Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

So what did we learn from the Monaco GP?

Well, we learned (yet again) that Monaco is an anachronism that should be deleted from the modern Grand Prix calendar. A circuit where it is impossible to pass, produces dull and boring spectating (unless your name is Michael Schumacher – remember 2006 from the back row of the grid as his penalty after qualifying).

Alonso in Monaco

We also learned, or rather Lewis Hamilton learned, that although team orders officially do not exist, in actual fact, they do! There’s no number 1 at McLaren, they are both equal says Ron Dennis, but some drivers are more equal than others (with apologies to Animal Farm and George Orwell). When Hamilton was brought in around five laps early for his second stop, this made sure he didn’t leap-frog Alonso in pit strategy and risk a ‘to the death’ duel around the unforgiving circuit. Ron’s cars came in first and second in the order that had been ordained! However, we should not overlook the fact that it was a stunning demonstration of dominance by the McLaren-Mercedes team. Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche, was very excited that McLaren-Mercedes’ two drivers were on the front row of the grid, saying, “We have two fantastic guys and I am sure that the whole world is surprised that our rookie is taking on the whole establishment - to be honest, I am surprised too! But then to see them coming in 1-2 is the ultimate that you can get out of a race weekend. This is what I would call ‘mission accomplished’!” Of course, if one of them were German, it would be even better.
Ferrari have gone away to lick their wounds and wonder why they spent so much money on the humorous riposte proponent Kimi Raikkonen. If anyone thought he was the equal of the man whose shoes he has been asked to fill, they must think again. Poor Felipe Massa must be wondering what has happened. His once dominant team has lost the magic formula it seems.
Team Renault has its back to the wall. His supreme being Carlos Ghosn, the boss of Renault has said he is not interested in Renault being a make-weight. They are either at the top, or they will pull out. With Fisichella running hot and cold, and probably too long in the tooth for a Roman, and Kovalainen not cutting the mustard, team boss Briatore is looking at his severance pay at the end of 2007.
Toyota executives are lining up for ritual hara-kiri. What a woeful showing from the world’s number 1 car maker. It is obviously time for a thorough clean-out at the Toyota garage, including the lack-luster driver performances.
Can somebody please give Mark Webber a semi-competitive car that can finish races? It is so long since he has seen the chequered flag, he has to be shown pictures of it, so that he will recognize it in the future. If there is a future for Mark Webber.
Alex Wurz took heed of my last column and tried hard, finally beating his younger Williams F1 team mate. But it won’t be enough to save him. Sir Frank has sacked world champions, he’ll have no compunction over also-rans.
BMW was there to pick up the crumbs, but after being lapped by the McLaren duo, have little to celebrate. Kubica was slightly more than a nose in front of Heidfeld.
As for the rest? Yawnnn nnnnnnnnnn!
The next GP in Canada June 10 will be better.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked who was the first American to win a Grand Prix in an American race car after Jimmy Murphy in 1921? It was 1967 when Dan Gurney won the Belgian GP in his Eagle-Weslake V12. The trap was the fact that it had to be a GP.
So to this week. Which car company built their test track on the roof of their factory?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!

1 liter of fuel for 100 km

Sounds a little like science fiction, but it isn’t. Volkswagen presented the world’s first 1-liter per 100 km car a couple of years ago, but it is interesting to look at the technology, and just ‘how’ did they do it?

VW eco-car

The objective was to develop a vehicle with a fuel consumption of no more than one liter per 100 kilometers, using all technical possibilities available.
The project was taken up by Volkswagen’s Research and Development division to design and build the world’s most economical car, and it took three years. The Volkswagen is registered for use on public highways, and at 100 km/h the fuel consumption is 1-liter.
The key objectives in the development were to minimize all driving resistances through lightweight construction and outstanding aerodynamics.
However, the target, a fuel consumption level of one liter per 100 kilometers, meant abandoning conventional vehicle concepts. With a width of just 1.25 meters, the 1-liter car is extraordinarily narrow, the driver and passenger sit one behind the other in tandem, the transversely installed engine is centrally located in front of the rear axle, and the plastic bodywork has the highly aerodynamic shape of a teardrop.
Enginewise, the final solution was a one-cylinder naturally-aspirated diesel engine with a displacement of just 0.3 liters. This was a completely new, technically highly sophisticated development. Two overhead camshafts actuate roller rocker fingers which in turn actuate three valves, two inlet valves and one exhaust outlet valve.

VW 1-liter
The one-cylinder SDI diesel engine generates its maximum output (6.3 kW / 8.5 bhp) at 4,000 rpm. The maximum torque of 18.4 Newton metres is delivered at 2,000 rpm. Performance? Well, VW said the 1-liter car reaches a top speed of 120 km/h. What they don’t say is how long it took to get there! My guess is something like a fortnight down a mineshaft!
However, as a design idea that became reality, VW proved that it is possible – but at a price. Titanium anythings are not cheap, and the trade-off against performance would not be accepted by the general public. But it could be done! And was! Well done VeeDub.

Mistaken identity
There are those of us who can remember the days before remote locking! You actually had to unlock the front doors individually, but this meant that you actually did the gentlemanly thing of escorting your partner to the passenger door and with a great flourish, you unlocked it and ushered her into the vehicle. These days you push the button as you approach the car, it responds with a beep-beep and unlocks everything and your passenger gets herself into the vehicle, by herself. Of course, I may just be from an era gone by in lamenting the loss of such gallant gestures!
Having set the scene, let’s look at what can happen with a case of mistaken identity. It was 1987 and I had flown to the UK for a visit. Using the fact that I had been a ‘Works Driver’ in MG’s for British Leyland (before they pulled out of Australia) I had contacted MG Rover in the UK, looking for a car to test for the two weeks while I was there. No problem, I was told. They would supply a new Rover 825i for the duration of my trip (motor manufacturers in Thailand who expect full road tests after one drive around the block, please take note).
In 1987, this Rover 825i was the finest machine in the MG Rover stable. With mechanicals from the Honda Legend it had all the Japanese quality, with all the snob appeal of the ‘very British’ Rover badge, Westminster carpet on the floor and some polished English oak wood on the dashboard! It also came with remote locking, and the MG Rover chap showed me how it worked, and how the infra-red remote receiver was behind the internal rear vision mirror. Fully instructed, I drove away.
The 825i proved itself to be a reliable, semi-luxury carriage, until the remote locking failed! I had gone for lunch in one of those quaint English style pubs. You know the style – all dark wood and warm beer with crusty gentlemen smoking briar pipes and wearing caps and hairy tweed jackets with leather patches on the elbows.
After lunch I picked up the car keys and ventured outside into the crisp, cold British air and strolled down towards the Rover 825i in the car park. As I walked towards it, I pushed the unlock button, but nothing happened. No beep-beep and flashing lights. Obviously I was too far away, so I walked closer and pushed the magic button again. Still nothing!
I began to analyze the situation. Obviously the cold was making the manual lock to freeze up, and perhaps the battery must be low in the IR sender. It was then I remembered the MG Rover chappie telling me about the IR receiver behind the interior rear vision mirror. Looking through the windscreen I could even see it, a red bulb behind the mirror. I pointed the remote at the red bulb and expectantly pressed the button. Nothing!
By now I was getting cold and more than somewhat annoyed. I lay down on the bonnet of the car, so that I could get the remote on the windscreen, as close as possible to the red bulb receiver. With a determined thumb I pressed the button – and still nothing. I tried again, and again and yet this Rover refused to open its doors.
Suddenly I heard this very British voice saying, “I say old chap, just what do you think you are doing?” I turned round and there was the archetypal Briton, cap and tweed jacket, and bristling with anger. “I am trying to open my car, but the remote unlocking device does not work,” I replied. “That’s because this is not your car, this is my car,” said the crusty and now angry Brit. “No it’s not,” said I. “I have this silver Rover 825i on loan from MG Rover!” “I beg your pardon,” said crusty, angry gent, “this is MY silver Rover 825i that I bought from the agents here!” We were now standing toe to toe and I could see I would need the registration papers to prove my point – but the registration papers, of course, were inside the locked car.
However, before I could think of my next move, to really rub my nose in it, and to verify his claim, he went on to say, “Your Rover is the one further down the car park, in the next line!” I looked at where he was pointing, and there it was. I pointed the remote, pushed and it beeped and flashed the lights. With burning shame, I could only apologize profusely and offer him a warm beer. He declined, muttering something about the fact that he was still sober and knew what he was doing! I slunk away.