Thursday, March 23, 2023
AMERICAN COMPETITORS FOR GT3 RACING by John Crawford
Tuesday, March 21, 2023
VALÉ - LADY SUSIE MOSS by John Crawford
It is with very deep regret I mention the death of our dear friend, Lady Susie Moss at age 69.
Susie cared for Stirling following the infection from a mystery virus he contracted in Singapore in 2016, and stayed by his bedside constantly until he died in 2020. Following his passing Susie retreated to her home and rarely saw anyone except her very closest friends.
We enjoyed a full and joyful friendship with them both after I first met Stirling in 1981, often staying with them at their London home in Shepherd Street, Mayfair, where we were first introduced to West Highland White Terriers via Stirling’s ‘Westie’ called Caesar, who spent most of his day in his bed alongside Stirling’s desk in his office, from where he and Susie ran Stirling Moss Limited together.
It was a very strong business, and one which very few former racing drivers could have emulated, as it focussed, and created income from, the fame and notoriety he generated between 1948 to 1962, when his famous crash at Goodwood ended his competitive career. He won 212 of the 529 races he entered, but perhaps one of his most famous victories was winning the Mille Miglia in 1955 at an average speed of 99.9mph.
The family business, which in addition to his racing and personal appearances also included an extensive property portfolio in and around London, and Susie was the very effective ‘general manager’.
He and Susie married in 1980 and we were very fortunate to be invited to their 10th wedding anniversary in Los Angeles in 1990. The final time we dined together was in 2011 at Stirling’s favourite Greek-Turkish restaurant, Sofra, in Shepherd Market, but we continued to cross paths right up until Stirling’s illness in 2016.
|Susie Moss's last public outing was at Goodwood in 2022 at a tribute to Stirling led by the Duke of Richmond and Sir Jackie Stewart|
We send deepest condolences to Stirling and Susie's son Elliot, wife Helen and their daughter Stephanie, as well as his daughter Alison.
JOHN & YVONNE CRAWFORD
Sunday, March 19, 2023
Volkswagen's 'Golfie' EV? by John Crawford
Volkswagen is teasing us with yet another EV concept, based loosely on the ID3 platform. I say loosely, because the MEB platform VW used for the ID3/4 has been ‘re-arranged’ to locate the EV motor up front, and this allows much better use of the interior space.
There’s some ‘fours’ involved in VW’s plans. It’s proposed to offer 400km of range, and (in Australia at least) cost a smidge under AUD$40K, and it may be here in 2024.
This styling concept looks very Golf-like – which I think would make it immediately popular with VW tragics – and this would be no bad thing. Nothing’s confirmed of course, but VW has a huge budget for EVs which it hopes will wipe Tesla off its ‘competitors’ map’.
The cabin is clean and simple, with the usual ‘horizontal iPad’ in the centre of the dash.
This concept is obviously a two-door, hatch but naturally there’s a five door planned for final production – whenever!
If you read my blatherings regularly, I'm very skeptical about EVs saving the world, but as EV designs go, I'd buy this one.
ASTON MARTIN F1 - ALONSO ASTONISHES! by John Crawford
I thought I was tired of watching the F1 same-old, same-old, until ‘this old guy’, 41 years old Fernando Alonso took over the lead driving role at Aston Martin and has really shaken things up with his outstanding performance in Bahrain, and now elevating himself to the front row in Jeddah for this weekend’s Saudi Grand Prix.
Alonso has driven for McLaren, Ferrari and Minardi – and won the World Championship twice, with Renault, in 2005 and 2006.
Favoured front runner Verstappen suffered a drive shaft problem in Q2, and now the front rows look much more interesting than in many of last year’s GPs.
Red Bull’s Sergio Perez put in a fantastic drive to grab pole, then comes Alonso, George Russell’s Mercedes, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and in fifth position is Lance Stroll in the second Aston Martin.
In addition to the driving performances by Alonso and Stroll, it’s obvious Aston Martin spent some quality time on their 2023 cars over the winter break. It’s a big contrast to Hamilton, who hasn’t been on the pace, and keeps complaining that the team is not listening to his constructive comments about how to improve the car. If I was Toto Wolff I think I’d be listening a little keener to the guy who’s at the sharp end every weekend, and reckons he knows what he needs to get the job done.
Maybe you think Lewis is a 'chronic moaner', but seriously, who would ignore input from a seven times world champion?
Alonso, the 'old lion' takes third at the Saudi GP, after a race where he displayed ALL of his bravery, experience and tactical thinking, resulting in his second podium in the first two races.
Oscar Piastri enjoyed a brilliant drive to finish 15th, leading home two other Mercedes-powered cars, including his teammate Lando Norris.
Saturday, March 11, 2023
LA – MIXING MAGIC MILLIONS, THE HOMELESS AND HOI POLLOI by John Crawford
The locale for my recent visit to the City of Angels offered the full panoply from survivors in tents to up-market diners, fashionistas and even a concierge for super-rich Rodeo Drive shoppers.
From my lofty perch at the Beverly Hills Sofitel, opposite the up-market Beverly Center, all around me were both the signs of society in distress, but also one enjoying incredible affluence and prosperity.
A conundrum? Certainly, but the street theatre of homeless people existing alongside avenues strangled by multi-million dollar bespoke automobiles encompasses every detail of not only this extravagant metropolis, but many, many other American cities where the dramaturgy of daily life is playing out for all to see – you simply can’t avoid it.
You may be right to say that Beverly Hills is not the ideal venue to conduct a full-on sociological experiment to measure the state of the lives of the local tribes, but surprisingly, I was startled at the lack of anger from the poor, and also, the lack of any possible solutions from the wealthy.
It seems like the only full-on class warfare in the American society takes place nightly on the nation’s television screens, where the GOP and Democrats shout, rant and blame each other for the country’s ills.
Neither side of politics appears to be able to develop any really practical and workable solutions to satisfy both their supporters, or their opponents.
It’s almost as if the social set in the streets, and the supercar owners accept their respective fates, and leave it to the political class to provide the shallow nightly entertainment.
So how does this deeply polarised society find a solution? The street dwellers and the rich seem to have arrived at their own apathetic answer - ignore it, and just get on with doing the best they can, under the circumstances.
As I was writing this Post, the national data revealed America's unemployment rate is the lowest it's been for decades, and my good friend Stewart Varney announced on Fox Business News that the country was "not showing any signs of entering depression, any time soon".
However, significant, multiple problems still exist in the society, and I am certain neither a Democrat-led, nor a GOP-led government possesses any real insight, or ability to solve them.
A fun highlight of my visit to the USA was the chance to discuss the great Lamborghini Squadra Corse racing series with Parris Mullins from the Tom O'Gara Group who have a lot of their customers entered in this entertaining and thrilling race series. It's so good, even Tom O'Gara (left, below) has been encouraged to enter in the 'Gentlemen Racing' division.
Saturday, February 25, 2023
LOS ANGELES - TRIBES, TALENT, TECHNOLOGY & TRIBULATIONS by John Crawford
So, it’s been 16 years since I last set foot in Los Angeles (and for those who’ve forgotten, it’s known as the ‘City of Angels’). The 'Angelinos' were pretty crazy then – and I don't think much has changed! That is except for the big queues for Lyfts and Ubers at LAX, and the dwindling line for regular taxis.
If you live, or have lived, in the wider USA (as I did for 12 years), maybe you share the view of many Americans – that Los Angeles is an ‘alien nation’. Home of the biggest stronghold for the Democratic Party, a lot of very wacky ideas, politicians and city officials who live in ‘La-La Land’, and the sincere belief that whatever happens in the other 49 states doesn’t really concern them.
I was reminded of Californians’ willing acceptance of ‘alternative lifestyles’, as I checked into the Hilton Hotel at LAX on my final night, before returning to the relative peace and quiet of Australia.
A guy (I think, but who knows?) sprang out of an exhibitor’s booth and thrust a pamphlet in my hand promoting ‘Kundalini’, the existence of strictly female energy which lies coiled at the base of the spine, promising to be 'activated' by a total embrace of ‘Shaktism’, along with complete subjugation to Adi Parashakti, the supreme being in Shaktism.
The entire Hilton Lobby was awash with signs directing to areas devoted to special exhibits, all associated with that weekend’s special expo theme dedicated to ‘Conscious Life’. This included an intriguing space named 'The Rabbit Hole'? What went on down there?
Fortunately, the Hilton Hotel Group has developed a special (no living persons required) check-in app. You fill in your account details on the iPhone App, and it generates a unique digital key. You simply hustle into the elevator - with people wearing highly-coloured garb (or in some cases very little at all), head feathers and carrying incense, or take-out from Uber Eats, then find your suite among the 1,233 well-appointed guest rooms,
You hover your iPhone over the door lock and then, ‘Click’ and pure bliss prevails. I unpacked, logged on to the very fast wi-fi, and hid in my room until it was time to venture downstairs to the still-chaotic lobby for dinner with a very special friend.
Joining me was one of my oldest Aussie mates, Peter Warren, who is also one of the greatest cinematographers I have ever worked with.
He now resides in LA, which explains why he wears a smile of benign acceptance to the noise of a distorted sitar.
Oh, and also a competing blues singer, whose singing coach had apparently completely omitted to teach him anything akin to singing on-key or breathing whilst wailing.
Angelinos, to me, have always been willing to entertain the mysterious, the magical, the mythical, the mesmerzing and the monstrous - how else could Hollywood have survived for decades? However, given the name of the Expo, that could explain the need to explore 'The Conscious Life'.
I know I’ve treated this experience with unadulterated levity, but you have to experience LA to really understand it – and even then, you can’t. I must say Hilton Hotels have gone up several dozen notches on my appreciation scale. My suite was beautifully-decorated, quiet and comfortable. Hilton will be my go-to-choice next time I’m let loose in hotel-land in the USA.
As for LA’s added extras, whatever! It’s a fun, vibrant city with an outstanding and almost unbelievable range of restaurants and cuisines.
And, if you’re a car buff (more on this later), you’ll barely believe your eyes as you creep along the boulevards in your Uber EV, among some of the most eye-wateringly-special cars I’ve ever seen in one city. Like this 1989 Vector outside my hotel, and the two-tone 2005 Veyron in the CVS drugstore lot across the road.
Sunday, February 5, 2023
2023 LIQUIMOLY 12 HOUR & MERE SECONDS SEPERATED THE PODIUM CARS by John Crawford
Fabulous race! After 12 hours, between 6-8 seconds separated the top three as Jules Gounon joined an elite group, winning the endurance event in three consecutive races!
The strategists worked overtime keeping up with spins, bingles, the safety car and lots of high drama, which included decisions by race officials which cost precious minutes taking highly-placed cars out of the race, and into their garages for repairs, plus a penalty for working on one of the AMG Mercedes in pit lane.
Race fans couldn’t have asked for more. 53,000+ people attended over three days, which the commentators said was a record crowd, and they got their money’s worth.
Just another event in the Mount Panorama circuit’s incredible history for delivering big surprises, great racing, and almost unbelievable results in some of the world’s toughest endurance events.
Never mind the details, it was a big year for two of the biggest German names in motorsport – it was Mercedes AMG and Porsche – right down to the wire. Brilliant!
Bathurst was the big winner! Again!
Saturday, February 4, 2023
THERMAL EXCITEMENT by John Crawford
This week I’m off to Los Angeles for a series of business meetings, one of which will take place at a very unique location, and best described as Valhalla for petrol heads.
I’ll be visiting The Thermal Club, just outside Palm Springs (194km and 2.5 hours east of Los Angeles), in the town of Thermal, California.
Essentially, the Thermal Club is a privately-owned estate, which features more than 15 km of race tracks, which can be configured for long distance races, or short sprints.
Each of the planned 265 homes are built and decorated on a grand scale, and each has a garage capable of housing between ten to 30 cars, depending on how deep your pocket is, and how many cars you own. One member owns 60 track cars!
Club membership requires the purchase of real estate. In addition, the initial costs of a standard membership and corporate membership are USD$85K and USD$200K respectively, with approximately USD$20K per year in membership fees. Yes, this ‘Club’ costs serious money.
On the track the Club offers driving without the hassle of hiring your own race team to prep or maintain track cars. With the help of accomplished professional race car drivers and cutting-edge technology, driver coaching is always available.
There’s also a fully-equipped Tuning Centre to handle any maintenance or modification of members’ vehicles.
The Club broke ground in 2012, and covers 424 acres. It was no small thing to get the necessary permits to create ‘The Dream’, but it’s a serious motor racing operation. Right now the teams participating in the NTT Indy Car Series are using the track facilities for pre-season testing.
I am very much looking forward to my visit. Although there are many such ‘Clubs’ in Europe which operate on the same basis, I believe this is the first one in the USA.
My host will be Los Angeles’ top high performance prestige car dealer, Tom O’Gara, who runs a multi franchise business called O’Gara Coach, in Beverly Hills (right).
I've always said California is the cathedral of prestige luxury cars, and Los Angeles is the altar where they are bought, sold, exchanged and generally lusted after.
Saturday, January 28, 2023
NOW IT'S BROKEN BONES FOR A 'BURNED' JAY LENO by John Crawford
Sorry to hear my friend Jay Leno has hit another obstacle in his recovery from burns received when petrol fumes caught alight under the hood of one of his vintage cars.
As a former mechanic he has a reputation for being 'hands-on' with his collection.
Jay had taken his 1940 Indian motorcycle and sidecar outfit for a test run after smelling a petrol leak.
Returning to his garage he took a side street, and intended to cut across a parking lot for a short cut.
However, the owner had strung a nylon cable across the entrance (and, contrary to the law, had not hung flags on the cable to alert people to its existence).
What happened next was entirely predictable. Jay hit the cable and came off the bike ending up with a broken collarbone, two broken ribs and cracked kneecaps.
The 72-year-old comedian and car enthusiast spent 10 days in the Grossman Burn Center after the engine fire incident, but despite the broken bones he’s philosophical. “I’m feeling okay now, but realise I’m nowhere near as brave as Harrison Ford. I mean he crashes airplanes for his Indiana Jones movies! And he’s 80!”
Further sad news for Jay, and fans of the 'Jay Leno's Garage' reality show. CNBC has declined to renew the show for another season.
Coincidentally, I'll be in Los Angeles next month, so I'm planning to pay a 'Get Well' visit to the Garage.
Thursday, January 26, 2023
BENTLEY'S BATHURST VICTORY SPAWNS TWO COMMEMORATIVE COUPES by John Crawford
Bentley’s enterprising Sydney dealer is offering just TWO special Bentleys built by the company’s Mulliner division, to celebrate Bentley’s latest of many racing victories, in the 2020 Liqui-Molly 12 Hour endurance race at the Mount Panorama circuit at Bathurst, 160km west of Sydney.
Bentley’s motor racing heritage stretches back to 1919, when Walter Owen Bentley began the company. Its early motor racing efforts culminating in the first appearance of a Bentley at Le Mans in 1923.
Bentley went on to win the Vingt Quatre Heures du Mans five times between 1924 and 1930. Four of those wins were consecutive between 1927 and 1930. Although Bentley withdrew from motor racing, Bentley owners continued racing, including the appearance in the 1949 24 Hour race, of the streamlined ‘Embiricos’ Bentley, where it finished sixth.
That car was entered twice more in the early 50s – completing the race on every occasion.
In 2001 Bentley again took up the challenge of competing in the world’s most famous endurance race, announcing a three year campaign to win the event. Bentley’s victory in the 2003 race would be the crowning glory of a proud motor racing history.
I was fortunate to attend the 2019 Liqui-Molly 12 Hour race at Bathurst, when Bentley suffered a heartbreaking series of mishaps in the closing stages, however both cars finished in the Top Ten.
In 2020 Bentley returned to ‘The Mountain’ and claimed a historic victory for the marque.
Bentley Sydney then decided to mark Bentley’s impressive domination of the race by producing just two (truly limited edition) Continental GT coupes for two very fortunate customers.
The two cars will carry the number 7 on their grilles to commemorate the win.
Sunday, January 15, 2023
DRIVEN PERSONALITIES - JOHN WICKHAM by John Crawford
Sad to report the death from Motor Neurone Disease of one of the most capable and experienced motor sport team managers I have ever had the pleasure to know.
I didn’t meet John Wickham until late 2000 when Bentley Motors was pulling together its three-year racing program to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans – for the first time since 1930, in the era of the Bentley Boys.
Consequently, from a ‘risk management’ point of view that was a VERY IMPORTANT motor racing challenge.
The cars were derived from the former Toms Toyota racers (with which Wickham had a close association); the engines came from Audi; the team effort was run by the late Richard Lloyd’s Apex Motorsport, and the man in the middle of all the action, chaos and decision-making was a quiet Brit called John Wickham.
Together with Bentley Motor’s engineering guru, Brian Gush, the three of them masterminded the three-year program which culminated in Bentley’s Speed 8 winning the Vingt Quatre Heures du Mans in 2003 – right on target.
|Brian Gush (L); Richard lloyd (C); John Wickham (R)|
It was a sweet victory, but John Wickham was the 'quiet genius' who mostly stayed out of the limelight, so he could just ‘get things done’.
He had an extraordinarily varied career in motor racing, starting in 1972. He helped the BARC organise race meetings; he ran F1 and F2 teams; he co-owned the Spirit-Honda F1 team; he ran the Arrows F1 effort before leaving to direct Audi’s touring car team to victory in the BTCC. He joined Team Bentley for the Le Mans program in 2001, and returned at Brian Gush’s request to arrange homologation for Bentley’s Continental GT3 cars.
I swear there wasn’t a task that phased John, it was great to see him in action, and although MND did not claim him until the age of 73, he is a sad loss to all his friends in motor sport.
Saturday, January 14, 2023
PARALLEL PATHS TO PEAK PERFORMANCE by John Crawford
When the callous and calculated decision by General Motors and Ford to end local design and manufacture of passenger cars was finally taken by the car companies, the decision threw thousands of highly-skilled workers on to the unemployment scrapheap.
However, rather than consigning the car companies to a quagmire of financial poo, it set each of them on a new path to greater financial security.
This may not have been the primary aim of the carmaker’s actions, but serendipitously, their fortunes changed, almost overnight.
General Motors happily said goodbye to the Holden brand (the original child of the Australian motor industry, born in 1948), so it could form a new operating company called ‘GM Specialty Vehicles’ with plans to import a (factory-built) RHD version of the brand new and sexy Chevrolet Corvette C8, and another insanely powerful and pricey pickup - the Chevrolet Silverado.
Ford Australia was also well advanced to crank up sales of the Ranger pickup (production now shifted to Thailand), and it already had the ballsy Ford Mustang in the wings to replace the old Falcon GT.
The old ‘third wheel’, Chrysler Australia (which had long departed the scene) was about to re-enter the fray (under the Group’s new name ‘Stellantis’) with its almost insanely powerful and pricey Dodge Ram pickup.
Do any of these vehicles fulfil an urgent and relevant need in the Australian vehicle market? No, they most defiantly do not.
What they do achieve is a profit trajectory to undreamed of heights as every single one is sold at full retail (and in some cases at a premium), as the waiting lists push out, in some cases, to a year or more.
What’s happening here, and who saw it coming? The public, almost overnight, became gripped by the need to buy (very) expensive crew-cab pickups in undreamt of volumes, along with equally unnecessary large AWD SUVs.
Passenger cars and station wagons? They are so yesterday.
Every car company competing for oxygen in the Australian market offers SUVs, Crossovers, Pickups and the occasional ‘sporty’ hatchback. And guess what? Just like the products offered by ‘the old’ Big Three - they’re all pricey, scarce and bringing big smiles to the CFOs.
You could ask, “Well it can’t last forever, can it?” But, I think it’s got a long way to go yet before this shift in the demand for these new vehicle types eases off. The carmakers will see to that. They will be ahead of the curve, offering the next, best, must-have thing!
And the elephant in the room is that before you know it we’ll be being told, of course, all these carbon-producing monsters will soon be electrically-powered. Does that mean some breathing space on vehicle prices? No, no, no - they’ll be even more expensive, less useful, unable, (in some cases) to provide adequate driving range, or tow a van or a big, expensive speedboat!
Now, there is a solution for some of these issues - carrying capacity, range, reliability. Basically, it means - design and build a big EV, with a BIG battery, and naturally a big price tag.
Where does this leave the poor old punters? Paying more, that’s for sure, and the carmakers’ Board Members will also be getting even bigger pay rises and bonuses.
Oh, and by the way, what do Mum and Dad buy the teen who has just passed their driving test? A frugal, five year old hatchback?
No, the chances are our newly-licensed, but poorly-trained teen will be behind the wheel of some behemoth pickup? Have you seen the Sales Consignment Car Yards lately? They're heaving at the fences with cast-off pickups and SUVs waiting for new owners.
I dread to think what the road toll numbers will be when these poor, inexperienced young drivers go out to battle peak hour in their pickup!
Is this ‘Automotive Armageddon’? Yep, and keep in mind a few years, down the track, “I told you so’.