• 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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  • ‘17 FIAT 124 SPIDER: CLASSICAL GAS!

    It’s what happens when you take a Mazda Miata and add a little Italian brio, blogs Road Test Editor, Howard Walker.

    Ready for a little Italian conversation class? Start by repeating after me: Bella piccolo macchina. Now say it with feeling, and maybe with an Italian-style shrug of the shoulders and upturned palms. The literal translation is ‘beautiful little machine’. And it’s also exactly how you’d describe Fiat’s new magnifico 124 Spider two-seater. Bella indeed.

    You might have heard about this new 124. It was developed hand-in-hand with Mazda – yep, I scratched my head too when I first read that piece of news. Fiat borrowed the underbody structure of Mazda’s much-loved Miata MX-5 and wrapped it with its own bodyshell – every panel is unique to the 124 – and squeezed in its own piccolo engine. Just don’t call it a Fiata!

    Makes sense. These days, small, affordable, old-school sports cars – even with $25-grand starting stickers – sell about as well as electric typewriters and Filofax planners. So it was tough for Fiat to justify going it alone to build a new 124. Split the costs with Mazda, send the two cars down the same production line in Japan, and it becomes a lot more financially sound.

    As much as I love the little MX-5, I have more amore for this little Fiat. It has oodles of styling cues from Fiat’s classic 1970s 124 Spider – the twin power bulges on the hood, the distinctive front grille, rear fenders that look like Joan Collins’ shoulder-pads in Dynasty. It’s also around five inches longer than the Mazda, which somehow makes it feel less dainty, more substantial.

    And while it would have been so much easier for Fiat to stick with the MX-5’s trusty 2-0-liter SkyActive four-banger, full credit to them for wanting to use their own 1.4-liter Multiair turbo from the plucky Fiat 500 Abarth. Not that there’s much difference in power; 160-horsepower for the Fiat, 155 for the Mazda, though the 124 gets a 36 pound-foot hike in torque which kinda counters the Fiat’s extra 100 pounds in weight.

    Thankfully they stuck with the MX-5’s brilliant folding canvas top. To me, it’s still the benchmark for a manual roof. Flip a lever, flop the top back to stow on the rear deck, 10 seconds max. And you do it with one hand. While in the car.

    So what’s it like to drive? Bellissimo. The whole point of a two-seater like this is for it to be fun, and to put a big smile on your face. And the little Fiat delivers. The fizzy turbo engine provides a ton of thrust to get you off the line fast, to zip you past slower traffic, and to punch you out of a tight bend.

    Interestingly our tester came with a six-speed automatic rather than the knife-through-butter-precise six-speed stick. My initial reaction was ‘no way’. But for our arrow-straight, traffic-congested Florida roads, it makes perfect sense. The shifts are smooth, it’s eager to kickdown and there’s manual shifting if you feel the need.

    Fiat offers three 124 Spiders to choose from. The base Classica kicks off at $24,995. Then there’s the leather-trimmed Lusso I’ve been driving with the bigger 17-inch alloys and silver windshield surround. For performance fans, there’s the feistier 124 Abarth with tighter suspension that starts at $28,195.

    Why would anyone buy a 124 Spider? It’s a fun, affordable ‘toy’ that’s a blast to drive, especially top-down on a blue-sky Florida winter day. And if you remember with affection the old 124 Spider, this car will rekindle those nostalgic memories.

     

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  • Halo system pushed back to 2018

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    The Halo head protection system has been pushed back to 2018.

    A statement issued by the FIA said the strategy group had “agreed unanimously that the 2018 season will see the introduction of frontal cockpit protection for Formula One cars in order to significantly enhance the safety of the drivers”.

    The FIA previously stated in February that Halo was the “preferred option” for introduction in 2017.
    However the Strategy Group today declared that “owing to the relatively short time frame until the commencement of the 2017 Formula One season it would be prudent to use the remainder of this year and early next year to further evaluate the full potential of all options before final confirmation”.

    “This will include undertaking multiple on-track tests of the ‘Halo’ system in practice sessions during the rest of this season and during the first part of the 2017 season.”

    “While the Halo is currently the preferred option, as it provides the broadest solution to date, the consensus among the Strategy Group was that another year of development could result in an even more complete solution.”

    “Halo remains a strong option for introduction in 2018,” it added.

  • Radio rules to be lifted for German GP

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    Following a series of controversial decisions and rulings, the ban on certain radio restrictions are to be lifted at this weekend’s German Grand Prix.



    The restrictions were introduced following complaints drivers were receiving too much assistance with their driving from race engineers. They were enforced via a strict interpretation of articles 27.1 of the sporting regulations.

    The FIA announced today that “at the request of the teams and commercial rights holder”, the FIA has agreed to adopt a more liberal approach to the interpretation of article 27.1 (that a driver must drive the car “alone and unaided”).

    “With the exception of the period between the start of the formation lap and the start of the race, there will be no limitations on messages teams send to their drivers either by radio or pit board”.

    “This approach is aimed at providing improved content for fans and spectators, as teams will now be required to provide the Commercial Rights Holder with unrestricted access to their radio messages at all times that their cars are out of the garages”.

  • FIA confirm new track limits rules

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    The FIA has confirmed the approach that its stewards will take to drivers exceeding track limits for the rest of the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend.

    Race Director Charlie Whiting announced in a note to teams that he and the stewards will be taking a ‘zero tolerance’ attitude to drivers exceeding tracks limits in turns four and 11 in qualifying and will be adopting a four strikes rule during the race.

    The full notice from Charlie Whiting to the teams is as follows:

    Further to the discussion in the drivers meeting yesterday evening I would like to confirm that:
    a) We will be adopting a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to cars leaving the track at turns four and 11 during qualifying. Please note that this will be judged by the use of timing loops in the kerbs and, to ensure that we see no false crossings, we would like to make it clear that the loops are set up to register a crossing when a car is approximately 20cm beyond the white line. Every lap time achieved by leaving the track will be deleted in accordance with Article 12.3.1d of the Sporting Code.

    b) During the race, and in accordance with Article 27.4 of the Sporting Regulations, any driver who is judged to have left the track three times at these corners (when counted cumulatively) will be shown a black-and-white flag. One further crossing will result in a report being made to the stewards for not having made every reasonable effort to use the track. As discussed, this is likely to result in a driver-through penalty for any driver concerned.

    However, if we are satisfied that a driver left the track at these points for reasons beyond his control – having been forced off the track, for example – lap times will not be deleted during qualifying, nor will such a crossing be counted towards a driver’s total in the race.

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