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Motor Sport

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.

End of an era: 2017 Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000.

There should be a sense of occasion about the 2017 Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000. There should be a sense of majesty, of pride, of nostalgia…and perhaps there will be for those that follow what is now called, merely, Supercars, and for those that attend the yearly event that is seen as the pinnacle of motorsport in Australia, at the fabled Mount Panorama.

My earliest experiences of what was to become a significant part of my motorsport career were of watching highlights of the Hardie-Ferodo 500 on one of the just three tv channels available in Perth during the 1970s. Channel 7 would run a package from late Saturday night through to race start on the Sunday morning (early, Perth time) whilst I, bleary eyed and barely awake, would watch the blurry, grainy, images on our 48cm black and white tv screen.As times and technology changed, the quality would improve, colour was the norm, and the sound of the cars would be better. We’d have different camera views, more overhead shots from the choppers, in-car cameras, and people that didn’t follow motorsport would be able to name at least six of the drivers. We saw the racing move from Production Car style racing to the Group C to the international Group A to effectively Holden versus Ford to five manufacturers with racing cars loosely based on production cars.

Now…we have five main channels and a raft of subsidiary channels delivered digitally. We have pay television, we have internet capable access and we have a category so far from its heyday that the impact it once had on a viewing audience and the attraction that once had grandstands full of bums on seats simply don’t exist anymore. Yes, there are the dedicated followers of motorsport, and there are those that can still tell you at least six names, but for the everyday Mr and Mrs Jones, the Supercars, the racing, and the lure of the mountain just aren’t there as they were once.

Australia’s primary non free to air television source is delivering, in the days before “The Great Race”, replays of previous races and highlights of the sport. This gives us a great comparison of what was, what is, and eyes off the “what will be” because in 2018 the rules change again. Holden and Ford, as two of the three manufacturers still making cars in Australia until 2016, when Ford ceased local manufacturing, will have their final Aussie built look alikes on track. Nissan, Volvo, and Mercedes-Benz once raced cars with five litre V8s, as per the category rules, even though two of the brands never released production based cars with that engine.

People knew that and some of the gloss wore off, the appeal waned, and the numbers of bums on seats diminished at tracks. The move towards a non free to air delivery diversified a once captive market audience and for many, the need to pay for access to a product once “live and free” was the stopping point. Advertising for the category seems almost non-existent but, again, for the dedicated follower they’d not need to have advertising because they’d know where to get information.

2018 sees Holden race a car with a design no longer based on an Australian based, front engined and rear wheel drive, V8 optional, production car. Instead they’ll race a turbocharged V6 engine chassis. The category rules have once again changed that having a V8 engine ONLY is now not the norm. The rules now also allow a non four door sedan, and with Ford selling just about every Mustang they’ve imported over the last two years, there’s a fair chance we’ll see that shape on race tracks. BUT, but, the rules stipulate cars MUST be built on a common chassis, effectively making the cars we’ll see on racing tracks in 2018 visually different outside but engines aside, the same (more or less) underneath.Nissan raced a chassis based on a car that wasn’t, in Australia, ever available with a V8. Volvo and Mercedes-Benz withdrew after the 2016 season, and Ford branded cars raced without Ford Australia factory support. So in 2017, at “The Great Race”, we’ll see, for the final time, a fully V8 powered field in Supercars, at Mount Panorama. But where’s the sense of loss, of sadness, of regret, the sense of pondering what was once a broad ranging appeal category?

Talk to anyone with a loose affiliation with motorsport and you’ll get a range of answers. You’ll also get a common theme….the cars that drew us to Bathurst every year are no longer relevant. Large sedans such as the Commodore and Falcon barely ripple the sales charts, SUVs and four wheel drive utes are what people buy and the win on Sunday, sell on Monday mentality that once (no pun intended) drove sales is no longer with us.Sunday the eighth of October, 2017, should be a day of occasion, a day of looking back at of over fifty years of history with an appreciation of what was, and a want for what will be. For me, that’s not the case and judging by the numbers of people that no longer show up at circuits around the country, it will really only be the dedicated and those that work with motorsport that may shed a tear.

Post event note: the 2017 event was won by David Reynolds and Luke Youlden after polesitter and expcted winner Scott McLaughlin and Alex Premat’s number 17 car had engine failure  and retired on lap 72. Viewer numbers weren’t vastly different from the years shown.

2007 1.357 million
2008 1.249 million
2009 1.182 million
2010 1.046 million
2011 1.212 million
2012 1.253 million
2013 1.263 million
2014 1.351 million

Private Fleet Book Review: How To Drive. The Ultimate Guide From The Man Who Was The Stig by Ben Collins

As we’re less than 100 days away from Christmas, it might be time to start dropping some hints as to what you’d like your nearest and dearest to get you. For most of us, a new car is out of the question in the Christmas stocking, but a new book is probably much more feasible as a present for the typical Australian.

How To Drive by Ben Collins is a book that satisfies a number of appetites whetted by the BBC TV show Top Gear – and I’m talking about the old version with the Unholy Trinity of Jezza, Richard and James. Firstly, you finally get to find out who The Stig really is: the author of this book, former racing driver and movie stunt driver Ben Collins.  Secondly, this is the closest you’re likely to get to being taught how to drive by The Stig like those Stars In Reasonably Priced Cars.

To say that this rather chunky book (269 pages, not counting the index) is comprehensive is something of an understatement. It is packed with tips and facts to make you a better driver, starting with some historical bits and pieces, such as the development of the tyre, and goes from the basics through to advanced stunt driving as you work your way through the book. And when I say “the basics”, I really do mean the basics: starting with the importance of good seating position and holding the wheel correctly. In the final section, you get all the really fun stuff you don’t want to do anywhere apart from a proper track or else a deserted field (with permission of the farmer, of course): doughnuts, burnouts, drifting and the J-turn… and the “don’t try this at home” 180-degree and 90-degree stunt turns into a parking space.

As most of us want to know more about The Stig and who he really is, the book is peppered with anecdotes, not just about Stiggy’s time with Top Gear but also the movie driving and race driving he’s done.  For the record, Ben Collins has been a stunt driver in Fast and Furious, Spiderman 2 and Quantum of Solace… at the very least. Those are the movies cited in the index, anyway.  And yes, he’s body-doubled James Bond for these stunts.  There are photos to prove it.  You also get glimpses of behind the scenes at Le Mans and NASCAR, etc.  The stories aren’t all “look at how good I am” showing off: there are a few “how I got it wrong” tales in there as well.

It’s also not just a how-to book, although there are tons and tons of step-by-step instructions and handy diagrams.  The physics of what’s going on is explained, as well as the psychology, and plenty of it.  Again and again, the importance of having being in the right headspace is emphasised, and it’s not all testosterone-fuelled drive and competition, which will come as something of a relief for those of us whom Nature didn’t give loads of testosterone, aka 50% of the population.  Collins provides tips not just from the motor racing world but also from Samurai warriors and jet pilots.  There’s even a diet to help you stay alert when expecting a long day’s driving.  The physics and the psychology – and the instructions – are all presented in a very readable way with a sense of humour.  It’s hard to forget the mnemonic for correcting oversteer, for example: Steer, Hold It, Turn (the initial letters are probably what you’re saying…).  The ebook version would certainly be great when you’re waiting in the doctor’s surgery and would pass the time very pleasantly (the hardcover is a bit hard to cart about in your pocket).

It’s a British book, so some of the explanations and complaints about roundabouts, give way rules, motorways and the licensing system may not (and in many cases do not) apply to Australia. However, the majority of what’s in there does apply (including, hooray, hooray, the keep-left rule).

This is a book that will keep plenty of drivers happy, as there’s something for everyone in there, whether the reader’s on their L-Plates or whether he/she has been driving for decades.  It’s a goldmine of motoring trivia that will make you chuckle as well as being a great practical tome that ought to be standard issue along with a copy of the Road Code to learner drivers.

How To Drive. The Ultimate Guide – From The Man Who Was The Stig
Ben Collins
Published 2014 by Pan Macmillan, ISBN 978-1-4472-7283-0 (hardback), 978-1-4472-7285-4 (paperback). 272 pages. Ebook available.

AWD v FWD v RWD

Traction

When it comes to buying your new vehicle, should it be FWD (Front Wheel Drive), RWD (Rear Wheel Drive) or AWD (All Wheel Drive)?  How the car gets shoved along might not matter to many drivers, however there are some differences between the driving layouts that are worth pointing out.  There are some changes occurring where car manufacturers are adopting a new layout for certain key reasons, and we’ll see why shortly.  What type of drive system you prefer really depends on what kind of a driver you are and the conditions you usually find yourself drive in.

Let’s take a look at the three types for drive trains and note the differences.

Firstly we’ll start with RWD, mainly because this can be lots of fun to drive.  A RWD car has a simple design where the drive shaft runs the length of the vehicle: from the engine to the rear wheels.  The design is generally simple and rugged.  It’s less likely to break when running over a curb or large pothole.  FWD vehicles are more complex, and with the added weight over the front axle the chances you’re going to break something in the FWD design is more likely.  FWD set-ups incorporate half-shafts and constant velocity (CV) joints that are more susceptible to damage than a RWD car’s solid axle.

RWD cars usually have a slightly better weight distribution (not as heavy at the front end compared with a FWD car), creating better handling because of this.  A RWD car spreads the weight of its drivetrain more evenly front-to-rear.  But an issue with the RWD layout can arise when the road conditions get slippery.  Rain, snow and ice create scenarios where loss of traction at the rear becomes more likely in a RWD car.

FWD cars do, however, provide better economy – not only in fuel consumption but also in manufacturing costs.  With fewer parts the drivetrain is easier and cheaper to mount into the car as it progresses down the assembly line.  FWD cars are often lighter than RWD equivalents thanks to the design not having to use separate transmission and axle assemblies used in a RWD car.  Reduction in weight leads to better fuel economy on the road, and this is a big draw card for new car buyers.

In certain conditions FWD offers better traction compared with a RWD car.  In the rain and snow, FWD gets better traction on the driving wheels because the front wheels have the extra engine and transaxle weight sitting on top of the front driving wheels – which helps to get better grip in slippery conditions.  Also, the front wheels are pulling rather than pushing the car along, aiding steering control in poor road conditions.

Being nose heavy, FWD cars aren’t usually quite as nimble and fast through the corners as RWD cars. When road conditions allow for higher speeds to be attained, FWD cars have to steer and drive the car with extra weight at the front.  This is why very few “serious” performance cars are FWD.  Maintenance costs are higher compared with RWD, so new bits like CV joints and boots will need to be replaced as the kilometres pass by.

This leaves us with AWD, and the best thing about AWD is that it gives some of the advantages of both RWD and FWD.  The number one advantage of AWD is excellent traction in dry and wet road conditions.  Some AWD designs lean slightly toward the front wheels doing more work, while others lean more toward the rear wheels doing more of the work.  The RWD-based versions are usually more performance-oriented but any of the AWD cars will do a top job of balancing the car’s handling and driving dynamics.

AWD cars do cost more to buy compared with RWD and FWD cousins.  This is because they cost more to produce with all the extra drive train components.  The extra running gear also costs more to maintain.  AWD systems are also heavier drive systems which makes for higher fuel consumption.  The higher fuel consumption, higher production costs and higher maintenance costs will put some buyers off, however a die-hard Subaru fan will have you think otherwise.  For ultimate performance, the AWD system can’t be beaten.

There are electronic traction control systems and driver aids that are getting better-and-better which do aid both the car’s handling and performance characteristics, as well as safety.  And, particularly in variable road conditions that might be wet and slippery, these extra electronic control systems can’t be beat.  These systems are widely used in many FWD, RWD and AWD cars.

The trend is that new car buyers are looking for more SUV and all-purpose vehicles to buy.  It has become simpler for automakers to reconfigure FWD models into AWD formulas where the AWD system is front-wheel power biased.  We are seeing more of these vehicle types on our road, which also means there is a decline in new RWD cars being bought.

Just for interest sake: Holden are still keeping the Commodore name, however the new Commodore won’t have a rear-wheel drive variant.  Instead, it’ll be offered in a front-wheel drive configuration for mainstream models, while a naturally aspirated 3.6-litre V6 AWD model will be the performance model in the line-up.  With a nine-speed automatic gearbox, no differential with dual-clutch control systems controlling front and rear wheels independently, and torque vectoring the AWD model will be a performer.

Holden Commodore AWD

Also interesting is that BMW Motorsport engineers are looking to produce M-badged cars with an AWD model as well as a RWD variant.  With BMW’s M cars getting so powerful, the boss of BMW’s M Division, Frank van Meel, said that it’s getting hard to sell M cars without AWD in markets like Canada and Switzerland where conditions are slippery.

BMW M5 AWD

There is only so much horsepower you can put through two wheels before obtaining the grip needed to accelerate fast is compromised.  Even with the best traction and launch control aids, 2WD systems are beaten by AWD systems, and when engines have such immense power now, AWD is the only logical step forward for performance car manufacturers like BMW.  Audi, Porsche and Nissan already have plenty of experience with AWD performance models.