Thursday, 29 December 2016

Dakar 2017–Official Teaser video

Official Teaser - Dakar 2017 by Dakar

At time of typing this, the official website tells me that there are only 3 days, 15 hours, and 48 minutes to go until the start of the 2017 Dakar event… which is, naturally, no-longer taking place anywhere near Dakar!

This time the event is visiting three South American countries, Paraguay, Bolivia and Argentina, and the route covers nearly 9000km over 12 gruelling days.

The Dakar attracts a special kind of person, and indeed, a special kind of vehicle…




For example, the 2017 MINI John Cooper Work Rally has a few tweaks that make it a little different to the models you buy at your local dealer. The 3 litre TwinPower Turbo Six-Cylinder diesel engine produces 340hp, and carries the 1952.5kg vehicle at up to 184km/h (114mph) over some of the toughest terrain and conditions that the event can muster.

To keep up to date with the 2017 Dakar, which runs from 2nd – 14th January 2017, visit/follow/etc:

Friday, 23 December 2016

Will YOUR car still start in 2017?

With bad weather looming, and Christmas coming, it is probably a good time to politely remind all drivers about the need to keep an eye on the health of their cars... in particular, the battery.

You use the car every day to get to work... and it hasn't given you ANY problems... All MUST be fine... Well, hopefully, yes!

Aa merged v2b
AA Busiest Day of the Year

However, it is worth remembering that not using the car as much, and perhaps making several much shorter journeys, the car's battery will not get recharged as much as on longer trips. This means that, come that first day back at work when you're running late and it is cold and raining outside, the battery might not be up to getting the car started. In fact, on the first day back in 2016 over 7000 people called the AA with that very problem.

There are, of course, things that you can do to try to avoid these issues:

  • If you use your car a few times for journeys that are at least 30 minutes long, all should be well since the car will charge the battery for you.
  • If you are NOT going to use the car, you might wish to consider using a battery charger to keep the battery topped up, or to fully recharge the day before you are back to work.

If you have two cars, but have only used one over the holidays, it might be worth having that set of jump leads handy... and remember to look up how to use them safely! UKMotorTalk's Winter Driving Tips

Friday, 2 December 2016

Farewell Nico

Archivnummer: M52885
Photo: Paul Ripke

So Nico has retired…

… a very unusual move for a new and not yet crowned world champion, but not unique.

Nico’s statement left no doubt that he has now achieved the goal that had pushed him on, and led him and his family to make significant sacrifices to get to the top. Having reached that peak, it's enough.

I laud his honourable decision and I'm not that surprised by it having met him two or three times. He always struck me as a real gentleman, and his devotion to his wife and family were very evident in those manic post-race minutes.

Archivnummer: M52876
Photo: Paul Ripke

Archivnummer: M52890
Photo: Paul Ripke

We all at UKMT wish him well and are convinced he will go on to do something else in motor sport, even if his driving days are over.

His observations on Lewis’ superiority are telling and confirm the common view that Lewis is the better racer even if he lacks some of Nico’s finer sensibilities.

So who now will pitch for that seat?

Pascal Wehrlein perhaps if Mercedes want a German driver?

Young lion or old hand?

Perhaps even a Spanish driver? A certain Senor Alonso could jump at it and reuniting Fernando and Lewis would make an amazing driver pairing, just ask Stirling Moss who his two favourite drivers are! It would be his dream team. Another Fangio and Moss era for the Silver Arrows?

Graham Benge

02Graham Benge interviewing Nico a long long time ago!

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

Looking back to 2010, we gathered some good advice from our technical chaps regarding the more modern quirks that winter turns up…..


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.

Check YOUR car before driving this Winter

Graham Benge takes us through a quick list of checks we should ALL be doing before driving this winter.

  • Rear lights
  • Numberplates
  • Tyres
  • Windscreen wipers
  • Washer fluid
  • Headlights
  • Wing mirrors

Date Change - Goodwood Festival of Speed 2017


Following the changes to the 2017 F1 calendar this week, Goodwood have today announced that the dates for next year’s Festival of Speed will now be:

Thursday 29th June to Sunday 2nd July

If you’ve already bought your tickets, don’t panic, they will still be valid without you having to make any changes.

For more information visit

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Formula One 2017 dates

The FIA has announced confirmed dates for next year’s F1 season:

  • 26 Mar - Australia
  • 9 Apr - China
  • 16 Apr - Bahrain
  • 30 Apr - Russia (Sochi)
  • 14 May - Spain (Barcelona)
  • 28 May - Monaco
  • 11 June - Canada
  • 25 June - Azerbaijan (Baku)
  • 9 July - Austria (Spielberg)
  • 16 July - Britain (Silverstone)
  • 30 July - Hungary
  • 27 Aug - Belgium (Spa)
  • 3 Sep - Italy (Monza)
  • 17 Sep - Singapore
  • 1 Oct - Malaysia
  • 8 Oct - Japan (Suzuka)
  • 22 Oct - USA (Austin)
  • 29 Oct - Mexico
  • Maybe 12 Nov - Brazil (Sao Paulo)..?
  • 26 Nov - Abu Dhabi

Disappointingly, notably missing is a German location… Neither Nurburgring (whose turn it is to host the event) or Hockenheim have firmed up a deal. Remembering how much money talks in the sport, this possibly isn’t surprising.

On a positive note, the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal IS on the calendar, despite rumours that it was far from certain.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Kicking off The Grand Tour…

Well, everyone else has made comment about the newest car show to hit our screens, so I guess it now has to be our turn!

With generous helpings of tongue in cheek humour, stunning photography, and a three-way competitive edge throughout, this “new” show took all the elements that made Top Gear such a success and repackaged them for The Grand Tour. Those of us who are avid credit watchers will note that to achieve this task, many members of the team who were behind Top Gear “of old” have also participated in this new production, and it looks like the experience has shone through.

Obviously, for legal reasons, The Grand Tour must be seen as a different format to Top Gear, but I doubt any fans of the “old” show would be disappointed by the familiar elements that have been carried across… Bickering between the presenters, fast cars racing other fast cars, smoking tyres while drifting round corners, timed laps on a new track with amusingly named sections… They’re all there…

Here at UKMotorTalk we have often debated the old question “Is Top Gear still a car programme?”. Arguments usually include “no, it is an entertainment show that includes cars”, and “yes, it is an entertainment show that includes cars”..!!

There can, however, be no doubting from this opening episode of The Grand Tour that cars are still very much central to this “new” format, starting, as it did, with “The Holy Trinity” McLaren/Porsche/Ferrari shootout that was promised before the demise of Top Gear.


The complex energy recovery systems of the 950hp LaFerrari, Porsche’s 918 Spider with its integrated two electric motors, and the mind blowing technology of the McLaren P1 go head to head (to head!) on the Algrave International Circuit in Portugal. I won’t spoil the result….

So, where does it go from here…? Johannesburg next week… and we believe Rotterdam, Lapland, Whitby, Stuttgart, Nashville, Dubai and Loch Ness are also on the tour.

Fingers crossed for episode two…

Friday, 4 November 2016

Goodwood 2017 tickets – On Sale Now!

Yes, apparently it is that time of year again…
Are you ready to start filling in your 2017 diary (or digital equivalent) yet…?
Goodwood is now selling tickets for the Festival of Speed and the Revival for 2017, and assuming that there are no big FIA calendar changes, they will be:
  • Goodwood Festival of Speed: Thursday 22nd to Sunday 25th June 2017 Now changed to:
  • Goodwood Festival of Speed: Thursday 29th June to Sunday 2nd July 2017
  • Goodwood Revival: Friday 8th to Sunday 10th September 2017
Tickets for both of these events are available now from the Goodwood website or by more traditional telephone… 01243 755055
Another Goodwood date worth noting:
  • 75th Members’ Meeting: Saturday 18th to Sunday 19th March 2017. Tickets currently only available to GRRC Members, though a limited number become available to the general public from 2nd January 2017.
Meanwhile, to distract you until then, enjoy a few minutes sitting alongside Karun Chandhok racing in an Austin A30 on a wet Goodwood circuit at this year’s Revival….

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Can You Tell The Car By Its Brake Lights?

Friday, 14 October 2016

Print Hon Demand.

3D printing has been with us a for a while now and product designers are coming up with ever more innovative uses for this rapidly developing technology.

Traditionally used in industry for rapid prototyping and test manufacture of components prior to full production runs being commissioned, the application of the 3D process has seen both the range and physical size of 'printable' objects increase dramatically in the space of just a few years.

Whilst the aviation sector has rather taken the lead when it comes to getting 3D-printed parts onto its end products - Airbus for example fitting many of them to its new A350 - the automotive industry has not been slow itself to see the potential, and the traditional prototyping and design phases of car design are already benefitting from the rapid turnaround times and flexibility that the process delivers with printed parts starting to find their way onto production models.

Currently, only high end manufacturers such as Koenigsegg are bolting printed components onto their vehicles but as the costs come down it's surely only a matter of time before you'll be able to pop to your local showroom and purchase a Peugeot or Porsche fitted with printed parts..

The next logical stage of course will be the entirely printed vehicle and already Local Motors in the US have managed to produce a design in the form of the Strati, a basic electric concept which took around 40 hours of printing time to churn out.

                                          Strati pic © Local Motors

Interesting though the Strati is as a design however, it's Honda's latest offering which really deserves a closer look.

Designed in collaboration with Japanese technology firm Kabuku, the as yet un-named Micro Commuter electric vehicle utilises Honda's chassis and drivetrain knowhow and allies it with a body entirely constructed using Kabuku's 3D printing expertise.

The brief to Honda and Kabuku was to provide a compact, fully-electric delivery vehicle capable of negotiating the narrow streets of Kamakura where locally-based confectionary company Toshimaya is based. Finding it increasingly difficult delivering its famous dove-shaped Hato sablé shortbread to customers using an 'off the peg' van, Toshimaya realised that some innovative thinking was required resulting in the bespoke creation provided by Honda and Kabuku.

Measuring 2.5 metres from stem to stern and around 1.3 metres across this tiny little truck weighs in at 600 kilos and only has room for the driver with the rest of the boxy body being devoted to the carriage of the delectable avian shortbread.

With a top speed of 43 mph (70 km/h) it's envisaged that it should have a range of around 50 miles (80 km/h) on a 3 hour charge.

Using the Variable Design Platform which allows for different vehicles to share certain fundamental construction features the diminutive delivery van went from design to reality in an impressive 2 months and now serves both as a clever and cute solution to Toshimaya's delivery problems as well as providing them with a unique and eye-catching mobile billboard as it hums around the tight confines of Kamakura's streets.

Looking ahead we'd expect to see more and more of these examples of 3D printing technology being applied to motor manufacturing. As demonstrated so ably by Honda - albeit in collaboration with a firm which is already operating in this area - major manufacturers are starting to look seriously at the benefits.

With relatively quick development turnaround times and the ability to infinitely customize models whilst utilising a modular set of underpinnings, the potential, once this methodology has matured somewhat must be huge.

Dave Wakefield

Thursday, 29 September 2016

The Rise of The Machines?

It was as I heaved open the vault-like door of a friend’s latest acquisition at the weekend I paused to appreciate the lengths to which car manufacturers will now go in order to ease the burden of the automotive traveller.

My mate had  - with some caution it must be said – manoeuvred the not-unsubstantial 2014 Range Rover Autobiography down our narrow driveway and it was as I reached out to the passenger door handle in order to open it and greet him that my attention was diverted from the grinning fizzog of the car’s evidently proud pilot by the sight of a mechanised running board/step arrangement gliding smoothly from the lower sill in the general direction of my shins.

Emblazoned with a ‘Range Rover’ logo I gawped at it as I realised that this latest 4-wheeled automotive marvel to which my chum had treated himself was in another league again from the already well-appointed old-shape item he’d recently chopped in.

Much as one might once have marvelled at the now increasingly de-rigeur hands-free flush in public lavs, I found myself opening and closing the (soft-close, natch) door in order to watch this mechanical ballet play out over and over whilst in my mind the question of how I had existed for so long without access to such a remarkable feature on my own personal transport nagged away at my addled braincell..

Labour-saving features on cars have of course traditionally appeared at the higher end of the market before filtering down to those of us mere mortals and functions once considered to be the province of the luxury boys such as electric windows and climate control are now pretty much standard fitment on the majority of vehicles in the UK's showrooms.

So, in order to go at least some way towards justifying the inflated prices demanded of those who would travel in the cosseted world of the opulent, manufacturers are continually striving to alleviate the apparently onerous tasks presented by the action of piloting - or indeed being piloted in - their vehicles.

On the face of it, the Range Rover's robotic aid to ingress/egress might seem an exercise in overkill and complexity - a practical demonstration of the perceived laziness commensurate with the sort of coddled target market to which the brand is pitched - but it does illustrate the point that in order to attract & retain the custom of those for whom the outlay of a six figure sum on transport is a familiar decision - the high-end manufacturer is compelled to keep pulling ever more ingenious labour saving functions out of their corporate hat.

In the case of the Range Rover, just opening the door and being offered an easy way of embarking or disembarking is the rather elegant first step - literally - towards being conveyed in comfort which only a few years ago would have been the preserve of those used to travelling behind a fluted grille and a shiny bonnet mascot.

Such is the gamut of luxurious gewgaws and luxury touches that one can waft along in a wonderful bubble of isolation - cushioned against the hectic pace of life outside by double glazed windows and constantly adapting air suspension as one's buttocks and lumbar regions are warmed/cooled/kneaded by expansive leather seats adjustable in every conceivable axis so that the lucky occupant experiences nothing so troubling as a stiff sacrum or a chilly bum cheek..

And these features certainly have a place - anyone shelling out the previously mentioned £100k plus for the privilege of travelling Business Class on the nation's increasingly crowded and stress-inducing road network can rightly expect a lot of luxury for the outlay - but at what point do the labour-saving accoutrements start to become distractions or conversely so indispensable that we neglect our duty to scan the road ahead because the radar nestling in the front bumper is doing it for us?

For the driver, aren't these ever-present comfort features in danger of diverting him or her  from the actual purpose of being in the vehicle in the first place?

And are we, as those charged with safely piloting machines with the capacity to kill, not at risk of allowing ourselves to rely too much on the driver aid technology at our disposal - whether it be the blind spot detector the or the radar-controlled cruise control - at the expense of actually driving the car using our inbuilt sense of hazard perception and spatial awareness?

Indeed, it seems that the lines between what constitutes a comfort feature and a driver aid are becoming increasingly blurred & not just in the rarified, climate-controlled confines of the latest Range Rover either. As more and more functions previously only available to those with a penchant for the posh start to trickle down to mid-range, mass-market fleet metal, we're starting to be presented with a bewildering array of technology each time we climb behind the (increasingly optionally-heated) wheel.

This might well be a bit of a double-edged sword, not least for the reasons alluded to above: more distraction + more reliance on the technology could very well add up to a loss of focus on the actual act of driving with the inherent disastrous consequences.

We certainly live in interesting times - technology is advancing at such a rate that we can only be but a couple of years & some diligently-applied legislation away from encountering fully autonomous vehicles on our roads, despite the recent well-publicised and tragic death of a US Tesla driver at the wheel of a car in "Autopilot" mode.

But the fact remains that for the foreseeable future the vast majority of cars on our roads will be being conducted not just by a battery of computers fed by a multitude of sensors but by flesh and blood utilising the Mk1 eyeball and the grey matter number-crunching engine between our ears, and for that reason I believe that whilst the onward march of technology definitely has a part to play in helping us get from A to B with minimum fuss and in the safest way possible it shouldn't become so overbearing that it reduces the onus on the driver to use his or her own judgement & most certainly shouldn't affect their ability to maintain control of his vehicle at all times.

Now, don't get me wrong - not one of us here at UKMotortalk could be classed as a Luddite - we're not going to berate the march of technology and with open arms we welcome anything which advances the cause of safety for the road user and in particular that which eases the burden on today's hard-pressed car driver.

But equally we would strongly advocate that those who find this technology increasingly at their disposal recognise when it is a hindrance rather than a help.

Whether it comes in the form of a vast TFT infotainment screen in the middle of the dashboard (*cough* Tesla *cough*) or a trick self-parking mode, applied science in the cockpit should surely be as unobtrusive as possible - particularly in the case of gadgetry and switchgear.

We as drivers in our turn should perhaps be encouraged to accept the increasing assistance with which the motor manufacturers are so keen to provide us but not at the cost of distracting ourselves from the art of driving or the risk of dulling our own skills.

Mind how you go..

Dave Wakefield

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Mark Blundell talks F1 driving standards

Mark Blundell, F1 driver steward at this weekend's Singapore Grand Prix, talks to UKMT's Graham Benge about the thrills and spills in current Formula One racing.