2010-03-31: Two very hot hatches, Hennessey Venom revealed and limited Lexus LFA ...
With the very extreme Focus RS, Ford produced one of the fastest hot hatches of recent years. It is the final version of the current model Focus still available and will be phased out later this year. Despite having been produced for less than two years well over 11,000 examples will have been built by then. To celebrate the success an even hotter version has been announced. Evocatively dubbed the RS500, the satin black hatch packs a 350 bhp punch. Amazingly, all that power is only transferred to the tarmac through the front wheels. The iconic name is a reference to the limited production run of 500 examples.
For decades the Cosworth badge was found exclusively on Ford products but times have changed. The high performance specialists have now worked their magic on the Subaru Impreza STI. Known as the Impreza CS400, Cosworth Subaru is limited to just 75 cars. The flat-4 engine has been reworked to produce a staggering 395 bhp (hence the name). The single teaser image released a few weeks ago has now been complemented by more informations and unfortunately three additional teaser images. We will of course let you know when complete images are available.
After frequent updates, Hennessey have now officially revealed the Venom GT supercar. The Lotus Elise based machine features a Corvette ZR1 sourced engine and a bespoke carbon fibre body. The 'base' model uses a 725 bhp version of the supercharged V8. Twin turbo systems are optional and literally boost the power to a staggering 1000 or 1200 bhp. With a kerb-weight of under 1100kg, all three engine configurations will provide neck-snapping performance. Only 10 examples are scheduled to be built and four have already been sold.
Two weeks ago we already announced Lexus' plans to return to the Nurburgring 24 Hours race with a competition version of the high performance LFA. To mark that occasion, Toyota's luxury arm will build a limited number of road cars with the 'Nurburgring' package. This includes aero tweaks on the nose, a sizeable rear wing and a slightly more powerful version of the V10 engine. Only 50 examples will be available, which are part of the 500-car production run.
2010-03-29: Jaguar's ultimate Group C car, CTS-V Wagon, Mustang GT Convertible and more on the R15 plus ...
In the early 1990s, some of the fastest sports cars of all time were built. These second generation Group C cars used Formula 1 engines and ground-effect aerodynamics. Despite 150 kg weight penalty these cars were believed to be almost as fast as or even faster than contemporary F1 cars. TWR Jaguar called in F1 designer Ross Brawn to design the XJR-14. Pitched against similar cars from Peugeot and Toyota, the exquisite Jaguar clinched the 1991 World Sportscar Championship. In 1992 the cars were raced in the United States where the mighty Toyota-Eagles proved too much for the more fragile XJR-14s. After the program ended one of the cars that had raced as a Jaguar had its roof removed and was fitted with a Porsche engine. In this guise, the former XJR-14 won Le Mans outright in 1996 and 1997. In a very rare outing we caught up with an XJR-14 at the recent Goodwood press preview. We have been ensured that the car will be back for the Festival of Speed for all to see and hear.
This week's car news comes from the United States where the annual New York Auto Show will kick off this Thursday. Cadillac will preview the CTS-V Sport Wagon, the third version of the CTS based high performance cars. With 556 bhp on tap, it has to be one of the fastest estates available today. Ford completed the 2011 model-year Mustang line-up by revealing the GT Convertible at a big event in California. It shares the sophisticated 412 bhp V8 engine with the Coupe model launched a few months ago.
Earlier this month we published the first pictures of Audi's new Le Mans challenger, the R15 plus. Immediately after last week's Sebring 12 Hours, the German manufacturer tested the car on the bumpy airfield track. It was certainly a mixed session for the eight-time Le Mans winners as the car suffered a big accident. After conclusion of the test, Audi did release four more pictures of the very interestingly styled sports racer. The R15 plus will make its debut at next month's Le Mans Series' eight-hour season opener at Le Castellet. We will be there to bring you all the news and a full report of the Le Mans Series race and the Classic Endurance Racing event, which has a 60+ car entry.
2010-03-26: The four surviving Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Corto Touring Spiders in full detail ...
This year Alfa Romeo is 100 years old and that occasion will be marked at all the major events. The history of the legendary Italian manufacturer can be divided in two distinct parts. Up until 1952 Alfa Romeo built some of the finest cars of the period that were raced with great success in all the major races. After winning the first two Formula 1 World Championships, the company realised its survival depended on scaling up production so a brand new line of more affordable cars was launched. Although now available to the masses they still had the same pedigree as the great pre-War cars. Kicking off our celebrations we take a look at one of the company's finest cars today.
Arguably the greatest Alfa Romeo road car of all time is the 8C 2900B introduced in 1937. It shared its Grand Prix derived chassis and engine with the 1936 and 1937 Mille Miglia winning 8C 2900As and can very well be considered the very first supercar. With independent suspension on all four corners and a twin-supercharged straight eight engine, the 8C 2900 really was a racing car for the road. Around thirty road cars were built, first with a 2800 mm and later with a slightly longer 3000 mm wheelbase. Touring built a majority of the bodies for these exclusive cars and offered an open and closed version of the same basic design. On the short chassis they built six 'Spiders' of which four have survived. All of them are pictured in our 24-shot gallery, which illustrates a detailed article. Underlining the 8C 2900's exclusivity is that two of the cars featured were originally owned by royals; Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands and the Maharajah of Indore, who was one of the richest men in the world. One of the other examples was the first ever Alfa Romeo to win the much coveted 'Best of Show' at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance back in 1985. Pebble Beach will once again honour Alfa Romeo this year, and three of the Touring Spiders are pictured at Pebble in 2005 when Alfa Romeo was also the featured marque. We caught up with the ex-Prince Bernhard car at Goodwood earlier in the month and that car will be one of the stars of the Concours d'Elegance during the upcoming Festival of Speed.
All of these cars have very interesting histories and these are fabulously chronicled in Simon Moore's masterpiece the 'Immortal 2.9', which has recently been updated and reprinted. It's a highly recommended read for all Alfisti and car enthusiasts in general.
2010-03-24: New Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG and BMW Z4 GT3 cars ...
In 2006 the GT3 class was added to the FIA GT roster and immediately featured a big grid. Thanks to the, at times controversial, performance balancing, a variety of production based machinery can race wheel to wheel. A fine example of the diversity in the class are the two new cars launched by Mercedes-Benz and BMW this week.
During the market introduction of the road car, Mercedes-Benz surprised the world with the SLS AMG GT3. It comes too late for the upcoming season with the first deliveries not expected until the end of the year. The company's first GT3 racer features a massive rear wing and a deep chin spoiler. It will use the same 6.3 litre engine as the production car and a paddle-operated six speed sequential gearbox. The exact performance of the engine well depend on several performance balancing sessions to be conducted by the FIA's official test drivers. The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 will definitely be a striking addition to the GT3 grid.
The BMW Z4 GT3 was first tested earlier in the month and will already be available for the 2010 season. The biggest change compared to the road going version is found under the bonnet. In road trim a six cylinder is the biggest available engine but that did not stop the Motorsport department from fitting a V8 in the new GT3 racer. It is not just any V8; it is the exact same engine as used by the M3 GT2 car. BMW expect it to produce 480 bhp and that power will be transferred to the rear wheels through a six-speed gearbox. The new Z4 GT3 can be seen in action in national and international GT3 championships as well as in big endurance races like the Nurburgring 24 Hours.
2010-03-22: 2010 Goodwood Preview and Ayrton Senna's first Formula 1 car ...
At a special press preview last week in front of Goodwood House, Lord March outlined the plans for this season's Festival of Speed and Revival. He announced the main theme for the Festival (Viva Veloce - The Passion for Speed) and the subjects of the parades during the Revival (John Surtees and BRM). The biggest news was the addition of a fourth day to the Festival of Speed. Dubbed the 'Moving Motor Show', it will enable manufacturers to not only show their latest cars but also have potential customers sample them on a special route, which includes the famous hill. After the announcements a few dozen vintage and modern machinery were let loose, both on the hill climb and on the rally stage on the top of the hill. Journalists were offered rides and we ended the day strapped in a Lancia 037. Before that we were treated to the first public outing of the McLaren MP4-12C road car and a very rare appearance of a Jaguar XJR-14 in action. Other highlights included a beautifully patinated Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B, Fangio's famous Maserati 250 F and the UDT-Laystall Ferrari 250 GTO.
Full details on the upcoming events at Goodwood can be found in our Goodwood Preview, which is illustrated by a 110-shot gallery.
Yesterday the late Ayrton Senna would have turned 50. That occasion was marked at Goodwood through the presence of a Toleman TG 183B, which was the first ever Formula 1 car raced by the Brazilian legend. He used the car for the first four races of the 1984 in anticipation of the TG 184, in which he would shine at that year's Monaco Grand Prix. Designed by Rory Byrne the TG 183B was a development of the first carbon fibre Toleman F1 car. In ground-effect form the TG 183 was used in the second half of 1982. The TG 183B was created to comply with the new flat-bottom regulations introduced at the start of 1983. Towards the end of the season, the car started to work really well and 10 points were scored in the last four Grands Prix. In his four races with the car, Senna managed to finish sixth twice, scoring the first two points of his career. The TG 183B at Goodwood had been freshly restored and we expect it to be back in July for the Festival of Speed.
2010-03-19: Three six-cylinder sports cars that starred at Retrombile ...
One of the great things about the annual Retromobile show in Paris is that it each year features the rarest of the rare. At this year's show we were treated to three very special sports cars from the late 1940s and early 1950s. The one thing they had in common was the use of a six cylinder engine.
The earliest of the trio is the Nardi-Danese Alfa Romeo created in 1948 by Enrico Nardi, who would later become legendary for the steering wheels that bear his name. In partnership with Renato Danese, he built a series of cycle fender sports cars of which three were powered by Alfa Romeo's 6C 2500 engine. The cars were raced in the Mille Miglia and Targa Florio but poor reliability prevented them to get notable results. Our article features two of the three Nardi-Daneses that were powered by the Alfa Romeo engine and fitted with the Rocco Motto cycle-fender body.
Celebrating the introduction of the all new SLS AMG, Mercedes-Benz brought the last 'W194' 300 SL competition car built in 1952. It is a development of the cars that brought Mercedes-Benz victories in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Carrera Panamericana. Built for the 1953 season, it features a direct-injection version of the straight six engine and a more efficient 'gull-wing' body. The improvements resulted in a 40 bhp hike in power and a 20 km/h higher top speed. Instead of racing the car, Mercedes-Benz decided to focus all their intention on the 1954 Formula 1 campaign. Only rarely seen in public the never-raced 300 SL Prototype made a welcome appearance at Retromobile.
Under the guidance of the legendary Italian engineer Vittorio Jano, Lancia built some of the finest racing cars during a brief period in the 1950s. First introduced as the D20 in the spring of 1953, the V6-engined sports racer was rapidly developed. In D24 guise, the car proved most successful with wins in the Carrera Panamericana, Targa Florio and Mille Miglia. Towards the end of 1954, a final evolution was launched. Dubbed the D25, it used a 3.7 litre and 305 bhp version of Jano's V6. It was only raced once as Lancia also opted to leave sports car racing for Formula with the equally impressive D50. Lancia brought their D25, which is the only known survivor, to Paris.
2010-03-17: Porsche Museum Visit and the Lexus LFA racing car ...
In January 2009 the brand new Porsche Museum opened across the street from the company's Zuffenhausen factory. It was a major improvement compared to Porsche's original museum, which served the German manufacturer for more than three decades despite its capacity of just 20 cars. Responsible for the imposing design of the purpose-built facility was Austrian architect office Delugan Meissel. Quite in contrast with the spectacular exterior, the museum's interior is clean and sober. As a result all the focus is on what is really important; the cars. In total around 80 Porsche and Porsche designed vehicles are on display. These range from the early Porsche 356s, several Le Mans winners to some of Porsche's latest products. One of the museum's biggest displays is dedicated to the legendary 917 sports racer. It features six distinct versions, including the 1971 Le Mans winer and the awe-inspiring 917/30 Can-Am car.
Earlier this month we spent a day in the new Porsche Museum. This has resulted in a detailed article and a 100-shot gallery. In the coming weeks you can expect individual features on several of the museum's most spectacular cars
Audi and Lexus revealed the first details of their 2010 racing programs this week. The most hotly anticipated of these was the Audi R15 plus. This rather dramatically styled evolution of the controversial R15 was required to comply with the slightly modified regulations. Whether this will be enough to regain the German company's stronghold on endurance racing remains to be seen. From the Castellet 8 Hours Le Mans Series race in April, we will be keeping a close eye on the build-up to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Lexus yesterday announced a competition version of the LFA supercar launched late last year. Two of these will compete in the Nurburgring 24 Hours race in May. It will not be the V10-engined machine's debut at the 'Ring; the prototypes already raced in the endurance classic several times before.
2010-03-15: Ferrari F10 takes first win and a closer look at Mario Andretti's Lotus 79 ...
Yesterday the 2010 Formula 1 World Championship kicked off in earnest with the Bahrain Grand Prix. With four world champions on the grid and up to four teams expected to fight for wins, it was one of the most highly anticipated season starts of recent years. While the return of Michael Schumacher grabbed the most headlines, his old team Ferrari went into the race as the favourite. During qualifying the Italian team's drivers Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa were nevertheless upstaged by Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel. In the race the young German proved his ingenious, Adrian Newey designed machine was much more than a one-lap wonder. Unfortunately he dropped from the lead when one of the eight spark-plugs on his Renault engine failed. This cleared the way for Alonso to score a one-two debut win for Ferrari in his Ferrari F10. This early win justified Ferrari's controversial decision to abandon the 2009 car halfway through the season and concentrate fully on the F10. Its most unusual feature is the slightly angled engine, which frees up more space for the double diffuser.
On the other end of the grid newly established Lotus Racing delivered the best performance of the three new teams. With both cars completing the race, the cars were remarkably reliable. At Bahrain it was also announced that Lotus' last World Champion, Mario Andretti, would get some role within the new team. He also drove one of his old cars in the parade of champions. That reminded us of a set of photos we had laying around of Andretti driving a Lotus 79 around Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca some years ago. Although it was also a parade, he looked seriously quick as he threw up the dust through the legendary 'Corkscrew' corner. It was in the revolutionary Lotus 79 that he scored his greatest successes. The smart 'ground-effect' racing car swept all before it in the second half of the 1978 season. Our detailed article also features pictures of a second example that is regularly demonstrated by Clive Chapman's Classic Team Lotus.
On a complete different note; the Voisin and Duesenberg we featured last week topped their respective auctions this weekend. The French machine changed hands for a very impressive $2.75 million at Gooding while RM Auctions managed to go well over the top estimate with the 'Whittell Mistress' car selling for just over $1.7 million.
2010-03-12: Three spectacular 1930s machines headed for auction later this weekend at Amelia Island ...
The fifteenth annual Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance this weekend will kick off with not one but two auctions. Tonight Gooding & Company will host their inaugural sale on the Floridian island at the Amelia Island Plantation. RM Auctions will follow suit tomorrow afternoon with their traditional sale in the yard of the Ritz Carlton hotel, which will also host the main show on Sunday.
Quite a few of the cars offered by RM are from the John O'Quinn estate. Until his untimely passing late last year, he had gradually built up one of America's finest collection of classic cars. One of the most famous machines from his collection to be offered on Saturday is this Duesenberg J Murphy Sport Berline. Better known as the 'Whittell Mistress' car, it sports a very striking four-door body and was gifted by Duesenberg's best customer Captain George Whittell Jr. to his lady friend Jessie McDonald. It has since been owned by some of America's best known collectors including J.B. Nethercutt, Bill Harrah and Oscar Davis. The pre-sale estimate on the one-off Duesenberg is a cool $1.2 - 1.5 million.
From the fine selection cars to go under the Gooding hammer tonight we picked two beautiful French creations that come from the same collection. For us the star car is the Voisin C20 'Mylord' Demi-Berline, which was awarded the 'Best of Show' award at Amelia Island last year. It combines Gabriel Voisin's trademark styling with a beautiful sleeve-valve V12 engine. As far as we know, this is the only surviving V12-engined Voisin. The only other known Voisin V12 engine is found in the equally spectacular Bucciali. Before its Amelia Island appearance the Voisin was completely restored and it should run as well as it looks.
Built slightly later in the decade as the first two cars is the Peugeot 402 Darl'mat. Instigated by Parisian Peugeot dealer Emile Darl'mat, this small sports cars featured Peugeot underpinnings and a light, aerodynamic body designed by Georges Paulin and built by Pourtout. The competition version was driven to a class win at Le Mans in 1938. It is believed that less than two dozen examples of all versions have survived and this Roadster must rank as one of the finest; it won the special Paulin / Pourtout class at Pebble Beach in 2004.
2010-03-10: Latest news and the Geneva Motorshow round-up ...
This week AMG introduced the company's latest high performance engine with the Mercedes-Benz S 63 AMG Showcar, which surprisingly did not appear in Geneva. Liveried like the legendary AMG racing car that won its class during the 1971 Spa 24 Hours race, it provides a preview of the upcoming production model. Under the bonnet it sports a smaller but turbocharged version of the much acclaimed quad-cam AMG V8 engine. Displacing just under 5.5 litre, it produces a hefty 571 bhp when fitted with the AMG Performance package. Another car that could just as well been shown at Geneva is this Citroen GQ Concept. It was developed exclusively for the Gentleman Quarterly Magazine.
Corvette will mark the company's 50th anniversary at Le Mans with the limited edition Z06 Carbon. This lightweight version combines the standard Z06 drivetrain with the suspension and brakes of the ZR1, which must give it superb handling characteristics. Only 500 will be built.
Although tucked away in a corner, the RUF RGT-8 was one of our favourite cars in Geneva. While it still uses a Porsche sourced body, it is powered by a bespoke V8 engine. The racing inspired unit features dry-sump lubrication and produces 550 bhp. RUF intends to start RGT-8 production in 2011. Another absolute highlight was the Lotus Evora 414E Hybrid. The car's advanced hybrid drivetrain looks like one of the most efficient options yet developed despite producing in excess of 400 bhp.
The German tuner companies were also well represented at the Swiss show. Brabus launched the E V12 Coupe and Techart had a first go at the Panamera with the Concept One.
In our Geneva article we were a little dismissive of the latest Hispano Suiza. A closer look revealed that the makers are very serious about producing the new Gallardo based coupe. In Hispano Suiza trim, the V10 engine produces 750 bhp. At the moment the car has not received a name. We were told that will be revealed within a few weeks.
2010-03-08: The Italian stars from the Geneva International Motorshow ...
Traditionally the Italian manufacturers and design houses reserve their finest releases for the Geneva International Motorshow and as you could see in our exclusive report last week, this year's edition was no exception. Today we take a closer look at the individual cars that starred at the Swiss show.
Both Bertone and Pininfarina celebrated Alfa Romeo's centenary with exceptional concept cars. Our favourite was the very extreme Pandion, designed and built by Stile Bertone. Based on 8C Competizione underpinnings, the fully functional coupe sports many organic shapes, large glass areas and enormous doors. Compared to the wild Bertone, Pininfarina's 2uettottanta is a rather more understated show car. A clear tribute to the great Pininfarina styled Alfa Romeo Spiders, it also marks the 80th anniversary of the two companies' first joint effort.
After an absence of many decades, Touring returned to Geneva with the Bentley derived Flying Star. There are plans for a limited run of this stylish 'shooting brake', which is built with approval of Bentley and can be serviced at the marque's dealers.
Green was the main theme in Geneva and that is certainly the correct description for the Ferrari HY-KERS Concept and not only because of its striking paint-job. Based on the 599 GTB production car, the experimental machine features a KERS system similar to the one used on the Ferrari Formula 1 car in 2009. Italdesign / Giugiaro presented the Proton Emas; the first of a family of small, environmentally friendly cars. It uses the Lotus Engineering developed hybrid drivetrain that was also fitted to the Lotus 414E.
Fortunately Geneva also had its share of old fashioned supercars; a very Italian speciality. Lamborghini took the wraps of the Gallardo LP570-4 Superleggera. As the name suggests, it is considerably lighter but also features a more powerful version of the direct-injection V10 engine. Pagani continued the farewell tour of the Zonda with the introduction of yet another limited edition model. Dubbed the Tricolore, it is a tribute to the Italian Frecce Tricolori aerobatics team.
2010-03-03: 2010 Geneva Motorshow report and slideshow ...
Tomorrow morning the 80th annual Geneva Motor Show will open its doors to the public for the first time. The eager crowd will definitely not be disappointed with the displays provided by the mainstream and speciality manufacturers. After a rather sedate edition in 2009, the exhibitors have once again pulled out all stops to impress the gathered world media and potential consumers. Looking at this year's Geneva show it is hard to imagine that the industry is still far from healthy. Lavish concept cars and cutting-edge eco-friendly vehicles vie for the most attention. If there is only one thing to take away from the 2010 show it is that supercar manufacturers like Porsche and Ferrari are no longer immune for the hybrid trend. Particularly Porsche's 918 Spyder Concept showed that green can also very, very cool. There were many more reasons why this year's edition stands as one of the most exciting of recent years. Bertone, for example, made a grand return after a two-year absence with a spectacular show car that combines classic Alfa Romeo shapes with organic elements. In addition to the exotic one-off machinery, many interesting production cars also saw the first light of day in Geneva. Alfa Romeo's Giulietta and Volvo's S60 were among the most prominent. Green was once again the main theme and we feel Lotus showed the way forward with the Evora 414E Concept, which uses electric motors and a purpose built petrol engine as a generator.
Our photographers were on the floor for the better of two days to capture everything of interest in great detail. All the material gathered has been compiled in a 1700-word report and a mouth-watering 340-shot gallery.
2010-03-01: Last minute Koenigsegg, Lamborghini and Porsche news from Geneva ...
On the eve of the 80th annual Geneva Motorshow, Koenigsegg have released the full details of the new Agera. Intended as an extension of the range, the Agera's introduction coincides with the 15th anniversary of Koenigsegg. Much of the mechanical package of the CCX and CCXR has been retained but the engine has been further improved to produce a staggering 910 bhp and 1100 Nm of torque. The styling is still very familiar but the many detail changes have given the original Koenigsegg design a new lease of life. The car at Geneva is a pre-production prototype and will be tested extensively in the coming months. The final production version of the Agera is expected to be launched before the end of the year.
Lamborghini will extend the current Gallardo range with a Superleggera version. As the name suggests, it is a lighter (70 kg or 154 lb to be exact) and more poised version of the V10-engined model. Compared to the 'standard' model, it also sports a slightly more powerful version of the direct-injection ten cylinder. It is capable of a 325 km/h (202 mph) top speed and the sprint to 100 km/h (96 mph) takes just 3.4 seconds. In this case faster also means greener; the Gallardo LP570-4 Superleggera's CO2 emissions have been reduced by 20% compared to its predecessor.
One of the big surprises of this year's Geneva show must surely be the Porsche 918 Spyder. We believe the name is a reference to the hugely successful 718 RS Spyder racing cars of the 1950s and '60s but the new concept car's technology is cutting edge. The aggressively styled roadster features a mid-mounted V8 engine and three electric motors. The potent yet green drivetrain emits just 70 gram CO2 per kilometre and it uses just 3 litre per 100 kilometre (94 mpg).
We will be on the show-floor from tomorrow morning and will take a very close look at all the exciting new machines for you.