News Issue 15

Rockin-gone

Just as this mag went to press, it was announced that Rockingham Motor Speedway is to close its doors at the end of this season. It has been bought by the car storage company that already leases much of Rockingham’s acreage of car parks, and the track will be mothballed; its long term future remains uncertain.

The venue opened in 2001 as Britain’s only banked oval, with a view to inviting Champ/Indy single-seaters from America and starting a proper NASCAR-style stock car racing series. Both failed to catch on with the British motorsport fan; the Champ cars raced for just two years, the ASCAR series lasted a little longer, and since then, the oval has remained pitifully underused. The infield circuit hosted many national and international race meetings, plus track days, but never quite enough to keep the venue in the black.

Just as the No-Prep drags on the pit lane was beginning to get a toehold, the rug has been pulled from underneath it, and yet another British motorsport venue gets consigned to history.

Dad’s Ol’ Car

The star of Bonneville’s Speed Week in early August was undoubtedly Danny Thompson, son of the late Mickey Thompson, who took Challenger II, the car his dad built 50 years ago, to a new piston-powered, wheel-driven land speed record. He recorded each-way runs of 446.605 and 450.909mph for an average of 448.757mph to take the AA/FS title, breaking George Poteet’s 439mph record. “It took five decades, a lot of elbow grease, and a few modifications, but I feel like I’ve finally been able to fulfil their dream, as well as my own,” Thompson said of his late father and his crew.

The Angry Bee

Dodge recently announced a special edition of their Challenger aimed at the grass-roots drag and bracket racer. The 2019 R/T Scat Pack 1320 will be powered by the 485bhp 392 Hemi with an eight-speed TorqueFlite auto, and runs 11.7 at 115mph, making it the fastest naturally-aspirated street-legal production muscle car available. It features plenty of Demon equipment as standard, plus a TransBrake, adaptive damping including ‘drag’ mode, Nexen 275/40R20 treaded drag radials, 41-spline halfshafts, launch control and a line-lock. A new millennium version of the old Dodge ‘Super Bee’ logo makes a reappearance, and the 1320 only comes with a driver’s seat; if you want passenger or rear seats, they’re each a $1 option. Order books open this autumn, and production begins early next year.

Mustang Milestones

10 Millionth Mustang formation at Flat Rock Assembly Plant in Flat Rock, Mich.

Ford was celebrating on August 8th, as the 10 millionth Mustang rolled off the Flat Rock production line. A bundle of Mustang fanatics were there on the day to help spell out 10,000,000 in the car park while a trio of P-51 Mustangs flew overhead.

A few days later, they announced their special 50th Anniversary Mustang Cobra Jet, the turn-key factory race car that’ll run mid-eights fresh from the showroom. Built to look like the Cobra Jet that debuted at the 1968 Winternationals, only 68 of these beauties will be built, with a sticker price of $130,000 apiece.

Back in July, Mustang was the star of the Goodwood Festival of Speed, where the new Bullitt edition was unveiled alongside the original Bullitt edition – the long-lost ’68 Fastback, one of two used in the film, which reappeared earlier this year – and both took to the hill.

Another Mustang star at the FoS was the one-off Eagle Squadron GT, built by Ford Performance with help from drifting champ Vaughn Gittin Jr. A celebration of 100 years of the RAF, Vaughn piloted the car up the hill before it was shipped home and auctioned for charity.

Concours De L’Ordinaire

While the great, the rare, the coveted and the frighteningly expensive pick up their silverware at concours competitions the world over, the other end of the scale were at Hagerty Insurance’s ‘Festival Of The Unexceptional’ at Stowe House, Buckinghamshire, on July 14th. The gathering celebrates the cars that never made it onto posters or dream car lists, the unloved and unwanted, the bland and mundane that have all but disappeared from our roads. This year’s winner was a fully-restored 1977 Chrysler Alpine, with a 1981 Datsun Bluebird runner-up and a 1982 Fiat Strada taking People’s Choice.

No Sh*t, Sherlock

The prize for this month’s survey that tells us what we already know goes to BuyACar.co.uk, who asked 1,000 motorists to rate their own driving skills. Predictably, two thirds ranked themselves ‘among the best’ or ‘better than most,’ while only a quarter saw themselves as ‘average’. A measly seven per cent admitted there was ‘room for improvement’. A survey by me of every other road user I encounter suggests that those figures should be entirely the other way around. Except for me, of course, I’m brilliant…

New Wranglers

Nope, not some fresh jeans but the new Jeep Wrangler, the latest incarnation of the iconic off-roader that manages to be all-new while looking almost exactly the same as the old one. Hey, why fix it if it ain’t broke? New engine options in Europe include a 272hp 2.0 turbo petrol and 2.2 MultiJet turbo-diesel, and they’ll be out this autumn. See www.jeep.co.uk for details.