We met Andreas Sigl, the global director of Infiniti's Formula One involvement (that's him above on the right), at the US Grand Prix in Austin last year, and our questions to him were aimed at understanding what Infiniti was doing and where it intended to go. In spite of regard for its products and increased sales, few outside - and even inside - Infiniti seemed to have a clear idea of what the brand stood for.
So then we asked, "Well, what does that mean?"
Its F1 partnership with Red Bull Racing was a key example of that. A brand with no motorsports pedigree - save for a listless dalliance with Indycar and the Infiniti Pro Series - was suddenly married to the world's marquee racing series, but one being continually declined by other brands and even its own entrants for a lack of relevance to road cars. The introduction of the Infiniti FX Vettel Edition didn't clarify matters; we still didn't understand how Infiniti logos on Adrian Newey's chassis' made the G, M, FX, et al any better - or who was even supposed to make the connection - and if we were exceedingly cynical we could have said the terrifically expensive Sebastian Vettel-fettled FX mutant was a marketing mission that needed a hand grenade but instead got a high-impulse thermobaric weapon.
Seven months after that Austin Q&A with Sigl, during which time Infiniti has become title sponsor of Red Bull Racing and publicly anointed Sebastian Vettel its Director of Performance, we met Sigl again in Montreal during the Canadian F1 Grand Prix. It was there we got an answer to what Infiniti stands for: "We've boiled the brand down to the four 'p's," he said. "Performance, passion, precision and provocation."
So then we asked, "Well, what does that mean?", and Sigl gave us some background on what's been happening behind the scenes of the partnership.Permalink | Email this | Comments
Mitsubishi has already announced that it will be returning as a competitor to the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb with a pair of all-electric MiEV Evolution II racecars. In addition to these entrants, the automaker will also be the presenting sponsor of the race as well as providing the official safety vehicles to the event using specially prepped versions of the 2014 Outlander and Lancer Evolution.
While it isn't clear what exactly will be demanded of the safety vehicles, this isn't going to your run-of-the-mill pace car duty. To get the Outlander and Evo ready for the 156-turn, 12.42-mile course, Mitsubishi teamed up with companies such as BBS, Cobb Tuning, AEM and Muellerized Suspension Systems as well as DC Sports and Kenwood to create these one-off safety cars. These vehicles, and all the racecars, will be at Pikes Peak later this month for the 91st running of America's second-oldest racing event. Scroll down for the official press release.Permalink | Email this | Comments
While Jerry Seinfeld was gallivanting around LA with Sarah Silverman in a Jaguar XKE, our favorite car-loving comedian, Jay Leno, was checking out the all-new 2014 Cadillac ELR. Set to go on sale later this year, Cadillac brought its ELR to Jay Leno's Garage to show off some of its styling and technology as well as give Leno some seat time in the range-extended EV. Leno owns both a Volt and a CTS-V, and the ELR is a kind combination of the two (sort of).
In this episode, Leno spends some time talking to Frank Saucedo, GM director of advanced design, and ELR chief engineer Chris Thomason before logging a few miles on the sleek coupe. Interestingly, it seems that GM has definitely changed its tune a little since the introduction of the Volt a couple years ago; Saucedo and Leno both refer to the ELR as a hybrid, and Thomason says that it gets the "bulk of its propulsion" from the electric motors. Whatever you want to call it, scroll down to watch the latest episode of JLG with some great information and driving shots of the plug-in Cadillac.Permalink | Email this | Comments
Mercedes-Benz has AMG on an impressive growth curve these days, the official name of the effort being Performance 50. By the 50th anniversary of AMG in 2017, the Mercedes performance division will produce 30,000-plus units per year. That's up from today's 20,000 or so, and AMG will boast a catalog of 30-plus models. Despite that very full range, this new CLA45 AMG is certain to be an important contributor on all accounts.
The thrill monitors at AMG have a long-established reputation for creating large, open-road rockets that err on the side of brute force and everyday comfort over zippy, tight-feeling sports car finesse and balance. The strategy has worked wonders for the company's sales ledger and created handsome levels of profit per unit, but entire developing sectors of the premium hot-car market have been knowingly left out of the AMG equation. While there are exceptions, AMG has never been considered a maker of truly agile machinery that's easily tossed around.
The very first thing that we notice while driving the CLA45 AMG - on schedule for North American deliveries beginning in April with a reported starting price of $47,450 - is exactly how lively its new 4Matic chassis can be. It's an entirely new feeling for an AMG, and it's entirely welcome by us. Some will complain about the price being asked for this super CLA-Class, but this little sedan is a true AMG of the new genre, and as such, it might just be something of a bargain.Permalink | Email this | Comments
The next step in the off-track saga involving NASCAR Nationwide Series drivers Mike Harmon and Jennifer Jo Cobb has been taken, with arrest warrants issued for Harmon and business associate David Novak. In May, Harmon was charged with stealing a car hauler and other goods worth hundreds of thousands of dollars from Cobb's shop, and after saying he didn't steal them and maintaining his innocence, seven of the stolen vehicles were found on two of his properties that same month.
The issue is an acrimonious commercial separation with Cobb on one side, Harmon and Novak on the other. Harmon drives for Novak's team - and Cobb did too until last year - and Harmon and Novak allege that the stolen property actually belongs to the team, but Cobb took it. Novak and Cobb are in court over the matter, but when a judge declined Novak's request to have Cobb return the property, it appears he worked with Harmon to get it back the five-finger way.
Harmon and Novak have been charged with breaking and entering, as well as larceny after breaking an entering. At the time of writing, neither man had been arrested, the hauler still hasn't been found, and as for the cars that were recovered it's been claimed that they were stripped and are worth something like $10,000 apiece, a steep drop from their original reported value of $150,000 apiece.Permalink | Email this | Comments
It had been planned for 2014 but it's going to be 2015 instead - that's when Suzuki returns to the manufacturer ranks of MotoGP after quitting the series at the end of 2011 because of The Great Recession. When Suzuki stopped after 37 continuous years of racing, it said it intended to return three years later and it has been in talks with MotoGP's rights holder, Dorna Sports, since last year. No doubt, though, that fan anticipation of the team's return outdoes any dismay at the delay. It will join Yamaha, Honda and Ducati in the premiere league.
Its bike has already been testing in Japan and was with the official MotoGP tribe in Barcelona, Spain on Monday when Suzuki announced its return. It's said the development bike is called the XRH-1, being ridden by official tester Randy de Puniet (who currently races in MotoGP on an Aprilia-based bike with TeamAspar). and after a day of testing de Puniet got the new Suzuki to within seven-tenths of a second of the top time posted by other MotoGP teams. Davide Brivio, who once ran the Fiat-Yamaha team and has been close with Valentino Rossi, will be the team manager.
Speaking of Rossi, The Doctor is back with Fiat-Yamaha after a bad run with Ducati but is only contracted to the end of 2014. Brivio is the man who got Rossi to join Fiat-Yamaha, then got him to Ducati. Until he took the head of Suzuki's works effort, Brivio was working with Rossi's VR46 management company, heading areas like merchandising. The rumormill has already begun its work, with folks wondering if Rossi will head to Suzuki in 2015 if his second stint at Yamaha doesn't prove fruitful before then. Scroll down below for the official press release from Suzuki.Permalink | Email this | Comments