• SHORT TRACK RACING: HOMAGE TO A FORGOTTEN SERIES!

    SHORT TRACK RACING: HOMAGE TO A FORGOTTEN SERIES!

    Hard to believe it’s been nearly 20 years since the Championship Auto Racing Series (CARS) ran exciting, wheel to wheel stock car races on short tracks around Indiana. This series was distinct from and should not be confused with today’s southeastern CARS series that descended from the old Hooters ProCup series, blogs Stephen Cox.

    SHORT TRACK RACING: HOMAGE TO A FORGOTTEN SERIES!The original CARS series was Indiana-based, founded by former ARCA driver Morris Coffman. The concept was built around a spec stock car chassis powered by 305 cubic inch Chevrolet small block engines with two-barrel carburetors that produced about 335 horsepower. The hard compound tires were grooved to limit grip. A completed ready to race car was available for about $20,000, while kits could be purchased for half that price and assembled by the race teams.

    The result was a fun, affordable mid-level touring series that frequented premier Midwestern short tracks including Indianapolis Raceway Park (now Lucas Oil Raceway), Winchester Speedway and Ileana Speedway. The crowds were good. The racecars were fun to drive. They had enough power to slide through the turns but not so much grip that engine prices soared into the stratosphere. For a while – a very short while – CARS provided an excellent platform to learn the craft of stock car racing.

    SHORT TRACK RACING: HOMAGE TO A FORGOTTEN SERIES!I competed in the series from early 1999 until August 2000. My record was marginal, winning two of the series’ smaller events, sitting on the pole at Winchester and finishing sixth in the season points championship. But the competition sharpened my driving skills and introduced me to some great people who remain friends nearly two decades later.

    On September 19, 1999, a bright and cool Sunday afternoon, we put on a pretty good show for Winchester Speedway’s race fans. The top five cars broke away from the field and ran nose-to-tail and sometimes side-by-side on Winchester’s extreme, 32-degree banking for most of the 20-lap feature. My father and spotter, Nelson, coached me up to fourth place late in the event. The whirlwind speeds of Winchester’s high groove took your breath away, especially when running in a two or three-wide pack of five cars, all-vying for a win before a huge crowd at a historic track. I finished fourth in one of the best short track races of the year.

    Series front-runners included many outstanding drivers who had already proven themselves winners at other levels of racing. Mark Fesmire could do no wrong in the 1999 season and left us all in the dust on his way to the first CARS championship title. Indiana short track legend Eddie Van Meter won in front of 25,000 fans at Indianapolis in May 2000. Jeff Cannon was so fast he couldn’t keep tires under his car. Bob Dumke, Tim Green, Wes Bullock, Tim Wallen and other fine drivers competed in my era with many more joining after I departed for the Hooters Pro Cup Series in late 2000.

    SHORT TRACK RACING: HOMAGE TO A FORGOTTEN SERIES!Jerome Branscum, who won the 2003 CARS championship title and later purchased the series, said, “It was a series that we could get into for ten grand and get a nice looking car and we could go racing. I was 44 years old and had never driven a racecar before. It was a real thrill for me. It was the excitement of getting to go racing every week, and on a budget.”

    Going through multiple ownership changes, the series was active as late as 2012 although it struggled to draw entries. It eventually faded away, forgotten by all but a handful of former competitors. The Championship Auto Racing Series existed in the era immediately preceding the Internet, so not a trace of its history can be found online. It existed in the earliest era of digital photography, so traditional 35mm photos are scarce and the few available digital pictures are of poor quality. As far as I can tell all records of its races and indeed, the very existence of the series, have been lost.

    “I would like it to be remembered like it was in the early years,” Branscum recalled, “when you could go racing and it wouldn’t cost you a fortune. You could meet friendly people, race hard and have fun.”

    Stephen Cox: Driver, FIA EGT Championship & Super Cup Stock Car Series, CEO, Sopwith Motorsports Television Productions Co-host, Mecum Auctions on NBCSN.

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  • PROTOTYPE ENGINES: OLDSMOBILE ‘ROCKET’ SCIENCE!

    PROTOTYPE ENGINES: OLDSMOBILE ‘ROCKET’ SCIENCE!

    These lightweight multi-carb, four-cam and even Hemi engines were being developed for future production engine research and, in some cases racing projects.

    PROTOTYPE ENGINES: OLDSMOBILE ‘ROCKET’ SCIENCE!PROTOTYPE ENGINES: OLDSMOBILE ‘ROCKET’ SCIENCE!Between 1969 and 1970, Oldsmobile Engineering was responsible for creating powerful ultra-efficient 350 to 455 cubic-inch V-8 engines rated up to 700 horsepower! Some were naturally aspirated and fitted with single Quadrajet four-barrel or Weber carburetors; others were fuel-injected and turbocharged. Most had aluminum blocks and heads. It was hard to imagine that these engines were anything other than veiled attempts at building pure racing engines, but they actually were. Oldsmobile engineering used these engines as prototypes for developing lighter, more fuel-efficient and “cleaner” production engines.

     Olds engineers were responsible for the radical OW-43, above, a racing-only, four-cam 455 tested with four Weber carburetors and fuel injection with three-inch ram stacks. The OW-43 was developed at the same time Chevrolet Engineering was working on the ZL1 for Corvette and Camaro applications and Can-Am racing. The OW-43 was tested in a Can-Am racecar, but never used in competition.

    Based on the same bore-stroke configuration of a production 455, the OW-43 had heads and block with steel cylinder liners cast from Reynolds 356-T-6 heat-treated aluminum. With a redline of just under 8,500 rpm, it produced 600 horsepower at 6,000 rpm with Webers and 700 horsepower at 6,800 rpm with Lucas direct-port fuel-injection. The DOHC prototype had Forged-True 12.20-to-1 pistons, Carillo billet steel rods and a forged steel crank. It weighed 50 pounds less than a production cast-iron 455.

    The mildest of the group was an all-aluminum 350 small-block, displacing 389 cubic inches and utilizing dual-throat Weber 48IDA carburetors, above, right. The alloy 389-inch engine ended up in a Cutlass that was driven to the C/Production record at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1968. A friend and editor at Hot Rod, Lee Kelley, drove a factory-supplied Cutlass 169.133 mph to set the record. Apparently during impound, SCTA officials never detected that the engine was an all-aluminum prototype.The engine in Lee Kelley’s record-setter was a one-off, rated at close to 500 horsepower and built in Lansing by Dave Maurer, a special projects engineer. At Bonneville, the Cutlass was crewed by Maurer along with racing legends, Ak Miller, Jack Lufkin and Ed Iskenderian.

    PROTOTYPE ENGINES: OLDSMOBILE ‘ROCKET’ SCIENCE!One of the most interesting engines was the 455-inch W-43 Hemi. There were cast-iron and aluminum iterations with four-valve, Hemi-chamber heads. The W-43 engine was designed to be easily converted to chain or gear-driven overhead camshafts. Fitted with a single Quadrajet, it produced in excess of 500 horsepower at 6,500 rpm. The aluminum version weighed 75 pounds less than the then current production 455 engine. This engine found its way into Mule cars tested at the Milford Proving Ground.

    PROTOTYPE ENGINES: OLDSMOBILE ‘ROCKET’ SCIENCE!Oldsmobile engines displacing 389 to 455 cubic inches had powered Can-Am Series cars, like Bob McKee-built Cro-Sal racers in 1967. The highest output Can-Am Olds was an all-aluminum, single-cam 455 with injection and twin turbochargers. It generated 659 horsepower at 6,250 rpm and 554 pound-feet of torque at 6,200 rpm.

    Oldsmobile Rocket Science

    This story is from DAY ONE, An Automotive Journalist’s Muscle-Car Memoir, covering domestic 1962-1974 high-performance vehicles, https://www.amazon.com/Day-One-Automotive-Journalists-Muscle-Car/dp/0760352364/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1493561421&sr=1-1&keywords=Day+One+by+Martyn+L.+Schorr

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  • ’18 MUSTANG GT TEST: PREMIUM W/PERFORMANCE!

    '18 MUSTANG GT TEST: PREMIUM W/PERFORMANCE!

    Read this carefully – here’s a modern muscle car with a 5-liter V-8 pumping out 460 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque, you can shift for yourself, blogs Dan Scanlan.

    '18 MUSTANG GT TEST: PREMIUM W/PERFORMANCE!'18 MUSTANG GT TEST: PREMIUM W/PERFORMANCE!Yes, a 6-speed manual transmission. In an all-black ’18 Mustang GT with the Performance Package that gives it an extra 25 ponies. Oh yeah, there’s active exhaust that tunes the sound from mild to deep-throated, echoed-off-the-walls wild, that’s great to hear from its red leather Recaro bucket seats.

    It’s been a long time since I’ve had American iron, or any sports car worth its salt, with a manual gearbox. But our Mustang tester, with 5,400 miles, had a revised engine – new dual-fuel, high-pressure direct injection and low-pressure port fuel injection, revised cylinder head, additional knock sensors, and new crankshaft and connecting rod bearings. The 6-speed manual has a twin-disc clutch and dual-mass flywheel. And there’s a strut bar spanning the engine from shock tower to shock tower.

    So, set the drivetrain to “Normal,” and the Mustang GT launched cleanly with a hint of wheelspin to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds – quick. The twin-disc clutch pedal had great bite where it should, the stumpy lever precise and fairly short throw in action. The alloy-clad brake and gas pedals are so nicely aligned I could blip the throttle with the right side of my foot while braking.

    '18 MUSTANG GT TEST: PREMIUM W/PERFORMANCE!To compare, the 3,712-pound. Mustang convertible I tested recently with 2.3 liter EcoBoost four (310 horsepower with 320 pound-feet of torque) took 6.6 seconds to 60 with its 6-speed automatic. A ‘16 GT I tested with a 435-horsepower 5-liter V-8 hit 60-mph in 4.1 seconds with launch control. FYI – Mustang also offers a 3.7-liter V-6 with 300 horsepower.

    Back in black, I set drivetrain to “Race,” which allowed wheelspin at launch, and our fastback hit 60 mph in 4 seconds, and 100 mph in 11.3 seconds, rear rubber hissing in the 1-2 shift. The GT has launch control, so I set an rpm limit, then dumped the clutch and let traction control handle wheelspin. The adjustable exhaust, set to “Sport,” bellowed off walls nearby – it’s addictive as the car just hooked and launched clean after time. The GT also has Line Lock, which locks front brakes so you can spin the rears. Use both and we got a very satisfying launch with some short but sweet black stripes behind us, the Mustang staying straight and true as we roared to the horizon. We averaged 17-mpg on premium.

    '18 MUSTANG GT TEST: PREMIUM W/PERFORMANCE!Going straight is fine, but how’s it handle? The GT has 4-wheel independent suspension with stabilizer bars, plus optional MagneRide and some very sticky Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S summer tires aided by a Torsen limited-slip differential. Active damping can be fine-tuned for “Normal” or “Sport,” while sensors adjust the ride and handling. Set to Normal, the ride was firm but fairly forgiving over bumps. Set to Sport, – my favorite – ride motions were quickly but nicely handled, bumps quick to fade after a firm but buffered rebound.

    The result was a 3,700-pound fastback that’s light on its feet but well planted. It loved curves with little body roll and plenty of driver involvement, letting me push harder as the limited-slip differential helped keep the tail in line. Switch to Sport and we could get the tail to work under throttle on curves, allowing a pinch of throttle oversteer before the safety stuff kicked in. I’d snap around a corner and apply some throttle and the GT would break its tail for a second, then counter-steer and throttle play would catch it – no stability control needed with the sticky Michelins. Really pushed on the skidpad, some understeer showed, but a touch of throttle would let the rears work.

    Brembo six-piston calipers visible inside those gloss black alloy wheel’s spokes offered quick bite and a progressive pedal as the fastback stopped short and straight with minimal nose dive. Plus, those with the manual and hills will like a two-second hill-holder system when going from brake, to gas and clutch.

    '18 MUSTANG GT TEST: PREMIUM W/PERFORMANCE!As the first and longest-living (54 years) Ponycar, our sixth-generation model lives on its 2014 platform with some simple, but leaner, meaner looks on top of the traditional long nose/short tail design. The 2018 grille’s upper edge sticks out further and lower, black mesh deep inside with twin side lines to break up the menacing maw. The longer hood gets a subtle center spine and two fake vents. The bumper is slimmer, with a more aggressive lower GT air dam with side wings, fog lights moved to corner slits. The flanks remain untouched, flared fenders neatly framing new-for-2018 P255/40 front/P275/40 rear 19-inch Michelin Pilot Sport rubber on gloss black wheels. There’s prominent “5.0” badges on front fenders, a wide flared lower sill between.

    '18 MUSTANG GT TEST: PREMIUM W/PERFORMANCE!The fastback flows to a new center-mounted rear wing, loved by Mustang fans. Under that, what a Mustang-loving friend called “boomerang” taillights, the 2018 freshening curving their triple-bars. Quad pipes for the GT are in an aero panel with flared wings at outer edges.

    '18 MUSTANG GT TEST: PREMIUM W/PERFORMANCE!Inside, the classic dashboard of past Mustangs remains, black faux leather with red stitching atop dual cowls, plus more on doors and center console that looked great and softened many hard plastic pieces. The bolstered red leather Recaro bucket seats were supportive without need for power adjustments, the perfect driving position easy to set.

    '18 MUSTANG GT TEST: PREMIUM W/PERFORMANCE!'18 MUSTANG GT TEST: PREMIUM W/PERFORMANCE!The GT had a button to access acceleration timer, brake performance, Line Lock, lap timer and active exhaust. With a new, customizable 12-inch LCD digital instrument display, you can display an 8,000-rpm tach and 160-mph speedometer in multiple layouts, or a full strip tach with digital rpm and speed for Dragstrip mode, red stripes at 7,000-rpm so you see how close you are to redline. In some modes, LED strips race toward each other at the display’s top to show when to upshift.

    New and appreciated by neighbors are redesigned exhaust valves that can be set for quiet, normal, sport or track sound. Dashboard center gets oil pressure and vacuum gauges between air vents. The 12-speaker Shaker audio system with big sub-woofer in the trunk vibrates the rear-view mirror with good sound. That said, plastic controls for stereo and dual-zone climate control look and feel a bit cheap. The rear seats are barely usable, but flip to enlarge a usable trunk that loses space to that subwoofer.

    The base Mustang fastback with 2.3-liter EcoBoost four with 310-horsepower starts at $25,680 and goes all the way to the 526-horsepower Shelby GT350 at $57,000. Our GT’s base price was $39,095. The $3,995 GT Performance Package had Michelin rubber, black alloy wheels, 3.73 Torsen rear axle and rear wing; $2,200 premium trim added navigation and stitched interior trim; $1,595 was for the Recaro bucket seats; $1,495 for adaptive cruise control; $1,695 for MagneRide suspension, plus $895 Shaker speaker system, $895 active exhaust and $395 security system – in total, $52,260, closing in on GT350.

    Make mine black. And don’t forget, a Performance Package 2 is coming that adds more to this fun!

    Words & Photos: Dan Scanlan

    '18 MUSTANG GT TEST: PREMIUM W/PERFORMANCE!For more information about the latest Mustangs, please visit  https://www.ford.com/cars/mustang/2018/models/

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  • Every Little Counts For SEAT Leon Cupra 290

    Remember the SEAT Leon Cupra 280? Launched at the start of 2014 to a flood of praise and accolades (including from myself), it was seen as one of the best hot hatches on the market. Well, that’s so last year, because the Cupra 280 is gone.

    SEAT Leon Cupra 290 01

    SEAT Leon Cupra 290

    Instead we’ve got a Leon Cupra 290 and, as you might have guessed, it’s got a power increase of 10PS courtesy of a mild ECU remap. Which might not seem like much but, as a certain supermarket giant likes to remind us, every little counts. It takes the Leon’s output even closer to the Golf R, beats the Focus ST with ease and matches the Megane 275’s recent power hike.

    Not that you’ll notice much difference. The official acceleration times for the Cupra 290 are exactly the same at 5.7 seconds for the DSG and 5.8 for the manual transmission and top speed is still limited to 155mph. Economy and CO2 emissions are identical but the peak torque of 350Nm is at least available across more of the rev range than before, from 1,700rpm all the way to 5,800 rpm.

    Of course, you could go to an aftermarket tuner and get 4 or even 5 times the power increase along with some extra torques for a few hundred quid. The trouble is that might upset SEAT’s warranty department so if you want a little more power this is one way of getting it without affecting your Leon’s warranty.

    No official word on prices yet but expect to see a slight increase from the 280’s £28,485 OTR.

    SEAT Leon Cupra 290 02

    SEAT Leon Cupra 290

    Model 2015 Leon SC Cupra 290 2015 Leon SC Cupra 290 DSG 2014 Leon SC Cupra 280 2014 Leon SC Cupra 280 DSG
    Transmission 6-speed manual 6-speed dual-clutch automatic 6-speed manual 6-speed dual-clutch automatic
    Engine 2.0-litre 4-cylinder petrol 2.0-litre 4-cylinder petrol 2.0-litre 4-cylinder petrol 2.0-litre 4-cylinder petrol
    Power (PS / bhp) 290/287 290/287 280/276 280/276
    Torque (Nm /lb.ft) 350/258 350/258 350/258 350/258
    Kerb Weight (kg) 1,395 1,421 1,395 1,421
    MPG 42.2 42.8 42.2 42.8
    Top Speed 155 155 155 155
    0-62 mph (s) 5.8 5.7 5.8 5.7
    CO2 156 149 156 149
    VED G F G F
    Price £TBA £TBA £28,485 £29,840

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  • Mégane Renaultsport 275 Cup-S Lowers Price

    Renault are set to make their all-conquering Mégane Renaultsport even more irresistible by introducing a new entry-level model, slashing the price to under £24k.

    Megane Renaultsport 275 Cup-S Preview 09

    Megane Renaultsport 275 Cup-S

    The Renaultsport 275 Cup-S distills the Mégane’s essence into its purest form, ditching creature comforts in favour of the Cup chassis (usually a £1,350 option) and the same 275hp turbocharged petrol engine as the limited-edition 275 Trophy-R, and it’s all yours for just £23,935.

    Personally I wouldn’t be satisfied with that. Having driven a Trophy-spec Mégane I’d have to add the optional Ohlins dampers. They may be expensive at £2,000 but they transform the ride, improving both body control and the Mégane’s ability to handle bumps and compressions. You’ve then got the best handling chassis in its class for less than £26k, less than the price of a 227bhp Golf GTI.





    The headline figures can be a bit misleading though. In ‘normal’ mode the Megane’s turbocharged 4-cylinder engine develops buy nexium 20 250hp at 5,500rpm. It’s only when you start playing around with the Renaultsport Dynamic Management system that you can unleash the full-fat 275hp. With peak power comes 360Nm of torque, covering the mid-range from 3,000 to 5,000rpm.

    If the thought of a modern car without so much as air-conditioning puts you off then take a look at the other end of the Mégane spectrum. The new 275 Nav replaces the 265 Nav and represents the softer side of the Mégane’s character. For £25,935 you get the same engine and straight-line performance but sacrifice the Cup Chassis (still available as an option) for the slightly softer Sport setup and lots more toys in the cabin. It adds dual-zone climate, auto lights and wipers, R-Link V2 multimedia system with navigation, better sound system, keyless entry and tinted rear windows.

    Both the 275 Nav and Cup-S are available to order now with deliveries starting in November.


    Megane Renaultsport 275 Cup-S Preview 09

    Performance & Economy 2015 Mégane Renaultsport 275 Cup-S 2015 Mégane Renaultsport 275 Nav
    Engine 1,998cc turbocharged 4-cylinder, petrol 1,998cc turbocharged 4-cylinder, petrol
    Transmission 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
    Power (PS / bhp) 279 / 275 at 5,500rpm 279 / 275 at 5,500rpm
    Torque (Nm / lb.ft) 360 / 265 at 3,000-5,000rpm 279 / 275 @ 5,500rpm
    0 – 62 mph (seconds) 6.0 6.0
    Top Speed (mph) 158 158
    CO2 Emissions (g/km) 174 174
    VED Band H H
    Combined Economy (mpg) 37.7 37.7
    Kerb Weight (kg) 1,376 1,376
    Insurance Group 40E 40E
    Price (OTR) £23,935 £25,935

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