Autoview Motorsport & Motoring

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Caterham CT01 becomes first 2012 F1 car launched.....

2012 Caterham CT01

The first of the new seasons Formula 1 cars to burst into the limelight, the Caterham CT01 isn't a very pretty baby, maybe the Doctor slapped it's nose instead of it's arse and broke it ?  Worse still, if designer Mike Gascoyne is correct, they're all going to look similar in the nose department....... oh dear! 

Team owner Tony Fernandes wants to be regularly pushing the midfield runners this year, and would like to grab the occasional point or two, the team is eager to see it's 2012 challenger hit the track, when it will find out what sort of pace can be expected, Tony said of the launch :

" Yes, it's been a pretty good week. I am thrilled that we broke cover first and that the CT01 is the first example anyone has seen of a 2012 car. I think I am riding on some very good energy at the moment!
I am pleased that we were able to release pictures of our new car so soon. Riad, Mike, Mark and the whole team did a fantastic job getting all the homologation and crash tests out of the way early, and keeping on track with the car's build schedule. I am very proud that we are able to take the covers off first and I think it looks fantastic.
This car represents another step forward for us. The detail right across the whole package is light years ahead of where we were when we first started out, and we are all excited about seeing what it can do when we get on track. I'm also very pleased that we were able to show our fans the car so soon".

All the 'must have' components are present Renault RS27-2012 V8, Red Bull Technology gearbox, AP Racing Clutch, Mike Gascoyne designed chassis, so it would be good to see the team progress further into the midfield, the Tony & Mike show has been refreshing in their approach to the media, and I can't help liking Tony Fernandes, but it's such a hideous looking car, I really don't want to see it at the front....sorry chaps! 

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Plug in Van Grant to entice businesses

White van man sneaks in with electric power!

Hot on the heels of the Plug-in Car Grant at the end of 2010 (which gives a 25% discount up to a maximum of £5,000), the UK Department for Transport announced on the 17th January a similar scheme for vans.

The 'Plug-in Van Grant' will cover 20% of the cost of an eligible vehicle (qualifying vehicles will be decided before the end of January), up to a maximum of £8,000. It’ll be available to both private individuals and businesses as a discount at the point of purchase, negating the need for any retrospective claims.

To be considered for the scheme Vans will have to meet the following criteria:

  • Vehicles must be new fully electric or 'plug-in' hybrid's.

  • Gross vehicle weight (GVW) below 3.5 tonnes.

  • Plug-in hybrid's to have a minimum electric-only range of at least 10 miles (16 km).

  • 'Electric only' vans must be able to go at least 60 miles (97 km) between recharges.

  • Top speed of at least 50 mph (80 km/h).

  • Carbon dioxide emissions cannot exceed 75 g/km.

  • Vans must comply with UN-ECE Regulation 100.00 to show that they are electrically safe.

  • To demonstrate adequate crash safety, vans have to have either EC whole vehicle type approval or comply with other internationally-recognised safety standards.

  • A three-year / 60,000 miles (96,560 km) vehicle warranty is compulsory

  • The battery and electric drivetrain warranty must cover at least three years with the option for customers to extend the battery warranty for an extra two years.

Likely contenders for places on the new scheme include the new Electric Ford Transit Connect and the Renault Kangoo ZE.

Commenting on the new scheme, Under Secretary of State for Transport Norman Baker said:

“Electric vehicles are the arrowhead for a low carbon revolution in motoring and as more models come to market we’ll begin to see sales gather pace.

“Car buyers have had a year to take advantage of our grant and now it’s time for van buyers to get their chance to go electric. This is great news for businesses given the lower running costs of these vehicles - fleet buyers tell us that this is one of the most important factor influencing their decision on what to buy.

“It is radical initiatives like these which will allow us to create a transport system that both cuts carbon and is an engine for economic growth.”

The Plug-in Car Grant has been a bit of a damp squib to say the least with just 1,052 eligible vehicles  registered during 2011.

White van man will now be able to cruise silently up behind you to abuse you!

Monday, 23 January 2012

How to: Buying a car at auction

A trip to the auction to buy a used car will be an alien experience for many people; things happen at a rapid pace, and if you aren't used to the auctioneer's patter, it can be somewhat disorientating and confusing. The cars take only a  few minutes to go from 'on sale' to 'sold' at the crack of a hammer, which means it's essential to have your wits about you and be very well prepared beforehand, if you wish to purchase a car via a UK auction. There are many different types of auction too, but here I'll try to make it as easy to understand as possible.

Auction Types

There are a myriad of auction types, including Classic Cars, Commercial Vehicles, Motorcycles etc. but we're just focussing here on yer standard run-of-the-mill car auction!

Broadly speaking, the various types of auction can be boiled down into 2 categories: those for the public and those for the trade. Though having said that trade or public could be at either type of auction! The 'trade' auctions tend to be held at the large auction groups' vast premises in the day time. These are open to the public, but of course most people work during the day, so these are mainly frequented by motor traders. The traders buy cars in large volumes and so attract preferential buyers fees from the auction houses, who are only too glad to have their repeat business. The vehicles tend to come from large dealer groups, who for their various reasons (such as, the dealer group's policy means they won't sell cars to the public over a certain age, or of a certain brand) wish for a quick turnaround of the car.

There will be cars which have some issues, but you can return a car which has a major fault which was undeclared beforehand for a refund (*take care to read the auction's terms before you buy!). On the whole, however, the vehicles through these auctions are generally 'in good nick', have had a valet, often have service history and just need a tax disc to drive home.

Usually held in the early evening, these auctions tend to be frequented by people who are looking to bag a bargain and I'm sure that some do. Although, in my experience the cars tend to have seen better days, and you regularly see smoky exhausts, colour mismatched panels and hear tappy engines. Not usually that cheap either! If you are new to buying at auction or have little or no mechanical knowledge, you really would be better steering clear.

Buying at a 'Trade' auction
First of all, do your research by checking the type of vehicle you're looking for on the auction house website, as there are usually a few pictures of the car and a short appraisal of its condition. When you get to the auction make sure you know how much you want to spend and that the car(s) you want are going to fall roughly within your budget. Also be sure you have a deposit if you don't buy regularly or have set up an account (usually £500 or 20% of the hammer price minimum).

Get to the auction early, buy a catalogue or make your own notes, then seek out the car(s) you are interested in; they are usually tightly packed, but have a good look round for body damage, be there when the auction assistant starts it up, listen for it struggling to start or not, walk round the back to see if it's smoking from cold, and listen to the engine note. Open the doors and have a good look round, feel for dampness, especially in the boot, make sure all the panel colours match and there are no obvious signs of paint repair such as 'overspray'. If you decide it's for you, follow it into the auction hall, making sure you stand where the auctioneer can see you, and bid. And most importantly, DON'T go over your pre-set limit (I know you will because it takes a lot of control not to when you're caught up in the moment!). When the auctioneer points to you, you need to 'approach the bench' as it were and hand over your deposit and some details.

Here is a small sampling of the vehicles going through a 'trade' auction last monday, all prices shown are plus buyers fee, which is on a sliding scale depending on how many vehicles you buy and the hammer price of the vehicle. For a private individual this is likely to be around £400 for a £4,500 car (apologies for photo quality!) :

                A nice clean example of a Ford Focus 1.8 TDCi with 58,000 miles went for £4,400

   43,000 mile Honda Civic 1.8 '07 plate in black goes through the auction hall. It's new owner paid £6150

      A Grey Prius with 109,000 miles. This car is a '57plate and came with Full service history. Price: £5,200

                This 79,000 mile '06 plate Mazda RX8 looked immaculate but only fetched £2,300               Reliability worries of the 1300cc Rotary engine, allied to a thirst for fuel makes these coupe's look very cheap

'03 plate Porsche Cayenne

£46,660 - No, that was the cost when it was new! Having now been pre-loved for 98,000 miles and with no obvious signs of damage it fetched...... wait for it!!............. £7,200. According to What Car's online valuation service this car with that mileage has a Trade 'bottom book' value of £9,610!

So, if this article has whetted your appetite, or you would like to know more, our comprehensive auction buying services and guides will be available very soon. drop an e-mail to  and we'll make sure you are the very first to receive this remarkable insider info.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Ferrari and Lotus have new F1 ride height control system banned

Smoking OK  Dipping not Ok!

Ride-height control systems which were in development by Lotus and Ferrari have been outlawed by Formula 1's governing body, the FIA.

The two teams had previously been told the device, which aims to keep the car stable during braking, was ok, but the FIA has had a change of heart after investigations.

The new system has been designed to keep the car's ride-height constant during braking stabilising the airflow over and under the car and affecting its aerodynamic performance.

The ride-height of an F1 car moves only a few millimetres, but the more it can be kept level, the better the car's aerodynamic efficiency.

The device is operated via a front suspension mounted hydraulic cylinder which reacts to the braking forces.

It controls the length of the push-rod - the suspension arm that stretches from the springs and dampers on the top of the car's chassis to the bottom of the wheel upright - in response to braking forces. The brake caliper also moves, this system limits the amount the front of the car dips during braking.

The FIA has banned similar devices that control the movement of a car's chassis over the years. But the governing body initially felt the device in question was a part of the suspension and did not contravene that area of the rules.

F1 insiders say that, once it became clear its main role was to improve aerodynamics, banning it was inevitable.

An FIA insider said Lotus and Ferrari seemed unconcerned at the decision to ban the device.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

BBC stays silent on channel four F1 deal

F1 takes off in OZ

It's bad form to criticize the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) and it kinda rankles me to do it. I mean the BBC produces a lot, an immense amount of top quality programming (both Radio & TV), news and information, via it's numerous channels, websites and information services, and I, for one, am a big fan.

As an avid follower of Formula 1, I was really pleased when the sport came back to the BBC in 2009, and the quality of the coverage, in fact the whole package, was really excellent. Then in July 2011, the BBC announced that it was breaking it's expensive Formula 1 contract - scheduled to run until 2013 - to share coverage with Sky.

Now, meaning no disrespect to Sky, who have dedicated a whole channel to F1 (I'm sure they will do a great job), this means that F1 fans will now have to pay £10 extra on top of their existing Sky subscription (assuming they have one!) if they wish to watch all the races live (BBC will show 10 Races live, Starting with the Chinese GP and including Monaco, Silverstone and the season-ending Brazilian GP). Here is what BBC Sports Editor Ben Gallop had to say about the deal when it was announced:

"The speculation is now over. This new arrangement extends the BBC's commitment to F1 by a further five years - our existing contract, which gave us exclusive rights in the UK, was due to expire in 2013. But of course it does mean our coverage will not be as comprehensive as it has been in recent years.

So why are we sharing the coverage with Sky when up to now it had just been us?
Ultimately, of course, decisions about which media organisations get the chance to broadcast F1 are taken by Bernie Ecclestone's Formula 1 Management (FOM). But from the BBC's perspective the new set-up provided us with an opportunity to continue our association with this gripping sport, which has captured the imagination of our audiences since it returned to BBC screens in 2009, with viewing figures at a 10-year high this season.

And while our coverage from 2012 may not be as extensive as it has been up to now, the bare facts are that the BBC needs to save money. Given the financial circumstances in which we find ourselves, we believe this new deal offers the best outcome for licence-fee payers."

The F1 forums have been ablaze with comments and when news came through that Channel 4 had put in a bid to share F1 coverage with the BBC comments on the BBC's own website were vitriolic, and that's being polite! The BBC was silent, maybe ashamed, that it had to cut it's award-winning F1 coverage and hasn't answered the Channel 4 question, some commentators have speculated that it didn't want a rival terrestrial broadcaster involved with f1 - who knows?

A selection of Comments from the Daily Mail website:

Dear Duncan,

Have you watched the telly in the last week. I do not think that a lot of people have 4200 pounds lying around to pay for the next 7 years of F1 on PPV. The sports will suffer. And you sound a bit biased when you say that "Sky Sports deliver a stellar service for football, cricket and golf". More is not always better.

Posted by: Piet Boon | 08/11/2011 at 04:26 PM

The way the BBC went about this deal is a disgrace. They actively sought out Sky to ensure that F1 went to pay tv so that there wouldn't be direct competition from another FTA channel.

They then had the cheek to tell us fans that they were "absolutely delighted" with the deal, and that it is "in the interest of the license payer".

Ben Gallop get your head out of the sand and give us answers.

Posted by: Corbo | 08/11/2011 at 04:27 PM

The BBC spent licence payers' money when Channel 4 would and could have done F1 justice. Well done Ecclestone & Co winning more cash for F1 for a year or two, but the sport and the vast UK high tech industry that supports it will suffer. The BBC though appears to be hiding the upswell of anger that's been triggered by this change; if not 'hiding' the anger they are certainly not addressing it.

Posted by: Pedro | 08/11/2011 at 05:10 PM

So, it's just a sport, so what? well that's true, however Formula 1 is also an entire industry in this country particularly - Mclaren alone employ 1100 people!! and this innovative technological tour-de-force has been responsible for inspiring many brilliant engineers. Many of the advances in automotive safety & technology have been conceived, nutured and made viable, through F1. It impacts all our lives because the majority of us drive and those who don't will at some point be driven.

Where to now then?

Many of us don't wish to line Mr Murdoch's grubby pockets with our hard-earned cash, and it's unlikely that the sport will hit it's peak viewing figures any time in the near future. It's also feasible that young enthusiasts will not have the inspiration to seek out the technical challenges posed by F1, because they are unable to follow the sport. Personally, I will miss the BBC coverage, I think it hit a high note in 2011.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Avis order 100 MG6 cars for their rental fleet

MG's new 6 model

Rental company AVIS have just taken delivery of 100 MG6 GT fastbacks and MG6 Magnette sports saloons, in an exciting first for the new MG Motor company. 

Anthony Ainsworth, commercial director of Avis Rent a Car, said: ‘We are extremely pleased to see the iconic MG marque back again and know that our customers will be delighted to be offered the chance to drive an MG when they hire a car from us.’ 

The 1.8 litre turbo model, will join Avis’s national car hire fleet.

The cars are designed & engineered at MG Motor’s 69 acre plant at Longbridge where final assembly also takes place. The MG6 range starts from £15,495.00 on the road.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Watt's our driving future?

The Nissan Leaf - all electric

I know you don't want to hear this, but the oil is being used up fairly rapidly, and depending on who you listen to, will affect your view of how long it will last. argue, curse me, whatever - it isn't going to last forever. 

So, we're going to have to face it sooner or later, we need a new way to power our personal transportation systems (or CARS, as they are known here) - internal combustion of fossil fuels is going to have to start tapering off, the price of it has become ridiculous anyway, so let's explore this brave new world.

Our options currently seem to centre around: 
  1. 100% electric power
  2.  Hybrid Petrol/Diesel PLUS Electric
  3.  Hydrogen/Electric 
  4. Compressed Air
There are rumours of various other work-in-progress power sources, but things like mini-nuclear and hydrogen from water seem a bit sci-fi at the moment (if you can tell me differently, be glad to hear from you!). 

Right then, lets start with Leccy (Electric to you Sir!) 

The Nissan Leaf is one of many 100% electric zero emissions cars, on sale or due to be on-sale this year, and as electric cars go, it looks kinda like, well .... a car, which is a good start!  The perennial problem with electric cars has always been their range, (ask your milkman!) combined with a long wait for re-charging. Nissan is putting rapid charging stations at all their dealers to help overcome this problem. The rapid chargers will take just 30 minutes to bring the batteries back to 80% of their maximum charge. The home charger (16 amps) will take 8 hours, and the street charger (10amps) 12 hours. However the Leaf costs a massive £30,000 in the UK ($33,000 in the US), with a £5,000 government incentive bringing the price you pay to £25,000. Nissan claim a range of 109 miles and a top speed of 90mph. Cold weather has an effect on the distance you are going to be able to travel, and of course you might just want the heater on too, but this is going to impact the leaf's range (maybe by as much as 25 miles!), and if that cold weather journey needs to be at night then you might just want to have the lights on perhaps?...........hmmm. A new phrase is rapidly entering the english language - 'Range anxiety' - the feeling that your charge is going to be spent before you reach your destination. Premature capitulation anyone?  

The Stunning Lightning GT

But all is not doom and gloom, enter the Lightning GT, depending on your perspective it's stunning, a piece of automotive art. And the technology is clever too, Lithium Titanate batteries (a relatively new development  allowing ultra-rapid battery charging) cleverly integrated into the chassis, a 400BHP equivalent dual rear drive motor system, with 60MPH being achieved in sub 5 seconds. The makers, The Lightning Car Company, claim a 150 mile range, but as we've already seen, the cold, driving with the lights, heater on etc will surely limit the range (If the good people from Lightning want to prove me wrong, with a loan car, that's really fine!) Those Lithium Titanate batteries are key to the Lightning's effectiveness as a distance swallower, with a claimed re-charge in only 10 minutes! If that's the case, this car really is a game-changer. Imagine a business trip from Newcastle to London, stop half way for a cup of coffee, steak and balsamic shallot sandwich, and a battery re-charge - (that'll be a fiver Sir) then waft silently into London ignoring the congestion charge (FREE for zero emission cars) and park free for four hours! Tempted? Then get your cheque book ready, it's due this year and was reported to be around the £120,000 mark.

Hybrid/Range extended vehicles

The Hybrid has been around for quite some time now, the Toyota Prius celebrating  a remarkable 10 years on the road, and from owner accounts they are proving lovable and reliable, and Toyota claim over 70MPG for the latest version, although in the real world this seems to translate to around the 50-55MPG mark, similar to a current generation Diesel car. The Fisker Karma (above) is on stream and has the rear wheels powered by dual electric motors AND a 2 litre turbo petrol engine, giving this car a 6.3 second 0-60MPH time and a limited top speed of 125MPH. The Karma has an all electric range of 50 miles, thanks to it's Lithium-Ion batteries, a full solar roof, gives a total range of 300 miles. Fuel consumption is over 60mpg equivalent in all electric mode, with the petrol only figure at a fairly poor 24 MPG. So, Hybrid's have a place but they need to do much more to be a real alternative and at best can surely only be seen as a stop-gap.


Honda FCX Clarity

A real breakthrough when it was made available to lease in the Unites States, Honda's Hydrogen car, sounds like the answer to all our problems. Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe and Honda have very cleverly managed to produce a car with a fuel stack which converts Hydrogen into electricity to power the FCX Clarity's electric motor. It was highly thought of when James May tested the car for the BBC's Top Gear programme. Now here comes the BUT, and it's a very big capital BUT, there is currently no Network of Hydrogen filling stations and naturally enough, that's a problem. Producing sufficient quantities of Hydrogen takes a lot of energy and that has to come from somewhere! So maybe this particular solution is still a long way off, but hopefully somebody is working on the problems with this idea.

Compressed Air

I've covered compressed air power in an article posted earlier on this site about the MDI Air pod, an interesting proposition that shows ingenuity and a lot of merit.

The conclusion then is that we still have some way to go, before we find a true replacement for our much loved and loathed Internal (Infernal!) combustion engine, not forgetting that the combustion engine has had over 100 years of development thus far, another 20? 30? years of Hybrid or Electric should see us a long way down the road towards Oil freedom.  Let's just hope the stories of peak oil and energy shortage aren't quite as dire as some commentators would have us believe.