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Archive for the tag “Lamborghini”

Cholmondeley Pageant of Power 2013

Lamborghini LP570 Superleggera CPOP

Lamborghini LP570 Superleggera

So, last Sunday represented that time of year again. A time for card makers to rejoice and all the dads of the world to enjoy breakfast in bed and other such pleasantries – it was, of course, father’s day. There is a slight element of irony then, in the fact that I spent most of last sunday at the mother of all pageants – the Cholmondeley Pageant of Power.

Now in its sixth year, the format continued in the same vein as previous events with copious amounts of fossil fuels being sacrificed in the air, on the water and on land, all in the name of competitive entertainment. The main focus of the Pageant (CPOP) is the many millions of pounds worth of automotive exotica, split into various classes and all racing against the clock around a twisty, hay-bale lined, 1.3 mile section of Cholomondeley Castle’s very own driveway.

Fortunately for me, the rain that blighted the first two days had very much dissipated by the time of my arrival on the Sunday. The sunshine is always a very welcome sight at CPOP, not only for raising the spirits of the ever-increasing crowds, but also to keep the action on-track moving without delays for puddle removal. Previous years had also seen heavy rain causing issues off-track, with certain areas of the grounds descending into a bog-like state as it was trampled underfoot. Not this year though; tell-tale grooves across the estate were obvious signs of just how much work had gone into improving drainage and the results were impressive with very few areas of mud.

Racing Truck jumps over bridge CPOP

Truck + 1000bhp + Narrow Bridge = Very brave driver

Some of the cars competing around the track are, quite literally, priceless and it’s hardly surprising that many owners want to take it a little steadier than others, particularly when negotiating the first bend that, very inconveniently leads straight onto a bridge over the mere – it certainly looked narrow from where I was standing!

Then there’s the other type of driver – the ones who harbour that competitive instinct that just refuses to die. The likes of Justin Law, always looking to win at not only CPOP but Goodwood too, in his family-owned collection of Jaguars that include XJ220s and an XJR15. Special mention must also be given to David Jenkins who piloted his 1000bhp, Man TGX truck around the fairly narrow track without letting up for a second – a very brave man.

Ford Fiesta R5 Rally car

Elfyn Evans shows that half the cost can equal twice the fun!

This year saw the arrival of Wales Rally GB at CPOP and they had their own village section with a wide selection of rally cars from the ’70s, 80’s and 90’s on display, including a couple of WRC cars driven by a certain Mr McRae. This November will see the forests of Wales festooned with a new breed of rally cars including the Ford Fiesta R5. Rallying has been hit with financial issues in recent years and this new breed are roughly half as costly as WRC cars of the past. If you’re under any illusions as to how this will affect the appeal of rallying, I can assure you that these cut-price cars are just as exciting as their predecessors and their drivers seemed to be determined to show off the new machines’ capabilities around the CPOP track.

Aston Martin and Lamborghini have been celebrating this year as they are 100 and 50 years old respectively. Both marques were displaying models past and present at CPOP, possibly most notably being the first public appearance in the UK of Lamborghini’s all new, 700bhp Aventador LP700-4 Roadster.

Robbie Kerr Wins CPOP in Radical

Overall winner Robbie Kerr flying through the air on his way to a record lap

Overall winner around the track went to racing driver Robbie Kerr in his Radical RXC. Not only did he win the event overall, but he smashed the previous circuit record by 6.6 seconds with a blistering 55.29 lap, racing through the speed-trap at 129mph.

Cholmondeley Pageant of Power 2013 – Overall Race Results

1. Robbie Kerr, Radical RXC – 55.29 seconds

2. Scott Mansell, Caterham SP/300.R – 56.53 seconds

3. Gary Thomas, Force PC – 58.59 seconds

4. Christian Iddon, Husaberg FS 650 Factory – 59.40 seconds

5. Jordan Witt, Chevron GT3 – 60.71 seconds

6. Niki Faulkner, Ariel Atom 3.5 – 61.18 seconds

7. Oliver Webb, BAC Mono – 62.15 seconds

8. Tim Marshall-Rowe, Lamborghini LP570 Superleggera – 62.64 seconds

9. Richard Blakeman, KTM 450 – 62.89 seconds

10. Chris Hodgson, KTM – 62.95 seconds

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VW buy Porsche, what’s the big deal?

vw buys porsche logoSo, in a bizarre twist of events, Volkswagen have finally bought the remaining 50.1% shares it didn’t already own in sports-car giant Porsche in a deal that cost VW  a whopping £5.4bn including repaying Porsche’s £1.9bn debt. I say bizarre because in the not too distant past, Porsche were raiding their own copper-jar to amass the funds needed to buy Volkswagen. Confusing, eh?

If you’ve been living on Mars for the last four years, you’ll be blissfully unaware of the changes that have occurred to the global economic climate. Porsche haven’t been afforded this luxury however and it’s this worldwide recession, coupled with tragic timing that has left them in a position of unaffordable repayments on the loan they acquired in order to purchase Volkswagen.

1970's Porsche 914 in green

Porsche 914

So, that’s a brief history of how we came to be in this position but what does this unification mean in the real world? Volkswagen and Porsche have been inextricably linked since a certain German megalomaniac ordered Ferdinand Porsche to build him a car for the people and the VW Type 1 (Beetle) was born. Since then, the two marques have never been poles apart, even co-producing the mid-engined Porsche 914 in the 1970s. More recently, the two companies have shared various components on their Touareg and Cayenne models, along with Audi and their Q7.

This new German ‘supergroup’ contains more than just VW and Porsche however. Volkswagen also bring to the party Skoda and Seat and when you add Audi to the equation, there’s all of their models and, as if we could forget, Lamborghini to throw a bucketload of spice into the mix.

audi a7 sportback grey

Audi A7 Sportback

It has been suggested that there are too many elements here to make up a happy family, that certain models from this amalgamation of brands are competing against each other and will simply take their market share from within the group, particularly from Audi. I’m not sure that I subscribe to this theory however; Both VW and Porsche haven’t proved themselves to be highly resilient manufacturers in tough economic climes without good reason. If we take the models that Porsche bring to the fold, they are very much in a sub-category that shouldn’t affect the rest of the group. As previously mentioned, the Touareg, Cayenne and Q7 have always shared components yet seemed to have found their own niche in the large 4×4 segment. The Cayman is a class above the TT coupe and a class below the R8, both in terms of cost and appeal. The Panamera is too much car for Audi’s A7 to compete and the upcoming 918 Spyder is an unknown quantity as yet that will undoubtedly now be marketed to avoid it detracting from the Lamborghini stable.

1963 porsche 911 in red

1963 Porsche 911

That leaves the Boxster and the 911 which could be argued to face direct competition from the TT and R8 respectively. This is certainly feasible but in the case of the Boxster vs TT, I feel that the different drivetrains and layouts of these models means that they can co-exist in their current guise and with a little tweaking from within the group, they’ll start to drift apart in terms of consumer appeal. That leaves just the 911 and the R8 but the evergreen Porsche with its four seats and rear engine layout seems to offer so many ticks in so many boxes that it’s hard for anything else to compete. This, combined with a seemingly infinite choice of models may explain the longevity of the 911 which now covers nearly 50 years.

What’s pertinent to remember  is that this wasn’t some oil baron buying a football club on a whim. This multi-billion pound deal will have been scrutinised to within an inch of its life and, historically speaking, both marques are prone to making good decisions where others have fallen. In my opinion, both VW and Porsche will profit hugely from their coming together and form a beautiful union. I might be wrong, but I doubt it.

By Ben Harrington

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

Simples!

Mercedes-Benz 500 SEL

Mercedes-Benz 500 SEL

The last few weeks have been quite eventful for me in motoring terms. Firstly, the Audi has moved on to pastures new. It was a great car but, although neither of us wanted to say it, we both knew deep down that it was time to move on. Sometimes that just happens in relationships, no-one knows why. This of course left me car less (except for the other two cars in the house but they don’t really count) and after two unscrupulous individuals attempted to swap their lies for my cash, I decided to leave the hunt until my return from a well earned rest in Spain. Thankfully some very good friends of ours came to my rescue and offered me the loan of an S-class Mercedes that they happened to have lying around, as you do. For two weeks I stumbled from one petrol station to the next, trying desperately to satisfy the 4.3 litre V8’s insatiable appetite for fuel, groaning at the slightest incline as this would inevitably result in actually pressing the accelerator. A magnificent car, effortless to drive with blistering performance (so I’m led to believe!) but I don’t mind admitting that it was almost a relief when our time together came to a premature end as the car was required elsewhere.

Brutus at Cholmondeley

Brutus + Rain = Terrifying!!

On Sunday the 17th of July, I attended the final day of the Cholmondeley Pageant of Power. The rain was incessant but the action continued regardless with most drivers simply adjusting their driving to suit. The fastest run of the weekend went to Nikki Faulkner in his Lamborghini LP570-4 Performante, beating other modern day super-cars such as the Nissan GTR and the Lexus LFA. The thing is though, lovely as they are, it wasn’t this modern exotica that the crowds had come to see. Their times were impressive but it became apparent to me that it’s the romance of the purer, rawer cars that appeals. For me, the sound of a car is a major part of the attraction and manufacturers are so stifled by bureaucracy today that even Lamborghinis are practically silent. Huge thanks must again go to John Hanlon of Hansport for taking me on the rally stage in Hannu Mikkola’s actual Audi Quattro. Having previously had a ride in it on the press day, John assured me he’d give it 100%, ‘No holding back this time’. I’ve captured it on video but I’m not sure it does justice to the speed of this machine and the skill of it’s driver. One thing’s for sure though, he didn’t hold back!

opel_combo_front

Our Opel Combo Rental Car

The next day was holiday time and off the Harrington clan flew to sunnier climes in Spain. This brought about some motoring experiences in itself, starting with the stifled laughter of our rental car rep when he introduced me to our steed for the week. ‘Is it this Focus?’ I enquired cheerfully, a sensible guess as they had provided us with this exact car last year. ‘Oh no’ he replied, avoiding eye contact, ‘Yours is an Opel Combo’ I mulled this over for a minute, wondering if this was the Spanish name given to an Astra or an Insignia. The gentleman obviously noticed my confused expression and simply said in reassuring tones ‘It’s very big’. He wasn’t joking. Turns out we do have Opel Combos in Britain, they’re obviously called Vauxhall Combos and they are vans. My prior worries about luggage space evaporated instantly and to be honest I really grew fond of the Pope-mobile. It was nippy, efficient and most importantly of all, the air conditioning was ice-cold.

Buggy safari Marbella

Buggy Safari

My other motoring experience of our week away came about when my friend Mark and I went on a mini adventure, or more accurately, a buggy safari. This basically entails driving what consists of some scaffolding, a 260cc engine, two seats, four chunky tyres and a steering wheel over the dusty back roads and through the river beds of Marbella. You very rarely get much speed up, the brakes may as well not be there and our buggy cut out regularly but I can honestly say that the fun factor was immense. Point in case again being that you don’t need huge expense and modern technology to have fun on four wheels, simplicity is best. Huge thanks to Mark for organising it, hopefully same time next year.

Back in blighty and the hunt for a car is back on. My very generous friends who lent me the Merc mentioned that there was also a redundant Ford Ka on the driveway that I was welcome to use so this has bought me yet more time. I don’t remember ever driving a Ka before and I’m sure I would if I had as it’s just so much fun. I can honestly say that I wish I’d bypassed the S-class and gone straight for the blue oval. Yes, it would probably fit in the Mercedes’ boot but again, it’s beauty lies in it’s simplicity. The levels of grip are relentless and the feed back through the wheel is reminiscent of the 205 Gti I owned in the nineties, it really is that good.

So I’ve decided to make a sort of summer resolution, from now on, I’m going to be less blinded by big numbers and impressive performance stats and get back to the real thrill of driving, however slow or antiquated that may be. Oh yes, and I’m buying a Vespa………..

By Ben Harrington

Who’s an ugly duckling? The Aston Martin Cygnet

 

English: Aston Martin Cygnet at AutoRAI Amster...

English: Aston Martin Cygnet at AutoRAI Amsterdam 2011 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many months ago, Aston Martin announced plans to produce a ‘luxury micro car’ in the UK and Europe, it’s based on the super frugal Toyota IQ, prices will start at around £30k and it will be called the Cygnet, not really a name to set the pulse racing, is it?

Having checked it wasn’t April 1st, I, like many others set about creating all manner of insults and jokes about what appeared to be the mother of all sell-out jobs. Of course, there had to be more than met the eye and there was. The EU in their infinite wisdom had invented a new set of emission regs to be enforced from 2012. They basically stated that each car manufacturer’s models in production must on average meet specified emission targets. The end of the supercar you may think but not necessarily. You see, marques such as Ferrari and Lamborghini are owned by parent companies i.e. Fiat and Audi and they produce economical little city cars in much higher numbers which will counter balance the likes of the 599 and the Gallardo, thus meeting the targets. This presented a minor problem for Aston though, no longer owned by Ford, they had no counter balance and were facing something of a dilemma.

I recently had the pleasure of a chat with a bona fide AM mechanic and inevitably the subject of the Cygnet came up. I expressed my disproval and he told me tales of the outright disgust many AM owners had displayed on the topic, many worried about  the brand being cheapened and some even contemplating abandoning Aston altogether. For some reason, this hit a nerve with me and I now feel an irresistible urge to defend the poor little thing.

It doesn’t take an expert to see that Aston Martin are reacting to an unwanted situation with this car. They’ve been backed into a corner by the EU and are coming out fighting, in my eyes, in a very clever way. The Cygnet is a necessary evil, a means to an end so why waste precious millions on it’s development when the same end can be achieved by sticking your badge on a product that someone else has thrown millions at? And don’t worry Mr Merchant Banker, the cleaning lady is unlikely to turn up in one as AM are only offering them to existing customers to allay your fears of the brand being irreparably cheapened

Unless they’ve been living on Mars for the last two years, even AM owners must have some inkling that the planet’s finances aren’t quite what they should be. In these days of cuts and deficits, ever increasing numbers of people will look upon the supercar as a vulgar, even grotesque display of opulence and wealth. That companies such as Porsche are posting record profits must only go further to nurture feelings of resentment against groups deemed responsible for the economic downturn i.e. bankers etc. I feel enraged that these people who are lucky enough to own the likes of AM are concerned about cheapening the brand when they should actually be thanking their lucky stars that these luxury car makers exist at all anymore.

So put simply Aston man, the Toyota IQ will sell itself, day in day out. Without some help from the Cygnet, your DB9’s, Rapides and Vantages will disappear forever. Think about it.

By Ben Harrington

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