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Detroit auto show: NASCAR, F1, and Hot Wheels hit Detroit

Published January 16, 2013

While motorsport is not a large part of the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit’s Cobo Center, there are several automakers who are showing their commitment to racing.

By far the maker with the largest motorsport presence is Toyota. A pair of Camry NASCAR Sprint Cup cars are on display, as well as a chassis-engine setup with the drivetrain parts cut away to allow viewing of mechanical insides, including the TRD (Toyota Racing Development) 850-horsepower V8 engine.

While it’s not Toyota powered, the carmaker is also showing a Toyota-bodied Funny Car, a drag racing machine which would contend in NHRA competition with an 8,000-horsepower nitromethane-fueled engine.

Inspired by infamous NASCAR Cup driver Kyle Busch, Toyota is exhibiting a special Camry built by Detroit Speed Inc., known for its performance street cars. The black four-door Camry, known as the “Rowdy Edition,” comes with a lower stance, large tires and rims, unique body panelling, and a custom interior, complete with “Rowdy” stitched on the seat backs.

Mazda unveiled its new spec series race car for the new GX class in the upcoming Rolex Grand Am Sports Car Series.

This four-door sedan, the Mazda 6 Skyactiv-D, features a four-cylinder, 2.2-litre turbo diesel engine with 400 horsepower. This engine is based on Mazda’s new diesel engine which will be available in production cars later this year.

At present three teams are to compete with the new Mazdas, starting with the 2013 Rolex 24 at Daytona Jan. 26-27. Oakville’s James Hinchcliffe, who has driven in the IZOD IndyCar Series, will be one of the Speedsource Team drivers along with veteran endurance and road racer Sylvain Tremblay, a Montreal native.

In a glass case at the Mopar Garage is the 2012 NHRA championship “Wally” trophy of Pro Stock racer Allen Johnson and Funny Car driver Jack Beckman. These trophies are named after NHRA founder and long-time president Wally Parks.

Beside its Honda-powered IZOD IndyCar is the coveted Borg-Warner Trophy, awarded to the winner of the Indianapolis 500 every year since 1936. The Honda-powered Dallara of Dario Franchitti won in 2012, his third victory at the Brickyard classic.

On the lower level of Cobo Center, the Chevrolet Belle Isle Grand Prix has a large display promoting its upcoming IZOD Indy Car weekend, known as the “Duel in Detroit.” The June 1-2 weekend will feature a pair of races, one of three venues (along with Toronto and Houston) on the 19-race schedule to host back-to-back weekend races.

The Belle Isle circuit has been extended for the upcoming event to 2.3 miles (3.7 kilometres), most of this in new straight sections, which should allow for faster lap speeds and more passing opportunities.

The weekend will also feature the Grand Am 200 for road circuit racers, and the Cadillac V-Series Challenge, rounds six and seven in the Pirelli World Challenge for SCCA Pro Racing GT/GTS cars.

Formula One cars can be viewed at Detroit this year, including the Renault-powered Red Bull Racing RB8 at the Infiniti display, and a Ferrari GP car sits with the marque’s newest road car, the F12 Berlinetta, capable of 340 k/m with its 6.26-litre V12 engine. Racing and performance appears to be the theme at Ferrari, with signage such as “16 Constructors’ F1 World Championships” prominently on display.

And when the NAIAS opens its door to the public Jan. 19-26, an area at the rear of the Chevrolet booth will be very popular, especially with young visitors or those wanting to relive childhood memories.

Chevy and Mattel’s Hot Wheels have set up a two-lane looped track, complete with jumps and a hopper to land in. The Hot Wheels cars are special-edition Camaros, and exhibit attendants are going to be very busy passing out the little metal cars to the winners over the next few days.

Incidentally, next to the little track is a full-size version of the Hot Wheels Camaro, complete with special badging and parked on the largest piece of Hot Wheels track in the world. This model of the Camaro was introduced at the SEMA show in 2012.

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