See the Lancer Family at Mitsubishi Dealerships

Mitsubishi dealers around the world will be no doubt showing off their latest addition – the Lancer Sportback. You’ve no doubt seen the advert on television where a little boy asks his dad “where did I come from?” Unlike my dad, the on-screen one has the Sportback to help him explain the birds and the bees in graphic detail whilst showing off the curves of the car. “That’s so cool” replies his son. “My friend Tommy only comes from Scotland”. Oh the hilarity.

Yet the Sportback is most definitely part of the Lancer family and I reckon it sits somewhere in the middle. The Mitsubishi Lancer has been around the longest and has seen it all. It is subtly styled, drives sensibly and is reliable. It knows exactly what a customer that doesn’t agonise over torque steer and turbo-lag wants and delivers it impressively whilst being, well, unimpressive and unassuming. Without doubt it is the granddad of the family.

Next up is the Sportback. Fittingly in the commercial a father is driving it and this is the role the car takes within the Lancer family. Everything is a bit sleeker, performance punchier and the ride sportier without ever being uncomfortable. Crucially it still retains the practicality of the Lancer and still does everything a family saloon should.   Finally there’s the snarling, raucous, fire-eating Lancer Evolution. Currently in its tenth incarnation, this car takes fuel economy, soft suspension and subtle styling and runs them over, reverses and dos it again just to make sure. This is the car that is worshiped by anyone will a large wallet and the inability to grow facial hair. Unfortunately I only fall into the second category. With 0-60mph coming up in 4.1 seconds, many a Ferrari has been left embarrassed and this is despite the Evolution having four doors and the same boot as its granddad. Yep, you’ve guessed it; the Evolution is the son that ran away from home, has some scrapes with the police for speeding and ended up mixing with the wrong crowd on the rally circuit. No wonder there’s no mother in my Mitsubishi Lancer family tree.

So the Sportback is aimed squarely at ‘cool’ dads who would consider the basic Lancer ‘boring’ and the Evolution ‘thirsty’. Why’s it cool then? Well for a start Mitsubishi dealers’ will have been told to say the front end is styled on that of a fighter jet. After all who hasn’t wanted to be a fighter pilot at some stage? I certainly wouldn’t get into the Sportback by mistake, rather than my F16 parked next to it, but you can see where they’re coming from. Think of it more like the new front end of the Audi range and you’d be closer.    The rest of the car is sensibly styled but found favour with me, even though I love more vents than a skyscraper on my cars. The interior is typically Japanese so what it lacks in flair, it more than makes up for in usability and the quality of materials used. That said, the Sportback certainly takes things forward from previous incarnations with the dials neatly housed in pods, and an on-board computer within easy reach (and one that’s much easier to use than BMW’s infernal i-Drive system). Rear legroom is good as is the boot which thanks to the Sportback being a hatchback rather than saloon like its other family members helps add far more capacity for your shopping.

On the performance front it’s not going to give you whiplash but is more than ample for the school run or motorway cruising. The 1.5 litre diesel takes you from standing to 60mph in 11.8 seconds and onto a top speed of 114mph. One thing that did worry me is that despite this sensible performance, fuel consumption isn’t great – 29.7mpg. Far more than an Evolution X I grant you, but only 4.7mpg better than the combined return a Mazda RX-8 gives you and that gives you whiplash AND rips your eyeballs out on acceleration. Yes it’s not anywhere near as practical so let’s move on.   If you have read this and are thinking “the Sportback is for me” then great, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with what you receive. If on the other hand you really like the Sportback, secretly want an Evolution but can’t afford it (that’ll be me definitely) then never fear as Mitsubishi are launching the Sportback Ralliart. Even sillier name, but it’ll essentially be a Sportback with rally pedigree that’ll fall nicely into the family between the Sportback and Evolution – step son? Cool uncle? Answers on a postcard please.

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China Motorsports and Why It Is Impressive

China is constantly in the headlines in many foreign newspapers, magazines, TV shows. As a French citizen living in China for the past 7 years, I am amazed at how much is written about China in my own country. A few years back it was the year of China in France, the following year it was the year of France in China, exhibits, shows, conferences, it was a great way for both countries to get to know each other better. But even if China is on the forefront of the media all around the world, in many areas it is still at a growing stage and going through the learning process, but not for long.

Motorsport is no exception to the rule; China is learning but is learning fast, really fast. Europe has had a racing culture for much longer, people have enjoyed going to events for years with their family, people have driven cars for over 100 years, but it seems that slowly, the western world is not what is used to be for motorsport, it is sort of stagnating while China is leveraging on motorsport more and more through the involvement of car manufacturers, race teams, promoters.

China is catching up, motorsport is booming. It is impressive to see so many events of international standard coming to China one by one over the years, not all successful right away but all trying their best to succeed: FIA GT, F1, MotoGP, V8, DTM, Le Mans, WTCC. The age of China begging to get events is over. I remember a few years back, as I was working at Zhuhai international Circuit, we had the visit of an American promoter who wanted to discuss a historic F1 event to take place in ZIC. As much as we welcomed his ideas and his vision, and were open to listen to his offer, he had not yet realized that Chinese Motorsport Companies were now in a position to negotiate, partner with series and championships rather than just buy events at any cost. So when he offered for us to purchase the rights to his event for a few million dollars, the deal was off immediately.

And by this simple anecdote, I just want to show that China’s motorsport market has already moved to a different level over the past few years. It took time from the first Hong Kong Beijing Rally, the first GT race downtown Zhuhai, the first F1 Race in Shanghai, to put China motorsport on the map of international motorsport but if we look now, in 2011, what events come to China, what deals are made, what partnerships are signed and the level of sponsorship and involvement of all the partners, teams and federations, it is a completely different scene than the one in the 1990’s, at the start of China motorsport.

Obviously, all is not perfect and a few things have to improve. When an industry grows fast, the foundations can be rocked. I would say that one of the key things to improve is the relationship between all the actors of the industry: promoters, circuits, teams, federations, sponsors, it could often be smoother and healthier. Most parties are passionate about this sport, which is great and necessary, but often, business priorities wildly take over. At times, the struggles that take place amongst the actors seem unnecessary: who will promote what, who will organize what. But it is also part of any growing business community, we all want a piece of the cake and it is no different in China motorsport, actually maybe it is even more obvious because of the glamorous image of motorsport and the strong media coverage. But let’s not forget that we all have a responsibility towards the sport we love, the image we give of it is what people will remember. Small to big operators all contribute to that image. The best we do for China’s motorsport future, the more business will flow back to the community.

2011 is going to be another impressive year with new events and a super busy month of November in South China with WTCC in GIC and Intercontinental Le Mans Cup in Zhuhai for the final round, followed by the world renowned Macau Grand Prix. 2011 is also: news circuits, new teams, new Chinese drivers on the local and foreign scenes, and more foreign businesses looking to invest in our sport, let’s look forward to it and make it grow together.

American Automotive Artists

Since automotive design is basically an artistic endeavor, art has always been a part of automotive life. However, for many years automotive art was the product of design studies, design departments of automobile manufacturers, or aligned with automotive advertising. Automotive fine art did not exist as a separate art genre. However there were a few car lovers who happened to be artists and enjoyed painting cars simply because they loved the subject matter. But for an artist to be successful, there must be a market. And there were automotive enthusiasts who were interested in buying art. So in 1983, a group of six artists received invitations to display their works at the Meadowbrook Concours in Detroit. During this exhibition, these artists decided to form an alliance devoted to exchanging ideas and keeping current on trends in automotive art and so the Automotive Fine Arts Society was born. The artist credited with founding this society is Ken Eberts who has been its president since that time. Ken is recognized as one of the world’s leading automotive fine artists. He originally worked in the design department at Ford Motor Company. Then in 1968 he embarked on a second career in automotive fine art. Since then, his works have appeared in magazines, on Christmas cards, posters, and book covers. Ken also has an interest in architecture and many of his automotive works include an automobile set against the backdrop of an interesting building. He has been a two-time winner of the Peter Helck Award and the Richard Teague Award for the ‘body of work that best exemplifies the spirit of the automobile.’

Bill Neale is also a member of the Automobile Fine Arts Society. In addition to automobiles, Bill paints the people associated with the industry such as drivers and owners. Bill has an aviation background and both cars and airplanes are often featured in his compositions. Bill’s work has appeared in all of the prestigious automotive magazines such as Road & Track, Car & Driver, and Automobile Magazine. He has done posters for many Automobile Concours d’Elegance and other automobile events such as the Monterey Historic Races, Houston Classi-Chassis and Carroll Shelby Nationals. He is the poster artist for the Colorado Grand Rally. He is also the recipient of numerous awards from Europe, the United States and South America including the prestigious Peter Helck and Athena awards.

Jim Dietz is another contemporary artist who paints automobiles. However, Jim is a historical artist who specializes in aviation and military subjects as well as automobiles. Jim is a graduate of the Art Center College of Design. He began his career in art as an illustrator doing automotive ads, movie posters and book covers. But in 1978 he changed from commercial illustration to historical art. In 1997, Dietz won the Stanley Wanlass Award for ‘excellence in strength of design and composition echoing the spirit of the automobile’ at the Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance. He also won a Peter Helck Award in 1999 and 2,000 at the Pebble Beach Concours’ d’Elegance. In addition, he has received numerous other awards for his aviation and military art. Like Neale and Eberts, he represents the best of a new genre in art.