Thursday 28 February 2013

Road - Car facts

The UK new car market is now the second largest in Europe. Last year, 2,044,609 new cars were registered, overtaking France and coming second only to Germany. The best selling car in 2012 was the Ford Fiesta (109,265 units registered), followed by the Vauxhall Corsa (89,434 units registered).

Road - Parts scam

The Fifelette was driving through Glasgow yesterday when the door mirror glass popped out and fell on the road courtesy of Maryhill Road's vast selection of pot holes.

If Glasgow City Council sent pictures of the road surface to Iraq and Afghanistan I'm sure the folks over there would send donations to help them out, thinking that we needed their help more than they needed ours.

Anyway, I phoned the local Vauxhall dealer this morning for a replacement mirror glass for her Vauxhall Astra, and was quoted 73 quid. I said I only needed the mirror, not the whole housing. I was then informed that this price was simply for the mirror glass and backing plate.

Apparently, this is quite a common occurrence on Vauxhalls, or so I was told by the Parts guy, who said it was down to the cold weather affecting the adhesive.

But I only needed the mirror, the plate was still attached. "Sorry sir, it comes as one unit, we can't split it."

So I went to Halfords, bought a replacement mirror, which had a big dod of double sided sticky-backed plastic on the back, and got enough change out of a tenner for a wee bag of jelly beans. Result!

Wednesday 27 February 2013

Road - Wind power

Vroom with a view
I mentioned yesterday that the base for the 'autotest' driving the new Mercedes-Benz Citan, which was launched to the UK press on Tuesday, was at Silverstone. This is where the former McLaren F1 mobile HQ has now been erected as a permanent structure at the home of the British GP and was used by our hosts as the test venue and where we had lunch.

That's it in the background of the photo with one of the Citans getting a serious birl from one of the commercial vehicle journalists.

And here's another useless, but fascinating, snippet of pointless information. I had a good look round the trophy cabinet in the Merc HQ at Brackley, which hosted the press conference, and which can trace its roots back to Williams F1 ownership. This same three storey building houses the Mercedes AMG Petronas team wind tunnel and even if you don't know it's there, you know when it starts up.

Check out the wee anti-slide pegs!

It sounds like a giant air conditioning system, but you feel it through the soles of your feet and can also feel it through your butt if sitting on one of the stools upstairs having a cup of coffee. You can even see when it's switched on, because the coffee starts radiating rings like that shot of the water glass in Jurassic Park when the T Rex starts lumbering through.
But here's the thing. All of the trophies which are placed in the display units have small pegs on the shelves - to stop them vibrating, sliding off and smashing to bits destroying valuable heritage.

Isn't technology wonderful?

Road - Surprise visitor

Well, there we all were, sitting at an LCV Press conference in the Mercedes-Benz AMG HQ in Brackley, Englandshire, talking about vans and logistics, and not once were the words speed or racing mentioned, when a stranger entered the room.

Not that he was involved in the LCV side of the business, but Mr Ross Brawn had a few things to say about transport, delivery times, reliability and the right tool for the job. Apparently, the F1 race team can have anything up to eight vans delivering last minute stuff such as upgrades, new parts and essential spare parts in the run up to each F1 race. Not necessarily driving them from site to circuit (although that happens at times), but dropping off packages at airports for onwards delivery. So, logistics plays an important role in the running of an F1 team.

He also talked about his early days with Frank Williams when there were only 7 members in the team. That meant that everyone had to muck in and do things that weren't on their job description or attempt things they knew little about!

And that included Mr Brawn having to take the wheel of the race truck at times. But did he have the correct HGV licence? I couldn't possibly say!

Still, given the news this week that he might be out of a job soon, he can always add race truck driver to his CV and see if he can get another position in F1.

Not that he was saying anything about that, but what a charming man.

Tuesday 26 February 2013

Road - Testing at Silverstone

Citan at Brackley
Mercedes-Benz launched its new small van, the Citan,  to the UK LCV press today and chose an unusual location for the event - Mercedes-Benz AMG F1 HQ at Brackley, and that was followed by a road run out to Silverstone in the vans!

There was a bit of a manoeuvreability test at Silverstone once we got there (definitely not against the clock - pity!) and then lunch which was held in the ex-McLaren F1 Team's original mobile 'motorhome' HQ complex at the circuit.

This unit was used by the McLaren team's drivers, engineers, PR folk and certain guests from the Imola F1 race in 2002 to the French GP in 2007. During its working life this 'building' travelled 86,731 kms and officiated at 53 race meetings.

Ornament in Reception!

It has now been purchased for use by Mercedes-Benz and we got a wee tour of the facility after lunch. Considering it was transported on 7 trucks to and from circuits, it's quite an undertaking. Apparently it took 4 to 5 days to erect it but the record was 18 hours. It even has its own inbuilt crane to raise the roof on the 2 storey building.

We even got a wee peek into 'Ron's office'. If that was impressive, the very latest Mercedes-Benz 3 storey unit is transported on 15 lorries.

As for the wee van, although it's based on the Renault Kangoo, Mercedes have added their own tweaks to the production process.

Ron's office - small but perfectly formed!

Monday 25 February 2013

Blethers - Motorway madness

What is it about the Brits? One glimpse of good weather sends a rush of blood to the head and they all go daft. It was motorway chaos earlier this evening due to accidents.

Heading south on the M6 early this evening I was puzzled by all the lights on the A6070 which runs parallel to the M6 between Junctions 35 and 36 at Carnforth. Then I twigged, the northbound carriageway was empty. There had been a bad accident this morning and the Traffic cops, Highways Agency kid-ons and motorway contractors were still engrossed in their calculations and considerations.

But this was the start of the rush hour, and three lanes of northbound motorway traffic were being herded on to a single cariageway 'A' road. It was jammed solid as far as the eye could see. Passing Lancaster services further south it was jam packed with lorries. They were queuing up on the hard shoulder to get in, the service area was hochin' and the trucks which couldn't get parked were driving through and just parking up on the hard shoulder on the far side, rather than risk getting stuck in this humungous jam just up the road.

Unfortunately, there was another accident southbound ahead of me at Leyland, but it was clearing as I arrived and I just caught the tail of it as it freed up, so minimal delay that time.

And there's more. Earlier passing Carlisle I passed a farmhouse beside the motorway on fire and the Highways Agency boy scouts were out on the carriageway trying to waft the plumes of smoke away. If it wasn't so serious it would have been comical.

And there was worse. By the time I got to the hotel in Bicester, the kitchen was closed and there was no hot food! And it was only just gone 9 pm.

Great Britain - closed for business right enough.

Sunday 24 February 2013

Rally - Blue is the colour

Blue by choice - not by cold!
The Scottish Tarmack Rally Championship had its AGM in Perth earlier today and took the opportunity to introduce its new 2013 title sponsor to the organisers and committee.

The new sponsor is quarry equipment and recycling machinery manufacturer, Blue, and whilst the company name may be unfamiliar to many rally fans, the man behind it won't be. Blue's Scottish Sales Manager is Kieran O'Kane who campaigns that glorious sounding Opel Ascona on the Scottish rounds.

Although he is from 'over there', Kieran is now living and working 'over here' hence his interest in the Scottish series, but he's hoping to attract a few of his fellow Irish rallyists to some of the Scottish rounds and perhaps even encourage some of our lot to go over there and compete against his lot. Having said that I don't know if the Scottish consitution could cope with the Irish way of rallying. The social  events are often more serious than the competition!

There is little in the way of change to the STRC series this year although the 1 litre class has been dropped due to no entries last year. A new addition to the over 2 litre class was announced though.

The STRC is also also committed to the Junior Rally Challenge for 14 to 17 year olds and modifications have been made to the running of Dunfermline Car Club's April event at Ingliston to accommodate the youngsters.

Another concern which was discussed was the issue of Marshals. This is a national concern not just a club or championship issue and the whole sport in Scotland will need to address this. It's not just the need to attract new Marshals, it's explaining their duties and responsibilities, and keeping them enthused and interested.

Entries in the STRC were up last year and with Blue's help the Championshp is hoping to build on that this year.

( More info on the website tomorrow. )

Friday 22 February 2013

Road - Global cars

The new EcoSport SUV
Fiesta, by Aston Martin?
Transit's new face!
Ford is getting a bit of stick from European car fans over the looks of its new small SUV, the EcoSport, while others are saying that the Aston Martin style grille on the new Fiesta is not attractive. Oddly enough, the EcoSport uses the Fiesta platform as its base. Which only goes to show that you can't please all the people all of the time, while the rest are just too pernickety by half.

Me? I prefer the new-look Fiesta to the EcoSport, which is being billed as a 'global' car, and which is being built in Brazil and will also be built in India.

The dilemma symptomises the problems that all manufacturers are having trying to make one car, or one design, suit all tastes.

But I wonder where the inspiration for this new grille came from? There's a new 'big' Transit coming at the end of this year and which favours the EcoSport style of grille. I'm not a fan of that either, but guess who is? The Americans. They seem to like it.

Once upon a time, American cars looked like Hollywood on wheels, back when glamour had curves and chrome. Now they are about as elegant and tasteful as a Las Vegas hen night. The Americans don't do compact and attractive as well as the Europeans.

However, what will influence the final look of 'global' cars will be the biggest market, i.e. the country which will sell most cars. And that is even more worrying. Brazil and India as emerging car markets will therefore have more say in how their cars look regardless of the badge on the grille, so more tinsel and tassles then.

Mind you, it's only a couple of weeks since I said I thought the Austin Maxi was a magnificent motor!

Rally - Flipping French!

Former French rally champion, Dakar competitor, and extreme sportsman, Guerlain Chicherit has performed the first successful backflip in a car.

The backflip had previously been attempted by other drivers, but Chicherit has not only become the first automotively-propelled eedjit to execute a perfect landing, he also did it ‘unassisted’. That is, without the aid of a special ramp with moving elements to boost the car’s rotational movement.

He used a static ramp similar to a quarterpipe on a freestyle course, and if you do watch the video – turn the sound up!

Road - Thrills without spills

Scraping windscreens this morning. Winter is not yet done. And yet, so far this winter there has been little need for winter tyres or four wheel drive in the central belt of Scotland, a big change from the previous two winters.

There's been plenty of snow elsewhere, so when I was commissioned to write a piece about 4WD in the snow, I thought, 'nae problem!' 

Heading north through Perthshire there was plenty of snow on the hills but little at road level, so I turned off at Dalwhinnie and headed west to Spean bridge. Same again, snow on the hills, no snow on the roads. Turning north up the Great Glen towards Inverness, still no snow.

However, I did manage to find a stretch of snow-covered, frozen forestry-type road with corners, hills and descents. In VW’s 4Motion Haldex system, the rear wheel drive only comes into play when the front wheels have lost grip, otherwise it’s a FWD vehicle.

It offered little more grip in the corners than the standard van and not much more under braking, especially on one descent with ditches on either side of the road, and slithery noises underfoot, but all ditches were avoided!

However, the one manoeuvre which showed its true benefit was the stop and start halfway up an icy hill. Even sitting still with the brakes on, the van could just be felt sliding backwards!

Anyway, it pulled off without any drama and even a full bore take-off was accomplished with ice-polishing ease.

I other words it offers better traction going forward, but where the system really excels is where the ground is soft and mucky. So is 4WD the saviour of the incompetent? Not necessarily.

Thursday 21 February 2013

Blethers - Charging ahead

Electric vehicles and hybrids may be slow to catch on with British buyers reluctant to invest in the new technology, but according to automotive analysts Frost & Sullivan, sales of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are racing ahead.

Last year, the Li-ion battery market earned revenues of $2.13 billion, with F&S estimating that this will increase six-fold over the next six years to reach $12.84 billion in 2019.

It’s not just new electrically powered models being introduced by manufacturers which are generating increased demand, but the inexorable price rises in petrol and diesel which are making potential punters think twice about new vehicle purchases.

F&S have also noted that various Governments are offering a variety of rebates and incentives depending on the country, state and city where these types of vehicles are being encouraged.

Apart from range, the biggest factor working against electric and hybrid vehicle sales, is the cost of the batteries, but with increased production, economies of scale will kick in, and prices may drop (or at least not increase as fast as oil prices!) longer term.

I can hear Wee Eck now, calling for more windmills and more wave power.

Wednesday 20 February 2013

Blethers - Technology overload

Where will it all end? Citroën has announced that it will be the first manufacturer to offer a ‘black box’ fitted as standard on a new car.

Aimed primarily at younger drivers its C1 Connexion special edition will have a telematics ‘black box’ as standard with a Smartnav system. Provided by Trafficmaster, this will allow Citroën to offer free insurance for the first year of ownership to all eligible drivers from 19 - 75 years of age when the car is funded with the company's own finance scheme.

The Citroën insurance included in this offer is free for qualifying young drivers subject to two years No Claims Discount (NCD). Thanks to the fitment of the telematics unit, heavily discounted cover will be offered to drivers with zero or just one year’s NCD. For example a 19 year old with no NCD can insure a new C1 Connexion with Citroën Insurance for just £950.

This attractive offer is bound to appeal to youngsters desperate to get behind the wheel, but what next? Ford has already revealed details of its MyKey system which allows parents to restrict the top speed, constrain the driving range of the vehicle and limit the audio level of the car’s audio system.

With the ability to track mobile phones, credit card payments and record movements on CCTV cameras, today’s youngsters are every bit as restricted as a young offender with an ankle bracelet.

And there’s more. Tracker, the fleet telematics expert, has joined forces with Red Forge, the On-Board Weighing system specialist which can provide vehicle owners with optional weight alerts should the vehicle be overloaded.

Just how will students get home from T in the Park?

Tuesday 19 February 2013

Road - Wheely good deal

Asda has launched a new online tyre service that guarantees to find the very best local deals across the UK. AsdaTyres claims to offer tyres up to 10% cheaper than any other retailer or car specialist.

A nationwide fitting network has been recruited to make tyre fitting simple and convenient.

The new website offers fully fitted prices with no hidden charges, plus a quick three step ordering process.

Shoppers enter their vehicle registration number, select the tyres they require, and then choose the most convenient outlet in the area and a suitable time for the fitting. 

Asda’s ‘Right Tyre Guarantee’ ensures customers get the best deal and payment is made at the fitting centre. 

The deal covers ‘quality’ brands such as Michelin, Goodyear and Pirelli plus value-alternatives, so if you’re in the market for new tyres for the road car, van or trailer, then here’s another option – an guaranteed horseflesh free!

Further information at:

Rally - STRC AGM

The Scottish Tarmac Rally Championship will hold its AGM in Perth this Sunday, all interested parties welcome, and the south west based Five of Clubs Championship has announced its dates. And there is another tall (but true) tale from the usual suspects in Stonehaven, up on the website now:

Rally - Moving On

The papers have moved on from the weekend. It seems that some journalists have the attention span of a three year old. Play with it till it's broken, then move on. Don't look back, and find something new to break.

Two papers on Sunday printed pictures of a young rally driver claiming that he had been driving the car involved on Saturday's accident. It wasn't. They had used the wrong picture. Apology? Remorse? Don't hold your breath.

Just looking back at the weekend's comments on the Forums and other forms of social media, it would appear that there was less hysteria than in the past. Maybe we are all getting used to this new electronic messaging tool at last and using it better and more repsonsibly. Perhaps the novelty is wearing off. A noticably big improvement on the hysterical furore surrounding the death of a rally driver on another Scottish event two years ago.

For sure there are still some who start using their digits long before they engage their brain, but that's the same in any sport or wider society. What was more encouraging was the fact that many Forum users were urging restraint on fellow users to moderate comment and language till the facts were known. That bodes well for the future.

The fact that the press is moving on will also now allow those involved in the sport to sit down and consider new ideas and improvements away from the glare of headlines and column inches. Compared to many other sports, rallying is still inherently safe. One of the pundits wheeled out on weekend television talked of three deaths in the past twenty odd years, two co-drivers and one driver, that's still three too many, but it really hit home at the weekend when a spectator was involved.
Somehow, that was even worse.

Monday 18 February 2013

Rally - Post event review

With regard to the weekend's reports, there's a bit more news and opinion on the website.

Sunday 17 February 2013

Rally - Highland tragedy

Excitement and expectation levels were high yesterday morning as a new season of motor rallying in Scotland beckoned, but within hours pleasure had turned to tragedy.

Euan Thorburn and Jock Armstrong were setting the pace, Mike Faulkner was having teething troubles with his new car and David Bogie was already out, sidelined on the second stage. But all that excitement was expunged in an instant when the news filtered through of the tragic accident on the fist stage.

At that point the rally was cancelled.

The Northern Constabulary completed their preliminary investigation at the crash site as darkness fell late yesterday afternoon and a fuller investigation will now be carried out. Witnesses have been interviewed and medical teams, rescue organisations and organisers questioned. Their findings will now be awaited with much interest.

In the meantime, the highly experienced rally organising team are reviewing their own procedures and carrying out their own investigation as will the sport at a much wider level.

It's no comfort to those invoved that this was a freak accident with unanticipated results, but that is the nature of the sporting world in which we live.

At times like this we see the worst in those whom the Leveson Inquiry would like to act more responsibly -  they make their name by making headlines, and to hell with the consequences.

I thought the BBC's Iain MacDonald provided the most considered and balanced view of the accident and its aftermath when he reminded listeners and viewers that not only must we think of the victims and their families at this tragic time, but also those two young men in the rally car who will be suffering too.

Saturday 16 February 2013

Rally - Latest News

The organisers of the 2013 Snowman Rally have now issued their own statement following the tragic events which took place on the first stage of the rally this morning. The Scottish Rally Championship has also issued a statement following these events. Both statements are brief, and necessarily so, because there is little that can be said at times like this.

Our thoughts must be with those families affected.

Rally - Incident Update

Further to their earlier statement, the Northern Constabulary has issued a further update on the accident which happened on the Snowman Rally earlier this morning. They have confirmed that a 50 year old lady spectator has been killed and an 8 year old boy has been injured. No other injuries have been reported.

I am also aware that Facebook, Twitter and Forums are awash with rumours, but in cases like this there is a set and established procedure for handling such incidents and the reporting of such accidents on motor sports events. In the first instance, the families involved have to be informed before fuller details are released, and that is only right and proper. In the meantime, our thoughts should be with and for the family concerned.

The rally organisers will be issuing their own statement in due course.

Rally - Police Statement

Further to my earlier report, the Northern Constabulary have now issued an initial statement regarding the accident which happened on the Snowman Rally earlier this morning. The rally organisers are currently preparing a statement, but this will have to be approved by the Police before it is issued. The rally has been cancelled.

Rally - Rally Cancelled

Bad news I'm afraid. The Snowman Rally has been cancelled. There was an accident in the first of the day's five special stages. A car left the track and injuries have resulted. There is no more news at the moment, but the organisers have taken the decision to cancel the rally. Once I know more and information has been confirmed, I will put it up here.

Friday 15 February 2013

Rally - from Rally HQ

Rally HQ was busy tonight ahead of tomorrow's opening round of the ARR Craib Scottish Rally Championship in Inverness, the Arnold Clark /Thistle Hotel Snowman Rally, as crews gathered to sign on.

Although not seen, reports are in that Euan Thorburn is in town. He was spotted checking in to his hotel, but all is not good news. The Focus WRC is still not ready for  battle tomorrow. The engine management system has failed and he's waiting for a new ECU to be delivered ahead of tomorrow's start.

Donnie MacDonald has a new engine in his EVO9 and a new engine management system but hasn't driven the car in anger yet: "It feels different, it feels better," said Donnie, "and the aim this year is to finisher than fourth which I did a few times last year."

Mike Faulkner is here with his new car, but has only had one short run out in t: "It should have been longer, but the front diff failed," said Mike, who is nevertheless pleased with his EVO9, "it's not as nimble as the EVO6, but it handles well and feels more stable."

Dale Robertson said: "It's two and half years since I was last in the woods, on the Scottish Rally." Last time out was the Jim Clark last year in his EVO9: "The car has has been converted from tarmac to forest spec and has a new rear diff, but we'll see how we go tomorrow before we think about doing the full championship."

Subaru WRC driver and past Snowman Rally winner, Reay MacKay completed 12 miles of testing yesterday: "Given the problems we had last year that is a result!"

And finally for tonight, Jock Armstrong is here with the Subaru, looking almost pristine, the car that is, not Jock. He bumped it two weeks ago testing in Ayrshire. "A tyre rolled off the rim on a square right and we just sort of toppled on to the side in a ditch," said Jock, who was giving a lady guest a run out in the car. Apparently she was quite nonplussed by the incident, telling Jock: "This is the second time I've benn in a rally car - and the second time I have been in a crash." In other words, it wasn't Jock's fault, the lady must be a jinx!

Rally - Testing fixes

Just spoken to Quintin Milne who left the pre-Snowman Rally test session early this morning and he's looking a bit happier. The cause of the Lancer's overheating was the electric fans weren't working. They have now been fixed - wired directly through the ignition!

"That means they'll be running all day tomorrow," said Quintin, "but after the engine problems I had last year I don;t want to risk them intermittently shutting off tomorrow!"

As winner of the final round of the Scottish Rally Chgampionship last year, expectations are high for the flamboyant Milne tomorrow.

Brian Watson was another early departee from the test this morning: "I thought we had a diff problem so we've had it checked out and it seems OK, so the test was worthwhile." Brian will also be using his 5 spd Drenth sequential gearshift for the first time in anger tomorrow. "I had a sequential shift last year but this is different. All the workings are inside the box, there is no external linkage apart from the gearlever. It's a treat to use. I tried it at the Moy Sprint last month and then again this morning. It's quicker, more positive and more accurate, so we'll see tomorrow. You know me, I like my toys!"

Doubts surround the appearance of Euan Thorburn tomorrow. His Focus WRC had a problem on last weekend's English season opener, the Wyedean Rally, and he's not answering his phone. Fingers crossed.

Rally - Snowman test

Buchanan gies it laldy!

Groundwater in a snow-free zone
If tulips and cuckoos herald the arrival of spring, then the sight and sound of a MkII in the woods is a sure sign that the Scottish rallying season is upon us. Forget the 'glorious 12th', tomorrow will be motor sport's magnificent 16th!

Quite a few drivers took the opportunity of this morning's pre-event test session to blow the cobwebs out of their cylinder heads. David Bogie finalised the suspension settings on his new Focus WRC while Chris Collie gave his completely rebuilt (well, at least the greasy bits, the body bits still need some work!) Lancer a shakedown.

Quintin Milne completed less runs than intended when his EVO9's temperature shot up. He's not unduly worried, as Lancers and thermostats can be a bit temperamental but he's away to check it for sure.

Graeme Schoneville attacked the senses with the high revving Honda but as the road cut up, so the wee Honda suffered underneath and the team
were last seen raising the ride height. One of the stars of last season, Barry Groundwater gave his oxters a workout and Stuart Glendining wrestled his Puma around the 2 mile test stage still trying to get the wayward beast sorted.

Alistair Inglis gave his Lancer a burst of action before loading it back on the trailer ready for tomorrow while a few other worthies tested their winter upgrades. There were also quite a few spectators out and about getting a pre-season 'fix' ahead of tomorrow's glut of motor rallying action.

But for sheer aural pleasure, Malcolm Buchanan was the man, the Escort singing its heart out in the woods, it's spiritual home. Roll on tomorrow.

Rally - Tyre talk

Further to yesterday's weather comments ahead of tomorrow's Snowman Rally, it would appear that there is still snow lying on the peaks. Although the lower part of Glenurquhart is snow-free, the higher parts have still got a few inches of slushy, white stuff. It's the same in the three stages north of Inverness.

What was crisp, white, soft snow last week is now wet and thawing. Heavy rain last night shifted some of the snow, but there is still plenty left. There is no frost forecast for tonight (yet!) and the temperature this morning is above freezing - just.

In other words, tyre choice is not clear cut - maybe that's why DMack has brought snow tyres with them. Unfortunately, no-one has dedicated deep slushy tyres!

At the pre rally test this morning, DMack also had their latest forest tyre with them which has a softer sidewall (allows more flex and generates more heat) than the WRC spec tyres which they used last year. These have been specially developed for British one day forest events.

Thursday 14 February 2013

Rally - Snow-less-man!

So, where's the snow then?
It looks as though snow tyres will not be needed on this weekend's Snowman Rally at Inverness. On the way north from Glasgow today there is plenty of snow on the verges of the A9, but the road is black and clear.

There is plenty of snow on the high ground, but temperatures are rising and heavy rain is washing the snow away. Weather forecast is better for tomorrow and good for Saturday.

Stopped at Glenurquhart on the way up and the road looks firm but the grass verges are soggy and muddy.

Wednesday 13 February 2013

Rally - Co-Drivers' Guide

There is a very useful article on the website now, aimed primarily at first time Co-drivers ahead of this weekend's Arnold Clark / Thistle Hotel Snowman Rally. This comprehensive guide was compiled by one of Scotland's, and the UK's, top Co-drivers. I just wanted a simple list, and I got this, but I am truly grateful. Sadly, the author wishes to remain anonymous - probably to stop others asking for similar favours.

Anyway, not only will it be useful for the newcomers, the old-timers could benefit and learn too!

Tuesday 12 February 2013

Rally - Bogie goes orange

David Bogie's new colour scheme broke cover today, and it's different! The Nova was green, the Metro was yellow and the Lancer was red. The new Ford Focus WRC is orange in deference to his new Dutch sponsors, CAGEMAX.

CAGEMAX will therefore support David and Kevin Rae's bid to win a record-breaking fifth consecutive Scottish Rally Championship national title this coming season: “Having support from CAGEMAX makes a difference as much of my rallying to date has been supported by the family firm. CAGEMAX is the 'middleman' between the supply and demand of animal protein and fats. They look after the raw product that makes mix feed, pet food and aquaculture product. This is something that I am involved in with my ‘day job’ and it’s great that a company with such an international outlook is supporting my efforts in the Scottish Championship, but who also recognise that the sport can give them a return on their investment,”  commented David.

The CAGEMAX Focus will also feature ongoing support from long term partners, Millers Oils, Speedline Wheels, Billy’s Power Tools and the family firm of Oakbank Services.

Rally - Grunt or Grip?

Right. What do you want? More power or better stage times? The two do not necessarily go hand in hand.

With some 'racing fuels' costing more than twice the price of standard pump fuel, a number of rally crews are finding that it makes more sense to have their engines re-mapped to run on the cheaper alternative.

Yes, they will lose a bit of power, but if they spend the money on more tyres, they will get better grip. That also means better handling, more stability and improved braking performance.

You can have all the power in the world, but if you can't put it to good use, what's the point?

There is a very informative article up on the website now, and it's a 'must-read' for those who think more grunt is all they need.

It'll give you something to think about this weekend on the Snowman.

Monday 11 February 2013

Road - American muscle

No apologies, no excuses, I love one of these cars, but which one?

Both cars are currently on display at the Chicago Auto Show in America. Oddly enough, both cars are ‘show cars’, one was built to promote the new Dreamworks ‘Turbo’ cinema film while the other was used to promote the ‘Hot Wheels’ toy car range.

The brute which was styled using Lego bricks has a monstrous 700+ hp V8 and sits on 24 inch wheels while the more attractive model evokes the glamour and curves of Marilyn Monroe and came with a much more modest 140 hp straight six. But that was the entry level car, options included a range of V8s with 290 to 375 hp.

Now be honest, which one would you prefer?

Friday 8 February 2013

Rally - Snowman Prog.

The official 2013 Arnold Clark/Thistle Hotel Snowman Rally event programme will be available to buy from Monday, 11th February, at the following outlets:

Arnold Clark Peugeot, Harbour Road, Inverness
Autosave, 8-9 Tyock Industrial Estate, Elgin IV30 1XY
Autosave, 35H Harbour Rd, Inverness IV1 1UA
Bitz, Balmakeith Park, Nairn IV12 5QW
Charlie's Cafe, 2 Margarets Street, Inverness, IV1 1LS
Highland Industrial Supplies, 36 Seafield Rd, Inverness, Highland IV1 1SG
Kingswells Filling Station, 36 Old Perth Rd, Inverness, Inverness On Shire IV2 3HR
Morangie Filling Station, Morangie Road, Tain, Rosshire, IV19 1PY
Skiach Services, nr Evanton, A9/B9176 intersection 25 Miles north of Inverness
Tarvie Services, Strathpeffer, Ross-Shire, IV14 9EJ
More info on the website:

Wednesday 6 February 2013

Road - Salt rash

Driving up the M6 late last night and listening to the salty spray from the slush and snow washing along the underside of the brand new Ford Transit Custom and the grit shotblasting the wheelarches, I had time to think. In times gone past, some cars wouldn’t have survived that journey, completely eaten away by salt rash long before they crossed the border.

Fibreglass was supposed to the great saviour, but look what that did to the fortunes of TVR, Reliant and even Lotus.

Anyway, this item caught my eye this morning. Armor All Shield is supposed to protect paintwork from such salty mush and subsequent erosion. The idea is to apply it like polish after the car has been thoroughly washed, and this protection should last up to ten washes before needing another application.

Is it worth a trial? 

Look at it another way, it could make the weans earn their pocket money at weekends.

Tuesday 5 February 2013

Road - Custom Made

Ford launched its new Transit Custom to the UK press today at an awfy big hoose just outside Daventry. The initial verdict is that this is one heckuva van, but is it better than the current Transit? That will have to wait till a full road appraisal can be done, but based on initial impressions of the 360 mile drive home, it will surely give the nation's current favourite a run for its money.

There are three engine specs all based on the new 2.2 ltr turbo diesel with 100, 125 and 155 PS options, but it has already lost one long-revered Ford characteristic, the early morning rattle when starting it up from cold!

It's obvious from the interior who Ford is targetting with this new addition to the range, Volkswagen's multi-seat option Transporter. The new Custom is flexible enough to do the airport/hotel shuttle business while providing a comfortable carriage for big families. And for the bloke who wants a van during the week and a family/sports holdall at weekends, it's just the business.

There is just one sneaky wee extra on the new range. It's got an ECO button, but it's not just to activate the Stop/Start system, it deactivates the speed limiter. This is the first van to come with a permanent speed limiter which can be set at 56, 60, 65 or 70 mph. The trouble is, the default stetting is 70 mph. Every time the ignition is switched on and the engine started up, the limiter sets itself to 70. And if you forget to press the button to cancel it, you'll soon find out when you try to pass the big truck ahead!

And the clincher? It's got a delicious leather trimmed steering wheel.

Road - Dashing Dacia

You don't appreciate life's little motoring luxuries, till you lose them. Things like electrically adjustable door mirrors, rain sensing wipers, adjustable steering wheel and being able to open the boot without having to remove the ignition key.

Compared to Renault's mainline brand, Dacia have also skimped on the looks department. No make-up and no Botox. But the seats are comfy, although a bit flat, and there's plenty of room inside the new Sandero. However, the high-ish riding position and flat-tish seat cushions means that it is easy to get in and out, especially for the elderly.

And that surely is where the Sandero will score highly. For the price of a decent 30,000 mile used car, you can buy a brand new Sandero with extendable manufacturer warranty from 3 to 5 or to 7 years.

With prices starting from £8,395, that will make sound financial sense for a great number of people. Mind you, I had the luxury one at £9,290 with alloy wheels, body coloured bumpers, electric front windows, remote central locking and radio/CD with Bluetooth and USB.

Cheap, and cheerful!

Monday 4 February 2013

Road - Colourful Clio

Renault was in Scotland at the weekend, showing off their new Clio to Scotland's motoring journalists, and I had a wee shottie of the 898 cc Clio Dynamique, and despite the Christmas tree approach to interior decoration, I liked it. 

Yes, there are more sober versions of the car, but Renault has greatly extended the range of options which buyers can choose to personalise their Clio.

Prices start from just over ten and a half thousand pounds for the basic four seater, which still looks good, but without the need for wearing sun glasses inside the car. As it was, I had the Dynamique MediaNav version at just over £14,630 with red highlights - very red.

According to Renault this degree of personalisation will appeal to the young. In my case, the very young. I reckon 5 to 6 year olds, one step up from their Little Tykes' trotter car.

It didn't actually put me off though, and it was fine for a weekend, the 90 hp, 3 cylinder engine a joy to listen to and a joy to drive, just not in my colour.

I also got the chance to drive the updated Renault Twingo Renaultsport 133 (a wee belter!) and there will be a full appraisal of all the cars up on the website soon, but there's another launch to go to today, so more driving tomorrow.

Saturday 2 February 2013

Rally - Mike's new Motor

Mike Faulkner has swapped his EVO6 for an EVO9 for this year's ARR Craib Scottish Rally Championship, and if you want to see how the new combo runs, the Arnold Clark / Thistle Hotel Snowman Rally is just two weeks away. Highland Car Club are selling event programmes through their website.

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