ITH – Lightweights – The Interview {{favouriteCount}} Quantity of Likes

3 Jan 2018

I sit writing this article, somewhat foggy headed, bloated like a beached whale on the 1st January. A couple of weeks of Christmas excess, zero restraint has me turning to the same resolutions as the rest of the country – to lose some weight this new year. So what better subject for this week’s In the Headlights than Lightweight cars! Generally, more lightweight vehicles tend to be used for track and fast road driving given the way they handle and perform, so the ideal person to choose our cars was Chris Pickering, Contributing Editor of Racetech and Track Car Performance. Chris explains his reasoning below:

Elemental RP1 2.3

At first glance, £120,000 sounds like a lot of money for a car that doesn’t even have doors. But the Elemental RP1 is the real deal. With a dry weight of under 600 kg, a carbon fibre composite tub and a proper competition-style sequential gearbox it’s a true racer for the road.

Porsche 911 Carrera T

Porsche has done something it’s rather good at with the new 911 Carrera T. It might not be as extreme as a GT3 (or the frankly unhinged GT2 RS), but the company has effectively raided the options list for the standard car and ticked all the best boxes. The result is a car that offers more than the sum of its parts. And with a weight saving of around 20 kg …  also somewhat less.

VW Golf GTI Clubsport S

Hot hatches are consummate all-rounders, and none more so than the Volkswagen Golf GTI. If there’s a criticism to be made of the standard model, though, it’s that it’s such a well-rounded product that it can feel a tiny bit too grown up at times. That’s not an accusation you’d ever level at the Golf GTI Clubsport S. Stripped of its rear seats, not to mention much of the sound deadening, only available in manual form and fitted with a limited slip differential as standard, this is the ultimate driver’s Golf. As fast around the Nürburgring Nordschleife as a Lamborghini Murcielago and very nearly as silly.

Lotus Elise Sprint 220

Lotus founder Colin Chapman famously said that the key to producing a good sports car was to ‘add lightness’. His modern day counterparts at Hethel have done exactly that with the Elise Sprint 220, shedding 26 kg from the weight of the already-lithe Sport 220, yet retaining its 217 bhp supercharged engine. That might not sound like a lot these days, but combined with a dry weight of just 851 kg, it makes for truly explosive performance.


And now, the Interview…

It’s incredible how many people we speak to who have strong memories of cars courtesy of their petrolhead parents. Yet Chris Pickering possibly trumps the lot, given that his first ever memory is a motoring one. Aged three.

“I can remember going to the garage of our first house and seeing this incredible blood-red car which turned out to be an Alfa Romeo Alfetta GTV. It was sensational.

“At the time of buying the Alfa, dad was toying with the idea of a TVR Tasmin 2+2. As a result of this flirtation, I had the brochures plastered all over my bedroom walls.”

It no doubt accounts for the fact that one of Chris’s current drives is a TVR Chimaera 500. Along with a Quantum kit car. And a BMW E46 330 ci.

But old cars are in his blood too.

“Dad passed his driving test in 1959/60 and still has the car he ever bought – a pre-war Wolsey Hornet Special. He’s had a couple of Austin Healey 3000s and a TVR M Series as well.”

With TVR in his genes, what does he think of the new TVR?

“I’m reserving judgement until I see it in the flesh,” he says thoughtfully, “but I think they’ve missed a trick. There’s a lot of competition in the £90k space and they should have been a bit bolder.”

While Chris always wanted to be a motoring journalist, he fulfilled his ambition only after a stint as a development engineer at Ford.

“I’d wanted to write about cars for a long time but my dad was an engineer so I got steered towards engineering. I worked on the engines for the S-Max, Galaxy and Mondeo but all the time I was writing.

“I ended up doing some grown-up placements at the likes of MSN Cars, Evo and Autocar and developed very much into something of an engine expert. Most of the reviews I do now are when a new engine has been launched, rather than a specific car.

“I was on the launch for the McLaren 720S and the sheer performance of that engine was staggering,” he confesses.

Of course, should BOTB rock up to the Pickerings Somerset pad with a dream car under the cover, what would that be?

“Normally I’m quite objective,” Chris ponders, “but that goes completely out of the window when I see an Aston Martin badge. Until recently my stock answer was a V12 Vantage S but this year I had the chance to drive the Vanquish S and it was absolutely sublime.

“The V12 Vantage feels a bit blunt – more of a muscle car – but the Vanquish S has this extra delicacy about it. More finesse. Free revving. It’s stunning.”

Of course, keeping Chris to one car is impossible.

“If I won the EuroMillions I could easily have £30m spent on cars in an afternoon,” he laughs. “If that was the case, an early Zonda would be on the list as well!”


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