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September 2008

Seven Days: Vermont Car Blog

September 08, 2008

Bob Sr.'s Weekend Racing Highlights

Editor's Note: Bob Sr. is my dad. He has been racing cars for almost 50 years. If he's not racing on Sundays you'll find him watching auto racing on TV. Every Monday he'll post an update with highlights and the inside scoop on the previous day's big races.


Formula One race from Spa in Belgium, the fastest course in the series.

The British Wonderboy, Lewis Hamilton in only his second year in F1 starts from pole position, spins in the early going with Kimi Raikkonen, the present F1 World Champion taking an early lead from his Ferrari teammate Filipe Massa. Kimi leads the rest of the race at the course he has dominated for the last three years until two laps remain when rain falls. Hamilton is in second place and closing rapidly, when Lewis trys to pass Kimi, but Kimi closes the door and Hamilton cuts the corner on the inside going thru the chicane (not allowed) and has to let Kimi by. He retains his momentum and gets past Kimi again. Kimi  passes Hamilton but then spins in the wet crashing into the barrier.

Heidfield in the Williams BMW, who cleverly stopped for rain tires two laps previous, comes from 9th on the last lap to take third. Had there been another lap (of 4 miles) he would have surely won.

It looks like Hamilton wins with Massa in second, but hold on.

Then the surprise... after the trophy presentation, interviews, etc. it is announced that the stewards have assessed a 25 second penalty to Hamilton for passing Kimi off course and MASSA is pronounced winner with HEIDFIELD second and HAMILTON finishing in 3rd. WOW!!!

Massa is now only two points behind Hamilton for the World Championship, poor Kimi pretty much out of it, finishing 18th after leading practically the entire race, now trailing in 3rd for the championship.

Much, much controversy of course, over the penalty, but Hamilton certainly could have been back-flagged for his transgression if it was earlier in the race, which would have left Kimi the winner. Quite a wild result to say the least.There will be much written and discussed.

Next race up, The IRL, Indycar 400 at ChicagoLand Speedway.

Scott Dixon only needed to finish 8th or better to clinch the Indycar Championship but raced Helio Castroneves to the wire for the closest photo-finish in Indycar history to be pronounced winner of the race AND the Championship — only to be informed minutes later that Helio had won!

Dixon was somewhat consoled by getting the $100,000,000 check for the Series win.

For the Danica fans, she finished 10th.

NASCAR At Richmond.

  • Jimmy Johnson wins and takes momentum into the Chase starting next week in New Hampshire.
  • Stewart a disgruntled 2nd.
  • Dale Jr. spins Kyle Busch out, "What goes around comes around"....

Other News...
Dario Franchitti, former Indy 500 winner and Indy Car Champion leaves NASCAR after an unsatisfactory season to return — not to his old home at Andretti/Green — but with Chip Gannasi's Championship team paired with new champ Scott Dixon.

September 06, 2008

Big 3 Bailout is Being Pushed Hard on Campaign Trail

GM, Ford and Chrysler are working hard to get the government to provide a $50 billion loan package. The money would primarily be used for converting truck plants over to producing smaller and more energy efficient vehicles.

For the first time in 23 years the mantle for best-selling vehicle in the country fell from Ford's F-150 to the Honda Civic. Previously the Ford F-150 had been the best-selling vehicle in the country for, yes you heard me right, 23 years! and the best-selling truck for 31 years! Profits for the F-150 were estimated to be half or more of Ford's overall profit... until now. With gas prices climbing the truck market has tanked, dramatically effecting all 3 companies.

Foreign car makers have better balance sheets and can get cheaper loans for Q&A projects and re-tooling. The US auto industry is a bigger credit risk and without the loan package would be looking at loans in the 10% range.

So the Big 3 are out on the campaign trail trying to seize the political opportunity to get the loan package through before a new congress takes over. McCain, Obama and the current Bush administration are all said to be in favor of the plan. The actual cost to tax payers would be approximately $8 billion. The cost of one of the Big 3 failing could be far worse... or would it?

What do you think? Is it a good use of our Federal budget or is it just being pushed through because of the number of lobbyists they have on the case?

September 04, 2008

Reports of my Demise are Greatly Exaggerated

My dad, Bob Kilpatrick Sr., has been a car guy his whole life. He has been racing MGs since long before I was born and now in his early 70s he is still racing, most often at Sebring Raceway in Florida. I was searching for stories about him on the web tonight and found this blog post from a former employee of his lamenting that he could not locate him. He surmissed that he "must have passed" and also that he was in his 80s back in 2003! If you knew my Dad you'd know how bugged he's going to be that there are reports of his early demise out there, and maybe even worse, that he's in his 80s. Sorry Dad ;-)

Here's a recent pic of him in his 1962 MGB Roadster at Sebring. Keep on racing!

September 03, 2008

Video Test Drive: 2009 Chevy Malibu Hybrid

It was a beautiful day for a test drive and I was glad to have the chance to get away from the computer and take the 2009 Chevy Malibu Hybrid out for a spin. I picked it up from Shearer Chevrolet in South Burlington, VT and drove it on a variety of road types including cruising on I-89, in traffic jams on Route 7 and on the city streets of Burlington.

The Malibu is a mid-sized sedan that competes favorably against the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima. GM has worked hard to close the gap with these Japanese category leaders and the Malibu is one impressive result.

The Malibu received an extensive redesign for 2008 that received high praise from the auto industry.

  • Car and Driver listed it as one of its “10 Best Cars of 2008.”
  • The North American International Auto Show selected it as the “North American Car of the Year.”
  • J.D. Power and Associates named it the “Highest Ranked Mid-Size Car in Initial Quality.”

This car looks good inside and out, a vast improvement over the previous Malibu. More importantly it drives well. It gets darn good gas mileage and I found that it delivered respectable performance and a steady, comfortable ride. It’s also a safe car, receiving 5 stars for frontal and side impact crash test ratings and 4 stars for rollovers which is right on par with it’s Japanese competitors.

The Malibu has 3 trim levels. The LS & LT models get a 2.4L Ecotec 4-cylinder engine, coupled with a 4-speed automatic shifter. That combination achieves 169 horsepower with 22 MPG City and 30 MPG highway. An upgrade to the 6-speed automatic transmission will boost you to 33 MPG highway.

The LTZ model gets a more powerful 3.6L V6 rated at 252 horsepower. Of course there’s a trade-off on gas mileage at 17 MPG City and 26 MPG Highway. You decide where your priorities lie. Each engine provides different advantages.

The Hybrid model I drove uses the 2.4L Ecotec Hybrid engine. The Hybrid technology bumps MPG to 26 City and 34 Highway.

For comparison’s sake, the Toyota Camry Hybrid might be the closest apples-to-apples competitor. The Camry Hybrid gets 33 MPG city and 34 MPG highway so it’s a slight winner in that category with lower city gas consumption. But the base price of the Camry is $1000 more, and the Malibu actually rides a little better. The engine doesn’t turn off when coasting, it has better steering and a tighter suspension which results in a car that’s a little more fun to drive.

What’s my advice?

If you’ve been waiting to buy a quality American car that is a match for its Japanese competitors then the Malibu is for you. It’s a well built, good looking car, with a quiet ride and good performance — and if you care, it’s made in America.

Would I buy the Hybrid? First a reality check – if I wanted to buy a hybrid with the absolute best gas mileage possible, I would probably buy a Toyota Prius. The Malibu though has some attractive features that eht Prius does not. The Malibu is a larger, safer and more comfortable car. Each car fits different lifestyles and needs.

The difference in gas mileage between the 2009 Malibu LT2 with a 6-speed transmission and the 2009 Malibu Hybrid is 4 MPG city and 1 MPG highway. By my calculations it would take almost 10 years to make up the approximate $1000 vehicle price difference via fuel savings. The 6-speed transmission is going to drive better in a variety of conditions.

It would be very difficult for me to pick between these two cars, but with either one the next time Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to be an American” came on the radio I’d be ready to sing along ;-)

2009 Chevy Malibu LS LT LTZ Hybrid
Engine 2.4L Ecotec 4-Cylinder 2.4L Ecotec 4-Cylinder 3.6L V6 2.4L Ecotec 4-Cylinder
Transmission 4-Speed Auto 6-Speed Auto 6-Speed Auto 4-Speed Auto
MPG City 22 22 17 26
MPG Highway 30 33 26 34
Invoice $19,604 $22,534 $25,605 $23,337

Saturn Hybrid on Top in Consumer Reports Testing

The October issue of Consumer Reports compares Hybrid vehicles in similar categories and rates them based on 5 year total cost savings. The Saturn Vue Green Line came out ahead of 11 other hybrid vehicles.

The added cost of the Vue's hybrid system is only $2300 over a non-hybrid Vue. That and the fact that this Mild-Hybrid system gives a respectable boost to gas economy helped put the Saturn on top.

Mild-Hybrid systems don't have the power to propel a car on electric power alone, but they do boost fuel economy.

The Toyota Camry Hybrid was next with the hybrid system paying for itself in only one year!

Get the details of the whole report in this source article -  Hybrid Savings: Winners and Losers

September 02, 2008

Mini Cooper sets the pace for Burlington Criterium


It was a beautiful Labor Day as Andy Bonfigli of Earthycars.com drove the Mini Cooper pace car for the Burlington Criterium. Each year downtown Burlington, VT gets turned into a pro bicycling course. This year Jake Hollenbach of Burlington's own Skirack won the Top Pro Men's race as captured in this video.

Car and Driver has a new article out titled Guilt Free Fun about cars that are great fun to drive, but also won't kill your wallet at the gas pumps. Of course the Mini Cooper makes that list!

Enjoy the race!

September 01, 2008

CNN Rates 5 Most Cost Effective Fuel Saving Autos

CNNMoney.com recently had analysts at Intellichoice.com look at fuel efficient vehicles in various classes and then determine which were actually the best buy once long term value and ownership costs were figured in.

Here are the winners-

  • Compact Car: Honda Civic Hybrid / Mileage: 40 mpg City, 45 mpg Highway / Price: $22,600
  • Midsized Car: Toyota Prius / Mileage: 48 mpg City, 45 mpg Highway / Price: $22,000-$24,270
  • Small Crossover: Mazda Tribute Hybrid / Mileage: 34 mpg City, 30 mpg Highway / Price: $25,310-$29,570
  • Sport Sedan: Lexus GS / Mileage: 19 mpg City, 27 mpg Highway / Price $44,550-$52,375
  • Sports Car: Chevrolet Corvette / Mileage: 16 mpg City, 26 mpg Highway / Price: $47,045-$102,450

Here's the complete online version of their report.

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