Consummate Corvette aficionado K. Scott Teeters blogs about Ken Hazelton’s unique split-window coupe that has never been driven on the street. Zora Arkus-Duntov would have been proud.
Although born to be a street sports car, this Sting Ray has never been anything but a racecar. Zora Arkus-Duntov was the driving force behind making sure that production Corvettes could be easily turned into competitive racecars. He was famous for saying, “I want my customers to enjoy their Corvette.”
Even though he was in the engineering department and not sales and marketing, he thought like a salesman. Duntov’s insistence that Corvette customers had access to Chevrolet engineered parts for racing, created the Corvette’s racing halo.
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The Subaru BRZ is one of the best kept secrets of the auotmotive world.
Developed alongisde the near-identical Toyota GT86, it’s an affordable back-to-basics front
engined, rear-wheel drive 2+2 sports coupe.
For 2017, Subaru has given the evergreen BRZ a mid-life facelift, equipment upgrade and distilled the trim options down to just one – SE Lux.
The exterior design tweaks are subtle, apart from the old school aerodynamic wing at the rear. Elsewhere, there’s a new front bumper, LED headlights and 10-spoke 17-inch alloys.
You can choose from five colours, though Subaru’s iconic WR (World Rally) Blue Pearl is surely the one to go for.
Inside, a 4.2-inch LCD colour display is added to the instrument display, featuring such sporting essentials as a G-Force meter and braking gauge.
The leather steering wheel is now smaller and boasts audio controls, while plastics generally have been upgraded or replaced by leather, giving the cabin a more upmarket feel.
The Alcantra and leather seats are more comfortable than ever (the driver’s seat has a six-way adjustment), while a 6.2-inch touchscreen has been added to the centre console, though sat nav is a £1,250 option.
The infotainment system is not as hi-tech as the best of them, but it does the job and, of course, offers full connectivity.
Traditionalists will be pleased to note that the cockpit is still adorned with plenty of retro-feel knobs and toggle switches.
The rear passenger seats are fitted with ISOFIX anchor points, but as with most 2+2s, they are
almost totally useless. Better news in the boot where there’s 243 litres of space available – 1,270 with the rear seats folded flat.
The 2017 Subaru BRZ is more driver focused than ever. Sadly, there’s no extra power for the 2.0-
litre 200PS ‘Boxer’ petrol engine, but it is more responsive, it still sounds suitably throaty and CO2 emissions are slightly lower.
Elsewhere, Subaru’s engineers have made various changes (to the steering, suspension, dampers and
brakes) to tweak the driving dynamics and make the BRZ even sharper than before.
Priced from £26,050, the BRZ is one of the most entertaining cars you’ll find for that money.
The chassis is better than ever and it’s enormous fun on flowing country roads. Agile and engaging, it’s helped by a slick six-speed short-throw manual gearbox and it feels totally
For the record, the BRZ is capable of 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds (but feels faster) and it tops out at 140mph. Fuel economy is a claimed 36.2mpg (and it not far off that in the real world), while CO2 emissions are a very average 180g/km.
But here’s the thing. The BRZ is also now available with automatic transmission – and it’s a bit of a revelation.
It may sounds like sacrilege in a sports car package like this, but the auto box slams through the gears pretty well – even producing the odd pop on down-changes, allowing you to concentrate on the driving. The engine even sounds more sporty.
Verdict: The new, improved Subaru BRZ is better than ever. With a mild makeover inside and out, plus enhanced driving dynamics, it has to be one of the best-value, most entertaining sports cars
on the market – and it still looks just as cool.
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.
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.
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.
It’s just a shame they haven’t produced a matching motorcycle trailer and made it all available as a set!
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.
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.