Higgins and Drew Dominate at New England Forest Rally

For the 25th anniversary of the New England Forest Rally based in Newry, Maine –  and encompassing rally stages in both Maine and near Errol, New Hampshire – speculation was high. Subaru’s rally team –  Dave Higgins and co-driver Craig Drew – were so far undefeated this season, but some formidable competition was posing a serious challenge. Would the streak continue to win the championship with Adam Yeoman (2011 Rally America Rookie of the Year) and Jordan Schulze, the inimitable Ken Block with Alex Gelsomino, Dave Sterckx with Renaud Jamoul, Nick Roberts / Rhianon Gelsomino, and team mate Travis Pastrana and Chrissie Beavis in the mix?

Higgins and Drew

In short – yes. And there was some bad rally juju for the others along the way. After hanging tight in second place, FY Racing’s Yeoman and Schulze were out after Stage 10 with a ball joint failure. Sterckx and Jamoul had a flat on day one and lost three minutes, then on the second day – in stage 11 of 13 – lost another two minutes to an electrical issue, knocking them out of podium contention.

As early as Stage 2, Pastrana / Beavis were facing some disappointment; the car had some frantic repairs on the side of Route 5 heading to the start of the stage, arriving around four minutes late. They couldn’t continue, however, and after a couple of donuts for the fans and marshalls hanging out at the start, it was back to service for the team – Pastrana saying that they would definitely be back on Saturday to start Stage 4.

Pastrana Donut

Block and Gelsomino weren’t without their own challenges. Block struggled with some engine issues, and had to finish the sixth stage with a throttle pedal zip-tied together after losing a disagreement with a bank. Roberts / Gelsomino had a flat in Stage 1, rolled in Stage 2, then the engine lost power in Stage 5 and they couldn’t continue after stalling on the way to service.



Ultimately, Higgins and Drew handily maintained their winning streak coming in first overall to win the championship, with Block / Gelsomino in second, and Pastrana / Beavis making up some incredible time for the third place.

Beyond the battle for the top three podium spots and the chance to spray some champagne, there was a whole lot of other things going on at NEFR. Lucy Block, married to some guy named Ken, drove an Ford Fiesta R2 with the best livery this side of the Martini-inspired Porsche.



M-Sport partnered with partnered with Team O’Neil to introduce some new Fiestas to the American market with Ramana Lagemann driving a Ford Fiesta R5 2000cc, and  Brendan Reeves piloting the R2 1000cc. Ken Block is also in an M-Sport, the Fiesta HFHV.


Another surprise entry to NEFR was Colombian Gustavo Yacaman, better known for driving a Ligier LMP2 in the FIA World Endurance Championship. While he competed in GRC Lites in 2013, NEFR was his first stage rally, racing in a 2WD 2009 B-Spec Honda Fit.

The New England Forest Rally is held in otherwise serene forests on either side of the Maine and New Hampshire border chock full of beautiful views, thick pine trees, lots and lots of mosquitos, deer flies, and the looming spectre of a wayward moose. Fortunately, there are way more spectators than mooses, and it gets quite crowded from the Parc Expose to the final stage. Congratulations to all winners, both national and regional – and congratulations to the New England Forest Rally for 25 years of success.

For Sale: 500,000th Civic ever made, a 1985 with ZERO MILES!


I’m not sure what the back story is on this car and how it got out of Honda’s possession and into the hands of a dealer, but this is said to be the 500,000th Honda Civic ever produced. The seller has listed the silver hatch on Kijiji, which is a Canadian classifieds site that is part of the ebay empire, but without the auction action.

The fact that the car is listed for just $7,900 CDN (that is $7243.92 USD at today’s rates) makes me wonder if this is a legit sale. Surely a significant, un-driven model of Civic like this would command more on ebay for some Honda fanatic. I know a bunch of Eighties car crazy guys who would kill to own this car.

Ed Note: Brennan Baart, from the dealer who is selling the car just sent me the following details about the car.

We are an independent dealer and we have ties to the Honda store we purchased it from. They are doing a remodel and have no space for it any longer. It is a brand new 1985 honda civic. It is a benchmark car as this vehicle was the 500,000th car that honda made as per the vin number. So they pulled it off the assembly line, parked it in the showroom, painted 500,00th car on both sides as vinyl wasnt available at that time, painted on the hood 1985 and it has been in the showroom since. The car looks, drives and shows as a brand new car, its quite the conversation piece here on the lot. Let me know if we can be of further service.

Thanks for the tip Lesley!

Source: Kijiji

Paul Tracy gives Toronto Mayor Rob Ford the ride of his life at 2 in TO

Rob Ford & Paul Tracy. John R Walker photo.

Rob Ford & Paul Tracy. John R Walker photo.

Last Friday night on social media, Canadian Indycar vet Paul Tracy said: “Giving mayor rob ford a thrill ride tomorrow , think I can make him squeal?”

During Saturday morning’s photo meeting, I kept waiting to hear details about the media stunt but for whatever reason, it wasn’t mentioned, so I kept quiet. I chased down someone in the know and learned that it was due to happen while I was shooting the GT3 Cup podium, so I enlisted the help of fellow contributor to The Garage, John Walker to see if he could make it over. I’m glad I did, because it turns out that Walker was the ONLY shooter on hand for ROFO’s thrill ride with the thrill from West Hill.

Walker tells me that when they got out of the Civic SI, Toronto’s most infamous crack addict said “that was one of the best rides I have ever been on, call me if you need anything” to which PT replied “anything???”

Photo courtesy of John Walker

Sweet Mother of Jeebus – watch this Honda Insight crash at close to 200 MPH!


I don’t know how I missed this one when it was posted back in November, but this is one of the craziest motorsport crashes I have ever seen, and it involves a rather unlikely subject.

Around my area, the only people who drive Honda‘s Insight hybrid are nuclear plant employees who are still hanging on to their super high mileage, first generation hybrids. The machine you are about to see is not like those cars. The HASport Hondata Insight is a full on land speed record car, capable of speeds in the range of 200 miles per hour!
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One race, three starts


Any smart racing team these days realizes that the internet plays a huge role in providing exposure for their sponsors. Not only do you have to get content out there, but you have to get it out there before the rest, so that your content isn’t mired in with all of the other teams, many who wait until they are back at the shop to get working on media.

Our friends at Shea Racing do a better job than most of banging out great content after each race weekend. In this teaser video from Barber Motorsports Park over the weekend, we experience the start of a Pirelli World Challenge race front three different spots on the grid. Team owner Shea Holbrook, Paul Holton and Toronto driver P.J. Groenke take the green and begin their battle. Each driver gets a great start, attacking cars ahead of them on the grid. I can’t wait to see the full video.

Honda ‘s Mean Mower officially named World’s Fastest Lawnmower


Boys will be boys. Give them something with wheels and an engine and they will try to make it go faster or race it. Put some resources behind them and the fun can get serious really quickly. That pretty much sums up Honda’s Mean Mower. I can imagine the board meeting at Honda when someone said “hey, let’s build the World’s fastest lawn mower.”

The Stig has driven it. It has been featured in countless publications and web videos. Now, Honda’s creation, officially known as the Mean Mower, has set a new Guinness World Record for a lawn mower. 116 mph!
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Review: 2013 Honda Accord Sport


Car journalists are an odd bunch. As a group, we tend to get excited about cars that, to be honest, have a very limited appeal to mainstream car buyers. I confess, I get weak in the knees when I think about the 556hp V-8 powered Cadillac CTS-V station wagon paired with a six-speed manual transmission with sinister black painted alloys hiding bright yellow Brembo brake calipers. As awesome such a car like that may be, I imagine there are few takers. At the opposite end of the spectrum lies the Honda Accord, a pillar of the mid-size car community, and a perennial top-selling car in North America. While it may not stoke the fire of lust that lies within every car nut, the reality is the Honda Accord, by virtue of its long history, tenure, and respect by the people who lay down their hard earned cash, is one of the most important cars built today. And when a new Accord appears, it is a big deal.

With the Accord now entering its ninth generation though, there have been clouds surrounding the seemingly unstoppable juggernaut that was Honda. For a company that built its reputation on ingenious engineering, it seemed like the fire had gone out. Fun cars like the Prelude, Del Sol and the frantic S2000 vanished. The Honda faithful held out hope the hybrid CRZ would be a modern reincarnation of the well-loved CRX. It wasn’t. The Insight, Honda’s answer to the almighty Toyota Prius has been a sales disaster. The ungainly looking Accord Crosstour left critics scratching their heads. So yes, the automotive media was already wondering about Honda, and then came the 2012 Civic. Boring to look at, boring to drive, and a completely uninspired cabin added up to a car that made the press go mad, with the ultimate crushing blow of Consumer Reports no longer recommending the Civic. The unthinkable had happened.

So, what to expect of the latest Accord? The good news is the Accord is actually a couple inches shorter of the last generation, which had grown in size to the large Acura Legend sedans of the 1990’s. No polarizing looks to be seen here, as we are reminded the Accord is meant to appeal to the widest variety of car buyers possible. Overall it is a clean, tidy package, much better proportioned than the outgoing model. The aggressively styled headlight clusters and honeycomb lower grill opening at the front end of the Accord lends its most distinctive, sportiest look. Our test car was the Accord Sport, which adds handsome 18″ alloys, a rear spoiler and chrome dual exhaust were all nice touches, but only the most ardent Honda buff would be able to spot the difference.


Honda is well-known for user-friendly interiors, and the latest Accord maintains that tradition. Like Accords before it, this is a car with a simple, straight forward driver interface, a car you can simply get in, start up and drive away with nary taking a moment to survey the controls. Everything is where one would expect. Large, easy to read gauges and buttons mean you will likely never need to crack open the owner’s manual. Of course, fit and finish are exceptional. The quality of materials are about what you would expect for this class of car. While not uncomfortable, I always felt like I was sitting on the Accord’s seat rather than in it-the ideal driving position seemed to elude me no matter what I tried. Despite its slightly smaller footprint, the Accord still boasts a roomy cabin with a generous back seat, topped off with a good sized trunk.

Accord buyers have a choice of four and six cylinder engines, as before. The new Accord receives a new inline four cylinder engine displacing 2.4 liters, rated at 185hp. With a less-restrictive dual exhaust, our Accord Sport gets a slight power boost to 189hp. With generous power, the Accord is also frugal on gas, with an EPA rating of 26/35 MPG city/highway. A six-speed manual or a Continuously Variable Transmission are available. Most enthusiasts intensely dislike CVTs with their dreaded droning, motorboat behavior that sucks the joy of driving for the sake of one more mile per gallon. Honda engineers have, by some miracle, developed a CVT that makes you forget it is a CVT in most driving situations. While I commend Honda for this, I am struggling with my perception of Honda-an engineering, innovative car company. Yet a competent CVT and a direct injected engine are just coming out now? Honda once led the way, now they are just catching up to what the competition has had available for awhile now.

The good news is the new four cylinder is typical Honda-silky smooth. The dual exhaust on our Accord Sport makes some nice noises on start up, and with 0-60mph coming in the mid-seven second range, this is really all the engine most Accord buyers need. While some of the Accord’s competition has stopped offering six cylinder engines altogether, Honda still offers one in the form of a 3.5L V-6 rated at 278hp, with a six-speed automatic. With 0-60mph times in the low six second range, the Accord V-6 is one seriously quick family sedan. The Accord makes no pretensions about being a sport sedan, and it never has. That said, the latest Accord offers one of the crispest handling of mid-size family sedans out there today, but never at the expense of passenger comfort. It’s a fine balance, and Honda got it just right.


The 2013 Honda Accord is available in both sedan and coupe body styles. The familiar LX and EX trims are here, but Honda has added Sport and Touring trims as well. The Accord Sport is available only with the four cylinder engine, and is slotted between the LX and EX. In addition to the dual exhaust, 18″ alloys, and rear spoiler, a leather wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth, Pandora radio interface, SMS text messaging functionality, dual auto climate control, power driver’s seat and rear view camera all come standard. Including delivery, our Accord Sport totaled $24,980USD. One gets the feeling Honda seeks a slightly younger audience with the Accord Sport, but for the price of entry, I feel like Honda missed the boat. The sound quality from the four-speaker stereo is poor. Scion targets young buyers, and they knew from the start a killer audio system is mandatory. Worse, satellite radio is not available. Nor is navigation. Or a sunroof. If you want these features in your Accord, you have to go less sporty. And while a power driver’s seat is nice if I share the car with multiple drivers, but my passenger and I would certainly appreciate heated seats instead, which are not available on the Accord Sport. In fact, no factory options are available on the Accord Sport.

If this review seems harsh, it was not meant to be. In truth, this is one of the best Accords we have seen in a long time, and shows us Honda has not lost the script. The competition for the Accord is the most intense it has ever been. The usual suspects like the Camry and Altima now square off against established cars like the Kia Optima, Hyundai Sonata, VW Passat and Ford Fusion. Yet beginning its ninth generation, this Accord holds true to the core values first seen when the very first Accord rolled off the line in 1976-well engineered, thoughtful design, reliable, dependable, economical, and a little more fun and rewarding to drive than the rest. Thirty seven years later, it is a great relief we can honestly say Honda still knows, and respects what made the Accord great then still holds true today.

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Review: 2013 Honda Civic


The 1980’s girl band The Bangles had a song titled “Hero Takes a Fall”. That sort of summarizes what happened when Honda took the wraps off the redesigned 2012 Civic. At the Honda booth at the New York City Auto Show, media reaction to the new Civic was, to put it nicely, chilly. Then Consumer Reports reviewed the Civic, and the unthinkable happened: they removed their Recommended rating. Always the darling of Consumer Reports, Honda was quickly schooled that just because you are Honda, being Recommended is not guaranteed. In an unprecedented move, Honda went back to work quickly, and what we have is the revised 2013 Honda Civic.

So, what happened? How did the Civic fall out of favor with the media? One problem with the new Civic was that it looked almost exactly like the old Civic, a car that has been around since 2006. What was futuristic then is quite familiar now. Also, the Hyundai Elantra and Ford Focus happened, two competitors that offered style that made the Civic look like bland and uninteresting in comparison-a huge turn-off for younger buyers. In sum, the new Civic looked tired compared to what else was out there. In the span of a year, Honda has made minor changes to the Civic that go a long way. In front, there is a new hood, grille, headlights and fascia. Out back, a new trunk and taillights complete the changes. On paper, these sound minor, but all conspire for the most sophisticated looking Civic ever. Natty looking alloy wheels replace the forgettable wheels of the ’12 model. Given limited time, Honda has done much to modernize the Civic, with the upscale touch buyers now expect in this class of car.


Another area where critics really had a problem was the interior. Cheap feeling plastics, materials, and, like the exterior, a nearly identical interior look did no favors. Although well-built, the 2012 Honda Civic just screamed commuter car from inside. You could easily imagine one of the cast from the movie “Office Space” driving this car. It wasn’t horrible, it was just…blah. After looking at the 2012 Civic and riding in it, my wife declared it one the most boring cars I had ever tested. Interior architecture remains the same, but materials are improved with softer plastics and higher quality fabrics. Even small features like silver painted surrounds for the air vents and faux stitching on the dash and door panels help to add a more upscale feel. But for a company with a reputation for an obsession to detail, it’s frustrating the press had to call them out for a lack of it.

In the engine room, Honda did not touch a thing. The Civic returns with a 1.8L four rated at 140hp. A five-speed manual is available on the base LX only. Optional on the LX, and standard on all other Civics is a five-speed automatic. The EPA gives fuel economy ratings 28/39 MPG city/highway, which is competitive in this class, but numbers I never saw in the real world. The four cylinder is, as before, smooth and refined, and should be sufficient to shuffle its owners in town and on the interstate.  However, some critics carped the Civic suffered from sloppy handling, and had lost some of the sportiness that was a part of the Civic’s DNA. In response, Honda added thicker anti-roll bars, a quicker steering ratio and re-tuned bushings. The Civic is no sports sedan, but even the ’12 model felt decent as I recall.



For 2013, Honda has dropped the bargain-basement DX model. Most buyers will gravitate to the regular Civic tested here, available in LX, EX and and EX-L trims. Honda does offer an HF (for improved fuel efficiency), a Hybrid, and Natural Gas models. Our test car was the mid-level EX. Critics panned last year’s Civic for being behind in current in-car technology. For 2013, all Civics come standard with Bluetooth, a rear view camera, iPod interface, Pandora Radio functionality and a system that will allow you to hear and respond to text messages without taking your hands off the wheel. Our EX test car added 16″ alloy wheels, six-speaker stereo, a power sunroof and auto climate control. Including delivery, our Civic EX has an MSRP of $21,605USD. As before, if you want satellite radio, you must order the navigation package.

The funny thing is with this quick rehash of the Civic is that for all the beating it took in the press, sales remained strong. Your average car buyer out there simply trusts that the Civic will be a reliable car that will offer years of dependable service. Honda has so much brand equity they could have just coasted and take the beating from the media. But they didn’t, and I have to respect them for that. Honda chose instead to show that they do listen to the media. And their dealers as well. Rumor has it Honda told their dealers to dump the 2012 Civics since no one would want them when the the 2013’s started to show up. With such fierce competition out there, Honda has finally given the Civic what it needed to be a player.

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Review: 2012 Honda CR-V

I’d excuse you if you thought the Honda CR-V was the company’s first attempt at a tall wagon, but you would be incorrect. That distinction belongs to the Honda Civic Wagon, sold in the US from 1984 to 1991, a car that has now achieved cult-like status with the Honda diehards who appreciated its simplicity, durability, all-weather handling and cargo capacity. The first CR-V’s were introduced as 1996 models, and retained many of the traits of the Civic Wagon. Let’s face it, a lot has changed in the intervening years, and for 2012, Honda has redesigned the CR-V. Now in its fourth generation, has the CR-V remained current? Read on to find out.

The CR-V has been wildly successful for Honda. At its inception, the term ‘crossover’ hadn’t been invented, so many referred to small, car-based SUVs as ‘cute utes’ in the 1990’s. Today, with the crossover having replaced the SUV as the preferred mode of transport for American families, the CR-V remains at or near the top of the heap for compact crossover sales. While the first CR-V’s were fairly plain and utilitarian, the CR-V has grown in size and with the introduction of the third generation car in 2007, received some curves for a more car-like look. The move away from boxy utilitarian was a raging success for Honda.

It comes as no surprise then the 2012 CR-V is a very careful evolution of the last generation car. I can’t say I blame Honda. When you have such a winning recipe I’d be hesitant to do take a risk and take the vehicle design in a different direction. The new car is easily recognizable as a CR-V with contemporary touches such as the grille, which works much better here than on the Crosstour. There isn’t a bad line on the car, but it hardly gets your adrenaline pumping either. But, walking around our Urban Titanium test car, the aim here is to aim at the widest possible range of customers possible, and in that respect, the new CR-V should keep current customers coming back for the updated car.

If the CR-V has evolved from simple transportation on the exterior, the same can be said of the interior. Honda’s reputation for building high quality interiors with intuitive ergonomics is well-known, and the CR-V is no exception. Our leather-trimmed cockpit offered all the latest modern technology has to offer and was still user friendly. But again, the flat as a pancake front seats and tiny tachometer instantly reminds you of the CR-V’s mission to carry people and cargo, not hold you tightly in place as you carve up your favorite country road. For a simple to use, comfortable cabin, the CR-V is tough to beat.

All CR-V’s are powered by a 2.4L 185hp four cylinder engine paired to a five-speed automatic. Buyers can choose between front or all-wheel drive. Towing capacity is a modest 1,500lbs. Our test car featured all-wheel drive and offered a very respectable 22/30 MPG city/highway EPA rating. The CR-V’s engine exhibited typical Honda silky smoothness, and the shift changes were virtually seamless. The CR-V is generally well composed and handles well for a crossover built for family duty. One area that did frustrate me was a complete lack of steering feel. The driver is not getting any communication from the road beneath at all, and this proved to be the CR-V’s most glaring flaw.

A base Honda CR-V LX with front-wheel drive starts at $22,495, and is a fairly well-equipped car. Our test car was the EX-L with Navigation and all-wheel drive, the top of the food chain CR-V. In addition to the leather interior, heated seats and Navigation with voice recognition, 7-speaker audio with XM satellite radio, Pandora Internet radio interface, SMS Text Messaging functionality, dual zone auto climate control, power driver’s seat, power moonroof and 17″ alloys round out the notable features. Including delivery, the tab comes to $30,605USD. Strangely, the CR-V EX-L is also available with a rear seat DVD entertainment system, but buyers must choose between this or navigation-you cannot have both. This price is competitive for its class, but the Kia Sportage adds a panoramic moonroof, 18″ wheels and a ventilated driver’s seat for the same money, not to mention edgier styling and a sportier ride.

This fourth generation Honda CR-V is a careful evolution of the outgoing car, one that brought Honda enormous success. When you are doing this well, I can see how Honda felt there was no need to reinvent the wheel here, and the updated styling in and out along with the addition of up to the minute tech keeps the CR-V current work well here, I have a nagging thought. Cars like the Kia Sportage and upcoming Ford Escape are not conservative evolutions, they are game-changing cars whose sights are aimed squarely at the Honda CR-V. This time around, Honda chose to not mess with success, and in doing so has built a car difficult to fault, but the competition is relentless, and to remain at the top Honda must move ahead. Honda considers itself a renegade, engineering-driven company, a mild restyle with some updates to an existing drivetrain seems to run counter to that mantra. No doubt the new CR-V will continue to be a sales success, but with the competition breathing hard down its neck, how much longer will playing it safe keep the CR-V as a top seller?

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Acura Introduces the 2013 ILX

Acura is getting back to its roots here in America with the new, entry level ILX. Back in 1986, Acura was the first Japanese automaker to market an upscale luxury brand, years before Lexus and Infiniti were conceived. Honda introduced Acura with two cars, the luxurious Legend and the sporty Integra. The Integra was based on the Civic platform. While our neighbors in Canada have had an upscale Civic available to them, the Civic-based ILX is new to us here in the States.

The 2013 Acura ILX has a base price of $25,900USD. With that, you get a 2.0L four rated at 150hp paired to a five speed automatic. Buyers can opt for the Premium Package for an additional $3,300, which adds leather seats, heated front seats, a power drivers seat, HID headlights, foglights, upgraded audio with XM satellite radio, 17″ alloys and a rearview camera. For an extra $2,200, the Technology package adds surround sound stereo and navigation. Enthusiasts will want to opt for the 2.4L four, rated at 201hp, mated to a six-speed manual as seen in the Honda Civic Si. There will also be an ILX Hybrid, powered by a 1.5L four with a CVT, which is priced at $28,900. Acura is typically straightforward with its option packages, so I find it odd the base ILX can be had with the Premium and Technology packages, while the 2.4 can only get the Premium package, and the hybrid can only get the Technology package. The 2013 Acura ILX hits the showroom floor late May.