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Welcome to the world of going places and having a blast.

I’m Jim Donnelly, and thanks for stopping by my new website, Jim Donnelly On Wheels. Some of you already know who I am. I was previously the senior editor of Hemmings Motor News in Bennington, Vermont, and before that, I held a bunch of positions at a daily newspaper in the Philadelphia area, including automotive and motorsport writer. I hold more than 50 journalism awards and have been in this life for more than 35 years. I’ve written books about my friend Don Miller, the former president of Penske Racing and a mega car guy; and one on the history of automotive advertising. What I hope to accomplish here is to share some of the stuff that I consider so worthy, inspiring and, really, life-changing. The automobile unhitched us all from the pieces of dirt we once called home. Going fast brought us thrills. Watching others compete in cars made us marvel at people with such limitless skills, determination and fortitude. Cars upended our whole existence totally and irreversibly, the same way that computers are doing today, so it’s entirely appropriate to marry the two of them here. What you’re going to find here is fresh info on what’s going on in the world of cars, what’s innovative, history that’s worth remembering, roads worth driving, races worth attending, books worth reading, cars worth buying, and maybe even some places to dine that are worth a stop when you’re out on the highways. No politics. I’ll leave that sordid topic to those who claim to know it. Let’s get rolling, because this is going to be a hell of a ride we’re going on together.

Images of motorsport immortals, by a most respectful observer

If you read this space, you’ve seen us discuss Bill Warner, the founder of one of motoring history’s most acclaimed events, the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. More than any other individual, Bill makes this grand happening reality every spring. What most attendees likely don’t know is that before he got involved with showing landmark cars, Bill spent a lifetime photographing them, particularly on the race tracks of the world, which explains why historic race cars get equal billing with roadworthy automobiles at Amelia Island. Growing up near Jacksonville, Florida, Bill first picked up a serious camera at the suggestion of his late sister and commenced on a six-decade run shooting global motorsport at its highest levels, most notably for Sports Car Graphic and Road & Track. This experience gave him the historical grounding he needed to credibly organize a great concours. So Bill, and his images, are enormously valuable as historical resource. For the first time, Bill has gathered them into a book.

The Other Side of the Fence is lavishly produced and encompasses 200 large-format, hardcover pages, broadly organized into the author’s early years with photography, images of action and brilliantly composed portraits of auto racing’s biggest names dating back to the 1960s. An unforgettable image of Mark Donohue, glancing placidly moments from combat, and which I published in Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car with Bill’s commentary, is just the first course in this delicious buffet. Denny Hulme in a Can-Am McLaren, Peter Gregg and Hurley Haywood in the conquering Brumos Porsches, and even Steve McQueen nearly winning Sebring in 1970 aboard a Porsche 908/2 – look it up – are among the magical images herein. All the images are eloquent and wonderfully composed, the portraits encompassing the likes of Cale Yarborough, Jochen Neerspach, Sir Ralph Lauren, and Darrell Waltrip trying to figure out how a Formula 1 Tyrell operates. And any book that recognizes the greatest Indianapolis 500 crew chief of all time, George Bignotti, is in our good graces. It’s a well-spent $100 from the concours offices plus retailers including Autobooks-Aerobooks of Burbank, California; and Pasteiner’s Collectibles and Hobbies on 14 Mile Road in Birmingham, Michigan. Like the concours, the book’s proceeds go toward charities in northeast Florida, including spina bifida. Tell them who sent you.

Lexus NX adds TNGA power

Lexus introduced the second generation of its entry-level luxury crossover, the NX, last year, a concept that’s anything but a contradiction in terms. High levels of appointment in compact SUV packages are appealing to buyers, as selections such as the Buick Encore make plain. The Lexus NX rides on Toyota’s MC vehicle platform, sharing some structural components with the Toyota-badged RAV4 and the home-market Toyota Harrier crossover, upon which the NX is most directly based. Behind the unforgettable, you could say, big-bowtie Lexus grille treatment, the new-generation NX received a lowered center of gravity compared to its first-generation compatriot. For 2022, the NX offers an all-new engine, continued availability of a hybrid model and a strong upswing in digital capability.

The biggest news for 2022, certainly, is the new turbocharged NX engine, internally dubbed Dynamic Force and developed as a new generation of internal-combustion power under the Toyota New Global Architecture initiative for product design. Officially, the engine is the T24A-FTS, displacing 2.4 liters, with start-stop capability on both FWD and AWD models. The new-generation NX’s added structural stiffness allowed output to be boosted, pun intended, to a maximum of 275 horsepower, linked to an eight-speed automatic transmission. A plug-in hybrid with a 36 MPG average is offered, and all North American models will include Lexus Interface connectivity via a standard 9.8-inch touchscreen. Deliveries will start in the third quarter, with pricing to be announced.

SRX sells out in Stafford debut

If you were like a couple of million other race fans, you were tuned in to CBS last night for the rollout of the Superstar Racing Experience, the new – revived? – concept of taking name drivers and matching them up in cars that are as identical as modern race-shop preparation can possibly make them. A sellout crowd jammed its way into one of New England’s most storied racing venues, Stafford Motor Speedway in Connecticut, to watch a dozen heroes of the past and future face off in very basic, crashworthy, course-adaptable, quickly fixable generic stock cars and grope their way around the historic half-mile. The big takeaway is that like any form of racing, the SRX values experience. The inaugural 100-lap feature in live prime time saw one-race ringer Doug Coby, a six-time NASCAR Modified Tour champion and hometown star who’s logged a million Stafford laps, edge NASCAR Cup veteran Greg Biffle, who’s a graduate of the short-track Late Model wars in Wisconsin, conducted under very similar circumstances.

The Superstar Racing Experience is run by Tony Stewart and Ray Evernham, who both were major figures in the first conceptualization of big name drivers in equal cars, the International Race of Champions, founded in the early 1970s by Roger Penske and NASCAR executive Les Richter. Evernham was the longtime IROC crew chief before moving to Hendrick Motorsports in NASCAR and Stewart was its multi-time champion. The SRX is also backed up by sports marketing heavyweights George Pyne, a veteran of NASCAR’s executive suite, and broadcast producer Sandy Montag. So while the opening round was largely a learning experience for everyone, it’s clear that SRX is conceptually solid and has the right people behind it. Complaints? None, other than the need to make the driver’s name more visible on the cars, IROC-style, perhaps by repositioning the logo of newly inked sponsor Camping World. Otherwise, there’s plenty to like here, starting with the decision to include my longtime pal and fellow New Jerseyan Jay Signore, the founding IROC crew chief from when the series shops were located in Tinton Falls, in the opening ceremony. Very classy, fellas, we like it. The series moves next Saturday for its next live event at yet another historic American short track, Knoxville Raceway in Iowa.

Added space, new hybrid horsepower for Audi A3

The baby of Audi’s four-rings family, the A3 sedan and its seriously piquant S3 performance sibling are tweaked for 2022 with a fresh exterior appearance and added length, width and height over the foregoing model. The result, even in the base model, has a significant added measure of visual aggression. The interior packaging includes standard leather cabin facings for the A3, with dual eight-way heated power seats and a 10.1-inch touchscreen. The S3 upgrades to power sport seats with stitched Fine Nappa leather. Both models will offer a heads-up projected data display for the first time.

Dynamic photo, : Manhattan gray

Standard A3 power comes from a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder TFSI engine with 201 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque. The seven-speed dual-clutch S tronic transmission is also standard, but the bigger news is arguably that for the first time, a mild hybrid version of the powertrain will be part of the option lineup. As to the S3, standard output climbs by 18 horsepower, with the 2.0-liter engine now rated at 306 in that capacity. The dropped standard ride height incorporates adjustable damper control. Pricing commences at $33,900 for the A3 and $44,900 for the S3.

Trick C8 appearance package salutes IMSA race heritage

Amid the pandemic, Chevrolet still managed a stellar competitive season with the Corvette C8 in IMSA GTLM action, amassing six overall wins and seven pole positions en route to winning the manufacturer’s, driver’s and team titles in their class all during the same season. The GTLM class performs on the Belle Isle street circuit along the Detroit riverfront this weekend, which is where Chevrolet chose to announced a limited run of the mid-engine Corvettes that celebrates its 2020 championship sweep. Officially, the resulting car – left-hand-drive only – is known as the Corvette Stingray Championship Edition.

CheChevrolet)

Set to reach customers in late summer, the Championship Edition is limited to 1,000 units, as rolled out prior to the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix by IMSA drivers Jordan Taylor, Antonio Garcia, Nick Tandy and Tommy Milner. The package combines a high carbon-hue rear wing, yellow brake calipers, carbon-theme side mirrors and black Trident wheels. The yellow and gray theme continues inside, with a dash plaque and available sport seats. MSRP for the option package is $6,595 over the price for a C8 equipped with the Z51 performance package.

Good nameplate, solid concept

Raise your hand if you’re of a certain age that makes you old enough to remember how the Ford Maverick started out. It was a basic, rear-drive compact – actually, a pretty decent-looking car – that Ford positioned against the Chevrolet Nova and Plymouth Valiant, et al, after the Falcon was briefly made into a stripper version of the Fairlane and Torino. More that 2 million were sold, beginning in 1970, before the Fox-platform Ford Fairmont elbowed it out of the Ford model lineup by 1979. Today, the Maverick is the ultimate Rodney Dangerfield ride, even though it was offered in luxury and sort-of performance versions, with an available 302 V-8. It’s therefore a little risky, but still highly interesting, that Ford is reviving a frequently undistinguished nameplate. The only thing the new Maverick has with the original one is that it’s definitely still a compact.

2022 Ford Maverick Hy

As re-envisioned by Ford, the 2022 Maverick is a subcompact pickup slotted beneath the revived Ranger, with a fully unitized body structure – meaning, in short, that it’s aimed squarely at the unibody Honda Ridgeline – and a standard full-hybrid powertrain, the only American pickup offering EV-ICE motivation as standard equipment. The base Maverick is front drive, with an Atkinson-cycle 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine producing 191 horsepower and linked to a continuously variable automatic transmission. “Atkinson cycle” is essentially a barometer of engine efficiency, with its expansion ratio being greater than its compression ratio due to the intake valves being held open longer than normal; a modern Atkinson-cycle engine forms part of the Toyota Prius hybrid driveline. The standard Maverick powertrain has an EPA economy rating of 40 MPG city, with 500 miles of standard fuel range and 2,000 pounds of towing capacity. A 250-horsepower EcoBoost engine and eight-speed automatic is optional, which raises the trailering number to 4,000 pounds. FLEXBED organization options will allow job-specific personalization of the cargo bed. Sales start in autumn and if you go here, you can place a Maverick reservation.

The war that nearly killed Indy

Hubris doesn’t officially make the spiritual list of the Seven Deadly Sins but its close cousins Greed, Envy and Pride handily achieved the cut. All four pathologies were in clear abundance in 1996 when a rift occurred between the then-management of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and a lot of the major race teams that contested its greatest event. The fallout from that highly personal dispute seriously diminished the stature of the Indianapolis 500, left the supporting series of IndyCar races a disorganized shambles, and indirectly left NASCAR atop the heap of American motorsport in terms of corporate support, media exposure and naturally, money. The consequences of The Split, as it’s come to be known, reverberate to this day and have been only partially mitigated by the astonishing competition that the current IndyCar technical formula allows. The Split reduced IndyCar racing, which can trace its history back more than a century, to a near-afterthought, a fringe form of motorsport. This crucial book explains, in detail, how this calamity became reality.

Indy Split is a very close examination of the deepening conflict that caused Championship Auto Racing Teams to sever itself from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy Racing League that its then-owners created. The story is far too complicated to recount in this space, but this book makes clear that the sad tale couldn’t have a more effective messenger. John Oreovicz is a deeply committed chronicler of IndyCar competition, filling that role for Speed Sport, to which, in the interests of full disclosure, I now contribute. The narrative of this tale requires 320 hardcover pages to fully tell, in which the author recounts the litany of ineptitude, blunders and shortsightedness on both sides that came perilously close to tanking the sport entirely before reasonable parties, including Mario Andretti and Paul Newman, brought people back to reality and achieved a truce. In doing show, they reaffirmed that people named Racin Gardner, and carpet merchants with fantasies of greatness, have no place in this game. This may be most important, consequential motorsport book anyone publishes this year. It’s by Octane Press and you can get it for a well-spent 35 bucks.

Bite-size GR 86 redone; gets added Toyota racing cred

You may know this little coupe as an entry-level performance piece at Toyota, or you may not recognize it as a Toyota at all. That’s because the Toyota 86, as it’s been known, is also sold as the Subaru BRZ, representing an early (but definitely not the last – see the forthcoming Solterra EV) collaboration between the two automakers, under which Subaru supplies its snugly fitting flat-four powerplant and builds the car for both brands at the Fuji Heavy Industries assembly plant in Gunma, Japan. The news that the car’s been extensively redone for 2022 means that both Toyota and Subaru will have a fully contemporary, intelligently price sport coupe on their showroom floors in very short order. At Toyota, there’s been enough newness added to justify giving the coupe a coveted Gazoo Racing badge, officially making the Toyota-badged version of the car the GR 86.

Scaling in appealingly at around 2,800 pounds dry, the GR 86 gets a notable boost in its new iteration via an enlarged bore number for its naturally aspirated, 2.4-liter Subaru engine, which increases its output by more than 20 horsepower to a new total of 228, with an attendant improvement in usable torque. Cross-pollination across nameplates is also evident by the adoption of Toyota D-4S direct fuel injection. Driveline choices at Toyota include either manual or automatic transaxles. The Gazoo Racing goodies include model-specific seating and an in-your-face spoiler treatment, both apropos given that the new 86 beats the old one to 60 MPH by more than a full second.

Bentley’s back with a potent weapon for Unser Mountain

One of North America’s most arcane motorsport traditions, and one of the most challenging, is the annual charge up the mountain road that ends in glory at the summit of Pikes Peak in the Colorado Rockies. Starting at more than 9,300 feet above sea level, the race against the clock charges upward another 5,000 vertical feet, around 156 corners, to reach the summit. Pikes Peak has been going on for a long, long time and at one point, actually formed part of the USAC national championship when it encompassed everything from dirt miles at state fairgrounds to the Indianapolis 500. The full length of the course is paved now but Pikes Peak is no less intimidating, and unforgiving of mistakes, than it was as graded dirt. And unless you follow the event closely, you may not realize that Bentley, of all marques, has been among the most successful in recent Pikes Peak history, and will return this month to defend its uniquely British honor.

Specifically, Bentley aims to better the start-to-finish times it’s already established in setting Pikes Peak records for Production SUV – yes, there is such a category – and Production Car in 2018 and 2019, respectively. When this year’s edition hits the hill on June 27, Bentley’s new weapon will be what you see above, the Continental GT3 Pikes Peak, prepared by the boffins of Crewe in conjunction with Fastr, Bentley’s privateer FIA GT3 racing partner. To reach the top, and accomplish a Triple Crown of Pikes Peak records, the GT3 will have to average more than 78 MPH over the length of the course, where air density drops by one-third over sea level at the finish. The loaded gun will be a 4.0-liter V-8 with even larger twin turbochargers and shorty “screamer” exhausts, already tested to more than 750 horsepower in England on 98-octane racing biofuel. Once arriving stateside in the next few days, Bentley and its driver, three-time Pikes Peak champion Rhys Millen, will do chassis tuning for low-speed corners at Willow Springs Raceway in California, and thin-air performance evalution in Aspen, Colorado, before assaulting the historic hill. We just wish that Bobby Unser, the undisputed king of Pikes Peak who grabbed his checked flag last month, could be around to see this.

Czinger hybrid hypercar takes another step toward reality

The rage to create especially rarified, ultra-high-performance hypercars, especially as they fit the FIA’s new Le Mans Hypercar category for international sports car competition, has lassoed in established automakers including Alpine, Toyota and for a while, Aston Martin. There’s been no known plans to go racing with it but the Czinger, an American-based interpretation of the ultra-hybrid statement, fits very nicely into this formula. Founded by entrepreneur Kevin Czinger – the C is silent, so the car’s name really is pronounced “zinger” – and based in Los Angeles, Czinger was supposed to roll out its first car at the 2020 Geneva International Motor Show, but the coronavirus tanked that plan. Instead, the final production-spec prototype of the Czinger 21C was displayed at its headquarters, with production also set to take place in Los Angeles.

All we can say is that whenever the C21 finally does reach production, it’s likely to be hellaciously fast. The hybrid powertrain is based around a Czinger-designed 2.88-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 with a flat-plane crankshaft and flex-fuel capability, linked to dual high-output electric motors via a seven-speed sequential transmission. Czinger is claiming perfect weight distribution thanks to its fore-and-aft passenger layout, an actual 1:1 power-to-wweight ratio, total powertrain output of 1,250 horsepower (with 1,350 optionally available), a top end of 281 MPH and a promised zero-to-248 MPH dash of 21.3 seconds. Artificial intelligence is thoroughly employed in the car’s design – its suspension control arms are hollow, with flyweight internal reinforcing structures – and AWD is standard. A run of 80 production cars is envisioned, with no production startup or pricing particulars yet unveiled.