Autoview Motorsport & Motoring

Friday, 23 December 2011

Fuel saving guide

Despite the dull sounding title, saving fuel can be a hoot. Don't believe me? I wouldn't blame you! but it really can be fun, in the way that obsessing over your golf swing or chasing track day lap-times can be fun (sort of!).

Consider this -  you have just been given the last gallon of fuel on the planet, your challenge is to make it last as long  as possible. Don't get too hung up on achieving the MPG figures that the manufacturer of your vehicle claims it can do in the glossy brochure, just try to maximise what you can achieve, and a fuel saving road trip can become an addictive pastime.

Most cars these days have a trip computer, which will work out fuel consumption for you. If your car doesn't, the most accurate way to check is by filling your fuel tank as fully as you can, zero the trip counter or note down the mileage, then drive until you need to put more fuel in. Note down the amount of fuel you have put in to take the tank back to full, and then you'll have to convert to gallons (4.54609 litres in one UK gallon). So, if your tank has just taken 70 litres of fuel for a 400 mile trip (70/4.54609 = 15.397 UK gallons divided into 400 miles = 25.98 MPG)

So, first things first: simple things you can do to set up the car:

1. Tyre Pressures - check the manufacturer's recommendations and inflate those tyres. More pressure means a lower rolling resistance, or in other words, the tyre will roll more easily across the tarmac.

2. Reduce Weight - remove as much unnecessary weight as possible. A lighter car has less lard to drag around and consequently accelerates, stops and steers better too.

3. Service your car regularly - burned fuel deposits inside your engine can cause sludge and varnish to build up, so reducing the efficiency of your power unit. A quality engine flush can remove these deposits, but consult your vehicle servicing agent to make sure it's safe for your vehicle.

4. Don't neglect your fuel system either - a quality fuel cleaner and a new filter can ensure the fuel is delivered efficiently.

5. Hyper-Mileing Techniques - A driver's ability to be gentle with the throttle, keep momentum up hills, through roundabouts, junctions and other road hazards has to be practised.

Start by planning your journey thoroughly. Adding  half an hour to anticipated journey times allows for heavier than expected traffic or roadworks. Most fuel is used accelerating a vehicle up to its cruising speed. Once at a cruising speed your foot will naturally ease off the throttle and the vehicle will sip fuel. So, whenever you are building up speed, treat the throttle gently, steadily allow the vehicle to build speed using the minimum input necessary.

Timing your gearchanges and learning to listen to the engine, to ensure it isn't labouring or revving too hard can become a challenge akin to a golf game! Of course a heavier, thirstier Automatic doesn't have this element of challenge!

Reading the road ahead is crucial. Forward momentum must be maintained at all costs, always remembering that it's the acceleration phase which is going to cost you most, so try to avoid those expensive bursts of throttle, by using the momentum you have already built up. If the traffic lights are on red, and you can see that in advance, ease off the throttle, let the car coast, try not to brake and hope the lights will change before you get there!

Leave decent space between you and the car in front. This allows you to react to his/her actions, anticipate the car you are following braking, turning or doing something unexpected, begin to plan any overtaking as soon  as you realise you will have to overtake. Which means looking well ahead and also watching your mirrors! Total concentration on your driving shouldn't really be a bad thing, but please don't take it extremes and be considerate towards other road users.

So make it your mission to eek out those drops of precious petrol, Diesel, LPG or whatever weird and wonderful concoction you run your pride and joy on! Remember it takes years of practice to become a fuel miser, but just like perfecting that golf swing, becomes very addictive!

Monday, 19 December 2011

Free breathable Fuel!

French Company MDI's Air Pod

For those not familiar with the workings of a compressor, it's basically an internal combustion engine minus the ability to combust! Compressor engines have a piston or pistons, if they are multi-cylinder, which are driven via an electric motor usually and the compression (or squeeze) phase of the combustion cycle is used to squash the air and store it in a cylinder. This compressed air is then used to inflate our tyres, power air tools or spray paint anything that moves (better if doesn't though, saves streaking!)

So, why am I prattling on about the virtues of the humble compressor on a car blog? Well, a small french company has been working on a range of compressed air powered vehicles. Their AirPod One is pictured above, but the proposed range includes public transport solutions too, and as our fossil fuel stocks continue to dwindle, everybody with an interest in these matters seems hell bent on unlocking the secrets of electric power. But this erm... interesting?? (I think it's decide!) looking little car has a dual fuel option (presumably using a combustion engine option), which, they claim, will give around 160mpg with only 30g of Co2 produced and an 800 mile range! In city mode, using compressed air only, the MDI produces no Co2! So run the engine backwards via an electricity supply and it refills the air tank (taking approximately 2 hours) or connect the tank to an air supply (your local garage has one of these!!) for a 2 minute refill and you're on your way!

Now, this poses an interesting question.... is it possible to run this 'engine' on compressed air and have it refill the tank whilst you're moving? I'm sure the 'brains' are working on this as I write, and although there is bound to be some efficiency loss, maybe there is a way to at least recoup some of the losses?

The genius behind this thinking is French engineer Guy Negre, who has designed over 100 engines, and his MDI company has signed an agreement with Indian Motor giant TATA to licence the technology. It's notable that not much attention (if any at all) is being focussed on the performance of Mr Negre's machines, so that probably means there isn't much (and that makes us sad :( ), but given time, investment and maybe a racing series (the AirPod challenge anyone?), things might develop - worth keeping an eye on?

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Time for the Racy ladies to show their F1 class?

Maria DeVillotta

It's been nearly 20 years since we last saw a female competitor in Formula 1, and that's a great big fat shame, although with a little bit of luck, all that may soon be about to change! Maria De Villota, daughter of former F1 driver Emelio De Villota is rumoured to be close to signing a deal with Renault... errr...Lotus....Renault as one of their reserve drivers for 2012. Maria recently completed the necessary 300km required in an F1 car to qualify for her superlicence and the indications are that she will be having a further run in a 2009 spec Renault F1 car at the Circuit de Catalunya on the 4th December.

So why has it taken so long???? Formula 1 is a sport which not only requires a driver to have great skill behind the wheel, there is also the grubby matter of financing. Even despite the RRA (Resource Restriction Agreement), Formula 1 is still hugely expensive and the teams, particularly at the lower end of the grid, have to generate as much income as possible in order that staff get their wages, materials can be purchased and the wheels can keep turning. For a talented driver making their way through the sport, the costs are still massively expensive and out of the reach of most. A friend who works for a top Formula Renault team, told me a couple of years ago, that for the privilege of making his teams car look good for a season, the driver would be required to bring €680,000. Considering that this is just one year in what will probably (if lady luck is kind!) be a 5 year (give or take) apprenticeship through the lower Formulae, the financial obstacles to success become more apparent. And with Karting being the usual feeder for car racing these days, it's normal for parents to find themselves funding these early years, at anywhere from £6,000 - £10,000 per season. And I've heard talk of people spending a great deal more.

So, the point is that, motorsport tends to appeal more to boys than girls in the first instance and wealth (or relative wealth!) is a factor in the families decision to compete, and a bit like the proverbial sausage machine, the more that goes in the top, the more that comes out of the bottom! So, with less girls taking part in the first rungs of the ladder, there are less who are competing alongside the boys in cars, and fewer still who are going to have the opportunity to progress to the very top of the sport, with only 24 drivers on the Formula 1 grid at any one time, space is severely limited!

One of the very best ladies to come through UK karting is Tiff Chittenden, daughter of tin top and sports car racer Mike Chittenden, Tiff and her talented sister Tamsin competed at the top level of UK Karting for many years. Tiff had already run a few races in Formula Renault in 2006, when she won a second British Karting title with the 2007 Rotax Max DD2 championship. Her Formula Renault season was a difficult one, with a limited budget, and a poorly funded team, it was a steeply uphill challenge. Her true class as a driver and competitor, came to the fore in 2007 with that Rotax championship, but lack of funds has meant that the opportunity her talent deserves has been sadly lacking. Outings in the Porsche supercup and Aston Martin GT4 challenge, have allowed Tiff to show her class on occasion, but what Tiff really needs is a Vijay Mallya or Ron Dennis to guide her to the big time Tiffany click here if that's you!

Tiff Chittenden

Friday, 2 December 2011

5 top tips when buying a used car

1. Take a good look at the V5 document or log book, it can tell you if the vehicle has had an accident recorded by the insurance company. Check the mileage (if it's recorded) and number of owners here too. Check that VIN numbers match on any documentation, including MOT.

2. Check for service or other repair history, showing that somebody has taken care to have maintenence or other essential work carried out. If the car has a cambelt, check when this was replaced, as a failure can be unnecessarily expensive, and/or lead to a wrecked engine.

3. Take along an expert to check the vehicle over for you and road test it thoroughly, looking for signs of abuse or neglect, or if you are confident, do it yourself, making sure to listen, look and feel. Try the controls, lights and all the systems. don't be afraid to drive the car 'vigorously' (within speed limits and reason!)to show up any knocks, rattles or weaknesses in the drivetrain.

4. Don't be afraid to take a really close look at bodywork and panels, does the colour match? is the paint 'dull' or uneven. Do the panels appear to fit correctly?

5. Locate the Vehicles identification No.(VIN) (usually found in the passenger side lower windscreen on mordern cars and various other places). Check that there are no signs of tampering or removal, as this might indicate foul play.Check also that this number corresponds with the one on your V5 document.

A genuine seller will never usually object to your thorough examination of the vehicle prior to making a purchase. Indeed, most sellers would take it as an opportunity to showcase their wares! It is better for all concerned that buyer is happy with their new car, as, surely, nobody wants the hassle of having a car returned by an unhappy purchaser. Do try to be realisitic - a second-hand car will almost certainly have some reasonable signs of wear and tear.

Vehicle crime is still a massive problem in the UK with criminals 'ringing' or cloning vehicles and then feeding them back into the system. With around 350,000 vehicles stolen in the UK alone, are you sure you aren't buying yourself someone else's misery?

There are thousands of components on your vehicle, many of which cost hundreds, if not thousands of pounds to diagnose and replace, together with the inconvenience this causes.

There are no guarantee's that things will never go wrong, but for a few pounds you can start from a good base. visit a data checking web site such as My Car Check or click the banner on my website to learn more about having your potential purchase data checked.

Kimi Raikonnen Joins Renault... err Lotus.. Renault for 2012

Kimi Raikonen with nice new jacket

Fooled me, all the rumour suggested that Kimi Raikkonen would be joining Williams for the 2012 season, but then fooling me is not really sport!

After a couple of years competing in the WRC (World Rally Championship), Kimi is coming back to formula 1, and the noises he is making suggest he's hungry again! I truly hope so, because a motivated Kimi is a very fast Kimi, and even in a car which might not be the best, he is capable of pulling off some truly stunning drives.

Kimi started mucking around on a pedal kart at the age of 3 and later graduated to motorbikes and Karts, winning the Finnish championship twice in Formula ICA and Formula A respectively among other notable results. Moving into car racing in 1999 and competing in Formula Ford and Formula Renault, he bagan to make teams owners sit up and notice at the end of his first season racing cars when he won the Formula Renault winter series with the Manor motor sport team (now competing as Virgin or Marussia in F1 for 2012). Manor have an impressive pedigree in Formula Renault, stretching back to 1991 with a win for Jason Plato and including Lewis Hamilton and Antonio Pizzonia amongst it's many other champions. Kimi was the winner of the Full Renault season the following year and became a Sauber test driver along the way, graduating to a race seat with Sauber in 2001 and finishing 10th in the drivers championship with 9 points. Mclaren snapped him up for 2002 and that's when his raw speed was unleashed. Highlights of his career include winning his first Grand Prix in Malaysia 2003, a season in which he became a genuine title contender and finished 2nd in the championship, as he did in 2005. These were campaigns he may well have won had his cars been more reliable. His sole title came by a single point from Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso in 2007. He suffered what might be termed a 'brewers droop', given his love of partying, in the next two seasons and left for the WRC. His F1 career stands at 18 wins, 16 pole positions and 1 championship.

Kimi is known as the ice-man for his cool exterior under all conditions, but stories abound of his love of wild parties, letting his hair down and extreme sports. Apparantly he checks himself in for events as 'James Hunt' to avoid attention, and also showing his admiration for the suave,good looking, womanising, jammy b*gger, party animal, budgie breeder (yes, really!) Hunt. I think we'll have to look at James's wild character another time! But back to Kimi, his web-site is well worth a look, if only for the background picture in his Rally car (you'll see what I mean when you get there!)

So, as things stand we will have an unprecedented SIX World Champions on the grid come Melbourne in March, Raikkonen is going to need time to get up to speed, tyres, aerodynamics and loads more changes to the cars plus two years rallying, will mean he has some catching up to do......

It's going to be an interesting season.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Toyota GT86

Toyota GT86

Unveiled at the Tokyo motor show, this joint venture project with fellow Japanese manufacturer Subaru, is a compact four seat GT car, similar in stature to the Mazda MX5.

The GT86 comes with a high revving 4 cylinder 2 litre 'boxer' engine producing 197BHP initially (though no doubt there will be more powerful units waiting in the wings) and from the promo pictures looks stunning. Low-ish weight (1220kg) and 53/47 weight distribution split with power supplied to the rear wheels, should ensure a lively sweet handling little sports car.

Car buff's will know that the power unit comes from Subaru, they have persevered with the 'boxer' design, and won many Rallies and Rallying World Championships using it. Although within the motor trade, those in the know reckon that Subaru engines, especially when in a higher state of tune, can be a little fragile. But, to counter, if you tune any engine, especially by increasing RPM, you risk making that engine more susceptible to failure, and given that the niche carved out by Subaru, means they market predominantly to the kind of buyer who is looking to 'enhance performance' to put it politely! well, what would you expect! I've never owned one, but love the 'burble' made when they drive by, it's something a little bit different in a world where the vast majority of engines follow the well-worn-and-slightly-dull-but-consistent in-line four cylinder path.

All in all, I, for one am looking forward to seeing the motoring magazines review of this car and it's sister Subabru BRZ. The photo below shows the Subaru, so that you can see the family resemblance.

Subaru BRZ