Category Archives: Racecar

What’s New @ Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Check out our Queer4Cars YouTube Video on the event

FCA holds an annual event at their Chelsea Proving Grounds in Michigan for journalists to give them a taste of what the brand has coming to dealer showrooms as well as a taste of future products with upcoming launch dates.

 

What’s New

Most of the FCA line is well established, and new often means tweaks to horsepower, Jeep Gladiator Rubiconwhich often translates into dollars, as horsepower sells well.  Ram Trucks have been refreshed over the last two model years, and their products are doing well, challenging their competitors in the market. Jeep continues to power sales and profits for FCA. And with the recent Gladiator launch, Jeep’s mid-sized pickup truck benefits from having Ram in the family.

FCA Vehicles line upFiat, Alfa, Chrysler have been lagging in new products, with Voyager, a lower cost 2020 Charger Scat Packnameplate variant of Pacifica, a being the most recent. Maserati was not on the field for this event, but the muscle power leader, Dodge, and SRT put out for display a meaty wide-bodied Charger with some muscle-bound Hellcat power and ScatPac V-8 Hemi.

The Dodge Boys from the NYIAS Demon Launch 2016

Leave it to the Dodge Boys to show that the love for American Motor Muscle is still alive at FCA with both Challenger and Charger, vehicles that you can raise a family in and be the fastest down the drag strip at the same time. Even if the sheet metal is basically the same for most of the recent decade, both of these machines continue to pump iron.Charger SRT HellCat

 

 

 

Off-Roading

20190627_093346We gladly reconnected to the Jeep Brand, one that has a long history with this writer. Taking to the off-road trails with Brandon Girmus in a stock Gladiator.  Having the pickup’s marketing manager show off his baby from the navigator’s seat was a lot of fun, as he knows which buttons and switches to apply, and when to use them. Plus, we got to talk about the completion of his recent history project an early Military Jeep, and his desire for a Forward Control. No doubt we will see him working on one of those soon.

 

Work and Play, It Is What You Haul

Ram Truck Towing Case EquipmentOne of the benefits of having muscle power and the might of the FCA brand is that Dodge Durango towing a Challenger ScatPacktowing thing becomes easy. Be it with a Ram Heavy Duty Truck pulling a massive piece of construction equipment, a Dodge Durango pulling a swift race-ready Challenger, or a Jeep Gladiator pulling a really nice boat. Was also a highlight.  One might think the experience is pretty much the same no matter the tow vehicle, Not so at all, each provided very different experience to the driver. And yes, pulling with a Cummins Diesel, Rocks.

 

Flashing Lights and Sirens, It’s the Cops

Dodge Durango PursuitTaking to the test track, we got the behind the wheel of two of Dodge’s police pursuit vehicles. The Charger and the Durango. And we see why so many departments put these into their fleets. Fast and furious and dedicated to the job, FCA Dodge Charger Pursuitmakes sure they offer what Officers of the Law need when it comes to their rolling office and detention facility. Police vehicles are very focused on the job at hand, without any fluff.

 

Road Course

Abarth Steering WheelAbarth, taking to the track in a six-speed 124 Spider with the top down made you want to spend more time, topless in Pure Michigan style.  Throaty and growly, agile and comfortable, this little 2-seater was more fun around the test track that should be allowed by law. Fiat 124 Spider with Jeep

 

While our opinion is that FCA has an aging fleet of vehicles, they still produce ones that have a lot of value and merit in the marketplace. FCA’s has some very dedicated employees who love what they do, and it shows when they talk about the products. Kudos to FCA that they instill that kind of pride in their employees, as it is not easy to earn, especially in today’s world.

Words and Images by William West Hopper

William West Hopper shown with a Jeep

Mr. Hopper currently serves as the President of the Washington Automotive Press Association and has been reporting and working in the automotive industry throughout his career, starting in heavy trucking, then managing a Telco Fleet, and now reporting on the latest news from the automotive industry.

FCA invited Mr. Hopper to attend 2019 What’s New event providing transportation, food, and lodging.  This is not compensation for reporting about the brand or the event. His opinions expressed here are his own.

 

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Today and Tomorrow: Mini’s Future Is Passionate Owners and a Strong Racing Heritage

Mini Electric Concept
Mini Electric Concept – photo from Mini PR

Mini, the brand that has been an icon of everything that is quintessentially and vibrantly British and youthful, is poised to celebrate 60 in 2019. And doing so by being plugged in to their passionate customers who love driving and winning races.

Mini quickly became the car of choice for rock stars, film personalities as well as royals an common folk alike when it was first introduced in 1959. The little cars caught they eye of racing legend John Cooper whose name has become synonymous with the brand. Who then took the brand on to win many races in the 1960’s. Today not much has changed,

What Makes a Mini?

MINI Manager of Product Planning, Ishaan Khatri speaks to auto journalists in NYC in November of 2018, prior to the LA Auto Show.
MINI Manager of Product Planning, Ishaan Khatri speaks to auto journalists in NYC in November of 2018, prior to the LA Auto Show.

At a recent meeting of automotive journalists in New York City, MINI Manager of Product Planning, Ishaan Khatri shared the five essential elements of what makes a Mini.

Emotional: Mini is not a rational purchase, you buy a Mini for the fun of it.

Excitable: The mini makes people excited and has since it was first introduced as an answer to expensive fuel prices.

Fun to drive: Known for go kart-like handling, Khatri stated that the Countryman is no-doubt the best driving SUV on the market.

Personable: 70% of owners name their Mini and make them an important part of the family.

Customization: Even the banner on the outside of the UK factory says 1 in 800K. Mini has always offered customers a high level of customization for their cars.

Customer Loyalty

Mini Line upMini takes its owners and enthusiasts very seriously, involving them in events like Mini Takes The States, a two-week long driving adventure in the USA each year. This is a chance for members of the Mini Corporate Staff, parts of the racing team, and everyday owners of the vehicles get a chance to enjoy time driving the cars together, as well as getting feedback on new and experimental products.

Racing is Heritage

Luis Perocarpi, team owner of LAP Motorsport talks about winning races with stock Minis.
Luis Perocarpi, team owner of LAP Motorsport talks about winning races with stock Minis.

Mini has taken racing seriously since 1960 when John Cooper first raced one of their cars. Mini has both a Professional race team in the USA, LAP Motorsports as well as supporting owners of its cars  by sponsoring them to take it to the track at SCCA and other ametur events that often lead drivers into a full-time racing career. As Luis Perocarpi, team owner of LAP Motorsport found out after taking delivery right off the dealership floor of a couple of JCWorks cars his team would drive to win. He stated “Mini’s street cars are race cars.”

Perocarpi shared that the best kept secret in the automotive sector is how good the JCWorks factory cars are. That in the short preparation time his race shop had to prepare a couple of Mini’s to get out on the track, he found out they needed little tuning, just roll cages.  Though on their first race, how officials made them remove the stock Brembo brakes from their JCWorks Mini and replace them with brakes from a Mini SE, and they still won the race. Not unlike the middle 1960’s when John Cooper’s Motorsports Team’s Mini was disqualified for having double filament light bulbs.

What’s Next?

Mini made up a prototype of a classic powered by all electric
Mini made up a prototype of a classic powered by all electric. (photo by Mini PR)

Electrification, while the rest of the industry was busy looking at hybrids back in the late 2000’s, Mini in 2009 leased an exclusive Mini-E edition of 500 Mini-E cars to the USA and 40 to the UK. Using that experience, Mini’s owner group, BMW, took this real-world experience and developed the 2012 BMW 1-Series Active-e and the I3 as well as BMW’s I8 super car.

Andrew Cutler, Mini Public Relations Manager with Mini shared that the Mini Countryman PHEV and BMW’s I8 shared similar powertrain components, just inverted, Mini’s PHEV Countryman has the 3-cyl in the front and the

Andrew Cutler, Mini Public Relations Manager spoke of the heritage of Mini and the passion of the owners.
Andrew Cutler, Mini Public Relations Manager spoke of the heritage of Mini and the passion of the owners.

electric motors in the back, with the I8 has the ICE (internal combustion engine) in the back and electric motors in the front, both with AWD when needed.

Expect to see a third generation Mini SE EV, built on BMW’s electric architecture, in production and on sale in 2020.  And yes there already is a John Cooper Works GP Concept out there so expect to see the JCW Performance being powered by electricity as well.

 

 

Special Editions

 

Mini is about to release the JCWorks Black Knight Edition at the LA Auto Show in November 2018.
Mini is about to release the JCWorks Black Knight Edition at the LA Auto Show in November 2018. (photo from Mini PR)

Mini developed to be an urban brand does not take its heritage nor future technology for granted. You will find  that they will continue to build fun to drive vehicles after 60 years and plan to do so in the future. Plus Mini is still offering a manual transmission on their internal combustion powered products, a rarity in today’s automatic world.Mini has found special edition limited production vehicles to be part of its success. The latest, a Black Knight Edition, will be debuting at the 2018 LA Auto Show. A JCW 3-door hard top with- custom trim, handles and black color combination of which 150 examples will make it to the USA, arriving in first quarter 2019. An International Orange and Starlight Edition will join the Black Knight.

And they will never take their customers for granted, continuing with a successful enthusiast programs along with racecar driver training.

 

Words and Images (except where noted) by William West Hopper

 

Jaguar Electrifies – From the Racetrack to the Road.

NYC Formula E Race CourseFormula E Racing completes the 2018 eleven-city tour on July 14 & 15 by returning to Brooklyn’s Red Hook, for the second year, running on a purpose-built closed 14-turn, 2.373 Km long street course. The Panasonic Jaguar Race team will go into the New York Race in fifth place, with drivers Mitch Evans and Nelson Piquet Jr. at the wheel of a Jaguar I-Type 2 race car.

 

Jaguar Formula E Drivers Mitch Evans and Nelson Piquet Jr.
Jaguar Formula E Drivers Mitch Evans and Nelson Piquet Jr.

Formula Racing, thought of more as an international event, racing in cities like Monaco, Singapore, Abu Dhabi, has found its way to the USA once again. Racing has always been a way automakers test vehicles and components to build better street vehicles as well as promoting the brands. Over the past four years, Formula E Racing has helped promote and develop the technology used in the modern-day world of electric vehicles by brands like Jaguar, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, and others.

 

Jaguar IType3
Jaguar IType3

While Jaguar has historically been involved in auto racing, they returned to racing in October 2016 by being the first premium manufacturer to join ABB FIA Formula E  series with an I-Type 1 racecar and have plans already confirmed for an I-Type 3 car for next year’s series.

 

Panasonic Jaguar Racecar
Panasonic Jaguar I Type 2 Racecar

This year’s I-Type 2 electric racecar has a 0 to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds with a top speed of 140 mph. powered by a 200 kWh McLaren built battery, and charged by a sustainable glyercine fuel source. The car produces 270 bhp in qualifying mode and runs at 180 kWh producing 240 bhp in an energy saving race mode. The I-Type 2 racecar has a completely new powertrain, including motor, inverter, gearbox, cooling system and brake by wire, replacing last season’s mechanical brake system. In all 219 components have been changed from the original I-Type 1 car.  While the batteries are charged prior to running the race, the driver adjusts the brake pads from within the car to get the best regenerative braking power available.

Formula E Racing

Jaguar IType 2Formula E is the world’s first electric street racing series powered by renewable energy with a focus on developing electric vehicle powertrains. To control costs, all of the race cars share common components including the carbon fiber chassis and battery. The team and manufacturers can customize their own powertrain, which includes the motor, transmission, inverter, rear suspension, and software to maximize speed and endurance.

Jaguar FIA StandingsElectric vehicles are as fast on the track as they are in the planning and development stage. FIA Formula E cars are proposed, prepared, tested and qualified in a short five-month period prior to the opening of each season. With one-day races, they get just 2 to 3 practice sessions to qualify for each race.

 

How Different?

Jaguar Race to InovateFormula E is disrupting the boundaries of motorsports with a focus on technology, innovation, and sustainability, as well as spectator entertainment. Environmentally friendly and clean electric vehicles show how sustainable transportation can be the key to lowering air pollution in urban centers and lessening global emissions. The series is committed to reducing the carbon footprint with improved efficiencies by powering the races by 100% renewable energy by next season.

 

Electric Production Racing Car – The Jaguar I-Pace eTROPHY Street E-Racecars

Jaguar EV Race CarWhen the Jaguar I-PACE, a fully electric four-door hatchback,  goes on sale later this year, the brand will be the first to have both a Formula E race team and a road going production EV available to consumers. Both the Jaguar I-PACE and the current I-TYPE 2 Formula E racecar use shared technologies. Similarities include the use of high-efficiency permanent magnet electric motors and pouch battery cell technology for maximum powertrain performance.

Jaguar IPace ETROPHYWhile the actual FIA Formula E Grand Prix Race takes up only a portion of the four-day stop in each city, an eTROPHY Street E-Race series is being initiated with next year’s 5th season starting in December of 2018. Jaguar is participating with 20 identically set up I-Pace racecars designed, engineered and built by Jaguar Land Rover Special Vehicle Operations.

Jaguar IPace Interior
Jaguar IPace Interior

The I-Pace eTROPHY is an all-wheel drive with front and rear synchronous motors for a total of maximum peak power output of 400PS 700Nm torque. With a lightweight interior with an FIA approved spec safety cage, seat, and harness. As well as a modified racing chassis to increase stiffness, aerodynamic enhancements, and chassis adjustability to ensure closer racing. Using the same 90kWhr lithium-ion battery found in the production I-Pace, dedicated motorsport software and controls system developed by Jaguar Racing for Formula E to provide sophisticated energy, power, and regen strategy control.

 

Jaguar's Race Director James S Barkley
Jaguar’s Race Director James S Barkley

Jaguar’s Team Director, James Barkley, shared details the brand’s “Race to Innovate,” how the Formula E experience creates tangible R&D benefits for the electrification of future Jaguar and Land Rover road cars. How the new all-electric I-Pace has benefited from the real world of Formula E series racing.

 

 

“We are developing the next generation of EV technology on the race track. This is why we race,” said James Barclay, Panasonic Jaguar Racing Team Director. “Formula E racing provides an ideal performance test bed for EV technology in a punishing, high-performance environment. It is incredibly exciting for the team to be a part of this revolutionary engineering exchange. We’re looking forward to finishing off our second season in New York City next month, a year which has seen us go from strength to strength.”

IPaceEtrophyracecarTwenty I-Pace eTROPHY will be available for a complete Ride and Drive package from Jaguar at a retail cost of £200,000 + VAT per car and eligible for three years. Not including the FIA eTROPHY fee of £450,00 + VAT entry fee per annum, providing entry into ten international race weekends as the main support Championship to ABB FIA Formula E. Drivers are required to have a minimum of an international C Circuit Race License and be categorized as bronze, silver or gold FIA Driver. Teams will compete for race by race prize money for top ten competitors and an end of season prize for three entrants and top three drivers.

 

Words by William West Hopper, Images by Jaguar Media and William West Hopper

Jaguar E Racecar rear

Racing the Mortal Minivan. Toyota’s Sienna on the One Lap America Circuit

 

Toyota Sienna at One Lap America 2016 Summit Point Raceway. Front Sienna SE+, Rear Sienna R-Tuned.
Toyota Sienna at One Lap America 2016 Summit Point Raceway. Front Sienna SE+, Rear Sienna R-Tuned.

This past April, Toyota invited a handful of Washington DC area automotive journalists to join them at Summit Point Raceway to see two original manufacturer built minivans, not customized racecars, compete in the One Lap America race series. Toyota USA’s Engineering and Marketing departments were campaigning a Sienna R-Tuned Concept and a Sienna SE+ during the week-long – multi-state racing event, that is One Lap America. Where they were raced all day, then driven hundreds of miles to the next track at night to get back on the track and race again the next day.

 

Reality TV Star Rutledge Wood and Champion racer Craig Stanton, sign autographs at the 2016 One Lap America stop at Summit Point Raceway
Reality TV Star Rutledge Wood and Champion racer Craig Stanton, sign autographs at the 2016 One Lap America stop at Summit Point Raceway.

 

Toyota brought on Top Gear America’s, Rutledge Wood, a bearded hipster TV reality show host, as well as Grand-Am Rolex GT Champion race driver Craig Stanton, to pilot these vans, and a crew to support them as they raced the week away, with everyone working together like a seasoned race team.

 

One Lap America 2016 Toyota Sienna SE+ at Summit Point Raceway
One Lap America 2016 Toyota Sienna SE+ at Summit Point Raceway,

 

 

 

 

 

Toyota’s purpose was both promotional, and an engineering one. Showing off that Toyota’s best-selling Sienna minivan could compete heartily with serious racecars, but also as an opportunity for the engineering team to tweak the van for better overall drivability in everyday situations and longevity.

Toyota Sienna R-Tuned, stripped and caged for racing the One Lap America 2016 series
Toyota Sienna R-Tuned, stripped and caged for racing the One Lap America 2016 series.

 

A Toyota Sienna R-Tuned Concept vehicle, interior stripped out, caged with a custom suspension, and many modifications the Sienna SE+, tricked out with TRD Badging, on the shifter and oil cap, dark tinted lights and Pirelli P Zero tires, and the fluids replaced to better perform under racing conditions. Inside the SE+, sans roll cage, the seats were slipped in for passengers, or removed when out on the racetrack in competition. While both vans were labeled “Concept”, each appeared to be using off the shelf parts and products that any amateur racer could get.

 

Riding inside the Toyota Sienna SE+ on the 2016 One Lap America parade lap at Summit Point Raceway
Riding inside the Toyota Sienna SE+ on the 2016 One Lap America parade lap at Summit Point Raceway.

 

During a break in the racing, a van load of the DMV Scribes drove the Sienna SE+ on Summit’s Main course. While none of us were as track savvy as the competitive team from Toyota, it was fun to get a minivan loaded with adults and seats on a race track, then see it stripped and back out racing minutes later in Wood’s capable hands.

 

Toyota and Racing: Toyota vehicles racing is nothing new, from enthusiast’s auto crossing Scion’s to Camry’s chasing round the NASCAR oval; Toyota Trucks going at it in the dessert in an off-road rally; Lexus IS F-Sport in a street race. Toyota has a racing brand, TRD, that you see proudly on street vehicles, pretty much everywhere you go. But the common family hauler, the Sienna minivan, that is not what is thought of when the topic of competitive racing is discussed.

Toyota Sienna SE+ Sporting the TRD and all the One Lap America promotional stickers for 2016
Toyota Sienna SE+ Sporting the TRD and all the One Lap America promotional stickers for 2016.

This was one of those times where automakers wanting to appeal to that “younger Dad”, And make him think of motorsports and minivan in the same sentence. Instead of wrestling with the admission one has achieved stable adulthood and needs to transport their kids, friends of the kids, the dog, and a variety of belongings, around suburbia.

Toyota Sienna R-Tuned engine bay featuring the TRD logo on the oil cap
Toyota Sienna R-Tuned engine bay featuring the TRD logo on the oil cap.

 

With this One Lap America experience, Toyota is not only showing that the family haulers can be the equivalent to racecars, as these two Sienna minivans indeed hauled it down the racetrack with the best of them, often competing with high-power performance monsters. In the end the team completed the week-long event in first place with 160 points, 65 more than its Acura MDX competitor, the other entrant in the Truck/SUV class.

 

One Lap America is the ultimate road trip, stopping at 12 different tracks over 8 days, in 7 different states. One Lap America is a race series for the enthusiasts sponsored by Grassroots Motorsports Magazine and Tire Rack. Starting in 1984 this is the 32nd year running. A legendary race, made even more so by the movie Cannonball Run.

 

The Toyota Sienna 2016 One Lap America Team, showing off their badges, showing they have donated to the charity.
The Toyota Sienna 2016 One Lap America Team, showing off their badges, showing they have donated to the charity.

 

More information on the Sienna One Lap program and the Toyota Engineering Motorsports team can be found at SiennaOneLapofAmerica.com as well as on  toyotaengineeringmotorsports.com. In addition, fans can follow along via Toyota’s FacebookTwitter, and Instagram channels.

 
Information on the One Lap of America event can be found at OneLapofAmerica.com.

The Toyota Sienna competitively racing against serious race cars in the 2016 One Lap America Series at Summit Point Raceway
The Toyota Sienna competitively racing against serious race cars in the 2016 One Lap America Series at Summit Point Raceway.

As they say while out racing, “Keep the Shinny Side UP!”

 

Words and Photos by William West Hopper