The clocks have gone forward. Lighter evenings, perhaps the first signs of milder weather and lockdown measures easing.
We have to begin this month's roundup with the sad news of the death of HRH Prince Philip. The longest serving consort in British Royal history, he was a lifelong motoring enthusiast and champion of giving young people a chance in life, founding and remaining a constant part of The Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme for over 60 years.
We talk about service constantly in our industry – it's what we live by, but if ever an individual epitomised this word, it was The Queen's husband of 74 years, supporting her both in her role as Head of State and as a husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather.
Our motoring news this month begins with a farewell to another motoring icon. It isn't a sports or super car but it did revolutionise the automotive sector in its own way – and some say it even played a part in politics.
This month, it's a home grown hero. A car for the masses in much the same way that its great-many-times-removed grandparent was. That was the Ford Model T and the car we wave off into motoring history is Ford's Mondeo.
With the exception of a successful BTCC campaign and its ST-badged variants, the Mondeo was never destined to be a high performance car and the volume produced (over 5,000,000 in case you were wondering) doesn't make it bespoke.
What it did do was usher in an era of driver-focused cars for all of us. The original, launched in 1993, redefined the way normal family cars could drive. It received universal praise for its chassis, even if some were less keen on the way it looked. The Sierra, which it replaced, drew similar criticism at launch and it used technology taken from the Cortina.
The Mondeo achieved success in motorsport – it swept the opposition away in the 2000 BTCC series, finishing 1-2-3 and a certain Mr Mansell notably and spectacularly crashed his Mondeo in a 1993 shootout event at Donington.
And politics? The phrase 'Mondeo Man' was coined by Tony Blair. It summarised a significant proportion of the UK electorate whose vote was considered pivotal and became part of the Labour Party's landslide election victory in 1997, with commentators reflecting that Monedo Man had won the election as much as cost the Conservatives victory.
So a driver's car, a family stalwart, a company car champion (remember the company car anyone?), a motorsport victor and a political analogy. Few cars can claim as many accolades and with the likliehood that the replacement will be an electric SUV and the Mondeo badge disappearing after 29 years, when production ceases in 2022, it really is the end of an era. We think that's a little bit sad.
Speaking of icons, our next article features Porsche's 911. Suggested by Lockton Client Manager Emily Fortier (who has written a truly brilliant introduction explaining why she picked this legend of the sportscar world), we've picked the versions which stand out – no mean feat as there as many and more that we couldn't include.
We're equally delighted to be able to share with you some insight into the 911 from Mark Sumpter, founder of Sussex-based independent Porsche specialist Paragon. Mark has bought, sold, restored, raced and been fortunate enough to own many variants of the evergreen sports car and we thank him for sharing his thoughts here.
Lockton are the exclusive insurance partner to the Porsche Club of Great Britain so if you too own a 911, or indeed any other Porsche, then talk to us today.
We move to motorsport next and referring back to the BTCC Mondeo story above, we're waiting for the 2021 season to get underway next month at the always fast Thruxton circuit. Reigning champion Ash Sutton remains behind the wheel of his Infiniti Q50 although behind him, there have been a number of driver and team changes and we are sure that this year will once again be filled with the usual excitement, thrills and spills.
The streets of Monaco once again reverberated to the sounds of wonderful old racing cars with the return of the Grand Prix de Monaco Historique. Making a welcome return after the postponement of the 2020 event, the undoubted stars were Jean Alesi and Rene Arnoux. Alesi piloted the ex-Lauda Ferrari 312 and was heading for certain victory before a collision led to retirement.
British driver Michael Lyons won 3 races in the Surtees TS9, McLaren M26 and Hesketh 308 during a weekend which, despite a reduced field of 100 cars (down from the usual 200), managed to provide all of the intensity, glamour, sounds and excitement of the golden era of 4 wheeled motor sport.
Definitely a bucket list event and you won't need to wait the usual 2 years as it's being run again in May 2022.
The Masters open their event account across the May Bank Holiday weekend and despite being unable to allow spectators due to ongoing lockdown rules, the event will be streamed live. It's a shame that we can't yet get to see, hear and smell the sound of old racing cars doing their thing but hopefully it won't be too long before we can once again go to our favourite track.
Formula One has returned to Europe and the historic Imola circuit. We were once again treated to the emerging battle between Hamilton and Verstappen, with the Red Bull driver emerging victorious this time. we also watched Hamilton battling his way back to a second place after an uncharacteristic mistake on a drying track and a fantastic tussle with McLaren's Lando Norris – perhaps another taster of things to come?
Hamilton's eventual recovery was largely due to his teammate tangling with Formula One returns to Europe and the historic Imola circuit.
In other motoring news, Croatian supercar maker Rimac has announced plans to open a development hub in Warwickshire. Porsche recently increased its stake in the company, to 24% and with this came an injection of £60m, a proportion of which is being invested into the new facility. This partnership will also accelerate Porsche's EV development. The Taycan has been a sales success and marks just the start of the German company's EV ambitions.
Staying with the theme of 'fast', you'd be forgiven for wondering what's happened to Pagani recently; other manufacturers have continued the pace race, both ICE and EV powered. Fear not, as the company has announced its Huayra R – visually similar to the roadgoing car, the new model features a brand-new chassis manufactured and developed with HWA, a German firm who make components for Mercedes AMG. The car features track-focused aerodynamics and a ceramic coated exhaust system to guarantee that it will raise the hairs on the back of your neck – from the outside as that's where most of us will get to see this low volume (30 is the number being suggested) and rather expensive (over US$3 million) motor car.
Once again going against the flow, power comes from a 6 litre V12. It does away with the turbochargers found in the roadgoing model. The new engine, available only in this car, produces slightly more power than its sibling (850bhp versus 840 – almost trifling at this level) by revving higher. It does lose torque with the removal of the turbochargers but weighing in at just over 1000kg, performance will remain electrifying, even if there isn't a volt to be found in its powertrain.
News has also emerged from Mercedes that confirms a rumour which has been swirling around for some months – that the next generation of their C63 sports saloon will replace its iconic V8 with a 4 cylinder hybrid motor, in use already in the popular A45 model it will boost the ICE with a rear axle mounted electric motor to produce a rumoured per output close to 600bhp – higher than the current car but without that rumbling soundtrack.
The C63 remained the last sports saloon to use a V8, with rivals from Audi and BMW having switched to 6 cylinder turbocharged engines some time ago. It is intriguing to ponder whether Mercedes will be able to keep the mildly boisterous nature of the outgoing model with the combination of a much smaller engine and hybrid power.
Our final news story is not dissimilar to last month's news that Landrover is giving us a supercharged Defender model. This time we head to Italy, where Ferrari's SUV has been spotted again in disguise whilst road testing. Yes, that's right, you read the words “Ferrari” and “SUV” in the same sentence.
Ferrari remain tight lipped about the look of its Purosangue but the prototype was making V12 sounds and hybrid V8 power is also rumoured to play a significant role in a car which may prove to be one of the most significant to emerge from Maranello in decades.
We aren't for a second going to debate whether including an SUV in Ferrari's line-up is a good thing (we're pretty sure that the internet will have this discussion. A lot) but if one considers Lamborghini's Urus, Aston's DBX, Bentley Bentayga and The Rolls Royce Cullinan, not to mention the sports SUV that started the ball rolling with Porsche's Cayenne and latterly Macan which sell in ever increasing numbers, we don't believe that adding such a car will dilute what sits at the heart of Ferrari – and there's something about a big, heavy family car which performs like a supercar which is actually rather fun – we don't doubt that Ferrari will sell a lot of them.
New car launches – revving up this month
After a relatively quiet start to the year, the beginning of Q2 sees some big guns lining up.
- Alpina B8 – legendary German tuner applies its touch to BMW's big coupe, extracting around 600bhp from the twin turbo V8 and a top speed of around 200mph. prices are expected to start at £85,000.
- Aston Martin V12 Speedster – combining the best elements of the already impressive DBS Superleggera and Vantage, a twin turbocharged V12 producing over 700bhp and open 2 seater cockpit said to be modelled around that of a fighter jet. Costing £765,000, only 88 will be made.
- Bentley Bacalar – all 12 of this bespoke version of the Continental model have been sold, at a price of around 9 times that of the standard car. Bentley has confirmed that the positive reception the car has received will pave the way for further bespoke models in future – a tradition dating back to the earliest Bentley models.
- BMW M5 CS – taking the already immense M5 and creating a Competition version isn't enough for BMW and it's taken the concept further with the Clubsport model. Less weight through the use of carbonfibre (70kg) and more power (626bhp, up 10 on the Competition) with suspension upgrades to match, the car is priced at just under £141,000, a healthy £40,000 increase over the Competition and making it the most expensive M5 variant to date.
- Lamborghini Huracan STO – Super Trofeo Omologato qualifies as the best badge of 2021 we think and the latest Huracan is effectively a GT3 race car made road legal. Rear wheel drive, 631bhp and weighing less than the Performante, it may be the last (and ultimate) version before a rumoured hybrid replacement arrives next year.
- Last up we couldn't resist but “good news. There's a new Dacia Sandero”. James May will no doubt be very happy that the new car is based around Renault's award winning latest generation Clio platform. It will of course remain a budget model but we thought it was a must to include in this month's news…
Glenmarch have again produced their usual roundup of auction news here with values continuing to be strong across most marques and types of car.
We end where we started this month – lighter evenings, the odd drive just for the heck of it and some of our favourite motoring events back on the calendar. It feels like we've waited rather a long time for this.