iDrive leads to fun in the sun for coach operators

iDrive leads to fun in the sun for coach operators

About 150 coach industry figures, including operators and product and service providers attended Irizar’s annual iDrive fun track day at Rockingham Motor Speedway in August.


The bark of high-performance cars, the screaming two-stroke engines of classic race-karts and the howl of tortured rubber from a motorcycle stunt display served as a varied background as coach operators and others enjoyed a day of socialising in the Northamptonshire sun with a mix of track activities thrown in.


While the emphasis on the day was informal fun, guests also got the chance to drive the revolutionary i4H Hybrid Integral coach: the first coach in the UK to feature a fuel-saving hybrid driveline.


Other Irizar vehicles available for ride-and-drive on the track included four examples of the i6 Integral, in lengths ranging from 10.8 to 14.07 metres and with power outputs from 369 to 462 hp, together with a choice of ZF Ecolife (automatic) and As-Tronic (automated manual) transmissions, and one example of the Irizar flagship i8 Integral coach.


The static display included two top-of-the range examples of the i8 Integral: The Kings Ferry showed a brand-new i8 Integral in football team coach spec (it is to be the Fulham team coach), including a fitted centre kitchen and full-leather interior, while Ellisons displayed a 57-seater in cruise-ship passenger spec, with full leather interior and a wheelchair lift over the rear axle.


Irizar UK laid on three cars which guests could take out on the racetrack: an Audi R8, a Lotus Exige and a Renault Clio Supersport. Plus, for the ultimate track experience, passenger ‘hot laps’ were available in a high-performance Ariel Atom: a device best described as a high-performance engine fitted into a race-car space-frame with two seats and no bodywork. Guests could also take their own cars out for a track session, and every type of car from a Morgan to a Bentley could be seen in circulation during the day.


For those who fancied something a little heavier, Irizar’s engine supplier DAF laid on a couple of trucks for track ride and drive: an LF rigid and an XF tractor unit. You could also enjoy motor-racing in miniature, on a giant slot-car track provided and supervised by the Derby HO Racing Club, where raucous laughter often drowned out the sounds of engines in the pits!


Industry sponsors and exhibitors included minicoach builder EVM, Irizar parts distributor Masterpart Truck and Bus, dealers and leasing specialists Mistral, John Hill Coach Sales and Crystal Business Finance, equipment suppliers Prime Passenger Seating, Alcolock UK, Airconco and AD Coach Systems, the publishers of Bus and Coach Buyer and RouteONE magazines, and the trade show Coach and Bus UK 2017.


New coaches were handed over to two loyal Irizar customers: Brian McGowan of Whitestar Coaches picked up his second new Irizar of the year; an I4 Integral, while Peter Godward, of Peter Godward Coaches, took delivery of the second of a pair of i6 Integrals that he has purchased this year. The latter vehicle was the 300th new coach to be supplied to the UK by the Irizar importers.


Other attendees included Richard Burford, the operations manager of Alexcars of Cirencester: “It was my first time at the event,” he says. “Besides doing a ride and drive exercise in some of the coaches, I also did the skid-pan and high-performance driving. I drove the R8 and the Clio. The Clio had a proper gearbox, which helped!


“I also enjoyed the motorcycle stunt show. We’d be happy to go back next year…it’s a very enjoyable day!”


John Johnson, director of Johnsons Coach & Bus Travel of Henley-on-Arden, added: “We had a great day out chatting with industry colleagues and scaring ourselves in fast little cars!”


John Thomas, director of Cheltenham’s Swanbrook Services Limited said the day was a great social occasion. As an operator of an i4 Integral on interurban scheduled services, he was particularly interested in the i4H hybrid. “We’ve got some routes over rolling countryside with urban running at either end that it would excel on,” he said. “I’m hoping to arrange some time with the demonstrator that I’ve seen here.”