2008-05-29: Two spectacular Bentley specials ...
When asked, most automotive enthusiasts will name the 'Blower Bentley' as the best known and/or favourite Bentley of the pre-Rolls-Royce era. Irony has it that W.O. Bentley detested it and a supercharged Bentley never won a major race, while W.O.'s much loved naturally aspirated machines took five wins at Le Mans. The 'Blower' was very much a private endeavour from 'Bentley Boy' Tim Birkin, which eventually turned into a factory model long after Bentley had lost control of his company to Birkin's friend Woolf Barnato. One of the rare exceptions to the rule was Birkin's own Monoposto Special, based on the original 'Blower' prototype. It features a single seater body purpose built for the Brooklands circuit and a strengthened engine that was, at times, capable of coping with the added stress of a supercharger. Birkin raced The Monoposto Special to several victories and twice set the lap record on the Brooklands outer circuit, posting an impressive 137.58 mph average at his final attempt in 1932. Our detailed feature takes a closer look at the interesting history of this racing car.
While reading about the 'Birkin Monoposto', one's mind automatically wanders off to the mother (literally) of all Bentley specials; Old Mother Gun. Like Birkin's single seater, this car was extensively raced at Brooklands and modified many times. It already had a successfully racing career; in 1928 the chassis was driven to victory at Le Mans. The final incarnation of the record breaking machine is the Jackson Special to which it was converted in 1936. It has since set many records, some as recent as a few years ago.
2008-05-26: Volkswagen's ringmaster, more power for Aston V8, Brera S and more ...
Over the weekend the legendary Nurburgring Nordschleife track was filled with literally hundreds of racing cars competing in the annual 24 Hours race. These varied from racing specials to mildly modified road cars. Volkswagen was present with three examples of the new Scirocco. They clinched a first and second in class. To commemorate the effort, VW launched the Scirocco GT24, which is virtually identical to the ring conquerors. The blue street racer was shown at the annual Worthersee gathering. It was joined by what seems to be a production ready version of the Audi TT Clubsport roadster. Audi admitted that the wild machine might be built in limited numbers.
Unusual for the time of the year, the last few days were filled with interesting new releases. Much of it focused around David Richards, who is involved in three very different new machines. Firstly Prodrive and Alfa Romeo UK collaborated to create the Alfa Romeo Brera S, which promises improved handling. Unfortunately it is limited to 500 cars and the UK only. Richards' Prodrive also showed the first shots of the Subaru Impreza WRC2008, which is based on the all new Impreza hatchback. Finally Aston Martin released the first details of the completely revamped V8 Vantage. Headlined by a larger engine, most changes have been made to the drivetrain.
Renault surprised the spectators at the Monaco Grand Prix by deploying two examples of the brand new Laguna Coupe onto the track. It was later officially unveiled at the nearby Cannes film festival. Abarth used the Mille Miglia Retrospective to unveil the 200 bhp 500 Asetto Corse.
This coming weekend, the 55 selected machines will take to the Le Mans track for the traditional official test. Among them will be the Embassy Racing WF01. We will be at the track as well and will publish a well illustrated preview before the race and a complete report after.
2008-05-22: Two winning Formula 1 racers from the recent Monaco Historic Grand Prix ...
At the recent Monaco Historic Grand Prix the most exciting cars were the Formula 1 racers built for the 3-litre era between 1966 and 1978. There were a record number of these very fast and valuable machines entered and the group was cut into two classes. In today's update we take a closer look at the winner of each group.
The 1966 - 1974 race was won by American Duncan Dayton in his beautiful Brabham BT33, which was one of three cars built for the Works team for 1970. All of them have survived and are pictured in our well illustrated feature. Sir Jack Brabham drove a BT33 to victory in the first Grand Prix of the 1970 season and looked set to challenge for his fourth World Championship. Silly mistakes and a lot of bad luck however prevented Brabham from winning another race and he retired at the end of the season.
Fellow American and professional racing driver Paul Edwards finally managed to convert his superior pace into victory after failing to do so in 2006. His ride was a Penske PC3, which unlike the Brabham never was very competitive in period. It was raced by John Watson for Roger Penske and never got a better result than fifth in a Grand Prix. The F1 effort was one of the rare failures of Penske, whose team had before and since won virtually everything it entered. As with the BT33, the PC3 article includes both cars constructed in a sparkling 18-shot gallery.
2008-05-19: $10-million Ferrari, latest automotive news and two small engined racers ...
A thirty minute bidding war at RM Auctions' Legenda e Passione Ferrari auction in Maranello ended in a startling $10-million hammer price for a 250 GT SWB California Spyder. Whether it was due to Ferrari's recent announcement of the all new California, or just two bidders not wanting to give up, the price was double the top estimate and well over twice as much as ever before bid for a California. And in our opinion, it wasn't even the nicest California in existence. Arguably the California featured in our article, which has a factory installed competition spec engine and hard-top would take those honours. What this impressive, but rather impractical auction result will do to California prices time can only tell, but it is safe to say the 50 other SWB California owners were pleased to learn about the result.
Catching up on current affairs after spending much time in Villa d'Este and at Monaco, we take a look at some of the latest releases. Audi once again showcased the potential of their TDI technology with the A3 TDI Clubsport Quattro show car that packs a 224 hp four cylinder oil burner. One of Italy's most successful designers Ercole Spada has set up shop for himself and together with his son developed this rather radical Codatronca TS. Powered by a very powerful V8 engine, it might enter production very soon. Also using V8 power, but in a completely different package are the all-new Ford FG Falcon FPV GT and slightly revised Vauxhall VXR8. Both Australian built machines offer fantastic bang for the buck.
Up until the late 1950s small displacement racing cars were hugely popular with both the manufacturers and privateer racers. Today we have lined up two particularly successful examples from two different eras. First up is the MG Magnette K3, which is considered one of the marque's finest machines. It was first raced in the 1933 Mille Miglia, beating local manufacturers like Maserati in the under 1100cc class. Pictured is one of the MM team cars. Developed two decades later, the Maserati 150S is today often forgotten, overshadowed by the company's larger engined sportscars and single seater racers. It was nevertheless highly successful and its four cylinder engine lived on into the 1960s when it powered various Formula 1 cars.
2008-05-13: Monaco Historic Grand Prix report and slideshow, and new Ferrari California ...
Every two years the preparations for the Formula 1 race on the streets of Monaco start a little earlier to get the track ready in time for the Historic Grand Prix. The bi-annual celebration of single seater racing gives enthusiasts the chance to shine on the legendary circuit. This weekend the Historic Grand Prix was held for the sixth time, welcoming around 200 fabulous classic racing cars to the principality. Many of the participants give it their absolute best, resulting in exciting races. Among the highlights were the presence of Sir Stirling Moss, the race for 1975 - 1978 Formula 1 cars and the funky Formula Juniors, which celebrated the class' Golden Jubilee.
On Saturday evening Europe's major auctioneer Bonhams held an auction, netting over 8 million euro. Top seller was a Bugatti Type 55 Super Sport with a Le Mans history that changed hands for over 2 million euro.
Our photographers were present in Monaco and captured all races and the Bonhams auction. Their findings can be found in our in-depth report and a spectacular 200-shot slideshow.
An another note, Ferrari today unveiled the first details of a brand new model. Simply dubbed the California, it follows in the footsteps of the great open Ferraris of the 1950s and 1960s. The power comes from a direct injection V8 and is transferred to the rear wheels through a dual-clutch seven-speed gearbox.
2008-05-08: Lancia Stratos; a styling icon and rally legend ...
One of Italy's great coachbuilders, Bertone, has been in financial turmoil for the last few years and at this time it is uncertain whether there is a future for the company. In the 'carrozzeria's' long history, they have built some fabulous machines like the Alfa Romeo B.A.T.s of the 1950s or the Lamborghini Miura. Today we take a closer look at perhaps one of their absolute finest works, which not only broke new ground stylistically, but also dominated the World Rally Championship for many seasons; the Lancia Stratos. An in-depth look into the history of the multi-talented machine taught us that we certainly do not have Lancia to thank for the legendary rally car. Instead it was Nuccio Bertone's persistence that finally convinced Lancia to further develop his amazing Stratos Zero Concept into a production car. Looking at the 1970 concept car, it is hard to imagine it formed the basis for the final version of the Stratos.
The reason for our Bertone tribute is our recent encounter with the pre-production prototype of the Stratos, which was built in just four months. At first glance it looks very similar to the production car, but the body is different in every detail and the Bertone built chassis features double wishbone rear suspension instead of the McPherson struts later used. Hopefully Bertone will survive and return with an another iconic vehicle like the Stratos.
Next up for us is the Monaco Historic Grand Prix, which is held this weekend. For those of you that can not make it out to the principality and also for those who do, we expect to have our well illustrated report online late on Monday.
2008-05-05: Villa d'Este highlights in pairs, wild Swiss supercar and Alpina GT3 racer ...
As promised in our full report, we today take a closer look at some of the highlights that were on display at Villa d'Este and in pairs; by Pininfarina, BMW and Touring.
One of the absolute crowd favourites was this Ferrari 206 S Dino Berlinetta Competizione, which was recently acquired directly from Pininfarina by its first owner. The 1967 Frankfurt show car has gone into history as one of the coachbuilder's absolute finest designs and one of the last great curvaceous shapes before the advent of the wedge era. That Pininfarina was already into slippery shapes from an early age can be seen by this fantastic Alfa Romeo 6C 2300 B. Although built in 1937, it could easily be mistaken for an early 1950s car.
Event patron BMW marked the 30th anniversary of the M1 supercar at Villa d'Este. They celebrated it by assembling half a dozen of the production cars as well as by showing the original 1972 Turbo Concept and the brand new BMW M1 Hommage.
Like many companies of its kind, custom coachbuilder Touring was forced to shut its doors in the 1960s. At Villa d'Este they were officially revived by the introduction of two Maserati based machines. The GranSport based A8 GCS is still a mock-up, but might enter production soon. Already available to the public is the Quattroporte based Bellagio Fastback.
While we were at Villa d'Este, Monaco hosted the annual Top Marques show. One of the most striking machines on display was this Weber Sportscar Faster One. Powered by a blown Corvette Z06 engine, it is expected top out at over 400 km/h.
Long time BMW tuner Alpina will go back to their roots by fielding a race version of the B6 in next year's GT3 championship.
2008-05-01: Monza 1000 km report and slideshow ...
For the first time in its five year history the Le Mans Series grabbed the attention of the world news, but not for the best of reasons; an absolutely horrendous accident for Stephane Ortelli in the Courage-Oreca during the Monza 1000 km. He was very fortunate to get away with 'just' a broken ankle. The massive crash showed both that while the current cars are safer than ever, motorsport is still very dangerous. It was just one of many incidents in a very eventful weekend on the classic Italian track.
Amidst the crashes, collisions and flat tyres there was an actual race going on. For the overall win, the fight was again between the two Audis and two Peugeots. Despite the speed advantage of the French machine, the outcome was not decided until the absolute closing stages of the race. There was also plenty of drama in the GT2 and LMP2 classes with surprise winners in both. The GT1 class win was closely competed with both top runners never further than a few hundred metres apart.
Our reporters were trackside to capture the action and returned with a head full of thoughts and a hard drive full of pictures. These were compressed in a full report and a compact 100-shot slideshow.