Sunday, 31 July 2011

If Only - The Barn Find Of My Dreams

A website I use often called does these "Question Of The Day/Weekend" posts every other day and on weekends. Some of them are made into definitive lists, some of them are more open, with weekend ones always being the latter. This weekend it's "What is the barn find of your dreams?". Well, I don't remember having such a dream before, but it set my imagination off. After suggesting the missing one of only two roofless Toyota 2000GTs from the 007 film You Only Live Twice, I devised a dream sequence that made my brain tingle when I thought of it. It wasn't as long as this - you can find it in the comments after scrolling past a cool dream of someone's about a McLaren F1 - but I thought I'd turn it into a story. A bedtime story, perhaps. It is quite late now...

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Sky F1 - A Calmer View

If you're on the main page, you can scroll down and read my initial reaction to the bad news that despite mention of F1 being "Not for sale" and Bernie Ecclestone saying it would be "disastrous" for F1 not to be on free-to-air TV (although since when was he a trustworthy person?), Sky has got its greedy hands on Formula 1 TV rights. I still stand by a lot of what I said - the presenters will probably be style-over-substance and have an irritating demeanour, the pre-race show will be interrupted with adverts for the million other Sky Sports, er, sports, and the commentators won't be as entertaining - but after learning a little more about the deal, it's not as bad as I thought it was.

The deal is currently going to last six years (from 2012-2018), and the BBC will still be able to show the full highlights of the races they're no longer allowed to broadcast live, so those of you who cannot afford the £610 for a Sky HD box can still see what essentially happened in those races. I still don't like that the BBC can't be there for every race, but they've already confirmed Monaco, Silverstone and the final race as ones they are covering themselves (given the choice for races that both channels cover, I will always choose the BBC). Sky coverage won't see adverts during the race like ITV did, but there will still be adverts before and after, and Sky ads are annoying. As far as I'm aware, it won't be in 3D, but because I can't afford a 3DTV and don't want to be sucked into an expensive gimmicky fad, that means nothing to me. The lack of in-race ads sounds like a calm-down tactic to me (and others), but hopefully that 'feature' will stay throughout the whole 6 years anyway. Hopefully the 6 years will be the full extent of Sky coverage as well. I want it to stay on the BBC, as I'm sure is abundantly clear by now.

I've previously mentioned FOTA and their potential to turn this on its head, but they haven't made any noises so far, and technically you can still follow a whole season on free-to-air, even if it isn't all live. The one big thing that will stop a lot of people watching Sky F1, even those that can afford the hideously expensive (and in my experience quite unreliable) Sky box, is that the money goes directly to Rupert Murdoch, who I gather is some sort of evil villain. He runs News Corp, for instance, which includes the recently shut-down phone hackers, News of the World. His media empire doesn't really need another major sport in it, but the fact that it will next year is a sad sign that both he and Bernie Ecclestone (Formula 1 owner and sentient, bespectacled troll doll) are equally greedy for money...

Friday, 29 July 2011

Formula 1 - Coverage To Get Cancer Next Year

The best F1 broadcast team I've watched. Plus Jonathan Legard.
I feel outraged and disgusted when I inform you that the BBC's Formula 1 coverage will be cut in half next year because of BskyB.

As you may have read, an 'agreement' has been reached so that in 2012, Sky Sports will be the only channel network to broadcast the entire season of Formula 1, and BBC will only be able to show half the races live [Source: F1Fanatic]. The key problem with that is that BBC is a "free-to-air" channel, in that the channels are free to anyone who pays for their TV license in the UK. Or if you prefer to think of it this way, it is required by law that you are able to watch TopGear and Formula 1. The Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) state in their contracts that F1 must remain on free-to-air television, but next year it won't be, not a full season at least. If you want to see every race live - something that's effectively free this year - you will have to buy a subscription to Sky TV. Want HD, which again is free with the BBC? That'll be £610 a year. That's outrageous! Especially as 2013 will probably see a full-scale takeover.

Think of it like this
It doesn't just stop there, either. The BBC coverage is the best F1 coverage. That's a fact of life. Informative and entertaining presenters and commentators, professional interviewers, viewer participation on the red button with the F1 Forum (which is normally worth a watch if you've got an hour after the race). I remember watching F1 on ITV a few years ago, and Mark Blundell was a hopeless pundit, James Allen was an annoying commentator and the damn races kept going to adverts every 10-15 minutes or so. In 2009, after 10 minutes of the first pre-race programme, it was so noticeable how much better it all was, and particularly how much more genuinely informative it was, and is. Unfortunately I lost a bet with myself that David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan would have a fight while arguing over a controversial overtake or something, but other than that there were no disappointments. The people of F1 - team members and such - seem to have respect for them when they're on camera too.

I know what Sky are like, they won't keep most of these people on. Sure, they'll probably get Ted Kravitz quite easily - he's tied more to the sport than a particular channel - and perhaps Lee McKenzie, but they won't get top presenter Jake Humphrey to follow them over to the dark side, nor EJ or DC, nor Martin Brundle I suspect. The rest of the roles will be filled by people that look pretty on TV rather than people who actually know what they're bloody talking about. Have you ever seen Sky Sports News? Exactly. All plastic women and the odd flatulent Scottish sexist here and there. I don't want adverts back on my F1 screen either. I don't want to pay money for SkyPlayer to watch the currently-free highlights online that aid my race reports on here. I flat-out don't want Sky F1 coverage, even if I can get it. It'll be more like the ITV coverage, which was significantly worse, and will likely be presented by people that look and sound like rich bastards rather than petrol-blooded F1 enthusiasts.

Hopefully this will just be some horrible one-off, as FOTA chief and McLaren's Technical Director Martin Whitmarsh said a few months ago "All of the FOTA teams believe in free-to-air television ... Our current contracts require that F1 remain on free-to-air and the teams, through FOTA, are clearly going to safeguard their business interests and the interests of the fans in this regard." Fight valiantly lads and lasses, and know that you have the British public on your side, as well as people in other countries that receive the BBC commentary on the radio. This is not a good idea, it is not in the best interest of the sport, it's not what the viewing public want, and Sky, you're NOT welcome into the world of Formula 1. Leave it.

UPDATE [30/7/11] - I've written a little more here. It's not quite as rant-y as this is.

Formula 1 - German Grand Prix 2011

This is what it's like to be at the back. Is it depressing? I don't know. I guess they're just happy to be in F1.
The Nürburgring needs no introduction*. Unless you've never heard of it before, in which case, what the hell have you been doing?! For those of you that haven't, I can tell you it's neither spelt nor pronounced "Nuremberg Ring", which some people get confused about because the town of Nuremberg is much better-known to non-car folk than the little village of Nürburg, which is nestled inside the fearsome Nordschleife (North Loop) that climbs, drops and winds round 12.95 miles of terror, graffiti, and barriers too close for comfort. Formula 1 used to race on it, and it took no shame in flexing its muscles on the likes of triple champion Niki Lauda, whose crash in 1976 left him with one heavily burned ear, damaged lungs and blood and permanent scarring after a fiery crash on lap 2 in which he inhaled toxic fumes. Jackie Stewart won there and dubbed it "The Green Hell", calling it the scariest track he'd ever raced on. Sadly, health and safety bods won't let F1 cars anywhere near this track now - not that the undersides would last more than 5 laps anyway - so what used to be called the Südschleife has now been made into a more suitable track for modern F1 cars. It still has undulations, dodgy cambers here and there and daunting fast bends, so it's a fitting addition to the 'Ring. The two routes are joined together for the 24-Hour race that takes place here at around the same time as Le Mans. *Skip down to here if you don't need the introduction

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Could The Lotus T125 Save The Supercar?

Also available in green with a yellow stripe, red and white with a gold stripe, black with gold highlights and yellow.
Just now I watched TopGear. I actually thought it was actually a pretty good episode, after last week had its ups and downs (while I loved the GT-R's astonishing lap time and Rowan Atkinson's, er, astonishing lap time, I thought the train bit wasn't what it could've been and essentially acted as episode padding). The Jensen Interceptor bit was awesome and very funny, the demolition bit at the end was awesome and very funny, and the guest was, well, pretty good. It's difficult to top Rowan Atkinson though...

One bit of the episode, however, made me think. It involves the car you see here, the Lotus Exos T125, essentially a lightly watered-down Formula 1 car. A few stats first: The Exos produces 650bhp from a Cosworth V8 revving to around 10,500rpm and weighs just 600kg, giving it 1083bhp/tonne, compared to a ~700bhp, ~450kg F1 car. It costs about £600,000 and comes with some amazing features as standard, including a hand-operated clutch, a personal trainer and cook, adjustable front and rear wings, a team of mechanics, an inbuilt starter motor (unlike a real F1 car), Jean Alesi, slick tyres, a massage therapist and a truck full of... Racy Things. I can safely say that none of these things are available either standard or as an option on the Lotus Evora S. Well, apart from the starter motor perhaps. For more info on the car, see the video just below this text.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Supercar Saturday - Jeremy Clarkson Just Had A Crisis

Do you think the design chief at AMG designs monsters for cartoons as a side project?
The tall shouty bloke off TopGear is a big fan of Mercedes-Benz's AMG branch, purveyors of testosterone-fuelled sports/muscle car versions of ordinary saloons and coupés. He owns a CLK63 AMG Black Series, a special edition of the CLK63 AMG made by AMG's even sportier sub-division that's a grizzly, shouty version of the grizzly, shouty version of the CLK coupé. After loving that and having huge praise for the C63 AMG saloon when it came out, his head will probably explode when he sees the creature you see here, for you see, this is the latest monster to emerge from the darkest, maddest corner of Mercedes-Benz: the 510bhp AMG C63 Coupé Black Series.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Formula 1 - British Grand Prix 2011

Naturally the race attracted a few British VIPs, including Damon Hill, Jackie Stewart, Prince Harry and Murray Walker
Interesting Fact: The prestigious Silverstone circuit (which hosted Britain's 66th Grand Prix last weekend) is in-between two counties, Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire. Now that the Start/Finish line has been moved to the bottom end of the circuit, the 2011 race is classed as taking place in Buckinghamshire, whereas it was previously run 'in Northamptonshire'. True story.

More Interesting Fact Than That: This is the first weekend of the season where Sebastian Vettel didn't win at anything on Saturday or Sunday. No win, no pole, no fastest lap. His only claim to fame here was the fastest time in the third Practice session by just 0.04 seconds. This turnaround could be down to the one-off ban on blown diffusers (when exhaust gases are sent through the diffuser and the throttle stays on a bit to maintain downforce through slow corners and give much better traction out of them), which it could also be argued turned out well for Ferrari, who had stayed suspiciously quiet about the whole row over banning it or not. This also rekindled speculations by some that FIA is actually short for Ferrari's International Assistants, something that seemed very apparent in 2007/8. Anyway, enough of that. Fernando Alonso can claim this win on merit after seizing an opportunity and charging to victory under typically British weather (read: weather that was all over the place).

Friday, 8 July 2011

Goodwood Festival of Speed '11: The Mega Gallery! (Part 2)

Welcome to Part 2 (or Part Deux, if you prefer) of my Goodwood FOS gallery from last weekend. If you missed the first part, follow this here link right here. I didn't take any pictures of the track, I'm afraid, but I did take a few videos. I'm sure other blogs will already have on-track galleries anyway, but I'll remember to buy a programme next year so I know where to be and when. Anyway, feel free to scroll through the second half of my day in pictures. Remember you can enlarge them by opening them in a new tab or window for a closer look.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Goodwood Festival of Speed '11: The Mega Gallery!

 Welcome to the huge gallery from my Sunday trip to Goodwood. If there's a car you're interested in, it's probably best to use Ctrl+F to see if it's here, as there are quite a few images to scroll through! They're roughly in chronological order. Remember to right click an image and select Open In New Tab to see them in full size. The images were automatically resized to be 1600px, so if you want different sizes, please ask me and I'll see what I can do! There were so many that I decided to cut it in half, so this is part one of two. The second part will be along shortly.