Tuesday, 23 December 2014


Normally I wait until Christmas Day, but this year I'll be all-encompassing and post a little message between the various religious holidays.

This time of year was cause for celebration long before religions and commercialism characterised it in their own ways around the world*. Even thousands of years ago, after the longest night, humans gathered together and celebrated life and love while they still had it, before the harsh conditions of winter took its toll on the weaker population. Thanks to central heating and online groceries, nowadays this is not such an issue for most, but life nonetheless remains precious and temporary. People change year on year and sometimes even disappear. Cherish this time when they're still here.

As you gather this winter, regardless of which religious holiday you celebrate (or exploit for time off), enjoy the company of your loved ones and have a warm, happy winter celebration.

I promise I'll still be alive next year to give you more aimless ramblings about cars. You lucky thing...

*Source:, of all places

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Mercedes-Benz GLE "Coupe" Is Everything Wrong With New Cars

FUN FACT: "GLE" is German for "Troll Car"
OK look, we've been here before. I've done long rants about crossovers, I've done long rants about preposterous niche cars that make no sense, I recently did a long rant about diluting brand vales and I've even made fun of Mercedes-Benz's naming system before. I'm not going to waste too much time getting my opinions across on this new GLE Coupe [it's not a god damned fucking coupé you daft cynical marketing-department bastards......]

Here is a >1000-word rant condensed into note form, by seeing if the GLE can fill a checklist of all the things wrong with new cars from this decade so far:

✓ Meaningless Alphanumeric Name (Bonus Point for vastly inaccurate engine-size numbers)
Performance-Branded Version [GLE450 AMG] Not Actually Engineered By Said Performance Brand
✓ Fills a Nonsensical Market Niche (Bonus Point for thinking they can merge two polar opposites)
✓ Off-Roader Designed/Engineered Specifically for On-Road Use [See 22" wheels on low-profile tyres, for one...]
✓ Numerous Grilles, Some of which Are Fake
✓ Fake Engine Noises (Bonus Point for also amplifying gear-change noises for whatever reason)
✓ A Trillion "Driver Modes" for Transmission, Suspension, Driver Aids, Fake Engine Noise, etc.
Stupid OTT Name For A Feature [heated windscreen with automatic wipers called "MAGIC VISION CONTROL"]
✓ Huge Heavy Car with [probably] Numb Electric Steering Marketed as a "Sports Car."
✓ Cynical Marketing Ploy to Exploit Gullible Rich People
✓ Automatic Transmission with More Gears Than You'd Ever Really Use [9-speed]*
Baffling Array of Expensive Optional Extras [it's German so we can take this as a fact immediately]
✓ Non-Retracting iPad-Style Dashboard Tablet Screen That Sticks Out Like A Sore Thumb
✓ Pisses Internet Car Enthusiasts Off By Being Idiotic But Selling By The Bucket-Load [probably]
✓ Marketing Department Pretending It's New and Innovative When It Isn't [BMW X6, anyone?]

See dash screen for annoying design feature #352
X 1,000,000 different body surfaces to try making it look "stylish" [this car only has like 100 so it gets a pass, see Lexus NX for exemplary surface-rape]
X SUV from a brand that exists to make Sports Cars/GTs/Supercars [Mercedes generally make everything so it's not blasphemous on that level]
X Huge retro version of a famous small car

OK, so it misses out on three of the items, but it got pretty close to being everything wrong with the car industry today. On that last , if you want to see just how much the marketing people went to town on the Press Release, click here. It's a pile of bullshit almost as tall as the car itself...

Remember, kids, just because somebody does something wrong over and over again, doesn't mean it becomes right. Saying "alot" instead of "a lot" all the time doesn't make it a word, it just means you're always doing it wrong. Cars like this are the same deal...

*They add more 'economy gears' so that it cruises at really low revs at 60-80mph and allows them to claim a higher overall MPG figure. Because apparently overdrive isn't cool anymore.

[If you see this writing anywhere other than Small Blog V8, it has been copied without the author's permission and should be reported]

Friday, 5 December 2014

Aston Martin DB10 - Missiles Or GTFO

Aston Martin DB10
In case you've lacked any kind of internet signal for the past three days, you'll need me to tell you what this car is. This is the Aston Martin DB10, and despite the name it's NOT a replacement for the DB9 (although damn does that car need a replacement). Instead, this compact GT, which is based on the also-increasingly-antiquated V8 Vantage, has been specifically commissioned for SPECTRE, which is the new James Bond movie.

First of all, it's gorgeous. Finally we're seeing some evolution of Aston Martin's design language, something we all needed to see after they spent the last five years being lazier even than Audi's designers (who basically just photocopy an existing model and then change the shape of the lights). I think it's fair to say that the roof and the tail lights (see below) are borrowing rather a lot from the jaw-dropping Jaguar F-Type Coupé, but then Aston and Jaguar have always been following each other's fashions, so it's almost excusable on that basis... and for the fact that it makes for a stunning body.

Only 10 of these will ever be built, and all of them will be used in the upcoming 007 movie, SPECTRE. After celebrating 50 years of the world's most ostentatious and perverted spy with Skyfall, the 24th Bond film brings back the global terrorist organisation originally seen in Ian Fleming's novels (and the first movies) whose name is an acronym for SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion. Obviously.

Little is known about this film thus far, except that it won't be out for another 11 months and it features some actors. Also the story will link back to the end of Skyfall in some way. Based on the other Daniel Craig-era 007 movies thus far, it seems likely that rather than featuring a non-parody version of Dr. Evil based in a hollowed-out volcano full of rockets, it will be all gritty and realistic, and the bad guy - almost definitely called Ernst Stavro Blofeld - will probably be a corrupt business tycoon in a premium tuxedo who plans to hack into All The Computers and win at trendy cyber-terrorism to take over the world in a modern, cool way that's "more down-to-Earth" (or "less pie-in-the-sky," if you prefer). His evil base will probably be a hollowed-out block of brushed-aluminium, glass-edged architect's wet dream full of touch screens and classy, light blue or white strip lighting and not a single un-polished surface to be found. Just a row of crystal-clear shot glasses and lots of premium-branded premium products.

Speaking of premium-branded products, the previous (premium) Bond cars in Daniel Craig's (premium) movies have been just that and nothing more, which remains a bitter - and premium - disappointment. The only gadgets the Aston Martin DBS ever had were a custom (premium) glovebox and the ability to roll over spectacularly at high speed for no obvious reason. In Skyfall they brought back the old DB5 just to ram home that the new cars simply aren't as cool, not just because they aren't from the 1960s but because they don't have retractable missile launchers or oil slicks or a pop-up bullet shield or an invisibility cloak or a smoke screen. Do these people really think that the Goldfinger DB5 became the most famous movie car of all time purely based on British (premium) branding and Italian body styling? I get that they wanted to make it all gritty and realistic just like literally every big action movie this decade, but they've toned it down too much for too long. We need gadgets! That was always the coolest part! Gadgets and a crazy villain in a crazy evil base. The previous film at least had a proper villain, rather than a weepy guy who plays cards and then whips Bond's testicles for a bit, but the DBS was still a bit part, not a full character. All it did was appear for the sake of it and then crash.

Ask yourself: which makes for the better movie spy-car?

Right: The DBS from Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. Left: The Van(qu)ish from Die Another Day
The correct answer is the one on the right, even if you think the DBS looks better than the Vanquish, which is a whole other debate. Even if you think Die Another Day was a worse movie, which is yet another other debate (at the very least I think we can agree Skyfall was the best Craig movie thus far). OK, it's hard to keep a 50+ year-old movie franchise fresh and sometimes the only way to refresh something so ridiculous is to pare it back a bit and focus on substance... are you listening, TopGear?

But therein lies the problem: James Bond is inherently ridiculous! A real spy would sneak around in a silver Mondeo with a camera and a smartphone, not powerslide an Aston Martin through a town with a gun in his hand and a Martini in the glovebox. He wouldn't single-handedly take down a terrorist organisation by shooting all the men and banging all the women before throwing the big boss into a shark/acid bath/jet engine/LASER shark/outer space/toothy munchy machine thing/miscellaneous crevasse. Now that the makers of Bond films have brought things down to Earth, they need to build things back up again. Embrace the crazy! If anything there's more of a challenge in finding ways to incorporate mad gadgets like grappling-hook watches and tranquiliser pens without it feeling like a parody than there is in finding ways to incorporate more classy innuendos and smoldering glances and new-money filming locations.

Personally I think Craig's Bond will get pretty boring if he keeps spending the movie sulking at things and punching guys in the dick. Lots of action movie heroes do that and always have. We get subtle references to old favourites, but little more. I want this DB10 to be an iconic Bond car, not a prop to make people look at Aston Martin. People already look at Aston Martin! The DB10 is a one-off (well, ten-off) just for this movie, so for it to be a pure 007 car through and through, it needs the side vents to fire missiles. It needs those blade-like wheel spokes to stab and/or slash at things. There needs to be an ejector seat, or a jet-powered Honda Motocompo escape bike in the boot, or an autonomous function that talks in John Cleese's voice. It needs something. Otherwise it will just be yet more premium nothing.

Your mission is clear, Eon Productions. Don't ruin the car.


Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Holy FXXK! Hardcore LaFerrari [UPATED] vs P1 GTR

Ferrari FXXK
One question that keeps popping up in reviews after comparing the likes of LaFerrari and the McLaren P1 is "Where on Earth do they go from here?!" The answer? To the track. Ferrari is not averse to modifying its road cars so extensively that they're no longer road legal. We've seen the Enzo-based FXX crushing all on TopGear at the hands of Michael Stigmacher, and the 599XX set an obscure lap record around the Nürburgring for "production-based" cars (only to be beaten by the Pagani Zonda R with a 6:47). Now, we have the same recipe applied to the storied Italian brand's latest flagship, LaFerrari, to make what they're calling the FXX K. Insert wordplay here.

The 'K' stands for 'KERS,' a device missing from the previous FXX. Yup, the brave multi-millionaire drivers will be subjected this time to assault and battery, as LaFerrari's immense powerplant has been modified all over. The 6.3-litre V12 has had an extra 50 horsepower squeezed out of it to make 860PS (848bhp), while the KER System [sic] chucks an extra 190PS (187bhp) at the rear wheels the very instant you floor it, up from the street LaFez's 160PS of electric boost. That adds up to 1050PS all-in, or 1035bhp if you still prefer it in old money, all going to the rear wheels via a 7-speed DCT. Oddly, the official torque figure is the same at "over 664lb/ft," a claim that seems all the more Italian when you notice the McLaren P1 packs 663lb/ft......

Engineering types might want to know that to get this extra punch from the engine, Ferrari gave the V12 new camshafts, redesigned intake manifolds and mechanical tappets (the device that lifts the valves) instead of the typical hydraulic ones. Er, good? Oh, and the exhaust silencers have been removed, because literally nobody in the world dislikes the sound of a track-spec Ferrari V12 engine. As for the electric motor side of things, drivers get to choose the nature in which the "HY-KERS" augments that ferocious V12, from full-blast 'Qualifying' mode, to 'Long Run' which balances boost force and battery life, and 'Manual Boost' where the driver chooses when to use it. There is also a 'Fast Charge' mode that lets the regenerative brakes do their job to the fullest. It's not just about the power, though. The body has been given a full WEC-inspired makeover to generate 50% more downforce than the original LaFez, with high-mounted winglets attached to awesome tail fins, a huge dual-element front spoiler and a cartoonishly big rear diffuser. Let's go back to the tail fins though. Like the street car, the aerodynamics on the FXXK are active. The large gap between the little winglets can be bridged by an equally-large pop-up rear wing in "High Downforce Mode." In Low Downforce Mode, said wing rests between the unique aero-sculpted tail lights, while the fin-winglets act as guide vanes. I'd be surprised if there weren't moving diffuser flaps as well, like LaFez but also the 458 Speciale. Ferrari claim this FXXK-load of negative lift amounts to as much as 540kg at ~125mph (200km/h). Heaven only knows what downforce it's generating at 200mph, but this car's bespoke Pirelli slick tyres ought to be able to handle it...

It's been suggested that Ferrari will build just 30 of these cars, and just like the previous 'XX' cars, they're not even slightly road legal. They're not eligible for racing either. Instead, they are devices for Ferrari's ongoing research and driver development programme. Over the next two years lucky squillionaires will be invited to track days to do laps in their car and gather data which Ferrari will use to inform development of future road cars. On that note, those slick tyres have sensors embedded in them which give data about lateral, longitudinal and radial acceleration, so the Italian stallions can also tell you where and when you were being too harsh on them. Also helping you preserve the tyres is a development of the 458 Speciale's Side Slip-angle Control system, which essentially allows the car to slide without allowing it to spin. Performance figures haven't been released, but with slick tyres and an extra 90 horsepower, it ought to do 0-60mph in 2.5 seconds or less, really. LaFerrari does it in 2.9s with road tyres, after all.

The price? Guesstimates say £2m, $3m, but it's irrelevant. Those who need to know the price have the money to handle whatever it is. All I want to know now is what this thing sounds like!

UPDATE (5/12): While I haven't found out what it sounds like, TopGear recently pointed out that this FXXK is a whole 5 seconds faster around Pista di Fiorano - Ferrari's own test track - than LaFerrari (1:14.x vs 1:19.x). It also weighs about 90kg less than LaFez, which from what I can work out gives it a dry weight of 1165kg. So that's over 1000 horsepower propelling the weight of a Fiesta ST! Compared to the previous FXX, it generates 42% more downforce, has fewer steering wheel settings to make it less mind-boggling to operate and will be slightly more common - 40 will be built, each costing about €2.5m. Not that it matters, as all are sold out.


...But it doesn't end there...

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Watch LaFerrari Get Harris'd FOR FREE

It is the Ferrari-est Ferrari that's ever Ferrari'd. Planet Car's most famous brand's past, present and near future, summarised in a single machine worth over a million of your Earth monies. It is THE Ferrari. It is LaFerrari. It is fecking fast, as you'll be told both objectively and subjectively by one Chris Harris in the above video. Previously you were only given the privilege of viewing the full 15-minute review video if you signed up for the controversial /DRIVE+ channel and promised to pay £2.50 every month (albeit after 14 free days)... to watch one channel of YouTube videos! Bollocks to that, said most. If you didn't find a rip of this video on Dailymotion or Pirate Bay when it came out, then you'll be thrilled to know that the presenter of this video has listened to those internetters crying bollocks and gone solo, on a free channel. As an apology, he's uploaded the full-length pay videos to watch for free, having chopped off the start and end titles to avoid copyright awkwardness.

The most noteworthy of these, is this. The car that has perhaps made more headlines, turned more heads and started more debates than any other car since the Bugatti Veyron. A hybrid Ferrari?! Say it ain't so! Oh, but it is, obnoxious name and all, and this is the future for all V12 Ferrari models. It matters that this car is good, and all signs point towards it being possibly the best of the three "hybrid hypercars" as a driving experience. So, sit back and watch "monkey" Harris shred rubber on Italian mountain roads and then throw it around Pista di Fiorano (Ferrari's test track) a few times for good measure.

If you watch this and feel that actually, Mr. Harris does deserve your support - and you've got the requisite kindness in your heart and cash on your card - then you can chip in without supporting an exploitative system, by donating to his account on Patreon. This will charge you the amount you specify (in US dollars) at the end of each month once over for every time he uploads a video in said month, and that money will only be used to make a living out of thrashing exotic cars and filming what happens. Once he works the system out, you will also be entitled to exclusive perks and/or rewards. I hope this appeals, as I suggested the idea... ;-)

If you need further convincing, here's his first breakaway video, featuring the Ferrari 458 Speciale and Porsche 911 GT3 (991). Neither of them catch fire.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Gymkhana 7 - BIGGER SKIDS








DOIN' SKIDS AROUND A BURNT-OUT IMPREZA! (a nod to the first Gymkhana?)











Er... yeah. You know the drill. An improvement on the last couple of Gymkhanas, but aside from the maniacal all-wheel-drive Custang (yes, I'm sticking with Custang, F U) it's not exactly groundbreaking. Still, that doesn't mean it isn't enjoyable!

Bonus Video:


[If you read this somewhere other than Smallblog V8, it's been copy-pasted without my permission]

Friday, 31 October 2014

Formula 1's Politics Are As Fatally Flawed As Real Politics (UPDATED)

I'm back earlier than expected, so that, predictably, I can get an big angry rant out of my system.

[Updates at the bottom of the article]

For those of you following Formula 1 - while I sadly no longer have the freedom to write race reports and such, I do still follow the sport closely - it is not news to you that F1 2014 started with a grid of 22 cars, yet will most-likely finish with a grid of just 18. Caterham and Marussia, perennial backmarkers since they first appeared as Team Lotus and Virgin Racing in 2010 (along with the farcical Hispania Racing Team, who folded after 2012), have both gone into administration this week and will miss the US and Brazilian Grands Prix, potentially also missing the double-points finale in Abu Dhabi in three weeks' time. Caterham's financial woes have been widely publicised for some time now, with buyers appearing and disappearing, bailiffs ravaging their Leafield factory and outgoing owner Tony Fernandes desperate to get away from it, but Marussia's issues haven't been so prominent, perhaps partially because all such issues are dwarfed by their star driver Jules Bianchi being comatose and in a critical condition in Japan after hitting a tractor in heavy rain at around 120mph at Suzuka a month or so ago.

It is easy to point and laugh, especially at Caterham who have never scored points, adopted a pay-to-drive system earlier in the season (with endurance racer Andre Lotterer appearing seemingly at random for the Belgian GP) and have a hideous and utterly unreliable car that looks dreadful to drive and usually finishes last. The fact is, though, that competing in Formula 1 is ferociously expensive. An Autosport article recently laid bare what an average team - the likes of Sauber, Lotus and Force India - are spending just on building and running two F1 cars (in US dollars):

Hybrid power system
$28 million
Gearbox and hydraulics
$5 million
Fuel and lubricants
$1.5 million
Tyres (previously free)
$1.8 million
$1.95 million
$3 million
Salaries (EXCLUDING drivers)
$20 million
Travel and track-side facilities
$12 million
Chassis production/manufacturing
$20 million
Windtunnel/CFD facilities
$18.5 million
Utilities and factory maintenance
$2 million
HR and professional services
$1.5 million
$5 million

TOTAL: $120,250,000

Bear in mind that ON TOP OF THESE expenditures, they then have to spend money on driver salaries (anywhere from half a million to over ten million and beyond), building leases, hospitality, marketing and media. Also bear in mind that this is for mid-field teams. The big teams spend a hell of a lot more than that. Caterham and Marussia don't even have that much money at all, and they're not the only teams struggling for finance; Sauber and Lotus have been hanging on by the skin of their teeth, even though both have - under one name or another - been in the sport for decades. Williams also posted a loss of £20m ($32m USD) in the first half of this year as they invested in their future.

But what about the money that goes in? The teams get around $55 million from commercial rights, roughly half what is needed on average, while the rest comes from their sponsors and, crucially, where they finish in the World Constructor's Championship each year. The prize money they get varies by tens of millions. If you want a full breakdown then click here (opens in new tab), but the bottom line is that while 10th-place Marussia got $14m at the end of last year, champions Red Bull got nearly $102m. Ferrari "earned" $81m under the current two-column reward system, but on top of that, they get at least 2.5% of the total prize money fund every year ($17.5m in 2013, more than Marussia earned at all), just for staying in F1. Because they're special or something.

2014 US Grand Prix, team's press conference
The team's press conference this evening essentially demonstrated the fundamental issues with the way Formula 1 is run.

Because the teams have to agree unanimously on allowing changes to the sport - even the rules and regulations - nothing in the area of financing has changed. A budget cap has been proposed multiple times in the last 5-10 years (first £40m, then £100m IIRC) and not accepted, because the top teams would probably lose their advantage.

This evening we had the bosses of Lotus, Sauber and Force India on the back row, with the Mercedes-Benz and McLaren bosses up front (Claire Williams couldn't make it to the USA, so only five team principles were present). The back row expressed clear concerns and know exactly where the flaws are with the financial structure of the sport - unbalanced distribution of funds and so on, which lead to an ever-bigger gap between rich and poor teams - and yet Toto Wolff, boss of Mercedes, just sat there saying "just spend only what you have." That's a very easy position to take as both the new World Constructor's Champion and the highest-spending team in the sport. McLaren boss Eric Boullier was less obnoxious because he was only recently at Lotus and knows what the back-row teams are dealing with, but still shrugged off or talked his way around the ideas that were put forward to solve the issues.

So the rich teams defend themselves by being obnoxious (especially Toto) while the struggling teams try to get through to them. As with many political issues, stubbornness and greed are blocking perfectly feasible changes.

Oh, by the way, bigger teams running three cars is not a feasible solution, because to keep it fair the third car wouldn't count in the Constructor's Championship. So if a third Mercedes finishes P3, nobody scores those 15 points. They're not passed down. It would just make it even harder for smaller teams to succeed, plus the third car can act as a "rear gunner" when championships are on the line. Thankfully we won't need to worry about the effect of this system unless we lose another team, as the minimum grid size allowed is 16 cars (not 18 as initially reported by the press).

Worse still, the governing body is NOT governing. The core issue aside from financial imbalance is that the teams have too much power. The FIA needs to strap on a pair, step in and take the decision out of their hands so that a decision is actually made. But the FIA is staffed by dinosaurs of equal greed, and the commercial rights holders include Bribey Ecclestone and bribe-able CVC.

So, if nothing changes, more teams will fall by the wayside. One point made by Lotus boss Gerard Lopez is that no major sponsors have entered F1 in the last two years [in fact, at the end of 2013, Vodafone pulled out after 11 years]. The only new teams trying to enter are hopeless optimists starting from scratch who will have no chance of victory, as demonstrated by HRT, Caterham and Marussia since 2010. Honda are only brave enough to re-enter as an engine supplier - not as a whole team - largely because of the new marketing-friendly Hybrid Power-Units they can use to justify the eventual NSX Hybrid sports car. Audi joining in 2016 is pure hear-say generated by ex-Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali joining Audi Sport and journalists subsequently joining some floating dots together to make it believable. Don't believe it.

Nobody else is interested. Porsche, Toyota and now Nissan have all decided that the World Endurance Championship is a far better/more relevant avenue to pursue, and frankly seeing the first of those two genuinely taking the fight to dominant Audi at Le Mans this year was pretty awesome. More exciting than a single manufacturer team strolling off into the distance, like in F1 this year...

If the small teams continue to drop and new teams continue to disappoint, then we'll only have Mercedes, Ferrari, Infiniti-Red Bull and McLaren left. If any of those four keep losing the championship - and three of them have to lose each year, of course - then they'll no longer be able to justify staying and they'll pull out too, like Toyota and BMW did in 2010. If everyone had a "B-Team" (like Toro Rosso to Red Bull), as has also been suggested by some, then one of the Big Four pulling out could see two teams disappear instead of one.

Then Formula 1 essentially dies.

This is why the old fogies at the FIA need to grow a spine and take control. The teams aren't going to do it on their own, because the ones at the top don't want to. It shouldn't be their decision anyway...

The rich want to stay rich to the point of ignoring those who struggle, meaning the poor stay poor. Greed cockblocks fairly straightforward change and there's bribery and corruption at the top. It's just like running a country!!

This was written by Michael Gooderham for Small Blog V8 on 31/10/2014. If you see this writing elsewhere (aside from Formula Freak), it has been stolen.


UPDATE (2nd November): Someone sent me a link to an 11-year-old Autosport Forum post regarding money distribution in Formula 1 at that time. In it, Ron Dennis outlines (in the 2003 Australian GP press conference) how the Prize Money was handed out at the end of the 2002 season.

This is how much things have changed:

In 2002 the World Constructor's Champions (Ferrari) got twice as much as 10th place (Toyota). $22m vs $11m.

In 2013 the World Constructor's Champions (Red Bull) got MORE THAN SEVEN TIMES as much money as 10th place (Marussia). $101.5m vs $14m.

Oh, and because Caterham have finished 10th enough times in previous seasons, they actually got more than twice as much as Marussia, despite finishing behind them. There's a two-column system that rewards teams who have been around a while, see. A kind of combo bonus. Marussia didn't get "Column 1" money because they hadn't finished 10th before 2013.

So, assuming all is accurate, the gap between 11th and 10th last year was bigger than the gap between 1st and 10th a decade and a bit ago.

And the big teams are shrugging this off?!?! How is this possibly NOT a problem?!


UPDATE (6th November): F1 journo Joe Saward recently put together this infographic as an approximation of how the system works (the historical payments in particular are educated guesses):

From his blog:

"It is impossible to give correct figures in relation to the Formula 1 payment structure because they are based on the financial returns of each year and then a complex web of percentages, mixed with fixed payments in places. Plus, of course, the whole thing is confidential and so no-one is supposed to provide the world with details. However, this is the structure that I believe is correct (although no-one can complain if they do not make the real numbers public). The reality is that this is pretty close to what happens, although the historical payments are still rather vague (and may have been one-off payments)."

Saturday, 18 October 2014

SBV8: Pit Stop

As anyone who regularly checks this blog - and anyone who's looked at the sidebar - can testify, I haven't posted anything yet this month. I considered covering the horrendous accident of Jules Bianchi, but decided against using his terrifying misfortune for my own personal gain. I was also planning to make a big post about the 2014 Paris Motor Show, but then my housemates and I talked about going ourselves and I decided to hold off until we'd been. However, it hasn't happened, and now that my university Major Project is getting serious, I'm not sure if I really have the time to keep this up. I've already struggled to make my minimum of 4 posts a month for a few reasons, so it's probably best to just pit in and park Small Blog V8 for a little while. If you sign up for email updates or follow me on Twitter then you'll know when to start coming back. I'll endeavor to post over the holidays and potentially put up some sketches and other things from my project as I go.

Until next time!

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Recoil is the New Gymkhana

Hey everyone, remember Ken Block? Y'know, that guy with the rally cars who did skids and stuff in a Subaru and then a Ford? Well, unfortunately, it turns out that you can have too many sequels, so the "Gymkhana" series of videos has ground to a halt as he practices not crashing in proper rally racing. In the meantime, Monster Energy decided to find another hot-shoe with a powerful toy and some obstacles to play with. Oh, and some utterly gratuitous "bikini babes" for anyone whose attention can't be held by an 800-horsepower Trophy Truck (the likes of which takes on the fearsome Baja 1000 desert race) doing skids and, most importantly, jumping off stuff. Mexican stuff. So kick back and crank open a can of heart disease for 7 totally rad minutes - well, 6 totally rad minutes followed by slightly weird credits - and enjoy as "Ballistic BJ Baldwin" punches gravity in the dick. Over and over again.

Oh, and if you haven't seen the first Recoil video - because admittedly, I hadn't either - then here it is. In this simpler but prettier shoot he's deep in the depths of Another Place when he jumps over a tuned GT-R and makes an E92 M3 look lame as he picks up a model for a date. Because, when you have a Trophy Truck, that's just kind of how your life is...... right???

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Formula E Review - Race 1

Turn one of... The Future
Racing cars without engines?! It'll never work! Much has been said and debated about the all-new FIA Formula E Championship, with some elements making it promising and some others perhaps leaving us a little worried. We've seen the cars, we knew that a host of ex-F1 and current sports car drivers would make up the majority of the grid, and we knew that - rather embarrassingly - the drivers would have to swap cars halfway through the roughly-45-minute race because the batteries run flat so quickly. Oh, and Twitter users can bestow extra power on three drivers of their choosing. Could it possibly work?

Today on the streets surrounding the Beijing Olympic Park, we found out.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

New Car Threesome!

Mazda MX-5 (ND), Jaguar XE, Mercedes/AMG GT
In the past week or so, three significant new cars have appeared from three major manufacturers, and all three have every right to be very, very good, given that they're entirely in their respective manufacturer's comfort zone. Up top is the internet's love thing, the Mazda MX-5. In the middle is a compact sports saloon apparently worth making a song and dance about, the Jaguar XE. Just above this text is the new AMG sports car to replace the SLS, simply called "GT." This is not a comparison, but a quick-fire report on each of them in one post. These are the latest hot properties from Planet Car.

Brand Dilution: How Far is Too Far?

A four-wheel-drive hatchback made by Ferrari, yesterday
After another bitterly disappointing showing at the Italian Grand Prix last weekend, which saw Fernando Alonso retire with an electronics failure and Kimi Räikkönen scrape a 9th place finish, Ferrari have extended their massive internal overhaul to the very top, with long-time president Luca Cordero di Montezemolo being kindly asked to resign after 23 years of generating huge growth and success for the legendary Italian company both on the roads and, for most of the 2000s, on the circuit. Taking his place will be the boss of the FIAT-Chrysler Group that owns them, Sergio Marchionne, who has already made clear that he has a very different philosophy to Montezemolo, who capped production at 7000 cars a year to preserve the brand's exclusivity and overall special-ness and calls this change "the end of an era". Under Marchionne's rule, FIAT has designed the most disgusting Italian car for a generation, the 500L (yes, worse than the 1998 Multipla). So, with him in charge of what's arguably the automotive world's Disney, what threatens to be in store for Ferrari over the next few years? As well as that, how much of what will most likely be a dilution of the brand be truly justifiable? Is there a limit, or, in this current age of mass automotive sacrilege, does anything go these days?

Thursday, 24 July 2014

A Trip Through The Mercedes-Benz Museum, Part 1: Motorsport

Winners in German Touring Cars [DTM], Le Mans, Formula 1, Indy 500 and Truck Racing, all in one shot... and that's not all!
2014 marks a rather significant anniversary for one of the world's oldest car companies. On 22nd July 1894, an event widely considered to be history's first motor race took place, called Paris–Rouen, Le Petit Journal Competition for Horseless Carriages (when translated from French). The first four non-steam-powered cars to cross the line used internal combustion engines that were designed and engineered by Gottlieb Daimler, whose company would later become known through various mergers as Mercedes-Benz. 120 years after powering a Peugeot chassis 1192km towards victory, and 100 years after filling an entire podium at Lyon (read more here), Mercedes-Benz are now treating the current Formula 1 grid like Brazilian defenders, with the crushingly fast AMG F1 W05 having won nine of the ten Grands Prix held thus far. Back in March, I visited their gigantic museum in Stuttgart, where the company is based, and an entire floor was dedicated to showcasing their motorsport history, arguably longer and more illustrious than any other, and possibly the most varied to boot. Let's take a nice, long look.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

BMW-Mini Driver Almost Delivers Someone's Darwin Award

When you're learning to drive, the idea is to learn not just how to operate a vehicle, but how to use said vehicle as a user of the public road network in a way that isn't hazardous or obstructive to other road users. You know, like a good human being, one responsible enough to propel themselves along at 20-80mph in (usually) a tonne or two of metal, plastic, and maybe some carbon fibre. Forgive me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure that includes parking in such a way as well. The video above contains someone parking in a way Science would call "not well." Almost catastrophically "not well," in fact.

We join the action on the (in)famous Nürburgring Nordschleife, which is of course both a race track and a public road. Average schmoes pay their fee and tackle The Green Hell at full unlimited speed in whatever vehicle they've used to transport themselves and their GoPro cameras there. As you can see, this is awesome... right up until someone leaves their brain at the toll gate.

From what I can work out by pausing the video to analyse the scene - which the driver of this BMW "Mini" Cooper was presented with on the exit of a flat-out, blind corner - a Suzuki Swift Sport (red) has collided with a motorbike and wound up next to the barrier, on the grass. A BMW E36 Compact and Audi S3 (or rather the occupants thereof) evidently decided to stop and make sure the rider was OK. Perhaps they were right behind when it happened. I haven't been to the 'Ring yet, so I don't know what the etiquette is, but I think people pulling over to ensure the well-being of their fellow petrolheads is a thing that sometimes happens. There is also a marshal waving a yellow flag, as per race track rules, to warn drivers of an incident and that they need to slow down.

Standard procedure then, except that a total lack of basic commonsense has turned "standard procedure" into "serious hazard." The BMW driver just plain stopped on the spot, right in the middle of a race track, just after a blind corner on a fast section of the circuit. What's more, the sole marshal standing right next to the crash scene to warn people of an accident is about as helpful as someone in the park shouting "Watch out!" just as the boomerang hits you in the face.

The only one doing the right thing is the driver we're on board with, who stays calm enough to point his car between the stationary BMW and the people standing around as he stomps on the brakes, whereas I probably would've had a heart attack and ploughed straight into said 3-Series. He draws to a halt on the grass and out of harm's way, as the blue S3 awkwardly wanders off, and gets out to hopefully give everyone involved an earful once he knows the accident victim(s) is/are OK.

All it would've taken for this to be an uninteresting driving-past-a-crash video is even a little bit of situational awareness from the people originally at the crash scene.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Goodwood Festival Of Speed 2014

This year's giant sculpture was in tribute to 120 years of Mercedes-Benz in motorsport. It's the first one I've seen that actually stretches right over the top of Goodwood House, like a rainbow... but with no colours.
The Goodwood Festival Of Speed is so good that it's almost impossible to appreciate or even do everything it has to offer in one day, so I bought tickets for two days... and still didn't get around to everything. This automotive Glastonbury sells out every year - with attendance now capped at 150,000 people over the weekend - simply because there is nothing else like it on Earth. Over the last 21 years it has gained unrivalled pulling power in terms of car manufacturers and private owners of history's greatest and rarest racing machines, meaning that if there's a car you just wish you could see one day, it's either here or has been previously.

The festival deliberately takes place on the weekend before the British Grand Prix, so that Formula 1 has no excuse not to represent itself at the event each year, with its current racing and/or test drivers taking cars from the previous season - or perhaps historic championship-winning cars like the 1988 McLaren MP4/4, 1996 Williams FW18 and the 50-year-old Ferrari 158 - and showing them off up the short but sweet Goodwood Hillclimb Course. Some go slowly, some do burnouts, others (in recent cars) go the whole hog and do donuts. Drivers not pedalling F1 cars can even go as fast as they dare up the hill to see how they compare to the record time of 41.6 seconds, set in 1999 by Nick Heidfeld in a 1998 McLaren MP4/13. An exhibition, a motor show, a race against the clock, a celebration of fast cars in all their forms, a bloody great day out. Read on to find out why you should definitely go next year.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Goodwood Moving Motor Show 2014

It's that time of year again! University's done for the summer, I've got student loan money left over and it's time for Goodwood. If you don't know what the Goodwood Festival of Speed is, you must not be much of a car fan. It's like Glastonbury for petrolheads, as if someone's erected an automotive Disneyland just north of Chichester in Southern England. Even the drive down, once you get onto the A287 and A286, is brilliant, with wide roads sweeping and undulating through the trees and quaint little villages until you arrive at Goodwood Racecourse, from where you're directed to a big field full of like-minded people in cars almost as varied as the selection in the event. It's a good primer for what you're about to experience, as whatever your automotive tastes are, you're not going to leave here feeling disappointed.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

The Nürburgring-Conquering Citroën AX Is For Sale

Hey, remember this video from late January of a French gentleman who took his 21-year-old diesel Citroën shopping car around the fearsome Nordschleife faster than Jeremy Clarkson could in a twin-turbo Jaguar? If not, then watch it. I'll wait..................... Hey, remember that Citroën you just saw on YouTube nine seconds ago? Well now you can give money to charity by buying it!

Granted, it weighs less than half as much as the S-Type 2.7TT-D that The Tall One piloted, but at just 52bhp it also has less than 20% of the V6 Jag's ~270 horsepower, so a bridge-to-gantry time of 9:55 is not to be sniffed at, especially as it took this intrepid 'Ringworm from Bordeaux over seven years to realise his goal of sub-ten minutes, a quest which took nine engines, five gearboxes and some penny-pinching mods that don't stretch far beyond a strut brace, better tyres and, er, "simplifying" the interior to make it louder. Oh wait, I mean lighter. Also louder. In fact, it sports just one seat, making it basically the same as owning a BAC Mono or a Le Mans Prototype. It's even white with black contrasting details!

Currently this "9:55 BTG LEGEND" is on French eBay (éBay?) for €905, and the entire sale will be donated to UNICEF to help the children. Ultimately you'll be buying a thrashed French hatchback with "more than 2" previous owners and most of the seats missing, but it's for a good cause and the car itself is a symbol of not giving up on your ambitions, which makes it cool in my books. There is no detailed information on the car, just a couple of pictures and links to the above video and some blogs that shared it (including this one!).

So if you're in need of a 685,000 kilometre-old Citroën AX 1.4 non-turbo diesel with internet cred and Nürburgring swag, and fancy donating some money to charity, then you know where to click. The question is... how much are children and dreams worth to you???

Some pictures. Click to... agrandir:

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

HSCC Super-Touring Car Championship Brings Back The Nineties

The British Touring Car Championship has long been the ultimate tin-top racing series, with exciting drivers in modified production cars going balls-out lap after lap to muscle their way to the top and win the UK's premier racing series and what's arguably the best touring car series in the world (DTM with their silhouette racers don't really count). The series peaked financially during the 1990s, and the "Super Touring" formula. While at first replacing fire-spitting Sierra Cosworths with 2.0-litre repmobiles wasn't a popular choice at first, the formula attracted as many as 13 manufacturers* all entering serious factory-backed teams with highly-paid drivers and increasingly aerodynamic and bespoke cars, such as the Prodrive Ford Mondeo with its decidedly non-production-spec 2.0 V6 engine. Season budgets even went into eight figures by the late 1990s, and the racing was intense, fierce and extremely exciting and entertaining to watch.

Once costs had soared out of control and manufacturers had started pulling out, the rules were changed in 2001 and before too long you could count the number of factory teams on one hand. Fast forward to 2014 and there are just two, Honda and MG. But, to be fair, independent teams that buy production cars and have them modified to the current "NGTC" specifications by specialist engineering companies bring the number of brands represented up to 11, so in a way it's returning to the '90s in style, with a varied 30-car grid and some exciting wheel-to-wheel racing, but on a significantly lower budget and without much manufacturer involvement.

Recently, however, the Historic Sports Car Club has gone to great lengths to put together the Super Touring Car Championship, which brings cars from "Pre-1980" to 2000 back to the track in the hands of their new owners. This isn't an easy series to enter even if you do track down a retired BTCC car (or other European touring car built to similar regulations) as particularly the later cars run quite a lot of bespoke parts that aren't made any more, with minimal supplies still around, but if you can keep it out of trouble then you can experience touring cars at their finest. The video above shows the second race of the Oulton Park round this past weekend, where it was a support race for the real BTCC. The racing wasn't quite as hectic as it was "in period," but it's close with enough overtaking to capture some of the magic of the Super Touring era. Front-wheel-drive haters will also notice that the only car doing any understeering is a rear-wheel-drive car, a 1980s Mk.II Escort. So there.

But if seeing E30 M3s, Nissan Primeras, a V6-powered Mazda 323F that never got to race in period and 1989 & '95 champion John Cleland - now 61 years old - in his actual 1998 Vauxhall Vectra at the sharp end of the grid somehow isn't watchable enough, then here's the most exciting race of all time to make up for it:

*The 13 manufacturers who entered the BTCC in the 1990s were:

Alfa Romeo

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge Is A GT-R Supersaloon

Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge Concept
There was once a time when the GT-R was based on the coupé version of the humble Skyline sports saloon (imagine a Japan-only BMW 3-Series or 4-Series). During that time Nissan never thought to make a 4-door GT-R, save for a limited-run R33 made by specialist tuners Autech with their permission. The mighty RB26DETT engine from Godzilla also found its way into the Stagea family estate car, complete with all-wheel-drive and huge air intakes, to make the Stagea 260RS Autech Version. When the GT-R returned in 2007, it was separated from the contemporary Skyline saloon, also known as the Infiniti G in western markets, and it seemed any such creations were no longer likely. However, the Skyline - now called the Infiniti Q50 outside Japan - is about to get a GT-R engine once more, in the form of the Infiniti Q50 Eau Rouge. Well, it probably will.

Infiniti is Nissan's premium brand originally invented for the US market, like Lexus to Toyota or Acura to Honda. While Lexus has gifted the world with the glorious LFA supercar (plus the V8-powered IS-F and new Predator-nose RC-F Coupé) and Acura is busying itself with pretending to make a new-age Honda NSX Hybrid, Infiniti don't really have any sporting credentials. Their gorgeous Essence and Emerg-E concepts were never meant as more than design expressions, and aside from pasting their logos all over the Red Bull Racing F1 car, they don't have any real involvement in motorsport either. Their "best" attempt at a sports car so far has been the FX50 Sebastian Vettel Edition, which was a huge, oddly-styled Range Rover Sport SC rival with F1-style trinketry and "handling by Sebastian Vettel," which did nothing to justify its mad price or existence.

So, basically, Infiniti - which is now a global brand - needs a proper poster child to gain it a bit of respect. Infiniti is owned by Nissan. Nissan makes the GT-R. Nissan doesn't necessarily mind if a small engineering company puts the GT-R's engine into something else they make. The cogs. They turn...

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

An Ode To Miley Cyrus's Stolen Maserati Quattroporte

Well no wonder - she left the door open!
They came in like a wrecking ball
They liked my cars and took them all
Except there's only one for me
And that would be my, Mas-er-a-ti
O yea, my Maserati

They took, my stuff
My pills, my puff
But really,
I just miss my car.

That petrol smell
I know so well
Its absence
Will leave a mental scar

Don't you ever say
They just drove away
I will not believe you

I can't live without
Turbo V8 shout
I'll miss the styling too

They came in like a wrecking ball
They liked my cars and took them all
Except there's only one for me
And that would be my, Mas-er-a-ti
O yea, my Maserati

It didn't want to start at all
My Quattroporte wouldn't sing
If they knew anything at all
Then they would have put the key in

It didn't want to start at all
It knew that they were breaking in
I guess they must have had the gall
To steal a truck to put it in

Don't you ever say
They just drove away
I will not believe you......

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Petrolhead Experiences - My First Rally Event

Before I started this blog in 2011, I was doing things that, in hindsight, I could easily have written about on here by now. So, because I've recently been reminded of when I first went to a rally event (as a spectator), here's the account I wrote on Facebook (through photo captions) of the 2010 Tempest Rally in early November. My photography skills weren't great back then, but roll with it...

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Google Car Prototype Pays Attention So You Don't Have To

Google Car
What was once a mere search engine is now a software developer, social network, email provider, planet mapper, information probe, tax dodger and a search engine. At this point, they might as well venture into the automotive world as well. We've seen modified Toyota Priuses and the like since 2009, but this is Google's own-brand autonomous car, developed in secret and from scratch to read the road hundreds of metres ahead and take care of that pesky chore of driving for you, so now you can text and check your makeup and pass out drunk and gaze inattentively out the window without being told off by the police or the parents of that person you just ran over.

What could well be the world's first commercially available self-driving vehicle, the electric Google Car is currently undergoing development testing. It has a top speed of just 25mph - I assume because the computers doing the driving can't process the situation fast enough at higher speeds - and when it eventually goes on sale in around 2017, it won't feature any driving controls at all. No pop-out steering wheel like in I,Robot, no nuthin' apart from an emergency stop button in case the car tries to follow its own GPS navigation into a river or something. You do get a screen displaying the route, and at the moment just two seats from which to see the world sliding past you auto-magically. Meant for built-up areas that have been scanned by Google and loaded into the car's brain, there are 100 test vehicles being prepared, each packing a primary electric motor and a backup one in case the main motor fails. Oh, and the nose is made of foam to make crashing a little bit more pleasant for pedestrians.

Would I have one? Ask a musician if they want a self-playing instrument...

However, I believe that there is a place in the world for autonomous cars, even if it's nowhere near my driveway. As the video briefly highlights, blind people would have the independence that their sight impairment otherwise takes from them if they could get around without controlling a car (or using a bus like some chump). The same goes for tetraplegics and other disabled people, of course. Plus, the elderly wouldn't have to hold you up or dither at junctions or go the wrong way, and most importantly, people who don't really care about driving wouldn't have to spoil it for the rest of us any more. This would vastly improve road safety and reduce the number of accidents, because the main cause of car crashes isn't speed or terrorists or pelicans, it's people not paying attention and/or not knowing what they're doing. For this reason, I welcome our autonomous overlords... just as long as I can still drive my car myself and they can do more than 25mph before too long. I wouldn't want to freak them out by overtaking them all the time.

Oh, and as well as going faster, it would also be nice if they didn't look like a mortified Toyota POD:

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Toyota's "Love Driving" Ad Has The Wrong Car In It

Of course, all irritating things have hashtags now, too...

This fucking advert. I see this advert fairly regularly when watching Sky F1 (which is now actually rather watchable as a channel) on my laptop. I really don't want to be a grumpy old man shouting at the telly, as it were, but damn this irritates me.

It's the same problem I have with the MINI Superleggera Vision. It's perfectly acceptable... right up until the brand is applied.

This advert - which advises you not to have a loveless existence and to fall in love with driving again - would work reasonably well if the car they were advertising wasn't so utterly boring, uninspiring and frequently rated as being a very average driving experience. Besides, anyone with a brain stem knows that "six million people" bought a Toyota Hybrid because of:

1) Eco Cred
2) Money saved on fuel

There is no other reason unless you live right near a Toyota dealer and are easily persuaded. They are not exciting cars, and they will not make you fall in love with driving again. Or ever. A GT86 could, maybe, but then they've already tried advertising that car as something to make you love driving and it was banned on a whim, in a blaze of irony...

Toyota shouldn't just flat-out bullshit everyone like this, because anyone who cares won't be fooled by it. An Auris, hybrid or otherwise, should be sold on the strength of quality and reliability and trustworthiness, because that's what it's really engineered for and that's what Auris customers are more interested in. Just because that's not an exciting point, doesn't mean you should pretend it's like owning a soul-stirring sports car...

MINI Superleggera Concept Has The Wrong Brand On It

Of course, all irritating things have hashtags now, too...
Hey everyone, it's that time again!! You'll find on this blog that any posts about the 21st-century MINI are angry rants about the cars they're making. Quite honestly, I keep thinking that they can't bother me anymore, that at this point trying to convince BMW to finally make a genuine successor to the original car is a lost cause and I should just get over it. But no, they keep pushing their empty-hearted marketing experiments further and further, and now we have this concept car for a small electric roadster.

First of all, I'm going to show you some pictures of it, because this new MINI (they always use all-caps, probably to highlight that their MINIs are bigger than a real Mini) is irritating in a different way to the Paceman or whatever:

Most of the cars that MINI shills these days are actually quite ugly and bloated-looking. In fact, with the dawn of the new hatchback, all of them are. But this? This looks fantastic. From the front wheels back, there is not a single thing I would think to change other than the patronising Union Flag tail lights, and even they are well-executed. That's because this car wasn't designed by BMW. It was designed by Italian coachbuilders Carrozzeria Touring Superleggera, the same people who gave us the Alfa Romeo Disco Volante (both the 1952 original and the 2012/3 remake seen on TopGear). Oh, and the Aston Martin DB5. And the Jensen Interceptor. And a few other sharp Italian suits for other car makers over the years that rank among the best. Whether it's the great proportions, the awesome tail fin that references Cooper F1 cars of the early '60s, surfacing that's clean but not boring, or the modern, minimalist interior, this car is a very well-judged and well-executed design, and executing that design mostly meant hand-beating sheets of aluminium with hammers, just like in the good ol' days.

However, aside from putting British patriotism on a German car with an Italian body in the shape of those tail lights, I feel a grave error has been made: This car shouldn't be a MINI at all.

I'm not saying it shouldn't have been made, because the world needs more attractive small roadsters with Italian bodies, and as I've said, everything from the front wheels back is brilliant. But it's got completely the wrong badge on it! Imagine if this was a new Fiat Barchetta, with different headlights that didn't make it look like a scared fish and a slightly reshaped grille. I can dig the rally lights, but I could do without the indentations between the headlights that are meant to look like Cooper bonnet stripes. BMW aren't giving us any tech specs as this is really just an attention-grabber for motor shows, but apparently a single electric motor is involved, most likely powering the front wheels. With a Fiat nose and an Abarth 500 engine (complete with LSD) this would be an awesome MX-5 rival. Or perhaps this body could have an Alfa Romeo grille on the front and be married to the chassis of their upcoming version of the next-generation MX-5, to become the new Spider (that's still a thing, by the way). Then you'd get rear-wheel-drive. Hell, keep the patriotic tail lights on and bring back the 1990s Lotus Elan! There are so many cool and enticing things that this car could be, but as a MINI? It just looks like a great design that's been misplaced, and yet another new model (potentially) that strays even further from those four capital letters sat inside that winged badge.

It's just another example of BMW flagrantly ignoring the very name of the brand they're exploiting as much as possible. As a result, this car just makes me sad. Considering they way it looks, it shouldn't, and that just makes things even worse.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014













And that's what I did at the beach today.

This joke was brought to you in association with Austin Powers... Babay.