Touring or Racing? | Stefan Chaligne
I have never really been able to reconcile the multiple facets of my passion for cars. Like aviation, but with a stronger social and universal dimension, the history of the sports car is marked by the vain attempt to dominate time and space: to possess a sports car is to buy one’s freedom and escape from the relative immobility of man with his two legs.
Unconsciously the car lover chooses his camp: either he travels in elegance and style and selects a beautiful grand touring car whose performance easily surpasses other sedans on the market; in 1960 he would have bought a Jaguar E type, in 1970 a Maserati Ghibli, in the 1980s a Mercedes SL 500, and, fortune allowing, in the 1990s, a sublime Ferrari 456 GT. All these wonderful cars dominate on the road but, above all, extend an invitation to drive to far off places.
If the car lover’s priority is to capture time, his propos is quite different. Performance becomes the only obsession and he will want to choose a car as close as possible to a true racing car. Porsche with its legendary RS series (RS for RennSport) and Ferrari with its small berlinettas featuring central V8 engines (355, 430 & 458) allow their clients to substitute themselves for racing pilots.
For my part, I have never really accepted to address this dilemma. The purchase of a sports car which is a racing car in disguise nowadays, has become a farce: a Porsche GT2 RS in less than 10 seconds will propel you to 125 mph and directly into prison with your photo on the front of the daily newspapers. The purchase of a GT2 RS or a Maclaren MP12 is access to the hidden fruit without the possibility to taste it outside modern day circuit arenas. Car makers have been forced to pervert the idea of a true sports car by including a CD player, Hi-Fi, leather interior and electric chairs. Lotus, once the champion of « light is beautiful » now makes cars weighing more than 1000 kg, the Porsche RS have lost all their previous fine simplicity and the luxury of the latest Ferraris is too blatant.
Today confusion reigns as a Ferrari F12 is hardly any heavier than a well equipped 458 and just as performing. Contrarily the 458 is not less comfortable than its bigger sister.
To be clear, I am nostalgic for the era of radical cars when a Porsche RS was closer to a super-powerful Lotus Elise than a Mercedes SL, with a stark austere interior which recalled its precedents, the Porsche 908 & 917, illustrious prototypes which ran at the ‘24 heures du Mans’ in the 1970s.
Nowadays GT cars are all road cars or racing cars in disguise, even if some limited series are like rare flashes of lightening in the night, pursued like crazy by famished enthusiasts. Let us hope that the car makers can return to a more radical and well defined choice: where on one hand you will have real sports cars, which will be a pleasure to drive as they will be light and sober and with all options banished; and on the other the heavier GTs for travelling, aimed at a clientele eager for luxury options and electronic and digital gadgets. It is time to accept the elementary rules of physics: a car with 300 horsepower weighing 1000kg will always be more satisfying to drive than one with 600 horsepower and 2000kg. Unfortunately the former option no longer exists.