Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Go Faster – Marketing done sideways

A cold October day in a goods yard in Dagenham might not seem like the most glamorous way to spend a day, but it made the perfect setting for a getaway movie. Containers littering the area suggest that the location could be anywhere industrial. We’ve arrived for a day of stunt driving in Ford’s Focus RS and Mustang halo models, with a promise of being part of the action.



Pulling up through a set of security gates, we tuck our nose in to a space alongside a modified bright blue Focus RS,  this thing has presence. The RS is less than subtle in standard guise but sat low with exhausts big enough to attract interest from a party of caving enthusiasts keen to wander in and explore; there is no doubt that this is a machine meant for more than family-hatch duties. The two other blue examples look considerably more reserved by comparison.

It’s clear that the day is going to connect with enthusiasts – one of the keenest proudly grinning under his RS emblazoned baseball cap; but there’s a good mix of people and cars in the car park, a selection of hot machinery from Subaru to Golf R, Mustang to a GT40, and plenty of more ordinary metal too.

Between two huge movie poster style banners, is a sign on a tent showing a trailer reel, ‘props’ from the movie and a machine dispensing welcoming hot cups of coffee.  Producer Jess comes over and firmly grabs my hand “Michael, great to see you!” (We’ve never met before) “I’ve seen some of your work and your agent… well they say you’re the best in the business! Look forward to seeing you out there”. It’s a fully immersive experience this – think Secret Cinema and you’ll not be far off the mark.

The basic premise is that a slick looking heist movie ‘Go Faster’ (itself a play on Ford’s current ‘Go Further’ tagline) is in the process of being shot. Most of the film has been cast, save for one key character the androgynous ‘Wheels’ as eponymous wheelman (or woman). Here’s where we come in, auditioning for the role.


We’re given a tour of the ‘set’ complete with catering, edit suite, wardrobe and led through to a coned area where a team of stunt drivers arrive sideways, in a cloud of tyre smoke, drifting, donuting and braking hard to a stop just ahead of us, a line of 8 or so RS’ and a pair of Mustangs, offering a taste of what’s to come. ‘Henry’ a superbly over-the-top British ‘Stunt Supervisor’ gets us going. Calling names from his clipboard, he directs us off in groups of three to our various stunt lessons.

First up, it’s the J turn; actually my favourite of the day. There’s a nervous energy made all the better by being one of three people taking turns behind the wheel of the car. ‘J Turn John’ gives me a nod “Right arm at 9 o’clock, spin it right, round to 6… Into first – away you go.” My turn. Jumping into the driver’s seat I eye up the rear-view mirror and my hand for some reason wanders to the handbrake. “You won’t be needing that!” I give it a go… up to 20, some fast steering, but too slow into first. It’s ok though, there’s two more goes to perfect this... Second time, left hand on the gearknob ready; I focus, hard on the throttle – aggressive steering input and flat out with a satisfying squeal from the tortured tyres. I checked the trip computer – 83 miles old and an average of 2.7mpg. No question these poor cars have lead a hard life... The third time I hit it harder still, properly satisfying. Taking a seat in the back the manoeuvre feels absolutely savage and my head ricochets off of the inside of the c-pillar in a cascade of four letter words. None of us are being easy on the car. Poor thing.

Next, is a handbrake park. This time the car’s been rigged with a hydraulic handbrake to help kick the back end round– it’s particularly tricky this, a tight box marked out with cones looks impossibly small. Our driver, one of Paul Swift’s team, tucks it in in an effortless manoeuvre that’s never going to be easy to replicate… Deep breath and away we go, the back swings round and I miss... the back end is sticking out. Round two with a bit more aggression and the front end nearly swallows a cone. Third attempt and it’s in; just, and not neatly either. Reverting to type I ask our young driver about his job – “Go on” I say… “What’s it like to do this for a living?” He grins at me “What do you think? […] I’m at college actually” he replies… “I do this part time”. I’m jealous – when I was his age the closest I got to professional driving was behind the wheel of a B&Q van in between hefting bags of concrete. We goad him into some hooliganism – holding on to anything we can use to keep ourselves upright – the RS pulls up to 1G sideways… It turns out he’d been stunt driving since the age of 14.


For the next challenge it was time to swap RS abuse for Mustang time-trial action. Just one practice this time, slaloming through cones, a couple of roundabouts and stop in the box. Sounds easy, but it’s tight. After the agility of the RS the Mustang feels like an absolute barge. Yes, it sounds the better of the pair, arguably it looks better too, but by comparison it feels soft and unwieldy; like pushing your couch through football agility training. The key here is smoothness not speed. Sadly, by this point my inner yob had already made a judgement call. I’m not going to be the fastest but I definitely want to be the most sideways. No time to wrestle with my Id, I decided to go committed. The donut is a mix of understeer, oversteer and smoke but if nothing else a big grin. Fast it was not – around the bottom of the top ten. On the road this is a superb GT, here it lacks finesse, I suspect the brilliant Fiesta ST would have taken several seconds off the time.

Back to the RS then; this one feels more tortured, more tired than the others. The heating is on full blast, almost unbearably hot, an effort to direct heat away from the engine. The rear grab handles are missing too, ripped from the headlining. It’s filthy, with bits of tyres hanging off the wheel arches. It looks mean; angry at its mechanical torture. This is the drifting section and there was no sympathy. The Focus is in ‘Drift’ mode, ESC off.

As I hurled left around a single cone in the centre of the deliberately wet box, the back end broke free and my poor passengers were thrown into the door cards, switching direction was absolutely savage, violently throwing everybody to the otherside of the car “that’s how the handles came out” laughed our instructor. With no air to cool the 2.3 turbocharged lump, engine temps climbed, eventually overheating the steering and rear diff causing the car to wash wide. We’d broken it… temporarily at least and a slow drive was needed to get some cool air back through the front.

 

I needed it too. Dressed via the wardrobe in a green bomber jacket and leather gloves we made our way indoors for some green screen action. Posing for a photo and doing my best to wind down the cheese, I found myself in a rig ahead of a green screen, superimposed into a movie poster. Director Gus, a hilarious pastiche encouraged us through a short acting sequence that would be inserted into the film's movie trailer (see below) – an awesome momento of the day. Of course, interior shots driving the car were also needed, bringing us on to the final challenge.


We were met again by Henry, who gave us our final instructions – a series of manoeuvres, this time watched by all the participants and no practice, just one take. The Focus looked odd, the badges and plate backwards, setup so that it would work for the left hand drive cars of the America-set film.


For the first time I felt nervous.. Nobody wants to fluff up a stunt in front of a crowd. J turn first; I floored it, yanked the steering, slipped the RS into first and floored it again. I pulled it off too, phew.  A drift around a camera followed for a side in – shot and a powerslide with a glasses off – stare at the camera before heading back to the studio.


It has been an epic day and I awaited the trailer eagerly – yes it’s a bit cheesy but I’m somehow quite proud of it. This was a day of genuine excitement, yobism and automotive abuse that you’d never in your right mind subject your own car to.

Worth the £99 ticket price? Absolutely.

I must have used that in tyres and fuel, let alone the wear to the cars.

This had us thinking, surely Ford couldn’t pull this off at a profit; rough maths says £3,000 a group, £9,000 a day versus a fleet of cars, damage, a lot of expensive Michelin tyres and a fuel bill that would make you consider shares in BP…

No, the cost of Go Faster is incidental; really, this is a masterstroke in marketing. A few cars, a superb setup and experienced stunt team all cost; but compared to say, pitching an SUV during Premiership half-time this is cheap advertising. In an age where social media rules, this is viral marketing at its best. It’s an experience you’re unlikely to forget and one you’ll probably keep talking about too.

If this is how Ford want to sell us its cars, sign me up; I’ll happily pay for the privilege. Marketing is most definitely best when it’s done sideways.

Michael Gates

Monday, 6 November 2017

UKMotorTalk News highlights podcast - London to Brighton Veteran Car Run 2017

In this episode of UKMotorTalk:
  • 2017 London to Brighton Veteran Car Run
  • Lewis Hamilton - 2017 F1 World Champion
  • Ford Robutt - Robot seat tester
  • Project Bloodhound
  • Winter Driving - Tyres and Lights
  • Autonomous driving tests
  • Older Drivers

To follow the UKMotorTalk podcast, and not miss a thing, go to:
http://shoutengine.com/UKMotorTalk/

Ford's Robutt seat tester can be seen here:

Monday, 30 October 2017

Jaguar Land Rover and project REALITY: The Future of Recycling

Jaguar Land Rover, the largest vehicle manufacturer in the UK, made ground-breaking steps in 2008 with the launch of their REALCAR and REALCAR 2 projects, aimed at increasing aluminium recycling rates and reducing carbon emissions.

However, their latest project REALITY is showing early signs of being the most pioneering yet.

So, what has been going on behind the scenes so far…


What is the REALCAR Project?


The REALCAR project began in 2008 and was the first step introduced by Jaguar Land Rover to boost aluminium recycling rates, aiming to boost the amount of recycled aluminium used in vehicle manufacture to 75%, lowering their overall carbon footprint.

This project assisted in the design of a new alloy made from discarded, aluminium scrap; the RivAlloy, which combines the benefits of largely reducing the amount of wasted material and dramatically minimising transport emissions from using UK materials.


REALCAR 2


REALCAR 2, the second wave of the REALCAR project, focused on separation technologies and the “technological shift” needed to change the future of vehicle recycling.

In figures set out by Jaguar Land Rover, the REALCAR programmes have reclaimed more than 75,000 tonnes of aluminium scrap which was then able to be used in the manufacturing of new vehicles.


What is the REALITY Project?


Moving into the final stage of a larger plan, Jaguar Land Rover have announced how their last project will attempt to increase the amount of recycling from ‘end of life’ vehicles to witness a surge in the amount of aluminium coming from scrap:

“Aluminium from other sources, including end-of-life vehicles, can now be graded and ‘born again’ in the manufacture of new cars.”

The REALITY project is scheduled to last for three years and will build on the foundations of the REALCAR projects. REALITY is concerned with enabling and promoting closed loop recycling- a unique system that helps to bring about both financial and environmental benefits.

The REALCAR projects have so-far already received super brain-power from the likes of Brunel University, Novelis and part-funding from Innovate UK:

"Innovate UK is proud of our support for the REALCAR programme, and this exciting latest stage of the project, REALITY, is another excellent example of collaboration between large and small businesses in the supply chain, supporting them to scale up and become more productive. These projects have been a model in terms of professional delivery of complex research and development."

REALITY has now also called upon the help of a new partner- AXION for a specifically designed process tailored to the recycling of aluminium.

If you’re interested in seeing more videos like this, you can subscribe to Innovate UK’s YouTube channel here.

Additionally, you can follow @InnovateUK on Twitter here.

Friday, 27 October 2017

The UK’s ongoing headache with potholes

The RAC have released new data that suggests that drivers in Britain are still having recurring issues with potholes and this is causing a lot of problems. Used Volkswagen provider Inchcape Volkswagen, who offer thorough aftersales services, MOTs and repairs to solve issues such as wheel misalignment and suspension damage, explores…

Between January and March of 2017, the RAC had dealt with almost 7,000 breakdowns that were likely caused by poor road conditions. The last time that so many pothole-related breakdowns were recorded in a three-month period was in the first quarter of 2015 (almost 6,900 breakdowns were recorded then). However, in the early months of 2015, the country was subjected to more days of frost and rainfall when compared to the first three months of 2017, when the nation experienced mild and moderately dry conditions.

“Our figures sadly show a surprising and unwelcome first quarter rise in the number of breakdowns where the poor quality of the road surface was a major factor. We had expected a figure no worse than that recorded in the first quarter of 2016 (4,026) and it is very concerning that the roads, strangely, appear to have deteriorated in a mild, comparatively dry winter.” Commented David Bizley, a chief engineer at the RAC.

But do we actually know how bad these pot holes are in Britain? 

Where are the potholes?


The table below is based on the number of road hazards which were reported to them with research carried out by FillThatHole.org.uk:

Position
Authority
Region
Total reports
Open reports
Fixed reports
% fixed
1
Surrey
SE Eng
7,657
6,473
1,149
15%
2
Hampshire
SE Eng
4,133
3,241
849
21%
3
Essex
SE Eng
3,804
2,912
878
23%
4
Hertfordshire
SE Eng
3,557
3,004
530
15%
5
Kent
SE Eng
3,478
3,105
364
10%
6
Lancashire
NW Eng
3,301
2,484
792
24%
7
Oxfordshire
SE Eng
3,245
2,225
985
31%
8
Glasgow
Scotland
3,059
2,444
601
20%
9
Cheshire East
NW Eng
2,980
2,110
787
27%
10
West Sussex
SE Eng
2,845
2,034
783
28%

... Surrey having almost twice as many reports as the next county, Hampshire.

How many potholes are being filled?


We can see that across England 13,468 potholes were filled throughout 2016/17 by local authorities – in the Asphalt Local Authority Maintenance Survey 2017 - A small percentage of the total number being reported and causing damage (and compensation costs!).

Some local authorities are able to claim that more than 90% of the reported potholes are subsequently fixed... Well done to them!

However, from the table above, it is clear that there are still many places where only 10-15% are being dealt with.

In the past year, in London and South East England, more than 1.6M drivers reported damage to their vehicles. A costly problem.

With the cost of road repairs averaging £163 per pothole in Eastern England, and £124 in London and the South East, you can see why struggling authorities appear to be burying their heads in the sand.

UKMT comments:


My recent drive across several neighbouring nations has convinced me that Britain is now the  pothole capital of Europe.

Travelling mostly on secondary category roads, the equivalent of our A and B roads, I have found French and Spanish roads to be in considerably better condition than ours. 

Ah you say, they have toll roads. Indeed they do, but the toll network of motorways is entirely self financing and in both countries the A and B roads are financed from local taxes and fuel duties.

In our case most of the finances raised by the treasury from road tax, fuel duties, motor insurance levy, vat etc etc does not get spent on the roads. The ring roads are not ring fenced, nor indeed are any of the others!

The government returns a steadily diminishing amount of the taxation to local authorities to keep local roads in good order. Desperately cash strapped councils then divert some of this money to other equally underfunded areas of their responsibility. 

The result is a pathetically small amount of money left for road repairs and, just as bad, no inspectors to check the few works that are done. The inspectors have mostly been made redundant.

I live in Sussex but drive all over, so am certain this sad state of affairs operates throughout most of the UK. 

Every minor road I travel is littered with holes and those few repairs that are carried out are usually of poor quality and often only last a few months. 

We have become a third world country in terms of our roads despite inventing the tarmacadam process ... or at least the Scots did... Thank you Scotland.

According to a recent survey most local authorities now spend more on settling motoring insurance claims for pothole related damage than on repairing the potholes. 

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

UKMotorTalk News highlights podcast

In this episode of UKMotorTalk:
  • London's T-Charge
  • A new child seat with air bags
  • 2018's Grand Prix of South America long distance rally
  • A review of the US Grand Prix
  • A look forward to the 2017 London to Brighton Veteran Car Run

For more information about entering the Grand Prix of South America rally event, visit: http://www.bespokerallies.com/grand-prix-of-south-america-2018/

For more on the London T-Charge, visit: https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/emissions-surcharge

To follow the UKMotorTalk podcast, and not miss a thing, go to:
http://shoutengine.com/UKMotorTalk/

Friday, 20 October 2017

F1 News - Alonso stays at McLaren

So, finally, the announcement Fernando Alonso has signed for McLaren for another year ...

He says he is very happy at Woking alongside Stoffel Vandoorne... but only for 1 more year.

Now the double world champion has had 3 terrible seasons at McLaren, and few other driving choices.

There are no seats at top three Ferrari, Mercedes or Red Bull.

But I don't believe it is either inertia or money that is keeping Fernando in Zak Brown's squad.

He knows something.... There are engine and chassis developments afoot that have persuaded him to stay post the Honda debacle.

I think he knows 2018 could be a major return to form for the team and he wants to be back in the points not back on the retirees list.

Alonso is a truly great racer, give him just half a chance in anything reliable and he will work wonders. All of the other front runners, Lewis, Sebastian, Daniel, know, respect and perhaps fear him a little. Only Max fails to give respect.

Will we see him back on the podium next year? I believe we will ... and much more importantly, Fernando believes we will.

Graham Benge

Friday, 6 October 2017

DS 7 Crossback La Premiere - Guided Tour!

DS Automobiles UK's Head of Communications, Kevin Jones, shows us round the DS 7 Crossback La Premiere, due to be available in the UK early 2018.
Kevin's tour is also included as a UKMT podcast:

UKMotorTalk - DS7 Crossback La Premiere - Guided Tour

To follow the UKMotorTalk podcast, and not miss a thing, go to:
http://shoutengine.com/UKMotorTalk/