What did we learn
from the Italian Grand Prix?
Well, we learned that it is possible to pass at
Monza, a circuit where the pundits all claim that passing is
impossible. The usual excuses are ‘dirty air’ and ‘decreased
downforce’ when following another car. So how did Hamilton manage to
pass Raikkonen? And Kubica managed to pass Rosberg. Even Button
managed to have a passing and repassing duel with Rosberg. These
drivers stood out as willing to have a go, and F1 has been sadly in
need of drivers with some tiger. Well done!
We also saw that Alonso was the class act of the weekend, pole
position, race winner and fastest lap. An emphatic win. Hamilton was
definitely only the bridesmaid at Monza, despite some spirited
driving. However, Alonso is certainly not endearing himself to his
team, by saying that the Manufacturer’s Championship does not mean
as much as the Driver’s Championship. Alonso forgets very quickly
that it is the ‘team’ that gets him to the front, while he continues
with his FIGJAM policy. (If unsure of FIGJAM it is “Fork” I’m Good,
Just Ask Me!)
After languishing at the wrong end of the timesheets all year, Honda
was shaking hands with themselves with two cars in the top 10. Who
cares if they were eighth and tenth! Two top 10 finishes. Will they
be able to continue this breathtaking form at Spa? I doubt it.
What else did we learn? Well, with Kovalainen seventh and Fisichella
twelfth, Fisi has signed his own death warrant. He will not be a
Renault driver next year. With Rosberg sixth and Wurz thirteenth,
Alex’s results continue to get wurzer and wurzer. He will not be a
Williams driver next year. With Trulli eleventh and Ralf Schumacher
fifteenth, Toyota had nothing to write home about. Ralf will not be
a Toyota driver next year. He will be better signing a contract with
Ssanyong. They won’t be racing in F1 next year either.
BMW continues to impress, though getting the jack stuck under
Kubica’s car would have had several people on the mat in Dr Mario
Theissen’s office on the Monday. 17 second pit stops are not
excusable at that level.
Many drivers are using first lap skirmishes as the reasons for their
poor performances. Coulthard clobbering Fisi which broke his front
wing and took out the steering, resulting in a high-speed crash.
Vettel crashing into Davidson, but surprisingly, Ralf kept his nose
clean. Figuratively and metaphorically! Perhaps bumper bars are in
Let us see what Spa brings!
Last week I asked what Guinness Book of Records entry was
beaten in the James Bond film Casino Royale? Clue: It was set by an Aston Martin
DB9, dressed up as an Aston Martin DBS. It was the most number of cannon rolls,
with the Aston completing seven rolls before coming to rest on its wheels again.
So to this week. Since this is the Belgian GP, a question from there. Look at
this photo. It was taken at Spa. What are the cars?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
The Lexus LS460 is out and they are raving about it. GoAuto from Down-under
had this to say - Lexus’ flagship LS series has been reborn for a fourth
time with pricing, performance, styling and refinement to unsettle the
upper-luxury segment status quo.
The ground-up redesign of the LS also represents a rethink of Lexus’
flagship positioning, with the traditional single-specification V8 model -
now christened LS460 - to be joined by a long-wheelbase version.
Dubbed the LS600Lh, the latter is a petrol/electric hybrid devised to recharge
the moribund image of the LS to that of a technological and environmental
innovator. It arrives in October, priced from around $250,000.
For now, the focus falls on the LS460, and its keen, no-options $184,900 pricing
that continues the LS tradition (since 1990) of offering specification matching
the German competitions’ upper-level models but at their entry-level prices.
These days, this includes Lexus’ ‘Pre-Collision’ advanced safety system, air
suspension, radar cruise control, reclinable ‘premium leather’ seating with
cooling and heating for all outboard seats, top-end audio, four-zone
climate-control air-conditioning, and keyless entry and start.
Lexus says that equivalently equipped and powered BMW 750i and Mercedes S500
models cost between $19,600 and $69,000 more respectively, while - for LS460
money - you can only get the 200 kW/350 Nm 3.5-litre V6-powered Mercedes S350
and 225kW/390 Nm 4.0-litre V8 BMW 740i.
With a new 4.6 liter quad-cam V8 delivering 280 kW of power at 6500rpm and 493
Nm of torque at 4100rpm to the rear wheels, the LS460 also has the upper hand on
engine output for the outlay.
It is married to the world’s first eight-speed automatic gearbox, a compact
transmission designed to maximize fuel economy at higher speeds and launch feel
at lower ones. Gearshifts are said to be virtually imperceptible, and up to 41
percent quicker than the previous six-speed automatic set-up.
Speed is an unexpected LS460 upshot - it can sprint from 0-100 km/h in 5.7
seconds, hit the standing-400 m mark in 13.8 seconds (these are very fast times
- Dr. Iain) and reach a speed-restricted 250 km/h. Apparently, 280km/h has been
Conversely, the ADR 81/01 fuel economy average is 11.1 L/100 km, while its CO2
emissions result is 261 g/km. It is also extremely quiet - Lexus says a
stethoscope is used to test each engine so buyers can enjoy the silence.
Aiding the numbers above is a leading drag co-efficient figure of 0.26 Cd, with
reduced lift front and rear compared to its LS430 predecessor, narrower panel
gaps, minimal protrusions and a flush underbody for quieter, smoother airflow.
The LS is the latest Lexus with the ‘L-finesse’ styling language also seen on
the GS and IS, which, according to design chief Simon Humphries, needed to
encompass more boldness “with a degree of good taste” as well as aerodynamic
Air suspension also makes its debut in an Australian-bound Lexus, incorporating
new shock absorbers and an improved Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) system
that automatically adjusts suspension forces at all four wheels.
It forms part of a new platform featuring a longer wheelbase and wider tracks -
with the rears being the fattest among the LS’ immediate fat-cat competition.
The Lexus’ multi-link front and five-link rear arrangement includes forged
aluminium components and ‘Vehicle Posture Control’ damper force control logic
that uses sensors to minimize the phase difference between body roll and pitch
angles during cornering via the shock absorbers.
Among many other things, AVS also helps reduce body roll by 30 percent compared
to the previous LS, along with reducing diving under brakes, squatting under
acceleration, and the transmission of noise, vibration and harshness into the
A Normal, Sport and Comfort switch next to the gearlever alters the damping
force for flat, firmer (by 20 percent) or softer respective responses from the
The LS460’s steering is an electronically powered set-up that, along with the
front suspension’s geometry, has been redesigned for better feel, ride and
Mounted forward of the front axle centers, Lexus claims the steering has a more
natural feel, is more adept on rough roads, less likely to vibrate, and is more
prompt in response to input.
A variable steering gear ratio is also incorporated, which quickens the
direction of change at low-speed steering inputs, and decreases it as vehicle
speeds rise, for a less nervous and less fidgety steering feel. Turns vary from
2.4 to 3.5 revolutions.
The driver is ensconced in a cabin that offers independent temperature
adjustment as part of the four-zone climate control operation for all outboard
occupants. It uses 13 sensors for optimal conditioning, and includes a permanent
pollen and dust-removal mode.
Entry is via a sub-credit card-sized ‘Smart Card’ that boasts several
driver-specific seat and steering wheel positioning settings.
The aforementioned Pre-Collision safety System (PCS), cribbed from the GS and
some IS models, recognizes potential dangers in advance according to
deceleration and sudden driver inputs by “preparing” the brakes, seatbelts and
PCS joins another Lexus safety acronym: VDiM, or Vehicle Dynamics integrated
Management. The latter works with the LS460’s anti-lock brakes, brake assist
function, electronic brake-force distribution, traction control and VSC
stability control - as well as the AVS suspension, electric power steering and
variable steering system - to simultaneously help keep the LS under control and
on the right trajectory, instead of relying on individual components like the
VSC to work independently.
The aim is to also reduce response times, or to keep progress as smooth as
possible, since VDiM can integrate each item as needed.
Ten airbags - including new rear-seat side airbags - also offer improved impact
protection, while the body’s 30 per cent increase in torsional stiffness has
prompted Lexus to claim another “best in class”.
Lexus says that it has redoubled its efforts as far as cabin quality and
craftsmanship is concerned, with the aim being to combine highly automated
assembly with a custom-made effect.
“Function with emotion” is how the LS’ chief engineer, Moritaka Yoshida, put it.
He went through every process of the production process to achieve this.
Expect a long-wheelbase LS460L before too long, as well as a short-wheelbase
LS600h hybrid further along the line, to bring the LS line-up to at least four.