Archive | March, 2013

A beginner’s Guide to Moto GP

Moto GP is the premiere class of international motorcycle racing, and the races take place all over the world at some very challenging and exciting racetracks. The very fastest riders and most technically advanced motorcycles do battle throughout the year, and at the end of it all a world champion rider and manufacturer champion are crowned.

The Moto GP season runs from March to November, with around twenty races taking place in the UK, throughout Europe, the Middle East, the Far East, and America. The racing series even goes to Australia to a naturally beautiful racetrack called Philip Island. The racers and bikes must do battle at these enormously varied tracks, where bike set-up, tyre choice and engine mapping will all be entirely different from one race to the next. It’s the pinnacle challenge in bike racing and the main teams, from Yamaha and Honda, spend a considerable amount of money to try and make their bikes the unbeatable best.

They also spend dramatic amounts of money to salary the very best riders in the world. Wins in Moto GP can translate to sales of motorbikes in your dealerships, so every motorsport team boss must win races.
Like Formula One, Moto GP is a development race between the top scoring factories – generally Yamaha and Honda – but unlike F1, with aerodynamics only lightly affecting the bikes, it’s more about mechanical grip and engine set up. Without aero, an F1 car has nothing, whereas a Moto GP bike needs power, cornering and mechanical grip right from the start, and if the chassis is way off at the beginning of the season, it is hard to catch the teams who’ve had a well-rounded bike from the season’s start.

Each of the top teams has their chassis team, engine team, suspension team and set-up team, each with key areas on the bike to take care of. The tyre manufacturer responsible for the whole series’ rubber will also supply a representative to each of the top teams, to make sure that they all get the most out of their tyres. Tyres, like in any top level motorsport, are crucial in Moto GP, with the wrong rubber certainly costing races, and even championships.

Yamaha UK sells motorcycles off the back of Moto GP wins, so if the Yamaha Racing Team win at the weekend, the chances are that Yamaha motorcycles will sell to British consumers the following week. Win on Sunday, sell on Monday, as they say. Even at the very top flight with Moto GP, it’s all about the winning as the millions of pounds spent each year by the Moto GP teams are marketing budgets that wouldn’t exist without sales to customers.
Of course, you can’t buy a Moto GP motorbike from your local dealer, as they are hand built, entirely prototype and powerful enough to perplex any rider apart from the very, very best. With over 240bhp on tap, even the average Moto GP bike would be impossible for a production machine to catch, however, production machines with similar paint schemes to the race winning Moto GP bikes are regular best-sellers at the dealers.

The top two teams in Moto GP for the last couple of years have been Yamaha and Honda, and we expect much the same again throughout the 2013 season. Both teams have great bikes and top riders, so it should be a thrilling year of competitive motorcycle racing.

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More MOT Pain To Come

As if things weren’t bad enough for UK motorists, yesterday saw the arrival of new MOT rules. To be fair to our own Ministry for Transport, all they are doing is implementing changes to bring us in line with the latest Euro-rules. Politicians across Europe feel they must be seen to be doing something about road safety so they are constantly thinking up new ideas, although sometimes we could wish that they might be tempered with a little bit of common sense.

Nevertheless, here we are. Manufacturers are partly to blame as cars have become increasingly complex. Sophisticated new systems and gadgets are added whether we want them or not. Many of these now fall under the new MOT rules. The downside is that many motorists could face hefty bills as more and more cars fail.

Warning lights are a case in point. There is no doubt that there are many vehicles out there with a little light twinkling away on the display. The car may well be running fine but that’s not the point. The term ‘warning light’ signifies a problem – now it means a potential failure. It could for example mean an airbag issue which may not be of immediate concern because you have no intention of having a shunt. Too bad.

The cars of today have computers and much complex technology on board. For the most part it is there for a reason, although some will argue that a lot of it is superfluous. The trouble is that the current MOT rules have been around for twenty years now and it stands to reason that they are in need of updating. Unfortunately, financially crippled drivers are hanging on to their cars for much longer. The older the car the more likely it is to have faults.

If your car has tyre pressure monitoring – compulsory on any car since January 2012 – then this will be checked. The movement of car seats back and forth will be tested to ensure compliance and if the seat has electric power then that too comes under the rules. Can you imagine the potential cost of fixing a powered seat – something that drivers have never needed?

Even if the seatbelt is actually about your person but the little light stays on – fail. Brake fluid a bit low? Fail. Car doors must open and close properly and the warning light extinguished; all the dials, catalytic converters, stability controls and so on all come under examination. You have been warned.

In some parts of Europe, testing doesn’t start until four years after first registration and some countries allow two years between tests. Our government are resisting this and will stick with the three year / twelve month rule for now. Now that is something you can blame them for.

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New Range Rover Sport Revealed This Month

What, you might well ask, is the purpose of the new Range Rover Sport which will be officially announced at the end of this month. Well, it sits between the mighty Range Rover flagship and the outstandingly rugged Discovery and does in fact have a purpose all of its own. Essentially, as the name suggests, it is a sportier version of its majestic namesake. Whereas the purpose of the Range Rover is for unashamed luxury coupled with real off-road ability so the Sport is designed with keen drivers in mind.

The Sport is a more involving drive with a firmer ride and a generally more dynamic feel on the road, although its mud-plugging skills are hardly diminished. Think of it, if you like, as a cross between the Range Rover and the Evoque – the best of both worlds. Land Rover believe it is their most responsive and agile vehicle yet.

The car will be revealed to the world at the New York Auto Show on the 26th March. Presumably they are presenting it there because Americans are the biggest market for this particular variant; in fact, it is LR’s biggest seller in the States.

Although the two RR cars seem very similar there are in fact a lot of differences both cosmetic and technical. The Sport has a sloping roofline and a bigger rear spoiler for example. There will be five and seven seat versions, although the extra two seats are likely to be for occasional use only. The interior is obviously Range Rover influenced but instead of the rotary dial the Sport will feature a stubby gear selector instead.

The most significant change is hidden from view. The previous Sport used the Integrated Body Frame chassis from the Discovery but the new version will instead be based on the aluminium chassis of the Range Rover. This will clearly result in a weight saving which should be noticed in both handling and economy.

The Range Rover is the definitive off-road vehicle and it will remain unchallenged in that department. If the Sport is to have improved road and driving manners then its rough terrain performance must be at least slightly compromised. That’s not to say that it won’t be way better than many rivals. It isn’t confirmed at the time of writing but LR may well fit the Terrain Response System from the bigger car. Either way, its prowess on the gnarly stuff is unlikely to be found wanting.

It certainly looks like Land Rover have done it again. The Sport will undoubtedly be in demand in the showrooms, especially as the prices will start from a round a reasonable £55,000. Another winner from Gaydon.

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Ford Fiesta ST 2013 – The Most anticipated hot hatchback on the market

The new Ford Fiesta ST is arguably one of the most anticipated hot hatchbacks to arrive on the market this year. The Fiesta ST, the junior version to the Focus ST is set take the market by storm with its reasonable price tag, performance and style. With the upcoming Peugeot 208 GTI and Renault Sport Clio 200 due for release the market has never been closer but who will take pole position.

The Ford Fiesta ST is the cheapest option out of the three pricing at £2,000 lower than the Renault sport Clio 200 with the Peugeot 208 GTI a £100 cheaper than the Renault. This makes the Ford the best value for money and with Fords reputation of high quality expect reliability to come with the price tag. All boast a 1.6 litre turbo charged engine with the Fiesta ST using their Ecoboost engine providing 20% better fuel efficiency along with 15% reduced greenhouse emissions. The Renault Sport Clio 200 has the highest power with 197bhp; all models have had their performance vastly improved to appeal to the sporting drive.

The Ford Fiesta ST clearly sets itself apart from the modest Fiesta, a black mesh grill, chunkier bumpers, lowered suspension and 17-inch alloys creates a sporty persona for the usual family friendly car. Each hatchback has had a transformation of look and style; all becoming sleeker and leaner. It’s hard to pick out which model has the greatest looks, it could be argued that the Renault Clio has had the greatest change and seems to have benefited the most from this reinvention.

The Ford STs driving position is placed perfectly with the steering wheel and seats adjustable so the driver can ensure they have a comfortable driving position to suit them. Dab radio and air conditioning come as standard and £1000 extra will add leather trim seats, a higher spec stereo, LED headlights, keyless start and climate control. The Renault Clio comes with a 7 inch touch screen and electric folding door mirrors although this still may not justify the £2000 price difference.

The Ford Fiesta ST, Renault sport Clio 200 and the Peugeot 208 GTI are sure to be leading the way in the hot hatchback market. All are reasonably priced and will prove to be a popular choice with sporting enthusiasts but which will be the most popular? The Ford Fiesta ST seems to be the most eagerly anticipated but when all three are released onto the market a true verdict will be made.

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The Volvo V40 Has Finally Arrived

The clean-cut Volvo V40 offers the kind of responsive driving that makes it the envy of its competitors.  Entering the premium hatchback market the Volvo V40 has a lot of competition within the market with the Golf MK7 due for the release and the Mercedes A-Class.

 A sporty but refined five-door hatchback, the V40 is one of the smallest vehicles in the Volvo range. Its compact frame allows crisp, agile handling, and makes finding larger parking spaces a problem of the past. Motorists can opt for a panoramic glass roof, to give the V40 an even more exclusive appearance.

Inside, you can enjoy an interactive dashboard. Choose between three driving set-ups: elegance, eco and performance, to distribute torque in a way that complements your own unique style. The V40 features an optional Park Assist Pilot, and Adaptive Cruise Control alters your speed to reflect that of the car in front, offering a more relaxing drive.

Performance is where the V40 really excels, and each of the three petrol and four diesel engines is fitted with cutting-edge technology to enhance efficiency. For speed-thirsty motorists the T5 petrol engine uses five-cylinders to achieve 254bhp output, with a rapid 0-60mph acceleration time of just under 6.1 seconds. The top speed is electronically limited to 155mph, making the V40 one of the fastest in the hatch class. For extra efficiency the D2 diesel unit is hard to beat – it offers combined consumption at an astonishing 78.5 MPG. At 94g/km, CO2 emissions are also impressive, and amongst the best in the Volvo range.

Any high-performance car should have a safety record to match, and the Volvo V40 is packed with gadgets that spring into action in times of need. City Safety takes much of the risk out of urban driving, whilst Dynamic Stability and Traction Control allow you to move smoothly and securely across less well-kept roads. The car is also packed with airbags so, in the event that a collision does occur, occupant safety is optimised.

The Volvo V40 has arrived at Volvo dealership, be sure to check into your local dealership to find out further details of the new hatchback and make the verdict yourself.

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UP! Goes Electric

The Volkswagen Up! is one of the best city cars money can buy. In typical VW fashion it offers a good level of refinement and an interior of very high quality for this price sector. Surprisingly roomy, the acceleration from the 1.0L engine is not going to pin you back in your seat but the car still delivers a lively drive around town and holds its own on the motorway.

Now, not being a company to rest on its laurels, VW have announced the arrival of an electric version that will be formally introduced to us at this Autumn’s Frankfurt Motor Show. It is called the e-Up! Leaving aside for a moment that this expression is a form of cheery greeting in the North of England, it should be more of the same but with the economy and climate friendliness associated with electric cars.

The range seems impressive when stated in kilometres – 150 – but when translated into proper English is 93 miles 361.99 yards. This is about normal for an EV so no major advances there. Never mind – this car will have the dependability we have come to expect from Volkswagen and will suit users who need a decent urban run-around that can carry four people. Usefully, it can be charged to eighty percent capacity in just a half hour.

Pretty much noiseless as you’d expect, power comes from a 60kW motor. Maximum torque is a sturdy 210Nm available from the first touch of the accelerator. The lithium-ion battery is under the floor and this must help handling and composure on the road. Charging is taken care of by a connection craftily hidden behind the ‘fuel-filler’ flap, and in a standard common to other manufacturers buyers can specify the Combined Charging System option which supports both AC and DC charging which enables a ‘fill-up’ at most stations regardless of the power source or charging rates. That’s worth having.

The body has been ‘aerodynamically optimised’ and features the now obligatory LED daylight running lights in the front bumper. The style is further embellished with a nice set of 15” alloys. The e-Up! will have its own special logos and grey/blue interior trim with leather and chrome accents.

The Up! Is a great car designed perfectly for the job. Comfort, economy and style in a package that can be parked on a postage stamp. The electric version is sure to catch on with town and city folk for whom range isn’t an issue. It has to be said – things are looking Up!

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Learn Car Maintenance And Save Money

As you know, when you open the bonnet of a modern vehicle, it all looks a bit complicated. It wasn’t always so. If you get the chance, open the lid of an original Mini and you will see just how comparatively straightforward cars used to be. Once, most drivers knew how to attend to basic maintenance or servicing issues and would even attempt more complex jobs – usually successfully.

The modern motorist seems to have forgotten those skills of yore as cars have become increasingly and wilfully complex. We prefer to leave it to the professionals with their computer readouts and specialist tools. On the other hand, this is often an expensive exercise and in these days of driving austerity the chance to save some cash seems like an attractive prospect. Is it possible to do at least some of the jobs yourself? Seriously – how hard can it be?

DIY car maintenance is all about common sense. New cars under warranty are probably best left to the dealer as any dodgy tinkering with the works could make a small problem bigger and could also invalidate the warranty. Basic maintenance on older used cars however does make a lot of sense.

If you don’t feel confident to proceed but like the idea in principle then a little training might be just the thing. There are literally hundreds of maintenance courses around the country. Most are organised through local colleges and adult learner schemes. They don’t cost a lot and some candidates may be eligible for financial help. You can also find distance learning courses although it seems better to get your hands oily directly under experienced supervision and practice on someone else’s car. You never know – a new career may beckon. There are many qualifications available.

The only problem with practical learning of this sort is that the equipment and technology may not be the latest thing, but a spark plug is a spark plug and the basics of the internal combustion engine haven’t changed much. The course is likely to be general and won’t deal specifically with your car so it is always a good idea to locate a workshop manual on paper or online that covers your exact needs.

A simple service of oil and filter change, spark plugs and air filter will always be beneficial to a car and you will save pounds in the process. As you learn you will become more confident but don’t get too cocky. It is easy to underestimate the length of time a job will take and this could result in being too hasty. You can always phone a friend.

You need to allow for the cost of tools and parts but with care and due diligence it is possible to drive safely and save money. Probably best not to work on electric cars just yet though. Too many volts can really spoil your day.

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Claiming For Pothole Damage To Cars

It’s an ongoing saga. Every year the harsh winter weather damages our roads and causes the dreaded potholes. Every year motorists complain and every year little or nothing is done to alleviate the problem. Government and Councils cite lack of funds blah, blah, and the saga continues.

The root cause of this problem is the neglect of our roads over decades as money that should be spent on maintenance has been diverted to other areas, thus ensuring a plentiful supply of premium biscuits at council meetings and town-twinning trips to somewhere nice and warm. Fact finding is vital to the running of local councils, clearly.

Well, here’s a couple of facts. At the time of writing this, it is reported that there are 19,000 different sets of road works currently ongoing around the country. Also during 2013 some two million potholes will be attended to. This is being used as evidence that action is being taken on roads – which is good – so why is that British drivers are reporting that road quality is not improving? Twenty two percent have further stated that highway repairs actually make the road surface worse and sixty one percent still reckon that road quality is declining! Something’s wrong.

The answer can surely only be that the repairs themselves are being done on the cheap to dress up the ravages of time, wear and tear, like cheap make-up on an ageing drag queen. Nothing will change until some major investment takes place and in the meantime hard-pressed motorists must present their claims for compensation to the implacable stone face of local government.

This is a problem that all aggrieved drivers come up against. Tell your local council that their negligence has caused costly damage to your car and they will if at all humanly possible absolve themselves of responsibility based on Section 58 of the Highways Act 1980. (Note: It’s too long for this article but you can read it here).

Claimants have to persevere and keep their cool. Don’t immediately rush to court or hire a solicitor – if you are going to get anywhere it is going to be a long hard road. Ensuring safety as a priority, take a photo of the pothole, measure it, and, if possible, show the proximity of the car and also the damage to your car. Report the whole thing to the council. Submit a Freedom of Information Act request to ascertain how frequently the road is inspected and maintained. There are standards that councils must abide by. You will also want to know how many previous complaints there have been about that pothole and that stretch of road.

If the powers that be have stuck to the rules then your chances of making a successful claim are supermodel slim. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it your best shot. A trawl of the internet will quickly highlight a number of organisations devoted to helping you fight the scourge of potholes. Read avidly.

The knowledge that the people responsible for the job can so easily absolve themselves of blame is a hard thing to take but paying possibly hundreds of pounds for damage not of your making is also a bitter pill. Motorists have rights too. Make sure you stand up for yours and also make sure your local Member of Parliament is kept fully informed. It is only by keeping up the pressure that we can achieve the goal of enjoying decent roads which we do, after all, pay for.

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The Daily Drive

Imagine this scene. It’s 7am on a cold Monday morning. Ice is going to be a hazard on the roads and you have a touch of bronchitis but you must still get the car out and drive to work. With a sinking heart you just know you’re in for forty five minutes of hell. Welcome to the world of the daily drive to work.

The nature of our climate and the tragic standard of our roads stand between you and your job; but that’s not all. The philosopher Jean-Paul Satre is quoted as saying ‘hell is other people’ and he worked from home. That might be a little unkind to our fellow man but a fifth of drivers wish their fellow road users would be a little more considerate and take a bit more care.

Car commuting will obviously vary depending on where you live. For some it may be a pleasant country drive when the sun always shines but for most it is a daily grind we could do without. Research has shown that stress levels amongst regular drivers is rising and a third of motorists admit to this. When you consider that most work drivers travel pretty much the same route for over two hundred days of the year, it is hardly surprising. Arriving at work completely stressed out is no way to start the day and driving home tired is just plain dangerous.

There is also the worry of cost. Petrol is expensive and sales of it are dropping as motorists find ways around it. Because they lose revenue accordingly, governments think the best plan is to raise taxes on fuel still further. If a product is selling poorly it is a good idea to lower the price rather than raise it. Cheaper fuel would help drivers, boost the economy and increase revenues. It would also relieve one of the worries of car use.

So what’s to be done to make this part of your working day a bit less of a stressful chore? Here’s some tips that may help, bearing in mind that things are always easier said than done.

Give yourself more time. It may be a wrench getting out of a warm bed but why not leave earlier? Possibly much earlier. If your journey takes an hour, allow an hour and a half. You may get to your employment early but at least you’ll have time for a coffee and a chance to rest and relax a bit.

Try to stay calm when all about you are getting fraught. Play relaxing music (note: AC/DC are not relaxing but you should draw the line at Enya). Keep your interior environment clean and at a comfortable ambient temperature. Carry a favourite snack and have a refreshing drink to hand, especially if you are one to skip breakfast. A hungry driver is a grumpy driver. Depending on finances, try to ensure your new or used car is up to the job and will be comfortable for the duration.

It might be an idea if possible to plan alternative routes to vary the boredom and if your employer will allow it, try to commute outside of peak times. In short, do everything you can to make this part of your life more bearable. Never forget the immortal words of Master Po: ‘Each journey begins and also ends’. Never a truer word.

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The Fall And Rise Of The Super Car

Over the past couple of years motoring writers have been hinting at the demise of the hypercar and indeed high powered sports cars generally. They have been saying that we must all look forward to a brave new world of economy, twin-air engines and the noiseless advance of alternative technologies. Endless streams of bureaucracy seem to support this.

Well, it turns out that car makers haven’t been listening and it appears that rumours of the death of the supercar have been greatly exaggerated. Following the Geneva Motor Show it is clear that many manufacturers see an on-going market for these great and powerful machines for those who can afford it.

The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black is a case in point. It has gull-wing doors, gulps fuel and causes cracks in the time-space continuum under acceleration and is, on the face of it, completely daft. So why do M-B insist on making it and why do we really, really want one – even if it means paying a quarter of a million pounds?

Porsche’s eminently useable 911 is fine but the company believes that what drivers truly want is a racing car for the road, which is why the 911 GT3 continues to be available in all its awesome awesomeness. In the same vein, Jaguar have been content – until now – to rest its sports car history on the E-Type from years ago so why, in these times of financial woe, would they even consider building and selling the new F-Type V8 S (pictured)? For around a reasonable £80k enthusiasts can buy this future classic which in its way is as good looking as the ancestor.

The Italians of course do not concern themselves with trivialities like global warming and the like; they much prefer to ogle the girls on the Via Veneto and drive cars from Lamborghini. There’s the new Veneno – a snip at £3.1 million – or for those less flush with Euros, the Aventador. It is also why Ferrari’s idea of a family hatchback is the FF and for a million quid will sell you LaFerrari, the replacement for the legendary Enzo.

The list goes on. Rolls Royce have raised the bar with the truly magnificent Wraith and Bentley are producing the GT Speed. If you don’t like two doors then the Bentley Flying Spur is the answer which has the same W12 engine and offers similar performance.

All this hot metal suggests that the furore surrounding climate issues and the need for eco-cars is settling down as manufacturers choose to give their customers cars that they want as well as cars that they should have. Great strides have been made in engine technology, so much so that the above mentioned SLS only produces 321g/km of the nasty stuff. Obviously that’s quite a lot but is way superior to what it would have been just a few short years ago.

If you still believe in alternative power sources but want an SLS they can do you a fully electric version for only one hundred thousand pounds more. It has a battery the size of a house coupled to four electric motors but thanks to something called the ‘SLS eSound’, makes noises like a proper car. The trouble is, most of us like meat with our potatoes. Which is why the true supercar will live on for a while yet.

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