The power of the CAR brand is a humbling thing to behold
The power of the CAR brand is a humbling thing to behold – and to be the temporary custodian of. Most of the time, like someone who moves to Brighton but ends up never visiting the beach, I’m hideously guilty of taking it for granted. But now and then you get a timely reminder of its reach. Interviewing BMW design director Domagoj Dukec in Munich late last year, the i Vision Circular concept came up in conversation. He launched straight into his thoughts on the two similar but different stories I’d written (one for the CAR website, one for the magazine); he’d loved the latter but found the tone and brevity of my web story lacking. So there it is: read the magazine, not the website. Only joking. Read both. And I shall try harder.
To Peugeot. Late last summer it unveiled its new endurance racer, the 9X8. After a well-attended Teams briefing with a load of other journalists, I dropped Peugeot UK a speculative email. Might we be able to pull together the new car and Peugeot’s two previous Le Mans winners, the incomparably beautiful 905 and the monstrous turbodiesel 908? I was pretty sure I knew the answer, but that assumption underestimated both the industry and ambition of a few key Peugeot PR staff and the fondness for CAR that exists in some pretty influential parts of the car-making universe. Word of my request reached the right corners of Peugeot and the next thing I know art director Mal and I are being offered a choice of locations and dates.
Come shoot day, the scale of the operation became clear. A couple of floors within a vast Parisian multi-storey car park had been secured as the shoot venue. Each car was trucked in independently, then unloaded and moved into position by a beanie-wearing battalion of kid-gloved logistics Jedis. There was also a generator to power the 9X8’s stunning front and rear light signatures, plus a mini marquee and a battery of space heaters – though not for us. With its open sides, the air in the car park was almost as damp as it was cold (which is saying something) and Peugeot was keen to keep the precious 9X8 comfortable between shots. Nearby, an oce was rented as HQ. There was a coffee machine, biscuits and fruit. And on a Sunday evening design boss Matthias Hossan was asked to drop by for an interview, which he duly did, staying for a couple of hours and proving utterly charming throughout. It was all pretty mind-blowing.
Will the new Le Mans regulations, to which the 9X8 owes its existence, be mind-blowing? The rush of OEMs into the series is really exciting, as are some of the names involved. Peugeot and Ferrari prototypes back at Le Mans are reason enough to return in my book. That privateer teams will be able to run these new cars is also great news, both for the size of the grid and the depth of competition. But the new era’s relative lack of technical ambition is a turn-off, as are its V6 engines. I think I’m right in saying only Alfa Romeo has ever managed to build a turbo V6 that sounded good.
Le Mans 2022 will offer a glimpse of this brave new world, but 2023 is the one to ring-fence in your diary. See you there, for the collective blowing of our minds.