Here is our list of 5 (Five) Best and Worst Things About The Upcoming 2018 Audi A5 Coupe. BEST 1) Slippery style: Super refined but sporty style, with aerodynamics honed down to a slippery 0.25 ...
There are many forms of racing and all have their merits and challenges, but where does someone start when they do not have the experience or a limited budget to compete? The Ontario Time Attack ...
Jen Horsey in her first national event in the race car she bought built. The best racing advice I ever got was to buy built. It sounds counterintuitive – especially to the mechanically inclined who ...
Always wanted to go car racing, but didn’t know what or where to race? This year, the Western Canada Motorsport Association (WCMA) has made it even easier to “race what you’ve got.” For two of our ...
The Confederation of Autosport Car Clubs (CACC) holds motorsports events all year long on the west coast. In the winter months, a very dedicated group of racers look forward to the freezing weather ...
Truro, Nova Scotia – Here we are again, two months into 2016 and it is looking like a repeat of the winter of 2015, albeit with less snow and crazy temperature shifts so far. With most of the club ...
Driving the new C 63 AMG S coupe is an exercise in restraint. I suspect that owning one, then, will be that and many more things. The car’s purpose is simple. To be the best C-Class ever. And it ...
History was made in Daytona Beach, Florida, when the No. 2 Tequila Patrón ESM Honda HPD Ligier JS Prototype, driven by Brazilian Pipo Derani and Americans Johannes van Overbeek, ...
One normally goes to Venice for a romantic gondola ride on the Grand Canal and explore the narrow medieval streets on foot, to drink caffè or eat tiramisu in the Piazza San Marco and to marvel at ...
You could be forgiven if you weren’t aware that the Chevrolet Malibu is now on its third generation since 2008. The 2013 model, in fact, marked the beginning of a new generation, but it maintained ...
Here is our list of 5 (Five) Best and Worst Things About The Upcoming 2018 Audi A5 Coupe. BEST 1) Slippery style: Super refined but sporty style, with aerodynamics honed down to a slippery 0.25 coefficient of drag by Ottawa-born aerodynamicist Dr. Moni Islam, who holds degrees from Concordia in Montreal and the University of Toronto. 2) Whisper quiet: Also helped by those sleek aerodynamics, as well as the platform it shares with the A4 and pricier Q7, the A5 is whisper quiet and hugely refined when cruising at highway speeds, and even extra-legal highway speeds. 3) Power healthy for “base” model: Major power boost from the redone turbocharged 252 hp four-cylinder engine, as on the A4 sedan, with a healthy 293 lb-ft of torque, standard paddle shifters and quattro all-wheel drive that combine to power it to 100km/h in a claimed but believable 5.8 seconds. 4) Kicking sound: a brief burst to what I thought must be nearing full blast of the optional 3D Bang & Olufsen 19-speaker, 755-watt system was barely up to half way. Even though I warned my co-driver of the audio test, I couldn’t in good conscience push it past three-quarters, even though the sound was still pinpoint sharp. 5) Virtual wow factor: Audi’s flashy virtual cockpit is now available here, which first debuted on the TT, which trades in analog gauges for a super high resolution screen that uniquely bleeds the navigation system across much of the space in front of the driver. Worst 1) Too similar-looking for some: a quick poll of attendees at the launch had a few thinking it looked a bit too much like the outgoing version, especially with the similar-looking five-spoke wheels on some test models – with a hint of ’17 Ford Fusion in its headlights especially. 2) Still tiny back seat: even with 23 more millimetres (0.9 inch) of knee room in the back, the plus-two seats back there are still very tight, and made slightly tougher to access with the automatically extending and retracting seatbelt arms, as Mercedes-Benz has used for a while on its big two-doors. 3) Lack of engine choice: the A5 will arrive with one turbo 2.0-litre four, and that’s it; though the sportier S5 benefits from an all-new turbocharged V6 engine, A5 drivers in North America won’t be offered any of the other four engines available in Europe (three diesels, one other gas). A plug-in offering would be a great option here. 4) Parking pain: Though A5 drivers would (likely) get used to the oddly placed Park button located on the lower left of the shifter, the auto-engaging parking brake that doesn’t automatically un-engage when going into Drive had multiple drivers cursing the combo of the two, even by the end of our half-day preview drive. 5) ‘Diesel-gate’ collateral damage? Though the emissions control defeat device scandal is most closely associated with parent company Volkswagen, Audi may still have a trust issue with consumers not impressed with the brand heavily pushing ‘clean diesels’ that were found to be anything but, and removed from the market for 2016 by government regulators in both Canada and the U.S.
There are many forms of racing and all have their merits and challenges, but where does someone start when they do not have the experience or a limited budget to compete? The Ontario Time Attack (OTA for short, and previously known as SOLO 1) is a grassroots discipline that has been established since 1980 as an affordable alternative and stepping stone to other forms of racing. Here is a comparison of OTA and other racing disciplines:  ONTARIO TIME ATTACK OTHER NON-CASC FORMS OF RACING Use your daily driver to compete in most cases. Need to have a series specified and dedicated car, which is not “streetable” and requires tow vehicle and trailer. Safety equipment minimum is an approved helmet and factory safety belts. Usually a roll cage is required with safety 4- or 5-point harness and, consequently, a neck restraint required with approved helmet. Race “solo” like you’re qualifying for pole position in every race. You race with others sharing the track with the chance of making contact with other competitors with your car. Choose up to 6 events and 2 schools. Usually you must compete in a minimum number of races to maintain your involvement in the series. Affordable drivers education dovetailed into the race events. Driver education is not usually run in conjunction with the race schedule, and costs usually are over $1,000 plus. You decide which modifications you want to make. A performance index ensures you’re fairly matched with similar competitor groups. Modifications are usually standardized which can result in large expenditure to make your car competitive. Usually the teams who can maximize expenditure on the cars can lead the race. All the events are close to the GTA and scheduled on weekends. Many of these races are either out of province and/or have Friday test and tech days. Our drivers are competitive but are more than ready to assist novice drivers in both mechanical and driving skills. Drivers are often overly competitive and rarely share experiences to help you become a better driver. We offer lots of track time to practice your skills and also compete. Track time can be very limited. We hire professional racetrack marshals and safety crews to keep our drivers safe. Professional racetrack marshals and safety crews keep drivers safe. You win awards and get satisfaction developing and honing your driving skills. Win awards and develop your driving skills in a highly-competitive environment. We are a volunteer-run organization and depend on fellow competitors to run a safe event while maintaining the cost of racing to a minimum. We are a volunteer-run organization and depend on fellow competitors to run a safe event while maintaining the cost of racing to a minimum. 2016 MOBIL 1 ONTARIO TIME ATTACK CHAMPIONSHIP SERIESPresented by JRP, Toyo Tires & Yokohama Tire  SCHEDULE TRACK DATE HOST CLUB LOCATION DDC May 14 OMSC 1 hour East of GTA TMP  June 4 TAC 1 hour South of Hamilton CTMP June 25 SPDA 1 hour East of GTA CTMP June 26 SPDA 1 hour East of GTA DDC July 9 OMSC 1 hour East of GTA DDC July 10 OMSC 1 hour East of GTA SMP August 20 SPDA 2 hours East of GTA SMP August 21 TAC 2 hours East of GTA LEGEND TRACKS   CTMP Canadian Tire Motorsport Park DDC CTMP Driver Development Centre SMP Shannonville Motorsports Park TMP Toronto Motorsports Park CLUBS   SPDA SPDA Motorsport Club ( OMSC Oshawa Motorsport Club ( TAC Toronto Autosport Club ( Can’t wait to get started? Contact Gerry at or phone/text him at 416-505-9559.
Jen Horsey in her first national event in the race car she bought built. The best racing advice I ever got was to buy built. It sounds counterintuitive – especially to the mechanically inclined who imagine weekends in the shop with friends when they daydream about starting a team. But if you survey a driver’s meeting in just about any discipline, you’ll find experienced racers generally agree on this point: for your first race car, don’t build it. Buy built. My very first race car was a 1993 Mazda 323 rally car (pictured) originally built and maintained by the capable team at Four Star Motorsports in Georgetown, Ontario. It was a straightforward build with a few aftermarket parts, reinforcement where it needed it, and safety gear to the rules of the day. It came with a log book guaranteeing it was race legal in its class, and a well-developed spares package. I loved that car: it was well-sorted and dead reliable. Somebody else had done the development work on it, so any DNFs on my early career record were due to operator error, rather than of the mechanical variety. So in my first season, I got to learn a lot, including what I wanted in a race car. When I bought the Mazda, I would have told you that what it needed was a ton more power, a racier gearbox and a new paint job. When I sold it, I knew I wanted my next ride to have a modified pedal set-up that was more conducive to left-foot braking, different seats installed a little lower and on a better angle for weight balance as well as my comfort and visibility, a better handbrake set-up, and a suspension upgrade. Nowhere on the list were the power or gearbox upgrades I thought it needed because once I started racing, my priorities completely changed. (I repainted the car when I crashed it badly enough to need to replace some panels – the first time). After that, I built. And I discovered first-hand that it is usually not a fun experience to fight through a season with a new car. I experienced no shortage of what we in the biz like call “teething troubles.” Think it won’t happen to you? They’re almost inevitable. Look up your favourite team’s first season results and you’ll see the telltale pattern of new-car woes: DNFs, inconsistent lap times, and flashes of brilliance marred by gutting disappointment. Better still: Google “teething trouble” and “motorsport.” Formula One’s McLaren-Honda’s 2015 season to forget is only the first result to come up in a long, long list. The best way to learn and grow as a driver when you’re new to motorsport is to maximize your time racing and minimize your time in the garage. A sorted-out build is critical to your success. But that’s not the only reason to buy built. A driver I used to work with was fond of saying that you had to hate your car a little bit to put it through the abuse it sees in competition. And if you fall in love with every rivet while you’re building it, you might discover that driving it becomes a little less fun. The last thing you want to be thinking about as you’re throttle down and working on a last-corner pass for the lead is how much work it’s going to be to fix the crash damage. But once you decide to buy built, how do you avoid a lemon? There are no CarProof vehicle history reports for race cars, of course, but you’ll find the paddock grapevine is just as accurate – if not more so. There are few off-the-books wrecks in racing. Ask around and people will be happy to tell you what they know. A vehicle’s build history is important – that will tell you how sturdy its fundamentals are – but when you’re buying built you also need to know a car’s racing record and service history. The longer it’s been since the builders had it, the more important the service reference. Officials, competitors and team mechanics will all have an opinion on a given car, and if you’re hearing a mostly positive slate of reviews, then you’re in business. And for the mechanically inclined among you, never fear: if there is one guarantee for a grassroots racer, it’s that you will spend plenty of time working on your car. It’s been seven or so years since I sold my dear old Mazda, but each time it has come up for sale, somebody has tagged me on Facebook or sent me the listing. It was blue the last time I saw it in person. It’s yellow now. And it’s been crashed and fixed and modified enough times since I’ve owned it that I’ve lost track of its condition and wouldn’t be able to give a reference on it anymore. But the people who know it from recent track days and races sure can. And that’s true for just about every race car on the market. Once you let it be known that you could be a buyer, you’ll have no trouble finding your next weekend warrior.
Always wanted to go car racing, but didn’t know what or where to race? This year, the Western Canada Motorsport Association (WCMA) has made it even easier to “race what you’ve got.” For two of our classes, we have adopted National Auto Sports Association (NASA) Performance Touring (PT) and Super Touring (ST) rules. The PT class is for cars with greater than 10.5 pounds per horsepower, and ST for cars that have less than 10.5 pounds per horsepower. This means you don’t need a highly-modified car to race in a competitive class. You add a roll cage and safety equipment to whatever car you want to race, plug your car and modifications into the PT class calculator spreadsheet, and you will be placed in a competitive class for the level of modification of your car. The WCMA will be holding two race licensing schools this spring: April 30-May 1 at Castrol Raceway in Leduc, Alberta, and May 7-8 at Gimli in Manitoba. Each school provides two days of instructor-driven track instruction for a fraction of the cost of taking a professional racing school. And the FIA licensing obtained at these schools will allow you to race anywhere in the world through our FIA affiliation. The WCMA has many other classes to race in as well, including Open Wheel Formulas, Challenge Car for early RX7s, and Spec Miata for 1989-2005 cars. The Spec Miata field reached 17 cars last year at Castrol, which was the largest field for a club level race in North America. Four race dates are scheduled at Castrol Raceway Leduc and five race dates are confirmed at Gimli Manitoba in 2016. As well, tow funds are available for selected racers traveling to away races in B.C. and the Prairies. Not ready to hit the track this year? The WCMA’s 17 affiliated clubs have autoslalom events where you can race your street car against the clock on some exciting venues, such as the Fort Macleod Airport runway and portions of Castrol Raceway. Participation in these events can start you off on a graduated progression to get your race licence and hit the big tracks! So, if you’ve been thinking about racing in Alberta and/or Manitoba and didn’t know where to start, think about the WCMA! Visit our website for details on events and registration for the upcoming summer racing season.
The Confederation of Autosport Car Clubs (CACC) holds motorsports events all year long on the west coast. In the winter months, a very dedicated group of racers look forward to the freezing weather and the trek up the Fraser Canyon to Barnes Lake for a season of ice racing. Unfortunately, the track is dependent on how cold it is and how much ice is on the lake. If it isn’t cold enough that means no ice. No ice means no track. No track means no racing. While there’s still some time for things to turn around, this winter’s warm weather saw things get off to a slow start, with only a single icecross having been run on the lake as of this writing. Fortunately, the weather in the Greater Vancouver area and in Victoria on Vancouver Island affords us the opportunity to run slalom events year round, with only a short break over the Christmas holidays. Check the CACC web site for a listing of clubs that organize slalom events throughout B.C. during the year. The CACC will have a booth at the Vancouver International Auto Show again this year (March 23-27), which always attracts lots of enthusiastic spectators. This usually brings new people out to our events, and we invite you to come out and learn more about our organization. Both the Victoria Motorsports Club (VMSC) and the Sports Car Club of British Columbia (SCCBC) will also be hosting their annual Race Driver Training Events in March, too. The VMSC will hold its school on March 26-27 in Victoria while the SCCBC will hold its on March 13-19- 20. These schools are for people wanting to go wheel-to-wheel racing as well as those who want to learn better car control. Spots fill up early and fast. The 2016 CACC race schedule is set for the events at Mission Raceway Park’s road course, with the first race weekend set for April 16-17 with a practice day on Friday the 15th. It will be a full field of cars with racing for novices on Saturday, and full grids of open- and closed-wheel cars both days. Plus, there will be a time attack on Saturday, with Sunday set aside for racing Vintage cars. The full schedule is on Time attackers are also looking forward to the Annual Knox Mountain Hillclimb, which takes place on the Victoria Day long weekend in Kelowna, BC this year. This long-standing event continues to be the only sanctioned hillclimb in Canada, and draws entries from all over western Canada and the U.S. The vintage racing discipline will be holding races on all regular CACC race weekends, but The British Columbia Historic Motor Races standalone race weekend will take place on August 19-21. This event always features a great display of old race cars doing what they were built to do – RACE! – as well as a superb car corral with lots of old cars to check out. There is a fun social atmosphere at the Saturday night banquet – a must attend event – so what are you waiting for? Before signing off, the CACC wants to congratulate Rick Payne of Mission, BC, who took his Van Dieman RF99 Honda from 10th on the grid to victory at the 2015 Formula F Championship during the SCCA Runoffs in Daytona Beach, Florida in September. Well done Rick! The CACC is looking forward to another great season in all of our different facets of motorsport. And we invite you to come out and join us. Check our web site to find contacts for our affiliate clubs.
Truro, Nova Scotia – Here we are again, two months into 2016 and it is looking like a repeat of the winter of 2015, albeit with less snow and crazy temperature shifts so far. With most of the club and region annual general meetings over, it’s time to start getting down to the business of preparing race cars and karts for the start of competition in May. Hopefully, Santa was good to everyone this year and brought all kinds of go-fast goodies because it’s time to turn up the heat in the garage, forget about the snow outside and get those parts installed and everything tuned up. After all, in less than three months, ARMS members will get their first chance to drive the new improvements at Atlantic Motorsport Park (AMP), the kart track at Scotia Speed World (SSW) or even a parking lot nearer to you for some autoslalom fun. I’m not saying you should stay inside on weekends for the rest of this winter, but it won’t be long now. Returning for its 14th year, the Bluenose Autosport Club RallyCross Challenge has been in full swing since November though, with events split between AMP near Shubenacadie, NS and SSW near the Halifax International Airport. Turn-outs have been great this season with a high of 46 competitors so far. No frost in the ground has made for some very interesting, very mucky courses, and there is still some fun to be had. For more info and upcoming dates visit The Moncton Motor Sport Club and Fredericton Motorsports Club are each planning to hold two AutoCross events at some point over the winter. These events will most likely be at Magic Mountain in Moncton, NB and Speedway 660 in Geary, NB, and are very much weather dependent. For further info on these events be sure to visit and AutoCross and RallyCross are great ways to learn better car control in less-than-ideal conditions and, for those willing to venture out into the crazy winter weather, it’s a great way to get the thrill in a low cost, controlled and fun atmosphere. Conditions range from sunny and cold to rain and snow on surfaces ranging from bare ground to snow covered and shear ice. ARMS calendar of 2016 events at including all Regional Championships in Race, Rally, AutoSlalom and Time Attack. • Race has a five-event Regional Race Championship, known as the TRAC Championships with info available at and the Jack Canfield Memorial 3-Hour Enduro Race. • Navigational Rally Championships for both Novice and Experienced drivers and navigators. • Time Attack has a three-day Championship event planned for early October. • AutoSlalom has an eight-event series at various locations in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. The various ARMS member clubs all have their own championships as well. More detailed event info is available on the ARMS forum and club web sites. It’s looking like 2016 will be a great year for motorsports in Atlantic Canada! We’ll see you at the track! ARMS, TRACTwitter Facebook
Driving the new C 63 AMG S coupe is an exercise in restraint. I suspect that owning one, then, will be that and many more things. The car’s purpose is simple. To be the best C-Class ever. And it just might be. Along with its sedan counterpart, the C 63s are head and shoulders above the rest. Poised atop the best-selling luxury car line in Canada, Mercedes-AMG’s latest performance coupe gets the same hand-built AMG 4.0L twin-turbocharged V8 that comes in the C 63 sedan launched last spring. With 503 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque that peaks at 4,750 rpm, the S model has 34 more horsepower and 37 lb-ft than the non-S model, and is capable of accelerating from 0-100 km/h in under four seconds. And while the rest of the C-Class lineup gets a very democratic 4MATIC all-wheel drive system and less powerful engines, only the AMGs are rear-wheel driven. As part of the fifth-generation C-Class (W205), which dates back to the Mercedes-Benz 190 (W201) range that reigned from 1982 to 1993, the range-topping C 63 AMG sedan and coupe models truly benefit from the winning ways of the Mercedes-AMG teams in Formula One, DTM and other series. I’ve now driven both the sedan and the coupe, and each is fitted with AMG’s Speed-shift sports transmission that slices through seven forward gears with divine purpose and finesse. Each also gets Eco start/stop and a Dynamic Select system to choose one of six driving modes (Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Race and Individual) that can change their demeanours from mild to wild to bat-s!#t crazy. While I was taken aback by the mega speed and handling abilities of the C 63 S sedan on Portugal’s big and fast Portimão Circuit, the back end did tend to get pretty unstable under hard-braking at the end of the long straights. The newer C 63 S coupe does not do this at all, and it’s because of several improvements that Mercedes-AMG has made to what is essentially a totally different car. The electronically-controlled mechanical rear-axle limited slip differential is a key factor here, but it isn’t alone. Compared to the base C-Class coupe (the C 300 coupe was at the launch, but I didn’t drive it), the AMG version shares only the doors, roof and trunk lid. The remaining body panels are AMG specific, and necessary to provide more substance rather than aesthetics. The wide rear fenders, for example, add 33 mm to each side (2.6 inches total) to accommodate the limited-slip differential, as well as a rear axle that is 46 mm wider. Likewise, the front fenders widen the car by 24 mm per side (1.89 inches total) so that larger wheels and tires will fit in the front and back, respectively. The coupe is 15 mm lower than its sedan counterpart, and the rear axle and LSD are both new compared to the C 63 S sedan. I should also point out the LSD in the non-S model is not electronically-controlled, and thus not as sensitive. The combination of the C 63 S’s lower centre of gravity, wider track width, larger contact patch, improved front and rear downforce (0.01 and 0.05 per cent, respectively), the AMG ride control suspension (and tuning) and other AMG tweaks make for a car that drives silky smooth at the limit. That it looks even better than the sedan is mere happenstance. Like the sedan press launch, the C 63 coupe launch featured gorgeous on-road drive routes as well as track driving, the latter under the guidance of Mercedes-AMG brand ambassador and factory test driver Bernd Schneider. And instead of Portimão, I find myself chasing down the five-time DTM champ on the incredible Circuito Ascari in southern Spain – the 5.425-km long, 26-turn full track that combines the best corners from many of the world’s most famous racetracks. In Portugal, Schneider drove the same car as everyone else. In Spain, however, the mouse is behind the wheel of the AMG GT S, while all the cats are driving C 63 S coupes. That said, I felt so much more confident driving said coupe that I was actually able to stay closer to “The Man” (that’s how our Canadian PR rep refers to him). Compared to the AMG sedan, the coupe is more stable under heavy braking and faster all around. There’s virtually no body roll, and it doesn’t understeer whatsoever – thanks in part to the dynamic engine mounts it shares with the AMG GT. What nervousness I had on my first lap was already gone by lap two, and I managed to click off 20 this time around, including a private session with just the two of us on track that saw me clock a respectable best time of 2:38.33. Mercedes has made great strides with its driver interfaces and usability in all its models, this being no exception. I won’t go on and on with specifics, but will say that it’s perhaps the nicest interior they make. The C 300 4MATIC coupe will begin arriving in Canadian dealerships in March with a $48,100 MSRP, and it’s a one of the best compact luxury cars in Canada. The same can be said on the on the luxury performance side with respect to the C 63 coupe models, though pricing won’t be released until April and the car won’t go into production until June. It will arrive in our showrooms sometime in July however. That is, if they even make it to showrooms. If you are at all interested don’t wait for them to get here because they will go fast – literally and figuratively. The thing about this car is that you’ll find yourself resisting many urges in your daily commute, but if you’re looking for a dual-duty high-performance luxury car to also take to the track, this is one that should be seriously considered. The Mercedes-AMG C 63 S sedan has already been named AJAC’s Best New Sports Performance Car for 2016. The coupe will be eligible to win it next year. And I think it will. BY THE NUMBERS | $164 /HP (CALCULATED W/ EST. BASE MSRP) | 125.75 HP/L | 264.53 HP/TON | 3.43 KG/HP | 8.9 L/100 KM (NEDC – COMBINED) SPECIFICATIONS 2017 Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Coupé BASE PRICE: $82,500 (estimate only) ENGINE: AMG 4.0L twin-turbocharged V8 HORSEPOWER: 503 hp @ 5,500-6,250 rpm (SAE) TORQUE: 516 lb-ft @ 4,750 rpm CONFIGURATION: Front-engine / rear-wheel drive TRANSMISSION: 7-speed dual clutch automatic DRY WEIGHT: 1,725 kg FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS (NEDC COMB.): 8.9 L/100 km WARRANTY (MOS. / KM): 48 / 80,000 ALTERNATIVES: Audi S5, BMW M2/4, Cadillac ATS-V Coupe, Chevrolet Camaro Z/28, Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R, Infiniti Q60 Coupe, Jaguar F-Type R, Lexus RC F NOTABLE OPTIONS: PREMIUM PACKAGE - Parktronic w/ active parking assist, COMAND online navi w/ MB Apps, Burmester surround system, Keyless-Go; INTELLIGENT DRIVE PACKAGE ($TBA) - Distronic Plus, Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, CMS rear, BMS Plus w Cross Traffic Assist, Pre-Safe Brake, Advanced Driving Assistance package; PREMIUM REAR SEATING PACKAGE - rear window sunshade, Thermotronic automatic climate control; metallic paint; designo upholstery; head-up display; passive lane keeping assist; power trunk closer; air balance package; 19-in. AMG 5-spoke wheels; AMG performance seat; AMG carbon ceramic brakes.
History was made in Daytona Beach, Florida, when the No. 2 Tequila Patrón ESM Honda HPD Ligier JS Prototype, driven by Brazilian Pipo Derani and Americans Johannes van Overbeek, Scott Sharp and Ed Brown, crossed the finish line for the overall win after logging 736 laps in the 54th Rolex 24 at Daytona, the opening race of the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. This marks the very first overall victory for a Honda-powered car, as well as the first for the French-built Ligier prototype. CAMERA: Nikon D700EXPOSURE: 1/125 sec. at f/11FOCAL LENGTH: 80 mmISO: 200
One normally goes to Venice for a romantic gondola ride on the Grand Canal and explore the narrow medieval streets on foot, to drink caffè or eat tiramisu in the Piazza San Marco and to marvel at statues of famous explorers, Kings and Queens. It’s certainly not a place you visit to explore by car as there are literally no roads – every taxi is a water taxi, and the speed limit on the canals is 7 km/h. So upon learning that Audi was launching the all-new A4 here, I pondered (albeit briefly) the possibility that the Ingolstadt car maker had been secretly developing an amphibious version of its most important model. No such luck, of course. Venice is a veritable stone’s throw away from the Dolomites, a mountain range in the northeastern part of Italy that, besides boasting some of the most beautiful views in the world, also features some of the most fantastic driving roads anywhere. It is here, on the sinuous stretches of tarmac that rise from the shores of the Adriatic Sea, past the foothills of the Alps and ascend well into high alpine country, where Audi has laid out its latest bread-and-butter model for close examination. Over the course of about six hours, my co-driver and I take turns at the wheel, neither one of us wanting to give up the seat for the next stint. The A4 has been the heart of the Audi brand since the mid-1990s, and the all-new 2017 models make up the ninth generation. Including the original 1972 Audi 80 predecessor, Audi has sold more than 12 million worldwide since the beginning; and the platform has helped Audi achieve greatness in the World Rally Championship (WRC) and the German touring car championship (DTM). Built on the modular MLB evo platform, the new A4’s sporty, elegant and functional exterior is almost entirely new (more than 99 per cent they say). Though it may be described as evolutionary rather than revolutionary, the design has been painstakingly refined in the wind tunnel to make it the most slippery A4 to date. The resulting 0.23 coefficient of drag is not only impressively low (second best in the world for production cars according to Audi), it helps maintain a cabin comparably quiet to the A8, while also improving fuel economy by up to 21 per cent, depending on the trim. Audi has six versions of the 2017 A4 with a choice of seven different (three TFSI and four TDI) engines ranging from 150 to 272 horsepower for other parts of the world. Canada, however, will only get the 2.0 TFSI (gasoline) option on account of the unresolved North American VW diesel emissions scandal. Fortunately, I’ve managed to secure one of the few A4 2.0 TFSI Quattro S-Line models, complete with the seven-speed S-tronic transmission, on hand to conquer the mountains. It doesn’t take long for the smiles to materialize. The car is taking the multitude of switchbacks with nonchalance – turn-in is crisp and precise, and grip is in ample supply despite the changing surfaces (wet/dry) as we punch through each cloud layer. The chassis stays flat through long, sweeping bends with almost no understeer to complain about; and the car doesn’t struggle one bit during the long, slow ascent to the summit. Weight is down by 110 kilograms despite the car being slightly larger than the outgoing model, with six kilos stricken from the front axle alone to help it turn and stop quicker. Audi claims this car accelerates from 0-100 km/h in six seconds, though it is closer to seven by my rough count. But while the car has a tendency to lag from a standing start, it certainly feels much faster when pulling out to pass at speed. Drive Select switches between regular and sporty driving modes, the ECUs communicating with a number of computers that are on board to manage the 30 driver assistance systems and achieve semi-autonomous operation. Things like active cruise control with predictive efficiency assist and traffic jam mode for stop-and-go traffic not only make it seem like the car is thinking ahead, it reacts appropriately, too. The interior of the new A4 is as comfy as it is an exercise in meticulous attention to detail. It’s not quite as luxurious as Mercedes cabins, but it does have a techier feel thanks to a number of tricks, including MyCar Manager for smartphones and the Audi virtual cockpit control cluster that’s also found in the Q7, TT and R8. Besides using Google maps for navigation, this system uses the ATE standard for faster rendering of the sat nav. Furthermore, the A4 now boasts the longest interior in its category, with more headroom and rear legroom than its predecessor, a 480-litre trunk and 30 different ambient lighting colours to fine tune the cockpit ambience. Pinch to zoom maps, a 750-watt Bang & Olufsen stereo, two USB ports, Audi phone box with inductive charging capabilities and a smartphone screen clone function on the multimedia interface means you can always stay connected. While the A4 is currently only offered with 2.0 TFSI powerplant (available trims include Komfort, Progressiv and Technik), we’re hoping more offerings will be announced as Dieselgate gets sorted out. For now, we have it on good authority that an A4 Avant wagon will be available in Canada roughly six months following the sedan’s on-sale date. That might not be enough for diesel fans, but with the price of gas as low as it is, it will be hard to ignore. BY THE NUMBERS | $171 /HP (BASE MSRP) | 126 HP/L (ENGINE DISPLACEMENT) | 151.4 HP/TON (HORSEPOWER TO WEIGHT) | 5.99 KG/HP | 6.3 L L/100 KM (DCT – OBSERVED) SPECIFICATIONS 2017 Audi A4 2.0 TFSI quattro BASE PRICE: $43,200 ENGINE: Turbocharged 2.0L I-4 HORSEPOWER / TORQUE: 252 hp @ 5,000-6,000 rpm CONFIGURATION: Front-engine / all-wheel drive TRANSMISSION: 7-speed S-tronic transmission FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS (CITY / HWY.): 7.9 / 5.4 / 6.3 L/100 km WARRANTY (MOS. / KM): 48 / 80,000 ALTERNATIVES: BMW 3 Series, Buick LaCrosse, Cadillac ATS-V, Infiniti Q50, Jaguar XE, Kia Cadenza, Lexus RC, Lincoln MKS, Mercedes- Benz C-Class, Volvo S60 NOTABLE OPTIONS: LED LIGHTING PACKAGE ($900) – LED headlights, high-beam assist; S LINE SPORT PACKAGE ($2,250) – 19-in. 5-V-spoke design wheels with titanium finish, 255/35 R19 performance tires, sport suspension, front sports seats, black interior headliner, stainless steel pedals, brushed aluminum inlays, flat-bottomed 3-spoke multifunction steering wheel, S LINE EXTERIOR, PASSENGER LUMBAR SUPPORT, SPORT SEATS WITH LEATHER SEATING SURFACES, S LINE DOOR SILLS; DRIVER ASSISTANCE PACK AGE ($1,350) – Audi side assist, top-view camera, AUDI PRE SENSE REAR, REAR CROSSTRAFFIC ALERT; COMFORT SEATING PACKAGE ($1,350) – front sport seats, ventilated front seats; CONVENIENCE PACKAGE ($850) – Rear parking sensors, heated steering wheel, memory for driver’s seat and exterior mirrors; Metallic paint ($890); 18-in. 10-spoke dynamic design wheels with all-season tires ($800); rear side airbags ($500).
You could be forgiven if you weren’t aware that the Chevrolet Malibu is now on its third generation since 2008. The 2013 model, in fact, marked the beginning of a new generation, but it maintained so much continuity with its predecessor that it appeared to be more like a refresh. With the debut of the all-new ninth-gen model, however, so much has changed that there’s a good chance you might not even realize it’s a Malibu. One of the biggest differences is under the skin where GM engineers have lengthened the Malibu’s wheelbase (by a whopping 91 mm) and its overall length (by 58 mm), while keeping the same width. They’ve also shed 136 kilograms (300 pounds) of weight. More than one-third of the reduction (54 kg) comes from a structure that uses more high-strength steel than its predecessor, which enabled GM engineers to use thinner components that are lighter, yet deliver similar levels of crash worthiness. A greater use of aluminum, in suspension and chassis components and the hood (which itself is three kilos lighter than the steel hood on the outgoing car), has also contributed to the Malibu’s reduced mass. The lightweight theme continues under the hood, where the Malibu offers three four-cylinder engines, two of which are all-aluminum. An all-new 1.5-litre turbo (160 hp / 184 lb-ft) serves as the base engine, while a higher-out-central put 2.0-litre turbo (250 hp / 258 lb-ft) powers the range-topping Premier model. A 1.8-litre mill with a cast iron block mated to an electric two-motor drive unit (182 total hp / 129 lb-ft) powers the Malibu Hybrid. Two automatic transmissions are available, a carry-over six-speed pairs with the 1.5, while the 2.0 is mated to an all-new eight-speed, the first to be offered in a GM front-wheel drive vehicle. From a design perspective, the Malibu cuts a sleeker, more handsome profile compared to the boxier look of the outgoing model. Slim headlamps and a two-port grille opening bear a striking resemblance to other Chevrolets, the new Volt and forthcoming Cruze in particular. Strong character lines running the length of the car give the Malibu a more dramatic-looking profile. The interior is spacious, handsomely finished and pleasingly straightforward. Soft touch plastics and fabrics complement controls and switches that are well-placed and easy to use. In addition to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, with the former being available first, and the latter to follow later in the 2016 model year, safety is a primary focus for the new Malibu. On that front, the Malibu offers a broad range of collision mitigation technology, the sort of which has become common on many cars these days – front and rear park assist, front pedestrian braking, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert are among its many available safety features. What’s new here is Teen Driver, an industry first, which essentially enables parents of teenage drivers to monitor their kids’ driving habits. Standard issue on the Premier trim and optional on LT models equipped with the Convenience Package and upgraded radio, Teen Driver enables a parent to set the car’s maximum speed (between 65-120 km/h), and all of the equipped safety features (stability control, front and rear park assist, side blind zone alert, etc.) are enabled and cannot be turned off. So-equipped Malibus can also track distance driven, maximum speed travelled, over-speed warnings issued and stability control events, among other data. Teen Driver isn’t subscription-based, so once a parent sets up a PIN to go with their teenager’s key fob using the Malibu’s MyLink system, it’s a permanent part of the vehicle. It’s an innovative feature on a car that feels very well-engineered and carefully calibrated to suit consumer preferences After spending the better part of a day driving several trims on highways and local roads in the Palo Alto area, it seems to me GM has accomplished what it set out to do with the Malibu. All trims deliver a quiet, comfortable ride over a variety of road surfaces. Acceleration is reasonably brisk with all three engines, and the handling, while not exactly sporty, feels secure in everyday driving environments. The weight saving measures help give the car a lighter, nimbler and more responsive feel. Inside, the Premier trim is certainly the most luxe with its sheer volume of stuff, but the lower and mid-range trims (the LT in particular) also comes with an impressive array of standard equipment. That said, if performance matters, the Premier’s 2.0-litre turbo and eight-speed auto powertrain is the trim of choice as it offers the most engaging driving experience. In all, the 2016 Malibu offers a compelling value proposition, nicely packaged with an impressive array of safety features and technology for the broad mid-size segment. Its predecessor has been a solid sales performer on both sides of the border and I suspect this car will continue that trend. BY THE NUMBERS | $128 /HP (CALCULATED W/ AS-TESTED PRICE) | 125 HP/L | 6.14 HP/TON | 9.0 L/100 KM SPECIFICATIONS 2016 Chevrolet Malibu Premier BASE PRICE: $21,745 (L trim) AS-TESTED PRICE: $32,045 (plus $1,750 freight & PDI) ENGINE: 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder HORSEPOWER: 250 hp @ 5,300 rpm TORQUE: 258 lb-ft. @ 1,700 rpm DRY WEIGHT: 1,536 kg CONFIGURATION: front-engine, front-wheel drive TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS (CITY / HWY. / COMB.): 10.6 / 7.1 / 9.0 L/100 km WARRANTY (MOS. / KM): 36 / 60,000 ALTERNATIVES: Ford Fusion Titanium, Honda Accord Touring, Toyota Camry XL
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Who holds the world’s closed course record? A.J. Foyt

On May 13, Bill Elliot got behind the wheel of a hopped up Mustang in an attempt to set some kind of lap record speed at Talladega. The publicity surrounding this stunt was just another chapter in the sad history of unwarranted claims surrounding “closed course” speed records.

This car had already been taken to Bonneville in an attempt to record an official speed there. Apparently, the car ran one way at over 252 mph but it failed to make the mandatory return run and, hence no official speed was established for the car at Bonneville.

Now the car was reconfigured so that it could run at speed at the Talladega Superspeedway. The press release said that they “would attempt to break the 22-year-old NASCAR speed record held by Bill Elliott. Elliott himself will pilot Hajek’s E-85 Mustang FR500C, which has been reconfigured to NASCAR specs, at Talladega in an attempt to break his 212.089 mph qualifying lap from 1987 at the same track. FIA officials will be on site to verify the attempt and to validate the record.”

The claim that Elliott was going to set some new “NASCAR speed record” has to ber patent nonsense. The only way Elliott could set a new NASCAR record would be if he were to run a NASCAR-legal race car in an official NASCAR event – like he did back in 1987. This Mustang running in a private test session met none of these criteria. What the FIA officials were going to validate is a mystery to me – they wold be limited to verifying the speed that was recorded – since there seems to be no kind of FIA record that Elliott could set.

Already, Elliott’s NASCAR record had been bettered here by a NASCAR driver in a NASCAR race car. On June 10, 2004 Rusty Wallace, driving a Penske Dodge race car without the NASCAR-mandated restrictor plate, set a 216 mph lap. Faster than Elliott’s record but it did not meet the requirements to make it a NASCAR lap – even though NASCAR officials were there and they certified the lap speed..

Anyway, this latest publicity stunt ended badly. Elliott went out for a few practice laps and a tire failed sending the car into the wall. Any thoughts of setting speed records are now on hold.

Is there such a thing as an official “closed course record”. Actually the FIA rules has such a category in its regulations but I can’t find any reference to a closed course record in their lists of world speed records. I think any claims to “closed course records’ have to be considered as unofficial – even if the speed has been recorded by an FIA approved authority. (Since I am making the point here that many “closed course record” speed claims are erroneous in some way or other – I should acknowledge that my assertions may be flawed as well even though I believe they are correct.)

Back in the late ‘90s a number of very fast qualifying records were set in the CART series, first at Michigan International Speedway and later at the California Speedway at Fontana. The fastest of these lap records – 241.428 mph – was set by Gil de Ferran at Fontana in 2000. Sloppy journalists and publicists tend to refer to these speed records as “closed course records” without qualification. Actually higher closed course lap speeds had been recorded long before this. These CART speeds stand as record race qualifying lap speeds – and, as such, de Ferran’s lap speed is remarkable.

Going back to Talladega, in 1975, Mark Donahue drove the Can-Am Porsche 917/30 to a lap speed of 221.160 – a true “closed course record”. That’s faster than Wallace’s speed and I believe it still stands as the fastest lap recorded at Talladega. If Elliott wants to set some kind of record with his Mustang, that’s what he should be shooting for.

Mercedes-Benz had an experimental sports car project called the C-III with which they preformed many high speed runs at Nardo, a 7.8-mile circuit in southern Italy. The CIII-IV version was built to beat Donahue’s record and it succeeded, setting a new record lap speed of 250.918 mph in May 1979. Note that this was twenty years before de Ferran set his 241 mph qualifying lap record at Fontana.

But a four-cylinder Olds engine mounted in the rear of a streamlined Indy car chassis went even faster; propelling A.J. Foyt to the current closed course record. Running on the 7.7-mile Firestone test track at Fort Stockton, Texas, he recorded a 257.123 mph lap speed. To the best of my knowledge this still stands as the fastest ever lap run on a closed course. I suspect that this “record” is unofficial for lack of the required FIA supervision of the record run.

Good luck to Bill Elliott. I hope that he betters his old 212 mph at Talladega. I even hope that he beats Donahue’s 221 mph Talladega lap record. But, please, no more talk of him setting some kind of “closed course record” NASCAR-style or not.

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