Posts from ‘Hot Laps’
If Ford Mustang and Shelby marketing chief Jim Owens is happy about anything, it’s this: “There is no better time to be a performance-car enthusiast than right now,” he says. No doubt he feels that way because for 2020 his stable of steeds has a new leader, the 760-horsepower Shelby GT500. It is, Owens notes, the fastest street-legal Mustang ever, either in a straight line or lapping a road course.
It’s all about the launch.
That was the lesson we learned when Dodge invited a group of journalists up to US 131 Motorsports Park in Martin, Michigan, to pilot its new Challenger SRT Demon down a gen-u-ine drag strip – complete with burn-out box, gooey starting-line surface, staging lights, and a full quarter-mile run. The real deal. Personally, it was the first time I’d ever driven a car on a drag strip … at least, one that didn’t have center stripes and a grossly ignored speed-limit sign (don’t tell the feds). We also learned that getting the launch right is not nearly as easy as one might think.
On a trip back to the airport at the conclusion of a recent Jeep press event, I overheard one of my cohorts describing his lap around the Circuit of the Americas racetrack with Ralph Gilles, head of Chrysler’s SRT brand, at the wheel. The fellow journalist was giving a play-by-play account while showing a video he had taken from the back seat. Much of it sounded familiar.
A thorough test drive is always an important part of any new-vehicle buying experience. However, when it comes to high-end performance cars and enthusiast buyers, a run-of-the-mill dealership test drive on city streets isn’t always sufficient to truly show off the vehicle’s capabilities. Luxury manufacturers realize this, and most of them offer a variety of brand-specific “driving experience” events that range from complimentary half-day product samplings to expensive, multiple-day high-performance-driving instruction courses. These events are held at various racetracks and private country club-style road courses around the country, usually during the summer months. Manufacturers get to showcase their current offerings and do a bit of direct marketing. Enthusiasts and prospective buyers get a dose of professional instruction and a supervised high-performance test-drive opportunity that’s (briefly) unconstrained by those pesky speed limits and traffic laws.
Many of us dream of being a race-car driver, but the money and time spent is often so prohibitive that most of us don’t bother. Thankfully, a new class of racing is emerging: the B-Spec class. This category is comprised of subcompact and compact cars lightly modified for racing. Even though it is an emerging segment, B-Spec racing is officially sanctioned by various motorsports associations, including World Challenge, GRAND-AM, the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), and the National Auto Sport Association (NASA).