What cars mean to me

When I was four years old, I remember leaving my dinner half-eaten and frantically running down three flights of stairs because I had heard a very distinctive sound. The sound of a brand-new four-cylinder engine, which was the beating heart of the then newly launched Daewoo Cielo. It belonged to my aunt and they had just brought it home from the showroom in emerald green, Ribbon and all. My mother and father came running down too, probably thinking that I had lost my mind. All the way down, I kept screaming ‘Anutai has bought the new Cielo! Anutai has bought a new car!”

Cars have always been a really big part of my life and it doesn’t look like it will change anytime soon. Even in school, I used to be really bad at my science subjects and frequently found myself getting distracted. My teachers used to always tell me that I had it in me and that I only had to concentrate. If I put in that little bit of effort, I would be able to get better grades. Well, that never really happened. I guess I’m trying to say that even though school wasn’t a highlight of my life, and that I’d rather forget my years there, cars were always there for me. No matter what, I could always just step into my little box in my head and think about cars. Nobody would be able to take that away from me.

A car for me symbolises freedom. With that much power in the palm of your hands, there is nowhere you can’t go. The whole world opens up, all linked by grey ribbons of tarmac.

We got our first car when I was just a baby. A navy blue Maruti 800. It wasn’t anything fancy, but it used to get the job done. We used that little car to go everywhere, it even stepped in for a 4×4 when we went to Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary. I remember going to the showroom to take delivery of the car and the first thing I did was jump into the driver’s seat and press the horn.

My 18th birthday was my happiest and also my loneliest for the most part. It was a weekday, I had decided to take a day-off from college to go to the Regional Transport Office (RTO) as early as possible. It took a while, but I finally got my test scheduled for that afternoon. My test was more of a joke than anything else, the person who was supposed to look at my performance was busy stuffing himself with a fruit bowl. Well, a month later, I finally got the card in my hand and took my car out for the first time by myself.

Subconsciously, I always seem to be on the look-out for distinctive car sounds or cars which look different. I sometimes annoy my friends while having conversations because, I randomly tune out when trying to listen to or look at interesting cars. I really need to stop doing that.

Now though, I have got my own car, sort of anyway. Well, it is in my name, but is still the family car. I really enjoy driving it because it is basically a back to basics, no-nonsense machine which has no electronic aids whatsoever.

There will always be cars around, what they will run on though, might change. But rest assured. We will still find ways to make cars fun and they will always continue to have a special place in my heart and my garage.

The AMG skunkworks reveals its latest creation

The Mercedes-Benz-AMG GT is the new flagship GT car from Mercedes-Benz which was launched early last week. The car is in a sense, the successor of the SLS AMG which went out of production last year with a last hurrah version, the SLS AMG GT. The new one though is in direct competition with the Porsche 911 turbo, the Jaguar F-type. The AMG GT is not as powerful as its predecessor and is the second car to be built completely in-house without being based on a current Mercedes-Benz chassis. Mercedes has ditched the gullwing doors (an homage to the 300 SL) of the SLS in favour of the more conventional doors seen on regular cars.

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The camouflaged test mules were seen testing frequently around the Nürburgring and in other parts of Europe to get the optimum set up on various conditions. An AMG Executive said that all in all, the car had been tested for 34,000 kilometers on the Nürburgring alone, this in itself is a huge feat. The car comes with two trim variants, the GT and the GTS.  Both use a 4.0 litre twin turbo V8 engine which runs on petrol, while the GT’s power-plant produces 460 bhp and 600 Nm of torque @ 6000 rpm, the GTS’ power-plant produces 503 bhp and 650 Nm of torque @ 4750 rpm. Both the engines are mated to a seven-speed double clutch semi-automatic gear box which sends the power to the rear wheels helping put the power down.

The car was released via a live stream on the Mercedes-Benz AMG website which allowed people from all over the world to be a part of the event and to in a sense make us feel like we were there.

Unlike the SLS, the AMG GT seats only two people, but this provides for a bigger boot owing to the sweeping rear-end of the car. The 300 litre boot will provide for a few bags or of golf aficionados, two golf club kits.

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The car has a long front end, most of which is taken up by the bonnet and engine like the SLS AMG and the SLR McLaren.The doors and the bonnet are made of steel while the rest of the car utilises a space-frame architecture and Aluminium-composite materials which is similar to that of the SLS but, shorter by around 50mm. The car weighs a decent 1645 kg, making it lighter than its competition by a few kilos (25 than the Porsche 911 turbo and 5 than the Jaguar F-type).

Performance specifications are anybody’s guess right now, but estimates put the GTS’ 0-100 in the sub-four seconds while the GT being around two-tenths slower. The car will be released as a 2015 model in January and prices are estimated to be around £110,000 for the GT trim and £120,000 for the GTS trim variant putting the prices at approximately Rs. Three crore (including taxes and duties).

Max Verstappen: Too young to join Formula 1 just yet?

Formula 1 has always been known as the ‘gentleman’s sport’. Since the beginning, the sport has had its associations with the rich and famous. Last year, Sauber came under a lot of criticism as they had plans of giving 18 year old Sergei Sirotkin a drive by allowing him to pay for his seat. That deal unfortunately or fortunately did not come through and the motoring world thought that that was the end of it.

Now though in a surprising move, Scuderia Toro Rosso, Red bull’s second team has just signed on 16 year old Dutch youngster Max Verstappen. He is the son of racing driver Jos Verstappen who made 106 starts and raced for a number of teams during his Formula 1 career such as Jordan and Minardi. He will be 17 when he contests the 2015 season making him the youngest driver in the history of the sport. He will partner Daniil Kvyat, so this leaves Jean-Eric Vergne without a drive. Verstappen’s move to the Torro Rosso happened just a day after it was announced that he would be joining Red Bull’s junior team.

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Verstappen is currently contesting his maiden season with the Formula 3 Championship and is currently second in the standings and with only two rounds to go he has most likely sealed his position. So directly moving from Formula 3 to Formula 1 is a big jump by any means. That being said, many drivers who have made their way into the top tier of motor racing have found their way there without participating in the the GP2 series all together. The rate of driver growth has improved exponentially over the years and this can be reasoned due to the fact that technology has been steadily improving, not to mention the adaptability of drivers.

Drivers at the moment aren’t really sure what to think of the move and are waiting for the first season to finish to see how he performs.

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There are a few though who have criticised the move by Red Bull on the grounds that he is too young and they aren’t that far off. 17 is an extremely young age to be racing in Formula 1. A driver may be good at what he does but that does not mean that he is experienced enough to race a full season or even a single race with drivers with more experience and mature than he is. Not to mention much older than he is. That is of course just my opinion.

He demonstrated a Red Bull RB8 (Sebastian Vettel’s 2012 championship winning car) in Toro Rosso livery in Rotterdam yesterday. It ended with a rather embarrassing crash. When demonstrating, he got stuck near a barrier while completing donuts. His car was recovered, but he struck a barrier on the opposite side of the demonstration area and put the car into the barrier and broke the front wing.

Ex-Formula 1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve had this to say, “He is still a boy so it is very risky. You don’t take a 16-year-old, who hasn’t even been to university, in the best hospital as a doctor even if he is very good and very intelligent. You need to pay dues; you need to deserve it because that is only how you will become a man”. He believes that Verstappen’s rapid ascension devalues the purpose of a Formula 1 Super Licence. The man has a point!

We might just be judging him too soon. For all we know, he might be ready for the sport and may do really well. Only time will tell.

What is Formula One turning into?

Formula One has always been at the pinnacle of Motorsport and automotive technology. These days though, more aircraft than car, most of the developments which take place in Formula One don’t always filter down to our daily drives.

Formula One this year is going through a transition this year, the most important being the use of 1.6 Litre V6 turbo-charged engines, this is a switch from the 2.4 Litre naturally aspirated V8 engines. Which together with the battery power of its Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) will provide around 760 bhp. Of course this change makes the punters at Green Peace happy but also spells the end of the iconic high pithed engine note of the naturally aspirated engines which could rev to a gut wrenching 18,000 rpms. This though is old news considering that half the season is over.

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The new mind bending rule for next season is the introduction of a standing restart after a Safety Car period. Every time the Safety Car goes in, the drivers line up at the start-line again, in whatever order they are in and then patiently wait for the five red lights to go out so that they can start racing again. It might make for a more interesting race for the fans but it is not going to make any sense. As it stands right now, the rules say that the standing restart will not be carried out if the Safety Car is used within two laps of the start – or restart – or if there are less than five laps to run,

Let me put that in perspective for you, if a driver is comfortably leading the race by about 15-20 seconds has worked really hard at maintaining that lead when suddenly there is a big accident and the Safety Car is brought out! All that work for nothing and then the race will start again. This might be entertaining for us but will surly impact the sport from the competitive side.

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Consider this, what if the race has many Safety Car periods? Does anyone seriously think that restarting a race multiple times will improve the racing experience? Bernie Eccelestone, the commercial rights holder of the sport thankfully has said that he will see to it that the rule is changed hopefully for the 2015 season but definitely for the 2016 season.

Now the standing restart rule isn’t the only rule change for the 2015 season, the current controversial nose designs will be pushed aside in a bid to improve safety and aesthetics. Also there will be a change to the way pre-season testing takes place. For 2015, there will now be three session, each of four days. While in 2016, the number of testing sessions will be reduced to two each of four days.

I only hope that Formula One returns to the way it used to be. The trademark sound has to come back! And the sport should remain a ‘championship of drivers and not a championship of engineers‘ – Bernie Eccelestone.

My car: The Honda City VTEC (Type Z)

The human race has always been hungry for power, that’s the way it’s always been and the way it will continue to be. This is also true where cars are concerned. Motoring enthusiasts are always trying to squeeze the maximum out of their machines.

The newer cars available in India are always de-tuned when compared to those sold in other markets and are not very tuner friendly. That being said, there isn’t any dearth of people trying to whip their machines until they have squeezed every ounce of power out of their cars.

My Honda City VTEC, the Type Z, is a car based on the sixth-generation Civic, specifically developed for the South-Asian market. With a SOHC (single overhead camshaft) D15B in-line four cylinder engine, when stock it pumps out about 105bhp and 138 Nm of torque @ 5,200 rpm. When it came out 13 years ago, the VTEC version was a little over a lakh than the standard EX model. The car came with the same 1.5 litre engine as the other variants, the system which gives it its name sake is the Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control and that is what makes this car so special.

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The VTEC system, is a valve train system developed by Honda to improve the fuel efficiency while at the same time providing more power from smaller displacement engines. It was invented by Honda engineer Ikuo Kajitani and was the first system of its kind. The car was one of the very few if not the only car sold in India at the time with a monocoque chassis and a fully independent rear suspension. Honda has ditched the fully independent rear suspension on the Citys sold today in the name of cost-cutting.

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Enough about its specifications, I bought the car in March of this year and have never looked back or reconsidered my decision. The car is a bare bones, back-to-basics machine! With the monster of an engine and being as light as a feather (weighs only 985 kg), it pulls from the word go! I bought it as a third owner and the moment I saw it, I knew I had struck gold. Originally owned by IBM, there was absolutely no damage to the body line, with the original paint on it. EVEN AFTER 13 YEARS! The car looked like it had just come out of the showroom. The thing that got me was that the owner gave me thick file full of the car’s service history! The car was only serviced at Honda and had just had its clutch changed which cost him a pretty tidy sum. The car had run only 58k kilometers! That is an average of around 12 km per day! Mechanically the car was solid as well and since buying it, I haven’t spent any money on doing it up. I just love the car to bits! Driving it every time is such a treat! It gives me an adrenaline rush when I get into the driver’s seat and turn the key in the ignition.

 

“Driving fast on the track does not scare me. What scares me is when I drive on the highway I get passed by some idiot who thinks he is Fangio.”

– Juan Manuel Fangio

 

The greatest racing driver of all time: Ayrton Senna

Ayrton Senna for many was a great racing driver, for some he was a legend and for some he was god. When he passed away in 1994, Brazil declared three days of mourning and an estimated three million people came out on the streets of Sao Paulo showing their support for him. For them he was all three.

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Senna, generally acknowledged as the one of the best Formula One drivers of all time lost his life when racing for Williams in 1994 at the San Marino Grand Prix. On the seventh lap of the race at Imola, the second at racing speeds, Senna went off the track at around 310kmph at the Tamburello corner and went straight into an unprotected concrete barrier. During impact, the right front tyre came loose and hit his helmet when the car hit the barrier. There he sat motionless in the car until medical help arrived.

His accident changed the world of Formula One forever. The crash prompted many safety changes in the sport, such as reduced straight lengths, reduction in engine power and the introduction of the HANS device a few years later. Imola was removed from the Formula One calendar for the 2007 race calendar. Thus bringing an end to the San Marino Grand Prix after 25 years.

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Senna was known for his relentless pursuit for victory with no nonsense consequences. A famous instance was in the 1992 Belgium Grand Prix during qualifying where he stopped his car so that he could help French driver Érik Comas who had crashed right in front of him. To those who never witnessed him, every time someone is asked about their favourite Formula One driver, odds are, most of them will say Ayrton Senna. There was something about Senna which everyone liked. His speed was unquestioned. He could take lackluster cars, like his McLaren MP4/8 from 1993, and achieve victory by nearly a lap at the rain-soaked Grand Prix at Donington.

Senna’s rival Martin Brundle had this to say about him, “Senna would stick his nose into a gap to see if you’d turn in. Senna wouldn’t budge, and if you turned, he crashed into you. Eventually, drivers learned that when you saw the bright yellow helmet in your mirrors, you would give way or risk an accident”. His famous first-lap-first-corner collision with Alain Prost to secure the championship victory is one such feat.

Senna’s ruthless nature doesn’t sound like the quality of worldwide hero. Senna offset that characteristic, however, with his deep and compassionate kindness. If a fellow racer crashed heavily, he would be by their side. It would affect him deeply. He risked life and limb on many occasions, stopping his car in the middle of the racetrack, to tend to an injured driver.

Senna used his popularity to set up the Instituto Ayrton Senna, to create opportunities for human development to children and young Brazilians The 1994 San Marino Grand Prix was the darkest day in Formula One since the Belgian Grand Prix held in 1960. During the weekend, Roland Ratzenberger lost his life during qualifying after only racing in three grand prix, but sadly; his death has been largely overshadowed by that of Senna’s.

For more Ayrton Senna videos, follow the links below.

2014 World Endurance Championship

This year marks the 82nd edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It is also Porsche’s re-entry into the sport as a factory team after a gap of twenty years.

Audi began its domination of the legendary race in 2007 with the introduction of their R8. The first diesel Le Mans prototype (LMP). Since then, they have never looked back. Improving on that engine over the years, they have become an unstoppable force. In 2012 though, Toyota joined the LMP1 category with their TS030 and tried to give Audi a run for its money. Sadly though this didn’t happen and they treated that and the 2013 edition of the race as development races. Porsche have joined the fray this year with their 919 hybrid car is an impressive machine wand put up an impressive performance with their first pole at the Six Hours of Silverstone and also their first podium.

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The first round, six of Silverstone held on the 20th of April was a real stunner, the race was red flagged due to heavy rains, cutting the race short by about 24 minutes. The Toyota TS040 Hybrid of Anthony Davidson, Nicolas Lapierre and Sebastien Buemi finished in first position and that of Alexander Wurz, Stephane Sarrazin, Kazuki Nakajima came in second. The much awaited debut of the innovative Porsche 919 Hybrid was a success. The highly complex LMP1 car of Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley and Mark Webber claimed third. The sister car of Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb retired after an hour and fifteen minutes due to technical issues.

Both the Audi R18 e-tron quattros however, failed to finish for the first time since the Petit Le Mans held at Road Atlanta in 2011. The car of Lucas Di Grassi, Loic Duval and Tom Kristensen retired early on in the race and the second car of Marcel Fassler, Andre Lotterer and Benoit Treluyer crashing 47 laps before the end.

This Season, Toyota are taking the fight straight to the Audis. With two wins from two starts, the no. 8 car of Anthony Davidson, Nicolas Lapierre and Sébastien Buemi clinched its second victory of the season and at the same time, capitalising on the lead in the championship standings. The TS040 took the lead from the no. 14 Porsche 919 of Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb after the first hour of hard racing. Their no. 14 car finished in fourth place ahead of the Audis. The other Porsche of Mark Webber, Timo bernhard and Brendon Hartley could only finish in 23rd place. The car was plagued with mechanical troubles and after 50 laps struggled with its pace.

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Audi ran three cars this time though remaining largely anonymous. A main problem for all three cars was a lack of straight-line speed. A really quick pit-stop during the second half of the race, the no. 1 car of the defending champions Lucas di Grassi, Loic Duval and Tom Kristensen moved into second place. The no.2 car of Marcel Fassler, Andre Lotterer and Benoit Treluyer and the no. 3 car of Filipe Albuquerque and Marco Bonanomi finished fifth and sixth. In the LMP1-L class, REBELLION Racing ran their new R-One cars. They were the only entrants in the class and the no.12 car of of Nicolas Prost, Mathias Beche and Nick Heidfeld managed to pull out an impressive seventh place while the no 13 car of Dominik Kraihamer, Andrea Belicchi and Fabio Leimer retired after 21 laps due to Mechanical issues. Their car never ran during free practice or free practice but was cleared to race.

Going into this weekend’s race, Toyota have extended their lead with a total of 84 points, Porsche with 36 points and Audi has finally been able to get some points on the board with a total of 28 points. After the qualifying session,  the Toyota of Alexander Wurz, Stephane Sarrazin, Kazuki Nakajima started on pole position with the Porsche of Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb started in second. The second row of the grid was occupied by the sister Toyota of Anthony Davidson, Nicolas Lapierre and Sebastien Buemi and the second Porsche of Mark Webber, Timo bernhard and Brendon Hartley. Audi took up the next three places with the new number three car of Filipe Albuquerque, Marco Bonanomi and Oliver Jarvis taking fifth and the number two car of Marcel Fassler, Andre Lotterer and Benoit Treluyer positioned sixth on the grid followed by the number one car of Lucas Di Grassi, Marc Gene and Tom Kristensen.