Sunday, 5 August 2012

The Week In Interesting Motoring News

Logo may change if this becomes a feature
Spending a week away without internet is made easier when you have increasing amounts of British Olympic success and the occasional seaside town to keep you going, but the motoring world moves fast, and missing seven days of news is missing a lot. Happily, from my perspective at least, most motoring news is the same, be it a new facelift, intriguing new technology, obscure supercar, new model rumours and spy shots, miscellaneous industry news or more "works" from tuning companies that think they can improve on cars the world's biggest and best have spent millions getting right in the first place. Thus, I can pick out seven highlights of the week's news without too much trouble, by simply filtering the normal stuff out and picking out what interests me. Hopefully it interests you too.

Speaking of the Olympics, if you've been watching the track & field events then you may have spotted that, after the first turn of the running track, there are four little cars on the infield, occasionally with javelins sticking out of them. This is part of BMW's sponsorships of the games, as having a factory in Oxford clearly makes them British. The mini "Mini" R/C cars are used in throwing events to retrieve and deliver equipment, saving valuable time during competition. They're capable of carrying 8kg of weight, which equates to either a pair of javelins, a discus, a shotput shot or a hammer-throw hammer. They cover about 3.7 miles (6km) per day.

I'll stop going on about the 2012 London Olympics (2013 London Olympics in the US) after this paragraph, as it's proving to be highly difficult to avoid on British television, largely because there's nothing good on except the Olympics, and partly because the BBC is showing literally nothing else all day every day, except the news, whose first couple of headlines are all Olympics-based. Nevertheless, we have been owning every sport with a vehicle in it so far, with gold medals in rowing, kayaking and cycling, as well as Ben Ainslie getting his fourth career gold medal in the sailing as I type this, which brings our current gold medal total to 15 after dominating the velodrome (Team GB's Women's Team Pursuit trio beat the USA by a staggering and frankly comical 5.7 seconds, for instance), as well as winning all three of the athletics events we entered last night, meaning Mo Farah's first 10,000m gold, headline act Jessica Ennis winning the Women's Heptathlon and Greg Rutherford getting Britain's first gold in the Long Jump since 1964. And that isn't even the end of our record-breaking levels of success in our home games. It's great to see that we aren't as rubbish as comedians and pessimists have been saying for the last three or four years. Even the opening ceremony was brilliant. Here's hoping the second week brings even more success. Frankly, to catch the People's Republic (read: Communist Dictatorship) of China and the water-friendly USA in the medal table, we'll need it. Go Team GB!

Meanwhile, Ferrari are planning to draw attention to themselves in a different way, by assembling what they hope will be the biggest parade of models from the Modena masters' long and illustrious history ever. This parade will take place at the Ferrari Racing Days event at Silverstone on 15th and 16th September, which you're welcome to turn up to in your non-Ferrari and enjoy for as little as £15. At present, over 1000 cars are set to take part, which would easily smash the existing record parade of 490 Ferraris, assuming at least half of them manage to survive the journey there. In fact, if owners do all drive their Fezzas to the event, we may only see models from the last 5 or 10 years...

I hope not. In other Ferrari news, the F70 prototype has been spotted numerous times, and apparently takes inspiration from the Enzo-based Pininfarina P4/5 (and subsequent F430 Scuderia-based 'Competizione' racer) of James Glickenhaus, as well as current models with their long vertical LED headlights. The F70 is rumoured to have an 800bhp V12 and a KERS which zaps the rear wheels with another 120bhp if you end up drag racing a Veyron at any point in your travels. Two new shots of the rear end can be found here and here (from P4/5 Competizione's Facebook page).

Something we'll definitely see soon-ish is the final, finished, production version of the amazing Porsche 918 Spyder. More prototype pictures have been released, this time showing a colourful Martini Racing livery, which Porsche has announced can be ordered for your 918 Spyder if you ask nicely (hint: "asking nicely" means writing a bigger number on your cheque to Porsche). This will be the first Porsche to feature fully licensed paintwork, as the now officially VW-owned company has teamed up with the Italian drinks brand that adorned its iconic and timelessly beautiful stripes on the 917 Le Mans racer many times in the 1970s, along with countless 911-based 935s, not to mention the 936 that won the Targa Florio road race in 1973 and Le Mans in '76 and '77. While some of you may think of Lancia when you think of Martini Racing colours, it's Porsche that have the strongest bond with them, and including a bit of Le Mans heritage in a car named after their most important and iconic racing car is surely not something that people will have a problem with. In related news, a suspected production version has been spotted at what appears to be a preview event of some sort. While the lights are from the original concept car - the prototype seen here is still using the ill-fitting tail lights from a new 911 (991) - the preview car has double-stalk glass mirrors to replace the little camera fins, and uses the updated exhaust system, wherein the pipes exit right behind the driver and passenger as opposed to the concept's dual side-exit system. Their previous location appears to have been replaced by a small air intake on the right side. The limited run of 918 cars will go into production next year, on 18th September (as that's 9/18 in American), but a reveal is surely not far away considering the completeness of these prototypes.

In one last bit of supercar news, Lamborghini is going green, and I don't mean Verde Ithaca. The flagship model is getting a GT-R-style annual upgrade, much like the McLaren MP4-12C (which gained 25bhp, more colours to choose from, a mildly improved transmission, other detail changes and the ability to choose from three engine noise settings for the cabin. Oh, and a Spider version). So what do you get in Aventador version 1.1? Well, while you get some superficial carbon fibre accessories and an updated digital speedo which enlarges the number you're up to so you can better see how fast you're going, the big changes are in the engine. Without a Cygnet-style city option, Lamborghini are lowering their average CO2 output by adding Cylinder Deactivation and Stop/Start to their 6.5-litre Direct-Injection V12. Essentially, the V12 becomes a V6 when you're just cruising on minimal throttle, which saves on fuel usage by up to 20%, but when you feel the need for speed, the six dormant cylinders fire back up again seamlessly, according to Lambo. Stop/Start is pretty self-explanatory - like the system you find on Citroëns, Fiats and more relevantly Audis, the system holds the engine at 0rpm when the car's stationary, before electronically waking it up again when you set off. Unlike normal systems, however, the Aventador stores the energy needed by the system in capacitors rather than batteries (saving 3kg) and the V12 kickstarts in just 180 milliseconds, compared to Ferrari's 230ms and the ~250ms of a more normal car's S/S system. This means that overall CO2 output will drop from 398g/km to 370g/km. Hardly the 70g/km the 918 Spyder's capable of, but then that's a highly-advanced hybrid that costs about twice as much (yes, really - it's Porsche's 'halo car'). The 2013 Aventador will cost slightly more than the 2012 one and be out, I suspect, next year. The Apple technique is taking over supercars...
(more here [in Swedish], including graphs)

But enough of supercars now, because as you may have heard in recent weeks, the mighty Nürburgring has become bankrupt after, well, running out of money. The state said it wouldn't help any more, as it had already pumped €524,000,000 into the iconic track referred to by Sir Jackie Stewart as "The Green Hell", which had been given an amusement park, several hotels and a shopping centre by unpopular new owners who have done nothing to help the 'Ring stay alive. While 2012 would finish as planned, 2013 became a complete mystery for the Nordschleife and F1 track, and while it's not unreasonable to expect car companies to save it - most of them are practically relying on it to develop their new cars and make no bones about it - none of them have stepped in so far, and while Bernie Ecclestone was rumoured to step in, he said at the Hungarian Grand Prix that he "[doesn't] think it's for sale that way". Happily, however, the state have been persuaded into guaranteeing a €254million loan so that the Nürburgring can pay its debts, only to have one €254m debt left to pay back to the state. So effectively, they've done the equivalent of going to Ocean Finance. Hopefully it works out for them. While boasting about lap times around the Nordschleife has become a cliché, the track itself is still a dream drive, somewhere to go before you die if you're anything of a car fan (and where the unlucky or overambitious go to die). I wouldn't want it to be in ruins by the time I got there...

On to tuning companies then, and while vomiting naked carbon, grilles, scoops and vents all over a nice car is the wrong way to do it, the right way to do it is probably something along the lines of this. This started out life as an Ariel Atom 3, with a half-tonne kerbweight and a 2.0-litre supercharged Honda engine making around 300bhp, enough to zip the face-shredder up from 0-60 in 2.9 seconds. However, American tuners DDMWorks have decided that neither the standard car nor the parts they already make for the Atom 2 are enough, so they have taken it upon themselves to make this British flyweight into an Atomic Bomb. To create the "DDMWorks Atom 700", they swapped the Honda engine for a General Motors Ecotec 2.0 Inline-4 (as they specialise in GM-engined cars), which was then modified to produce a staggering 700 horsepower, in a car that weighs slightly more than before at 657kg. Don't feel bad about the weight gain though; that still means over 1000bhp/tonne, eclipsing a TVR Cerbera Speed 12 with relative ease. The engine in question is Twincharged, meaning that it combines the low-end shove of a supercharger with the high-end boost of a turbocharger, something that you don't see very often (although VW does it [TSI engines]). Among other elements of the engine that have been tuned up to cope with such massive amounts of forced induction, there's a new exhaust system that includes a third pipe just for the turbo, like on a Ferrari F40. A huge intercooler sits outside the rear frame to stop the turbo exploding, and sitting atop this tower of power is a reassuringly large rear wing. The semi-slick tyres on this ridiculously mad little car are also wider than before, in the hope that you might actually be able to put 700bhp down onto the road in a car that weighs the same as an Austin Mini...

On the other end of the scale, there's this. You know what this car is, don't you? Go on, tell me...... ["it's a Shelby Mustang GT500 "Eleanor" from Gone In 60 Seconds"] ......nope. You're not even close. You're not even in the right company. You're not even in the right part of the world. Idiot. This is, in fact, a Daewoo Lacetti. How could you possibly not know that? Indian magicians at "Big Daddy Customs" (yes, that's really their name...) have changed all its physical properties to those of a Daewoo Lacetti, without changing the appearance of it, much like "An Oak Tree" by Michael Craig-Martin (see here). Oh, wait, hang on a second, we don't live in the magical Land of Ooo. So, this must be a rebodied Daewoo Lacetti pretending to be a Shelby Mustang GT500, akin to the one in the 2000 remake of Gone In 60 Seconds. From this angle, it looks relatively accurate, although there are still some proportional issues that could throw you off. Still, it's more convincing than their "Moon Rover" concept, effectively a Range Rover Evoque look stretched over a Tata Safari which looks completely... unconvincing. In fact it looks like a plastic car that took an hour to make and cost a fiver, much like the nose of this 'Elea-not' does.

That said, what's actually quite impressive about this body is that it's not made of plastic - it's actually all steel and aluminium, and considering it started out as a Lacetti (TopGear's second Reasonably Priced Car, between the Suzuki Liana and Kia Cee'd) and is now Mustang-shaped, it must've taken a hell of a lot of work to do. But to what end? The result is a disproportionate, almost-convincing Mustang "replica" that is still a Daewoo saloon underneath, with no reported performance upgrades. The definition of "All Show and No Go"...

So that's what caught my eye this week. Next up, I'll be attempting to catch up on F1 reports... while enjoying the Olympics, of course!

1 comment:

  1. B0mb the Nürburgring!
    James May is right!