Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

COTY judging held at Bira last week

The annual Car Of The Year (COTY) awards were judged at the Bira circuit last weekend. This made for a busy day at the Prince Bira complex, as the Kart 24 hour race was on, as well as an eight hour enduro for motorcycles.

Lexus LS 460
There were 38 vehicles as finalists in the 15 categories, and final awards will be made around the time of the Bangkok International Motor Show at the end on March; however, I can let you know that the Mazda MX-5 won the Roadster class (it was the only entry), as did the Mercedes-Benz E280 in the Mid-Sized sedan under 3,000 cc, and the Volvo V70 D5 in the Diesel Sedan class.
The new Toyota Camry 3.5 V6 was there, looking very much like its much more expensive stablemate, the Lexus LS 460, with both in the Luxury Car class. One under three million and the other closer to 10 million, I believe. That one is certainly a no-brainer.
However, there was one vehicle at Bira which interested me more than the COTY cars and that was a small motor home (known as ‘campervan’ in many countries) called the Terra, based on a Toyota Vigo Hilux, though alternate versions are built on the Isuzu pick-up or the Chevrolet Colorado. This little gem sleeps 5-6 people (or maybe 7-8 Thais) and is fully air-conditioned and set up for a family to go touring, with nifty shower and toilet on board, as well as fold-away dining table. At 1.4 million baht it is a cheap investment for the annual holidays, but what was even more of interest was the rental offer. One to two days rental is 6,500 baht per 24 hours, three to five days 6,000 baht per 24 hours and six to 15 days is 5,000 baht a day. Telephone 081 452 5050 (Khun Narong) for further details on the rental agreement, or for more details on the vehicle itself.

Terra Campervan

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I mentioned that four of Schumi’s F1 cars were for sale. They were the Jordan 191 (his first GP), the Benetton B. 191 (his first world championship points), the Benetton B. 194 (his first world championship) and the Ferrari F2002 (his totally dominant year). These four are currently on sale as a set. I asked how much was the asking price for the set in US dollars? The correct answer was 6.5 million USD! You would have to be the ultimate Schumacher fan (with deep pockets) to pay that for them.
So to this week. The Citroen SM was announced at the Geneva Motor Show in 1970. What did the initials S and M stand for? No clues for this one.
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!

Thailand wins 24 hour race

No, it wasn’t the Le Mans 24 Hour race, but it might as well have been. The race was over 24 hours, the start was the classic “Le Mans” start with the drivers sprinting across the track and leaping into (or rather ‘on to’) their vehicles, and during the 24 hours there were the usual hard luck stories, refuelling, near-misses and beautiful misses (brolly dollies), and a bunch of French people.
This was the second 24 Hour Kart race at the newly refurbished Bira Kart circuit in the Prince Bira complex which attracted many overseas teams to our kart enduro. The French were so impressed with the event last year that they entered two French teams for the 2007 event. Team Benfica from Portugal was also another of the overseas teams returning to try and win the 24 hour cup, which is always difficult. You need consistent drivers, luck that lasts 24 hours, and careful timekeeping to make sure no driver goes over his or her allotted time frame.
The event was very closely fought, with Thailand’s Team Octopus winning, three seconds in front of Team Benfica after 24 hours. Third was French Team #1, five laps astern, with the rest of the field all within striking distance.
The karts (all identical) were mechanically very strong, and the weather this year did not produce the torrential rain that limited running in 2006. Peter Klein, the director of motor sport from the Bira Kart circuit said the event was considered as a huge success by everyone and many teams were already indicating their desire to compete next year.
Well done Thailand!

Jaguar offering an oiler

The February 2007 Brisbane Motor show saw the release of a diesel Jaguar XJ sedan as an alternative to the diesel BMW, Audi and Mercedes in the ‘luxury’ field.

The oil-burning XJ will employ the same 152 kW/435 Nm 2.7 liter twin-turbo V6 diesel that powers Jaguar’s S-Type 2.7 TDVi sedan in the UK. According to Jaguar HQ, the XJ 2.7 TDVi, which was launched in the UK in mid-2005, costs 27 percent less to maintain than the S320 CDI Bernz, though how they arrive at these figures can be questionable.
Jaguar claims the XJ TDVi, which features common-rail direct-injection, does zero to 100 km/h in 7.5 seconds, with a top speed of 225 km/h and returns average fuel consumption of 8.1 L/100 km.
“Jaguar’s focus this year is firmly on meeting our customers’ needs for cars that combine superb value for money with a driving experience that you can only get from a Jaguar. That’s why the XJ range has been significantly upgraded to ensure every customer will find a model to satisfy his or her requirements. From the introduction of our acclaimed 2.7 litre V6 turbodiesel engine to a host of other groundbreaking advances for every model, such as acoustic laminated glass and Bluetooth wireless connectivity, the new XJ will keep Jaguar at the forefront of the premium saloon market,” said Bibiana Boerio, managing director, Jaguar Cars.
The XJ already ranks as the most technologically accomplished Jaguar has ever built. It is the first production Jaguar to be constructed with a lightweight aluminium monocoque structure; a unique feature that gives the XJ significant competitive advantages over its rivals. The aluminium monocoque design of the XJ offers improved stiffness and safety performance over the conventional steel body of the previous model, meaning the customer not only benefits from the weight saving associated with aluminium, but gets the added benefit of exceptional ride and handling as well as being extremely quiet and safe.
A host of intelligent technology works in harmony with the driver and passengers to ensure perfect ride comfort on every journey. For example, electronically controlled, self-levelling air suspension is standard on all models. This automatically lowers the car at speed to provide remarkable high-speed stability and improve aerodynamic efficiency.
Jaguar’s Computer Active Technology Suspension (CATS) uses computer technology and sensor feedback to automatically adjust damper settings. The result is a unique combination of agile handling, outstanding ride comfort and excellent driver control.
For the first time on all XJ models, acoustic laminated glass further minimizes the intrusion of external noise into the cabin. The 2.7 twin-turbo Diesel XJ also sets an industry first, being the first car in its class to feature electronically controlled active engine mounts, which cancel 90 percent of engine vibration at idle.
“The addition of the excellent new 2.7 liter twin-turbo Diesel engine to the XJ range reinforces the fact that our cars are not only the most technologically advanced cars Jaguar has ever made, they rank among the best cars produced anywhere in the world,” says Joe Greenwell, chairman and CEO, Jaguar Cars.

Dr. Iain buys ailing Chrysler Corporation?
Hot news at present is the purported purchase of Chrysler by GM, buying it from Mercedes Benz. However, this is fanciful financial dealings if ever I saw it. GM is technically broke, so how can it buy anything, especially another car company that owes billions as well and made another staggering loss last year (USD 1.4 billion, give or take a buck or two)?

Chrysler 300C

I am prepared, here and now to put up B. 1,000 for Chrysler, forget stock options (worthless) and a seat on the board (boring), but I am offering unencumbered C-A-S-H, which is more than GM can do, which is hocked up to its armpits.
General Motors is apparently in negotiations to buy the struggling Chrysler group in its entirety, say sources in Germany and the United States, with high-level talks taking place between DaimlerChrysler AG and GM executives.
Asked about the possible deal, Klaus Franz, GM’s top union official in Europe, said acquiring Chrysler would be a “disaster” for the automaker. Franz is vice chairman of the supervisory board at GM Europe’s Opel division, based in Germany.
“This is only a step to remain the number-one automaker. The problem is that Chrysler is in the same situation as GM. They don’t have the right product portfolio,” Franz told Automotive News Europe.
Forget the right product portfolio, the two companies are definitely in the same situation - they are gigantic loss-makers!
Although growing ranks of shareholders in DaimlerChrysler would like to see Chrysler go, selling it is easier said than done. In Cologne, Germany, Bank Sal. Oppenheim analyst Michael Raab estimates it would cost USD 34 billion to separate the two businesses. Analysts say a real stumbling block is the roughly USD 23.6 billion in unfunded pensions and health care liabilities for retirees that any buyer would want financed in full.
After reading that, I think I will withdraw my B. 1,000 offer and buy the third 50 percent share in a South Pattaya Go-Go bar instead. At least I could enjoy the ownership for a week or two!

Pizza Company fostering young talent
The Pizza Company Racing Team will be announcing its plans for the 2007 season, which includes a young driver scholarship scheme in Go-Karts for this year.
With many of the regular Pizza Company Racing Team drivers having graduated from Go-Kart racing, and energetic Thomas Raldorf being one of the key players in the Pizza Company Racing Team having been a Go-Kart champion both in his native Denmark and in Thailand; looking to Go-Karting is a natural direction.
It is good to see the established players in the local motor sport arena providing opportunities for youngster to come into the sport.

Ideal run-about for sale
My personal Daihatsu Mira is for sale. Last of the Daihatsu Mira line. Great town car, and very economical. Has been attacked by assorted motorcycles, but always wins. Lovingly ignored for the past 10 years, other than routine servicing (and yes, you can talk to my mechanic). Included in the car are the following original items: 1 engine, 2 doors, 3 mirrors, 4 wheels. Price includes the following factory options: Air-conditioning (which does work), Radio/tape player (which doesn’t work). Price: B. 75,000 (as is), or B. 85,000 if I take out all the minor dings and scratches and repair the upholstery. Contact Dr. Iain on 081 687 3267.