Ask The Best And Brightest: Should GM Cut Motorsports?
With GM slashing wildly at any line items that aren't nailed down, how much of its precious cash will The General remove from its motorsports budget? The Car Connection poses the question based on the following choice snippet from Rick Wagoner's latest fireside chat o' doom: "We will implement significant reductions in promotional and event budgets, motor sports activities and back-office expenses." To be perfectly honest, cutting motorsport makes a lot of sense right now. After all, they're not winning many NASCAR races and TV ratings have been in decline for two straight years (although there's been some writers-strike rebound this year). So if GM's woes are based (even partially) on a lack of fuel-efficient vehicles, can you win on Sunday and sell on Monday when gas is over $4 per gallon? I'd hope GM will cut almost all of its motorsport to focus on the only product that even remotely relies on racing credibility: Corvettes in GT racing. Your thoughts?
Race on Sunday, sell on Monday hasn't been true for decades. I vote for pulling out 100%. The vast majority of GM's racing investment is in Nascar, where the technology hasn't applied to real world cars in ... forever. Nascar used to have Stock Car in it's name and once upon a time the cars on the track had much in common with their cousins in the showroom. Today, not even a little. What does a v-8 powered, carburetted, rear wheel drive race car have in common with a Ford Fusion or Chevrolet Impala? Absolutely nothing. Zip. Nada. Check out the side by side picture of a real truck and a Nascar "truck": http://i2.cdn.turner.com/nascar/2008/news/features/05/20/inside.research.development.center/trucks.510.jpg
I say race factory cars that way you can learn from them, have a lot of different opinions and apply lessons to newer models.
A lot of what is learned from racing is in the form of development tools, largely simulation software for engines, aerodynamics, and tires. If you can model an F1 car with a 20,000 rpm redline and a 200 mph top speed you can apply these computer models to the family sedan. Much can be said for on-board sensor technology as well. There are also trends where things are developed by the aeronautics industry, pass through auto racing, and make it to the family car. Disk brakes, supercharges, and multiple valves per cylinder are all examples. Disk brakes: from WWII aircraft, to Jaguars at Lemans in the early 1950s, to the Austin-Healy 100S the first car with disks at all for corners, to most cars today.