Monday
Jul282014

TUDOR: De Lorenzo Has Something To Say.

Detroit. It sounded good initially. Oh never mind, who am I kidding? When NASCAR’s Jim France bought the now defunct American Le Mans Series from Don Panoz lock, stock and barrel, it was a foregone conclusion that it wasn’t going to go smoothly. What were we all expecting to happen, exactly? That by some miracle the new Tudor United SportsCar Series would somehow work out and that American sports car racing would emerge from its media obscurity and break out of its perpetual little bubble of indifference to become an actual thing? Not a chance.

Not that everyone involved hasn’t put forth a supreme effort to bring the two disparate racing series together and form a winning entity, because they have. As a matter of fact it has been simply amazing to see what the powers that be have been able to accomplish, and I take my hat off to one and all for that. But sadly, it isn’t enough.

The obvious problem? The USCS is trying to please two entities, the ACO - which controls the 24 Hours of Le Mans - and the gentlemen racers who populated the old Grand-Am series with their Daytona Prototypes. This just in: It isn’t working and this situation is going nowhere good.

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Sunday
Jul272014

Test Drive: A Tale of Two Mazda's 

As a car enthusiast, it’s almost impossible to not have a soft spot in your heart for Mazda. Even if you prefer American muscle cars or European sports cars, Mazda’s commitment to building affordable, engaging cars and a fervent dedication to motorsport is worthy of respect, and the fact that the “fun to drive” ingredients are infused into everything from the MX-5 Miata to the CX-9 sport utility vehicle makes it hard to find a Mazda that’s not going to put a smile on your face.  Having owned two CX-9’s as family cars over the last six years I was already sold on Mazda, but I gained even more admiration for the brand after spending a week each driving the latest 2014 MX-5 Miata roadster and Mazda6 sedan.

MX-5 Miata

When Mazda says “on any given weekend, there are more Mazda’s on the road-race tracks of America than any other brand of vehicle,” the MX-5 Miata gets most of the credit. Ever since it was introduced, the Miata has been raced in SCCA or pro racing series such as the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, where Miata’s finished 1-2 in the Street Tuner class at Sebring and swept the podium at Laguna Seca and Lime Rock Park. The Miata is also a perennial favorite of the track day crowd, as it’s not only  well-balanced and fun to drive, but is also very reliable and inexpensive to maintain.

The 2014 MX-5 Miata sticks with the same recipe that has made it such a success from its beginning, with a front-engine, rear-drive layout with near perfect 50/50 weight distribution. Power comes from a two-liter 16-valve four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing that puts out 167hp at 7,000rpm and 140 lb-ft of torque at 5,000rpm. Those numbers don’t look all that impressive, but since it’s relatively light in weight at 2,593 pounds, that engine gives the Miata enough motivation to scoot to 60mph in a little over six seconds.

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Tuesday
Feb252014

Test Drive: 2014 Porsche Cayman S

The Cayman sports car has been a huge hit for Porsche and has established itself alongside the 911 as one of the best sports cars in the world. With a pedigree that goes back to legendary cars like the 550 Spyder, the mid-engine Cayman has become a favorite model of the track-day crowd, but most of them will cover a lot more miles in everyday driving than in laps on a track. The Cayman S may be at its best on twisty roads or at the track, but a week spent driving one revealed how well-rounded and versatile this car really is.

First, let’s take a look at the numbers. The Cayman S is powered by a zesty 3.4-liter flat six that produces 325hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. Vented and drilled rotors are clamped by 4-piston monobloc calipers on all four corners, and a lightweight spring-strut suspension setup with front and rear stabilizers takes care of the handling duties. Performance is brisk, with 60mph coming up in just a tick over 4.5 seconds. The base price is $63,800 (standard Cayman is $52,600), but the price can go up considerably if you start adding some options. Our test car was fitted with a long list of options that brought the total price to $91,620, which is more than seven grand above the price of a base model 911. Some of those options (like the $6,520 Infotainment Package with Burmester surround sound), are best left off if your ultimate goal is pure performance, but others (like the PDK transmission and Porsche Torque Vectoring) are much more enticing.

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Monday
Feb032014

For the benefit of Mr. Kite There will be a show tonight on trampoline 

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The Hendersons will all be there Late of Pablo Fanque’s Fair, what a scene

With 10 days past, I’ve begun to formulate my own thoughts about this year’s running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona. I’ve seen the opinions of others, and of course I’m aware of the actual race results. But with all due respect to the winners, for me, the competition… at least for this year, wasn’t the story. And… in all honesty, I’m not sure the story was really a story at all. If there’s any story, then it’s more in the form of a “to be continued….” and the cliff hanger was all but missing.

For me, the story left  me feeling suspended in limbo. Sure, the story had a plot, but I’m not convinced it thickened. It had characters, but I’m not sure they were fully developed. And the climax… well, it never happened for me.

Yes, there was an event… there was a race… it was attended by all the usual suspects with the unique scenario thrust upon us by the “merging” of the American Le Mans Series and Grand Am Racing. All the parts were there. But not unlike most Super Bowls, the product didn’t meet the hype.

To be fair, there are still a lot of unanswered questions. I understand that. I know we need to be patient. But how patient? How long? When are we going to know where this is all going? For me, there were more questions than answers.

The one question I do feel that was answered is one that leaves me very uncomfortable. There used be a joke in Detroit when Chrysler “merged” with Mercedes. It was “How do you pronounce, Damlier-Chrylser?” “The Chrysler is silent.”

Well… how do you pronounce “TUSCC?” “TSK” … in other words, the United is silent.

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Friday
Jan312014

Rolex 24 Video Highlights...

Monday
Jan062014

It' On!!!

[FULL GALLERY]
After a year of anticipation, IMSA’s new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship kick of a new era of sports car racing in North America. The long awaited merger of the Grand American Road Racing Association and the American Le Mans Series became an on-track reality with 66 cars testing on the high banks of Daytona International Speedway in preparation for the inaugural race, the Rolex 24 at Daytona, January 25-26.

The official testing session ran Friday through Sunday on the 3.5 mile Dayton International Speedway road course, a combination of the famed speedway’s high banked NASCAR oval and a technical road course section that winds through the speedway infield. The test showcased the series’ four classes… Prototype, Prototype Challenge, GT Le Mans and GT Daytona.

With competitors from around the world and every form of racing, the Rolex 24 is one of sports car racing’s premier endurance events. With the combined Grand Am and ALMS fields, the 52nd running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona will attract a large number of “name” drivers and a record spectator turnout.

With names like Scott Pruett, Lucas Luhr, Patrick Long, Boris Said and celebrity racer, Patrick Dempsey, the field of teams including Target Chip Ganassi Racing and ALMS prototype champions’ Pickett Racing, the IMSA sanctioned event promises to bring all the ingredients together for a truly international star studded event.

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Wednesday
Oct232013

Bittersweet. 

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Braselton, GA – Fifteen years. Compared to NASCAR’s 65 years running, not a big number. Compared to Indy and Le Mans’ ACO and FIA at or above 100 years each, barely a flash in the pan. Yet, in 15 years – the last twelve of which I’ve spent covering the American Le Mans Series – we have seen storied battles on pavement between global manufacturers and upstart privateers. We have seen a showcase for future technologies being tested in competition. We have seen history being made at high speed all over North America. In 15 years, some of the best racing anywhere has taken place in ALMS.

With the series to be absorbed into the Tudor United Sports Car Championship in 2014, this year’s Petit Le Mans closed out the ALMS season – and the series itself – on an unusually wistful note.

“It’s kind of sad, isn’t it? I mean… it’s an end of an era.” So said Muscle Milk Pickett Racing’s Lucas Luhr, prior to the start of Saturday’s last-ever ALMS race, which summed-up the overall feel on the paddock last week. Adding to the tinge of sadness in the air was the pain of loss within the motorsports family. Famed young Porsche ace Sean Edwards was killed in a crash in Australia on Tuesday while instructing a student, and his team made the decision to remove the No. 30 MOMO Porsche 911 GT3 from competition. The Porsche’s livery was redone in a tribute to Edwards, and taken for a solitary lap prior to the race.

The undercurrent of sober reflection was inescapable. Edwards was a popular driver and proven talent in GTC class. At 26, likely not yet into his prime, he was leading the Porsche Supercup Championship points race at the time of his death.

Thus, it was almost poetic that the 1,000-mile contest began with a somber backdrop of light rain, which continued for most of the daylight hours, before eventually giving way to clearer skies and cool October breezes for the finish.

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Tuesday
Sep172013

Test Drive: Audi S5

It’s great fun to drive purebred sports cars like the Porsche 911, the Audi R8 and the Corvette, but in the real world most of us need to spend the majority of our time driving a car that has decent room in the trunk, a comfortable highway ride and good fuel economy. Thankfully, there are some great cars on the market today that fulfill all those requirements while also being attractive and fun to drive. Some of the best in this class of versatile performance cars are from Audi, with the A5, S5 and RS 5 models. The S5 may be the middle child in this family of sport coupes, but it may be the best at combining practicality and performance in a car that can be driven every day.

The Audi A5, S5 and RS 5 coupe models are all based on the same platform but cover a wide gamut in price and performance; from the $39,000 A5 with a turbocharged inline-four making 220hp to the$69,600 RS 5 that has a 4.2-liter V8 under its hood that makes 450hp. The S5 slots nicely between those two models, priced at $52,000 and powered by a supercharged V6 making 333hp, a horsepower figure that falls almost exactly between the output of the A5 and RS 5. All three models come with Audi’s excellent quattro all-wheel drive and all three also have a sister convertible model available. Kudos to Audi for still offering a six-speed manual (Save the Manuals!) in both the A5 and S5 models, while the RS 5 is only offered with an S Tronic dual-clutch gearbox. Audi also makes the dual-clutch transmission available in the S5 (the A5 uses a standard automatic tranny) for an extra $1,400. Our test car had the manual.

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