AutoGuide News Blog
The AutoGuide News Blog is your source for breaking stories from the auto industry. Delivering news immediately, the AutoGuide Blog is constantly updated with the latest information, photos and video from manufacturers, auto shows, the aftermarket and professional racing.
What’s the first company that comes to mind when you think of car seats? If it’s Grayco or Britax you really need to get out more. In the realm of performance automotive seating Recaro is a leader in the industry, whether it’s at the OEM or aftermarket level.
MINI finally confirms their entry into the 2012 World Rally Championship after missing the official entry deadline of December the 19th. MINI has had issues with coverage of the event in the past and it seems has tried to make a statement about their dilemma.
A source in the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) said, “We have an agreement that Mini will be registered as a manufacturer for this year’s championship. We understand there are existing concerns over the position of the promoter – and particularly the implications for the sport’s coverage in Germany, but we are addressing those concerns.”
MINI also announced along with its entry that they will only be running one factory car rather than the originally planned two. The driver of the MINI factory team WRC car will be Dani Sordo, with the other MINI factory team driver Kris Meeke not in the running this year. ”This is not an ideal situation. Ideally we wanted, in fact everybody involved wanted, the original plan of two cars, two drivers: Sordo and Meeke doing all 13 rounds. That wasn’t possible, so we had to find a solution which we have done. The priority here is that Mini is a manufacturer in the 2012 WRC”, said the source inside the FIA.
MINI has not confirmed yet whether they will be running their WRC car in the most expensive rounds of the championship such as Rally New Zealand, but has said that they are submitting the car to the full world championship.
Ask someone from Volkswagen what their most important reveal is at the Frankfurt Auto Show and the answer will be simple: the Up!, the diminutive city car with a 1.0-liter 3-cylinder engine. That’s all well and good, but what about a car (another small car we might add) that’s just awesome. We are, of course, talking about the Polo R WRC, the VW brand’s entry into the World Rally Championship.
Shown before in sketches, Frankfurt is the first public showing of hot-hatch on steroids, with massively flared fenders doing a poor job of hiding VW’s all-wheel drive setup. Under the hood is a turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine pumped all the way up to 296-hp.
Set to compete in next-year’s WRC season this is at least some indication that VW is planning a Polo R street model with AWD – a full baby brother to the Golf R. We’ll just settle for a Polo GTI.. if only VW would bring the sub-compact to North America.
GALLERY: VW Polo R WRC
You may not be a racecar driver, but that doesn’t mean you can look like one. No, we don’t think it’s a good idea to wear a Nomex suit adorned with logos everywhere you go, but we like the new Edox X-Treme Pilot III, a watch made for WRC drivers.
Made by Edox (the official timekeeper of the World Rally Championship), the X-Treme is a great tool for divers, WRC or otherwise. Thanks to cool oversize push-buttons, it’s easy to make your way around it even with driving gloves on. The watch is housed in ultra-light titanium and the movement is rotated through 180 degrees. Electric green highlights put us in mind of starting lights, and the X-Treme is held on your wrist with a rubber strap that features a rally-spec tire tread pattern.
The Edox X-Treme Pilot III will be available to purchase in June for €1,890 (about $2,750). There will only be 1,000 of the beauties will be made, so be sure to get yours while they are around.
[Source: Watch Happens]
It’s been 40-some odd years, but Mini is finally returning to the world rally stage.
The Mini WRC Team will be competing in the 2011 World Rally Championship with the John Cooper Works Countryman, as modified by legendary performance company Prodrive. The team was recently launched in its factory in Oxford in a nostalgia-laden gala that saw Paddy Hopkirk and Rauno Aaltonen show up in the Mini Cooper S that won them three rally championships in 1964, 1965, and 1967.
“On the one hand, MINI can look back on a unique success story,” said Ian Robertson, a member of BMW’s board of management. “On the other hand, MINI is the epitome of excitement for millions of fans around the world and thrills them with its energy. This is precisely what we are able to authentically represent through our motorsport involvement in the World Rally Championship.”
This year’s drivers and navigators in the Countryman will be Kris Meeke of England and Paul Nagle of Ireland, and Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio, from Spain. Their first race will be at Rally d’Italia Sardegna from May 5th to the 8th, and they will enter five more races in the season.
Former F1 world champion Kimi Raikkonen will join NASCAR, in a surprise move, a departure from his previous endeavors in Formula 1 and rally racing.
A Finnish newspaper, cited by Autosport, claims that Raikkonen will start out in the Truck series before moving on to both the Nationwide and Sprint cup car series. No start date has been announced, but Raikkonen is expected to join sometime in the summer.
The Finn will be part of the newly formed ICE1 Racing, owned by Foster Gillet. Gillet had previously partnered with Richard Petty Motorsport, and the Gillet family has had previous ownership of the Montreal Canadiens hockey team, as well as the Liverpool F.C. soccer team.
Kimi will finish up his World Rally Championship season as part of his contract, and is scheduled to compete in 8 events throughout the season.
After teasing us with a hopped-up version at the Paris Auto Show, MINI has now revealed the official race-prepped Countryman WRC machine. Unveiled in Monte Carlo, MINI brought out drivers Dani Sordo and Kris Meeke, as well as the 1967 Monte Carlo Rally winning Mini Cooper and drivers Rauno Aaltonen and Paddy Hopkirk to celebrate.
Built to new WRC specs, the car makes use of a turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder and weighs around 2,645 lbs – roughly 560 lbs lighter than the street car.
The 2011 World Rally Championship kicks off February 10th in Sweden.
GALLERY: MINI Countryman WRC
GALLERY: MINI Countryman WRC Show Car
With a huge gulf existing between the road-going version of the MINI Countryman and the WRC-ready version, a halo version that could bridge the gap between urban crossover and full-blown race car could be an asset for MINI, and help them leverage some of the image boost that their rally program will provide, especially in parts of the world where WRC is a popular motorsport.
At this point, the idea of a hardcore Countryman is just a rumor, but the it’s not hard to imagine a pumped up Countryman, perhaps with some tweaks courtesy of a JCW upgrade package, more macho bodywork and big wheels. So far, a concept is supposedly planned for.
Recently Ford announced that it would be retiring the Focus from WRC racing duty as new rules will see the switch to using the Fiesta and a smaller 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder.
To celebrate the car and honor its legacy Ford of Europe has put together a 5 minute tribute video, packed full of jumps, crashes and even the famous incident where the late Colin McRae kicked his Focus in frustration.
Check out the video after the jump and click here for more on the new Fiesta WRC car:
We all know Ken Block is a cool guy and a self-made millionaire, but what nobody seems willing to admit is that the guy can’t drive. Well, maybe he has some talent, but not nearly as much as Ford and Monster Energy Drink’s PR machine would have us believe.
Although he has some of the most successful viral videos to his credit, Block has only scored a total of two points in WRC over three whole seasons. It seems like without a purpose built, hydraulic-handbrake equipped car and some quality video editing, Block can’t pull it together. Hit the jump and decide for yourself.
Video after the jump
As part of our coverage of the Paris Auto Show, we decided to throw in some bonus galleries of cars we thought were cool but didn’t quite fit with the rest of our coverage. Paris was the site for a lot of important competition cars from French manufacturers, like the Peugeot HDi LeMans car, the new Citroen DS3 rally machine and the upcoming Fiesta RS WRC. Hit the jump to check out our galleries and information on the cars.
MINI‘s long awaited WRC entry debuted at the Paris Auto Show Thursday as the MINI Countryman WRC, flanked by rally heroes such as David Richards (founder of Prodrive) and Jean Todt, president of the FIA, flanked the car as it revved its engine for all to hear.
The sounds of a rally-built 4-cylinder filled the halls as assembled media rushed to get photos of the newest WRC entry. The Countryman WRC is loaded with the best in motorsports equipment – a 6-speed sequential gearbox, Ohlins dampers, AP Racing brakes and a turbocharged engine. The Countryman may not seem like an obvious choice, but the extra suspension travel should make it a better rally car than its two-door brethren. Look for the Countryman WRC factory team in 2011, with privateer teams able to buy the car shortly after.
Hit the jump for the official specs
Gallery: MINI Countryman WRC
With the huge success of their C4 rally car, Citroen has a lot to prove with their DS3 successor. Having already claimed three driver’s championships and two manufacturer’s championships in four quick years, the DS3 will have a ton to live up to.
Obviously the playing field is a tad different with the new 2011 World Rally Championship rules in place, so Citroen opted for a smaller, naturally aspirated engine to power their DS3 rally car. We’ll be on hand at the Paris Auto Show to check out the DS3 rally car in person (at its official debut) but before then we’ve been teased by Citroen with this video.
And it’s a real tease, never holding a frame for more than a couple of seconds. If you’re adverse to quick changes in light and picture, we don’t advise you to watch the video. It’s just a whole mess of flickering with very subtle hints as to what the DS3 will pack inside and out. But as with most things on the Internet and YouTube, you’ve got 33 seconds to spare, don’t you?
Check out the video after the break.
Rumors that MINI will enter the World Rally Championship have been swirling for almost a year now, but that could all end later this week. According to the most recent reports, MINI will confirm its intentions to join the WRC series later this week with renowned British racing firm Prodrive set to take over operations of the team.
Based on the Countryman crossover, the MINI rally car has been under secret development at the Prodrive facility in Banbury.
Once the car is unveiled, testing will then begin with Norway’s Mads Ostberg believed to be signed on as both an official test driver and as a factory driver in next year’s WRC season. Due to significant development time, however, its unlikely that MINI will be prepared to start the 2011 WRC season and is likely to join later in the year, using the remaining stages to properly develop the car in competition for a championship run in 2012.
Despite Toyota‘s lack of results in Formula 1 racing, the Japanese automaker has had considerable success in rally racing. With their TTE performance division having significant ties to Europe, Toyota is planning to show off some of their important rally cars at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in England.
The Celica ST185 and the Corolla WRC will be in attendance, in their famous Castrol livery that should be recognizable to anyone who has played Gran Turismo. Also in attendance will be the Celica TA63 Group B rally car, the Lexus LFA, the Toyota FT86 and a supercharged Toyota iQ microcar.
The news just adds to the rumors that Toyota is preparing to announce a return to the World Rally Championship in the near future.
Hit the jump to see the full press release.
TOYOTA AT THE 2010 GOODWOOD FESTIVAL OF SPEED
* The greatest cars from Toyota’s World Rally Championship heritage in action
* Gazoo Racing Lexus LFA, class winner at this year’s Nürburgring 24 Hours
* First Goodwood appearance of the Dakar rally-raid Land Cruiser
* UK debut of the new full hybrid Lexus CT 200h and the Toyota FT-86 sports concept
* 750bhp Toyota Sprint Series Celica targeting fast hillclimb time
Toyota celebrates the glory years of its World Rally Championship campaigns at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed from 2 to 4 July with a roll-call of some of its most celebrated and successful WRC cars.
Ready to burn up the Goodwood rally course, they represent 16 years of success at the pinnacle of the sport. They include: -
* Celica Twin Cam TA64, the 380bhp Group B machine (1983 – 1986) that was hailed as the “King of Africa” for its dominance of the Safari and Ivory Coast rallies
* Celica ST185, the Group A car that was driven to consecutive driver’s championships by Carlos Sainz, Juha Kankkunen and Didier Auriol from 1992 to 1994, and Toyota’s first manufacturer’s championship with seven victories in 1993.
* Corolla WRC, which claimed 25 podium finishes between 1997 and 1999
Spectators will also be treated to the thrilling sight and sound of the Lexus LFA. Gazoo Racing will be setting the pace, fresh from scoring a maiden class victory for Lexus at the Nürburgring 24 hours. The competition car will be joined on the course by a road-going version of the ultra-exclusive supercar. At the other end of the scale, the tiny iQ will be in action, in a new prototype supercharged version created by Toyota Motorsport.
With an eye on setting one of the fastest hillclimb times of the festival, Jonny Milner and Adrian Smith will be charging up their 2010 Toyota Sprint Series Celica GT4. Not content with its 600bhp engine, the car also boasts a nitrous oxide system that can add an extra 150bhp when required.
There will also be Goodwood debuts for rally-raid specialist Ronan Chabot in his Dakar 2010 Land Cruiser, and for Latin America’s all-conquering 900bhp Supra GT, brought all the way to Sussex from Costa Rica by Javier Quiros .
The Lexus CT 200h will be seen for the first time in the UK in the Festival of Speed’s technology pavilion, ahead of its sales launch early next year. Marking Lexus’s entry into the premium C-segment, it represents the latest development of Lexus full hybrid technology, delivering lower emissions and improved fuel economy with hallmark Lexus luxury and reliability.
Toyota’s static display at Goodwood represents a complete spectrum of technical and design innovation, ranging from the mighty GT One that competed in the 1999 Le Mans 24 hours, to the Polar Hilux that became the first car to be driven to the Magnetic North Pole, courtesy of the BBC’s Top Gear team.
Visitors will also be the first in the UK to see the FT-86 concept, Toyota’s vision for a new, compact rear-wheel drive sports car. Aygo Crazy and Gazoo Racing’s eye-catching take on iQ demonstrate that being small is no barrier to performance, while the new Auris Hybrid will fly the flag for British manufacturing excellence.
After being kicked out of the WRC for cheating, and then coming back to win the championship in 1999, it’s safe to say that Toyota has had an interesting history with the World Rally Championship. Whatever you think of the team, their white and green Castrol livery is still one of the most iconic examples in all of motorsports.
Toyota representatives were spotted attending a rally event in Portugal, sparking rumors of a comeback for the Japanese automaker, but rally insiders were quick to quash these rumors.
Speaking to MaxRally, Malcolm Wilson of the Ford factory team said that there was nothing to substantiate rumors of a return for Toyota. “I spoke with them and they made it clear they are not just looking at rallying but all disciplines. It was purely a fact-finding mission from my understanding but it’s good to see they are showing an interest and even considering the WRC as an option.”
Toyota has won 43 rallies and 3 world championships, with famous drivers like Carlos Sainz and Didier Auriol behind the wheel.
MINI is set to join the World Rally Championship in 2012, competing with the new Countryman crossover. Rumors to this extent swirled just ahead of the Geneva Auto Show earlier this year where the Countryman was unveiled, but nothing ever came of it. The MINI fans at MotoringFile say the project is still in the pipes and the race cars crossovers will debut some time this year (or next) for competition in 2012.
The team will be run by the notoriously successful Prodrive group, which successfully campaigned Subaru’s team until the Japanese automaker was forced to pull from WRC in 2008 when the economy turned sour.
The partnership with Prodrive certainly makes sense, as its also a British company and MINI has a long history in rally racing. Making the situation complicated could be the fact that Prodrive is now officially involved with Aston Martin (and also runs Aston’s Le Mans racing efforts). But with no conflict in the WRC series, if MotoringFile is right, we could see MINI in WRC in 2012. And if so, MINI might just consider delivering a high-performance Countryman (JCW anyone?).
Mikko Hirvonen has done an admirable job in WRC. Despite never winning a championship, Hirvonen has stepped into the shoes of legendary driver Marcus Gronholm as Ford’s new factory driver, regularly battling the reigning champion, Sebastian Loeb.
When Hirvonen isn’t flinging the Ford Focus WRC car through various rally stages, he can be found driving the new Focus RS500 special edition on the Nurburgring, as shown in these two Ford promotional videos. The first clip shows Hirvonen driving the RS500 at a relaxed pace through some German B-roads, and giving his driving impressions of the car. The second clip shows the car being driven by Hirvonen on the Nurburgring.
Both videos show off the car’s incredible 5-cylinder soundtrack, and the RS500 looks especially mean in its all black livery. We really wish there was some way to help us understand how the car handles, because 350-horsepower through the front wheels is likely something that must be experienced rather than explained.
[Source: Ford of Europe]
Four-door Porsche runs 7:56 lap time
Porsche might not be in the running for the title of the fastest sports car on the famed Nürburgring, but it can now claim the fastest lap by a sedan. According to a report in German auto pub Auto Sport, the four-door Panamera recently flew through the Green Hell in a time of just 7:56 – three seconds faster than the Cadillac.
Driving the 500hp Panamera Turbo to this new record was legendary World Rally Championship (WRC) racer and official Porsche test driver Walter Röhrl.
Until now the CTS-V has held the record since May 9, 2008, when it blew away its German competitors and was the first sedan to ever run a sub-eight minute lap.
With the current situation at GM it’s unlikely the company will seek to take back its record by running the CTS-V again. We suppose they can always take solace in the fact that the big American sedan costs less than half of a Panamera Turbo; the Turbo retailing for $132,600, and the CTS-V costing just $59,995.
[Source: Sport Auto]
Suzuki WRC fans have something to cheer about for the first time in four months. Yes, it’s been that long since the Japanese automaker announced it would with draw from the World Rally Championship, but now it seems they may already be planning a return.
RallyBuzz is reporting that Urmo Aava, who raced five seasons for the Suzuki team in the Junion World Rally Championship (JWRC), told the Estonian news website Postimees that Suzuki is building a new car and will “probably do a full WRC programme,” in 2011.
Aava made the comments while testing a Suzuki Swift S1600 rally car for the company’s JWRC team.
According to Aava, the new car is an S2000 spec vehicle, in keeping with the new “no-turbo” rules and while Suzuki has made no official comment since pulling out of WRC, comments were made earlier that Suzuki intended to race an SX4-based vehicle in the S2000 class.