• The 2017 Yamaha XSR900 Abarth Now Available

    The 2017 Yamaha XSR900 Abarth is a new and limited edition model in the Sport Heritage range. It teams the Japanese company with a famous name from the car world. Abarth was originally founded in 1949, and has specialised in small sports cars for 60 years, including being featured as the sportier end of the FIAT brand.

    2017 Yamaha XSR900 Abarth

    The 2017 Yamaha XSR900 Abarth

    Abarth already sponsors the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team and supplies a number of specialist vehicles as part of that relationship. So it seems only right that Yamaha honour them by producing a total of 695 bikes with some exclusive lightweight parts.

    Typically for a factory special, the 2017 Yamaha XSR900 Abarth features the standard 950cc three-cylinder engine with traction control and slipper clutch. But what it does gain is a full lightweight Akrapovic exhaust system with titanium double slip-on silencer. So that will help acceleration a bit, as well as making you sound faster.

    2017 Yamaha XSR900 Abarth

    Just running in the 2017 Yamaha XSR900 Abarth

    Also helping you feel faster is a sportier riding position, thanks to swallow ‘clip-on’ style handlebars and the single racing seat. It’s finished with a suede cover and red stitching. And the seat cowl is one of the new lighweight carbon parts which feature the Abarth logo, along with the carbon front mudguard.

    Online order registrations opened on January 17th with the first 95 customers getting an invitation to an exclusive Yamaha VIP Abarth Experience, along with their choice of companion. The events will be confirmed when the new owners finish their purchase, and will take place between May 1st and June 16th 2017 at circuits in Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Austria and the UK.

    Each event includes the chance to test drive a range of Abarth vehicles on the circuit, take a drive with a professional racing driver, and also be given the chance to visit Abarth’s Turin headquarters by prior appointment throughout 2017.

    Once the initial 95 models of the 2017 Yamaha XSR900 Abarth have gone, the remain 600 are available to order from your local Yamaha dealer from April 2017. And to be fair, you’ll have as much fun on the road or track on the XSR900 as you would in any car.

    Then again, if you do appreciate small, four-wheeled vehicles, then you might like the fact Abarth have also procuded a concept car to match the bike. The 695 Tributo XSR has the same grey and red livery, an extensive array of carbon fibre, and also gets an Akrapovic exhaust system.

    2017 Yamaha XSR900 Abarth and Car

    It’s just a shame they haven’t produced a matching motorcycle trailer and made it all available as a set!

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  • SVRA HEACOCK CLASSIC: THE GOLD STANDARD!

    Mike Matune goes trackside at VIR to bring us highlights of the Gold Cup historic races.

    The SVRA wrapped up part of its season at the Heacock Class “Gold Cup historic races at VIRginia International Raceway. Optimum weather and VIR’s lush surroundings welcomed a bevy of seasoned racers. Spectators were treated to the sights and sounds of some great big-bore historic racecars. Olthoff Racing (www.olthoffracing.com) of NC showed up with three Superformance GT40s, top, including those of Harry McPherson (#2) and Jeff McKee.

    Curt Vogt brought his ‘70 Mustang, above. While it is a genuine Boss 302, it has no race history and is prepared to the current vintage rulebook as opposed to period standards. The engine puts out close to 600 horsepower and Vogt used every one of them as he manhandled the beast around VIR, frequently testing the limits of the track’s “friction circle”.

    Michael Lange’s Ford GT was built by Matech in Switzerland for GT3 competition in Europe. It served as an interesting contrast to the 1960s era technology of the Superformance cars. The car has approximately 500 horsepower from a Ford DOHC V8 backed by a Hewland sequential gearbox. Extensive use of carbon fiber keeps overall weight to about 2,300 pounds, allowing “adequate” performance. A surprising feature of the car is air conditioning!

    Tommy Riggins originally built this Falcon for the updated Trans-Am series. It never turned a wheel there and ended up competing in SCCA GT1. It features a fiberglass silhouette body favoring the 1963 Falcon (if you squint) on a modern tubular frame with tubular A-arms up front and a Ford nine-inch rear end suspended with a three-link system. Power comes from a 358-inch Rousch-Yates Ford V-8. Doug Richmond bought the car and freshened it for the vintage racing wars. VIR was its second outing under his ownership.

    It is hard to fault the lines on the Lola T70, Eric Broadley’s early attempt at a Group 7 racecar. Tom Shelton’s example was originally sold by the late Carl Haas, Lola’s U.S. importer to a privateer. It was campaigned in the USRRC and Can-Am with very modest success. As an early Mark I model, it had a narrow body updated to its present wide-body to accommodate hefty racing rubber during its extensive restoration.

    Dave Robert’s ‘56 Corvette could was converted into a racecar by Chicago area Motor Sport Research in the early 1960s. It would live a life over time involving multiple owners and drivers, each attaining some level of success. When technology eventually caught up with it, it became a vintage racer and continued its winning ways. Roberts has recently returned the car to its original configuration to best celebrate its historic significance.

    Ken Mennella is a long time vintage competitor in his “tribute” ‘63 Corvette Grand Sport roadster. Equipped with a 600 horsepower, 400-inch Chevy small-block and TexRacing Super T-10 transmission, the car has been wining in SVRA Groups 5 & 10 for more than ten years. His car is a faithful reproduction of what was envisioned as an American car to beat Shelby’s Cobra and the fastest European racing cars. Its promise was short lived when GM enforced its anti-racing position.

    Externally Robert Gee’s ‘69 Corvette has all the pieces associated with the L88 endurance racing package – fender flares, fixed headlights under clear plastic covers and a vented and bubbled hood. It’s small-block powered and prepared to B/Production vintage standards with original brakes and stamped steel a-arms.

    Bob Lima’s big-block powered Corvette was formerly raced by Dick Kantrud. Like Gee’s car, it features styling cues from the famed Corvette endurance racers of the late-1960s,-early 1970s. Power comes from a big block Chevy with Edelbrock aluminum heads and a plethora of racing hardware. The raised headlights with clear covers reduced weight and complexity by eliminating the retracting mechanism. They also allowed improved airflow.

    Corvette racecars come in all forms from nearly showroom stock to purpose-built racers like Jeff Bernatovich’s entry. Originally built by Irv Hoerr, it combines a tube frame and look-alike fiberglass body panels, sharing precious little with its production counterparts. Some racers like this approach because instead of removing extraneous street components and beefing up cars that were never intended to withstand racetrack punishment, they are starting with a clean slate and incorporating only that what they need for speed and safety.

     

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  • ‘17 JAG F-TYPE SVR: KITTY KITTY BANG BANG!

    It’s the latest supercharged cat from Jaguar, with a tiger under its alloy bonnet and an explosive snarl from its quad exhaust. Meet the F-TYPE SVR, which lives up to Jaguar’s claim of being the “lightest, quickest, most powerful” member of its line.The F-Type SVR’s supercharged 5-liter V-8 serves up 575-horsepower and 516-pound-feet of torque after and hooked to a recalibrated, fast-responding 8-speed ZF Quickshift transmission. Its Dynamic Mode gives it sharper throttle response with quicker shifting, staying in a lower gear for instant power on demand.

    Power is available at throttle tip-in, getting to the ground via on-demand all-wheel drive. That meant our 7,000-mile-old Jag pinned us in our seats en route to 60-mph in 3.3 seconds, and 100-mph in 7.8 seconds. All four tires grabbed and went, with no wheelspin, as the quad exhaust wailed a seductive battle cry. The gearbox executed neat, fast downshifts with a throttle blip before each in Dynamic mode.

    The Active Exhaust gave the sound exiting that sleek tail a sharper edge under power, and a loud and very addictive POP-pop-snarl overrun on deceleration. I loved it, as did most of my friends. But don’t try to sneak home with Active exhaust turned on, or even off – it rumbles and crackles even when off. Auto stop/start works on all settings, helping net an average 19-mpg.

    The F-Type also has adaptive dynamics, torque vectoring and dynamic stability control, with an upgraded chassis, new dampers and anti-roll bars, wider tires on lightweight 20-inch forged wheels and new, stiffer rear suspension knuckles. Add in forged aluminum double wishbone suspension up front and multilink in back with adaptive damping that reads the car’s body motion, roll and pitch to firm up or soften as needed.

    The result was a firm but comfortable ride in normal mode; the coupe quiet and supple at speed except for some tire noise. In Dynamic mode, the ride got very firm but surprisingly forgiving, each bump quickly handled, rebound at full compression nicely buffered. The SVR really carved its way into curves, both ends grabbing and going with super tight control. Power out of a turn in Dynamic, which backs off stability control, and some playful rear-wheel-drive tendencies would appear as the rear Pirellis came out a bit.

    On our skid pad, there was initial understeer. Then with a touch of power, the rears would work in a bit and grab. Engineers worked on the rear electronic active differential to make sure there was good torque distribution between the front and rear axles, and across the rear wheels. The result – a lithe 3,455-pound coupe with catlike reflexes in high-speed twisty bits and an admirably flat line around fast sweeping turns. The G-force meter’s data log showing it pulling a super-grippy 1.11 Gs in turns, and .89 Gs on launch.

    The electric power-assisted steering was scalpel sharp, no play dead-center, with a very direct feel. And with the huge (15.6-inch front/15-inch rear) cross-drilled carbon ceramic matrix disc brakes with six and four-piston monobloc calipers, the Jag stopped clean and straight from any speed, no brake squeak or noise. Hard repeated use on the street saw no fade at all.

    Since Jaguar’s birth in 1934, 2-seat coupes and roadsters have been its most memorable cars, like the 1960s E-Type. Then in 2013, there was its spiritual descendant – the F-Type. Jag’s Special Vehicle division went to work, and the F-TYPE SVR was born.

    If the base F-Type is sleek, the SVR is slick and even a bit evil looking, with hints of classic E-Type in the long hood, fastback rear roofline and rounded flanks. Its short front and shorter rear overhangs live on a relatively long (103.2-in.) wheelbase. But the SVR redesign adds 1.5 inches in width, while all the carbon fiber and carbon ceramic brakes subtract 110 pounds. 
The snarling cat’s face emblem lives on a gloss black grille. There’s a wider lower intake with carbon fiber air dams for reduced drag and added engine cooling.

    More SVR touches include carbon fiber bonnet vents so hot air can exit from the supercharged V-8 and slit side vents inside the wheel arches to smooth side airflow and reduce front lift. The front bumper was extended outward over aggressive low-profile P265/35ZR20-inch Pirelli P-ZERO rubber to also aid airflow. They roll on lighter 10-spoke satin alloy and black wheels framing those huge cross-drilled carbon ceramic disc brakes with yellow Jaguar-badged calipers. The side mirrors behind thin A-pillars are carbon fiber too.

    The rear fenders flare wide over meatier P305/30ZR20-inch rubber before wrapping around the short tail. There is where slit LED taillights with cat’s eyes mimic the classic E-Type. The roof panel is more glossy carbon fiber weave, part of a low roofline that flows down a small fastback rear window. The tail is capped by a huge carbon fiber rear wing that rises at 70 mph to help reduce lift by 15 percent, according to Jaguar. The sculpted gloss lower aero piece has a carbon fiber diffuser to aid underbody aero control.

    The cockpit is tailor-made for two, amped up with more carbon fiber, special leather and soft suede done in black with red seat belts. Driver and passenger have to duck to get under the low roof and over aggressive side bolsters of 14-way power bucket seats done in Jet leather with quilt pattern. Tap the black start button in the center console and the engine barks to life. The thick-rimmed leather and suede steering wheel has power tilt and telescope plus aluminum shift paddles behind it. It frames a straightforward gauge package under a double-curved suede cowl, with 210-mph speedometer and an 8,000-rpm tach redlined at 6,800 rpm.

    A color LCD screen in between offers trip computer with radio, time, outside temperature, digital speedometer and gearshift position. The wide center console’s carbon fiber face frames a color touch screen for navigation, audio, climate control, parking sensors, backup camera with cross-traffic detection and phone. It also displays performance gauges – engine/transmission/steering/suspension setup and a stopwatch/gas and brake force/4-way G-force. But no voice command for stereo and navigation, and simple things like vent position and radio station scanning require going into their menus.

    A base rear-wheel-drive Jaguar F-Type with 340-horsepower V-6 starts at $61,400 for the coupe and $65,400 for the convertible. But you basically double that for our 575-horsepower, all-wheel-drive SVR – $125,950, with the convertible version starting at $128,800. But that price includes everything we’ve mentioned here, including all the carbon fiber and carbon ceramic brakes, for a final price of $126,945 with destination.

    “Scratch the price,” says Scanlan. The Jaguar F-Type SVR is a dynamic sports car with all the right moves, enveloped in a sexy and aggressive body with the right pieces of carbon fiber.
    And that sound!

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  • CADILLAC RACING: BACK ON TRACK!

    Cadillac’s all-new Cadillac DPi-V.R racecar will compete in the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Series, Prototype (P) class.

    The Cadillac DPi-V.R will first be driven competitively at the 2017 IMSA season opener – the Rolex 24 At Daytona on January 28-29, 2017. Wayne Taylor Racing and Action Express Racing teams will field it. IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is the fastest and most technologically advanced sports car racing series in North America.

    “Cadillac is proud to return to the pinnacle of prototype racing in North America after a 14-year absence,” said Johan de Nysschen, president of Cadillac. “Cadillac’s V-Performance production models – the ATS-V and CTS-V – are transforming our brand’s product substance, earning a place among the world’s elite high-performance marques. The Cadillac DPi-V.R further strengthens our V-Performance portfolio, placing Cadillac into the highest series of sports car racing in North America.”

    The DPi-V.R has been designed to contribute to the functional performance of the prototype using elements gleaned from the current lineup of Cadillac V-Performance models, especially the CTS-V. The racecar is equipped with the new Rear Camera Mirror, first seen on the Cadillac CT6 Sedan and available on the 2017 Cadillac CTS, XT5 and Escalade.

    “The DPi-V.R racecar was an exciting new canvas for the Cadillac design and sculpting team,” said Andrew Smith, Global Cadillac Design executive director. “The studio embraced the opportunity to interpret the Cadillac form language, line work and graphic signature for this premier prototype racing application.”

    Design details giving the DPi-V.R car its distinctive Cadillac appearance and presence include the vertical lighting signature; the sheer, sculptural quality of the body and bold bodyside feature line. Plus, V-Performance wheels, Brembo brakes, V-Performance emblems, and a canopy graphic inspired by the Cadillac “daylight opening.” Even subtle cues such as the cooling vents and the air intake were designed in the studio, the latter in the trapezoidal shape of the Cadillac crest.

    A, race-prepped, naturally-aspirated 6.2-liter V-8 that shares architecture with Gen III Cadillac CTS-V (640 horsepower) and Gen V Cadillac Escalade (420 horsepower) engines, powers the DPi-V.R. The engine produces approximately 600 horsepower when tuned for racing as defined by IMSA-mandated air restrictors, with a maximum allowable rpm of 7,600. The engine transfers power to the rear wheels through an X-TRAC paddle-shift transmission.

    Cadillac and its designers collaborated with key partners including chassis builder Dallara, teams from Wayne Taylor Racing and Action Express Racing and ECR Engines to prepare the 6.2-liter V-8-powered Cadillac DPi-V.R over the past year.

     

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  • RACING’S GREATEST UPSETS: 1966 TRANS-AM ENDURO!

    Stephen Cox blogs about Shelby American’s legendary Group 2 Mustang racers, Part 3 of 3.

    John McComb ordered a new car for 1967. The choice was easy. Given his success in the 1966 Group 2 Mustang, he ordered a new notchback for 1967 to pick up where he left off with the Shelby program. The ‘67 Mustang was the model’s first major redesign and the car gained both size and weight. McComb didn’t care for either.

    “Even though the ’67 car had a wider track, it was a heavier car, so I don’t really think the wider track helped,” McComb said. “The ’66 car was just a very reliable, quick car. I always thought the ’66 was better than the ’67 anyway.“

    While awaiting delivery of the new car, McComb pulled his old mount out of the garage to start the new season. It still ran strong, competing at the Daytona 300 Trans-Am race on February 3, 1967 and in the 24 Hours of Daytona the following day. In March, McComb returned to familiar grounds and took second in the amateur A/Sedan race at Green Valley, and again participated in the Trans-Am event the following day. The car’s final race under McComb’s ownership was the Trans-Am at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on June 11th.

    His new racecar became available just days later and McComb sold the #12 Group 2 Mustang to Keith Thomas, a Kansas native who had shown considerable ability winning club races throughout the region. Thomas campaigned the car against stiffening competition in the A/Sedan Midwest Division, ironically finishing second in the championship hunt only to John McComb’s new car.

    This gave the #12 Group 2 Mustang a unique place in road racing history. Not only did it claim a share of John McComb’s A/Sedan championship by scoring points for McComb early in the 1967 title chase, but it also clinched second place in the same series in the hands of Keith Thomas. By virtue of Thomas’ runner-up standing in the series, the car earned a second invitation in the AARC at Daytona where it scored yet another top five finish.

    Keith Thomas continued driving the #12 Group 2 Mustang in 1968 and 1969, finishing third in the series both years. Although the car was now well past its prime, Thomas set a new A/Sedan track record while winning at Wichita’s Lake Afton Raceway. He continued to rack up wins at places like Texas International Speedway, Oklahoma’s War Bonnet Park and the SCCA Nationals at Salina, Kansas throughout the late-1960s.

    Now sporting a new livery, the car ran a limited schedule from 1971-73, after which it was retired from auto racing. The car traded hands later that year and again in 1978, each time distancing itself a bit more from its proud past while being repeatedly repainted and renumbered. Finally, in 1984, the car came into the possession of car collector Gary Spraggins. By this time its true identity had been lost and Spraggins was unsure of its provenance. He bought the car anyway.

    Spraggins recalled that the Mustang had been repainted in “school-bus yellow” with black Le Mans stripes. There were no Shelby markings to be found anywhere on the car, but still Spraggins suspected that the vehicle might be something special. He noticed several items that were unique to Shelby GT350Rs, including the Cobra intake manifold, the Holley 715 carburetor and the A-arms that had been relocated to lower the car by one-inch. Mechanically, everything about the car screamed “Shelby” although no one really knew for sure.

    The moment of truth came when Spraggins took the car home for a closer inspection. “When I raised the trunk lid up, of course, the inside of the trunk area was black, but you could see the Le Mans stripes overspray down in there,” Spraggins remembered.

    “Oh, man, I knew what those colors represented – Shelby cars. And I got some paint remover and lightly put it over the black Le Mans stripe on the trunk and wiped it off, and there was the prettiest blue Le Mans stripe there. It’s like, oh, my gosh!”

    Spraggins immediately wrote to the Shelby American Automobile Club, describing the car and asking if the VIN could be verified as a Shelby product. The response came on November 12th.

    “Looks like you’ve found one of the original Shelby 1966 Trans-Am cars,” the letter began. “Your car was originally sold to Turner Ford in Wichita, KS. I think they may still be in business…”

    SAAC national director, Rick Kopec, signed the letter. And so did Carroll Shelby.

    Spraggins could barely contain his enthusiasm and quickly set to work restoring the car to its original 1966 livery and condition, not realizing that an aging John McComb had also entertained the idea of finding his old mount. He just didn’t know where to look.

    “I was very excited at that time that I had found a needle in a haystack,” Spraggins said. “Nobody knew anything about these cars, so in order to track down the original driver – you know, John McComb – I just started calling information in the Wichita area.”

    On a hot summer afternoon in late-July 1985, the telephone on John McComb’s desk rang again. On the other end was car collector Gary Spraggins calling with the surprising news that his famous #12 Group 2 Mustang had been found. When McComb saw photos of the newly restored Mustang, he said, “My immediate reaction was, ‘That’s my car!’ What a super job you have done on it.”

    When asked to critique the restoration and help them convert the car to its precise 1966 condition, McComb confessed to a pair of secrets that he’d kept for nearly 30 years.

    “We cheated in two places on the bodywork. One was on the lower front valance where the license plate goes. We took those two little tabs off and opened it up a little. We also opened up the front fenders just a little. We rolled the inner lip around a welding rod to give it more strength for nerfing. We never got caught on either one.”

    Eventually, even Carroll Shelby was reunited with the newly restored #12 Group 2 Mustang at a car show in the mid-1990s. He recognized it instantly. “This was the last year I was really interested in racing,” he lamented to Mustang Monthly.

    “We had won Le Mans in 1966 and then the Trans-Am series came along. A lot of our good guys had moved on to other things because we had been winning for so many years.”

    When it came to North American road racing, the Group 2 Mustangs were Shelby’s last stand. Largely forgotten by car collectors worldwide, these amazing racecars won the first Trans-Am title for Ford and were among the most dominant sportscars their era. They left an indelible imprint on the American road-racing scene of the 1960s. Then they simply disappeared.

    Standing at the car’s freshly repainted rear fender, Shelby crossed his arms, took one last glance at the #12 Group 2 Mustang and gave a long sigh. “After 1966, we were concentrating on building volume. Unfortunately, the racing programs didn’t have much priority after this.”

    NOTE: All photos are courtesy of Mecum Auctions. The driver in the cockpit photo is owner/driver John McComb preparing for a race in the late-1960s.

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