Group B Evolved: 288 GTO Evoluzione

The Ferrari 288 GTO has some fantastically special cars in its family tree. It was the first Ferrari to bear the GTO name since the legendary 250 GTO, and its crazy cousin, the 288 GTO Evoluzione, served as the prototype for the equally legendary F40. AND it was designed to compete in Group B, the holy grail of motorsport lunacy. Crikey. 

Unfortunately for the 288 GTO, Henri Toivonen and Sergio Cresto’s fatal crash in the 1986 Tour de Corse put an end to the 600 horsepower monsters. Group B was banned just as the GTO was about to step into the fray. Based on the 308 GTB to save money and construction time, the 288 was in reality a very different car. It was wider, lower, and packed with goodies like upgraded suspension, extra lights and a racing transmission mated to a 2.9 litre twin-turbo V8. It produced 400 horsepower, and was the first road-legal production car to hit 300 kph. 

Not content with their amazing creation, Ferrari set to work once more. They wanted something nastier, scarier, more evolved. The 288 was lightened to a featherweight 2072 lbs, and the boost was turned up so that the engine now produced 650 horsepower. Incredible lightness, power, and an aerodynamically revised body put the Evoluzione’s top speed at a terrifying 225 mph. 272 288 GTOs were produced, but just 5 Evoluziones were ever built. Miraculously none of them were crashed as a result of monstrous turbo-lag and all of them survive to this day.

Posted @Whippstagram on Instagram, Wednesday September 28th 2016.

Group B Evolved: 288 GTO Evoluzione

RTR for America

At 6’2” and weighing 215 lbs, Vaughn Gittin Jr. is not your average snake-hipped racing driver. It stands to reason, then, that his Formula D competition car would be larger than average too. Welcome to the Ford Mustang RTR.

When you think of the insane level of precision needed to go sideways at 100 mph+ without stuffing it into a wall, you think small, light sports cars from Japan. Not this time. Carbon fibre body panels and lightweight components keep the burly American under 2800 lbs with perfect 50/50 weight distribution.

Motivating that mass is a 436 cu.in. Ford Racing/Roush Yates V8 engine, which produces over 900 horsepower. Vaughn claims that this is a 9 second car at a drag strip. Too bad it almost never travels in a straight line!

This isn’t one of those ‘Made in England’ Ken Block Fiestas either. The competition Mustang RTR was built in Charlotte, North Carolina and is Stars and Stripes through and through. It’s one of the most recognisable cars in drifting, and has helped Vaughn to become one of the most successful American drifters ever.

Posted @Whippstagram on Instagram, Wednesday August 31st 2016.

RTR for America

Berlinette Bébé

“Our French friends had the idea to wrap two lying men with fiberglass and put them on wheels. The skin consisted solely of blue paint, and they were so light, the wind had already dented them.” So starts the @petrolicious video on the Alpine Renault A110 ‘Berlinette’, the very first World Rally Championship winning car. 

Alpine began as a standalone manufacturer and tuner of Renaults, with company founder Jean Rédélé successfully campaigning his Renault-based creations in races around Europe. As with AMG and Mercedes, the larger company took interest in Alpine’s success and bought the smaller out to provide Jean with more money to do his thing. The A110 was produced and updated between 1961 and 1976, and its rear-mounted engine never exceeded 1.8 l. It featured a steel chassis with a fiberglass body on top, and was licensed for production around the world. In Brazil it was sold by Willys (yes that Willys) as the Interlagos, and was built in Bulgaria under the very sexy name ‘Bulgaralpine’. 

Through the early 1970’s the Berlinette was an extremely successful rally car, but by 1974 the Lancia Stratos (the first car designed from the ground up for rally racing) had joined the fray and the Berlinette, along with many of its pre-1974 peers, was in decline. Engine and suspension updates failed to produce any meaningful increases in performance or points, and the A110 was retired from active racing duty. Its elegant styling make it a crowd favourite at historic rallies around the world to this day.

Posted @Whippstagram on Instagram, Wednesday July 27th 2016.

Berlinette Bébé

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

The Mazda 787B is a Japanese Banshee

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The 787B was Mazdaspeed’s weapon in the World Sportscar Championship’s Group C, as well as the All Japan Sports Prototype Championship. Designed by Nigel Stroud with a carbon-kevlar monocoque built in the UK, the car was Anglo-Japanese teamwork at its finest. To this day it’s the only Japanese car to take overall victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, achieved with a screaming rotary engine that produced 900 horsepower or 700 in race trim for the best possible reliability. Its engine is also unique amongst Le Mans winners as the FIA outlawed rotaries at the end of the 1991 season.
Despite lacking the outright lap time pace of its competition the 787B was very a reliable car. Due to this reliability, Mazdaspeed arrived at Le Mans quietly optimistic about their chances.

In addition to being reliable the 787B enjoyed better fuel economy than the offerings from Porsche, Jaguar, and Mercedes. Team principal Takayoshi Ohashi abandoned his usual conservative strategy and instructed his drivers to race as if they were in a short sprint race. Mazdaspeed meant business at Le Mans 1991.

The #55 787B driven by Johnny Herbert, Volker Weidler, and Bertrand Gachot started from 19th position and moved through the field as rival cars retired with mechanical problems. With six hours remaining and the #55 car in second place, the leading Mercedes C11 was forced into the pits with reliability issues. Johnny Herbert was driving at the time, and at the last pit stop demanded that he be allowed to stay in the driver’s seat. He completed the final 40 minute stint and brought home victory for Mazda. After his final pit stop, Herbert had taken off without having his drink bottle refilled. As a result, he was so dehydrated by the end of the race that he had to be helped out of the car and missed the podium because he was receiving medical attention. Gachot and Weidler were more than happy to celebrate in his stead. The #55 787B was immediately retired from racing and shipped back to Japan to be displayed at the Mazda museum in Hiroshima, where it lives to this day.

Posted @Whippstagram on Instagram, April 7th 2016.

The Mazda 787B is a Japanese Banshee

Road-Going Racer: CLK GTR

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The CLK GTR was created to compete at the highest level of sports car racing: the FIA GT Championship. The car was designed from the ground up to be a pure racing car, with the road-going versions required for homologation built as an afterthought. During development Mercedes secretly purchased a McLaren F1 GTR and switched it’s BMW V12 for one of their own. This car was to serve as a benchmark for competitor lap times as well as to test out the new and highly aerodynamic bodywork destined for use on the CLK GTR.

After a somewhat shaky start to the GT season due to brake failures, the CLK GTRs really began to hit their stride. Mercedes finished the 1997 GT season as the constructor’s champion and Bernd Schneider clinched the driver’s title in his CLK GTR. With the GT Championship conquered Mercedes set their sights on the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Modifications included aerodynamic tweaks for Le Mans’ high speeds and engine changes. Despite replacing the 6.0 litre V12s with supposedly more reliable V8s, both CLK LMs were forced to retire after engine failures. Mercedes then returned to GT racing and ran away with the rest of the season. All told the CLK GTR/LMs won 17 of the 22 races they entered.

To satisfy the FIA’s homologation requirements Mercedes was obliged to produce 25 road-going versions of the CLK GTR. The cars weren’t completed as they should have been by the start of the 1997 season but the FIA allowed Mercedes to compete anyway, much to the chagrin of the competition. As the CLK GTR was designed as a racing car, creature comforts were sparse. Storage lockers were integrated into the door sills and a leather interior was installed, while a new traction control system aimed to keep the CLK GTR’s 630 horsepower from launching itself into a tree. The price of this road-going racer in 1998 was a cool $1.5 million.

Posted @Whippstagram on Instagram, Febuary 10th 2016

Road-Going Racer: CLK GTR

Volvo’s BTCC Racing Wagon

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After seven years absent from any form of motorsport activity, Volvo had decided it was time to get back into racing. The British Touring Car Championship was decided on as the ideal place to showcase Volvo’s new 850, which aimed to be more of a driver’s car with sportier handling than previous models. Initially, the saloon version of the car was supposed to be raced by the factory team, but by the time engineers from Steffansson Automotive arrived at Volvo to pick up the bodyshells only the wagon versions were ready. With the start of the season closing in fast, and after some reassuring wind tunnel testing, the wagon was cleared for racing. Its long flat roof actually provided excellent downforce without the use of a spoiler, and the car was nicely composed in long sweeping bends. Sharper corners proved trickier for the 850 as its odd weight distribution caused it handling problems at slower speeds. This didn’t stop it’s pilots, Jan Lammers and Rickard Rydell, from cornering hard and often on two wheels. The cars performed reasonably well, qualifying and finishing in the upper middle of the pack, but a rule change the following season saw the wagon body style outlawed by the BTCC. Volvo was back the next year with saloon versions of the 850 which performed better and won six races over the course of the 1995 season.

Posted @whippstagram on Instagram, Nov 23rd 2015.

Volvo’s BTCC Racing Wagon