ALMS GT2 driver fired DURING last weekend's race

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In our rush to get the Mid-Ohio post completed, we forgot about one of the biggest news items to come out of the weekend. One of the ALMS GT2 drivers was actually let go, as in fired, during the race. About 45 minutes into the 2-hour, 45-minute race, Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing driver Tomas Enge got into it with another car on track, and was penalized by IMSA. Already on probation for some other vehicular altercations, Enge was called in by his team and told his services would no longer be needed. Or something to that effect, we're sure.

The team is the two-time defending GT2 champions and want to make it three in a row. They used teammate Dirk Müller to bring the damaged Ferrari F430 GT home in the top five and will find a new number two driver by Road Atlanta if all goes as planned. While a dramatic end to his stint with the team, we're sure Enge will end up in the cockpit with another team soon enough.

Thanks for the reminder, Eric! Check out Eric's gallery of high-res shots from the racing action last weekend at Mid-Ohio by clicking the thumbs below.

[Source: The Race Site]

 

[via] Autoblog

Iron Man will drive an Audi R8

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Don't tell Toyota, but Iron Man drives an Audi - at least in the movies. Not to be confused with longtime Toyota off-road truck racer Ivan "Iron Man" Stewart, we're talking about Tony "Iron Man" Stark here. Word from Variety is that the newest big screen superhero will be piloting Audi's latest supercar, the R8. The Ingolstadt flyer was chosen by Marvel Studios and Paramount Pictures to be the personal wheels of billionaire industrialist Tony Stark. At least when he's not donning his armor as Iron Man, he'll be tooling around in this mid-engine stunner. And from the sound of it, the movie will be a family affair with the A6, Q7 and the upcoming S5 playing supporting roles. Expect a huge movie tie-in campaign for the film's release that's scheduled for May 2 of next year.

Thanks for the tip, Jay!

[Source: Variety]

 

[via] Autoblog

Spy Shots: Mercedes-Benz SL reveals new face

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Though the SL range was updated less than a year ago with the addition of several new engines and some minor mods to the car's exterior, the stylish coupe will be coming in again for an upgrade that should carry it out until the all-new model arrives in 2012. A number of prototypes have been spotted testing both in the icy temps of Scandinavia and more recently at the world's highest paved road at Mt. Evens in Colorado.

Until now, heavy camouflage had hidden most of the changes that were planned for the facelifted model, but these latest images partially lift the veil of secrecy giving us the best look yet of the car's new face. Clearly seen are the car's CLS-style headlights and pronounced grille, which leads to a more chiseled front bumper. Other changes planned for the car include slightly revised taillights and rear bumper, while the AMG prepped version will likely pick up the hand-built 6.2L V8. You can check out spy shots of the SL facelift, as well as the C63 AMG Wagon, here.

[Source: World Car Fans]

 

[via] Autoblog

eBay Find of the Day: Tommykaira R #357

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The car above is indeed the same Tommykaira R that graced the pages of Sport Compact Car a couple of years back, and if you want it, it's yours for $93,000. The owner has listed Tommykaira R #357 on eBay. It's one of 400 total R33 Skyline GT-R-badged Tommykaira Rs, which were sold as complete vehicles through Tommykaira. This one doesn't sport the optional widebody kit that was available (and widely purchased, according to Sport Compact Car), making it even more of a rarity. It's fully federalized and recently laid down 401 AWHP at a dyno session. This Tommykaira Skyline is is the only one of its kind in the US, and it's a complete street banshee. There isn't one of us here at Autoblog who doesn't wish he had an extra $93K lying around. You can view the auction listing here, and if you'd like to read the original Sport Compact Car piece, click here. (The owner reprinted the SCC article in the eBay listing to use as a vehicle description). If we had this car, we'd never have to play Gran Turismo again.

Thanks to Johnnyichiban for the tip!

[Source: eBay]

 

[via] Autoblog

Another stunning GT5 Prologue trailer surfaces

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Holy cow! This is going to be one fine looking game if it can come even close to half the realism of these trailers. The newest one we found on YouTube shows a few new vehicles and another dimension of realistic rendering. Sun and shade and even color shifting paint, all look so much like the real thing that it's hard to imagine it's not HD video you're watching. As we told you recently, Gran Turismo 5 Prologue should be in stores later this year. This latest GT game will also include Ferraris, as evidenced by the F430s shown in the trailers, though it turns out this is not the first time Ferraris have appeared in a Gran Turismo game. That small honor goes to Gran Turismo HD, which was released as a free download on The Playstation Store last year. The full version of GT5 won't be coming until at least the spring of 2008, however, so Sony is taking the interim step of releasing this smaller Gran Turismo 5 Prologue game to keep us interested. Although likely limited to a small stable of cars and limited track options, Prologue will reportedly allow online racing, which is another feature the GT series has gone without for too long.

See the YouTube video after the jump or the original at the read link.

[Source: Polyphony Digital]

Continue reading Another stunning GT5 Prologue trailer surfaces

 

[via] Autoblog

Greenpeace vs. Porsche

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Greenpeace staged a protest (what a surprise) outside Porsche's Zuffenhausen plant today, carrying on about how the company's vehicles are "Climate Pigs," complete with a pink Cayenne Turbo dressed up in pig ears and a porker's nose. (We wonder, did the Greenpeaceniks drive their Porcine Cayenne to the protest? Because if they did, helloooo hypocrisy.) The argument is nothing new, with the organization upset because Porsche is (in their eyes) an enemy of Gaia. You see, it has the temerity to build thrilling cars that aren't ultralights in terms of consumption. Greenpeace must be on tour through Germany this week, as they pulled the same stunt at BMW on Monday. Porsche welcomed the protesters with the snarky banner shown above.

Follow the jump for more info and commentary.

[Sources: Greenpeace, Porsche]


Continue reading Greenpeace vs. Porsche

 

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Spy Shots: HUMMER H3T

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Some more spy photos of HUMMER's H3T SUV cum pickup bed have surfaced, via Lehmann Photo. As we told you a few months ago, the H3T was first shown at the Los Angeles Auto Show way back in '03, as a concept. The original was a 2-door pickup designed to be all-things Hummer to the mid-size p/up crowd. During its gestation, however, it has apparently sprouted an extra pair of ports and looks to follow the H2T model a little more closely. It's basically an SUV with a short pickup truck bed where the third row of seats might have gone, which is more practical and probably cheaper to build. Expect a full range of bed accessories to keep things in the 4-foot-long bed organized and secure. Also expect to see the 242-hp 3.7L inline-5 and the new 295-hp 5.3L V8 from the H3 Alpha on the option sheet. We think the H3T will show up late next year as a 2009 model. Click over to WorldCarFans for larger pics.

[Source: WorldCarFans]

 

[via] Autoblog

F1 Results: McLaren cleared of wrongdoing in Ferrari tech theft flap

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Remember the case of the former Ferrari Formula 1 tech who shared his company's secrets with rival McLaren-Mercedes? The FIA has announced that it has concluded its investigation into that matter and Team McLaren-Mercedes will not be penalized. Formula 1's governing body held an "extraordinary meeting" of the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Paris today and found that although McLaren did in fact have possession of confidential Ferrari material, there was 'insufficient evidence that it had been used in such a way as to interfere improperly with the FIA Formula 1 World Championship'. So no penalty was given to McLaren-Mercedes.

But the announcement came with a warning. If that information is used "to the detriment of the sport" in the future, the FIA might not be so lenient next time. The suggestion was made that if this were to occur, Ron Dennis and his team would face the 'possibility of exclusion' from the 2007 championship, which they are currently leading. They would also be eliminated from competing in 2008. Disqualification should be a pretty big deterrent, we imagine. Not getting off as easy are the two men at the heart of the issue.

McLaren's chief designer, Mike Coughlan, and Ferrari's former head of performance development, Nigel Stepney, have been 'invited' by the FIA to 'show reasons why they should not be banned from international motor sport for a lengthy period'. Ouch. Should be interesting to hear their responses. We'll keep you posted.

[Source: Crash.net]

 

[via] Autoblog

LEAKED: Official Audi A1 sketches

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click above image to view all three reportedly official sketches of the Audi A1

The folks over at CAR online swear they have three official design sketches of Audi's upcoming MINI-fighter, the A1. Reportedly "smuggled" out of Ingoldstadt's design studio, the sketches show Audi's tiny hatch in three-door trim, though a five-door, coupe and convertible are also planned. Based on the automaker's Modular Tranverse Matrix (MQB) platform, the A1 will supposedly be cheap to produce, which may allow Audi to price it up to 10% below the MINI in Europe. Quattro all-wheel drive will of course be offered, though front-wheel drive will be standard on base models. The A1 is also slated to receive a new 7-speed DSG that's cheaper to produce than current clutchless cog swappers. Engines, meanwhile, at least for the European market, should range from 65 to 170bhp in gas models, as well as a 200bhp S1 model, and 75 to 130bhp for diesel models. CAR expects prices to start around €16,000, or nearly $22,000 USD, though we're not sure when or even if Audi will bring its little A1 to the States.

[Source: CAR online]

 

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Maserati GranTurismo: a clearer picture

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Click on above image for wallpaper-sized images of the gorgeous GranTurismo

This writer fell in love in Switzerland this past March. It happened at the launch of the new Maserati GranTurismo. The thing is, I wasn't sure if my newfound affection was for the car or for the sassy model standing in front of it. What's more is that I'm sure I wasn't the only one. Thankfully, Maserati has put an end to my sleepless nights, at least, with the release of a new batch of images showing its breathtaking new coupe away from the glitz and glamour of the Geneva auto show floor.

It was tempting to keep the pictures all to myself, but that just wouldn't be fair. Not to you, and not to the car. She does love the spotlight ever so much. So we've added the new batch of images, in all their high-resolution glory, to our gallery below, together with the original stock images, concept sketches and shots from Geneva. Enjoy.

[Source: Maserati]

 

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Diesel, without the diesel: Mercedes-Benz debuts DiesOtto

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Diesel technology has improved by leaps and bounds, but the trouble is, it still runs on diesel. In the American market, at least, finding a diesel pump is still a pain compared to filling up with conventional gasoline. Mercedes-Benz says it's found the solution with a new developmental powertrain concept it calls DiesOtto.

We first reported on the project a couple of years ago, but the German automaker now has a functioning prototype. Rather than actually running on diesel, the DiesOtto engine is said to incorporate the benefits of a diesel engine, but runs on regular old unleaded. The prototype is a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that uses direct injection, variable compression, turbocharging and something MB calls "controlled auto ignition" to deliver 238 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, with a claimed return of "less than 6 liters per 100 kilometers", which translates to 39.2 mpg. Those numbers, Benz claims, are not based on a small car (like the C-Class or smaller) but on a large sedan (like the S-Class). They may not be entirely revolutionary figures, but any way you look at it, they're damn impressive.

Mercedes hasn't put a timeline on producing and marketing a powertrain based on the DiesOtto prototype, but says it's a "feasible proposition in the midterm". We certainly hope so.

[Source: Edmunds' Inside Line]

 

[via] Autoblog

SNAP! Mini convertible caught without disguise

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You might not have known from looking at it, but even after the second-generation new MINI came out, the convertible version carried on from the previous incarnation. But the BMW subsidiary has been hard at work on its replacement, set to join the standard hatchback and the upcoming Clubman wagon in the lineup ahead of the crossover version.

Opting for a soft top instead of a folding metal roof, the new MINI cabrio's is fully automatic and features an intriguing half-fold mechanism that allows the driver to open just the top instead of the entire roof to expose just the front two seats to the open air, targa-style. Reports also suggest that the fixed chrome roll-over hoops behind the rear seat headrests on the outgoing model will be ditched in favor of deployable emergency units.

The rear-angle spy shot, meanwhile, shows that with the roof up or halfway open, rearward visibility will be severely compromised, with enormous C-pillars creating large blind spots. Guess that means drivers will just have to keep the top down altogether. Oh well.

[Source: Auto Express]

 

[via] Autoblog

Fiat ramps up 500 production to meet surging demand

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Fiat's new diminutive retromobile is selling like proverbial hot-cakes, proving right early indications of the car's initial market popularity. With an initial run of 58,000 planned for this year, the Italian automaker has already received orders for 51,000 units from its dealers in Italy alone, and another 6,000 from France... just three weeks after the car's Italian launch and one week after debuting in France. Geez, does thing emit iPhones out its tailpipe?

To meet the surging demand, this year's production will increase from 58,000 to between 65 and 67,000 units, while subsequent years' production, originally earmarked at 120,000, will be increased to 140,000. In order to support the increased output, Fiat's plant in Tychy, Poland - where Fiat also produces the Panda supermini and upcoming Ford Ka following its launch next fall - will be considerably expanded, leapfrogging Fiat's largest Italian plant in Melfi to become the conglomorate's second largest worldwide, behind the Belo Horizonte plant in Brazil.

[Source: Automotive News - sub. req'd]

Gallery: Fiat 500

 

[via] Autoblog

Chrysler/Cerberus gives dealers six months to improve sales, or else

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Seems we were just talking about this type of threat with another manufacturer, but now Chrysler is putting some pressure on its own dealer network to shape up or shut down. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Cerberus Capital Management via Chrysler Group's new management team is giving under-performing dealerships just six months to show an improvement.

While state anti-trust laws tend to discourage manufacturers from having too much say in the retail end of things, other companies have found ways around that issue. According to the article, they merely want to "encourage" smaller dealerships to merge with larger ones. But even there, automakers are seldom successful at making the dealers comply, even when sales are dismal. Cutting off supplies or only offering less desirable models or option packages is one way they can make it difficult for a dealer to stay afloat, but they'd rather the dealer just get better at what they're doing or get the heck out. Ford and GM have gone through similar dealer cullings over the past few years. It's certainly not the last we'll hear about it.

[Source: Wall Street Journal via The Truth About Cars]

 

[via] Autoblog

Frankfurt Preview: Kia unveiling production Pro_cee'd

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click above image for high-res version

Last September, Kia took the wraps off of the Pro_cee'd concept at the Paris Motor Show. The Pro_cee'd concept was yet another variant of the brand's popular cee'd model, this time as a three-door hatch. Come this September at the Frankfurt Motor Show, Kia will unveil the production version of the Pro_cee'd that's scheduled to go on sale in Europe in early 2008.

The Pro_cee'd is a low and wide three-door hatch with very agreeable proportions. In fact, the car is longer, lower and wider than the standard five-door cee'd, which must mean it shares few body panels despite its similar appearance. We could do with out the character lines and deep indent that mucks up the side panel, but overall it looks sportier than what we've come to expect from Kia. In Europe, we would expect the standard cee'd engines including a 1.4L and 1.6L gas motor, as well as a 1.6L diesel, to be offered in the Pro_cee'd.

Frankly, we're more than a little bewildered why Kia hasn't yet considered selling the cee'd in the U.S. market, and this three-door model only compounds our confusion. We're guessing the base car itself wasn't developed to meet U.S. safety standards and to reengineer it would tank the business case for its transatlantic voyage. There's always hope for the next-gen model, though.

[Source: Kia]

Continue reading Frankfurt Preview: Kia unveiling production Pro_cee'd

 

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[via] Autoblog

Fiat bringing Iveco trucks stateside early 2008

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The Fiat group seems to be on a ceaseless campaign to bring its products to the U.S. market. A range of products from Alfa Romeo are in the pipeline for importation, the upcoming high-performance Abarth version of the new Fiat 500 has been tipped to make the trans-Atlantic voyage, and now Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has announced plans to bring the group's heavy truck subsidiary Iveco to the American market. But while the 500 and Alfas may take a while to make the trip, Marchionne has a much tighter time-frame in mind for Iveco, declaring that they company "will have something done within six to nine months." That's mighty soon.

Iveco, short for Industrial Vehicle Corporation, builds close to half a million diesel engines and some 200,000 commercial vehicles every year, including heavy trucks, military vehicles, fire engines, buses, vans and even a formula racing truck that makes NASCAR Craftsman Series trucks look like toys.

[Source: Automotive News - sub. req'd]

 

[via] Autoblog

KaleCoAuto - find those impossible to find parts

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KaleCoAuto's wiper blade sharpener

I worked in an auto dealership after college that had a huge service department. Sometimes to raise morale (or to just raise a little extra cash), service techs would suggest non-existent parts to customers who insisted there was a problem that couldn't be diagnosed. Things like blinker fluid, Johnson rods and muffler bearings - stuff that sounded legit to the uninitiated, but were purely figments of the techs' imaginations. A company called KaleCoAuto has an online catalog where you can actually order some of these items. No kidding.

When you click over to their website, you'll find some hilarious items. The featured item right now is KaleCoAuto's Energy Drink. "What is good for the body is also good for the car," reads the tagline. It looks like an ordinary energy drink, but apparently serves double duty: "You can share this Energy Drink with your ride! Boost your car's octane and increase your metabolism with the same beverage." Look for round tuits, salad shooting spinner rims, left handed metric screw drivers, flux capacitors, wiper blade sharpeners, and even brass balls. Truly, there are probably about 50 made up products in all on the site, which itself appears totally legit to the untrained eye.

Thanks for the tip, Michael!

[Source: KaleCoAuto via TrueDelta]

 

[via] Autoblog

Another Ferrari goes up in smoke

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The picture above is, unfortunately, not a thinly-disguised prototype of a rocket-powered Ferrari F430. The sad truth is that yet another Prancing Horse has been destroyed, this time not by poor driving (at least not ostensibly), but by a fire in the engine bay. The picture was taken by the side of a Philippines highway, specifically the South Luzon Expressway that runs between metropolitan Manila and the Calabarzon region.

We don't like to minimize the passing of any Ferrari, but at least it wasn't another Enzo.

If you're sensitive to the sight of a beautiful car laid to waste, we wouldn't recommend following the link to see more, but if you're a natural born rubbernecker, Carscoop has got all the gory angles. Seriously, it's like Saving Private Ryan, only with a supercar.

[Source: Carscoop]

 

[via] Autoblog

AutoblogGreen for 07.26.07

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Two image unveilings yesterday: the Audi A1 and the Kia Pro-cee'd. You see them above, but whaddya think? Are these smallish cars doing it for you? We like them at AutoblogGreen, especially the low CO2 emissions in the cee'd, but this isn't about us.

Speaking of about not us, AutoblogGreen had one post yesterday that was totally given over to the readers: answers to a series of questions you had about the Chevy Volt.

 

[via] Autoblog