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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.