup will be limited to Quebec initially, it may expand to other provinces in Canada (Quebec is currently the top market for the Micra). What we wouldn’t give to see it expanded to include our fantasy “Spec Mirage” class as well.

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Does Racing Make Cents? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/racing-make-cents/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/racing-make-cents/#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 12:00:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=901698 Well, clearly racing does make money for someone, at least enough to be a mini-industry. Does it though make sense for the Fords and Hondas of the world? Two students staked out roughly opposite positions on racing’s value as a technology driver; I’ll leave my thoughts to the end. Clearly there is a marketing angle. […]

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Chevrolet_trio_2011_WTCC_Race_of_Japan_(Race_2)

Well, clearly racing does make money for someone, at least enough to be a mini-industry. Does it though make sense for the Fords and Hondas of the world? Two students staked out roughly opposite positions on racing’s value as a technology driver; I’ll leave my thoughts to the end.

Clearly there is a marketing angle. A century (or more) ago racing helped publicize this new-fangled thing, before most people had driven one. That was true in Europe, in the US, and in Japan. That need is long past. In the 21st century, how much is a good performing team worth in advertising? – does what wins on Sunday sell on Monday? Does racing disproportionately attract likely car purchasers? Is it attracting as many as in the past? And does the audience for racing in the EU or Brasil (to pick but two countries) resemble the US? Anyway, this post is not about racing as a sport.

Another minor angle that I won’t argue further is that, if you are going to race, then by all means use it to train engineers. Honda is famous for that; top management, at least on the engineering side, must cut their teeth in racing at Honda R&D. Similarly, Ford just opened a technical center in North Carolina devoted to motorsports, and talks of the value of racing to attract good engineers and give them program responsibility at a young age. Well and good, but that’s certainly not the only way to train future leaders, and it’s very expensive. (See more here.)

Our topic – two students and myself – is racing as a proving ground for new technologies? I’m not a racing historian to vouch for details, and I’m sure TTAC’s readers with an eye for detail will pick on us. We can learn from that. But at the same time step back, or rather pitch in: which side of the debate has the stronger case?

First, Joseph Kimbell claims that racing continues to be valuable as a breeding ground for technology. (See “The Indianapolis 500 and Consumer Car Technology“, Econ 244 blog of May 12th, 2014). His family have made the trek to Indiapolis for a couple generations, as is clear below.

“Yesterday practice opened at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500. The race is an incredibly exhilarating event to take in on TV, but especially in person. I personally view the start of the Indy 500 as easily the greatest moment in sports. Watching eleven rows of three cars coming down the front stretch at speeds surpassing 200 miles per hour is unlike anything else. The speed and competition, however, is not the only benefit the Indy 500 has provided. Many of the technologies we take for granted today stem from developments made on IndyCars.

In the early days of the 500, teams would debut new technology to help gain an advantage. Today the cars are much more standardized, and advancements happen on a series-wide basis rather than team by team. The early teams, however, had much more leeway and took full advantage. Such technologies ranged from the simple to the sophisticated, but all made a contribution. In the inaugural running of the 500 mile race in 1911, the winner, Ray Harroun, outfitted his car with a rear-view mirror, eliminating the need for a spotter to ride along with him. This reduced weight and helped propel him to victory.

Later IndyCars were the first automobiles to use turbochargers, when Freddie Agabashian’s Cummins Diesel Special debuted them in 1952. They are now standard in diesel vehicles and commonplace in gasoline engines. At the time, the turbocharger was designed exclusively to increase speed, but today they are used to get the most out of small displacement engines, enabling down-sizing for fuel efficiency. Ford’s “EcoBoost” engines, for instance, get an incredible amount of horsepower out of a two liter engine. Similarly, Audi’s turbo diesel in the A3 delivers 236 pound-feet of torque while maintaining an EPA rating of 30 mpg city/42 mpg highway. Turbo’s clearly have a big place in consumer car technology.

Other innovations include seat belts, crash data recorders, ethanol fuel, front-wheel drive [ca. 1925, albeit with many precedents] and four-wheel hydraulic brakes. All of these are today standard on passenger vehicles. While IndyCar may no longer be the leader in technological development, F1 certainly has a great deal of technology to offer the passenger car market, including its KERS technology. The future is certainly bright for racing’s connection to the consumer car market.

In contrast, Tyler Kaelin argued that technologies now are more likely to move from road to race. He too loves racing, but prefers Formula 1 to Indy and Nascar.

Since the beginning of the automobile industry in the late 1800s, auto racing has been pivotal in the technological progression and proliferation of the modern motor vehicle. Developments often taken for granted in modern cars are attributable to innovations originally intended to shave seconds from a lap time. Advances in transmissions, engine efficiency and power, aerodynamics, suspensions, and safety technology are examples.

But has auto racing seen the end of its useful life? Has technology reached such a point that advances in racing technology are no longer likely to trickle down to our mundane road cars? Have racing cars distanced themselves so greatly (for safety, speed, and regulatory reasons) that they no longer contribute to a culture of people buying cars because they perceive their brand as a winner?

Take Formula One, the pinnacle of automotive performance. Formula One race teams spend enormous sums to develop their cars; Red Bull Racing has an annual budget somewhere north of US$296 million. Its cars are capable of speeds over 225 mph and 5 g’s of sustained cornering force (about 5 times what your road car can hope to achieve). One has to wonder if the cars have diverged so far from their road-going counterparts that their innovation and sales boosting potential have been diminished.

Some of this is in the name of sport. Pirelli, the official supplier of all Formula One tires, intentionally engineers its tires to fail rapidly and unpredictably to generate pit stops (which break the routine) and not coincidentally to highlight “tire strategy.” Such innovation does not benefit road cars.

NASCAR is another example of racing’s departure from pedestrian vehicles [pardon the image!]. Up until the mid- to late-1960’s NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) involved stock cars, upgraded slightly for power and safety reasons. A Ford Mustang that you could buy off of the showroom floor was not all that different from what you saw the superstars of circuit race on the weekend. Today the cars employ non-stock chassis, engines, and bodies. Indeed, all NASCAR vehicles share a common body template so that a “Toyota Camry” has the exact dimensions as a “Ford Fusion”. The car in a dealership now nothing common with its NASCAR brethren. (As a result, does a “Fusion” sticker on the front of a NASCAR vehicle really lead to increased Fusion sales?) The key point though is the disconnect between road and race.

As an auto enthusiast and an avid racing fan (of the Lotus F1!) I want racing to continue as a source of innovation and inspiration. However, I fear racing has run its course. Shaving even one second from a lap time is becoming exponentially more expensive as more exotic and expensive materials and technologies are required.

ThatOne possible connection remains: weight reduction. Materials like carbon fiber and advanced aluminum alloys make cars both faster and more fuel efficient. Until recently such materials were too difficult to work with and too expensive to use. Economies of scale and technological developments today mean we do find aluminum, magnesium and carbon fiber in regular cars. However, that doesn’t mean that racing was key.

With the cost of fuel, consumers no longer need (need? does anyone “need”?) the 400+ horsepower gas-guzzling “muscle cars” of the 60’s and early 70’s. Maybe racing does still serve a role, but that role has changed.

Road cars have been a reflection of racing. No longer!

Now it’s the Prof’s turn.

As a judge for the Automotive News PACE supplier competition, which recognizes innovation, we used to see things coming out of racing into high end vehicles and then migrating towards mass market cars. Now PACE sees examples of the opposite. A caution: such examples are not data, and do not a trend prove.

There’s one more possibility: racing is adapting. They need the car companies, and have a strong incentive to lessen the technological disconnect. My claim: If you can’t bring the car companies to the race, you can bring the race to the car companies.

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NASCAR For The Novice (The Prequel) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/nascar-for-the-novice-the-prequel/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/nascar-for-the-novice-the-prequel/#comments Fri, 13 Jun 2014 19:46:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=843553 I am pacing back and forth in a 200 square foot wooden building that I had exchanged for a 1996 Volvo 850 sedan back in 2008. “What the hell am I going to write about? I know nothing about racing! Zip!” “Well Steve, maybe we can arrange for a few interviews.” “Would they be racers?” […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

I am pacing back and forth in a 200 square foot wooden building that I had exchanged for a 1996 Volvo 850 sedan back in 2008.

“What the hell am I going to write about? I know nothing about racing! Zip!”

“Well Steve, maybe we can arrange for a few interviews.”

“Would they be racers?”

“Aaahhh, no.”

“Owners? Hookers? How about the guy who fires the gun?”

“What gun?”

The truth was that I didn’t want to go to any race. I had a long line of issues to deal with at the used car lot. Customers that needed help either finding cars, or paying for them.  The grass was growing back where the gravel was, and I hated to leave money on the table. If I left, either some deals would be lost, or I would have my cell phone surgically attached to my ear for the entire time.

It wouldn’t be fun. But that was the big problem for me at this point. Life wasn’t fun when it came to my daily work life. I rate every working day from a 1 to 10 scale for that key elusive ingredient known as, fun. For the past year my days have been 2’s and 3’s. They used to be 7’s and 8’s, back in the time when I had not built this beast of the business up to the point where I felt like was a subservient tail of a great big fire breathing dragon.

I was dealing with too many cars with weird problems, and amateur bullshitters who thought they could get one up on me. There were countless times over the past two weeks where I just thought about taking all my retail cars, wholesaling them, and taking time off from what had become a pressure cooker of human stupidity.

Instead, I went to my first race.

I started out driving out to Atlanta and entering a humongous underground parking deck that had at least 12 or 13 levels to it.

garage

Turn right, drive. Turn right, drive. I realized that I was doing a 15 mph version of NASCAR with an opposite turn, and all the cars thankfully either gone or parked along the side out of pity.

Once I reached the bottom of the bottom,I realized something highly unusual right off the bat.

I was the only one there.

No cars. No noise. Nothing but me and my car… that happened to have nothing in the trunk. At least for now. Gulp!

As a native Jersey boy, I briefly thought about the ease of whacking someone and moving a body in this parking garage. My southern twang belies the fact that I grew up in Northern Jersey during the Reagan era. A time and place where houses mysteriously burned down, the mafia always handled your garbage, and John Gotti was considered a not-so-bad guy.

This theatrical idea was tempered by me driving  a seven-year old Corolla instead of the black 1980 Cadillac Seville I sold earlier that week. I missed that car. After about 10 minutes of quiet and no phone signal, I met my co-rider, and we quickly made our way back up to the same part of Northwest Georgia I had just left.

Camry-Hybrid-LE-interior

We would be spending our time in a 2014 Toyota Camry LE. The type of car that no supposed enthusiast or auto journalist wants to drive. Yet what did I recommend for my mom to buy back in 2012? A Camry. That is after she pretended to be open-minded and rejected everything else in the marketplace. The brutal truth of this business is that most folks have minimal needs to get from A to B, and reliability is still the #1 driver of sales in the new and used car markets.

As I exhume myself from this tomb of automotive storage, my mind wanders to the blandness of the American driving experience. Cruise at 70. Seats comfortable. Driving straight and uneventful. Talk on cell phones.  That’s what the American open road is like these days. The media driven garbage about cars representing the penultimate of freedom and sexiness is, at least in my mind, castrated by the salient fact that everyone plays the game “follow the leader” when it comes to daily driving, and detailing is already a pure misery for most car owners.

This is what I’m thinking about while going through six different lights on one of 30+ Peachtree Streets here in Atlanta.

stoplight

I enjoy a winding one lane road as much as anyone in this business, but city driving sucks and the suburbs aren’t much better these days. Traffic is a constant pain because turn signals are optional, people play with their cell phones, and drivers often turn for the hell of it.

Cars are mostly a burden in most cities like Atlanta, and what joy can be had by revving your engine every now and then is often throttled back by a city police force whose only opportunity for pay raises is to issue more traffic tickets.

The racing world is a healthy rebellion from what has largely become a speed hating society.

The light turns green. I hit Interstate 85 and after about 30 minutes of driving, we finally become free of the monetary clutches of quick changing stoplights and legalized theft cartels. I and my co-driver are hitting 80 on our way up to northwest Georgia and beyond.

crosscountryroads

The scenery gets better. I like to tell folks that when you’re in Atlanta, you’re in Atlanta, and when you’re in Georgia, you’re in JAW-JA! Never the twain do meet.

Atlanta is a bit of a weird place. Very corporate, yet not quite conservative, and often times city officials are downright delusional about where their strengths lie. A few years ago these guys wanted to get the NASCAR Hall of Fame down here, which would have been kinda like asking the New York Yankees to move to Winnipeg.

I’m not a NASCAR enthusiast at all. But one thing I do know is that the cultures of “NASCAR Country” and “The ATL” are about as close to each other as Mercury is from Pluto.

The College Football Hall of Fame will be in Atlanta, right near Georgia Tech, which is a great fit for the culture and the community. The guy I’m riding with is pretty much a foot soldier for promoting these types of projects around Georgia, and as the scenery around us changes from commercial parks to pine trees, we start changing a bit.

Our accents become a bit more country. By seeing my neck of the woods, I begin to relax. The phone gets turned off.  The beauty of North Georgia becomes all encompassing, and I realize something at that very moment.

I needed this.

 

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Energy Drinks May Follow Tobacco Sponsorship Into History http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/energy-drinks-may-follow-tobacco-sponsorship-into-history/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/energy-drinks-may-follow-tobacco-sponsorship-into-history/#comments Fri, 13 Jun 2014 12:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=843482 Once upon a time, the Sprint Cup was the Winston Cup, Rothmans decorated Porsche 962s in Group C, and the Marlboro chevron was everywhere a wheel turned in anger. Though those days are long gone, energy drink makers like Red Bull and Monster have stepped in to fill the financial void left behind by Big […]

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2014 Red Bull F1

Once upon a time, the Sprint Cup was the Winston Cup, Rothmans decorated Porsche 962s in Group C, and the Marlboro chevron was everywhere a wheel turned in anger. Though those days are long gone, energy drink makers like Red Bull and Monster have stepped in to fill the financial void left behind by Big Tobacco. At least for now.

Asphalt & Rubber says that what happened to tobacco sponsorship in Europe and, eventually, the rest of the world could soon happen to energy drink sponsorship. Sales of energy drinks have been banned for sale to consumers under 18 in Lithuania thus far, while some cities and states in the United States are considering the same. Meanwhile, the American Medical Association is advocating a marketing ban on energy drinks to under-18s, which led to industry leaders from the likes of Red Bull, Monster, Rockstar et al having to testify before Congress.

The potential result of increased regulation could mean the energy drink makers may choose to focus on one-off events instead of sponsoring events and teams in Formula One, MotoGP et al, leaving both organizations and competitors alike once again seeking out the kind of sponsorship dollars tobacco once provided prior to the industry’s exodus in the mid- through late 1990s.

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