It seems that every time I have to write about the Dodge Viper it’s not good news. Last time it was regarding their decision to unceremoniously pull out of the IMSA series after having won the GT championship. The reasons given were ambiguous at best. Since then Vipers have been run by privateers in IMSA’s GTD class, as well as other series around the world.
Now comes the news that Dodge will discontinue the Viper after the 2017 model year. With sales of less than 600 units as of November of this year, the decision is no big surprise. The current model which was reintroduced in 2013 has never garnered large sales figures. This is nothing new for specialty sports models, but given the apparent popularity of the car, you would expect slightly higher numbers.
I wouldn’t expect to see racing Vipers disappear anytime soon. With a 2017 model coming, and given the fact that most cars still race two or more years after manufacturing stops, I’m sure many of the private teams running them will continue to do so for a little while yet.
For the up coming Weather Tech SportsCar Championship season, all the talk in the prototype class is about the last season of the Daytona prototypes, and the phasing in of the P2 cars from makers like Ligier. There has been very little said about the one car that could trump them all, Mazda.
Since 2013 Mazda has been pioneering it’s Skyactive diesel powered cars. First running a pair of Mazda 6s in a small GX class of the Rolex Grand AM series with only a few other competitors. In 2014 they premiered two P2 cars based on a Lola B08/80 chassis, and using the same 2.2 liter four cylinder turbodiesel engine. However two years of development produced only mediocre results. A consummate mid pack runner, their best results were two 7th place finishes at Monterey and Mosport. An ongoing problem of heat dissipation that lead to power falloff constantly plagued the cars.
For the 2016 season Mazda has shelved the diesel engine in favor of a more traditional gas powered one. Based on a reengineered Lola chassis, the new car uses their MZ-2.0T inline 4 cylinder turbocharged power plant. Developed in conjunction with AER, the 2.0 liter engine produces 570 horsepower at a maximum 9000 RPM. Test sessions conducted last year yielded results so promising that Mazda would not release the exact numbers. All they would say is they were very impressed with the cars performance. If they perform anywhere near as well as the Mazda powered Dyson P1 cars of the past, it could make for some great racing in the prototype class in 2016.
Until June of this year I had no idea there was such a thing as the Maserati Trofeo Cup racing series. I guess it’s only natural being that Maserati is one of the oldest names in racing, there would be a series consisting of the latest greatest cars on offer from them. This is the sixth season for the series. The format consist of 6 races run 3 continents, in 5 different countries.
The car used for the series is the Maserati GranTurismo MC, with a 488 horsepower, 286 cubic inch V8. Watching these cars racing for me brings back memories of when Maserati was a major player in sports car and formula 1 racing. The racing was close and exciting in both races of the weekend, and was a true pleasure to watch. You don’t here the Maserati name associated with racing in the U.S. very much anymore, so this was a treat for me to see them on track once again.
However with that said I must also deliver the bad news that the 2015 season was the last for this series as a stand alone event. Maserati GranTurismo MCs will continue to compete in the GT4 category of various series in both Europe and the U.S., but only as part of other series. Although I only got to see the series once, I for one will miss it.
When I saw that Ford Performance was going to make a major announcement just days before the 24 hours of Le Mans, I knew it would be a big non surprise to sports car racing fans.
Back in February when I decided to attend the 2015 Chicago Auto Show, my primary mission was to photograph the new Ford GT, and ask a few question of the company reps. I had to smile when the representatives on hand quite literally said there were no plans to race the car at Le Mans, in TUDOR, or any other series. We were supposed to believe that Ford had a few million dollars laying around, so decided build a supercar with all sorts of new design technologies and innovations just for the heck of it. I don’t think they fooled anyone.
When a manufacture suddenly pulls out of a major series like NHRA where they are dominant, I begin to suspect they have a need for that cash elsewhere. Upon asking the Ford reps about this, I was told the two were not at all related.
So we fast forward to June and surprise of surprises, Ford intended to compete in both TUDOR and the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2016. Needless to say I did not fall out of my chair.
Now with all the posturing and politicking aside we can get on with the racing. From what I have seen of it, it should do well. Lets hope it can bring another Le Mans trophy home.
When I was young I first became acquainted with sports car racing through books, and I was immediately fascinated. I had purchased a book titled “Great Moments in Auto Racing” in which each chapter covered a pivotal moment in racing history that forever changed the sport. The first chapter in particular is a story that has stayed with me through the years. It was titled, Fangio at Nurburgring. It is a detailed account of the 1957 German Grand Prix in which Juan Manual Fangio overcame near impossible odds to win.
The short synopsis is, Fangio driving a Maserati had to overcome a deficit to get the lead from the two Ferraris. After doing so he had to pit due to his older, and heavier Maserati’s poor tire wear. Upon returning to the track, the Ferrari’s had amassed a 45 second lead with only 8 laps to go in the 22 lap race. Fangio had to catch and pass both Ferraris. He did just that, and broke a track record on every lap. He passed the leading Ferrari on the last lap to win. He would go on to win his fifth and final Formula 1 championship.
Juan Manual Fangio in his day did pretty much what the top Formula 1 drivers do today. They drive for the manufacture who is willing to pay the most for their talent. The year before his spectacular win over Ferrari at the Nurburgring, he drove for Ferrari. He also drove for Mercedes and Alfa Romeo.
So what brings me to write this story? Actually a chance encounter. I had covered pretty much everything I had set out to while shooting the Chicago Auto Show. My normal last stop is the supercar display to see what exotic cars were on display. Afterward I started to make my way toward the exit, and upon rounding a corner, I came across a display by Alfa Romeo I did not know was there. I took time to shoot their new 4C Spyder, then I noticed two vintage race cars on a platform with some other vintage racing gear in a case behind them. It took some convincing, but the guy in charge of the display let me onto the platform to shoot some interior shots of the cars. After talking vintage racing with him for about a half hour, I made my way out of the show. It wasn’t until two days later while reviewing what I had shot that I realized just what I had, and the history behind it.
The car on display is an authentic 1951 Alfa Romeo 159 Formula 1 racer, also known as the Alfetta. In this paint, and with this number it looks like the car in which Fangio won the 1951 Spanish Grand Prix. I do not know if this is the actual car he drove, or just a survivor of the time period. If I had known the historical significance of this car at the time, I would certainly had gotten more information
Every Formula 1 fan out there has their opinion on who was the greatest driver of all time. With names like Stewert, Lauda, Prost, Senna, and Schumacher the argument could go on forever. However for me when I factor in the time period in which they competed, the equipment that they had to drive, and the tracks on which they raced, I can only come to one conclusion. Juan Manual Fangio.
It seems that with every passing week we receive more sad and disappointing news from the TUDOR United Sports Car Challenge.
For ten years from 2004 to 2014 Flying Lizard Motorsports has been a constant presence in IMSA GT racing. First with Porsche and now Audi, the red and silver colors have provided many exciting moments for both the team and race fans through the years. Off the top of my head I can recall one epic battle between Flying Lizard and Team Corvette at Mid Ohio.
It now seems to see the Lizard colors in the future you will have to attend Pirelli World Challenge events.
Not having access to the inner workings of TUSC, I would think all this recent activity would have alarm bells ringing. Teams have always come and gone, mostly due to financial reasons. I am not sure if this is the case in more than a couple of instances this year. As of now no team has come out and admitted their reason for moving has anything to do with how the series is run, but that’s just common sense. No reason to burn bridges, things may turn around and make it worth returning to the series.
However it does signal that are more serious underlying issues involved, issues that may have made some just as soon not be there until they are resolved. We can only hope this tide does not continue.
It’s hard to believe it has only been three years since its inception. The factory SRT Viper program came onto the scene in the 2012 American LeMans series. Fielding a two car team, they were competitive right from the start. Just two short years later under the Dodge banner they won the 2014 TUDOR United Sports Car GTLM championship.
I’m not sure exactly what the reason was for pulling the plug on the program. Chrysler’s press release was somewhat vague, but that’s exactly what they did at the end of a championship winning season. There will be other independent teams who will run the SRT Viper in future GT class racing, but the level of factory support for them is not yet known.
While Chrysler may feel they have accomplished what they set out to do, they may have (quite by accident) proved another point. With the right resources and motivation, a factory effort can be put together, and achieve success in a reasonable amount of time.
Since there have been cars, there have been discussions and arguments about which is best or coolest. All of us, myself included have our favorites. Weather it be affordable production cars or expensive exotics, any of us can go on for long periods about which we would or would not own.
Speaking for myself, I can think of car companies who make some models I would consider owning, and a couple who do not make anything I would spend money on. Among these are Volkswagon, Suburu, and BMW.
That brings us the subject of this article. While BMW does not make anything I would ever buy, they have made a couple of cars which I admire and respect. Both the BMW M3, and M5 make good looking cars in race form. Both are popular in various racing series from SCCA to Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, and have had a measure of success. The M5 in particular has a solid winning record in GT racing. Run in the American LeMans series by Rahal Letterman Lanigan, they recorded several wins in the M5 before moving to the Z4.
The one car made by BMW that I can honestly say I truly like was the M1. Manufactured between mid 1975 to 1980, the M1 is a sleek exotic sports car with stunning looks and performance. The total production run of this car was only 430 units. I can only remember ever seeing one on the streets. I was pleasantly surprised to see two of them running in “The Hawk with Brian Redman” at Road America this year. I can also say I like it as much now as I did then.
While it’s a great looking and sounding car, in vintage racing, this 1980 Ferrari 312 T5 was one of the least successful of Ferrari’s Formula 1 efforts. Plagued by a lack of power from it’s naturally aspirated flat 12 engine (most other manufacturers had gone to turbos), indifferent handling, and all around poor performance. Even with reigning World Champion Jody Scheckter at the wheel, it failed to qualify in Canada. Earning only 2 points for the 1980 season, it was the second worst performance by the company to date.
Still in all Ferrari took what few gains they had made with the design, and incorporated them into the 1981 126 C & CK the following year, and thus ushering in the era of the twin turbo Ferrari’s. While the twin turbo CK proved a bit problematic, the C yielded better results. However there were still reliability issues that would not be worked out until the 1982 season with the introduction of the 126 C2.
2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the Ford Mustang. Being introduced in 1964, the Mustang was by no means the first sporty car either foreign or domestic. It was however the first sports car for the masses. With a base package starting at $2,368, it made it possible for the average person to afford something stylish and sporty. With a less than whiplash inducing 164 Hp 260 cu in V8 as the base engine, Ford was able to keep it affordable and still provide plenty of pep given the size and weight of the car. The engine was upgraded to the 210 Hp 289 cu in within six months of production. Each successive generation saw larger and more powerful engines.
The Mustangs arrival had a much bigger impact on the automobile market than just a new stylish car. It created a new class of car. With the later introduction the Chevy Camaro, Pontiac Firebird, Dodge Challenger, Plymouth Barracuda, and the AMC Javelin, a whole new class of cars was created. The Pony car. New racing series were created to showcase the performance of this growing class of cars. In drag racing, the pony car helped usher in the Pro Stock class. This is still a very popular class because unlike other drag racing classes, spectators can see the very cars they might own on track competing.
High horsepower, small wheel bases, and nimble handeling made these cars extremely popular, and lead to the inevitable, racing. The Mustang made it’s first track appearance not as a race car, but as pace car for the 1964 Indianapolis 500.
While competing in multiple racing series, where it really shined was in Trans-AM in the late sixties and early seventies. Run on North American road courses, this European style road racing was very popular, and the Trana-AM Series lives on to this day. The great Parnelli Jones and George Follmer drove a Boss 302 Mustang to the Trans-AM championship. The GT 350 R version, the race version of the Shelby GT 350 was very successful in SCCA racing.
From it’s inception to present generations (six in all), the Mustang proved to be a capable competitor in most every form of racing in which it has competed. It doesn’t look as if that will change anytime in the near future.