Monthly Archives: September 2019

All Straus’d Out

Dani Ben-Ari.

These days 21-year old Aurora Straus is not only busy running to classes at Harvard University, where she plans to study English with a minor in mechanical engineering, but continues to put her pedal to the metal as a professional race car driver on weekends competing in the Pirelli GT4 East races in the Blancpain World Challenge behind the wheel of Rennsport-One Team’s BMW M4GT4 with co-driver Connor Bloum. The pair have been partnered together since 2017. However, she did partner with, NASCAR’s Kaz Grala at Daytona to drive 2nd Bimmer World Racing M4 GT4 in January of this year.

Auora’s first experience behind the wheel came when she was just 13, when her father, Ari Straus enrolled her in a “safe driver lesson” at the Monticello Motor Club in the Catskills, NY, where he serves as its CEO.

While her dad’s intention was for her to learn car control skills, Aurora says that after the session with instructor Stevan McAleer, he let her continue to drive around for a few “fast laps,” just for fun, and “It was like a switch was tripped.”

“I will never forget the feeling of the machine under me. I was so small, and I had never experienced so much power. It was the first time I had ever gone into the triple digits,” said later stated in an interview with the Post.

After that, McAleer, 2015 Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge Champion, began to coach her in Go-Kart racing, and soon had her racing in several International Trophy Cup and Skip Barber Cup races. She then went semi-pro in the Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup for two seasons before making her Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge (CTSC) debut at Watkins Glen in July 2016. At the time, the Cold Spring, NY native became the sole teenage girl to compete as a professional sportscar driver in the United States and Canada.

After graduating high school. Straus chose to “Gap Year” before starting Harvard to compete for a full World Challenge season in a BMW, ending the 2018 season, with 4 podiums, including 2 wins, and finishing 2nd overall for the season championship, earning “Rookie of the Year honors.

“Two percent of racing is getting behind the wheel. Ninety-eight percent is raising money with sponsors, testing the car, signing with a team,” she said. “It’s all time-consuming. It’s thousands of hours of work for a race that at any point could go badly. In racing, you don’t have the privilege to try things twice. You have one option and the stakes are extremely high. If you do badly, you’ve wasted tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars,” she told the Harvard Gazette upon beginning the school year.

In the meantime Straus is seeking to help steer other young women towards success through her non-profit “Girls With Drive” Foundation.

“My long-term goal with racing is to use it as a platform for Girls With Drive,” she said. “What sold me on staying in racing was the young girls who came to watch me at the track. I amassed a small following, and they would drive from racetrack to racetrack and I realized I accidentally have an effect on girls. If I didn’t do this, who would be here for these girls?”

Boot it with Cookie

Dani Ben-Ari

The Driving Range

Louise Cook, aka “Cookie,” is actively seeking sponsors as she returns to the road for her World Rally Championship home event, the WRC Wales Rally GB, one of Britain’s largest sporting events. The event kicks off on October 3rd. In doing so, her team is offering supporters a special “Boot It” package giving businesses the chance to benefit from a combination of Rally Car Branding, Social Media content and eye-catching Action Shots from the whole event for £500 ($625.30)+VAT. Meanwhile, “petrol heads,” are being offered the opportunity to get behind the wheel of a rally car on a gravel forest stage for an additional £500+VAT with the Boot It 2 package.

Born May 14, 1987, Louise Cook began her official British rally driver career in the 2006 Rockingham Stages, piloting a Prugeot 205 alongside co-driver Stefan Davis. The youngest driver in the race, Cookie ended up with a rank of 51 out of 105 competitors. Although she later claimed the British Rally Championship Ladies’ title in 2010 and 2011, and became the first woman to win the FIA Production Car Cup for Drivers of 2WD in 2012.

Her subsequent career, however, has suffered several setbacks due to serious health problems including a broken collarbone, which forced her to withdraw from the season-ending Rally Catlunya. Then, just days before she was scheduled to compete in the 2015 Rally d’Italia, she suffered post-surgical problems preventing blood flow from an artery. Consequently, she was rushed to the hospital, unable to compete. Even so, her results throughout the season earned her the title of being the first woman to clinch a WRC title with the FIA Production Car Cup for Drivers of 2WD.

Cook’s greatest setback however, has been financial: Raising the money to compete. In 2017, she was forced to sell several of her trophies on E-bay to cover fees for WRC-3 season that year. Unfortunately, she was still unable to come up with the funding to take part in the fourth round of the season, despite being listed for the Tour de Corse. Yet, thanks to another bout of crowd-funding, Louise was able to drive Team Floral’s Ford Fiesta R2T for the Deutschland in 2018, placing third place, out of four. She then followed the race with a ninth-place finish in the season’s next round, rally Turkey.

If you’re interested in supporting Cookie continue her quest for success on the British World Rally Championship Round, you can donate to the cause by contacting her directly at  louise@rallyteamgb.com

Lexus LC (9260A) 500 Coupe

Introduced in 2018, the LC 500 although not officially a replacement for the SC 430, took a while to appear. Teasing with flashes of the RC coupes, the RC takes on a lot of high-end competitors; namely, Mercedes-Benz SL, BMW 6-Series. Minor updates have been made for 2019, the result is a beautiful iteration of a handsome sports car. Why, there is even room for four-although rear-seating is tight and reserved for those who are small, or under the age of ten. If one does nothing else but gaze at this piece of auto excellence, it sure adds class to any driveway.

Maneuvering Lexus’ 5.0-liter V8 engine is no small task.  Effortless might describe it, but it can be daunting. This writer put the petal to the metal when turning a corner (so passengers could feel what this is all about), not realizing an officer was headed the other direction, keeping an eye on me. Perhaps he was surprised to see a woman behind the wheel! With horsepower of 471, this car is decent and refined, shall we say?  As with all Lexus products, the LC has impeccable manners. Ride quality is as expected from Lexus, the adjustable suspension provides a good between a comfortable coupe ride and sportiness.  The interior is high-quality, the seating in top-of-the-line leather and simulated suede.

We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. Lexus’ infotainment system is clumsy and awkward. The touchpad interface is frustrating, and we just gave up when trying to find a decent channel. Lexus took aim at improving it by adding Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa compatibility, for those accustomed to operating them. The central display is 10-3-inches, including two USB ports, nav system and 12-speaker audio system with satellite radio. Dynamic voice control and in-car WI-FI are also standard. For safety, a forward collision warning with automatic braking and lane departure warning and intervention are standard equipment. A 12-speaker Premium audio system is standard. Would you expect less?

Available in only one trim level, the LC 500 is available in Hybrid, and offers a longlist of standard equipment. Our test LC came with a few options (listed below), bringing the final price to just under $97,000. For those who must have it all, Lexus offers several packages and stand-alone options.  Rear drive and a 10-speed automatic transmission make this a dream to drive. Steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles are also standard. Beginning this year, Lexus reprogrammed the shift logic of the transmission to offer a smoother driving feel.

Also standard are the 20-inch wheels, adjustable suspension, LED exterior lights, heated and auto-dimming mirrors, keyless entry and ignition, auto high-beam control, ambient interior lighting, power-adjustable tile-and-telescoping steering wheel, cruise, heated and ventilated power-adjustable front seats with driver-seat memory. This coupe is all luxury.

For those drivers navigating chillier temps, you may want to opt for the All-Weather package which includes heated steering wheel and windshield de-icer. And if you must, you can add the Convenience package with front/rear parking sensors and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. A Touring package is also available and includes simulated suede headliner, upgraded leather upholstery and Mark Levinson audio.

We would have liked to have a tad more time in the LC, but at the same time, found it a little intimidating taking it anywhere. We got a kickout of starting it up. As with all sports cars, whichever is your favorite, you crave that throaty engine and exhaust tune. You can count on precise steering, handling and braking in the LC. Tuned more for comfort, Lexus didn’t scrimp on performance. Much like my Corvette, the LC is a fine cruising car. In fact, it may perform best out on the highway. Around town driving is also pleasurable as the LC’s suspension is excellent and absorbs all matter of road problems.

What may be a challenge for those in their upper years is navigating the in/out of the low seating. Also, the doors, as with most couples are very heavy and a bit awkward. The high doorsill is high so carefully turning one’s body and stepping out is indicated. The steering wheel swings away, which is another thoughtful help. But those are the prices you pay for a sporty coupe.

Visibility in the LC 500 is good, surprisingly, even with a swooping back window. And interior room is comfortable with two adults sitting up front.

SPECS

MSRP: $92,200; total vehicle price $95,915; delivery $1,025

Engine: 5.0-liter, V8 DOHC 32 valve, Dual  VVT-1 Variable Valve Timing with Intelligence, 471 HP., 398 lb.ft.torque

Transmission: 10-speed Sport Direct Shift automatic

Wheelbase: 113 in.

Length: 187.4 in.

Width: 75.6 in.

Height: 53 in.

0-60: 4.4 seconds

Top speed: 168 mph

Models: Hybrid 500h ($96,810); 500 Inspiration Series ($105,615)

EPA MPG: 16/25

Tank: 21.7 gal.

Seating: 4

Options: Convenience Package: Intuitive Park Assist ($1,000) and Head-up Display ($900); Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound Audio System ($1,220); Premium Paint ($595).

Years: 2018,2019, 2020

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