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Archive for October, 2014

BTCC Rule Changes: Now There’s A Thought…

The 2014 season of the British Touring Car Championship ended in traditionally spectacular form at Brands Hatch on a weekend dictated by the cruel mistress of Mother Nature. Just as the lights went out on another amazing year, the flood gates for 2015 have already started to open. In what seemed like a mere blink of an eye, we were treated to the announcement that Infiniti were to enter the championship alongside ‘Support Our Paras’ Racing, a whole new direction for the BTCC. Soon after that we were told that Aiden Moffat and Laser Tools Racing were set to enter a Mercedes A-Class for the 2015 season following a successful test session. The next juicy little nugget comes following the annual end of season meeting held between TOCA and the participating teams within the series. The result of said meeting has been a selection of amendments made to the sporting regulations of the championship. Up until this point, all the articles I have read on the matter have gone into analysis about the effectiveness of these changes and how it will impact the sport next year. Have you wondered why you are yet to read an article that questions whether these regulation adaptations have gone far enough, what else could be done to the championship for the future? Could the championship change any further?

Well, it is time to wonder no further, for I present to you my own take on how the BTCC can change the sporting regulations to better the championship for the future. I wish not to present the following words as hard facts, yet I aim to inspire the minds of the masses. What would you do if you had the chance?

The amended 2015 regulations aim to add yet more excitement to an already action packed grid. Image Credit: BTCC.net

The amended 2015 regulations aim to add yet more excitement to an already action packed grid. Image Credit: BTCC.net

But first, I may as well give you a quick overview of my thoughts on the official changes:

  • Increased Success Ballast – I have been waiting for this change for quite some time now. For many years I have noticed and very often commented that the success ballast has not had that much of an effect on the cars. Increasing the weight penalties to the point where there is a noticeable hindrance to performance will make the racing much closer and more fascinating to watch.
  • Independent Analysis of Start-Line Performance – I am honestly still a bit baffled as to why they are making such a fuss regarding the irregularity between RWD and FWD cars. In my view variety merely adds spice to proceedings; if they want everything as equal as possible why not put everyone in the same car? Or give RWD a weight penalty like they used to get back in the 90s.
  • Set Boost Level for the Season – I have always found the whole boost debate to be one of interest to me. Setting the boost level for the season instead of per round is better for the regularity of the championship as a whole. However, I do believe this issue will be visited again on multiple occasions as it is such a new addition to the BTCC.
  • Soft Tyre Use across all Three Races – Making the drivers use the soft tyre a certain number of times in each race throughout the season will add an extra layer of thought into the process of race planning. No more will drivers be able to have the optimum strategy for tyres repeatedly, but will have to find a way to work the strategy across the season. All very clever stuff this.
  • Fastest Lap in Race 1 to decided Race 2 Grid – Using race 1 as essentially a qualifying race as well the traditional points race I think is nothing short of genius. I can remember a certain Rob Austin a few years ago at Snetterton when he was still towards the back end of the grid who managed to set his car up to work perfectly, for about 2 laps. He set the fastest lap and then conked out. That took balls. Hopefully it will encourage more balls to appear throughout 2015.
  • Jack Sears Trophy to be awarded to ‘Top Rookie Driver’ – As long as enough new drivers enter the championship, this will give the new talent a genuine prize to work for; especially as they may not be adjusted to the championship enough to challenge for the overall wins. As with the other changes, it will layer up the excitement across the grid, giving both drivers and audiences more to enjoy across the season.

Well, now that is out the way, how about some other suggestions?

New regulations may see new names at the top end of the grid for 2015. Image Credit: BTCC.net

New regulations may see new names at the top end of the grid for 2015. Image Credit: BTCC.net

Re-Introduction of a ‘Feature Race’

Towards the end of the 1990s and the early part of the new millennium, the race format within the BTCC saw each weekend with one sprint race (similar to that we are graced with today) and one feature race. The feature race would be a significantly longer race with a mandatory pit stop that would bring in the whole team into the battle for the top positions. Some of my fondest memories of times gone by was watching the interplay of pit strategies; pitting early and racing on a clear track or saving it late to distance yourself from the pack. There were often times where races were won or lost in the pit stop, or drivers would enter the pits only marginally ahead of the other potential winner; they would have to defend like crazy on stone cold tyres against a guy with perfectly warmed up rubber bullets ready to pounce. If it was not for the feature race format, Matt Neal would never have won his first race in such spectacular style at Donington Park in 1999 (you want to watch this video, it is something wonderful) and given touring car audiences one of the best races it had ever seen. Not only did that win him his first race, but he became the first independent to win a race outright, which is rather commonplace these days. It had to start somewhere, ey?

My plan envisages an extended final race that accommodates the feature race format that sees the need for pit stops. My logic also combines with the use of the soft tyre; teams could then decide on using the soft tyre at the start or post-pit stop. In my minds eye the racing dynamic would change somewhat and give audiences another level of motorsport not seen in the last few years. Instead of three races of the same format, the race day would build up to its spectacular conclusion with the longer race at its climax. As I mentioned before it would add in the ‘team’ aspect to the race recipe as well as some great new racing that the championship has not seen in some time.

Return of the ‘Crown Jewel’ of the BTCC Calendar

In Australia, the V8 Supercar season peaks (almost literally considering the mountains) at the Bathurst 1000 event. One might even call it a showcase to the world to prove in one event just what the series is about. There have been multiple times in the history of the BTCC where the season has had one special race too spice up the usual championship. In the late 80s when the championship still ran a class system, each year there would be an endurance race with mandatory driver changes. In 1988 for example it pitted the usually unstoppable Andy Rouse in his Ford Sierra Cosworth against a temporary new challenger in Win Percy in a Nissan. The joy of this type of event is that it would attract competitors to enter on a one off basis and upset the balance somewhat. Next up was the infamous TOCA Shootout that had reverse grids and an ingenious system where the slowest car each lap towards the end of the race would be black flagged, with £12,000 for the winner. It was at this event in 1993 where Nigel Mansell made his first appearance in the touring cars, before crashing out spectacularly.

Win Percy and Andy Rouse battle it out at the 1988 Endurance Event at Donington Park. Image Credit: performanceforums.com

Win Percy and Andy Rouse battle it out at the 1988 Endurance Event at Donington Park. Image Credit: performanceforums.com

Even towards the end of the 1990s TOCA introduced the night race at Snetterton, which was then extended to Silverstone to conclude the Super Touring Years as well as the 2000 championship. Whatever the event may be, there was always a special event every year that characterised the entire series in one special race. I imagine that one of the criticisms to my feature race idea is one of finance and television coverage, which is understandable. Some of the smaller teams may not physically have the people power to perform an efficient pit stop; this goes against the NGTC regulations which makes the championship affordable yet still contestable for teams. As a result, I am willing to compromise on my original feature race concept by bringing back the annual ‘showcase’ event. Working as a one off event, the finance increase would not be too uncontrollable and the television coverage could market the event throughout the year. I would love to see the return of the TOCA Shootout format, or even the Endurance driver change event. The former would bring about a true balls to the wall attitude of racing, while the latter could see other names from other disciplines getting their own introduction into the sport.

Change Overall BTCC Season Format

This next proposed change is much more of a personal opinion more than a genuine request. In my view, the highly repetitive nature of the championship in terms of season format has started to drag for me in the last few years. First of all, the tracks are run in the same order every year, with 10 tracks all hosting 3 races each. This does make the season fly by all rather quickly with only 10 race weekends to spread between March and September. I would very much love to see two races over 15 weekends as a preference to save the rather common and almost annoying gaps in the season. However, I am fully aware that this would ramp up the costs as well as demand a change in the television coverage.

This does not mean on the other hand that TOCA cannot mix up the round order slightly just to keep everyone on their toes, instead of having the same tracks in the same order every year. It may not be a massively game changing adaption, but it does retain the dynamic feel that the BTCC has become somewhat famous for. Speaking of dynamism, it would be great to see a few new tracks appear on the calendar, such as a return to Mondello Park, Pembrey or maybe even Castle Combe. There are so many amazing racetracks that span the UK, it would be a shame to not utilise them for all that they are worth. The proposed street circuit around the ring road at Coventry has definitely wet my appetite recently, I just hope the plans come to fruition; the BTCC can then see a return of a street event like that of the Birmingham Superprix in the late 80s.

Increase In Reverse Grids

My final suggestion is one that I believe can increase the racing spectacle, prove who the true fast drivers are while giving rookies a genuine shot at glory. In 2014, the field consisted of a mind staggering 31 cars, a number never before seen in the modern championship. However, when it came to reverse grids for race 3 only the top 10 drivers would benefit. When the grids were smaller this would be a satisfactory number, but with 31 I believe more people deserve that shot at pole position. Of course the unpredictability through random selection of the actual reverse grid position would remain, but I believe the upper end should go as far back as 20th. As it stands, it is usually only the top teams that have been benefited by the current regulations while the smaller teams have remained towards the back.

If this change was put into action, we could be seeing more names like Jack Clarke, Simon Belcher or Dan Welch starting on pole for race 3. Furthermore, if the big names were relegated even further back down the grid, they would have to prove their metal by having to fight their way right up to the top positions. The BTCC has become the mecca of unforgiving, hard and fast tin top motorsport; there is no better way of proving such a title than watching drives similar to that of Alain Menu or Jason Plato from this year where they came right from the back of the grid to a top 5 or 6 finish. Instead of having this as an isolated affair, it could become a common occurrence that wows audiences across the country and proves the position of the BTCC as the best touring car series in the world.

Changes in current regulations would give some of the lower teams such as the Protons of Dan Welch a shot at high positions. Image Credit: BTCC.net

Changes in current regulations would give some of the lower teams such as the Protons of Dan Welch a shot at high positions. Image Credit: BTCC.net

Of the changes I have proposed, many of them would of course come with a raft of complications that may make them unfeasible within the parameters of the NGTC regulations. However, as I stated before I merely wanted to lay these down to inspire some thought and maybe some communication to discuss the future direction of the sport. I would love to hear your ideas for how to change the series if you had the chance. My words are nothing if just my view. The best way to forge forward with real change is through multiple views and serious communication. And well, it has to start somewhere!

The BTCC will always hold a special place in my heart as my favourite racing series, and I wish for nothing more than to spread that animalistic joy that grips my very soul to the masses. Maybe it is time to embrace change and move onwards and upwards. The future is bright.

Let me know what you think!

Join the conversation on Twitter, and follow my ramblings @lewisglynn69

Keep Driving People!

Peace and Love!

 

Life With A Learner Driver

For some time now, my teenage son has had his learner’s licence and the blue-tack holding the L-plates to the back and front windows is starting to get a bit the worse for wear.  It doesn’t seem like that long ago that we were having to explain which pedal was which…

learner-parent1Most of us who have teenagers go through the journey of watching them progress through the licenses and become fully fledged motorists.  It’s quite an emotional roller coaster – and some journeys feel physically like a roller coaster, too.  However, in spite of what it can do to your stress levels at times, I recommend that parents encourage children to get their drivers’ licences early on.  Not only does it suddenly make your kids grow up and learn some responsibility but it also saves hassles later on.  If you’d seen one of my friend’s daughters wind up as a young mother with no driver’s licence, or if you’d seen one of my other friends constantly ferrying around a teenage boy who prefers a gaming console to a steering wheel, you’d feel that way too.

The first few forays out in the car are always amusing.  For once, your teenager will be listening carefully to everything you say and will (for once) act like they don’t know everything.  This phase, which usually takes place on quiet roads, involves stalling, lurching and incorrect gear selection, plus the odd near miss as your teenager realises that you have to start braking earlier in the picture than you do with computer driving games.

Then you teen will master the basics and will get back to thinking that he/she knows it all.  The times that you are driving, you will wish that you had duct tape handy, as you will have the world’s worst back seat driver on board who will tell you exactly what they would have done and ask why you’re not going at the full speed limit at the moment (when it’s raining cats and dogs late at night and the road is flooded so you can barely see the white lines in the middle).  This is where you grit your teeth and explain why you’re doing what you’re doing.  Are you familiar with the phrase “teachable moment”?

During this phase, you’ve got to teach them as much as you can.  Let them learn good habits.  You shouldn’t stop riding with them altogether during the provisional stage, as they’re still inexperienced, but you still need to make the most of the learner phase to ensure that the next generation of drivers has decent skills, by trying things like the following:

  • Drop your teens in the deep end.  You don’t have to be quite as vicious as my husband was, getting our son to do his first parallel parking manoeuvre between an expensive new Audi and an equally expensive new Jaguar , but make them do the difficult stuff.
  • Hand the keys over as much as possible.  Yes, you like to drive.  However, your teenager needs the practice, so give them all the chances they can get.
  • When you are in the driver’s seat, model good driving etiquette and attitude.  Would you want your teenager going just a shade over the speed limit and trying to nip into small gaps because he/she is running late?  Would you want him/her leaning on the horn at the slightest provocation?  Trying to just nip through on an orange light?  Checking the cell phone while driving just for a few wee seconds because this text might be important?  You get the picture…

There’s also one very important thing that you need to do:

  • Get them driving in a car with as few driver aids as possible.  These days, you can buy cars with blind spot monitoring, warnings about things approaching from the side, cameras all over the show to help you park, collision protection that automatically jams on the brakes if it detects that a ding is likely and so on.  My own inner alarm bells are going off to think that some teenagers are learning to drive in cars like these.  Of course, we want to protect our beloved sons and daughters and make sure that they’re safe.  However, if they’re always driving a car that does a lot of the work for them, they’re going to learn to rely on these driver aids.  They won’t know how to do it the hard way.  The time will come when they buy their own cars… which will probably be older models that don’t have all these active safety features.  And they will probably be driving them solo.  Scary stuff.  Beeping noises don’t have the same impact on behaviour as much as “What the heck were you doing? You nearly hit that car/truck/person!  You’re supposed to turn your head and check the blind spot before you change lanes!  Don’t you ever do that again!  I want to see your head turning to check.  Let’s try that one again.”

Safe and happy driving for you and your teenagers,

Megan

BTCC Manufacturer Madness: Can We Bring Them Back?

For many years, intrepid explorers have ventured deep into the vast depths of the British Touring Car Championship to see what we can understand and learn about this fascinating world. Searching through the great annals of its past, it is easy to see that throughout the 1990s, the BTCC enjoyed its golden years. The times were fruitful, the manufacturers came thick and fast. Alas, as the unstoppable juggernaut of time rolls by, the ‘Super Touring Years’ have been confined to the stuff of legend. The modern times have not been kind to the BTCC; the once flourishing manufacturers have all but disappeared. It is time for change. It is time for action. It is time to save one of the cornerstones of the BTCC from extinction. Some of our latest findings may have given us renewed hope.

The entrants in the BTCC may be flourishing, but only two manufacturers entered the 2014 season. Image Credit: BTCC.net

The entrants in the BTCC may be flourishing, but only two manufacturers entered the 2014 season. Image Credit: BTCC.net

Throughout the 1990s, it was hard to keep track of the number of manufacturers within the championship; Ford, Renault, Vauxhall, Nissan, Alfa Romeo, Honda, Volvo, Peugeot, Toyota and BMW, coupled with such legends as Andy Rouse, Alain Menu, and John Cleland helped to construct some of the best spectacles ever seen in motorsport. As the 90s fell away to the 00s, a great many of these left the sport. For the first few years of the new era, the sport was dominated by Vauxhall under the piloting skills of Yvan Muller and James Thompson. Honda and Peugeot made their return, while new faces were seen in such names as MG, Lexus, SEAT and Chevrolet. However, over the most recent seasons these names have all but jumped ship, leaving only MG and Honda as official manufacturers. With Honda pursuing new routes and returns to F1 and MG coming to the end of its development with its current model, the future is uncertain.

If you are now thinking that manufacturer extinction is a certainty, it is time to think again. Not too long ago, I published my view on the announcement that Infiniti with Support Our Paras Racing will be entering the 2015 championship. On top of that, Ciceley Racing has now released that its 2015 car of choice will be another Mercedes, like that of Adam Morgan and WIX Racing. Until this year, Mercedes had never entered the sport and now it shall enter the 2015 season with a race win under its belt and two entrants just to top it all off. It may not be a manufacturer entry, but it does present an opportunity. I think it is possible to see not only a return of manufacturers but the addition of some brand new names.

Out of the shadows emerges Infiniti, a brand new manufacturer for 2015. Image Credit: BTCC.net

Out of the shadows emerges Infiniti, a brand new manufacturer for 2015. Image Credit: BTCC.net

Let us begin with the Infiniti announcement; the luxury Nissan manufacturer has teamed up with game changing ‘Support Our Paras’ Racing, who are a non-profit team who aim to raise awareness and funds for injured paratroopers and their families. This new team will change how we look at motorsport forever. Motorsport has gone from being a simple sport to a vehicle to bring help and affect real change. All the profits made by the team are to be donated and put to a good cause. With such a fantastic new direction for a team to go in, it can only make sense that they would get manufacturer backing. In this case it just happened to be a brand new manufacturer never before seen in the sport. For a revolutionary new project, of course there needs to be a whole new car to act as a spearhead for the campaign.Perhaps it is here that lies a clue to attract more manufacturers to the sport once more. If there are teams in the championship that can provide exciting new opportunities that may benefit a manufacturer. In this case, the charity link will heighten the credibility and reputation of Infiniti as a manufacturer, which combined with the media coverage through competing in each race can only have a direct effect on sales.

Throughout the 1990s, the BTCC was considered the top touring car series in the world, cemented and confirmed by the packed out circuits and prime time television coverage. Therefore it was in the best interest of the manufacturers to enter teams into the championship. For example, as I sit writing this article I am in full view of my prized Nissan poster from 1999, signed by both Laurent Aiello and David Leslie. Atop the poster reads the line:

“The Primera. Britain’s No.1 Touring Car”

The Nissan Primera was on sale throughout its time as the Nissan entry in the BTCC. This simple slogan acts as simple yet truly effective advertising. Unlike the technologically advanced world of Formula One, touring cars are directly based on their road going counterparts. How great would it be to say that you own the same car that is currently dominating the best touring car series anywhere in the world? Ever since the championship changed from the Super Touring specification in 2000, there has been a significant drop in audience numbers. Even the television coverage has switched to ITV4 which is hardly much of a widespread and watched channel compared to that of the BBC.

However, from my going to various rounds of the championship this year it is clear to see that the audiences are indeed returning; there was a record 31 car grid coupled with much improved racing and full race-day coverage on television. Even the famous (or infamous) show Top Gear often now uses or references touring car drivers within its shows; anything that appears in a positive light on that show will always receive increased interest after all. Even Airwaves racing use the BTCC car in its advert for its chewing gum, proving the effect of the ‘Airwaves kick’ can turn you into someone as talented as Mat Jackson in his BTCC Ford Focus. Not only that but it does provide indirect advertising for Ford itself.

With a race win under their belt and a large fan base, could Mercedes not provide some manufacturer backing? Image Credit: BTCC.net

With a race win under their belt and a large fan base, could Mercedes not provide some manufacturer backing? Image Credit: BTCC.net

Following the Infinity announcement, the press release that Ciceley Racing is to enter a Mercedes A-Class in 2015 is also significant to this discussion. 2014 was the first year that a Mercedes had entered the championship, and under the control of Adam Morgan and WIX Racing significant results were made and even the first even win for a Mercedes which came in the final weekend of the year. Adam Morgan has always been one of the fan favourites in the championship; there was no one at Brands Hatch that day that was sad to see him win the race. Mercedes are most commonly known for their entrance into DTM and of course Formula One, but with the returning audience figures, a deal with the BTCC would be ideal. Furthermore, some believe that DTM is suffering a downfall in popularity due to decreased entries and driving standards. Surely then switching the focus from the possibly suffering DTM to the ever evolving and expanding BTCC would be beneficial to their interests. As if by some poetic coincidence, as I was forming this section an advert for the Mercedes A-Class came on television and I must say that using the BTCC model in the advert would have worked perfectly. The style, sophistication and speed can be only furthered using a race winning car in one of the most challenging race series around.

In 1992, Toyota was one of the most successful teams in conjunction with Andy Rouse. Can it make a return? Image Credit: BTCC.net

In 1992, Toyota was one of the most successful teams in conjunction with Andy Rouse. Can it make a return? Image Credit: BTCC.net

In the case of every other team in the 2014 BTCC (with the obvious exception of Honda and MG), the car they are using has once been a manufacturer-backed team in the championship. Ford are the most successful name in touring car history; I believe that their return would refresh the championship, combining history with modernity with the biggest name in the motoring world. Along with them we also have Toyota who now represent a significant portion of the entries in the current crop of teams. Back in 1992, coupled with the monstrous force of Andy Rouse engineering, Toyota were the biggest and arguably best team in the championship. The same can be said about Vauxhall, who have all but disappeared from the championship having been so dominant in the early 00s. BMW have seen great success as an independent team, which could possibly lead to manufacturer interest in conjunction with WSR. The return of these legendary names may just be the final step in the evolution, revolution and rejuvenation of the BTCC.

There is one great fear in seeing returning manufacturers to the sport, and that is one of finance. One of the driving forces behind the fall of the Super Touring era was one of money; team costs were spiraling out of control. The most famous example of this was the 2000 championship winning Ford team that had a rumoured budget of £12 million. I quite enjoy an interview with series director Alan Gow who said that by the late 90s, the catering budget for the big teams was enough to have run an independent team only a few years earlier. The new NGTC regulations are to make the championship affordable, hence the almost full independent team entrants. If the manufacturers returned, the costs may indeed begin to rise again with the consequential increase in competition. But hopefully the new regulations are strict enough that it prevents too much of a cost increase while fluid enough to provide variability in the entrants. In a world of limited economic availability (apart from maybe Germany, so BMW and Mercedes have no excuse really), it helps having a set of regulations that limit costings which will subsequently appeal to manufacturers who need a new avenue of marketing their products.

In 2002, there were still manufacturers but with smaller budgets. Can we return to that? Image Credit: carenthusiast.com

In 2002, there were still manufacturers but with smaller budgets. Can we return to that? Image Credit: carenthusiast.com

Seeing manufacturers return would be great for not only the sport but the spectators too. Imagine the strength of Rob Austin and Sherman if there was some direct backing from Audi; many of his downfalls in 2014 were as a result of financial issues and lack of funds after all. Additionally, Team BMR have already grown substantially in 2o14 but with Volkswagen in on the deal as well they would most definitely be challenging for the championship. So many of the teams would become substantially more competitive with manufacturer backing, which would then cause an exponential rise in the overall spectacle and racing with more cars able to challenge for wins. Back in 2002, Proton entered the championship and saw some strong finishes with the late great David Leslie. Sadly, in 2014 the independent Proton entry with Dan Welch struggled to find a competitive pace, yet has always been a fond favourite of mine. I would very much love to see how competitive Welch could be with manufacturer backing, considering his unbreakable determination.

It may not be an easy task, but it is entirely possible that the championship could bring back manufacturers once again. What is clear is that communication is key from both sides to see that the benefits are mutual to everyone concerned. Whether this can be done through an attractive deal such as one with a charity based team that will of course bring in a great deal of media and product coverage, or from the other direction where manufacturers are attracted through existing success and a possible marketing direction, the point remains that the potential is there just needing to be exploited. At the centre of it all will always be the BTCC itself; the championship needs to be successful for manufacturers to return and I believe that 2014 represents a turning point in this theory. In my view, 2014 proved that the BTCC is on the rise to its former glories but is still missing the final piece of the puzzle; that final piece of the puzzle is the manufacturers. The manufacturers bring an added spectacle and glamour to the sport that is seen not only on the race weekends themselves but is echoed across the media in adverts, marketing campaigns and other sponsorship outputs.

Everything we need is there. Let the cogs begin to turn. Lets stop the extinction. Bring back the manufacturers.

I would love to hear what you think about this. How would you bring back the big names?

Follow me on Twitter to continue the conversation @lewisglynn69

Keep Driving People!

Peace and Love!

The famous Volvo Estate, who wouldn't love to see a return of a manufacturer doing something this wacky? Also, Volvo have entered the V8 Supercars in Australia, why not bring them back to British shores too? Image Credit: ar15.com

The famous Volvo Estate; who wouldn’t love to see a return of a manufacturer doing something this wacky? Also, Volvo have entered the V8 Supercars in Australia, why not bring them back to British shores too? Image Credit: ar15.com

“Backyard Mechanics” and Service Support.

Members may have read about a purported lack of support for non dealership mechanics by car companies in Australia. According to the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, there’s no real detriment being seen, under the current guidelines, to customers. In a review conducted in 2012 by the Australian Treasury, a recommendation was that access to repair information would not become an issue, which appears to have been reached with the FCAI’s Voluntary Code of Practice relating to Access to Service and Repair Information. This represents a minimum standard for the provision of service and repair information to independent repairers, by car manufacturers selling vehicles in Australia.789983093636464417

There’s been assertions that car makers don’t supply information; this is, in fact, incorrect, with a number of manufacturers providing the minimum amout of information required and more to a wide range of independent repairers. Part of this is to do with security. Just as you may have a code for your tablet or smartphone, the Code of Practice allows makers to protect their customers from the release of personal and vehicle information, such as safety, security and legal matters. For example, it allows car makers to help customers protect their vehicles from theft by restricting access to the security codes that would allow any person who purchases the information to access a vehicle. Also, information that an manufactuer is prohibited from disclosing under any law, including privacy laws, will not be made publicly available.banner-services

You, as a consumer, have the rightto choose who and where services and/or repairs to your car. You should also expect that crucial and critical systems can be serviced without youself and others being put at risk. The Code is intended to reassure consumers that they can have confidence that their vehicles are being can be serviced safely and appropriately by repairers that have taken the time to ensure their equipment and tools are appropriate, along with up to date information. YOU have the right to have your vehicle serviced and repaired to a high level, a professional standard and why the FCAI will work with the independent service and repair industries.

BTCC 2015: New Team go to Infiniti and Beyond!

Just as the current class has taken their final curtain call for 2014 and the lights fade on yet another season of the British Touring Car Championship, already there comes exciting news from afar. The first announcement regarding the 2015 season has been made, and it is something huge. A new manufacturer has appeared on the horizon, working in conjunction with a team that welcomes a whole new era in motorsport. Ladies and gentleman, may I present to you, ‘Support Our Paras Racing’ and Infiniti Motorsport.

Buzz Lightyear would be proud. Image Credit: BTCC.net

Buzz Lightyear would be proud. Image Credit: BTCC.net

Initially, you may be wondering what or who exactly Infiniti happen to be. Looking at the glorious picture you see before you, it may ring some familiar bells in your mind. One of these bells that may now be ringing with an ever increasing intensity is the similarity in look between the Infiniti and Lexus, and you would be correct in noticing that. In fact, Infiniti and Lexus do indeed share a considerable similarity; they are both the luxury division of famous Japanese manufacturers. Lexus hails from the capable hands of Toyota, while Infiniti is the product of the genius minds of Nissan.

Now when it comes to the BTCC, Nissan is somewhat of a legendary name. Throughout the mid-late 90s, Nissan rose to become one of the best teams the championship had ever seen. In 1998 they clinched the manufacturers title under the piloting of Anthony Reid and the late-great David Leslie. But that was not enough for them, so in 1999 they returned; Leslie along with his new team mate Laurent Aiello clinched both the manufacturers and drivers title, with Aiello just beating Leslie in the drivers title fight. The Vodafone Nissan, along with its drivers became a true legend of the Super Touring era of the BTCC, and their cars can still be seen today racing in the official Historic Super Touring series. With the announcement that Infiniti have entered the championship as a fully fledged manufacturer for 2015, you could just say that an ancient power force is rising from the ashes of the past ready to reignite the Nissan flame once more.

The Vodafone Nissan Primera has become an icon of 90s BTCC. Image Credit: Piston Heads

The all conquering Vodafone Nissan Primera has become an icon of 90s BTCC. Image Credit: Piston Heads

Just to add to the excitement of a neo-Nissan return to the sport, the team that is entering the two Infiniti Q50s is called ‘Support Our Paras Racing’. The addition of this team to the championship represents the dawning of a new era in British motorsport. As well as gunning for championship glory, the central aim of the team is to raise both awareness and funds for ‘Support Our Paras’, the official charity for the British Parachute Regiment. Most importantly, any profit the team makes as a result of championship entry will be donated directly to the charity itself.

The charity’s focal objective is to donate money towards the welfare of both injured paras along with their families. Not only that, but as a juicy addition to this, the team will include a number of injured paratroopers who will work in the team to prepare the cars for each race weekend. It truly is a momentous occasion within the BTCC to have such a campaign changing the way we think about motorsport and its ability to impact on people’s lives. The team will not only give work to those injured serviceman who can no longer serve in the parachute regiment but also raise awareness to a whole new motorsport audience.

The new team will give work to those injured in the British Parachute Regiment. Image Credit: BTCC.net

The new team will give work to those injured in the British Parachute Regiment. Image Credit: BTCC.net

Its a proud moment seeing the 'Support Our Paras' logo atop the mighty Infinity. Image Credit: BTCC.net

Its a proud moment seeing the ‘Support Our Paras’ logo atop the mighty Infiniti. Image Credit: BTCC.net

‘Support Our Paras Racing’ is headed by Derek Palmer, while the drivers will be Derek Palmer Junior (shockingly it is the son of Derek Palmber senior) and Richard Hawken. Hawken has won previous club championships along with testing for Speedworks. The Palmer father-son duo are most well known for their involvement in the Historic Super Touring series that has taken place in the UK over the last few years. Both are proven race winners, and it would not surprise me if they were up there challenging for wins throughout next year.

Alan Gow, the series Director and main man of the BTCC said:

“It’s fantastic to welcome a new manufacturer to the BTCC and particularly a premium brand such as Infiniti. There’s a great initiative behind the team too, with the ‘Support Our Paras’ charity being such a worthwhile cause. The record-breaking 2014 BTCC season concluded in fine style at Brands Hatch last weekend and the interest in the series continues to grow year-on-year. These entries from Infiniti are further testament to that and we look forward to welcoming the team to Britain’s best championship in 2015.”

There are not enough words in existence that give justice to just how significant this is for not only the BTCC but for motorsport in general. Motorsport has always had a significant following, so to combine this with charity work is a stroke of genius. The British Touring Car Championship in recent years has undergone somewhat of a rebirth, and the addition of a non-profit charity based team will further add to the growing success of the series. In many ways, everyone will benefit from this. The return of a neo-Nissan team, giving injured serviceman jobs in the motorsport industry and most importantly raising awareness and funds is one of the most exciting things to come from British motorsport in recent years.

BTCC is evolving. A new era is upon us. Watch this space

To Infinity and Beyond!

Keep Driving People!

Join the chat on Twitter @lewisglynn69

Peace and Love

When I first heard Paras, I will admit I did think Pokemon...

When I first heard Paras, I will admit I did think Pokemon…

 

Disabled Parking: Use and Abuse.

10003431_10152340778527413_8337629689821661676_nIt’s a situation that burns people with a sense of right and fair play: seeing seemingly non disabled drivers parking in clearly marked Disabled Parking spots. Invariably, there’s no indication of a sticker inside the car, a requirement in order to use these spots. Unsurprisingly, when these drivers are talked to by security personnel, there’s an unleashing of swearing and attitude that would shame an old salt. Yet, like so many things we see on the roads nowadays, there’s no need for this, there’s no need for this attitude. and the NSW state government appears to have finally said “enough”

In a move that the government hopes will dissuade non-legal users of the Disabled car parks, it’s been put forward that demerits points for drivers that are caught improperly using Disabled parking spots be implemented and fines increased. In NSW, fines are currently $519 for using the space without a permit and $623 for improperly using a permit. NSW Roads Minister, the Hon. Duncan Gay, says his office is responding to the numbers of enquiries and complaints in regards to improper usage, including a submission from the Lane Cover council. Ironically, Lane Cove councillor, Karola Brent, was photographed parking her Range Rover in a Disabled car space…533698-disabled-parking

Approximately 800,000 Australians are registered to have a Disabled parking sticker, while in NSW, around 16,000 fines are issued annually to people that have breached the regulations. The tough talking Mr Gay said: “Able-bodied people who steal disabled carparks from people who genuinely need them are low-lifes, plain and simple. I’ve asked Roads and Maritime Services to look at introducing demerit point penalties for people parking ­illegally in disabled carparks. I have utmost sympathy for the people who are disadvantaged by this sick behaviour.”

If you think over $500 for a fine is steep, consider this: the UK fines people up to Au$1840.00 whilst in San Francisco it’s up to Au$1100.00. The message is clear: don’t park in the wrong spot, take responsibility when you’re hauled up on it and be prepared to be stung when you’re caught.10441030_588665061239881_4321363551007295238_n

What do you think: shound demerit points be introduced or should the fines be heavier?

No Hat Required: Volvo XC60 D4.

Volvo’s best seller is its mid size SUV contender, the XC60 D4, a nomenclature that says, simply, it’s a four cylinder diesel. Having never driven a Volvo before and having only one driving experience, that with Robert Dahlgren and the S60 Polestar as part of the 2014 Top Gear Festival Sydney, it’s with an open mind that the XC60 is approached.XC60 profile

The Donk.
The XC60 tested has a frugal, 2.0L, four cylinder diesel, with peak power being 133kW, at a high (for a diesel) 4250 rpm. There’s significant twisting force on offer, with 400 torques between 1750 to 2500 revs. XC60 engineAlthough it is a narrow torque band, it’s working with a gearbox that has eight ratios, spreading the load and the love. It’s no rocketship, with a zero to one hundred time of 8.5 seconds however those numbers are tempered by its bulk; at 1748kg dry, it’s no featherweight. It’s rare to hear the characteristic chatter of the diesel, intruding only rarely and tending to be at startup and hard acceleration, otherwise it’s barely noticeable. The XC60 has stop/start tech for the engine as well, to conserve fuel and reduce emissions (127g per kilometre) by switching the engine off when the vehicle has come to a stop. It’s somewhat disconcerting for passengers that aren’t aware of how it works.

The Suit.XC60 frontXC60 rear 2
Designers quickly worked out that, when it came to SUV styling, that the traditional three box look was not a winner and Volvo has been quick to work curved magic on the XC60 sheetmetal. From the smooth and aero looking nose cone through to the tapered rear, there’s nary a straight line, The front has some trapezoidal design elements in the bumper, the headlights have a seemingly teardrop look sitting above two strips of LED driving lights whilst the lower air intake has a whiff of Aston Martin. There’s a strongly defined creaseline from the front guards through to the rear, fading into the fold that terminates in the rear lights. It’s a bold look and draws the eye to the sloping tailgate, framed by the stylish tail light clusters. The rear bumper has chrome inserts and hides the exhausts whilst the tailgate itself is power operated, via keyfob, dash button and insert in the gate itself. There’s roof rails and folding wing mirrors to complete the package.XC60 rear 1

On The Inside.
There’s an immediate standout to the Volvo uninitiated: the sublime design of the centre console stack which is a brushed aluminuim, floating look. It’s classy to look at (Volvo call it Copper Dawn), ergonomic by being tilted towards the driver and has a mostly user friendly button layout. I say mostly because intrumentation should be intuitive; dual zone climate control should be easy to work, for example, but there doesn’t appear to be a simple one button press to link both sides for temperature. Volvo has an onboard user manual (great green thinking but who wants to sit in a car reading an electronic book?) and the central locking system, once the car had stopped and turned off, required a double press of the interior door handle to unlock that OR press the actual central locking button twice for all doors. Apparently there’s a bypass XC60 digital dashprocedure, I couldn’t find it.XC60 dash
The layout of the stack has an ideogram of a human for aircon flow direction but is unusual in having a phone keypad as well. It does take up some room and may be better served by incorporating, like so many others, a touch screen at the top of the centre console, which, in this case, is simply an info screen. Being a European car, obviously, the indicator stalk is on the left side of the adjustable steering column, with a button and jog dial that accesses info but also allows the centre and (fully digital, looks great) dash screen XC60 seatto change through a choice of three display settings, modifying the info and layout shown. Satnav via the Sensus Connect system, however, is a near $3K option…but there is an app to allow web access by using your smartphone. In the rear cargo area, with 495L (seats up), there’s some under cover storage as well, by lifting the nicely carpeted locker cover. The eight speaker audio system is also very good, being nicely balanced and with some good punch, aiding the experience. Naturally there’s auxiliary inputs plus Bluetooth streaming for music, that gorgeous 7 inch LCD screen, plenty of safety XC60 interior fullwith airbags everywhere and hazard light activation for emergency braking and emergency situations.
There’s full leather seating (heating at the front), memory for the driver, a pollen filter for the aircon plus vents in the pillars for the rear seat passengers, split fold rear seats which sit a bit higher than the front row and a cargo blind, face level B pillar mounted vents, plus a soft move and velour lined centre console bin, all contributing to a premium feel.

On The Road.
It’s an SUV but not as you know it: it’s not intended to be anything other than a midlargish two wheel drive diesel SUV. There’s no transfer case, XC60 wheelno traction modes for anything other than tarmac and the tyres (235/65/17 Michelin Latitude Sport) are asymmetric in tread and not intended for anything else, really, than a road. So, within those guidelines (as an AWD version of the D4 is on its way), it works pretty well. There’s a touch of push on understeer with the relatively high sidewalls flexing and it’s noticeable in the driver’s seat, some noticeable body roll at times but the suspension does a good job of dismissing the smaller bumps before firming up and being a touch niggly. Undulations are despatched with ease and the XC60 rarely became truly unsettled, even into some sloping off camber turns. Under way the eight ratio gearbox moves quickly and quietly as the diesel settles down into its ryhthm, only really noticeable on startup with the chatter. Sports Mode on the transmission does makes things a touch quicker, however neither mode can do much about the turbo lag below 1700revs or so plus, there were times when the gearbox was seemingly caught unaware, with a clunk and thud at certain throttle input levels. The steering is light, a touch numb on centre and doesn’t really feel as if you’re connected to the road 100%. The stop/start system (it can be turned off) is sometimes intrusive, with a cutoff point of close to five km/h the engine goes off the grid and sometimes it’s a bare breath before you can move forward, restarting the engine. It is, however, impressively quick to do so; also impressive is the hush inside, even on Sydney’s goat track coarse bitumen, with plenty of work being put in to isolate the cockpit from the noise outside.

The Wrap.
Volvo has well and truly shrugged off its boxy headache in recent times; exterior designs are sexy, slinky, curvy, interiors are comfortable, welcoming and ambitious. The XC60’s ride is good enough for most drivers however the technology may overwhelm. I’m reasonably tech savvy yet found myself bemused and befuddled by Volvo’s system; for the life of me, I couldn’t find the override for the central locking, for example. It took a while to absorb how the menu system works as once an item is selected then the various dials and buttons work only for that selection. It’s a cool look to the interior and being able to tailor the digital dash is handy, maybe a touch gimmicky but the information available, once you figure out how to use the system, is considerable. Ride quality is quite acceptable as is handling and as long as a driver doesn’t expect rocket launch acceleration then there’s enough available. Fuel economy, given the predominantly suburban driving, ended up around 7.0L per 100 kilometres.
Overall, however, the XC60 failed to tick, for me, an important box, the one marked “Excitement” and that’s proved hard to identify why. It’s nice to drive, looks ok, has a plush enough interior….It’s just under $60K and, as tested, was a tick over $62K (metallic paint is a whopping $1750 option!) and is, naturally, well equipped. For information on the XC60 (and other Volvo products) head to www.volvo.com.au and for A Wheel Thing TV: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtIht5dgKiI&feature=em-upload_owner

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Hydrogen Fuel Cells and How They Work

Hydrogen fuel cells are the new player in the area of alternative fuel and sustainable motoring.  At the time of writing, there aren’t any production cars fitted with hydrogen fuel cell technology but there are a number of manufacturers that have plans to launch them at some point in the near future; Toyota , Honda and Mercedes are the most talked-about names in this department.  All the same, there are a few vehicles already out there that have been rigged out with fuel cell technology, mostly as demo or concept vehicles.

The Toyota FCV concept at the 2013 Tokyo motor show: a fuel cell vehicle that we could see on the roads some day.

The Toyota FCV concept at the 2013 Tokyo motor show: a fuel cell vehicle that we could see on the roads some day.

This is not to say that fuel cell technology hasn’t been tried and tested.  It got its real launch (literally) back in the 1980s when NASA fitted them onto the Space Shuttle and the Apollo projects before that, as their space- and fuel-saving ability were very attractive for outer space missions.  In fact, they were invented back in the early 1800s when scientists were starting to tinker around with electricity (cue conspiracy theories now).

OK, so how do hydrogen fuel cells work and how practical are they for the everyday motorist?

In a nutshell, a fuel cell is kind of like a battery. A fuel cell generates electricity, which can be used for whatever you fancy, including getting the engine and the other bits and pieces working inside a car. It generates electricity by the way the chemicals provided by the fuel interact with each other, again similar to what a battery does. However, unlike a battery, it only does this reaction when oxygen is fed to the system, meaning you can switch the process on and off.

A fuel cell consists of three main parts: the anode (the bit where the electrons that create the charge flow out of), the cathode (the bit where the electrons flow to) and an electrolyte for the charge to move through.  Fans of sports drinks may recognise the term “electrolyte”. This is because you have dozens of electrochemical connections that are rather similar to a fuel cell in your body’s nervous system (they’re at work while you’re reading this) and an electrolyte is anything that creates positive or negative charge when added to water.  There’s usually some way of getting the air to the system to get the reaction started.

A car fitted with hydrogen fuel cell technology is more or less an electric car, although the fuel cell needs to be topped up from time to time with hydrogen.  The oxygen is supplied by the air we all breathe, so that’s not a problem.

You may wonder where they hydrogen goes if it needs constantly topping up. Is this creating some sort of exhaust?  Technically speaking, it is producing a “waste” product that is a compound consisting of two hydrogen molecules and one oxygen molecule: H2O or good old water.

There are, however, a few downsides to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.  The first one is the lack of bowsers that dispense hydrogen.  They do exist in some parts of the US so far, but they are rather rare.  This is the biggest problem with the potential uptake of vehicles using this technology.  Not only would you have to develop bowsers for dispensing hydrogen gas but you’d also have to find some way of getting the hydrogen gas from where it’s been manufactured to the pump, which would mean a whole new industry (come to think of it, this probably isn’t a bad thing – it’s getting started that’s the problem).  This would mean a few logistics and health and safety issues, too: hydrogen is really, really explosive (ever heard of the Hindenburg disaster?).

The problem with setting up a whole new infrastructure for hydrogen technology contrasts with the situation with plug-in electric vehicles.  We’ve already got the electrical network in place, so it’s a simple case of putting in a few more places to plug in, plus a few more sources of electricity if needed.

Hydrogen production isn’t an issue, though.  At the moment, hydrogen gas is a by-product of quite a few industries, especially those to do with ammonia and methanol – and that’s just a few of them. Often, the process of turning the really nasty carbon monoxide into CO2 (which does have its good side) involves water donating an oxygen molecule to the pollutant CO, leaving hydrogen gas behind.  You can also get hydrogen from ordinary water and from sea water (or waste water), so there are a lot of juicy possibilities for the future.

So what should the typical Aussie driver of today think about hydrogen fuel cell vehicles?  At the moment, you’d probably do better with an electric or hybrid vehicle, as there aren’t too many places where you can grab hydrogen at this stage.  However, when things get off the ground (and I mean “when” rather than “if”), they will be a good way of powering our cars as we go from A to B.  I’m looking forward to it!

More information about hydrogen fuel cell technology and progress can be found at the following links:

Happy driving,

Megan

BTCC 2014 Season Finale: Did Someone Say Night Race?

It is strange to think that as I sit down to write this article , darkness has fallen on the 2014 British Touring Car Championship. The series traveled the length and breadth of the country and in almost poetic fashion, came right back to where it all began to write the closing chapter of the year. However, one slight change from the season opener was the added challenge of the Grand Prix circuit for the drivers to master. Going into the final race weekend, Colin Turkington led by a staggering 50 points over nearest rival Jason Plato. Success was almost certain, but when the only man who can stop you is Jason Plato, truly anything is possible. And just to further add a dash of mystery into the mix, being the final race of the year it had become championship tradition that the weather would be anything but cooperative across the weekend. The stage was set. The weather was preparing its madness. It was time to fire those engines up, one last time.

And so it came down to it. Turkington vs Plato. BMW vs MG. Image Credit: BTCC.net

And so it came down to it. Turkington vs Plato. BMW vs MG. Image Credit: BTCC.net

It took only until the start of qualifying for the famous final race weather to start rearing its beautifully ugly head. Qualifying was a wash of rain and slippery conditions, which in the early stages saw returning ex-champion Alain Menu take firm control. Do remember it was in the rain on the GP circuit in 1995 when a certain Alain Menu took his Renault Laguna to victory while the other competitors slid left right and center. Not to mention, Menu was fighting for victory in the Jack Sears Trophy, which awarded points per overtake; his closest rival remained the ever plucky Dave Newsham in the Ford. However, towards the end of the session the track began to dry and Jason Plato timed his run perfectly to place his MG firmly on pole position, with the added bonus of his team mate Tordoff riding tail gunner in 2nd. Qualifying was however brought to an early conclusion following an incident involving Dave Newsham which saw him lose control at Sheene Curve ending up in a dangerous position. The late surge by Turkington was then brought to an end, and he would line up 4th on the grid for the first race.

Even though Turkington led by 50 points, it was still possible for Jason Plato to win the championship. He would need to win all 3 races; in race one Turkington would have to finish no higher than 4th, and then be outscored by a further 21 in the second race, followed by.. You know what, let’s just say that for Plato to win it would take nothing short of a heavenly miracle from the hypothetical gods themselves.

Jack Goff was one of the early casualties of race one. Image Credit: Adam Johnson (Team Bombersports)

Jack Goff was one of the early casualties of race one. Image Credit: Adam Johnson (Team Bombersports)

The first race began pretty well for Plato, with him and Tordoff charging off into the lead which Plato took pretty quickly, keeping Turkington behind. What did not go so well however was the start of the race for the rest of the field; an incident between Giovanardi and Shedden started a chain reaction of collisions that rather quickly brought the safety car out. Worst hit was the Volkswagen of Jack Goff who became airborne in the mayhem, and Matt Neal who had to be airlifted to hospital for precautionary checks as a result. The race brought with it further incident and safety cars as one would expect from the final race of the year. The standout driver of the race however could be no one else other than Rob Collard who drove from 23rd to an eventual 6th following a breathtaking overtake of the Ford of Giovanardi. Considering what the Ford driver has been like in the past, I was impressed that he did not decide to shovel Collard off for daring to pass him! As the end of the race came around, Turkington finished 3rd which was enough to make him the 2014 BTCC Champion! The best Plato could ask for now was a tie on points that Turkington would still edge due to his higher number of 1st and 2nd place finishes across the year.

The second championship meant a lot to Colin, as echoed in his words following the race:

I suppose the main feeling is relief. We were ready to do battle until race three so I really wasn’t expecting to clinch the title so early in the day. I actually thought I was a point short when I crossed the line so I didn’t want to celebrate until I was absolutely sure. To be able to celebrate with the team and my family is a really proud moment. Lewis [son] wasn’t old enough to remember the first one and part of the reason of getting back into the BTCC was to do it for him, so I’m delighted.

What with all the rain, Turkington still decided to add some champagne to the shower. Image Credit: BTCC.net

What with all the rain, Turkington still decided to add some champagne to the shower to celebrate his championship. Image Credit: BTCC.net

As soon as the dust (and clouds) had settled after race one, it was time for race two to get underway. And just to rub Plato’s face in it what with losing the championship to a RWD car and all, Turkington got a start to rival that of the Big Bang and rocketed off the line into the lead. It was clear however that Plato was having absolutely none of it; he was not going to be beaten by a RWD car yet again. There was only one solution, and of course that was to pull of a clearly impossible move into Paddock up the inside, spinning Turkington and shooting the newly crowned double champion off into the gravel. Strangely enough, for those that were watching at the track this was met with rapturous applause and laughter (the move was so typically Plato it bordered on cliche), yet the online response was one of anger, rage and voracious aggression towards Plato. Understandably so, the move characterised one of the central issues with the modern BTCC; unnecessary collisions to get your way.

Hunter Abbott eventually made it to the grid for race 2, in an unconventional car mind you... Image Credit: Adam Johnson (Team Bombersports)

Hunter Abbott eventually made it to the grid for race 2, in an unconventional car mind you… Image Credit: Adam Johnson (Team Bombersports)

The second race of the day was somewhat of a historic occasion, for it was the first time a Mercedes ever won a race outright in the history of the championship. That’s right, after storming into the hearts of the masses and putting in stellar performances across the year, Adam Morgan finally got his maiden BTCC win. After a sensational overtake of Jason Plato, Morgan had a convincing lead, until the pressure got to him and he ran wide and Plato slipped back through. However, following the early incident with Turkington, Plato was given a 20 second time penalty as well as being relegated to the back of the grid for race three after receiving his third ‘strike’ as it were.

'I grow tired of your success Turkington, out of my way'. Image Credit: BTCC.net

‘I grow tired of your success Turkington, out of my way’. Image Credit: BTCC.net

Adam Morgan made history by recording the first ever BTCC win for a Mercedes. Image Credit: Adam Johnson (Team Bombersports)

Adam Morgan made history by recording the first ever BTCC win for a Mercedes. Image Credit: Adam Johnson (Team Bombersports)

As race day soldiered on, I began to think that the legend of the final race wash out may have finally come to an end, for the weather remained dry. Alas, fate it seemed could not be undone; the raindrops began to fall just minutes before the start of the final race. By the time the race was due to start, the once dry track was transformed into a speedboat raceway. If it was F1 it would be called too dangerous and be called off; but this is true motorsport with true machines. Nothing was going to stop the BTCC.  Following the Plato penalty and the reverse grid, it was Jack Clarke who found himself on pole for the final race of the year. And what a race to choose to do it. This was not going to be easy. As the Kentish countryside plunged into darkness, the headlights flicked on and the engines roared for the final time of 2014.

Race 3 became the first unofficial night race in over 10 years! Image Credit: BTCC.net

Race 3 became the first unofficial night race in over 10 years! Image Credit: BTCC.net

Jack Clarke lost out to the RWD powered Nick Foster off the line, until masterfully taking back the lead at Graham Hill Bend. A rookie no more is this one. Sadly, it was only a matter of time before Clarke lost out to the hard charging Honda of Gordon Shedden who was trying to salvage a good result from what was a poor weekend for Honda. Shedden comfortably took the final win of the year, followed by the fully graduated Clarke in the Crabbies Ford.

Like tin top terrors tearing through the stormy darkness, the field proved what masterful driving really was. There was slipping, there was sliding, but the rain was conquered. Well, apart maybe from Martin Depper, who had a spin causing yet another safety car period. With Shedden powering ahead at the front, all eyes turned to Jason Plato who had started not only at the back of the grid but in the pit lane. He may not have won the title, but that did not stop him providing what was possibly one of the greatest drives of the year. Starting from the pit lane, he powered through all the way to 7th by the end of the race. That is the mark of a true series great.

The BTCC field put on an excellent power boat display for the final race. Image Credit: Adam Johnson (Team Bombersports)

The BTCC field put on an excellent power boat display for the final race. Image Credit: Adam Johnson (Team Bombersports)

The chequered flag waved. And in a moment the whole year was done. Due to a shocking weekend from Alain Menu, Dave Newsham performed a last minute steal of the Jack Sears Trophy honours, ending his year on a high. Colin Turkington was the drivers’ champion. MG the constructors champion. But let us not forget those who did not enjoy such sweet success in 2014, like the Proton team of Ollie Jackson and Dan Welch, who struggled with engine development throughout the year and failed to make any real progress. Dan Welch has however confirmed he will be back for 2015, hoping for greater success than 2014. Other standout drives have come from newboy Tom Ingram who has solidly impressed across the year. No one can of course forget ultimate fan favourite Rob Austin who suffered a collision filled end to his 2014 season, but he and Sherman will return to race another day.

If I was to pick my two standout teams from 2014, honours would have to go to United Autosports and Team BMR. United Autosports were consistently improving throughout the year and by next year may well be a force to be reckoned with. Team BMR have the potential to win not only races but championships. With their intimidating line up of Jack Goff, Warren Scott, Aron Smith and the great Alain Menu they exploded from the blocks like a greyhound on steroids. For both these teams, 2015 will most definitely see greater successes.

And so with that, the 2014 British Touring Car Championship comes to an end. The series has risen from strength to strength across the year and is fast returning to its former glory days of the 90s. In addition to this, there is already exciting murmurs from across the paddock regarding the 2015 season. Will Jason Plato remain in the BTCC? Does the appeal by WSR regarding the severity of his penalty suggest a Plato move to WSR? Are we going to see the return of old manufacturers? Will new makes enter the series? Will there be a new champion to rise from the mayhem?

It now leaves only for me to say, congratulations to Colin Turkington and thank you for reading my 2014 BTCC season reviews. I hope you have enjoyed reading them. I have definitely enjoyed writing them. But do not despair, I will return soon with all the updates of the upcoming 2015 season.

Remember, keep driving people!

Continue the touring car talk on Twitter! Follow me @lewisglynn69!

Peace and Love!

Image Credit: Adam Johnson (Team Bombersports)

Image Credit: Adam Johnson (Team Bombersports)

 

A Cruel Mountain: 2014 Bathurst 1000

It’s now history that Chaz Mostert and Paul Morris won the Supercheap Autos Bathurst 1000 for 2014.

It’s now history that they did so by, as silly as it may sound, leading on the last lap. Why that point is important is because it was the ONLY lap the car had been in the lead in the 161 laps the event has. However, the preceding near eight hours had seen scenes unprecedented in the history of V8 Supercars. In fact, the days leading up to The Great Race witnessed just how cruel “The Mountain” can be to drivers, both veterans and inexperienced.

On most days of the year, the road is a tourist drive, limited to 60 kilometres per hour. It’s six thousand, two hundred and thirteen metres in length and has an elevation change of 171 metres from Pit Straight to the section called Skyline. It leads into a tight, twisty, steeply downhill inclined part of the circuit called The Dipper, which itself becomes the world famous Conrod Straight. However, this year, it was Griffins Bend or, innocuously, Turn 2, that saw most of the incidents that will entrench this year’s race in folklore. Practice on Saturady saw a mighty coming together of two cars, two drivers, two former team mates; Warren Luff had a brake system failure and, in an effort to wash of speed coming into the 120 degree uphill right hand turn, saw the rear of his car snap left, collecting the car of Lowndes and forcing both into the tyre barrier. The impact left the Luff vehicle on its side and the crowd witnessed the sportsmanship that we expect, with Lowndes sprinting back to his stricken friend, helping to extricate him from the car. Luff’s co-driver, Garth Tander, a previous Bathurst 1000 winner, could only watch on and lament that the crash had left the car too badly damaged to be repaired in time. Lowndes, however, would go on to race the 888 Commodore with co-driver Steven Richards.Lowndes Luff crash

The Porsche Carrera Cup saw their own share of carnage, with Michael Patrizi finding the wall on the second last lap of  arace, with Nick Foster then having what could only be described as a brain explosion on the final lap, again at what would become the infamous Griffins Bend over the weekend. Diving down the inside of David Russell, Foster succeeded in taking out Russell, Warren Luff (suffering no ill effects from the V8 crash) and Steven Richards. Russell was able to continue, albeit at the end of the field.

It was the Sunday, the race day, however, that showed just how cruel a mountain Mount Panorama can be. Chief amongst the moments that will be talked about is the red flag that put a pause on racing for an hour. The road surface had been relaid some months before and at Griffin’s Ben, yes, the very same, the surface was lifting, tearing and eventually seen to be potentially dangerous enough that it needed to be resealed. Controversy reigned as cars were worked on, out on the main straight, with the question being: “should this not have been a parc ferme’ situation?” Unfortunately for a member of the local wildlife, the Lockwood Racing entry of Fabian Coulthard and Luke Youlden happened to occupy the same space it wanted to be on, triggering a safety car. This led to the Dale Wood and Chris Pither Commodore ramming the rear of the Brad Jones Racing entry of Jason Bright and Andrew Jones. Crowd favourite Scott McLaughlin, in one of the two Garry Rogers Motorsport Volvos,  took himself out of contention late in the race after clouting the wall at The Cutting on the way to Skyline, in almost exactly the same spot as team mate, Robert Dahlgren. Fellow Kiwi, Shane van Gisbergen, suffered heartbreak in pit lane Lee Holdsworthafter the car stalled in a refuelling stop. Russell Ingall also had a brain explosion, trying the same inside move as Foster, coming into Griffins and having to brake late, hit the Erebus Mercedes of Lee Holdsworth, with both cars hitting the tyre barrier and Holdsworth’s car being lifted up and on its side before rolling onto the roof. The yellow Nissan of James Moffat and Taz Douglas had also hit the wall in the same spot earlier in the day, reentering the race with kilometres of race tape holding the front of the car together.

Craig Lowndes was in the wars late in the race; coming into Hell Corner, turn one, Lowndes turned in and hit the rear of the 2013 champion, Mark Winterbottom. Somehow, miraculously, Frosty managed to hold the car on the track and, in a cloud of shredded rubber, continued although a few places down whilst Lowndes would be pinged and givin a drive through penalty. With just a couple of laps to go, the Red Bull Racing team were on the radio to Jamie Whincup, as he lead the race, telling him to nurse the car, watch the fuel. Whincup admitted after the race that he though he could do it. It’s history now that Whincup was wrong and the Mostert/Morris duo would win, coming from rear of grid and after their car had hit the tyre barrier with reasonable panel damage, to hold up, triumphantly, the coveted Peter Brock trophy. Douglas and Moffat would slide by Whincup for second position, as would Nick Percat and British driver, Oliver Gavin, for third.

The Great Race lived up to its reputation on Sunday, October 12th, 2014, cruel in its majesty.

 

http://www.v8supercars.com.au/news/championship/the-biggest-bathurst-moments