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Porsche Returning to Le Mans in 2014

Sixteen wins already, will the German maker go hybrid as it tries for one more.

by on Jul.01, 2011

Porsche has claimed overall victory at LeMans 16 times, but not since 1998.

It’s already taken the checkered flag more than any other maker, but Porsche says it will try for one more, revealing plans to return to the grueling 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2014.

The maker isn’t providing much detail, but says it will campaign an all-new LMP1 race car when it heads back out on the long Le Mans circuit.  It will be Porsche’s first race there after its formal merger with Volkswagen AG.  And it could bring out some intriguing new technology, insiders hint, considering the maker’s increasing interest in hybrid power.

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But the decision to return to Le Mans means that Porsche will likely be going up against at least one other VW brand, Audi, which has been dominating the global endurance racing scene, in recent years, with its various diesel-powered monsters.  Audi’s latest, the R18, overwhelmed the field yet again, this year, giving the Ingollstadt maker its 10th overall victory Le Mans.

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Germans Invade France: Victory at Le Mans

Disaster turns into victory.

by on Jun.15, 2011

Germany's secret weapon: the Audi R18.

It started back in 2000 when the first Audi prototype showed up at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.  At a race where sports car manufacturer Porsche has won 16 times and Ferrari nine times, the upstarts from Ingolstadt came with a serious race car, the turbocharged gasoline-engined R8, and took first, second and third the first time out.

In the years since, the Audi R8, R10, the R15 diesel and now the new R18 diesel have won the race nine more times.  They took a year off in 2003 when, at the suggestion of management, the Audi race car was reconfigured into a Bentley coupe, and the Bentley took first and second using Audi engines.

In 2004, the R8 returned and took first, second, third and fifth.  The following year, the updated and heavily restricted R8 won again, with Danish driver Tom Kristensen winning his seventh Le Mans in a row.

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The world of sports car racing changed forever in 2006 when Audi showed up with its new R10 race cars, powered by 5.5-liter turbocharged diesel engines.  Diesels?  At Le Mans?  Yes.  Using specially distilled diesel race fuel, the Audis qualified first and second and beat the closest gasoline-powered car by four LAPS, owing to the diesel’s reliability, huge torque off the corners, and far fewer stops for fuel.  The winning Audi diesel covered 3164 miles in 24 hours, at an average speed of 131 mph.

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Milestones: First Porsche Overall Win at Le Mans

After 4,607.811 kilometers, Porsche took first 40 years ago.

by on Jun.11, 2010

The Zuffenhausen sports carmaker had been racing at the Sarthe circuit since 1951.

It was 40 years ago this weekend that Porsche claimed its first overall win at the world’s oldest endurance race, the 24 hours of Le Mans.

Hans Herrmann and Richard Atwood driving number 23 were first across the finish line in a 917 KH from Porsche Salzburg. Gerard Larrousse and Willy Kauhsen in the Martini Porsche 917 took second, trailed by Rudi Lins and Helmut Marko in a Porsche 908/02.

It was an impressive sweep for Porsche, which had been racing on the Sarthe street circuit since 1951, with numerous class wins because of Porsche’s lightweight and aerodynamic design, as well as reliability.

Porsche had come tantalizingly near to winning outright before. In 1969, in the closest Le Mans race ever, Herrmann and Larrousse in a Porsche 908 finished just 75 meters – about one second – behind the Ford GT 40 of Jacky Ickx.

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BMW “Art” Car Will be on the Le Mans Grid

Can BMW compete in the world’s oldest endurance race?

by on Jun.09, 2010

There's a tradition of decorated cars in Sarthe. Porsche at times takes a humorous approach.

This Saturday at 3 PM, the 24 Hours of Le Mans begins. It’s a grueling endurance race that has been dominated over the years by Porsche, which has more than 50 class wins and, arguably, Ferrari, a perennial crowd pleaser.

Well,yes, Ferrari, an enduring favorite except for some magic moments back in the 1960s when Ford “kicked Ferrari’s ass,” according to Carroll Shelby, a failed Texas chicken rancher but a winning racer, who was running the GT40 team when it happened.

After several years of Ford dominance – “we spent a ton of the Deuce’s [Henry Ford II] money,” said Shelby – the French changed the rules. Ah, the politics of racing, and the pragmatic – or is it cynical – French?

Once upon a time, Ford Motor dominated racing at Le Mans. Len Katz photograph.

On the grid this year will be two of Jeff Koons’ BMW Art Cars. Andy Priaulx (GB), Dirk Müller (DE) and Dirk Werner (DE) will race the BMW Art Car #79. Jörg Müller (DE), Augusto Farfus (BR), Uwe Alzen (DE) will drive the BMW Le Mans car #78.

There is a tradition of decorated cars at Le Mans. My personal favorite was – and still is – a pink Porsche (aka pink pig), which was diagrammed with dotted lines to reflect the cuts of pork a butcher would derive from the shape. Who says Germans don’t have a sense of humor?

What’s not funny is that BMW is in the hyper-competitive GT2 class, which sees eighteen cars piloted by the very best drivers backed by mega-buck teams.  Aston Martin, BMW, Corvette, Ferrari, Jaguar, Peugeot, Porsche and Spyker are expected to make the field. However, at Le Mans that’s the easy part – lasting through the night and well into the next day is the real challenge.

Here's my idea of an art car. Who says the Germans don't have a sense of humor?

The “Grand Touring” or the GT class has cars derived from models homologated from road use and can be purchased. A minimum of 100 road cars must be built by the major car manufacturers and a minimum of 25 for the smaller makes.

Since they have at least a passing relationship to real cars, I like the GT classes more than the one-off prototype classes, except for the Ford-Ferrari duel of yore. The two prototype classes will go away next year.

The 24 Hours of Le Mans is the world’s oldest endurance race in sports car racing, of course. It has been held annually since 1923 near the town of Le Mans, Sarthe, France. Known as the Grand Prix of Endurance, and organized by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), the race runs on a circuit containing closed public roads.

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Celebrating 50 Years of Corvette Endurance Racing

Chevy unveils Legends of Le Mans display at Laguna Seca.

by on May.20, 2010

Corvette C6.R

Corvette C6.R is AMLMS' most successful car.

Saturday’s American Le Mans Series Monterey marks the beginning of the 50th anniversary celebration of Corvette’s first appearance at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The six-hour race will start at 2:30 p.m. PT and televised by CBS Sports on May 29 at 1:30 p.m. ET.

Chevrolet will honor its rich racing history with a special Corvette Legends of Le Mans display at Laguna Seca, and legendary racing drivers Dick Thompson and Dick Guldstrand will attend the race.

California was central to Corvette racing from its earliest days. Corvettes ran on the streets of Pebble Beach until racers found a permanent home with the construction of Laguna Seca Raceway in 1957. Legendary drivers such as John Fitch, Dick Thompson, Dick Guldstrand, Bob Bondurant, among others, enhanced their reputations racing Corvettes in the Golden State.

Chevrolet designers have also created a unique 2011 Corvette Z06 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Corvette racing at Le Mans. This one-of-a-kind Corvette (VIN 0001) features the same blue and white color scheme as the 1960 Corvette that won its class at Le Mans 50 years ago, and will be sold at auction later this year to benefit the National Corvette Museum.

Chevy designers have also created a unique 2011 Corvette Z06 to celebrate.

Chevrolet designers have also created a unique 2011 Corvette Z06 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Corvette racing at Le Mans. This one-of-a-kind Corvette (VIN 0001) features the same blue and white color scheme as the 1960 Corvette that won its class at Le Mans 50 years ago, and will be sold at auction later this year to benefit the National Corvette Museum.

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Marty’s Marketing Minutia

by on Jun.25, 2009

Our Federal Automobile Websites

Illegal sites are up and running in an attempt to con and deceive gullible consumers about the Cash for Clunkers program, now known officially as the Car Allowance Rebate System — CARS, isn’t that cute? NHTSA has set up an official web site to provide information about the program.  The agency also has a hotline at 888-327-4236. Consumers can visit that Web site or call the hot-line number to get official information about the program.

For MPG data, the government’s fuel economy website  is a very good. There are charts to show fuel consumption for hundreds of makes and models going back to 1985. Other interesting information includes links to many non-government auto websites.

Jaguar’s 30 Day Countdown to a New Car

Jaguar XJ

The showroom window "tease strategy" isn't used anymore, but Jaguar has adapted it for the web.

There was a time when new car dealers would white-out their showroom windows with just few peep-holes to look through to see their newest car. Slowly the viewing area got bigger so more of the car was seen. When I was a kid, one of the high spots of the year was going downtown to take a peak-look at the new cars on a dealer’s showroom floors. 

That “tease strategy” isn’t used anymore, but Jaguar has adapted it for today’s digital, Internet world of commerce and information with a 30 day teaser series of videos using Jag execs emailed to those who have registered at the site.  Jag’s teaser began with an ad and p.r. campaign directing the reader to a special website where videos are running until July 3 on features of the new XJ. Print ads will run till the international reveal on July 9th in London.

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