Monthly Archives: May 2011

SHANGHAI REVIEW PART TWO

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So you think you are a carfreak hu? A stroll over the Shanghai Auto compound will teach you something different. I, at least, never felt so overwhelmed and confused visiting a car show. An eclectic mix straight out of Car Magazines GBU. First of all the diversity of models at display. An endless list of car brands one has never heard of. I gave up trying to feed them into my personal matrix, no chance! And yes, I could have taken photos of all the company logos, but who cares. The Shanghai experience beams you back to the early 20th century when Europe had hundreds of car manufactures. I guess we have to wait and see who will survive the big shake out that will come eventually. 

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In this trial and error process many times help comes from abroad, be it in cooperations or copy machines. One thing is for sure, the Chinese manufacturers are eagerly and amazingly quick in learning the job and adopting design languages seen somewhere else. A Hyundai Curb Concept (Detroit 2011) body side on an unbalanced sedan, combined with a Gandini-esque wheel arch, no problem. A Mazda Shinari look a like? Yes we can! 

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On average the surfacing quality is not bad at all. TIme after time you see stands with three concept cars lined up, all of them with completely different design directions. The red Brilliance a delight, and next to it its ugly sister. Confusing. Later I hear the limousine with touches of Skoda meets Ford has been conceived in Turin, the other car in Tokyo. More is more. Spread your wings and fly, we worry about the landing when we'll get there. The one component that is missing is brand identity. This will be the next challenge for Chinese manufacturers.

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The Japanese have come a long way and the Korean are getting there. A quick look at Kia will show you how you can positively transform a brand in a couple of years. The work of Peter Schreyer and his team has started to pay off. The Chinese will follow soon, learning by doing.They might even set their own standards. Who needs Euro NCAP if you can create your own label, five stars within reach. 

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Two days at the Shanghai chicken run. The music has been too loud, my ears are deafened and my mind is soaked. A look inside a start up circus. Where can we find the golden egg. Definitely have to come back in a couple of years. Put Shanghai on your short list, it will broaden your horizon!

- Mattijs.

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On The Road (vrij naar Jack Kerouac)

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Hèhè, eindelijk rijden. Het stof eraf gepoetst en gelijk met Henk een stukje gaan sturen, 'Ronde van de Kempen', inclusief het vergaren van bewijslast in de vorm van locale specialiteiten (vrij naar Asterix & Obelix; De Ronde van Gallië). Tijd om een rallye-evenement te gaan prikken, maar eerst nog maar even genieten van hoe ze eruit ziet.

Ik ben er heel tevreden mee. Was ze eerst nog een gemankeerde (want USA), maar in haar hart elegante dame, nu is ze compacter en doelmatiger. Dat wordt alleen nog maar beter met rolbeugel en rallye-equipment in het interieur.

Hoorde ik daar iemand over een CFX-dagje??

3 x 3 CFX Raylle-Spider 2 klein

SHANGHAI REVIEW PART ONE

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Once upon a time a trip to Amsterdam was an adventure, Essen was pure walhalla and Brussels an experience. Frankfurt was miles away from home, but eventually we got there over the years. Our horizon widened and we aimed at the stars. A short list of places to visit, the Grand Slam of car shows. Geneva, Paris, Detroit, Tokyo. Who remembers Bologna as the epicenter of Italian flair? Obviously the forces within the automotive world have shifted.

Who could imagine ten years ago that Porsche would debut a four door limousine in China? The local auto show has grown into an important international event. More and more cars see the light at the far end of our Western perspective. My short list is full of check marks. Tokyo is still untouched, but these days I find myself on an Audi stand in Shanghai.

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Hectic press days once again. After Geneva Audi presents the A3 Concept in a slightly different form and color. Etron is the badge, hybrid is the talk. New detailing and changes in detail. The car looks good and so are the reactions. Mobile phone cameras up close. Yet the big world premiere at the Audi stand is given to the Q3. Four years ago the show car has been shown here and now it is ready for production. Dressed in bright orange and with a serious grinned facial expression the mini SUV looks good in the flesh. Full wheel arches and plenty of detailing. Dig the relief wood trim in the fully specced edition.

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On day two the brand from Ingolstadt is hot. The air conditioning is broken as Audi of China has taken over responsibilities of the event. A tailor cut local ball game. Music, dance, models with endless legs. Vorsprung durch show, five times a day. It seems to work. After the floor has been opened once again masses of people swirl around, cameras ready to catch the atmosphere. I am a witness at the home base, but use the chance to take a look around.

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A very white stand at the neighbors. Volkswagen presents the Beetle. Not "new", but updated. Beefier and with a more dynamic tucked down stance. The little kick  in the roofline is a reminiscence of the original and makes the difference. A big car that might do well in the States. Want to see it outside of the arena though. The stand is smart. The blackened out second floor is a perfect spot to watch the action at the floor. All is very 2.0. Mobility concepts with scooters and special projects, projected at Chinese mega cities. I like.

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A look at Mercedes. The brand from Stuttgart is here with a fresh concept, previewing the upcoming A class. Sketch on wheels approach. Unfortunately it is hard to see the inside of the three door hatch.  The interior sculpture, shown earlier this year in Detroit, is a welcoming chance to take a glance at what is coming. Let's wait for Frankfurt to see the real deal.

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Citroen reveals the DS5, a big car somewhere in between a van, a estate and a MPV. Before I take a closer look at the thing I am attracted to the DS corner. The French brand is keen to promote its individualization  possibilities with its sub brand. The German have their power houses like AMG, the French continue to put the focus on color and trim, offering unlimited options. Porcelain anyone?

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Strange enough, a couple of halls further I find another Citroen stand. A copy, a duplicate, a co-op, who knows. The Sur Volt revamped, wrapped in a colorful graphic. Next to it the Lacoste thing. A kind of Mehari for the 21st Century, seen in Paris. Three i phones as GUI docked onto the dash.

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Psychedelic lava lights snake dance over the big Volvo. In some elements the car obviously hints to its P 444 ancestor that is positioned in the background. Heritage or retro? The front end a bit too heavy in my opinion, but with a neat concentric theme. The basic architecture of the volumes work really well. Two intersection volumes connected in a sculptural way. Still swedish or already chinese?

- Mattijs.

THE WORLD’S MOST CHALLENGING ROLLER COASTER

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If after two paragraphs you think CFX has been taken over by children, that might very well be true because mentally your editor feels 7 years old whilst writing this. Why? I just finished my first Track Day on BrandsHatch in my Vauxhall VX220 Turbo – Stage II.
Having done races and trackdays on Zandvoort, Assen, Zolder and Bedford, I was increasingly confident about my abilities to drive a car on a race track quickly. Luckily Brands Hatch is there to relegate my confidence back to square one! This place brings car control to a whole new level! My apparent (serious) lack of talent means I am constantly fighting to keep the car on track, even the main straight is a challenge…

It all starts at a deceptively nice afternoon: the Brits have introduced a brilliant concept called a Track Evening; you arrive at 16.00 hours, Brief at 16.30 and at 17.00 you are at the wheel until 20.00. Arriving at a Track Day is a bit like a your first ‘House Party’ when you are 11 years old and you have left the comfort of parties that cater for running around the house covered in grass stains; everything around you suddenly looks alien and intimidating.

Brands Hatch is no different; many Caterhams rolling out of closed Brian James Trailers, the Porsche-boys always seem to arrive in droves with the various specifications of 911 GT3 R/RS/RSR etc. Obviously the chaps from Norfolk are well presented in various specifications of the Exige, Elise and (dare I say in this line-up?) the VX220. To sum up we cannot forget the propeller-boys from Munich with their M3’s varying in age from E92 – E36 and modified from roll cage fitted to just slick-tires.
My standard VX220 that was driving me home from the office and delivering the groceries to the missus a mere few hours earlier made me feel I brought a knife to a gunfight … BIG GULP! On trackdays, three sighting laps are mandatory. For most drivers however, this is a bit like foreplay; they have done this game so often they just want to get on and go do the deed. For yours truly on the other side this was a very welcome addition to the program.

Entering the Arena: Blimey! You drive out of pitlane and you fall into an abyss of 10 meters! They call this Paddock Hill Bend …bend is a highly overrated word for this hole! Later I would find out that at speed you accelerate so quickly that you actually bounce off the rev-limiter in second, imagine how sheer the drop. During my sighting laps I cannot help think; if this impresses me whilst I am chasing a Vauxhall Vectra 1.6; how will I survive without the protection of the sighting laps?

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QUOTOMOTIVE

Kxk auto quotes

"Race cars are neither beautiful nor ugly. They become beautiful when they win."

"Aerodynamics are for people who can't build engines."

"What's behind you doesn't matter."

"The client is not always right."

Only 'Il Commendatore' could have produced such inimitable, self-confident one-offs – writing history and building the myth that is Ferrari, along with the most fantastic racing and sports cars ever conceived.  You can just picture Ferruccio Lamborghini's face when thinking about #4 up there. But no matter what – Enzo's quotes, as his cars, do live on in history. The best ones (in both categories) probably conceived long before the introduction of autocue.

Their masters' voice…

Do you recognize the other familiar faces in the grid? And do you know who could've added to his own immortality by saying "Mr. Bentley… he builds fast trucks"?

Or: "People remember the crashes – but drivers remember the near-msses"? And what about "Auto racing, bull fighting and mountain climbing are the only true sports. The rest are merely games."

Here's a great lineup of some quotes to remember. You never know; it may come in handy to know your classics when the time arrives…

- Geert.

GOODWOOD IN YOUR BACK YARD

Mini Goodwood

Een tijdje geleden zagen we met z'n allen de foto's van de prachtige schaalmodellen 1 op 43 van verschillende alfa's.

En meteen moest ik denken aan de truc om dit soort kiekje te knippen, zonder dat er een prijzige macrolens aangeschaft hoeft te worden.
Wat je nodig hebt is een spiegelreflex, en je standaard-lens ( mooiste is een 50-105 bv ).
Je haalt de lens van de camera, draait hem om, en houdt hem tegen de body. Ga dan met het geheel richting model tot het gewenste scherptepunt, en klik.
kind kan de was doen, en kost verder niks
Eerlijkheidshalve moet ik zeggen dat ze geschoten zijn met een eos-1Ds Mark II, daarvoor kan je heel wat keertjes het kanaal mee en weer varen ( first class), maar het gaat met elke simpele camera.
En natuurlijk ….1:1 is natuurlijk altijd beter !!! Maar dat wisten we al.

(Het deurklinkje van de porsche is de helft van een speldeknop; je ziet wat reflectie van de boom die erachter staat).


- Roland.

Langzaam maar zeker…….

….komt het open rijden weer in zicht: EINDELIJK. Vandaag weer wat stappen gezet. De inmiddels aan elkaar gelaste, gelakte en geassembleerde bumpers gemonteerd (eindelijk een echte Alfa-scudo op m'n wagentje), Cibié's erop, stalen wielen rondom, oranje knippers achter etc. Nog deze week komt de spider naar huis.

Eerst maar eens wat gaan rijden. De rolbeugel moet maar even wachten, evenals de witte neus (misschien komt die er wel helemaal niet, oh yes I might be chickening out, vind het zo wel mooi 'understated').

See for yourself:

Rallye-Spider Square 
  

RUSH, RISK, RIDE

Achtung exclamation marks!

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Weapon of choice: Nissan GT-R. Location: Nurburgring.

So there I was, at the gates of "the green hell"; “the toughest, most dangerous, and most demanding purpose-built racing circuit in the world.”

Numerous times I've watched the webcam at the entrance. Numerous times I've seen this spot in magazines, on television or on youtube. Numerous times I've seen the outline of the circuit on the back of cars. The sign of a family I did not belong to. And even once, I've smelled and almost touched the holy tarmac when my best buddy and I decided to take a square angle while cruising the A61. 

This time we were better prepared. We checked and double checked the "Offnungszeiten" before we started the trip to the Ring. After I read:  “.. police reports to estimate the number of fatalities at somewhere between 3 and 12 in a full year” I stopped investigating. This was something between nature, men and machine. Statistics is for bankers, and where did they end up?

This time we square angled the A61 again but now, right after the "easy right maybe" the atmosphere in the car went instantly tensed. We did not speak during the 14 km drive along the Eifel mountains. Music was off and even while filling up de car, we only heard our heartbeats.

The parking lot showed a variety of cars and people. Russian rich kids in pimped M3's, doctor-like Germans in beautifully restored Le Mans classics, Old men in American-plated Ruf rt12s or a family in an A6 3.0 tdi quattro. And I almost forgot, lots of motorcycles. The vibe was great, like we were all waiting for a baby whale to show up in the plane ocean.

Then, the moment of truth. The waiting line drove our heartbeats to 120 per minute again until it was our turn to beat the Nordschleife. The modified GT-R accelerated so fast, I felt lightheaded immediately. What a scary machine! Was that metal shift-sound ok? What would happen if the right wheel would decide to quit? Don't think, rev up the Japanese bastard! Hell yeh go! go! go!

It took me 450 meters to understand why Jacky Steward used to call this “the green hell”. Sharp curves and huge height differences. Scary as sole events. Imagine combining these elements with a narrow circuit, trees alongside and traffic from all angles and you can understand I needed dry socks.

After a the first few kilometers I was more comfortable with the car, the g-forces and those suicidal motorbikes. Off to those ruf-woosies! Two of the three Rufs entered our screen. Reaching their tails felt like victory, but we wanted more. The circuit can be so tricky that every once in a while we lost eye contact, whilst still being not more than a few meters away. We missed a few opportunities to pass them. To be honest, we could have passed them before but we missed cojones to actually floor the gas. Or more positively phrased: a sense of reality struck every time my right foot found an overtake possibility. Just after my right foot won for the first time, I passed kilometer 22,81.

Damn what a rush, what a risk, and what a ride!

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

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A second visit to Ingolstadt's clock work, the Museum Mobile. Another look into the history of Lamborghini, beyond the icon cars like the Miura and Countach. There are a some rare prototypes from the early days and a bunch of strange leftovers from the nineties. I clearly remember my first days in Ingolstadt. A year before Audi had acquired the Italian brand. These were the days Outlook did not exist and the polaroid was an quick and dirty medium. I got hold of a stack of square formatted pictures of the dead born Diablo succesor, a car straight from the bio-design age.  Big bubbles accompanied by late Gandini squared off wheel arches. A dead end street, who knew? The Murcielago took another direction, inside out.

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Gallardo, Reventon, Aventador. The path would have been very different if those flash colored sculptures would have seen the light. These days they look out of place in the museum. Studies that never happened. Unfinished business. Nevertheless a piece of "Zeitgeist", a part of history. An end of an era and the beginning of a new one.

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