Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

Spyker accuse Ferrari of spying

Hot on the heels of the McLaren spying scandal comes the news that the FIA have accused Renault of being in possession of sensitive information coming from McLaren! This will result in a hearing by the World Motor Sport Council in December, and now comes the news that Spyker have serious doubts about this year’s championship winning Ferrari.
Sources from within Spyker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that their engineers had noticed several similarities between the 2007 Spyker and the Ferrari. “For a start,” said the source, “look at the number of wheels. Exactly the same number as on our car, and the same placement with two at the front and two at the rear. This cannot be mere coincidence.”
Other amazing similarities include the seating of the driver, both the Spyker and the Ferrari feature forward facing seats, with removable steering wheels. “We have engineering drawings of all these features, and the fact that Ferrari has the same features in its design smacks of some underhand dealings, if not industrial espionage.”
Adding to the intrigue is the fact that Spyker’s cleaner has not turned up for work at the factory this week, lending further credence to the accusations. The FIA have refused to comment on this third case of spying, saying that they have all these others to investigate first, but if there is any truth in the accusations, Ferrari can expect the harshest penalties, including being made to stay in after school.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I suggested we stick with headlamps. I asked when did headlamp flashers first become offered, and on what car? The correct answer was FIAT, in 1935 with their 1500.
So to this week. Who was the first manufacturer to fit a six cylinder engine to their passenger cars? Clue - it was 1902.
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!


Preview of the Mazda2
With the news that we will be assembling the Mazda2 here in Thailand (along with its sibling, the Ford Fiesta) for sale in 2008, it is of interest to see how it has been received in other countries.


GoAuto, in Australia, wrote that the Mazda2 passed its first test even before leaving the kerb. The bright Kermit green test car was described as ‘cute’ by someone right in the middle of Mazda’s target market for the little runabout. Acceptance by the youth market, especially women, is crucial and looks are all-important in this class.
In looks, the new Mazda is very similar to a scaled down version of the Yaris, the small car benchmark these days.
Again, from GoAuto, the little Mazda still corners well enough and will be more than sporty enough for many of its target customers, but the suspension has been softened in the name of comfort. This avoids an overly harsh ride and, on the whole, the Mazda2 is pretty comfortable.
The smallest Mazda sets new standards for the quality of the plastics used for the interior, putting it a step ahead of other small car interiors. It even tops the Honda Jazz cabin.
Mounting the gearshift on the lower part of the dash frees up space for some extra space, and a cup-holder, in the center console.
More importantly for many, an auxiliary plug is mounted in the center console. That means their iPod or MP3 player can sit in the center console compartment, right next to the plug, which beats having the lead sticking out of the dashboard or having the plug out of the way in the glovebox like some other cars.
Interior packaging of the Mazda2 is good, though. It might not be as tall as the model it replaces, but there is still good leg and headroom for front and rear passengers. The rear seats are very flat and firm, but at least there are head restraints and lap-sash belts for all seats.
There are several handy little storage places, although it would be nice to have a decent sized glovebox instead of the super-slim compartment in the Mazda2.
Otherwise, the car’s practicality is impressive, with the rear seats folding down to open up enough space to store a large mountain bike, which is not bad for a car this size.
On paper, the 1.5 liter engine is a step backwards from the previous unit (6kW less power and 4Nm less torque). What really matters, however, is how the engine performs in the real world and the Mazda2 is 60 kg lighter than the previous model and the engine is also very good.
It has enough pull down low to ensure you don’t have to wind the engine right out to the red-line to get anywhere in a hurry. In fact, you can maintain a reasonable pace by changing up at around 3500 rpm.
The engine is also quite smooth and relatively quiet. Even at highway speeds, when the engine is doing 3000rpm, it is not intrusive.
Fuel consumption for the test car came in at 6.9 L/100 km, which is very impressive.
The Australian-spec model has no trip computer. This lack of a trip computer is a sign of cost-cutting, but it’s nice to know that Mazda at least spent the extra money to include ABS brakes as standard equipment.
Spending up on safety didn’t quite stretch to electronic stability control, but at least it is available as an option at a competitive price, along with extra airbags.
The manual gearbox is just adequate and, while the dash-mounted gearshift does free up space, it still feels strange to drivers used to a gearbox that sits down to the side of the driver, especially when you change up.
Mazda is not alone here, with other small cars from Honda and Toyota adopting the same set-up, but it makes the car feel even less sporty.
So that’s not a bad report card from Down-Under, but we will have to wait and see just what specifications the local model will have. We should know around March next year.

Want to try Moto-GP?
HighSide Tours is running a track day at the Bira Circuit, just outside Pattaya on Highway 36, on Saturday November 24. Graham Knight does not guarantee to turn you into Valentino Rossi in one day, but you will experience and learn something about riding.

Moto-GP action

Three categories of rider - first timers, those with a little track experience and finally experienced track riders/racers. There will be a photographer on hand to record your moment of glory, and you can even purchase Pirelli tyres at a 15 percent discount on the day.
The track day is for bikes 250 cc and above (bring your own) and the following safety gear is mandatory - full-face helmet, gloves and boots, and with sensible riding clothes between the helmet and the boots!
If you pre-register by fax it is only B. 1,000, and on the day it will be B. 1,500. English language fax number is 038 364 030, and the day should be an absolute blast for anyone who enjoys two wheels. You can get further details from Graham Knight on 089 119 0000, and have a look at their very professional website

Bernie wants Surfers Paradise for the Oz GP
Reading between the lines, it would seem as if the Australian GP in Albert Park in Melbourne is about to go to Queensland. The Victorian government has released the figures that it has constantly lost money on the event, and this year it was a cool A$34 million. The Victorian tax-payer, who has not been wholeheartedly behind the event anyway, will start objections over the 2008 event, any day now.
The report which appeared in Victorian state’s parliament showed that the race made a $34 million loss this season; which is $12 million worse than that of a year earlier and $21 million worse than in 2005. The losses were attributed to dwindling ticket sales and sponsorship revenue.
Our man on the ground, Bernie Ecclestone, has reportedly asked the Queensland government to host the Australian GP in Surfers Paradise. This is not such a crazy move. The Surfers Paradise track is erected around the streets and has successfully held the Indycar Grand Prix for around 12 years.
Bernie has made it plain that he wants more street races, and Surfers Paradise is just that, and it is a ‘destination’, whilst Melbourne is not, as far as mass tourism is concerned.
Having raced there myself, it does offer brilliant viewing from the tower blocks all around the circuit, the weather is always great, and Surfers Paradise does get behind its sporting events.
For many people, me included, Surfers should take up Bernie’s kind offer, and Melbourne should quietly accede, even though it has the contract until 2010. After all, think of the money they will save.

Surfers Paradise

Kazuki Nakajima in the Williams F1
Amongst the musical chairs that takes place around this time each year, Williams F1 has announced that the second race seat vacated by Alex Wurz will be taken by Kazuki Nakajima. But who is this new driver?
Kazuki is the son of former grand prix driver Satoru, who raced for Lotus and Tyrrell in the 1980s and 1990s. Young Kazuki came to prominence by winning the Suzuka Formula ICA karting championship in 1999. His performances impressed Toyota, who fast-tracked him into their Young Drivers Program, and he competed in Formula Toyota and won the title in 2003. The following year he was promoted to Japanese F3, where he won two races. In 2005 he was the runner-up in the series. In 2006 he made the switch to European F3 and he won round four of the series, but his season ran out of momentum and he ended the season in P7 in the standings.
He was named as Williams F1 test driver for 2007 and following Alex Wurz’s retirement from F1 (did he jump or was he pushed?), Nakajima made his debut for Williams at Interlagos in the final grand prix of the 2007 season, where he wrote himself into the record books when he overshot his pit box and ran into two of his mechanics, who were then carted off on stretchers.
Following that less than glorious debut, Sir Frank Williams announced that Nakajima had done enough (neither of the mechanics died) to secure a race seat in 2008 alongside Nico Rosberg. Despite the fact that young Kazuki is a Toyota program driver, this has absolutely nothing to do with his selection, and the fact that the Williams F1 runs Toyota engines is merely coincidental. It has also been reliably reported that the moon is made of green cheese.