Leaving a Legacy

December 28th, 2007 by darren

I drove the new Subaru Legacy GT Spec B yesterday. I was disappointed. I owned a Legacy RS RA 16 years ago and I always remember a sense of occasion when driving it – the boxer burble was intoxicating. I know that the GT is supposed to be more of a grand tourer with executive pretensions, but it was just a quick car (albeit a competent car).

And the reason is that Subaru doesn’t need an RS now. The RS Legacy was pre-WRX. The WRX fills the niche that the RS had as the rally representative for Subaru, thrashed by McRae in its signature blue and gold. The Legacy has become a trendy company director’s car; one purchased when a Jag, Merc or Beemer just aren’t the right image (or there’s spousal pressure for all-wheel drive safety).

The original RS Legacy did leave a legacy, but the end result would never have been expected 16 years ago.

Ten remedies for traffic chaos

December 28th, 2007 by Darren Cottingham

Most of us have experienced heavy traffic. Some of us spend more than 10 hours a week in it, gradually imprinting our bottom into our car seat. So, what are the primary causes of the stop-start traffic that afflicts our motorways and urban streets during rush hour periods, and our main highways in holiday periods? While you won’t recognise any of the following traits and faults in your own driving, please tell your friends, most of whom are morons behind the wheel.

The dawdlers

Lines of traffic form at traffic lights. The lights go green, and they’re off¦well, sometimes only just. Green proponents may argue that pulling away from the lights at a gentle pace minimises emissions, and I’d be inclined to agree. But it also means that far less cars get through the lights behind the tortoise, which means they then sit at the lights for another cycle, spewing fumes into the atmosphere.

Remedy 1: When the lights go green, pull away sensibly vigorously.

Merging and entering a motorway, or pulling into traffic from a side street

You wouldn’t, while walking down the pavement at 5km/h decide to step into a street of traffic doing 55km/h — the speed differential means you’ll either get run over, or drivers will need to brake heavily. But, people don’t think like this when using motorway onramps. We need signs at the beginning of onramps saying ‘Floor it now’, and ‘Match your speed’. This way, when you merge into traffic you are not causing lines of traffic all the way back up the motorway to have to brake, which reduces the overall speed. The same applies when exiting a passing lane and merging back into other traffic — match the speed back down to the level of the other traffic.

Remedy 2: As soon as you’re out of that 50-limit, get up to the same speed as the other traffic. If you’re pulling into traffic, match your speed as quickly as possible. If you’re changing lanes, match your speed before you change, or wait for a big enough gap.


Kids, cellphones, eating, putting on makeup: they all cause varying degrees of erratic driving. Erratic driving means you’re probably unnecessarily slowing down, and changing lanes without indicating, causing others to brake to avoid you.

Remedy 3: Vasectomy, message service, and getting up 10 minutes earlier


A car will naturally slow down slightly when going uphill, and speed up when going downhill. One of the basic car control skills is to keep a constant speed. So, as soon as you notice the gradient increasing (and you might even hear the engine tone change), give it a bit more gas and you’ll be sweet.

Remedy 4: Push the pedal on the right a little harder when going uphill


If you are afraid of driving on the motorway, you shouldn’t be driving on the motorway. If you’re afraid of driving, full stop, sell your car.

Remedy 5: Public transport, bike, walking and car pooling

Accidents and rubbernecking

Our morbid fascination with other people’s demise means we just can’t help but look at accident scenes. Is it someone we know? Is it an expensive car? Then suddenly you’ve run into the back of the car in front like an idiot. Well done.

Remedy 6: The police should have blackout screens to surround accidents. Better still, let’s not have accidents!

Panic brakers

People who are on and off the brakes, and people who can’t judge braking distances cause all manner of havoc for motorists following them. If you are watching several cars ahead, you can anticipate how much you’ll need to brake, even smoothing out the panic braking of some of the half-wits ahead.

Remedy 7: Don’t just follow the taillights ahead of you — look 3-4 cars ahead at least (if possible)

Driving too slow

We’re all busy, and roads are designed for commerce as well as pleasure. So, the next time you’re worried that carrots have gone up in price again, remember that slow drivers cause hold ups. Slow drivers reduce the efficiency of transport carriers when doing their job because it takes them longer. Yes, slow drivers (to a point) can use less fuel and if they crash it’s not quite as messy, but they also frustrate the majority of other drivers, and frustrated drivers are dangerous. This would also apply to campervans and Sunday drivers, plus those that fall into the ‘fear’ category (above)

Remedy 8: A bit of courtesy and commonsense — pulling over, or maybe just getting a move on!

Driving too fast

Driving much faster than the other traffic makes people nervous. Plus, while it might be fun — actually, it is fun — it’s not the most economical way of getting around.

Remedy 9: A bit more courtesy and commonsense — drive to the conditions

Lane-hogging losers

Middle-lane magnetism: it’s when you are driving along in the middle lane, not overtaking anything. So, the slow lane is totally empty, and you’ve just reduced the motorway effectively to two lanes. Well done. Even worse is if you’re in the fast lane (or ‘the overtaking lane’ as the politically correct call it), and you are either not overtaking anything, or the vehicle you are overtaking is doing 0.25km/h less than you.

Remedy 10: Move to the left, and don’t dawdle when overtaking.

Now you have all the tools to tell your friends how to be excellent drivers. What are you waiting for? Go to!

Words Darren Cottingham

Marina Bay, Singapore

December 27th, 2007 by Darren Cottingham

Preparations for the first-ever night race in Formula 1 history have been steadily building up with in-principle approval received for the Singapore street circuit, as well as the bespoke state-of-the-art lighting system. The biggest sports event the Republic has ever hosted, the inaugural Formula 1 SingTel Singapore Grand Prix is set to be a truly unique event when the cars line up on the starting grid on 28 September 2008.

A year exactly before the race, Singapore received in-principle approval from the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) on 28 September 2007,  for the proposed 5.067km-long street circuit that will offer multiple overtaking opportunities as well as fast and challenging turns.

Set against the spectacular Singapore skyline, spectators will get a close-up view of the garden city as the circuit passes historic landmarks such as the City Hall and modern buildings along the Marina Bay, such as the Esplanade. With speeds expected to reach 300km per hour along portions of the circuit, spectators are assured a thrilling race and drivers a genuine challenge.

Lighting specialist Valerio Maioli S.p.a. of Ravenna, Italy, has designed a bespoke, state-of-the-art lighting system to deliver optimal visibility for night race conditions. The system minimises glare and reflections from a wet surface or spray from cars by using lighting projectors strategically positioned on one side of the track.

The logistical set up is vast – 108,423m of power cables, 240 steel pylons and around 1,500 light projectors will be used, with a total power requirement of over three gigawatts.  At 3000lux levels, the lighting will be four times brighter than the lights at sports stadiums.

A complete fact sheet is after this circuit layout diagram

Singapore Grand Prix track layout

Fact Sheet

Official Title 2008 Formula 1 SingTel Singapore Grand Prix
About Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix: The inaugural Formula 1 SingTel Singapore Grand Prix will take place on 28 September 2008 on a street circuit of public roads around the Marina Bay area. The race is the 15th round of the 2008 Formula 1 race calendar and includes a bespoke state-of-the-art lighting system that delivers optimal visibility for night race conditions.

The race will be the first in Formula 1 history held at night and is the first Formula 1 street race to be held in Asia.  Positioned as the Monaco of the East, it is the most anticipated race on the 2008 Grand Prix calendar.

Official website: www.singaporegp.sg
Venue: Marina Bay — in the heart of Singapore — just minutes from 5-star hotels, the MRT underground system, the bustling business district and historic landmarks such as City Hall and The Padang which form part of Singapore’s heritage hub.
Start time: 2000 hours (local time)
Title sponsor: SingTel
Race Promoter: Singapore GP Pte Ltd
Sanctioning Body: Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA)
Expected attendance: 80,000 spectators
Ticketing: 3-day Corporate hospitality packages were first released on 28 November 2007, to be followed by 3-Day general passes in mid-January 2008.  1-day ticket sales will commence before Chinese New Year, in February 2008.
Track description
Track length: 5.067km  / 3.148 miles*
Race direction: Anti-clockwise
Number of turns : 24, consisting of 14 left turns and 10 right turns
Maximum speed: In excess of 300kph
Slowest corner: 80 — 100kph
Overtaking opportunities: Turn 1: Pit StraightTurn
7: Raffles Boulevard
Turn 15: Esplanade Drive
Track design consultant: Kellogg Brown & Root Pty Ltd, Australia
Number of laps: 61*
Race Distance: 308.95 km*   (*Info subject to FIA confirmation)
*(If you are a maths whizz and HAVE calculated that the race distance is incorrect (5.067 x 61 = 309.087 km), here is the reason:
The start and finish lines aren’t in the same places. The start line is at the beginning of the straight, while the finish line is somewhere close to the middle of the straight – hence the difference.)
Lighting System
Power 3,180,000 watt
Track Projectors 1,485 @ 2,000 watt each
Power Generators 12 (twin-power)
Power Cables 108, 423m
Overall Luminosity 3000lux levels (four times brighter than a sports stadium)
Set up 2 to 3 months, from second quarter of 2008

Mazda Mine Proving Ground, Japan

December 27th, 2007 by Darren Cottingham

In order to give more comprehensive vehicle performance and safety testing, Mazda has extended its Mine Proving Ground in Mine City, Yamaguchi Prefecture, in western Japan with a skid pad, free flat course and winding track.

The skid pad is to test vehicles’ ability to turn sharply at high speed, the ‘free flat course’ is to evaluate high-speed slalom performance, and the winding track is to assess high-speed vehicle handling.

Specifications of the Mine Proving Ground

Course name Outline Used for
Circuit course

(existing track)

Total length: 3.33 km

Track width: 10 to 15 m

  • Improving test driving techniques
  • Driving schools for other organizations
  • Sales promotional activities
Skid pad


Radius: 80 m

Surface: round and flat

Length of runway: 270 m

  • Evaluating turning performance
  • Testing rollover resistance
  • “Fishhook” dynamic maneuvering tests
Free flat course


Total length: 400 m

Width x Length: 40 m x 300 m plus 80 m x 100 m

Surface: flat

Connected to the winding course

  • Testing of high-speed slalom performance
  • Testing of double lane-change performance
Winding course


Total length: 2.9 km circuit

Radius of corners: 50 to 200 m

Difference in elevation: 45 m

Course width: 8 m

The government is ‘only’ paying $90,000 for its Beemers

December 24th, 2007 by darren

That’s better than the $170,000 than initially reported, but it still a good $20,000 more than what they needed to spend, therefore my argument that you could use the savings to plant trees still stacks up. Thank you for the notes of encouragement and support I’ve had regarding the new item – I’m a petrolhead, but the thought of Helen Clark spending more than a million dollars more than is necessary is just annoying beyond belief. I’m sure this kind of incompetent decision-making goes on every day in a government that doesn’t have to answer to commercial reality and is driven by selfishness and greed, so the only way to combat it is to make people aware.

Sepang International Circuit, Malaysia

December 24th, 2007 by Darren Cottingham

One of the more recent F1 specific tracks joining, the calendar in 1999, and seeing the return of Michael Schumacher in the Ferrari after his leg injury sustained at the British Grand Prix. He spent the entire race trying to go ‘slowly’ so that he could help his then team mate Eddie ‘Irv the swerve’ Irvine in the title chase. Even doing so, he made everyone else look like amateurs and somehow found a way to ‘not’ win the race.

Such is Formula One that on April 8, 2007, shortly before the 2007 Malaysian Grand Prix, Formula One president Bernie Ecclestone was quoted in stating that the circuit was getting “shabby” and “a bit tired” from the lack of care, describing it as “an old house that needs a bit of redecorating”. Cheek!

The circuit also sees action from MotoGP and Japanese Super GT racing.


By Phil Clark

Pukekohe Park Raceway, Pukekohe, New Zealand

December 24th, 2007 by Darren Cottingham

One of three circuits that I have actually lapped myself, Brands Hatch and Goodwood being the others, Pukekohe has been around since 1963. This home track for most Aucklanders has seen big names in the past, as part of the European Winter ‘Tasman’ series, including Stirling Moss, Graham Hill, Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart as well as local aces such as Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme.

Shortened from 3.5 km to 2.8 km the circuit is fast – the fastest in the southern hemisphere – with the current lap record standing at under 55 seconds, courtesy of series such as the Toyota Racing Series, V8 Supercars and F5000. From 2008 though, the V8 series moves to a street circuit in Hamilton. This is primarily due to a lack of investment in the circuit and facilities by the owners, who see it more as a horse racing venue. Not that much of that happens either.


By Phil Clark

Nürburgring, Germany

December 24th, 2007 by Darren Cottingham

The Green Hell

Home to the ‘second’ German Grand Prix for recent years (Hockenheim being the other), the new safer emasculated track did not warrant being called the Nürburgring, according to local fans. Opened in 1984, the 5.1km circuit saw a flagship inaugural event offering a veritable smorgasbord of F1 talent driving identical Mercedes 190E 2.3-16. The line-up was Jack Brabham, Phil Hill, Denny Hulme, James Hunt, Jacques Laffite, Niki Lauda, Carlos Reutemann, Keke Rosberg, Jody Scheckter, Manfred Schurti, Ayrton Senna and John Watson. Ayrton won, followed by Lauda and Reutemann.

In recent years, both the ‘Ring and the Hockenheim events have been losing money due to high and rising license fees charged by Bernie Ecclestone and low attendance due to high ticket prices. Starting with the 2007 Formula 1 season, Hockenheim and Nürburgring will alternate for hosting of the German GP.


By Phil Clark

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