Jan 8, 2008 | NZPC

2001 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VII

There is something different about driving a brand new car: an unfamiliar smoothness and an extra tautness that cannot be attributed to one thing in particular. However, not many of us are ever lucky enough to splash out and purchase straight from the dealer. I guess if it was your cup of tea, small cars such as a Daihatsu Micra may be affordable at around $20,000, but even if you could, would you really want to buy one?

I know which way my vote would go if given the choice between a similarly priced older performance vehicle, such as the tried and tested Evo III, over the lowly Micra. Hell, give me a crusty old $5k Civic and another $2k to spend on it and I’d be happier than my Micra-driving counterpart. If you were in a position to purchase a brand new high-performance vehicle, however, such as an Evo VII or VIII, the tables rapidly turn. To some people, the Evo III feels faster. Chances are, it’s just the harshness of power delivery, the same way an Evo III feels quicker through the bends due to its handling characteristics or the louder volume of the intake and exhaust.

Three years ago, well known Auckland-based drag racer, Reece McGregor, was fortunate enough to be looking for a brand-spanking-new toy to replace his R33 Skyline GT-R road car. To most, the obvious choice would have been a newer R34 GT-R, which is fair enough; the R34s are a great looking car with stacks of power and superb handling, not to mention street cred. The downside comes when you want to take two or more people with you, unless of course all your friends are midgets, and I don’t mean those oiled up little porn midgets either. The other thing with the GT-R is that since Reece’s R33 ran 10-second quarter miles, another GT-R just wouldn’t stack up — except of course, his dedicated drag car that currently runs eight-second passes.

So, with high power from the factory and a four-door shell a must, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VII was Reece’s preferred option and needless to say, a deal was done that saw a brand new silver version in his possession. At that stage Reece was happy with the 205kW on offer from the 2000cc 4G63, so he set about making the car look more appealing. First on the hit list were the stock 17-inch wheels that didn’t fill the car’s large wheel arches to quite the right standard. In their place now sit a set of 19×8-inch Advanti Stilettos in hyper silver and coated in ultra-sticky Dunlop FM901s. The wheels themselves are not overstated, but suit the colour and shape of the vehicle better than any other wheel could. As the Evo series were mostly designed to become rally cars, the ride height also left a little to be desired, especially when combined with the now larger wheels. So to bring things back to an acceptable level, a set of Cusco coil-overs were added, and to stiffen things up, Cusco strut braces were fitted on both ends.

At this stage, Reece had become used to the power — or in his view, lack of. To cure this was never going to be a hard task, however, with well-known performance mechanic and automotive genius Arnie Nguyen working for Reece’s drag racing team. As Arnie and Reece both knew, reliability was essential and the decision was made to build a solid bottom end for the vehicle before any form of power increase took place. To do this JE pistons are now connected to Eagle rods, which are in turn attached to the standard Lancer crank via ARP main bolts.

While in bits, the bearings were replaced to ensure this motor would last no matter what was dealt to it. Now sandwiched between the forged bottom end and the head is an HKS head gasket, held in place by ARP head studs. As the Evo is easily capable of producing more than its rated 205kW, the head was deemed good enough to be kept stock, including the camshafts. As with any motor, the way to gain power is through forcing more air and fuel into the combustion chambers, so it should be no surprise that’s exactly what Arnie and Reece chose to do.

Starting with an A’PEXi air filter, oxygen is inhaled via a custom intake through to a Garrett GT3540 ball bearing turbo mounted to one of Arnie’s custom built manifolds.
Mounted to the top of the manifold, but branching out over the opposite side from the turbo is a Tial 38mm wastegate that vents its fury straight to the atmosphere below. Attached to the exhaust side of the turbo is an off-the-shelf 80mm stainless steel A’PEXi exhaust, which is surprisingly quiet considering it contains only the single muffler.

Before the charged air can fight its way into the standard intake manifold, it is given somewhat of a chill by the giant-sized A’PEXi front-mount intercooler, that is the only giveaway that things are not stock below the hood. A lot of the smoothness of newer vehicles can be attributed to the superior tuning of the car’s ECU, as this is where most advances have been made. With that said, the standard ECU would not be overly happy trying to run with this car’s modifications, despite the fuel system remaining standard. To avoid losing all the hard work done by the computer geeks at Mitsi, and to retain full use of creature comforts such as air conditioning, a piggyback computer was given the call-up.

The A’PEXi Power FC chosen managed to not only retain the driveability of the vehicle, but to also provide good air and fuel ratios throughout the entire rev range. Keeping boost levels in check is a Trust Profec B boost controller, which for drag duties has seen boost as high as 24psi. That’s right; Reece’s nice drive car has been run on C16 and given a good thrash down the strip. Sure it my not be as quick as his other toy, but that one is off getting sorted to run seven-second passes. With the car in full street trim, including Alpine MP3 headunit, Alpine amplifier and Infiniti components, Reece has managed a best of 11.41@124mph, which is not bad considering the car’s 1400kg bulk.

PC 101 - Waiting For 7s - EVO VII 09
Of course, with Reece’s quick reaction times and hard launches, the standard clutch wouldn’t have lasted a single pass, so before the car was dyno’ed-up, the gearbox was fitted with a Cusco twin plate clutch. Aiding the lightning fast gear shits is an aftermarket short shift kit that is so short-throw in fact, that during the photo shoot, I thought it wasn’t in gear. When out on the road, the white-faced 300kph speedo effortlessly flies to the higher end of the scale with the smoothness of a factory vehicle, but is far more fun and almost defies the car’s 542hp.

The combination of the Cusco suspension, low profile tyres and the super supportive Recaro seats would usually lead to a harsh and uncomfortable ride, but again, the car is surprisingly supple and a pleasure to be in. It almost makes me wonder what the Daihatsu Micra would be like to drive rather than my Lancer, but then again 11-second quarter miles will always be more fun than 11-second 0-100s, no matter how harsh they are.

Unfortunately, it seems Reece doesn’t agree with me, as by the time you read this, the car will be in the hands of its new owner. As to what Reece is getting next, as the plate says, you will just have to wait and see. Lets just say, it’s got more cylinders and more power and, you guessed it, it’s another brand-spanker. Waiting for seven-second passes must be tough!

SPEC

2001 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VII

ENGINE: 4G63 2.0L turbo, JE pistons, Eagle rods, HKS head gasket, ARP head studs, ARP main bolts, A’PEXi air filter, Garrett GT3540 ball bearing, custom exhaust manifold, Tial 38mm wastegate, Apexi intercooler, Apexi 80mm stainless steel exhaust, A’PEXi Power FC computer, Trust Profec-B boost controller,

DRIVELINE: Stock 5-speed gearbox, Cusco twin plate clutch, short shifter

SUSPENSION/BRAKES: Cusco adjustable rebound/bump shocks, Cusco springs, Cusco strut braces. Brakes: Factory four-wheel disc, ABS, EBD

WHEELS AND TYRES: 19×8-inch Advanti Stiletto with 245/35R19 Dunlop LM701

EXTERIOR: Factory Evo VII

INTERIOR: Factory Recaro seats, Momo steering wheel, Ralliart 300km/h cluster

ICE: Alpine MP3 player, Alpine Amp, Infiniti components

PERFORMANCE: 542hp@ the flywheel @24psi boost, 11.41@124mph

DRIVER PROFILE

REECE MCGREGOR

AGE: 29

OCCUPATION: Heat treater

PREVIOUSLY OWNED CARS: Various GT-R Skylines, RX-7, company hacks

DREAM CAR: Still looking

WHY THE EVO?: I wanted something with 4 doors for a change

BUILD TIME: 3 years

LENGTH OF OWNERSHIP: 3 years

REECE THANKS: Arnie, Ronnie @ RSL, Chee @ Dynamic Automotive, Gizzmo Electronics

Jan 7, 2008 | NZPC

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Women hoping to attract male attention should get behind the wheel of a four-wheel drive rally weapon such as the Mitsubishi Evo or Impreza WRX, and be able to drive it well, according to a survey from evecars.com.

The women’s car website polled a cross-section of men to discover which cars they’d be most impressed to see a woman driving. The winner was the Mercedes-Benz SL Roadster, a classic model built from 1955 to 1963, but as they (as well as the second place car, a Porsche 911) are ludicrously expensive, the Evo and Impreza in 3th and 5th place respectively are more realistic. The survey doesn’t say what happens if the woman driving the car isn’t a looker.

Although most of the favourites are performance cars, including the Porsche 911, Mitsubishi Evo and Subaru Impreza – the Queen’s favourite vehicle the Land Rover Defender also scored highly in the top ten.

‘The men we polled love the idea of a woman at the wheel of a high performance car, but only if she knows how to handle it,’ says Alex Jenner-Fust. ‘That’s why the idea of a Land Rover Defender driven by the Queen is far more appealing than a modern Mercedes convertible being driven, or crashed, by the likes of Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears.’

Martin Schlaeppi who races in the Radical Enduro series, voted for the Evo. 'It’s a car for people who love driving and it takes effort and concentration to drive well,’ he said. ‘Evo drivers know about their cars and that’s why it’s sexy to see a woman behind the wheel.’

Evecars.com also asked women from the motoring industry which cars they felt most fabulous driving. Two-seater convertibles scored strongly, from the luxurious Jaguar XKR to the stripped out Caterham, as did performance cars like the Porsche 911 and Mitsubishi Evo.

Top 10 cars to turn men’s heads

  1. Mercedes SL Roadster
  2. Porsche 911
  3. Mitsubishi Evo
  4. Land Rover Defender
  5. Subaru Impreza
  6. Rolls-Royce Phantom
  7. Range Rover Sport
  8. Fiat 500
  9. VW Golf R32
  10. Caterham
Jan 6, 2008 | NZPC

Mazda 626 - Pink With Envy 2

Stop a minute; take a step back and look at the motor vehicle in its simplest form. Isn’t it intriguing why the car evokes such strong passions around the world? At the end of the day, the car is no more than a means of transport, yet some people spend more time with their vehicle than they do with other people — cars are their passion, their life. Then you have the other end of the scale — those with no interest in cars whatsoever. Believe it or not there are people out there who have never owned a car and never will. They don’t have a licence and are content to simply put their feet to the pavement or cycle from A to B.

While those are two extremes, there are many shades of opinion in and debate between. Like, just what is a chick’s car? Is it something used for transporting young poultry? Is it something that packs a sad once a month? Maybe, but if you’re using the stereotype as the yardstick, a chick’s car is small, slow, kinda pretty and definitely automatic.

Tash Walsh’s Mazda 626 is by all means a chick’s car, but if that’s the case, explain to me why it’s not all that small, is definitely not slow, and — OK, it’s kinda pretty. But hell, this is one chick’s car that could deal out a hiding to many so-called blokes cars — rest assured of that!

The reason for this would have something to do with the fact that this 1983 Mazda 626 has undergone a transformation from dodgy nana-spec eyesore to tear-arse road weapon.

Tash, the car’s owner, wanted her ride to be something a bit different, so rather than head off down the 'drop a rotor in it’ road, she thought she’d consider a few other options.

Around the same time as she and Luke Langridge (the guy behind the bulk of the build) were all geared to rip into the project, drifting was just starting to emerge on the New Zealand import scene. Luke noticed a lot of the drift beasts sported Nissan’s two-litre turbo charged powerhouse, the SR20DET. They went bloody well too, so Luke thought: 'Why don’t we drop one of those into Tash’s car?’

An SR20DET in an ’83 626? It would be a bit strange and definitely a bit different, but shit it would be fun! so they went for it.
Obviously, this meant quite a few things had to happen. For starters, they had to get their hands on said Nissan mill, fiddle with the old Maz a bit so the new engine fitted, while ensuring the rest of the package could handle the extra ponies on board.

To get things rolling an SR20DET that once called a S13 Silvia home was sourced complete with matching five-speed gearbox. This two-litre turbo donk was left pretty much standard as far as the internals were concerned — the inner workings of the block and cylinder head were left as per the Nissan factory specs.

In saying that, the engine has received a full on freshen up. Before being slotted into the 626, it was subjected to a complete rebuild.

With that sorted and with some new engine mounts in place, the new turbo power plant was attached to its new home and the next stage of the process began — getting it running, and running strong.

First up, this meant the obligatory intake and exhaust systems needed to be bought up to scratch. So starting up the front, custom stainless intake piping was made. Once this was polished to a high sheen a stainless mesh filter was whacked on the end and hey presto, the heavy-breathing donk was now freed to suck to its heart’s content.

At the same time as the intake piping was made, Tash figured it wouldn’t be a stupid idea to get the intercooler piping sorted as well. Made from the same polished stainless material, the intercooler piping looks slick indeed and helps deliver a clean flow of chilled air from the custom front-mounted intercooler to the waiting plenum. On the exhaust side of things a decent-sized example was deemed necessary to quickly rid the engine of unwanted by-products. So to widen the escape path, Tash had a custom system fabricated that runs three-inches off the turbo through to a primary muffler and then into a polished stainless muffler on the rear.

Since the SR20DET transplant would give the sedate 626 a huge horsepower injection, Tash decided there was no need to slot an upgraded turbo into the mix. Instead, the standard T28 puffer was capable of pumping through all the boost she needed and, thanks to the full strip down and rebuild it received, she knew it would be a sturdy and reliable bit of gear. Tash did, however, choose to fit the obligatory blow-off valve, in this case a Blaster from the Racepro stable.

Unless you’re one of the people I mentioned earlier who doesn’t have any interest in cars, you’ll know that in order for an engine to go, you need to feed it with fuel. And when you’re talking about a performance engine, it’s basically a given that you’ll need to feed it quite a lot. The SR20DET is no slouch and Luke made sure it was well juiced at all times. In addition to fitting a Fuel Flo lift pump inside the tank he also fitted a 1.5-litre surge tank and Bosch motorsport fuel pump, all of which does a beaut job of delivering the good stuff to the standard injectors.

In order to keep the 626’s lively new heart cool under pressure, an A31 Cefiro radiator with twin electric fans was nestled up front, while a quick look around the tidy engine bay reveals a stainless radiator catch can and some very cool polished custom alloy plate work. The mighty Mazda’s drive train hasn’t been overlooked either with a good mix of beefed-up gear ensuring the old hauler can lay the power to the ground in fine form.

Further up the power chain things have been helped out by an upgraded pressure plate and organic friction plate, while a bit further down the line a custom drive shaft feeds the fury to a Mazdaspeed 4.1:1 LSD. A solid engine, good fuel system, sturdy drive train! the Maz should go well right? Well not without a decent ECU it won’t! That’s why Tash opted for one of the best: a Link Plus direct from the wizards at Link Electrosystems, and with it wired in, the 626 was sounding sweeter than a sugar coated Sunday school teacher.

Transplanting a modern fire-breathing engine into an older car is good in theory, but imagine trying to negotiate windy roads at speed and stop the thing with bog-standard suspension and brakes! Thankfully, that’s not a predicament Tash has to contend with — evening out the bumps, lowering the ride height and knocking the saggy handling on the head are Series 3 RX-7 struts and Lovell springs in the front, KYB shocks and Lovell springs on the rear. A custom sway bar was also made for the front to accommodate the SR20DET engine.

As for brakes, well, the factory ’83 items were about as practical as a condom dispenser in a lesbian bar, so they were promptly replaced with Series 3 RX-7 callipers and rotors on the front and a Mazda Cosmo braking package on the rear. Not too far away from these you’ll find a rather tasty set of rims: 17×7-inch Simmons to be precise. Although a popular choice among the rotary fraternity, these wheels definitely do not look out of place on the 626 and actually work bloody well with the car’s boxy shape and stunning Debeer Lil effect paint job.

The standard interior of the 626 was enough to make you want to run home and hide under your bed. It was an absolute eyesore and that’s exactly why Tash didn’t waste a minute injecting a bit of class into it. First up, the front seats were binned in favour of a set from a Mitsi GSR and following that, a Mazdaspeed steering wheel found a home on the steering column.

But that wasn’t enough to turn this ugly duckling into a swan: it took a re-trimmed carpet, door guards, roof lining and sun visors to make that happen. And of course, no modified ride is complete without gauges, so the 626 now sports an Autometer boost gauge and Splitfire water and oil temp gauges — all of which are mounted on a custom alloy panel. Last but not least are the tunes, which are supplied via a Sony head unit and Xplod 6x9s.

So there you have it, one of the toughest Mazda 626s you’re ever likely to come across. It goes hard, it looks mean and it’s been built damn well. But best of all is that a woman owns it. Kind of blows that whole 'chick’s car’ theory to shreds doesn’t it!

SPEC

ENGINE: SR20DET, standard rebuilt internals, standard rebuilt head, custom stainless intake and intercooler piping, stainless mesh/paper filter and custom front-mount intercooler, Racepro Blaster blow-off valve, standard rebuilt T28 turbo, Fuel Flo lift pump into polished 1.5-litre surge tank with Bosch motorsport fuel pump, 3-inch exhaust off turbo to primary muffler and polished can, A31 Cefiro radiator with twin electric fans, Link Plus ECU, Razo turbo timer, Link tuning module, polished custom alloy pipe work, stainless radiator catch can

GEARBOX: S13 Silvia five-speed gearbox, upgraded pressure plate with organic friction plate, Mazdaspeed 4.1:1 LSD, standard axles, custom driveshaft

SUSPENSION: S3 RX-7 front struts, KYB rear shocks, custom mounts, Lovells springs front and rear, custom front sway bar to accommodate engine

BRAKES: Front: S3 RX-7 callipers and rotors, Rear: 12A turbo Cosmo

WHEELS AND TYRES: 18×7-inch Enkei RP05 alloys, Nankang 225/35R18 tyres

EXTERIOR: Custom flared guards, de-locked doors, Debeer Lil effect paint

INTERIOR: Mitsubishi GSR front seats, Mazdaspeed steering wheel, Autometer boost, Splitfire water temp and oil pressure gauges, chrome pods mounted on custom panel, re-trimmed carpet, door guards, roof lining and sun visors

ICE: Sony CDX-M85DMP head unit with Xplod 6x9s with custom alloy plate stereo surround

DRIVER PROFILE

Name: Natasha Walsh

AGE: 22

Occupation: Vodafone Rep — outboundorist

Previously owned cars: Mazda 626

Dream car: “I own it — a Mazda RX-3 awaiting the same treatment.”

Why this car? To be different

Build time: Still going

Length of ownership: 2 years

Thanks: Adam @ Quick Kraft Boats for all the alloy work, Jason @ 1st Ave Panel and Paint, Bay Metal Finishers, and a huge thanks to Luke Langridge who dedicated 12 months of his life to the build!

Jan 4, 2008 | NZPC

Toyota Prius - Factory Fast

The Toyota Motor Company, like many manufactures, has played around with hybrid and alternative fuel technologies for a fair while now. But in 1997, it all came to fruition for Toyota when it launched its first generation Prius. This wasn’t only a first for Toyota; it was also the world’s first mass-produced hybrid passenger vehicle.

With a few more years’ development under its belt, Toyota’s 2004 Prius now features the Hybrid Synergy Drive (HSD) system. This setup delivers more power and greater performance than the original THS system, thanks mostly to the increased duration of electric-mode driving and the peak power being electrically delivered.

In numbers, the HSD-equipped Prius offers a 50 per cent more powerful 50-kilowatt drive-motor, now operating at up to 500 volts. The Prius looks weird. While it looks like some sort of people mover, it’s actually just a five-door hatchback with a very spacious and space age interior. Clear tails sharpen up the rear end, and given a decent set of wheels with lower suspension, I’m sure it would actually look quite the machine.

But we’re not here to talk about what the Prius looks like; we’re here to see what makes it tick.

Pop the bonnet and you’ll find not one, but two seemingly separate power plants. The one on the left is a conventional 1500cc DOHC 16-valve four-cylinder engine, complete with Toyota’s Variable Valve Timing-intelligent (VVT-i). This puppy outputs 57kW/5000rpm and pushes 115Nm/4000rpm.

On the right side is the car’s other motivator, a Permanent Magnet Synchronous motor that musters 50kW/1200-1500rpm and an impressive 400Nm/0-1200rpm when hit with the aforementioned 500V from a mid-mounted Nickel Metal-Hydride (Ni-MH) battery.

Press the button marked START and, well nothing. The Prius runs silently (and we mean silently!) on its electric motor alone the petrol engine still hasn’t engaged. It’s the same when the car comes to a complete halt, say at the traffic lights; the petrol engine simply shuts off and waits for your next move.

The transmission is CVT auto, meaning it really only has one gear (with a constantly changing ratio and it’s super smooth to drive.

From standstill to midrange speeds, extra power is supplied from the battery, while the engine and high-output motor provide smooth response for good acceleration. In a constant, low RPM driving condition, or when coasting, the system automatically stops the petrol engine and the vehicle runs on the electric motor alone, reducing the petrol energy that would normally be wasted.

Under heavier driving conditions, energy that would normally be wasted as heat during deceleration and braking is recovered as electrical energy and stored in the battery to power the electric motor.

Finally, under de-acceleration and braking, the system maximises overall efficiency by using the electric motor to run the vehicle’s engine in low efficiency conditions, and generates electricity in conditions where the engine’s efficiency is increased.

If you’re left a little baffled by all that, you can be forgiven. What seems at first to be an extremely confusing arrangement, is actually not that hard to grasp once you’ve sat behind the wheel. A few trips in the car, and a few glances over at the dashboard integrated LCD display reveals a lot about the car’s operations. This is damn cool!

Driving the Prius for the first time was a bit of a daunting task. There’s a set procedure to start and drive the car, and that doesn’t include turning a key, standing on the gas and sidestepping the clutch. What baffled me after a couple of minutes was a loud beeping sound, that had me wondering whether or not I had really taken in all that the Toyota man had been telling me minutes ago.

After a couple of re-starts, a bit of head scratching and almost calling the Toyota man, I moved my camera off the passengers seat and the beeping stopped. The cause, as I soon worked out, was an extremely sensitive system that sounds an alarm when the front seat passenger is not buckled up — and apparently a 1.5kg camera was weighty enough to trip the system.

This could become quite frustrating I’m guessing, but I just opted for a little safety and buckled the camera in. Problem solved.

As I mentioned, the car is so silent at start-up and when stopped in traffic (about 95% of the time in Auckland) it borders on eerie. As there’s no rev counter, there’s not much in the way of confirmation that the car is even running, and I have to admit I reached for the start button a couple of times thinking I had stalled.

While all of us here at the office were a little sceptical about how the Prius would perform, by the end of our week’s drive I can confirm we were pretty impressed.

Toyota looks set to expand the use of HSD technology later this year with the launch of the Lexus RX 400h SUV. The RX 400h will be based on the current Lexus RX 330 luxury SUV, but will come with a HSD powertrain delivering a peak output of approximately 270hp, almost 20 per cent more wick over their non-hybrid counterpart — pretty promising stuff.

With bigger power outputs, lower running costs and friendly to the environment, will hybrid technology like this pave the way for tomorrow’s performance cars? Without a doubt! Now where’s that HKS T51R battery upgrade kit!

Is this it? Are we getting a sneak preview at the future of high performance motoring?

SPEC

Toyota Prius

Engine: Petrol – Toyota 1NZ-FXE, 1500cc DOHC 16v with VVTi. Electric -Permanent Magnet Synchronous, Nickel-Metal-Hydride (Ni-MH) battery.

Drivetrain: Electronic continuously variable transmission (ECVT), front wheel drive with shift-by-sift wire gear lever, tranction control system.

Suspension: Front – MacPherson strut, L-shaped lower arms, stabiliser bar, Rear – Torsion beam, stabiliser bar.

Brakes: Ventilated front disc, solid rear disc, electronically controlled brake system (ECB) with regenerative brake control, anti -Lock braking system (ABS), electronic brake force distribution (EBD), brake assist (BA).

Wheels/Tyres: 15-6inch Toyota alloys with 195/60R15 tyres.

Performance: Petrol engine – 57kW/5000rpm, 115Nm/4000rpm; Electric engine – 50kW/1200-1500rpm, 400Nm/0-1200rpm, 0-100kph – 10.9 seconds approx.

Jan 4, 2008 | NZPC

Honda Modulo Civic Type R front corner

The hardcore Civic Type R has been made harder by Modulo. 19-inch Modulo wheels wrapped in 225/35R19 tyres, revised suspension, new front and rear bumpers, side skirts and wing complete the aggressive new exterior look (along with some dodgy-looking chequered stickers like the Renaultsport F1 Team R26).

On the inside Modulo has replaced some of Honda’s panels with carbon fibre and has bolted in custom Recaro seats. To top it off, an F1-inspired steering wheel with integrated shift lights sits in front of a futuristic digital dashboard.

Jan 4, 2008 | NZPC

1

Race organisers for the Lisbon-Dakar rally have decided to run all stages despite terrorist activity (possibly by Al Qaeda) in Mauritania. Two weeks ago terrorists shot and killed four French tourists and four Mauritanian soldiers, south of the usual hotspots of Morocco and Algeria. Last year two stages were canceled over security fears regarding Algerian rebels when France’s security services said participants risked being kidnapped or ambushed by Algerian rebels when passing through Mali.

Perhaps participants should have entered armoured vehicles, and who knows how many will now be carrying weapons for self-defence. The race begins tomorrow (5 January) departing Lisbon, Portugal and ends in Dakar, Senegal on 20 January after 9000km of grueling motoring.

Jan 3, 2008 | NZPC

Spadaconcept Stilo helmet

This aggressive-looking concept helmet, the ST4, was designed for Stilo. Predominantly carbon fibre composites and manufactured in an autoclave, it is extremely light compared to conventional helmets, which means less neck fatigue in long races.

Lateral intakes are designed to accommodate a drinking straw system and radio connection. The helmet doesn’t appear to have any significant aerodynamic aids to prevent lift in open-topped cars, so expect some modifications or add-on accessories before production (if it ever goes into production).

Jan 3, 2008 | NZPC

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If 3.3 seconds to 100kph isn’t fast enough for you, Mine’s will save the day with its aftermarket mods for the new GT-R. The fact Mine’s got the parts out just weeks after the official launch indicates either a large team worked seven days a week, 24 hours a day, or that they had a test mule quite some time before the GT-R was released to the public.

The modifications include a Mine’s Silence VX Pro Titan II exhaust with Super Catalyser II, a 400mm 24-slot front brake rotor kit, a 400mm 16-slot rear brake rotor kit, a suspension kit, VX-ROM tuned ECU, and the VX air filter. Given Mine’s history with fettling other Japanese rockets, a Mine’s GT-R will be nigh on unbeatable around a track.