Automania

Eff Wun kicks off in Melbourne next weekend

With the silly season of seat swapping now out of the way, we can settle down and see just what real progress has been made since the last Grand Prix of 2003. The first aspect we should come to terms with is the list of driver pairings for 2004, and here it is:

Ferrari Michael Schumacher and Barichello Bridgestone

BMW-WilliamsF1 Montoya and Ralf Schumacher Michelin

McLaren Mercedes Coulthard and Raikkonen Michelin

Renault F1 Trulli and Alonso Michelin

BAR Honda Button and Sato* Michelin

Sauber Fisichella and Massa* Bridgestone

Jaguar Webber and Klien* Michelin

Toyota Racing da Matta and Panis Michelin

Jordan Heidfeld and Pantano* Bridgestone

Minardi Bruni* and Baumgartner Bridgestone

(* Did not race in F1 last year)

Alonso and Trulli

Of the new crop of drivers, Sato (Japan) and Massa (Brazil) both had one season in F1 in 2002, and will hopefully have matured since then. Both have been doing well in the winter testing. Klein (Austria), Pantano (Italy) and Bruni (Italy) come to F1 with good solid racing credentials behind them, while Baumgartner (Hungary) did have two races with Jordan in 2003.

Klien and Webber

There are some new rules for 2004, so here is a brief run-down of the more important issues, courtesy of pitpass.com:

No Change

Points: The 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 points system introduced in 2003 remains for 2004.

Qualifying: cars will run with their race fuel and settings as in 2003.

Driver Aids: Traction Control is still permitted.

New

The bottom six teams from the 2003 - BAR, Sauber, Jaguar, Toyota, Jordan and Minardi - may run a third car in the two Friday practice sessions.

Engines: The most controversial new rule - and part of FIA President Max Mosley’s drive to cut costs - is the new rule that limits teams to one engine per driver per race weekend. Changing an engine before qualifying will cost the driver 10 grid places. Changing the engine after qualifying will mean the driver goes to the back of the grid.

Pitlane speed limit: At most venues the pitlane speed limit will be raised to 100 km/h. (A lower limit may be enforced at circuits with narrow pit lanes, such as Monaco.)

Driver Aids: Drivers must now change gears manually.

Out

Driver Aids: Launch control is banned.

Drive through penalties: Stewards will hear complaints post race, rather than allocate drive throughs during the race.


Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked you who in France pioneered windscreen wipers as a safety feature? The clue was that he also patented a gearbox in the 1920’s. The answer was Paul Ravigneaux who was the chief engineer for De Dion-Bouton cars and the editor of La Vie Automobile.

So to this week. Staying warm has been an acknowledged need in motoring since the early days, with the first hot water bottles upholstered to match the interior trim. Taking hot water from the engine and feeding it through radiators to warm the cabin was first seen in America in 1926, though similar foot warmers were found in the Canstatt Daimlers in 1897. However, one very different heating system was a catalytic type petrol heater mounted on the engine bulkhead and fed from the car’s main fuel tank. It was released in 1954. What was this car?

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

Good luck!

Bangkok International Motor Show

As already mentioned, the Bangkok International Motor Show at BITEC (Km marker 1 on Bangna-Trad Road) runs from March 26 to April 4. New cars include the RHD version of the Mercedes SLR and the star of the show must surely be the 100 million baht Maybach 62, which is a whopping 6.2 metres long! That is 16.1 million per metre, which will take some justification, but they are selling as many of these cars as they make! I will be at the motor show as usual with John Weinthal, our main Down-under correspondent, and we will be reporting on both cars and bikes and any interesting accessories.

Maybach 62


Honda Accord

The ‘new’ Accord has been with us since last year’s Bangkok International Motor Show (on March 26-April 4), but is only now really being noticed in the southern hemisphere. Down-under they actually have two Accords, one called the ‘Euro’ and the other the same as we get here.

Honda Accord

Let us see what the Australians made of ‘our’ Accord, what we think of as the real Accord, the one we’ve come to know over six previous generations.

“The seventh generation Accord is a bigger, cushier car than the more compact Euro - which is also an Accord, but appeals to a quite different customer. The latest version’s styling is skewed towards an American understanding of what a mid-size compact car should be (and little wonder, because the USA has for many years been the Accord’s heartland), favouring interior space, smoothness and silence of operation, safe styling and the odd bit of fake wood.

“The new model is bigger than the previous Accord, but not hugely. The wheelbase is up 25mm, while overall body length has crept up slightly less, by 20mm. This partly explains an increase of interior cabin length and means there’s slightly less overhang than before. Practically all of the massive 127mm increase in internal length goes into improving front-seat legroom. Perhaps unexpectedly, internal shoulder width is slightly down on the previous car.

“Weight doesn’t seem to have gone up significantly though, roughly around 50 kg over comparable versions of the previous model, while the aerodynamics have improved to a quite creditable drag figure of 0.30Cd.

“The Accord looks quite big on the road, which is no surprise because it is edging closer to cars like the Chevrolet Lumina and is bigger than a Toyota Camry.

“Honda says the new Accord achieves very high levels of refinement, with particular emphasis on improved passive safety and overall road performance. In V6 form (the 2.4 litre four cylinder is also available) the Accord is a very smooth, quite powerful car that emphasizes comfortable cruising rather than driver oriented, point to point athleticism. In fact, the VTEC V6 is a gem, spinning quietly and with amazing silkiness while delivering a surge of real power. The 177 kW is real.

“Although the all alloy engine is a development of the previous, also 3.0 litre V6, it has been substantially reworked to be almost 9 kg lighter and 25mm shorter. The single overhead camshaft drives a four valves per cylinder system and the exhaust manifolds are integrated into the cylinder heads - a neat feature that improves packaging and helps allow optimal positioning of the catalytic converters.

“The VTEC system provides continual adjustment of the valve timing, while also varying the lift of the valves according to engine speed - more lift at higher rpm for maximum gas flow and less at lower rpm.

“The V6 is also in a harmonious partnership with the five speed automatic transmission - one ratio more than previous Accord autos. It is a smooth shifting, nicely intuitive box incorporating Honda’s “Grade Logic” system that senses when the car is on an incline and, if the moment is appropriate, will downshift accordingly, tending to hold a chosen intermediate gear rather than “hunt” around for the correct ratio. The compact transmission is claimed by Honda to be similar in size to a regular four-speed auto. It doesn’t offer sequential shifting though - which is something of a strange omission, although it perhaps underlines the non-sporting nature of the car.

“The Accord proceeds smoothly on all types of road surfaces, non-compromised by any real pretensions about being a lively-handling car. The 16 inch alloy wheels run cushy 205/60 tyres, aimed more at comfort than maximum grip. The steering is light - a shade too light - and the car heels over on bends, with an unmistakable tendency to understeer. It’s all quite controlled though, and the car always signals the driver if it’s about to run short of grip.

“The cabin, as you’d expect with the more generous overall dimensions, is quite roomy and comfortable. Up front, there’s certainly plenty of room even for tall passengers, both in terms of fore-aft stretch and shoulder width. The same applies in the back, although the front seats will intrude on legroom if all the generous travel is used. The base, velour-trimmed V6 model tested here (there’s also the entry level four cylinder VTi and the top-of-the-line V6 Luxury) is generally restrained in monotone grey, broken by a slab of fake wood on the centre console.

“The front seats are new, and appear to offer decent support although there’s not a lot of lateral location. In the base V6, the driver gets electric height adjustment as well as adjustable lumbar support. The steering column also adjusts telescopically as well as vertically, so a decent driving position can be achieved.

“Honda talks a lot about the Accord’s zero offset driving position - the driver is directly in line with the axis of the steering column, rather than located slightly to the right or left as is the case with some cars - and this adds subtly to the feeling of comfort and symmetry.

“Storage areas are abundant, with a decent lidded cubby at the front of the console, a small (also lidded) container behind the gearshift and a two-level box below the front centre armrest. The back seat conceals a ski-port behind its centre armrest and the backrest folds down in one piece to complement the decent size, 446 litre boot. The load-through aperture is small though, and the hinges intrude into boot space. All doors have parcel trays and those in front are able to store drink bottles vertically.

“Standard gear includes climate control air-conditioning (without external temperature readout), a really good six-speaker sound system with in-dash six disc CD stacker, cruise control, a sunglasses holder above the centre rear-view mirror, power mirrors and windows. Dual front and front side airbags are also standard.

“So what we have with the latest, seventh-generation Honda Accord is a natural progression from the previous model. Smooth, inoffensive style, a nicely trimmed but conservative interior and inoffensive dynamics with a marked tendency to favour a long distance cruise over a satisfying blast on a twisting mountain highway.”

(In Thailand, the V6 Accord is around 1.6 million baht, while the four cylinder is around 300,000 baht cheaper. Dr. Iain.)