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Cars 'n' Stars: New Motorsports Themed Restaurant Opens, Electric Car hits 237 mph, GM '98 Model Updates

26 August 1997

Newport Beach, California is a rich bedroom community inhabited by wealthy people (John Wayne lived there) with posh homes overlooking the Pacific ocean. It is Orange County California's answer to Beverly Hills, and, with the largest per capita number of Mercedes Benz owners in the U.S., it's the logical place to build an upscale motorsports themed restaurant/bistro and invite a whole bunch of celebrities for the grand opening. Conceived by successful shopping center builder Nick Costa, partly funded by vitamin maker Dick Marconi, and run by restaurateur Jon Safier, the Newport Beach venue is the pilot model--Las Vegas, Miami, Chicago, and New York are next.

The restaurant features: two race cars on the roof, A Gurney Eagle on the ceiling, plus a Mazda LeMans car in the lobby. It has big screen TV, plus 82 monitors running live and taped motorsports constantly. Interactive games for gearheads of all ages, a gift shop, bar stools made from Eibach competition springs, plus moderate prices for the 130 items on the menu.

Opening/preview night we ran into Kenny Bernstein, Linda Vaughn, Bruce Jenner, Bob Bondurant, Parnelli Jones, Dan Gurney, Steve Millen, et al. The high-point was a police approved drag race in front of the bistro on the super busy Pacific Coast highway featuring a Can Am Frisbee, F-5000, 427 Cobra, racing Lamborghini, Trans Am Firebird and off road trucks. Wild stuff.

Would you believe an electric car capable of running 237mph? Pat Runnerfield, O'Fallon, Il, turned that speed at the Bonneville Salt Flats last week in an unofficial pass. The car is owned and prepared by World Record Performance Associates, Santa Ana, CA. The former record was 183mph.

General Motors models for 1998 are experiencing facelifts: BUICK--Century and Park Avenue facelifts, Riviera and Skylark may be dropped; OLDSMOBILE--last year for Achieve, update for Bravada, Intrigue facelift; CADILLAC--Seville gets a big redesign, Catera facelift; PONTIAC--Firebird facelift.

The USAC FF2000 race series came to an end at Watkins Glen Saturday with the double win taken by Andrea DeLorenzi, Italy. Zak Moriaka still garnered enough points to win the season championship.

The Parker SCORE 400 race was called off due to lack of entries and sponsor involvement. Whiplash Motorsports, Phoenix, Az, however, has come to the rescue: the event will run Dec. 5, 6, and 7.

At the power opening of the Speedway restaurant and bistro, TACH spoke with "Mad" Max Papis, the CART driver with Toyota power, and told him that the Toyota cars, as he is well aware, are exactly 10mph off the pace. He replied that with their development program they are gaining more power with every race and that he is looking forward to Vancouver this coming weekend.

Bill Maloney -- The Auto Channel