Twenty Questions

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SUBJECT: Ansar Alt
OCCUPATION: Managing director, Caterham Cars

What is your greatest achievement? Professionally, the success of Caterham Cars in recent years; personally, my family.

What is your biggest regret? Not coming to the help of a friend with whom I’d lost contact.

Whose work in the industry today do you admire most and why? Richard Parry-Jones for almost single-handedly turning around Ford’s product development approach.

Who inspired you to join the industry and why? Lee Iacocca after I read his book, Iacocca,’ an autobiography.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given? “You never know when you may need my help, so don’t be too honest in your assessment of me!” Sir Ian McAllister (CEO Ford Britain).

What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing in the next 12 months? Discretionary spend is on the squeeze, and the Japanese tsunami (Japan is our third-biggest market).

What car do you drive for fun? A Caterham Seven.

When did you last go for a drive for the sake of it? Where did you go? Last month, driving aimlessly in my BMW through the country lanes in south Norfolk where I live.

What’s the best moment you’ve had in a car? Driving the Caterham Lambreffa through the main gates of Buckingham Palace!

What was your first car? Mini Metro.

Did you pass your test first time? Yes!

How will most cars be powered in 30 years time? Hybrid power.

It’s your last drive. One car, one road. Which and where? Aston DB4 S2 through the Maritime Alps just above Monaco/Ventimiglia.

What music do you listen to in the car? Everything except folk and country.

What’s the best book about cars or car people you’ve ever read? lssigonis: the official biography.

Rumours persist of a new Caterham road car. When will we see it? Wait till I find the person spreading the rumours…

What kind of reception has the new Lola-Caterham SP300/R track car had? Much better than expected honestly! Now we need to get the development car on track.

How many cars does Caterham build each year, and how many would you like to build? Last year was a record just over 500 Sevens. If the rumours were true of a new road car then 750 feels about right.

How many interchangeable parts are there between a modern Caterham and an original Lotus 7? Very few parts used now survive from the Lotus, but the lineage is still clear.

How will Caterham respond to future environmental challenges? Would you build an affordable alternative to a Tesla? Caterham already produces a relatively fuel-efficient, low-emission, high-performance sports car the Seven! Of course we watch industry developments and do not discount any technology at this stage.

*

And that reminds me…
Want to wind up Ferrari? Just bring a rival road car, real or imagined, to one of its launches
There are many ways to get into trouble as a motoring journalist. Crashing cars is common, but breaking embargoes, printing inaccuracies and tipping the mini-bar into your luggage (it happens) are tried and tested methods. Another is not playing by the book with Ferrari. Touchy hardly covers its response to journos going off-piste. Aussie Peter Robinson, arguably the most influential motoring writer of his generation, has been physically ejected from Maranello once and banned for life. Twice.

To say Ferrari likes to control situations is to say Oliver Reed liked the odd beer. And there’s not much more likely to raise its hackles than journalists bringing rival cars to launches. At the FF event Porsche delivered a car to Ferrari’s hotel near Cortina so I could drive it to Stuttgart the next morning. But it didn’t stop Ferrari assuming skulduggery, even though this was a convertible sports car costing a third of its Grand Touring coupe. Quite why they thought I’d (a) seek to make such a comparison and (b) have the car delivered direct to Ferrari they didn’t say.

Still, a few intrepid hacks have crept to Ferrari events in genuine rivals, waiting for a Ferrari-borne conspirator for a clandestine blast up the road in both.

Probably the most famed example of this is when Colin Goodwin (who has featured in this spot before) drove to the launch of the 360 Modena in a 911 Turbo. The cars met, photos were taken and all was well. Until they drew up at a junction with a busy road, Ferrari in front, Goodwin behind. The Ferrari driver saw a gap in the traffic and edged forward. Colin then gave the 400-plus bhp 911 the beans, just as the Ferrari braked.

The rest you can guess, with fairly catastrophic consequences for both cars. Usually when you crash, the moment you step away uninjured the worst is over. Not this time. I’d rather have wrestled an alligator than make that call.

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