Thursday, 27 June 2013

NISMO and Williams Have Entered A Technology Partnership, Which Made Me Think...

"Nismo Williams" sounds like a cool name for a spy or alter ego of some kind... or a SUPERHERO type figure! Get ready, then, for The Sustainable Performance Adventures of... Nismo Williams!!
*awesome theme tune*
By day, a perfectly ordinary sodium and eel salesman...
But by night, he's a millionaire playboy street racer superhero, an Anglo-Japanese Iron Man with a four-wheeled Super Suit and a taste for danger, with the demeanor of a suited gentleman and the fighting style of a ninja warrior.
This week on The Sustainable Performance Adventures of Nismo Williams, can out hero save a city from slow, evil Pollutotrons???

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

2013 Le Mans 24H - Red and White... and Black

A fan's video of the crash explained in the third paragraph

The 24 Hours of Le Mans is the greatest and most prestigious endurance race in the world, with the same status in sports car racing and possibly motor racing overall, depending on who you ask (if you ask an American they'll probably say the Indy 500 holds that status, while older F1 buffs might give that title to the third in the "Triple Crown", the Monaco Grand Prix). The first race was run 90 years ago this month, but due to a world war here and a strike there, this is only the 81st running of the LM24, or Vingt-Quatre Heures du Mans, if you want to sound knowledgeable and say it in French. The 56-strong grid is essentially a grid of two halves, with two classes of purpose-built "LMP" prototypes racing alongside slower "GTE" road car-based machinery adapted for GT racing.

With three drivers per car driving for up to four hours at a time, the cars these days are now so reliable that they can aim to go flat out for the entire day-long race, providing they aren't slowed down by a Safety Car period. Alas, the appearance of what these days is a red Audi with flashing lights on the roof - or rather three of them spaced out around the lap due to the 8.48-mile length of Circuit de la Sarthe - is all but inevitable thanks to flat-out racing on an often-bumpy track that's as road-based as the GTE cars, as well as the speed difference between LMPs and GT cars that's much bigger in corners than it already is on straights.

This year, the Safety Car was called out just 10 minutes or so into the drizzle-sodden race, as on lap 3, Danish rising star Allan Simonsen ran onto the kerb exiting Tetre Rouge corner to find that his Aston Martin V8 Vantage GTE wasn't finding as much grip as he expected. As it slid around on the "greasy" track surface, he countersteered the slide. Suddenly, the tyres found grip and the car speared off to the left and into the barrier sideways. By some terrible stroke of luck, the Aston Martin struck part of the barrier that had a large tree right behind it, meaning that there was no give in the barrier at all. The car was smashed to pieces, with wheels and body panels falling off long after the initial impact, an impact so great that the rollcage-reinforced frame of the car was bent quite dramatically around the windscreen area (on the passenger's side). Simonsen was rushed to hospital during the hour-long Safety Car period, where tragically he succumbed to his injuries an hour or two later. He was 34. It was the first driver death during the famed endurance race in 27 years.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Formula 1 2013 - Australian Grand Prix Catch-Up

Not pictured: Vettel leading
Welcome to the first of my F1 2013 catch-up posts. I've been watching them on TV, but if you haven't been or you missed one, then fear not! A summary followed by a blow-by-blow report of each and every race this year will appear over the season. With a three-week break between an excellent Canadian GP and the good old British GP, now's as good a time as any to fill in my coverage gaps. Enjoy!

So once again, the Formula One circus rolled into the city of Melbourne, Australia for another new season of speed, controversy, bravery, strategy and crashes. With the cars mostly evolutions of last year's entries, you'd expect the results to be pretty similar, right? Well, as it turns out, no. As a qualifying session so wet it was delayed until Sunday showed, McLaren's bold switch to pullrod front suspension resulted in the same drop in competitiveness that Ferrari had when they did the same last year, which disappointed a lot of people after they'd arguably had the fastest car on the grid in 2012. What's more, the Mercedes team, who started well but were languishing in the middle of nowhere at the end of last season, surprised everyone when newly recruited Lewis Hamilton put his car third on the grid, with his best buddy and new team mate Nico Rosberg posting the fastest times of all up until Q3, at which point the usual suspects muscled their way into their party. Massa also showed that his return to form late in 2012 was set to continue by out-qualifying team mate Fernando Alonso in a much better-looking and faster Ferrari than last year.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Non-Car Post - In Which I Complain About Complaining

Depending on who you ask, we've got a hell of a lot to forget from this era...
So I follow a music page on Facetube. To be honest, I've nearly un-followed it several times, partly because it reposts everything it does at least once in the space of 6 hours (what, because people aren't going to scroll down?), but also because it posts stuff that I'm frankly sick and tired of.

One of them pertains to this welcome image they posted, an antithesis to what they normally do: whinging on about music not being as good as it was and all music today being worse and bad and wrong. Bullshit. Utter, utter arse gravy. First of all, pop music (as a genre, which it is) isn't aimed at people over 20, so people over 20 bitching that they don't like it is neither surprising or meaningful in any way. It's perhaps fair to say that there's more manufactured pop now than there was thanks to "talent" shows and whatnot, but that phenomenon has existed since the '60s, possibly even earlier. It will also continue to exist forever.

Fair enough, you can tell when a song or band has been "designed" rather than simply written, by which I mean it's just meant to be catchy and instantly relatable rather than being created just for the love of making music, and because this is what Twilight does it's perfectly OK to hate it "on principle". It is NOT okay to hate on it out loud all the time, because it just gets tedious. Do you know what else will exist forever? Good music! Music written by people you've likely never heard of that's everything you're looking for and/or more. Just because it's had to move over for the bigger selection of pop stars we have nowadays, or it's on a different chart to the one you used to look at - if you still look to charts for music - doesn't mean it's stopped existing.

The second thing they do is closely related to the first, and that's continually bash pop stars (you know the ones, Bieber, Gaga, Minaj, 1Direction and so on). Again, because of what they represent it's reasonable to hate them. But if you hate them and their music so much, do you know what you can do? IGNORE THEM. Don't listen to their songs. Don't read stuff about them. If their songs are always on the radio, change the bloody radio station! What are you doing listening to Radio 1 or whichever popular music station if you don't like pop music? There are plenty of more appropriate ones for you out there, and if you just can't be arsed to go and look for them, then you're caught between a rock and a lazy place.

Many people transitioning from pop of their time to "proper" music as they enter their teens or 20s begin to feel alienated by the new generation of pop and start to call them plastic talentless fakers, but I bet those people listened to quite a few people in their own period who could be equally slated. I mean come on, you think boybands and pop singers from the '90s are really any different? The only true difference between pop then and now, arguably, is you. Just leave pop music behind and don't look back unless you're piss drunk at a party and your old pop jam comes on the stereo. Also, it's very easy to assume that pop singers only sound good after heavy studio editing, but you may be surprised if you ever hear them singing something a little different - sure, that time Lady Gaga sang something live and pared-back and it sounded like she'd been electrocuted halfway through was comically awful, but I stumbled across a cover of an old country song by a former pop princess and it was decidedly not-terrible IMO. Not the greatest version of it I'm guessing, but still.

Anyway, my point is that there is no point. No point in hating so relentlessly on new music and pop music. If you've got a child between 5 and 12 who's into all that then you're excused, but nobody else is. This rant has ended up much longer than I was planning, and it can mostly be summed up in three words that need to be drilled into millions of people's heads for hundreds of related and unrelated reasons:


I did. I don't watch sparkly singing/dancing contests or listen to BBC Radio 1 or really have anything much to do with pop. Actually, TBH, I do still think those things about pop music, but I've accepted it and moved on, unlike some people on and off the internet. This FB page occasionally throws up funny stuff in among all the tedious, fruitless moaning, which is why it's still in my feed. But the same is true of other things, like car design and motor racing. It isn't like it was in the 60s/70s/80s/90s because it isn't the 60s/70s/80s/90s any more. The world has moved on for both better and worse. If you haven't and it bothers you then that's your problem for wearing rose-tinted glasses and hating change, and just because you only/mostly remember the good stuff from the past, doesn't mean there wasn't plenty of shit back then as well.

Or maybe I just hate hearing/reading the same complaints about something (even F1 tyres and fewer manual gearboxes) over and over and over again.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Formula 1 2013 - Don't Worry, I Haven't Forgotten

The start-finish line of Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, sponsored by some foreign airline.
So we've had six races now of the 2013 Formula 1 season, making us about a quarter of the way through the last season of V8-powered screamers. As we head into race seven at Canada, it's high time I posted race reports like I did last year, as I'm determined to keep F1 coverage up. University has been the dominating factor up to this point, but a week ago I did my last exam of my first year and was free to go home the following day. That meant I could move out of the house I was staying in, my feelings about which can be summarised by this little snippet from Friends (and no, I'm not Ross at the start):

So yes. But this year, I'm doing it a little differently. Rather than give you a long-winded report, I'll post a summary followed by a lap-by-lap (or occasionally highlight-by-highlight) account of each race, so you can choose your level of detail! This will hopefully save me some time later in the year when I go back for a second round of Uni, because I'll just be watching the race back, typing what happens and then bringing it all into a paragraph or two.

These will appear over the next week, including Canada. Enjoy the race on Sunday! It could be slippery...

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Pagani Forgets That It Stopped Making The Zonda, Makes New Zonda

"Where is the Zonda? Did it go missing? Maybe we should just make another one."
Do you miss the Pagani Zonda? Well, don't feel alone, because it appears Pagani misses the Pagani Zonda as well. Either that or they've forgotten about their ultimate final version of it, the 760RS. For those of you that missed it, the 760RS (the final Zonda) was a version of the Zonda R (the final Zonda) that you could use on the road. This followed the five-off Zonda Cinque Roadster, which was the final Zonda. All these have lead up to this, the Zonda Revolucion, which is, would you believe it, the final iteration of the Zonda. Maybe...

The name might seem confusing when you find out that this is more Evolucion than Revolucion, but really the R is separate. They've just put 'R' and 'evolucion' together to try and avoid revealing that this is just an evolution of the track-only ear-destroying Zonda R would-be racer, or perhaps because they use the same faulty keyboards as the people designing the Ferrari F12berlinetta. The unsilenced 6.0 race-spec AMG V12 has been fiddled with to produce 800PS (789bhp), a jump of around 50bhp, while also producing 539lb/ft of torque. In a car weighing 1070kg, that should be plenty! The 2009 Zonda R went from 0-60 in 2.7 seconds (thanks in no small part to having slick tyres) and past 220mph, so expect this version to be slightly faster.

But there's more! The aero package has been uprated and updated with a vertical stabiliser down its spine and more winglets from nose to tail than you can shake a McLaren MP4-23 at, as well as a new DR System. Activated either by a button or automatically (probably dependent on some drive mode), the system on the rear wing increases straight-line speed by shedding off downforce until you brake. It's unclear whether it uses the wide-but-skinny main rear wing or the new smaller one that's closer to the bodywork. To make sure the higher top end doesn't torture the already-massive Brembo carbon ceramic brakes, those have been evolved as well. The lifespan has been increased fourfold, while durability and fade resistance are also better and the four stoppers weigh 15% less than before. Oddly, the '09 Zonda R weighed exactly the same, so I guess DRS adds the difference back on. It could also be the added or improved computers, as the ABS had also been updated and the Revolucion has a new traction control system with twelve settings. Does it really need that many?

Just like the R, Cinque and Cinque Roadster, Pagani will only make five Revolucions, and because we're in an economic downturn and nobody's got any money left, they're selling each of them for €2,200,000 (plus taxes) and will sell them with ease to customers who almost definitely already have a Zonda or two in their collection. Said people will need their own race track, as this final final final version is not road legal, not eligible for any racing series and probably not able to meet the noise curfew of any publicly available circuit anywhere except in the desert, where there aren't any and the lack of air conditioning or the fixed windows would be a problem. But hey, it's a faster and crazier Zonda R! It still has four white snakes coming out of the rear end! It now has more power than any Pagani ever produced and 97% of cars on sale!

It is the ultimate expression of the Zonda, essentially a functioning concept car that you (well, not you, but someone) can buy. That makes it pretty damn awesome.

Pagani go to painstaking lengths to make the weave of "carbotanium" match up from panel to panel, with a 'V' shape down the middle
Of course, there's also a stripe down the middle. Previously it was the Pagani oval in Italian flag colours along the top
As you would expect, the details on this thing are stunning. Also, it appears the lower wing is the one with a DRS.
"Oh hey, I found it! Don't worry guys, no need to make another one after all." - Horacio Pagani
(images from Pagani, via Autocar)

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Aston Martin V12 Vantage S Proves Just How Wrong Jeremy Clarkson Was

Black-on-yellow look good on pretty much anything. Or maybe it's the AMV12 S that looks good in anything...
In February 2011 when I started this blog, one of the first proper things I wrote was about how Jeremy Clarkson's moist-eyed prediction of supercar dystopia at the end of series 13 of new-age TopGear in a film that centred around the Aston Martin V12 Vantage was in fact wrong, and that supercars will continue on for a long time whether he doubts it or not. Happily, as part of their centenary shenanigans, Aston Martin has gone and proven him wrong once and for all by replacing the V12 Vantage with this sexy little bee: the V12 Vantage S. At least, it seems they have...