Bentley Continental GT Graced by Mulliner Coach Work

Last year, Bentley tore the wraps off of it’s newly redesigned Continental GT.  Today, they announced that the Mulliner styling specification will be coming to the new Continental GT this fall.  Not quite the Continental GT Supersports we were hoping for, but this will do nicely.

The Mulliner Styling Specification (as they call it) adds high-gloss carbon fiber on the exterior of the GT, giving it a much more sporty look and feel.  Think of it as a Supersports without the go-fast bits.

See the full press release after the break.

Hyundai reveals new fuel cell sedan concept at Seoul Motor Show

At the Seoul Motor Show Hyundai has reiterated its commitment to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles with a new mid-size sedan concept dubbed Blue2. While Honda, Toyota, General Motors and Daimler (and in the past Ford although they have backed away from the technology recently) have garnered most of the attention in the world of automotive fuel cells, Hyundai has been quietly working away on the technology for several years.

Hyundai has developed its own in-house fuel cell stack rather than relying on partnerships with other automakers or suppliers. The Korean carmaker has shown a number of concepts over the years and built several dozen prototypes that have run in various test fleets. Just last month in Washington DC the company unveiled a fuel cell version of the current generation Tucson crossover.

Not much technical detail has been revealed about the Blue2 other than a 90 kilowatt output from the fuel cell and efficiency of about 82 miles per gallon. The hydrogen capacity and range are unknown at this time. The exterior design is a departure from the fluidic sculpture language of current production Hyundais and looks like an evolution of the theme from the Curb concept first shown at the Detroit Auto Show earlier this year. The overall proportions and the greenhouse in particular do bear some resemblance to the current Saab 9-5 although the front overhang is shorter and stubbier. Inside a large Transparent Organic Light Emitting Diode (TOLED) screen dominates the instrument panel.

Hyundai has publicly committed to low volume production of fuel cell vehicles with numbers in the thousands beginning in 2012, ramping up to higher volumes by 2015. Given Hyundai’s recent history and successes, we certainly wouldn’t count them out.

 

 

Porsche bumps the Panamera to 550 hp with the Turbo S!

The four-door Panamera gran turismo may be a new type of vehicle for Porsche, but the Stuttgart automaker is following the same basic pattern that has prevailed for all of its previous entries. That is launch the basic model and then augment it with a steady flow additional variants with more power power, better handling, less mass etc.

Following the debut of the Panamera hybrid at the recent Geneva Motor Show, a more powerful flavor will be arriving at the New York Auto Show in a couple of weeks. The Panamera Turbo will gain the always desirable S suffix to indicate the extra 50 horsepower and 37 pound-feet of twisting force generated by the 4.8-liter V8 engine. That translates to peak values of 550 hp and 553 lb-ft.

But wait, that’s not all! The Turbo S comes with the Sport Chrono Package which includes driver selectable Sport and Sport Plus modes. When either of those modes are enabled and the driver stabs the go pedal and triggers a transmission kickdown, a time limited turbo overboost mode will bump the output to 590 pound-feet!

Using launch control, the over two-ton Panamera Turbo S sprints to 62 mph in just 3.8 seconds and hits the wall at 191 mph.

This extra juice comes courtesy of  a pair of turbochargers with new lighter titanium-aluminum alloy turbine wheels that spin up faster and revised calibrations in the engine management system. All of the other techno-goodness that’s included in the regular Panamera Turbo carries on including the torque vectoring all-wheel-drive system, stability control and active roll control.

The S is visually distinguished from lesser Panameras with sill extensions from the Porsche Exclusive range and 20-inch Turbo II wheels with a wider rear track. The Panamera Turbo S goes on sale in Jule with  starting tab of just $173,200. Your friendly neighborhood Porsche retailer will happily help you inflate the bottom line with the vast list of customizations that are available for any Porsche.

 

Porsche 918 Spyder production starts September 18, 2013, costs €645,000

Can you wait 30 months? If you want a Porsche 918 Spyder, the company’s pending plug-in hybrid sports car, you can. The decree went forth from Stuttgart today that production of the 918 Spyder will begin on September 18, 2013 (9/18 get it?) and dealers are now officially taking orders. Continuing the numerology, just 918 units of the gasoline-electric-plug-in supercar will be built over an undisclosed time frame.

If  you have to ask how much it costs…you know the rest. But for the truly interested, it’s €645,000.  That’ll help ensure exclusivity, and as with every Porsche, buyers will be able to fatten the bottom substantially by selecting custom paints and interior finishes among other options.

The 918 Spyder debuted last year at the Geneva Motor Show with a through-the-road plug-in hybrid powertrain. The concept featured the same 3.4-liter V8 engine mounted amid-ship that powered the RS Spyder to numerous victories in the American and European Le Mans Series over the past five years. The production version will have a road going version of that V8 with a displacement over 4.0-liters pumping over 500 horsepower.  The V8 will send power to the rear wheels via a seven-speed PDK dual clutch transmission.

The hydrocarbon ingesting power unit will be supplemented by a pair of electric motors with one at each axle that put out a combined 218 horsepower. The motors will be fed by a liquid cooled lithium ion battery that propel the 918 electrically for about 16 miles. With 218 electric horsepower and that much battery available, the 918 will be able to complete most of the EU driving cycle on electrons alone which is expected to help it achieve over 78 mpg in the test.   Of course using any of that 500 hp behind the driver’s shoulder will cause that mileage number to plummet just as fast as the quarter mile time.

While waiting for their 918 Spyder, customers can also order a 911 Turbo S “Edition 918 Spyder” that features the same color and trim as the hybrid along with a badge on the glove box that bears the same build number as their 918.  Only 918 of the limited edition 530 hp 911s will be built with a starting price of €184,546 and deliveries starting in June 2011.

Video: I want to be Jim Glickenhaus when I grow up!

James Glickenhaus is the kind of car collector I would be if someone dropped a huge pallet of freshly printed hundred dollar bills in my backyard.  With the fortune he’s amassed, Glickenhaus has acquired a stunning collection of machinery, much of it extremely rare, and in several cases, one of a kind.  This includes his 1967 Ferrari Dino 206 Competizione by Pininfarina that won best in class at the 2009 Meadowbrook Concours.

Glickenhaus’ most famous car is the luscious Ferrari P4/5 that he commissioned from Pininfarina.  Not content to be one of 400, Glickenhaus sent his Enzo for a custom body inspired by the 330 P4 racer and other 1960s Ferraris. When it hit the grass at the 2006 Pebble Beach Concours, it caused a a sensation.

Our biggest respect for Mr. Glickenhaus comes from the fact that his cars aren’t just museum pieces rotting in a warehouse like another famed collector. Glickenhaus drives the P4/5 and the 206 Competizione on a regular basis on public roads.

Using the one-off $4 million P4/5 as a daily driver wasn’t enough for Glickenhaus.  He wanted to go racing with something that looked much like it. Thus was born the P4/5 Competizione.  Unlike the V12 powered road car, Glickenhaus and his partners at LM Gianetti, N Technology and Pro.To. in Torino decided to build the race car on the platform of the V8 powered F430.

A road going F430 Scuderia provided the chassis while the running gear, including the 450 hp V8 and six-speed sequential Hewland gearbox, came from the multiple race winning F430 GT2. Construction of the car was completed earlier this year and it has since undergone testing at several tracks including Vallelunga in Italy.

The plan is to have the P4/5 Competizione run in the 24 Hours of Nurburgring this June in the hands of ex-F1 drivers Mika Salo and Nicola Larini, test driver Fabrizio Giovanardi and another veteran racer Luca Capellari.  The Nurburgring enduro is an amazing race with a wide variety of GT and Touring Car competitors as well as an experimental class that has seen the likes of the Porsche 911 GT3R Hybrid and Lexus LFA prototypes in recent years. Check out the video to hear Glickenhaus talk about his latest project.  Hopefully other collectors will take inspiration from Jim and let some of their special machines run free as they were meant to.

 

2011 12 Hours of Sebring in the books!

With this weekend’s 12 Hours of Sebring marking the opening round of both the American Le Mans Series and the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, an even larger than usual contingent of European teams turned up for a 56 car starting field. For some years now, the bumpy Sebring track has attracted the European factory squads from Peugeot, Audi and Aston Martin as a high-speed test session for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This was also the first race run to the new 2011 rules package with downsized engines for the top LMP1 class.

Only three all-new P1 cars on the track to compete at Sebring were the factory Peugeot 908s and the Highcroft HPD ARX-01e. While Audi had been testing its all new 3.7-liter V6 diesel powered at Sebring in the weeks leading up to the race, the Germans opted to race with an updated version of last year’s Le Mans winning R15+ with smaller intake restrictors and fuel tank. The rest of the P1 field consisted of “grandfathered” old 2010 P1 and P2 machines including the biobutanol powered Dyson Racing Lola-Mazda and the ex-factory Aston Martin-Lola being run by the Cytosport Muscle Milk team. The French Oreca Matmut team that ran an ex-factory Peugeot in Europe (including Le Mans) in 2010 is entered in the ILMC with its V12 diesel machine so they were also running in Florida.

The lighter, lower cost P2 machines are now required to use production based engines and only four of them were ready for the season opener including a pair of Honda powered Lolas fielded by last year’s LMP Challenge winners, Level 5 Motorsports. Interestingly, Level 5 ran one car as a closed-top coupe while the other was in open-top configuration.

A full field of 24 GT cars took part including the debuts of the all-new Ferrari 458 Italia and the Panoz Abruzzi. Three of the older Ferrari F430 GTs were also on hand to prove that they were still in contention. Among the Ferrari squads, Houston based Risi Competizione arrived in Florida with absolutely no running time on their new 458 after the car was held up in customs for an extra week and then the crew had scramble just to prepare it for the race. The factory Corvette C6.Rs were making their first run with the new paddle-shift gearbox. The JaguarRSR XKR and Robertson Racing Ford GT squads both expanded to two car efforts.

Through most of the practice and qualifying sessions from Wednesday to Friday the P1 cars were all running fairly close together with no one really dominating. That all changed when Stephan Sarrazin went out for a hot lap in the #8 Peugeot and put in a blistering lap 1.109 seconds faster than the #1 Audi which took the #2 spot. The Peugeots and Audis alternated for the first five slots on the grid. Among the P2 cars, the new Signatech Oreca-Nissan ran nearly 3.5 seconds a lap quicker than the first of the Level 5 Lola-HPD which happened to be the open-top version.

Among the GT machines, things were a lot tighter with less than eight-tenths of a second covering the first six cars. Gimmi Bruni in the AF Corsa F430 went out and demonstrated that the older Ferrari still had some life left in it by grabbing the GT pole ahead of the 04 Corvette, the two BMWs, the Risi Ferrari and the #045 Flying Lizard Porsche.

Once the green flag fell on Saturday morning, Frank Montagny kept the lead and Alex Wurz slipped past Mike Rockenfeller’s Audi where they stayed for the next several laps with the Audis following close behind. In GT Oliver Gavin got the jump on Bruni’s Ferrari and quickly started to pull out a lead of several seconds over the first few laps. Eventually the grip on the Ferrari’s tires improved and the gap vanished and Bruni got back out in front while the Corvette lost grip any time it picked up some dust.

At the front of the pack, the four factory prototypes from Germany and France continued their mighty battle trading places and paint as they regularly rubbed fenders. However, several caution periods in the early hours prevented a breakaway and bunched up the field. Ultimately neither team was likely to be dominant anyway as the Audis seemed to have more straightline speed and the Puegeots had the advantage in corners.

Following a restart less than two hours in, the 04 Corvette came in contact with Patrick Long’s Porsche and they both spun in Turn 17. As the back end of the Corvette came around it struck the rear of the ExtremeSpeed Ferrari 458 of Johannes van Overbeek causing it spin backwards into the tirewall causing heavy damage and ending its day. Jan Magnussen got the Corvette back to the pits for some quick repairs that cost six minutes and ultimately a shot at victory at the end of the day.

In that same hour, Mike Rockenfeller pitted the #1 Audi on two consecutive laps for a punctured left rear tire that also damaged body work. After the second stop, the car went back to the garage for more extensive repairs that cost it eight laps. Teammate Dindo Capello had coming together with Peugeot driver Marc Gene in hour five that resulted in rear suspension damage to the Audi which cost seven laps in the pits.

All of the new Ferraris ran well at various times but ultimately succumbed to various maladies that dropped them well down or out of the competition. The last 458 with a chance was the fresh out of the box Risi car which led the GT field on several occasions. Unfortunately as the sun set on Florida, an alternator problem kicked in when the night driving lights were switched on and the battery rapidly drained. The team tried running with just the regular headlights but it was simply too dangerous and the car was parked with about 90 minutes left.

By this time, the 2010 Puegeot being campaigned by Hughes de Chaunac’s Oreca Matmut team had moved into the lead followed by the Highcroft HPD ARX-01e and the #8 factory 908 all on the lead lap. The Muscle Milk Aston Martin had retired midway after damage caused by a collision with one of the GT cars and the Audi were five and six laps down in fourth and fifth.

In GT the fight between the top six stayed on the same lap for much of the day and only late in the race did the two BMW M3s of the Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan squad get a firm hold on the top two spots.

However, the real battle remained at the front where the older Peugeot had the speed advantage on the HPD car, while the latter had an efficiency advantage. The question was whether the French machine could build up enough of a cushion to retain the lead while it made and extra stop for fuel in the final hour. The Connecticut based Highcroft team opted to run lean and preserve fuel as the Peugeot slowly pulled away.  In the final hour, the Oreca car dashed in for a splash of fuel that was just enough to allow to get to the finish and still exit the pits ahead of the Highcroft car. Meanwhile Frank Montagny in the factory 908 was unable to close a 20-25 second gap to Simon Pagenaud in the ARX-01e, especially after he got stuck behind Alan McNish in the #2 Audi. Just after 10:30pm, the Oreca car took the checkered flag in the team’s first visit to Florida since 2000 when it was running the factory Dodge Viper GT effort. The HPD and #8 Peugeot filled out the podium, all on the lead lap.

In GT, the 56 and 55 BMW’s led the way with the Corvettes right behind. The open-top Level 5 Lola-Honda recovered from early problems and overcame the pole sitting Signatech Oreca-Nissan for the LMP2 victory. In LMP Challenge, the Genoa Racing team took top honors while defending GT Challenge champs, Black Swan Racing continued their winning ways.

The teams with fresh cars now have four weeks to get things sorted out before getting back in action at Long Beach on April 16.

 

Porsche 911 GT3R Hybrid 2.0 gets more power and efficiency

After a successful first season of competition with the flywheel-equipped 911 GT3R hybrid in 2010, Porsche is coming back with a more powerful and efficient Ver. 2.0 for this year. In its debut campaign, Porsche proved out the effectiveness of the basic electro-mechanical flywheel system even finishing first among all GT cars at the season ending race in Zuhai, China.

Version 2.0 is primarily about refining the car and the hybrid system to reduce weight and size as well as improving the aerodynamics. The flywheel system still spins at up to 40,000 rpm but it’s now more compact and 20 percent lighter than the first iteration allowing it and the hybrid power electronics to be packaged into the carbon fiber safety enclosure on the passenger side of the car. The electronics are now more efficient so they generate less heat and require less cooling which has allowed Porsche to dispense with the two large air scoops that sat ahead of the rear wheel arches on the 2010 car. The result is less aerodynamic drag for better speed and reduced fuel consumption.

On the driver side of the cockpit, Porsche has consolidated all of the instrumentation readout and all of the major controls into the center of the steering wheel so they are always visible and accessible.  Other controls are available with backlit buttons that have been placed on panel in the center console. The goal was to improve the ergonomics for the drivers, especially when running in the dark during endurance races.

The 470 horsepower normally aspirated six-cylinder boxer engine continues to hang out behind the rear axle just as 911s have done for 50 years. Up front, the two electric motors that drive the front wheels have been upgraded from 60 to 75 kilowatts each, giving the 911 hybrid a boost of up to 200 hp for accelerating out of curves or passing. The system can be programmed to either feed in the electric power automatically when the driver presses the throttle pedal or provide an on-demand boost via a steering wheel button for overtaking.

Overall, Porsche engineers have dropped the weight of the 911 hybrid by 50 kilograms to just 1,300 kg which should improve the handling, accelerating and efficiency.  The plan is tune the 911 to provide similar lap-times to the 2010 car, but use the improvements to cut fuel consumption over the already efficient version 1.0. So far Porsche has committed to running the hybrid in the 24 Hours of Nurburgring in June and probably some of the four hour races that make up the Ring endurance series this spring. After the 24 hour race, the car will probably go to Petit Le Mans in October and perhaps one or two other races.  What Porsche still isn’t talking about are competition plans for the 918 RSR that debuted at the Detroit Auto show. It now looks like the 918 won’t be racing until at least 2012.

ALMS cuts petroleum use while improving racing

Being green isn’t what most fans think about when high-powered race cars roar past, but the American Le Mans Series thinks differently. Race cars obviously use a lot more fuel than a typical Prius, but efficiency is actually very important to most racers.

Weight is the enemy of performance and the more fuel a car uses, the more it has to carry, adding mass. In endurance racing, especially on long tracks like Le Mans, guzzling fuel also means more pit stops and time standing still while other cars are circulating.

ALMS CEO Scott Atherton led the charge starting in 2006 to make the series the “green racing” leader. ALMS regulations are based on those set down by the Automobile Club de L’Ouest (ACO) which runs Le Mans. Le Mans organizers have given prizes for the efficiency index going back to at least the 1960s and the ACO rule book made allowances for all manner of different powerplants including Wankel rotaries and different fuels such as diesel.

Atherton took this idea and expanded on it, deciding that the ALMS was going to make a concerted effort to reduce oil and petroleum use. There were a number of reasons for going down this path, not the least of which was to find an angle that would set the series apart and hopefully attract new fans. Adopting new fuels starting with E10 and diesel and allowing experimental powertrains would also provide an outlet for manufacturers looking to test new technology that could have production applications.

In 2008, Atherton announced the introduction of cellulosic ethanol E85 blends as one of the allowable fuels in the series as well as the launch of the Michelin Green X Challenge. Starting with the Intersport LMP1 team and the GT1 Corvettes that year, the use of E85 has grown to the point where virtually the entire GT field is now using it along with several prototypes.  The diesel powered Audi prototypes were regular competitors and winners and the diesel Peugeots also join in the fun at Sebring and Petit Le Mans as part of their preparations for the French endurance classic. In 2010, the Dyson Racing squad also began using a 20 percent bio-butanol blend for the entire season after testing it in 2009.

2009 also saw the debut of the Corsa racing team with a hybrid LMP1 car that saw limited success and Porsche ran its more competitive flywheel hybrid 911 GT3R at the 2010 Petit Le Mans.

The Green Challenge is a second championship in addition to the race for outright victory. Working with the US Department of Energy and the Society of Automotive Engineers, ALMS developed a formula that rates the cars on a combination of distance run on the track and overall carbon footprint. The teams that demonstrate the best combination of performance and efficiency take the prize.  In 2010, the Highcroft racing team took both the overall LMP championship and the Green Challenge for prototypes, while E85 fueled Flying Lizard Porsche took the GT class.

So what does it all amount to? For the Corvette Racing team, the struggle for efficiency saw the team improve from getting 10 laps per tankful at the 8.5 mile Le Mans circuit during their debut season in 1999 to 15 laps per tank in 2009. The 911 hybrid gets 25-30 percent better fuel efficiency than its conventional equivalent despite added weight. At this year’s 12 Hours of Sebring, the combined field will use over 28 percent less petroleum than the 2007 field. The Sebring field also includes a number of European teams that aren’t set up for running on E85, so once they go home and the rest of the ALMS season continues that improvement will get even better.

According to ALMS spokesman Bob Dickinson, if the entire U.S. vehicle fleet achieved a similar improvement, oil imports could be cut in half and 338 million gallons of gasoline would be saved.

We won’t kid you, we love the sound and fury of sports cars chasing each around a road course for hours on end and the technology is damn cool. The fact that it can be done while using less of the planet’s resources at the same time, is a serious bonus.

McLaren MP4-12C GT3 on-track video

 

McLaren Automotive claims that the new  Mp4-12C is not meant as a direct replacement for the legendary F1 but that doesn’t mean it won’t be following in its forebear’s footsteps which means that it will be hitting the racetrack to earn its pedigree. With the road going version of the world’s latest supercar now ready for consumption, the competition version hit the pavement at the Silverstone racetrack and the MIRA proving ground in Nuneaton, England.

Unlike the F1 GTR that dove right into the top-level GT1 class that was in place in 1995 when it took overall victory at Le Mans in its first outing, the new car is being prepared to FIA GT3 rules.  That puts in the same class with other factory built race cars like the Audi R8 LMS, Mercedes AMG SLS GT3, BMW Z4 GT3 and of course the Porsche 911 GT3R.

The F1 GTR’s 6.0-liter BMW-built V12 engine produced about 600 horsepower, a little less than the road car. In street-legal form, the Mp4-12C’s twin-turbo 3.8-liter V8 also produces 600 hp.  However, the mandatory air-intake restrictors will likely limit the GT3-spec model to somewhere between 400 and 450 hp.  The standard seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox is swapped out for a Ricardo designed and built racing unit actuated by a bespoke paddle shift mechanism.

The road car’s single-piece carbon fiber tub is retained as is the basic suspension system. The ProActive Chassis control system that uses a hydraulic interconnect system to manage body roll is replaced by a more conventional anti-roll-bar configuration while a custom Akebono braking system handles deceleration duties.

The basic appearance of the production 12C is carried over with the usual modifications to enhance aerodynamic downforce and enclose the larger racing rubber. A front splitter, extended wheel arches and vertical blades behind the front wheels are complemented by fender-top vents, a wing and rear diffuser.

CRS Racing is working with the factory engineers to test and develop the GT3 car and Álvaro Parente has been named as the first test driver. Teams interested in acquiring and racing the McLaren GT3 can sign up at www.mclarengt.com. No pricing has been announced but it certainly won’t come cheap with price tag that will surely top $500,000.  Now if only the American Le Mans Series would add a full GT3 class so we could see these amazing machines run in North America.

 

 

Highcroft Racing gives first glimpse of new HPD ARX-01e LMP1 car: Updated!

Defending American Le Mans Series LMP champions Highcroft Racing have finally shown the first images of the new HPD ARX-01e that will campaign in 2011. With the Le Mans Prototypes returning to a two class setup this year, Highcroft has had a busy off-season testing the all-new twin-turbo V6 that Honda Performance Development (HPD) has produced for P2 customers while also developing a new P1 car.

This year’s P1 rules are based on the old P2 rules with normally-aspirated E10-fueled engines limited to 3.4 liters but with the same 900 kilogram minimum weight as the pre-2010 P1 cars. The ARX-01e will be powered by an updated version of the tried and true V8 that Highcroft has used since the beginning of the Acura ALMS effort in 2007. To compensate for the extra 50 kg the car now has to carry, the 01e engine gets larger air restrictors that boost output to over 500 horsepower.

Aside from the V8, the only other major component carried over from last year’s ARX-01c is the central tub. All of the bodywork and suspension hardware has been heavily revamped by HPD and Wirth Research. Nick Wirth and his UK-based race engineering shop have been working with Honda’s California -based racing division since the program was launched in 2006. The 01e adopts several of the design features first seen on the 2009 ARX-02a including the equal-diameter front and rear wheels.

2009 Acura ARX-02a

The aerodynamic package of the 01e looks like a blend of the older P1 car and last year’s 01c. The green and black Patron that has become familiar on the Highcroft machine for the last three years has been replaced by sponsorship from from technical partner Michelin.

The Highcroft crew is now headed to Sebring for a shakedown test with the new racer ahead of next week’s season opening 12 Hour enduro. David Brabham and Marino Franchitti will be back in the cockpit with Simon Pagenaud joining the lineup for the longer races at Sebring, Road Atlanta and Laguna Seca.

Update: The team hit the track in Sebring over the weekend completing 33 laps on Saturday in their first shakedown run.  Day one was dedicated to systems checks before starting on some setup work on Sunday.  Monday the track will be open for two four hour official test sessions for all race entrants. Those sessions will give us the first indications of how well the Highcroft HPD machine will run against the Audis, Peugeots and Aston Martins.