Le Mans


The excellent Porsche 919 Hybrids that triumphed at Le Mans this year. Will they be back next year?

Leaving aside the likely impact of Dieselgate on Wolfsburg and the wider German economy,  the crisis rocking VW Group is likely to have a significant impact on their motorsport programmes and aspirations.  Will the money still be there to fund Audi, Bentley and Porsche works teams? Particularly the hugely expensive Le Mans hybrid racers?  If the Audi Le Mans programme was designed to show the excellence of that company’s diesel and hybrid engineering technology, how can it possibly continue when it and its parent have been exposed as using the excellence of their engineering to cheat the public and the regulators?  And if Porsche and Audi pull out of WEC racing will other manufacturers do likewise?
Just before Dieselgate broke there was speculation in the motorsport press that VW were about to buy into Red Bull.  The deal would have made sense. Red Bull have fallen out with Renault and Mercedes will not supply them with engines. The thought of only being able to run obsolescent Ferrari engines next year was understandably unappealing. A deal with VW would have allowed Red Bull access to VW Group’s proven hybrid technology  – rebranding as Red Bull Audi would have been a small price to pay.  Such a deal is now surely dead in the water. There will be no money to spare at VW Group for a luxury like a Formula 1 team.  And without such a deal will we see Red Bull and Toro Rosso on next year’s grid? I think there is a real risk that we will not.

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Apart from the odd auto solo, the Goodwood Road Racing Club’s Easter Monday Sprint is the only opportunity for most non professional GRRC members to compete against each other.  Even so, this year a fair number of professional drivers were invited to compete including ex Works MG BTCC and Le Mans driver Anthony Reid.

When MG were developing the MG SV Anthony Reid actually tested my car. A photo of him reunited with The Beast was too good an opportunity to miss.

 

This year Anthony was in my class driving a Works Noble M600.

The fabulous looking M600 has carbon fibre bodywork and eschews high tech for simple power, lightness and rear wheel drive.

 

This is the works M600 in which Anthony Reid came close to setting FTD at the Festival of Speed in 2014. On that day and at the Easter Monday sprint, traction proved to be a problem. Getting all that power down cleanly with no traction control was tricky and cost the team vital time.

An eclectic mix of cars took part in the sprint. This Piper Le Mans racer attracted lost of attention. Behind, can be seen “Old Nail” the Vauxhall Droop Snoot Firenza of the late Gerry Marshall.

Its rare to see an X150 Jaguar XKR racing. This neat example entertained the crowd with a howling supercharger

Anthony faced stiff competition for the day’s record time from two Nissan GTR’s, which were also in my class.  The rest of the cars in the class were similarly modern and all were much more powerful than my MG.  The only car with which I could hope to compete was a early Porsche 911 S (997).  Eventually I came out on top in that particular duel but all attention was on the battle for overall (not just the class) fastest time of the day between Anthony’s Noble and the Nissans.  In the end one of the Nissans pipped Anthony to the award.  The fact an amateur driver in a £60,000 car was able to beat a professional racing driver in a £235,000 car was telling.

Another popular entrant was this immaculate BMW CSL racer

 

Some interesting new iron (aluminium, carbon fibre …) at the FoS this year. Highlights below.

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The new Ford Mustang – finally available in right hand drive. Aggressive retro styling looks good – shame about the awful colour

 

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More “motor show” colours on the McLaren stand. Am I the only one who prefers the simple look of the MP4-12c nose to that on the new 650S nose? Must be as apparently there was so little continuing demand for the old car once the 650S was launched that they have now stopped making it.

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The Jaguar F Type Project 7 is an important car for Jaguar. Based on the slightly more extreme concept shown at last year’s FoS , the Project 7 is actually a production car – indeed the fastest production Jaguar ever. Its V8 is tuned up to 575 bhp – 25 more than the R Coupe. It also has bespoke aero, and trick suspension and diff with standard carbon ceramic brakes. The screen has a greater rake than the standard convertible and it has an D Type imitating faring behind the drivers role hoop. Inside it looks fairly standard and weather protection consists of a rather impractical clip on hood like the recent Boxster speedster. Its a striking car and they hope to sell 250, and only 60 in right hand drive. But what’s it for? Too comfortable and therefore heavy for a racer (and the rollover protection looks too scant) yet too uncomfortable for every day use. Is it therefore just for collectors and occasional track days?

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This stunning Jaguar SUV concept is far more likely to make JLR lots of money. Aimed at rivalling the Audi Q4, BMW X3 and especially the Porsche Macan it should perform well and in a different segment to current Land Rover products. I would certainly buy one. The bad news is that we are unlikely to see one for sale until 2018, with a hot version not to follow until 2019.

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VW ran their diminutive XL electric car up the hill. It looks like the future for urban transport but is very very small and very very expensive.

 

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The new Renault Twingo Sport looks like great fun. Based on the same platform as the new Smart 4-2 it has a rear mounted 1L turbocharged engine. Hot versions later this year should have 140 bhp making the car a mini 911!

There is always a fine selection of Le Mans sports cars at Goodwood ranging from those from the earliest days of racing to the very latest winning machines.

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Andy Wallace is reunited with his 1988 Le mans winning Jaguar XJR – 9

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This year’s Le man winning Audi e-Tron. Havings stumbled in the early rounds of this year’s World Sports Car championship they managed to win the race that really mattered. Sound familiar Peugeot?

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1970 Ferrari 512, just like in the film Le Mans..

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Mercedes high speed transporter carrying the fabulous Uhlenhaut Coupe (see previous posts from Stuttgart)

 

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This year’s Le Mans Toyota hybrid

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Gorgeous Jaguar D Type Le Mans winners – 55, 56, 57. This Ecurie Ecosse car won in 1957 and provided the design inspiration for the Project 7 Jaguar

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Vast V12 Sunbeam racer from 1920 and even bigger 1911 Fiat

Due to restrictions on testing (!) there were no contemporary Formula One cars tackling the hill at Goodwood this year. That did not stop some of the teams bringing cars for static display or bringing cars from previous seasons for their drivers and test drivers to run up the hill. Even then runs were restricted to demonstration performances with plenty of doughnuts and burnouts and very little speed. We had to look to the historic guys for real pace.

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Jenson Button in the McLaren MP4-26 he drove in 2012.

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Max Smith Hilliard in his 1972 Surtees TS9B. Seconds later he stuffed it into the bales at Molecombe corner. He was unhurt and at least he was trying!

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Legendary Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi driving the McLaren M23 with which he won McLaren’s first world title in 1974.

One of the best things about the Festival of speed is the close access to the drivers available for fans.

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British GP winner Johhny Herbert sharing a laugh at the Williams pit

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John Surtees was celebrating the 50th anniversary of his world championship with a class of cars and bikes associated with his career in action on the hill all weekend.

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An immaculately turned out Paddy Hopkirk reunited with his Monte winning Mini Cooper

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Twelve time World Motor Bike Trials champion Dougie Lampkin in action

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Felipe Massa reflecting on his good fortune to no longer be at Ferrari

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I had a good chat with Andy Wallace about Le Mans in 1988. The XJR made 250 mph down the pre chicane Mulsanne Straight. At night he could see so little as the lights were mounted so low that he had to pick out his braking points by calculating distances from land marks as they flashed by. To this day the XJR is the fastest car to have driven at Le mans. Andy has no desire to ever drive that fast again – he said it was something you could only do when young, fearless and lacking in imagination.

After a hiatus of 50 years, April saw the return of the Goodwood members’ meeting. Intended originally for GRRC members only, disappointing ticket sales saw invitations extended to other motoring clubs and subscribers to various motoring magazines. The comparatively light crowds may have been disappointing for the Earl of March but they were fantastic for those who attended. Not having to force your way past crowds of bored wives and girlfriends was a welcome contrast to the Revival Meeting as was the lack of corporate sponsors.

The event was blessed with remarkable weather – warm bright sunshine in what was otherwise a wet and miserable spring. The sun, coupled with the lack of crowds created a relaxed atmosphere most unlike other Goodwood events. But the best thing about the event was seeing cars that most of us had never seen before. Wonderful though the Festival of Speed and Revival are, many of the top cars return year after year. Having gone to both events for nearly 20 years I am afraid I have become a little blasé about even the most expensive exotica. Embarrassingly, at the last Revival, I found myself spending more time looking at the cars in the car park than in the paddock.

It’s this overfamiliarity with the usual Goodwood fare which made the cars at the Members meeting so interesting. For the first time we were shown cars that raced after the date the circuit closed in 1966. Le Mans prototypes and Turbo Era F1 cars did demonstration laps whilst colourful 70s touring cars battled it out in full on races. It was fascinating stuff and I can only hope that the event is repeated in a similar format next year.

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In a previous post I mentioned my love of the Matra 670 that Graham Hill and Henri Pescarolo raced to victory at Le Mans in 1972. Imagine my delight when I found the very car at the members meeting. I also got to hear its V12 howl as it accelerated away from the chicane – something I had been longing to hear for years.

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The fantastic 70s touring car race is going to do wonders for the price of neglected 70s saloons. Dolly Sprint anyone?

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The Dolly Sprints below seem to have lost a little oil….

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Sports Car Heaven – Alfa leads Aston Martin and Jaguar C Type

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Jaguar Le Mans Prototypes exit the chicane

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Jaguar XJR8LM

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Martini Lancia Abarth 038 Delta S4 – this Group B rally car won the 1986 Monte Carlo Rally

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Group B Rally Renault 5 GT Turbo

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Prost and Lauda Turbo Era McLarens

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Beatrice team Haas Turbo Ford’s

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Visiting Rolls Royce Phantom with serpentine horn!

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Donald Campbell’s Jaguar XK150 Coupe – in Bluebird blue.

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The great Sir Stirling Moss checks out the 70s touring car grid. He drove touring cars in that period as an unsuccessful reprise to his career.

One of the peculiarities of the show was the fact that many manufacturers brought along their modern cars as well as cars from their heritage collections. Some highlights below.

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Volkswagen brought along a lot of VWs, Skodas, Seats, Audis and half a dozen Bugatti Veyrons. What an ugly car – though this colour scheme is smart.

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The same Veyron – note its a manual. Must be one of very few without flappy paddles.

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On the Audi stand there was the 2013 Le Mans winning LMP hybrid diesel – complete with French bug graveyard

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My parents had two of these VW Variants when I was growing up. Like the Beetle they were air-cooled with the engine at the back (see the cooling gills at the rear). In winter we would drive up to see my grandparents in the North of England and my brother and I would take it in turns sleeping in the boot which, being over the engine, was lovely and warm . No child seats then..

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Peugeot had this lovely 504 Coupe on their stand. Designed by Pininfarina its one of my favourite cars and very rare in the UK.

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Peugeot chose to showcase the new R version of their striking RCZ Coupe. Commencement of production of the RCZ was the sign that Peugeot had begun to get their mojo back after decades of producing rubbish. The R version looks great and is the most powerful production car ever produced by Peugeot. Sadly it will be produced in very limited numbers and sales will not helped by a £30k plus price tag.

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Citroen chose to show case their new Cactus Crossover. I think it looks great inside and out. Having been on the receiving end of far too many car park door opening dents I love the idea of the protective air pockets on the sides. They look good too. Fantastic French design. You could never imagine a German company coming up with anything like this.

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BMW had a lot of great cars on display. The CSL is a wonderful 70’s icon and one of the most beautiful coupes ever built. Especially in 70’s orange.

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M1 Sports – a real 80’s supercar

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Martini Liveried Batmobile CSL racer. Great to see that livery back in racing with Williams F1.

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Another lovely CSL in another great 70’s colour

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Z8 Sportscar – undoubtedly a great car bout now over £120,000?

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Supercar bargain – V12 850 CSi. These wonderful Ferrari baiters are very undervalued but look great, are fast and have that cracking engine. Sure fire future classic.

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The stunning new BMW i8 electric sports car. Absolutely stunning from all angles.

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The i8 is so of the future it makes most other new cars look like antiques. Can’t wait to drive one.

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