Monday, 31 October 2011

Toyota FR-S Is The New AE86

Image from leaked brochure photos. You'd think they'd be sure to take decent pictures...
After three different concepts cars and plenty of teasing and rumours, Toyota's light, FR-layout coupé has finally been revealed, although Toyota themselves weren't going to unveil it until the Tokyo Motor Show later in the year. This should teach them not to print manuals and brochures until the car has been unveiled properly... [UPDATED]

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Video Sunday - The Fastest Brick... In The World

Uploaded: 5/9/11
Running Time: 1:42
Views When Posted: 15,726

When a car rocks up alongside you with enormous rear tyres that say "Hoosier" on them and a turbo the size of a dog, you know you're in trouble... even if said car is a Volvo 850. Think Volvo and you probably think "brick", or "soccer mom" or "bad driver" or "safe" or something like that. What you don't think of, if you're normal that is, is "sub-seven-second quarter mile". Prepare to have your mind bent.

Pictured: Doomsday Device
This heavily turbocharged dragster may not even have started out in life as a real Volvo, and if it did, there isn't much of its original skeleton left. What there is, however, is a full set of drag tyres, a tubular space frame to stop the immense power and torque from folding the car in half when you stamp on the throttle, and a 2.3-litre 4-cylinder engine instead of some gigantic 7-litre V8, proving that there is a replacement for displacement, or rather an alternative. Thanks in no small part to the tornado that's surely generated by that turbocharger sitting outside the car, this Inline-4 produces over 1300 horsepower. Sure, that's not as much as the last unusual dragster I showed you on here, but considering the source, that's pretty gosh-darned impressive. What's more impressive is that while that Rolls-Royce needed a 9.6-litre V8 to do a standing quarter-mile in around 8 seconds, this Volvo does the same thing in just 6.85 seconds, maybe even faster with a smoother run. Not so weighed down with walnut and cashmere, perhaps?

So that's mightily impressive, but if this 850 with 1300 is not quite roadworthy enough for your tastes, may I suggest instead this brown Volvo 240 Estate fitted with the 2JZ-GTE 3-litre twin-turbo straight-six from a Toyota Supra RZ? Sleepers, as cars like this are known, are great because they look completely normal - dull, even - and yet one squeeze of the throttle will easily embarrass those who underestimate your machine. This one, complete with faded brown paint and a roof rack, even shows a blinged BMW M5 a clean pair of moose hooves! Video below:

Uploaded: 15/5/11
Running Time: 1:38
Views When Posted: 378,007

So that's just two of many unassuming Volvos with hidden talents. Pick your favourite!

Friday, 28 October 2011

Mini-Rant - Sinking To A New Low

No, I didn't mock this up on Photoshop. It's real...
If you don't mind, I'd like to write about something that isn't cars. You see, I went to the cinema to watch Tintin in 3D yesterday, which was actually very good, featuring spectacular graphics and scenery, faithfully recreated characters (including a digital cameo of Hergé at the start), smatterings of light comedy, a good story, and lots of Citroëns. :D

Normally when a silly or crap film pops up in the adverts before the movie starts, like many, I just dismiss it as something I won't watch/care about, but today I actually laughed out loud at a trailer. Not to make a point or anything, genuine laughter. The trailer in question wasn't a comedy - since when is a Hollywood comedy genuinely funny? - but a serious action film with a big Transformers-esque machine jumping out of the ocean, missiles firing and serious faces, even Liam Neeson's in it, and then the title popped up at the end...... it's called Battleship. Yes, that kind of Battleship.

Are you actually kidding me?! I would expect such a trailer to be an online parody, like the Minesweeper movie trailer, but this is a real movie, which looked completely straight-faced, and stars serious action guy Liam Goddamned Neeson (I've decided that's his action name). I sincerely hope it's not taking itself seriously, because no-one, but no-one, could watch a stressed military-mode Liam Neeson gazing a long gaze at a radar screen and saying "......B Four" without laughing their face off as a missile lands in the ocean, hitting nothing, before Neeson's destroyer gets annihilated and he drops to his knees going "YOU SUNK MY BATTLESHIP! YOU BASTAAARD!!"

It couldn't get any worse than that, could it? Well put your elbows on the table and aim your palms at your face, because they're fighting against aliens. As if the word 'why' hadn't entered my mind often enough already at the idea of an action movie based on a board game, an alien race is involved, for reasons I can't even begin to work out. Maybe Americans are too sensitive about which nations the good guys can still shoot down? Maybe Hollywood wants us to believe it has a sense of humour? One person told me that they're also locked into battle zones so they can't move, making it the same as the board game, except its budget is not the £10 or so that, y'know, normal people pay to play Battleship, but $200million. Oh, and the aliens. That's different too. Normally.

It's an absolute joke, this film. I wouldn't pay to watch that at the cinema. I wouldn't even wait for it to come out on DVD. I'd wait for it to appear on Sky Movies during a slow day...

Monday, 24 October 2011

A Dark Fortnight In Motor Racing

In the last two weeks, three highly respected racing drivers have died, with two of them dying shortly after brutal accidents in their respective series. Is this the sign of a lack of safety in motorsport? Is organisation getting worse? Nope, it's just a horrible coincidence. Even though I don't follow Moto GP, IndyCar or American off-road racing (think DiRT games), but I am aware of them, and whether you follow them or not, a dead sportsman is always a tragic loss, especially when in two weeks we lose an off-road champion, double Indy 500 winner and "a rising star in the world of Moto GP", someone rising to the very top of motorcycle racing. It's also a chilling reminder that despite the huge emphasis on safety in motorsport (hell, in everything) these days, and even though it's nothing like 1960s/70s Formula 1, it's never impossible to die racing.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Video Weekday - Gymkhana Faux

Uploaded: 12/10/11
Running Time: 3:42
Views (When Posted): 277,427

Hopefully by know you have seen the works of Mr. Ken Block (who has the same birthday as me, ignoring the year), a man who is now well-known for three things: Crashing out of the WRC, Gymkhana and DC Shoes, probably in that order for most rally fans. Thankfully, some British youths have acquired their own Monster Energy-branded Ford Fiesta and engaged in a good old-fashioned piss-take, entitled "Gymkhana 0.2: No Budget? No Problem!" Featuring just 10% of the power of Ken Block's purpose-built Fiesta Gymkhana, this 1986 Ford Fiesta (the Ghia version, no less) proves to be 90% as entertaining, and the video itself is hilarious! Watch out for the coughing exhaust pipe at 2:15.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Formula 1 - Japanese Grand Prix 2011

Suzuka Circuit. Dunlop Curve at Turn 7, Degner at T8 & 9, Esses = T3-6, Spoon = T13/4, 130R = T15
The Race In a Nutshell:
- Vettel forces Button to put two wheels on the grass off the line, dropping him into 3rd
- Hamilton and Massa rub cars, leaving debris, bringing out the Safety Car
- Michael Schumacher leads a Grand Prix for the first time since Japan 2006
- Button beats Vettel in the pits, Red Bulls suffer with tyre wear
- Alonso passes Vettel, closes in on Button, fails to pass him
- Vettel wins by finishing third

Top 5 Finishers: Button, Alonso, Vettel, Webber, Hamilton

Over the years, Suzuka Circuit in Japan has played host to ten F1 championship wins, including the likes of Damon Hill, Ayrton Senna, Mika Häkkinen and Michael Schumacher, and early this morning (by which I mean late in the afternoon), it became eleven. It's a good place for Formula 1, partly because Japanese fans are as dedicated as the most hardcore of Tifosi and partly because the drivers absolutely love this track, particularly the likes of the Esses section after turn 1 and the flat-out-if-you-dare 130R. Other testing corners include Spoon corner and the turn one-and-two combo, both of which are about carrying as much speed through the two parts as possible without running wide and being punished. The two "Degner" turns are just as unforgiving, even catching out Sebastian Vettel in Friday practice as he went wide out of T8 (Degner 1) and was sent straight into the close tyre wall. Not that he should feel bad about it, as over the years all the best F1 drivers and many besides have been in that wall at some point (Rubens Barrichello also slid off there on Friday, catching two wheels on the grass under braking for Degner 1 and gliding over the gravel into the tyres). It's one of the all-time great racing circuits, as well as a previous Honda test track, which explains the variety of different corner types. One sign that it's a true driver test is that all five of the world champions in the 2011 grid finished in the top six places.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Video Sunday - Supercar Sunday

Uploaded: 17/9/11
Running Time: 3:53
Views When Posted: 8,913

I'm not sure I really need to justify why you should take 4 minutes out of your time to watch this. It has a McLaren F1 in it, and that's all the persuasion you should need. Just listen to that 6.1-litre BMW V12, peek at the gold leaf under the rear spoiler/airbrake at ~1:20, ignore the squiggly sticker on the bonnet and enjoy the view. Hopefully this one won't have any copyright issues...

Friday, 7 October 2011

Formula 1 - Singapore Grand Prix 2011

Marina Bay Circuit
The Race In A Nutshell:
- Vettel wins from pole, not losing the lead at any point
- Hamilton and Massa make contact during and after the race, Hamilton penalised but climbs up to fifth place
- Schumacher gets airbourne trying to pass Pérez and brings out the Safety Car
- Vettel not crowned Driver's Champion...... yet

Top 5 Finishers: Vettel, Button, Webber, Alonso, Hamilton

Since 2008, Formula 1 has had a night race at Singapore. The artificial lights running over the cars makes them look much prettier somehow, and despite a lack of overtaking opportunities (I would straighten out turn 2 completely, make turn 1 faster and make 2 a high-speed braking zone for a less tight turn 3), it still makes for eventful racing. Recently, local government types criticised it for being "a playground for the rich", but isn't every GP?

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Video Sunday - Supraman Returns

Uploaded: 30/9/11  4/10/11
Running Time: 3:32  3:38
Views At Time of Posting: 37,215  65,507

Feel free to sit back and enjoy some uphill drifting in Lillehammer in Norway, courtesy of Kenneth Moen and his modified Toyota Supra producing what I can only assume is a million horsepowers.

P.S. I only titled it as such because it's the best Supra-based pun I could think of off the top of my head. I don't know if he's actually returning from anywhere.

[Update - 12/10/11] Sadly it has been taken down for copyright reasons, which is a shame, because it was pretty cool...

[Update - 14/10/11] Happily the video was re-uploaded since I was informed of it being taken down on copyright grounds. It now has different music at the start to avoid a lawsuit. Now Supraman really has returned!

2011 Frankfurt Motor Show Highlights

Mercedes-Benz celebrates 125 years with the F125, as modelled by Daimler boss Dieter Zetsche and his magnificent facial hair
Last week, car companies from all over the world were gathered in Germany for the Frankfurt Motor Show, one of the major shows on the calendar. In total, 91 different new models and concept cars were shown off during the ten-day event running from the 15th-25th September. Here are ten of them that stood out for me.