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March 01, 2007

An Open Letter

Fellow citizens,

No doubt by now, many of you will be aware of the terrible plague that is striking down certain sections of our glorious nation’s core transport infrastructure. I urge you now, dear friends, to brace yourselves. Do not fall into the trap of complacency when considering the terrible disease that stands before us. It is inevitable that this can only get worse. I fear that after we narrowly avoided the extinction of the human race, when our wise Government swatted away the DEADLY BIRD FLU with copies of the Daily Mail soaked in disinfectant, many of us feel that such a torment will never face us again. Gird yourselves. DEADLY TESCO UNLEADED PETROL has already reached our shores, and this very day, there are people walking amongst us who have already felt its pain.

I demand that the Government take immediate action to halt the spread of DEADLY TESCO UNLEADED PETROL. The cause of this horrific ailment remains a mystery to us all, and I call for the Government to use every resource at its disposal to identify where it comes from. Already rumors are circulating that an excess of exotic substances, such as silicon, ethanol, or hydrogrogen dioxide, are to blame. These substances are invisible to the human eye; consequently we are defenseless against them. It is imperative that our leaders fight to gain an understanding of the seemingly random spread of this monsterous catastrophe, before it is too late.

Of more concern, it is clear that it is only a matter of time before DEADLY TESCO UNLEADED PETROL becomes airbourne and mutates into human form. Indeed, it may already have happened – the following report came from a valiant Englishman this very afternoon:

Well get this…I bought some Potato Waffles from Tesco in Milton, Cambridge on Saturday and ate half of them last night. Since then I have been experiencing stomach ache and some spluttering, symptoms not unlike those described on here. I went to my local main dealer about it who said I needed a new stomach, bowel and an enema and they couldn’t fit me in for any of them until next week. But my GP says I just need a big sh*t and a lie down and I’ll be fine. I just don’t know who to believe…

Clearly confusion is already beginning to take hold among the populace – but this need not be the case. We can prevail. Stay indoors. Stockpile food. Do not ingest any oil-based fuels, lest they orginated from the same source as the DEADLY TESCO UNLEADED PETROL. The Government will have no choice but to soon face up this disaster, and amass a stockpile of DEADLY TESCO UNLEADED PETROL vaccines for mass distribution. Until that time, take no risks. Exercise extreme caution should your young or your elderly being to show the symptoms. We will prevail.

And remember, there is no need for expensive repair bills until that time…the damage from automotive-type DEADLY TESCO UNLEADED PETROL may be minimised by immediate treatment with a tank or two of petrol from a brand who actually specialise in petrol, for example, Shell V-Power or BP Ultimate. I would not recommend this treatment for the human form – instead, immediately alerting your nearest medical professional is a much wiser course of action.

Stay away from contamination,

A concerned diesel-user


November 18, 2006

Star

This is one of a series of films made starring Clive Owen indulging in some top-rate hoonage. This, as far as I can recall, is easily the best of the lot…enjoy.


September 25, 2006

Is it wrong that I'm actually crying with laughter?!

Given recent events, this seems a highly topical video…

:D:D:D


September 10, 2006

Tevez, Spyker, and Formula One

I was extremely pleased when today it was formally announced that the remains of the old Jordan F1 team has been sold to Spyker, a small Dutch supercar manufacturer. Well, kind of. It’s a pretty bizarre transaction. Allow me a brief history lesson to set the scene.

As many of you will know, two years ago Jordan was sold to Midland, an obscure, but seemingly very rich, Russian company. Restructured and rebranded under the unevocative moniker of MF1 (Midland Formula One? Could they have come up with a more uninspiring name even if they tried?), they moved swiftly towards the back of the grid. MF1 took even less time in losing the affections of Jordan’s formerly very strong fan base.

It quickly became apparant that Midland weren’t quite prepared for trying to build a decent racing team, and were only in it to try and gain some brand exposure. I still can’t tell you what Midland actually do, and I’ve never heard of them outside the context of Formula One, so that hasn’t really happened. No-one will really notice you anyway unless you’re any good (like, pretty much all the other teams on the grid) or really cool (like Super Aguri). MF1 have been rubbish. I think this largely stems from a lack of motivation and funding, from the top of the Midland board, to get results.

When Midland realised that running a Formula One team is actually quite hard, they began to look to sell MF1 for a profit. They had bought Jordan for a knock-down price, and to give Midland credit they did make the team finacially stable. Rumors of the names of potential buyers circulated, Midland made token attempts at pretending to want to be staying in F1 for the long term, and life went on.

Stepping back a bit further in time to October 2000, the Birmingham Motor Show saw the world debut of the Spyker C8 Spyder. Having orginally ceased trading in 1925, the rebirth of Spyker was not one that many people really cared about, but the astonishing elegance of the C8 Spyder certainly grabbed attention. The car was full of gorgeous quirks, such as the gaping radiatior grill, the handbrake positioned in the passenger footwell, and the lush interior, sprinkled with toggle switches. Plus, and this is probably the most important factor, ‘Spyker’ is a really cool word.

C12 LaTurbie

Just for the record, this isn’t the C8 Spyder, but the most recent version of that model, the C12 LaTurbie.

The last ten years or so has seen many tiny startup supercar manufacturers arrive in a brief blaze of publicity, only to vanish into obscurity (and liquidation) in less time that it takes their products to do the 0-60 run. That’s not long at all. I expected Spyker to go the same way, but I’m glad to say that they quickly found their place in the market, and have recorded impressive growth since. However, they remain tiny in comparison to the traditional supercar names of Ferrari, Lamborghini and even Pagani.

This brings us back to the present moment. Rumors recently emerged that this tiny supercar manufacturer would be buying MF1. In a similar manner to the Tevez and Maschareno affair, this didn’t quite seem to make sense. Why would they do it? Where does the money come from? There are some pretty hefty manufacturers thinking about getting into F1, and plenty of existing teams are keen to start running their own ‘B-teams’. The easiest way to do this is by buying another team. Spyker are not one of these hefty manufacturers, and they don’t need to get into F1 to improve the quality of their business. Consequently the only reason that I think they’ve got into F1 is sheer enthusiasm. Evidence of this, and the source of the money, is provided by looking at the latest member of the Spkyer board.

Michiel Mol has been involved in Formula One for many number of years as a sponsor, largely through his Dutch media group Lost Boys. I don’t know much about Lost Boys, except that their simple typed logo looks insanely cool on racing overalls. They’ve backed a variety of teams and drivers, most notably Jos Verstappen and Arrows. Now, in a similar manner to Dietrich Mateschitz and Red Bull, Mol has decided to take an active role in F1 by buying into it, providing some major finance for Spyker’s deal.

I also suspect that Mol approached Spyker with the idea first, but no matter. Either way he’s helped to introduce a wonderful new name into Formula One, one that’s very far removed from the mainstream names traditionally associated with the sport. BMW, Mercedes, Honda, Toyota, Renault, and…Spyker? Cool. I think having the Spyker banner above the door will be a big help in transforming MF1 into a remotivated, interesting race team, and one that will be worth following. I hope they swiftly move to clear out all the lingering remains of MF1, and plaster the car in as many Spyker logos as they possibly can, as soon as possible.

They do, however, need to be careful to maintain the mystique surrounding the brand. It’s the mystique of the product that really bring in Spyker’s clients, so they definately do not need the mass-market appeal that comes with being a manufacturer in Formula One. If they can do that, and actually turn out a performance, then we have an excellent new team in the sport.

And in other news…the most successful racing driver of all time announced his retirement today…


August 27, 2006

Hands on with the Golf GTI

Yesterday I continued my quest for a new car by checking out the VW Golf. I walked into the local dealership and asked about the GTI, which is towards the top of my budget. The dealer responded by offering to let me try the GTI, and also recommended the lesser GT TSI 170 and GT TDI models, which are usefully cheaper than the GTI. I had never considered these other models, since I'd like something with a bit of sparkle, but the dealer's recommendations were surprisingly wise…and full of Q–car appeal.

First car I took for a run out was the GT TSI 170. The ‘TSI’ signifies that the car has a clever 'twin–charged' 1.4ltr petrol engine. Sounds weedy, but the 'twin–charged' bit means that the engine has a turbo– and super–charger, which work in conjunction to supposedly give the performance of a normal, naturally–aspirated 2.3ltr engine. And, I was pleased to find that it most certainly did have that sort of performance. The TSI 170 pulled like a train throughout the rev range, overtaking traffic was easy peasy, and it was super–smooth along the motorway. I think it cruised at 70mph at some ridiculously low rpm, something like 2,200rpm, so it was very quiet indeed. Considering the red line is a touch over 6,000rpm, and it was hushed throughout the rev range, it's fair to say that long–distance high–speed cruising in this car would be a very pleasant experience.

It was extremely impressive, and to be honest, had the GTI been as fast as the surprisingly rapid GT 170 was, then I would have been far from disappointed. However, the GTI was much faster. Indeed, it was so capable, that driving at legal speeds on the motorway demanded more attention than hitting the sorts of speeds that have Daily Mail readers wetting themselves. The GTI isn’t just about straight–line speeds, though; it can most certainly handle the twisty stuff.

The dealer gave me a good demo of this when we left the forecourt, with him driving. He started telling me about the ESP system, which applies the brakes on each wheel individually to alter the attitude of the car; and how good it was for safety, performance, and the like. He then asked if I was a nervous passenger, to which I replied no. He then launched into a series of single–handed four–wheel drifts around one of the large roundabouts on the edge of town, whilst telling me about how the in–car computer takes care of the handling and all that gumpf. It was easy. And fast. I didn’t try anything quite that extreme when I got behind the wheel, but I could certainly see what he was on about. Amazing stuff.

However, the GTI was just too amazing for me; it was just too easy to travel at really rapid speeds. This is good, but as I like to enjoy the process of driving – I want to have to work to make a good pace. In a GTI, to feel like you're going fast, you actually have to be going seriously fast. You will have lots of fun whilst doing it, though. But since I'm stepping up from the family 306, which may as well be a wind–up toy car compared to the GTI, I can get just as much of a kick, at much more legal speeds, in a less capable car. I could always turn off the ESP to liven things up, but when there’s the technology at your disposal, it strikes me as being careless to not take advantage of it ;)

Finally we finished by trying the GT TDI. Since the 306 is a diesel, I have developed a love of low–down torque, so I had to try it to see whether it suited my driving style better. To be honest, it didn't really. It did perform extremely well, pretty much the same as the TSI 170, and the top end of the engine was amazing. However, I don't think I've ever heard such an unpleasant–sounding diesel. When you consider it's also more expensive than the TSI 170, I decided not to add it to the shortlist.

All three Golfs were fantastic. They were spacious, practical, and nicely equipped. They look ok, and in a stereotypically German manner, were full of clever little touches. I suspect that I would also find it too easy in the TSI 170 to make a rapid pace, as with the GTI. I might go back later to try the lesser TSI 140, which might be weedy enough to make driving, in a legal fashion, a worthwhile experience.

However, I did try a car today that did a much better job of satisfying that particular quality, with quite some style, and I may record my thoughts on it later in the week. I'll give you a clue though…it's French, it's small, and it’s probably on Fernando Alonso’s company car list :D


August 21, 2006

Brabus'd

Having reached the stage in life where I no longer have to live on a student's budget, I'm now in the market for getting myself a nice new set of wheels. As in, an entire new car, not just a set of nice alloys. So this morning I went down to Portsmouth to check out some motors. I'd drawn up a brief shortlist, mostly consisting of products from VW Group manufacturers.

First up on the list from the VW Group was the Seat Leon FR. It looks good on the outside, and not too bad on the inside, except for the atrocious 'ergonomic' gearstick. It looks like a really cheap PC gaming joystick, but worse. Unfortunately the dealer didn't have an FR for me to test, so I can only assume the gearstick works better when you're on the move. I'll go back later for a test drive.

Then whilst on my way to see the Audi dealer, I saw a Smart Roadster–Coupe Brabus on a DaimlerChrysler dealership's forecourt. So I went in, took a look, and then took it out for a drive round Portsmouth with the very helpful dealer in the passenger seat. I like the way the car looks…it's got plenty of presence, despite being tiny. However, being tiny means that it will be great for the cross–town commute in the morning to get the train into London, with some respectable fuel consumption from the miniscule engine.

The driving experience in this Smart is also great. All the car journalists go on and on about how it feels like a miniature supercar, with the pops and whistles from the turbo, and a surprisingly aggressive growl from the three–cylinder engine. And, from my brief experience, those journalists were right; it sounds wonderful. The suspension also felt spot on, it was nice and firm but still comfortable, which is how I like it.

It wasn't all supercar–sweetness though, the semi–automatic gearbox is awful. The dealer said that with time, you can adjust your driving style to help smooth the gearchanges; but I think we can all agree that shouldn't have to be the case. Under full acceleration (which by Porsche standards is admittedly sluggish, but you'll never ever have so much fun going so slowly in a road car) you could feel the speed ebbing away whilst the gearbox pondered over the next gear change. It would have been quicker to get a spanner out and physically moved the gear selector thingy in the gearbox yourself.

In 'manual' mode, where you change gear using some nice paddles on the steering wheel, or pushing the gearstick itself, the situation wasn't much better. Although the changes did seem quicker (the dealer pointed out that you're more likely to think that a gearchange is quicker in manual mode, because you know when you've requested the gearchange), there was still too much delay. And I'm sure that the gearbox changed up a gear by itself at one point when I clattered into the rev limiter…which is a reasonable thing to do, but nowhere near 'manual' enough for my liking. And to add to the gearbox issues, I also felt that the power steering was too over–assisted, which could be a problem when blasting down my favourite backroad.

It is a great car, with some brilliant touches, but it's also flawed. I could also do with some rear seats…but, it's a Brabus , so I'd like to think I could overlook that. Also, when the asking price for this particular ex–demo car is almost £15k, that doesn't leave me much money to get a second car for transporting thing like friends around. I could get a well used E39 M5 for £15k…now there's a thought…

Next, I moved onto the Audi dealer. The discontinued Audi A2 is a car built with an emphasis on efficiency in a similar manner to that of the Smart. They had a used A2 in stock which I took a look at, and it was nice enough inside. The cabin was nice and airy, thanks to a massive sunroof, and it felt like a 'proper' car, which was a nice surprise. However, from the outside, it does look like a toy car, which quickly killed my interest.

The Audi is not the only Audi on the shortlist. I then moved onto the A4 Avant, which I think is a wonderful looking car. It’s got a lovely shape to it, I quite like the massive grill, and it was extremely impressive inside. Oddly, when sat in the back it felt very cramped, but it was very comfortable. The cabin also lacked that 'certain something', that indescribable factor that makes a car feel just right. I couldn't say why, but it didn't feel very welcoming. Which is something it shared in common with this particular Audi dealer, who seemed very keen to not entertain my mildly over–optimistic desire to purchase one of his products :D

Finally I went to the BMW dealer over the road, to explore a natural A4 Avant rival…the 3–series Touring. Of course, I’m not looking for one of the new, extremely ugly 3–series; but rather one of the previous–generation models. Happily the 3–series cabin did have that 'certain something', even though, it lacked the all of the A4’s buttons and switches, which is something I do like. The dealer was also a world apart from his Audi counterpart, and was very keen to help me identify the right spec model, which he did. But, as good as the 3–series is, I just don’t think I’m a 3–series person. It’s too common.

So my search for a new car will go on for a while yet. However, whilst I was driving home in the family 306, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it didn't feel like a piece of tat, considering that I'd taken a good look round some pretty pleasant cars today. The handling was nice, the engine pulled well, the cabin was light and airy….maybe a 306 GTI–6 would do the job, and that would be considerably cheaper than one of these German automobiles. But, perhaps, not quite as satisfying.


August 06, 2006

Enjoy it while it lasts

I never thought we would ever see this sight.

Jenson deserved the victory today, everything fell into place for him and he simply drove the best race. By and large he kept his nose clean, ran an excellent strategy, and managed to stay calm when the win was still within touching distance. He wouldn't have been the first racing driver to throw it into the wall, when their first race victory is within touching distance.

I'll be interested to see if this does have a noticable effect on him, and the team, in the next few races, as the media seems to think it will. Somehow I don't think the 'Mika Hakkinen phenomenon' will repeat itself for Jense, and I hope he doesn't come back down to earth with too much of a bang in Turkey. Surely a return to mediocrity is inevitable though…

Oh yeah, and was I the only one who almost collapsed with disgust at the sickening commentary from Allen and Davidson when Jense crossed the line :–D!?


July 08, 2006

2006 Goodwood Festival of Speed, Day Two

Follow-up to 2006 Goodwood Festival of Speed, Day One from Semi-Perfectionism

Mark Webber was walking around today wearing the classic Top Gear t–shirt saying, "I AM THE STIG". What a legend :D

One of these was buzzing around as well.

GR4


July 07, 2006

2006 Goodwood Festival of Speed, Day One

I can't let the first day of Goodwood pass without a mention in the blogosphere, so I leave you with this until I can be bothered to write something a bit more descriptive. They do say that a picture speaks a thousand words, so I guess this will be enough.

FXX Programme


July 02, 2006

ZIZOU!

According to the media, last night's unfortunate events in Gelsenkirchen seems to have overshadowed every other significant event that occurred on the face of the Earth yesterday. This is sad, because something truly significant happened not a million miles away from the scene of that disaster. This massive event has been buried in a dark corner of every online media outlet all day, and considering it only takes two words to describe this event, it's a shame it wasn't given more prominence. The two words to describe what happened? "Zinedine Zidane" is what happened.

Zidane's performance last night against Brazil was easily the most outstanding individual performance seen at this World Cup, and I'd be astonished if we'll see better in the remaining four games. It's probably not a coincidence that in the same game, the French also put in the best team performance seen so far, easily surpassing the Argentinean's display during their 6–0 victory against Serbia & Montenegro. Well, actually, it definitely wasn't a coincidence…Zidane was central to every move France made all night, and it's a commonly–held opinion that France would not have beaten an unusually uninventive Brazilian side without him. Zidane's vision as a playmaker was fantastic, and yet it was surpassed by his passing, strength, and especially footwork. I think all night, at a conservative estimate, he lost control of the ball about three times…three times in ninety minutes! Against Brazil!

'Zizou' was excellently supported by his teammates as well. I think it's safe to say that every single one of them, with perhaps the exception of Barthez, were truly in the zone. Thierry Henry finally showed some of the guile that he is famed for at club level, Patrick Viera kept appearing at all the right moments in all the right places, and Franck Ribery continued to demonstrate why he is one of the great new talents to emerge from the tournament. I think Ribery is one of the most underrated players we've seen over the past month, and he's going to be an important element of the French team in the post–Zidane era. His main fault is the fact that he's so small, and consequently isn't strong enough to barge his way past the opposition, which is vital for a winger.

I know Dida is massive, but look….Ribery is so small that if he ducked his head, he could just run under his legs. However, he does make up for his lack of strength with a decent turn of speed, and a bit of cunning. I laughed when I saw him skin Lucio and zip along the goal line, it was a joy to watch. He's one to keep an eye on, and I reckon he'd do quite well in the Premiership, despite his physical shortcomings.

Unfortunately, the pleasure of watching a team play an almost perfect game of football was offset by the loss of Brazil from the tournament. This has been one of the weakest, least entertaining Brazilian teams I can remember seeing for quite a while. Yet they still had the players to win the tournament, and continued to pull off moves that made your jaw drop. Man for man, they were one of the strongest teams left in the tournament, but for whatever reason, they just didn't hook it up on the night.

I'd rather Brazil were in the semis than Italy or Portugal. However, France have the potential of providing some of the entertainment that Brazil, had they fulfilled their potential, could have given us. Zidane played in a manner that any of the Brazilians, by their own admission, would have been proud of. And Ribery could have replaced Ronaldinho in the Brazilian side without any trouble at all.

Ribery is certainly no replacement for 'Zizou', though, and it is sad that the end of Zidane's football career will come when France's run in this World Cup comes to an end. I was sad for Zidane when he was suspended for the final group match. France were far from certain to go through…and had they failed to scrape through, then it would have been a harsh footballing injustice for Zidane's farewell to end in such an unremarkable fashion. I suspect that Zidane was well aware of this, and consequently, he's played every match since France got through like he will never have the chance to play the game again. And what a spectacle that has been to watch. Zizou, you will be missed, and I hope your career ends on the ultimate high that it deserves.


June 20, 2006

Priorities

Writing about web page http://soccernet.espn.go.com/news/story?id=371808&cc=5739

I came across this line in a Reuters article about how the people of Hong Kong have really taken the World Cup to their hearts:

Local newspapers meanwhile reported the government fears some legislators may not turn up for a crucial vote on funding a new government headquarters because it coincides with the later stages of the World Cup.

I can sympathise with these legislators :D


June 12, 2006

Wow

This little lot just fell from the sky, as many of you have probably already noticed…

Hail

Impressive stuff…I'm loving the weather today, I woke up to a very entertaining thunderstorm this morning, then the sun came out whilst I went food shopping, and now the extreme hail to keep me entertained whilst I wait for the next World Cup game :D. However the people walking past my window just now did not share my enthusiasm ;)


May 08, 2006

Nurburgring

It occured to me last night that the star of this weekend's Grand Prix festivities at the tedious Nurburgring circuit was Lewis Hamilton. This is quite significant, considering that, for those of you who don't know, he's not even a F1 driver. Hamilton is a young (English!) racing driver, who from a very early age has received support and development aid from McLaren. This is unusual. Most people thought Williams went out on a limb when they signed a 19–yr old Button to race, with only two years of car–racing experience beneath him. However, McLaren had decided to take Hamilton under their wing in the late nineties when he was only 12 years old, with a view to develop his career. That's impressive, and I believe unprecedented to this very day. He's also black, which is notable only because bizarrely I can't think of any decent black racing drivers…you'd think that there would be more, considering most of the world's top athletes, with the required pyhsical build for Grand Prix–style racing, are black.

Happily the McLaren arrangement appears to have produced results. Over the weekend Hamilton seems to have totally embarrassed the opposition in the GP2 support races, preceeding the main F1 race. This has caught the attention of the media, which is a great help in securing a young driver a seat in F1. As one of the favourites for this year's GP2 title, I'm glad to see that Hamilton has delivered on the promise that McLaren saw in his pre–teen racing career. How many sporting protoges over the years have let the thoughts of future brilliance go to their head, and then simply vanish from the scene?

I watched the Grand Prix yesterday with some of the Motorsport clan, and someone commented that Hamilton would probably win an F1 race before Button. I wouldn't be suprised if this was to be the case. I think Prodrive may already have a seat for 2008 earmarked with Hamilton's name, and I'm hopeful it won't take them too long to give Honda a spanking…

As for the Grand Prix itself, Nico Rosberg (who won the GP2 series last season…spot a trend here :–)?) was probably the stand–out performer, even if Schumacher put in one of his classic "I'm going to win five titles in a row"–type race performances. We were hoping that Rosberg, starting from the back of the grid, was in fact going to go for a 0–stop strategy…there's nothing like surreal race tactics to liven things up ;–). However, he did eventually come in for fuel just after the half–way mark of the race, having made his way up into the points…fifth place, I think.

We were dismayed when he stopped again, not much later, for another scheduled pitstop. You'd have thought that considering he did the first half of the race on one tank of fuel, he'd do the second half on one tank as well. No matter. However our dissapointment was removed when he emerged in 7th place, ahead of Montoya. On the same 2–stop strategy as him! From the back of the grid! Excellent work indeed…now all he needs to do is qualify well and that's a race win in the bag. Hope springs eternal….;–)


May 03, 2006

Don't You Love It When…evo Makes Your Day

Whilst I was waiting for the people in front of me in the Tescos queue to finish fiddling around with their wallets, the cashier lady randomly picked up the copy of evo that I had put on the conveyor belt, and had a look at the cover. This edition is adorned with a photo of the Porsche 997 GT3.

"Is that the new Porsche?", she said. Usually this is a cue for some tedious small talk about cars, but much to my suprise, this was not the case. She told me that she thought the old Porkers were much better looking, and that she'd prefer an XK…can of worms opened, we continued chatting whilst I packed up my stuff. Very agreeable.

However, when she ran evo through the barcode scanner, it didn't register. It didn't register when she manually typed in the barcode either. So she called over one of her supervisors, who also couldn't make it register either. They also couldn't find the price on the front cover.

evo - the ultimate automotive journal

"Do you buy this often?" she asked. "How much is it normally?". I have no idea, so I guessed. £3.90. She decided to put the price in manually. "Ok, we'll put it through for a couple of quid". A couple in this case was 2. £2 for a copy of evo!!! It wasn't until the transaction was going through that we noticed that the price was actually written underneath the barcode in tiny writing…£4. I was extremely pleased…and I've still not even read any of it.

The moral of the story is, go down to Tescos now, buy evo, hope that the barcode machine still doesn't recognise it, and drive for a bargain ;)


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.