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Reviews

Purpose Built Barrel Hunter

28th February 2017 — by Dave Cox

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At the time of writing, we are just days away from the beginning of the 2017 Fueltopia Barrel Sprint season. Test & Registration day has been and gone and we take this brief gap to bring you a close look at Mike Newland’s new purpose built barrel sprint s13.

This is not Mike’s first rodeo either previously he had a purpose built S14. A car that Mike has competed in for the last 4 years and spent tireless hours and effort developing. Sadly the S14 met it’s demise at Coventry MotorFest when it made a firm introduction with a concrete pillar underneath the ring roads. When life deals you such a poor hand it can be hard to get back on your feet.

Motorsport is high risk, leaving many grass roots racers with two options, All or Nothing. The impact the S14 had sustained was too much, the chassis was completely folded underneath the car meaning that it would sadly be beyond repair. For someone who had invested all they had into a sport they love the result was pretty crushing. Thankfully that was the extent of the damage, pretty much everything could be salvaged.

An S13 was sourced and Mark Young at Japs Motorsport set to work sand blasting the fresh shell before seam welding and inserting a full cage in preparation for transplanted parts. The decision to go for an S13 instead of an S14 was to step away from the norm on the field. Rear wheel drive class in Barrel Sprint is pretty much dominated by MX5’s and S14’s so Mike felt the need to provide a different body to keep things interesting.

Mark took a staggering 7 days to complete the transformation from a bare shell. I will let that sink in for a little bit. In an era where builds are getting turned around for shows in ever decreasing times, this is incredible. Not to mention that this isn’t a show car, this is a purpose built race car and it is fully functional! I have struggled to make decisions in 7 days, let alone build and complete a car.

The exterior also got a refresh thanks to Sussex Wrap Studio which closely mimics the colours scheme of the S14 as well keeping in line with the team colours.

After all the work was completed, the car was unveiled at the Wembley Qualifier for GRiD last year. Where unfortunately due to a lack of testing due to time constraints the car was fighting with him and not behaving herself. Due to this Mike came in 3rd place missing his spot at GRiD. Disappointing for Mike but still very impressive for anyone else.

The eagle eyed amongst you would have noticed that the lines of this S13 are slightly off, that is because the rear glass hatch has been removed and replaced with fibreglass flat bed. This was done to primarily reduce weight and lower the centre of gravity keeping the car light and nimble or “Smimble” as Mike affectionately calls it (Small and Nimble).

The obsessive weight loss spreads further than just the rear hatch, the bonnet is single skin fibre glass too,

The interior of the car is a spartan yet functional place to sit. A flocked dash obscured only by an OMP steering wheel houses minimal switch gear whilst a hydro setup help get the car round the barrels. Whilst a Corbeau seat helps keep the driver in place.  An Android dash allows Mike to customise what he monitors, keeping only the essential information on display.

As mentioned before, many of the components were transplanted over to the new chassis. Gold wrapping around the intake pipes help keep engine temperatures down. Mike is however developing a new expansion system to help lower intake temperatures and keep them constant which will mean he can go more aggressive on the map. Given that the car is already making 385bhp on a Nispro tune, it will be pretty lively.

Frustrated with his performance at the Qualifier, Mike sent the car to Walton Smith at Nispro to get the car’s alignment dialled in. This proved a wise choice as during the next FBS round, he beat his personal best time and then went on to finish 2nd in the championship.

I keep teasing Mike about the reverse rake of the car saying “just lower the front by a foot and you’ll be fine!” But I am told this is to help with balance and turn in. Seeing as I am at very best a spirited driver, I shall shut up and stop poking fun. (Will I f*ck)

The car is littered with small considered details, I’m particularly fond of the KODE rivets that secure the over fenders and duck tail spoiler . There are other touches too, like the JDM painted spokes. All of this is colour coordinated to tie in the with wrap this car has.

“The test day was an eye opener, After changing the suspension and the cars setup in the off season, it felt totally different. But not in a good way, I couldn’t get to grips with the changes and was struggling to go at my normal pace. After lots of messing around and tweaking I got it set perfect and produced some very nice runs. New front tyres needed due to the increased rear grip since last year due to Nispro’s awesome new setup.”

It is clear that Mike has spent the last 4 years honing his skills and working out what kind of setup he wants from the car. Finishing 3rd in 2015, 2nd in 2016 it only makes sense that he is setting his sights on 1st for this season.

After watching him most of the day and getting really up close and personal, I have little reason to doubt that he will be in strong contention for the win. I wish him the best luck for the season ahead. If you fancy going down and seeing him in action for yourself then you can get tickets from here: Fueltopia Barrel Sprint

Words & Pictures; Dave Cox (SHOOTINGDAVE)

Sponsors:

JAPS Motorsport
EBC Brakes
Corbeau
Adolescent Dogs
Advanced Lubricant Solutions
Dodo Juice
Just Jap
Nispro
Infamous Creations
Sussex Wrap Studio

Specs:

SR20DET
Owen Developements Turbo
LINK ECU
EBC brakes all round
Seam welded chassis & Roll cage
Custom Corbeau bucket seat 5 point harnesses
Driftworks CS2 Coilovers
Custom cooling and intake setup by JAPS Motorsport
1 piece prop shaft
Wisefab rear setup
Geomaster front setup

Reviews

The Abarth 124 Rally

25th January 2017 — by Dave Cox

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There is something about Rally Cars that seems get under people’s skin. Perhaps it is the heritage and romance or just the raw pace and sounds. There is no denying, they have a broad appeal.

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As I alluded to in our coverage of Autosport International I came across a special little car that stopped me in my tracks. Now I know there will be some of you expecting me to go on and talk about an aired out, wide body Ferrari or a gold Bugatti but I’m not. What I am talking about is a 1,8 litre Italian sports car built in Japan. But this car is really, rather special.

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You see, it has been some 40 years since the original Abarth 124 Spider last competed in the 1976 Monte Carlo Rally and now it is back, dedicated to those who share the same challenge and racing values. This version is based on the Abarth 124 road car, the more aggressive version of Fiat’s 124. The Rally version has replaced the standard 1.4 turbo engine and replaced it with a 1.8 direct injection turbo engine. This adds a nice boost in power from 178bhp to 296bhp at 6500rpm!

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Now we’re talking! Couple that to a quick 6-speed sequential gearbox and this red and yellow bar of soap is going to get lively real quick! Weight is biased towards the rear and it has quick steering and a mechanical limited slip-differential. So when it gets sideways, and it will, you can keep it there. Other changes have been to the exterior too, gone is the soft top and in is the new composite hard top to help keep the centre of gravity low.

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I also really appreciate the styling tribute to the original Abarth 124. The colour scheme look as good now as it did back the, the yellow over fenders, the rally lights it is all lovingly recreated in memory of the original. It is this subtle detailing that really shows how much love there is for this sport. I adore this car, I really wish I could have seen it at the Monte Carlo Rally that happened this January.

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What was your car of the show?

Words and Pictures: Dave Cox (ShootingDave)

Reviews

Feature: Das Galag TG3

2nd January 2017 — by Dave Cox

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This thing is pure pantomime. It is a comically wide, hilariously loud chrome disco ball.  It is as subtle as farting in bed after a night of curry and beer, you’re bound to notice.

Now I will be the first to admit that I don’t know a huge amount about Mercedes. To my mind they are the type of car that is driven by taxi drivers and your Dad and often beige in colour. However they do have a way of clawing back some of that reputation by popping down to Halfords and sticking some chrome letters on the back. That, and shoehorning a thumping great V8 in the front of them. Even still, I failed to see their appeal.

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I even drove an E63 AMG Estate at Mercedes World in Woking, sure it was entertaining, loud and at the same time comfortable, I just never could shake off the thought of men in tweed transporting themselves to and from the golf club. To me they were rich boys toys, over styled, over weight and, dare I say it, vulgar. But what do I know? The sheer volume of them on the roads proves that I may be alone in this thinking.

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However, in late 2015 Mercedes announced the AMG GT and GTs. Everything I knew about the three pointed star had been changed, and I was very happy.

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The proportions of this GT cruiser are so well considered, that long bonnet, the swept back windscreen, the short cabin and curves that seem to never end. Who wouldn’t want to go mile munching in a thing that looks this pretty. Well that is exactly what the guys at Team Galag thought when they commissioned Xquisite Productions to build them a car for the Gumball 3000.

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What Xquisite did was not just bolt a body kit, because you can’t really call it as such. It is more of a complete reshell. It is said that there are a further six inches added to the width of this car already very wide car taking it well past the two meter mark. They managed this without disrupting the flow of Mark Fetherston’s original vision.

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Just look at how the body extends well past the rear taillights, normally the standard body would follow the contours of the lights. Not any more. In case the reshell was too subtle a rather large (read bloody huge) carbon fibre wing was added. In fact it had to be cut down so that it didn’t extend past the cars width.


Up front we have a front splitter the size of a tea tray, canards that resemble Jaw’s fins and fender vents that looks like, well, fender vents. Round back with that large wing we spoke of but also a functioning rear diffuser. If it is all still too subtle for you, you could just remove the mufflers and wrap the whole thing in chrome. Oh…ok. Well it is Gumball after all. And as such you want your car to look like a race car but would you really want to do 3000miles in a race car?

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Didn’t think so. So the interior was left as stock and to be honest, it is a great place to sit, everything works save for the sports exhaust button. The reason for that is they have removed the rear mufflers so it is on all the time. Naughty. There are exhaust flaps up front which get opened when you but the car in race mode.

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The seats are supple and supportive with AMG details on the back rest, the driving position is comfortable with great visibility. Heated seats, cruise control, air conditioning, satnav, RACE BUTTON, it has it all. I love the red stitching details and the  Edition 1 AMG alcantara steering wheel. I’d love to jump in and chew through some miles across Europe.

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Following the car through town to our shoot location was both hilarious and gob-smacking. The noises it makes in race mode are filthy. It is a dirty, filthy, brutal bark punctuated by pops and bangs. It’s like a heavily congested, snoring elephant rolling around on bubble wrap during a firework display. It was great to school kids gather and point as it set off from traffic lights, gawping motorists as went past and the cackling from myself and Phil as struggled to keep up with it. I love this thing.


The speed side of things is due to the fact that this AMG now how has a much smaller twin turbo V8 only 4.0L versus the old 6.2L n/a of 5.5L twin turbos but it makes more power, and is more driveable AND it has better fuel economy. The noise, well, as we mentioned, it doesn’t have any mufflers out back.

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Now when Phil and I first saw this at the Ace Cafe which you can see in this blog here it was dark and hard to see all the little details. But getting up close and personal to it during this shoot allows you to appreciate some of the differences this TG3 (Team Galag 3) has to the GT3 variant. I for one prefer the standard front grill versus the bar version. the original cooling ducts for the brakes remain too as well as the standard headlights. I’m not going to pretend it is understated but the redesign does a nice job of sitting between the standard and the race version of this car.

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With light rapidly falling away it was time to wrap up and head home. I really didn’t want to leave this silly, obnoxious, brilliant car behind. So on the way back I spent some time hanging out of the passengers window of Phil’s BMW catching some rolling shots. I’m lying really, I was just trying to get a better listen of it one last time. Now, if only I could find a spare £100k…

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I want to pay a special thanks to Kay at Xquisite Productions and his team for allowing the opportunity to shoot it. I really do appreciate it, any time you have something else cool to shoot, don’t hesitate in asking us to pop down.

Words & Pictures: Dave Cox (Shooting Dave)
Additional Pictures: Phil “Paps” McCusker

Spec list:
4.0L Twin Turbo V8
Mid/Front Engine, Rear Wheel Drive
503bhp @ 6250 rpm
479 lb-ft Torque @ 1750 rpm
7 Speed AMG SpeedShift Dual Clutch transmission
1674kg curb weight
0-60mph – 3.8 Seconds
top speed – 193mph

Event

Offline at the Ace Cafe

19th December 2016 — by Dave Cox

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It’s the second Monday of December and the last of this year’s Fueltopia Offline meet. Sure it’s dark, cold outside but it is only a short walk to your car, your chariot to the petrolhead venue that is the Ace Cafe.

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For us this is great opportunity to catch up with old friends, make new ones and discover new cars. It has also served us well as a way of discovering feature cars. You may remember from one of the meets at the beginning of the year (this one)  that we came across Ash’s Soarer which we then featured. 

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At this event we got to meet our latest recruit Kim Pham who has since made his first appearance here on our site with a post about the Winter Teddy Bear Run. It is always nice to meet fellow contributors on our site, although we all march under the same banner, we rarely get the chance to spend time with each other. It was nice to give him a warm welcome.

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Grabbing a coffee and walking around the parking lot, it was nice to see the ever changing variety of cars on show. This month there was more R34 Skylines that I have seen here before ranging from stock all the way to drift specification.

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Also in the mix was Monty’s stunning Charger RT which I must admit to not getting many pictures of. We were too busy talking about his plans for his awesome truck which we have seen a few times before. We hope to bring you a feature on that later next year once it has undergone some *ahem* subtle tweaks.

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However, sitting over to one side being anything but subtle was the awesome Team Galag Mercedes AMG GTs. We had to go in for a closer look and yes, we will be bringing you a feature in the new year. Keep your eyes peeled. And maybe cover your ears, it is a little on the loud side.

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If you fancy joining us, come down to the Ace Cafe every second Monday of each month. But for now, enjoy the gallery.

Words & Pictures: Dave Cox (Shooting Dave)