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ALMS Wrap Up Pt.2: Best GT Season Ever Comes Down To The Last Corner

On: Fri, Oct 8, 2010 at 10:55AM | By: John Welch

ALMS Wrap Up Pt.2: Best GT Season Ever Comes Down To The Last Corner test 1-1

The LMP classes provided us with fewer thrills than we were hoping for at the 2010 Petit Le Mans, but this minor let down demonstrates the beauty of multi-class racing: the LMP race isn't the only race going on. There are also GT cars, and this year, many GT cars. By the end of 2008 GT1 had grown too expensive for its own good, reduced, in North America, to a near exhibition race between the two defacto-winners, Corvette Racing C6.Rs No.3 and No.4. By 2009 there wasn't even an Aston Martin DB9R racing in the ALMS, needless to say Saleens, Maseratis or Lamborghinis. GT1 had to go, and GT2 had to step up and fill the huge gap left by the massive engined, carbon-braked premier class. No problemo.

How does 6 manufacturers, all fielding two or more fully funded cars, sound? Maybe even a four-way points battle for all three championships: Drivers, Teams, and Manufacturer? You got it, and just for fun, that points battle came down to the last corner on the last lap. Purty dang exciting, especially considering some of the catastrophic accidents seen this season. Those BMWs have been rebuilt, what? Eight hundred times? Since March? Yeah, that sounds right . . .

The Petit Le Mans was a fitting end to a grueling season, the Corvette Racing ZR1s out for blood and everyone else just trying to survive to the 70% mark. Having never gone a season in ALMS competition without winning a race, things looked pretty bleak for the fledging GT2 squad coming into Road Atlanta. New engines and the associated teething problems that come with them have kept the yellow and black fiends out of the winner's circle for nine rounds; would their season end with heartbreak?

Risi Competitzione and BMW Rahal/Letterman enter Petit Le Mans determined to capture the Manufacturers title, while Porsche veterans Flying Lizard Motorsports attempt to use a relaxed strategy to ensure they get the Drivers title, then race balls out to the finish for the Manufacturers and the win. Endurance races have seemed like elongated sprints for the ALMS this season, and Petit would be no different. These cars and others duked it out for 1,000 kilometers and covered the holes in LMP excitement rather well. GTChallenge, a pro-am class made up of Porsche GT3 Cup cars, came down to the wire as well, and what of that silly 911 Hybrid deal? It lasted the entire race, and under different circumstances could have been very competitive. More on the stunning Porsche Hybrid, race results and recap inside the post.

Ford's Innovative Liquid-Cooled Battery System

On: Fri, Oct 8, 2010 at 9:33AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Ford's Innovative Liquid-Cooled Battery System test 1-1

The Ford Focus Electric debuts in the U.S. late next year and in Europe in 2012. The Focus will be powered by an advanced lithium-ion battery that employs heated and cooled liquid to help maximize battery life as well as all-electric-powered driving range. Focus Electric is one of five new electric vehicles that Ford plans to launch over the next several years in North America. The all-electric Ford vehicle will not use any gas and is expected to have a driving range of up to 100 miles.

According to Ford, “Thermal management of lithium-ion battery systems is critical to the success of all-electric vehicles because extreme temperatures can affect performance, reliability, safety and durability." Ford implemented an advanced active liquid-cooling and heating system to help control the temperature of the lithium-ion batteries which enables them to power the vehicle at optimal conditions in any temperature.

“All-electric vehicles do not have a conventional engine on board, so it is critical we maximize the performance of the battery under various operating temperatures,” said Sherif Marakby, Ford director, Electrification Program and Engineering. “Active liquid systems are more effective than air systems at regulating lithium-ion battery temperature, as a result, the active liquid system on Focus Electric will play a key role in providing our customers with the best performance possible."

Denny Hamlin Boosts Toyota's Sprint Cup Hopes

On: Fri, Oct 8, 2010 at 9:25AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Denny Hamlin Boosts Toyota's Sprint Cup Hopes  test 1-1

Denny Hamlin has reportedly signed through 2011 with Joe Gibbs Racing; although no official contract details are available, but it is widely believed Hamlin's contract looks like it is through at least 2011.

That the Joe Gibbs Racing driver is in NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup isn’t surprising—he’s qualified for the 10-race playoff for five consecutive years. That he’s leading the point standings? Well, that’s another matter. “It is a little different position than we’ve been in,” Hamlin admitted Friday. “Usually I’m at least 80 or 90 points behind when we get to this race right here.”

“And I’ve always felt like I had to make up points and then I would get even more frustrated if we lost more points to whoever the championship leader was at the time.” Toyota is seeking its first championship at NASCAR’s highest level and Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch are the only two Toyota representatives in the 12-driver Chase. After Sunday's race at Kansas, Hamlin who finished 12th, is currently second in the standings, eight points behind Jimmy Johnson. Busch, who finished 21st, is 80 points out.

Chevy Volt Gets New $500 Charger and Tax Breaks

On: Thu, Oct 7, 2010 at 3:41PM | By: Chris Weiss

Chevy Volt Gets New $500 Charger and Tax Breaks  test 1-1

The Chevy Volt has just gotten a whole lot cheaper. In Lansing, Michigan. The Lansing Board of Water and Light announced this week that it will offer Lansing residents a matching grant of up to $7,500, which will double the tax break offered by the federal government, cutting up to a full $15 grand off the Volt's base price. That means Lansing Volt buyers will have the opportunity to walk away from the Chevy dealership with a $26,000 Volt. Not only does Lansing's program double the overall incentive to buy a Volt, it pays right on the spot rather than in the form of a tax credit.

In other Volt news, Chevy announced a new 240-volt charger that will cost $490 and will cut charging time to four hours.

Lansing's program is limited to the first 25 plug-in buyers, so if you live in the city and want to buy a plug-in at some point in the near future, you'd best act fast. While the program applies to plug-ins in general, the Chevy Volt will hit the market long before the Nissan Leaf, so all 25 spots are likely to go to Volt buyers. However, the program allows for people buying Volts or other federally eligible plug-ins elsewhere and then moving them to the Lansing area for coverage under the program.

There are already at least 29 people signed up for the grant, confirming that it will be highly competitive. Lansing hopes to allocate more money to the program to expand it to more consumers.


Kia Details Its Pop Concept

On: Thu, Oct 7, 2010 at 3:36PM | By: Chris Weiss

Kia Details Its Pop Concept  test 1-1

Kia teased its Pop concept weeks ago. Until the Paris Motor Show commenced, we were limited in what we could tell you about it. We knew it was a distinctive, 2 + 1 urban commuter that looked like it came from another planet. But Kia was rather coy with the details of what exactly was behind those capsule-like doors. Once the company unveiled the concept in Paris, it came clean with the details.

Under that short, flat hood, Kia has a 50 kW electric motor powered by an 18 kWh lithium-polymer gel battery. The battery is smaller and lighter than more common lithium-ion packs.The combination powers the Pop up to 100 miles and takes about six hours for a full charge. The concept's top speed is given at 87 mph.

In creating the Pop concept, Kia sought to look far into the future and well beyond the auto market of today. In doing so, it took inspiration from outside sources like ultralight racing bicycles and gliders (and presumably insects and sci-fi-derived spacecraft). The designers aimed to make something resembling a nucleas or "wild atom," and indeed, the Pop does give the appearence of the smallest possible unit of automotive technology, though it's actually slightly longer than cars like the Smart ForTwo.

Saab Returns to Mexico, China, and Russia in 2011

On: Thu, Oct 7, 2010 at 3:27PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Saab Returns to Mexico, China, and Russia in 2011 test 1-1

Saab Automobile, the Swedish carmaker owned by Spyker Cars NV, plans to start selling cars in China, Russia, Brazil, and Mexico in the first half of next year, according to SAAB sales chief, Adrian Hallmark. Saab is negotiating with potential distributers in the four countries and has set a goal to reach agreements by the end of the year, Hallmark said late yesterday.

"In the next two years the new markets will not materially change our performance volume-wise, but in the next five years I believe they will fundamentally change our performance,” Hallmark said. The export of Saab to China and Russia was put on hold during the economic crisis in 2008 and recently Saab has decided to revisit plans for exporting its vehicels to foriegn markets again.

Hallmark stated that Saab “intends to become profitable by 2012. While the company is now focusing on re-establishing itself in the U.S. and Europe, growth markets such as China will be key to its long-term success.”

First Chance at 2011 Camaro Convertible Comes in Neiman Marcus Christmas Book

On: Thu, Oct 7, 2010 at 3:17PM | By: Chris Weiss

First Chance at 2011 Camaro Convertible Comes in Neiman Marcus Christmas Book  test 1-1

The Chevy Camaro Convertible will hit the market in the first quarter of next year with a base price of $30,000. That's for us regular muscle drop-top lovin' folks. If you happen to have the funds to be able to invest more than double in an exclusive Camaro SS Convertible, you'll be able to place your order in a few short weeks. Neiman Marcus Christmas Book, a unique holiday catalog for the wealthy, hard to buy for, and jaded will offer the market's first Camaro Convertible beginning later this month. Not only will Neiman customers get to be the first to order the convertible Camaro, they'll be treated to a model with luxurious accents inside and out.

The most compelling part about the limited edition Camaro SS Convertible is that it features a unique, Deep Bordeaux metallic paint that actually changes tint depending upon the light outside. Under low light conditions, it appears to be nearly black, but as it gets brighter outside, the car's deep red undertones begin to pop. "Ghosted" racing stripes help to bring the look home.

Inside, the model gets a variety of leather, Deep Bordeaux, and amber accents to separate it from those average Camaro SS Convertibles that will be hitting the masses next year. It features amber leather seats, black leather side panels, and red accents on the steering wheel and shifter.

Mechanically, the Neiman Marcus Camaro is indistinguishable from the regular Camaro SS Convertible. It features a 6.2-liter V8 engine worth up to 426 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque. That powerplant can be paired with either a six-speed automatic or six-speed manual.

Redial 911!

On: Thu, Oct 7, 2010 at 11:21AM | By: Lou Ruggieri

Redial 911! test 1-1

Over the last fifty years, fewer cars have done more and less to improve their flagship model than Porsche has with its 911. The technological advancements have been astounding: going from air to water cooling, adding turbos, more turbos, transmissions that house four, five, six, and even seven speeds that vary in mode from the traditional manual, to semi-automatic, to full automatic, all while steadily improving horsepower numbers. However, it takes a keen eye to visually distinguish a 385hp 911 from a 620hp monster. This is because Porsche has done almost nothing to change the basic appearance of the 911 since its inception back in 1963.

For 2011 Porsche has decided to unveil another version of the all too familiar shaped model:  The Carrera GTS

Set to make its official debut at the Paris motor show, the new GTS is rationalized by Porsche as fitting the gap between the current 385hp Carrera S and the 435hp GT3, which it does almost perfectly by producing 408hp (a perfect split would be 410hp for the record) and an identical torque peak 310lb-ft as the Carrera S, but coming in at 4200 rpm as opposed to the S’s 4400 rpm from the same 3.8 liter horizontally opposed boxer six. Driver’s choice of transmission is either a standard six-speed manual or a paddle-shifted, seven-speed PDK dual-clutch unit. Fuel mileage remains unchanged from the Carrera S’s 18/25 city/highway mpg.  

New Website Allows Users To Customize Their Dream Mustang

On: Thu, Oct 7, 2010 at 10:57AM | By: Sherry Christiansen

New Website Allows Users To Customize Their Dream Mustang test 1-1

Ford has a new customizable website that allows users to create the Mustang of their dreams! The site is fun and easy to use. You can select aftermarket kits and parts, and change colors, “determining the intensity of your burnout cloud,” according to Ford News.com—you can see all of the changes instantly on your computer screen and then order your customized Mustang parts online.

There are hundreds of items such as Mustang wind-guard, side strip kits, GT aluminum wheels, Mustang wing and winglet, side skirts and door panel fillers, rear fascia with dual exhaust openings, and more. Mustang owners can even choose from a variety of custom decals for their Mustang. Some of the accessories available on the online application include wheels, deck lids, spoilers and grilles, and more. Within minutes, 10 completely different looks can be created with price quotes, or you can even create a picture for wallpaper to use on your computer desktop.

There are a vast number of customizable sites out there, but the 2010 Ford Mustang customizer sets itself apart, largely because it goes beyond a linear build and price experience that most sites focus on. The site was created by the Wunderman Team in Detroit.— Ford focused on how to make the experience of creating your dream Mustang really fun.

Big Changes In 2012 For Rolex Grand Am Series

On: Thu, Oct 7, 2010 at 10:35AM | By: John Welch

Big Changes In 2012 For Rolex Grand Am Series test 1-1

The AutoShopper Blog has been religious in our coverage of two of North America's premier road racing series, The American Le Mans Series and the Rolex Grand Am Series. We covered the changes in the ALMS in previous posts, but have only just now had some light shed on the changes for Grand Am, which we will see in 2012. The ALMS is getting smaller, LMP1 is going to downsize to LMP2-size power plants, and LMP2 is going to switch to straight-up production-based engines such as Ford's EcoBoost V6. The prototypes will all get slightly smaller, and there is a new "big honking fin" that will be added to the engine cover of all LMPs in an attempt to prevent blow-over type accidents. Grand Am solved that problem in 2003 by implementing an enormous cockpit and huge side pods on all Daytona Prototype chassis. These features have worn out their welcome, the DP chassis design has proven to be a safe one, and now it's time to let the engine manufacturers loose on the DP's bodywork, effectively clearing the way for Daytona Prototypes that closely resemble the design language used by their engine providers.

Before 2012 I would have recognized the Krohn DP as a Ford/Lola, whereas a layman wouldn't have had any idea what they were looking at. Hopefully, for the 2012 season, everyone, from veteran fans to the freshly initiated, will be able to recognize this car as a FORD. The Ganassi Rileys will be obvious BMWs, and GM-powered cars will be unmistakable as one Chevrolet sports car or another.
The GT field will change as well. Realizing the need for higher car counts and greater variety, Grand Am is already allowing GT3 Audi R8 machines in for next season, and will hopefully expand that rule to all FIA GT3 machines. Grand Am is not forgetting its current GT teams either; currently they are working on a rules set that will allow the GT3 cars and the current crop of Production 1 (road cars like the Corvette) and Production 2 (tube frame Riley chassis like the Mazda RX8 and Chevy Camaro) to race under the same classification.

Despite a disturbing economic climate that is supposedly ruining racing as we know it, it is an exciting time for the two best professional series in the world, and Grand Am isn't resting on their success. 2012 looks to be an incredible season for the Rolex Series.

2011 Hyundai Sonata and BMW 5 Series Get 5-Star Crash Ratings Under NHTSA's Stricter Testing

On: Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 4:47PM | By: Chris Weiss

2011 Hyundai Sonata and BMW 5 Series Get 5-Star Crash Ratings Under NHTSA's Stricter Testing test 1-1

Over the summer, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that it was implementing stricter crash testing procedures for the 2011 model year. The new system includes a single, multi-star rating for the first time, and initial test results indicate that only two cars will occupy the top, 5-star slot: the 2011 Hyundai Sonata and the 2011 BMW 5 Series.

The 5-star rating reflects the newly implemented "Overall Vehicle Score," which combines frontal crash testing, side crash testing, and rollover resistance testing. The testing procedures are more rigorous under the NHTSA's revised procedures. In addition to the new overall score, NHTSA's rating procedure now incorporates a new side pole crash test, includes weighting based upon crash-prevention technologies like electronic stability control, and uses female crash test dummies for the first time.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said of the new procedures: “With our upgraded Five-Star Safety Ratings System, we’re raising the bar on safety. Through new tests, better crash data, and higher standards, we are making the safety ratings tougher and more meaningful for consumers.”

Initially, the BMW 5 Series stood alone in the 5-star category, but Hyundai asked that the NHTSA retest the Sonata, which was originally given a 4-star rating. Upon the second testing, the NHTSA agreed with Hyundai that the Sonata is 5-star material.