Three day auto conference (if
you have deep pockets)
Automotive News sent me advance notice of their world
congress which will be held in the Hyatt Regency Dearborn, Dearborn, Michigan,
USA. This will run from January 17-20, 2005.
If you are hot to trot, the cost is USD 1,395 for the early
registration fee by Nov. 24; $1,595 after Nov. 26 or a daily fee of $850. (Mr.
Editor please note, that’s only 55,800 baht if you get me in quick.) For
information: autonews.com/2005worldcongress or Call (734) 929-0498, or toll free
at (866) 374-6227.
Speakers at this world conference will include Ford Motor
Co.’s human resources chief Joe Laymon and Bernd Bohr the head of Robert Bosch
GmbH’s global automotive group.
Joe Laymon has been Ford’s group vice president for
corporate human resources and labor affairs since October 2003. He joined Ford
in 2000 as executive director of human resources and helped repair employee
discord caused by an ill-fated grading system for salaried workers. Prior to
joining Ford, Laymon was director of human resources for Eastman Kodak’s
Canadian operations and chief labor negotiator for Xerox Corp. He will address
the congress Tuesday, Jan. 18.
Bernd Bohr took over the Bosch’s automotive operations in
2003. He previously ran Bosch’s braking systems division. Bosch ranks No. 2 on
the Automotive News list of the top 100 global suppliers with more than USD 23
billion in OEM parts sales in 2003. Bohr’s ambit is to boost the popularity of
diesel engines in the United States and he will speak on Wednesday, Jan. 19.
While the 55,800 baht registration is a little too steep for
this little black duck, this congress will have the auto heavyweights of the
world there. The future direction for the automakers will be mapped out at this
What did we learn from the final Grand Prix of
Well, we learned that even seven times world champ Michael
Schumacher can get it wrong in practice and end up world chump, and it was a
very subdued Schumi who had to use the spare car, qualifying 8th and then
penalized 10 grid spots as well, to start 18th, down in Minardi country.
However, he had made up eight spots on the first lap, and despite another spin,
finished in the points in 7th place. Poor Ruby Baby is still waiting to win his
home GP, and didn’t manage it again, despite starting from pole position.
We also saw that Christian Klien doesn’t seem to understand
how to let faster cars pass ‘cleanly’ if you’ll pardon the pun. His debut
year has seen him collide with Schumi (twice), Coulthard (twice), Webber (twice)
and a few others as well. The words he uses are always the same, “I saw him
coming but didn’t think he would come up so fast!” That’s why we won’t
see the young Austrian again next year (unless he buys a drive with Jordan).
Jaguar even admitted during the year that he was not making the grade as a
driver, even though his sack of gold was large enough.
Talking about large sacks, Juan Pablo Montoya showed that he
has the fire and the skill to do the job, he just needs encouragement from his
team. I feel he didn’t get that from BMW Williams. But will he get it from
McLaren next year when he lines up alongside Raikkonen, the apple of Ron
Dennis’ eye? I somehow doubt it, though Ron is already saying that McLaren has
the environment to help Montoya.
And when I write about driving alongside Raikkonen brings me
to another fact we learned from Brazil. Laughing boy Kimi Raikkonen wears
blinkers, driving down the pit lane side by side with Montoya, and saying
afterwards that he didn’t see him there. They only drove for 50 metres less
than 300 mm apart! The stewards of the meeting were not impressed with his
explanation, and laughing boy was fined $10,000.
So we now go into the ‘lay off’ season. The rules for
2005 are still not cast in stone, the teams are not happy, the engine suppliers
are not happy, several circuits are not happy and several drivers ditto. While
Ferrari and McLaren have their line up signed up (Schumi and Barichello in red,
Montoya and Raikkonen in silver), there are many others who have yet to announce
their pairings. BMW Williams, having lost the Jenson Button Contract Review
Board fiasco, are yet to say who will partner Mark Webber, and Minardi and
Jordan are shaking their donation tins to see who is willing to tip in the most.
I have spoken before on ‘pay drivers’ and how these lower teams need drivers
with real talent to get their cars further up the grid, but ‘real talent’
doesn’t pay for the privilege to drive. While Minardi and Jordan continue to
look for ‘pay drivers’ they will continue to bring in the likes of Alex
Yoong to fill the rear of the grid, and will not improve their own chances at
getting further up that grid.
As the teams finalize their driver line-up, as the FIA finalizes the
regulations, and Bernie Ecclestone finishes counting his money, I will keep you
Another (more desirable) car spotted
Spotted this one outside the Marriott, parked where you and I
would have received a barrage of angry whistles and told to move on. This is a
cool 26.5 million baht of Ferrari F575 M Maranello. To be quite candid, I found
the styling to be very bland, and from the side looked like a scaled down early
70’s Mach 1 Mustang with the hip-line kick-up over the rear wheels, or even at
a stretch the old 275 LM. You would have to be a real Ferrari fan to get one of
these, even with its 515 bhp from the 5.7 litre V12. The brakes actually looked
to me to be quite small when you take into consideration the potential top speed
575 M Maranello is one of the latest models produced by Ferrari (released in
2002) and is an evolution of the 550 Maranello. The 575, refers to its increase
in engine capacity from 5500 cc to around 5750 cc, which has resulted in
increased power and torque. The letter ‘M’ stands for ‘Modified’, to
make you believe that every part of the car is modified vis-เ-vis the 550
The first obvious change is the fact that Ferrari have done
away with the console gearshift, and you get one of Schumi’s paddle shifts on
the steering wheel, like a real F1 car. That may impress some, but since you can
get it on a Honda Jazz, I remain underwhelmed.
According to the factory, the principal modifications were
limited to those required to deal with the technical changes: in particular
different shape and size for the air intakes in the new front end of the car and
a new treatment for the front spoiler. The headlights and wheels have also been
modified. Wow! Almost a total makeover!
The objectives given to the engineers for the new V12 engine
in the 575M Maranello were to increase both the power curve as well as the
torque, when compared with the 550 Maranello. It now has a maximum power output
of 515 bhp (379 Kw) at 7250 rpm and maximum torque of 588.6 Nm 5250 rpm. As our
American friends would say, “There’s no substitute for cubic inches!”
Ferrari claim a 50-50 split between the front and rear axles,
with the driver on board, thanks to a transaxle design which features a combined
rear mounted gearbox and differential unit with conical torque and autolocking
differential in the same unit.
It has an adaptive suspension with different settings, based
on a system of independently controlled damping at all four corners of the car.
The system is capable of selecting the ideal ride height for any condition, with
two choices: Sport, which is selected for a more sporty ride, improving traction
and Comfort, which gives a more comfortable ride, absorbing road bumps.
Hopefully there is a third choice called “Thailand Roads”, which will give
600 mm of ground clearance to allow you to traverse any of the 13 million
roadworks projects between Chiang Rai and Phuket.
Jokes aside, it certainly is a very advanced car technically, but I still say
you have to be a very well heeled dyed in the wool Schumi fan to slap down 26.5
million baht so that you can park the thing where lesser mortals in Daihatsu
Miras can’t go!