Vol. VI No. 14 - Tuesday
May 29, - June 4, 2007
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Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

Monaco GP this weekend

Monaco round the houses.

The annual parade of the film stars, rock legends, B List pseudo-celebs and the rich and powerful is on this weekend in the tiny principality of Monaco. The harbour will be wall to wall expensive yachts and the villa car parks will have all the Lambo’s, Ferrari’s and Maserati’s you would ever wish for. There will even by some models of the Dutch Spykers in the car parks, probably faster than the Spykers they have entered in the Monaco GP.
Somewhere in the middle of all this excess wealth (me, jealous?) is a supposed motor race. I say ‘supposed’, because the circuit is now totally unsuitable for today’s F1 cars. Passing is impossible, and other than waiting for the guy in front to stick it in the wall, you can forget about passing. An over-ambitious move like Alonso’s at the start of the Spanish GP will definitely lead to retirement.
So the most critical part of this Grand Prix will happen on the Saturday. And that’s qualifying. He who is on pole, has a greater than 75 percent chance of winning. So who will be on P1? Massa has been amazingly quick for the past three Grands Prix, and will be trying hard to make it four in a row. However, I am putting my money on Hamilton. He knows the circuit, has no fear and has superb car control. Rather than fuel him heavy, compared to Alonso, they will fuel him light to give him every chance. The Qualifying is at 7 p.m. on the Saturday 26 May, with the race at 7 p.m. on Sunday 27.
I will be watching from my perch in front of the big screen at Jameson’s Irish Pub, Soi AR, going there at 6 p.m. for dinner before the race at 7 p.m. Why don’t you join me?


Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked which F1 car broke down in its debut race and spectators tossed coins into the cockpit in derision? Clue, think green. It was the original BRM, a vehicle so far ahead of its time, that it was in front of the metallurgical knowledge of the day, leading to multiple failures. It was a huge step forward in many ways, when it was first shown in 1949. The 1.5 liter V16 was supercharged and developed 450 bhp at 10,000 rpm. The motor racing world had never seen anything like it, with most cars having large capacity unsupercharged engines. Unfortunately, by the time BRM had got it reliable, the formula had been changed and the car was no longer eligible for F1.
So to this week. Who was the first American to win a Grand Prix in an American race car after Jimmy Murphy in 1921?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email automania @chiangmai-mail.com
Good luck!


Current EffWun standings

We have had four rounds so far this 2007 season, and it is certainly tight at the top of the league. Nobody is head and shoulders above the rest, so fans cannot complain. Here is the table at this stage
Lewis Hamilton 30 points
Fernando Alonso 28 pts
Felipe Massa 27 pts
Kimi Raikkonen 22 pts
Nick Heidfeld 15 pts
Robert Kubica 8 pts.
Will Hamilton still be on top after Monaco, being the youngest driver ever to lead the world championship? Watch this space.


Audi releases the V2 TT
The second-generation TT Roadster is out. And the Audiphiles are salivating while waiting. I must say that this new one looks better than the tarted up ‘old’ one, in my book, with somewhat more conservative styling.

Audi TT Roadster.

Audi opted for a fabric folding roof again, having decided that the metal alternative favored by many other car makers lately adds unnecessary complication and weight, raises the center of gravity and affects boot space too severely. (However, the Mazda MX5 that we featured after the Bangkok International Motor Show didn’t have those problems!) The cloth hood features steel and aluminium reinforcements, a larger glass rear window than the previous model and will be available in either black or dark grey.
Audi in Australia discontinued bringing in the six-speed manual transmission early last year and will once again offer the TT Roadster with only the so-called S tronic (dual-clutch DSG sequential semi-auto) transmission.
As with the TT coupe, there are two engine choices – the 2.0 liter turbo driving the front wheels only, and the 3.2 liter V6 driving all four wheels. Power outputs are the same: 147 kW at 5100-6000 rpm and 280 Nm at 1800-5000 rpm for the 2.0 TFSI, and 184 kW at 6300 rpm and 320 Nm at 2500-3000 rpm for the 3.2 V6. I expect that Thailand will get the same model specifications.
All Roadsters feature high-strength steel rollover bars, an electric rear spoiler that automatic raises at 120 km/h (it can also be activated at the push of a button), a new audio system and a driver information system.
The standard electrohydraulic opening system opens the roof at the push of a button in just 12 seconds and can be operated at speeds of up to 50 km/h.
The roof also incorporates an additional layer of sound-proofing beneath the black headliner for better insulation over the manual roof that is standard on the 2.0 TFSI in Europe.
Like the coupe, the TT Roadster body benefits from the new aluminium and steel spaceframe chassis construction that is not only much lighter than then previous all-steel system but also aids torsional stiffness, which is vital for a convertible.
To further improve the structural rigidity of the convertible, Audi replaced the coupe’s side sills with complex extruded aluminium sections, strengthened the A pillars and added a steel tube into the windscreen frame.
Audi claims that the result is a 120 per cent improvement in static torsional rigidity over the previous model.
Compared with the original, the new TT Roadster is 137 mm longer at 4178 mm, 78 mm wider at 1842 mm, 8 mm higher at 1358 mm and sits on a 46 mm longer wheelbase at 2468 mm.
Inside, there is more shoulder width, head and elbow room, and luggage space expands from 210 to 250 litres.
The 2.0 TFSI S tronic is claimed to sprint to 100 km/h in 6.5 seconds (just one tenth slower than the coupe) on its way to a 237 km/h top speed. Average fuel consumption on the combined European measure is 7.8 L/100 km.
The 3.2 Quattro (4WD) completes the 0-100 km/h dash in a claimed 5.9 seconds (two-tenths slower than the coupe) on its way to a 250 km/h top speed, using an average of 9.5 L/100 km.
According to the Australian test panel, all the positive aspects of the TT coupe are evident in the Roadster, making it a considerable improvement on the frankly disappointing first generation car.
On a brief test drive in northern Italy on mainly motorways, the new offering felt altogether more solid, thanks to the new chassis construction, which benefits both ride and handling.
As with the coupe, the interior is well laid-out, with big prominent dials, nice armrests in the doors and a handy padded armrest on the handbrake (though this will be useless for Australian drivers because the handbrake will remain offset to the left when it is converted to right-hand drive).
The dash presents a large, hard plastic face to the passenger and I found it curious that there were three central air vents, but the flat-bottom steering wheel is a nice racey touch and the seats were quite supportive.
However, it is not all good news for the Roadster. While the 3.2 felt quite light and lively, well balanced and generally taut, the 2.0 was not so pleasant. The ageing engine seemed harsh and was prone to popping like turbos of the past, but more worrying was the poor door shut quality. We hope it was just a tired pre-production sample.
We were also disappointed by the lack of a cover for the roof after it has retracted. It just looks incomplete and leaves gaps on either side big enough for pedestrians to drop a drink can or half-eaten hamburger into, left to rot or be fished out by the unimpressed owner.
Overall, though, the TT Roadster is a huge step forward over the original; it looks fabulous (more stylish than the quirky original for mine), feels more solid (with reservations over those doors), does not squeal into understeer at the sight of a corner, the V6 is smooth and flexible, and it goes as fast as it looks.


How to change 70 billion dollars into 650 million
The 70 billion dollars is what Daimler has spent on Chrysler since it took it over nine years ago, changing their name to DaimlerChrysler, and includes the 36 billion it paid for it in the first place. In a new deal announced last week, a private equity group called Cerberus Capital Management has taken control of the Chrysler side of DaimlerChrysler (it was a silly name anyway) at a cost of 7.45 billion dollars. That’s a long way from 36 billion.

RIP Chrysler?

Under the terms, Cerberus will own 80.9 percent of a new company, called Chrysler Holding LLC, while Daimler Chrysler will retain 19.9 percent. However, by the time debts are paid and everything else is washed up, DaimlerChrysler will have had to throw another 650 million dollars on the floor. Hasn’t that been an expensive mistake! Should I go so far as to say incompetence? Probably not, just in case they sue me, and what would I know about profit and loss ledgers? But I’m not colorblind. I can differentiate red from black!
“We’re confident that we’ve found the solution that will create the greatest overall value - both for Daimler and Chrysler,” Dieter Zetsche, the Daimler CEO said in a prepared statement. “With this transaction, we have created the right conditions for a new start for Chrysler and Daimler.” Well, for Daimler, at least they can now concentrate on their own problems, without the millstone of Chrysler around the corporate neck. Remember that Chrysler recorded a cool 1.5 billion dollars loss for them in the 2006 year.
So now, Chrysler has a new boss(es) running the show. And will a private equity company make a good job of turning Chrysler around? “Cerberus is the right strategic buyer for Chrysler, with a long-term commitment to Chrysler’s growth and success. They are committed to working constructively with both union leadership and Chrysler’s management team to help Chrysler realize its full potential,” Chrysler CEO Tom LaSorda said. He also said the deal would not trigger job cuts beyond the 13,000 Chrysler announced in February as part of its restructuring plan. And if you believe all that, you still believe in Santa Claus.
What will happen is an immediate slashing of the above the line expenses. Hatchet men will appear in suits, hiding their scythes, to bring them out at the appropriate moment. Private equity companies do not have an automaker’s soul. Walter P Chrysler did. Lee Iacocca did. Cerberus does not.
I predict this new Chrysler company will sell off anything that still has a value, and in four years it will be on the block once more. Trussed and defeathered. RIP Chrysler.


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