Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Quebec-Based Business to Bring Electric Renault Twizy to Canada

Photo Credit: Renault

Spring brings a certain amount of electricity in the air. If you have attended or kept abreast of the North American auto show season, you will realize automobiles are also seeing the a futuristic light in regards to alternative energy.

Electric cars or vehicles featuring the propulsion assistance through electricity is becoming as common as alloy wheels. A new beginning where established automotive players have introduced like the Chevrolet Bolt EV, all-new Toyota Prius, Acura NSX and Hyundai IONIQ, the uncharted territory in the 21st century gives some newcomers a fighting chance to make a name. Tesla Motors comes to mind immediately as a disrupter to the traditional motoring landscape with the Model S and the Model X. One Canadian company in Terrebonne, Quebec ambitions to carve a niche in the electric car market passed through an important step earlier this month.

AZRA Canada, a business that touts operating Canada's largest private network of fast charging stations, wishes to distribute a unique electric vehicle. Instead of designing their own, AZRA has partnered with French auto maker Renault to import a microcar called the Twizy to the country. On March 19th, AZRA Canada announced certification for the all-electric Renault Twizy 40 by Transport Canada allowing the vehicle to be acknowledged as street legal.

Photo Credit: Renault

The Renault Twizy electric car make the Smart Fortwo look like a mid-sized sedan. Nimble and lightweight, the car is designed to make full use of a small electric powertrain for urban travel. Currently sold in Europe, the Renault Twizy measures 2,338 millimeters (92.05 inches) in total length and is only 1,381 millimeters (54.37 inches) wide between the edges of the side-mounted exterior mirrors. The size of the car allows Renault to boast an ability to park up to three Twizys in one standard vehicle parking spot. With tandem seating for a driver and passenger, a full range of safety equipment built into the ultra-compact (airbags, four-point safety harness and a tubular frame) provides a comforting riding experience in the pod-like, four-wheeled vehicle. Powered through a 17-horsepower electric motor, energy is stored in a 6.1 kWh lithium ion battery. In Europe, some Renault Twizy electric cars are deployed in a car-sharing manner. Ten have been most recently included within the Cumbria's Lake District region.

Photo Credit: Renault

One major differences Canadian customers of the AZRA-sourced Twizy electric vehicles will notice appears to be related to speed. While the European Renault is capable of speeds up to 50 miles per hour or 80 kilometers per hour, it seems the Twizy 40 products will be limited to 40 kilometers per hour. This seems to imply the Twizy 40 will be sold as a low speed vehicle in Canada. Low speed vehicle criteria often provide easier access to roads in Canada since those type of vehicles are not required to adhere to crash testing standards.

Deeper details of AZRA Canada's plans with their imported Renault Twizy 40 and their business is expected for April 15th. One early media report places the potential price of the Twizy 40 at $17,000 pre government incentives.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Acura Celebrates 30 Years of Modern Performance Luxury

Photo Credit: Chris Nagy

On March 27th 1986, premium motoring received a major shake-up in North America. During a time when luxury was still seen as a big, heavily vehicle with an eight-cylinder engine, the gaining momentum of import vehicles would impact the way upscale automobiles you be viewed in the United States and Canada. The first of three Japanese auto brands who have successfully launched a luxury car brand, Honda introduced Acura to the world 30 years ago.

Originally classified as "Channel II" by Honda in initial planning during 1984,   In creating the Acura brand, Honda reacted to a projection of growth in the luxury car market. The dedicated luxury car marque presented the ideal opportunity to promote even more aggressive vehicles and technologies in North America. Launching with roughly 60 dealers, Acura's model line-up consisted by the 3-door and 5-door Integra as well as a V-6 powered sedan called the Legend. Both promoting a blend of performance and luxury personalities, the Acura Integra and Legend boasted sophisticated driving dynamics. The original Acura line-up featured sophisticated aerodynamic tailoring, impressive four-valve, fuel-injected engine power and driver-oriented interiors. In its first year, Acura sold 52,869 vehicles and advertised 150 dealers in the United States. In 1987, Acura production pushed across 109,000 cars while the Integra and Legend (which added a coupe body style) was lauded by the North American press.

Since the 1986 introduction of Acura, the luxury make has gained a lasting reputation. The company  As the brand entered the 1990s, Already proving to be strong in the sales department, the Acura gained a sensationally desirable vehicle that had not been seen by auto enthusiast eyes. The Acura NSX debuted in 1991 as the first production car to be built on an all-aluminum chassis and body. Channelling inspiration from a F-16 fighter jet, the Acura NSX was the mid-engined, two-passenger supercar that proved the extent of the luxury performance brand's sizzle. The 3.0-liter V-6 engine of the 1991 NSX would also be the first Honda product to feature their VTEC (Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control engine technology that allowed bullish performance at low and high RPMs. The Acura Integra's engine would gain a 1.7-liter VTEC engine in 1992. Sales of a fourth model, the Vigor also started in 1992. By 1994, the 1,000,000th Acura would be sold in the United States. Over the course of the late 1990s, Acura would eliminate vehicle names in favour of alphabetic naming. The Legend became the RL in 1996, the Vigor was replaced by the TL and the Integra survived until 2001 before the introduction of the RSX,

Photo Credit: American Honda Motor Company

The first Japanese-based luxury car maker to sell vehicles in North America, Acura would also be a pioneer in the way they deliver their products to showrooms starting in the late 1990s. Originally completely built in Japan and imported with Acura badging, the cars of the luxury brand would eventually lead to production jobs in the United States and Canada. In early 1996, the Acura CL coupe's construction at Honda's East Liberty, Ohio facility would allow the premium car division to claim the distinction of being the first international luxury car to be built in the United States. Production of Acura vehicles in Canada started at roughly the same time in Alliston, Ontario. From 1996 to 2013, the EL, CSX, MDX and ZDX were built by Canadian labour from the Honda of Canada Manufacturing plants. Marking 20 years of production in the United States, Acura has sourced more than 98 percent of their vehicles from North America.

Having first endeavoured into the luxury sport utility vehicle starting in 1995 with a badge-engineered Isuzu Trooper called the SLX (Only sold in the United States with less than positive fanfare), Acura proceeded in their own attempt in the emerging and lucrative premium sport utility vehicle market. The Acura MDX was born in 2001 as a seven-passenger mid-sized vehicle co-developed with the Honda Pilot. Proving to be a popular vehicle, Acura would later reinforce their line-up with a smaller crossover called the RDX. There was also a period between 2010 and 2013 where Acura sold the ambitiously styled ZDX that the brand described as a four-door sport coupe. The daring design won both praise and criticism but remains captivating to this day.

Flickr presentation of Acuras over the years captured by my camera 

While the compact premium car market was left neglected by Acura in the 1990s and 2000s, Canada gained special attention from the luxury division. Based on the Honda Civic, the Acura EL and later CSX served as a well-equipped small sedans constructed in Alliston, Ontario. The Canadian-exclusive compact Acuras remained until the arrival of the ILX.

In recent years, some could make a case to say Acura lacked the essence of performance in their premium line-up with the absence of a two-door sports car. The Acura RSX was a desirable sport coupe that roamed through the mid-2000s. Discontinued in 2006, the RSX was the brand's last two-door car until just recently.

For late spring of this year, Acura's 30th birthday will feature some considerable force to blow out candles. A new generation Acura NSX returns as with Sport Hybrid Super Handling All-Wheel Drive. Set to start at $189,900 Canadian, the 2017 Acura NSX has triggered a 1.2-million US dollar payment for the first example sold at the Barrett-Jackson auction for charity.

Along with introducing the long-awaited 2017 Acura NSX, the luxury car builder debuted a new version of their MDX crossover vehicle. Displaying a profoundly different look for the brand heading forward with a restyled grille, the 2017 Acura MDX's introduction at the New York International Auto Show also comes with a Sport Hybrid edition.

Acura, a new derived from the word "acu" translating from latin to mean mechanically precise or done with precision (according to corporate history), has produced over 4.2 million vehicles for the North America market.

In honour of Acura's 30th year, I wish to share a few Youtube videos of the brand's vehicles:

Acura NSX Concept at 2013 CIAS

Acura TLX Prototype at 2014 CIAS

Acura TLX GT Race Car at 204 Motorexpo Toronto

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

2017 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Climbs to 640 Horsepower Performance Peak

Photo Credit: Chevrolet

Through all the focus on electrified compact vehicles and vehicle technology that is rapidly advancing to the point the steering wheel may be taken out of our hands in the near future, fans of the high-performance automobile could be understandably unnerved on occasions. As United States and Canada instituted new fuel economy targets of 54.5 miles per gallon per manufacturer, the news was also arriving with wonder of what will happen to the current sports car landscape. To be honest, it actually appears to be getting better.

Thankfully, a lot of the technology going into producing more efficient cars has presented desirable qualities to the newest examples of popular high-performance and sports cars. Advancements in aerodynamics, greater integration of lightweight materials and greater development into new engine technologies used to gain advantages to explore expanded levels of go-fast driving. The sixth generation Chevrolet Camaro introduced for the 2016 model year received a smaller stature, lighter weight and a turbocharged four-cylinder engine but promised the best was yet to come in the General Motors’ pony car’s performance life. With 640-horsepower, the 2017 Camaro ZL1 will be the most powerful and most extensively-engineered for a dynasty created almost 50 years ago.

At home in the 2017 edition of the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 sport coupe, a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 LT4 engine works as a high-performance maestro. Borrowed from the Chevrolet Corvette Z06, the powerplant is specially configured for the ZL1. For the new Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, the supercharger-aided engine generates 640-horsepower and 640 pound-feet of torque. Active Fuel Management, continuously variable valve timing and gasoline direct injection is additional features found in the LT4 engine powering the 2017 Camaro ZL1. A dual-mode exhaust insures the right powerplant tone is being achieved. Not quite into Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat territory, the new 2017 ZL1 engine should nonetheless pacify fans of the bowtie (especially considering what else comes with this extreme example of the Chevrolet pony car).

The Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 will be the brand’s first deployment of a 10-speed automatic transmission. Calibrated to the unique performance attributes of the supercharged 6.2-liter engine’s duty for delivering 640-horsepower to the rear axle, the 10-speed automatic gearbox will permit the maintenance of a steady, optimum rev range for peak performance. The new Camaro ZL1 is slated to be the one of eight General Motors vehicles set to be equipped with the high gear count transmission by the end of 2018. Purists behind the wheel can still master their own control of the high-performance pony car’s shifter. A six-speed manual transmission with active rev matching is the standard equipped gearbox on the 2017 Camaro ZL1. The powertrain of the new ZL1 promotes optimized cooling through the use of a total 11 heat exchangers.

Photo Credit: Chevrolet

The 640-horsepower engine will be companioned with the highly-light conscious sixth generation Chevrolet Camaro structure. The new ZL1 is slated to weigh 200 pounds less than the previous version of the highest performance Camaro. Coupled with the added 60 horsepower and 80 extra pound-feet of torque, we should be all-but guaranteed at this points the 2017 ZL1 will exceed the dynamic prowess of the last generation vehicle.

Without any immediate performance statistics, the assumed momentum of the 2017 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 promises to be supported by several active traits. A high-tech suspension using Magnetic Ride control and a customizable handling package supplied through Performance Traction Management is part of the new sport coupe. An electronic limited-slip differential is mounted to the rear of 2017 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. The Camaro ZL1's contact to the ground is furnished by Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires mounted to 20-inch forged aluminum wheels. Braking for the high-performance coupe is delivered by Brembo with large diameter front discs with six-piston monobloc front calipers.

The 2017 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 also adds unique styling aligned as functional components. A noticeable wing-style rear spoiler rests conspicuously over the rear deck of the sport coupe. At the front, the upper grille section of the 2017 ZL1 features a bowtie badge that has been converted into what Chevrolet calls a “flow-tie” for greater airflow into the engine compartment. Other details embedded into the ZL1 package is wider front fenders, large front splitter, and a hood incorporating a carbon fiber insert and heat extractor.

Photo Credit: Chevrolet

The 2+2 passenger performance car includes an interior to match the outer performance prowess. Sport-themed Recaro seats are located in the front of the cabin of the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. A flat-bottom steering wheel and shifter knob both feature a sueded covering for an added grip. The Camaro ZL1 will also feature the high-tech connectivity and a Driver Mode Selector. The Performance Data Recorder as an available feature.

The 2017 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is slated to be unleashed later in 2016 with pricing details to be released at a later time.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Montoya Triumphs in 2016 Verizon IndyCar Season Opener in St. Petersburg

Photo Credit: Chris Jones

St. Petersburg, Florida once again serves as the launching pad for the Verizon IndyCar Series’ 2016 campaign. The 1.8-mile street course in the vibrant tourist hot spot provided the first opportunity for open wheel drivers in the North American-based series to compete with a clean slate.

The first race of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series would be contested by 22 drivers (18 returning veterans and 4 rookies to the Series) for a 110-lap main event on Sunday. Two drivers for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Canada’s James Hinchcliffe and Russian driver Mikhail Aleshin made competitive returns to the cockpit for a full season. Hinchcliffe’s 2015 season came to an end at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway following a severe crash in practice for the Indy 500. Aleshin’s suffered injuries in a practice crash in the 2014 race at Auto Club Speedway that took the driver out of the car for a year. Mikhail Aleshin was back in Schmidt Peterson Motorsports car for IndyCar’s last 2015 race at Sonoma.

While the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg returned the return of two drivers from long-standing injuries, the race started without the presence of the pole-winning driver Will Power. Having suffered an on-track impact on Friday, Power initially cleared IndyCar’s medical examination. Allowing him to qualify his #12 Verizon Dallara-Chevrolet on the pole, Will Power would later report symptoms of a mild concussion. Unable to run the season opening race, Oriol Servia was recruited by the team as a replacement driver of the #12 machine that started in the rear of the racing grid.

Photo Credit: Chris Owens

Lacking their pole-winning driver in the season opener, Team Penske still maintained a strong field of entrants for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Promoted to the pole by Power’s withdrawal, Penske’s #22 Hewlett Packard car driven by Simon Pagenaud capitalized right from the start of the race. Holding onto the lead for the initial 48 laps, Pagenaud’s early advantage came with teammate Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castroneves in hot pursuit.

Deeper in the field at the start of street race, James Hinchcliffe’s celebrated return was disrupted when contact made on the first lap with another vehicle. Losing a lap right at the start of the 110-lap main event, James Hinchcliffe and his #5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team would gain the lap back when the race’s first caution fell on lap 46. A collision between the #19 of Luca Flippi and the #27 of Marco Andretti slowed the field.

By the time the caution period concluded, Simon Pagenaud gave up the lead to IndyCar rookie driver Conor Daly as the field retook the green. The restart would be short-lived as a turn 4 incident involving Carlos Munoz and Graham Rahal caused a massive jam-up causing many drivers to stop within the section with some requiring their cars to be restarted after stalling. Part of the accident that would bring out the race’s second and final caution was James Hinchcliffe. With minor damage and a cut tire, Hinchcliffe’s #5 car would return to the team pit stall and lose the lap it had regained. Unable to regain the lap back a second time, James Hinchcliffe’s first race back in IndyCar since the Indianapolis Motor Speedway crash resulted in a 19th place finish. Rahal finished a few positions ahead of Hinchcliffe crossing the line in 16th place. Carlos Munoz received a stop and go penalty for avoidable contact but was still able to collect an 8th place finish.

When the race resumed on lap 63, Color Daly surrendered the lead to the #2 Verizon-sponsored Team Penske machine of Juan-Pablo Montoya. Excluding a 3-lap period where Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay led, Montoya would spend the rest of the race in the top spot. Winning the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg for a second year in a row, Juan-Pablo Montoya’s margin of victory was 2.33 seconds over teammate Simon Pagenaud. Roger Penske’s race team celebrated the 1-2 finish as a fine way to kick-off the team’s 50th anniversary. Team Penske’s opportunity of clinching the top-3 places was dashed in the late laps as Helio Castroneves was overtaken by Ryan Hunter-Reay. Montoya joins teammates Will Power and Helio Castroneves as the only multiple time winners of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Photo Credit: Chris Jones

Behind the 4th place car of Helio Castroneves, Mikhail Aleshin posted a strong 5th place run. The AJ Foyt Racing’s driver Takuma Sato was another driver picking up a respectable result following the IndyCar season opener with 6th at the line.

The next round for the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season is major open wheel racing's return to the one-mile Phoenix International Raceway oval set for April 2nd.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

5 Designing Women of the Modern Automobile

2012 Canadian International Auto Show acura nsx concept 3
Photo Credit: Chris Nagy

On International Women’s Day, it was prudent for Car FYI to recognize the many contributions of women to the auto industry. As a piece of complex machinery with no discrimination of gender itself, it is disheartening to note how past praise and innovation of automobiles have centred around men. Looking back into history, Karl Benz’s wife Bertha ultimate undertook the automobile’s first major publicity trip and endurance test. She was also instrumental in the financing of the automobile patent but could not be recognized in connections to due to her standing as a married woman in German law. With regards to the other half of Mercedes-Benz, the Mercedes name was derived from a customer of Gottieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach.

When it comes to vehicle design, the female influence on automobiles is a complicated story. In cases when men tried to identify with women, a laughable result was the 1955 and 1956 Dodge LaFemme that were even insultingly sexist for the 1950s. Fortunately, The hands of women with a paint brush, pencil or more recently a computer mouse has been quietly admired. Helene Rother is credited for becoming one of the first automotive designers shortly after the second world war. Involved with interior design for vehicles, Rother’s talents were applied to General Motors, Nash Rambler as well as Miller-Meteor.

As automobile design has assumed greater teamwork in the 21st century, there has been a small but noticeable increases in women participating in the shape of modern motoring. For 2016, several women have earned some prominent positions in the design studios of major auto companies.  

Tisha Johnson- Chief Designer Interiors of Volvo Cars Concept and Monitoring Centre

Photo Credit: Volvo Cars North America

Recent Accomplishment: Excellence Lounge Console Concept

Tisha Johnson started work at a Volvo Cars in the age of 28 following graduation from ArtCenter College of Design. Serving as a Senior Designer at Volvo Monitoring Centre Camarillo in California (VMCC), Johnson was involved in the preproduction planning of numerous models including the V50, C70 and S80. At the 2005 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, she was served as the interior design for the Volvo 3CC concept car featured as a sustainable mobility project. In the completion of the 3CC interior, Johnson explains “I buy heavily into the Scandinavian design heritage of Volvo, the equilibrium, harmony and balance."

Leaving Volvo Cars for a little more than two years, Tisha Johnson returned to the company in 2010. Functioning as a Chief Interior Designer, one of her most recent achievements was management of a radical luxury seating concept unveiled last year. Volvo’s Excellence Lounge Console Concept and later the Excellence Child Seat Concept demonstrates out-of-the-box creativity for premium interior style. Envisioning the automobile’s interior poised for a metamorphosis with the arrival of self-driving vehicles, Tisha Johnson stated that the Excellent Child Seat Concept was, “So we have taken the next step in redefining how the interior of a car can be used to suit our customers’ needs. We have always placed a great deal of importance on child safety, but this takes things to the next level.”

As of September of 2015, Tisha Johnson serves as a Senior Director of Design for Volvo Cars of North America.

Helen Emsley- executive director of Global GMC Design

Photo Credit: General Motors

Recent Accomplishment: Interior of 2015 Chevrolet Silverado, 2016 GMC Terrain

A graduate of the Royal College of Art, Helen Emsley came from the United Kingdom to become a major component in brands and vehicles seeking more international appeal.

One of her biggest claims to fame in recent years was the interior of the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. When faced with creating the cabin area of the pivotal American sports car, Emsley expressed in an Automotive News article how she was nervous about the possible reception of what she was undertaking. To GM global design chief Ed Welburn, she once remarked of worst case scenario headlines saying “British woman kills Corvette.” The reality was quite the opposite as the dynamic, high-quality cockpit of the seventh-generation sports car could be remembered as the best interior the Chevrolet Corvette ever received. Also in 2014, redesigned versions of General Motors’ large sport utility vehicles (Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban as well as the GMC Yukon and Yukon XL) were influenced by Helen Emsley.

Since September of 2013, Helen Emsley’s position in General Motors is Executive Director of Global GMC Design and User Experience with the role of championing the truck brand. One of the most recent vehicles premiering from the brand was the 2016 GMC Terrain.

Soo Kang- Chief Designer of Lincoln

Photo Credit: Ford Motor Company

Recent Accomplishment: Interior of Lincoln Continental

Soo Kang immediate went to work for the Ford Motor Company after graduating from the Cleveland Institute of Art. Credit to her high-profile employment shortly after schooling is credited to a design competition where Kang wowed with a four-door sedan creation.

Climbing the corporate design ladder to Chief Interior Designer of Lincoln, she’s been a major part of revamping the luxury brand’s image to attract a younger audience. Her first major influence to the Lincoln brand was inside the cabin of the 2013 MKZ. Soo Kang pressed the incorporation of push-button shift control along the top portion of the dash centre console rather than a traditional handle. With some contention, she was able to drive the unusual shifter design.

Following the revitalization of the Lincoln MKZ’s interior, Kang’s inner focus has turned to the much-lauded MKC premium compact crossover. In describing the cabin of the MKC, Soo Kang said, “The structure of the interior allows for openness, and that space contributes to the overall ambience. We want this vehicle to not only meet but often exceed the expectations of the new Lincoln customer.”

Her most recent work has sculpted the interior of Lincoln’s new prized flagship’s return. The 2016 Lincoln Continental is another exhibition of Soo Kang’s direction in creating open interior environments with free-flowing interior surfaces.

Christine Cheng (Park)- Design Manager of GMC Exterior Design Studio

Recent Accomplishment: Exterior design of 2017 Cadillac XT5

A graduate of ArtCenter College of Design, Christine Park has been a rising star in General Motors in a matter of 10 years. Starting her career with the automaker as a Creative Design Intern in the California advanced concept design studio, her employment with General Motors was upgraded in 2007 and would become influential in the direction of Cadillac. Joining the design studio of the luxury car division in 2008, Christine Park’s talents were turned to the interior of the XTS sedan. She was also involved in the interior design of the Cadillac XTS Platinum Concept and Ciel Concept vehicle. Park remained posted to Cadillac until 2014. After a one-year stint as a lead exterior designer for Chevrolet, Park joined the GMC brand as Design Manager of exterior designer in August of last year.

Unveiled last year and now making rounds at auto shows, the 2017 model year Cadillac XT5 crossover vehicle’s edgy front and rear end details are courtesy of Park’s input.

Michelle Christensen- Lead Principal Designer at Honda R&D

Photo Credit: Honda North America

Recent Accomplishment: Exterior Design of Acura NSX

Helping her father work on muscle cars at an early age, Michelle Christensen has now become a designer focused on infusing performance into the lines of Honda’s premium brand Acura.

Following her graduation from the ArtCenter College of Design, Christensen would quickly gain notoriety in 2009 as shaping what could be known as Acura’s most polarizing vehicle. The Acura ZDX sport crossover was a radical product came to life in the ever-evolving vehicle sector balancing utility and performance. "From the very first sketch of the ZDX, I wanted to create an emotional vehicle that challenged conventional thinking of what a sports coupe should be," said Christensen who served as an exterior designer of the Acura in only her late twenties. Advertised with the “Luxury Four-Door Sports Coupe” moniker, the ZDX was praised for its bold execution by some but disliked by others based on its very niche design. The vehicle was produced from 2010 until 2013 but was plagued with slow sales. For a brief time, Christensen was employed at General Motors as a Senior Designer but returned to Honda in mid-2011.

While the Acura ZDX wasn’t a runaway success, Acura was impressed enough to appointed Michelle Christensen to the revamped NSX supercar. A striking, mid-engined hybrid performance car project that was directed by Acura’s global creative director Dave Marek, Christensen served as the principal exterior designer. "The new NSX is a product of what we term 'Interwoven Dynamic' design," said Michelle Christensen.

Car FYI Auto Racing Speed Report for March 4th to March 6th 2016

Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

Keselowski Overcomes Penalty to Win Windy Las Vegas Cup Race

Competing within the desert locale of Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the third race of the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season provided an interesting challenger in the form of wacky weather. Extremely strong winds at the beginning of the race resulted in gusts that would have blown car covers off the Sprint Cup racing machine if not for some astute crew members. A very brief rain shower accompanied the wind minutes before the Kobalt Tools was scheduled to start. The momentary mist dissipated and Sunday’s race started with Kurt Busch’s #14 Chevrolet leading the 39-car field.

Slowed six times due to yellow flags including a lap 30 competition caution caused by the previous rainfall on the track, the Kobalt 400's most serious melee came on lap 225 shortly after a restart. Matt Kenseth’s #20 Toyota slid loose leading to an incident that would also collect Chase Elliott and Carl Edwards. The #24 Chevrolet of Elliott and Kenseth’s #20 car sustained race-ending damage while Edwards was able to continue after receiving repairs for the #19 Toyota.  

The second race with the low downforce race package on the NASCAR Sprint Cup stock cars appeared to have replicated the results seen in Atlanta last week. 21 lead changes among 11 drivers included some competitive on-track action. This was especially true late in the Kobalt 400 when Kyle Busch’s #18 M&Ms Toyota was chased down by Brad Keselowski. Busch led since lap 224 but would lose the top position with just 6 laps remaining. Keselowski charged passed the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota on route to his first win of the season. The 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship secured a spot in the 2016 Chase with his Penske Racing-owned #2 Miller Lite Ford in a race where he needed to rise up from a pit road penalty. Keselowski was a top-5 car through the day and worked to reclaim supremacy.

Kyle Busch’s report of a vibration in his #18 Toyota also gave Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson an opportunity to snatch improved finishing positions from the reigning champion. Second place went to the #22 Pennzoil Ford allowing Penske Racing to celebrate a 1-2 finish at Las Vegas. Third at the end of the Kobalt 400 went to Jimmie Johnson as his #48 Chevrolet just inched past Busch at the checkered flag. Fifth place finisher at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was the #3 Chevrolet of Richard Childress Racing driven by Austin Dillon. Just outside of the top-5, the  Wood Brothers Racing proved they have what it takes to compete against the NASCAR Sprint Cup superteams. Ryan Blaney’s 6th place in the Motorcraft Ford Fusion is the best result the pairing have accomplished as they jointly pursue a full-season in the series.

Kyle Busch Narrowly Misses the Double in Sin City

While the late stage of Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race dealt the #18 Toyota a bad hand, Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway transpired with odds favouring Kyle Busch. Boyd Gaming 300, the #18 NOS Energy Drink Toyota carried out a near domination that resulted in Busch leading 199 of the event’s 200 laps. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver’s most recent Xfinity Series victory is the first in his hometown and notches the Las Vegas Motor Speedway oval off the shrinking list of venues the younger Busch NASCAR pilot has not won on in the stock car division. At times leading by more than 10 seconds, Kyle Busch’s race win was decided by a 0.817-second margin over teammate Daniel Suarez. Making a Joe Gibbs Racing 1-2-3, Erik Jones recovered from early race pit speeding penalties for the third-place position.  

The only lap not led by the #18 car of Kyle Busch was led by Darrell Wallace Jr. Wallace Jr’s day also became noteworthy on lap 138 when the day ended for the Roush-Fenway Racing #6 Ford Mustang. A three-car crash involving Justin Marks and Cody Ware resulted in Wallace Jr receiving the worst of an accident that ultimately needed a 19-minute red flag clean up. The incident was that of mixed fortunes since the #6 Ford was terribly wrecked after an otherwise respectable decent day, Wallace Jr did walk away from the nasty accident.  

Behind the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas, Chevrolets rounded out positions fourth through eleventh. Chase Elliott in the #88 TaxSlayer.com car for JR Motorsports and the #2 of Austin Dillon filled-out the top-five.

Pirelli World Challenge 2016 Season Launches Big in Texas

Photo Credit: Cadillac

The first two rounds of the 2016 Pirelli World Challenge for seven classes of sports car racing took place on the 3.4-mile Circuit of the Americas track in Austin, Texas.

On Friday and Saturday the three Touring classes of the Pirelli World Challenge (TC, TCA and TCB) ran their pair of races with no repeating winners for the weekend. TC race 1 was won by Vesko Kozarov and his Nissan 370Z by a mere 0.371-second margin over the BMW of Toby Grahovec. Grahovec returned to win the TC class in race 2 convincing over Canada’s Nick Wittmer. After engine problems in the first race, Wittmer Honda Accord’s finish in the runner-up spot for race 2 was courtesy of an engine from his brother. Elivan Goulart took the TCA category in race 1 while the Kia Forte Koup of Jason Wolfe took the class win in race 2. TCB saw Ted Hough win race 1 while Will Rodgers took race 2 in class. Both Hough and Rodgers ran Mazda2 race cars.

In the Grand Touring category, Patrick Long led race 1 in his #31 Porsche GT3 car part of the GT class. Race 2 was a different experience for Long and his Effort Racing car as a crash at the start of the Sunday race promptly removed him from the competition. After 22 laps, a Cadillac Racing 1-2 finish saw Johnny O’Connell roll to victory over six seconds ahead of Michael Cooper. In the second race, Canada’s Kyle Marcelli crossed the line in fifth place in the CRP Racing Audi R8. Alec Udell and Sloan Urry swapped the top two positions for both races in the GT Cup class. Udell won race 1 while Urry took race 2. The only repeat class winner in the whole Pirelli World Challenge weekend at the Circuit of the Americas weekend was Mexico’s Martin Fuentes piloting Ferrari 458 Italia for Scuderia Corsa. In GTS, the Chevrolet Camaro of Lawson Aschenbach took the first race win while the KTM Xbow GT4 driven by Brett Sandberg grabbed the second race. Vancouver driver Max Riddle driving an Aston Martin for TRG-AMR finished eighth in the first GTS race and sixth in the second event.

Latvala Captures Rally Mexico, Volkswagen Equals Record  

Photo Credit: Volkswagen Motorsport

The Rally Mexico in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) was a big win for Jari-Matti Latvala and co-driver Mikka Anttila as well as for the Volkswagen Motorsport organization. The third round in the 2016 FIA WRC tour, this rally that attracted 300,000 spectators over the course of four days featured challenging stages including the Guanajuato stage that stretched 80 kilometers.

The Volkswagen Polo R of Jari-Matti Latvala pulled off the win in the Rally Mexico finishing with a 65-second lead over Sebastien Ogier, a fellow Volkswagen driver . Latvala’s 16th career win in the WRC, the triumph more dramatically reflects on Volkswagen’s presence in the series. The victory for Volkswagen allows the Polo R WRC race car to equal the FIA-sanctioned rally series’ consecutive win record set by the automaker between 2013 and 2014.

The two Volkswagens placed well ahead of the Hyundai i20 WRC piloted by Dani Sordo with co-driver Marc Marti. However, the team was assessed a two-minute time penalty in the post-race results when it was determined they exceeded the number of tires allowed to be used in the four-day rally event. Demoting the Hyundai to fourth place, the M-Sport Ford driven by Mads Ostberg was upgraded to the third place spot.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Kyle Marcelli and CRP Racing Join Forces for 2016 Pirelli World Challenge Season

Photo Credit: Audi AG

This weekend, another major auto racing series receives the green flag for 2016. The Pirelli World Challenge season commences on a 3.41-mile Circuit of the Americas track in Austin, Texas where seven categories of production-based race cars will be put through their paces by some talented sports car drivers. Presented by Nissan, the 2016 season opening rounds at the Circuit of the Americas will feature the first battles of a highly-competitive GT class. In the category where the Porsche GT3, Cadillac ATS-V.R and McLaren 650S compete door-to-door, one of Canada’s young sports car racing talents will make his debut.

Barrie, Ontario’s Kyle Marcelli is the new addition to the CRP Racing organization. Making a rookie appearance in the 2016 Pirelli World Challenge, Marcelli will wheel a #2 Audi R8 LMS sponsored by DeVilbiss in the GT class. Describing his new ride as an exciting team to be part of, the 26-year-old-year Canadian driver stated, "Competing in Pirelli World Challenge has been a goal of mine for a while, and with the level of competition growing each season, I am glad to have my first run in PWC with a winning team like CRP Racing and a competitive car like the Audi R8 LMS.”

CRP Racing is a Harrisburg, North Carolina motorsport organization was founded in 2001 by an experienced and longtime auto racing backer Nick Short. Part of Pirelli World Challenge since 2008, CRP Racing has won 10 times in class and collected 14 podium results. In 2014, the team finished in the runner-up spot in the championship with driver Mike Skeen. One member of the race organization’s alumni is legendary Canadian auto racing driver Ron Fellows (a motorsport athlete Kyle Marcelli greatly looks up to). "Obviously, Kyle is an extremely talented driver and I am looking forward to seeing him drive our DeVilbiss / CRP Racing Audi R8 LMS.”, said owner of CRP Racing Nick Short. Short added, “We have enjoyed quite a bit of success in Pirelli World Challenge, and with Kyle on board now we are looking forward to building on that success in this new season. And with the first race just a few days away, we get to start on that very quickly!"

Kyle Marcelli has been best known for his lightning fast speed on-track during American Le Mans Series and IMSA sports car competition when he participated in the LMPC class. Establishing a name in the spec vehicle series starting in 2010, the Canadian competed alongside several teammates including fellow Canadian Chris Cummings and former Formula 1 driver Stefan Johansson. Among several LMPC class victories for Marcelli was the 2013 Petit Le Mans race at Road Atlanta. For 2015, Kyle Marcelli’s effort was centered within the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge piloting a Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R for Mantella Autosport. He also drove races in the Trans Am Series and the NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill last season.

Kyle Marcelli and the #2 CRP Racing/DeVilbiss Audi R8 LMS will race on Saturday and Sunday afternoon for the opening two GT class rounds. The group’s opportunity to race at Marcelli’s home track of Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in the 2016 Pirelli World Challenge weekend will come between May 19th and 22nd.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Audi Unveils World's First Electric Powered Compressor with All-New SQ7 TDI

Photo Credit: Audi AG

When Audi introduced the design of their all-new Q7 last year, the luxury car producer prepared the marketplace for some radical technologies. The premium sport utility vehicle loses 325 kilograms (716.5 pounds) compared to the previous model, drivers are presented with Audi’s digital virtual cockpit and an e-tron plug-in hybrid version of the Q7 have already been established. As the spring approaches, the Audi Q7 line gains a high-performance spirt thanks to the automaker’s S model tailoring. For the European market, an Audi SQ7 TDI provides stellar acceleration through many innovative means.

Despite the recent emission-cheating turmoil surrounding the presence of Volkswagen Group-supported TDI diesel products in the North America, the power source line remains a strong driver for the automaker’s brands in Europe. Not just a large portion of the sales volume of luxury brand Audi for fuel efficiency and torque production for everyday driving, diesel power has made massive strides as a performance engine. The Audi SQ7 TDI features a 4.0-liter V-8 powerplant described as a BiTDI. One of two technologies debuting on the SQ7 TDI is Audi valvelift system. Audi valvelift system (AVS) appears for the first time with the brand’s diesel powerplant line broadens performance at low and high speeds. The BiTDI engine technology features the incorporation of a traditional exhaust-gas twin turbocharger setup alongside what is called an electric powered compressor (EPC). The EPC uses electrical energy (stored within a lithium-ion battery part of a 48-volt system) to provide a power boost to the TDI engine during low load periods where turbochargers are impaired. The condition commonly referred to as ‘turbo tag’ is completely eliminated in the engine.

The EPC unit closely resembles a trait found on the Audi R18 e-tron quattro World Endurance Championship prototype race car. In 2014, Audi’s super exotic hybrid competition car adopted an electric turbocharger part of the sophisticated hybrid diesel-electric powertrain. The forced induction technique was also fitted to the Audi RS 5 TDI Concept where it aided a V-6 diesel engine in the production of 385 horsepower and 553.2 pound-feet of torque.

Paired with an eight-speed tiptronic transmission, the Audi SQ7 TDI's 4.0-liter V-8 BiTDI engine generates 429 horsepower and more impressively 663.8 pound-feet of torque. Thanks to the new EPC system, this high-performance luxury sport crossover can launch from 0 to 62 miles per hour in 4.8 seconds. As is the case with many European performance vehicles, the SQ7 TDI is limited to a top speed of 155 miles per hour. The diesel V-8 engine in the Audi SQ7 TDI also boasts strong fuel economy numbers.

Photo Credit: Audi AG

Matching the high-tech powerplant, a complex array of electronically-controlled components manages the way power is applied to the road surface and the manner it transfers back to the Audi SQ7 TDI. A centerpiece to any significant Audi product, quattro all-wheel drive is included on the seven-passenger crossover vehicle. The quattro all-wheel system features with a self-locking center differential while an optional sport differential is available for the rear axle. In addition to all-wheel drive, buyers of the Audi SQ7 can also choose all-wheel steering. The optional four-wheel steering system on the crossover will enhance the stability and control by turning the rear wheels in the opposite positioning to the front. Electromechanical power steering, Audi drive select driving and adaptive air suspension are standard on the SQ7 TDI optimized by S-line tuning. Carbon fiber braking system and an electromechanical active body roll stabilization is optional on the Audi SQ7 TDI crossover. The latter-mentioned equipment employs an electric motor operating on a 48-volt system to present superior stability for enhanced handling.

Accelerating in under five-seconds, the Audi SQ7 TDIs performance run can be partaken by a driver and six other riders. The seven-passenger interior of the sport-oriented crossover vehicle features the enrichment of S-specific treatments. Sport seats, Audi virtual cockpit and MMI navigation plus infotainment system with LTE communication capability are notable items of standard equipment detailing the cabin of a powerful luxury crossover. Options inside the Audi SQ7 TDI include head-up display, driver assistance systems, ambient lighting, upgraded sport interior touches and a 23-speaker audio system supplied by Band & Olufsen.  

Unlikely to make it to North America, the TDI diesel-powered Audi SQ7 TDI will be confirmed ahead of May. The first example of the high-performance Audi flagship will reach customers by August completed with 20-inch alloy wheels and full LED headlights. If Audi repeats what was accomplished through the SQ5, a gasoline-propelled version of the SQ7 might be destined towards the United States and Canada at a future date.