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Saturday, October 21, 2017

Writers just want to have fun at annual track event sponsored by the automakers

Honda imported the first gas-electric hybrid into the United States in 1999, but now the Japanese automaker is competing in a horsepower race with other companies. This Civic Type R, which packs 306 horsepower into a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, was among performance models auto writers could drive on a racetrack in the Catskills.
If you dare spend more than $100,000 on a Mercedes-Benz AMG performance sedan with 563 horsepower and all-wheel drive -- another track car -- just hope you never encounter a Tesla Model S at a traffic light.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

MONTICELLO, N.Y. -- Automakers threw a party of sorts this week for members of the International Motor Press Association, the nation's premier organization of automotive journalists and public relations professionals.

Cadillac, Fiat Chrysler, Ford, Mazda, Toyota and other sponsors made available more than 100 cars, minivans and trucks to nearly 215 auto writers and others for two days of racetrack, on-road and off-road driving in New York State's Catskill Mountains.

Breakfast and lunch were provided by the Monticello Motor Club, a private 4.1-mile racetrack for the wealthy. 

On Tuesday night, IMPA members also enjoyed a reception, dinner and after-party at the Honor's Haven Resort as part of 2017 Test Days.

They paid $100 each for tickets to the event, held on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Previous editions were staged for many years at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania and before that at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut.

Pollution kills

You'd never know these are troubling times for world auto manufacturers, which face stricter gas-mileage standards and pressure to produce more hybrid and all-electric cars, minivans and trucks.

A new global study blames pollution for an estimated 9 million premature deaths annually.

The study, published in The Lancet medical journal, concludes that pollution "endangers the stability of the Earth's support systems and threatens the continuing survival of human societies."

A news story from USA Today didn't break out how many of those deaths are caused by vehicle emissions, but Tesla CEO Elon Musk has cited an MIT study that said 58,000 people die prematurely from them every year in the United States.

Only one EV

Yet, the writers who attended the event found only one zero-emissions car, the Chevrolet Bolt EV, and a handful of hybrids.

Nissan brought its brutal GTR, but the Japanese automaker ignored the Leaf, the first mass-produced all-electric car, which the company treats like a stepchild.

Honda's Acura division allowed writers to drive the NSX, a gas-electric hybrid sports car, on country roads and lanes in and around Monticello.

"It's a Japanese Ferrari," one writer blurted out.

Of course, most of the auto writers who attended the event weren't thinking of air pollution or climate change.

They prize horsepower, loud mufflers and driving fast so much you'd think they had gasoline running through their veins.

In fact, many have to be warned repeatedly about speeding and endangering children in quiet hamlets near the track.

And many of them write for publications, websites and blogs that are supported by the same automotive and oil industries that are resisting change. 


The Lexus LC 500 was available to drive on twisting, two-lane country roads like Dingle Daisy Road, as well on the challenging racetrack at the Monticello Motor Club, above and below.

The all-electric Chevrolet Bolt EV is fast, smooth and quiet -- the perfect vehicle for a beautiful day when the leaves are changing. When the transmission is shifted into low, regenerative braking allows one-pedal operation -- the Bolt comes to a stop at traffic lights and stop signs when you lift your foot completely off the accelerator.
Toyota brought the 2018 Camry gas-electric hybrid.
Honda's 2018 Accord sedan is available with as much as 252 horsepower from a turbocharged engine, and a 10-speed automatic transmission.
Some IMPA members brought their vintage cars to compete in the Catskill Concours.
A 1954 Jaguar XK120 open two-seater, above and below.