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. Sat, 01 Aug 2015 18:00:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 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 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 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.

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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.

17-Racing_Vans_In_24_Hours_of_LeMons

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!

IMG_3751

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.

Capture

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.

IMG_3821

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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Volunteering to Work a Major Race Can Be a Great Deal http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/volunteering-to-work-a-major-race-can-be-a-great-deal/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/volunteering-to-work-a-major-race-can-be-a-great-deal/#comments Sun, 18 May 2014 11:00:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=820018 How would you like to get insider access all weekend long to a major motorsports event, complete with a catered lunch every day, a commemorative shirt, hat and lapel pin, free parking and an invitation to a gala post-race party, all for just fifteen bucks? Well, the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix still needs […]

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volunteeer

How would you like to get insider access all weekend long to a major motorsports event, complete with a catered lunch every day, a commemorative shirt, hat and lapel pin, free parking and an invitation to a gala post-race party, all for just fifteen bucks? Well, the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix still needs about 100 volunteers to make up the balance of the approximately 1,100 volunteers who make the race possible. Okay, so technically it’s not just $15, you also have to agree to work one 8 hour shift each day of the three day event, but it still seems to be a great bargain and a terrific way to get an inside look at big league racing, in this case back-to-back Indycar races, a race in the  TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, a Pirelli World Challenge Series race and the first appearance at the CDBIGP of Robbie Gordon’s SPEED Energy Stadium SUPER Trucks Series.

With the race less than two weeks away, May 30-June 1, 2014, race organizers are still soliciting applications to join the Detroit Grand Prix Association (DGPA), the race’s official volunteer organization. Of particular interest to racing enthusiasts is the fact that the biggest need is for circuit marshals, the volunteers who work closest to the track controlling adjacent pedestrian and vehicle traffic and letting people cross the track when it isn’t “hot” with race cars. As a circuit marshal you may be able to get even closer to the racing action than is possible for people paying admission. Other volunteer positions still open will assist with traffic flow within the grounds of the temporary racing facility on the island, including race team and support vehicles in the paddock and near the track.

volunteer_vert

There are two overlapping shifts, with one starting about 6:30 am and another just before noon. Volunteers have to commit to work one shift per day, attend a training session (and obey all safety rules), and pay the aforementioned fee of $15. In addition to the perks mentioned above, you’ll also get a certificate of appreciation. Appreciation works both ways. The simple truth is that events like the CDBIGP just could not take place without the help of volunteers. If you enjoy motorsports, you might want to consider volunteering for the Detroit Grand Prix or at a similar event in order to give something back to the sport you love.

In case you think that you’re volunteering to help some business, the CDBIGP is not a profit-making venture. The Grand Prix’s chairman, Bud Denker, told me specifically that their goal is to be financially viable enough to be ongoing, not to turn a profit. It’s a civic minded venture, there because folks like Roger Penske and Jim Campbell (who is in charge of performance and motorsports at GM), along with more than a thousand volunteers, think the Motor City should host a major motorsports event.

If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer for the 2014 Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, you can go to the race’s website or contact Hannah Deacon with Volunteer Services at hdeacon@detroitgp.com or (313) 748-1801. If you do end up volunteering for the Detroit race, or if you’ve ever volunteered at a racing event of its magnitude, let us know what the experience is like.

 

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Sunday Story: Shade Tree Redux http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/sunday-story-shade-tree-redux/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/sunday-story-shade-tree-redux/#comments Sun, 11 May 2014 12:00:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=819066 Image courtesy of Mstyslav Chernov: http://tinyurl.com/k8atv8o “Cool photo. Is that your grandpa or something?” Mark pointed to the sun-bleached black and white photo that hung on the wall of the garage. A smiling, grease-stained man in mechanic’s overalls stood proudly in front of a 1950s dirt-track racer. Sitting at his feet was a trophy. Danny […]

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800px-Catalina_Island,_La_Romana,_Dominican_Republic._A_typical_bungalow_nearby_cost_line,_shaded_with_palm_trees_(1)

Image courtesy of Mstyslav Chernov: http://tinyurl.com/k8atv8o

“Cool photo. Is that your grandpa or something?” Mark pointed to the sun-bleached black and white photo that hung on the wall of the garage. A smiling, grease-stained man in mechanic’s overalls stood proudly in front of a 1950s dirt-track racer. Sitting at his feet was a trophy.

Danny nodded. “Yup, that’s him. He’s my inspiration. He used to talk about building motors and fixing up cars underneath the old shade tree. You can see it there in the background.” Mark kept staring at the photo. Satisfaction, thought Mark. That was the only word that he could use to describe it. The pure, unbridled joy of winning a competition, based not only on one’s skill with a steering wheel and clutch, but with a screwdriver and a hammer too. Mark knew that feeling well; he loved winning as much as anybody and he built his own machines too.

This time, however, he needed some help. Danny was the best shade-tree mechanic in the city, and a good friend to boot. Mark knew Danny would be able to fix the reliability problems plaguing his machine, issues that he couldn’t seem to trace. He needed Danny’s skill in order to be ready for the weekend.

“Let’s take a look at what you brought me.” Mark gladly obliged. The candy-apple-red paint glimmered in the garage as Danny let out a low whistle.

“That’s one hell of a machine you’ve got there.” Mark’s pride swelled.

“Yeah, I did the whole finish myself. Two coats of primer, then three color coats, then gloss, then wet sanding, then I hit it with gloss again. Waxed it just to be safe.” Danny admired his reflection in the shine of the surface.

“If it looks so good, then what’s the problem?”

“I think it has a short, or a bad battery, or something. At high speeds it starts blowing fuses and just dies.”

“Well, that could be a lot of things. Let’s take a look.” They gently lifted the hood off and set it aside, careful not to scratch the finish. Danny scanned the chassis code. Using his wealth of knowledge about serial numbers and build orders, he noticed something right away.

“Aha!”

“What is it?”

“See that code there? It’s a 24X97F. You have an early build.”

“Alright, so what?”

“They made a running change late in the year. They redesigned part of the voltage regulator so that the fuse wouldn’t blow when the system was running at max charge. The new part is a lot more reliable.” Mark nodded his head in understanding, but he was worried.

“Can we get it fixed in time? The tournament is this weekend!”

“Calm down, it’s an easy fix. I think I’ve got the part. We have to do a little soldering, but it’s no big deal.”

“Ah, great.” Before long, they’d yanked out the subassembly and had it in pieces on Danny’s workbench. After a good thirty minutes of rifling through various disheveled bins, they finally found the replacement part.

“Got it.” Danny held up the small clear baggie triumphantly. It was a thin piece of metal, barely an inch long.

“That’s it?” Mark was skeptical.

“Hey, I know what I’m talking about, alright? You stick to paint.” He was already plugging in the soldering iron. A couple dabs later, and the new part was secure. Danny proffered the bad bit to Mark.

“You see how burnt it looks in the middle? That’s because they cheaped out on the design. Stupid bean counters, they wound up fixing it anyway. Grandpa used to complain about them too.”

“Huh. Well, let’s get it put back together so I can check your work.” Thus began the laborious process of reassembly. After many more admonishments to not scratch the paint, Danny had successfully put the whole thing back together. A new fuse, and it was ready to fire up.

“Okay, let’s give it a whirl.” Mark’s machine turned over instantly, whirring lustily in the garage. Danny sat his biggest box fan in front of it, and they ran it flat out for a few minutes. It was solid as a rock. A few more checks, and Mark was satisfied. He was ready to stomp the competition yet again.

“Couldn’t have done it without you.”

“No problem, man. Good luck with Battlefield 4 this weekend.” They admired the freshly-repaired computer, glinting there on its stand. Danny looked back up at the photo of Grandpa on the wall. Sure, it wasn’t a car, but he figured the old man would have approved. He always admired mechanical skill of any type. They carried the machine outside and gently sat it in Mark’s car. The color of his lowered Prelude matched that of his computer.

“Now that it’s getting warm again, are you going to sign up for any more SCCA stuff?”

“Yeah, but I need to reset the suspension first.”

“Well, we can work on that next weekend.”

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Super Piston Slap: Poorvette Fever! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/super-piston-slap-poorvette-fever/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/super-piston-slap-poorvette-fever/#comments Thu, 20 Mar 2014 12:12:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=775097 Aside from “real racers” who insist The 24 Hours of LeMons is a joke, everyone else understands this series’ willingness to embrace engineering and artistic creativity, providing somewhat-wholesome entertainment and—best of all– giving away a metric ton of track time for little cash.  As a member of the LeMons Supreme Court in their Texas races, […]

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Aside from “real racers” who insist The 24 Hours of LeMons is a joke, everyone else understands this series’ willingness to embrace engineering and artistic creativity, providing somewhat-wholesome entertainment and—best of all– giving away a metric ton of track time for little cash.  As a member of the LeMons Supreme Court in their Texas races, well, bias from judicial bribes and heartless praise bestowed upon me aside…

…here’s a dirty little secret: you can go LeMons racing in any fully depreciated machine with ZERO PENALTY LAPS, no matter how awesome the vehicle was when new. Provided you bend (not break) the rules with your whip.  And give everyone a good reason to love/hate you.  The Poorvette is proof positive.

Now this ain’t no secret, as Murilee Martin already mentioned how the Poorvette shoulda been buried under penalty laps. But wasn’t.  Why?

  1. The team: historically they‘ve been nice to everyone, pre C4 Corvette ownership.  Sometimes that goes a long way in determining penalty laps, or lack thereof.
  2. The Poorvette’s somewhat believable story: being an earlier C4 (Tuned Port Injection) body with an LT-1/6-speed swap gone wrong (supposedly), then sold for cheap-ish and parted out to fit in LeMons rules.***
  3. Track record:  American V8 iron has rarely endured in LeMony races, much less possessing the fuel economy to match with the infrequent pit stops of more efficient metal. #notwinning
  4. Margin for error: you are guaranteed to enjoy passing every lily livered furrin’ car in your wedge-tastic Vette, to the point that euphoria nets you a black flag. Then serious repercussions (that often come with zero-penalty laps) in the judging area…resulting in no chance of winning.
  5. Not winning is a big “win” for everyone: the fanbois have grist for their mill, the haters do their thang, and LeMons tells another insane story.

Clearly this is a win-win for everyone. Especially you, oh cheaty race team.

Photo courtesy: (http://www.murileemartin.com)

And how did the Poorvette do? It led the pack, getting everyone all hot and bothered.  But then the stock fuel tank/pump had starvation issues in the corners, which was the icing on the cake after the power steering failed the day before in testing.  No matter how fast you’re going, those Z06-style wheels are too wide to ever make a lack of power steering acceptable. Even still, the Poorvette probably also set one of the fastest lap times, which totally means nothing in an endurance race.

Hare, meet the Tortoise…son!

But still, the Poorvette’s maiden voyage netted a respectable 6th place on a weekend lacking Corvette friendly weather.  Not bad considering how many Porsche 944s need far more work to accomplish similar results.  Perhaps one day we will see C4s give those Porkers the drubbing they got back in the 1980s. If so, don’t expect Judge Phil to be generous with C4s again. Ever.

No matter, the Poorvette’s crew even earned a Judge’s Choice Award, which proves once more: we need more C4s in LeMons!  Well not exactly.

Perhaps more “taboo” cars that aren’t of the E30 or retired Spec-Miata variety. Like more Porsche 928s, rear-wheel drive Maximas souped up with Z-car parts, more cheaty compact trucks (cough, RANGER, cough) and more GM sedans easily modified to DOMINATE in the slower classes: C and B.   And let’s not forget more super-durable CVPI Panthers, too.

So there you have it: good stuff happens in LeMons when you play your cards right. Thank the Poorvette for proving that.

*** Considering the early C4s utter domination in SCCA back in the day, and their still impressive autocross performances today, the Poorvette crew would do just as well in LeMons with the stock aluminum headed L98 and a close ratio 4+3 gearbox. Their LT-1 swap and wide ratio T-56 gearbox did very little for me. This is an endurance race, not a drag race!

 

 

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Announcing A (Proposed) New Grassroots Racing Series: Spec Mirage http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/announcing-a-proposed-new-grassroots-racing-series-spec-mirage/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/announcing-a-proposed-new-grassroots-racing-series-spec-mirage/#comments Sat, 08 Feb 2014 20:07:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=737233 Stumbling upon old family photographs is a funny thing. Sometimes, you find out that your parents were actually pretty cool in their day, devoid of middle-aged paunches or wrinkles, and decked out in stylish clothes, with good-looking but rarely mentioned companions on their arm that elicit scowls and glares when you innocently inquire about their […]

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Mitsubishi Mirage Hatchback (1992-1994)

Stumbling upon old family photographs is a funny thing. Sometimes, you find out that your parents were actually pretty cool in their day, devoid of middle-aged paunches or wrinkles, and decked out in stylish clothes, with good-looking but rarely mentioned companions on their arm that elicit scowls and glares when you innocently inquire about their identity. Looking at old photos of the Mitsubishi Mirage is a little like that.

While our North American Mirage was a dowdy also-ran B-segment car for credit criminals and second-tier rental car agencies, the Japanese market Mirage fell victim to the irrational exuberance that plagued the Japanese economy, and paradoxically gave us the greatest generation of Japanese cars to ever exist.

No matter that the Lancer Evolution, Galant VR-4 and Legnum VR-4 (that’s a Galant VR-4 wagon) already existed. American sales and marketing execs were content with just the Eclipse, and aside from the cost of homologation any other nameplate, they likely would have nixed another sporty model, for fear of cannibalizing sales of the Eclipse GS-T and GSX.

But Japan is different. Having overlapping, redundant models sold under the same brand (but different sales channels) was a requirement in the Bubble Era. And so, the Lancer Evolution was joined by the Mirage Cyborg family, which was a three-door hatchback with a naturally-aspirated MIVEC 1.6L 4-cylinder engine making 172 horsepower and a VTEC-esque 124 lb-ft of torque. It wasn’t enough that Mitsubishi had conquered the four-door rally special niche. They needed a competitor to other now-forgotten bubble-era specials like the Toyota Levin BZ-R, the Nissan Pulsar VZ-R and the Honda Civic SiR (are you sensing a trend here?).

While the Levin was primarily known for its innovative 20 valve, individual throttle body engine, and the Civic became famous for arriving in America in the form of an engine with the wiring harness hacked in half, the Cyborg R never achieved much beyond appearing in Gran Turismo. But at least it was cool. Not like the one that’s for sale right now.

Today’s Mirage is either a pur sang back-to-basics subcompact or the world car on sale today, depending on the biases of the journalist reviewing it. I think it would be a great basis for a grassroots Spec Racing series that would cost very little and provide, at the very least, marginal thrills. The production spec Mirage weighs 1,973 lbs in base trim with a manual transmission, or the same as a Lotus Elise, but it puts out just 74 horsepower and 74 lb-ft of torque from its 1.2L three-cylinder engine.

A freer flowing intake and exhaust system might bump up output by another 10 horsepower and 10 lb-ft, while stripping the car out for race duty should shave another 150 lbs or so out of the car. There is no real way to make these things fast while keeping costs down. Off the shelf suspension components and better brake pads might turn the car from a “jellyfish” (as one British magazine described the handling) into something tolerable. With any luck, the cars will lap as fast as an NB Miata, the ubiquitous, but slow entry-level track machine that everyone so politely describes as a “momentum car”. Think of it as a stepping stone to tin-top racing, one rung below B-Spec.

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Sunday Story: Corrupting the Youth http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/sunday-story-corrupting-the-youth/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/sunday-story-corrupting-the-youth/#comments Sun, 02 Feb 2014 14:00:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=707466 “Don’t be ridiculous, young lady. You need something SENSIBLE.” Jamie sat at the kitchen table, her head in her hands. Week 5 of the search for her first car had just dawned, and she was about ready to give in. Mother scowled as she scoured pans in the sink. This was all the fault of […]

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go_kart

“Don’t be ridiculous, young lady. You need something SENSIBLE.” Jamie sat at the kitchen table, her head in her hands. Week 5 of the search for her first car had just dawned, and she was about ready to give in.

Mother scowled as she scoured pans in the sink. This was all the fault of that wretched brother-in-law, Dan. Filling up her delicate baby girl’s head with GARBAGE, from the moment she could walk! The nerve of that grease-stained clown, spoiling her with all kinds of wretched mechanical excess! His help with Jamie was appreciated after Father’s untimely passing, but Uncle Dan’s idea of a good time made Mother pull her hair out. First it was the rides through the mud hole in that sky-high, cobbled-together death trap he casually referred to as “the Bronco.” Jamie would return home covered in dirt and giggling madly, throwing a royal tantrum when she was forced into the bath. Then, when Jamie was a little older, Uncle Dan seriously upped the ante. Dropping Jamie back off after another months-long summer vacation, he slyly hinted that her precious daughter was quite the talented racer. Mother demanded to know the context; go-carts were the answer. This, while horrifically dangerous and an enormity on many levels, was almost forgivable. She had known of other parents, devil-may-care types that would surely come to grief someday, who let their children pilot such contraptions at Magic Mountain. Then it emerged later that these go-carts were not of the rubber-covered, speed-limited variety, and that her daughter had been permitted to zip along at speeds nearing fifty miles an hour on an open track. THWUMP, went mother, as she fainted into the plush embrace of the carpet.

This emotional wallop wasn’t the last, though. Two summers ago, slimy Uncle Dan dropped Jamie off in his evil black Buick. He grinned sheepishly at Mother as Jamie bounded up the driveway, beaming. Then he drove off, the twin turbochargers hissing like snakes and the fat rear tires leaving ugly marks at the bottom of the driveway. With teenage boldness, Jamie proclaimed that she had piloted said machine down Uncle Dan’s nearby drag strip. A Youtube video was quickly produced as proof. There was Jamie, strapped into the five point harness, her helmet right-sized but fire suit comically overlarge. Mother watched that devil’s chariot vanish down the quarter mile. The signboard at the end flashed: one hundred and twenty-one miles per hour. Just a hair over eleven seconds. And the unmistakable cackle of Uncle Dan in the background. “Good girl,” he said. Mother wept her bitter tears, and vowed to reassert control.

Now was the time to lay down the hammer. Jamie had her own money, a cool forty-five hundred dollars. Those summer sessions as a helper in Uncle Dan’s hot dog truck had certainly been lucrative. It was enough cash for a gloriously ratty rolling wreck and the barest of minimum coverage. Uncle Dan could be counted on as a steady source of mechanical advice and assistance. But Mother did have the upper hand in one regard; all parking space privileges were her preserve. With no room on the street, Jamie was forced to comply. The first two of Mother’s ground rules were reasonable: disc brakes and seatbelts. Those could be found easily enough. Mother compromised on airbags, after Jamie showed her some suitably hysterical evening-news pieces on accidental deployments. But the last two rules were immovable, and hopelessly cruel: an automatic transmission, and a curb weight of at least two tons. Jamie threw an absolute fit, because she knew the aim of Mother’s game now: nip the enjoyment of driving, right in the bud. “Young lady, cars are appliances. They exist only to get you from point A to point B. I am not going to let you break your neck because you got some fool idea about driving over the speed limit in some tiny little car! You know that Uncle Dan went to jail for street racing once…” SLAM, went Jamie’s door, as she cut off the stream of unwanted advice from her parental unit. Tears wouldn’t help; what was to be done?

Flash forward, and Jamie was still struggling to eke any amount of fun out of the Sunday classifieds. Nothing but page after page of abused pickup trucks and underpowered CUVs in her price range. Jamie might have been satisfied with some used luxury, but nothing matched the price/weight combo. It was hopeless. Mother smiled; she could see the rebellious urges gradually disappearing in her daughter. Jamie lost focus, and daydreamed about trying to steer a whale onto a crowded freeway…

A ring on her phone snapped her out of it. Uncle Dan, to the rescue! He’d be by in a couple minutes. He had a lead on something Jamie would like, he said. Great! Mother was quite displeased, but she saw no way that Jamie could find something fun without breaking the rules. And if she broke the rules, there’d be no place to put her new toy. Mother let her run out the door to the waiting Buick, confident she still had the upper hand.

Within an hour, they were at the site of Uncle Dan’s promised killer deal. Jamie’s jaw dropped when the wizened old farmer pulled the tarp off the hulking shape. She and Uncle Dan busily inspected it. There was rust in the fenders, and a crack in the windshield. The paint was rather faded, and the interior smelled musty. Even so, the doors and trunk felt more solid than cars thirty years younger. The required equipment was there, thankfully: disc brakes, seatbelts, and an automatic. And the curb weight? It wasn’t even necessary to ask. Jamie opened the hood, and breathed a sigh of relief. The unobtanium power plant had long ago been ditched for a trusty Chevrolet small block. They gave it a jump, and it fired right up. She knew this car would handle like a boat, but the smile factor was well worth it. Even so, Jamie was afraid to hope. Surely, there was no way she could afford this thing! But the price was clear: four thousand dollars, and it was hers. Depreciation can be a good thing sometimes.  “What do you say?” the toothless agrarian chortled, waving a crumpled title in her face. “I’ll take it,” she grinned from behind the massive steering wheel.

Another hour later, and Jamie was back in the kitchen. She slapped her keys and the title of her new car grandly on the table. Mother strutted over primly. Her eyes boggled; this must be a joke. That title must be another one of Uncle Dan’s dastardly tricks! Jamie invited her disbelieving Mother to look out the window at the driveway. There, in all its faded glory, sat a 1978 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow II.

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PRI 2013: Midwest Supercub Wants to Mow Your Lawn at 90 MPH http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/pri-2013-midwest-supercub-wants-to-mow-your-lawn-at-90-mph/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/pri-2013-midwest-supercub-wants-to-mow-your-lawn-at-90-mph/#comments Fri, 20 Dec 2013 17:49:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=685106 One of the best things at PRI is a little room, tucked just off the main hall, that usually houses the first-time exhibitors or late entries. This year’s “new arrivals” included an outfit called Midwest Supercub and Midwest Supercub’s line of homemade, alcohol-burning, CNC-milled racing engines. For lawn tractors. You read that right, kids- Midwest […]

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Mid West Super Cub at PRI 2013

One of the best things at PRI is a little room, tucked just off the main hall, that usually houses the first-time exhibitors or late entries. This year’s “new arrivals” included an outfit called Midwest Supercub and Midwest Supercub’s line of homemade, alcohol-burning, CNC-milled racing engines. For lawn tractors.

You read that right, kids- Midwest Supercub offers a variety of parts to make your lawn tractor the all-out fastest and baddest lawn tractor money can buy. You can get a trick carb and exhaust kit for your stock Cub Cadet tractor, or go all-out with one of these …

Midwest Supercub Brute

… that’s a 90 ci, homebuilt engine called “the Brute”. It’s based on the Cub Cadet/Kohler Courage V-Twin architecture, but it’s all CNC’ed and awesome and puts out nearly 220 hp on high-grade ethanol, and bolts up to a reinforced, Midwest Supercub-built tractor transmission that feeds power to a shortened Dodge Dart rear axle.

Really.

The big take-away from all this is that these guys are serious about tractoring- and they have put a ton of serious, Serious brainpower, math, and money into making damn sure their tractor tractors better than your tractor tractors. Or something. I have to admit, I don’t really understand what this go-fast tractoring this is all about, but something inside my little gear head soul responds to it immediately. I must have one. Maybe two. I’ll let you know if that happens.

In the meantime, why don’t you tell us what you think of Midwest Supercub’s go-fast lawn equipment in the comments, below.

 

Midwest Super Cub

Midwest Super Cub

Midwest Super Cub

Original content from Gas 2.

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2015 Ford Mustang “Body in White” Coming w/ Ford 9″ Axle http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/2015-ford-mustang-body-in-white-coming-w-ford-9-axle/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/2015-ford-mustang-body-in-white-coming-w-ford-9-axle/#comments Tue, 17 Dec 2013 19:32:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=682578 I was there when Ford debuted its new-for-1999 Mustang Cobra with its “revolutionary” new independent rear suspension. The IRS was a first for the Ford Mustang, and it was a move that Ford’s brass believed would allow the “new edge” Cobra to compete with cars like the BMW M3 for supremacy in the budget super […]

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2015 Mustang

I was there when Ford debuted its new-for-1999 Mustang Cobra with its “revolutionary” new independent rear suspension. The IRS was a first for the Ford Mustang, and it was a move that Ford’s brass believed would allow the “new edge” Cobra to compete with cars like the BMW M3 for supremacy in the budget super car market. I also remember the very first question that was asked: Will a Ford 9″ bolt in? It was the first question, right out of the box … and it seems like someone at Ford remembers. The new-for-2015 Mustang is going to hit dealers with a new independent rear suspension late next year, and it seems like Ford Racing will have a 9″ live axle option ready.

According to a Ford Racing employee at PRI, the live-axle version of the 2015 Ford Mustang is expected to debut at next year’s PRI show as part of a new “body in white” program intended to attract serious racers to the platform. The body in white 2015 Mustang will also serve to take some of the shine off of bitter rival Chevrolet’s current COPO Camaro and body in white Camaro programs.

Once the live-axle 2015 Mustang racers are out “in the wild”, the parts needed to convert street-going Mustangs from independent rear suspensions to the 9″ setup should become available through Ford Racing and participating dealers. Back in 1999, SVT engineer Eric Zinkosky said the “new independent rear suspension (was packaged) in not only the same space as the solid-axle design, but we had to use the same suspension mounting points. We virtually ‘reverse-engineered’ the IRS from the known suspension hardpoints, and we had to keep everything inside the same box.” Assuming similar thinking went into the upcoming Ford Racing 9″ suspension for the bodies in white, getting a solid axle to help get a high-horsepower Ecoboost Mustang’s power down should be a lot easier than many have feared.

 

About my source: While I have opted to not give his name, this information came to me from a Ford Racing employee on-hand at the 2013 PRI Show yesterday, 12DEC2013, when I asked if I could look under the hood of the (supposedly) 4 cyl. Ecoboost Mustang spinning on the big lazy Susan at the Ford Racing stand. He said no. I told another PRI old-timer the story about the 1999 Cobra IRS reveal, which the Ford Racing rep overheard. He laughed and said, “Yeah, that’s not ’til next year. We’ll probably announce it at the same time as the body in white program …” but he got called away before he could say “That’s off the record.” Take that how you will.

 

Originally published on Gas 2.

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When Jaguar Roared http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/when-jaguar-roared/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/when-jaguar-roared/#comments Wed, 30 Oct 2013 20:59:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=638641 Under Indian ownership, Jaguar has descended into the sort of theme-park Engish-esque-ness that was once the exclusive property of MINI. A Britannia-flag F-Type-RS is surely just days away at the point as Tata sweats to polish the brand before the inevitable start of Asian assembly. Today’s Jags are interesting and characterful vehicles after a fashion, […]

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Mark0813JagXJSimage01

Under Indian ownership, Jaguar has descended into the sort of theme-park Engish-esque-ness that was once the exclusive property of MINI. A Britannia-flag F-Type-RS is surely just days away at the point as Tata sweats to polish the brand before the inevitable start of Asian assembly. Today’s Jags are interesting and characterful vehicles after a fashion, but as with many other brands, they are still relying on the glamor of a previous age to move the metal.

So let’s return to that age, when John Egan ruled the roost and the pennies were pinched properly and “heritage” was a concept honored mostly in the breach, not the observance.


Mark0813JagXJSimage08

Your humble E-I-C’s quixotic love for the Jaguar XJ-S is relatively well-known, or should be, but it’s worth noting that the XJ-S represented the best of the company as well as the worst. No, it was never fully sorted, and no, none of them ever ran particularly well, but it was a Jaguar in the proper sense: the most grace, space, and pace for the money, and forward-thinking with it. No retro foolishness, no harkening to a past era of glory. Better to have the glory now.

And with the help of Tom Walkinshaw — hell, because of Tom Walkinshaw — glory was had, in 55-gallon-drum quantities. One free car was all that Jaguar provided to begin with, and from that seed a race-winning tree sprouted. No, there’s nothing “classic” or “retro” about the cars you’ll see if you click the above link, but do you care? Of course not. The star-crossed big coupe caused its owners enough grief to last most of them a lifetime, but when it shone, it truly shone. Will those days ever return? Will Jaguar, under Tata ownership, ever shoot the moon for a super-aerodynamic, high-speed, high-drama coupe again? We can only hope.

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