LE JOG 2008

Spare a thought for our friends taking part in this years LE JOG (The Lands End to John O Groats reliability trial, to non rallyists).   We met them last eve on their first rest halt since starting at 0800 that morning at Lands End and while they had 2 hours to feverishly plot the nights routes, they would be denied any sleep until arriving in Runcorn at about 4.00 am.    And it went down to – 10deg c last night.

This 1925 Derby Bentley – is absolutely splendid.   The crew are insane.

Their route took them from Magor services in South Wales through the hills and valleys with a range of rally trials from hillclimbs, navigation sections and regularities (at constant average speeds).

Rallying is hard work but immense fun, although I still cannot understand who would want to do this in an open car.   Especially an open car that is over 80 years old….

Good luck to them all – the rally finishes on Tuesday morning at John O Groats and between now and then the crews will only have one proper nights sleep.     Brrrr…time to put another log on the fire methinks.

Driving Tips

From Shipmate, too good not to share these useful driving tips…

Save the expense of buying a Caterham by sitting in the bath wearing a helmet while a friend fires pieces of mud and rubber at your head and you pretend to get all indignant when a normal car overtakes you.

TVR drivers, save the expense of a trackday by simply getting up early, finding a local road, accelerating as hard as possible down the straights, crawl round the corners and go home at 11am due to mechanical failure.

Rich people, don’t bother learning to drive. Just buy a GT3 RS, a brightly coloured race suit and always drive in Novice sessions. No one will pass you so your ego will be intact.

Internet forum posters, save the expense of going to the Nuerburgring for the weekend by staying at home with your mum and then on Tuesday posting that you managed an 8:15 bridge-to-gantry time in your Clio, but there is more to come if the traffic and weather conditions allow.

Lotus Elise drivers, after crashing maintain the internet illusion that you are a great driver by claiming that there was diesel on the road, after all no one else knows there wasn’t and you don’t have to mention the biker that came through the same corner with his knee down at stupid speeds whilst you were waiting for the recovery truck.

Experience all the joys of Sat Nav without the expense. Simply buy a map and get your passenger to say ‘go left’ slightly after your junction and then announce ‘Please do a U-Turn’ in a really smug voice even though they know you are on a motorway.

Drivers with 9 points, when stopped for speeding simply tell the officer you just glorified terr*rism in a heated pub debate, that way he will have to arrest you under the Prevention Of Terrorism Act and you will avoid getting banned from driving.

Internet forum posters, pretend you are a great driver by heel and toeing to the Spar and back for milk.

Save the expense of Sat Nav by simply buying a map and giving it to your passenger, then ask them to continually give you directions to Droitwich even though you keep shouting ‘I am in flipping France and I am looking for the Eiffel Tower, you piece of sht’

Enjoy the Porsche Boxster ownership experience for less money by simply buying one with a blown engine and just parking it on your drive. You can still impress your neighbours with your Porsche while you are Zymolling it but you’ll have saved a fortune on running costs and no-one buys a Boxster to actually drive it anyway. You will also have the key to pose with in pubs.

Trackday heroes, when posting up trackday videos always leave out the laps where you get overtaken. Everyone will then think you are really good.

If you must wear a race suit on a touristenfahren at the ‘Ring, have your name embroidered on to it. It will save all those embarrassing “Who’s the wonker in the race suit?” remarks as everyone will already know who the wonker is.

Anyone have any other winners?

The Rally of the Tests 2008

Well it’s not all doom and gloom – one needs a distraction after all – and this years Rally of the Tests was a cracker.

Starting in Bournemouth and winding our way down to Exeter, Taunton, up to Malvern and then further up to Stoke on Trent before heading west to North Wales for the finish in Llandudno, it was 4 days of frenetic fun.

Big Mike and I have done the event twice before together and he’s done it several more times.    Each time the real challenge is to finish without breaking down….it’s not called a Reliability Trial for nothing.

In 2005 in my BGT we managed to brake hard enough to shift the engine forward so the fan could try and corkscrew it’s way through the radiatior.   This was in the Derbyshire Dales and we had to be towed back to the control in Buxton, where we (well, the rally mechanics to be more accurate) stripped the radiator out, fixed it and off we went again.    We’d lost a lot of time, so our result was not tip top.   But we finished.

In 2007 in Mike’s BGT on a particularly rough stage in a Scottish forest we managed to crush the fuel line on a rock and have a puncture at the same time.   We got to watch all the other rally cars pass from a nice wet spot at the side of the road.   Car fixed again by rally mechanic Andy with a jury repair that probably is best explained over beer….   We lost a bit of time there too….and I still needed to get two new tyres as we had another puncture on the way home…   But we finished.

This year, with the fuel lines now running safely out of rocks way inside the car we were going very well, until I started to have gear selection problems.   Eventually this worsened to the point we had to  stop and have rally mechanic Peter rebuild the clutch master cylinder….the problem?   The clutch return spring had disintegrated….Grrr..   We lost some time, but made it to the special stage at the army camp that night which was a cracker, the headlights giving out just as we completed the last section..

But we finished and we’ll be back for ’09.

Divided Opinion

The Jag seems to have caused a difference of opinion.   Mr FM, whose automotive transport choice starts and ends with LandRovers (and I can’t say I blame him – I love my Discovery too) was not uncomplimentary about the car per se… but did feel it an old man’s car.    Hmmmph.

He took it upon himself to run an Blog Poll on my new motor…the results of which can be found here.

I will remain unrepentant and enjoy the smooth ride, understated elegance and monster grunt.   For the record the car has no pipe holder, did start today and has does not have the Conservative Club, or Golf Club address programmed into it’s Sat Nav.

I just pray it will be reliable, or I’ll be eating humble pie for the next 12 months.

I may keep you posted.

A sale of two cars

Once the seed of automotive change is sowed in the fertile ground of my imagination, there is just no holding back.

Fear not though, dear reader, lest you be concerned I have reduced the fleet size by two – I have simply traded one for a another.   But before I spill the beans on the latest acquisition, I do need to set the scene.

A couple of weeks ago I went to test drive a Mazda RX-8.   Consistent with my new policy of wanting to own interesting / iconic / unique etc. cars, I thought this would be fun and also a more comfortable way of effecting my weekly commute.

Fabulous car.   Superb handling, quick, rev-tastic rotary engine spinning up to 9,250 rpm, well made, very comfortable and surprisingly spacious.   Wacky rear suicide doors and a fully loaded spec meant it was very good value.   Big Mike accompanied me on the test drive and we popped in to see Panther on our way – wanting to play on the lanes of the Lambourn Downs – purely in the interests of seeing what it could do you understand.

We were impressed.   Clearly so was Mrs Panther as we received a text not 5 hours later confirming she had been down to the same Mazda garage and bought one!   Panther himself suggested that next time I take a car for a test drive I don’t include their house on the route.   (Mental note to self:  test drive Porshe next time 😉

Anyway, what of my interest in the RX-8?   Well…. still keen, but…. and it’s quite a big but.   My other choice was a Jaguar XK-8.   Nice coupe, good looking, comfy, quite quick, although a bit older.   And I needed to drive one to be sure before I put my money on the Mazda.

I first drove a standard XK.   Oh dear.   What let down.   Slow, stodgy, dull witted handling.   A real disappointment and clearly not for me.    The salesman said that I wanted something a with a bit more ‘go’ and that I should look at an XKR… but the only one he had in stock had a black interior – which is a no go for me too.

But they did have an XJR.   Pacific Blue, Champagne leather and with a fully stamped up main dealer service history.   And it is quick.  370 BHP.   390 lbft of torque.   5.3 seconds 0-60mph.  Faster than my 911…..

And it is mine.   Deal done, pick it up later this week.

Sorry to see the MINI go, but overall whilst I enjoyed it, it was too bouncy for my commute, where I would prefer something sporting, but more comfortable.   Gratuituous pic below:

Stick or Carrot? Or Both?

This week has seen the announcment of plans to interfere with that which needs no interference.   Both are motoring related and extend beyond the concrete landscape of the urban wasteland, into the real world.

The first, by some bunny hugging save the planet eco weenies is a proposal to impose punitive taxes on the bigger polluting 4×4’s in order to discourage their use.   I know the tax was upped by his Wasteship earlier this year, but even Dr. Millipede confirmed on Radio 4 yesterday that it was not really going to make a difference.   We all knew that, but then, as this is all to do with tax raising rather than behaviour altering, it came as no surprise.

This latest wheeze suggests annual licence fees be increased to… wait for it… £1,800 per vehicle.   That is a 650% increase.   So, in reality, those who need a 4×4 for their work with either pay up – or there will be an expensive to operate and police exemption scheme, wasting even more money – and those who don’t need a 4×4 will pay because they can afford it.

Queue a complete failure to address global warming, but a nice little earner for No.11

911 no more….

Sad to report that the 911 has been sold.   Sob.  A sensible decision given our immininent move and wish to do a bit of cost control.   Made a little easier after I wrote the cheque for the gearbox repair and service.   I focussed on that as I signed the contract to sell.

Which included a commitment to buy.  Pictured below resplendant in Electric Blue paint, is a MINI Cooper S.   Not as quick as the Porsche, but still lots of fun.   The daft extra lights and go faster stripes are being removed and I should have the car on Thursday.

Will likely be unable to resist sharing with you how good it is to drive….

Camera Shy

A survey carried out for Swiftcover.com, an online insurance compancy has concluded that speed cameras are the least effective way of improving road safety.   The cameras, which last year reaped revenue of more than £114m in speeding fines, were ranked at the bottom of a list of initiatives aimed at reducing accidents.

More than half of drivers questioned (54%) thought cameras encouraged people to drive more erratically and almost three quarters (71%) thought they made motorists less aware of hazards on the road, therefore increasing the risk of accidents.

Swiftcover questioned 2,000 motorists, asking them to rate various road safety initiatives. The most popular was speed-activated flashing warning signs telling drivers they have exceeded the limit, followed by variable speed limits, speed bumps and “keep your distance” chevrons. Cameras were 10th in the list.

But top for revenue.    Coincidence?    Nope.   Just proof that road safety is not the real priority.

Rain / Fuel / Football

After an early start on Sunday, getting cars ready for a little drive out to a pub for lunch, the weather let us down by raining hard on the way there and forcing us to do an emergency pull over and roof up job.  Always fun.

After a splendid lunch marred only by the staff’s initital refusal to offer us dessert as they were closing the kitchen in 5 minutes (… we suspect due to the footie) we went on a little drive down to Pewsey Vale and back up towards Marlborough.

Now my old Midget has a dodgy fuel pick up (well that’s what I think it is anyway) and it always runs out when the needle get to 1/4 full.   Given this knowledge you would expect I would have the wit to carry a spare fuel can, perhaps even with some petrol in it.

So anyway, the inevitable happened and we left the car at the side of the road and Big Mike and I roared of in the Aston in search the needful.   Red face for me then.

It was still raining when we got home so consequently an hours lethargy in front of the telly was in order.   Somehow we managed to watch the World Cup.   England vs. Ecuador.  Now I will freely admint to not being an expert in matters of the round ball game, but as a slothful spectator, in the mood to be entertained, I was wholly underwhelmed.   What a load of dross.

And looking at the picture of Becks on the front page of most of the newspapers this morning, you’d have thought we’d won the Jules Rimet outright.

Even in the eyes of this armchair incompetent, we need to try harder, after all; England expects.

Mike’s Motor

So, at last all can be revealed.   Big Mike has traded out of his Bentley and up to a Roller.   Oops, sorry, that should be ‘Royce’.

We said the Bentley had altogether more sporting pretensions and did rather look the part… while the Royce is – how shall I put it? – somewhat less subtle?

His riposte was in two parts – at first reminding us that deep down he is still from across the Atlantic and therefore does have an errant predeliction for such styles … and second that this was no ordinary Royce.   No sir.  It’s one of only 50 RHD turbocharged Royces ever made.   A Flying Spur.  And it has its’ own number to boot.

All other doubts fled my mind Wednesday night, when for a brief moment he put his foot down.   There is not the instant flight and flat scream of my 911, merely the briefest hestitation before 2 tonnes + of a nearly 20 ft long car lunges at the horizon very quickly indeed.   Noise remains incredibly muted, with just a whiff of induction rush to remind you that under the bonnet the oily bits are getting real busy.

I can see why he was smitten – it’s a beautiful car.   Add to that a rich ebony black paintwork (I’m sure it had a fancy name, but basically, black is black right?) and a cream hide interior that cost about 20 cows their coats.  Their sacrifice was worth it.  It’s long wheelbase and even the back seats recline….

Big Mike’s new motor outside Fabrizio’s in Clerkenwell.   The owner of the scooter we nearly crushed while parking, offered us £8,000 for the car.  Cash.  Right.