Monday, 12 December 2011

Bologna Motor Show – December 2011


Think of Bologna and you’ll most likely think of a certain pasta dish regularly seen on dinner tables across the country.  But, aside from being famous for its wide ranging food and drink supplies, this city also plays host to pretty much every supercar manufacturer worthy of note.  Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati and Pagani can all call the city if not home, at least a significant neighbour.  Whilst run of the mill car production from the likes of Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Lancia (and now Chrysler) is spread throughout Italy, Bologna is a city that lives and breathes the automotive exotic.

It’s apparent when you arrive at the airport.  Amongst the usual sight of bag shops, tourist tat stalls and purveyors of overpriced liquor, you will find a Ferrari store, opposite a Ducati store.  The beautiful city centre once featured the original Maserati factory, and the statue of Neptune in Piazza Maggiore, reminds us of this with his trident being held aloft – that same trident now featuring so proudly on the bootlid of every new Maserati car to come out of the Modena factory, up the road.

So it’s not surprising to learn that Italy’s national motor show is held every year in the Bologna Fiere district, to the north of the old city.  Whilst it’s not on the scale of the likes of Frankfurt, Geneva or Paris, the exhibition centre spans a very large area and, for this year, features an open air arena in the centre, with banks of stands filled with spectators viewing rallycross demonstrations.

In truth, this is not the reason for my attendance.  Previous trips to Bologna in search of some kind of romantic supercar ideal, have borne fruit – tours of the Lamborghini factory and museum, a one to one tour of the Pagani workshops with Mrs Pagani herself, along with a chance encounter with a certain Valentino Balboni out on a test drive in a Murcielago workhorse – these things have all convinced me that this region is the promised land when it comes to automotive excellence.

I’m here for the Italian supercars that still occupy a place in my heart, if no longer poster space on my bedroom wall.  I’m also armed with VIP passes, gained through a contact in London, for the Lamborghini, Ferrari and Maserati stands.  As far as I am concerned, the rest of the assembled motoring offerings are nothing more than window dressing.

It’s the 150th anniversary of Italy’s formal unification into something like the country we recognise today.  To celebrate, Maserati have starting producing a run of only 12 GranTurismo S ‘Limited Edition’ models.  The first of these is rotating slowly on the centre of the stand.  Finished in a beautiful shade of blue, with black wheels, these cars will only be sold in Italy.  It’s a beautiful car, although modifications barely go skin deep as the engine and transmission are unchanged.  It’s hard to get good photos in the low lighting conditions, but much harder to get a look inside.  With this beautiful car, comes a beautiful model.

Maserati GranTurismo S 'Limited Edition'
I’ve been to many motor shows, and the presence of a leggy model on press days is normal, but I’m here well into the show’s run.  This car, and every other car on the stand has a woman draped over it, and another sat inside it.  A request to move seems out of the question, as it seems every red blooded Italian male is expressing just as much interest in the girls as the cars.  I’m fortunate enough to be allowed onto the stand, whilst paying punters queue four of five deep to just photograph the cars, so I suppose it’s a privilege to be this close.  But, if I’m considered worthy enough to come through the barrier, surely it wouldn’t be too much to expect to get in, close the door and make car noises without an Italian girl staring at me?

No matter, I move on to snaffle some free cakes before taking a look at the Quattroporte on the stand.  This one, finished in Mafia staff car black, is hiding at the back of the display.  For most of the time, it doesn’t have a girl draped over it.  This is because, it’s likely to be the last show for this car, which is due to be replaced with two separate models next year.  It’s always been a favourite of mine, and to this day I consider it pretty much the best looking car on sale today.  It’s also been a great success for Maserati, and has had much to do with the company’s incredible ride from being an also ran on the cusp of death, to a manufacturer of significant renown.  Just take a trip around central London these days, and you’ll see Quattroportes everywhere.

Maserati Quattroporte


The GranTurismo is based on the Quattroporte – take a close look at one and you will see just how large they are.  Aside from the limited edition car still spinning in front of the starry-eyed locals, there’s also an example of a lightened racing version, the MC Stradale alongside more down to earth variants of the coupe and convertible.  To me, this car doesn’t work as a lightened, track day special – it seems to contradict the nature of this car, which is defined by it’s own moniker – and my attention wanders back to the delicious snacks on offer at the bar.

I go off in search of Ferrari.  I’m pleased to find a selection of Ferrari racing biased cars.  The latest Formula One car is proudly displayed, alongside trackday versions of the Enzo and 599.  These are nicely set out, in a large number of small ‘pens’ which enable circulation of the general populace, allowing them to pay homage to the local speciality.  It’s nice to see a breaking down of the normal barriers between ‘us’ and ‘them’ at this show, as Ferrari stands generally occupy a rarified space where it is usual to look, but forbidden, except for the chosen few, to touch.



My democratic feelings soon fade away when I discover that Ferrari has no formal display of road cars at this show.  I’ve travelled a long way for this spectacle and I’m quite shocked to find this out.  I’m not sure if I’m more disappointed about missing the chance to see the 458 Spyder, or another opportunity for snacks.  The quality of the latter is normally second to none.  I find a solitary 458 Coupe on show in a hall dedicated to posh cars with unofficial origins, which seems to have been installed as a sort of apology to those, like me, expecting the big supercar maufacturers, and the more exotic specialists, to have a presence here today.

It’s here that I realise that not only are Ferrari road cars missing, but so too are Lamborghini, and Pagani.  There’s a current model Aventador getting a lot of attention in one corner, opposite a middle aged Zonda C12S, but the sorry collection of cars presented here is no real consolation.  The situation is made worse by the presence of a toxic waste yellow coloured Bentley Continental Flying Spur in the same small hall.  I figure it means Bentley’s stand, normally well worth a look even for one so keen on Italian supercars, is not here either.  I am correct in my assumption.  Rolls Royce are missing too.

I take my pass to the information desk in the centre of the show to make sure I’ve not missed something obvious.  A brief conversation comprising shouty English and hand gestures, along with some name dropping brings forth a moment of joy – I’m told I will find Lamborghini upstairs, at the top of an escalator up which only those with a pass are allowed.  I’m presented with the pass and I ascend to find a display of Lamborghini branded furniture and carpets.  There are some free snacks here and, having duly abused my pass, I go back down to see if it’s possible to recover the day.



Things don’t improve rapidly.  It’s clear that not all of the major manufacturers consider this show worth their effort.  A conversation with a member of staff on the Audi stand leads me to understand that the last couple of years have seen fewer brands being on show.  Ferrari and Lamborghini, I am told, have not attended since 2009.  As I wander, I find that Toyota, the world’s largest and most profitable car company, do not have a display.  They’re not the only ones.

At the Frankfurt motor show this year, Mercedes Benz built a multi storey temple to the three pointed star.  It was more showpiece than showcase and the experience of a fifteen minute shuffle, shoulder to shoulder with sweaty Northern Europeans, left a lot to be desired.  I didn’t actually look at any cars, as I just wanted to get out into the fresh air.  At Bologna however, the stand was much more conventional.  On show were a couple of SLS’s, and the A-Class concept car that has been doing the rounds recently.  We were too early for the new SL, but in the more traditional setting of this show, it was nice to have a chance to try out the new SLK and ML Class.  The previous models had their gestation in the profit obsessed, troubled times following the ill-fated DaimlerChrysler merger experience, and these new models seem to be imbued with a feeling of quality that was never quite there  with the previous models.




Current Benz cars are doing much to invoke the glory days of the likes of the W124 E-Class, when drivers had the impression that their cars were hewn from solid rock and would last as long.  It’s clear in the design both externally and internally, that curves are out and bold, straight lines are back in, harking back to those days.  It makes me smile to see a G-Class being displayed on this stand.  If there is any model in the marque’s history which better sums up the principle of longevity better than this mother of all SUV’s, then I’m yet to see it.


This car is kept locked shut, but a flash of my special pass gets me in, or rather up.   I have to climb up on the running board to get in behind the wheel, before closing the driver’s door to revel in the experience.  Mercedes have done a lot to bring this car up to modern standards.  This model is a G500, a 5 litre V8 petrol with automatic transmission, satellite navigation, beautiful nappa leather and the latest multi function steering wheel.  But it’s clear the moment I close the door, that this car has history.  When the door is pulled shut, it emits a sound akin to the closing of an antique safe.  There’s none of the sound design of modern equivalents here – the door shut sounds good, because for all I know, these doors are actually fit to be used on a safe.

It should smell of musty leather and petrol in here, but it doesn’t.  It feels like the comfy pair of shoes you never want to throw away, but without the holes that let in water – it’s wonderfully familiar and gives me the feeling that this is a car that would last forever and survive anything that was thrown at it.  More than any other car today, I want one.  But then I realise that it’s on sale for Maserati money, and I head over to Land Rover to compare notes with the Defender, which must surely be the only other contender for the G-Class crown.  It too is locked, but nobody lets me in.  I peer through the window and only get to consider how these two compare for a few moments before moving on.

There’s not that much in the way of new product launches, or vehicles which haven’t already grabbed headlines.  I look with interest at some of the Chinese and Indian manufacturers on display, the former with brands I neither recognise nor care about.  No doubt this will change, but for now, I’ll pass on anything more than a cursory inspection of the RAV4/Vitara clones on show today.  VW are pushing their new up! at this event.  There are posters all over town for this new city car, and it’s the first chance I get to take a decent look at it.  I’ll assume they won’t be selling the ‘black up!’ version in the UK, nor the ‘white up!’ for fairly obvious reasons, but aside from these basic errors in nomenclature, the car passes muster.  It’s light years ahead of the sickly Fox and tinny Lupo models it succeeds, and had a great deal of the spirit that small cars should have apparent, just from sitting in the cabin.  It shouts ‘drive me hard’ at whilst I grip the lovely three spoke steering wheel.  I make a mental note to have a go in one when they go on sale in the UK, to compare to my own Fiat 500.



For old time’s sake, and to get my money’s worth  before the show ends, I head over to the Fiat/Lancia/Alfa Romeo area to go and prod the switches on the new Panda.  For Italians, this is a car which can not be ignored.  More often than not, this car is the choice of the cash strapped Italian, to be used as a dodgem around city streets and as a grand tourer, come the August holidays.  This new model doesn’t differ much visually from the model it replaces.  Some refinements in the design, particularly internally, bring it up to 2011 standards but the major change is under the bonnet.  It’s the second Fiat car to get the innovative TwinAir parallel twin motor, and the first without a turbocharger attached to it.



This engine is likely to feature heavily in the Fiat group product lineup over the next few years , and that’s no bad thing.  The environmental credentials of the parallel twin petrol engine are second to none, and it also makes the cars attached to it, fun to drive.  It’s full of character, and makes a great sound.  There’s a display area outside, where I watch various Fiat group cars so equipped get punted around.  I close my eyes and listen to the sound of the 875cc engine, and can almost imagine being in any Italian city in the 1960’s.

It’s funny how my journey through the show has gone from one extreme to another.  I note that I have gone from eating posh cakes and dodging catwalk models on the Maserati stand, to eating a KitKat, leaning against a barrier, watching Fiat Pandas drive around a small section of tarmac.  But this fairly sums up how things are right now.  Money is tight.  Italy is a country in financial straights, like much of the rest of Europe.  This sort of thing is more relevant than any supercar at the present time.

I decide not to go back in to the show as the sun sets.  I’ve seen what I need to, and I can’t stand another moment of the God awful hard house music being incessantly pumped out of every stand by a legion of Eurotrash DJ’s.  I’ve tired of the models draped over every car, from Maserati to Megane and the free cakes have run out.  I know that I should have researched before coming out here, but had I done that, I would have missed out on an experience that comparatively few of my countrymen and women get to see.

Any remaining doubts about the need for the trip dispel after a short taxi ride into the centre of Bologna.  Piazza Maggiore, complete with that statue of Neptune holding his trident, has been transformed into a warm coloured, winter wonderland.  I wander around the magnificent covered arcades and find a shop devoted to selling Fiat branded chocolates.  I ask you, where else in the world would such a thing be possible? 


Alex Wakefield

Monday, 17 October 2011

Dan Wheldon. RIP

Tragic news this morning of the death of Dan Wheldon in a horrendous 15 car crash at the Las Vegas 300 Indy Car race.

The young Brit had chosen to pursue a career in the USA in Indy Cars and had won the prestigious Indy 500 twice, including this year.

He came to Goodwood Festival of Speed this year and charmed everyone who met him, a very likeable young man and a supremely talented racer, all in motor sport will miss him.

Our thoughts are with his family at this sorrowful time.

Graham Benge

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

National MicroCar Rally 2011 Gallery

Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer

Thanks to Phil Bradfield for the photos... You obviously had a really good day!

For more details of the rally, visit http://www.national-microcar-rally.co.uk/

Goodwood Revival 2011 Gallery

Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer

Thanks to First Take Media's Staff Photographer Mike Jones for his efforts.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Spitfires in the skies of Goodwood....

Much awaited Spitfire display sends shivers down the spines of our team.... :-)


More from the Revival...








Friday, 16 September 2011

End of Friday at the Goodwood Revival


A few snaps from the Revival...



Good Morning From Goodwood!

Well, the weather gods are certainly smiling on us here at Goodwood this morning... Bright sunny weather currently gracing the circuit...

Our day has already begun with our first live radio pieces broadcast and several coffees drunk!

For those here early enough, there has already been a motocross parade and MG parade, and preparations are currently being made for the Barry Sheene Memorial Trophy's "free practice"... 25 minutes of noise!!

Friday, 9 September 2011

Coverage of Goodwood Revival 2011

UKMotorTalk's coverage of the Goodwood Revival 2011 can be found right here over the long weekend of 16th - 18th September 2011.

Join us for some of the sights and sounds of this truly spectacular event... Over 100,000 people will attend over the three days, many dressing in the style of the era the event is based... The 1940s, 50s and 60s...

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UKMotorTalk and the team from First Take Media will be on site from the early hours of Friday morning, until the sun goes down on Sunday evening.... providing radio coverage and bringing you closer to all the action...

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For further information about coverage for YOUR radio station or website: contact@firsttakemedia.co.uk

Thursday, 18 August 2011

The Next Generation Award

Are you a student in the UK...? Enjoying your nice long summer break..?

Perhaps your thoughts are turning to the end of your University education and the world of careers....? You know you've always fantasized about working in F1...!

Well perhaps now you can and with no less than the very best, McLaren F1.

But hurry there's only 10 more days!!!

McLaren are encouraging the next generation of F1 and automotive engineers by offering as a competition prize a period of work experience at their HQ.

McLaren Automotive is encouraging students to enter this "money can’t buy" competition and get their hands on priceless work experience within the car industry, as well as a £7,500 cash prize. The Next Generation Award is run and managed by Autocar and Courland Automotive Practice and McLaren Automotive has offered the unique opportunity for the winner to spend an exciting month at McLaren working with designers and engineers.

Dick Glover, McLaren Automotive’s Research Director, and previously Technical Director for the groundbreaking new high performance sports car the MP4-12C, will be sitting on the judging panel and said: “I’m really looking forward to judging the awards and am interested in seeing how students with a desire to work in the car industry adapt the brief to best suit their area of expertise. McLaren is a technologically advanced company so I will be looking for applicants who really think about pushing the boundaries of the automotive business. Manufacturing is key to the economic structure in the UK, and I am proud that McLaren is supporting this award.

The Autocar-Courland Next Generation Award is a national competition to identify, support and develop top automotive talent of the future. Entrants from UK universities are invited to answer in 500 words a brief set by Autocar's Editor-in-chief, Steve Cropley, who commented: “We are delighted that McLaren is involved in the Autocar Courland Next Generation Award this year. Our lucky winner will have an amazing experience as part of the world of McLaren; it’s the stuff of dreams. For students, work experience is nowadays a vital step in the process of building a career. The McLaren opportunity will undoubtedly widen our winner's horizons."

Martin Bohling, Global Managing Partner, Courland Automotive Practice said: “We are encouraging all students from numerous courses to look to the automotive industry for their first step into the world of employment. The industry offers numerous and wide ranging opportunities for enthusiastic graduates – it’s innovative, inspiring and challenging. The industry is most definitely not just for the petrol head.

The Brief: Autocar-Courland Next Generation Award entries should be no more than 500 words long and written in English. They should also include images or illustrations, if relevant, to answer the following brief:

"Using your area of expertise, write a 500-word proposal suggesting some improvement (be it an invention, a legislative change, a change to corporate policy or the adoption of a new convention) which you believe would be a worthwhile benefit to the automotive business, on a small or large scale."

Applicants ideas will be assessed on the following criteria:

The concept presented must be an original idea. We are ideally looking for something that is new or that builds on existing ideas. The concept might demonstrate lateral thinking, creativity and "thinking outside the box", bringing new approaches to old problems.

The winner will be able to communicate their idea in a clear manner, both verbally and via their written application (use of diagrams is encouraged). We are looking for individuals who are able to simplify complex problems, who can be concise and who are able to inspire their audience. Accuracy and clarity are key.

Each of 12 candidates who make the 'longlist' will be given the opportunity to attend one of three assessment days before the shortlist is produced. This stage is considered as part of the assessment process and allows each candidate to present their idea in person to a panel of assessment day judges - providing valuable interview experience and feedback.

No entries will be accepted after midnight on the 28th August 2011.

For further information on the Autocar-Courland Next Generation Award 2011 please visit http://nextgen.autocar.co.uk

Good Luck.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Arm-wrestling with Bernie














The truth is we'll never know the truth.

In the same way as we'll never know the complete hacking story we'll only ever hear part of why (and how) the Beeb lost/pulled out of/gave up F1, either fully or partly to share with Marvellous Murdoch's media empire, BSkyB.

I suspect the BBC decided that a cost cutting spectacular was needed to deflect attention from other more sensitive cuts taking place, reasoning that they were spending a lot of money on a small and predominantly male sport, they tried to get out of the contract 2 years early and then the wrath of Bernie fell upon them, prompting a plague of threatened litigation for breach of contract, and just when it seemed to the Beeb that they had more excrement colliding with more fans than anyone could ever want, Bernie threw them a lifeline - a compromise, a face-saver, and, throwing principles and good sense away they jumped at it..

As ever the losers are the fans, many - or indeed most of us - do not have, nay do not want Sky and all of its offerings.

Perhaps we should ask for a licence fee refund for a lesser service!

I guess the compromise reduces costs by covering the European races only and thus gives Sky time to gear up for a full takeover and cut us all out of F1 coverage.

Following the old adage, would you buy a used car from this man?

Here's a tip: never try arm wrestling with Bernie - you'll always lose (and probably your arm too).


Graham Benge

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Notwork Rail.


If you caught the most recent episode of The Nation's Favourite Motoring Programme, you'll have seen Clarkson, Hammond & May attempt to re-write the rules of rail travel with their own..unique approach to public transport.

Richard & James' approach was to string together a collection of caravans (what else?) as a bijou set of carriages towed behind an ageing Audi S8 'loco' shod with rail wheels.

Jeremy on the other hand - and somewhat predictably - set off down the high-speed route by hitching a cutdown caravan body to a V12-engined Jaaaag XJS and treating Rail Express' Editor Murray Brown to a rail journey he's probably unlikely to forget in a hurry in the somewhat-optimistically named TGV12, the poor sod..

Anyway, we're based not a million miles away from the Top Gear track & occasionally we'll spot cars from the show being filmed around the locale or the production crew enjoying lunch in one of the awfully pleasant local boozers near Dunsfold, Surrey; and this morning, as we blearily trundled through the village of Compton on the way to the A3, we found ourselves behind a low-loader sporting a rather familiar red XJS convertible & a somewhat-modified & equally red caravan..





With a big spoiler on the back..

Whilst we'll never make the ranks of Hans Lehmann & his prototype-bagging cohorts we did manage to grab this snap as the latest addition to the TG range of glorious failures headed off to parts unknown, although judging from the direction it was heading it could be on its way to the Top Gear exhibition at Beaulieu, so keep your eyes peeled if you're planning a visit to the excellent National Motor Museum during the Summer holidays.

If you're in the UK (or can spoof IP addresses), you can still catch the latest edition of Top Gear on the BBC's iPlayer until the weekend, but be warned, it'll probably put you off rail travel for the foreseeable future..


Dave Wakefield

Monday, 18 July 2011

Photos of Goodwood Festival of Speed


A small selection of the photographs captured by Mike Jones and Gary Ledden at the Goodwood Festival of Speed has been added to our flickr photostream...

Quite a bit of naming to be done, but feel free to add your own comments!

Goodwood from the air added as a taster.. ;-)

Friday, 10 June 2011

FREE Le Mans Guide from Michelin


With Le Mans 24 hour race coming up this weekend, there are some of us who can go, and some of us who can't! However, a FREE guide to the spectacle from tyre manufacturer Michelin is available to ALL...

With interesting facts and figures, a handy track guide and historic highlights of the event, as well as some really great tips for both first timers and seasoned Le Mans visitors alike, I have just spent far too long flicking through its pages!!

To download the guide go to www.michelin.co.uk/lemansguide

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Senna.


Even before the birth of my son & heir we weren't really big cinema-goers in our household & since his arrival on the scene 3 & a bit years ago neither his mother or I have crossed the threshold of a multiplex once.

With the cinematic release of the much-feted 'Senna' this month though, the balance was very much ready to be redressed and yesterday evening saw four of the UKMT team pile into the cosy confines of the Odeon in Richmond to pay tribute to the much-lamented Brazilian.

It can be assumed that anyone with even a passing interest in current(ish) Formula 1 will be aware of Ayrton Senna Da Silva as, whether or not they're old enough to have watched him race at the time - either in person or on television - his domination of the sport and his subsequent legacy have left an indelible mark on motor racing's premier league & his untimely departure from the ranks arguably still casts a long shadow seventeen years on.

So, I think it's true to say that we all approached this movie with mixed emotions.

Undoubtedly, as confirmed F1 fans of long-standing we were looking forward to re-living one of the most exciting eras for the sport, an era which seemed less bound up in the glossy & hugely stage-managed global entertainment package produced and ruthlessly administered by one Bernard Ecclestone Esq than it does today..

However, whilst looking forward to re-acquainting ourselves with the F1 of old - the wide wheels & big wings, the long departed names and venues (and in Ron Dennis & Adrian Newey's cases, hair) - there existed a leavening thought, a dread feeling that we all knew that this story could only have one ultimate conclusion, the tragic and violent death of its protagonist.

No IMDB plot-spoiler warnings required here..

Knowing that the film was building towards its inevitable finale though perhaps made us focus more on the 'here and now' elements of the movie; letting us linger on the youthful Ayrton Senna as he helped his father assemble the engine of his all-conquering go-kart in footage from one of many painstakingly-sourced home movies, or making us smile at the way he treated an awe-struck Japanese fan as if she was the only girl in the world that mattered to him as he kissed her goodbye.

These peeks around the curtain were liberally dotted throughout the film, revealing the very human, caring, God-fearing person that Ayrton (pronounced predominantly "Eye-airton" by most of the interviewees incidentally) undoubtedly was & they sat uncomfortably - and quite deliberately - with footage of Senna's other, darker, ruthless, driven persona.

As we watched his relationship with erstwhile team mate, and latterly Ferrari rival, Alain Prost turn from mutual respect to outright hostility via two major crashes in Suzuka & all points inbetween we were left wondering whether he genuinely believed that his God-given talent bestowed upon him a God-given right to force his way to the tops of the timesheets, regardless of who might be in his way..

Judging from the remarkable footage obtained from a couple of drivers' safety briefings of the time you could be forgiven for thinking that Jean-Marie Balestre, the controversial 'Grandee' FIA head honcho at the time of Senna's career, was certainly more in favour of the view from the Prost camp that Ayrton was a danger to himself & others as he professed a belief that God was helping with the driving.

The fact that both Prost & Balestre shared a nationality and not just a thick and at times inpenetrable accent was not lost on the film makers as they (archly, maybe?) presented footage of the head of the FIA playfully carousing with the French driver in a pit garage - one thing Jean-Marie's successor could probably quite safely not be accused of..

The film told of how Senna's third title & his patriotic celebration of his country had afforded him a legendary, fanatical following in Brazil - a country which at the time took very little pride in itself & was beset (as indeed it still is today) with searing poverty & deprivation.

His countrymen were starting to take pride in themselves as Senna traditionally celebrated his wins with a Brazilian flag held aloft on his slowing down laps.

Behind the scenes, Senna was making sizeable charitable donations to needy causes in his country & was beginning to put in place more formal arrangements in order to help more of the people who adored him.

Then came Imola.

Of course, the whole weekend had been a disaster from the outset when Rubens Barrichello's Jordan speared off the circuit in the Friday practice session, leaving him unconscious and requiring evacuation to the medical centre to where Senna fled to check on the condition of his countryman & protege. Barrichello fortunately escaped with a broken nose & injured arm but would take no further part in the fateful weekend's activities.

Then, as if Formula 1 - and Senna in particular - wasn't shaken up enough by Rubens' lucky escape, Simtek's (remember them?) likeable rookie driver Roland Ratzenberger was killed when his front wing failed at high speed at Villeneuve and he smashed into bare concrete, fracturing his skull.

Professor Sid Watkins, the long time FIA medical expert and Neurosurgeon recalled how he had taken Senna to one side as they stood near to where Ratzenberger had perished and tried to convince his friend - who was obviously in great distress - to give up Formula 1 & to join the Prof in retirement, fishing - a pastime of which both were fond.

Senna though, despite it all, said he couldn't & the regret in Prof. Watkins' disembodied voice was evident for all to hear..

The crash, when it came, made use of most of the footage we've all seen countless times.

The long-distance shot looking back from Villeneuve to Tamburello, the on-board footage from Senna's Williams & Schumacher's pursuing Bennetton all grimly familiar as they depicted the violent end of the life of one of, if not the most naturally-talented Grand Prix drivers of the modern era.

British F1 viewers were actually spared some of the more unpleasant & intrusive helicopter footage of the aftermath in 1994 as, coincidentally, the BBC were using their new Outside Broadcast truck at San Marino for the first time, so were able to cut away to something somewhat more palatable. In the film however, the unfolding disaster as medics raced to reach the lifeless body in what remained of his car was played out in excrutiating detail as we watched the ultimately futile attempts to resuscitate Senna.

Sid Watkins - who performed an emergency trachaeotomy at the trackside to get Senna breathing - recalled how even though he's a confirmed agnostic, he sensed his friend's soul leave his body with a sigh..

In case anybody watching this film was left in any doubt whatsoever as to the reverence & adulation that Brazil felt for Senna, footage of the return of his body to his homeland & scenes of his funeral should have soon helped convince them of his almost regal status in the troubled nation.

Hysterical outpourings of grief as Ayrton's body was conveyed first by fire engine and then by the strength of his family & F1 drivers past & present to his final resting place only served to show that the world had suffered a devastating loss with the nation of Brazil feeling the passing of their favourite son most keenly of all.

You're reminded at the end of the film that whilst Senna may have died at such a tragically young age, his legacy is still very important - in particular through the work of the Ayrton Senna Institute which, administered by Senna's sister Viviane, continues to help the underprivileged in Brazil.

As a footnote to this caption, it's noted that Alain Prost is one of the Foundation's trustees..

I believe that the one overwhelming feeling that one comes away with after watching 'Senna' is a feeling of regret, a deep sadness that someone so talented & charismatic was taken long before his time.

Whilst, perhaps, he was starting to reach the latter years of his career, Senna was evidently still on top of his game - witness his pole position in his final race in what were very trying conditions for him personally.

Had Williams managed to get to grips with the deficiencies of the FW16 sooner, what sort of a battle might we have seen between the old stager & the young pretender to his throne?

Obviously we'll never know.

One positive we can draw from Senna's death though is the fact that safety in Grand Prix racing is now a world away from how it was in that torrid 1994 season. Drivers today stand a far greater chance of walking away from crashes which, back in the days of low cockpit sides & truncated nose cones, would almost certainly have killed them or at best crippled them for life.

Whilst Senna's accident was freakish - as one commentator put it: 'his luck just ran out' - we have thankfully been spared a repeat of a driver fatality for 17 years.

And for that, we must be grateful.


'Senna' is in cinemas nationwide now, rated 12A (UK)




David Wakefield

Friday, 3 June 2011

UKMT's Graham Benge talks to SMMT's Paul Everitt




During the annual SMMT test day at the Millbrook proving ground, we caught up with the SMMT Chief Executive, Paul Everitt, and talked about the current state of the car industry and safety features fitted to new cars.

This is the full unedited interview from which more "radio friendly" pieces were cut for our broadcast clients.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The end of the road - well, the Ireland 'Road' Trip..!

I think it is fair to say that holidays always go really quickly... though on this occasion it was someone else's!!

If you've missed any of their fantastic drive around Ireland, video, photos, and the full story is still online on the Discover Ireland website... http://bit.ly/jdcqQ9

I think it is fair to say that they had a "good" time..!!!

Throughout their trip we (and fellow twitterers) have been offering them tips about driving on holiday, and most are just as true wherever you are....
  • Always observe local speed limits, and note the kmph/mph changes!
  • Take the driving nice and easy. Enjoy the beautiful scenery.
  • SatNav really can be the holiday driver's best friend. Explore new places but don't get lost!
  • When you pick up hire car, put the location in SatNav so it is easy to return at end of holiday.!
  • Make the most of any road trip, get out of your car! Talk to people! The Irish particularly friendly...
  • "Watch out for the sheep!" Not a trivial matter in some places...
  • When in Ireland make sure to take time to stop & take in some of the most amazing views in the world.
  • Stop at some of the golf courses.......best in the world!


Sunday, 22 May 2011

Hidden in plain sight

Whilst filming for a future project at what is soon to be a peaceful backwater rather than the current bottleneck at Hindhead (watch this space) we chanced upon a mildly-disguised Land Rover Evoque coming the other way.



Its swirly -patterned camouflage paint job was in stark contrast to the shiny, almost production-spec red model we chanced upon a couple of weeks back a few miles up the road in Milford.


Best guess is that shakedown tests are continuing somewhere around here (Chobham's not too far away) as the official release date isn't too far off now.

Anyone else clocked any of Land Rover's new babies tootling around in the South East at all..?

Friday, 20 May 2011

Nick and Sam's Ireland Road Trip

Samantha and Nick Brown from Bath have put their holiday under the control of the British public who can vote on what they get up to on their Irish adventure via Twitter and Facebook.

Twitter them @GoToIrelandGB

www.facebook.com/DiscoverIrelandGB

It all started today, Friday 20th May 2011, and they are coming home next Friday, 27th May, so now is your chance to help them see the very best Ireland has to offer...

Follow their every move at DiscoverIreland.com/roadtrip

But it is not just about them having a good time... By joining in on twitter or facebook, you too could win your very own Irish road trip for two from Tourism Ireland... as well as other Irish classics such as Barry's Tea and Tayto crisps in daily prize draws...

AND on top of all that, if you offer some helpful motoring related advice (using the hashtag #ukmt_tips ) you could also walk away with a special hamper full of Irish goodies!

So, get your thinking caps on... Relive some of your own Irish holidays of the past... and make sure Sam and Nick have a holiday to remember!


For UKMT competition details, visit www.ukmotortalk.co.uk

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Hindhead Tunnel Walk - 14th May 2011

Never let it be said that we only ever cover fast cars and motor racing... Yesterday, we enjoyed a very civilised walk... yes, WALK... through the brand new, and not due to open until July 2011, Hindhead Tunnel which has been built to bypass the infamous A3 bottle-neck at the Devil's Punchbowl and Hindhead traffic lights...



You will also find some photos on our Flickr album...:

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Heikki Kovalainen, Team Lotus & Caterham at Duxford

Team Lotus Enterprise purchases Caterham Cars


Announced at Duxford, Team Lotus has purchased the sportscar company Caterham, presumably to replace the relationship that Tony Fernandes, the charismatic owner of the Team, had hoped to foster with Group Lotus.

Keen to enter the sportscar market, Fernandes is quick to defend the tradition behind the Caterham (and the "Seven") brand pointing out that "Caterham Cars has remained wholly faithful to Colin Chapman's philosophy that 'less is more', and the DNA of the original Seven can still be traced to the newest additions to Caterham's product offering."


Mirror, mirror on the door..

A quick tip for anyone experiencing 'Wobbly Mirror Syndrome" - double-sided carpet tape.

Yes, this miracle adhesive came to my rescue this week when the drivers' side door mirror glass decided to do its best to impersonate a jelly at any speed above walking pace.

Being something of a glass half-empty (if not indeed fully-drained) sort of chap,my first thoughts upon discovering my visual aid's new party trick involved the thought that lots of my pounds were going to have to be handed over to my friendly local Skoda dealer for a new mirror.

I based this prognosis on a number of factors -

1) Nothing cheap & easily fixable ever happens to me.

2) We're dealing with a complex VW Group part which is electrically manipulated, heated & incorporates an indicator-repeater assembly - ie, EXPENSIVE.

3) Sod's Law WILL apply.

So, after a drive up the A3 which involved a lot more over-the-shoulder checks (probably a good thing) than usual and the application at journey's end of a generous amount of gaffer tape I set about trying to minimise what seemed to be an inevitable outlay which would probably involve writing a cheque to 'Skoda GB Ltd' or, at least, one of their approved agents.

A quick phone around only deepened my gloom as it revealed that a complete replacement mirror assembly would set me back at least £80 & well over a hundred if painted.

Not ideal..

So, with worst-case scenario in place (well, it's best to know what to expect) I headed over to the ever-friendly & unceasingly-helpful forums at www.Briskoda.net

A quick search through the forums turned up the magic phrase "wobbly wing-mirror"

Bingo..

And, as I scrolled down and read through the post I felt my rounded shoulders become straightened once more, my bowed head regained something of an upward tilt and my wallet started to breathe a sigh of relief as I discovered that my worst fears were unfounded - VW Group were not after all going to be relieving me (or at least MINT/RBS Financial Services, initially) of a hefty wad of cash because all was going to be ok.

All I needed was a roll of carpet tape.

Heavy-duty, double-sided carpet tape.

Yes, according to the author of the post on the Skoda-owners' message boards it seems that oscillating door glass is quite a common problem amongst owners of cars made by VW or their subsidiaries (although one would hope that those lucky & incredibly well-heeled enough to have shelled out for a Veyron might be spared this inconvenience).

The problem arises due to the fact that the sticky pad used to mount the actual reflective glass onto the electrically-adjustable mechanism isn't, er, sticky enough.

After a couple of years the glass bit loses its grip - first becoming wobbly before falling off, leaving you with just a large expanse of white (formerly) sticky pad in your rear view and a bill for £14 plus to replace the bit of glass which is now in a thousand pieces in the outside lane a couple of hundred metres behind you..

However, with just the application of a few strips of the aforementioned carpet tape - available in most big DIY stores, carpet suppliers (natch) and Amazon (where mine came from) - you can restore your rearward view of the world in just a couple of minutes & proceed on your way, safe in the knowledge that you're less likely to pull into the path of a Hungarian-registered artic.

I have to admit to a bit of trepidation as I gently levered the mirror out of the housing the morning the postman brought the (very) sticky tape.

As I gingerly pulled and manouvered the glass & plastic backing plate off its motorised mounting I fully-expected to hear a loud and costly crack as the mirror shattered into a billion pieces - but no, as advised by my new best friend on the forum, it came off with the minimum of fuss and after carefully removing the two spade connectors which supply power to heat the glass I finally had in my hands the business end of a Skoda Octavia II door mirror.

Upon inspection on the dining table it became very evident why the thing had been flapping around so much as only a 2mm wide strip of mirror was still attached to the upper edge of the (no longer very) sticky pad.

"Probably a good thing I had the gaffer tape with me a couple of days ago" I nodded to myself in what I like to think of as a sage-like manner..

Anyway, sage or no (no, actually) I gave all the surfaces a good clean and reattached the glass using the mightily-sticky double-sided tape.

Upon applying this stuff, any lingering doubts I'd been harbouring about its ability to hold onto a piece of glass whilst being buffeted at motorway speeds were soon allayed as it grabbed onto the mirror like a limpet & I'm pretty confident it's not going to come off again in a hurry.

A quick reversal of the removal procedure & voila, one rock-solid rearward-facing police car/juggernaut/speeding Audi spotting device.

So far, 4 days after surgery the patient is seemingly fully-recovered and all vital signs are good.

Well, it hasn't started flapping around or fallen off..

And the moral of this informative if not exactly awe-inspiring tale of DIY automotive-fixery..?

Well, it's probably this - don't always assume it'll cost you an arm & a leg.

Whilst it's often a reasonable assumption in today's disposable culture that things will wear out and require expensive replacement there is still scope for fixing it yourself so long as you do your homework.

In my case, a bit of digging in the right place turned up an invaluable piece of information from a fellow temporarily-visually-impared Skodarist & also served to remind me what a helpful & friendly place a web forum can be, especially when you need help & advice.

So, if you find that your rearwards view of the world isn't quite as steady as you remember, it might just be worth your while getting hold of some miracle-cure carpet tape soonish before you end up decorating the dual carriageway with expensive silvered-glass..

Dave Wakefield

Monday, 28 March 2011

Can we fix it..?

..yes we can.. (to coin a phrase) Well, that's the idea if a new online service launched today is the success its creators hope it'll be.
Whilst we don't normally do too much in the way of plugging, this idea seemed a little different so we thought we'd bend the rules a bit.


Whocanfixmycar is the brainchild of the team behind makeandmodel.co.uk & will allow motorists to track down the ideal mechanic or service centre in their local area.


By posting their particular requirements online, customers will be able to get quotes from technicians and garages who have previously registered with the service & narrow down the search for their perfect spanner-wielding car doctor at the click of a mouse.


Once the customer has had the work carried out by their selected business, they leave the all important feedback - much as one might when ordering goods and services from say, Amazon or Ebay - which tells other potential clients just who's worth entrusting their precious wheels to and to whom they should possibly give a wide berth..


North East-based Ian Griffiths who's behind the new venture hopes to have the service available nationwide soon & believes that that it'll prove to be a great facility for both motorists and mechanics alike.


For more information, visit www.whocanfixmycar.com and see if you can find a perfect match for you and your motor.


David Wakefield

Monday, 7 February 2011

F1 Update on Robert Kubica

Slightly better news from Italy... Robert's general condition is much better today...

After spending the night under constant observation, he was briefly woken up by the doctors of the Santa Corona Hospital (Pietra Ligure) this morning. The Lotus Renault GP driver was then able to talk to his relatives. He was also able to move his fingers, which is encouraging for the rest of his recovery process.

Professor Mario Igor Rossello, Director for the Regional Centre of Hand Surgery at San Paolo Hospital in Savona, did not notice any swelling or infection on his right forearm, and this is another good sign, although it will be several days before it is known if the operation has been 100% successful.

In order to avoid any physical stress, Robert will be put under gentle medication in order to sleep for the next 24 hours at least. Meanwhile, the doctors will decide how they will treat his elbow and shoulder fractures. Robert may have to undergo surgery once again for this, but not for a few days.

Sometime soon, an accident investigation will try to establish how the car floor was pierced by a crash barrier.

Graham Benge

What now for Robert Kubica?

As we've previously reported, Lotus-Renault's likeable number one driver Robert Kubica is currently recovering in an Italian hospital following an horrific rallying accident yesterday when his Skoda Fabia left the road en route to a stage of the Ronde di Andora event.

Graham has already extended our best wishes to Robert & his family on behalf of us all at UKMT and I know that these sentiments are heartfelt as we all have a lot of time for the quietly-spoken Pole.

Whilst the reports following the extensive operation to stabilise Robert's condition are encouraging, and these are of course very early days, we do wonder whether he will ever again be fit for duty in the demanding world of Formula One, given the nature & extent of the injuries he sustained in his Super 2000 Fabia.

The top tier of open-wheeled motorsport is notoriously demanding on body & mind with even the comparatively-limited power and grip levels permitted under the current FIA regulations failing to slow the current crop of F1 cars by any huge margin. This may well prove to be problematic for Robert if he has been unfortunate enough to suffer a permanent impairment to his mobility levels, not to mention the requirement for drivers to be able to exit the cockpit of a stricken car within an FIA-mandated time in order to qualify for their Super Licence.

On the positive side though, F1 cars today do make life for their pilots somewhat less physically-demanding than those of even a few years ago with, for example, the standard fitment of paddle-operated gearshift & clutch as well as powered steering helping to alleviate some of the more arduous tasks drivers of yore had to contend with.

Add to this the example set by other drivers who have suffered terrible injuries in the past yet have been able to return to motor racing in the (helpfully modified) cockpit of a racing car & the outlook might not look quite so bleak..

Former F1 driver & Thoroughly Decent Chap (in our humble opinion) Alex Zanardi was amost killed whilst driving in CART in 2001 and lost both his lower legs following a huge accident at the Lausitzring in the September of that year.

Yet, whilst unable to resume his career in open-wheeled racing, following a long & painful period of rehabilitation Alex was able to return with no little success in Touring Cars before retiring from the sport in 2009.

Fellow Italian Sandro Nannini was another promising Formula One prospect whose career in the category was sadly ended following a helicopter crash which left him with a severed right arm in 1990. Encouragingly for Kubica who has also suffered partial severment of his right hand, surgery was successful enough to give Nannini back use of the arm and he went on to compete in both Touring Cars and the FIA GT Series as well as having an outing in the short-lived Grand Prix Masters as recently as 2007.

So, maybe some encouragement there for Robert and his team but of course the prime concern is that he makes as full and thorough a recovery from his devastating injuries as possible before even contemplating a return to any form of motorsport.

We shall of course be following his road to recovery with interest and will keep you posted with any further developments & thoughts that reach us here, especially in the short term regarding Robert's replacement for some, if not all of the 2011 F1 season - the name Senna on the side of a Lotus again..?

hmm..

Anyway, in the meantime, here's to a speedy recovery and many more years of doing what he does best for one of the sport's nicer characters, Robert Kubica.

Dave Wakefield

F1 - Robert Kubica out for the season after massive rally crash

Robert Kubica underwent a seven-hour operation at the Santa Corona Hospital in Pietra Ligure this afternoon.

The Lotus Renault GP driver had been diagnosed with multiple fractures to his right arm and leg following a high-speed accident at the Ronda de Andora rally this morning. He also suffered severe cuts to his forearm, which could have an impact on his right hand mobility. Doctors are reasonably satisfied with the way the operation went.

Tonight, Robert's condition remains stable but serious. He has been placed into an induced coma and could be woken up in the morning.

Professor Mario Igor Rossello, Director for the Regional Centre of Hand Surgery at San Paolo Hospital in Savona: "It has been a very important and difficult operation. Robert Kubica's right forearm was cut in two places, with significant lesions to the bones and the tendons. We did our best to rebuild the functions of the forearm. It took seven doctors, split into two teams and a total of seven hours to complete the operation. One team was the emergency task force from the hospital of San Paolo (Savona) that is normally appointed to treat this sort of injury, while the other team came from the orthopaedic department of the Santa Corona Hospital (Pietra Ligure). At the end of the operation, Robert's hand was well vascularised and warm, which is encouraging. Following the surgery, Robert Kubica will remain under permanent monitoring overnight because his condition remains serious."

Graham Benge

Sunday, 6 February 2011

F1 Award for Tony Fernandes

Tony Fernandes has been awarded a CBE by Queen Elizabeth II

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - 6th February 2011

Tony Fernandes, Team Lotus Team Principal, AirAsia Group CEO and Malaysia's iconic entrepreneur, has been awarded a Commander of the Order of the British Empire honour by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The citation says the award was conferred "for services to promote commercial and educational links" between the United Kingdom and Malaysia.

Congrats from all at UKMT!!

Graham Benge

F1 -Robert Kubica injured in rally car

UPDATE ON ROBERT KUBICA'S CONDITION

After undergoing extensive medical checks this morning, Robert Kubica has been diagnosed with multiple fractures to his right arm, leg and hand. He is currently undergoing surgery at the Santa Corona Hospital in Pietra Ligure. Robert suffered a high-speed accident this morning while competing in the Ronde di Andora Rally. All at UKMT wish the popular Robert a speedy recovery.

Graham Benge

Friday, 4 February 2011

F1 - wheels within wheels

So the launches and the first round of testing in less than sunny Valencia are ended and next week the circus gets down to more serious set up work in Jerez, the sunnier end of Spain. With the new McLaren the very last to appear - today - what do we know so far. The new cars are all longer - due to the need to add the packaging for the new KERS systems, taller due to the need to improve the airflow to the new driver adjustable rear wing and have more complex aerodynamics everywhere for the same reason, especially the "up periscope" sides on the McLaren.


Aside from the usual set up niggles for most of the teams, hydraulic failures, overheating, etc etc the new Pirelli tyres have so far been a major talking point the consensus view is that changes to the compounds may still be necessary, the super softs are barely lasting one lap, the softs are graining rapidly whereas the medium compound is both quick and durable and a useful baseline for the engineers and drivers.


The other major discussion - nay, grumble - among the drivers is how busy they are in the cockpit and how the new steering wheels are just too complex, take last years £30-40,000 wheel and add at least two more constantly monitored buttons for KERS and the rear wing and you hugely increase the drivers work rate. Some team bosses seem to be saying tough, get on with it, that's what we pay you for, some smarter managers might already realise the 2011 championship could just be won or lost on the ergonomics of the steering wheel.


Graham Benge