Friday, 24 December 2010

Further driving tips...

And here are a few more tips to help us all cope with the cold weather...

Clearing ice/frost off windows before you move off:- The Motor factors across the country would want you to spend thousands of pounds clearing all of your glass with their spray de-icers... Get a good quality ice scraper and a thick pair of gloves to scrape off the majority ice/frost. Use sparingly the De-icer and spray it over your wiper blades and make sure they lift off the windscreen before you move off and on the rear wiper if you have one. This saves burning-out expensive wiper motors, blowing wiper motor fuses and/or damaging wiper blades. Use again (sparingly) the De-icer spray it into the very top of your drivers and passengers side windows, should you need to open either of these windows you will again save on burning out expensive electric window motors and fuses. Also, spray some of that De-Icer onto your washer jets.
DO NOT pour hot water on any glass with ice or frost, the rapid change in temperature could cause the glass to crack.
On the move keeping the windscreen free of ice/frost/salt:- Whilst on the move and the first few miles behind another vehicle the screen has salt on it.......... the temptation is to operate the windscreen washers, but because the water in the bottle or at the jets has frozen to ice nothing happens... Well something does happen and the little item that protects all electrical circuits on the vehicle, i.e. the washer motor fuse, blows. It is worth identifying where this fuse is fitted on your vehicle, checking your handbook and purchasing a few spare fuses for the cold weather.
Expensive prestige vehicles have small heater elements in their washer bottles and quickly turn the ice back to water then switch off again when the water temp reaches a given point.
Less expensive vehicles have nothing but you can purchase these heater element kits and fit them yourself should you be that way inclined.
Another way to help prevent the water from freezing is to use a higher concentration of washer fluid with an antifreeze content but in extreme cold not even this works. Go to your local garden centre and purchase one of those pump action spray gun bottles, fill it with a high concentration of washer fluid, you will have to stop when you screen is covered with too much salt but at least you can spray it on the screen to see and be safe. Sadly until the water defrosts in your washer bottle you may have to stop a few times especially on a long journey but again you will be safe. The same spray gun can be used to clean off the salt from your rear and front lights and number plates, so that you stay safe and legal..!

Winter Driving Tips from UKMT's technical chaps....

We catch up with our technical chaps to see if they have any thoughts about driving in the current snow and ice..... and here's what they said!

Auto Transmissions:- Some have a Snow button function, in short the Autobox ECU forces the box to shift-up to a higher gear and will not allow a low gear like 1st or second to be selected when the "Snow Button" is pressed. The philosophy being that if you gradually move off by tickling the throttle in a high gear there will be less chance of wheel spinning and losing traction, more importantly you will begin to move forward slowly and safely.

ESP:- If your transmission does not have this function or you may have a manual transmission the "Traction Control" function of your ABS/ESP should kick in. What is this then..................modern vehicles have a number of ways of providing you with traction control "Wheel spin prevention in low traction conditions" How do you know it's working, when traction control kicks in the ESP light will flash on the dash board, you can press the throttle as hard as you want the system reduces engine power. There are many ways by which the transmission, ABS and engine ECU's prevent wheel spin, the most common are:- Cutting the fuel delivery to the injectors, ABS braking the wheels or a combination of these in very quick succession.

Diesel engines:- Modern HDI (High Pressure Direct injection) still have heater plugs but rarely use them due to their high combustion efficiency and ability to start in cold conditions. In recent years manufacturers have removed the heater plug light from the dash board therefore in very cold conditions like we are currently experiencing you will need the heater plugs but will not necessarily have an indication on the dashboard of their run or heat duration. Advice is with HDi engines in very cold weather switch on ignition for a few seconds before cranking the engine to allow heater plugs to run a cycle.

Old Diesel engines Direct or Indirect injection:- Will all have heater plugs and a dash light to indicate their run cycle, when the weather is very cold let them run for three cycles, i.e switch on ignition, let the plugs run a cycle, watch light on dash go out then repeat another two times. Do not use ether type sprays into the induction system, they wash critical oil off the piston rings for first time start and rapidly increase cylinder bore wear. This is like pouring salt in wound, the engine is already a poor starter due to piston ring & bore wear, diesel engines rely on the heat generated on the compression stroke to start. Spraying these ether aid starters into the induction system accelerates the wear process, which is why motorists say that an old diesel engine becomes addicted to these ether spray starting aids.

Monday, 29 November 2010

BBC News - De-icing cars taken outside Banstead and Caterham homes

Just spotted this article on Surrey pages of BBC website.... BBC News - De-icing cars taken outside Banstead and Caterham homes I imagine other car thieves around the country are no less imaginative...
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Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Blindingly simple - or so you'd think.

Well, once again the "season of mists of mellow fruitfulness...blah, blah.." lines are being trotted out as the mercury plummets below effing cold degrees C here in the UK and we road users find ourselves faced once more with that hardy old perennial; namely, foglight abuse.

Yes - as if they needed another excuse to push every single button with the wiggly-line headlight icon stamped on it, the Great British Public now has another tool in the box marked 'guaranteed to wind up my fellow motorist' - the box which of course contains such helpful, blood-pressure-raising delights as the badly-adjusted, retina-searing headlight, the billion-watt 'in-car' stereo system (see most 'enhanced' Saxo VTRs) & of course the magnetic front bumper (Audi/BMW).

It seems increasingly likely that there is some kind of national epidemic triggered by the arrival of the first fog of autumn - the symptoms being an itchy fog-light finger that feels compelled to operate the auxilliary lamps mounted at front & rear of the victim's vehicle upon the detection of even the slightest gentle mist wafting from a meadow or playing field to within, say a couple of feet of the road. These symptoms manifest themselves quickly, regardless of the severity of the mist/fog cloud & regardless too of the proximity of other road users who then find themselves afflicted with a burning sensation in the eyes caused by bright red or white lights in their field of vision. And, unfortunately, due to the apparent aberration within the sufferer's brain which causes the activation of what might be mistaken for a mobile tribute to Blackpool at Christmas time, he or she is apparently unable to switch these lights back off with the same haste when the fog recedes or another vehicle is clearly visible within say oh, half a mile.

Takes a breath, slurp of tea and one of those little pink pills the nice doctor said would reduce that twitching vein on the temple.

Suffice it to say then that the misuse of foglights is normally guaranteed to elicit a certain consternation here at Motortalk Towers - this particular outpuring of ire being triggered by the usual commute into West London this morning from the leafy Surrey/Hants countryside where many of the team are based.

The signs weren't good as the temperature fell like a stone last night and the mist started rolling in to the valley where we live early in the evening - and as I chiselled the ice off the car this morning with the temperature gauge bleating a bracing -2 deg C I just knew that we were in for a dazzling display of motoring ignorance all the way up the A3 & beyond..

And, we weren't to be disappointed as, joining a busy but flowing A3 south of Guildford there were more than a few vehicles within plain sight of each other with their foglights on front and rear for no apparent reason other than at some point their drivers had experienced fog and had switched them on.
Yes, it was quite foggy in places - particularly in & around the country lanes which link home to the main roads but honestly, not one of the people I found myself driving alongside on the roads this morning could justifiably have claimed that having these extra lights aglow on their vehicle was neccessary - apart, perhaps from the bloke in a Fiesta whose offside headlight had failed; we'll give him the benefit of the doubt..

Now, don't get us wrong. Used correctly, foglights are a very effective and worthwhile fitment in a country such as ours with its, er, changeable weather patterns, and an extra bright rear lamp can be a real confidence boost when stopped in fog on a blind bend or travelling slowly on a misty & poorly-lit dual carriageway where distance judgement can be tricky as visibility is dramatically reduced.

In fact, there's a growing acceptance of the use of - in particular - rear fog lamps in territories where they are not manadatory as they are here in the EU, indeed Mini owners in the 'States successfully lobbied BMW USA to make them optional on cars sold over there and web forums relating to other models not fitted with the feature as standard regularly feature 'how to' instructional posts for those keen to add the functionality to their vehicles.

So, on the whole then, they would seem to be A Good Thing if used correctly & not as an additional piece of posing equipment chosen from the options list (BMW 1 Series owners, you know who we're talking about here) or as a light-emitting cloak of invincibility which renders the user impervious to danger in foggy conditions.

To that end, perhaps it bears repeating that, according to none other an authority than The Highway Code (last read by approx 99% of drivers the day before they passed their driving test):

"You MUST NOT use front or rear fog lights unless visibility is seriously reduced (see Rule 226) as they dazzle other road users and can obscure your brake lights. You MUST switch them off when visibility improves."

And 'seriously reduced' is usually taken to mean less than 100 metres, or 328 feet if you can't get to grips with that new-fangled decimal nonsense.

So, to all those who press every single lighting button on the dashboard, a plea.

Why not take the time to read two quite important pieces of literature?

1) Your vehicle handbook - it'll be that tatty thing stuffed under the seat, in the glove box or propping up the leg of the dining table which has never been the same since that incident with the gin & the hacksaw.

It'll tell you all about what those buttons which look like they switch the headlights on actually do & what the lights they're actually connected to are for.

2) The Highway Code - No. No, we've no idea either - probably long gone and unlikely it's ever been looked at since you ripped up the L plates - well, here you go, here's the bit you need:

pretty much the first line on the page..

You're welcome.

Dave Wakefield

Monday, 11 October 2010

Drooling in Paris.

Paris Motor Show – Mondial De L’Automobile 2010

What better way to aquaint ourselves with the latest offerings from the World's car makers than a trip to Paris in a Maserati..?

Alex Wakefield reports..

This very nearly didn’t happen.
Three hours after leaving our hotel, a theoretical ten minute drive from the Paris Expo centre at Porte De Versailles, we are still circling the showground, desperately hunting for a parking space. It had made sense to travel by Maserati GranSport the night before, sailing down the empty Autoroutes into Paris but as we inched forward towards the already full car parks, the heat from the exhaust system started to find its way into the cabin and the CambioCorsa gearbox began to complain. A smell of clutch filled the air in our locale.

But then a break – a shortcut out of the city passing the very last car park and a quick word with the parking attendant revealed that there were four spaces left in the whole park. We got the last one and, revelling in our good fortune made our way into the show. Another five minutes and you would be reading about the Eiffel Tower.

It’s clear that the Parisians love their motor show. A bi-annual event, it draws crowds from far and wide including ourselves. Basically, it’s now our local motor show. It’s very hard to think of somewhere, in London certainly that has the space to host this size of event. That it can be done so close to the heart of Paris is quite remarkable. There are people everywhere.

This is the second weekend of the show and coming on a day like this was always going to be a bit of a mistake. It was a warm, sunny day too – adding to the crowds no doubt.

We made our way to Lamborghini’s stand first. These days, the only way you can do this is with an invite. For those lucky enough to have one, it’s fantastic. For those without, on a busy Saturday you will be lucky if you manage even to be able to take a decent photo of what’s there. From the stand, we have a fantastic opportunity to see what has been presented. There are two Gallardos, but the focus is the amazing Sesto Elemento concept.

About the same size as the Gallardo, there is a clear family resemblance but this car is all about future direction for Lamborghini. It also explains why there is no Murcielago present. Production stopped months ago, to clear the decks for an almost entirely new factory concentrating on the carbon fibre replacement for the old 12 cylinder, range-topping monster. Lamborghini have invested tens of millions of Euros into the future of their supercar and the Sesto Elemento hints at what is to come.

A carbon fibre tub and cladding reduce weight, the core of the car being very evident on squinting though the window. The potential of the car is mouth-watering but alas, this must remain a product for the show stands. At Geneva 2011, you can expect to see some of the features of this car on the long awaited Murcielago successor, which will share the concept’s weight reduction almost certainly to a significant advantage in performance, and manoeuvrability.

Expect to see the double bubble roof and certain stylistic features too. We are assured the new model will feature an enormous integral rear wing, something in the region of 700BHP and a superfast paddle shift gearbox as standard equipment. The new architecture will make the cabin a less claustrophobic place to be, although purists will be pleased to hear that the trademark scissor doors remain.

A short walk round to the Bentley stand and the environment changes from the intense to the serene. We are shown around by the company’s representative who tells us about the new Continental Coupe.

It is the first in a revised Continental line that will see convertible and Flying Spur models eventually revamped and at first it is difficult to see the difference. But a few rotations of the display model show the car to have a wider, lower and meaner stance. Attention has been paid to the front and rear lighting area to maintain the family appearance which has recently been bolstered by the presence in the range of the new Mulsanne. The interior features a new TFT screen and navigation system but retains the charm of the original without feeling overly retro. It’s an appealing place to spend time, very much like the car it replaces and it’s clear that the people at Bentley have thought long and hard about what their customers want. The outgoing car has been with us for about seven years now, which is the extent of the typical model cycle in 21st century Europe. The small amount of meddling with what has been an enormously successful model for Bentley makes it clear that if it isn’t broken, it shouldn’t be fixed.

Model cycles are something Bentley never used to be too concerned about - the now defunct Arnage being a case in point. That car could trace its ancestry back decades, beyond the Vickers era of combined Rolls Royce and Bentley ownership, and although it had a loyal following, all good things have to come to an end. It has been replaced by the Mulsanne, a four door saloon in the same mould but which manages to be even more imposing than even the mighty Arnage could manage. The car is enormous, pointing to its function as a car to be driven in but not forgetting that on some occasions, it will be driven by its owner. The ‘six and three quarter’ turbocharged petrol V8 remains, and this is a good thing as torque and effortless performance was never a problem for this powerhouse. In heavily-revised form, it now has cylinder deactivation and the ability to run on bio ethanol to decrease the car’s impact on the environment. A bit..

The biggest crowds are to be found around the Ferrari stand. This is nothing new at motor shows as Ferrari never disappoint with what they bring & at the Paris show they remain true to form. It’s a blessed relief to be admitted onto the stand to take a closer look at the 599 SA Aperta – the soft top version of the 599 Coupe which has been with us a few years now. It’s probably the only time we will see one, only eighty cars are to be made and all of them are sold. Featuring a light soft top roof, the car maintains the same distinctive appearance without managing to appear awkward as can often happen when decapitation is carried out some way into a car’s life.

A few changes have been made to reduce weight and ensure the driving experience is preserved. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to try the car out and see if they had met their objectives here, but we will assume that the way the car drives will be adequate to those lucky eighty.

Enjoying a drink and canapĂ© in the behind the scenes bar, there are opportunities to review the rest of the range on the stand, including a beautiful black 458 Italia. It’s always exciting to see something like this in a colour other than the ubiquitous red.

The options for personalisation of your Ferrari are incredible and hidden away at the back of the stand is the Atelier section where examples of exterior body colours, leather options and bespoke trim are on display. Nevertheless, if it isn’t red, it won’t hold value as well, despite the theory that those in other colours are actually better looked after by owners who put more time and thought into their dream car. And dream cars are what this stand is all about, no manufacturer better expressed this desire than Ferrari and this is reflected in the number of people standing on each other’s shoulders, pushing and shoving just to get a shot of something on their phone camera.

A trip to Ferrari cannot be considered complete these days without stopping off at Maserati for a look. Clearly the crowds agree, as it takes some time to make our way onto the stand with Maserati key in hand as a way to ensure admission is granted. And surely it is. Maserati’s fortunes really changed with the launch of the 3200GT over ten years ago and this essentially reinvented what was an almost completely dead builder of cars with a fantastic heritage, but no future.

The Maserati brand clearly held its head above the doldrums of the 1980s and 1990s as many people old and young are flocking to the manufacturer despite a great many of them possibly not really understanding what the trident badge was all about, in the same way they might with Ferrari for example.

The beauty of these cars speaks for itself. The range comprises the Gran Turismo, a four seater coupe of staggering prettiness that has recently spawned a 2+2 convertible version, the Gran Cabrio.

These cars themselves owe a great deal to the Quattroporte saloon, surely the most attractive four door car currently (or possibly ever) on sale. Maserati launched a stripped out, super sports version of the Gran Turismo at Paris, the MC Stradale, with a more powerful version of the Ferrari-sourced V8 engine ensuring that performance is boosted in tandem with the low weight. This particular car has a more responsive gearchange and looks fit for the track, a remarkable achievement for what is actually a very large car of some considerable luxury.

Of the marques considered here, Bentley and Maserati have enjoyed a turnaround from neglected, borderline bankrupt companies to some of the most highly sought after brands on this earth. It’s something Aston Martin has also managed to achieve, and if their stand is anything to go by, something Lotus have extreme confidence in doing also. Taking up a massive section of one of the several halls used at the show, Lotus chose to unveil some new cars..

For any manufacturer to unveil more than one new model at a show is remarkable, but for Lotus, even more so. That the cars shown appear so close to being production realities, whilst at the same time being jaw droppingly, staggeringly good looking, leads to the strange feeling that we’ve just walked into a dream. The new Esprit, Elan, Elite, Eterne and Elise all share a common design language which takes the cars way beyond the current range.

Just the name Esprit manages to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, but seeing the car in the flesh is like seeing a long lost friend. There are so many references to the previous car whilst at the same time a new confident appearance is sported.

This is backed up by the powertrain on display, a V8 petrol engine sourced from Lexus which has the potential for supercharging and some limited hybrid capabilities, which will be bolted into the carbon fibre tub. This is a game-changing car for Lotus because it takes the fight squarely to Ferrari and McLaren. If the way the car drives is as good as it looks then this will be a genuine alternative to the 458 and MP4-12C and will give both competitors something to worry about.
The new Elan shares nothing with the previous, troubled model from 20 years ago. This will be a car to take on the likes of Porsche’s 911, using Lexus power and sharing other technologies with the Esprit. Again, if the engineering is right this is a car that will race out of showrooms on looks alone. Close up, like the Esprit, it is desperately pretty, perfectly proportioned and screams at you to drive it. It’s parked next to the Elite, a four seater coupe of different intention to the mid engine sports cars on the stand.

Again, it has nothing in common with its 1970s namesake and Lotus will be striving hard to make sure that the ownership experience is without equal, because this model and the Eterne four door are cars to move Lotus from manufacturer of relatively expensive track day sports cars of niche interest, to a company that can see eye to eye with the other companies whose stands we paid pilgrimage to. Clearly, this strategy is working because in all honesty, without these developments we would not have paid more than a cursory glance to Lotus at Paris two years previously.

The show is crowded and our access passes are not of much use on the mass market stands which are free for all. Our cameras are not of much use here either, the sheer number of people present makes it very difficult to get any decent photos but for old times sake we can’t help but spend a large amount of time at Fiat’s beautiful stand.

The star of the show for Fiat is the new Twin Air engine in the 500. It’s the first time since the demise of the old 126 and Citroen’s 2CV 20 years ago that a two cylinder engine has been offered by a major manufacturer. This particular motor features the Multiair technology now being rolled out across the petrol engine range with turbocharging and balance shafts to overcome the inherent lack of refinement a 900cc two cylinder engine will produce.

This is not a problem for the Abarth 500. Paris was the first opportunity we have had to inspect the Abarth 500 convertible, available with semi automatic paddle actuated gearshift. The show car is striking in flat grey with two tone contrasts and quad exhausts and appeals to me in a way I can’t describe, other than it being akin to the feeling I used to get opening Christmas presents. Abarth also had an ‘EsseEsse’ version of the Punto Abarth, again in flat grey and sporting white, rally style wheels.

Whilst the inevitable focus at a French show is on the expertise of Renault, Peugeot and Citroen in making the best hot hatches, Abarth should not be overlooked. It’s refreshing to see how this sports brand is developing , particularly by contrast to Renault whose Gordini range is seemingly nothing more than a paint job and stripes..

You would expect us to talk about other important cars at the show, and there were many. Mercedes’ new CLS, Peugeot’s 508, the Citroen C4 and DS4, new VW Passat, Nissan’s Leaf

and Honda’s Jazz Hybrid. They are all there and all worthy of note. However, we ran out of time and wanted to concentrate on the cars that really deserve the headlines.
A blast through the tunnels of the Peripherique in much faster moving traffic than on the way in and we’re soon on our way back to the Channel Tunnel, this time with no clutch smell.
For those missing the UK’s motor shows, attending Paris is something definitely worth considering. The crossing through the tunnel was only £60 return and if you are determined you can make it there and back in one day, although it’s no hardship to spend the night in a nearby hotel. You might be advised to stay within walking distance of the show however, or consider booking a parking space or (ironically) let the train take the strain.

Otherwise you might find yourself visiting the Eiffel Tower instead..

Alex Wakefield

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Sir Stirling Moss - 'Mister Goodwood'

A man who's life & career has been inextricably linked with Goodwood over the years, Sir Stirling Moss is as much a fixture at the Festival of Speed & Revival events as the cars themselves.

He took time out of his traditionally hectic schedule to talk with Graham in the plush Drivers' Club here at Goodwood.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Comrade Stig

Following the controversy surrounding the BBC's white-suited tame racing driver, Graham encountered his Soviet -era cousin, 'The Mig'..

Martin Brundle and a 1950s classic (and an Austin A35)

Hopefully making as much of an impression on the competition as he does whilst usurping foreign TV reporters during his infamous grid walks, Martin Brundle took time to talk to Graham about his transport for the weekend, a race-prepared Austin A35.

Catching up with Christian Horner

It's a regular appointment for Graham at both Goodwood events - he'll head over to the Drivers' Club for a catch up with Red Bull Racing's Christian Horner.

With the climax of the 2010 F1 season rapidly approaching, we quizzed him on the current state of the field, his view of the new teams & how he put together the successful RBR team after Jaguar quit Formula 1 at the end of 2004.

Revival time again.

Is it really 12 months since we were last sat here in our tweeds & listening to the sounds of historic machinery going about its business?

Well, we're back in our traditional home just along from the assembly area and adjacent to Captain Mainwaring and his motley crew.

The sun's even out so our team are already at large capturing the sights, sounds & smells of this unique event on the historic motoring calendar.

Graham's just come back brandishing an interview with Red Bull's Christian Horner so we'll get that edited & uploaded - watch this space..

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Breaking up is hard to do..? Not with this charity.

We've recently become Twitter friends with an innovative charity called Giveacar and they asked us if we'd mind passing on some information about what they do.

Only too glad we said.

So, over to Hardeep Grewal from Giveacar to tell you how you can offload your beloved/knackered pride&joy/rusty heap gratis and know that you're helping others into the bargain..

It may be the car you have faithfully driven for a decade at a particular speed to conserve petrol - a tool to get from A to B.

You don’t speed up before red lights.

Maybe it is the type of car you walk back to after a stop at the supermarket to find a young couple taking turns to pose with it.

It might be the car Lewis Hamilton drove to success at F1.

One day it will become a scrap car, sad but true. That is where Giveacar come in to make the difficult (sniff) process easier to handle. They have a positive spin for you...donate your scrap car to charity and have 85% of the weight of the car recycled.

How? Just call Giveacar who will arrange the scrapping of your car at an Authorised Treatment Facility, provide you with a Certificate of Destruction, donate the scrap or auction value to a charity of your choice and that will cost you...nothing.

And, it’s completely free.

The scheme is innovative and regulated by the Fundraising Standards Board. If you search ‘Giveacar’ in Google you will get a long list of recommendations from newspapers, councils, radios and charities.

This is a firm with two goals: dispose of cars correctly and donate the proceeds. Car donation is already a million dollar industry in the US and it is heading that way in the UK. Giveacar have processed over 1000 cars and last month alone raised over £30,000 for charity.

They pick up any car anywhere in the UK.

Don’t let your car be cherry-picked for parts or become a problem for the environment. It is classed ‘hazardous waste’ for a reason.

Donate your car today or bear the scheme in mind for when you, or a friend, need to scrap a car.

Take a look at our website at or call us on 0200 011 1664.

Hardeep Grewal - Marketing Executive, Giveacar Ltd

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Swift by name, swift by nature.

Between bouts of highly-skilled automotive lunacy at the recent Ford Fair event, Paul Swift took time to chat with UKMotorTalk's Alex Wakefield about his career and following in the footsteps of his dad, Russ.

Whilst he took a well-earned break from entertaining the assembled Ford devotees, UKMT were able to catch up with Paul Swift, stunt driver without equal in a more relaxed atmosphere to the one he is used to – the Ford Press Centre.

Paul told us how he had become involved in motorsports and stunt driving. His father, Russ (a regular sight on British TV over the past couple of decades) was interested in rallying and Autotest and as a result, Paul grew up emulating him.

“I started aged seven on a garden lawnmower” says Paul, and it wasn’t long before he moved into full size cars.
“By sixteen, I was competing competitively in Autotest in the Durham area in a classic Mini...and I won the championship in my second year of competition.”

Paul won the BTRDA British Championship for the first time in 1998 and won the national title seven times in total, making a reputation that has now earned him a place as the nation’s foremost precision driver.
After retiring from competitive motor sport, Paul embarked upon his new career path. He can be seen doing what he does best around not just the UK but the whole world at live events for clients such as Ford.

You may also have seen him at Top Gear Live, wowing motoring fans by the thousands at enormous venues on every continent. At Ford Fair however, he was restricted to a 60 metre long arena. Paul confesses he prefers the more intimate venues.

“At the bigger displays, there is a void between the car and the crowd. Here, people can get much closer to the action – it’s more exciting!”

It certainly is that – we watched as Paul flung around a Ford Fiesta, Focus RS and Kuga diesel with equal aplomb.
“The smaller cars are more nimble” Paul admits “but the Focus RS is by far the best car I’ve ever driven.”

Paul is lucky enough to have one of these rally bred beasts as his daily driver although will own up to the fact that his wife prefers the charms of the Kuga – particularly with a new baby on the way.

As Paul signs another autograph in the Press Centre, he tells us about his passion – The Paul Swift Precision Driving Experience. This gives those previously able only to admire Paul’s skills from the sidelines the opportunity to experience his skills first-hand from the passenger and driver’s seat. Paul himself can be available to give direct tuition to everyone from young drivers to corporate clients, coaching in roadcraft or the experience of driving on two wheels as required..

The short time we have with Paul indeed passed very Swiftly.
Despite being able to demonstrate his often alarming skills in a haze of noise and smoke, he is a charming, relaxed and confident character – a behaviour exhibited both in and out of the car. We look forward to having an opportunity to enjoy his company and talent again some time in the not too distant future.

You can watch Paul Swift in Action yourself and find out about his driving experiences at:
Alex Wakefield & Frances Lumm

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Meeting the Ford Faithful - Ford Fair at Silverstone 2010

Sunday August the 8th 2010 saw the 25th Anniversary of the annual Ford Fair event at Silverstone circuit, and UKMT were very pleased to be in attendance as guests of Ford UK.

For anyone familiar with car club shows and events, this one beats the rest into the shade for sheer scale alone. Local roads were nose to tail with Fords of every variety in the run up to the 9am opening of the main gates and scenes were reminiscent of those before the Silverstone GP.

We were due to meet our hosts before the gates opened and were stunned to find gridlock after leaving our hotel. Our decision to come in a Honda paid off though, as we were able to push in to several queues, justifying our rudeness by suggesting to other users that we were in fact, NOT attending the event and on our way somewhere else..

We started our day over at the Ford Live Action Arena. Throughout the day, stunt driver Paul Swift entertained the crowds with breathtaking displays in various Ford models.

Our first task for the day was to complete a seemingly simple Autotest type course, weaving between cones and negotiating parking bays in a timed run. It looked straightforward from a standing position, but getting into the Ford Kuga for a practice run was actually pretty nerve-wracking. The turns were tight and our timed run was marred by a delayed start and by a stall. Still, we managed a respectable third place from the assembled bloggers (and no cones were damaged).

Despite the stall, it was quite remarkable as to just how manoeuvrable the Kuga was. Somehow, despite being a familiar sight on our roads for the last couple of years since launch, this car has managed to pass us by and this brief stint in the arena was enough to convince that it is worthy of further consideration. It was a bold move by Ford to use what is perceived as an SUV on a course perhaps more suited to their nimbler Fiesta model. At the hands of amateurs such as ourselves, it managed the course with ease – albeit in a time pretty much twice that of (professional) stunt driver Paul Swift.

The arena’s focus changed as the morning progressed, and hourly choreographed shows began. Paul treated us to demonstrations of alternative methods of parallel parking, using his ultra-impressive Ford Focus RS. For those not familiar with this extreme version of Ford’s popular hatchback, it bears little relation to the common or garden 1.6 Style..

Under the bonnet, Ford have squeezed in a 2.5 litre, 300BHP in-line 5 cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, borrowed from former stablemate Volvo. You’d imagine that this would be a handful with only front wheel drive, but the car danced around obstacles without difficulty.
In fact, the car literally danced – in a set-piece choreographed to music, the crowd was amazed as Paul treated one of the Ford PR girls to a sort of petrol-fuelled Swan Lake, complete with an atmospheric array of special effects provided solely by unburned hydrocarbons and tortured Pirellis.

Somewhat tellingly, three sets of tyres had been provided by the manufacturer to assist with the display. .

Just as our eyes had finished goggling from the skill shown by Paul, it became apparent that our services were required with the finale of the show. A diesel Fiesta was chosen for this piece, and although the final drive was as a much more sedate pace than before, we should point out that it was completed on two wheels, & additionally that whilst one of the UKMT team was sat next to Paul Swift, the other was in the boot..

Consequently, our account of this grand finale is somewhat mixed. From the front seat, the experience was likened to being on a roller coaster. From the boot, it was best described as being akin to having been inserted into a washing machine as the spin cycle came to an end. Your boot-bound correspondent nearly managed to bite his tongue off as the car came to earth, but this did not detract from the realisation that it was the supreme ability of this very experienced stunt driver that prevented anything worse from happening. And it’s not everyone who can boast of having been in the boot in such circumstances.

Probably a good one for one of those awful corporate ice breaker questions in future though – ‘so tell everyone your strangest experience...’

After a fish and chip lunch (note – nothing eaten prior to the arena experience) we made our way around the event to look at the club stands and watch some of the other entertainment on offer. A section of the circuit was dedicated to a display of drifting during the afternoon. This form of motorsport originated in Japan more than 30 years ago and has transplanted itself well into the British Motorsport scene. It’s not surprising as you could argue that it is the most spectacular form of circuit racing. We watched as a collection of rear wheel drive Escorts, Sierras (and a Ford powered Toyota Starlet of all things) kicked up huge clouds of blue smoke from their tyres, their drivers oversteering furiously around the Brooklands part of the circuit.

To the uninitiated, choosing what to look at next was a pretty daunting experience. The club stands extended acres from the circuit to the huge car parks and encompassed almost every type of Ford imaginable.

Many of them had been modified by their owners – including the selection of obsessively well-

prepared concours vehicles. Our favourite of these was a truly immaculate Mk1 Ford Capri 3000GT, finished in a period metallic green.

It became so very easy to get lost in a sea of Escorts, Mondeos and other more modern kit that it was the classic cars that really stood out on the day. Perhaps the most startling reminder of how things used to be, was brought to mind via the nostrils – as hundreds of uncatalysed, carburettered petrol engines burbled their way around the site, bringing back memories of crowded cities past. It may also have accounted for the headaches both of us went home with.

There are a great many car shows and events throughout the British Summer and Ford Fair has to be the biggest. Whether or not it is the best will depend on your taste in cars, but if you love things automotive (and if you are reading this, let’s assume you do) this is a show not to be missed. Whether you are a fan of Ford or not, you – and everyone you know – will be able to tell you a story about something that happened in a Ford. It’s an inevitable consequence of being ubiquitous.

It might be a description of your first drive home from hospital after you were born, or your first car aged 17, or indeed the first time you ended up on your head in a ditch after the Orion your mate borrowed off his Dad skidded on black ice.

Walking around a show like this encourages memories and tale-telling and that’s not something you get everywhere.

Ford Fair – perhaps this is the most democratic motoring event of the year?

A very big thank you should go to Ford UK and the very friendly, welcoming and inspiring team from Wunderman who invited us along.

We're all very much looking forward to another massive day out with the Blue Oval next Summer.

Ford UK have their very own YouTube channel where amongst other clips you can find UKMT's finest being flung around by the aforementioned Paul Swift as well as other movies from the day.
You can also join Ford Kuga on Twitter at where you'll find them to be a most amiable bunch.

Alex Wakefield & Frances Lumm

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Grand Tourismo Omologato.

As one of only a handful of lucky passengers in Ferrari's amazing 599 GTO at this year's Goodwood Festival of Speed, UKMotorTalk's Graham Benge was quite simply awe-struck by the sheer pace it displayed as it hurtled to the top of the hill.

This evolution of the standard vehicle is the fastest road-going Ferrari ever produced by the legendary Italian manufacturer and builds on the already hugely-impressive 599 GTB to become only the third Ferrari ever to bear the evocative initials GTO.

Lightened, stiffened and with more power, this thinly-disguised racer will accelerate from 0-62mph (0-100 km/h) in a barely-credible 3.3 seconds & tops out at 208 mph or, if you prefer your measurements metrically, 335 km/h - which, let's face it, is FAST ENOUGH.

There will only ever be 599 of these cars made, unless of course Ferrari decide to take a leaf out of their own (F40 order) book and produce a few more to satisfy the almost certain demands of the super-rich.

It's a safe bet then they're not likely to be a common sight on the roads.

Graham is already saving up but even with a whip round in the UKMT office he's still a good few hundred thousand pounds short of being able to make Luca Di Montezemolo an offer..

So, in lieu of a sudden lottery win, turn up your speakers and relive a truly amazing sprint to the top of Lord March's driveway in the Sussex sunshine..

David W.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Lewis & Jenson's boss chats to Graham

Dressed in civvies for a change rather than his usual corporate colours, Martin Whitmarsh, Team Principal at Mclaren, had a chat with UKMotorTalk's Graham Benge on a sunny Sunday lunchtime.


Piloted by the man who dropped bombs on Port Stanley back in 1982 - XH558, the sole flying example of Avro's awesome Vulcan bomber graces the skies over Goodwood.

The Lotus Position

Discussing Lotus and "that" crash at Valencia, Lotus F1's Heikki Kovalainen takes time out of a hectic schedule to chat with our very own Richard Newman.

Heikki Kovalainen

Another F1 driver joins us in the media centre, veteran of Renault and Mclaren teams and now driving the iconic green and yellow cars of a revitalised Lotus, Heikki Kovalainen chats with Tony Jardine.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

On air with Spirit FM.

Graham Benge chats with Spirit FM's Richard Newman as they discuss the current state of the art in Formula One.

Jarno Trulli talks to UkMotortalk's Graham Benge

In the sunny Media Centre garden, Lotus F1 driver Jarno Trulli took time out to chat with UkMotortalk's Graham Benge.

Jarno is here for the first time and is due to drive a 1972 Lotus Grand Prix car.

Jarno Trulli

Chatting to Tony Jardine in the Media Centre, Lotus driver and top chap, Jarno Trulli.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Back in the saddle.

Whilst he might currently be travelling slightly more slowly than usual on his four wheels, Sir Stirling Moss looked remarkably hale & hearty as he chatted to Graham Benge & Spirit FM's Ian Crouch.

Less than four months since his horrific accident at his home in London Sir Stirling was itching to swap his current transport for something with a bit more go and amazingly, given the extent of his injuries is in fact due to be driving a supercar up Goodwood Hill at some point over the weekend.

They really did make them of sterner stuff in those days..

Roger Black

As an Alfa-sponsored athletics mentor to up and coming sports stars, Roger Black is at Goodwood and took time to chat to Richard Newman from Spirit FM.


Goodwood's Alfa Tribute

Goodwood Festival Of Speed 2010

Well, there's a little bit of blue sky trying to peek through the clouds and the multitudes are beginning to populate Lord March's front garden for another weekend of petrolhead nirvana.

Already the sound of multi-cylindered machinery is invading the calm of the Sussex estate and the heady tang of high octane fuel and vapourised rubber is beginning to drift into the awfully-posh tent which is the Media Centre.

Our team is already accosting the great & the good.

Graham has bagged interviews with such luminaries as the man who puts the show on - Lord March, as well as Clive Chapman, son of the legendary & sadly-lamented Lotus boss, Colin.

Richard has also been busy, having chatted with Pink Floyd drummer & owner/driver of some of the most exquisite motor cars on Earth, Nick Mason.

We're looking forward to catching up with many more of the automotive and showbiz legends who unfailingly make the Festival the the awesome event it is.

Check back later for more sights and sounds from this year's celebration of automotive excess..


Goodwood Festival of Speed 2010

Hello from Goodwood!

Another year has passed and more engine noise and smell of oil and exhaust fill the Sussex air...

Meanwhile, in the slightly, but bit much, quieter surroundings of the Media Centre garden, a more environmentally friendly car greets us.....