Monday, February 29, 2016

Car FYI Auto Racing Speed Report for February 26th-28th 2016

Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Johnson Equals The Intimidator’s Career Win Tally With Thrilling Atlanta Victory

The second race of the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season was a drastically different affair compared to the Daytona 500 opener won by Denny Hamlin. Atlanta Motor Speedway’s Folds of Honor Quiktrip 500 was the season’s first use of new low-downforce aerodynamic rules on the stock cars. Differences in car handling and the aged surface of the oval track contributed to a very active race with plenty of competitive passing. Despite vehicles being less stable than in previously years, the 39-car field was slowed by only three cautions with the first coming out on lap 211.

Ceasing on an advantage through short-pitting in a late stint to vault over the race-dominating vehicle of Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr, the #48 Lowes Chevrolet piloted by Jimmie Johnson held an advantage of more than five seconds before a lap-324 caution resulting from a spinning #31 car of Ryan Newman. A solid final restart by Johnson and a weak launch of Kevin Harvick decided the victory in favor of Hendrick Motorsports’ now 76-time racing-winning driver. Achieving a career victory milestone set by the late Dale Earnhardt, Jimmie Johnson quickly realized the significance of the win. Explaining how not being able to race against the driver famously called “The Intimidator” has left a big void in his racing career, Johnson commented in post-race “So to tie him today, for myself personally, it gives me a little something -- it's a little bit of attachment to the great Dale Earnhardt and something I'm very proud of.”

After a sluggish performance in the season-opening Daytona 500, Hendrick Motorsports appears back on top of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with three of their four drivers finishing in the top-10. Just before a multi-car wreck concluded racing at Atlanta, Dale Earnhardt Jr and the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS nosed ahead of Kyle Busch to take the runner-up spot for a Hendrick Motorsports 1-2 finish. Rookie driver for the #24 Chevrolet Chase Elliott crossed the line in eighth place at a track considered his family’s home soil.

Kyle Busch claimed the Folds of Honor Quiktrip 500's pole in qualifying, his time was disallowed due to a measurement after the session. In Sunday’s 500-mile race, the #18 Toyota Camry climbed back to the front. Kyle finished one spot ahead of his brother Kurt Busch in the #41 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing. The team’s best chance at victory in Atlanta, Kevin Harvick would cross the finish line sixth. Only 12 cars finished on the lead lap after 500 miles but every car was registered as running despite a race-ending caution resulting in damaged vehicles including the #43 Smithfield Ford driven by Aric Almirola and David Ragan’s #23 Toyota. Despite major impacts, both drivers were unhurt.

Phoenix Rises to Welcome IndyCar Series Pre-Season Test

An open test (so-called the Test in the West) at the Phoenix International Raceway concluded on the 27th of February ahead of the Verizon IndyCar’s April 2nd race. Providing drivers and teams a chance to observe the performance of a major open wheel race car on the one-mile oval after a 19-year absence, the open test also served as an open house for fans in the area.

While a crowd enjoyed in free festivities to create buzz ahead of the IndyCar event, the business on the track saw the shares in Team Penske and Chevrolet surge on the time sheets. In the final practice speeds, Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud were at the top. Castoneves’ 190.894-mile per hour lap in the fourth practice session of the Test in the West was the overall quickest. Posting a 190.747-mile per hour speed in practice session three, Pagenaud completed the most testing laps in his #22 car with 337. While Simon Pagenaud ran the most laps, teammate Will Power recorded the fewest with just 117 laps in the #12 car.

Also showing time chart prowess in the Test in the West was the Ed Carpenter Racing team pair who was third and fourth behind the Team Penske duo. Josef Newgarden and Ed Carpenter both posted times well inside the 190-mile per hour speed threshold. Andretti Autosport driver Macro Andretti finishes the test at Phoenix as the fastest Honda-powered race car with a fifth fastest overall time. Canada’s James Hinchcliffe was 16th fastest on the final time sheet following the Test in the West logging 310 laps and a top speed of 188.085 miles per hour.

History and Upsets Highline NHRA’s CARQUEST Auto Parts Nationals

The second event of the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series saw the tour arrive at Phoenix’s Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park for the CARQUEST Auto Parts Nationals.

In Top Fuel, Leah Pritchett has become a first-time overall winner in the category driving the Quaker State dragster for Bob Vandergriff. The 27-year-old Pritchett beat out Brittany Force in a narrow final round victory. The matching of Force and Pritchett in Top Fuel was the first all-female final round in the drag racing category since 1982.

The Funny Car finals were a showdown of veterans as 66-year-old John Force faced off against 55-year-old Tim Wilkerson. With a stable 3.937-second final run at 320.43 miles per hour in a Ford Mustang was more than enough to beat John Force’s Chevrolet Camaro who struggled to find traction in the final round. Wilkerson’s effort was deemed impressive after he outran the CARQUEST Auto Parts Nationals top qualifier in Funny Car Ron Capps.

A 14-car showing for the Pro Stock cars ended with Jason Line prevailing edging out Chris McGaha. Despite McGaha running a faster time down the track, driver of the Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro’s advantage came with a better reaction time.

Atlanta Becomes Kyle Busch’s Latest Xfinity Series Conquest

Kyle Busch won his 77th event in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with a commanding run in his #18 NOS Energy Drink Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. Atlanta Motor Speedway’s The Heads Up Georgia 250 saw Busch lead 119 of the races 163 laps. While the performance alone is proof of the 30-year-old driver’s dominance of the series in recent years, the victory can be highlighted in statistics. Among active tracks in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Atlanta Motor Speedway had been one of the few remaining tracks Kyle Busch had not previously won on in the tour. Only Las Vegas and Watkins Glen are current race tracks where the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion has not visited victory lane in the Xfinity Series.

A 29-lap green flag run at the end of the race did see a potential rival to Busch’s Atlanta victory emerge from the ENEOS Chevrolet driven by Kyle Larson. Larson finished second between the winning #18 Toyota and the third place #20 Toyota both belonging to Joe Gibbs Racing. The second-most laps led by a competitor in the Heads Up Georgia 250 were achieved by Brad Keselowski’s #22 Ford Mustang. He finished in sixth place in the Discount Tire-sponsored vehicle of Penske Racing. Despite winning the last three NASCAR Xfinity Series races on the 1.54-mile Atlanta surface, Kevin Harvick was not a major factor in the 2016 event due to an overheating problem on his #88 Chevrolet Camaro. He finished in 12th place and was one lap down.

Nemechek Survives Bruising Late Stages in Truck Series Race 

The complexion of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ Great Clips 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway shifted in the last 17 laps. In late race accidents, frontrunners of the race Matt Crafton and Christopher Bell (who would combine to lead all but 12 of the race’s 130 laps) were gradually eliminated through late crashes. Escaping through the multi-vehicle wreck that claimed Matt Crafton’s #88 Toyota Tundra, John Hunter Nemechek rolled through the last laps of the truck to win his first victory of the season. The 18-year-old driver of the unsponsored #8 Chevrolet celebrated his victory with father and team owner Joe Nemechek.

Cameron Hayley in the #13 Toyota Tundra came in a close second place crossing the line 0.305 seconds behind Nemechek’s Chevrolet. The Red Horse Racing Toyota of Timothy Peters, the #19 Ford owned by Brad Keselowski driven by Daniel Hemric and Grant Enfinger in the #33 Chevrolet rounded out the top-five.

Runner-Up Finish Career-Best Canada’s Hayley

John Hunter Nemechek’s required the strength to overcome 19-year-old ThorSport Racing’s Cameron Hayley in the final stage of the Great Clips 200. The sophomore driver has something to prove in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and was in primary pouncing position for a his first career in a major NASCAR touring series. The second-place result in the #13 Toyota does become Hayley’s best career finish in the truck series.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Toronto's 2016 Canadian International AutoShow Wraps With Record Attendance Numbers

Bloodhound Project Jaguar F-Type R Coupe
Photo Credit: Chris Nagy

Last weekend, the 2016 edition of the Canadian International AutoShow concluded as an indoor automotive festival. Latest concept cars like the Toyota U Squared and new Canadian production vehicle introductions such as the Kia Niro Hybrid demonstrated the modern direction of the automobile. The auto show also remained mindful of where 21st century automobiles are rooted with the Art and the Automobile exhibit and auto racing fans delighted in the Indy 500 display. As the collection of new and old vehicles departed the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, the gaze of a record crowd left the automotive gathering left satisfied.

From February 12th to February 21st, the 2016 Canadian International AutoShow tallied 320,651 visitors have attended the show. The attendance number is touted as the highest number ever in the TADA (Trillium Automobile Dealers Association) hosted event's 43-year history.“From the global and North American unveilings to the VIP visits to the top-notch displays from manufacturers and other exhibitors, it all helped to make this show the draw that it is to attendees from across Canada and beyond.” said Canadian International AutoShow General Manager Jason Campbell. As typical in recent years since the Ontario provincial government's establishment of Family Day, Monday was one of three highly-attended days where tire kicking was performed (not to concept cars or special display vehicles of course). In addition to February 15th, Tuesday February 16th as well as Saturday February 20th were popular days for visitors to the auto show.

The record-setting 2016 auto show has been the latest to illustrate a steady gain. In 2009, a year where the Canadian International AutoShow  occurred during turbulent economic and automotive industry times, total attendance was recorded at 253,384. By 2012, a recovered economy encouraged more than 316,000 visitors to check out the vehicle displays. 

With the 2016 show in the books, planning for the 44th edition of the Canadian International AutoShow in 2017 is already underway. Public dates for the 2017 auto show in Toronto is set for February 17th to 26th.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Hyundai Posts $20,000 Reward Canadians to Assist in Recovery of SuperStructure

Photo Credit: Chris Nagy

Hyundai appeals to the Canadian public to help find a special engineering exhibit that was stolen last week in Toronto.

Part of the recently-concluded 2016 Canadian International AutoShow in the city, the Korean auto company's presentation consisted of an unfinished 2017 Elantra shown only in form of its SuperStructure. A display of the brand's commitment to more than doubling the amount of advanced high-strength steel (consuming up to 53 percent of its total composition) used in the new compact car's chassis, the SuperStructure of the 2017 Hyundai Elantra is said to perform with greater rigidity as well as provide a quieter, more comfortable ride quality.

Captured on a surveillance camera, the theft of the Hyundai SuperStructure was carried out during the early morning hours at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre by three perpetrators. Fears are that the SuperStructure has been stolen by Hyundai competition in the goal to reverse engineer the methods of construction. In order to take down their stolen exhibit, Hyundai Auto Canada Corporation has launched the #SuperSearch contest.

Photo Credit: Hyundai Canada

Running until April 4th, the Hyundai #SuperSearch will encourage Canadians to seek out the location of the lost SuperStructure through a series of clues. Participants can register throught the contest website where they will be given five clues to finding Hyundai's SuperStructure. Clues will be distributed one per week starting on February 18th and end on the week of March 15th. The contest's grand prize is $20,000 with four additional prize money of $2,500 offered for Week 1 through Week 4 drawn for the participants who answered each clue correctly. Weekly prize eligibility needs the entrants to only answer a particular clue of the week.

For more details and registration in the Hyundai #SuperSearch contest, please visit the promotion's website. This contest is only open to residents of Canada.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Stewart-Haas Racing Joins Ford Fusion Stable for 2017 NASCAR Campaign

Photo Credit: Ford Motor Company

The blue oval brigade will gain a powerful, new ally for the 2017 NASCAR season. On Wednesday morning, Ford Performance (the motorsport and special vehicle arm of Ford Motor Company) announced the addition of Stewart-Haas Racing to their brand for next year's Cup Series. Stewart-Haas Racing has signed a multi-year deal with the auto company to field four Ford Fusion stock cars starting with the 2017 Daytona 500.

“We are thrilled to be able to add a championship-level team like Stewart-Haas Racing to our Ford NASCAR program,” said Ford Motor Company's executive vice president and Chief Technical Officer Raj Nair. Stewart-Haas Racing will join Penske Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports, Roush Fenway Racing, Wood Brothers Racing and Front Row Motorsports as NASCAR Cup organizations to be gathered under the 2017 Ford line-up. Ford Fusion-bodied Stewart-Haas Racing cars will be supplied by the same Roush Yates Engines V-8 powerplants used by the other Ford-backed NASCAR Cup teams.  

The manufacturer change marks a significant 2016 conclusion of a partnership between the team and General Motors as well as the driver line-up. Gene Haas-owned Haas CNC Racing has been aligned with Chevrolet-supported Hendrick Motorsports since its 2002 inception in NASCAR. Despite a 2003 season in the Cup Series where Haas CNC Racing ran a Pontiac Grand Prix, the team has been firmly supportive of the Chevrolet bow tie badge. In 2009, Tony Stewart joined the team after leaving Joe Gibbs Racing who had joined Toyota in the previous year. Acquiring equity in the team, the race organization became Stewart-Haas Racing and grew to four teams.

Along with the team principals, the change to Ford will also provide a change of scenery to the team's high-ranking driver Kevin Harvick. Since his debut in the Cup Series in 2001 assuming the Richard Childress Racing car previously driven by Dale Earnhardt, Kevin Harvick has driven only for Chevrolet. Over the course of his career, Harvick has posted 31 wins, a 2007 Daytona 500 and a 2014 championship in what is now the Sprint Cup Series behind the wheel of Chevrolet stock cars. Harvick provide have history driving with Ford in the truck series for the 1999 season. Confirmed 2017 drive Clint Bowyer (currently driving the #15 with HScott Motorsports) also lacks a solid history with Ford in motorsport heading into the change next season.

Photo Credit: NASCAR

While Ford's arrival be a different experience for Harvick and Bowyer, the manufacturer switch will be a homecoming for Kurt Busch of the #41 team. Driving for Jack Roush, Busch's career in Cup started with Ford. In 2004, he drove a Ford Taurus stock car to the series championship under the first-ever Chase format play-off. Current driver of the #10 car Danica Patrick also has a favourable past with Ford in her transition through open wheel racing as a Formula Ford driver.

Tony Stewart, co-owner and retiring driver of the team's #14 car, has spent all but one season in the NASCAR Cup series driving General Motors products. He acknowledges the successful run with Chevrolet saying, "They’ve been an awesome partner and we’ve done a lot of special things together, including two championships and a ton of races. We hope to do that again this year". However, the three-time Cup champion looks forward to the adoption to Ford. "We feel this future relationship with Ford provides us with a bright future, great stability for SHR, and an opportunity to compete at a very top level in the sport.  We’re obviously very excited about it." said Tony Stewart. While Tony Stewart will retire at the end of 2016 and will not likely ever compete with a Fusion stock car, Ford was at one time involved in an effort that would have seen Stewart make his transition from IndyCar to the Cup Series through the failed Ranier-Walsh Racing. In the 1996 Indy Racing League, Stewart drove a Ford Cosworth powered open wheel machine where he started at the front of that year's Indianapolis 500.

Stewart-Haas Racing will continue to receive engines and cars from Hendrick Motorsports until the end of 2016. "I don’t think Rick looks at this as this is a betrayal of him. It’s more like he treated my first Haas CNC Racing as kind of his own child and he was doing everything he could to make sure we were successful.  He was never selfish about it or looking to benefit himself. I think he respects the decision we’ve made because the bottom line is it’s a business decision that, I think, enhances Stewart-Haas Racing in the future." said Gene Haas in the press conference discussing the change to Ford.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Denny Hamlin Wins Daytona 500 By 0.010-Second Margin

Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

The first 200 laps of competition for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 2016 season took place at the crown jewel of stock car racing. A facility recently renovated under the Daytona Rising initiative focused on greater fan comfort (a plan also including the reduction of seating from the 2014 capacity of over 145,000 to approximately 101,000), the track configuration contributing to high-speeds and multi-car drafting remained the same. This year's Daytona 500 saw the race decided in a matter of less than half the distance of the 2.5-mile track on the final lap.

Before the Green Flag

Since 1982, the Daytona 500 has been the stage to start of the Cup Series season. Ahead of the green flag for the 58th annual 500 mile race at the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway oval, several radical changes have been instituted for the new Sprint Cup Series season. A new charter team structure guarantees 36 teams will start every race this season. The field count of NASCAR Sprint Cup races is also shrinking from 43 to 40 cars. A new digital dash display mandated for all cars and a tweaked green-white-checker finishing procedure is now in place.

In single-car qualifying on the Sunday prior to the Daytona 500, Chase Elliott in his full-season debut in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rounded the Daytona International Speedway with an average speed of 196.314 miles per hour. Elliott and Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driver Matt Kenseth locked into the front row positions while the remainder of the field's placement would be decided in the Can-Am Duel 150 races won by Dale Earnhardt Jr's #88 Chevrolet and Kyle Busch's #18 Toyota.

Among the top favourites for the 2016 Daytona 500 included Dale Earnhardt Jr, Kyle Busch and last year's winner Joey Logano. After winning the Sprint Unlimited exhibition race on Saturday, February 13th, Denny Hamlin's name and the #11 Toyota was added to the top list of possible winners. Busch and Earnhardt Jr. victories cemented the their chances as being better-than average. In the moments before the Grand American Race, some even pondered the rookie polesitter's opportunity to win the Daytona 500.

The Start

Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images

Starting his stint in the historic #24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet SS from the pole, Chase Elliott led the first three laps of the 2016 Daytona 500 with his NAPA-sponsored vehicle. Taking over the machine belonging to the now-retired Jeff Gordon, Elliott drove with some assistance of teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr in those initial laps. By the time field reached the start/finish line for the fourth lap however, the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet of Earnhardt Jr. sailed by the young Chase Elliott.

As Dale Earnhardt Jr controlled the early stage of the event, Chase Elliott's first Daytona 500 pursuit came to an abrupt end on lap 20. The #24 NAPA car lost grip in the draft out of turn four and swept into the infield grass severely damaging Elliott's race vehicle. Out of contention, the Hendrick Motorsports crew did repair the Chevrolet SS for the rookie to return 40 laps down but ultimately finishing the race.

Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Action in the Race

The 2016 Daytona 500 could hardly be categorized as an exciting race to watch. For most of the race, competitors appeared extremely cautious with few major overtaking measures. In total, 20 lead changes is on the low side for a NASCAR Sprint Cup restrictor plate event. Many of those lead changes occurred through pit stops rather than on-track swaps for the top position. Leading from the end of the race's second caution on lap 61, Jimmie Johnson's 18 laps at the front ended in one on-track pass conducted by Kyle Busch. The #18 Toyota took the first place position and quickly displaced Johnson from the front. Busch and the Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin held a stranglehold on the lead that would be reflected late in the 2016 Daytona 500.

While there were on-track incidents in this 2016 500-mile race, the lack of a major multi-car wreck just much of the field intact to finish at Daytona. Of the 40 starters, 31 were recorded as finishing on the lead lap. Only Chris Buescher and Matt DiBenedetto failed to make it beyond the halfway point of the Daytona 500. Driver Buescher of the #34 Ford and DiBenedetto piloting the #83 Toyota were involved in a scary lap 93 crash. While both drivers left their vehicles slowly, they avoided serious injury.

As the race was reaching the third-quarter distance mark, a major contender lost his opportunity to claim a third Daytona 500. In an incident somewhat similar to Chase Elliott's early race crash, the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS of Dale Earnhardt Jr suddenly lost control and shot down the track out of turn four. Earnhardt Jr's car collided front-first with the inside retaining wall. Driving his favourite restrictor plate racing car from the Hendrick Motorsports stable, the 2004 and 2014 Daytona 500 race winner had to settle for a 36th place finish.

The Finale

Leading from lap 160, the #20 Dollar General Toyota Camry driven by Matt Kenseth was in prime position to win the Daytona 500 for his third time. Late in the race, a five-car draft between Toyota vehicles (four Joe Gibbs Racing and the #78 Furniture Row Racing car driven by Martin Truex Jr) appeared to have kept other competitors at bay.

Leading 40 consecutive laps, Kenseth only needed to lead the final circuit to claim the Harley J. Earl Trophy. Taking the white flag, Denny Hamlin's #11 FedEx car broke the all-Toyota lead draft out of turn 2. Merging ahead of the #4 Chevrolet SS of Kevin Harvick, Hamlin sailed forward with the momentum of the late-race aerodynamic push on the backstretch. The #11 car charged Matt Kenseth through turn 3 resulting in a three-car battle to the checkered flag. As Denny Hamlin was approaching to pass Matt Kenseth on a high lane, the #20 car attempted to block the advance. Kenseth's car reacted poorly causing the two-time winner of the Daytona 500 to back off the throttle to avoid wrecking through turn four. As Hamlin passed the #20 Toyota, the #78 Toyota in the hands of Truex Jr made a hard charge along an opening in a lower lane. It was a drag race between Hamlin and Truex Jr down in the final stretch. While the #78 car appeared to grab a narrow advantage, Denny Hamlin inched deeper forward as the two cars reached the finish line. By a mere 0.010 of a second gap, Hamlin and his #11 FedEx Toyota won by a photo finish.

The Winner

Photo Credit: Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images

Due to the closeness of the finish, Denny Hamlin wasn't immediately sure race won the 2016 Daytona 500. In a post-race press conference, Hamlin recalled, "I didn't know we had won.  I knew it was close.  I saw the pylon change and blink at the last second for the 11. I heard on the radio people were all crazy, excited.  I assumed we won when that happened".

Denny Hamlin parlayed a strong overall effort in NASCAR's Daytona Speedweeks to be the winner of the ultimate prize. His first Daytona 500 win, the Virginian native Hamlin becomes the fifth driver to win the invitational Sprint Unlimited and the big race in the same Speedweeks. Hamlin also locks up the first berth in the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase with his victory. For Toyota, this is the Japanese-based brand's first Daytona 500 win as a manufacturer.

Job Gibbs Racing Dominates Daytona

Winning the Daytona 500 in 1993 with Dale Jarrett as a driver, Joe Gibbs Racing won their second Great American race 23 years later as a completely different team. Having won four Sprint Cup championships between that time and switch manufacturers to Toyota, the team's 2016 win was largely a four-car team affair consisting of Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards. 154 of the race's 200 laps at Daytona International Speedway had a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota out front (Hamlin held the spot for 95 of those circuits). While Carl Edwards in the #19 car encountered problems through the early part of the race, he still figured into the late stage of this year's Daytona 500 ultimately finishing fifth.

With four official entrants, Joe Gibbs Racing also approached the 2016 Daytona 500 with a new satellite operation. Switching from Chevrolet to Toyota, Furniture Row Racing and driver Martin Truex Jr seemed to enjoy the immediate benefits of the new motorsport corporate partnership. Despite an uneasy start in qualifying where a roof flap malfunction prevented the #78 Toyota from posting a time, the second-place finish in their first outing can only build optimism.

In the final results, the Joe Gibbs Racing supported Toyota Camrys driven by Denny Hamlin, satellite entrant Martin Truex Jr and Kyle Busch took the top-three spots. A fifth place for Carl Edwards allows the organization to claim four of the top-five positions for Toyota.

Hendrick's Heartbreak at Daytona

Hendrick Motorsports brought came to the 2016 Daytona 500 with some proven restrictor plate prowess. Chase Elliott took the pole in a Daytona time trials that saw the three of the four Chevrolet team cars vying in the final round of 12 competitors. In race #1 of the Can-Am Duel 150, Dale Earnhardt Jr passed eventual Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin to be victorious.

The race for Hendrick Motorsports was an unexpected sea of disappointment. With Chase Elliott and Dale Earnhardt Jr crashing out of contention, only Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne were left in position to fight for the race. Recovering from a 28th starting spot received due to a late crash in his Can-Am Duel 150 race, Johnson's #48 Lowe's Chevrolet was briefly a factor. Unfortunately, a pit miscue resulted in a penalty that Jimmie Johnson and the team were unable to fully assert themselves as a frontrunner. The #48 Chevrolet finished 16th while the final Hendrick Motorsport entry driven by Kasey Kahne was the highest placing member of the team coming across the line 13th.

Pleasant Surprises in the Final Results

For most of the race, the #42 Target Chevrolet driven by Kyle Larson consistently and quietly was close to the front. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver finished 7th behind last year's Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano. Larson's teammate Jamie McMurray ran decently also for most of the day but settled with a 17th place result.

Most the biggest surprises in the top-10 of the 2016 Daytona 500 was the appearance of the #7 Golden Corral/Nikko Chevrolet piloted by Regan Smith. Smith and his Tommy Baldwin Racing team crossed the line in 8th place. While Tommy Baldwin Racing was a member of the Sprint Cup Series new Charter Team system, the #59 Chevrolet for team owner Joe Falk was not. Racing into the Daytona 500 through the Can-Am Duel 150, Michael McDowell endured 200 laps with the team to finish a respectable 15th place.  

Denny Hamlin and the Joe Gibbs Racing will have a short time to celebrate their 2016 Daytona 500. Next Sunday, the now-running NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will be racing on the Atlanta Motor Speedway for another 500-mile affair.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Rare James Bond Aston Martin DB10 Sells For $4.8 Million Canadian

Photo Credit: Aston Martin The Americas

It seems James Bond is always running or chasing something. Piloting jet aircraft, boats, jet skis and even a lunar vehicle from a fabricated sound stage, cars are the best known means of moving a world-saving spy in whatever locale on the globe he lands. British luxury car maker Aston Martin owes their entire company image on their appearance in the movie franchise first with the DB5 and with subsequent models used over decades. Spectre, last year's continuation of the movie saga starring Daniel Craig playing British secret agent codenamed '007', contained a custom-made Aston Martin racing in high-suspense scenes. The Aston Martin DB10 was a hand-built sports car created specifically for the movie. A marriage of carbon fiber and aluminum, the alluring British vehicle is set in motion by a 4.7-liter V-8 engine and six-speed manual transmission permitting top speeds of 190 miles per hour.

Despite being a world-renowned super spy, James Bond is really a humble civil servant who would likely never afford many of the Q Branch-modified vehicles he frequently brings back in pieces. With only 10 examples of the Aston Martin DB10 made for the recently released James Bond movie Spectre, one question has to be asked regarding a potential real-life owner of the British sports car; who would buy the sole publicly available DB10? On Thursday, February 18th at a planned sale staged by famed London auction house Christie's, the question was answered in a manner that may prove difficult for many of us to afford; even if we would life twice.

One of only two Aston Martin DB10's left unmodified for filming of Spectre, the supercar fetched an astonishing £2,434,500 (translating to roughly $4.8 million converted against the current Canadian currency). Sold as a collectors items and display item only, the Aston Martin DB10's special construction meant the vehicle could not be approved for use on public roads.

Photo Credit: Aston Martin The Americas

Despite the amount totalling to what almost seems like an extortion figure presented by arch Bond villain Blofeld, there is the peace of mind that the money raised is going in a good cause. Humanitarian charity Médecins Sans Frontières or better known as Doctors Without Borders will be able to use to proceeds of the James Bond-popularized Aston Martin DB10's sale in the devotion of sending real-life heroes in their international missions.

Part of a James Bond Spectre live auction containing in total 10 live auction lots and 14 on-line items, the DB10 was going to be major instrument to the fundraising. However, similar to how James Bond can pull off impossible feats, the non-street legal car surpassed expectations. Predicted to raise over a million UK Pounds for charity last month, the sale of the DB10 reached a near all-time high as the vehicle raised nearly 2.5 times more than estimates. In total, the charity auction brought in £2,785,500 for Médecins Sans Frontières.

The sale of the ultra rare Aston Martin DB10 built for Spectre is one of several recent auction sales of  famous Bond cars for a great sum. In 2010, an iconic Aston Martin DB5 used on-scene for Goldfinger snapped-up £2,912,000 (working out to about $4.751 million Canadian). Three years later, a studio-built Wet Nellie underwater diving Lotus Esprit seen in "The Spy Who Love Me" was bought by Tesla Motors kingpin for £550,000 (just under $900,000 Canadian at the time) from an English RM Auctions sale.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Media Day Memories of 2016 Canadian International AutoShow

Photo Credit:Chris Nagy

It was another wild weather outing for me trekking down to Toronto on Thursday for what is one of the most special annual traditions for me. On the plus side this year, the worst temperature I endured was only -17 degrees Celsius instead of -23 degrees Celsius. You may ask me what propels someone to undertake foot travel when the vile force we call winter is at all might. The 2016 Canadian International AutoShow is the answer I proudly give.

Since 2009, my devotion to automotive journalism has been rewarded with an advance viewing of some of the greatest new cars and special displays. Always logging around a healthy weight in equipment for what works out to be roughly ten hours of attendance at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, I return tired but incredibly fulfilled with what has been presented to me. Some would think ten hours is more than enough time to absorb all the information at a display for automobiles. I must beg the pardon of those individuals since the time simply flies. With exception to the approximately 20 minutes waiting in line for the media lunch in line ups you would only see if the food was free, the day was a very fluid event.

My privilege for attending media day at the 2016 Canadian International AutoShow comes with a special responsibility I press myself to deliver. Through my words and my images, I must share with readers or followers the best moments at the 2016 edition of the Toronto automotive exhibition.

Driving Trend for the 2016 Canadian International AutoShow: It’s Hip to be Square

Photo Credit:Chris Nagy

With every auto show, there is usually a series of profiled vehicles that follow an outlying pattern. Sometimes it is crossover vehicles, electric vehicles or big trucks. Last year it was the 21st century high-performance with the appearance of the Dodge SRT Hellcats, the 2017 Ford GT and F-150 Raptor as well as the production example of the Acura NSX.

For 2016, several production and concept vehicles seem to gravitate around a genre of practical motoring. Production vehicles such as the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica , Honda Ridgeline, Mazda CX-9 and Chevrolet Cruze Hatch are key vehicles demonstrating a livable, relatable theme. Concept vehicles also followed this 2016 Canadian International AutoShow trend as the Hyundai Santa Cruz and Toyota’s global premiere of the U Squared utility showed unique interpretations in versatility. While indulging in the framework of practicality, each product exhibited how ‘hip to be square’ Canadians can be on the road for 2016 and beyond.

Most Deserving AJAC Car of the Year Award Winner: 2016 Honda Civic

Photo Credit:Chris Nagy

The Honda Civic has done a lot of things right in the Canadian market to win the best-selling car crown every year for 18 consecutive years. For 2016, Honda has brought forth a radically updated version of their compact car. Perhaps one of the most significant generational shifts for the Civic since the car officially crossed over from the subcompact to compact class in 2001, the tenth generation edition is the longer, offered with turbocharged engine power and boasts a more comfortable interior filled with the high-tech features 21st century motorists expect.

Realizing that big changes can potentially shift the pendulum of motorist opinions aggressively in one direction or the other, Honda’s move with the tenth generation Civic has been resoundingly positive. Already being crowned Car of the Year at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, it was the Canadian press members’ turn to honour a brilliant 2016 Honda Civic in Toronto.

While touting the Canadian premiere of the 2017 Ridgeline pickup truck at their press conference in the afternoon of media day, Honda also proudly celebrated the Canadian-built Civic sedan’s newest accolade.

Most Unfairly Exhausting Presentation: Hyundai

Photo Credit:Chris Nagy

Every year at the auto show for anyone who spent the entire day at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, there’s a point in media day where the length of the experience catches up to you. By the time media day reached the Hyundai display for their presentation, the schedule was more than 20 minutes overdue. It’s a shame by the time the growing Korean-based auto manufacturer approached the microphone, the afternoon felt like the end of an endurance race.

Hyundai’s presentation was comprehensive and even informative. Revealing two concept cars, the Santa Cruz pickup as well as the motorcycle-inspired Enduro crossover vehicle (an ironic name based on the before-mentioned approach to a period of exhaustion for some media members), Hyundai also showcased the G90, the first component of their new Genesis luxury brand. In addition to the cars, take did cover plenty of extra details of their brand's involvement in Canada including their sponsorship of the PGA Scramble of Canada (a series of amateur golf events in the country). Hyundai also took time to boast about their use of high-strength steel originating from their own steel subsidiary. In an interactive display, the strength of the material was demonstrated in comparison to a lower strength steel.

The presentation itself was terrific and memorable so maybe my tiredness at that day serves as an anchor.  

Not Hiding Anything Award: Lack of TDI Diesels from Volkswagen

Photo Credit:Chris Nagy

If you walk around the Volkswagen display, you may notice one long-lauded technology is conspicuously absent. The lack of TDI diesel powered models in the Volkswagen display has not gain unnoticed. Naturally, since the revelation of their diesel emissions cheating, a long-touted and beloved component of the Volkswagen stable has become a liability.

Showstopper-turned Wallflower: 2017 Acura NSX

Photo Credit:Chris Nagy

Acura seems to realize four years of teasing us with their supercar design have given them little new to report. Beside their brand parent Honda, the Acura luxury division didn’t even host a press conference. Sitting in the back of a brand display was the production Acura NSX. The nearly $250,000 Canadian 2017 model year Acura NSX stood in a classy coloured called Nouvelle Blue Pearl.

Maybe it was in a corner but the NSX supercar’s low key presence did not go unnoticed. A beaming example of hybrid performance, positioning of the vehicle at a standstill is really irrelevant. There wasn’t an auto journalist in the building who would refuse the honour of setting that 2017 NSX in motion.    

Least Surprising Unveiling: Mazda CX-9

Photo Credit:Chris Nagy

Mazda has a lot to be optimistic about with the new CX-9 crossover. It looks stunning as the latest recipient of the brand’s KODO design language. With this particular model, the tightness of the headlights and the elegant direction of the body lines speaks high-class. A turbocharged gasoline engine created with Mazda’s SkyActiv technology powering the CX-9 is also a step the Japanese-derived auto brand heavily touts.

As amazing as the Mazda CX-9 is, the presentation in Toronto was a modest affair. Mazda didn’t even bother disguising the all-new crossover flagship with a cover or sheet. In a way I admire Mazda for that move since the Canadian International AutoShow is usually a chance for already unveiled vehicles to be unveiled again. Seeing a “North American Debut” or “Canadian premiere” kinda equates to Christmas for a child who knows every gift they are receiving.

Surprise of the Show: FCA Commitment to Canada

Photo Credit:Chris Nagy

A couple of years ago, the Canadian International AutoShow opening presentation at FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) was dominated by Sergio Marchionne defending a call for a gigantic government investment into the auto company days ahead of the 2014 auto show in Toronto. After what was seen as a corporate strong-arming, cooler heads prevailed with FCA ultimately decided to remain true to Canada and the country’s workforce.

The Canadian introduction of the new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica and Pacifica Hybrid minivans held added prominence as the vehicle will be constructed in Windsor. Along with the already announced production in Windsor, the new minivan line is slated to create 1,200 jobs. The number is double the forecast creation for the Windsor plant.

Star Power of the Show: Nissan Brings the Gridiron to CIAS

Photo Credit:Chris Nagy

The final major auto manufacturer’s presentation featured some sport stars supporting some rugged, monstrous machines. Presenting the Nissan Titan Warrior Concept to Canada was a member of each football team of the CFL. The Nissan press display was joined by another sports personality. Among the burliest stars at the Nissan presentation was TSN’s Kate Beirness. I’m kidding about the description of the ravishing Kate Beirness but her voice was a touchdown to what was a long media day.

Honourable mention for star power at the 2016 Canadian International AutoShow also goes to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Jaguar Land Rover and Mitsubishi. Immediately following the Canadian introduction of the Chrysler Pacifica minivan, Canadian Ralph Gilles appeared onstage. The presence of Jaguar’s Director of Design Ian Callum also served as a powerful voice alongside the new F-Pace crossover. Finally, Mitsubishi recruited the Toronto Rock lacrosse team for the North American premiere of the Mirage G4 sedan.

Vehicle of Amusement: The Tesla Model X

Photo Credit:Chris Nagy

Every year, the Auto Exotica display could potentially be significant as the most expensive square footage space in Toronto based on the ultra-exotic cars used to occupy the floor. In an attempt to accomplish this potential feat, the 2016 Canadian International AutoShow has assembled some rare and sought-after modern vehicles. A Pagani Huayra, Rolls-Royce Wraith and a Ferrari 488 GTB are among exotic, precision-built wheels presented for view in this year. Perhaps the most expensive car at the show this year is the 1996 McLaren F1 GTR with an estimated value more than 13 million dollars.

Auto Exotica for 2016 also possesses the Tesla Model X in what is said to be its global auto show debut. Needless to say, the all-electric crossover vehicle was a popular temptation. So popular, I have once again been denied the opportunity to seat inside a Tesla. At every auto show or anywhere a Tesla vehicle is on display, there’s always a crowd who spends about 10-15 minutes inside. I swear small groups were simply entertained by the opening and closing of the Tesla Model X's Falcon Wing rear passenger doors.

I will have expanded coverage of the 2016 Canadian International AutoShow on Car FYI in the coming days.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

CIAS 2016 Preview: Tesla Takes On Toronto with Model X

Photo Credit: Tesla Motors

Tesla Motors has repeatedly beaten odds for a start-up United States-based automaker. Specifically focused on the creation of electric vehicles, the California car builder overcame sceptics with their Roadster and later with the release of the Model S sedan. When the Tesla Model S would gain the honour of Motor Trend's Car of the Year in 2013, the win of one of the most prestigious vehicle awards meant no one could afford to underestimate the electric car company.

As soon as Tesla's buzz reached critical mass in the United States, the brand has expanded rapidly. In Canada, the electric vehicle's image has grown swiftly. Since Tesla's first Canadian sales store opened inside Toronto's Yorkdale Shopping Centre in 2012, addition locations in the Ottawa, Vancouver and Montreal area have spouted up. 17 of Tesla's Supercharger charging stations are also part of the electric car company's Canadian infrastructure. With such a brief presence in this country, Tesla's respect for the northern automotive marketplace will surge with the first global auto show appearance of their latest Model X crossover at the 2016 Canadian International AutoShow.

Not just another entrant in the premium crossover utility segment, the Tesla Model X is the latest high-tech, all-electric vehicle from a company wanting to change the way we perceive the automobile. Employing many of the technological innovations of the Model S sedan, Tesla has prepared some additional tricks for the Model X. Autopilot features and a top-trimmed P90D with a Ludicrous mode are two traits inherited by the crossover. Featuring energy storage of a 90 kWh battery pack, the Model X P90D is capable of a range up to 250 miles. Within the battery range, the Tesla Model X is a street-going terror able to acceleration from 0 to 60 miles per hour in as little as 3.2 seconds. Thanks to a combined torque of 713 pound-feet of torque from the Model X's two electric motors, the zero-emission premium crossover vehicle can tow up to 5,000 pounds.    

One of the most unique design characteristics of the Model X crossover is the opening of the rear doors. Called Falcon Wing doors, gull-wing style movement provides rear passengers access At its unveiling in September, the function of Falcon Wing doors on the Tesla Model X was demonstrated on-stage with another SUV and a minivan positioned within inches of each door. Based on a dual-hinge door design, the Model X’s Falcon wing doors opened without touching the other vehicles. Musk explained the inspiration for the Falcon doors was arrived at when he was placing his child seats into the rear of his vehicle.

Tesla Motors' presence at the Canadian International AutoShow in previous years has not been  relationship with the traditional dealership network model. Usually, a roadster or Model S would appear somewhere in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre but there was never a great deal of publication. Insisting to sell vehicles through direct channels, Tesla's business tactic has come at the ire of many established groups. Blocked from performing their usual sales in the state of Michigan, Tesla Motors has recently applied for a dealership license in the state. The 2016 Canadian International Auto Show provides a new, electrifying opportunity to see Tesla's continuing incorporation into the modern automotive marketplace.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

CIAS 2016 Preview: Toyota’s U Squared Set for Edgy Global Premiere in Toronto

Photo Credit: Toyota Canada Inc.

The Canadian International AutoShow always features a lively and eclectic group of automobiles. This year’s show pledges to offer the greatest of 2016 cars, trucks, vans, crossovers, and almost any other class of passenger vehicle on four wheels. Some of the most engaging concept vehicles also arrive in Toronto every year as a firsthand opportunity for Canadians of the great city to chart what progress is upcoming for automobiles.

Many times attendees of the Canadian show are the first in the country to witness the bold and high-tech future but we face the reality that we are not the first public members to examine such designs. Sometimes automakers even send concept vehicles that were first displayed several years ago to Toronto. Having brought the i-Road, FV2 Concept and the Fun-VII to previous iterations of the Canadian International AutoShow, Toyota will embark on a fairly uncommon vehicle. As much as their concept design is striking amongst itself, the vehicle significance comes with it making a global debut in Toronto.

The Toyota U2  (or U Squared) will premiere at the 2016 Canadian International AutoShow as a truck-like mobile solution. Targeted towards entrepreneurs and so-called ‘Makers’, the Toyota U2  features unique utilitarian styling. A highly distinctive departure for Toyota, the outer shell of the concept has an offbeat urban flair. The grille and headlight treatment is among the unusual traits of the Toyota U2 since they share no resemblance to any other Toyota product produced in North America. The Toyota logo is substituted by lettering mirroring a characteristic style familiar to US and Canadian care buyers of the Japanese brand up to the 1990s.

Dubbed as an urban utility concept, the Toyota U2 will showcase an unhinged flexibility inside. “From its retracting roof panels, to its uniquely configurable utility rail system, the U2 offers a concept vehicle that is only limited by the imagination,” said vice president of sales for Toyota Canada Inc. Cyril Dimitris.

More details of the Toyota U2 concept will be present later this week as the 2016 Canadian International AutoShow is set to entertain an anxious automotive crowd. In addition to the U2, the Toyota exhibit will also feature the all-new 2016 Toyota Prius, RAV4 Hybrid and virtual reality simulators.

Recap of the 2015 Canadian International AutoShow

Range Rover Sport SVR

The 2016 Canadian International AutoShow arrives this weekend promising to gather an assorted collection of automobiles. Before going into any depth with the 2016 edition of the Toronto exhibition, I wish to provide some enlightenment to the spirit of the event by profiling last year’s.

While I was able to detail some of the content through articles and with videos on YouTube, I regret that I wasn’t able to write a full review of last year’s Canadian International AutoShow. I’ll sum it up by explaining that I simply froze. Last year’s media day for the Canadian International AutoShow corresponded with one of the coldest days of 2015. In my round-trip to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, there was about 15 minutes I needed to walk outside. In the morning it was about -15 degrees Celsius and my trip back had me moving through temperatures of -25 degrees Celsius. Between that time, I was inside a convention space where lights and constant movement made it feel like a sauna. I attempted to play a balancing act to insulate myself against the outside elements while not boiling like a lobster. In addition to temperature issues, a momentary loss of a tablet I brought to the show to interact via social media was a blood pressure raising period. Thankfully, the tablet found its way into a member of security at the show after an ordeal that lasted roughly 30 minutes. Unfortunately, the next day was mostly a recovery as I sent the several days following finishing what I could finish.

In my moments of comfort at the 2015 Canadian International AutoShow, it truly was a magnificent exhibition. While the show’s primary focus is the freshly assembled production cars and concept vehicles, the overall presentation with the price of admission is an all-out indoor festival celebrating greatness of motorized wheels.

Following my attendance of the 2015 Canadian International AutoShow, there were some notable highlights that stood out to make my travels well worth some struggles through a frigid cold February day.

Art and the Automobile

1867 Henry Seth Taylor Steam Car

Recognizing new car debuts are perhaps the most important part of the 2015 Canadian International AutoShow, my interest in the history of the automobile alway drives me to spend time (on occasion too much time) at the special exhibits. The 2015 edition incorporated the addition of the Art and the Automobile consisting of some stunningly rare vehicles. Vehicles such as a prototype of the first Ford Mustang, 1948 Tucker Torpedo and a 1963 Chrysler Turbine are just too tempting. While I have been an automotive journalist for sometime, I have so much to see in person. The before-mentioned vehicles I have only read about prior to last year’s appearance at the show.

The Art and the Automobile exhibit also contained a treasure of Canadian motoring called the Henry Seth Taylor Carriage. A steam-engined vehicle completed by a Stanstead, Quebec jeweler and watchmaker in 1867, the 500-pound, brakeless four-wheeled precursor to the automobile illustrated a concept of propelled motion for the first time at a local fair. The aged chassis narrowly avoided the scrapheap during Second World War to be restored and one of the world’s oldest automobiles in 2015. At the 2015 Canadian International AutoShow, the Henry Seth Taylor Carriage was presented close to a 1903 Ford Model B.

Good news ahead for the 2016 Canadian International AutoShow is the return of the Art and the Automobile display promising a fresh slate of vehicle displaying the brilliance of motoring history.

The Ford GT Introduction

Ford GT at 2015 CIAS

A third iteration of the Ford GT was a showstopper at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January of 2015. The concept for the 2017 Ford GT shape incorporating active aerodynamics and performance from a next-generation variant of Ford Motor Company’s EcoBoost V-6 engine power was an understandably welcomed addition in Toronto.

 The Easter egg moment of the Blue Oval brand’s 2015 Canadian International AutoShow’s presentation came with a net benefit to jobs in this country. The announcement that the new Ford GT would be assembled using the expertise of Canadian performance engineering company Multimatic was uplifting news for the automotive industry.

Crossover Vehicle Madness

2016 Honda Pilot at 2015 CIAS

The 2015 Canadian International AutoShow was marked by four high-profile new or significantly refreshed crossover utility vehicles.

The 2016 Chevrolet Equinox was perhaps the least provocative of the crossover vehicle introductions but carried the cache of being the product of Ingersoll, Ontario backed by an investment from General Motors.

Substantially redesigned, the introduction of the 2016 Honda Pilot incorporated increased interior space and the brand’s Earth Dreams propulsion philosophy. Both the Chevrolet Equinox and Honda Pilot were same-day premieres in Toronto that corresponded with activities at the Chicago Auto Show. For Canadian International AutoShow press in 2015, we enjoyed the exclusive pleasure of a surprise appearance by Verizon IndyCar Series driver James Hinchcliffe.

Two other crossovers sourced from Germany's Audi brand and British-derived Jaguar Land Rover appealed to a more refined motoring taste. The freshly restyled 2017 Audi Q7 seven-passenger luxury crossover shaves 325 kilograms or 716.5 pounds from the total weight of the previous model. Land Rover led itself through the first step across a new territory with the introduction of their SVR performance line. Billed as the fastest Land Rover ever built, the Range Rover Sport SVR packed a supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 engine producing close to 550 horsepower allowing it to run from 0 to 100 kilometres per hour in 4.7 seconds.

Radical Production-Destined Pickup Trucks 

2016 Nissan Titan Diesel Pickup Truck

Ford Motor Company’s 2015 appearance at the Canadian International AutoShow was full of high energy. Firstly for the before-mentioned GT supercar, Ford’s presence also included the 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor. An enhanced off-road performance truck following the SVT Raptor, the 2017 F-150 Raptor’s new style shares the conventional half-ton variant’s transition to aluminum body construction. Instead of a 6.2-liter V-8, the 2017 model year version of the off-road warrior pickup truck will receive Ecoboost V-6 engine power.

The Ram brand of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles brought two new versions of their full-sized pickup truck to the 2015 Canadian International AutoShow. The first was the 2016 Ram 1500 Rebel with tailored equipment for off-roading. Making a same-day debut to the press introduction, a new high-end Laramie Limited trim level featured a unique front grille as well as luxury interior appointments.

Nissan latest attempt to take a meaningful market share from the Detroit Three automakers was also communicated in 2015 with their latest Titan. The 2016 Nissan Titan XD boasted a new Cummins 5.0-liter V-8 turbocharged diesel powerplant. The new diesel-powered Titan pickup truck generates a brawny 555 pound feet of torque serving as enough momentum to tow a maximum weight of over 12,300 pounds.

Chevrolet Bolt EV Concept’s Shocking Presence

Chevrolet Bolt EV Concept Car

Electrification of automobiles is a trend that is here to stay. No longer does automakers and consumers look at an electric car as a quint novelty. In Detroit last year, Chevrolet unveiled a fully-electric concept car carrying some considerable weight. The compact-sized Chevrolet Bolt EV Concept showcased some far-reaching technologies such as a nano-composite rear cargo hatch and autonomous parking system. Though the immediate production of some of the Bolt EV Concept’s features was question, Chevrolet strongly committed to a production example of the 200-mile electric car.

Chevrolet has repeated its recent history when exhibiting electrified concept cars. Just as the Volt plug-in hybrid became a production reality, the Bolt EV Concept received the greenlight by the time the 2015 Canadian International AutoShow was held. For 2016, the production version Chevrolet Bolt EV will make its first Canadian appearance in Toronto.

Toyota i-Road

Toyota i-Road at 2015 CIAS

The whole 2015 Canadian International AutoShow display provided by Toyota was a marvellous collection of the automaker’s wide array of engineering. On a platform was the Toyota FT-1 concept supercar while a Le Mans Prototype show car was also present.

Combining the agility of a motorcycle with the stability and protection associated with a car, the Toyota i-Road made a demo appearance at the 2015 Canadian International AutoShow. A two-passenger electric car, the i-Road involved several unique traits such as an ultra-narrow design and the ability to lean into corners for optimum control.

The Toyota i-Road is more than just another nifty idea. In Tokyo and Toyota City, Japan as well as Grenoble, France, this vehicle is currently roaming the streets as a part of verification projects.

All photos and video clip in this presentation were compiled by Chris Nagy

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Have Kids Been Cheated Out of Their Moment with the Ford GT?

Photo Credit: Ford Motor Company

The words of The Simpsons character Helen Lovejoy “Won’t somebody please think of the children!” comes to mind in a recent browse on Ebay.

Ahead of the 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, I recalled a press release from Ford announcing a promotion with model builder Revell. Having built so many models as a kid and continuing to construct sets to this day, it’s a good feeling to see the pass time is still in existence. At the Detroit show, a custom-built scaled Snap Kit of the 2017 Ford GT was offered to a specific audience of younger automotive enthusiasts. “Letting kids build their own Ford GT is a great way to introduce them to the Ford brand and create new enthusiasts,” is part of what Ford Licensing manager Mark Bentley said ahead of the Revell Make n’ Take model kit program at the show. Unless a significant sum of kids have chosen to gain PayPal accounts and sell their specialized model kits in on-line auctions, I believe what I’ve seen a situation where adults are profiting against the joy and enlightenment that some future car lover would feel.

As someone who remembers my youth as a kid who loved cars and now old enough to realize there is a serious concern that the diehard appreciation of automobiles is in danger of slipping with the generations following, I find we should do everything possible to make motoring a welcoming, vibrant field of exploration for young people. It distresses me to observe so many of this North American International Auto Show limited release models being posted for sale on Ebay. The Ford GT Snap Kits have attracted some very adult dollars. A review of completed listings on Ebay has shown there is at least a dozen that have sold for hefty sums. With one selling just under $40.00 Canadian, there are also examples of the Ford GT Snap Kits selling above $100. When that type of money is being spent by Ebay buyers, there is an unlikelihood these kits will be constructed in the manner intended. Fortunately for those who truly want to explore the Ford GT at a smaller scale, retail versions of the kit due in stores in April with a purchase price of $14.99 US.

Since I am an active user of Ebay who frequently uses the on-line auction service as a resource to locate items I would otherwise not find, I recognize my sharing of discontent could be I personally ‘biting the hand that feeds you’. However, sometimes I am stunned and appalled by how Ebay could bring back out the worst demons found within the otherwise acceptable system of capitalism. Clearly, our modern society is built on the realization that something one possesses (a skill, persona as well as an item).

It would just be a shame to know some child was unable to partake in the total excitement of a modern supercar in their own way due to a greedy quest for a quick buck.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Toyota's Shuttering Wayward Son Scion

Photo Credit: Chris Nagy

When Billy Joel once sang that "Only the good die young", some could ponder if his words are prophetic to Toyota's experiment with a youth-driven brand. Bearing a name symbolizing an offspring or descendent, Scion was deliberately launched as a targeted method to court the Generation Y or Millennial automotive customer. After 13 years, Toyota's has announced plans to discontinue the Scion brand.

A sudden announcement from the world's largest automaker, the move by Toyota is not unexpected. Since its launch in 2003, Scion has experienced varying success in the marketplace. Sale numbers for Scion have never arisen to expectations. Despite boasting well-equipped, practical vehicles and some compact performance spice with the Scion FR-S, the brand had trouble identifying with a large customer base. At the end of 2015 in the United States, the entire sum of Scion sales accounted for just 56,167 vehicles of Toyota's total of over 1.1 million cars.

In retrospect, one hint could have been noticed by journalists and automotive analysts in January with the 2015 year-end vehicle sale numbers for Toyota Motor Sales USA and Toyota Canada Incorporated. Reviewing the charts, Scion brand products were integrated into Toyota brand car sales instead of being represented in a separate division. The combination of the Scion vehicles with Toyota-branded products also partially disguised dismal overall sale numbers.

Scion FR-S Stock and Formula Drift Canada Car
Photo Credit: Chris Nagy

The shuttering of the Scion division comes as the brand just introduced the iA sedan (a US only model similar to the Toyota Yaris sold in Canada) and iM hatchback for 2016. At the 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show, Scion again appeared healthy with the C-HR concept with likelihood that the sporty crossover could enter production. At the end of 2016, all remaining Scion models will be integrated with the Toyota brand. This will include the production variant of the C-HR concept vehicle. It remains unknown if Toyota is retaining the names of the Scion products or plan to adapt other names. In places outside of where the Scion brand was sold, the Scion FR-S sports car is the Toyota FT-86 and the iM is called the Auris in Europe.

Regarding the winding down of the Scion brand, Toyota's CEO Jim Lentz explores the positives for involving the vehicle line-up into the Toyota brand. “This isn’t a step backward for Scion; it’s a leap forward for Toyota. Scion has allowed us to fast track ideas that would have been challenging to test through the Toyota network,” said Lentz. Jim Lentz was a vice president of Scion at the time the marque was established. The Scion brand's successes included the attraction of a customer base where 50 percent of vehicle buyers were under the age of 35 years old. Scion also drew 70 percent of new car buyers who have never purchased a Toyota product.  

Scion's debut came in 2003 in California and a year later on a national level across the United States. Canada's experience with the Scion is roughly just half of the brand's total history. The Scion vehicle line was first sold in Canada for 2010 with the xB, xD and tC. Interesting, while Scion suffered a sales decline in the US for 2015, sales of the division actually increased in Canada over 2014 helped heavily by the release of the iM hatchback. However, just like in the United States, the Canadian sales under the Scion brand account as a token sum of 2015 Toyota sales. Current and 2016 owners of Scion products are being assured there will be no disruption to service, repair and warranties for vehicles.

The FR-S, iA sedan and iM hatchback will be unified with Toyota for the 2017 model year. As for the tC, a final release series of the two-door coupe is planned for August.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Tequila Patron ESM and Honda Executes Stunning 2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona Win

Photo Credit: Honda

Considered the officially awakening of the North American, the staple Rolex 24 at Daytona sports car endurance event is a non-stop challenge placing some of the world's most exotic race cars and skilled drivers in a battle consumed within a 24-hour clock. At the end of the 2016 edition of the prestigious competition, the Daytona International Speedway was a sight of some intense action, heartbreak and some strong showings from some newer vehicles.

Last year, a Ligier-powered Honda in the hands of Michael Shank Racing demonstrated pole-winning speed but lost the test of endurance over 24 hours. For 2016, the Ligier chassis and Honda engine went the distance in the hands of Tequila Patron ESM.

The second fastest prototype entry after the sports car race's qualifying session, the black and green #2 car promptly took the lead on the first lap. Leading the 2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona's initial 26 laps, Tequila Patron ESM race car was a steady frontrunner throughout the course of what would ultimately be 736 laps around the 3.56-mile track. After lap 691, the #2 Ligier JS P2 was effectively on cruise control to victory with the driving team of team principal Scott Sharp, Ed Brown, Johannes van Overbeek and Pipo Derani would take their vehicles to a monumental win. The 2016 Rolex 24 Hour at Daytona win for Honda places the Japanese-derived automaker's first appearance at the race's overall victory lane.

Photo Credit: Honda

A late-race battle for the overall victory at Daytona was ultimately defeated as the Wayne Taylor Racing #10 Chevrolet Corvette DP car lost ground. In the remaining minutes, Max Angelelli soldiered on in the Wayne Taylor Racing owned machine to finish 26.166 seconds behind the Honda-powered Ligier. After crossing the line, the driver of the #10 car abruptly stopped the vehicle on-track. While some reports indicate Max Angelelli could have been inhaling exhaust fumes in the final laps, no specific reason has been confirmed by the Wayne Taylor Racing organization. The team later reported Angelelli's health as being fine and he was discharged from hospital on Monday where he was kept overnight after the race as a precaution.

The Honda-engined Ligier's win comes in what was the old Daytona Prototype-spec cars final year of eligibility for the Rolex 24 at Daytona. In the final appearance of vehicles serving as remnants of the former Grand Am Road Racing sanctioning body. Another curious sight at the 2016 race was the strong performance of the radical DeltaWing. Although acknowledged as a fantastic of engineering, the car has enjoyed limited success over several years of competition. At Daytona, promise was shown for the innovative design study as the DeltaWing race car led on three occasions with Katherine Legge first taking the lead for lap 27.

With four classes competing in the 24-hour event, every category featured some heated fights. The second-fastest class on track was GTLM. Due to a wet qualifying session, the Thursday time trails was actually dominated by the speed of the GTLM class (as par IMSA rules, all Prototypes were positioned ahead of GTLM vehicles). In the final hour of the 2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona, the #912 Porsche 911 RSR led while the pair of Corvette Racing C7.Rs was gaining ground. Thanks to fuel management of the Chevrolet Corvette C7.R vehicles, pit stops for the yellow race cars and a late-race hard charge proved to effective. Catching the #912 Porsche first for the lead was the #4 Corvette that swept passed with minor contact with 36 minutes remaining in the event. The #3 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R, on slightly fresher tires than its team car, overcome the Porsche and set sights on the #4 car. For the final laps, Oliver Gavin in the #4 car and Antonio Garcia in the #3 machine fought to an outstanding finish. At the line, Gavin held onto the class victory by just 0.034 seconds.

Photo Credit: Chevrolet

Recounting the late battle, Gavin stated, “Don't let him by. It was going to always be intense because we're teammates. The cars are very equal. I know Antonio really well. We run all the time together and we're good friends, and I've raced with him for many, many years. I know how smart he is in the car, and I knew he was going to be looking for a weak spot and he would just try and pounce at the right point". On the other side of the Corvette GTLM battle, Antonio Garcia reflected, "Before my last stop, I knew I had to build a big enough gap where I wouldn’t be too far behind the lead when I rejoined. I almost achieved that. The last stop was good and put me in a situation to gain back track position. I still had to get around the Porsche and catch Oliver. We had a really good setup and car. I was proud and happy to have the chance to battle for the win with Oliver. It was one of the best races I’ve ever had. Oliver is very experienced and didn’t make any mistakes, even though I was really pushing him very hard. We put on a mega show for all the Corvette fans. It is amazing that we have a Corvette 1-2. I feel very good about it. I’m happy for Oliver, Tommy and Marcel."

The Chevrolet Corvette C7.R posted a triumphant effort in the Rolex 24 at Daytona but the Porsche 911 RSR led the GTLM for a great deal of the 24-hour duration. Deeper down the GTLM grid was the debut performance of the new Chip Ganassi Racing backed Ford GT race cars fell short of pre-race hype. The #66 car finished 7th in class while the #67 Ford GT was 9th in the race's final running order.

Photo Credit: Audi

In GTD, a possible win for the Konrad Motorsport #28 Lamborghini Huracan GT3  the #44 Audi R8 LMS GT3 was ended because of a few gallons of fuel. With the late race leading Lamborghini out of contention, the #44 Audi R8 LMS GT3 fielded by Magnus Racing pulled off a victory in class crossing the line just 3.048 seconds ahead of second-place Porsche. Andy Lally, Marco Seefield, Rene Rast and team owner John Potter was the winning driving combination.

Finally in the PC (Prototype Challenge) category win was claimed by the #85 JDC/Miller Motorsports machine. The PC class honours was heavily decided on attrition and struggle with the #85 weathering the instability best. The #85 Oreca race car, shared by Chris Miller, Russian-Canadian driver Misha Goikhberg, Stephen Simpson and Kenton Koch, finished 4 laps ahead of its class rival.

21 times the Rolex 24 at Daytona was slowed by yellow flags. One of those cautions was attributed to the loss of the DeltaWing. The #8 Starworks Motorsport PC class machine driven by Chris Cummings spun and was stalled in the middle of the race surface at turn one on lap 120. With only a local yellow maintained in the section as the car remained stopped, almost any car in the field was forced into taking risky actions to avoid #8 car. The #0 DeltaWing was unable to avoid the stopped PC car and made hard contact. Damage to the DeltaWing was too severe to repair ending what was  great run. An embarrassing caution for the Lamborghini squad also resulted when two of the Huracan GT3 cars collided while battling for the GTD class early Sunday morning.

With the first torture test of the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the books, attention forward will be on the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.