Monday 30 April 2012

Gadget - The ultimate toy?

Spotted at the Gadget Show in London was this unusual looking and ultimately desirable device (the unit not the burd!) called the TL1 Racing, Flight and First-Person-Shooter Simulator.

Designed, developed and manufactured in the UK by Motion Simulation in cooperation with the Ariel Motor Company (yes, the same one that makes the Ariel Atom), the TL1 houses the world’s first portable 180 degree, spherical projector screen and variable driving position cockpit.

The TL1 simulator runs up to three ultra high definition projectors with a single, seamless seven million-pixel image on a wrap-around screen. Measuring over two metres wide and providing 180 degree vision, total realism is guaranteed, from landing an Airbus to battling a Chieftain Tank.

The unique seating system can be rotated to go from Touring and GT car positions to Eurofighter, up to a Starfighter or Formula 1 car. Running the best simulation software titles that include laser-scanned racing circuits, accurate to within 2mm, it can replicate the full driving experience, down to every bump in the road. 

Compatible with PC and games consoles, including PS3 and Xbox 360, the TL1 is available from Cockpit only (TL1c) to a full plug-and-play TL1 unit, including body, screen, cockpit, PC, projectors, professional controls and software.  Options enable the customer to specify their own particular use and requirements.

Prices start at £11,500, with more info at:

Rally - Dreich Day for a Dram

Kames this Monday morning was a cold, dreich, damp advert for Scotland, but there were smiles all round as the Scottish Malts passed through conducting a speed and agility test at the Ayrshire circuit.

Unlike the more regular diet of sprints and time trials, this was a most genteel form of motorsport with very little tyre squeal except when braking astride the white lines at the indicated parts of the circuit.
If there was little to savour in the way of speed and excitement, then the sound more than made up for it with crisp XKs, a gruff AC Cobra and wuffly Sunbeam Tiger, plus the mechanical symphony conducted by a 9hp Riley Brooklands, Talbot 105 Alpine Sports and a glorious 1938 Jaguar SS Sports Special.
Greeting the competitors was a huge crowd, well, about 20 foolhardy souls leaning into the biting wind, but they mostly enjoyed the sights, sounds and spectacle of all our yesterdays.

The big surprise was the number of furriners with competitors from the Czech Republic, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Norway and even the USA taking part alongside the domestic crews.

There were a few gaps in the entry list even at this stage, whether the first two tests at the Turnbery start this morning had caught out some folk or they had simply got lost in the hinterlands of Ayrshire, who knows, but those who made it had a good wheech round the Kames track.

I also had a quick chat with some of the travelling Marshals. It would appear that this event brings its own stalwarts to man, and woman, the tests and only uses local car club enthusiasts where there is a need to use local facilties. So these Marshals have their own tour of Scotland as they man two and three tests per day along the route.

If there was one drawback, the ladies in the Kames Cafe only had bacon rolls – no pies!

The grin says it all really!

Friday 27 April 2012

Rally - Malts on Tour

Just got this route outline for the 2012 Scottish Malts Classic Reliability Trial and Classic Car Tour, which starts this weekend (see earlier post), and lists most of the staging points, but none of the tests. Anyway, it gives a good idea of where to see the cars.

Sunday April 29th:
Documentation and Scrutineering, Turnberry Hotel, 11.30 am – 4 pm.

 Monday April 30th:
08.30: Start from Turnberry, flagged off by Norman Dewis.
10.15: Kames Circuit, Muirkirk
 12 Noon: Lennoxtown, lunch stop
 15.00: Glen Turret Distillery, Crieff
 17.15: McDonalds Hotel, Kinloch Rannoch

 Tuesday May 1st:
 08.00: Leave McDonald’s Hotel, Kinloch Rannoch
 08.30: Blair Castle, Blair Atholl
 09.00: Edradour Distillery, Pitlochry
 09.45: Dewar’s World of Whisky, Aberfeldy
 10.00: Kenmore Hotel, Kenmore
 12.30: Dalmunzie Hotel, Spittal of Glenshee, lunch stop
 17.15: Aviemore.

Wednesday May 2nd:
08.30: Leave Drumossie Hotel, Inverness
12.30: Huntly
14.45: Glenfiddich Distillery, Dufftown
15.15: Glenlivet Distillery, Ballindalloch
16.00: Local cooperage
18.15: Drumossie Hotel, Inverness

Thursday may 3rd:
08.00: Leave Drumossie Hotel, Inverness
08.10: Caledonian Thistle Football ground, Inverness
10.00: Culloden Visitor Centre, Culloden
12.15: Invergarry, lunch stop
14.30: Ben Nevis Distillery, Inverness
17.30: Loch Fyne Hotel, Inverarary

Friday May 4th: 
08.30: Leave loch Fyne Hotel
09.15: Rest and Be Thankful
12 Noon: Duck Bay Marina, Loch Lomond, lunch stop
15.30: Finish at Turnberry Hotel

RallyX - No night race at Knockhill

The planned night-time race at the Monster Energy MSA British Rallycross Championship round at Knockhill on May 12 won’t happen, so instead this third round of the Championship will be a day-time only event.

The event features a full programme of races for ‘Supercars’, the two-wheel drive Supernational class (including Junior Rallycross), the ferocious one-make Swift Sport Championship and the RX150 'off-road buggies'.

Commenting on the night race cancellation, the championship organisers Lydden Hill Motorsport Club (LHMC) commented: "We've run the Night race event very successfully at Blyton over the last two years. The planned move to Knockhill involved more equipment because the track is longer and we're now faced with taking a £10,000 loss on the event if we press ahead with the Night Race or breaking-even if we run it in daylight," said Clerk of the Course Willie Woods.

"To run at Knockhill needs 60 lighting towers (compared to 32 used at Blyton), originally this wasn't a problem and up until the end of last week I thought we'd got it covered but in the last few days it's become clear that we cannot secure enough lighting without paying full commercial rates and that means the event is not viable as a night race."

Reverting to a more usual daylight schedule, the event will now start with practice at 09.00 Hrs and racing from 11.00 Hrs on Saturday May 12.

Admission £15, accompanied under 12s free.

Rally - The Scottish Malts

A competitor on last year's Scottish Malts
If you’re doing nothing special this weekend, why not pop down to Turnberry Hotel on the Ayrshire coast on Sunday (29th April) for the start of the 2012 HERO Scottish Malts Classic Reliability  Trial and Classic Car Tour, a ‘competitive’ tour of Scotland for cars built before 31st December 1981.

The entry has more than 40 classic cars ranging from the very first right hand drive production Jaguar E-Type Fixed Head Coupe (supplied by Jaguar Cars in August 1961) to a 1930 Riley Brooklands 9HP and two Jaguar SS100 machines.

Documentation and scrutineering will take place on Sunday 29th April at the Turnberry between 11.30 am and 4.30 pm although the event proper doesn’t start till Monday morning when former Jaguar test driver Norman Dewis will flag off the competitors at the start of this 5 day event which finishes back at Turnberry on May the 4th.

There will be two competitive tests within the grounds of the resort at the Start and competitors will then navigate their way round the route (200 to 230 miles each day) using a detailed ‘Jogularity’ style road book with Tulip diagrams. Along each day’s route there will be a number of driving tests on private land, regularity sections on some of the most stunning roads in the country and link sections allowing both crew members to enjoy the spectacular scenery of Scotland.

Event organisers, HERO, are also inviting the Scottish public to take pictures of the cars and email them to the organisers for a photographic competition split into two classes - children and young people up to the age of 18, and adults.

The winners will receive specially engraved cups and other goodies just as the drivers of the event do.

Thursday 26 April 2012

Road - Here come the girls

One of the recurring and more enjoyable presentations at any commercial vehicle show or presentation these days is the Citroën Vans ‘Business Class’ theme. This always bring a touch of colour and glamour to any show and brightens up the day and lights up the faces of all those who pass by.

And this year’s CV show was no exception. In addition to the uniformed ‘air hostesses’ Citroën had invited the Spinettes to perform, an all-girl group who sing songs from the 40s, 50s and 60s - when music was musical and lyrics were lyrical.

Admittedly much of their repertoire is before my time, but I’m still a fan of Glenn Miller and his music and the girls performed many great numbers from those days including ‘In the Mood’, ‘It Don’t Mean a Thing’, ‘Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree’ and many, many more.

I could have sat there all day munching the Citroën bacon rolls and drinking their tea being serenaded by the Spinettes, but duty called.
There were no new vans to see, but it’s perhaps worth mentioning that both Berlingo and Dispatch vans can now be specified with Grip Control systems. This includes ESP, Traction Control and Hill Start Assist and comes with Michelin Agilis tyres. There are four modes in this anti-skid, enhanced traction system covering normal, all-terrain, snow and sand conditions.

It’s not four wheel drive, but with an electronically controlled limited slip differential, it’s surprising just how far off the road you can take these vans - and get them back again. Ideal for forestry, landscaping and utility workers who need a bit of additional traction but without the expense of full time four wheel drive.

Anyway, I did ask the girls for their numbers, that is, the titles of the numbers they were singing, but I think they took my request the wrong way. Besides their ‘minder’ was bigger than me.

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Road - Rodeo replacement

Taller, wider and longer than the outgoing Isuzu Rodeo, this is it’s the replacement, the new Isuzu D Max. First shown in Thailand last year, it has now reached the UK and went on display at the CV Show this week for the benefit of British buyers.

It’s not  a full-size pickup in the American sense, which makes it OK for British roads, and will be available in three body styles – single and double cab, plus a new Extended two-door Cab, which still has five seats although the rear three are for very occasional use only.

The larger dimensions make themselves felt inside with more leg and shoulder room for both front and rear seat passengers, and generally the vehicle is a wee bit more upmarket than the present fifth generation Isuzu pickup, but it is still very much a dual purpose working truck as opposed to a lifestyle truck.

There’s a new 2.5 litre twin-turbo Euro-5 diesel engine with switchable two and four wheel drive and it will tow up to 3 tonnes. A payload in excess of a tonne also ensures that business users will be able to reclaim the VAT.

It will be in the showrooms in June- along with the price.

Road - Breakfast soup

It’s not all Bucks fizz and canapes at press launches, but with truckies and vannies to the fore at the CV Show, Mercedes-Benz struck the right note with a media breakfast ahead of the presentation by M-B Director of Trucks, Sam Whittaker.

Served up in a bowl, as opposed to a plate, journalists were treated to scrambled egg, bacon, wee sausages, and of course, no truckies’ breakfast would be complete without beans. All very tastefully done with white napkins and flowers!

Although the new Actros was launched to the international press last year, this was its first public show debut in the UK, and the first time that many operators had seen it in the metal. Big? According to the boss, every other truck cab currently on the market will fit inside their ‘Gigaspace’ tower block.
This is not extravagance, nor is it in attempt to simply ‘outdo’ rival manufacturers, it is designed to give the modern truck driver, especially the long-haul boys, decent working conditions and plenty of room for overnight stops. It has a flat floor (i.e. no engine hump) nearly 7 feet of headroom (2.13 mtrs) and the bottom bunk of the two is 750 mm wide. The inside of this cab is like a bijou bachelor penthouse crumpet trap in chrome, leather and wood - with a steering wheel.
Of more interest to us is the ultimate M-B LCV, the Vito Sport-X. This is not just a van, this is an S&M van (note deliberate use of S&M as opposed to the other way round!) with a 3 litre V6 turbo-diesel churning out 224 hp and 440 Nm of torque. It's good for 122 flat out, and has a Nought to 60 time of 8.3 seconds. It sits on 18 inch alloys and hides behind a discrete (!) Brabus front spoiler.

How stupid, but desirable, is that?

Road - The Transit cult

Looking back on yesterday’s launch of the new Ford Transit Custom at the CV Show, it highlighted the almost cult following of the brand in the UK. The stand was packed with press, fleet operators, business managers and potential private punters. In fact a couple of colleagues mentioned that the presentation was better attended by more folk than at the Ford B-Max launch at the Geneva Show earlier this month.

To put that in perspective, Geneva is a car show which attracts many more press and more punters while the CV show is a rather more specialised affair with only around 20,000 or so attendees over the three days. So to be compared with a big-time car press launch at a major European international event was really quite remarkable.

Mike Brewer hosted the presentation along with Barb Samardzich, Vice President Product Development, who was over from Americky for the launch. And when the wraps were pulled off there was a groundswell of applause – thankfully no American style whoopin’ and hollerin’.

As for the van itself it seems to have gone down well with most folks commenting favourably on the new looks and new cabin.

But note the name – Ford Transit Custom. There’s more to come. The ‘proper’ new Transit will be launched later this year.

The 1 tonne Ford Transit Custom is an addition to the range, not a replacement. There is a bigger van on the way for the 2 and 3 tonne marketplace.

That’s because the new Transit Custom will not be going to America, they need a bigger van to replace the aging E-Series vans over there and Ford want a ‘global’ van, one that will sell throughout the world.

The Mike and Barb show
And therein lies the challenge, making a van appeal to all markets, all panel van users and to all personal tastes. Apparently the new Transit replacement has already been through several ‘metamorphoses’ and it’s still not signed off yet. Initial stylings displayed a family resemblance to the current range, later suggestions adopted the current ‘Kinetic’ styling as used effecively on the new Custom, and it would appear that the latest designs have undergone further changes and now looks nothing like either.

Which only sharpens the appetite for the new van. One thing’s for sure, given the attendance at the launch of the new Custom and the following that the marque has here in the UK, Ford can’t afford to get this one wrong.

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Road - Off-topic at CV Show

It’s amazing who you bump into at the CV Show. There I was surrounded by trucks and trailers, vans and telematics, and I was accosted by one Neil MacKinnon Esq. The 12 times winner of the Tour of Mull Rally was down looking at trailers. No, not a new rally car trailer, he s looking for a 16 wheel low loader to transport wood cutting machinery on contract work into and out of the forests.
Maintaining the Mull connection was John MacCrone. His Ford Fiesta R2 was on the Palletforce stand purely as an attraction, but there was something else on the stand that raised a bit of interest, a commercial tyre for truck trailers with the name DMack on it.

As we all know in rallying circles, DMack is the trade name for Dick Cormack’s new rally tyre venture with which he is servicing teams from the WRC all the way down to the British Rally Championship and all the way up to the Scottish Rally Championship, but this was a first, truck tyres.

Apparently Dick has arranged with the Palletforce to design and manufacture a tyre for truck trailers and the tyre also features the Palletforce name on it.
Another treat was bumping into Paddy Hopkirk. He was at the show on business and nothing to do with motorsport. It’s his company McGard which makes the locking wheel nuts for all Ford alloy wheels and he does BMW plus many other manufacturers as well.

Paddy was also wondering what has gone wrong with rallying these days. He had to attend a business meeting in France a couple of months back just after the Monte Carlo Rally and thought he had better swot up on who had done what on the rally. He could find no information in the daily press (the broadsheets) and heard nothing on the radio on either Five Live or Talksport.

Which made him wonder just what has gone wrong with the promotion of the sport and the lack of press interest. He also reckons that’s why Kris Meeke is out of a drive and Prodrive is out of running a works team. The budgets are horrendous and the returns are questionable.

Amen to that.

Monday 23 April 2012

Road - Alright on the night

18 hours from opening time!
It’s amazing the useless facts that you pick up if you just keep your lugs open. For instance, earlier today the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders today let slip the fascinating fact that 2,836 tonnes of goods are transported EVERY minute of every day in vans and on trucks throughout the UK. There was a lot of other factual stuff, but that one stuck with me.

Another thing that impressed me was a quick peek into the main hall of the British CV Show which opens at 8.30 am tomorrow (Tuesday) morning – it wasn’t finished. With 18 hours to go before opening, many stands were still being constructed, lighting installed and carpets laid, and of course exhibits had to be positioned.

It’s the same at all vehicle shows around the globe. Everything is timed to the last minute. At the premiere of the new Ford Transit Custom tonight in a hotel 4 miles from the NEC, we were ushered out of the suite at 10.00 pm because the van on display had to be spirited away to take its place on the Ford stand ahead of its European public launch tomorrow morning.

And just as there is an International Car of Year competition so too is there an International Van of the Year competition so Ford had invited the members of the IVOTY jury to the launch and they got ripped right into the van after dinner, pulling and poking, prodding and shoogling. It was like the January sales at Debenhams with cut price knickers and half price TVs on offer – I’m surprised there was anything left to go on show. Remember, this was a pre-production model, so trim fixings might not be quite as robust as they will be in full blown production versions.

Anyway, I was sat with Mike Brewer who revealed that the 15th series of ‘Wheeler Dealers’ has just been commissioned, and will start filming shortly. To that end, he has been across the pond and bought a couple of right tasty American motors for this new series. And he has a few other exotic type machines up his sleeve in far flung places, as well as the usual array of ‘ordinary’ but still interesting stuff, so it will be well worth watching.

Sunday 22 April 2012

Road - Sign of the Times

Just the job for an overnighting Transit driver
Well, that was a first. I’ve been running a Transit for 7 years and that was the first 100 quid fill-up. The occasion was the annual visit to the CV Show at the NEC in Birmingham, and the tank was nearly empty. A graphic illustration of the current extortionate price of fuel. Nine years ago in 2003, a full tank fill up was 50 quid. The price has doubled in less than 10 years.

At least I’ve saved money on the overnight accommodation. Having joined the Best Western Rewards club I used it last week for the Granite City Rally and got a room at the Summerhill Hotel in Aberdeen for 40 quid, and this weekend I’m in the Studley Castle near Birmingham for £29.75.

The reason I’m here is the latest glamorous adventure in the exotic life of a motoring correspondent, the annual Commercial Vehicle Show, i.e. trucks and vans, and all things commercial. It’s a sobering thought, but everything we eat, wear, use or buy has spent some part of its life in the back of a van or on the back of a truck. Without CVs, we’d be running around starving and naked.

So it’s an important show in the automotive way of things. It’s also a good barometer of any country’s economy. A healthy CV trade means business is working, and with sales of trucks and vans on the rise in the UK, that’s an encouraging sign.

Monday consists of a full day of press conferences ahead of the show itself which opens on Tuesday for three days. However, the big treat tomorrow is a presentation by Ford tomorrow evening. With a wee bit of luck the journalists will get their first glimpse of the new Transit in the metal - I wonder if cameras will be allowed, or if we will be frisked going into the presentation.

And don’t think the CV manufacturers are backward compared to the more glitzy car companies. The CV show organisers have come up with their own  ‘novel wheeze’, whereby they have created an ‘app’ for anyone with one of these so-called ‘smart-phones’. Smart? They’re useless without a digital assistant, i.e. a human!

Anyway, by downloading this app from the CV Show website, which will only take a few seconds for a seven year old, but a few minutes for the middle-aged and a couple of hours for the old-timers, you can get a full list of exhibitors, what they will be showing, and their location on an inter-active map. Amazing. And it’s free.

The trouble is, this ‘app’ has novelty value. Having finally got it downloaded and working, I then ‘wasted’ another hour of work time playing with it!

Friday 20 April 2012

Road - Monster Inc.

I love stupid machines, and they don’t come much more pointless than the Mercedes-Benz G 63 AMG. Despite the fridge-like aerodynamics and exposed shed hinges on the doors, this is a high performance motor vehicle.

It’s the incredible hulk of the automotive world, SuBo by day, Ozzy Osbourne by night. It’s as soft and cuddly as a jerry can of high octane fuel, a box of gelignite and a drunk with a box of matches.

The secret is under the bonnet. It has a 5.5 litre V8 biturbo engine with 544 hp and 760 Nm of torque. Apparently that will be good for the zero to 62 mph sprint in just 5.4 seconds, with an electronically limited top speed of 130 mph.

The seven-speed automatic gearbox has three drive modes and an automatic double-declutching function for downshifting and it sits on a set of 20 inch rims.

If you want to buy one, you’ll have to wait for first deliveries in the Autumn and there is no price yet, that will come later.

However, they are claiming that this latest version of the monster is more fuel efficient than its predecessor with a 2.7 mpg improvement over the previous G series AMG model – that means 20.4 mpg. Still want one?

Road - Vorsprung Ducati Technik

Ultimate garage? The 1199 Panigale S and the R8 GT
Volkswagen’s seemingly inexorable progress towards automotive world domination continues apace with the latest news that the Audi group is all set to acquire Ducati from current owners Investindustrial Group. 
The deal is done and just waiting formal approval by the competition authorities.

It’s not such a daft idea when you think about it. Audi’s forerunner, the DKW company started building its own motor cycles way back in the early 1900s. By the 1930s DKW was the world's largest motorcycle manufacturer before it merged with Audi, Horch and Wanderer in 1932 to create the Auto Union company, and has now been owned by VW since 1964.

The addition of Ducati to the brand makes perfect sense as Audi’s Chairman, Rupert Stadler, said: “Ducati has a long tradition of building sporty motorcycles. It has great expertise in high-performance engines and lightweight construction, and is one of the world’s most profitable motorcycle manufacturers. That makes Ducati an excellent fit for Audi.”

Audi’s relentless rise from mediocrity to icon has been pretty spectacular over recent years and this latest move also makes sound marketing sense in this 21st century pursuit of ‘the perfect brand’ as it pitches Audi head to head with great rivals BMW.

The Volkswagen Group currently encompasses Volkswagen, Audi, SEAT, ŠKODA, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Scania, MAN and now Ducati.

Having pinched Jost Capito from Ford for their rally programme, what next, Paul Bird to run their MotoGP team?

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Road - 14 Grand Pickup

Getting its first public airing in the UK next week is the latest arrival from Chinese manufacturer Great Wall Motor Company, the Steed pickup. 

Prices start from £13,998 (+VAT) for the generously equipped Steed S which has a 2 litre, 16 valve turbocharged diesel engine with an ‘on-demand’ four wheel drivetrain.

With a payload capacity of over a tonne (1050 kg) it’s classed as a commercial vehicle so business users will be able to get the VAT back. The loadbed behind the crew cab is just over a metre long (1,380 mm) and towing capability is 2,000 kg. 

Standard equipment includes 16-inch alloys, daytime running lights, remote central locking, a Thatcham-approved Category 1 alarm, electric windows, Alpine CD/radio with USB/MP3 and Bluetooth, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, air-conditioning, heated fronted seats and a full leather interior.

The more luxurious Steed SE costs £2,000 more (£15,998 +VAT), and adds body-coloured hard-top canopy, body-coloured spoiler, chrome trim to the daytime running lights, chrome side bars, black roof rails, load bay liner, and rear parking sensors.

The pickups also come with a comprehensive three-year / 60,000-mile mechanical warranty.

Great Wall might not be too well known over here, but it is China’s largest SUV producer with an annual production capacity of 800,000 vehicles, with plans to increase to 1.5 million by 2015.

It has also manufactured the best-selling pick-up in China every year since 1998, and the Steed now being introduced over here accounts for around 100,000 sales in its domestic market each year.

The Steed will make its UK show debut at next week’s Commercial Vehicle Show at the NEC. But doesn’t it look just like an Isuzu Rodeo?

Road - Ultimate Transit?

Ford Motor Co has just released the first official pictures of the all-new Ford Transit Custom which will make its global debut at the Birmingham CV Show in the NEC next week.

From launch, there will be a choice of short wheelbase (overall length 4.97 metres) and long wheelbase (5.34 metres) versions, and the latest version of Ford’s 2.2-litre Euro-5 Duratorq TDCi diesel engines in 100 PS, 125 PS and 155 PS power ratings. Auto-Start-Stop will be a standard fit and fuel consumption of 42.8 mpg (174g/km CO2 emissions) is being claimed.

Payload capacity ranges from 600 - 1,400kg depending on spec and options, with larger and higher payload Transits coming later in 2012.  These models will be extensively sold on a global basis, including North America, and will also feature rear-wheel-drive.

Production of the new Transit Custom will start from mid-2012 at Ford’s plant in Kocaeli, Turkey, with market availability later in the year.

On a personal note, I hope they haven’t changed the driving seat. The current Ford Transit seat is still the best in the business, but Ford will introduce a long overdue adjustable steering column – perfection predicted!

Road - Exceedingly good

BMW is the automotive Kipling of the cakeworld, it makes exceedingly good cars, but the latest 320d Sport is even better than that, it is quite exceptional. That’s a strong word to use given just how good the modern motor car is these days, but in this case it is richly deserved.

To those who still think the BMW badge is just a bit of driveway bejazzle to impress the neighbours, then this is a game changer. It’s a family saloon for the sporting motorist who is not yet too old to appreciate performance, but is old enough to appreciate a bit of comfort.

For a start the seats are well shaped without being snug, and for the taller driver there is an appreciated under-thigh extending cushion. The steering wheel is near vertical and the driving position superb. A good start. And then you go for a drive.

First impressions are that BMW has fibbed. They claim 184 hp for the 4 cylinder turbo diesel, but it feels more. It has more grunt than a piggery. Being a diesel it runs out of revs quickly, but the six speed ‘box makes the most of what it has. And then you come to the best bit, the ‘Fun’ button.

There is a 4 position switch on the console with an Eco mode, the standard Comfort mode, and then a Sport and Sport Plus modes.

Using the Sport setting firms up the dampers and fiddles with the ECU to provide a sharper under-bonnet response. The result is no fire breather, but by heck it goes, and goes well. And there's a bonus, even during mixed driving I was getting 53.9 mpg!

But the whole package prompts one question. If this 4/5 seater sporting family saloon is so good, why would anyone want anything else? They certainly don’t need it. So the next time you see a 3 series sitting in someone’s drive, they are not show-offs, they just appreciate a very good motor car.

In fact, the only drawback was that BMW wanted it back!

Sunday 15 April 2012

Rally - On the mend

Despite what you may have read in some of the more rabid 'popular' press today, the news from Aberdeen Royal Infirmary is actually better than you might have been led to believe. Apparently, both 'critical' cases have already been in touch with the outside world!

One of them has emailed a picture of himself to his mates in the local car club, thumbs up and  grinning, from his hospital bed, while the supposedly more 'critical' one has already been on the Rally Forums telling his mates he's OK. So much for not using mobile phones in hospitals!

Yes, both have extensive injuries to their lower limbs, and we shouldn't make light of that, but neither is it right for others to try and profit from such stories by using misleading headlines and lurid exaggeration. 

On another point, on Friday evening I mentioned Ian 'Maxi' Grubb's surprise 40th birthday present when he turned up at Scrutineering for the Granite City Rally, only to find out that he had been entered to drive in a rally car. Sad to say his day didn't go too well yesterday. Both he and the BMW 325 retired at the same point in the second stage - but only after the propshaft had retired some 200 yards earlier!

However, all is not lost. Maxi was overheard muttering something about getting another car.

Rally - Accident update

Just a wee update on yesterday’s item about the accident on the Granite City Rally. A fourth man was slightly injured during the accident on the first stage, although not as seriously as the other three, and all suffered ‘lower limb injuries’.

The accident happened after one car left the road and spectators rushed to help push it out of the ditch in which it had come to rest. As they did so, another car came round the corner and slid off the road at the same place, striking the men at the rear of the first car.

It’s too early to speculate on the causes of the accident because only those who were there will have the full facts, but for now, full praise must be extended to the stage doctor and on-event rescue crews who attended the aftermath of the accident.

One casualty was airlifted to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary while the other three were taken by ambulance.

Grampian Police will conduct a ‘collision investigation’ and carry out a full inquiry into the circumstances of the incident.

Saturday 14 April 2012

Rally - Bogie Makes it Three

David Bogie clinched his third win on as many events on the Coltel Granite City Rally, but the top two positions were tighter than they looked. Going into the final stage there were just 10 seconds between himself and Euan Thorburn.

"I went off in that last one," said Euan, "I overshot a hairpin and it just slid under the trees. It stalled but once I got it started we just drove out."

Nobody was more relieved than the winner: "I didn't expect the stage surface to be so loose on the last two stages," said David, "and I picked the wrong tyre. The tread pattern was just a bit too 'closed' and we struggled to get it turned in on the corners."

As for Mike Faulkner an already dismal day got worse: "I got a front puncture in the last stage. It was just too rubbly and loose, it was terrible."

Paul Benn therefore finished a surprised third: "It's the first time I've sat in the car for a over year. I thought I was crap on the first stage and I was third quickest!"

Bruce McCombie was delighted with fourth just 2 seconds in front of Donnie MacDonald. "He had 6 seconds on me going into the last stage," said Donnie, "but I only got 4 back. It was a great battle."

Quintin Milne lost out again as did Barry Groundwater. Lying sixth at halfway, Barry got two rear punctures on the final stage, while Quintin slid off into a ditch on the final stage and picked up a puncture.

David Wilson was top 2WD in 13th place in his MkII with John Boyd an excellent 18th in the Fiesta just ahead of Graeme Schoneville in the Honda.

1 David Bogie (Lancer) 32m 58s
2 Euan Thorburn (Focus) 34m 31ss
3 Paul Benn (Focus) 35m 49s
4 Bruce McCombie (Impreza) 36m 04s
5 Donnie MacDonald (Lancer) 36m 06s
6 Stephen Lockhart (Lancer) 36m 20s
7 John McClory (Impreza) 36m 30s
8 Quintin Milne (Lancer) 36m 38s
9 Alistair Inglis (Lancer) 36m 43s
10 Dougal Brown (Lancer) 36m 46s

Rally - Bogie leads - again!

With 2 stages gone (the first one stopped and all times were cancelled) in today's Coltel Granite City Rally, David Bogie has taken a narrow 8 second lead over Euan Thorburn. David had a lucky escape though, the Lancer encountering another competitor just off the road round a corner on the second stage, but he was warned just in time and manged to throw the car sideways. The two cars kissed lightly, nothing broke and some touch-up paint out of Halfords should do the trick!

1 David Bogie (Lancer) 13m 02s
2 Euan Thorburn (Focus) 13m 10s
3 Paul Benn (Focus) 13m 41s
4 Bruce McCombie (Impreza) 13m 41s
5 Quintin Milne (Lancer) 13m 42s
6 Barry Groundwater (Lancer) 13m 45s
7 Donnie MacDonald (Lancer) 13m 49s
8 John McClory (Impreza) 13m 49s
9 Stephen Lockhart (Lancer) 13m 55s
10 Alistair Inglis (Lancer) 14m 02s

Mike Faulkner is in 25th place. He dropped over 2 minutes in the first stage: "It was my own fault," said Mike, "just three quarters of a mile in I dropped a wheel into a hole and punctured a front tyre. We had to do the rest of the stage like that and bent a rear suspension arm because of it."

David Wilson is top 2WD runner in 14th place overall in his MkII just one second clear of John Boyd in the Fiesta in 15th place but he's got the MkII of Keith Robathan breathing down his neck only 4 seconds behind.

Rally - Incident on SS1

Following on from the earlier Bulletin, 3 spectators were hurt in an accident on the first stage of the rally. Although no one was hurt when the first car left the road, several spectators went to their rescue. As they were pushing the car back on the to the road, another competing car encountered the scene. Unfortunately three of the 'pushers' were struck by this second car and the stage was stopped and then cancelled.

None of the injured have sustained "life threatening injuries" but suffered lower limb injuries and all were transferred to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

Rally - SS1 stopped

There has been a delay with the 4WD cars starting the first stage at Durris. One of the late runners in the 2WD category went off and scattered the spectators. No-one hurt but organisers are taking a look at the situation before sending the top seeds through.

Still leading the 2WD contingent after two stages is:
1 John Boyd (Fiesta) 17m 03s
2 Graeme Schoneville (Honda) 17m 15s
3 Craig Rutherford (Honda) 17m 22s
4 Greig McKnight (Nova) 17m 45s
5 Malcolm Robertson (Sunbeam) 17m 47s
6 Iain Haining (Nova) 18m 06s

Given the uncertain delay, the next carefully planned Bulletin will be late!

Rally - Times after SS1

At the Drivers’ Briefing last night ahead of today’s Coltel Granite City Rally, Bill Sturrock told competitors that the five forest stages were in good condition, but very slippery in places. Although there was no snow in the forests, there were some scattered hail and sleet showers yesterday, making some parts of the route even slippier.

Saturday has dawned dry and bright (but cold) in the north east, but the weather forecast is for more wintry during the course of today.

Whilst waiting for the cars to arrive at Stracathro Service Area, John MacCrone pulled up alongside with Alec Brown. Apparently they took the decision late last night to come over from Mull to spectate, so jumped on the last ferry and headed for Aberdeen. Alec intends to have the Citroen out at Ingliston next month, but spectators could be in for another wee surprise as John reckons he might just bring the Fiesta up to Ingliston for a shakedown ahead of his first visit to Greece. He knows there’s no comparison but it’s just a run-out for the car to make sure all the oily bits are n perfect working order.

Anyway, times are in from the first stage for the front wheel drive cars which are running ahead of the main field, and in the lead at this very early stage are:
1 John Boyd (Fiesta) 9m 43s
2 Graeme Schoneville (Honda) 9m 47s
3 Craig Rutherford (Honda) 9m 48s
4 Greig McKnight (Nova) 10m 00s
5 Colin Smith (Honda) 10m 03s
6 Iain Haining (Nova) 10m 12s
7 Blair McCulloch (Nova) 10m 15s
8 Malcolm Robertson (Sunbeam) 10m 17s
9 Tom Hynd (Peugeot 205) 10m 17s
10 Alex Pirie (Corsa) 10m 23s

But isn’t that a sign of the times, only one of the top ten so far is rear wheel drive!

Carl Tuer didn’t start this morning, the MG developed a fault yesterday, Willie Stuart’s service crew has just left the service area - with the trailer! And Graeme Smith in the Honda is 7 mins down on the leaders after clouting a rock and damaging the front suspension on the day’s opener.