Weekly Recap: Ford guns for 2016 Le Mans glory with new GT
Plus: Notes On The 2016 BMW 7 Series, Google, And 2017 Chevy Bolt
The factory will back a two-team, four-car effort that will compete in the World Endurance Championship and the Tudor United SportsCar Championship running cars operated by Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. The GT racecar will make its track debut in January at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, and the driver lineup will be announced later. "But rest assured, there's quite a line forming out the door," Ganassi said at the announcement.
The GT is the modern successor to the iconic GT40, which won Le Mans four straight years from 1966-1969. The racecar is a rolling testbed of Ford's latest technologies, including a powerful twin-turbo EcoBoost V6. The car also makes extensive use of carbon-fiber pieces and advanced aerodynamics. Ford tapped Multimatic Motorsports of Canada and Roush Yates Engines to aid in the development of the GT racer.
The road-going version, which was revealed in January at the Detroit Auto Show, is also set to launch next year. It caps Ford's growing performance lineup, and the company has ambitious plans to launch more than 12 new sporty models by 2020, including hot metal like the Focus RS, F-150 Raptor, and Shelby GT350R.
The GT embodies Ford's best tech, but news of its return to Le Mans immediately conjured images of the company's fierce rivalry in the 1960s with Ferrari and intense competition with Porsche.
"When the GT40 competed at Le Mans in the 1960s, Henry Ford II sought to prove Ford could beat endurance racing's most legendary manufacturers," Ford executive chairman Bill Ford said in a statement. "We are still extremely proud of having won this iconic race four times in a row, and that same spirit that drove the innovation behind the first Ford GT still drives us today."
Ford is going back to Le Mans. Somewhere, Hank the Deuce must be smiling.
OTHER NEWS & NOTES
2016 BMW 7 Series arrives in the fall
BMW revealed the sixth generation of its flagship 7 Series this week, which will start at $81,300 when it launches in the United States this fall. BMW is billing it as the roomiest 7 Series ever, and it measures 206.6 inches in length. It uses a composite body structure with carbon-fiber reinforced plastic, high-tensile steel, and aluminum, which helps reduce the car's weight by 190 pounds compared to the previous model. The engine lineup is comprised of a 445-hp V8, 320-hp I6, and a plug-in hybrid variant. The 7 also features a batch of new technology, including the debut of a gesture feature that allows the driver to adjust the audio's volume control and accept phones calls using hand motions. Cosmetically, the changes are relatively minor, though the sedan appears more sculpted and curvy.
The changes are expected to provide a lift for the 7 Series, and IHS Automotive predicted global sales of the car will increase from a projected 47,000 units this year to 64,000 next year. Still, that keeps the BMW behind the Mercedes S-Class, which is likely to hit 96,000 sales around this world this year and 101,000 in 2016, IHS said.
"The S-Class is an automotive icon in a way that the 7 Series isn't, and the latest gen S-Class has been beautifully executed and designed," IHS analyst Tim Urquhart said in an email to Autoblog. "In addition, BMW's traditional market [position] of having class-leading driving dynamics is far less relevant in this segment. Who cares if your chauffeur can have fun driving the thing!"
Google reports on self-driving car program
Google's closely-watched self-driving car program is getting a little more transparent, as the tech giant has begun issuing monthly reports. The first one for May offered an overview of the program. There are 23 Lexus RX 450h SUVs being tested with autonomous systems on public streets, mostly around Mountain View, CA. There are also nine prototypes testing on closed tracks. Google's prototypes have been involved in 12 minor accidents since 2009, though the company says its self-driving tech hasn't been at fault. Additionally, Google cars are racking up about 10,000 autonomous miles per week on public streets. Still, the reports have stirred controversy as Google executives have balked at releasing the full accident details.
2017 Chevy Bolt strikes again
The 2017 Chevy Bolt was captured during testing this week, and the spy photographs indicate it's well on the way to production. It maintains the small hatch appearance we saw at the Detroit Auto Show, where the Bolt made a surprise debut. General Motors is targeting a $30,000-price tag for the car after incentives, and it is expected to have a range of 200 miles on electricity. While more details have not been specified, GM confirmed it will build the Bolt at its Orion Assembly factory north of Detroit, though launch timing has not been revealed.
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