PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 September, 2008, 12:00am

Rolls opens Hangzhou showroom

Rolls-Royce on Wednesday opened a 400-square-metre showroom in Hangzhou, at 276, Nanshan Road, in Shangcheng, opposite the West Lake.

The new showroom (tel: [86 571] 8703 8799) is the marque's sixth in Greater China (after Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Guangzhou and Hong Kong) and can display four limousines, including the new Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe (right), 'the most driver-oriented of the Rolls-Royce Phantom family', the marque says.

Powered by a 6.75-litre BMW V12 block, the 453bhp fastie 'combines the design, craftsmanship and advanced engineering which has led to more new buyers embracing the brand - nearly two-thirds of the Coupe's customers worldwide have not owned a Rolls-Royce before', the marque says.

The Coupe is said to reach 96km/h in 5.6 seconds, top at 248km/h and swig 23 litres per 100km (12.2mpg) in town for the carbon dioxide spew of 377 grams per km. Such oomph sounds perfect for high-powered thrashes outside Hangzhou, but not as fun in Hong Kong where traffic is said to crawl at 26km/h in town and 46km/h in the New Territories.

Possiblity of a 'DBGP'

We wonder whether the racier elements of Discovery Bay are serious about a Golf Buggy Grand Prix. Postings on this month suggest a new Bernie Ecclestone might plan to offer more than the usual screams in The Plaza.

'Is there any law on DB about the racing of golf buggies, if not I would be interested in starting the DBGP, writes forum contributor 'charlie_bucket' on September 2.

'Any advice would be useful, I have even got a few sponsors interested. Insurance is the only concern I have, however waivers can overcome most things,' the thread reads. 'Also if you are interested, I am looking to start the event with as many as 15 buggies.'

The 'three-mile' course would be 'in around the back of the Plaza' and 'perhaps we can have a billy cart race down the golf club hill in the interim', writes 'charlie', who claims to have 'done some time trials and scouting' on the concept.

Forum contributor 'Flanker' later suggests that 'charlie' should contact Top Gear, who are soon coming to Hong Kong as part of their world tour. 'Racing golf buggies around DB would be right up their street,' he or she writes.

Of course, and we could name various stretches of the Lah Lah Land Grand Prix course 'Twins Chicane', 'Bored Housewives Bend' and 'Spin-the-Bottle Corner' for any tyre-screaming revs by the buggy-toting Stig. But forum contributor 'Adelaphe' dampens such bravado with a chilling observation.

'I saw a bunch of teenage DB-brats in a golf cart the other week go around a corner and get up on two wheels,' he or she wrote on September 3. 'They thought it was hilarious but I doubt they would have been laughing had it flipped. I doubt the driver was older than 16 and I very much doubt he was licensed.

'In a vehicle with open sides, no seatbelts and such instability, no insurance company would touch an event like that.'

Quite so. We've been worried about the safety of Discovery Bay golf buggies since we saw a couple of them collide in January 2006. Shocked, we wrote (Footdown, February 2, 2006) how their unrestrained occupants lurched forward like crash dummies and were lucky not to be hurt. After all, safety tests show people can be killed at the slowest of speeds because the surfaces roads and vehicles are harder than most people's heads, we wrote.

We also expressed our concern at the time about the rudimentary fitting of baby seats, the absence of seat belts and the abysmal quality of driving in DB - a community that is no longer an isolated 'resort', but a township of tiny buggies and big buses and trucks that's now tunnel-linked with the rest of Hong Kong.

But DB residents have proven complacent to buggy and road safety. Not a single DB reader came forward in 2006 when we invited them to say if there was any truth in resident talk of 'buggies being driven without lights at night, unbelted passengers spilling out of carts on corners, and maids without licences driving children to the shops'.

This apathy is even more galling in the knowledge that many Discovery Bay people tend to be better off, more educated and travelled than most of their Hong Kong counterparts. Yet we have since seen too many instances of driving and vehicle maintenance in DB that might be instantly ticketable in other world cities.

Nor have we heard a peep on the issue from DB's management, HKR.

In December 2006 we e-mailed some DB medical people to ask if we were 'getting all hot and bothered for no reason' about buggy safety.

Only one spoke up on the issue. But whispers in a local clinic said Footdown wasn't in a tiz about DB road safety for nothing.

'There are a few accidents here,' the medic said. 'It is difficult to say how many as people tend to keep quiet about them and we only see ones involving significant injury.'

So, we again invite DB residents to comment on buggy safety and the intensity of its policing on Silence on this issue could cost lives.