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CARS N STARS: Gurney Names Replacement Driver, Ford To Make Hydrogen Car, Villenueve Is Canada's Athlete Of The Year

18 December 1997

CARS N STARS: Gurney Names Replacement Driver, Ford To Make Hydrogen Car, Villenueve Is Canada's Athlete Of The Year

As you were informed in this column last week CART race driver Juan Fangio 11 has hung up his helmet and announced his retirement which leaves a seat open in the Dan Gurney Fed Ex Championship Race team. Dan, long known for his interest in bringing along young drivers has named Kool/Toyota Atlantic champ Alex Barron as team mate to P.J. Jones for the upcoming season.

Barron, 27, from Vista, Ca had a four-day test session at Firebird Raceway in Arizona and has a background of driving in Karts and FF2000 series. He looks forward to a 19 race season and if the Toyota engineers can find 10 more mph in their V8 Toyota mill the team may be in the hunt. Many thought that local Orange County resident Robby Gordon would get the ride but the consensus is Barron will be more "teach-able".

Ford has announced the formation of a consortium that will build 40,000 hydrogen-and-oxygen powered vehicles by 2004. Daimler Benz A.G. and Ballard Power Systems of Canada are partners and Ford is putting $420 million in the research.

World (F-1) Driving Champion Jacques Villenueve has been named Canada's most outstanding athlete for 1997.

Because of the weak yen in Japan may be a boon to car buyers of the Big 3 products as the big guys will have to drop sticker prices to compete with the reduced price Japanese vehicles.

Hyundai has been pretty close-mouthed about new models and up dates, due to a sales slump, and now they have laid off 31 people in their U.S. headquarters in Fountain Valley, Ca. Merry Christmas.

In the Fed Ex Champ car series for 1998 Roger "the unfair advantage" Penske may have some surprises.

An all new chassis for the PC27 and a new , lighter and more powerful Mercedes motor. The car is currently being tested at Sebring, Fla.

Also in Fed Ex the race track at Belle Isle Park/Detroit is undergoing changes and will be lengthened a quarter mile.

All Star Baseball player/catcher, Mike Piazza of the L.A. Dodgers will partner with Michael Andretti and is opening the Andretti and Piazza Sports Cafe in Orlando, Fla. Andretti is testing at Laguna Seca.

Toyota says it will market the Prius hybrid electric sedan in the U.S. by the year 2000. Sales of the $16,525 car will start in California where the emission laws are toughest. The car can run on gas or electricity or both at the same time. It has a 1.5 liter gas motor.

Daewoo car company of Korea has done it again. They were to introduce their car line in the U.S. several months ago. Aborted. Set up three regional companies to sell cars. Zero activity. Awarded their PR business to a couple of publicity firms but gave them nothing to publicize until recently when the made a big splash about intro-ing the Leganza, Lubria at the Los Angeles Auto Show in two weeks. Autoweek gave Daewoo a big spread and the auto show PR people beat the drums for the intro. Now it appears that has been called off and after calling it off the car maker said...well, on second thought we still may make the L.A. show. Go figure.

Remember the big stink last month about the new A Class Mercedes flunking the moose test? Now they've cleaned up their act and have announced in 180 European newspapers that the little car has been re-engineered and will pass all tests.

The Ford F-150 pickup has been named NASCAR's official truck for 1998 for all divisions and will dude up a truck with racing stripes and offer it for sale...just like they do with Indy 500 pace cars.

Ford also has received the highest owner loyalty awards by an R.L. Polk consumer study as they took top honors in six of nine categories.

Back to CART...oops, Fed Ex series: Pruett and Adrian Fernandez are testing new Reynards at Phoenix International Raceway. Mauricio Gugelmin has received the Autosprint magazine "Fastest Man on a Race Track" award for his 240 mph trip around California Speedway last fall.

Want the latest update on consumer incentives?

Chrysler Sebring Coupe    $1000
Ford Escort               $1000
Lincoln Town Car          $5000
Mazda Millenia            $4000

Maybe it's a good time to buy a 1997 model.

Bill Maloney The Auto Channel