Danger and Glamour: Mille Miglia

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The original Mille Miglia is one of motorsport’s legendary races, run at a time when health and safety came second to excitement. The thousand mile race over open public roads was conceived by an Italian Count in protest of the Italian Grand Prix being moved from his hometown of Brescia to Monza. The track was set as a lap of Italy from Brescia to Rome and back, and entry was restricted to unmodified production cars. Out of 77 starters only 51 made it to the finish line of the very first Mille Miglia. The race cemented the legendary status of marques such as Ferrari, Maserati, Porsche, Mercedes, BMW and Alfa Romeo, regularly attracting 5 million spectators along its route. Who wouldn’t want to see beautiful cars tear by on open beautiful roads?

Unlike modern rallies, the Mille Miglia sent the slowest cars out onto the course before the more powerful factory-backed competitors. Each car was given a number based on the time at which it started the race, so Sterling Moss’s legendary #722 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR set off at 7.22 am. He and navigator Denis ‘Jenks’ Jenkinson set the absolute record for the thousand mile lap with a time of 10 hours, 7 minutes and 48 seconds. Their average speed over that time was an eye-watering 97.9 mph/157.6 km/h. The race was held twice in its original format after that record-setting run, but the time was never beaten.

While probably for the best, it’s a shame that there aren’t many races left that match the drama and danger of the Mille Miglia. Holding it on public roads was divine madness. One year, German driver Hans Herrmann at the wheel of a low-slung Porsche 550 Spyder saw the gates of a railway crossing begin to lower as he approached. Tapping the back of his navigator’s helmet to tell him to duck, he floored the nimble little Porsche and flew under the barrier just before the train passed. That was the kind of race that the Mille Miglia was. Unfortunately, you’re only lucky so many times. At the 1957 running Spanish driver Alfonso de Portago, desperate to win, waited too long to change tyres on his 4.2 litre Ferrari. He lost control and crashed, killing himself, his navigator, and nine spectators. Five of those were children. The race was subsequently banned, and is now held as a timed rally at legal speeds open to pre-1957 cars which attended or raced in the original Mille Miglia.

Posted @Whippstagram on Intsagram, Wednesday June 29th 2016

Danger and Glamour: Mille Miglia

Drunk on Horsepower

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Spen King designed the original Range Rover with cloth seats and an interior that could be cleaned out with a garden hose. He stated that the now iconic looks of the first Range Rover used up about 0.1% of the total development time, hastily sketched to produce a shape for his clever off-road wizardry to sit inside. A lovable old curmudgeon, King was furious when his creation became a leather-clad luxury vehicle and stated that using one in town was pompous and completely stupid. Safe to say he probably wouldn’t like the bonkers Range Rover Sport SVR with its racing seats and Nurburgring-honed handling.

Let’s not mince words; the SVR is a ridiculous proposition. A 5400 lb performance SUV. A speed machine whose pilot sits five feet off the floor. A company renowned for class and elegance building a body-kitted, monstrously shouty beast. 4 (4!) mpg around a racetrack. Yet the more I read about the SVR the more it grows on me. If you can suspend rational thought long enough it starts to seem like a good idea. Not a good idea like sensible investment, but a good idea like doing something dangerous that scares and thrills you and makes you feel alive.

The impressive thing about the SVR is despite all its performance bits and bobs it still provides Land Rover’s exemplary off-road capabilities. The only different between the SVR and its Sport Supercharged sibling in that respect is a diminished approach angle thanks to its front bumper. Its 550 horsepower, 502 ft/lb supercharged V8 shoots it to 60 mph in 4.5 ear rending seconds. Yes, it’s unnecessary, but its competition from M, AMG, and SRT have proven that there is a market for obscenely powerful pseudo-offroaders. Let the loud times roll.

Posted @Whippstagram on Instagram Wednesday June 15th 2016.

Drunk on Horsepower

Ferrari 330 P4

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The 330 P4 embodies the glamour of 60s Sportscar racing in the flowing lines of its beautiful body. Packing a 4.0 litre V12, it’s got a voice to match the drama of its physical form.

Ferrari’s P series of sports prototypes came as a rebuttal to Ford’s dominance with the GT40. The Colombo V12 found in the P3 was Scuderia Ferrari’s first to feature fuel injection, and produced 450 horsepower at 8000 rpm(!). Thanks to its powerhouse motor and lightweight components the racer could hit 199 mph in a straight line.

The P series cars were a resounding success. At the 1967 24 hours of Daytona a P3/4, P4, and 412 P crossed the finish line three abreast, mirroring Ford’s triumphant finish at Le Mans the previous year with their GT40s. The 1-2-3 finish proved that Maranello could still take the fight to Detroit.

Posted @Whippstagram on Instagram, May 11th 2016.

Ferrari 330 P4

Driving Nirvana

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Picture this: it’s 1961 and you’re a wealthy Californian. The sun is shining as you round another breathtaking corner on the Pacific Coast Highway in your shiny red 250 GT California. The fresh ocean air surrounds you, filling the cabin and your lungs. Dropping a gear, you hear the 3.0 litre V12 in front of you sing as you power through the bend. You’ve got 280 horsepower under your right foot, and miles of twisty roads ahead. Does life get any better?

That’s exactly the scene Ferrari’s American dealers had in mind when they asked Enzo to chop the roof off his 250 GT Berlinetta. They believed that California was the market for a beautiful, comfortable, fast convertible, and they were absolutely right.

The 250 GT California SWB came with the same race-derived Colombo V12 as the rest of Ferrari’s 250 Series. Handling was improved over its LWB older brother thanks to smaller dimensions. It featured aluminium body panels and four-wheel disc brakes courtesy of Dunlop. While designed to be an elegant convertible, the California still demonstrated Ferrari’s racing prowess. Privateers would cruise to the racetrack in comfort, go out and embarrass purpose built racecars, and then cruise home again in the evening. The 250 GT California is the embodiment of speed, luxury, and grace that Ferrari is known for.

Posted @Whippstagram on Instagram, April 20th 2016.

Driving Nirvana

Racing Road Car: F1 GTR

wp-1456977585881.jpgWhen the McLaren F1 GTR debuted in 1995, it was the result of racing teams badgering Gordon Murray to let them compete using his road-going masterpiece. Original GTRs were very similar to the road cars and shared the majority of their parts. Carbon brakes, ducting, a roll cage and an adjustable wing were added, but apart from that the F1 GTR was shockingly similar to the F1. It used the same engine and gearbox as the road car to win the 1995 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans against prototypes designed and built for that very race.

By 1997, the big boys were tired of their purpose-built racers losing to a road car. Porsche had done well with the 911 GT1 the previous year, and Mercedes was about to introduce the CLK GTR. The elegant ‘Long Tail’ body shape was designed to increase aerodynamic downforce, allowing the car to corner at higher speeds. The engine was tinkered with and the road car’s gearbox was axed in favour of a sequential six-speed. McLaren was forced to build 3 road-going versions of the GTR Long Tail. Imagine that on the high street.

I chose to post this GTR Long Tail because its livery makes it look like it has a moustache, and I like that. It’s chassis #19R, and was used as McLaren’s competition development mule before being sold to private interests. It was raced in one form or another from 1997-2001, and is 1/10 GTR Long Tails ever built. As such, it’s worth $12 million. It’s very special indeed.

Posted @Whippstagram on Instagram, March 2nd 2015.

Racing Road Car: F1 GTR

Sunderland Stories: Merry Mischief

‘You do this one.’ ‘I did the last one, you’re chicken anyway.’ ‘No I’m not!’ ‘Go on then.’ ‘One’s coming!’ The three boys peered on tiptoe out from their hiding place in the dark, cavernous sitting room, through the net curtains. The street outside was chilly and damp. Fresh raindrops glinted on the bodies of the cars that lined the road, yellow-gold in the deceptively warm glow from the street lamps. The headlights of the car approached. Bumping into things in the close, shielding darkness, the lads rushed to the front door. The house was on the end of a terrace, and the heavy door opened feet from the end of the alley that met the main road. ‘Let me through!’ hissed one as the three jostled for a good view of their mischief. ‘Now!’ called the one who’d run back to the sitting room to serve as lookout and target spotter. A well-weighted underarm lob sent the orange off towards its target.

THUD

All stealth forgotten in the thrill of perfect success, the front door was slammed shut hard. ‘Did you see that!’ ‘Right on the headlight! All over the bonnet and windscreen!’ Still in the cover of darkness (although for no real reason as this part of the house couldn’t be seen from the street) the boys raced up the stairs to the loft, pushing and taking swipes at each other’s feet as they ran. ‘Move! I wanna see.’ ‘They’ve gone, probably didn’t even notice.’ ‘I doubt that!’ ‘Next one’s your turn.’ ‘I’ll throw it from here.’ ‘Chicken!’ ‘Go on then!’ Back downstairs. A key turns in the lock and the big front door swings open. ‘Why are all the lights off?’ comes the shout from below. ‘We were just playing hide and seek.’ Fun’s over. For now.

A few hours later. ‘Are they asleep?’ ‘Think so. Me mam will kill us if she catches us.’ ‘Shhh! She won’t.’ They creep, ever so slowly, down the stairs, wincing with each creak of the floorboards. On towards the artillery locker, also known as the fridge. More projectiles to fly into the night.

Back up the stairs. Ever so slowly. Back to the loft to spot targets from high ground. ‘Look at him! Can’t remember what a straight line looks like!’ Carefully, silently, the window lifts. ‘Go on,’ in whispered tones. An orange is loosed into the cool, dark night, whose air carries the faint smell of the sea. The orange sails in an almost lazy arc to land and explode beside the drunk’s legs with a slapping pop. Poor bloke nearly jumps out of his skin. He wheels clumsily around.

By the time he’d be in any position to catch a glimpse of his stealthy attackers the window has been pulled down and closed.

The boys are laughing their heads off, as silently as possible, of course. The man angrily throws up an arm, as if to curse his tormentors, before turning to continue the journey home. ‘Here, give him an egg.’ Up goes the window again, and out flies an egg into the night. This missile falls well short of its target, but still creates great comedy for the boys to watch as the reveller casts drunkenly about, shouting bloody murder with the clear intention of killing whoever is responsible for harrassing him. Of course, this danger makes the mischief all the more fun.

Sunderland Stories: Merry Mischief