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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...

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

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

Angus & The Mearns

Montrose murder trial: Victim’s blood found in ex-boyfriend’s flat

December 14 2016

Blood matching Montrose mum Kimberley MacKenzie's was found throughout her ex-boyfriend's flat, a jury has heard. Forensic biologist Jacqueline Sharp told Glasgow High Court a total of 45 blood spots were found at the Market Street property of murder accused Steven Jackson. Miss MacKenzie's blood was also found on one of his shoes. Ms Sharp said spots of blood were found on a sofa and armchair in the living room, as well as on a glass table and skirting board. More samples were taken from the hallway and bathroom. Asked by Advocate Depute Ashley Edwards if blood found at the bathroom door could have been caused by an injured person being carried into the room, Ms Sharp said: "Yes, that would be one explanation." Under cross examination by Donald Findlay QC, representing Jackson, she also accepted there could be "thousands" of reasons. Miss Sharp said that some of the blood found in the flat had been diluted or smeared as if the area had been washed or cleaned. Jackson, 40, and co-accused Michelle Higgins 29, deny murdering and dismembering Miss MacKenzie. They face further allegations that they disposed of Miss MacKenzie's body parts in bins and cleaned the flat and bath with bleach and caustic soda. The court has heard the 37-year-old died at the flat in October, last year. Forensic scientist Barry Mitchell said traces of DNA matching Jackson were found on the handle of the suitcase which held Miss MacKenzie's severed head and thighs. Traces of Miss MacKenzie's blood were also found on one of Jackson's shoes. Mr Mitchell said the chances of the blood being anyone else's were one in more than a billion. The court heard more of Miss MacKenzie's blood was found on Higgins' mobile phone, underneath its outer casing. DNA and blood matching Miss MacKenzie were also found on a claw hammer found in Jackson's living room. The jury was also told Jackson had texted Miss MacKenzie on October 17 — 10 days before she died. He wrote: "I'm with Mishy now and it would be easier if you stop coming. Please. I really want to make a go of it with her." Miss MacKenzie replied: "Yeah, no probs. I'm sorry I've made things difficult 4 u. What happens when you get gear again. Will still sell me? x" Dr Robert Cumming, who examined Higgins while she was in police custody, told the court she had the initials SJ "carved" on her leg. The trial before Lady Rae continues.

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.

News

Arbuthnott marks author connection

March 31 2010

The life and times of Lewis Grassic Gibbon, the celebrated pen-name of James Leslie Mitchell, were recalled when a plaque was unveiled at his childhood home in Arbuthnott. Bloomfield, now a modernised cottage high on the Reisk Road, north of Arbuthnott Church in the heart of the Mearns, was Mitchell's home during his formative years. Born in 1901, Mitchell's background and upbringing were steeped in the traditional crofting life of the north-east of Scotland and as an adult he looked back proudly on his roots. While his early years were spent at his birthplace, the Aberdeenshire croft of Hillhead of Seggat, the following nine years when he lived at Bloomfield were profoundly influential. Among those at the unveiling of the simple plaque were Mitchell's daughter Rhea Martin and her son Alasdair. The idea of the plaque came from William and Dorothy Clark, who bought Bloomfield two years ago.Little-known connectionMr Clark said, "When we came to Bloomfield I picked up a copy of an article which referred to the unknown connection between the house and Lewis Grassic Gibbon. "From time to time we had visitors stopping and asking if this was the house, so we decided to put up a plaque to recognise the fact that a great author had lived here as a boy. "It seemed odd that there was nothing here to mark the author's time in this house. After all, the Grassic Gibbon Centre is just down the road." Aberdeenshire Provost Bill Howatson, who attended the ceremony, said, "This is a fitting and dignified commemoration of the link between Bloomfield and one of Scotland's greatest writers who wrote so powerfully about the Mearns and its landscape and people." The annual supper of the Friends of the Grassic Gibbon Centre was held last week. Guest speaker was Dr David Northcroft from the Elphinstone Institute and musical entertainment was by Tich Frier.

Other sports

Track star Mitchell aiming to storm Europe in Blancpain GT3 step up to Lamborghini Huracan

January 23 2018

Teenage Courier Country racing sensation Sandy Mitchell is taking his talent to the continent in the quest for sportscar success in 2018. The Angus 17-year-old will be behind the wheel of a 190mph Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 for the new Silver Cup ‘junior pro’ class of the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup - a championship fought out on circuits including Silverstone and Monza and featuring July's blue riband Spa 24 Hours at the legendary Belgian track. The V10 Lamborghini will sport the livery of the Black Bull Scotch whisky brand, continuing a partnership forged between the north east firm and the young racer, as well as reigniting a relationship with Barwell after highly-successful Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 GT3 programmes in 2014/15. Mitchell is making the step up to the GT3 category following two polished seasons in a McLaren 570S GT4 in the British GT championship which reaped race wins, fastest laps and a reputation as one of the brightest young prospects on the grid. British junior karting champion in 2014, the British Racing Drivers’ Club Rising Star has penned his name in the motorsport history books on a number of occasions since a 2015 season in single-seaters and the move into sportscar racing. The former Dundee High School pupil, now undertaking a Motor Sports Association AASE sports science course at Loughborough College said:  “I am extremely excited to make the step up to the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup in the Black Bull Huracan GT3. “It will be a very competitive championship and I am looking forward to the challenge. “I’m new to the Lamborghini Huracan but with the experience of Barwell Motorsport and my team mates, I will learn quickly. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arrmoJDszgU “This is a fantastic opportunity and I’d like to thank Black Bull and all my sponsors for their continued support,” he added. The Black Bull-backed Lamborghini will start its testing programme in Portimao, Portugal early next month, before moving on to the official March Blancpain pre-season test at Paul Ricard in France, then both Monza and Silverstone. When the flag drops on the first round of Endurance Cup at Monza on April 22, the Angus racer will just have turned 18 and be one of the youngest drivers on the packed grid. Mitchell will be partnered in the GT3 version of the Italian supercar by 20-year-old Croatian Martin Kodric – who claimed a trio of Blancpain Pro-Am team victories last season – and fellow Lamborghini Squadra Corse junior driver, 23-year-old Italian Michele Beretta, 2017’s Italian GT Championship victor. Mitchell added: “As a trio, I have no doubt we will be very strong. I’m looking forward to my first test of the car with Martin and Michele, and it will be great to get detailed inside knowledge from the guys who have already won races in the Blancpain GT Series.” Euan Shand, chairman of Duncan Taylor Scotch Whisky and Black Bull, said: "We're delighted to be working again with Barwell Motorsport. “As our company sells whisky in more than 50 countries, we're looking forward to enhancing our global brand awareness that racing in the Blancpain GT Series will bring. “We have been big supporters of GT racing for several years now and have sponsored teams with Sandy Mitchell at the wheel since he was 15. “He is a hugely talented young driver and we’re delighted he is making his debut in GT3, along with the more experienced Michele Beretta and Martin Kodric. "We wish the team great success and look forward to the season ahead.”

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.

Politics

Alistair Carmichael ‘enormously’ regrets memo leak involvement

November 10 2015

Former Scottish secretary Alistair Carmichael has told a court he "enormously" regrets his involvement in the leaking of a confidential memo. The Liberal Democrat MP made the statement as he gave evidence for a second day at a special Election Court sitting in Edinburgh. During the hearing, he also admitted he tried to mislead a Cabinet Office probe into the leak. But the Orkney and Shetland MP denied lying about his role in the release of the document to protect his reputation. Four of Mr Carmichael's constituents are behind a court bid to oust him from his seat - brought under Section 106 of the Representation of the People Act 1983, which forbids people from making false statements about the character and conduct of an election candidate. It comes after he admitted responsibility for the leaked memo written by a civil servant, which incorrectly claimed First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the French ambassador that she would prefer to see David Cameron remain in Downing Street at May's general election. The MP initially denied having prior knowledge of the memo leak, but following a Cabinet Office inquiry he later admitted he had allowed his special adviser Euan Roddin to release details of the document, which appeared in the Daily Telegraph towards the start of the election campaign on April 3. Questioned by his own counsel Roddy Dunlop QC, Mr Carmichael, a married father-of-two, told the court it has been "a difficult few months" for him. "Do you regret getting involved in this in the first place?" asked the lawyer. "Enormously," Mr Carmichael replied. Earlier, the court heard Mr Carmichael's claim in an April Channel 4 interview that he had no prior knowledge of the leak was "false". Mr Carmichael told Jonathan Mitchell QC, acting for the four petitioners, that he had initially denied knowledge of the leak to protect Mr Roddin and the interests of his party. "We were still wanting to keep the focus on the story and not on the leak," he told the court. The MP agreed the focus would have moved to him if he had initially admitted knowledge of the memo leak. Mr Mitchell suggested that would have been "destructive" of his reputation, but Mr Carmichael insisted: "It was nothing about my reputation." The QC continued: "You're assuring the court this is nothing to do with protecting your reputation?" Mr Carmichael replied: "The question of my reputation was not the consideration that we had. This was about keeping the focus on the political story, the purpose of the leak in the first place." On Monday, Mr Carmichael told the court he was "less than fully truthful" with the Cabinet Office inquiry initially, which was launched shortly after the newspaper article was printed. Mr Mitchell today suggested the MP's approach to the probe was "calculated and intended to mislead". Mr Carmichael replied: "Yes, I would have to accept that."

Angus & The Mearns

BRDC Rising Star accolade for GT teenager Mitchell

August 26 2017

GT star Sandy Mitchell’s season has received a boost with selection to the British Racing Drivers’ Club Rising Star scheme. The Angus 17-year-old, currently racing for Black Bull Garage 59 in the British GT championship, has been honoured with a place on the prestigious scheme, which scouts the nations’ top talent from trackside as junior members of what is widely regarded as the most exclusive club in motor racing. The BRDC, which owns and operates Silverstone circuit, hopes its Rising Stars will eventually graduate to full membership, which is highly sought after and only given to the most successful racing drivers in Great Britain and the Commonwealth. Former F1 star Derek Warwick is the current president and the body’s list of members past and present reads like a who’s who of motorsport, featuring names including Sir Jackie Stewart, Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, Michael Schumacher, Dario Franchitti and triple BTCC champion Gordon Shedden. Teenager Mitchell, a British junior karting champion, said he was honoured by the selection, as he prepares for both the final round of the British GT championship and a one-off race as teammate to Olympic legend Sir Chris Hoy. The Letham Angus star was selected from a shortlist of ten of the UK’s best young racers to partner Hoy in the final round of the LMP3 Cup at Donington Park next month. https://twitter.com/SMitchellRacing/status/900393427824775170 He will swap his normal McLaren 570S GT4 for a United Autosports Ligier JS P3 prototype sportscar at the Leicestershire citrcuit. Dundee High youngster Mitchell will link up with 41-year-old Hoy in the immediate lead up to the race, but has already undertaken simulator work to get to grips with the characteristics of the carbon-bodied five-litre machine.

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