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Monday, 6 July, 2015 - 12:19 (UK)  

..:: The Subaru Impreza Story

1. The Subaru Impreza Story, as told by me
2. The History of the Subaru Impreza
3. Special Editions
4. Image Galleries
5. My 2001 Subaru Impreza WRX - Red Mica


..:: The History of the Subaru Impreza

Subaru is a subsidiary of Fuji Heavy Industries. Which was originally Nakajima Aircraft back in 1917. It's wasn't until 1954 before Fuji Heavy Industries took on the challenge of building a road car. The name of this car was the P-1 (Nothing like the modern Subaru Impreza P1) which stood for Prototype-1. This name was later changed to the Subaru 1500. And here the Subaru was born. The name Subaru Closely translates to reference the star cluster Pleiades, which is the same famous star cluster that we see make up the subaru logo today. over the decades Subaru continued to build motor cars and in 1972 made it's first 4WD car with the Subaru Leone 4WD Station Wagon. From that point onwards Subaru made something for a name for it's self in the 4WD motor car department, almost like a trade mark. Think Subaru, think All Wheel Drive. However it wasn't until 1992 that the Subaru Impreza was born. So let's pick up the story from there.

1992

The Launch of the Subaru Impreza (Japan) The Subaru Impreza was developed after rule changes in the World Rally Championship (WRC) demanded a replacement to the Subaru Legacy which was previously used by Subaru in the WRC. The changes meant that a new smaller, lighter and faster car was required in order to compete in the WRC. So even from day one, the Subaru Impreza was developed for rallying.

1993

The Subaru Impreza reached the UK. Initially the Subaru Impreza was available in both Front Wheel Drive (FWD) and All Wheel Drive (AWD) versions. However the FWD was soon dropped in preference of the trademark Subaru AWD system.

1994

The Turbo Charged Impreza 2000 AWD reached the UK (Known as the Subaru Impreza WRX in Japan). Also in 2004, Subaru Technica International (STI) was born and we started seeing STI versions of the Subaru Impreza Turbo. The Subaru Impreza WRX STI meant much more than an extra badge on the body. The STI stood for a full upgrading of the Subaru Impreza Taking was was learned on the World Rally stages and incorporating developments into the road car. Many areas were upgraded for the Subaru Impreza STI versions. Engine, Suspension and overall performance and handling greatly improved over the standard car. Top speed was limited to 155mph and 0-62 came in at just 4.7seconds for the Impreza STI. These figures made the Subaru Impreza very sought after by the local boy racers. Albeit a bit more expensive than the your every day Peugeot 205 and Vauxhall Nova.

1995

Subaru won the World Rally Championship in a 555 WRC Subaru Impreza driven by fellow Scotsman Colin McRae. A brilliant achievement for both driver and manufacturer. Driver Colin McRae for being the first ever British driver to win the WRC, and Subaru proved that the Impreza was a World Leading rally car. To mark the success of Subaru winning the WRC championship that year, a special edition Subaru Impreza was released in the form of the McRae Series Subaru Impreza.

1996

Subaru took the manufacturer title for a second year in a row, and promptly released another special edition Impreza knows as the Subaru Impreza Catalunya.

1997

Subaru won a hat-trick of manufacturer championships and celebrated once again by releasing a new special edition Impreza. The Subaru Impreza Terzo (Italian for 3rd). Only 333 Subaru Impreza Terzos were made, as a mark of the three championships won with the Subaru Impreza. 1997 also saw a few changes to the Impreza road car. Interior styling was updated including an exclusive MOMO racing steering wheel. Meanwhile STI versions were given an newly designed rear spoiler. In Japan a special 2-door coupe Subaru Impreza was released which was used as the 1998 WRC car.

1998

The Subaru Impreza 22B. A label that often conjures up thoughts of what the ultimate Subaru Impreza might be. The 22B (Note: for the computer geeks out there, 22B in hex converts to 555 in decimal.) provided a 2.2l boxer engine, more hardcore styling all round including 2-doors instead of 4 and an adjustable rear wing made up just some of the key features of the 22B. Only 400 22B's were made in order to celebrate 40 years of Subaru and only 16 of those were destined for the UK. I've seen three in total!! UK versions also had tweaked gearing which was specifically optimised to UK roads. How cool is that!

1999

To celebrate the new driver lineup of Richard Burns in the Subaru World Rally Team, Subaru decided it was once again time for a special edition. This time the RB5 named after Richard Burns. Sadly in November 2003 Richard Burns was diagnosed with a form of brain tumour and later died on the 25th November 2005 from his illness. This makes the RB5 all the more special now. Only 444 RB5's were made, with the option of the WR Sport pack.

1999 Also saw the release of another special edition. The Subaru Impreza P1, which like the Subaru Impreza 22B was a 2-door coupe model, and like the 22B it was only available in WR Blue. However unlike the 22B the Subaru Impreza P1 delivered a 276bhp out of the box, and supporting a whole load of new accessories such as 10-spoke OZ Titanium racing wheels, improved quick-shift gearbox, rear-wiper, new front wing/splitter, new fog lamps and a new exclusive rear wing. Unlike the Impreza 22B there were 1,000 P1's made. Despite this the Subaru Impreza P1 remains one of the most expensive Subaru Impreza's to buy today.

       

2000

For eight years, the Subaru Impreza remained more or less unchanged (externally) until 2000 where Subaru decided to update the Impreza for the 21st century. This change was met with mixed views. The appropriately labeled Bug-eye version by critics, was just that. Bug-eyed! One can only guess it was Subaru's attempt to make the Impreza all cute and cuddly. But this didn't go down well with the fans. Many NewAge impreza's promptly had their headlights replaces with WRC look-alike HI-Definition (HiD) lamps or the more aggressive looking Morette cluster. What was in favour of the fans was the globalisation of the WRX name. Previously only used in Japan, the WRX badge was now stuck to any Impreza with a Turbo!

2001

To celebrate Richard Burns's win in the WRC and the launch of the of the new model, Subaru decided to launch yet another special edition Impreza. This time the Subaru Impreza UK300. Once again just like the 22B and P1 the only colour available was WR Blue. The UK300 supported new prodrive styled spoilers of which the rear wing looked like was picked from bit of an airfix kit and not put together properly. Thankfully the front end was improved slightly, with the addition of improved HiD headlamps which made the car look slightly less like a bug. Yet no matter what they did, it was still going to be remembered as the Bug-Eyed version. 2001 also saw the arrival of the NewAge (Must stop calling it bug-eyed) Subaru Impreza WRX STI to the UK. Just like previous STI's, this was based on the WRX but tweaked a little by the Subaru Technica International (STI) team. If that wasn't enough there was also the option of a Prodrive Performance Pack (PPP). The Subaru Imrpeza WRX STI saw a few key changes over the standard Subaru Impreza WRX. This time, the addition of a 6-speed gearbox as opposed to the WRX 5-speed. Also a nice welcome was similar headlamps which were found on the UK300.

2002

It didn't take long before Subaru had to give in to pressure from fans and go back to the drawing board (literally) to come up with a new style Subaru Impreza. So in 2002, Subaru announced yet another NewAge Impreza. The MY03. Main difference here was the front end. More or less everything else stayed the same, but those bug-eyed headlamps were out and replaced with slightly less ugly ones. Also a bigger bonnet scoop was included. Not to be outdone, the Subaru Impreza WRX power was increased by 10bhp. Not surprisingly many Bug-eyed Subaru Impreza's were made available on the 2nd hand market as many owners wanted to change their driveway accessory for the new style Subaru Impreza.

Although Turbo versions of the Subaru Impreza were available in Japan and Europe from more or less day one. The US favoured their muscle cars and not these Japanese breed of performance cars. Which meant the Subaru Impreza Turbo's never "officially" reached US soil until the 2002 model. Any previous Subaru Impreza's were Imports. Unfortunately for the US market the famous 2.0l boxer engine had to go. The fuel regulations in the US meant that the high performance expected from the Subaru Impreza could not be achieved from the 2.0l engine with US fuel. Instead, the Subaru Impreza was given a nice new 2.5l boxer engine for the US market, in order to keep the power and performance up.

2004

Another Subaru WRC title win with Petter Solberg at the wheel. Once again sticking with tradition a new special edition was released, known as the Subaru Impreza WR1. I must admit the WR1 is one of my personal favourites, if only because of the unique Ice Blue colour. Only 500 WR1's were made, but Subaru decided to throw everything at it, including PPP and Driver Controlled Centre Diff (DCCD). The Subaru Impreza WRX STI also saw further improvements in 2004 with upgraded mechanics from the Japanese models. This new revised STI saw a new front diff, along with the DCCD system which was found on the WR1 and UK300 models. Nice!

2005

Towards the end of 2005. Again just 2 years after the previous model was replaced, Subaru decided to release another new bodied Subaru Impreza, the MY06. This time with new crystal rear light cluster and yet another new front end. The jury is still out about whether or not it is a hit or a miss. I personally think it looks Awesome. Almost as though Subaru have forgotten the last 5 years and gone back to the aggressive styling of the original Subaru Impreza from the 90's! I admit, it did take a few days to get used to, but after you see past the SEAT grill and BMW headlamps you soon realise that this is the sort of car you want other people to see you in, in their rear view mirror. (Admittedly briefly as you scream past them shortly after words :) Sadly the MY06 marked the end for the traditional 2.0l boxer engine. Instead we saw the introduction of the 2.5l boxer engine into the Subaru Impreza. A sad end which seems to have gone relatively unnoticed. But then think of what they can do with that extra 500cubic centimetres of space. Mwaahaahaahaa!...

2006

Towards the end of 2006. Subaru / Prodrive announced the realease of a new Special Edition Impreza. Sadly without recent success in the WRC. This time the special edition was to celebrate the life of previous Subaru WRC Champion Richard Burns who sadly died 12 months previously due to a brain tumour. The New Special Edition Subaru Impreza was to be named the RB320. That's 320bhp and a limited number of 320 to be produced. Essentially the RB320 is a 2006 model Subaru Impeza WRX STi PPP with just abotu ever add on you can think of, along with bespoke prodrive/blitsen dampers, exclusive obsidian black paint work, black alloys and full dront grill set. All in all making the RB320 very exclusive and ver agressive looking with only small markings on the passenger, drivers doors and boot lid of a small orange RB320 logo. The rest of the car is very much black in respect for the late Richard Burns. A true trubite to a great champion!

       

2007

I have yet to come up with a word that describes Subaru in 2007. At the time of writing Subaru had recently announced the drascically redesigned 2008 model of the Subaru Impreza (You can see some photos here) Make your own mind up about what you think of it. My initial thoughts are yuk.. And I have to say my thoughts are still more or less the same. The car does NOT look agressive as it shoudl and just looks like any other family hatchback on the road. a fair pecentage of the Impreza's appeal has always been it's agressive shape and styling. Even teh bugeye version admitedly wasn't welcomed by many had the trademark styling that for every other angle you knew it was an Impreza and more importantly a car to be reckoned with!. This new one doesn't do much for me I'm afraid. Doesn't excite me when I see pictures of it like previous styles. The same recipie is still there usign the same 2.5l boxer engine from teh MY06 models, a new intercooler has been shoved in. Power remains teh same at 225ps for the WRX model, awd as standard of course :). However the tyres are narrower than previous versions. Also it's worth noting that at time of writing there are no plans for a WRX version or saloon version for the UK. Instead we'll have the basic models then a jump up to the STi's I see this as a mistake as the WRX hits a just about affordable market for most peopel who cant afford te £25k price of the STi. However somethign new for the MY08 Impreza will be the introduction of a 170bhp Diesel Impreza. Thats right diesel. Should be interesting...Watch this space...

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BMW team WSR dominates Croft BTCC event - video highlights

WSR BMW racer Sam Tordoff leads the field at Croft
West Surrey Racing trio of Andy Priaulx, Sam Tordoff and Rob Collard take a win each - watch highlights of the racing

The WSR BMW team enjoyed a perfect weekend in the British Touring Car Championship round at Croft, with three of its drivers each taking a race win.

Former world touring car champion Andy Priaulx opened the weekend with his first victory in the BTCC since he returned to it at the start of this season.

Priaulx first had to find a way past pole man and team-mate Sam Tordoff, finding a way past on the sixth lap after the leader made a mistake at the chicane. He then had to soak up enormous pressure for the rest of the race, and for a period the WSR team had three cars line astern as team-mate Rob Collard joined in the battle until his tyres faded.

Tordoff got his revenge in race two, leading from lights to flag and never coming under pressure as he eked out a comfortable gap to the Team BMR Volkswagen CCs of Jason Plato and Colin Turkington.

In the final race of the weekend, it was Collard?s turn to enjoy the top step of the podium, although it was only after a thrilling tussle with the consistent Gordon Shedden (Honda Civic Type R), who now leads the championship.

Shedden battled from third to first early on in the race, and stayed out front until there were just three laps left to run. However, with the Honda running soft tyres to Collard?s more durable hard set, the BMW driver was able to pass. Meanwhile, the tracking Priaulx was able to make a last-lap dive to depose Shedden to third.

The result leaves Shedden 10 points clear of erstwhile championship leader Plato and a further 12 points clear of Honda team-mate Matt Neal.

  

2016 Jaguar F-Pace acts as Team Sky support car - plus video
Jaguar F-Pace prototype took part in the first stage of the 2015 Tour de France as Team Sky's official support car

A prototype version of the 2016 Jaguar F-Pace has acted as an official support vehicle for Team Sky in this year?s Tour de France cycle race.

The car is still camouflaged, but it gives the clearest indication yet of the look of the upcoming SUV.

This prototype acted as the support vehicle for the first stage of the Tour, the so-called Grand Depart, and carried team members and support equipment for the likes of British riders Chris Froome, Luke Rowe and Peter Kennaugh. This stage was short by the Tour?s standards, as it is a 13.7km time trial.

The F-Pace will not be following the team through the rest of the Tour, around France and into the mountains.

The F-Pace is due to go on sale in early 2016, following its debut at the Frankfurt motor show in September. The car's first appearance was confirmed in April by the firm's brand director, Steven de Ploey.

Other recent spy shots have caught what appears to be a supercharged 3.0-litre V6 version of the F-Pace out on the roads. Although the prototype is still heavily disguised, several elements mark it out clearly as a performance version of Jaguar's new SUV. It features red brake calipers, two large tailpipes and chunky alloy wheels.

The supercharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine is set to be the most powerful version of the F-Pace when it goes on sale, although there is a chance that the supercharged 5.0-litre petrol V8 that's used in many of Jaguar's high-performance models will also make it into the F-Pace.

The staple engines in the F-Pace are expected to be the new four-cylinder Ingenium petrol and diesel units that will make their debut in the Jaguar XE saloon and Land Rover Discovery Sport from this summer.

The spy images confirm that, as expected, Jaguar's first production SUV ? which the manufacturer is referring to as a 'sports crossover' ? will share its overall design and shape with the C-X17 concept car unveiled at the Frankfurt motor show in 2013.

The size and dimensions are said to be near identical to the C-X17, which is 4.72m long ? 400mm longer than a Range Rover Evoque ? and 1.65m tall.

The F-Pace has a more upright stance than Jaguar's typically rakish car designs, although the plunging roof at the rear means it retains a sleek profile. The bluff front end treatment suggests the SUV will follow the C-X17's lead in that the driver will look over the bonnet, rather than down it.

The concept had what Jaguar called ?an assured driving position? set at ?a low height?, similar to that of an Evoque, and this is likely to be a staple part of the F-Pace driving experience.

The C-X17 concept also featured a muscular ridged bonnet. This hallmark of other Jaguar models appears to have been retained under the camouflage of the F-Pace prototype.

The spy pictures also offer a glimpse at the cabin and dashboard of the Jaguar F-Pace. Aside from the data-collecting apparatus, it bears little resemblance to any current JLR production model, suggesting the Jaguar F-Pace will reach production with a fresh interior look.

The launch of the new F-Pace marks the first time the 80-year-old manufacturer has entered the SUV market. The F-Pace name is understood to have been chosen to emphasise both its relationship in style and character with the F-Type sports car and to recall Jaguar?s famous 'Grace, Pace, Space' slogan of the 1950s and 1960s.

The new SUV squarely targets Porsche?s Macan and BMW?s X4 models. It should command a starting price of about £35,000, reaching upwards as far as £50,000.

The new car is expected to become one of Jaguar?s two best-selling models, performing strongly in major markets such as China and the US and rivalling the volume of the upcoming XE compact saloon.

Once established in the market, the two debutantes should push total Jaguar volume beyond 200,000 units a year, up from last year?s figure of about 80,000.

JLR?s global operations director, Andy Goss, says the emergence of the F-Pace is a direct result of the company?s plan to spend more than £3.5 billion a year on product development over the next few years.

The F-Pace?s styling was created in-house by design boss Ian Callum and his team at the beginning of 2013. It is a relatively long car for its compact billing, nearly 40cm longer than a Range Rover Evoque and about the same height.

These generous dimensions allow the car its curvaceous exterior (?If you want form,? says Callum, ?you need space?), which includes muscular haunches, classic Jaguar bonnet lines and strongly raked front and rear windscreens.

Callum admits it took time to shape a convincing SUV in the image of the F-type. ?This was our first crossover design,? he says, ?and, yes, it was hard. We found the initial results quite difficult and disappointing. The profile, the 200-metre view, was the hardest bit, and that?s what sells cars. But I reckon we cracked it in the end.?

The F-Pace will be built in Jaguar?s new Solihull plant.

?We?ve been talking about a product onslaught for a quite while,? says Goss, ?and now it?s beginning.? 

Although the F-Pace will be Jaguar's first SUV model, it might not be the only SUV for long. Jaguar is understood to be eyeing up a whole family of SUVs to follow on from the F-Pace, with one of the most promising ideas being a smaller model to rival BMW's X1.

Jaguar has also produced a short film for the launch of the F-Pace.

Q&A with Andy Goss, Jaguar Land Rover global operations director

F-Pace is an unusual name. Why did you choose it?

"There was plenty of discussion about it. We wanted to emphasise the car?s relationship with F-type, which we view as our emotional fulcrum. And 'pace' implies performance, which the car certainly has. Besides that, it?s a word we own; we started using it in the famous 'Grace, Pace, Space' slogan many years ago."

How important is the F-Pace to your range?

"It could be the biggest seller we?re going to have, similar in size to the XE. The sector volume has tripled in five years, and all predictions say it?ll expand by another 30 per cent in the next five. These cars sell well in all the big markets: China, the US and Europe. It?s really important for us."  

Are you worried about a clash with Land Rover?

"Not at all. The F-Pace?s exterior design and its obvious reference to the F-type is one huge point of differentiation. And whereas Land Rovers are focused on off-road performance, this car is very definitely aimed at highway use. Frankly, the real surprise is that we haven?t done it before."

Even without the F-Pace or XE, you?ve had a good year at JLR, right?

"Yes. Total sales were up nine per cent to 462,678 units and Jaguar had its best year for a decade. We have 12 new product actions planned this year and anticipate retailing 500,000 cars for the first time in the company?s history."

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Aston Martin, F1, Red Bull and Mercedes ? why we put them together
How the story of Aston Martin, Mercedes and Red Bull developed over the British Grand Prix weekend

I ought to be clear that the story linking Aston Martin, Red Bull Racing and Mercedes in Formula 1, which broke on the eve of the British Grand Prix on Saturday, was a collaborative effort with the team at autosport.com, with the balance of credit belonging to them. In particular, it hinges around one source who cannot be named today lest his identity be uncovered, but who deserves full recognition if the deal comes off in the fulness of time.

But what a story it is: in simple terms we are linking Aston Martin to a deal that would put their logo back on a Formula 1 car for the first time since 1960 and lead to a sensational switch from Renault to Mercedes AMG power units for the Red Bull Racing team.

Inevitably, our story made quite an impact and caught the Formula 1 paddock off-guard, prompting many to denounce it without bothering to dig too hard. For the benefit of them, and hopefully for you, here?s some context. 

The story first came together around the Goodwood Festival of Speed a week ago. Strictly speaking, it?s not new news; Formula 1 correspondent Joe Saward ? formerly of this parish ? had been hinting at a deal involving Aston Martin and a Mercedes-engined team since late last year. But we had good reason to believe the deal had taken a big step towards reality.

Between Goodwood and last Saturday evening we tried to put the jigsaw of facts and fiction together. Then, as now, there were an awful lot of pieces that needed to come together to make the story a reality - but at every turn there was confirmation that the parties involved were set on a path to at least trying to find a way to make it happen.

I?ve no doubt there are agendas at play; there always are in F1. To reach the end goal requires some significant shifting of legally binding contracts, let alone positions and posturing. But, in case you missed it, the story we wrote says only that the parties are talking about such a deal - not that it has been done.

I am still confident in the story?s claims that Aston Martin is willing to discuss having its name on a Mercedes-powered car, that Mercedes is willing to let that happen and that Red Bull Racing is very open to the possibility of Mercedes power. Three clear statements - although not, I must admit, necessarily adding up to to a Mercedes-powered Red Bull with Aston Martin backing.

There is fog around the positions of the Mercedes Grand Prix team and the wider Mercedes-Benz senior management. I sense that the idea of Aston sponsoring Williams, Lotus or Force India may be more palatable to the F1 personnel than the idea of putting an engine in a Red Bull, which Aston then happens to sponsor.

Originally, I?d been assured that senior Mercedes board members (i.e. the ones who pay the bills) were comfortable with the idea of an Aston Martin and Red Bull tie-up. Subsequently, though, I?ve been assured that the board would never make such an agreement without it passing before the racing team?s management first.

That?s an intriguing dynamic in itself and one into which I don?t have any insight, although I would say that, in my experience, racing folk almost without fail significantly over-estimate their power within the parent company by a significant margin.

Now, to set the record straight. Firstly, I?ve been accused of being played by Aston Martin, with the claim going that they planted the story with me to make some headlines around the British Grand Prix.

I?m not into revealing sources, but I see no harm in saying that Aston Martin made no comments to me, other than responding when I put the story to them. Tellingingly, I think, they didn?t deny it but instead stated they had no comment to make - as published in our story.

Second, after the story broke Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff told the press that we had claimed the deal would result in the powerplants being branded as Aston Martin units - something he made a point of saying would never happen, and which came across to me as a means of discrediting the story. At no point did we make this claim - we have always been clear that the engines would be Mercedes units, but that the cars would carry Aston Martin branding.

To be fair to Wolff, however, we did not specifically run the story past him or members of his team before publishing it. The team at Silverstone asked only if Mercedes would be prepared to consider a broader deal with Aston Martin branding, which they confirmed they would. It is fair to say the Red Bull angle may have been a twist that Wolff was not expecting.

On Sunday morning, Niki Lauda also went on record to rubbish the story, and other Mercedes officials moved fast to say it had no substance.

But then the tide started to turn, albeit in slightly convoluted fashion.

Wolff held a question and answer session with Mercedes guests at the grand prix. One of the guests sent me a recording. The essence of what Wolff said when asked if there was any truth in the story was this:  "We must be open-minded. Our number one objective is to win the world championship. At the moment I would say I cannot see a situation of us supplying an engine to our number one enemy, but maybe we need to recalibrate who our number one enemy is tomorrow and next year."

At the end of the interview, the man asking the questions laughed and added, ?so that?s a no, then?. But then I stopped and listened to Wolff?s comments again. Quite plainly, it wasn?t an out-and-out no. To claim so was wrong. The Mercedes folk might have wanted that to be the answer, but it wasn?t.

As you can read in our post-race update on the story here, Wolff, speaking to the Autosport team, has since reiterated his comments, while Red Bull boss Christian Horner has also left the door ajar for discussions. I am told that Wolff?s comments were made in the spirit of ?never saying never?, as opposed to embracing the idea, but that?s still a shift from where Lauda was on Sunday morning.

To me, that feels like a lot of doors that are ajar - and the original sources have restated that belief over the course of today. To reiterate: Aston Martin have said ?no comment? not ?no way?. The boss of Mercedes F1 has said he is ?open? to such a deal. And the boss of Red Bull Racing has declined to rule it out as a possibility.

How will it end? Let?s acknowledge now that it may not happen. All we have written is that talks are happening - and I remain confident that they are. However, as stated above, the number and complexity of the hoops that need to be jumped through are significant.

The ongoing contract between Red Bull and Renault needs to be sorted out, Mercedes would have to agree to give Red Bull an engine - and the signs are that the racing team side of the operation doesn?t want to ? and then Aston Martin would have to want to sponsor this new operation.

If it doesn?t happen with Red Bull, I still think we may see Aston Martin branding on the side of an F1 car. Company boss Andy Palmer knows from brokering the Infiniti deal with Red Bull the benefits - particularly in Asia - of aligning with F1 to raise brand awareness.

But, of course, as I sit here now, there is a very real chance of nothing at all coming of it. But better, I think, to have sourced, checked and rechecked the validity of a story and broken it than to have sat worrying about what might happen three months down the line.

And until then, I?m inclined to invoke the old adage about there being no smoke without fire.

Cropley on cars - Hope for supercars, a day with Aston boss Andy Palmer
Jaguar restores my faith in fast cars; Andy Palmer has big plans for Aston Martin; Goodwood remains as glorious as ever

MONDAY - I think there may be hope for my driving after all.

In recent years, I?ve become quietly desperate about the way the very quickest performance cars ? McLaren 650S, Porsche GT3 and suchlike ? impose such loads on your body as they corner, brake and accelerate near the limit that it?s all you can do to drive them precisely for more than a few minutes.

Some will dismiss this as heresy, but I?m telling you the truth when I say sustained on-limit driving, even in the finest road cars, is a job for athletes of the Le Mans persuasion ? unless, of course, you opt for the half-out-of-control-on-an-airfield thing that so reliably sustained ?Top Gear all those years.

Funnily enough, it was driving the ?continuation series? Lightweight E-Type Jag, on its traditional-treaded Dunlop racing tyres, that restored some of my faith.

The generous limits of this car, high enough to be quick, low enough to be predictable, allow you to judge exactly how far the shapely rear will slide under power, to exit quick corners exactly on line. I suspect this is why historic racing has become so popular in recent times. I certainly want to experience this feeling again.

WEDNESDAY - What a privilege to spend time with Aston Martin chief Andy Palmer on a busy working day (you'll be able to read about that online soon). Don?t believe I?ve ever learned so much in so few hours.

Although flat out all day, Palmer even found time to explain, in his office via a whiteboard, some essential principles of marketing he reckoned I was missing.

Most reassuring were the Aston chief?s plans to make the 102-year-old firm sustainably profitable by expanding its sports model range enough to protect it against boom and bust, and to earn sufficient ?free cash? with all-new models to fund the all-important model range after next. Watching Aston?s next decade is going to be a pleasure.  

THURSDAY - To Goodwood?s Moving Motor Show, to have my first go in Ford?s new Mustang on UK soil. Henry?s people were as helpful as ever, but they had only a convertible version with the 300bhp Ecoboost turbo four on hand, and my choice would have been a V8 coupé.

I?d become concerned about ?Stang ride quality during early testing in the US (the car literally bucked its way around Hollywood), so I was braced for rude shocks in two ways. But it was great. With my friend Mike driving, it felt supple, powerful and smooth. On the bumpy estate roads you use to return to the start of the famous hillclimb, the car coped really well. Now I?m lined up for a longer drive, full of hope.

As for the MMC, it was packed as I?ve never seen it packed before on a Thursday. If the looming London Motor Show next May ? or the weekend?s Formula E grand prix in London?s Battersea Park ? were any threat to Lord March?s famous fixture, it wasn?t evident. Everywhere you looked, there was the usual evidence that Goodwood?s organisers had thought things through a little better this year.     

SATURDAY/SUNDAY - The Range Rover?s away on someone else?s holiday, the Ferrari?s been grabbed for Goodwood by AN Other and the Suzuki Celerio is a little small, so my transport for Goodwood?s big days is a Volkswagen Golf R,? billed by many as the finest hot hatch, and one of the most versatile cars ever built.

I?m paying my dues and joining the fan club. It?s quite clear the car has been created out of perfect decisions about space, styling, driving position, materials, performance level and much more. Its only fault is its own effortlessness. Without a rival permanently on hand, you?re inclined not to realise quite ?how well it?s doing.

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Future for manual BMW M cars 'not bright'
New BMW M boss Frank van Meel says automatic transmissions and power outputs capped at 600bhp are the future of the performance brand

BMW's M cars could become automatic only and are unlikely to get more than 600bhp.

BMW M boss Frank van Meel says competition between the DCT dual-clutch and automatic gearboxes is good for the brand and both ?boxes have a future.

However, manual gearboxes could become a thing of the past for M cars because of declining sales figures.

Van Meel said: ?From a technical standpoint, the future doesn?t look bright for manual gearboxes. The DCT and auto ?boxes are faster and they have better fuel consumption.

"It?s difficult to say we?ll stick to the manual, but we still have a big fan community for manuals and we are not going to take away something the customer wants to have.?

Van Meel also said 600bhp is the current limit of an M car?s capability. ?For now, 600bhp is the most you can get in an M car,? he said.

?We?re at the limit. If you go on adding more horsepower and torque, it?d probably be over the limits.?

Read more:

Say goodbye to the manual gearbox

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