Girl Racer Column: Sarah BB
Our resident girl racer and car tester, Sarah BB is writing a regular column for My Michelin this year so you can follow her exploits!
A few weeks ago I finally got to drive the Koenigsegg CCR thanks to Surrey-based supercar dealership Super Vettura. We were filming this unique car, one of only five ever built in right hand drive, for our forthcoming Michelin road test and it was an amazing experience!
The Wentworth-based supercar dealer is the UK representative for Koenigsegg and we were driving a very special modified CCR Revo worth a cool £469,950. It had been rebodied with a pure carbon shell and looks VERY expensive. Inside it has a bit of the ‘red room’ feel as it is trimmed in blood red leather trim with subtle red exterior details to match.
Derived from the more elegant CC8S, the CCR features an upgraded body design, a larger front splitter, larger brakes, new enlarged Michelin tyres and wheels, and upgraded suspension. It also has a more powerful engine with twin compressors, producing an astonishing 806hp. The Michelin-shod CCR managed to take the Guinness record for the world’s fastest production car at the Nardo test track in Italy, in February 2005 reaching 388 km/h.
The huge amount of attention to detail that has gone into the engineering of this car strikes you straight away. Not only does it look amazing but it has all the kit you’d expect to find on a full-race GT car. It has a flat floor, big rear diffuser, front splitters, aero deflectors and a tea tray shaped wing at the back making it look every inch a racer.
It is rare that a racer built without comprise for the track makes a useable road car. Often road legal racers rattle, have a basic functional dash board and daylight can sometimes be seen through the bodywork. The Koenigsegg has none of these drawbacks and feels like it has been made by a watchmaker as everything is engineered to be light, smooth and stylish.
It’s a pure racer’s dream car, but to whom does it appeal? I asked Koenigsegg UK sales manager and Super Vettura co-owner Tommy Wareham – “Who buys these cars?” He simply says “The man who has everything and wants something different.” It’s got the X-factor which a Ferrari or Porsche just don’t really have anymore. Park this supercar in Monte Carlo’s Casino Square and heads will turn.
To let the CCR Revo off its leash, Tommy and I headed to the Longcross test track, where those twin super chargers sprung into life and it burst onto the oval circuit like a whippet out the traps.
Michelin Pilot Super Sports are perfect for cars such as the Koenigsegg and give the driver heaps of confidence behind the wheel. They bring stability to the car as it felt totally glued to the tarmac whatever cornering speed I dared throw at it.
The power from the ceramic brakes was a revelation and the bite from the Pilot Sports stop the CCR with incredible urgency. Reassuring qualities for a supercar with a top speed of some 225 mph!
The CCR delivers an incredible driving experience - the equivalent of pinching a GT2 Le Mans sportscar to drive down the road. It makes you feel a bit naughty, like you’re doing something illegal!
At low speed it’s loud and clatters a bit but the pure racing enthusiasts amongst you, (like me) will love those transmission noises. Where you can hear every mechanical part moving just behind your left ear. I loved it!
The CCR is brutally fast when you let it loose and it certainly got all of my attention. Yet it’s incredibly easy to drive. The CCR is hugely exciting and the temptation to feel that speed and power in full force is both addictive and irresistible. I definitely wouldn’t be able to resist!
An exciting delivery arrived the other day...
...not from ‘Ann Summers’ but a different kind of rubber entertainment as it was from the Michelin man! Delivering four brand new Pilot Sport tyres for my Porsche 911 (964). I had them fitted in no time and have been astounded by the difference in road holding. The normal rear wheel slip, which all 964 owners learn to love, used to happen at much lower speeds and by comparison the car now appears to corner on rails.
Last week, I was cruising along the M25 at about 70mph when I got caught in a rain storm and although it was raining pretty hard the grip levels remained very good. I went under a bridge and came out onto a stream of water running across all lanes of traffic. With my old tyres at this point have I would have become a passenger, but with the new Michelins we just ploughed through, straight line, tiny wiggle, no sweat. I was still holding my breath and clenching other parts of my anatomy but the car aqua-planed, regained grip, carried on - no drama!
Major differences such as confidence in the wet is exactly why Michelin tyres are the choice of many high performance manufacturers and developers. A great example of this was seen at this year’s Goodwood Festival where I was lucky enough to hear and see the new RUF CTR Sport in action, the latest creation from RUF Porsche.
This car is born out of a 997 Turbo – the 3.8-litre twin turbo flat 6 engine is tuned to 750 hp, (900Nm torque) moved to the middle of the car and then a complete new body shell has been designed and built around it in carbon fibre.
RUF’s test driver Raphael drove the car at Goodwood and when interviewed about what they look for in a tyre he simply said: “We need the best tyre. One that works just as well in the wet as the dry.” I agree with that. You wont be surprised to learn the RUF CTR is delivered on Michelin Pilot Sport tyres.
The RUF CTR can reach speeds of 236 mph...can you imagine the forces going through the four contact patches at that speed?
Its not just RUF either, it would seem many of the worlds fastest cars come with Michelin Pilot Sport tyres for their reassurance of grip with the road. Noble MT600, Weissmann and Koenigsegg Agera are all ‘over 250 mph cars’ and supplied on Michelin.
Next month I am off to find out exactly what one of these monster Supercars feels like when I visit SuperVettura to test drive the Koenigsegg CCR. 800bhp strapped to my svelte backside – I can’t wait!
A day chatting with drivers in the Michelin Supercar Paddock at Goodwood FOS...
I’m a big fan of Goodwood’s Festival of Speed and caught up with some of the drivers in the Michelin sponsored Supercar paddock to find out what it feels like to drive up the famous Goodwood hill.
Son of Status Quo legend Rick Parfitt Jnr, now a rock star with his own right, Rick is currently racing in the Ginetta GT5 championship. “I guess any one make sprint series where everyone is separated by a about second is always going to be a bit of a bun fight. I haven’t got as much experience as some of the others but I am still fighting it out at the front and it can get a bit rough and tumble on occasions. But its great I really enjoy it and I love driving on the Michelin slicks they’re mega.”
Rick was driving the road-going Ginetta G60 up the hill, a carbon fibre bodied sports car with a 3.7 litre V6 engine, it weighs just over a 1000 kilos pulling 310 bhp and costs £68,000. “I think it’s the prettiest car in the Michelin Supercar paddock as its not ostentatious but it still packs a hell of a punch. The Ford V6 is beautifully tuned its stunningly fast and has a really low engine note so your going really fast but you don’t really know it. Its got plenty of grip and the Michelin Pilot Sport 3s really do it justice.”
And on driving up the hill Rick Jnr said,: “its an absolute privilege to go up the hill. The thing about Goodwood is there’s no point being a hero, we are carrying competition winners and journalists we don’t want to take risks but want our passengers to enjoy it whilst we scare the hell out of them”
Another car which caught my eye was the stunning bright orange Noble M600 driven by professional driver Niki Faulkner. The Noble is a carbon- bodied hand made British sports car, with a rear-mounted Yamaha V8 Twin Turbo, giving the 1189kg car 650bhp.. You may be forgiven for not having seen one of these beauties and that may be because only 4 have been sold to date.
“What’s great about the Noble is it’s truly a great British supercar”, said Niki and on the handling and driving it up the famous Goodwood hill “it’s a dream come true for any racing driver, I turned off the traction control, it doesn’t have ABS, its incredibly light and when the turbos kick in its just awesome!” In true great British summer style there were scattered showers throughout the weekend and I asked Niki if he was nervous when he saw the weather on the early run he said “I thought it was going to be interesting but the Michelin Pilot Sports gave us plenty of grip, I did a bit of a burn out at the beginning, to get some heat in the tyres and it was fine!”
The Noble M600 cleverly has a power dial with Road, Track and Race settings allowing you to reduce the power delivery subject to your location and the conditions. The settings give you 450, 550 and 650bhp respectively! (I want one of those!)
Finally another envy of the Paddock was the Ferrari 458 driven by Ray Grimes who was chief instructor for Ferrari in Europe for 10 years – the Ferrari boasts being the largest naturally aspirated production car ever built at a whopping 4.5 litre V8 producing 562 hp.
I was dying to find out what it was like to drive… “You know when a F1 car is set up for qualifying, its like Usain Bolt all toned up ready for the big race? Said Ray. “Well, , that’s what exactly what the 458 is like, it’s tight and sharp, and so precise it goes exactly where you want it to, its a very positive drive.”
It sounded pretty scary to me, but apparently Ray, said about the weather “I wasn’t that bothered when I saw the rain, I’ve got all the electronics and Michelin tyres on the car so there was no need to worry. I put it into race mode it was moving about a bit and it was a bit dodgy as we came by the flint wall. I had to be a bit careful there, but I wasn’t doing any showboating I was just trying to save my own life. The 458 is great, it’s the ultimate racing drivers car for the road!”
Finally, BTCC ace and TV presenter Tim Harvey was on hand to host the Michelin stage so I asked him what he would liked to have driven from the array of exotica on show? “There are some fabulous old racing cars which I would absolutely love to have a go in the Group C cars are my favourite era. I raced them from 88 - 91 my favourite was always the Sauber C11 or the Silk Cut Jaguar. For me those cars are the pinnacle, but even up here in the Supercar paddock the Veyron is such an iconic car, listening to the technology and engineering gone into it, I would love to drive that!”
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Future Classics racing on a typically damp bank holiday...
Its 9am on May Bank Holiday Monday and I am heading out of the pit lane at Brands Hatch onto a damp greasy track, to qualify for the 2nd round of the Future Classics series. Despite my plan to take it easy for the first couple of laps I still find myself looking out of the side window going into Paddock Hill Bend trying to catch a huge oversteer moment.
I love these conditions as every lap brings changing grip levels, with heat building in my brand new set of Michelin Pilot Cup Sport tyres and a drying track each lap means you can squeeze the power on that little bit earlier and a tiny bit harder.
This weekend I am driving the 40 minute Future Classics Endurance race solo in the Porsche 911, and I am looking forward to the challenge, The Brands Indy circuit isn't ideal for the 911 , there are hardly any straights, you are constantly turning, which means a heavy upper body work-out in the 1978 car which has no power assisted steering! My arms are still aching from our test session the previous week!
Having qualified 21st out of 30 runners, heavy clouds loomed whilst we grid up for the race, but safe in the knowledge I have a brand new set of tyres I am quietly confident. Porsche 911s are great for standing starts, rear wheel drive, lots of weight over the rear and soft grippy tyres, means we get off the line like a scolded cat. And that’s exactly what happens, making up several places on the grid straight away. After this I settled into a steady pace, coming in early for my pit stop, (even solo drivers have to get out the car and back in again). The rain came and went, and a couple of safety car interludes meant I could rest my weary arms for a few laps to finish 5 places ahead in 17th position.
My next outing in the 911 will be in the Tour Britannia, a two day classic road rally taking in 20 live speed stages in and around Harrogate, Yorkshire. We take in Harewood Hill climb and Croft race circuit as part of the event and my partner in crime for this event is 90's rally star Terry Wilson. We'll be sharing both driving and navigating duties and I will be looking to pick –up some rally driving techniques on the hoof! I can't wait!
Before then, I'm off to the Isle of Man TT to watch the legendary road race, I cannot wait to see the likes of TT Legends driver John McGuinness and twice winner Michael Dunlop in action on the 3- mile road race, and soak up the islands electric race atmosphere.
Photos by Dave Galpin
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At last, my first race day arrived!...
I was very excited to be getting back into the 1979 3-litre Porsche 911 SC having not driven it since my crash at Castle Combe in 2008, we chose a track day for the shake down at Snetterton, but only managed half a lap before the clutch friction plate blew to pieces, leaving me no option to load the car up and run it back to the workshop in Hertfordshire to be fixed.
The extra day did give me a chance to clean off the old livery, apply new decals and give it a polish, while Harvey Racing took the engine and gearbox out and put the new clutch in. This all meant I was reloading the car onto the trailer and heading back up to Snetterton at about 11pm Thursday night ready for the Friday test.
My co-driver for the weekend was Jamiroquai's tame racing driver front man Jay Kay, who helicoptered into Snetterton at about 10am, giving me just enough time to get the car off the trailer, give it a wash and do 10 mins running to check all was OK.
I am pleased to say, getting back into the 911 was just like slipping on an old pair of comfy shoes, the smells and sounds of the air-cooled flat 6 are so distinctive, and its tail happy handling characteristics all came flooding back to me. I love it!
Jay Kay is keen to collect signatures to get his National B licence , he's a handy driver used to driving lots of different cars, that said he was still slightly apprehensive and good reason to be. He had never even seen or driven the car before, or the new Snett 300 circuit and his first drive is a test the day before a race! Needless to say he drove very well, impressed everyone with some decent consistent times, I let Jay do the rest of the test day to get used to the car and the circuit.
We were running on Michelin Pilot Sport Cups, which I started up to pressure then lowered them as they warmed up, they give heaps of grip, they also cope quite well with the April showers which kept arriving to liven things up. They also lasted us easily all weekend with loads of life left in them.
Saturday arrived warm and sunny, and both Jay Kay and I qualified the Porsche with no problems, giving us a midfield track position 22 out of 42 runners.
I started the race and all seemed to be going well, coming in at the end of the pit stop window to hand over to Jay, we noticed the car was smoking a bit, and once Jay had left the pits the car looked notably down on power and getting progressively slower. About 2 laps from the end the car vanished from site, and news came back to the pits that the car was on fire. I think we all thought the worst, I know I certainly did imagining pistons rods and all sorts scattered across Norfolk!
Turns out it was an electrical fault which caused the inlet manifold to melt-down, so only a minor fire not a total engine rebuild, Jay Kay was fine as he hopped out the car pretty sharpish. He was a bit upset not to finish, but it turns out he got a signature anyway, since we had completed over 10 laps of the race. (Thank goodness for that!)
The 911 is currently being repaired ready for the next round at Brands Hatch on the May Bank Holiday, so fingers crossed we have a better finish. Thanks to everyone at Snetterton and the Classic and Sports car Club for being so friendly and helpful over the weekend, to our sponsors Adrian Flux and friends for coming to see us, and Jay Kay for being cool, calm and collected all weekend despite going up in flames!
Excited to race again...
Spring is in the air and never before has the winter felt so long, it feels like an absolute age since I last had my foot nailed to the throttle of a racecar and I am starting to get restless counting down the days to the season start!
I recently checked up on the progress of the 911 rebuild, and although it is coming along it looks like there won’t be much time for pre-season testing. My guess is it’s going to be down to the wire to get it ready in time for the first race meeting on 14th April at Snetterton.
To cure my motor-sport cravings I popped up to the Race Retro show a couple of weeks ago at the Historic Motorsport Show in Stoneleigh Park, near Coventry, it was great to catch up with lots of friendly faces and there was lots of interesting cars to see.
To celebrate 30 years of rallying there was a stunning display of Michelin-shod rally cars on show including a Group B Porsche SCRS 1984 flat six in action on the Live Rally Stage.
As Lola T70 (pictured) caught my eye on the Hall and Hall stand, I also loved the ‘Fire-up’ paddock where legendary motorcycles were brought back to life as they got fired into action much to the joy and amusement of the crowd!
I bumped into Jamiroquai’s Jay Kay at the show just after he had purchased an original California Highway Patrol police motorcycle at the auction, he was telling me his Porsche 914/6 GT was in action on the Live Rally Stage driven by rally legend Bjorn Waldegard. Apparently both car and driver competed in the 1972 Monte Carlo Rally and were being reunited for the first time since. Not unsurprisingly Bjorn had commented that the car didn’t feel the same - 40 years later? Funny that!!
The Porsche 964 enjoyed its blast up to Coventry but it is going in for some work next week and will be coming out with hopefully some headlights which work properly and a brand new pair of Michelin boots - Pilot Sport 3’s which I am looking forward testing on a track day to see how they perform, after being super impressed with them when I test drove the Ginetta G40.
My year ahead....
This is the time of year when there are difficult decisions to make deciding what car to drive, in which championship. My biggest problem appears to be finding something to follow the seven-day adrenaline filled adventure that was La Carrera Panamericana in sunny Mexico last October. Suddenly a 20-minute sprint at a wet and windy Snetterton doesn’t have quite the same appeal. I think I have been spoilt!
For 2012 my racing plans involve a return to some historic racing and resurrecting the ‘Pink Panther’ the 1979 3.2 Porsche 911 which I raced back in 2008. The car had a rather unfortunate ending when I crashed off the startline of the Porsche Club Championship race at Castle Combe. But there are plans for a rebuild, repaint and a return to the track and I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel.
I am planning to enter selected rounds of a series called Future Classics run by the Classic Sports Car Club, the series caters for Sports, Saloon and GT cars from the 1970s & 80s. The races are over 40 minutes with a mandatory pit-stop so that two drivers can take part. I hope to invite some old friends to join me and possibly do a few solo rounds too.
Subject to how the rebuild and testing plans go, we are also looking at a possible entry into the Tour Britannia. The UK’s answer to La Carrera, a three-day road and track event which this year starts from Harrogate in Yorkshire in early June. Plus a possible visit to race with my old pals in the Porsche Club Championship too, but it will be just a visit rather than a seasoned campaign.
Whatever the race series, we will be running the 1970s 3.2 Carrera on Michelin Pilot Sport Cups, a purpose built performance tyre for the track, which is also fully road legal. They give oodles of grip on a good dry day and last for several race meetings so give excellent value for fun!