Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Now, in Motorsport this week...

...F1: BMW-Sauber call it quits & Schmacher's back. That's right Michael, not Ralf.

So, Massa's doing better. the images of his face and crash helmet damage are doing the rounds on YouTube. The operation's a success, he'll be up and chasing wins in no time, say Ferrari. In the meantime however, they have the best super-sub in the business, 7-times Formula One World Champion; Michael Schmacher. You can see Jensen et al dropping their heads and closing their eyes, resigning to the fact that a hard season has just got harder.

2009 hasn't been easy to predict at any point. At the start, everyone wrote off Brawn GP, labelled as the season's SuperAguri. Six months in; Mclaren and Lewis Hamilton were never going to win again. F1 is starting to rise above the cloud of politics it seems to constantly lerk in. I've always followed the formula, watching the dull, dull races. It was a chance for SL to catch a nap on a sunny Sunday afternoon without the worry of missing anything important. Racing was incedental. It was always more about the going's on between the weekends; the egos, the conflicting interests, the ridiculous amounts of money...

So why didn't BMW do well?

BMW is a proud company, like VW and Porsche, it's founding family still has a large stake in the brand. So I can imagine that the ego of BMW is an extension of the ego of the Quant family. More so than that of CEOs or chairmans in normal modern, corporate business. As a result, I can also imagine that such a brand wouldn't be best pleased with how their BMW-Sauber arm has failed to make an impact on the F1 scene despite the large amounts of money they had put in. BMW however isn't immune to making costly and very high profile errors. Last time it was the Rover, mistake is too small a word; debacle, disaster, catastrophe etc. That cost the company more than pride. At one point, it's share price was so low and it's outlook so bleak, that VW under Ferdiand Piech control laughed about a possible takeover. The Quant family and the Piech/Porsche family power sharing BMW wouldn't go well. Two bitter arch rivals would fight to a point where the cars do not matter, Montague-Capulet bitterness. The Sauber buy out and the near fruitless 3 years of racing hasn't been so expensive but it has done the brand any favours. the past decade in Munich hasn't been all bad though; RollsRoyce and Mini have been a monumental success. Still, it reads 2-2, doesn't it?

Sunday, 26 July 2009

In Motorsport this week...

Normally I wouldn't think this was the right place to comment on motorsport. This is a blog about, er, Audi A2 ownership? but... F1 pilot, Felipe Massa's lying in a doctor induced coma, Formula motorsport is in shock.

A freak accident in which a F2 car crashed lightly into a barrier forcing one of it's wheels free claimed the life of Henry Surtees. The wheel bounced back onto the track in to the path of the oncoming Surtees driven car, striking him on the head with force enough to prove his helmet wearing near useless. An accident like this hasn't happened in open top racing for a large number of years, and to claim a life in this way is so rare, not seen since Markus Höttinger's death in 1980. Then, within a space of 6 days, a spring from the rear suspension of Rubens Barrichello's Brawn GP F1 car worked itself loose, to hit Felipe Massa's passing Ferrari, impacting him on the front left of his crash helmet. Compared to the Surtees incident, Massa was lucky as the weight and angle of the impact was lighter and less direct to the spine. Felipe had this happen to him in the end of 2nd practice in qualifying at the Hungaroring, near Budapest, Hungary. Then next day in the race there, another freak incident in a pitstop caused Fernando Alonso's Renault to lose a front right wheel, resulting in it working free, to bounce in this case, harmlessly into a barrier before coming to a rest off track. Also in the race, Sebastien Vettel's RedBull Renault F1 car breaks it's suspension in a way reminiscent of Barrichello's car the day before. However only shards of carbon fibre broke off, lying flat off the racing line, with no other driver being affected. RedBull claim a front suspension fault, completely unrelated to the Brawn GP incident.

It is strange in motorsport for freak breakages and accident to be mirrored so closely. It hasn't happened since the dreadful weekend at Imola for the F1 San Marino GP of 1994. That weekend, three similar accidents claimed the lives of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna, with Rubens Barrichello hospitalised. Although Senna's death was caused by a steering and suspension failure and the other two by driver error, death and serious injury was becoming a distant memory in the top levels of motorsport at the time. Which is very much how Henry Surtees' death is met by today's motorsport community.

Where we can take heart is in how Massa survived the impact his Ferrari sustained after he was rendered unconscious by the suspension debris. As yet, the speed in which he hit the tyre crash wall has not been made public, however, from onboard footage, it is clear that it was at a significant speed. Yet apart from the head injury caused by the spring to his head, Felipe suffered no other injuries. The car behaved extremely well under force. As driver's safety cell stayed intact; Massa's legs did not break, unlike Michael Schumacher's in a similar impact at Silverstone for the British GP in 1999. Plus, there is no direct neck injury caused by stopping into the crash wall. This is, in part, thanks to the innovative HANS device worn by all top level drivers to eliminate neck breakage in such a high speed impact.

Hopefully motorsport has endured the last of these freakish accuracies of the past week. There is always a risk involved in all kinds of motor racing but drivers are more vulnerable in open top Formula races. Yet the resulting crash suffered but Massa after the head injury proves that technology and Jackie Stewart's safety revolution has helped in significant ways to to make it many times safer than it was in Henry Surtees' father; John and in Jackie's time at the wheel. For which all racing car driver's take a small piece of reassurance from.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Problem starting, starting to get really frustrating and now....

...there is an answer.

When I had the cambelt changed in Eastbourne 3 or so months ago, 2 days later an air pipe cracked due, most likely, to the excessive amount of engine movement involved in changing the belt. I'm sure I wittered on about this in a previous post but anyway, my point is that it's happened again in a bigger and stranger way.

When the air pipe cracked the first time, Father was in the car and S L Bartlett and driving up hill on the northbound A23 on the way to Gatwick. Maybe it was the weight?
This time, however it was down hill on the M80 with my friend in the car.

Kolo's fine when it's just S L and myself, when other people travel in the A2, it shows us up. The other day, on Scott Street, Glasgow, the handbrake went onto 7+ clicks when picking up a friend.

Back to the air pipe. well, according to 'A for Audi' of Clydebank, there has been a toxic level of carbon-monoxide blowing through the vents. Slowly over past 70+ miles, the monoxide has been building in my blood; Kolo has been poisoning me. Plus when I'm in a vulnerable position on the road, the 1.4 TDI loses it's power from the turbo. Kolo has been a bit of a monkey in the last fortnight.

Oh well, it's getting fixed and...

...finally someone with sense, at 'A for Audi' instantly diagnosed instantly what was wrong with Kolo's starting. It's one or both of the fuel pumps (low pressure one in the fuel tank or the high pressure one just before the injectors above the engine block), costly maybe, but at last!

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Problem starting, starting to get really frustrating.

Since we bought the Audi, the A2 has had an issue starting up. As it was a very cold November when we received the V5, the problem was exacerbated as TDIs have a reluctance starting in the cold anyway. Now however, in warm July, the time on the starter-motor is still just as long. To be fair to the previous owner, he was upfront about it and showed a number of Audi main dealer receipts not only from him but also the first owner too highlighting this problem. "It seems to be an A2 diesel thing that Audi dealers just don't get." the previous owner said.
From my Audi main dealership experience, I'm not surprised at this; I went into Caffyns Audi Eastbourne for a volume knob for the Audi made Symphony2 stereo, their response was,
"Audi don't make stereos in their cars, you'll have to get a new radio from Halfords, we have the double-DIN cover to fill in the hole though."
Buy a new stereo because of a missing knob!
If he'd actually looked at it, it says Audi on it,
and if he'd looked at his Audi parts computer, and well...
A phone call to Caffyns Audi Brighton, £2.12+VAT for a pack of two.
I wanted to go back to Eastbourne's branch (of the same dealer, Caffyns, tut tut) and show the lazy parts person but Kolo's starting problem would hamper my smug getaway.

Yes, back to that. Well, I'm not the most mechanically minded but I have an idea. If you full up the tank to full and the forecourt has a forward slope then, hey presto, starts first time, like a normal diesel, almost petrol like. From this, I have surmised that it's a fuel pressure issue. Maybe the fuel pump is being a bit weak and modern diesels pump fuel at ridiculously high pressures. When I had the cambelt and pullygear changed at a trusty local garage in Eastbourne (Visicks), they said the car doesn't used the glowplugs. The plugs themselves are fine but the EPU doesn't send a charge to them. This could be true and would at to the issue but even when the engines been running and is at a good temperature, if you switch it off, then straight away, start it again; er er er er, er, er er, starts, then whine of the over used starter. That'll be a new starter too then.

So Monday, it'll be a call round to TDI
and Audi specialists, maybe I'll go to a Skoda dealer, Glasgow's private taxi fleet are all diesel Octavias or Superbs. Plus Audi Glasgow, although miles better than Caffyn's, shelled out in excess of £10m (that was just Audis half of the bill) for there new showroom/restaurant/art gallery/service centre. Thus always going to be a three figure bill starting with 5 or higher.

Maybe I'll just ask a Skoda driving cabbie, they know everything, plus they're tight and wise(?) with money (both by driving a Skoda & being Scottish*)

*This is not the opinion of 'Living with Kolo' or of the author, however, if you have cause for complaint, please feel free to air your comments in the box below.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Audi Build Quality: The TRUTH

Right, lets get this straight, firstly, there are two, er lets say, areas, of build quality. One, the build quality of the interior and especially the dashboard that lazy car journos call 'build quality' which also includes then noise of the door closing. This type, or area is know in R&D dept of car companies as 'Perceived Build Quality'. Two, true build quality, the one that matters to people who spend what is still a hefty chunk of cash on a car, is the unseen craftsmanship in building a car. The things that only when you own the vehicle, do you notice, like rust traps, door seals, the fogging up of light-clusters, things like this. Things only with time, begin to show.

It is, I should say, was, normal to associate one with two, perceived with true. But as with most things in modern life, life manipulated by Ad Agencies, the perceived isn't best buddies with the true. In fact, thinking about it logically, the actual use of the word perceived, seems to suggest some type of deception. It can leave you questioning the honestly of your expensive purchase.

Now, lets put Audi's so called legendary build quality to the test. And why not VW too.
Right, since the Audi renaissance of the mid-nineties, which has continued so far without falter, Style and Quality have been the two main buzzwords that have helped push Audi into the position it is in now.
Style is a matter of taste, a subjective thing that is difficult to quantify. J Mays did a fantastic job of making it into a statement with the (ur)TT. But even when launched, not everyone was convinced by it's front end (an issue which with time has disappeared, but now affects the 'one grilled' Audi models, post urTT). But Audi still basks in the glow from this one model.
Now, Quality, build quality. The urTT also carried this Piech management buzzword into production. The interior won more awards than its landmark exterior. It is of note that Ferdinand Piech, head of the VW group (owner of Audi), pushed quality through all the groups' ranges, this is an era of Golf mkiv, Passat mkiii, Toureg, Phaeton and related Bentley GT. Moving up market, charging more thus more profit margin, was the way forward for him. They make a better product, we get a better car, so we all win surely? This is where we add the perceived bit in.

Right, perceived. Even when only a year or so old, how many Golf mkiv's did you see at night with only one tail-light? Now, how many do you see with faded paintwork or, worse, pealing lacker on the bonnets? How any Passats do you see with a goldfish bowl for a headlight? I could but won't go on, however there are many more. Now imagine you own one of these Piech VWs or Audis, the interior is/was a deal maker when you parted with your money. Has time spared it from the worst of many thousand miles worth of use? When I was looking for either an Audi A2 or a Golf mkiv last November, interior signs of use was the reason I walked away from many cars. I'm used to buying used cars, I'm used to seeing wear and tear. Apart from one car, all vehicle purchases have been of cars four or more years old. But worn interiors has been a real sticking point with Audis and VWs, much more than Alfas or Fords of the same age, the same year. At first I was shocked, but after trawling through the AutoTrader and everywhere else, I got used to the disappointing truth. The true quality of Audis and VWs.

One of the areas where Piech interiors scarred the Ford bosses, was the soft touch nature of the dash as a whole. The way that everything you touched, buttons, roller switches, even airvents, had a feel of, well, softness, thus the feeling of quality. This was achieved with a fine layer of matt black rubber on every surfaced you pressed, pushed or rolled. Ford didn't bother with this; if it felt like plastic, it's because it was. But over tens of thousands of miles, these areas are going to used thousands of times, but sometimes, sweaty, grubby fingers. A fine layer, is a fine layer, fine, gets worn away.Military tanks aren't made with fine layers. Ok I made that point, but the consequences. White buttons in an otherwise black interior. You also have to consult the handbook to see what function the button performs. As men, some don't, that's then why third hand Golfs don't have a working rear-demister. In my A2, it's the ESP/traction control button and it's starting on the -temp switch on the climate unit. As a bit of a control (pun?) freak, I look at that -temp with nervous OCD. I've banned anyone from touching it. I don't care if the climate is set at 22'c on a summer's day, I'm not risking it. As for the ESP; black leccy tape, I already know what it does, plus why press it anyway? Maybe our Kolo's not as well looked after as we thought?

This subject is bigger than I first thought!

Will continue later.

Tomorrow maybe.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Brooklands, back in 2003 with Alfettas

Brooklands, back in 2003 with Alfettas

British GP with MercedesWorld at Brooklands

British GP with MercedesWorld at Brooklands

An A5 sized flyer fell out of a copy of Evo, or was it Car, maybe both, I've got two of them. Anyway, on it was an invite to watch the big screen at MercedesWorld to see the British GP. It was free and why the hell not.

Brooklands is such a historical race circuit to go to. The banking now wraps around a selection of modern life: Tesco's, an industrial estate, an out of town retail park, a gym and a loose bit of urban sprawl in the form of a housing estate. The houses now cover where would have been the junction of the start/finish straight with the right turn into the start of the famous banking. To make up for this, the street names are of legends of both the motor-racing and aviation heritage of Brooklands. That'll make up for it: I'm Mr. Smith, I live at 12 Seagrave Road, Brilliant. Yes well, it is down to a hand full of plucky sorts, that with the spirit of the pioneers, took it upon themselves to get the rest of the circuit listed to gradeII. Sadly, that didn't sit too well with local planning. Their idea is use the track as two mile long carpark for a new technology park. Great, why don't you turn the banking into a waterslide and pool whilst you're there!

Moving back to point:

The only other time I went to Brooklands, was about four or more years ago with my friend Dan. MercedesWorld was just an idea, the thinking behind it, was when getting rid of dealerships was at it's height and Brooklands was going to witness the new way of buying a car, a Mercedes at least. Now, things have changed. Third party dealers are still here, so I was interested what this flagship outlet was really about.

The drive from Eastbourne was two and a half hours or so, more like three if you're sensible. We're not, so it was a sprint to get there for the opening car display on a section of the original Campbell circuit, now owned by MBUK. Yes, we missed that bit, but that's because I thought we'd find Tesco's and a large part of banking that Dan and I had searched for but missed last time.

We sat down in front of the big screen early, it was only a quarter full if that, but there was a huge amount of people about, all here to watch. As we were getting comfy on the standard conference centre chairs, the MC was conducting an live feed interview with a Mclaren mechanic at Silverstone. He went through the team's plan of action and what they expected to get out of the race. Starting well back, second to back row for Hamilton, it wasn't great PR for MclarenMercedes but the Brawn is Merc powered so it wasn't a total loss.

Race over, and with some patient queuing from SL, we got seats in a 10 minute track experience in an AMG car for a tenner. BTW, SL was brilliant at queuing, she left the big screen early to get us a gourmet burger lunch. Thank you again SL.

The car was one of Jeremy Clarkson's favourities: the new C63 AMG. Our driver was a quietly spoken man; Tony Lyons, which it turned out, was a championship winning touring car driver. It was an off the wall experience. The 6.3 V8 was at full song and in Tony's hands, the car was darting all over the new test-track, drifting through the longer corners, breaking late into hairpins, it was beyond any in-car experience I've had before. SL and I departed the track a little worse for wear and returned back inside the MW building. Anymore than 10 minutes with Tony in touring car mode, we would have seen lunch again.

Even as I write, I still don't really get the point of MercedesWorld. It's like the re-tardis, huge on the outside, really nothing in it on the inside, and it wasn't empty feeling either. Part museum, part giftshop, part dealership and service centre, it did none of them convincingly. For example, it had a range of vehicles from the first 1884 Benz to the newest E-class, but in 1:24 model form! As for the link between Mercedes and Brooklands, it was nonexistent in any of the small handful of picture displays. Iet was less of a flagship cultural centre MBUK would have you believe, more an average city dealership, quite like Glasgow Audi, which even has an art gallery too. I did enjoy sitting in a number of the current range of Mercs, full sized and including the recently launched E-class coupe. It was nice to do this without the usual "can I help you sir?" attitude from the one or two sales staff we saw. But if this is the only reason MW is here, then it's looking poor value for the Daimler-Benz buck.

Home was beckoning, it was father's day and we were to have dinner with mine. Normally I hate to leave places; there's always more to see, but not today. It's brilliant to see the Grand Prix somewhere publicly, specially if you can't make it to the track, and especially for free, but I just can't see what's in it for Mercedes and their World. I did buy a DVD in the giftshop, reduced to three pounds; Full Circuit: The History of Mercedes and Brooklands.

The last of Goodwood...

Goodwood trackday cars

An Aston Vanquish of the same year as Kolo (2001| 51). Both aged well don't you think?

Eastbourne to Easebourne via Goodwood (pt5)

Eastbourne to Easebourne via Goodwood (pt4)

Eastbourne to Easebourne via Goodwood (pt3)

oh just to added a little bit...

on the way back home, back again through Goodwood, I thought I'd sneak a look-see at the Roller HQ. Nick Grimshaw designed I think. Anyway, armed with my trusty (Glasgow School of) Art Student ID, I thought I could wing it into the factory for free. Or at least with a discount. But no, not just to me and my card, but to all public. The Ghost you see. To make the mini RR, there was a big factory refit and extension being built, hard-hats etc. It was really because the Ghost hasn't been properly unvailed yet. Yes the 200EX is pretty much it, but Rolls Royce are a little bit, KG(B) with it all. Don't really know why, there was one in the caged off staff carpark. Sadly, my camera phone couldn't quite zoom in with any quality to get a picture, plus it was staff hometime and too many bods about, some with security uniforms too.

Oh well, next time maybe. I'll also go to the Goodwood Sculpture Park too, it's well worth the trip on it's own. Sadly time was against us today: we'd not let the munkies out of their hutch.
"Mr Splat Splats and Roopidoo will be very angry with us" mother said. She doesn't like to get on the wrong side of the bunnies, they poo on her sofa in protest when they're not pleased with her. Right then.

Eastbourne to Easebourne via Goodwood (pt2)

...on then to the revival circuit at goodwood.

The Starbucks in Sainsbury's as it turned out, wasn't too far from where we wanted to stop off at. Well, I kinda knew but if traffic was going to be poor, then it would have been a pee-you-pants moment I'm sure. As it was, a free run pretty much up to the gates of the circuit, which very happily for me, were open.

Mother dear was more interested in the newspaper she'd just bought so she stayed in the Kolo. Kolo however was interested in going onto the track. This obviously wasn't going to happen, you have to book in advance and notify the insurance. Maybe next time, plus this was only meant to be a brief picture op and look about, not an all day thing.

Snapping away are the pits opposite and at the chicane, it was easy to forget time. Both the amount of it I was taking, plus what era I was in. S L Bartlett and I went to a Revival, in 2003 I think. It is well worth going to, the much talked about atmosphere and charm do exist and if you turn up in period clobber, then you can sometimes sneak your way into areas closer to the cars and the celebs. Plus the smell of oil and petrol, like your granddad's garage, is completely intoxicating.

Right, cliches all done, back to 2009. Oh, I would add one thing, Both the Goodwood Festival and the Revival are brilliant but they are different. I guess the best way to describe it is; the Festival is more static, it's all about looking at the famous and their fabulous, and fabulously rare and expensive, machines. Yes the sometimes go up a hill, but only once does a car flash pass and then they're gone, up the hill and behind some trees. The Revival is a moving thing; it's a complete race meeting from the mid 60's and if you want to see actual racing of these fabulous things, then this is more you. Plus the driver/owners really lose all sense of reality, if you want to see how a Lotus Eleven survives an off into a tyre-wall (and it doesn't) then go to Goodwood in early September.

So mother was still on the Audi, I was snapping away, and 5 lucky sods were circulating around the track in an odd mix of vehicles. There was a yellow pre-Audi-Lambo Diablo SV with a strange exhaust setup, 996 and 360 track day courtesy cars, then two real gems: a series1 E-type coupe in gunmetal grey and a rare DB4GT in almond green. There was a sixth car about, a late 60's 911 in a pale yellow, it only completed two laps before it retired with a smoking problem. Gasket of some kind I would guess, what would I know but normally, smoke: gasket, doesn't it?

Pictures of it all to come next post.

Opposite the main gated entrance, there is a narrow tunnel that goes under the track to the pit area and infield with it's grassed landing strip (circa WW2). Kolo and I were voting to go through and join the posh, mother with her 3 votes was against. She voted on behalf of my sister and Billy Piper, hmm. Still, I had my hour or more at the circuit. Mother got out and had a look around too, it was 10'c too much for her sadly but she did like what she saw, if Billy was here we could have stayed all day but as she wasn't, we couldn't, so...

...I'm not too sure whether a 'living with kolo' reader would be interested with the walk about in Midhurst and Easebourne but as I don't have any followers anyway, I might as well:

The drive was straight forward, up north for about ten minutes, or what felt like that. Past the Glorious horse racing track which semicircles itself around the top of a small valley, it really is an amazing location to see horses do what they do.
Then carrying on to Easebourne through Midhurst.

Easebourne's an odd place. a single shop, one petrol station and a school. Four pubs though, plus the church Ms Piper became Mrs Fox. Mother and I went it to see what all the fuss was about.

After exhausting the attractions Easebourne had to offer, we then went back though to Midhurst, which to be fair to Easebourne, is the actual town with which Easebourne now just seems to be an area of. We had another coffee and a lovely Sussex cream tea in a some cafe on the highstreet. Midhurst's main drag has a typical market town feel, very Hailsham but without the heroin problem. Almost trendy cool. Everyone but the teenaged girl who served us and myself are all retired here, just like Eastbourne then! After cake and a look in a couple of estate-agents' windows, we went into a charity shop. I looked at their books whilst mother looked at, er, trinkets? My book choices boiled down to two: how to read buildings & 100 years of motorsport, 1894-1994. Both £3 but I could only get one as they don't take cards. Cock. Well, I was reading Nigel Mansell's preface went we finally got back to mothers. (He knows shit all about architecture)

Monday, 6 July 2009

Eastbourne to Easebourne via Goodwood (pt1)

Eastbourne to Easebourne was a good excuse for a drive, going via Goodwood, a better one.

A month or so ago, maybe even two months ago, I took Mother dear to Easebourne. She had wanted to go ever since the village was mentioned on the news as the place Billy Piper married that bloke off Lewis. She was convinced that Billy would be there, hanging around Easebourne, doing whatever you do there (even though I thought she lived in North London). It would be nice to see Ms Piper, something to talk about at least; you know, the day we bumped in Billy Piper, 'er of the tele.

The trip started in the morning, a stop off at the Sussex County (hospital) in Brighton's Kemp town (mother's not a well bunny), then off to Goodwood, yay.

It was a good sign of the refined cruising ability of the A2 that Mother fell asleep just passed Worthing. She doesn't normally sleep when I drive, a parent thing I would hope rather than a statement about my driving. Kolo in fact was doing well at most things on the journey bar wind noise & buffeting when the windows or 'OpenSky' was, er, opened. The window buffeting was a true A2 flaw but the sunroof thing was my fault. I de-screened it of it's white cloth mesh, I later replaced the sliding section of it, which, what would you know, fixed the hair blasting.

It was a hot, hot day. A black car, a completely glass roof at midday, the AC on full. Even so, we had to stop and have an iced coffee and a break before getting to the circuit at Goodwood, yay. At this time, we had been in the car for about 2 plus hours (3 for me as I read a car magazine in Kolo whilst waiting at Brighton). Apart from the excessive brightness of the Sussex sunshine, it had been a good trip so far for both of us. Mother did however find the climate control too cold, then too warm changing it every 5 minutes or so from 19.0 to 19.5 to 20.0'c. Hmm, I thought, but then she is my mother, aren't they allowed to do things like that?

As we drank some strange Starbucks creation with muffins, we chatted about comparing Kolo with my Mother A2, which we belatedly called Heiki. there are a number of differences between the two Audis. Firstly, kolo's a tuned 3 cylinder diesel & her's a standard inline 4 petrol, but both 1.4. Heiki, which is now my sister's, is just eligable for the government's Scrappage Scheme. Although it's a X-plate, 1999 car, it has fared well over the decade. We then reminisced over the time we first got her A2.

Having habitually read motoring publications of one type or another since I was a preteen, I was aware that in 1999, mother was making a big mistake trading her 4-year-old VW Sharan for a postman Pat red Merc A-class. Luckily, before she completely commited to buy Pat's van, we drive down to Hailsham where a new Audi dealership had just opened. In the centre of a three car display was Heiki. we went to Hailsham on a whim, just like today (that day) to see if an A2 was even available yet in the UK. But there one was, the first outside London apparently. She was impressed, and why wouldn't she be, the interior design and quality, the Avus Blue metallic paintwork on a TTesque 5-door with all the trimmings: every single option bar OpenSky (Nekarsulm where having a couple of issues with that still), but is was just so much better than anything thing we have ever had. It was so far beyond the A-class that car-innocent Mother thought it would be 50% more money than the red toy merc, but it was only £500 or so more than the base spec A120 or whatever it was, which had nothing! (This is Mercedes base spec remember, they only just started to include the radio in the late 80's) The gulf between the two potential dawsonmobiles was truly huge. Me had to wait awhile to get Heiki, (s)he was meant to be the dealership's demonstrator for at least six months. luckily, mother got that down to 3 weeks. I mean, what better demonstration than the A2 driving around town for everyone to see rather than the 2 mile radius from the dealership as a ploddy test-driver, was the route mother's argument took. Brilliant.

At the time of this, back then, I was myself driving a (Rover) Mini cooper, black with an off-white roof, Cooper bonnet stripes and those 13" alloys with the large sportpack arches. But it was in Heiki that everyone would stare at us. Mother would get asked what was it and how strange and weird it is. She now says how very off putting it all was, 'now all the cars are copying the A2!' I can see her point too, well not all cars, just some maybe and in detail. We're not talking Chinese car industry copying just, well, hinting maybe.

Rest break over, back onto the road...

Saturday, 4 July 2009

When in Bexhill....

....and you fancy a drive, follow this route:

Start at the Lamb (the one on the Marsh Road not the one at nearby Wartling, that's another day) Go along the A259 towards Bexhill (Barnhorn Rd). It'll curve right over a wide radius. A gentle start. Then straight, up the hill into a left just on the brow, flowing into a series of bends that are, in my opinion are better than anything else in the south east. This continues all the way to Little Common and it's busy round about.

Take the 3rd exit up the hill (Little Common Rd). This straight's not much but the right-hander at the Denbigh is worth it. It starts with a camber to help you round, then rises to a weightless crest into a negative camber drifting you towards the walled bank on the outside, just to spit you out into the sharper left hook on the bottom of the trough. The road's wide at the Denbigh but it seems like you get a car width and a couple of milimetres from the bank thanks to most of it being hash marked for an oncoming turn. If your lucky enough to see the road clear ahead as you enter this right-left at the Denbigh then go into the hashes, it adds to the greatness of the corner.

Now continue on the Little Common Road, take this next mile slowly, as there's a school, a youth club, park and swiming pool before trafficlights at the chippy. Go Straight ahead onto King Offa Way (still the A259) until another set of trafficlights. watch out for speed cameras inbetween the two sets. Go straight ahead passed flats on your left and houses on the right. This is Gods waiting room so it's still 30mph.

With tesco and McDonalds on the right, turn to the first left at the roundabout. The Hastings Road (A2036) is still a continuation of the lull of this circuit but you're getting near to a 60 soon. turn/stay right at the Church, still the A2036 but now called Wrestwood Road. This skirts the edge of town and is an interesting series of bends, if a little too narrow to really open the taps.

Next, go straight ahead at a new mini roundabout on the now A269 Ninfield Road. It's light residential until a very narrow part with an old row of terraced cottages then into a long right into the 60 zone.

Enjoy the open twists though a few little hamlets. This is a very good way of forgetting the lull in Bexhill town.

Then at Lower Street village, go left onto the Wode Road (A2095) signed 'Hooe 2 miles'. The hedges are close and high and it's all peaks and troughs between the hamlets of Lower Street and Hooe. This stretch has a couple of tight turns now and then but it's a joy. Beware, however of oncoming traffic, the road narrows just before and just after Hooe, requiring passing places.

The road continues to be be a relentless series of turns between the tall, close hedges ending abuptly at the Lamb and the junction with the A259 Marsh Road.

Turn right to have a sussex cream tea and tennis in Eastbourne
Turn left to do it all again

(notes from the author: This route isn't the best in the upcoming series, but it would be a very close second if you could skip the lull between the left after the Denbigh and the row of cottages on the exit out of Bexhill on the Ninfield Road)

The BEST 2 car garage*

*continued after a quite a break

I must start with a couple of confessions.
Firstly, I've not been in a rush to finish this article (been too busy, really? hmm)
Secondly, I haven't read the first bit of 'the BEST 2 car garage' so this bit might not link up too well.....

.....shoddy work, I know

Anyway, didn't we leave off with post-it notes, porridge and ice-cream or some other metaphor.
Right, yes.

The Audi, yes the Audi is a hoot.

Recently, the motoring press have lauded both the RS 4, just gone, and the R8 as proof that Audi actually knows how to create drivers' cars. But in 1999, Audi did this with the humble A2. Yes, no-one said it at the time, why would they, the TT was just a spoilerless concept (yet to kill a few Germans) and RS models were extremely rare, very fettled and expensive objects.
In 1999, Audi was yet to rise as a true status marque it is in 2009 (What a decade in Ingostadt!).
The A2 was difficult to label by the motor journos at the time; was it an entry
to the Scenic created mini-MPV niche? Was it a Life-Style Vehicle with surfboards and chunky tyres like the Al2 concept the A2 was meant to based on? (really Luc Donckerwolke?) Or was it the arch nemesis of the A-Class? Yeah, lets go with the that one.

A brief A-class/A2 comparison:

Both compact. Both taller than a standard hatch. Both German? One fainted at the sight of elks and had a dashboard made with, err, monkeys? It was crap, 80's Lada crap. But the other, aluminium and like a, err, an Audi inside. So in Summary: the Merc; rubbish inside, average outside, sandwiches in the middle. Sold in the hundreds of thousands. The Audi; rock solid inside, a rust proof outside, err, can go around corners really well, we'll get back to that in a minute. Sold a few, rocking horse poop a few: 15k in the UK over 6 years. (big rocking horse?)
The diesel A2 that's one half of this Best 2.....blah, is really a hoot, it really can go around corners, not just in relative A-Class terms, but in Ford Ka & Focus terms. No really! It's not as feedbacky as the Fords and sometimes straight ahead it a little cold but it's light, quick and well, good fun.
Whilst down south, around the Eastbourne/Bexhill area, I drove a couple of my favourite back road circuits. I driven them in almost all of the other cars S L and I have owned. The A2 isn't as hard riding as my old Mini (1998 1.3 cooper sportpack) but it's close when compressing after a rise where the Alfa (2003 156 2.0t-s) survived the same landings better but handed similiarly almost everywhere else. The SportKa is a better compremise between the Mini and Alfa on crappy surfaces and, yes ok, landing, but Kolo just does it in a way that makes you feel more satisfied.

After all this, yes that's what I would say, Kolo is more statisfying that SouferKa because it's not an out and out marvel to drive fast on a twisty bit. I guess it's a Stirling Moss thing than a Lewis Hamilton one. As in, you're more alive if you race so close to death. Ok, in an A2 near Bexhill, it's not myself that's close to death but when you win with one hand behind your back it's a better win, is it not?
The SportKa is an absolutely brilliant driving machine, the ultimate in fact, front wheel drive machine that Richard Parry Jones oversaw. But it's brilliance is best when you're commuting. you see, you can drive like a pro without getting close to the cars limit and with only a Monday to Friday mindset but if you really push it on the weekend, it's not that much different because your (or my) talent ends at about 12% of the Ford's on a rest day and about 6% on a working day. It's just never going to be fussed unless it's on a track. It's just so much better than you.
Kolo is less keepy-uppy with Becks and more like reading Heat mag with his wife, Posh. The talent scale is more like a metal version of the average driver. Kolo's limit is your limit. When you can't be bothered going to work on some dull 8.30 crudge, the A2 won't try either. But when you try to be a Le Mans star, so will the Audi. The reward is there, your 100% is the Audi's one-hundred. Go beyond what you're capable of, well, just don't. SouferKa would save your blushes with a mild bit of tyre squeal, just like the old Mini (called Donkey) would, but then you'll think your a better driver, and really, are you? But Kolo knows where the line is, thus it more a unspoken thing between you and machine. A mutual respect, I suppose. (If a car could respect a driver, but you get it, right?)

So essay over.

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