It’s probably taken longer to dawn than it should, but I have no doubt that we have reached peak car. In fact we probably did so some time ago. Allow me to explain. For almost all my working life I’ve wanted cars to get better and that’s what happened year after year. They both gained and shed speed more quickly andwent around corners faster,too. Which was great, because back when I started doing thisjob in the 1980s, cars were pretty rubbish and took an age to do anything.
That’s not the case any more. Today there is at least one production hatchback that will accelerate from 0-62mph in under 4sec and another that will lap the Nürburgring faster than a Bugatti Veyron managed 15 years ago. Which is impressive when you read it.
But when you think about that and the level of performance now provided by properly fast modern cars, I find it impossible to conclude anything other than that we have gone far enough, and possibly too far.
I say this because the relentless pursuit of performance is starting to spoil our fun. Acceleration is no longer invigorating, it’s violent. Cornering limits are so high that most drivers of fast cars have no hope of experiencing that glorious sensation of being balanced on the limit on any public road, however quiet and open. To support the additional power that cars produce and forces to which they are submitted, they have grown bigger and heavier, which is another way of saying less fun. Common sense says it should stop now;butwhen it comes to such matters, common sense rarely has anything to do with it.
I applaud the British Automobile Racing Club’s attempt to adapt to this strange new world with a series which is imaginative, audacious and wonderfully simple. BARC Red invites anyone with a touring, sports or GT racing car to come and take part. As long as your car passes the usual safety checks, you’re ready to race. Your car can be old or new, bigor small, brutishly powerful or svelte.
Not only that, you decide the class in which you want to compete on any given race day. All you have to do is declare what you think is the quickest lap time of which the car is capable and as long as you don’t go faster than that in qualifying or in the race, you’ll stay in your preferred class. No one will overstate their car’s pace and thereby disadvantage themselves, but nor do I think people will understate much either, because that reduces their participation to a regularity run, which is not why people tend to go racing. Best of all is that without a rulebook it’s almost impossible to cheat.
Hopefully the initiative will result in variety-filled grids, peopled by those who may have given up or never got into racing because they felt they wouldn’t be able to compete with guys up front who know all the tricks. Here there are no tricks, only proper racing. I wish it well.
I had hoped that by the time you are reading this I would have travelled to Belgium for my annual blunder round the Spa Six Hours, borne as ever by the faithful family Ford Falcon. But I had also lucked my way into the driving seat of a more serious weapon, an AstonMartin DB4 owned by Bell Sport & Classic. Then I got a call telling me that the meeting had been cancelled, for reasons you won’t need me to explain here.
I find myself more than usually put out by the news. In the main this is because my inner spoiled brat lurks close to the surface so it doesn’t take much of a prod for it to rear its ugly head. I feel disgruntled by having such a gorgeous Aston Martin dangled in front me like the fruit of Tantalus only for it to be whipped away mere days before the flag dropped. The Six Hours is a sort of end-of-term party for the historic racing world with perhaps the most varied grids outside the Members Meeting and a fabulous atmosphere.
However sorry I’m feeling for myself, I feel sorrier for the organisers who battled to keep it alive. Book your accommodation for next year the moment the date is announced. It will be a sell out.
I recently spent a morning driving a Ferrari 250SWB fairly fast on the public road. As you do. Actually whether it was an SWB or not I’ll leave to you: it was created from scratch by those Ferrari fettlers GTO Engineering.
The ‘SWB’ looks, sounds and behaves like a 1960 original but is faster thanks to a 3.5-litre upgrade for its V12 Colombo motor. They do a 360bhp 4-litre too and while most are destined for road use, if you want a racing version with FIA papers, that’s no problem. All you need is around £600,000, an ideally wrecked donor Ferrari to provide the identity and a lot of patience. About 18 months’ worth.
When I’ve mentioned this car, a few people have turned their noses north muttering about its lack of provenance. To me, that is not the point. We know that classic racing cars are being recreated all over the place and many that compete are newer than the Range Rovers behind which they were towed to the race track. Secondly, this is a car that would be indistinguishable in all regards to an original by all but the most expert of eyes.
I expect 2020 GTO Engineering welding is better than it was in Maranello 60 years ago. All I’d say is that if I was merely very wealthy rather than fabulously rich, as someone who’d grown up in love with the Short Wheelbase but knew he could never afford the real thing, I’d give it plenty of thought. Sadly, I am neither.