The supercar displays at the FIA GT races always provide a mouth-watering array of cars to gawp at even before you make it to the race paddock: they’re a great way to remind you that the DNA of what you see on the track invariably has a road car origin – and that the racecars in turn influence their road-going sisters. So far this year the quantity of cars on display at the races has varied from minimal but rare-as-hen’s-teeth to a sensory overload of svelte Euro metal, with everything in between. But the more centrally-located European rounds of FIA GT usually attract a good number of cars, and Paul Ricard proved no exception.
With the Lamborghini Super Trofeo series once again providing an entrée to the GT main courses, they’d once again broken out the big guns and the full Lamborghini hospitality/merchandising area, complete with another Aventador – this time in gleaming pearlescent white.
What was particularly great about Ricard was the eclectic display of cars: it’s not like the Astons, Lamborghinis and other straight-from-the-showroom models don’t deserve attention, but the trio of classic States-side muscle that turned up on the Sunday rightfully drew as many admiring looks and pointed cameras as the more current cars.
The trimmed bushes and olive trees of Paul Ricard’s paddock parking areas also made for a more interesting background than the normal acres of tarmac, and created little corrals of supercar heaven to explore.
The main welcome for arriving spectators was the fan of cars arranged on the paddock roundabout: this displayed a constantly shifting line-up of exotica over the weekend as cars came and went.
I enjoyed having some time to look around the Aston Martin One-77 that turned out on Sunday, having not had time to get a good look at the example at Silverstone back in June or the one passing by at the Le Mans driver parade.
All the Aston Martin family of cars share the same swooping lines and gaping ’50s-style front grill but somehow seem to maintain a distinct individuality at the same time. After years in the doldrums with just single models on sale, Aston Martin are riding a crest now with plenty of low-volume specials available alongside the regular DB9-based models.
The owners are rightfully proud of their cars, and even better for us are more than happy to show them off both inside and out. The Aston’s 7.3L V12 is absolutely smothered in carbon.
I hadn’t realised that the One-77 had a small pop-up rear wing: as ever, part of the car’s automated stability control system.
The tag-team supercar swaps continued over the weekend, meaning every time I passed by to pick up a media shuttle I would risk missing it whilst taking in the latest additions; Lotus swapped for Maserati, Audi swapped for Lamborghin and so on.
It’s interesting to compare the shapes side by side, as with the race-cars version out on track. The blunt-nosed, brute force of the Nissan; the angular, clean lines of the Lamborghini; and then the long curves of the Aston.
After years of overwhelming numbers of silver cars in Europe, it now seems like the majority of sportscars are now going for dark shades or matte wraps…
…so thank god for Ferrari (mostly) steadfastly sticking to red. Since seeing my first California at Goodwood a couple of years back, I’ve hardly seen any in the wild – although plenty have rolled off the production line. It’s seems that a lot of manufacturers around the world are producing cars that hark back to the classic lines of the ’60s.
Even better is when you see the cars that provided the inspiration for these modern models. It’s quite usual to see the odd Jaguar or Ferrari, but far more rare are pony cars like these: a Torino Cobra II, Boss 351 and Shelby GT350. Thankfully the US manufacturers are also looking back to their heritage for inspiration, and this muscular style of car is back in styling vogue.
My love of US musclecars started with watching videos of 1960s British touring car battles like this, where darting British Lotus Cortinas, Escorts and Minis took on hulking Camaro, Mustang and Falcon imports.
All three cars here were absolutely immaculate – beautiful examples of these beefed-up specials.
I have to admit that the Cobra had me stumped at first: I immediately thought Mustang because of the Cobra name, but of course the bodyshape is the Fairlane/Torino.
The Boss Mustang is just downright mean-looking. Its raised and squared-off rear, balanced with the nose lip and NACA ducts give it such an aggressive stance. The only thing to do was to pop back to the media centre and watch the chase scene from Bullit to get over the V8 lust.
Back to more local fare, as the Fords were parked up adjacent to the Super Trofeo cars, sitting slightly oddly on their tripod in-board jacks. This is one single-make series that does deserve attention: the racecars go as fast as they look, and are barely slower than the GT3 equivalents.
Around the corner, the Italian tricolore and raging bull flags were the rallying point for Lamborghini’s road cars: obligatory Gallardos to match the Super Trofeo and GT3 cars, plus the odd interloper.
Every time I see the Aventador I’m more and more impressed. Its styling is just so out there – very much in the Countach tradition.
As often remarked upon, the angular Reventon cues are very much in evidence: but luckily the price tag isn’t. Relatively speaking, of course.
I never thought there would be a car that could out-brute a Murcielago. But here it is. Everything about it seems just that little bit more tighter, narrower and leaner. It’s a stunning car.
Talking of which: another rare sighting, an LP640 Roadster, again in pearlescent white.
Spyders can often look a little off-balance, but the LP640 (which, in base terms, is just a Murcielago with its roof chopped off) works for me.
In the vanguard of the Roadster was this LP560-4 – effectively the road-going version of the Super Trofeo car.
The more variety the better. And what could be more varied than a GT-R (with some great red-beaded wheels) next to a Bentley Continental soft-top next to…
…a pair of Morgans! These cars retain a cult following and rightly so. They’re strangely popular in France – there was even a trio of French-run Morgan Aero 8s running in FIA GT3 from 2007-2009, which were no also-rans: these were race-winning cars, did well in national GT series and a variant even competed at Le Mans.
As befits a motor car company of 101 years standing, whilst Morgan can make cutting edge when they choose – such as the slightly wacky Eva GT above, the bonkers Aero 8 (that ran in GT3) or the utterly insane AeroMax – their bread and butter (and still wood-framed) roadster has barely changed since the early 1960s, and a good thing too.
This one was particularly special: inside, the dash was hand-signed by current company owner Charles Morgan – the grandson of the founder. The finishing is simplistic and functional, but timeless and classic. The flat, military green was perfectly complemented by the black spoked, knock-off wheels. What a great line-up of cars!