The iconic Lotus Elan celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, and the Elan will be taking centre stage at this weekend’s Goodwood Festival Of Speed in the UK. This was a car launched within a year of other groundbreaking cars such as the E-Type, the AC Cobra and Ferrari GTO – cars all about power. With its contrary approach, modern lines and emphasis on handling, the Elan rightfully deserves its place among those classics.
Lotus might have been known for producing lightweight sportscar that were more about handling than comfort, but the Elan featured a host of options that were rarities for the time: pop-up headlights, electric windows, carpets, a heater and a wooden fascia.
That didn’t mean Lotus had ignored their signature motifs: the Elan weighed just 670kg and featured a fibreglass body and independent suspension. Power was provided by the classic Lotus Twin-Cam 1,558cc engine.
The brand’s motorsport heritage was important then as now – the company has won six F1 Drivers’ and seven F1 Constructors titles, plus achieved victory at the 1965 Indy 500. First introduced as a Drop Head roadster in 1962, an optional hardtop was added in ’63 followed by a Fixed Head coupé in ’65. You could even buy an Elan in kit form to cut down on taxes.
The Elan was Lotus’ biggest commercial success of the period, reviving a company that was always operating on the edge – in the same way that the Elise kept Lotus afloat in the ’90s. It was produced for over a decade, with the last +2 Elan rolling off the lines in 1974.
The natural successor to the Elan was Maxda’s MX5, which was one of the biggest selling sportscars of the ’90s. Mazda have announced the two new special-edition Kuro – ‘Black’ – models: a 1.8i convertible and 2.0i roadster coupé featuring 17″ alloys, a diffuser-style rear bumper, sports exhaust and unique interiors.
The Kuro is backed up by the GT Concept, which will also be on show down at the Festival Of Speed: it’s inspired by the GT4-class MX-5 that is competing in the British GT Championship. Race team Jota have upped the power to 205hp from the car’s two-litre NA unit, installed adjustable suspension and added a carbon splitter, spoiler and diffuser.
The GT4 racer run by Jota has just achieved its first podium in the series at Brands Hatch: at one stage during the pit-stops it was running second overall among the big GT cars!
At the same event, Nissan’s GT-R Nismo GT3 also took the car’s first major race victory of the year, following a previous win in a lower-level series. The GT-R held off the Beachdean Aston Martin Vantage by just two-hundredths of a second to be first across the line, something the GT-R has been threatening to do for several races. The next big outing for the team should be at next month’s Spa 24 Hours as part of the Blancpain Endurance Series.
Alongside brute-force GT-Rs, Nissan are also continuing their assault on the electric car market with the Leaf: they’ve been running a campaign promoting the Leaf and a new quick-charge system that they’re planning to roll out across major European cities.
Fisker’s rather more sporty electric alternatives are now being pushed more heavily in Europe. The firm have enlisted a group of importers across Europe to sell the Karma following a run-out of the cars during the Cannes Film Festival and Monaco GP weekends.
The Formula One circus moved on to the port of Valencia in Spain last weekend for the European Grand Prix, threading its way around the town’s harbour and America’s Cup yachting team buildings.
The dramatic race saw another nose-to-tail battle for positions during the middle of the race; a sure-fire victory for Sebastian Vettel was prevented by an alternator failure on his Red Bull – a similar problem also stopped Romain Grosjean’s Lotus. But Kimi Raikkonen came through the late-race melée to claim second position in the race behind eventual winner Fernando Alonso.
Michael Schumacher also benefitted from a melt-down of competitors at the end and finished third. His inherited podium also meant that three former Ferrari F1 World Champions stood on the podium.
While Alonso’s F1 car was winning out on track, over 100 Ferrari owners have been getting ready to take part in a blast around the majestic landscapes of Tuscany and Emilia Romagna, driving sections of the Mille Miglia route and the Savio, Imola, Mugello and Fiorano tracks. Starting and finishing in Bologna after describing a 600km route, the Ferrari Calvacade begins on Thursday June 28 and finishes on Saturday.
Prodrive’s marketing arm have gone into overdrive with the opening of their first dedicated motorsport-themed store at Westfield Statford City in the UK, next to the Olympic Park. The store will stock models, clothing and replica gear from McLaren and Aston Martin.
You can get even closer to the industry during National Motorsport Week, which starts in the UK this weekend. The governing body of Britain’s racing series, the MSA, have organised a whole range of activities and open days which includes the opportunity for a rare, behind the scenes visit of the RML factory near Silverstone on July 6. The current Deltawing and WTCC Chevy Cruze will be on show alongside many of RML’s previous cars, plus there will be wheel-change competitions and a guided tour of the facility.
The BAC Mono, the world’s first road-legal, single-seater production car, was the fastest car in the Supercar class on the sprint course at the Cholmondeley Pageant Of Power, and second overall to the race-prepped Caterham SP/300.R prototype.
A counterpoint will come this weekend at the world-famous Shelsley Walsh hill-climb as 150 vintage cars, such as this Vauxhall AD, will be taking on the hill.
Beaulieu, the home of the UK’s National Motor Museum, was host to the Simply American event last weekend, where all the major American marques were represented around Beaulieu’s parkland.
The People’s Choice award went to this 1950 Mercury led-sled – which was fresh from winning Best In Show at the Custom & Hot Rod Festival the week before.
Even heavier American metal is continuing its test programme in the States: the GTS-R Viper was also put on show during the Le Mans 24 hours in France.
Meanwhile, the first production specification SRT Viper GTS (though technically a pre-production model) has fetched $300,000 dollars at a charity auction in aid of a paediatric cancer trust.
From July BMW are launching their revised 5- and 6-Series range and have released some rather nice new images of the big coupé.
In an effort to head off Audi’s dominance in the sector, BMW are also introducing their xDrive four-wheel-drive system to the 3-Series saloon, with initial availability limited to the 320i.
If you need something with a bit more serious all-wheel capacity – like, Dakar Rally levels – then maybe a Bowler is for you. They’ve just formalised their long-standing relationship with Land Rover, and their EXR rally car will now carry Powered By Land Rover branding. The EXR is based on a Range Rover Sport chassis with a 550hp five-litre V8 dumped in the front and a whole lot of new bodywork and suspension work. The company are also promoting the EXR-S off-road supercar variant – another car which will be on show at the Festival Of Speed.
In the latest round of the IRC Skoda have once again come out on top, this time at the Geko Ypres tarmac rally in Belgium. Juho Hänninen’s Fabia S2000 triumphed over Freddy Loix’ Peugeot 207.
Championship leader Andreas Mikkelsen still leads overall, despite dropping out of the rally after breaking a suspension arm during a disagreement with a Belgian bank. Hänninen’s result has moved him to within six points of Mikkelsen’s 89.
The British Touring Car Championship visited the Croft circuit in Yorkshire last weekend for another dose of panel-bashing entertainment. The Honda Civics of Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal took the first pair of wins…
…before MG’s Jason Plato came through to win the third and final race, claiming his 70th victory in the BTCC.
Rob Austin finished third in Race 2, representing the best finish yet for his self-developed NGTC-class Audi A4.
Some small-car news. Fiat’s revised Punto has been released with five trim levels, from the entry-level Pop through Easy, GBT and TwinAir to the top of the range Lounge. Ah, marketing people…
Vauxhall have also created the Black Edition Corsa, featuring a 1.4-litre turbo that makes it one of the most powerful Corsas available. A new bodykit and interior make-over complete the look for the limited run of 500 units.
Whilst everyone is is going smaller and simpler, MINI continue to get bigger. It would be unfair to say that the choice of pet describes the car…
Audi are still revelling in their victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and have released a long list of facts about their participation in the race. 11 victories in 14 attempts (a win rate of 78.57 percent); the first victories for TFSI, diesel and hybrid vehicles; five podium sweeps; a consecutive clean sweep of pole, fastest lap and overall victory; reduced fuel consumption (over 10 percent) despite completing over 300km more over the length of the race; another win for a new car, in the mould of the R8, R10 and R18 TDi (they don’t mention the R15…); 23 victories for Audi factory drivers; the 29th win for a German car; and so on. But 2013 is another year, and we should have a much stronger and wiser Toyota – and maybe more factories coming out to play.
Audi also recently released their second documentary on the great race. Truth In 24 II is the follow-up to the award-winning original. Check out the full hour and a half here – it can also be downloaded from iTunes for free.
Tom Kristensen, Audi’s eight-time Le Mans winning driver, isn’t content with a single 24-hour outing, so he’s now been added to the line-up for the Spa 24 Hours at the end of July. 2012 Le Mans 24 Hours winners Marcel Fässler and André Lotterer will join him in a Phoenix-run Audi R8 LMS super team.
Something to watch out for this weekend: it’s the Nuremberg round of the DTM, where the German series tackle the short, sharp shock and narrow, concrete-lined track of the Norisring.
It’s one of the highlights of the year for the championship, the only street track and always the scene of plenty of wing-mirror-destroying action. To get us in the mood, here are highlights of last year’s race. Messy!