Driving Torque

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Archive for the tag “Ferrari 458 Italia”

Cholmondeley Pageant Of Power 2012

Jann Mardenborough's Nissan GTR at Cholmondeley Pageant of Power

Jann Mardenborough’s Nissan GT-R

‘Yesterday was really wet, not like today. It’s not the slipperiest track I’ve driven on in the wet of course, that’d obviously be Silverstone‘ GT Academy winner Jann Mardenborough is talking me through the previous days events that resulted in his slight coming together with an Armco as I nod in complete and blind agreement with his analysis of the perils of a wet Silverstone. Having been a passenger of Jann’s in the past whilst he demonstrated the insane Nissan Juke-R, I get the feeling that he’s here to win; coming second in his opinion is simply the first loser.

The reason I’m comparing notes with Jann is because he’s competing in the 5th Cholmondeley Pageant of Power, an annual celebration of anything with an engine including motorbikes, planes, powerboats and, of course, cars. The main focus of the three-day event which this year ran from the 15th – 17th of June was, as always, the timed run competition. Raced over a 1.2 mile section of the Cholmondeley Castle driveway, the cars are split into eight classes ranging from pre-war, all the way up to modern supercars including the raucous Ferrari 458 Italia and the Nissan GT-R being piloted by Jann.

Original 1960's AC Cobra in Black

One of the seven AC Cobra’s competing

New features for 2012 included the Top Gear Experience, the Gran Turismo Academy and Bond in Motion which showcased some of the more exciting vehicles that have appeared with 007 over the years. My personal highlight was the seven AC Cobras that had been accumulated to not only celebrate 50 years since its inception but to pay tribute to their creator – the late, great Carroll Shelby.

One other change from previous Pageants was the single-tier entry fee; in Pageants past there was an option to purchase a cheaper ticket which gave access to most areas but meant the car paddock was out-of-bounds. This year, all tickets included paddock entry which, in my opinion, was a double-edged sword. On the one hand, all visitors to the event could get better acquainted with the competing exotica, rather than only seeing them roar away from the start line and up the driveway. On the other hand, I spotted a few rather nervous looking car owners as the hugely swollen crowds bustled past their pristine paintwork, including parents, pushing prams and trying to control their understandably excitable children.

By all accounts, the weather on the first two days of the Pageant was cursed with persistent rain showers which resulted with some thrills and spills on the track but also some rather restricted timed runs. Thankfully however, the sun sporadically revealed itself from behind the clouds on the final day and as the track temperature went up, the driver’s times inevitably came down. Try as he did, Jann was helpless to prevent the impressive Scott Mansell take overall victory in the 300bhp Caterham Superlight SP/300.R with a time of 61.89 seconds. Not only was this time fast enough to win on the day, it also smashed the previous track record of 62.68 seconds, set by Nikki Faulkner in a Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera.

47 Litre Brutus competing at Cholmondeley Pageant of Power

Brutus – 47 litre BMW engine!

Some rather slower yet no less spectacular cars competing at the event were the four monstrous, pre-war, aero-engined vehicles, most famous of which is the 47 litre ‘Brutus’ who’s previously appeared on the BBC’s Top Gear programme. No matter how many times I witness these behemoths in action, the effect is always the same, shock and awe. It’s possibly best likened to standing behind the start line as a top-fuel dragster launches down the quarter-mile. The performance is somewhat more limited but with slightly ineffective, cable operated brakes to halt proceedings, that’s maybe for the best.

Other winners included the RAF who put on a hugely impressive display to win the Tri-Services Helicopter Agility competition. The opportunity to see just how well-trained and skillful our armed services are should never be passed up and the RAF were deemed to have executed their handling tests just slightly better than the competition.

The most deserving winner of the weekend was undoubtedly the Pageant itself however. The organisers and sponsors efforts were quite rightly rewarded with record crowds of over 50,000 people. In spite of the unseasonal weather, the public came in their droves to witness over 120 cars and bikes competing on the track and to be wowed by the 1000+ vehicles on display. Here’s to next year when some overdue sunshine would surely see the Cholmondleley Pageant of Power go from strength to strength.

By Ben Harrington

Jann Mardenborough's Nissan GTR after collision with armco

Oops!!!

Don Law's Jaguar XJ220 in full Martini livery

Jaguar XJ220 in full racing colours. One of Don Law’s impressive array of cars

Bentley Speed 8 Le Mans car

Bentley Speed 8

For Richer or Poorer – Are our cars an accurate reflection of today’s society?

The rich are getting richer and the poor are helping them get there. For a few years now, the headlines have been dominated by global, double-dip recessions and credit being crunched beyond all recognition and yet some small pockets of society seem to be  immune to these awful afflictions. On the contrary, certain, more affluent members of the population are reeking of their own grotesque prosperity, seemingly oblivious to the general mood of the masses.

Multi Millionaire - Premiership Footballer Carlos Tevez

Carlos Tevez – laughing all the way to the bank

Footballers are one such group that spring to mind. You can’t blame them; combine the prospect of a short career with an IQ smaller than their (sponsored) boot size and a parasitic agent who doesn’t even have the decency to work up a sweat for his money and who wouldn’t take every penny they could get?  Of course, the irony is that without us plebs trying to enhance our humdrum lives by cheering on our team of choice every week, no-one would go to football matches, pay Sky to watch football matches or buy replica shirts for easy tribal recognition and where would the footballers be then? The world of finance shares similar ironies, every week new reports surface from the seemingly failing banking world, detailing the inflated bonuses being received by the head honchos, on top of their already inflated salaries. If my memory serves me correctly, this whole mess was kicked off by these same bankers irresponsibly lending money to people who quite obviously couldn’t afford the repayments.

Car manufacturers have by no means been immune to this worldwide recession with automotive giants such as Ford and GM staring into the precipice of permanent oblivion, holding onto their lives by the skin of their teeth. Some long-established marques such as Saab have gone by the wayside but hopefully we’re on the better side of things and the car industry as a whole can go onwards and upwards, back into profit.

The Bugatti Veyron L'Or Blanc - Highly Exclusive

Bugatti Veyron L’Or Blanc

How different manufacturers have gone about this seems to fall into two categories. Some of the traditionally more luxurious marques have taken a huge gamble and made their products even more exclusive, even more out of reach of the masses whereas the other 90% of cars on the road are apparently made to be as cheap to run as possible. Take Ferrari for example. Thankfully, no-one on the board at Ferrari has ever sat down and announced that their products are just a bit too shouty and maybe they should look into the practicalities of an MPV. On the contrary, Ferrari have obviously realised that if you can afford to pay a lot for a supercar, you can afford a lot more and so that’s how much the price of their mid-engined supercars has risen in the past five years. In 2007, an F430 would have set you back £128,000. Today, if you can find one, the F430’s replacement – the 458 Italia would set you back upwards of £160,000. That’s an increase of  25% but has it deterred buyers? Has it heck, supply can’t keep up with demand because when you’re in the market for a new Italian supercar, an extra £32,000 makes little to no difference. Maybe this is partly due to what I call the ‘Veyron effect’. When Bugatti unleashed this hyper car on the world it came complete with a mind-boggling array of huge, impressive numbers. 1,000 horsepower, 0-60 in 2.5s and a top speed of over 250 mph. The one fact that everyone remembers though is the list price of $1,000,000. All of a sudden there was a car being manufactured that was out of the reach of your everyday lottery winner, this one set the rich apart from the super-rich at a time when the rest of the world was worrying about job security and mortgage payments. The likes of Lamborghini, Rolls-Royce and Porsche must have thought all their Christmases had come at once, they could add a few thousand pounds to the list price of their entire range because they knew that they had a ‘get out of jail free’ card – compared to the price of a Veyron, all of their products cost peanuts.

Of course, every action must have a reaction and in the real world that 99% of us live in, the way in which we buy cars has also altered. In the past we would gauge our opinions towards the cars we drove in various ways but they would usually  involve either how quickly they got us from A to B or in how much comfort, that was it. These days, no matter what, the first thing someone will think of when they consider a particular car is what MPG it can achieve and which tax bracket it will fall into. It’s become a national obsession and when you think about it, it’s bordering on the ridiculous. Just because the world’s finances are in a bit of a mess, why can’t cars that are made for the general population be interesting instead of just frugal?

Ford's 1.0l Ecoboost Engine

Ford Ecoboost Engine

Take Ford for example. They’ve recently announced that the Focus will soon be available with an all new engine. Through wizardry and witchcraft, this five door, family hatchback will be powered by a 1.0 litre unit, it’s block being smaller than an A4 sheet of paper. Whether this will result in the Focus becoming the most terminally boring car on the planet to drive or not hasn’t been mentioned, probably because Ford don’t really care. As long as the emissions from the exhaust are lower than their competitors, that’s all that truly matters as that’s what sells cars.

The world of used cars has also suffered from this phenomenon and their value can vary dramatically dependant on how much the annual tax bill will cost, even if a far cheaper model is only £50 a year more expensive to tax. £50! That wouldn’t even pay for a meal for two in a half decent restaurant and yet many people will dismiss a perfectly good automobile on the basis that it’s less powerful, less luxurious sibling will save them this paltry amount once a year.

What I think I’m trying to say here is that if the makers of luxurious marques for more affluent people want to charge what they want and can get away with it, good for them. But to the manufacturers of the majority of the world’s cars- have the nerve to go back to letting the quality and driving experience of your products be what sells the car. Let owning a car return to being the pleasurable experience it once was for all of us instead of simply trying to make car ownership seem like one expensive chore that the masses can little afford and could do without.

By Ben Harrington

Ferrari 458-: Prancing Pony or Braying Donkey?

One of the many qualities we possess as human beings is the scarcely believable yet inescapable truth that all 7 billion of us are individuals. Inevitably this equates to every single one of us having our own unique viewpoint on any given subject, even if the differences in our opinions are sometimes miniscule. Thankfully, in Western society we value the right to free speech and thought very highly and are quick to chastise oppressive regimes who seek to silence their adversaries.

Ferrari 458 Italia in yellow going around a track

Ferrari 458 Italia

I’m now going to fully exercise my rights and voice an opinion that I feel will be both unpopular and fairly unique. It relates to Ferrari’s 458 Italia, the latest 200mph, mid engine creation from Maranello. It possesses an astonishing V8 engine, capable of producing 562bhp and, oh I’m just avoiding the point I actually want to make here – IT IS NOT A PRETTY CAR!

There, I’ve said it and I feel much better for it, thank you. Now, before I’m hanged from the nearest suitable tree, please grant me the opportunity to quantify my argument. When one envisages Ferrari, the two words that I imagine would materialise for many people are ‘speed’ and ‘beauty’, not necessarily in that order.

I’m fairly sure that the reason for Ferrari’s enduring popularity is less to do with Formula One and power stats and more to do with the universal acceptance that their road going offerings hold the same overwhelmingly attractive visual qualities when static as they do on the red line at 202mph.

For decades, children and adults alike have placed pictures of Ferraris on their walls, ranging from the sleek lines of the 250 GTO to the elegance of my personal favourite, the F355. Endless women who openly admit to having little automotive passion still can’t help but glance yearningly if a Ferrari should come into view and I just don’t feel that the 458 lives up to its more attractive predecessors.

Mclaren mp4-12c Orange

McLaren MP4-12C

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve not been fortunate enough to drive one and I’m not doubting for one minute that it is stupendous fun from behind the wheel. Every single review states that this is a real tour de force for Ferrari and the opposition may as well pack up and go home. One review I read recently though really confirmed my fears regarding the 458’s visual appeal. The review in question was assessing the Italia’s abilities when put against a close competitor – the McLaren MP4 – 12C. The result was astonishingly close it terms of speed and agility but what I simply couldn’t draw myself away from was how similar the two cars looked.

Now, McLaren have either made or contributed in making some of the finest driving machines ever, fact. Their engineering prowess is unquestionable and much of the technology they develop for their F1 cars then appears on their road cars, this can be no bad thing when your primary objective is getting quickly from point to point. What McLaren are not renowned for however is producing beautiful machines. I’m not saying they’re ugly but function over form is evidently their mantra, I mean, even the name MP4-12C sounds functional, kind of like a washing machine.

Ferrari 458 front view in red

Ferrari 458

McLaren MP4-12C in white front view

McLaren MP4-12C

If you place the 458 Italia and the MP4-12C next to each other, their similarity is evident for all to see and this is my point. A Ferrari has always been instantly recognisable, take away its badges and most people would successfully pick one out in a line-up. The 458 however seems to have somehow been born lacking some of this Ferrari-ness and the world can only be a far more wretched place when you take away Ferrari-ness.

By Ben Harrington

News

Ferrari 458 Italia on Fire

Flaming Ferrari 458 Italia

Following several internet reports of Ferrari’s latest model, the 458 Italia being involved in fires, the Modena based firm have released the following official statment -: “The company is currently investigating the particular incidents in which cars have apparently been involved in a vehicle fire, and it is currently treating these as separate incidents.”

Thankfully no people have been killed or injured in these fires but Ferrari’s acknowledgement of the problem surely indicates that they are worried.

The 458 has been received with critical acclaim and is widely regarded as Ferrari’s greatest achievement for a long time. Let’s hope the bubble isn’t about to burst (into a ball of flames) as it would be a shame for this magnificent car to be tarnished by such a potentially dangerous problem.

By Ben Harrington

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