Autoblog Gets Schooled: Part One

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I remember the exact moment when I realized that I suck. I was braking hard into turn four, when the instructor ahead of me clipped the apex cone with the deft touch of an athlete, sending it into the air and onto the track. I drove through the cloud of dust in his wake and heard the small particles of dirt hitting the bumper and getting thrown up into the wheel wells. He was pulling quickly out of the corner and onto the straight when I realized that I had no business being anywhere near the brake. I jumped off the stoppers, sending all the weight onto the rear tires and started easing into the throttle. The car began to push wide and as I was looking down the track, he continued to barrel into the distance. Twenty yards, then thirty, then fifty and so on. How is this possible? I'm behind the wheel of a Germanic icon and h e's driving a turbo'd econobox. I couldn't have been more emasculated if all three of Hef's blondes stormed in, ripped off my pants, pointed and laughed.

And so ended my day at Skip Barber's High Performance Driving School at Laguna Seca raceway.

DISCLAIMER: Autoblog has never and will never accept gifts from any company. We paid the full tuition price of $1,595 to attend the Skip Barber HP Driving School, just like you would.

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Meta-launch: Get ready for glut of Audi R8 coverage

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click image above to view high-resolution photo gallery

Audi recently invited a number of automotive journalists out into the desert to officially launch the R8 sportscar to the media. In addition to warming up the press with a posh hotel suite and fine cuisine, outside were waiting a dozen or so R8s in a wide array of colors. Journos not only got to storm the canyons, but also were invited onto Las Vegas Motor Speedway to push the car closer to its limits.

While the event ended some time ago, it appears today will be the day many outlets choose to publish their reports, which will no doubt then be followed by more reports on parchment in future issues of major U.S. car magazines. After the jump we've compiled tw o videos for you, an excellently edited piece by Winding Road that's been released in conjunction with its newest issue that also features the R8, and a video from Popular Mechanics, as well. No doubt we'll find more reports of the R8 launch on the web, and we'll add them to this post as we do.

We never saw an invite for Autoblog to the event (it's probably sitting in my spam folder), but the Autoblog Army was on hand thanks to Chandler Peterson, an avid reader who happened to be staying at the hotel and shot a bunch of pics for the rest of us to enjoy. We get to see the entire color palette of the R8 in a row, as well as some nice shots of a model in black. You can view the full high-res photo gallery here. Perhaps next time we'll catch our invite before it hits the s pam folder, right Audi?

[Source: Winding Road, Popular Mechanics]

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The Tide is Turning: GM Expects Q4 2006 Profit, Delays Earnings


GM expects to turn a profit for Q4 2006 and is again restating its earnings for 2002-2006. It seemed just only yesterday when every analyst and armchair CEO had dire of predictions for GM. CEO Rick Wagoner's head was called for and bankruptcy pools were going around the offices. Things picked up in 2006 with the introduction of the GMT900 SUVs and pickups, and it looks like the corner may about to be dramatically turned with new product like Malibu, Enclave, Astra and CTS on the way. The news of the General turning a quarterly profit isn't all that surprising, but what's crazy is the latest earnings restatement.

If it seems like it's been happening a lot, well, it's because it has. Seven out of the last eight quarters have been accompanied by earnings restatements, which casts doubt upon any of GM's earnings statements, good or bad. One day we may wake up and hear that 2005 really was just a bad dream for GM and that they actually turned a profit. We kid. GM's now looking to share earnings results the week of February 5th.

[Source: Detroit News]

 

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Salt in the wound? Ford looking at bonuses for management while asking unions for cuts

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The UAW has been hearing a lot about how the 2007 labor talks will involve tough concessions. Ballooning health care costs and twice as many retirees as active employees result in a $1,500 per-vehicle disadvantage for the Detroit automakers -- these are among the major factors cited for GM's $10.6 BLN loss in 2005 and Ford's $12.7 BLN loss in 2006. Of course, the UAW will point out that poor management decisions and a lack of new products are every bit as much to blame, which is why recent reports of Ford management bonuses are really hitting home.

This sounds a lot like when Delphi asked a judge to allow the troubled supplier the right to reward management for progress made in bankruptcy proceedings. As that was happening, Delphi CEO Steve Miller told the press that the company would cut line worker pay to as low as $9 per hour to stay competitive. It's a tough situation for both Ford and the union, since Ford needs to retain talent and keep some consistency at the top while the union tries to brace the rank and file for concessions in 2007. Even though Ford does need to hang onto its best employees, it seems like a bad idea to announce possible bonuses on the eve of the worst earnings report in its history. Ford will not decide until March whether to give out the bonuses.

[Source: Detroit News]

 

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2007 Barrett-Jackson, Scottsdale: Mega gallery

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The Arizona auction posts are winding down as the results are finally being posted and our recap post is imminent. This is by far the largest automotive auction action of the year with thousands of classic and collector vehicles going across the block, racking up hundreds of millions of dollars in sales numbers. While some of you kept screaming, "More, more, more!" we understand that the rest of the automotive world is slowly coming back to life and it's time to move on.

Before we close the book on Scottsdale 2007, however, we wanted to share a mega gallery of random shots from the past week from each of the three major auctions we covered. This particular gallery is from Barrett-Jackson, the big top, the show, the main event, the auction that dwarfs all auctions. Drew Phillips of Fast-Autos.net once again provided us with tons of superb photos to supplement our own. Drew is truly one of the finest automotive photographers in the field. We were also fortunate to have the duPont Registry booth as a base of operations and the Ford skybox as a killer photo spot for a time. Thanks to all. Since the photos seem to be the thing that mattered most with our coverage, we'll wrap this up and get on with the show.

 

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Team Cadillac unveils new car and two champ drivers

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Click on the image for a gallery of high-res images of the new CTS-V racer

The last two champions of the Speed GT series will both be driving for Team Cadillac in 2007 in new CTS-V racers. Cadillac veteran Andy Pilgrim, the 2005 champ, will be joined by 2006 champion Lawson Aschenbach. Aschenbach finished in the top ten in every single 2006 race along with his single victory. The CTS-Vs will have a fresh color scheme of red and black with silver Cadillac script this year. They'll debut the new look publicly on February 3 at the Cadillac / Mobil 1 Super Bowl Celebrity Grand Prix go-kart race in Miami, Florida the day before the b ig game. Aschenbach and Pilgrim will run the full season and a third CTS may compete at certain events. For 2007 the CTS-V racer still has the look of the first generation production car, not the the new CTS that debuted at the recent Detroit Auto Show. The GM press release is posted after the jump.

[Source: General Motors]

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2007 RM Auctions, Arizona: Mega gallery

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Here we bring you another mega gallery of random shots that didn't make our main posts from Auction Week in Arizona. Barrett-Jackson, the huge carnival with 1200+ vehicles held at Westworld, is the one that gets the lion's share of coverage. Russo and Steele is like B-J's little brother with its smaller size but similar features. And then there's the subject of this particular gallery, RM. The RM Auction is the more subdued, muscle-car-light, and civilized auction, held not in a tent, but in the ballroom of the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa in Phoenix, Arizona. This is where we saw Alain de Cadenet explaining what he loved most about each of the dozen or so cars paraded before him. Everything here just felt more relaxed and genteel. They actually sat us in the front row in front of the turntable to get the best shots. What class. A big thanks to the folks at RM and to Drew Phillips of Fast-Autos.net, who once again provided us with expert photographs from the auction.

 

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Geneva debut for Dodge roadster

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Apparently Dodge hasn't completely given up on the the idea of a smaller cheaper sports car than the Viper. After showing a number of concepts over the last decade including the Copperhead, Slingshot and the Razor (shown above), Dodge may be showing off another new two seater at the upcoming Geneva Auto Show. According to the UK-based website Autocar, Chrysler will unveil a Dodge-branded MX-5 clone with styling based on that of the 2002 Razor Concept. Unless Dodge were to build it based on the underpinnings of an existing vehicle like the Crossfire (itself based on the first generation Mercedes SLK) it probably wouldn't be economically viable. The Crossfire platform is probably too expensive for a car like this, and so it seems improbab le that such a vehicle would ever come to market, although it sure would be fun to have another option.

[Source: Autocar]

 

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2007 Russo and Steele, Scottsdale: Mega gallery

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At last, here's the final mega gallery of shots that didn't make our main posts from Auction Week. We showed you lots of lots from Barrett-Jackson, but managed to just barely scratch the surface. We also brought you highlights of the swanky RM Auction, held in the ballroom of the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa in Phoenix, Arizona. And now we have Russo and Steele. Russo has a catalog that looks like one chapter yanked from the B-J catalog. Lots of muscle cars with a few classics and oddities thrown in for good measure. Everything from a Cosworth Focus RS rally car to the Munsters Coach.

Although many of the cars had reserves, R&S managed to move more than 65% of their 500 cars in 5 days of auction action. In the process they broke the $20 ,000,000 mark and even set a couple of records along the way. They had a 1969 Shelby GT500 (lot 6627) sell for $451,000 and a 1965 Shelby GT350 (lot 6758) go for $358,600. Both are records for those models. They also had the only Shelby Daytona Coupe 427 sell for $1,320,000. And that was despite rain dampening spirits and soles (ha ha) every day but Sunday, when we finally got to see the Daytona unwrapped. Thanks again to Drew Phillips of Fast-Autos.net, who provided his professional photography services to us this week.

 

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