The thoughts of Chris Gurton on motorsport, his photography, his work and his life in general. The thoughts, views and opinion's expressed in this blog are those of Chris Gurton and not necessarily those of any publication that he contributes to.

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Is The New Mini Cooper S Still a Hot Hatchback?

Hot hatchbacks are all the rage in the UK, and not just because it’s nearly summer. Consumers are looking to downsize their car wherever possible these days, but still retain the comfort and power offered by the bigger, more luxurious models. When renting a car or taking out day insurance, people want a sporty number that’s nippy on the straights – so just what makes a hot hatchback, hot?

There are plenty of elements that need to be included in a hatchback for it to be ‘hot’ – big wheels, 200bhp+, a quick 0-60 and let’s not forget the dashing features. But if it’s not fun to drive, and trust us when we say there’s plenty out there that aren’t, then it’s back to the drawing board.

The New Mini Cooper

The New Mini Cooper

If you think the new Mini Cooper S looks a lot like the old model, you’re not the only one, but there’s a good reason. Mini hold their core values in extremely high regard, and as a brand they feel these are best translated through the Cooper’s design. So, if it’s not for the looks, then what makes the new Mini Cooper S so attractive?

Under the Bonnet

As always, the answer can be found under the bonnet. The new S is mighty powerful for a car its size, with the four-cylinder turbocharged engine pushing out 192bhp, and 0-62 in just under 7 seconds with the automatic gearbox. It only takes the manual gearbox 0.1 second more to reach 62mph, and although the speed is impressive, it’s the Mini’s energy efficiency that’s been turning heads.

Depending on the combination of tyres and wheels selected, it is possible to get CO2 emissions all the way down to 122g/km, which puts it in the category of the write-down allowance threshold. On the roads we doubt you’ll see more than 40mpg, but as hot hatchbacks go, the Mini Cooper S seems to be setting a new standard.

Cockpit and Interior

The first point of call, surprisingly, is the boot, which boasts 30% more room compared to the conventional mini. It’s also wider and longer than its predecessor, meaning there’s more room to be enjoyed inside too. As with all Mini models, the décor has quite a long way to come before it is able to compete with the likes of the Golf R or Astra VXR, with plastic dominating the cockpit. However if you’re looking to bypass the cheap inner shell and instead look towards the power underneath your feet, we’re sure you’ll be mightily impressed.

Still a Hot Hatch?

Still a Hot Hatch?

The Ride

With optional Variable Damper Control, the new Mini Cooper S handles superbly, and stands out against some of the market’s better sellers. Whether you’re driving on soft or hard terrain, the suspension automatically adjusts too, without limiting the driving experience. Extremely fun to drive, the lack of aesthetic change with the Cooper S on the outside just reinforces the improvements made under the bonnet, meaning it is certainly one of the hottest hatchbacks around.

 

WEC Silverstone Review: Toyota Wins Opening Race!

 

Image copyright: Chris Gurton Photography

Toyota claim the first victory of the 2014 WEC season.

 

6 Hours of Silverstone – the opening round of the FIA World Endurance Championship – was dramatically clinched by Toyota, who skilfully kept their cool despite the torrential rain.
Although the race was ended early due to torrential rain, Team Toyota, which consists of Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Nicolas Lapierre, not only left Mark Webber’s Porsche and both of the stunning Audi R18 e-trons in their wake, but they also clinched the win from their sister team too, Alexander Wurz, Stephane Sarrazin and Kazuki Nakajima.

Considering the difficulty of the weather and track conditions, the legendary Mark Webber seemed content with a podium place on his debut WEC race, sharing the glory with Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley. In comparison, this year’s Silverstone was Audi’s worst performance in 3 years.

Image copyright: Chris Gurton Photography

Audi were to have a disastrous race.

Audi’s Gamble
Straight from the green, Audi’s Lucas Di Grassi set off at a record pace, immediately attacking Alex Wurz of Toyota in his TS 040 Hybrid. This excitement was short-lived for Di Grassi however, as he took the Club Corner too wide towards the end of the first lap, allowing Sebastien Buemi of Toyota to claim second place. Porsche were also disappointing towards the end of the first lap, with Neel Jani dropping from third to sixth position.

Image copyright: Chris Gurton Photography

Neither Audi R18’s were to finish the race.

Running into traffic on lap 14, Toyota’s Alexander Wurz lost first place to Andre Lotterer, and Audi has their first lead in the race. However Audi decided to gamble while other cars were being called into the pits for wet tyres, and soon after Di Grassi crashed heavily into the barriers, sliding off the track at Woodcote. The Audi driver managed to get the R 18 e-tron back to the pits for some quick cover , however with a damaged monocoque the car was too badly damaged to continue the race, with Di Grassi looking understandably devastated.
Webber’s Return
It wasn’t just Audi that experienced car damage at Silverstone either; Porsche’s Neel Jani suffered severe tyre failure and subsequently lost his left wheel, but after 15 minutes in the pit Porsche successfully retuned to the track. Audi’s day continued to go from bad to worse however, as Andre Lotterer lost 25 seconds to Sebastien Buemi after sliding off the track at Stowe. Finishing sixth overall after a lengthy stint in the pits, Lotterer and Audi certainly had 6 hours to forget at Silverstone.

Image copyright: Chris Gurton Photography

Mark Webber was to pick up a podium on his Debut WEC race on Porsche’s return to the top category in endurance racing.

Timo Brenhard was replaced by team mate Brendon Hartley after Porsche’s 52nd lap pit, with the New Zealander showing his talent behind the wheel by hauling the R 18 e-tron back to fourth. With three hours to go, WEC Silverstone then settled into the traditional endurance test, and it really was anyone’s race. However Audi’s bad luck wasn’t quite over, with Treluyer hitting the barriers at Copse and bending both front wheels.
After 21 minutes of the safety car, Porsche’s Hartley pitted and gave up the seat to the fan favourite Mark Webber, allowing the Australian his first taste of WEC racing in 15 years. As the final two hours of Silverstone positioning remained the same, the rain made conditions unsafe to say the least, with the safety car came out once again, followed by red flags stopping the race.

Image copyright: Chris Gurton Photography

The number 7 Toyota was to claim second place behind its team mates.

Canvas Opinion

It often surprises people to learn that I have none of my own photos on my wall home. The nearest I have is two wonderful paintings based on my images by Steffen Imhof and a great piece by the talented Ian Cook aka PopBangColour created in his unique style from a photo of mine.

The truth is, although I find it hard to pick one to put on display on the wall, I am hugely critical of my own work. Even when I have picked a selection of images I like, the longer I look at them, the more I can find fault in them. The more I find fault in them the more it irritates me. Even if it’s just a small thing in the background that isn’t quite right, then once I have spotted it, then that will be all I can see in the photo.

So when the offer arose of having one of my images put on to canvas and with the recent acquisition of a new house meaning more walls to decorate, I was hardly going to refuse. Having photos printed to canvas has become very popular in recent years and it is easy to see why. It is a great way to display images and they have a smart modern feel that everyone seems to like.

Finally I have some of my own work to put up on my wall in the form of this fantastic canvas from CanvasDesign.co.uk

Finally I have some of my own work to put up on my wall in the form of this fantastic canvas from CanvasDesign.co.uk

Canvas Design is a family run company with 10 years of experience in printing and framing. They offer a range of canvas sizes from six inches all the way up to a huge 72 inches and starting from just £5.99. A choice of options and free services such as image enhancement, red eye removal and free delivery, underline Canvas Designs value for money. The website is easy to use and service is pain free. In fact the hardest thing you’ll need to do is, like me, choosing the photo you want printed. In fact, I think it took longer for me to chose the image than it did to have it printed and delivered.

I had sent my image off on Sunday evening and by Wednesday morning my huge 40” by 26” canvas had been delivered. To say I’m pleased with it is an understatement. It looks amazing. The quality is great, printed on 100% cotton and hand stretched on a 38mm pine frame, I couldn’t have asked for more. I’m really looking forward hanging it up in my new home and hopefully others will appreciate it as much as me.

With great service and a quality product, I would definitely recommend Canvas Design to all my friends and family. What’s more, they are offering you an extra 15% off all orders with the discount code BLOG15 So go and check out their websites now at http://www.canvasdesign.co.uk/ & http://www.canvasdezign.co.uk/

The California T: Ferrari’s are back and now they are Turbocharged!

This year’s Geneva International Motor Show has been a hot topic of conversation, not least because of Apple’s latest lifestyle supplement ‘CarPlay’. But Ferrari have also been turning heads at the Swiss event, revealing the simply stunning California T, marking the return of turbocharged powertrains across their best-selling models.

The New Ferrari California T

The New Ferrari California T

Ferrari’s California collection is the company’s most adventurous series to date, and the elegant yet powerful T model offers over 550lb ft of torque as well as a massive direct-injection 3.8-litre, twin-turbocharged V8. This equivalates to jaw-dropping acceleration, boasting a 0-62mph in just 3.6 seconds and a top speed of 196mph. Although these figures are marginal improvements compared to the previous California, they’re still improvements, and shouldn’t be sniffed at in an industry where every millisecond saved is celebrated.

The Turbo Revolution

Every element of the Ferrari California has been completely overhauled to produce an economical powerhouse in the T-model, whilst still effortlessly representing the company’s entry into the turbo revolution. Although you wouldn’t usually consider one day insurance for such a car, at £155,000 the California T is only a few pennies more than the old model, and what you get in return is staggering, not least the extra 230lb ft or torque. Thankfully the T has retained its predecessor’s duel personality offered by the folding hardtop roof, so drivers can still have the best coupe and convertible experience.

Ferrari love to utilise parts of their car history in new models, but with the California T the engine is brand new, shared with their sleek Italian counterparts Maserati but also heavily adapted. According to Ferrari engineers, the deafening soundtrack that accompanies the engine is the most exhilarating any turbo has ever produced. Bearing in mind that their last model to utilise a turbo was the F40 Hypercar in 1992, Ferrari really have come out of the shadows with the California T.

Style With Substance

The California T’s exterior has also been subject to a small redesign, with influence from the iconic Pininfarina. Not only has the front grille been remodelled to look more aggressive, but the headlights now ooze into the wings giving a more streamlined appearance. The aerodynamics have even been touched on with a new triple-fence rear diffuser, and Ferrari have also improved the handling with a new steering box and remodelled cockpit. With one foot in the past and the other firmly in the present, Ferrari can now look to the future of their turbo collection with the California T, with the new model going on sale this autumn with a free and unlimited range 7-year maintenance package.

Are 2014 Formula 1 Cars the Ugliest we have seen?

With the second Bahrain test now completed, F1 fans have now seen enough of the new 2014 challengers to still hold a strong opinion that they are the ugliest car the grid has ever seen.

Torro Rosso's 'Anteater' Nose

Torro Rosso’s ‘Anteater’ Nose

Many of us believe that Formula 1 cars need to be a thing of beauty which stand out from the crowd and resembles a work of art. Williams were the first to shock the F1 community with their FW36 challenger which featured a peculiar anteater nose. McLaren followed suit with a weird looking tripod-effect nose and Lotus with its twin tusks diffidently caught the eye within the paddock, but the worst in my opinion was the Torro Rosso and the Caterham, it just looked wrong and it definitely didn’t look like an anteater. Even the great designer Adrian Newey who ensured his cars where aesthetically pleasing conceded that ‘this year’s Red Bull is unfortunately ugly’.

Caterham's take on the new nose

Caterham’s take on the new nose

So why have the new cars become so unbelievably ugly? Well, it’s all down to the new aerodynamic regulations for the 2014 season with the aim to increase safety. The regulation stipulates that the nose tip has to be 365mm lower than its predecessors.  The rule was introduced to prevent ‘T-bone’ crashes as well as cars launching over the top of others. The regulations instructs designers that ONLY the nose has to be a certain height and not the suspension or the front end of the monocoque, thus resulting in the radical designs of the nose we are seeing.

The new nose designs are to make the cars safer if involved in a collision

The new nose designs are to make the cars safer if involved in a collision

A lower nose will greatly reduce/block the aerodynamic flow under the car, therefore in order to maximise the airflow designers have retained the maximum permitted front monocoque then adding the minimum and amount of carbon fibre to comply with the nose height regulation whilst being strong enough to pass the crash test.

However, not all the cars have the weird anteater, finger whatever you want to call it nose. Both Mercedes and Ferrari have gone conservative with their design, by sloping the whole front section into a flat nose to create more down force enabling the car to have more front end grip through corners.

Ferrari have managed to make a half decent job of the new nose regs.

Ferrari have managed to make a half decent job of the new nose regs.

The odd one out from this is Lotus with its twin tusk design which attempt to presents slightly more total cross sectional area to the airflow, which I believe is a very clever design. The design as you will see has one of the two tusks slightly longer than the other; this is to comply with the minimum height regulation, a brilliant example of F1 designers pushing the design to the limit.

The 'Twin Tusk' offering from Lotus

The ‘Twin Tusk’ offering from Lotus

The 2012 Ferrari nose caused initial horror.

The 2012 Ferrari nose caused initial horror.

The thing with Formula 1 cars is that we all grow into the design and by the mid-season we end up loving them. In 2009 when the cars changed to taller slimmer rear wings and wider front wings we all hated, we all said (including myself) it didn’t look like F1 cars anymore and I personally ended up loving the new look. In 2012, the stepped noses where slaughtered by the F1 community especially with Ferrari’s Lego nose, but I ended up loving it and to this day I think it’s one of the most beautiful F1 cars I have ever seen. That’s why this year although initial reaction is negative, fans will accept the design and love it.

Guest Post by Hiten Solanki

Porsche 918 Spyder Review

Some annoyingly great-looking people are turning fifty this year. Lenny Kravitz, Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reaves will all reach their half-century in 2014, an age they barely look when combined together. And these folks who’ve never done a hard day’s graft in their life are not the only lookers to be turning fifty; as this year also marks the fiftieth birthday of the Porsche 911.

Car manufacturers are never ones to let a contrived sales opportunity slip through their figures and so Porsche have moved to commemorate this milestone by releasing two new vehicles at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The first is a special limited edition 911 Carerra S, whilst the other is the German manufacturer’s new Supercar – the 918 Spyder which will roar off the end of the production line with a mere 880 horsepower to its name.

Image: Porsche

The Porsche 918 Spyder

The 918 is not simply all about power and pace, key attributes though they may be. Instead the 918 Spyder is effectively Porsche’s answer to the McLaren P1 or the LaFerrari; a new future-minded hybrid petrol-electric supercar.  That aforementioned horsepower comes courtesy of both a V8 engine that delivers a hefty 612bhp and a further 270bhp from the hybrid electric motors that deliver power through the front and rear axles.

All this power contributes to some pretty lightening pace, with the 918 Spyder capable of going from 0-62mph in 2.8 seconds, making it from 0-124mph in 7.9 seconds and a whopping 0-186mph in 23 seconds. This power and pace is aided by somewhat fanatical weight-saving including magnesium wheels and body wrap instead of paint – but the electric hybrid engine is not light and so the Spyder still comes in at 1640kg, and that’s before you’ve taken out temporary car insurance and lumped your own significantly hefty frame into the driving seat for a test drive.

Image: PorscheThe 918 Spyder has all the flash extras you would expect from a modern Supercar. Drivers can select from three modes; ‘Race’ for optional performance, ‘Sport’ for, er, sporty driving and ‘E-Mode’ for reduced fuel consumption. And that fuel consumption remains pretty good for a car of the 918’s power, with an impressive 78 mpg.

Whilst the Porsche 918 Spyder may not have the performance and power of the McLaren P1 or the LaFerrari it does have other things going for it if you’re looking for a more complete vehicle. For the impatient generation that we are the main plus is the ability to charge the Spyder’s batteries in just twenty-five minutes courtesy of Porsche’s bespoke high-speed charger. So though the power may not be at the optimum of others, at least you don’t have to wait as long to use it.

To conclude, it seems the likes of Ferrari, Mclaren, Aston Martin and Porsche are involved ina supercar war, and what makes it more exciting is the upcoming new Honda NSX which is scheduled to undercut all of them whilst providing same driving experience. This should be interesting…

2014 Audi TT Review

If you read car reviews regularly you will be familiar with the sort of guff that reviewers tend to write when trying to describe a new car. We can’t just say it is metal, or it is shiny, or it is car shaped. Instead we have to find convoluted metaphors so as to cement not only a picture of the vehicle, but also our self-purpose as reviewers. Why? I don’t know, but I do it anyway even despite the potential to slip into a Jeremy Clarkson-esque “If this car were a woman…” parody.

To bring that meandering paragraph back to point, I recently read a description of the new Audi TT in which the vehicle was described as ‘Bauhaus-inspired’. What exactly is supposed to connect this two-door coupe with a modernist German School of Art and Design of the 1920s and 30s I have no idea. I for one would welcome a truly modernist car; one which rejected the realist notion of the car and instead parodied it with a simplified angular vehicle that contravened perspective and had all its wheels on one side and one massive door, but alas the new Audi TT is not it.

The new 2014 Audi TT

The new 2014 Audi TT

Instead the 2014 Audi TT is a nice metal car. Ok that perhaps is not doing the vehicle justice. It is a very good looking coupe, rounded and curved with pronounced wheel arches and a smooth subtle finish. It looks good, as you would expect from a TT, and that extends to the inside too where you will find high quality materials in use throughout, and a new slimmer dashboard where Audi have incorporated the central multimedia interface into the driver’s instrument panel, creating a multi-faceted display screen that seems straight out of a turn of the Millennium arcade driving simulator.

As for the drive itself it comes powered by a four-cylinder 2.0 litre turbocharged powertrain that gives a reported 211 horsepower and 258lb-ft of torque. Going from stationary to 60mph in 5.3 seconds, should you ever find a situation where that needs to happen it has an inner-city fuel economy of about 22 miles per gallon. The new TT is much lighter than predecessors, 60kg to be specific. The weight loss means better fuel economy and handling where you know that you can throw the car into corners and it will stick thanks to its 4 wheel drive.

The Audi's New look Cockpit.

The Audi’s New look Cockpit.

With Audi’s high-tech magnetic ride damper system available as an option this could well be the smoothest TT you’ve ever driven. Don’t believe me? Well get yourself some one day car insurance in place and take a TT for a test drive when they hit the market later this year.

Ultimately then this is a great and much anticipated car; so spare the marketing spiel – the unnecessary flim-flam of Bauhaus and whatever else, and just enjoy it for what it is.

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