Bira Championships

The last race meeting at the Bira Circuit saw the local championships decided, with all of the championships going right down to the wire.

The Sport Challenge class was won by Chaivut Puengthong. This is the ‘starter’ formula for drivers to move on to brighter and better things. Let’s see if he continues to shine next year after moving up.

In the sedan car classes, the smaller Class C (1.6 litres) was won by Songsak Komsiviseubsakul in the Nick Racing Honda Civic, while the larger engined Class B (2 litres) was won by Polsakda Hongchadchaval in another Honda, sponsored by Pola Pola Racing.

Class A and the Thailand Touring Car Championship was won by Nattavud Jareansukawattana in the Toyota Team Thailand Corolla Altis. Toyota also won the teams classification, and I believe deservedly so, as they turn up with immaculately presented motor cars at each meeting, and the smoothness of Nattavud belies his speed. “Pete” carries the number 2 position well, and what he lacks in raw speed he makes up for in raw pulling power, being the most photographed driver in pit lane!

The Sport Grand Champion class was a Singha Beer benefit all year, with Piti Bhirombhakdi narrowly edging out his elder brother. (Series organizer and the push behind the locally produced Sport Grand Champion vehicles, Prutirat Seriroengrith won the final round, just to show he can still do it, and used it as a warm up event before competing in Macao earlier this month.)

The final race meeting of the year for the AIM sponsored races will be on Sunday December 7.

Kia Sorento 3.5 V6

Kia has had a chequered career in the Thailand motor industry. Pre 1997 the brand was handled by Premier Motors, but post-crash it looked as if Kia was going to go down the gurgler as well. However, Yontrakit picked up Kia after it had lost BeeEmm, and now Yontrakit assembles the Carnival, as well as selling the Sorento, Carens and Pregio.

Kia has had some very faithful customers in the past, and the sales of Kia are rising in Thailand. In Australia, the brand is booming, and our Down-Under correspondent John Weinthal has just spent a week with the 3.5 litre V6 engined Sorento SUV. John headed his piece as “Simply great value.” Here are the Words from Weinthal.

“Korean motor manufacturer Kia Automotive has made a rapid impact in Australia. In October 2003 it displaced Mercedes Benz as No. 10 in the bestseller charts down under. The company offers a growing range of sedans and hatchbacks, four-wheel-drives and the top-selling Carnival people mover as well as light commercials (Pregio). This year Kia has seen a 41% growth in sales in a record-breaking market in Australia, but one which has grown by a much lower 10.4%.

“Kia’s second four-wheel-drive, after the five-door 2 litre AUD 25,000 Sportage, is the fully-equipped and stylish 3.5 litre 154kW V6-engined Sorento. It was launched earlier in 2003 as an auto-only model costing AUD 38,000. More recently a 5 speed manual has been added at a saving of AUD 2000. (In Thailand the Sorento comes with a 4 speed auto and a 2.369 million baht price ticket - that’s AUD 87,700 - more than twice the price of the Aussie vehicle - thank you Mr. Tax Man!)

“This is a full body-on-chassis, high ground clearance wagon with advanced crash resistance in the form of side, front and rear crumple zones equivalent to most cars. It can be switched from rear drive to high or low range four-wheel-drive with a twist of a fascia-mounted knob.

“A medium-large wagon it is longer and wider than a Jeep Cherokee, with a wider track than the Mercedes M or BMW X5 and it has more luggage space than a Land Rover Discovery.

“Standard gear includes air con, cruise control and eight speaker sound system to such niceties as twin illuminated vanity mirrors, sliding sun visors, overhead display (thermometer, altimeter, barometer and compass), remote keyless entry, power windows and mirrors, panic alarm and engine immobilizer.

“A myriad of clever storage facilities includes a large glove box and two bins in the central arm rest. There is 900 litres of luggage space under a luggage cover expandable to 1960 litres by folding the 60/40 split rear seating.

“It has twin air bags and four-wheel disc brakes but, unusually these days, ABS is an option. (The Thai version has ABS as standard equipment.) Alloy wheels, remote opening rear window and a roof rack with adjustable cross bars are also standard.

“The 154 kW V6 has plenty of grunt but its 1996 kg - let’s call it two tonnes - weight means that Sorento is no sprinter, but nor is it a slouch. The engine is hushed, but when pressed it produces a pleasingly powerful V6 thrum. On good surfaces it is impressively refined and quiet.

“The story is not so good on typical pock-marked suburban roads and dirt. The suspension bumps and thumps loudly and sometimes uncomfortably. Body roll is more pronounced than with most competitors and the ride can become choppy on undulating surfaces.

“While the suspension was the only downfall of the test Sorento, it is a significant one. It was the more surprising in view of the obvious thought that had gone into everything else about the vehicle and its sturdy, quality feel. Sorento’s body-on-frame construction comes into its own off road. Even when crawling over body-twisting tracks there are no creaks, groans or rattles. It has good approach and departure angles to avoid front or rear bumpers scraping in the dirt. A relatively nimble 36 foot turning circle makes tackling heavier bushland less difficult.

“The Kia at least matches most of its under AUD 50,000 competitors off road, while beating them hands down in outright value. Those who confine themselves mainly to town and highway cruising will appreciate the refinement, performance and lavish and practical standard equipment levels of their under AUD 40,000 Sorento, be it manual or automatic.

“Sorento is undoubtedly good value, but there’s work still to be done to make the suspension more appropriate to Australian conditions.”

(Thank you John. With our choked roads, it probably doesn’t matter how it handles! Dr. Iain.)

Another Holden milestone for Commodore - but it’s a Lumina here

General Motors Holden is celebrating 25 years of Commodore in Oz with the release of a special limited edition version of Australia’s biggest selling car.

The 25th Anniversary Commodore sedans and wagons include individual exterior and exterior design treatments and a selection of extra comfort and convenience features, which Holden claims represents AUD 5000 extra value.

The sedan retails for AUD 33,490 and the wagon for 35,590, both equipped with automatic transmission.

Holden is building 4700 of the commemorative cars, with the first examples rolling off the assembly line in late October, exactly 25 years to the day after the original Commodore made its public debut in 1978.

Available in a choice of six exterior finishes, 25th anniversary Commodores are set apart by nine-spoke 16-inch alloy wheels and a chrome exhaust extension. Mirrors, grille surround, side mouldings, rockers and lower fascia are all finished in body colour.

The sedan sports a rear spoiler while the wagon is equipped with a roof rack and has body coloured roof rails and rear dust deflector. Both wear special 25th Anniversary badges.

In the passenger compartment, features include a unique velour trim, six-disc in-dash CD changer, power windows all round, air-conditioning and unique floor mats. The steering wheel, automatic transmission selector and handbrake are leather-wrapped and door pulls are finished in satin chrome.

I do not know whether we will get a Lumina version, but the new Holdens are very good motorcars - but the price landed here could be the killer.

Reliability. Always an important factor

A survey has just been completed in the UK to look at the issue of reliability. The reviewers took their statistics from 800,000 vehicles maintained by contract hire companies and the results were not all that radically different from what you could have guessed.

The winning manufacturer was - yes you guessed it - Toyota. Close behind was Honda, followed by Lexus. The first non-Japanese brand was BMW in 4th position.

Many people, even in the auto industry, profess ignorance at how Japan managed to take over the world. The word is reliability. By the way, the most reliable car in the 800,000 vehicle survey was the Honda Accord.

This factor also shows up when you look at resale, or just how well your new car will hold onto its value. According to the Australian Red Book people, who are now in Thailand, a Toyota 2 years old and with 20,000 clicks is still worth around 67 percent of its new price. A Honda is even slightly better at 70 percent. That’s what keeps the buying public coming back for more.

If you look very hard at the residual values of motor vehicles, you can also soon see when you should buy, and when you should sell. For example, if a one year old car is 80 percent of the new price and when three years old it is worth 55 percent, look at the following - get a two year lease plan to get you into your car when it is one year old. For the sake of the exercise, let’s say the car is 1 million new, so that’s 800,000 at 12 months and 550,000 baht at 36 months. You climb on board with a one year old model leased at 800,000 baht. Take the lease over 24 months with a 50 percent residual - that’s 400,000 you have to come up with at the end of your lease period, when the car is now three years old. However, we already know that it will be worth 550,000 baht at three years. End result is a cool 150,000 “profit” for you.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I wrote about a wicker bodied car made in Europe in 1924. I asked which company made this peculiar vehicle? And to also have a stab at ‘why’? The company was Hanomag, and I believe it was a weight saving idea. Great too if you had an accident - you rushed down to the local cane furniture shop!

So to this week. “Hybrid” power plants are all the rage these days, being put forward as the “new” technology. However, this idea of petrol/electric vehicles is not at all new. It was first demonstrated in 1902, and the designer raced a car with it and won. Who was he?

For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!