Thursday, June 29, 2023


 There is insufficient fuel to keep going.

Thank you.

John Crawford

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

THE AGELESS ALONSO - by John Crawford

By now I reckon Aston Martin Chairman Lawrence Stroll reckons he’s captured a 41-year-old superman as his number one driver. So far this year, six races and six podiums.

In Canada he scored P2 in wet practice alongside Verstappen; then won his greatest victory this year holding on to second in front of a hard-charging Hamilton.

This highly seasoned racer has brought a diverse set of racing experiences together – Formula One, Indianapolis 500, Off-road racing in events like the Dakar Rally, plus victories in the 2018 and 2019 Vingt Quatre Heures du Mans, as well as winning the 2019 Daytona 24 hours. Martin Brundle says Alonso has an uncanny knack of handling the car’s grip, and says he’s a master of putting the car on the ‘edge of adhesion’.


He’s still keen to race, and says he sees a top position on the F1 podium this year, and I think if anyone can do it, then Fernando can, and I hope he does.


The combination of Lawrence Stroll’s determination (and money), plus the brilliant engineering and support team Stroll has gathered together in the course of 2022 and 2023, has allowed the smiling Spaniard to push the previously mid-field Aston Martin team to third place in this year’s Constructors Championship.

As I approach my 80th year, he's my F1 hero!


Monday, June 12, 2023


No taking away from Ferrari’s first victory at Le Mans in 58 years, but GM also scored big this past weekend in the Vingt Quatre Heures du Mans.

Toyota’s Gazoo Racing Hypercar came home in second.


Cadillac #2 and Cadillac #3 came home third and fourth; with Corvette #33 winning the LM GTE AM class, its ninth class victory, on the centenary of the famous race.

I have to hand it to GM. Both divisions committed big resources to competition in the leading Hypercar class, and the first-ever mid-engined Corvette survived a tumultuous race, which included periods of rain and fog, to bring home the laurels for Chevrolet.


In all the years I attended Le Mans I loved hearing those big V8s thundering around the track. Another GM V8 made an appearance, and although it didn’t figure in the results the dark blue Chevrolet Camaro at least finished the race.


My friend Michael Simcoe, GM’s Executive VP of Design, emailed me from Charles de Gaulle saying that Corvette’s win was a great take away for him from the world’s toughest endurance race.

Well done Cadillac and Chevy!


Friday, June 9, 2023


As Jaguar heads, apparently, toward a future range of ‘exclusive’ battery electric vehicles, global Jaguar enthusiasts will be keen not only to see the whole proposition, but certainly what the mooted Jaguar 'GT sedan' will look like.


At this stage, it’s a case of “Who knows?” because that secret lies deep inside Design Chief Gerry McGovern’s brain.

However, there were some encouraging words this past month from JLR’s new CEO, Adrian Mardell. 

Apparently Mr. Mardell joined Jaguar more than three decades ago, when the star of the range was the venerable 1981 XJ6.


He has been quoted as saying: “This was something that’s “very personal” and “unfinished business” for him, having originally joined Jaguar 32 years ago.

“The Jaguar of 32 years ago is where we’re going back to and the right place for us to be." Wow!

Mardell acknowledged that JLR had been “quiet” over the past couple of years as it battled several key global challenges faced by the whole industry, most notably semiconductor chip supply.

However, presumably with the supply chains freeing up, and JLR making bucket loads of cash from its three SUV ranges the go-ahead for the new Jaguars has now been granted.

The future for the marque, at this stage, may be foggy, but at least it sounds like a car with a Jaguar badge (and hopefully, the Leaper) will emerge from Gaydon in the next three years!

I can hardly wait!



I didn’t think it would take long for the EV proponents and sympathisers to emerge from the closet after The Guardian published Rowan’s article on his disillusionment with electric cars.


So, as we all know, The Guardian is ‘big on balance’ (Ha, ha!), so it has produced an op-ed piece by some wanker called Simon Evans, who has attempted to refute Rowan’s claims using ‘facts’. Apparently, Evans belongs to a group called CARBON BRIEF which is an EV lobby group in the UK, and anything coming from him is likely to be laced with pro-EV statements, and could likely be taken with a pinch of salt.


It reminds of the incidents when Australian newspapers publish an ‘Electric Vehicle Supplement’ which is usually full of ads for EVs, and either edited by or promoted by the head of the EV council of Australia. Precious little balance there either.


I’m perfectly content to be accused of being a negative noddy against EVs, I don’t care. I am simply trying to point out that EVs are not THE silver bullet, just one step along the way to reducing emissions.


Oh, and don’t forget the elephant in the room, and that is the huge carbon footprint accompanying the manufacture of electric vehicles and their batteries. The EV apologists haven’t yet worked out how to refute those FACTS.


Rowan’s right – keep your old petrol car, and save some money.



Thursday, June 8, 2023


As if to underscore the opposing forces of Yin and Yang, and the premise that for every action, there’s a reaction – or more colloquially: “There’s no such thing as a free lunch” – comes a new study conducted by a team from The Wall Street Journal about the barriers for some carmakers on the production of electric vehicles.


Many in our societies falsely believe that the EV is the ‘silver bullet’ to drastically reducing vehicle emissions. If you are an Australian EV owner, then you can only re-charge your EV from an electricity grid powered by coal-fired power stations. Zero emissions? Nope!


And, you can forget about the argument that we are phasing out coal-fired generation in favour of electricity from renewables. In Australia, renewables cannot replace or even begin to supplement electricity supply from carbon-intense generation, or substitute coal-fired generators to maintain base load and consequently a stable electricity grid.


Because of the makeup of the combination of rare earth metals, plus lithium and other substances (cobalt, lithium, nickel, copper, etc) necessary for the manufacture of EVs, this makes EVs very expensive to purchase.


The country making the cheapest and most affordable EVs right now is China – simply because it has vast reserves of all the minerals, elements and rare earth metals required for the manufacture of EVs.

This has forced conventional carmakers which are trying to add EVs to their vehicle ranges, to search out alternatives to some of these precious metals – and the search is not going well.


Whilst the race is on to find alternatives, there is another consideration which EV owners are not taking into account, and that is the total degradation of the landscape after the mining and extraction of these substances. More on this later.


The WSJ cites this latest challenge for EV makers as the ‘Nickel Pickle’.



“To make batteries for EVs companies need to mine and refine vast quantities of nickel, but the process of getting the nickel out of the ground and refining it is particularly environmentally unfriendly.


Indonesia has the world’s largest nickel reserves, and although it’s close to the surface and relatively inexpensive to mine, the nickel can only be found in large swathes of forests, so vast rainforests must be cleared.

Then the refining process demands a highly carbon-intensive process involving extreme heat and high pressure which leaves behind a toxic waste ‘slurry’ which is very difficult to dispose of.

One Indonesian miner received approval to expand operations into an area three times the size of New York’s Central Park.

The mine’s Australian owner, reported that the forest clearing caused greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 56,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide – the equivalent of driving 12,000 conventional cars for a year – based on calculations by the WSJ.”


In April last year a report from Tesla said that EVs caused more emissions during the manufacturing phase than conventional vehicles, due to the process of extracting and refining minerals.

Tesla manufacture
Tesla added that nickel was responsible for more than a third of all carbon emissions generated from making common EV battery cells.


The push to extract more nickel has also created pressing new environmental concerns. The refining process involves dousing nickel ore in sulphuric acid and heating it to more than 200C at enormous pressures.


In addition, companies face questions about how to get rid of the waste. It’s difficult to safely sequester in tropical countries because of frequent earthquakes and heavy rains which destabilise the soil, causing waste dams to collapse.


A 2018 Indonesian law allowed companies to obtain permits to discard mineral waste into the ocean! However, as yet, this has not happened, due to pressure from environmentalists.


On the other side of the world in the Atacama ‘triangle’ in South America, the recovery of lithium ion from a lithium-rich slurry which sits in ponds on the surfaces, leaves the landscape completely degraded and unusable for any other purpose whatsoever.


Next time I want to bring to your attention the confusion and obfuscation which exists around the development of ‘blue’ and ‘green’ hydrogen – another plan marred by unacceptable environmental costs.




Monday, June 5, 2023


I love electric vehicles – and was an early adopter. But increasingly I feel duped.

Sadly, keeping your old petrol car may be better than buying an EV. There are sound environmental reasons not to jump just yet.


Electric motoring is, in theory, a subject about which I should know something. My first university degree was in electrical and electronic engineering, with a subsequent master’s in control systems.

Combine this, perhaps surprising academic pathway, with a lifelong passion for the motorcar, and you can see why I was drawn into an early adoption of electric vehicles. I bought my first electric hybrid 18 years ago and my first pure electric car nine years ago and (notwithstanding our poor electric charging infrastructure) have enjoyed my time with both very much. Electric vehicles may be a bit soulless, but they’re wonderful mechanisms: fast, quiet and, until recently, very cheap to run. But increasingly, I feel a little duped. When you start to drill into the facts, electric motoring doesn’t seem to be quite the environmental panacea it is claimed to be.


As you may know, the UK government has proposed a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030. The problem with the initiative is that it seems to be based on conclusions drawn from only one part of a car’s operating life: what comes out of the exhaust pipe. Electric cars, of course, have zero exhaust emissions, which is a welcome development, particularly in respect of the air quality in city centres.

But if you zoom out a bit and look at a bigger picture that includes the car’s manufacture, the situation is very different. In advance of the Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow in 2021, Volvo released figures claiming that greenhouse gas emissions during production of an electric car are about 70% higher than when manufacturing a petrol one. How so? The problem lies with the lithium-ion batteries fitted currently to nearly all electric vehicles: they’re absurdly heavy, many rare earth metals and huge amounts of energy are required to make them, and they only last about 10 years. It seems a perverse choice of hardware with which to lead the automobile’s fight against the climate crisis.


Unsurprisingly, a lot of effort is going into finding something better. New, so-called solid-state batteries are being developed that should charge more quickly and could be about a third of the weight of the current ones – but they are years away from being on sale, by which time, of course, we will have made millions of overweightelectric cars with rapidly obsolescing batteries. 

Hydrogen is emerging as an interesting alternative fuel, even though we are slow in developing a truly “green” way of manufacturing it. It can be used in one of two ways. It can power a hydrogen fuel cell (essentially, a kind of battery); the car manufacturer Toyota has poured a lot of money into the development of these. Such a system weighs half of an equivalent lithium-ion battery and a car can be refuelled with hydrogen at a filling station as fast as with petrol. 

If the lithium-ion battery is an imperfect device for electric cars, it’s a complete non-starter for trucks because of its weight; for such vehicles, hydrogen can be injected directly into a new kind of piston engine. JCB, the company that makes yellow diggers, has made huge strides with hydrogen engines and hopes to put them into production in the next couple of years. If hydrogen wins the race to power trucks – and as a result every filling station stocks it – it could be a popular and accessible choice for cars.


But let’s zoom out even further and consider the whole life cycle of an automobile. The biggest problem we need to address in society’s relationship with the car is the “fast fashion” sales culture that has been the commercial template of the car industry for decades. Currently, on average we keep our new cars for only three years before selling them on, driven mainly by the ubiquitous three-year leasing model.

This seems an outrageously profligate use of the world’s natural resources when you consider what great condition a three-year-old car is in. When I was a child, any car that was five years old was a bucket of rust and halfway through the gate of the scrapyard. Not any longer. You can now make a car for £15,000 that, with tender loving care, will last for 30 years. It’s sobering to think that if the first owners of new cars just kept them for five years, on average, instead of the current three, then car production and the CO2 emissions associated with it, would be vastly reduced. Yet we’d be enjoying the same mobility, just driving slightly older cars.


We need also to acknowledge what a great asset we have in the cars that currently exist (there are nearly 1.5bn of them worldwide). In terms of manufacture, these cars have paid their environmental dues and, although it is sensible to reduce our reliance on them, it would seem right to look carefully at ways of retaining them while lowering their polluting effect. Fairly obviously, we could use them less. As an environmentalist once said to me, if you really need a car, buy an old one and use it as little as possible.

A sensible thing to do would be to speed up the development of synthetic fuel, which is already being used in motor racing; it’s a product based on two simple notions: one, the environmental problem with a petrol engine is the petrol, not the engine and, two, there’s nothing in a barrel of oil that can’t be replicated by other means. Formula One is going to use synthetic fuel from 2026. There are many interpretations of the idea, but the German car company Porsche is developing a fuel in Chile using wind to power a process whose main ingredients are water and carbon dioxide. With more development, it should be usable in all petrol-engine cars, rendering their use virtually CO2-neutral.

(Reprinted from THE GUARDIAN newspaper)

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Steve McQueen's OTHER motor racing project by John Crawford

Those of us who flocked to see Steve McQueen’s paen to the Vingt Quatre Heures du Mans, were of the opinion that this was the best film about motor racing to date.


‘Le Mans’ was researched deeply by McQueen, and he ruthlessly pursued its completion and release, but sadly it bankrupted him.


However, before that there was another Steve McQueen motor racing film project. The working title was ‘Day of the Champion’ and it was inspired by Formula One. Despite his efforts, the John Frankenheimer film, ‘Grand Prix’ was released well before McQueen had been able to secure a 'release' from the movie, 'The Sand Pebbles', which ran seven months over-schedule. Subsequently Warner Bros dropped ‘Day of the Champion’.


One of those camera car drivers was my dear friend, the late Sir Stirling Moss.

Moss was not only the lead camera car driver for all the critical high-speed moments of the track footage, but also the chief consultant to Steve McQueen.

Many years ago Stirling and I discussed his contribution and his relationship with McQueen whom he rated as a great driver, and all-round 'good bloke'.


The bulk of the ancilliary footage are crisp images of the 1965 German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring, shot in full-frame 35mm. In addition, there are fabulous ‘over-the-shoulder’ scenes taken from Stirling’s car.

The film, which was shown on Sky Documentaries, is written, produced and directed by Alex Rodger, formerly of Sky F1. However, archivist Richard Wiseman is credited with bringing the movie to life after he was sent clips from an American stock movie library.

This documentary movie is called ‘The Lost Movie’, narrated by another petrol-head, David Letterman. It appears you can only stream it on STAN in Australia, as well as You Tube.


Thursday, May 25, 2023


In September 2020, as the global COVID epidemic was rising to its crescendo of chaos, when carmakers faced supply chain impediments never seen before, and were struggling to deliver finished vehicles, an aristocratic, autocratic Frenchman crossed the English Channel and joined Jaguar Land Rover, after being ousted from Renault following the Carlos Ghosn scandal.


Thierry Bolloré has very good executive credentials. He is very much cast in the same mould as Ghosn, his former boss and colleague.

Watch him walk into a room, or striding across the floor of an international motor show and he exudes an air of total self-confidence, pushing away acolytes with the dismissive air of a king fed up with his court.


Initially, quite genial, often your dismissal can occur just after you begin conversation, say 30 seconds or so.

He gives the impression of a man whose brain isn’t big enough to retain his thoughts, so he can’t afford to give up time listening to yours.


Just over a year after moving to Gaydon to take the reins of a carmaker with more problems than you would ever want to know about – from falling revenues, dangerously slim cash flows, desperate need for investment and minus a leader – let alone a vision from the leadership.

Bolloré delivered a program for the marque most failing – Jaguar.


He called the forward-looking proposal ‘Reimagine’, telling the media and the global automotive world, that he would guide Jaguar through probably the most ambitious product developments in the brand’s recent history.

He asked us all to join him in reimagining Jaguar as an entirely different approach for the vehicles which proudly bore ‘The Leaper’.


Actually, I believe from insiders, that during the development of ‘Reimagine’ there was even talk of ditching the marque’s most revered icon.

Sacré bleu!

 A range of new Jaguars, which in design terms would owe nothing to their predecessors, would be built on an entirely new platform and would be fully-electric. Although there was no detail whether they may be sedans, coupes or SUVs, Bolloré made it clear they would not resemble anything that we may previously have perceived as a Jaguar.


Sir William Lyons always said: “Jaguars are a copy of nothing”. So, apparently these new Jaguars will not only be an original take for an old brand, but they will also be positioned at the pointy end of the price scale, closer to Bentley than the current range of cats.


This strongly suggests that the new Jaguars will succeed or fail because not only of how they will look, but also what they promise in terms of both the aesthetic, and their athleticism. Everyone who knows Jaguar’s glorious history has heard the phrase - “Jaguars must look fast, standing still.”

Given the mind-blowing performance of the new era of premium electric vehicles nobody doubts they will deliver smooth, speedy performance, so, again it really comes down to how they will look. The ‘look’ of a Jaguar has always been elemental to the brand’s success. 

Therefore, where do stand on the subject of Jaguar design? Well, after Ian Callum’s dignified retirement, there was Julian Thompson’s departure after a short time holding down the chief designer’s seat. Did they jump, or were they pushed? I suggest the answer was a bit of both. But, more on future design in a moment.


After a bold and impressive start and with sweeping French flourishes and confident gestures from the stage of the ‘Reimagine’ presentation, Bolloré was gone in just two years. What happened?


I believe it was timing, and perhaps (unsurprisingly) personality clashes. Revenues were suffering badly and Bolloré’s ‘Reimagine’ program was ambitious, came with a huge price-tag, and required the risk-averse Indian management to ‘take a punt’. The Tata 'money' team back in Mumbai also would have bristled at Bolloré’s autocratic, insistent and determined push to get his plan approved.


Who will now guide Jaguar through the choppy seas of launching new designs carrying an iconic reminder of the past? Why! It will be none other than Captain Gerry McGovern – the man who is now in complete charge of all things creative on the good ship JLR.

McGovern has proven his credentials too, following a string of incredibly successful SUVs carrying the oval green Land Rover badge – Evoque, Discovery, Defender and Range Rover. He’s a cocky character, totally self-absorbed and quite frankly, a little annoying to talk to or try to interview. His sense of self-belief has to be experienced.


His latest forays into the jungle of the British automotive media at CAR and Autocar have not revealed any details, or even a sly hint at what the new ‘cats’ will look like, but as the man who says he now commands the design ethic of a ‘House of Brands’, he uses phrases which he hopes will resonate with potential Jaguar buyers. McGovern says the new designs will be aspirational, exuberant and, most important, fearless!

Of course! But, I like the way he talks.


Before we go on with analysing whether a plan to ‘Reimagine’ the Jaguar brand will succeed, I’d like to present some design ideas which are a distillation of suggestions from terms McGovern uses; a few more defined words casually dropped by JLR’s new CEO Adrian Mardell; the tidy and symmetrical appearance of the latest models from Land Rover; a couple of tiny hints from some moles – and some good old crystal-balling.


I discussed the thankless task of designing some concepts using thin air as inspiration, with a designer mate I have known since my time as Editor of MODERN MOTOR magazine in the mid 70s. Steve Park* is highly experienced, very successful, has a great commercial eye, down-to-earth common sense, and also a sort of oblique connection to many of the brand names with threads running through this project.

We have to ask, will Jaguars that look like this attract a young, but successful and aspirational group of buyers? Only time will tell, but apparently the plan has been approved.


The continuing commercial success of Range Rover, Defender and Discovery is generating large swathes of cash thanks to an uptick in vehicle deliveries, and according to CEO Mardell, JLR has paid down  £1.5 billion of debt in the last six months, and Mardell has said “Thanks to an average transaction price of £71,000, I believe that confirms our focus on aspiration of our customers”.


In fact the headline finance numbers show that JLR quadrupled its profits in the last quarter of the 2023 financial year compared with a year earlier.


With revenues rolling in, then perhaps now IS the time to splash big cash in Jaguar’s direction. There’s a view shared by many in JLR management ranks that Jaguar was the victim of too little investment; too much caution in design, a lack of ambition to move Jaguar into its own segment – and take a bold gamble. Mind you, this is the same management which was at the tiller when these issues threatened Jaguar’s survival.


What Jaguar needs is a bold leader who shares a vision of exuberant modernism with Gerry McGovern. The current CEO is a bean-counter.

Jaguar doesn't have a leader with Lyons' vision, so McGovern is hope for the future.

McGovern is a man who some say is obsessed with the great luxury brands like Gucci, Hermes and Rolex.

This is not a bad thing if you want Jaguar to be once again considered an aspirational brand.

With so little information seeping out of Gaydon, everyone's had a go at suggesting what the new Jaguar EV may look like with both Drako and Autocar producing fancy concepts.


However, it sounds to me like Gerry McGovern may have tapped into the thinking of many Jaguar brand enthusiasts about the reasons for Jaguar’s success with cars like the XK120, E-Type and Jaguar XJ6. In all these instances Jaguar created its own market niche and under Sir William Lyons (who also obsessively chased aspirational buyers - for example stars like Clark Gable) Jaguar was a ‘brand alone’.


For comparison, in 1968 a Jaguar XJ6 was cheaper than a Bentley. But offered similar attributes of luxury, comfort and performance.

I’m also guilty of expressing this concept and I am trusting Gerry McGovern to give Jaguar the tools it needs to not only survive, but prosper, and allow its new buyers to feel a sense of pride, accomplishment and celebration.


For that, we have to put our hopes in Gerry McGovern’s ‘exuberant modernism’. I am more than happy to invest my emotional capital in ‘Reimagining’ Jaguar as a standout in JLR’s ‘House of Brands’ and regain its rightful place as one of Britain’s most respected marques.

After all, this could be Jaguar's last gasp!


*Steve Park - Designer

Steve’s been in the automotive design world for over 35 years and his background covers a wide range of experiences - from clay modeller to senior designer.


He started with Ford Australia in 1977, and during his time has had a significant influence and impact on the Falcon range of cars. He was lead designer for the AU Falcon (top).

The last Falcon he worked on was, the LAST the FG Falcon (Bottom).


Also, Steve has had senior design roles through the 80s and 90's at Ford of Europe; Dunton design in the UK; Ghia studios in Turin; a stint with The Ford Design studio alongside Mazda in Hiroshima; Exterior design in Köln, and a long-term posting with Ford North America.


Currently Steve is chief designer with HO [homologated option] based in Melbourne.


The big excitement in Formula One this week is the shock announcement that Honda will officially re-join the Formula One grid as an official engine supplier when the new rules are introduced in 2026.

The real surprise is that Honda engines will not be powering 2023's all-conquering Red Bull F1 team. In a huge development for the team, it will be Aston Martin F1 which will enjoy the benefits of all of Honda's vast F1 experience, plus all the stuff it has learned from the seasons it has partnered with Red Bull.

Honda has somewhat of a chequered history with Formula One. 

The company first entered F1 in 1964, just four years after it produced its first road car. The company further startled the established F1 cadre by producing not only the engine, but also the chassis. The car was called the RA271, and after just one year of competition the RA272 (below) carried American Ritchie Ginther to victory in the 1965 Mexican GP.

Since then, Honda has been in and out of both direct competition as a full factory team, and as an engine supplier. 

In 2019 Honda signed with Red Bull to provide engines, and the team scored an important first victory at the 2019 Austrian GP.

In 2021 Honda withdrew, but agreed to provide assistance to Red Bull which manufactured the Honda engines under licence - an arrangement which was to run until 2025.

This is a major coup for the revitalised Aston Martin team, which has scored four podiums in the first five races for 2023.

It also follows extensive 'poaching' of some highly-experienced engineering, design and logistical management from some of the top teams - many of whom defected from Red Bull.

Roll on 2026 - I'm certain there's more big changes to come!