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Cars 'n' Stars: Vancouver Engine Box Score--Honda, 6 Mercedes, 3; VW to Leave Mexico; What's New with Nissan; Ford Looks for 7% Sales Increase

3 September 1997

Of the 12 cars that finished the CART/Indy Car race at Vancouver Sunday six were powered by Honda, three had Mercedes power and three were Ford Cosworth. Alex Zanardi who finished in 4th now leads Gil deFerran 181 points to 144 as the tour heads for Laguna Seca for the penultimate race of the 1997 season. Pac West drivers Mark Blundell and Gugelmin have re-upped for the 1998 season.

VW says they may shift production of the Jetta and Golf to Latin America and assemble only the 1998 Beetle south of the border. The German auto maker built 196,000 cars in Pueble, Mx last year.

For 1998 look for this from Nissan:

Longer handling packages
Restyled SE model with 2.0 liter engine.
Front and rear styling changes.
Front seat side airbags optional
Unchanged..may be dropped.
New GLE with sunroof...leather seats w/power.

Ford has set a 1998 sales goal of 3.3 million units...a 7 increase and 62 % of this is light trucks. The F-150 is the biggest seller of all vehicles on the market. The NO.2 auto maker is targeting women for more sales as women spend $83 billion on cars.

Honda reports an earnings rise of 15.3 percent to $12.4 billion. Toyota has hiked retail prices on all 1998 model from $150, Regular cab truck to $710 for the 4Runner Limited.

1998 Isuzu Rodeo prices go up $431....base sticker is $17,995. Bill France_s International Speedway Corp will build a new race track in Kansas City, KANSAS. They are scouting possible sites. KC is a good racing town and needs a track.

Lynx Racing started the open wheel careers of Richie Hearn and Patrick Carpenteir and has now signed lady Karting sensation Sara Senske...rhymes with Penske. Team Target drivers Alex Zanardi and Jimmy Vasser will stay with Chip Ganassi for 1998. Zanardi should bring the team its second CART championship in a couple of weeks.

Someone is going to buy USAC and it may be ProSports Car Racing_s Andy Evans. He says he will top any other offer by half a million dollars. So if USAC was smart they would have a shill make an offer of $50 million and let Andy do his thing.

The Trans Am natives are restless. Tom KENDALL, Gentolozzi, D. Schroeder et al say that if the SCCA doesn_t shape up and get a sponsor for 1998 they will all switch to Andy Evans Trans-Am-like series for next year. Robby Gordon will leave Felix Sabates Winston Cup stock car team and sign on with Team Green in CART for 1998 and become a partner to Parker Johnstone.

The Tustin (Ca.) Thunder vintage car races boasted record crowds and fields of cars for its August 1-3 race meet and now for 1998 they may bring in a ProSportsCar event to run with the old guys with old cars. Look for a supercharged Jaguar XK8 sometime next year.

Bill Maloney -- The Auto Channel