Fascinating video chat with Gordon Murray about the naming of the T50S Niki Lauda, the track-only version of his featherweight, V12- powered fan car just unveiled. In 1978, Lauda scored the one and only victory for Murray’s revolutionary Brabham BT46B, whose engine-driven fan sucked it so effectively onto the road that it could out-corner even its Lotus rival, which used ground effects. It was withdrawn from Formula 1 competition after that win (due to team owner Bernie Ecclestone not wanting to upset rivals on the point of installing him as F1’s boss), but Lauda and Murray became friends for life.
“The BT46B was amazingly fast but also a hell of a handful,” recalls Murray, “and Niki always spoke his mind about things like that. Before the race, he said ‘if we win today, you will be a genius’, but we were both pretty sure the car wouldn’t go the full distance. So it was a big shock when we won, and in all the fuss there wasn’t much of a chance to talk. But Niki rang me later. ‘Okay, then,’ he said, ‘you’re a bloody genius.’”
There we were, feeling pretty damned smug about our string of recently posted, Motorsport UK-sanctioned UK EV speed and endurance records, using six drivers in a pair of Porsche Taycans, when a Lincolnshire-based reader, Stephen Savage, wrote with details of a 14-hour, 1000km trip he had done recently in his Tesla Model 3 Performance, travelling with his wife non-stop between home and Germany. His drive took a mere 58 minutes more than ours, despite having been carried out on public roads while we had the freedom of Brands Hatch. It sounds a prodigious effort, but he writes as if it was relatively routine.
Mr Savage says he has covered 23,000 miles in 15 months, including trips to northern Denmark and the south of France, all without any hint of range anxiety or any kind of charging issues. “The Tesla Supercharger network is the key,” he says. “They just seem to work. And their coverage in the UK this year seems to be better than ever.”
Do you have cars you enjoy vicariously because a friend owns one? I have a few, and chief among them for the past 20 years has been a sweet two-stroke Saab 96 owned by fellow hack John Simister. He has nurtured this car to a peak of fitness and taken it to so many places that he has become identifi ed with it – so it’s a shock to learn that he’s thinking of selling. His motivation is understandable: another car has caught his eye. His second reason is the same one that prevents me from biting his hand straight off at the elbow: his household has an agreed ‘one in, one out’ policy. I only ever drove this little car once, at a Car of the Year event at Silverstone, and I loved it. Busybody that I am, I would love to see it go to a really good home. Contacts will be passed on.