The Indy 500: An Old Dog learns some new Tricks

Fast was the word of the day as a near record setting pace livened up a hard fought race, with a surprise twist of a finish.

It was a beautiful day for racing today with weather in the Mid 80’s, little humidity, and a cloud free sky; this is a Morning in America type scene. There was all the usual fanfare that precedes the event; a parade of past winners, fireworks, and a B2 Bomber all flew overhead. Top Gear: USA host Tanner Foust was even there do a stunt involving a full size Hot Wheels track. The circus was on full swing.

On pole sat little known racer Alex Tagliani. An even more surprising showing by Simona Slivestro from Switzerland overshadowed him qualifying. Also known as the Swiss Missile, she experienced catastrophic suspension failure in practice, flipped her car, and ended up with second-degree burns on her hand. However, the next day she bandaged them and put the car in 22nd position. After the theatrics of qualifying, the race was shaping up to be a show of the ages.

There is no sound on Earth like that of the beginning of an Indy car race. You don’t as much here the cars as you feel them. As the cars approach your seat a wave of sound comes over you followed by a resonance that will not stop ringing from inside your head for the next few days.

This start was like 100 before it. Tagliani jumped out in front, but was soon overtaken by Target Racing driver Scott Dixon. Tagliani on lap 10 soon extinguished Dixon’s lead, the race was officially on. Drivers Jockeyed back and forth until the first caution came out. On Turn 2, Lotus Racing driver Takuma Sato skid into the wall. Shortly after that caution was lifted, his teammate E.J. Viso slid into the wall at turn 4. Tony Kanaan, a former Indy 500 winner, was the lone Lotus driver left.

On lap 35, Scott Dixon overtook Tagliani once again. From there, the field began to settle. The lead pack separated from the back markers and Dixon continued to put time onto his lead. One of these back markers was Simona Slivestro who suffered from mechanical issues all day. Eventually, she would be forced to retire from the race. Her day had come to a close, but everybody else sped headlong into the rest of the race.

On lap 60, Franchitti would become the third leader of the day as he overtook his teammate Scott Dixon. Open lap pitting then began as a few drivers began heading in for fuel, including Dixon. A loose wheel on Vitor Meira’s car caused him to crash and bring out the second caution of the day.

On a caution lap, the field is frozen and no one can change position. This means that Scott Dixon, and others that pitted, were stuck near the back of the field. At this point Ed Carpenter found himself in the lead for a short time until Dario Franchitti relinquished him of the position on lap 100.

After the pace laps for that caution ended, the race once again hit its rhythm. Orial Servia who was soon joined by a hard charging Scott Dixon overtook Dario Franchitti. Average speeds at this time reached 178mph, 5mph faster than the previous fastest race.

Teams began pouring into the pits out of necessity after the long run. After this period, Dario Franchitti would still be in the lead. However, on lap 147, Tagliani’s day would end when a flat tire caused him to crash. Now, with nearly 50 laps to go, pit strategy becomes crucial.

Some teams decided to pit, including Danica Patrick, who hedged their bets that there would be a few more cautions to come. If that were the case, these teams would not need to pit later, setting themselves up for higher positions. However, if the race continued with only a few cautions, these teams would find themselves out of gas.

The next caution came shortly when an altercation in Turn one put two drivers into the wall. I happened to be sitting in that corner and witnessed the crash firsthand. Imagine two hockey players checking into the boards. Now have them move at around 200mph and you can imagine the sound and the fury that results.

Drivers that did not pit before chose to after the accident, including Dario Franchitti. Graham Rahal would then lead with around 30 laps to go. Also pressing for the lead was Tony Kanaan, the lone Lotus driver, who had been struggling through midfield all day.

Rahal would need to pit shortly though and on lap 180 Danica Patrick, who had also been struggling on the day, would inherit the lead. The crowd was now on its feet every time she passed. However, Danica too would need to pit and would end up doing so on lap 190, 10 laps short from glory.

Another little known driver, Bertrand Baguette would take the lead from their, but he was also need to pit at lap 197. From here, rookie J.R. Hildebrand would take the lead with three laps to go.

On the final lap, J.R. Hildebrand is out in front with Dan Wheldon on his tail. The crowd is into the race as Hildebrand makes his way around the course, Wheldon a little more than two seconds behind. On the final corner, Hildebrand goes to pass a slower driver instead of slightly backing off. He hits a rough patch of tarmac outside the racing line and slams into the wall hard. He begins sliding at an over 100 mph on the way to the checkered flag. Wheldon shoots out from behind him and seems to pass him before the yellow is out. The track fell silent as people were reeling from just who won the race. Further replays would show that it was Wheldon, a driver that did not have a full contract this year, had won the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.

Next Gen Ford Cobra Jet Spied

From Edmunds Inside Line:

Ford’s Mustang Cobra Jet program has been incredibly popular for the Ford Racing division. The Cobra Jet for 2012 Featured a supercharged 5.4-liter aluminum V8 with 430 horsepower. Ford built 50 of them and sold the caged, competition-ready Stangs for $91,900 each.

And now it appears they’re working on another. It’s unclear from these photos if the bubble here is blocked off by an intercooler / radiator, or if it’s blocked to move air. (Or if they simply wanted to reduce visibility to Camaro levels.) Either way, that’s either a lot of room, or a lot of cooling and it’s totally awesome.

(Also, am I the only one who thinks this grille looks like it belongs on a Mini Cooper?)

Read the full article.

Honda nearing full production in U.S. by August

Honda’s American plants look to hit near full speed by August. There has to be a sigh of relief for dealers nationwide as shortages were expected to last much longer.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Honda’s North American factories will return to near-normal production in August, the company said Thursday, much faster than expected following supply disruptions.

The flow of auto parts was interrupted after Japanese factories were damaged by a huge earthquake and tsunami on March 11, or stricken by the power outages that followed. Shortages have affected nearly every carmaker, but have struck hardest at Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp.

Last month, Honda cut production to about half the normal level because of falling parts supplies. It warned dealers of model shortages and said full production might not resume until the end of the year.

But Honda now says that the situation in Japan is improving. Factories can ramp up to full production on a plant-by-plant basis — except for those that build the new Civic compact.


Read the full article.

Is there a Lamborghini in your future?

From the Detroit Bureau.com:

When the new Lamborghini Aventador was introduced, earlier this year, it included a feature that allows a driver to slightly raise the nose to prevent the front wing from scraping on speed bumps or steep driveways.

For the Italian maker, that’s about as big a concession as it has ever made for day-to-day driving – most owners pulling their Gallardos and Murcielagos out of the garage only on weekends or special occasions.

But that’s about to change, according to Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann, who has confirmed an earlier report in TheDetroitBureau.com that the maker is developing what he has dubbed “an everyday car.”

“We are going to have a third model,” the German-born, Italian-reared executive announced during a conference sponsored by the Reuters news service. “It has to be an everyday car. We want to have a car which is able to be used on a daily basis.”

Read the full article.

Tuner TOPCAR goes all Panamera on us!

From AutoGuide.com:

Russian tuner TOPCAR has added their name to the list of available Porsche Panamera tuning packages with their Stingray GTR program. With it comes some very aggressive styling to the luxury sedan, with TOPCAR’s priority clearly to add more sport than luxury to the Panamera.

This isn’t TOPCAR’s first attempt at a styling package for the Panamera; their first one was well-received but demand emerged for something more aggressive and “charismatic”, and the Stingray GTR is the result of those demands.

The styling package comes complete with all new front and rear bumpers, hood, front and rear fender extenders, front and rear doors and side skirts. That’s right, you’ll be removing and replacing many panels with this kit completely transforming your Panamera to something more fitting of Porsche’s brand name. The overall stance of the Panamera will make you look twice – it’s wider, meaner and sharper. Even more trick is the addition of a small-button push that triggers the opening of the rear doors. All body components and panels are constructed from carbon fiber and Kevlar.

Read the full article.

Say Goodbye to the current Corvette!

From AutoNews:

Time is tickin’ on the current generation Corvette.

The C6 Corvette will be offered for the 2012 and 2013 model years, and that’s it. In fact, 2013 may be an abbreviated model year for the Corvette, according to a Chevrolet source.

C6 is General Motors’ designation for the current generation Corvette. The C6 has been on the market since the 2005 model year, and is long in the tooth.

While the source didn’t say, presumably a shortened model year would give the plant in Bowling Green, Ky., plenty of time to retool for the redesigned Corvette, coming for the 2014 model year. That car is referred to as the C7.

Interestingly, that means Corvette’s 60th anniversary will be marked with the current generation Vette, the 2013 model.

And if the past is any guide to the future — Corvette created special packages to mark previous anniversaries — I think we can expect a special edition 2013 Corvette to commemorate the event.

Read the full article.

2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 4Matic Gallery

The weather is breaking in the midwest (finally) and we’re testing a Mars Red 2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 4Matic with a huge panorama sunroof so things are looking up. Here is a gallery of the sporty GLK350 with black leather interior and be sure to stay tuned for our upcoming review!

Chrysler repays government loans

From the Detroit News:

It’s official. Chrysler Group LLC today confirmed the wire transfers have gone through, and the automaker has repaid loans from the U.S. and Canadian governments.

The automaker has repaid $5.1 billion in loans, as well as $1.8 billion in interest and other fees, releasing Chrysler from all monetary commitments to the governments less than two years after the bailouts kept them in business. Chrysler went to the capital market for lower-interest financing to get out from under the government loans that carried interest rates as high as 20 percent. The refinancing — which is much like refinancing a home mortgage — will save more than $300 million annually.

Today, Chrysler repaid the U.S. Treasury more than $5.9 billion; Canadian governments received $1.7 billion to retire their loans to the automaker.

At a celebration attended by 1,100 workers this afternoon at Chrysler’s Sterling Heights plant, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne wore a pin that said “Paid” on his customary black sweater.

Read the full article.

Commercial Van Market might include Vito Van from Mercedes

Form AutoBlog.com:

Mercedes-Benz has been sufficiently pleased with the performance of its Sprinter van that it is now seriously considering importing a smaller sibling for its full-size load lugger.

Benz has offered a smaller commercial vehicle, the Vito, in various world markets since 1996, and the second-generation model underwent a mild facelift in 2010. Available with a range of CDI diesel engines in both cargo and passenger-carrying configurations, the Vito has recently been testing in all-electric E-Cell guise. If the Vito does make it to North America, we’re unlikely to get the complete range – this light commercial vehicle is available in three lengths, two roof heights and in both rear- and all-wheel drive.

While the Vito is indeed smaller than the Mercedes/Freightliner Sprinter carryall, it’s not as diminutive as the Ford Transit Connect we’ve come to know in the States. In its smallest form, the baby Benz spans 187.5 inches, nearly seven inches more than the Turkish Ford. In extra-long format, the Vito rings up at 206.2 inches, which is still well shy of the aged Ford E-Series van (216.7 inches in its shortest form), making the Vito something of a tweener in size.

For the moment, our source tells us that the idea of importing the Vito is in “an early stage,” and even though consumer clinics have been held to judge market interest, the van has not yet been given the green light.

Read more from AutoBlog.com.

First look at the Aston Martin V12 Zagato

From InsideLine.com:

No, Takahashi did not just Photoshop an Aston Martin Vantage with a Nissan GT-R. But it kinda looks that way, eh?

Aston Martin released the first official photos of its V12 Zagato ahead of the car’s official unveiling tomorrow at the Villa D’Este Concours in Lake Como, Italy. The car is a result of a collaboration between Aston and Italian design house Zagato, and comes on the 50th anniversary of the legendary DB4GT Zagato.

“The Zagato design language is a perfect complement to our design and engineering expertise,” Aston Martin CEO Dr. Ulrich Bez said. “Fifty years ago, Italian design houses were widely seen as leading the way with new designs … but Aston Martin has its own in-house design ability, so this new venture with Zagato is more collaborative than it perhaps would have been in the past.”

Indeed, the V12 Zagato is the latest in a line of special, low-production Astons that have included the DB4GT Zagato, V8 Vantage Zagato and DB7 Zagato.


Read the full article.

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