Saturday, January 28, 2023


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 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.

However, in 2013, Bentley was drawn back to motor racing – announcing a two-car team of Continental GT coupes to compete in the GT3 category.

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


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


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. 

Prices range from AUD$83,000 up to an eye-watering AUD$124,000!

The owner of the car in my photo never batted an eyelid when he told he got his 'new baby' for only AUD$102,000!


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’.


Saturday, January 7, 2023


It’s official! GM’s halo brand, Cadillac, will enter Formula One in 2026, coincidental with the new engine rules, and will link with Michael Andretti’s racing operation, which will see the Andretti name back in F1 contention.

Maybe not behind the wheel of a race car, but certainly, he’s the big wheel driving this impressive project along with President of General Motors, Mark Reuss.


Although F1 hasn’t made any explicit announcement regarding Cadillac’s participation, F1’s Mohammed ben Sulayem (right) says that F1 welcomes the new interest shown by the American team.

Whilst there are no signs that the brick wall erected by the existing teams can be dismantled, it certainly looks to me that Andretti-Cadillac has double-dotted the ‘I’s and double crossed the ‘T’s, and I think the next steps are just a peremptory process to win approval from all the F1 stakeholders.


After watching several F1 website videos and dissecting the press announcement by Mark Reuss, it’s a forgone conclusion that Cadillac will be on the grid in 2026.

The team will shortly announce an American driver to lead the team, and whilst Andretti-Cadillac says it has arrangements in place for engine supply from an existing manufacturer (Renault?), it’s well known that both companies want an American-developed engine, and that leaves just one contender – Ilmor. This company has extensive experience and unquestioned credentials in global racing, and I’m betting the ‘existing arrangement’ is just a placeholder.


I am delighted to see General Motors at last putting some real investment into the historic Cadillac brand.

First, the big investment in the Lyriq EV SUV (above).

Then followed the successful debut of its new Celestiq road car, plus an unprecedented financial and resource investment in Cadillac’s endurance racing program for this year. 

Recently revealing its new LMDh car, and then its GTP Hypercar, Cadillac will be in the racing spotlight in a way it hasn’t been since American Briggs Cunningham appeared at Le Mans in ‘Le Monstre’ in 1950.

The final words must go to Mark Reuss (who’s a petrol head), which emphasises how serious GM is about the Cadillac tilt at F1 competition.


Reuss said: “Our Commitment to this program goes way beyond the Cadillac livery.

GM’s vast engineering resources will bring proven success and a valuable contribution to this partnership.”


“This includes all the talent and capabilities of GM Racing staff and facilities of GM Racing at the Warren Tech centre and North Carolina, as well as the expertise of our engineers and designers in the areas like combustion, battery technology, turbocharging, vehicle integration and the list goes on.”


“Today is the first step in what we hope will be the historic entry of General Motors into F1. It has never happened before in our history.”


“It is very exciting for us to be with Andretti. Given the opportunity, GM and Cadillac will compete with the very best at the very highest levels with passion and integrity that will continue to elevate the sport for FIA and race fans around the world.”


That’s commitment with a Big C! Very hard to walk back from this news.




It appears as if 2035 may well be the ‘sunset date’ for the death of the internal combustion engine, because according to pundits, politicians, greenies and popular myth – we’ll all be driving some sort of electric vehicle.


Having lived through the era of the most simple ICE cars I ever owned (Austin Healey Sprite 2a and Mini Cooper) – both powered by the venerable BMC ‘A’ series four cylinder, right up to the Bentley W12, I think it’s sad that all of the talent, innovation and inventiveness which went into creating all types and sizes of ICE, will simply disappear.


During my eight years with Bentley Motors North America, I had the great pleasure of enjoying very close friendships with two of Volkswagen Group’s brightest and most experienced automotive engineers – Ing. Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg and Ing. Dr. Ulrich Eichhorn.

My conversations with both these eminent engineers was enough to reveal to me the huge depth of talent which existed inside Volkswagen’s deepest development dungeons. What these two guys don’t know about making engines (any sort of engine) doesn’t matter.


Ulrich Eichhorn joined Bentley in the critical development and production stages of the new Continental GT coupe, which of course included seeing the W12 project completed for the new car. 

The W12 (below) was created from a table napkin sketch by Dr. Ferdinand Piech and achieved by the marriage of two (narrow angle) 15° VR6 Golf engines.

I'd love to know the whereabouts of all those table napkins! Chances are skilled writers like my good friends Peter Robinson or Mel Nichols could make a decent book out of them.

In 2002 I had the pleasure of being introduced by Ulrich Hackenberg to Wolfgang Ullrich (right), who was on-loan to Bentley from Audi Sport AG, and responsible for developing the racing engines delivering a Bentley Speed 8 victory in the 2003 Vingt Quatre Heures du Mans.

Just brief conversations with Ing. Dr. Ullrich was further endorsement of how much skill and experience VWAG had in-house to guide the development of some of the world’s most spectacular, humble and efficient internal combustion engines.


Driven by the passion and vision of Dr. Ferdinand PiĆ«ch, look what these guys, just as a small group of VW’s many genuine experts, were able to bring to production.


From top left we had the W12 which powered Bentley’s new-age cars; the Twin-charged VW TSi 1.4 litre Golf engine; the W8 which powered the more humble VW Passat; the W16 in the Bugatti Veyron; the narrow-angle (15°) VR6, used in the VW Golf and Jetta; ; and let’s not forget the fabulous Audi V10 which powers both Audis and Lamborghinis!

A fly on the wall view of many discussions about these varied and truly awe-inspiring engines would probably have seen many of the concepts drawn on table napkins. That’s because the men I have mentioned, and many others inside VW’s vast engine research and development department, are ALWAYS thinking ahead.


I vividly remember one conversation with Ulrich Hackenberg on the Audi display at the 2011 Geneva Auto Salon and buried deep in the display board was the fact that this engine could achieve tailpipe emission of 99g/km!


I said to Dr. Hackenburg: “That’s pretty amazing, seeing as how the current Euro 5a emission standards regulated tailpipe emissions are at 120g/km.” He replied: “We have the technology and the resources to make this number a lot smaller. Quite a lot smaller!” I got the impression that this would only happen, when regulations demanded it.


As if to emphasise the strength of its engine expertise, the man behind some really great AMG engines, Friedrich Eikler (left), has recently been lured away from Mercedes by current VW engine boss Heinz-Jakob Neusser (right), whom Eichler worked with previously at Porsche.

And while this suggests there remains a huge amount of life and potential left in vastly cleaner ICE powerplants, with the announced ‘sunset clause’ applying to ICE engines in 2035, we will no longer see innovative and complex engine designs like those I have mentioned.


We are headed for an electrified future whether we like it or not. The stark reality of the death of ICE engines is contained in a single comment from an eminent chief engineer: “You can see that a ‘fleet average’ of 95 g/km (of tailpipe emissions) would require an annual improvement of 7%, which is totally unrealistic.”


So, the reason why the OEMs won’t invest in ICE powerplants is that they will not meet the fleet requirements with ICEs. In addition, the complete sunset of ICEs in many markets would bring with it the high risk of ‘stranded’ investment.


Just as I thank my lucky stars I lived during the era of Bill Haley, Stirling Moss, Jack Brabham, the Beatles and Barack Obama, I think the same of all my technical experiences in the automotive industry over the same period.