Ten things we learned this week: 9 December 2016 edition | Top Gear
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Ten things we learned this week: 9 December 2016 edition

Mad Lambos and an F1 match made in... well, not heaven, but somewhere entertaining

  1. Liberty Walk’s greatest hits are coming to Birmingham

    Japanese tuning house Liberty Walk, (in)famous for ‘creative reinterpretations’ of Italian exotica, is making its UK debut in January by bringing its two most recognisable creations to Birmingham. 

    Heavily modified versions of the Ferrari 458 and Lamborghini Aventador will grace Birmingham’s Performance Car Show (which must deserve an award for the most literal title ever), open to the public on January 14th and 15th.

    Those who disapprove of Liberty Walk’s creative… er, liberties with the Italian thoroughbreds can resettle their nerves with a magical history tour through 40 year’s worth of Williams F1, including the very car that took Nigel Mansell (and his moustache) to victory in 1992.

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  2. Taki Inoue threw his hat in the ring for Mercedes-AMG’s new F1 driver with an imposing resume

    Self-professed ‘Worst F1 driver ever’ Taki Inoue holds a special place in our hearts and in the hearts of Formula 1 fans. It’s hard to say he belongs in the pantheon of greats; his deeds, and greatness, rest in two less obvious, but equally hallowed halls: ‘All-time greatest F1 moments that had bugger all to do with racing’ and ‘Racing drivers that actually have a sense of humour’.

    Inoue’s debut in Japan in 1994 (at the time, the last race of the season) ended with a spin after just three laps. It was a fairly low bar to set for the following season, and one that Inoue (rather painfully) broke through in his first full season in 1995, thanks to two separate, and equally errant, official cars. 

    First, he was hit by a course car while being towed to the pits at Monaco, which would have killed him, if he hadn’t refastened his helmet moments earlier. Then, at the 1995 Hungary GP, Inoue extricated himself from his burning Arrows-Hart FA16, only to be run down by a Tatra 613 (perhaps its only claim to fame), live on Hungarian TV. 

    Inoue points to his intimidating record of zero pole positions, zero points and zero fastest laps, as well as his USP: he’s the only driver to be hit by two official cars. God bless you Mr Inoue, and your beautifully self-deprecating sense of humour. 

  3. Uber decided on a new business plan: chaperoning

    In news that’s either a wonderfully cheap laugh or a sad indictment of humanity, Uber has had to play headmistress and lay down some ground rules. Not just for its drivers (which some might say is akin to closing the barn door after the horse has bolted) but for its passengers – the whole depraved lot of them. 

    “As a reminder, Uber has a no sex rule,” says the ‘Uber Community Guidelines’ document. “And don’t touch or flirt with other people in the car.”

    “And is that gum you’re chewing, Mr Richardson? See me after class,” it absolutely doesn’t say. 

    Uber says it's okay to talk, but less so to comment on someone’s appearance, ask if they’re single, or insult them based on their race, religion, disability, gender and so on. Passengers are also to use the phone quietly, not swear like Gordon Ramsay with his face folds caught in a bear trap, clean up spilled drinks, take their rubbish with them and not slam the door on the way out, in what we would call the ‘In General, Don’t Be a Massive Gadget’ rule. And, although you’d think it could go without saying, Uber specifically asks its customers to “please leave your guns at home” and not use Uber to “commit a crime, including drug and human trafficking or the sexual exploitation of children.” Er, quite.

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  4. Aston said it’ll take the Vantage GT8 endurance racing… at Bathurst

    Bathurst is a peaceful town in south-east Australia, boasting a scenic vista, a respected university and many other things that no one really cares about. Luckily, in the late 1930s, a canny Mayor built a ‘public road’ on a hill next to the town, fully planning to use the exceptionally difficult and tortuous 3.8-mile circuit as a race track – and put his town on the map in the process. 

    Eighty-odd years on, Mount Panorama has been described as “a cross between the Nürburgring and Laguna Seca”, and is probably the finest racing circuit in the Southern Hemisphere. And, every February, an astonishing selection of production and purpose-built endurance cars descend on the circuit for the finest spectacle ‘The Mountain’ has ever offered (sorry, V8 Supercar fans) – the Bathurst 12 Hour.  

    Aston is no stranger to the circuit, with the V12 Vantage GT3 netting a podium finish in last year’s 12 Hour. Next year, however, endurance racers Darren Turner, Florian Kamelger and Markus Lungstrass will take the GT8, the “lightest and most powerful production V8 Vantage ever” to the track in the invitational class for production cars. We’re tipping a pretty decent result, especially after a pole position at the Nürburgring 24 Hour. 

  5. Architects released a plan to sort out London traffic… with conveyor belts

    London’s notorious traffic and pollution-laden air will be a thing of the past, if a group of turtlenecks have their way. 

    PLP Architecture has floated the idea of a so-called ‘CarTube’, which sounds like some kind of YouTube spinoff, but instead is a massive underground network of travelators wedged somewhere in between the tube tunnels, sewers, and whatever else is buried down there. The idea is that future drivers will be able to shoot down a slip road, join a conveyor belt, go for a merry ride underneath London and pop back up (give or take) where they need to be. Intelligent, autonomous cars would interact with the system to join the correct belts, so you could relax in the cabin with a croissant, endlessly refreshing your Instagram feed. Tasty. 

    If we were the sort to wear a watch the size of a tuna can and have the job title of ‘Head Disruptor’ on our business cards, we’d call the concept ‘blue sky thinking’ – PLP’s plan relies on fully autonomous, internet-enabled, emissions-free (read: electric) cars, joining vast underground conveyor belts to take us to our destination. Safely deposited, the car would then park itself in a stack, kind of like that bit in Minority Report. Yes, it’s all possible, even with today’s tech, but the idea of a treelined Westminster Bridge, free from traffic, does seem to forget about those who still like the idea of a mechanical car that uses fluids derived from prehistoric kelp and plesiosaurs. 

    At the moment, the idea feels a bit like a World’s Fair exhibit, with flying cars and robot nannies and such. That said, never say never…

  6. Ford’s new GT got a shakedown

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    In a short clip that’s equally short on context, a production (the key word here) Ford GT took to a large banked circuit, performing a fly-by while exploiting the full fury of its twin-turbo V6.

    According to the video's title, the “Production Ford GT Dominates the Track”. Considering it’s the only car in the clip (and presumably the only car on the track), it’s a very permissive definition of the word ‘dominate’. Perhaps it’s like those school athletics carnivals where every kid gets a medal.

    That said, it’s not like Ford’s newest GT is slow, with race cars already banking some pretty solid results in their debut year (*cough* Le Mans).

    And, with liberal lashings of carbon fibre, active aerodynamics and more than 600bhp on offer in road-going form, the new buyers (hand-picked by Ford, just like the previous GT, and including perennial Top Gear favourite Amy Macdonald) are unlikely to be disappointed.

  7. Danish architects built an all-weather dog kennel for humans and wedged it in a Land Rover

    Okay, it really doesn’t look like much from the outside. And, once you get inside, it’s… er, ‘cosy’. But the upshot is that this cabin, designed by Danish architects LUMO, fits inside the Land Rover Discovery Sport (presumably with the rear seats folded down), ready for avid adventurers to deploy at their leisure.

    And it only gets better from there. It’s actually as robust as a cockroach and can keep two occupants toasty warm in temperatures as low as -20°C, as tested in Land Rover’s gigantic car fridge.  

    Apparently, there’s a “growing trend” for people to leave their perfectly nice, centrally heated homes and skive off into the wilderness for some alone time. That said, there’s no word yet if the cabin’s going to join Land Rover’s official options list.

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  8. Nissan Juke now has Range Rover tech, which obviously calls for hooliganism

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    Ah, the not-so-humble J-turn. The staple of every decent car chase ever (Ronin, anyone?) it’s not exactly a doddle to get right. 

    Trying to nail it within narrow margins (as in only 18cm wider than the length of the car) is really the preserve of stunt drivers, but doing so while entirely blind is reserved for driving gods.  

    All right, so he wasn’t entirely blind. After wrapping himself in a race suit and the Juke’s windows in blackout vinyl, Nissan’s test driver used the 360-degree cameras (yep, like the Range Rover) to eke out an impressive J-turn. And, as all men know, that’s sure to make every woman in the general vicinity go absolutely gaga for the stud. 

    After Alfa’s blind lap at Silverstone, and Nissan’s blind J-turn, we feel it’s time to up the ante. So, who’s ready for a blind lap of the Nurburgring on a Triumph Thruxton?

  9. Lexus is now apparently in the music business

    Proving once and for all that it’s down with the yoof, Lexus has draped its otherwise fairly unremarkable IS with 41,999 programmable LEDs (yes, we find that number eerily specific, too) and dropped it in a new music video. 

    The thoroughly bedazzled ‘Lit IS’ takes centre stage in Dua Lipa’s newest track, “Be the One”, effecting a light show that’s half Blackpool, half aftermarket stereo system.

    Lexus says the display actually reacts to hand gestures and (presumably) the indie-synth-pop stylings of 21-year-old Lipa. Check it out in action and see if it’s naff or wicked. Do kids still say ‘wicked’?

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  10. Tesla got its own race series

    It's no secret that the Tesla Model S is a pretty brisk bit of kit. A tricked up production car smashed the Pikes Peak record for production EVs, and even a factory-fresh P100D can get from zero to 60mph in just 2.8 seconds.

    With supercar-baiting performance like that, it's no real surprise that the high-voltage hero is due to engage in proper wheel-to-wheel racing. Ten identically equipped Teslas will campaign in the Electric GT Championship in 2017, presumably in races quiet enough to hear verbal exchanges between the drivers. Which should be interesting.  

    Each of the race-prepped P85Ds will run on "seven classic European circuits, including Paul Ricard, Estoril and the Nurburgring", before heading over to "the Americas" for three non-points races. No word yet on how long each race will be, or just what modifications are needed to keep a Model S going at full tilt without spontaneously combusting like a Samsung battery.

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