• INDYCAR: SO YOU WANT TO DRIVE THE INDY 500?

    We’ve suspected this for many years and now it’s official. The Indianapolis 500 is no longer a reasonable aspiration for most racing drivers, blogs Stephen Cox.

    Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) president Doug Boles was kind enough to talk with me briefly at the annual PRI trade show in Indy. I asked him what his plan was to increase the number of entries at the Indianapolis 500. His answer took me by surprise.

    “We grew up falling in love with the sport when you had that number of entries,” Boles said. “A lot of those entries were guys who sat around in December and said, ‘You know what? We’re going to build a car in our garage and we’re going to enter it at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indy 500.’”

    “But first and foremost in my mind is just really safety. I don’t think it makes sense for us to get back to fifty or sixty cars just from a safety standpoint,” Boles continued. “I’d love to see fifty or sixty or seventy cars entering and guys just being able to decide that they have a driver who’s running at Putnamville and we’re going to give him a shot to run at the Speedway. I just don’t think it’s practical anymore.”

    Let that statement sink in. American short track drivers – who routinely filled the field until the 1980s – are now considered unsafe and incapable of running the Indy 500.

    Don’t ever go back to the speedway and expect to find the next A. J. Foyt or Parnelli Jones. There won’t be one. Nor will you ever see another Stan Fox or Rich Vogler claw their way up through the ranks and make it to Indy. For that matter, we’re also unlikely to ever see another Rick Mears or Robby Gordon. Those guys got to Indy through off-road desert racing, not Indycar’s current ladder system. They would likely be considered unsafe at the speedway today.

    Boles countered by saying, “We have the best on-track product that we’ve ever had in the history of the speedway with the last five years. The number of lead changes we have, the number of cars in the field that have a chance of winning it.”

    True, recent events have had a certain NASCAR-green-white-checkered-overtime excitement to them. However, this was not achieved by eliminating drivers of sprint cars, off-road trucks, midgets, late-models or amateur sports cars from the speedway. It was achieved – if indeed, this can be called an “achievement” at all – through regulation.

    More teams are in contention because everyone is forced to use the same spec car. The additional lead changes were artificially created through “push to pass” legislation and turbo boost mandates. Using this logic, even better races could be manufactured by enacting a rule disqualifying anyone who leads two consecutive laps, thus assuring 249 lead changes in every 500!

    The bottom line is this – SCCA drivers are welcome to compete at IMS in the Run Offs. SVRA drivers are welcome to Indy’s vintage event. Short track drivers are welcome to buy tickets and sit in Turn Three.

    But the speedway has no intention of enlarging the field past forty cars and creating space that could be filled by new drivers from other disciplines. That is bad news for thousands of very good racing drivers worldwide. And it is even worse news for the Indianapolis 500 itself, whose relevancy continues to fade.

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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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  • Tuners Vs Ricers – Whats The Difference?

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    Tuners Vs Ricers – Whats The Difference? We explore the key differences between a Tuner and a Ricer. We put a Tuner and a Ricer head to head for differences between Exhausts, Bodykits, Burnouts, Donuts and more. This was all just a bit of fun and showing the extreme difference between a Tuner car and what people would class as a Ricer. We hope you enjoyed it anyway!

    We see tuners doing drifting, flames coming out of exhaust backfiring, Antilag and we cover some funny ricer moments including a ricer trying to drift, ricer doing a burnout or what is meant to be a burnout and a ricer shooting out water from their exhaust!

  • New Audi A4 Allroad brings with it latest Quattro-ultra four-wheel-drive system

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    The latest generation Audi A4 Allroad will take advantage of Audi’s new four-wheel drive Quattro-ultra system. The Allroad will run as a conventional front-wheel drive car but have the ability to switch to full all-wheel-drive when conditions demand it.

    We’ve got an in-depth preview of the new Quattro system, including what benefits it might potentially bring to the much more exciting RS models in the Audi range, here.

    As for the new A4 Allroad, the car is set to go on sale from from April 2016. Initially Quattro-ultra will only be available with Audi’s 248bhp 2.0-litre TFSI engine, although it is set to be rolled out across the rest of Audi’s longitudinally engined range.

    The A4 Allroad brings with it 34mm of extra ground clearance over the standard A4 Avant. It also features a new offroad mode and optional adaptive suspension.

    Those not looking for the new Quattro-ultra tech can opt for either a 2-litre diesel or a 3-litre diesel, both of which feature traditional Quattro drivetrains with a centre locking differential.

    The interior of the A4 Allroad brings with it all the revised interior tech found in the same new look A4 and A4 Avant. The HD ‘virtual cockpit’ found in the TT and R8 is an option, are Matrix LED headlights and MMI Navigation Plus.

     

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  • Toyota GT86 gets updated styling, quality improvements

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    Small changes should make Toyota’s sports car more liveable, but won’t make it any faster

    If you’re one of those people wishing the Toyota GT86 had a little more power, you’re… out of luck, but the sports car will still enjoy a host of revisions for its New York auto show debut next week.

    Lightly updated for the 2017 model year, Toyota has made small changes to the GT86’s styling, as well as welcome quality improvements to the interior.

    Styling updates start at the front, with a larger central air intake for a visually wider appearance. The bumper also features new fog light housings, while the headlights are all-LED units.

    There are changes at the rear too, albeit rather more subtle. The keen-eyed will notice different rear light units, and the model shown also lacks the rear spoiler standard on all but entry-level Primo models in the UK. New alloy wheels sharpen up the car’s profile.

    Changes inside are wider-ranging, aimed at improving interior ambience. There’s a new leather and Alcantara upholstery option and it’s now possible to trim the instrument panel in Alcantara too. You’ll also find it on the door trims, while there’s a new look to the steering wheel and contrasting silver stitching for the cloth seat option.

    While the engine remains unchanged – a 197bhp, 151lb ft, 2-litre flat four that needs to be worked hard but rewards with decent pace when you do. Suspension tuning has changed though, with revised damper tuning and different spring rates – for ‘easier control and increased agility’, according to Toyota.

    Pricing and full specification details are yet to be confirmed, though the small revisions mean there’s unlikely to be much difference from the existing £22,700 entry price. We’ll learn more next week, when the car is unveiled at the 2016 New York auto show.

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