Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Sprinkling stardust on the Superb


A stylish crystal makeover for the ŠKODA’s SUPERB.
Preciosa, a Czech producer of luxury crystal glass, aims to turn the Superb into “an item of jewellery to be worn on special occasions,” according to ŠKODA chief designer Jozef Kabaň. How? By finishing it off with StarDust.

Last year, ŠKODA teamed up with Preciosa to produce the new Tour De France trophies. That’s when the team came across Preciosa’s sparkling new StarDust technology. This creates a special layer of mechanically ground stones in various shapes and sizes, which refract and reflect light in a completely new way. So, when the Yellow Jersey lifted the trophy, literally thousands of crystals shimmered in the light.

Now the ŠKODA team have applied a little StarDust to their cars. First up, the Superb. Wheel rims resurfaced with the small bright crystals lend a sensational shimmer – and the logo on the front and back and steering wheel have been embedded with StarDust by hand. The Superb Black Crystal, as the glittering saloon ride has been dubbed, attracted a lot of attention and added a little dazzle to Designblok, Prague’s prestigious design and fashion event, when it was unveiled last year.

Rally Šumava Klatovy: Jan Kopecký and ŠKODA continue their impressive winning streak


Unperturbed by weather shenanigans, rain on the second leg and a time penalty, Jan Kopecký/Pavel Dresler (ŠKODA FABIA R5) have driven to a resounding victory in the Rally Šumava Klatovy. However, ŠKODA Stablemates Jan Černy/Petr Černohorský were unlucky when a time penalty caused them to lose second place to Ford driver Václav Pech. 

Jan Kopecký and co-driver Pavel Dresler (ŠKODA FABIA R5) laid the foundation for their resounding victory in the Rally Šumava Klatovy in the first stage on Friday. The Czech champions drove four convincing best times, with the fifth special stage abandoned for safety reasons due to oil on the road left behind by one of the vehicles participating in the historic category. Kopecký and Dresler finished the day with a comfortable lead of around half a minute. 

Kopecký and co-driver Dresler (ŠKODA FABIA R5) turned in five more best times on Saturday, despite heavy rain transforming the morning’s fast stages around Klatovy into treacherous slippery roads. 

Brand stablemates Jan Černy/Petr Černohorský in their private ŠKODA FABIA R5 had pushed their way into second place and were locked in a thrilling duel with Ford team Vacláv Pech/Petr Uhel. On their way to a refuelling stop between the eighth and ninth stages, Kopecký’s co-driver Dresler and Černy’s navigator Černohorský misinterpreted an unclear instruction in the roadbook and missed a junction. As a consequence, both teams reached the refueling station via a route other than the one specified and each were penalised 15 seconds. While Jan Kopecký continued on his way unaffected at the top of the leader board, the penalty was enough to lose Jan Černy the battle for second place. 


Jan Kopecký and Pavel Dresler drove the remaining stages with their ŠKODA FABIA R5 with a controlled speed, safely bringing home their second win of the season and extending their lead in the Czech Rally Championship (MČR). 

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Colour me beautiful

In India a riot of colour pervades its religious festivals. Every shade has a significant
meaning or represents an emotion. But we are all influenced by colours. So perhaps it
isn’t surprising that they have started to find their way into the driving experience too.

Every year in spring, thousands and thousands of people head to Banke Bihari in
Vrindavan, India, to celebrate the start of spring.

It is the official beginning of spring today in Vrindavan. Holi, one of the oldest, most
popular and most flamboyant of Indian feasts is celebrated today. Nearly imperceptible
rustling can be heard all over the city. The cows are nowhere to be seen. Instead, the
narrow streets are filling with more and more people, some of them calmly others
chatting merrily with friends, colleagues or their families. At the crossroads, the swarming streams of people are merging into a compact flux. Their aim: Banke Bihari,
one of the biggest shrines in the country. The temple is dedicated to Krishna, who grew
up in Vrindavan and allegedly where he fell in love with his friend Radha.

The mass of worshippers gets stuck in the end. The view of the sky is free, unlike the
way forward. Insurmountable walls made of sandstone surround the temple hall. A
quivering Radhe, Radhe is coming out of the depth of the temple. The chanting should
emphasize the presence of Radha in nearly every earthly interaction. It is a greeting, an
apology and a farewell at the same time. It is only during the celebration of Holi, when
people are allowed to behold the black statue of Thankur. At other times, the
representation of the young Lord Krishna remains veiled and is to be protected against
evil looks. Everybody yearns to see it. We can get neither forward, nor back now. It is hot
in here and the temple is full to bursting, filled with sounds of screaming, blaring and
cheering. And above all that, shrill trills of the whistles which are used by the guards to
make the crowd move on through the temple. Squeeze forward, have a look and go!
Next! Elbows, shoulders and limbs seem to be everywhere along with little children
among all that. A man is boosting the crowd from crackling loudspeakers. The air is
overflowing with power and energy.

The curtain is lifted and the audience becomes ecstatic at the sight of Lord Krishna. The
hands reach up to sky and the worshippers throw themselves with humility on the floor.
The Brahmas armed with giant water pumps are sluicing the crowd with floods of
colourful water from a platform. Full buckets are poured over the heads. The crowd is
soaking wet; and happy.

When the curtain is lifted and the audience becomes ecstatic at the sight of Lord
Krishna, they reach their hands up to sky.


Gulal, the colourful powder, is being catapulted from platters over the heads of the
gathering. Tiny particles are mingling with the incident rays of morning light, giving rise
to a bizarre play of colours. People are changing colours like chameleons from red to
yellow, blue and green. Crimson rose petals are pouring down like rain on people. It is a
breathtaking atmosphere in which Lord Krishna is praised in unison. Outside the temple
walls, a colourful game is going on: Buckets full of water are being poured down from the
roofs on the passers-by. Old and young, men and women, all are mutually sprinkling the
gulal powder on each other.

 The 22-year-old Apurwah from Hardiwar is navigating her way through the crowds. The student travels with her family to Vrindavan every year. Her face is beaming through the
pink and yellow and green colors. “There are various legends explaining the origin of Holi”, she explains. “For example the one about king Hiranyakaship who wanted to kill his son Prahlanda who was saved by his faith in Lord Vishnu”, she says. “Holi is thus not only a celebration of harvest and fertility, but also a celebration of victory of good over evil. Old disputes are to be settled, social barriers removed, existing friendships and
relationships renewed. „All barriers disappear during Holi”, explains Apurwah. “All people are colourful and all are equal – no matter which caste they belong to or what their status is.”


Whole streets are flooded by dark crimson, the dominant colour of Holi. It symbolizes purity, joyfulness, power and vitality. Yellow stands for life, light, truth and immortality.
This is the reason, why Indian brides wear yellow dresses before their wedding, to ward off evil spirits. In Hinduism, green can mean life as well as death. Blue is a symbol of divine enlightenment as well as the highest consciousness.


KODIAQ soars over the Swiss Alps


And now it’s even flying! After three months of preparations, the new ŠKODA KODIAQ
takes a flight over the Alps. What was the cause for the new ŠKODA KODIAQ to fly?
ŠKODA France conducted an exclusive demonstration drive at 3,000 metres above
sea level a few days before its national launch.


A helicopter carrying this very precious payload started from Saanen-Gstaad airport in
Switzerland at 1,014 meters. To get to the next level, so to speak, the new ŠKODA
KODIAQ enjoyed a flight over the Glacier 3000 ski area.

After seven minutes in the air, the new ŠKODA KODIAQ landed near a snowy circuit. Here
the car showed off what it can do during an exceptional driving session within the heart
of the Swiss Alps. The experience unambiguously proved that this SUV 4.70 metres long
can handle any road conditions with agility and safety.

The model chosen for this feat is a KODIAQ 2.0 TDI, equipped with a 150 hp engine, 7
seats, and a 4×4 drivetrain. This intervention only required two men to place the ŠKODA
KODIAQ on its transport net and three people to receive it at the glacier. The helicopter
deployed for this undertaking is usually used for transporting goods, which is why it has
only one seating place inside for the pilot. It can carry up to 1,900 kg of materials.
“With this operation, we wanted to demonstrate that our new ŠKODA KODIAQ is at ease
in all road conditions,” explained Lahouari BENNAOUM Head of ŠKODA France. “Offering

7 seats and a 4×4 drivetrain.”

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

The highest level of comfort for ‘seated giants’

Using complex 3D simulations, engineers at ŠKODA ensured the perfect layout for the new KODIAQ’s interior – long before its sales launch.

It was only a few months ago that ŠKODA presented its first large SUV to the global public. Years of planning and many hours of hard work went into the premiere – especially during the car’s development. Technological advancements enable once separate disciplines to work closely together at ŠKODA: by using modern software and hardware, many factors can be put to the acid test during the early phases of development – in the virtual world.

Thus, many areas at ŠKODA resemble a gamers’ convention more than they do a car factory: 3D glasses, controllers and large screens are part of day-to-day work for experts such as Radoslav Horák. The engineer works in ŠKODA’s Technical Development department in Mladá Boleslav, more precisely as design support coordinator for the incar driver environment. “Contrary to popular belief, tests involving real models of the interior take place relatively late on.” Instead, Horák and his colleagues use special 3D CAD software to design and gradually adjust the interior on the computer. In doing so, experts can immediately see the effect that individual changes have on overall ergonomics.

For the ŠKODA KODIAQ, the stated aim was to set new benchmarks in the SUV segment in terms of ergonomics, seating comfort and boot concept. Anyone should be able to get in and out with ease, find a good position for the seat belt and, most importantly, have optimum all-around visibility – regardless of whether they are a petite woman or a 6-foot-6-inch man, also known in the trade as a ‘seated giant’. The third row of seats, which is available as an option for the first time in a ŠKODA, played a significant role. It should be easy to fold down and easily accessible by any passenger.

“In order to test this, we designed a three-dimensional dummy on the computer, which we were then able to place in our virtual interior,” explains Horák. The programmers specified body measurements and proportions precisely, so that the conditions could be tested for any driver imaginable. The experts extensively tested the seat position, feeling of spaciousness and headroom early on. Furthermore, all of the dummies slipped into the third row of seats – with the result that the middle row of seats in the completed ŠKODA KODIAQ can now slide 18 centimetres in both directions. The operability of the radio, large infotainment system and air conditioning was also an important test.

Finally, test drives got underway in a special 3D ‘cave’ that allows real situations to be experienced as accurately as possible. Apart from the steering wheel and the driver’s seat, which can slide forward and backwards just like in a real car, everything is simulated here; large screens displaying the surroundings are fitted all over the inside of the cave. Whether it’s driving in the city or on motorways – anything is possible. Horák hears the corresponding exterior noises as well as the sound of his own car. Even critical situations can be negotiated risk-free in these caves, multiple times if necessary.

Depending on the viewer’s position or line of sight, the display on the screens also changes. This means that the experts know the properties of the blind spot and whether the A-pillar blocks out too much of the view for some drivers.

In the cave, Horák wears tinted 3D glasses which have a frame with small balls attached to the top of them. Using controllers similar to those used for the Wii games console, he can operate the virtual car and, for example, test how far to the right he needs to lean in order to open the glove compartment. “Virtual test drives also allow us to determine as accurately as possible how different light conditions affect sight and, for example, whether distracting reflections appear.” Depending on the result, the colleagues were able to make modifications to the ŠKODA KODIAQ directly at the click of a mouse and, for instance, adjust the position of the infotainment screen. The designers also tested how well the driver can see traffic behind the vehicle in the rearview mirror and wing mirrors and the effect of the ambient lighting.


Further tests are only carried out once the team is happy with the virtual reality – first with specially made models, or mock-up seats as they are known, then later with prototypes. However, Horák and his colleagues do not receive final feedback until a few years later – from customers. “The first responses endorse our work,” he says. “Customers are delighted with the KODIAQ.”

Thursday, 16 March 2017

THE CLIFF WHISPERER

Sebastián Álvarez inhabits his own world which is anything but quiet: he can hear his heart beating and feel his deep breaths, and he listens carefully to the scrapes of his climbing shoes in the reddish-white chalk. He twists his hips and pushes off powerfully with his right leg. His upper arm muscles clearly stand out under his grey shirt when he grabs hold of the small ledge. He locates his next foothold, skilfully finds his balance and quickly clicks the next carabiner into the metal hook in the cliff face.


“When I’m climbing, I concentrate completely on the rock – and on silencing the voice inside my head,” says Sebastián when he is once again on solid ground. Blocking out fear, getting into a rhythm – that’s what matters. “And it’s important to listen to what nature – what the rock – is trying to tell you.” The 39-year-old Spaniard seems settled in Mallorca. Just two years ago, he fulfilled his dream here by setting up the small company ‘Rock & Water Mallorca’, together with his business partner Adhara. Since then, they have been offering a variety of adventure trips in Mallorca – from mountain biking, sailing and canyoning to bouldering and climbing tours. “For me, Mallorca is the perfect location: we have a pleasant climate with 300 days of sunshine per year and many great spots,” raves Sebastián. “Here there are spectacular cliffs right by the sea, long mountain passes, sintered overhangs and even caves.” The island’s chalk also has a pleasant feel.

Tracks, pine trees, views

Depending on the weather, wind and mood, Sebastián takes his guests to different corners of the island. His favourite spots (see box) are not only athletically challenging in different ways, but also have impressive landscapes. Even just the journey through the Serra de Tramuntana takes your breath away: it passes by bright green fields where sheep and lambs gently graze. Gnarled olive trees alternate with large orange groves and majestic almond trees. The road offers a clear view of the picturesque Valldemossa, one of the most beautiful places on the island. In the distance, you can see the ‘Sant Bartomeu’ parish church and the walls of the ancient Carthusian monastery ‘Catuja de Jesús Nazareno’. But Sebastián drives on, bypasses the tourist destination, and steers his ŠKODA KODIAQ elegantly around the sometimes deep furrows in the road, on towards the coast.

To his left is a steep downward slope, the rugged grey of the rock alternates with the green of pine trees and cacti. He stops suddenly at the edge of the small track and parks the SUV on the unpaved verge. His destination: a mighty overhang made from red, white and grey chalk, directly above the road. He quickly goes through the planned route with his assistant who will belay him. Less than two minutes later, Sebastián is hanging in the centre of the rock. In his blue jeans, white long-sleeved top and grey cap, he wouldn’t look out of place in a small beach bar.

A group of Spanish hikers stops. They are no longer looking at the blue sky and little bays with turquoise water. They watch the man on the rock face above them, mesmerised. Sebastián hangs on one hand – seemingly relaxed – while he takes some chalk out of the bag on his back with the other. An audible breath in, one swift movement and he already has the most difficult passage behind and below him – as if he had never done anything else.

Rope and harness instead of shirt and tie

But that’s not the case: Sebastián did not start climbing until he was 23. At that time, he moved to Madrid. Prior to that, he had lived with his family in Argentina, where he grew up in the tranquil town of Olavarría and almost became a professional softball player. “After school, I studied law in Buenos Aires,” he says, smiling whilst looking at his chalk-covered hands. Having completed a second degree in Spain, he was now able to work as a lawyer in both countries. However, all he completed were the mandatory internships. “I preferred to earn money through other people’s happiness instead of through their problems and misery.” Sebastián lived in Madrid and England, worked in Mallorca for five years as the sales manager for a carpentry workshop and sold windows. The biggest constant during these years was his growing enthusiasm for outdoor sports – be it canyoning, cliff diving or deep-water soloing. “It’s quite obvious that I love danger,” he says with a wide grin. His brown eyes sparkle. Bouldering and climbing have held him in their grasp ever since. The result: he and his good friend Adhara quit their jobs and went for broke.

As he drives along the winding roads from Sóller down towards Palma, Daft Punk blasts from the ŠKODA KODIAQ’s six speakers. Sebastián sings along loudly and drums on his knee with his hand. Next destination: Torre d’en Beu, a listed 16th-century watchtower on the south-east coast of Mallorca. The journey takes a good hour, past the capital city, through several villages and at the end along a dusty sand track towards the sea. Sebastián switches to all-wheel-drive mode and follows a medium-height natural stone wall towards the tower. A popular climbing and bouldering area can be found directly below it. The air tastes salty, the waves ring in your ears. Sebastián unpacks all of his equipment: ropes, harnesses and helmets for him and Adhara, as well as a crash pad – which alone would fill the boot of a small car. A crash pad is a mat required for bouldering – together with your partner, it is your only protection for this sport. Here it is more about technique; the rocks are a maximum of three metres high and there are plenty of them here. Over centuries, the sea and wind have moulded them into all shapes and sizes. Sebastian and Adhara unfold the crash pad together. Sebastián slips into his climbing shoes and begins climbing straight from the ground. Slowly, smoothly, one twist – and he is yet again hanging in the air two metres above the mat. They then switch roles. Sebastián shows his business partner, who has specialised more in mountain biking and water sports in their small company, a few tricks, whilst not letting her out of his sight.


He calls it a day in the late afternoon. Sebastián drives the KODIAQ towards Palma again. Time and again, he looks at the sky. But less to marvel at the sunset and more to get a close look at the cloud formation over the sea. And he nods happily: tomorrow it will probably be sunny again – perfect for the next area on his list.

1899 – BETTER THAN BOSCH


The first engine made by Laurin & Klement (established in 1895) was a one-cylinder 1.25 HP unit designed for Slavia motorcycles. The brand founders introduced this engine in Prague-Bubeneč in November 1899. The beginnings were not easy, though, as the designers and engineers lacked one important thing – a magneto-electric ignition that only Robert Bosch in Stuttgart was able to produce at that time. Laurin and Klement approached him and he replied in person. By the way, this letter is still part of the National Museum of Technology’s collection, and careful readers will find twelve mistakes and typing errors

in its six lines. 

Bosch offered its device at 80 marks per unit, was not prepared to provide any discount and refused Laurin and Klement’s idea of testing the device in the Mladá Boleslav-made machine. Further letters apparently bothered him so he started replying without paying the postage, i.e. at Laurin and Klement’s cost. In the end the Boleslav engineers came to understand the whole principle and designed their own ignition system that was lighter, cheaper and more practical. “The result of presenting this vehicle of the future was indeed great”, Národní politika (newspaper) wrote on 21 November, 1899. The history of Mladá Boleslav-made engine was born.