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.
The Aurion is the car that almost bridges the gap between Toyota and Lexus. You get the same 200kW, 336Nm, …full story
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
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
Tracks: NÃ¼rburgring, Germany
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 NÃ¼rburgring, 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 NÃ¼rburgring will alternate for hosting of the German GP.
By Phil Clark
Fifteen seconds was all it took for me to get the approving nod. It’s a special nod that guys give to other guys when the nodder appreciates something that the noddee is driving. In this case it was the highly conspicuous bright orange Ford Focus XR5 Turbo. I had literally pulled out of the Ford dealership and up to a set of lights and said nodder nodded. Pride and manly camaraderie welled up inside me.
Being the noddee, you don’t want to have to then pull away in a vehicle that’s all show and no go (and especially not a car that’s all show but sounds like a sewing machine). I then performed an exemplary demonstration of noddee gratitude — it’s not about accelerating away as fast as possible or lingering and waiting; it’s about taking off with enough beans so that the nodder can appreciate both the engine’s tone and the car’s constrained and tamed aggression. Very complex is the psychology of nodding.
My restrained acceleration wasn’t satisfying for me though, because the best part of the Focus XR5 is the almost V8-like engine tone that roars when you unleash all the horses available, and from an inline five-cylinder turbo, no less. Filter out the slightly annoying turbo whistle and it’s like P Diddy has remixed an Alfa Romeo 147 GTA and an HSV GTS and won a Grammy with it. It’s a sonorous but determined anger that emanates from beneath the bonnet and I just never tired of burying the throttle and letting it wrap around to 6500rpm.
All this joy comes from a 2.5-litre inline five-cylinder mill that produces 222hp. This is sufficient to get the XR5 to 100kph in 6.5 seconds despite severely challenging the front tyres. The 225/40R18 Continental Sportcontact 2 tyres that wrap around very striking 18-inch mags have excellent grip encouraging you to push into the corners and then accelerate with vigour out of them again.
Which is a problem. The fuel economy isn’t exactly stellar to start with, and with the temptation to let the aural goodness of the engine wash into your ears, it’s worse. Ford even gives you a turbo boost gauge — one of three gauges in the dashboard (the others measure oil temperature and pressure) — so that you can be sure of just when the Focus is drinking like a darts player.
The power is transferred to the wheels via a six-speed gearbox. The gear change is positive and easy, though the throw is a little long. With a short-shift gear stick the slight problem of bumping your arm into the seat when changing to second, fourth or sixth would be solved.
The Recaro seats have orange highlights to match the body colour. They are exceptionally comfortable and supportive when pushing the Focus towards its safe mild understeer.
The Sony stereo is better than most Ford offerings. It features a CD player with MP3 compatibility, but you will certainly want to listen to the engine for fun anywhere other than in rush hour or motorway cruising.
In Europe the XR5 is called the ST, and this badging can still be seen on the engine. The XR5 is essentially a UK-spec car — its instruments are calibrated in miles per hour, the indicator stalk is on the left and the stereo controls are a on a stubby wand as opposed to on the steering wheel.
The bright orange colour (which my flatmate assures me is the colour of the second chakra – the sexual one), must bring a smile to the faces of the people of Great Britain, stuck as they are in the dreariness of constant drizzle. The fact that there are spare ones to send over here isn’t surprising, though as Ford obviously isn’t trying too hard to sell this amazing car — in fact, unless you specifically bring one in from the UK you can’t get one yet!
When you go to the Ford website, there isn’t even a price given, let alone any specifications. Ford’s response was that the Focus XR5 will be available second-quarter 2008 as part of a freshened model range (which will also include a Mondeo XR5 in April) and prices are to be confirmed. If you want more power you could use the XR5 as a stop-gap measure until the Focus RS arrives in 2009. If the Focus RS is even better than the Focus XR5, it’ll be one hell of a car.
Price: To be confirmed early 2008.
What we like
- Huge glovebox
- My second chakra tingled
What we don’t like
- Whistling turbo is annoying
- Needs a short shift kit
- Two-wheel drive = traction dramas
- Fuel economy
- Not much other cabin storage
Words and photos Darren Cottingham
I’m having a break from writing over Xmas – no press cars until mid-January. So after the bright orange Focus XR5, I’m back in my inconspicuous Mazda station wagon with its minor dings and 214,000 on the clock. In the last 6 months the car has sat in the warehouse and only done 2000km – at least 800km of that was Steve our content editor who used it while his Land Rover was being fixed.
This doesn’t mean there won’t be new articles popping up over the next few weeks, including BMW M3, Ford XR8 ute, Ford Fairmont and Kia Carens.
What we’ve got coming in the New Year is Ford’s Mondeo, Kia’s Picanto, Renault’s R26, Subaru’s WRX STI and Tribeca, Peugeot’s 207CC and 308, Mitsubishi Lancer VRX, Nissan’s X-Trail, and Volkswagen’s Tiguan. And I haven’t even started calling the distributors yet. In a way it can get hectic with having to collect and drop off cars, and you need to keep on top of the writing or the finer details can merge together.
That’s when taking a comprehensive set of photos comes in handy when tidying up the article – so you can remember whether the tyres were 225s or 215s, or what the storage was like.
I will be updating the blog, though. It seems the government has given the green delegation a lot of ammunition with its purchase of BMWs, and I’ll follow up on that. I’ll carry on updating this blog when I can over Xmas, but if I don’t attract the attention of your eyeballs again before then, have a great one, and I hope you’re back in the New Year.
“I’m following an obviously drunk driver,” I said to the police controller after calling 111 because I’d waited 5 minutes without success to contact *555. “We’re very busy tonight,” she said. I felt the temptation to say, “You’re not too busy to have an unmarked speed camera van on the main Pakuranga highway,” but I restrained myself – I was trying to keep up with a Toyota Celica being driven all over the place at anywhere between 40-80kph through the side streets. I had started by keeping my distance a bit, but after having to run through a red light to keep up while on the phone I decided to get a bit closer. That’s when an orange Ford Focus XR5 really shows its weakness: it’s a useless car to tail anyone in because it’s so conspicuous. Its redeeming characteristic was that it’s got enough grunt and handling performance to keep up with most things.
I’ve called the police when following a drunk driver at least 10 times in the past few years. Not once have they ever managed to get someone there, even when I’ve followed for 20 minutes. The time before this I was coming out of Palmerston North and followed a driver for about 15km before deciding if this person was going to crash it would be better that I was in front and therefore not likely to run into it. The police called me back half an hour later to see whether I was still following this person. Useless.
I don’t know what the solution is. They’re always on the motorways with lasers, and the unmarked vans are dotted around the highways and byways of the nation, but when you want a real live police officer to come and chase down some DUI moron, they’re conspicuously absent. Their absence is even more conspicuous than a bright orange Ford Focus XR5.
The great thing about old BMW M3s is that, to an extent, you felt like you were taking your life in your hands when on twisting blacktop at speed. The new M3 has none of this exhilaration. It’s so competent and sure-footed as to be almost boring. Except for the acceleration, that is. Of course, wrapping it around to 8300rpm is obligatory, and then the M3 roars, but at highway speeds even on corners marked half the speed limit the M3 sticks to the road like Exxon Valdez oil to a pristine arctic wilderness. Oops, perhaps a bad analogy seeing as the new M3 is far more ecologically friendly than those of old because of BMW’s EfficientDynamics. It has controllable schizophrenia – it’s both a socially adept and charming conversationalist, and an angry dominatrix.