Despite the hype – a shambles!
What did we learn from the Spanish Grand Prix?
Quite honestly, it was a shambles, despite the international press
lauding the Ferrari 1-2 and ignoring the fact that only 13 cars
finished. And a couple of those were walking wounded.
Much has been written about the new “young guns” taking over from
the old-timers, but that is nonsense. All the “young guns” seem to
be doing is taking each other out! Take Sebastian Vettel (Roaring
Tosser), the lad hailed as the “new Schumacher” (Michael that is,
though he is looking much more like another Ralf), with a huge
future predicted. So far he has not managed to finish one race this
season. Not one. In fact, he is lucky if he gets past the first lap
before he has his accident. This time he blamed the other young
hopeful Adrian Sutil with whom he collided, and finally said,
“Hopefully we can get the new car soon and move out of the back of
the pack, where I have had so many problems at the start of races.”
He should at least get part of his wishes. He has destroyed so many
cars already they will have to give him a new car every Grand Prix.
He should not expect his contract to be renewed.
However, Sutil in his Force India found that the ‘force’ wasn’t with
him either. “Again a disappointing day. After a good start into turn
four I was on the inside and had a try to overtake another car, but
it was too close and I couldn’t make the corner. I crashed into a
car and my race was over then and there.” Help me! The other car was
“too close” so he couldn’t make the corner. And this is one of the
best 22 drivers on the planet? Sutil will be lucky to have a drive
Another youngster is Timo Glock, who is lucky he has the
manufacturing might of Toyota behind him. How many cars has he
destroyed this season? He is another likely to be an ex-F1 driver in
2009. Mind you, in his favor, it was another accident with David
Coulthard, who is no longer a young gun. I think it is time DC
Other accidental non-finishers included Piquet (Renault) and
Bourdais (Toro Rossa), Kovalainen (McLaren) and Rubens Barichello
(Honda) all joined by the Sulky Spaniard who popped an engine and
Nico Rosberg (Williams).
After all the tales of woe, Raikkonen in the Ferrari was the class
act again. Pole position, fastest lap and first to greet the
chequered flag. It doesn’t get much better than that. Massa in the
second Ferrari had no answer for his speed and consistency, and is
rapidly settling in to be the Number 2, just as he was when Michael
Schumacher drove for Ferrari, but it was a good 1-2 for the
Lewis Hamilton drove well for third place, but the McLaren is just
not fast enough. The design chappies at the Woking headquarters will
be scratching their heads. His partner Heikki Kovalainen is
apparently shaken but not stirred after his 220 kph accident, a
tribute to the strength and safety in today’s F1 car. It was Sir
Stirling Moss who said he remembered when F1 was dangerous and sex
was safe. How times have changed!
Much talk as to whether Super Aguri will survive. Simple answer - it
won’t, and does it matter? There are enough mobile chicanes already.
Last week I noted that there is one automaker in the USA
which has been building cars since 1896. I asked which is it? It was Oldsmobile.
So to this week. The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, the Chevrolet Corvette of 1957 and
the Triumph TR 5 all had something in common as a first in their home countries.
What was it?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
Reliability the important issue with buyers
in the US
The Consumer Reports magazine in the US has finished an exhaustive
review of the automotive products available in the US, concluding that overall,
the best cars sold in the U.S. are made by Honda. This was after looking at
reliability, performance, fuel economy, comfort, interior fit and finish, and
ergonomics of 262 vehicles.
VW gets a lift
In their score card, Honda, with an overall score of 78, was followed closely by
Toyota (75) and Subaru (72). BMW, Mazda, Nissan, and Volkswagen were tied at 71.
“Some vehicles that did well in their testing had a relatively high number of
problems reported by owners in our reliability survey. For example, vehicles
built by Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen (including Audi) achieved the best average
scores in our tests, but the reliability of Volkswagen vehicles overall was
below average, while Mercedes’ reliability was well below average.” The Consumer
Reports people said that they do not recommend vehicles with below-average
reliability, so VW and M-B suffered in the final ratings.
Honda earned the top score in their analysis because it builds very reliable
cars that perform very well. Its average test score was only slightly under
Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz, and Honda was the only manufacturer to earn an
excellent overall reliability rating as well.
The home grown American manufacturers did not do well in the Consumer Reports,
which goes a long way toward explaining why the US manufacturers are in such
deep doggy-doo. Detroit’s share of the North American market dipped to its
lowest level ever, just above 51 percent. For the first time in history, Toyota
outsold Ford in the U.S. and outsold GM worldwide to become the world’s largest
automaker. Sales shrank almost 12 percent at Ford, 6 percent at GM, and just
over 3 percent at Chrysler. Ford and GM racked up billions in losses, and after
a nine year merger with Daimler, which owns Mercedes-Benz, Chrysler was sold off
at a multibillion dollar loss.
Overall, only a quarter of their recommended vehicles came from U.S. companies,
which is a result of their vehicles’ inconsistent reliability and performance in
their testing, and about half of their recommended vehicles were Japanese.
In the end, the companies that made the ‘best’ vehicles were those that have
found a way to excel in all areas: performance, interior craftsmanship, safety,
comfort, and reliability. The best all-around vehicles each year continue to set
a higher and higher standard for other companies to match. That is a competition
in which consumers are the ultimate winners.
More Bikes from Bitec
The motorcycle fest at the Bangkok International Motor Show did
keep many bikers very interested. Our man on the spot, Alan Coates continues
his report from last week.
CBR 600RR - Arguably the most popular machine in the 600 cc class, this
model had a ground up revamp for 2007 but was not at this show last year.
The 4 cylinder (across the frame) engine produces 118 BHP at 13,500 rpm.
Weighing in at only 155 kg means a very impressive power to weight ratio for
CBR 1000RR Fireblade - Uprated again from 2007 with sharper looks and a stronger
performance this “all new” machine has 175 BHP at 12,000 rpm. More use is made
of aluminium in its construction that limits the dry weight to 199 kg.
DN-01 - An all new concept from Honda, seen as the way forward in “sports
tourers”; this view is not shared with this reporter or many of the so-far
quoted sources regarding the DN-01. The engine and hydraulic transmission have
been “lifted” from the Deauville to produce a cross between a scooter and a
cruiser. The 680 V twin engine produces a meager 60 BHP while weighing in at 270
kg dry weight. Even before loading up with pillion and luggage these stats do
not conjure up an image of a sports tourer. It may well be comfortable with low
seat and foot boards a la H-D but the performance or rather lack of it will
discourage most potential buyers.
Motard PGM – F1 (Step Thru) - Here we have an example of the latest MotoGP
styling for step-thru bikes, no doubt there is a section of the young biker
market that will be attracted to this machine. Expect to see them hammering
along Sukhumvit in the near future.
ER-6N - Shown again this year is the entry level naked sports 650 cc
parallel twin with 71 BHP at a modest 8,500 rpm. This capacity was so beloved by
the Brit bikers from the post war era through to the advent of the leak free,
multi-cylinder machines from Japan in the 1970s. However, with electronic
ignition, fuel injection and overhead camshaft there the similarity ends between
old British and modern Japanese motorcycles.
GTR 1400 Sports Tourer - This is Kawasaki’s more conventional idea of a sports
tourer and comes fully dressed with generous fairing and luggage system. This
new model has the engine lifted from their 1400 ZZR hyper sports bike. The
detuned 1400 cc is slotted into all new chassis designed to carry two and a
mountain of luggage, in comfort, at high speeds over colossal distances with
ease. The shaft driven 280 kg bike has 150 plus BHP, now that is a sports
Ninja(s) - Three of the out and out super sports bikes range were displayed, all
in their very familiar green livery. The 250, introduced last year, now
established in a new market that replaces that previously occupied by
two-strokes which are now, of course, banned for environmental reasons.
Earlier 600 Ninja ZX-6R cheated slightly to keep pace with the Honda and Suzuki
in this class by giving their engine 636 cc. This latest model competes fairly
and squarely with a 599 cc engine giving 123 BHP at 14000 rpm and almost 130 BHP
also at 14,000 rpm with their RAM air system that boosts power when on the move.
Weighing in at 167 kg puts it slightly ahead of the Honda in the power to weight
The ZX-10R, newly released, is Kawasaki’s flagship for 2008. With just under 200
BHP on RAM air at 12,500 rpm and weighing in at 179 kg gives a very serious
performance package for even the professional racer.
Z-1000 - Retro in name and general appearance only, this naked sports bike is
marketed on the back of the popularity and memories evoked by the earlier ZED
series from this manufacturer. The updated in-line 4 with fuel injection
delivers more than 120 BHP at 10,000 rpm to propel the 205 kg un-faired machine
at a healthy rate of knots. There will be many buyers of this model to enjoy the
comfort and performance without venturing into the rarified atmosphere of the
supersports. A much more useable and friendly model on an everyday basis.