Vol. V No. 33 - Saturday August 12, - August 18, 2006
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by Saichon Paewsoongnern
 

 


Automania

What did we learn from the Hungarian GP?

Well, we learned that after 113 Grands Prix, Jenson Button finally cracked it! And he did it well, never putting a foot wrong for the 70 laps. However, was this a resurgence? Has Honda found race winning pace? Or was this a freak set of circumstances? I feel it was the latter, but we shall see at the next GP, won’t we!

Jubilant Button

Have the wheels fallen off the Ferrari juggernaut? In the prevailing conditions at the wet Hungaroring, Ferrari and Michael Schumacher seemed to make all the wrong decisions as far as tyre choices and strategies were concerned. Up till now, MS and Ross Brawn, the super tactician, always seemed to make the best decisions, but not this time. Full wets at the start was wrong, staying out on intermediates was wrong, Michael getting physical when being passed on two occasions was wrong – the list goes on. And we’ll forget about the two second penalty for passing under a red flag during practice, another inexcusable error which deserved disqualification, as would have happened in the lower levels of the sport.
Did somebody forget the locking pin in Alonso’s right rear tyre? The official (Renault) word is a driveshaft failure, but the vigilant TV cameras picked up a small round “something” coming off. A wheel nut? Up till then, it looked as if another Renault dominant result was in the offing (or rather an Alonso dominant result, as Fisichella was nowhere to be seen other than backing into the fences). Up till then, Alonso was superb.

Webber doesn’t want to hear any more excuses

What else did we learn? Raikkonen must have tunnel vision, as Liuzzi could not have gone further off to the left hand side of the track than he did, and slowed to enable Kimi R to lap him. The visibility was not bad at that point and there was no spray to make Kimi “blind”. Liuzzi apologized, apparently, but the way I saw it (from my dry seat at Jameson’s Irish Pub) was that it should have been the other way round. Liuzzi said, “I went wide, trying to let him by before the chicane. Probably, he did not expect me to slow at this point and so he ran into the back of me. This track is really tight and twisty and I was really trying to move over to let him by. It was a misunderstanding and I’m sorry as it ruined both our races.” The commentator drew a parallel with Schumacher running into Coulthard a few years ago, but track conditions were very different then, with there being a wall of spray from DC’s car. (Schumi should have been more cautious, however). Simple explanation, Kimi got it all wrong.
WilliamsF1 gave both their drivers undriveable cars for the GP, with both Webber and Rosberg parking their cars in the safety fences after being unable to control the rear of the cars. This is a combination of engine power characteristics (coming in with a ‘bang’), an on-off traction control and compliance problems in the rear suspension producing sliding, rather than traction. WilliamsF1 is a long way from the front of the grid. The glory days are over, and a new engine supplier next year (Toyota), will not fix the problems. Webber will be better off elsewhere.
With the Hungarian GP having been the most exciting GP of the decade, I think the answer the FIA is looking for is right there before their eyes. In future, all tracks should be watered in different sections, and left dry on the straights. Rapid tyre selection will be allowed, but each driver has to do at least 10 laps on each set. That should produce another Hungarian GP every time.
The next GP is in Turkey in a couple of weeks (August 27) and there is a circuit testing ban before then, but this does not stop teams testing parts in wind tunnels, or from finding why the right rear wheel nut came off!


Long faces in the US as dwindling sales hit home

Yet again sales of the domestic product in the US are down on last year’s numbers. Yet again, the Big Three appear to be reactive, rather than pro-active. Yet again, the American automakers seem too slow to react to market forces.
Poor old Ford was in the news again, but in the financial pages where FoMoCo in the US admitted is has lost twice as much in the second quarter of 2006 than it had budgeted for. This time it was pension entitlements that had screwed the bottom line.
FoMoCo has also admitted that it expects its Premier Automotive Group (Volvo, Jaguar, Aston Martin) to make a loss this year. Altogether a worrisome time in the great land on the left of the Atlantic Ocean.
What seems to be ignored, or perhaps it is the antithesis of the American dream (nightmare?) is that the marketplace has reacted to the increased fuel costs and the big V8s are no longer the preferred choice, along with big 6 SUVs and any other gas guzzlers. The emphasis is on small, fuel efficient, cars, and Japan is crucifying the American motor industry, and so will China within the next decade.
I read with interest the critical review of small cars in Australia, a country that has thousands of miles between outposts of civilization, and was also the last bastion for the big 6s and V8s. What is more popular now? No prizes for guessing. Small four cylinder fuel misers. The list of cars contained the following:
Mitsubishi Colt - Price: From $15,990; Fuel rating label: 5.9 liters/100 km (manual); 5.6 liters/100 km (auto)
Volkswagen Polo - Price: From $16,990; Fuel rating label: 6.5 liters/100 km; 7.6 liters/100 km (auto)
Ford Fiesta - Price: From $15,990; Fuel rating label: 6.6 liters/100 km; 7.5 liters/100 km (auto)
Toyota Yaris - Price: From $14,990; Fuel rating label: 6.0 liters/100 km; 6.5 liters/100 km (auto)
Hyundai Getz - Price: From $13,990; Fuel rating label: 6.2 liters/ 100 km; 7.1 liters/100 km (auto)
Mazda 2 - Price: From $16,290; Fuel rating label: 6.6 liters/100 km; 7.0 liters/100 km (auto)
Suzuki Swift - Price: From $15,990; Fuel rating label: 7.0 liters/100 km; 7.5 liters/100 km (auto)
Honda Jazz - Price: From $15,990; Fuel rating label: 5.7 liters/100 km; 5.8 liters/100 km (auto).
Kia Rio - Price: From $15,990; Fuel rating label: 6.8 liters/100 km; 7.0 liters/100 km (auto)
You do not have to be an Einstein to see that the vast majority are Japanese, with America having one sole representative (Ford Fiesta) and it was also interesting to see that the Honda Jazz sold in Australia was built in Thailand, allowing a decrease in list price, following the FTA between Australia and this country. I am not sure about the Yaris, as I think it is still being imported from Japan to Oz.
It was also interesting to read that when everything was taken into consideration, including crash safety, price and fuel efficiency, the winner was the Toyota Yaris, followed by the Honda Jazz. Those of you with either of these motor cars have every good reason to feel a little bit smug! With the Jazz, in particular, returning figures of 5.7 liters for 100 km driving, this is very, very fuel efficient. As reported last week, a standard Toyota Prius hybrid gets around 5 liters per 100 km, although the new technology batteries can reduce this to 1.5 liters per km, an astounding figure.


Biodiesel seems to be winning

Again, with increasing fuel costs, the automotive industry in Thailand is looking to maximize fuel efficiency. Diesel is one way to go, with the raw fuel being cheaper than refined gasoline, and with diesel engines going twice as far as gasoline engines, this makes for very economical motoring. Factor in even cheaper diesel fuel coming from natural renewable sources and this is a win-win situation. This is where biodiesel comes in.

Biodiesel

It should also not be forgotten that Rudolf Diesel’s first successful variant of his engine ran on peanut oil! We are not dealing with some new technology. The idea of putting pure, natural vegetable oil - like the oil we fry chips in - into the fuel tanks of diesel vehicles is as old as diesel technology itself. Natural vegetable oils such as canola oil are CO2-neutral, sulfur-free and non-toxic and research shows that fuel consumption and engine performance are the same as in conventional diesel operations.
For many industrial operators, biodiesel is seen as the path to follow, and many governments are legislating to make this a favored option. Even in Thailand, there are government moves towards assisting in the planting of oil palms as forerunners of a biodiesel push (640,000 hectares of new oil palms by 2009), and PTT signing agreements with two local companies to study large-scale production of biodiesel. Between these two smaller producers, it is estimated they can produce half a million liters of biodiesel a day. Meanwhile, up in the north of Thailand in Chiang Mai, the university there is running small waste oil recycling plants to produce biodiesel from discarded cooking oil. It seems that we can be more efficient, if not self-sufficient.
It should also be noted that OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) is providing assistance to Burma for an oil crop development project. This is a 14 million US dollar deal, with 12.3 million of those loaned by OPEC. The crops purportedly being grown will include groundnut, sesame and sunflower. Currently there is an area of 52,650 hectares under cultivation, but there is area for much more.


Autotrivia Quiz
Last week I asked what was the first British make to win a Grand Prix? Clue, the driver was also the first British driver to win a GP. The correct answer was Sunbeam in the 1923 French GP, and it averaged 75 miles per hour for the 500 mile race. The driver was Sir Henry Seagrave. You read that correctly, a 500 mile race! That makes the overpaid racers of today look like amateurs by comparison, does it not?
So to this week. Which World Land Speed record driver was a fur broker by profession? A couple of clues: his car was four wheel drive and an oil company was involved.
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!