Saturday, December 29, 2007

Who needs race cars...

Racing improves the breed... Sometimes it to the point of irony. Ever since GM decided to take the fifth-gen Corvette racing, fans have been treated to a stunning series of victories. Most notably, the Corvette C5R and C6R won in class at Le Mans five times in six years. A stunning success by any measure.
So, if racing truly does better the breed, then one might be expecting some significant results by now. Well the results are in and it appears that something is working right with the Corvette engineering team. Whether it's the racing effort, the market demand, or just a little rivalry with the Dodge's Viper, something has inspired the engineers to let loose with a high performance Corvette variant that puts the C6R race car in it's place. You read that right. The new Corvette ZR1 actually boasts higher power output than it's racing sibling. Chevrolet Racing claims the C6R produces approximately 590 HP when they take it racing in ALMS. The new ZR1 promises "at least 620 HP" thanks to a new 6.2 liter supercharged V8. How can it be that the race car is out powered by the street-going little brother? We can thank regulations in ALMS and other race series which specify the maximum inlet diameter on each car's engine. The C6R is forced to breath through two inlets that are each about the size of a half dollar. The ZR1 on the other hand can use whatever size inlets the engineers specify. And of course there's that supercharger. As one would expect, engine is just part of the story. The ZR1 has more go-fast, stop-fast, and turn-right-freakin-now equipment than you can shake a stick at. All of this is allegedly going to cost about $100,000 - or about 2/5 the price of a Ferrari 599 GTB.
So there you have it. The question of the day is this: If 590 HP is enough to win Le Mans, what are all those Corvette driver's with 620 HP going to do?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Z-06? ZR-1? C6RS!

Chevrolet Corvette C6RS
Anyone holding their breath for the much-anticipated Corvette ZR-1 can exhale.

For a small fee of $225,000, Pratt & Miller and Chevrolet will wrap a carbon fiber shell around you and a 500 cubic inch aluminum small block V8, giving you control over 600 hp and 600 lb-ft of torque. ALMS fans will recognize Pratt & Miller as the company responsible for preparing the Le Mans-winning Corvette C6.R race cars, and their experience doing so carries directly over to the C6RS. P&M have set up a dedicated website for the car, and AutoWeek covers more details in their November 5 article, but the bottom line is 0 - 60 in 3.5 seconds and a top speed of 202, center-lug wheels, interior upgrades, brake and suspension enhancements, and a whole lotta badass.

Kimi Raikonnen Breaks Through with Style

Kimi Raikonnen
For only the eleventh time in F1 history, the World Championship was contested by three drivers coming to the last round in Brazil. Only once before, in the first year of Formula One, did the third place driver overcome the long odds to take home the championship, but that is exactly what happened this past weekend.

Kimi Raikonnen lived up to his nickname of "Iceman" throughout the duration of the Brazilian GP, despite the championship resting not only on his victory, but on luck as well. Even if Kimi won the race, points leader Lewis Hamilton would have to finish worse than 5th to give the Raikonnen the title, and fans of F1 know that luck is something the Finn has never had much of on the track.

Against all odds, Raikonnen won the race and Hamilton suffered both navigational and mechanical difficulty, and finished just far enough back for Kimi to take the championship.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

2007 24 Hours of Le Mans - Finish

2007 24 Hours of Le Mans 9:00 am Sunday
After 369 laps (3125 miles), the 2007 24 Hours of Le Mans has concluded. The class winners are:
LMP 1: #1 Audi Sport North America Audi R10 (Biela, Pirro, Werner)
LMP2: #31 Binnie Motorsports Lola Zytek B05 - 40 (Binnie, Timpany, Buncombe)
LMGT1: #009 Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin DBR9 (Brabham, Rydell, Turner)
LMGT2: #76 IMSA Performance Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (Narac, Lietz, Long)

For a complete listing, please see the official website of the 2007 24 Hours of Le Mans.

2007 24 Hours of Le Mans - "Live" Coverage
Section 3

Flying Lizard Motorsports 8:19 pm (ET) Saturday
Coming back from the latest break in Speed Channel coverage, we learn that the #80 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 has been retired due to a cracked crankcase. Unfortunately this prevents any kind of final-hour battle between Jorg Bergmeister and Jamie Melo such as at the 12 Hours of Sebring.

9:14 pm Saturday
We have had a chance to get up-close footage of several Peugeot pitstops, and during all of the recent stops, mechanics have pulled louvers off of the sidepods of the car to pull rubber bits out of the radiators located there. We have just learned that the 908s are in fact having cooling problems, even in the cool night air. When Audi first introduced the R10 and ran at Sebring, they experienced similar problems and attempted similar mid-race solutions. Both teams have gone to their most open louver patterns at the expense of a small amount of added drag. Audi eventually reconfigured the cooling system of the car after that Sebring race, so Peugeot may have trouble rectifying the problem while still here at Le Mans.

9:35 pm Saturday
During an interview in the Team Oreca pits, Steve Saleen has revealed that he has stepped down from his leadership position at Saleen, Inc. According to Saleen, he is "there in spirit" and "still supporting the company," however he is directing his efforts at a company aiming to import Chinese cars to the American market. This is no doubt somewhat disappointing to fans of the Saleen S7, and leaves one to wonder what is in the water that would cause the likes of Malcom Bricklin and Steve Saleen to busy themselves with these ventures.

9:52 pm Saturday
The #82 Team LNT Panoz Esperante has been wheeled into the garage, likely for extensive repairs. The #81 sister car retired some time ago, continuing the lackluster performance of Panoz cars at Le Mans. With the exception of the unlikely GT2 win last year, the Panoz cars have been relatively unsuccessful. This is somewhat surprising considering Dr. Don Panoz started the American Le Mans Series himself.

10:38 pm Saturday
The #55 Oreca Saleen S7R has been wheeled back into the garage with starter trouble. This was the leading Saleen and was running 6th in class when it came in.

12:00 am Sunday
An interview with Team LNT owner/driver Richard Dean revealed that the #82 Panoz Esperante suffered a suspension upright failure, necessitating a lengthy repair and dimming the hopes of a repeat class victory. The sister #81 Panoz, the only other Panoz in the field, retired from the race after less than 70 laps.
Also out of the race are both Spyker C8 Spyders.

Risi Competizione 12:20 am Sunday
The class-leading Ferrari F430 of Risi Competizione has been wheeled into the garage with front radiator damage. The cause of the damage is unclear, although it is severe enough to warrant a radiator change. This will certainly take a number of laps, putting the Ferrari's previously-dominant lead in jeopardy.

12:55 am Sunday
Prodrive Aston Martin has suffered a slight setback with the #007 DBR9. It has apparently taken an off-course excursion and damaged the front splitter to the point of needing replacement. The car is currently in the garage although it appears to be a quick fix.

1:35 am Sunday
The race leading #2 Audi R10 has been pitched into a tire barrier; replays show one of the wheels coming off of the car prior to the incident. Rinaldo Capello has left the car and it appears as though his day is done.

5:45 am Sunday
The Risi Competizione #97 Ferrari has been retired from the race, presumably due to complications with the radiator damage sustained earlier. The sister #99 car is still running, and is in fact second in class.

6:39 am Sunday
Peugeot's lead entry has been wheeled into the garage where the engine cover came off in a hurry. Two mechanics are thoughtfully holding the engine cover in front of the garage door, completely blocking any camera shot. This is possibly an evolution of the cooling problems that have plagued the two French entries throughout the race.

6:52 am Sunday
An interview with Giuseppe Risi has revealed that the radiator damage on the #99 Ferrari F430 caused irreparable water pump damage that then retired the car.

7:22 am Sunday
The #7 Peugeot has been brought out of the garage and back to the track. The exact issue is still unknown, although it is strongly suspected to be electrical. The car then stalled twice on leaving the pits, although it isn't known if the stalls are related to the other problem. Unfortunately the car has spent enough time in the garage that a podium finish is incredibly unlikely.

Peugeot Sport 7:37 am Sunday
The ailments to the #7 Peugeot have proven terminal, as the car has been officially retired from the race.

8:14 am Sunday
The safety cars have been deployed due to the torrential rain that has been pounding the track for the last hour or so. This is bad news for the remaining Corvette Racing C6R, as it had been running significantly quicker than the leading Aston Martin DBR9 in the rain. The Vette is still one lap back of the Aston, so it will not be able to pass while under the safety car. Corvette Racing is obviously opposed to the safety car deployment; their arguement is that no cars had yet gone off of the track due to the rain.
The remaining Peugeot has just come in for what looked to be a routine pit stop for a final splash of gas, but it was immediately put up on dollys and wheeled into the garage when it came in.

8:20 am Sunday
It has been reported that during a previous interview with Oliver Gavin, he indicated that the reason for the prop shaft failure that put the #64 Corvette Racing C6R out of the race was caused by a harmonic vibration which occured when two of the engine's cylinders were shut down as a fuel-saving measure during a safety car period.

8:49 am Sunday
With just over ten minutes left in the race, the safety cars have been parked and the racers let loose. The strongest implication is in the GT1 class, where Ron Fellows now has a chance, however slight, of catching David Brabham in the lead Aston Martin DBR9.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

2007 24 Hours of Le Mans - "Live" Coverage
Section 2

Corvette Racing C6R
5:35 pm (ET) Saturday
An interview with Oliver Gavin revealed the reason for the "disqualification" of his Corvette Racing C6R: a regulation stating that the cars must move along the track under the power of their drive motors. It was not the aid he received that dropped him from the race, but the fact that he could not repair the damage to the drivetrain.
The previously-wrecked Audi R10 has also withdrawn from the race, no doubt due to damage sustained in the massive-looking crash earlier.

5:57 pm Saturday
The #2 Audi R10 has just come in from the lead for a pit stop. Rinaldo Capello has remained in the car for what will be his third stint, which is not itself unusual. What is interesting is that the Audi crew put a fresh set of tires on the R10 before sending it out. Since driver changes normally only occur during stops including tire changes, the implication is that Capello will stay out for another stint past this one, for a total of four straight, which is two more than normally expected.

6:37 pm Saturday
Flying Lizard Motorsports has been getting a fair amount of attention this weekend for their paint scheme performed by Troy Lee Designs. This Spring at the 12 Hours of Sebring, the Flying Lizard Porsche 911 put up a last-lap fight with the Risi Competizione Ferrari 430. Unfortunately, it looks like the #80 911 will struggle to fight with the Ferrari again, as it is currently in the garage sporting a large oil slick along the left rear of the car.
It has been reported that earlier in the race, the passenger door actually blew off of the car, heavily damaging the rear wing as it came off. The current problem is apparently due to a gearbox issue that they have been struggling with for most of the day.

2007 24 Hours of Le Mans - "Live" Updates

24 Hours of Le Mans8:20 am (ET) Saturday - Pre Race
The 75th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is less than an hour from going green.
The rain-complicated qualifying produced some unexpected results:
The previously-dominant Audi R10s find themselves behind the new Peugot entry. Both cars run on diesel fuel, and between the two models they take up the top five starting grid positions. Similarly, the Corvette Racing C6Rs will have to work past not only an Aston Martin, but also a Saleen S7R. Saleens have previously raced at Le Mans, but the two racing today are fielded by Team Oreca, made famous by their domination of this race and the series with their Chrysler Vipers ten years ago. Over the course of 24 hours, a starting advantage of a few carlengths will certainly shake itself out, but it will make for some entertaining racing early.
Rain is in the forecast for the race, which will continue to make things interesting. While rain rarely stands in the way of an ALMS race, the teams are no doubt much more practiced on dry pavement than on wet. It has been a few years since rain was a factor at Le Mans, and should add to the already huge levels of excitement, particularly since the track is more than 8 miles long, and weather conditions at one end can have no resemblance to those at the other.

9:02 am Saturday - Race Start
Champ Car World Series superstar Sebastien Bourdais overcooked the first set of corners after starting on the pole, and while he made an incredible save to keep the car going on the track he has given up the lead to the #2 Audi R10.

9:38 am Saturday - First Pit Stops
As the race leaders come in for their first pit stops, we're reminded that the ACO has retained their regulations regarding wheelspin leaving the pits. Any car spinning its wheels while leaving the pits will be held for a three minute penalty, translating to nearly a lap. Anyone watching pit stops in virtually any American racing series will find it hard to even imagine a pit stop that didn't end in billowing smoke and a healthy fishtail from the exiting car.
In order to comply with this regulation, the launch control of the cars has been specially tuned. This could remain an issue for the lead cars, however, as all five diesel entries produce enormous amounts of torque at very low engine speeds.

9:50 am Saturday
After the first round of pit stops for the leading cars, the three Audi R10s have taken the top three spots, regulating the two Peugeots to fourth and fifth, and the top running Pescarolo to sixth.

10:07 am Saturday
The safety cars have been deployed and while the exact reasons for that have not been discovered yet, the #21 Radical SR9 has just come to the pits missing the rear wing entirely and with extensive damage to both the front and rear bodywork.

10:35 am Saturday
The #3 Audi R10 driven by Mike Rockenfeller has crashed heavily on the corner leading to the Mulsanne straight. Video replays are currently unavailable, but still shots of the damage to the guardrail reveal extensive damage. The rear wing of the R10 appears to be lodged in the guardrail, so a rearward collision is likely. The condition of Rockenfeller is currently unknown, although there are reports that the Audi team managers are not only in radio contact with Rockenfeller, but are considering the possibility of driving the car back to the pits. This seems an unlikely possibility, although the Audis are legendary in their stout construction.

10:44 am Saturday
During the safety car period caused by the above Audi crash, the #64 Corvette Racing C6R has stopped on the course with apparent gearbox issues. According to program manager Doug Fehan, the problem is likely a broken driveshaft, which would certainly leave driver Oliver Gavin unable to move under his own power and therefore out of the race.

10:49 am Saturday
The #64 Corvette's problems were apparently gearbox related. After being pushed off of the circut by the stewards, Oliver Gavin was able to find a gear and began to pull back onto the track. Unfortunately for Corvette Racing, since the stewards had provided assistance, he was apparently immediately disqualified from the race and not allowed to continue.

11:00 am Saturday
Going into the first break in SpeedTVs coverage, Oliver Gavin is still trackside with his ailing C6R. The problem has been traced to the prop shaft coming from the engine and going into the transmission. While the Vette's powerful motor can't spin the transmission, the movement seen ten minutes ago was apparently due to Gavin engaging a gear and running the starter motor.
Although able to move the car, it appears that Gavin is still out of the race after receiving help from the stewards. Program manager Doug Fehan will certainly do everything he can to keep the car in the race, although the odds of that seem long at this point.

Monday, May 21, 2007



It had been 31 years since a modern F1 car was driven on the legendary Nurburgring. Arguably the greatest track in the world, the Nurburgring is used extensively by auto manufacturers for testing new models. 13 miles in length and consisting of more than 150 corners, the track takes years to master.

Track records and lap times are posted around the Internet, and provide something of the Ultimate Benchmark of overall car performance and speed. In 1975, Niki Lauda put down a blistering lap of 6:58.6 in his Ferrari 312 B3 during that year's German GP.

As reported by, and with video at Jalopnik, BMW recently took their 2006 F1 entry to the Nurburgring, giving Nick Heidfeld the opportunity to put one of the fastest and best-handling cars in automotive history to the ultimate test in BMW's backyard.

The result? A best effort of 8:34. How could the pinnacle of automotive achievement post such a slow time? Heidfeld, after receiving the keys to the track and the car, also received orders to go easy, and pose for mid-lap photos. On all three of the laps he was allowed to run.

Opportunities to run modern F1 cars on the Nurburgring are too rare as it is, and for BMW to squander theirs with a photo shoot is absurd.

Monday, April 02, 2007

12 Hours of Sebring Decided by .2 Seconds

Mobil 1 12 Hours of SebringThe 12 hours of Sebring is the first event in the 2007 American LeMans Series calendar, and is a mainstay of American road racing. Huge names, from Andretti to Foyt to Rahal, have been victorious at the legendary Floridian airport course.
The 2007 field was criticized for thin P1 and GT1 competition, but the P2 and GT2 classes were robust and the action was intense. The 12 hour race had many highlights, including a dramatic Ferrari engine fire, but the grand finale was the GT2 class finish.
Jamie Melo in the Risi Competizione Ferrari 430 had been holding off Jorg Bergmeister in the Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 for hours, but with only a few minutes to go the 911 had fresh tires and a fresh driver to take on the weary Melo and his worn rubber. The two crossed the finish line just ahead of the lead Audi R10 with only half a second between them, the Ferrari leading the charging Porsche. As the Audi crossed the line to take the overall victory, the two most successful marques in Sebring history were set to to do battle for one of the most exciting laps in recent memory. The following video shows the dramatic fight that carried on literally right to the finish line.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Cadillac Drivers' Log

GM has expanded their foray into the blogosphere with the addition of the Cadillac Drivers' Log, written by two members of the CTS development team. Lead Development Engineer Rob Kotorak and Assistant Chief Engineer Liz Philibosian relate stories from their time testing the CTS in various climates and conditions, most recently the frigid cold of Kinross, MI.
The blog provides a unique, albeit sparse, look into the testing process and if nothing else is a source of some entertaining pictures of CTSs at, and past, their handling limits.

Cadillac CTS in a Snowbank

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Toyta Recalls

Toyota - Moving Forward
According to a January 19 article in Brandweek,Toyota has launched a recall of over 500,000 vehicles due to a steering system fault. Bill Kwong, a Toyota representative, attributes the high number to Toyota's platform sharing, wherein various models share parts and structures.
Toyota, long seen as a bastion of quality and pioneers of manufacturing technique, have battled recalls for years; In 2005, the automaker recalled a whopping 2.4 million vehicles, 200,000 more than it sold. The numbers appear to be moving in the right direction, however, as recalls dropped to just over 750,000 last year while sales cleared the 2.5 million mark. This latest recall, and a recent class action lawsuit settlement over engine sludge allegedly affecting over 4 million vehicles, seem to indicate Toyota is far from in the clear, even after implementing stricter internal quality mandates following 2005.
As Toyota aims to overtake Ford to become the 2nd-largest automaker in the U.S., their ability to expand effectively and continue to maintain their image of quality will be crucial.