Wednesday, 8 March 2017

PROJECT CARS: Vredestein Ultrac Vorti Tested



We've just fitted a set of gorgeous Vredestein Ultrac Vorti SUV performance tyres to our Project Beast – with surprising results. Get the full story on this heritage brand with a cutting edge image and find out what Madonna's got to do with it all in the Project Car report on our website...! 

At Vredestein, they say: "Our purpose is to give you the freedom you seek. At Vredestein, we develop and produce tyres which enhance the performance of every vehicle. A Vredestein tyre is designed to perform optimally and maximise users’ freedom at all times. We strive to offer all drivers the safest and best possible driving experience."

Never a truer statement made? Find out here.

#ROCKTHEROAD 



PRODUCT TEST: Alcosense Pro Breathalyser



Ideal for the morning after, meet the AlcoSense Pro breathalyser – official breathalyser of the BTCC no less (!) – and one of the smartest, simplest & most effective car-related gadgets we've had the pleasure of testing.

Compact, cool and clear, this device is faster and easier to use than most coffee machines, so if you enjoy an alcoholic drink or two and want to keep hold of your licence to drive a car and avoid the long arm of the law, you really need one of these in your life. It's time to stop guessing and start being legal – thanks to the power of Alcosense's good value, pocket-sized technology. 
  
Whether you use it to stay legal driving on a holiday abroad (where most blood-alcohol figures limits are different), for that early Sunday morning blast in your classic car following a Saturday night dinner party, doing the school pick-up run after a glass of wine at lunch or after the mother of all sessions the night before and with a long drive ahead, unintentional drink driving the morning after is easier than you might think and this device ends all the doubt, with cold, hard facts – helping you stay legal.  

Drink driving unintentionally should now be a thing of the past this with this nifty little gadget by AlcoSense – wither the £99.99 Excel entry model or the one we have here, the Pro for £149.99, both available via Halfords or online

The new AlcoSense Excel is the first breathalyser under £100 to use a smaller version (64mm2) of exactly the same sensor used in several UK Police-approved breathalysers (200mm2), bringing a new level of accuracy and reliability for drivers at this price. And the Pro offers a 121mm² Fuel Cell, which, in addition to giving incredibly accurate, detailed readings to two or even three decimal places in either blood (‰BAC) or breath (mg/L) alcohol concentrations, will alert you when you are close to or over your own set limit. 

Additionally, the upgraded Pro offers the superb functionality of pre-loaded data of 40+ countries alcohol limits: it will work with any limit worldwide and can be changed between limits simply and easily, using an idiot proof menu system  – making it ideal if you do a lot of foreign road trips, for use on holiday or even between Scotland and England, for example, where different limits apply. 

The Pro also offers a handy 'time to sober' estimation figure if you are recorded over the limit (blood alcohol continues to rise up to 90 minutes after you stop drinking) as well as the patent-pending "blow coach" to help make sure you are getting it right and receiving an accurate reading via the blow tubes (supplied), time after time. Oh, and it's got a 128 test result stage memory, with a time/date stamp, where the Excel offers a simpler 24 only – for a back-up or all your test results.

All these added features and functions for only £50 more mean the Pro is the one to go for in our view.  


The Alcosense range also offers the first breathalysers in this price bracket to feature a full colour screen and intuitive graphic user interface – giving on-screen prompts and tips, making it exceptionally easy to use. And both models feature a very simple green (no alcohol), orange (alcohol present, under limit) and red (alcohol present, over the limit) result graphics on the 48mm full colour screen. Very clear. Very cool.


AlcoSense’s unique slide mechanism keeps the sensor and blow tube receptacle covered when not in use, stopping dust or contaminants from entering the unit. When slid open, the blow tube receptacle lights up, making it easy to insert a fresh blow tube, even on dark winter mornings. It's simple and easy to operate. 

Hunter Abbott, MD of AlcoSense. "The only way to tell when you’re safe to drive the morning after the night before is either to abstain completely from drinking alcohol or to use an accurate personal breathalyser. The AlcoSense Excel gives detailed readings all the way up through the range so you can tell exactly when you are clear.

"The AlcoSense Excel isn’t just feature rich. It boasts an award winning functional, clean design that is shared with the AlcoSense Pro and Ultra, winners of the 2016 International Red Dot Award for Outstanding Product Design. The range is particularly aimed at drivers with families who want to stay safe, those who rely on their license for work or play, and who seek reliability and accuracy at an affordable price."

Get one of these trick tech tolls in your glovebox now! Highly recommended. 
  
Roadies be aware of a quick point about driving through France. To comply with French law, you need to keep an NF Certified Single Use breathalyser in the car. This is the only country that requires this. The Excel and Pro will work with the French limit but to comply with French law, you also need the NF single use breathalyser too. The single use breathalyser only works with the French limit and AlcoSense is one of only two manufacturers to be approved under NF regulations. They cost £4.99 for a twin pack. Of course, if you are not driving through France, you don’t need these.






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Tuesday, 28 February 2017

NEWS: BRC 2017 Is 3-2-1 Go!


Britain's re-vamped and revitalised leading rally series – the Prestone MSA British Rally Championship (BRC) – is all set for another great year of special stage action, with the suitably British sounding Brick & Steel Border Counties gravel rally opener, March 17-18, and six other crackers to follow.
The fabulous rally championship – which is clearly still the best proving ground for WRC and the premier proving ground for young rallying talent – offers up a seven-round series in 2017, after 2016 witnessed a stellar performance by Elfyn Evans in a DMACK-backed Ford Fiesta R5, now back in the all-new WRC. 
The Welshman put on a dominant display to clinch the title on the Ulster Rally – 20 years after his father Gwyndaf lifted the same trophy on the same event. The 28-year-old’s success story fired him back into an FIA World Rally Championship seat and upon his return, the DMACK World Rally Team driver set fastest stage times on the Monte Carlo Rally to put him back amongst the world’s best. 
“It feels great to be British Rally Champion, 2016 put the enjoyment back into rallying for me and I think the results came because of it,” explained Evans. “The BRC played an important part in getting me back into the WRC and being a part of the buzz and excitement was great. It was obviously a really important year for the British Rally Championship – a completely revamped series with new R5 cars – and it certainly didn’t disappoint. It was a really enjoyable year. We had a fair bit of success, so obviously I am very happy about that and it was really great to see the championship back in full swing and as strong as ever."
Evans understands the importance of the BRC to both his career and the future of British rallying – views that are shared by M-Sport Managing Director and 1994 BRC Champion, Malcolm Wilson OBE.

“The British Rally Championship had always been a proving ground for up-and-coming talent, and it’s great to see the revitalised series getting back to its roots,” said Wilson. “It’s the place to be for any aspiring young driver who wants to make the step-up to international rallying.

“Attracting young talent with its mix of gravel and asphalt rallies, the British Rally Championship really does provide the perfect platform for those looking to develop their skills and make a name for themselves amongst the rallying elite.”

As well as Elfyn Evans, the BRC has helped to produce some of the current superstars in the world of rallying with Kris Meeke, Jari-Matti Latvala and multiple American Rally Champion David Higgins having all cut their teeth in the championship. Craig Breen, Citroen’s latest WRC recruit is a big believer that the BRC helped to shape his career.

“The BRC was a really crucial step in my career,” enthused Breen. “We started off in the Fiesta Trophy and then the S2000 car, and they were both fundamental steps in my career. The BRC is the proving ground for talent to go onto the international stage.

“The BRC was sadly missed in 2015 and it was great to see it back with a bang again last year. There are some proper, challenging events and it’s good to have it back with a high entry and loyal following. The competition is at a really strong level and it was good to mix it with the championship runners on the Circuit of Ireland and Rally Isle of Man last year.

“I love driving, I absolutely love what I do and I would love to come back and give more BRC rounds a go in the future. It would be nice to do something again.”

The next wave of talent is on its way with 2016 Junior BRC Champion Robert Duggan set to enter the Junior WRC, while Chris Ingram is gunning for Junior European Rally Championship glory with Opel in 2017. Jon Armstrong, Gus Greensmith and Osian Pryce are leading the BRC charge in WRC2, the premier support category to the sport’s top level.

Flick through the history books further and it’s clear to see the British Rally Championship DNA running through the sports’ greatest names. Hannu Mikkola, Ari Vatanen, Stig Blomqvist, Colin McRae and Richard Burns all clinched the BRC crown before lifting the WRC title later in their careers, while Roger Clark, Russell Brookes, Jimmy McRae, Alister McRae and Mark Higgins all became household names in Britain following their championship successes.

Higgins, British Rally Champion in 1997, 2005 and 2006 appeared as a BRC wildcard in 2016 on his home event – Rally Isle of Man.

“The British championship has historically been a fantastic stepping stone for aspiring drivers aiming for the WRC, especially as it allows crews to recce and make their own pace notes on fantastic events and stages,” explained Higgins.

“When you have 20 R5 cars and so many in the other classes, it’s great for the championship. I have been watching closely and been excited by the turnaround. I was delighted to be a part of it on the Isle of Man, and the new format puts the BRC back on the map as one of the best championships in the world.”

One of the sport’s greatest ambassadors, 1976 and 1980 BRC Champion and 1981 World Rally Champion Ari Vatanen is also a big fan of the series.

“I can’t believe it is over 40 years ago since I first won it,” enthused Vatanen. “I have incredible memories from competing in the British series. It has always seen visiting stars turn up on some events against the best of British. It is a mini world championship at times.

“The BRC helped to raise the game for Scandinavians and competition in Britain. I am really happy that the new team has put the BRC back to where it deserves to be – the best national rallying series in the world.”

The BRC is set to create even more history in 2017, as Britain’s premier rallying series welcomes its first overseas round in the championship’s 59-year history with a trip to Ypres in northern Belgium, marking the mid way point in the new calendar. The new season is set to be the most open in recent times. Who will be crowned champion and make more history come the end of the year? We don’t have to wait long to find out.

Round one of the Prestone MSA British Rally Championship gets underway in Jedburgh, Scotland with the Border Counties Rally on 17/18 March. Keep tabs on all the latest BRC developments by visiting www.msabrc.com or following us on social media: MSA British Rally Championship on Facebook, @MSA_BRC on Twitter and @MSABRC on Instagram using #BRC

What a great looking series it is too... enjoy rally fans!


Tuesday, 21 February 2017

ROAD TEST: @Fiat_UK 124 Spider Lusso Plus


We've gone from one Fiat extreme to the other this month – having tested the enormous, masculine beefcake that is their all-new Fullback last week, to the diminutive, feminine cup cake that is the all-new 124 Spider this week. Polar opposites. 

But one thing they both have in common is Italian good looks. The £23,295 124 Spider Lusso Plus is a thing of beauty, from pretty much all angles, but especially across the (relatively) long bonnet from the low slung driver's seat and again outside, looking back at its sculpted nose after you've parked it up – still ticking and smelling of brake pad after a spirited blast. Bella. Bella. 

What the two Fiats don't have in common is ride quality: Arguably the only real criticism of the Fullback was its bouncy, unsophisticated, load-bearing live rear axle, which was actually pretty nasty to drive without a decent load onboard. 

Conversely, one of the things we admired most in our week-long test of the 124 Spider was its rare rag-top ability to eat up a bumpy British B-road with digestible ease and offer up a delightful Italian menu of agility for nibbles, handling entertainment for main course and a comfortable ride for dessert:  Delizioso.


Make no mistake, B-roads are where you will want to spend time in the buy-for-s**s-and-giggles Fiat... making full use of the superb handling and incredibly direct, slick and snicky six-speed manual gearbox ( total delight to use) and rear-wheel drive formula, something that Mazda made its own in the legendary MX-5, now millions sold. 

What Fiat offer up in their new 124 that's "different" is the 1.4-litre turbocharged engine – offering up 138bhp, 177lbft (in old money) and an subsequently impressive 134mph, with a lively 7.5s 0-62mph time, mainly thanks to the turbo-generated low down grunt, as peak power is at a very lowly 5,000rpm, meaning hunting the (soft) redline is a fruitless mission, sadly.

TBH, you'd never know it was actually turbocharged, as it's certainly not laggy and is a very responsive little unit. But don't be expecting a kick you in the back when the turbo, er, "kicks in" either. In fact, if I didn't already know it was a blown engine, I certainly wouldn't have said it was – despite the obviously good torque curve. It's certainly not thirsty either, offering up 44mpg no bother, but that's modern turbo engines in tiny cars for you.    

Sadly (again), even the twin tail pipes and turbo can't make the 124 sound great – which is another shame. If ever there was a car crying out for a thin-wall, bigger bore exhaust system, decent air induction system and an ECU re-map... it's the 124 Spider. Take note aftermarket tuning companies/suppliers... and owners... spec your 124 with an Abarth version exhaust at least, and save some dosh back for tuning. Untapped potential is how we'd describe the standard Spider, even if the performance levels are far from poor. Many would be happy enough, just not us eternal modifiers and performance hunters at Road HQ. 

Speaking of the 124's spec, make sure you get the great VFM Lusso Plus – which comes with extras that include the essential for any UK cabrio heated seats, the fabulously user-friendly seven-inch touchscreen (Garmin) sat-nav with premium DAB-equipped sound system (with nine speakers, including in the headrest, which is ace for hearing windy Bluetooth calls) and a razor sharp rear-view camera (useful when you haven't gone topless, so to speak), super-bright LED headlights and smart 17-inch alloy wheels. Can't imagine why you wouldn't get this... or indeed the contrasting, retro-touch tan coloured seats. Very cool, cutting against the electric blue of our test model.


Apparently, the 124 Spider is bigger than its long-standing Japanese rival – offering a tad more boot and lockable cupboard space, and head/legroom. But it certainly doesn't feel it to me, at six-foot-something, with middle aged spread and armed with any sort of normal modern level of phone/charger/coat paraphernalia. Even a bottle of water is too much luggage for the 124 Spider really and it certainly ain't staying still in its bottle holder, which is badly designed and a pointless bit of add-on rubbish.   

As is the irritatingly competent and constant traction control system – which I (obviously) immediately switched to full off (taking a few valuable driving time seconds every ignition turn), but which refused to let go entirely, literally. 

That's a big shame in my view. We all know manufacturers have to fit these nanny systems, for the 
idiots. But couldn't the powers that be allow those of us with the skill to enjoy pushing a car up and over its grip limit – especially a rear-drive sports car sold purely for enjoyment – actually let us, by allowing it to go full off? Apparently not, in conjunction with the 124's e-differential gimmick version... which freaks out when you're using it properly.  

I'm being a tad harsh on the 124 Spider, which is undeniably a well designed and well made (if not well hung!) car. Maybe I misunderstood it from the off and my expectations were too high? Maybe I'm just too old for a 124 Spider (although I doubt that, looking at most MX-5 owners)? Maybe I wanted it be better than it is? I figured... Fiat make great cars right now. And here's their new £23K topless hottie. It's rear-drive and turbocharged. Was I wrong to expect a wild, big fun, character overload? Sure, it's lively, fun, nice to be in and good looking... but it never grabbed me in the right way.  

For us, the lack of being able to slide around uninterrupted and make full use of the superb chassis, suspension and gearbox was game over for the pretty little 124 Spider Lusso. Sorry Fiat. 

Maybe the 168bhp Abarth, with its mechanical LSD, Bilstein damping and other goodies would be  more our sort of car.   











NEWS: Abarth UK To Launch New Abarth 124 Rally @ London Classic Car Show



Like rallying? Love the Abarth brand? Like Fiats? Check. Check. Check... then check this out! 

The brand with a scorpion sting in its tail, Abarth UK is preparing to turn the rallying clock back more than five decades with its most recent addition – the all-new Abarth 124 rally – at this year’s London Classic Car Show.

The performance car brand’s exhibition stand (E70) is this year dedicated to the Abarth 124 spider, and will have a display of new and old with a stand featuring the recently-launched Abarth 124 spider and the classic 1973 Fiat Abarth 124 Rally.

Alongside them will be their two rallying counterparts illustrating the performance brand’s incredible motorsport heritage: the New Abarth 124 rally and the 1974 Fiat Abarth 124 Rally Gr.4.

The classic cars are displayed under the banner Abarth Classiche, the official, Turin-based programme launched last year to support the repair, restoration and certification of classic Abarth models for customers lucky enough to own one.

With new models such as the 124 spider and New 595 recently launched, more and more drivers are experiencing Abarth for the first time: 2016 was the performance brand’s best year ever in the UK with total sales of 3966 – a rise of 44.5 per cent over the 2743 of the previous year.

The London Classic Car Show, held at the capital’s ExCel exhibition hall, 23-26 February, provides Abarth with an excellent opportunity to demonstrate what’s new from the company in 2017 while offering a reminder of the scorpion brand’s glorious past.

“There’s no better place to display classic cars than the London Classic Car Show, and we are delighted to have some superb machinery on our stand,” says Gerry Southerington, brand manager, Abarth UK.

“The blend of new and old, road car and sporting legend, gives us an interesting and exciting exhibition which, I am sure, will be enjoyed by thousands of show-goers.”

The Abarth 124 spider comes equipped with a 170hp engine generating 250Nm of torque at 2500 rpm to provide a 0-62mph time of 6.8 seconds and a top speed of 144mph. Prices start at £29,565 OTR.


Monday, 20 February 2017

NEWS: Falken Tyres Unveil Geneva Plans



Falken Tyres are set to unveil a new premium race car and a trick innovative eco tyre for electric vehicles at the 87th Geneva International Motor Show, held at Palexpo in Geneva, Switzerland, on 7-19 March 2017. 

In their first ever Geneva Motor Show, Falken will launch its new 2017 race car alongside its most energy-efficient tyre to date for electric and hybrid vehicles on its stand in Hall 6, Booth 6238.

They said: "At a short press conference on 7 March at 8am, Falken will outline its 2017 motorsport campaign including a new premium OEM race car and driver line up to compete in the upcoming Nürburgring 24 Hours, the most demanding endurance race in the world. Alongside its 2017 motorsport activities, Falken will reveal its most efficient tyre, the ECORUN A-A. Due on sale in selected European markets from later this year, Falken’s first ever A-A tyre makes extensive use of advanced 4D nano technology, a pioneering materials development technology that was recently named '2017 Tire Technology of the Year.'"

"Our debut at Geneva marks another milestone in our challenging approach to the automotive tyre industry," added Stephan Cimbal, Head of Marketing of Falken Tyre Europe. "Through innovation in communication and technology, Falken quickly became a trusted brand, which is consistently growing and taking on challenges for future mobility, for example the development of a tyre especially designed to meet the needs for electric and hybrid driving. With more OEM partners trusting our brand and product technology to improve their performance, efficiency and customer satisfaction, it is intrinsic that we are present at A-level events like Geneva."

Visitors to the Falken booth will, in addition to the current passenger car product line up, also have a chance to experience the cutting-edge technologies that are increasingly synonymous with the brand that has grown significantly since starting European operations in 2009. These include NEO-T01, a novel production system developed to create lighter, “ultra-high precision” tyres as well as GYROBLADE, an airless tyre technology, that makes flat tyres a thing of the past by eliminating the need for inflation, and Silent Core, a simple and effective production-ready technology to dramatically improve refinement without costly and heavy sound-deadening materials.

Geneva International Motor ShowDate: Press Days, 7-8 March 2017 - General Admission, 9-19 March 2017
Venue: Palexpo
Booth Location: Hall 6, Booth 6328
Press Event: 08:00hrs Tuesday 7 March 2017 (local time)



Wednesday, 15 February 2017

ROAD TEST: @Fiat_UK Fullback LX


"Oh. My. God. How ******* massive is that...?" said the usually very mum-mouthed Road Magazine design queen when she clapped eyes on the all-new, range-topping Fiat Fullback LX for the first time, as it powered onto the Road HQ premises.
And, being brutally honest, what man doesn't want to hear that...?  

In fact, surely if you pick one of these VAT-dodging, stateside-inspired Euro pick-ups, that's the response you want, right? 
The aim is surely to make a big rugged impression, on a (relatively) small budget... yeah?   

What you wouldn't expect is a Fiat badge on the front though, right? Don't they make the 500 and 124 Spider (on test next week as it goes)?
  
But where Isuzu's Rodeo, Ford's Ranger and Mitsubishi's L200 (which the Fullback is based on) led the way with these big beasts, so VW followed in 2009 with the more luxury-focused Amarok. And they sold like hot bacon rolls drooling in butter and ketchup, as any drive, anywhere in the country will tell you immediately. Popular isn't the word, with almost a million of them knocking about in Europe. 

And Fiat aren't a stupid bunch and clearly decided they'd re-invest some of their Fiat 500 billions into a family/load-lugger of their own. And here we are with the maousive Fullback. 


Billed as being "rugged, reliable and practical down to the finest detail, the Fullback pick up is precisely what you expect from a work vehicle."

The reality is of course that most of these work vehicles won't be hill farming, or blasting building sites: many will simply be bought for families to knock about in, squeezing (effortlessly as it goes) into shopping centre car parks, hogging precious space outside our schools and the like. And why the heck not? They're practical, stylish, aspirational, impressive, fun, offer great visibility, space, safety and spec, for next to naff all... go figure.

The fresh-faced one-tonne+ payload, 3.5+ tonne towing, switchable 2WD, 4WD & low ranger that is the Fullback is 100% an all-luxury, double cab – there's definitely no single cab 'no frills commercial offering with Fiat's range, which starts at £20,995 for the base SX model, with a 148bhp 2.4-litre diesel and six-speed manual gearbox, moving up to the LX manual priced from £22,995 and five-speed LX automatic from £24,395, with a more powerful 178bhp 2.4 all-ally diesel, with trick twin scroll turbocharger technology. Cool.

We tested the manual LX range-topper, with all the bells and whistles – nice 17" Alloy Wheels on Toyo semi-knobbly rubber, fantastic wide angle rear camera, user-friendly 6.1" touchscreen DAB radio with bluetooth & great Garmin navigation System, electric full leather seats etc. On HP, you can grab one of these for just £199 right now. Told you they were affordable...

And there's so much to like about the big old bruiser – from it's funky style statements, like the side panel on the lockable cargo bed, to the incredibly responsive, pokey and economical (42.2mpg for 178bhp version) 2.4-litre diesel, which fair flies along.

But the Fullback's best party trick – as with all these no-weight at the back pick-ups – is it's inherently fun ability to exit every bend, roundabout and junction slowly totally sideways, with the traction turned "off" (it still fusses you), if you so choose.
That's big fun, for a big kid like me, and enough of a reason alone to buy one if I'm honest.

Then there's the Fullback's excellent off-road capability – not in our very own Fiat Project Panda 4x4 Italian hill farming lightweight class or indeed our Project Beast Range Rover utter domination, but they're class leaders.

The Fullback is a good mud-slinger though... and, if you did choose to take it off the beaten, it'll go a long way before getting stuck... in 4WD low range mode, and with some weight over the leaf spring rear axle that is, as these stats show.


Inside, it's lap dance club dark, but there's plenty of room (front and rear) and it's a comfortable place too do the miles in, with the clear visibility, decent sound deadening and nicely ergonomic leather seats, bright biXenon headlights and infotainment doing the job nicely. 

And the 1.5m long rear loading cargo bay (or "mobile swingers' hot tub stuck to the back" as one mate put it) is suitably cavernous – easily soaking up a double divan I had to do a tip run with (although I'd spec mine without the drop-down lockable top, but a locking rollback, for great versatility, personally).  

We like the new characterful, rugby-chic, blokey Fullback, but there's one but – and rather like the car itself... it's a big but...

As with all these modern pick-ups (to a greater or lesser degree) and their essential-for-big-loads, old tech, leaf sprung rear ends, they bounce around way too much on anything but the flattest road surface, making you and especially your rear passengers feel sick, or in one case, putting their backs out. Oops. But, to be fair on the Fullback, that could have been my drifting style, sorry, er, driving style ;-)  

There is a solution of course... riding your Fullback around with bags of cement permanently in the back to get it to sit down nicely and ride OK, or just only pick routes with smooth roads (not the UK, or indeed Norfolk then!). 

Or you can just accept the live rear axle humpty dumpty issue and roll with the bounces. Then there's no real reason not to buy a fresh-faced and funky Fullback... except maybe VW's 221bhp, 405lbft 3.0-litre V6 Amarok, which knocks on the door of 120mph and does 0-62 in seven seconds. But that's big bucks at way into £30K territory, which rather defeats the point of these popular pick-ups doesn't it?  












Friday, 3 February 2017

NEWS: RMA Discounted Offer Marcus Gronholm Ice Driving Experience













Our good pals at luxury track day operators, RMA have a cracker of an experience this year – exclusive access to three pairs of places on the Marcus Gronholm Ice Driving Experience in Levi, Finland later this month.

RMA's Graham Clarke said: "This event is effectively a ‘dry run.’ Marcus and the team want to make sure everything runs as planned and get some publicity photographs prior to the official launch, hence the bargain price of €6500 for two people. Future events will be in the region €10,000. The event, which is nothing like the conventional manufacturer based ice driving experience, will run from the 28/02 – 01/03 and run on proper WRC studded tyres!"

Two days on ice for two people includes transfers, accommodation etc. Flights are not included. Please email RMA on mail address below if you are interested in sharing the ice with one of the world's most successful rally drivers, Marcus Gronholm himself!

Email: info@rmatrackdays.com

To get you in the mood, here's us messing about with Marcus when he set the UK rallycross scene alight.  



Wednesday, 1 February 2017

PROJECT CAR: Ruby Visits Saab Mecca Abbott Racing

Project Ruby – our fabulous Mk1 Saab Turbo T16S special edition bought at auction late last year – gets a pukka treat this month, as we go to old friends Abbott Racing Motorsport in deepest, darkest Essex.

We get a load of great stuff fixed, delve into the depths of their Saab knowledge, talk about Ruby, tuning, race set-up and fit one of their amazing 2.5-inch stainless steel exhaust systems – with genuinely surprising results.

Full story & more pics here & on Facebook & Twitter (links on the right).

Oh, and we get to drool over seriously cool Saab stuff like this...



Tuesday, 31 January 2017

NEWS: McLaren's Eye on Clean, Big Power Future Tech















Ice cool, uber fast auto tech-fest brand McLaren Automotive has announced a strategic project to design and develop technology for the next generation of powertrains. Hover? Nuclear? Water? Who knows... but one thing's for sure, it'll be 1) cool as **** & 2) fast as ****!

They say: "Working with a number of partners including BMW Group, the project will develop new combustion technology that will deliver a higher output per capacity than currently possible."
 
The project aims to further facilitate CO2 reductions while simultaneously increasing engine output and the technology is destined for application in future McLaren engines.

Supported and part-funded by UK Government through the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC), the project will also improve the UK’s development and production capabilities of low-CO2 internal combustion engine technology. 

The project will be led by McLaren Automotive but involves a total of six partners. McLaren Automotive will work with its existing engine manufacturing partner, Ricardo, and BMW Group while Grainger and Worrall will deliver complex, lightweight casting technology. Lentus Composites will contribute knowledge in specialist composite structures. Completing the syndicate is the University of Bath who bring their advanced research and development capabilities in internal combustion engine systems efficiency.

Commenting on the collaboration, Chief Executive Officer of McLaren Automotive, Mike Flewitt, said: "This is an exciting project that plays to the strengths of all partners. McLaren Automotive has an exceptional reputation for building the world’s finest engines, as showcased by our M838T and its previous category wins in the International Engine of the Year awards. We will continue to independently design and build our own engines, and the benefits of this project will help us accelerate the development of our next generation of powertrain, as confirmed in our recently-announced Track22 business plan."

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

PROJECT CAR: Falken Euroall Season Tyres Tested



















Are all season tyres rubber utopia – saving you all that wheel/tyre changing cost and stress and hassle, and providing safety and great grip 24:7:365?
We find out with Falken's Euroall Season AS200's tested on our diminutive, but perfectly formed and ice cool Fiat Panda 4x4...

Will this set-up provide the perfect all year car/tyre combo?

Find out in our full report here.


Monday, 23 January 2017

NEWS: Subaru's New XV












One of our favourite Crossovers – Subaru's XV – is getting an all-new look and will make its global debut at the 87th Geneva International Motor Show to be held in Switzerland 7th-19th March 2017.
Subaru says: "Fitted with Subaru’s renowned Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system, XV is a compact SUV with a personality packed exterior. The all-new Subaru XV will be unveiled at the press conference scheduled for 11:00 AM (Central European Time) on 7th March at Subaru booth following a speech by FHI President & CEO, Yasuyuki Yoshinaga."
Looking forward to testing that... 

Friday, 20 January 2017

PROJECT CAR: @Powerflexbushes Transform Project Ruby

We've just fitted a Powerflex suspension bush-fest to Project Ruby, our 23-year-old Saab 900 T16S Ruby Special edition, up at Abbott Racing. The effects are almost as dramatic as the film you've just watched! Check out the full story here:

Friday, 13 January 2017

NEWS: New Goodwood Members' Meeting Format Change, for 75th Event













The 75th epic Goodwood Members' Meeting. Can you Adam & Eve it?
They really are epic dos at the UK's most historic of great circuits.
And this auspicious 75th event, taking place 18-19 March marks a change in the format for one of the most anticipated and spectacular races, the Gerry Marshall Trophy race for Group 1 production saloons of the 1970s and early ’80s, which will differ from previous years. 
For the first time, the Gerry Marshall Trophy becomes a one-hour, two-driver race. The Group 1 saloons will be taken into battle by a wealth of famous drivers into dusk on Saturday, evoking memories of the legendary Spa 24 Hours, ahead of the evening’s lively entertainment and fireworks.
On the Sunday, the inaugural Gerry Marshall Sprint will form the second-leg of this touring-car epic. Taking inspiration from the current British Touring Car Championship, this race will feature a reversed grid, with the owners taking over, their starting position determined by the car’s result from the Gerry Marshall Trophy.
Only cars running at the finish of the Saturday-evening Trophy race, and those that competed 95 per cent of the Saturday winner’s race distance, will be reversed. All others will start the Sunday Sprint from their Saturday Trophy finish or non-finish position.
Always popular with Members’ Meeting spectators, the Gerry Marshall line-up will include a number of famous Group 1 racing tin-tops, all sporting their correct period sponsor livery, including Ford Escorts and Capris, Chevrolet Camaros, Mini 1275 GTs, Rover SD1s and Triumph Dolomite Sprints, sharing track space with other memorable marques such as Alfa Romeos, BMWs, Mazdas and Volkswagens.
One Group 1 racer expected to make its Goodwood racing debut will be the ex-Gerry Marshall Vauxhall Magnum DTV, in which he took a class victory, and second place overall, at the 1977 Spa 24 Hours. This well-known Vauxhall was sold by Goodwood partner Bonhams at its sale of Historic Motor Cars during last year’s 74th Members’ Meeting, with the car being prepared since then ready to compete at this year’s event. A trio of period competition Ford Capris is also set to race for the very first time at the Members’ Meeting.
Among the many star drivers contesting the Gerry Marshall Trophy will be tin-top favourites Andrew Jordan, Tim Harvey, Patrick Watts and Stuart Graham and numerous other race aces.
Admission tickets for the 75th Goodwood Members’ Meeting are currently on sale to the public in limited numbers and expected to sell-out before the end of January. To purchase tickets and for the full list of races and demonstrations planned visit www.goodwood.com.

Monday, 9 January 2017

NEWS: New @SubaruUK BRZ Breaks Cover This Week













One of our favourite cars of recent years – Subaru's rear-drive, skinny-tyre, drifty Boxer-engined beauty, the BRZ – has had a total facelift for 2017 & will make its public debut at Autosport International Show later this week (12th - 15th January 2017 at the NEC).
Subaru says the 2017 BRZ has been updated from top to bottom; exterior, interior, powertrain, suspension and safety, refining the driving experience whilst enhancing sports car appeal.
They said: "The Coupe shape remains, but is enhanced with a wider, lower stance at the front end. The BRZ’s face is finished off with full-LED headlights, a Subaru first. New design rear lamps and aerodynamic pedestal spoiler top off the rear of the car, and the wheels are now a 10 spoke aluminium design."
Meanwhile, inside, a 4.2-inch colour LCD multi-information display has been added into the instrument panel. The steering wheel has also been redesigned into a smaller package with different leather to increase the driver’s grip for a more engaging experience, whilst higher quality materials have been used throughout the cabin.
Subaru added: "BRZ was built to deliver a linear driving feel, ensuring that the car responds exactly as the driver intended. Keeping this concept in mind, the BRZ’s suspension, engine and drivetrain have been further refined to enhance its poised handling and driving experience.
"For sporty drivers, the new TRACK mode enhances the stability of the car and allows for more refined accelerator inputs when driving on race circuits. For urban drivers, there is a new type of Hill Start Assist (HSA) to help with uphill starts or downhill reversing."
The 2017 BRZ will be available in SE Lux trim only with either a manual or automatic transmission from Spring.

Friday, 6 January 2017

NEW PRODUCTS: HARMAN Auto Innovation



Our spy out in Las Vegas, Nevada, at the global consumer electronics and consumer technology tradeshow  CES, Nick Bailey of Elan PR has given us a glimpse of some cracking in-car modernity from top brand HARMAN.
The first – developed by HARMAN and WayRay (a Swiss headquartered pioneer in Holographic AR displays) is a new concept product developing a wide view angle full windshield heads-up display.
The guys behind the project said: "WayRay specializes in innovative use of holographic optical elements that enable an augmented reality (AR) projection system that is significantly more compact than traditional mirror and lens based projection technology and allows for high-resolution projection in direct line of sight of the driver particularly for ADAS applications such as augmented navigation.
"WayRay technologies allow the widescreen to be a new medium for information. An augmented reality solution, it is the first solution to use true holographic technology and deliver contextually relevant information to drivers and provide engaging entertainment for passengers simultaneously."

You can check it in action here.
"HARMAN’s collaboration with WayRay is another example of our relentless drive to deliver seamless, integrated, connected and safer experiences in the car," said Phil Eyler, president HARMAN Connected Car. "As the leader in the connected car space, HARMAN is committed to driving innovation across the industry to deliver on the needs of automakers and their drivers and passengers."
And Vitaly Ponomarev, CEO and Founder, WayRay said: "Holographic displays offer the opportunity to make self-driving vehicles safer and more reassuring for passengers. By providing visualizations of what is happening around the car, how it's riding and relevant POIs along your route, passengers are kept fully informed about the drive, even if they're not actually driving."
Pretty trick eh?



The next innovation is HARMAN's award-winning Voyager Next, debuting as the industry’s first all-in-one audio and connected car Head Unit solution designed to meet the needs of today’s ‘on-the-go’ lifestyle. 
Designed specifically with the next-generation of millennial consumers in mind, Voyager Next combines HARMAN’s industry leading premium audio and connected car technologies into one tailored solution – adding innovative application, loudspeaker and subwoofer solutions to provide an experience that meets their expectations for great audio quality while connecting them to their daily lives.
Moving way, way beyond traditional audio to capture a fully integrated entertainment experience, Voyager Next adds customizable in-vehicle lighting along with connectivity and compatibility with in-home and portable devices. 
For car makers, Voyager Next provides the ability to offer cost effective and easy to implement premium audio solutions for the entry-level vehicle segment. It's a huge growth sector. 
And this system also provides new levels of intelligent personalization and connectivity to the in-vehicle experience through advanced technologies, including:
  • HARMAN Display Audio – An embedded, connected head-unit solution that brings the best of consumers’ smartphone experiences into the car enabling music, navigation and other capabilities. It supports leading industry platforms including Apple CarPlay, Google AndroidAuto, Baidu CarLife and SmartDeviceLink; giving users several ways to connect any smartphone to the car regardless of make or OS.
  • Voyager Next Connect Companion App –A custom smartphone app that is mirrored and controlled by the Head Unit using SmartDeviceLink technology, allowing users to seamlessly customise an in-car listening and lighting experience including mirroring their choice of listening locations from the studio to the stadium.
  • HARMAN Proprietary Micro Speaker Technology – An array of next-generation micro speakers that work with Dirac Panorama processing technology to create big sound, with a wide soundstage and distinct, stable centre image, from a small space.
  • Dual-Core Micro Sub-Woofers – Innovative technology shrinks the form factor of a traditional subwoofer by nearly 80 percent, allowing them to be eliminated from the door structure while offering a more flexible system architecture option that reduces overall vehicle weight. 
  • Voyager Next Sub – A full range portable audio system that can be popped into and out of the vehicle for seamless listening on the go and lets users pair with multiple compatible smart audio devices for power concert-like sound on the go.
Looks like the future is for much more cool connectivity, infotainment and trick tech toys in our cars – and not just range-topping, expensive models either – and HARMAN is leading the way with an army of 30,000,000 vehicles already out there connected up to their gear and many more to follow we are sure. Cheers Nick for the heads up. 



Wednesday, 4 January 2017

NEWS: McLaren Super Series Mk2 Is Go!













The "new core of the (mighty) McLaren brand" – the all-new McLaren supercar, Super Series – will debut at the 87th Geneva International Motor Show, March 7th.
The second generation of the Super Series is "McLaren Automotive’s first-ever replacement of a product family and the first of the 15 new cars defined in the company’s Track22 Business Plan
New carbon fibre Monocage II body structure delivers extreme strength and contributes to the car’s light weight.
The first of the 15 new cars cited in the company’s Track22 Business Plan, the second-generation Super Series is also the first replacement of a product family by the British manufacturer of luxury sports and supercars.
“Super Series is the core of the McLaren business and personifies the blend of extreme performance, crafted luxury and unparalleled driver involvement that is the McLaren heartland,” explained McLaren Automotive CEO, Mike Flewitt. “This is the first time we have replaced a product family and the new Super Series will be absolutely true to McLaren’s pioneering spirit in being a revolutionary leap forwards, both for our brand and the supercar segment.”
The new Super Series is created around an ultra-lightweight, carbon fibre central structure. Immensely rigid, yet weighing less than the carbon fibre and metal cockpit architecture of the first-generation Super Series, the Monocage II contributes to a lightest dry weight of just 1,283kg for the new car – lower than the closest competitor and 18kg lighter than a McLaren 650S with comparable specification.
The development of Monocage II has allowed McLaren to incorporate a wider cabin entrance and lower sill to improve access into a driver environment that will offer excellent all-round visibility. The new chassis structure also enables a lower centre of gravity, further sharpening the dynamic performance of the new Super Series. Owners wishing to showcase the carbon-fibre construction chassis can specify a ‘Visible Monocage’ option that exposes the material on the inside area of the A-pillar.
The Super Series lineage began in 2011 with the launch of the groundbreaking 12C. The 12C Spider followed in 2012 and in 2014 McLaren introduced the 650S Coupé and 650S Spider. The first generation of the McLaren Super Series was further expanded in 2015 with the launch of the limited edition 675LT Coupé and 675LT Spider.
Full details of the new, second-generation Super Series will be confirmed in March, when further images and pricing will also be available.
#excitingstartto2017


Wednesday, 7 December 2016

PROJECT CAR: Project Ruby's New Boots From @Falkentyres



Project Ruby is getting spoiled this week – with some much-needed and very trick new Falken tyres, Ziex ZE914 ECORUN, which prove that what these boys learn on the Green Hell, winning endurance races, they translate into proper road rubber, at great prices.
Check out the full story here.
Then go buy some Falkens for your car!