Where are all the “characters”?

British Brooklands.
British Brooklands.

Motor sport today lacks “characters”. There is nobody like Count Jenatzy who held the World Land Speed record of 65 mph in his electric car La Jamais Contente and was accidentally shot by his friend in the Ardennes.

The Brooklands track was built in 1906-7 by Hugh Fortescue Locke-King, an enthusiast who did not drive, to give the British motor industry a venue to develop their automobiles. In those days the speed limit was 20 mph.

Our Hugh was a well heeled gentleman as the Brooklands track cost GBP 150,000 to build (in the old money). To construct the track, 30 acres of woodlands were cleared, the River Wey was diverted in two places, 200,000 tons of concrete was poured and 200 carpenters were hired to construct fences and stands.

The famous bankings, called the Members and Byfleet, were 28 and 21 feet high.

The Locke-Kings took many European tours, and it was on one of these that Hugh saw the (then) dominance of the Italian cars and decided to build a track for the British manufacturers.

Locke-King was reported as being a master of jigsaw puzzles and who bred pedigreed French poodles, while his wife drove fast cars, including V8 Fords and was made a Dame of the British Empire for her charity work for the Red Cross during WW 1.


Mantovano Volante – a real racing driver

Tazio Giorgio Nuvolari (16 November 1892 – 11 August 1953) was an Italian racing driver. First he raced motorcycles and then he concentrated on sports cars and single-seaters. Resident in Mantua, he was known as ‘Il Mantovano Volante’ (The Flying Mantuan) and nicknamed ‘Nivola’. His victories—72 major races, 150 in all, included 24 Grands Prix, five Coppa Cianos, two Mille Miglias, two Targa Florios, two RAC Tourist Trophies, a Le Mans 24-hour race, and a European Championship in Grand Prix racing. Ferdinand Porsche called him “the greatest driver of the past, the present, and the future.”

Nuvolari started racing motorcycles in 1920 at the age of 27, winning the 1925 350cc European Championship. Having raced cars as well as motorcycles from 1925 until 1930, he then concentrated on cars, and won the 1932 European Championship with the Alfa Romeo factory team, Alfa Corse.

His bravura is the stuff of legends. Nuvolari and co-driver Battista Guidotti won the Mille Miglia in a Zagato-bodied Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 GS, becoming the first to complete the race at an average of over 100 km/h (62 mph). At night, leading on elapsed time but still lying behind his teammate Achille Varzi on the road (because he had started after him), he tailed Varzi at speeds of up to 150 km/h (93 mph) with his headlights switched off, so that he could not be seen in the other car’s rear-view mirrors. He eventually switched them on to overtake “the shocked” Varzi near the finish at Brescia.


In 1931, regulations for the season required Grand Prix races to be at least 10 hours long. Contrast that with the two hour F1 races of today.

For 1935, Nuvolari set his sights on a drive with the German Auto Union team. They lacked top-line drivers but relented to pressure from Achille Varzi, who did not want Nuvolari in the team. Nuvolari then approached Enzo Ferrari, who at first rebuffed him as he had previously walked out on the team. Italy’s Prime Minister Mussolini helped persuade Ferrari to take Nuvolari back.

This was the year that Nuvolari achieved the ‘Impossible Victory’, which many regard as the greatest win in all of motor racing history, driving an outclassed Alfa Romeo P3 (3167 cc, supercharged, 265 bhp) in the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring, he beat all the dominant German cars — five Mercedes-Benz W25s (3990 cm³, 8C, supercharged, 375 bhp (280 kW) driven by Caracciola, Fagioli, Lang, von Brauchitsch, and Geyer), and four Auto Union Bs (4950 cc, 16C, supercharged, 375 hp (280 kW) driven by Rosemeyer, Varzi, Stuck, and Pietsch). The crowd of 300,000 applauded Nuvolari, but the representatives of the Third Reich were not pleased.

There are many other examples of Novolari’s amazing talent behind the wheel, but the one I like best is his taking a gramophone recording of the Italian national anthem to the Grands Prix, just in case the organizers did not have one for when he was the winner (which was often)! 70 years ago, men were men.

At his death, between 25,000 and 55,000 people, at least half the population of Mantua, attended his funeral in a mile-long procession, with the coffin placed on a car chassis that was pushed by Alberto Ascari, Luigi Villoresi, and Juan Manuel Fangio.


Luxury carmaker Maserati focuses production on Italy

Milan (AP) — Luxury carmaker Maserati said Thursday it would invest 1.6 billion euros ($1.8 billion) as it boosts Italian production with a new super-sports car and a utility vehicle as well as the launch of a hybrid version of the successful Ghibli sedan.

Maserati, which is owned by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, is counting on the key product launches for a turnaround after a tough few quarters marked by lower sales and dealer stock reductions. The 1.6 billion euros in investments is part of 5 billion euros that Fiat Chrysler announced for Italy last year for the years 2019-2021.

Hybrid Maserati Ghibli.
Hybrid Maserati Ghibli.

The hybrid Ghibli will begin production next year in the city of Turin. Maserati also confirmed plans to make a new super sports car in Modena, the brand’s northern Italy headquarters, and a utility vehicle in Cassino, south of Rome. The sports car will be unveiled in the first six months of next year, a spokesperson said.

Maserati said it is “reinforcing the importance of Italy” as its center of production. Investments of 800 million euros are earmarked for Cassino, where a new production line is set to open next year, and in Turin, where updated versions of the GrandTurismo and GranCabrio also will be produced.

In all, 10 production launches are planned between 2020 and 2023.

During a business plan announcement in June 2018, Maserati said it wanted to double sales to 100,000 units by 2022. No update has been given but deliveries slipped to 35,000 units in 2018, which Fiat Chrysler said was due to lower sales in China and other key markets.


Cars taken from Equatorial Guinea leader’s son sold for $27M

Geneva (AP) — Car lovers from around the world splashed out more than $27 million at an auction for dozens of luxury cars seized from the son of Equatorial Guinea’s president in a Swiss money-laundering probe.

The 25 lots sold by auction house Bonhams included a white-and-cream 2014 Lamborghini roadster that cost the buyer 8.28 million Swiss francs ($8.4 million), comprising a 15 percent premium for the auction house but with potential taxes still to be added.

The supercar — one of only nine such versions produced — had been driven only 325 kilometers and has an official top speed of 359 kilometers per hour (223 mph), Bonhams said.

Total proceeds from the sale beat the 18.5 million francs ($18.7 million) that authorities had hoped to fetch for a charity to benefit the people of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea.

The auction comes after the Geneva prosecutor’s office announced in February it had closed a case against Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, the son of the country’s four-decade president, Teodoro Obiang, and two others following a probe of money laundering and mismanagement of public assets.

Swiss authorities seized the cars and ordered the sequestration of a yacht in 2016.

The yacht was released in the arrangement announced in February, under which Equatorial Guinea agreed to pay Geneva authorities 1.3 million Swiss francs “notably to cover procedural costs,” the prosecutor’s office said.

Other cars sold at the Domaine de Bonmmont golf club on the edge of Geneva included a yellow 2003 Ferrari Enzo for 3.1 million francs, and a 2015 Koenigsegg One:1 that fetched 4.6 million francs.

An armored 1998 Rolls-Royce Silver Spur limousine described as being “perfect for someone with enemies” but requiring extensive work sold for 86,250 francs.

The Equatorial Guinea president’s son, who is also a vice president, has been ensnared in legal trouble elsewhere. Last year, Brazilian officials said $16 million in undeclared cash and luxury watches that were seized from a delegation he led may have been part of an effort to launder money embezzled from the country’s government. And a Paris court in 2017 convicted the son of embezzling millions of dollars in public money, although the case has been appealed.

The Geneva prosecutor’s office in February cited rules allowing prosecutors to close cases in which the person under investigation had “repaired the damage or done everything that could have been expected of him or her to make up for the wrong that was caused.”

The investigation involved authorities in the United States, the Cayman Islands, France, Monaco, Denmark, the Netherlands and the Marshall Islands.


New Corvette is mid-engined

The Europeans have been building mid-engined sports cars for decades. For a Ferrari to be front engined is news. For a Corvette to be mid-engined is bigger news and this year Chevrolet did just that. The new mid-engined C8 Corvette is news, released mid-year.

Revealed as a 2020 model year car arriving with a complete redesign and rethink of the way Corvettes have been built in the past. A naturally-aspirated 6.2 liter V8 sits in the middle of the car generating 495 horsepower and 470 ft/lb of torque, which is sent to the rear wheels via an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. There is no longer a manual option. Even though this sounds contrary to what a Corvette should be, all top end performance cars are featuring dual-clutch transmissions these days.

With the Z51 optional performance package, 0-60 mph is less than 3.0 seconds. The Z51 pack also adds larger brake rotors, a performance-oriented suspension system, an upgraded cooling system and performance exhaust.

official pricing to be announced closer to launch at the end of the year.

Chevrolet says the new 2020 Corvette will start from less than USD 60,000, with official pricing to be announced closer to launch at the end of the year. This price range is significantly lower than other performance super-cars.