The Chinese (re)invasion of Europe has started
Genghis Khan did a fair job of spreading the
Chinese/Mongolian influence throughout the world, and Europe did not
escape his Mongol hordes. However, despite not being able to colonize
the European savages, his descendants look like they might just do it.
The Chinese automakers are moving in.
At the world auto show in Frankfurt this month,
China had seven cars on display, with the Geely and the Landwind being
the front runners. Rather than beat the low-priced imports at their
own game, the European automakers look to be hiding behind the skirts
of the European Union lawmakers, saying that the Chinese imports face
a long road before they fully comply with European regulations.
However, the manufacturers and importers of these vehicles say they
are close to earning European Union type approval.
Others expressed doubts. “It will take years
before Chinese carmakers can sell cars that comply with EU
pedestrian-impact and emissions requirements,” said a Chinese
consultant who requested anonymity.
But there is another way in to the market,
currently being exploited by Jiangling Landwind Automobiles in
Nanchang. The Landwind is the only Chinese vehicle currently sold in
Europe. The car is sold using single-type approval. It gets a
simplified homologation certificate issued country by country that
doesn’t require crash-test compliance. The medium SUV’s engine
must be converted once it arrives in Europe so that it meets Euro 3
emission standards. “Two months ago we began the European type
approval process for the Landwind. We are confident (we will) complete
it in the coming months,” said Bas van den Nieuwenhuijzen of
Landwind Motor Corp., the car’s importer.
Another is the Gibraltar-based Euro Motors who are
the private importer for the Brilliance Zhonghua upper-medium sedan,
built by Shenyang Brilliance Jinbei Automotive Co. in Shenyang.
Euro Motors has told potential distributors that
the Zhonghua will obtain European type approval by the end of
November. The Zhonghua will be priced under E18,000 in Europe (900,000
baht direct exchange rate).
Geely Automotive showed five vehicles at the Frankfurt Motor Show,
but did not say if and when they could be sold in Europe, though you
can be sure they did not make the trek to Frankfurt, just for
something to do! Portuguese private importer Hipolito Pires will
receive the first Geely vehicles in late September and help the
Chinese carmaker in getting EU-type approval for three sedans.
Do we have backing for James Grunwell?
The search is on across Asia for the next crop of fledgling
racing talent with the BMW Junior Scholarship Trial announced for October 27 to
30 at the BMW Performance Center Bahrain located at the Bahrain International
Circuit. At the end of the four-day trial, three youngsters will come away with
a Formula BMW Scholarship worth US$ 50,000 each towards the 2006 season, plus a
full year of the comprehensive Education and Coaching Programme, the most
professional training course of its kind in the region. A fourth Scholarship
will automatically be awarded to the winner of the 2005 Formula BMW Asia Rookie
Anyone aged between 15 (16 during the 2006 season) and 21
looking to make the step from karting to a single seater racing career – or
even those just starting out in the sport – is eligible to take part in the
trial, providing they have not had any previous international racing experience
and have not competed in senior single seater series.
BMW Motorsport Director, Mario Theissen says, “We are
looking for genuine, natural talent which can benefit the most from our
instructors and trainers. Asian racing drivers are becoming increasingly
recognized internationally as being both talented and skilled, and it is an
exciting prospect for BMW Motorsport to play such an active role in identifying
and nurturing the next generation in Formula racing.”
The Formula BMW Asia Scholarship Trials include theory,
practical exercises, medical checks, briefings and evaluation laps. The theory
section covers shifting, braking, information on the race track, the racing
line, driving physics, explanation of the flags and the Sporting Codes, and a
chronology of race events.
In the practical exercises, youngsters will be taken through
their paces covering a race start, shifting, the racing line, the Safety and
Course cars, and cornering. Free practice as well as evaluated practice sessions
will be held.
For the evaluation of the drivers, lap times, age and
instructor assessment will be taken into account, with particular regard to
shifting, the racing line, braking, rpm/speed and improvement shown during the
trial. With so many different factors to be considered when identifying true
potential, it is not necessarily the fastest drivers on the track who will
ultimately be selected.
The cost of the course is US$ 2,400, excluding transportation
and accommodation, and includes use of a Formula BMW car, an FIA authorized
crash helmet, race suit, shoes, gloves and Head and Neck Support System (HANS)
devices. The deadline for entry is October 12, and a maximum of 24 drivers will
Further information may be obtained by emailing Matthijs
Hoitink at mat [email protected] or calling Malaysian telephone: +60 3 202 616
The stand-out driver from this region is James Grunwell, who
wins in about anything he puts his backside into, and is 16 years of age. His
latest efforts have been in the world Rotax Max GoKart class. As part of the
Champion Racing Team James was totally dominant as he won the Qualification,
Rounds 1 and 2, Pre-Final and Final with ease. This is enough to get him in to
the World Finals to be held in Lankawi, November 25-27.
If there is someone out there who could give this lad a hand,
you can contact his father by email [email protected] con.co.th. I can assure you the lad
has talent, and is a very nice young man as well.
Last week, I asked what is the connection between Stuttgart
and Ferrari? This was a bit cheeky. It really refers to the Ferrari rampant
horse. Here is the ‘official’ history of the Ferrari emblem. Enzo Ferrari
had been noticed by the Baracca family, who reputedly gave Enzo Ferrari the
symbol, by which Ferrari is known throughout the world, the “Cavallino
Rampante”, the Prancing Horse. Enzo, in his memoirs, “My Terrible Joys”,
wrote, “The story of the prancing horse is simple and fascinating. The horse
was painted on the fuselage of the fighter plane flown by Francesco Baracca, a
heroic Italian pilot who died on Mount Montello: the Italian air ace of the
First World War. In 1923, when I won the first Savio circuit, which was run in
Ravenna, I met Count Enrico Baracca, the pilot’s father, and subsequently his
mother, Countess Paolina. One day she said to me, Ferrari, why don’t you put
my son’s prancing horse on your cars, it would bring you luck.” The horse
was black, and Enzo put it on a yellow background to represent Modena, the city
of his birth, and added the letters S and F, for Scuderia Ferrari, but it was
many years later at the Spa 24 Hours in 1932, before this logo would be used on
a car. However, where did Francesco Baracca get the prancing horse that he put
on his plane? The horse is the prancing horse of Stuttgart, which might just
have been on the plane of one of the German pilots he had shot down (Italy was
on the other side from Germany in WW I). That I think is the most credible. It
does not go against Enzo’s story, but just digs a little deeper!
So to this week. And something not as obtuse. I have
mentioned BMW again this week. What model BMW used its rear muffler (silencer)
as an aerofoil?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
[email protected] Good luck!
Bertone will build 2,000 Minis – the new Italian job?
The design and assembly house of Bertone was looking a little
shaky recently. It currently builds the Opel Astra convertible, but its
successor, the Astra TwinTop, will be produced at Opel’s plant in Antwerp,
Belgium, starting next year.
Its other main contract was to build the BMW C1 radical
motorcycle. Bertone installed capacity to build 27,000 C1s a year but BMW
stopped production three years ago after the motorcycle sold only about 10,000
units a year, leaving Bertone a little high and dry.
As compensation, perhaps, BMW have contracted Bertone to
build around 2000 units of a new high performance Mini. This two-seat Mini by
Bertone will have a 225 hp gasoline engine, and is expected to be sold worldwide
at prices starting at about E30,000 (about 1.5 million baht direct conversion).
Bertone will receive bodies in white from Mini’s plant in
Oxford, England, and complete final assembly in its plant in Grugliasco, near
The next Mini is already attracting much interest, with BMW
developing a station wagon version of the next-generation Mini, claims
Automotive News. It is part of a broader range of body styles that will be
derived from the second-generation Mini, which is due in the fourth quarter of
The first version of the new Mini will be a three-door
hatchback. The station wagon is due at the end of 2007. A new version of the
convertible will arrive at about the same time. Until then, BMW will continue to
build the current convertible. Company sources hinted at the Frankfurt show that
other, additional body styles will be introduced.
The next-generation Mini will be a more advanced car than the
current model, with a completely new range of engines co-developed with
PSA/Peugeot-Citroen. It will grow 30 mm to create more room for occupants and to
cope with EU pedestrian-safety regulations. The station wagon derivative will be
200 mm longer than the current Mini.
The station wagon could be called Traveller or Clubman. Both
names were used in the early 1960s on Mini versions that had a longer, square
Italian coachbuilder Castagna has built and sold a small series of station
wagon models based on the current Mini, a project that has met with unofficial
approval of Mini executives in Germany.