For a number of years I’ve often thought that the police and motoring authorities could easily implement a new regulation that could help cut a portion of bad driving out on the roads.
We all know speeding is illegal, as is drink driving and now so is using a mobile phone whilst driving. We also know this still doesn’t stop some people putting others at risk. I often see school run mums in big 4×4’s with phones glued to their ears while their precious children are in the back. I’ve seen bus drivers texting, and even a fuel tanker driver eating food from a Tupperware container with a fork. I’m not going to make out I’m perfect though, I was once caught doing 34mph in a 30 limit and was ordered to go on a speed awareness course. I was in the wrong and accepted my punishment. Which is more than can be said for the lady on my course who was adamant it was ok to be doing more than 55mph in a 30 limit because she was going to visit her father in hospital even though she admitted he wasn’t dying. My point here though is that people should know better yet still don’t act on it.
So when a news story breaks today of a fatal accident on the M1 in which an 87 year old male car driver and a 27 year old male van passenger were killed in a head on collision caused by the car driver driving the wrong way down the motorway, I wondered, Is it about time elderly drivers were made to take some form of annual test to see if they are still fit to drive. I’ve thought this for a while now. Currently it’s up to a driver to decide when they are unfit to drive and to surrender their licence. The police now have the power to suspend a licence too but this would usually be after an accident has occurred. Why lock the stable door after the horse has bolted? I would have thought that if you paid just a small amount of attention to your driving, then it’s impossible to drive the wrong way on a motorway or dual carriageway, even at night. If you are at a point where you get so confused you accidently do this, then you are an extremely dangerous driver and should not be behind the wheel.
I have nothing against the older generation at all and I know many are capable drivers. But let’s face it, on the stubbornness scale, the elderly can give the teenagers a run for their money. So it can be difficult to even suggest surrendering a driving licence to someone as we all know how difficult it would be do give up a large portion of your independence. But we all know health deteriorates as we get older and reactions slow. It’s only natural. You often hear older people say they can do certain things anymore, but they still think they are capable of driving a car which can kill if used incorrectly.
I’m not suggesting anything hugely severe or disproportionate for a test. I don’t want to be accused of discrimination either, even though all young drivers and Audi drivers are often tarred with the same brush. My suggestion would perhaps be from the age of 75, a session, which should be compulsory but free of charge, maybe every 2-3 years with an instructor or examiner as a passenger who just assesses awareness and reactions. Perhaps also some form of presentation similar to a speed awareness course highlighting the dangers or slow reactions and poor awareness to make people think properly about their ability to drive. I’ll be honest, I found the speed awareness course I went on quite informative and interesting. Also, Doctors and GP’s need to be more willing to report a patient to the authorities if they feel that person should not be driving. So surely if something like this was in place and just one life was saved as a result then it has to be a good thing right? Unfortunately it’s too late for the family and friends of the 27 year old who innocently passed away today.
In an age when driving tests are becoming increasingly difficult to pass, insurance premiums rocketing for young drivers and even possible restrictions put on them, maybe it’s time to look at the older driver too. I know you will never stop all accidents but everyone needs to be responsible behind the wheel. Whether that is putting down your mobile phone, not driving home from the pub after a couple of beers, or thinking ‘My eyesight is getting really bad, I ought to stop driving’. Some people just need a bit of reminding that they aren’t quite as capable of doing things they used to.
I know giving up your independence can be hard but what is more important, that independence or someone else’s life?
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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 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
The sport of drift racing has been gaining more and more attention over the last few years, helped no doubt by the hugely popular Fast and Furious franchise.
Drifting is the sport of drift racing involves purposefully losing traction in the rear wheels, causing the car to go into a long skid, which the drivers control by literally steering into. A car is said to be drifting when the rear slip angle is greater than the front slip angle.
The British Drift Championships is now in its sixth year and is now considered to be the highest level of competition held anywhere in Europe. With some of the world’s leading car manufacturers putting vehicles into the competition and with support from the likes of Cosworth, Samco and Lucas Oils, as well as main event sponsor Maxxis Tyres, the BDC has become an essential fixture on the British Motor sporting calendar.
And watching these guys racing these cars at death defying speeds, smoke billowing out from their rear tyres, it’s not hard to see where the appeal comes from. This is motor racing as edge-of-your-seat adrenaline sport, with drivers regularly maintaining what seems to be nothing more than a few inches between the car in front of them as they take bends without even seeming to slow down.
The 22nd and 23rd of September saw the final round of the British Drift Championship take place in Knockhill Circuit in Dunfermline, with the Car Loan 4U team taking the team / constructors title in its first drifting season.
It’s not turning out to be a bad season for team Car Loan 4U driver, Matt Samuel either, who came first overall in the Semi Professional category, taking the title with a comfortable 30 point margin. Matt, who also won the Japfest DriftKings championship earlier in the year, will now move up to the Pro Class for 2014. The battle for second and third place in the semi pro was tighter though, with Matt Hitchcock taking second place with 60 points, with Luke Woodham taking third with 59 points.
In the pro class, Jay Green took the title with an 81 points, a seven point lead from second place Jay White on 74 points and third place Paul Cheshire on 72 points.
The super pro class was a battle until the end with individual victories across the first four rounds going to different drivers. With no clear leader it was all to play for at the Knockhill circuit and in the end the silverware ended up in the hands of Team MnM’s Mike Marshall, who had remained consistent throughout the championship.
For a full breakdown of the leader boards visit the BDC website.
Joe Cox writes for Car Loan 4U and is a regular blogger on cars, car finance, as well as all things fast and furious on four wheels.
Last Sunday saw the conclusion of a fantastic British GT championship which, again went down to the wire in a trilling battle at Donington Park. With six teams in contention for the Championship title and a further 4 more in the GT4 class, the action didn’t disappoint with the top 3 at the end of the season separated by just three and a half points.
You can read all about the thrilling finale on the Checkered Flag website, here. But as the curtain draws on a fantastic season full of highs and lows, close battles and stunning performances thoughts are starting to turn towards next year’s season with great anticipation.
However, it is with great pleasure that I can announce that this year I am once again producing another limited edition A3 sized wall calendar. But this year’s edition will feature images from this season’s British GT championship. All the top teams such as Beechdean Aston Martin, AF Corse, United Autosports, Ecurie Ecosse & Motorbase are represented in this high quality calendar as well as drivers such as Nick Tandy, Ollie Bryant, Jonny Adam, Duncan Tappy, Aaron Scott, Joe Osborne and the late great Allan Simonsen. Every round of the championship is featured and the calendar is printed in such a way that you can cut out and keep the images for future use.
Orders of the 2014 British GT calendar are now being taken and not only is this year’s calendar cheaper than last years, the price again includes free postage and packaging and Orders made in the next few weeks will also receive a free A4 sized British GT Print.
So what are you waiting for? This would make the ideal Christmas gift or Birthday present for motorsport fans and petrol heads alike who, during the whole of next year can reflect on what a superb season the 2013 British GT Championship was.
You can order your copy of the 2014 British GT Wall Calendar here and whilst on the Chris Gurton Photography Website, why not also check out my motorsport galleries from this season where prints can also be purchased that would also make an ideal gift.
This weekend saw the British GT championship head to Europe for rounds Eight and Nine at Zandvoort in Holland for the ‘Trophy of the Dunes’. So, naturally, I was there too and a great weekend was had.
Having got the overnight ferry from Harwich to the Hook of Holland, myself and my travel companions, Photographer Tom and Adam along with Journalist James, arrived at the circuit after a 50 mile drive on Friday morning. None of us had visited Zandvoort before but the formalities of signing in, getting our passes and photo bibs was no problem and we had found our way to the media centre without any issue. There was a lot of racing on the timetable but we were only there to cover the British GT, however we decided to use an early Dutch Supercar Challenge session to give us a feel of what the circuit was like.
Thankfully any red zones, the area’s that photographers are not allowed in for safety reasons, were clearly marked and the circuit was fairly easy to navigate round. The trouble with visiting a new circuit is that you can never be too sure where the good angles are and a lot of time is spent hunting them out and trying different spots to see what works and what doesn’t. This was definitely the case this weekend and the two 55 minute practice sessions were spent in various sections of the track trying to cover as many area’s as possible.
The Circuit is right beside the sea with the beach just a few hundred meters behind the main grandstand and the track weaving between sand dunes. Static caravans and a bizarre Centre-Parcs which seemed to be a tower block of apartments provided some of the backdrop that the dunes didn’t. The undulations helped provide some good angles and perspectives on the 2.676 mile circuit and the sand below our feet was certainly a change from the norm at a race track. The weather was humid and dry for the first session but the locals had said it can be changeable. This was proved right as the skies darkened and the rain fell before the second practice session at the end of the day. As the cars took to the track the rain did ease but standing water in some area’s did prove some challenge for the drivers.
As the day drew to an end, it was time to head to the apartment we had booked. It was only a mile or so from the track and in the town. This was handy as although we spent a long time walking around trying to find a supermarket, we didn’t have too far to go. It was good to see there were a couple of British TV channel’s on the TV including the BBC. The evening was spent drinking beer and eating burger and chips while looking through the days photos and deciding where to go for the other sessions during the weekend.
Saturday arrived and the Qualifying session was first up. I headed to the far side of the circuit to shoot this and the view from the top of the hill was pretty good. The weather, albeit humid, was cloudy and during the qualifying session there was a light shower which made for some interesting qualifying times for the races. It was going to make for some interesting racing.
Race one was to take place at the end of the day so there was quite a wait till then but the time was filled with photo editing and watching some of the other racing taking place throughout the day. I had decided to head out to the far side of the track again but work my way back the opposite way to which I did earlier during qualifying. The racing was good but I couldn’t help feel like I struggled somewhat with my camera. I just wasn’t feeling happy with some of the angles I was getting so spent a lot of time moving around. This also led to myself almost bumping into a startled deer amongst an area of long grass and bushes. Luckily it didn’t run onto the track. The race seemed over a lot quicker than the one hour and I was left a little disappointed with the photos I had taken.
Sunday was a new day however and after an evening of watching the delightful Rachel Riley on Strictly Come Dancing I was hoping I could make amends and get some good images. The overnight and morning rain had stopped just in time for the 10 minute warm up session which I spent in the pit lane.
There were a couple of sections of the circuit I still hadn’t explored which I had planned to visit during the second race. The rain had gone and the sun was out ready for the second GT race and I had decided to capture the start on the outside of the first corner. I was a long walk to get there but thankfully a guy in a golf cart took me most of the way. I knew I would have to walk a long way back to get to the rest of the race from the area’s I the wanted to be, but I was hoping the start shot that would take in the whole of the long pit straight would be worth it.
I had spent the first few minutes of the race at the first corner before the long brisk walk back to the area’s I wanted to get to. I had sacrificed about 15 minutes of shooting to get the start shot so needed to make the remaining time count. Again, there was good close racing on show and I was feeling happier behind the camera and quite pleased with some of the results. I had just got to the last place I wanted to be before the end of the race and was feeling more content. The circuit was great and I think if I was to visit again I would hopefully get a bit more out of myself knowing now where some of the good angles are.
We left the circuit late afternoon to head back to the port to get the overnight ferry home. It was the end of a good weekend that I had enjoyed and spent in good company. Holland is a really nice country and everyone was very friendly, plus they do good chips too so I hope to visit again soon. Maybe the British GT championship will be back next year.
To read full race reports from the weekend, visit the Checkered Flag website here.