Thursday
Mar262015

Guest Editorial: Clarkson Revision

Editors note: Our colleague Patrick Rall had this column pulled by his normal publisher because somene got butthurt over it, and threatened to go to the publications advertisers over it.  We are publishing it because, even if we do not agree with the entire column, it deserves the space, if for nothing else but to keep the debate open.

It was announced yesterday morning that the BBC has opted not to renew the contract of Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson after the outspoken Brit smacked one of the show’s producers, but all the company has done is effectively execute their most popular show in order to bolster the ego of a producer that could have easily left the show without anyone noticing.

Jeremy Clarkson is regarded by some as one of the most obnoxious men in the world, but to the automotive community, he has become one of the most recognizable faces (and voices) in the world.  Clarkson has offended a long list of ethnicities around the world with little more than a slap on the wrist from the BBC (British Broadcasting Company) for things that would have gotten an American television host a sit-down with the federal government.  However, when Clarkson slapped one of the show’s producers over a catering snafu earlier this month, production of the show was suspended and rumors were floating around the internet that Clarkson would be fired from the show.  This seemed unlikely, as Clarkson as undeniably the nucleus of the globally popular show, but this morning it became official – Jeremy Clarkson is no longer a member of the Top Gear cast.

For those who hated Clarkson for the fact that he could freely speak his mind on TV without facing criminal charges (like he would have in the US for saying the same things), this is a huge victory, but for those who loved Clarkson for his straightforward views on the automotive world and those who loved Top Gear, this is a crushing blow – as it will almost certainly lead to the end of the long running program that has become one of the most popular British shows broadcast around the world.

The Shot Heard 'Round the World
Earlier this month, news spread quickly around the internet that filming of Top Gear had been suspended when Jeremy Clarkson slapped one of the show’s producers.  Those reports evolved a bit, with the later reports stating that he actually punched the producer in the mouth. Some reports even stated that he had grabbed the hair of the producer and slapped him while in the grasp.

More information followed – seemingly with far greater degree of accuracy - explaining that Clarkson had struck producer Oisin Tymon and the reason was that after a long day of filming, Clarkson came to the hotel for a nice hot dinner, only to find a cold meat and cheese plate.  Evidently, the hotel kitchen was closed and because of that, the production team couldn’t provide the host with a proper hot meal and for that reason, Clarkson blew up on Tymon.

Reports indicate that Tymon and Clarkson had a heated exchange while face to face and at some point, the TV show host took a swing and popped the producer in the face, allegedly bloodying Tymon's mouth.  After that, the two were separated and they went on with their evening without incident (although some outlets indicate that Tymon filed a complaint of his own), but after being pressured by co-workers, Clarkson notified the BBC management that he had struck the producer.  The BBC quickly suspended filming of the show and began an inquiry into Clarkson’s future with Top Gear.  Today, that future was decided, as the company has officially bid farewell to the man who made the show was it is in favor of a producer who no one cares about outside of his family.

Oisin Tymon has Killed Top Gear
While punching a guy over the inability to produce a decent hot meal seems like a bit much, we have all wanted to punch a coworker from time to time – so leave it up to Clarkson to do what we have all thought about.  However, in the grand scheme of things, Oisin Tymon should have taken the punch with a smile and asked for another while working on getting Jeremy Clarkson a proper hot meal.

While Tymon probably considers himself a key cog to the show’s success, the truth is that if this 36 year old nobody was to fly off into space tomorrow, fans of the show around the world would have never noticed or cared.  Tymon means nothing to the ongoing success of the show and considering his age, he had nothing to do with the show becoming such a global hit.  On the other hand, Jeremy Clarkson has become the face and the voice of Top Gear.  Sure, Richard Hammond and James May are vital components of the show as well, but there is no question that Clarkson is the main attraction.

Now that the main attraction has officially been axed from the show in order to protect the delicate ego (and face) of producer Oisin Tymon, it seems unlikely that the show will continue without Jeremy Clarkson. I expect that the BBC will attempt to fill Clarkson’s shoes and perhaps Tymon will have a solution.  Then again, the guy couldn’t get the star of the show a hot meal late at night, so I don’t expect that he can find someone to replace one of the most recognizable faces in the automotive world.

Worst of all for both the producers and fans of Top Gear, there are rumors that both Richard Hammond and James May have stated that they wouldn’t stay on if Clarkson was removed from the cast.

In the long run, Oisin Tymon’s career will likely take a pretty major hit, considering that he was the one who started the wheels in motion which eventually drove Jeremy Clarkson out of town.  Had Tymon been competent enough to get a hot meal for the TV host, Clarkson would still have a job, Top Gear would still be pumping out new episodes and fans around the world would still love the show.  Instead, fans are outraged, the show seems to be suspended, Clarkson is no longer a member of the cast, the other two hosts may be leaving and Oisin Tymon is still the producer of a show that far fewer people care about.

Really, Clarkson should have punched him twice – once for screwing up that dinner and a second time for ruining Top Gear.

Thursday
Mar192015

MotoAmerica Wraps Up Testing At Circuit Of The Americas

The two-day Dunlop tire test came to a conclusion this afternoon with Monster Energy Graves Yamaha's Cameron Beaubier ending the day as the fastest rider at the Circuit of The Americas, the site of round one of the MotoAmerica AMA/FIM North American Road Racing Championship, April 10-12.

 

The carrot of a sub-2:11 lap was hung at the end of the stick after yesterday's four sessions when Beaubier completed the opening day of testing, held in mixed weather conditions, with a 2:11.910. Today, Beaubier went out and got it done, the 22-year-old Californian taking over a second off his Wednesday best to break into the 2:10s with his 2:10.730 coming in the final of four sessions.

 

"We started out strong today and put in a solid race stint," Beaubier said. "This track is super physical and I just wanted to make sure I was solid in a race situation, a race stint. I felt good. I was plugging away at laps and not pushing like crazy. Kinda riding around at 80 percent and getting a good flow going. I felt really good. We put some new tires on for the last session and went out and did some fast laps. I didn't get a perfect lap in and I made a couple of mistakes and ran into a couple of guys, but I think coming back here for the race we'll be ready. I can't thank my guys enough for all the hard work they put in. It's been crazy. They've been staying up until 2 in the morning getting ready for the test. It's pretty cool they're working that hard. I just need to keep my hard work up too and get ready for the season."

 

Beaubier's best was .349 of a second quicker than that of his teammate Josh Hayes, the defending four-time AMA Superbike champion lapping at 2:11.079 in the final session.

 

"I'm very thankful that MotoAmerica had this test prior to the race," Hayes said. "This was super beneficial for me. We started off a little bit frustrated yesterday but we found some better direction today and I feel better about today than yesterday. I feel like it's going to be a long couple of weeks before we come back here because I want to keep working. Fortunately, with the MotoAmerica format we're going to have a bit more time to where we can sort out the motorcycles rather than racing on the very first day that we show up. I'm looking forward to getting back to work."

 

Roger Hayden also set his fastest time in the fourth and final session, the Yoshimura Suzuki rider ripping off a 2:11.311. Hayden was pleased at the progress he'd made during the test, but wasn't happy at being third fastest. He left wanting more, but he'll get his chance in three weeks.

 

"For the most part, I'm happy," Hayden said. "I got going pretty quick this afternoon and consistently so I'm pretty happy with that and we got the tire life a little bit longer too. You're never happy when you're a half a second off, but at the same time yesterday we were a lot farther off than that. And I could do those times now by myself. We're satisfied. As always we could be a little better, but I think we have a good setup for when we come back her for the race. I'm not fighting any big problems. We just have a few little things that we could get working a little better at the low :11s pace, which would have been nice if I could have gotten to the lower :11s a little sooner. Overall we're happy, but you never leave a test completely happy when you're third quick."

 

Yamalube/YES Graves Yamaha's Garrett Gerloff was fast yesterday and again today, the Texan leading the way in the combined Supersport and Supertock 600 sessions. Gerloff's best came in the fourth and final session.

 

"I'm really happy we got to come test here with everybody and see everybody on the same track, in the same weather conditions," Gerloff said. "We can see where everybody stacks up so that was really good. It's also really cool being so close to my hometown of Houston, so it's all good things. I think we worked a lot and hopefully we'll come back here with some more speed."

 

The fastest of the Superstock 1000 riders was Red Bull Roadrace Factory's Jake Gagne, the Californian putting his Yamaha R1 fourth overall in the combined Superbike/Superstock sessions.

 

The Superstock 600 class was led by Meen Motorsports' Joe Roberts with a lap that would have put him fifth overall in the combined 600 timesheets.  

 

The MotoAmerica Series opener will be held in conjunction with the Red Bull Grand Prix of The Americas, April 10-12.

 

Thursday Lap Times (Combined)

 

SUPERBIKE

  1. Cameron Beaubier (Yamaha) 2:10.730
  2. Josh Hayes (Yamaha) 2:11.079
  3. Roger Hayden (Suzuki) 2:11.311
  4. Jake Lewis (Suzuki) 2:12.289
  5. Chris Fillmore (KTM) 2:13.219
  6. Chris Ulrich (Suzuki) 2:14.733
  7. Elena Myers (Suzuki) 2:19.341
  8. Johnny Rock Page (Suzuki) 2:23.172

SUPERSTOCK 1000

  1. Jake Gagne (Yamaha) 2:11.622
  2. Dane Westby (Yamaha) 2:12.117
  3. Dustin Dominquez (Aprilia) 2:14.372
  4. Devon McDonough (Aprilia) 2:17.933
  5. Marcel Irnie (BMW) 2:18.224
  6. Max Flinders (EBR) 2:20.067

SUPERSPORT

  1. Garrett Gerloff (Yamaha) 2:13.420
  2. Josh Herrin (Yamaha) 2:13.465
  3. Bobby Fong (Triumph) 2:13.925
  4. JD Beach (Yamaha) 2:14.754
  5. Tomas Puerta (Yamaha) 2:15.310
  6. Benny Solis (Yamaha) 2:15.743
  7. David Anthony (Suzuki) 2:15.822
  8. Kyle Wyman (Yamaha) 2:18.460
  9. Hayden Gillim (MV Agusta) 2:20.880
  10. Ben Young (Yamaha) 2:17.950

SUPERSTOCK 600

  1. Joe Roberts (Yamaha) 2:14.850
  2. Cameron Petersen (Yamaha) 2:16.862
  3. Ben Young (Yamaha) 2:17.950
  4. Tucker Lancaster (Kawasaki) 2:20.862
  5. Jay Newton (Yamaha) 2:21.151
  6. Kaleb de Keyrel (Yamaha) 2:22.245
  7. Kris Lillegard (MV Agusta) 2:25.360
Thursday
Mar122015

Jeremy Clarkson And Top Gear Solutions

Jeremy Clarkson broke the internet earlier this week when he was effectively sacked by the BBC, canceling the final three shows of the current production and putting the future of the show in doubt.

We've come up with a couple ideas, not only for the show Top Gear, but for how Clarkson, Hammond and May can continue on with some version of the show.  Have a look.


Tuesday
Feb032015

Ford's Missed Opportunity With The Focus RS

Ford Motor Company has done a great job with launching the Focus RS today, watching the enthusiast press and gear heads on Facebook, Twitter & G+ go on about it has been interesting. Here are the three things almost no one is addressing.

#1 You won't be able to buy this for 14-17 months most likely, and I base that off of Ford's history of showing off a new model or version of a current model, and it's time frame to come to market. If the car is as good as it looks people want to buy it now, but they can't. In the mean timeVolkswagen USA is happy to sell them a Golf R and Subaru of America, Inc. an STI and has quite a bit of time to convince those potential buyers to scratch that itch.

The lead time on the Focus RS is WAY to long, a two to four month lead time, sure, however, you make people wait 12-18 months, (a) they will purchase something else in the interim, (b) keeping peoples interest that long isn't going to happen in the back half of the 2010's, (c) if it fails to live up to expectations the fallout will be 10X worse BECAUSE you forced people to wait.

Look at Ford's F150 and Mustang launches this year. Yes were well received, and they are good vehicles, however, there is an air of disappointment about both vehicles. The F150, for all of the tech involved, when real world tests are conducted, isn't that much of a leap forward, and the weight reduction merely gets to down to the weight of the competition or there abouts. For the Mustang, the car once again gains weight and size when every Mustang fan that I've spoken to in the last three or four years, be it drag race, road race or daily driving enthusiast, wanted something smaller and most importantly, 200-500 LIGHTER. These two vehicles are the Crown Jewels of the Ford empire and while they will sell well, they are covered with disappointment.

#2 This ties in a little bit with the point number one and the lead time, and it's about the lack of details. Oh yes, the PR people will tell this gives us time to spread out the information, horsepower and torque, weight, performance, fuel economy, etc., keep up the interest and such. Again, if this was 2003, perhaps. In watching what Ford did with F150 and Mustang, the initial launches had the splash they wanted, but as the information dripped out, the reaction of the general public, was, "get on with it already".

Over the next 12 months we will find out that the "315+ horsepower" will end up around 330, the weight close to 3,400 lbs (OUCH!!) fuel economy about 3-4 less than the ST, 0-60 in 5 seconds and the quarter mile in 13.7-14.0 seconds, and the price, by the time you add destination, $40,000. While I'm sure there are some calibration details still going on, if, this close to launch those numbers aren't nailed down, oh boy!

#3 It's the price. Now, at $40,000 that's not out of line with the Golf R, or the Subaru STI, but really are there really that many people who are making the $70,000+ to afford that payment? Lets not kid ourselves, 75% of the buyers are going to be financing most of that purchase, so, say to finance $35,000 over 6 years, because that is now the norm, and money is still cheap, so a 4.9% interest rate, you are at $562/mo, and that is before insurance, so toss another $200-$400/mo on for that. So, $750 a month all in? That is a HELL of a proposition, no matter how good the car is.

You know who got this right? Chrysler of all people. I'm not a huge fan of the Charger and Challenger, they are both far to large and heavy, but with the Hellcat they got it right, from announcement, to press drives to available for sale in under 6 months! They still got all buzz, all the run, and because of the shorter time frame, the lather they built up didn't get old, it was just enough so that as it was beginning to fade, the cars were on sale, and then, the new news cycle for them began.

People far smarter and or far more educated can give me the reasons why I'm wrong about all the above, but now, after watching the industry for 30 years, you are going to have a tough time convincing me differently.

Monday
Nov032014

Ford Racing And Roush Supercharged The 2015 Mustang

A few weeks back Ford Racing put out a video where they took a naturaly asperated '15 Mustang, an EcoBoost Mustang, and a V8 with a Supercharger to Milan Dragway to show off the aftermarket parts and how quick they were.

Now we know what Supercharger was under the hood of the 2015 Mustang that went 10.97 was this one co-developed and marketed by Roush and Ford Racing.  According to the video it makes 600 horsepower.

Our guess is that this is on a VERY concervitive tune up and more power can be had on pump gas, and when you switch it up to E85, we are guessing 750hp will be easily achived.

Note to Ford, why ISN'T the V8 or the EcoBoost Mustang Flex Fuel capeable.  Who DOESN'T likw 105 octane fuel out of the pump for 30¢ less than 87!