Editorial

Friday Video | Bring back the BTCC TOCA Shootout for 2018

With the BTCC celebrating a diamond jubilee in 2018, something extra has been lined up for the Snetterton race weekend. ESM thinks it could do better, with a little inspiration from the 1990s.

1993 Ford Mondeo BTCC

How exactly do you celebrate a 60th anniversary of a motorsport series? Seemingly with a double-length 60 mile race, with separate qualifying round and the removal of standard championship ballast. And that’s it. Hmm. We can’t help but feel TOCA have taken a slightly safe approach to this, when something a little more special could have been conjured up.

Instead, ESM would like to see a return of the TOCA Shootout – a one-off non-championship race held at the end of the season, with the slowest driver eliminated at the end of each lap. With a pace car used to keep the field bunched close, it was made for entertainment.

None more so in 1993, when Formula 1 and Indy Car champion Nigel Mansell showed up – in his Ford Mondeo flat cap. Things didn’t quite go to plan for Nige, but the below video highlights what brought 66,000 people to Donington Park in late October:

Forget a double-length race – this is what the BTCC should use to celebrate a 60th anniversary. We’re not sure if Mr Mansell could be tempted back, but given the driving standards we’ve seen during 2017 a shootout-style event seems perfect for contemporary BTCC. With live TV coverage offered by ITV, the drama of a modern shootout essentially writes itself.

So come on Alan Gow, don’t phone this one in. Bring back the TOCA Shootout, flat caps and all.

Friday Video | Classic BTCC chaos

We’ve taken a close look at driving standards in the BTCC this week. Here’s a reminder that certain things don’t change.

BTCC Super Touring

After the controversy from last weekend’s Silverstone BTCC rounds, the question of how big a part contact should be allowed to play in a professional racing series is one which won’t go away. For some historic perspective, we’ve taken a trip back to 1999 and the peak of the Super Touring era, courtesy of this YouTube clip from Duke Video:

Collisions and questionable overtaking manoeuvres are nothing new to the BTCC, it just seems that 2017 has compacted several seasons of carnage into one neat package. We can only wait and see what the season finale will deliver on the 1st October.

BTCC 2017 | Snetterton – What did we learn?

A week is a long time. Here’s a reminder what happened last weekend when the BTCC circus rolled in to Norfolk. ESM’s BTCC Correspondent wasn’t too impressed with proceedings.

2017 BTCC Snetterton

The series returned following the summer sabbatical, but in all honesty, we didn’t really learn a great deal. After Croft, the championship looked like it was going to be a four-way battle and this weekend’s action confirmed this thought following heavy points hauls for the current top four.

Colin Turkington’s rear wheel drive power enabled him to make Jack Goff’s clear view of the track last no further than the first 100 metres or so and championship contender Turkington sped off into the distance, or so it seemed. An extremely rare mistake, or a slippery surface, halfway through the race caused Turkington to spin off, although he did eventually recover to seventh. Ash Sutton strengthened his championship position by hunting down Goff, who was set for his first win, and used his superior tyre grip to secure the victory.

2017 BTCC Snetterton

The day’s second race was again fairly dull until about half distance. However, this time it was a lights to flag victory for Sutton while all three BMWs hunted him down as a pack, although Goff ran second for quite some time. Rob Collard went into the weekend second in the championship and he needed a slight tap on Goff to achieve second in the race, although Turkington made a great move on him to secure the position for himself later in the race.2017 BTCC Snetterton

Sutton’s chance of winning all three races ended on an entertaining opening lap of the final race as a collision with Rob Austin ended both of their races, but Sutton later alleviated Austin of any blame, although it looked a rash move. Unlike the previous two races, most of the action in this race came at the start, rather than at the end. However, race leader Andrew Jordan suffered what appeared to be an electrical issue on the penultimate lap, whilst leading with a decent gap, which gifted the race win to championship leader, Gordon Shedden.

The victory meant that Shedden held on to his lead at the top of the standings, although with a reduced margin as the top four are now covered by eleven points. At the back of that pack, but most definitely in form is Sutton. Disregarding the retirement in the final race, Sutton had finished no lower than fourth in the previous eight races, winning four of them; serious championship form. (more…)

Editorial | Volvo – fully switched on from 2019?

If you’ve read the news lately, you could be forgiven for thinking that Volvo has killed the combustion engine. No, not quite, but you can’t blame the company for blowing its own trumpet a little. 

Volvo T8 Twin Engine Range

Given the past year, and the risk of being labelled a traitor or enemy of the people, we’d wonder if any organisation would be truly happy about making the front cover of the Daily Mail. But that’s exactly what Volvo got on Thursday, along with sizeable coverage in the The Times and The Guardian. The reaction on social media was slightly more mixed, with many pointing out that the newspapers and other had massively misunderstood the announcement by Volvo. This wasn’t ‘pure electric cars only’ as a strategy, and manufacturers like Lexus already offer hybrids across their model range.

Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine

Perhaps there was a, justifiable, element of resentment from other brands, that Volvo has stolen so much of the headlines with this announcement. For a carmaker to be on the front page of multiple newspapers and not to have done something wrong – Volkswagen – is rather rare. But that is exactly what Volvo achieved yesterday. Granted many mainstream journalists got completely the wrong end of the stick, and believed Volvo would banish the internal combustion engine completely by 2019. However, we imagine Volvo’s PR department were still rather pleased with the coverage all the same.

Volvo S90 T8 Twin-Engine

The truth is virtually all major manufacturers are going to need to further embrace hybrid and electric vehicles, in order to meet the EU’s 2021 target of fleet CO2 emissions averaging no more than 95g/km. That’s quite a tall order, and therefore the more ultra-low and zero-emissions cars a manufacturer has, the lower their overall fleet CO2 average. This is why Volvo is not dispensing with internal combustion in 2019, but merely ensuring it becomes a smaller part of their model range and, where still offered, includes some form of hybrid system to further reduce CO2 outputs. (more…)

Opinion | Are new cars actually getting more expensive?

The new Volkswagen Golf, and the excellent revised GTI in particular, got us wondering. Just how much more expensive are new cars compared to their predecessors? 

2017 New Volkswagen Mk7.5 Golf GTI

Having already won rave reviews from both print and online media, the Mk7.5 Volkswagen Golf GTI is already attracting attention. Yet a lot of the Internet comments seem to take umbrage at one particular fact – the cost. To clarify, the new Golf GTI has a list price starting at £27,865. As with any modern car, there is the huge temptation to run wild with the extras, but that basic amount will get you a brand-new three-door GTI, with a manual gearbox. No options, no fancy technology packages, not even metallic paint. Signature GTI colours like Tornado Red will add an extra £250, with metallics needing £570. In short, it’s rather easy to spec’ a GTI which costs over £30,000. Shock, horror, Internet outrage.

The most recent time a new Golf GTI garnered such positive attention was with the introduction of the Mk5 in early 2005. After the lacklustre Mk4 effort, the all-new GTI was an absolute revelation. Tartan seats helped, too. Yet when first introduced, the new Mk5 GTI had a starting price of just £19,995. Yes really, less than £20,000, and although the amount did rise shortly afterward, that’s the value we’ve used for comparison.

2005 Volkswagen MkV Golf GTI

A difference of £7,870 equates to a substantial sounding 39.4% increase in those twelve years between 2005 and 2017! On the other hand, horsepower has gone from 197hp in the Mk5 GTI, to 230hp in the Mk7.5, a jump of only 17%. If it had followed the same pattern as pricing, new GTI models should be rolling out the factory with 274hp. So have Volkswagen left new GTI buyers shortchanged?

Well no, actually. Inflation on the cost of goods and services in the UK has risen on average by around 2.9% each year. That 2.9% figure is based on the Bank of England’s CPI information, and there is little difference when using inflation calculators that rely on RPI data instead. We’re not going to delve into A-Level economics and debate the differences here – this is a car blog, not the Financial Times.

2017 New Volkswagen Mk7.5 Golf GTI

Inflation between March 2005 and March 2017 totals roughly – wait for it – 39%. Meaning a new Mk7.5 Golf GTI costs within £75 of what the financial data tells us it should do in 2017. It also means we’re getting a better deal in 2017 with 230hp, and the continuous improvement in technology and specification that has taken place in the last decade. So the next time someone exclaims the new Golf GTI is far too expensive, feel free to shut them down with data.

We couldn’t just leave it at one car, however. The Golf GTI may happen to be a freak automotive bellwether, so we checked out the new Golf R, just to be sure. But this time we went even further back with our research. All the way back to 2002, and the introduction of the Mk4 R32. (more…)

Top Seven New Cars of 2016 | With Ned Jasper

Yeah, 2016 probably won’t go down as a vintage year in terms of global politics and current affairs. However, when it comes to new cars, it’s most certainly been a classic! As the man who has covered the biggest new releases for ESM this year, our man Ned Jasper picks his top seven.

Top 7 New Cars of 2016

Well, here it is. Christmas time 2016. That means festive tunes fill the airwaves, trees go up and presents are bought. That also means that it’s nearly the end of 2016. So let’s take a look back at some of the greatest new cars to come out this year. This is ESM’s top five new cars of 2016. Actually, it’s not. There were so many good contenders this year that we stretched it to seven! Yes, yes, I know I said that last year as well, but this year we really have had some rather special cars released. Here they are:

7. Porsche 718 Boxster S2016 718 Boxster SI know what you’re thinking. Great intro, best cars of 2016, and now I’m presenting you with a Porsche Boxster. What is going on? I had my reservations about this one too. This is the baby Porsche, only with fewer cylinders and a turbocharger. Not really a recipe for success is it? However, it’s been 11 months since this little gem was released and, I must say, it’s grown on me.

First, let’s talk about the heart of this little orange and black tiger. It’s down two cylinders from the previous model, but it’s up one turbo and a whole heap of power. What’s more, the Boxster S has a variable vane turbo – not necessarily something you would expect to find from this class of car.

So what about the rest of it? Underneath we have the same mid-engined, rear-wheel drive, sports car with a manual gearbox (PDK is available, too) that’s been entertaining drivers for nearly two decades. Despite the engine alterations, the recipe remains unchanged with superb handling and excellent composure. Only this time with a little more grunt. Well worthy of the number 7 spot.

 

6. McLaren 570GT2016 McLaren 570GT

You would think that with 562bhp, and a top speed of 204mph, the 570GT would undoubtedly be the fastest hatchback in the world. The thing is, it’s not even the fastest hatchback on this list – told you it was a good year! What the 570GT is, though, is a remarkable piece of British engineering. Not only is it a comfortable, usable supercar, it’s also stunningly good to look at, and actually practical.

First, the looks: unlike the other cars in the McLaren range, the 570GT is a little more mature. There’s no lurid paint and no stripped out interior on this show car. Instead we’ve got rich silver-grey paint, mixed with deep red leather. This car is, in my eyes, the best-looking McLaren of the lot. Now, I said it was a practical hatchback, and I wasn’t lying. In total, the 570GT has 370 litres of luggage space. Sure, it’s split between two different enclosures, but that’s still more space than a Ford Focus.

The 570GT is a remarkable piece of engineering and surely serves as proof that we’re living in a new age. No wonder McLaren has just churned out its 10,000th car!

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Editorial | Volkswagen to end World Rally Championship commitment

Another week, another Volkswagen Group motorsport project gets canned. After the end of Audi’s Le Mans campaign, now comes the closure of VW’s highly successful rally programme. ESM’s Editor reflects.

VW Polo R WRC

Just three days after winning the 2016 Rally GB, along with more World Championship titles, Volkswagen officially that there will be no 2017 WRC campaign. The official reason is that the brand must ‘realign’ priorities in the face of enormous challenges. Whilst the statement from Volkswagen is at pains to avoid any reference to last year’s emissions scandal, this is clearly a knock-on effect from dieselgate.

With litigation and product recalls requiring Volkswagen to set aside billions of euros, continuing an expensive motorsport campaign in the WRC becomes a difficult thing to justify. In addition, it may well be that the Volkswagen brand wants to keep a low profile until the fall-out from dieselgate is completely sorted. It’s worth noting that VW-branded cars didn’t appear in this year’s latest Forza Horizon 3 game on the Microsoft Xbox, due to undisclosed licensing issues. Having been paraded through the global media as a cheat, perhaps Volkswagen wants to avoid rubbing noses in the dirt. Literally.

VW Polo R WRC

What’s more depressing is that Volkswagen Motorsport’s campaign with the Polo R WRC has been nothing short of flawless. From entering in 2013, to now, Volkswagen has taken 42 rally wins from 51 entries – that’s more than 83%! It means the Polo R WRC has notched up four drivers’ titles with Sébastien Ogier, four co-drivers’ titles with Julien Ingrassia, and four Manufacturers’ championships. Whilst cynics and critics will point to contemporary WRC being at its lowest ebb in generations – they’re not wrong – it’s still an amazing performance.

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Motorsport | Audi ditches Le Mans for Formula E

After almost two whole decades of dominance, one of the biggest names in endurance racing has called time on participation. 

2015 Audi R18 e-tron quattro #7

Audi Sport officially announced yesterday that, at the end of 2016, the Audi brand will no longer compete in the World Endurance Championship. That means 18 years of Le Mans competition will also come to an end, as Audi Sport elects to pursue Formula E instead.

2015 Audi R18 e-tron quattro #7

This decision is hardly surprising, and had been rumoured in the previous weeks as a very real possibility. Since the introduction of the R10 TDI, Audi’s LMP strategy for the past decade has been built around the use of diesel engines. Following last year’s dieselgate furore, diesel power has become immediately unfashionable across the Volkswagen Group.

Whilst the motoring world was already pushing towards the greater use and integration of electric power, dieselgate has made this even more important for brands like Audi and Volkswagen. Audi Sport already has a partnership with Team ABT Schaeffler Motorsport in Formula E, meaning the barriers to entry are low. Throw in the fact that Formula E now allows for the development of bespoke powertrain elements, and it becomes a fairly easy decision. (more…)

Ned Jasper | Tesla Model S 90 P90D

The Tesla Model S is kind of a big deal. No, scrap that, it’s a massive deal. We’ve heard from The Tame Geek when he drove one, but what is it like to be a passenger in the fastest four-door in the world? Ned found out.

tesla-model-s[Just a small disclaimer before I start the article, due to my age, I haven’t actually physically driven the car myself. I did, however, have a ride in the back, and this is my review from that perspective. Enjoy.]

2.8 seconds – that’s about the time it takes for you to decide whether or not you want to continue reading this article. Hopefully, it’s the former. But if you were in a Tesla P90D – with Ludicrous Mode – 2.8 seconds is the time it takes to blow your mind. Why? Because this 2.2-tonne family saloon can out-accelerate a Porsche 911 Turbo, that’s why! So in case you haven’t already guessed, 2.8 seconds is the 0-60mph time. Now, the way this thing looks.

The Model S came out in 2012, yet in the Spring of this year, we saw it oust its cocoon and flourish into quite a handsome brute. The combination of the long sloping roof line and powerful stance make spotting one on the roads an occasion. What’s more, the new eyelash-shaped wrap around headlights make it yet more menacing in the dark. Overall the Model S manages to mix a little bit of the future with much of the present. So even in 10 years time, I can’t imagine it looking dated.

With it being “the car of the future” and all, the Model S is inevitably a tech fest, and the whole car is adorned with little flourishes that do more that just please the eye. Those devilish lights, for example, are now full-LED and fully adaptive. The air suspension is fully adjustable too and, with the help of GPS mapping, the Model S will track where you’ve altered the suspension so that next time it can automatically do it for you. (more…)

F1 – Buttoned up, or down and out, for Jenson?

After a fairly dull and dismal Italian Grand Prix on track, the only major talking point from the weekend was McLaren’s 2017 driver lineup. Does it mean things are all over for JB?2016 Jenson ButtonIt’s a classic McLaren piece of stage management. Stoffel Vandoorne joins Fernando Alonso as the two race drivers for 2017, whilst Buttons retains an “ambassadorial” role within the McLaren universe. It means the team have an option should a) Vandoorne somehow prove to be useless, or b) Fernando Alonso decide he can’t be bothered with the same crap anymore. It also means the firm retains the ability to milk Jenson’s marketing appeal. No doubt there’ll be numerous videos of him drifting McLaren road cars and other race cars over the next twelve months.

2016 Jenson Button

Expect more of this in the next year.

McLaren are no stranger to having drivers take a sabbatical. Mika Häkkinen famously took one for the 2002 season which, curiously, was also announced just before the 2001 Italian Grand Prix. After being World Drivers’ Champion in 1998 and 1999, along with finishing as runner-up in 2000, Häkkinen has suffered a challenging 2001. With the desire to win having faded, and fear from big crashes lingering, it wasn’t a huge surprise that Häkkinen officially announced his retirement from Formula 1 in 2002, at the relatively young age of only 33. (more…)