Monthly Archives: October 2012

Down, but not out

I had a rather melancholic motoring experience last Saturday whilst collecting an eBay purchase from Chesterfield, an hour’s easy cruise away through the Peak District.  A cheeky bid on Friday night and collection just hours later.  Perfect.

However the seller insisted on a midday collection.  So as I sat in a snake of cars, trucks and buses dawdling up hill, down dale with no option to overtake and unattainable 50mph limits, the realisation that this would continue for the next hour was exceptionally frustrating.  Steering wheel-punching frustrating.

As I finally hit Chesterfield and sat there gridlocked for half an hour thanks to the collective genii of the town-planning department, it sunk in that motoring was no longer enjoyable.  It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  Driving had now become a daily uphill battle and I’d even grown sick of manually changing gear.

I mentally planned a phonecall to my pal Graham who puts Cat Ds back on the road and listed my requirements; automatic, old tech, non-turbo diesel, small wheels, comfortable, low power.

There and then as I sat and watched the traffic lights cycle dozens of times, I packed in motoring, stopped caring about enjoying the drive and became an ‘A-to-B ‘, 40mph-everywhere kind of guy.  Game over.  The return journey became a mirror image, with the added slab of misery that is a major trunk road closure and a sign-less diversion through a web of country lanes.

It ruined my day frankly, the sheer fruitlessness of an utterly shambolic journey.

I followed up on my promise and called my pal to start the ball rolling.  The truth is, I hit a brick wall and couldn’t come up with any suggestion that would better the feel, balance and dynamic excellence of the trusty Mk1 Focus I pootle round in.

It would appear that anyone who enjoys motoring could never accept a comfy, wallowy old boat (even to save money and lower stress levels) if feel and sharpness are compromised, even at low speed.

The car simply has to be an integral part of the driver.

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Zero option

English: Vodafone mclaren mercedes f1 logo Pol...Mercedes GP

As Lewis Hamilton crossed the finishing line in Korea two weeks ago in a lowly 10th position, his championship hopes  and the astro-turf both in tatters, it dawned on me why he took the seemingly strange decision to join Mercedes. 

Put simply, McLaren hold Lewis back and cost him point scoring opportunities through less than optimal tactical decisions and general screw-ups.  Sure he might get another championship or two with them were he to become a ‘lifer’ but perhaps he needed to move on to quell the growing sense of frustration and mounting mistrust. 

Step forward Ross Brawn.  Perhaps Lewis sees himself doing a Schumacher under Brawn’s stewardship, dominating the championship for years on end as the Mercedes team grows around him and cash flows in from Germany. 

The world and F1 have changed just a little since those heady days, so surely they can’t ‘do a Brawn’ and leapfrog McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull overnight, let alone Renau… sorry Lotus.  They’re virtually level-pegging with Sauber as it is.  Their mutual hope is that the 2014 regs will enable them to do just this.  And Adrian Newey is going to be doing what exactly over the winter of 2013, sledging and necking mulled wine?

As a Hamilton fan, I had pinned my hopes on Lewis replacing Webber at Red Bull in 2014 as I’m sure this would be his and any other driver’s ambition; to race the latest double (probably triple) world champ in the best car on the grid.  That this didn’t happen can mean one of two things; that Vettel really isn’t going to Ferrari in 2014 and the Red Bull PR machine doesn’t want to even attempt to placate the desires of two of the three world’s best drivers in a confined pit garage, or that Red Bull just don’t want him full stop. 

Too much of a liability in the commercial world of fizzy energy drinks where everything is chilled, cool and rad, though I’m sure Lewis’ Gangsta Rap would sound great booming out of the Red Bull hospitality suite.  Sticking it out at McLaren for one more year to land THE plum job would surely be preferable to years in the midfield at Mercedes, so those ‘casual’ meetings with Christian Horner must have proved fruitless.

I’m a little confused about Red Bull’s potential 2014 line up if Vettel skips off to Italy and Webber to Queensland.  Surely Red Bull need one of the top 3 in the team to maintain the flow of good results and associated positive PR.  If not, which two likely lads will be drafted in? 

Perhaps Alonso will swap seats with Seb.  Don’t rule it out, peculiar things happen in F1.  Lewis may even win a race next year.

Here to stay

Lots of negativity surrounding Aston Martin at the moment, on the back of the recent launch of two cracking cars.  The Vanquish and DB9 are highly rated by the media yet the attached caveat stipulates that it can’t last forever.

The lack of confidence regarding modest sales and future finance is understandable but remember that these new Astons are excellent to drive, sound glorious and look more beautiful than any other car produced today.  Mate that to a brand image second to none, in the luxury goods market not just high end car market, and you have a marketing dream.  Dynamite.

Cars at Aston’s level are generally aspirational and emotional purchases, usually City boys with bonuses to fling at whatever car looks best, makes them look good and raises their status.  Cue Aston Martin.  I would even suggest that many high value fashion buyers don’t even have much knowledge of cars, only what is perceived as ‘must have’ and acceptable.

They’ve weathered the worst recession the world has ever seen and emerged with a world class line up to boot.  Sure, a tie-up in the future would be beneficial but it will happen only after a long process of seeking out the right partner/buyer, when Bez feels the time is right. 

So who could offer Aston a crutch?  Mercedes SLS underpinnings could be a fantastic basis for the future range, though I feel JLR stewardship would be preferable, especially given that the forthcoming Jag SUV could be jointly developed as an Aston, presumably based on the new Range Rover Sport.  Don’t rule out the ever circling VW whose knack of funding and steering purchased minnows would benefit Aston hugely, in a Lambo way, though perhaps not in a re-skinned Phaeton way…

So ease off Aston please, it’ll be fine.