Darwinian principles can be applied as much to automotive design and manufacturing as they have been to evolutionary biology. “Survival of the fittest” has been the recipe of enduring success for a number of car marques but it has also seen the extinction of many more.
From the very first cars – certain marques have driven down developmental cul-de-sacs whilst others have, through inspired progressive improvement, survived to the present day.
As one of the most successful surviving marques – it’s interesting to analyse some of the factors and earlier designs that assured Porsche’s initial establishment, success and ultimate longevity as a manufacturer of road and race cars.
Normally I go down to Hyde Park to see the veteran cars receive last minute preparation before setting off as dawn breaks but this year I had a bit of a lie-in.
Hopping on the first tube – I headed for Leicester Square and then took a brisk walk down Charing Cross Road and across Trafalgar Square to the Mall to watch the cars turn onto Horse Guards Road en-route for Brighton via Parliament Square and Westminster Bridge.
There was a serious chill in the air but the sun shone brightly and with hardly any other people around it was a great vantage point to see the cars in action.
This event has become an annual institution as the Saturday prelude to Sunday’s London to Brighton run.
Locals and visitors to London are privileged to be able to wander amongst the carefully preserved but enthusiastically used progenitors of modern cars.
I got chatting to a coupe of guys from Antwerp who were knocked out by their luck in coming to London for the first (but not last) time and just happening upon the Regent Street Motor Show. Loads of other visitors must have shared the same fortuitous experience.
When my friend and fellow petrol-head Arun suggested a trip up to the Ace Cafe in his wonderful Caterham 7 for the the Classic Car Night + Lotus + Midget & Sprite meeting I had no hesitation in accepting.
After the minor complication of getting my non-sylph-like frame into the tiny Caterham 7 cockpit and strapping myself into the full harness the journey up to the Ace Cafe was great (despite the early evening homeward-bound traffic). The 7 really is like a 2-seater jet-propelled skateboard – soooooo fast and responsive.
A 6AM start saw me blasting out of London in the old 911 along the M40 before hitting quiet country roads North of Oxford. Well they would have been quiet but for the fractious popping and banging of my engine!
Undeterred by fog, the aftermath of a nasty crash on the M40 and an inordinate number of flattened foxes and the odd two-dimensional deer littering the carriageway – I pressed on.
What a difference a day makes. The WEC weekend started off with snow and sleet on Saturday but Sunday brought glorious sunshine even though it was still a bit chilly.
The WEC 6 Hour Race was obviously the main event of the weekend. The 2016 WEC season opener and chance to really see what development has been successfully carried out by the teams over the Winter break.
Whilst qualifying provided an indication of top speed and relative handling capabilities – endurance race cars and drivers can only prove themselves in race conditions i.e. over several hours and with all classes of cars out on track simultaneously.
Arriving at Silverstone in a blizzard on Saturday morning didn’t bode well. After depositing my old 911 in the Porsche Club GB parking zone – a warming coffee in the club tent was essential before wandering into the circuit to find out if and when the racing would start.
As the sleet and snow subsided – the race marshals gradually abandoned the warmth of the Paddock Café to make their way trackside. A sure sign that racing was about to commence.
As Goodwood circuit is not used all year round due to local noise restrictions – it’s easy to forget that it’s is a very high speed circuit and therein lies the risk to race drivers and to spectators.
At the end of the first lap of the first of Sunday’s races a really scary crash unfolded right in front of me on the start/finish straight when Richard Wilson’s Lotus Cooper Climax T51 collided with Stephen Bond’s Lotus Climax 18.
Instead of both cars coming to rest on the track or in the tyre wall – the collision caused Bond’s Lotus to go into an end-over-end cartwheel which lifted it over the wall and hedge of an access road before it plummeted down into a pedestrian tunnel right next to the viewing area for wheelchair users.
Possibly because it was early in the day – the pedestrian tunnel was empty so by a miracle spectator injuries were avoided. Stephen Bond also came out of it with broken ribs but was extremely lucky not to come out worse particularly as fuel was pouring from the car as he hung suspended in his seat belts.
It’s horrible to contemplate but with slightly more forward momentum the cartwheeling car could easily have cleared the pedestrian tunnel and landed on the wheelchair spectator viewing area.
Luck was with a number of people as it looked like the accident could have shaped up to be a 1955 Le Mans type incident.
I was rooted to the spot watching the accident in slow motion but a few yards further along the viewing platform Tim Quinlan captured this remarkable footage of the accident:-