F1 driver Sergio Perez is COVID-19 positive, will miss British Grand Prix

SILVERSTONE, England — Mexican Formula One driver Sergio Perez will miss Sunday’s British Grand Prix after testing positive for COVID-19, his Racing Point team said on Thursday.

The Canadian-owned outfit said the 30-year-old, who is the first driver to test positive since the pandemic-hit season started this month, was “physically well and in good spirits.”

They said they planned to replace him for the race at Silverstone.

With Britain extending the virus isolation period to 10 days from seven on Thursday, Perez also looks set to miss the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix — race five — at the same circuit on the following weekend.

Racing Point shares reserves with engine supplier Mercedes, with Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne and Mexican Esteban Gutierrez in those roles.

Both are experienced former F1 race drivers, but Gutierrez would be the driver on call since Vandoorne is preparing for the final races of the stalled all-electric Formula E season in Berlin.

Racing Point could, however, call up another driver of their choice with Germany’s Nico Hulkenberg — who raced for Renault last season — one such possibility.

A decision will have to be made before practice starts on Friday.

Perez, who is sixth in the championship, and a small group of teammates who had come into contact with him, had already gone into self-isolation after an initial test came back as inconclusive.

“The FIA and Formula One can now confirm that the result of his re-test is positive,” Formula One and the governing body said in a joint statement.

“Perez has entered self-quarantine in accordance with the instructions of the relevant public health authorities, and will continue to follow the procedure mandated by those authorities.”

Mexico has been hard hit by the virus, with the fourth highest number of fatalities in the world, but a Racing Point spokesman said Perez had not been back to his country since he last raced in Hungary on July 19.

Formula One has started its delayed season without spectators and under carefully controlled conditions, with teams operating in bubbles and all employees and those with access to the paddock tested every five days.

The sport had reported only two positive results, neither involving people who attended races, from more than 15,000 tests carried out from June 26 to July 23.

“The procedures set out by the FIA and Formula One have provided for swift containment of an incident that will have no wider impact on this weekend’s event,” the sport said.

Formula One chairman Chase Carey said before the start of the season that the sport would not cancel a race even if a driver tested positive.

“We encourage teams to have procedures in place so if an individual has to be put in quarantine, we have the ability to quarantine them at a hotel and to replace that individual,” he said then.

The original season-opener in Melbourne in March was canceled after a McLaren employee tested positive before the track action had started.

Racing Point has been in the headlines on track as well this season, with its pink car a lookalike of last year’s title-winning Mercedes and subject to an ongoing protest by Renault.

The team is fourth, just one point behind McLaren.

Source: AutoBlog.com

Ford posts $1.1B surprise quarterly profit thanks to VW

Ford on Thursday posted a quarterly profit thanks to Volkswagen AG’s investment in Ford’s self-driving Argo AI unit, which offset a production shutdown forced by the coronavirus pandemic as the No. 2 U.S. automaker said it still expects to post a loss for the full year.

Excluding the windfall from the investment in Pittsburgh-based Argo, Ford posted a loss that was lower than Wall Street analysts had forecast.

German automaker VW closed its $2.6 billion investment in Argo last month.

Ford said it expects a pre-tax profit of between $500 million and $1.5 billion for the third quarter and a loss for the fourth quarter, which features three significant product launches delayed by the coronavirus shutdown earlier this year.

Ford said on July 27 it repaid $7.7 billion of an outstanding $15.4 billion on its revolving credit facilities, and also extended $4.8 billion of its three-year revolving credit lines.

The automaker said it has almost $40 billion in cash, and should be able to maintain or exceed its target cash balance of $20 billion for the rest of 2020, even if global auto demand falls or if COVID-19 forces another major wave of plant closures.

Ford reported net profit in the second quarter of $1.1 billion, or 28 cents a share, compared with a profit of $100 million, or 4 cents a share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, Ford posted a second-quarter operating loss of $1.9 billion, or 35 cents a share. Analysts had expected a loss for the quarter of $1.17 per share.

Source: AutoBlog.com

Ex-Nissan exec Greg Kelly’s trial will start September 15 in Tokyo

TOKYO — The trial of ex-Nissan executive Greg Kelly, who is charged with conspiring to under-report the income of its former chairman Carlos Ghosn, has been scheduled to start on September 15, public broadcaster NHK said on Thursday. Former Nissan Chief Executive Hiroto Saikawa will be among those who will appear at the hearing at the Tokyo District Court in September, NHK said. Kelly denies wrongdoing.

The trial was initially expected to start in April but was delayed partly by the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, according to NHK. Kelly, the automaker’s ex-representative director, has been charged with helping Ghosn hide around $85 million (9 billion yen or 65.8 million pounds) in compensation.

Neither the court nor the office of Kelly’s lawyer was immediately available for comment.

Ghosn has fled to Lebanon, his childhood home, after being charged with engaging in financial wrongdoing, including understating his compensation in Nissan’s financial statements.

Ghosn also denies wrongdoing.

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Source: AutoBlog.com

Barrett-Jackson plans scaled-back fall auction in Scottsdale

Automotive auctioneer Barrett-Jackson on Thursday said it plans to hold a special fall auction in Scottsdale, Arizona despite the state’s status as a coronavirus hotspot and its appearance in a White House document as one of 18 “red zone” states where drastic steps are needed to slow to spread of COVID-19.

The three-day auction is set for Oct. 22-24 at WestWorld and is in lieu of the previously scheduled events at Las Vegas and Palm Beach, which were canceled due to the pandemic. It will be broadcast live on the History channel and FYI.

Arizona appeared on a secretive White House document that listed 18 “red zone” states that had more than 100 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents, according to a recent report by the Center for Public Integrity. The report, dated July 14, cited Arizona as having 349 cases per 100,000 people, and a positive test rate above 20%. It recommended limiting public gatherings to 10 people.

Barrett-Jackson says it has worked closely with officials from WestWorld to bolster public health protections and safety protocols, including temperature checks for all attendees, requiring the wearing of face masks and arranging seating to accommodate social distancing, which will reduce maximum capacity by 75%. Accordingly, the event will be limited mostly to bidders, consignors and their guests.

“Although we were looking forward to our traditional Las Vegas and Palm Beach auctions this year, after careful consideration we determined that a live auction at WestWorld was an exciting and more feasible alternative,” Chairman and CEO Craig Jackson said in a statement. “At this time, this allows us to better safeguard the health of our guests and team members and gives us the ability to deliver the high-quality experience for which Barrett-Jackson is known.

“A lot of thought went into the new procedures necessary for this to happen, which we will communicate over the coming weeks.”

Though the pandemic struck Arizona later than in many other hotspot states, the state has seen more than 170,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 3,626 deaths to date, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. Its trend line has been declining since peaking in late June, when it recorded 5,439 new confirmed cases, though it also just recorded a single-day high of 172 fatalities. More than half of all confirmed cases to date in Arizona occurred in July alone.

State officials are reporting a 12.7% positive rate on testing, a decline from the figure cited by the White House but still higher than many states. The bulk of the infections — more than 49% of overall cases in Arizona — are among people aged 20 to 44.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, has ordered bars, nightclubs and other businesses to close, though he has only recently come around to endorsing the use of face masks and allowing local officials to mandate their use — another recommendation from the White House report to stem the spread of the virus.

Meanwhile, the scaled-back auction has the blessing of Scottsdale’s mayor, W.J. Lane, who says his staff reviewed the plan and will make adjustments to it as needed while they monitor the coronavirus’ spread across the state. WestWorld has also held other limited-scale events with similar precautions since the outbreak began, and it is installing new ultraviolet sanitizing technology similar to systems used in hospitals, thanks for federal CARES Act funding.

Barrett-Jackson said it’s issuing full refunds for the Las Vegas and Palm Beach auctions, while new consignments for Scottsdale are now being accepted. On tap for the fall auction are vehicles including a 2018 Ford GT with fewer than 900 miles on the odometer, an ultra-rare 2012 Lexus LFA with less than 1,000 miles and a 1970 Plymouth Hemi Barracuda that underwent a full restoration in 2018.

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Honda trademarks ‘Motocompacto’ and we’re hoping for a Motocompo revival

Fans of both Honda’s four-wheeled and two-wheeled machines have reason to get excited (within reason), because the company may be reviving a beloved scooter from its past. Motorcycle news site Motorcycle.com discovered that Honda has trademarked the name “Motocompacto” in the United States. You can find the trademark in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office database here. The notes show that the name is meant for an electric scooter, and the filing was made only a week from the time of writing.

So why is this exciting to motorcycle fans, let alone car fans? The name Motocompacto is similar to the name of an old gas-powered Honda scooter called the Motocompo. That little scooter would fold up for easy transport, and a name like Motocompacto would seem to imply that ability would transfer to a new version. The folding trick was cool enough on its own, but where this is interesting for car enthusiasts is how the Motocompo was available with the first-generation Japanese-market Honda City and its high-output Turbo II variant, and would fit perfectly in the hatch. It was the original “last mile” mobility solution.

Before we go any further, we should go over the usual trademark filing disclaimer. Just because a company has trademarked a name doesn’t mean it’s going to do anything with it. It could simply be preemptive in case the company wants to use it later. It could also simply be used for a concept vehicle rather than something we can actually buy.

Still, we’re excited about this filing, and we can’t help but start imagining how a new foldable scooter from Honda could be used. Obviously we’d like it used in a car. The Honda E would seem like the ideal choice; pairing a modern take on a retro mobility solution with a retro-styled forward-thinking electric car. It would also seem like the only way to make that little hatchback more irresistibly charming. And with the E’s limited range and dependence on potentially inconvenient charging stations, a scooter to go someplace while charging would be super handy.

Of course we’d love to have some kind of Motocompacto for an American-market vehicle, and we have some ideas, there, too. The Honda HR-V has some excellent storage nooks thanks to its deep cargo well and flippable rear seat. We could see it tucked under the seat or in that storage well. You know what else has a storage well: the Honda Ridgeline. It’s a big one, too. And they could have knobby dirt tires, so you have little toys when you take your Ridgeline camping. We sure hope the Motocompacto becomes reality.

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Source: AutoBlog.com

NASCAR champ Jimmie Johnson enamored with IndyCar after test

Jimmie Johnson finally fulfilled his childhood dream of driving an Indy car with a test session Tuesday. When the seven-time NASCAR champion finished turning laps, he was sold on figuring out how to race next year in the IndyCar Series.

“It only lit the fire more. I want to do this more than ever before,” Johnson said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “It was something new, something different. NASCAR has been so good to me, and I am so proud of the success I’ve had. But to try something new, man, this was really cool.”

Johnson initially thought his racing career would take him into IndyCar, the series he followed as a child, but the path instead veered into NASCAR. He’s put together one of the most successful careers in series history, but the 44-year-old will retire from full-time NASCAR competition at the end of this season.

He won’t stop competing, though, and Johnson has already put in motion a plan he hopes will get him into some IndyCar events next year. An initial test with McLaren was canceled when sports shut down in the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic; Johnson’s positive coronavirus test earlier this month pushed a test with Chip Ganassi Racing to Tuesday.

Even as he headed to Indianapolis Motor Speedway at the start of the day, he fretted that something would spoil his long-awaited opportunity.

“Third time was a charm, but I was worried something would jinx it,” he said.

Nothing spoiled his day, which Johnson likened to a “first day of school.” He drove the same car Felix Rosenqvist raced on the Indy road course earlier this month and had five-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon on hand as his driver coach.

“When I got in the car, I needed two sessions to let my eyes adjust. Things were coming up on me pretty quick.”

“He was very impressive. There was no trying to do too much,” Dixon told AP. “He was texting me last night, asking me all sorts of questions, if there were tricks for getting out of the pits, how to handle a turn, those kind of things. He was just super amped up and just excited to finally get there.”

It was a busy session for Johnson, who was trying to learn the car while also testing new cockpit cooling advances for the series. The Ganassi team had five sets of tires for the session and with the track temperature nearing 140 degrees, the degradation came quickly.

Johnson also spun twice during the day — once in the first turn of the road course when he had too much rear brake and a second time in the fourth turn when he just lost the car. He took pride in keeping it out of the grass both times, but he flat-spotted an already limited allotment of tires.

“By the end of the day they were mix-matching tires, giving me mixed sets, just to let me have more laps,” Johnson said.

Johnson had previously said this test would determine if pursuing IndyCar was worth his time — he had joked he’d know quickly if he was any good at it — and after nearly eight hours with the Ganassi team, he was undeterred.

“When I got in the car, I needed two sessions to let my eyes adjust. Things were coming up on me pretty quick,” Johnson said. “Right before lunch, we started finding a groove. In the beginning of the day I was finding big chunks, but the track was going away while my ability was increasing.”

Dixon was impressed with Johnson’s ability to process information and apply feedback, particularly since he’s one of the most accomplished NASCAR drivers in history. Dixon said it was difficult to assess Johnson’s pace because the track was green and the temperatures were so hot but estimated Johnson was running similar to how series regulars were earlier this month in “the mid-to-late stint of the race we had. But you’ve got no benchmark. It’s a big unknown.

“For a guy who has done what he’s done, he was still pretty excited,” Dixon said. “The passion that he has for racing and trying something different, he was typical Jimmie, just the way he applies himself. He’s never pushy. He’s constantly asking questions, how to be better, how do I do this.

“He was really methodical, he was really good at being able to copy stuff and he was really adaptive, which isn’t always easy, especially at our age.”

Johnson still hopes to test with McLaren later this year and is determined to get into road or street course races in 2021. He’s softened his stance toward racing on ovals and the Indianapolis 500 because of IndyCar safety advancements, but said Tuesday that 2022 is probably the earliest he could consider expanding his schedule.

He also noted that his IndyCar future is contingent on finding sponsorship and hoped a successful first test will spark conversations about funding.

“Hopefully today was the day to create a springboard,” Johnson said. “The more I can be in a garage, the more excitement I can generate, the better chances.”


More AP auto racing

Source: AutoBlog.com

Junkyard Gem: 1963 Chevrolet Bel Air Sedan

General Motors ruled the American new-car marketplace during the 1960s, and Chevrolets flew out of showrooms by the million. In the 1963 model year alone, well over 1.5 million full-sized Chevrolets were sold in the United States. That was a brand-new big Chevy for about one in every 125 Americans, just in 1963, and we aren’t even considering all the Novas, Corvairs, and Corvettes that accompanied those Impalas, Bel Airs, and Biscaynes onto the street. The Bel Air was the mid-priced big Chevy trim level that year, and now — 57 years later — we’ve got one of those cars as today’s Junkyard Gem, found in a Denver car graveyard in rough-but-recognizable shape.

I think this car spent decades in a field on the High Plains, probably after being harvested for interior parts for use in a nicer Chevy sedan. Bored teenagers tagged it with spray paint and probably consumed intoxicants within its no-longer-luxurious confines. 

The Nostalg-O-Scope™ tells us that all these cars came with massive engines, preferably the big 409-cubic-inch monster with its 425 horses but at least the good old 283-cubic-inch small-block that made the ’57 Chevy such a classic. In reality, though, plenty of buyers opted for the base straight-six engine, and that’s what we’ve got here: 230 cubic inches (3.8 liters) and 140 gross horsepower (which probably would be rated at about 105 horsepower by modern net power standards). Not very quick, but dependable.

The straight-six engine was an American tradition from just before World War II and well into the 1960s, and most such engines were coupled to the just-as-traditional three-on-the-tree manual transmission. I got my first driver’s license in 1982, which makes me just barely old enough to have viewed the three-on-the-tree as a “normal” sort of transmission setup (though I must admit that I’ve only owned a couple of cars so equipped). With the three-on-the-tree, you got both the cheapest possible transmission and a comfy three-person bench seat with no interference problems from a pesky floor shifter.

The Impala had six taillights in 1963, while the Bel Air and Biscayne had just four. You could tell the ’63 Biscayne from the ’63 Bel Air at a glance, because the Bel Air had handsome bright metal trim on the sides and the Biscayne just had paint.

So, while this car lived on the low end of the Bel Air prestige scale, its Biscayne-driving neighbors would have felt envy at the sight of it, even if they’d popped for the 283 engine and/or Powerglide automatic transmission. List price for a 1963 Chevrolet Biscayne with six-cylinder/three-on-the-tree started at just $2,376, while the snazzy Impala post sedan with a 283/Powerglide cost $2,861. That’s about $20,150 and $24,260 in 2020 dollars, respectively. Those prices are far lower than that of the cheapest 2020 Impala today, and the modern version is faster, safer, more fuel-efficient, more comfortable, cleaner, better-built, loaded with features that were expensive options or nonexistent in the early 1960s … and nowhere near as cool as a ’63.

I see so many discarded Detroit sedans of the 1946-1975 period that I can make a pretty good argument that any rough non-hardtop American four-door of that period is junkyard-bound at some point in the near future… unless you rescue it.

The jet-smooth look of luxury, with the spirit of the Corvette!

Blows away the full-sized ’63 Ford in the race to 100 mph (but you could argue all day long about which car could get a hairier V8 via dealer-installed options that year).

Source: AutoBlog.com

This tire inflator from Indiegogo might be the smartest consumer air compressor ever

Transcript: Smart tire inflator Mojietu is designed to help you get the right amount of air for any job. There are four presets: bicycle, motorbike, car, and ball mode. Each mode provides the proper psi with the press of a button. An LCD digital display indicates mode and pressure numbers. Mojietu includes an auto-stop function once the designated psi is reached. Maker Roidmi says the Mojietu can inflate a car tire in nine minutes from flat to full. The portable inflator is powered by a 2600mAh lithium battery.

Mojietu is on Indiegogo and not currently available to purchase right now, so we found a few affordable, portable air compressor alternatives for you to check out if you’re in the market. 

Avid Power Tire Inflator Air Compressor – $62.99 (30% off) at Amazon.com

Ryobi P737 18-Volt ONE+ – $48.00 at Amazon.com

Acetel Tire Inflator Cordless Air Compressor – $59.99 at Amazon.com

Autoblog may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page. Pricing and availability is subject to change.

Source: AutoBlog.com

Swedish battery maker Northvolt raises $1.6 billion in debt financing

STOCKHOLM — Swedish lithium-ion battery maker Northvolt said on Wednesday it had secured $1.6 billion in debt financing, as part of its plan to have 25% market share of European mobile battery production.

Last year, automakers Volkswagen and BMW agreed to fund Northvolt’s plan to build Europe’s largest lithium-ion battery plant (rendered above).

Northvolt said the loan was financed by a group of banks, pension funds and other public institutions such as the Nordic Investment Bank, Northvolt said, adding that the capital would be spent on expanding its factories and on research and development.

“The momentum for electrification is stronger than ever. Our customers need large volumes of high-quality batteries with a low CO2 footprint, and Europe must build a fully regionalized value chain to support them,” Northvolt CEO and former Tesla executive Peter Carlsson said in a statement.

Lithium-ion batteries are key for electric cars and smartphones, and Northvolt aims to be Europe’s main rival for Asian players CATL, Samsung and LG Chem, which are leaders in the battery market after locking in supply deals with carmakers.

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Source: AutoBlog.com

1975 Chevy Blazer | Autoblog Cars for Sale Find of the Day

It’s no secret that Americans love trucks. Not only are pickup trucks the perennial best sellers in the top three spots — with Ford, Chevrolet and Ram all represented — market share for truck-like crossovers and SUVs are eking ever higher as sedans and hatchbacks continue to decline. And judging by the amount of interest in the brand-new Ford Bronco and the ongoing love of the competitor it’s aimed at, the Jeep Wrangler, the gas-guzzling rise of truck-based utility vehicles won’t be slowing down any time soon.

But where’s Chevy in all of this rough-and-tumble one-upmanship? There’s a revived Blazer on the market, but let’s just say it’s not a Ford Bronco or Jeep Wrangler competitor. At all. But that doesn’t mean Bowtie fans can’t enjoy the great outdoors with their Blue Oval and seven-slatted friends. It just means they have to go back in time a bit. Like, for instance, to 1975, when they could drive off the showroom floor in a brand-new Chevy Blazer like the one you see above.

Since we’re fresh out of flux capacitors, we suggest taking a look at the freshly restored Blazer seen here looking mighty fine in two-tone orange and black paint with a black and white interior. It seems to have been fixed up quite well, with a clean undercarriage and engine bay sporting a 350-cubic-inch small block V8 sending who-knows-how-much horsepower and surely plenty of torque (the original ratings were 160 horsepower and 275 pound-feet, but these engines respond very well to light upgrades) to all four wheels through a proper transfer case and automatic transmission.

This ’75 Blazer sits in Rockville, MD, with an asking price of $39,990. You’ll surely pay at least that much for a reasonably equipped Wrangler, and you’re definitely not going to get your hands on a Bronco for a while, so why not consider a classic that’s much less likely to depreciate over the next several years?

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Source: AutoBlog.com