Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Bluebird K3 back on the water

75 years after it set the world water speed record, driven by Sir Malcolm Campbell, the legendary Bluebird K3 was back in the water, not in Italy, but just up the road from me in Bewl Water just off the A21..!

Knowing of my interest in the 22 year restoration project the BBC asked me to commentate on the historic event as owner/restorer Karl Foulkes-Halbard took to the water for systems tests.

The massive 27 litre Rolls Royce engine - the original and same one that had previously set the World Land Speed record at over 300 mph - sounded glorious as it  purred out across the huge lake taking it very gently in this first of several trials before they take it to Lake Maggiore in Italy early next year to demonstrate how it finally raised the World Water Speed record to 131 mph in 1938 before being retired as at the end of its development. A new boat was in the wings but war intervened.

The engine and hull developments of this record holder were all at the very cutting edge of development and there is a clear lineage from K3 to the legendary Spitfire, in its day it was like beholding the beginning of the space age!

It’s amazing to remember that father and son Sir Malcolm and Donald Campbell between them set 21 Land and Water Speed records - real Boys Own Paper heroes.

Graham Benge

Useful links:

http://www.k3bluebird.com/ - The K3 Bluebird Official Website

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-19960892 - BBC News video clip

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-sussex-19160845 - BBC News article on the restoration project

Guten tag, I must be going..

And so, in the light of The Worst Kept Secret In Formula One being revealed (see previous post re Lewis Hamilton's future employment prospects) we must bid farewell to the man in whose place young Mr Hamilton shall be racing next year.

Yes, at the ripe old age of 43, Herr Michael 'Schumi' Schumacher is hanging up the old crash hat & racing boots for the second time in his career and sloping off to spend more time with his millions, sorry, family.

When the newly re-branded Mercedes team announced that team principal (and man whose name resided above the factory door for 12 months) Ross Brawn had lured his old pal out of retirement to drive for him a couple of years ago, the response from Formula One fans was mixed to say the least.

Whilst some were ecstatic that the man who'd chalked up a stunning seven World Championship titles would be returning to show the current crop of PR-friendly automata just what a real racer looked like, others feared - justifiably it seems - that Michael would have lost his edge in the 3 years he'd been sat at home observing proceedings on what would most likely have been one of the biggest tellys in existence..

On the face of it, Michael's presence at the pointy end of the new venture had all the hallmarks of yet another smart move from master tactician Ross Brawn & the suitably well-funded Mercedes outfit. Whilst he would undoubtedly be a bit rusty in the new style F1 car with its considerably-reduced amounts of downforce and fully-slick tyres, it wouldn't take this wily old stager long to get back up to speed and start putting in competitive laps on a par with his widely-admired rising star team mate, Nico Rosberg. As it transpired, Michael seemed to struggle against the competition, and whilst he never actually found himself consistently lapping at the tail end of races with the likes of Marussia, it's pretty telling that his best result at the time of writing is a third place on the podium at Valencia behind two other World Champions, Fernando Alonso & Kimi Raikkonen.

The general consensus amongst the F1 fraternity it would seem is that whilst it was nice to have the Silver (née Red) Baron back in the mix, it's probably good that he safely bows out now with dignity rather than squandering his inestimable reputation trundling around every other Sunday in something your Grandmother could probably out run in her automatic Micra..

Personally-speaking, I was never Schumi's biggest fan - especially after that incident in Adelaide in 1994 - but I've always maintained a healthy, if grudging respect for his metronomic ability to think his way to victory after victory and, despite myself, found that I was eager to see him put a few of the new hotshoe breed in their place.
Realistically though, I reckon that was always a bit of a long shot - yes, Niki Lauda & Alain Prost proved in the past that you could come back, but for Michael, those three years away from the bleeding edge of competition had proved too many. Perhaps it was age, perhaps it was the realisation that he just didn't need to be doing this anymore - who knows, but I for one am glad he gave it a shot at least.

Mach's gut, Michael & thanks for playing..

David Wakefield.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

UP! at the top of the charts.

The Volkswagen UP! (their exclamation mark, not ours..), the Seat Mii, and Skoda Citigo have garnered another trophy by winning the inaugural....

....MoneySupermarket Car of the Year Competition

This is a new annual competition where some of the most highly-qualified and knowledgeable motoring experts on the Web are asked to vote for what they believe to have been the 10 best cars of the past 12 months and UKMotorTalk was delighted to be chosen by MoneySupermarket to be one of the websites selected to help judge the competition.

Each judge’s nominations were awarded a score between 1 and 10, with their top vehicle being given 10 points and their 10th nomination being awarded a single point. MoneySupermarket then collated all of the results and came up with a definitive top 10 which best represented the opinions of the overall motoring community.

The UP!, Mii and Citigo were a universally popular choice thanks to their stylish design and fuel-efficient nature, but they only just narrowly pipped the impressive BMW 320d to overall honours by a meagre two points.

The Range Rover Evoque was a strong third, proving to be another popular choice with judges thanks to its trendsetting styling which is something of a radical departure for Land Rover. And, in the interests of transparency, it was also the top choice of the team here at UKMotorTalk.

Perhaps the Range Rover’s failure to obtain overall top spot owes more than a little to the rising price of fuel at the pumps, which has resulted in fuel efficiency proving to be an increasingly important area of differentiation and one on which many of the judges appeared to place a greater emphasis.

Overall though, German manufacturers dominated the competition, picking up more than double the amount of points of the Japanese car brands who were a distant second.

British brands ranked a respectable third, owing largely to the popularity of the Range Rover Evoque and the radical new Vauxhall Ampera which came in 6th. Vauxhall was the most popular British manufacturer in terms of points accumulated in 8th place with 4 separate Vauxhall vehicles having been nominated for inclusion by judges.

MoneySupermarket have produced the following infographic highlighting the overall top ten in what it hopes will turn out to be an annual competition:

So, congratulations to Volkswagen, Seat and Skoda on this strong showing for their new baby - It’ll be interesting to see whether the trend next year continues to reflect the ever-increasing popularity of frugal little cars such as the UP!


Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Perez moving to McLaren

So Perez got the plum second seat at McLaren...

Jenson will presumably be the team's clear Number 1... He is adept at building a team around him, and, no doubt has another World Championship in him .... Possibly even this year ....! He'll surely want more money and McLaren should now be able to find it, at least £2m, but critical in his new contract will be that clear Number 1 status - to Martin Whitmarsh's relief!

Having said all that, Jenson may yet be surprised by Perez who is a little like Lewis was in his first season... 

Three podiums attest to Perez's speed... but, as has been pointed out by Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, he needs experience and good support... Ferrari however must be a little miffed since Perez is a product of THEIR driver programme and had been rumoured to be replacing Massa....

McLaren will surely welcome Perez's funder too - a 'tough Mexican businessman'...

It looks like we are all going to be giddy for a couple of weeks more as the money-go-round goes ever faster.
Graham Benge