Personal protection equipment and social distancing are among the changes introduced in production.
Photo courtesy Bentley Motors Ltd.
Bentley Back to Work
Phased Production Ramp-up Promotes ‘Stronger, Safer Future’
by Wayne Bruce & Matthew Reed
Bentley Motors Ltd.
CREWE, Ches., 11 May — Bentley Motors today resumed production at the company’s headquarters in Crewe, England, with over 1,700 colleagues (employees) following 250 comprehensive and wide-ranging hygiene and social-distancing guidelines implemented to enable a safe return during what is hoped to be the final phases of the coronavirus pandemic.
This represents the next stage in Bentley’s ‘Come Back Stronger’ programme, a phased production ramp-up following the biggest changes to daily working life in the company’s 100-year history.
Before the restart, colleagues received an insight into their new working patterns, operations and environment during socially-distanced briefing and training sessions. They returned to a redesigned manufacturing facility that allows two-metre distance between workers, and one-way movement paths and traffic flows. Even the washrooms across-site have been reconfigured to reduce the number of people being able to use them.
Running from today, the Bentayga and Mulsanne production lines will be joined by the return of the Continental GT and Flying Spur line next week.
On each line, production will be running at approximately 50% for a number of weeks, while the average start time from one manufacturing stage to the next for each car has doubled. In addition, each production cell now spreads over two stages rather than one, ensuring adequate distance between colleagues.
The remaining manufacturing workers, over 500, are anticipated to return by the middle of June based on current assumptions and government guidance.
During the plant’s shutdown at the height of the pandemic, all colleagues were kept fully updated with the changes through a home-issued guide, video tutorial, and a newly created ‘Employee News’ app designed to ease any uncertainty that this challenging period prompts.
Commenting on the production restart, Adrian Hallmark, the company’s Chairman and CEO, said he was confident that the new working environment will keep his employees ‘as safe as being anywhere else’.
The key process changes behind the ‘Come Back Stronger’ employee programme impact all areas. Face masks are now compulsory in all factory and office areas, while Bentley will maintain a work-from-home policy for those who are able to do so.
Social distancing posters remind returning workers to be safe as pandemic restrictions ease.
Photo courtesy Bentley Motors Ltd.
Personal protection equipment — including face masks, gloves, goggles — are provided as necessary both to colleagues and the local care sector, as well as health temperature checks for staff. There is also an enhanced cleaning routine and clear guidance to the workforce on limiting the risk of infection on areas such as meeting governance, site access and travel.
In relevant office areas and catering facilities where distancing is more challenging, plastic partitions — designed and manufactured by Bentley workers — now offer segregation between colleagues in addition to control measures limiting capacity, staggered times and distanced seating.
There are also new, stringent measures to control the population density on-site at any one time, with all entry and exit points reviewed and reconfigured to disperse the volume of people.
According to Hallmark, Bentley’s future is ‘stronger and safer’ as it looks beyond the pandemic.
“We have a strong order bank, around eight months of customer orders to manufacture, established parts supply routes and patient customers who are looking to receive their extraordinary cars as soon as possible,” he said.
“We will ramp up in a controlled, measured way to ensure we manage this continued demand, and look ahead and in spite of this interruption continue on our journey to lead sustainable luxury mobility in the future.”
Crewe is home to all of Bentley’s operations, including design, R&D, engineering and production of the company’s four model lines — Continental, Flying Spur, Bentayga and Mulsanne. Bentley employs around 4,000 people there.
[From a press release courtesy of Newspress Ltd.]
Outside the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia, with the yellow Elan.
Photo by Peter & Allison Cotes
by Peter Cotes
[The globe-trotting adventures of rallyists Peter and Allison Cotes continue! This time it’s from their home in England to the eastern reaches of Europe, not Asia, and in a different car, but still a Lotus Elan. Along the way to Moscow and St. Petersburg were many interesting stops, so fasten your seat belts and get your papers ready, because here we go! —Exec. Ed.]
Having just completed our rally along the Silk Road in July, we knew our red Elan would not be ready for Scenic Car Tours’ Moscow and St. Petersburg trip in September — and so we took our ‘other’ Elan, the yellow one, which would get its first long run in some time (15 years!).
Before leaving I checked the normal weak points: clutch (the fluid was murky so we replaced both master and slave cylinders) and rear wheel bearings (where there was play — but not due to the bearings this time the shaft had worn away and the movement was the shaft moving inside the bearings, so both had to go).
On the same axle, the donuts needed replacing and the handbrake assembly was so worn that I promised the car a set of new calipers on our return.
The noise from the exhaust was from rust holes in the downpipes, so they were replaced with a stainless set.
And last but not least, the car leaked oil like a sieve so we took plenty with us. In the 3500-mile journey we used four litres.
The first sign of trouble was in traffic on the M11 when the ammeter swung violently deep into negative territory. So our priority next morning was to get a replacement regulator box, which I found in rural Kent from a retired Mini enthusiast. The old regulator then behaved perfectly for the entire trip!
On the motorway to our first overnight stop in Brussels, Belgium, we were overtaken by a red Elan Plus 2 — how often do you see them on the road? Scenic had suggested alternative routes to avoid motorways, but with 300 miles or so each day, the alternatives just took too long so we used a lot of motorway. We were happy at 65/70, meaning we were faster than the trucks but slower than most cars.
We continued by way of Leuven, Munster, Bielefeld, Hamelin (remember the Pied Piper? He’s now a major tourist feature), Wolfsburg (Autostadt) and on to Berlin. Autostadt is the VW factory and museum, where the theme is not so much the cars, although VWs unsurprisingly feature more than any other marque, but more the designers and their influence.
Inside a baroque church in Poznan, Poland.
Photo by Peter & Allison Cotes
We spent longer at Autostadt than planned, and I didn’t pay enough attention when entering the under-the-arches car park in Berlin. Result — the exhaust caught as the front tyres went into a dip and slipped smoothly off the new stainless downpipes. It was much more secure with its old rusty and pitted mild steel version! There was one other car on this tour, a 1968 TR5, and John, its owner, spent some time after dinner helping me reassemble the damage.
We had a rest day in Berlin, themed mainly on Wall-related tourism. Checkpoint Charlie is still there with a museum next door, showing the development of the Wall and a history of the escapes — behind the spare wheel of a VW, inside a modified fuel tank, inside an old Opel with reinforced concrete sides and door panels (not sure how it moved), and so on.
We continued via Poznan to Warsaw — which was both a good day and a bad day for us!
Poznan is an old town with a lovely square, old buildings and great atmosphere. Allison went to an interactive demonstration on making (and eating) croissants whilst I admired the richly decorated Baroque churches — but left the lights on whilst parked. The battery was flat and we had to bump-start the car. Not a clever idea, but no damage done until, with my brain on electrics and on not overloading the dynamo, we drove out of the car park carelessly, catching the exhaust yet again.
It was a late-night session, on our own this time, to put it back together — but before that we got caught in a three-hour jam on the motorway, resulting in over two hours night-time driving with a battery low on charge. We got to bed that night at 1:30 a.m.!
Whilst in the jam, the guy in the car next to us came to chat and said he had what we needed if the car would not start — a battery booster pack. This weighs about a kilo and a far cry from the jump start devices that garages used to wheel out to cars in distress. We had to get one ASAP next morning, and once we had the taxi driver’s interest he was on the case and proudly marched us round the supermarket until he found one. Of course, the next day the car started fine without it. (Well, we would need it soon.)
On to Russia, but first, Latvia!
Our next overnight stop was in Vilnius, Lithuania, followed by a drive through Latvia to the dreaded Russian border. Here we expected trouble and we got it, but not from the Russians!
It seemed the Latvians wanted to check everything — car identity plate, insurance (for western Europe, where we’d come from) and driving licences. And this was a problem, because about 18 months earlier I had reported my licence as lost/stolen to DVLA, who gave me a new one, matter forgotten. But not here at the frontier of the EU! Because my driver’s licence number was linked to a lost/stolen document it had wound up in an EU-wide database and, under the Schengen agreement, something had to be done.
Fortunately, in between times, I had found the lost licence and happened to have it with me. The Latvian solution was to confiscate the cancelled licence and issue a “decision on withdrawal of foreign travel document under the provisions of Article…” That all took a couple of hours. I don’t like Latvia anymore!
St. Basil’s and the Kremlin at night (Moscow).
Photo by Peter & Allison Cotes
Motor insurance is compulsory in Russia. Some U.K. insurers (not ours) can provide it, and after failing to buy it in Latvia, we got it at the first fuel station after Customs, once we had found and awakened the salesman who was snoozing in his car.
Moscow, Novgorod (one Kremlin each),
then St. Petersburg
After an overnight stop we reached Moscow in the early afternoon, when traffic is at its most dense. Amazingly the car did not stall or overheat and oil pressure was fine, but with the lights on and fan working hard, the battery was drained, and having stopped outside the front door of the Metropol Hotel right next to Red Square, I needed that battery jump-start pack to get to the car park. The TR5 had similar electrical problems when he arrived but whereas our Optima battery survived, his conventional battery was dead and he had to get a replacement.
Scenic had provided ‘Hop-on, Hop-off’ bus tickets for most of the capital cities, so we spent a day on the buses after an early morning drive (no traffic) to the edge of Red Square for a photo op of the car at St. Basil’s Cathedral. An interesting excursion was to a Cold War bunker, 65 metres down, the HQ of Strategic Bomber Command — nuclear bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles. We had a beer in their underground restaurant.
Our next stop was Novgorod, an old and relatively undamaged city on the way to St. Petersburg, where we visited the Kremlin (not ‘the’ Kremlin but their local castle with an old cathedral) and a museum of wooden buildings.
St. Petersburg was not as hot as Moscow, and we were quite cold as we walked down Nevsky Prospekt in the drizzle to the Winter Palace and Admiralty Embankment.
Our bus tour next morning was disrupted by a marathon so we got off and walked until it rained, at which stage tea and cakes were called for. Another early morning drive provided photos of the car at some of the major sites.
Of course we had to look at some eggs — Fabergé eggs! We had been round the Winter Palace with our daughter many years ago, so chose the Fabergé Museum on the bank of one of the canals.
The ‘Coronation Egg’ displayed at the Fabergé Museum — its contents the miniature carriage next to it.
Photo by Peter & Allison Cotes
After two rest days it was time for the return leg — the border to Finland (so quick and easy compared to the Latvians!), a night in Helsinki, a ferry to Germany, a drive to the Hook of Holland, and home via Harwich.
The drive to the Hook was not quite as planned. We stopped in Lubeck, then smelt petrol — both banjo bolts on the carbs were loose and fuel was dripping out. Fixed that and headed on the motorway past Bremen, where there were a whole series of road works. Exiting them there was a boom and we were surrounded with sound — the exhaust ‘Y’ piece had sheered and the pipe was dragging on the road under the car. It’s then that you realise what a good job a silencer does!
The exit was just ahead of us so we left the motorway where a passing classic VW Beetle found us. He was local and knew a workshop just off the slip road. The owner told us to be patient — difficult when you’re still 240 miles from the ferry! We were there about 90 minutes and left with a newly welded pipe, and were in time to catch the ferry back to Norfolk (okay, Essex, but close!).
Montour Racing from Québec competed at Sebring in the Trans-Am XGT class.
Photo by Louis-Philippe Montour
Trans-Am at Sebring
Today Astons Run among Mustangs and Camaros, but Yesterday...
by Reggie Smith
SEBRING, Fla. — The 2020 Trans-Am season started off with a “leap” on February 29th/March 1st —and although the weather was brisk, the racing was fast and clean.
If you are unfamiliar with Trans-Am, maybe a little “Trans-Am 101” is appropriate, starting with the two most obvious questions:
Where did Trans-Am start? (Answer: Sebring.)
When did Trans-Am start? (Answer: Um…)
The history of the Trans-Am championship officially began in 1966 when a key manager with the SCCA, Jim Kaser, and the Vice President and Race Secretary of Sebring envisioned and launched the first race of a series which has, with a few tweaks and adjustments, made it all the way to 2020.
But guess what? The actual inspiration for the series goes back to December 1959, when the season-ending Formula One race was going to decide the drivers’ world championship. There was some thought that the single-seat, open-wheeled F1 cars, driven by people mostly familiar in Europe, might benefit from some additional “color” on the schedule. So, the program was enhanced with a Formula Junior race — and a “compact” sedan race as compacts were all the rage.
The sedan race was for American and “foreign” cars, and managed to draw some familiar names from sports car and even NASCAR events. It was a new format, but not difficult for the spectators to identify with because they could recognize any of the cars at a distance without having to stare at a name badge.
The front of the grid was the heart of the program because the cars were quite competitive and some of the drivers were pretty well known. The cars included models from Jaguar, Studebaker, Volvo, Volkswagen, Sunbeam, Rambler, Saab, Renault, Hillman, NSU, English Ford, Borgward and Fiat, along with the new compacts from Chevrolet, Ford and Plymouth (Corvair, Falcon and Valiant). Drivers included Walt Hansgen, Pedro Rodriguez, Glen “Fireball” Roberts, Denise McCluggage, Curtis Turner, Ed Crawford and Roger Ward, all of whom added credibility to the fledgling event. Hansgen and Turner provided an enthusiastic battle, and the stage was set for a future in racing for cars identifiable in a spectator car park.
Today, sponsored by Pirelli but still under the sanction of the SCCA, the Trans-Am format is refined and better organized from those early days, following years of competitive factory commitment and guest or seasonal appearances from the professional driving world. Safety regulations (roll cages, seatbelt systems, fuel cells and radio communication) and performance regulations (weight, engine displacement, wheel and tire restrictions and even aerodynamic guidelines) have refined the series tremendously, although, somehow, the cars’ appearances have blended together to look quite similar to each other.
And the cars? They are spread over five classes and all based on street cars, from tuned production cars to highly-modified chassis turned out by specified builders. They include Camaros, Mustangs, Corvettes, Audi R8s, Porsches and Aston Martins.
Marque readers would love the appearance, specification and, mostly, the sound of one of them: the #27 Aston Martin from Québec belonging to the father-and-son team of Marc and Louis-Philippe Montour. Marc, the father, drove the Aston Martin and Louis-Philippe drove a Camaro. In Sunday’s race the Camaro was in the front-running group overall, and the five-year-old Vantage finished 2nd in the XGT class, after placing in one of the top three positions over the course of two tests, the practice session and qualifying.
Even with your back to the track you would have enjoyed the fantastic sound of the Aston Martin V12 engine as it approached its shift point of 6500rpm, and to make matters equal, others would have appreciated the identical sound from a position from the opposite side of the road because the exhaust from each bank of cylinders was split to the left and right of both sides of the car. The sound was exceptional and it was like a symphony orchestra amongst a group of V8 garage bands!
Hopefully the Montours’ plans to run the whole Trans-Am season will end in significant championship results.
Aston Martin’s presence in Sebring dates back to the early days of the famous 12 Hours, when the team from Newport Pagnell first appeared. Reg Parnell, Peter Collins and team manager John Wyer were among the first factory entries. Later on, Wyer’s style and experience guided team management for GT40 Fords and 917 Porsches in light-blue Gulf Oil colors, adding style and dignity along with an enviable history to the 12-hour race.
But that’s another story for another time!
Mazda Team Joest’s #77 brakes into the West Horseshoe during the nighttime stint.
Photo by Tom Murray
‘What a Car They Gave Me’
Jarvis & Crew Claim Pole, Finish 2nd at Daytona, and There Are Some New Astons in Town
by Bruce Vild
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Jan. 23-24 — Brit Oliver Jarvis was quite impressed with the car he brought to the top during qualifying for the Rolex 24 at Daytona. He did the same thing last year (and even broke a 36-year-old track record then), but this time, he said, it was different. Maybe it had as much to do with the team as with his AER-powered machine.
“What a car [the team] just gave me,” he said right after earning pole position in car #77 for Mazda Team Joest. “I cannot say ‘thank you’ enough.
“This year feels different. This year feels business-like. Last year, there was a huge amount of emotion. It was the first time. This year, it feels like we came in to do a job, and this is just a small part of what we want to achieve this weekend.”
The team most definitely got down to business. They fielded two cars once again, #55 in the familiar merlot-colored livery and #77 a striking Arctic white, and went on to record the company’s best overall finish yet at Daytona during the 24-hour WTSCC race.
Jarvis and his teammates Tristan Nunez and Olivier Pla were constantly in contention for the win, even when they had to make up time for a penalty about halfway through the race. They led 190 total laps in the 833-lap race and ultimately finished 2nd, behind the Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi.
Their partners in car #55, Jonathan Bomarito, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Harry Tincknell, finished 6th after starting 3rd. There were incidents in traffic, damaged bodywork and a penalty to contend with, even a mechanical problem that slowed their performance in the final hours.
Said Hunter-Reay, “We weren’t able to show the true potential of the #55 Mazda at the end of the race, which is unfortunate. The car was really hooked up — the best car I’ve driven at Daytona. But on the positive side, both Mazdas completed the 24 hours, which is great for the program and for the championship.”
That reminds this writer of what a pit crew member once remarked after a less-than-ideal race result: “To finish first, you first have to finish.” Unfortunately for the two Aston Martins that ran in the GT Daytona (GTD) class this weekend, such hopes were dashed early on.
Aston Martin Racing had announced that they would be fielding their #98 Vantage GT3 in the Rolex 24 along with a new partner team, Heart of Racing, whose #23 Vantage GT3 would run not only at Daytona but for the full WTSCC season. It would be good to see an Aston in the “big” race once again — and not only that, but there would be two teams other than Automatic Racing campaigning Astons in the Michelin Pilot Challenge race, too.
The works-run Aston was piloted by well-known factory drivers Pedro Lamy, Mathias Lauda and Ross Gunn, with Andrew Watson standing in for Paul Dalla Lana, who had been injured earlier in a skiing accident. Heart of Racing’s drivers were Ian James, who also serves as team manager, Alex Riberas and Nicki Thiim, two AMR factory drivers, and newcomer Roman De Angelis, winner of last year’s GT3 Cup Challenge.
Heart of Racing’s #23 Aston Martin is new this year to the GT Daytona class in WTSCC.
Photo by Tom Murray
At Daytona, the fastest GTD cars would complete 765 laps during the 24-hour race. The #98 Aston completed only 189, #23 only 151.
Watson was running #98 as high as 3rd in class about three and a half hours into the race, but, shortly after a pit stop for fuel, tires and a new front hood some four hours later, fellow driver Gunn returned the car to the pits and the crew took it behind the wall. Riberas meanwhile had had contact with a Lamborghini about an hour earlier, and that spelled the end of #23’s race.
Both Mazdas, of course, will be back later this month for the 12 Hours of Sebring. Although the entry list has yet to be released, it is expected that the #23 Aston will be there as well. We’ll be watching for it.
Michelin Pilot Challenge: two new Aston teams
The four-hour BMW Endurance Challenge, the first-in-the-season Michelin Pilot Challenge race, saw Aston stalwarts Automatic Racing returning with a new Vantage GT4 replacing venerable car #99, now formally retired, along with their GT4 that debuted last year, #09. They were joined by Stephen Cameron Racing and KohR Motorsports, also with GT4s, the latter having formerly campaigned Ford Mustangs with disappointing results.
McLarens also came back to Daytona, with two familiar names attached —Corey Lewis, now driving for M1 Racing LLC, and Kuno Wittmer, now with AWA. Their competitors included Mercedes-AMG GTs, BMW M4s, Audi R8s, Ford Mustang GT4s and Porsche Cayman Clubsports.
Automatic Racing’s Gary Ferrera and Kris Wilson came to Daytona hoping to repeat last year’s dramatic 2nd-place finish, but it was not to be — although it very well could have been. They started 28th, and Ferrara drove up through the ranks and set up Wilson well for his stint, in the lead lap with about two and a half hours to go. Wilson then began his own charge up the field, getting as high as 10th. And then the power steering failed.
Wilson persevered, however, and brought the car home in 15th position. Teammate Ferrera later said, “There wasn’t much we could do once the power steering went out on Kris. If it had been anyone else besides someone with his many years of experience, we wouldn’t have finished.”
For the drivers of Automatic Racing’s other car, #09, the race was like a dodgem ride on a state fair midway.
Rob Ecklin started 21st and gained five positions early in the race, but on Lap 5 he was struck on the driver’s door by a Mercedes going into Turn 1. There was damage to the door and Ecklin had to endure the ensuing vibration until he pitted for tires and fuel, which, he reported, seemed to fix the problem.
But Ecklin was hit again on Lap 28, this time in the rear of the car going into the Bus Stop. He was still able to drive the car and completed his stint, handing it over to Ramin Abdolvahabi with two hours and 40 minutes remaining in the race.
Abdolvahabi had his own incident less than half an hour later, with a car attempting what the team would later charitably call “an optimistic move” going into Turn 1, running wide and sending #09 into the grass to avoid it. The Aston driver had to make two other evasive maneuvers during his stint before turning the car over to Brandon Kidd.
Kidd took the wheel with one hour and 17 minutes remaining, dealing with scuffed tires. He pitted for replacements with 34 minutes to go and was gaining positions on the field when a Mustang came across the front of his car entering the Bus Stop and went hard into the tire barrier. Debris on the track ended the race under caution, with #09 finishing 18th.
Automatic Racing’s 'new' #99, which replaced the car retired after Petit last year.
Photo by Tom Murray
Kidd summed up the day: “Rob got hit a few times but did a great job to keep it going, and Ramin kept it clean and passed it on to me. We had a very close call at the end. It’s disappointing to end the race that way, but the weekend was a blast. I love racing with these guys!”
Stephen Cameron Racing’s #43 Aston and KohR Motorsport’s #60 seemed to have a much better day, with Cameron finishing 7th and KohR 5th. In fact, leading to and after the race, the KohR team had nothing but praise for its car.
In a surprise announcement that even shocked the team — just a week before the season opener at Daytona — KohR, a longtime Ford competitor, made a switch to Aston Martin. Figuring strongly into that decision was Aston’s “ladder system” of driver education and promotion, the company’s Driver Academy, and the opportunities that seemed to go along with the AMR program.
KohR did not take delivery of its Vantage GT4 until January 9th. That would mean only a handful of days to test the car before the BMW Endurance Challenge, but as the team says, “It was enough.” The car qualified in 4th position, and with Mike Stacy and Kyle Marcelli co-driving, finished 5th in the race.
“Switching to the Aston Martin has been amazing so far,” Stacy said later. “I couldn’t ask for much more support from the factory, and I have to thank the guys from KohR Motorsports for being so adaptable with all the new challenges.
“The Aston is a very user-friendly car. Finding the limit isn’t too difficult. It’s just a matter of maximizing its strong suits.”
Hmm, sounds like a very British car to me.
[Developed from team reports and press releases.]