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Archive for January, 2015

The Car Industry in Australia – a Timeline

Like any industry, cars in Australia have had their ups and downs, but they remain an important part of the nation’s industrial and manufacturing heritage.

We look at the car industry in Australia in this interactive timeline

Inspired by and with thanks to On Four Wheels – a wonderful timeline which new information is being added to and amended thanks to a passionate and local following.

If you like our timeline please share on Facebook or Twitter!

Light It Up For Safety.

I’ve been in and around motorsport for close to fifteen years now; a massive, huge, ginormous part of motorsport is the safety aspect, with engineered in crash absorption, roll cages, harnesses and more. In a retail environment, car salespeople will talk about ABS, energy adsorption, traction control, airbags and the like however true road safety is STILL up to the driver. Only the person behind the wheel presses the accelerator, steers the wheel, presses the brake, uses the indicator and, when it’s dark, turns on the headlights.

Or do they?

Modern cars come with a headlight switch with Off/Auto/Low Beam/High Beam, with the Auto linked to a sensor that reads light levels; so, for example, when going into a tunnel, they should come on by themselves and go off when back in daylight. It does seem that too many drivers leave that switch in the Off position, so, when it’s dark or foggy or raining or all three, they have a car that is unseen to other drivers on the road. Early mid January saw a deluge start in South Australia (going a LONG way to helping the brave fire brigade members) and move east towards and over Sydney. Starting mid afternoon Saturday 10 January and continuing well into Sunday, Sydney and a good proportion of New South Wales were under grey skies, with solid light rain and mist greeting drivers. Disturbingly, a disproportionate number of drivers chose to ignore safety by not using their headlights. Here’s a video from overseas showing just how much easier it is to see vehicles with headlights on during a rain spell: offers up some simple, common sense, tips when it comes to driving in the rain, covering not just using headlights but driving to the conditions, having good tyres etc.

Quite simply, a good driver is one that understands that safety is more than simply adhering to a speed limit; common sense, courtesy, an understanding of the ability of yourself AND the vehicle you’re driving, driving appropriately for the conditions and utilising CORRECTLY the equipment your vehicle is fitted with go a long, long way to being a safe driver. Because a speed limit sign says 110 kilometres per hour doesn’t mean you SHOULD drive at that speed if the weather is composed of howling rain, three metres of visibility and an inch of water on the road. A safe driver would drive at a velocity lower than that. They’d also ensure that headlights are lit, windscreen wipers are engaged and the interior demisting system is working.Lights on offSee here how the silver car blends nicely into the background, whilst the darker coloured car, illuminated, stands out much more clearly.

Using headlights, is it REALLY that hard to do?

BTCC Drivers 2015: Return of the Priaulx Powerhouse

The new look WSR BMW 125i M Sport for Andy Priaulx. Image Credit:

The new look WSR BMW 125i M Sport for Andy Priaulx. Image Credit:

The Autosport International Show 2015 is underway and very much in full motorized swing, revealing all the latest developments ahead of the new season. As the years roll by, one of the highlights for me has always been the BTCC announcements, and this year is most definitely no exception. As I tuned myself in on the first day, Dick Bennetts of West Surrey Racing took to the stage to reveal that multiple champion Andy Priaulx MBE would be returning to the championship. Andy Priaulx has not c0mpeted in the British championship since 2002, but he has always been one of my favourite touring car drivers. For a man that has achieved so much, here his driver profile ahead of the 2015 BTCC season.

What many people probably do not know about Priaulx is that his earliest time in the spotlight came as far back as 1995 when he took the British Hillclimb Championship in spectacular form. This young gun definitely had something to prove and the talent to go with it. After a couple of slightly low-key years in the world of single seaters (with a break to completely dominate the Renault Spider Championship in 1999), Andy got a guest drive in the BTCC in 2001 at Oulton Park in the Egg Sport Vauxhall. It was then that the touring car magic truly began.

Andy Priaulx was one of the standout drivers of 2002. Image Credit:

Andy Priaulx was one of the standout drivers of 2002. Image Credit:

In his first touring car drive, he managed to leave the jaws of the championship regulars firmly set on the floor by storming to both pole positions, leaving the weekend with a well deserved 2nd place and one retirement. 2002 saw Andy signed by the returning Honda team in their new Civic Type-R. Recently, I have started a compilation of  BTCC Memorable Drives and there was no way I could start such a list and not include Priaulx and his staggering 2002 drive. As a rookie to the championship, he delivered solidly across the year, achieving a much deserved win at Knockhill (after nearly throwing it all away in the closing laps). He ended the year 5th in the standings; not bad for a new driver. As the car was developed more, he was one of the few drivers who took the fight to the dominant Vauxhall team and pushed that car to its limits. It may have been a small car, but Priaulx made it a massive contender. Following his BTCC successes, it was time for Priaulx to move on up to the European and World rankings. It was time for the British motorsport empire to return to power.

In the BMW UK car, Priaulx stormed to 4 straight championships in a row (ETCC/WTCC). Image Credit: Phil Volkaerts

In the BMW UK car, Priaulx stormed to 4 titles in a row (ETCC/WTCC). Image Credit: Phil Volkaerts

As soon as Priaulx entered what was then the European Touring Car Championship, everything fell into place. In 2004 at the end of the final race, he and Dirk Muller were tied on points, but due to the higher number of wins for Priaulx, the championship was his. For 2005, the championship became known how it is today, as the World Touring Car Championship. And against foes such as Tarquini, Farfus Junior, Giovanardi and Coronel, Andy triumphed his way to 3 further titles. If that is not a sign of true greatness in a driver, then simply none other exists.

The key to success with Priaulx has always been consistency. He may not have the aggressive streak that many other drivers have, but he will consistently score throughout the season (often without actually winning) and find himself in championship contention come the closing rounds of the year. For example, his WTCC crown in 2005 came off the back of one solitary race victory throughout the year. Usually you would expect the overall winner to be a frequent victor. By hanging back and letting those in front fight it out, he could often cruise to high finishes with a lot less risk than those gunning for glory. Aggression is only one part of what contributes to a truly legendary driver. Motorsport requires a great deal of cunning, precision and in many cases, restraint.

Just to complete the touring car set, it only made sense for the Guernsey man to get behind the wheel in both V8 Supercars and DTM. It was only ever guest drives that Priaulx would get in the V8s, but he did record an impressive 2nd place partnering Craig Lowndes at Surfers Paradise in 2010. Rumours began to circulate that he would move to a full time in the Australian championship, alas nothing ever materialised. All that remained for Priaulx in the touring car world was DTM, however his 2012 and 2013 were not filled with much success.

So where do you go when you have made your way through the worlds greatest touring car series? Of course the next step can only be the worlds greatest sports endurance races, obviously.

DTM was not kind to Priaulx, although the car did look pretty good. Image Credit:

DTM was not kind to Priaulx, although the car did look pretty good. Image Credit:

Priaulx has now become no stranger to endurance racing, having taken part in the Le Mans 24 Hour (and finished 2nd on the second occasion) as well as the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup in which he completed the season 2nd overall. He even came away with a win at the 12 Hour Sebring Race. Most recently, Andy has been competing in what was the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) but has now become the United Sports Car Championship (ULSCC) in the GTLM BMW Z4 GTE. He finished 2014 in 8th, achieving a season best of 2nd at Laguna Seca (probably one of the hardest tests of any driver anywhere in the world).

To compete in one championship is hard enough for the best of drivers, but Priaulx will not only be taking part in the BTCC, but also the European Le Mans Series and the USCC for Team Turner. On his BTCC BMW, Priaulx has brought with him long term sponsor IHG. In recent seasons, Andy has been known to be sporting the Crowne Plaza sponsorship, so I was shocked when they were not revealed as the title sponsor for the BTCC car. The result of these multiple commitments is one clash at Rockingham which could prove to be fatal if he is fighting for the championship. Many people have doubted his ability to win races in his championship return, but in 2002 he managed to get a brand new Honda to the top step of the podium. I believe that in the BMW especially which has become the strongest car over the last year, he has a genuine chance at fighting for the championship.

Furthermore, BMW has been the car of choice for Priaulx for the most part of his racing career, so if there was any car that he would feel most comfortable in, it would be the RWD BMW 125i. Interestingly, I enjoyed the comments he made at the Autosport reveal, arguing that apart from the slight start line advantage, the RWD cars do not have that much of an advantage and even have to run on tyres made for FWD. I will be interested to see how a certain Jason Plato reacts to these comments.

In the official announcement at the Autosport Show, Priaulx said that he felt there was so much unfinished business in Europe, especially the BTCC after his 2002 debut season. The BTCC is fast returning to its status as the worlds premier tin top race series, and for a driver such as Priaulx it is an offer almost impossible to resist. With such a big name in Priaulx, I believe it ends any rumours that Plato may also may move to WSR. Plato quite famously likes being the big dog in his team of choice (or this may also be influenced by his sponsors).

Dick Bennetts also said that Priaulx would hold the number ‘111’ to represent his 3 World Touring Car titles. From his Hillclimb beginnings, Andy Priaulx has become one of the greatest living racing drivers. I cannot express just how excited I am to see one of my all time favourite drivers returning to my all time favourite championship.

Let me know your comments on this news on Twitter @lewisglynn69!

Keep Driving People!

Peace and Love!

A true legend of racing. image Credit:

A true legend of racing. image Credit:

Movers and Shakers: The Numbers from 2014.

2013 corolla wagonCardigan wearers around the country have erupted into cheers of joy after news of their favourite car, the Toyota Corolla, was the highest selling car in Australia for 2014. Meanwhile, there were tears of red and blue as figures for the once mighty Holden and Ford brands showed that, in 2014 at least, the love affair was over. The red lion delivered just 106000 cars whilst the blue oval found just 79703 new homes, its worst result in 23 years and the tenth year in a row the numbers have fallen. Industry analysts were heard to mutter that it was all Tony Abbott’s fault whilst others complained that it was the Kardashian family’s fault because they’d sucked all of the usable oxygen from the atmosphere, making people hallucinate and believe that an SUV was actually pink, flew and had a curly tail. What’s notable about the Ford sales disaster (even with a $200 offer put forward by an attractive brunette) is that it’s across the board, not just the once indomitable Falcon and trusty Territory.

The last time the bird car led the list was in 1995, with a sniff over 81000 being parked in new driveways, whilst 1985 saw the blue oval peak at just under 171000.2015_ford_falcon_xr6_02_1-0814-mc 819x819

Toyota’s Japanese nemesis, the name challenged Mazda (relying on simple numbers rather than alphabetical wordy type stuff for names), is well placed for a tilt at the crown, with 100700 numbered cars leaving dealerships, but they themselves are under threat from Korea’s Goliath, Hyundai. A mere 700 veehickles separated the two at year’s end and with new models an updates due for 2015, there’s little doubt that the car version of Samsung is on a charge. Back to the T and M brands: Corolla and 3 swapped the lead three times in five months after July, when the T car finally slipped past with a mammoth lead of……21 sales.

Although Toyota looked the goods in 2014, like endless views of Miley Cyrus’s wrecked balls, even they got a bit on the nose. It was the third year in a row we saw the numbers tumble for the big T; they’ve been on the down pointed slope since ’08, when over 238K Toyotas were sold, in 2014 that tumbled to 203500. Adding to the fire is the sheer and simple fact that we Aussies can’t be stuffed buying Aussie cars (not that’s to be an issue soon) with less than one in ten cars bought being kangaroo flavoured. A mere decade ago, in 2005, it was one in four. How times change…

Ford, however, is due to see a complete revamp of their range over the next two years, including the release of the Mustang, finally engineered at the factory for right hand drive; for blue oval fans, this can’t come quick enough. For followers of the red lion, it’s still unconfirmed if the GM brand will send their tudor down under. The same goes for Chrysler/Dodge with some beautifully shaped vehicles available in the states, along with some hi-po mumbo. Personally, I’ve crossed everything that’s crossable to hope they move some metal down here.

New Year Resolutions For Driving: 2015 Edition

NewyearNew Year Resolutions are a bit of a cliché, really.  Most of them are made in a fit of hangover-induced repentance on January 1st itself or are far too optimistic.  Most of them also get broken come the beginning of February, too.  However, there’s something about that fresh-looking calendar or diary that simply begs for a new beginning and new goals.  A chance to break bad habits and to acquire some good ones.  And we can all do with that every so often.   So here, for 2015, are a handful of resolutions for drivers.  Join me in adopting as many of the following as you fancy.

  1. Drive more fuel-efficiently.  Ideally, this should include purchasing a new vehicle that has stop/start function for waiting at traffic lights and possibly a hybrid motor into the bargain.  However, as the family budget doesn’t permit this, I’d better drive my Volvo S70 as frugally as possibly.  This will involve not being heavy footed, finding the best revs for the situation and not idling for ages.
  2. Keep up my clean driving record.  I have never had a speeding ticket or been done for driving under the influence.  I’ll admit that this actually means that I haven’t been caught, as that speedo needle seems to creep up above the limit when I’m keeping my eyes on the road ahead.  However, as the cops seem to think that every car should have cruise control and exactly the right tyres inflated to exactly the right pressure (this affects what appears on your speedo – seriously!), I’d better tighten up.  If you don’t have a clean driving record, then why not make 2015 your year for getting no speeding tickets?
  3. Keep my car clean from rubbish.  I am not one of those ladies with filthy cars where you have to sweep half a dozen old magazines and a packet of chips off the passenger seat before you get in.  However, all cars that get used as Mum’s Taxi (or Dad’s Taxi) have a tendency to accumulate food wrappers, stray bits of paper, odd socks (so that’s where they all get to!), books and other debris.  I probably won’t go to the extremes of vacuuming and scenting the interior of the car on a weekly basis, but keeping it free from rubbish is pretty important.  They say that you can get better fuel economy by not carrying too heavy a load in your car, and all those sports shoes and paperbacks do add up.
  4. Do more of my own car repairs and maintenance.  This is going to involve beating my other half to the job, as he loves tinkering with cars and gives me the “I’ll do that for you, darling,” routine.  However, there may come a day when I need to do something when he’s away on business and I’m going to have to do it myself.  Oil, water, wiper fluid, oil and air filters… they’re not hard to do, after all!  Passing these skills onto my teenage kids will be a sub-clause of this resolution.  Basic car maintenance is one of those skills that nobody should leave home without, like cooking and being able to do your own laundry.

That should do it.  There are no apologies for not coming up with a list of ten resolutions.  Nobody should take on a list of ten resolutions in one year, for driving or anything else.

All the best for 2015 and happy driving,


2015: What's On Offer?

It would be remiss of me to open this without an acknowledgement of the terrible fire situation occurring (as I write) in South Australia and Victoria. There’s been stock loss, properties destroyed, vintage cars burnt and, terribly, an animal hostel razed with horrendous loss. Our thoughts are with the families and owners.

A bit of news that came out of late 2014 that already has affected car buyers was the Free Trade Agreement signed off between Australia and Japan. Subaru immediately took advantage of this, by reducing their prices across their range, with savings up to a few thousand dollars being made available. At the time of writing, there was no word if Toyota were planning on doing the same.variantlocationmy15wrx-stibaseprofile__1__1

Even better news for motorists overall was the sudden and dramatic drop in fuel prices, due, allegedly, to an oversupply of oil. The cynics amongst us would question this but there’s an undeniable benefit for metropolitan based drivers. However, it does appear to be mainly restricted to city dwellers only, with nowhere near the drop expected in regional areas. In some areas of Sydney, petrol (E10) was down to below $1.10 but still over 20c higher in regional areas.

Ford Australia released their final ever Falcon late in 2014; the FG-X has already been given negative reviews in some quarters for its exterior design, balanced out by positive drive reviews, especially for the reborn XR8. The main complaints in regards to the design appear to be centred around the resemblance to Mitsubishi’s Lancer (itself in dire need of a reskin) at the front and a Jaguaresque rear light cluster. All drive reviews have been nothing but glowing so far…we shall see.2015_ford_falcon_xr6_02_1-0814-mc 819x819

2015 also takes us closer to the eventual shutdown of the Australian car making industry, with some pundits tipping an earlier than scheduled closure. In one respect, this would be a good thing, bringing us the promised American and European metal earlier, but, of course, the downside is the situation of unemployed Aussie car workers. Out of this came a discussion as to whether we should consider changing to driving on the right side of the road. Predictably, this was howled down, as the argument became fragile when it was pointed out most European countries, such as the U.K., drive on the left.P1-CEO-Tesla-Motors-Products-Model-S-upper-left-white-Roadster-bottom-right-red

Electric car maker Tesla promised an expansion of their presence in Australia; with the first Australian deliveries taken by customers in December of 2014, the company announced that they would have a dealership in Melbourne and Brisbane, with a network of charging stations being set up along the eastern seaboard. With the stations designed to be independent of mains power by being solar charged, the company is looking to establish its technical cred.

Ford’s Mustang returns to Australia, however, for the first time, in factory right hand drive form. Powered by a range of engines, including a grunty turbocharged four cylinder (trust me, it’s nowhere near as bad as you think), presales here have been phenomenal. Holden has yet to confirm what we’re due to get, aside from sourcing at least three cars from Opel.2015-mustang12013-opel-cascada_100405708_m

On the Australian motorsport scene, a new category called Formula Four launches in the second half of the year whilst February sees the Bathurst 12 Hour get underway, with over 50 entries and including a huge international presence, going head to head with the test weekend for the relogoed V8 Supercars, on the same weekend, at Sydney Motorsport Park.V8-Supercars-2015-logo-344x224

There’s plenty more to come as the year ticks by and, as ever, Private Fleet is here to help you into your next car.

BTCC Memorable Drives: Cleland vs Bailey [Knockhill 1993]

Smokin' Jo Winklehock dominated the BTCC in 1993. Image Credit:

Smokin’ Jo Winklehock dominated the BTCC in 1993. Image Credit:

Welcome back one and all to ‘BTCC Memorable Drives’. My opening salvo into the memorable history of the Touring Cars took a delectable selection of moments and laid them out for your eyes to see. As this mini series moves on however, it is time to take a deeper look into some of these special moments, as chosen by you. The first of these is a moment that had passed me by for the many years I have spent watching the season reviews of years gone by. Let me take you back to 1993 and to Scottish soils; the scene of a weekend long battle royale.

For those of you who may not be aware of what I speak, here presents itself video evidence of that great weekend:

BTCC 1993 Rounds 10/11 at Knockhill

The car on its roof, is a Toyota! Silverstone hadn't been great for Toyota. Image Credit: SpeedHunters,com

The car on its roof, is a Toyota! Silverstone hadn’t been great for Toyota. Image Credit: SpeedHunters,com

Knockhill played host to the 10th and 11th round of the 1993 Auto Trader RAC British Touring Car Championship. Up until this point, the 1993 season had been very much a BMW affair, with team mates Joachim Winklehock and Steve Soper sharing the spoils. It was only with the return of the mighty Ford team of Andy Rouse and Paul Radisich that a challenge presented itself to the BMW team. The round preceding Knockhill was the F1 support round at Silverstone which saw the Toyota team rocket into the commanding positions. They were leading the field comfortable until the moment where Julian Bailey made the unfortunate mistake of making a move on team mate Will Hoy which ended with him on his roof and off the track. Rather embarrassing if you ask me!

So as Knockhill came around, it was important for Toyota and Bailey in particular to make amends in any way he could. I will go out on a limb here and say as the Knockhill weekend came to a close, he had nearly made up for his previous errors! Qualifying for the first race saw Bailey place his Toyota on pole, surprisingly alongside Patrick Watts in his distinctively coloured Mazda.

The title story (literally) of the weekend was the on going battle between Soper and Winklehock; Soper was trying to close the gap on his team mate who had pulled out a points lead. But for those who were at the event, many would have even forgotten the BMWs were there at all, apart from maybe the absolute demon starts of Winklehock. If this had been happening in the last few years, I would be willing to put money on a certain driver complaining that the BMW got too much of an advantage as a RWD car and a penalty should be imposed. Good job he wouldn’t be in the championship for the next 4 years…

It was all about two men. The local hero vs the man in search of redemption

At his home track, Cleland gave a stunning performance. Image Credit:

At his home track, Cleland gave a stunning performance. Image Credit:

Whatever happened behind was of little concern to John Cleland and Julian Bailey. Throughout the entire weekend they dominated the entire field. After an initial red flag brought out by various incidents in the field, the race started again to see Patrick Watts charging into a lead that was quickly taken by Julian Bailey and John Cleland. For the rest of the race, Bailey chased down Cleland and the two fought hammer and tong until the checkered flag. To the delight of the Scottish crowds, the win went to John Cleland followed closely by Julian Bailey. It was Cleland’s first race victory of the year and he could not have had a more popular win.

Race two saw the battling pair continue their feud from race one, after Winklehock was forced to retire after a broken clutch. Behind Bailey and Cleland, Will Hoy managed to get past the persistent Patrick Watts and get into 3rd position by the end of the race. Almost as if to make up for not securing victory in race one, Bailey eventually got past the determined Cleland and took a commanding victory by the time the checkered flag dropped.

Julian Bailey was a man on a mission at Knockhill. Image Credit:

Julian Bailey was a man on a mission at Knockhill. Image Credit:

For many people, the Bailey-Cleland duel of Knockhill may be easily forgotten, but for me it has so many of the qualities that define not only the BTCC, nor even touring car racing, but motorsport in general. For both races at Knockhill, John Cleland and Julian Bailey managed to have a weekend long dog fight for ultimate victory without having to resort to dirty tactics. That is something rather rare in this day and age. My go to example on this is Giovanardi who has always decided that when he cannot overtake traditionally, he will simply spin the car in front out the way. Oh and on a completely unrelated note, which driver gained the most penalties and endorsements in the 2014 BTCC season? Let me remind you, the answer is in no way related to anything I have spoken about already..

Additionally, it was great to see two very different drivers in two very different cars having such a close fought battle. It’s a testament not only to touring car racing but to what made the 2.0 litre formula in the BTCC so very special. The regulations were devised in such a way that encouraged diversity but also extremely close racing. Finally, no one can forget the context in which this battle took place. British race circuits are a thing of beauty, and Knockhill is just one example of that. Knockhill has something that so many of the modern race tracks (I am looking at you Tilke) are just lacking; character. When you hear the name Knockhill, you think of the rise and falls, the twists and turns, the wind and the rain and the tight final hairpin. British race tracks are more than just pre-planned bits of tarmac; they come to life and have their own personality.

I hope you enjoyed this latest issue of BTCC Memorable Drives! I shall return soon for more of the races, the seasons or even the incidents that define the worlds greatest touring car series. These are the moments; these are the drives of racing history.

What other moments define the BTCC for you?

Don’t forget to get in touch to submit your memorable drives on Twitter



Keep Driving People!

Peace and Love!