jaguar

Closed roads motor sport is a good thing for Britain

F1 cars have long been a big draw at the Ormskirk MotorFest

GIVE the Government credit where it’s due. It’s stuck to its promises and handed power back to Britain’s towns and cities – about 475bhp, by my reckoning.

That’s roughly how much the Cosworth V8 in a Saudia-Williams FW06 F1 car makes, as driven by Alan Jones and Clay Regazzoni in the late 1970s, when they’d have been able to use every last inch of its power on the world’s race circuits. But if you’d seen the same car doing its lap of honour at Ormskirk’s MotorFest event it would’ve been limited, for legal reasons, to the same 30mph your mum’s Fiesta does on the town’s one-way system.

Until now. After years of talking about it Whitehall’s finally gone ahead and lifted the ban on cars doing more than the speed limit at one-off events.

In recent years it has technically been possible to have Ferraris and Jaguars do high speed runs on closed-off British roads, but as it was very complicated and involved obtaining an Act of Parliament very few actually bothered. But as of last Monday it’s now much easier to stage races, sprints and various other forms of motorsport on public roads and in town centres – which I reckon is definitely a good thing.

Take the MotorFest. Every year it brings roughly 15,000 of you into the West Lancashire market town for a bit of high-octane fun, making it Ormskirk’s busiest trading day. It’s a great event, but imagine how much more compelling it’d be if you could watch F1 cars, Jaguar D-types and rally-prepped Subaru Imprezas being given the beans on the one-way system. Obviously these closed-off roads would be properly policed and ‘elf ‘n’ safety checked until the organiser’s desk creaks under the weight of paperwork, but the adrenalin rush of great cars being driven as their makers intended would boost all the businesses nearby.

In fact enterprising so-and-sos could use these new powers for all sorts of things. I’d love to see Lord Street in Southport turned into a sprint course for an afternoon – my bet’s that a Lamborghini Huracan would easily beat a Ferrari 488 in a dash from Duke Street to the fire station. Half Mile Island in Skelmersdale could easily host a round of the British Drift Championship. And what about the Parbold Hill Climb?

I’m sure that precisely none of these ideas will end up anywhere other than the bottom of a beer glass, but it’s nice to know we’re legally allowed to.

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A Triumph TR4 or a year of parking tickets? I know which I’d take

Being stretched for time is no excuse for poor parking

IT MIGHT not buy you a house any more but £24,500 still bags you a lot these days. A mid-range BMW 1-Series, for instance, or a Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport with most of the options chucked in.

Classic car nuts like me would probably end up with a Triumph TR4 or Jaguar Mk2 for that sort of money. Or you can follow Carly Mackie’s lead and blow the lot on roughly a year’s worth of parking for the car you already have. That’s something in the region of £65 a day for a car that’s not even moving.

The punishment administered a court up in Dundee this week is widely being described as Britain’s biggest ever parking penalty – but it does (in Scotland at least) scotch the myth that parking tickets issued by private companies on private land are legally unenforceable. All it’ll take is one court case of a similar nature either here in England or over in Wales to make the precedent Britain-wide, and I don’t think any of us want to test it out.

Yet I think this is no bad thing. Too many people on the internet have been perpetuating the idea you should refuse to pay these private penalties under any circumstances, but I’d much rather take the precedent of a court ruling over some self-appointed internet legal eagle and – while it’s unfortunate for Ms Mackie – this does at least clear things up. It also highlights how bad the situation in most town centres has ended up if people are prepared to run this parking gauntlet.

On a busy day Southport and Ormskirk are particularly tricky to find spaces in and I’ll inevitably end up circulating like an automotive vulture, waiting to swoop down the instant someone’s Fiesta backs out and frees up a space. Skelmersdale does rather better, with its swish multi-storey at the Concourse – but it’s a shame the spaces were designed for an age when everyone drove Austin 1100, not BMW X5s.

But there is a solution both to the parking precedent and to another news story that’s been doing the rounds this week. Apparently a third of us are so fat and lazy these days that we’re costing the NHS a billion quid a year, largely because we can no longer be bothered to stroll to the corner shop.

So let’s walk more. I’ve spent years parking on the fringes of Southport on my shopping trips, saving a couple of quid in parking and doubtless extending my life slightly at the same time. If you’re a mum with three prams to push around or someone with a wheelchair or crutches then go ahead and use the town centre, but for the sake of a few minutes I’d much rather enjoy some exercise. Bit rainy? Use an umbrella. Lots of shopping to carry? That’s what bags are for.

I know this new-fangled walking thing is going to take a while to catch on, but just think of all the money you’ll be saving. Enough to buy a Triumph TR4 within a year, if the latest precedent is anything to go by.

Don’t buy a new Focus – buy an S-Class instead!

you-can-have-all-this-for-less-than-the-price-of-a-new-ford-focus

I WAS wondering which Liverpool player was going to step out when the black S-Class pulled up alongside me. Or perhaps it was a leading light of the criminal word, dispatched to assassinate me for something unsavoury I’d written in The Champion years earlier.

But actually it was one of the freelance photographers I work with sometimes, and he was very pleased because this enormous luxury saloon with electric everything and an AMG sports pack really was his. Not only that, but it transpired the whole thing had set him back what an entry-level Ford Focus costs.

As cars go it really is phenomenal value. The equivalent diesel V6 model today will set you back the thick end of seventy grand, meaning this one has lost more than two thirds of its value in just eight years. It’s the sort of hefty depreciation that’ll make its original managing director owner wince, but look at it from a buyer’s perspective and it’s a no-brainer. For £16,000 you can’t buy the cheapest new car Mercedes-Benz makes, but you can buy a barely run-in S-Class with everything still working.

It’s not just misunderstood Mercedes models, either. For the same sort of money you can have a BMW 730D with a full service history and 39,000 miles on the clock – not bad, considering all it’ll get you new is a top of the range Polo. How about a Jaguar XJ with the 2.7-litre diesel V6? Again, could be yours for an Astra-sized outlay.

Yes, I know they’ll be more expensive to tax, insure and service than a family hatchback, but at least with them being the diesel versions you won’t be left weeping inconsolably every time you pull into a branch of Shell or BP. Nor are they the sort of automotive antiques I normally deal with – even at this sort of money they’re all fully working cars with plenty of life left in them, gadgets that sync up with your iPhone and seats that massage your buttocks on motorway slogs.

It’s worth bearing in mind next time you’re thinking of venturing out and buying a new car – for the same sort of money you can have a low mileage S-Class, a barely used BMW or a just run-in Jaguar. 

Suddenly the snob factor of having a 66-plate on your front bumper isn’t so impressive. Although you will get Champion journalists cowering everytime you drive past, thinking their number’s up.