In my capacity as Events Manager and one of the team of people who run the Abarth Owners Club, I get plenty of messages, often from people I’ve not met or even communicated with before. Some are simple questions, but others come to me with some really interesting and positive ideas of things that they either would like to see happen, or even that they are happy to help organise. The event that is described in this report came about in precisely this way. A member who I’d not been aware of before messaged me to say that he and a friend had just been to a recently opened venue called “Podium Place” and not only was it a very nice place to go, and meet up with friends over coffee, but that he had spoken to the staff on site who were particularly keen to welcome Car Clubs. DJ approached me to see if we could take the Abarth Owners Club there. I have to confess that I’d never heard of Podium Place, but Google being on hand, I was able to find out that the venue is right in the middle of Newbury, and that is a meeting place that specialises in serving really high quality coffee as well as home made cakes and other refreshments and that as well as being a meeting place, it also houses a number of classic and high end cars that are sited there whilst up for sale. It only opened in 2020, which is perhaps why I’d not heard of it. Anyway, a combination of intrigue, a desire to keep finding new venues to meet, and the positive recommendation from DJ meant that I did not hesitate to reach out to the contact he gave me. She quickly came back and offered a date for a Saturday in mid August, the day before the Brands Hatch Festival Italia, which was perfect for me, as it would be a great stopping off point en route to Kent. The only caveat I was given is that there would be space for around 30 cars, so if more than that were expected we might have an issue. I duly advertised the event, and ensure that it was publicised on a couple of the other local Abarth Groups, knowing that as well as suggesting this event, DJ was actually keen to create an Abarth Berkshire Group, and that this would serve as an inaugural event. There was a solid response, so I looked forward to visiting this new venue and meeting yet more Abarth Owners.
You really would not find Podium Place by accident. It is in the middle of Newbury but not a main road or even any sort of through road, so you need the courage of your convictions and to believe your navigation system, as it takes you down a bumpy road with industrial units on either side. Keep going, though, and suddenly you will spot Podium Place, set back a little from the road, on the right hand side. I was later than I had intended, as I had first had to call into the dealer in Swindon to reclaim my car following its service and MoT, so when I got there the forecourt was already filled with Abarths. Around 20 of them when I counted. With the notable exception of the Abarth Punto, which was conspicuous by its absence, on show here was pretty much a history lesson in the modern Abarth with all the major versions of the marque’s products represented.
The vast majority of cars here were the 500-based models which have been on sale now since the end of 2008, following a launch at the Paris Show that year. Since that time there have been a number of detailed changes to the standard cars and a lot of limited editions. Those who really know the marque can spot most of them, but some are so subtle that unless there is a badge you can see, you will not ne quite sure which version you are looking at. It used to be relatively easy, when the model was first launched, as there was only one version as shipped ex works called the 500. It had a 135 bhp 1.4 litre turbo-charged engine coupled to a five speed manual gearbox, with 16″ alloys as standard, and the option of 17″ wheels, and a colour palette comprising of two whites (BossaNova White, the standard colour, or the pearlescent Funk White), Red (Pasadoble), Pale Grey (Campovolo) or Black. If you wanted more power – 160 bhp – then you could order an Esseesse kit, which came in a large wooden crate, containing new wheels, springs, an ECU upgrade, the Monza exhaust system and badging. It was dealer fitted and could be applied at any time within the first 12 months or 10,000 miles from registration. Needless to say, it proved popular. As were many of the optional extras, with stickers for the sides, a large scorpion for the bonnet and even a chequered pattern for the roof among the personalisation options offered. Several of the original style of cars were here.
Whilst a sliding glass sunroof (Skydome in Fiat/Abarth parlance) was an option from inception, fans of open air motoring had to wait until Geneva 2010 for the launch of the 500C models, with a roll-back roof which provided the best of open-topped motoring and yet still with the rigidity of the regular body style. For the first few months these cars only came with the robotised manual gearbox, which limited the appeal in the eyes of some, but they also introduced us to the “bi-colore”, a series of two tone cars, with upper and lower halves of the body painted in different colours. It took us a while to get used to this, as no other production road cars had been painted like this for some time, but now this is seen as yet another of those marque defining attributes, and (perhaps with the exception of the rarely seen Rally Beige and Officina Red combination that would come for 2014) in the eyes of many this distinctive look enhances the appeal of the cars still further.
Having used the legendary 695 badging from the 1960s on the Tributo cars, at the 2012 Geneva Show, Abarth dusted off the 595 name that had been used on the less powerful of the Nuova 500 based cars of the same generation, and created two new versions which we should think of as Series 2 cars, the 595 Turismo and Competizione, both of which could be bought in either closed or open top C guise, with either the 5 speed manual or robotised automated gearshifts. Both models had the 160 bhp engine as standard. Effectively they were a replacement for the Esseesse kit, and it meant that the cars were produced complete at the factory, rather than needing the dealer to undertake the upgrade (and the associated paperwork), though Abarth did not withdraw the Esseesse kits from the market for some while. Turismo, as the name suggests was aimed slightly less extreme in intent, featuring standard leather upholstery, upgraded dampers and climate control, Xenon headlights and Alutex interior details. The sportier Abarth 595 Competizione replaced the leather seats with Sabelt cloth sport seats and Alutex with aluminium, while adding p-cross-drilled brakes and the Record Monza dual-mode exhaust.
Rumours started to circulate towards the end of 2014 that Abarth were going to upgrade the Competizione model, so as better to bridge the gap between the Turismo and the 190 bhp 695 Biposto that had been added to the range earlier in the year. It was Geneva 2015 when the result was finally shown to an expectant fan base. Most exciting news was that thanks to a bigger Garrett Turbo, the engine had been tweaked to 180 bhp, and with reduced CO2 emissions. A standard spec that included Koni Dampers, Brembo brakes, Xenon lights, Sabelt seats, Climate Control, parking sensors as well as other refinements that had been added like the TFT instrument display all proved very compelling, so not long after the first cars reached the UK in June of 2015, I found temptation too hard to resist, and as is well documented here, swapped my 2010 car for one of these. At the time I ordered it, Cordolo Red, a tri-coat pearlescent paint which shimmers in bright sunlight looked set to become one of the most popular colours of the lot, even though it is a cost option. Indeed, the Launch Edition models were all offered either in this colour or Scorpion Black, with black wheels. Surprisingly, the colour was not carried over to the Series 4 cars.
What is known as the Series 4 version of the familiar 595 reached the markets in the middle of 2016. After rumours had circulated all winter following the launch of the facelifted Fiat 500 last year, Abarth finally unveiled the Series 4 at the end of May 2016. Initially, we were told that the cars would not be available in the UK until September, but that came forward somewhat, with dealers all receiving demo cars in June, and the first customers taking delivery in July. Three regular production versions of both the closed car and the open-topped C were initially available, all badged 595, and called Custom, Turismo and Competizione, as before, though numerous limited edition models have since appeared and in most case disappeared. The most significant changes with the Series 4 are visual, with a couple of new colours, including the much asked for Modena Yellow and a different red, called Abarth Red, which replaces both the non-metallic Officina and – slightly surprisingly – the tri-coat pearlescent Cordolo Red. as well as styling changes front and rear. The jury is still out on these, with many, me included, remaining to be convinced. At the front, the new air intake does apparently allow around 15 – 20 % more air in and out, which will be welcome, as these cars do generate quite a lot of heat under the bonnet. Competizione models for the UK retain the old style headlights, as they have Xenon lights as standard, whereas the Custom and Turismo cars have reshaped units. At the back, there are new light clusters and a new rear bumper and diffuser. Inside, the most notable change is the replacement of the Blue & Me system with a more modern uConnect Audio set up, which brings a new colour screen to the dash. Mechanically, there is an additional 5 bhp on the Custom (now 145) and Turismo (now 165 bhp) and the option of a Limited Slip Diff for the Competizione, which is likely to prove a popular option. Details of the interior trim have changed, with a filled-in glovebox like the US market cars have always had, and electric windows switches that are like the US ones, as well as a part Alcantara trim to the steering wheel in Competizione cars. These cars have now been on offer for over four years and with Abarth sales on the rise, it was no surprise that they were particularly well represented here.
A top of the range 595 Esseesse model was added in early 2019. These cars have only sold in quite small numbers, so you don’t see them that often, but there were some here, including Tristan Fudge’s example, which is black. This makes it unusual as the majority of these cars seem to be Campovolo Grey, and indeed there was a grey one here as well. The most obvious change externally is the adoption of the neat white painted 17inch multi-spoke alloy wheels that are an Esseesse trademark, while elsewhere it gets the same recently reprofiled bumpers as the standard 595. Inside, there’s a pair of bespoke figure-hugging Sabelt high-backed seats with a carbonfibre shell and some natty red stitching, while carbonfibre trim also covers the pedals and the dashboard. Under the bonnet is the familiar 178bhp turbocharged 1.4-litre engine, but here it breathes in through a BMC filter and exhales from a switchable carbonfibre-tipped Akrapovič twin exit exhaust. There’s no more power than the old Competizione, but the Esseesse gets that model’s Brembo callipers for its 305mm front discs, plus a limited-slip differential. The suspension is largely carried over, including Koni’s frequency selective dampers. All this comes at a price though, and so this has remained a relatively rare sighting compared to the Competizione which many still feel offers rather better value for money.
A large number of Abarth owners modify their cars, in the quest of extracting more power or simply because they want to personalise them in some way. Over the years a vast amount of knowledge, expertise and experience has been amassed and there is a very active group called Modified Abarth which is the focal point for this topic. Perhaps the most obvious example of the genre here was Sam Tomlin’s car, immediately standing out thanks to the orange wrap. Most people – me included – think that orange suits the car, but Abarth have yet to be convinced to offer it is a standard colour. Sam has done a lot more than just wrap the car, though with major modifications under the bonnet and in the cabin.
Also rather distinctive is Ben Buckland’s car, with its Alitalia livery making it stand out and there were a couple of other cars which. when you looked closely, were far from the way they left the factory.
There were also three examples of the 124 Spider, those of Bertie Bryant and Bradley Lawrence being familiar from many an event and a third one belonging to Jeremy Ingham, who had only had his car for two weeks and who had found about this event from Instagram, without being aware of the multiplicity of Facebook Groups and associated events for Abarth Owners. This was the first meet he was attending. Eagerly awaited, the 124 Spider went on sale in September 2016. A quick reminder as to what this car is: The Abarth 124 Spider was developed in parallel with the Fiat model. It does cost a lot more, and there are those who think you don’t get enough extra for your money, but those who have driven it will tell you otherwise. You certainly get more power. The 1.4 MultiAir turbo unit jumps up from 138bhp to 168bhp, while torque also increases by a modest 10Nm to 250Nm, which gives it a 0-62mph time of 6.8 seconds, which is half a second quicker than the 2.0-litre Mazda MX-5. The top speed is 143mph. It weighs just 1060kg meaning a power-to-weight ratio of 158bhp-per-tonne, and with the new Record Monza exhaust system it sounds great even at idle. The Abarth version gets a stiffer suspension setup than the regular Fiat 124 Spider, with Bilstein dampers and beefed-up anti-roll bars. Bigger Brembo brakes also feature, with aluminium calipers. It can be had with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission with paddles, and the latter gets a Sport mode for quicker shifts. Many of the UK cars sport the ‘Heritage Look’ pack, which is a no-cost option. It brings a matt black bonnet and bootlid, plus red exterior trim detailing and has proved popular. The £29,565 starting price gets you standard equipment such as cruise control, climate control, Bluetooth, a DAB radio and satnav, plus Alcantara black and red (or pure black) seat trim. The automatic gearbox is a £2,035 extra, while an optional visibility pack brings LED DRLs, auto lights and wipers and rear parking sensors. Production ceased in 2019 and around 1800 examples came to the UK, so this will always be a rare car.
There is space inside the main building for around half a dozen cars, though they are crammed in with not a lot of space around some of them, and the light was such that photos of them range from not very good, to really not very good or going to be so bad that I did not bother! A couple more of the cars that are stored on site here, on behalf of their owners were parked up in the frontal area and I did spot that there is another area around the back the other side of some large metal gates, which we could not access. Here is what I saw.
Aston Martin Virage: After a production run of over 20 years, Aston came up with a new body shape for the 1988 Birmingham Motor Show, and called the new car the Virage. Initially announced solely as a close coupe, it was not long before an open-topped model was added to the range and then in 1993, these were joined by the high-performance Vantage. The name of the base model was changed to V8 Coupé in 1996. The V8-powered model was intended as the company’s flagship model, with the 6-cylinder DB7, introduced in 1994, positioned below it as an entry-level model. Although the DB7 became available with a V12 engine and claimed a performance advantage, the Virage remained the exclusive, expensive and hand-built flagship of the Aston Martin range. It was replaced in 2000 with the Vanquish. By the end of the 2000 model year, 1,050 cars in total had been produced
BMW M3 E46: The M3 version of the E46 3 Series was produced in coupé and convertible body styles. The E46 M3 is powered by the S54 straight-six engine and has a 0-100 km/h (62 mph) acceleration time of 5.1 seconds for the coupe, with either the manual or SMG-II transmission. The skid pad cornering results are 0.89 g for the coupe and 0.81 g for the convertible.The top speed is electronically limited to 250 km/h (155 mph). The available transmissions were a Getrag 420G 6-speed manual transmission or a SMG-II 6-speed automated manual transmission, which was based on the Getrag 420G. The SMG-II used an electrohydraulically actuated clutch and gearshifts could be selected via the gear knob or paddles mounted on the steering wheel. The SMG-II was praised for its fast shift times and racetrack performance, but some people found its shifts to be delayed and lurching in stop-start traffic. In 2005, a special edition was introduced which used several parts from the CSL. This model was called the M3 Competition Package (ZCP) in the United States and mainland Europe, and the M3 CS in the United Kingdom. Compared to the regular M3, the Competition Package includes: 19-inch BBS alloy wheels- 19″x 8″ at the front and 19″x 9.5″ at the rear; Stiffer springs (which were carried over to the regular M3 from 12/04); Faster ratio steering rack of 14.5:1 (compared with the regular M3’s ratio of 15.4:1) as per the CSL; Steering wheel from the CSL; M-track mode for the electronic stability control, as per the CSL; The CSL’s larger front brake discs (but with the regular M3 front calipers) and rear brake calipers with larger pistons; Alcantara steering wheel and handbrake covers; The engine, gearbox and other drivetrain components are the same as the standard M3. Total production of the E46 M3 was 56,133 coupes and 29,633 convertibles. The cars were assembled at the BMW Regensburg factory in Germany and production was from September 2000 until August 2006, production totalled 85,766.
Ferrari F430: The 360 was followed by F430, which debuted at the 2004 Paris Motor Show. Designed by Pininfarina, under the guidance of Frank Stephenson, the body styling of the F430 was revised from its predecessor, the Ferrari 360, to improve its aerodynamic efficiency. Although the drag coefficient remained the same, downforce was greatly enhanced. Despite sharing the same basic Alcoa Aluminium chassis, roof line, doors and glass, the car looked significantly different from the 360. A great deal of Ferrari heritage was included in the exterior design. At the rear, the Enzo’s tail lights and interior vents were added. The car’s name was etched into the Testarossa-styled driver’s side mirror. The large oval openings in the front bumper are reminiscent of Ferrari racing models from the 60s, specifically the 156 “sharknose” Formula One car and 250 TR61 Le Mans cars of Phil Hill. Designed with soft-top-convertible. The F430 featured a 4.3 litre V8 petrol engine of the “Ferrari-Maserati” F136 family. This new power plant was a significant departure for Ferrari, as all previous Ferrari V8’s were descendants of the Dino racing program of the 1950s. This fifty-year development cycle came to an end with the entirely new unit. The engine’s output was 490 hp at 8500 rpm and 343 lb/ft of torque at 5250 rpm, 80% of which was available below 3500rpm. Despite a 20% increase in displacement, engine weight grew by only 4 kg and engine dimensions were decreased, for easier packaging. The connecting rods, pistons and crankshaft were all entirely new, while the four-valve cylinder head, valves and intake trumpets were copied directly from Formula 1 engines, for ideal volumetric efficiency. The F430 has a top speed in excess of 196 mph and could accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.9 seconds, 0.6 seconds quicker than the old model. The brakes on the F430 were designed in close cooperation with Brembo (who did the calipers and discs) and Bosch (who did the electronics package),resulting in a new cast-iron alloy for the discs. The new alloy includes molybdenum which has better heat dissipation performance. The F430 was also available with the optional Carbon fibre-reinforced Silicon Carbide (C/SiC) ceramic composite brake package. Ferrari claims the carbon ceramic brakes will not fade even after 300-360 laps at their test track. The F430 featured the E-Diff, a computer-controlled limited slip active differential which can vary the distribution of torque based on inputs such as steering angle and lateral acceleration. Other notable features include the first application of Ferrari’s manettino steering wheel-mounted control knob. Drivers can select from five different settings which modify the vehicle’s ESC system, “Skyhook” electronic suspension, transmission behaviour, throttle response, and E-Diff. The feature is similar to Land Rover’s “Terrain Response” system. The Ferrari F430 was also released with exclusive Goodyear Eagle F1 GSD3 EMT tyres, which have a V-shaped tread design, run-flat capability, and OneTRED technology. The F430 Spider, Ferrari’s 21st road going convertible, made its world premiere at the 2005 Geneva Motor Show. The car was designed by Pininfarina with aerodynamic simulation programs also used for Formula 1 cars. The roof panel automatically folds away inside a space above the engine bay. The conversion from a closed top to an open-air convertible is a two-stage folding-action. The interior of the Spider is identical to that of the coupé. Serving as the successor to the Challenge Stradale, the 430 Scuderia was unveiled by Michael Schumacher at the 2007 Frankfurt Auto Show. Aimed to compete with cars like the Porsche RS-models and the Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera it was lighter by 100 kg/220 lb and more powerful (510 PS) than the standard F430. Increased power came from a revised intake, exhaust, and an ion-sensing knock-detection system that allows for a higher compression ratio. Thus the weight-to-power ratio was reduced from 2.96 kg/hp to 2.5 kg/hp. In addition to the weight saving measures, the Scuderia semi-automatic transmission gained improved “Superfast”, known as “Superfast2”, software for faster 60 millisecond shift-times. A new traction control system combined the F1-Trac traction and stability control with the E-Diff electronic differential. The Ferrari 430 Scuderia accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 3.6 seconds, with a top speed of 202 miles per hour. Ferrari claimed that around their test track, Fiorano Circuit, it matched the Ferrari Enzo, and the Ferrari F430’s successor, the Ferrari 458. To commemorate Ferrari’s 16th victory in the Formula 1 Constructor’s World Championship in 2008, Ferrari unveiled the Scuderia Spider 16M at World Finals in Mugello. It is effectively a convertible version of the 430 Scuderia. The engine produces 510 PS at 8500 rpm. The car has a dry weight of 1,340 kg, making it 80 kg lighter than the F430 Spider, at a curb weight of 1,440 kg (3,175 lb). The chassis was stiffened to cope with the extra performance available and the car featured many carbon fibre parts as standard. Specially lightened front and rear bumpers (compared to the 430 Scuderia) were a further sign of the efforts Ferrari was putting into this convertible track car for the road. Unique 5-spoke forged wheels were produced for the 16M’s launch and helped to considerably reduce unsprung weight with larger front brakes and calipers added for extra stopping power (also featured on 430 Scuderia). It accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 3.7 seconds, with a top speed of 315 km/h (196 mph). 499 vehicles were released beginning early 2009 and all were pre-sold to select clients.
Ferrari 488 Pista: Latest in the line of special versions of Ferrari’s V8 models, the 488 Pista was launched at the 2018 Geneva Show but it has taken until now before UK customers have got their hands on the cars they ordered all that time ago. Compared to the regular Ferrari 488 GTB, the 488 Pista is 90 kg lighter at 1280kg dry, features a 20 percent improved aerodynamic efficiency and makes 49hp more from its twin-turbo V8 that now produces 711hp (720PS). These are some stunning specs to be honest, especially when you consider just how good the car it’s based upon is. Ferrari claims a 0-62mph (100km/h) in 2.85 seconds, 0-124mph (200km/h) in 7.6 seconds and a top speed of over 211mph (340km/h). Ferrari has opted to call the new special series sports car “Pista”, which is Italian for ‘track’, joining a celebrated lineup of hardcore models that includes the Challenge Stradale, the 430 Scuderia and the 458 Speciale. The whole bodywork has been reshaped, with the designers using innovations such as the S-Duct at the front and the unique edges of the front bumper and side sills that guide the air flow in -apparently- all the right places. The 3.9-litre V8 engine is essentially the same unit found in the Challenge race car and features specific valves and springs, a new cam profile, strengthened pistons and cylinder heads shorter inlet ducts, radiators with an inverted rake, a larger intercooler and more. It’s also 18kg lighter than the standard engine. For the first time ever in a Ferrari, the new 488 Pista can be fitted with a set of optional single-piece carbon-fibre wheels that are around 40 percent lighter than the GTB’s standard rims. A new generation of Ferrari’s Side Slip Control System is also present (SSC 6.0) because who doesn’t like to slide around a Ferrari with some help from the gods of Maranello. The 488 Pista was not a limited production model and was offered along the regular 488 GTB until it went out of production.
Lamborghini Huracan LP610-4: Replacing Lamborghini’s sales leader and most produced car, the Gallardo, the Huracán made its auto show debut at the March 2014 Geneva Auto Show, and was released in the second quarter of 2014. The name of the Huracan LP 610-4 comes from the fact that this car has 610 metric horsepower and 4 wheel drive. Huracán (huracán being the Spanish word for hurricane) is inspired by a Spanish fighting bull. Continuing the tradition of using names from historical Spanish fighting bulls, Huracán was a bull known for its courage that fought in 1879. Also Huracan is the Mayan god of wind, storm and fire. Changes from the Gallardo included full LED illumination, a 12.3 inch full-colour TFT instrument panel, Fine Nappa leather and Alcantara interior upholstery, redesigned dashboard and central tunnel, Iniezione Diretta Stratificata (IDS, essentially an adapted version of parent Audi’s Fuel Stratified Injection) direct and indirect gasoline injections, engine Stop & Start technology, EU6 emissions regulation compliance, Lamborghini Doppia Frizione (LDF) 7-speed dual-clutch transmission with 3 modes (STRADA, SPORT and CORSA), 20 inch wheels, carbon-ceramic brake system, optional Lamborghini Dynamic Steering variable steering system and MagneRide electromagnetic damper control. In early 2015, the Huracán appeared on Top Gear. It got a neutral review from Richard Hammond who said that it was too tame to be a “proper Lamborghini.” However, it got around the Top Gear test track in 1:15.8 which is faster than any other Lamborghini to go around the track to date, including the Aventador. Now it has been available in the UK for some a couple of years, there are now quite a few on our roads, so it was no surprise to find the model here.
McLaren 600LT: In June 2018, McLaren unveiled the top-of-the-line sports series variant online. The car, called the 600LT is based on the 570S and is the third McLaren production car to receive the longtail treatment. Inspired by the 675LT and the F1 GTR Longtail, the body of the car has been extended by 73.7 mm (2.9 in). The car also features enhanced aerodynamic elements such as an extended front splitter and rear diffuser, new side sills, and an aero-enhancing fixed rear wing for increased downforce. McLaren claims that 23% parts on the 600LT are new as compared to the 570S. The carbon fibre monocoque utilised in the 600LT is modified and this combined with the extensive use of carbon fibre in the roof along with the cantrails and front wings, results in a weight saving of 96 kg (212 lb) over the 570S, with the total weight amounting to 1,247 kg (2,749 lb). Another distinguishing feature of the 600LT is the lightweight titanium exhaust system which is mounted on top of the rear of the car which harks back to its original application in the Senna. The interior features sports bucket seats from the P1 and Alcantara trim but can be optioned with the much lighter bucket seats found in the Senna. The 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine utilised in the 600LT is tuned to produce a maximum power output of 600 PS (592 bhp) (hence the 600 in the name) and 620 N⋅m (457 lb⋅ft) of torque, achieving a power-to-weight ratio of 479 PS per tonne. Performance figures and production numbers of the car remain unknown. Production of the 600LT started in October 2018. In January 2019, McLaren unveiled the convertible variant of the 600LT at the Detroit Auto Show. Due to the use of the same carbon monocoque as the other models in the 570S lineage the 600LT Spider required did not need any extra modifications to incorporate a folding hardtop roof. As a result, the Spider weighs 50 kg (110 lb) more than the coupé while maintaining the same performance statistics. The Spider has the same engine and aerodynamic components as the coupé and share the roof folding mechanism with the standard 570S Spider which can be operated at speeds upto 40 km/h (25 mph). The car can accelerate to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 2.9 seconds, to 200 km/h (124 mph) in 8.4 seconds (0.2 seconds more than the coupé) and can attain a top speed of 315 km/h (196 mph) with the roof retracted and 323 km/h (201 mph) with the roof closed. The car can achieve a dry weight of 1,297 kg (2,859 lb) when equipped with the MSO ClubSport package which includes the removal of air-conditioning and radio, titanium wheel nuts and the replacement of the standard seats with the carbon fibre seats from the Senna. The car has received rave reviews.
McLaren 675LT: Commanding a significant price premium over the regular 650S cars, the 675LT sits in the “Super” part of the range (P1s are in the “Ultimate” collection). Those who thought that the 675LT might look little different from the “regular” 650S, with a simple elongation of the rear end underestimated the engineers at Woking, as the 675LT has a style and appearance all of its own, with lots of different detailing to distinguish it from the standard car, with carbon fibre wings and twin circular titanium exhaust pipes exposed at the rear deck to improve cooling, sitting above a new bumper and diffuser both made from carbon fibre. At the front there is a larger carbon fibre splitter and new front bumper design, aimed at improving cooling and downforce. Designed to be far more track focused than the 650S, it contains many elements aimed at improving handling and performance. The biggest difference to the way it feels is apparently down to 100kg reduction in weight, but it does also contain a significantly modified 666 bhp version of the 650S’ twin turbo 3.8 litre V8. 50% of engine parts are new, including the turbos, camshafts and connecting rods, along with detailed revisions to the cylinder heads and manifolds. As a consequence, the 0-60 time is reduced to 2.9 seconds, 0.1 seconds less than the 650S, though the top speed is slightly reduced due to the extra drag of the aerodynamic pack. 500 examples were built, and they all sold out within weeks, to the surprise of no-one, as this is a very impressive machine indeed.
OTHER VISITING CARS
Although you probably would not find Podium Place by accident, once you know it is there, it is the sort of place that you would return to time and again, and there were a number of non Abarth owners who dropped by. Some had some what could politely be called “ordinary” cars, but there were some special and enthusiast vehicles that stopped by, too. A Lamborghini Aventador SV-J pulled away just as I was parking up so that one is not depicted here, but these are the cars that did grab my attention.
Audi R8 Sport Performance Parts R8 Edition: The second generation of the R8 (model code: Type 4S) was unveiled at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show and is based on the Modular Sports System platform shared with the Lamborghini Huracan. The development of the Type 4S commenced in late 2013 and was completed in late 2014. Initial models included the all-electric e-Tron and the V10 5.2 FSI along with the V10 plus. Unlike its predecessor, there was no manual transmission available and the entry-level V8 trim was also dropped. In 2016, the convertible (Spyder) variant was added to the line up which was initially available in the base V10 trim. In mid-2017, the high performance V10 plus Spyder was added to the range. A rear-wheel-drive model called the R8 RWS was introduced. In 2018, the R8 received a mid-cycle refresh with mechanical and exterior changes. The newer and more aggressive design language carried over from famous Audi models of the past and it’s appearance is slightly more angular up front. Some of the aerodynamic features such as the front aeroblades are shared with the Lamborghini Huracàn. The refreshed model had substantial performance improvements over its predecessor. The base R8 gets a power boost from 532 hp to 562 hp, while the V10 Plus was renamed V10 Performance Quattro and the engine saw a power increase by 10 bhp, now up to 612 bhp. The Audi R8 e-tron (2015) was an all-electric version of the second-generation R8. Unlike the earlier 2010 prototype based on the first-generation R8, it actually entered production, but only on a small scale, with less than 100 units sold. It featured a 92-kWh battery. In 2018 Audi added a special version to the range, and that is what was seen here. Dubbed the Audi Sport Performance Parts R8 Edition, the performance division is hailing the enhanced version of the popular German supercar as the “most capable and focused to date.” There was a catch, however – only 44 examples were made, five of which were sold in the UK in right-hand drive spec. Thanks to a plethora of enhancements, the limited edition R8 is lighter and has significantly more downforce than the standard car. It features an aggressive-looking aero kit developed in a wind tunnel and made exclusively from carbon fiber reinforced polymer, which accentuate the large fixed rear wing and diffuser. Further distinguishing the model are side skirts incorporating the Audi Sport logo and aerodynamic elements behind the rear wheel arches to optimise airflow. Rounding off the package, Audi Sport has fitted more pronounced air inlets, a deep splitter and sculpted canards similar to those fitted to the first-generation Audi R8 GT at the front. Lightweight multi-spoke black 20-inch wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires save up to in weight to significantly reduce unsprung mass. A three-way coil-over suspension setup has also been fitted to adjust the car for the road or the track, while ceramic brakes fitted to the front and rear feature a titanium braking plate to further reduce weight. All these aero changes result in a significant increase in downforce. At 93 mph, Audi claims this R8 generates 115 lbs of downforce, which is double the amount of the standard car, while at 205 mph it produces a whopping 551 lbs of downforce, which is over 220 lbs more than the standard R8 V10 Plus. Inside, Audi Sport has fitted an Alcantara steering wheel with a red 12 o’clock marker, a rear view camera, Audi Smartphone interface, bucket seats in perforated Fine Nappa leather, MMI navigation, Audi connect online services and the fully digital Audi Virtual Cockpit. All five cars were finished in Misano red and priced at £176,560. This one would appear to have been wrapped.
Ferrari F430 Spider: a second example of the F430, this one a Spider, to complement the one seen indoors.
Porsche 992: The latest version of the 911 is code-named the 992 and the first of these cars hit the streets in early 2019 following a premier at the 2018 Los Angeles Show. As is usually the case with Porsche, it takes some time for the full range to be announced, so even now it is still building up with the GT3 variants due here in the summer. The car seen here was a 911 Carrera.
Toyota GR Supra: developed jointly with BMW the GR Supra is widely regarded as the more successful of the duo, though whilst it has received very positive reviews, it has not exactly flown out of the showrooms. Maybe the fact that it is priced in the same ballpark as the Porsche Cayman is the problem?
Although not advertised as part of the Podium Place event, a couple of the local owners had done some work thinking about a short drive out route that we could take, to go and get some more photos and to take advantage of the decent weather. Some owners had gone, but around 15 of the cars decided to join in this. The idea was to drive up to Wantage, go through the town and the take the road from there back down to the M4 at the Hungerford turn, and one of DJ’s friends left early to go and wait for us so he could capture footage as well drove by. Once we got out of Newbury, peeing the cars together was easier than is often the case, and having enjoyed a fun drive of around 12 miles or so, with swooping bends and on a road with stunning scenery as you come down off the edge of the Chilterns, we reached Wantage, and a glance in my mirror as we paused the traffic lights showed a long line of Abarths.
I had never been on the Newbury to Wantage road but I did know the second half of the route and knew that about half way along there is a great stopping off point by High Cross, with lots of space for 15 Abarths. The only unknown was how many other cars would be there, but much to our relief there were only a couple and so there was ample room for us to line cars up and then move them around as everyone took all manner of photos, either of individual cars or in groups.
With afternoon fast approaching early evening, most people decided that it was time to head off, me included. But what a great day this had been. Podium Place is a definite find and is surely a place that we will return to time and again. If you want to find out more about it, then their website is this: https://podiumplace.co.uk/ And with this event, it is fair to say that Abarth Berkshire was also launched. I look forward to seeing the Group grow as so many of the other Regional Groups have done, and to attending more of their events. This was an most excellent start!