Monday, July 29, 2019

Ford's On The Right Track After All-Electric F-150 Prototype Pulls 1,250,000 Pounds

Photo Credit: Ford Motor Company



If there is one thing to know about the Ford Motor Company, the automaker certainly does not tolerate a competitor’s attempt to best their F-Series pickup truck (and for good reason). Ford’s light duty F-150 as well as the tougher F-Series Super Duty products combine to become the best-selling vehicles in North America. Along with 42 consecutive years leading the American truck sales charts, the Ford F-Series brand in Canada is actively working on extending its moniker of being the country’s top-selling pickup truck to 54 years in 2019. To keep their position as a leader in the market, Ford is dedicated to providing a configuration to please almost any potential customer. In recent years, Ford’s truck line has showcased engineering and innovation meant to outshine the competition from General Motors and Ram as well as to a lesser degree Nissan and Toyota. With the anticipation that Tesla Motors is planning to enter the pickup truck market with an all-electric vehicle, Ford seeks to beat the newcomer at its own game.

The evitable shift of vehicles towards electrification for the future of motoring is embedded into Ford’s future lineup looking to increase fuel efficiency and reduce tailpipe emissions. By 2022, the blue oval auto company has committed to offer 40 electrified products across the world with their high-volume pickup truck included in their plans. First announced in late 2017, Ford is preparing a hybrid gasoline/electric-powered version of the F-150 is slated for release in 2020 containing a mobile generator system. This past week, a prototype to an upcoming all-electric Ford F-150 has shown that an environmentally-focused horizon can still consist of some serious muscle.

In a grand display that would raise the eyebrows of fans and even critics of electric vehicles, a load of 10 double-decker rail cars containing 42 2019 Ford F-150 pickup trucks was hauled a distance of 1,000 feet (304.8 meters) by an experimental battery-powered F-150. In a video presentation created by the auto manufacturer, four loyal owners of Ford trucks spanning several generations were treated to a show in a rail yard where the all-electric F-150 prototype performed two demonstrations. The first test of the all-electric Ford F-150 was with empty rail cars weighing 1,000,000 pounds translating to the equivalent of 500 US tons or approximately 453.59 metric tons (tonnes). In the second performance, the 42 Ford F-150 pick up trucks (representing each year of the vehicle’s top-selling status in the United States) weighed 1,250,000 pounds that’s also the equivalent of 625 US tons or just less than 567 tonnes. Both attempts were accomplished by Ford’s Linda Zhang (F-150 Chief Engineer) at the wheel of the prototype truck.


Photo Credit: Ford Motor Company



An astounding feat to observe from a pickup truck, it pales in comparison to the load handling of a freight locomotive. Railway company Union Pacific states the maximum capacity of their heavy axle rail cars can weigh up to 315,000 pounds. The all-electric Ford F-150 pulled equivalent of just less than four fully-loaded rail cars.

Under development, the all-electric Ford F-150 prototype is a loose representation of what kind of truck customers can expect. The demonstration of the more than 1,000,000-pound load pull was also accompanied by a disclaimer that the all-electric pickup truck was towing beyond the rated capacity of the intended production version. No major details given of the prototype or production all-electric Ford F-150 have been announced but more details should be provided before 2022. Among the 40 electrified vehicles Ford plans in three years are 16 battery-powered products.


Below is YouTube video from Ford's official channel of the more than 1,000,000 pull by the all-electric Ford F-150 prototype:



Sunday, July 21, 2019

After A Long Night, A Dominant Newgarden Finds Victory In Iowa

Photo Credit: Chris Owens



Enduring several hours of severe rain, the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series would finally run 300 laps the short oval of Iowa Speedway. Taking the checkered flag at 2:14 am Eastern time on Sunday morning, Josef Newgarden the Iowa 300 in fantastic style. Crossing the line 2.8527 seconds ahead of the runner-up, Newgarden and his #2 Hitachi sponsored car actually

For 2019, Iowa Speedway and fans successfully lobbied IndyCar to move the race back to Saturday night after three years being held on a Sunday afternoon. Looking forward to a nighttime short track ambiance as well as colder, more comfortable temperatures, weather didn't cooperate with the event as the 300-lap race was originally set for a 7:10 pm Eastern start time. Due to persistent rain and thunder in the Newton, Iowa area, the race was considerably delayed with the green flag being thrown on the 23-car field just 15 minutes before midnight in the Eastern Time Zone. While weather conditions would again disrupt the delayed race and even necessitate another red flag that lasted for 30 minutes, all 300 laps of the NTT IndyCar event were completed.

When the surface of the 0.894-mile oval was finally dry enough for competition, the Iowa 300 race started with Simon Pagenaud on pole. The #22 Team Penske-owned machine recorded a two-lap average speed of 180.073 miles per hour on Friday with Pagenaud positioning himself ahead of teammates Will Power and Josef Newgarden. With the three Chevrolet-powered Team Penske cars demonstrating supremacy in qualifying, the squad were hunting for only their second win on the track (Helio Castroneves' 2017 victory at Iowa Speedway for Roger Penske is also currently his final win in IndyCar).



Photo Credit: Chris Owens



Seemingly maintaining momentum after a conquering performance on the streets of Toronto in last weekend's Honda Indy race leading up to the start of the Iowa 300, the French driver would only lead the first two laps during the night race (the first lap was under caution). Simon Pagenaud would settle for a fourth place result as he continues to make a run for the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series championship. Entering the 12th round, Pagenaud was trailing 39 points behind Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden.

The #12 Verizon car of Will Power took command at the front on lap 3 and would lead in total 49 laps. Power would be removed from contention in the Iowa 300 late when he received a stop and go penalty for an pit entry error concluding in a 15th place finish.

The fastest of the non-Chevrolet powered Team Penske cars in qualifying, Takuma Sato maintained close contact with the front of the field early. The #30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team car would pit off sequence with the other lead cars. For the second IndyCar event in a row, a potential of a good finish for Sato was spoiled. On lap 187, Sage Karam in the Carlin Motorsport #31 car collided with the #30 car and would receive a penalty for avoidable contact with Sato. While both cars continued to circulate after the impact, Sato and Karam would ultimately retire from the Iowa 300 before the checkered flag. 

Other strong runs that were not reflected in the final race results came from Santino Ferrucci and Ed Carpenter. Ferrucci drove hard throughout the oval event but the rookie settled for a 12th place finish. A steady oval track ringer, driver/owner Carpenter saw a potential top-five performance go awry when he lost control of his #20 car out of turn two and collided with the wall. Carpenter was unhurt but the lap 264 caution would set up a final run for the IndyCar field in Iowa. The night would actually conclude well for Ed Carpenter as a car owner with efforts of the #21 team machine driven by Spencer Pigot.

In the final laps of the 2019 Iowa 300 after the restart, Newgarden shot forward to a steady lead but the reminder of the top-five was actively contested. Canada's James Hinchcliffe in the #5 car achieved a great restart that allowed him to move past Simon Pagenaud but Scott Dixon's #9 machine on fresher tires would surge to second. With Hinchcliffe taking third place, Simon Pagenaud and Spencer Pigot rounded out the top-five. Alexander Rossi came across the line in sixth place ahead of Zach Veach and Graham Rahal who managed to nurse his wounded #15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing car to an eighth place result. Sebastien Bourdais and Tony Kanaan complete the top-ten.

The 2019 NTT IndyCar Series field will compete for their third consecutive weekend at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on for the July 28th Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio race.



The Push Backwards: The Chevrolet Corvette's Long Path to Mid-Engine Production (Part 2)

Photo Credit: Chevrolet



Though the commitment to a Chevrolet Corvette with an engine positioned ahead of the passenger compartment remained the production standard for another generation, a host of concept cars would continue to sell notion of a different powerplant layout. Intended as a research vehicle, the Astro I featured a fiberglass body that did not use conventional doors. An electric-powered roof would open in concert with elevating seats provided a unique entry and exit experience for passengers for a vehicle measuring only 35.5 inches in height. Finished in Crimson-Flame Acrylic Pearl paint, the Astro I design study also consisted of an air-cooled engine, fully automatic air conditioning, twin grip steering wheel and active aerodynamics to facilitate emergency stops. Another concept vehicle displayed a more reality-focused proposal. The XP-880 concept car came to fruition in 1968 under the engineering expertise of Frank Winchell and Larry Nies. Using existing production components, the XP-880 (later be known as the Astro II) was exhibited as a practical possibility and made its first public appearance at the 1968 New York Auto Show. An XP-882 concept followed shortly after the Astro II featuring a transversely mounted V-8 powerplant.


Image from Chevrolet Astro I brochure.



In the 1970s, the experimentation of a mid-engined Corvette also involved the thought into a bold, new powerplant option. General Motors was one of several auto companies seriously evaluating rotary engine technology. Power density and fewer moving parts made rotary powerplants an attractive consideration for future sports cars that than-GM president Ed Cole would influence the corporate design staff and Chevrolet Engineering into the creation of two Corvette concepts.

The first was a Corvette 2-rotor that included a transversely-mounted 4.4-liter power unit connected to a three-speed automatic transmission. Incorporating fixed quad headlights into its sleek design, the Corvette 2-Rotor was also heavily outfitted with production-ready safety and convenience features such as tilting steering wheel, adjustable pedals, energy-absorbing bumpers and an 8.1 cubic foot luggage compartment.


Image taken from Corvette 2-Rotor brochure



The second rotary-powered, mid-engined Corvette debuting in 1973 would draw the most eyes. The Corvette 4-Rotor concept projected an even greater level of extremes for the sports car with the 6.4-liter displacement rotary engine generating an estimated between 350 and 400 horsepower. Bi-folding doors, fully-independent suspension as well as an on-board computer with a digital display was also found on the Aerovette. Rotary engine power would eventually be dismissed by General Motors as fuel economy and reliability issues caused it to lose favour as a viable production possibility. The second concept would found new life when Chevrolet replaced the rotary engine with a V-8 powerplant. A deeply raked 72-degree V windshield and a super aerodynamic fiberglass shape conforming to a 0.325 drag coefficient design resulted in the popular Aerovette in 1977.


Images taken from Corvette 4-Rotor brochure



Zora Arkus-Duntov retired from General Motors in 1975 leaving his plans for a rear mid-engined production Corvette unfulfilled under his guidance. Duntov’s immediate successor Dave McLellan was less enthusiastic about a mid-engine design as work would start on the C4 design. Designer and loyalist to Duntov’s vision Jerry Palmer reportedly commissioned the Chevrolet designers to explore a mid-engined Corvette using a turbocharged V-6 engine but were ultimately dismissed by McLellan who favored the more conventional, familiar front-engine layout.

While the Chevrolet Corvette lost its main champion for a mid-engined layout, the vision remained in General Motors through the 1980s. As the fourth-generation Corvette would go on sale, the essence of the American sports car also appeared on the race track in the form of a mid-engined prototype race car. The Corvette GTP was manufactured on a Lola chassis but featured bodywork resembling the latest C4 design. Debuting at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1985, the Corvette GTP was powered by either a turbocharged 4.3-liter V-6 or a 5.7-liter V-8 engine. Lee Racing first campaigned the car but was joined later in the 1985 season by Hendrick Motorsports who fielded a GM Goodwrench-sponsored machine. Over the course of five seasons, success on the race track for the Corvette GTP was limited to only two wins scored by the Hendrick Motorsports team in 1986.


Corvette GTP on cover of information brochure 



Despite a sadly lackluster outing in prototype sports car competition, the Corvette GTP would serve as inspiration for a motorsport-themed concept car. Premiering to the public in 1986, the Corvette Indy was an all-out technological and design research study into what the future of the high-performance car would look like. The Corvette Indy wore rounded, bubble-like exterior styling was reminiscent to the prototype race car while packaging a host of high-tech features.


Photo Credit: Chevrolet


The two-passenger interior incorporated a wraparound dash panel that extends controls onto the driver’s door while three CRT displays were positioned inside (one mounted far forward as a rearview monitor). Powered by a turbocharged, 2.65-liter overhead cam V-8 engine based closely on the powerplant used by IndyCar teams at the time (hence the name of the concept car), the Corvette Indy also employed computer traction control, drive-by-wire controls and four-wheel drive. Four-wheel drive was previously envisioned on mid-engined Corvette-related design studies such as the CERV II. Four-wheel steering and a Lotus-developed active suspension system were also installed on the Corvette Indy (the latter technology was briefly tried on one of the Corvette GTP race cars in 1987.


Image of interior pod for Corvette Indy located within product brochure



In 1990, the CERV III concept car debuted featured a similar design to the Corvette Indy but utilized extensive carbon fiber construction and added production design cues including pop-up headlights as well as a C4-style roof pillar. The CERV III also included the propulsion of a twin-turbocharged 5.7-liter V-8 LT5 engine that produces 650 horsepower allowing the vehicle to reach a top speed of 225 miles per hour.


Photo Credit: Chevrolet



Although the Chevrolet Corvette retained a front-engine configuration through the C5, C6 and even the C7 models, rumours of a rear mid-engined version of the sports car coming persisted. In 2012, the idea was utilized again for a race track-prepped Corvette debuting as a Daytona Prototype sports car racing class machine. Like the Corvette GTP, the Chevrolet Corvette DP was constructed on a purpose-built race chassis fashioned with bodywork resembling the production car. Over a five-year run in the Rolex Sport Car Series (later becoming the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship), the Corvette DP accumulated 30 wins and four constructors’ titles.

With a mid-engined Chevrolet Corvette finally emerging as an imminent production reality, it could be seen as both exciting and scary to think of how much the classic American sports car may change in the future. Perhaps its only evolution to envision a hybrid powertrain or even all-wheel drive for the car. Maybe even a companion crossover version of the Corvette is on the cards. Now entering eight generations, the Chevrolet Corvette continues to concede to the imagination of performance fans.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

The Push Backwards: The Chevrolet Corvette's Long Path to Mid-Engine Production (Part 1)

Photo Credit: Chevrolet


On April 11th of 2019, the sports car world was mesmerized by a sight roaming the roads of New York City. A camouflaged version of the upcoming 2020 Corvette teased what would be one of the boldest iterations of the sports car seen the vehicle’s nearly 67-year history.

For 2020, the Chevrolet Corvette will operate with an engine mounted behind the driver and passenger for the first time. The Corvette’s retention of a front engine had been viewed as a personality trait for the American performance machine Opening new possibilities in aerodynamics and handling, the notion of a Corvette using this powertrain layout has actually been debated for decades. As the new car debuts on July 18th of 2019, the moment marks the conclusion of a historic battle within General Motors and Chevrolet dating back to the early days of the Corvette taking place with many forms.

The first seeds of a mid-engined Chevrolet Corvette were planted in 1960 through the creation of a racing/research car. The CERV I or Chevrolet Experimental Research Vehicle I was a single-seat race car that was fashioned by a team led by a man renowned as the father of the Corvette Zora Arkus-Duntov. Duntov spearheaded the Chevrolet sports car’s evolution from its initial presence as a charming eclectic yet underpowered roadster to a true performance vehicle by drawing on his hot rodding passion and than-modern engineering. At the time of the CERV I, Zora Arkus-Duntov saw the potential of a rear mid-engined vehicle and would spend a great amount of his energy convincing General Motors top executives in the prospect for the Corvette.



Photo Credit: Chevrolet


Envisioned as a hill climbing competitor, the CERV I was shaped as a lightweight open wheel machine utilized chassis components previously used in the construction of the 1957 Corvette SS race car and was propelled through a fuel-injected, all-aluminum V-8 engine. Resembling an Indy Car or Formula 1 racer, the CERV I recorded a lap speed of 167 miles per hour around the Daytona International Speedway and was also modified to achieve an average speed of 206 miles per hour. Duntov himself was behind the wheel of the CERV I in the latter run obtained in 1964 at General Motors’ high speed test track in Milford, Michigan. Intended as a one-off race car concept, the CERV I’s rear suspension design would prove helpful with the engineering of the second-generation Corvette.

Although the 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray would retain a front ahead of its passenger compartment, sketches existed of a rear-engined prior to the introduction of the second-generation version of the American sports car. The CERV I as well as the potential seen early on with the unconventional rear-engined Corvair allowed the minds of engineers and designers to conceive radical alternatives. At the same time the Corvette Sting Ray was on showroom floors, the CERV II competition race car concept was developed as continuation of the CERV I. Propelled through a 377 cubic-inch eight-cylinder engine, the Chevrolet research vehicle reached a top speed of 200 miles per hour and could accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in an estimated 2.8 seconds. The CERV II was created as an open-cockpit vehicle but a closed-cockpit version of the concept car was also sketched. While the car was not involved in competitive events, the CERV II’s lightweight aluminum chassis would be adapted by Jim Hall’s Chaparral Cars for sports car racing.


Photo Credit: Chevrolet



In 1964, a rear-engined XP-819 concept car was created as a one-off test mule. Wearing a stunning design created by legendary Larry Shinoda (the visionary behind the Mako Shark show car, Ford Mustang Boss 302 and also an influencer in the Jeep Grand Cherokee), the XP-819 handled poorly due to its considerable rear weight bias. Intended to be destroyed (a practice auto companies commonly use after concept cars outlive their usefulness), the XP-819 was saved when NASCAR and auto racing mechanical wizard Smokey Yunick requested the vehicle as part of an effort to creating his own rear-engined Indy Car. The chassis of the car has survived to this day.

Through the 1960s, the rear mid-engined sports car was becoming a more tempting layout. This was particularly the case when corporate rival Ford developed the Ferrari-fighting GT40 that would succeed conquer Le Mans through the latter part of the decade. At Chevrolet, there were strong possibilities that the third-generation Corvette was going to be a rear mid-engined vehicle with full-scale mock-ups actually assembled by Zora Arkus-Duntov and the engineering team. Duntov was highly motivated in the push towards the idea but ultimately Chevrolet executives chose a vehicle based on Bill Mitchell’s Mako Shark concept.


Freehand sketch based on mock-up images of a proposed mid-engined Corvette. Drawn by Chris Nagy 



In 1968, Chevrolet instead introduced a C3 Corvette using Mako Shark II styling that again planted the engine ahead of the driver. A major stumbling block with new drivetrain layout at the time was the expense of retooling. The third-generation version of the Corvette would ultimately establish a cornerstone as seeing the American sports car as a more affordable alternative to other exotic, high-performance machines that also translated to greater profitability with unit sales. The C3 body style would be the most produced version of the Corvette. It’s also a possibility that the poor publicity generated by the rear-engined Chevrolet Corvair might have contributed to resistance of a production-based rear mid-engined Corvette.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Simon Pagenaud Captures Honda Indy Toronto Pole

Photo Credit: Shawn Gritzmacher



The Honda Indy Toronto is the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series' only stop outside of the United States. With 22 well-tuned open wheel race cars and drivers arriving to do battle on temporary street circuit surrounding the grounds of Exhibition Place, a 85-lap main event awaits on Sunday. Prior to the head-to-head action that serves as the centerpiece for a weekend's worth of motoring festivities, Saturday qualifying would settle the running order for the 2019 Honda Indy. Competing on a tight, challenging track, preferential starting spot is coveted to ensure the best chance of Sunday success.

Recording the fastest lap time during Friday practice sessions, this year's Indianapolis 500 champion Simon Pagenaud parlayed this pace in Saturday's qualifying for the Honda Indy Toronto. The #22 DXC Technology-sponsored race car from the Team Penske stable demonstrated superiority on the 11-turn, 2874-kilometer (1.786-mile) Canadian street course by posting a 58.4293-second lap time in the fast six qualifying session. Pagenaud's second pole position in the event in three years, the Team Penske extends a streak of three-straight years of taking the top spot. "It was a great day, really. Great weekend so far. I've had the most fun ever in Toronto. The car has just been amazing." said Simon Pagenaud after his time trial performance. 

The Frenchman is still chasing his first victory on the streets of Toronto having achieved a career-best finish of 2nd in last year's event. In the entire history of the Honda Indy, only one reigning Indianapolis 500 winning driver claimed victory on the street course in the same year (Bobby Rahal in the inaugural event in 1986).

Pagenaud's best lap was enough to deny five-time IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon of the pole. Just 0.1655 of a second slower than the #22 car, the #9 car in the hands of the New Zealand native has won three times at the event (two wins came in one weekend when IndyCar held a double race weekend at the track in 2013). Dixon's rookie teammate Felix Rosenqvist driving a #10 Chip Ganassi Racing machine posted a third-quickest time in qualifying following up on speed shown in Friday practice. Andretti Autosport's Alexander Rossi as well as Team Penske driver and 2015 Honda Indy winner Josef Newgarden round out the top-five.

Canadian driver James Hinchcliffe struggled to find a performance in qualifying that allowed his #5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports car to cross over to the top half of field. Hinchcliffe will start the 2019 Honda Indy Toronto in 14th place. The Oakville-born driver remains optimistic on his chances on Sunday in a post-qualifying interview saying, "We've had really good Sundays, really good car on race days so far this year, so I'm confident we can pick off some of these guys. Our Arrow guys have been great in the pits, fastest in the pits at Road America. We just need to do what we've been doing on Sundays, execute well, make smart decisions on the racetrack, call strategy well and I think we'll be fighting for a top five."

Coverage for the 2019 Honda Indy Toronto is scheduled to start at 3:00 PM on Sportsnet One in Canada and will air on NBCSN in the United States.




IndyCar Series: 2019 Honda Indy Toronto


Pos # Driver Car # Team Engine Time Qual Round


1 Simon Pagenaud 22 Team Penske Chevrolet 58.4293 3
2 Scott Dixon 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda 58.5948 3
3 Felix Rosenqvist 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda 58.6793 3
4 Alexander Rossi 27 Andretti Autosport Honda 58.9215 3
5 Josef Newgarden 2 Team Penske Chevrolet 59.3103 3
6 Ed Jones 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet 59.5353 3
7 Marco Andretti 98 Andretti Herta with Marco & Curb Autosport Honda 58.7663 2
8 Sebastien Bourdais 18 Dale Coyne with Vasser-Sullivan Honda 58.7781 2
9 Spencer Pigot 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet 58.8221 2
10 Takuma Sato 30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda 58.9110 2
11 Ryan Hunter-Reay 28 Andretti Autosport Honda 59.0444 2
12 Graham Rahal 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda 59.0985 2
13 Max Chilton 59 Carlin Chevrolet 59.4811 1
14 James Hinchcliffe 5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda 59.9293 1
15 Will Power 12 Team Penske Chevrolet 59.5508 1
16 Colton Herta 88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda 59.0549 1
17 Santino Ferrucci 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda 59.9761 1
18 Zach Veach 26 Andretti Autosport Honda 59.2890 1
19 Matheus Leist 4 AJ Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet 1:00.1853 1
20 Marcus Ericsson 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda 59.6299 1
21 Sage Karam 31 Carlin Chevrolet 1:01.1134 1
22 Tony Kannan 14 AJ Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet 59.7317 1