De Lorenzo delivers a searing smackdown of 2014 Detroit show

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There are the cookie-cutter reviews of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit that you can read… and then there is Peter De Lorenzo’s no-holds-barred, unfiltered take you can read over at Autoextremist (in, fittingly, the rants section).

De Lorenzo, an automotive lifer in advertising who founded the blog site in 1999, outlines this year’s Detroit show in the headline as: “a kaleidoscope of the pretty good, the really bad and the just plain ugly.”

Among the areas De Lorenzo critiques in great detail: GM’s elongated half-hour introduction before actually introducing the new Corvette Z06, the Chrysler 200 as a “massive yawn,” the Nissan Sport Sedan Concept as “sheer design lunacy,” and the Korean auto industry altogether, which he called “not ready for prime-time players.”

Motorsports made an appearance in a couple parts of this unvarnished review. De Lorenzo at least gave credit to GM for introducing the racing version of the Z06, the new C7.R, at the same time as the production car. But of the Infiniti/Red Bull Racing tie-in, De Lorenzo was not impressed. At all.

“How about Gimmicky, Misguided and Chock-Full of Clichés? The Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge is such a classic screw-up I don’t even know where to begin. This whole business about Infiniti trying to somehow establish a link between hanging its name on the side of the Red Bull Racing Formula 1 machines and translating it into production cars worth desiring is not going well. At all. There is absolutely nothing about this car that suggests that Infiniti’s considerable financial involvement in the Red Bull Racing F1 team and having World Champion Sebastian Vettel act as technical adviser has been worth the effort, or even capable of yielding even a shred of desirability in the future.”

There is one vehicle he considered a home run: the new aluminum-bodied Ford F150, which De Lorenzo called “a flat-out a game changer and a grand slam home run, pure and simple” that he believes will leave Ford considerably ahead of the pack in 18 months.

You’ll need to take some time to read all the critiques in detail, but this review is roughly the automotive equivalent of the searing smackdown the New York Times’ Pete Wells laid on Guy Fieri’s new restaurant a couple of years ago. In other words, long and memorable.

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds