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Private Fleet Car Review: 2016 Mitsubishi Triton Exceed vs 2015 Toyota Kluger Grande.

2014 Toyota Kluger GrandeOpples and Aranges.

No, that’s not a misspelling, I’ve deliberately used opples and aranges to highlight there’s differences and similarities between the top of the tree cars, in their category, from Mitsubishi and Toyota. The Triton Exceed is the top of the range for the newly revamped dual cab ute whilst the Kluger Grande is atop the pile for that range from Toyota. 2015 Toyota Kluger Grande rearLets compare apples with oranges to see why we have an opple and arange as A Wheel Thing compares the two.

Powersource.
The Kluger range is fully petrol and suffers from economy issues. It’s a 3.5L V6 and slurps 91 RON petrol quicker than a Friday arvo tradie at the pub necks his beer. A Wheel Thing averaged 11.0L per 100 kilometres from the Grande…from 95% freeway work. That’s unforgiveable in today’s driving environment.
The Tritons are now almost exclusively diesel (there is a couple of 2.4L petrols) and it shows; at 2.4L capacity also it sat at around 8.0L/100 kilometres and was on a predominantly urban usage cycle.2016 Mitsubishi Triton Exceed engine
There’s 201 kW from the Kluger at 6200 revs, the Triton offers 133 kW at 3500. Torque from the Toyota is 337 Nm at 3700 rpm with the four door ute twisting 439 Nm at 2500 rpm. Transmissions were both self shifters, a six ratio ‘box in the Grande and a rejigged five cogger for the Mitsubishi.Kluger engine
Toyota claims, per 100 kilometres, 10.6/14.4/8.4L for combined/urban and highway from a 72 litre tank. Mitsubishi says 7.6L per 100 km on the combined cycle from a similarly sized (75L) tub.

The Suit.
The Triton hasn’t really undergone a massive overhaul; Japan’s current design philosophy is chrome and it showed, with a bright silver grille taking pride of place at the front, bisecting the slightly reprofiled headlights. 2016 Mitsubishi Triton Exceed frontThe test vehicle supplied was also kitted with a rear canopy cover and roof mounted storage, as it had been used for what all proper four wheel drive vehicles should do. It went travelling to the Simpson Desert, courtesy of a four wheel drive magazine and the toughness showed with no major squeaks or rattles, bar the passenger seat moving somewhat as the car moved around.

The rear tray looks almost unchanged bar the tail lights: in profile the top part of the assembly leans forward into the metal whilst directly from the rear the once rounded look is now an angular shape, looking most like it’d been pinched from another Japanese two/four door ute maker… there’s also a strong crease line from the headlights joining the rear, compared to the previous model’s smoothness.2016 Mitsubishi Triton Exceed profile

In overall looks it’s more of the same but newer. Dimensions say it’s a hefty unit: 5280 mm in length make it one of the longest vehicles readily available in Australia, plus 1815 mm in width and 1780 in height add to the Triton’s imposing presence. Wheelbase? Well, that’s big too, at 3000 mm…Whack in the weight of 1965 kg unladen, to boot.
To add to the visual appeal, there was sidesteps and front bar; it’s a beast and makes no apologies.2016 Mitsubishi Triton Exceed rear tray

The Kluger has been in its current guise for a while; the vehicle supplied was fresh, with about 500 klicks on the clock when picked up. It’s a big unit too, at 4865 x 1925 x 1730 mm (L x W x H) with a near 2.8 metre wheelbase (2790 mm). It weighs a bit, too, which may account for the economy, as 2065 kilos unladen doth not make a lightweight.2015 Toyota Kluger Grande profile

The profile is boxy, angular, moving away from the relatively smoother and slightly curvy previous iteration. There’s a hint of cab forward, with a shortish bonnet compared to the overall cabin length. The window line is familiar, with Camry/Aurion hints plus there’s privacy glass as well. There’s a tailgate lid spoiler and the tail light assembly has hints of Lexus. The front is bluff, upright and in the eyes of the beholder for looks…

On The Inside.
It’s here that the two cars take a stronger divergence. The Exceed needs, quite simply, more bling, whilst the Grande comes with seven seats, sunroof, DVD player (roof mounted and with cordless headphones), heated and ventilated seats, fully adjustable steering column with paddle shifters and a somewhat unusual dash styling, with a curved shape at odds with the hidey hole styling.
In between the driver and passenger sits a huge console, big enough to hide some small bottles or cans. A brushed aluminuim accent surrounds the air vents, info screen and aircon controls, whilst the tabs around the screen are basic and bare looking in black and white plastic.

The dash design, as stated, is odd; there’s a beautiful, sinuous wave shape to the binnacle, only to meet an inset for the clock at the top and a wrap around to the airbag cover, whilst below is a storage locker that simply doesn’t fit with the look of the rest. But at least there’s tech like Blind Spot Alerts to give the driver something more positive.

The Exceed benefits from an updated dash but lacks in presence. There’s the piano black surrounds for the infotainment system, push button start, machine made leather, dual zone aircon and a powered driver’s seat. The seats are better than before, with more padding and support to the hips and thorax, with both getting the standard array of airbags including one for the driver’s knee.2016 Mitsubishi Triton Exceed dash

2016 Mitsubishi Triton Exceed consoleBoth don’t suffer from room, with rear seat passengers in both able to stretch comfortably. The Kluger is a seven seater, with simple pull straps to raise the pews, whilst, normally, there’s an uncovered tub for the rear section of the Triton, but in this case it was a three windowed canopy. The tub itself is huge, with more than enough room to toss a sleeping bag and rubber mat to sleep on whilst not knocking the noggin should you sit up.Kluger rear seatsKluger cargo

The Exceed may be at the top of the ladder but to look at the cabin you wouldn’t know it. There’s a real lack of appeal visually, with nothing to catch the eye and make the statement. Not all buyers of off road capable utes with dirty the car or themselves and this really could do with a higher level of visual velcro.

On The Road.
Kluger Grande is a suburban off roader; it’ll see speedhumps and puddles way more than it will any beaches or muddy tracks. There is a 2WD version, the 4WD supplied gets a lockable centre diff. The Triton, on the other hand, is equipped with an electronic 4 wheel drive selector. Operated via a dial in the centre console and displayed on the small colour dash screen via sybols, there’s a clear indication of two wheel drive, four wheel drive and high and low ratios, plus locking centre and rear diffs for getting down and dirty off road.

The Exceed was taken to A Wheel Thing’s test track, a combination of sand, gravel, muddy ruts, rocks and undulating surfaces. To say it coped with that terrain is a huge understatement. Kluger would struggle in the same environment and it’s not a terribly difficult off road track.

The Kluger’s transmission is smooth and slurs through the ratios with barely a hiccup, but the go pedal needs a good prod to get the two plus tonnes moving at anything other than a crawl. Although the Kluger feels, seats of the pants, effortless, it’s clear the lack of lower down the rev range torque hurts. There was a hint of fuel in the tank after 490 klicks were covered; as mentioned before, virtually all driving was freeway based therefore hardly stressing the drivetrain in a suburban stop/start environment.

As one would expect, the ride and handling of the Kluger is well sorted, with minimal roll, dive and squat, plus the brakes grab well enough under most circumstances to haul its mass up. Brake pressure was suitable for the Grande, with engagement almost straight away. Steering is light for the Grande’s size, but not to the point of feeling over assisted or disassociating the driver from the road.

2015 Toyota Kluger

2015 Toyota Kluger

The Triton is big, boofy, solid in its feel on the road but definitely no ballet dancer. Even with the earth rotating torque the diesel generates, the five cogger does its best to hobble the grunt. Acceleration is moderate from standstill but rapid enough once on the run. Even under full pressure, the diesel is relatively refined, quiet and will haul the Triton along nicely.

The auto has been given an overhaul, so although a touch ancient in basic design, it’s smoother and slicker in changing. The package works well and is certainly economical enough, although one wonders how an extra ratio would go. Under hard throttle, it drops smoothly and quietly back one, two, ratios, before launching forward.

Engaging the transfer case is simple; stop, neutral, select, watch the screen…all four paws grip and the Exceed ploughs through and over nonchalantly. It’s fun, agreeable and relatively stress free.2016 Mitsubishi Triton Exceed wheel
On tarmac…the brakes need work. There’s an inch of travel before they pads bite and then not well. More than once there were some sharp breaths as the rear of the car in front arrived quicker than was safe. It was reported to the dealership that the car was sourced from, just in case.

Steering, again, is light with enough weight to talk but not leave the driver wondering where the front wheels are going, and being a rear wheel drive off road capable working ute, it’s leaf springs at twenty paces at the rear and a touch tight at that.

The Wrap.
Apples and oranges or, in this case, opples and aranges. Why? They’re the top of the range, both four wheel drive capable and have a number of similar features like push button start and satnave, leather seats, kneebags and so on. But they’re different in that one is a proper off roader whilst the other would faint at the sight of a six inch deep muddy puddle. But one offers a DVD player and a suitable interior whilst the other….doesn’t….

They’re designed for different markets, different people and therefore will have different appeal. The Triton wins on economy and true dirt ability, the Kluger wins for features but sucks badly for economy.
Consumers, it’s your call.private_fleet_logo

Driving for Change: #RacingforHeroes is Live

Image Credit: #RacingforHeroes

A ground breaking new motorsport team launches in support of ‘Help for Heroes’

In just one moment everything can change. In that moment, everything you once knew, is transformed. Due to the breath taking new initiative by Stirling Motorsport Management, this is that moment. In partnership with the UK’s most high profile charity ‘Help For Heroes’, the #RacingforHeroes motorsport team supports not only the promising careers of prominent young race drivers, but will raise both funds and awareness for our injured, wounded and sick veterans. This truly is a drive for real change, and it is happening right now. Welcome to the dawning of a whole new era in global motorsport.

The extraordinary work of #RacingforHeroes has culminated in an unrivalled race outfit the spans the length of the TOCA package. The campaign will be spearheaded by an entry in the British Touring Car Championship, the ultimate touring test for any race team. If that wasn’t enough, entries will also be made into the Porsche Carrera Cup GB, the Renault Clio UK Cup, the Ginetta GT4 Supercup and the MSA Formula Championship, the side dishes to the succulent main course that is the BTCC. Each car will be identically branded to create a strong message of both the dedication and importance of the cause they are supporting. One powerful brand has the strength to invoke awareness and active support from followers.

The selection of future superstars of the racing world include Josh Cook, Josh Files, Tom Butler, Zac Chapman and Jess Hawkins. Alan Gow, the race director of both BTCC and TOCA believes that #RacingforHeroes finds its strength in its multi-dimensional qualities,

“#RacingforHeroes is not only supporting a very worthy cause but it is also helping to develop promising young racing driver talent in the UK – a Win Win for all involved.”

R4H_Group_shot

TOCA is the largest race-based event across Europe, while #RacingforHeroes is by far the biggest team within TOCA; therefore one might say that #RacingforHeroes is the most significant motorsport operation across Europe. I dare you to find any better foundation than that to launch this revolutionary motorsport-charity partnership unto the racing fans across the UK. With such a dominant presence, it will further one of the central aims of the team; to one day have a team made entirely of veterans to run, engineer and race an entry in the BTCC.

Peter Thorpe, the founder of #RacingforHeroes will lead the team to what will be a fruitful future,

“#RacingforHeroes was designed to change the way partnerships in Motorsport work, my vision was to maximise the outcome of a sponsorship engagement for all involved while offering a truly remarkable reason to be part of it. Being able to offer companies such a multi beneficial opportunity for their PR and marketing platforms, support young British Racing talent and support the recovery of our wounded, injured and sick veterans does just that. A marketing platform anyone can be proud of.”

This concept of ‘relationships’ is a fundamental component to #RacingforHeroes; through the relatability and personal nature that the team express, it can truly bring forward the message of support for those veterans that have been injured serving their country in combat. From their media inception, #RacingforHeroes will be looking for both brand partners and sponsors to join the project throughout the 2015 motorsport campaign and beyond. Potential partners will be directly responsible for supporting the wounded through motorsport, a truly unique platform for engagement and unparalleled involvement. The #RacingforHeroes package combines supporting young drivers towards a fruitful motorsport career, direct investment that has a particular focus on donation to ‘Help for Heroes’, the emotional vision of bringing careers and happiness to wounded veterans, extensive media exposure and benefits including charitable partnership status and faultless track side hospitality.

 R4H_Drivers

Bryn Parry, CEO and Co-Founder Help for Heroes believes that the inspirational vision of #RacingforHeroes comes down to the integral relationship held between Stirling Motorsport and ‘Help for Heroes’,

“When Stirling Motorsport approached us with the exciting idea for #RacingforHeroes, we knew immediately they shared our passion and ‘can-do’ attitude. The team is committed to fundraising and providing opportunities for our wounded through motorsport. We wish them every success and hope British racing fans will get behind the team.”

There will be no doubt that not only the British fans, but motorsport fans from across the world will show their compassionate support to the team. Within the modern world, the relevance of motorsport is often called into question; there can be no stronger argument than supporting our wounded directly, both through fan support and the unrivalled adrenaline filled thrill ride that is the motorsport spectrum. This is a revolutionary step forward that will go down in the eternal racing history books.

#RacingforHeroes is a sensational step forward in the motorsport universe; the team has a direct impact on the recovery and rehabilitation of our wounded veterans through them doing something they love. The team is proud to fly the flag for not only our home grown talent but our wounded too. This project has not only financial, but emotional influence; it has the power to unify under the name of motorsport. The success of #RacingforHeroes comes down to just one simple word: support.

You can show your support on Twitter: @RacingforHeroes

Or Facebook – Racing for Heroes

www.RacingForHeroes.co.uk

To speak to Peter directly, please email peter.t@racingforheroes.co.uk

H4H CHARITY_PARTNER[1]

Written by Lewis Glynn – Official Partner of #RacingforHeroes

Follow me on Twitter: @lewisglynn69

Keep Driving People!

Peace and Love!

BTCC 2014 Review: Honda Dominates at Thruxton Thriller

Thruxton race track is considered one of the fastest and most thrilling tracks across Britain, and it is for this very reason that it has been a regular on the BTCC calendar for almost as long as the championship has been running. The infamous Church Corner is one of the fastest corners in British motor sport, with cornering speeds of over 120mph. When the BTCC grid puts rubber to tarmac, one can rest easy knowing that they will be in for a Thruxton thriller, and 2014 definitely did not fail to deliver.

Thruxton Circuit Layout

Thruxton Circuit Layout

Thruxton in recent years has very much been dominated by Honda, and 2014 was very much a similar story. Throughout all of the practice sessions and qualifying, reigning champion Andrew Jordan took a commanding lead on the time sheets. The Yuasa Hondas of Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden were not too far behind, clocking up an eventual 1-2-3 in qualifying. The Hondas have never been the fastest machines, but it is their handling that puts them on top. Thruxton may appear to be a speed track, but its constant cornering requires a strong handling package. The track pushes cars to the very edge of adhesion, and unlike the laborious new Tilke-tracks with endless tarmac run-off, if you make a mistake at Thruxton you WILL be propelled off into the countryside.

No mercy. Only the greatest shall survive.

Speaking of the touring car greats, Thruxton saw the longest-standing record in the BTCC finally fall. All the way back in 2002, at the dawn of what was then a new era for touring cars Yvan Muller set a blistering time of 1.16.369. During qualifying, Andrew Jordan finally toppled the time with a 1.16.192. People can say a lot about developments from year to year, but it did take 12 years to beat a lap record, AND it was only by 0.177.
Qualifying saw the return of Ford to the competitive end of the field, with Mat Jackson putting his Focus on 4th. Rob Austin on the other hand has always admitted that Thruxton has not suited his Audi all that much, and the best he could manage was a lowly 21st.

The Ford team impressed across the weekend, thanks to a turbo adjustment. Image Credit: BTCC.net

The Ford team impressed across the weekend, thanks to a turbo adjustment. Image Credit: BTCC.net

The first race proved exactly why Andrew Jordan and Pirtek racing are the current champions of the sport; having never won at Thruxton despite numerous pole positions, Jordan finally beat his demons and drove away from the field in the perfect driving display, followed by the Yuasa Hondas. After a slight mistake in race two, Jordan lost his lead to flying Flash Gordon Shedden. Rob Collard got one of his proudest podiums to date in race two after getting an absolute demon start off the line. It is one of the advantages of running a rear wheel drive car after all.

The conclusion of the second race was somewhat premature, following an incident between Rob Austin and Nick Foster, ending in Foster’s car literally leapfrogging the circuit barrier and into the countryside beyond. Fortunately both drivers were unharmed and both would return for race three. However, the incident did bring out the red flags for race two.

During the first two events, the reverse grid had only affected the usual suspects at the top of the time sheets (Honda, MG and BMW). However, as Giovanardi (who finished 10th in race 2) put his hand into the lottery-style draw, he pulled out, you guessed it, his own number. With the top 10 reversed for race three and Giovanardi on pole, were we going to see a bit of a mix up to proceedings?

Jack Goff proved the Vauxhall Insignia is a worthy touring car in race three. Image Credit: BTCC.net

Jack Goff proved the Vauxhall Insignia is a worthy touring car in race three. Image Credit: BTCC.net

With the reverse grid, race three was never going to be dull. As the lights went out, Giovanardi charged away in his Ford, only to be quickly caught and passed by the race three master himself Colin Turkington. Behind him, Adam Morgan lost his Mercedes and shot into the side of Plato which brought about a fitting end to his highly disappointing weekend. Plato comes away from Thruxton with a 6th. 7th and a DNF to his name. That is never helpful for a man who wants to win title number 3!

After a horrific accident involving Ollie Jackson brought out the yellow flags (Ollie was fine, his Proton…not so much), the charging Mat Jackson passed the 3rd place Jack Goff. After a blistering end to the 2013 season, Goff has not yet impressed too much in 2014. His 2nd place start gave him the chance to shine again. As the race began he found himself 3rd behind Giovanardi, challenging hard to pass the Italian former champion.

It appeared to many that Jackson had passed under yellows; Goff had already slowed to obey the flags and Jackson powered past him. But no call came for him to give the place back to Goff. In my view, at NO point is it alright to pass under yellow flag conditions; and it is common courtesy to not pass when the car in front is already beginning to slow. Technically speaking it may not have been illegal, but I think it goes against the spirit of the sport. Maybe that’s just me.

After the first safety car, Turkington stormed back off into the lead only to be halted by yet another incident. Simon Belcher rolled his Toyota Avensis at Church and went barreling into the woods at over 120mph. His car completely disappeared out of sight; luckily a few seconds later a slightly dazed Belcher appeared from the trees. We can but hope his car can be repaired for the next round!

Simon Belcher was lucky to walk away from his gut-wrenching roll. Image Credit: BTCC.net

Simon Belcher was lucky to walk away from his gut-wrenching roll. Image Credit: BTCC.net

Mat Jackson proved that he is very much back on form, eventually taking Giovanardi to lead home the Ford challenge for a double podium. There has been talk about the ‘balance of performance’ by adjusting the turbo boost on each car; Thruxton in my eyes proved that in the case of the BTCC it really does work. The Ford team are now a new addition to the top of the field and will challenge for more podiums and wins throughout the season.

As the race neared its end, Neal and Collard were tussling for position when Neal pushed Collard in order to get passed. And so, in the true spirit of touring cars, as they entered the Cambell-Cobb-Seagrave complex on the next lap, Collard sought his revenge and gave Matt and rather large push sending them both off onto the grass and losing places. Collard would finish 10th and Neal 23rd. Some would say that the push was uncalled for. But touring cars is a fair sport. An eye for an eye and all that.

If there was a prize for unluckiest driver of the weekend, it would usually go to Rob Austin. But this weekend it would have to be Alain Menu. After finishing a promising 7th in the first race, Menu was given a drive through penalty for being out of position in his grid box when the field reformed after the warm up lap. He struggled back to 18th in race two, to then manage an 11th in race three. The only good thing to come out of his constant need to battle up the grid this year is that he has retained his lead in the Jack Sears trophy. Upon his return to the touring cars in 1993 with the new Ford team at Pembrey, Andy Rouse described his return as ‘having a target painted on the side of his car’. It would appear that for Menu the same is now true. But as the double champion and ultimate touring car star, he will battle through it.

Yet another unlucky weekend has kept Menu his lead in the Jack Sears Trophy. Image Credit: BTCC.net

Yet another unlucky weekend has kept Menu his lead in the Jack Sears Trophy. Image Credit: BTCC.net

However, it was not all bad luck for Team BMR at Thruxton. After starting the weekend with a rebuilt car, Aron Smith worked his way up to 22nd in race one, 14th in race two and then 7th in race three. Steady progress lead to a good final result for Smith. As soon as Team BMR stop suffering some of the worst luck in recorded history, they may finally be able to challenge for podium finishes and maybe even the odd win.

Following the end of the racing, concerns were raised about the safety of the track at Thruxton. Simon Belcher called for gravel traps to be installed around Church. Considering the high speed nature of the corner, any collision there can be massively dangerous. It was just lucky that Jackson, Foster and Belcher all escaped their excursions into the wilderness with no injuries. It is an issue that must be discussed and perhaps these incidents are the wake up call that some needed.

We leave Thruxton knowing that the rest of the season will only get better and better. The Ford challenge has finally reached a competitive level with Jackson and Giovanardi, which will upset the balance of power at the top. With MG having a disappointing weekend and Honda dominating so powerfully, have they suffered a damaging blow to their championship hopes? Will Rob Austin along with fellow luck-absentees Team BMR finally get something to go their way later on in the year?

For full results and championship standings please visit: http://www.btcc.net/results/

Follow me on Twitter for more Touring Car madness @lewisglynn69!

Keep Driving People!

Peace and Love!

BTCC 2014 Review: Bringing the Thunder to Brands Hatch

Photo Credit: BTCC.net

Photo Credit: BTCC.net

After months of excitement and anticipation, the time finally came for the first round of the 2014 Dunlop British Touring Car Championship. There was no better proving ground than the hallowed tarmac of Brands Hatch in Kent. The Indy circuit provides a sub-50 second thrash of a lap, demanding both high speed and perfect handling. It will come as no surprise (based on the monumental BTCC-based output I am prone to) that this championship has and probably will always be my favourite motor sport series. So one can only imagine my uncontrollable happiness to be first hand witness to the rebirth of a racing phoenix on the weekend of March 29th/30th.

The return of the true champions of motor sport also coincided with the new-look F1 series, with their fancy power-block-drive-train-why-is-it-not-just-called-an-engine. A week previous to the Touring Car return had seen the first race in the F1 calendar fail spectacularly to impress the general public. Since then of course, F1 has proven these new rules can work, but it is still far from convincing many. Could the full NGTC low cost, close racing Touring Cars show the big boys how to start a race season?

A blistering 31 car grid. 7 previous champions. Full NGTC outfit. Supported by an amazing BTC package including Renault Clio Cup UK, Porsche Carrera Cup GB, Formula Ford, Ginetta Junior and the Ginetta G50s, the weekend promised something special.  This was going to be good.

The BTCC grid were all fired up and ready to go. Image Credit: BTCC.net

The BTCC grid were all fired up and ready to go. Image Credit: BTCC.net

Qualifying

Before any racing got underway, there was still the issue of qualifying to get through. The word thrilling does not do justice to what I was privileged enough to witness on that Saturday. Crowd favourite Rob Austin complained about his 11th position start for the first race; usually I have no time for comments like this. This time was an exception however, considering Austin was only 0.260 seconds off the pole time. I completely understand his frustration; his car is massively competitive yet due to the clever NGTC rules, he is only 11th. In fact, of the 30 cars that turned up for the first race weekend, the top 23 all qualified within one second of each other. If that isn’t competitive then I don’t know what is. Granted, the top 5 positions were filled with the ever familiar faces of Jordan, Plato, Turkington, Neal and Shedden, but no one can deny the level of competition present in the championship this year.

As the cars lined up on the grid for the start of the first race, you could feel the magic in the air. Nobody knew what was going to happen.

As the flag dropped on the 2014 season, it was all out action from the off to the flag. Image Credit: BTCC.net

As the flag dropped on the 2014 season, it was all out action until the flag was waved. Image Credit: BTCC.net

Race Day

For those who were watching on television, the first two races may have appeared to be a continuation of form from last year. It was very much a Honda, MG and BMW affair, with Jordan taking the first two races rather comfortably. But, in the midfield the changes of position were constant and mostly all very well undertaken. It was all rather thrilling. In terms of the usual suspects, it was quite interesting to see an uncharacteristic set of problems appear for Jason Plato in the MG team, who after a podium finish in the first race, had to start the race from the back. It was fascinating to see him carving his way through the field up to 11th by the end of the race. In a post-race interview, Plato said that he did the best he could and ‘to get from last to the top 10 was basically impossible’. Considering this was the most successful touring car driver ever saying this, you must admit you would be pretty inclined to believe it.

It may have been a common occurrence to see the works Honda team fighting for the top positions, but it came as a considerable shock to many. The Yuasa Honda team had introduced their new estate Civic (the ‘Tourer’) to the surprise of many, and pre-season testing would have given the impression that they may not be as competitive straight away. Yet they come to Brands Hatch (a track they specifically mentioned would be tricky for them) and were as strong as ever. In many ways I should be happy for the Honda team that they have managed to get good performance from their new model. Yet, I find myself audibly exhaling with a hint of frustration; for the last few years the Honda team has been so utterly dominant that I was hoping for a change. And if this was their weak track, I can see them doing rather well at Donington Park next weekend. My feelings aside, well done to them, the new car may be a bit of a shock to the eyes, but it definitely works.

Plato managed to well deserved podiums over the opening 3 rounds. Image Credit: Adam Johnson

Plato managed two well deserved podiums over the opening 3 rounds. Image Credit: Adam Johnson Photography

Jordan and Plato have assumed their usual positions at the top. Is a new rivalry forming? Image Credit: BTCC.net

Jordan and Plato have assumed their usual positions at the top. Is a new rivalry forming? Image Credit: BTCC.net

The third and final race of the day has always mixed up the action somewhat, due to the reverse grid system that is used. The clever thing is that the drivers have no clue how many positions will be reversed; the number is picked out of a hat after the second race. So where once you would see drivers purposely slowing to get themselves 10th and therefore pole for race three, now nobody knows. All rather exciting really. The reverse grid greatly benefited the eBay BMW team, who began the third race with the perfect start and a formation fly into the first few laps. This began to fall apart when the limits of Nick Foster’s talent began to show. I do feel sorry for him, because he really does suffer with the ‘other driver’ syndrome. It is clear through example that he lacks the same ability as Collard and Turkington, and this was shown at Brands when he slipped from his early lead to 19th by the end of the race.

Formation flying: the eBay motors BMWs proved they have the performance to challenge for the title this year. Image Credit: BTCC.net

Formation flying: the eBay motors BMWs proved they have the performance to challenge for the title this year. Image Credit: BTCC.net

After the first round of the championship, the points totals are somewhat predictable, yet still interesting nonetheless:

  1. Andrew Jordan – 47 points
  2. Matt Neal – 45 points
  3. Colin Turkington – 44 points
  4. Gordon Shedden – 40 points
  5. Jason Plato – 38 points
  6. Rob Collard – 34 points
  7. Adam Morgan – 18 points
  8. Sam Tordoff – 17 points
  9. Nick Foster – 16 points
  10. Rob Austin – 16 points

The old flames may be dominating the top of the table, but the first round at Brands Hatch did definitely raise some interesting talking points that may change the course of the championship over the year.

Talking Points from Brands Hatch

Towards the rear…

I often find that with many motor sport series that some of the best talking points come from those who occupy the back of the grid. The 2014 BTCC season appears to be no different. There are some towards the back who I believe are only there because they have not yet had the development or experience to challenge the top end. One example of this is the wonderfully named Simon Belcher in the Toyota Avensis; he may have occupied the back of the pack most of the weekend but his lap times were plummeting. I suspect he may be reaching the high mid-pack and maybe even a top 10 by the end of the year. And then of course there is United Autosports who have their fingers in many a motor sport pie (usually GT based series); they have now decided to enter the BTCC with James Cole and Glynn Geddie. Given their previous successes, after a few races and further work they will be much further up the grid. It will be nice to see a fellow Glynn on the podium!

Someone else I definitely had my eye on was the sole American entry Robb Holland in his Audi S3 saloon. Not only does he have one of the best personalities in the field, but I foresee a great future for him. If he follows the path of the Rob, like Austin before him, he will soon be sticking it to the big boys. Same goes for the young Jack Clarke in the Crabbies racing Ford; he may not follow the path of the Rob, but I just cannot wait to see a car sponsored by alcoholic ginger beer at the front.

The American Robb Holland may follow his fellow Rob (Austin) into greatness. Image Credit: Adam Johnson Photography

The American Robb Holland may follow his fellow Rob (Austin) into greatness. Image Credit: Adam Johnson Photography

Ollie Jackson and 'The Man Who Beat Button' (Marc Hynes) were both unimpressive at Brands, but hey its only the first round. Image Credit: BTCC.net

Ollie Jackson and ‘The Man Who Beat Button’ (Marc Hynes) were both unimpressive at Brands. In the case of Jackson he seemed to enjoy being a flamethrower most of the time so I shall let him off, but hey its only the first round. Image Credit: BTCC.net

As much as I reward greatness in eternal praise through words, I also rather enjoy a bit of naming and shaming. Two names stand out more than any other; the first of these being Marc Hynes, or should I say ‘The Man Who Beat Button’. Ever since he was a confirmed entry to this years championship, he has only been referred to as the man who beat Jenson Button to the F3 championship many moons ago. Considering his wildly amazing reputation (he is also a driver trainer for the Marussia F1 team), I was expecting him to be the next Gabrielle Tarquini and storm the championship and blow everyone away on his first attempt. He may be ‘The Man Who Beat Button’, but over the weekend it seemed that he was more ‘The Man Who Was Beaten By Everyone’. If it wasn’t for the fact he had received so much hype I wouldn’t be so critical, but his performance was the ultimate characterization of exhaustive disappointment. His crowning moment was undoubtedly his destruction of the ever ridiculous Martin Depper.

I almost feel sorry for Martin Depper; as the team mate to the mighty Andrew Jordan he was rather embarrassing to watch. He was disqualified in race one, and then failed to finish both race two and race three. It takes a special kind of fail to manage that, especially with a team that is a proven race AND championship winner. He appeared to lack any form of pace or potential. He has gone from being ‘the other one’ in the Pirtek team to nothing but a slow and deep exhale, laced in exhaustion and derision.

The bottom bread in the Pirtek sandwich, Jordan leading and Depper far, far down at the back. Image Credit: BTCC.net

The bottom bread in the Pirtek sandwich, Jordan leading and Depper far, far down at the back. Image Credit: BTCC.net

The Shining Lights of the BTCC

At the other end of the scale, there were of course those who massively impressed across the weekend. The first of these is Tom Ingram, in the Speedworks Avensis. Ingram is a 3-time winner of the BTC support Ginetta G50 championship, and in his debut race weekend in the BTCC, he blew me away. He qualified sixth, and put in strong performances across the weekend. If he is not a race winner by the end of the year, then I will be the next Prime Minister of the UK. Sadly however, following two superb top 10 finishes, in race 3 he had an unfortunate coming together with Alain Menu which prematurely ended his race. I take my hat off to the Speedworks Team, they have done a fantastic job this year and they could not have chosen a better driver to lead their charge to glory.

The car hitting the wall, is a Toyota! Ingram suffered an unfortunate crash in race 3. Image Credit: BTCC.net

The car hitting the wall, is a Toyota! Ingram suffered an unfortunate crash in race 3. Image Credit: BTCC.net

Rob Austin, the ultimate fan favourite among the current generation of touring car drivers certainly did not disappoint at Brands Hatch over the weekend. He finished a stunning 5th in the first race, proving he had lost none of his skill and talent from last year. Sadly, a mechanical problem ruled him out of race two, meaning he started from the back for race three. Now, do you remember that Plato had said it was impossible to get from the back to a top 10 finish was impossible? (Do remember that he was driving a factory MG). The flying Austin managed to get from last to 11th, and was mere meters away from 10th. If Austin was not marred by crippling bad luck, he would most definitely be a champion. If him and his Sherman continue on this upward trend, they will soon take final victory they deserve.

Similarly, I was blown away by the WIX racing Mercedes of Adam Morgan; mot only does it look spectacular but Mr Morgan knows how to drive that machine well. He put in consistent performances across the weekend and was constantly competitive. He will earn himself a few race wins this year, that I am sure of.

Rob Austin and the amazing Sherman (his new Exocet Audi) were stunning at Brands. Image Credit: BTCC.net

The Power of the Four Rings. Rob Austin and the amazing Sherman (his new Exocet Audi) were stunning at Brands. Image Credit: BTCC.net

Team BMR (Brilliant Motor Racing)

In my humble yet passionate opinion, the team that impressed me most over the course of the first three rounds was team BMR. Warren Scott, Aron Smith and Alain Menu definitely thrust themselves into the limelight. Scott and Smith proved that the BMR boys know exactly how to make a race car that works both aggressively and consistently. The return of Alain Menu to the sport that made his name was one of the most exciting things to come out of the close season, and unlike ‘The Man Who Beat Button’ and Giovanardi in some respects, he categorically lived up to the reputation and expectation that preceeded him. Where Giovanardi (a former champion of the 00’s) struggled to find pace and performance, Menu returned to ultimate driver mode.

He may have suffered a spin at the first corner of the first race, and then struggled on the option tyres in race two, but race 3 changed that. He had made his way from the back of the grid to 17th in race two, but race three saw him blister his way up to 5th overall, defeating names such as Giovanardi and Flash Gordon in the works Honda. Having the chance to watch the return of a true legend to the BTCC at my favourite track was the perfect mix of excitement, worry, thrills, drama and general joy. Menu joins the BTCC from the WTCC, which saw one of the worst displays of touring car racing recently in Morocco. If this form continues, and with a little more development and experience, I would not be surprised to see Menu challenging for the title either this year or next year. With a cheeky wink and the love-able self confidence, this is exactly why Alain Menu is the ultimate touring car driver in my eyes.

Team BMR will soon reign after their great show. Image Credit: BTCC.net

Team BMR will soon reign after their great show. Image Credit: BTCC.net

And so, I can say without any shadow of a doubt that the BTCC is back and better than ever. It is such a shame that the WTCC has the ‘world’ status considering the shambolic race weekend that was had. Ultimate touring cars? After what I witnessed at Brands Hatch, it is clear that the BTCC should once again reign as THE international touring car championship. In a field of 30 cars, all of whom are improving by the race, who knows what will happen this year. Hard, thrilling and exciting races.

For full results from Brands Hatch, please visit: http://www.btcc.net/results/

The next round at Donington is fast approaching. This year will be something special.

Can the titans be toppled? Will we see the rise of a new star? Will a blast from the past steal ultimate victory?

Only time will tell…

Photo Credit: BTCC.net

Photo Credit: BTCC.net

Follow me on Twitter @lewisglynn69

Keep Driving People!

Peace and Love!

 

 

F1: Red Bull Ragequit or Real Revelation?

I don’t think anyone really needs reminding that the glittering world of F1 recently returned to the world stage. The Melbourne circuit set the scene for a whole new era of Formula One. A whole new look. A whole new order generic cialis sound. Avid readers of my blog will be very much aware that I have never always been the biggest fan of F1, but this year I hoped the radical changes might breath some life back into the sport. Having watched the first race, I was pretty shocked to see that Grosjean for example managed to get himself a drive through penalty before the season had officially begun. Of the entire weekend, I have been most fascinated by the outrage and debate following the disqualification of Ricciardo from his excellent 2nd place finish. Most specifically, the reaction of Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz has definitely been a baffling one. In the aftermath of the Australian GP, Mateschitz has warned that he pull Red Bull out of F1 altogether. Is red Bull just in a strop since losing their dominance, or are they onto something here?

Tis the dawning of a new era for F1, a whole new look to a legendary championship

Tis the dawning of a new era for F1, a whole new look to a legendary championship

For those of you who are not clear on the full situation, Ricciardo finished the Australian GP in 2nd place (his highest ever finish in the sport), only to be disqualified around six hours after the race. The reason for this exclusion was an irregularity in the fuel flow system of the car. Mateschitz believes that the fuel flow sensor that was provided by the FIA, was giving inaccurate readings. Over the course of the race weekend, Red Bull had been plagued by technical problems with their car, explaining the early demise of Vettel in the race. Red Bull have of course appealed against the decision made by the FIA, and seek to prove that the fault lay with the FIA-provided sensor and not the fuel levels in the car. What has hurt Red Bull more than any other are the whispers of the word ‘cheating’ that have been used in conjunction with the team. Red Bull has influence across the world, and any word of underhand play would significantly damage their image and credibility, especially when it is in one of the most televised sports series in the world.

Lets look into this a little deeper shall we… Let the evidence present itself

Have Red Bull turned into a stroppy child?

Think about it, for the last few years Red Bull have become accustomed to being the top dogs in Formula One. Not only have they had the best car, but their wonder child has completely and utterly destroyed the competition, race after race, championship after championship. Whenever I found myself watching coverage of each race, whatever the story or result, they would interview Christian Horner, as if he had some crippling addiction to having his smug face on our television screens.

If we now fast forward to the start of 2014 where we see Red Bull failing massively to perform, plagued by hampering technical issues. Not only that, but their wonder child has to retire his car in the early stages of the race. Speaking of which, take a listen to the radio messages exchanged between Vettel and Red Bull when it was decided he was to retire; it genuinely sounded like Vettel was on the verge of tears. I will admit it is never nice to have to retire from a race, but to sound that emotionally distressed, come on.

Finally and most importantly, we have the decision to exclude Ricciardo from the result due to a fuel technicality. I have read sources that Red Bull had been aware of the problem prior to the race, so their reaction does now seem slightly defensive. It is almost like Red Bull feel as if they must win every race or they will throw a tantrum. Reminds me a lot of Fernando Alonso when he realised Hamilton was a better driver than him at McLaren.

When I hear that Mateschitz threatened to leave F1, it did give me a flashback to days gone by where I would be playing a racing video game, and would get so angry that things were not going my way that I threw the controller at the wall, vowing it was the game that was the problem not me and refusing to continue playing.

Mateschitz has been quoted as saying that his decision regarding the future of F1 and Red Bull has nothing to do with the financial costs or rewards, but the issue of ‘sportsmanship and political influence’. Could this just be a very technical evolution of the ‘throwing the controller at the wall, claiming the game doesn’t work properly’ strategy?

Do Red Bull have a point after all?

Having watched the first race, it does seem apparent that it is a whole new era with very similar problems. It took only a matter of laps before there was talk of fuel and tyre conservation. The overtaking was very much improved but was still severely lacking in comparison to other motorsport series around the world.

I understand that it is thrilling to both watch and drive cars that are operating on the edge of what is possible, but to have cars that struggle to even make race distance, that seems a bit far to me. And if Red Bulls’ claims are true, to exclude a car because of faulty machinery supplied by the race organisers themselves, that does seem a little unfair. This whole issue of politics has been somewhat of a problem in Formula One in recent years; the racing has been overtaken by tyre management, brand image, pit strategy and global domination. This global domination has reached a level where it is location location (tedious track) location. Singapore may indeed be a glittering beacon of flamboyance, but the race track that was built there is nothing short of diabolical.

The Australian fans may have been outraged at the Ricciardo decision, but at least they got to watch what was an amazing V8 Supercar support race. Imagine paying an outrageous number of your hard earned dollars to see a headline band, only for the support band to completely out-perform them. As great as it would be to see the smaller band doing so well, you would feel somewhat ripped off that you spent all that money for the headliners to be a total let down.

The true stars of the weekend. V8 powered brutes destroying all that lay before them

The true stars of the weekend. V8 powered brutes destroying all that lay before them. This is a Red Bull sponsored race project to be proud of. Image Credit: F1 Fanatic

What really drove the point home for me, was the fact that Bernie Ecclestone did not even show up to the race, having also made several comments about the horrific lack of noise from the new engines. I mean come on, high performance hyper race cars should rattle your very core, not sound like a swarm of lethargic bees. F1 without that characteristic noise is just pointless.

In my estimations, the decline of F1 is crowned by its own ruling emperor not even showing up to the race. But then again, Bernie’s comments about the noise are so fiendishly clever that I may almost let him off; by making these comments, Bernie is getting the media coverage that the F1 juggernaut survives on. The more people you get talking about it, the more people will probably end up watching it to find out for themselves.

Formula One is meant to be the premier race series in the world, but it needed a complete overhaul to try and rectify the very basic problems that should not exist in motorsport. Overtaking should be an assumed variable, not something that needs to be forced by boost buttons and extra horsepower.

Red Bull has fingers in almost every sporting pie that there is, from football to extreme sports to air shows to rallying. They are in every right to leave the sport if they feel that it has deteriorated to the point of certain death. If the ultimate sporting sponsor withdraws from the ‘ultimate’ motorsport, then said sport is in serious trouble.

But of course, I am writing this with Vettel having taken a strong 2nd place on the grid at Malaysia, so Red Bull may suddenly change their mind and everything be bright and beautiful again. And of course, the first thing I saw when Red Bull got their wonder child back to the top, Christian Horner filling my screen with his…face and his…words. Red Bull often do throw their toys out the car when they do not get everything they want, it is just something that we must get used to. In fact it may work in their favour, toys thrown out the car will make it lighter and therefore faster. See, not all bad! Unless they fail the weight checks then…

If I am to be totally honest, I think that Red Bull are still in shock now they are not top dogs anymore, and have not yet adjusted to playing catch up, whereas before they would be leading the way. It is no secret that F1 is a sport that does have its problems; but it does have its perks. It is worth seeing this new era through. As I always say, people called Darwin and his theory of evolution stupid when he first published it.

Time is but a mysterious mistress with the power to mould the fabric of culture. Or something.

All I ask Red Bull: don’t throw the controller at the wall, just hit pause, take a deep breath, and press on. A little bit of determination never hurt anyone.

Keep Driving People!

Follow me on Twitter @lewisglynn69

Peace and Love!

 

 

BTCC: A Return To The World Stage?

The start of the 2014 British Touring Car Championship draws ever closer, and the recent outpouring of announcements have laid the foundations for what will be a year to go down in the history books. I have written previously about how this year will see 7 Former Champions competing for the crown, with a rumour of a possible eighth in Robb Gravett. And of course we have the factory Honda team entering a Civic Estate, the first time since the famous Volvo of 1994. The most recent news has been a confirmation of something everyone has been excited about since the close of the 2013 season…

There will be a 31 car grid for the 2014 season. That’s right, 31. Of those 31 drivers, 11 manufacturers are represented, including 14 different models. That is what you call variety. The BTCC has become one of the most vibrant grids of any world motorsport series.

BTCC has confirmed a 31 car grid for 2014. Image Credit: BTCC.net

BTCC has confirmed a 31 car grid for 2014. Image Credit: BTCC.net

Originally, TOCA had set a maximum of 30 licenses for the year, but how can anyone say no to the British Touring Cars? To understand the significance of this, let us go back in time to 2001. 2001 represented the last significant rule change in the BTCC; the Super Touring cars had become too expensive so the rules were changed dramatically to save money. As a result, the start of the 2001 championship consisted of a field of barely 5 cars. By the end of the year, the touring class had just about nudged 10, saved only by the tidal wave of production class entries. Ever since then, the championship has been in a kind of recovery mode. However they tried to spin it, it was tear jerkingly obvious that the BTCC was struggling to gain any kind of recognition; they were living in the shadow of their former glories. There have been slight rule changes such as Super 2000 in 2007 which saw the reliance on similar regulations as that of the European and World touring car series. Finally, in 2009 the BTCC released the details of the NGTC (Next Generation Touring Car) which would further reduce costs, separating the cars from the international touring car series, while also reducing performance differences between cars in the field. This was fully implemented in 2011, and suddenly everything began to change…

In 2001, the BTCC field was embarrassingly small, which lost a lot of the fanbase that had been so strong in the 90s

In 2001, the BTCC field was embarrassingly small, which lost a lot of the fanbase that had been so strong in the 90s

The reduced running costs gave more teams a chance to enter the championship, and little by little the field began to increase in size. Since 2011, the championship has exploded back into the limelight of British motorsport, displaying the same exciting, gritty and genuine racing talent that made the sport so successful in the 1990s. I believe that it was this very fact that enticed so many former champions back to the field. Alain Menu himself has said that he could not wait to return to the championship this year for the very reason that it had once again become so passionately exciting.

The final races of last years championship is the perfect representation of everything I have been saying. The final meeting could have seen any one of three drivers take the crown. The races at Brands Hatch were plagued by the unpredictable, explosive mistress that was heavy rain. In changing conditions, everything was up for grabs. It all came down to the final race where Andrew Jordan proved his worth as a champion with a drive from the very back of the grid to clinch the crown.

Andrew Jordan will be hoping to defend his crown in what will be a legendary year for the BTCC. Image Credit: BTCC.net

Andrew Jordan will be hoping to defend his crown in what will be a legendary year for the BTCC. Image Credit: BTCC.net

A Fruitful Future?

Back in the 1990s, the British Touring Car Championship was a truly international affair; the championship itself may have been based in the UK, but top drivers from all disciplines across the globe flocked to take part. By the late 90s, finding British drivers in the BTCC became a genuine rarity. However, when the championship fell head first into its embarrassing identity slump, most drivers disappeared over to the World Touring Car Championship, which at that time was significantly better televised and fruitful for the drivers.

I have a feeling that this may all be about to change. The return of the champions also sees a return of the international driver. Among the predominantly British field, we have Italian, Swiss, Irish and American drivers. If the touring cars continue on their rocket ship to the cosmos of awesome and beyond, I foresee that the world class drivers will come streaming back to the BTCC. I believe that the BTCC is fast returning to the glory days of old; it is not only the jewel of British motorsport, but it is fast scaling the mountain to global domination. The BTCC would once be shown on Grandstand, the prime sporting programme on the BBC, and gained a place in the hearts of our nation. These days, it is given full race day coverage on ITV4. ITV4 may be one of the ‘other’ channels to the main ITV (which is second to BBC), but not even the F1 gets full coverage including the support races.

The increasing success of this new era will see a new popularity through increased exposure; I foresee some of the main races being shown on the main ITV channel, mainly to show that there is actually decent motorsport out there, given the current failures of the new F1 season. But that is another story.

Are we seeing a return of the glory days?

Are we seeing a return of the glory days?

The future’s bright. The future’s tin top.

Bring on the 29th/30th March.

To follow all the action from the weekend, follow me on Twitter @lewisglynn69

Keep Driving People!

Peace and Love!

BTCC 2014: (E)State of Play for Honda Yuasa Racing

The start of the 2014 British Touring Car Championship draws ever closer, and one of the big questions that has had us all talking in the season break is whether Honda will once more dominate proceedings. For the last few years, the Honda Racing effort has all but destroyed its opponents. Even though the championship victor in 2o13 was Andrew Jordan in the independent Pirtek Racing Honda, the machine was basically the works car in a colourful blue Pirtek mask. In many ways, Honda has become the Red Bull Racing of the BTCC world. One of the only other teams that ever really stood a chance against the mighty Civics was the KX Momentum MG team, spearheaded by the legend that is Jason Plato.

With mere weeks to go until the season opener, let’s take a look at what the Honda team will be offering the 2014 British Touring Car Championship.

The Honda Civic Tourer for BTCC 2014

The Honda Civic Tourer for BTCC 2014. Image Credit: BARC

A Brief History of Honda

This is not the first time I have written about the new Honda machine. I previously found myself saying that the decision to race the Tourer in the 2014 season was a showcase of arrogance from the team; Honda was just getting cocky having been so dominant so wanted to give itself some form of challenge this year. I will be the first to admit that over the last few years I have gone off the Honda outfit, mainly because they were so dominant and the racing became laborious and predictable. In the latter half of the 90s the Honda team were always competitive yet had an edge of underdog quality going on. Call them the Mark Webber or the David Coulthard, they had all the necessary parts for success yet never won the title.

The 1999 BTCC Honda Accord

The 1999 BTCC Honda Accord

When Honda returned to the championship in 2002, they were the very definition of plucky underdogs. They started the year slowly, until Priaulx and the team unlocked an explosion of speed and talent that culminated in a highly competitive and race winning car by the end of the year. The Honda team was competitive yet comparative. Back then the team had a car that they knew could win races and challenge for the title; they were on the same level as the other titans of touring cars like Vauxhall and MG. That was always what I loved about the BTCC; it was a mixture of teams and manufacturers that all were comparatively similar, but with their own quirks, quarks and quacks that gave their own colourful individuality. The last few years I found myself releasing large audible sighs every time a Honda would dominate a race or somehow come from nowhere and steal a win from another deserving driver. I know I cannot really blame the team, they were just doing their job, same as Red Bull really. I think I was just beginning to miss the characteristic unpredictability that defined the true meaning of the BTCC.

Andy Priaulx in the 2002 Honda Civic Type R

Andy Priaulx in the 2002 Honda Civic Type R

Are Honda stretching it with the new Tourer for 2014?

Over the last few months, I have spent a great deal of time reading up about what is to come in the 2014 BTCC season. As THE team to beat, it will most likely come as no surprise to you that Honda has taken the spotlight in the media coverage. It has therefore given me ample opportunity to read up about this radical new decision from Honda. At first it makes sense to be skeptical, but when you hear from the horses mouth, the decision by the Honda team begins to make that little bit more sense.

Steve Neal, the team boss, suggests that the decision to move to the Tourer was a clever move by Team Dynamics to keep Honda interested in the championship. Past championships have shown that when a manufacturer loses interest, the resulting team does sometimes suffer. One example is the 2004 championship; the MG team had lost factory backing and as a result did lose out in the main championship battle. Team Dynamics are especially determined, considering that from 2015 Honda will be focusing a great deal of their time and energy on Formula One. In addition to this, Neal senior has been concerned that his team were beginning to suffer from the ‘Vettel factor’ and that people were getting bored with Honda winning. It was almost like he read my mind.

Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden, who will be piloting the cars this year have both seemed very positive about the new machines. Neal junior has been racing for 20 years and this will be the first time he has had the chance to drive a car he describes as ‘wacky’. Similarly, Gordon Shedden admits that the car itself will by definition divide opinion, but having something different in the championship is always great. After all, this is not the first time that the BTCC has had itself an estate car in the field…

…anyone remember 1994?

You are not going blind, that is a Volvo Estate that entered the BTCC in 1994. Don't get that in F1 now do you?

You are not going blind, that is a Volvo Estate that entered the BTCC in 1994.

The 1994 Volvo Estate has become a beloved legend of the BTCC history books. Nobody thought they were being serious, but they were. Tom Walkinshaw, the late great team boss of TWR entered the Volvo in 1994 in what would become a 5 year love affair with the championship. They may not have really achieved anything that year, but they most definitely made a name for themselves and gave them a good starting point for when they moved onto the saloon in 95 and beyond. Volvo eventually won the championship with the great Rickard Rydell in 1998, and everything has got to start somewhere. For Volvo, that estate was the start of something special. It may have been utterly ridiculous, and both Rydell and Jan Lammers have said it was a total animal to drive, but it was definitely individual. For the Honda team, they have already been basking in their own success and are now choosing to use an estate. Maybe 2014 will make history as the year that an estate touring car not only wins a race, but challenges for the championship.

It is not very often I change my views, but I am starting to come around to the idea of the Honda Civic Tourer. It is different, it is wacky, it is ridiculous. And I like ridiculous. At first I thought them arrogant, but I actually am beginning to respect the Honda team for their decision. It is yet another sign that the BTCC is one of the worlds premiere racing series. It is so refreshing to know that the teams are considering the fans in their decision. The Honda team could very easily upgrade the 2013 model and walk away with another championship, but that would indeed be boring to watch. At the end of the day it depends how you want to look at it. This time I am going for the optimistic approach.

But only time will tell. Bring on the 2014 BTCC season opener at Brands Hatch!

Keep Driving People!

Follow me on Twitter @lewisglynn69

Peace and Love!

 

Impossible Reality: Rinspeed showcases Driverless Concept

When we are but innocent younglings we are introduced to a world of limitless wonder and excitement; we are introduced to science-fiction and fantasy.  Call me a walking cliche but Star Wars has and will always be the very epitome of ultimate childhood fantasies coming to life. Well I say coming to life, you know what I mean. I have grown up immersed in these made up worlds where there are no boundaries and anything is possible. When I was a young boy, I had an unfaltering belief that one day these films would become reality. However, as the years went by I was gripped with a growing wave of realisation and abject disappointment; I would never see my dreams of becoming a Jedi and flying around in armoured spaceships becoming a reality. This technology was an impossible dream.

…or is it?

As a boy, this was going to be my first vehicle...

As a boy, this was going to be my first vehicle…

The Geneva Motor Show has just ignited a fire I thought had been long since extinguished. It may take a couple of years, it may take a good many more, but self-driving cars will become a showroom regular in our lifetime. My mind is blown. Some of the main contenders in this development are BMW, Ford, IBM and of course, Google. I am surprised Apple are not getting in on the action too. Give it time and I’m sure the iDrive will be emptying the pockets of the world. Considering the names in that list, I think the best result would involve a collaborative effort between a car manufacturer and a computing technology company. After all, computers are assimilating themselves into all aspects of society, and the best way to do it is to work with the existing leaders in the respective fields.

One of the chief names in the development of driverless technology in cars, who heads the Swiss think tank called Rinspeed has made it clear that the passenger will be at the centre of what is possible, not the autonomous driving technology itself. At the show, Rinspeed  Furthermore, his beliefs about the development of the automotive industry puts into perspective the rate of progress in the modern world…

“When I look back at how things were, it looks like the Stone Age. There will come a time when we will be travelling in a container, with no airbags or seatbelts because the chances of an accident will be so small” – Frank Rinderknecht (CEO at Rinspeed)

Rinspeed are focusing on developing the ultimate passenger experience. Image Credit:  BBC News

Rinspeed are focusing on developing the ultimate passenger experience. Image Credit: BBC News

The concept for the passenger experience in these new futuristic machines has been worked on the idea of the first class airline cabin, where the passenger can sit in comfort while leaving the stress and demand of the journey to the pilot, or in this case, a fancy computer system. One of the main problems to tackle will be overall ride comfort; if we are to believe the above picture the user will be able to sit comfortably with a cup of coffee right next to them. Now I don’t know about you, but in the UK especially, finding a smooth enough road to even keep anything balanced atop the dashboard may as well be declared impossible. Therefore, a great deal of fancy number crunching and mechanical wizardry will have to be undertaken. On top of all of this, the driving console (it seems to fancy to just be called a steering wheel) will be in the centre to maximise the space for a fully fledged entertainment system that gives passengers access to whatever they may desire. Of course, those inside the car will be fully connected to the outside world in real time through the joyous wonder that is cloud software.

Everything is sounding rather glorious right now wouldn’t you say? Wouldn’t it just be the worst if I now came and rained on your parade?

  1. How catastrophically expensive will a car like this be? It will be a car designed for the mega-rich, most likely top end footballers and sheikhs from far away lands. That was always one of the things that has popped into my head when I watch these sci-fi films, is just how much all this stuff would cost. I can only guess that in the same way with all the latest technology, the initial market introduction will be a number to boggle the minds of most of us, but over time when it becomes more commonplace the price will drop. Either that or the general public will get a cut price version of this luxury. The economy class to their first class cabin if you will (if we are following this airline analogy)
  2. Gaining the Trust of the Customer – If you told me that I could sit in a car and it would drive itself to wherever I want to go, after my initial reaction of awe and wonder, I would probably be filled with a mild form of terror. Convincing people that you have developed a safe machine that will not end in a mess of blood guts and a treat for future archaeologists will be a hard job. This leads me onto the main issue I see with this whole operation
  3. Safety – If you had the choice of getting in a plane with pilots or one that flew itself, I think I know which one most people would choose. It is true that human error is the largest cause of airline incidents. But in the same way, human error or a computer malfunction may be corrected by the pilot. I am sure we have all had the situation where you are working away on your computer and it suddenly freezes and will not respond. How will any of us know that this same thing will not happen in these new driverless cars? When the London underground introduced driverless trains, there have been a few cases of trains running out of control and only being saved by the controllers who took manual control back from the command centre as it were.

I would also like to yet again draw your attention to Jurassic Park, which is becoming the trademark comparison point for me when it comes to the automotive universe. If you remember, the 4x4s in that film were essentially driverless cars, and look what happened when they lost power. People were attacked by a T-Rex. Imagine if you owned one of these new driverless cars and it lost power, do you want to run the risk of being attacked by a T-Rex? Do any of us really want to be attacked by a T-Rex? It is an important point to consider, you know.

At the end of the day, the future success of self-driving cars will fall down on trust. It requires the full trust of the owners to feel safe. With any new idea, new theory, revolutionary change there will always be distrust. It is only natural that we will be both intrigued and suspicious of what we do not understand until we have received proof of its credibility. I mean there was once a time where the theory of evolution was looked on with horror and mountains of criticism, now look where we are.

It may take the next few generations to fully integrate ourselves with this new technology, but it will be there. The future is coming.

Maybe those dreams of spaceships, hover boots and lightsabers are not as impossible as we first thought.

In the great words of Journey, ‘Don’t Stop Believing’.

Keep Driving People!

Follow me on Twitter @lewisglynn69

Peace and Love!

Automotive Dinosaurs: Welcome to Jurassic Autopark

There is no doubt that cars are awesome. Big ones, small ones, fast ones and slow ones, make your choice and still you will find a world of automotive awesome. In much a similar vein, ever since the release of Jurassic Park I have been convinced that dinosaurs exist in a whole universe of greatness. You have heard me tittle on about cars all the time, whether I am ranting away about drivers on the road, singing the praises of motorsport or reporting the dangers of hybrid cars on the market. If Private Fleet had a sister site named Jurassic Fleet, I can promise you I would be a regular contributor on there as well. Until that day however, you are all saved from my dino-love.

But what if I told you that on the wonderbox that is the Internet, there exists a whole new species. There are those who love cars, and those who love dinosaurs, but then there are those people who dreamed of a combination of the two. That sounds ridiculous, I hear you cry. And you would not be wrong in saying that, but hear me out, they exist. Witness now a whole new world…

“Dr Grant, my dear Dr Sattler… Welcome, to Jurassic Autopark”

The T-Rex looks angry, maybe she is against the size of the carbon footprint those 4x4s are leaving...

The T-Rex looks angry, maybe she is against the size of the carbon footprint those 4x4s are leaving…

I have excavated through the fossils of the Internet and come across a selection of dino-car gems that I just could not resist sharing with you. I mean, I love dinosaurs. How can anyone not love dinosaurs? Having come across cars that have been dino-designed, I can very much say my life has just become a whole lot happier. If you are having a sad day then fear not, I have come to you with a carnivorous gathering of reptilian wonders. Or if you wish to follow current arguments that dinosaurs were closer to modern day birds than reptiles, then no need to (birds of) prey no more, I have got some avian-auto-ancestors here for you right now.

invaliddinosaur

Hang on a minute, when I said the combination of cars and dinosaurs, this was not what I meant. People often ask me why the dinosaurs died out and why they did not become the dominant species on the planet. Well, is this not the answer you were looking for? Their motor industry never really took off.

Let’s try this again shall we…

dinocar1

To the person who saw this snow covered car and thought, “I want to turn this into a kick-ass dino-car”, you have to be one of my favourite people, and I wish to meet you so I can give you a hug. Most people see a car covered in snow and either write in it or use the snow for snow-ammo. But then there is that one person who wants to bring back the glamour of the stegosaurus to the modern world. This is greatness in its purest form.

dinocar2This began life as a VW Beetle. I can say with almost full certainty that this is no longer a beetle in any way, shape or form. This is not something you will see crawling around in the undergrowth. This is now a brutal beast of burden. You would think of squashing this under your foot. With those chunky off road tyres, and those spines, you would not want to come across this while alone in the forest. Just hope it is in a good mood. But seriously, this is one amazing piece of machinery. I think I know what my choice of car will be on my busy London commutes from now on.

Artist Credit: Ryan McGuire

Artist Credit: Ryan McGuire

If Barney the Dinosaur ever had a car-cousin, it would have to be this little beauty. This may be one of the cutest things ever to pass by my eyes. When I see this I also get the impression that if Dino the Dinosaur from the Flintstones was brought back to life today, this would probably be how he would look. Playful, happy and fun. What more could you want from your very own dino-car?

dinocar4This is truly a great example of a DIY-nosaur. If you loved my cheeky word play then chances are you will love the guy who came up with this dino-tricycle. I love the thought of someone sitting in a park, and behind the bushes you suddenly see the skeleton of a stegosaurus bobbing on past. Night At The Museum come to life. I told you dinosaurs were awesome right?

dinocar5As with the traditional construct of any entertainment based presentation, I have saved the best for last. This was the very image that started my quest for dino-car greatness. We have seen dino-cars of all forms, most of which are still fully functioning automobiles. The reason I love this so much is that I have a feeling its creator is my kind of person. They did not just add the generic spines to the top of an old Beetle, they have most literally formed the perfect combination of car and dinosaur. This sculpture has been created from materials that are associated with road travel, including car parts, traffic cones and all that general nonsense.

Maybe this car is in fact a metaphor. Let’s deconstruct this and see what I can pull out of myself. The car is painted green, symbolising the need for greener modes of travel, considering that we are slowly destroying the planet. The source car is an old VW Beetle. The Beetle is a car that uses the fuel powered combustion engine. The Beetle was also made popular by none other than Hitler as ‘the peoples’ car’. Hitler was a Nazi. The Nazi attempt at world domination was crushed by the Allied forces. The Hitler-led Nazi movement therefore suffered an ‘extinction event’. The dinosaurs too suffered an extinction. However, as Jurassic Park proved, dinosaurs can be brought back to life and spread chaos and havoc across the land.

What more, the engine of the Beetle was in the back of the car, and we all know that when people think through their behinds bad things often happen. True fact right there.

Therefore, this sculpture stands as a warning; the traditional combustion engine is an automotive dinosaur in a world of hybrids and electric power. We must move forward into modern technology. Also, Nazis are bad and we should not let them rise up again. I bet you never thought I could mention Hitler in an article about dino-cars. But I did. It is all about the metaphors.

I told you I was going to pull something ridiculous out of my brain.

Sometimes, what can I say, I do not want to talk about a serious driving topic. We all need some light hearted happiness every now and again.

If you enjoyed that, feel free to follow me on Twitter @lewisglynn69

Keep Driving People!

Peace and Love!

 

The Greatest Video Game Ever

Well at least now I have got your attention.

Video games are in a constant state of development, with better game play, graphics and fun with every new release. However, in much the same way as many oxygen breathing humans get with areas such as fashion, music and of course cars, the value of ‘vintage’ is most definitely on the up. I have played a host of games in the past on various platforms and consoles, everything from strategy, fantasy, war and, shock horror, racing games.

We are living in a world dominated by Forza, Gran Turismo and by extension, the driving options available in games such as Grand Theft Auto. The graphics may be unbelievably clear and the driving physics as close to realistic as is possible in a virtual reality, but none of these would win the prize as my all time favourite racing game. I realise that the title I gave this post was a little on the eccentric over-reaction side of life, but in my humble opinion this game will always be my number one in virtual motor sport.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to TOCA 2 Touring Cars.

The British Touring Car Championship was at its best during the 90s, and one of the greatest of these legendary years was 1998. Some of the highlights include a down to the wire championship battle, the introduction of mandatory pit stops, and Nigel Mansell. But why type a selection of words and phrases into my laptop to describe an amazing year, when I could just muster the power of video to explain my point… would you ever believe me if I said there was a BTCC race where Nigel Mansell (in a guest drive) started last and nearly ended up winning? No?

WELL then, watch this…

One of the greatest races ever, 1998 BTCC Donington Feature ft. Nigel Mansell

As John Watson so pointed out, “The British Touring Cars have totally eclipsed anything we have ever seen”.

TOCA 2 Touring Cars was released on the original PlayStation (the PS1 if you will), and was based on the 1998 BTCC season. Players had the chance to participate in the championship in one of three difficulty modes, which decided how many races the season would consist of. In addition, there are your usual time trial based modes. However, the game also gave players the chance to participate in the support car championships that were in effect in 1998. The game truly offers a full and comprehensive mode of play that truly reflects the giant of motor sport history that was the British Touring Car Championship of 1998.

TOCA 2 Touring Cars in all its glory

TOCA 2 Touring Cars in all its glory

Based on the picture you can now see with your eyeballs, you are probably making some comment on the poor quality of the graphics but what do you expect from a PlayStation One? And this game is in no way devoid of other issues. I will be the first person to admit that this game is dripping with issues. For example, the driving physics, as amazing as they are most of the time, have a habit of being massively unpredictable. When it comes to racing games, I am something of a perfectionist. And when a car has a habit of spinning wildly out of control for no reason although you have taken the corner no different to normal, it does vex me greatly. And I do not often use the word vex.

And I am not done either.

When it comes to competitive racing, it would appear that the AI cars seem to be possessed by some form of demonic spirit. When it comes to the first corner of any track on the calendar, I can promise you that the competition will find a way to take the corner at 5 times the speed that you have, whether through the gravel or on the tarmac, which usually means that you end up facing the wrong way in last place. Not only that, but it would seem that this satanic influence gives your opponents the ability to crash you off the road with a single touch, yet remain immovable when you try and return the favour.

All in all, the combination of these problems does definitely create rage filled controller flinging experiences. I can do nothing but apologise to my parents for the screaming, the shouting and definitely the damage as a result of my playing this game in my younger years.

Brutality is definitely the name of the game

Brutality is definitely the name of the game

And yet…

When everything comes together, the pure magic of the game becomes apparent. I mean yes there are faults left right and centre with the game quality, but what do you expect? And then again, in many ways it adds to the fun you can have with it. There is a level of madness and unpredictability that will wave goodbye to many hours of your life. And will you regret it at the end? No way.

What if I also told you that some aspects of the game were so forward thinking, that it took until the PS3 generation for other games to catch up. For example, usually in multiplayer modes, the number of opposition reduces to only 6 cars. However, in the co-op championship mode, you are still given a full grid of other cars. The problem I have with modern games is that they seem to assume that none of us have physical friends any more. New generation games seem to only offer multiplayer modes online, as if two friends would never DARE want to play a game together in the same place at the same time.

“Hey man, do you want to play some F1?”

“Yeah that would be awesome, i’ll see you in a bit yeah?”

“Wait, where you going?”

“Well you know, I have got to go home, log on and grab my head set”

“Oh yeah true that, see you in a bit!”

You know, some people seem to think that video games are making us less sociable. I wonder where that comes from.

In many ways, the game was as exciting as the real deal...

In many ways, the game was as exciting as the real deal…

As I have said, the combination of all these different elements, both good and bad, make this game a titan of video gaming. The competitive nature of the game make it more special and more exciting than anything you can get from a modern game. The driving physics are real yet ridiculous; you actually get different levels of handling from the different cars in the game. Trying to wrestle a Peugeot around a track often ends as badly as it did for Harvey and Radisich in ’98.

The original TOCA game never really did have the same spark, it lacked the same competition. And afterwards with the rise of TOCA Race Driver and beyond, the game began to look better and better, but somehow it just did not seem as fun. The level of co-op ability decreased, and in the case of TOCA Race Driver they tried to add the single most ridiculous over-Americanised story line known to the mind of mankind. Something about getting revenge for the death of your dad by becoming the greatest race driver ever…or something. I don’t know.

Recently, I managed something I was never able to do as a child. I completed what I would like to call the standard grand slam. 18 rounds. 18 wins. Only one thing remains. The expert mode takes racing games to a whole new level. I feel like I need some form of a professional workout regime to be able to psyche myself up for such a challenge.

And so, TOCA 2 Touring Cars may not be perfect, but it is the flaws that make it special. It reflects the no holds barred thrill that was the 1998 BTCC season. For anyone that has not played it, I really do hope that you will give it a go. There is after all a reason I came back to it 10 years after my first time.

No one is ever too old for video games. Good video games will never be too old.

TOCA 2 Touring Cars: a timeless classic

Keep Driving People!

Follow me on Twitter: @lewisglynn69 (I talk about this video game quite a lot)

Peace and Love!