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Alpine aims for Pikes Peak glory with new A110 racer

2023 will be the first year that the French firm has entered into the famous event.

Alpine will attempt to tackle the famous Pikes Peak hillclimb for the first time in a new specially-prepared version of its A110 sports car.

The ‘Race to the Clouds’, which takes place in Colorado, USA, is an intense hill climb which undertakes 12.42 miles of steep, winding track. It’s a yearly event that sees cars of all types race to the summit of Pikes Peak, which takes place on June 25.

It’ll mark the first time that Alpine has entered into it, too. To take on the challenge, the French firm has created a specially equipped version of the A110, incorporating a number of tweaks and changes that should help it tackle all 156 corners of the course.

Called ‘the most extreme A110 to date’, the model incorporates extended splitters alongside deflectors on the ends of the spoiler that aim to increase downforce. There’s also an inlet on the roof which forces air into the engine, helping it to produce ‘nearly 500 horsepower’, according to Alpine. Plus, weight-saving measures have meant that the racer weighs just 950kg.

Photos: PA Media

François Letort, Alpine A110 Pikes Peak project manager, said: “The Alpine A110 Pikes Peak pushes the boundaries of our imagination, far beyond anything we could have envisioned in the early stages of the project.”

The original proportions of the standard road car have been maintained so that the A110 Pikes Peak can enter the Time Attack 1 category, though it still gets a massive rear wing and a more aggressive design for the headlights which now use a single LED ‘bar’ instead of the usual circle. The rear lights have also been moved into three vertical ‘segments’.

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Williams launch F1 challenger

Drivers Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant to hit track on February 13

Williams Racing has revealed the livery that will adorn the FW45, the team’s new challenger for the 2023 FIA Formula One World Championship season. Williams Racing also announced major partners, with Gulf Oil, Stephens, Michelob ULTRA and PureStream joining the team from the 2023 season.

The 2023 livery design is an evolution of the FW44, retaining the brand visual cues which features a contrasting diamond shape and flashes of red and blue, embodying the exciting new era of Williams Racing. This year’s design features a colour finish change to matte, providing a stronger on track visual.

The FW45, which will be rolled out on February 13, is an evolution of the FW44.The floor edges have been raised to satisfy the updated 2023 FIA technical regulations and the team has taken the opportunity to heavily evolve the sidepod concept, which has been made possible by optimising the power unit cooling layout. There are also modifications to the front suspension layout as well as the major external aerodynamic surfaces. As a result, the FW45 is more aerodynamically efficient than the FW44, with more overall downforce and improved handling characteristics. The 2023 Pirelli tyres are an evolution of the 2022 version and the FW45 is optimised to the improved characteristics of the new tyres.

For 2023 Williams Racing has an exciting driver line-up, with Alex Albon beginning his second year with the team, after an impressive season in 2022, scoring points in multiple races. American driver Logan Sargeant joins as Albon’s team-mate, after climbing the ranks from the Williams Racing Driver Academy. The 22-year-old will make his F1 debut at the upcoming Bahrain Grand Prix.

The FW45 will hit the track at Silverstone on February 13, with both race drivers, Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant, undertaking driving duties. Williams Racing Brand Ambassador and 2009 F1 World Champion Jenson Button will also be in attendance to see this year’s car complete its first laps.

James Vowles takes over as team principal. He joins on February 20 from Mercedes F1 Team, bringing a wealth of experience and strategic capabilities that will lead the team and help push Williams Racing both on and off-track.

“I’m really excited to be starting back for another year with the team,” Albon said. “The car looks great and will hit the track at Silverstone. The team has worked really hard last year and over the winter to address some key areas in our car, putting in the work to try and maximise what we get out of the car for 2023, so I’m looking forward to seeing what the FW45 can do. We also welcome new partners to the team this year, so it’s great to have them onboard.

“I’m really excited for the season to get started after what, for me, feels like a long winter,” Sargeant added. “I’m super motivated and we’ve put a lot of hard work in. The car is looking amazing and it shows the huge effort the team has put in the off season, so I’m looking forward to getting started at Silverstone before heading out to Bahrain.”

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Ford to make F1 return in 2026 with Red Bull engine partnership

Red Bull has announced an engine partnership with Ford which sees the American giant return to Formula One after two decades away. The new deal, which comes into force with the sport’s 2026 change in engine regulations, was confirmed at Red Bull’s season launch in New York on Friday.

Ford terminated its involvement in F1 when it sold Jaguar to Red Bull 19 years ago, but the American car maker has been keen to jump on the surge in popularity in the sport in the United States following the success of Netflix’s ‘Drive to Survive’ series.

However, Ford’s comeback will primarily be an advertising exercise, with Red Bull to remain in control of its own power units, built at its Milton Keynes headquarters.

Ford chief executive Jim Farley appeared alongside Red Bull team principal Christian Horner and double world champion Max Verstappen as the tie-up was confirmed in Manhattan.

“At Red Bull Racing we always strive to do things first and do things differently,” said Horner.

“This is the first time we have launched our season outside of the UK and the first time any F1 team has launched in the USA.

“The growth of our sport in America cannot be ignored. There are over 50 million F1 fans in the USA, of which 72 per cent follow us, and the way the fans have embraced our team here has been very special to see.

“We also wanted to celebrate with, and welcome, Ford in their home country, as they become Red Bull Powertrains new partner from 2026. This will be a true strategic technical partnership.

“Ford will assist with battery and hybrid technology and much more to keep the team ahead of the competition. I am already very excited about the possibilities that this partnership will offer both of us globally.”

Farley said: “We looked at a lot of options and we wanted to go in the direction that was authentic to us so we decided to have a strategic and technical partnership with Red Bull powertrains.

“We want to help Christian and the whole Red Bull Racing team to deliver the goods on the track. it is a huge moment for the Ford family and we cannot wait to go racing.”

F1 boss Stefano Domenicali, who was also in New York for Friday’s announcement, said: “The news today that Ford is coming to Formula One from 2026 is great for the sport and we are excited to see them join the incredible automotive partners already in Formula One.

“They are a global brand with an incredible heritage in the racing and automotive world and they see the huge value that our platform provides with over half a billion fans around the world.

“We believe that our sport provides the opportunity and reach unlike any other and we cannot wait for the Ford logo to be racing round F1’s iconic circuits from 2026.”

Red Bull’s Verstappen secured his second title with four races remaining last year, while his team comfortably took the constructors’ crown.

The Dutch driver, 25, opens his championship defence in Bahrain on March 5.

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Seventy five years of Porsche sports cars: Porsche celebrates a success story

In 1948, Ferry Porsche realised his dream of a sports car: with his team, he produced the Porsche 356 ‘No. 1’ Roadster. It marked the birth of a legendary brand and laid the foundation for an exemplary success story, for the Porsche legend. The sports car manufacturer will mark its 75th anniversary in 2023 with celebrations around the world and the Porsche Vision 357.

“75 years of Porsche stand for pioneering spirit, passion and dreams. We are celebrating together with people who are inspired by dreams,” said Oliver Blume, Chairman of the Executive Board of Porsche AG. The celebrations kick off with the special exhibition ‘Driven by Dreams. 75 years of Porsche sports cars’, which opened on January 27 in the ‘DRIVE. Volkswagen Group Forum’ in Berlin and will run until 10 September 2023. Visitors will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the visions and ventures of Porsche’s success story and to make a record of their own dreams and values using a digital module.

‘Driven by Dreams’ defines the essence of the brand. Furthermore, the slogan reflects the approach with which the people behind Porsche work every day to fulfil the dreams of customers around the globe. “We are proud of our heritage. It is the foundation for a successful future. We associate our heritage with innovation and progress – and continually add extraordinary new moments to the unique Porsche story,” explains Blume.

The Porsche Vision 357 – a homage to the 356 – is a prime example of this and can be seen for the first time in Berlin. With it, the Style Porsche team brings monolithic design into the present and shows possible implementations of a future design philosophy: a striking example is the consistent enhancement of the light signature, which is both progressive and visionary in the way it points towards the future. The fundamental concept is reflective of the interplay between tradition and innovation: what might Ferry Porsche’s dream of a sports car look like today?

“With the Porsche Vision 357, we have created a very special birthday present. It underlines the importance of our design DNA based on the 356,” said Michael Mauer, vice president Style Porsche. “The study is an attempt to coherently combine the past, present and future. The proportions are reminiscent of the historical model, while details visualise the view into the future.” Built on the platform of the 718 Cayman GT4 RS with 368 kW (500 PS), the Porsche Vision 357 represents outstanding sports car performance.

Design has been an elementary component of the Porsche legend since the very beginning. Visionary studies and concept cars form the foundation for unmistakable and innovative design. “Thinking about the future creatively is one of the core responsibilities of Style Porsche. Concept studies are the pool of ideas that feed the design of tomorrow,” said Mauer. “We are perpetually on a conceptual journey into the future of mobility. Time and again, the brand history serves as a source of inspiration. Taking a look back at our tradition with a future concept car is not as paradoxical as it might seem. Creative freedom is also important: this is where valuable ideas can emerge, ones that help us imagine our consistent design philosophy in innovative new directions.”

Porsche continues its anniversary celebrations just outside Stuttgart at Retro Classics. The leading trade fair for classic car culture takes place from February 23-26. On June 9, the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen will then open an extensive special exhibition. On June 10 and 11, Porsche Germany will highlight the anniversary at the ‘Festival of Dreams’ at the Hockenheimring. At the Porsche Experience Center there, the sports car manufacturer will exhibit the history, present and future of the brand.

There will be vehicle exhibitions, ‘Dream Talks’, live acts, various themed experiences and a plethora of further highlights and fascinating experiences for Porsche aficionados, Porsche club members, car communities, fans and customers of all ages. Younger visitors will have a blast in the ‘Kids World’ area.

The ‘Festival of Dreams’ also offers overnight options, with a specially designated ‘van’ area. And motorsport will play a major role: in addition to a live broadcast of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland, the Porsche Carrera Cup Benelux and the ADAC GT Masters will also be present.

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Off-roading in the most unlikely SUV: The Lamborghini Urus Performante

SUVs are rarely used to go off-roading in, but are they capable? Ted Welford takes the Lamborghini Urus Performante on a rally course.

SUVs are absolutely dominating new car sales at the moment, with 46 per cent of all new cars sold in Europe in 2021 being models of this bodystyle. That figure is only expected to grow when you consider the influx of new SUVs due on the market in the coming years.

It’s easy to see the appeal, as these models bring more eye-catching styling, while their higher ride height helps to give drivers and occupants a better view out on the road and presents more of a ‘secure’ feel from behind the wheel.

Though SUVs originally played on their four-wheel-drive capability, an increasing number are purely front- or rear-wheel-drive, with many buyers not interested in whether it is actually suitable to take off the tarmac.

Photos: PA Media

But, what if you still want an SUV that can go off the beaten track? While a Jeep or Land Rover might be the safe and sensible options, safe and sensible is a bit boring. What isn’t boring is the Lamborghini Urus Performante – perhaps the silliest and most extreme SUV on sale, even dubbed a ‘Super SUV’ by the Italian marque.

While the Urus – first introduced in 2018 and now Lamborghini’s most popular product – might be more likely to be seen lapping Harrods than on an off-road course, the firm is keen to demonstrate it can be used away from tarmac.

To try it out, we’re on an off-road rally course just next to the Vallelunga race circuit near Rome. We also got the chance to try the Performante – the new, most extreme version of the Urus yet – out on the track itself, as it can even be equipped with bespoke Pirelli ‘Trofeo R’ semi-slick track tyres, the first SUV to get that kind of rubber.

But for the new Performante, Lamborghini has also engineered a new ‘Rally’ driving mode that’s our focus here. Admittedly it’s more suited to a dirt track than it is ascending a steep bank or negotiating deeper water, but it adds a further dimension to the Urus, and will come in useful for those wanting to demonstrate their SUV’s capability in a different setting.

On jumping into the Urus, it’s clear that this is no rough-and-ready utilitarian SUV. The cabin is awash with black Alcantara – a suede-like material widely used in high-end performance cars. It’s on the steering wheel, the seats – even the dashboard. Jumping in with your muddy boots on would feel like walking into The Ritz with your wellies on.

Once you’ve pressed the engine start button and the mighty 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 engine has fired, it’s time to activate that ‘Rally’ mode on the central cluster, which Lamborghini calls the ‘Tamburo’.

Just the thought of having a ‘Rally’ setting on Lamborghini takes a minute to adjust to. Still, it’s an angle this Italian firm is exploring, and will continue to do so when it reveals an off-road-focused version of its Huracan supercar later in 2022.

But back to the Urus and the course that awaits us. It’s no Dakar Rally, and admittedly a front-wheel-drive crossover with a decent amount of ground clearance could probably master most of it. But that’s not the point here, as it’s the fun factor that is what makes this SUV so special.

You see, what the Rally mode does is ease off the traction control, allowing for more oversteer – and essentially means you can get it a little more sideways. Of course, this comes with the caveat that this is only permitted away from the public road, and where safe to do so.

At the same time, the Rally mode sends a greater chunk of torque to the rear wheels and means that if you put your foot down coming out of the dirt stages’ corners, it’s really easy to get it to slide, yet always in a controlled fashion. It feels like it’s been engineered in a way so that anyone, whether an experienced rally driver or a 21-year-old that’s just won the EuroMillions, can enjoy it within their capabilities.

The grip levels are also impressive, admittedly on this predominantly dry course, and more so when considering our test Urus Performante is riding on normal ‘off-the-shelf’ road tyres.

Admittedly this dirt stage didn’t let us experience the full 657bhp that the Performante offers, but accompanied by the fantastic growl of the titanium Akrapovic exhaust system, it’s impossible not to smile when drifting a Lamborghini around a rally stage. Those Alcantara seats also keep you firmly in hold, too, while even though the Performante rides on fixed steel springs – rather than the adaptive air suspension of the standard car – you don’t feel like your back’s about to give way. Far from it.

A Lamborghini with a Rally Mode shows this Italian firm’s eccentricity as its very finest, and demonstrates that even the most Made in Chelsea of Chelsea Tractors can still prove their worth off-road if need be.

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What is Lamborghini’s Urus Performante going up against?

Lamborghini has recently unveiled its Urus Performante as a more focused and powerful version of its popular SUV. With 657bhp and far less weight than the standard Urus, it’s weighing into battle with some serious firepower.

But what is it going up against in its quest for performance SUV supremacy? Let’s take a look.

Photos: PA Media

Aston Martin DBX707

Aston Martin’s DB707 is one of the primary rivals for the Urus, with this performance SUV bringing a whole lot of performance from its 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine.

But Aston Martin hasn’t just thrown an uprated engine into the DBX707. It has also heavily revised its suspension, fitted a new wet-clutch gearbox and even gone for a new exhaust to ensure that this model drives as well as possible.

Bentley Bentayga S

You might think of comfort as the name of the game for Bentley – and usually, this would be true – but performance is definitely the focus for the Bentayga S.

Designed to be the most focused version of Bentley’s popular SUV, the S incorporates electric anti-roll control technology to help it in the bends, while a revised sport mode adds extra weight to the steering while firming up the suspension. A new sports exhaust is also fitted to the S, ensuring it sounds even more noticeable.

Ferrari Purosangue

Though we have yet to see the Purosangue in full, Ferrari’s new SUV is bound to arrive in the segment with a particular focus on dynamics. After all, the Italian firm’s range of vehicles are some of the sharpest around, so it’s expected that this will filter into the Purosangue.

Expected to be revealed in full at the start of September, this will be one for the Urus to watch.

Range Rover Sport V8

The new Range Rover Sport has only recently been unveiled, arriving with a bold new look and an innovative interior. While plug-in hybrid powertrains will no doubt be the go-to choice for more fuel-conscious Sport drivers, it’s the full-fat V8 that’ll attract keener drivers. A racier SVR model will also likely arrive in the future.

With 523bhp, the 4.4-litre supercharged engine will enable the Sport to go from 0-60mph in just 4.3 seconds.

Porsche Turbo GT

Porsche’s Cayenne has often been seen as one of the more focused SUVs on the market today, while the range-topping Turbo GT adds some extra firepower into the mix. With its 4.0-litre turbocharged V8, it has 631bhp and can nail the 0-60mph sprint in just 3.1 seconds.

The Turbo GT is also lower and stiffer than the regular Cayenne, while larger brakes and grippier tyres are both fitted as standard.

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How does the Mini John Cooper Works Bulldog Racing feel on the road?

The Nurburgring 24 Hours is often seen as one of motorsport’s greatest challenges. Tackling the famous ‘Green Hell’ over a full day takes a huge amount of commitment, skill and mechanical prowess, which is why the cars that undertake the prestigious event are some of the most focused – yet robust – vehicles that take to a circuit.

So it’s not very often that you see one on the road – and the Mini John Cooper Works by Bulldog Racing is definitely not a car that you’d expect to see sauntering around a West Sussex roundabout.

We’d been offered a chance to ride along in this stripped-out racer to see how it compared with the regular Mini. After all, the retro-inspired hatch is one of the most popular models and has been praised for its sharp, nimble handling. But how would one that had been prepared to spend a full 24 hours lapping the world’s toughest race track feel in comparison?

Photos: PA Media

Quite a bit different, would you believe? Of course, the fundamentals are much the same. Since the Mini was built to compete in the SP3T class – which is a ‘Special’ class that allows up to a 2.0-litre engine with a turbocharger – it needs a ‘regular’ powertrain. So that means a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine under the bonnet feeding power to the front wheels via an automatic gearbox. Of course, a variety of other upgrades have been included to ensure that the Mini can compete; there’s a full rollcage, fire extinguisher system and a whole suite of radios that race cars like these require.

There’s also a huge 100-litre fuel tank which sits right behind you in the rear of the car. It’s filled up via a nozzle in the plexiglass window. The normal fuel filler cap? The covers a pneumatic connector designed to power the air jacks.

In fact, the more you delve the more you realise just what has gone into transforming this car. The brakes are larger AP Racing units, while there’s a whole aerodynamics kit bringing a large front splitter and a flat underfloor. Then there’s the wing, which – as well as being absolutely massive – can be adjusted too.

Inside, the Mini feels like a full-time race car. Interestingly the regular car’s navigation system remains, as does the standard air-conditioning – though this only works at low speeds to help keep drivers cool. The car is barely-there in terms of features, though it is awash with buttons and controls for functions like the main lights and the aforementioned fire extinguisher system. There’s also a switch to illuminate the car’s number board, which is a requirement for N24 cars and allows for the car’s unique racing number to be seen at night.

Then there’s the exhaust, which was made in-house by Bulldog and gives the car an almost ludicrous noise when started up. And that’s just what we hear as we creep out of a quiet lane close to Bognor Regis to head up and experience what this Mini feels like from the passenger seat.

As much as we would’ve liked to have been driving, even being in the passenger seat was a sensory overload. This is a firm car, of course, but even the team at Bulldog would – we’re sure – admit that it hadn’t been tested to cope with the level crossings that rise over sections of railway line in West Sussex.

It still feels inherently ‘Mini’, mind you. There’s a way to the car’s steering and the ease with which it tracks corners which does feel much like the road cars, albeit turned up a fair few clicks. The exhaust blares at higher revs and because there’s very little sound insulation, everything echoes and reverberates around the cabin. It’s an all-engrossing experience, made all the more apparent because we’re on public roads driving past other road users who suddenly have a fully-fledged N24 racer heading towards them.

Our route dips and dives through the countryside, with the Mini carving its only little red-flash-route through the hills. You’re sat remarkably low, but despite this, there’s still a decent enough view over the area ahead, though navigating traffic and parked cars at the side of the road does require some effort by the looks of it.

Though it is remarkably firm, though truck lines on the tarmac do cause the car to pull from side to side on occasions. For all of its upgrades and mechanical changes, though, this is still a car that can, theoretically, take to the road and transform local roads into something very special.

However, you can tell that this is a car designed to be put through hell. Which is just what the Nurburgring provides.

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Porsche Taycan sets electric production car record at Nurburgring race circuit

The Porsche Taycan is the new fastest electric production car to lap the famous Nurburgring racetrack in Germany.

The circuit, nicknamed the ‘Green Hell’ for its unforgiving nature, is one of the longest racetracks in the world at 12.9 miles. It’s widely used by manufacturers when developing their new cars, and holding a lap record is a particular claim to fame.

With Porsche development driver Lars Kern at the wheel, the Taycan – in extreme Turbo S form – became the fastest production electric car to ever go around the track, with a time of seven minutes 33.3 seconds. This overtakes the existing seven minutes 35.6 seconds time set by the Tesla Model S Plaid in September 2021.

Photos: PA Media

Completely standard apart from a roll cage and racing seats (both requirements for the lap run), the Taycan Turbo S was also equipped with Porsche’s new performance kit. Currently just offered in Germany, this includes 21-inch RS Spyder alloy wheels with track-ready Pirelli P Zero Corsa sports tyres, though these can be used on the road. It also received an update to its Dynamic Chassis Control, allowing the Taycan to be more agile.

The Turbo S model sits at the top of the Porsche Taycan line-up, with its twin electric motors developing as much as 751bhp when launch control is activated, and allowing for a 0-60mph time of just 2.8 seconds.

Kevin Giek, vice president of the Taycan model line, said: “We’re delighted that the Nurburgring record for electric cars is back in Porsche hands. This lap time not only shows how much potential lies in our new performance kit, but also confirms once again the sports car genes of the Taycan.”

Porsche also holds the overall Nurburgring lap record, with its 919 Hybrid racing car lapping the track in an incredible five minutes 20 seconds.

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Ferrari tests hypercar racer ahead of 2023 Le Mans return

New vehicle will enter into the Le Mans Hypercar class.

Ferrari has been testing its new Le Mans race car ahead of the firm’s return to the famous endurance race in 2023.

Undertaken at the firm’s Fiorano test circuit, the session saw endurance racing driver Alessandro Pier Guidi get behind the wheel of the new vehicle and complete an initial shakedown period.

Guidi said: “After so many months in the simulator, I finally had the chance to drive the real car, and that was a big thrill.

“Driving the Ferrari that will return to the top endurance class fifty years since the last official participation was very emotional for me. We are only at the start, and much work is ahead of us, but it feels very positive. I am proud and happy to have debuted the LMH, marking the beginning of a new adventure for Ferrari”.

“After so many months in the simulator, I finally had the chance to drive the real car, and that was a big thrill.”

Racing driver Alessandro Pier Guidi

LMH rules allow for either a prototype or road car-derived vehicle to take part in the race, with Ferrari taking the former route. The images released showcase the car wearing heavy camouflage, though the racer’s huge rear wing can easily be seen, as can the compact ‘bubble’ cockpit that is adopted by many Le Mans-specific vehicles. An air scoop at the top of the cockpit can also be seen.

Ferrari stated that the rest of the shakedown day was used to check the ‘various propulsion and electronic systems’ with the team alternating between on-track sessions and longer break periods that allowed for engineers to perform specific checks.

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