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Motor racing legend Paddy Driver celebrated his 87th birthday recently with a splendid garden party with 20 friends. An array of national motor racing champions and motor industry legends came to wish him well on the great occasion.

Paddy was a champion on motorcycles, in off-road racing and in car circuit racing. He is seen here (page 47) with his all-time favourite Matchless G50 on which he finished third in the road racing motorcycle World Championships in the 1960s FIM Series in Europe.

Among some of the greats who attended on the day were Arnold Chatz, Geoff Mortimer, Willie Hepburn, Keith Zeeman, Buddy Wentzel and Roger McCleery.

The Mercedes-Benz Museum in Germany has just received a new 1976 240D record breaker. In 1991 a Greek taxi driver Sachinidis bought a 1971 240D with 220 000kms on the clock.  He got it in Germany and drove it all the way in reverse to Thessalonika to become a Taxi in the area. Eventually in 2021 he donated it to the Mercedes-Benz MuseumA with a total of, wait for it, 4.6 million kms on the clock. Can you believe that?

So, he created two records. The longest distance in reverse and the longest distance overall even before it was retired.

Sabine Schmidt, the Queen of the Nurburgring died recently after a long battle with cancer at 51. She raced out here in South Africa for many years as Sabine Reck in a BMW.

I remember driving with her, Michael Briggs and my son, Grant, around the Nordschleife at an amazing speed, going sideways around most of the corners. Her mother owned a hotel next to the Nurburgring. Her father had the Bitburger Beer franchise for the Ring.

She won the 24-Hour saloon car race there twice.  She had grown up in the area. When she died she had done 30 000 laps of the famous circuit.

Ferrari called it the Best-Looking Sports Car ever made.  It was the 3.89 litre straight six E-Type Jaguar.  You have got to agree.

In the middle of March Jaguar celebrated their 10th Anniversary of this iconic car and created six limited editions of this famous car.  It was originally launched at the Geneva Show in 1961.

I remember seeing the first one in Sea Point, Cape Town not long after that and was totally overcome with the shape and sound of that car.

From Jaguar is news that they have announced their intentions to switch to totally electric vehicles by 2025. That is not too far off. Like Land Rover, Jaguar is owned by Tata and they certainly have brought us some amazing new models after a lot of money was invested in design in the company.

World vehicles sales in 2020 showed that Toyota and their subsidiary Hino, Daihatsu and Lexus sold 9.53 million vehicles in 2020. That was just below their total in 2019.

Second was the VW Group with VW, Audi, Porsche, Skoda, Seat, Bentley, Lamborghini, Scania, MAN and Ducati motorcycles. They saw their sales climb by 15% to 9.3 million. Both considerable numbers. Interesting to note is that the Peugeot Group is now the second biggest manufacturer of vehicles in Europe.

Toyota is taking a more conservative approach to pushing electric cars only. They already make petrol, electric, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, hydrogen fuel core products and a few battery electric models. Their President, Aoki Toyoda, the grandson of the founder of Toyota, says people are placing too much emphasis on changing to electric car ranges only.

As a matter of interest, the name Toyota Gazoo was used by him when he was a youngster who wanted to race cars and not tell his parents that he was competing. He therefore entered as Toyota Gazoo which has now stuck for any competition model from Toyota.

Hyundai (pronounced like Sunday) is doing well in the World Rally Championships. They finished the Arctic Rally in Finland in first spot with another one of their team members in third. They led from start to finish. Of course, they are the reigning Manufacturers’ World Champions in world rallying.

O Tanak was the winner, Thierry Neuville was third and C. Sheen fourth. This team is becoming hard to beat. The next round will be in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia.

Land Rover Defender just launched last year has won the Top Gear Magazine’s Car of the Year plus “the Unstoppable Force” trophy as well. It has been recognised as one of the top SUV’s in the marketplace besides fending off stiff competition from every new vehicle launched in this category in the world last year.

Derivatives of either the Ranger or Everest are being announced regularly by Ford in South Africa. They have got two new fresh models of the Everest Range including a new 7-seater SUV.

Peugeot says a new “Landtrek” bakkie will soon be announced as a new vehicle to tackle Africa.

Porsche and Tag Heuer have entered into a partnership for these brands from Germany and Switzerland. First new model from them is a Carrera Porsche Chronograph.

The new Toyota Yaris – which is soon to be launched on these shores – has been announced as the 2021 European Car of the Year.

Toyota, with their whole new range of great looking cars and more powerful performance are certainly going to sell well.

This is the second COTY for a Yaris in 21 years and it’s becoming the best-selling car in Europe for the first time.  Could happen here. Just to add to the list the list of awards, Yaris also became the UK’s Car of the Year against great competition.

This year saw the launch of the seventh edition of a new high performance 911 GT3. The engine pushes out a 510 hp from its four-litre, six-cylinder engine based on the 911 GT3R. The result – a perfect car for track and everyday use. Top Speed is 318kmh and it does 0-100 km/h in 3.4 seconds.

While all the awards were being handed out around the world the Women’s Car of the Year has been announced.  The jury was made up of women from all corners of the earth. They come from no less than 38 countries in 5 continents.  Our Charleen Clark represented South Africa.

The results were:

Best Urban Car – Peugeot 208

Best Family Car – Skoda Octavia

Best Luxury Car – Lexus LC 500 Cabrio (a beauty)

Best Sport Car – Ferrari F8 Spyder

Best Urban SUV – Peugeot 2008 just launched in South Africa

Best Medium SUV is the new Land Rover Defender

Best large SUV was the KIA Sorento

Best 4×4 and Pick-Up – Ford-F150

Best Electric Vehicle – Honda E

These are not just womens’ cars but are a sound guide to all potential buyers for safety, quality, price, design, driving dynamics, and environmental impact.

The Investchem Formula 1600 continues to lead the way in South African Single Seater Racing. Ian Schofield, the man behind the sponsorship, has put up R250 000 as prize money.   Whoever wins overall earns a test in both the South African GTC Championship and in the International Formula Renault Race Category.

The stylish Ford Ranger FX4 now has a distinctive look to it with a sporty black mesh grille, black mirrors and door handles and black 18-inch alloy wheels.  A practical binliner for the back has a 12-volt power socket. Prices range from R618 000 to R870 000.

There is good news from the Indian motor industry who supply most of our imported cars. The Mahindra XUV 300 has the highest ever five-star safety rating from Global NCAP (tested at 60 km/h) into a concrete slab providing real protection for passengers.

Toyota has been market leader in our country for vehicles sold each month for many years (bar one or two months). Even in these Covid times they managed to sell over 10 000 vehicles in March and continue to lead the market …

The U.S. are selling electric motorcycles courtesy of the Italian Energica range of electric super bikes. They will do 200-250 km/h on the one charge, taking just three hours to top up the battery. Top speed?  –  they are as quick as anything on the market. Price range very much in line with the opposition in the 600 class.

Range Rover Sport has hit one million produced since it was first launched 15 years ago.  At one stage it held the Pikes Peak Hill Climb record in the States. It was the fastest vehicle across Saudi Arabia and then became the world’s first vehicle driving up the 999 steps of Heaven’s Gate in China.

Nikita Khrushchev once said, “Politicians are the same all over the world. They built you a bridge even when there’s no river.”

Don’t forget to listen to Roger McCleery to hear  more inside stories every Tuesday afternoon on his Motoring programme on Radio Today (1485 AM) or on DSTV Audio Channel 869, on social media and podcast around the world.

By Roger McCleery