Mazda reckons on victory in Targa Tasmania

31 01 2008

Mazda big wigs have thrown down the gauntlet for their 2008 Targa Tasmania campaign in the Mazda3 MPS. In a press release they have stated “We’ll win the Showroom competition and finish in the top ten.” With the driver talent they’ve lined up, they might just do it to.

Alister McRae poses with a Mazda3 

Alister McRae and Rick Bates have both signed as drivers for the event, considered by many to be the premier tarmac rally in Australia. McRae brings with him the experience of over 75 WRC events and the prestigious title of former British Rally Champion. Meanwhile, Rick Bates took out the class win in the 2007 Targa and ranked tenth in the outright placing, an incredible run for a standard production vehicle, especially considering it was only outperformed by race specification or rally cars.

In the 2WD showroom category the competitor listings currently only show 3 Peugot 206’s. With only 130kW on tap the Peugot’s will be monstered by the Mazda3’s turbocharged 190kW and 360Nm. While a class win should be assured, taking a tenth placing outright will prove a challenge for the car.

Rick Bates with the 2007 Car

In the racing categories the Mazda drivers will be facing no less that 36 Porches, 27 Mitsubishi Evo’s, 13 WRX’s, 10 Skylines, 2 Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera’s, 5 BMW M vehicles plus many more, almost all of which will be race prepped.

Its definitely a big ask for a FWD mass produced hatchback to take 10th in the Targa. But having taken 10th last year in the same car, Mazda’s little hatchback that could, looks like its going to again.

2007 car in action

Ohh… is this still on… well while I’m on the air I might as well have a little rant… In Targa Tasmania there is a non racing category, were drivers get to take their rare cars out for a spin on some very nice roads, and members of the public get to see some amazingly exclusive vehicles in action. Naturally the number of places are extremely limited, and the cars are hand picked to ensure the public get to see some truly memorable machinery.

So what kinda of car made this exclusive list? Well out of the 35 entrants currently listed, there are three BMW M3’s all built between 1994 & 2002, A Mazda MX5 and a Mazda MX5 SE of the same era, plus the worst of the lot, 9 Porsches! Now the 356 I understand, and maybe have an old 911 and a new 911 to show how they’ve gradually changed over the years. But over a 1/4 of the exhibition field look like the same bloody car!

I love Targa Tasmania, its a fantastic rally held in a beautiful location. But if the organisers don’t start picking up their game, the fans aren’t going to bother. And if you lose the fans you lose the event. It is simply not acceptable to have the exhibition fields populated by the same old cars we see pottering around on the road every day. Simply imagine if the Goodwood Festival of Speed tried to pull a stunt like that.

Organisers, get with it. Stop charging exorbitant entry fee’s for people who just want to tootle around in their cars, they’re not in a racing category. Get out there, harass the owners and manufacturers and get some of the truly amazing machinery into the event. Rent out a racetrack for the five days and hold static displays there. For God’s sake just do something to make it a great day out for the fans because if we wouldn’t sit by the side of the freeway watching these mundane cars driving past, why would we bother coming to your event?


What to do with Subaru

26 01 2008

You know what I’m talking about, the new MY08 Impreza WRX STI. It started with mysterious photographs, the car shrouded in darkness… never a particularly good sign. Then in the middle of the night I got a phone call from a colleague. He was beside himself but wouldn’t say why, I simply had to get up and look at Subaru’s Japanese website.

I stumbled out of bed and with bleary eyes loaded the page. Wait… is that The Alan Parsons Project gently crooning through my speakers? Aww, how nice, a picture of a summers day with “Fantastic moments” written on it. People laughing and smiling as they drive past fields of grass and admire the sky through their sunroof. How… nice…

Well, time’s a wasting, where is that STI section? Ah it’d have to be that picture of a car lurking in the shadowy corner, ready to pounce. Hmm, let me see. Discrete badging… Refined styling… That can’t be right… I must be in the Liberty’s section… ARGHH WHAT IN GODS NAME IS THAT?!?!

Oh no… wait a minute, thats  my little sisters Daewoo Lanos. Opened the wrong page.




What the hell happened? Subaru WRX STI. Thudding boxer engine. Anti-Lag Exhaust belching flame. A world rally championship car unleashed on the road.

The STI was always the wild one. While the Mitsubishi Evo unleashed wave after wave of computer trickery to keep the driver in line, the STI felt more and more mechanical. It was engineered, not programmed, and when you pulled levers things went clunk. There was no pirouetting around on tippy toes like the Evo, the STI would stomp up to a corner, grab you by the scruff of your neck and hurl you screaming out the other side. The only thing keeping it out of the hedges was testosterone and the massive pair of balls weighing the drivers side down.

Subaru’s cars always looked the way they drove. Like they were built by a team of dwarven engineers, deep underground somewhere amongst huge tankards of beer and assembled with sledgehammers and blowtorches. Lately however, they seem to have been hiring *shudder* designers.


Subaru Tribeca, I heard at midnight they turn into goldfish!

The Tribeca was bad, and I mean really bad. But it was a big stupid looking four wheel drive, and they didn’t get rid of any of the cars we liked in order to release it. Obviously the Tribeca didn’t sell, no-one in their right mind would buy a car that reminds them of being kissed by an Auntie. It just sat around, lowering the tone of Subaru dealerships a bit but not really causing any harm. Not anymore. Have a close look at the shape of the windows, the flared arches and distinct crease running along the side of the body. For reasons only know to themselves, someone decided to carry the hugely unpopular styling cues from the Tribeca over to the STI.

It’s just wrong. The STI already had a meaning, it didn’t need a new one. Its styling used to talk of manliness, of standing around scratching yourself and spitting. It was the kind of car that would have people trudging through the rain to stand by the side of a road grinning when a STI roared past lighting its farts and throwing mud in their face. Now it looks like the kind of car that will only throw mud at your face if you’ve paid ridiculous amounts to have it flown over, fresh from a hole in New Zealand and renowned for its “rejuvenating powers”. I’m not sure if I can even work up the courage to test it… so many people laughing at me… I’m telling you straight up, it better be the best damn car I ever drive if it’s going to make up for the looks…

Subaru, why did you do it? Why did you turn the STI into a girls car? 

Dave tries his hand at stupid car names.

26 01 2008

There are some spectacularly bad names for cars out there.  Its all a result of cynical marketing really. If you want a car to seem exotic and mysterious, call its something in another language so no-one ever knows what your talking about. Take the Hyundai Tiburon. It means shark in Spanish. Around my part of the world, telling people you’ve had an encounter with a car shark means you’ve just been badly ripped off.

The thing is, it works both ways. Japan is notorious for giving cars English names which make absolutely no sense. There’s the Isuzu Mysterious Utility Wizard, Nissan’s Big Thumb Harmonised Truck and of course the Mitsubishi Mum 500 Shall We Join Us.

This got me thinking. You see, I’m an Australian. That means I speak English, but I also speak Strine. Strine sounds like English, and it actually is, but it’s slurred together into one long mush of a sentence and scattered liberally with nonsensical words. Australia is unusual from most other English speaking countries in that our initial population where mainly convicts. So while most English speaking countries were populated by people who wanted to be heard and understood, Australians didn’t want their prison wardens to understand them. Instead of developing a clear and precise accent, words were slurred together and often the only way to tell if your being asked a question is by listening to the pitch. For example, unlike the northern American Dialect were a question is clearly phrased, in Strine often the only way to tell the difference between a question and a statement is by the pitch. If the speaker ends the sentence in a high pitched voice, this will indicate they’re asking a question.

I’m not an expert in explaining these things, so here’s a link A young bloke by the name of Luke Devine gives some examples of strine. The first example Emma Chisit means, “How much is it?” to which the older man replies Attlebee aitninee “That will be eight ninety.” See if you can figure out the rest urself. Oh and the psychedelic floating pink thing… I think its supposed to be an echidna… I wouldn’t recommend watching the clip if on acid though…

Anyways, those who don’t understand Strine will probably not get this post, but for those who do, here’s what I’ve come up with, for a car line to sell overseas.

The Armstrong DropGut, a sporty convertible, in Australian the name means a warm passing wind.

The Armstrong Chundabucket, an aggressive offroader, in Australian it means chunky waterfall.

The Armstrong Fooktfranga, A people carrier, in Australian it means an unexpected surprise.

 Well that’s it. This seemed far funnier in my head than its appearing in print but :p not like it cost you anything to read did it lol

Show or Go? Radiator Cooling Panels

22 01 2008

Hmm well you learn plenty in a week of having a blog. Technical pages get heaps of hits, opinion pieces go untouched. Well give the people what they want! Allow me to introduce my new column. Show or Go? Here I’ll be taking a hard look at some of the more dubious performance upgrades you can attach to your car and finding out if they actually make the car go faster, or if they’re just for show.

My first analysis will be an old favourite of mine. Radiator Cooling Panels.

Aka Hood Panels, Aka Bonnet blockers, Aka Mega happy cooling panel 3000!

I first came across these while working in my local tuning shop. A good earner, they sold well and were easy for modifiers to fit. Everybody wants their cars to run cooler and you’ll find these fitted to some seriously high performance machines in the D1 series. So they must work… right?

For those not in the know, a radiator cooling panel is a sheet of metal or carbon fiber that fits across the front of the car above the radiator. The idea is to prevent air from traveling over the top of the radiator, and instead force it through the radiator where it will have an actual cooling effect. A picture is worth a million words methinks.

Example of a Radiator Cooling Panel


The gap left open above the radiator that all the air escapes through 


All nice and plugged up now!

Ho ho ho, silly manufacturers. Don’t they know that leaving a big gap above the radiator means all the air will just flow past it? Whatever will we do with them.

Well of course they bloody well knew there was a gap there. Ladies and gentlemen, if I may direct your attention upwards. Have a long hard look at the bottom of your bonnet. You will notice, this:

OMG! Someone drew some badly photoshopped arrows underneath my bonnet!!1!

No as a matter of fact I’m pointing out the rubber seal that sits on the underside of your bonnet. And lets all look downwards again…


Got it yet? Hang on I’ll draw some lines that will explain a lot.

Ooooooh, anyone feeling like an idiot yet?

Yes in fact the manufacturers have blocked the top of the radiator using that rubber seal along the bonnet. Once air is forced into the front of the car it comes up against that rubber seal. It cant get past there so it finds another way out, by going through the radiator.

The reason cooling panels are popular in D1 is because they use carbon fiber hoods. These stripped out bonnets don’t have the rubber seal, so they need to make do with a cooling panel. But have a look at the pictures above, see all the gaps in the cooling panels to make room for the bonnet latch and so forth? Make no mistake, the near airtight seal of the rubber is a far better alternative that some chopped up tin.

So the Verdict. Unless your car is sporting a carbon fiber bonnet, cooling panels are definitely


How bad is the damage?

If you’ve got a full carbon fiber bonnet then your in the clear. It’d give you a better result if you had a rubber seal, but because that isn’t possible at least your cooling panel is of some use. 

If you have a stock bonnet with an aluminum Cooling panel your officially baby rice. Plenty of people have been in your shoes, don’t be to embarrassed, yes it has absolutely no use, but least you didn’t pay lots for it.

If you bought the $600 full carbon fiber cooling panel… Sorry buddy, you’ve paid through the nose for something that does little more than add weight. Rice king for you!