Saturday, 28 July 2012

Formula 1 - British Grand Prix 2012

Silverstone Circuit. Memorise the corner names.
As Formula 1's most exciting season in a while rages on, I've struggled to keep up in terms of write-ups. Thus, the Canadian and European races will appear on here out of sequence, hopefully during F1's three-week summer break across August. You've probably already seen the races, but if I write them then I can refer back to them in future.

Anyway, three weeks ago, Formula 1 came home. Silverstone played host to the first ever race in the first ever Formula 1 World Championship, in 1950. England today is home to eight of the twelve teams (with Ferrari and Toro Rosso in Italy, Sauber in Switzerland and HRT in Spain) and many drivers as well, such as the McLaren boys and Mark Webber - yes, the latter is Australian, but he moved here because he knows what weather we have and "relishes a challenge". I may have made that last bit up. At any rate, most of the management is also British, and frankly, we just own this sport, and many many other motorsports too. Quite why we didn't add an Olympic Grand Prix to the 2012 Games, I don't know...

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Audi R8 V10 Plus Is A Normal R8 With More... Plus

Audi R8 V10 Plus
The Audi R8 has been with us since 2007. It's due to be replaced by a new R8 in a year or two, but for the time being, why not squeeze a little more out of the old one? The futuristic-looking Lamborghaudi has just been facelifted and the chassis and underfloor aerodynamics have been improved in many important and I'm sure very interesting ways.

While all the existing models weigh the same as before, the V8 R8 gains 15 horsepower and the V10 gains... nothing? That's unusual. Well, actually the V10 gains a new variant, called the "V10 Plus". That one does have more power, at 550bhp instead of the 525bhp of the "basic" V10, along with another 8lb/ft of torque, at 398lb/ft. To further set it apart from the regular V10 R8, optional extras like partially lining the engine bay in carbon fibre and adding LED "illumination" are standard, which would be a nice gesture if the Plus didn't cost more anyway...

Audi R8 V8
The Plus essentially has the engine from the R8 GT limited edition then, and now all R8s have the GT's mortar cannon exhausts, as well as five NACA ducts and two front diffusers underneath to improve airflow and boost aerodynamics without resorting to a vulgar rear wing. Well, you've got to save something for the 2014 R8 GT Plus Spyder LM Edition super-special limited edition later on, otherwise it would be harder to swindle another £20,000 or so out of the magpie-men that buy lazy SEs like that one I just made up.

Other than those changes, fancy new LED lights fore and aft, new 7-speed S-Tronic gearbox and a few chassis tweaks, it's still basically the R8 you know and have an opinion on. If you want more of a change, try again in a year or two. There'll be an eTron Concept-inspired neo-R8 waiting for you then.

Monday, 23 July 2012

New MGB Will Be Made In China, Should Stay There Forever

MG Icon Concept
As you most likely know, MG-Rover is still alive, except that Rover is now spelt Roewe (only still existing in China), and MG is currently only making a fastback-shaped Focus rival with a cheap feel and only one engine, called MG6. They plan to expand that range with an "MG3" hatchback to take on Vauxhall Corsa-sized cars, previewed by the MG-Zero Concept, and now this. This is widely being touted as a "new MGB", which will become available as both a coupé and a roadster. There's just one problem...

Saturday, 21 July 2012

TVR - Trevor's Visceral Racers

Black Cat Racing TVR Tuscan Challenge car
To cut back my history of TVR, I decided to leave out their forays into motorsport, a world to which their powerful-but-light cars are surely well-suited. So here's the rest of it.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

TVR Is Gone And They're Never Coming Back

Over time, even the wildest car companies have decided it was time to calm down and make money. Porsche now make an SUV and a 4-door executive car alongside their sports cars, Ferrari have made a four-seat shooting brake designed using customer requests rather than tradition, Lamborghini no longer has a two-wheel-drive model, and so on. Except that the wildest car company didn't calm down, because to this day, TVR has never made a boring, sensible car. Not even a particularly tame sports car. They've all been nut cases, the equivalent of a tattooed bald guy who has unspeakable piercings and rides around on a thumping great Harley-Davidson causing trouble. It's that bad-lad quality that drew people to them, in the same way that while some enjoy singing along near the back at a live music event, others get right near the front, get piss-drunk and start beating the shit out of eachother.

Alas, last week saw the end of the comatose British sports car company, as Russian billionaire and all-round bad guy Nikolay Smolensky has officially announced that TVR is, once and for all, gone. Not a very rock 'n' roll way to go, its poor financial record and somewhat niche audience (only so many people enjoy the fact that they might die tomorrow morning) meant that it's been hanging on for dear life for the last six years, and was finally allowed to let go and start spitting flames out sideways in heaven. As an obituary, here's a history of the last pure British sports car company.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

This Is The Weirdest Car You'll Find On eBay This Week

Nope, it's not a 5-Series. Guess again.
This car lives in Ipswich, in Suffolk. Ipswich likes the colour blue, as it adorns their football team's kit and has done for generations. This, however, is a slightly excessive application of blue hue, as you'll see in pictures of the engine and interior. But that's not the strangest thing about this car. You may well have recognised the rear end to be that of an E60-generation BMW 5-Series, but doesn't the wheelbase look a little... short? And where's the Hoffmeister kink that adorns the side windows of all BMWs?

OK, so this isn't actually a BMW 5-Series M-Sport, despite the rear bodywork. Let's look at the front and see what it is:

Nope, it's not an Audi A4. Guess again.
See? It's a previous-generation Audi A4. Told you it wasn't a BMW... except that it isn't an Audi either. Otherwise the proud four rings wouldn't have been covered in an ugly piece of plastic and the lower grilles wouldn't be blue, they'd be black. And they'd be grilles. We're getting warmer though, for this is an all-wheel-drive car. I'll give you a clue - it's not just ITFC that are associated with the colour blue...

Can you tell what it is yet?
OK, enough is enough. This is a 1993 Subaru Impreza WRX, featuring turbo power, a performance exhaust, uprated brakes, "audio"... and only one door handle. That seems a little odd, even when you step back and look at the whole thing to see three very different cars in one place. Does only the driver's door open? Did nobody else want to be seen in it besides the slightly loopy driver? Or did they just realise what the interior looks like and run a mile?

Hmm... needs more blue.
The dull plastic dashboard is unmolested, but personally I just hate that steering wheel. Considering the fact that the bodywork is surprisingly well-finished considering what must've been involved, that wheel looks like it cost a fiver or came off a Playstation wheel set from a brand you've never heard of. It also has blue highlights, which is true of the pedals, golf-ball gear stick and floor mats as well. The pillar-mounted gauge looks very Japanese-tuner, unlike the outside.

Try focussing on the yellow parts instead and it's not so hideous...
Under the bonnet, the 2.0-litre flat-four turbo is effectively standard-fit, save for new oil and blue hoses (ohh, the blue hoses...). Impreza rally cars featured a yellow-on-blue livery, and the engine bay's colour scheme follows suit, whether you like it or not. Amusingly, in the "power" section of the ad, the seller put "YES". Thus, we can safely assume that the Subeemeraudi actually moves.

So what must you pay for this bemusing blue BeeEmAudiRu? Currently, with six days to go, the bid stands at £4000. For that you get what other sellers would refer to as a "genuine head-turner", which has apparently come to the country from overseas, had nine previous owners and done over 110,000 miles. You're allowed to go and view the "lovely, lovely car" yourself in Ipswich, just in case you think this is some horrible Photoshop prank. You can see the advert here, or if you're reading this a week or more after it was posted, see a picture of what you've missed out on here, which includes an ad for a free eye test from Specsavers, perhaps the most appropriate bit of online advertising ever!

Just a quick note - the seller says that this car is "collocation only", so make sure that the buying process is all arranged in the right order. Clearly it's important to him/her that it is!

Monday, 9 July 2012

Ken Block's Gymkhana_Five - San Frandrifto

9/7/12, 9:52, 305 views (when posted)

Just when you thought four and a bit videos of increasingly extravagant stunt driving was enough, his right honourable hoonigan Sir Kenneth Blocketh XLIII hath returned from the wildernesses of various WRC stages - one of which he actually scored points at - to tear up San Francisco in a totally non-gay way, although some rubber did get burnt. Well, quite a lot actually. But after that, he started shredding tyres on camera(s) and here we have it, another showcase from one of the few men to whom sustained oversteer in a 650bhp Fiesta is both average and pedestrian. Drifts, jumps, drift-jumps, narrowly avoiding things, donuts, it's all present and correct. Oh, and there's some advertising in the last minute or so of it. And a barge.

Whatever opinion you have on Ken Block these days, it's a pretty good watch, although there are a few too many repeats of the same stunt for my liking when air time occurs.