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Archive for April, 2015

Thoughts On Night Driving

headlight-types-and-functions_auto-headlights-at-night-02_02Daylight Savings has come to an end in New South Wales and all the other states crazy enough to fiddle around with clocks for no real reason. This means that a lot of us are going to end up doing a bit more night-time driving.

It’s hard to say whether driving at night or driving during the day is better.  During the daytime, you don’t have the issue about out-driving how far you can see (you know – the situation where your stopping distance is, say, 100 metres and you can only see 90 metres: not good).  However, during the night, you are less distracted by billboards and other things on the side of the road that compete for your attention when you really ought to have your eyes on the road ahead.

Driving when it’s dark has other advantages.  Because most other drivers have their headlights on, you can spot them more easily at a distance. It’s particularly good when you’re coming up to an intersection: you can see the lights of an oncoming car approaching from the side even if there is a whacking big fence that would normally block your view of the other road.  Similarly, you also get a hint that something’s coming up the other side of the hill or around the corner, especially if there’s a wee bit of a haze in the air.

However, headlights have their hazards.  For one thing, it can be a bit tricky to estimate the distance of an oncoming car when all you have to go by is a bright light and next to no parallax for your binocular vision to work on.  If you’re a more cautious driver, like me, you tend to think that things are much closer than they really are so you don’t overtake and end up waiting for ages and thinking that you could have nipped past that slowpoke with the caravan anyway. If you’re over-confident, then you end up having some very close calls when you realise that what you thought was an oncoming vehicle so far off that the two lights looked like one was actually a motorbike.

You also have the problem with being dazzled. Modern headlights are beautifully bright and don’t use an awful lot of power to produce plenty of lumens (that’s the official unit of how much light something gives; candelas and lux are other options but that’s beside the point).  That’s great if you happen to be the driver of a vehicle with said modern headlights. If you are the driver of the car facing the other way, you’re left blinking and dazzled. And that’s even if the headlights have been dipped in some cases. If they haven’t been dipped, you’ll be seeing nothing but the headlights and then the greenish after-images for some time afterwards.  Not good if you’re keeping an eye out for your turn-off.

We all know that we’re supposed to dip our headlights but there is a bit of confusion about exactly when to dip them. Ok, the official rules say that you have to dip them when you’re 200 metres behind the vehicle in front or if you’re 200 metres away from an oncoming car. But how do you tell 200 metres in the middle of nowhere when you’ve got nothing much to estimate distance by?  It’s not exactly time to start counting the white lines in the middle of the road and using these as a rough estimate.  It’s probably best to dip them sooner rather than later out of courtesy – the chances that there’s a roo or a pedestrian on the road in that little gap between where your lights reach and where the other driver’s lights reach are pretty low.

Even 200 metres behind may be too close in the case of some drivers.  I remember vividly the time that a large 4×4 came up behind the Ford Fairmont  I had at the time and kept the lights on full beam even though he/she was much closer than 200 metres. Even fiddling around with the rear vision mirror didn’t stop me getting dazzled – grrr!

What do you do if you’re dazzled?  Ideally, you’re supposed to pull over until your eyes clear (here’s hoping there isn’t a car or a signpost between you and the kerb or the shoulder of the road that you can’t see thanks to being dazzled).  You can also avoid being dazzled by an oncoming car if you look to the side of them (i.e. to the left lane ahead of you). This is easier said than done, seeing as the human eye naturally locks onto light, especially in the darkness.

Of course, the real problem with Daylight Savings changeovers and with night driving in general is the problem with fatigue.  If you feel yourself getting light headed while your eyelids get heavy and the corners of your mind fill with red fog, don’t be a stupid berk.  Pull over and have a catnap.

Safe and happy driving,

Megan

New York International Motor Show….And A Little More.

It’s car show season and one of the biggest is the New York International Motor Show. Just about every major brand uses this event for their big reveals.

Jaguar recently unveiled the new XF via a most spectacular method in London, however the official showing is at the NYIMS. The engine and transmission range will consist of: 132kW 2.0-litre diesel automatic; 177kW 2.0-litre petrol automatic; 221kW diesel automatic; 250kW and 280kW 3.0-litre petrol automatic. The designations will be: Prestige, R Sport, Portfolio and S. An extended wheelbase provided 15 mm more legroom, 24 mm kneeroom and up to 27 mm more headroom for the rear seat passengers, important with a medium sizer.
Cabin changes see a new 10.2 inch touchscreen, called InControl TouchPro. It will offer connectivity with Apple’s iOS and Android; power a 17 speaker 825 watt Meridian digital sound system and will work alongside a reconfigurable 12.3 inch dash display with four themes and full screen navigation.Jaguar XF launch 3

FCA US (Fiat Chrysler Alfa Romeo) are also unveiling a raft of cars; chief of the Italian family is the Alfa Romeo 4C coupe, complete with 1.7L turbo four, 0-100 in a touch over four seconds, a carbon fibre monocoque chassis and killer looks. There’s the mini SUV Fiat 500X, based on the popular 500 series small car. From Jeep, Chrysler and Dodge come a new Renegade, updated 300C and the eagerly anticipated Challenger, complete with 392 cubic inch V8 plus the performance divisions Challenger and Charger, from SRT. Expect something on the region of 700 horsepower and buy some tissues as they won’t be coming to Australia…

It’s also been announced, seperately, that Dodge will be shipping their Ram trucks to Australia after reaching an agreement with Walkinshaw Engineering, known for working with Holden, to engineer the big beasts for right hand side drive. Current release dates and pricing are estimated to be year’s end and $120K in Aussie dollars.

Mitsubishi will be bringing a facelifted Outlander; there’s a reasonable amount of plastic surgery having been performed, both inside and out. Notable is what’s called the “Dynamic Shield” exterior, with the front and rear having a substantial makeover, with the nosecone looking somewhat more muscular. The interior has been given a freshen, with a new design for the steering wheel, higher grade materials for the seats and trim plus substantial, unseen, engineering work.Mitsu2016OutlanderNYC_10

2016Outlander
Kia has released its 2016 Optima, widely regarded as one of the prettiest cars to grace the roads. Featuring a slightly extended wheelbase and width (10 mm and 25 mm respectively), there’s also a couple of US specific models. For Australia, it’s not yet confirmed which specifications will be winging their way down under.
The exterior is evolution, not revolution, staying with the svelte, almost Jaguaresque profile but further refining and tightening the lines. We may see, at the front, the bi-functional headlights, allowing extra lighting coming into turns.Kia Optima 2016 US

Kia Optima 2016

Holden will be selling an updated version of its small small car entry, the Barina Spark, by year’s end. It’s been dropped by 40 mm and the wheelbase has been extended, with the end result being a slightly more sleek design. Pillars have also been streamlined, adding to the fresh look but also providing more glasshouse for visibility. On the inside, the hip points, where a human’s hip would be situated, have also been relocated in order to keep the headroom the Spark is known for.

2015 will be a big for the Australian car market; there’s already rumours about a manufacturer changing their timeline in regards to a range they sell. Private Fleet will keep you up to date.

Private Fleet Car Review: 2015 Ford Falcon XR6

2015 Ford Falcon XR6 2It’s slated to be wrapped up as being made in Australia in 2016 but Ford’s Falcon isn’t going down without a fight. An exterior redesign, a light freshen up for the interior, some integrated tech and, in the case of the sports model, the return of the XR8 nameplate. A step down from that is the XR6 with which A Wheel Thing spent a somewhat sad week with. Why? Soon there’ll be no more Aussie made cars…2015 Ford Falcon XR6 4

Powersource.
The phrase “grandfather’s axe” has been levelled at the 4.0L engine that has existed in one form or another and in varying capacities (but not by much) for well over forty years. In the case of the 2015 XR6, it’s a modern, fuel injected, high torque, alloy headed beast.

Power is 195 kW at 6000 revs with torque an impressive 391 Nm at 3250 rpm. The transmission is a six speed auto with Sports mode whilst the combo drinks, not sips, from a 68 litre tank. Ford quotes, in an urban environment, its natural home, at close to 15.0/L per 100 kilometres. Dry weight is a hefty 1748 kilograms.2015 Ford Falcon XR6 7

The Suit.
In profile it’s the BA based shell we had to have after the dingo ugly AU debacle. The major changes are the Jaguaresque tail lights and the bluff, upright front with the integrated LED’s surrounding the headlights. It’s a classier and more user friendly look than its opposition. From the front, it looks like no Falcon we’ve seen before, with the handover to the forthcoming American sourced metal evident.
The boot features a subtle spoiler, sitting atop the aforementioned iconic British tail light design; the overall effect is somewhat disquieting, with a sharp and aggressive front joined to a softly rounded rear by a centre a decade old.2015 Ford Falcon XR6 1

On The Inside.
It’s here that the lack of spending is evident in one respect, yet hidden in plain sight in another. The dash features a font not unlike that seen in the Lethal Weapon movie titles yet the centre console touchscreen (sitting atop a layout almost unchanged for a decade) is a four quarter display for radio (including digital!) Bluetooth, navigation and aircon, which also flicks up on the monochrome (why?) centre of dash screen. It’s simple, intuitive and a hidden gem.2015 Ford Falcon XR6 6
The system features Ford’s lauded Sync2 system, with voice activated hands free calling for your phone, phone book transfer and text messaging support.
It’s a key (not keyless) start, an anachronism nowadays. Seats are deep, supportive and reasonably easy to adjust however the steering column, adjustable for reach and rake doesn’t go up high enough for truly safe and comfortable driving.
The boot is massive, allowing 535L worth of cargo space to be utilised. It’s the stereotypical big boot for the Aussie family and it’ll be missed.2015 Ford Falcon XR6 8

On The Road.
The XR6 feels heavy. It feels heavy and old. Although the steering rack ratio is quick, at around 3.5 turns lock to lock, the overall impression is of a tired, worn out and uninspired setup. It’s slow to get off the mark, feels a touch breathless getting under way and there’s the same sound from underneath that Australia has heard for over two decades.
The six speed auto whines and clunks, there’s moments of backlash through the drivetrain as it swaps from Reverse to Drive, the go pedal is prodded and there’s a moment of hesitation before the response comes.2015 Ford Falcon XR6
Belying this is the ride quality; Ford’s suspension has been applauded for its suppleness and, even riding on licorice thin 245/35/19 Dunlop tyres, there’s a feeling of confidence, safety, grip and fluidity. The variable ratio steering is responsive, imparting an almost F1 sensation as the nose moves left and right with barely a touch.
Damping is sensational, with the crash bang of shopping centre carpark speedbumps ignored and flattened.2015 Ford Falcon XR6 3

The Wrap.
It’s an odd mix of new tech, smart thinking and old school Aussie sounds from the XR6. Much like its main competitor, Holden’s SV6, it’s a base model car given a little bit of dress up and some up to date electronics. It’s a hefty thing to move yet lightning quick in driving style. It’s comfortable to be in but has elements of the 20th century holding it back visually.
But it is ours, the Ford Falcon XR6 and its imminent passing will be mourned.
For details, go here: http://www.ford.com.au/cars/ultimate-falcon/specifications/spec-options2015 Ford Falcon XR6 5private_fleet_logo

BTCC 2015: Priaulx’s Perfect Pole

Photo Credit: BTCC.net

Photo Credit: BTCC.net

In what can only be described as an explosive return to form, the British Touring Car Championship returned to its majestic form as the cars took to the Brands Hatch tarmac to qualify for the first round of the series. Across the two free practice sessions, there was action a plenty that eventually saw returning touring car legend Andy Priaulx take pole position ahead of the BMR boys.

After what seemed like an endless winter the BTCC has returned to the welcoming arms of the British fans. As if almost to continue tradition, my arrival to the timeless Brands Hatch circuit was shrouded in a windy, cold and damp embrace. Throughout the day the teams, fans and commentators were taking their bets on the future of the weather; would the clouds release their race changing moisture unto the tarmac, or would the sun burst through the clouds? As it turned out, the day started miserably and would slowly improve, with the emphasis solely on ‘slowly’. Upon entering the circuit, I found myself walking in on the first free practice session for the touring cars. The combination of the sound of those two litre engines mixed with the familiar smell of petrol and exhaust created an almost homely feel, like seeing an old friend for the first time in a while. But enough of the emotional stuff, you are hear to read about the BTCC.

Across the two free practice sessions there were a good number of surprises; this may have been down to the fluidity of the weather conditions mind you. Of all the drivers, I was most impressed by the skills of Tingram himself. Tom Ingram was absolutely storming during the first two sessions, setting the precedent for the other drivers. While some of the big names appeared to wallow in the mid pack, Tingram and other surprises like Josh Cook were fighting for the top places. For Josh Cook, FP1 gave him a staggering 3rd place, alas in the second an issue with the car stopped him for going out on track.

Ingram showed impressive pace throughout practice and qualifying. Photo Credit: BTCC.net

Ingram showed impressive pace throughout practice and qualifying. Photo Credit: BTCC.net

FP2 proved fruitful for the BMR boys, apart from Warren Scott who suffered with what seemed to be a rather loose back end. From my vantage point at Clearways I saw him lose the car several time, almost chucking it away into the gravel. But credit where credit is due, every time he managed to save it masterfully. This was until he lost the car going into Paddock Hill bend and caused substantial damage to the front of the car. Questions were asked whether BMR would be able to put it back together in time for qualifying. The race was on.

As qualifying rolled around, it was like there was an unspoken agreement across the paddock to suddenly turn the volume up to 11. Times that had been set in similar conditions earlier in the day began to tumble left right and centre. The headlines were stolen by none other than returning world champion Andy Priaulx, who grabbed pole by 0.069 seconds in a rather spectacular manner. It was almost like 2002 had never ended; this also means that for the first time in his career, Andy is leading the BTCC (following his single point for pole)

Photo Credit: BTCC.net

Photo Credit: BTCC.net

”I thought anything inside the top six would have been nice. We were taking nothing for granted – this is a top series but we’re happy to have made the most of it. I just went into the first qualifying session with a really good, positive feeling. I actually think we’re stronger in race trim, because the car in testing has lacked a little bit of maybe that ultimate one-lap pace. This is my first pole position for a long time and I’m absolutely delighted. That’s where I want to be. I think I’ve improved a lot as a driver over the last four years and now I feel that’s showing.” – Andy Priaulx

Behind him, the BMR juggernaut dominated the next three places with Smith, Plato and Turkington respectively. I have been wondering how Colin Turkington will be feeling sitting in 4th place while in the distance he sees what was essentially his old car planted on pole. However, it is important to note that this is the first time Colin is carrying the #1 on his car, so he won’t be complaining too much. Weirdly, even though Plato got a solid 3rd on the grid, he has been frustrated with what he says is an ongoing power steering issue.

The new look Hondas only managed 7th and 11th for Shedden and Neal, but Neal is confident that the car will bring him race wins and even the championship this year. Seems hard to believe considering he only managed 11th. After impressing in FP1, Josh Cook in the #RacingForHeroes car could only manage 20th after what turned out to be a misfire he had been suffering. So to only be a second off the pace with an engine difficulty is nothing to be ashamed of. The potential he showed earlier in the day would suggest that with the car fixed, strong results will follow tomorrow. And in many ways he may have unwittingly made a good decision, by starting further down the grid, he will avoid the inevitable first corner of the year drama and can power through to the top places.

The biggest disappoints for me in qualifying was the Welch Protons and the Infiniti Support Our Paras Racing teams. With Welch out with a broken foot, it was all down to Andy Wilmot to impress in his Proton. Alas, impress he did not. The Proton was very much off the pace for most of the day, managing a days best of 52.665, 4.2 seconds off the pole time. This was almost definitely down to the Welch-built power plant, the same demon that haunted them in the 2014 season. Hopefully they can sort out their issues before the race tomorrow. I was filled with a deep sympathy; Welch Motorsport has always been a favourite of mine and I have long been hoping for them to find their form. Support Our Paras struggled throughout the day and will line up for the first race 24th. The manufacturer-backed team have been riddled with issues since their inception and have only been able to enter one of their two cars. Considering the media madness that has surrounded them I was expecting a little better, but I guess they can develop over time and ease into the championship.

It is a true testament to the championship that the first 20 cars were separated only by 1.1 seconds. For all the cars to be that close shows the genius behind the ever evolving NGTC regulations; one tiny mistake can cost you a whole handful of positions.

For full qualifying results: http://www.btcc.net/results/

Josh Cook may become a contender across the season. Photo Credit: BTCC.net

Josh Cook may become a contender across the season. Photo Credit: BTCC.net

Lewis and His Race Predictions

For some reason, while writing the title to this final section I decided that writing in the 3rd person transformed me into someone more edgy and memorable. That’s for future generations to decide (or not). Anyway, as the first race gets tantalizingly closer I would like to present some of my predictions:

  • Andy Priaulx will fast return to his season ending form of 2002 and put in some strong results, possibly even a race win
  • Jason Plato will rediscover his notorious “push-to-pass” tactics to get himself a race win (as he has become famous for doing in new teams that he joins)
  • Tingram will be one to watch after showing such monstrously impressive pace in the free practice sessions
  • Power Maxed will bank some promising results in what has been proven to be a highly competitive car
  • Aron Smith will end the weekend as the top BMR driver; with all the attention on Plato and Turkington it keeps him out the spotlight to deliver consistent strong results.
  • The reverse grid will provide a brand new winner in the championship, namely Jack Goff or Tom Ingram
  • With the competition improving every year, this may be the time when Honda’s seemingly lifelong dominance is broken and they will struggle to plant their new Civics at the front.
To Infiniti and.. 24th! Photo Credit: Adam Johnson

To Infiniti and.. 24th! Photo Credit: Adam Johnson

I could sit here presenting you my views for as long as I wanted, but until the day is done who truly knows what will happen? The greatest touring car series in the world has returned, and now it is time for action.

It’s time to cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war. This is BTCC.

Let’s do this!

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @lewisglynn69 for all my reactions across race day

Keep Driving People!

Peace and Love!

Time for Action: #RacingForHeroes Takes On The BTCC

Image Credit: www.marekp.co.uk

Image Credit: www.marekp.co.uk

All the way back in December, the ground breaking #RacingForHeroes initiative was born unto the world; a race team that would run as an official partner of Help for Heroes to support our wounded veterans, even working towards integrating them into the team itself. Just to highlight the true vibrancy of this enterprise, #RacingForHeroes supports young British motorsport talent in the hope of propelling them into the prosperous career that they deserve. Last week at the BTCC Media Day, the #RacingForHeroes outfit broke cover and took to the tarmac with Josh Cook at the helm. With the first race weekend at Brands Hatch approaching, it was time for the team to show the world what they were made of.

Speaking as a lifelong fan of the British Touring Car Championship, #RacingForHeroes are directly responsible for me struggling to find the words to comprehend my excitement at my favourite series taking such an important and innovative step forward. Since their inception last year, the team remained secretive regarding their vehicle for success in the BTCC. When it was announced that experienced Renault Clio Cup UK driver Josh Cook would be racing in a Chevrolet Cruze as part of the Power Maxed Racing squad, everything started to come together. As Media Day finally arrived, #RacingForHeroes could finally take to the track.

I have mentioned previously just how attractive the 2015 BTCC grid looks, especially when you see the traditional start line group shot. Although, of all the cars I had the honour of seeing take to the track at Media Day, it was the Power Maxed team that stood out more than any other. The combination of colours and sponsors on the car creates a potent mix of good-looks, charm and potential. The Josh Cook car beautifully combines the glorious message of the #RacingForHeroes name with the determination and engineering of the 2015 Power Maxed effort.

Is she not just a thing of pure beauty? Image Credit: BTCC.net

Is she not just a thing of pure beauty? Image Credit: BTCC.net

Sadly, due to funding and sponsorship delays #RacingForHeroes have not been able to field the originally intended five car outfit across the TOCA package, but their headline entry in the BTCC remains. Furthermore, founder Peter Thorpe hopes that with more sponsorship deals being finalised that the other entries can be sorted as well as buying more space on the BTCC car itself. It truly will be an evolving project throughout the year.

It’s amazing to be achieving one of my dreams as well as managing to do something good alongside Help for Heroes for all our injured veterans. I am under no illusions that it will be easy, but I will not be happy until I’m at the front” – Josh Cook ahead of his 2015 BTCC season

When the small matter of the first official BTCC test session of the year came around, Cook and the #RacingForHeroes boys certainly did not fail to deliver. Having completed just over 30 laps in his Chevrolet Cruze, Josh managed to end the day 15th in the standings with a best time of 1:11.289. In your first competitive run, to only be off the pace by 1 second is nothing to be ashamed about. To make his achievements that little bit sweeter, some notable names that Cook managed to beat include veterans Rob Collard and previous champion Gordon Shedden. Did I also mention that Josh Cook was the fastest rookie, which if you ask me puts him in a strong position for the Jack Sears Trophy?

Hopefully, this rear view is all the competition will see this year! Image Credit: BTCC.net

Hopefully, this rear view is all the competition will see this year! Image Credit: BTCC.net

With the first round at Brands Hatch very much upon us, the time for talking is over. The months of hard work from everyone at #RacingForHeroes have been astonishing. It is now time for Josh Cook to climb into that stunning Chevrolet Cruze and take to the track. After impressing at Media Day, the chances of strong positions are high, even considering the proven calibre of the BTCC field. It has been a few years since the fans of the series have seen a Chevrolet at the top of the time sheets, but now is the time for a mix up in the championship. All I can say is good luck to Josh Cook and of course the whole of Power Maxed Racing including Dave Newsham, without whom this would not be possible!

The BTCC is famous for its action-packed unpredictability, and so who knows what may happen. What I can say for sure is that this weekend marks a momentous occasion in the series. With every corner, every apex and every overtake, Josh Cook will be representing our wounded veterans through motorsport.

Don’t forget to follow all the action across the weekend on Twitter @RacingForHeroes

It is time for the dawning of a new era in British motorsport.

This is the rise of #RacingForHeroes.

It’s time to drive for change!

Article written by Lewis Glynn

Image Credit: #RacingforHeroes

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