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...