Skip to content

Ricky and Julian go racing

A biweekly roundup of automotive news, good, bad and just plain weird:

The Trailer Park Boys go racing

One of the top three things on my personal automotive bucket list is to one day compete in the Targa Newfoundland. Held in September each year, the winding 2,200-kilometre race course weaves its way along the Atlantic shore and through the picturesque fishing villages of the East Coast.

Not that you'll be doing a lot of sightseeing: take your eyes off the road for a few minutes and you're liable to drive into the side of a clap-board house. The Targa Newfoundland is a seriously challenging motorsport event, which only experienced racers should attempt. What? Ricky, Julian want to have a go? Uh oh.

Actually - and sorry to burst your Bubbles - Ricky and Julian are actually actors named Robb Wells and J.P. Tremblay, and they took the race quite seriously when they tackled it in 2010. Well, seriously for Maritimers anyway: there certainly was some goodnatured tomfoolery between stages.

Again, sorry to disappoint, but not only was Julian . . . er, Mr. Tremblay, not holding his signature rum and Coke in one hand while driving, but also he and Ricky . . . er, Mr. Wells, drove a race-prepped Porsche Cayman S and not a 1975

Chrysler New Yorker with only one door and some interesting paintwork. Highlights of their race will air this Sunday at 8 a.m. on TSN.

Formula One returns to turbocharging

For all the growing popularity of rallying, there is only one king of automotive racing: Formula One. It may not have the same following in Canada as it does overseas, but Formula One continues to be the bleeding edge of what man and machine are capable of.

If you're not a huge fan, you may be wondering why you should care about the announcement from FIA, the body that governs Formula One and other racing series, that the next-gen cars are going to bring back turbocharging. What, you may ask yourself, does a 1,000-horsepower, million-dollar, insanely fragile thoroughbred that requires a complete rebuild after every race and has more wings than a storage locker at the Cessna factory have to do with my Honda Civic? Quite a lot, actually.

An F1 car may be totally useless in the real world, but the cutting-edge engineering that goes into winning races has a trickledown effect as engineers learn about materiel failure and mixtureoptimization and kinetic energy recovery systems. The return of F1 to turbocharged, smaller engines from the screaming V-8s will help with the current renaissance of turbocharging in the automotive industry.

Small displacement turbo engines like the Nissan Juke's 1.6 and the Chevy Sonic's 1.4 are going to allow drivers to get the performance their used to while not paying for it at the pump. The Formula One guys may be effectively flying space shuttles, but it's eventually going to translate into you being able to go faster for less.

Volvo readies high performance line

Quick, what's the first thing you think of when you hear "Volvo"? Did you imagine some boxy station wagon with a shaggy golden retriever in the back, trundling along in the left lane at 40 km/h with all the radio station presets set to CBC Classical?

Well, Volvo would like to shake off that hum-drum image as a manufacturer of automotive cardigans. Starting as soon as next year, they'd like to sell you a hopped-up C30 that'll compete with a BMW M3.

Personally, I love hot Volvos. If you've ever had the chance to get behind the wheel of a V70R, then you know what an excellent sleeper one of these turbo-charged Swedes can be. Matter-of-fact, Volvo has long had a heritage of rally-driving lunacy and touringcar hijinks, you just probably haven't heard about it.

But then, maybe you have. Polestar, the company that tunes up Volvo's racing efforts, has been putting extra lingenberries in the Swedish Meatballs for years. Volvo has already worked with them on their R-Design versions of the S60 and XC60, but this latest hot rod will be the first to officially bear the Polestar badge.

So what does it look like? Well the C30 PCP (yes, I know, but it stands for Performance Concept Prototype) will be powder blue with enormous black wheels, lots of trick aero-bits and it'll be packing 400 horsepower and all-wheel drive. We're going to need some stronger glue for those NPR bumper stickers.

Mazda plans laser-ignited rotary

There's a perfectly good reason that Mazda's the only car company out there that's ever been able to pull off mass producing the rotary engine. While the motor is an engineering masterpiece, it's also a bit lacking in torque, goes through fuel like a big-block V-8 and burns oil like a '60s VW.

However, the compact packaging and weight-savings of the pistonless wonder continue to appeal to Mazda's low-power, high-fun ethos. As such, their engineers are work-ing hard to improve the rotary's mileage, emissions and power. Well, I say "engineers;" I really mean "evil frickin' geniuses."

This next bit works best if you do the air quotes along with me.

Instead of using ordinary spark plugs, Mazda's nerds intend to use "heat-rays" or "lasers" to ignite the fuel-air mixture in the latest development to the Wankel rotary. Using "lasers" will allow the engine to run on a leaner, cleaner burn cycle, which both bumps power and saves fuel. Computer control of timing can also be tweaked to the micro-second, which will help with that down-low twist.

The current 16X-designation rotary that Mazda runs in their RX-8 is dubbed the "Renesis," a combination of Renaissance and Genesis. This new laser-light show version could be called the "Rink Floyd."