Friday, 31 January 2014

Watch a Truly Heroic Nürburgring Lap in a Citroën AX

Video running time - 12:48

This morning, I watched Jeremy Clarkson take a Jaguar S-Type 2.7 V6 twin-turbo diesel to the Nürburgring Nordschleife and take a few days to lap what Sir Jackie Stewart once called The Green Hell in a time of 9:59. This evening, his lap has been put into context for me by a young Frenchman in his Citroën AX 1.4 I4 non-turbo diesel... who went four seconds faster.

It took him quite a lot longer to achieve his goal of getting from bridge to gantry in under 10 minutes, though (a true lap can't be achieved unless the track is closed for you, so average Joes - and Mr. Clarkson - use the method shown here). In fact, it took YouTube user Nic BTG over seven years, over which time he spent 118 laps, nine engines (!) and five gearboxes, plus an undisclosed sum. This is his 118th lap, done on his tenth journey to Nürburg all the way from Bordeaux in France. The car he used was mechanically identical to how it left the factory, save for some minor changes. The 1360cc naturally aspirated diesel engine is running increased fuel pressure and sports the aluminium air intake from the bigger 1.5 diesel to get around the strut brace that the ageing body needed to keep it rigid (while the unreliable TUD3 engines have come and gone, the car itself has done 685,100km, or 425,701 miles). Stickier Yokohama A048 tyres have been fitted and most of the interior has been taken out to save weight, which as you can hear makes for a loud lap when you're standing on the throttle of a 20-year-old diesel engine. Said engine only has 52bhp with which to haul the AX's flyweight 725kg, so the brakes aren't often necessary and it's the fully independent rear suspension that does a lot more of the work.

Mind you, not as much work as the driver himself. This is commitment to a golden lap, one that has taken another, more long-term kind of commitment to keep the dream alive over seven years. To finally achieve something like that is something I can only imagine. Watch him hurl his "Enterprise" spec Citroën around the Green Hell like there's no tomorrow, narrowly avoiding a crashed Nissan 350Z, avoiding much faster Porsches and BMWs as they soar past and doing everything he can, using everything he's learned during his quest, to keep it on the grey stuff and get the golden lap. Awesome.

The quote at the end translates from French as "We need to force nature to go as fast as our minds."

The full YouTube description is below:

Citroën AX 14D « Entreprise » -- 1993 -- 685.100 km -- 1,360 litre diesel engine 52 hp -- 720 kg
The car is stock except: xenon lights, front tyres (A048), increased fuel pressure, strutbar (because of the mileage of the body) and an aluminum intake from 1.5D engine (because of the strutbar).

This record lap was done on Saturday August 17th 2013 at 8:37am.
It was the 118th Nordschleife lap for this car and my 10th attempt trip (1115 km away from Bordeaux in France).
Lap timing equipment = mobile phone with Harry's Lap Timer and a XGPS150 Bluetooth receiver.

It took me a lot of time and patience to achieve a "Bridge To Gantry" lap time under 10 minutes during the tourist drive sessions at the Nordschleife.
This challenge was definitely for fun but also to prove it could be done with work, tenacity and a bit of madness too...
I have been chasing the 'perfect lap' for 7 years with no traffic, no road works, fresh air, dry track, no driving mistakes and a reliable drivetrain.
This TUD3 diesel engine is known for its poor reliability and I went through 9 engines and 5 gearboxes!
Here I want to thank all the people who spent time to help me work on this little car.

With such a non-powerful car, if you kill the momentum you're done, and in many corners I tend to overdrive the car trying to maximize momentum.
For this reason, my video is not a driving lesson at all!

During all these years I tried to be respectful of the Nürburgring tourist drive rules, the other users (faster and slower cars) and the people working on the track.
Recording movies and lap times is not allowed, in theory...but I made this video to show you don't necessarily need a sport car and a lot of money to enjoy driving.

Racing is a state of mind.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

F1 2014 Jerez Test Video Lets You Hear Each Engine

Just a heads-up, the opening winter test at Circuito de Jerez is half-finished, and it has been really boring. Red Bull haven't even run yet, partly because all the Renault-powered cars had a problem with their Energy Recovery Systems. Kimi Räikkönen has done his bit in the definitely-ugly-on-video Ferrari F14T, setting the fastest times thus far (not that that says much, seeing as only 3 or 4 cars are setting noteworthy times). So here's a wee snippet to give you an idea of what the Australian Grand Prix might look and sound like... if most of the cars aren't working very well.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Caterham CT05 Looks Broken Before It Even Turns A Wheel

2014 Caterham CT05
I can't see you, but I'm guessing you just freaked out, or pulled a funny face, or perhaps reacted in exactly the same way as Dr. Evil does in the first 15 seconds of this clip from Austin Powers: Goldmember upon seeing the image here, be it internally or actually out loud:

This is an acceptable reaction. That... thing is called a mole the Caterham CT05, and is an actual image of the actual 2014 Formula 1 car from the actual Caterham team, which is actually based in Norfolk. For actuals.

Don't believe me? Here is another picture of it, this time on track:

Even the Vel Satis is a prettier Renault-badged car than that. There are barely any sponsors on this car, probably because most of them saw it and then fled. Quickly. What the hell is going on there?!

It appears that their nose protrusion that meets the regulation (lack of) height sticks out from a nose that's flatter on the top than on the bottom, like the opposite of an aeroplane wing, so presumably their computers have told them that this Franken-nose, a sort of combination of 2012 and 2014 ugliness with the stepped chassis just behind the nose, helps generate downforce. I bloody well hope so, because you'd have to really hate Formula 1 to give it a car that ugly unless there was a reason for it.

Drivers Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson (read more about them here) will be glad they can't see it when they're driving it. As for us? Well, at least if you keep reading the text then you aren't looking at a picture of it anymorOHGODTHERE'SANOTHERONE.

Some have compared it to a snow shovel. I suppose that's better than saying "penis nose" for the eighth time this month. At least we won't see them on TV much, seeing as Caterham's best ever result was 12th in a crazy race (it would have to be). For now, feel free to vomit, or look at the first picture of the real-life Williams FW36 and realise that if you weren't sure about its nose before, it now looks positively gorgeous compared to... that thing...

Red Bull RB10, Mercedes-AMG W05 and Force India VJM07 Appear At Jerez

Red Bull RB10
Mercedes-AMG W05
Force India VJM07
Today is the day that the initial Formula 1 2014 winter tests get underway at Circuito de Jerez (pronounced herreth). All the teams are here aside from Caterham, Lotus and Marussia, who all have reasons that definitely aren't "it isn't finished yet" or "we haven't got it to work yet". Regardless, this means that the three teams who haven't yet shown us a car have nowhere to hide, so here are the new Red Bull, Mercedes and Force India, the latter now shown from more angles than just the side view. I can see why they went with a side view earlier...

Monday, 27 January 2014

Toro Rosso STR9 Doubles As Marital Aid

2014 Toro Rosso STR9
2014 is the year of change, and Scuderia Toro Rosso are embracing this in two ways. First of all the Faenza, Italy-based team are changing from Ferrari to Renault power, so that they can make the rear half of the car more similar to the Red Bull RB10 (because of this, I shall henceforth mostly be referring to them as Taureau Rouge). Second of all, they have decided to change from being Red Bull's sister team to being Red Bull's brother team, which became clear when they revealed their STR9 at Jerez ahead of tomorrow's opening winter test. Yup, it's another phallic nose, but this one looks to be the best-endowed of the lot, making the McLaren MP4-29 look a bit inadequate. Take a closer look at that nose-dildo:

Rumors that it vibrates at the touch of a button on the steering wheel are hitherto unconfirmed
From this angle you can see how the glistening shaft penetrates between the front wing struts and into the soft folds of aero-refined bodywork. Air flow rushes into the tight gaps on either side so that it can brush gently down the car's underside and burst out of its stiff diffuser in a flurry of excitement. Ooh er.

Being made to look like they're compensating for something all year will be Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne ("Jev" to his friends) and barely-legal Russian amateur Daniil Kvyat, who proves that money talks louder than qualifications sometimes. One or more of them will be taking the car roughly in the garage and then, once they've inserted themselves, will ride it all day long at Circuito de Jerez and experience a journey of discovery. You know part of you wants to watch in a darkened room, but unfortunately for you all that we'll see of the Jerez tests will be voyeur photos from people at the track. But maybe you like that kind of thing. You can also hear it screaming as the revs climax in this video.

"Yes, stand at the back of the car, boys. That way nobody will make......... comparisons."
Taureau Rouge need to start stepping up their game. Not only does Sebastian Vettel's surprise win at Italy in 2008 remain their only podium finish, but for the last few seasons it's basically been between them and also-ailing Williams as to who provides the barrier between the faster teams and the "new" teams that joined in 2010 and have barely sniffed a point in four seasons (well, three seasons for HRT). What's more, only two of their drivers have actually managed to ascend to Red Bull like they're supposed to, namely Vettel in 2009 and Daniel Ricciardo this year, so that's also been called into question. Whether an aero-penis helps them climb back up the grid remains to be seen. Maybe they'll beat Ferrari by a nose?

Here's a less offensive angle. Note the cardboard diffuser shield for secrecy reasons

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Sauber C33 Is The Same But Different

2014 Sauber C33
The livery might be the same - albeit lacking a big sponsor - but the car is of course very different. Sauber have released the first picture of the new C33, which will again be powered by Ferrari. The low angle isn't best for judging the nose, but it appears to be the same as the Williams FW36, except with the front wing struts further forward like the McLaren MP4-29. The subtle metallic grey with white details looks as cool as it did in 2013, while the top-mounted air intake behind the cockpit appears to be A-shaped. A for Adrian, perhaps? Sutil has made a sideways jump from Force India, effectively swapping places with Nico Hülkenberg, who still can't get a seat in a top team. Poor bugger. Filling the other seat is Esteban Gutierrez, who will be hoping to actually get some decent results this year. The Hinwil, Switzerland-based team has employed former Caterham driver Giedo van der Garde and Russian teenager Sergey Sirotkin (no, not the other meerkat in those ads) as reserve drivers, meaning they get to do lots of simulator work and occasionally drive the real car on Fridays.

No other pictures are out yet, but you can read Sauber's info page here, where they explain the changes and give you some specs.

UPDATE (27/1): The announcement of a new sponsor for the Swiss team reveals that their nose is the same as a dolphin's. How appropriate that it's finished in grey... and says "Unifin" on it!

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Ferrari F14-T Goes For Sagging Elephant Trunk Instead

2014 Ferrari F14-T
Scuderia Ferrari have been in Formula 1 since it started. They've had ups and downs as you'd expect during those 64 years, and while they have an unmatched 16 Constructor's Championships to their world-famous name, their previous turbo era wasn't exactly as rosy as McLaren's. With a wind tunnel that might actually be working properly this year, they'll be hoping to change that for their second one, as they enter their 65th F1 season with this, the F14-T. Yes, I know "F14T" looks like "FIAT" as it would've been spelt in 2005, and that Fiat owns Ferrari. The name was actually voted for by (some of) the Tifosi, with other choices being "166 Turbo" (which got just 1.7% less of the vote, and is the one I voted for), F14 Maranello, F14 Scuderia and F616. Thankfully the final choice didn't win, as 616 is considered by many to be the true Number Of The Beast. But you're not worried about that, are you? No, in a throwback to two years ago, you're worried about the car's nose design. Well, I have good news and I have bad news.

First, the good news. It doesn't have a protruding tip like the Williams FW36 or McLaren MP4-29, nor does it have a pair of tuning forks sticking out of it like the Lotus E22. In fact, the tip of the nose is flat.

Now, the bad news. Here it is at an angle, so you can better see the shape of the Ferrari's nose:

Yes, this is an actual image
Erm, it's been sat on. Whilst others have tried to get more air under the nose itself, Ferrari have gone for a high chassis and as low a nose as possible (sidenote: I haven't seen the Force India's nose properly, but I think it might be a similar solution). The rest of the car is basically par for the course, but I'm really struggling to like that nose. That bulge where it meets the chassis is like a sore thumb. It had better be effective enough to justify that awkward shape...

F1 meets Indycar... violently between the front wheels
This is a somewhat different approach to the other teams, who have tried to make the opening under the nose as effectively-high as possible, so it'll be interesting to see how long this solution lasts if it proves uncompetitive. Finding out first-hand will be relentless warrior Fernando Alonso and fan favourite (not that he gives a shit) Kimi Räikkönen. Between them they have three driver's titles, but Kimi's single championship is the only one of the three that was won in a red car, so it's difficult to know who will be the number-one driver within the team. In an ideal world that'll be settled purely on-track. Fernando is entering his fifth season with the Scuderia this year, so he hopes that just like Michael Schumacher, it will be fifth time lucky and he'll finally win a title with Ferrari. Schumacher's future may look a little bleak at the moment, by the way...

It's not so weird from this angle...
...but I don't want to go into that now. With Alonso and Räikkönen pushing each other all season, ex-Lotus technical director James Allison and a focus on reliability in a season that's hard to predict, Ferrari are bristling with confidence that 2014 will be their return to glory. Of course, whether this plays out as they hope remains to be seen. I just wish that F1 cars didn't have to look so contrived purely because of messy aero regulations. I know form follows function in motorsport, and I'll probably get used to them over the year, but unsightly front ends on the quickest and greatest racing cars in the world takes some of the shine off them.

Speaking of change to get used to, Mercedes, Taureau Rouge (formerly - and technically still - Toro Rosso) and Caterham have released short teasers of the new engine sounds. Here they are:

Meanwhile, here is a video about the F14-T presented by James Allison and the lead man on the engine Power Unit, plus some more pictures.

The rear diffuser hasn't been simplified, it's merely hidden from prying eyes
Fernando Alonso, team boss Stefano Domenicali and Kimi Räikkönen
Stay tuned for more weird noses!

Friday, 24 January 2014

Lotus E22: The Female F1 Car

2014 Lotus E22
Lotus may have lost their team principal to McLaren (Gerard Lopez will be promoted from within), but they're not losing the Strangest Nose Contest to them as well. This is the first and so far only image of the E22, and it has something similar to the walrus nose previously seen on the Williams FW26 a decade ago. As you may have noticed, one... prong? is longer than the other. At first I thought this was a perspective error in the render, but from the top down (see below) it's clear that this is an asymmetrical car. Apparently the longer one is technically classed as the nose, whereas the shorter one is there to balance things out a bit. The result is that they have the sizable gap in the middle where all the air can go into and under the nose for air-channeling reasons. The result looks similar to the short-lived Audi R15 TDI.

I Imagine a head-on impact with a McLaren MP4-29 or Williams FW36 would look a bit... suggestive. Plus, given that their drivers this year are Romain Grosjean ("First Lap Nutcase" according to Mark Webber) and Pastor Maldonado ("Every-Lap Nutcase" according to most people), it's a distinct possibility...

In fact, why imagine? Here you go!

McLaren MP4-29 Will Clean Your Floor With Its Tongue

2014 McLaren MP4-29 sitting alone in the McLaren Technology Centre
McLaren didn't have the greatest season last year. After boldly going a different way to the rest of the field in 2012 and ending up right on the tail of Red Bull, they boldly went another different way in 2013 (not just by swapping Lewis Hamilton for Sergio Perez) and it... didn't work. In the entire season they didn't once score a podium finish, which by the measure of a team as successful as McLaren isn't good enough. In fact, it hadn't happened before since 1980. It was so disappointing that they've lost title Vodafone and aren't going to announce a new title sponsor any time soon. Still, they claim to have a bigger budget for this season - their 48th - than any before it. So maybe the new MP4-29 seen here will be a more competitive car in the hands of Jenson Button and Danish newbie Kevin Magnussen (son of GT-class Le Mans winner Jan).

"Where did everybody go? And why did they look a bit embarrassed?"
Yes, like the Williams FW36 we saw yesterday, this one has a phallic nose, although actually the more PC "anteater" comparison actually works better on the McLaren, because of that little mouth on the end. More disappointing than their refusal to boldly try a prettier nose is that they haven't done anything to their livery at all. Previously it was chrome silver because of the Vodafone sponsorship (you'll find the same colour scheme on a Vodafone-sponsored Holden in Aussie V8 Supercars), but Vodafone are gone now, giving them complete freedom to do whatever they wanted. They could have an orange livery like they did when the eponymous Bruce McLaren was at the helm, or a white livery with red details to recall their previous turbo car, the 1988 MP4/4 that annihilated everyone and won 15 out of 16 races (the odd one out being Monza where both retired and a Ferrari won). But no, they've gone for bare silver with black wings.

They are now sponsored by... themselves. Actually, the driver's first names are supposedly going to be where "MP4-29" is
To be fair, they first started using silver when they started their mostly-successful partnership with Mercedes-Benz, and this is the final year of that partnership, one that's given them the 1998 constructor's championship and three driver's titles in '98-99 with Mika Hakkinen and of course in 2008 with Lewis Hamilton. Perhaps then the silver is for that reason. In 2015, they will start getting engines from Honda, who like the new rules and will be back in F1 as a supplier of V6 Turbo hybrid power units exclusively to McLaren, after the factory team pulled out at the end of 2008. Perhaps the livery will change then.

From this angle the black heat shielding around the exhaust makes it look like an angry cyclops. Or I'm crazy.
What else can I mention to pad this out? Well, Kevin Magnussen has been promoted from reserve driver to a proper driver, meaning he will actually get to drive the real car. Son of Jan Magnussen, who has raced for a long time in a variety of series from F1 to NASCAR and now races Corvettes in endurance racing, Kevin has been under McLaren's wing since 2009 and follows in his father's footsteps by racing for the Surrey-based team. He will partner Jenson Button, who sadly lost his father John not long ago. John was a great character in the garage and will be missed by a lot of people.

The McLaren logo on the sidepods is the only source of colour on this thing at all...
Actually there is something else I can use to fit a paragraph between these pictures: team principal Martin Whitmarsh is no longer in charge at McLaren. He wasn't present at the launch of this car (for the first time in 25 years) and will be replaced - surprisingly - by Eric Boullier from Lotus. Meanwhile, former team principal and current McLaren Automotive boss Ron Dennis has assumed Whitmarh's other position as McLaren Group CEO. Clearly then, they have decided that the problems last season weren't just to be found in the wind tunnel or on track...

You can look at the MP4-29 from any angle you want by going to their official page here, or if you don't want to install some obscure plugin you can see a quick 360 in this video:

Finally, here are the rest of the official images and another 360 screen-print:

It doesn't get any better from other angles, does it? Oh well...
You know what they say, a racing car gets more beautiful if it's winning races.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Williams FW36 Is Here To Eat Your Ants

2014 Williams FW36 CGI preview (testing livery)
Yesterday, Formula 1 2014 kicked off properly with the first image of the newly-redesigned cars appearing online in the form of the Force India VJM07. The thing is, that car was shown to us from the side view, cunningly hiding the actual shape of the nose. Williams, on the other hand, have not been so shy and have released four CGI preview pictures of their new Mercedes-powered FW36.

So, that nose then. Let's just say it, shall we? It looks like a flacid penis. The reason for this - and don't worry, there is a reason - is that new aero regulations stipulate a nose whose tip is just 185mm off the ground, as opposed to being about 525mm high last year. However, because F1 teams know that getting air underneath the nose means that they can channel more air to the diffuser, they've exploited a loophole that says the nose tip only has to be a certain width. So, as the nose rises up from the tip, they only have to make it that width, meaning that most of the air flows right past the lowest part and under the main front chassis, giving them more air to control than if they'd just made the whole nose the same width à la Brawn GP.

I wonder if the nose flexes upwards when there's a grid girl nearby?
Moving on from the nose, which I actually don't think is as bad as it could have been, this is the first time that Williams has used a Mercedes engine, which considering this is their 36th car makes that a relatively big deal for them. The Mercedes-AMG engine - sorry, "Power Unit" - is touted to be the best of the bunch, hence why Lewis Hamilton spent 2013 embedding himself in the factory team, but that might just be based on the fact that they had the most potent V8, and as we've seen from Red Bull Racing, you can beat the more powerful engine with better aerodynamics. It's suspected that even with this new lower-profile aero package on all the cars, Formula 1 is still a sport where having a faster car depends primarily on how well it manipulates the air.

But anyway, here it is from the side, and head-on. The car will gain a proper livery at the Australian Grand Prix in March, where it'll be piloted by Felipe Massa (because Williams is where Brazilians go to finish their F1 careers) and Valtteri Bottas.

Hey, you can't see the weird nose shape from this angle!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Formula 1 2014 Preview - The Cars

Force India VJM07, unveiled this morning
Pictured here is not the millionth "concept livery" or speculative render, but the first official image of a 2014 Formula 1 car, specifically the Force India VJM07 that Sergio Perez and Nico Hülkenberg will be piloting at next week's opening pre-season tests in Jerez. But what's different under that newly-blackened livery? The same things that will be different on the other ten car designs this year. Let's break them down...

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Formula 1 2014 Preview - The Grid

Kamui Kobayashi (main driver), Robin Frijns (reserve driver) and Marcus Ericsson (main driver)
It's time to dust off those helmets, people! Formula 1 2014 is about to clear its throat and give us its shiny new V6 dawn chorus, with car reveals happening at the end of this week. Of course, if you were following the ins and outs of The Sebastian Vettel Show last year, you'll know that the 2013/4 Silly Season has been one of the silliest in recent memory, with drivers being linked falsely to pretty much every team at one point or another, but now, finally, we know who's going where for this season. So here they are:


Look closer at the centre!
While I am a mostly-shameless nerd when it comes to the automotive world, I don't mind admitting there are things I don't know about. However, having played Gran Turismo games since they came out in 1997, I like to pretend I'm something of an expert on it. The problem with knowledge is that there are some things that you don't know you don't know. My point is, how the hell did I not realise that the Loch Ness Monster is an easter egg in the series?!

Monday, 13 January 2014

Kia's GT4 Stinger Hopefully Won't Hurt

2014 Kia GT4 Stinger Concept
OK, what the hell is going on here?! It's all very well that Toyota's stirring up talk of a new Supra for the umpteenth time and Porsche is bringing out a new 911 variant that's basically a modernisation of an old 911 variant, but this GT4 Stinger Concept previews an attractive, rear-wheel-drive 2+2 sports coupé from... Kia?!

Well now, Captain 2006, a lot has changed since the days of the Pride and the first-generation Rio. The Korean brand - twinned with other Korean brand Hyundai - has undergone a significant transformation under the keen eye of respected designer (and father of the Audi TT) Peter Schreyer. The 2011 GT Concept showed the world that they were ready to take on the western world if we were ready for them, while also inspiring the new Optima and a couple of other production models. Now in 2014, they're really getting ready to challenge our perceptions of what a Korean car means to us. This is them seeing what the car-buying public thinks of a Kia sports car to tackle the Toyota GT86. While I'm not currently buying cars myself, I think it's a great idea.

This is what happens when you have a bad reputation to get rid of. It's a good thing
The styling is a departure even from their current range of cars. Despite their head of design being ex-Audi, the only thing here reminiscent of anything four-ringed is the waistline, which rises over the wheels to accentuate the low nose to make it look like more of a road-hugger. It's clean, modern and the Kia pulls it off on its own, proving that even today, a sports car doesn't need to have slashes and creases everywhere to look new or to look sporty. The slightly unusual side profile looks like they cut the tail off something like a Nissan GT-R at the base of the roof, but again the Stinger makes it its own, teaming its fastback shape with wheels that resemble dished vinyl records with strong-looking V-shaped spokes slicing through them like cookie cutters. It's hard to deny, it looks good. The rear glass section below the liftback tailgate houses boomerang tail lights, while at the front, their usual graphics have evolved slightly, again into something unconventional.

Blacked-out A-Pillars have holes in them because it looks cool and sort-of improves visibility... if you're used to peering through blinds
Rather than having two grilles with the upper one integrating swept-back horizontal headlights, the low nose has necessitated a bigger single mouth, featuring Kia's signature "tiger nose" design with the pinched central section (echoed in the rear bumper), which is flanked by skinny vertical headlights that look as if they've filled in some cooling ducts with LEDs. It works quite well, even if it does put me in mind of the 2005 VW EcoRacer Concept which coincidentally did roughly the same sort of thing with its front graphics.

The low clamshell bonnet, decorated with a cool-looking pair of sinking vents, hides a real, working engine. It's a direct-injection 2.0L turbocharged inline-4 that can muster a hefty 315bhp - plenty in a 1303kg (2874lb) sports car about the size of a BRZ - and send it to the rear wheels via a 6-speed manual gearbox. Only a lack of mechanical limited-slip differential is stopping this being the perfect sports car recipe on paper, especially as the show car is built on a bespoke tube-frame chassis, sporting double-wishbone suspension and big Brembo brakes at all four corners, all carrying a lightweight interior.

Fabric door pulls like a Porsche GT3 RS, central stripe on the 'wheel like a rally car, manual gearbox like the internet's dreams!
I really want Kia to make this. Not only would it be a bold move and potentially a great image-builder for them, but it would be a left-field alternative to the Toyobaru, and I like a good left-field alternative. The interior would become slightly more normal, the A-Pillars wouldn't be all full of holes and the headlights would likely be different, plus a bespoke chassis (tubular or not) would cost a lot to develop, but if that shape and those specs remain in a production version then I will be very happy indeed. Kia, you would be applauded for building this.

If you like it too, dear reader, then here's a video of it looking good and driving around and stuff:

Just So You Know, There's Another New Porsche 911

Aside from weighing 110kg more than the Carrera 4S coupé and 40kg more than the C4S Cabriolet, the new Porsche 911 Targa 4S is awesome. Why? Because of that roof that gives it its name. It's a return to the 1967 style of Targa roof - formerly absent since the 993-generation 911 of the mid-'90s, when a giant glass sunroof was employed instead - featuring a large fixed rear window and a removable central panel, but with a Transformers twist. You can see that twist in the above video. However, if YouTube's blocked at work, the central panel actually removes itself, in a piece of mechanical performance art. First, the entire rear window and some of the engine cover lift up and open rearwards. Then, two sections of the silver roll bar get out of the way of the spindly robot arms that hold the black fabric roof section in place. Said arms then carry the roof backwards and under the rear windscreen, which closes again. It looks cool.

Oh, there is also a non-S with the 350bhp 3.4L flat-six engine (as opposed to the S's 400bhp 3.8L lump). Both versions will cost £Some Money. All the specs are essentially the same as the equivalent Cabriolet aside from the added weight, but come on, this is way cooler than a normal folding roof!

Toyota FT-1: The Real Supra Simulator

2014 Toyota FT-1 Concept poses with the people who made it
OK OK, first of all, yes, Toyota did say in November 2012 that they were developing a new Mk.V Supra sports car. Second of all, yes, this is a sleek sports coupé concept by Toyota that would be about the right size. But no, Toyota themselves have not tied this to that in any way whatsoever. It would therefore be wrong to assume that the FT-1 Concept you see here is actually an un-diluted concept-y version of the mighty Supra's successor. But if you want to pretend that it is in fact previewing such a car, then fine. I won't stop you.

Right, now that we've got that out of the way, let's introduce this car properly. Toyota has been trying hard to eschew its stale image in recent years, giving us both the glorious Lexus LFA supercar and the much more down-to-Earth (yet old-school) party machine, the GT86. Two years ago, Toyota USA's "CALTY" design studio in California started work on an aggressive sports coupé, and unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show today is the fruit of their labour. Featuring a mystery petrol engine and no hybrid system, the FT-1 takes the two aforementioned cars - or rather the FT-86 and LFA concepts that spawned them - melds them together and then moves the result on a step further. Just take a look at this thing!

"FT" means "Future Toyota" and is a nomenclature used on all their concepts... that point towards a future road car.
Two exhaust pipes, but for how many cylinders? Toyota won't say
It looks pretty extreme, doesn't it? The proportions are a dramatic take on the classic sports car shape - long, low bonnet, swept-back double-bubble roof, short cut-off tail - while the styling is anything but conservative. Up front the skinny headlights frame an F1-style nose that's flanked at the bottom by a two-part front splitter and twin grilles with exposed cooling fans in them. The Formula 1 influences continue at the back with a large diffuser and an LED imitation of the rectangular "Rain Light" just above it. The surfacing all around it is as aggressive as we've come to expect by 2014, but the creases are softer than usual, giving it a slightly more sensuous, wind-swept feel. The front wheel arch is staggered thanks to a TVR Sagaris-style heat vent that looks like someone hit the clay design model with an axe, while the Blackpool Bruiser has also been mentioned at the sight of that vertical rear spoiler (integrated rather than the TVR's plastic gurney flap) stopping the tail so quickly after the sloping roofline which Toyota say references the 2000GT. It is slightly unfortunate that from some angles it just so happens to look like a Corvette C7 if you relax your eyes and stand back, but I suppose it was designed in America so there could be a subliminal influence there. Chances are it's a coincidence, though. The wheel arch vent, windowline and roof line are all similar to the FT-86 of 2009.

Large pop-up wing is enough to make you think of the Lexus LFA supercar. There have been rumors that that will be replaced, too
Of course, the shape wasn't just defined by marker pens, clay and CAD. It was also defined by the air. The large air intakes just after the doors appear to be air channels that send air past the rear wheels and out under the tail lights, while the very low and pointy nose with its exposed fans also consider fast-moving airflow. An electrically-actuated rear wing can appear when extra downforce is needed, but I don't think it doubles as an air brake. Perhaps the slits under the headlights channel air to the vents behind the front wheels as well? Who knows. All I know is that this car looks great. Actually, something I also know is that tomorrow (14th January), you can drive this car yourself in any of 37 locations, because amazingly, the people at Polyphony Digital have already got the FT-1 ready to put into Gran Turismo 6. All you have to do is download a small update, go to the online Seasonal Events, complete a time trial with at least a bronze trophy and you win the car! Magic.

For more pictures and a video of the virtual FT-1, click here. There appears to be a choice of at least 3 colours for it
Also of note is that the update that puts this car in the game also includes an interior view for the BMW M4 Coupé
If you want to see more (real-life) angles of this dramatic concept sports coupé, click here. Oh, I almost forgot, it also has an interior. Unless you're into concept car interior design, though, it's utterly irrelevant. If this was turned into a production model, the interior would be only vaguely similar at best. Also, on that note, you can't help but think that some of the rest of the design might be toned down a little too, if it does indeed turn into the next Toyota Supra. The bonnet window would go, the waistline would likely be just a little bit higher, the details would be less extreme and it would probably get a slightly more pedestrian-friendly nose. But hopefully the process doesn't dilute it as much as cynics might suggest, because as it is, this is one striking machine. I can't wait to sort-of find out how it drives.