Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

EffWun season over for 2007

At the final Grand Prix in Brazil, we learned that motor racing can be very cruel. There is no room for sentiment, or “if only”. Lewis Hamilton’s brave assault on the World Championship, as a rookie, failed with gearbox electronic gremlins, while the strongest team was again Ferrari who garnered another world driver’s championship, this time for their new driver Kimi Raikkonen.
We also learned that the normally expressionless Finn can smile occasionally, well at least after winning his first world championship. Make no mistake, Raikkonen is a good driver who made no real errors all year, and if Ferrari had given him a reliable car for the first few outings, he would have won the title by much more than the one point lead that he had in the end.
It was a bad weekend all round for the Brits. England came second in the football world cup and then second in the F1 world championship. It was a valiant attempt by young Lewis Hamilton, but losing 30 seconds with the gearbox problems could not be overcome, and McLaren-Mercedes’ strategy of then putting him on to a three stopper beggars belief. Since it takes approximately 25 seconds to come in, refuel and change tyres and then go out again, this extra stop for Hamilton automatically put him 25 further seconds behind the leaders. Can nobody do simple sums in the McLaren pit? With that decision and the one to keep Hamilton out on canvas tyres in China, they effectively lost the championship for the young driver. A classic example of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
And what about Alonso, the sulky Spaniard? He remained a sulky Spaniard, demoted to third in the championship, behind Hamilton. He is expected to return to Renault next year (with his tail between his legs?), but Ron Dennis still holds his contract for 2008. I would not let him go, if I were Ron, but keep him and use him as a test driver only. After all, Alonso has shown his true selfish character this year, and ended up costing Ron a cool $100 million for his part in the spy scandal. Letting him go is too light a penalty.
Ralf Schumacher went out with his usual whimper and a wheelbarrow full of carbon-fiber shards. I still say he should go to NASCAR. They like the full body contact sports over there.
Kubica and Rosberg had a great scrap. It seems that it needs the young drivers with fire in the belly to put the excitement back into F1. It is possible to pass despite the unlaundered air, as they and Hamilton demonstrated very well. “Dirty” air can be overcome.
Mark Webber must be wondering just how many Chinamen he ran over in his last life. He has become the king of qualifying, but never finishes. Reliability and Red Bull only start with the same letter. Shame, as he is rapidly approaching his ‘use by’ date, and needs a good reliable car to show his talent.
Honda! What can you say? A double retirement, complete with a wonderful display of pyrotechnics by Barichello. It was rumored that the Hondas were fitted with cigarette lighters to be used on the cars after the race. Rooby must have used his early!
Flavio Briatore must be wondering whether Renault will bother continuing with F1. The previously championship winning team ended 2007 with nothing other than two wrecked cars. Fisichella suffering from brain fade and after an off on lap 2, driving straight back onto the racing line and being used as a launching ramp for Yamamoto’s Spyker. Briatore will be saying “Goodbye Fisico” very shortly.
So now we wait for March 2008. Let us hope we get more racing, less intrigue and fewer lawyers!
STOP PRESS: McLaren Mercedes have protested the result of the Brazilian GP following fuel irregularities found in the Williams and BMW teams. If successful, this would give the title to Lewis Hamilton! More intrigue.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I wrote that the De Lorean had stainless steel panels, and I asked which current vehicle has a stainless steel panel too? The answer was the new Rolls-Royce drophead with the stainless steel bonnet.
So to this week. I mention Lotus this week, so here is the Lotus question. Which Lotus driver won a three hour sportscar race by driving the car across the line on the starter motor?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected] Good luck!

 


Lotus blossoms
Lotus has launched its fastest accelerating toad-going sports car ever - the 1.8 liter supercharged Exige S. This is the car for someone who might want a supercar, but cannot afford the Porsches, Lambos, Ferrari’s and such. Based on the current Exige, Lotus claims the S is a race-derived road car designed for true enthusiasts.

Lotus Exige S

The Lotus Exige S will hit 100 kph in 4.3 seconds, 160 kph in 11.1 seconds and has a top speed of 238 kph.
The Exige S uses a Toyota 1.8 liter four cylinder mated to an air to air Roots supercharger. This is the Toyota 16 valve with variable valve timing and twin front mounted oil coolers. The Roots supercharger is driven from the crankshaft and has a sealed internals that do not require use of the engine’s oil.
A roof-mounted air intake and center roof scoop has been added to the car to ensure the air-to-air intercooler works efficiently.
Lotus claims the engine develops 162.5 kW at 7800 rpm and 215 Nm of torque at 5500 rpm. This makes it one of the most powerful production cars in the world for its size with a power to weight ratio of 174 kW/tonne and a specific power output of 91 kW per liter.
Fuel consumption figures are 9.1 L/100km on the combined cycle and 7.2 L/100 km on the highway cycle. These figures again reflect the extremely good power to weight ratio. With the strong epoxy-bonded aluminium chassis with a lightweight glass-fiber composite body, allows the car to tip the scales at 935 kg.
The basic Exige S costs around $115,000 in Australia, so I would expect it will be around eight million landed here, but that is still significantly less than other supercars.


Honda Racing Fest
Honda Motor promoted another of their very successful Honda Racing Fest meetings at the Bira circuit recently. It certainly brought the Honda owners out of the woodwork, and I felt I had to sneak in with the corporation’s Daihatsu Mira. Fortunately I managed to hide behind a Toyota minivan, so the Daihatsu didn’t feel too threatened.

Happy Jazz
The predominant car in the car parks was the Honda Jazz, plus its Honda Fit brothers from Japan. Many different styles of wheels and body kits as the owners personalize their cars. It reminded me of the old MG Car Club events of many years ago, with all the MG’s with different modifications, and the same club spirit for the marque.
I was also pleased to see the organizers had listened to my advice and had shortened the races somewhat. Two 12 lappers is better for the spectators than one 25 lapper, as it helps keep the field together, is kinder on the cars and kinder on the drivers in our tropical conditions.
Although there will be a new Jazz coming out by the Motor Show in 2008, the current crop of Jazz race cars will be continued into the 2008 season. This is a good idea and will keep costs down. Having driven the current One Make Race Jazz, I can tell you that they are great little jiggers in race form.
However, there is one area they could improve upon. Currently their Jazz muffler system is so good, you can hardly hear them, even in a massed pack. I suggest they allow modifications to the final pipe and do away with the last muffler. A little noise will make them (appear) much quicker and more exciting to watch.

Jack Lemvard

In the other Honda categories, one of the stars of the show was Jack Lemvard, sponsored by Ocean 1 Racing. A rookie driver in a 1.6 liter car, he qualified second against a full field of 2 liter cars, and finished second as well, despite being appreciably slower down the straight than the 2 liter touring cars, though he was much faster through the wriggly bits!
However, Lemvard’s running mate (and tutor) was the other star. Thomas Raldorf popped an engine in practice and had to start 18th on the grid for the final race after the mechanics changed engines in the pits. He was rewarded with a 4th place overall at the end and first in his category (also 1.6 liter) while his protégé Jack Lemvard was forced to retire with brake problems.
When the two heats were combined, with points for qualifying counted in as well, Raldorf came second overall in the 1.6 liter class, and Lemvard 4th. Not bad for a team that had two DNF’s.


Local auto manufacturing scene
Despite many sectors of the business community looking down in the mouth this year, the auto industry overall is in good shape. The local market, like all the domestic markets is depressed, with figures between 10-20 percent down for passenger cars and pick-ups, but the Thai exports are looking in very good shape, earning 180 billion baht and being more than half the total production of vehicles in Thailand, and generally up between 17-30 percent year on year. If you add in the motorcycle production from this country, you are looking at 295 billion baht earned from exports.
The main export players remain Toyota and Honda, with Ford, Isuzu, Mitsubishi and Mazda the minor players, with the quality of the Thai made vehicles getting top marks from the export destinations. Make no mistake about this, vehicles originating in Thailand are not looked upon with the suspicion that hangs over the Chinese produced vehicles. And we don’t do “copies”.