Saturday, 20 April 2013

Farewell to The Pole Cat Blog

Due to things getting a bit more I-now-pay-my-rent-with-my-words serious, I'm having to streamline my responsibilities.

You can now find all motorsport and car-related blog posts at my shiny, new website - go on, take a's got a bit more about me, who pays me for my words and what projects I'm currently working on.

If you followed @pole_cat_blog on Twitter, that'll be winding down too, but don't worry, all car-related stuff will now be found on @catladydriver, which is the Twitter feed for my all new YouTube channel. It's gonna be great, so make sure you check it out.

For any random Cat-musings, you can always follow @catdow - but be warned I share music, politics, car stuff and random thoughts. 

Sunday, 7 April 2013

MotoGP: Testament to tussle triumph over team orders

Like the banter between skiers and snowboarders, the cheeky bickering between two wheels and four wheels is always good fun. Today’s 2013 inaugural MotoGP in Qatar, however, was unarguably a joy to behold for any motorsport fan.

Much to the delight of No. 46 fans, Valentino Rossi found his natural fluidity with the Yahama works bike and began a campaign for a podium position. Posting times faster than the race leader, Lorenzo, he eventually climbed from seventh place to finish second.

However, the drama came from the Hondas. Showcasing their infamous straight-line speed, Spaniard Dani Pedrosa and highly-regarded rookie, Marc Marquez, held second and third places solidly for the majority of the race. Marquez feeling the heat from Brit boy Cal Crutchlow and lapping four tenths faster than his team mate bravely challenged for the second spot.

Unlike the F1, where the argument over team orders has continued to frustrate both drivers and fans alike, Pedrosa and Marquez were given the freedom to take each other on – braking at speeds of 210mph. If that wasn’t dramatic enough, Rossi’s unprecedented ascent momentarily spooked Crutchlow, who couldn’t brake tight enough and ended up off the track. The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider recovered well to demonstrate the competitive edge he brings to the season.

Rossi then went on to do what Crutchlow had struggled with. Using his experienced racecraft, he slipped past Pedrosa and challenged Marquez. Unflinchingly, Marquez conceded only to challenge Rossi, his hero, a few corners later. He held position until the penultimate lap, when The Doctor squeezed by.

The true racing, unhampered by team agendas or dominated by the business of the sport, created an electric atmosphere. Post-chequered flag, there wasn’t a spectator in sight without a massive smile on their face. “Sensational!”Azi Farni, pit-lane reporter for the BBC MotoGP coverage, enthused as 20-year-old Marc Marquez sidled up to her mic, grinning like a Cheshire Cat.

The positivity exuded was a stark contrast to the podium of the Sepang F1, where Vettel obnoxiously defied team instructions to beat team mate, Mark Webber, to first position on the podium. Provoking a wave of “naughty step” jokes and fervent discussion on fan forums, F1 officials perhaps need to look to MotoGP to emulate the success of the sport, pushing the passion forward and the business back.

Monday, 25 February 2013

I call ‘Bullshit’ on Electric “fear”

Recently, the ex-CEO of Volvo, Stefan Jacoby, announced that electric cars had no future down to the overall “fear” of the car buying public.

Citing our needs to want a reliable, rechargeable car, he stated that our behaviour with mobile phones was a clear indication of this apparent fear.

Granted, we want to know our car will get from A to B, even if there is a bit more traffic than expected, but do we ‘fear’ not making it? No, in the same way we don’t ‘fear’ running out of petrol. We will be peeved. We will find it hugely inconvenient and we MIGHT even use a few more offensive swear words. In the same way we did all these things when Nokia’s charge pin shrunk and Apple’s Lightning charger cable replaced a perfectly usable one.  (Oh, hell was I peeved!)

But, like normal human beings, when we spot that we are running low, we will go to a station and fill up, or recharge in this case.

I’m not saying this is easy. In fact, I’ve just spent the last week, running around on the electric experience “from hell”…if I really wanted to sensationalise things. Was it really hell though? No. Sanity check: Palestine/Terminal Illness/Three-day hangover. No, it was definitely not hell.

A few things didn’t go my way. Living in an apartment with no exterior power point was my first mistake, but half of the reason for loaning the car, was actually to test this theory.

The electric car itself, a Smart Fortwo Electric Drive CoupĂ©, was loads of fun to drive. Hot off the lights, it whizzed around all my little localities, to-ing and fro-ing to friends’ houses, and less enjoyably to charging points. It was cool though.

My experience was hindered by a couple of things, namely my lack of due diligence and Mercedes’ failure to equip me with a charge card. This latter issue, however, was quickly resolved by the lovely people at Pod Point (Thanks, Hannah!).

Cruising around the streets of Soho looking for a point could have been avoided, if I’d pre-scoped the area. But I chose to wing it. Two visits to Peckham and an unsuccessful visit to E14 later, I simply giggled when I saw that the forecourt of Ancaster Nissan was closed on Sunday (bollards up), with a LEAF parked directly in my way anyhoo.

This experience wasn’t an infrastructure problem. Nor was it an electric car problem. It was just pure bad luck. Was I fearful?! NO! I did not fear that the big bad hairy battery juice guzzler was going to come and steal the remaining supply of my charge.

I did what any normal human being would do and returned the six-miles to the point I knew DID work and I left it there overnight.

In fact, it gave me the opportunity to do a bit of training that I’d missed out on all week.  That said, I appreciate 3.8 miles back home isn’t ideal, so I’m pleased to hear the government has announced measures to dole out £13.5m to customers buying electric, on top of their £5,000 tax relief, to help with the cost of fitting a charging station to their home, or in their street.

If having an electric car does nothing else, it certainly widens your social circle. And if you hear manufacturers talking “range anxiety”, don’t believe the hype.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Danica Proves Worthy In The Face Of Negativity

Danica Patrick has clinched the first female pole, after setting the fastest time at the Daytona International Speedway in Florida, ahead of this season’s inaugural NASCAR race.

After the revelation that she is dating track rival Ricky Stenhouse Jnr., she finished strongly in practice, almost a full second faster than the rest of the field. Topping speeds of 196mph, she clocked a lap time of 45.8 seconds to secure the historic pole.

The ex-Indycar500 driver will undoubtedly welcome the focus back to a more professional topic. While it shouldn’t really matter who she is dating, media scrutiny has led to questions on both her relationship and her perceived image as a female driver.

TheSlate’s Laura Helmuth scathingly described her ‘GoDaddy girl’ image as‘spectacularly offensive’ and suggested it was setting the women’s movement back, following the advert for the website-hosting company on Superbowl Sunday. Citing Janet Guthrie’s scientific background and subsequent commercial appearance in an engine oil advert, Helmuth’s unveiled disappointment was palpable.

Patrick’s involvement with the advert is fairly disappointing. As a motorsport-spectating female myself, it would be great to see more females out on track across any of the championships and using their profiles wisely, to encourage more girls into the industry.

However, in the same week that FOTA chairman Martin Whitmarsh commented on the financial instability of many F1 teams, it is clear that sponsorship matters. Bottom line: money talks.

With the benefit of doubt, Patrick probably wasn’t aware of the graphic nature of the final edit. Had the advert lacked the hideous stereotypes, gratuitious ‘kiss’ scene or had even an ounce of humour, Patrick’s ‘GoDaddy Girl’ status would have been untarnished. Though the execution of the advert may have failed, her performance on the track hasn’t. And that is far more important. 

Thursday, 24 January 2013

New Panamera Is Snow Beautiful

It's no secret that, since it's launch, I've never been a big fan of the Porsche Panamera. For me, it looks dated and the shape reminds me too much of a duck-billed platypus to take it seriously.

However, while perusing le t'interweb this morning, I came across spy shot of the new Panamera. In one of the shots, you're able to compare old design and the new, which is clearly moving away from the instantly-recognisable Porsche shape so well-suited to a two door sports car. Nice one, Porsche!

Monday, 21 January 2013

Drivers Beware As Big Freeze Increases Accidents Six-Fold

Annually, I look forward to the patronising driver safety tips broadcast on every news channel to equip us for the five flakes of UK snowfall predicted.

However, this year is slightly different. I’ve actually seen snow! Yes, real white stuff. In INCHES! Forgive me for sounding a little satirical – the journey to the office this morning wasn’t as easy…and on the basis of that, here’s some interesting information we thought I’d share.

The lovely people of have released information saying your summer tyres aren’t going to cope well in this weather. Hold off on the slow clap. They’re kindly offering to change them for you, which is dead nice of them. If, however, you don’t want to spank £200+ straight after Christmas, we suggest you drive really carefully. They aren’t BS-ing when they say driver accidents during the winter months are six times more likely. The increase in flu and cold symptoms, which driver concentration and alertness, is acknowledged to play a part. This coupled with the difficult road conditions mean more accidents, if you’re not the one with a car full of snot rags and Lemsip.

Statistically, over half of annual insurance claims are made during the same period. After the pre-Christmas hikes we’ve seen, following the introduction of non-gender based policies, considering winter tyres may save a few pennies in the long run.

On a similar note, GEM Motoring Assist has been requesting function over fashion on the footwear front. David Williams, CEO, said, “We know that fashion dictates which winter boots are popular this season. However, many don’t offer enough grip and could cause your foot to slip off or in between pedals when driving.”

As I moodily kick off my hot pink, gold-toed platforms, I have a few words of advice:

 - Keep a blanket in the car, you may need to conserve heat (or create it ;)) with someone else and as I mentioned, you need to make sure the windows are covered

- Don’t “pop out” without your wallet, fully-charged mobile and coat – your wallet has your roadside assistance card in it, which is rendered useless if your phone battery dies*

- A couple of bottles of water, two tins of Red Bull and bag of Haribo Starmix and Peanut M&Ms will ensure you’ll be alive and wired when they find you, should you get stranded. Particularly if you’ve only been gone an hour.*

- Check the car over after you’ve spent two minutes using your redundant Library card to give yourself some visibility – tyre pressure, radiator, water bottle, oil, petrol. You feel like more of a jackass having to call for help because there’s no fuel.*

*No, I don’t care what you think. I have TOTALLY not done this myself.**

**I may be entirely fibbing right now.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

BBC MotoGP Coverage Good, Though Still Room For Improvement

There's no denying that I am incredibly relieved with the replacement of Jennie Gow, last season's MotoGP presenter. It was always going to be difficult following the fabulous Suzi Perry (@suziperry), but Gow did little to demonstrate her knowledge of the sport (if there ever was any), and fly the flag for women in biking. Often blogging on her BBC real estate about non-related subjects (Canadian weddings) or how she'd spent time 'catching up on her knowledge' (youtube-ing previous races perhaps?!), she had me bored stiff and I did wonder what had possessed the BBC to hire her in the first place.

2011 saw the promotion of Matt Roberts (@mattrobertsbbc), and for this I was grateful. Easy on the eye, the Yorkshireman knows, or at least presents to know, about the sport, contributing intelligently to the wise commentary of Steve Parrish and fits naturally to the deck.

Furthermore, the new pitlane recruit, Azi Farni (@azifarni), brings a splash of respectable feminine touch, desperately needed and has both qualities my friend, Onions, considered Miss Gow to be lacking in,

"You either have to know shit loads about motorsport, or be dropdead gorgeous."

Waxing lyrical over, I was left slightly disappointed today though, when searching through the race reports to glean various pieces of information I'd missed during the race, I'd discovered the Reuters release had been 'borrowed' for about four different sites, all on links from the BBC's race report, also a copy.

I know this kind of reporting, particularly for the weekend, isn't uncommon, but Beeb, if you're really struggling, I'll swap my yearly licence fee for a bespoke report each weekend, if needs be!