Supercar immersion; Blenheim 2017
It is consummately easy for a critic and a critical observer to pick and poke at the details of the automotive scene, not least because, from either side of the fence, it is what we both do for a living. However, dip us into a cross-country foray, on some of England’s most entertaining driving roads between the West Midlands and Oxfordshire, in the latest RS5 offering from Audi, with the sole intention of attending a new Salon Prive event at the beautiful Blenheim Palace and the results were fascinating.
Fault-finding in and on the most recent addition to Audi’s most focused model amounted to little more than nitpicking; its new and understandably rare Sonoma Green paintwork polarised opinions most significantly. Yet, judging by the numbers of camera-toting visitors to the inaugural, Pirelli Tyre-sponsored Classic & Supercar event, whose cups should have runneth over with crowded but unhurried access to over 350 examples of exotica galore, the RS5 drew as much motor-driven whirring attention as an idling-by Veyron.
Once past the filigree portals of the splendid stately pile and into the main concourse ahead of the porticoed property, where an actual Concours d’Elegance announced several class winning entries, it was the 70th birthday of Ferrari gathering, epitomised by a row of F40s that focused visitor attention. Yet, priced at 2.4mEuros, it was the Bugatti Chiron that created the politest jostling, as one fan after another avoided tripping over each other to grab a few seconds of admiration and snapping time of the French Blue and Black hypercar. It had been much-vaunted in the event pre-publicity.
Naturally, hypercar-maker McLaren exhibited the 720S, a solitary example of its Super Series sportscar that did endure new marque teething problems, most of which have been eradicated on the firm’s development path to steal Ferrari’s crown, an aspect that it does appear to be achieving. As a British carmaker, apart from being one to watch, it is eminently praiseworthy for its stellar trajectory. Other rarities included Zenvo, Rimac, Koenigsegg and Noble, all of which would tick the boxes of a Top Gear teen’s spotting list.
Yet, the pretty Spyker, various Porsches, some older than others, Mercedes ‘Pagodas’ and Italian exotica by the score maintained the ‘Wow!’ factor at a modestly respectful level. Pirelli Tyre sponsored the Prestige & Performance Competition, which was centred on 80 truly sensational super and hypercars built from 1976 to date. It was a superb platform for the new colour-coded brand of tyres that apes the painted sidewalls of the current F1 crop. The gathering included a Jaguar XJ220 and the race-intended XJR15, both of which were fated to enforced rarity status due to political and economic circumstances of their eras. The rally-related ‘short-Sport’ Quattro sat comfortably alongside a 205T16, an R5T and the illustrious 037.
Close to 10,000 aficionados, many arriving in their own ‘supercars’, took advantage of the exposition of the great and the good at Blenheim, although it was clear that the Silverstone Auctions tent, with its immaculately affordable (it is all relative) Mark One Escort Mexico, Merc Cosworth and rubber-bumpered Porsches, was a peripheral attraction worth contemplation.
However, as we departed the stately venue, it was only observation that gave us an uninterrupted and captivating close-up exposure to a car that perhaps should have been centre-stage but mysteriously was not. In its unmolested, unadorned, original state, as Marcello Gandini and Ferruccio Lamborghini had intended, a Countach was parked where various classic transporters were stored temporarily out of public view. It made such a bold statement, yet was so defiantly compact, sitting on its period alloys and high-wall tyres. A snapper’s delight and a fitting end to a fabulous, if slightly moist, Sunday.
The immense irony is that quality control standards as practiced today, were studiously ignored by most Mediterranean exotica of the era and despite commanding telephone number values, breakdowns and ‘other issues’ predominated in the sector that would never be tolerated in mainstream. It took Germanic standards to result in any marked improvements, as demonstrated by the Audi RS5, which will rightfully find its place as a classic in the future. Judging by the reverence displayed by exhibitors and visitors, while the UK might no longer boast its own Motor Show, ‘automobilisti’ can still sate their appetites at events like that held at Blenheim.
‘Make Quality Count!’