All entries for April 2006

April 30, 2006

Seven–Car Dream Garage: The 911

Follow-up to A Dilemma from Semi-Perfectionism

After arriving home a while ago after another marathon library sesh, filling my head with the intricacies of group theory and topology, going through a million past papers and the like, I came home, turned on the PC and did the usual check of the internet to see if anything interesting had gone on in the world that day. Berlusconi still not accepting defeat? Bird flu may or may not be here? Pah...these all paled in the face of the first signs that Porsche are well and truly underway with the development of the new 911 GT2 and GT3 RS :–D. After a day of work, it was nice to have such a stark reminder of what's it all in aid of…get a good degree, get a highly lucrative job, and buy one of these. But, given the choice, would I really buy one of these for the dream garage?

It goes without saying that no decent car collection worthy of the name is complete without a 911 in there somewhere. Not only is it one of the best all–round cars that there has ever been, it is also well suited to being used as an everyday runaround. Indeed, since it’s the flagship product of what is essentially a manufacturer of mainstream supercars, if it gets bashed around in the daily commute, then that’s no problem. However, if a cyclist knocks off the wing mirror of your Pagani Zonda in the morning rush, then not only has a work of art been desecrated, you’ll have to deal with Italian bureaucracy to get it fixed. Rather you than me…

However, it would be careless to limit my selection of 911 candidates to this pair. The previous generation 911, known by geeks as the 996, was without doubt the class–leading product of the period. It spawned some truly epic 911 derivatives as well; in particular the Turbo and GT3 RS. Although this pair were, technically, inferior to the 996 Turbo S and GT2 models, with the GT2 being the ultimate version of the 996, they still make it onto the shortlist. For unquantifiable reasons, the Turbo S and GT2 leave me cold, I have no idea why, and hence they don’t make the cut.

I shall also, perhaps controversially, rule out all of the pre–996 911s…simply because I don't like them; again for no real reason. The 996 was the 911 of my youth, so in the same way that people's favourite Bond is usually the first Bond you saw (although Brosnan is my favourite, which kind of screws that theory), the 996 is what I consider to be the benchmark 911. I have some friends who I'm fairly sure would happily murder anyone who would even dare to suggest that the 'old' 911s are a bit pants; but happily my life has been spared on many occassions by the fact that modern society would consider that to be a bit of a social faux pas

Moving back to the future, there are two more candidates. These are the recently unveiled Turbo and GT3 versions of the latest 997–generation 911, both of which move the game on considerably from their 996–generation predecessors. So, the candidates, in chronological order of release:

911 (996) Turbo
This monster was the first (and only, alas) 911 that I've had the pleasure of driving. Shortly after turning 18, I was fortunate enough to see 130mph whilst at the wheel of one these…which is a bit limp considering I was driving round Thruxton at the time, the fastest circuit in the country :D. However, it still made an impression; you've got to love a car with 70mph marked not even 30 degrees from the bottom of the speedo. I was never a fan of the 911 up until the point that I sat in it for the first time. I was under the impression that its German teutonic–ness made it a bit too clinical. On the contrary. That's what I love about it…the teutonic–ness means that this car is about delivering the goods with no fuss, none of this exposed metal gearshift gate and offset pedal–box rubbish. Consequently I almost feel obliged to let the 996 Turbo into my dream garage, and with them being total bargains on the used market, there's no reason not to have one.

996 Turbo

911 (996) GT3RS
This is a proper car. If it wasn’t brilliant, then you know Porsche wouldn’t have gotten away with that outlandish sticker/paint job. And you didn't think that I'd have a rubbish car in my blog banner, did you :–p!? They were/are very rare, I think only 25 made it into the UK for every year it was on sale, and indeed, they appreciated nicely until the 996 was killed off. However, they were most noted for being brilliant on the track…a bit twitchy, probably a bit rubbish on the road, but still…just look at the paintjob. And the wheels…the wheels are nice.

996 GT3 RS

911 (997) Turbo
The 996 Turbo was still top of its game when the 996 was killed off, so Porsche can't fail to make the 997 version into a star performer. I'll be astonished if it's not once again the benchmark car for sub–£100,000 Grand Tourers. The 2+2 seating configuration means you can sling the kids in the rear until you've saved enough pennies for a Cayenne (err…hopefully by then the Panamera will be in the dealership, although a Turbo S would suffice…), and lots of clever tricks in the engine department mean you'll have no trouble in provoking motion sickness. However, the 997 Turbo looks a bit…fussy. Nice details round the front, but it doesn't seem cohesive. Hmm.

997 Turbo

911 (997) GT3
Although down on power compared to the Turbo, the GT3 has its heart set on being a track hero. First reports from the motoring press claim that the 997 GT3 is even better to drive on track than the 996 GT3 RS, which is an excellent start. Even better news is that is it's also apparently considerably better to drive on the road as well…maybe sufficiently so for it to be an everyday car. It looks better than the 997 Turbo too…but, if I had one of these…would I feel robbed, knowing that, ultimately, my 911 isn't the mightiest 911 of them all?

997 GT3

On a slight tangent, the clever Porsche 'Origin Motorsport ' web special for the GT3 is an example of internet advertising at its best. It shows you everything you want to see, and tells you everything you need to know, without upsetting the ASA. Apparantly they get a bit bitchy about TV advertisers even hinting that their cars could possibly be used as a tool for minor entertainment on the road, so this nicely sidesteps that problem. And the legendary configurator has got to be up there with the greatest procrastination tools of all time…well worth a gander.

911 (997) GT3RS
What can be said about this. It's like a GT3++. Since the car has only recently hit the test tracks, there's not much to comment on apart from the mere prospect of the car. If it can improve on the GT3 without being excessively compromised, which is extremely unlikely, then it's a strong choice. And just look at the rear wing…wow. I cannot recall another production car this side of a Subaru Impreza with such a big, aerodynamcially–useful wing as this.

997 GT3RS

911 (997) GT2
evo ran a headline a while back asking whether the 996–generation GT2 was 'the last scary 911', a bit of a widowmaker that would happily throw you into the scenery if you got a bit carried away. This contrasts with most contemporary performance cars, which are engineered to be able to save an overenthusiastic driver from their own stupidity. I'd be surprised if the 997 GT2 keeps that violent reputation, considering it's supposed to be good for at least 200mph (and, bizarrely, becoming the first production 911 to be able to do that), which will make it just as quick, on paper at least, as a Carrera GT. Consequently I imagine that Porsche will make the 997 GT2 a bit more benign that it's predecessor, else the potential for some severe carnage is quite plentiful. This is good, since I don't really like the prospect of facing death every time I go out in the car to purchase some milk. However I do like the prospect of being able to go out in the car to purchase some milk from a newsagents 100 miles away, and still be able to return within the hour (not that I can officially condone that sort of reprehensible behaviour) :–D

997 GT2

Meh. Face it, if you had any of these cars, you’d be extremely pleased unless you were an ardent environmentalist/communist–type person. I guess we can rule out the 997 GT3…why settle for that if the GT3RS is up to scratch? Similarly for the 997 Turbo. Provided the technically superior 997 GT2, which is based on the Turbo, isn’t liable to kill you, then you’d take the GT2.

So we now have the 996 Turbo, 996 GT3 RS, 997 GT3RS and 997 GT2. Since the latter two cars haven’t even been released yet, I think that for now, the 996 Turbo gets the nod. Although in this kind of situation there’s the potential for the grass to always be greener on the other side, if you did see a GT3 RS coming up in the rear–view mirror of your Turbo and started to feel a bit jealous, you could always rest safe in the knowledge that given a nice bit of disused runway, you could comfortably out–accelerate it all day long. Which, I believe, is a fact.

However, there would be no harm in putting your name down on the list for a GT2 whilst we wait for Porsche to put it into production ;)


April 28, 2006

Third View

As has already been commented on by some of my Silverstone–visiting comrades, yesterday's F1 test was excellent, and well worth the visit. It was the usual (free :–D) display of some of the most astonishing machines to ever traverse the face of the planet. I'm always taken aback by how much more sedate they appear to be on the TV in comparison to seeing them for real…but I guess that's the limitation of TV for you. I'm glad to say that, in my opinion, the V8s do not sound dramatically different to the V10s. They essentially make the same sound, and sing the same tune whilst zipping through the gears. Excellent.

Prohibited Area
Nathaniel takes measures to try and avert severe V8-induced ear-bleedage

However, it wasn't all good news. Unfortunately they've repainted the wall down by Abbey, so the BMW–shaped mark I left after a 'slight off' earlier in the year is gone :'(. I was hoping it would remain forever, as a monument warning all purchasers of £200–eBay–specials to ensure that you never take to a greasy racetrack with slightly perished tyres…

Git orf me land
Garage 6B has housed some mighty race teams over the years, but alas, not today

Star of the show for me was the McLarens. They seemed visibly faster that the other cars, but I guess that could have been an illusion caused by their shinyness. They really are very photogenic, despite not being pretty racing cars in the traditional sense. The sheen gives them extra impact, compared to the flat, slightly dull finish used by the other teams.

If it looks fast, then it is fast
eeeeeeeeeeee-eeeeeeeeeeee-EEEEEEEOOOWWWWwwwwwww

The STRs look good as well. I thought the design was a bit tacky when I first saw pictures of it, but when you see it hurling down the road at 160mph it is suprisingly effective. Poor old STR, why do they bother? If they go too fast then people complain it's because their V10 isn't restricted enough, and if they go too slow then people complain that they're rubbish. Disaster.

Toro Rosso
Liuzzi does the business instead of lazing around on the pitwall

The Williams drivers who were here today, Webber and Wurz (both of whom are legends) also provided some amusement. For reasons beyond the scope of our knowledge, during the day's lunch break, they took a couple of Caterhams out for a spin round the circuit. I guess since these were the new CSR260s (you can tell….puts geek hat on…look at the squared–off front wings…), that there was some marketing going on. Both the CSR260 and Williams FW28 have engines made by Cosworth, so it would be careless not to milk that connection. I was informed that some fellows from F1 Racing magazine were also involved, so I guess we'll find out all about it in a future issue.

Publicity Stunt
Webber reacted well upon discovering he'd have to drive a Cosworth engine that barely produces 100bhp/litre

We also spent some time up at Copse, which for most of the cars is taken flat out. It's hard enough to get through this blind, narrow corner in a road car at reasonable speeds; but in an F1 car, I believe they can take it at around 180mph. Respect. These guys know what they're doing. Montoya did have a few 'moments' through there, which raised our eyebrows a bit. It was quite a spectacle, to say the least.

Lifting is for wussies
Juan Pablo bombs into Copse, no doubt wondering whether the back end will step out this time. The kid earns his money, that's for sure.

Hmm, I don't seem to have included any pictures of my beloved Williams lashing round the track…this will never do. Here's one from Luffield, leading onto the main straight. I thought this was an excellent place to watch the cars from; because here, you can see them accelerate at their most violent, and it's stunning.

Schoolboy Error
The legend that is Mark Webber displays some un-legendary driving...even the most fresh-faced members of Warwick Motorsport know that he needs to be tight on that kerb :-D

Take a gander at the Motorsport website for the rest of the decent pics, if you're interested…link.

To finish, Nathaniel truly gave the circuit's Audi RS4, used for corporate entertainment (not just for corporates though, if you've yet to spend the student loan on anything useful ;–)), some proper loving. Happily he refrained from actually licking it, but I'm confident he only exercised restraint because there were small children around at the time ;–)

Love It
LOVE IT

In short, I had an excellent day, with some great company and some unreal cars. The BURGERS OF DEATH weren't too bad either. What a combination.


April 22, 2006

Formula One, courtesy of Warwick Motorsport

I'm pleased to say that one of our exec members has arranged to have the Union screen tomorrow's Grand Prix in Cholo. This is great, since traditionally the Union/Hospitality seem keen to go out of their way not to put F1 on. Gah, the troubles that gave me in my TV-less first year. If a reasonable crowd turns up then it's more likely that this can be made into a regular occassion…and makes it less likely that some awkward employee will decide to turn over to the snooker halfway through the race 8-). Word on the street is that the projector is broken, but meh, if you're a TV-less campus-dweller, you'll get over it!

Mark Spencer looks on

Our long-deceased club mascot looks on as Narain bangs in some laps at last year's test

Also, we're going to go to Silverstone on Thursday to watch the testing. We've got a couple of cars going down and perhaps a minibus, so if you're interested in taking a look, we might be able to give you a lift. Details to follow, but of course paying club members take priority ;). Last I heard, there were at least six teams signed up, so there's going to be plenty of action. I'm looking forward to it; 'tis my first chance to actually hear these new V8s, and to check out that shiny McLaren.


April 10, 2006

Don't You Love It When…

…you misread the clock and inadvertantly get out of bed an hour earlier than orginally planned? It's like you can get an extra hour of revision done…FOR FREE!

April 02, 2006

Australian GP – Well Worth The Watch

WARNING - MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS so if you want the race result to remain a suprise, then look away...there's only a few pictures of some cars getting destroyed :-D

This morning's race in Australia was fascinating. Littered with a series of unusual incidents, it was one of those races where the time just flies past. Apparantly it was as good as last season's epic race in Japan…I say 'apparantly' because, unfortunately, I never saw that one :-s.

The first lot of incidents made Jense's task of winning (or at least making another pathetic attempt to do so) considerably easier, with Fisi removing himself from the front row with a stall. Montoya is also officially a living legend, having spun on the final corner of the parade lap…what a move!

The second bouts of incidents just after the first corner of the race were equally amusing. Klien and Rosberg made a Massa sandwich, and speared him into the wall. Much carnage and unleashing of in-car fire extinguishers took place, which would have given Massa a nice suprise. The whole thing looked like a racing incident, with no-one to blame, but unfortunately Rosberg incurred race-ending damage. I was looking forward to seeing what he could do from the back of the grid, but never mind.

Massa Sandwich
No butter for me, thanks

The Massa sandwich opened the door for the star of the first half of the race to shine.

Star of the show
One of these cars is a bit out of it's depth. It's certainly not the CLK.

I feel like an F1-uber-geek by rattling on about the safety car…but…wow! Did you see it move!? Like Brundle pointed out, it was clearly going flat out, and it was a pleasure to watch. It looks great, it looks fast when you see it move, and if you ask Mercedes-Benz very nicely indeed, I think they'll build you one. I'm not a fan of the new CLK, but in the safety car configuration it looks great, very similar to the superb limited-run CLK DTM road car of 2004. Shame it sounded like a sewing machine on the in-car footage, but no matter…it was good to hear the unusual sound of squealing tyres at an F1 race.

Happily for me Mr Maylander got plenty of chances to take the CLK out for a spin, as people kept ditching it into the walls in spectacular fashion. Happily none of the accidents were serious in a driver-life-threatening way, but they were very serious in the car-life-threatening way. Guys like Klien, Liuzzi and Schumacher just trashed their cars completely…extremely watchable stuff :-D

Klien Carnage
Crrrrrrunch

Whilst all this was going on, Jense had inevitably succumbed to the likes of Raikkonen and Alonso, and was steadily falling back. Webber had suffered a mechanical failure whilst in the lead, so both Williams were out early :(. Kudos to Sato and the Toro Rossos though, they were driving extremely well at this point. Especially Sato…the guys stuck behind him were people like Barrichello, Coulthard and Fisichella, and they (should) know what they're doing. They'll probably haul out the Racing Driver's Big Book Of Excuses 2006 to explain why Sato was holding them up. Regardless, they should be pretty appalled with themselves. That Super Aguri is rubbish (did you see Ide spin THREE TIMES in the same lap in qually!? Surely that can't all be down to Ide's uselessness?), and even with the best driver in the world in it, the guys with Hondas and Renaults should just have cruised past.

Maybe Sato's 'reputation' preceeded him, and they were scared of taking him on, just in case…which in fairness, was probably wise. Although Sato did eventually fall behind these quicker guys as the race progressed, he finished the race (third time this season, I believe), without incident. With Ide getting to the finish for the first time as well, the SA people should be proud of themselves.

As race began to draw to a close, Montoya was next on the bizarre-incident hitlist. It was almost a copy of Schumacher's demise, where he ran wide at the final corner, and then hit a bump at the end of the kerb, which flung him into the wall. However, Montoya pulled off the save of the season by copying Schumacher in every way, apart from the hitting the wall bit. He showed some great skills, and whether it was luck or judgement that meant he hit the bump straight on (which made the car easier to control when he jumped over it), we may never know. We may also never know why, inexplicably, as soon as he had escaped a trip to the wall, his car just…stopped. The engine died, and it rolled to a halt underneath the pit wall. Very bizarre. Speculation as to what could have caused this is most welcome.

The race had a few more twists in the final few corners of the race. Alonso had the race in the bag, with Ralf Schumacher having one of those suprising drives that was so effortless no-one noticed him get onto the podium, behind Raikkonen.

However, Jense and Fisichella were now battling it out for fifth position. This is highly concerning…I probably shouldn't keep going on about how overrated Jense is, but he started from pole…and Fisi started from the back of the grid. What more can be said. Anyway, with two corners left, Jenson's Honda decided to explode, and try to barbecue Fisichella in the face for good measure. Fisi probably had mixed emotions about this…being gifted a place just as you're crossing the finish line is lovely, but getting a engine-fuelled roasting isn't. Jenson's Honda stopped just short of the line, so zero points for him. However, the strange manner of this failure will go some way to masking that throughout the race, both Honda and Jenson were mediocre at best. Not a hint of their claimed race- or world-championship winning potential.

The twists of the race were no longer over, though. It turns out that Jenson could have rolled over the line to take three points, but for some utterly inexplicable reason, Honda told him not to. The argument being that it was worth trading in those three points for not having to change the engine after 'completing' the race, and not incurring the 10-place penalty on the grid for the next race. What a stupid decision.

The fact the Fisichella, from the back of the grid, was right on Button's tail at the end of the race shows that a 10-place grid penalty is relatively insignifcant for a team that can't win races. If it were a McLaren or Renault in that position, then I can see the logic. It's much harder to actually win a race starting from the bottom ten, than it is to get a good points finish. Honda showed today, they can't win even starting from pole, so they need to take all the decent points-finishes that they can. The chances of them recouping those lost three points by virtue of not taking that penalty is very slim. Indeed, at this stage of the season, three points is just over 25% of Jenson's points haul for the season. 25%! Oh well…most likely Jense will win the next race purely to spite me.

My final point on this great race was the silent exchange between Alonso and Raikkonen at the post-race press conference. The pair inadvertantly caught each other's eyes at one stage, and instead of quickly looking away and ignoring each other, Raikkonen broke into a big smile. It was clear that he had geniunely enjoyed chasing Alonso, who returned the gesture with sincerity. It was a nice touch to see that the two top men in the sport really respect each other, and value their rivalry.


April 01, 2006

Don't You Love It When…

…getting out of bed is purely optional? Ahhh :-D

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