Posts Tagged ‘Honda’

Soundtrack to the greatest show on earth

February 20, 2011

The spectacle that motorsport creates is one of its main draws. Fast paced, brightly coloured, flame spitting action ignites the passions of the devout and the casual alike. Human beings like to be excited, thrilled and a little bit frightened, it make us feel alive. The visual element only goes so far, for me, sound is even more important. You’ll hear the action long before you see it, sound carries boundless distances in the right conditions. The thrill of hearing this sound approach either in a forest stage or a race track is an addictive one. Below I’ve compiled a little collection of clips that illustrate how I get my aural kicks. I could have added more, but my eardrums are beginning to blister. Enjoy…

Ferrari F50 GT –

This is one of my favourite Ferrari videos. V12s have a wonderful rich baritone note to them in most road car applications but when tuned for racing or vehicle homologation, an ear piercing wail can be extracted. It’s all about the downshifts at 1:04.

Honda Integra Type R –

While I love my drifting events, I’m not quite as au fait with all the ins and outs of JDM culture as my brother ( The two-stage bark of a Honda VTEC unit has always appealed to me. Yes they lack torque, but that’s just an excuse from people who can’t keep it in right gear. This video alleges 10,000 rpm, I don’t know if this is true or not, but frankly it doesn’t matter, you get to play at being a touring car driver on the way to the shops. It is therefore, epic.

Honda RC 166

By the 1960s, the Japanese had established themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the world of motorcycling. The Honda RC166 dominated the 250cc Grand Prix racing class, wining all ten rounds in 1966. Revving to around 18,000 rpm and generating 60bhp, the bike sang through six spine-tingling megaphone style exhausts. Surviving examples are rare and replicas hugely expensive to produce due to the level of engineering involved, it is truly one of the all time greats.

Austin Metro 6R4

The Metro 6R4 was introduced just before Group B rallying was stopped. It’s beefy, 3.0 L V6 generates a deafening wall of sound, the kind of sound that carries for miles (anyone who’s seen John Stone over Epynt in his 6R4 will testify to that). It’s got huge character and it can still embarrass newer machinery on tarmac with the right guy behind the wheel, say someone like, Kris Meeke…

BMW E30 M3

The BMW E30 M3, as I’m sure you know is a much revered and fondly remember machine. It took the world by storm in the 1980s with huge success in both Rallying and Touring Car racing. I love the hollow, metallic bark that these produce. While BMW are known for their six cylinder engines, but I think this four just screams pedigree and is always a joy to experience.

Ducati Desmosedici GP6

High revving bike engines are par for the course, however, Ducati’s Desmosedici MotoGP bike is one of those machines that comes along every so often and seems to turn everything up to eleven.  One of the most aggressive sounding engines that I’ve ever heard and a spiritual successor to Honda’s RC166

Mazda 787B

The rotary engine is a bit of a flawed gem, huge power, low weight but fragile and thirsty. It never the less sounds incredible, revving as if the engine has no inertia at all. I had the privilege to hear a rotary Group C Mazda at Silverstone a few years ago, sat in the grandstand on Pit Straight, each down shift in to the Abbey chicane was clearly audible, even over all the other Group C cars. A unique and very special car.

Porsche 997 GT3RS

I’m a sucker for 911s, yes the shear number of ‘different’ 911 variants is now getting ridiculous but I can’t help but love them. The GT3 is the one I lust after most, probably due to the fact that it’s as close to a roadgoing GT car as you’d probably ever want. No turbos to spoil the exhaust note, just a pure flat six growl that turns the M1 in to the Mulsanne Straight. You can keep your Veyrons, this would be my first choice if a long lost Prussian aunt ever left me her fortune.


Some Road Racing at last!

August 16, 2010


Those of you who follow me on Twitter will have probably read about me going to Northern Ireland over the weekend to watch the Ulster Grand Prix. This is a huge deal for me, firstly because due to university or work commitments, I haven’t been able to get to the TT for years, and secondly because Irish Road Racing has to be seen to be believed. I went to the races with a mate, who’s family live in Tandragee, home to the renowned Tandragee 100 road race. They actually live on the same housing estate as TT legend Phillip McCallen, we drove past his house! It’s safe to say that the local community is totally integral to the running of the events, the local papers are full of info and the marshalls are locally sourced. It creates a wonderful atmosphere.

The TT and UGP are both essentially motorbikes tear arsing down closed, public roads. The distinction is that the TT is against the clock, whereas in the UGP (and other Irish road races) the riders are physically racing for position, oh and it’s mental. As at the TT, I’m always gobsmacked by the commitment on show. I think to myself, yes, they’re professional nutcases, but surely you can’t ride a 180bhp sportsbike at ten tenths down narrow B roads? But then they come screaming past, hard on the brakes, the rear wheel snaking around beneath the rider, barely kissing the tarmac, with the slipper clutch getting a battering as they stamp down the gears. Every lap is like this, even the privateers are awe inspiring in their bravery and skill.

A couple of 250s over Deer's Leap

We were stood no more than 10ft from the track at any time, getting so close is sure a rare event these days and it only adds to the thrill. We were in amongst groups of local lads (most of which were well in to their Buckfast or tins of lager by 10am) but everyone was very friendly and chatty. As you can expect, there was plenty of beautiful roadbikes lining the roads, parking where ever they could.

The lads next to us, see, Buckfast & Tinnies, good craic.

Photographic this event has a real challenge, panning needed to be incredibly quick and we were lucky with the weather being so bright so I could keep the shutter speed nice and quick. Initially, I was feeling quite cocky. On the Superstock sighting lap (race 1), I had my eye in by the time the last few bikes came though. I was feeling pretty confident as they really seemed ‘on it’ for a sighting lap. Then they came through on lap one at full tilt.

Oh. My. God.

What I thought was quick before was absolutely blown in to the weeds. The bikes were coming through so much faster, it was harder to comprehend. I had to quickly sort myself out and recalibrate, the races are only 7 laps at most, so I wouldn’t have that many opportunities to catch the top guys on camera. I’ve never panned so fast in my life, it was quite good exercise, but I probably looked a bit special while I was doing it.

My favourite rider, Guy Martin on a retro liveried Honda

Another feature that impresses about this type of racing is the variety of machines that the riders will compete on, in the same day. From 250s right up to the full fat Superbikes, some riders were very busy, but still quick in every class, incredible when the margins for error are so narrow, as you can see below, bales anyone?

Ian Hutchinson on an installation lap believe it or not!

With a sport this dangerous, there’s quite often serious accidents. This year a bike went off in the Superstock race and hit two spectators. The rider and one of the spectators are stable, with the other in a critical condition. I wish them all the best. Overall it was a brilliant event, the weather was nothing short of glorious, bar a short cloudy spell in the afternoon. The action was spectacular and cheap to watch. I got over there via BMI baby for £52 return so it can be a relatively cheap trip and I thoroughly recommend it. It will redefine what you think ‘fast’ is. Few more photos to finish? Why not, full set is here:

Eyes wide open!

Just stumbled across this from 2006:

Confessions of a negligent Motorcyclist

August 11, 2010

Forgive me Honda, for I have sinned.

There was a spate of ‘Automotive Confessions’ on Twitter yesterday. Most concerned people admitting to owning terrible cars or bikes, and indeed paying over the odds for said abominations. So this got me thinking, do I have any Automotive skeletons in my closet? Turns out I do, but not in terms of owning vehicles considered to be lacking in any kind of merit. My confession is one of the crippling and ultimately terminal  neglect of one of my vehicles. I’ve killed…

A little background. I passed my motorbike test in 2002 on my first bike, a Suzuki GS125 which I’d owned since I was 17. When doing your motorbike test (I think this is still the case) you can either do it on a 500cc ‘big bike’, or a 125cc. If you pass on a big bike you can then go out and buy any bike you like, without any restrictions. If you pass on a 125, like I did, you are restricted to a bike of 33bhp or less, for a period of two years. A lot of people buy a middle sized bike, like a Suzuki SV650 and fit a 33bhp restrictor, which you can then remove, once your probation is completed. I however was skint and couldn’t afford a ‘proper’ bike so I trawled the classifieds for a bike that had less than 33bhp as standard. This invariably meant, small and old if it was to be cheap. I struck gold, £290 got me a low mileage 1983 Honda CB250 RS. The RS bit sounded good so I went for it. This had 28bhp, good(ish) handling and, being a Honda single cylinder, was bulletproof. I fell in love with this bike, it felt so much faster than my 125, it would do an indicated 80 mph with one’s chin on the petrol tank. I went everywhere on it as it was my only form of transport, great times.

Exactly the same as my RS, only in much better nick

Fast forward to July 2005, I’m at the end of my 2nd year at university and I have landed a summer placement at the Motorcycle Industry Association (MCIA) in Coventry. The MCIA is a  motorcycle industy body, involved in the promotion and safeguarding of motorcycling in the UK, great dissertation fodder. The MCIA had a pool of press bikes on hand, kindly provided by the likes of Triumph, Yamaha, Suzuki and Honda. One of my roles was to pick up a brand new, all black R6 from Yamaha UK in Weybridge. So I pootled down all the way from Coventry to pick up this bike on my little Honda which, even on the motorway, performed admirably. University meant no money, so I couldn’t upgrade from my 250, even though my two years were up.

The R6 I picked up from Yamaha UK, incredible.

I hopped on the R6 and frankly, after an intimidating start, had some of the best fun of my life on that bike, it was mental. I don’t buy in to this ‘600s are for girls’ bollocks that is spouted by certain sportsbike riders, it was hilariously fast, but I digress. So, my time with the R6 came to an end, and I blasted back to Yamaha UK to drop it off and collect my RS. Compared to the R6, it felt like it was about to fall apart, even dangerous but eventually we got to know each other again. On the ride home however, it didn’t feel as powerful as I remembered. I put this down to having just gotten off a bike with roughly 90bhp more, so continued on my merry way. Just before I got on to the M25, I stopped, the bike just didn’t feel right, it was very sluggish to rev, ignoring any R6 comparisons. I unscewed the oil filler cap, which sat conviniently on the top of the crankcase. Upon doing this, little whisps of white smoke came floating out and I thought to myself, ‘ooh, that smells a bit hot’. Yes, I know, this should have rung alarm bells but as I’d never opened the filler cap on the bike when the engine was hot I didn’t see this as an issue *facepalm*

I pressed on.

Just as I passed Prodrive at Banbury on the M40, it happened. Revs dropped dramatically, BANG, then a chirp from the rear tyre as it locked, whip the clutch in and coast. It had seized. It then dawned on me, I had run the thing out of oil. I couldn’t remember the last time I had checked the oil, let alone topped it up, poor thing. I phoned a mate, who came with a van to pick me up. It was clearly destroyed, it would freewheel even when in gear, no compression owing to the massive hole that the valve punched through the top of the piston.

My dad is an automotive mechanical engineer, when I got home and told him what had happened I could tell he was ashamed. His eldest had royally knackered a bike through neglect and lazyness that would have lasted for years more. That said, let’s look at the positives, my little Honda did the thick end of 70 miles with no oil in it, now that’s build quality.

So there it is, my confession, but I’ve learnt from it. Let’s just say I’ve checked my oil levels very closely ever since.

On Leave: Il Dottore

June 29, 2010

When Valentino Rossi broke his leg at Mugello in early June, I was stuck by a strange emotion. When I picked via twitter the extent of Vale’s injuries, I was gutted and quite frankly upset by it. I hadn’t felt like this before, riders and drivers have crashes all the time, we’re used to seeing it, but not with Valentino. The guy doesn’t get hurt, he always seemed bulletproof. Up to this point in his career, 230 races, he had never missed one through injury. Not one.

I’m not one to normally invest emotionally in sporting personalities. I wouldn’t say I’m a particular fan of any certain driver or rider in a given series. I have favourites, of course, but it’s rare that I’ll really root for a particular person to do well (unless a certain winner will close up the title fight for instance). I like to maintain a bit of distance and watch all the characters duff each other up, just putting on a show.

I don’t feel this way with Valentino Rossi. Ever since seeing him at Donington Park in 2001 on the famous yellow Nastro Azurro Honda he has been my favourite. When he overtook Max Biaggi at the Old Hairpin, it could have been a Brit on that Honda, the place went absolutely spare.

The quickest guys are always popular (Valentino, Schumacher and Loeb all have legions of fans). This may be down partly to the age old attraction of glory hunting, if you’re going to back anyone, why not back a winner eh? However Valentino is the only one I’ve ever really wanted to do well, even though he already won at everything he did.  I’ve had conversations with people who lump Vale and Schumi in the same boat. I won’t bash Schumi, but people have said to me that Valentino winning in MotoGP is ‘dull, boring and tedious’, like Schumacher was at the height of his success in F1. I disagree with the comparison because of the way that Valentino won those races and titles; he made plenty of mistakes.

While undoubtedly a genius, these errors proved that he’s human time and time again. Such indiscretions included ballsing up his starts, putting in a truly horrid qualifying effort on the Saturday or simply falling off in the race. At one point in the mid -2000s a 14th place qualifying position wasn’t uncommon for the Doctor, yet he still managed to pull the results out of the bag.

I’ll admit, in the 990cc period while at Honda, Vale had the best bike and he was rampant on it. Rivals came and went, only Max Biaggi and Sete Gibernau ran him close in terms of ability. Unfortunately for them, Rossi was always two moves ahead in the mind games, which proved to be thier downfall.Valentino’s move to Yamaha mirrored Schumacher’s move to Ferrari and proved his class (and his crew’s class) beyond question. His charisma and the post race celebrations are also a key reason how he keeps the fans entertained, not many sportsmen, particularly successful ones have the sense of humour to pull such stunts off.

I think these two videos sum up Valentino well, the first one from early in his career and the second from about this time last year.

  • 2001,Yellow Honda 500, Suzuka. Rossi is dangerously wronged by arch rival and tosser, Max Biaggi. Valentino get’s his own back in supreme style.
  • 2009, Blue & White Yamaha 800cc, Catalunya. Rossi and Lorenzo fight in one of the greatest last laps of all time. (Foreign language vid to add to the excitement and, cos, well, I couldn’t find an English one).

So, get well soon Valentino, lets hope you are indeed back for Brno. The world seems a bit empty without you.

My Kind of Puzzle

May 25, 2010

I stumbled across these photos on my brother’s blog, but I thought I’d post them here as well.

We have no idea where they came from originally but I think this is so cool, a 1:1 scale jigsaw of a JGTC Honda NSX.

Puzzles for the biggest of kids.