The 84th edition of the Geneva International Motor Show was officially opened on Thursday (March 6) by the President of the Swiss Confederation, Didier Burkhalter.
Burkhalter was welcomed at Palexpo by Geneva Motor Show President Mr Maurice Turrettini and General Manager Andre Hefti.
Burkhalter officially opened the show at the press conference before taking a tour through the exhibition halls to see the new must have cars from up close.
Considered one of the “Top 5” of the world’s car show, this year’s edition promises to be as packed with new cars and concepts as ever.
Some 700,000 visitors from 80 different countries are expected to see 900 vehicles from more than 30 of the world’s major manufacturers during the 11 days of the exhibition.
During the first two press days on Tuesday and Wednesday, manufacturers took the opportunity to present not just their new designed cars but also developments in other sectors.
French manufacturer Citroen showcased their new racing vehicle for the World Touring Car Championships (WTCC), starting in April.
The WTCC will have some serious star power to match its new regulations for 2014, with the most successful rally driver of all time joining its ranks.
“It’s a long time I knew one day I would have to retire from rally, but it’s not easy to decide to stop if you don’t have anything else to do. So, for me, for a few years I was doing one or two races a season on track and I enjoyed it and finally I decided to switch from rally to WTCC. It was important not to do it too late. If I do it at 50 years old maybe it’s too late so I think it was the right time to change,” explained the nine-time WRC champion Sebastien Loeb, of his decision to race for the new Citroen WTCC team along with the series’ serial champion Yvan Muller.
The pair will race the C-Elysee, an aggressive-looking race car which takes advantages of the WTCC’s new regulations which allow more aerodynamic freedom and greater power.
“Yeah the technical rules are a bit different from last year. First of all the car is wider each side, more of less 10cm so the car looks a bit more aggressive. Then the downforce, the aerodynamic is bigger with a bigger rear wing, the front splitter is bigger as well. And the engine is bigger, with more power. The car is lighter. So the performance of the 2014 car will be much faster than the last year,” Loeb said.
Citroen announced their WTCC participation in 2013, making it the first time that the brand will compete on an international track racing Championship, having been a mainstay of the FIA World Rally Championship for a number of years.
Mark Webber launched a new chapter in his career at the Geneva Motor Show on Tuesday (March 4) when he unveiled the Porsche 919 Hybrid he will race in the FIA World Endurance Championship this year.
The nine-time Formula 1 race winner is one of six drivers who’ll driver for Porsche in its first factory assault on sportscar racing in 16 years.
“I’m exited, I think it’s been a lot of work in the background up until this point we’ve done a lot of testing,” he said.
Obviously for me it’s a big transition coming across the Porsche. We’ve been welcome with open arms it’s been incredible. The history inside the team is incredible, all the board members there are all races they want to go and compete well. We have a huge challenge on our hands, we are respectful of the opposition, it’s a massively complex car, the most complex that the Porsche has ever done. So we have a lot on our plate but we wouldn’t want it any other way. To go on win in our first season is going to be very challenging, we want to be very competitive, we want to be reliable. Yes so I feel good, we need to go racing now get into it, testing is good but we need to go racing.”
Webber was joined by U.S. actor and racing driver Patrick Dempsey, who will race the new Porsche 911 RSR at the iconic Le Mans 24 Hours race this year, for his own team Patrick Dempsey Racing.
The iconic Le Mans 24 Hour race has been celebrated at the Geneva Motor Show with present day winners meeting with legends of the past, in front of a spectacular display of cars from event’s illustrious history.
French legend Henri Pescarolo, who won Le Mans four times and started a record 33 times, described the race as ‘the most important in the world.’
“It’s quite usual to say that it is the most important race in the world, in all categories. When you travel around the world if you say ‘Le Mans’ everyone says ’24 Hours’, it’s a legend, it’s not only a race,” he told Actua PR.
Marcel Fassler, twice the winner in 2011 and 2012 said the race is celebrated also because eof its long lasting tradition.
“Le Mans the race has a lot of traditions and I think this is what people also like very much. For years it’s always the same the tradition with the technical part in the beginning of the week in the old city and the practice at night and I think this is something which the people like and always if there are 250,000 spectators on the finish line it’s quite different ambiance. I think it’s a myth and that’s what makes it so special too.”
Hollywood star Patrick Dempsey, best known for his role in medical drama Grey’s Anatomy was also on hand to speak of his expectations for this year’s Le Mans, where he’s racing a Porsche 911 RSR.
“At this level you have to be focused 100 percent on it and that’s the big challenge balancing out what I do for a living in Hollywood and getting enough seat time to be competitive. And when I get enough seat time my pace improves immensely. I can see that I’m making a lot of ground on the pros in my pace and that’s what about it’s all about. Until I can focus 100 percent I’ll have to do both.”
Bertrand Piccard, the first person to complete a non-stop balloon flight around the globe, extolled the virtues of hybrid cars in Geneva.
“I love pioneering spirit, so the first time I heard there was a hybrid car in 2004, of course that was for me.”
The 56-year-old Swiss psychiatrist and balloonist was speaking from the Toyota stand, where the new Europe-only Aygo was debuted.
Toyota supports Piccard’s Solar Impulse project, which is working to achieve the first circumnavigation of the Earth by a piloted fixed-wing aircraft using only solar power. Piccard said he was looking forward to hydrogen cars taking off:
“I’m very interested by the hydrogen car from Toyota which will be on the market next year, which means that after flying round the world with Solar Impulse in 2015, we can land and go into a hydrogen Toyota car, and that will be really interesting – I look very much forward to it.”
But Piccard expressed doubt about concept cars, saying consumers want to see something they can use rather than simply admire:
“I’m always interested to see what will be in the future, I like visions. But now you also have to be very pragmatic in the car business. It means you also have to show cars that people can buy, because if you only show things people can look at, you don’t captivate the excitement of the people – people like to buy new technologies.”
The Geneva Motor Show will run until March 16.
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