Grunwell does well in world Rotax championships
Grunwell # 22, far left
James Grunwell had a great week at the Rotax Go-Kart world
championships in Malaysia and after the qualifying rounds was placed 4th on the
grid in the final, in a field including the best drivers in the world at that
level. There were more than 60 countries represented. Unfortunately in the final
he was disadvantaged by his set-up on the drying track and had to settle for 9th
place overall. This is best a Thai based driver has ever achieved. Most of the
drivers he was competing against had been driving for 10 years compared with
only three years for James.
It is hoped that this year he might be awarded one of the BMW scholarships to
run in the Formula BMW Asia in 2006. James, his parents and I have our fingers
crossed. This is a young man with obvious talent.
Villeneuve gets a ride after all
Interesting little press release from BMW to say that
Villeneuve is staying at BMW Sauber for 2006. There had been much talk that
Villeneuve would get the bullet or the DCM (Don’t Come Monday) when BMW took
control over Sauber, with whom Villeneuve had another year of his contract to
It seems that the contract was still good for 2006 despite
Sauber losing control of the team, and even though BMW now has the main say. You
can also be sure there were enough contract lawyers looking at the fine print,
over in Germany. Well done JV’s manager.
The official response from BMW Motorsport Director Mario
Theissen was “We took a close look at Jacques’ performance level at the end
of last season. After an extremely tough first half of the year - which showed
that even a former World Champion cannot come back after a period away and be
competitive from day one - he got closer and closer to his team-mate over the
second half of the season. We are in no doubt that Jacques will make the BMW
Sauber F1 Team stronger.” And if you believe that, you will believe anything.
I believe that he was (is) well past his use-by date, and
just because he won a world championship while in the best car in 1997 does not
mean he would continue at that level. He did not star at BAR, he was passed over
by Renault last year and was outshone by Massa in 2005 at Sauber. Remember that
the only ‘true’ yardstick is to measure a driver’s performance against his
team mate. Villeneuve has been lacking.
Reading between the lines, it was going to cost BMW too much
money to buy him out of his contract, so they are stuck with him as Heidfeld’s
partner for 2006. Since BMW in the corporate arena have not been having the
easiest of years, I can imagine that calls to der Fatherland for more money
before the 2006 season even began would have resulted in a decisive “Nein!”
According to Villeneuve, “Between 1999 and 2004 I
experienced first-hand the difficulties and complexities involved in setting up
a new team, but I’ve never been afraid of a challenge. Sauber was already a
good team and now we also have the resources of BMW behind us. I will do
everything I can to contribute to the success of the BMW Sauber F1 Team.”
We will all await 2006 with an air of expectancy?
Is the Tweel “weely” the way to the future?
In the list of the top 10 significant inventions in 2005,
there was one automotive product. The “Tweel” made by Michelin.
A few weeks ago I looked at the ‘run flat’ tyre
technology systems on a test vehicle, and hoped this was not the way we were
The ‘run flat’ system were tyres that basically had a
pliable rubber band inside them and that meant the tyre never deflated totally
and would always get you home. However, the tyre principle as we currently know
it was preserved. The tyre carcass held air to allow for flexibility, the
sidewalls were also important in giving directional stability, while the tread
met all the imperfections in the road surface and the rolling resistance was the
sum of all three factors.
All of the above really now comes out as a very interim step
in tyre technology, as Michelin revealed at the Paris Motor Show. This new and
exciting concept is the Michelin Tweel. This is, by nature of its airless
construction another puncture-proof tyre. The name “Tweel”’ is an
amalgamation of “tyre” and “wheel”. It is a non-pneumatic (or airless)
wheel, made up of a rubber tread bonded to the hub through flexible spokes.
Rather than a wheel plus a demountable tyre, we now have a single combined
product called the Tweel. Mounting and removal operations will thus be simpler
As the Tweel is extremely strong, they are also working on a
range of other applications including smaller earthmover and military vehicles.
However, it was not till the North American International
Auto Show (NAIAS) that Michelin’s trend-setting technology caught the
imagination of the media. “Major revolutions in mobility may come along only
once in a hundred years,” said Terry Gettys, president of Michelin Americas
Research and Development Center. “But a new century has dawned and Tweel has
proven its potential to transform mobility. Tweel enables us to reach levels of
performance that quite simply aren’t possible with today’s conventional
pneumatic technology.” All this is conveniently forgetting that radial
technology is only 50 years old, but never mind!
Michelin’s Tweel is in production and the bulk market is in
passenger vehicles, and Michelin are far enough down the road (sorry about the
pun) to show the application of Tweels on an Audi A4. “The Tweel automotive
application, as demonstrated on the Audi, is definitely a concept, a stretch
application with strong future potential,” said Gettys. “Our concentration
is to enter the market with lower-speed, lower-weight Tweel applications. What
we learn from our early successes will be applied to Tweel fitments for
passenger cars and beyond.”
Going back to the basic construction of the Tweel, the spokes
which are flexible, mimic the action of the compressed air and sidewalls in
delivering the ride comfort. The flexible wheel deforms to absorb road shocks
from surface irregularities. Without any air needed by conventional tyres, Tweel
has the weight-carrying capacity, ride comfort, and the ability to ride over
Michelin has also found that it can tune Tweel performances
independently of each other, which is a significant change from conventional
tyres. This means that vertical stiffness (which primarily affects ride comfort)
and lateral stiffness (which affects handling and cornering) can both be
optimized, pushing the performance factor for these applications and has the
potential for superior performance not possible for current air inflation tyres.
Michelin claim it has increased the lateral stiffness by a factor of five,
making the prototype very responsive in its handling. According to factory
information, the Tweel prototype tested on the Audi A4, is within five percent
of the rolling resistance and mass levels of the standard tyre fitment.
For Michelin, Tweel is a long-term vision that represents the
next step in a long path of industry-changing innovations. Fifty years ago,
Michelin invented the radial tyre and Michelin believes that radial tyre
technology will continue as the standard, however, Michelin is continuing with
its Tweel research. I believe that research will see the radial technology
replaced within the next decade.
Didier Miraton, Head of Michelin R&D says, “Michelin’s research
mission is to constantly bring about “technological leaps” in the tyre
industry. Day after day, we strive to halve breaking distance, rolling
resistance, noise, and also to improve grip or extend tyre life. All this means
experimenting with new structures, materials and so on. And day after day, we
break new performance records, pushing back the limits of tyre technology.”
Last week I mentioned that the first roadside petrol pump was
installed in the UK in 1913, but another country had installed them long before.
The question was which country, and when? It was the USA in 1906.
So to this week. Which candle manufacturer also built motor cars? Clue: Agnelli!
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email