Wednesday 31 August 2011

Road - The new Ford Capri?

The Ford Cougar and the Puma never captured the public’s imagination the way the original fastback, the Ford Capri did, but when the Frankfurt Motor Show opens in just over a week’s time, we’ll get our first look at the ‘new’ Capri.

This stunning looking Ford Evos Concept will have a number of power options including a  lithium-ion plug-in hybrid (PHEV) powertrain which will be similar to the same, next-generation Ford C-MAX Energi scheduled for introduction in North America in 2012 and Europe in 2013.

The Ford ‘powersplit’ hybrid architecture allows the electric motor and petrol engine to work together or separately to maximise efficiency. The advanced powertrain typically runs in all-electric mode before switching to charge-sustaining hybrid mode for continued optimal fuel efficiency.

This will result in a range of more than 500 miles using the battery and engine.

The gorgeous, curvaceous bodywork also has one other surprise. It’s not only a four seater, it’s a four door saloon!

The concept car measures 4.50 metres long by 1.97m wide and 1.36m high, with a wheelbase of 2.74m.

But will it ever see the light of day? Perhaps not in this form although Ford is all set to include ‘design cues’ in future models.

Ford’s executive design director Moray Callum, brother of Ian (and another Scot by the way!) said: “Both the exterior and interior of the Ford Evos Concept clearly communicate that this is a driver’s car, so that as soon as people see the vehicle, they will immediately want to get in and drive.”

Me first!

Road - The New Defender?

Land Rover is all set to show this new Defender concept at the Frankfurt Motor Show which opens its doors on Tuesday the 13th of September. But don’t get carried away, it’ll be another four years before the current, and ageing, utility vehicle is replaced in 2015.

Commenting on the Land Rover DC100 concept, Gerry McGovern, Director of Design, Land Rover said: "This isn't a production-ready concept but the beginning of a four-year journey to design a relevant Defender for the 21st century."

John Edwards, Global Brand Director, Land Rover added:"We plan to engage with existing and potential customers to help us finalise the details of the new vehicle.”

In other words, Land Rover will use the Frankfurt Show to gauge reaction from the press and the public. Looks diffferent though, eh? 

Road - 'Cruze Brothers' Hit Town

And just to end the day with a smile, Chevrolet paid its own tribute to the ‘Bluesmobile’ when they unveiled their very own ‘Cruzemobile’ at a special gathering at the Ace Cafe in London the other night.

Also on hand to entertain the crowds at the late summer ‘all-American Cruise-in’ were the The Cruze Brothers, two music teachers from St Neots, Cambridgeshire.

Dave Wiggins (Joliet Jake) and James Proctor (Ellwood) have been touring together as a tribute band for the past two years, and perform a two-hour set that includes re-enacting scenes and dances from the movie – often referred to as Grease for blokes – as well as a live soul, rock and blues act.

In a word, they were ‘magic’, pure magic.

Chevrolet had decked out one of their Cruze models to look something like the original – all it lacked was a few dents, some rust, dirt and bubble gum wrappers. Nice to know that car companies still have a sense of humour in these straitened times.

Rally - A Festival of Motor Sport

Plans are in hand to stage a ‘Scottish Motorsport Festival’ at the beginning of October to coincide with the Colin McRae Forest Stages Rally and the International Rally of Scotland the following weekend.

On Friday night (30th Sept), there will be a Rally Forum organised by the Colin McRae Vision at Moness Resort just outside Aberfeldy, then on Saturday (1st Oct) the final round of the national Scottish Rally Championship will take to the forest of Perthshire. Stig Blomqvist, Phil Mills and Jim McRae will be on the Forum panel before they take part in the rally on Saturday.

A karting event is planned for Monday 3rd October followed by a Production Car Autotest on Tuesday (4th Oct). Taking part on the autotest will be some of the top IRC drivers taking on a team from ‘the media’.

Wednesday’s (5th Oct) activities have yet to be confirmed and then the RoS/IRC event takes to the stages on Friday and Saturday.

The week long series of motor sporting themed events will be completed on Sunday 9 October, when Knockhill Race Circuit hosts the final race weekend of the Scottish Motor Racing Club.

The Festival will also feature a demonstration by some youngsters from the Junior 1000 Ecosse Challenge, a new rally competition aimed at 14 to 17 year olds, with six cars driving the final two stages of Rally of Scotland at Scone Palace before the IRC teams arrive.

It’s a pity it wasn’t a two week festival – then they could have included the Tunnock’s Mull Rally on the 14th – to 16th October, the most carameliciously exciting event on the calendar!

Tuesday 30 August 2011

Road - Impressing the Locals

The arrival of a Range Rover Evoque in the village has caused quite a stooshie. When I parked it outside the Post Office, the lady in the coffee cafe next door rushed out to have a look. Her opinion: “It’s fabulous”.

Even the local bread-snappers were rubber-necking as I drove past, and it was also the subject of staring and pointing from numerous other passing motorists.

When I parked it outside the house, the neighbour was out with his iPhone, while the guy from two doors up wandered down and stopped for a natter about the Evoque, “I was just passing,” he said. Rarely has a car attracted this amount of interest in the area.

I have to admit, the arrival of the press demonstrator was the first time I had seen it in the flesh having missed the launch last month in Liverpool. In the pictures it looks like a squashed Range Rover, but in the flesh (metal?) it looks the bizz. Yes, it’s shorter, narrower and not as tall as the RR, but the proportions make it look quite big till you stand up close. No doubt the huge 19 inch wheels have something to do with the illusion. It’s weird.

Inside there is plenty of room up front for two biggies and just about enough legroom in the back for two adults although the sloping roof line wouldn’t suit basketball players!

First impressions? It’s not a blinged up Freelander, it really is a mini Range Rover and has the presence and appearance to match. It’s also got an array of push-button 4WD controls on the console, so maybe I’ll get a chance to drive it off-road later today.

It should be in the showrooms from 9th September and prices start from 28 grand, but considering its head turning looks, few other cars for the money could match its appeal.

Opinion - Beware of the Woonerf

Do you know what a ‘Woonerf’ is? Apparently it’s a Dutch concept whereby in certain designated ‘pedestrian’ areas, drivers and cyclists are restricted to no more than walking pace, or 10 mph.  In these areas there are no roads and no pavements, just open-plan spaces.

Apparently, the responsibility is on drivers and riders to avoid being in an accident with a pedestrian. In an accident with a child under 14 years old, the driver is held to be liable. In one involving a pedestrian over 14, the likelihood is that the court will decide in favour of the pedestrian, but it is not based on explicit traffic law. 

So what’s this got to do with us?

Well, according to a recent poll conducted by the Institute of Advanced Motorists, fifty-eight per cent of people think that drivers should be held legally responsible for accidents between cars and more vulnerable road users in pedestrian-priority zones.

Would that also apply to these new ’20 mph’ limits appearing in housing estates, shopping centres and outside schools?

I bet you’re worried now, and there’s more. All it would take is one crusading politician eager to make a name for him or herself, to cotton on to this Dutch idea and try to get it introduced over here.

What’s more worrying is how the great British public would react to such a law. The big fear is that motorists would be ‘attacked’ by pedestrians ‘bumping’ into their vehicles, falling over and then using their mobile to call the nearest ‘no win, no fee’ merchants of misery.

Whatever happened to the concept of ‘innocent until proven guilty’?

But then there’s really no need to worry at all. The great British public wouldn’t do a thing like that, eh?

Monday 29 August 2011

Rally - Bogie's Bad News and Jock Shock

Mike Faulkner and Euan Thorburn top the entry list for this Saturday’s ProTune Remapping Merrick Stages at Wigtown in the absence of David Bogie. The current Dulux BRC points leader will be unable to contest his home event. The car needs to be rejigged and retuned ahead of Rally Yorkshire in two weeks time and it won’t be back in time for next Saturday.

The starting line-up will also be missing Jock Armstrong. When speaking to him at the Solway Stages he said: “We had a look under the car after our wee ‘off’ on Speyside and there’s more damage than we thought. Now we’re thinking do we fix it, or do we fit bigger brakes, better suspension and a new engine?”

That means we’re in for another cracker from the closely matched Euan Thorburn and Mike Faulkner who shared identical times on 4 of the Speyside’s 8 stages, and Robbie Head and Phillip Morrow who finished 10 seconds apart.

Reay MacKay will miss the Merrick too: “It wasn’t the gearbox that broke on Speyside,” he said, “it was the wiring – so the car’s back at Buckley’s getting a new loom made!”

Full Merrick preview, Entry List and Spectator info at:

Rally - Over the Gravel to Skye

Dougal Brown won Saturday's Skye Gravel Sprint with a best time of 1m 45.0s in his Mitsubishi Lancer EVO4 from the EVO6 of David Ross (1m 48.6s) and the Subaru Impreza of Kevin Ronaldson (1m 50.1s). 

Malcolm Buchanan was top 2WD in his Escort MkII in fourth place (1m 52.8s) with David McLean fifth in his Impreza (1m 53.0s) and Reay MacKay was sixth after one lone run in his Metro 6R4 with a time of 1m 54.5s.

This was the Skye Rally Club's second Rally Sprint following last year's inaugural event and 29 cars lined up for the start of six runs with only the best time to count. 

It gave Dougal Brown his first ever event win: "I thought Reay (MacKay) would be the biggest threat, but when the Metro broke its exhaust after the first run, I just wanted to keep it tidy and not damage the car - I'm doing the Merrick next week!"

Sunday 28 August 2011

F1 - Photo of the Week?

I know this blogsite has nothing to do with F1, but I just couldn’t resist this. 

Pirelli issued this photograph with a Press Release after wet practice at Spa on Friday. Unfortunately, the Pirelli folks did not include the photographer’s name, which is a pity, because he’s good, awfy good. If you look closely at the spray being thrown up by the n/s rear tyre, you can actually see the tread pattern in it. Well, I thought it uncanny.

And here’s another even more unsettling fact, this year’s Spa marks a special anniversary for Michael Schumacher. It was at this race 20 years ago he made his F1 debut. Doesn’t that make you feel old?

( Double click on the photo for a more detailed version ) 

Friday 26 August 2011

Rally - At home with Jari-Matti Latvala

Many of you will already be well aware of Ford's WRC Channel on 'YouTube', but for those of you who don't know anything about it, they have just put up a new short film chatting to Jari-Matti Latvala at his home in Finland - and in his shed! 

Jari-Matti takes viewers round his house and his trophy cabinet, but it's when he goes outside to the big shed that things get interesting. Amongst the cars in there is a Group 4 MkII Ford Escort. Despite the fact that he was born after MkIIs ruled the world, this is his favourite car.

And it's worth watching the wee film just to see him take it out on some wet roads near the family business - but turn up the sound. It's minted. Absolutely minted. It's just too short though.

The 5 minute film can be viewed at:

Road – Ideal Christmas Present?

Did you know Bentley Motors have a range of Estede solid gold sunglasses to match their cars? Or if gold is too chav, then there is a platinum option? 

Just one wee problem, if you fancy a pair for yourself and the wife, then you’ll need to be bolstered by a severe dose of Christmas spirit (an 18 year old Macallan should do the trick!) when you place the order.

All the frames and sunglasses are made to order, with the customer specifying the frames or sunglasses in the size needed, and in white, pink, yellow gold or platinum. The case can also be made to order and can be in any hide colour that Bentley offers. Don't all rush at once.

Now we come to the painful bit. Prices start at €10,000 for the limited edition 18ct gold sunglasses while the ‘standard’ models start from €7,700. As for the platinum sunglasses, you’ll need at least €31,500.

Thursday 25 August 2011

Opinion - A Missed Opperchancity!

The Museum of Transport in Glasgow is a triumph of fashion over function. I was in it for the first time last night, and was actually quite looking forward to it.

Having earlier presented the new Hyundai i40 to Scotland’s top motoring journalists (I think I was making up the numbers!) Hyundai hosted an informal buffet inside the Museum on the river banks and we were allowed to wander around and explore.

The new i40 impressed me a lot more than the new Museum. This is a visitor attraction with exhibits, it is not a Museum dedicated to the history of transport. The majority of exhibits are out of reach and almost out of sight and there are very few explanatory labels, plaques and exhibit descriptions. There are also very few seats to sit on and just look.

You can’t just blame the architect for this either, because someone at our end signed it off and agreed to build it. Which just goes to prove that if an architect is a good salesman, or saleswoman, then they can sell a numpty with a big budget anything. The Scottish Parliament building anyone?

All this business about flowing curves and rippling shapes has resulted in a waste of space. If they had concerned themselves less about landscaping they could have built a bigger and more usable, functional space to properly display the marvellous exhibits which the Museum has in its collection. For goodness sake, the site has acres of space for a bigger, squarer building.

It’s a bitter disappointment and a waste of a golden opportunity to provide Scotland with a proper national showcase to present its road, rail and shipping history, not to mention our glorious motor sporting achievements.

I’m so disappointed I could strangle a Haggis.

Road - Hyundai comes to Glasgow

Hyundai were in Glasgow today. They had a brought a gaggle of the new i40s up for the Scottish motoring journalists to try out on home turf. It’s one thing to drive a new car at some glamorous foreign location on it’s launch, it’s quite another to drive it on more familiar territory.

The first Hyundai launch I attended was in Italy when Hyundai launched the Coupe 15 years ago. It was cheap, but well equipped, although quality was questionable. Having said that, the driveline engineering was sound, but the leather seats looked like they had been licked by a coo, rather than one that had donated its jacket.

The original Coupe drove well and the MkII was even better. Unfortunately, they’ve stopped making them now, but this latest i40 has moved the brand on another massive step. Honestly, this is as good as any other car in the ‘D’ segment which pitches it against the Mondeo and the Insignia.

It looks good, it is well put together and the quality of the furnishings is both stylish and practical. It’s also surprisingly roomy. The driver’s seat will slide far enough back to accommodate an American basketball player without cutting off the circulation to the legs in the back seat passengers. And there is big boot to boot!

The trouble is, it’s 25 grand. And it’s a Hyundai. But before you scoff, look at the spec and then compare it with its rivals. The top of the range Premium includes 18 inch alloy wheels, memory function heated front seats, SatNav and reversing camera plus all the rest, and that will cost you more than 1500 quid anywhere else. And the clincher? It comes with a 5 year Warranty.

The i40 goes on sale on  the 8th of September, and it's not just worth a look, it's worth a drive.yHHy

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Rally - The REAL Stig in Scotland

Rally fans are in for a treat at the end of September when Swedish rally star Stig Blomqvist takes part in the Colin McRae Forest Stages Rally at Aberfeldy on Friday/Saturday, 30th September/1st October.

It’s been something he’s wanted to do since he missed out on the 2008 Colin McRae Rally ‘tribute’ event. Stig had entered that event, but unfortunately, had to cancel at the very last minute.

Joining him in the car will be Petter Solberg’s former World Championship co-driver, Phil Mills. Since Phil ‘retired’ from the co-driver’s seat he’s been busy building up his own rally car preparation and engineering business in Wales, called Viking Motorsport.

So it’s no wonder that the duo will be entered in a ‘genuine’ Group 4 works replica Ford Escort MkII complete with 2 litre BDG, 5 speed ZF gearbox and an Atlas axle.

Since he started rallying back in 1967, Stig has driven for every major car manufacturer and just about every successful works rally team from two wheel drive V4 Saabs to four wheel drive turbocharged Audi Quattros and everything in between.

The Perthshire stages also hold wonderful memories for Stig as he contested the International Scottish Rally in the late 70s and early 80s through some of these very same forests, although he only won ‘the Scottish’ once, in 1983. 

It was just such a treat to see Bjorn Waldegaard in the Porsche, and Hannu Mikkola, Ari Vatanen and Malcolm Wilson in MkIIs, amongst so many other rally stars on the 2008 event, and it'll be great to see the real Stig in action this year.

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Road - V8 AMG SLK Packs a Punch

Here’s a wee bit of news, especially if you’re interested in a compact two seater with a serious bit of grunt. Mercedes-Benz has just announced their most powerful SLK yet, the SLK 55 AMG. 

Its newly developed AMG 5.5-litre V8 produces 417 bhp and 540 Nm of torque, and yet claims to offer 30+ mpg. Mind you, that figure is bound to tumble if full use was being made of that glorious 7000+ rpm V8. 

Fuel consumption would take another serious hit at the traffic lights GP where the 0 to 60 time could be dispatched in 4.5 seconds if the local base thumping, head banger was alongside in his Halfords GT. 

Having said that, one of the reasons behind the higher than expected fuel economy is that the engine features cylinder shut-off, whereby cylinders two, three, five and eight are cut off under partial load, similar in fact to the system employed in F1 engines. It’s even got Stop/Start technology, but that’s NOT something you would see on an F1 car. 

Putting the power on the road is an AMG seven speed auto ‘box with three settings: "Controlled Efficiency" (C), Sport (S) and Manual (M). And here’s the thing, it’s got a built in ‘blip’ on the double de-clutch downshift and does it again going up the ‘box under full load! Now that’s going to hit consumption too, because what petrolhead could resist going up and down the box just to listen? Not me for one.

Naturally, the AMG tag adds sports suspension with Direct-Steer, Torque Vectoring Brakes and 3-stage ESP as well as AMG’s own high-performance braking system and there’s a bit of body sculpting and bulging going on round the edges.

There’s just one thing, Merc hasn’t revealed the price yet, but better start saving now if you’re interested.

Rally - Garry in a Hurry

Further to the weekend’s Ulster Rally, I got a wee note from Monty Pearson (Garry’s faither!) this morning with a bit more detail about Garry and Laura Marshall’s stunning run to third place in the BRC Challenge in their 1 litre Nissan Micra.

Halfway through the first stage on Saturday morning, the 19 year old was having trouble with gear selection and had to ease off on the next stage before service. The service crew found that the engine mountings had stripped their threads and there wasn’t enough service time to fix it properly.

So the engine mountings were wedged solid and the lad sent on his way with strict instructions to go easy when letting the clutch out. Imagine trying to tell a teenage rally driver to go easy!

Anyway, the class win means that Garry is now fifth overall in the Dulux Trade BRC Challenge and his 18 year old Co-Driver Laura Marshall is fourth.

Considering this was Garry’s first event in Northern Ireland and in changeable very wet and slippery conditions this was a very mature drive from the two youngsters.

Monday 22 August 2011

Road - More Smiles per Mile

When Volkswagen first brought out the Polo way back in 1975, it was a spindly wee thing, but in keeping with modern times and modern fashions, like every other small car, it has grown up into a bigger car. In fact the latest Polo is heavier than the original Golf.

That probably has as much to do with accommodating new safety measures and deformable structures as it has to do with accommodating the human results of the growing numbers of burger vans and pizza parlours.  And here’s an idea to save the manufacturers having to build bigger ‘small’ cars in the future. Instead of giving out cheap plastic toys with ‘Happy Meals’, why don’t they give away skipping ropes? Just a thought.

But back to the Teacup Tornado, or Polo GTI. I took it for a run in the near-dark last night in the wild hinterlands of north Lanarkshire. It was a hoot. The DSG ‘box was not as sharp as some I’ve driven in the past, but once on the move this wee hooligan is total fun. It’s still pulling at 7000 rpm when the rev limiter cuts in, but it’s the way it surges through the gears between corners that just makes you want to giggle. It’s just a Polo for gawd’s sake!

But that’s the whole point. With a 70 mph max limit in this country there’s no point buying a V8 supercar, you’ll never get it out of 2nd gear without the Polis taking your fotie and your licence. The only safe way to open up a big car is at a track day.

On the other hand, you can have as much fun on the public road with a smaller car because you can get near its limits much more safely. It’s therefore more rewarding and enjoyable to drive. Having said that, VW say this wee thing will do 142 mph.

The seating and driving position are excellent and the leather rimmed, flat-bottomed wheel with its paddles is just one of the best toys ever. Trouble is, it’s an expensive toy - at nearly 19 grand!

Sunday 21 August 2011

Rally - Bogie Still Leads BRC

David Bogie and Kevin Rae did their Dulux British Rally Championship hopes no end of good with a fighting fourth place in their Mitsubishi Lancer on the two day Ulster Rally which finished today.

Mind you, they had a lucky escape when they hit a rock on the first stage of the event, but didn’t get a puncture, whereas their title rival Elfyn Evans lost over 2 minutes when his Subaru punctured a tyre on the same rock. Evans stormed back into sixth place while fifth was Bogie’s other main title rival, Jonny Greer in the Skoda Fabia S2000.

David Bogie was lucky again when he had to run through SS5 with one slick and one intermediate on the front end having clipped another stone in SS4. Greer had his moments too when he landed badly in the verge after a jump and damaged a rim in the same stage.

Peter Taylor broke his Clio’s gearbox and Alex Laffey put the Fiesta off the road on SS12.

There was more good news for the Scottish contingent (for a change!) when Garry Pearson and Laura Marshall finished third in the British Rally Challenge with a scintillating third place in their Nissan Micra Super 1000. The Scottish duo were on the pace all day long beaten only by Jack Rowe (Fiesta R2) and Jamie Brown (Fiesta ST).

Having changed the driveshaft broken on the Solway Coast (by his wee brother Gary!) Ruary MacLeod finished fourth in his Honda Civic.

Jim McRae and Pauline Gullick won the FIA Historic Class in their Porsche 911.

David Bogie now leads the BRC on 94 points from Evans, 80 and Greer, 77.

Road - Bruised by a Polo

I did it again. I banged my funny bone, and it wasn’t funny. It’s all Volkswagen’s fault of course. They have this annoying knack of fitting a hinged armrest in the centre console. In the upright position it’s flush with the two seat backs and when it’s down it hinders access to the handbrake.

As usual, I jump in, fire it up, select first gear, get ready for the beans and then go for handbrake. Ouch! ya bugger, right on the bony part of my elbow. I did it again. I don’t know how many Volkswagens (and Audis) I’ve driven over the years with this infernal device, and I still forget. Every bleedin’ time.

I’ve given myself some right clatters in the past. And just you try explaining bruised elbows to the wife after you've been "out for a drive in the country!"

And yet, this time I forgive them. Because in this instance, the elbow basher is fitted to a Volkswagen Polo GTI. Smaller than a Golf GTI, this is no pocket rocket, it’s a teacup tornado!

Under the bonnet is a 1.4 litre 16 valve engine with a supercharger and a turbo. It spits out 178 bhp and revs to nearly 7000. It’s also fitted with a 6 speed DSG ‘box and paddles. According to VW it accelerates from nought to 60 in under 7 seconds.

But I’ll need to wait till it’s dark tonight.

Friday 19 August 2011

Opinion - Newspapers will Never Die

'I've got a pal who hates fruit, but loves Apple. He's got an Apple Mac and an Apple Airbook. He's got an iPod and an iPhone. He's just got iPad2 (having originally purchased iPad1) having stood outside the store in Glasgow all night.

Naturally, he's collecting Apps. He's now got Apps that will do everything and he's boring me rigid. Honestly, he's worse than asking Ivor Clark if the Hillman Avenger is a good car - if you do raise the subject with Ivor, make sure you have sandwiches and something to sit on.

But according to my mate, the newspaper and the printed magazine will be dead in months, not years. He's got subscriptions to  bleedin' everythin' from  daily papers to the Sundays, from TV programmes to Radio 4, and he's boring me senseless.

I told him the newspaper will never die and he refutes that saying that his iPad2 can do anything a newspaper can and can do it faster and with added information.

I told him he was talking rubbish. Then he went on about links and extra information, Facebookers and Twitterers.

Rubbish I said.

He challenged me: "Go on name one thing a newspaper can do that I can't do with my iPad2."

So I told him: "You can swat a wasp with a rolled up newspaper."

Thursday 18 August 2011

Road - Show Time

The 64th Frankfurt 64th International Motor Show is just around the corner on the 15th to 25th September and despite the impending threat of impoverished gloom hanging over all of us, there will be a surprising number of new models and concepts to drool over.

Amongst the most desirable will be the Jaguar C-X16, designed by Scotsman Ian Callum, which will make its first global appearance at the show and in this 50th year of the E-Type, it’s got a hell of reputation to live up to.

Closer to our own pockets will be a revised Suzuki Swift Sport with a bigger and more aggressive front grille behind which is the latest version of the 134 bhp 1.6 litre M16A engine. This will rev to 6900 and is bolted to a new six speed gearbox!

Vauxhall will have its own sporty additions to the range too, revealing the new Astra GTC for the first time, with a choice of petrol and diesel engines  between 118 bhp and 178 bhp. For the family motorist there will also e new Zafira Tourer, which looks quite smart in the early pics.

No doubt helped by its BTCC exposure, Chevrolet is becoming more recognisable over here and there will be a couple of interesting concepts on show including the Miray which has two front-mounted, battery-powered 15-kW electric motors, and of more interest to us, the Colorado Rally Concept.

Mind you it has to be said, that the American ‘concept’ of rallying is rather different to ours, and in this case, the name has been applied to a pickup. Whether we get it over here depends on its reception in Frankfurt, but after a period in the doldrums the pickup market in the UK is actually picking up again.

If there’s anything else of interest, I’ll put the news up here.

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Race - 200 mph - in a Skoda!

Us rallyists know all about Skoda (think John Haugland!) so we’re only too well aware of the company’s reputation, but did you know the Octavia vRS is ten years old this year? To celebrate this milestone, Skoda took one to Bonneville, that's in Americky by the way..

The standard 2 litre four cylinder TSI petrol engine was used with a bigger Garrett turbo generating over 500 bhp and was running a water methanol mix rather than petrol. The car itself was lowered by 80 mm and a modified subframe used to accommodate a bigger intercooler. And that was it.

The fastest run of the series topped out at 202.15 mph, but the team have now set their sights on the 2 litre production car record which stands at 216 mph.

Bike - Pure Dead Gallus!

Got a press release from Goodwood ahead of this year’s Goodwood Revival on 16-18 September and just had to share it with you. Ahead of this year’s festival they issued a photograph taken at the last event at which they featured classic motor cycles. Yes, I know it’s a motor bike, and yes that is Northen Ireland’s Jeremy McWilliams the ex Moto GP rider, and yes he is indeed smoking a cigar while riding a motor cycle. 
Pure dead gallus, eh?

Tuesday 16 August 2011

Road - Dawdling Down to Dundrennan

When the Volvo V60 RDesign was delivered last week I took one look at the 17 inch alloys and the twin exhausts, and thought: “Ya Beezer!” 

It looked just the business in its gleaming bronze suntan.

Then I noticed the ‘DRIVe’ badge on the tailgate. Joy was shortlived.

The good thing about the V60 DRIVe is that according to Volvo it will do more than 900 miles on one tank of diesel. The not so good thing is that it won’t do it very quickly.

The car has a 1.6 litre turbo diesel, so quick it ain’t. That means overtaking has to be planned well in advance.

I took the car down to Dundrennan for the Solway Coast Rally on Sunday and cruising south on the M74 it was returning nearly 60 mpg. It didn’t drop much either when I got on to the A701 down to Dumfries. Then I took the A711 down to Dalbeattie.

There was little traffic about early in the morning, but I thought if I did encounter any late night revellers returning home or early morning churchists, then there’s a couple of good long straight stretches on that road to get out and get past.

It’s a good job they were long too. The first time I pulled out to pass slower traffic I thought I was in the wrong gear. Even switching off the ‘e’ button on the dash made no difference.

In other words, the car’s looks promise more than the car delivers, but if you want a comfy fuel miser whose looks will impress the neighbours, it’s well worth a thought.

Rally - Hebrides Next Weekend

As I sit here at my desk this morning, I'm depressed and I've just got depresseder. John Cunningham from Lewis Car Club has sent me a copy of the Entry List for this weekend's third Rally Hebrides, (Saturday 20th), and it looks awfy guid.

The invitation-only event now has 30 cars including 'The Malton Missile' himself, Steve Bannister heading north all the way from Malton (that's near York in Englandshire by the way) and he'll be up against the local hot-shot Malcolm Buchanan, and then there's the boy from Banchory, Quintin 'Sideyways' Milne, and all three of them in MkIIs.

And if that doesn't tickle your earbuds, Sandy Arbuthnott is bringing his Metro 6R4 and Ken Wood will use his V6 engined Triumph Dolomite Sprint.

My plan was to set off from New St. Even's Town on Friday morning and catch the last ferry from Uig on Friday afternoon, returning home via the first ferry on Monday morning (there's none on Sunday!), but apparently nothing moves on the Sunday up there anyway - that's down to the after-rally party on Saturday night though! Trouble is, we're a man down at the office and I'm in charge, so getting two days off is looking distinctly more unlikely each passing day.

Not only was I keen to see the action, but to see for myself how much work Lewis Car Club has put into preparations for this event. And if you want to see what I mean take a look at their website. If we had let these boys loose on the M74 'missing link' extension it would have been done in half the time!

Jaggy Bunnet will have a full entry list and details on his website later tonight.

Monday 15 August 2011

Race - Ah kent his faither!

Now I know this wee Blog is supposed to be about rallying, but on the basis that 'Ah kent his faither', a common phrase used in Scotland, I was really pleased to see Ryan Dalziel back on the podium in America. He finished third in the 'Canadian Tire 200' sports car race at Watkins Glen at the weekend, the latest round of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car series. In each of the previous three rounds, he finished fourth!

His grand dad was a baker in Airdrie and his Dad developed the business then sold it to move into new ventures. Ryan now lives in Orlando and drives for the Starworks Team. Anyway, I thought it was interesting.

Sunday 14 August 2011

Rally - Hardie Wins Solway Coast Rally

David Hardie and John McCulloch won today's UsedCarParts Solway Coast Stages Rally. They beat John's son, Mark McCulloch and Craig Wallace by 46 seconds to clinch his first win on this event. Despite living locally David has never contested this event before.

His time for the 8 stages was  48m 43s with Mark scoring  49m 29s. Jim Sharp finished third on 50m 55s while Richard Dickson set about making up lost time after his morning puncture to finish in fourth place with  51m 32s. Also making up time as conditions dried out in the afternoon was Lee Hastings finishing fifth on 52m 45s.

1st 2WD was Steve Retchless in 6th place on 52m 50s ahead of Barry Lindsay in the wee Peugeot on 52m 53s.

There will be a FULL report on the rally on:   on Monday night - late!

Rally - Hardie on a Charge

David Hardie still leads in Solway after 6 stages on 36m 53s, but last year's winner, Ian Paterson is out. On the fifth stage, Paterson slid wide on the exit of the hairpin near the start and left the road. There seems to be litle damage but a signpost and saplings stopped him going too far off the road.

That means Mark McCulloch is holding second place (37m 07s) from Jim Sharp (38m 39s). Richard Dickson is fourth ((39m 06s) from Steve Retchless (39m 44s) and Barry Lindsay (39m 59s)   .... more later

Rally - Hardie Still Leads in Solway

David Hardie still leads the Solway Stages after 4 stages with a time of 24m 50s but the battle for second place is heating up as last year's winner Ian Paterson has caught Mark McCulloch and the two are sharing 25m 16s with 4 stages to go.

The sun is out now and the surfaces are drying so speeds are rising too. Jim Sharp is still fourth on 26m 11s ahead of Richard Dickson making up time after his earlier puncture and Steve Retchless is the first 2WD runner in 6th place in his Escort and Barry Lindsay in the wee Peugeot 106 is not too far behind!  ...... more later

Rally - Hardie leads the Solway Stages

David Hardie leads the Solway Stgaes in his Subaru Impreza after the first two stages. His time of 12m 34s is 8 seconds up on second placed Mark McCulloch first time out in his new Subaru on 12m 42s. Last year's winner Ian Paterson is third on 12m 48s from Jim Sharp on 13m 19s.

But it's early days on this 8 stage event and everyone is complaining about conditions. They all brought slicks to the MOD ranges here and they all think they need forest tyres!

Richard Dickson lost time on the second test with a puncture in the Subaru and young Gary MacLeod broke a driveshaft on the Honda on the first stage   .... more later

Rally - What do Points Make?

With three weeks to go before the penultimate round of the Scottish Rally Championship, the ProTune Remapping Merrick Stages on Sept 3rd, Robert Beck has put the points tables up on the Scottish Championship website so that folks can work out what they have to do. With competitors counting six scores from the eight events, those who have scored on all rounds so far will have to start dropping.

One guy who doesn't need to do any counting is David Bogie. With four maximum point scores plus a second and a third he has put this year's title chase beyond reach of the rest. And after an absolutely epic battle on the Gleaner Speyside, there's still nothing between Mike Faulkner and Euan Thorburn who are tied in the runner-up spot. Robbie Head is fourth from Donnie MacDonald and John McClory.

Top 2WD runner is Tom Hynd, but he non-scored on the Speyside when he cowped the Peugeot on the final stage so he's got some work to do with Gareth White only 3 points behind. Top SRC Junior is Gareth White by 2 points from Liam Harkness.

Saturday 13 August 2011

Rally - Solway Stages Tomorrow

The UsedCarParts Solway Coast Rally is on tomorrow, Sunday the 14th, south west of Dalbeattie. There will be eight special stages on the Dundrennan military ranges, but due to the nature of the terrain, only two signposted spectator points. If you're going, stick to them - and don't kick any shiny metallic objects in the grass. Apparently the ranges are still in use at times with the sojers practicing live firing! The spectator car parks are just off the A711 west of Dundrennan. It gets underway at 9.00 am and there are over 40 cars entered.

Road - Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder?

The Nissan Juke is like 'The Only Way is Essex'. Some folk will get it, the majority of us won't. TOWIE is one of those English cultural programme about the natives, something like our own version of  'The Scheme', but where the fake-tan is trowelled on and the accent is completely alien!

So whilst the Juke looks OK from the ear, not so bad from the side, it's when you get round the front that you wonder what happened. Did the designer run out of ideas, or was the wee hand on 5 and the big hand on 12 and he was on a promise?

Whatever, it made me wonder. We can't blame the designer for cars we don't like, because for every car that is designed, whether good, bad or ugly, someone above the design department has to approve it and tick it off for production. So the real reason we have cars which make it and cars which don't lies in the hands of those at the top. Don't blame the designers.

For instance, Chris Bangle came in for a lot of stick at BMW, but it wasn't him who said: "Go ahead and build the cars", it was somebody way above him. Again reactions were mixed, some folk loved his 'flame sufacing' designs other folk despised them. In fact it even caused some BMW fanatics to set up a website calling for his head.

Anyway, the Juke certainly ain't that bad, it's just quirky in an odd sort of way, but it does make you wonder. What goes through the mind of senior executives when presented with a set of designs to make them want to press the 'Start' button?

Perhaps behind every ugly car is a boozy lunch or a bad temper. In this case, the guy who signed it off must have been in a  frivolous mood - well it certainly made the neighbours smile every time they saw me going out to drive it. Butch car it is not, maybe I should have let the wean drive it.

Having said all that, it's a decent wee driver. With a 1.6 turbo petrol engine and 4WD it goes quite well, plus it's roomy and comfy inside. But for 20 grand? I'm not sure. Although if it does tickle your fancy, prices for the base 2WD models start at £14,000.

Thursday 11 August 2011

Road - Power to the People!

In it's bid to lead the 'Big Society' the Government promised to listen to the people - that is, provided enough of them made their opinions felt. To that end, they created some space on the Government website for on-line petitions.

The good news is that the 'FairFuel UK' petition is leading the way. To date, the petition has received 18,000 signatures but it needs more. If this e-Petition gets more than 100,000 supporters, then it will almost certainly force a full debate in Parliament on the issue.

The petition is calling for the Government to scrap the planned 4p per litre fuel duty increases scheduled for January and August 2012 and to implement actions to bring down and stabilise fuel prices.

If you want to become part of democracy at work, then log-on and sign-in.

The link to the e-petition is at:

Wednesday 10 August 2011

Road - Driven to Drink!

Here’s a heart and stomach warming tale of new technology blending with tradition to create harmony in this electronics infested age.

In a bid to become self-sufficient, the 130 year old Bruichladdich Distillery on Islay has built a Biowayste system which enables it to generate its own electricity.

Pot ale, which is the watery waste product left over after distilling, is converted into biogas by a process called anaerobic digestion which then powers a generator to produce electricity.

Taking this idea a step further, distillery owner Mark Reynier has bought an electrically powered Nissan Leaf to drive which means he doesn’t need to ‘import’ diesel or petrol from the mainland! And with less than a hundred miles of road on the island, it doesn't half make sense. Crikey, wan swig o' that Bruichladdich and he could push it home if the battery goes flat!

Mr Reynier said: “We are not eco-warriors, but we wanted to see how we could do our part. Most schemes along these lines are hare-brained and have little commercial merit, but this one does. Though the technology has existed since 1860, only now is it economically viable on this small scale.”

One of eight distilleries on Islay, Bruichladdich is the only producer of organic whisky, and recently distilled the first ever biodynamic whisky. And how better to celebrate such an innovation than by creating a new organic dram.

I’ll drink to that!

Sunday 7 August 2011

Rally - Scottish Championship Decided!

David Bogie and Kevin Rae are the new Scottish Rally Champions, scoring a hat-trick of title wins. With two rounds remaining the duo had an unchallenged run to victory today, after Jock Armstrong crashed out, to score another emphatic win.

Euan Thorburn and Mike Faulkner resolved their day long tussle in Thorburn's favour, when Faulkner overshot a 90L on the final stage losing a few crucial seconds.

Robbie Head scored his best result of the season so far with fourth place ahead of Callum MacKenzie on his third run out this year in the Lancer - and looking like his last for some time as nappy duty is about to beckon some time soon!

Barry Groundwater scored sixth and Phillip Morrow lost a top six placing when a 6 minute time penalty sent him plunging down the finishing order. He actually booked into Service 3 minutes early which was penalty-free, but forgot to adjust his departure time. An easy mistake, but costly.

Saturday 6 August 2011

Rally - Bogie Leads on Speyside

Jock Armstrong crashed out of the lead of this year's Speyside Stages on the fourth test. Cresting a Left 9 in the fearsomely quick Gartly Moor test, the car slid wide and cowped on to its ear. That means David Bogie is now in the lead by over half a minute from Mike Faulkner and Euan Thorburn.

After five stages, Bogie leads by 32 seconds with Faulkner and Thorburn tied in second place. Robbie Head is fourth, but by only 2 seconds from Phillip Morrow with Reay MacKay in sixth.

Andy Horne is out too, the Metro spotted parked up in Gartly. Fortunately the rain has stopped, but life doesn't get much better for service crews than the cafe at Huntly Market. They make their own Scotch and steak pies here. Nectar fit for gods.

Rally - Armstrong leads from Bogie

After 3 stages on this year's Gleaner Oils Speyside Stages Rally, Jock Armstrong leads from David Bogie by 3 seconds. Armstrong took an early lead over the two short one mile blasts around the Elgin city centre Cooper Park this morning but Bogie snatched a second back on the first of the forest tests, the 2.79 mile Rosarie test.

At least it was a dry start this morning, as the crews headed east from Elgin it started to rain, and it's raining steadily here now at Huntly where the cars are due shortly for service.

At least with me driving the Honda Jazz IMA Hybrid there's little chance of getting done for speeding, as the Polis up here always keep a beady eye on the A96 traffic and love playing with their cameras.  

Euan Thorburn is third, 4 seconds behind Bogie with Andy Horne a further 2 seconds behind. Robbie Head is lying fifth but only 1 second behind him is Phillip Morrow. It's still early days up, here but with the roads turning wet, things are going to get a lot trickier and stickier.

Rally - Calm Before the Storm

It wis a braw, bricht, sunless nicht in Elgin as the Scroots unpacked their bags, filled up their clipboards and got ready to greet the massed ranks of competitors lined up for the usual pre-event tyre kicking and wheel shoogling session ahead of tomorrow's Speyside Stages Rally.

Not lining up was Bruce McCombie. He had actually been taking part in the sponsors/media session earlier in the day but was forced to stop when the gearbox broke. The latest from Scrutineering is that he won't be able to repair the Subaru's 'box so he's out before he's started.

Colin Gemmell was a bit luckier. His Subaru's starter motor packed up between the Noise Test and Scrutineering, but the queue was so long that he had time to change it while stuck in the queue.

Phillip Morrow was looking pensive: "I haven't driven this car (his Lancer) on the loose before, only tarmac. It's got all the right suspension on it and I had a run out at the test day earlier today to try out the DMack Tyres. It was turning in alright and good on the brakes but the back end felt a wee bit loose so we've softened it up and we'll see how we go tomorrow," he said.

Robbie Head was equally pensive. He was at the est earlier in the day to try out is new Pirellis which he's running for the first time this year: "The stage was too short to get some heat into them so I didn't really learn anything. I'll find out tomorrow if they're any better than what I was using!" He's just back from a 5 day Enduro motorcycle event in Romania, the 'Red Bull Romaniacs' annual thrash up and over the mountains. It's an extreme motor cycling challenge fit only for the foolish or the foolhardy. At one downhill charge over the mountains there was a 12 foot step and he and his two mates stopped to look over it and wonder how they were going to get over this obstacle. Then a local rode up, stopped his bike, lifted it and dropped it over the edge, climbed down, got on and rode off. Robbie and the other two did likewise! Romaniacs is the right word.

Stewart Davidson's got a new motor, a MkII Escort and said: "I got it 3 months ago, stripped it and this will be its first event. I hope we get further than we did last year!" Referring to the very first spectator stage at Cooper Park in the centre of Elgin last year when he parked his Proton on top of a park bench. And they build their benches strong up here in Elgin with concrete bases. The Proton came off second best.

There are 8 Special Stages tomorrow, with the first two at Cooper Park, then it's into the forests for six of the best. If David Bogie wins tomorrow that will clinch this year's Scottish Championship title with two rounds to go. He's currently leading the British Championship as well and would dearly like to miss the final two rounds of the Scottish series to concentrate on his first British title, but: "The next round is the Merrick and that's my home event," he said, "and then the final round is the Colin McRae Forest Stages and I daren't miss that or The Bears will beat me up!" It's nice to be popular, eh?

Friday 5 August 2011

Rally - Life's a Jazz - No it Ain't!

Left Crieff this morning at the wheel of a Honda Jazz IMA to head north up the A9 to the Gleaner Oils Speyside Stages. After yesterday's deluge, it looked OK at first, then it didn't, and then I passed through some rain at Craigellachie before it cleared as I got to Fochabers. And then the sun came out, so it was a good day for the 63 Car Club organising team who had laid on a sponsors/media day in Whiteash Forest.

As for the Jazz, I know it's a city car and not designed to be a Highland glen cruiser, but I was a wee bit disappointed. I was never over 70 mph and yet couldn't get more than 53 mpg. For those paying extra for a hybrid in the hope of reducing fuel bills, well they might not be too chuffed. There is one thing though - the no-fee Tax disc on the windscreen.

Reay MacKay was giving the Impreza WRC a run. After 5 non-finishes on the trot, he's hoping he's finally got to the bottom of the car's electrical gremlins - after it had a wee holiday down at Dom Buckley's!

Robbie Head was trying out Pirellis instead of the DMacks which he has been using this year and Andy Horne was giving the DAM a run after some suspension work following the RSAC Scottish.

John MacCrone was having another run out in the Honda Civic, but it was only running on 3 cylinders for the first run. Big Gordon Cunningham was quickly on the case and 4 cylinders were restored.

Another one with the bonnet up was Hamish Kinloch trying to suss out Quintin Milne's misfire in the MkII. Even after some extensive work reecntly, the bluidy misfire is still there - or is it Quintin doesn't know what a rev limiter is? Only kidding, but he's away down to Ricky Gauld's tonight to get it on the rolling road. Mind you, it didn't stop him giving it the beans on the test stage.

Jock Armstrong gave a few folk a quick hurl as did Mike Faulkner, Barry Groundwater, John Morrison, Colin Gemmell, Chris Collie, Billy Miller and Mike Grant, while Stevie Brown was out in the Subaru again trying to get some mileage ahead of tomorrow.

Philip Morrow was also there and it will be interesting to see how he gets on tomorrow against our lot. He's got a deal to run DMack Tyres so that's why he's here.

Now I'm off to find the nearest Asda. The 63 CC girls had tea, coffee and sandwiches for the guests today, but they also had packs of Asda biscuits. If ye huvnae tried the caramel/fudge 'Mars bar lookalikes' then take it from me, they are well worth a sook and a swaally.

Thursday 4 August 2011

Road - A Jaguar for the People

A lot has been written in recent weeks about the new Jaguar XF with the 2.2 litre diesel engine, and it has all been good. Rarely does a car get universal praise from the UK's motoring writers. Well, I ain't going to rock the boat either.

Very few people will need any more Jaguar than this. The 2.2 litre engine generates 190 PS but it feels more, that's down to the new 8 speed auto box which maks the most of what the engine has. It'll do 0 to 60 in 8.5 secs and has a top speed of just over 140 mph. Who needs any more in this limit plagued and speed camera infested country?

I drove it during a rain storm up through the Sma' Glen north of Crieff with serious waatter running down the road and dodging the log lorries coming out of Griffin Forest! It got so bad at one point I pulled over cos the wipers couldn't cope. Then when I crossed the wee bridge over the River Almond I thought I saw an ark passing underneath with twa dugs and a bloke with a crook and a beard, or was that Moses?

Seating and driving position are superb, ride quality excellent and it drives like a proper 'sporting' saloon. That's not something that could be said of diesel saloons until recently, but this really is nice. It's 6 grand cheaper than the 3 litre diesel version, but unless you're chauffeuring Desperate Dan and his two cow-pie munching heavies, then you won't need the V6, so think of the money you'll save.

Think also of the fuel you'll save, at 70 mph in top gear, the engine is doing just 1200 rpm - and it pulls away cleanly from there.

What's not to like about Jaguar's new baby XF.

Wednesday 3 August 2011

Road - Don't Lose Your Car

Have you ever left your car in an airport car park, and then forgotten where it was parked when you return? It's easy done given the size of these places these days, but there's a new free App for these infernal smartphones that might just help the old and doddery, or young and forgetful.

Not only will this new free app from National Car Parks find you a car park, it will show you how to get there. Developed by Mobikats, an Android version is available for download now.

In essence, the app shows you which of NCP’s 600 plus urban and airport car parks is closest to your chosen destination as well as mapping details of its location, costs of parking and precise directions on how to get there. It even provides walking directions to the terminal - y'know the big white building where you check in!

Even more worrying, given our booking-frazzled, memory-ravaged brains another trick feature will allow you to save the parked car location on a map as well as an image of the car and the slot it’s been parked in. On your return, just view the saved map and image of where the car has been parked to find it!

It's not finished yet. Eerily, users can simply hold their phone up and instantly see where their car is parked superimposed on a video camera feed from their phone! Is that cool - or threatening? 

Tuesday 2 August 2011

Rally - Volkswagen's Cunning Plan

Ahead of its appearance in the FIA World Rally Championship next year with the Polo R WRC, the Volkswagen World Rally Team have a found a novel way of 'practicing'.  The new team contested last weekend's Neste Oil Rally Finland using two ┼ákoda Fabia S2000 cars from the SWRC. The 270 bhp machines were driven by Norway's Andreas Mikkelsen and Finland's Joonas Lindroos.

Neither car made it to the end, but the exercise was still judged a great success. Lindroos rolled on the eighth test and Mikkelson was stopped by a holed radiator when a stone went through it on the 17th stage.

According to Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen: "The service crews did an excellent job during their first event and the procedures functioned very well. Andreas Mikkelsen and his co-driver Ola Floene were particularly impressive and showed flashes of brilliance. In general, we collected valuable experience during this first rally weekend and learnt a great deal.  We now look forward to competing in the ADAC Rally Germany in the middle of August."

The Volkswagen Motorsport team will compete in other selected rallies in 2011 using their Škoda machines. Other drivers are down to get a ride as VW intends to try out different drivers during this learning process. German driver Christian Riedemann and Heins Weijs from the Netherlands will get their chance on the next WRC round the ADAC German Rally (18-21 August) in Trier.

On this basis it sounds as thought VW means business, but then that's to be expected, they took the same long-term view of the Dakar Rallies and stuck with it till they won. Look out Citroen, Ford and MINI!