A tangible relic of the Dany Bahar years at Lotus is the Lotus shop at the bottom of Regent Street in London. Regent Street is one of the most prestigious retail addresses in Europe and I shudder to think of what the rent must be.  Whenever I have been in the shop its largely been empty. The Ferrari shop further up the road is much busier – underlying Bahar’s folly in trying to turn Lotus into a British Ferrari when the money and, more importantly, the brand reputation, were not there. Lotus are probably tied into the shop for a few more years so it remains open – but with T shirts costing nearly £100 I can’t see it making much of a contribution to filling the financial black hole that is Lotus.

A new Evora at Hethel with the part finished and now abandoned Esprit plant behind

A new Evora at Hethel with the part finished and now abandoned Esprit plant behind

Lotus’ current management take a much more conservative view of what can be achieved with the brand. Out has gone the proposed new models, most notably and regrettably the new Esprit which was almost ready for production when it was canned.  For the immediate future Lotus just seems to be keen to sell more of its existing range. That strategy seems to be paying off with an increase in sales this year but whether it will be enough to provide a long term future for the company is uncertain.  There certainly seems to be a ready market for Lotus’ excellent sports cars – especially amongst club racers. On a recent trip to Hethel the racing division seemed very busy churning out Exige Cup cars.

Lotus Exige Cup

Lotus Exige Cup

It is by selling its more expensive cars, however, that Lotus hope to escape the financial mire. In particular Lotus are looking to the new Evora 400 to boost sales.  The Evora is not, of course, a new car. I remember when it was launched. I so wanted it to be good but just one look at its ugly snout and high waistline made me realise that it was never going to sell in the numbers Lotus hoped. I have driven a couple of Evoras and they do handle well and they are fast. Indeed they were not far off Porsche in that regard. But the build quality, reliability and depreciation of the cars I drove were much worse. I remember going for a test drive of a new Evora and they could not get it started due to some unknown electrical malady. It had to go back to the factory in the end. Not a way to instil confidence in a prospective customer.  The new Evora 400 is supposed to improve the car in all ways and make it a desirable alternative to a Porsche. It is apparently more powerful, more luxurious and more comfortable than the old Evora S. I managed to get a good look at one at Motorexpo at Canary Wharf in June.

Lotus Evora 400

Lotus Evora 400

Certainly the Evora 400 looks more striking than the old Evora S but its still not pretty. Its also costs significantly more than the old Evora S.  The biggest changes are inside. There has been a big step up in quality and its now easier to get in and out of for middle aged blokes like me. But the seat adjustment lever still came off in my hand..

Classy new interior - Lotus Evora 400

Classy new interior – Lotus Evora 400

Lotus Evora 400

Lotus Evora 400

I have always admired Lotus. My earliest memories of F1 are the black and gold Lotus JPS’ and for me the most desirable Bond car was always the white Lotus Esprit S1 from the Spy Who Loved Me.  As I have got older its the engineering genius of Colin Chapman that has impressed me. But at the back of my mind there has always been uneasiness at Lotus’ reputation for building fast but fragile cars. The list of injured or killed Lotus racing drivers is horrifying. For the road car driver there was perhaps less risk of physical injury but greater risk of embarrassment and financial harm. I had thought Lotus’ reputation for building fragile cars was a thing of the past and that now, whilst they might not be as reliable as a Porsche, they were at least as safe. Then last week the wheel fell off a friend’s Elise whilst he was doing 90mph on a motorway. The lightweight suspension on his car had corroded away and collapsed.  OK it was a 15 year old Elise but there are plenty of 15 year old cars on the road which manage to keep their wheels on. He was OK but his, and my, faith in Lotus took rather a knock.

Of course Lotus don’t help themselves when it comes to selling cars. Apparently the car pictured above was the only finished 400 they had for a long time. Unbelievably they failed to take it to the Goodwood Festival of Speed when they could no doubt have taken many orders. And whilst the 400 has been shown to the press and marketed for nearly a year now, deliveries to dealers and the first customers will not start until late Autumn. That doesn’t sound like a great time to launch a new sports car.

Still, whilst I will probably not be a customer, I hope that many others will be. It would be such a shame to see Lotus disappear from the industry.

Going into The British Grand Prix there were many arguing that Formula One had lost its edge. Declining television audiences and a much reduced turn out in Austria seemed to point to fans increased disenchantment. The British Grand Prix served to dispel some of those fears. A record 340,000 spectators attended the weekend with 160,000 ensuring a full house on race day itself. A particularly startling fact was that there were more people at Silverstone for Friday practice than there were spectators for the Austrian Grand Prix itself.

Drivers Parade

The race itself turned out to be a thriller and produced the result Lewis Hamilton’s is adoring fans had hoped for. It had everything: strategy, surprises, overtaking, thrills and spills. On such that it was hard to argue that Formula One needed any revisions.


Lewis and Nico on the parade lap

Silverstone put on a fantastic show. Yes tickets were expensive but the full house showed that they had perhaps got the pricing right. The view from the general admission areas can be good if you can find yourself a decent place early enough. I always get a weekend ticket and on race day sit in the Club Corner grandstand which provides a great view of the last two corners and the finish line – not to mention the podium at the end of the Wing building. For qualification I like to sit in the general admission areas at Becketts to really see the cars move about at high-speed.

Lewis takes the chequered flag

The bad old days of Silverstone, the muddy carparks,  the chaos and the huge traffic queues, seem to be a thing of the past. And (say it softly) Bernie must take a lot of the credit for the transformation. If he had not threatened to remove the race from the calendar I suspect little would have been done to improve the fans race going experience.


Lewis hoists the famous gold RAC trophy up in the air. No rubbish plastic trophy this year!


The race weekend also had more than just the F1 race. The support races were exciting, we were treated to the sight of Stirling Moss demonstrating his 1955 British GP winning Mercedes, and the air displays by the Red Arrows and a thunderous Eurofighter Typhoon were thrilling.

Crofty cross examines Lewis


I stayed at the circuit for the after show party and was glad I did. Not only did I get to see part of the Spice Girls perform (guilty pleasure) but the Q&A sessions between Crofty and the drivers were eye opening. Away from their PR people it was amazing how open the drivers were able to be. Lewis’s  delight in winning his home Grand Prix for a third time was evident. But it was Nico who stood out. Honest and down to earth, good humoured and gracious, he came across very differently from the demonic Nico portrayed by the press. He certainly won the fans over.

So all in all a fantastic Grand Prix. I have already booked my tickets for next year!

One of the benefits of booking your Silverstone GP tickets nearly a year in advance is the free opportunity to attend a pit walk on the Thursday before the Grand Prix. Yesterday the crowds were out in force but despite an initial queue nearly half a mile long, things progressed smoothly and everyone had a good chance to have alook in the team garages.

Grosjean’s Lotus looked neat – imagine what it looks like tonight, half full of gravel!

Jenson’s McLaren Honda was in pieces, semi shielded from the public by a convenient trolley and some body pods. You could almost smell the despair..

By contrast Vettel’s Ferrari looked splendidly complete and ready for action.

Similar clean efficiency at Williams. They should be strong this weekend.

Bit more work on Massa’s car though!

The chaps at Red Bull were preparing Ricciardo’s car to a thumping house music beat. The other teams worked in silence. Deathly silence over at McLaren..

Meanwhile Nico Rosberg’s crew practiced tyre changes to the delight of the crowd.

Hulkenberg’s Force India was undergoing a rebuild

Former British GP winner Johnny Herbert was able to share some race tips with young Will Stevens of Manor.

Meanwhile Pastor Maldonado was being interviewed by Spanish TV

Will Stevens sporting weight saving haircut


New AMG GT safety cars. Nice looking but lets hope we don’t see much of them all weekend.


Unusually sunny weather for April made MG Era a very pleasant day


Beautiful MG WA. Only 369 of this large and luxorious 2.5 L 6 cylinder car were made in 1938 and 1939 before the war stopped production


This MGA 1500 is in the racing colours of the Fitzwilliam team


This MG R Type racer is a recently completed replica. The owner built it from scratch over nine years and the attention to detail is incredible.


MG SV-R keeping The Beast company


MGA Twin Cams celebrating the 60th anniversay of commencement of production of the MGA


The MG Tigress, or to give it its full name, the Mark III 18/100, was MG’s first production race car. Based on the road going MG 18\80 it, like the tiny MG M type midget, was build to compete in the 1930 Brooklands Double 12 Race.  The car had many advanced features including a six cylinder, 2.5 L overhead camshaft engine, dry sump lubrication, twin spark heads and improved suspension.  However they proved unreliable during the race with all cars retiring due to engine failure. In contrast the Midgets beat much more powerful machinery to win the team prize.  Due to their comparative lack of success and high price, only five Tigress’ were built. Two survive including one that visited MG Era at Brooklands in April. 

Originally owned by Lord Victor the Rothschild, GH3501 is in beautiful condition


The Tigress mascot on the car is said to have inspired Jaguar’s famous leaper


Beautiful fishtail exhaust and enhanced shock absorbers show that this car is no ordinary 18 / 80


…As do the fine set of Jaeger instruments


Last week I attended the launch of Stirling Moss’s new book, “My Racing Life”.  There have, of course, been many biographies and indeed autobiographies of “Mr Motor Racing” and I was somewhat sceptical that there was anything new to say about his career which effectively ended in 1962.    

The launch was held at the RAC Club,  the tables adorned with two of the club’s most precious trophies, the gold British Grand Prix Trophy and the exquisite Tourist Trophy – both of which Sir Stirling won on multiple occasions.  After dinner there was a question and answer session with Sir  Stirling chaired by well known journalist Simon Taylor.  This provided an opportunity for Sir Stirling to entertain us with stories and anecdotes, many of which we had not heard before.   

All those attending the launch were provided with a limited edition numbered copy of the book signed by both Sir Stirling and Simon Taylor.  Having now had a chance to look at the book in detail I am pleased to say that it would make a great addition to any motoracing enthusiasts library.  It contains over 300 photos, many taken from Sir Stirling’s own personal scrapbooks, with each photo chosen and explained in his own words by Sir Stirling himself.  The vast majority of the photos were completely new to me and have not, as far as I’m aware, appeared in any other book.   

To celebrate the launch of the book the Club arranged for the ex Rob Walker Ferrari 250 SWB that Sir Stirling raced to his final TT victory to be displayed in the rotunda.  Sir Stirling raced for Rob Walker’s privateer team during the last two years of his career. It was in a Rob Walker Lotus that he had his terrible career ending accident at Goodwood. During the evening Sir Stirling revealed that if it hadn’t been for his accident he would have competed in Formula One that season in a factory supplied Ferrari painted in Rob Walker’s colours. 

Although production of the fabulous Aston Martin One 77 ended in 2012 I spotted this lovely unregistered example for sale at HMW in Walton on Thames.  This white car carried badges stating that it was the “last one” so it was presumably the last one off the production line.  The One 77 originally sold for £1.2m – this example was for sale for £1.6 million.  That’s some appreciation in three or four years!  But what a fantastic looking car.  I’m sure it’ll be worth much much more in the future.  With a carbon fibre chassis and aluminium body the car weighs only 1600 kg. That comparatively light weight when coupled with a naturally  aspirated 7.3 L engine pushing out 750 bhp can propel the car to 60 in 3.5 seconds and then on to 220mph.  

I better start saving ..


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


My first visit to Bombay for nearly 20 years was always going to surprise me. Much has changed since I was last there. International brands are more prevalent, poverty is less overt and wealth is more ostentatious.  Such is the pace of change in this vast metropolis (one suburb, Anderi, has a population equivalent to that of Greater London) that in twenty years I expect it will look little different to the cities of Southern Europe.

What appeared to me to be the most striking change was in Bombay’s road transport. Twenty years ago you were likely to see only three types of car on the city’s roads.  Hindustan Motors Ambasadors dominated the government market and were favoured by those with big families and a traditional mindset.  Fiat Padminis dominated the taxi trade.  The more aspirational consumer favoured the little Maruti hatch back.

In today’s Bombay I saw only one Ambi in three days.  Most of the Marutis had vanished too. Only a few battered Padminis hung on in the taxi trade but they were clearly fighting a losing battle with newer uglier Suzukis. Bombay’s streets are now thronged with Renaults, Suzukis, Skodas, VWs, Audis and lots of Mercedes.  

Skoda, Suzuki, Hyundai .. this Bombay street scene could be anywhere

The once ubiquitous auto rickshaws are now restricted to the suburbs.

The vanishing Bombay Auto Rickshaw

 I passed Aston Martin and Porsche showrooms and saw Land Rover, Jaguar and BMW heavily advertised. There is a Lamborghini showroom and no doubt, somewhere, Ferrari are plying their trade too.  Sadly comparatively few Indian brand cars were apparent. As in China, it seems that if you are aspirational you want to drive a foreign brand car even if it is built locally.

Ubiquitous Suzuki Taxi – so much less classy than a Padmini


Bombay’s impressive 3.5 mile long Sea Link, connecting Bandra to Worli. One stretch of road in Bombay where you can stretch a car’s legs!

A rare car in Bombay, Perseus Bandrawalla’s immaculate BMW 330. The car previously belonged to cricketing ledgend Sachin Tendulkar

The Dacia Duster is built in numerous locations around the world, including in India at Madras. It is sold in India as the Renault Duster and, unlike its Dacia sister, is aimed at an aspirational rather than budget market. In Renault form for the India market it comes with full leather seats, aircon and lots of other “luxury” kit as standard. They should sell similar specified cars in Europe!

Whilst in Bombay I saw very few of the much maligned Tata Nano, but I did get to ride in two. Whilst not great to look at they are remarkably spacious , easily taking four adults in a level of comfort surprising for such a small car. The Nano’s 624cc two cylinder engine sounded harsh under load but proved more than adequate for city driving. The Nano supplied to our (Tata owned) hotel as a courtesy car had leather seats , aircon and other bells and whistles. It was a great little car and I I think it would sell well to cool urban dwellers in Europe, particularly if produced (as promised in the future) in electric form.

I encountered a rare car at a service station on the M6 toll road yesterday evening. The owner of this gorgeous Porsche 918 Spyder hybrid supercar very wisely chose to park well away from everyone else and possible door opening dings!

887 hp and a 210mph top speed. Stunning looks and 4 wheel drive. A better car in all ways than the P1 and La Ferrari

Yes that really is gold leaf on top of the 4.6L V8

Two black beauties! Parking the Jag next to the Porsche shows the Porsches compact dimensions