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Think "supercars" and what pops into your mind? McLaren, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche or Pagani? Those marquee names are about to get some serious competition on top of the mount Olympus of sports cars from the unlikeliest of competitors. Think Honda, Toyota, Nissan and Chevy. Each of these "bargain brands" will unveil some of the most potent and meanest supercars around, which should immediately send the European exotics scrambling for answers.

NSX vs. LF-A

The rivalry between Toyota and Honda -- and their luxury brands Lexus and Acura, respectively -- has been steaming as of late, but with the arrival of two new high-powered racers coming from each camp for the 2010 model year that anomocity is about to boil over. Consider how similar the LF-A from Lexus will be to the NSX from Honda in raw numbers. Both will be front-engine. The Lexus will be real-wheel drive, while the Honda will be clearly rear-biased super handling all-wheel drive. Lexus promises a high-tech V-10 producing somewhere north of 500 horsepower. Honda promises a high-tech V-10 with power ranging from 500-550 horsepower. Both cars will top out with a max speed of more than 200 mph, and both will come with sophisticated six-speed transmissions. The major difference is that Honda seems to have a singular vision to create a performance-focused machine, while the Lexus supercar will do its best to hold form by delivering some really sophisticted luxury features. Expect both cars to bow in at a price point slightly on the rich side of $100,000. The automobile equivalent of the Hatfields and McCoys are about to go at it!

SS vs. GT-R

Another major battle is brewing just south of the $100,000 price range between America and Japan, the likes of which not seen since World War II. Chevy will bow the Corvette SS at some point during the 2009 model year cycle, while the spiritual successor to the legendary Skyline, the Nissan GT-R, will arrive around that same time frame. Conceptually, these two cars are very different, but if you've got $90,000 burning a hole in your back pocket then either car could make your dreams come true. Both cars will pack enough punch to make the Porsche 911 (perhaps not the Turbo, but certainly the 4S model) consider throwing in the proverbial towel. Rumors have the new Corvette producing a red hot 650 horsepower via a standard V-8 "vette" engine with a stapped on supercharger. Better yet, the SS will use more carbon-fiber body panels than the current Corvette Z06, which should produce some "unbelievable for the price" acceleration times. The new Nissan GT-R, or R36, will use Nissan's FM platform, which is shared by everything from the Infiniti G35 to the FX35 SUV. The car will have a front-mid engine chassis and will feature a sophisticated all-wheel drive system. The GT-R should pump out somewhere in the vicinity of 450 horsepower and exhibit handling characteristics in line with previous cars in its "skyline" family tree.


The first Honda S2000 Club Racer review is in

Daniel Pund at Inside Line posted the first test-drive review of the new 2008 Honda S2000 CR. We were very curious about this “new” S2000, one that may signal the end of the Honda roadster’s legendary 8-year run. Would shedding 100 pounds off the stock car and tweaking the double-wishbone suspension further produce better performance numbers?

Unfortunately, the Inside Line test-drive doesn’t include any raw comparison data in terms of acceleration or track times (hopefully that will come with future reviews), but it sounds as though the so-called “Club Racer” doesn’t bring anything more to the table than standard performance enhancements that are relatively easily matched in the aftermarket. So, perhaps the predicted $3-$4 thousand price premium over the standard S2000 isn’t quite justified.

That aside, it’s interesting that Honda’s R&D Chief Shigeru Uehara admits effectively maxing out the 2.2 liter 4-cylinder S2000 engine power-wise. Given drivability and emissions restrictions, there is simply no more power to be had without forced induction (which goes against all conventions of Honda’s line of S-roadsters).

Built at the same Tochigi, Japan-based plant that produces the NSX, S2000s don’t go through an automated assembly line like just about every other Honda, or most commercial cars for that matter – they’re built at individual work stations by separate teams. The attention to detail clearly shows, as the car features an ultra-tight chassis, rigid drive-train, perfect 50/50 weight distribution and one of the slickest shifters on the planet in the close-ratio 6-speed manual. It will be sad to see the S2000 go, when that does happen. But, we'll keep a close eye on its possible successor.


Kobe Bryant asks for Vanessa to be traded?

Talk about a shocker (he says with tongue firmly placed in cheek). Kobe Bryant and his wife Venessa could be parting ways according to Internet “reports”. The rumor originated from a local television station’s news posting on its Web site late last week. The posting on the CBS2 Web site was pulled shortly and the station would not comment on the story’s vanishing act.

If true, we say good riddance. We never did like the negative effect that Vanessa had on the Lakers star. Coming into the league Kobe was simply uber-confident and somewhat self-centered, but his marriage to Vanessa pushed him to do some incredibly unusual things, both privately and publicly. Of course, without a pre-nuptual agreement in place Kobe stands to lose half of the $200+ million dollars he’s earned to date. But, maybe a clean break is a recipe for success for Kobe both on and off the court, and may finally bring out the kindler, gentler Black Mamba (is that an oxymoron?)

In the future we’ll try our best to refrain from delving into celebrity gossip, but this is Kobe Bryant after all. Of course, this is also an Internet rumor, so take that for what it’s worth.

Terps finally land top recruit

It was reported recently that Gary Williams and the Maryland Terrapins basketball team got a solid verbal commitment from Terrence Jennings, the 6'10" 225 pound forward from Durham, NC -- plucked him right out of UNC and Duke's backyard. Despite Maryland's general and relative tournament and ACC success in recent years (winning the National Championship in 2002, in fact) they haven't been able to recruit a five-star, blue-chipper like Jennings. Heck, they weren't able to keep top recruits from their own region in-house (see Kevin Durant as the most recent example).

So, the signing of Jennings is a pretty big deal for Terps hoops fans. Rivals.com rates Jennings as a top-15 prospect and reports compare his game to Amare Stoudamire when the Suns star came into the NBA -- raw, but with awesome athleticism and unstoppable finishing ability around the rim. Exactly what the Terps need after really not having a dominant big man since Joe Smith or Lonny Baxter.

Jermaine O'Neal fakes amensia

Indiana Pacers star Jermaine O’Neal backtracked today on comments that he made over the weekend on his desire to play alongside Kobe Bryant for the Los Angeles Lakers. Even his agent, Arn Tellum, felt compelled to step in and unequivocally deny that his client even thought about a move out of Indiana. (I guess Sports Illustrated and ESPN reporters cheated off each other to come up with O’Neal’s quotes on his desire to leave Indianapolis).

There is definitely something happening behind the scenes. Whey would O’Neal’s agent feel compelled to vehemently deny his client’s wishes to be traded, a mere day after O’Neal himself voiced in every which way his desire to play for the Lakers? There are two possibilities 1) O’Neal is hoping to get an extension from the Pacers after his contract expires in 2 years or 2) O’Neal wants out. It certainly isn’t the 1st option, since O’Neal even went as far as to say that even if he isn’t traded this summer or before the deadline, he would probably opt out at the end of this 2007-2008 campaign and seek greener pastures.

The clear analysis then is that O’Neal’s agent is in full damage-control mode and is attempting to keep on-going negotiations under wraps, while at the same time trying his best to protect the Lakers’ interests – because if the feelings of longing between O’Neal and the Lakers is mutual and public, Larry Bird will have no option but to attempt to fleece Lakers GM Kup-cake for all that he is worth. It will be increasingly difficult for Bird and his Lakers counterparts to pull off a fair trade.

So, will the trade happen this summer or even during the season? Only the Lakers, Pacers, O’Neal and his agent know for sure. But, all signs point to a strong possibility.


Jermaine O'Neal loves LA

While Kobe takes a vow of silence the likes of which has not been seen since this guy, Jermaine O’Neal continues to tell everyone who will listen (in this case SI.com) about his dream job, playing Center for your 2007-2008 Los Angeles Lakers. In LA for a charity basketball game O’Neal said:

"I would welcome a trade to the Lakers. Indiana has given me the opportunity to establish myself as a really good player in this league, but they're into rebuilding and going really young, and I'm just not in a position physically to go through another five to six years with a lot of losses and a lot of down time."

Pacer’s GM, the legendary Larry Bird responded quickly, but he said just about nothing. His canned GM response was:

“In response to Jermaine O’Neal’s published comments today regarding a trade, we have stated repeatedly that if we can make our team better through a trade, we will do so. Jermaine has become an All-Star player with the Indiana Pacers and in any discussions regarding him or any of our other players, the expectations for the franchise and our fans is to receive fair market value in return if a trade is to be considered. Jermaine has worked out very hard this summer while rehabilitating his knee after surgery. We believe under Jim O’Brien that our team as a whole and Jermaine as a player can be successful. You never know what will happen, but for now Jermaine is an Indiana Pacer.”

What insight! Not that we were expecting Larry Legend to throw his hands up in frustration, publicly give out his cell phone number for anyone interested and go on Larry King to invite NBA, NBDL, CBA and Euro-League GMs to put in early bids for his highly talented, and oft-injured, forward.

Bottom line on the rumors: They mean nothing unless Mitch Kup-cake stops being a lamb and decides to give some direction to this wayward Lakers roster. The last time I checked the Pacers had Travis Deiner and Jamaal Tinsley at point guard – neither of whom are world beaters by any means. Would the Pacers be interested in a talented and athletic, yet somewhat turnover-prone, rookie point guard with solid potential such as Jarvis Crittenden? We know that they’re already enthralled with the kid from Piscataway, New Jersey. It’s time for Kup-cake to play “let’s make a deal” and come out on the winning end for the first time during his ill-fated tenure as Lakers GM. Time for Kup-cake to exorcise the demons of GM Jerry West and put his stamp on this Lakers team.

Ultimatum not the best, but still darn good!

I saw the Matt Damon thriller Bourne Ultimatum this weekend and came away quite impressed – it’s easily among my top 5 favorite movies of 2007. But, you probably could have guessed the film’s individual merits by reading the countless positive reviews it has received leading up to and through its massive $70+ million opening weekend. The consensus though is that Bourne Ultimatum is the best in the series. Not by my estimates, and here’s why (Note: There may be spoilers):

And the best chase scene goes to…Bourne Supremacy: Each of the “Bourne” movies has a signature chase scene (this 3rd installment actually had 2 good ones). So, given that it’s easy to compare and contrast these scenes, my favorite is still the Mercedes G-Class chasing Matt Damon in the Gazz Volga in Bourne Supremacy. The build-up and the pacing of the musical score is perfect during that scene, which starts off on foot and ends up with a massive tunnel crash – the scene is flawlessly shot and the stunts intricately coordinated.

Action vs. Drama: Let’s be honest, if “action” and “drama” were strapped into a “Bourne” motorcycle, action would have its throttle cranked and drama would be holding on for dear life. In Bourne Supremacy however, the action takes a back seat at points and the balance makes for a more complete story – where you can relate better with the characters and get to see some of Jason Bourne’s vulnerability (which Matt Damon does a great job with as an actor).

Speaking of vulnerability, or lack thereof: Jason Bourne is superman in Bourne Ultimatum. He takes on a handful of assassins, walks away from horrendous car crashes, and quickly dispatches of the Moroccan and Soviet police without the hint of even a papercut (but he does have the trademark limp). BTW, I never knew it was possible to jump a dirt-bike 15 feet in the air by launching it off a tiny dislodged piece of curb on the sidewalk. The point being, part 3 will require its viewer to suspend disbelief significantly more than the other 2 Bourne movies.

All in all though, Paul Greengrass is a talented director and has made another great “Bourne” film. I’d wholeheartedly recommend Bourne Ultimatum.

If I had to grade the series in order I’d rate it:

1. Bourne Supremacy – A
2. Bourne Ultimatum - A-
3. Bourne Identity – B+