Last week I asked which motor sport competitor competed in
hill climbs as both a man and a woman? The answer was Bob (Roberta) Cowell.
So to this week. When did pneumatic tyres first get used in a race? And who was
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
Doing it in the dark
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that the Singapore Grand Prix
for F1 later in the year will be run under lights. The following information
was brought to my attention by Alan Coates, our roving motorcycle editor,
that the opening round of the MotoGP season on March 10 2008 will also be
held at night in Qatar, starting at 11 p.m. local time.
The reason is exactly the same as for F1, to bring the viewing time in
Europe into the afternoon, to maximize the number of viewers.
Apparently a group of riders tested under lights in September 2007, with
part of the Losail desert circuit outside the capital Doha already fully
equipped. The MotoGP assessment group found the experience satisfactory, and
work now proceeds to complete the massive project.
Current World Champion, Aussie Casey Stoner was not at the tests, but was in
favor of floodlit racing. “I used to race dirt-track under floodlights. It
was good fun,” he said.
Night racing has another advantage at the desert venue: temperatures are
cooler than during the height of the day and the denser air will give the
bikes a performance edge.
US-based firm Musco Lighting, with extensive experience in floodlit sporting
applications, undertook the work. The main lighting comes from 3,200
overhead units, with 500 low-level beams cross-lighting the track surface.
Should we all step into a Prius?
Last week I mentioned the move towards ‘green’ cars, as the price
for a barrel of crude oil broke through the $100 barrier. With today’s
fixation on fossil fuel depletion, fuel misers are certainly all the rage as
far as ‘green’ technology is concerned. One of the leaders in hybrid
technology is Toyota, with their Prius model, which was released 10 years
ago, updated for 2004 and for a further update in 2008.
Toyota has sold more Priuses than all other hybrids combined - and this has
to be the result of an increased awareness of the environment in the last
decade, and an increase in production and availability by Toyota.
Notable landmarks in the 10 year journey of the Prius include winning the
International Engine of the Year award in 1999 and 2000, becoming the
world’s first hybrid vehicle to finish an FIA-sanctioned rally in 2002 and
setting a new land speed record for hybrid power vehicles by achieving
130.794 mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah in 2004. Market demand for
the Prius also saw the opening of a new production center in Changchun,
China in 2005 and interestingly, sales have increased dramatically in the
last two years to almost one million vehicles, since the half-million
production was not reached until mid-2006.
In 2007, the Prius maintained its status as the world’s cleanest family car
according to Toyota, with carbon dioxide emissions of 104 g/km, and has an
official combined cycle fuel consumption figure of 65.7 mpg.
Prius reminds me of the VW in the 1950’s with the cult mentality that the
car produces. Remember those days? They flashed their headlights at each
other and waved, complete with a certain smug smile. “Aren’t we clever,” was
the implied concept. Prius is the same. Reported satisfaction rates are
consistently at 98 percent, and the owners have that certain smugness about
them, showing they are doing their bit to fight global warming.
So it makes ‘green’ sense to buy a hybrid, but does it make financial sense?
The EPA in the US rated the vehicles available for sale over there. Their
number 1 fuel miser was the Honda Insight. This little gem costs 3.7 million
baht over here. Compare this with the Honda Jazz that costs about 0.6
million baht, a saving of 3.1 million. I will now consult my crystal ball
and suggest that in five years, the Insight will be worth 1 million baht,
and the Jazz 0.2 million. You will have lost 2.7 million baht on the Insight
and 0.4 million baht with the Jazz. So the Insight owner will have ‘lost’
2.3 million baht more than the Jazz owner in the five years (ignoring
servicing, insurance and other standard expenses). That breaks down to
460,000 baht a year.
So will the Insight owner save more than 460,000 baht per year in fuel
costs? This is not possible. Not even the Porsche Cayenne Turbo owner will
spend 38,000 baht a month on fuel. If you want to be a greenie, you will
have to pay for the pleasure.
Has Ford said Tata to Jaguar?
It looks very much as if the Indian conglomerate Tata has bought
Jaguar and Land-Rover. Another two premier British makes going overseas, and
this time to India, once part of the British Raj. How the mighty have
ugly Jaguar XF
Whilst it was still not 100 percent at the time of going to press, it seems
fairly likely that the British press reports are correct, with Tata’s chief
executive, 69 year old Ratan Tata, credited with transforming a sprawling,
unfocused tea to trucks conglomerate into a global player, had long promised the
group would “spread its wings far beyond India.”
If Tata gets Jaguar and Land Rover, it will be in the unusual position of
manufacturing two of the world’s prestigious cars as well as one of the world’s
cheapest, having already announced its “people’s car” which has a sticker price
of USD 2,500 (around 75,000 baht).
The Tata Group has 98 firms and began emerging as a force in the world
marketplace in 2000 when it bought Tetley Tea, Britain’s top tea-bag brand.
The Tata Group, founded in 1868, is a colossus at home in India, with annual
revenues of USD 29 billion, the equivalent of 3.2 percent of India’s GDP, and is
the biggest private employer, with 289,500 people on its payroll.
It probably is about time that the MD got a Jaguar to drive around in!
A re-volting tale?
The battery died on the ‘works’ Mira yesterday. It had been
sending messages for the previous two days, but as usual you ignore the
reluctance to spin the engine in the morning and put it down to the cold
weather. After all, I don’t like starting in the cold weather either.
So, out with the jumper leads, clear away the children, fire up and drive to
the nearest battery shop. There the happy chappie brought out a new battery
and began to remove the old one. A little voice inside told me to ask the
price before we were too far along with the replacement. “Sam pun, ha roi,”
said the little man. Three thousand five hundred baht! Did he think that the
six inch stainless steel bar that holds my ears apart was corroded? Since
his expensive battery looked plastic on the outside and not encrusted with
jewels and gold, I declined. However, I did attach my jumper leads to it to
get going, and then drove to the next place. This one suggested B. 1750 and
efficiently replaced the offending dead battery. The moral to the tale is
always to ask first!