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    Fast Track / #2016 / #BMW-F21 / #BMW / #BMW-1-Series / #BMW-1-Series-F21

    Advanced Driving Consultant, #Rob-Colbourn, teaches us how to better our driving techniques on track with a Performance Driving Course. He can do the same for you… Words: Simon Jackson. Photography: Malcolm Griffiths.

    Some driver training will make you a much better circuit driver.
    TRACK DRIVING TUITION

    Around 18 months ago we undertook a full course of driving tuition with Advanced Driving Consultant, Rob Colbourn. Our experience was limited to the road as that is where we all spend the majority of our time behind the wheel. The syllabus focused around improving our general attitude to driving, whilst sharpening our observation and anticipation skills. It provided us with an arsenal of useful techniques and common-sense hints useable in practically every road-going scenario. They’re ones I personally have used every day since. Quite rightly, Rob’s courses are tailored to each individual, but they ultimately serve to coach a person, no matter their skill or confidence level in a car, towards functioning as a better driver.

    Rob’s methods explore the idea that there is an art to driving well, a road craft if you will, and his approach showcases that once equipped to practice it there is a whole extra dimension to driving, one so obvious it has been staring you in the face. You’d simply be lying if you claimed that didn’t sound appealing.

    Rob’s background is unlikely, which makes his tutorage even more significant in my eyes – Rob was once a ‘white van man’. Charging up and down the country delivering parcels, Rob was the guy in the van sat three-inches off your back bumper, headlights ablaze chewing the steering wheel in anticipation of getting ahead of you. Since becoming a driving instructor, and today an Advanced Consultant, those aggressive days are long gone as Rob has gone through what he terms a ‘shift in attitude’. However, his past gives him a real world insight and pragmatic level of understanding unlike most driving experts we’ve encountered. Driving psychology and an indepth interest and understanding of the ‘human condition’ ensure Rob is able to relate to, and irradicate, any long-formed habits hampering your driving. When it comes to driving on the road, erasing bad habits is a very useful undertaking, translate it to the track and it might just save your life.

    Despite spending much of his professional working life tutoring on track at Silverstone, Rob would be the first to admit that he’s not a ‘racing driver’. There’s a distinct difference between someone who can drive quickly, intelligently and safely on a circuit, and an individual who can exhume the last few tenths of a second in competitive motorsport. But if you have any level of desire to improve your track driving skill set, as we did, then Rob’s teachings are most useful and the ideal basis from which to move from merely enthusiastic to competent on track.

    Interestingly, much of the craft Rob teaches on his road course can be translated, perhaps in an amplified fashion, to the driving techniques he promotes specific to the circuit. Driving psychology features heavily once more. Although each of us may respond differently when we are behind the wheel of a car, many of the reactions caused by our actions will have the same (unwelcome) outcome. Just like on the road, first and foremost using our vision becomes key to mastering an effective track driving technique.

    Changing the way we observe situations can aid our ability to predict, understand and subsequently react. During road driving we’re taught to anticipate potentially hazardous situations, using a mixture of our experience and what the surrounding environment can communicate to us. This enables a driver to prophesize a possible course of events and act to minimise a problem which may arise in advance of it emerging. The principle is the same on track – if you know what might be ahead you can plan for it in advance. One of Rob’s mantras is to look through a corner, flick your eyes ahead through the turn, then draw them back to the apex to build a picture of where you’re going ahead of your arrival.

    Rob let’s you build speed gradually, pushing on as and when you feel comfortable, and should your enthusiasm overtake adhesion, he’ll encourage you to reel it back and take a step back before moving forward and potentially out of your comfort zone. As you push the envelope of your perceived comfort level, so too do the limits of your skill set grow.

    Vehicle dynamics also play an important part in the process of Rob’s teachings. Understanding what a car is doing underneath you, and what it might do as you feed it various inputs is vital. For example, Rob ensures you have a level of knowledge of the physical reaction your steering inputs make – drilling into you that as you turn the wheel you should be considering the angle of your car’s tyres, exactly what you’re asking of them and the relationship between road surface, tyre and car attitude.

    “Many clients are familiar with the terms ‘oversteer and understeer’, but are not necessarily confident of giving an accurate definition or explanation of how they’re caused, identified, corrected or most importantly, prevented,” Rob explains.

    Likewise most modern cars feature an abundance of electronic safety aids but do you as the driver really know how they all operate, to what extent they influence the vehicle, and how best to use them to good effect? Through Rob’s tuition, you’ll soon learn just how clever these systems are and whether or not you really need them, or rather why you should never rely on them. It’s the same with braking techniques, Rob likens emergency braking to bankruptcy: “We all understand the basic premise but spend years, quite rightly, employing other skills to try and avoid facing it for real,” he says. “If we do have to face it, we are likely to find ourselves lacking the necessary skills to overcome it. Paradoxically, practicing these skills to a high competency level reinforces the point that you should not allow yourself to need them.”

    Sir Jackie Stewart is a big influence on the track driving techniques that Rob endorses, not as you might presume for his speed, but for his smoothness. Stewart was famed for his chauffeur-like driving style, and it’s this smooth, calculated and considered approach that Rob presses home. He teaches a driver to roll off the brake pedal, not jump off it, to balance the car through a corner, often with a small input of throttle mid-turn. Using all of the available road, letting the car gently run wide out of a corner, your task is then to gradually feed the power back in as the steering lock is wound off: “Imagine there is a piece of string between the accelerator pedal and the steering wheel,” he says. “That throttle pedal cannot go down until the wheel is fully straightened.”

    Each and every input is designed to not upset the car, you should not overdrive it but rather make considered smooth adjustments to retain a certain level of balance. Coming out of corners this often feels like the old Martin Brundle adage of ‘hurry up and wait’ before you’re able to get on with things (and apply the throttle), but it ensures the cleanest exit and believe it or not will prove faster than letting the car slide from apex to curb.

    We’ve already told you that much of what your improved road craft has taught you will also serve you well on the circuit, but conversely that works both ways. Employing a smooth and flowing approach on the track can also work effectively on the road, with a focus on using and extending your vision to your own advantage. I wouldn’t consider myself a confident track driver prior to spending time with Rob, yet with his help I’ve learnt both a greater understanding of what a vehicle is doing in a track environment, but also perhaps more important is how my perceptions have altered towards my own limitations. I’ve learned that I can gradually push to improve my level of comfort on track and, as a consequence, my skill levels improves with it.

    Rob’s talent is arguably not a dark art of turning the average driver into a racing driver, but rather the methods he uses enthuse and inspire drivers to believe in themselves, and to hone their existing abilities. Indeed, far from schooling his clients in a new method of driving, Rob extracts the better driver that lies within us all, and he does so in a relaxed and informed manor that guarantees success.

    Thanks to: Rob Colbourn / Web: www.robertcolbourn.co.uk

    Track regular, Sam Preston, shares his experience of Rob’s course…

    Although I have my fair share of track days under my belt, these often oversubscribed events sometimes prove to be as effective as supplying you with an opportunity to find the limits of a car as trying out the same techniques on the public highway during rush hour. At the Nürburging Nordschleife, for example, I’ve found myself spending more time checking my rear-view mirror for the likes of GT3 RSs to appear out of nowhere (as they so often do), than gaining the confidence needed to instead begin focusing on improving my own talents.

    With Rob sat beside me and a nigh-on empty track complete with nervesettling amounts of runoff to play with, the rate of learning is naturally far quicker here. Especially once I’d realised that Rob wasn’t there to criticise my current level of driving but instead was genuinely interested in helping me work on what I’d already learnt to become a better, faster driver. Surely a dream of any true petrolhead?

    Rob soon determined that smoothness in and out of corners was something that I could certainly do with some help with. First up, he assisted me in honing the art of trailing off the brakes gradually into slower-speed corners. Known by the pros as ‘trail braking’, the technique is something of a mirror to the ‘piece of string’ theory mentioned earlier; where the brakes are hit hard as you’d expect before turning, but then let off gradually as you begin to turn the steering wheel. As well as allowing you a later braking time, this technique perhaps more importantly helps keep the weight distribution of the car balanced for optimum grip and tyre usage throughout the turn. Easier said than done, for sure, but with some practice it’s soon easy to understand why this is one of the most effective weapons a racing driver can keep up their sleeve.

    Other small nuggets of invaluable wisdom Rob helped me pick up on included keeping your vision focused on where you’re aiming as well as where you are (“don’t just live in the moment – you don’t know what’s around the corner unless you look”) and maintaining good positioning on the steering wheel (“those spokes are put in the ten-to-two position for a reason”) with a relaxed grip to ensure you pick up on as much feedback the car is supplying you with as possible. All techniques I don’t know if I’d ever manage to teach myself, regardless on how much track time I was exposed to.
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    GREEN DAY / #VW-Golf / #VW-Typ-5G / #Volkswagen-Golf-Mk7 / #Volkswagen-Golf / #Volkswagen-Golf-VII / #VW-Golf-VII / #VW-Golf-Mk7 / #VW-Golf / #VW / #Volkswagen / #Volkswagen-Golf-GTE / #Volkswagen-Golf-GTE-Mk7 / #2016 / #Volkswagen-Golf-GTE-VII

    Going green with your car doesn’t sound all that fun does it? But driving the #VW-Golf-GTE-Mk7 for a week showed us that maybe things won’t be all that bad after all… Words: David Kennedy. Photos: Simon Jackson.

    We don’t know if you noticed but Volkswagen got in to a spot of bother recently with its range of TDI engines. It didn’t get much attention outside of the front pages of the majority of international newspapers, TV news programs and internet sites so it might have slipped you by… Basically (and it’s going to be basic because we’re still not entirely sure what’s going on, even after reading everything the oracles at VW Driver mag wrote about it) VW decided the best thing to do was engineer some of its diesel cars to cheat the official tests so that it would pass them with flying colours, whereas out in the real world, those colours would be far less airborne. Once the mainstream media picked up the story and ran with it everything went ape sheet, especially in America. You know, the same place where modding your giant 7.0-litre Cummins diesel pickups to pump out clouds of black smoke is met with nothing more than a roll of the eyes. Whether that makes sense to you is irrelevant, the world’s media went mad, half of VW’s top bods stepped down and there were more awkward press concurrences than we could keep on top of.

    At the moment, VW and the rest of the VAG group are figuring out how to fix the bazillion affected engines and deal with getting sued into potential oblivion due to people wanting compensation (got to get a claim in for everything, right?). At the same time, however, plenty of other manufactures out there are dodging claims that they’re just as crooked when it comes to emissions. So with all that in mind, VW’s GTE has suddenly gone from an interesting car to one that might just be critical in convincing the public that VW’s top brass don’t take their team building exercises in the arctic circle kicking Polar Bear cubs and Penguins for a laugh.

    We went on the launch for the GTE in Switzerland last year and rated it. Unfortunately, as is often the case with foreign press launches, we were more concerned about not breaking any speed limits, crashing in to the scenery and having to have an awkward plane ride home with the Press Office. So while we liked the GTE out in Zurich, we were excited to try it out on the far less interesting roads in our little bit of south London and Kent.

    Of course, part of the appeal of an hybrid car is (you would hope) the increased fuel economy and the only way to get a real judge of that is to own one long term. Unfortunately, while we couldn’t blag the GTE as a long-termer (come on VW, you give EVO long-termers, we’re definitely cooler than them…) we only get cars for a week.

    That’s not to say we’re ungrateful, press cars are a lovely break from driving our own crappy cars for a few days. So everything we do is based on a week’s worth of normal use and, erm, I live in a second floor flat, so plugging it in wasn’t going to happen unless I threw a really long extension cable out the window to reach my parking space. But as we figured that a huge part of the appeal of a hybrid like the GTE is that it can basically charge itself as you go along we would not be missing out on too much (maybe it’s motoring journalism like that that stops us getting on the long-termers list? ~ All).

    So, what’s the GTE like to live with? Well, and this isn’t just the usual ‘oooh a new car’ infatuation we admit it’s easy to suffer from, it’s seriously impressive. Compared to hybrids like the Prius and CT 200h, the GTE doesn’t look like a kitchen appliance on wheels, it looks, well, like a normal Mk7 with really smart blue detailing both inside and out. VW is keen to push the fact that the GTE is from the same family as the GTI and GTD, meaning that it’s meant to be quick and handle well. And it does succeed at both. Thanks to the 148bhp 1.4-litre turbocharged TSI lump up front and the 101bhp electric motor hidden away somewhere, it has, when you push the GTE button (meaning that everything’s working together) a total output of 201bhp and a 0-62mph time of 7.6 seconds. That’s three tenths faster than the GTD and only 1.1 seconds slower than the GTI. Of course it’s DSG only but the ’box works in the car’s favour, the electric motor’s instant shove meaning it launches away like a Penguin toe-punted by a be-suited VW exec. Of course how little dino-juice it gulps down and the headline figure is the (claimed) 166mpg on the combined cycle and a ‘please don’t mention the TDI’ 39g/km of C0².

    In the real world we were getting around 40mpg while it was charging itself up, and while that might not sound all that impressive it’s worth bearing in mind that you could, in theory, do your next journey on eclectic power only – if you started off with a full battery you could do 25-30 miles without the engine. In pure electric mode it can hit 80mph and in GTE mode with the petrol flowing it can hit a claimed 138mph. While we didn’t get to plug it in, the press kit says that would take 3:45 hours at 2.3kw on a mains plug, or 2:15 hours at 3.6kw from a special wall box. Of course, the tree-hugging nature of the engine means that you wouldn’t pay the Congestion Charge or tax which makes a difference long term too.

    So, would we buy one? We’ve got to say, honestly, yes. Inside it looks fantastic with its blue-checked variation on the classic GTI interior, the level of equipment is as you would expect and it has all the other usual Mk7 niceties. Pricewise, it’s not cheap however. On the road it’s priced at £33,755 or if you take the governments grant in to consideration, £28,755. Our press car weighed in at £36,675 thanks to the upgraded Discover Navigation Pro system and the keyless entry, Winter Pack, Park Assist and Pure white paint. Of course, if you’re a business user or you lease your cars as so many do these days, the low BIK tax and cheap running costs are a definite advantage over its TDI brethren. Plus you won’t feel as guilty that you’re helping melt the ice caps and all that.

    Is it the future? Considering this is VW’s first modern effort (yes we know it made the Mk2 Golf citySTROMer back in the day), we think it’s a proper impressive bit of kit. You know what, if this is what green motoring is really going to be like in the future maybe things won’t be all that bad after all…

    Turns out the green ‘on charge’ bit on the clocks is really addictive to watch. ‏ — with Simon Jackson
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    David Kennedy
    David Kennedy is now friends with Simon Jackson
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    BIG BAD WOLFF / #VW-Beetle / #Volkswagen-Beetle / #Volkswagen / #1961 / #VW /


    After over a decade involved with the watercooled VW scene, Andreas Wolff switched his allegiance to worship at the church of air. This ’1961 VW-Beetle is the end result…

    Words: Simon Jackson. Photos: Patrick Hille.

    “For me it’s the only real Volkswagen – I love the Beetle. It’s a special car, not only because of the design, but because young and old people love them – the passion is huge.”

    Berlin-based Andreas Wolff has been into cars, and primarily Volkswagens, since he was a kid. His teenage dream was admittedly pretty humble; he hankered after a Mk2 Polo hatch believe it or not, a dream he fully realised aged just 20 with a hopped-up 1988 86C project running a tidy 240bhp 1.5-litre turbo lump, and shod with deliciously timeless BBS E30 split-rims. That car stayed in Andreas’ possession for ten long years, it transformed numerous times during that period too, leading him on to a bunch of other VW projects afterwards. Two Mk2 Golfs, a rare two-door Mk2 Jetta, and a string of modified VAG daily drivers followed, but after over a decade dabbling in Wolfsburg’s various water-cooled offerings, Andreas made the switch across to the older air-cooled VW motors. In summer 2009 a classic Beetle project finally beckoned.

    “I searched for three long months until I found the car I wanted near Hannover,” Andreas explained, “I wanted a pre-’64 Beetle with a rag-top in good condition and in a rare colour.”

    Andreas came across the green ’61 1200 you see here and instantly knew it was the right car for him. Complete restoration work had been undertaken some 12 years previously, so the vehicle was in decent nick, yet rocking some signs of patina and interior distress. Various parts were either missing or weren’t period correct on the car (which bugged Andreas), but the 31-year-old reasoned that he’d be able to put all that to rights easily enough. This, despite the fact he knew nothing about either sourcing Beetle parts, or working on, and navigating his way around, the cars themselves. Who worries about little details like that, eh?

    Andreas bought and drove the ’61 as it stood (bar the additions of an #EMPI shifter and #K&N filter) a few times a week over a two-month time frame, until winter arrived. With the howl of wind, rain and snow, the car was taken off the road for the planned transformation to commence.

    “I love the colour, it’s one of the rarest; it’s called Beryl green and they only painted Beetles in it between 1961-’63,” he said. “I also love red, so I decided to mix both colours. My inspiration is my wife Astrid.”

    Andreas and Astrid make no excuses for having a crush on the ’50s and ’60s, so Andreas decided to style the car, nicknamed ‘Betty’, in a ’50s Americana vein. While we’re not usually fans of people naming their cars, with the story behind Andreas’ car, we’ll make an exception… “On the aluminium part of the rag-top the name Bettina Giljohann has been scratched in,” he recalled. “It might be the name of a previous owner, so the car is called ‘Betty’. That’s also why Betty Boop is on the mirror inside; a symbol for classic America.”

    So, October 2009 saw Andreas kick-start his planned programme of mods. First the car was fastidiously checked for rust and rot. Fresh rubbers, lights, and other parts went on to the car, and Andreas ripped out its interior, which it turned out wasn’t original, having come out of a later 1968 car. It took eight weeks to track down a period perfect set of 1961 inners, but Andreas used this time wisely to prepare his air-ride setup. Now, many folk we come across have their air-assisted gubbins fitted by an external expert, but Andreas built his up at home (tank, valves, compressor and tubes) learning as he went.

    “The first problem was the spring plates; they were rusted to the torsion bars, so I needed new plates and bars!” Andreas recalled. “Then I worked on the narrowed front beam with lowered steering knuckles, and the air-ride shocks.” Andreas also added his reworked wheels at this point, narrowed at the front from 4” to 3.5x15”, and banded those out back to 5.5”, up from the original 4”.

    Andreas then fitted new carpets and gauges, and refinished the whole cabin in white and red vinyl in a ’50s diner-style, he painstakingly undertook all this work himself. “I put in the new carpet and some details like the VDOs, MPH speedometer, a secret modern stereo and I painted the interior pearl white and put the red/white vinyl leather in by myself. It was a lot of work!” Andreas said.

    With the interior looking far sprightlier, Andreas moved his attentions on to the engine compartment out back. Some brave soul had painted the ’bay orange (we just hope it wasn’t Betty…), so this needed addressing quick smart. Black paint was shot across the bulkheads, accented with Andreas’ white/red theme, and the block was polished up to a presentable level too. And that’s how the Beetle stood for its first show season in 2010.

    “When the next winter came I decided to change something more on the technical side,” Andreas said, “so I fitted a new longer range gearbox and swing axle, which is very difficult to change – it was the first time I’d ever done this!”

    While Andreas had the car apart he also changed that first air-ride install. His original system had employed axle valves, which Andreas switched to single wheel valves: “The air-ride is home-made,” he explained. “I spent weeks on it. I wanted to lower the car as much as possible with the perfect stance. I can now drive it with 0bar of pressure on its shocks.”

    In fact there were a few teething problems with the air-ride system. Andreas found himself chasing a leak around the car for some time, only to discover a dodgy weld on the tank was to blame. With this located and the tank changed in good faith by the supplier, everything has run beautifully since. Andreas also sourced and fitted a rare set of Porsche 356 carburetors. A Piper exhaust and electric ignition setup was slotted on for good measure, excess cables were relocated or removed, and the heater arrangement was deleted for aesthetical purposes.

    The ’bay now looked pretty smart. A couple of cool additional details, like badges and that driving school secondary mirror were added for a splash of personality. Ultimately though, Andreas has tackled the whole lot himself bar any welding, and all in an underground car park where he couldn’t even fully open the car’s doors! After this second stage of the makeover the car now completely reflects Andreas’ original brief; hinting at ’50s and ’60s American themes and colourways, and looking every inch the cool classic.

    “I was a bit doubtful of how people would react to the car at its first outing because of the colour mix, but in Austria for Wörthersee 2010 everyone was positive,” Andreas said. Since the trip to the ’See, the car has been well received all across Europe at events from MIVW in Holland to the Wolfsgruppe VAG Event in Poland, and seeing it in print here we’re sure it won’t surprise you to hear that. Having crossed over from the water- to air-cooled VW scenes, Andreas is better placed than most to pass comment on how the two sides of the Volkswagen coin compare. “Both scenes are very cool, both are special,” he said.

    “But I hate it when guys discriminate against each other because of their preference, we all have the same passion; cars! But the retro car scene is growing up, many of my friends have started projects with old cars (not only VWs). It’s a new love and I think some guys were inspired by Betty!”

    We often joke that project cars are never finished, but could Andreas’ be the exception to that rule? “It’s the first car for me where I can say yes! It is finished, I think Betty is perfect,” he laughed. “There are no new projects planned, but the dream is an American V8, a muscle car or ’rod from the ’30s to the ’60s. We’ll see…”

    Yes, we will see. In fact, we would actually love to see Andreas’ customised take on a thoroughbred period American motor – something tells us it would be pretty damn special.

    “It’s the first car for me where I can say yes! It is finished, I think Betty is perfect”

    Dub Details

    ENGINE: 1600cc air-cooled engine with Porsche 356 #Zenith-NDIX-32 carburetors, #Piper exhaust, 123ignition 12V electrics, heating system deleted, cables and brackets deleted and smooted, ’bay repainted gloss black with red/white details, long Rancho gearbox.

    CHASSIS: Front beam shortened 3.25”, lowered steering knuckles, notched rear spring plates, lowered rear torsion bars, highjackers front/back for the air-ride function, 19L chrome tank with four valves and #VIAIR / #Viair-480 / Viair compressor, front wheels narrowed from 4” to 3.5x15” with 135/70 tyres, banded rear wheels from 4” to 5.5x15” with 185/65 tyres, Ravus system whitewalls with stainless steel hubcaps and beauty rings.

    OUTSIDE: Export bumpers, colour-coded roof, US-spec sealed beam front lights with yellow tints, US-spec red rear clusters, hooded Albert swan-neck mirrors, pop-out rear windows, red window breezies, red/white Berlin badge on the front hood, lots and lots of chrome.


    INSIDE: Red/white interior, EMPI shifter, flower vase with red/white flowers, hidden air-ride control, rabambus storage, MPH-speedometer, RPM and oil temp #VDO in original speedometer optic (needle strips), Venetian shades at rear, driving school double mirror, original #Blaupunkt-Frankfurt radio with one speaker, #Hirschmann antenna, hidden modern stereo with #Pioneer head unit, two-way rear-system and subwoofer.

    SHOUT: Special thanks to my wife (Astrid), Denis, Moosi, Janek, Low-Familia, Watercooled-Customs and Patrick Hille/VWHome.de.
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    Simon Jackson
    Simon Jackson joined the group VW Beetle Classic Club
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    2016 #Porsche-991.2 is undergoing final extreme weather testing. Several key additions to the new car have filtered down through the Porsche technology food chain.
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