TOPS NEWS January 2015

The Hans device is now compulsory for the drivers of single-seater racing cars manufactured after 1st January 2000 and is recommended for drivers in all other forms of circuit racing.  This will become mandatory from 1st January 2016 with the exception of period defined vehicles which will remain as a recommendation.



Police smashed a £10m international money-laundering racket, arresting 7 men and 2 women     during pre-dawn strikes across Greater Manchester at Christmas.  They seized a number of luxury Porsches, Range Rover and  Mercedes as well as designer handbags, shoes, perfume, laptops and a ‘significant’ amount of cash.


A staggering collection of 60 barn-find cars have been discovered after lying hidden for 50 years.  They will be sold by Artcurial at Rétromobile and include a ‘lost’ Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider. 


2 car parking ticket machines were demolished by ‘ram raiders’ after parking charges were increased in Dedham, Colchester.  Earlier in the year coin slots had been blocked with superglue and builders’ foam.

More than 60 trophies were stolen from the Red Bull’s F1 factory in December.  Six men wearing dark clothing used a silver 4x4 and a dark Mercedes estate for the robbery but did not physically harm the night staff.    Christian Horner said that while the value of the trophies is "extraordinarily high" to the team because they were earned through success, "their intrinsic value is low".


The government is considering turning off traffic lights when the roads are empty.  ‘Intelligent traffic lights’ are already in use in some European countries. The world’s first traffic lights were erected outside the Houses of Parliament in 1868.


Met figures show that car thefts in Chelsea, London, are now rising faster than any other borough.  Luxury vehicles with “keyless” ignition systems can be bypassed with a £50 device from eBay.  The cars are then shipped to eastern Europe without their tracking devices.  Thatcham motor insurers confirm that in the first 6 months of 2014, 300 Range Rover Evoques and Range Rover Sports, 63 BMW X5s and Series 3 models, were stolen.  Some insurers are refusing to insure the new Range Rover in London where owners are advised to use steering wheel locks.    


New double yellow lines painted on the ground in Hamilton Road, Cambridge are now the shortest in Britain at just 11“ long and intended to separate a residents' parking zone with a pay and display area.  Motorists who park on the lines will face a £70 fine.  The council admitted the lines were a 'mistake' by contractor.  Other short lines have been in Cambridge (13”), Norwich (17”). Canterbury (21”) and Westminster at 9”.


BMW has linked with Sixt and Drive-Now car sharing to provide Minis and BMW 1 cars in Islington, Hackney and Haringey.  The cars are located by a mobile phone app and then driven on a charge per minute basis.  They can be left anywhere in those 3 areas after use.  (Like the Boris Bike scheme). 


Ford is also testing a City Driving on-Demand service.  However Daimler tried a similar scheme 2 years ago in London and Birmingham and has now withdrawn it.  BMW estimate that the average car is used only 4% of the time.  Ford is also testing the Dynamic Social Shuttle – ride sharing “more convenient than a bus and better value than a taxi”.


Growth of new car sales in 2014 has beaten the record of the Blair-Brown boom in 2003.


The Severn Bridge toll has increased again.


The EU has ruled that from October 2015 all new cars and vans must be fitted with a telematics system called eCall which transmits the vehicle’s location in the event of a crash


February’s Octane had a report on an Alfa Romeo 1750 due for the Bonham's auction at Rétromobile.  Described as ‘Just Perfect’ it says it is a 6c with a 1752cc 4 cylinder engine.  The running boards don’t look right and the dashboard is the wrong colour to our way of thinking!  Just Perfect?!


Norman Dewis has been awarded the OBE.  He was a chief test driver and development engineer for Jaguar from 1952—1985 involved with the XK series and particularly the E type.


Although men are still responsible for the majority of drink-driving convictions, the female share has risen from 9% in 1998 to 17% in 2012.


A study which tested drivers in a simulator found that every driver aged between 45 and 59 accidentally crossed from one lane to another while using their mobile phone to send a text message, compared with 25% of 18 to 24s.


The Blue Chip index of classic cars, compiled by specialist Hagerty, which is made up of the 25 most sought after post-war cars, has more than doubled since the start of 2010. Between 1992 and 2012, the value of classic and collectable cars rose by an average of 18% a year.  


Lotus, which is owned by Malaysian group DRB-Hicom,   has almost halved its annual losses.  It received a £10m regional growth fund grant from the UK Government to help re-structure the company.  The Lotus Exige helped the car company increase annual sales.  


A Netherlands organisation has released a prototype of the country's first ever intelligent electric bicycle.  A radar mounted just below the handlebars checks the road ahead for unexpected movements and objects, while a camera above the rear wheel keeps check on developments directly behind the rider. Warnings are communicated via a vibrating saddle if the threat comes from behind, and handlebars if in front.   

From January 2016, Euro NCAP’s maximum five-star rating will be reserved for new cars fitted as standard with cutting-edge crash avoidance systems, such as autonomous emergency braking (AEB), pedestrian detection, and lane departure warning.


Pollution in Oxford Street breached the legal limit for the whole of 2015 after just four days according to ‘Clean Air’ expert.  They stressed the pollution blackspot exceeded the EU limit of 18 hours in a year for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels to be above 200 micrograms per cubic metre - as did Putney High Street.


Options are being considered for removing the A303 trunk road around Stonehenge.  In 2005 the tunnel proposal was dropped when estimates reached £470m.  Birmingham council is considering removing the A38 Aston Expressway and upgrading the A4540.  This would provide new land for economic development.


From March police will be able to do a drug saliva test on drivers by the roadside.  Penalties are up to 6 months jail and £5000 fines.  The ‘Drugswipe’ can trace cocaine and cannabis within 3 minutes.


During a major upgrade of the roads between Junction 8 on the M60 and Junction 20 on M62 drivers are monitored by 32 average speed cameras (+16 due) and 132 CCTV cameras are due.


There are now 17,000 grant-funded electric cars on UK roads.


Liverpool City Council is to remove all bus lanes on radial roads. 


Wolverhampton Council is to begin camera enforcement of bus lanes.


Following a year of record sales (4,000 cars), Rolls-Royce is considering whether to build a 4x4 car.


Osman Iqbal, 37, a Birmingham police sergeant who led a double life as leader of an organised crime gang was caught after turning up for work in a £17,000  Ferrari.  He was the lynchpin of a mob that ripped off those who ran brothels and peddled class A drugs in exclusive areas of London.



520 drivers on the M25 were caught by new “smart” speed cameras installed between junctions 5 & 6 and 148 tickets were issued for breaking variable speed limits of between 40mph and 60mph. 


Abridged version of TOPS News sent to Members