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Suzuki V-Strom1000XT

11th October 2018 — by Mark Turner

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Suzuki V-Strom1000XT. I would have loved to see the look on the old guys face, comfortably oblivious of his surroundings, safe in his generic eurobox, as we exited the roundabout side by side, me on the V-Strom, cranked over will a full set of luggage. ‘Round the outside, hard on the gas, then off in to the distance.
I’d like to think he would have turned to Dorris in the passenger seat and muttered, “I didn’t expect that.”

Suzuki V-Strom1000XT

Truth be told, neither did I. I’ve always been a sports bike kind of guy but am well aware of the changing market trends. Sports bike sales are generally slowing down, and the smaller 600cc bikes are on their last legs, some have disappeared from manufacturers ranges all together.
Growth is in the naked, adventure and retro style bikes.
Suzuki threw me the keys of a V-Strom1000XT recently so I thought I’d find out for myself what this adventure bike lark is all about.

The 1037cc 90 degree V twin kicks out 100 bhp and 101 Nm torque, which aren’t massive numbers, but there’s more to this bike that just the numbers.
The torque comes in from 4k rpm with peak bhp around 8k rpm. It make for a very useable bike, easy to crack the throttle and overtake safely but the low down torque means you can cruise at low revs for hours.
Stopping the V-Strom is easy thanks to radial mounted four piston monobloc Tokico brake calipers biting on to twin 310mm diameter discs on the front, and a 260mm diameter single disc with a single piston caliper on the rear.
The Bosch ABS system has what Suzuki call “Motion Track Brake System¹” which uses a 5-Axis Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU), which measures lean angle and front and rear wheel speeds and provides optimal ABS braking for the situation. Very clever.

Suzuki V-Strom1000XT

There’s also 2 mode traction control.
1 is the lowest level of intervention, allowing sporty riding. It allows an amount of wheel spin so you can have fun.
2 is normal which eliminates wheel spin to ensure a safe ride. Great for riding in the wet.
You can of course turn it off if you want, if you were heading off road for example.

What’s it like to live with? Well, i’m actually quite new to adventure bikes. These days, the roads are in a pretty shit state and i’m older, so i thought i’d give it a go. I wasn’t disappointed. The V-Strom100XT is a big beast but so are all adventure bikes in this class. Mine had optional (and expensive) luggage too so i was a bit tentative filtering through traffic.

It’s big, very comfortable, punchy and great fun, way more fun that i expected. It turns well, handles nicely and i’d go as far as to say pretty sporty on the road. Something i particularly liked was the ability to be fast over any road surface. A few times i was riding with other guys on sports bikes on the back roads and they just couldn’t live with the Strom. It’s plush, forgiving suspension just dances over the rough, potholed roads, still giving good feedback and confidence, no doubt helped by the electronics. The guys on their sports bikes were shaken to pieces.

Suzuki V-Strom1000XT

Two up it’s no drama either. You have a knob below the seat to allow you to adjust the preload on the rear shock, so a few clicks and you’re away. You can do it sat on the bike. Still lots of fun and plenty of power when you need it. The large comfortable seat and rear pegs mean pillions are well looked after.

We even took a V-Strom on track, hooning it around Bruntingthorpe with a few other Suzuki’s. Admittedly it’s not the obvious choice as a track slag but it was surprisingly good. It moves around a little when you really push on and the pegs tend to go down, but it’s very good and very funny to see other people’s reactions. It doesn’t do anything stupid, it’ll hold a decent line and doesn’t sit up on the brakes in the corners. It’s a very civilised way to do a track day.

Suspension is great, with 43mm KYB inverted forks up front, adjustable for preload and compression/rebound damping. Bringing up the rear is a KYB shock, adjustable for preload and compression/rebound damping too.
Brakes are radial four piston Tokico monoblock calipers up front on 310mm discs and are strong with none of that wooden feeling you sometimes get with modern ABS equipped bikes.

Suzuki V-Strom1000XT

Why a V-Strom? The adventure bike sector is crammed with bikes. Everyone seems to do one or even several. BMW is the obvious choice and arguably, you can say they started it all.
Yamaha, Triumph, Honda, KTM, Ducati and more all play in this playground.
The V-Strom sits in between most of these interestingly. Generally, adventure bikes are around 1200cc or 800cc (ish). Suzuki’s V-Strom1000 sits in the middle. At 232kg It’s lighter than pretty much all of the competition, even the smallest capacity bikes like the Triumph Tiger 800.
It’s obviously down on power on the big capacity competition but at £9,999 it’s very well priced. A BMW R1200GS for example starts at £12,400 and a Honda Africa twin starts at £11,575.

I could go on and on. I haven’t mentioned  low RPM assist, which raises the engine speed when the clutch is engaged, making it harder to stall the bike, gold wire wheels, standard bashplate, handguards and more.
You really should head to your local Suzuki dealer and get one out for a test ride. I loved it. Fun, fast, practical, comfortable.

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EventPeople

That Gravel Express Subaru is back in the mud again

8th October 2018 — by JimmyDrama1

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With it’s jacked suspension and big tyres, dinged bodywork and patina paintwork, my Gravel Express Subaru is shunned at car shows and with it’s Japanese origins, HKS exhaust and more car like appearance seen as a joke at off-road meets.

Today was show time. The Gravel Express and I have had some adventures off road, but only some mild green lane routes around the green-belt country side of Buckinghamshire, UK. It did appear in a video that looped the internet a few times on Car Throttle, but It was time to give it a real push and take it to it’s limits.

Just like another car meet, the time and location were set. 1000 at a car park in Hemel Hempstead and the meet location was decided, things are looking familiar and it’s now just the Subaru I need to worry about. Pulling up, I meet up with off-road veterans and friends, Rich from Ruislip Tyres and Jack from Wheel Refurbishing, both with off road metal and some know-how under their belts in the mud game.

It’s a muddy game of chess

A convoy procession to the mud pit location and the HKS exhaust bellowed loud over the diesels in-front. Soon we pulled into an unmarked location and got ushered through a locked gate – paying £10 we signed in and were then told to go and have fun, avoid the clearly signed footpaths and the rest was dirt based adventure. As we turned to leave, we were told another ‘new’ group had to be dragged out of the holes with blown diffs, great! Is my 1995 Subaru even going to survive the next few hours of abuse.

Jack’s Defender 110, camera shy

Heading into the country and woodland, it opened up a churned up wonderland of dirt slinging awesomeness. I decided to sit in between the two regular 4×4’s just if I needed a tow at any point. That point never came, the Japanese wagon skipped and flowed behind the purpose built machines and that flat-four delivered bark and horsepower churning the BF Goodrich’s to make light of any sticky elements along the way. The peaceful woodland echo’d with stainless Steel reverberation, I’m JDM and yet feel I need to wear combats and camo like the rest of the 4×4 Nation.

500 pound car, set off decent tyres and you’re set
Would you trade drifting for mudding?

If you’d have asked me a few years ago about off-roading, I’d have thought it was for men who liked real ale, lived at home and were over 50, like knitted jumpers – I couldn’t have been further from the truth. It’s a brutal man and machine Vs Mother Nature motorsport. It’s a muddy game of chassis chess and it’s not tens of thousands of pounds to get going.

Defender 110 makes easy work of the toughest sections

I’m not saying I’m becoming exclusive to the mud club, but I’m certainly going to want to make sure I always have a puddle bashing wagon at my disposal from here on in

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People

Luke Woodham Gymkhana Nissan S14 gets death karted

6th October 2018 — by JimmyDrama1

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I’m into the whole ‘Death Kart’ style, although it’s got more appeal to own one where the climate, isn’t so constantly, wet. However, we’ve had the best summer on record and Luke Woodham decided it was time to take drastic action to lose some car-kilos and cool off in his Gymkhana spec-d Nissan S14a

Luke needed to lose some weight to gain speed

This was one of those projects, that just seemed like a great idea. You know the ones that are normally born between friends, in a pub, after the third and before the fourth pint.  The panels were being pulled off the car ahead of a deep clean over-haul and I was due to fly out to Canada, we had an hour of spare time and decided to see how cool it would look if the car was ‘hooned’ in it’s rawest form

Country lanes and SR20 flames

It wasn’t long before we had the SR20 turbo chirping and sending it’s 400hp to the rears lighting them up, in proper fashion, down the private English lanes around his workshop. Anarchy and mayhem, noise unrestricted by panels, lashes of flames and engine components turning the best shades of red and yellow as the car pumped out it’s best soundtrack as I clicked away furiously trying to get some action all while hanging out the boot of my Subaru

Smoke, stones, sunshine, nothing escapes whacking you in the face, when you death kart

What now? Is the car still like this?

As the summer season has now died, the panels have since been re-attached to give Luke’s car a fresh new look ahead of it’s voyage over to South Africa for Gymkhana GRiD. When it docks, it will be the height of African summer and if it gets too much, I’d be voting for all the cars to becoming onto the GRiD looking like this… I’m not sure Race Control would agree, but hey, it’s all about that style right?!

Ace Venture driving style being adopted for 2018

If you’ve enjoyed my blogs, then check out my frequent updates on Instagram @JimmyDrama1

 

Uncategorised

Mercedes X-Class – the end is nigh

3rd October 2018 — by Mark Turner

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It had been 3 months since Z day and at least a month since we last heard gunfire.
Peeking through the boarded up windows, the first signs of sunlight were showing through the black skies.
Our supplies were almost gone, it was time we hit the road and began our fight for survival.

Mercedes-Benz X-Class+

I kicked open the door to the house and we emerged in to what used to be the lush, green garden of the house we had been hiding in while the chaos absorbed everyone outside.
The garden was lifeless and black, dead like everything else.
There was a garage at the rear of the house. If we were lucky there would be a vehicle inside that we could use to get the hell out of here. We forced the door open and through the darkness, saw a Mercedes badge.
“A Mercedes is nice but not much good to us now. Look at the state of the roads”, said Troy. He was right. Abandoned cars littered the roads, tarmac scared with debris from the fighting and shelling.
As we opened the door further, we saw it was a pickup.
“But Mercedes don’t make a pickup” exclaimed Sarah.
“They do now thank god” said Dutch as he threw his bag in the back of the X-Class, opened the rear door and slid in to the sumptuous leather upholstered cabin.

“Damn this is nice” i said, adjusting the electric drivers seat. I selected ‘D’ on the automatic gearbox and we slowly pulled out of the garage, down the driveway and out into the street. The huge load bed was packed with our remaining supplies. Lucky for us the X-Class can haul a huge payload of up to 1.1 tonnes. That is enough to transport 17 full 50-litre barrels of clean water in the cargo area. It’s able to tow up to 3.5 tonnes, it can pull a trailer containing three horses or easily pull an abandoned truck out of the way.

Mercedes-Benz X-Class

The roads were littered with debris from the battle. Burnt out cars, makeshift barricades, ruined buildings. We couldn’t have hoped for a better vehicle than the Mercedes X-Class. It was the X250 Power D 4MATIC AUTO with a powerful and torquey 2.3L biturbo 190hp diesel engine. The permanent 4MATIC all-wheel drive and the seven-speed automatic transmission got us out of trouble more than a few times. When the road ahead was blocked, i’d select 4WD low and head off road. The X-Class has serious off road ability so didn’t struggle. Our Mercedes X-Class apocalypse escape vehicle had great road manners and serious off road ability, but how did it manage to be so good on road but so good off road too? It has a double wishbone front axle and a rear multi-link solid axle which allows for great axle articulation. No old school leaf springs here. The Mercedes rolled on 225/55R19’s which certainly helped with the subtle ride.

Fortunately the X-Class X250 was really good on diesel meaning we could travel for hours without having to refuel. It really was the perfect vehicle. On road, smooth, quiet and comfortable, with 2WD engaged to save fuel. When the going got tough, select 4WD or even 4WD low range, engaging the differential lock on the rear axle and nothing could stop it. The Downhill Speed Regulation (DSR) made things even easier.

Mercedes-Benz X-Class

The electronic safety systems saved us on more than one occasion. With burning cars and buildings belching smoke and restricting visibility, it was hard to see what lay ahead. Active brake assist provided a welcome backup.
We drove for hour after hour and were all exhausted. Fortunately the awesome Mercedes X-Class X250 has lane keeping assist which meant when we struggled to keep our eyes open through exhaustion, the safety system kept us on the road when we had the cruise control engaged.
Rough roads can mean unforeseen punctures. Our X-Class had tyre pressure monitoring system to help us and LED headlamps with six LEDs to show us the way.
The 360-Degree camera made maneuvering around burnt out cars or through partly collapsed building easy and safe. In our life before the apocalypse, features like traffic sign assist, trailer stability assist and emergency call system would have helped, but in a crumbling and uncertain world, traffic signs were the least of our concerns.

Strangely, our phones were still working although no one ever answered any calls we made. This meant we could use the Mercedes me app to access the vehicle by smartphone, calling up useful information such as fuel level and tyre pressure, find the X-Class’s location when it is parked or being driven by someone else and even program the navigation or remotely read vehicle diagnostics. This was invaluable when on a recce for supplies, split up, scattered among the rubble, searching.

After four full weeks on the road, hardly stopping, crossing the war torn country from side to side looking for any signs of hope, we finally arrived at the military installation we had heard about on a radio transmission. We found other survivors who had also found their way here and had begun to rebuild their lives.
It was a relief to find other people and to hear the familiar sound of laughter.
As we sat in the canteen enjoying a simple but welcome home cooked beef pie, my phone buzzed to let me know the X-Class was on the move. When we arrived we surrendered the vehicle to the motorpool. It seemed perfectly reasonable then, but now it was like hearing that my wife was on a date with someone else.
All four of us looked at each other then looked around at the other survivors for a moment.
We’d all grown fond of the X-Class, it had literally saved us. Without speaking, without even a moment’s hesitation, in one swift move, we all got up, grabbed our bags, headed for the motorpool and for the safety and comfort of our Mercedes X-Class. We’d take our chances in the wilderness and see where the road took us. Wherever it was, the X-Class would look after us.

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Mercedes-Benz X-Class
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Event

BTRDA Rallycross Championship Round 7 – Lydden Hill

1st October 2018 — by Steve White

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We are strong advocates of grassroots motorsport here at Fueltopia and so, after covering British and World Championship rounds, it’s great to BE ABLE TO complete my trio of rallycross event blogs with a look at the BTRDA Clubman Championship.

Jos Sterkens Ford Escort Lydden Hill BTRDA Rallycross Championship 2018 Steve White Fueltopia

My last BTRDA coverage came from the final round of the 2014 Championship at Croft. Neglecting the subsequent Championship seasons wasn’t an intentional move, but as the BTRDA rounds predominantly take place at Northern rallycross circuits it hasn’t been possible to fit in another visit.

With the BTRDA returning to Lydden Hill – and the South of England – for the first time in six years I had no excuse not to end that break, especially as this round had attracted a strong 89 car entry which included several European drivers.

Attiwell Vauxhall Nova Lydden Hill BTRDA Rallycross Championship 2018 Steve White Fueltopia

I must confess that I haven’t been closely following the overall standings in this year’s Championship, so my trip to Lydden was more about enjoying the individual races rather than considering the overall Championship picture.

Although there is some crossover between the BTRDA and British Championship fields, there tend to be more unique entrants found in the clubman series and I spent a good portion of my day savoring some of the automotive gems to be found on the grid. I mean come on, who doesn’t love a Nova?

Peugeot 106 Lydden Hill BTRDA Rallycross Championship 2018 Steve White Fueltopia

The Production class is largely occupied by Peugeot 106’s and Citroen Saxos. Now I appreciate that these cars are unlikely to excite the vast majority of readers, but I think these little things are brilliant. My first car was a Peugeot 106 and, fifteen years down the line, there are still few cars I have driven that have been as entertaining at legal speeds.

French cars may not be renowned for their reliability, but they definitely know how to build a fun hatchback and a whole pack of them can provide some close racing.

Paul Davis Subaru Impreza Lydden Hill BTRDA Rallycross Championship 2018 Steve White Fueltopia  

Supercars are not the primary focus of the BTRDA Championship, however there is a Production 4×4 category which, perhaps predictably, is largely filled by early generations of the Subaru Impreza.

I’m a sucker for a WR Blue Subaru, so my eye was immediately caught by the GC8 of Paul Davis.

Todd Crooks Rover Mini Cooper Lydden Hill BTRDA Rallycross Championship 2018 Steve White Fueltopia

I couldn’t decide if I should be envious of the classic Mini drivers or feel sorry for them. You see I love the original Mini and they looked an absolute hoot to drive on track…

…except for those moments when the cars were on the loose sections of the circuit. Even as a spectator I found myself wincing in pain. Still, perhaps the bumps didn’t feel as spine-shattering from behind the wheel as they looked from the side lines!

Nick Angrave Honda Integra Lydden Hill BTRDA Rallycross Championship 2018 Steve White Fueltopia

Despite being on the receiving end of a lot of jokes over the years, I have always had a lot of respect for the Type R Hondas, particularly the Integra.

The DC2 and DC5 Tegs have both been highly acclaimed drivers cars and I have long had a yearning to drive one. Unfortunately Nick Angrave didn’t make it any further than the opening heat race in his DC2, but it was great to see a 90’s JDM icon out on track.

Darren Clark Nissan Almera Lydden Hill BTRDA Rallycross Championship 2018 Steve White Fueltopia

On the subject of Japanese cars, could this be the first (and possibly only) time in existence that a Nissan Almera has done something cool? Driver Darren Clark was actually behind the wheel of two Nissans during the day, running the Almera in the pre-1995 Classics category and a Pulsar GTi-R in the Production 4×4 class.

Darren Clark Nissan Pulsar Lydden Hill BTRDA Rallycross Championship 2018 Steve White Fueltopia

I have mixed feelings about the GTi-R. The basic concept – combining turbo-charging, four wheel drive and a compact platform – is my recipe for a perfect car, however my (admittedly very limited) experience with the Pulsar in the real world hasn’t been positive. Every example I have known has been tuned to produce silly levels of power and been ridiculous quick: for about 5 minutes.

Somehow Darren Clark has managed to find a standard example to enter in the 4×4 class and, in stock form, the car seemed to run without issue all day. While Paul Davis and Dan Beattie fought over second place in the final, Clark opened up a slender lead which he held all the way to the checkered flag.

Luke Constantine Suzuki Swift Junior Lydden Hill BTRDA Rallycross Championship 2018 Steve White Fueltopia

The Suzuki Swift Juniors provided some of the best racing at the recent British Championship meeting at Lydden and, with many of the same drivers entered at the BTRDA round, they pretty much carried on where they had left off a fortnight earlier.

Unlike the British Championship the BTRDA Junior category isn’t restricted to the Suzuki Swift so there were a few other shapes in the mix but, up front, it was the Constantine trio who were once again scrapping for the win. After taking first a fortnight before Tom Constantine had to settle for second place behind Luke Constantine this time around.

Tony Lynch Ford KA Lydden Hill BTRDA Rallycross Championship 2018 Steve White Fueltopia

One of the entrants to be seen in both BTRDA and British Championships, the Ford KA of Tony Lynch is a car with a huge amount of history. Having debuted in 2003 with Phil Collard at the wheel, the Ford was used by Ben Power and Gareth Woods before being purchased by Lynch in 2016.

I watched this car on my very first trip to Lydden and it was one of the first to teach me that, in the modified class, appearances can be very deceptive. What might appear to look like an innocuous hatchback can be far from standard under the bonnet.

Mike Dresser Lotus Exige Lydden Hill BTRDA Rallycross Championship 2018 Steve White Fueltopia

It’s not unusual to see a Lotus in rallycross but of all those I have seen – and indeed of all the cars on the grid during the day – the yellow Exige of Mike Dresser is definitely my favourite looking example.

Dresser didn’t seem to have quite enough pace to challenge the front running Super Modified cars, but he was involved in a couple of excellent scraps in the mid-pack.

Darren Scott Citroen C2 Lydden Hill BTRDA Rallycross Championship 2018 Steve White Fueltopia

In addition to comprising a round of the 2018 BTRDA Championship, the Lydden event also served as a memorial to Ryan Lawford.

Lawford was a rallycross driver and accomplished mechanic who died five years ago. Many of Ryan’s former competitors were running with tribute stickers on their cars, however Darren Scott went one step further by switching his door number to that used by Lawford.

Tristan Ovenden Renault Clio V6 Lydden Hill BTRDA Rallycross Championship 2018 Steve White Fueltopia

After all the class finals had run the meeting wrapped up with a traditional Super Final – a race for the ten fastest cars of the day, irrespective of category – which had been named in tribute to Lawford. Having seemingly hung back in the Super Modified final, Tristan Ovenden absolutely flew off the line in the Super Final and went on to win the race.

Like the Ford KA of Tony Lynch, this Clio V6 has been in British Rallycross for over a decade now and, in the right hands, it’s still a race winning car.

Kieran Curran Vauxhall Corsa Lydden Hill BTRDA Rallycross Championship 2018 Steve White Fueltopia

It was slightly jarring to go from a densely packed Loheac to the local crowds of Lydden in the space of a few days, but the racing was every bit as enjoyable to watch at the Clubman level as it had been at the World Championship round.

As fantastic as it’s been to see the international growth of rallycross over the last decade, the relaxed atmosphere was one of things I found most appealing about the sport during my initial forays and it’s brilliant to see that still exists today in the BTRDA Championship.

 

Words and pictures: Steve White

Want to see more of the BTRDA Clubman Rallycross Championship at Lydden Hill? Click here for a full image gallery.