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/Drive: The Escort Goes to Rally

MK1 Ford Escort Rally Car

MK1 Ford Escort Rally Car

With all this talk of old school and retro cars, including my previous post on Ken Block hooning a MK2 Ford Escort, I couldn’t help but notice an upcoming feature on /Drive. My favourite Youtube channel announced a two-part episode where the MK1 Ford Escort’s Aussie owner, Sandy takes his beloved car back into rallying. If you love rallying this should be an interesting feature as they’ll show exactly how they set up the car for rally and how they ran.

Check out their preview below.

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WRX STI Smashes TT Course (on four wheels)

If you follow Gargling Gas you’ll know I’m a big fan of the Subaru WRX – I’ve owned two and currently drive a slightly modded Prodrive WRX. They are fast, relatively cheap to maintain and reliable given their performance and great handling – after all, their technology (yes, all WRX owners will tell you this, on more than one occasion) has been tried, tested and developed in the WRC.

Anyway, enough of me going on and mentioning the great Colin Mcrae and Robert Burns as there’s another name making the headlines in the auto world.

Three-time British Rally champion, Mark Higgins set a new lap record of the Isle of Man TT course in a stock US spec 2015 WRX STI (pic above), albeit it with additional roll-cage, race harness, fire suppression system and modified springs and dampers. Renowned worldwide as the superbike road course where mistakes aren’t forgiven and deaths are common, Higgins previously set the lap record in 2011 driving a (you’ve guessed it) Subaru.

I say mistakes aren’t forgiven, but Higgins must have had the gods looking over him in 2011 when he made a spectacular 150-mph save. Check out the footage below and watch just how much he jostles with the steering wheel to keep the rocket from slamming into the walls. In an interview after, the Manx driver claimed the only way out of that situation was to simply floor it and power his way out of the drift.

 

The guy has real skillz, agreed?

This time round Higgins completed the 37.75-mile (60.7km) death run in 19:26, just over half a minute quicker than 2011. The impressive package from Subaru averaged a staggering 117.510-mph, staggering because the course isn’t exactly racetrack smooth.

As soon as any video footage is released, you’ll find it on here.

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For The Love Of Cars: TV At Its Best

Last night I settled down to watch an automotive program on terrestrial TV that wasn’t Top Gear. From the previews I was expecting great things, and I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I didn’t want it to end. Top Gear is great for laughs and watching cars that are all shiny and bursting with horsepower, and whilst this program, For The Love Of Cars had its comedy moments, its main hook was the way in which it featured the car’s historic significance with a little mechanical knowledge, all in the name of resurrecting a rare Mk 1 Ford Escort Mexico.

Presenter and car fanatic, Philip Glenister (also an actor in various Brit flicks) and internationally renowned car designer Ant Anstead’s series mission is to scour the barns and lock ups of Britain for wrecks to bring to life.

Money wasn’t an object, so everything done was executed properly. The rusty barn find (just a shell with a rotten front end) set them back a whopping £8K, and after restoring it with a certain look in mind, the presenter goes on a mission and delves into the world of the Mk 1 Escort by hanging out with various owners and clubs. His initial mind’s eye finish ends up completely different thanks to some expert knowledge and advice. This is the part that made the show so great.

American’s may not know this particular Ford as it’s small in comparison with the Mustangs and other Fords produced in the US around that period. The Escort Mexico was and still is considered one of the best rally cars ever made, and if you’re a fan of the Fast & Furious  franchise, you’ll know the car from the sixth instalment (pictured below).

The Escort Mk1 and Mk2 chassis is so good, four decades on and it’s still used by amateur rally drivers. Did I say amateurs? Forgive me, as Ken Block claims his Mk 2 is one of the best cars to Hoon in. Check out the video below and see just how good the Escort is.

For The Love Of Cars also featured the Harris family, a South London family thought to have started the whole ‘Boy Racer’ craze. One of the older members took on the job of hand building the barn finds Mexico’s 1800cc engine – it was fantastic witnessing the skill and care that went into it.

The whole program was pure entertainment and extremely fascinating. Of course, I was straight on eBay looking up Mk1 Mexicos… you’d need around £25,000 to secure a decent one 😦 Oh well, a man can dream…

If you haven’t watched it yet, For The Love Of Cars is aired on Ch4 on Sunday. Next week’s episode features a gorgeous Mk1 Land Rover.

Audi Quattro: The Legend Is Back

I’d heard about this concept making an appearance at the Frankfurt Motor Show a few months ago, and in an excited frenzy almost wrote a short piece about the return of a legend. Judging by the artist’s sketches, especially side-on, there are nuances of its 80s predecessor… this could be a car to start salivating over.

However, despite impressive figures, power stats equating to the dizzying heights of Group B rally, I wondered if Audi had created a car worthy of the original’s legendary status.

So I decided to leave this piece until a few more discerning eyes had cast their eyes over it at Frankfurt and translate their collective thoughts into the article.

If you are a traditionalist you may not take to the idea of the original S1 being bought back to life with the help from electricity. That’s right, this new monster is a Hybrid. If you think back to Audi’s concept in 2010, Paris got to see something a little more along the lines of an all out rally machine in the form of a turbocharged five-cylinder engine with an amazing exhaust note. That was never going to be built for production but it looked very similar to this latest concept.

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Even though this Hybrid may not go down too well with some, Audi have used the most advanced technology available, just like they did with the original S1. Three decades is a long time, so in some respects traditionalists should like the fact Audi have applied their philosophy in using the very best of what’s available to develop an all out maniac of car like the S1.

So what we have here is a 690-bhp V8 coupe that is most-likely going into production at some point. It is being built by a company that changed the automotive world with 4WD technology. It’s also being built by the people who created the almighty R8. So it has the ability to be extremely fast in a straight line and face-warpingly grippy around bends.

Although sporty in looks, this seemingly innocuous car houses  Lamborghini Aventador power at 690-bhp. I suppose this is a kind of sleeper car – looking at it you’d think it sat in the 200-250-bhp range.

62-mph comes at a jaw-dropping 3.7sec and tops out at 189-mph. Yes, the R8 and its mighty V10 beats it to 62-mph by 0.2sec, but that’s due to the batteries and their added weight.

Its V8 features cylinder deactivation and an engine stop-start system for fuel savings. A lithium-ion battery stores enough power for its electric only mode to cover 31 miles should the driver want to operate under electric power alone.

The Sport Quattro’s drivetrain is a complex, 4WD driven by a plug-in hybrid setup. The 552bhp/516lb ft 4.0-L twin-turbo V8  is mated to a 110kW/295lb ft electric motor, powered by a rear-mounted lithium-ion battery.

Not that petrolheads will care but thanks to the hybrid tech, CO2 emissions come in at a claimed 59g/km. Now for the amazing bit: fuel economy is rated at 113mpg!  That means you can drive hard and not break the bank – is this too good to be true?

I personally can’t wait to see one and have full confidence it will impress all round. More importantly, I think Audi have done what they do best with this one, and that’s producing a car that will transform future cars and their development, just like they did 30 years ago with the S1.

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Racing Japanese Style: Touge 峠

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Before I explain just what Touge is all about, I want to dispel the false claims that Touge is a form of drift racing. Some drivers will use drifting to negotiate corners, but like many know, drifting may be the slowest way around a bend, but it’s the most fun – Touge is racing, so slow won’t do here.

tsuchiya

Japan has its unique methods of pushing a car to its potential, the most notable – thanks to the U.S. catching on and its eventual appearance in the X Games – being drifting and the highly technical gymkhana. I only discovered Touge through watching drifting DVDs and the legendary Drift King himself, Keiichi Tsuchiya. If you think Ken Block has skills, you have to continue reading and check him out in action. He is what Gandalf is to Harry Potter.

touge pass

In Japanese Touge (峠, tōge?) translates as “pass”, as in mountain pass – you probably know where this going.

It’s on these Touge in Japan that racing began, the snaking downhill terrain the ultimate test of man and machine. Other locations, especially California and parts of Europe, caught on, and Touge has become more popular with the tuning and modified communities. Although there are official racing classes now, due to the lack of legal places to race and it’s high cost to compete, a lot of drivers take it into their own hands to race, often at night.

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Touge consists of three types of races:

Cat and Mouse

This is where the lead car only wins if the distance between the cars is 60M or more. The other car wins if it manages to overtake the lead car. If the leader and following car are within 21-59 meters of each other when the leader crosses the line, the round ends in a draw. If the following car bumps/crashes into the leader twice over two runs, the round goes to leader.

Grip Gambler

If the pass is wide enough for both cars, whoever is in the lead at the end of the Touge is pronounced the winner.

Ghost battles

These are like TTs (Time Trails), where a one car is timed over the course and the other car has to try and beat it. Often in the videos whilst a car is racing, a superimposed (ghost) version of the previous car’s run is placed over the top so you can see how the current car is doing in comparison.

Check out the Drift King showing off some incredible skills:

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What Exactly Is Gymkhana?

For those of you familiar with the concept ‘gymkhana’, the names Ken Block and Tanner Foust will automatically spring to mind, their glamorous smoke-fest performances used to promote big brand energy drinks during the X Games.

However, the original gymkhana has been taking place for years in the Eastern parts of the globe, particularly in Japan – other countries like South Africa and Europe also had their derivations, although it wasn’t called ‘gymkhana’ outside of Japan.

Gymkhana’s roots lie within the Japanese sub-genre drifting (balancing a car between over steer and correction so it travels sideways), only it’s more technical and complex. The sport originated in parking lots in 70s, something that could be done with an unmodded car, making use of the minimal environment.

Somewhat different to Ken Block’s exploits, the original gymkhana course could be considered a scaled down track littered with cones, tires and barrels (obstacles) that need to be negotiated using a series of manoeuvres. Put simply, a gymkhana event eventually evolved into a time/speed event with a start/finish line, everything in between an obstacle course for cars.

To negotiate the obstacles, manoeuvres such as 180s, 360s, figure of eight turns and slaloms need to be perfectly executed to complete the course in the fastest time. Drivers need an immense amount of car control, using techniques such as left-foot braking, hand braking, drifting and sliding. Not only do drivers need to execute the perfect moves, they also need the ability to concentrate and memorize the course.

We now see a much more evolved version of the concept thanks to other countries such as America and Australia catching on and their motorsport drivers bringing it back home with them.

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WRC driver Ken Block started making videos and posting them on YouTube. He tagged his concept ‘Gymkhana 1’, and thanks to its incredible success, it spawned many more, and attracted a lot of worldwide attention.

So what’s different with Ken Block’s concept of gymkhana than that of its origins?

Well first up, Block uses a rally car with twice the horsepower and a much longer course. His first video was created with a budget, although he was supplied with a rally-prepped Subaru Impreza STI and a video crew. By the forth and fifth videos, he had a Hollywood budget and drove his WRC Ford Focus rally car boosted to 600-bhp.

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Why the massive HP when the original gymkhana originated in parking lots with stock cars?

It all boils down to the entertainment factor. Extreme horsepower means manoeuvres can be performed with more flare and tire smoke. To spin tires on tarmac and get a car into such a state of unbalance as to perform these evolved manoeuvres takes serious power – to maintain momentum and link a series of manoeuvres together seamlessly also takes power.

2011-Ford-Fiesta-Ken-Block-Gymkhana-4

The old school fanatics might not like this Block chap taking the name away, but the way I see it, it’s created a fantastic genre of gymkhana, bringing it to the attention of the media and shedding light onto what was an almost underground form of motorsport.

Thanks to the likes of the X Games and the big sponsors, we now get to see 600-bhp rally-prepped cars and world famous drivers providing some amazing entertainment. Before, we could only watch rally cars tear through a forest or kick up dust along rally stages; now we get to watch pro drivers perform on what is nothing more than a giant parking lot. Check out Gymkhana 5 below…