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Postcards from the edge

Essen Motor Show

Power meets Emotion
That's an apt description for the annual extravaganza of all things motoring that is the Essen Motor Show. It grew out of the old Jochen Rindt Show but has long since ceased to be a purely motorsport event and is none the worse for that. The mere fact that well in excess of 400,000 people are lured through the doors of Essen’s huge exhibition complex during the Show’s ten-day run is evidence alone that they are doing something right.

Audi, Audi
Motorsport does still play its part though, with many of the manufacturers (particularly the Germans) using it as an opportunity to announce their plans for the following year. Audi hosted a big press conference to confirm that once again various privateer teams will be running the all-conquering R8's’in various events, particularly Le Mans. Their trio of serial winners in the shape of Frank Biela, Tom Kristensen and Emanuele Pirro will concentrate on the DTM where Biela and Pirro will drive official A4’s and Kristensen will replace Laurent Aiello in the Abt team.

Goodbye Smokin’ Jo

Elsewhere, Mitsubishi took the wraps off their latest rally car. It looks a lot like the old rally car but now has a bookshelf mounted on the boot! Opel were confirming some of their DTM driver line-up (but couldn’t yet say whether or not Heinz-Harald Frentzen would be joining them). More significantly, Jo Winkelhock was on hand to say that he was hanging up his helmet after 25 years of racing. Smokin’ Jo is of course best known for his touring car exploits but I shall always remember a little story he told against himself at Le Mans the year he was a member of the victorious BMW team. This little incident took place during one of the qualifying sessions….

“I was badly baulked by one of the GT cars,” said Jo, with that sheepish grin of his. “When I eventually got by I gave him the old one-finger salute. But, I forgot I was in an open car and the wind nearly dragged me out of the cockpit. It took about half a lap to get back into my seat properly!

Getting in Tune

Back to Essen. Germany has a vibrant tuning industry and this is its showcase. Now, there is supposed to be a bit of a recession going on but there’s not too much evidence of it here. Time was when the Golf was the mainstay of the industry, but evidently the enthusiasts have all grown up and got families. Everywhere you looked there were Porsche Cayennes. There seemed to be a serious competition on to see who can fit the largest wheels and the lowest profile tyres – but doesn’t the latter rather defeat the object of a 4WD? Or shock horror, perhaps they are not used off-road! Improving the exterior looks of the gruesome beast would take some serious work but TechArt have had a go at the interior by giving it a yellow steering wheel, instrument cowl etc.

Just to keep a perspective on things though, there are still some imaginatively modified Porsches to be found with the likes of Gemballa and TechArt providing some serious performance whilst Hamann got carried away as usual. Their current obsession is fitting ‘butterfly’ doors to everything and the Porsche has not escaped their attention. You wouldn’t want to get trapped in the supermarket car park though!

Going Mobile

DaimlerChrysler can now claim to cater for all sections of the Sportscar market. Starting at the bottom, the intriguing little Smart Roadster-Coupe has already been ‘got at’ by tuning company Brabus. Then when you tire of the tiny machine - or grow legs – you could progress on to the Chrysler Crossfire or the Viper. And of course when you’ve really made it the McLaren-built Mercedes-Benz SLR awaits you. Then when you’ve lost your licence they’ll take you for a circuit ride in their DTM-spec taxi. Yes, it’s painted cream and has a Taxi sign on the roof. Who says Germans don’t have a sense of humour?

Won't Get Fooled Again

The theme of this years’ central display was ’55 Years of Ferrari in Formula 1’ and a truly mouth-watering display of red Grand Prix cars were to be seen. Sharing the same hall were the weird and the wonderful, ranging from a flattened Volvo (crush ‘em all, I say!) through strange design exercises such as the Xeno 111 and a collection of amazing ‘bikes from Daytona to some truly extravagant coach-built leviathans from the ‘thirties.

Ferrari featured in the classic hall too, where under the heading of ‘Ferrari Days’ an eclectic selection including 275LM, 275GTB, 250 California and 365GTB Daytona were to be found.


Another central display in the Galleria was the ADAC’s celebration of 100 Years of German Motorsport and beginning with a 1903 Laurin & Klement motorcycle took you on a tour through history, right upped date, Porsche inevitably representing the sportscar side of things with 908 and 956 things.

Well, that was Essen for another year. Only a fleeting one-day visit this time and it’s not really long enough to do justice to the 20 crammed exhibition halls.
Better than not going at all though!

John Elwin


sportscarpros Scrutineering Bay

John Elwin and others on technical and other non racing activities
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