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Friday
Jul112014

Did Porsche Learn From Ford and Lotus?

By Christopher A. Sawyer

Autocar is reporting that Porsche is readying a flat eight-powered two-seat sports car to compete with Ferrari’s 458 Italia and its successors. Beyond all of the technology expected in the Porsche 988, it is the high degree of modularity that draws the most interest. The 988 will be the first in a long line of new Porsche sports cars that will draw from the same well of components, many of which will be shared to varying degrees with Lamborghini, Bugatti and Audi. Interestingly, many of the new ideas put forward by this car — while new to Porsche — have been seen before.

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Friday
Jul112014

Derek Warwick In His Own Words

With a given name like Derek Stanley Arthur Warwick, you would have expected the man with this moniker to be a British banker or politician, not a racing driver. Like Chris Amon, who returned to sheep farming after his Formula One career ended, Warwick never won a grand prix. However, it wasn’t for lack of talent or trying.

Warwick rose from the backwaters of British stock car racing to drive for the Toleman, Renault, Brabham, Arrows, Lotus and Footwork F1 teams. However, he always seemed to join up after the glory years were over, just before major changes took place within the team that stunted its potential, or stayed with teams too long. It was the latter situation that saw him stay with Renault rather than sign with Williams-Honda, a move which opened the door for Nigel Mansell’s rise to stardom.

Many remember him as the man Ayrton Senna refused to race alongside at Lotus. Senna, at the time a future world champion, wanted the team built around him and attending to his needs. Warwick’s contract, which the Team Lotus principals ultimately refused to sign after aggressively courting the British star, called for equal status with Senna. The Brazilian, however, felt Lotus was incapable of fielding two number one drivers, and worked behind the scenes to have the agreement with Warwick nullified. Surprisingly, Warwick doesn’t hold a grudge and, as the video shows, he feels Senna was doing what he needed to in order to win. When he returned to Lotus years later, the team was a shadow of its former self.

This was not the first or the last major disappointment in Warwick’s racing career, the worst being the on-track death of his younger brother Paul in a Formula 3000 race. This tragedy galvanized Warwick, and led to a campaign to improve circuit safety. It also led to a memorable confrontation with then-Sauber Group C driver Michael Schumacher that ended with Warwick coming close to choking the young driver on the conference table in the Sauber motor home.

Warwick was successful in racing’s top ranks, however, driving for the Jaguar sport car team in 1986 and 1991, as well as Peugeot Talbot Sport in 1992. That was the year Warwick won at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. All is recounted in the video. It is a fascinating interview. — CAS

Friday
May302014

Making Sense of Mini’s Superleggera Vision

By Christopher A. Sawyer

As the former owner of a 2003 Mini Cooper, I am one of the first to say BMW has lost the purity and fun of that car in its rush to add models, and meet changing safety standards. The clean cheekiness of BMW’s original Mini — penned by American Frank Stephenson, currently McLaren’s chief designer — has been replaced by a heavy-handed pastiche of Mini design cues ladled like cheese on potatoes over a larger platform. And while a fan of the idea, but not the execution, of both the Countryman and Paceman, I find each to be too large, too heavy and too far removed from what a Mini should be.

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Friday
May022014

Revitalizing Alfa, Take Three

By Christopher A. Sawyer

The relaunch of Alfa will take more than just product. However, it is what form that product will take that has the industry talking. About the time you read this, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) CEO Sergio Marchionne will be ready to outline his new industrial plan for the company. It promises to be a very different report than the one he delivered in 2010.

At that time, Marchionne peddled an “affordable premium” strategy built around front-drive platforms used throughout the Fiat empire. In 2012, the refreshed MiTo hatchback would be joined by a five-door model that would be sold in the U.S. A new Alfa Spider would launch that same year on a variant of that platform, and a new Giulia sedan, station wagon and SUV would join the global product mix. This SUV, which was to be smaller than the 2014 Cherokee, would be shared with Jeep. Two years later, the Giulietta sedan (on which the Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200 are based) was to be heavily modified, and spawn a D-class SUV.

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Friday
May022014

Small Pickups: An Idea That Won’t Die

By Christopher A. Sawyer

Mini Paceman AdventureThis concept Mini Paceman Adventure pickup concept isn’t as daft as it might first appear. There’s a market for a small, fun-to-drive unit-body pickup, but no manufacturer has had the nerve to move from concept to production. Kia showed a Soul pickup concept, the Soulster, in 2009, and made noises about it going into production. It never did. Despite strong demand for the truck at auto shows, it didn’t do quite as well in formal customer clinics and would have been prohibitively expensive to build on the original Soul platform. Company executives in the U.S. whispered that the design would be held over until the Soul was redesigned, but the Soulster never appeared.

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