From Race-Car to Your Car – What is the Connection?

For the past several days, I have been entertaining myself with various questions related to the automotive world. Usually these questions lead to nothing more than my tediously drooling over certain vehicles on the internet that I will never have the pleasure of owning, let along drive. But, along my rapid questioning covering a certain vehicle segment, I decided to gather some information from others as to their thoughts. Besides, more input from other points of view can really add depth and clarity to a discussion, even if that discussion started off as a mere wonder.

As I began discussing sport and performance in today’s market with a friend of mine yesterday and today, the discussion lead to the racetrack. What is the relationship between the track and the road? What is the relationship between those highly-tuned, screaming race machines and our conventional road-car? These were the questions that lead to other discussions as to motor-sport history, motor-sport race types, etc…

Essentially, as I firmly believe, the new technology used and developed for the track eventually trickles down into the cars we drive everyday. At least that is what I believe should be the aim of those companies that take part in racing. Examples that came to mind immediately were the new Audi autos, the Corvette, a Porsche here and there, the BMW M-Cars, and the new Mercedes-Benz models. While there are many, many other vehicles and brands that take part in racing, these handful are some of the most lusted-for vehicles on the planet at the moment. Audi has dominated Le Mans basically since the year 2000, the Corvette seems unstoppable in Grand-AM and ALMS (American Le Mans Series), Porsche used to own Le Mans and still participates in several Cup-Car, Le Mans-style series, and other championships with a lot of success, BMW basically stomps everyone in DTM racing and has the touring-car thing down to a “t” since they basically invented it, and Mercedes-Benz AMG has absolutely obliterated the competition this year in Formula 1. How do those cars we see on Sunday sell cars on Monday? Is there even a connection? Which race series provides a better test-bed for road-car production?

As my friend and I pondered and discussed these questions, we realized that there are many companies that make fantastic cars that are not bred on the track. But in all honesty, the breeding and testing on the track helps the production models in some area. A great performer on the road does not necessarily have to be conceived on the track with tons of engineers, but every car bred on the track is a great performer. Basically its one of those situations similar to “that every Bourbon is a Whiskey, but not every Whiskey is a Bourbon” kind of things.

Le Mans-style racing is all about endurance, fuel management, durability; F1 is all about speed, grip, tire testing, engine building, etc…; and DTM is all about the “rub” while trying to out-maneuver your opponent. These are just 3 of the most popular types of racing today (sorry NASCAR, but snooze for me), but they each have some sort of development that has trickled down to their production models if they so have them.

What do you think? Do you agree with the concluded assessment? I would like to hear from you! Thanks for reading and enjoy!

 

- JRB, Editor-in-Chief of The Spirited Drive

Car Culture in Small-Town America – Fulton, KY Banana Festival 2014

So the past two months have been festival season here in Northwest Tennessee and Western Kentucky. Every small town seems to have a festival of some sort whether it honors the soybean, the banana, or a lot of corn. Essentially, when it comes to festivals in the rural area that I grew up, their namesakes stem from a harvest produce or some tradition. Along with a vast array of festivals that are named after many different types of vegetables, festive-events bring about certain things: smoked foods that smell awesome, contests, parades, carnival rides, etc… But what I am most interested in when it comes to these shin-digs are the car shows. And it just so happens that my home-town has a fairly good car show every year.

Row of Corvettes

Row of Corvettes

Now, growing up in a rural area, most kids my age that were into automobiles glorified and praised all things American whether it is the corvette, an old hot-rod in granddad’s barn, or pop’s 1950s pickup. I enjoy seeing these brutes as well as many owners have lavished them with tensile and love, and that, whether you are a fan of American cars, classic hot-rods, or imports, is something that can be appreciated. The love and passion that these car owners have towards their pride-and-joy is overwhelming and fantastic. While I prefer other vehicles rather than classic hot-rods or American vehicles as a matter of personal taste, I am first and foremost a car person, so I can appreciate the Americana that comes out at these local festivals. Excellent and noteworthy cars involve engineering, thoughtful and purposefully-built ideas, and passion to become a reality. That is the common thread that enables someone who is a car person (like myself) to relate to other car folks who worship old GMs, Fords, and many others, and the reason why I can happily spend my afternoon browsing some great American automobilia and appreciate what I see and the people I converse with. I get to see classic engineering, old friends, people who are really into their American beauties, and observe the fact that a car-culture is alive and well in small-town America. Being a proud American, it makes me even more proud that classic American automobiles are still popular today.

 

- JRB, Editor-in-Chief of The Spirited Drive

Spirited Driving: What is your flavor? – Opinion!

The max speed. Picture it: you are going full-max in your sporty vehicle on the four-lane. Seems like it would be great fun… until you feel the wobble, you smell something that undoubtedly would resemble an engine being put to death, and the chassis seems to hate you.

I enjoy the going fast bit (don’t get me wrong); speed is a beautiful thing, but feeling out of control is not fun. Top speed matters at the bar arguing with other gear-heads, at the local oval, or when you occasionally need to get overtake the minivan that just cut you off. However, the most fun you can have in a sporty car is seeing how fast you can get to the speed limit or how many apexes (within you respective lane) you can hit in the next 2 miles of curvy road (the squiggly road signs are the best!). Despite the dangers of going full-max at top speed, not to mention the amount of gas and strain you put on a motor, companies brag about it and people seem to care and fall for their trap. Perhaps it is just me, but I rather take the twisty road any day rather than the dull four-lane for some fun. To me, The Spirited Drive is all about the apex hugging, rev-matching, tire-punishing, control-oriented drives on your favorite twisty-bit of pavement.

What do you think? Enjoy top speed more or doing the twisty sections? Like hitting the speed limit as fast as possible? Let us know! Comment below!

 

- JRB, Editor-in-Chief of The Spirited Drive

Mercedes-Benz CLA and GLA – A Quality Benz for Everyone

When first looking at Mercedes-Benz’s newest family members, it’s evident that a new target audience was in mind throughout the entire development process. To be brutally honest, Mercedes-Benz has usually been defined as a “Gen X” vehicle. The smoother ride, the more classic body styling; all the way around, the pre-2008 Mercedes-Benz vehicles were never “designed” for the younger audience. In 2008, Mercedes-Benz began to take on a more youthful, refined look beginning in its C-Class.

Now in 2014, Mercedes-Benz is producing vehicles with all-out aggressive styling. At the forefront of this asphalt-eating pack are the CLA and GLA vehicles and classes.

The CLA, having been out for about a year now, is a four door coupé. Before you get all up in arms about the term “four door coupé,” let me explain the term. The vehicle is designed with four doors for convenience purposes. With this car being targeted towards a younger audience, it needs to push the limits of the automotive industry. The deep swooping back mimics that of a traditional coupé, but the vehicle offers the convenience of a four door sedan. Additionally, the trunk offers ample space for large items. If there were no rear doors, the vehicle would still look like a nice car, but adding the rear doors makes it something in its own league.

The GLA, in direct competition with the BMW X1, does all it should do and more. With more standard features than BMW even offers as options, the GLA sits nicely at the head of its class. It sits on the same chassis as the CLA, but offers a totally different experience. Being a small SUV, it doesn’t feel so small on the inside. Between the standard power lift gate that can be adjusted to open to the height you want, and the modern and sleek interior, it doesn’t feel like you’re in a car that starts in the low 30-thousand range. It has a low and wide stance, adding to the aggressive look.

Both vehicles have a standard power plant of a turbo charged inline four cylinder that offers enough pep to make the drive really fun, and fuel efficient. The 7 speed, dual-clutch transmission in these vehicles is the exact same one that is offered in the high end AMG models, such as the SLS AMG and the AMG GT. Both vehicles have similar front ends as well. They look similar to a set of hawk eyes glaring at you for a demeanor that is young, sleek, and ultimately fierce.
Overall, these vehicles are definitely something to check out when looking to purchase your next vehicle. The battle that so many tend to fight of “Mercedes-Benz is too expensive for me” is no longer a relevant argument. With the CLA starting at just under $30,000 and the GLA starting at just over $33,000, these prove to be more realistic options for many more people. If you want to go for a more high-end option, both the CLA and GLA offer an AMG model as well. And don’t kid yourself. If you think these aren’t genuine Mercedes-Benz products because of their price, drive one. All of your expectations will be met and surpassed.

Allen Cardosi, Automotive Contributor

Edited by JRB, Editor-in-Chief