Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Roger Moore is no Saint

No, not THAT Roger Moore!

THIS Roger Moore:
I think he may be a bit camera-shy.

Flicking through the Plymouth Evening Herald (as I often don't) this story amused me. It tells of a man who tried to get out of a speeding ticket in a courtesy car by saying that the offence happened after he had returned it to the garage. To try to prove this, he faked the date stamp on his home CCTV system to show his own car at home at the time of the offence.

It seems a lot of trouble to go to in order to avoid a £60 fine, but then again, the investigation seems like a lot of effort to go to over a £60 fine.

The investigator pointed out that the shadows were wrong for the time of year that the speeding occurred so Roger was found guilty, ordered to pay £2000 costs and given a suspended 16 week jail sentence.

A daft crime without a shadow of doubt.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Racing Legends

This short series concluded on BBC Two last night.

I say "short" because it was only on for three episodes and the first two went out on consecutive nights - so why we had to wait a month for the third I'm not sure.
It was mostly a programme about knights.

In the first show, Sir Patrick Stewart spoke about and met Sir Stirling Moss. In the second show, car-nut and chef (but no knight) James Martin enthused about and met Sir Jackie Stewart and in show 3, Sir Chris Hoy learned all about Colin McRae who probably should have been a knight.

The BBC info on the series is here but the gist is that someone famous goes over a racing legend's life & career and with a little training, gets to drive that legend's racecar.

Since the first shows are now fairly distant memories, all I can really remember is that Stirling Moss is a Jewish name and that James Martin can't say "Formula 1" - he kept calling it "formlia 1" - very irritating.

Ironically - no, not ironic just sad - the only one of the legends not with us today is the youngest, Colin McRae, the subject of last night's show.

He will be known by anyone under the age of 20 as "the bloke behind those video games" but McRae was, indeed, a racing legend. He was winning from an early age although he did have the best start you could wish for given that his father was the very successful rally star Jimmy McRae, pictured above with Sir Chris. Jimmy played a big part in the show and showed that he hasn't lost any of his own skills.

Colin became the first British winner of the WRC whilst driving for Subaru where he proved a worthy match for his more experienced team-mate Carlos Sainz who spoke warmly about Colin in the show.

Colin was a driving genius - but I think the show showed us that he was a flawed genius too. His desire to win, meant that sometimes, he drove too hard. In 2001, driving for Ford, he nearly won the WRC again. He went into the last race one point up and was leading when he crashed out rather spectacularly. In 2005, he nearly won the Paris-Dakar Rally (which nowadays doesn't go anywhere near Paris or Dakar but in 2005 did actually still finish in Dakar) when, comfortably leading he crashed out rather spectacularly.

It's worth taking a look at him in the US X Games event though, driving too hard while trying to take the lead:He finished second.

Sadly he was killed, along with his young son, another boy and a friend in 2007 when a helicopter he was piloting crashed near to his home in Scotland. The inquiry verdict blamed him.

His father said, "We still believe we will never know what caused the crash but we were never in any doubt as to Colin's prowess as a fine pilot. Everybody knows from Colin's rallying career that safety is always an issue and that his reactions and eye and hand co-ordination were world-class."

He may be speaking the truth - I would love to believe that - or he may be in denial - the verdict statements seemed quite unequivocal.

"If in doubt - flat out!"

A sad end to a fine career and a fine series.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Irishman Drives to a Bar...

Thanks to The BBC for this story which pointed me to this story from The Irish Journal which tells us that "Kerry County Councillors have voted in favour of a motion which would allow people in rural Ireland to have ‘two or three’ drinks and still drive."

Actually only five voted in favour - three voted against, seven abstained and twelve were absent so it was passed with about 18% support.

I guess this guy will be happy:
Lots of other people don't seem so sure though.

The main advocate for this move, Councillor Danny Healy-Rae, who proposed the motion, said it would apply to "older people" who "are being isolated now at home, and a lot of them falling into depression." Hmmmm. tell us that "Alcohol alters the brain’s chemistry and increases the risk of depression." So surely the advice to these older people should be go out and have some non-alcoholic drinks.

Now to be fair to Danny-Boy and his four chums who voted with him, he's not saying they should go out and get absolutely ratted and then drive home, he is advocating a higher drink-drive limit for them.

It's still a major step backwards though and the more you think about it, the more non-sensical it seems. For example, would the Garda have to stop everyone they see driving away from the pub and take them in for blood tests after they fail a breathalyzer test to determine what limit they are at?

So why pass this anyway? Looks like the majority of the five are publicans. Here's the pub Danny runs:
Still, what could possibly go wrong?

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Car-Loss Tevez

Am I missing something here?

This BBC story today reports on Manchester City's Argentinian striker being banned from driving for ignoring two speeding tickets. His Hummer was clocked doing 39mph in a 30mph zone in March and clocked again doing 66mph in a 50mph zone in May.

He claims he wasn't driving.

He may well not have been. He has been photographed with a driver. Good job since he doesn't appear to have a valid UK Driving Licence. If he was driving, he wouldn't have been insured.

He also claims that he did not respond to the letters because he didn't understand what they were - he didn't know the English word "constabulary". Also possible - I'm sure he would have been taught stuff like "offside" and "man on!" first.

Only thing is, he has had some dealings with the constabulary before.

The BBC tells us that his Porsche Panamera was impounded in Manchester in November as he could not produce a full UK driving licence. Three years ago, his Bentley Continental GT Speed was impounded in similar circumstances.

The BBC go on to inform us that "As an Argentinian driving licence holder, Tevez is permitted to drive in Britain for the first 12 months of his stay in the country, but is then required to apply for a provisional licence and pass the UK driving theory and practical test." His lawyer informs us that "the theory test will be problematic for Tevez as it is normally conducted in English." Since Tevez joined West Ham in 2006 and he's played in Britain ever since, his 12 months is well and truly over - or does it get reset every time he visits Argentina? I don't think so somehow.

Surely they allow interpreters into driving tests and surely, since 2006, he has picked up enough English to answer some driving questions.

But that isn't what I'm missing here.

What I'm missing goes back to 2011 and this story. Then, he admitted driving at 38mph in a 30mph zone in his Bentley.

So what happened about his driving licence? Supposedly it had three penalty points added.

But what to?

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Drivel 2022

Sounds like a desktop computer doesn't it? Maybe from the mid-1990s.

It's actually a GM plan for the future prosperity of the Vauxhall Opel Group.

It is outlined in a story in Autocar yesterday. The article tells us that "Under the plan, which was approved six weeks ago by GM's main board,
 Vauxhall-Opel will cut fixed costs by $500m by mid-decade, launch 23 new models and 13 new engines between now and 2016 and start building non Opel-Vauxhalls" and it "will also expand and implement the recently announced alliance with PSA." That follows on from my story a few months back in which I voiced my concerns about a possible merger with PSA, the French group behind Citroën and Peugeot.

It appears that this is the latest of many rescue/restructuring plans but there's not too much management-speak - apart from “Vauxhall 
is an example of best practice” and “not to include hope as part of the strategy" which are not too bad really when you think about it. I've checked out the photos of GM Europe
 president Steve Girsky and vice CEO Thomas Sedran and neither of them look like this manager:
or, if you happen to be American...
so there's a bit of hope there to go with the strategy.

The new car sales situation is very mixed at the moment - looking at the BBC Global Car Industry News page today is showing Ford taking on 2200 workers in America because of increased sales with BMW and Rolls Royce reporting record sales. There are also reports of increased car sales in both Japan and the UK.

However, they also report Honda laying of 800 UK staff blaming weak demand across Europe and that Ferrari sales slump in Italy. Perhaps more significantly for this item, Peugeot Citroen hit by 'crisis' in European car sales.

I live quite close to a Vauxhall factory and know people who work there. The GM management-speak here does seem positive and they do seem to have a 10-year plan which is unusually forward thinking these days.

Oh, my eyesight! It says "DRIVE! 2022"

Friday, 4 January 2013

Offensive Skodas

An unfortunate headline in Autocar today reads:

2013 Skoda Model Offensive

It comes with this story about 6 new Skoda models being released this year. The article doesn't say which model is going to be the offensive one. The first couple, the new Rapid and Octavia have already been revealed and, it has to be said, are looking pretty good.

A lot better than this Rapid and Octavia from history:
Note that the rear engine in the old Rapid meant a huge "boot" or "trunk" in the front with a daft sideways opening which presumably had British owners stood in the road to load it up with their suitcases.

All in all, a pair of very offensive cars.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Independent Suspension (of Belief)

After my recent rants about Telegraph & Mail readers, I think I've found another group who are worse - Independent readers. Now the Independent isn't a right-wing rag - it's relatively neutral with Liberal overtones so you'd expect its readers to be calmer and more rational.

No such luck!

Maybe its middle-of-the-roadness means that supporters of both ends of the political spectrum will read it - and then end up arguing with each other.

This week's topic for discussion is 20mph zones. They started with this story backed up by a survey commissioned by The Independent about how people agree with these zones. Unfortunately, any survey that has been commissioned by an organisation will generally ask questions in a way to back up whatever results that organisation wants to hear so I suspect The Independent want more of these 20mph zones.

Anyway, whatever the case, the readers arguments soon break down to nothing constructive with anti-zoners coming up with "Perhaps we should bring back the original 4mph limit? Complete with the man holding a flag, walking ahead of the car?" followed by pro-zoners coming up with "Or maybe we should all drive flat-out with no limits whatsoever?" Look, if you can't add anything constructive to an argument, don't add anything at all - I wonder if that's why nobody ever comments on my postings? :)

That was Monday, and also on Monday we were given a bit more evidence of The Independent's view when this appeared. It is a very short "comment" article by someone who I presume is an Independent writer called Jonathan Brown. It has the title "The 20mph limit makes streets safer, so why not enforce it?" which may be debatable (ask the ABD - I'm coming to them shortly) followed by the subtitle "As a cyclist and father of two young children I am all in favour of putting people above cars" which implies that anyone not in favour of these zones puts cars above people - a ludicrous statement that makes me not want to bother with the rest of his article - and I speak as a cyclist and father of two youngish children - aren't all children "young" anyway? - that's the definition of being a child?

Well I did read it - it didn't take long and what I learned was that he'd been driving past "signs every few hundred yards" while "driving through the area at least three or four times a week" without being aware of them! No wonder he's in favour of slowing down, what chance to pedestrians have when he's behind the wheel?

The article also told me that "compliance is entirely optional" - I was always taught that a red circle sign was compulsorially to be obeyed - this is good news that I don't need to worry about these pesky 20 zones - makes you wonder why they're there really, doesn't it?

Tuesday saw another article, this time giving the other side of the story. It was entitled "Drivers predicted to lash out at 20mph slowdown zones" It leads with the statement "Motoring organisations hit back at the spread of 20mph speed zones which they claim could make exasperated motorists drive badly." Note the use of the plural there - motoring organisations. So which motoring organisations are we talking about here? - The AA and RAC are the obvious ones - or the IAM?

No, the ABD.


The ABD - I told you I'd get to them. Keith Peat, spokesman for Alliance of British Drivers and former traffic policeman said: “20mph zones will be counterproductive and create more accidents. What you’ll get is drivers driving to the speedometer. It’s safer that drivers drive to what they’re seeing outside the car and not to what their speed needle is saying.”

Sounds fair enough - and he is a former traffic policeman so he ought to know what he's on about?

Until you actually think about it - we've already been told that these zones are not being enforced - and it's not that difficult to knock it down a gear or two and drive slower while still judging your speed reasonably accurately.

Then look further at the ABD. If you look at the IAM's news page, you get a series of sensible, campaigning, safety-related articles. If you look at the ABD's news page, you get a list of Twitter links to articles where people are angry about parking abuses or that the Russians can clear a road quicker than us or just gloating that the Scottish Police didn't sell any seized cars. This seems to be a bad link on their site, they need to re-point their news index - but it does indicate that the ABD are the Daily Mail readers of the car world. Their Press Releases section is a mixture of the sensible and the scaremongering.

So where does that leave us in the 20mph Zone debate?

Where I live was designated a 20mph Zone a couple of years back. There were signs put up but they were not the red circle type and they were put up too high to be easily noticeable to your average motorist travelling at 30. There was also no publicity that I saw in the local press. I went out to take a photo of one of these signs today and it was gone - as were all of the others in the vicinity. They must have been removed as quietly as they were put up - and nobody seems to have noticed.

20mph Zones do not seem to be the answer to anything but the debate does need to happen - between sensible and informed people - and not in The Independent.