Monday 14 November 2011

Off-Road - Messing about in boats

It’s a waste of a good engine, two good engines in fact. We were at Cameron House on Loch Lomond to drive the new Suzuki Kizashi, a medium sized saloon with four wheel drive and a CVT ‘box, but Suzuki had also brought someone from their marine division. Apparently, Suzuki is quite big in boats as well as motor cycles and cars.

Anyway, Suzuki will be providing the motorised boats for the London Olympics, and no they’re not going to race them. Apparently officials and security folks will use them as there is an awfy lot of water around the Olympic Park in east London and at other more obvious venues such as the rowing course. A useless fact I know, but interesting all the same.

Even so, Loch Lomond has much more water than London, so Suzuki had brought along a 10.5 metre Ribcraft with two outboard motors strapped to the back of it. The idea was to demonstrate to the assembled motoring hacks Suzuki’s prowess on the water.

Now I don’t care if they have umpteen F1 engines strapped inside a 14 mtr composite twin hull affair, as far as I’m concerned offshore power boat racing, or any other boat for that matter, still doesn’t cut it alongside a MkII with a BDA on full song and a stretch of forest road snaking ahead into the distance.

But on the basis that I’m open minded and always up for persuasion, I climbed stiffly aboard. The ‘stiffly’ was due to the thick two-piece rubber suit that I had to pull on. It was like trying to push a Highland coo into a bed of velcro.

The Ribcraft itself looked a bit suspicious. It was fitted with a roll cage. Honest, it was a chrome tubed roll-cage - although some sailing types tried to tell me it was a ‘flying bridge’. Crikey, I know a roll cage when I see one, but this one was fitted to a boat!

Underneath this were two black housings, each enclosing a Suzuki DF250 4 stroke engine. To those like me who don’t know what a DF250 is, it’s 3.6 litre V6 with 250 hp, and this plastic canoe with inflated side bolsters had two of the rascals.

They were well muffled as the skipper fired them up and we tootled out to deep water where he floored it (depthed it?), the nose rose six feet in the air, the arse end dug into the water and off we went like a starving Nessie looking for lunch.

For sure, it was impressive, it could accelerate pretty smartly and could pull some impressively high Gs going into turns, but that was it. And I got wet. And here’s the thing, it has no suspension. Someone had been out on the Loch ahead of us concreting the bleedin’ waves. It was like going for a ride in a washing machine down a hill.

After the demo I stepped out looking as though I’d just come from Boris Johnson’s barber. Then came the big shock, fuel consumption. Each engine consumes 1 litre of fuel per minute, although on a good day 40 litres per hour is possible! Each engine costs £19,500 and there wasn’t much change out of 90 grand for the boat. And they reckon rallying is expensive.

Nope, I’ll stick to cars and bikes, they make much more sense.

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