Saturday, March 7, 2020

IndyCar/Sportsnet Announces Expanded TV Race Coverage for 2020

Photo Credit: Chris Nagy


The 2020 NTT IndyCar Series promises to be a richly contended auto racing organization consisting of 17 rounds. A season set to start later this month, the top open wheel competition in North America has the opportunity to deliver some exciting, new possibilities for what viewers may see on track. Although many IndyCar fans will likely prepare to attend at least one race for 2020, television remains the most obtainable way to catch the racing action between drivers including defending series champion Josef Newgarden, Scott Dixon, Will Power as well as Canadians James Hinchcliffe and series newcomer Dalton Kellett. For 2020, the racing tour’s loyal fans in Canada are being granted the chance to follow the NTT IndyCar Series with greater access compared to a much-loathed 2019 TV package.

On February 28th, the IndyCar Series announced they have re-entered an agreement with Sportsnet to be the exclusive Canadian broadcaster for the 2020 season. The eighth consecutive year that Sportsnet will serve in the capacity to share the sport with audiences in Canada, the 2020 schedule for a second year comprises of full season coverage on their premium SN World channel as well as with the SN NOW+ streaming service. A refreshing improvement to the NTT IndyCar Series’ Canadian TV package is the addition of races on the more accessible sports channel within the Sportsnet network family. A total of 10 of the 17 events will air on Sportsnet 360 including the opening round at St. Petersburg, Florida as well as the Indianapolis 500 and the Honda Indy Toronto.

The IndyCar/Sportsnet 2020 Canadian TV schedule appears to go to great lengths to atone for the unfavourable broadcast package that existed last year. Intended to air almost exclusively through SN World and the SN NOW+ service, the 2019 broadcast agreement for the open wheel racing series alienated a large share of the Canadian fan base. With each premium sports service requiring audiences to pay roughly $20 per month for the opportunity to watch the 2019 IndyCar Series tour, the scheme was viewed as financially predatory. Only the Indianapolis 500 and the Honda Indy Toronto were offered on Sportsnet’s more widely-viewed channels.

Making matters worse, last year’s broadcast package’s announcement came in less than a week before the start of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series’ season opener. Sportsnet ultimately allowed Canadian fans to watch the St. Petersburg street race via a free live-stream when it was revealed the race would have been aired on a tape delay telecast in SN World. Allegations were made shortly after the announcement of the less than fan-friendly 2019 TV deal pointing at both Sportsnet executives being disinterested in auto racing coverage as well as the failings of IndyCar’s new in-house media branch that was setup in late 2018.

For 2020, Canadian race fans with a basic cable package will likely be able to watch numerous IndyCar broadcasts on the American NBC channels. Of the 17 races, eight will air on the conventional NBC networks that includes the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500. For Canadians receive Sportsnet 360, only three races will be inaccessible counting for the event airing on NBC.

SN NOW+ in Canada and NBC Sports Gold in the United States offer streaming of 2020 IndyCar Series events. Both streaming services can be ordered independently of a paid TV packages. Pricing for SN NOW+ is $27.99 per month or can be ordered on an annual basis for $249.96 (equating to $20.83 per month). 

With the first race 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season set to receive the green flag on March 15th, the improved television deal with Sportsnet comes with the mixed blessing of Canada’s own James Hinchcliffe contributing to the NBC broadcast. Losing his full-time ride as his previous race team was absorbed into McLaren SP, Hinchcliffe is set to run just three events for 2020 with Andretti Autosport. The Oakville native will serve as an analyst for much of this season and will also contribute his personality to Indy Lights, IMSA and the NASCAR race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the fourth of July weekend.




Saturday, February 29, 2020

A Look Back at the Forward-Thinking 2020 Canadian International AutoShow

Photo Credit: Chris Nagy


The recently concluded 2020 edition of the Canadian International AutoShow wraps as a grand celebration of wheels and the motors that propel them. More than just a gathering for vehicle manufacturers to impress us with their latest designs and technologies, the Metro Toronto Convention Centre played host to a multitude of ideas lined to the classic, modern and futuristic automotive genre. Within the massive gathering space was a chance to amuse yourself with various types of interactivity. Branded with the theme of “Transformative Times”, the 2020 Canadian International AutoShow acted in an attempt to shed light along the many crossroads the automobile industry faces while also reminding us of the delight of more than 100 years of motoring.


Volkswagen's 2020 CIAS Press Conference
Photo Credit: Chris Nagy

In recent years, the Canadian International AutoShow has benefited from a high-profile lead-in that was held in Detroit. Previously a staple for January, the North American International Auto Show had provided a relatively fresh complement of captivating new cars and concepts that often made the trip across the border. The rescheduling of the North American International Auto Show for June this year is obviously resulting a restructuring of industry plans to exhibit their vehicles.

Did the realignment of the Detroit auto show mean the Toronto show was lacking vehicle star importance for 2020? I experience would indicate the selection of motoring masterpieces felt consistent with recent years. I’ve been attending the Canadian International AutoShow annually since 2009 and I remembered a rather subdued version of the event in 2010 when they stopped using the Skydome (Rogers Centre) as an event place. Although the show has not used the baseball stadium since 2009, the Metro Toronto Convention Centre has remained packed.


Elevated Shot of 2020 CIAS Floor Space
Photo Credit: Chris Nagy

However, having previously mentioned the word star, it does bring up one notable absence at this year’s auto show. Amongst all the brands, Mercedes-Benz chose not to attend the 2020 Canadian International AutoShow. A statement made by Mercedes-Benz Canada’s Vice President of Marketing Virginie Aubert explains the decision in length. “Mercedes-Benz Canada continuously evaluates our events portfolio to ensure that each of our initiatives provides the best opportunities to fulfil our strategic priorities. After careful consideration, we decided to no longer participate in Canadian auto shows as of 2020. Mercedes-Benz Canada is hard at work preparing a series of programs in 2020 that will showcase our exceptional vehicle lineup and excite both Mercedes-Benz fans and new audiences. We look forward to sharing these events in the near future.”. An automaker that has been known to organize a fairly large exhibition in Toronto every year, the German brand’s election to sit out for the event did not go without notice. Fortunately, there were several other luxury car companies eager to gain the attention of a Canadian crowd.

Bugatti La Voiture Noire Supercar
Photo Credit: Chris Nagy


Containing a full complement of Canadian premieres as is typical, the Toronto auto show hosted the first appearance of the all-new Land Rover Defender, Audi RSQ8, Aston Martin DBX, MINI John Cooper Works GP and the eighth generation Chevrolet Corvette convertible. Being there on Media Preview Day held prior to the event opening to the public, I’m granted the special opportunity to experience the pomp of a manufacturer projecting their company’s best prospects for 2020 and beyond. With speeches from vibrant representatives, almost every press conference involves a speech preaching recent successes and/or brand strategy prior to the introduction of a vehicle concealed under a cover. Since almost every vehicle was previous unveiled at another auto show or online, the premiere ceremonies were like a Christmas morning where you know what’s in all the presents. However, attendees of this year’s Canadian International AutoShow were the first to behold the luxury wonder of the mammoth 2021 Cadillac Escalade sport utility vehicle in person witnessing firsthand its curved OLED display panel.


2021 Cadillac Esscalade at 2020 CIAS
Photo Credit: Chris Nagy

For 2020, a focus of performance being central in the appearance of many new cars shown at the Canadian International AutoShow was somewhat amusing. Despite almost every automaker placing emphasis on electrification in their production lineups, some of the event’s main attraction with the all-new Corvettes, a 542-horsepower crossover vehicle from Aston Martin as well as the Canadian-only McLaren Senna Can-Am special edition supercar. Even as the Porsche’s Taycan’s fully electric vehicle was present in the German sports car builder’s display, the company prominently showcased their modernized 935 track car. The prized vehicle of the 2020 auto show was the Bugatti La Voiture Noire was among the most lavish example of high-performance excellence. Propelled by a 16-cylinder engine engineered to generate more than 1,400 horsepower, the one of a kind hypercar is priced at 16.1-million Canadian dollars. With the presence of the Land Rover Defender, the Jeep Gladiator Mojave as well as General Motors large full-sized sport utility vehicles, utility performance was also given a platform in the Toronto show. 


2020 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible at 2020 CIAS
Photo Credit: Chris Nagy


Does the apparent desire for gasoline-powered, high-performance machines distract from the trend for electric motoring? Electrified vehicles did enjoy part of the spotlight at the 2020 Canadian International AutoShow. The most powerful car in this year’s exhibition was the Pininfarina Battista outfitted with a powerplant capable of producing 1,900 horsepower. The Battista can accelerate from 0 to 100 kilometers per hour (62 miles per hour) in just two seconds and have a maximum top speed potential of 350 kilometers per hour (217.47 miles per hour). Audi and Volkswagen both extensively promoted electric vehicles with the German luxury brand showing greater depth with their e-tron lineup. Volkswagen showed off their MEB chassis platform that will serve as the basis for the company’s upcoming ID. Electric vehicle family. The third and final electrified attraction in Toronto was the Ford Mustang Mach E. Through Ford didn’t organize a press conference on media day, the all-electric vehicle still drew a crowd.

Ford Mustang Mach E at 2020 CIAS
Photo Credit: Chris Nagy
Guests attending this year’s auto show were also greeted by a wide array of fun, interactive experiences. Kia’s exhibit had large tables with touchscreen surfaces for table hockey while other, vehicle-related multimedia components were located with Nissan and Acura. Among the most impressively themed interactive presentations I partook in was positioned with Infiniti. Fashioned in the shape of classic arcade cabinets, Infiniti’s Fast Forward provided a simple yet amusing video game as well as a homage to the luxury brand’s 30 years of vehicles and safety innovations.

Beyond the scope of new cars, the 2020 Canadian International AutoShow also contained several special areas. For attendees interested in antique vehicles, The Cobble Beach Classics: The Disruptors display included a 1904 Curved Dash Oldsmobile, a 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K and a Lamborghini Miura. Positioned outside of the Cobble Beach Classics exhibition was a 1959 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray concept car. Alongside the sensational Auto Exotica display containing some of the world’s most exclusive vehicles, other major showcase contains some memorable race cars representing McLaren Racing who was being inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame prior to the Media Preview Day.


Johnny Rutherford's 1975 McLaren M16E Gatorade IndyCar
Photo Credit: Chris Nagy

Military vehicles supplied by the Ontario Regiment Museum as well as the Oblivion display combining a handful 1980s and 1990s vehicles (including a replica of Knight Rider’s KITT) paired with classic nostalgia items along with vintage arcade cabinets. During the public days of the event, there was also an assortment of child-friendly activities and contests as well as a $20,000 professional Forza Motorsport 7 competition hosted by the WorldGaming Network.

When I have to sum up this year’s Canadian International AutoShow, all I can say is I was left conflicted in a delightful way. For a long time, we have accepted these exhibitions of the automobile as simply a showcase of vehicles. We are used to seeing the latest vehicles, concept cars and even displays of classic automobiles providing both a source of information as well as entertainment as we connect to our personal desires to explore the frontiers of motoring. Recently, the auto industry is embracing so many different technologies and ideas causing us to greatly reassess what transportation is becoming. Electrification, in-car connectivity and even the manner for how new car ownership is evolving the perception of the automobile at a pace not seen since following the second world war. A mid-engined Chevrolet Corvette and a four-door, fully electric crossover vehicle wearing Ford’s Mustang nameplate is some of the most visible examples of a changing automotive universe shown in Toronto. The complex nature for the modern automobile in 2020 was so properly represented at the Canadian International AutoShow as we look behind at the great moments created by the great piece of machinery as well as ahead envisioning with uncertainty what memories we will experience with the automobile. Indeed, we are entering into transformative times.


Slideshow presentation of 2020 Canadian International AutoShow
2020 Canadian International AutoShow

Friday, December 13, 2019

A Far Out Partnership in a Galaxy Far, Far Away for Porsche and Lucasfilm

Photo Credit: Porsche AG


Ahead of the anticipated release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Porsche and Lucafilm have collaborated on a project that may the pilots of the Millennium Falcon, X-Wing fighter or a First Order Tie Fighter jealous. Crafted over a two-month period by design teams based in San Francisco as well as Weissach, Germany, a spaceship design has been created capturing the spirit of the accomplished sports car company in one of the most popular sci-fi universes. As Jedi's Luke Skywalker and Yoda have become one of the force, Star Wars and Porsche's partnership have merged their creative energies to create the Tri-Wing S-91x Pegasus Starfighter.


Photo Credit: Porsche AG



An unmistakable Star Wars-style spacecraft, the Tri-Wing S-91x Pegasus Starfighter is a complete fantasy design that allowed two creative entities to explorer a fun concept. In regards to the end result of Porsche/Lucasfilm Michael Mauer, Vice President for Style Porsche at Porsche AG as design that harmoniously integrates into the popular movie franchise. “It is thrilling to infuse Star Wars with Porsche styling to create an iconic new spaceship that could exist both on Earth or in the cinematic universe.” said Vice President and Executive Creative Director for Lucasfilm Doug Chiang also commenting Tri-Wing S-91x Pegasus Starfighter design.


Photo Credit: Porsche AG



A chance for the Style Porsche team to escape the confines of ideas connected to road vehicles, the opportunity to design a Star Wars spaceship also challenged the group to generate a quickly identifiable vessel. Another aspect designers were tasked with was embedding the soul of Porsche's famous sports cars into an out of this world project. At the front of the Tri-Wing S-91x Pegasus Starfighter, headlights and air inlets resembles the all-electric Taycan with the LED front lights appear with the fictional ship's long gun barrels. Porsche also applies cues of the modern 911 towards the rear of the spacecraft with an integrated third brake light as well as louvres behind the droid position.

Porsche's time-proven cockpit design for high-performance street and race vehicles is called upon for the Tri-Wing S-91x Pegasus Starfighter's interior. Drawing inspiration from the Porsche 918 Spyder, the spaceship's cockpit features a low seating position. Instrument and controls are also placed in an ergonomic fashion accessible to the pilot.


Photo Credit: Porsche AG

The Tri-Wing S-91x Pegasus Starfighter co-created by Porsche and Lucasfilm is explained by Head of Marketing for Porsche's Kjell Gruner as, "... a very special gift for fans of the two brands". A 1.5-meter long detailed model of the spacecraft will be presented at the Los Angeles premiere for the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker movie scheduled for December 16th.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

An Auto Racing Enthusiast's Review of Ford v Ferrari




For the first time in more than seven years, I was drawn to a movie theatre this weekend for what may be an obvious reason when I inform you that my last cinema experience was attending the documentary Senna in Toronto. In 2019, my film-going motivation was based on the big screen adaptation of the great American auto racing story behind Ford’s reign at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the latter part of the 1960s. Ford v Ferrari is a docudrama with the polish of a big Hollywood production that admittedly both excited and concerned me prior to the positive word of mouth after the Toronto International Film Festival debut since sport-related movies are a hit or miss affair. The production values of the Ron Howard movie Rush has inspired confidence that auto racing can be depicted honourably on the big screen. Much like the Ford GT40 race car that went on to climatic greatness on the race track in 1966 as well as on film screens today, the right balance of parts and components make Ford v Ferrari into a sensational performer.

Ford v Ferrari’s story is set mainly between 1963 and 1966 as the Ford Motor Company works to construct a sports car purpose-built to beat the world’s best performance name. A rivalry stoked by Ford’s failed attempt to purchase Ferrari, the movie establishes the means required to reach their desired results. Ford v Ferrari is directed by James Mangold who possesses a stellar filmography that includes the Johnny Cash biography Walk the Line and the 2017 hit X-Men based movie Logan. From the very capable directing, the movie receives fully-developed scenes with excellent acting.

In order to make their GT40 a winner, the automaker contracted with American sports icon Carroll Shelby that is played by the talented Matt Damon. The star from the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy Christian Bale assumes to role of racer Ken Miles who served as the Ford GT40's primary test driver. Both Damon and Bale play their characters in a manner that brings the two great men of motorsports back to life. Bale’s Ken Miles performance stands out as an outwardly abrasive yet passionate racer. Shelby’s point of view is prominent as the team’s orchestrator but the film also gave a compelling focus on Miles and his family (Caitriona Balfe plays Ken Miles’ wife Mollie while Noah Jupe puts on a wonderful performance as son Peter). A most refreshing aspect of Ford v Ferrari’s story was with Mile’s family as supportive of his racing career. Too often in Hollywood pictures around sports we end up with family members or significant others who do nothing more than endlessly worry about the dangers. In Ford v Ferrari, the only conflict arose when Ken Miles’ wife simply wanted her husband to be honest with his passion for racing.

Although Ford v Ferrari provides radiant portrayals of some legends of the automobile, the movie doesn’t itself into being a biography of any individual. Throughout the movie’s long though well-utilized 2-hour, 32-minute runtime, we witness not only the thriving to create a Le Mans-winning race car through Shelby and Miles but the movie also takes us into the corporate culture within Ford. Historical figures Henry Ford II, Lee Iacocca and Leo Beebe appear in Ford v Ferrari as complicated individuals who support the Ford GT40 program exercising their own authority. Specifically, Henry Ford II (grandson of the automaker’s founder) is depicted as a tough-as-nails persona who could be both stubborn as well as occasionally receptive. From other historical accounts I have been privy to this is actually an accurate depiction. There’s one scene where Henry Ford II walked into one of his company’s auto plants and hollers to his employees how they have to think about how to save the automaker. I’m sure one or two workers would have a thought swirl in their heads that the company wouldn’t be in such a slump if the corporate head didn’t push for the Edsel brand. Ford v Ferrari also includes some amusing minor casting choices. Playing late American racing great Dan Gurney the driver’s youngest son Alex appearing in a minor clip. While the story is based on the aspiration for a car to cross the line ahead of another car, some strong acting performances provide an unexpected thrill ride of emotions.

Overall, the film does a great job characterizing the egos involved in big league racing during the 1960s. With technology and the motorsport spectacle at its peak, winning a major competition meant more than perhaps even today. Ford v Ferrari shows the personalities in conflict with each other as they achieve what is presumed as harmonious team effort at the time. While battling Enzo Ferrari’s team, the Ford GT40's second major battle occurred between Shelby’s team and Ford management. Made out to be somewhat of a villain to Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles in the movie, Leo Beebe (played by Josh Lucas) was among the pushier influences from the Ford corporate level that included the infamous photo-finish. Beebe’s meddling in the race team depicted in Ford v Ferrari is mostly confirmed by Beebe himself in interviews prior to his passing in 2001.

One of the easiest things to praise about Ford v Ferrari is the film’s visual presentation. We are fully integrated with 1960s sports car racing with charming realism. It’s simply a majestic sensation to see classic race vehicles on the big screen. In the climax of the movie is the Ford GT40 battling a Ferrari 330 P3 at Le Mans looks brilliant. I also applaud that the majority of the soundtrack for Ford v Ferrari is the engines of these legendary cars. Too often with 20th century period pictures, there is a compulsion to heavily pepper in music of the era in order to constantly remind us of the setting.

Leaving the theatre after seeing Ford v Ferrari, I was left with fulfillment as a fan of auto racing. Knowing the real-life history of the Ford GT40 program at Le Mans, it was my privilege to admire such a marvelous cinematic reenactment. It was a special indulgence to watch such a well-crafted, thoroughly entertaining motion picture that shared my love for the sport.