The Land Rover Defender has been named Supreme Winner Women’s World Car of the Year 2021.

The Women’s World Car of the Year is the first time a Land Rover has won the top prize at the awards and is the latest in a series of international honours for the most capable Land Rover ever made.

The new Defender remains true to the pioneering spirit that has been a Land Rover hallmark for over 70 years and redefines adventure for the 21st century. Iconic in name, shape and capability, it is available in a choice of body designs and can be personalised with a choice of four Accessory Packs to help owners make more of their world.

The Women’s World Car of the Year (WWCOTY) awards are the only car awards in the world with a jury comprised exclusively of woman, with 50 motoring journalists from 38 countries on 5 continents recognizing the best new models available.

The New Defender was named Best Medium SUV 2021 at the awards before being awarded – to coincide with International Women’s Day – the headline WWCOTY prize.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Alfa Romeo is celebrating their female racing pilots on international women’s day…

Odette Siko in her Alfa 1750 6C…

International Women’s Day is an ideal occasion, Alfa Romeo found, to put its female racing champions behind an Alfa sportscar wheel into the spotlight. The material they put forward is so abundant and interesting, that we make (at least) a two-part series of it.

We start here with the early, very elegant protagonists, who combined female elegance with panache and excellent racing qualities…

We start here with Odette Siko, you see her elegantly here in the photo above.

She takes you back to the 1930s, where Alfa Romeo asserted itself as one of the main protagonists in motorsport. This was partly down to extraordinary vehicles, but also to drivers who became part of the legend: these were the years of Nuvolari, Varzi, Caracciola and Sommer. The latter won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1932 behind the wheel of an Alfa Romeo 8C 2300, but the Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 SS driven by the striking Odette Siko finished fourth overall and won the 2.0-liter category! A young Parisian, Siko quickly became one of the stars on the track, displaying her elegance both in the paddock and in her racing performance, often accompanied by another female French racer whose path also crossed Alfa Romeo’s several times: Hellé Nice.

Hellé Nice, see the photo here, was a model, acrobat, and dancer. Her real name was Mariette Hélène Delangle, but was more commonly known as Hellé Nice. Renowned for her outgoing personality, Nice was good friends with the Rothschilds and the Bugattis. She raced in Europe and America and became one of the first drivers to display the logos of her sponsors on the bodywork of a single-seater racing car.

She took part in the 1933 Italian Grand Prix at Monza in her own 8C 2300 Monza; in the same race, Campari, Borzacchini and Czaikowski tragically lost their lives. In 1936, she won the Ladies Cup in Monte Carlo and took part the São Paulo Grand Prix in Brazil, where she fell victim to a dreadful accident, then miraculously came out of her three-day coma.

Further on, there was Anna Maria Peduzzi. In her time, the years of Scuderia Ferrari marked a crucial chapter in Alfa Romeo’s history. The drivers of the “Prancing Horse” included Como-born Anna Maria Peduzzi, the wife of driver Franco Comotti, who was nicknamed the “Moroccan”.

After her debut aboard her own Alfa Romeo 6C 1500 Super Sport, which she had purchased from Ferrari himself, Peduzzi almost always raced alone and only occasionally with her husband. In 1934, she won the 1500 Class at the Mille Miglia and, in the post-war period, raced in the Alfa Romeo 1900 Sprint and the Alfa Romeo Giulietta.

We conclude our first part here with Maria Antonietta d’Avanzo.

The forerunner of female Alfa Romeo drivers, Baroness Maria Antonietta d’Avanzo made her debut in the interwar years. A pioneer of Italian motorsport, aviator and journalist, d’Avanzo won third place in the Alfa Romeo G1 at Brescia in 1921, and proved her worth in many competitions as a formidable opponent for the best drivers of the time, including a young Enzo Ferrari.

Baroness d’Avanzo in her Alfa 20-30 ES

Baroness d’Avanzo raced until the 1940s in a variety of vehicles and races, traveling all over the world to do so…

In the next part we will tell you more about our national champion Christine Beckers and her more contemporary colleagues… Stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

How Renault succeeded in building a bridge between past and present with it’s Renault 5 Prototype…

The brand new Renault 5 Prototype has already stolen the hearts of many, as was the case with the original R“Cinq”. François Leboine, Director of Design Concept and Show-Cars at Renault explains here how to succeed in the retro-futuristic exercise carried out on the cute Renault 5 Prototype.

Revive good memories, “provoke a smile”, that’s what François Leboine wanted with the Renault 5 Prototype. Responsible for concept cars and show cars at Renault, he looks back at the development of the prototype’s headlights, which, he confides to us, embody all the work done on the car. To do this, he used a well-oiled method that he agreed to unveil to us.

“If I had to choose a particular element that symbolizes all the work done on the Renault 5 Prototype, it’s definitely the headlights.”

Before starting any creative process, you need material, explains François Leboine.

The first step, called analytical, was to gather archives to analyze, understand, decompose the original vehicle. To grasp its very essence. Photos, sketches by the original designer Michel Boué, period magazines, fascicles and brochures, made it possible to study the mythical R5 from all angles. A vehicle loaned by Renault Classic also helped to better understand certain elements such as the famous headlights.

We really capitalized on the history of Renault and the R5 in particular, which had this special sympathy with people and this perfectly recognizable mischievous look.

Then the designers draw the first sketches on paper, like cartoonists who try to capture what makes a face’s personality.

“The sketches captured the fundamental elements that needed to be retained to reproduce the mischievous look of the original R5,” explains François Leboine.

Getting the proportions right…

Then, the designers moved on to a graphic palette to define proportions, contours, the distance between the headlights, to find the expression, the smiling look of the 1970s R5.

After analyzing graphic characteristics and working on proportions, designers operate what is called a shift: a method that consists of taking an object and tilting it into another world. “They’re going to use all the graphic work from previous research, mixing it with the mood board research and codes from today’s objects to project the design details into a futuristic world.”

Inspired by the worlds of aeronautics, architecture, product design and even electronics…

Thanks to this method of shifting visual codes, the prototype’s headlights have become true technological and futuristic elements. As for the fog lights that were often added at the time, they took a leap into the future. They were transformed into daytime running lights fully integrated into the front bumper.

“It was really important that the Renault 5 Prototype was not just a slavish copy of the past, but that it really was a vehicle that contained the elements of the future.”, explained François Leboine.

The final test: meeting the public

Finally, comes the encounter, the ultimate step for designers. The one that allows them to know if their work is successful. “Everything we’ve done, it’s the reaction of the people around us which determines if we’ve hit the bull’s eye, if we’ve brought the R5 back to life or if it was a failure”, says François Leboine.

The reaction of the internal people was already telling us that the car was going to be a success, but in the end it exceeded our expectations.

The Renault 5 Prototype has indeed received a very warm and unanimous welcome. Whether on the headlights or on the whole vehicle, the treatment of the lines and the futuristic details were very much appreciated. With the Renault 5 Prototype, the emblematic model of Renault’s heritage now has a worthy heiress. A modern car, full of charm and in tune with the times. Renault’s DNA respected, a successful projection into the future: mission accomplished

We can only agree…

Within 5-6 weeks, we will be able to take the wheel again, also anxious to get acquainted again with Renault’s latest E-powered products and hybrids… Stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Stylish and Iconic: MINI launches the new MINI Countryman Northwood Edition

The new MINI Countryman Northwood Edition is inspired on the authentic and unique surroundings of this town on the English island Wight.

This edition integrates the contours of this legendary landscape in a logo which adorns in Piano Black finish both sides of the car.

The “Union Jack” flag and the logo “Northwood” are integrated in the total design. On the door sills executed in Piano Black, the name of the edition is engraved, just as is the logo “Special Edition”. The geographical coordinates of this town are engraved in the door pillar on the drivers’ side, and a “Northwood” badge in the passenger area is integrated at the level of the “Piano Black” accent strip.

The MINI Cooper SE Countryman ALL4 Plug-In Hybrid Drive retains its typical air inlets at the sides of the car and has adapted sills in Electric Yellow. On top of the C-pillars a “Northwood” badge is also seen.

The MINI Countryman Northwood Edition is offered with the Plug-in Hybrid Cooper SE ALL 4 engine, the “One” and Cooper S petrol engines, as well as the Cooper Diesel engine. This Special Edition is available at prices from € 32.750.

You can order it now at your Belux MINI dealer!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Fiat launches on social media a stunning “one shot” film about three unique 500’s …

Outstanding design is one of the hallmarks of Fiat cars, with the superbly iconic 500 or “Cinquecento” of course taking centre stage. Indeed, this is further shown by a remarkable docufilm “One-Shot”.

The trailer of this film is now on air, looking “behind the scenes” of the creation of the One-Offs, three exclusive interpretations of the New Fiat 500, by Armani, Bvlgari and Kartell.

The Bulgari logo on the 500…

The full film can be viewed on Fiat’s social media channels, first of all on YouTube. The link is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGGd7EcnmNI&feature=youtu.be. But you can also see it on FCA’s Facebook and Instagram pages.

In the film, we see the unfolding of “Plan B” when Geneva Motor Show was canceled, and it was decided to present the “one off” cars in front of the Milan Duomo…

This breathtaking journey, narrated by Olivier François – President, Fiat Brand Global and FCA Chief Marketing Officer, includes interviews with designers, tales of partners, close-ups on the details and selection of materials, where the aim is caring of the environment and its sustainability.

Unloading the cars in the early morning in front of the Duomo…

The short film (15 and a half minutes) presents a relentless succession of meetings and processes that highlight teamwork, the affinity between designers from different fields and the emotions involved in playing an active role in an extraordinary project: the creation of something unique, an interpretation of the New 500 alongside the very best of “Made in Italy”.

Genuine gold flakes adorn the Bulgari 500…

The result is the three One-Offs, embodiment’s of the style, creativity and craftsmanship characteristic of “Made in Italy” and of our partners in the project, in the path and in the vision of the Earth’s future.

The Armani 500 got a special dressing…

And also a wood sculpted dashboard…

The journey depicted in the film begins in Turin, cradle of the Fiat brand, passing from Rome on the way with its sunsets, colors and lines that symbolize Bvlgari all over the world, to arrive in Milan, the world capital of fashion and design, due in no small part to Armani and Kartell.

…by a special wood cutting machine…

The twist in the tale has Milan as the setting for the entire presentation of the New 500.

A veritable gearshift takes place in the film’s account of the tense time when the Geneva International Motor Show was canceled, and a plan B had to be found and set in motion. The presentation of the New 500 and the One-Offs was completely rewritten to pull up stakes, to Milan.

Bvlgari jewelry in the 500 logo…

The short film is created and produced by VICE Italy, with Rockets at the helm. It uses the language of documentaries to reveal aspects normally concealed from the general public, in an immediate and effective way.

In an authentic, realistic vernacular, the evocative film opens the doors of the Style Center in Turin to the cameras. We get an exclusive peek inside the “Color & Material” department led by Rossella Guasco, halfway between a sophisticated research center and an elegant fashion atelier.

Bvlgari used its foulards…to enhance the dasboard

The footage documents their almost-obsessive attentiveness to every detail, that “know-how” typical of Italian creativity, and dwells on the emotions of the whole team as they experience something truly unique.

Kartell the seats…

The journey continues in an interview with Klaus Busse, Head of Design, explaining what lies beneath the creative process of style and forms, and the role of the 500 in the history of industrial design, even more so in the collective unconscious.

…and elements of the car…

It was the Style Center that took a legend of the 50’s, the fabled “Cinquino”, and reinvented it in 2007 to “color” everyday life and streets all over the world, making it an authentic, unique and salient response to the requirements of international urban mobility.

At the Milan launch of the One-Offs in March, it was even announced that the Fiat 500 has been confirmed as an “Italian Icon and Honorary Member” of Altagamma, the prestigious Foundation that brings together the best of Italy’s companies, to promote the epitomes of the country’s excellence around the world.

Just have a look at the photos here, and also enjoy the film!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Miami wheels…

Noblesse Oblige: a Rolls Royce is the car for shopping at Worth Avenue in Palm Beach…

Before Corona hit our shores, we went in February to Florida to soak up the early sun. Undoubtedly this proved to be a wise choice, as at the moment of writing, we are still not allowed to travel. We visited Miami and made a drive to Key West, in a rented Nissan Altima. A very comfortable mount with a well pulling and smooth 2,5 litre 188 HP four cylinder petrol engine coupled to a soave CVT transmission. This CVT performed well, raising the revs gradually following the push of your right foot, and restraining fussy revving even when you accelerate full throttle. Once above 4,000 rpm, it will make crisp upshifts.

With lots of support from the power steering the Altima is very easy to steer, stable and comfortable, and offers lots of room for its occupants. An ideal, and stylish travelling machine, which left little to be desired.

On Florida roads, the usual pickups abound, but there is a lot of room left for supercars and European (noble) brands. Indeed, Florida is the realm of the well to do, and also one of the states with a 56,14 % majority of foreign brands in its total car market. It counted in 2018 some 7,6 million registered vehicles. California is actually the top car state with not less than 14,6 million registered vehicles, and a foreign car market share of 64,9 %.

Go in the posh shopping and hotel areas of Miami beach, and you will see it is the home of Lamborghini’s, Maserati’s, Mercedes, BMW, Porsche, Range Rover, Bentley, Rolls Royce. Many buyers of the noble European brands opt for SUV’s as well as cabrio’s and coupés.

On the road, big SUV’s and pickups from American and Japanese brands abound, with the open Mustangs being frequently seen too, as well as Chevy Camaro’s.

Every now and then an American built classic meets you, as a fifties or sixties open Ford or Thunderbird. Indeed, Cuba is not far away…

Of course, there are the Cinquecento’s. We saw a new one on Miami Beach, and a vintage or “classic” Cinquecento used by a Sicilian Ice cream vendor…

Also a two decades old SUV was totally sculpted in sand, if there ever was a beach car, this is the one…

We just let you enjoy the photos here, and dream with us of these sunny shores and their nice cars…

Hans Knol ten Bensel       

Unique “Abarth Stories” tell about Abarth driving passion for the Belux market…

FCA journalists launch gripping Abarth short stories series, starting with a visit to Thierry Boutsen in Monaco…

The dynamic PR and marketing people of FCA Belgium come up with an unique formula to keep the passion for the “Scorpione” alive. They launch mini-video stories that testify to the Abarth passion. The first episode shows the Belgian pilot Thierry Boutsen at the wheel of the Abarth 695 70 ° Anniversario…

This “Abarth Stories” concept was specifically devised for the Belux market. With good reason: since the launch of the brand in 2008, Abarth has achieved increasing success in Belgium and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, and is even about to become a reference in our shores when it comes to sporting cars.

The first «Abarth Story» of 2020 brings viewers to the principality of Monaco, where they meet Belgian pilot Thierry Boutsen. He was so impressed with this latest creation from Turin, the Abarth 695 70 ° Anniversario, that he decided to buy one!

Thierry Boutsen has lived in Monaco with his family for years. The Festival du Cirque De Monte Carlo is in full swing, and with a bright blue sky outside, the FCA journalist meets Thierry Boutsen in the lobby of the Columbus hotel. Boutsen has devoted more than 23 years of his life to car racing and motor sport, a man with a true passion for cars.

In the original Cinquecento, Thierry Boutsen taught his mother to drive…

“I taught my mother to drive,” he tells our journalist quietly. “It was aboard a Fiat 500.” This undoubtedly explains his enthusiasm for the thoroughbred version the current model, sold under the brand name Abarth. «I have purchased this special edition in honor of the brand’s 70th anniversary, and it has been finished in the same color scheme as the 1957 Fiat 500 that I also own. So the circle is round! » he smiles.

Following him in the narrow streets of Monaco towards the corniche that takes us to the motorway towards Menton, one immediately sees that Boutsen has immense driving talents as a pilot, and they amply show behind the wheel of these new toys. «This new Abarth has everything one could wish for: it is light, agile, powerful, has perfect handling and powerful brakes. Everything was developed to achieve the best », Thierry smiled.

For more than 20 years, Thierry Boutsen has been involved in aircraft mediation with his company Boutsen Aviation, which is also based in Monaco. But his passion for cars is still well alive. “I still remain a car enthusiast,” he adds. «That is why I recently set up a new company specializing in the sale of collection cars, cars suitable for public roads and competition cars. Our specialty? Find rare vehicles that meet the specific criteria of the customers, from a Lancia Stratos or Porsche 904 to a Ferrari F1 in running order! » And now he relives also the passion for Abarth…

A thriving market for the cars with the “Scorpione” in Belgium…

With 1,700 cars sold in Belgium in 2019 and around 21,000 in Europe, Abarth is the sporting jewel in the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles group. Born from the heritage of Carlo Abarth, the newest 695 70 ° Anniversario is a unique model that complements the range of models 595, available in the Turismo and Competizione versions. This Abarth 695 70 ° Anniversario impresses with its new rear spoiler, which is manually adjustable,and this “Spoiler ad Assetto Variabile” can be adjusted in twelve positions, with a slope of 0 to 60 degrees…

Abarth remains active in the competition, for example through the participation of the Abarth 124 Rally in the ERC Championship, and also takes part in the F4 Championships in Italy and Germany.

This is how new pilots are discovered, such as the young Arthur Leclerc, brother of F1 pilot Charles Leclerc, who started his career at Alfa Romeo, before making the switch to Ferrari.

We just let you enjoy further the photos here…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the new Fiat 500X Sport at the holy grail of Italian football…

When you launch a sporting version of your crossover bestseller, you want it to be somewhere (very) special. And so the dynamic PR department of Fiat did. They invited us to nowhere less than the “Luigi Ridolfi” Federal Technical Centre in Coverciano (FIorence), a centre of excellence for teaching, training and sport, as well as the historic seat of the Italian Football Federation.

This had its good reasons. First of all, the FIGC Federation headquarters was chosen to honour the 20-year cooperation between the Fiat brand and the Federation, as well as to express the shared values uniting the new Fiat 500X Sport with sport in general.

Indeed, what better location could there be for displaying “in the field” the qualities of dynamism, precision, control and Italian style highlighted in this new version of the already iconic 500X, a car which has won the hearts in all parts of the globe.

We will soon tell you more here about the excellent sporting qualities of this 500X Sport, and we will also bring you again some interviews, notably with Charles Fuster, the product marketing manager of the 500 X, and Alessandro Grosso, Head of Fleet and Business Sales, EMEA.

Just stay tuned on these columns…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

BMW Art Car #18 of Cao Fei makes Belgian debut at Brand Store in Brussels…

BMW driving art is again to be seen in the capital of Europe: In its flagship Brand Store, BMW organizes until June 1 an Art & Design Expo. The 18th BMW Art Car, a BMW M6 GT3 with multimedia design, has been created by the Chinese female artist Cao Fei, is the focus point of this show. It is even to be enjoyed and admired with the use of an app bringing the car to you on your smartphone with enhanced reality. A stunning experience, of which we show here some photos, but which has to be seen to be believed.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

In the Brussels BMW Brand Store you can join the stunning journey to discover this Art Car in augmented reality…

This virtual animation is also created by the artist, and forms an integral part of the car. “We are now entering a new era where the mind can steer objects directly and thoughts can be transferred, like unmanned controls and artificial intelligence.” comments Cao Fei.

Follow this path in the showroom and zero in with your Ios device on this graph to experience the augmented reality…
Download the app BMW ART CAR #18 on your mobile (IOS) device, follow the screen instructions and enjoy!

The work of Cao Fei illustrates the fast and stunning changes in China and its society. With her BMW Art Car she spans a road which stretches over thousands of years, honouring the spiritual wisdom of Asia, which now enters the third millennium with breathtaking speed. The film can of course also be viewed on YouTube, using the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_GNSyeIpOY&feature=youtu.be.

A video which focuses on the millennial time which a spiritual person travels through…
Finishes with presenting the augmented reality…

The multimedia artist approaches the concept of a BMW Art Car in her own unique way, with which she builds a parallel universe.

Her work consists of three components: a video that focuses on the millennial time which a spiritual person travels through, augmented reality with colourful light particles (via a special app called BMW Art Car # 18) and the BMW M6 GT3 racer in the original colour carbon black.

As a tribute to the carbon fibre structure of the BMW M6 GT3 applies Cao Fei a lot of non-reflective black paint, which means the possibilities in the digital world are endlessly applicable.

The application of video and augmented reality creates an environment in which the BMW M6 GT3 plays an essential role. Cao Fei uses in her video spiritual movements that express themselves in colourful flashes of light.

Point your device on the graph and a whole enhanced world opens to you…

When the app is used in the vicinity of the car, these light accents are transformed into an augmented reality installation that floats above and around the BMW M6 GT3. In this way, the viewer becomes interactively involved in the artwork.

Just download the app BMW ART CAR #18 on your mobile (IOS) device and follow the instructions on your screen.


The BMW Art Car Tradition runs back already decades… more about this in a special report!

Practical info:

The exhibition runs until May 31, at BMW Brand Store Brussels, Waterloolaan 23,24, 1000 Brussel

Admission free.  Open from Monday to Saturday, from 10 AM until 18.30 PM. http://www.bmwbrandstore.brussels

MINI celebrates 60 years anniversary at the Brussels Motor Show 2019

The MINI stand at the Brussels Motor Show 2019 is dedicated entirely to an important anniversary. It is the scene of the world premiere of the MINI 60 Years Edition. 60 years on, MINI presents a model program to the Brussels Motor Show visitors from 19 to 27 January that offers a modern interpretation of the brand’s core properties. It ranges from the first MINI to feature an electric motor through to the extremely sporty John Cooper Works models.

Anniversary design model: the MINI 60 Years Edition.

With its exclusive design and equipment features, the MINI 60 Years Edition – to be shown in public for the first time in Brussels – authentically expresses the traditional sporting spirit and British origins of the brand.

A distinctive appearance is ensured by the body colour British Racing Green, a contrasting finish on the roof and exterior mirror caps, bonnet stripes in a specific anniversary design and 17-inch light alloy wheels in the version 60 Years Spoke 2-tone. The anniversary logo also appears on the side scuttles, door sill finishers, front headrests as well as in the LED logo projection on the driver’s side. In addition the exclusive design model has model-specific interior trim finishers.

The standard equipment of the edition vehicles also features a sports leather steering wheel as well as sports seats in the leather trim MINI Yours Leather Lounge 60 Years and the exclusive colour Dark Maroon. The MINI 60 Years Edition will be available from March 2019 onwards as a MINI 3 door and MINI 5 door, each with four engine variants.

But there is more, we also interviewed on the MINI stand in Brussels Charlie Coorper, the grandson of the famous founder of Cooper Car Company. Read further in these columns!

Hans Knol ten Bensel