July 2007 Newsletter

Welcome to the summer update. This is, more or less, a quarterly

Many people don't realize that fuel economy, as well as reduced
vehicle wear and tear relative to speed, are major concerns in car
racing. Some of the advanced technology in today's road cars comes
from the intense environment of competition at the highest levels. The
same can be said, to some extent, of safety features. If you are
hoping to survive a car crash, there is no better place to be than
firmly belted in the cockpit of a modern Formula One car.

No street vehicle on the planet comes even close to offering the same
level of driver protection, yet Grand Prix cars weigh about a third as
much as an average family sedan. There is a lot to be learned here.
Tight belts, worn properly, are a major aid to safety. Lightweight
vehicles can offer a high degree of occupant protection. Highly
skilled drivers on the racetrack will usually get better fuel economy
for a given speed than their rivals. The same is true for commuters.
Smooth, aware drivers save money at the pumps, and likely on their
insurance bill as well.


A company in France, MDI, has come up with what appears to be a
workable vehicle, the Mini C.A.T., which runs on compressed air. After
many years of research, the company is ready to partner with an
India-based outfit, with production in mind.

What a fantastic concept. I’m sure there are safety issues, but this
is just one of the developments that may allow for personal mobility
in the future. Think about it. You are on a road trip, well away from
any settlement, when your air-powered vehicle wheezes to a halt. You
hook up the solar powered compressor, and hope for good weather.
Alternatively, you spend a couple of hours taking turns at the hand
pump. Sooner or later, the journey continues.

What about the entrepreneurs who might build windmill-powered air
stations? One big storage tank, with perhaps a generator for emergency
back-up. As Bob Dylan wrote, on a different subject, "the answer my
friend, is blowin' in the wind..."



Today’s CNN Hero is Savannah Walters (July 24, 2007). See 
This is taken straight from the website. There is a donation link on
the home page.

"In second grade we studied the Arctic and its animals. I wanted to
protect that environment and then learned we could also save people
money and cut down on air pollution too!"   -Savannah Walters
Pump 'Em Up! is a fuel conservation call to all over the world to
spread the word to drivers that the power to conserve fuel is in their
own tires! Pump 'Em Up! was born in 2001 when nine-year- old Savannah
Walters, concerned by proposals to drill for oil in the Arctic,
learned that the U.S. could save as much oil as would be produced by
the new drilling if drivers simply pumped up their car tires to proper
inflation levels. In 1995 the U.S. Energy Department said that
under-inflated tires waste an estimated 4 million gallons of gas daily
in America.


This is becoming increasingly popular, the art of wringing that last
bit of distance from every drop of fuel. It doesn't necessarily mean
going slowly, either; the emphasis is on efficiency. This means the
vehicle must be properly tuned, and free of unnecessary weight or
aerodynamic drag. Tires will be on the higher end of the recommended
pressure scale, which, incidentally, improves handling in both wet and
dry weather, as well as reducing the chance of catastrophic tire
failure. The driver will try to be as smooth as possible, looking well
ahead and planning each move.

All of this is good driving advice regardless of economy concerns. The
hard-core hypermilers go beyond this, and some of the behaviour, such
as drafting semi trucks on the highway, is downright dangerous.
However, little things count for a lot. On my Volvo AWD Turbo wagon,
the roof-mounted bike rack is a serious mileage drain. I drive more
slowly when we are carrying the bikes, but economy still suffers. For
longer trips, we may switch to a trailer hitch mounted carrier, or
perhaps a lightweight aerodynamic utility trailer, if we can find a
good one at a decent price. Either that, or knock another ten
kilometres per hour off our travelling speed, which isn't that big a

The ski box doesn't affect fuel use to the same extent. However, I use
it sometimes to carry cones, flags, and hoses for the advanced driving
school. This raises the vehicle's centre of gravity, which hurts
handling and increases suspension wear. The answer is, if there is
junk in or on your car that you don't need, get rid of it. Your wallet
will appreciate the difference.


This is from Twists and Turns, my weekly newspaper column. I wrote the
piece a couple of years ago.

Blind Trust and Loose Luggage

In major bookstores, there is generally a pop psychology section. Many
of the titles seem to follow a set formula. You could create your own
with this simple template: men, women, cats, bowling teams (select
one) who love, trust, need, obsess (again, select one) too much. Our
theme here, using this pattern, is People Who Trust Fasteners Too

We recently bought a nice, expensive two-bike carrier to fit on the
Superwagon’s official Volvo roof rack. For those who care about these
things, we picked a fork-mount version to make for a slightly lower
centre of gravity and reduced aerodynamic drag. It still cuts into
fuel economy, and the bikes collect their share of bugs, but it’s
better than wedging the cycles into the back and fitting road trip
luggage around them.

It is worth repeating something I’ve mentioned often in this column, a
lesson learned from years of racetrack work and development testing.
No matter how carefully something is designed, chances are, sooner or
later, it will fail. The fastening system on the roof rack involves a
stout skewer holding the front bicycle forks in place, along with a
reasonably robust plastic clip that latches on to the rear wheel. This
is fine as long as the rig is not subjected to undue stress, such as
an emergency swerve, hard stop, or even a stretch of twisty, bumpy
road. My racer’s eye and reasonably logical brain took a look at all
this and said, “Not good enough.” That is, too big a gamble, too many
chances for something to go wrong, and far too much faith in plastics.

Here is what I ended up doing, and once the process was worked out, it
took all of five minutes to set up. First, an extra strap holding each
rear wheel to the rack. Then, a heavier tie-down connecting the roof
rails around each bike frame, and drawn taut with a simple come-along.
Rope would have done just as well. Finally, bungee cords holding the
pedals in position, reducing the chance that they could start spinning
from air flow, throw the chain off, and create a rooftop mess. All of
this worked flawlessly on the drive from Whistler to Prince George,
one hundred kilometres of which is the beautiful and winding Duffy
Lake Road across the coastal mountains.

Obsession being what it is, I started paying a lot more attention to
how other people had secured their bicycles on the roofs or backs of
vehicles. Out of the hundreds of examples observed, perhaps three had
even one single extra tie-down. Some of the bicycles were swaying
alarmingly over bumps. Think of bending a wire coat hanger. There are
only so many fatigue cycles before it breaks. This is the equivalent
of having no safety chain, or an inadequate one, on a trailer. If a
bike breaks free and flies into a farmer’s field, killing his prize
cow, it is a fair bet the person who fastened the thing to the car or
truck could be considered liable. Also, minus one bicycle.

Professional risk takers, whether whitewater kayakers, mountain
climbers, or racing drivers, are inherently cautious people. That is
why we have the term “calculated risk.” Amateurs tend towards going
with the feeling of the moment, and generally don’t prepare very well.
These are the folks we rescue in the mountains because they thought
the day would stay sunny, the trail would be well posted, and running
shoes should be adequate for a light hike. They are also the ones most
likely to have stuff, whether bikes, canoes, or souvenir lobster pots,
inadvertently fly off of roof racks.

Let’s bring a more positive meaning to the phrase “Tie one on.”


Ford appears set to flog both Jaguar and Land Rover, which are steady
money-losers, but for now, is hanging on to Volvo. Ford actually
turned a small profit this past quarter, but expects to lose money
again in the near future, while re-structuring continues.

Volvo has maintained a lot of independence, and many of Ford's new
products share a lot of Volvo technology. The Swedish company is,
according to StrategicVision, the most trusted car maker in the world,
way ahead of second place Toyota. Now if Volvo could match the
near-faultless build quality of a Lexus, that lead might even grow.

If Ford sells, interested companies include Volvo's Truck Division,
which is doing very well, or perhaps BMW.

Sidorov Advanced Driver Training:  Update and Driving Tip


A racing driver or fighter pilot needs to be totally familiar with the
cockpit environment. The same is true for road drivers. Practice this
while stationary. Without looking down, identify the location and
operation of every important control. Time spent fumbling around is a
dangerous distraction.

One more part of being a complete and skilled driver.

Our teenage and new driver clinics are up and running. For more
information, please check our website.

On behalf of the team, have a safe and enjoyable summer.