fbpx

» Racing

In the mood for a good rerun? How about a good rematch? The 2017 Ford GT is everything that was amazing about its ’60s ancestor, with the added benefit of fifty years of technology. And it’s back in circulation, turning heads and ready to race.

As seen in the Chassy film, The 24 Hour War, the original GT40 was born of revenge. Ford Motors tried teaming with its racing hero, Ferrari, to create a supercar that would give Ford entree into the glam world of European racing. Ferrari thought twice, and ultimately didn’t go the distance. Ford said, “All righty, then,” proceeding to kick Ferrari’s ass. Vengeance was Ford’s — it created one of the most incredible supercars of its day — the GT40.

P.S.: The car stunned the world by winning the 1966 24-Hours of Le Mans, ending Ferrari’s dominance of the race. The GT40 went on to own the Sixties, with wins in 1967, 1968 and 1969.

In a well-calculated and extremely intelligent move, Ford created an all-new GT in 2016 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of its first win. The car was to serve as a rolling showcase of the company’s 21st century innovations.

A reason to live: a promise by Ford to deliver more than 12 new performance vehicles by 2020.

If this were a movie, you would accuse it of being exaggerated: Ford and Ferrari rematch at Le Mans 2016. And Ford wins. Ferrari, how you doin’?

Ford’s website describes the 2017 model in part like this: “its teardrop-shape body is the result of extensive work in the wind tunnel.” We can dig it. Here are some more features:

Price: $445,000 (cheap!)

Quantity to be built: 1,000 (the website says the application process is closed — sorry).

Engine: EcoBoost twin-turbocharged, direct-injected 3.5-liter V-6. 550 lb-ft. of torque at 5,900 rpm. Most of the GT’s peak torque arrives from 3,500 rpm.

Horsepower: 647 at 6,250 rpm

Top speed: 216 mph

Body:  Carbon fiber. Aluminum structures minimize the weight of the high-strength subframes.

Does it live up to its proud heritage?  Let’s take it to the streets:

Wired. Basem Wasef writes: Where most modern supercars prepare for the track by stiffening up their suspension settings, the GT goes all out, transforming into a hunkered-down cruise missile, ready for launch. Welcome to the machine.

Jalopnik. Patrick George writes:  The new GT feels more like a purpose-built racer (which, by the way, it is) than many other high-end supercars, with their plus interiors and luxurious trappings. Not here. The GT is low, wide, mean, built like an airplane and loud as hell. And it’s more at home on the track than the road.

Car and Driver. Aaron Robinson writes: This is a car built on sentimentality. Sure, there were other reasons for the GT, such as creating a technology test bed and taking Ford’s brand onto the international racing circuit to be enhanced by its reflected glitz. But ultimately, a family with serious resources just thought a class win at Le Mans on the 50th anniversary of Ferrari’s famous drubbing would be cool. And with a lot of sweat, a few tears, and a dash of luck, their people made it possible. All of that is embedded in this car. The experience is singular.

MotorTrend:  Angus MacKenzie writes:  It’s light on its feet yet preternaturally calm, a prima ballerina in carbon fiber and aluminum. Squeeze on the gas, feel the precise moment the rear tires reach the limit of adhesion, and slow-hand opposite lock to maintain a gentle drift on the exit of the last left-hander. The agility! The precision! The calm, concise, constant dialogue with the chassis through your fingers and toes and the seat of your pants: This is a supercar like no other. This is a Ford like no other.

Autoweek. Mark Vaughn writes: It is loud and harsh, but in a glorious way only a race engine can be. It sounds like a much bigger displacement than it is. It’s only 3.5 liters packed into a V6. That’s small, but it has all the power you’ll want. Nail the throttle and off it roars, bang up through the gears or down through them and hear it brappity-brappity-brapp all the way through the box. Such a cool sound. Such a great car. Hoo lawd!

TechCrunch: Greg Kumparak writes:  This car drives the way every teenager who grew up with a poster of the GT40 plastered above their bed dreamed it might. You think, GT does. I tried pushing this car to its limits, and didn’t even get close. In a game of chicken between Greg and the GT, the GT won.

The 2017 GT will be competing at Le Mans in June. We’ll keep you posted.

Click here to devour the first GT40s and The 24-Hour War.

 

Congratulations to our 24-Hour War talking head and beloved racing legend A.J. Foyt. On April 6, he was honored with the prestigious Spirit of Ford award at the Road Racing Drivers’ Club dinner in Long Beach, California.

The award, sponsored by the Ford Motor Company, recognizes the most influential and skillful racing champions in the sport’s history.

Also on hand at the ceremony was another 24-Hour War featured speaker: NASCAR driver Dan Gurney. Dan helped commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Le Mans landmark win, which was detailed in our documentary. He and A.J. teamed up to score the only victory at Le Mans by an All-American team with all-American drivers.

That’s A.J. on the right and Dan on the left, back in the day.

A.J.’s historic 24-Hour War acheivement is only one milestone along an impressive track. He’s won the the Indianapolis 500 four times, 67 wins and seven championships in the Indy Car series and seven-time winner in the NASCAR Premier Series, including the 1972 Daytona 500.

A.J. was presented with the award by Edsel B. Ford II, the great-grandson of founder Henry Ford. Ford told Fox Sports, “A.J. was one of my heroes in racing when I first followed the sport. When looking back at his magnificent career, the question isn’t what did A.J. drive, but more what didn’t he drive and win in? His passion for driving and his commitment to the sport since his retirement have made him more than worthy for all the halls of fames he is part of.”

As A.J. and Dan discuss in the doc, the Ford versus Ferrari rivalry at Le Mans is one of the most famous battles in racing history. To take on Ferrari, Ford engineered a revolutionary racecar called the GT40. The battle takes place at the most famous race in the world, The 24 Hours of Le Mans. Ferrari had reigned supreme there for decades. In the 1960s, only two teams ever won Le Mans, Ford and Ferrari — cementing dynasties that would last for generations.

We’re intensely proud of A.J. for receiving this notable honor.

Get a closer look at one of the many achievements that led to A.J.’s Spirit of Ford Award by screening The 24-Hour War.

 

Speed Racer’s name matches his occupation, which goes it one better than any dentist named Dr. Stanley Smiley. The puzzlement, of course, is that he wears a “G” on his never-changed shirt and an “M” on his crash helmet, which we’ll owe to cultural confusion and lazy translation.

He’s as competent, loyal and true as a Boy Scout, and is so obsessed with car racing that you never see him doing anything else, not even eating or bowling or digging some new phonograph records.

In most cases, he doesn’t even sleep, despite the endless protests of his friends and family, who beg him to rest before a Big Race. But there’s good ol’ unflappable Speed, burning the midnight oil, turning a socket wrench underneath the car, his anime eyes wide with concentration. Either Speed is just simply supercharged and super pumped about tomorrow, or Speed’s on speed.

Living in a quasi-dream of a netherworld that is not quite Japan and not quite America, Speed is, quite literally, driven. It doesn’t seem to be the thrill of the race that motivates him, even though there are still thrills a-plenty that hold up surprisingly well (check out the DVD). You’ll be amazed at how powerfully these compelling stories still grip your heart and get your blood — uh — racing, even though you are no longer seven-years old.

Simply, Speed seems to be intensely focused, deeply stoic and fiercely determined, which is how we like our non-silly cartoon heroes. It’s his weighty one-dimensionalness that keeps us glued to his adventures. We learn from him that winning isn’t everything, or even the only thing – it’s how you get there and how many opportunities you are awarded to help others (aww!).

Of course, Speed has an exciting (though deadly) career, and perhaps if he were employed in the auto department of a Walmart or working Bay #3 of a Pep Boys, he wouldn’t be as enthused and more apt to snooze.

Even though his family is slightly dysfunctional, they are tremendously, almost alarmingly, supportive. There’s his crusty-but-lovable pop (Pops), who arrogantly and illogically leaves his cushy job with a large engineering firm in order to perfect his marvelous wonder car, the Mach 5.

Pops is a total fascist to his family, but they tolerate him because he’s got the engineering goods in his whacked-out head – the Mach 5 is their ticket to ride. Unlike, say, the 1989 Ford Escort, the Mach 5 comes standard with rotary swords for cutting trees (great for forest driving!), grip tires, an underwater oxygen chamber, special illumination, a periscope, and that all-important homing robot for sending for help when you are being held at gunpoint or kidnapped. No Sirius, though.

Pops almost “blows a gasket” when he first learns his son is racing in this precious super machine. However, Speed Racer and the Mach 5 take to each other like STP to an engine; once Pops sees the income the boy could net from winning tournaments, he quickly changes his warped mind. And this is years before NASCAR.

Moms Racer is the real curio. Her real name is most likely something like Carburatoretta. She’s a looker, a glamour-puss sashaying around in a tight pantsuit and a tiny apron with hearts sewn into them. Though the family is immersed in daily danger, she doesn’t seem to care about anything except serving oven-baked cookies. Call it her protection mechanism; most likely, this obsessive act is just her little way to suppress the horror of her own reality: her oldest son had run away from home and had never come back, her middle son (only 18) risks his life daily in a death machine, and her youngest is under age ten and under absolutely no adult supervision; he eats candy until his teeth rot and tends to stowaway on evildoer’s vehicles. P.S. —  his most intimate friend is a clothed chimp.

There’s Trixie, of course, Speed’s look-alike girlfriend, who is rather accomplished for a pre-feminist gal pal. She can fly a plane and a maneuver a helicopter; she can also give a wicked karate chop when confronted with evil. However, she remains perky and upbeat throughout — her trademark is to giggle and wink, never letting us forget that, through it all, she’s still a female girl. Mysteriously, her blouse sports the letter “M,” like a scarlet letter. We’re left to wonder why.

Racer X (who is originally referred to as “The Masked Racer,” but the narrator drops that after one episode), is really Rex Racer (Speed’s older, somewhat-normal-named brother). Years before, Rex left home in a hissy fit after a wicked argument with Pops. Of course, this seems to be a rather lengthy period to hold a grudge against your entire family, but consider the source. Also, it deepens and sentimentalizes the plot lines, as Rex, under the mask and estranged, keeps a watchful eye out for his younger brother.

Ironically, Rex had moved on to become the world’s best racing car driver (imagine that “Most Likely To” in your high school yearbook!). He is known to have bad luck follow him in every race he enters (namely, other racers die!). However, he consistently stumps the media by wearing a mask and, even though it’s obvious to anyone with an intuition, he gives no information as to who he is and where he comes from (put this into context: there was no Internet and no Matt Drudge at this time).

Every time Racer X enters a scene, we are clued in – the narrator will remind us, “Unknown to Speed, this is his older brother, Rex, who ran away from home years ago.” We wonder if this announcement starts to wear on Rex every time he makes his entrance, yet it doesn’t seem to bruise his ego that he is always referred to in the context of his younger brother. Nevertheless, it must be a drag at parties.

The real star of the show, of course, is the theme song. You know it — you love it, but you probably didn’t realize that it was written in one afternoon and recorded in practically one take. The original Japanese version (the show was called Mach Go Go Go!) was an un-zippy, over-long, marching-band style tune, and it didn’t make the scene. The American team westernized it, and viola: one of the greatest theme songs in the history of our civilization. The jazzy closing credits, featuring a mind-blowing illustrative history of the automobile, with actual models driven by the show’s characters, is download-worthy. We’re still waiting for those damned flying cars, though.

The voiceover talent works overtime, and the overlapping of characters’ voices is both painfully obvious and pleasurably corny. Former child model and struggling actor Peter Fernandez found his niche dubbing Japanese entertainment for American audiences (Astro Boy, Marine Boy, Ultra Man, and several Godzilla flicks). Not only was he in charge of the entire U.S. translation/production of Speed Racer (trickier than it sounds), he was the voice of both Speed and Racer X. Corinne Orr was the voice of Trixie, Mom Racer and Spritel (Speed’s younger brother). You may also know her as the voice of Snuggle, the fabric softener bear. Voiceover vet Jack Grimes played Speed’s friend Sparky and Spritel’s simian friend Chim Chim.

Despite (or perhaps because of) the voiceover talent, the series will turn you as Japanese as it gets. Characters gasp in unison, or exclaim a long, drawn out expression of “ahhh’s,” “awww’s” and “oooooh’s!” Evildoers get punched, karate chopped and knocked out, but they never die. They say unlikely things such as “Unhand me!” and “Now’s our chance!” and “If you don’t make this jump, you’ll fall a thousand feet into the river. Good luck.” And all evildoers have New York accents – just like in real life.

Speed isn’t exactly the “demon on wheels” that the awesome song makes him out to be, but we’ll agree to look the other way. You’ll also wonder how the cast can wander around the Alps in the middle of a winter storm without a stitch of warm clothing. As well, Speed’s insistence on wearing an ascot is distracting, but there is a lot you can forgive here. The original animators were in love with American culture; you can see how it was absorbed and handed back to us so lovingly and with such care. It’s exactly as bad as you remember it, yet somehow better than bad.

Go, watch this DVD. Adventure’s waiting just ahead.

Also, check out Chassy’s racing flicks: The 24-Hour War and Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman.

 

 

Looking for something to fun to do with your kids while watching Chassy Media’s The 24 Hour War? LEGO has come up with the perfect companion piece for the film.

Just released for sale last month, the plastic brick-builder’s 2016 Ford GT & 1966 Ford GT40 set not only looks cool, but should make for an enticing parent-child activity while you sit down to watch The 24 Hour War.

The set is just one of the latest to come from LEGO’s Speed Champions lineup and joins other drool-worthy sets for adults and children alike, such as the Porsche 919 Hybrid and 917k and Audi R18 e-tron Quattro .

This particular set features 366 pieces and in addition to the 2016 Ford GT and 1966 Ford GT40 car, the set includes three minifigures, and a victory podium that includes a mini LEGO replica of the 24 Hours of Le Mans Winner’s Trophy for a nice touch.

Overall, we love the attention of detail in this set. The modern Ford GT comes complete with its racing livery used in last year’s Le Mans (though sadly it’s not the no. 68 that won its class), while the 1966 GT40 features the distinctive black/gray/white color scheme and carries the no. 2 of the real-life car driven to an unintended overall victory by Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon. Even the minifigures sport different racing uniforms based on the car – from the modern Sparco-branded uniform to a vintage-inspired uniform synonymous with the Goodyear uniforms from the day.

The set is only $29.99 which is right in line with the price of other Speed Champions sets (usually $15 per car).

While it’s certainly a set designed for children, there’s no doubting that LEGO knows what it’s doing in making sure that parents can be just as excited to own one of these Speed Champions sets. So buy the set, get a copy of The 24 Hour War, make up a batch of popcorn, and enjoy a new kind of family night this week!

It was a race of firsts last Sunday when the Trans Am West Coast Championship held its inaugural race at Willow Springs International Raceway in Rosamond, CA. The race marked the first time a Trans Am event was hosted at Willow Springs – a track famed for its preserved original layout since it opened in 1953, and was the first time Trans Am has raced on western soil since 2009 at Portland International Raceway.

But there were more firsts to be had, as Chassy Media’s Adam Carolla contested his first professional race, driving an 850-horsepower Corvette C7.R contested by Burtin Racing, calling it, “The best decision I ever made.”

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

The opportunity to drive for Burtin Racing occurred when Burtin, a professional chemist and entrepreneur who has founded household name brands such as LINE-X and FOAMETIX alongside a successful racing career, was familiar with Adam’s passion for racing, in particular Trans-Am, through some collaborations for their day jobs and by watching Chassy Media’s documentary, Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman. After some talks, Carolla was secured for the ride.

The ride itself was a Tony Ave-built Corvette C7.R-bodied Riley Technology-designed tube chassis for Viper’s factory efforts from a couple of years ago, and powered by a Chevy SB2 NASCAR engine modified to Trans-Am’s liberal engine rules. Adam was to drive the No. 33 Go Share branded Corvette, while his teammate Richard Wall, in his Trans-Am return to Trans Am after decades away, drove the No. 7 Welded Fixtures LLC Vette.

Despite having only one practice session with the beast of a racecar and having to learn how to shift with a sequential shifter, Carolla qualified a respectable fifth position out of the six cars in the top TA class (the race itself featured three different classes). But more challenges were to come for Adam in the High Desert Challenge race event.

With only some Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) races, Grand Prix of Long Beach Pro/Celebrity successes, and historic racing experience under his belt, this race was to be Adams’ longest race he had to endure. The race itself was a 100-mile sprint around the 2.5-mile Big Willow circuit – an almost whale-shaped track that Adam had not had great experiences at when racing in the past.

“Willow Springs is like my Moby Dick,” groaned Adam in his latest CarCast Podcast 913. “The last two times I’ve been there, I went off (the track) violently…I just don’t like the track.”

At the start of the race, Adam dropped to sixth and paced himself and his car as the leaders slowly edged away. Thankfully, a blown engine from one of the leading Corvettes promoted Adam back to fifth, and allowed him to catch up to the pack with the subsequent full-course caution.

From there, Adam was able to stay with the leading pack and made a daring late-braking move on the inside of the No. 64 Corvette driven by fellow rookie Ken Davis at the first turn for the final podium position with ten laps to go. This pass would later earn Adam the COOLSHIRT “Cool Move of the Race” award.

The final ten laps saw Adam drive hold off attacks from behind, first from Davis, and then from the hard-charging sports car veteran Greg Pickett in the No. 66 Mustang that was originally battling for the lead before briefly going off the track.

Adam reached the checkered flag in third position, just a half second ahead of Pickett. After the race, the Adam’s exhaustion was apparent even if he had scored a place on the podium.

“When he got out of the car, he looked a little bit gone,” says Burtin. “I kind of looked at him and asked, ‘Hey, how’s your condition?’ and he just kind of walked the other way…You got to give it to him – he didn’t use any cool suits. He raced the old-fashioned way.”

Adam himself was understandably enthusiastic about his experience:

“For me Trans Am has always been huge,” says Adam in the official Trans Am race report. “I have old Trans Am cars from the 70’s and 80’s. I have some 2.5 Trans Am cars from the 70’s and I have Paul Newman cars that were raced in Trans Am. So just the idea of being asked to race in the modern Trans Am was a huge honor. Just being able to hold my own in modern Trans Am was exciting to me.”

With three more races to go in the Trans Am West Coast Championship presented by Pirelli, the next question is whether Adam will continue to race in the championship for the title.

“We’re in negotiations right now,” says Burtin. “I think the bug bit him a little bit.”

For more information about the Trans Am by Pirelli Championship, check out the official Trans-Am website here.

For Adam’s thorough recounting of the race weekend, be sure to check out CarCast episode 913.

For video highlights of the race, watch the compilation video found here.

For more information about Burtin Racing, check out their website.

 

 

 

 

Chassy Media is deeply saddened to learn about the passing of John Surtees last Friday.

Surtees was born to a motorcycle dealer on February 11, 1934, in Surrey, England, which destined the Brit to an early life of motorcycle racing. In 1949, at age 15, Surtees entered his first motorcycle race on a grass track before working for the Vincent factory as an apprentice the following year.

Throughout the 1950s, Surtees would race motorcycles in the 125cc, 250cc, 350cc, and 500cc classes, earning some impressive accolades along the way: becoming the 1956 500cc Champion, and becoming both 350cc and 500cc Champion from 1958 through 1960, winning 32 of 39 races during those years in a spectacular era of dominance with the MV Agusta team. He also became the first man to win the Senior TT at the Isle of Man TT three years in a row.

In 1960, Surtees made the switch from two wheels to four wheels when he made his debut in Formula One, racing for Team Lotus at Silverstone. The following two years, Surtees raced for Yeoman Credit Racing Team and Bowmaker Racing Team before becoming a factory driver at Scuderia Ferrari in 1963. Surtees and Ferrari would compete in F1 and Le Mans from ’63 to 1965, winning the Formula One World Championship in 1964 and becoming the only racer in history to win world championships on both two and four wheels – a distinction he still maintains.

Surtees and Ferrari split right before the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans. As explained by Surtees in his interview for The 24 Hour War, he was due to drive the Ferrari 330 P3, but for political reasons was replaced by (Italian and relative of Fiat’s Agnelli family) Ludovico Scarfiotti. Surtees confronted Enzo Ferrari immediately about the replacement, resulting in the divorce of the star driver with the legendary marque.

Surtees continued the 1966 F1 season with Cooper, winning the Mexico Grand Prix and finishing second in the championship before moving to Honda Racing for the ’67 and ’68 seasons, and British Racing Motors (BRM) in 1969.

From 1970-1972 Surtees raced in F1 under his own name with Team Surtees before retiring from competitive racing.

In addition to his impressive F1 and motorcycle record, Surtees competed in Can-Am, winning the inaugural 1966 championship with Team Surtees in a Lola T70, entered Le Mans four times (earning the best result of third in 1964), and also contested F2, USAC, and a variety of other open-wheel and sports car races during his illustrious career.

Post-competitive racing, Surtees would continue to drive his old motorcycles and cars in various vintage racing events until his sudden passing on March 10, 2017, from respiratory failure while at a London hospital. Surtees was 83 years old.

The high-performance Ford GT40 is the dream child of Ford Motors, conceived in America and birthed in England. The GT stands for Grand Touring, and the 40 refers to its overall height in inches. It was produced from 1964-1969, and has since become an American racing icon.

 

In the early 1960s, Henry Ford II is jonesing for a Ford at Le Mans (France), the world’s most famous race. He and Enzo Ferrari sniff at each other, but their courtship is doomed.  Hear tell, Enzo jilts Henry’s buyout offer, and this means war.

 

A number of other couplings and uncouplings add to both the frustration and determination for Henry II to build and produce an American racing dream car.

 

Adding fuel to the fire: GM and its child prodigy, Corvette, are kicking Ford’s ass in the showroom, on the racetrack, and on the books.

 

The final hookup: Ford teams with Lola Cars, a British auto manufacturer. Its manager, Eric Broadley, lends his expertise to the project, along with ex-Aston Martin team manager John Wyer (not too shabby).

 

Lola is no stranger to Ford, already using some Ford technology in its own GT and prototyping a beautiful babe that exceeds 200 mph in 1964.

 

Ready to take on Ferrari and the world, the GT 40’s coming-out party happens at Nurburging (Germany) in 1964. After that, its parents throw it right back into the pool: 24 Hours of Le Mans, the international pinnacle of racing.  Talk about growing up fast.

 

In both competitions, the car comes up short – can’t finish. The machine is surely beautiful but heartbreakingly vulnerable. It still needs some tough love.

 

Back to the drawing board. Enter Carroll Shelby. This Texas-born Renaissance Man is an auto designer and a racing driver himself (he wins the 1959 24 Hours of Le Mans, so he has the grasp and the grit).

 

During the Big One – World War II – he’s a test pilot and flight instructor; he understands speed. Ford gives its GT40 over to his company, Shelby-American, for fine-tuning and reworking. The makeover results in the GT40 Mark II.

 

Spoiler alert — by 1966, Ford makes history by winning over Ferrari at Le Mans (Exhibit A when explaining how revenge is sweet).

 

It continues to astonish, winning the race over four consecutive years, from 1966-1969, becoming the first four-time winner in Le Mans history. The world removes its sunglasses and says, “Goddam!”

 

The GT40 legacy is the undisputed truth: the first and only American car to win at Le Mans, and the first specific chassis to win more than one Le Mans.

 

Fast-forward: The GT40 wins more big-time race events than any other racecar in history.

 

The story has given the car larger-than-life status. Get the whole story by screening The 24-Hour War. Adventure’s waiting just ahead — click here.