The iconic blue of an Alpine…

All car enthusiasts have the image of a drifting blue Alpine “berlinette” in a corner of their memory. The A110’s heroic performances in the rallies of the 1960s and 1970s left a deep impression for generations and contributed to an instinctive association between the brand and this colour.

“For Alpine, blue is more than a color. It’s territory!” exclaims Antony Villain, Director of Design at Alpine. We can only agree. But blue was not always used on Alpine bolides…

A varied palette

Indeed, the first Alpines were not exactly blue. When Jean Rédélé presented his first productions in the courtyard of the Billancourt factory to Pierre Dreyfus, General Manager of Renault, in the summer of 1955, Jean Rédélé used a varied color palette: a blue, a white and a red car. And when he entered the car in races, the little A106 is sometimes white or light blue, but not yet metallic blue. Also, Alpine street versions were more often ordered in red, white or yellow, instead of in blue.

The birth of a legendary color combination

It is only with the A110 “Berlinette” that metallic blue, which soon becomes iconic, makes its appearance. It seems that this happened at the request of a customer who wanted to see his A110 painted in a blue color called Panama. Jacques Cheinisse, then a regular commercial employee at Alpine and also an amateur pilot in his free time, would have seen it blue and also asked for the A110 that he ordered in early 1963 and used in rallying. A viral choice that was soon applied to all of the official team’s berlinettes. This is to allow the national colors to shine in races, as was formally done at Grand Prix until 1967 (blue for France, red for Italy, green for Great Britain, white and then silver for Germany, etc.). A legendary color combination was born…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Auto Bild readers elect the Giulia GTAm as Auto Bild Sportscar of 2021…

We photographed the GTAm for you this summer at the Chateau of Princess Lea in Humain…

The Giulia GTAm certainly stole our car loving heart, and apparently we are not alone. The iconic Italian design, combined with 540 hp engine power, convinced also the readers of AUTO BILD SPORTSCARS.

They elected the Giulia GTAm, the most powerful car ever produced by Alfa Romeo, “AUTO BILD SPORTSCAR of the Year 2021”. A total of 109 current sports car models were put to the readers’ vote. The Giulia GTAm won topped the import rankings in the category “Sedans & Station Wagons”.

Who wouldn’t like to be behind the wheel of this Alfa…

Last year, the readers of AUTO BILD SPORTSCARS elected Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio as the winner. This year, it was the turn of the Giulia GTAm to be chosen for the award.  A major achievement and a source of great pride for the Italian brand. Both awards embody the high regard in which Alfa Romeo is held by German sports car fans.

As you know, the GTAm is built in just 500 numbered units. The Giulia GTA’s well-known acronym stands for “Gran Turismo Alleggerita” (‘lightened grand tourer’), paying tribute to one of the most legendary cars in the brand’s glorious history: the 1965 Giulia Sprint GTA. With the widespread use of ultralight materials, the Giulia GTA’s weight is reduced by up to 100 kg compared to the Giulia Quadrifoglio, and is equipped with an upgraded version of the 540-hp Alfa Romeo 2.9 V6 Bi-Turbo engine with a best-in-class specific output of 187 hp/L.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Citroën DG Sport Compétition wins the Spa Rally 2021 with WRC3-world champion Yohan Rossel.

The 2021 sports season ended with magnificent fireworks for DG Sport Compétition. After the victory of Stéphane Lefebvre and Renaud Jamoul in the Condroz Huy Rally, it was now the turn of Yohan Rossel, fresh WRC3 world champion, and Valentin Sarreaud with the Citroën C3 Rally2, to win the Spa rally…

The DG Sport Compétition armada was impressive at the start of the 2021 edition of the Spa Rally, with not fewer than three Citroën C3 Rally2s for Rossel-Sarreaud, Lefebvre-Jamoul and De Cecco-Humblet. Two French top drivers, but with a lack of knowledge of the ‘Spadoise’ specials, a possible handicap compared to the other top names in the Belgian competition. Add to that the difficult weather conditions, typical of December, and the challenge was formidable to say the least…

Yohan Rossel admitted to being surprised by the slippery surfaces and lack of grip in the first stages. But as conditions continued to deteriorate, the pilot from the French Gard region started to attack, taking advantage of the delicate WRX section on the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps to take the lead. And he never abandoned this lead position during this Spa Rally …

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Porsche Vision Gran Turismo: a stunning virtual racing bolide…

This time we are entering the fascinating world of gaming. Did you know for instance that Gran Turismo™ is a video game developed by Polyphony Digital Inc., a subsidiary of Sony Interactive Entertainment Inc? It was launched in Japan first in 1997, and is now regarded as the best and most authentic driving simulator due to true-to-life graphics, authentic physics technology and careful attention to detail. Addictive it must be. Your servant was decades ago already crazy about the first versions of flight simulator. Imagine this…

The news is that Porsche and the Japanese video game development studio Polyphony Digital Inc., present a spectacular virtual vehicle concept. Porsche has been a partner of Polyphony already a few years now.

Indeed, the ‘Gran Turismo’ game series has featured Porsche sports cars since 2017, most recently the Taycan Turbo S. For the launch of the game’s seventh edition, Porsche has, for the first time, developed a vehicle purely for the virtual world. The Porsche Vision Gran Turismo is the sports car manufacturer’s first concept study created specifically for use in a computer game. It will be available exclusively in Gran Turismo 7, which will be released on 4 March 2022 for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5.

Exciting freedom for Porsche designers…

By partnering with Polyphony Digital, Porsche is not only demonstrating its special visionary approach, but is once again also demonstrating the high level of expertise among its designers. Freed from the constraints of developing models for series production, they were able to put their own ideas for a Gran Turismo concept car into practice.

“A vehicle designed purely for the virtual world opens up exciting possibilities for us that are otherwise heavily regimented in a regular design process for a series production car,” says Michael Mauer, Vice President Style Porsche. “Projects such as the Porsche Vision Gran Turismo are particularly valuable for us in the creative process. Further developing our clearly defined Porsche Design DNA and exchanging with designers from other industries is an important part of our work.”

The Vision Gran Turismo indeed features future-oriented versions of familiar Porsche design elements. The concept car exhibits the brand’s typical proportions with a sporty height-to-width ratio, a low-set bonnet and very pronounced wings. The lights in the purist front and the integrated air intakes create a visual link to the design language of the Taycan – a nod to the car’s purely electric drive.

The rear is adorned with a markedly narrow light strip – a further development of the light signature that is familiar from the 911 and Taycan models. The clear emphasis of the brand identity continues in the interior, with the curved hologram display, tailored to the driver, which appears to float above the steering wheel. The low seating position underscores the car’s dynamic feel. The realistic surface appearances in the interior also play a major role. “We spent a long time considering the right material design consisting of carbon and titanium. The aim was to reduce weight while increasing performance,” says Markus Auerbach, Head of Interior Design at Porsche. “In addition, sustainable aspects also play a role in forward-looking projects. For example, we only used entirely vegan materials in the concept car.”

“The appeal of a Porsche comes from its purist design,” says Kazunori Yamauchi, President, Polyphony Digital. “And in terms of engineering expertise, both we and Porsche follow the same perfectionist philosophy. We share the same passion for racing and are looking to the future of the car.”

In addition to purely design-related themes, there are also new functions that contribute to a strong sports car feeling, with players experiencing haptic feedback via the controller, which mimics the feel of the steering wheel. This fast and direct feedback is reminiscent of a real racing car.

Strategic for Porsche…

Expanding its gaming activities also has strategic significance for Porsche. “We can engage young and digital target groups in the place where their automotive dreams are born: the world of gaming,” says Robert Ader, Vice President Marketing at Porsche AG. “The partnership with Polyphony Digital and ‘Gran Turismo’ is a perfect fit for Porsche, because motorsport – whether real or virtual – is part of our DNA.” The integration of the first Porsche sports car developed purely for the virtual space is an important milestone in the strategic partnership between Porsche and Polyphony Digital Inc.

Actually, Porsche has been cooperating with various companies from the gaming industry for several years and these activities are now an integral part of the marketing mix. The overriding goal is to create a lasting brand experience…

We show you the photos here… and I look forward to a Polyphony Gaming experience!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Pre-season test for the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team at Valencia…

The Formula E racing is taking increasingly centre stage in motor sport, and we will also report more regularly about it.

Here is already some Porsche news. The race-bred brand took some Formula E tests from 29 November to 2 December in Spain…

The TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team seems well prepared to tackle its third season of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship. At the official test drives in Valencia, the squad from Weissach received its final polish. With the Porsche 99X Electric, André Lotterer (GER) and Pascal Wehrlein (GER) covered a total of 1.321 kilometres. Season 8 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship begins on 28/29 January 2022 with two races in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia.

All eleven teams with their regular drivers took part in the test days. The TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team used the five test sessions on the 3.376-kilometre circuit as a final shakedown for the Porsche 99X Electric. Engineers at Weissach updated the software in Porsche’s first electric racing car, while the powertrain remains the same. Due to the pandemic, the FIA decided that, for financial reasons, only one drive system can be homologated for seasons 7 and 8.

At the last test before the season kicks off in Diriyah, André Lotterer clocked up a total of 610 test kilometres in the No. 36 Porsche 99X Electric. His teammate Pascal Wehrlein covered 711 kilometres at the wheel of his car sporting the new No. 94 starting number.

One of the key points in the extensive test programme was to simulate the new qualifying format for season 8. From now on, the 22 drivers will initially head out onto the track in two groups. They have 220 kW of power available and can turn any number of laps in twelve minutes. The four fastest in each group move into the quarter-finals, with the others allocated the grid spots 9 to 22. From the quarter-finals, drivers pit themselves against each other two at a time in a duel-stage knockout. The winner of Group 1 competes against the fourth in Group 2; the second in Group 1 competes against the third in Group 2, and so on. In the semi-finals and the finals, the drivers have 250 kW at their disposal. The winner of the final session starts from pole position and, as in the past, earns three championship points.

More Formula E news soon!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Jacky Ickx to be celebrated at Brussels Interclassics with his ‘81 Citroën CX 2400 GTI “Paris Dakar”

Jacky Ickx has his 75th birthday this year, and the organisers of the Brussels Interclassics decided to celebrate him on the sixth edition of their show, which will be held on the weekend of 19, 20 and 21 November.

15 cars will be shown on the event, representing the milestones of Jacky’s career. On the central display, a Citroën CX 2400 GTI will also be seen, a perfect replica of the CX he drove on the 1981 Paris Dakar, together with his co-pilot, the French actor Jean Claude Brasseur.

The Citroën CX in Paris Dakar livery was remarkably close to standard, and therefore making a replica was quite feasable…

For the third edition of Paris Dakar, Citroën had entered 4 cars, one in white, driven by Jacky Ickx. The other teams were well trained, Jacky had only seen some film reels of the event prior to the race, and he commented later “Jean Claude and I were total novices to the event, we could have won this race, as the car proved very competitive indeed”.

Nevertheless, Jacky and his team mate led the race, only to abandon in the last stage due to an accident.

The impressive CX 2400 GTI is to be admired in hall 5, stand 5.307. The car is put on the show by CQS Classics, based in Tienen.

We just let you enjoy the photos here, and let you admire how sleek, powerful and efficient these rally Citroëns were in their heydays.

For Citroën enthusiasts, your servant can tell you here Citroëns have always been quite exceptional cars for me, I always cherished the moments I sat behind the wheel of them. I just love their comfort, their unerring stability, even in the worst of weather and road conditions.

Jacky Ickx and his faithful team mate, French actor Jean-Claude Brasseur

My first encounter with the marque of the “double chevron” was behind the one spoked “volant” of a DS 23 Pallas injection electronique, although as a passenger, my memories were even earlier. My aunt in Holland had bought in 1955 a white DS 19, and I sat as a king on the deep blue rear seat, totally smitten by the futuristic design both inside and out, the beautiful and cleanly styled dashboard, the hydraulic commands, the unique comfort and roadholding. My aunt liked to drive with zest, and on the straight but still rather narrow roads, speeds well above 120 km/h were often seen. It felt perfectly normal in this DS. Indeed, the goddess of the road it was called, and deservedly so.

But also the CX left us with indelible memories. I remember driving the CX 2400 GTI – indeed, exactly that model – to the Birmingham motor show. What a delightful Gran Turismo experience it was.

We can tell you here that more Citroën news is to follow: we drove the range of electric Citroëns, amongst others the Berlingo and C4 near Paris, and also tested a diesel powered version of the C4 with the 8 speed automatic, which proved very impressive indeed, showing all the good Citroën qualities.

Stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The Alfa Romeo Giulia GTAm, which Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi drove during the Belgian F1 GP, on display at the 2021 Zoute Grand Prix

Alfa Romeo will be present at the 2021 edition of the Zoute Grand Prix, which will take place in Knokke from 6 to 10 October. “I am delighted that the Alfa Romeo brand can once again participate in the Zoute Grand Prix this year, especially as we have been participating since the first edition in 2010,” said Patrice Duclos, General Manager of the Alfa Romeo brand for Belgium and Luxembourg.

This year Alfa Romeo will participate in the Zoute Grand Prix with a car with a special history: the latest Giulia GTAm, of which the limited edition of 500 cars has now been sold out. “The Giulia GTAm on the Alfa Romeo stand at the 2021 Zoute Grand Prix is ​​not only an exclusive car, but also of particular interest to us,” said Patrice Duclos. “This car was driven by our two drivers of the Alfa Romeo ORLEN Racing F1 team on the eve of the Belgian F1 Grand Prix last August. We can say that this model has a historical side that should interest car enthusiasts in our country!”

In all respects, the Giulia GTA/GTAm is a collector’s car. All 500 numbered units, introduced to the international press last May, have since been sold to customers worldwide, including a significant number in China, Japan and Australia, making the Giulia GTA an international commercial success.

RAIKKONEN Kimi (fin), Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN C41, GIOVINAZZI Antonio (ita), Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN C41, portrait during the Formula 1 Belgium Grand Prix, 12th round of the 2021 FIA Formula One World Championship from August 27 to 29, 2021 on the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, in Stavelot, near Liège, Belgium – Photo Florent Gooden / DPPI

An exclusive video

On the occasion of the 2021 Zoute Grand Prix, Alfa Romeo offers its fans a unique testimony about the Giulia GTAm, with a video in which Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi, the two official drivers of Alfa Romeo ORLEN Racing, take a seat in the car. They can be seen leaving the Hotel de la Source in Spa, right next to the Formula 1 circuit, to take the roads from Spa to the heights of Balmoral. This video can be viewed via the following link: https://we.tl/t-fcEfX7EsEm

First appearance of the new Alfa Romeo Stelvio 6C Villa d’Este

The Alfa Romeo Stelvio 6C Villa d’Este appears for the first time at the Zoute Grand Prix and is offered with the 210 hp 2.2 Turbo or the 280 hp 2.0 Turbo, both four-cylinder aluminum diesel engines with carbon fiber crankshaft, combined with an 8-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive (Q4). In addition to the exterior paintwork, the special series features chrome side window surrounds and 21″ five-hole alloy wheels.

This new limited edition is inspired in terms of colours and design elements by the elegance of the 6C 2500 SS Coupé produced by Alfa Romeo in the 1940s…

Come and see them in Knokke!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

A royal visit to the Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN F1 team…

HRH Princess Léa of Belgium in the F1 paddock with GIOVINAZZI Antonio on the left and RAIKKONEN Kimi on her right. receiving a racing suit and gloves for the benefit of the recent flood victims…

Her Royal Highness Princess Lea of Belgium came to the iconic circuit of Spa Francorchamps on Thursday August 26 to meet the drivers of Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN, Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovanazzi.

Responding to the wish of Princess Lea of Belgium to help the victims of the recent floodings in our country, both drivers agreed to donate a racing suit and gloves, bearing their personal signature of course. Timi donated his racing suit, Antionio his pair of gloves.

HRH Princess Léa of Belgium showing Kimi’s racing suit with Antonio Giovinazzi proudly showing his pair of gloves...

These items have been sold on Sunday August 29, and the proceeds will help the victims of the recent flooding disasters in Belgium.

HRH Princess Léa of Belgium in the F1 paddock gets the tehcnical highlights of the F1 Alfa’s explained…on the left, Dominique Fontignies, PR and Communications Director Stellantis Belux.

Like many members of the Belgian Royal family, Princess Lea is very keen on motorsport and she was delighted to meet the two racing drivers on the iconic Francorchamps circuit.

“Having discovered all the secrets of the racing cars of Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovanazzi, we will never look the same way again to the Belgian Grand Prix” she commented.

“I was very surprised to discover the very high level of technological sophistication which is built in these monoposto’s”, she said after visit.

Here posing in front of the Alfa GTAm, Antionio Giovanazzi on the left, Kimi Räikkönen on the right.

Technology which Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovanazzi also helped to transfer on the fastest road going car Alfa on the market, the brand-new Giulia GTAm. They worked Together with Sauber, who participated in the development of this model, to give the GTAm that special touch which makes this car – of which only 499 units are built – truly unique.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

First round for the European Ferrari Challenge has started at Monza…

In the opening act of the first round for the European Ferrari Challenge at the Monza circuit, the Passione Ferrari Club Challenge 2021 has started. During this exclusive circuit event, owners of the Ferrari 488 Challenge and 488 Challenge Evo were given the opportunity to perfect their racing technique and record a personal fastest lap time.

The Passione Ferrari Club Challenge was created to give Ferrari owners the opportunity to get to know their cars – without a competitive element – on the track. The program of these exclusive club meetings is aimed at both beginners and drivers with more track experience. The cars are equipped with telemetry thanks to which the lap times and track data can be read. These data allow the participants to analyze their performance and improve their driving technique. Professional Ferrari instructors personally supervise the participants, conduct driving technique workshops and assist with the analysis of the telemetry data.

The Ferrari 488 Challenge and 488 Challenge Evo are extreme sports cars, but their performance remains very accessible. With these cars, drivers experience the same sensations and excitement as a professional driver. For Ferrari owners who want to take part in the Ferrari Challenge, the Passione Ferrari Club Challenge is an ideal springboard. Drivers who dream of taking part in an official FIA Championship are being guided in the right direction.

Driving on six European circuits…

From April to September, owners of the Ferrari 488 Challenge and 488 Challenge Evo will be able to drive on six legendary circuits in Europe. In addition, they have the opportunity to start during the Finali Mondiali 2021, where all international Challenge series will ride the final race of their championship, according to tradition.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

My unforgettable drive with the Giulia Super over the Alps on the way to the Monza Grand Prix in September 1970…

Here I stand proudly as a 23 year old behind the driver’s door of the Alfa Giulia Super, with my nephew looking into the ravine of the Great Saint Bernard pass…

There are epic moments, already in the young life of a car enthusiast. I was barely 23 at the time, when I accompanied my father on a drive to attend the 1970 Monza Grand Prix. My father had a Olive Metallic Green 1,6 Giulia Super press test car for the occasion, and I have been smitten for Giulia’s and Alfa’s ever since, as the drive was so magnificent.

My father had his faithful Leicaflex with the 90 mm Summicon – R f 1:2  lens along, and this is the perfect camera to make impressive shots. You see them here.

My father and I had also taken my nephew along, and so we went on our drive, with me doing most of the driving, as my father found that I understood the car very well. Of course we were keen to let the Alfa perform. This meant cruising on  the German Autobahnen and the A27 through Switzerland and the Italian Autostradas at speeds between 150-160 km/h in fifth gear, when the law allowed it of course.

On our route, we decided not to take the Simplon Tunnel, but take the historic road winding over the Great St. Bernard pass itself, which lies a few hundred metres from the Swiss border with Italy, and is only passable from June to September.

Not only was the old classic pass road a dream for the Giulia, with its pleasantly short second and third gears, and I gladly helped the somewhat weaker synchromesh of the gearbox with expert double declutching. Descents were also epic, as this Giulia had already four disk brakes…

I still recall the eager sound and crisp exhaust roar of the 1,6 litre twin cam engine, and, as said, am totally smitten by Alfa’s ever since.

The Monza Grand Prix was rather dramatic. We arrived in Monza on the fifth of September, going down to the track after having got our press permits and parking voucher for our dear Alfa. Only to hear that Jochen Rindt had killed himself during the practice session on that day. He spun into the guardrails after a failure on his car’s brake shaft. He was killed owing to severe throat injuries caused by his seat belt. He was way ahead in points over the rest of the F1 field, so he became the only driver to be posthumously awarded the Formula One World Drivers’ Championship.

The Great Saint Bernard Pass was gruesome in winter, so prayer to our Lord was certainly appropriate…

We show you the photos, and dream away with you on the joys of holding the wheel of this magnificent four door Gran Turismo, which the Giulia was and still is right to this day…

Your servant would love to make a repeat edition of this drive on the Great Saint Bernard Pass with today’s Giulia… that would be truly great!

Hans Knol ten Bensel