30th September 2008

California Bans Texting While Driving; Lapdogs OK

Last week, California joined a number of other states around the country in banning text messaging while driving. The move was applauded by the Insurance Instititue for Highway Safety. Offending drivers will pay a first-time penalty of $25 and $50 every time after that.

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30th September 2008

Top Gear Australia: hit or miss?

It has to be the toughest gig in television. Fronting an Australian version of Top Gear UK is a bit like going in to bat after Don Bradman – score less than a hundred and you’ve failed in the eyes of some.

Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May have done what no-one ever thought was possible: make a motoring program which appeals to everyone, not just the rev-heads.

Last night’s debut of the Australian version was always going to draw comparisons with Clarkson and co. and anything short of sheer comedic genius was going to come up short for some Top Gear fans.

But the ratings show plenty of people tuned in, perhaps vindicating the decision to export the show.

For mine, the program perhaps tried too hard to follow the Top Gear formula and could have been a little more adventurous, with a touch more good old Aussie larrikin.

It was still entertaining – arguably the best motoring show Australia has produced – but again the comparisons with the original are hard to ignore.

The chemistry between the three presenters needs more time to develop and it’s also hard to generate excitement about something like the celebrity fast lap when there’s nothing to compare it with.

I think the show will get better and I’ll be happy to tune in again next week.

What did you think of the show? Will you watch again? What did you enjoy and where do you think it missed the mark?

Richard Blackburn

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30th September 2008

S-Type and TT cost most to repair

The Jaguar S-Type and first-generation Audi TT are the most expensive cars to keep on the road, according to a survey from Warranty Direct.

Of cars aged four to eight years old – with their original manufacturer’s warranty expired – these two totted up the largest repair bills.

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30th September 2008

Rossi sees off Stoner to secure sixth title

Italian ace Valentino Rossi won his fifth MotoGP crown and sixth premier class title yesterday.

The Italian ace beat defending champion champion Casey Stoner in the Japanese motorcycle grand prix in Motegi.

Rossi overtook the Australian Ducati rider on the 14th of 24 laps and never looked back, taking the title with his eighth MotoGP win of the season in 43min9.599sec with Stoner 1.943sec behind.

Honda rider Dani Pedrosa of Spain finished third.

It was Rossi’s fifth straight win and his first MotoGP title in three years, after missing out to American Honda rider Nicky Hayden in 2006 and Stoner last year. Rossi secured the title with an unbeatable 92-point lead over Stoner with three races left in the season.

The 29-year-old, nicknamed “Doctor” for his meticulous planning and racing, won his first premier-class title, then the 500cc, riding for Honda in 2001. He successfully defended his crown four straight times after the category was changed to the four-stroke MotoGP in 2002. He moved to Yamaha in 2004.

Stoner jumped from the second spot on the front row to go first around the bend on the 4.8km track under overcast skies.

But Pedrosa overtook him on the second lap, with Rossi trailing in their slipstream.

Then Stoner, who has won four GPs so far this year but missed the podium in the last three races, grabbed back the lead with Rossi in second on lap six.

Rossi made the crucial move on lap 14, passing Stoner around the first corner and holding on to take the chequered flag and the title.

The next race is the Australian GP at Phillip Island next week.

Meanwhile, from next year, only one brand of tyre will be allowed in MotoGP.

The sport’s governing body has rejected protests from tyre-makers and given them until Friday to submit their bids.

Bridgestone and Michelin had threatened to quit the sport as a result. The two companies are the only tyre suppliers to MotoGP.

Michelin said the decision was a “major change to the regulations” and that it would announce in the next few days if it would make a bid. The International Motorcycling Federation (FIM) cited “safety and cost reasons” for the decision.

- AFP

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29th September 2008

Porsche accuses Nissan of cheating at Nurburgring

Porsche has accused Nissan of cheating in the GT-R’s record bid at the Nurburgring racetrack.

Porsche has just run its own back-to-back tests with the Japanese company’s GT-R supercar and says it could not get within 25 seconds of Nissan’s claimed record time of seven minutes 29 seconds in April.

It also found its 911 Turbo and GT2 were both quicker than the GT-R.

“This wonder car with 7:29 could not have been a regular series production car,” says August Achleitner, the 911 product chief for Porsche, speaking to the CARSguide at the Australian press preview of the latest 911 Cabrio.

“For us, it’s not clear how this time is possible. What we can imagine with this Nissan is they used other tyres.”

He believes the time achieved by Nissan with ex-Formula One driver Toshio Suzuki would only be possible with a semi-slick race-style tyre.

Achleitner says Porsche took a standard GT-R, running on regular road tyres, and ran it around the Nurburgring within two hours of its own cars, on the same day with exactly the same weather conditions.

He says there was no tweaking of any kind and the GT2 and Turbo both ran on regular Porsche road tyres, the Michelin Sport Cup.

“We bought the car in the US. We drove a GT-R with new tyres,” he says.

Achleitner was initially protective of the exact lap times, which were run during a program when Porsche also compared its upcoming four-door Panamera with a range of potential rivals.

But he eventually revealed his team clocked the GT-R at 7 minutes 54 seconds, with the 911 Turbo managing 7:38 and the GT2 getting down to 7:34.

The laps were not run by Porsche’s usual hot-lap specialist, former world rally champion and race winner Walter Rohrl, but one of the company’s chassis development engineers who is an expert on the Nurburgring.

Achleitner says the back-to-back comparison was run because Porsche was concerned by Nissan’s claims for the GT-R, which is heavier than the 911 with similar power.

“The Nissan is a good car. I don’t want to make anything bad with my words,” he says.

“It’s a very consistent car. But this car is about 20 kilos heavier than the Turbo . . .”

In the end, Porsche believes its testing has achieved the right lap times for the Skyline GT-R and benchmarked it against its own 911 heroes in the right context.

“For us it has been clearly the result. This technical puzzle now fits together. With the other numbers we had problems to understand it,” he says.

- Herald Sun

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29th September 2008

Daily Podcast: The Party’s Over

As you’ve no doubt read, your duly elected representatives have rejected the proposed $700b Wall Street bailout plan. What happens next is anyone’s guess. Congress will undoubtably go back to the drawing board and try again. The stock market will either recover, tank some more or stay the same. The U.S. economy will either recess, depress or re-decompress. However this plays out, one thing is for sure: the days of “Zero Percent Financing for Anyone With a Pulse” are done. Dead. Finished. Over and out. Credit’s tighter than a superglued lug nut. At the same time, the market’s awash with used vehicles that no one wants. Millions of “average” people are backwards on their car loans– and scared. Even if residuals rebounded and zero percent abounded, the manufacturers can’t lure them into more debt. So they will do the right (only?) thing:nothing. They will simply pay down their existing car loans and run what they got. Meanwhile, the domestic automakers will deflate, dehydrate and die. The U.S. car market will eventually recover, but it won’t look anything like it does today. And TTAC will be there to chart the changes.

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