Could it be, we wondered, the start of something big?
When Alpine launched the A110 last year, they talked of bespoke retailers and making “the lightest cars in whatever class we’re in”. It all seemed a lot of trouble to go to if Alpine was only going to create a single model.
Sure, a convertible and a faster version of the A110 were, and surely remain, in Alpine’s plan too. But beyond that, was this just the first launch of many? Could Alpine be for Renault what Mini is to BMW?
Hmm. This week, Alpine boss Michael van der Sande is leaving, to replace John Edwards at Jaguar Land Rover’s SVO division. Meanwhile, Alpine chief engineer David Twohig has moved to electric car start-up Byton.
Maybe that’s simply because they’re so in demand – what with having created a brilliant new car – that they had offers they couldn’t refuse. I just hope it’s not because there’s too little in Alpine’s plans to keep them there.
The E1’s tech and construction have been surpassed by the i3, although not by as much as you’d think, but what struck me is how long those electric seeds have taken to sprout. Even if a decent charging infrastructure was available, it’s still far from clear to me that people want electric cars in vast quantities.
The most exciting new products come about when people make something we never knew we wanted – digital cameras, the compact disc, the microwave – and we soon wonder how we managed without them. They offer something tangible we’ve never had. Poor air quality and climate change will keep pushing electric cars but, if we’d really wanted them, wouldn’t we all have them already?
We were shocked to learn that friend and colleague Henry Hope-Frost had been killed in a traffic accident on his motorbike earlier this month. Formerly a writer at Autosport, latterly a permanent fixture on Goodwood’s commentary team, Henry was brilliant company and called his motorsport addiction an “incurable and debilitating fever”. His love of the sport – his love of life – was infectious.
Henry, 47, leaves a wife and three young sons, whose loss must be incalculable. He was wonderful, encyclopaedic, kind, curious, enthusiastic, hilarious. A mutual friend said to me the other day: “I used to hear Henry on the phone to his children, and think: ‘That’s how I want to talk to my kids.’”
Many of us will know others besides Henry who have perished on two wheels, or who have been more fortunate but still pretty unfortunate. Even Henry had ‘a massive shunt’ (as he’d put it) on his bike two decades ago.
As a result, another mutual friend has decided to give up riding and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t considered the same. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll ride less. Certainly, I’ve promised to ride more carefully than ever. Every time I do, I’ll remember one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever known.