Friday, June 8, 2012 09:15
The most prestigious 24 hours in motorsports is nearly upon us, as the 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans has completed testing and will qualify this week before the 88th running of the race begins on Saturday.
The race is a marathon, not only for the drivers but the spectators as well. Whether you’re watching at home or from Tertre Rouge or the safety of your living room, the 24 Hours of Le Mans is a grueling but ultimately rewarding experience. The initiated will be hooked from the start; newcomers will quickly be bored and slowly give in to the racecars’ euphonic, slow burn. You’ll be sleep-deprived with the cognition of a zombie, and you’ll never be happier.
To some, it barely matters what cars are on the track. But nevertheless there are some fascinating storylines in this year’s Le Mans 24 that deserve your attention.
Audi has won ten of the last twelve runnings since the year 2000, and one of those failures went to an Audi-powered Bentley, so it barely counts as a loss. Still, you’ll never find a sports team more determined to achieve victory, and this year they’ve brought a few game-changing cars into the fold. The Audi R18 ultra is an extremely lightweight prototype, while their R18 e-tron quattro is a hybrid version of the R18 ultra that sends additional power to the front wheels. In practice, Audi ran 1-2-3 with two e-trons leading an ultra. Audi is the hands-on favorite to win the race comfortably with the technology and experience to tackle the world’s most insane racing event. More...
Tuesday, May 29, 2012 17:28
Memorial Day is a veritable feast for the motorsports glutton. The day begins with Formula 1 cars on Monaco’s narrow streets, opens up to the Greatest Spectacle in Racing in Indianapolis, and ends with a 600-mile metal grinder in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Imagine putting a swarm of huge Northern Minnesota mosquitoes into a jar and shaking it up real good. That’s not unlike the sound of Formula 1 engines bouncing off the buildings in Monaco. While racing modern F1 cars there has been questionable for a long time, tradition outweighs that notion the minute the starting lights go off. Seven-time champ Michael Schumacher should have been on pole, but a penalty from the previous race dropped him five grid spots at the start. Defending F1 champion Sebastian Vettel had a snit with the Red Bull team and did not compete in Q3, so he started in 10th. Neither driver was given a ghost of a chance to win on the “ultra slim fast” street circuit. Red Bull’s Mark Webber took off like a JATO rocket at the start leaving a melee of million dollar bumper cars at the first turn. Scratch four cars.
When the race restarted after the safety car period, it became a strategic tire battle as the fuel-heavy cars shredded their super soft tires and made an already narrow racing line even skinnier as the “clag” built up off line. It’s the F1 equivalent of “the cushion” at Eldora. You could plainly see bits of rubber rolling off the tires in the incredible super slo-mo video shots. More...
Wednesday, May 23, 2012 13:30
If the idea of driving a hybrid conjures up images of creeping along snail-like in the slow lane while the real cars roar past you, prepare to have your preconceptions shattered by the Porsche 918 Spyder, a hybrid that’ll give you real charge.
The 918 is a plug-in hybrid that combines a high-performance engine––a 4.6-liter V8 that puts out 570 horsepower––with two electric motors, one on the front axle and one in the driveline, acting on the rear wheels, for a combined power figure of 770 horsepower. Top speed is a claimed 200 mph with all three units on the boil, or 90 mph on just the electric motors.
The 918 is underpinned by a double-wishbone front axle with an optional electro-pneumatic lift system; electro-mechanical power steering; and a multi-link rear axle with an adaptive electro-mechanical system for individual rear-wheel steering. It’s almost enough to make the carbon fiber-reinforced monocoque seem ho-hum.
Porsche engineers are trying to hit the ball out of the park with the 918 by combining high performance and low fuel consumption. Early tests of prototypes have done nothing to convince them they haven’t succeeded. The 918 Spyder is planned for production at the end of September 2013, with the first customer deliveries currently scheduled for the United States late in 2013.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012 13:10
Motorsports icon Carroll Shelby crossed the finish line late Thursday, May 10. Given his indomitable spirit, many thought he might live forever. Sadly, that is not the case. He was 89.
Old ‘Shel leaves a rich legacy, marked with brilliant innovations, unwavering confidence and a competitive spirit that set a benchmark in American racing history that few, if any, can match.
The Texas chicken farmer turned California hot rodder was in love with cars since childhood. His goal was to one day build his own car, but not before he tried his hand at racing them. The young Shelby turned out to be very quick, including a win at Le Mans. That garnered offers to drive from Enzo Ferrari himself. He turned “Il Comendatore” down three times because he did not like the way the fiery Italian treated his drivers. Their paths would cross again.
Shelby’s driving days ended when doctors told him his heart was so bad he only had a few years left looking down at the grass. That’s when he got serious about building his own cars. He toured the Italian and British sports car companies and realized they were quite small and manageable. That’s when he found AC Cars. They had a nice little roadster, but with a tractor-like engine. The hot rodder in him thought a small V-8 would liven it up.
Shelby’s quest took him to Dearborn, Michigan and the office of Ford up-and-comer Lee Iacocca. Shelby was not trained in the art of consultative selling. Instead, he was more of an “attack dog.” So much so that Peter Brock recalls someone at the meeting saying: “Get him out of here before he bites somebody.” Shelby left with two small block Ford V-8s for his AC, later dubbed “Cobra.” More...
Wednesday, May 9, 2012 00:24
The gearhead’s guilty pleasure, "World's Wildest Police Videos,” is back. It made its high-speed return to TV this week on Spike, thanks to the son of the man who created the show that originally ran on Fox between 1998 and 2001.
Paul Stojanovich, Jr. says watching videos of people running from the cops, bad guys assaulting good guys, and bank robbers proving why bank robbery is such a low-yield enterprise gives him a nostalgic feeling. His dad, Paul Sr., was a pioneer of reality TV, and won Emmys for his work on show like “WWPV,” “COPS,” and “American Detective.”
Paul Jr., who says he practically grew up in patrol cars, says technology has changed a lot in the 11 years since the show was last aired, mostly because of smart phones that provide video footage of a far better quality than the old VHS tapes used on the show in its early years.
With the rise of the smartphone comes an increase in the number of videos showing how cops interact with the public, something cops are not always happy about. But Stojanovich says the police shouldn’t worry about being observed every minute of every shift because, as he says, good cops don’t have anything to hide.
The new "World's Wildest Police Videos” features video shot all over the world, but good old homegrown footage prevails. Stojanovich says Texas, California, and especially Florida are the most frequent sources of material.
Here's the latest in case you missed it. Watch it to the end.