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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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.

A relaxed Lewis Hamilton arrived at the pits before all the other drivers. A sign of things to come?

I thought I was being cynical in thinking Rosberg may have deliberately crashed to ruin Hamilton’s last qualifying lap but apparently not! The stewards have investigated and cleared Rosberg and he has apologised to Hamilton. But Hamilton has effectively said Rosberg crashed deliberately and has compared his relationship with Rosberg to that of Senna and Prost. He has even said he liked the way Senna dealt with similar issues – a clear reference to Senna’s deliberate running of Prost off the road at Suzuka! Looks like Niki Lauda has a team civil war on his hands..

Beast’s claim to fame is being the oldest surviving production MG SV. She was a works car and was used for promotion work when the car was launched in 2003. That year she was prepared for the Goodwood Festival of Speed and spent the weekend in the supercar paddock and being driven up the hill by luminaries such as Australian multiple F1 champion Sir Jack Brabham and the designer of the car (and the McLaren F1) Peter Stevens. So when earlier this year the Goodwood Road Racing Club announced that there was to be a new area of reserved parking at the Festival of Speed for visiting supercars I was determined that the Beast should have the chance to mix it with the Ferraris, Lambos and other exotica. The organisers were supportive and allocated me a ticket when they found out the Beast would be revisiting the Festival nearly 10 years to the day since she was last there. Getting a ticket was not as easy as it sounds as the organisers had a list of what they thought of as supercars and MGs were not on it! Only two door Ferraris were allowed, and amongst the volume brands only Jag XJ220’s (no other Jags) only Lotus Esprits and Evora S, 911’s but for this year only, and only SLS Mercs (no AMGs). So pretty exclusive company!

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The Beast attracted lots of attention, indeed more than the McLaren MP4 12 c and Ferrari V12 parked next to it. In fact there were 23 McLarens present so they were considerably more common than the MG! Surprisingly there was only two Ferrari 458’s when I had been led to believe that they were, when compared to the McLaren, the better car. Clearly the Festival crowd are a patriotic bunch.

McLarens – any colour as long as its orange..

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As it was the 50th anniversary of the 911 there were plenty of Stuttgart’s finest. Next year its said they won’t be allowed amongst the supercars but this year the super car car park would have looked a bit empty without them so it would not surprise me if they get a reprieve.

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I suspect the attention focused on the Beast was the result of her striking looks and the fact she is such a rare car. One of her admirers turned out to be someone who had worked for the Isle of Wight company who had made the carbon fibre blanks used to construct the bodywork of the car. The Beast was the first complete SV he had seen.

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Across town from the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart is another striking modern building dedicated to motoring history. The Mercedes-Benz Museum is, like its owner, on a different scale to its Porsche rival.  Entering through the ground floor you are required to take a lift to the top of the hollow concrete drum that houses the Museum and work your way down to the bottom on a long spiral ramp.  A sort of motoring version of the Guggenheim Museum in New York!

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Mercedes Benz Museum, Stuttgart

The Museum starts by looking closely at the work of the company’s founder and the inventor of the high-speed petrol engine, Gottleib Daimler.  Daimler was a pioneer of the internal combustion engine and with his business partner, Wilhelm Maybach, founded Daimler in 1890. The company merged with Karl Benz’s eponymous company in 1926 to form Daimler Benz.

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Daimler Motorised Carriage, 1886. This is the world’s first four wheeled motor vehicle and was powered by the “grandfather clock” engine.

The Museum holds an example of the first petrol engine that Daimler and Maybach produced in 1885, a 264cc single cylinder air-cooled engine, nicknamed (because of its appearance) “the grandfather clock engine”.  Initially Daimler were more concerned with licensing the designs of their innovative engines than in building their own cars. In France Peugeot began installing Daimler designed engines in their early motor cars and in 1894 British industrialist Frederick Simms bought the UK  licence to the latest Daimler engine and the right to use the name Daimler. This led to the establishment of the British company, Daimler Motors, now a dormant brand owned by Jaguar Land Rover, but until recently responsible for producing luxurious cars much favoured by the British Royal Family.

Mercedes-Benz is now a division of the industrial behemoth that is Daimler AG.  The Mercedes part of the name stems from the name of the daughter of Austrian motor dealer, diplomat and racing driver, Emil Jellinek.  He had ordered and modified a racing Daimler in 1901 which he used to win many of the early French motor races.  He called the car Mercedes after his daughter and the name soon became associated with success.  So much so that Daimler changed the name of their cars to “Daimler Mercedes”. On the merger with Benz it was the Daimler part of the name that was dropped.  Mercedes-Benz motor cars have long been favoured by the wealthy and powerful. Hitler was very fond of them, obviously not seeing the irony of driving a car named in part after a young Jewish girl.

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Mercedes Simplex 1902. This is the oldest Mercedes in the existence and bears the name of Emil

Jellinek’s daughter, Mercedes.

The Museum covers all aspects of Mercedes-Benz, from buses and trucks to aero engines. There is a fine selection of solid but frankly dull road cars too. But what I was at the Museum to see was the fine examples of the company’s motor sport heritage.  Mercedes-Benz have been involved in motorsport on and off since the earliest days of the company. A Benz competed in the world’s first motor race, the 1894 Paris to Rouen road race.  The 1930’s brought the glory years of the Silver Arrows when great drivers such as Caracciola, backed by the industrial might of the Third Reich and Adolf Hitler himself,  dominated Grand Prix racing.  After the war Mercedes-Benz again returned to racing and again dominated Grand prix racing in a technical tour de force that saw Fangio win the world title twice in 1954 and 1955.

Fangio's MB W196 in which he won his third world title in 1955.

Fangio’s MB W196 in which he won his third world title in 1955. Behind is Caracciola’s 1938 MB W154 in which he won his third European title.

Fangio's MB W196 Streamliner, used at the high speed tracks such as Reims and Monza.

Fangio’s MB W196 Streamliner, used at high speed tracks such as Reims and Monza.

Stirling Moss was also a Mercedes-Benz works driver at the time and, with Motorsport’s legendary journalist Dennis Jenkinson, he won the Mille Miglia in 1955 in the fabulous MB 300 SLR.  Sadly the Le Mans disaster of the same year, when Leveagh’s 300SLR collided with Macklin’s Austin Healey 100 and somersaulted into the stands killing over 80 spectators,  led Mercedes-Benz to withdraw from motor sport.

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The Moss / Jenkinson 1955 Mille Miglia winning MB 300SLR. This car is probably worth in excess of £50m.

The 1955 MB 300SLR "Uhlenhaut Coupe". A hard top version of the Moss / Jenkinson car intended for use in 1956. It never raced after MB's withdrawal from racing in 1955 and instead became the company car of MB chief engineer Rudi Uhlenhaut!

The 1955 MB 300SLR “Uhlenhaut Coupe”. A hard top version of the Moss / Jenkinson car intended for use in 1956. It never raced after MB’s withdrawal from racing in 1955 and instead became the company car of MB chief engineer Rudi Uhlenhaut!

For many years thereafter Mercedes-Benz concentrated on road cars but they did support those who wanted to go rallying.  The Museum holds a particularly interesting car for me, the MB 280E that carried a British crew to victory in the London – Sydney Rally in 1977.  My uncle Adi competed in the same rally in a Lotus Cortina Mk2. I can remember as an eight year old standing in the cold early morning watching this very Mercedes Benz being flagged away from the start in the centre of London.

MB 280E, winner of the London - Sydney Rally 1977

MB 280E, winner of the London – Sydney Rally 1977

Mercedes Benz returned to mainstream racing in 1987 with an assault on Le Mans and German Touring Car racing.  Examples of their diverse racing machines are displayed in the Museum alongside the car from their 1930’s and 1950’s glory days.

MB Touring Car (DTM)

MB Touring Car (DTM)

In F1, Mercedes Benz also supplied engines to Sauber and until recently part owned McLaren.  They now own the old Brawn racing team who are looking strong this year already. Given Mercedes Benz’s past record in motor sport and their recent recruitment of Lauda and Hamilton (two men determined to be winners)  I have no doubt that the world title will, before long,  again return to the Silver Arrows.

The Mercedes Benz Museum is exceptional and well worth the visit to Stuttgart alone. One comes away in awe of the company’s technical achievements and with a firm belief that they have always thrived, and will no doubt continue to do so, by adhering to Gottlieb Daimler’s famous dictum “Das beste oder nichts” (“The best or nothing”).

A few miles west of the Spa circuit is the picturesque village of La Gleize. In the tiny village square, by the church high up on a hill sits a striking piece of Porsche engineering. The 70 ton King Tiger tank rests in the village where it ground to a halt nearly 70 years ago. When Hitler launched his final offensive in the West, known to the Americans as the Battle of the Bulge, the Tiger formed part of an SS battle group under the command of Nazi poster boy Joachim Pieper. The offensive was a failure and La Gleize was as far West as Pieper got. His battle group ran out of petrol and had to abandon all their vehicles. After the war scrap men cleared them all away but the Tiger was saved by the village inn keeper in exchange for a case of wine.

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Two big cats in the Ardennes

The flotsam of war in a small Belgian village.

The flotsam of war in a small Belgian village. One of Porsche’s earlier products..

The same tank in December 1944?

The same tank in December 1944?

When I visited the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart it was astonishing that no where was the War, or indeed Nazi Germany,  mentioned. Whilst Ferdinand Porsche’s role in developing the Volkswagen Beetle and the Silver Arrows racing cars was highlighted nothing was said of the driving force behind those projects, Adolf Hitler himself. Similarly no mention was made of Porsche’s significant design work for the Nazi war machine. The King Tiger at La Gleize is as much a Porsche as the Beetle.

In addition to his design work for the military Ferdinand Porsche also managed the Wolfsburg Volkswagen plant that by then was producing military vehicles. Forced and slave labour were widely used, something that led to Porsche’s imprisonment as a war criminal by the French at the end of the War. Again there was no mention of this at the Porsche Museum.

Ferdinand Porsche, gifted engineer and war criminal?

Ferdinand Porsche, gifted engineer and war criminal?

Even after the War Porsche as a company made some questionable decisions. One was to employ Joachim Pieper in a sales capacity in 1957. This was particularly questionable given Pieper had just been released from prison having served 11 years of a life sentence (which itself was a commuted death sentence) for the murder by his men of 86 US prisoners of war at Malmedy during the Battle of the Bulge. This was not an isolated incident. He and his men had previously established a brutal reputation for taking no prisoners and massacring civilians in Russia and in Italy. In the Ardennes they were responsible for killing at least 100 POWs (including 17 African Americans tortured to death) and several hundred civilians in towns such as Stavelot.

At the time they chose to employ him Pieper was not an obscure low level Nazi, he was an infamous war criminal. Furthermore he was widely known in Germany as Himmler’s former adjutant, a Knights Cross holder and the youngest Colonel in the SS. This was a man who by his own admission had visited concentration camps and witnessed the execution of Jews and the disabled without any moral qualms. What were Porsche thinking?

Pieper’s time with Porsche was brief. Unbelievably they had put him in charge of sales to America. When veterans organisations found out there was a public outcry and sales in the US suffered. Pieper was quietly sacked, but with compensation, in 1960.

It is inevitable that companies such as Porsche would have become involved in the dark side of German life under the Nazis. What is unforgivable is the denial demonstrated by Porsche at its Museum and generally. By contrast Mercedes Benz at their Museum (also in Stuttgart) pull no punches when describing their role under the Nazis. Their shame and embarrassment when talking about their use of slave labour and their role in equipping Hitler’s war machine, seem genuine. Porsche could learn something from them.