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Rear View Mirror 2016

14th December 2016 — by Steve White

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It pains me to admit it, but sometimes there are very rare occasions when motorsport isn’t the most important thing in life. I’m immensely proud of everything I have achieved this year but, in order to fit it all in, compromises had to be made with regards to the number of motorsport excursions I was able to make in 2016.

Knowing that I’d be unable to attend the quantity of events I wanted, my focus for this year instead shifted to ensuring that the quality of those outings I could make was as high as possible.

Despite the aforementioned compromises, I was at least able to get 2016 underway in the usual fashion: with rallycross of course! Round 2 of the British Rallycross Championship  also constituted part of the Belgian Rallycross Championship, so there were good entry numbers throughout the multiple Championship classes.

It was great to see the return of several British Championship stalwarts alongside a number of fresh faces. There was a notably high rate of attrition in the Supercar category, with several of the title favourites encountering difficulties throughout the day.

As the familiar names fell by the wayside, it was Supercar rookie Dan Rooke who made his way to the front of the field and went on to take the win. With Lydden marking his second podium finish in as many rounds, it was an early indication that Rooke was going to be one to watch.

From the mixed surfaces of Lydden, my next stop for 2016 was the hallowed tarmac of Brands Hatch for the first round of the British GT Championship. British GT seems to be in great health at the moment, with each round of the National Championship attracting large and varied entries. The presence of several BMW Z4’s on the grid at Brands really served as the icing on the cake, as I just can’t get enough of BMW Motorsports hardcore take on Barbie’s favourite Bimmer.

The opening British GT round gave me my first chance to see the GT3 variant of the Lamborghini Huracan in the metal and I liked it. I liked it a lot. The sound wasn’t quite on par with my beloved Z4 GT3 but, in terms of looks, the Huracan definitely gives the BMW a run for its money.

Barely a month had passed since my British GT outing when I found myself heading back to Brands to once again savour the sights and sounds of GT3 cars. The second round of the Blancpain GT Sprint Cup marked a rather significant milestone in the history of GT3 racing: it was 10 years to the weekend since the competitive debut of the class. The success of GT3 was reflected in the entry list, which was far greater in size than it had been on past visits to Brands Hatch.

As well as a packed main grid, the 2016 Blancpain round at Brands also boasted a much fuller support package than previous years. The Sport Club race was hugely entertaining, though it was the cars of the Hyperclub that proved the biggest draw to spectators. Not only were there a plethora of exotics present in the paddock, but many of them were taken out on track for a damn good thrashing.

Mettet would be one of three World Rallycross Championship rounds I was able to attend in 2016 and Belgium was the first occasion I could lay eyes on the M-Sport Ford Focus RS RX. I personally rate the M-Sport Fiesta as the best looking car in the current crop of rally and rallycross cars, so I was eager to see how the Focus compared.

Hoonigan Racing team mates Ken Block and Andreas Bakkerud were both plagued by technical gremlins but, amidst the problems, glimpses of the true capability of the car could be seen.

Few were surprised to see the big names at the front end of the field in the World Championship races, but it was the success of the younger drivers in the European Championship battles that caught many by surprise. Defending European Champion Tommy Rustad looked outpaced by the likes of Joni-Pekka Rajala and Kevin Hansen. Much like Dan Rooke, Kevin Hansen was a name that rallycross spectators would become very familiar with in 2016.

Round four of the World Rallycross Championship took place at Lydden Hill just a fortnight after Belgium. Andreas Bakkerud demonstrated how rapidly development of the Focus RS RX was progressing, with a surge of pace that saw him qualify on the back row of the final. Mechanical woes would prevent him from challenging for a podium spot, but it was a clear sign that Bakkerud was ready to enter the fray as a serious title challenger.

Petter Solberg just pipped Matias Ekstrom to victory at Lydden last year and it looked like he would do the same again in 2016, with Solberg falling just short of a perfect set of qualifying races and absolutely blitzing the field in his semi-final. Ekstrom is a wily opponent though and in the final he edged out Petter by the narrowest of margins to take his third successive win of the season.

There were a plethora of Americas finest to ogle at American Speedfest IV but, for the second year in a row, it was the brutal Formula 5000 machinery that stole the show for me. The raw simplicity of these cars illustrates everything that is wrong with the current crop of premier open wheel racing cars.

I was unable to get my Le Mans fix in 2015 and the withdrawal hit me hard, so I was desperate not to miss out again in 2016. Le Mans never fails to disappoint and there was close racing throughout the classes, however it was the fight in LMP1 that proved most memorable. 12 hours in and the top three were just seconds apart. In the latter stages of the race the number 5 Toyota managed to stretch out a slim lead and victory looked assured…

…but with just 6 minutes to go, the TS050 began to slow, before grinding to a halt by the pit wall. The ending of the 2016 24 hours of Le Mans was absolutely heart breaking to watch, where even rival teams expressed sympathy for the distraught Japanese manufacturer. Still, although Porsche may have stood on the top step of the podium, the unclassified Toyota is the car I’ll remember.

My list of “must see” car shows has slowly dwindled over the years, but the Festival of Speed is one of the few exceptions. Even after a decade of attendance, I still cite it as an essential weekend for any motorsport fan. Virtually every discipline is represented in some form and, whatever your preference, I guarantee there will be at least one vehicle there to excite you.

As the car that ignited my passion for motorsport, watching Ryan Champion slide his Group A Impreza around the (critically underrated) Goodwood Forest Rally Stage was my personal highlight of the day. I’m sure many people in attendance were cursing the grey skies, but as the precipitation greatly reduced the grips levels on the rally stage, I was silently praising the wet stuff.

I considered myself very fortunate to get an invitation to the inaugural 6R4.net track day in 2015, so I was flattered to be invited back again in 2016. The formula of the event remained largely unchanged from 2015 but, given how much I had enjoyed that, I wasn’t complaining!

Heavy showers during the afternoon did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the drivers and the cars continued to run in the driving rain. It was a privilege to be able to watch the owners put these valuable classics through their paces and I was especially grateful to them for continuing to show off despite the slippery track conditions.

The August Bank Holiday round of the British Rallycross Championship has been a mainstay of my annual motorsport agenda for a decade now and, as long as it continues to deliver great racing, rallycross will always be my priority.

Proving that his win at round 2 was no fluke, Dan Rooke took a lights-to-flag victory in the Supercar final at round 6. Rooke maintained his form at the subsequent round of the Championship, where he claimed second place and, with it, the 2016 British Rallycross Championship. Dan is the youngest ever driver to take the British Championship and I hope we see him back to defend his title – and perhaps even challenge some of Europe’s finest – in 2017.

As the World Rallycross Championship passed its midpoint, the Championship battle was impossible to call. Petter Solberg arrived at round 8 in Loheac as the points leader, but he was unable to match the pace of his closest rival, Mattias Ekstrom, and by the end of the qualification stage Ekstrom had reduced the point deficit between the title rivals to zero.

Neither Ekstrom nor Solberg would set foot on the podium though. With Ekstrom failing to make it past the semi-final stage, Johan Kristoffersson fended off all challengers and led the final from start to finish. The damp conditions produced the best days racing I have seen at Loheac and made for a great conclusion to my World Rallycross Championship attendance in 2016.

World Rallycross weekends have consistently been the highlight of my motorsport expeditions over the last few years and I’m desperate to fit as many of them as possible into 2017.

As the summer drew to a close, it became apparent that my year had been rather lacking in two wheeled motorsport, but a trip to Swingfield in September was to rectify that. Not only was I able to check out some very sideways motorcycles, but the program at the European Grasstrack Final also incorporated two classes of sidecars as well.

The solo riders were fantastic to watch, but it was the sidecars that made the biggest impression. Watching a 1000cc sidecar tearing up a field is an incredible spectacle and I am certain that my first visit to a grasstrack event won’t be my last.

With the end of the season looming, I had just enough time left to sneak a visit in to my most local motocross track, Canada Heights, for the final round of the British Sidecarcross and Quad Championship. The sidecars here may not have been quite as rapid (or sideways) as their grasstrack counterparts, but what they lacked in speed they made up for with altitude.

However the highest fliers of the day were undoubtedly the quad riders. I briefly rode a quad on the flat and felt that a trip to casualty was an inevitability, so I have a great deal of respect for the British Quad Championship riders. Flinging a quad through the trees is a tricky task in itself: and that is before you factor in the other 30 lunatics all trying to do the same thing!

My final outing of the year was a slight deviation to the norm in that it concerned virtual, rather than physical, racing. Two years ago I was fortunate enough to be able to drop into Codemasters studio in Southam and I returned again in late November for another behind the scenes look at proceedings.  Much awesomeness was demonstrated and many cool things were seen: but that’s about all I’m legally allowed to tell you!

Despite containing far less motoring content than I would have liked, 2016 has definitely been a year where quality has triumphed over quantity. When compiling end-of-year reviews in the past I have often omitted events that have fallen short of my expectations, but everything I attended this year has seemed worthy of mention.

Typically I would bemoan the lack of motorsport over the winter, but I’m actually rather grateful for it this year: the more work I can do during the quiet spell now, the more events I should be able to fit into 2017!

 

Want to see more? Click here for the full albums from 2016.

Reviews

LA vibes at LTMW

25th March 2016 — by Fueltopia

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Words & Pictures: Dave Cox

You may remember when I showed you the rather green and totally outrageous BMW last week. Well what is better than having one? Try two! This time in an equally subtle red.

Amazing how a change in colour can transform the look of the car. Granted the wheels are different and this one does have a bonnet but they look completely different.

 

This particular version is the pride and joy of Will, owner of LTMW – a body shop in Irwindale, California. Walking into this place was like setting foot into a Dinosaur museum for the first time, my jaw hit the floor. I’ll show you what I mean in a bit.

Will decided to stick with original M3 engine but with a much freer flowing exhaust system. This is how BMW’s should sound! Walking behind the car as he moved it into position I was staggered to find out that the ride height you see in the pictures is only 2cm lower than how it normally rolls. Oh yeah and he dailies this thing!

The bonnet really completes the look of this car, complimenting the rocket bunny conversion. I have seen a few bonnets like this in the past and must admit to not being much of a fan. Each time I got near it I felt my bottom lip curling and nodding a sign of approval.

And LTMW, what is that all about then? Well as I mentioned earlier, they are a body shop on the West Coast of America specialising in performance BMW parts. As is often the case with successful shops, word gets around and pretty soon you have people wanting all things modified.

During my visit, there was amongst a plethora of BMW’s a Nissan GTR with a full Rocket Bunny kit conversion as well as an Audi R8 going under the knife for some Liberty Walk goodness.

Walking through the shop talking to Will I admitted that this was my first time in a place like this. I also confessed with boyish enthusiasm that I could spend all day here. He just gave me a knowing smile but you could tell he wasn’t having any regrets about his day job.

Here in the UK we are little more retrained when it comes to customising cars, sure we feature some awesome build and those of you that have frequented the pages will attest that there is rarely a bog standard car on our site.

That being said, in general, customising cars here is typically done for a specific purpose. On the West Coast it is just as normal as buying a car. I mean why would you want the average Joe to be able to pop down to his local dealer and get the same car as you. Customising your car is the culture, get your dream car, make it look the way you want. That’s the culture and I for one, want to be part of it.

LTMotorWerks enables you to do just that. And they do a damn good job of it. I wish I could have spent more time there as I feel I have just scratched the surface of the projects they have on.

I guess I’ll have to plan another trip to LA.

Reviews

Tagged and Bagged – Carlos’ e46

25th March 2016 — by Fueltopia

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Words & Pictures: Dave Cox

Purists, it’s time to send your children to bed, close the blinds and prepare to hide behind that pillow, you’re not going to like this…

I want to talk to you about BMW’s. As a child of the ’80s the e30 M3 has always had a special place in my heart. My appreciation of the e36 with the right wheels and a drop has also grown.

To me the 3 series always struck a cord with me but I do feel that after the e46, they sort of lost their identity. Modern variants seem to be a costume of their former selves. Sure they are faster, safer, more fuel efficient but there is something missing.

Last year I visited LA and happened upon an e46 where Carlos (the owner) had clearly thought the same as me. The e46 M3 is an old car now and can be picked up relatively cheaply but it order to bring it up par with today’s trends, what do you do?

Carlos took three simple steps, kit, air and V8. Throw in some Rotiform wheels and you’re onto a make over which transforms the way the car looks. The subtle German lines and chrome faced wheels look positively pedestrian and ordinary by comparison.

The kit adds presence, the air lift provides attitude, the supercharged LSX V8 announces its arrival and the wheels set it all off. Oh and you can’t miss it, it’s bright green!

Built for SEMA, there is clear evidence or workmanship everywhere you look. The interior has remained largely stock with the addition of some cobra seats and Tuerck gear shifter. Sadly I didn’t get to hear this thing running as is the case with many show cars, the engine was still work in progress.

Once done, I am sure you’ll agree that this will surely snap necks. Purest may wretch at the thought of putting the beloved e46 M3 under so much surgery but personally I feel there’s more to that. The Internet is awash with modern super cars and high end coupes all getting modified, it’s nice to see that the old girl can still stand shoulder to shoulder with the best of them.