Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Race Driver 101: Driving the TRS-Ford Focus PTCC Race Car

Photos by Ulysses Ang

It’s not everyday you get the opportunity to jump from a virtual race car to a real one without the hard work and perseverance. Ask any racing driver and he or she can tell you that those years of training pays off at 0.1 of a second at a time. So what happens when you place me—a totally “green” racer but hardcore Playstation driving champion behind the wheel of a Philippine Touring Car-spec Tuason Racing-Ford Focus race car? Not the utter disaster that you’d expect, but not the fairy tale ending either. Let’s just say, I won’t be climbing aboard a race car any time soon.

UPDATED: Subaru Unveils Production BRZ Sports Coupe

Photos courtesy of Subaru Press
UPDATED: We just had to share these additional photos with you including shots of the BRZ's interior as well as its engine.

Toyota's UK office has already unveiled the GT86 a couple of days back, and now, it's Subaru's turn. The BRZ Sports Coupe has been officially unveiled courtesy of these two shots. Of course, more shots will be available when it blows the covers at the Tokyo Motor Show.

Taming Your Inner Monster

Photo courtesy of stock.xchng
Is there a monster in your car? Look carefully in the rearview mirror, because the monster might just be you. Normally, you maybe the most attentive and courteous motorist out there, but sometimes you can become a nasty and dangerous speedster. Even the best of us, myself included, fall prey to aggressive driving behavior. It’s a steadily growing problem with the increasing car sales and the shrinking road infrastructure. However, it’s also a problem that’s easily rectifiable.

What is Aggressive Driving?

The US-based National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines aggressive driving as “when individuals commit a combination of moving traffic offenses as to endanger other persons or property.” Likewise, it’s an on-road behavior that’s largely motivated by impatience, annoyance and hostility towards other drivers. In the Philippines, this feeling is usually evoked in an attempt to save time.

Aggressive driving is different from road rage, which is the actual perpetration of violence on a person or property because of a driving incident. They are, however, closely related. Aggressive driving, if left unchecked, can lead quite easily to road rage.

In our roads, aggressive driving is quite prevalent. The most common occurrence is the refusal to let another driver change into one’s lane, even if the other driver signals and enters properly. This has led some drivers to forego signaling altogether, in the expectation that signaling will only make other drivers react aggressively.

Even worse behavior that’s almost considered normal include: blocking the intersection even if the way forward is already clogged and driving into oncoming traffic just to get ahead of the crowd. If you want proof that it happens almost any day are uniquely Philippine road signs proclaiming: COUNTERFLOW NOT ALLOWED.

Why Does Aggressive Driving Take Place?

Human beings tend to be territorial creatures, and thus consider not just the vehicle but the road as part of their personal domain. Thus, there’s an instinctive aggressive reaction when we feel threatened by other vehicles.

Another factor is the relative anonymity afforded by being in a closed metal capsule and tinted windows. After all, you’ll probably never encounter this particular motorist again, so we don’t other being courteous to him. Man’s competitive instinct can lead a driver to respond by being overtaken or cut off by another vehicle as a challenge, and thus an impromptu drag race starts off.

Driving may also lead some to feel a sense of power which they may not have with their jobs or families. In some cases, it may even manifest itself as a “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” effect, where someone normally polite and courteous becomes a maniac when put behind the wheel.

Another serious problem is drivers who try to punish others for a particular driving behavior which displeases them. This “vigilante” behavior includes driving too closely to the vehicle in front (tailgating), braking suddenly as a warning to the vehicle behind (brake testing), deliberately blocking the passing lane, using headlights on full beam to punish other drivers, and shouting or making obscene gestures to other drivers.

All these behaviors are exacerbated by the stress and time pressures of modern life. On top of that, the ever congested roads also lead to feelings of frustration and are responsible for cases of aggressive driving and the lack of respect for other drivers. It must also be remembered that aggressive driving is a learned behavior, so children can learn this irresponsible behavior from parents who drive aggressively or from the media which portrays aggressive driving in a “fun” context such as car chases in films and video games.

The Four Realities of the Road

Motorists who might respond to provocation from an aggressive driver should think about the four realities of the threat:
  • Men, women and children are seriously injured or killed each year as a result of senseless traffic disputes and altercations.
  • There are mentally and emotionally disturbed individuals on the road. Charged with anger, fear and/or personal frustration, and often impaired by alcohol or drugs, these motorists have murdered or maimed other drivers form seemingly trivial reasons. Explanations such as “He stole my parking space,” “She kept on honking her horn”, “He gave me ‘the finger’,” abound in police blotters. 
  • Many motorists are armed with knives, clubs and other weapons. Some also carry guns. More importantly, every driver is armed with a weapon more deadly than any firearm: a motor vehicle. 
  • Anyone can become an aggressive driver. Aggressive driving behavior affects old and young, males or females, rich or poor. Do not underestimate the potential for violence in any driver.

Proper Driving Begins With You

Any driver should keep their cool in traffic, to be patient and courteous to other motorists and to correct unsafe driving habits that are likely to endanger, infuriate or antagonize other people. Be aware of the behaviors that have resulted commonly in violence:
  • Lane blocking. Don’t block the passing lane. Stay out of the far left lane and yield to the right for any vehicle that wants to overtake you. If someone demands to pass, allow them to do so.
  • Tailgating. Maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you. Using a still point of reference such as a lamp post, count “one thousand one, one thousand two”. That’s the amount of space you should have between your hood and his bumper. As you go faster, increase the count to four or even five.
  • Signal use. Don’t switch lanes without first signaling your intention, and make sure you don’t cut someone off when you move over. After you’ve made the maneuver, remember to turn your signal off.
  • Gestures. You are playing Russian roulette if you raise a middle finder to another driver. Obscene gestures can get you killed.
  • Horn use. Use your horn sparingly. If you must get someone’s attention in a non-emergency situation, tap your horn lightly. Think twice before using your horn to say “hello” to a passing pedestrian or car; the driver in front of you may think you’re honking at him.
  • Failure to turn. In most areas, right-hand turns are allowed even at a red light. Avoid the right-hand lane if you’re not turning right as not to block the flow of traffic.
  • Parking. Don’t take more than one parking space and do not park in a handicapped or reserved  parking space if you’re not entitled to do so. Don’t allow your door to strike an adjacent parked vehicle. When parallel parking, do not tap the other vehicles with your own. Always look before backing up.
  • Headlight use. Keep headlights on low beam, except where unlighted conditions require the use of high beams. Dim your lights for oncoming traffic; don’t retaliate to oncoming high beams with your own in order to “teach them a lesson”. Don’t approach a vehicle from the rear with high beams and remember to dim your lights as soon as a passing vehicle is alongside.
  • Merging. Always look before merging onto any road. Don’t immediately swerve three lanes to  the left or the right; always merge to the lane nearest you. On highways, merge on the rightmost lane and if traffic permits, move out of the right-hand lane to allow other vehicles to enter from the on-ramps.
  • Blocking traffic. If you are pulling a trailer or driving a cumbersome vehicle that impedes traffic behind you, pull over when you have the opportunity so that motorists behind you can pass. Also, do not block the road while talking to a pedestrian on the sidewalk.
  • Mobile phone use. Don’t let cellular phones become a distraction—keep your eyes and attention on the road. Mobile phones are a godsend in keeping up with friends or work, but are bad for driving safety. The amount of distraction contributed by mobile phone use is similar to that of driving under the influence of alcohol.
  • Displays. Refrain from showing any type of bumper sticker or slogan that could be offensive; this might include personalized “2 FAST 4 U” license plates.
  • Eye Contact. If a hostile motorist tries to pick a fight, do not make eye contact. This can be seen as a challenging gesture and incite the other driver to violence. Instead, get out of the way but do not acknowledge the other driver. If a motorist pursues you, don’t go home. Instead go to a crowded area like a convenience store or maybe a police station where you can get help and there will be witnesses.
Reduce Your Own Stress

Traffic stress—indeed, anger in general—is hazardous to your health. The stress from road congestion is a major contributing factor to violent traffic disputes. Making a few simple changes in the way you approach driving can significantly reduce your stress level in the car.

Consider altering your schedule to avoid the worst congestion. Allow plenty of time so that you don’t have to speed, beat traffic lights, or counter flow. Think—is it really the end of the world if you’re a bit late? Could you plan your day so you could leave a little earlier?

Improve the comfort of your vehicle. Put the air conditioner in full blow, install a nice sound system to enjoy uninterrupted music or get a pillow or seat cover to make your seat more comfortable. Listen to classical or jazz music, this reduces your anxiety.

While in traffic, concentrate on being relaxed. Don’t clench your teeth. Loosen your grip on the wheel, take a deep breath, and do limited exercises and stretches for your arms and legs. Don’t drive when you are angry, upset, or overtired. Most importantly, understand that you can’t control the traffic but you can control your reaction to it.

Adjust Your Attitude 

Give the other driver the benefit of the doubt. Assume that other drivers’ mistakes aren’t intentional and aren’t personal. Be polite and courteous, even if the other driver isn’t; it’s better to err on the side of caution.

Before reacting to another driver’s mistake, ask yourself, “How many times have I made the same mistake?” Before initiating or responding violently to a traffic situation, ask yourself, “Is it worth being paralyzed or killed? Is it worth the time and money for a lawsuit? Is it worth a jail sentence?” Remember, split-second impulsive actions can ruin the rest of your life.

Encased in metal armor, many motorists who are normally passive become enraged road warriors when they get behind the wheel. Don’t become one of them. You should remember that (a) cars are not bulletproof; (b) another driver can follow you home; and (c) you’ve got to get out of the car some time.

Avoid all conflict if possible. If you are challenged, take a deep breath and get out of the way, even if you are right. You don’t want to be dead right. Instead, try being more forgiving and tolerant. Recognize the absurdity of traffic disputes and focus on what is really important in life. You cannot fight every battle. Save your energy—and your life—for something worthwhile.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Volvo S60 Wins Car of the Year in the Middle East

Photo courtesy of Volvo Press
Viking Cars, Incorporated, the official distributor of Volvo cars in the Philippines shared to us good news: its S60 sports sedan was recently crowned as the Car of the Year in the Middle East. The award was presented at the Middle East Motor Awards 2011 (MEMA).

Subaru Launches WRX STI S206

Photos courtesy of Subaru Press

There's no doubting that the days of the Subaru Impreza WRX STI are numbered (at least in its current form). So, it's just fitting that the folks over at Subaru Tecnica International give it a proper send-off with the S206 (well, at least in Japan). The S206 joins the long list of "S" series STI's.

Review: 2011 Volvo S60 T6


Volvo is typically compared to other upscale German makes; after all, they’re going for the same sort of buyer. For example, if BMW has their 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz their E-Class, Volvo has the S80. The same goes for the rest of Volvo’s line-up from Edward Cullen’s ride—the C30, all the way to the large, 7-seater XC90. However, the Volvo of late is shifting direction. Not anymore are they content with merely being a German alternative, they’re working to reaffirm the brand’s unique Swedish identity. Consider the move an upward shift in Volvo’s Maslow Hierarchy of Needs. There’s no need for the Swedish automaker to involve itself in a pissing match with the Germans; no, this time, they’re carving their own turf.

What to Look for in a Used Car: A 4 Step Guide

Photo courtesy of stock xchng
In tough times, there’s a huge temptation to compromise on your car purchase, and buying a used car is one place to save thousands, if not millions of pesos.  Sure, we’d all like to drive a brand-new Mercedes-Benz, but boy, that Corolla sure is tempting for just a hundred grand. After all, it’s just for getting back and forth to work—how could it go wrong? Generally, there’s nothing wrong with bargain hunting as long as you’re hunting the right game. And when it comes to used cars, there are some things that you should always check.

DTS Chips Now Available in Manila

Photo courtesy of DTS Philippines
Car enthusiasts, at one point in their lives have thought of putting more horses under the hood. Though the manufacturer-quoted horsepower is more than enough for some people, there are some who long for extra power and performance attainable only through expert tuning. Normally this is an easy feat, especially for gasoline-fed cars. Unfortunately, those with diesel-powered ones aren’t so lucky.

The road to diesel performance tuning is often a dead end. However, given the continuous rise in pump prices, diesel-powered cars and trucks will undoubtedly become a popular choice for both the masses and enthusiasts alike. And now, the question beckons: how do you get more horsepower for your diesel car? Thankfully, the answer now is quite simple: the new DTS diesel tuning chip.

A UK-based company, DTS has been in the manufacture of diesel tuning products since 1998. And because of their long history in the business, whatever tuning system you end up with, chances are, it was ultimately made or supplied by DTS.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Review: 2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI Sedan


Ken Block, you should have stuck with Subaru. You may have a nifty new ride, but is it in the form of a legend? If you decided to stick it out, this may have been your new ride: the Subaru Impreza WRX STI sedan. The name’s certainly a mouthful, but what’s 14 syllables between friends? Hopping into the WRX STI feels like meeting up with an ex-fling: she’s familiar, but there’s always something new about her. And you’ve got to admit, she’s packing some new curves this time too. You’re an unlucky guy, Ken.

Goodyear Launches New Eagle F1 Range

Photos by Ulysses Ang
Ever since we were young, the Goodyear Eagle F1 has always been synonymous with ultra-high performance vehicles, requiring the very pinnacle of tire technology. Cars such as the Chevrolet Corvette, Ford GT and even the McLaren F1 have all made the Eagle F1 as their O.E. or Original Equipment tire of choice. Drivers such as Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher have won championships on cars with nothing less than Goodyear Eagle F1 tires. It comes as no surprise that it’s won numerous awards across the globe including six in Asia during the past two years alone.

Toyota Reveals GT 86 Sports Car

Photos courtesy of Toyota Press
After countless teasers, concepts and production mules seen around the world (particularly near the Nürburgring), Toyota has finally taken the wraps off its much-waited FT-86. Though the reveal is supposed to be at the Tokyo Motor Show, Toyota's UK office has released the first official photos as well as some initial specifications.

It has also been revealed that the car will be dropping the "FT" moniker for something much simpler: "86". Yes, that's right--the car will be called the Toyota 86. However, for Europe, the two-seater will be called Toyota GT 86. Of course, depending on where you are, the 86 will be called by different names. In the US, it will be known as a Scion FR-S.

Welcome to carguide.ph

Photo courtesy of stock.xchng
It’s been 13 years since I’ve started clicking and typing about cars—in a self-made website back on the sem-break of my college freshman year. At the time, it was nothing but a hobby—a welcome distraction from what I consider as the most tedious course in the world: Legal Management. Dealing with the typical corporate stuff like accounting, finance, obligations and contracts; my mind numbed up at the fact that I couldn’t do anything artistic. Combined with my passion for motoring, putting up a motoring website was something I, along with my brother, wanted to do.

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