History Lesson at Donington

Donington Historic Festival 2015 Picture by: Simon Hildrew www.simonhildrew.com

Donington Historic Festival 2015
Picture by: Simon Hildrew
www.simonhildrew.com

Since it was rescued from oblivion at the hands of wannabe F1 promoters Donington Park has been restored to its former glory. It is the venue for some the finest historic racing meetings in the UK. DDC’s man with a lens or two, Simon Hildrew, was in attendance at the recent Historic Festival…………we are fortunate to share his work from that weekend.

John Brooks July 2013

A Primer on Sports Car Racing – Part Two

In the second part of his survey of the endurance motorsport scene, János Wimpffen considers the leading organisations in European GT racing, SRO, Creventic and VLN.

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The Stéphane Ratel Organisation is now the granddaddy of European GT racing. Its antecedents go back to the BPR (Barth-Peter-Ratel) Global GT Series which began in 1994 and most famously provided the framework for the long-lived FIA GT Championship. After having lost its World Championship status SRO became semi-independent from the FIA which has turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

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SRO, through its former European GT3 Championship, was responsible for carving out a niche for the GT3 class and it has become the sole category for what has bifurcated into two quite different series. The present form of the Sprint Series began in 2010 and consists of two races during the weekend. The main function of the Qualifying Race, typically held on Saturday, is to set the grid for the Main Race. Both are one hour in length with pit stops and driver changes taking place during a mandated ten-minute mid-race window.

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The SRO Sprint series is the most creative of all sports car series in testing the waters at some rather unique venues, including street courses in Baku and Moscow.

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The SRO Endurance Series primarily consists of three hour races with the Spa-Francorchamps 24 Hours as the season’s centerpiece. In many ways the Endurance championship is the spiritual successor to BPR as it caters largely to “gentleman” drivers. While the technical formula for both series is based on GT3, there are subsidiary classes reserved for non-pro rosters called Pro-Am and Am (Silver Cup in the Sprint Series).

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The Blancpain sponsored Endurance Series has grown into a very rich forum displaying all of the current GT3 machinery. New models for 2015 include the Lamborghini Hurracan and the McLaren 650S. Many other marques are currently circulating such as Audi, Aston Martin, Bentley, BMW Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari, Nissan, Porsche, and Jaguar—the last being represented only by a troubled, privately built car.

Entries for the Endurance Series have frequently exceeded 60 cars but the Sprint Series rarely has made it to two dozen. The short races do offer no holds barred cut-and-thrust battles. It is rare for the entire field to make it through the opening lap unscathed. That expectancy of carnage is one reason why some teams have balked and run primarily in the endurance rounds. Orthodox sports car fans may balk at one-hour races being considered a major event but the made-for-TV / video game format has a special type of appeal. Both of the SRO series have exclusive agreements with Pirelli.

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The Dutch based Creventic Organisation has emerged as another major player on the European scene. They have been managing the Dubai 24 Hours since 2006 and this race has steadily risen in prominence, becoming a wintertime jaunt for European runners. Creventic expanded the concept a bit with a loose series begun in 2008 and this year the all-Hankook shod 24 Hour Series has become a full-fledged FIA championship. Despite the title, many of the rounds are actually 12 hour races. The fields for Creventic races are an eclectic mix of GT, Touring and silhouette specials. Overall winners at Creventic races invariably are built GT3 specs. Called A6, they are slightly altered and frequently must run above a reference lap time—a variation on the BOP theme.

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There are important endurance races which are independent of any series. The chief European example would be the Nürburgring 24 Hours. For most of this race’s 30 plus year existence it was primarily a gigantic German club race.

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Many of teams in its almost preposterous starting fields of nearly 200 cars still fit the mold of club racers and come from the ranks of slower GT and Touring categories. However, the sharp end of GT3 (called SP9-GT3) has inexorably become the domain of the major factory teams and has been fiercely contested of late by BMW, Audi, and Mercedes. Further afield in Australia, the Bathurst 12 Hours has taken on a similar role as the antipode’s most significant independent GT endurance race.

A Primer on Sports Car Racing – 2015 – Part One

Our old friend János Wimpffen has agreed to share his wisdom with us here on DDC………this is the first of (hopefully) many despatches from the front.

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This is the first of series of reports which in cyber-terminology may be labeled as a “blog”. Much like others blogs it will be cumulative effort, building up from the start. It will have the elements of a travelogue, with commentary on local customs as well as more traditional race reportage—albeit in a more summary form. The objective is not to provide a lap-by-lap or hour-by-hour accounting of an event. Other sites do that, ranging from merely adequate to exemplary. Rather, a key point is to convey the atmosphere of a race meeting, offering some grander perspective on proceedings. But such embellishment is not being submitted merely for dispassionate pleasure but rather to position each race within the rather broad tent that defines contemporary sports car racing.

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To this end, we begin with what might be termed as a primer on the state of this branch of the motor racing discipline, circa 2015. The tone is to aim for a comfortable middle ground. Often, race reportage presumes that one is already familiar with the cadence of each series, conversant with the names of the teams and drivers, and aware of all the subtleties of rules and technical changes. We will not presume that, nor will we presume that the reader will necessarily be riding on every last nuance of detail. Instead, what we do postulate that since you, Dear Reader, are here—you are already a great fan of sports car racing, only that you are content to be familiar with the general trends. In such manner, there should be nuggets of enjoyment here, regardless of your ongoing level of interest and monitoring of each race and series.

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Sports car racing, for many of its decades of history, has been subject to that old admonishment, “may you live in interesting times.” It is arguable as where exactly the 2015 season sits along the spectrum of interesting to dull, but clearly the tendency is towards the fascinating end.

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The WEC has truly become global in scope and following, meeting or exceeding most expectations. The other series had at various times made forays into having a broader geographical reach but with the advent of the WEC they are all comfortably ensconced within a continental or regional framework.

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The most senior of these series and the most stable is the European Le Mans Series. Its origins were in the early noughties and ELMS has LM P2 as its headline class. The LM P2 category has come a long way over the course of a decade. It began purely as support to LM P1 and was always intended for privateer entrants. It still has that approach but LM P2 has matriculated from a “last man (barely) standing” into a consistent pattern of close, reliable racing at a very high level of professionalism. LM P2 shares a trait that many such classes have exhibited in the past. There was a time when the category was populated by a very colorful array of chassis and engine combinations. Over time a few key constructors have risen to the fore, in particularly Oreca, which dominates numerically as does the Nissan engine. Ligier and the Onroak-built Morgan, along with the BMW derived Judd motors have added variety and genuine heft to the class. They have been joined this year by the Gibson marque, which is actually the reincarnation of Zytek, the car itself a descendant of Reynard, by YGK and DBA (not at all confusing).

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Three GT classes can be seen in the ELMS and as with all other series; Grand Touring is in rude health. For past decade or so there have been three developments that have cemented GT’s popularity and close racing. First and perhaps foremost has been the emergence of GT3. These cars follow fairly tight homologation standards, are designed to be user friendly—read, good for novice and gentleman drivers, and are subject to the often controversial Balance of Performance standards. BOP’s aim is to regulate that no model exerts undue advantage for too long. Purists may bemoan that BOP goes against the grain of motor sport as being a contest for improved technology, but few can argue with results showing some thrilling contests. Of course, those at the short end of a BOP adjustment will complain—but such wailing has been with us since well before board tracks. BOP is practiced across a variety of classes and series and is the second pillar of GT’s ascendancy. It is manifested on cars largely through playing with aerodynamic features, widening and narrowing inlet air restrictors, fuel capacity, and occasionally through using ballast weights.

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The third major development over the past decade has been the introduction of driver classification systems. Depending upon experience, age, and history of success, drivers are rated as Platinum, Gold, Silver, or Bronze. Each series and each class then employs rules as to the mix required on the roster and for minimum/maximum times behind the wheel. Perhaps paradoxically after having noted the importance of GT3, it plays no role in the FIA WEC and is only one of the two GT classes in ELMS.

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There is an altogether new “budget” class in the ELMS for 2015, LMP3. Chassis specifications are quite restricted with Ginetta being the first to build to the regulations. All cars use identical 5.0-liter Nissan engines. ELMS race are uniformly four hours in duration.

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Most importantly, after 20 years in the wilderness, endurance racing has a World Championship, a platform for manufacturers to applying their technology and marketing. Now in its fourth season, the FIA World Endurance Championship is thriving. It has become the nexus of the most technologically advanced racing vehicles found anywhere. With three manufacturers (and a fourth if Nissan doesn’t fall flat) there is competition at the highest level in the hybrid based LM P1 class. The undercard of the LM P2 and GTE classes is as good as ever. Once again the Le Mans 24 Hours is part of the Championship—although the French classic has always more than adequately held up most of the sports car racing sky even when running to an independent formula. The FIA WEC hews to a very consistent schedule of locations and race lengths, with six hours being the norm apart from Le Mans. Classic European venues are matched further abroad by important new locales like the Circuit of the Americas in Texas, Shanghai, and Bahrain as well as the return of the venerable Fuji.

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While it is vital to introduce and position the FIA WEC at the pinnacle of sports car racing there were no races attended during these particular outings. One of the attributes that sets the current era apart from the last time that there was a bona fide world championship (1992 and before) was that back then it was pretty much the only game in town. Yes, IMSA GTP was quite significant during the 1980s, albeit only in North America, but there wasn’t the plethora of other major events as there is now. This is partly the legacy of the lack of a world series during the intervening period. It allowed such players as IMSA, Grand-Am, SRO, ELMS, and (on a more fractured basis) some Asian series to cycle through, have their own apogees and perigees, and leave a lasting influence on sports car racing in general.

János Wimpffen, July 2015

 

Taking a look at the Tourist Trophy

The Tourist Trophy is the oldest motor race still being contested, having first been run in 1905 on the Isle of Man. In recent years the Trophy has been awarded to the winners of the Silverstone 6 Hours race, a round of the World Endurance Championship of which this race was the first for 2015. There are four classes, LM P1, LM P2, GTE Pro and GTE Am and the teams look upon the Silverstone 6 Hours and the forthcoming Spa 6 Hours in Belgium as workouts for the all-important Le Mans 24 Hour race in June, just as in bygone years the Six Hour and Double Twelve races at Brooklands were viewed in the same way.
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The Porsche 919 Hybrids took command from the start. Here Mark Webber sets the pace down the Hangar Straight into the fast Stowe Corner – it was not to last!

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The GTE Am-winning Aston Martin Vantage V8 leads its team-mate and the LM P2 Alpine through Stowe.
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The LM P2 Oreca 05 Coupé was new and offered strong competition in this class in the early stages.
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The CLM P1 was an old friend in new clothing but with an AER motor.
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One of the joys of long –distance sports car racing is the “mixture” that often occurs in the corners, compelling the drivers of the faster cars to negotiate the “traffic” carefully – all part of the job of winning a race. Here is a tight group of GTs and prototypes at Becketts.
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Here the Toyota which finished 4th swallows up the GT Aston Martin which came 4th in the GTE Pro class on the entrance to Chapel Curve.
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Always a threat are the Porsche Team Manthey 911 RSRs. This one is coming out of the fast curves at Becketts on its way to a disappointing 7th in class.
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The LM P2 Ligiers, introduced only last year at Le Mans, have become very potent contenders – this one was the well merited class winner which finished 6th overall.
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Here is the winning Audi R18 e-tron Quattro fighting to protect its slender lead after a late “stop-go” penalty for exceeding the track limits coming out of Club – it just held off the Porsche no.18 of the hard-charging Jani!
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One loses count of the number of times the excellent pairing of Bruni and Vilander have already won GT honours for the AF Corse team. Here they are doing it again in the Ferrari F458 Italia; the desperate Jani pursues the Italian GTE Pro car into Club Corner.
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The victors of the Silverstone 6 Hours, Fässler, Tréluyer and Lotterer can add their names to the prestigious Tourist Trophy.

David Blumlein July 2015

The Bell Tolls………..

Folks

it has been very quiet here at DDC Towers, actually though the site has been in a state of hibernation, I have been flat out, June and Le Mans do that every year.

However the general feeling of being in the right place at the right time when at La Sarthe was absent this year, despite the race being an absolute classic.

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Missing in action, though not in spirit, was our own Captain Black aka David Stephens. David had suffered a stroke and passed away the weekend before the race, shocking news.

David was an integral part of the endurance motorsport scene both as a photographer and a character and it seemed very strange not to see him rushing around at Le Mans, a place and a race that had become part of his fabric.

David, along with the Special Correspondent, had been a travelling companion and a friend of mine for the best part of 20 years. Now he is gone………..but our loss is nothing compared with that of his Mother and his sister, Deborah.

A measure of the respect and affection that David was held in could be seen in the packed church of St. Mary’s for his funeral service last week.

As if that was not enough bad news for the month of June, word filtered through yesterday that veteran journalist/broadcaster, Gustav Büsing, had also passed away, another man who loved Le Mans and the race that we all follow. He will be missed by all those who knew him.

John Brooks, July 2015

Coventry Considerations

The Special Correspondent has been to Coventry and, as usual, he brings us some automotive treasures.

While attending the excellent seminar of the Society of Automotive Historians at Coventry Transport Museum, I grabbed a few moments in the lunch hour to nip around that part of the museum which has already been re-furbished. Here are some of the gems:

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This is where the story all began. In 1888 F.R. Simms met Gottlieb Daimler at the Bremen International Exhibition. Five years later the Daimler Motor Syndicate Ltd was formed in London following Simms’s acquisition of the Daimler engine patent rights for Great Britain. In 1895 the British Motor Syndicate Ltd, led by the dubious Harry J. Lawson, acquired those rights from Simms. This in turn led to the flotation of the Daimler Motor Company Ltd in Coventry in 1896. By 1897 production was under way of Daimler cars in the Coventry “Motor Mills” alongside the MMC cars. This Daimler dates from 1898.

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In 1896 Lawson paid Léon Bollée £20,000 for the English manufacturing and patent rights of his 3-wheeler – thus did Humber make the first Léon Bollée Voiturette built in this country.

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A Rover 6 displayed in front of a depiction of the original Meteor works in Coventry with some early Rover cycles. This factory never survived the Luftwaffe’s onslaught. The 6hp model was the second model Rover produced, the first being the 8 in 1904, the first car with a backbone chassis, designed by Edmund Lewis.

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John Davenport Siddeley took over the ailing Deasy company in 1909 and the cars were known as Siddeley-Deasys – they had bulkhead- mounted radiators like the Renaults. This is a 1912 model. After the Great War the cars became Armstrong-Siddeleys.

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A Coventry Premier 3-wheeler. The company made a cyclecar in 1912-14 and an advanced 4-cylinder failed to make production with the coming of the war. This cheaper model was considered more appropriate for the post-war conditions. It had a V-twin engine. Singer took over the firm and produced a 4-wheel variant and a cheap version of the Singer Ten was badged as a Coventry Premier in 1923 before dropping the name altogether in the next season.

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This is the Lea-Francis Hyper which was driven by Kaye Don to victory in the revived Tourist Trophy race, run on the Ards circuit for the first time in 1928.

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Lea-Francis were at the peak of their competition successes in the late Twenties and this 4-seater version of the Hyper won the 1500 c.c. class at Le Mans in 1929 driven by Peacock and Newsome, finishing 8th overall. The following year they won the class again with a 6th place finish.

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A portrait of Siegfried Bettmann who, as a German immigrant, adopted England as his home and who rose to become Mayor of Coventry in 1913. He is remembered also as the creator of the Triumph Company.

David Blumlein, April 2015

A Glimpse of British GT, 2015 – style

The Special Correspondent has been a long time supporter of GT Racing, especially in recent years the excellent British GT Championship. So he seized an opportunity to preview the 2015 edition with a visit to Brands Hatch a week or so back.

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Wednesday 25 March – Media Day for the British GT at Brands Hatch. Wet weather was forecast but it was dry and sunny the whole day. This year the splendid entry of 35 cars is almost completely balanced between the GT3 cars (18) and the GT4s (17), this latter class becoming deservedly very popular. A number of cars spent useful time on the circuit – here are some of them:
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One of three BMW Z4 GT3s entered, this being run by Barwell Racing for Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen.
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There are Aston Martin Vantage GT3s aplenty. No. 4 is one of the Oman Racing Team cars.
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This RAM Racing Mercedes-Benz AMG GT3 is one of two expected to run this year.

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New this season are two McLaren 650S cars entered by Von Ryan Racing.
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Hopefully the Toyota GT86 will race more regularly this year.
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Lots of Astons in the GT4 category this season. Here Beechdean’s car is entering Druid’s Bend.
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Good to see three Lotus Evoras – no. 77 is the car for Lotus Engineer Gavan Kershaw;

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no. 54 is one of the two Ultra Tek Racing entries.
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The part of the Lotus that hopefully the other GT4 contenders will see!

David Blumlein, April 2015

A Continental Tour

 

The Special Correspondent has been visiting shows on the continent, Paris and Bremen have been his targets. He brings us a fine selection of the rare and interesting from these venues, sit back and enjoy the automotive education. 

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The Bugatti Type 43 is considered to be one of the four “landmark” cars from Ettore’s factory, the others being the Brescia, the Type 35 Grand Prix car and the Type 57 from the Thirties.

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The Type 43 could be thought of as the McLaren of its day when introduced in 1927. Based on the Type 38 chassis it had a Type 35B 2.3-litre 8-cylinder supercharged Grand Prix engine mounted in a Molsheim open four-seater body of narrow torpedo shape with a single left-hand door. The car ran on the detachable rim alloy wheels from the Grand Prix car.
The car had no outstanding success in competition – a team of three works cars could only manage 6th, 13th and 16th in the 1928 Mille Miglia. It tended to be unreliable and had a certain proclivity for catching fire (Campbell’s at the 1928 Tourist Trophy, for example).
Bugatti made just over 150 of them and it seems that one was presented to Louis Chiron in lieu of payment for racing successes!

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The Germans were undoubtedly the pace-setters in the art of streamlining in the 1930s as exemplified by the Mercedes factory’s recreation of their 1938 W29 5.4-litre Stromlinien-Limousine.

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Le Mans enthusiasts tend to be familiar with Grégoire’s little front-drive Tractas which did well at the 24-Hour race but do they know of this very pretty Type E two-seater built for the road? It is powered by an American-made 2.6-litre Continental 6-cylinder engine.

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What do these three cars have in common, the Amilcar CG SS……..

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……the Delaunay-Belleville Type H.C.4……

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and the Hotchkiss 864 Vichy?

The answer is that they all emanated from factories in the northern Parisian suburb of Saint Denis. Away from car lovers the Abbaye of Saint Denis is famous as the place where the pointed Gothic arch which adorns so many cathedrals and churches in Europe was invented.

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This lovely 1935 Rover 14 Streamline Coupé reminds us that streamlining to the English manufacturers at that time invariably meant what we came to call “fastbacks”. Nevertheless, with a 6-cylinder 1600 c.c. o.h.v. engine fed by 3 S.U. carburettors, this car could reach 131km/h. Rover made just 300 of them.

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1937 Bugatti Type 57S (surbaissée) with a 3.3-litre 8-cylinder, built for T.A.S.O. Mathieson, a very competent amateur driver. It has a unique cabriolet body by Corsica. He raced it in the 1938 Tourist Trophy at Donington, finishing 20th and 4th in class.

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This car is the beginning of the HWM story. John Heath used this sports racer in 1948. It had a tubular chassis, pre-selector gearbox and a 4-cylinder twin –carburettor 2-litre Alta engine. It first raced in the Jersey Road Race, retiring after 19 laps when the timing chain broke. He was encouraged to enter it for the revived Spa 24-Hour race but his co-driver, George Abecassis, crashed it during the night. A front wheel parted company twice (!) during the Paris 12—Hours in September. All this led to a heavily revised car for 1949 and soon to the Formula 2 HWMs.

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This is a Ford Eifel, the German version of the Model C, built in the Köln factory. Henry Ford had a rather sympathetic relationship with Hitler which explains the continued presence of the Ford factory in Nazi Germany. The Wehrmacht was always desperately short of lorries during the war and Ford helped to oblige.

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Adler commissioned Hans-Gustav Rohr to design a 1501 c.c. front-wheel drive all independent suspension car with bodywork by Ambi-Budd – this was the Adler Trumpf, introduced at the 1932 Geneva Show. It was very successful and came to be built under licence by Imperia in Belgium and Rosengart in France. Ultra-streamlined versions eventually ran successfully at Le Mans and Spa.
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Here is the former Karmann factory in Osnabruck, rescued by VW.

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David Blumlein, April 2015

 

Rétromobile 2015 – Classics with a Gallic Flavour

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The 2015 edition of Rétromobile had the usual top quality ingredients, a combination of cars, clubs, manufacturers, dealers and petrol heads served up as automotive haute cuisine.

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Perhaps the biggest act was the Artcurial sale of the Baillon Collection. This made headlines all around the globe…..nothing like a “barn find” raising millions to grab the attention.

I looked at it earlier HERE

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Back in 1977 this Porsche 936 and its drivers, Jacky Ickx, Jürgen Barth and Hurley Haywood came from last place to win the Le Mans 24 Hours, destroying the hopes of Renault along the way. More on that HERE

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The Bugatti T41 aka Royale was the last word in luxury motoring between the wars, just six were sold, all different. This example is described HERE

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Another fantastic restoration job from the folks at Mercedes-Benz Classic on this 540K, the full story can be found HERE

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The Retromobile is a must see/do for anyone with petrol in their veins, make a date in the diary for 2016.

John Brooks, April 2015

The Right Crowd

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The 73rd Members’ Meeting held at Goodwood a few weeks back was a resounding success according to all who attended. Less desperately crowded than the Festival of Speed and less theatrical than the Revival, the MM is focussed squarely on celebrating great racing cars.

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Fortunately here at DDC we have the services of ace snapper Simon Hildrew who has really captured the spirit of the event. So enjoy this vision of great cars in a grand setting.

John Brooks, April 2015