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Sunday, 29 June 2014

Goodwood Moving Motor Show 2014

MIKEADO WOZ ERE
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.

I parked my scruffy Fiat Grande Punto a stone's throw away from a Nissan GT-R and a Ferrari F12 Berlinetta, and spotted a Lotus Exige, a classic Mini and an Aston Martin DB9 in amongst the regular stuff, to name just a few.


There is so much to do at this event that even though I went to the Moving Motor Show on Thursday and day one of the Festival Of Speed proper on Friday, I still didn't manage to do everything at the event. The absence of a British Motor Show in the last six years has made Goodwood the go-to place to see the latest new models and concept cars up close, which this year included a few Vision Gran Turismo concepts, cars of pure imagination designed for Gran Turismo 6 and recreated in full-size for the public to really appreciate just how mad they really are, and just what the manufacturers' design studios can do when not shackled by regulations and focus groups and corporate red tape. But that's the static motor show (where you could sit in anything up to the likes of the Audi R8, Porsche 911, BMW i8, NISMO GT-R and Alfa Romeo 4C and have a good play with them). That's there all weekend, inside the first corner of the famous hillclimb course. No, the Moving Motor Show happens on the other side of the starting straight, in a huge marquee. Provided you get there as early as possible (gates open at 7am), you can find a manufacturer that tickles your fancy and book a test drive up the same stretch of tarmac that's been graced with history's greatest and rarest road and racing cars. I should warn you though: anything of any significant value requires you to be 25 years old.

I got there later than planned due to my Nexus 5's sat nav feature leading me astray, went to Citroën because they were near the entrance and they're on my mind at the moment, and when I asked to drive the new DS3 Racing Cabrio, they said I needed to be three years older because it was one of only 100 in the world! So, with that disappointment, I booked a go in a brand new C1 city car, because if I can't take 200 horsepower up the hill like I did last year [read in another tab], then I'm not taking a regular DS3 that I've already driven before, nor am I running the risk of walking away, queuing up somewhere else and hearing the dreaded phrase "We're fully booked, I'm afraid." I didn't get up at 4:30am to drive nothing...

Citroën C1 (VTI 68 Airscape Flair) Mini-Review


The C1 is Citroën's entry-level model, competing with the likes of the VW Up and Kia Picanto. Like the outgoing first-generation C1, this car was engineered and built in collaboration with sister company Peugeot and also Toyota, sharing its chassis, one or two engines and the interior with the 108 and Aygo respectively. One key area of difference is the exterior styling, as each brand has the freedom to put their own "face" on their model. Personally, I'm not overly keen on Citroën's efforts up front. The grilles are much of muchness and the LED corner lights are a design cue taken from the handsome DS3, but the main issue for me is the headlights. There are two pairs of proper headlights, and to me they clash rather badly from an aesthetic perspective. The skinny top lights just look like they've been squashed by the big round headlights below, and as I keep looking at it I can't decide for the life of me which ones are meant to be the "main" headlights and which ones are the suppourting ones, which just makes it look messy and like it has two faces on the same head. As much as I try to avoid the word, it's a little ugly - they should've picked one headlight design and made it work properly. The rest of the exterior is fine, though, not envelope-pushing but not with any flaws either.

The interior was nice enough. Supposedly the version I tried was a decent mid-range model, lacking Stop/Start but fitted with a rev counter (how modern!), manual air conditioning, red plastic trim to match the external accessorising, a humongous speedometer with other readouts inside it and what Citroën calls a "Mirror Screen." The seven-inch digital touchscreen display on the dashboard - very à la mode in 2014 - has its own infotainment functions, but if you connect your smartphone to it then the screen will display your phone's screen on it, so you essentially operate "driving-compatible apps" on your phone using the car's dashboard. This seems like a very cool idea, and means that you can access all your phone's contacts, media files and navigation functions on a bigger screen, but I didn't have time to pair up my phone with it and try it out. Besides, personally I don't really go in for that kind of thing. My social life isn't busy or demanding enough for me to even consider using my phone or its functions behind the wheel, which is potentially very dangerous whether it's effectively sitting on your dashboard or not. Perhaps it's something for the passenger to play with. More interesting to me was the gigantic speedo with a tiny digital rev counter on the left side of it, and the rubbery plastic gear stick used to operate the 5-speed manual gearbox. The option to have it finished in brushed aluminium had not been fitted, and it felt cheap to use.

Still, the actual shift action was OK. The clutch is very light, with a high biting point compared to my car. This C1 has a 1.0-litre naturally aspirated three-cylinder engine producing 68 horsepower, almost exactly what my Punto made when new, but of course being a size category down means the C1 is a fair bit lighter, so with a short wheelbase and almost no metal in the roof due to that exceedingly French sliding canvas sunroof (à la 2CV), it was shaping up to be a chuckable little car, with the lack of a turbo meaning I'd have to keep my foot pegged most of the time to get any speed up. After my chaperone had driven me out of the marquee for insurance reasons, I sat in the soft fabric driver's seat, drew up to the start line, perched on a yard of bricks from Indianapolis Motor Speedway that were embedded into the tarmac in 2011, primed the throttle so the red vertical bar was hovering well above the 2000rpm marker, and when the nice old man let his hand down, it was clutch out, and away we go! The little three-pot engine sounds like a baby Porsche 911 when you floor it beyond 3000 revs, which is far more fun and melodical to listen to than a four-cylinder. As we approached the first corner at the top of second gear (0-60mph takes over 14 seconds and I doubt I made it), I needed only to brush the brakes and then squeeze the power back on, taking a line similar to the one I'd practiced like mad on Gran Turismo 6, only not grazing the grass. The throttle pedal responds faster than I expected it to. The steering is quite fluid and fairly accurate, with a weighting that was slightly heavier than my car (good), but felt artificial (bad). I've decided that it's electrically-assisted, and Citroën's website backs me up on that. I don't know if the variable-assist system they offer was fitted or not. Grip levels were fine in the hot sun, with an acceptable amount of body roll. After all, this is no hot hatch or Nürburgring special or anything. The second corner was flat out, but after the big bridge the organisers had put in a seriously tight chicane to slow us punters down for our own good. I went through it in second gear, but as I accelerated out I realised I should really have used first, because low-end torque is not abundant in this petrol-powered triple. Such was the lack of oomph that I entered Molecomb corner flat out, eventually having to lift for about half a second or so to avoid potential flirting with the outside grass.

As we headed uphill the Flint Wall failed to intimidate at C1 speeds, but I enjoyed being able to rev the nuts off it, which I wouldn't have had as much freedom to do in a fast car. Driving a slow car fast is more fun than driving a fast car slowly! We crossed the line and continued on, going left at the fork in the road rather than right as the FOS cars will do, as to keep things moving we had to peel off the end of the hillclimb course and follow a little route that runs parallel to the circuit to get back to the MMS marquee. Winding through the trees, the three-cylinder thrumming away, there wasn't any serious buffeting or hair-blowing despite the sunroof and side windows being fully open.

Overall, I think it would be a fun little car to punt around town and occasionally bomb around the countryside in, with low running costs and high fuel economy, but the Peugeot 108 is mechanically identical and offers a face that isn't offensive, so I'd rather have that. Sorry Citroën. I did like sitting in the C4 Cactus, though, and would heartily recommend a DS3.


GT Academy Wildcard Event - Day 1

Oh how I wish I could tell you this was the final result...


The other main draw for me on Thursday was the GT Academy Wildcard Event. Set the fastest time of the day up the virtual Goodwood Hillclimb and you would be entered as a wildcard entry into the second stage of the increasingly famous GT Academy competition, which finds the fastest players of Gran Turismo in different regions of Europe, whittles them down by pitting them against each other directly on the game, and then takes the cream of the crop to Silverstone for a "boot camp" style training process that sees those not up to the job get eliminated periodically - similar to a TV talent show format, but without the public vote or irritating studio show with a constantly-screaming audience. At the end of that process, one winner becomes a fully-fledged racing driver in real life, branded a "Nismo Athlete" and starts a racing career under Nissan's wing, with constant driver development training. Britain's only winner, Jann Mardenborough, recently raced in the Le Mans 24 Hours in the LMP2 class and his car (co-driven by other GT-A graduates) lead for most of the race before suffering technical difficulties. The 2011 competition winner also just smashed the course record for road-going supercars on the real-life Goodwood Hillclimb driving a new "Time Attack" version of the 600-horsepower Nissan GT-R NISMO, besting a very committed Anthony Reid in a Noble M600. He's seriously quick, and it's almost entirely because of GT Academy. So you can see why I'd really like to win this thing.

The Citroën test drive wasn't until 2:20pm, despite me booking it at about 8:30am - see why you need to get there early? - so I had no excuse not to get a time in early. At home I'd managed a 45.02x in the Nissan "Team RJN" GT-R NISMO GT3, which I knew would be the car they'd make you do this in, so when I opened my account with a 46.382 and found that it was the quickest time, I knew I'd have to come back later, and not just to have my name spelt correctly. I tweeted the above picture of the leaderboard at 11:50 after I'd gone again and set a more representative time. You're allowed to sit in the hot seat a maximum of five times per day, and once you sit down you get three runs. Did you lose the rear end at Molecomb or bash the Flint Wall? Tough. That's one of your runs. Restarts count. You sit in one of two Gran Turismo Pods, with a proper bucket seat and a frame holding a PS3 and a Thrustmaster T500 RS, the current "official wheel of Gran Turismo." I have the previous official wheel at home, a Logitech Driving Force GT, and it's set to a different (stronger) sensitivity, so when I grabbed the grippy rubber of the Thrustmaster - which is not a sexual thing, I assure you - and reached turn one, there wasn't the initial steering response that I'm used to. I had to get used to that in the short bursts of time I could have, which I eventually did. Later in the afternoon Karl Chard (5th place before lunch) pipped me with a 45.088 and knocked me down into second place.

After a typically overpriced lunch I whittled my 45.192 down to a 45.115, an infuriatingly narrow gap of just 0.027 seconds away from first, and Karl - who I never knowingly saw - responded with some whittling of his own, down to 45.008. I knew had two more shots, so I scuttled off across the track to buy some Red Bull for added focus, but unfortunately its effects were limited. I got to that point where I knew that if I tried any harder, I would just start being too aggressive and start over-driving the car, which opens up opportunities to catch a wheel on the grass and blow the run immediately, or start hitting the flint wall. I told myself to just do the same driving again, but better. It didn't quite happen. I would regularly be up on the fastest time after the first two turns, but then worry about blowing the run when I got to the narrow and shadowy entry to Flint Wall, so I found myself braking more than was really necessary and losing my advantage. The final three runs were nothing to threaten even my own time, as I think by that time I was past my best for the day, and was probably also coming down from the Red Bull. Excuses aside, even if I had matched my time at home I wouldn't have nabbed the top spot... but the thing is, neither did Mr. Chard. When I returned on Friday and saw his name again, I was informed that somebody else had turned up after most people had gone home and set a 44.9xx, snatching the wildcard entry from both of us. No matter, as from Friday to Sunday, the top two drivers will advance......

To Be Continued

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Oh, and at 1pm at Nissan's main motor show stand, they unveiled a full-size model of the Nissan 2020 Vision Gran Turismo Concept, a car that will be made available in GT6 next month for free. As you can see, it's a pretty extreme piece of design, done entirely by Nissan's London design studio who also did the new Qashqai and the new Juke facelift. The specifications are unknown at this time, but people are somehow seeing a next-generation GT-R in this design somewhere. I'd be very surprised if that happened...

If you're at the Festival Of Speed tomorrow, you can drive the car in-game before the general public. The crowd failed to subside for me to take photos, so you'll have to excuse my iffy photography of the vast rotating model. I couldn't stand back far enough!








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