Sunday, November 16, 2014

600-Horsepower Cadillac ATS-V Coupe to Go Sports Car Racing in 2015

For much of its 111-year history, American luxury car brand Cadillac has been focused on the road-going character of the premium brand. While other automakers like Bentley, BMW, Audi, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz used motorsports to highlight their latest engineering know-how documented with storied wins at tracks like Le Mans and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Cadillac's past has seen the General Motors' brand more accustomed to cruising boulevards or parked at country clubs. Several seasons of Pirelli World Challenge has resulted in four drivers' championships over a decade-long timeframe including Cadillac pilot Johnny O'Connell's 2014 title. With the completion of the recent season, Cadillac also locked up its three-straight manufacturers' title thanks to its V-8 powered, race-prepped CTS-V Coupes. Fending off exotic vehicle like the Bentley Continental GT3, Lamborghini GT3, McLaren 12C GT3 and the Audi R8 Ultra through 2014, Cadillac will attempt to continue its reign in sports car competition with an brand-new car in 2015.

Designated at the Cadillac ATS-V.R, the future track terror is delivering a number of advances over the previous championship winner. The first notable change is the adaptation of the ATS-V Coupe rather than the CTS model. Originally fielding the CTS sedan in 2004, Team Cadillac has been fielding a CTS-V Coupe from 2012 up to this season. Set to be revealed at the Los Angeles Auto Show, the yet-to-be shown stock 2016 ATS-V Coupe will be the brand's first compact performance model.

Another aspect affecting the look of the appearance of the 2015 ATS-V.R is that the race car conforms for FIA GT3 rules. The FIA GT3 specifications were approved for the 2013 Pirelli World Challenge season and is widely-applied in global motorsports. An aggressive aero kit consisting of a carbon fiber front splitter and a full undertray give the Cadillac ATS-V.R a firm sports car look. Fenders have also been shaped to allow FIA-mandated tire sizes that will be mounted to the Cadillac race car's 18-inch BBS racing wheels. Brembo brakes and three-way Penske adjustable shocks are fitted to ATS-V.R in order to handle fast, tight cornering.

Moving the brand-new Cadillac is handled by a dramatically different type of engine. The ATS-V.R will be the first recent competition Cadillac to be powered by a V-6 engine. Modified for racing, the 3.6-liter Twin Turbo V-6 powerplant is based on a production Cadillac engine like the one found under the hood of the CTS Vsport. This engine should also be similar to the one equipped on the stock ATS-V. Larger BorgWarner turbochargers and high-capacity intercoolers as well as a side-exiting racing exhaust system will allow an available output of 600 horsepower to flow through a rear-mounted Xtrac sequential six-speed transmission to the drive wheels.

Cadillac's racing history may not be as rich as other premium car companies but it does contain some notable accomplishments. During an 1909 event in Portland, Oregon for what was the first race to be sanctioned by the AAA (the United States automotive club held many major auto races prior to the formation of the USAC series), A Cadillac won a three-lap event on a 14.6-mile road course. After World War Two, competitive sports car builder Briggs Cunningham competed with Cadillac products. At the 1950 24 Hours of Le Mans, he ran a largely stock Cadillac Series 62 as well as a custom-bodied Cadillac chassis called "Le Monstre". In the same year, a Cadillac-engine Allard race car won 99-mile race in Watkins Glen. Aside from sports car racing in the 1950s, Cadillac's ran in the NASCAR Grand National Series (now called the Sprint Cup Series) though never won a race. Cadillac's arrival to the Pirelli World Challenge Series in 2004 came after a three-year prototype sports car run that yielded limited success.   

Along with its expected run as part of the Pirelli World Challenge in 2015, the Cadillac ATS-V.R's compliance to FIA GT3 regulations could allow the luxury brand to spread its sport car racing profile in the future.

Information and photo source: General Motors

Monday, November 3, 2014

An Account of Greg Moore's Enduring Racing Spirit 15 Years After His Death

Through the week leading up to the unpleasant anniversary, it has been my intention to create a tribute to Greg Moore. That lap 10 crash on October 31st of 1999 at the track now known as Auto Club Speedway remains as perhaps the most vicious accidents I have ever witnessed in motorsports. From what I saw to a racer I had so greatly admired, reacquainting me with the life of the Canadian presents a drastically greater feeling. I’ve retrieved my November 1st 1999 copies of the Toronto Sun, Toronto Star and the sports section of the Toronto Star newspapers I saved for 15 years to refresh myself to the great sense of loss no only to the motorsport community as well as to the nation of Canada. Crash images on the papers of those 15-year-old periodicals send me back. Reaction from teammate Patrick Carpentier, figures of the sport including CART president Andrew Craig and even insinuation whether he must have driven in the event following a Saturday scooter accident that injured his right hand was a sample of the content in text.

Following the time I spent reinforcing my memory, what I would write needed to relay a sense of sadness but also admiration. Too many of my recent articles have been a documentation of facts and the reference of statistics. Those who have followed Moore are quite famous with five great wins in the CART World Series and a domination of the 1995 Indy Lights series that built his legacy. In tribute to this great Canadian driver, I cannot liken Greg Moore to what could be found in a record book or on a digital webpage like Wikipedia.

For me, it is easier to identify with those more factual encounters than principles used in more emotional writing styles. I was born with Autism and though I can now operate at a fully functional level, it still hard for me to clearly and fully express my more emotionally guided words. That was one of many personality aspects I liked about Greg Moore. For a person who left the planet so prematurely, he conveyed happiness, humour and sometimes even displeasure so vividly to even distant observers. In his passing, his character in the paddock was well documented as a practical joker who was still an overall likeable competitor. Even 15 years later, many drivers who have raced against Moore remember him fondly.

To the best of my recollection, there was an interview with Greg Moore I watched on CBC during the 1995 Vancouver Indy where he was being questioned on assuming the Player's-sponsored ride with Forsythe Racing. Effectively taking over the spot left vacant by the Formula 1-bound Jacques Villeneuve, he was clearly thrilled but I also sense a slight bit of rookie discomfort. After-all, a Player's Racing race car found in victory lane in Indianapolis 500 and eventually running well enough to capture the 1995 CART championship would obviously felt like a one-ton weight for a 21-year-old Canadian expecting to face some of the world‘s best open wheel drivers. However, in the 1996 season, the steering wheel of the #99 car was handled by driver full of talent and near fearlessness. The opening lap multiple-car wreck at the 1996 U.S. 500 at Michigan International Speedway dodged by Moore demonstrated the reflexes of a winner. Through the infield grass, the #99 Reynard-Mercedes escaped a moving wall of open wheel race cars. Running on dirt and grass on slick tires and returning to the oval’s paved surface unscathed, that driver from Maple Ridge, British Columbia forged his place in open wheel racing.  

Winless in 1996 and falling short to locking-up rookie of the year honours in the series to a flamboyant Italian named Alex Zanardi, Moore pulled off two wins in 1997. The first coming at Milwaukee, I remembered the popular #6 machine piloted by Michael Andretti hounding the Canadian prepared to capitalize on even a minor slip. The veteran Newman/Haas Racing driver was never offered this window of opportunity. Becoming the youngest driver in CART series racing to win an event, Moore found victory lane again at Detroit. One of my two favourite Greg Moore wins, PacWest Racing team drivers Mark Blundell and Mauricio Gugelmin were gambling on fuel mileage in the closing laps of the race. Moore was positioned in third and immediately entered into full attack mode as the fuel cells of both PacWest drivers ran dry. The 1998 U.S. 500 final-lap battle between him and the Target Chip Ganassi Racing juggernaut where the Player's Racing #99 prevailed was a remarkable sight. Earlier that year, Moore stole victory away from Ganassi’s driver Alex Zanardi with five laps to go at the Rio 400 in Brazil.

The way he fought for each and every first-place trophy in CART has presented five memorable viewing experiences for which my eyes had the privilege to behold. Present at the Molson Indy Toronto event for 1998 and 1999, I was watched the #99 car in action on the long-running street course. Unfortunately, I never had the thrill to see him outside of a race car in person. Unlike the configuration used in the present Honda Indy events in Toronto where a stretch provides a reasonable chance for many spectators to see the major personalities of IndyCar racing, sight of drivers were more restricted in the late 1990s. Current IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe has had fond memories of Greg Moore and it has been an enjoyment hearing his interaction with the Maple Ridge native. He talked about Moore in an interview I conducted back in 2010 in cooperation with his Indy Lights ride of the time Team Moore Racing. Earlier that year, I did have an experience with one of his race cars at the Canadian International AutoShow as part of a special display. Present for media day, I observed the Player's #99 Reynard-Mercedes was among several vehicles that included a Wolf Racing Formula 1 car and a Paul Tracy driven Can-Am car displayed by the Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame.

Greg Moore’s passing affected everyone who knew him. Family and personal friends have probably been the most hurt following the tragedy in California. To a lesser degree, his discontinued physical presence on this planet resulted in him being unable to join Team Penske in 2000. Thanks to a wonderfully compiled book titled “Greg Moore- A Legacy of Spirit“, there was a wonderful account alleviating some of the sadness for the unfulfilled opportunity. While he never drove a Team Penske vehicle in competition, Moore tested Al Unser Jr.’s ride in 1994 at Nazareth Speedway one-mile track. Driving the envied Mercedes-Benz powered PC-23 chassis, he was only the second person to drive Penske machine not under contract with the “Captain“; the other driver was Formula 1 great Ayrton Senna (an idolized athlete of Moore‘s). For any Canadian auto racing fan, I have to recommend Greg Moore- A Legacy of Spirit as a deserving read for a full understanding of a driver and human being.

The most fundamental fact one person could admire about Greg Moore was his pursue to live his dream. Between his two dreams, Greg chose auto racing over his other dream of hockey. Two vocations with a slight chance for ultimate success, Greg Moore, supported by his father Ric, pressed into motorsports. Despite reaching the glorious realm of professional auto racing and flourishing, the construction of something like his dreams was not without its adversity. In the case of Moore’s family, mortgages on property paid for the younger Greg’s first season competing in Indy Lights. Despite limited finances, determination, skill and perhaps a good deal of luck resulted in Moore’s blue and white #99 car being an icon to Canada’s auto racing heritage as much as the #99 worn by Wayne Gretzky (a hero of Greg Moore) was to hockey.

With 15 years passing since the loss, we are all left wanting more time for Greg Moore on this Earth to evolve greater as a driver and person. Understanding he cannot truly achieve this wish, the young Canadian must be racing somewhere whether in the afterlife or in the spirits of those among the living.