87th International Motor Show, Geneva

After a long break I went back to the Geneva International Motor Show last year. Aston Martin presented the DB11 and I thought I couldn’t be more excited. I was wrong.

Initially I was not planning to go to Geneva, but then Aston Martin broke the news they were bringing three premieres to the show. I got the chance to go on Tuesday (press day), which meant I could not possibly resist.
I did mention last year that the show elements I had grown accustomed to have mostly disappeared. This is not the case for the first press day. Everything starts on Monday afternoon, as in the evening the Car of the Year is revealed. On Tuesday the day is filled with press conferences and these are shows! The manufacturers bring often more than one of their VIPs, promotional videos are shown and most don’t shy away from a light show.

The quiet before the storm, or – in this case – the Aston Martin stand before the press conference.
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It is impossible to see all conferences, because they follow each other in quick succession and you’d have to run from one hall to another at times. I managed to catch the conferences of Audi, Lamborghini, Porsche and Aston Martin.
Especially Lamborghini stood out for me. The actual presentation itself wasn’t that long (as in: not a lot of talking). They alternated between live presentation and a few videos and it was one of the videos that got my attention.

Video courtesy of Lamborghini

After leaving WEC at the end of last year’s season Audi Sport have now presented their DTM challenger: the new RS5. They presented the car simultaneously with its road going sibling. In addition they confirmed their manufacturer team entry for Formula E’s 2017/2018 season. There’s a lot going on at Audi.

Bentley presented the EXP 12 which is an electric car. Style wise it fits in perfectly with the Continental and the Mulsanne. It looks amazing and I hope we get to see and hear more about it soon. Between the BMW i8 and Bentley EXP 12 I think we can safely say electric cars are stepping away from looking boring.

I didn’t make it to the Volvo conference, but was right next door (at Aston) when their conference happened. I had already seen all the Volvos were wrapped up in cocoons (different, to say the least). The presentation seemed to focus mainly on how natural the car is, how great it feels, etc. Considering they were presenting the XC60 I think they totally missed the mark.
Having owned a Volvo 440 and test driven the S90 I am amazed at how horrible the XC60 is. However, I should take into account it’s an SUV and I’m not a fan of SUVs in general. There’s only a few I like, for example the Mazda CX-3 and CX-5. They at least prove that an SUV can still have nice lines and it doesn’t have to be massive.

Volkswagen Arteon
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Volkswagen and I are not really friends, but there are a few models I like. On trips to the Nürburgring I have driven an EOS and a convertible Golf. I fully believe they should have left the Scirocco alone. I also think the CC is one of the sexiest things on four wheels ever built. Safe to say I haven’t quite made my mind up about VW.
When strolling over their stand I was pleasantly surprised by the Arteon (pictured above). It has all the things I like about the CC while still being recognisably Volkswagen. Very nice indeed.

It was great to see so many race cars at the show. Ford brought their WEC racer, Rebellion brought their LMP1 car. Abt was there with their Formula E car. Toyota had their LMP1 car at the stand including a part-car display where you could have a better look at the cockpit.

A look inside the Toyota LMP1 car.
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Last year Aston Martin shook up the car world by presenting what was then called AM-RB 001. It’s low, it looks mean (yet smooth), its aerodynamic characteristics are created by Adrian Newey, it’s very fast and will be road legal (yes, really).
The day before Geneva they revealed the lady’s name: Valkyrie.

Not surprising then that it was very busy at the Aston Martin stand when the time for their conference came. Even though the car has been shown already and further details have been released in the past year, it still draws the crowd. Who wouldn’t want to see this with their own eyes?
Now I have seen the car for myself I can confirm she’s a sight to behold. I find it unbelievable that you can sit behind the car and look underneath it from rear to front. Especially the rear is quite high, despite the car being very low overall. It will be very interesting to see (and hear!) this car when a working prototype is completed.

Aston Martin Valkyrie
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Aston Martin also had a surprise for us: AMR.
They took the opportunity to launch a new brand which will be bringing racing technology directly to road cars. The Rapide AMR looks surprisingly sporty for such a big car and wears its makeover quite well. I understand the Vantage AMR Pro will be track only whereas the Rapide AMR will be a road car.
As if this wasn’t enough they also brought a special Q edition of the DB11 and a Vanquish S Volante. I am still drooling now…

Going to the Geneva International Motor Show on press day has been a privilege. It gave me the chance to have a much better look at the new cars and to hear the details from some pretty important people.
I can’t make any promises, but I will certainly try to get press passes to this show and other shows/events. It will allow me to get that just that little bit more to write about.


Mini Festival 2016 at Oulton Park

In its third year the Mini Festival has already become a constant feature in my household. There are two very simple reasons for this:
1. it’s great fun and the day is filled with Minis;
2. the quality of the event is constant.
My best friend and I both prefer the classic Minis over the much bigger variety of BMW persuasion (known as ‘maxi Minis’ or ‘Binis’), so we were a bit sad to see the pre-1966 Mini race organised during the 2014 edition scrapped both last year and this year. Thankfully there are plenty of classic Minis left (Mini Se7en and Mini Miglia races). And, it has to be said, the drivers of the newer Minis do put on one hell of a show!

The Mini Challenge – Cooper S, Cooper, Open is about to start.
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The action on track started at 08:30 with qualifying sessions for all the races that day, so if you get there early there is already plenty to see. This year it seems there was even more off-track action (YoungDrive! sessions, drift shows and music), just in case you don’t feel like watching Minis all day long. However, that is not my thing, so I stayed trackside most of the time.

This year there was a supporting race: Maximumgroup.net VAG Trophy. That translates to a lot of Volkswagens and one Seat racing for 20 minutes twice a day. I have seen this group race before at Donington Park and thoroughly enjoyed it. This time they didn’t disappoint either. Even though I’m not a fan of Golfs, Polos and Sciroccos, they look very good on track.
A few cars passed my viewing point with inexplicable and identical (!) damage to the left front. From the commentary I could not make out what had happened, but it’s certainly surprising to see three cars with similar damage and no cars with any sign of damage that may have caused it. Perhaps they all hit the same spot on track and the commentators didn’t deem it worthy to mention?

Three cars came by looking something like this – cause apparently unknown.
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One race (Mini Challenge – Cooper S, Cooper, Open 180) was abandoned after a crash right after the start. Initially the grid was set up again, but the recovery of the cars involved took so long it was decided to not restart the race.
Both races for newer Minis were quite close anyway. One car ended up pretending to be a lawnmower and drove around with quite some grass in its grill. Others had clearly been fighting a little too tightly; dents and missing parts were not an uncommon sight.
During one race in the afternoon we saw two Minis try to take the same corner at the same time. Thankfully they both managed to stay on track, but I can imagine there were words…

As always our main objective was to see the classic Minis race. With four races in total we certainly got what we asked for!
Racing was incredibly diverse. We saw very close racing, as always, but also a 28 second lead by Shayne Deegan in the Mini Miglia race in the afternoon. There was smoke (looked like an engine blew), there were crashes, off track moments, slipping and sliding, drifting and even bits falling of cars.

Racing was incredibly close all day long.
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Throughout the day the weather never made up its mind. We had rain, sun, wind and clouds and it was alternating all day. I don’t know if this contributed to the eventful day. I say eventful because there were quite a few safety car moments, as mentioned we had an abandoned race and of course there were ‘moments’ due to cars being out on slicks while it was raining. It must not have been easy for the drivers and I have to say kudos to them for sticking it out and continuing. I was certainly happy to brave the weather and not leave until the very end. It was well worth it…again.
Can’t wait for next year!