How I'd Beat Maximum Bob

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth

It looks like the American taxpayer is going to be stuck with the bill for another unpopular struggle in the sand. This time, however, the “insurgents” don’t stand a chance. General Motors and Bob Lutz have cherrypicked the opponent for their CTS-V track showdown. Not only is Wes Siler a novice-level racetrack driver (and, I would add, a very charming fellow), the C63 AMG is far too short on power and tire to run head-to-head with Cadillac’s supersedan. Mr. Farago has informed me that General Motors will absolutely not permit TTAC to join the party. That’s a shame because I could win this race-that-isn’t. Here’s how.

In a wheel-to-wheel contest, I would take the inside line into Turn Two, abandon all pretense of making a clean pass, track out to the exit curb while matching Lutz’s speed on the brakes, and run the old man into the dirt at eighty miles per hour. Race won. We will assume, however, that this “race” will actually be a single timed lap from a rolling start.

Only a fool would agree to let Bob bring his own CTS-V. At a minimum, such a car would have a competition alignment, a blueprinted engine, and a rather enthusiastically-tuned ECU. Instead, I would insist on bringing a car from random dealer stock and observing GM’s final prep of the vehicle. When the event’s over, it could be returned under the General’s 60-day guarantee.

With a modicum of fairness assured, it would be time to choose and prep TTAC’s challenger. (That’s “challenger” with a small “c”; not only is the big Mopar a two-door and thus ineligible for this particular dog-and-pony show, it wouldn’t stand a chance.) We’re starting behind the eight-ball here, because the CTS-V very probably is faster around most racetracks than any other production sedan sold in this country. We need to come close enough for preparation and ability to close the gap.

We’ll begin by focusing on the three major factors that affect racetrack performance in otherwise similar cars: power-to-weight, tire width, and driveline layout.

The CTS-V generates 556 horsepower to push 4220 pounds, for a power-to-weight ratio of .131 hp/lb. It has exceptionally wide tires for the class at 255/40-19 front and 285/35-19 rear. With just these numbers, we can expect that Mr. Siler’s C63, which has 451 horsepower for 3920 pounds (.115 hp/lb) and tires which are 30mm narrower both front and rear, will find it impossible to keep up. The C63 also has a torque-converter automatic, which absorbs some of the engine’s power.

Given the chance, I would bring a 2010 BMW M5. The Bimmer offers 507 horsepower and a curb weight of 4012 pounds (.126 hp/lb). This is a non-trivial disadvantage, and the situation is worse than it sounds because acceleration above about 100mph is more a function of total horsepower and aero than power-to-weight. Much of Laguna Seca amounts to a series of drag races, and we’ll be playing catch-up.

To stay in the game, we will have to out-handle the Caddy by a significant margin. The M5 has exactly the same tire size as the Cadillac, which helps, and it has BMW’s usual 50/50-ish weight distribution. Still, that’s not enough. With equal drivers, in an equal situation, the CTS-V is still likely to come up on top.

The BMW does have one critical advantage: the SMG transmission. It’s garbage on the street, but around a racetrack, SMG is priceless. Not only does it eliminate shifting mistakes, which is useful in a high-pressure, single-lap situation, it allows us to left-foot brake for the entire track. Left-foot-braking can be worth up to a second a lap, which would go a long way towards fixing our power deficiency.

We can also prepare the car a bit. “Crash bolts” in the M5’s MacPherson struts will give us some camber to address the typical BMW understeer issues. A few minutes with an angle grinder can provide even more. We can put the best possible 140-or-higher treadwear tires on the car. We’ll align the car aggressively with plenty of toe-out in the rear wheels to aid rotation.

All of the above brings us close to winning. The rest has to be done at the track.

We’ll run the car for a few days at Seca and test alignment settings while preparing to drive as close to a perfect lap as possible. On the day of the event, we will load a Traqmate with our best lap and set it to “qualifying mode” to provide continuous real-time comparison with that lap. We will insist that Lutz drives first, which lets us know how hard we’ll have to run compared to our ideal lap. If he’s slow, we can use caution. If he’s fast . . . well, at that point it will be time for me to earn the Raikkonnen-esque salary Mr. Farago pays me.

Anything can happen once the flag waves, but I will say this: a bet on TTAC to win the “CTS-V Challenge” is a better one than the American taxpayer is making on GM.

Jack Baruth
Jack Baruth

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  • Akear I am counting the days when Barra retires. She has been one long nightmare for GM. People don't realize the Malibu outsells all GM EVs combined.
  • Redapple2 you say; most car reviewers would place it behind the segment stalwarts from Honda and Toyota,........................... ME: Always so. Every single day since the Accord / Camry introduction.
  • Akear GM sells only 3000 Hummer EVs annually. It is probably the worst selling vehicle in GM history.
  • Amwhalbi I agree, Ajla. This is theory, not reality - hence my comment that Americans don't like hatchbacks. But one of my neighbors bought one of the last Regal hatchbacks that were available for sae, and it is a darn nice car. I still think the idea makes sense, even if history is proving me wrong. And my sister does have a Legacy, which rides a bit higher than my Sonata, and that also is an excellent driver. Even if the general public doesn't concur with me.
  • Hermaphroditolog The tycoons and Nazis hid the IMPLOSION ICEs and propagated the compression ICEs to consumers.GEET engines are more IMPLOSION than compression. Also the ICEs of the Shell-ecomarathon. Classic hot-bulb ICEs are more IMPLOSION than compression - Ford assembly lines do not accept to produce tractors with these simple ICEs.