In this final article of 2021, what has been another unprecedented year, I’ve put together my annual SSO Awards list covering the automotive universe in general. In putting this year’s awards list together, I would like to first acknowledge that I have no real basis to be doing this (that’s better left up to the professional journalists and those that actually work in the automotive sector) and therefore I’ve taken the liberty to take a different approach that probably only amuses me. Please excuse some of the more esoteric references.
The Coal Under the Christmas Tree Award goes to Aston Martin which still hasn’t delivered a single Valkyrie despite different Aston Martin Executives making the following promises in the last 2 years: In May 2020: “deliveries will start in the 2nd half of 2020”, a year later in May 2021: “deliveries are on schedule for 2nd half of 2021”, in July 2021: “deliveries will start in Q4 2021”, in November 2021: Moers announced Aston Martin had completed the first customer Valkyrie……….but as of Christmas Eve 2021, there is zero evidence of any actual customer deliveries. For context, when Aston Martin originally announced the Valkyrie, Obama was President, Cameron was the Prime Minister, Corona was cheap watery Mexican beer, the last group to storm the US Capital were the British in 1812 and Meghan Markle was a little known US actress on a minor TV Show.
Julius Ceasar Veni Vidi Vici Award (Latin for I came, I saw, I conquered) goes to Ferrari naturally. With the coming Purosangue SUV and recently launched Roma, they have put a fork right into Aston Martin. Then just to make sure McLaren didn’t feel left out, Ferrari introduced 296 GTB hybrid which is aimed squarely at the McLaren Artura.
Stephen Hawking Award in Quantum Mechanics goes to Max Verstappen who spend a season threading his car through gaps that may or may not have existed and in the end was rewarded with his first world championship.
The Best Money is Other People’s Money Award is a tie between Aston Martin Lagonda & Lawrence Stroll. Aston Martin has been on an absolute tear this year when it comes to collecting customer deposits by launching the limited edition Valkyrie AMR Pro, Valkyrie Spider, Valhalla, and just to make sure they finished the year with a bang, the Final Edition V12 Vantage. Just in Q3 2021 Aston Martin pulled in £38 mil. of new customer deposits while reporting improved Free Cash Flow of only £5 mil. This indicates Aston has likely burned through £33 mil. of what was brought in.
Lawrence Stroll is honored for having the public company, Aston Martin Lagonda PLC, in which he is the Executive Chairman and largest but very much still a minority shareholder, pay a sponsorship fee of £24 million a year to his privately owned race team (formerly Racing Point, now rebranded as Aston Martin Racing). Lawrence Stroll’s son Lance drives for what is now called the Aston Martin Formula 1 Team.
The Winston Churchill “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it” Plaque is our second tie between McLaren on the Artura and Gordon Murray Automotive (GMA) on the T.50. McLaren proved they had finally learned from past foibles on rushing cars into production before they were quite ready for prime time with the Artura. Its production has now been pushed back into 2022 to ensure they get it completely right before customer deliveries start.
The GMA T.50’s debut at the Goodwood Members’ Meeting was a smashing success and came off flawlessly. They had clearly learned a bit from one of their competitors’ fiascos earlier in the year at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. While the T.50s fan still feels a bit gimmicky, the rest of the T.50 on paper is pure brilliance. A high revving V12, manual gearbox, central driving position, and carbon fiber tub is as good as it gets.
The David vs. Goliath Award goes to Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus for not only entering two SCG 007s in the top LMP1/LMH category at Le Mans but finishing just off the podium in 4th and 5th on their first attempt.
The Gordon Gekko’s ‘Greed is Good’ Plaque goes to Russell Westbrook Chrysler Dodge Jeep RAM in Van Nuys for tacking on a $50,000 “Market Adjustment” fee plus a few others on a new 2022 RAM truck taking the sticker price from $94k to $148k.
The Dutch Tulipmania Balloon goes to Rivian. It went public in Nov at $78 a share, soared up to $179 before crashing back down to $97 after Rivian’s first post IPO earnings announcement. This still leaves Rivian with a market cap of $88 bil. which given Rivian has only delivered 386 vehicles to date is just a bit eye watering. As a reference Ford’s current market cap is $82 bil.
The Pastor Maldonado Award goes to Nikta Mazepin. Mazepin started his F1 career by crashing out on the first lap and the season didn’t get much better from there. He finished dead last in all but 2 races, was warned and penalized several times for ignoring blue flags (instructions to move out of the way to allow the race leaders through), but in a spectacular display of a lack of self-awareness rated himself 4 out of 5 on the season.
The Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder Scroll is given to BMW for the new M3 & M4. The huge new front “kidney” grill gives it a smushed in nose look that is definitely going to take years to get used to……if it happens at all.
The Sir John Major Award for Elbowing Aside your Predecessor goes to George Russell who just to make sure everyone was aware he was ready to take the 2nd seat on the Mercedes F1 Team from Valtteri Bottas, took the former out while attempting an overly ambitious high-speed overtake on the Mercedes on a damp track. Immediately afterwards the crash, Russell went over to Bottas, who was still sitting in his wrecked car, and slapped his race helmet.
The Johannes Gutenberg Award goes to Czinger for the 21C Hybrid. Not sure yet if this is genius or madness but 3D printing a hypercar is definitely breaking new ground. Czinger did claim to have set a new production car track record at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in October of this year by beating the previous record set by a McLaren P1 by more than 6 seconds. It’s a cheeky claim as the 21C is still a prototype and years away from being a true production car with a license plate on the back. However, hats off to Czinger for developing a prototype in a relatively short period of time that’s capable of running flat out in public.
The Coco Chanel “Imitation is the highest form of flattery” Pin goes to Ferrari for the Icona SP3. Even though Ferrari is putting together modern “imitations” from its back catalog, the SP3 is still brilliant. How can you not like a mid engine V12? The only thing that would make it better is if it had the same 6 speed manual gearbox as the F50.
The Chris Harris Ferrari Treatment Plaque (see: Harris Banned by Ferrari) goes to the Ferrari SF90. Harris called the SF90 both a toy and stupid while admitting “the thing is undeniably impressive”. Given Harris current role at Top Gear, I doubt this will lead another “suspension”. I do applaud Chris for not being afraid to speak his mind and voice opinions that might not be well received by certain car manufacturers. Unlike his predecessors at Top Gear, Harris actually is an accomplished driver.
The US Marshalls Witness Protection Program Cloak goes to De Tomaso. After making a huge splash at both Goodwood and Pebble Beach with the P72 in 2019, De Tomaso then announced in October that they were moving all of their operations to the US “to restore the romance, beauty, passion and elegance in the luxury American automotive industry”. Since then, other than issuing a press release that they had hired a test driver, De Tomaso has essentially disappeared.
The Jamie Dimon Award for Getting Fired and Moving Up goes to Sergio Perez who after getting dumped by Racing Point in 2020, landed in a Red Bull seat for 2021 and finished 4th in the Championship. Perez has already been resigned by Red Bull for 2022. The driver who Perez was fired to make way for finished 12th. (Jamie Dimon, currently the Chairman & CEO of JPMorgan Chase, was fired by Citibank in 1998. JPMorgan Chase is the largest of the US Big Four Banks and Citibank is the smallest)
I hope you found this amusing or at the very least put a smile on your face – tough to do this second unprecedented year. And so, 2021 finally comes to a close. It ends much as it began, with yet another Covid-19 spike, ICUs being overwhelmed, events being cancelled, and office openings being pushed back yet again. The scary part is it all feels almost normal now. All the best for a better, happier, healthier 2022.
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