Upland, California, United States
Renault isn't letting up with the return of its Alpine brand. After announcing a partnership with Caterham to bring a new Alpine to market by 2015 (now expected by 2016), the French firm has announced it is taking Alpine racing again in the European Le Mans Series this year - and that includes The 24 Hours of Le Mans.
It has been 35 years since Alpine last competed in Le Mans, when it won the race outright and dropped the mic as it left the pits, never to return. Before that, in the 11 years it campaigned in the most famous endurance race on the planet from 1963 to 1978, it took seven class wins.
Caterham won't be involved with the race team, however; that will be an effort spearheaded by the Signatech-Nissan team that has been running GT Academy winners in LMS racing. Alpine is preparing an LMP2 chassis that will get a 500-horsepower Nissan engine for this year's championship, with the first two named drivers being Nelson Panciatici (above right) and Pierre Ragues (above left). The third driver for Le Mans will be announced later this month when the racer is launched at the Le Castellet race track in southern France.
Scratching All The Right Itches
Say what you will about the unconventional aesthetics that Nissan employed on the company's Juke. I love the thing. The universe has no shortage of ambiguously styled CUVs, and while I can't exactly say I would have turned to the amphibian world for design inspiration had it been me with the charcoal in my hand, I can certainly appreciate the fact that the Juke isn't just another box-on-box design.
And then there's that engine. The turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder under the hood is one of the best powerplants in the company's toy box, offering plenty of low-range torque and comical levels of thrust. Hell, it even makes the optional continuously variable transmission tolerable. Praise be to the deities of forced induction. But something has always been missing from the mix. From the first moment I got my hands on the Juke, I couldn't help but think how much better the machine would be if Nissan ditched an inch or two of ground clearance and sharpened up its suspension. Think more "hot hatch" and less "Kermit goes to Kroger."
I took the keys to our long-term 2013 Nissan Pathfinder from Editor-in-Chief Neff (who left me with an empty gas tank, for the record) directly following the Detroit Auto Show. That means that, by the time you all read this, I'll have been in possession of the Pathfinder for more time, and driven it more miles than any Autoblogger so far. I'd like to think that I've made good use of it... with one small exception.
For those of you that live outside of the Snow Belt and who may routinely ignore the Weather Channel out of cocky certainty - I'm looking at you, American Southwest - there's been some real weather in our part of the world this winter. A year ago, I'd basically packed up my shovel and my driveway salt by Valentine's Day; while the last quarter of 2012 and beginning of 2013 have seen back-wrenching piles of snow fall on and around my Michigan home. Good times, in other words, to test the all-weather capabilities of our all-wheel-drive Pathfinder.