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Tis’ The Season

22nd December 2017 — by Nick Simmonds

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Today I used my 1996 Toyota Celica GT-Four to pick up my Christmas Tree….this may not seem like the most gripping headline but hear me out!

This car, for the first time is now considered a classic (by my insurance company that is) but rarely gets the use/attention it deserves from me! I originally bought the car back in 2015 for a staggeringly low £750, that’s not a typo either lol. I even got a years MOT with that too, the catch? It was painfully faded, it had 122,000 miles on it, the rear diff was leaking oil, the clutch was a little high (a job no-one wants to undertake) and the radio didn’t work but come on….a genuine 240bhp rally car for the road for under £800….I was made up!

For the first 13 months I used it as a daily, racking up an impressive 19 thousand miles…..since then It’s driven me around demanding b-roads that surround the Lake District, across Europe tackling Swiss mountain passes such as Gotthard, Grimsel & Furka and last year it took me to Le Mans and back! It’s safe to say during my ownership over the last few years we’ve racked up some impressive road trips and experiences! To say this car has grown on me is an understatement, it all dates back to a 9 year old me sat playing Sega Rally Championship at my local Arcade, what car would I always want to pick? You got it! That uber-cool green and red liveried up white Celica GT-Four and that’s when I decided it was the car for me.

Yes the Subaru & Evo’s of the day stole the headlines with win after win in their respective rally’s but for me the understated nature of the Celica made it more of an attraction it was always the plucky under dog. Sadly the fact Toyota Team Europe got a fair old rap on the knuckles for somewhat “cheating” by means of a clever turbo restriction bypass (well worth a google by the way) and the fact that this car cost new in 1996 a WHOPPING thirty two thousand pounds….yep! 32 grand! Christ in the 90’s you could buy most of Spain for that much! It’s safe to say it wasn’t the consumer success Toyota had hoped for.

That said mine is a pretty honest example it has 147,000 miles on the clock currently and it’s a UK spec, so has been on pothole riddled roads and salted motorways from day zero but you know what? Sit it next to a Ford Escort Cosworth from the same year that has lived a similar life and I would put good money (probably not £32,000 to be fair) but still at least a fiver that I reckon the ol’Celica would be in a better state than the Ford.

In conclusion it turns out today that the best van/christmas tree collection vehicle ever, is a 90’s Jap 4wd rally car with questionable (faded) salmon paint.

Words & Pictures By Nick Simmo

Video

Bonkers Renault Kangoo

31st January 2017 — by Black Flagged

I love a van,  I can’t lie. Despite getting to drive some decent cars throughout my time in the motoring press, there is just something about a good van that really floats my boat.

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Now imagine my  excitement when I caught this video of this bonkers Renault Kangoo built by  the Andersson brothers on the Bilsport website

The stock 1.5 dci engine has been cast aside and replaced with a Mercedes OM606 turbo diesel engine. To us laymen thats a 3.0-litre, straight 6, turbo charged beast, that came in the Mercedes W210. The brothers haven’t left it stock, they’ve changed  the turbo and now have the executive car engine screaming out an impressive 4-500hp

To cope with the power, the rear axle of the  French mini-van has been switched to a tried and tested Volvo 940 set up

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Source: Bilsport

 

Topic

Welcome to a Rally Stage

26th January 2017 — by Ruben Langa

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"A rally is beyond a competition, it is an opportunity to spend a weekend with our loved ones."

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Welcome to a rally stage, this is beyond a competition, it is an opportunity to spend a weekend with your loved ones. Whether with friends or your family, it is the perfect opportunity to kick back & relax together. It all kicks off with finding the perfect camping spot on the mountain ready for the upcoming action. On arrival you are able to take in the stage at night, looking for the best bend & the closest place to it to camp. The night before the rally action, dinner discussions are always full of stories from other rallies, the fear of what could happen in the runnings & even upcoming events, the topic of the conversations build up the excitement on what is to come.

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The following morning will see the army of fans that have chosen to camp being awoken by the mountain’s peculiar surroundings. Many will be greeted by the sounds of cows and sheep, and eventually the familiar sound of horns and engines… each rally is a world of its own!

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After a good breakfast & finding a safe place to put your chair ready to watch, the chants start. This is followed with a continuous flow of stories of other rallies, with all fans & lovers of the same thing all chatting away & sharing a few beers. It is an awesome thing to be a part of and is only interrupted by the sound of an engine approaching at full chat.

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This is followed by a cacophony of horns and screams from bend to bend, encouraging the drivers to push the limits even further! No matter if you drive a Porsche 911 or a Saxo VTS, if it goes fast, the people go crazy.

As each participants tears past, it is an amazing opportunity to see and photograph incredible cars, and at times some truly epic classics.

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After the drivers have had their first run on the stage, feeding time approaches, the camping gas fires and the smell of cooking meat all becomes part of the landscape. But this is a brief break from the action & there is not much time to lose, the second run for each driver begins and nobody wants to miss the action. Within minutes, the action resumes & all eyes are on the course for another session. The crowds give equal cheers of encouragement for the cars passing by, regardless of who is first or last.

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There are however always accidents that remind us that it is not a game and the importance of choosing a good site to watch from. As fun as it is, you have to be safe.

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Do not be put off or discouraged by the potential dangers, a rally is an incredible experience and one I highly encourage you to be a part of. You can enjoy this sport if you stay safe.

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With this post I am hoping to persuade as many of you as possible to attend a rally, not only a WRC stage, but also your local rallies which are perfect opportunities to see great professionals running with incredible cars, spectacular classics and you will be surprised by some awesome landscapes. Not to mention its also a great opportunity to spend a weekend with friends without shelling out a fortune.

 

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)

Event

Rear View Mirror 2016

14th December 2016 — by Steve White

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It pains me to admit it, but sometimes there are very rare occasions when motorsport isn’t the most important thing in life. I’m immensely proud of everything I have achieved this year but, in order to fit it all in, compromises had to be made with regards to the number of motorsport excursions I was able to make in 2016.

Knowing that I’d be unable to attend the quantity of events I wanted, my focus for this year instead shifted to ensuring that the quality of those outings I could make was as high as possible.

Despite the aforementioned compromises, I was at least able to get 2016 underway in the usual fashion: with rallycross of course! Round 2 of the British Rallycross Championship  also constituted part of the Belgian Rallycross Championship, so there were good entry numbers throughout the multiple Championship classes.

It was great to see the return of several British Championship stalwarts alongside a number of fresh faces. There was a notably high rate of attrition in the Supercar category, with several of the title favourites encountering difficulties throughout the day.

As the familiar names fell by the wayside, it was Supercar rookie Dan Rooke who made his way to the front of the field and went on to take the win. With Lydden marking his second podium finish in as many rounds, it was an early indication that Rooke was going to be one to watch.

From the mixed surfaces of Lydden, my next stop for 2016 was the hallowed tarmac of Brands Hatch for the first round of the British GT Championship. British GT seems to be in great health at the moment, with each round of the National Championship attracting large and varied entries. The presence of several BMW Z4’s on the grid at Brands really served as the icing on the cake, as I just can’t get enough of BMW Motorsports hardcore take on Barbie’s favourite Bimmer.

The opening British GT round gave me my first chance to see the GT3 variant of the Lamborghini Huracan in the metal and I liked it. I liked it a lot. The sound wasn’t quite on par with my beloved Z4 GT3 but, in terms of looks, the Huracan definitely gives the BMW a run for its money.

Barely a month had passed since my British GT outing when I found myself heading back to Brands to once again savour the sights and sounds of GT3 cars. The second round of the Blancpain GT Sprint Cup marked a rather significant milestone in the history of GT3 racing: it was 10 years to the weekend since the competitive debut of the class. The success of GT3 was reflected in the entry list, which was far greater in size than it had been on past visits to Brands Hatch.

As well as a packed main grid, the 2016 Blancpain round at Brands also boasted a much fuller support package than previous years. The Sport Club race was hugely entertaining, though it was the cars of the Hyperclub that proved the biggest draw to spectators. Not only were there a plethora of exotics present in the paddock, but many of them were taken out on track for a damn good thrashing.

Mettet would be one of three World Rallycross Championship rounds I was able to attend in 2016 and Belgium was the first occasion I could lay eyes on the M-Sport Ford Focus RS RX. I personally rate the M-Sport Fiesta as the best looking car in the current crop of rally and rallycross cars, so I was eager to see how the Focus compared.

Hoonigan Racing team mates Ken Block and Andreas Bakkerud were both plagued by technical gremlins but, amidst the problems, glimpses of the true capability of the car could be seen.

Few were surprised to see the big names at the front end of the field in the World Championship races, but it was the success of the younger drivers in the European Championship battles that caught many by surprise. Defending European Champion Tommy Rustad looked outpaced by the likes of Joni-Pekka Rajala and Kevin Hansen. Much like Dan Rooke, Kevin Hansen was a name that rallycross spectators would become very familiar with in 2016.

Round four of the World Rallycross Championship took place at Lydden Hill just a fortnight after Belgium. Andreas Bakkerud demonstrated how rapidly development of the Focus RS RX was progressing, with a surge of pace that saw him qualify on the back row of the final. Mechanical woes would prevent him from challenging for a podium spot, but it was a clear sign that Bakkerud was ready to enter the fray as a serious title challenger.

Petter Solberg just pipped Matias Ekstrom to victory at Lydden last year and it looked like he would do the same again in 2016, with Solberg falling just short of a perfect set of qualifying races and absolutely blitzing the field in his semi-final. Ekstrom is a wily opponent though and in the final he edged out Petter by the narrowest of margins to take his third successive win of the season.

There were a plethora of Americas finest to ogle at American Speedfest IV but, for the second year in a row, it was the brutal Formula 5000 machinery that stole the show for me. The raw simplicity of these cars illustrates everything that is wrong with the current crop of premier open wheel racing cars.

I was unable to get my Le Mans fix in 2015 and the withdrawal hit me hard, so I was desperate not to miss out again in 2016. Le Mans never fails to disappoint and there was close racing throughout the classes, however it was the fight in LMP1 that proved most memorable. 12 hours in and the top three were just seconds apart. In the latter stages of the race the number 5 Toyota managed to stretch out a slim lead and victory looked assured…

…but with just 6 minutes to go, the TS050 began to slow, before grinding to a halt by the pit wall. The ending of the 2016 24 hours of Le Mans was absolutely heart breaking to watch, where even rival teams expressed sympathy for the distraught Japanese manufacturer. Still, although Porsche may have stood on the top step of the podium, the unclassified Toyota is the car I’ll remember.

My list of “must see” car shows has slowly dwindled over the years, but the Festival of Speed is one of the few exceptions. Even after a decade of attendance, I still cite it as an essential weekend for any motorsport fan. Virtually every discipline is represented in some form and, whatever your preference, I guarantee there will be at least one vehicle there to excite you.

As the car that ignited my passion for motorsport, watching Ryan Champion slide his Group A Impreza around the (critically underrated) Goodwood Forest Rally Stage was my personal highlight of the day. I’m sure many people in attendance were cursing the grey skies, but as the precipitation greatly reduced the grips levels on the rally stage, I was silently praising the wet stuff.

I considered myself very fortunate to get an invitation to the inaugural 6R4.net track day in 2015, so I was flattered to be invited back again in 2016. The formula of the event remained largely unchanged from 2015 but, given how much I had enjoyed that, I wasn’t complaining!

Heavy showers during the afternoon did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the drivers and the cars continued to run in the driving rain. It was a privilege to be able to watch the owners put these valuable classics through their paces and I was especially grateful to them for continuing to show off despite the slippery track conditions.

The August Bank Holiday round of the British Rallycross Championship has been a mainstay of my annual motorsport agenda for a decade now and, as long as it continues to deliver great racing, rallycross will always be my priority.

Proving that his win at round 2 was no fluke, Dan Rooke took a lights-to-flag victory in the Supercar final at round 6. Rooke maintained his form at the subsequent round of the Championship, where he claimed second place and, with it, the 2016 British Rallycross Championship. Dan is the youngest ever driver to take the British Championship and I hope we see him back to defend his title – and perhaps even challenge some of Europe’s finest – in 2017.

As the World Rallycross Championship passed its midpoint, the Championship battle was impossible to call. Petter Solberg arrived at round 8 in Loheac as the points leader, but he was unable to match the pace of his closest rival, Mattias Ekstrom, and by the end of the qualification stage Ekstrom had reduced the point deficit between the title rivals to zero.

Neither Ekstrom nor Solberg would set foot on the podium though. With Ekstrom failing to make it past the semi-final stage, Johan Kristoffersson fended off all challengers and led the final from start to finish. The damp conditions produced the best days racing I have seen at Loheac and made for a great conclusion to my World Rallycross Championship attendance in 2016.

World Rallycross weekends have consistently been the highlight of my motorsport expeditions over the last few years and I’m desperate to fit as many of them as possible into 2017.

As the summer drew to a close, it became apparent that my year had been rather lacking in two wheeled motorsport, but a trip to Swingfield in September was to rectify that. Not only was I able to check out some very sideways motorcycles, but the program at the European Grasstrack Final also incorporated two classes of sidecars as well.

The solo riders were fantastic to watch, but it was the sidecars that made the biggest impression. Watching a 1000cc sidecar tearing up a field is an incredible spectacle and I am certain that my first visit to a grasstrack event won’t be my last.

With the end of the season looming, I had just enough time left to sneak a visit in to my most local motocross track, Canada Heights, for the final round of the British Sidecarcross and Quad Championship. The sidecars here may not have been quite as rapid (or sideways) as their grasstrack counterparts, but what they lacked in speed they made up for with altitude.

However the highest fliers of the day were undoubtedly the quad riders. I briefly rode a quad on the flat and felt that a trip to casualty was an inevitability, so I have a great deal of respect for the British Quad Championship riders. Flinging a quad through the trees is a tricky task in itself: and that is before you factor in the other 30 lunatics all trying to do the same thing!

My final outing of the year was a slight deviation to the norm in that it concerned virtual, rather than physical, racing. Two years ago I was fortunate enough to be able to drop into Codemasters studio in Southam and I returned again in late November for another behind the scenes look at proceedings.  Much awesomeness was demonstrated and many cool things were seen: but that’s about all I’m legally allowed to tell you!

Despite containing far less motoring content than I would have liked, 2016 has definitely been a year where quality has triumphed over quantity. When compiling end-of-year reviews in the past I have often omitted events that have fallen short of my expectations, but everything I attended this year has seemed worthy of mention.

Typically I would bemoan the lack of motorsport over the winter, but I’m actually rather grateful for it this year: the more work I can do during the quiet spell now, the more events I should be able to fit into 2017!

 

Want to see more? Click here for the full albums from 2016.