Motor Sport's weekly debrief


Button prepares for Super GT debut, Ariel announces 1180 hp supercar and could safety cars soon be driverless?

Sports cars

Button prepares for Super GT debut at Suzuka 1000KM

Jenson Button is gearing up to make his racing return at this weekend’s Suzuka 1000km, round six of the Super GT Series in Japan. It is the final time the 1000km race will be held, replacing it in 2018 will be a 10-hour GT race. The 2009 F1 World Champion, who drove an NSX Concept-GT car at a Honda Racing event late last year, will race a Team Mugen Honda NSX-GT alongside Hideki Mutoh and Daisuke Nakajima.

Indicating that he hopes to make a full-time racing return in 2018, Button has hinted at a potential future in the series. “I will be definitely doing something next year for a full season,” he said. “The [Super GT] cars are great to drive. Through the corners, it feels like a Formula 1 car and you have the GT300 cars to overtake. It’s another added challenge for me, something that’s new to me.”

Around his racing return, Button is also ramping up his training for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships.

Mercedes GT4 on target during VLN race debut

The new Mercedes-AMG GT4 car impressed on its a rain-drenched race debut at the Nürburgring, during a six-hour VLN race. Entered into the experimental SPX class, a GT4 entered by Uwe Alzen Automotive secured a 16th-place finish overall. “The car has shown a good level of reliability,” development driver Thomas Jaeger said. “The drivers were able to post really good lap times in these difficult conditions.”

Mercedes-AMG is set to give the GT4 its 24-hour debut at next weekend’s Portimão round of the 24H-Series.

Formula 1

Mick Schumacher to demo Benetton at Spa

Marking 25 years since Michael Schumacher claimed his first Grand Prix victory at Spa-Francorchamps in 1992, Mick Schumacher will demo his father’s 1994 title-winning Benetton at this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix. Eighteen-year-old Mick is currently 11th in the European F3 Championship.

His father won the Belgian Grand Prix a record six times.

Ferrari confirms Räikkönen​ for 2018 – but Vettel?

An eighth season with the Scuderia has been confirmed for Kimi Räikkönen​, as Ferrari announces half of its 2018 F1 driver line-up. But what of the four-time champion? It could be that the final details of a contract are not in place, or is there something else going on?

Mark Hughes analyses the four possibilities

Road cars

Ariel announces supercar with 1180 bhp

Ariel has always done things differently. The exoskeleton-like Atom was unlike anything we’d seen before, the Nomad redefined the all-terrain vehicle and the Ace motorcycle showcased the company’s versatility. Now the Somerset-based company is having a stab at something else: making a hypercar.

As you’d expect, they haven’t cut corners. It’s said to have 1,180 bhp – that’s only four short of a Veyron Super Sport. It will hit 100 mph in 3.8 seconds – that’s quicker than a McLaren P1. And top speed? Around 155 mph – that’s the same as a C-Class. Why so slow? Ariel is set to become the first car company to produce a turbo range extender, operating at 120,000 rpm, to charge four tiny electric motors. Ariel has said that the car’s immense horsepower could leave it ‘wheelspinning at 100mph in the dry’ and are therefore considering using ground effect technology to force the car into the road. That said, it will hit 150 mph in just 7.8 seconds.

Auction records tumble in Monterey

Records don’t last for long in Monterey. At the Pebble Beach auctions last weekend, the first McLaren F1 to be imported to the US looked to have seized the record for the most expensive British car ever sold at auction.  The hammer fell at more than $15.5 million. But its British record lasted for just one day. That was snatched by the first of five Aston Martin DBR1s, a car that helped Aston secure the 1959 World Sportscar title, DBR1/1 became the seventh most expensive car ever sold at auction.

Also selling big in the sunshine state was a 1970 Porsche 917K that was used extensively in the filming of Le Mans. It sold for $14 million, while a unique Ferrari – the 166MM/121 ‘Uovo’ – sold for $4.5 million.

Read the full report on the auctions from Monterey


Alister McRae to make World RX debut in France

Former WRC driver Alister McRae is set to make his rallycross bow at the French round of the World RX championship at Lohéac. McRae, the younger brother of 1995 World Rally Champion Colin, will contest the remainder of the 2017 season in a Volkswagen Polo Supercar piloted so far this year by Guy Wilks.

Ogier deals Neuville blow in title battle

Rally Germany has been kind to the French. Since 2001 only three rallies have gone the way of another nationality and last weekend’s event could prove pivotal in this year’s championship. Tied on points with Sébastien Ogier going into the rally, a loose wheel forced Thierry Neuville into retirement, meaning Ogier has opened up a 17-point lead at the top. “I have finished second in the championship a couple of times,” Neuville said. “I don’t care. I want to win. For the upcoming events our approach will be definitely much more aggressive – taking more risks.”

Another driver has entered the title fray, too. With a second career victory in Germany, Ogier’s M-Sport team-mate Ott Tänak has claimed the largest points haul of any driver in the last four rallies and is now just 33 points off the championship lead. To better his odds, Tänak showed some of his most impressive form in the closing rallies of 2016.

Three things we didn’t know last week

1) We could soon see driver-less safety cars

Does it frustrate you that the F1 safety car isn’t doing its bit to promote new automotive technologies? If so, the FIA has got you covered. As part of its initiative to promote autonomous technologies, the FIA is said to be considering the prospect of driver-less F1 safety cars in the future.

2) Suzuka enduro could rival Nürburgring 24

The Suzuka 1000km has been a fixture on the motor sport calendar since 1966, with winners including Mark Webber,  JJ Lehto and André Lotterer, but this weekend marks the end of an era as it will be the last running of the race. It is to be replaced in 2018 by the inaugural running of the Suzuka 10 Hours, a round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge. So far, it’s looking promising. Japan’s three biggest car manufacturers, Toyota, Nissan and Honda, have all committed to fielding factory entries, a prize fund of £700,000 has been offered and the entry will be open to GT3 cars, GT300 cars from Super GT and ST-X cars from the Super Taikyu series. 

3) China launches a ‘Formula 1 school’

F1 wants to impress China. That’s the word from managing director of F1 commercial operations Sean Bratches, who is looking to make F1’s appeal in China boom.

“From next year, we will organise fan festivals in city centres,” he said. “There will be show cars and food courts, and even fashion shows and education about the sport. We will have a programme called ‘Formula 1 school’ to engage more students and inspire them with passion.”

One video you should watch

Uncovering a gem from Sebring ’66

If there is footage of a classic race on YouTube, Dickie Meaden has been there and watched it. ‘I have a rather serious Youtube habit,’ he writes. ‘Specifically, anything that offers a window on bygone eras of the sport I love.’

On occasion, though, he stumbles upon a new one and this was a gem too good not to share.

It’s a great race from a classic era: the Sebring 12 Hours from 1966. The colour balance is a little off, but this is a video not to miss.

Watch the video and read why Sebring ’66 is a race of particular significance for Dickie Meaden

This week in numbers

67 Pole positions for Lewis Hamilton, one short of Michael Schumacher’s record rally

1,180 Horsepower of the new Ariel supercar

20,000 Dutch fans expected at this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix

15,620,000 Sale price of a McLaren F1 in Monterey, in USD, the most expensive ever

From the archive

“I was Ronnie’s racing instructor”

There is precious little room in motor racing for ifs, buts and might-have-beens. As Keke Rosberg is fond of saying, if his aunt had a moustache and balls she’d be his uncle. And if Reine Wisell had been racing at a different time, if he’d not been on the grid with Ronnie Peterson, if he’d not been at Lotus with Emerson Fittipaldi, then he might have been the ‘SuperSwede’, the hero of his era. If…

As it was, he was extremely fast, made a big name for himself in a short space of time, and then fell foul of internal politicking at Team Lotus. He was in the right place at the wrong time and it ruined a promising career.

Read the full article from the archive

Your weekend of motor sport


F1 / F2 / GP3: Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium


MotoGP: Silverstone, UK

Sports cars

Blancpain GT Sprint: Hungaroring, Hungary

ELMS: Paul Ricard, France

Super GT: Suzuka, Japan

Touring cars

BTCC: Rockingham, UK

US scene

IndyCar: Gateway, USA

IMSA: Virginia International Raceway, USA

NASCAR: Road America, USA

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