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Motoring news

Audi’s new Q cars

April 12 2017

Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space...

Motoring news

Rising repair costs and whiplash claims behind insurance rise

February 11 2017

Vehicle insurance premiums hit a record high last quarter, rising by more than five times the rate of inflation in 2016. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) said that tax increases, rising repair costs and increasing costs arising from whiplash injury claims were to blame. According to the ABI’s Motor Premium Tracker - which measures the price consumers actually pay for their cover, rather than quotes - the average price for private comprehensive insurance in Q4 2016 was £462. The highest figure recorded before this was in Q2 of 2012, when the average price was £443. The Q4 figure for 2016 was up 4.9% over Q3, equating to a £22 rise in the average premium. It was also found that the average premium for all of 2016 was 9.3% higher than the average premium for 2015. ABI’s assistant director and head of motor and liability, Rob Cummings, said: “These continue to be tough times for honest motorists. They are bearing the brunt of a cocktail of rising costs associated with increasing whiplash-style claims, rising repair bills and a higher rate of insurance premium tax. “While we support the Government’s further reforms to tackle lower-value whiplash costs, it must not give with one hand and take away with the other. The sudden decision to review the discount rate has the potential to turn a drama into a crisis, with a significant cut throwing fuel on the fire in terms of premiums. “Insurers are open to a proper dialogue on how to reform the system and urge the Lord Chancellor to engage with the industry about setting a rate that is fair for both claimants and customers.” Meanwhile, the RAC has released research that suggests not indicating when turning is our number one annoyance on the roads. Well over half (58%) of the survey’s respondents said failing to indicate was the top inconsiderate behaviour. It was narrowly ahead (56%) of those who thought middle lane hogging was the greatest driving sin.

Motoring news

Join the queue for littlest Audi Q

November 9 2016

Audi’s relentless release of new models continues with the launch of its smallest SUV. The Q2 goes on sale in the UK next week with prices starting at £22,380. There’s an extensive selection of petrol and diesel power trains as well as the option of front or Quattro four-wheel drive. More models will be added to the range later on, including powerful SQ2 and RSQ2 versions. Aimed squarely at a younger audience, the Q2 has bolder, sharper lines and a different shape to Audi’s bigger SUVs, the Q3, Q5 and Q7. Although it’s clearly meant more for buzzing around cities than growling across farmland, cladding and skid plates lend it an aura of ruggedness. Audi is also offering a range of vibrant colours to deepen the Q2’s appeal to youthful buyers. The interior is as plush as you’d expect from Audi, justifying its price hike over similarly sized SUVs like the Nissan Juke and Honda HR-V. The materials are high quality – softtouch plastics, leather on higher spec cars and brushed aluminium trim elements all blended into a smart-looking package. As standard, drivers get a seven-inch infotainment screen on top of the dashboard. It’s operated through Audi’s rotary dial system that’s far more intuitive and easier to use when on the move than rivals’ touchscreen systems. Among the many options is Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit - a 12.3in screen that replaces the manual instruments behind the steering wheel. Overall, the Q2 is 4.7in shorter than the A3 hatchback, but Audi says there’s enough leg and headroom for two adult passengers in the back. Boot space comes in at 405 litres – 50 more than you’ll find in the A3 hatchback and rival Nissan Juke, although it trails the Mini Countryman by the same amount. To begin with, the only diesel option is a 1.6 litre with 114bhp, although a more powerful 184bhp 2.0 litre unit will be added to the range soon. Similarly, the petrol engine range is limited for now but will be expanded by the end of the year. The 1.4 litre, 148bhp unit offered now will be joined by 1.0 litre, 114bhp three cylinder turbo and 2.0 litre, 187bhp options – the latter coming with an S-Tronic automatic gearbox. When it arrives the 1.0 litre petrol version will be the cheapest model in the range with a price tag of £20,230. Courier Motoring has yet to get its hands on the car but early reviews have been very positive and Audi looks to have yet another winner on its hands. jmckeown@thecourier.co.uk


Life in fast lane with Crail karters

April 3 2010

For one weekend every month racers from across the country descend on a secluded corner of Fife's East Neuk to battle it out in the Scottish Prokart Championship. Craig McManamon joined them. Hitting a top speed of 60mph just inches off the ground while a pack of snorting Honda-powered karts hurtle into a hair-pin corner, the fast and furious world of Prokart racing provides an intense thrill. This was something I was to find out in earnest in my debut race at the East Scotland Kart Club near Crail, where there is a dedicated following for a branch of motor sport often regarded as the first step towards the Holy Grail of Formula One. Run throughout the year, the Prokart series is just one of the many classes within competitive karting. The set-up of a Prokart is simple, but its handling and performance provide a radically different experience from the usual leisure adventure found at many commercial sites around the UK. The ESKC's 1100m outdoor track is rumoured to be the oldest in the country, having been built in the 1940s as a naval recreation area.MysteryThe circuit lies just a short drive north-east of Crail, sandwiched between Craighead Golf Links and an abandoned second world war airfield. However, knowledge of its existence among the wider public appears to be something of a mystery, even to Fife's most famous racing venue -- Knockhill near Dunfermline claims to host "Fife's ONLY outdoor karting track". Despite this, the ESKCs circuit is a familiar and popular destination for seasoned competitors from all over the UK. Its racers have included Formula One star David Coulthard, and Fife's own Andrew Kirkaldy, both of whom used karting as a springboard for the highest levels of international motorsport. For one race day I joined the 20 other racing teams who make the regular pilgrimage to the track temporarily transforming the club car pack into a bustling paddock. On arrival, the mood was a mix of professionalism and camaraderie with volunteer race marshals making their way to various points of the track accompanied by the buzz of their walkie talkies. My confidence quickly evaporated in the relentless heat as team camps were rapidly set up and karts were hoisted on o trolleys, allowing mechanics to make feverish final adjustments to their racing machines. Adding to the atmosphere were two members of the St John Ambulance, who were tucked away in a handy spot and served as a sober reminder of the dangers of motor sport. The race itself took the form of three separate one-hour events with a mixture of long and short versions of the course as well as using a reverse grid (where the slowest drivers start in pole position) for the second race. I was allowed a spot of practice the day before the meeting, and on race day I met up with the ESKC's Prokart representative and racer for 20 years, Fraser Adam. Fraser (39) promptly instructed me to change into a one-piece jumpsuit and don a crash helmet, while the club kart I would be driving was rolled into the pit lane from its garage beneath the control tower. The kart's two 160cc motors coughed into life and within minutes I was wedged into the snug fitting fibre glass seat for a 20-minute qualifying session followed by a day of intense racing.Hugely enjoyableA veil has to be drawn over my performance, but the challenges of finding the limit of the kart, seeking improvements lap upon lap, and becoming accustomed to noise, vibrations and instant speed were nerve-wracking, but hugely enjoyable. Added to all that was a feeling of considerable exhaustion, several undignified but spectacular forays off the track, and the intimidating presence of seasoned racers overtaking at close quarters. It was an exhilarating day which, inevitably and despite my best efforts, resulted in finishing dead last and several laps behind the field. Fraser and a few of his dedicated colleagues at the club offer the opportunity for would be karters to take part in the Motor Sport Association (MSA) approved Let's Go Karting initiative. Introduced at the ESKC just under a year ago,Let's Go Karting allows youngsters to fast track into the motor sport by paying just £5 for a session in a club kart. But a big part of the ESKC ongoing success is down to volunteers according to Fraser who described them as the life-blood of the track. Lending a helping hand in everything from marshalling races to recording lap times volunteers are needed and appreciated at the track said Fraser. "It doesn't matter if someone has raced before or even has an interest in motor sport," he said. "Volunteers are what makes the world go round and are always needed." The ESKC is not only home to Fife's competitive karting series but also to the SuperMoto GP series which is loyally followed there. For more information contact Fraser Adam on 07973 360398 or the chairman of the ESKC Jamie Glen on 07718 733122.

Angus & The Mearns

Brechin teen revved up to achieve MotoGP ambition

April 26 2013

A teenage Angus motorcycle racer is revving up for an international journey aimed at leading all the way to the top flight of MotoGP. This weekend will see Brechin’s Ryan Watson line up on a packed grid at the Circuit de Cataluyna, north of Barcelona for the opening round of Spanish CEV Moto 3 Championship, a proving ground from which big names including Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa and 2013 rookie sensation Marq Marquez have emerged. Ryan (15) started his two-wheeled racing career with Scottish and British mini moto championship domination from the age of just eight, before taking the British crown on a bigger 80cc machine. Since 2011 he has contested the British Superbike Championship’s GP125 category, proving from the off he has the potential to go all the way in the popular branch of motor sport. Ryan’s 2012 performance delivered podium finishes at tracks including Brands Hatch, Oulton Park and Snetterton, with large television audiences enjoying his progress towards a second successive seventh-placed BSB championship finish in a class of almost 40 riders. This season, under the banner of Watson Work Racing, Ryan will be taking to the circuits of Spain for the hotly-contested CEV Moto 3 series, where strength and depth of the field is so impressive that the young riders have to battle it out for the right to even qualify. And the Brechin High pupil is itching to make an instant impression when he puts his saltire-clad knee protector down through the sweeping Catalunya curves. Ryan’s 2013 mount is a Honda NS250R Moto 3, the only one of its kind in Scotland and a quantum leap in power from his 125 bike of last year. “I can’t wait to race on the new bike as it’s absolutely awesome,” said Ryan. “There has been a lot of time and money spent on the bike to get it competitive and my dad and Gordon Work of Brechin have been in the garage every night doing it themselves.” Dad Keith said: “On the big stage Ryan has shown the maturity and understanding required to compete and I’d like to express my gratitude to everyone for their hard work over the past few months to get WWR (Watson Work Racing) to this point. Without them it would never have happened. “We’re very much looking forward to taking on the world and will be flying the flag for Scotland this season,” added Keith, who would welcome contact from any potential sponsor on 07939241152.

Road tests

Audi Q2 puts quality over size

March 21 2018

Audi’s Q2 was one of the first premium compact SUVs on the market. It sits below the Q3, Q5 and the gigantic, seven seat Q7 in Audi’s ever growing range. Although it’s about the same size as the Nissan Juke or Volkswagen T-Roc, its price is comparable with the much larger Nissan X-Trail or Volkswagen Tiguan. Even a basic Q2 will set you back more than £21,000 and top whack is £38,000. Then there’s the options list which is extensive to say the least. My 2.0 automatic diesel Quattro S Line model had a base price of £30,745 but tipped the scales at just over £40,000 once a plethora of additions were totted up. Size isn’t everything, however. In recent years there’s been a trend of buyers wanting a car that’s of premium quality but compact enough to zip around town. It may be a step down in size but the Q2 doesn’t feel any less classy than the rest of Audi’s SUV range. The interior looks great and is user friendly in a way that more mainstream manufacturers have never been able to match. The simple rotary dial and shortcut buttons easily trounce touchscreen systems, making it a cinch to skim through the screen’s menus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eQ5p5Z7-Ek&list=PLUEXizskBf1nbeiD_LqfXXsKooLOsItB0 There’s a surprising amount of internal space too. I took three large adults from Dundee to Stirling and no one complained about feeling cramped. As long as you don’t have a tall passenger behind a tall driver you can easily fit four adults. At 405 litres the boot’s big too – that’s 50 litres more than a Nissan Juke can muster. Buyers can pick from 1.0 and 1.4 litre petrol engines or 1.6 and 2.0 litre TDIs. Most Q2s are front wheel drive but Audi’s Quattro system is standard on the 2.0 diesel, as is a seven-speed S Tronic gear box. On the road there’s a clear difference between this and SUVs by manufacturers like Nissan, Seat and Ford. Ride quality, while firm, is tremendously smooth. Refinement is excellent too, with road and tyre noise kept out of the cabin. It sits lower than the Q3 or Q5 and this improves handling, lending the Q2 an almost go-kart feel. On a trip out to Auchterhouse, with plenty of snow still on the ground, I was appreciative of the four-wheel drive as well. The Q2 is expensive – though there are some good finance deals out there – but you get what you pay for. Few cars this small feel as good as the Q2 does. Price: £30,745 0-62mph: 8.1 seconds Top speed: 131mph Economy: 58.9mpg CO2 emissions: 125g/km

Angus & The Mearns

Angus race star Sandy’s showdown with Barthez in different ball game for World Cup winner

April 19 2018

A teenage Angus speed sensation has a football World Cup winner and TV Top Gear ace to contend with in a 190mph quest for glory at one of the world’s most famous racetracks this weekend. Former British karting champion Sandy Mitchell will make his Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup debut at Monza in Italy behind the wheel of a Lamborghini Huracan - a V10 monster most 18-year-old’s would be happy to have as a poster on their wall. The Forfar star hopes to take the fight to the rest of a multi-million pound grid featuring French football legend Fabien Barthez and Top Gear presenter Chris Harris when the flag drops at the legendary circuit on Sunday. Mitchell has moved to Europe’s premier sports car series after two years competing with famous motor racing marque McLaren in the British GT Championship, where he became its youngest-ever race winner at just 16. A member of the prestigious British Racing Drivers’ Club Rising Star scheme, he is now stepping up to the faster, more powerful GT3 class targeting more podiums and, ultimately, race wins. The Scots young gun will share the Barwell Motorsport-prepared Black Bull Whisky Lamborghini with 23-year-old Italian Michele Beretta and Croatian 20-year-old Martin Kodric, having already got to grips with the 400 horsepower machine at test sessions at Portimao in Portugal, Paul Ricard in Southern France, Monza and Silverstone. “I’ve been really happy with the process and how quickly I’ve adapted. I’m enjoying the increase in speed, power and sheer cornering ability of the Lamborghini Huracan,” said Mitchell, a former Dundee High School pupil now in the first year of a Motor Sports Association course at Loughborough Sports College. The Lambo trio will contest the new, ultra-competitive five-round Silver Cup junior pro class which will also see Mitchell take on Blancpain GT’s blue riband race, the Spa 24 Hours, at the end of July. More than 50 high performance race cars will line up for Sunday’s opener, including the Mercedes AMG of former French goalie Barthez, who moved into motorsport as both a driver and team boss after an 87-cap career for Les Bleus which included the 1998 World Cup win. BBC TV Top Gear presenter and seasoned racer Chris Harris is piloting a McLaren 650S, but the Angus hotshot is hopeful he can carry good pre-season pace onto the high speed asphalt of Monza. “We know from testing we have a good car, a good team, three good drivers, and good pace. But as always, we won’t know exactly where we stand until the first qualifying session at the weekend,” said Mitchell, who last season partnered Olympic cycling legend Chris Hoy to a podium finish in an LMP3 Cup race at Donington Park. “That said, we know we’ll be competitive and I can’t wait to get into the Lamborghini to finally go racing again.” “I’ve got to thank all the sponsors, including Black Bull, which have continued to support my career, And this year I’m delighted to add two Dundee-based companies — InverTay Homes and Provisio Funding, plus Montrose-based Celurca Investments, to my portfolio of partners. “Having such a strong core of local companies is hugely important to me,” he said.

UK & World

This student took his Tinder profile to the next level by turning it into a PowerPoint presentation

February 21 2018

Standing out from the crowd on Tinder can be tough, but with the help of Microsoft PowerPoint a British student has managed just that – and gone viral in the process.Sam Dixey, a 21-year-old studying at Leeds University, made a six-part slideshow entitled “Why you should swipe right” – using pictures and bullet points to shrewdly persuade potential dates to match with him on the dating app. The slideshow includes discussion of his social life and likes, such as “petting doggos” and “laser tag”, and “other notable qualities and skills” – such as being “not the worst at sex” and “generous when drunk”.It even has reviews mocked up from sources such as “Donald Trump”, “Leonardo Di Capri Sun” and “The Times Guide to Pancakes 2011”.Sam told the Press Association the six-slide presentation only took about 20 minutes to make and “started off as a joke”.However, since being posted to Twitter by fellow Tinder user Gracie Barrow, Sam’s slideshow has been shared tens of thousands of times across social media.So, it’s got the seal of approval form Gracie, but how has the slideshow fared on Tinder? “I’d have to say it has been pretty successful,” Sam said. “Definitely a clear correlation of matches and dates beforehand to afterwards.“Most of the responses tend to revolve around people saying ‘I couldn’t help swipe right 10/10’ but I’ve had some people go the extra mile and message me on Facebook.“Plus some people have recognised me outside, in the library and on dates.”A resounding success.


Race boss cleared of Knockhill sexual assault

September 7 2016

A motorcycle racing team boss was slammed by a sheriff for his “obnoxious” behaviour towards a teenage “brolly dolly” at a championship meeting at Knockhill. Shaun Rose was fined for making a crude comment about the girl’s appearance in a tight-fitting lycra suit. However, he was cleared of two charges of sexual assault on females at the same race meet. The behaviour of 49-year-old Rose, owner of the Doncaster-based Moto-Breakers Racing Team, was branded “particularly offensive and arrogant”. Grid girls or “brolly dollies” are a colourful part of big race days, promoting teams or products. The incident took place when the British Superbikes Championships visited the Fife track on July 5 2015. Pleas acceptable to the Crown were submitted on the second day of Rose’s trial at Dunfermline Sheriff Court. Rose, of Sandford Road, Doncaster, admitted that at Knockhill Racing Circuit, he behaved in a threatening or abusive manner likely to cause fear or alarm by uttering an inappropriate remark to a female. His plea of not guilty was accepted to a charge of sexually assaulting a woman by attempting to kiss her on the lips, striking her buttocks with his hand and repeatedly seizing her by the buttock. A plea of not guilty was also accepted to a charge of sexually assaulting the girl by seizing her by the buttock. Depute fiscal Dev Kapadia said, “The inappropriate remark made to the complainer is in the context of how the brolly girls were supposed to look in their tight-fitting lyra jump-suits. “He was asking her to sort out her jump suit. The Crown accepts there was no sexual element to it.” Susan Duff, QC for the defence, said her client owns a motor cycle scrapyard selling spare parts. “The motor cycle team is a hobby and it’s one of his loves. Riders ask to be part of the team and pay for that through the sponsorship they raise,” she went on. “Anything that was said that day was not meant to cause offence.” However, Sheriff Charles Macnair told Rose, “It seems to me that you paid little regard to how young the complainer was and you behaved in a particularly offensive and arrogant way.” He fined Rose £200 and also ordered him to pay £200 compensation to the girl.

Other sports

Perth motorcyclist gets backing for 2016 season

November 27 2015

Perth’s rising motorcycle racing star Rory Skinner will return to the FIM (International Motorcycling Federation) Moto3 Junior World Championship in 2016 with continued backing from the Racing Steps Foundation. The 14 years-old Perth High School pupil will again ride with the RSF’s partner team KRP, run by former racer turned team boss Mark Keen. Skinner, who was too young to race in the first seven races of the 12-round 2015 championship, ended the season in 19th place in the standings after sealing a top-five finish in the finale at Valencia earlier this month. He also rounded off his rookie year in international competition with seventh place in Spain’s national RFME (Royal Spanish Motorcycling Federation) Moto 3 Championship. Skinner, who has also been invited back to compete in next year’s Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup, will race the 250cc KRP-engineered FTR-KTM bike in the 12-race Moto3 Junior World Championship. “Rory is thoroughly deserving of the RSF’s continued support,” said RSF motorcycle racing co-ordinator Peter Ball. “Racing on the continent for the first time is a really tough undertaking for British riders. So for Rory to acclimatise so well to the fast, wide and flowing circuits in Spain in such a short space of time, and to give as good as he got racing against much older and more experienced riders was no mean achievement. “On the basis of what he’s achieved this year both his and the RSF’s expectations are high heading into 2016.” The rider’s campaign kicks off on April 17 at Valencia. His Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup season gets underway at Jerez at the end of March.