Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

What did we learn from the Japanese GP?

Well, we learned that Formula 1 can be just as farcical as any other kinds of sport. To begin with, starting under the safety car, which then splashed its way around for 19 laps was just one page in the comedy. At one stage during those 19 laps we began to wonder what would happen if the safety car had to come in for fuel - would the cars have to line up behind it at the pumps? Then the commentators came forth with the suggestion that the entire 67 lap race might have to be behind the safety car and then gave us the information that the safety car didn’t have enough fuel to go the distance!
Then there was Ferrari’s part in the farce, starting both cars on intermediates during a downpour, despite the race being given the status of “full wets”. Everybody, including the pit lane commentator knew of the directive, except Ferrari, who claimed “nobody told us”.
We also learned that there is no such thing as team orders at Ferrari. I am sure it was entirely coincidental that Massa’s crew accidentally didn’t fill his fuel tank to the brim and had to bring him in for a splash and dash a few laps from the finish, when he was in third and Raikkonen was fourth. They really did not need to go to such subterfuge, Massa would have spun off anyway, as he had done about 10 times before.
We also learned that Mark Webber hasn’t forgotten how to use the Aussie F word, used to good effect after Sebastian Vettel managed to take him out from his safe second position while behind the safety car, following Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren-Mercedes! Vettel ended up in tears in the pits, and that was before Mark Webber got to him! And after that the FIA has penalized him 10 grid slots for China this weekend.
It was a bad weekend for the sulky Spaniard, spinning off all on his own and destroying not only Uncle Ron’s racing car, but probably his chances of the 2007 World Championship. “It will need a miracle,” said Alonso after the race. There’s 50 million Brits on their way to Lourdes right now asking that the miracle not be granted!
We also saw just how good Lewis Hamilton really is. He stayed on the island, and never lost his cool at any stage, even after Kubica in the BMW attempted the Panzer tank passing maneuver, and although he was obviously ecstatic at having won, he did not forget to publicly thank his team. He deserves the championship.
Other than that, the usual hitters and spinners, moaners and groaners managed to cover themselves with less than glory, with Vettel getting two “kills” (Webber and Alonso), Alex Wurz one, Button two and there were others which we did not see on TV such as Sato. However, Ralf Schumacher excelled, going the entire race without hitting anything. Perhaps he is hoping to still have a job at Toyota next year? He won’t. Try Spyker, Ralf.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I said to think Nissan. Datsun had its roots going back to 1912 when K. Den, R. Aoyama and A. Takeuchi got together and produced the “DAT”, from their three initials. After a break, they began producing cars again in 1931 and these were known as the ‘son of DAT’, or otherwise ‘Datson’. However, in 1932, they changed it to ‘Datsun’. I asked why? The reason was that they wanted to emphasize the fact that this was a Japanese car, and to suggest the national emblem, which was the rising sun - so it became Datsun. So now you know.
So to this week. Who scored the first GP win for a British driver in a British car since 1924? Hint: think teeth.
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected] Good luck!

 


New Jazz in 2008
The Japanese websites are all buzzing with the new Honda Jazz (called the Fit in Japan) that will be shown at the Japan Motor Show this month. The new Jazz will reputedly be for general release in 2008.

2008 Honda Jazz

The locally manufactured Honda Jazz is currently being exported to Australia, and since Honda Australia claims it will get the new Jazz in the second quarter of 2008, that would make it likely that we should also see the new Jazz at that time.
Evolution, not revolution, is the theme for the second-generation Jazz, and the five-door hatch sticks with the same design cues as its six year old predecessor, but features a completely new body and interior.
It is difficult to say from the leaked photographs, but it seems that new Jazz is slightly larger than old Jazz. A typically contemporary Honda headlight and grille treatment dominates the new Jazz’s nose, with the bonnet now boasting a sort of ‘power bulge’.
Mirroring the current Jazz is the three-binnacle instrumentation layout, although the brochure image points to an increased use of higher grade trim materials, while up-spec versions feature a full-sized screen for navigation and audio functions.
New 1.3 and 1.5 liter four-cylinder petrol engines are expected, with Honda’s advanced i-VTEC “intelligent” variable-valve technology to be introduced across the range.
For some time now rumors have circulated that the next Jazz will adopt a development of the 1.3-litre IMA petrol/electric drivetrain found in the 85kW/170Nm Civic Hybrid. If this comes to fruition, the Jazz Hybrid will employ a CVT continuously variable transmission.
Like today’s cars, a CVT is also expected in the petrol-only Jazz models, although speculation suggests that this will gain a type of torque converter for more instant acceleration and response.
Since its debut at the Tokyo motor show in October 2001, sales of the current Jazz - or Fit - have exceeded two million units.


Proton and VW and Thailand
Malaysia’s Proton has been in the news again. Firstly, the on and off talks with VW look as if they are beginning to become a reality. In essence, VW wants another Asian manufacturing base, but does not want the Malaysian government as the bridesmaid in this wedding. Expect to see VW take at least 20 percent of Proton in the next couple of months.

Malaysian Proton

In the meantime, Thailand’s PNA group has announced that it has become the official authorized dealer for Proton in Thailand and claims it will have 20 outlets, with eight in Bangkok and the other 12 located throughout the provinces.
Another ‘carrot’ was extended by its general manager (operation) Apichart Wangsatorntanakhun, who said that PNA is looking at selling one of the Proton range at under 400,000 baht.
Apichart declined to reveal the models being brought into the Thai market, but said a range of 25 models could be picked. “But for the start, we are not going to explode the market with many models and big volume. We want to grow at a stable pace and take care of our customers first to get their trust and loyalty,” he said.
However, Apichart hinted that the initial models would be priced less than 400,000 baht, targeting a niche market, especially youngsters, first car owners and those crossing over from pick-up to passenger cars.
There are no cars being sold in this price range in the country, with the nearest being Toyota Vios, which starts at 490,000 baht, he said.
Apichart, who was brought in specially to steer Proton’s growth, said there are bright prospects for the carmaker in Thailand, adding that 270,000 passenger cars were sold last year, with Toyota leading the pack.
All this is very interesting, with the other Malaysian manufacturer Perodua’s boss Datuk Hafiz Syed Abu Bakar saying in an interview with Automania’s editor at large, John Weinthal that export of any kind is a very expensive game for a company with annual production capacity of 240,000 and which already has heavy home and other export market demand.
“We go no place where we cannot guarantee to provide the best in customer support and back-up service. Where we do export it is through established networks mainly in the Toyota family and where there is no conflict between our product and other Toyota/Daihatsu family models,” Hafiz said.
This latest move by the flagging Proton concern looks risky. Perodua (which outsells Proton in their native Malaysia) is not coming to Thailand, despite the fact that the super-cheap Perodua Myvi could be sold through the Toyota network (badged as a Daihatsu perhaps), but Proton is going to do so, even having to set up its own network.
Provided Proton can improve the quality of their range, it could have a future in the Kingdom. We shall see.


Why EffWun is coming to Asia
A report in the British media has claimed that a huge dip in profits has forced F1 to go in pursuit of markets outside Europe and could be behind the scrapping of the US Grand Prix.
Britain’s Daily Telegraph claims that, as a direct result of escalating debt repayments, profits fell by over $300 million to just $6 million since the sport’s commercial rights were taken over by CVC in 2005.
The report goes on to state that F1, under the guidance of Chief Executive Bernie Ecclestone, has been forced to shift its gaze to Asia and the Middle East as governments in these locales are willing to pay higher sanctioning fees.
Indianapolis may have been the first in a long list of casualties, with destinations including South Korea, India, Abu Dhabi and Singapore likely to replace other current Grands Prix in the near future.
Singapore say they will be ready for a street night race this year, India has bought Spyker and want a GP of their own and Abu Dhabi say their circuit will be the best in the world.
However, we should never forget that the first Grand Prix in the history of F1 was held at Silverstone (UK) on May 13, 1950, and F1 has more British constructors than any other country.