Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Man and Machine Come Together to Push the Boundaries of Performance

Castrol EDGE has premiered its latest Titanium Trial driving challenge, featuring Formula Drift professional Matt Powers driving his Roush Stage 3 Mustang whilst wearing a state-of-the-art Oculus Rift Development Kit 2 headset: blind to the real world around him, but fully-immersed in a rapidly changing 3D virtual world.

In a world first, Castrol EDGE fused video games technology and a real world driving experience, using a modified car and virtual reality technology, so a computer-generated world responded to the driver's and car's movements in real time.

The video game-like experience featured a mind-blowing landscape of falling boulders, crumbling track, tunnels, sheer cliff drops and even a cameo virtual appearance from another racing icon - with the landscape's shifts reacting to Matt Powers' every driving manoeuvre.

The challenge was part of Castrol EDGE's Titanium Trials, a series of high-powered driving challenges that bring man and machine together to push the boundaries of performance enabled by the strength of Castrol EDGE boosted with Titanium FST(TM) - Castrol's most technologically advanced and strongest oil to date.

Similar to Titanium Strong Blackout (the first Titanium Trial), the course was designed to push Powers and his Mustang to achieve maximum performance. Overcoming this challenge was made possible thanks to Castrol EDGE, enabling Powers to step up, push it and be Titanium Strong.

Castrol EDGE and creative technologists, Adam Amaral and Glenn Snyder, developed the all-new technology behind the trial. By extracting the data from the car's internal diagnostics (OBD2 data) and exterior positional tracking systems (GPS and inertial measurement), the team were able to sync the data with Power's Oculus Rift DK2 helmet, making a previously sit-down, stationary experience, now a mobile experience in a moving vehicle. For the first time ever, the team turned a real car into a giant game controller, allowing Powers to experience the virtual world through his helmet as he drove the course.

Everything from the steering angle and wheel spin, to the dynamic damping and throttle position was tracked, allowing Castrol EDGE to simulate the vehicle with near perfect accuracy in the virtual world. With the Oculus Rift DK2 updating 75 times a second, new technology was needed to match or exceed that rate, to give Powers a seamless driving experience. It's this expertise and granular attention to detail that helped bring the trial to life.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

40 Years of ‘Rolling Sculptures’ Celebrated

The renowned BMW Art Car Collection celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. The celebrations got under way with exhibitions in Hong Kong, the Centre Pompidou, the BMW Museum and the Concorso d'Eleganza on Lake Como, where the first four BMW Art Cars by Alexander Calder, Frank Stella, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, plus the M3 GT2 created by Jeff Koons, were on display from May 22 to 24. Further presentations are set to follow later in 2015 in New York, Miami and Shanghai.

In 1975, French racing driver and art enthusiast Hervé Poulain asked artist and friend Alexander Calder to design his race car. With Jochen Neerpasch, then BMW Motorsport Director, also involved in the project, the first BMW Art Car was born - and it became an instant crowd's favourite.

The following 17 artists have created a BMW Art Car:
  • Alexander Calder (1975)
  • Frank Stella (1976)
  • Roy Lichtenstein (1977)
  • Andy Warhol (1979)
  • Ernst Fuchs (1982)
  • Robert Rauschenberg (1986)
  • Michael Jagamara Nelson (1989)
  • Ken Done (1989)
  • Matazo Kayama (1990)
  • César Manrique (1990)
  • A. R. Penck (1991)
  • Esther Mahlangu (1991)
  • Sandro Chia (1992)
  • David Hockney (1995)
  • Jenny Holzer (1999)
  • Ólafur Elíasson (2007)
  • Jeff Koons (2010)

Monday, May 25, 2015

Change Is Not in the Air, It’s Here, on the Showroom Floor and on the Track

John Crennan.
The exit of Ford, Holden and Toyota from local manufacturing means a major shift for our car industry as well as some serious implications at the elite end of Australian Motor Sport, V8 Supercars. 

The long-standing Holden and Ford on-track battles will disappear with the loss of Australian built cars, cemented by Ford’s recent announcement that they will exit the sport at the end of 2015.

Given the massive decline in market relevance of these two previously iconic brands in the Australian automotive landscape, many questions are emerging about the ripple effect their absence will have, particularly by passionate V8 supercar fans.

It seems unbelievable that 30 years ago Holden and Ford commanded a combined 42% market penetration verses the latest VFACTS data showing they now have just 14.8%. Or put another way, back then, for every 100 vehicles purchased, 42 carried a Holden or Ford badge. Today it's 15 in every 100.

Now compare this Holden and Ford 15% market share to some stats at our V8 Series motor sport showroom. 

The Holden and Ford brands, which entertain the Australian Motor Sport fans and see 200,000 people fill every seat at the season-opening Adelaide races, make up 70% of the cars that race.

In our market, there is obviously some misalignment between the fan base of car brands on track and car brand demand in Dealer’s showrooms. Any good judge or demographic expert would suggest the next 5-10 years will see the current structure unsustainable should this lack of alignment continue.

Obviously, Australia's Motor Sport authorities need a new plan that bears greater relevance to the future and current new car buyer sentiments so that a new breed of fans can be attracted to the sport. Pleasingly, this is what is happening and despite criticism from die hard traditional fans, the new Channel 10/Foxtel broadcasting is where the emerging fan base will start the important transition process.

Another key recognition that our sport needed reshaping (to align it with showroom preference) was with the announcement in 2011 of V8s ‘Car of the Future’ (COTF).

This would attempt to reset the clock from a 100% Ford/Holden Motor Sport Series and encourage more manufacturers to join.

This COTF spec car was professionally and comprehensively devised by Mark Skaife which ultimately saw the Holden and Ford 100% share of the grid move to 70% as it is today.

It was only partially successful in terms of attracting new brands to the sport as Holden continue to dominate the field with 13 of the 26 cars on the grid then Ford (five), Nissan (four), Volvo (two) and Mercedes-Benz (two). 

In my estimation, come 2017, with the next generation of race cars in our elite series, we must see at least six car brands, other than Holden, backing the sport in its new guise.

As stated in a previous article, surely it is more relevant and appropriate for car companies operating in Australia to back the sport of their Industry with sponsorship dollars from their marketing budgets to create customers and brand loyalty, before supporting football or other sporting codes?

Today, AFL football has 14 car companies tipping huge dollars; 14 of the 18 AFL clubs are sponsored by the automotive sector.  

In my estimation, automotive companies contribute approximately $30 million PA+ into our football codes. Comparing this to the estimated $9- $10m the four car brands in V8 Supercars (Holden, Ford, Nissan and Volvo) contribute to our racing industry, poses an interesting question as to why Ford would have chosen supporting Geelong Football Club in preference to “Australian Motorsport”.

Surely our car companies should strategically invest sponsorship dollars into creating employment for talented automotive engineers, technicians and apprentices in the car racing industry in preference to bolstering the bloated salaries of many professional footballers. To Holden's credit they allocate funding from their marketing budget to sponsor both motor sport and the football codes

The table below illustrates the dramatic changes in buyer preference and the reason why our sport must get at least six all new car brands on the grid in 2017.



In 1984 the top five manufacturers accounted for 82% of the Australian car market. Today, the same five represent 46% share with Toyota holding its ground and Mazda increasing over that 30 year journey. If Toyota and Mazda could do it why couldn't Holden and Ford?
It’s too late to turn the clock back, but it is very interesting to note that based on last years’ vehicle market of 1,113,000 units, had the car brands above held their market share of 30 years ago, here’s how current results would be different.

·         Holden in 2014 would have sold an additional 104,000 vehicles last year
·         Ford would have sold an additional 181,000 units
·         Nissan an additional 45,000 cars
·         Mitsubishi an additional 45,000 cars
Given the complete reshaping of preferred car brands today, we must ask ‘what is the new V8 Series plan for 2017?’

Our governing body states the following:
·         The next race cars will be referred to as Gen2 Supercars
·         They will have increased relevance to manufacturers, race fans and sponsors 
·         The new engine and body configurations models will compete alongside the current V8 models
·         The front located engine remains as does rear wheel drive and four seat configuration
·         This means current cars could be joined on the grid with 4 or 6 cylinder turbo engines and two door race cars
·         The cars must be available for sale in Australian showrooms and in right hand drive
·         Today's parity control for engine output and aero character will carry over 

They also state that the new cars must continue to be loud and high powered to retain the traditional sporty character the fan base has become accustomed to, regardless of the engine type. The exact definition of all technical details will be the subject of two working groups this year - one concentrating on engine and one on aero.

Whilst I applaud the governing body for addressing the need to get our race cars more showroom-relevant, I hope that V8 Supercars CEO James Warburton’s announcement of ‘two working groups’ to determine 2017 race car specifications is adequate.

I referenced earlier the great job Mark Skaife did with the first big change in 20 years. With COTF, Mark worked virtually full time on this for 18 months independently, but with all the right touch points and collaborative disciples and approval gates clearly established to ensure the job got done on time and on budget.

The timing of the governing body’s plan couldn’t be better.

But hopefully the detail necessary to execute the plan is free from the politics and conflicts of interest that often haunt our sport.   

John Crennan is the Automotive Dealer magazine’s Motorsport Contributor. On track with ‘Crenno’ is just one of the many inspiring and informative articles you’ll find at