Monday, 31 May 2010

I feel sorry for Mark Webber

At lap 41, the Turkish Grand Prix yesterday turned into one of best in a very long time. It had been quite processional up until then - a little mild overtaking at the very start then it took pit stops for anyone else to gain advantage on the track. However, I do think the Istanbul circuit is one of the better ones for no other reason than there are good overtaking opportunities available providing you are close enough to the car in front. Any road up, on the 41st lap, the man on the right here, Sebastian Vettel, was running second behind his Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber with the McLarens of Hamilton and Button in third and fourth.

Webber had slowed slightly to conserve fuel and Vettel decided to nip up the inside. He then decided to turn in early, while still alongside Webber - this caused a collision taking Vettel straight out and causing Webber to have to pit conceding the lead and falling back to third. The BBC reported the post-race fallout here.

I wouldn't normally have bothered commenting except for the reaction of team-boss Christian Horner who seems to be siding with Vettel and blaming Webber. This goes against not only my view, but also that of Martin Brundle, David Coulthard, Martin Whitmarsh and common sense. Even Eddie Jordan, while defending Vettel's desire to win and need to get ahead, did reluctantly admit that it was probably a mistake. After all, rule number one in Motor Racing is "Don't crash into your team-mate!"

This indicates that although Webber was (and still is) leading the Drivers Championship, he is viewed by Horner as a second driver. I am a very big fan of Vettel's but he clearly made a big error of judgement yesterday and should take the rap accordingly. Webber has been around for ages and would be viewed by many in the same way Button was up until last year - an OK driver who is generally outpaced by his team-mate. But this season, given the right car, he has proved that he can mix it up with the best of them and should, therefore, be treated as at least an equal.

Not too long after this incident, with Button chasing Hamilton for the lead, he launched an audacious move on his team-mate and successfully got past. Hamilton being Hamilton wasn't going to settle for that and soon fought his way back. During both of these moves, the cars came so close to "doing a Red Bull" but the McLaren drivers obviously had a little more sense and gave way when necessary. It must have been heart-stopping for the team but it was very entertaining and showed what could be done and what should have been done.

Incidentally, it was nice to see Schuey come in fourth. Albeit well off the pace, he will be particularly pleased at beating his own team-mate into fifth.

Who knows, maybe Formula 1 could become exciting again - just needs more good overtaking circuits and more evenly matched cars to get into positions to overtake.

Bit like BTCC.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Where to go for Car News?

Well, obviously, the first point-of-call must be Metro's Car Blog. However, since this excellent site is just my personal musings on random news stories and events that have caught my eye, and since anything appearing here has already been mused by me within my head, other sources of car news are available.

The very best online resource, the 4-Car Website as reported by me in December was unfortunately closed down. This prompted me at the time to investigate a few other options.

I briefly flirted with the Daily Torygraph Car Site. That is where James May has a weekly column but most of the other articles were just painfully right-wing propaganda meaning that the flirtation could not last long at all.

I also got into the daily habit of checking out the websites of Piston Heads news, Auto Express news and Autocar news.

Piston Heads is slightly laddish with Forums populated by similar people who used to log into the 4-Car Forum when it was at its peak. Auto Express is a bit tabloidy but feels more professional although they do have a habit of, for example, taking mock-ups and implying they are production versions.

I've deliberately not included a link to Autocar because when I clicked on a headline there this morning, I was told I'd have to log in or register. Even if it's free (which I suspect it will be) - I can't be doing with logging in every day and I don't see why I should give them personal data anyway. Fortunately, links to old Autocar stories like in my London Taxi article seem to be unaffected. They will be getting at least one less hit a day now - it'll be interesting to see if this affects them at all.

From time to time, I also check out The Fifth Gear Website. They do have a regularly updated news section, hidden in the bottem left-hand corner of the home page - but generally not a lot in there - more than the Top Gear site do though.

The good news from the Fifth Gear site today, although, I'd already spotted it in The Radio Times, is that Fifth Gear TV is back next Thursday. To quote their site, "The 17th series of the show will see your favourite hosts Tiff Needell, Vicki Butler-Henderson, Jason Plato and Jonny Smith return to your screens". This means that Tim Shaw and Tom Ford can't have been our favourite hosts - they have both been dropped.

I won't miss Tim Shaw - like Tim Lovejoy before him, I believe that car shows should only be presented by motoring journalists or racing drivers not people who might be described as "petrol heads" to justify their presence. Or people called Tim. OK, when Top Gear began it was presented by Noel Edmonds and Angela Rippon and I think that worked but I'm too young to be sure and it did evolve beautifully into what it and Fifth Gear are today.

I will miss Tom Ford, however. I've always found him very entertaining and his interactions with Jonny Smith made a good double-act - like the Plato-Needell one. Maybe his work on Top Gear Magazine caused conflicts of interest or maybe budget-cutting meant that the two studio-based presenters were deemed surplus.

This brings me on to the matter of printed matter. The only car magazine I subscribe to is Top Gear - lots of useful, interesting and entertaining stuff in true Reithian BBC tradition. In my teens, I bought the first 100 editions of Auto Express - the first ones were 40p each - not a too bad weekly expense for a child. Then, they started gradually putting up the price in 10p jumps. Each time they did this, they would include lots of car data pages in the back to make it look like you were getting a lot more for your money. Even at the time, I could see this as a sneaky trick so I stopped buying it at about 70p.

I guess my main source of car news is going to be a collection of online resources - I'd like to see a motoring sub-section on the BBC News Technology Site or even the Top Gear site - I'm sure they used to do something like this. Can we have it back, please?

Monday, 24 May 2010

New Vauxhall Meriva

I never thought I'd hear myself saying this (or typing this) but I ACTUALLY LIKE THE NEW MERIVA!

It is driven/reviewed in the latest Top Gear magazine. It is in a market segment I would never envisage myself entering but it actually looks good and is innovative, reasonably fast and very practical. Vauxhall/Opel have taken it's unbelievably boring predecessor and completely rewritten the rulebook for the mini-MPV.

The most obvious difference is the rear suicide doors. They deadlock at 2mph to keep your children from bouncing around a motorway an autobahn at 117mph - the top speed for the 1.4 litre engine. Rear accessibility seems good but would be even better if they had done away completely with the C-Pillar - I guess there are very good, structural and financial reasons why they haven't done this.

Overall, though, this brings fun and funkyness to a very boring sector - which has to be a good thing. It does, however, come at a price. The current, outgoing, (boring) Meriva range costs from £13500 to £17000. The 1.4T SE 120PS as tested by Top Gear, is allegedly £23489. Eeek.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

A Canadian Ferris Bueller


This story caught my eye today. It's a well-written, entertaining story, well worth a read. I wouldn't say the car was exactly "trashed" - the garage door seemed to come off much worse. The kid's story doesn't fully add up though. He must have had to put the car in gear and start it up - it was a standard transmission (or as we'd call it - a manual) He seems to have been punished with working to help recoup insurance excesses but also slightly rewarded with a driving course. He and his mate weren't hurt - so I guess that is the most important thing.

Also, I hope I get to spend my 26th Wedding Anniversary driving a fast car around a circuit.

And after...

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Hammond is Transport Secretary

Saw this headline today and thought "That could be good - a petrol-head in the Cabinet" but then I read on and realised it is Conservative MP Philip Hammond - someone about whom I know absolutely zero. It could be worse - it could be a Liberal in that post. I am much more so a fan of the Liberals than the Tories and I think this new Coalition business might just work because because the Libs can temper the worst of the Tory evils like fox-hunting and tax-breaks for the obscenely rich and not giving a stuff about unemployment. But when it comes to cars, their manifesto states that they are in favour of road-pricing. They claim it will be "revenue neutral" but I am cynical and I also think that they are also more likely to clobber those of us who do not drive cars with small engines. Labour were bad for this too. Maybe I do have more in common with the Tories after all - they are the ones in the 4x4s and big Mercs and Porsches. Did you see Teresa May's new Jag? Very nice. The car not Teresa. I wonder if she's any relation to James - or Brian.

Anyway, only time will tell what this new Government will do for us motorists and for the Country as a whole. If it works out, then great - if it doesn't then I'm sure Prime Minister Miliband will be happy to take over. (It's surprising just how many different pictures there are of him with that banana.)

Monday, 10 May 2010

I Saw a Morgan Towing a Caravan Yesterday

I don't know why that should be strange but it was. It prompted me to take a look at their website where it states that Morgan engines go up to 3 litres - more than enough to cope with a caravan - even in such a light-weight car. And this car yesterday was one of the typical old-fashioned looking Morgans - not a cross-eyed Aeromax. I then decided to find some Morgan Images to add to this. First I found a rather nice, sexy picture of Morgan Fairchild - then a not-so-sexy one of Piers Morgan - yuk! then finally a proper Morgan.My view of Morgan drivers tends to revolve around my old English teacher or Richard Hammond or members of CAMRA - not members of the Caravan Club though.

I suspect that your average Morgan driver would be annoyed at being stuck behind a caravan and certainly wouldn't expect to have one stuck behind him.