Driving Techniques – Automoblog.net http://www.automoblog.net The Car Blog for Gearheads Sat, 17 Feb 2018 21:47:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.4 http://www.automoblog.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/automoblog-Twitter-profile-60x60.png Driving Techniques – Automoblog.net http://www.automoblog.net 32 32 8746165 Audi Driving Experience Opens To All Enthusiasts http://www.automoblog.net/2017/08/28/audi-driving-experience-opens-to-all-enthusiasts/ http://www.automoblog.net/2017/08/28/audi-driving-experience-opens-to-all-enthusiasts/#comments Mon, 28 Aug 2017 14:30:56 +0000 http://www.automoblog.net/?p=86081

Audi, like a number of other car companies, is doing that “driving academy,” “driving weekend,” “track experience” thing where they let you flog their cars and, hopefully, by the end of it, make a few sales. In Audi’s case, their deal is called The Audi Driving Experience and it takes place at the Circuit of The Americas, or COTA, in Austin, Texas. My initial response upon hearing this can be summed up in six words: SEND ME, SEND ME, SEND ME!!!

Come One, Come All

Look, I am not that much of a track-tard – to use the current parlance of those who spend every waking minute either at, going to, or prepping to get whatever car they can afford to the track. Then again, I am not above wanting to drive the bejeebers out of someone else’s car on a track, especially in a relatively consequence-free way. Plus, I am almost sure we have corporate insurance here at Automoblog for something like this.

The all-new driving experience that Audi of America put together in collaboration with the Circuit of The Americas is specifically for customers and fans. To me, that kinda reads like you don’t have to have already bought an Audi, just convince them that you’re considering one. Audi says their Driving Experience is open year-round to drivers of all experience levels. Meaning you can be a complete stoop of a driver with fists of ham and fingers of butter and a small, yet burgeoning career as an automotive “journalist” and still be invited (nudge-nudge, wink-wink, hint-hint).

The program is more than just turning you loose on the track by yourself though. It includes hands-on coaching from professional instructors, dynamic car control exercises, proper cornering techniques, and high speed lead and follow exercises on the track. All of which sound very enlightening and fun.

Photo: Audi of America, Inc.

Healthy Stable

And the cars, you ask? What kind of Audis do you get to drive? Oh, that’s where things go from the ridiculous to the sublime. The vehicles featured include the Audi Q7 (yes, that would be the huge, Shamu-like SUV thing) the all-new RS 3 (interesting, yes) the Audi TT RS (potentially more interesting still) and the R8 V10 plus (which is where I stop typing and start calling the purchasing and accounting department at One Automoblog Towers and beg them for the cash).

The nuts and bolts break down into four distinct track activities: The Audi Sport dynamic experience, Audi Sport track initiation experience, Audi Sport R8 track initiation experience, and the Audi Sport R8 pro track experience. Each offer unique programs that span from half-day, one day or two day experiences, and each program comprises a classroom session followed by “a hands-on interactive experience.” Or, to put it in terms you gearhead track-tards will grok: You get to go drive!

Photo: Audi of America, Inc.

Dynamic & Track Initiation Experience

The Audi Sport dynamic experience gets you guidance from a professional instructor, with an introduction to understanding and working the key principles of performance driving. The driving seems to take place in the paddock and features the Audi RS 3 and the TT RS.

The Audi Sport track initiation experience, which I sincerely hope does not involve goats or the full moon, is a half-day program where you get to master vehicle control and handling in the TT RS, RS 3, and the R8 V10 plus. Audi says this is through “dynamic exercises that demand a high level of coordination utilizing both the exercise paddocks and the circuit.” All I know is that I heard the phrase “and the circuit,” and stopped worrying about the particulars.

The next step up is the Audi Sport R8 track initiation experience (also sans goats et al (I hope)). This is a one-day program that gets you behind the wheel of the R8 V10 plus to “discover its full potential on the Formula 1 Circuit.” To me, that sounds like “have fun over-cooking it.” The Audi Sport R8 track initiation experience revolves around race course sector training. This allows you to get acquainted with all of the race track’s particular features before trying to string an entire, hopefully flawless, lap together.

Photo: Audi of America, Inc.

R8 Pro Track Experience

And finally, we arrive at the summit, the Audi Sport R8 pro track experience. First you have to complete the Audi Sport R8 track initiation experience, carry a burning brazier with your forearms, and save Ra’s Al Ghul, but then you go through training with the professional instructors for two days behind the wheel of the R8 V10 plus. And, you know, to me, that sounds like a pretty good bargain, all in all.  Audi says this is “designed for true driving enthusiasts,” to which I respond with a resounding “duh!”

And, of course, there are extras. In addition to the pro instructors, you also get to enjoy dedicated suites and garages along with catered meals. All this and a free lunch too!? What’s not to like?

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He means well, even if he has a bias toward lighter, agile cars rather than big engine muscle cars or family sedans.

Photos & Source: Audi of America, Inc.

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6 Lessons From the Lucas Oil School of Racing http://www.automoblog.net/2016/06/18/6-lessons-lucas-oil-school-racing/ http://www.automoblog.net/2016/06/18/6-lessons-lucas-oil-school-racing/#respond Sat, 18 Jun 2016 11:30:01 +0000 http://www.automoblog.net/?p=69521 Anyone who loves cars has likely had a Walter Mitty moment, dreaming of piloting a race car down a winding track. Most of us would likely admit we’ve fantasized about carving the corners in Monaco, or going wheel-to-wheel with Patrick Dempsey in a privateer GT3 on the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans.

Brake, steering wheel, accelerator. I mean how hard could it be? Just make sure the leggy models on the winner’s podium are under 5’4” so they won’t tower over me when I’m holding the trophy.

Eager to bring my Walter Mitty dreams to life (and perhaps be discovered as an untapped racing genius), I happily accepted an invitation to a Lucas Oil School of Racing session at Virginia International Raceway.

Lesson #1

Don’t wreck the cars.

The Lucas Oil School of Racing is a relative newcomer to the racing school scene. Founded in December 2015 by Florida businessman and racing team owner Neil Enerson, they seek to bring a breath of fresh air into the largely staid racing school industry.

Marketing Director James Altemus believes it’s been on the decline for many years.

“There are fewer players, they are more regional, and the cars they use are less and less relevant to cars being raced professionally and in various development series,” Altemus said. “We saw the opportunity to come into the market with a modern formula car, complete with modern elements like paddle shifters, video and data acquisition, and greater tuneability thanks to electronics.”

My training starts in the classroom with an early morning briefing and waiver signing. The class is led by veteran racer Randy Buck, the school’s gregarious, mustachioed chief instructor, and one of several highly seasoned trainers on staff.

Here I confront race car driving lesson number one: don’t wreck the cars. We may all have track day fantasies, but Walter Mitty never had to face a $3000 damage deductible if he planted the car into a barrier.


Automoblog Columnist Jonathan Orr

Lesson #2

Maybe racing careers aren’t for poor journalists.

The class was surprisingly small, just six of us, but I find I’m surrounded by drivers with significantly more seat time than me. Two of the other students are just teens, but hardly rubes out to learn how to parallel park: both are skilled karting racers and former national champs.

I find only one fellow student close to my rookie status, Patrick, but he’s at least attended one other driving school. Reality sets in for me early.

The Lucas Oil School uses a small, open wheeled Ray Formula Car GR11, an F3 homologation car built in Britain. The Ray is small and sleek, and reminds me of what the adolescent child of two full-fledged F1 cars would look like if they mated.

Customized for the school, the Ray is equipped with a 2-liter four cylinder engine and paddle shifters with rev matching. One great perk is how the cars include a data acquisition and video system to provide that oh-so-important high-tech feedback.

Our first day starts with braking, stuck throttle, and cornering exercises. The Ray is high-tech but has no anti-lock brakes. I find my lifetime of conservative braking has not prepared me to explore the limits of wheel lock.

Photo of author in race car

Lucas Oil promises about five hours of track time during their two day basic course, and they certainly deliver. After our orientation to trail braking, racing lines, and track rules, we got comfortable in the cockpit. Photo: Isabelle Southern

Lesson #3

Hit the brakes hard while racing. I mean really, really hard.

It’s during some of the braking and cornering exercises that I get to experience my first spinouts on the track. It’s shocking when it does finally occur, like a carnival ride suddenly breaking free and depositing you in the grass. Most of us do eventually wipe out at some point, including the semi-pro teens.

While feeling a bit chagrined the first time it happened, my fellow student Patrick offers a refreshing perspective that cheers me up.

“If you spin, it means you’ve got the balls to really push it.”

Lesson #4

Every person wipes out sometimes. Or maybe Patrick was just being nice?

We finish day one with some open lapping that allows us to work on putting together all the pieces we’ve learned. Trying to master the proper line and braking in the turns is a challenge, but I quickly come to find the long straightaway is the most fun. It comes right after a turn known as “Oak Tree,” though the eponymous tree is no longer standing.

I usually mangle the sweeping right hand turn at Oak Tree, but love running out the small Ray, hitting max speed, and bumping up against the rev limiter. I try desperately not to lift off the accelerator or brake too soon into the approaching hairpin.

And then I do both.

Nonetheless the sense of speed is intoxicating. The open cockpit and wind buffeting provide a visceral experience our hermetically sealed, everyday cars just can’t match.

We were blessed with gorgeous weather the first day, but day two is awful. It’s overcast and pouring rain. The cars have ordinary, street-legal Cooper performance tires, well suited to a wet track, but the rain offers a whole new level of white-knuckle excitement.

Race car at Lucas Oil School of Racing

Cars disappeared ahead of me in the rain in mere yards. The grass I slid into on occasion was slick as ice, making my off-road adventures more hair-raising than ever.

Lesson #5

Racing in the rain scares the you-know-what out of me.

I ultimately take a short break from the driving, sitting out one of our rainy lap sessions to grab pictures. After lunch my confidence returns, as does the clear weather. We’re able to complete our syllabus, including the rolling practice starts to satisfy racing licensing standards.

After two long days, I’m tired but exhilarated. And all too aware of my limitations. Of course, a mere few hours on the track for a newbie like me is just a bit of introductory fun. As Randy repeatedly emphasized, it’s hard to beat experience.

“Seat time is key. Most people wildly underestimate how much value there is in [just] driving. Everyone needs time to be trained,” he said.

Lesson #6

Good race car drivers might be born, but they also require a lot of track time. Maybe there’s hope for me yet?

The Lucas Oil School of Racing proved both educational and eye-opening. I’m not the savant I hoped, but my two days on the track was stupid fun. I may not be ready for Le Mans, but I certainly have a new appreciation for what seasoned pros make look so easy on TV.

The Lucas Oil School of Racing offers training classes around the country and throughout the year. The basic training session I took started around $2,000 per seat, with all Walter Mitty types welcome.

*Jonathan Orr is a writer, car aficionado, PR pro, Afghanistan veteran, and proud father. He considers his beloved Porsche 911 a member of the family. Follow him on Twitter: @jonathanjorr

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5 Tips to Save Fuel (#3 Might Surprise You) http://www.automoblog.net/2015/10/26/5-tips-help-save-fuel/ http://www.automoblog.net/2015/10/26/5-tips-help-save-fuel/#comments Mon, 26 Oct 2015 16:20:08 +0000 http://www.automoblog.net/?p=60175 Empty Tank: How to Save Fuel When You're Low

Your Imperative Survival to the Nearest Gas Station.

This is always an issue for some, if not most of us. You find yourself almost out of gas with no gas station in sight. The pressure starts rising when you make eye-contact with the vicious letter “E” that seems to say, “every time you look at me, I won’t magically fill up!”

You starting wishing your muscle car was now a Prius . . . I understand we unintentionally find ourselves in situations where we are running on empty while trying to hunt down that gas station.

Here are 5 Tips to Help you Save Fuel When You’re Low!

1.) Avoid Driving Aggressively

You lose a lot of fuel when you’re constantly slowing down and then accelerating again to gain your momentum on the road. Your consumption increases when you allow your vehicle’s speed to drift to low speeds, then compensate by accelerating back up. Keeping your foot steady and in one place keeps the gas flowing minimally.

Try slowing your car when climbing hills, then gain speed by coasting down for further efficiency.

2.) Shift Wisely

Low gear and high speeds make your car sound cool but for the love of all things free, you’re straining your engine, which means losing more gas! Shift gears carefully according to your desired speed and stop showing off – you’re almost out of gas anyway, where does the cockiness come from?


3.) Don’t Tailgate

This goes back to my earlier statement on trying to regain speed all the time, with the added factor of braking unnecessarily. When the driver in front of you brakes hard, you do the same. When he speeds up, you do that too. You’re marching on, doing samezies on the road, except for one fact: he probably doesn’t have to fill up.

In general, full tank or not, tailgating is just annoying!  We have a list of the most annoying drivers and what they look like.

4.) Avoid Idling

If you’re stuck on traffic with no way out, turn your car off. It might not sound right but if your car is idle for more than a minute, you start losing unnecessary volumes of gas. Turn it off, wait for things to get moving again and turn it back on. Remember, your mission at this point is to save fuel, no matter what, until you get to a gas station.

5.) Obey the Speed Limit

You read right. Don’t rush to the gas station! Your foot should rest off and away from the pedal, allowing your car to coast. You’re car starts consuming more fuel when you race to high speeds and requires more gas to get back to that higher speed after you’ve just braked.

Again, your pedal and brake foot work can either save you or screw when you’re trying to save fuel.


There are a lot of tips and tricks I can include and highlight for you but the truth is: Avoid driving your car when it’s almost on empty. Even when you’re short on cash, gather what you can to get your tank above 1/4.

When you’re driving on almost empty, all the gunk at the bottom of your tank gets sucked through your car and that may add more maintenance problems to your car.

Did we miss one?  What do you do to help you save fuel?

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Burning Rubber in San Antonio: Why Tires Matter http://www.automoblog.net/2014/07/03/san-antonio-why-tires-matter/ http://www.automoblog.net/2014/07/03/san-antonio-why-tires-matter/#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 19:16:30 +0000 http://www.automoblog.net/?p=47332 I really wanted to test drive the boats on the San Antonio River Walk.  They look like a lot of fun… except for that awkward steering.

Left is right and right is left?  Ain't nobody got time for that...

Left is right and right is left? Ain’t nobody got time for that…

My lesson on the mechanics of Starboard and Port Tiller Steering would have to wait.  It was time to head to The Cooper Tire & Vehicle Test Center for day #2 of the Cooper CS5 Media Ride-N-Drive. (Read about Day #1 here if you missed it)

A group photo as we arrived.  Can you tell which one I am?  That's right.  The bonehead with the long sleeves on in Texas.  Well, in Michigan our seasons are different with winter running from January to June, then summer is from June to July and winter returns from August to December.

A group photo as we arrived. Can you tell which one I am? That’s right. The bonehead with the long sleeves on in Texas. Well, in Michigan our seasons are different with winter running from January to June, then summer is from June to July and winter returns from August to December.

Cooper Tires is headquartered in Findlay, Ohio and employs 13,000 people, some of whom I was privileged to meet.  Cooper bands include Mastercraft, Starfire and Mickey Thompson, among others.  Truck fans know the latter quite well.  In 1952, Cooper debuted the Weathermaster and they are still sold today.  Cushion Ride, a tubeless tire, was released in 1954 and nearly 50 years later, the Zeon surfaced.  I will explain what those do on a Corvette in my next installment!  Oh baby…

Yet, the star of the show is the new CS5.  Cooper unveiled these to commemorate 100 years and I took a century of design and innovation and forced it to the limit.

Ariel view of the Cooper Tire and Vehicle Test Center located south of San Antonio on Interstate 35.  Note the wet track - the black square in the upper left corner.

Ariel view of the Cooper Tire and Vehicle Test Center located south of San Antonio on Interstate 35. The Wet Vehicle Dynamics Assessment Pad is the black, 14 acre square in the upper left corner. The Dry Handling Circuit begins at the large oval, just behind the central building.   There is also a two mile race track and an off road test course.  The facility totals 1,000 acres.

The Dry Handling Circuit

Don't hit the cones on this road course...like I did.

Don’t hit the cones on this road course…like I did.

I took my initial run in one of two 2014, 3 Series BMWs.  One equipped with Cooper CS5 Ultra Touring tires and the other with  Pirelli Cinturato P7 tires. The size was 225/50R17.

The BMW equipped with Cooper CS5 Ultra Touring tires.  The Cooper Tires Team (seen in the background) attended to the cars and track after each run.  The red 3 Series, also seen in the background, had the Pirelli  Cinturato P7 tires.  This experience reminded me of something out of National Geographic.  The second an animal is born into the wild, predators arrive.  The CS5 is like that – released into the wild and already Pirelli looks to attack.

The red 3 Series, seen in the background, had the Pirelli Cinturato P7 tires. This reminded me of something out of National Geographic. The second an animal is born into the wild, predators arrive. The CS5 is like that – released into the wild and already Pirelli looks to attack.

As a result of my dealership background, I am very familiar with the 3 Series.  Since I have much experience with this particular car, I felt very comfortable behind the wheel.  And I wanted to, for the sake of really testing the tires, use that to my advantage.

Me taking a run in the 3 Series and making the tight turns as laid out by the cones.

Me taking a run in the 3 Series and making the tight turns as laid out by the cones.

The brake/throttle combination was key on the Dry Handling Course.  As I approached each corner with the CS5 tires, I felt them pull me back to the ground, in light of the car’s momentum.  The Pirelli tires on the red 3 Series, during my second run, were nice but more prone to excessive sway.

The CS5 tires absorbed the movements in the corner much better.

The Cooper CS5 did a better job accentuating the suspension and handling, a powerful selling point of the BMW brand.  During my time at Luxury Automall of Sioux Falls, I heard many customers comment positively on the ride of their BMW.  These were not race car drivers with access to tracks like Cooper’s Dry Handling Circuit.  They were everyday consumers but with power; power to change the entire auto industry in how they spend their dollars.

Putting a less capable tire on a BMW they purchased (and willingly paid more for than the average vehicle) would compromise the ride quality they so deeply desired.  Dry Handling Course aside, the tire I would recommend in this case is the CS5.  In addition, any driver, regardless of car, will be much better off with a tire, like the CS5, in the event of an evasive maneuver.  Now we are not only talking about a tire supporting the ride but the traction control system, specifically designed to lessen yaw, roll and pitch during such situations.

A paramount distinction.

Me making a run in the BMW 3 Series with Pirelli Cinturato P7 tires.  Notice the cones just ahead that are knocked over...

Me making a run in the BMW 3 Series with Pirelli Cinturato P7 tires. Notice the cones just ahead that are knocked over…

During my run in the red BMW, with the Pirelli Cinturato P7 tires, I spun around completely and destroyed several cones.  The tires did not handle the way I needed and it should be noted: my knowledge of the BMW 3 Series didn’t prevent me from spinning out.  That said, the right tires are a critical piece of the puzzle.  What if I had suddenly needed to make that evasive maneuver to avoid, say a child running after a ball rolling into the street?

It’s an unpleasant but necessary consideration.

On a softer note, one of the reps from The Zimmerman Agency decided to ride with me for this run.  I don’t think she was ready for the little twisty twister incident we encountered.  Sorry Christa… I didn’t mean it.  I still hope we are friends?

Wet Vehicle Dynamics Assessment Pad

After lunch it was time for round two…

The Cooper Team studies a number of things, including hydroplaning and the characteristics of it, on the Wet Vehicle Dynamics Assessment Pad.  The water flow is uniform  and the tracked is slightly inclined to recycle it, via the drains at the bottom of the photo.

The Cooper Team studies a number of things, including hydroplaning and the characteristics of it, on the Wet Vehicle Dynamics Assessment Pad. The water flow is uniform and the track is slightly inclined to recycle it via drains at the perimeter.

We made this run in Ford Mustangs, the pride of Flat Rock, Michigan.  One Mustang was up fitted with Cooper CS5 Grand Touring tires and the other with Hankook Optimo H727 tires.

The silver Mustang with Cooper CS5 Grand Touring Tires, size 215/65R17.  A black Mustang was parked not far behind this one with Hankook H27 tires.

The silver Mustang with Cooper CS5 Grand Touring Tires, size 215/65R17. A black Mustang was parked not far behind this one with Hankook H27 tires.

Like the BMW, my dealership experience allowed me special insight into the Ford Mustang.  At one time, I used to sell them and when the 2011 5.0 arrived at Sioux Falls Ford, I spent extensive time studying and driving the car.  I know how it behaves and handles.  I know the amount of work Ford has done over the years to get the Mustang to its current stature

And I know a less than perfect tire will hinder the performance.

Just like the BMW 3 Series, the Ford Mustang is also subject to this rule.

Here I am, making a run with the Hankook H27 tires in the black Mustang.  I struggled, despite knowing the car as well as I do.  At the end of this straightaway, the the sharpest corner on the entire pad presents itself and it was nearly impossible to make without the help of the CS5 tires.

Here I am, making a run with the Hankook H27 tires in the black Mustang. I struggled, despite knowing the car as well as I do. At the end of this straightaway, the the sharpest corner on the entire pad presents itself and it was nearly impossible to make without the help of the CS5 tires.

When it came to wet driving, even though I was in a controlled environment, I felt much safer with the CS5 tires.  They filtered the water better and did not slide as easily.  I gained more trust in the Cooper CS5 tires than the Hankook Optimo H727 tires.  Since driving on a wet track will automatically reduce confidence, I was really looking to the tires to compensate and the Cooper CS5 filled that void admirably.

Why Cooper CS5 Tires?

The Cooper CS5 Ultra Touring, as equipped on the BMW 3 Series.

The Cooper CS5 Ultra Touring, as equipped on the BMW 3 Series.

The CS5 endured the mileage equivalent of driving from New York to Los Angeles 400 times during development. Over 1,100 batches of silica were made for a total of 270,000 lbs. of tread compound, all to fabricate the tire pictured here. The right balance of silica was essential to Cooper engineers who ultimately subjected their laboratory creations to over 20,000 individual tests. The final result is a CS5 tire with 4 times the amount of silica than its predecessor, the CS4. That spells better handling in both wet and dry conditions, more gripping ability and better fuel economy.

While I may have visited the Cooper Tire and Vehicle Test Center, not everybody gets a chance to compare competing tires like this.  When I was a Service Advisor, tires were the biggest confusion for my customers.  When I took over in management, I subsequently noticed tires where the biggest confusion for my Service Advisors.

Everybody was trying to make sense of a myriad of rubber circles on the wall that after awhile, all looked the same.

When that happens, the ones with the biggest rebates gets sold, regardless of if that set of tires is actually the best for that customer.  I wish I had this experience with Cooper Tires even just a year ago.

It would have changed how I approached this issue.


Tires are one of the most routinely serviced parts of any vehicle, from rotation and tread depth inspection to overall replacement. Roberto Ocampo, pictured here, was one of many technicians I counted on to help educate customers on the importance of tires.

As part of a dealer group, I found everyday people have a different definition of “shop talk” than us car buffs.

The engine and transmission need no other features, outside of dependability.  A car, to most, requires safety, affordability and fuel economy to justify purchasing.  Burning rubber is left in a distant fantasy because keeping the kids safe is priority.  Green light drag racing machines are nice but having one sends family finances into the red.

This is car talk for everyday people.

And it sounds like this specifically: “Mr. and Mrs. Customer, the Cooper CS5 is going to give you maximum traction in all weather conditions, especially if you have to make an unexpected maneuver or swerve out of the way of traffic.  I believe it to be one of the best tires out there for the money and I would trust it for my family as well as yours.”

The Cooper CS5 Grand Touring as equipped on the Ford Mustang.

The Cooper CS5 Grand Touring as equipped on the Ford Mustang.

With regard to the photo above: The 3D Micro Gage-Grooves allow the tread to interlock while turning corners and driving curvy roads. This means more control, increased safety and overall improvement in how the tires respond on wet and snowy surfaces. The 3D Micro-Guage Grooves are then partnered with Stabiledge, located at the edge of every CS5. Small bumpers keep larger grooves open which translates to greater response and a more steady feel, especially around corners.

The Cooper CS5 Media Ride-N-Drive was organized, promoted and sponsored by Cooper Tires and The Zimmerman Agency. However, the thoughts and opinions of this series are my own.  While there are some universal truths to all dealerships, I acknowledge my experiences in the car business may not be shared by others who held (or currently hold) similar positions as I did.  I am open to healthy and mutually beneficial discussions on this and the other topics I have presented in this piece, via e-mail: carl@automoblog.net

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Sebring Fantasy Camp A Reality http://www.automoblog.net/2011/08/18/sebring-fantasy-camp-a-reality/ http://www.automoblog.net/2011/08/18/sebring-fantasy-camp-a-reality/#respond Thu, 18 Aug 2011 13:19:46 +0000 http://www.automoblog.net/?p=17835 Audi running the 59th 12 Hours of Sebring

Hidden in the lake speckled interior of Florida is the world famous Sebring International Speedway, home of the Mobil-1 12 Hours of Sebring endurance race. Each March the Speedway welcomes thousands of race fans to one of the oldest race tracks in the country. Evolving from what was a World War II airfield, Sebring not only has one of the most exciting tracks, but also some of the most prestigious alumni of racing history.

www.sebringraceway.comSebring is a 3.7 mile, 17 turn track and, according to Sebring, many portions of the road course were originally B-17 training grounds. Since 1952 a record 3,360 cars have started races there and 102 drivers have finished first. A total of 2.3 million miles have been driven since the airfield became a track in 1952, not only by race car legends but also celebrities such as Patrick Dempsey, Gene Hackman, Steve McQueen, and Paul Newman. Thirty-nine of the 102 winners have been Americans, representing a higher percentage of winners than any other nation. Although the drivers come to race, the fans come to see the cars, and the Audi is the king among them, winning an unparalleled 8 consecutive races.

Jaguar at night @ 59th 12 Hours of Sebring

The track amenities include a hall of fame called the Gallery of Legends. There, spectators can see all of the history behind the track including past participants and car manufacturers. The next induction ceremony will be in March of 2012 and will include greats such as Carroll Shelby, Porsche, and Mario Andretti.

But, for me, the real excitement is coming up August 27-28,2011 when Sebring opens its track for the first time in what it calls the Sebring Fantasy Camp. For a $500 (+tax) registration fee interested drivers can bring their car to run the historic track and receive some invaluable instruction from 7-time Sebring winner Terry Earwood. In addition to his impressive Sebring record, Earwood has also been a chief instructor at the Skip Barber Racing school for 27 years and has been inducted into the Drag Racing Hall of Fame. Also included with admission are school provided cars for testing out the knowledge passed on about vehicle dynamics, skid recovery, and proper apexing among other techniques. Then, after you have put those lessons to the test, you can participate, in your car with similarly matched cars, in an autocross or let the professionals take control of your ride to show you how it’s done. Oh, and lodging and receptions are included so you will have ample time to chat it up with the other participants.


So, if you’re looking for something to do on August 27 and 28 and you happen to be driving through orange grove country and you think you and your car has what it takes to conquer the road course that legends are made of, head over to the Sebring International Speedway. If you don’t make it, maybe I’ll see you again in March.

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Ryan Dunn, Jackass Star, Dies In Car Accident http://www.automoblog.net/2011/06/21/ryan-dunn-jackass-star-dies-in-car-accident/ http://www.automoblog.net/2011/06/21/ryan-dunn-jackass-star-dies-in-car-accident/#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2011 16:38:13 +0000 http://www.automoblog.net/?p=15656

Ryan Dunn, one of Johnny Knoxville’s Jackass crew, and his passenger died in a crash outside of Philadelphia early this morning.

I could be cynical and say, “What a surprise!” but I won’t.

As one of the sidekick members of Jackass brigade, Dunn was partially responsible for bringing the world one step closer actually being like the movie “Idiocracy”. C’mon, who do you think Mike Judge based the most popular television show, “Ow! My Balls!” in the movie on? Knoxville et al. Or at least that’s my guess. So it seems rather unsurprising that a member of the Jackass retinue would buy the farm by stuffing his Porsche GT3 into a bunch of trees while traveling at triple digit speeds.

Yes, the photo you see above was taken at the scene of the one-car accident that happened in West Goshen, Pa. around 3:30 AM Monday morning, is all that remained of the GT3 when police and fire crews pulled it out of a grove of trees earlier today. Before that, Dunn’s ride looked like this:

At first, the police said they didn’t know whether the 34-year-old Dunn, or the then unidentified person was driving the car. Nor did the authorities know whether alcohol was to blame. But, ironically or maybe just coincidentally, Dunn did tweet the following picture from his Tumblr account hours before his death:

Sure, it could have been a Coke or an iced tea.

The NBC affiliate in Philadelphia reported that “The Porsche shot through about 40 yards of trees before it hit the last one and exploded into flames, according to police.” Which pretty much means that if the impacts (either the final one or the many previous jolts after passing through 120 feet of trees) didn’t kill Dunn and passenger, then the explosion and resulting fire sure as hell did.

MTV, parent network of the Jackass TV series (and producer of the movie spin offs) said, “We’re deeply saddened by the passing of a member of the MTV family, Ryan Dunn. Our hearts and thoughts are with his friends and family.” MTV did this via Twitter, of course. Which is both highly meta and highly ironic, because nothing says, ” deeply saddened” like a 140 character limit.

Now, one could get all moralistic about “what this says about our culture” and “speed kills” and “the wages of sin” and all that, but I will leave that up to the seemingly endless supply of people whose job it is to be morally outraged at something, anything.

What can be said though, is that Dunn seriously overcooked it in a place where the price for doing so was going to be plenty high. Like Clint Eastwood said as Dirty Harry applies (as well as to all things automotive): “A man has got to know his limitations.”

Sure, sure, you could say that this sort of behavior – going stonking fast – should be reserved for the track, and the track only. Which is all well and good and true, but tell me, who of you out there with a Porsche or a Vette or some other such ride, always, always, always follow every rule of the road at all times? Hands? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Right.

The point of doing things like this is knowing when and where you can get away with it. What will happen if, say, I lose it right at this spot in the road doing, let’s say for the sake of argument, 10 MPH over the limit? Well try not to show that you’re the next best thing to Rick Mears if there’s a grove of trees on the outside of a corner. Or if it’s wet … or icy … or, well you get the idea.

Source: Jalopnik

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Surviving Winter Driving http://www.automoblog.net/2010/12/28/surviving-winter-driving/ http://www.automoblog.net/2010/12/28/surviving-winter-driving/#respond Wed, 29 Dec 2010 04:50:37 +0000 http://www.automoblog.net/?p=11149

While some fortunate motorists and automobiles endure a winter season simply by wearing pants or a jacket during cooler temperatures, upper parts of the North American continent are routinely introduced to a change in lifestyle between December to April. The downpour of flurries and sometimes blistery cold climate conditions causes many to rethink their driving plans. For many drivers, a winter wonderland becomes a winter wasteland as they attack the snowy or sometimes icy roads in varying degrees of preparedness.

In order to imprint safe winter driving habits onto the roads and highways, the following suggestions are worthwhile practices before venturing out in white-powdered conditions:

Drive for the conditions

The speed limit is a ‘speed limit’! While it is still enticing to drive at the posted speed, the signs are posted for safe driving during ideal, dry conditions. Through situations of decreased visibility and reduced traction, it’s responsible driving to maintain a lower speed being mindful that you want to provide yourself with maximum response time.

In order to best accomplish this feat, leave for destinations allowing for an extra couple minutes prior to your driving trip.

Prepare for best weather visibility

Do not fall victim of using summer weather windshield washer fluid. Identified often as pink in colour, this seasonal fluid will quickly freeze under cold weather making it ineffective for clearing the driver’s forward view. Winter windshield washer fluid An all-season windshield washer also presents itself as a effective in most winter driving with resistance to freezing rated at 0 degrees Fahrenheit.

Worth consideration, winter windshield wipers are also available providing a much more robust design suited for clearing heavier, icier precipitation.

Consider Winter Tires

Due to some outstanding developments with tire design, motorists can enjoy incredible grip and security through the addition of specified rubber on their vehicles. Applying a more aggressive tread to the snow-covered road surface, winter or snow tires also possess a tire construction ideally formatted for colder weather with a compound designed to retain better elasticity.

There are many individuals who believe that winter or snow tires is a must have for all vehicles during the cooler seasons of driving. In fact the Canadian province of Quebec believes in the safety advantages of winter tires so heavily they have passed a law making the equipment mandatory on all registered vehicles. Tire companies and automakers also strongly suggest all four wheels can fitted with colder weather rubber. Costing between $500-800 to equipment an entire vehicle, you also have to add installation as well as removal of wheels and tires into your vehicle’s budget.

However, while winter tires offer improved traction over all-season tires, don’t be lured into a false sense overconfidence. Much like the situation of all-wheel drive vehicles, some motorists are led to believe snow tires allows them to exercise less caution when traveling in winter conditions which can still be hazardous.

Thoroughly Brush Snow Off Vehicle

Due to lack of advanced preparation or even the proper equipment, an alarmingly high number of drivers lead to the open roads with a significant accumulation of snow on their vehicles. Often but not limited to sport utility vehicles, minivans and crossovers, some motorists avoid brushing snow off their vehicle’s roof. You’ll be surprised how much of a tell-tale sign snow removal from an automobile is to the driver behind the wheel. Snow-covered cars being driven on public roads seem to have a higher than average regard for others sharing the streets and highways. Evidently, this snow is going to blow off and could potential create a danger for any parties using the motorways. If spotted by law enforcement, this could even be considered a serious enough offense to be pulled over certain to cost you the time taken away from thoroughly brushing off your vehicle.

If you own a taller vehicle but have found cleaning the roof too difficult with a standard automotive snow brush, please invest into one of several snow removal tools developed specifically for SUVs and minivans offering longer reaches.

Being only a handful of ideas to better handle winter driving, other ideas such as utilizing engine block heaters, packing an emergency kit inside of a vehicle and regularly checking weather reports are also precautionary measures which can assure a safe trip during winter.

Information source: Rain-X, Bridgestone
Photo source: BMW, Michelin

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High Gas Prices Deters Speeders, Says UK Survey http://www.automoblog.net/2010/10/22/high-gas-prices-deters-speeders-says-uk-survey/ http://www.automoblog.net/2010/10/22/high-gas-prices-deters-speeders-says-uk-survey/#respond Fri, 22 Oct 2010 08:09:49 +0000 http://www.automoblog.net/?p=9682

Discouraging patterns of high-speed driving, public education campaigns have been the first stage of maintaining safe vehicle speeds. As we know, these preventive measures are not enough to completely change the situations on streets and highways. Police speed traps, photo radar and even airplane surveillance over highways are deployed to catch the velocity seekers red-handed (or rather red-footed). Across the Atlantic, an informal study might suggest a new method to curb excessive speeds which is certain to be greeted as an unpopular solution.

According to a survey conducted by RoadPilot, an United Kingdom-based company creating products and solutions to detect speed cameras, has drawn a conclusion that the top deterrent to speeders is higher fuel costs. Asking drivers more what factors they have reduced their average speed during travel, 33% of UK motorists voiced heeding to higher gas prices ahead of other speed impediments. In fact, only 13% addressed a reason for slowing down is in reaction to law enforcement. However, the majority of surveyors who did not select concern about police presence could be law-biding drivers obeying traffic rules. Traffic congestion and environmental conditions (ie. rain and snow) were also issues that caused the speedometer to drop. Reacting to the figures, RoadPilot’s CEO James Flynn OBE offered a viewpoint saying “Driving remains an essential part of life for many people in the UK, but clearly motorists are feeling the pinch at present and are doing whatever they can to reduce their monthly outgoings.”

In Europe, the incentive to slow down in the name of fuel mileage is more important since vehicle owners are faced with considerably more shock at the petrol pumps. In the United Kingdom, motorists pay the US equivalent of 6-8 dollars a gallon for gasoline at this present time (October 2010). The RoadPilot survey had also noted 40% of motorists polled are said to be monitoring the fuel gauge more closely in the past year.

Unsure of the results if a similar survey was responded to by North American drivers, some related data shows how much of an effect gasoline prices have on the minds of car owners. Recorded by Department of Transportation, escalating fuel prices in 2008 (a time still fresh in the minds of American motorists) led total vehicle driving distance to drop 3.6% over the previous year. When gasoline prices dropped back to more sensible levels through 2009 to this year, driving numbers are starting to creep through positive territory again on American roadways. Whether or not speeding was affected between this periods is uncertain.

While the validity of corporately-sponsored polls could be questioned, one thing to gain from this UK survey is how greatly influenced the psyche of motorist is impacted when conserving money can override the reason why some of us race in our vehicles.

Information source: RoadPilot, US Department of Transportation- Federal Highway Administration
Photo source: RoadPilot via Newspress UK

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Why Manual Is So Much Cooler http://www.automoblog.net/2010/07/13/why-manual-is-so-much-cooler/ http://www.automoblog.net/2010/07/13/why-manual-is-so-much-cooler/#comments Tue, 13 Jul 2010 19:01:21 +0000 http://www.automoblog.net/?p=7743 gear changing
As I drive my automatic test vehicle this week (the uber big Ford Taurus SHO), I find myself looking longing at my manual transmission WRX as I pull out of the driveway each day.

And it’s not just the Taurus that gives me transmission envy; it’s every automatic vehicle.

There’s something about the control a manual transmission gives you that’s so much cooler than an automatic. I know, I know; automatic is easier in the city and often less stressful, but come on! You’re not really driving the car with an auto transmission, not by a long shot.

Manuals give you the ability to truly control the vehicle you’re driving. Not only are you controlling the power and the engine performance, but you’re able to feel the reaction of your vehicle so much better as well. Manual transmissions give you a connection to your vehicle that automatic doesn’t allow.

True, manual isn’t for everyone, but there’s something really appealing about it. And if you love to drive, like I do, then you should love to drive standard. I also think it should be mandatory for everyone to learn standard when they are learning how to drive. You might think this is a bit extreme, but hear me out.

Let’s say you’re stranded at a party with a friend who’s had too much to drink. They were your drive home. They have a car with a manual transmission. You can’t drive stick. You need to get home or you’ll turn into a pumpkin at midnight. What are you supposed to do?

That’s just one example, but learning how to drive standard is a great asset to have and something I think every driver would benefit from. It’s not only a driving skill but a general lesson in cars overall. You need to understand the inner workings of your vehicle to drive manual well, and so it brings about a greater awareness of you and your vehicle — something a lot of drivers on the road today could stand to benefit from.

Which do you prefer? Manual or automatic, and why?

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Ten Best Drifting Cars http://www.automoblog.net/2010/06/13/ten-best-drifting-cars/ http://www.automoblog.net/2010/06/13/ten-best-drifting-cars/#comments Sun, 13 Jun 2010 16:10:01 +0000 http://www.automoblog.net/?p=1611 There’s no denying it; drifting is fun. Really fun. I don’t care what type of car buff you are, breaking those rear tires loose and sliding through a turn sideways is exhilarating.

You can drift most rear-wheel drive cars with enough power, but there are simply some cars that are much better than others. So which cars are the best for drifting? First, let’s talk briefly about what makes a good drifting car.

Drivetrain: You want a front-engine, rear-wheel drive car. Front-wheel-drive cars can slide, but they can’t drift.

Transmission: You should preferably have a manual transmission. This is because you have more control with a manual, but it’s also possible to drift with an automatic tranny; you just won’t have the level of control you will with a manual and it will be more difficult.

Weight Distribution: Close to a 50/50 front/rear ratio; just search for stats on the car and you’ll find this information.

Power: The car must have enough power to keep the wheels spinning while you’re drifting. This shouldn’t be an issue for anybody reading this website.

Condition: Make sure your car is in good condition. Check and re-check your car to make sure it can handle the forces caused by drifting – you’ll be surprised how tough it is on a car. You might want to use cheap or old tires at first – they won’t last long.

So…what are the best cars for drifting? Continue reading for the list…

Because this is so subjective to each individual, I won’t list them in any sort of order. Once person might like one car for drifting more than the other; this just serves as a reference point for finding a good car for your drifting pleasure.

Nissan Skyline

Nissan Skyline Drifting

Mazda RX7

Mazda RX7 Drifting

Toyota Supra

Toyota Supra Drifting

Nissan 240SX

Nissan 240SX Drifting

Ford Mustang

Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Drifting

Dodge Viper

Dodge Viper Drifting

Pontiac GTO

Pontiac GTO Drifting

Pontiac Solstice/Saturn Sky

Saturn Sky Drifting

Nissan 350Z/Infiniti G35

Nissan 350Z Drifting

Toyota Soarer (Lexus SC300/400)

Drifting Toyota Soarer

And for the typical liability reasons, I have to say not to drift on local streets because it’s dangerous and illegal. Check with your local law for specifics, and try to get into a big open parking lot or join an organized drifting event. Seriously…just don’t be stupid.

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