Tuesday 30 July 2013

Rally - F1 in the Forest

Ten years ago (2003) Markko Märtin set the world record of 57 metres for the longest jump in the history of the WRC on the “Ouninpohja” special stage on Rally Finland. 57 metres without a wheel touching the ground, 57 metres without the driver having any influence on the car. Only those who can combine absolute control over their car with hitting the crest at exactly the right angle will emerge successful. Any mistake is punished immediately and severely.

This rally demands not just high speed and precision, but toughness and durability from engines, drivetrains and suspensions, so I found what Dr. Donatus Wichelhaus, Head of Engine Development for Volkswagen WRC, had to say on the matter very interesting. To you and me, a rev-limiter is a re-limiter, but to him, it is rather more complicated.

"The FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) regulations stipulate that the 1.6-litre turbo engines must not exceed an engine speed of 8,500 rpm. This is a key factor, particularly at the Rally Finland. Only those who are able to get as close to this limit without exceeding it on the long full-throttle sections are able to get the most out of the engine. This is because the engine’s injection must be electronically deactivated if the limit is exceeded."

"The Volkswagen engineers prepared for this by modifying the engine management system and running tests prior to the rally. The most crucial aspect of the event happens when the World Rally Cars’ wheels leave the road during the countless jumps. The lack of resistance causes the engine speed to exceed the magic value and the injection is switched off. However, the engine has to be back to the desired speed before it lands, in order to avoid losing drive and, consequently, time."

How that is achieved is just one of the dark arts of rallying, but there's rather more to it than a simple rev-limiter! Get it wrong, and the engine makes just one more note - a violent bang.

Rally Finland takes place this weekend. It's just a pity that it will be overhadowed (in Scotland at least!) by the Speyside Stages at Elgin on Saturday!

Race - Camping Pin-Up

An unlikely pin-up boy for the Camping and Caravanning Club is part-time Arnold Clark/Thistle Hotel Snowman Rally Course-Car driver, and full-time Touring Car racer, Dave Newsham.

Dave has actually been camping and caravanning since 2004 travelling to and from BTCC races in his Autotrail Arapaho motorhome: “Living in Inverness, my family – myself, my wife, Jackie and my sons, Kristian and Callum - spend a lot of time travelling around the UK in our motorhome, using Camping and Caravanning Club Sites to stop overnight en-route to and from race circuits," said Dave.

“I’m looking forward to meeting C&C Club members and I hope people will join the Club in supporting me this season. If you have never watched BTCC before, give it a try and look out for the Number 17 car!”

The Toyota Avensis NGTC driver is currently holding tenth place overall in the series after five events with the next round of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championships (BTCC) at Snetterton this weekend, August 3/4.

Rally - Ford Back in Rallying

But don't get your hopes up. It's not the WRC. Ford's South African company, where the Ford Ranger pickups are built, are entering two locally built Ford Rangers in the 2014 Dakar Rally Raid, next January 5–18 in South America.

The trucks are being prepared by Pietermaritzburg-based Neil Woolridge Motorsport with assistance from Ford Motor Company’s Global Product Development group, while logistics will be handled by German-based South Racing. Similarly the driver line-up is made up of both international and local contenders including South American native Lucio Alvarez and South African Chris Visser.

Up here in the northern hemisphere, this type of rallying is not as popular as it is in the southern half of the globe, but earlier this year over 1 billion TV viewers watched the 2013 Dakar event with 4.6 million spectators making their way to South America to watch it. That's figures the WRC would kill for!

One of the Rangers is already complete and will start testing next month ahead of the 2014 Dakar Rally which will start in Rosario, Argentina on January 5 and finish in Valparaiso, Chile on January 18 after thirteen stages in 8,500 kilometres.

There's little detail about the pickup spec, although from the photo it looks as though the wheelbase has been shortened, but of particularl interest is what lies under the bonnet - an all aluminium 348 bhp, 5 litre V8 producing 560 Nm of torque. A six speed sequential gearbox will manage the 4WD transmission and the vehicle weighs just 25 kgs short of 2 tonnes.

Monday 29 July 2013

Road - Merc nibbles Aston

'Maston Marcedes', or perhaps 'Mercedes Martin', who knows? It looks as though Mercedes-Benz is buying into Aston Martin with the German company set to take a 5% stake in the business following their agreement to provide engines and electrical components for future Aston Martin models.

Following on from the recent closure of the Ford Transit plant in Southampton - the backbone of Britain is now being made in Turkey - is this yet another rivet being hammered into the steel coffin of the British car manufacturing industry, or is this just another inevitable example of globalisation and 'progress'?

Rally - Speyside Entry List

Full Entry List and Timetable for Saturday's McDonald & Munro Speyside Stages are on the website now. There are 9 Special Stages planned for the day and there is a basic timetable with some spectator information, but hopefully I'll get a wee bit more before the weekend. There is however a full list of outlets listed where rally programmes (with maps!) can be purchased.


Friday 26 July 2013

Road - Prince's pram

ŠKODA has unveiled its ultimate 'pram for a prince'. It's purely conincidental that this concept vehicle has been announced in the week of the royal birth, because the idea originally came from a survey commissioned by ŠKODA which found that two thirds (76%) of 1,000 Dads admitted they would spend more time pushing baby if they had a higher spec and more stylish buggy.

Standing two metres high, the buggy comes complete with wing mirrors, hydraulic suspension, 20 inch alloy wheels, oversized brake callipers, anti-stress grips and a headlamp beam for night walks. Tots and teraways will be cossted inside with “sports-style upholstery” and “adjustable lumbar support”.

The full spec includes:
Wing mirrors
High spec brakes including brake lights
High-beam headlamp
Hydraulic suspension
20 inch alloy wheels
All terrain tyres
Oversized brake callipers
Anti-stress push-bar grips
Sports-style upholstery

There's an additional bonus, but it's one ŠKODA  haven't really thought through. The buggy is too big to be carried in any size of car, so you'll just have to buy a BIG van for family outings. The wife will be really chuffed about that. Life doesn't get much beter than this, eh?

Thursday 25 July 2013

Race - Loeb for WTCC

Now that Sebastien Loeb's too old for the rough and tumble of rallying, and turning his attention to the more gentle pursuit of World Touring Car racing, Citroen has revealed details of the carriage which he will conduct around the world's tarmac hotspots.

Based on the Citroën C-Elysée, this latest WTCC contender will be the very first vehicle to be designed in accordance with the new regulations, currently being prepared by the FIA for the category next year.

Powered by the same 1.6 litre direct injection turbocharged engine as used by the DS3 WRC, a wider booster flange has increased power output to 380 bhp. This will be directed through the FWD transmission via a six-speed sequential gearbox.

Apparently, the choice of a three-box saloon body was preferred because of the improved aerodynamic shape over a hatchback. The car has already impressed the team during initial testing. This will be Citroen's first official foray into Touring Cars, but it looks the business.

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Blethers - Women v Men

Has political correctness and sexism gone mad? Not that the following diatribe has a point, I just thought it worth a comment or two.

In the week when the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers at  Muirfield came under fire for their antiquated rules on membership comes news that the ‘2013 Women’s World Car of the Year’ is the Ford Fiesta 1 litre EcoBoost.

Two weeks ago William Hague got slated publicly for muttering ‘stupid woman’ under his breath.  Two weeks ago, nobody batted an eyelid when my wife called me a ‘stupid man’.

Anyway, I had a look. There are 18 members of the all-woman motoring journalist jury assessing the merits of the ‘Women’s World Car of the Year’, three each from the UK and the USA, two each from Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, and one each from India, Argentina, China and Ireland.

When it comes to the non-gender specific ‘World Car of the Year’, the jury numbers 69 individuals (representing 22 countries/regions of the world), only 3 of whom are women. Their choice for 2013 was the Volkswagen Golf.

Makes you wonder who had the biggest bun fight. All those men having to moderate their language with three women present, or the women having a good old hand-bagging with no men present.

Do we really need a ‘Woman’s Car of the Year’ and a separate ‘Car of the year’? How about a Kid’s Car judged by Blue Peter viewers, and a Dog’s Car at Crufts with special windows that catch the slevvers and prevent them slopping on to the windscreens of following cars? Or the best looking car sitting on bricks, as judged by Weegies displaced by the Commonwealth Games kerfuffle?

Who was it who said, “all for one and one for all”? 

The three musketeers. And they were all men. You can’t win, eh?

Rally - Special anniversary

45 years ago this year, two rather different events conspired to popularise the sport of special stage rallying in UK forests. But will the sport last another 45 years? Or will it be dead in ten?


Tuesday 23 July 2013

Blethers - Lawnmower vRS

Now, that's a lawnmower! Starring in the new Skoda advert, the Czech company has no plans to build and sell it.

A pity, as far as one-upmanship goes, this would blow the ears off the neighbour who has everything.

What's the betting Andy Murray will want one for his private court?

Rally - Man bags

The Italians have come up with a new style of 'man-bag', but this will suit the ladies too, especially those who co-drive. Carrying personal stuff and paperwork securely inside a rally car is always a concern so the Race Bag has been designed to address the issues of security with portability, but it can also be secured easily to the roll-cage cross-member across the front passenger door.

There are two bags, a Basic model priced at 38 Euros and a VIP model at 49 Euros. Both are the same size but the VIP model gets an extra large rear pocket to swallow an A4 Roadbook or laptop. Two velcro rings attach the bag to the cage and there are also two eyelets through which a plastic tie-wrap can be added for extra security.There is also a shoulder strap and it's made from hard-wearing and washable polyester.

Naturally, this being Italian, the pockets can accommodate all manner of necessities from mobile phones and wallets, to sunglasses and lip balm, and of course, fag packets and zippos!

Each Racing Fashion Bag is 32 mm by 22.5, and either 7mm or 10mm thick depending on basic or VIP spec.

If you want one, you'll need to buy direct. Amazon will be no good to you, but check out that it will do the job you want before forking out the cash. Now all we can do is sit back and wait to see who the first fashion victim (poser?) in Scotland will be.


Rally - Eric Tomney

A bit of sad news today I'm afraid. For those of us reared on navigational rallying and the early days of forest rallying, the name of Eric Tomney will bring to mind an enthuiastic and cheery individual who was himself a rally navigator and organiser, and latterly the co-ordinator of the West of Scotland Navigational Rally Championship. A staunch member of Scottish Sporting Car Club, Eric was also intrinsically involved in the Trossachs Rally throughout the 80s and was part of the original team which oversaw the move from central Scotland to Ayrshire and the Merrick.

A Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and aged just 63, Eric passed away suddenly at home last week (15th July) and those of us who knew him will remember that cheerful wee cherubic face that was always smiling even when the rest of us were down in the dumps.   

The Funeral service will be at Clydebank Crematorium, North Dalnottar, this Friday, 26th July, at 1.30 pm to which all friends are respectfully invited. Family flowers only.

Monday 22 July 2013

Rally - WRC in Tunnockstown

Family affair!
The World Rally Championship came to Tunnockstown this morning when Robart Barrable and Stuart Loudon officially unveiled the new Tunnocks World Rally Team Ford Fiesta R5 at the Scottish HQ of the world's tastiest energy snack.

Some of the world's top motor sports press were in attendance as were representatives from what are claimed to be Scotland's two top daily newspapers, so the questions were - interesting. So if the boys do well on this weekend's first rally outing with the new car, then maybe it will put Scottish rallying back on the international map. Robert might not be Scottish, but at least he's a Celt!

Mind you, the cynic in me wonders if they turned up just for the Tunnocks goodie bag (always one of the best in the business) so we'll await tomorrow's headlines with interest.

It was quite a family occasion with both Robert's and Stuart's parents in attendance at the photocall, plus the man himself, Le Patron as the French would say, Scotland's answer to Enzo Ferrari - in biscuits that is, as opposed to exoticars, if you see what I mean.

Typical of Boyd Tunnock, he got himself into the R5 with Robert showing him the controls, then he was under the bonnet looking at the 1.6 turbo and all the gubbins. It's all so different from Boyd's days rallying MGAs and Ford Zephyrs in the 1950s. Thankfully he stuck to the family business rather than becoming a professional rally driver. That would have been a very sad loss to the nation's palate, and now through rallying, Robert and Stuart will carry the message to the Europeans.

After a shakedown at Goodwood two weekends ago, the team are in action in Finland over the weekend of 1st to 3rd August with 'qualifying' for the Neste Oil Rally Finland on Wednesday 31st July, but ahead of that they have a wee test planned in Estonia, and in fact set off tomorrow for foreign parts.

Sunday 21 July 2013

Show - and Shine at SECC

Well, that was different. The Scottish Car Show at the SECC did what it says on the tinwork. Acres of shiny paint and polished chrome with serious underbonnet bling where an engine should be. There were cars to suit all tastes, and those with no taste. Life imitates art. There's no denying the amount of money and effort that has gone every into every car on display but for those involved in motor sport, it just seemed pointless. For those who just enjoy cars for what they are and what they can do, there was much to see. 

The show's organisers have come a long way from an enthusiasts' gathering in a public park, and this latest move to the SECC filled almost all the Halls inside the SECC. It was nothing like the original Scottish Motor Show which was last staged here 15 years ago. That was a show with a showroom finish and sales space, this was a no-frills show for car nuts.

Having all this extra pace allowed the organisers to host some arena type events and there was even a stage where rock group 'Fluorescent Hearts' pounded the eardrums and illusionist Chris de Rosa dazzled the eyeballs.

Rallying was represented in the arena with Alex Adams, Blair Brown and Alasdair S Graham presenting their cars to the public and being interviewed by a highly knowledgeable and thoroughly entertaining MC (?!). 

And despite the organisers urging safety first, no noise and no high speed manouevres, there’s always one, isn’t there? On leaving the arena, Alasdair paused, then gave the Corsa the beans from a standing start. The tyres spun and smoked, the engine echoed around the Hall, and he left rubber from there to the Exit. Hooligan. And you know what, we didn’t get a row. So on the second show, Blair joined in the melee although Alex couldn’t because he was passengering in Ryan Weston’s Aygo as Ryan is on holiday in Americky.

Serious negative camber
One of the other acts was Paul Swift with his professional stunt show set to music, but according to the programme, he was down for ‘precision’ stunt driving. Some of his high speed parking manoeuvres were a bit sloppy. In the parallel parking he was at least 3 mm out, and in his longitudinal parking he was about 2 degrees out. Maybe I should tell his Dad the kid's doing shoddy work. But you could put that down to hard work and dedication. He was doing a show in Moscow on Saturday, flew back Saturday night and then drove the outfit up to Glasgow on Sunday morning for the show. Keen, eh

Mind you some of the best spectating was out in the car park watching the lycra clad lovelies tottering across the rubbly, uneven tarmac on their 8 inch heels and two inch block soles – and all the slevvering young lads anticipating the boney crack of an ankle at any moment.

There were some even scarier sights inside though. Some of the tattooed ladies with trowelled makeup looked a lot scarier than the chip butty brigade bruisers looking after the cruisers. It's a different world.

Saturday 20 July 2013

Show - at the SECC

If you're doing nowt else tomorrow and want to get out of the sun for a wee while, pop along to the Scottish Car Show at the SECC in Glasgow. Open from 10.00 am till 4.30 pm, the Show will have lots of cars and attractions to suit all tastes, including a display put on by the ARR Craib Scottish Rally Championship team.

The idea is to use this show to attract folks who like cars to perhaps consider taking up the sport of rallying. They will have a range of cars on display from a Junior 1000 machine to a club spec Subaru Impreza and everything in between. It might also be a place to attract new car club members, and who knows, we might get some marshals out of it.

There is an 'action arena' with some action and stunts during the day and Paul Swift will be making an appearance or two, defying the laws of gravity and physics as he demonstrates negotiating tight gaps on two wheels and parking in spaces that wouldn't accommodate a skinny bloke in speedos.

The SRC will participate in this too and have 'hired' the services of a commentator, so hecklers will be welcome.

Admission prices:
Adult (16+) £18
Concession £10
Child (11-16) £10
Child (0-10) FREE


Friday 19 July 2013

Rally - Albar Kames report

That's the full report from the Albar Kames Trophy Rally and Junior Rally now on the website.


Thursday 18 July 2013

RallyX - Meeke gets 600 BHP

Kris Meeke will make his RallycrossRX debut with Albatec Racing in the FIA European Rallycross Championship at Lohéac (France) next month (Aug 31/Sept 1). Meeke will partner Albatec Racing Team Principal Andy Scott (from Dumfries) at the wheel of a two litre, 16v Peugeot 208 provided Andy has recovered from a double fracture of the left collarbone in testing at Lohéac yesterday when the car clouted a barrier.

Kris tested the 208 Supercar for the first time yesterday and immediately said he was "blown away" with the four-wheel-drive 600 bhp French machine. He is not entirely new to rallycross, having raced an RX150 buggy at Croft in 2008, and can also list the Baja 1000 Desert Race and the Irish Kart Grand Prix among his achievements.

The Lohéac event however will mark his first competitive appearance in a rallycross supercar. The newest car on the fiercely competitive entry list has performed well in the first half of the season, taking heat victory and posting competitive lap times at the hands of former British Rallycross Vice-Champion Scott.

Later this month, Meeke will continue his role as senior test driver for Peugeot and Citroen, and contest Rally Finland ahead of his appearance at Albatec Racing’s home event of Lohéac in front of an estimated 60,000 spectators. Joining other WRC drivers Sebastien Loeb and Petter Solberg, Meeke will go head-to-head with the cream of European rallycross stars bidding for victory.

Kris said: “I’m blown away, I don’t think I’ve ever driven a supercar with this amount of horsepower, it’s just incredible. There are so many things to learn, the tyres are different to what I use in rally, they’re so much softer to generate traction from a standing start but with not as much longitudinal grip as we have in rallies. And to have all that horsepower and try to manage it is just, well incredible."

“I have experience of the new 208 T16 rally car, and there are obviously similar comparisons, but widely different in the same respect. With over 2.5 times the power than I’m used to, 600 bhp is the biggest factor. It’s new to me of course, with so much to learn here, a new track, the conditions, the car, and the engineers, but if you give any driver 600 bhp, a steering wheel and pedals they’re going to jump at it."

Tuesday 16 July 2013

Road - New Sportvan

Supervan - at Goodwood

Ford is launching its latest addition to the ever expanding Transit range tomorrow, with a 'Sport' version of the new Transit Custom. But don't get carried away, the word 'sport' does not mean any extra oomph. It's purely a styling exercise.

It gets the top of the range 155 PS, 2.2 TDCi turbo diesel and six speed gearbox, but nothing to make it go any quicker. It does get bigger alloy wheels and fatter tyres under wheel arch extensions, plus air dams front and rear, and side skirts. It also gets extra trim inside, but if you want to get there quicker, forget it. This is about ariving in style and creating an impression.

Sportvan - launch tomorrow
The UK's top LCV journalists will also get the chance to go where mere mortals are not usually allowed, inside the company's Research & Development Centre at Dunton in Essex. This is actually the world HQ for diesel engine research plus much of the forthcoming LCV design is originated here.

But is there a new Supervan in the making? Don't hold your breath.

Monday 15 July 2013

Rally - Dangers of Ebay

On the basis that you should always see and test-drive prospective vehicle purchases before you part with coin, ‘Lucky’ Sturrock was spotted at the weekend doing the Notes for the forthcoming ‘usedcarparts’ Solway Coast Rally in his latest conspicuously yellow, open-topped two wheeled velocipede.

Designed to go as fast backwards as furrit, and powered by a diesel engine which generates so much power and torque that it requires water-cooled wheels, Lucky was spotted practicing burn-outs at stage starts, stage finishes and everything in between including the yumps. Apparently he confidently reassured disinterested bystanders that it wasn’t actually wheel-smoking or steaming burn-outs, but could offer no plausible reason as to the source of the blue haze.

It certainly couldn’t have been the exhaust as the vehicle comes with a Euro-6 DPF, however Lucky was in fact known to have had coco-pops and raspberry jam for breakfast the previous day and beans and custard for lunch, with a curry the night before. The MoD declared Bill’s *rs* a danger area, and subsequently 'pit oot the rid flags'.

However, it was noticed that he was testing the latest Michellikook hardest compound tyres during his Note generating trips over the Kirkcudbright ranges.

As for his emergency braking practice, you should see the big black lines that he laid down. Smokin!

Rally - Tunnocks at Goodwood

Robert Barrable and Stuart Loudon debuted the new Tunnocks liveried Ford Fiesta R5 at the weekend’s Goodwood Festival of Speed.

One of the first R5’s to be released by M-Sport it will be maintained and run on events by Carlisle-based CA1 Sport. Next outing is a test session in Estonia ahead of Rally Finland (1-3 August) following on from the team’s second WRC outing of the season, where they finished 2nd in WRC-2 on Rally Portugal, driving the Tunnock’s sponsored Fiesta S2000.

Commenting on the weekend, Robert said: “Goodwood has been the perfect event to debut our new car and preview the Tunnock’s World Rally Team ahead of our official team launch in Scotland next week. The Goodwood Rally Stage is great. It’s not massively fast, plus it’s quite narrow with no room for error, but we’ve done enough miles at Goodwood to settle into the car. The Fiesta R5 is very comfortable to drive; it suits my driving style and it’s a car I think I will very quickly adapt well to. I’m certainly looking forward to the test in Estonia, on fast and flowing roads more akin to what we’ll find on Rally Finland. The R5 is totally different to drive than a Super 2000 – the chassis, engine and distribution of power are all very different. It really is lovely to drive.”

Stuart added: “The Fiesta R5 is a lot quieter inside than a Super 2000 and it doesn’t feel as dramatic – even though you’re actually going faster. It’s a fantastic car. The change of direction it has is awesome. It’s a lovely car to sit in and everything has been well designed, so you don’t have to stretch for anything and there is nothing in the cockpit that you don’t need. I wasn’t reading pace notes at Goodwood, so it was a rare opportunity for me to watch Robert at work inside the car.”