Ford Focus RS/ST – just doesn’t do it

Posted in Tech, Transport with tags , , on July 4, 2009 by Apollo

While there’s no denying Ford’s motorsport success and pedigree, but I just can’t get excited about the Ford Focus RS or ST.

Although the words on paper say it is good, whenever I see one, it does nothing for me. There’s nothing interesting about it’s appearance, nothing to draw the eye, and little to suggest that it is desirable. Bigger wheels and a twin exhaust are really only noticeable to the expert, and a casual glance just bypasses it altogether.

The writers and journalists might keep on about it being a challenger to the Impreza and Evo, but it’s simply not in the same class. Even at their most boring, these two give the Ford a run for its money.

An orange RS passed me and stopped at the lights last night, and I’m guessing the owner is in the midst of tweaking it.

The thing sounded like a box of nails – and I don’t mean it was pinking or anything like that. It was literally making the same noise that a box of 4-inch nails makes as you rummage around in it when fishing out a handful. He was driving very slowly, and as he pulled away from the light, the exhaust went through all sorts of resonances – it was very odd, and the resonances were at relatively high frequencies, as if there were narrow pipes in the system, rather than the more usual wide bore efforts.

I couldn’t fathom it at all – and the only thing that came to mind was that he had perhaps blown the turbo, and was limping around with the remains until he could afford get it fixed.

That’s always been my worry about owning one of the Japanese cars, as the turbos on the road cars seem to be a bit fragile. I’ve been to a few track days, and it’s not unusual to see at least one of them come to a crawling and embarrassing stop in the midst of a demonstration of their power, as something goes “pop” and the engine dies, leaving them to limp, or be pushed off the track.


Fifth Gear’s fraud reporter

Posted in Tagged, TV, Venting with tags , , on July 4, 2009 by Apollo

Ugly female ghostSad to see another episode of Fifth Gear with Johnny Smith still bringing the quality of the program down.

Even the other presenters used the expression “run out of talent” as we saw the lacklustre Smith destroy yet another Smart Car, as he rolled his “wheelie car” onto its roof. Even when his more talented co-presenter landed his larger wheelie car on Smith’s car, he failed to crush Smith’s roll cage with the additional weight. Sadly, some real design failures going on there.

Unfortunately, unlike an earlier incident in a previous series, where one of the other presenters managed to end up with a broken foot after his modified Rascal van had an off, Smith managed to thwart the assassination attempt, as the crew had done an unacceptably responsible job on the Smart’s roll cage, and rather than collapsing in the incident, it stayed complete and protected him.

I guess we can thank Health & Safety for this mistake, and no win no fee claims, which even he would have been able to use if he had been killed.

We were then subjected to his excruciating attempts to be clever, as he tried to make some funny remarks while driving the Ghostbuster’s car.

Laugh? I nearly stopped sticking pins in my eyes just stop the tears so I could see ECTO 1.

The funniest part of the whole thing was the fraud presenter had chosen to invite a psychic to partner him during the piece. A fraud accompanied by a psychic – appropriate or what?

Typical of the pathetic attempts he makes to present a report was the hackneyed and clichéd scene he put together using low-light cameras shooting in the dark in a supposedly haunted room.

That must have taken all of nearly a second to dream up, and then he adds to the insult to our intelligence by trying to convince us that everyone’s really really scared, and that strange things happened in the room.

Please Fifth Gear, just give him the order of the boot, and your standing against Top Gear will take an immediate rise.

British F1

Posted in Transport with tags , on June 21, 2009 by Apollo

Not really much happening at the British F1 meeting at Silverstone, especially if you wanted to cheer on the British drivers at home.

Maybe the hiccup I suggested, back at the start, that might arise after the circus moved to Europe is actually arriving.

Notably, there was the announcement that it could host next year’s event if Donnington is not ready, so removing a possibility of no meeting at all in Britain had the latter not been ready.

The capping story rumbles on, with some of those involved saying all is more or less ok, the dust had settled somewhat, and that things were advancing, also pointing out that there is no limit imposed on any teams committing to the next five years – I hadn’t picked up that point in the earlier announcements. However, there is still the breakaway group, and it seems to be saying that things are not settled, and they are pushing ahead with the new event.

Well. I’m staying as a casual, but interested observer, and not digging into these claims. If it sounds like nonsense, then maybe it all is, and Max Mosley is maybe not too far off the mark when he makes the observation that some of those involved in the opposition are loonies, or appear to have a desire to do what it takes to make power plays.

Politics – don’t you love them?

Fred Pearce – What’s you point caller?

Posted in Transport, Venting with tags , , , , on June 11, 2009 by Apollo

Red LamborghiniI’ve no idea if Fred Pearce is a Green Loony, or suffers from SFB (shit for brains), but I wonder just what the point of his Guardian article, mocking car maker Lamborghini, under the heading of Greenwash is.

If we accept that cars are one of the great evils of our time, throwing out tons of various pollutants and hastening the end of the world in the great global warmer burn-up, then it makes senses to target car manufacturers and expose the various levels of pollutants their products pile out into the atmosphere. We probably have to accept the same complaint against cows as well, as they pass tons of methane into the atmosphere – yet there are no tables comparing the various breed, or taxes on the farmers that own them.

Does it make sense to single out Lamborginhi?

Perhaps giving someone like Fred Pearce a platform like the Guardian is not really such a good idea, as he can hijack for his own personal agendas, rather than globally relevant matters.

While the volume car makers produce millions of cars globally, and rather than do something that would cut pollution, are propped up by things like government funded car scrappage schemes – paying car owners to scrap a perfectly good old car, and replace it with a shiny new one, thereby keeping car manufacturers in business, while ignoring the environmental insanity that says producing a new car to replace an existing old car also produces more pollution than continuing to run the already manufactured older car – minority specialist manufacturers like Lamborghini (even if grouped together with their peers) only produce a few thousand cars in any given year. Even if their vehicles produced ten times the emissions of an ordinary car, their number (and perhaps more importantly, usage)  are simply insufficient to make any other than a negligible contribution to global warming.

In truth, most of these cars spend their lives in garages or museums. Most of the owners bring them out only at weekends and special occasions, even the well-heeled look to the single figure miles-per-gallon figures their expensive toys return. In the past few years, I have seen one Diablo and one Murcielago actually on the road, or parked at a house near me. The only Countach used to sit in a car museum year on year, until it closed a few years ago. Even when they’re on the road, many of these cars only register a few thousand miles in any year, and many cover only a thousand, being sold on after ten years with 10,000 miles or less on their odometers.

I’m not even going to venture far into America, where the multi-millionare celebrity rubbish seems to have a garage with at least 20-30 cars from stables like Lamborghini, Ferrari, Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin etc etc. Those cars aren’t going anywhere far or fast – not unless the owner lives in them and drives them 24/7. They probably waste more water as their slaves wash them, and more polloution from the waxes and polishes they use to keep them ready for the media to come and film them, and worship at the altar of their god-like owners.

No, I’m afraid the only reason I can see for Fred Pearce running his story and putting the boot into Lamborghini for daring to announce that it was making a gesture at environmental concerns (and it had to, as its customers and fans would expect it, whether or not it made any real difference – and there is the small matter of the company being owned by the Volkswagen Group, which does make lots of cars, and doesn’t want anything adverse in its catalogue) is that he harbours deep seated feelings of jealousy and resentment of Lamborghini, and has the tool to express that to a wide audinence, in the hope of winning some popularity amongst those with the same problem.

Fred Pearce would do better to just come out and say he disapporves of Lamborgini, call for it (and presumably any other similar make) to be consigned to the nearest scrapyard, and get on with writing the much better, more balanced, and usefull Greenwas articles that I found he had written in the past.

Personal issues should be kept for blogs (yes, like this one), and editors should be more careful with what they allow their contributors to publish.

Ford Focus RS versus Evo X – tut tut

Posted in Transport with tags , , , , , on June 8, 2009 by Apollo

As Fifth Gear makes its way back onto our screens this week, I thought I might lose my shirt when they placed the Ford Focus RS in a dogfight with the Evo X – suspecting a surprise result, and shaking my head as the two cars don’t belong together in a fair fight, I placed my marker firmly on the Evo X wiping the track with the RS’s upholstry.

They’re different animals, and while I was pleased to see that the Evo technically thrashed the RS by 2 seconds, it wasn’t a fair fight – but that doesn’t make the result any less interesting.

The producers need to find a skip though, and drop the dirty looking little schookid Johnny Smith into it. He always looks as if he needs a wash, and has facial hair that looks as if he draws it on with a magic marker every mornig, to make himself look a bit older.

And, he should have been fired on the spot fro the report he turned in on the V10 Audi R8 with the Lamborghini engine – even the other presenters first remark on his joke of a report on the car was to observe that he never actually drove the car. He might as well have let it roll down a hill and just steered.


I think this every series, and look in dismay when his magic markered face re-appears with the start of a new series. His presentation is lack lustre, and if he’s responsible for thinking up the largely trivial articles he presents, then he’s also guilty of fraud if he’s getting paid for them.

But… Cheapskate – ideal for Johnny Smith.

The first programme ended with the superb Hot Wheels like loop-the-loop stunt completed with the Toyota Aigo – watch again on the Fifth Gear web site.

(I posted the Fifth Gear video of the stunt, but some clown had set it to autorun, so you would be obliged to wait ages for it to buffer up, even if you didn’t wan to watch it, and I noticed it was also wrapped inside sponsor tags,. Since they aren’t paying me to show their adverts, I’m certainly not showing their adverts for free, or letting them steal space or time here).

Congratulations to all the team  – except Mr Smith of course. He should have been standing under the centre of the loop, ready to cushion the car and protect the driver, had they fallen out of the loop.

Monaco F1

Posted in Transport with tags , on May 24, 2009 by Apollo

Monaco’s always a tough race to watch – there’s so much rubbish scattered around the track!

One such example could be see as Martin Brundle walked the grid and Geri Halliwell was found sticking to Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone like a piece of dirty old chewing gum sticks to the sole of your shoe, and did the same to Brundle as she hijacked his questions to Ecclestone, who barely got a word in.

The smallest grid in the world, and they don’t have people in place to keep it clear of rubbish.

There was another disappointing story that the commentators had to keep mentioning for some reason (backhander from someone perhaps) and that was the repeated mention of Lewis Hamilton’s helmet, which apparently sports a diamond encrusted feature – nothing like a bit of excess to let the world know that even if you are at the back of the grid, your paypacket is still that of the Formula 1 World Champion driver.

Remarkably, some relevant info was dispersed before the race started, as Max Mosley was interviewed and indicated that talks with the teams had reached a stage whereby the proposed £40 million cap on spending was no longer as big a point of contention as it had been in the preceding days, and that a method of implementing this was now being discussed, and the suggestion of F1 teams withdrawing, or even setting up a breakaway event, had receded.

Maybe there will be a Formula 2…

Oops, that already re-appeared this week!

We’ll see – the amount is maybe still too low to keep some happy, and the different rules for those that do, or do not, work to them will not win any friends, effectively resulting in two different forms of car running in competition, a bit like creating Formula 1A and Formula 1B. Even if they were genuinely equivalent, people/teams would still perceive one as better than the other, one as the elite, and the other as the also-rans. I suspect there is still much to be discussed, but the main thing is that they do still seem to be discussing, rather then breaking up.

They did still manage to have a race at Monaco, in between the fashion shows and posing.

Jenson Button won.


So much for my suggestion at the start of the season, when I suggested there would be no sign of any patterns appearing before the teams began to race in Europe.


Barcelona F1

Posted in Tagged with tags , on May 10, 2009 by Apollo

First race in Europe, and Brawn, together with Jenson Button, seems to have carried on with the performance shown in the opening oddball rounds to the east.

For whatever reason, be it Button’s abilities at the moment, Brawn’s design and build abilities as a brand new team just cobbled together before the start of the season and not being tainted by bringing all sorts of old, established luggage with them, or the changes made to the F1 rules for this year, Brawn’s 1/2 win this weekend suggests the Brawn and Button may be at the top by the end of the season.

By no means a certainty in any way, Brawn still has to respond to the others during the rest of season, and their greater experience may still mean they can draw on their past, and still design and develop their way past Brawn, whose lack of that very luggage may become a disadvantage.

Still nothing certain.

While I was never a Lewis Hamilton fan, I always thought he was never given a fair deal with all the nonsense of the courts etc that followed him with McLaren, and his open dejection and lack of any attempt to cover up his disappointment in the the performance of his car reflect the past. Usually, even when the world can clearly see a car is little more than pile of parts dragging themselves around a track, the driver will still smile and say that everything is fine, and it’s a one race slip. No such mock enthusiasm from Hamilton at the moment – his car’s a piece of junk, and he just says so, without as much of a smile or hint that it will be better next race.

I think the return to Europe sees some improvement in the performance of those red cars, but we’ll need to wait and see.

I don’t know if the £40 million budget cap on F1 teams for participating team in 2010 makes sense, engines will be excluded from the limit in 2010, and signing up for the cap means having some rule restrictions removed.

Someone suggested that means this is no longer F1, and my own impression is that if there are teams running to different rules, then this true, and you have a mixed formula with cars designed to different rules on the track at the same time.

This happened in British Touring Cars, and we had two races on track at the same time, with the expensive winged team cars sharing the track and having to weave their way through and around the private, non-winged and slower cars. It was all too confusing for me, and I was fed up having to work out what I was looking at. The faster cars could have their day ruined by the slower cars having their own race ahead of them, and albeit unintentionally, blocking the track and preventing them from passing. If they moved over for the faster cars, then the leading slower car  might have been passed by the car it was actually racing with, so they quite legitimately blocked the faster cars, meaning the two classes had to fight on track. A bit silly, since the faster cars could easily pass if they had the space, it wasn’t really a race between, just frustration.

We’ll see.

The silliest thing about the £40 million cap is that it’s a trivial amount for the teams, they spend more on hospitality, motor homes, and frivolity. They won’t spend any less, just more on rubbish around the event, or put the savings in their already overstacked paypackets.

If they really wanted to save money and cut spending, maybe the simplest thing they could do is ban the use of wind tunnels, or slash the size of the wings, and get things down to plain old mechanical grip.