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Throughout The Car Industry



Categories: Videos

Ganassi/BMW Dominates Sahlens 6 Hours

On: Mon, Jun 7, 2010 at 1:09PM | By: John Welch


Ganassi/BMW Dominates Sahlens 6 Hours test 1-1

Though we are in the midst of six straight weeks of televised Grand Am, this past weekend's Sahlens 6 Hours of the Glen puts a cap on the busiest week of the season. On Monday the teams practiced, qualified, and then raced at Lime Rock, Connecticut. Four days later they did the same at Watkins Glen New York, only this race was six hours long. Brutal.

The Telmex/Ganassi team ran afoul of the Gainsco Chevrolet on the first lap at Lime Rock. Front bodywork smashed to pieces, they were forced to park the car and watch the Lime Rock race from the pits. That incident lit the proverbial fire under the Tlmex team's collective asses, and they returned this weekend ready to conquer all comers at the Sahlens 6 Hours.

Conquer they did; Scott Pruett turned a blistering lap in qualifying, giving the Ganassi BMW the pole by a full second over the Gainsco car. The race played out in about the same fashion; the No. 01 TELMEX BMW Riley scoring its third consecutive victory in the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen. The Ganassi team's biggest rival throughout the race was the No. 99 GAINSCO Chevrolet Riley of Jon Fogarty, Alex Gurney, and four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson. The two teams combined to lead 179 laps. Gurney was gaining on the Bimmer from third position, but spun out his Chevrolet with 15 minutes remaining, resulting in a sixth-place finish. "This was probably the best the GAINSCO Auto Insurance car ever has been at Watkins Glen," said Fogarty, who drove the opening three hours, seven minutes of the race before turning the car over to Johnson. The reigning NASCAR champion ran second behind Rojas for his entire hour behind the wheel.


Two Races In Four Days: Grand (Am) Insanity

On: Fri, Jun 4, 2010 at 3:38PM | By: John Welch


Two Races In Four Days: Grand (Am) Insanity test 1-1

Last week, the race was at Lime Rock, this week Watkins Glen. Using the word "week" to describe Grand-Am's recent schedule is a wee bit excessive. The Lime Rock portion of this cavalcade of road racing madness took place last Monday, Memorial Day. While the rest of us ate pork and drank Schlitz, Rolex Sports Car teams were dueling each other on a new (to Grand-Am) circuit. Afterwards, while we were faking sleep on the couch to avoid dishes, these teams were driving 18-wheelers filled with racecars and race paraphernalia north, to Watkins Glen New York. Where, after just four short days, they will unload and begin terrorizing the Catskills countryside with the sounds and tremors of 40 angry, dinosaur-fueled sports cars. Almost makes a person forget about that whole "oil spill" thingee. Almost.

Though domination by the Ganassi BMWs was every knowledgeable know-nothing's prediction (yours truly included) the blue and white Riley was crippled two laps into the race—the outcome of a scuffle with the championship-contending No. 99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Chevrolet. This incident left the door open for the SunTrust/Wayne Taylor Racing team, who were starting the race from the pole position. Max Angelli drove a smooth race and brought the SunTrust Dallara its first victory of the season.

A video review of Lime Rock and a preview of the Sahlens 6 Hours at the Glen inside the post . . .


Mercury To Officially Shut Down In Fourth Quarter

On: Thu, Jun 3, 2010 at 11:10AM | By: John Welch


Mercury Marauder Convertible Concept test 2

Ding Dong, The Flying Shoes Guy Is Dead. He wasn't necessarily 'wicked', but he was very old. Seventy-one, to be exact.

Mercury production will end in the fourth quarter of 2010, putting an end to yet another erroneous American auto brand. The final decision to kill Mercury was made this week and approved by Ford's board yesterday, said Mark Fields, Ford's president of the Americas. Ending Mercury production has been a topic of board discussions for some time now, but the final decision was made during Ford's annual spring business and product review. According to Fields, most Mercury customers cross-shop Ford products, and there is no reason to continue allowing divisions to cannibalize each other’s sales. This concept follows the industry trend; Buicks are currently being marketed to me, not my grandfather. The industry is attempting to reinvent itself, and Mercury doesn't fit into Ford's reinvention. "This allows us to put 100 percent of our resources into Ford and Lincoln," Fields said.

Ed Tonkin, chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association, made it clear that Mercury will be missed. "It's a sad day," said Tonkin, who also commented on the NADA's Mercury-Death stance. “Ford also needs to move quickly to take into account the millions of dollars that dealers have invested in facilities, equipment, personnel and training. They deserve fair compensation.”

“The NADA's concern is that Ford treats each of its Mercury dealers fairly and equitably,” he said, “especially the 276 of whom sell Lincoln and Mercury exclusively.”

Fields is way ahead of ya there, Mr. Tonkin. Ford will offer special incentives to move Mercury vehicles this summer. Fields says he expects most of the Mercury inventory to be sold off by the end of this year.

And just in case we weren't already convinced that there is competent leadership working in Dearborn, there is this little tid-bit: there will be no job cuts resulting from the demise of Mercury. Ford will redeploy any Mercury personnel to the Lincoln brand.


The BMW 5-Series Gran Turismo

On: Mon, May 31, 2010 at 10:24AM | By: Sherry Christiansen


The BMW 5-Series Gran Turismo test 1-1

BMW is well known for producing luxury sports sedans and the BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo is no exception. The Gran Turismo combines the precision handling of the 5-Series sport sedan with a hatchback body style that adds plenty of cargo space for passengers and their gear. At first glance, this car resembles a cross between the X6 and a BMW 7 Series sedan. The Gran Turismo shares much of its engineering with the 7-series that BMW launched last year as well as the 2010 5-series.

According to BMW, the car combines “the best attributes of an elegant sedan, a contemporary Sports Activity Vehicle and a classic Gran Turismo" (a Gran Turismo is a vehicle with the performance of a sports-car with luxury features and added cargo space). The 550i's twin-turbo direct-injected 4.4-liter V-8 puts out 400 hp and 450 lb.-ft. of torque. Combined with an 8-speed automatic transmission, the car can go from 0-60 mph in as little as 5.4 seconds.


 

Feds to Green Automakers: Your Cars Are Too Quiet!

On: Fri, May 28, 2010 at 3:10PM | By: Michael Jon Lazar


Quiet Cars test 2

It seems that the world of autos and cars has been changed forever with the advent of hybrid cars, ‘green’ cars, solar cars, and electric cars alike. Now these cars finally are falling to normal price levels, comparable to not-so-‘green’ cars. 'Green' vehicles are finally being manufactured by tons of automakers, and this market is ever so quickly expanding. As the world makes more demands on automakers to rise to the challenges of combating global warming, there is yet another hurdle that is being presented to green vehicles by the US government (and others): Apparently, they are too quiet!

Before I delve into this, let us first recognize one thing: the Feds, and most countries, have forever and a day, to be exact, vied for cleaner and more fuel-efficient and less emission-producing cars. But now, these cars drive so quietly and smoothly that governments are actually considering passing what they will call the Auto Safety Bill. This bill, in essence, would require the makers of such green cars to provide some sort of alert noise whenever, say, a pedestrian is nearby—so that they are safer on the roads.

But this is not a bad thing. No way. For sure, a smooth and quiet ride is very desirable to most consumers and has forever been a mainstay in the marketing of many different cars. However, did we really think that we would ever see the day when technology has them running so quietly that there are now bills being enacted into law to regulate that lack of noise? The last time I checked, they were passing bills for quite the opposite reasons—mostly by city and region—laws that would limit how loud a motorcycle could be, for example. In the area of auto safety, however, something is often overlooked: the street-side pedestrian. So this new bill is actually a good thing, if you ask me.


The BMW Z4 E89

On: Fri, May 28, 2010 at 2:54PM | By: Sherry Christiansen


The BMW Z4 E89 test 1-1

The new BMW Z4 E89 offers the pleasure of a roadster with the style and finesse that could only come from BMW.  With the seating position moved close to the rear axle, retractable hardtop, and traditional Roadster dimensions, pure driving pleasure are the only words to describe this classic roadster comeback. The car’s modern classic look was created from its flowing lines, the long and low-slung engine compartment lid, short overhangs, the long wheelbase and large wheels, and the low seating position as well.


This outstanding two-seater BMW Z4 E89 offers a unique combination of sophistication, speed and luxury. The two-piece lightweight hardtop comes to rest in the roof compartment, saving maximum space in the process. Even with the roof closed, the new Z4 retains the proportions typical of a genuine roadster.


Grand Am Gears Up For Busiest Week Of The Season

On: Fri, May 28, 2010 at 11:26AM | By: John Welch


Grand Am Gears Up For Busiest Week Of The Season test 1-1

After four weeks of heel cooling and relaxation, the Grand-Am Series revs back up this weekend, at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut. The Lime Rock circuit has never hosted a Grand-Am event; series regulars are excited about the opportunity to race at the historic venue. Scott Pruett, Ganassi/BMW Racing driver: "I feel it's going to be a unique opportunity for everyone. It's a one-day event, which means as a team you have to be ready to roll right when you come off the truck - and the Ganassi team continually shows a lot of ability in that respect."

How’s this for a crammed schedule: The teams practice, qualify and race on Monday. After the race, they will pack up and head straight to New York for the Sahlens 6 Hour at Watkins Glen. The next weekend. Yikes.

That race, a six-hour endurance race at the famed Watkins Glen course, will feature star power in the form of Hendrick Motorsport's Jimmie Johnson. More on that next week; right now we are focusing on the Connecticut farmland and Lime Rock Park. This race at the 1.5 mile Lime Rock circuit will be a one-day event. Practice begins at 9 a.m. ET, with qualifying at 11:55 a.m. and the green flag waving around 2 p.m.


Sweet New McLaren on the Way: MP4-12C

On: Mon, May 24, 2010 at 11:29AM | By: Michael Jon Lazar


McLaren MP4-12C test 2

If you love Formula 1 racing cars, there is a good chance you know about Ron Dennis. This is the man who essentially became the head of operations for the McLaren Formula 1 racing staff nearly three decades ago. Now, he is setting up his own operations to manufacture what he calls the “Expensive Swiss watch of luxury cars". Indeed, one look (skip to photos) at this fancy, sleek & sporty car will make you say Awesome. However, this does make one ponder such questions like, how much does it cost? What are the features and specs? Where is it being made? And when will it be on the market for sale in the US?

As to why he (Dennis) has plans for making a street version of these very popular racing cars, in an interview with BBC News he answered that question, where he states, “We are exposing our brand through going motor racing.”

He further adds in the BBC interview, “It shows off our technology. We make no secret of the fact that we want to take technology that we've developed in F1 and bring that into our production cars.”

The creation of the estimated £40m (around sixty some-odd million dollars US) manufacturing plant will create at least three hundred jobs in the small and homey town where Dennis grew up, Surrey (UK). Aside from this model, which the company plans on launching sometime in 2011, they also have plans to make a vast array of other related sports cars over the next decade. So one would have a good mind to think that there are some cool innovations yet to come from Dennis’ line of luxury cars.


The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly: Six Hours In Monterey

On: Fri, May 21, 2010 at 3:51PM | By: John Welch


The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly: Six Hours In Monterey test 1-1

We haven't enjoyed an American Le Mans Series race since the weekend of April 18th, when the ALMS parade put on an excellent show in Long Beach. That race was won on a last lap pass, an astounding move by Simon Pagenuad in his formally LMP2 ARX-01c. Remember, the Le Mans Prototype classes have been combined this season. Performance equalizers have been put in place to ensure fierce, competitive racing between the powerful, heavy LMP1s and the nimble but less powerful LMP2s. The car Pagenaud dusted off for the win, Adrian Fernandez's Lola/Aston Martin, is powered by a 6 liter V12. Pagenaud's Acura sports a tiny, wheezing HPD (Honda Performance Development) V8. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand the advantage the Aston might have over the Acura. This sort of competitive parity is found only in the ALMS (the European Le Mans Series still separates LMP1 and 2) and it makes for some fantastic finishes.

As far as the points battles are concerned, 2010 is a stellar year for fans of razor-thin margins. Two, I repeat, TWO of the four classes are tied at the top, and these classes just happen to be the two top classes—LMP and GT. In LMP there are eight teams within ten points of each other. The ALMS proves time and time again that its formula for parity is unrivaled in top-level motorsports the world over.

There are no European teams competeing in the Monterey Grand Prix this weekend, which is a significant disappointment. That means the Audi drought continues and no oil-buring French-Lions. For the first time this season there will be no Prodrive/Gulf/Lola/Aston-Martin prototype to lust after. I think the embassment of being defeated by an inferior marque/car may have put the gorgeous AMR Lola back in Europe for good. I sure hope not; that thing is baby-blue candy-coated sex on wheels and it would hurt me deeply if I was never given the opportunity to hear its twelve-cylinder siren song again . . .

Stupid CBS and your stupid delayed programming. The Monterey Grand Prix takes place this weekend, but will not be seen on television until May 29th. Let's be honest, if this is the only "Ugly" thing I can find to gripe about then the ALMS must really kick ass. Seriously, the ALMS absolutely flattens ass and then rearranges ass's molecules. Throws ass in the dryer right after wringing ass's neck. Beats ass with ass's own sister. Tases ass while curb stomping ass. You get the picture. The American Le Mans Series is pretty sweet.


The New Car-Based Ford Explorer

On: Thu, May 20, 2010 at 4:12PM | By: Sherry Christiansen


The New Car-Based Ford Explorer test 1-1

The new re-designed Ford Explorer crossover (concept version pictured) is scheduled to arrive at dealerships later this year. Many advocates of the Explorer want to know if the SUV-turned-crossover will have the same level of ruggedness and towing capacity when it gets built on a car chassis instead of a truck.

Ford plans to continue marketing the Explorer as an SUV even after the redesign project. Aaron Bragman, automotive analyst responded: "They can call it whatever they like. It's built on a Taurus platform, so it is actually a crossover."

Analysts believe that the new Explorer (which hasn't even been seen by the public yet) will probably not meet the expectations of Ford's SUV customers.  Some believe that the new Explorer may be competition for other Ford Crossovers such as the Ford Flex, which has not been a great hit for Ford so far.

The present model Explorer has seen a sales increase of 41% and, so far this year, has outsold the Flex (the Flex saw a sales increase of only 16% this year).

Ford is hoping that the new Explorer will be a hit with a different type of consumer, possibly a car buyer with a large family. The new Explorer will be a seven passenger vehicle with three rows of seats, just like the Flex. Ford reports that 70% of current Explorer buyers already select the extra row of seats which indicates to the company that they may be interested in the three row crossover conversion of the Explorer.

"When you see it, you know it's a Ford, you will know it is an SUV, and you will know it's a very modern interpretation of our Explorer," according to Jim Holland, Ford’s engineer in charge of the redesign project.


Americans Impress At Nurburing 24

On: Wed, May 19, 2010 at 1:51PM | By: John Welch


Farnbacher Ferrari F430 test 2

Too bad we don't have any serious endurance races here in America. Shyeah, Sebring is a rough track, and the race is 12 hours. Right, Petit Le Mans is a thousand kilometers and takes place near crummy 'ole Atlanta, but that really isn't that bad either. There are plenty of amateur 24-hour events, but the Daytona 24 is the only true 'round the clock race . . . even it is contained inside the cushy confines of Daytona International Speedway. Which translates to: almost zero elevation change . . .

No, by "serious endurance race" I mean 24 hours, hundreds of feet of elevation change, 220 participants and thousands of ess-faced Germans trying to scrawl dirty limericks on the actual racing surface with sidewalk chalk . . . while people are racing! And did I mention that this racing surface is nearly 16 miles in length? The Nordschilfe makes Sebring, at a little more then 4 and a half miles, almost seem small! That is the reputation that comes with being the mightiest race track in the world; The Nurburing Nordschilfe.

The annual ADAC Nurburing 24 was held last weekend, and the over-all victory went to a factory BMW very similar to the Rahal/Letterman M3 GT2s campaigned in the American Le Mans Series. More interesting to us, as Americans, are the Grand-Am regulars who scored class victories at the storied event. Leh Keen, driver of the No. 41 Team Seattle/Global Diving/Dempsey Racing Mazda RX-8 GT in the Grand-Am Series was able to capture first in the SP7 class. His No. 43 Hankook Ferrari F430 GT was the only car able to mount a challenge against the race-winning BMW towards the close end of the event. Shane Lewis, a common sight at Grand-Am races, was able to bring his No. 70 Gotz Motorsport Audi RS4 to the flag, first in the SP 8T class for big-bore touring cars.