Tuesday, August 31, 2021


Roland Dane (L) & Broc Feeney
Roland Dane says one thing tipped the scales in favour of 18-year-old Broc Feeney when he was finalising the talent search for a Supercars successor to Jamie Whincup.

“I think he’s naturally fast,” Dane tells Race.news.

“We’re giving a talented kid a massive opportunity. He can go out there and swing freely.”

It’s that simple for Dane, while Jamie Whincup – who steps up to Team Principal at Red Bull Ampol racing when he steps out of the #88 Commodore at the end of the season – believes Feeney is already the real deal.

“He has everything we were looking for in a driver. It’s his work ethic. The right morals. What he says. He wanted it more than anyone,” Whincup tells Race.news.

The official confirmation of Feeney’s promotion to the Main Game with T8, alongside the sands of Main Beach at Surfers Paradise, feels more like a family reunion than a typical media call.

Feeney’s whole family is present, including his excited grandmother, and the T8 contingent includes major shareholder Tony Quinn, Whincup as team principal, and Dane as the godfather.

Broc’s father, Paul, is a successful businessman who admits he has spent big to create the breaks for his son, but he also has the heart of a racer and the smarts of a motorcycle salesman. He was a factory Kawasaki superbike rider in the 1980s, when his friend Mick Doohan was one of his rivals, and Feeney Snr was known for his wild style, bravery and absolute commitment to winning.


“I was more than happy to have him racing motorbikes. He was exceptional on bikes. But when he was about 10 we went to Pukhet, and there are no rules, so he went into a fast kart and straight away he was on it,” Feeney tells Race.news.

“We came back and then next year we got him a kart and he started racing.”

“It’s a dream come true,” Broc tells me. “I’ve finished school."

"No Uni for me, I’m going to be racing cars “.

Paul Gover (see more on this story at www.race.news)

Friday, August 27, 2021


Believe it or not, it truly is. My latest short drive in an Alfa Romeo Giulia Q2, merely confirmed that it is a mesmerizingly good car – and as my friend Michael Taylor wrote from Cernobbio, Italy, it 
IS THE BEST car Alfa Romeo has ever made – consistent with prevailing values and expectations.


Probably when the Alfa Romeo GT Sprint was launched back in 1963, the ‘Alfisti’ and enthusiasts thought the very same thing about that car.


However, after a USD$5 billion investment in creating and developing new Alfa Romeos, by FCA Chairman the late Sergio Marchione, his dreams have become reality.

Yesterday’s drive was just a 75km run on main roads from Brisbane to the Gold Coast, but it definitely confirmed that (even regardless of a big lottery win, where I could afford any car), my choice would be the mid-range Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce Q2, with the turbocharged 2.0L four cylinder.

I simply don’t need the enormous power and performance of a Quadrifoglio.


The Giulia Q2, is chuckable, comfortable, quiet, performs well and its handling dynamics are exceptional – especially after the recent ‘tweaking’ by the ride and handling engineers.

Reading the data sheet, you could assume the changes are so minor as to be almost unnoticeable, but my drive confirmed the engineers conquered their challenges and have produced an even better car.

Interior changes reveal a much improved infotainment system, and big upgrade in trim materials and finishes.

I guess the car in these photos would cost about AUD$75,000 (including on-road costs) and that makes for a supremely sensible choice of a four-door, rear-wheel-drive sports sedan of almost unmatchable comparisons – without dipping into a lottery win.

If this is the sort of car you imagine suits your purposes, for goodness’ sake go and test drive the Giulia Q2. You’ll be smiling all the way from the dealer to your garage.




Monday, August 23, 2021


Not being a lover of SUVs I rarely look at SUV sales data, but having recently driven, and been impressed with the Audi Q8, which shares underpinnings with a wide range of VW Group models (see Q7, Lamborghini Urus, VW Touareg and Bentley Bentayga), I decided to check if Audi’s halo model was selling to expectations in the ‘Large SUV Segment’.


The base Q8 comes with lots of equipment, but just steel springs and a turbo V6 petrol.


I think the base model is fine, because once an Audi salesperson gets you in the showroom, there’s the inevitable ‘packages’ dangled in front of you.


The Q8 drives beautifully, performs well and its design appears to morph from an aggressive frontal appearance to the sloping, coupe-style rear roofline.


 A close analysis of the segment (in Vfacts) revealed a huge shock in sales data. In July 2021 Q8 sales almost tripled over July 2020.


Not bad for a large, but only 5-seater SUV, that costs AUD$130,000. Its growth in YTD sales grew 83%, and its market share nearly doubled 9.3% over 5%. On this basis, Audi Australia will be delighted.


The big sellers in this segment have been BMW X7 and Land Rover Discovery, but their market shares are either static or falling.


However, you could have knocked me down with a feather when I saw which vehicle had the biggest growth in sales.

It’s the butt-ugly, but very competent off-roader, the Mercedes-Benz G class.

For the month of July 2021, sales were up 125% on July 2020, and year-to-Date July sales were up 266% on YTD July 2020!


Compared to its much more attractive competitors, including the sleek Q8, this squared-off, slab-sided SUV is a certified three-pointed sales star.

Go figure!




Friday, August 20, 2021


 Delighted to see Bentley Motors return in triumph to Monterey this past weekend, with an unprecedented lineup of style and confidence.

I'm also delighted to celebrate one of the brightest Bentley PR talents I've ever worked with - the lovely Erin Bronner - whose enthusiasm for the brand has ensured its continued success in the USA.

John Crawford

Wednesday, August 18, 2021


The short answer? It’s a bloody magnificent machine from pure Porsche genus. It’s everything you want a Porsche to be – blistering performance, impressive engineering, subtlety of line and surface, understated interior design and driving it leaves you wanting more.

If that’s what you expect from a Porsche, you won’t be disappointed.


“Yes, you say, but it’s an EV? Where’s the noise, the fusion of mechanical forces and feral feedback when you’re pushing to the limit?”

Believe me, this is a Porsche – true blue – that delivers its goodies in a way which elevates the Taycan to the top of the performance EV hierarchy. 

Does it resemble any other model in the Porsche line-up? No, not really, it may seem linked to the Panamera four-door platform, but the platform is all-new, designed purely for EV use, but I think there are hints at how a four-door Cayman would look.

After sampling the Tesla Model S, I was prepared to give it ticks in all the boxes. But, after just a short drive in the Taycan, you can understand how Porsche has separated Taycan from other current high performance EVs. It is sheer sophistication in both art and mechanicals.


Not far from me is a road which winds up through hills on the eastern side of the scenic rim, which throws up a natural western border to the famous Gold Coast in Queensland. 

Imagine, for a moment, the hills, valleys and cliffs forced up from below by the constant eruptions from the pre-historic Tweed Volcano.

Queensland's Scenie Rim country

Yugembah and Yugarabul are the major languages of the original inhabitants and, because of the difficult terrain, the Scenic Rim was not properly charted by white explorers until the early 1920s.


So, after noting the history and the current environment, I’m sure it’s not too difficult to imagine that the roads in the region are definitely ‘Taycan Territory’.

Driving the Taycan, I found it delightfully easy to lose myself in the pure, tactile joy of pushing this Porsche as hard as I dared – because its limits are way beyond my driving skills.

“Hold on", I hear you say. “I'sn’t this the guy who defames and vilifies electric vehicles? How can he justify his hypocrisy?”


Well, if you’re going to understand the apparent EV appeal then you have to drive them and appreciate the qualities which may or may not make them popular. I can see why the Taycan would appeal to those who can afford the buy-in price and are chasing performance, but also because it does have some positive elements, which I criticise as negatives in many other EVs.


It boasts a long range up to around 400 kilometres from a full charge, thereby almost negating ‘range anxiety’, and you can use its potential knowing that the Taycan delivers all of the Porsche performance values. 

The straight-line impact and response is almost (almost) ludicrous - although I didn’t go there, and anyway it was Tesla that first introduced the ludicrous tag to the EV lexicon.

The Taycan’s handling is superb, and the brakes are awesome.


So, yes, this is a Porsche with every facet of the breed.

Stunning dashboard design; plenty of clear luggage space; ingress and egress can be difficult


Now, the fun part. The price of the Porsche Taycan turbo S is AUD$385,500 (plus on-road costs), so this photo may be the only way some Porsche enthusiasts get to sample its awesome ability.

But, let me promise you, even a short test drive will have you lusting for more.





For 15 years from 1991, Monterey Week was a highlight of my year, when the Concours d'Elegance was staged at the famous Pebble Beach golf course on the Sunday, at the end of a week's festivities focussed on beautiful cars.

Sadly, Covid lockdowns forced not only a temporary halt in staging the classic event, but a combination of my own lack of resources, and Australian border closures, meant that I was unable to attend the Pebble Beach event, which is without a doubt the greatest gathering place for car enthusiasts from all over the world.

This year, Chair Sandra Button and her talented team brought the Concours back to life, and a look at the judging field shows the crowds were eager to attend.

It's not just the judging field, but another major highlight outside The Lodge at Pebble Beach is the 'Concept Lawn' where car designers and car makers vie for a place to show their ideas.

This year I think it was fitting that one of the Concours' greatest supporters, car collector Arturo Keller, took out the 'Best In Show' prize with his beautifully-restored 1938 Mercedes-Benz Autobahn Kurier.

I have had the honour many times of spending time at Pebble Beach with Arturo, who has collected and owns some great Bentleys, like the famous Embiricos coupe (below), but this year, I was there in my dreams.

It's great to see this fabulous 70th anniversary event triumph over the pandemic.

John Crawford

(Photos: Rolex, Pebble Beach Concours)

Sunday, August 15, 2021


What is it with electric vehicles? As soon as I get behind the wheel of an EV I go to jelly. The first thing I look at is how much charge is left, because depending on that number, and how far I need to go tells me about my plans for the day. I hate it when a machine controls my life.


Sitting in my driveway is a Mercedes-Benz EQA 250, with 36% of charge left, so a 150km/h round trip into the Gold Coast Hinterland, for a picnic, is a NO!

Also, the last time I tried to sign up for a CHARGEPOINT account, at one of my local shopping malls, the machine promptly decided my credit card wasn’t valid. I complained to a ‘bot’ on the CHARGEPOINT website, which was unable to provide a digitised reply.

However, for re-charging, there's no shortage of cables, plugs and adapters - but they do occupy a lot of space in the back!

I checked the manual, and found that using a 10amp home circuit, I could get a full charge, after just 14 hours! For a bit of a laugh, I checked the price of the EQA – a tad under AUD$78,000! Okay, it's the baby of the Benz EV lineup, so it's obvious Benz is pricing for this car to compete.

This EQA 250 is Mercedes-Benz’s price leader intro to Sindelfingen’s range of electric vehicles. The price, compared to the Hyundai Kona EV, and the KIA Niro EV, is not a million miles away, and there’s no doubt the EQA is a classy piece of kit, with beautiful interior materials, high quality fit and finishes, and well-engineered mechanicals. But, I could say the same about the petrol-powered GLC on which it is based.

However, I am really beginning to intensely dislike being told by carmakers, governments, green groups and ill-informed idiots, that EVs are the way to go, and by 2050 even I’ll be driving one! 

First of all that would make me a centenarian driver, and I’m not sure the transport department will deem me fit enough to hold a licence, even if I did survive to that age. So, at least I’ll be spared being forced to drive an EV. Thank goodness!


Because the EQA 250 is the cheapest Benz EV, it gets by with one electric motor driving the front wheels, but the range will bulk up, and there’ll be AWD versions with ridiculous power outputs – because when you’re paying big bucks for a Benz EV, that’s what buyers expect.

After driving around the Gold Coast using up the sparse 36% of charge, I could not justify for a minute paying that much for the pleasure of driving Silent Sam. Come to think of it, the ICE equivalents are just as quiet, sometimes more powerful, and take no longer than 10 minutes for a splash and dash at the servo.

This car, like most early EVs will be bought by those same ill-informed idiots who believe they’re ‘saving the planet’ by not using the dreaded gasoline – whilst they charge their EV overnight with electricity derived from coal-fired generator!


Are we really sure EVs are right for Australia?


Thursday, August 12, 2021


One word more than adequately describes my recent drive experience in BMW’s M4 Competition coupe – appalling. Well, if you like, you can add atrocious as well.

The distance from Brisbane to the Gold Coast is roughly 72km, and between 50-55km is on concrete-paved freeway. The M4 coupe’s secondary ride setup simply cannot provide any degree of comfort as it travels over the concrete sections, separated by bitumen expansion strips. The noise spectrum covers clashing dentures, and the tyres going ka-thump, ka-thump!


The ride is truly awful, and if I were forced to commute to Brisbane and back every day in this car, I think I would either shoot myself, or take the train.


I think the problem is caused by two factors – first the hard compound Michelin Pilot Speed Sport tyres on 20-inch rims, allied to very stiff damper settings - which if you were off to a local race circuit for a track day, would substantially alter my description.


The M4 coupe is very well-glued to the road, because these sticky Michelin tyres are pretty much de rigeur for track day participants. 

You’ll find they’re a very popular choice.


I could not, and would not dispute this car’s performance credentials, after all, it’s an M-car. It goes like stink, has the usual blat-blat from quad exhaust pipes, and the front seats hold the occupants like a vice.

But, oh, that interior trim colour choice! I think they got the interior design studio cleaner, who suffers from colour blindness to spec this car.


I also wouldn’t quibble about the price, because everyone knows that if you’re writing a cheque to buy a BMW, any BMW, that sensation in your hip pocket is a rather large sting!

In Australia, this multi-hued abomination starts at AUD$160,000, plus on-road costs, and if you opt for the ‘Competition Pack’, the dealer will sting you an extra AUD$75,000!

Oh, and more on that lime green paint. As I motored south, right on the speed limit, a Highway Patrol car swooped out of a layby, drove to within 1-2 metres of my rear bumper, and followed me for about three kilometres before peeling off to harass some other poor soul! But, as always, I was using the Cruise Control.

At this point, you may be thinking about the future of your first-born, but if you’re buying the M4C for track days, then spend up. If you’re any sort of a driver, you’ll soon be mixing with Stuttgart Stormers in the pack. The M4 Competition coupe is a very competent machine – but horses, for courses.

Don’t kid yourself you could comfortably commute in this jalopy – no way!



PS: Like all recent BMW drives, I was unable to connect my iPhone SE to Apple Car Play; and could not connect the phone via Bluetooth. This is despite having the BMW Connect app installed and using a genuine Apple cable!

Sunday, August 8, 2021

LEWIS 'THE RACER' by John Crawford

There’s a lot of BS surrounding Sir Lewis Hamilton’s life, both on and off the track – and sadly some of it contributed by him with outrageous statements, opinions and a certain arrogance.

Also a lot of it is generated by idiots on social media, so sometimes it’s hard to separate the BS from the man.


However, when I attended the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park in 2011, courtesy of my friend Bernie Ecclestone, I was very happy to have a 15-20 minute private chat with Lewis in the Vodafone hospitality centre.


I introduced myself to Lewis, as a close friend of Stirling Moss, and carried a collage of intimate photos of SM and I on my phone, to verify my claim.

Lewis said he would be delighted to spend some time with me, and after he finished a scheduled interview we relocated to deep inside the hospitality suite for some privacy.


We talked about our mutual friendship with the great man, and I told Lewis that Stirling always spoke to me highly, of him as a ‘racer’.

That was the number one qualification for Stirling Moss. He didn’t care if you were a media star, a promising young driver or an F1 veteran. Stirling’s judgement of F1 drivers were: “Did they race, or just safely circulate down in the scrum?”


Lewis was pleased with the compliment and although it wasn’t an earth-shattering meeting of minds, he did talk to me about how he approached his role, and how he discussed tactics and attitudes with Stirling Moss. That alone told me a lot about Lewis Hamilton’s humility, and may even be a view of the man very few get to see.


He was sensitive, intelligent, thoughtful and considered in what he said. He confirmed how importantly he rated Stirling’s opinion, and said that although he approached all his events with the same mindset, he was out there to ‘race’.

So, the late Sir Stirling Moss would have seen his high opinion of Lewis Hamilton confirmed after his drive in both the 2021 British Grand Prix, and the most recent GP in Hungary. I must say, just watching the highlights, I was very impressed with his grit, determination and skill.


Lewis gave it his all, under difficult circumstances, to finish in a far better position than perhaps one could have imagined halfway through the two races. 

I’m an unabashed fan, and I think he does project a good role model of someone with sheer guts, and consummate control of his F1 car.

If F1 is supposed to be the pinnacle of car racing, I believe Sir Lewis Hamilton is a good ambassador, and a good example of how far you can rise through talent, constantly striving, and most importantly never giving up. Maybe the BS is a price you have to bear.



Thursday, August 5, 2021

VINFAST? YOU BET! by John Crawford

Straight out of the blocks, off and running like Usain Bolt, that’s the Vietnamese car company called VinFast, which only started business in 2017. It has covered a lot of ground since then.


VinFast, the carmaker, is owned by Vin Group, founded by Phạm Nhật Vượng who is jointly, Vietnam’s richest man, and Vietnam’s first billionaire, his wife Huong Thu Pham (below) and sundry others.

The company’s first office was established September 2017 in Haiphong, covering 828 acres, costing USD$1.5 billion, and is described as the first phase of investment. Of course, for the setting up of a car manufacturer that’s chicken feed.


However, not only is VinFast moving rapidly to enter the global automotive industry, but it is also playing a smart game with its business partners. It quickly established working relationships with Pininfarina, BMW AG, Siemens and General Motors.

Vinfast will take over GM’s factory (VIDAMCO) in Hanoi and has announced it has signed a joint venture with GM to build a GM-licensed ‘all-new’ small car, to be sold globally under the VinFast name.

VinFast has also reached agreement with GM to be the sole importer and distributor of Chevrolet products in Vietnam.


As I list these steps, I am staggered by its audacity and ambition. Last year VinFast was to be the title sponsor of the Vietnamese F1 Grand Prix, and even without Bernie at the helm, one can imagine how much that cost.


The first car produced was the Vinfast Lux A2.0, designed by Pininfarina and based on the BMW F10 5-Series, and revealed at the 2018 Paris Auto Salon – along with a Crossover, the SA 2.0, based on the BMW F15 X5.

The first export market was Russia for both these vehicles, but it’s clear they are stop gap measures to establish the company’s credentials, because Executive VP Lê Thį Thu Thùy announced recently that the company will quickly move to making EVs, and announced three new small-medium (BEV) crossovers.

Once you lift the lid on the executives filling the key roles, the GM connections become very obvious. The first CEO was GM manufacturing whiz, Jim Delluca; and the Design Director is David Lyon (designer of the original Chevrolet/Holden Cruze).

VinFast execs Jim Delluca, VP Lê Thį Thu Thùy and David Lyon

This week VinFast announced it had hired Michael Lohscheller (right), most recently CEO of Adam Opel AG, at the time the company was acquired by Groupe PSA. It’s a wonder the French group didn’t want to hang on to Lohscheller, because he was the first GM-appointed CEO to push Opel into profit!


Looking at the speed Vin Group is moving I was convinced that Vietnam’s Communist government must be contributing, or guaranteeing, the company’s financial future. How wrong could I be.

Vin Group is Vietnam's largest real estate company and deals in a wide range of properties, including houses, shopping malls, hotels, golf courses and hospitals. The company has enhanced its brand cachet by targeting its Vincom shopping malls and Vincom Village residential areas at affluent customers.

One of the few entirely non-state concerns in Vietnam, Vin Group is about 30% owned by its largest shareholder and founder Pham Nhat Vuong. Foreign investors have a combined interest of about 15%. Market capitalization, at approximately $3 billion, is the largest among non-state-run companies and ranks among Vietnam's top five concerns when including state-owned entities.

Vin Group started out as a food-processing company founded by Vuong in Ukraine in 1993. The company was moved to Vietnam in 2000 as Vuong wished to contribute to the development of his home country. In 2013, he became the first Vietnamese to make it into the Forbes rankings of the world's wealthiest people.

In 2013, Vin Group raised some $200 million from U.S. investment fund Warburg Pincus to invest in four areas -- commercial facilities, tourism, hospitals and schools.

The first anyone in Australia heard of VinFast was when Vin Group acquired the former Holden proving ground at Lang Lang in Victoria. When GM closed up its car manufacturing business in Australia, it sold the vast proving ground to VinFast for USD$30 million.

It's obvious that Vin Group has gambled heavily on the future success of its car making enterprise, but according to Reuters VinFast posted a first half loss in 2020 of USD$284 million. However, Reuters also reported on April 30, 2021 that VinFast planned an SPAC-based funding in the USA.

For the financially-uninitiated, an SPAC company is known as a ‘blank cheque company’ where an outside entity (such as VinFast) creates a ‘shell’ company and then acquires a private company, later taking it public. This method avoids the complicated and time-consuming process of going through a conventional IPO.

On the sales front, sales data for the first quarter of 2021 reveals VinFast was the fifth best-selling car brand in Vietnam. It has also shipped more than 150 prototypes to South Africa, Germany and Australia to undergo testing.

In addition to the ex-GM senior executives I have listed, VinFast went on a head-hunting spree in Australia, hiring a number of former Holden, Ford and Toyota engineers and technical specialists, who will be based at Holden’s old Port Melbourne offices and the proving ground at Lang Lang.

Pardon my skepticism, but I’ve been here before, when I worked for Daewoo Automotive Australia. After several trips to Seoul, and meetings with my friend Ing. Dr. Ulrich Bez, who had been hired to introduce four brand new cars, and discussions with GM contacts who had worked with Daewoo’s mercurial Chairman, Kim Woo chong, I became convinced that the vast amounts of money being thrown around may have been coming because KWC was mortgaging Daewoo’s assets more than once!

What started out as an attempt to become a big player in the global automotive world ended in disaster when Daewoo Group went to the wall in November 2000 with losses of USD$78 billion, after just over 30 years in business.

Daewoo Group included Daewoo Motor, shipbuilding, heavy equipment manufacturing, consumer electronics and white goods, plus computers and a railway division!

The Chairman, Kim Woo choong, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for massive fraud, but was pardoned by the South Korean government in 2007.

He, and his Daewoo dreams, died in December 2019.

But, back to Vin Group, and its high performing owner. This enterprise looks like the real thing, and in the current economic conditions, money borrowed to fund these ventures could be repaid at little or no interest, which puts Vin Group in a completely different position to Daewoo Group, which laboured under huge leveraged debt, at then high interest rates.

Just recently VinFast held a public competition in Vietnam pitching a car developed by Pininfarina, alongside a concept from Italdesign. The Italdesign concept (below) was chosen by 60% of the entrants, so the next car will be based on this concept.

I can't wait to see how VinFast's ambitious plans work out.