All posts by Jim Dvorak

Managing Director of SOEC since 2005. Veteran of the Southern California automotive scene. Involvement with Saleen dates back to the mid 1990s.

FELLOWS’ WIN BREAKS BAD LUCK SPELL AT SEBRING

By: RICK MATSUMOTO on March 17,2002
Original Article: TORONTO STAR (CANADA)

Ron Fellows has finally captured the elusive 12 Hours of Sebring.

The Mississauga driver brought the Corvette C5-R across the finish line at Florida’s 3.7-mile Sebring International Raceway last night at the head of the GTS class.

The victory came in the fourth attempt by Fellows and Corvette Racing to win the Sebring race, which along with the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 24 Hours of Daytona, is considered one of the three major endurance events of world sports car racing.

“Finally, we finally did it,” said a relieved Fellows on the victory podium.

While Fellows, who had put the Corvette on the pole in qualifying, started and finished the race, he shared the driving with long-time co-driver Johnny O’Connell and newcomer Oliver Gavin.

Fellows’ car finished ninth overall, after covering 317 laps, 29 laps behind the winning Audi.

Interestingly, Gavin was one of the three drivers in the Saleen Mustang that upset Fellows and Corvette in last year’s Sebring race. This year, the Saleen S7R placed second with 309 laps.

Fellows had been the surprise overall winner of the 2001 24 Hours of Daytona a month earlier and had been the heavy favourite to win at Sebring. However, major mechanical problems allowed the Saleen to take the checkered flag in the GTS class.

This year Corvette Racing decided to pass up the Daytona race and concentrate its efforts on producing a reliable, as well as quicker, car for Sebring.

Audi, with lead driver Johnny Herbert driving the last hour, won the Prototype 900 class and the overall title for the third consecutive year.

PENSKE TOPS IRL: Helio Castroneves, a pilot for the IRL-interloper Marlboro Team Penske, captured pole position for today’s 200-lapper at Phoenix International Raceway by turning in a blistering lap of 20.0124 seconds around the one-mile oval – a speed of 179.888 m.p.h.

Castroneves nipped defending race winner Sam Hornish Jr. by 0.017 of a second to capture his first IRL pole.

GT40 TO SALEEN?

By: N.A. on March 11, 2002
Original Article: AUTOWEEK, VOL. 52, ISSUE 10

One of the players in the sweepstakes to build Ford’s GT40 is Steve Saleen, maker of GTS-class S7R race cars whose company is currently hustling to get the street-legal S7 supercar to customers this month.

Sources say Saleen is among the companies under consideration for the job to produce the limitedproduction $100,000 car, but nothing is final. Also getting lots of consideration is Roush Industries, which played a part in building the retro-styled, rear-engined 500-hp GT40 show car revealed at the Detroit auto show (AW, Jan. 14).

SALEEN’S MASS CUSTOMIZATION APPROACH

By: KERMIT WHITFIELD on January 2002
Original Article: AUTOMOTIVE DESIGN & PRODUCTION, VOL. 114, ISSUE 1

STEVE SALEEN HAS TRANSFORMED THE SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA TRADITION OF CAR TUNING INTO A SCIENCE, HIS FACILITY TAKES OFF-THE-SHELF FORDS AND HONES THEM INTO PERFORMANCE VEHICLES IN A SYSTEMATIC WAY THAT OWES MORE TO THE ASSEMBLY PLANT THAN TO THE BODY SHOP.

Tucked away in a unassuming industrial park in Irvine, California in a building that could just as easily house boxes of semiconductors or disposable diapers, is the production facility/R&D center/corporate offices of Saleen, Inc., otherwise known as “pony car heaven.” Here, Ford Mustangs are disassembled, then transformed into bionic versions of their former selves.

Racing driver Steve Saleen founded the company in the early 1980s with the notion that there was a profitable market niche for customized high-performance Mustangs that wasn’t being filled by Ford. But instead of making expensive one-off machines, Saleen developed a system of mass customization that reaps many of the cost and precision benefits of mass production, without the quotidian image. Using this system the company has turned out over 8,000 vehicles, more than any other American specialty vehicle manufacturer.

The Process
The assembly line at Saleen bears little resemblance to anything found in a mass production plant; it is simply a line of cars on hand-pushed carts that are moved from station to station. But many of the operations that are performed in an assembly plant take place here. There is one big difference, though. Saleen’s assembly line is also a disassembly line: many factory parts have to be removed before the custom parts can be installed. The line has 15 stations that can produce five cars a day; it takes approximately three days for a car to cycle through the entire process. Each car receives modifications that can be broken down into two categories: those to the powertrain and running gear that enhance the car’s performance and those to the exterior appearance that make it look “fast.”

At the first station on the line the factory Mustangs are placed on a lift and stripped of their suspensions and of front and rear fascia, side skirts and side scoops. As the cars progress down the line, these parts are replaced with more aggressive Saleen counterparts. The coupes are outfitted with a seven-piece body kit that includes the aforementioned parts plus thicker C-pillars that create the optical illusion of a lower, longer, faster vehicle. These exterior parts are molded by Saleen out of urethane elastomer using a low-pressure machine. After molding, the parts are painted in Saleen’s in-house paint facility.

Currently the paint shop is located several miles away, which puts Saleen in the less-than-optimum position of having to transport painted parts to the assembly plant over the road, increasing the potential for scratches and deformations. But over the next few months the company will consolidate all of its operations in one building, which will allow it to quickly provide painted parts to the line in a low-volume version of just-in-time production.

Beyond just parts, Saleen’s paint shop has the capability of painting entire cars. The company utilizes the paint technology and expertise of longtime partner BASF to not only accurately color match Ford’s existing Mustang color palette, but to offer eight additional colors ranging from black metallic to an unusual bronze color dubbed “beryllium.” (Unlike automakers, Saleen does not dual source paint. But this is hardly surprising since in addition to its role as paint supplier BASF is also a major sponsor of Saleen’s racing efforts.)

The portion of the process that concentrates on the powertrain is quite a bit more involved than the exterior modification procedures, and unlike the exterior, it varies based on model. On the base model S281 changes are, well, basic. The engine’s electronic control module is re-programmed to squeeze out more horsepower and run on premium fuel. A less restrictive air filter is fitted, as are special underdrive pulleys and a 2 1/2-in. exhaust system. These changes represent the low-hanging fruit of increased horsepower and add 25 horses to the 260 hp on the stock version. An optional Roots-style supercharger is installed on some models, taking the horsepower count all the way up to 365.

If the car coming down the line is an upgraded S281-E (“E” stands for “extreme”), the entire engine is removed and essentially re-built in the plant’s off-line engine assembly area. This area is an enclosed space of modest size off of the main floor. It looks much more like the engine workshop of a racing team or a small R&D center than an automaker’s engine line. (And in fact, racing engines are built alongside those destined for civilians.) Here the stock Mustang engine that will become the S281-E’s powerplant is torn down to the block. It is then re-built with parts that Saleen designed based on its racing experience including: a forged steel crankshaft and rods, special camshafts, forged aluminum pistons, a whole new induction system (featuring a molded composite inlet tube which offers better airflow than aluminum and saves over four pounds in the bargain) and a high-capacity supercharger.

The reborn engine is then mated to a close ratio six-speed manual transmission and the new powertrain is reunited with the body. Describing the process, Steve Saleen says, “There isn’t any area on the engine that is not changed by us in some way.” (After years of working with Ford engines both on the factory floor and on the racetrack, Saleen has developed a close relationship with the maker and is trusted with detailed engine architecture information. This allows the company to design parts more quickly and with greater assurance that they will work well with Ford’s powerplant.)

Meanwhile, back on the line, the suspensions that were stripped in the first station are replaced with a performance-tuned setup, 18-in. Enkei wheels and Pirelli tires. Other assembly stations add touches that seem minor, but are important to the niche car buyer such as black-on-white gauges (with a speed Greeter that tops out at 200 mph) and racing-style pedals. Once complete, each car is test driven on a public road course that attempts to simulate as many different driving surfaces as possible and adjustments are made as necessary in a dedicated off-line area of the plant floor.

In addition to horsepower and handling, Saleen’s system cannily packages and sells exclusivity at a cut-rate price. Each car that rolls out of the Irvine facility is numbered, registered and treated like a collector’s item from day one. Saleen tracks ownership of its vehicles and can provide build and technical information to potential buyers of used models. The result is products that often increase in value and sell for more on the used car market than they did originally.

As for the stock parts that are the flotsam and jetsam of Saleen’s production system, the company has adjusted its approach over time to that potential source of waste. In the 1980s it ordered its Mustangs stripped to the bone, partly in order to reduce the number of factory parts it would have to get rid of. But this proved to be a burden on Ford and no real bargain for Saleen. So, it changed its strategy, began ordering fully-equipped models and identified buyers for the replaced parts. Today, practically every part is sold not scrapped.

Faster and Hipper
Steve Saleen sees his operations as a model for what can be achieved in the niche vehicle arena by a small agile company. He says bluntly that his company is “able to service the enthusiast market more quickly and accurately” than a behemoth like Ford. When he compares his business to that of Ford’s Special Vehicle Team (SVT), which Saleen preceded and influenced, he draws the analogy of the relationship between ESPN and ESPN2. If SVT’s Cobras are the equivalent of major league basketball, Saleen’s Mustangs are the edgier, younger “X Games.”

The company projects the market for its high-performance products to increase in the future, especially now that GM has axed its pony cars. Don Cuzzocrea, Saleen’s chief operating officer, says, “There is a lot more interest in these types of vehicles because the mainstream cars are becoming more and more homogenized. The Camaros and Firebirds you could order from GM were a little edgier than the Mustangs you can get from Ford, so we think we will pick up a lot of those customers.”

Interest outside of the pony car crowd seems to be growing as well. Steve Saleen says that at the recent Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show in Las Vegas he was approached by representatives from several Ford divisions that were interested in utilizing his company’s unique services. Perhaps suped-up Volvos and Jaguars will someday make their way down the line in Irvine.

NEWS IN BRIEF

By: N.A. on January 1, 2002
Original Article: TIRE BUSINESS, VOL. 19, ISSUE 20

November shipments off 6%
AKRON—Industrywide shipments of replacement consumer and commercial truck tires fell 6 percent from year-ago levels, Goodyear said in its monthly report to investors. The company acknowledged that its own tire shipments were down even more.

The tire maker said that while Goodyear brand shipments fared better than those of the industry at large, its total unit shipments for the month failed to keep pace. The company said it shipped about 200,000 tires in November as part of Ford Motor Co.’s replacement program for Firestone Wilderness AT tires.

Industry shipments to original equipment customers declined 5 percent in November from year-ago levels for consumer tires and were down 32 percent for commercial tires, the report said.

Meanwhile, Goodyear said it made substantial production cutbacks during November and expects more of the same in December due to continued weak OE and replacement tire markets.

Smar Tire loses $1.6 million
RICHMOND, British Columbia—Tire pressure monitoring system developer SmarTire Systems Inc. suffered a net loss of $1.6 million in its fiscal first quarter ended Oct. 31 despite nearly doubling sales, to $352,629. The first quarter loss was slightly larger than that reported a year earlier, the company said.

The sales increase reflects a “moderate increase” in the firm’s passenger car aftermarket business and a “new commitment to mass market opportunities” in original equipment accounts, said Robert Rudman, president and CEO, who said SmarTire made “significant progress” with potential OE accounts.

New tire safety laws in the U.S. that make tire pressure monitoring systems mandatory by 2003 have created a surge in demand for tire monitoring technology, Mr. Rudman said.

Pep Boys shifts private brand biz
PHilADELPHIA—Automotive service chain Pep Boys—Manny, Moe & Jack is shifting nearly 100 percent of its private-brand fire business to Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., which currently makes about 60 percent of the firm’s tires.

The deal will mean the loss of about $100 million in business for Bridgestone/Firestone, which along with Cooper makes Pep Boys’ Futura tires, according to Tire Business research.

Bridgestone/Firestone and Pep Boys “mutually decided to discontinue business” during the first half of 2002, said Mike Cerio, BFS executive director, North American Consumer Tire corporate accounts, who also said the company “would welcome the opportunity to work with them again in the future.”

The sale of Cornell and Futura brand tires represented 17 percent of Pep Boys revenues, or $333 million in fiscal 2000. Pep Boys operates more than 620 stores in 37 U.S. states and Puerto Rico.

Pirelli, Saleen renew racing pact
LAS VEGAS—Pirelli Tires has renewed its tire and marketing relationship with high-performance vehicle manufacturer Saleen/Allen Speedlab for the 2002 American Le Mans Series, the tire maker said.

Pirelli had helped Saleen win the Triple Crown of the inaugural Grand-Am racing season, but chose not to compete in 2000 to focus on improving its racing products.

Under the renewed deal, Pirelli will offer its latest P Zero racing slicks to Saleen’s S7R supercar customer teams as well as other GTS and GT cars in the ALMS and the FIA GT.

POWER AND REFINEMENT CORNERSTONES OF EXPANDED 2002 SALEEN MODEL LINE-UP

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Exotic S7 and New S281-E Mark Saleen’s 19th Production Year

IRVINE, Calif., Sept. 20 – Inspired by the sales success of their popular S281 series sports cars and the multiple international motorsports championships earned by the potent S7R, Saleen Inc. has announced the expansion and refinement of their product line for the 2002 model year. Now in its 19th year of manufacturing premier performance automobiles, Saleen will offer driving enthusiasts the option of several exciting variations of their popular Mustang-based performance cars, as well as the first truly American supercar – the Saleen S7.

For 2002, Saleen Mustang enthusiasts can choose from a broad spectrum of Saleen S281 models ranging from the highly desirable S281 sports car to the S281 Supercharged version all the way up to the powerful new S281-E. Each of these sophisticated cars incorporate Saleen’s legendary balance of power, handling and good looks, and each comes in Coupe, Convertible or Speedster versions. Special Saleen suspensions, slick aerodynamics, interior refinement and Saleen-designed wheels and Pirelli tires are standard on all S281s, while customers can also choose from a limited but exciting list of options to personalize their new Saleen. These additions have been refined for the 2002 model year into more streamlined packages to better address the needs of the Saleen customer.

In addition, a colorful palette of colors is also available including Saleen S7 Silver, Speedlab Yellow, Lizstick Red, Pearl White, Black Metallic, Beryllium, Victory Blue and Bright Signature Red.

The S281 combines classic Saleen performance and appearance with outstanding value. Boasting a healthy 285 horsepower from its 4.6-liter (281 cid) SOHC V8, a new “X-Pipe” exhaust system boasts the car’s torque to 320 ft. lbs. at 4,100 rpm and a quarter mile time of 14.1 seconds at 98 miles an hour. Carrying a Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price of $32,999 for the Coupe and $36,999 for the Convertible, the S281 provides a level of power and sophistication found in cars costing twice as much.

Introduced in 1999, the S281 Supercharged addition was quickly accepted by Saleen customers as the benchmark in performance Mustangs. Manufactured with a sophisticated Saleen Series II Supercharger system and “PowerFlash” performance calibration system, the S281 Supercharged has already reached a sales level equal to its normally aspirated 8281 counterpart. Packing a neck-snapping 365 horsepower and 400 ft. lbs. of torque, the S281 Supercharged provides the driver a 0-60 time of 4.7 seconds, with the quarter mile flashing by at only 13.2 seconds. Despite the industry-leading performance, the S281 Supercharged provides consumers a high level of value at a price of $39,299 for the Coupe and $43,299 for the Convertible.

The newest bullet in the Saleen performance holster for 2002 is the cutting- edge S281-E (“E” for Extreme). Manufactured with the latest in Saleen race-bred technology, the latest addition to the Saleen performance fraternity is the most powerful street Mustang available on today’s market. At the heart of the S281-E is a unique Saleen-manufactured 4.6-liter powerplant complete with the latest Saleen Series V “screw-type” supercharger system. Coupled with the company’s S281-E six-speed transmission, the new S281-E pumps out an impressive 425 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 440 ft.-lbs. of torque at 4,000 rpm. (Need we say more?). The Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of the new S281-E will begin at $59,995, a true performance value considering the world-class power and refinement of the newest S281 offering.

The year 2002 will also see the first production deliveries of the exotic and highly-anticipated Saleen S7 American supercar. First introduced less than one year ago, the mid-engine Saleen S7 has garnered international recognition for its elegant, but aggressive, modern styling and the instant success its S7R sibling has enjoyed in the world’s most legendary sports car races. In only its first year of competition, the Saleen S7R has won championships in both the European Le Mans Series (ELMS) and the Grand American Road Racing Association series; along with numerous race wins including the 2001 12 Hours of Sebring and a new GTS race record (and podium finish) at the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans.

In step with Saleen’s long-established linkage of product development through motorsports, the production S7 is expected to reflect some of the lesson’s learned in the world’s most challenging endurance races. The process of certifying the S7 for street use is well underway, with the first cars expected to reach Saleen dealer showrooms by early 2002. The 7.0-liter S7, which will provide its lucky owners with just over 550 horsepower, will carry a Manufacturer’s Suggest Retail Price (MSRP) of $395,000. Available only through an ever-expanding global network of Saleen-certified dealers, the S7 takes the Saleen tradition of putting “Power in the Hands of a Few” to its ultimate level.

Saleen facilities include total research and engineering, design and assembly capability. Since the company’s inception in 1984, Saleen has produced more than 8,000 vehicles, more than any other specialty manufacturer. The company’s divisions include Saleen Mustangs, Saleen S7 and S7R, the Saleen/Allen Speedlab, Saleen engineering and Saleen Performance Parts, the latter a complete line of performance and appearance products for Mustangs, Explorers and the new Ford Focus.

Contact: Jack Gerken 949-597-4900

76 Fairbanks
Irvine, CA 92618
t 949 597 4900
f 949 597 0201
www.saleen.com

EXIDE TECHNOLOGIES NAMED EXCLUSIVE BATTERY SUPPLIER FOR SALEEN S7

EXIDE SELECT ORBITAL THE BATTERY OF CHOICE FOR AMERICAN SUPERCAR

PRINCETON, N.J., June 15 /PRNewswire/ — Exide Technologies (NYSE: EX), the global leader in stored electrical energy solutions, has signed an agreement to supply Exide Select Orbital(R) batteries to Saleen, Inc. Based in Irvine, California, Saleen specializes in the manufacture of high-performance vehicles for street and track; produces and markets a broad line of performance parts; and provides design, engineering and certification services. As a battery supplier to Saleen, Exide Technologies will provide the original-equipment batteries for all Saleen S7 street and racing vehicles.

The agreement calls for Exide Technologies to supply the Exide Select Orbital(R) — the world’s only original-equipment approved spiral-wound lead-acid battery — for use in Saleen’s top-of-the-line vehicles, including the Saleen S7, an American supercar, and the Saleen S7R, the racing version of the S7. Further, Exide Technologies will be an associate sponsor of the Saleen/Allen Speedlab race team starting with the prestigious 24 Hours of LeMans event on June 16 and 17. And Saleen will specify the Exide Select Orbital(R) as the preferred replacement battery for all Saleen S7 vehicles.

Saleen offers a full line of consumer vehicles as well as a wide array of parts and accessories designed for improving performance. Saleen’s S281 naturally-aspirated and supercharged models, available as coupes, convertibles or speedsters; the XP8 Performance Utility Vehicle; and the race-bred SR coupe are mainstays of the company’s high-performance vehicle line.

The crown jewel of Saleen’s vehicle lineup is the 2001 S7 supercar, one of the most exotic supercars in the world, capable of speeds exceeding 200 miles per hour, with a zero-to-60 time of under four seconds. The Saleen S7 redefines high-tech and modern racing technology with its 7-liter V-8 engine, advanced suspension system and aerodynamic design.

“We chose the Exide Select Orbital(R) because it is the only spiral-wound, sealed, absorbed glass mat lead-acid battery that has withstood the rigors required for original-equipment certification,” said Steve Saleen, Founder and President of Saleen. “In addition, Exide Technologies supports its products with a high-quality global service network.”

The Exide Select Orbital(R) features a highly efficient design and construction of tightly wound plates that provide unparalleled power among conventional automotive batteries. It holds its charge longer — and has a shelf life three times longer — than conventional batteries. The battery can be recharged in a fraction of the time, has greater power output and resists vibration better than any other lead-acid battery. Because the Exide Select Orbital(R) is completely sealed, it eliminates leaks and spills. It is extremely resistant to vibration, heat and cold and offers greater safety because it contains no free liquid electrolyte and does not produce gas.

“The Saleen signature on a vehicle signifies the state-of-the-art in design, performance, engineering and manufacturing,” said Craig Muhlhauser, President and Chief Operating Officer of Exide Technologies. “The Exide Select Orbital(R) is the only spiral-wound, sealed, absorbed glass mat lead-acid battery in the world that can meet these exacting, high-performance criteria for the Saleen vehicle line.”

Note:
Exide Technologies is the global leader in providing electrical energy storage solutions. The company has operations in 89 countries, serving the industrial and transportation markets.

Industrial applications include network-power batteries for telecommunications systems, fuel-cell load leveling, electric utilities, railroads, photovoltaic (solar-power related) and uninterruptible power supply (UPS) markets; and motive-power batteries for a broad range of equipment uses, including lift trucks, mining vehicles and commercial vehicles.

Transportation uses include automotive, heavy-duty truck, agricultural, marine and other batteries, as well as new technologies being developed for hybrid vehicles and new 42-volt automotive applications. The company supplies both aftermarket and original-equipment transportation customers.

Further information about Exide Technologies, its financial results and other information can be found at www.exide.com .

Media contact: Tim Yost, 734-827-3282; tyost@exideworld.com
Investor contact: Thomas J. Smith, 609-919-4946, tsmith@exideworld.com.

Certain statements in this press release may constitute forward-looking statements as defined by the Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. As such, they involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause the actual results of the company to be materially different from any results expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. These are enumerated in further detail in the company’s Form 10-K.

MEDIA CONTACTS at LeMans:
Frederic Guyonneau for Exide: 678-361-7321
Jack Gerkin for Saleen: 714-814-9901

MEDIA CONTACTS in U.S.:
James Chew for Exide: 610-698-4458
Tim Yost for Exide: 734-827-3282

INVESTOR CONTACT:
Thomas J. Smith for Exide: 609-919-4946

[SOURCE: Exide Technologies]

FELLOWS PRAISES PIT CREW

By: N.A. on May 29, 2001
Original Article: TORONTO STAR (CANADA)

The Saleens were faster in the pre-qualifying session for next month’s 24 Hours of LeMans. But when it comes to the famed twice-around-the-clock race, Ron Fellows is confident his pit crew will carry the day for Corvette Racing.

“We were a couple of seconds faster than we were last year,” said Fellows, who will be honoured on June 7 as Mississauga’s athlete of the year. “But the Saleens were two seconds faster than us.”

“I’m not that worried, though. I think the Corvette is a faster car. And in the race we’ll have a far superior race team. At (the 12 Hours of) Sebring I think we would have been faster than the Saleens if it were not for the starter motor problems. We were 10 seconds faster than them in our pit stops and that’s a huge edge.”

Fellows will share the wheel with Johnny O’Connell and Scott Pruett. Pruett, a former CART driver who had an ill-fated, one-year run in NASCAR’s Winston Cup series last season, replaces Chris Kneifel, who retired as an active driver to become CART’s chief steward.

ASARO THIRD:
Unionville’s Billy Asaro, who won three consecutive U.S. Formula 2000 series races, settled for a third-place finish in Sunday’s rain-delayed “Night Before The Indy” event at Indianapolis Raceway Park, not to be confused with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Asaro, who qualified seventh, managed to work his way up to third place and a spot on the podium for the fourth consecutive race, but was unable to catch Mexico’s Piero Rodate, who took his first checkered flag. Tommy Constantine of Greece was second.

BURTON CONFIDENT:
“I don’t want to sound facetious or cocky, but it felt normal,” NASCAR driver Jeff Burton said after Sunday’s win in the Coca-Cola 600. “Winning is what Roush Racing is all about.” Burton’s teammates Mark Martin and Kurt Busch were fourth and 12th respectively in the race.

TRIPLE HEADER?
When asked about second-place 600 finisher Kevin Harvick’s tongue-in-cheek plan to run 1,400 miles next Memorial Day weekend (the Grand National race at the speedway Saturday, then the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 Sunday), Tony Stewart said Harvick was fit enough to do so. “They just need to keep him out of bars,” Stewart quipped.

INDY FOLLOW-UP:
When Team Penske duo Helio Castroneves and Gil de Ferran finished 1-2 in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 it marked only the third time teammates have crossed the finish line in that order. The last time was in 1999 when Arie Luwendyk won and Treadway Racing teammate Scott Goodyear, the Toronto native, was second. . . . Castroneves’ victory, following last year’s win by Juan Montoya, marked only the second time in race history that rookies have won in back-to-back years. . . . Scott Sharp was the fifth pole-sitter to finish last. Greg Ray ended up last a year ago after taking the pole. . . . Sharp was only the second pole-sitter not to complete even a lap of the race. The other was Roberto Guerrero. . . . Michael Andretti, who finished third but led briefly, became the only driver to lead the 500 in three different decades.

NEXT FOR CART:
Helio Castroneves and the five other CART drivers who raced in the Indy 500 return to the CART series this weekend with Sunday’s event at the Milwaukee Mile.

NASCAR TOPS:
NASCAR dominated a new ESPN poll measuring fan response to the favourite type of auto racing in the U.S.A. NASCAR won 55 per cent of votes while drag racing, with 12.2 per cent, outdistanced both open wheel (CART – 9.1 per cent) and F1 (3.9 per cent). Drag racing makes its only Canadian national event stop this weekend when the International Hot Rod Association tour visits the Grand Bend Motorplex. More than 30,000 attended the three-day event’s Canadian debut last June.

FELLOWS HOPES CORVETTE TAKES REVENGE AT LE MANS

By: N.A. on March 20, 2001
Original Article: TORONTO STAR (CANADA)

Ron Fellows wants another shot at the competition he calls “the thing” and this time with a healthy Corvette C5-R.

But he’ll have to wait until June 16-17 when he crosses the pond to France for the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The “thing” is the U.S.-funded, British-built Saleen S7R, a newcomer to the American Le Mans series, which will also contest the event, after which the U.S. series run by Don Panoz is named.

The Saleen beat the Corvettes for the first time this season in the 12 Hours of Sebring (Fla.) to capture the GTS class. A prototype Audi won the overall race.

While he concedes that the Saleen is “pretty fast,” Fellows doesn’t believe it belongs in the GTS class.

“But it’s there and so we have to figure out a way to beat it,” said the Mississauga native. “There’s nothing like a challenge.”

Fellows attempt to beat the Saleen at Sebring was hampered by a faulty starter motor which had to be changed twice during the race and cost the team 10 laps.

Fellows knows both he and the second Corvette, which finished second in the class at Sebring while Fellows was third, will have their work cut out for them at Le Mans.

“It’ll have a big advantage at Le Mans because it’s narrower and lower and it’s a proper race car,” he said. “It looks a lot like the Porsche GT1. It sure looked like it in my rearview mirror and following it, too.”

CYCLING FATALITY:
The auto racing world is mourning the death of champion driver Bob Wollek who was killed when he was struck while riding his bicycle near Sebring International Raceway last Friday.

He was in Sebring for the 24-hour endurance race on Saturday, which he won in 1985.

The 57-year-old native of Strasbourg, France, won the 24 Hours of Daytona four times and two class wins in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Last year, he won five American Le Mans Series events.

Wollek was riding his bike near the track late in the afternoon when he was hit from behind by a car. The accident is still under investigation by the Florida Highway Patrol.

RETIREMENT SUPPORTED:
Readers of the U.S. racing publication AutoWeek 69 per cent in favour of NASCAR breaking with tradition and retiring the No. 3 of legendary Winston Cup driver Dale Earnhardt, who was killed in a crash during last month’s Daytona 500.

Even many among the 31 per cent opposed to retiring the number expressed the view that removing the number from view on the track would cause people to eventually forget Earnhardt’s contributions.

SUPER SUB:
Oakville’s Kenny Wilden, substituting for injured American driver Leighton Reese, finished a strong third in Trans-Am Series 100, a support event of the 12 Hours of Sebring, this past weekend.

Wilden, driving the Banner Engineering Chevrolet Corvette, passed Johnny Miller’s Jaguar XKR on lap 26 to gain a spot on the podium behind winner Boris Said and runner-up Paul Gentilozzi.

CART GRADS:
Brazilian Tarso Marques, whose top finish in 17 CART races last year for Gerald Forsythe Racing was seventh in the final race of the 2000 season on the California Speedway super oval, finished 14th in Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix. Two former CART champions, Jacques Villeneuve and Juan Montoya, both failed to finish the race.

SALEEN S7 SUPERCAR TO USE NEWTECH’S HIGH-PERFORMANCE BRAKE SYSTEM AS ORIGINAL EQUIPMENT

DETROIT, March 6 /PRNewswire/ — NewTech Group International today announced that its revolutionary new full-contact brake system will be installed as original equipment on the 2002 Saleen S7 supercar, making Saleen, Inc. the brake company’s first OE customer. The system will also be available as an option on the high-performance 2002 special edition Saleen Mustangs (S281 and SR). The announcement was made at the 2001 SAE World Congress in Detroit.

The full-contact brake system, fully developed by NewTech and its French affiliates, is composed of sensors and an Intelligent Braking System (IBS) and a radically different single, circular pad that distributes pressure over the full 360-degree surface of the disc. Compared to conventional brakes that use pads to apply pressure to only a small percentage of the disc, the NewTech brake is much higher performing, virtually fade-free, costs less to install and produce and is much more durable. NewTech’s technology can even enable the automotive industry to offer lifetime warranties on the product.

Under the agreement, Saleen will handle the certification process by conducting an extensive road-testing program. NewTech, meanwhile, will continue to develop its braking system to meet the needs of its customers, to whom it sells the system under licensing agreement.

The 200+ mph Saleen S7 is the first true American supercar, a category that includes Ferrari and Lamborghini models. Saleen expects to build 400 S7 vehicles over the next four years.

More than 1,000 Saleen Mustangs were sold in 2000. The California-based manufacturer is aiming to boost its 2001 sales by 20%.

NewTech/Saleen

About NewTech:
NewTech Group International is an independent Quebec-based company offering a full range of research and development, design and full-contact brakes to the automotive and heavy truck industries. NewTech’s mission is to develop the best brake system in the world.

To this end, the company has hired 50 of the top researchers and engineers from Europe, Asia and North America. Including technicians, communication personnel and administrators, NewTech employs about 120 full-time staff.

About Saleen, Inc.
Saleen, Inc. was founded by Steve Saleen in 1983. The company, which recently marked its 18th year of operation, specializes in designing and producing high-performance sports cars. Saleen is the largest American manufacturer of specialty cars. The company’s goal is to build the highest-performing cars, at the most competitive price, in its category.

The Saleen partnership is the first automobile original equipment supply contract that NewTech has signed with a car manufacturer, and second with a vehicle manufacturer. Four months ago, NewTech signed a deal to supply Renault’s truck division with a brake system adapted to its Class 8 heavy-duty vehicles.

SOURCE: NewTech Group International

ENGINEERING AN AMERICAN SUPERCAR

By: AMY HIGGINS on March 1, 2001
Original Article: MACHINE DESIGN, VOL. 73, ISSUE 5

A space-age chassis and an engine fit for both racing and street cruising take Saleen’s “supercar” to new levels.

Zero to 60 in under 4 sec. A top speed North of 200 mph. Ground effects that would let the car cruise at 160 mph — upside down. Suffice it to say, the new S7 super car from specialty carmaker Saleen Inc., Irvine, Calif., would surely blow the doors off Herbie. Throw in sleek lines, smooth curves, and Delorean-style doors, and you’ve got one fine-looking ride that gives “supercar” a new meaning.

Incredibly, Saleen’s new beauty was designed, engineered, manufactured, and ready for delivery in just 18 months. But development wasn’t a one-man gig. Saleen worked closely with OEMs from around the globe including Italian brake manufacturer Brembo, British racing house, Ray Mallock Ltd. (RML), and a host of other specialty suppliers.

“Niche manufacturing is about using the best available from the world’s high-quality suppliers,” explains Steve Saleen, president and founder of Saleen Inc., “It’s a nontraditional way to build a car, but for small-volume manufacturing, it’s the most effective and efficient method to bring a quality car to market with minimal cost.”

In designing the supercar, the objective was straightforward: Design a vehicle that could easily compete with the fastest, most luxurious, and best-handling grand touring cars in the world, yet comfortably tool around on highways, autobahns, or country roads. The first step–a chassis and suspension fit for racing and street cruising.

Space-age chassis
Saleen tapped RML’s expertise in designing and engineering the S7’s futuristic chassis, suspension system, and overall look. RML built the preproduction chassis and body in Wellingborough, England, while the final prototype was assembled at Saleen’s plant in Irvine, Calif.

A lightweight steel, space-frame chassis is reinforced with a honeycomb-composite-carbon fiber that cuts weight but adds stiffness. Fully independent unequal-length “A” arms and lightweight aluminum dampers with coilover springs make up the basic suspension. Special CNC-machined aluminum uprights with a spider weblike structure direct cooling air to the brakes and wheel bearings.

Other components include specially tuned Brembo-supplied aluminum brakes: six-piston, 15-in. ventilated discs on the front, and 14-in. in the rear. Center hub-mounted wheels are shod with Pirelli P-Zero Rossa tires, size 275×30-19 upfront and 355×25-19 in back.

The S7 has a relatively large footprint with a 106-in. wheelbase and 68.75-in. front track. According to Saleen, the car’s presence is “amazing.” It stretches to 188 in. long and just over 78 in. wide. In true sportscar fashion, the S7 rides low, its body perched just 4 in. above the ground. At 41 in. high, it sits 3 in. lower than a Lamborghini Diablo, and at 2,750 lb, weighs 650 lb less. “We wanted a ‘form-follows-function’ look, but also one that was beautiful,” says Saleen. “I’d say we succeeded.”

Engineers also made safety a high priority. For starters, the S7 fuel tank sits at chassis center. This reduces changes to the car’s handling with fuel load, and improves overall packaging, says Saleen. A front-suspension antiroll bar, carbon-fiber rocker panels and doors, and three-point seat belts with automatic pretensioners add to the mix. Aluminum honeycomb panels add strength to the steel chassis and absorb impact. The same material makes up the front crush structure and rear crumple zones.

Built for speed
Powering the supercar is a 7-liter (427 in.3), normally aspirated, aluminum V-8 that generates 550 hp at 6,400 rpm and 520 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. Torque transfers to the rear wheels through a new-generation, six-speed transaxle.

Interestingly, the huge powerplant is just slightly over-square in that the stroke length is actually shorter than the bore size. Over-square engines are typically used in racing because they develop more power at higher rpm. On the other hand, they tend to lack torque at lower speed, which makes them less suitable for cruising down the highway. The S7 spans both worlds with a 4.125-in. bore and 4-in. stroke.

Though the S7 engine block is cast according to a traditional Ford design, Saleen completely reengineered it 8 in. shorter than the original block. A compact front engine accessory drive system with a side-mounted water pump streamlines the engine and helps distribute weight.

Further improving weight distribution and CG is a midchassis-mounted engine. This arrangement also allows for an especially tall “true” downdraft induction system. Here, air flows through a carbon-fiber air box leading to a magnesium throttle body and intake manifolds. Fuel feeds through matched trumpets in a straight shot to the intake ports.

The use of space-age materials makes engine components lighter and more reliable. Take the high-strength piston rods, for example. They are forged from a new EN40B billet steel. Beryllium exhaust valve seats effectively transfer heat away from the all-aluminum, CNC-machined cylinder heads. Stainless-steel valves and titanium retainers toughen the valve train. And a specially designed crankshaft is crafted from 4340 forged billet steel.

Yet another performance feature is Saleen’s dry-pump, oil-delivery system. The system cuts power-robbing viscous friction, improves ground clearance, and thwarts oil starvation in hard cornering. Innovation doesn’t end there. The S7’s huge muffler has a twofold purpose: It cuts noise and acts as part of the rear impact crumple zone. Surprisingly, the supercar meets all federal and California emission-control standards as a transitional low-emissions vehicle.

A true drag diffuser
Advantages gained in the wind tunnel are priceless, something not lost on S7 designers. They spent considerable time at Scotland’s University of Glasgow wind-tunnel facilities refining drag-to-lift ratio, center of gravity, drag coefficient, and downforce. With the S7, what you see is not all you get. Full underside body sculpting helps cut underbody turbulence and boost overall stability at high speeds.

Gills and fascia openings add to the S7’s exotic beauty while serving a functional purpose. For example, side scoops let air move through the vehicle to cool the transmission while split radiators exhaust under and to the sides of the car to produce downforce. A roof intake system supplies additional air to the engine, while a nose scoop helps ventilate the cabin.

Moving inside, creature comforts are as impressive as the exterior. Connolly leather upholstered seats and surfaces, air-conditioning, adjustable pedals, and a six-disc CD player are just a few of the features.

Tall drivers might find the S7 incredibly considerate to their plight with the removable steering wheel for easier entry, as well as an asymmetrical cockpit. Here, drivers sit more toward the center of the cabin than passengers, improving both visibility and weight distribution.

The supercar also sports a special, live-video rear-view “mirror” that uses a video camera concealed in the rear of the car and an LCD mounted where a traditional rearview mirror would sit. Analog gauges and a center-mounted tachometer are highlighted with brushed aluminum and body-color accents adding to the S7’s elegance.

Car enthusiasts lucky enough to get their hands on a 2001 Saleen S7 will pay handsomely. The supercar retails for $385,000. However, all hope is not lost for those with less dough. Saleen says it will build a less-expensive, higher-volume model to meet its goal of selling 300 to 400 cars worldwide through the S7’s four-year production run.