Monday, 26 July 2010

How Russell Brand is affecting the Top Gear Celebrity Lap-Times Board

Or maybe it's the Mail on Sunday's fault - after all, nobody had really noticed the offending prank until they told Middle England about it and Middle England got upset.

The fallout, which caused Jonathan Ross's salary to become widely known, left a shadow hanging over Rossy and probably ultimately caused him to quit the licence-payer funded Auntie Beeb in these austere Coalition times.

This meant no more Friday Night With Jonathan Ross.

This meant four poofs putting their piano on E-Bay.

It also meant nowhere obvious for Hollywood A-Listers to publicise their new films on release in the UK.

This meant that the Hollywood promoters had to look elsewhere in the UK TV ratings lists.

This will be why Andy Garcia was on Top Gear last week and now we've had Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise this week struggling with being sat on the right-hand side of a stick-shift - and when I say "struggling" - I mean "doing brilliantly". The extended interview was very entertaining and the film, Night & Day, looked promising and much more suited to promotion to Top Gear's audience than that of Friday Night with Rossy.

They showed Cameron's lap first then Cruise's - his being particularly spectacular for getting the car up on two wheels near the end - a bit more momentum and it would have rolled. The Diaz time was then announced and she looked genuinely ecstatic at coming top. Then Cruise's lap-time was announced and this was nearly a second faster than hers.

The two of them are clearly very proficient drivers, they've been taught by Hollywood stuntmen and learned well. I believe they could also be classed as "petrol-heads" judging by their stories when interviewed.

I do prefer it, though, when the celebrity appearing in the Star-in-a-Reasonably-Priced-Car segment doesn't have anything to plug - whether it be non-petrol-heads like Harry Enfield and Terry Wogan or it be proper petrol-heads like Steve Coogan, Jay Leno, Jay Kay and Jodie Kidd.

Now Rossy has agreed to do a new show for ITV, so maybe we'll get some Britishers back up the leader-board again.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Auto Express' Take on New Baby Jaguar

No not that type of Jaguar - the X-Type of Jaguar, or more precisely it's replacement. As an X-Type owner, I am natuarally curious to know what the replacement will look like, so when I saw this story in Auto Express this week, my interest was piqued.

The story came with these pictures:
Looks nice, doesn't it? Only trouble is, when you read the article, you realise it's an Auto Express article so these are nothing more than "an interpretation" - based on the current XF and a bit of XJ as well.

I wouldn't be surprised if it looked something more like the RD6 Concept announced by Jaguar themselves earlier this year...Anyway, think of the Baby Jaguar and save The Rainforest.

Move Over Darling

This time it was Ferrari's turn to show driver favouritism - effectively ordering Felipe Massa to make way for Fernando Alonso to win today's German Grand Prix. Felipe was told by his obviously disgruntled Race Engineer Ron Smedley that "Fernando is quicker than you." This was team-code for "Make way for your team-mate who is higher in the Championship points tabel than you." They couldn't say it directly because that would infringe the Formula 1 rule about letting team orders bugger about with actual entertaining racing.

I actually do not agree with this particular rule but I do see why it is in place since as a viewer, I was robbed of an exciting battle between the two of them. But, at the end of the day, Ferrari want to win the Driver's Championship and the Constructor's Championship too and the best way of doing this is to favour their (currently) more successful driver. However, since the rule does exist and they did clearly break it, they should be punished by losing some chamionship points - and I wonder if it had been any team other than Ferrari, whether they would have escaped with just the fine that was imposed.

I enjoyed the brief interview with Christian Horner after the race - he was clearly delighted to be being asked about a favouritism row that didn't involve his own two drivers. But don't get too smug just yet, Chrissy, it's Hungary next weekend so it could be your turn again then.

Monday, 12 July 2010

I feel pleased for Mark Webber

I should feel a bit sorry for Christian Horner since I actually have some sympathies for what the team did this weekend - but then again I don't because of what happened in Turkey and also the abysmal way the team handled the situation.

Mark Webber a fortnight ago

Anyway, last week, Red Bull decided to try out a new front wing design that seemed to gain them 0.1seconds a lap which is a huge amount in Formula One these days. Unfortunately for everyone, the one fitted to Vettel's car failed and this is where Horner and Co. made the decision to take the one off Webber's car and give it to Vettel - this looked remarkably like favouritism - something the team were accused of after Turkey. All commentators saw it this way, especially when the team announced that this had been done for "Championship reasons". And, importantly, Webber saw it this way as well and was seriously angry.

In qualifying, the wing helped Vettel get to pole position with Webber in second place. However, when the race started, Vettel had a very poor start allowing Webber to get ahead with Lewis Hamilton right on his tail. Vettel cut across the track to try and stop them and quickly backed off when he realised they were on for another collision but did manage to touch Hamilton's car slightly. Only slightly but enough to cause a puncture which took Vettel out of the battle and eventually put him back to last place after he pitted.

A few times this Season, commentators have reported that people were saying that "Vettel can't overtake" - I don't know who these people are, but they were well and truly proved wrong as Vettel, admittedly with the help of a safety car, fought his way right back up to seventh. Meanwhile, Webber ran the perfect race, leading to the end with Hamilton chasing hard but not having the legs to keep up.

As he crossed the line, the BBC viewers were treated to the radio feed with Webber saying to his boss, "Not bad for a number 2 driver!" with Horner responding something along the lines of "You're allowed to smile now!"

The result was poetic justice - karma - call it what you will but Horner was then treated to an embarassing interview with Humphrey, Coulthard and the brilliantly acerbic Eddie Jordan - very entertaining. Horner made the point that should have been made clear to his drivers at the start of the season and should have been emphasised when the decision to take the wing was made - that if they only have one component that both drivers want, it should go to the one with the most championship points at that time. It is a sensible rule, employed by F1 teams since F1 was invented and Horner did point out that at the next race, since Webber now has more points, he would get any disputed component.

Vettel was interviewed after the race and I believe that he had seen the error of his ways in Turkey and was a bit embarassed himself at the furore at Silverstone which was not, after all, his fault - although the crappy start was. He said, "Obviously I focus on myself and so does he I guess. Especially after what happened in the past people have different opinions, I have opinion, I have my experiences and sometimes, good and bad, you get to know people a little better and see their true faces. So I think I have learned my lesson and focus on myself."

Monday, 5 July 2010

Nothing is Inevitable - Apart from Death and Taxes

I've just corrupted a Benjamin Franklin quote there becasue of a news story on the BBC site today stating "Future road pricing 'inevitable' - RAC Foundation"

The article, quite rightly in my opinion, claims that most people are against road pricing until they learn that other taxes may be reduced or scrapped to make way for it. Fair enough, but I for one do not believe that the average British motorist, who has always had a poor deal with respect to taxes and what they are used for, would ever be better off if a new tax was introduced.

OK, scrapping the current road tax discs sounds like a nice idea - especially for those of us driving cars with larger engines - but it wouldn't help disabled people who get free Road Tax or classic (pre-1973) car drivers who also get it free for their Ford Anglias and Vauxhall Crestas (frothy man!)

It would stop those tax disc cheats who put a beer mat in the windscreen and are consequently not insured - or would it? Presumably there would have to be some new "Big Brother" style technology to keep track of where you are driving so this could be overcome by, depending on the technology used, disabling transmitters on the car or using false or stolen plates so that somebody else gets the bill as happens with the London Congestion Charge. And who's going to pay for this technology? Or do they expect a load of toll booths to be installed all over the country? Sounds very 18th Century rather than 21st.

Then back to the Big Brother argument (God, that programme is awful nowadays), another BBC news story today would be very relevant with the authorities keeping track of where you are. I mean, what happens if you borrow you wife's car to visit your mistress in Leamington Spa and then she gets the bill for it next week?

Another problem is that once the concept is accepted, the price will inevitably spiral. I remember using the M6 Toll when it first opened and it cost £2 - very reasonable and you could drive quickly with only the compulsory Vauxhall Zafira tailgating you to cause any annoyance. Today it is £5 so I steer clear. Similarly the London Congestion Zone charge started at £5 but current proposals are to make it £10 if you pay on the day - you get a whole quid off if you pay in advance!

The crumb of comfort comes near the end of the article: A Department for Transport spokesman said: "We have no plans to introduce a charging programme for existing roads, which are publicly owned and have already been paid for by the taxpayer."

"No plans" is a Government get-out clause but hopefully, since they do accept that existing roads have already been paid for by us, we shouldn't see anything too taxing for the lifetime of this Government at least.