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Performance News - 20 June 2000

Ford Mako Ute, New Toyota Tarago, Audi Dominates 2000 Le Mans 24 Hour, Le Man's History, Honda Insight Economy & Engine Awards, Alfa GTV Below $50,000, Quickies

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Ford Mako Ute

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Two hundred of Ford's new special vehicle pack "Mako" utes have been produced. They boast increased content levels including:

  • Body coloured canopy designed exclusively for the Falcon ute.
  • Removable recreation pack, incorporating cushioned benches, drink holder and storage bins.
  • 12-volt accessory outlet mounted on the canopy bulkhead.
  • The body-coloured canopy incorporates an extra-strength design, full carpeted head lining, tinted and tempered glass, stainless steel hinges, a curved rear "slam-action" glass door, key-operated double sliding side windows, roof rails and a spoiler with LED brake light.

The Mako ute is priced at $1500 over a standard XLS or XR ute. It is available in regency red, galaxy, liquid silver, and hot chilli red (XR only), and is also fully covered by Ford's express new vehicle warranty.

New Tarago

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Toyota has launched an all-new Tarago eight-seat family wagon. The new Tarago has no parts in common with the superseded model. It has more body rigidity, less weight and superior aerodynamics. The third-generation Tarago has a front-engine/front drive configuration and for the first time has sliding rear doors on both sides. Three Tarago models are offered, all with a VVTi-equipped engine and an electronically-controlled automatic transmission. The new engine has 12.7 percent more power than superseded Tarago and uses twin contra-rotating balance shafts. It delivers 115kW of power at 5600rpm and 221Nm of torque at 4000rpm.

Audi Dominate 2000 Le Mans 24 Hour

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Audi took the top three spots on the podium in the world's most famous motor race. The event was won by Audi's Frank Biela, Tom Kristensen and Emanuele Pirro aboard the #8 Audi R8. Australia's David Brabham earned the distinction of leading the race for the first time early in the event. Those leading laps were also the first for the Panoz manufacturer. Audi dominated both qualifying sessions with the McNish car starting from pole position for the 24-hour enduro.

The GTS class resulted in another win for the charging Dodge Viper GTS of regular Olivier Beretta and Karl Wendlinger with Dominque Dupuy joining with the GTS stars for Le Mans. However, they were forced to fight off a strong challenge from the Chevrolet Corvette squad. Victory in the GT division went to veteran Bob Wollek aboard a Porsche GT3-R he shared with Dirk Muller and Lucas Luhr.

Le Mans History

  • Le Mans was actually the home of the first French Grand Prix - not at the current circuit, but on a 103km road circuit to the east of the city.
  • The first Le Mans 24 Hour was staged in 1923. At the time there was no official winner because officials had decided the event would be a triennial event, with finishers invited back for next two years to race to decided the winner.
  • That idea was eventually abandoned with the fastest finisher from the first race, Andre Lagache and Rene Leonard acknowledged as the winner.
  • Located in the Sarthe region of French, the surrounding district is renowned for its wine and agriculture.
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  • Le Mans is also famous for flight. Wilbur Wright, the famous American aviation pioneer, established a biplane factory in the region in 1907 ­ using the Mulsanne straight as his airstrip.
  • The race is now acknowledged as one of the three premier motorsport events in the world, joining the Monte Carlo Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500 as the events that racers throughout the world dream of winning.
  • These days all teams contest the event with three drivers, however this is a relatively new trend. In 1952, Frenchman Pierre Levegh attempted to complete the race solo. He came close to completing the feat, only to fall out of the race with mechanical problems after 22 hours and 30 minutes.
  • Louis Rosier had almost gone non-stop in 1950, letting his co-driver complete only two laps
  • Le Mans used to be renowned for its amazing top speeds on the 3km long Mulsanne Straight. However, motorsport's world controlling body, the FIA, decreed in 1990 that no straight in world motorsport should be more than 1km long. The Mulsanne Straight now features two chicanes to slow the cars.
  • Prior to the installation of the chicanes, the WM Peugeot topped the speed charts eclipsing 405km/h (251.65mph) on the Mulsanne Straight with Roger Dorchy at the wheel. Powered by a V6 turbo engine, the car had little downforce and was entered with the sole goal of breaking the 250mph mark.
  • Le Mans was also made famous by the "Le Mans Start" where drivers would line up on the opposite side of the track and run to climb aboard their cars on the dropping of the green flag. This format was abandoned in 1970 on safety grounds.
  • Belgium's Jacky Ickx holds the record for the most Le Mans victories, six - 1969, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1981, 1982.
  • Le Mans is also the location for one of the world's most famous racing movies - imaginatively titled "Le Mans." The movie was filmed on location at the 1970 Le Mans 24 Hour. Camera cars were actually entered in the race as competitors. The movie features some of the best motorsport action footage ever seen on film. Starring Steve McQueen, the almost documentary style movie depicts the story of driver Michael Delaney who returns to Le Mans after a dramatic crash the previous year in which one of his fellow competitors is killed. With the driver's widow (actress Elga Anderson) in the pits, Delaney again crashes in the event but is asked to climb aboard one of his team-mate's cars in the final hour of the event. "Life is racing, everything else is just waiting" Steve McQueen's famous motorsport quote from the movie. To prepare for the event, McQueen competed in the 1970 Daytona 24 Hour and Sebring 12 Hour. At one stage, he allegedly considered taking on racing on a full-time basis. The "real" 1970 Le Mans winner's Richard Attwood and Hans Hermann earned Porsche's first ever victory with a privateer Porsche 917. McQueen is not the only movie star to contest the event, Paul Newman, finished 2nd in the 1979 24-hour aboard a Porsche 935.
  • Launched in 1999, the Le Mans series mirrors the same rules as the Le Mans 24 Hour. Races are staged in the U.S., Canada, UK and Germany with the Grand Finale being held on the streets of Adelaide on New Year's Eve.

Honda Insight Economy & Engine Awards

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Honda's fuel-sipping Insight has broken a seven-year fuel economy record in the United Kingdom, achieving 2.75 litres per 100 kilometres or 102.65 miles per gallon. The record demolishes the existing UK petrol car record of 85.96 miles per gallon, which was set in a Honda Civic in 1993. The new figure is believed to be a world record for a standard petrol production car on public roads.

Honda's hybrid car comfortably completed the seven-day, clock-wise, 6,012-kilometre run along the coast of England, Wales and Scotland, within the 180 hours permitted. The Insight was required to travel through 25 checkpoints along the way, covering a variety of roads in coastal towns and cities. The run was organised by the 1993 record holder Dr Shigeru Miyano, to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the death of racing driver and F1 team founder Bruce McLaren. To qualify for the Guinness Book of Records, the team was required to complete the run in a standard production car.

Honda's Insight - which combines ultra-efficient engine technology, super aerodynamics and a super-light body - went on sale in Japan and North America last year and will be available in the UK in September. The aluminium-bodied Insight is powered by a 1.0-litre lean-burn VTEC engine that works in tandem with Honda's Integrated Motor Assist (IMA), a system that boosts acceleration using an ultra-thin brushless DC electric motor, to reduce demand on the engine, thus saving fuel and improving performance.

The Insight's engine has recently been judged the best internal combustion engine at the International Engine of the Year Awards 2000. It was voted the overall winner, ahead of Ferrari's 5.2-litre V12, the Alfa Romeo 2.5-litre V6 and BMW's 3.0-litre six-cylinder powerplant. Honda engines also scooped four of the eight category awards - Europe's 1.8-litre Accord engine won the 1.6-1.8-litre category. Honda's powerful 2.0-litre S2000 engine was voted the best in the 1.8-2.0-litre category and was judged third best engine overall.

Alfa GTV Below $50,000

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The arrival of GST on 1 July 2000 will take the Alfa Romeo GTV into an entire new market sector, with the Alfa Romeo GTV Twin Spark available with a new recommended retail price of $49,950.

The Alfa Romeo GTV Twin Spark is powered by Alfa's acclaimed 2.0 litre 114kW Twin Spark engine, which provides, where the law permits, a top speed of 215 km/h and the ability to cover the 0-100 kmh dash in 8.4 seconds. This drivetrain is wrapped in a classic sports car body styled by Pininfarina, one of the world's most famous styling companies.


  • Alfa Romeo's new small car, the Alfa 147, will make its Australian debut at the 2001 Melbourne International Motor Show in March next year and go on sale in Australia almost immediately. In other Alfa product news, the Alfa Romeo 156 Sportwagon arrives in Australia on 1 August 2000.
  • All Mazda operations in Japan now meet a demanding environmental standard. Mazda Motor Corporation has earned ISO 14001 (commonly known as environment ISO) certification for its operations in the Hiroshima area.
  • Chrysler Jeep Australia has announced that the V8 PowerTech engine has been made available in the Jeep® Grand Cherokee Laredo. Formerly available only in the top-of-the-range Grand Cherokee Limited, the 4.7 litre V8 has proven so popular that it is now offered as an option in the entry-level Laredo. The V8 engine in the Laredo is the same as that in the Limited with 162 kilowatts of power at 4700 rpm and 390 Newton metres of torque at 3200 rpm.
  • Kia Automotive Australia, the new importer for the Korean marque, has announced revised specifications and prices for the Kia Credos, with prices now starting at $23,990 and the family sedan gaining a six-speaker CD player and alloy wheels as standard.
  • The Peugeot 206's total production has broken through the one million barrier just 20 months after its European launch. Already Peugeot's fastest selling model ever, the 206 is currently being manufactured at the rate of 3000 per day, and is still in an increasing build phase.

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