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Motor Sport

Monterey Car Week: Pebble Beach Concours de Elegance.

In a field of diamonds there will be one that will shine, that will sparkle, just that brighter than the glittering surroundings. In the week of events celebrating automobiles, motorsport, fine foods and drinks, and superbly handcrafted timepieces, a stunning beachside locale named Pebble Beach becomes host once a year to a select number of the world’s best classic automobiles.

The area is steeped in history. Motorsport plays a large part in the origin of what is now the world’s premier concours event, with returning soldiers needing a place to vent post-WW2 frustrations. Road race events sprang up around the country, and Pebble Beach, with its natural oceanside setting and intoxicating mix of varying roads, quickly became a favorite. 1950 was the year the first concours was held and in the style of what had been seen in Europe. It was 1952 that saw the 18th green of the Pebble Beach Gold Club become the home of the concours and where it remains as the host for this year and beyond.

Classic cars are the heartbeat of the Pebble Beach Concours. For 2019 Bentley and Zagato will celebrate their centennials here, Bugatti will showcase historic Grand Prix and Touring cars, and Hot Rods that have featured on magazine covers will be celebrated. the 2019 Class list reads like an automotive “who’s who” with Bentley, Duesenberg, Rolls-Royce, Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari, and Packard to name but a few that will be showcasing their metal monuments to automotive beauty.

Bentley Motors At Pebble Beach

It’s been said that to be accepted into the strictly limited numbers of entrants is honor enough. To keep the gloss and lustre that goes with that acceptance fresh, the class list is varied each year. Entries are accepted until a predetermined date in January with the lucky few notified by April for the August meeting. In order to ensure that only the very best of the very best are selected, potential entrants must only show at Pebble Beach. Nor can an entrant re-enter the car for another ten years, unless the car is sold and undergoes a substantive restoration.

It’s these kinds of stringent guidelines that allow attendees to see different cars each year. Each year brings fresh light to the field and returning guests are sure to see outstanding examples of cars built up to but not past 1972. Whilst the cars are hand-cared for, with super fine cloths and love working together to ensure the best possible shine, guests can wander through the gardens and partake of gourmet foods, exquisitely fine champagne and wines, and order picnic baskets with up to 800 wines to complement the specially prepared fare.

There are more than metal, leather, and rubber to appeal. Pebble Beach also host charity fundraising and in 2018 raised over $2.1 million. Over 80 charities in the local area benefit from the hard work and sponsorships, with some directly aimed at encouraging a new generation of automotive enthusiasts. What these new members of one of the world’s most famous concours can see is how the automobiles are judged for authenticity, for history, function, and style. They’ll learn how the class structure works in respect to the marques, the rarities that are barn finds are rebuilt to better than brand new, and what makes a winner at Pebble Beach so utterly special.

2018 Best of Show 1937 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Touring Berlinetta

Class judges are in a team that work with a Chief Judge. Automobiles that win their class to be named First in Class are the ones that become eligible for a tilt at the highly prized crown: Best of Show. Judging involves the Best of Show ballots which are provided to the Chairman, the Chief Judge, the Chief Honorary Judge, each Chief Class Judge, each Honorary Judge team leader, and select Class Judges. Judging is independent and free. Once the ballots are counted after judging, the most votes become part of Pebble Beach history, with the winner named Best of Show and becoming part of a very, very, select family.

The 2019 Pebble Beach Concours de Elegance will be on Sunday, August 19. For those looking to enter or attend for 2020 and August 16, www.pebblebeach.net is the site to go to.

Monterey Car Week: The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering.

The Quail. An unusual name, one big event. It’s part of the week that celebrates new and classic autos, new and classic aircraft, high end personal items and cordon bleu’ food in the coastal town of Monterey, California, every August. The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering itself is held in the beautifully manicured grounds of the Quail Lodge Resort and Gold Club in Carmel, just a few miles south of Monterey and a couple of miles east of Pebble Beach.

It’s perhaps the youngest of the numerous automotive themed events and shows that are held in the area, with this being more focused on motorsport. There are plenty of historic style vehicles that attend, but such is its stature, major brands such as Lamborghini and Bugatti, choose The Quail last year as the launch event for a new vehicle. Bugatti, for example, took the covers off of the Divo, powered by an 8.0L W16 engine. It’s a short-run car priced at “just” six million dollars…

This year’s event is to be held on August 16 and each year the organizers go for a theme or two. For this year, Bentley will celebrate and commemorate 100 years of motoring excellence, whilst McLaren will showcase a quarter century of its ground breaking F1. Modern times are given a nod with A Tribute To the Electric Car Movement also being part of the day.

Mclaren Senna (Photo Credit McLaren

It’s the sniff of petrol, the scent of grease, the raw appeal of well worn leather in the motorsports part of the event that draws the crowds. Traditional Classes such as Post-War Sports and Post-War Racing feature heavily, as do Custom Coachwork builds alongside Sports and Racing Motorcycles. There have been racing team displays such as Martini, who have brought along a selection of their legendary Lancias. Pagani have been here, Ferraris old and new gleam in the westering sun, performance companies such as Hennesy have highlighted their Venom F5, and Datsun/Nissan have provided rolling history lessons with classic rally cars.

Rimac’s California Edition C Two Hypercar (Credit: Somer Hooker/New Atlas)

Crowd management is simple. Tickets to enter are limited and this is done to maximise the usage of the location. It enables the cars to be properly viewed and enjoyed without fighting through crowds. It allows the useable space to showcase the event’s reason for existence: the cars. And it adds exclusivity which means the sponsors and haute couture suppliers aren’t pushed to the limit with supplies. Each ticket is fully inclusive too, so the once off cost covers an attendee for everything inside the grounds. However, there are tickets for the philanthropic which donates a portion of the ticket cost to charity, with a premium ticket granting access to helicopter transport to the Laguna Seca Raceway for associated events.

Genesis Essentia Concept: super smooth(Credit: Somer Hooker/New Atlas)

But it’s the judging, the concours, that brings the masses, and it’s done differently here at The Quail. Cars are put into classes and each car is judged by the owners of the other cars in the same class. The winner receives the “Best In Class” award and each of the winners then competes in a “Best Of Show” contest in the Rolex Circle of Champions, and again the winner is the one adjudged by the owners of the cars in competition. Last year’s winner was a truly beautiful example of the best from Italy.

Curtiss Zeus

A Pininfarina concept, a one off, and built upon the chassis of the Lancia Aurelia B52, the 1953 Lancia Aurelia PF200C owned by Anne Brockinton Lee stamped itself as being worthy of the accolade awarded from 235 competitors. A ten year restoration process ensured no part was left untouched in its meticulous rebuild. It’s this that makes The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering virtually unique in automotive week on the Monterey Peninsula.

Montery’s Auto Week: McCall’s Motorworks Revival.

Monterey, California. It’s located slap bang in the middle of the state’s coastline and once a year plays host to a number of car shows. Those two words, however, do not do justice to what is made available as there are events such as the fabled Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance to attend in a must-see automotive week.

The McCall’s Motorworks Revival on August 14 is the ignition point for the week and for 2019 will be held once again at the Monterey Jet Center. It’s an ideal location as it allows the organisers the opportunity to take advantage of the open spaces, combine aircraft, luxury and sports cars, high end personal luxury items, and more.
Of note for the 2019 event will be the attendance of world renowned performance car company, Roush. They’ll be showcasing their one-of-a-kind Stage 3 Mustang and a powerplant producing 710 horsepower. It’ll sit by the side of their new F-150 SC pickup. Power here is from a supercharged 650 horsepower 5.0L V8.

High end watch maker, Chronoswiss, will be there and they’ll be unveiling their startling Flying Grand Open Gear ReSec. Limited to just 50 pieces this beautiful and stylish timepiece embodies true Swiss watchmaking.

Along with the airport’s modern and historic aircraft displays, historic motorsport cars will appeal to those with more than a hint of gasoline in the blood. This year will see the BMW 320 Turbo race car, as campaigned by Jim Busby in the International Motor Sports Association competition. This car is just one of only two of its type built in 1978. It’s been raced at Silverstone, the Nurburgring, and competed with Jim behind the wheel in the 1979 IMSA GTX series. There will also be a LeMans winning Porsche at this year’s event in the shape of a GT3 RSR. Porsche have a long history with that famous race and this car is sure to have plenty of eyes on her.

Cessna is a name familiar around the world to anyone with even a passing interest in aviation. McCall Events are delighted to have this year’s Motorworks Revival Cessna’s new Citation Longitude. This sleek business jet is powered by a pair of Honeywell HTF7000 turbofan engines, has the quietest interior in its class, and can be configured to seat up to 12 passengers.

Attendees can taste high end fare, such as the gourmet caviar options from the California Caviar Company, or down a finger of tequila from El Jefe Tequila., whilst admiring Lamborghinis, McLarens new and historic, Gulfstreams, Pilatus aircraft, and perhaps even a James Bond Aston Martin DB5 or the original, prototype, Ford Mustang.

This year marks the 28th McCall’s Motorworks Revival. At its core is Gordon McCall, a man with plenty of events and concours experience. Gordon has over a quarter century of judging experience at Pebble Beach, and is the co-founder & motorsports director for “The Quail: A Motorsports Gathering”.
Tickets for the event go on sale the year before, shortly after the previous event, and are highly prized amongst regular attendees.

HSV SportsCat Ready To Pounce.

Four wheel drive four door utes are amongst the biggest sellers in the Aussie market but it’s not an easy job to make them look tough and ready for an all-in brawl. HSV somehow manages to pull that off with their warmed over version of the Colorado. Packing a 147kW/500Nm diesel (with auto transmission), the SportsCat is more than a “whack on a sticker pack” effort. It’s now into its Series2 offering and it looks the goods, visibly and underneath. It’s available in two spec levels, SportsCat V and SportsCat SV.
Engineered to pound the ground, and hard, SportsCat has uprated frontsprings, stiffened to cope with 110 Newtons per millimetre of impact stress. This translates to far less body roll and movement when getting serious or even taking it easy on the freeway. The rerated suspension also has the front raised by 25mm, increasing the travel available and increasing ground clearance. HSV also call upon SupaShock Suspension to help in the ride and handling.
Connected to six-spoke 18 x 10 wheels wrapped in specially developed Cooper tyres, the dampers from SupaShock, available as factory fitted options, are larger diameter items. By reducing losses of response to friction they are more quickly able to adapt to the ever changing needs of on and off-road driving. Factor in a HSV engineered decoupling bar for the rear axle anti-roll bars, which increases stability at speed by controlling the roll attitude of the rear end, it activates when the SportsCat’s drive system is put into 4WD Low. It’s standard on the SportsCat SV and optionable on the SportsCat V.

Stopping power comes courtesy of the AP racing package. as fitted to the HSV GTS-R, it features four pistons callipers, 362mm x 32mm front rotors to haul down the big machine. These are standard on the SportsCat SV, optionable on the SportsCat V.
Inside and upfront, SportsCat features a reworked interior, including six position adjustable electric seats for driver and passenger. There is specific HSV trim on the dash, doors, and on the steering wheel. The seats are bespoke HSV, with embossed headrests, leather, and Windsor Suede. Outside HSV have a optionable sailplane for the roll-over bar.
Tech and safety are in the form of Remote Start, Front and Rear Park Assist,Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning, and seven airbags including driver’s kneebag. Towing is rated as up to 3.5 tonnes. These are backed by a five year, unlimited kilometre warranty and roadside assist package.

Pricing is as follows: SportsCat V six-speed manual is $62,490, with the SportsCat V six-speed auto ticking the box at $64,690. Move to the upper level and SportsCat SV with six-speed manual is $66,790 and SportsCat SV six-speed auto tops out at $68,990. Here is where you can find out more.

EV Vs HV

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s time for the big showdown between the two rivals hoping to knock internal combustion engines off the top spot in the world of automotive power. (cue drumrolls, flashing lights blaring heavy metal music and a hyperventilating commentator).  In the green corner, we have… Electricity!  In the other green corner, we have… Hydrogen!  Which of these two mighty rivals will win the title for best engine type and come out champion and win the Green Energy title?

OK, settle down.  Deep breath and time for me to stop channelling the pro wrestling I watched the other night when I was in need of a good laugh.  Right, that’s better.  Now to continue with a discussion of whether hydrogen-powered vehicles or EVs are the best.

Of course, one has to look at all aspects of motoring to decide what’s best. What’s more, when it comes to individual decisions as to what car you want to buy and drive, your personal priorities will come into play. So, without further ado, let the contest begin…

Environmental impact and emissions: On the road from the end-user perspective, it’s a draw.  Running EVs and hydrogen doesn’t pump out pollution or greenhouse gases.  However, the way that the electricity is generated or the hydrogen gas is produced may have to be taken into account. If the widespread uptake of EVs means that power companies have to fire up otherwise disused old coal- or gas-fired generators, EVs might not be all that green.  If the power comes from hydro, wind or solar, then it’s all good.  Similarly with hydrogen: if the process of getting said hydrogen into a fuel form can be done without chewing through non-renewables or pumping out nasties, then it’s all good – and we’re working on that, as we’ve discussed in an earlier post.

Maintenance: Assuming that you can find a mechanic that can deal with EVs (there are more of these knocking around these days) and/or hydrogen vehicles (we need a nice little abbreviation for these: what about HVs?), this is another draw.  Both types of vehicle have fewer moving parts than what’s needed in an ICE (internal combustion engine) – both involve electric motors that create rotational motion directly rather than relying on a controlled explosion to push a piston that turns into rotational motion.  Fewer moving parts means less friction, which means less wear and tear.  However, to be fair, EVs and HVs haven’t been around quite as long, so we will have to wait a bit and see what happens as they get older.

Accessibility: OK, here EVs win hands down.  Charging points can be found in all sorts of places and every time I go to my favourite holiday spot, I come across a new charger where there wasn’t one before.  You can also get charging points for your home so you can charge an EV overnight.  Although our very own CSIRO are working on ways to make transportation and storage of hydrogen easier, we still don’t have very many hydrogen bowsers out there… or at least not yet.

Cost: At the moment, electricity is cheaper to get than hydrogen fuel, so this is another win for EVs.

Time: As a lot of you have already discovered, it can take quite a while to charge the battery of an EV up to full, kind of like it does with your phone or laptop. Even the very fastest superchargers take half an hour to get a battery to 100%. However, hydrogen pumps as easily as petrol or diesel, and you all know how quick that is, so HVs win here.

Range: Another very clear win for hydrogen. In 2017, the Toyota Mirai clocked up 502 km, while a test version of a Tesla picked up somewhere between 397 and 506 km.  In practice and with everyday people driving, the range of HVs tends to be a lot longer than that of EVs.

Specs:

The Telsa Roadster (due for release in 2020) boasts some specs that make all the other supercars, muscle cars and hypercars look like Granny’s little runabout: 0–62 mph (that’s about the same as 100 km/h)) in 1.9 seconds, a top speed of 250 MILES per hour and a reputed 10,000 Nm of torque according to Elon Musk.  Yes, I’m counting those zeroes as well and wondering if that’s for real.  A nice nerd has explained how this figure might be a wee bit misleading, as Tesla’s talking about wheel torque, not engine torque:

On the HV front, the Pininfarina H2 Speed racing machine claims to do the 0–62 mph sprint in 3.4 seconds and has a top speed of 300 km/h and a maximum power output (from four engines combined) of 480 kW; torque figures are hard to come by.

Actually, I would quite like to see a real head-to-head race between the Pininfarina H2 Speed and the Tesla Roadster, and not just because it would be cool to see the Tesla’s acceleration in action.  One of the things that puts me off traditional motor racing a bit is the engine noise and the smell of the fumes, but when electricity and hydrogen compete, these would be totally gone and that’s the whole point of EVs and HVs.  We can probably say now that the Tesla would win the sprint, but over a longer race, the quicker refuelling time of the H2 Speed might make up for this.

 

* Credit where credit is due.  Some of these stats and comparisons have been taken from a 2017 issue of How It Works magazine (issue 105); there have been some developments in both corners since then!

Niki Lauda.

Speed, we are told, is a dangerous thing to deal with. It is, therefore, a true oddity that so few Formula 1 drivers, people that are amongst the fastest drivers in the world, die. It then makes the passing of a driver, current or past, all the more poignant and tragic.Just days before the 2019 F1 race at Monaco, possibly the most picturesque location in the F1 calendar, Niki Lauda, well up there with Brabham, Schumacher, Fangio, and of course Hunt, passed away from complications following lung surgery in 2018, the flu earlier this year, and kidney dialysis. The Austrian born Lauda was, tragically, best known for his unexpected survival from a crash at the 1976 German F1 Grand Prix. His car exploded, trapping him in the cockpit, with rescuers taking close to a minute to extricate the badly burned driver from the cabin. Lauda said of the crash that it ripped his helmet from his head, leading to the horrific scars he bore. Taken to hospital he was not expected to survive, with last rites performed. Somehow, he was out out of bed and competing just 42 days later and would go on to win again.Lauda celebrated his 70th birthday in February of 2019. Born in Vienna, Austria, Lauda found his calling in motorsport and by 1971 was racing in Formula 2. Sadly, his family, a wealthy one with his grandfather being a Viennese industrialist, saw his racing as unworthy of the name, leaving Lauda with little option but to cease contact with them. Progress came in the form of bank loans and willing assistance from The March team in 1972, before a change to the BRM team in 1973. This team was also in the doldrums, looking at collapse.

His then co-driver at BRM, Clay Regazzoni, left BRM to join Ferrari for 1974. This would prove fateful for Lauda. The great Enzo Ferrari had asked Regazzoni of his opinion of Lauda. The response was so favourable that Ferrari hired the Austrian. He quickly found form with a second place in his debut race. He would win the Spanish GP a few races later but reliability issues aw Ferrari’s lightning start fizzle.  1975 started slowly with no wins for the first four races then it all clicked for Lauda and the team. Driving the Ferrari 312T Lauda would win four of the next five GPs. he would also bag his first world championship after a win at Monza and Ferrari would also take out the constructors championship that year.

His rivalry and friendship with other drivers was growing, particularly with James Hunt. The pair had raced each other from 1973 and although their seemed a fractious relationship, there was strong mutual respect. That respect would be shown by Lauda after his Nurburgring crash, with Hunt winning the 1976 championship by a solitary point. Lauda had receovered to a point where he was able to race again, however his burns had left him with surgery required to rebuild his eyelids. The final race of the season, in Japan, was beset by heavy rain. Lauda had declared, just as he had before his Nurburgring crash, that safety should be the number one proviso. He raced just one lap before retiring, which gave his friend and rival Hunt the chance to win, which he did. Hunt’s energetic lifestyle was at odds with Lauda’s way of life, yet their respect was such that when Hunt passed away, Lauda said: “When I heard he’d died age 45 of a heart attack I wasn’t surprised, I was just sad.”

Lauda would go on to be a successful businessman, founding an airline, plus he was called upon by the Ferrari F1 team to be a consultant. In 2012 he would be employed by Mercedes F1 as a non-executive chairman and would be involved in having the team sign Lewis Hamilton. At the 2019 Monaco F1 GP, he was remembered in various ways.Rest In Peace, Niki Lauda.

Private Fleet Car Review: 2019 Renault Megane RS 280 Cup Chassis

This Car Review Is About:
A vehicle with good looks, a fluid drivetrain, and a manual gearbox, a real rarity in cars nowadays. The 2019 Renault Megane RS 280 is a potent weapon, and with some extras becomes the Cup Chassis spec. It’s classified as a small car yet should be listed in the sports car category. And it’s well priced too, at $44,990 plus on roads and the Cup Chassis package of $1490. The dual clutch transmission doesn’t offer the Cup Chassis and is priced from $47,490 plus on roads.Under The Bonnet Is:
A free-spinning 1.8L petrol engine complete with a silent turbo. Silent, as in there is no waste-gate noise. What there is aurally is a muted thrum from the twin pipes located centrally at the rear. Peak power is 205kW or, 280 horsepower, hence the name. Peak torque of 390Nm is available from 2400rpm and is available through to 4800 rpm. An easy 80% of that peak is available from 1500rpm. Consumption of 95RON, the minimum RON requirement, is rated as 7.4L/100km on the combined cycle. Around town it’s 9.5L/100km and a wonderful 6.2L/100km on the highway. These figures are for the slick shifting, short throw, manual transmission.On The Inside Is:
Reasonable leg space for most people with a 2669mm wheelbase, but the limited shoulder room of 1418mm can result in the occasional arm bump. There’s black cloth covered, manually operated, seats front and rear, with the RS logo boldly sewn into the front seat head rests. Leather and alcantara coverings are an $1100 option. All windows are one touch up or down, and boot space is decent for the size of the car at 434L. There’s faux carbon fibre trim on the doors and fairly average looking plastics on the upper and centre dash. To add a splash of sports and colour, the pedals are aluminuim plates. There is a pair of USB ports, an SD slot, and a 12V socket for the front seats, a solitary 12V in the rear.There is plenty to like on a tech level, and certainly for anyone that is technically minded. The experience starts with having the credit card sized key fob on the body. Walk up to the car and the wing mirrors fold out. A slight touch of the door handle unlocks the car, and then there’s the pounding heartbeat and graphics to welcome the driver inside.Hands free park assist is on board, as is blind spot monitoring, and adaptive cruise control. AEB or Autonomous Emergency Braking is standard as well. The car’s electronics system holds some true delights that are accessible via the vertically aligned 8.7 inch touchscreen. Apart from the standard look of audio and navigation, swiping left or right brings up extra information. There are graphs that show the travel of torque, and power, with a line showing the actual rev point relative to the production of both. There are readings for turbo pressure, throttle position, torque, and the angle of the rear steering. Yep, the Megane RS 280 has adjustable rear steering, which will pivot against or in unison with the front wheels at up to six degrees depending on velocity. At speeds up to 60 kmh it’s 2.7 degrees against and above that will parallel the front wheels.There are five drive modes, accessed via the RS button on the centre dash. This brings up Neutral, Comfort, Race, Sport, and Personal. Selecting these imbues the RS with different personalities, such as changing the exhaust note, the ride quality, and the interior lighting. Naturally the LCD screen for the driver changes as well.But for all of its techno nous, the audio system is a weak link, a very weak link. The speakers themselves which includes a nifty bass tube, are from Bose and they’re brilliant but are paired with a digital tuner that is simply the worst for sensitivity AWT has encountered. In areas where signal strength is known to be strong, the tuner would flip between on and off like a faulty light switch, making listening to DAB a more than frustrating experience. It makes the $500 ask for the system somewhat questionable until the sensitivity issue can be remedied.The Outside Has:
A delightfully curvy shape. In truth, finding a hard line is near impossible. From the front, from the side, from the rear, the Megane’s body style is pert, rounded, and puts a field of circles to shame. The rear especially can be singled out for a strong resemblance to a certain soldier’s helmet from a famous sci-fi film franchise. Up front there’s Pure Vision LED lighting. That’s in both the triple set driving lights and the headlights that sit above and beside an F1 inspired blade. The iridescent amber indicators are set vertically and could illuminate the moon’s surface. Black painted “Interlagos” alloys look fantastic against the Orange Tonic paint ($800 option) as found on the test vehicle, and have super grippy 245/35 rubber from Michelin. Brembo provide the superb stoppers, and wheel arch vents bookend the thin black plastic strips that contrast and add a little extra aero.Exhaust noise, as muted as it is, emanates from a pair of pipes that are centrally located inside an impressive looking rear diffuser, and have a decent measure of heat shielding. The manually operated tail gate opens up to provide access to no spare tyre at all. There is a compressor, some goop, and that’s it. They sit in a niche alongside the bass tube that adds some seriously enjoyable bottom end to the audio system.On The Road It’s:
A suitably impressive piece of engineering. The powerplant is tractable to a fault, with performance across the rev range that combines with the genuinely excellent manual gear selector and clutch. Out test period coincided with a drive to Dubbo and perhaps an out of the comfort zone test for a vehicle more suited to the suburbs and track days.

The Cup Chassis pack adds the aforementioned wheels and brakes, plus a Torsen front diff, and revised suspension. Inside the dampers are extra dampers, effectively an absorber for the absorber. And along with the noticeable change in ride quality when Sport or Race are selected, the rough tarmac heading west made for an interesting test track.

To utilise the Megane RS 280 properly is to understand what synergy means. From a standing start and banging the gears upwards to sixth, or to press down on the go pedal at highway speeds and see the old ton appear (allegedly) in a few breaths is to feel what a truly well sorted engine package can deliver. Crack on, and the metric ton appears in 5.8 seconds. It all happens because everything works so well together. The steering is instinctive, as is the ride and handling. And using the drive modes makes a real difference in an unexpected way.Unusually but not unexpectedly, there is torque steer if booting hard from a standing start. However that Torsen front diff quickly dials that out, keeping the sweet looking front end on the straight and narrow. The clutch and gear selector are perfectly paired to complement the engine’s free revving nature. The clutch is smooth, well pressured, and the actual gear pick up point is ideally placed towards the top of the pedal’s travel. Selecting the six forward gears is via a beautifully weighted and sprung lever, with a lift up lock-out to engage reverse.

Normal driving conditions have the Megane RS 280 quietly doing its thing. Light the candle, engage Sport or Race, and the rough, pockmarked, tarmac past Bathurst changes from a minor annoyance in Neutral to a flatter, more enjoyable ride quality. Think of corrugations spaced apart enough for the wheels to rise and fall over them, then suddenly close up to the point that the car feels as if it’s riding over the peaks alone. Throttle response is sharper as well, and is perhaps more noticeable from a standing start.

With the final drive seeing peak torque at highway rated velocities, it also means that a simple flex of the right ankle has the Megane breathe in and hustle on with alacrity. The already communicative steering gains an extra level of vocabulary when changed to Sport and Race. There’s a weightier feel in the turns, imbuing the driver with a sense of real connectivity to the front end. Combined with the 4Control rear steering adjustment, corners become flatter and straighter.

One extra nifty piece of tech came from the GPS and satnav system. Between the towns of Wellington and Orange is a set of average speed speed cameras, and the GPS flashes up on the screen to advise what the average speed of the car is. Some judicious driving and watching the indicated average speed change, and that’s a good thing.

The Warranty Is:
Three years for any sports oriented model down from the standard five. Service the Megane RS 280 Cup Chassis at a Renault dealership and there’s up to four years of roadside assist plus up to three years capped priced servicing.

At The End Of The Drive.
Renault has competition on both sides of the price point. But having a six speed manual nowadays makes the Megane RS 280 a standout for those that like to be engaged and involved in the driving experience. The Orange Tonic paint is an eyecatcher, and unfortunately attracts tryhards like pollen to a bee.As a driving experience, it’s not unlike slipping into a tailor made suit and shoes, as everything just feels….right. But the lack of aural caressing, and the lousy DAB tuner, as part of the overall experience, dull the sparkle. But not enough to get out of the 2019 Renault Megane RS 280 Cup Chassis without a grin of pure pleasure.

A good start in finding out more is to click here.

Private Fleet Car Review: 2019 Lexus LC 500

This Car Review Is About:
The 2019 Lexus LC 500. It’s a big, luxury oriented, coupe with stand out styling, a brawny 5.0L V8, and a fair bit of heft. There’s heft to the price too: $189,629 plus on road costs as of February 2019.Under The Bonnet Is:
A V8 of five litres capacity. It’s the same one as found in the GS F, which produces 351kW and 530 Nm. Consumption on the combined cycle is rated as 11.6L/100km. There’s a ten speed auto that hooks up to the rear wheels via a Torsen limited slip diff, and if you’re a touch green around the gills, a hybrid version is available. Transmission changes are made via paddle shifts on the steering column, and the gear selector is atypical in that it’s a rocker movement towards the right, forward for reverse, back for Drive, and Park is a P button. Back to the left where M is listed gives Manual control.On The Inside Is:
A stupidly small amount of room. It’s a BIG looking car, with 4770mm overall length, a wheelbase of 2870mm, and 1630mm track. The driver sits just aft of the mid point and has plenty of leg room forward. So does the passenger. But it’s here that the good news ends. The rear seats are great for a suitcase or a bag or two of shopping. With the front seats in a suitable position up front, the gap between rear of seat and squab is minimal. Minimal. The up side is that the powered seats self adjust for fore & aft movement when the lever to flip them forward for rear seat access is pulled up.The seats themselves are low set, meaning anyone with muscle issues may struggle to lever themselves up and out. And with a low roof height, raising the seats may compromise the noggin of taller drivers.

Then there’s the passenger section. It’s quite aligned with a single seat fighter jet in concept, with a tub and grab handles on either side. Then there’s the dash. The passenger gets little to look at directly ahead apart from a sheet of faux carbon fibre style material, and Lexus have left the LC 500 with the multi-fold design. The air-con vents are squirreled away in a niche line with just a single vent in direct centre. Sometimes it felt as if the air flow isn’t happening.Up top and centre is the Lexus display screen. It’s wide, in full colour high definition, and operated via a track pad (no mouse) in the centre console. In full daylight it’s still clearly visible. Unfortunately, in a well meant effort to add extra visual splash, there is a aluminuim strip just below it and sitting on top of the centre airvent. It catches sunlight really well, and spreads it around the cabin really well. That includes straight back into the driver’s eyes.

Drive mode selectors have been relocated from here and are on dials on the left and right of the driver binnacle. The binnacle houses a full colour LCD screen that has a sliding circle that activates different looks to the screen. Yes, it might be somewhat gimmicky but it also allows a driver to choose some or all info at will. A super clear HUD is also fitted and again, it’s excellent in its instinctiveness.

The rear seat, what there is of it, is largely hampered by the exterior design. And there’s some interior fitment that is part of it. Lexus have moved the battery to under a boot floor cover to help with weight distribution. But the slope of the rear window line means head room is compromised, and the boot itself is two overnight bags in capacity.There is a very good range of interior trim colour combinations, with a total of eight coverings and shades available. They’re all a great place to sit and listen to the excellent Mark Levinson audio system which is DAB compatible, plus allows DVD playback. Speaker count? 13, sir.

The Outside Is:
Eyecatching. The low height, 1345mm from tyre bottom to carbon fibre roof top, makes the car look lithe, svelte, and a set of coke bottle hips add a measure of sensuality to the lines. A slim, broad, front houses a beautifully sculpted triangular design that has LED headlights, driving lights, and indicators in a vertical strip. Huge 21 inch polished alloys are clad in 245/45 rubber from Michelin, bookending that pinched in waist and airvents to reduce wheel well pressure.The boot really is tiny, at something like 195L of capacity. There also doesn’t appear to be an external button to open it either, with the key fob and interior tabs the seemingly only method. The bootlid also holds the wing, activated via a centre console mounted tab. Rear lights are wrapped in a chrome housing and their sharp edged look complements the nose. Exhaust pipes are buried in an elegant looking rear valance.The test car came in White Nova, a semi pearlescent shade. There are ten (yes, ten) other colours such as Zinnia Yellow and Garnet to choose from. All colours do a great job of highlighting the LC’s distinctive lines, and complement the somewhat restrained look the spindle grille has. Yes, you read that right. The grille is not the stand out part of the car’s look.

On The Road It’s:
Hobbled by its heft. Although looking like a relative lightweight, thanks to its low height and slim lines, there’s over 1900kg hiding under the skin. And with the engine producing peak torque at over 4000rpm, acceleration is quick, changes are quick, but everything feels dulled off slightly. It lacks the rawness, the sharpness, the knife edged attitude of the GS F, and in reality it’s more of a Grand Tourer in nature. It doesn’t provoke the same visceral response that the GS F provided. The Torsen differential is noticeable, too, in slow speed tight corners as found in Sydney’s north shore, and there’s a rear end skip on certain long sweepers that have road expansion joints built in, momentarily unsettling the LC’s broad rear end. Launch hard in a straight line and there’s a squirm from the rear as the meaty rubber grabs hold.Actual ride quality is tending towards the jiggly side when driving in the normal mode. Although there is an active suspension on board, it really doesn’t come into play until Sport/Sport+ is engaged. Suddenly the road feels smoother, handling sharpens up, and the engine note seems more brusque, with an added bite. And it is perhaps the engine that is, in an audible sense, the highlight of the whole package. Press the start button and there’s a quick whirr before a guttural growl comes from the pipes. It’s a higher pitch in tone compared to the more subterranean note from the GS F on idle, and there’s a real edge of anger to it when seriously under way. And thankfully there’s a real sense of the fire and brimstone being thrown around thanks to the snarl, and the crackle & pop of the engine on upshifts and backing off the throttle.The transmission is a gem however not always seamless in changes. When easing the LC around the exhaust note is comparatively subdued, but get in on the freeway and stand on the go pedal to fully appreciate the ferocity of the engine and sound. It does take some time, relatively speaking, for the urge the engine has to kick in, but when it does overtaking numbers are stellar. And so is the exhaust; it doesn’t caress the ears, it grabs them and pounds the angry notes down into them. That’s thanks to what Lexus call “sound control valves” that open and close on demand to offer the changing soundscape. That’s aided and abetted by an Active Noise Control system that cancels out extraneous noise, not unlike noise cancelling headphones.And The Safety Factor Is:
Naturally very, very high. The brakes, like the whole LC, don’t have the instantaneous response from breathing upon the pedal that the GS F has, but there’s no doubting the stopping power regardless. Six pistons up front and four at the rear haul up the LC confidently every time. Partnered with the full suite of active and passive safety systems, such as Lane Keep Assist, Radar Cruise Control, Autonomous Emergency Braking, and a pedestrian safety bonnet, it’s well up there on the safety ladder.The Warranty Is:
Four years or 100,000 kilometres, with the additional benefit of Lexus Drive Care. That covers items such as a up to $150 one way taxi fares, a courier service for small parcels, even personal and clothing costs up to $250. Contact Lexus for servicing costs, though.

At The End Of The Drive.
After an engaging week with the LC 500, we came away with the strong feeling that it’s a definite GT, a Grand Tourer. It’s a relaxed and comfortable highway & freeway machine, but suffers in comparison in tight inner city and suburbia. The aural appeal is huge on start up, but the limited room inside and in the boot really count it out of being anything other than a single or couple’s car. For a more multi-purpose and/or family oriented performance car from Lexus, the GS F fits the bill far better.

Get a start on comparing your desires for grand touring inside the 2019 Lexus LC 500 here.

 

 

Race Academy International Is Ready To Go Live.

In the minds of many in the automotive and motorsport families, driver education and driver training should be mandatory past the basic driving test. Racing drivers around the world, from karters to Formula Ford and Formula Vee, from Production Touring Cars to Supercars, practice, practice, practice, their driving, finessing and honing their skills.

http://www.raceacademyinternational.com/Race Academy International is a major subscriber to the driver education school of thought. But there is more to this fledgling organisation that teaching people how to be a better driver.

Founded in mid 2018, RAI will be holding its first event in 2019. To be held at Sydney Motorsport Park on March 28, RAI will be seeing a group of candidates in various classes put through their paces, all under the watchful eye of a selection of Australia’s best driver trainers and motorsport pilots.

But if there’s no goal to achieve, why bother? RAI do have an end goal, and it will take a driver that is adjudged the best in their class through to a racing drive. A longer term goal is to have a driver placed into an international competitive drive in 2022.The team members that will be part and parcel of Race Academy International are varied in age and experience. All have one thing in common, and that’s to utilise the vast collective of knowledge each possesses and shares, to see a winner become a better driver, and an inspiration. Amongst them is Trevor Mirabito, founder and director of RAI, and with years of driver training experience behind him across a number of different race tracks, will lead a great team. There’s Gary Mennell, well known in racing circles as both a driver, but, importantly, a team manager. Important because entrants will be graded on their social interaction, how they deal with others and how they receive feedback. It is, essentially, why there is “No I in team”.

But there was big news in late 2018 and early 2019. A former British Formula 3 driver, Sam Abay; former V8 Supercar driver, Lee Holdsworth, and current Erebus driver, Anton de Pasquale, have joined RAI as mentors for the event. They assist drivers in the four categories on offer. Freshman, Clubman, State, and Ultra will look at driver skill, their feedback, how they cope with media training, and will complete driving sessions with their qualified instructors.The winner of the Freshman group will drive in three E36 BMW rounds, with the Clubman winner being entered into two rounds of the Production Touring Cars Endurance as a co-driver. State level winners will be entered into the 2019 season of the Production Touring Car series (excluding the season opener in February, of course), with the Ultra winner being placed into a fully paid up round of the 2019 Performax TA2 Muscle Car series.

Check out the website for more details.

A Legend Returns: Toyota Supra Is Back.

One of the automotive world’s worst kept secrets was finally let into the public domain today. The Toyota Supra is back in the automotive spotlight and harks back to history with its classic straight six engine up front driving the rear wheels. Dubbed the GR Supra, it’s due to land in Australia in late 2019.The fifth generation platform packs a 250kW/500Nm, twin-scroll turbocharged, six cylinder engine of 3.0L capacity. Power hits the tarmac via Toyota’s eight speed automatic gearbox. Toyota’s Gazoo Racing section has been brought in to work on the cars which are all to be built in Graz, Austria. Testing was held at the Nürburgring Nordschleife and included a session with Toyota’s own president, Akio Toyoda. Launch Control sees a zero to one hundred time of 4.3 seconds.The driver can take control of gear changes using paddle shifts on the steering wheel and can select Normal or Sport driving modes to suit their preference and the conditions. The vehicle stability control has a special “track” setting that can be selected, reducing the level of system intervention so the driver has greater control of the vehicle’s dynamic performance.Design cues from Toyota’s heritage are evident in the sheetmetal. The S2000‘s long bonnet inside a compact body shape, with the distinctive “double bubble” roof is complemented by the fourth generation’s broad rear flanks and rear spoiler. Toyota’s penchant for pet names is here, with chief designer Nobuo Nakamura giving his team a simple brief around the concept of “Condensed Extreme“, ensuring they were free to express their vision of a pure and individual sports car in a truly original design.

There are three distinct elements to the GR Supra’s look: a short wheelbase, large wheels and wide stance; a taut, two-seat cabin; and a long bonnet with a compact body that reflects the drivetrain combination of in-line six engine and rear-wheel drive. All are embodied by the “Condensed Extreme” ethos. And although bigger than the two door 86 coupe, it’s a shorter wheelbase and rolls on bigger rubber.The driver and passenger are facing a distinctively designed cabin with a cockpit taking cues from a single seat race car. The seats themselves are race influenced, with thick bolsters for extra side support, holding the driver and passenger snugly. The dashboard is a low slung affair, allowing excellent forward vision, with the asymmetric centre console marking a clear division between the enveloping driver’s cockpit and the more open passenger side of the Toyota GR Supra’s cabin.Toyota’s engineering teams have worked to give the GR Supra a superlative ride and handling package. Structural rigidity is said to be higher than the Lexus LFA supercar, with a centre of gravity lower than the 86 and a 50:50 weight distribution, with the movement of the engine rearwards to achieve that figure, contributing to the end result.A newly designed suspension frame has a five-link rear end matched by a double-joint spring MacPherson front. Unsprung weight is helped by using aluminuim for the control arms and swivel bearings. Each corner has 19 inch forged alloys wrapping high-performance stoppers. Every Supra that will be sold in Australia will have an active differential for even better handling.

Pricing for Australia is yet to be confirmed. Contact your Toyota dealer for details of the forthcoming 2020 Toyota GR Supra.