Archive for December, 2014
Yep, just like that, 2014 has bit the dust and 2015 is mere hours away (as I write). Hope you had a wonderful, safe and enjoyable Christmas and a car trouble free one. Regrettably, the car I was driving, one that is heavily spruiked on tv, had systemic electrical issues, precluding the intended usage and definitely taking the fun part out of a three day sojourn to the south coast region of NSW.
As expected, there was a police presence on the roads but not nearly as big as expected; when I say roads, these are the main roads between Sydney to Canberra to Cooma to beyond. As expected, there were numerous acts of low driving standards which contribute to the reasons why our roads aren’t as safe as they should be. From my driver’s seat, they’re habits which infer a laziness in driving and therefore, a lack of consideration for the driver committing them and for anyone else on the road.
Since December 1 of 2014, it’s fair to say that summer really hasn’t hit the coastal areas of NSW, with substantial cloud cover, the ensuing low light levels and rain. It’s fair to say that drivers either aren’t taught or, probably more correctly, don’t think, to use headlights. Or, perhaps, they drive wearing a blue suit and red cape…Cars have a little lever that’s attached to the steering column and, when moved, make a ticky tocky noise and magically make lights at each corner of the car flash. It’s truly surprising how many drivers don’t know about that lever. It’s also surprising just how many drivers will suddenly realise that there is a car in front of them, almost as if they were asleep at the wheel, then violently move into the lane you’re in and just with a metre of clearance ahead of you THEN suddenly brake….with nothing in front of them. It’s Australia’s most common crash, the rear ender and, sadly, due to drivers that simply don’t care about you.
For 2015, here’s what I’d like to see. A return to the basics of driving. Use some courtesy and indicate and indicate with plenty of time up your sleeve, especially at roundabouts. Read the road ahead and look for the slower traffic. Use headlights when it’s dark, ESPECIALLY IF YOU DRIVE A DARK OR SILVER COLOURED CAR. If you’re out on a country drive, once outside the capital or large city metro area, headlights can be seen from quite a distance during the day. Traffic lights are a different matter. There’s too many that seem to be calibrated for the non main stream traffic, where the major road gets but a few brief seconds of green and the intersecting roads a lot longer. When it’s a “normal” intersection governed by lights, there’s more than enough time to slow and stop when the amber light comes on. All too often I see drivers go through, only to be caught by the red at the next set of lights, with those that do the right thing pulling up behind them just seconds later.
Bottom line is this; driving to the basics will contribute to a safer road environment and hopefully make a difference to our road toll. As one philosopher said, a drop of water on its own does little but together they form an ocean. Work together to be a better ocean of drivers so our 2015 can be more enjoyable and safe. For ALL drivers on the road.
See you next year.
Getting from there to here…these were the opening words to the only song ever used on a Star Trek tv series, the largely unlamented Enterprise. They are, however, valid, for both the time of year and this blog. We’re getting close to the 600 articles published by our contributors; Megan, Lewis, David Lye, myself and others before us. It’s a pleasure to be part of the team and we hope you enjoy our musings, thoughts, brain rumbles and reviews.
Christmas time in Australia lies in the southern hemisphere’s summer, whilst in the north, it’s winter. Both times of year have their own weather challenges; in the UK, USA and northern Asian and European regions, there’s that funny white stuff called snow. Down here, in Australia, South Africa and America, New Zealand and various island states, summer comes with heat, torrential thunderstorms and something in between. It’s holiday time and the general process is to take the car, pack it with family and go for a drive.
Sadly, some simple things are overlooked and we see the tragic results on the nightly news. What can YOU do to potentially avoid being a statistic?
Step one: stay to a routine; if you’re an early riser naturally, you’re half way there. If you’re not, try to stay to your naturally awake time; artificially adjusting your waking zone has been shown to affect driving habits.
Stay hydrated; take water with you and take a few sips every half hour or so. Coffee and tea are fine, however you’ll need to bear in mind the natural diuretic effects of them. If you’re driving alone, take a break every 90 minutes to two hours; get out, walk around, stretch, look at something in the distance to give the eyes a different focusing point, rather than on the car in front.
In the age before cars became computers on wheels, we’d check oil, radiator fluids….nowadays they’re generally sealed systems so we can look at the windscreen; make sure that’s clean as dirty and grime refract light and can be distracting. Tyre pressures should always be checked and tyre tread depths are worth a look also.
When out on the road, keep an eye out for the road conditions and, importantly, the driving styles of those around you. Look at what’s happening ahead of you; if there’s a flow of brake lights then you’ll be forearmed to prepare to brake. If you’re a naturally slower driver or will be towing a load, be courteous and stay in the left lane. If you need to overtake, judge where you can do it safely; don’t do it on a blind crest or a curve where you can’t see what’s coming. Drive to the conditions; it might say 110 km/h but if it’s hammering down with rain or it’s foggy, drive smart and slow down. Use driving lights and, especially if you own a dark painted car, headlights.
Finally, enjoy the drive!
On behalf of Private Fleet, the team of staff that are always here to help you buy your new car and our contributors, have a safe journey and a wonderful Christmas.
Since 2003, the Porsche Carrera Cup GB has become a staple succulent side dish to the mouth watering main course that is the British Touring Car Championship. As the fastest single-make GT series in the UK, the Porsche Carrera Cup GB has made a name for itself as a major stepping stone for drivers hoping to move into the glamorous world of international GT series. Some famous entrants include Tim Harvey (the current voice of BTCC on ITV4), newly signed WSR driver Sam Tordoff, Faithless singer Maxi Jazz and Porsche works driver Richard Westbrook. 2014 was a close fought championship that went down to the wire at Brands Hatch, but the series was beginning to suffer. But hope remains. After a change in championship regulations for 2015, new teams are flooding to the championship.
Porsche Carrera Cup GB Championship 2015 Overview
Rounds 1 + 2: 4/5 April – Brands Hatch (Indy), Kent
Rounds 3 + 4: 1/2 May – Spa, Belgium (FIA WEC support race)
Rounds 5 + 6: 6/7 June – Oulton Park, Cheshire
Rounds 7 + 8: 27/28 June – Croft, North Yorkshire
Rounds 9 + 10: 8/9 August – Snetterton, Norfolk
Rounds 11 + 12: 22/23 August – Knockhill, Scotland
Rounds 13 + 14: 26/27 September – Silverstone (National), Northamptonshire
Rounds 15 + 16: 10/11 October – Brands Hatch (GP), Kent
Categories: Pro, ProAm1, ProAm2, Rookie (brand new for 2015)
Pro – Winner – £15,000 plus fully-expensed drive in Porsche Supercup supported by Porsche Motorsport engineers
ProAm1 – Winner – £7,000 plus loan of Porsche 911 for a year and opportunity to spend 0.5 days at the Porsche Experience Centre, Silverstone with a Porsche Works driver
ProAm2 – Winner – £5,000 plus either loan of a Porsche 911 for a year or ‘money can’t buy’ opportunity to participate in a one day ‘Masterclass’ with a Porsche LMP1 driver at Silverstone
Rookie – Winner – £50,000 2nd – £20,000 3rd – £10,000
The revised 2015 format has attracted a raft of new teams that are interested in taking up the Porsche challenge. Some of these new teams include Credit4Cars which will enter multiple cars led by Iain Dockerill and the highly experience G-Cat team (who have previously competed in various sports car and historic championships) who will provide cars for Peter and Shamus Jennings. This new wave of entrants comes at what I believe is a vital time for the championship.
When the championship first started back in 2003, there were always packed grids and high-speed racing from first down to last. Some of my fondest memories include wheel to wheel racing between Richard Westbrook and Tim Harvey, while Maxi Jazz proved there was more to him than just music fighting it out in the midfield. However, my experiences in 2014 were somewhat less exciting. The central issue I believe was the severe lack of cars on the grid across the year. Technically speaking there were a total of 28 entries, although little over 9 actually competed in more than half the races in the season. On top of that, there felt like that were almost as many classes as there were cars, so there was no real competition. In many cases, after only a few laps the field had spread out to the point where races became processional and somewhat lackluster. I have always been a fan of multi-class racing such as that of the World Endurance Championship or even the classic BTCC of the 80s. It began to feel as if the Porsche Carrera Cup was nothing more than a filler to kill time before the BTCC. This is meant to be the premier single make GT series of the UK; it should not feel like that.
Reading about the changes to the 2015 season and the resulting increase in entrants already has given me a brief glimmer of hope. With the ever increasing popularity returning to the BTCC, the television and race day audiences are growing, which will be nothing except attractive to potential teams. Not only that, 2015 sees a closer connection with the international Porsche Motorsport team, such as supporting the World Endurance Championship at Spa in May and the Porsche works drives for championship winners.
Ragnar Schulte, General Manager, at Porsche Cars GB, commented:
“I am pleased to welcome the new teams and drivers to the Porsche Carrera Cup GB for 2015, and also thank our continuing teams for their long-standing loyalty. Next season, a new chapter of Carrera Cup GB begins. In addition to our proud role in support of the exciting TOCA British Touring Car Championship programme, we also look forward to the season highlight of two races at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium, on the same weekend our Porsche Motorsport colleagues will be participating in the World Endurance Championship around the iconic track.”
Additionally, the new Rookie category allows younger drivers (between 17 and 24) to get behind the wheel of the monstrous rear-engined, 460 hp ‘Type 991’ Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car. As a starting point for a career in GT racing, there are not many other opportunities that match the caliber of this one. Although the full entry list will not be confirmed until the New Year, one of the definite new arrivals comes in the form of 2013 Renault Clio Cup Champion Josh Files, who races with the brand new team #RacingforHeroes; a team who are supporting our injured veterans through motorsport. Josh Webster will face a much tougher season in 2015, who will return to defend his 2014 title.
The increased grid for 2015 should inject some fresh new energy back into the Porsche Carrera Cup GB, although I hope the increased number of race categories does not result in less competition between drivers. Perhaps the future could see a reduction in categories to simply Pro and Rookie, to truly make the most of these amazing cars.
The TOCA package has become the best race series across Europe with top class drivers competing at the highest standard. The new look 2015 Porsche Carrera Cup GB should do nothing but emphasise this quality. After a slightly disappointing 2014, it is time for the Porsche Cup to return to form. Home grown talent competing alongside international names such as Gelzinis and Jimenez will make for a truly great year.
Now if only April would hurry along!
Follow me on Twitter for more motorsport news and views @lewisglynn69
Keep Driving People!
Peace and Love!
Christmas time is fast approaching; a time for family, a time for giving, a time for happiness. As we delve into the devilishly delicious dinner laid down before us, everything in the world feels perfect. But what about those who do not enjoy the same luxuries? As we enjoy the familiar warmth of Christmas time, let us not forget those that must face the bitter chill of winter. There are those who must suffer at the hands of their masters.
Their suffering is not just for Christmas. Their suffering cannot be ignored.
Let them not suffer in silence forever; it is time to give our cars the voice they deserve.
How can we let this suffering continue?
Just the other day, my friend sent me this very photo that sits sadly above these words. There are places that are safe for the cars of this world, but it would appear that Croydon (SW London) is not one of those places. The once majestic Lambourghini, adorned in angelic white has been horrifically besmirched. Her great and powerful legs cruelly ripped away from her body. The sightings of such beautiful creatures are rare in this part of the world, and yet here you look upon the lifeless shell that once roamed so free with so many horses.
This was never going to end well..
The pain and suffering caused to the ever endangered Lamborghini species will forever be caused by the oppressive and destructive nature of the human race. In this case however it seems more down to some horrible disease most commonly known as stupidity. The blame can go one of two ways in this case; either the driver of the Lamborghini was travelling way too fast down an urban street or the car pulling out did not check properly that the road was clear before setting off.
Here is the video of the incident, make up your own mind on this one: Aventador Crash – Moment of Impact
Are You F***ing Nuts??
This next video really does make me fear for my own safety on the road. Jeremy Clarkson once presented the statement that some people may have started to mate with vegetables. Well, after watching this next clip you may well start to believe it. Brake checking someone is dangerous enough on a small town road, let alone on a dual carriageway where high speeds cause fatal incidents.
This total arsewipe decided it would be utterly hilarious to come to a complete stop on the road, just to piss off the driver behind. What happens next, horrifying. The worst part is, that poor blue Peugeot will probably never again feel the freedom of the open road. Let us not also forget both other vehicles involved. The lives of 3 machines forever ruined.
I will leave this here, while I go and change my underwear: Idiot Brake Checks and Causes Accident
The Pain of Winter
All those innocent cars, gone. Image Credit: tikkaspikes.eu
Winter is a dangerous time for the automobiles we cherish. Their owners suddenly begin to believe that they have become Colin McRae and that any road surface and any weather condition is no match for their superior driving skillz. And yes, the z is intentional.
Of course it is possible to drive in treacherous conditions such as snow, ice and decreased visibility. The problem is that one wrong move will not only cost you your dignity, but also your insurance bonus and maybe even your life. And think of the cars, all they are trying to do is serve their owners and do the best job they can.
The Ultimate Neglect
So please, if you can this Christmas, spare a thought for our faithful cars. No presents for the hard working. No warmth embrace of the relatives by the fire.
Without them, what would you do?
They need our love, they need our care.
But please remember, do not take them for granted. Let’s fight the oppression of the idiot, of the LAD trying to show off and the downright brainless.
Join the fight on Twitter @lewisglynn69
Have a good Christmas everyone, and please drive safe!
Peace and Love!
Subaru Australia has announced a significant price realignment of two new generation model ranges, offering savings of up to 25 per cent – or $14,000 – despite specification increases.
The multi award-winning vehicles all share an independent five-star rating for occupant safety from the respected Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) and have achieved the highest points tally yet by Subaru models: 35.99 out of a maximum possible 37.
Subaru Australia Managing Director, Nick Senior, said several factors had prompted the shift: “Most notably the exchange rate, the Japanese Free Trade Agreement and more efficient manufacturing, driving reduced costs.
“Currency is always going to have the biggest impact on imported goods. It is clear that the Yen Australian dollar equation has moved into a more favourable range for us. We have factored in the Free Trade Agreement, because we know it will be legislated in the near future. Therefore, it is prudent to act now. Also, the Europeans have moved into more mainstream segments and we too have changed strategy with Liberty in particular – making the price versus specification ratio more attractive than ever before.
Finally, there are obvious benefits from all of FHI’s efforts to constantly improve manufacturing efficiency, leading to reduced costs. So, there is a combination of factors that ultimately led to this important pricing statement by us. And this will lead to growth in prospect and customer interest in our brand and our products, thanks to our strategic All 4 the Driver initiatives from customer service, engineering and durability to value.”
LIBERTY AND OUTBACK MY15 MANUFACTURER’S LIST PRICING*
Liberty 2.5i CVT $29,990 (-$3000, or 9.1 per cent)
Liberty 2.5i Premium CVT $35,490 (-$4000, or 10.1 per cent)
Liberty 3.6R $41,990 (-$14,000, or 25.0 per cent)
Outback 2.5i CVT $35,990 (-$3000, or 7.7 per cent)
Outback 2.5i Premium CVT $41,490 (-$2000, or 4.6 per cent)
Outback 2.0D manual $35,490 (-$5000, or 12.3 per cent)
Outback 2.0D CVT $37,490 (-$5500, or 12.8 per cent
Outback 2.0D Premium manual $41,490 (-$2000, or 4.6 per cent)
Outback 2.0D Premium CVT $43,490 (-$2500, or 5.4 per cent)
Outback 3.6R $47,990 (-$10,000, or 17.2 per cent)
*Prices are Subaru (Aust) Pty Limited’s Manufacturer’s List Prices only and include GST on the list price but exclude dealer delivery charges and all other government and statutory charges. For the drive away price of Subaru vehicles consumers should be advised to contact their local authorized Subaru dealer.
International experts in the area of renewable technology believe that when a society reaches a certain level of affluence, they start to demand better and more technologies that are sustainable and/or renewable. We’ve seen this over the years in the automotive industry. About ten years ago, hardly any car companies had hybrid vehicle and all the really upmarket vehicles were all about power and big gas-guzzling engines. Today, however, nearly every manufacturer has at least one hybrid in the lineup – and these hybrids aren’t snail-paced little dinkies. To take one example, Audi has added the e-tron plug-in hybrid to its already popular luxury A3 line. This hybrid certainly isn’t a slug!
Cars that use little or no fuel (if the electricity was generated using a renewable source like hydro) are one part of the sustainable motoring equation. Finding alternative sources of fuel that don’t rely on crude oil that (a) is going to run out eventually and (b) comes from politically volatile nations is the other. We’ve discussed a few of these in the past – algae biodiesel, ethanol, jatropha and the like – and we’ve now found another great development.
The stuff we put in our cars so they chug along from A to B isn’t the only thing that comes from crude oil. The other major use is plastic. Now, plastic was developed at about the same time as the internal combustion engine (Bakelite was invented in the 1850s) and really took off in about the 1950s. And we all know how it’s taken over since then and we’re forever tripping over the ruddy stuff on the beach, etc. etc. I could easily go off into a rant about plastic shopping bags and how we need to go back to paper bags instead but I’d better stay on topic.
Plastic is made from oil. Theoretically, then, it should be possible to “unrefine” it and turn it back into oil. This is exactly what one Japanese inventor has managed to do. Akinori Ito, founder of a company called Blest, has come up with a machine that will do exactly that. This machine isn’t some massive monster of a factory plant, either. It’s small enough to fit into the average garage and can convert polystyrene, polyethylene and polypropylene back into crude gas. This gas can’t be poured straight into your vehicle’s fuel tank (although it can be used in some generators), as it needs further refining before it’s OK for that.
It’s pretty efficient, too. It can take 1 kg of plastic and turn it into about 1 litre of crude. The machine is powered by electricity and the process of turning the kilo of plastic into the litre of crude takes 1 kW/h of electricity. It does produce some residue that is, according to (a) the manufacturers and (b) Japanese regulations, burnable. The process also produces a few greenhouse gases (methane, ethane, propane and butane) but the latest refinements contain a gas filter that breaks these gases down into CO2 and water.
The real beauty about this machine is that although it doesn’t convert all plastics to oil, it does deal with some of the most common ones – the sort of thing that most of us have sitting in our rubbish or recycling bins. Here’s a little exercise that you can try once you’ve finished reading this: Go to your rubbish bin and/or recycling crate and pick out the polypropylene, the polyethylene and the polystyrene. Weigh it. Every kilo adds up to a litre of fuel.
- Polystyrene: disposable cups and other tableware, those trays from supermarket-packed meat, CD cases, packaging, disposable razors, anything stamped with the recycling number 6.
- Polyethylene: plastic shopping bags, plastic toys, clingfilm, bubble wrap, buckets, lids, pipes, lids, some bottles, anything stamped with PE inside the recycling triangle symbol.
- Polypropylene: thermal clothing, ropes, carpets, packaging of some sorts, lids, drinking straws, disposable nappies, feminine hygiene products, anything stamped with recycling number 5.
Feeling like you’re sitting on a potential oil well? Starting to wonder why we’re just burying this stuff in the ground if we can make petrol out of it? You won’t be the only one!
At the moment, the machines are a little on the expensive side, costing US$12,700 at the moment. Blest mostly produces the larger machines, but I’m sure it would be possible for communities or local councils to get hold of these and collect material from householders and businesses and start some drop-off-your-plastic-and-get-cheaper-petrol scheme up. Or some company could look into and find a way to turn office waste into fuel for the company fleet.
Those who want to know more can check out the official promo video
Alternatively, take a look at the Blest website.
I don’t know about you, but I’d certainly like one of these for Christmas!
Safe and happy motoring,
When we look back into the tyre marked pages of history, we often find ourselves remembering the extreme achievements; the best drivers, the worst drivers or even the ‘best’ crashes. It is very easy to say that the greatest driver in a championship in a certain year is the one that wins the title outright. But for this motorsport writer, history is written not only with the grand events and big names, but the individual moments that illuminate the darkness of history. Sometimes to brilliance comes from the midfield. For me, I wish to remember the memorable; the moments that truly prove the greatness of the British Touring Car Championship.
This is a personal list compiled for you wonderful readers. When I think of the BTCC, these are the memorable drives that come to mind. Some of these may be obvious, some of these may be shocking, but they are all moments that define a legendary championship. In no way is this exhaustive; I would love to hear what your would make up your memorable drives in the series!
Andy Priaulx in 2002 with the new look Honda Racing
My opening entry comes from a driver who many forget ever competed in the BTCC; Andy Priaulx is most known for his highly successful ETCC/WTCC career in which he won multiple titles. However, before he made his move to the European and World stage, he thought he would throw himself in at the deep end and enter the BTCC with the then returning Honda Racing team in the Civic Type-R. This was the first time Honda had entered the British championship since the departure from the Super Touring regulations in 2000. Developments throughout the year surged Priaulx up to the back bumpers of the all conquering Vaxuhall team. His crowning moment came at Knockhill in ever-stormy conditions he battled the elements to gain his first race win (almost throwing it off in the process). He may not have been a championship contender in 2002, but Andy Priaulx showed true racing talent in challenging the established front runners in what was only his first year in the BTCC (in a brand new car don’t forget). Never give up. Never give in. Never quit.
John B&Q – Candidate for Ultimate Film Biopic
If ever there was a driver who deserved a Hollywood epic (or maybe indie British film) made about his life, it would have to be John Batchelor. John was a racing driver, businessman, political activist and football club owner (York City FC). This was a man who was so desperate to compete in the BTCC, that he even changed his name to John B&Q so as to secure funding from, yes you guessed it. He competed in 2001 in the production class of the series, never gaining any significant success. In fact, he spent most time getting involved in incidents or having mechanical issue. But as a driver, you could just tell he was happy to be there. The saddest part of the story, he died in 2010 as a result of liver disease brought on by alcoholism. He may not have gotten any trophies or championship success, but the name of John B&Q will go down in BTCC history.
Alain Menu 1997 – ‘I’ve been the bridesmaid too long, now it’s my turn’
When it comes to memorable drives, there are few that can rival the season long performance of Alain Menu in 1997. For 3 years in a row, Menu had finished 2nd in the drivers standings. So as 1997 came along, Menu and his Williams Renault team decided that enough was enough. Not only did he win the ’97 championship, but he had the championship sewn up nearly half way through the season. It was a totally dominant drive from one of the greatest touring car drivers that there has ever been.
Tommy Rustad 1998 – How did he do that?!
Tommy Rustad competed in the BTCC in 1998 as an independent, entering an ex-factory Renault Laguna. If ever you watch back the review of the 1998 season, you would very often see Rustad’s car involved in some form of incident that would lead him to retire from the race. In fact, the picture you see above is how most people got to know his car in the ’98 season. And yet, somehow, as if by some dark spell from an ancient sorcerer, he managed to win the Independents Championship. How is it possible for a man who spent much of his time crashing to win the BTCC Independents Championship? It utterly blows my uncomprehending brain-box. It is by this miracle that makes Tommy Rustad a worthy recipient of a place in my memorable drives list. How can anyone forget a man so unlucky yet luckier than any other driver I know?
Nigel Mansell – 1998 Donington Park – The greatest race ever captured on film
The year was 1998. The location was Donington Park. Nigel Mansell made his spectacular return to the BTCC. Due to his off in the first race, he had to start the soaking feature race from the back. What followed was most possibly the greatest motor race to ever have taken place. From last to 1st, then eventually in 4th. If you don’t believe me, here is a video clip from the race to prove it:
It takes a lot to render Charlie Cox and John Watson almost speechless, able only to shout the names of the drivers swapping positions every second. The Ford Mondeo was not a race winning car in 1998, but they do say that rain is a great leveller. To have a F1 legend taking part in a championship is one thing, but to have him challenging for the race win is just unbelievable. Nigel Mansell is not only a great driver, but the perfect showman. He should have taken on the BTCC in a full season. You could not write that script. I will go as far as saying that this race alone cemented the BTCC as the best touring car series not only in Britain, or Europe, but the world. As John Watson says,
“British Touring Cars has certainly eclipsed anything we have ever seen before”
This opening entry in the ‘memorable drives’ series only contains 5 entries so far. There is very good reason for this; we need your views. Who am I to say what the most memorable drives in the championship are? As this little mini-series goes on, I hope to include your suggestions as well as mine. Many races left untouched. Many moments remain.
– Season performances
– Race performances
What memorable moments make up the BTCC for you?
Let me know and join the conversation on Twitter: @lewisglynn69
Keep Driving People!
Peace and Love!
As the depths of winter begin to tighten its cruel grip, the great motorsport machine must go into hibernation until the Spring. The race tracks may have fallen silent, the crowds may have returned to their homes, but the racing world is anything but silent. As the colossal roar of the engines lay dormant, the media world ignites in with fierce intensity. The close season is a time of rumour, conjecture and long-awaited announcements. For the BTCC, there have already been a string of news updates regarding the 2015 season, including new teams, new drivers and possibly even new tracks. The most recent headline to hit the virtual shelves has been the sad announcement from West Surrey Racing that their title sponsor eBay has decided to end its 5-year partnership with the team. This follows the news from the Motorbase ranks that came at the close of the 2014 season, which saw the end of their sponsorship from Airwaves. Within the motosport auto-verse, sponsorship is one of the most vital aspects of the entire enterprise. It really is much more than a fancy logo on the side of your car. The ‘BTCC Sponsorship Game’ is a game with very few rules but one clear aim; get the money in the bank.
To many people (including me in my younger years). sponsorship in motorsport was nothing more than the name and logo on the side of a car, as well as the explanation as to why I kept seeing big name racing drivers appearing in adverts for said company. I am pretty sure that Jenson Button would not voluntarily want to appear in a Santander advert unless it was a contractual obligation. With all these adverts and media prostitution by the F1 drivers especially, is it any surprise that Lewis Hamilton moved to Mercedes whose sponsors strangely do not use the ‘F1 fast car’ angle in their advertising. But I digress. Getting a sponsor in motorsport is probably the single most important thing to the success of the team. It is very much as the same as completing a PhD; one can either attempt to fund it themselves or find someone to sponsor them, for something in return. I know which I would prefer. Well, depending on what I had to do in return of course. Without the money, you cannot even make it to events, let alone develop the car to make it into a race winner.
Into the History Books…
Within the BTCC, the sponsorship problem was even apparent in the late 80s before the exponential rise in costs at the dawn of the Super Touring era. The example of Robb Gravett in 1990 proves that even the top teams can suffer the unbridled wrath of financial woes. In Class A, it was a straight fight between Andy Rouse and Robb Gravett; however Robb and his Trackstar team nearly had to pull out due to a lack of sponsors for the car. Luckily, a last minute deal was made and a sponsor was found. The result was Robb Gravett taking not only Class victory but overall victory in the championship. As the years went on, the sponsor of certain teams became the more prominent name associated with the team, including the Kaliber Sierras, Vodafone Nissan, the Rapid Fit (and most recently Airwaves) Fords, the KX Momentum Tesco Clubcard (or whatever their ridiculously long name happens to be) MGs and of course the eBay BMWs.
If you compare the car liveries from the 1990s and the modern championship, it would not take long to notice that these days the cars are more heavily covered in sponsors than they were in the 1990s. Money; it was always going to be about money. Towards the end of the 1990s, the factory support was so substantial that sponsors did not hold such a high priority. As I sit here watching the 1998 BTCC review, one of the things you notice is teams such as Ford, Audi, Honda and Volvo are an almost factory-livery whitewash. The same explanation can be used to explain the looks of cars today and in fact back in the 80s with the era of multi-class racing; most teams are running from what is essentially an independent backing so must therefore display their sponsors who are near funding the entire operation.
Don’t Forget the Politics
In more recent years, there has been a significant intertwining of the sponsorship game with that of BTCC politics. The best example I can muster happens to be something contemporary. Among the ‘old timers’ in the current crop of drivers, it would be hard to ignore the name Jason Plato as somewhat of a legend in the championship. He has worked his way up from his Renault days in the 90s, to winning the 2001 championship, taking a break to become a television personality before returning once more to compete in the BTCC. As a known media name and two time championship winner, Jason Plato now carries a considerable weight when it comes to potential sponsors. For the most part, sponsors are attached to entire teams unless of course you are a high profile driver that is. In the case of Mr Plato, he carries with him his own sponsors that will follow him to the team he drives for.
It is at this point where everything begins to get a little on the complicated side. As much as Plato does have his own set of sponsors, they are not totally promiscuous customers; they will not settle for just anyone. This explains why statements released by Jason Plato have presented a message of uncertainty regarding team choice for next year, if he will even compete next year at all. It is with no doubt that he would get an absolute flood of offers from almost every team on the grid (apart from Honda, a team where a mutual feeling of mistrust and dislike is present), but until there is a team that the sponsors are happy with he cannot settle. The likelihood is that Plato will join forces with WSR, who have of course just lost their eBay as their title sponsor. Plato is one of the names associated not only with the KX Academy, but Tesco Clubcard Fuelsave (whatever it is) so his move to WSR would most definitely fill the eBay shaped void. His sponsors will be looking for a high profile team for him to move to, so as to make them look as good as possible. What better place to move to than the current championship winning team?
How beautifully ironic would it be for Plato to move to WSR and into a BMW, a car that he often complained about in 2014 for having RWD? Bets on him complaining that the new first gear ratio be changed back again? However, if Plato moved to WSR he may want to bring the KX Academy drivers along with him, which might then force WSR to get rid of their current drivers. Can a deal be made? Will it even happen? All very complicated really.
HOT OFF THE PRESS
As I write this, a statement has been issued by Colin Turkington that says with the departure of eBay from WSR, it makes his inclusion in the team difficult and as a result he is looking for drives with other people. This is a similar situation to 2009 where RAC pulled out the championship following his championship victory. He was then left without a drive until 2013 when he returned with eBay motors. This may suggest that with both eBay and RAC, they were giving him direct backing instead of the team itself, so with the departure of these sponsors he was left without the funds to compete in the championship.
Speaking hypothetically, with the eBay departure it may now have indeed paved the way for Plato and KX to move in on WSR leaving Turkington without a drive. One of the true annoyances of the silly season (as is now becoming desperately clear) is the rise of rumour and conjecture. Everything I have suggested may be spot on, or it may be a complete fabrication. When there are only brief statements to work with, the conclusions can never be considered concrete.
What is the future for Plato and KX Momentum/Tesco?
Does Turkington need a big name sponsor to be able to race? Does he need to follow Plato’s route and establish specific driver-sponsors for himself?
Why Sponsor a BTCC Team Anyway?
People have often wondered why you would want to sponsor a team in the first place; is it not just a drain on money? The obvious answer to that question is market exposure; if you have your brand name on the side of a car in a successful and well-covered championship the result can only have a good effect on potential customers. What is always really helpful is when you happen to be sponsoring a car that is a proven race and championship winner. Vodafone have always enjoyed such luxuries in their previous support of McLaren in F1 and the Nissan team in the 98/99 BTCC season.
In addition to this, you can build the race team into your company’s advertising as well as tapping into the legions of loyal race fans. Airwaves were always good at bringing in their BTCC involvement into their advertising, using the BTCC Ford of Mat Jackson to show how much of a ‘kick’ Airwaves can give you, even when you are stuck in traffic on the way to work. At the end of the day, most people love a good race car so it would be silly for companies to ignore this obvious advertising route if they have the joy of sponsoring a team in the best championship in Europe.
As well as the benefits in the public sector, there are obvious corporate benefits when sponsoring a race team. If you happen to be needing to impress potential clients, is there any better way to do so than make them VIP guests of a BTCC race team; meet the drivers, fancy hospitality and general schmoozing sounds like the perfect method to me!
Most importantly, sponsors get a direct involvement with a race team; they get to experience the thrills of the sport from the inside. The exciting narrative that is a BTCC season; the highs, the lows, the shocks, the thrills and potential glory all made more personal to those who have invested.
When you play most games, you have a clear idea of the rules and the overall objective. In the case of ‘The BTCC Sponsorship Game’ the only rule is that there are no rules, and the objective is simple. You want the sponsors to sign on the dotted line and the money in the bank. Along the way you will encounter some obstacles in the form of political decisions and clever movements, but at the end of the day you want more business for your company. It will involve some clever branding, advertising and even some corporate schmoozing, but at the end of the day, it is all worth it.
And as a motorsport fan, I am very grateful for this. We bow down to you, great sponsors. You make my passion possible!
Let me know what you think: @lewisglynn69
Keep Driving People!
Peace and Love!
Title: Top Gear – How To Parachute Into A Moving Car
Author: Richard Porter
Publisher: BBC Books, 2013
Very few of us are likely to get a bright shiny new car this Christmas. Although some of us might be living in hope… However, in the more realistic gift department, a car-related book might be in order. Possibly this offering from the Top Gear franchise might fit the bill either for you or for someone else you know who’s into motors (if it’s a present for you, tactfully leaving this page open when your nearest and dearest are about to go online might be good for dropping a hint).
The subtitle of Top Gear’s “How To Parachute Into A Moving Car” is “Vital survival tips for the modern man.” In spite of this subtitle, the book should give most recipients a chuckle, male or female. And you will get a chuckle. Although there are some bits of good motoring advice sprinkled throughout the text (e.g. how to do a handbrake turn) and some thought-provoking pieces (how to make a car for old people), the majority is a light hearted and slightly cynical look at driving today, especially driving in Britain. If you are (1) after a serious automotive book or (2) easily offended and drive an Audi, then you might want to browse another section of the shelves at your local bookshop. The “how hard can it be?” rating given to each entry provides good material for discussions, and the “how to find your petrol station stance” entry could easily be turned into a sort of game of bingo to keep the kids in the back seat amused when you’re taking a long time at the petrol station refuelling, checking the air pressure in the tyres, etc.
Understandably, the book contains numerous references to the TV show itself (well, what do you expect from something published by BBC Books?). If you have seen the episode in question, the commentary will bring back amusing memories. If you haven’t, it will pique your curiosity and make you want to see it (in my case, this was the one about playing rugby with cars). Sometimes, if you haven’t seen the show, the references are a little puzzling and tedious, but on the whole, the book is enjoyable all the same.
The tips and “advice” given don’t just confine themselves to car-related topics and wry comments about the three presenters (e.g. “How to dress like James May: Find a charity shop that hasn’t had any new donations since 1976. Buy all their clothes off them.”). You will find other topics related to life in general sprinkled in there, such as “how to feel like a hero when using the microwave oven” and “how to buy trousers”.
And as for the advice about parachuting into a moving car? First of all, watch this clip of the actual episode:
For the next part of the instructions, you’ll have to read the book yourself.
Keep your eyes on the road and your hands upon the wheel….
I’ve been drivin’ all night, my hand’s wet on the wheel. There’s a voice in my head, that drives my heel…..
Let there be light…Sound…Drums…Guitar…Let there be rock!
Driving songs. We’ve all got a few that we love to plug into the CD player or USB or MP3 connections; plenty of bass, for that gut kicking thump; the crystal clear highs and the crisp mid range for vocals. What’s that? Bass? Midrange? Treble? What are these words of magic I speak of?
All sounds we hear, be it from our tv or MP3 or car stereo, are made up of certain wavelengths, frequencies that vibrate the air around us at certain amounts of times per second. Much like looking at a rainbow and seeing the seven basic wavelengths of light a rainbow shows, what we hear can be broken down into three simple categories and from that, what a good speaker system allows you to hear.
To use a very brief science lesson, frequencies are measured in Hertz (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hertz) and the lower the number, the lower the frequency of sound our ears may pick up. Low end frequencies generate a bass (pronounced base) tone (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audio_frequency) but also require the most power to generate. Bass sounds come from big drums, the kick in the gut from an explosion and, in home theatre speak, come from a sub woofer. cars, also, can be fitted to carry a sub woofer and work by utilising the air found within a car’s boot to create the sound.
Bass notes, in a physical sense, are of a very long wavelength and are, as a result, considered, omnidirectional (or, more specifically, the point at which the ability our ears have to localise sound’s source, ends), in that the source shouldn’t be able to be located. There caveat here, quite simply, is the frequencies that are considered to be sub bass and bass.
Moving up through the frequency ladder is mid range; this is generally accepted to be, in easy speak, the range of frequencies the human voice occupies. From the low but powerful tones of Barry White (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mid-range_speaker) through to the tenor notes of Robbie Williams to the octave stretching notes from Mariah Carey; from the kick drum or rhythm guitar that complements a singer, it’s this range of frequencies that can be either well balanced or overbearing, depending on the listening environment and your own ears.
At the top end, literally, is treble (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treble_%28sound%29). It’s the finish of a tap on a cymbal, the clink of a wine glass in a toast, the flick of a finger on an acoustic guitar….it’s the sound that is also easiest to identify which direction it comes from, as the wavelengths are so tight they make the frequencies more susceptible to being directionally identified.
When it comes to car audio systems, especially in modern vehicles, there’s been some subtle yet important changes. In days gone by, you could (and still can, to a point) choose to buy and install a radio head unit that slots into the spot your old and tired AM/FM radio previously occupied. Nowadays these things will have CD playback, a USB port (exactly the same as your computer) and a tiny 3.5 millimetre wide hole with Aux (Auxiliary) marked. Some will come with Bluetooth, the short range radio system so you can wirelessly send music from a smartphone. Some more expensive units will have a small LCD screen built in and a DVD player; the size and heights of these are measured in DIN (double DIN for the taller units) so most will be the standard DIN. When correctly installed, or from a factory fitted unit, they will then send sound through to the speakers. An aftermarket speaker of decent quality will have a broader speaker diaphragm (the physical speaker material) that will reproduce a range of bass notes and should have two smaller units in the centre. They will generate the mid range and treble notes. In today’s cars, the treble speakers are, generally, to be found in the pillars framing the windscreen, whilst the bass and midrange will be in the doors. Some cars will have the subwoofer unit, as mentioned previously, in the boot or cargo section.
When all is married up, balanced for left and right, front and back, you should be able to enjoy your preferred driving songs in full range, crystal clear sound, allowing you to sing along with the best of ’em.