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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.


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.


Corvette Grand Sport Pricing Announced

The all-American sports car delivers all-out performance for economy prices.

by on Jun.10, 2009

2010 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport

About the only area where the Corvette can't match its European or Japanese competition on numbers is with its relatively inexpensive price.

With 0 – 60 time in less than four seconds, the 2010 version of the Corvette Grand Sport can run with just about anything sold — at any price.

And that’s not only straight line. performance that American muscle cars were notorious for.  Grand Sport delivers 1.0g on a skid pad, and has pavement ripping stopping distances as well. It can truly to it all.

“These numbers are unmatched by any of Corvette’s competitors,” says Karen Rafferty, Chevrolet Product Marketing Director, who also noted Grand Sport ‘s 26 highway mpg  performance.

No argument here from us.

GM Bowling Green Assembly employees pose with the 1,500,000th Corvette, a 2009 convertible.

GM Bowling Green Assembly employees with the 1,500,000th Corvette, a 2009 convertible.

About the only place the car is  bit light on numbers is its price. The Grand Sport coupe will sell  starting at only $55,720 and GS convertible is $59,530. Both of these  prices include a $950 destination freight charge. That’s tens of thousands dollars less than European or Japanese sports cars with equivalent performance capabilities.  

The new car, of course, is named after a Grand Sport that was originally created by Corvette chief engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov in 1963 as a factory-built, lightweight racing model that successfully challenged all domestic and overseas competitors in the hotly contested road races of the 1960s. (more…)

First Look: 2010 Corvette Grand Sport

The original and basically undefeated sports car campaigns on.

by on Apr.24, 2009

Wanna race?

Wanna race?

GM’s reputation might be battered and bloodied these days, but there’s one car that is unbowed with its success taking on the world’s fastest and most expensive sports cars.

The Chevrolet Corvette for more than 50 years has proudly, and successfully, represented U.S. makers in the international sports car wars.

Dollar-for-performance-dollar, the Bowling Green, Kentucky, built two-seater represents the best performance value, bar none, in the world.

Today, at the 12 th annual C5/C6 Corvette Birthday Bash, held at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, the new 2010 Corvette Grand Sport model made its return. The Grand Sport replaces the Corvette’s previous Z51 package and offers “even more handling performance,” with wider wheels and tires; revised damper, stabilizer bar and spring specifications, than the Z51, which was also a world-class competitor.

Cornering capabilities of +1.0 gravity, as well as a -0.2-second improvement in 0-60 acceleration compared to the standard LS3-powered models are claimed by Chevrolet. Based on my personal experience over the years doing instrumented testing on numerous Corvettes, I have no reason to doubt the impressive numbers. Corvettes deliver as promised.

The original 1963 Grand Sport on a track wher it belongs.

The original 1963 Grand Sport where it belongs.

The new car is named after a Grand Sport that was originally created by Corvette chief engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov as a factory-built, lightweight racing model that would take on all domestic and overseas competitors in the hotly contested road races of the 1960s. Production of five prototypes ensued in 1963.

However, the project was shelved with GM’s agreement to stay out of manufacturer-backed motorsports during one of America’s recurrent attacks on the automobile. Unlike today, when such prototypes are routinely crushed for fear of liability claims, the five Grand Sport prototypes were raced throughout the 1960s by privateers who were personally picked by Duntov or his engineers. (more…)

Sneak Peak: Maserati GranTurismo MC

Privateer race car is for the wealthy dreaming of Fangio.

by on Apr.07, 2009


Have dreams of racing glory? The new Maserati GranTurismo MC might be for you.

If you take a Maserati GranTurismo S, the road version with its electronically activated gearbox, and add the requisite roll cage and track suitable brakes, you have the makings of a race car. If you then allow the sanctioning body of GT racing in Europe, SRO, to test the car and tune its horsepower and “balance its performance” running on spec Pirelli tires so that it competes about equally with the other makes in the field, you have a race car. The car can then be run by amateur drivers in GT4, the least powerful, but still competitive class, of sports car racing. 

A limited number MC GT4s will produced for what the company calls “gentlemen drivers” who wish to race in the 2010 European Cup and/or national series. The tentative price,  to be finalized this October when the car goes on sale, is $179,000 (value added tax not included), plus trailer, tools and expenses. The cars will be sold directly through Maserati Corse, which started racing again five years ago in the FIA GT Championship with the more powerful the MC12. 

The car was officially unveiled earlier this week during the FIA GT “Media Days” at the Paul Ricard circuit. At least one GranTurismo MC will be entered by an unnamed private team and run in some GT4 European Cup events during the second half of this season. Other approved models include the Aston Martin V8 Vantage, Audi TT, BMW M3 and Z4 coupe, Chevrolet Corvette C6, Ford Mustang FR500C and the Nissan 350Z. (more…)