Friday, 24 December 2010

"There's no such thing as The Fast Lane"

That's what I always tell people anyway.

If you're on a Motorway, the first lane, as frequented by lorries and Daewoo Matiz's, is the lane you are supposed to drive in. This is often erroneously referred to as "The Slow Lane".

The second lane, as frequented by women in Fiestas with "Baby on Board" stickers and lorries driving at 1mph more than those in the first lane, is the lane you are supposed to use solely for overtaking lorries and Daewoo Matiz's.

The third lane, as frequented by Audis and BMWs travelling at 99mph and pensioners travelling at 69mph ("They don't need to get past me bacause the speed limit is 70mph - ooh look at that naughty person in his flash car passing me on the inside! He won't get there any quicker you know, Mabel") This lane should be used for overtaking the women in Fiestas with "Baby on Board" stickers and lorries driving at 1mph more than those in the first lane. This is often erroneously referred to as "The Fast Lane".

This post will be a mystery to those who read my blog from the other side of the Atlantic where "undertaking" on the freeways is perfectly legal. It makes so much more sense to be allowed to pass slower vehicles on either side and I would love to see that introduced here but, alas, I think there would be carnage for as long as it took everyone to get used to the idea so it can never happen.

Now here is a "fast lane"/"slow lane" that I would like to see introduced...
I believe that this should be introduced nationally and especially in supermarkets.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

All Old Top Gear Magazine

My wife found this Top Gear mag from October 2004 yesterday. The front cover had a picture of Jeremy at the wheel of an MGSV-R flanked by a Noble M400 and a TVR 350T. Sadly only Noble survive today in the same glory as of then.

Lord knows where it has been hiding all these years but it is a good opportunity to compare it with the "All New Top Gear Magazine"...

The News was then "Metal"
Planet Top Gear was spilt into "Metal" and "Faces"
First Drives was then simply "Drives"
Gear and Gadgets was then "Top Gear"
and "Top Gear Garage" didn't exist but they did have "Top Gear 2" which had a page of news, a buyers guide for a chosen used car and a car dealer's perspective described as "The ultimate guide to this month's deals and steals"

One thing I liked about TG Mag in those days was that they would take a particular genre of car each month and do a thorough three-way test on them. This particular issue was looking at £15K Sports Cabrios with the Mini Cooper Convertible beating the Smart Roadster-Coupe into second place and the ugly-but-not-as-ugly-as-the-original Vauxhall Tiga Sport languishing in third (ie last) place.

The other big news in October 2004 was the "All-New" Ford Focus. The general concensus was that Ford had done a good job and produced an excellently handling car but hadn't been bold as they had when the original Focus appeared.

Where have I heard that before?

Oh yes - Here!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Was Chris Hughton Sleeping with Mike Ashley's Wife?

No. Mike Ashley is divorced so he doesn't have a wife. So that can't be the explanation for his sudden sacking as Newcastle United manager this week. No, the straightforward answer is that Mike Ashley must be an idiot.

If only everything in sport was nice and straightforward like that.

Take Formula 1 for instance.

For a couple of seasons now, we have two teams sponsored by Red Bull, there's Red Bull and Toro Rosso (which happens to be Italian for "Red Bull") - one uses Renault engines, one uses Ferrari engines. Renault meanwhile had their own team powered by a Renault engine - but then again, they sold their stakes in their team so the Renault team isn't really the Renault team at all, it just had their name and their engine - they also had sponsorship from Lada and a Russian driver - but then again, Renault own a bit of Lada. Meanwhile, Lotus, who are owned by Proton, also rejoined F1 in 2010 using an attractive green livery and a quite unsuccessful car.

Renault and Lotus were both successful during my favourite F1 period from the late '70s into the early '90s with lovely looking cars such as these...It was announced today, though, that Group Lotus has joined F1. Does that mean the existing Lotus team has been renamed?

Does it buggery!

Well, actually it has been renamed to Team Lotus, but that isn't to be confused with Group Lotus who will own the team but also own "Lotus Renault GP" which is what the old Renault-but-not-owned-by-Renault team will be known as..

I think.

So, we'll end up with four Loti (James Hunt invented the word "Loti" as plural of Lotus - I invented the word "Double-decker-bi" as plural of Double-Decker bus), four Red Bulls, two McLarens and two Mercedes, as opposed to two McLaren-Mercedes as we had before 2010, two Ferraris (but at least four Ferrari engines) and Lord knows what other combination of Hispanias, Williams, Saubers and the like.

I think I know which will be the best looking cars on the grid though...

Thursday, 2 December 2010

"All-New" Top Gear Magazine

My "All-new" Top Gear magazine plopped through my letterbox yesterday afternoon - whatever happened to morning mail deliveries? And why do I keep putting "All-new" in quotes like that? I can't answer the first question but as to the second, well, that is how Top Gear are describing it. A letter from editor-in-chief Charlie Turner (anyone know why the full-time editor resigned suddenly for no apparent reason this year?) came with it and there's a short bit from Saint Jeremy on page 11 extolling the bravery of the magazine team as opposed to the TV Team for changing winning formulas (winning formulae?).

Apart from a slightly smaller logo and us who get it delivered getting our own cover with SUBSCRIBERS' EDITION written on it (nice to see the correct use of the apostrophe there) they have mostly just renamed the sections inside:

Metal is now "The News"
Front End is now "Planet Top Gear"
Drives is now "First Drives"
Top gear is now "Gear and Gadgets"
and Lifers is now "Top Gear Garage"

The new car guide has been revamped a bit and now, under each manufacturer, they list "if the brand were music" so Audi is Kraftwerk, Saab is Abba and Volvo is Coldplay. I thought I'd like to come up with better ones but I don't think I actually could.

They have also resurrected the fake column with "Arnoux Clochend - the diary of a struggling genius car designer". So far - mildly amusing but not in the league of The Bugatti Veyron Diary and The Simon Moistbourne Column - come to think of it, there is an amazing resemblance between Simon and Arnoux - or maybe it's another case of an attack of the clones. He also looks quite a bit like Stephen Merchant.

So, is it a change for the worse?
Is it a change for the better?
Is it change for change's sake?
Can you spare some change?
Go away.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

McFly Visiting The Wirral

I'll start by apologising to all Wirral-based fans of popular teen beat-combo McFly because this post has bugger all to do with them. I've discovered that by mentioning someone popular and famous in the post title, you get a lot of hits. By far and away my most-read post is How Russell Brand is affecting the Top Gear Celebrity Lap-Times Board which does actually do what it says on the tin and explain how Russell Brand was affecting the Top Gear Celebrity Lap-Times Board.

I've got nothing against McFly - as boy-bands go they do not come into the category of band I hate where the looks and the dances are more important than the songs or the ability to sing - I'm thinking Boyzone, Atomic Kitten, Steps etc. The Spice Girls also come into that category with such marvellous (not!) lyrics as:

"I'll tell you what I want what I really, really want
So tell me what you want what you really, really want
I'll tell you what I want what I really, really want
So tell me what you want what you really, really want
I'll tell you what I want what I really, really want
So tell me what you want what you really, really want..."

This continues for quarter of an hour before the answer is revealed.

"...what I really, really want is to Ziggy Zig Ah!"

Total crap. The only Spice Girl with any proper musical talent was Melanie Chisholm whose brother is popular BTCC Driver Paul O'Neill. This has finally brought this post back to cars but that wasn't where I was going with this.

No, the McFly I was referring to was Marty McFly who must have been buying some hardware from B&Q's Wallasey Warehouse today judging by their car park where I spotted this fine vehicle...
A fine 1980 (judging by the number plate) left-hooker (as were all but 16 according to Wikipedia) DeLorean DMC-12 - not a spot of rust on it - then again, being stainless steel there shouldn't be! My main observation though, was just how low it was - it if wasn't for the gullwing doors, then you'd have to be Michael J.Fox sized to comfortably get in and out.

I've checked the weather reports and there's no sign of thunder and lightning so I presume he's going to be hanging around for a while.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Disco Fever

Auto Express and Autocar today are both covering the release of the latest Special Edition Land Rover Discovery, The "Landmark" edition. It's £47K though, which seems a bit pricey just to pretend you are in the rather good Doctor Who spin-off, Torchwood.

Torchwood actually used a Rangey but it looks similar enough:Now, in case you're like a Chilean miner and have been stuck down a hole and never heard of Torchwood...

That was an excellent story - pity they had to kill off my favourite character, Ianto. And there's no sign of him being resurrected in the new Welsh-American co-production.

Monday, 15 November 2010

It's the Pits for Alonso...

...but good news for Sebastien Vettel! Good news for Sébastien Loeb as well but that's another story. It looks to me like Alonso was effectively scuppered by a mistake by Vettel's Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber.The story is covered by BBC News here so I'll not go into too much detail. Suffice it to say that Mark Webber clipping the barrier with his offside-right-rear wheel and causing a significant spark was not planned but it probably led to him being concerned enough about his tyres and wheel to pit earlier than planned.

This then spooked Ferrari into bringing in their drivers for fresh rubber.

This brought Webber (and the Ferraris) back into the race among traffic they would have been well clear of if they'd waited. Webber got stuck for a lap behind Jaime Alguesari who would have been in a bit of a dilemma due to the incestuous nature of F1 with his Red Bull sponsorship and Ferrari engine and no obligation to let Webber past since they were fighting for track position.

This left Vettel and the Mclarens of Hamilton and Button to take the podium positions and Vettel to take the Championship.

My prediction last November that Jenson Button will not be World Champion in 2010 came true last week when his mathematical chances were destroyed although he did finish up a creditable fifth including a couple of good race wins.

To my question last December, "Could 2010 be the best Formula 1 Season Ever?" I would say, "Despite a poor season for Schumacher, it's certainly been the best in a very long time."

2011 could be even better though.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

A Load of Bull

Auto Express are covering a story today about a new SUV from Lamborghini. "Oh No!" thinks I, "...not another 'jumping on the bandwagon' offroader or four-by-faux" but then I saw this picture at the top of their article......and realised that I had completely forgotten about the predecessor of the luxury-brand off-roader - the Lambo LM002. Looking like an even-squarer Humvie, if that is actually possible, it was powered by a Countach engine and ran from the mid-Eighties to '93.

The new one, currently called the LM00X will share platforms and engines with it's VW-Group sister companies Audi and Porsche. Lambo, of course, currently offer 4WD in their current car range and do have a history of it as you can see from one of their older production models: Sorry, my mistake - that was a Porsche - here's the Lambo:

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Rallying Support

The World Rally Championship comes back to Wales tomorrow - but you'd be excused for missing it - where is all the TV coverage of what used to be a really big event?
For us in the UK, there will be, as has been for the rest of the Season, a fairly decent highlights/summary show on Dave after the event. But, if you want to catch more up-to-date (including some live) coverage, you'll need to tune in to the Welsh-language broadcaster S4/C. This is OK if you've got the right satellite or cable package, but for those of us without the urge to pay for such services, you need to be lucky enough to live in Wales or, like me, near enough to the border to pick up this channel.

Is rallying now so unpopular in Britain that none of the major broadcasters have any real interest? Has it really gone the same way as Showjumping and Rallying's sister sport Rallycross? I remember well as a child every Christmas watching "The Horse of the Year Show" on BBC1 from Olympia with Harvey Smith and David Broome and Alvin Schockemohle all trying to jump over "The Wall". I also remember Rallycross on a Saturday afternoon on Grandstand with lots of Minis, Escorts and Porsche 911s with plastic windscreens with little holes cut in them so that the drivers could still see when they were covered with mud. Rallycross still happens, check out their website - it just doesn't get the exposure.

The WRC has just about everything the other branches of motorsport has including pretty girls and a dominant champion in Sébastien Loeb. In fact, Sébastien's achievements are pretty remarkable - he has already claimed the WRC Driver's Championship this year and this is something he's now achieved for the seventh consecutive season. Incidentally, here's a quiz question based on a fact I learnt today: What has Sébastien Loeb got in common with Gabby Logan? Answer:They both used to be gymnasts. Maybe he should trail a pretty ribbon from his car? Then again, maybe not.

What the WRC doesn't have, though, is a Bernie Ecclestone/Alan Gow character in charge - I don't even know who is in charge of the WRC. Everyone knows who Bernie is - and what he continues to achieve as a grumpy 107 year-old (I may have his age slighty wrong there) is amazing. A younger, more Australian version of Bernie is Alan Gow who has just signed a new contract to keep him in place for three more years. Alan has steered the BTCC through difficult times and continues to see it thrive - including TV deals with ITV4 and introducing new rules to make it cheaper to compete.

Which brings us back, yet again, to Rallying. Whoever is in charge has done similar things to the car specifications/regulations and already attracted a third manufacturer in Mini (Sorry that should be MINI!) which will make a nice change from the leader-boards always reading Citroën, Citroën, Citroën, Ford, Ford, Citroën after each race. Now we need to sort out some TV deals - in the UK at least. Some big foreign stations already seem to be on board: TF1 in France, RTL in Germany, Network Ten in Oz.

So where are BBC Sport and ITV4? Channel 4 and five both did excellent work with cricket coverage in the past - let's have some mainstream channel showing live Rallying please.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010


I'd never heard of this before but a new series starts on the Dave channel this Thursday involving Robert Llewelyn (Red Dwarf, Scrapheap Challenge) driving a different celebrity guest around in a Toyota Prius each week whilst interviewing them.

It's actually not that new because he's being making these shows for ages as Internet-only shows. I found his site and found a whole load of them to view. I watched the Phill Jupitus one and the David Mitchell one which were enjoyable - the PJ one was too sweary for inclusion in my Blog so I've embedded the one where Robert interviews my favouritest smarmy person - motoring journalist Quentin Willson:

There's a lot of pro-electric car stuff in that episode but it's done in such a way, by at least one petrol-head (Willson), that you can actually see the logic in the arguments and if the loony eco-mafia types had this sort of mentality instead, there'd probably be a lot less scepticism and disdain and milk-float references aimed at the whole electric car movement.

The previous guests on his show seem to be a varied mix of people with Sir Patrick Stewart probably the most famous. There's also nearly the full set of Robert's colleagues from Red Dwarf - so next time I've half-an-hour to kill, I may just give this a go.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Save The Panda

No, not either of these types of panda.

No, I'm talking about the good old-fashioned Police Panda Car, originally black and white (hence the name) although the ones I remember were always turquoise and white. Some police forces would buy a white car and a turquiose car and simply swap over the doors to get something like this...>Mind you, I always preferred the "Jam Buttie Cars"...These were used for higher-speed work where the pandas stuck to towns. I typed "Jam Buttie Cars" into Google Images and as well as that rather excellent Triumph 2500, up came a picture of Norris from Coronation Street - my favourite Corrie character since Blanche died but probably not relevant to this post.

Anyway, why am I rabbiting on about Police Cars?

Because of this article today from BBC News. It states that all UK Police Forces will now use the same livery and only buy vehicles from Ford, Vauxhall, Peugeot or Hyundai for panda-ish work. Then from Volvo, BMW and Audi for high-speed work and finally from "Jaguar, Iveco and VW should forces decide they need other types of vehicles including motorbikes, vans and armoured VIP saloons." This excludes the Japanese and the Italians so I guess there'll never now be a Fiat Panda Panda Car. With the exception of Hyundai, most of these vehicles will be built in the EU so that's a good thing and presumably, these manufacturers have done the best deals to get the sort of mass-volume sales national police vehicles will provide. so it's a win-win.

Well almost.

No Italian choices does prevent us seeing one of these on British roads...

Thursday, 14 October 2010


OK - I take it back! What I said last week about how Ford should be leading the way in new designs.According to Auto Express today, this is Ford's new City Car, or "Ka" as they like to brand it here, or "Kak"* as I like to call it. My first thoughts are - it looks quite a bit like a StreetKa...
A StreetKa named "Desire?" I think not - I could never desire one of those - there is no way one of those could ever look good.
OK, I'll take that back too. However, that doesn't detract from my initial problem. My second thoughts on seeing the car, probably unfairly, were that it reminded me of an old Isetta Bubble-car:

It's not clear from the article or the photo if the new Ka (assuming it will be called a Ka) is a two or four-seater - I'm guessing a four-seater but you'd have to all be very good friends in there.

The current Ka hasn't really hit the public's imagination - possibly because it was a joint venture with Fiat and their 500 which seems to do a much better overall job of being a good small car. So this time, they've gone back to new radical design. Will it be case of "The Emperor's New Clothes" like "Roger and Val Have Just Got In" and like I felt the original Ka was?

When that was launched, I remember thinking how ugly that was too - I particularly disliked the grey plastic bumpers which invaded the whole front and back of the car. All the motoring journalists raved about it though. The general view of the general public was women loved it and men hated it - the women must have won out though because it ran from 1996 to 2008.

*Scouse (and maybe from other bits of Britain too) word meaning "excrement"

Friday, 8 October 2010

Attack of the Clones

This morning, as I often do, I clicked on Autocar Car News. The coffee hadn't quite kicked in so, looking at these accompanying pictures, I thought the first two stories were going to be about Hyundai and Mitsubishi.

Only problem is, the first picture wasn't of a Hyundai i-30 like this one...

...but, in fact, the new 2011 Ford Focus. What on earth are Ford playing at? They are supposed to lead the way in design.

Similarly, Audi seem to be copying Lotus in copying Mitsubishi as I reported a while back.

Or is it me?

I often say things like "Doesn't that woman in Tescos look like such an actress?" or "Doesn't that policeman look like your Aunty Maud?" and I usually get the same response...


Monday, 4 October 2010

Some Say... ...He's Joined Fifth Gear

Bit naughty of Channel 5 this. It seems to be a well-hidden secret - well hidden from me at least - but there's a throwaway comment in this story about why the judge let him publish his identity. That throwaway comment states that Ben Collins will be making his Fifth Gear debut during this Friday's first edition of the new series. There's no mention in the Radio Times or, right now at least, on The Fifth Gear Website. There's also no clues about the presenter line-up - will someone have to make way for him?

It could make for an interesting dynamic if he knocks Jason Plato out of a BTCC race at Brands next week costing him the Championship!

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Some Say... ...He's Joined The BTCC

News today that Ben Collins who recently outed himself as The Stig is to take part in the final race-meeting of this year's BTCC. This has got to be a very good move publicity-wise for him, his book and his adopted team, Airwaves BMW - it got a mention in my Blog after all. Having three cars should also help consolidate their current third position in the BTCC Teams Championship.

ITV will be pleased with the extra publicity too - I wouldn't be surprised if, instead of "Collins" on the back windows of the BMW, it said "Stig" - but that would just be rubbing the noses of the BBC and Top Gear in it.

As long as he doesn't crash badly - or come last - it will probably enhance his reputation which, in my opinion, needs a bit of enhancement at the moment. I, and I suspect a lot of Top Gear fans, have been pretty annoyed at the way he has cashed in on his Stigness. Although beforehand, a lot of people believed that Ben Collins was indeed The Stig, you could never be 100% sure until the story broke about his book-deal and series producer Andy Wilmin commented thus.

I certainly won't be buying the book.

It's a shame and I hope Top Gear get another tame racing driver as a direct replacement - I'm sure Jeremy will come up with a suitably amusing explanation and I look forward with much anticipation as to how they handle it.

Finally, here's a picture of The Stig in happier times, test driving a vehicle that both my sons have driven. It carries a Fiat badge but I think that's a case of re-badging someone else's product.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Fashion Victim

Citroën have released pictures of this freaky little Beach-Buggy-ish vehicle - a concept car in conjunction with Lacoste. Lacoste are obviously a fashion house/clothing company who presumably know very little about cars while Citroën presumably know bugger all about fashion and the resulting product would, I guess, appeal more to those wanting to make a fashion statement than those wanting to find a practical road transport. I think I used to have a Lacoste jumper in the late '80s when jumpers were fashionable (not that I ever was myself) and someone told me that the Lacoste crocodile logo used to change colour every year.

Mine never did.

Fashion and motoring have combined in special editions many times over the years. Off the top of my head I can recall a Mary Quant Mini (car not skirt) and Jeff Banks decorating a Kia for Matalan last year some time.

I was (briefly) surprised recently that Land-Rover brought in Victoria Beckham as a design consultant on the new Evoque model. I'm not a fan of the woman - she can barely sing, she tried to sue a football club for using the nickname "Posh" when they'd had it since formation 76 years ago and she does that funny walk that models do. Martine McCutcheon has started doing that walk too in her adverts for yoghurt-that-makes-women-poo-regularly. But, after thinking about it, Vicky B and women who aspire to be Vicky B are just the sort of women who are prospective buyers of an Evoque so there is some logic there. It's definitely labelling the Evoque as "a woman's car" though. Like the modern Beetle with its dashboard flower vase.

I don't know how much Jaguar/Land-Rover are paying her for her services but they have announced this week that they will be creating 1000 new jobs here on Merseyside as a direct result of the Evoque - I wonder if they need a Blogger?

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Mercedes C-Class Coupé

Autocar today published spy-shots (link here) of the new C-Class Coupé due for sale early next year.All the main car sites love publishing spy shots - I just don't get it myself - to me they are like the Magic Eye Pictures from the '90s - I never successfully visualised one of those no matter how much I squinted at them.

I actually can get the gist of the shape of the new C-Class Coupé though. And I have to say it is a massive improvement on its predecessors:
This original shape, I thought, looked just awful. It was reminiscent of the original BMW 3-Series Coupé that looked like someone had taken the saloon, backed it into a wall at high speed and stuck some ugly tail-lights on the resultant mess.

The Mark 2 Version was marginally less ugly:- albeit still truncated but the motoring media really hated it because all that Mercedes actually did to produce it was to take the original Coupé and stick on bodywork and lights to make it look like the next generation of C-Class when it most definitely wasn't.

The new one has the semi-boot effect that a proper coupé should have and is also acting as a replacement for the CLK which has always been an eye-pleasing car so I'll approve.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Lotus Global Small Car

Auto Express have this story today. Due for unveiling at the Paris Motor Show, this is a hybrid electric/1.2 petrol capable of 100mpg but there's no indication of mph. It will be available as a five-door Proton in Malaysia and a three-door sporty Lotus elsewhere.

I think I like the look of it but it also reminds me strongly of the Mitsubishi Colt...

Can't help thinking it'll need a better name though.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Drink-Driving Caused This...

If the 23 year-old owner of this Mitsubishi Evo (for that is what this yellow car iswas) had known what was going to happen - I'm sure he'd have stuck to the lemonade (assuming he actually is guilty - he's only "suspected" at the moment)

The only problem is - it wasn't him who did this - it was the police officers who arrested him. In such cases, they are supposed to organise a recovery vehicle to come and remove the vehicle of an alleged offender. In this case, they decided to take it for a spin themselves - literally. Oops.

The full story is on BBC News here. Greater Manchester Police have said they will pay for the damage caused to the properties but what about the car? It wouldn't be insured because it was being driven unlawfully and without permission. Will anyone be able to sue anyone? Will that bloke who played a dodgy copper in The Bill and now claims to be an injury lawyer get involved?

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Never Mind The Bollards

- it's the roadsigns and mobile phone masts that annoy me.

It is in my village anyway. Bollards don't seem to cause me any inconvenience, they intrude onto pavements ("sidewalks" if you're American) a lot less than parked cars which I found a nuisance in narrow areas back in my pram-pushing days.

The Government have been banging on today about how Councils should look at reducing the number of bollards, signs, bins, benches and other obstacles making our pavements and roads cluttered up.

This monumental monstrosity on the right is by far and away the worst. It appeared after an amazing piece of incompetence by our local Council.

They are also responsible for a plethora of bins and benches but I don't see why anyone would complain about them - I'm completely in favour of less litter and of more places for old people to have a rest.

These combined rubbish ("trash" if you're American) and recycling bins (below) have recently started to appear and I'm all for these too. As a committed petrol ("gas" if you're American) burner, I can feel a bit better about myself when I put my Iceland receipt into one of these.

If the mobile ("cell-phone" if you're American) mast wasn't such a crime, I'd be really annoyed at these signs that appeared all over the Wirral last year...

I dread to think what all that aluminium is worth ("aluminum" if you're American) but in a time of savings and cuts, it can't have been justified. This particular one is particularly an eyesore because it has been placed right outside The Coach and Horses - a fine-looking Mock-Tudor-style public house that always appears on postcards of the village.

So, I am in favour of selective clutter removal, but surely, at cost-cutting time, there must be much bigger priorities. Unless you are going to employ more people specifically to do this - a good left-wing idea but not something I'd have thought this Coalition would be advocating.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

"Not Bad For a Number 2 Driver!"

That's what I'd have said over the pit radio today if I'd been Tom Onslow-Cole in the third BTCC race at Silverstone today.

As usual, the BTCC provided lots of good racing action and thrills and spills (crashes) with Plato and Neal coming together as usual and Plato storming off in anger at the end - very entertaining.

In the first BTCC race of the day, Onslow-Cole was leading from his team-mate Chilton when he pulled out of the way to let Chilton past. This is not unusual in BTCC where you get an extra Championship point for leading the race for a lap so team managers will ask their drivers to swap position for just one lap in order to get the extra point. There are none of the silly rules about team-orders in BTCC that cause annoyance and confusion in F1.

Anyway, you would expect Chilton to make way after that lap for Onslow-Cole again - but he didn't. At the post-race interview, they both came up with a consistent story about Onslow-Cole messing up a gear change so letting Chilton through to avoid a collision while he regained his momentum - honest racing so no need to concede the position. This seemed plausible.

Then, in the second race, Onslow-Cole was leading from his team-mate Chilton when he pulled out of the way to let Chilton past. Hmmmm. Chilton went on to win and a fine bit of barging by Rob Collard knocked Onslow-Cole down to the third step on the podium. This time, they admitted a bit of team orders claiming that Chilton was faster because he had been more cautious early on so his tyres were in better nick.

Race three saw Onslow-Cole take the lead from the popular, very likeable Scouser, Paul O'Neill. Chilton couldn't get past O'Neill, possibly because he was carrying some extra weight (success ballast) or possibly because he isn't as good a driver as Tom Onslow-Cole but this meant that team orders would have been very silly so Onslow-Cole won the race fair and square and should really have won all three.

As previously mentioned, there is nothing actually wrong with team orders in BTCC, but surely it makes more sense to favour the guy doing better in the Championship?

Tom Onslow-Cole is now running second in the Championship and would be a lot closer to the leader, Jason Plato if the team hadn't interfered - so why did they? It's not as though Chilton has a very powerful sponsor is it?

Monday, 16 August 2010

Swan Blames Cat for Drink-Driving

I deliberately spelt "Swann" wrong there to make the title better. The BBC News story is actually about England Cricketer Graeme Swann who claims to have been on the way to Asda to buy some screwdrivers to free his cat which had become trapped under the floorboards of his home. Seems a bit far-fetched to me - last time I took up floorboards they weren't screwed down so I needed a crowbar and one of those bolster chisel thingies and a hammer. And who doesn't already have screwdrivers anyway?

He was a bit unlucky in that he was only just over the limit - 83mg where 80mg is the legal limit but over the limit is over the limit. I guess he can afford fancy lawyers to try and get him off on a technicality - or am I just being cynical?

Anyway, I'll follow this with a tiny bit of interest - and next week, it's George Michael's turn.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Trapped Wind

Sorry, that should read "Renault Wind".Daft name but the car looks quite good. Top Gear magazine and Fifth Gear online have both recently reviewed this car so here's my two cents.

This is a coupe-cabrio with an electric folding metal roof - quite a clever one at that with the roof flipping backwards and getting protected by a metal cover. With the roof in place, it reminds me a bit of the old Lotus Europa of the 1960s with the top of the door sweeping back to the tail of the car - only this car has the roof and decent-sized boot where the Lotus had an engine.

The main competition seems to be the Vauxhall Tigra but this looks a lot more manly - I would be seen dead in this - unlike the Tigra.

With the roof stowed away, the Mazda MX5 comes into play - that car being rear-wheel drive is probably more fun and more traditionally roadster-ish although I wasn't overly impressed when I drove one - give me a MkII Toyota MR2 any day.

The Wind has been developed by RenaultSport on Clio underpinnings but looks suitably different. Engines are a 1.6 or a 1.2 turbo so plenty powerful enough for the class of car it is.

Just a shame about the name. I guess Volkswagen used up all the good wind/breeze names like Scirocco (Hot desert wind), Golf (Gulf-Stream), Jetta (Jet-Stream) and Passat (Trade Winds). That just left the word "wind" itself (flatulence).

Thursday, 5 August 2010

TV Cars - But Not The Obvious Ones

The obvious ones would be The General Lee or KITT or The Striped Tomato (or whatever Starsky's Torino was called) but they are all American. The obvious British ones are a bit more mundane like Delboy's Reliant Regal van or Mr.Bean's Mini but here are a few I like...
This very Vauxhall Victor appeared in Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) - a series about a couple of private detectives - one of whom happened to be a ghost. The alive detective, Randall, drove the Victor and was played by Mike Pratt who is now deceased while the deceased detective, Hopkirk, was played by Kenneth Cope who is now alive.

This X-Type was regularly driven by Inspector Barnaby in Midsomer Murders - a series which I've never watched but interests me because of the X-Type - albeit a saloon unlike my own estate version. The estate version was (and may still be - I don't know) a regular in the opening titles of Emmerdale - I haven't watched an episode of that since a plane crashed onto the village and I hadn't watched it before then since Matt Skilbeck had some trouble "int' top field." The X-Type estate also took a starring role in Top Gear when Jeremy ski-ed behind one on an icy country lane.

A white Stag like this one (but not this one because I couldn't find a picture of the actual one) was used in Bellamy's People - a spoof travel around Britain show. The Stag would be my ideal classic car if only I had the time and money to invest.

The Dolomite was my first car - not unfortunately a Sprint - but the vomit yellow 1500 Twin-Carb I had was plenty fast enough for me. This particular example is the one Richard destroyed on Top Gear but the Dolly Sprint also appeared in early programmes of The Professionals but BL used to muck about the Production Company by swapping the colours of the cars they supplied so that screwed up continuity so they moved onto the Capris that most people associate with The Professionals. The Dolomite Sprint is also driven by John Anderson in "The Ancestry Team" - a brilliant comedy drama about two people who run a genealogical detective agency but someone at the BBC didn't think it was suitable material for a comedy so it was never made.

Eddie Shoestring drove a Cortina Mark III estate just like this one - a beautiful car and a brilliant theme tune made the show instantly appealing to a young Metro.

A Viva like this one was driven by Bob in "Whatever Happend To The Likely Lads?" - it was meant to represent middle-class, boring suburbia so would be an Insignia today.

This Beemer was driven by Wayne in the second series of Auf Wiedersehen Pet. Gary Holton, the actor playing Wayne inconveniently died while they were making it so there were lots of shots of the back of his head.

The Volvo was driven by Peter Davison in "A Very Peculiar Practice" - a brilliant comedy drama set in a university at the same time as I was at university. I've always had a soft spot for Volvos and the hilarious script gets this one a mention even though the car had bugger all to do with the show.

Finally, after the Cortina Mark III, we have the Cortina Mark IV - although Van der Valk's car here was in Holland so is, strictly speaking, a Ford Taunus...
Great tune too.