andrewnoakes32By Andrew Noakes
Guild Chairman 2016-18

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Barely half an hour after I was confirmed as Guild chairman at the Annual General Meeting in May, I was on the receiving end of one member’s opinion that at Guild events you always see the same faces in attendance.

Perhaps not “always”. A few years ago Bentley hosted our AGM in Crewe, and in addition to the stalwarts who can usually be relied on to turn out the event did attract members who were pleased they could attend because the north of England venue was convenient for them. Just a few weeks ago, at our spectacularly successful Big Day Out track day at Castle Combe, there were plenty of less familiar faces among the regulars (and more than a few non-members).

Moving set-piece events like the AGM around the country helps to give more Guild members the chance to attend, and your committee is already cooking up plans for new types of event aimed at a wider range of members’ interests.

But can we do more to ensure the widest possible participation in Guild events? Your ideas are welcome.

andrewnoakes32By Andrew Noakes
Guild Deputy Chairman

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As we waited at Dover for the P&O ferry that would take us to France to begin the 2015 Guild Euro Classic, organiser Paul Harris appeared with rally plates and information packs for all the participants. We all knew he hadn’t been well, and someone asked how he was. “I’ll survive the weekend,” he said, with a rye smile.

What a weekend it proved to be. Some stunning cars, a warm welcome wherever we went, magnificent Champagne scenery, and the odd goblet of the local product, all enjoyed in a convivial atmosphere.

And there, at every location we visited, were Paul and Ann in their white ur-quattro, making sure everything was running smoothly and everyone knew where they had to be. Ferry, road routes, hotel, food, parking spots. In Epernay, a formal procession of the cars through the town which Paul briefed the drivers about (above) with military precision. There were excursions and notes about places of interest along the route, even a quiz at the end – it was all organised faultlessly, and that was largely down to the immense effort Paul put into it. The ‘Classic’ was a huge success.

When Paul said he’d see out the weekend we all chuckled politely at the joke, but there was more truth in what he’d said than any of us wanted to admit. His battle with cancer had taken it’s toll, and the trip to France couldn’t have been easy. Just hours after we all got back, Paul was taken seriously ill and admitted to hospital.

He died yesterday.

Those of us who knew Paul as a friend or a colleague will remember his unflappable dignity and unfailing politeness, the determination to do things right, but also to have fun doing them. He did all of that right to the end.

jasoncraig 32 0384by Jason Craig
Guild Associate member and 2012 MSA Motor Sport Journalist of the Year

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Some people say papers and broadcasters are only interested in motorsport when things go wrong – like the terrible loss of rally driver Simon McKinley at this weekend's Clare Motor Club hillclimb.

But there was good news this weekend too. At Rally Argentina Kris Meeke became the first British driver to win a round of the World Rally Championship in more than a decade. Ironically, the last person to do that was his mentor Colin McRae, back in 2002.

I am hoping the events in Argentina might be a force for good, not just for Citroën driver  Meeke and his co-driver Paul Nagle (celebrating above), but the British and Irish press as a whole.


Meeke wins for McRae

“Everything was fine until we got the end of the last stage. Once we had crossed the line, I was overcome with emotions. It’ll take time for it to really sink in. I didn’t start the rally aiming to fight for the win. I just wanted to have an error-free rally. The seven-week break really helped me. From the shakedown onwards, I felt full of confidence. It was a really difficult race but the DS 3 WRC is a solid and reliable car. All the other guys had problems and we secured a one-two finish. Mads had a fantastic rally as well. I have to thank Yves Matton, who believed in me. He gave me a great opportunity and he has been supportive throughout. This is just the first step in me thanking him for that support. I hope there will be others. This one is for Colin McRae.”  

Lots of positive things have already been reported and said about Meeke’s maiden victory, but the one that stood out for me was made by the man of the moment. Asked at the post-event press conference how he felt after years of trying, the Ulsterman said: “I feel like a 21-year-old again.” And just in case you were wondering, Meeke is actually a happily married 35-year-old.

The significance of the comment is that winning has rejuvenated Meeke and his love for a sport that has been less than kind to him. Going by the news feeds that followed his popular win on Sunday afternoon it’s having the same effect on the media.

Argentina was truly memorable for British motorsport because as Meeke celebrated on the top step of the podium with a tear in his eye, the young Welshman Elfyn Evans was beside him. The M-Sport Ford Fiesta driver secured his first ever top-three finish in the series in South America.

New Zealand ’01 was the last time a pair of Brits shared the podium. Good things come in twos.

On the back of these fantastic achievements my hope now is that the national press has turned a corner as far as their interests in rallying go.

andrewnoakes32by Andrew Noakes
Guild website editor

150405 websiteSharp eyes will spot the new layout of the home page, but that's just one part of an extensive upgrade of the Guild website in recent weeks.

Behind the scenes the content management system running the site has been updated to the latest version, and there's a new database engine – both of which will make the new version of the Guild member list work more reliably.

Talking of that member list, we've made it easier for members to choose which information is made public and which is available only to other members when they're signed in (which then forms their entry in the Year Book).

Elsewhere there are plenty of other improvements, including:

  • image zoom – click an image for a pop-up larger version on many pages (here's an example)
  • upgraded site search with instant results
  • responsive layout which adapts to different screen sizes
  • updates and more information on Guild events and awards
  • a page on the Guild's history
  • improved navigation with new menus, 'See also' panels on articles and an all-sections sitemap
  • login with username or email address, and better handling of lost username and/or password
  • tidier error handling with a custom 404 page
  • easier links to the Guild's social media presence on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Youtube and Flickr
  • archives of the Update newsletter and Newsbriefs emails in the password-protected members' area
  • new contact form making it easier to contact the right person at the Guild

We're keen to hear feedback on the revised site – from Guild members and non-members – so if you have any views please let me have them via the new contact form or by email to .

James Locker is a finalist in the 2014 Sir William Lyons Award

Defining a premium vehicle in 2014 is as difficult and confusing as spotting the difference between forty years of Porsche 911's. I envy last years' contestants because I now face the difficult task of sorting through an extra three hundred and sixty five days' worth of new cars all vying for the coveted 'premium' label. Wish me luck...

History dictates a premium car must have premium qualities -specification, comfort, brand exclusivity, racing pedigree and innovation. Yet I find it difficult to think of ONE car that incorporates all of these qualities. Mercedes Benz, BMW and Audi possess four of these traits but lack brand exclusivity which has been sacrificed at the hand of small car production to comply with ever tightening carbon dioxide emission targets and to avoid fines imposed by some European countries. Similarly brands such as Lexus, Acura and Infiniti, luxury subsidiary marques of Toyota, Honda and Nissan have no strong racing pedigree but all feature technology and comfort to satisfy the most fastidious of customers. These elements could be the reason why Lexus has been the number one selling luxury car in the United States since 2000 and also suggests racing pedigree is no longer a factor in defining a premium car.

In the past, the cost of your car would usually determine whether it was premium or not. Ticking all the optional extra boxes was a quick if not expensive way to earn bragging rights over your mates' stock car. Air conditioning now common place on even the most basic of cars was historically regarded as a premium mark. This is a consequence of the trickledown effect initiated by the three German giants. Premium features such as 'lane keeping assist' featured in Mercedes Benz during the late 90's but now, everyday cars such as the Ford Fusion offer 'lane assist' as an option. Adaptive cruise control is another feature which has become optional on relatively inexpensive cars. Every manufacture now has to search for that 'marginal gain' which will catapult their vehicles into the 'premium' echelons whilst simultaneously delivering these technologies at modest prices. Other motives for Mercedes, BMW and Audi's venture into the compact car market is to introduce younger buyers to the luxury marque, an astute marketing ploy to ensure customer loyalty in subsequent years. However, this ubiquitous behaviour from the Germans has tarnished their reputation for prestige and exclusivity, characteristics once used to define their cars as premium.

It seems the criteria defining a premium vehicle in 2014 has changed and a new set of standards must be applied. These being, economy, practicality, price, reliability and safety. As we adjust to the pressures imposed by climate change and stricter carbon emission regulations, car manufacturers are obliged to act accordingly. In Western Europe, cars with zero emissions, hybrid technology and environmentally friendly credentials are fast attracting a premium badge thus explain why Ferrari, McLaren and Porsche have forayed into hybrid technology with their new hyper car offerings, if these cars can't be classed as premium then what can? BMW and Audi have faltered in the premium car rivalry by failing to infiltrate the hybrid market sooner. BMW's flagship I8 model has only been released in the past few months and similar complacency also led to the ousting of Audi's last research and development chief. A brilliant example of new brands, deprived of an illustrious history, advancing in the premium car market is that of wealth manager Louis Alexandre de Froissard who traded his Audi A8 for an Infiniti Q50 hybrid, a far more efficient car emitting only 144 grams of co2 per kilometre, his reason that everybody owns an Audi or BMW so the Infiniti was a much more original choice. Conspicuous consumption is becoming increasingly unfashionable in times of economic autserity, hence the reason we are witnessing a hike in the popularity of compact, efficient, city-friendly cars such as the Volkswagen UP and Renault Twingo. Both cars boast impeccable safety features, enough technology to sink a battleship and cost less to fill than a meal at Weatherspoons. Evidence that supports the change in the global car industry has been highlighted by IHS automotive consulting firm who calculated the combined sales of the three leading German manufactures totalled 4.7 million vehicles, a whopping 60% of the global luxury car market. However UBS predicts Tesla's model S and DS models from Peugeot Citroen are to attain 30% of the premium sales growth throughout 2014-18.

However, premium customers are looking for a premium experience. This extends beyond the vehicle itself to customer service, confidence in the brand and marketing techniques. We all like to feel special, a good salesman makes us feel special- that is a premium experience. Providing a comprehensive warranty is a simple way to inspire faith in the brand. Peripheral but nonetheless seductive to the 2014 driver is the merchandise associated with premium brands. To a greater or lesser extent we are all defined by our jobs, our homes, our cars and also our clothes and accessories. Hence the success of the accessory ranges of luggage, umbrella's, shorts, belts sold alongside their famous marques by Aston Martin, Jaguar and Bentley persuading us that their marque confirms our superiority.

So, the definition of a premium vehicle in 2014 has changed dramatically from outdated notions of raw power and ostentatious design. In 2014 the driver is seeking an unpretentious premium car experience that boasts eco credentials, comfort, high end technology, style, status and still leaves you with enough cash to wangle a few optional extras. Germany's giants no longer occupy the premium car throne; China, the world's leading car market view cars as status symbols, hence no surprise to learn that the most popular brands are there are Buick, Ford, Volkswagen and Nissan, which ten years ago few would have regarded as premium brands. The industry is changing as Jaguar Land Rovers Joachim Eberhardt pointed out, "new powertrains, fresh designs and self-driving technologies are making the auto industry cool again". Prehaps I should replace my Lamborghini Countach poster with one of a Renault Clio Dynamique Medianav dCI 90 Eco2 Stop & Start-or not!

James Locker