I should start this review with a moan. You know, the usual; how the modern car market doesn’t cater for drivers who want to combine fun, practicality, affordability and respect from petrolheads. But I can’t, because as you grow wiser in this game, you learn that the car market is driven by corporate economics and the needs of the regular Joes and Joannes who make up the majority of car buyers. Sure, you get the odd homologation special when a rally programme goes belly-up, but in the real world, away from Motor Trend and PistonHeads, the automobile is a functional commodity.
Category: Long Reads Page 1 of 2
Rallying is a funny old sport. Entirely different to any of its siblings over in the land of tarmac, there’s always been a romance in the dirt tracks, the terrifyingly thronged crowds, and the crackle of gravel in wheel arches. In the past names like Carlos Sainz, Sebastian Loeb, Tommi Mäkinen, and Colin McRae were as resonant with the public as their glamorous, preening Formula 1 counterparts. These days, that’s no longer the case. Even the highest octane petrolheads would struggle to tell you who is competing, where the next race is, or what channel it’s even on. The popular focus is squarely on F1 and increasingly on Formula E. It’s certainly not on rallycross, the FIA’s attempt to introduce a more accessible gateway to ‘proper’ rallying, let alone rallying itself.
And whilst money talks, this is a shame.
There is no such thing as a discrete delivery of a Morgan Plus Four. Even before the clamshell trailer had swung open to release my test vehicle, a small audience had gathered to watch the spectacle on the otherwise sleepy road. Not one to disappoint a crowd, the grinning Morgan delivery driver rubbed his hands and started the engine. A deep, bassy growl prompted a wave of approving nods as the Plus Four’s elegant form gently eased onto the tarmac for the first time since leaving the factory at Malvern. Talk about making an entrance.
They say only those you love can truly hurt you.
So let’s talk about Jaguar.
Scott Mansell is an expert racing driver and coach with 25 years’ experience in competitive motorsport and driver training. He is also the founder of Driver61, which provides in-depth training videos, circuit guides and practical training programmes to help aspiring racing drivers unlock their potential, drive fast on track and win races. We were lucky enough to sit down with Scott to get his insights on driving technique, racing psychology, and what it feels like to drive at the limit…
Each morning I get up and die a little. My street is an automotive wasteland, each nondescript utility vehicle slightly duller than the next, in a parade of mediocrity stretching towards the horizon. The odd Prius prowls past, cloth seats smelling faintly of the last ten passengers. A dog-eared Nissan Micra quite literally bats its eyelashes, an icy wind blowing through manky plastic tendrils. I turn my face away in shame, just to see a Mercedes estate with busted rear springs rusting quietly into obsolescence, unloved, with only an old shopping trolley for company.
According to the auto magazines, manufacturers are giving up on performance and beauty, shifting production over to profitable and bloated SUVs in an attempt to grab the grey dollar from a non-plussed public. Feels like a bad time to like cars.
It’s hardly news that Germany and the automobile have a pretty tight relationship. From Bertha Benz’s pioneering first road trip to the relentless industrial output of today, it is a country that doesn’t even have its own word for “petrol-head”, so presumed is an underlying affinity for the car.
My mother, a proud Westphalian with seemingly little interest in the subject, has a strange attachment to her ten year old Volkswagen Touran that belies a purely functional engagement, with a level of pride in possession more commonly associated with the more glamorous offerings of Northern Italy. Whether it’s my mother’s utilitarian beast, a lovingly (even if somewhat dubiously) modified M3, or the ubiquitous bug-eyed E-Class taxi, they all garner the same levels of affection from their petroleum-infused German owners.
Cars are a medium for all kinds of romantic ideas. Sit behind the wheel of an Alfa Spider and you’re suddenly a 1960s Italian stud, all smouldering side-eye as you toy with the limit on a Mediterranean coastal road. Jump into a vintage Bentley in thick English drizzle and you become that honking combo of fighter pilot and Toad of Toad Hall. And as I slide onto the plush leather seats of a slightly dinked Range Rover from a few generations back, for one sweet moment I too can be the yummiest of mummies, furiously elbowing my way through school run back-markers like Max Verstappen…
Three days, two drivers, and one race-striped tearaway – the Fitzroy Motor team get to grips with the 620R, Caterham’s most extreme offering yet…
“So, what next?”
I thought back to my first time in a Caterham – a year ago, roaring through Kentish villages in a Seven 270, my senses straining to keep up. Nothing since then had quite matched it.
“I’ve asked them for something a bit special this time,” I answered. “I’ve asked for the Lego Cat.”
A moment’s thoughtful pause. “Oh dear,” said Phil.
A sunny afternoon in the Eifel. I was on the Nürburgring Nordschliefe, a coil of unforgiving racetrack wrapped around the castle of Nürburg in the Rhineland Palatinate.
Jackie Stewart had christened it the “Green Hell” in far less cosseted times, when race drivers risked their lives on every lap. The name has stuck, perhaps because it describes the psychological as well as physical experience of driving it. A sense of foreboding unspools itself as fast as the pleasure of hurtling through its seductive turns and undulations. You know that somewhere in the serpentine complexity is a set of fangs.