G-Force gets a bang out of its bid to break into racing ary diary diary diart diary diary daiary diary heady
Sunday 30 April 1995
James Morton, one of three partners in the Fontwell, West Sussex, company, says the publicity G-Force Engineering is getting from building Thrust SSC will put it in a good position to get into motor racing - though it will not throw itself immediately into the cut-throat world of Formula One.
G-Force, which started in 1990, is one of many racing engineers in Britain. It concentrates on components but, Mr Morton says, "We could design and build our own car if we wanted to."
A year or so ago, he mentioned to Richard Noble, the Brit who took the speed record in 1983 with Thrust 2, that G-Force would be happy to help with any projects he was planning. Well yes, Mr Noble said, I do have plans for a new runabout: Thrust SSC will have to get from 0 to 600mph in 16 seconds, and be able to bust the sound barrier. G-Force's first job was to knock up a scale model, which got up to 812 mph on Pendine Sands. That worked, and now the real thing is half-built in Fontwell.
The whole project is thoroughly British, not least in the way the car is being built by lunatic enthusiasts who are prepared to work through the night for hardly a bean.
Many of the bits have been donated by sponsors - the chassis, for example, is made of tubes from TI - although the Rolls-Royce engines are being bought from the Ministry of Defence (which was going to use them in Phantoms). G-Force did a lot of the preliminary work free and, Mr Morton says, "We're never going to make money on Thrust."
Let us hope that his reward comes on the race track.
I RANG Sid Joynson determined to hang on to my cynicism. Not only is he a consultant, he has made a television series, backed by a book. A bad start, you will agree.
But he redeemed himself by being wonderfully abusive about consultants ("con-sultants"), about the overpraised standard BS5750 ("Bullshit 5750") and even about our own dear guru, Tom Peters. Mr Peters's original work used to be wonderful but, Sid says, "he's finally gone mad". All this in a chirpy Leeds accent.
Sid's Heroes, which shows Sid sparking workforces into life during a two-day session, was originally scheduled to go out in prime time, but the BBC is now tucking it away on Sunday mornings. The reason, I suspect, is that he determinedly kept himself in the background, rather than hamming it up in a Harvey-Jones sort of way. Shame, really - we need more jolly business types on telly.
WHO will take over from Howard Davies as director-general of the CBI? Bunhill's spies suggest three possible categories. First, those who were on the list last time,only three years ago. The man who reportedly came second then was Gwyn Jones of the Welsh Development Agency: he has got into all sorts of trouble over his buccaneering style at the WDA, so he's out.
Then there is Sir Anthony Cleaver of IBM, who is now running the Atomic Energy Authority; but his hands are full of privatisations. Winner in this category must be Nigel Whittaker, recently "released" from Kingfisher, but still regarded as an articulate and capable sort of chap (we mustn't hold his appearances on the dreadful Radio 4 business quiz against him). He used to be head of the CBI's distributive trades committee.
Then there are the Davies clones. He was a civil servant before, and his reign at the CBI is considered a success. How about mandarins who were interviewed for the Bank of England job? Step forward Nick Monck, permanent secretary at Employment, and Tim Lankester from Education: he blew the whistle on the Pergau Dam scandal.
But my favourite is in the third category: youngish, aggressive business executives. A man who took a sleepy company and turned it into one of the best in the world is John Neill, South African-born head of Unipart. He is the antithesis of CBI man, which is why he could take the sleepy organisation, shake it and turn it into the Treasury-mangling Rottweiler it needs to be.
LONRHO'S staff are wondering where they are going to be working now Dieter Bock has decided to sell the Cheapside headquarters.
An obvious solution for an economical sort of chap like Mr Bock would be to move into the building vacated by the Observer when Lonrho sold the paper to the Guardian. This is a rather splendid marble-clad number called Marco Polo House (because it has a motif with a hole in it - honest).
Lonrho is locked into a long lease and is probably paying £25 a square foot, against the £10 it is now worth.
Trouble is, Marco Polo is in Battersea, which is South of the River and therefore Wholly Unacceptable to all right-thinking directors.
So the clever money is now on the St James's area of the West End which, by chance, is where Mr Bock lives.
A chartered surveyor tells me that the £30-£35 per square foot rent there would almost certainly be offset by taking a smaller building and having fewer people in it. I don't want to worry the staff, but ...
End of the line
SAFEWAY'S owner, Argyll Group, used to give money to the Tories. Now the supermarket is organising a petition to undermine the best-known casualty of British Rail's privatisation. Go into the store by Fort William station in Scotland, and you will be asked to sign a petition against the withdrawal of the sleeper service from London. So will you at 15 other Scottish Safeways.
Why this sudden radicalism? "Quite a lot of people use the railway to come shopping in Fort William," a spokeswoman tells me. "Our customers are worried that this could be the thin end of the wedge, and that other cuts will follow." She says 1,500 signatures have been collected in Fort William alone so far, and the petition might be spread to other stores. And will the group be giving money to the Conservatives again? The issues are not of course linked, she says, but no, it won't.
ONCE in a while someone invents something genuinely useful. Every other blue moon, that someone is British. This time round it is Swindon Silicon Systems, which has found a solution to the age-old problem of the disappearing remote control. One of its gizmos goes in the telly, another in the handset. You lose your remote control, you press a button on the TV and the remote control starts bleeping, like a hi-tech whistling keyring. A US company wants to buy four million pairs of gizmos. Good news for Swindon and humankind. And if the dog has eaten the remote, well, that means you can find the dog as well.
A NEW E-acronym has started popping up - EMI, which stands for European Monetary Institute. Was this not annoying for Electrical and Musical Industries, Thorn-EMI to its friends? "We're big enough to live with it," a spokesman says. He reckons it's unlikely to cause sort of problems occasioned by another meaning for the letters: electro-magnetic interference. This led an American electrical equipment company to run advertisements with the pugnacious heading, "Let's stamp out EMI".
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