As seen on:

SMH Logo News Logo

Call 1300 303 181

Archive for February, 2014

Driving Barefoot; Driving in Thongs; Driving in High Heels

Pair-pink-flip-flop-007“You can’t wear those when pay for homework you’re driving,” my father said, pointing to the high-heeled shoes I was wearing at the tender age of sixteen when I was getting one of my first driving lessons.  “There’s no way that you can operate the pedals properly in those.” So I ended up taking that lesson driving barefoot.

I have to confess that I like driving barefoot.  People talk about enjoying the feeling of the steering wheel and the more hands-on method of driving provided by manual gearboxes or paddle-flapper semiautomatic gear shifting.  But not much has been mentioned about the sensory pleasure and subtlety of what you do with your feet. If anything, the trend seems to be to use your feet as little as possible, given the trend towards auto-braking on top of automatic transmissions and cruise control.  A naked foot applies brake and accelerator (OK, I drive an automatic) with minute shades of control.  A little pressure here, a slight bit of easing off here, a brief flicker of the brake there.  Simply shoving one’s hoof down for maximum acceleration followed by jamming on the brakes seems, well, crude. Like scribbling with a vivid marker, whereas driving barefoot is more like delicate pencil sketching.

Cars tend to like that sort of driving, too, as it doesn’t create as much wear and tear.  So does your wallet, for the same reason.

However, the problem with driving barefoot comes at the end of the journey, as where you’re parked is less likely to be pleasant to walk on without something between you and the elements. Quite often in the warmer months, that something is a pair of thong sandals (aka flip-flops or jandals or whatever else you want to call them – you know the things I mean!).  All the same, I don’t drive in them.

Contrary to popular myth, it is legal to drive barefoot (how could it not be?) and it is also legal to drive in thongs, except, apparently, in Victoria.  However, it isn’t safe to drive in thongs, even though a lot of people do it, especially in our warm climate.  There have been road safety studies in various parts of the world, and it seems that thongs might slip off and interfere with the operation of the brake and the accelerator because they can jam underneath the pedals.  Describing and visualising how this happens can be tricky – the best bet would be to go out to your car in a pair of thongs and, with the engine off, fidget your feet around a lot and see what happens.

It’s also a dumb idea to kick your thongs off and leave them floating around by your feet, as they can still get stuck and/or in the way.  Chuck them into the passenger seat or stick them in the glove box (who keeps driving gloves in the glove box these days, anyway?).

You do get some stories about people not braking properly when driving barefoot because a sharp stone is sitting on the brake pedal and they jerk their foot back automatically.  But how often does this sort of thing happen really?  I usually go through a little ritual of sliding my feet up and down the brake pedal before I start the ignition (partly because I’m readjusting the seat after my husband’s been driving), which gets rid of any stones.

And as for high heels… well, obviously, not many of you guys wear them.  They do put your feet at an awkward angle for applying the pedal (into the passenger seat with them and drive barefoot again).  They also have next to no grip and slide off pedals at the wrong moment into the bargain.  However, this wasn’t the case for one car I’ve driven.  This was a late 80s Alfa Romeo of my grandmother’s, and the accelerator pedal was at an awkward angle that meant that you had to either raise your heel from the floor to operate it or floor the thing.  How Italian is that? Either high heels or furious driving.  The more recent Alfas have, thankfully, corrected this fault.  However, in my grandmother’s car, I struggled along for most of the trip getting a very sore ankle and calf as I drove along with one heel in the air. Then the sneakers came off and I ended up using my bare toes to operate the accelerator. It still hurt and I was glad when that trip was over, but it was a lot better than the high heels.

Classic Cars: Aston Martin DB5.

Aston-Martin-DB5-3For everyone, there is something they consider important in their life; it even gets to the point where they meet up with like minded people. For some, a car is nothing more than a method of getting from A to B, like a fridge is for keeping things cold, a TV is for watching a reality program (shudder) but for many a car is a symbol of desire, of majesty, of perfection. In the first of an ongoing series (and because I grew up, like so many, with Sean Connery as Bond, James Bond) I’ve selected the Aston Martin DB5 to kick it off.

DB stands for David Brown, the head of Aston Martin from 1947 to 1972. The DB series commenced in 1950 with the DB2. Aston_Martin_DB5_engineThe DB5 was launched in 1963, an evolution of the DB4. The alloy engine was increased from 3.7 litres to 4.0 litres with 210 kW available, a new five speed manual transmission (after the initial four speed manual was dropped) was standard and a weight of just 1500 kilos provided a top speed of 230 kmh and a 0-100kmh time of just over seven seconds. A buyer of a DB5 got electric windows, wool pile carpet, leather trim, disc brakes and a damned good looking car, thanks to the Italian company Carrozzeria Touring Superleggera. There was 123 convertibles made (one most famously driven by Prince William after his wedding) with 37 made from October 1965.

Sean_Connery_with_1964_Aston_Martin_DB5Most people would know of the DB5 from the James Bond movie, Goldfinger. Somewhat scarily now, it was the prototype DB5 car used in the film, with another car providing the stunts. Complete with machine guns, ejector seat, Roman era style rotating1965-Aston-Martin-DB5-interior blades from the centre of the wheels and oil slick making gadgets, the DB5 quickly became, at the time, the most famous car in the world. Priced, when new, at 4175 pounds sterling for the hardtop and 4490 pounds sterling for the soft top, it was expensive for the time but when you consider one sold at auction in 2010 for 2.3 million pounds (one used the films Goldfinger and Thunderbird admittedly…) it’s a bargain now.

Still regarded as one of the most beautiful cars ever produced (alongside fellow Britisher the Jaguar E-Type), the coupe style fastback was a stunner. Laid back headlights, air vent in the bonnet, the now traditional and famous grille design with seven vertical bars, the low sweeping design leading into the three bulb tail lights conspired to delight and beguile the eyeballs.Aston_Martin_DB5_007JB_Goldfinger

A timeless design with curves Jennifer Hawkins would envy, a powerplant that provided some startling numbers for the ’60s and showing up in a couple of the most loved films of the James Bond pantheon have continued to excite and enthrall lovers of automotive beauty. The Aston Martin DB5, a classic car.

Record Breaking Year: BTCC to host 7 Champions in 2014

The upcoming 2014 BTCC season was already shaping up to be something special, but now we are looking at special in the rear view mirror. This year will not only be one of the most exciting championships in recent years, but most importantly it is going to be a year that breaks all previous records. The capacity grid contains some highly talented drivers from a whole range of backgrounds. But if you look closely, you will see the appearance of a primordial beast; the champion. Fear will always be cast into the hearts of the other drivers to know that they will be sharing the same tarmac as a person who had conquered one of the most competitive series in world motorsport. Just imagine how they will be feeling when they realise that this year will not just be one former champion, not even 2 or 3.

Oh no, the 2014 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship will be contested by 7 former champions.

The competition in the BTCC is really hotting up... Photo Credit:

The competition in the BTCC is really hotting up… Photo Credit:

Let’s have a little look at these touring car titans terrifying the talented grid this year…

The Current Crop of Champions

The 2013 season already boasted 4 former champions in Matt Neal, Gordon Shedden, Colin Turkington and Jason Plato. And of course, following the final race, Andrew Jordan was added to that list. Before any announcements for 2014 were made, this meant that there were 5 champions in the field…

  • Jason Plato – 2001 (Vauxhall) and 2010 (Chevrolet)
  • Matt Neal – 2005, 2006 and 2011 (Honda, Honda and would you look at that, Honda)
  • Colin Turkington – 2009 (BMW)
  • Gordon Shedden – 2012 (Honda)
  • Andrew Jordan – 2013 (Honda)

And for those keen eyed viewers of the British Touring Car Championship would notice that all 5 of these drivers were fighting for the top positions in most of the races last year. Honda vs MG vs BMW was a sight that became commonplace by the end of 2013. Every single one of these drivers more than proved their abilities and credibility as a champion; aggression, control and consistency throughout the season.

Return of The Champions

Aside from being a great live album by Queen and Paul Rodgers, 2014 truly represents the return of the champions to the BTCC. Not too long ago I wrote a celebration to the ‘Return of Alain Menu’ to the championship this year. Menu was a dominant figure in the 90s, arguably the greatest time the sport has ever had.

  • Alain Menu – 1997 (Renault Laguna; 281 points), 2000 (Ford Mondeo; 195 points)

Secondly we have Fabrizio Giovanardi, who is one of THE great drivers of tin top touring cars. Giovanardi shot to fame in Italy, Spain and then in the European Touring Car Championship. Once he conquered the side dishes, he thought it about time to take on the best touring car series in the world, and he did not disappoint. He is a true force to be reckoned with.

  • Fabrizio Giovanardi – 1992 (Italian Superturismo, class S2), 1997 (Spanish Touring Cars), 1998/1999 (Italian Superturismo), 2000-2002 (European Touring Car Championship) and 2007/2008 (Vauxhall, British Touring Car Championship).

Alain Menu returns with Team BMR in a Volkswagen Passat, and Giovanardi heads up the Airwaves Motorbase Ford challenge. In both cases, the teams are up and coming and are preparing to launch an attack on the teams at the top. Honda and MG, you may want to look out, you are being hunted.

Giovanardi will hope to be a breath of fresh air in the Airwaves Ford for 2014. Photo Credit:

Giovanardi will hope to be a breath of fresh air in the Airwaves Ford for 2014. Photo Credit:

Each of these drivers has every credential for victory and will not want to be anywhere else apart from on top. So that is 7 drivers all of whom have every chance of winning the championship this year. If people think F1 is exciting with its single driver domination race in, race out, maybe they should be introduced to the BTCC. This real close racing may just blow their mind clean from their head. Maybe stand back when you first show them the sport, it may get kinda messy.

But the most exciting thing is the nature of unpredictability. As I proved recently in my article on the ‘Underdogs of the BTCC 2014’, there are a whole host of other drivers who are ready to steal the glory away from these ‘old timer champions’. They will do anything they can to prove that they have what it takes to topple those at the top. The racing will be close, the battles will be epic and the results?

…only time will tell.

And Jason Plato is flying... literally. Photo Credit:

And Jason Plato is flying… literally. Photo Credit:

So that's what the underside of the car looks like... Photo Credit:

So that’s what the underside of the car looks like… Photo Credit:

Plato's pushing so hard he's on two wheels... Photo Credit:

Plato’s pushing so hard he’s on two wheels… Photo Credit:

Jason Plato knows more than anyone else that the BTCC is one of the most competitive motorsports in the world. When it goes wrong, it really goes wrong…

Well that did not go well... Photo Credit:

Well that did not go well… Photo Credit:

The only thing I know for sure; the 2014 BTCC season will be a year to remember

Keep Driving People!

Follow me on Twitter @lewisglynn69

Peace and Love!

Music To Our Ears

Once again, I am daring to disagree with my fellow blogger Lewis. A tad before Christmas, Lewis sang the praises of Queen, Queen and nothing but Queen as the thing to play on your car stereo (and threw in a list of his top favourites).

This is all very well… if you like Queen.  I don’t.  I have a very eclectic music collection that rotates its way around the cycle of the family Ford Fairlaine, my husband’s Nissan Navara work ute and the sound system in the house, but Queen is conspicuous by its absence. However, I reckon Lewis got it bang on right when he mentions the great electric guitar solos as being good for driving to.  Especially on the open road where you can put the pedal down… at least as far as the cops will let you.

However, there are sections of road where hard rock with plenty of driving guitar will just leave you frustrated. It’s more like heavy traffic than heavy metal. In situations like this, you need something that will calm you down, and probably something that you can sing along to.  The car is as good as the shower for working on your singing technique, although you don’t quite get the acoustics.  Pro singers always rehearse and practice at the car, although putting the sheet music on the steering wheel in front of you is probably a dumb idea (I’ve seen it done).

Taking yet another scenario, on a long interstate drive where the road is straight and the scenery is starting to get monotonous, soothing quiet music is a recipe for disaster (anyone else remember the scene in Mr Bean’s Holiday where Sabine falls asleep at the wheel of the Mini after Mr Bean hits Brahms’ Lullaby on the phone ring tones?).  Some of the road safety boffins say that playing music can be a good stimulant for helping you keep alert during a long-haul trip, but they forgot to say that not all music is created equal…

So here goes: my hints for creating a driving playlist for all situations.

For open road driving and the wide open spaces: Electric guitar is king.  Personal picks for the playlist would be U2, Midnight Oil (come on – an album named “Diesel & Dust” is just made to be driven to) and Chris Rea.  From the classical section of the music library, the fast final movement of Summer from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons – that fast violin work rivals the slickest electric guitar work out there.

Slow traffic in town: Chill-out jazz and moody Celtic keeps you in the right headspace – calm and collected in your metal and glass bubble in spite of the madness around you. They’re also good for singing along to.  If, however, you have small children in the car with you on the school and shopping run, singing will be a must. Also action songs to keep the kids from screaming with boredom.  Looks like the Wiggles or the Fairies will hijack your sound system again.

Long drives when you need to keep your mind alert:  Disco and electronica – that pumping beat is designed to get you pumped up and dancing driving all night.  However, if it’s that sort of electronica that is highly repetitive and goes on for ten minutes per track, avoid it, as the repetitive music plus the repetitive flicker Audio books are another hot pick, especially when it’s getting dark. Pick a story with plenty of action or comedy (preferably both) rather than something intellectually heavy – Terry Pratchett’s Discworld sort of thing rather than To Kill A Mockingbird or The Brothers Karamazov.

singing in the car

PS: Keep the music to your car sound system or to the innate music of the exhaust in a well-tuned V8 engine.  Musical horns (with the possible exception of the General Lee horn from the Dukes of Hazzard) and tinny tunes played as a reversing warning drive everyone insane, as I found out when living next door to a car that played Für Elise very badly every morning when it backed out the drive.

The Age Of The Underdog: BTCC in 2014

Andrew Jordan celebrates his first championship. Photo Credit:

Andrew Jordan celebrates his first championship. Photo Credit:

The 2013 BTCC season was truly a return to greatness for the series. The championship went down to a thrilling final race weekend at the rain sodden Brands Hatch GP. And any fan of the BTCC will tell you a wet and windy season finale at Brands Hatch will always give you the climax you wanted, as proved by the final race of the 2001 BTCC season. And 2013 did not disappoint. Starting at the back of the grid, Andrew Jordan battled his way from 25th to 9th, cementing his position at the top. It truly was a champions drive. My only criticism of the 2013 season was the predictability of the top 6 finishers in most races.

Honda, Honda, MG, Honda…

Due to the manufacturer-based funding of the Yuasa Honda and MG teams, they clearly had the most superior cars in 2013. And the independent Pirtek team were essentially gifted the same car as the factory Honda team. As such, Jordan, Neal, Shedden and Plato were usually the names at the top. This became so commonplace that dare I say it, it became monotonous. The extra performance even gave mediocre drivers such as Jeff Smith the chance to bring in top 5 finishes. Usually this wouldn’t be a problem but Smith doesn’t have the same experience as some of the veteran drivers and often took lessons from the Giovanardi school of driving and used brute force and unfair tactics to gain position.

However, despite this the season was by far the best it had been in the last 10 years. But why is this you may ask. One word, underdog. 2013 was truly the year of the underdog, and every now and again spurts of god-fuelled genius saw these underdogs fighting at the top. This post is a celebration of their achievements and a reminder to the big boys that the 2014 season may well be the year of the revolution. Are we seeing the dawning of a new age? Is this the age of the underdog?

The 2013 season gave close, hard racing, and some spectacular shots. Photo Credit:

The 2013 season gave close, hard racing, and some spectacular shots. Photo Credit:

BMW and Turkington: Mixed Success in 2013

The BMW team started slow, but their influence picked up speed as the season went on. Photo Credit:

The BMW team started slow, but their influence picked up speed as the season went on. Photo Credit:

The Ebay Motors BMW team brought a colourful, quirky new look to the BTCC last year, and under the control of Nick Foster, Rob Collard and returning champion Colin Turkington, by the end of the year the team were a constant threat for race wins. However, it was clear that 2013 was a year of development for the BMW team. The start of the year saw a string of mid-pack performances, until Turkington’s first win in race 3 at Donington Park. In fact, Turkington’s performance proved just how good a driver he is. He took a brand new car and battled his way to the top of the time sheets consistently.

Clearly though the existence of the 13 was the icon of bad luck for the BMW team, as they were often riddled with mechanical problems, bad performances and unlucky mishaps. The worst of which was the embarrassing start to a race at the final weekend at Brands Hatch. The last thing you want to see as team manager is two of your cars facing each other at the exit of the first corner…

I imagine there were a few heads on desks back at race control... Photo Credit:

I imagine there were a few heads on desks back at race control… Photo Credit:

Adam Morgan: Potential in a Brand New Car

In 2013, Adam Morgan impressed with a string of top 5 finishes in his very handsome Toyota Avensis. As the year went on, the name Morgan began to grow in popularity and success. Morgan and his Ciceley racing team showed the talent needed for future championship success. He was one of the few drivers who could really stick it to the big boys, and dish out the same hard driving ability that was often shoveled in his face.

Morgan has made the headlines in 2014 following the announcement of his choice of car for the upcoming season. In fact, he is introducing a brand new manufacturer to the illustrious list of names that have graced the championship with their presence. This car is often one you would associate with the DTM series, but Adam Morgan is bringing his Mercedes A-Class to the BTCC in 2014. Considering the high levels of success Morgan was achieving by the end of the year, I predict that once he has gotten to grips with his new machine, he will be right back at the top once more. I will be shocked if he has not climbed the top step of the podium at least once by the end of the year.

Adam Morgan is making the switch from his handsome Toyota to a Mercedes A-Class for 2014. Photo Credit:

Adam Morgan is making the switch from his handsome Toyota to a Mercedes A-Class for 2014. Photo Credit:

Soft spot for Squelch

In every series, I always find myself having a soft spot for a certain driver or team, regardless of their successes. This usually comes down to the attractive nature of a machine, matched with the determination of a team. And in 2013, I most definitely had a soft spot for Dan Welch in his Proton. Welch (or Squelch as I began calling him) was never battling for top 5 finishes, but he was always filled with a positive attitude and the determination from his team really did impress me. Not only that, but I really did enjoy the look of his car; it truly was a joy watching that little monster charging around the track. I have every faith that with the new season there will be new successes for the team. I would love more than anything to see Squelch at the front end of the pack this year. Proton deserves to continue the success first gained by the late great David Leslie in the early 2000s.

The Sopp+Sopp Proton of Dan Welch was always my personal favourite of 2013

The Sopp+Sopp Proton of Dan Welch was always my personal favourite of 2013. Photo Credit:

Volkswagen Passat on the Menu for Success

Under the expert control of Tom Onslow-Cole, the VW Passat surprised everyone in 2013, taking podium finishes at Thruxton and Croft. And this year, under the new management of Team BMR, the VW will be the seat of one of the biggest names in the business. Recently, I posted an article on the ‘Return of Alain Menu’ to the BTCC, and the great man himself will be driving the Volkswagen Passat in 2014. Considering the surprising success in 2o13, I have a feeling that Team BMR are going to have a highly fruitful season this year. The skill of Alain Menu will bring about not only high finishes, but I will stick my neck out here and say that multiple race wins too.

It is massively exciting. Especially if the legend can show the big manufacturers that the smaller teams are a true force to be reckoned with.

What a good looking beast... The Volkswagen Passat in 2013. Photo Credit:

What a good looking beast… The Volkswagen Passat in 2013. Photo Credit:

The Young Juggernaut

Jack Goff had a very low key start to 2013 in his Vauxhall Insignia, but to say the same by the end of the season would be an insult to everything that was good and right in this world. The final race of the year saw Jack Goff in an inferior car take on ‘Flash’ Gordon Shedden in the planet destroying Honda Civic. Whatever Flash did Goff was right there on his tail. Not only that, he was so fast he was even flashing his lights to get Shedden out the way. The titans at the top did not know what hit them. How dare SOMEONE ELSE take on the top men? Well I am sorry to tell you, just because you are safe in the car front, there is a juggernaut of talent just waiting to take the title from underneath you.

2014 will see Jack Goff return in his Vauxhall with team BMR. Goff and Menu in one team? Watch out Honda and MG, team BMR are out to get you. Jack Goff will be a champion one day. He has the talent, the aggression and the determination to be a champion in the future. I wish him all the best for 2014!

Out of the frying pan.... Jack Goff has the talent for greatness. Photo Credit:

Out of the frying pan…. Jack Goff has the talent for greatness. Photo Credit:

The Ultimate Underdog: The People’s Champion

I have named an array of the teams and drivers that I have tipped for good things in 2014, but I have of course saved the best for last. Last year, I may have had my guesses for champion, those I had a soft spot for and those who I did not like, but despite all of them there was still someone else who was my favourite.

It could only be Rob Austin in his Audi. If you asked any fan of BTCC who the fan favourite was, chances are Rob would be only name on the list. Rob and Sherman (yes, he even named his Audi) combine to form the ultimate underdog. Ever since Rob returned to the series in a severely under performing Audi, he has grown in popularity. I first remember a race at Snetterton in 2012 where Rob decided to turn everything up to 11, knowing he would only complete a handful of laps. As expected, he came to a thundering halt after only a few laps, but in the process had set the fastest lap by quite a considerable distance. Go hard or go home is his motto. He may not have had a shot at the title, but in 2013 Rob won his first race at Rockingham. You would have thought he had just been crowned ruler of the world. That is the mark of a driver who truly loves what they do. It is not about overall glory, but seeing that much emotion after winning a race is THE reason why the sport loves him.

Rob has been hard at work over the winter break, and the recently released 2014 Sherman is meant to be beyond impressive. Audi have not been at the top since 1996 when Frank Biela won the title. Maybe, just maybe, is that about to change? If Rob Austin can rise to the top this year, with that car and that personality, it will make the racing world a much better place for it.

The fan favourite. The BTCC world is hoping for good things from Austin and Sherman this year. Photo Credit:

The fan favourite. The BTCC world is hoping for good things from Austin and Sherman this year. Photo Credit:

The BTCC is fast returning to its place at the top of not just British, but international motorsport. 2014 has a capacity grid with numerous teams in reserve. Champions left, right and centre, new cars, new teams, the championship literally has everything you could ever want.

The factory teams thought they had it all their own way. Not any more. Watch out top dogs, the underdogs are here, and they are coming to get you. BTCC 2014 will begin the era of the underdog.

It all begins in March, you won’t want to miss this.

As new announcements are made regarding the 2014 BTCC season, do not worry, I will be right here to report on them just for you.

Keep Driving People!

Peace and Love!