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Motor Sport

Going Hard With Two Doors.

The Australian automotive industry is an oddity in the global scheme of things. A small buying population, the most brands per head of population, and innovations not seen elsewhere, make it virtually unique. Although we weren’t the first to build a car with a hardtop and two doors, we certainly made some great ones. Ford, Chrysler, Mitsubishi, and Holden all have cars that are memorable and one that stands out was the Monaro 427C.

Designed, engineered, and built in Australia, this car was intended to be a track weapon and race in the Bathurst 24 Hour. The first of these races was set to run in late 2002, meaning the development of the car, slated to run in 2003, had to be brought forward. The heartbeat of the 427C was its US sourced 7.0L or 427cid V8. With the Holden Racing Team turning down the offer of developing the machine, Garry Rogers Motorsport (GRM) took the Chevrolet Corvette C5-R engine, a Monaro body, and the responsibility of running the 427C as a race car.
The car would later be a controversial one; the race would attract cars from outside Australia such as Lamborghini’s Diablo GTR, Ferrari’s 360 N-GT, and the monstrous Chrysler Viper ACR. All of these cars would race with the same engine they would come off the production line with. However, the Monaro at the time came with Chev’s fabled 350cid or 5.7L V8, and therefore would be ineligible to run. However, the organiser of the race, which would come under the umbrella of a racing group called Procar, allowed the Monaro to be run with the bigger engine to be seen as more competitive with capacities such as the 8.0L V10 in the Viper.

As the race was going to be run under the then current GT regulations, GRM had to design a body kit to suit both the regulations and the aerodynamics of the VX Commodore based two door. Using the V8 Supercars design as a basis, GRM fitted a wider rear wing that sat below the car’s roofline, as per the regulations. A similar front air dam was fitted to the front, and underneath the 427C utilized a number of components that could be found on a Supercar. A technically minded casual observer would see a Hollinger six speed manual transmission, wheels of 18 x 11 and 18 x 13 inches, MacPherson strut front suspension and a trailing arm rear, bolted to coil springs and thick anti-roll bars. The engine was said to be good for 600 ponies (447kW) and would be bolted into the front of a car weighing 1,400 kilograms.

All up the Monaro 427C would be 4789mm in length, run a front and rear track of 1559mm/1577mm, and roll on a wheelbase of 2788mm. The aero package provided plenty of down-force and made for a stable on track racer.

Raced at the 2002 Bathurst 24 Hour by a team of four drivers, being Garth Tander, Nathan Pretty, Steven Richards, and Cameron McConville, the car was also being touted as being available as a road car. The race car itself would prove to be strong, durable, and a race winner. Although suffering a flat tyre, a collision with another car, and pit lane races to see who could clear their car out to the circuit first, the car would ultimately win in its debut race by 24 laps.

As a road car, it was potentially to be motorvated by a 433kW version of the 427cid engine. But, as a business case, the numbers simply didn’t add up and would result in a mooted buy price of $215,000 being out of reach of its intended market. Just two road going cars, and just four race cars, would be built.
The Monaro 427C would go on to compete in the Australian Nations Cup Championship in 2003, and the Bathurst 24 Hour race in the same year. A second race car had been built by then. Driven by Peter Brock, Jason Bright, Todd Kelly, and Greg Murphy, the car would win by just 0.3035 of a second. Tander, driving the 2002 winning vehicle, was thwarted in a last sector charge by a yellow flag thanks to a car close to the racing line.

The 427C would race in 2004 and see a third chassis completed, before the Nations Cup category collapsed due to fiscal issues. With regulations reverting to GT Championship rules in 2005, the Monaro 427C was deemed ineligible. Of the race cars, one is with a private collector, one is in the Bathurst Motor Museum, and little if anything is known of the locations of the others.

(One photo courtesy Chris Griffiths, other source unknown)

Hypercars: Basic Fact Cheat Sheet For Sounding Like An Expert

We’ve all heard of supercars.  Now supercars can move over, as there’s a new category on the block: hypercars.  However, they won’t be on the block for long – in fact, they’ll be several blocks away almost before you can blink because these cars are seriously, seriously fast.

In a nutshell, a hypercar is defined as a road-legal production car that’s super-fast and usually super-luxurious.  They tend to be limited edition items produced by the high-end manufacturers – and are priced accordingly.  One writer has compared them to diamonds: rare, dazzling and extremely expensive.  Let’s just say that they’re probably beyond the budget of the typical Australian driver, although we can dream and drool!

Hypercars differ from Formula 1 vehicles and those things that look like rockets that scream around the salt flats of Utah trying to break the land speed record.  Firstly, all of the hypercars are actually road legal, even if it isn’t legal to drive the speeds that they’re capable of under normal driving conditions (you need to head to the track to do that).  Secondly, they tend to be a lot prettier and more comfortable than the racers and the land speed record holders.  You could easily put a hypercar on a poster – in fact, quite a lot of people do, especially teenage boys.  They’ve got the curves that are pleasing to the eye as well as reducing drag, the array of LED headlights and beautiful gleaming paint.

Hypercars tend to come in colours that have a visceral punch and tell our basic instincts that here is danger and power as well as beauty: red, yellow and black – with a combination of red and black being the most common. However, touches of dark grey and orange have crept in here, just to add a bit of variety to the calendars that feature them, I guess!

You already know the names of the classic hypercar manufacturers: Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren, Aston Martin and Bugatti (sorry, Rolls-Royce, your vehicles are too sedate to be considered hypercars; Porsche and Jaguar , you’re too common!).  However, there are a number of new players on the hypercar track.  We all got rather interested back at the turn of the century or thereabouts when Swedish manufacturer Koenigsegg came onto the scene and then picked up the record for the fastest production car in 2005 with the CCR – and things have just accelerated in more ways than one from there, with Bugatti and Koenigsegg battling it out for the title fastest production car, top acceleration, etc. Another name to keep an eye on is Hennessey, which put out the Venom F5.

There is also a player in the world of hypercars: Corbellati.  Corbellati hopes that its new Missile (the prototype debuted at this year’s Geneva Motor Show) will be the one to take the title of fastest production car when it actually finishes the production process some time in 2019.  It’s certainly got the specs to make it a serious contender: a 9-L V8 biturbo that has a legion of horses under the somewhat retro-styled bonnet (1800 hp) and so much torque that I looked twice and in several places to make sure that I hadn’t missed a decimal point: 2350 Nm.  Honestly, that’s more than a very good farm tractor produces, and when this is applied to something styled for low drag and has the weight reduced thanks to aluminium, carbon fibre and titanium, we’re talking about serious speed: over 500 km/h is what it’s tipped to do. Have a good drool at the official website  if you want!

In the world of hypercars, speed limiters do not exist.  Top speeds over 400 km/h are common.  And forget about 0–100 sprint times: some of these hypercars brag about their 0–300 km/h times: the Hennessey Venom F5 can do it in under 10 seconds.

At the time of writing, the hypercars have a tendency to make you think that concepts like “peak oil” and “carbon footprint” and “fuel economy” don’t exist or at least aren’t a problem.  However, if the trend on the racetrack is anything to do by – and if Tesla decides to go upmarket rather than downmarket from its supercars – then this will change.  Koenigsegg have a hybrid hypercar in production in the form of the Regera, and some of their models (e.g. the Trevita) have biofuel variants.

Every car enthusiast has his or her favourite hypercar, even if we will never get the chance to drive them in real life and will have to make do with computer games.  Being a sucker for Swedish cars as well as admiring their token gesture towards sustainability, I’m a fan of Koenigsegg.  However, some of those Bugatti models look pretty hot…

If you have been lucky enough to ride or even drive in a hypercar, please share your experience in the comments – we’d love to hear all about it!

Aston Martin Rapide AMR

Aston Martin is perhaps best known for a glittering range of two door hard top and convertible cars. Under the radar is the four door contribution to the super saloon family. The Rapide is a subtle four door design and has recently been upgraded to AMR (Aston Martin Racing) specifications. Powered by a naturally aspirated V12 with 433kW and 630Nm and transmitting that to the tarmac via an eight speed auto, the AMR will come with three trim levels. Standard, Silhouette, and Signature will roll on 21 inch diameter wheels clad in Michelin Super Sport rubber, a first for the iconic brand. Tyre sizes are 245/35 up front and 295/ at the rear.
The five metre long Rapide AMR asserts itself with a large grille that evokes the track weapon Vantage AMR-Pro. Subtle aero hints come courtesy of the carbon fibre tail spoiler, front splitter, sill panels, and rear diffuser. Weight reduction is also further enhanced by fitting a carbon fibre bonnet, complete with engine bay exhaust vents.

The engine has been massaged by fitting larger inlet manifolds that pack tuned length intake runners, with the kilowatts breathing out via a new quad exhaust system. Stopping efficiency is enhanced by modified brake ducts, dust shields, and utilise the spoked design of the 21 inch alloys to funnel cooling air onto the 400mm six piston carbon ceramic front brakes. These are backed up by 360mm four piston rears.
Being based on a racing design, the AMR Rapide sits 10mm lower courtesy of reworked suspension components. Aston Martin have gone over the front and rear double wishbones, fitted with stage three adaptive dampers, with plenty of Nurburgring evaluative work. To make sure the AMR looks the goods there’s a choice of four colours for the Standard and Silhouette. Mariana Blue, Scintilla Silver, Lightning Silver, and Onyx Black are complemented by AMR Lime Green highlights on the Standard’s sills, splitter, and diffuser, with the other gaining a China Grey or Clubsport White stripe.

The Signature goes one step closer to a racing look with Stirling Green paint, Lime accents and stripe, backed by a combination of AMR Lime or Galena Silver stitching for all three versions. Driver, front passenger, and each rear seat passenger are cossetted in Alcantara seats which will have discrete AMR logos in Galena Silver stitched in, and there’s extra glamour with a full length carbon fibre centre console. Apart from visiting Aston Martin’s bespoke “Q Store” a buyer can specify the optional One-77 steering wheel as well. Digital radio, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto will be standard, as will 700 watts of audio power.

Deliveries are scheduled to start from October 2018 worldwide. Contact Aston Martin Australia for details including pricing.

The Electric Highway.

One of the appeals of the Australian landscape is its huge gaps between the cities, allowing an almost uninterrupted view of the beautiful world we live on. That also means that using a car not powered by diesel or petrol may be limited in its ability to traverse the distances between them.Come the Electric Highway. Founded by the Tesla Owners Club of Australia, TOCA, they took up a joint initiative with the Australian Electric Vehicle Association to literally fill in the gaps. With a smattering of Tesla supercharger and destination charger points mainly spread along points of the east coast and largely between Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane, a driver can now drive no more than 200 to 300 kilometres before seeing another charging point. The network is made up of 32 amp three-phase chargers which are about 200km apart on average, with the furthest distance between charge points being 400km. Most are capable of adding 110km of range in 30 minutes.

Tesla itself is looking at another eighteen superchargers around Australia by the end of 2019 which is complemented by the Australian Capital Territory’s decision to install fifty dual Electric Vehicle charging points at government sites in order to reach its zero emissions goal by 2022 for government cars.

Although most states have so far effectively failed to get on the electric car wagon, Queensland has bucked that trend by investing heavily in charger points.In that state, EV drivers can travel from Coolangatta to Cairns, and west from Brisbane to Toowoomba, using the government’s fast charger network, which is also vehicle agnostic. This means that the charger points are able to deal with the various car charging point designs, which does beg the question of why a global standard appears to not have been settled on. The rollout was completed in January of 2018.It’s also worth noting that the Western Australian government owned power company, Synergy, did assist the TOCA initiative. In WA alone, more than 70 charge points were installed in towns and roadhouses on all major roads in the south and east of the state, as well as some remote locations in the north.

The initiative, a team effort by Synergy and the WA branch of the Australian Electric Vehicle Association, is installing three-phase charge points in towns and roadhouses on all major roads in the south and east of the state, as well as some remote locations in the north.

WA’s regional utility, Horizon Power, also contributed to the roll-out, with installations of 3 phase outlets in the Kimberley area.

“We’re endeavouring to show that there is ‘people power’ behind the drive to EV’s, and hopefully governments can follow,” said Richard McNeall, a TOCA member and coordinator of the Round Australia Project.Currently most charger points are free, however there is a mooted change to this, but not at a huge impost. With pricing yet to be settled upon it’ll be worth looking out for press releases on this matter.

UK car maker Jaguar Land Rover has also announced plans to add a charging network in Australia, ahead of the release of its first EV, the I-PACE all-electric SUV, later this year. JLR Australia says the up to $4 million network would include 150 changing stations, using 100kW DC chargers provided by Jet Charge.

Plug Share is the site to go to to find out where the charge points are located.

Opening The Door To Motorsport.

Motorsport in Australia is thriving in some areas, not so in others. There’s categories and events that many would not be aware of, yet they’re at full strength. The one make Hyundai Excel series is one, FoSC or Festival of the Sporting Car is another. State level motorsport country wide is flourishing with the champions of the next generation out there in their Formula Vee, Formula Ford, perhaps their Formula 3 or Formula 4. There’s young ladies and gentlemen campaigning in a near fifty year old Holden HQ from Barbagallo to Baskerville, and veteran drivers such as John Bowe racing in all sorts of cars at all sorts of events.Molly Taylor is driving her rally specced and prepped Subaru in rallies around the country, and of course we have just seen Perth’s Daniel Ricciardo win at the Monaco F1 GP, and Will Power creating history by being the first Australian to win the Indy 500. Underlying all of these events is one crucial component. The officials working in front and from behind the scenes.

A huge proportion of how a motor sport event is built and staffed is thanks to officials that give up their time to be a part of the world’s biggest family. The family of motorsport. I recently wrote an article for Australia’s biggest aftermarket spare parts for classic cars company,Rare Spares article , where I talked to three people at various stages of their motorsport careers. Each of the three will state unequivocally that they simply can NOT go racing without the volunteer trackside officials.Here’s some points of view from those that are the steel behind motorsport.

Carolyn: “In 1998 I won tickets to Oran Park truck races from my ISP and got bored watching so I asked the girl at pit in how she got the job. She sent me to the office who referred me to timing. It was great fun and I’ve been to many events and race/ rally locations since. Highly recommend it.”

Marcus: “I’ve been around motorsport all my life. Dad raced Speedway on Tassie when I was younger.. Dad was also a track marshal so as a young bloke in Sydney first time spent many hours at Amaroo and Oran Park playing in the dirt as you do at a young age.. In November 1987 I had my first experience on a flagpoint at Baskerville and I was hooked.Did my first Bathurst 1000 in 1988 as a 15 year old what a eye opener.. In the years since I’ve been around Australia flagging at ATCC and Supercars.. For last 10 years ago I started doing more lower key events and clubbies because there was more satisfaction.. I still do the occasional big event but love doing club events… I’ve been blessed to have many mentors in my journey, obviously my father David and my Uncle Ted that taught me basically everything.. I’m very proud to be Fire & Recovery trained on top of my flagging… I’m at peace when I’m track side.”

Evan: “I started in Newcastle as a steward in 1978 with Newcastle Sporting Car Club, later also as a scrutineer and Clerk of Course – mainly rally, khana-cross and hill-climb. After moving to Sydney in 1986 my focus changed to circuits, with a little of the others still on the side. Sydney is a totally different beast to Newcastle – however having been NSCC’s State Council Delegate enabled me to get to know the right people of the time. Joining the ARDC was also of significant benefit as well as participation in a number of State panels. Basically like so many things in life, networking and training and proving yourself to the right people reaps rewards.”Cody: “I got into motorsport through a long time friend and fellow volunteer firefighter for the NSW Rural Fire Service. We both volunteered as fire marshals, he quit and here I am here 16yrs later still officiating. After we joined came as a officials no, because our RFS training used as recognition of prior learning.”

Corey: “Always had an interest and wanted to be apart of motorsport but never had the money to drive so i choose the next best thing to be involved and now wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Teena: “ Used to work in the field & wanted to be involved again.It’s interesting to note a big part of being an official is the training aspect. CAMS, The Confederation of Australian Motor Sport, is located in offices around the country and have a solid training program for beginners through to upper echelon players. Start off with CAMS here

Circuits around the country have events where at a driver’s level, a potential official can see what it’s like to be on the tarmac. Sydney Motor Sport Park have a slightly more focused option. Called Startline, it showcases aspects of the western Sydney located track that many would not otherwise get to see. People get to meet well established officials, get a guided tour of the venue, have explanations of which roles can be available and how Australian motorsport officials have traveled to international motor sport events such as the F1 Grand Prix. It’s completely free and is highly recommended for anyone that wishes to become a trackside official. Here’s where you can get on to the Startline

Me? I’ve worked trackside at the Melbourne F1 Grand Prix as a communications marshall. This is the link between trackside and race control, the eyes and ears, that reports incidents and advises race control of the status of what’s happening. I’ve worked at Rally Australia, Barbagallo Raceway, Oran Park, Bathurst, and have been the “voice” of Sydney Motor Sport Park since 2004. And like everyone mentioned here, I started by having a door open.

Come and join our family. The motorsport family.

(A big thanks to the officials that gave of their time, surnames for privacy reason have been deleted).

The Green Hell.

Every country has a racetrack that is loved, respected, and wanted to be raced upon by anyone from armchair console players to professional drivers. Australia has Mount Panorama, The US perhaps Laguna Seca as the pick. Britain has a few including Silverstone, and then there’s Germany’s Nürburgring.The location is steeped in history and can trace its origin back to the 1920s. Races were held on the roads and run under the auspices of the ADAC (Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club e.V). The Eifelrenen was an annual race that started in 1922. Held on 33 kilometres of public roads the mounting toll of damage and fatalities from this and other forms or racing lead to the founding of the original Nürburgring in 1927.

The original circuit had 187 bends and a distance of 28.265 kilometres. Bugatti driver Louis Chiron managed the quickest time and averaged 112.3 kilometres per hour. However, due to ongoing safety concerns, in 1929 it was decided to race only on the 22.8 kilometre Nordschleife for major races such as Grands Prix. The Südschleife, or South Ring, would host motorcycle and minor races on its separate 7.747 kilometre surface.

World War 2 intervened but racing recommenced in 1947. The Nordschleife would play host to the German Grand Prix. Names such as Alberto Ascari, Stirling Moss, Jim Clark, Juan Manuel Fangio, Jacky Ickx, Jacky Stewart, and John Surtees were soon made famous and took over the mantle of Ringmeister, a title given to drivers of pre WW2.
In the 1961 German Grand Prix practice sessions, Phil Hill became the first driver to slide under the nine minute mark and had a speed of 153.4 km/h. But by 1967 safety concerns had again been raised and modifications to the circuit were put in place. Regardless, the changes weren’t enough to placate the driving fraternity, with Scotsman Stewart dubbing the circuit “The Green Hell” after a rain soaked 1968 German Grand Prix, which, incidentally, Stewart won.More changes were made however the Nordschleife gained immortal notoriety in 1976. Although a decision had been made to make the 1976 GP the final one raced on the circuit, Austrian Niki lauda had tried to raise his co-drivers to a boycott level. The race went ahead in rainy conditions, and Lauda lost control of his Ferrari, crashing into the wall. Lauda was trapped and the ensuing fire nearly claimed his life.

Further track work reduced the overall length and in 1981 a new circuit was built which happened to incorporate part of the old circuits pit complex. Even this circuit called GP-Strecke was modified, extending the length from 4.5 km to 5.2 km. The circuit also has the distinction of becoming just the second circuit to name a turn after a driver, in this case turns 8 and 9 becoming the Schumacher S.

Race Weekend

Australian GT Racing

It’s a grand weekend of motorsport in Australia this weekend when the 2018 Formula 1 season kicks off at Albert Park’s Rolex Australian Grand Prix.  There will be loads to see and enjoy, with new racing machinery to get the heart rate up.

The Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli Asia Pacific Series starts off at Albert Park this weekend.  Thirty-three beautiful Ferrari 488 racing cars will be battling it out in an international series that spans three continents: Europe, North America, Asia Pacific.  These Ferraris are powered by a 3.9-litre turbo-charged V8 and quicker times are promised with this new fleet of race cars which replace the outgoing Ferrari 458 models.

Ferrari 488 Challenge Race Car

Also at Albert Park this weekend the Porsche Wilson Security Carrera Cup Australia returns to Melbourne.  A new generation of Porsche 911s will be racing with the new rear-mounted 4.0-litre naturally aspirated engines packing 375 kW of power and 480 Nm of torque.  This is always a great series to watch with super competitive racing always on the cards.

The Coates Hire Supercars Melbourne 400 starts its races as well, where a 13-lap, 30-minute Supercar battle commences.  It’s going to be anybody’s guess as to who will take the race, but Shane van Gisbergen has to be front runner.

One race series that has plenty of exciting race cars to watch will be the new Australian GT series, boasting a festivity of expensive exotic flavour, with the likes of Mercedes-AMG, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, McLaren, Audi and more fighting for that coveted spot on the podium.  With a group value of around $30-million this race will be automotive toffee for those lucky enough to see the race unfold.

The final day of the four-day Rolex F1 festival starts with a historic parade featuring classic racers from Brabham, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Austin Healey, Allard, McLaren and several other Australian specialist vehicles.   There will be a Legends Lane area located behind the main straight Fangio stand where you can look at them close-up and personal.

Other amazing stuff to experience at the weekend will be Lamborghini and Ferrari parades, an Ultimate Speed Comparison test, Aston Martin hot laps, an RAAF Roulettes show and the stunning F/A18 jet display.  Albert Park will be the place to be this weekend – just giving you the heads-up!

F/A18 Jet

Ford Ranger Raptor Ready To Strike.

Long talked about…well, since the new look Ranger was released a couple of years ago, a performance version has been released. Taking an already assertive machine and making it look even more angry is not always easy yet somehow the Ford designers and engineers have done so. Here’s a brief look at the 2018 Ford Ranger Raptor.Engine.
A 2.0L diesel has been massaged to produce an astonishing 500Nm of torque, with a peak power output of 157kW. The twin turbo beat was tested to its limits, with a non-stop run of 200 hours. A small HP (High Pressure) turbo kicks off before a larger LP (Low Pressure) turbo takes over. A new ten speed auto, designed and built by Ford in-house, along with revamped electronics, has quicker, crisper, shifts, and promises even better economy. There’s two on road modes, Normal and Sport, plus Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Sand, Rock, and Baja. It’s that last one that has eyebrows and corners of mouths raised. Ford says: Vehicle responsiveness is tuned for high-speed off-road performance, just like drivers need in the famous Baja Desert Rally. In this mode, vehicle systems like Traction Control are pared back in terms of intervention to allow spirited off-road driving without fighting the vehicle’s on-board systems. Gear selection is optimized for maximum performance, and the mapping will hold gears longer and downshift more aggressively.Looks.
A bespoke Ford logo grille now sits front and centre. It sits atop a frame mounted bumper, which houses new LED fog lamps and air-curtain ducts to help reduce aire resistance at speed. The front fenders are made of a composite material, and are oversized to deal with off road excursions and suspension travel. It’s an impressive size; it stands 1873mm high, spans 2180mm in width and is an impressive 5398mm in length. Ground clearance is 283 mm, with approach and departure angles of 32.5 and 24 degrees enabling superior off road accessibility.

There’s solid looking side steps, specially designed and engineered to help stop rocks being sprayed backwards from the front tyres and are cut to allow water drainage.Made from an aluminuim alloy, they’re durable and tough. These also were tested hard, with loads of 100 kilograms being applied 84,000 times to simulate a decade’s worth of exposure to usage. They’re powder-coated before a grit paint for extra durability is applied.

The rear bumper has been modified to include a towbar and two recovery hooks which will hold 3.8 tonnes. Parking sensors are flush in the bumper, which backs a tray of 1560mm x 1743mm. Exterior colours are: Lightning Blue, Race Red, Shadow Black, Frozen White, as well as a unique Hero color for the Ranger Raptor, Conquer Grey. Contrasting Dyno Grey accents helps to accentuate the vehicle’s look even further.Inside.
This has been overhauled with a smooth and refined look, coming under the umbrella of Ford Performance DNA. The seats are the starting point, with a redesign and change of material being tested in long distance rallies. They’re tailored for high speed work in an off-road environment. The material inside is of a dual layer hardness, providing both comfort and support in their intended environments.
The dash and steering wheel have been redesigned, with the Driver Assistance features being easily read in the binnacle and magnesium paddles for the driver’s column. There’s a touch of high speed assistance in one key area; a red stripe has been applied to the leather bound wheel, intended to confirm for the driver that the steering is “On Centre”.Underneath.
The off-road racing pedigree is evident in a chassis made from various grades of high-strength low-alloy (HSLA) steel and designed for that purpose. There’s coilover rear shocks, a Watt’s Link rear and solid rear axle. The chassis side rails are also HSLA. There’s a redesigned front end to deal with the strengthened higher profile shock towers. At the front, twin-piston calipers have been increased by 9.5mm in diameter, while the ventilated rotors are an impressive 332 x 32mm in size. At the rear, Ranger Raptor comes with disc brakes with a brake actuation master cylinder and booster to increase braking performance. The 332 x 24mm rear rotor is ventilated and coupled with a new 54mm caliper. These are housed inside new for Raptor BF Goodrich 285/70R17 rubber.It’s not yet known when exactly in 2018 the Ford Ranger Raptor will be available although it’s fair to surmise it’ll be within the first half of 2018.

Private Fleet Car Review: 2018 Subaru WRX STi R-Spec.

Once upon a time, the World Rally Championship or WRC was regarded as highly as the Formula 1 championship. Names were known, cars were followed, and drivers were gods. Subaru looked at its small car, the Impreza, and thought that its all wheel drive system inside its roomy yet compact body would make a solid base from which to develop a WRC entry. Subaru Technica International, the motorsport arm of the car company, along with UK based ProDrive, gave us the WRX (World Rally Cross) and an icon was born.Flash forward to 2017 and the World Rally Championship is dull in lustre, with the once broad appeal now seemingly limited to hardcore motorsport fans. Subaru enters a team in the Australian Rally Championship, the ARC, with Molly Taylor the works driver. The car? The WRX STi. In road going trim it’s known as the Subaru WRX STi R-Spec and the 2018 version is now available to buy and drive. This test car was taken from the lower Blue Mountains to the Hunter Valley for a birthday (thanks for the cards and cakes, by the way) during some of the heaviest rain seen for Sydney and surrounds for some time.It’s Subaru’s 2.5L flat four that powers the four wheels, twisting out a peak of 407 torques at 4000 rpm, and 221 kilowatts at 6000. There’s oodles of torque on tap from idle and is well and truly felt when rifling through the close ratio six speed manual via the short throw gear selector. There’s a pair of twin chrome tipped exhausts that deliver the characteristic boxer four thrum which is audible inside the cabin, even over the roar of the Yokohama Advan 235/35/19 (first time this diameter has been fitted) tyres pumping litres of water. When it was dry, the R-Spec showed exactly what it can be capable of. Tenacious grip, speed into and out of corners that frighten lesser chassised cars, the sheer ability to be put into a situation that had the Advan tyres shrugging as if to say “Is that all?”. The racing creed of slow in, fast out is put to good use as the torque slingshots the R-Spec towards lightspeed.Being an all wheel drive car is one thing, being a premium sports oriented all wheel drive car is another, and Subaru continues to offer its DCCD or Driver Controlled Centre Differential system to back that up, along with Subaru’s variable engine mapping system. Accessed via a toggle switch mounted in the centre console, the system allows the driver to tailor the proportion of drive between front and rear from 50:50 to 41:59. Under normal driving you can feel the torque tugging at the front and in circumstances such as shopping centre car parking, its a bit of an effort to move the car around. By altering the torque split you can not minimise but alleviate some of the tugging up front. It allows manual or auto adjustment, with one step in auto and up to five in manual.Thanks to the weather, exploring the outer boundaries of the performance capabilities of the STi R-Spec wasn’t a safe option, but there’s no doubt the car is more than capable under thundering skies. There’s auto headlights, auto wipers and they adjust for speed as well. Being a six speed manual the R-Spec misses out on Subaru’s fabulous Eyesight collision avoidance system however does get Lane Change Assist, Blind Spot Monitor, and gains a camera for both front and left side vision enhancement, allowing more precise monitoring for parking and hopefully not scraping the 19 inch alloys. There’s also a non DAB equipped Harman Kardon sound system and here the first quibble arose. Even with the settings wound up, the audio quality, oddly and disappointingly, still sounded like AM, with a real lack of separation, clarity, depth, and bass.Ride quality is surprising, surprising in that something so taut is also comparatively comfortable. Yes, it’s tight and jiggly from the 2650 mm wheelbase, but there’s just enough give to provide a semblance of nice. On smooth blacktop it’s a delight, toss it onto the rutted and broken rough headed tarmac surrounding Cessnock and it’s railway locomotive in that you can count how many grains of sand on a pebble yet without feeling your spine will be shaken to dust. Pop into your local Westfields, hit those damnable yellow metal speed bumps, and instead of crash thump it’s next please. It’s a suspension tune that doesn’t detract from the outright capabilities of the R-Spec nor does it overly frighten in comfort loss.You’ll not lack for comfort inside either, with grippy and supportive heated Recaro seats, Subaru’s wonderful triple screen information systems, and plenty of room in the current Impreza bodies. However, this STI R-Spec is still built around the just superceded Impreza design, meaning it’s the fiddly touchscreen, smaller centre console bin, not quite as good as now ergonomics, and a flat dash look. Outside there’s a slight change, with the front bumper relocating the globe driving lights and indicators to inside the headlight cluster, and replacing them, in the lower corners, with a vented black plastic insert. At the rear is the STi’s trademark landing pad that masquerades as a wing for the handy 460 litre boot and designed so it doesn’t obscure rear vision from inside.What the STi does do extraordinarily well, whether it’s bright daylight or blown out grey skies, is simply DRIVE. There’s plenty of torque to launch the car off the line, and you can rifle through the gears with a silky snick snick, listening to the raspy throb rise and fall, feel the body of the car bobbing around, whilst feeling that the hand and feet and part of the road underneath.The torque allows an immense amount of drive-ability in all gears bar sixth if you’re traveling at eighty kph or less, where fifth and then fourth comes into play. In gear acceleration is nothing short of stupendous and overtaking, safely, is how it should be. Done quickly, not a ludicrously ponderous move for fear of being pinged. There’s a price to pay for this exuberance, with 98RON the only tipple the car will drink, and at a figure of over fifteen litres per one hundred kilometres covered in an urban environment. Even driven with as gentle a right foot for the weather demands, the lowest was still 9.4L/100 km.The steering, although heavy, isn’t strenuous, and does an excellent job of communicating to the driver just what kind of road and the condition of the road, the car is on. It’s twitchy at times yet never hints at instability, and can be easily held with one arm, but two is better as you’ll think a direction and the nose goes there. It’s ratioed for quick response so it’s definitely not suitable for a driver that tends towards the lackadaisical in their driving style. Thankfully there’s plenty of safety equipment on board in the form of airbags, pretensioning seat belts and the like and Brembo brakes that didn’t work terribly well. Yep, that’s right. Instead of hauling up the 1532 kilo machine in a fingersnap, there was a worrying, and occasionally puckerworthy, lack of retardation in this particular car. Even good shoving of the centre pedal, needed in the wet and vision obscuring conditions of the Pacific Highway on a rainy day, offered little resistance.At The End Of The Drive.
As a driver’s car, brakes aside, the STi R-Spec delivers a joyous experience. As a piece of technology, it delivers something tactile and connectable. Even based on a now slightly outdated base, the Subaru WRX STi R-Spec commands attention and stokes the driving fires. If there’s a final question mark, it’s the value of the asking price at $57K. Balanced against newer and cheaper metal such as offerings from Ford, VW, perhaps even the new Kia Stinger GT, it’s no longer as much a value add as it once was. But when it continues to emotionally connect to you as a driver then there’s no price that can be put on that.
Web yourself to Subaru WRX/STi info to book a drive and spec up your own WRX STi R-Spec.

Australia’s Solar Race

Solar Race Car

The ‘Nuon Solar Team’ continues to dominate the solar race across Australia that started in Darwin and will finish in Adelaide.  Racing without conventional combustion engines, the various teams from around the world converged on Darwin having built their vehicles as completely solar-powered electric machines.

There are three categories that are completing the journey.  The first being the quickest team to complete the 3000 km race distance – this race is known as the ‘Challenger Class’.

The second class is the known as the ‘Cruiser Class’, where there are points given to the teams for the number of passengers on board, the amount of energy that they are using in terms of the number of battery recharges that are occurring throughout the journey and the general practicality of the car.  Being a part of the ‘Cruiser Class’, the points aren’t all about speed.

Solar Race Cruiser Class

Finally, the third category is known as the ‘Adventure Class’ which is the non-competitive class, allowing cars built for previous races of the event to run again – usually with new team members.  The ‘Adventure Class’ can also be used as a catchment for those who, while meeting the exacting safety standards, may not have quite made full compliance with the latest race requirements.  This is the category with the more laid-back travel style.

At the end of day three: the quickest team competing in the ‘Challenger Class’ is the ‘Nuon Solar Team’ from Holland.

Nuon Solar Team

Second is the team from Tokai University.

Tokai University Race Team

Third is the team from Michigan University.

Novum Race Team

Just over halfway through the race and there will still be plenty of challenges ahead for all race competitors.  One of the major influences on how well a car performs in this race is the amount of sunshine there will be.  Cloudy days do impact the speed and progress of the cars.

This is an exciting race held here in Australia that is sponsored by Bridgestone, and it’s these sort of races that enable the evolution of production cars being run on electricity and solar energy.  If you can, get out and have a look at the cars as they silently run into Adelaide in a few days time.