Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

What did we learn from the German GP?

Well, we learned that a drop of rain or two can make for some great motor racing! We also learned that under changing conditions the final position of the driver can be down to good or bad calls by the team and its drivers as far as tyre choice is concerned.

Untidy parking

A brilliant example was the Spyker of F1 debutant Markus Winkelhock who opted to start from pit lane, after being fitted with wet tyres, following a weather forecast stating rain in three minutes just before the start. The weatherman was correct and Winkelhock led his first GP after the second lap. He should purchase the TV footage, as he’ll never lead another GP this decade. In fact, Dutch rumor tells me that Spyker won’t last the decade, or even this year!
The tyre dilemma (or not listening to the weatherman) was all the way through the field, with Robert (‘le nez’) Kubica saying, “It was challenging, as it was not only about the speed of the car but the speed of reaction of the team, and when to put on which tyres.” A master of understatement. Dr. Mario Theissen undoubtedly had both his drivers on the mat after the race after running into each other - not once, but twice, and Heidfeld should start clearing out his locker.
Renault are now the masters of the pit wall exhortations, ‘encouraging’ their drivers by telling them they are too slow! A Dale Carnegie course is needed at Renault. As well as a pension plan for Fisichella. Giancarlo saying, “We had the opportunity to do well today, but we didn’t take advantage of it. I lost positions with an extra lap on slicks at the beginning, and then queuing in the pits behind Heikki (Kovalainen) too.” Giancarlo is coming towards the last pages in the F1 driver’s excuse book.
The Lewis Hamilton fans were treated to all the ups and downs of motor racing in one weekend. A crash, relegation to 10th on the grid, a brilliant start to get up to 4th, hit by an errant BMW, a puncture, a slide off the circuit, restarting in last place, a wrong call for tyres and finally finishing 9th and one place off the points. But top marks for keeping the engine running!
Down in the Toyota pit, Jarno Trulli, who managed to finish 13th said, “It was the kind of race where I was always in the wrong place at the wrong time, with the wrong decision at the wrong moments. You cannot know what the weather will do, that is the problem. We took a gamble several times and every time it was the wrong time and things were happening. We had so much bad luck today, I hope it all came at once and we will not have any more.” I have news for Jarno, and it’s all bad. Expect more of the same! Ralf, however, put on his usual race, including his usual crash and his usual blaming it on somebody else. I believe he has signed for Toyota again. If this is correct, it is those kinds of management decisions that will keep Toyota at the back of the field.
What did we learn from Honda? Well, we knew it was a bad car, and Rooby Baby said it all after the race. “I’m bitterly disappointed with the result today. The car felt bad from the start and it never really improved through the race.” Rube, it hasn’t improved all year. Having signed again for Honda next year means that Rubens is looking for a pension for 2008. No podiums, only pensions.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked what did the original FIAT 500 have in common with the 1961 Lincoln Continental? The clue was: don’t contemplate suicide over this. That should have been enough. The original FIAT 500 had ‘suicide’ doors (rear hinged, front opening) and so were the rear doors on the 1961 Lincoln Continental. By the way, the later model FIAT 500s had conventional doors, but the small estate car version retained the original rear hinges.
So to this week. A famous French record breaking car had to stop its endurance run to allow the French Grand Prix to be held, then it continued on after the GP was over. What was the car, and when did this happen?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected] Good luck!


Oil burning BMW 635d
BMW has for the first time combined its twin-turbocharged, six-cylinder diesel with the marque’s flagship Grand Tourer in the form of the new 635d. Coinciding with the revamp of 6 Series model line-up to include Active Headrests, Brake Energy Regeneration and other fuel saving and emissions-cutting technology, the 635d Coupé and Convertible will hit showrooms later this year with world’s most powerful production diesel up front.
That oil burner can take the BMW 635d Coupé from zero to 100 kph in 6.3 seconds while the Convertible achieves this in 6.6 seconds. Both have top speeds electronically-limited to 250 kph but still maintain impressive fuel efficiency levels - the Coupé still achieves 40.9 mpg on the combined cycle and a CO2 emissions figure of 183 g/km, while the Convertible retains near identical figures recording 39.2 mpg and 190 g/km.
The new engine is a twin-turbocharged 2,993 cc engine with an all aluminium crankcase and third generation common rail fuel injection system. This produces 286 bhp and 580 Nm of torque. These performance figures have been made possible by the unique way the twin turbochargers work. To get rid of the problem of turbo lag, a smaller turbocharger provides near instantaneous response for swift initial acceleration before a larger turbocharger comes in mid-range to provide additional thrust through to the redline. Peak torque is available from just 1,750 rpm to deliver a seamless wave of smooth acceleration.
BMW have a raft of developments in this new 6 Series, called “EfficientDynamics” technology that introduces Brake Energy Regeneration and the implementation of various needs-only operations of ancillary units for the first time in the 6 Series range. This includes the ability to decouple the air-conditioning compressor from the drive-train to prevent unnecessary drag on the engine and the use of lower viscosity fluids in key components to reduce friction. An optimum gearshift indicator is fitted to advise on economical motoring, while active flaps located behind the kidney grille can close off to improve aerodynamic flow and reduce drag. These measures mean lower fuel consumption and emissions figures than would previously have been possible.
Some of these developments have come from their F1 technology, which makes these 6 Series cars more efficient.

BMW 635d

The Turner Steamer lives again?
Acting as a champion for alternative fuels and engine design, the group behind the British Steam Car Challenge is looking for a record breaking 240 kph run on British soil, followed by a 320 kph run on the Bonneville salt flats of Utah.

Steaming to a record?

Steam engines run on external combustion, meaning they’re not fuel specific like internal combustion engines. The fuel is used to heat the water, and over the years has included petrol, kerosene, furnace oil and even wood. The British steam powered streamliner will run a 12,000 rpm turbine engine producing 225 kw of power.
Four LPG powered boilers will feed the turbine engine with steam pressure, and the car will operate at total loss, consuming and expending the entire volume of water it carries for each run. The group plans to retire the vehicle to the British National Motor Museum Trust at Beaulieu once it has set an internationally-verified 320 kph land speed record.
Like most of these ideas, it is not self-funding, so the group is looking for donations, and you can get your name on the vehicle if you hand over more than one British pound. Interested parties can support the project at the British Steam Car Appeal website.
There have been 13 British steam car manufacturers, but the best known was the Turner, built in Wolverhampton. In actual fact, this car was really Belgian, being called a Turner-Miesse, being built under license from Miesse et Cie of Antwerp. Both the British and Belgian factories deserted steam in 1912 and produced petrol engined cars after that date.

Drive your boat into the water
Probably the biggest bug-bear in owning a boat (that hole in the ocean into which you tip buckets of money) is getting the damn thing on and off the trailer. However, some enterprising Kiwis have come up with the answer, called the Sealegs.
This is an amphibious boat that can drive itself straight down into the water, and according to the pundits, worldwide sales have taken off. The eye-catching vehicle is a fully functional boat, as opposed to a car that floats, and drops “landing gear” much like a small plane to drive out of the water and up the ramp at up to 10 kph. Sealegs showcased their latest model in Australia recently at the Melbourne Boat Show - a 6.1 meter aluminium D-tube version that is essentially a RIB (rigid inflatable boat) costing US$ 8,600. This is a complete turnkey amphibious solution with extra armor for the aqua adventurers. A drive on trailer is now also available that adds high speed land transport to the equation.
While the D-tube Sealegs makes a respectable 60 kph on the water thanks to its 90 hp 2 stroke outboard motor, the hydraulic land gear struts and wheels are powered by a small 4 stroke Honda engine making about 16 hp. It’s enough for around 10 kph, or a good jogging pace, on land, either forward or reverse. The all-terrain tyres are mounted on 9" rims and naturally the entire land running gear is designed to be submersible and salt-water resistant. Once the boat is floating, the wheels fold up to remain completely above water.
With the land footprint of a large car, it’s easily parked in a garage - and the rugged land drive system is capable of landing and launching on some pretty inhospitable terrain, which makes it a brilliant boat to explore some uncharted islands.