The annual SEMA show is usually a great way to recharge the batteries: a week in Vegas meeting old friends and business acquaintances, seeing the best of the US automotive industry surrounded by some of the best food and entertainment the country has to offer. The atmosphere certainly helps but it's the influx of new cars and products, and the enthusiasm behind them, that really gets you fired up. It opens a window on the year ahead and starts firing the synapses to figure out how we can attempt to cover all the new developments and capture the highlights.
This year, however, we were on the other side of the velvet rope. We'd been asked to build cars by eBay, VW and Ford, which was both a great honor and a huge responsibility. We obviously wanted to put our best foot forward but didn't want to let anybody down, either.
We've previously highlighted one of them; the rally-style '84 Porsche 911 Carrera we created with GSR Autosport for the eBay "Built" challenge that appeared on the cover of EC 12/12. Additionally, we've also covered our 2012 VW Beetle Turbo in this issue, which took a surfing theme at VW's request. The car was built to 400hp with a big turbo kit from Revo Technik, while the custom bodywork was created and painted by FMS Automotive.
Our third car was a Ford Focus ST, which got a Euro-inspired makeover with FSWerks and LTMotorwerks to emphasize its European roots and will be highlighted in the next issue. However, you can find photos of all three in our SEMA coverage this month.
While we like to pretend everything is calm on the surface, building these cars created some frantic activity down below. Waiting for parts deliveries is always a frustrating process, and pushing the builders to miss numerous night's sleep in order to meet the deadline took tact, some bullying and too many tacos.
While every car is built to a tight timeline and budget, it gave us new appreciation for some of the headline machines at SEMA. In fact, I had the opportunity to sit down at dinner with Chip Foose during a Pirelli event at the US F1 GP and trade build stories. Having seen the incredible quality of his show cars, we're definitely not in Chip's league but it was good to hear he lost as much sleep as we did!
Speaking of F1, Pirelli treated us to good seats at the Circuit of the Americas for the US GP and it was an incredible treat. I was a little unsure how the Texan crowd would adapt to the sport but locals seemed to comprise a small portion of the crowd. By far the most numerous were Mexican fans ardently supporting Sergio Perez. They brought a party atmosphere and seemed delighted he was replacing Lewis Hamilton at McLaren for 2013.
With an astonishing variety of accents being spoken, the US GP attracted an international audience that enjoyed a great race. It was one of those rare occasions when it was better to be present than watch it on television. The excitement of witnessing the first F1 race at a brand new circuit was palpable, and Hamilton's fight to take the win kept everybody on the edge of their seat. Alonso also kept the championship alive on a technical track that seemed to encourage overtaking despite fears to the contrary.
In all, the first US GP in Texas was a huge success. The city put on some great street parties and the locals were incredibly welcoming. If I'd suggest any changes, it would be to attract more support races. The Porsche Cup and Ferrari Challenge were entertaining, and the Historic F1 cars were wonderfully nostalgic. It's just a shame the race came too late to see the final round of ALMS or the Grand-Am Rolex series, for example. That aside, we look forward to the 2013 race and are very curious to see if the proposed New Jersey street race ever gets off the ground.
I should also add that Pirelli's decision to give the winning drivers Stetsons on the podium was sheer genius, and hats off to Rafael Navarro for making that happen, even if they were a rumored $10k a piece!
We're hoping to reinstate the Letters page in a future issue, so please keep writing to us at the email address below. I try to read and respond to them all, even if it takes me a while, but the communication and your views are invaluable.