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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Just because you can Drive a car, doesn’t mean you can ‘Drive’ a car.

So Lewis Hamilton has won Sports Personality of the year 2014. And deservedly so in my opinion. That is not to say any of the nominated sports men and women didn’t deserve to win it. They have all achieved greatness in their field.

Lewis Hamilton 2014 Sports Personality of the Year

Lewis Hamilton 2014 Sports Personality of the Year

But there are many people moaning and saying he shouldn’t have won it. Why? Firstly, it was a public vote. He received the most votes and therefore won. Which is how a vote works right? Secondly, some are saying he has no personality. I assume these people know him personally. But we all know that although it is called the ‘Sports Personality of the Year’ award, it is really down to sporting achievement. After all, Andy Murray won it last year and in the year Jenson Button, the guy who is seemingly one the nicest guys in the world, won his world championship, Ryan Giggs scooped the award. A bloke who speaks in monotone and sleeps with his Brothers wife!

Lastly though, and perhaps most frustratingly, is the people who say Lewis Hamilton only won because he had the best car. That’s just like saying Kelly Gallagher only won Paralympic gold because she had Charlotte Evans to guide her or that Charlotte Dujardin only had success because she had a good horse. Which we all know isn’t the case. Every successful sportsperson will benefit from the best tools available. But it takes someone special to use those tools to become the best in the world. Yes, we all know Mercedes provided Lewis with a great car and he probably wouldn’t have won a single race if he was in a Caterham. It would be naive to think otherwise. But it is the same in all sports. The British cycling team have people who provide them with some of the best and most technologically advanced bicycles in the world. As great as Sir Chris Hoy is, undoubtedly he wouldn’t have been so successful on a Raleigh Chopper. However, I’m certain he would still beat many of those who think it’s all down to the machine.

It’s not just sports that involve technical equipment though either. A good footballer needs a good team behind him. Gareth Bale has won major trophies with Real Madrid, but he won’t ever win the world cup with Wales. Every sportsman or woman at the top of their game have a plethora of people behind them helping them to achieve their greatness. Coaches, Nutritionists, Psychologists, Physiotherapists, Medical Personnel, the list goes on. And these people know what they are doing. I’m not just talking about Dad’s giving you encouragement or Mum’s cooking high a protein dinner before a big event. This support network are also amongst the very best in their field too. But what all great sportsmen and women have in common is natural talent. That spark, that raw potential and that natural ability that projects a good sportsperson to world beater.

A good team will always help an athlete improve.

A good team will always help an athlete improve.

I heard an argument that Rory McIlroy deserved the award more than Lewis Hamilton because he had achieved more this year. For a start, Lewis Hamilton has been at the top of his sport longer than Rory McIlroy has in his. But what people need to realise is that in a golfing calendar there are tournaments most weeks of the year and amongst that are the four ‘Majors’. There is only one Formula One world championship a year and Lewis Hamilton won 11 of the 19 races in that championship to win. Rory McIlroy may have achieved more this year but he has had more opportunity to do so. He had four attempts at a Major win this year and he won twice. Lewis had one attempt this year and won it, even with three retirements in that ‘Best’ car of his. You don’t criticise an Olympic gold medallist for ‘Only’ winning one gold medal in the last four years do you? Even McIlroy benefits from the best equipment, coaching and backroom staff. He has custom made and fitted clubs, he has golf balls design to suit his style of play, his entourage is huge and he has a lot of financial support and backing. Just as Lewis wouldn’t win the world championship in a 1960’s Ferrari, Rory wouldn’t win a major with a set of Hickory shafted golf clubs and a ‘Gutty’ ball.

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy

The trouble is with many sports is that the pro’s make it look easy. We sit and watch on the TV where the margins between victory and defeat can be minimal. We therefore think those who loose are rubbish and think we can do better, not thinking that the margins of defeat would then be vast chasms measured in light years and we would quickly start to look foolish. When you watch golf on TV, it looks a doddle. I used to play golf and had a relatively decent handicap of 10. But I can tell you it is extremely frustrating. Consistency is key, and whilst it’s great to see a 300 yard drive boom down the fairway, I would still stand on the tee not knowing if that was going to happen or if I would hook one into the long rough. Colin Montgomerie once said, ‘There is no difference between a good shot a pro hits and a good shot an amateur hits. The pros just hit them all the time’. And that’s the difference between the Pros who make it look easy and the millions of weekend golfers at golf clubs around the world dreaming of winning a major while the hunt for their ball in the thick stuff. I also had an ex girlfriend who was a very competent cross country and show jumping rider. I would watch as she and her horse Jeffrey would glide over fences with ease. But whilst I have ridden horses on the odd occasion, could I get Jeffrey to even trot over a pole lying on the ground on the ground? Could I heck.

So let me tell you this. Just because you have a driving license and can drive a car, doesn’t mean you can actually drive a car. Let alone try and race one. There is a reason that Formula One is timed to the nearest thousandth of a second and that’s because it is all that can separate a winner from a loser. The difference between pole position and second on the grid. The margin between a great lap time and total disaster. It looks oh so easy on the TV when drivers guide their car round a circuit for lap after lap putting in near identical lap times one after the other. How hard can it be? After all, you’ve driven on a journey that lasted two hours or more right?

People don’t seem to think about the G forces experienced inside the car the driver deals with under braking and acceleration dozens of times each lap, the alertness needed to pick the precise braking point to within the metre at each corner for the fastest possible lap time, or the knowledge needed to adjust that braking point depending on car set up, tyre wear or fuel load. They don’t think about the skill needed to guide a car inch perfectly at high speed to clip the apex or place the car in the exact spot for the perfect racing line. They don’t think about the skill involved in knowing when to defend or attack while doing all of the above. The concentration needed to do this for two hours, the ability to feed back information to the team to enable them to help make adjustments or improvements for that competitive edge, the ability needed to make fine adjustments to brake balance, gear ratio and other car set up options whilst on the move, or the supreme fitness needed and the nerves of steel to be good at it lap after lap after lap.

Being a world beater at 200mph isn't as easy as many think.

Being a world beater at 200mph isn’t as easy as many think.

If you think that is easy, go down to your local outdoor karting track, race for 2 hours and then see how you feel. See how your lap times match up with the best, see how many of your laps were within a tenth of a second of your best lap time and see how tired you are. Then think about doing that at speeds of up to 200mph rather than speeds of up to 40mph. You’ll soon realise it isn’t easy. Very few of us could do it. Very few of us could be half as good as Lewis Hamilton or any of the others at their sports.

So just think about these things before criticising anyone who has achieved something truly great. Especially someone who has spent a lifetime reaching the goal at being the best. Be pleased for them instead of shooting them down. And if you think I’m only writing this because Lewis Hamilton is getting criticised and I love motorsport so much then you are very much mistaken. I admire everyone of those nominees. In fact, I often admire many people who achieve sporting greatness and think about how I wish I was truly good at something like that.

So embrace greatness and success. Applaud it, don’t criticise it, and if you still think Lewis Hamilton didn’t deserve to win it because you don’t like him, Just think about how Ryan Giggs’ brother feels.

Baying for a Crash.

It’s now become quite obvious that if you are an organiser of a mainstream motorsport championship or event and you want some coverage in the national media, then all you need to do is get someone to have a big crash. If the driver involved in that crash is a popular ex Formula One driver, then all the better. You’re guaranteed a few column inches somewhere in the back pages and even an article on the BBC’s ‘Formula One is the only form of Motorsport’ website.

Sadly, this seems to be the only way the FIA World Endurance Championship can get any coverage in the British Media. Mark Webber’s huge accident in Sao Paulo on Sunday make it on to the BBC website, thanks to the loose Formula One connection, and also into a few national newspapers. I even heard it mentioned in the sport on Absolute Radio’s breakfast show. Those of you who saw it will have winced and be extremely relieved that Mark is OK. It’s a testament to safety in sports car racing that people can walk away from such impacts.

There must be better ways for Porsche to get some publicity of their World Endurance team?

There must be better ways for Porsche to get some publicity of their World Endurance team?

But what really annoys me is that despite the media coverage, I have not seen a single report from these national news outlets that has mentioned the winner of the race. Porsche’s name is all over reports as the car Webber was driving, but no one mentioned that the second Porsche car in the race took victory. Not only that but after a titanic battle with the number 8 Toyota which saw the two cars split by just 0.170 of a second after six hours of racing.

On the subject of the number 8 Toyota, where were these journalists desperate to grab attention with pictures and news of a devastating crash that could have claimed the life of a racing driver, when just two weeks ago, the drivers of said Toyota, the Swiss Sebastien Buemi and British racer Anthony Davidson claimed the World Championship? A British driver winning a World Championship and no one was interested in reporting it.

Image: Chris Gurton Photography

Anthony Davidson: A British sporting World Champion the media aren’t interested in.

Sadly it’s the same for that great motoring institution, Rallying. You don’t get any media coverage of it unless a spectator is sadly injured or killed. As was the case with reports from the Jim Clarke rally, and this tiny piece on the BBC sport website about the Grizedale rally which thanks to really poor reporting suggests an incident far worse than that that actually took place.

I’ve been at touring car races where crowds cheer when someone crashes. I’ve spoken to people who have stated they only like motorsport when there are crashes. How would these people like it if they were involved in an accident on the M25 and witnesses stopped, got out of their cars and started cheering? Is this really the mentality of people these days? Is it what people want? Is that why the media love a good crash story because it gets more attention? I really hope not. We all know the situation with Jules Bianchi so must realise that accidents and crashes are a serious matter.
Surely as motorsport fans we all want to see close and exciting racing. Crashes don’t really add to the excitement. Having been at LeMans when there have been two particularly nasty accidents, the silence of a quarter of a million spectators is chilling. The only cheering was when news that in both cases, the drivers were ok. Sadly that isn’t always the outcome.
We all know motorsport is dangerous. Competition is close and drivers push themselves to the limit and sometimes beyond, so accidents will inevitably happen and thankfully, those baying for crashes are in the small minority of fans. But the mentality of these people needs to change and the media needs to do its bit in helping that and not encouraging it. So please stop with the ‘Crashes make good stories’ attitude. Oh, and BBC, Formula One isn’t the be all and end all of motorsport, there is so much more out there. You can’t even get the rights to show a full season of F1 live so how about investing a bit of money in showing other live motorsport?

 

Rubens: Always happy!

Rubens: Always happy!

I guess the only positive to come from the Mark Webber accident is Rubens Barrichello’s instagram photo. I’m pretty sure if Rubens was to visit you in hospital he’d do a pretty good job of cheering you up. But is it just me, or does he look like an excited expectant father about to witness the birth of his and Mark Webber’s bizarre but superhuman love child?

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

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