Hungarian GP - a quick history
As a racing venue, Hungary has a long history,
with its first GP run in 1906, and regular events in Budapest since
1926. Built with state backing, and laid out in a natural
amphitheatre, the Hungaroring opened in 1986 and attracted an
estimated 200,000 spectators. Though the event was well organized,
and the hosts very appreciative, it was felt that the 4 km
Hungaroring had been laid out more in the style of a twisty street
circuit rather than a bespoke road track. There were few
opportunities for overtaking, though things were eased from 1989
when a tight corner was by-passed and the lap distance became
slightly less than 4 km. However, it remains a circuit that is not
high on any of the drivers’ lists, unless you are after a piece of
quick action behind the pits, as the Hungarian government actually
erected (nice word in the sex scene) some mobile brothels a couple
of years ago. I think they are still in use today!
Last week I mentioned Lotus and the Lotus 14 which was released at the London
Motor Show in 1957 and was called the Lotus Elite. A beautifully smooth design,
it was the world’s first fiberglass monocoque. Colin Chapman’s accountant was
very much involved with this car. I asked what was his name, and what part did
he have to play? His name was Peter Kirwan-Taylor and he designed the body.
So to this week. The first man to fly the English Channel was Frenchman Louis
Bleriot. Why should we remember him when we drive at night?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
Are hybrids a new technology?
While many people think that the hybrid technology is something new -
it isn’t. In 1900, a Belgian carmaker, Pieper, built a three and a half
horsepower “voiturette” in which the small petrol engine was mated to an
electric motor under the seat. When the car was cruising, its electric motor was
in effect a generator, recharging the batteries, but when the car was climbing
hills, the electric motor, mounted coaxially with the petrol engine, gave it a
boost. The Pieper patents were used by a Belgium firm, Auto-Mixte, to build
commercial vehicles from 1906 to 1912.
In 1902, German Dr. Ferdinand Porsche, at age 25, built his first hybrid, using
an internal combustion engine to spin a generator that provided power to
electric motors located in the wheel hubs. On battery alone, the car could
travel nearly 75 km. So much for the 64 km goal espoused at the Plug-in 2008
In 1905, an American engineer named H. Piper (not to be confused with the
Belgian Pieper) filed a patent for a petrol-electric hybrid vehicle. His idea
was to use an electric motor to assist an internal combustion engine, enabling
it to achieve 40 km/h. Up to the start of WW I, there were petrol engines, steam
engines, electric (battery) engines and hybrids, but then in 1913 the
self-starter was invented to make starting of petrol engines easy, and killed
steam, electric and hybrid sales.
Some manufacturers persevered and in 1916, two prominent electric-vehicle makers
- Baker of Cleveland and Woods of Chicago - offered hybrid cars. Woods claimed
that their hybrid reached a top speed of 60 km/h and achieved fuel efficiency of
48 mpg. The Woods Dual Power was more expensive and less powerful than its
gasoline competition, and therefore sold poorly.
Despite the hiatus, the concept stayed alive in some engineering brains, and in
1974, Dr. Victor Wouk and his partner built a hybrid power source which they
installed in a Buick Skylark. This they entered in an obscure research program
called the Federal Clean Car Incentive Program (FCCIP). This resulted in their
subjecting their hybrid to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and it
passed their stringent anti-pollution testing. However, a month later, the EPA
sent a report citing 75 reasons why the hybrid would not go into the next phase
of support. One man in the EPA was against this branch of technology and
eventually Victor Wouk just gave up.
But in 2004, one year before his death, Victor Wouk was asked what might have
happened if EPA officials running the Federal Clean Car Incentive Program had
been less committed to an anti-hybrid view. “Do you think it would have meant a
different outcome for this country and the evolution of hybrids cars?” Wouk
replied, “That is what I had been espousing for almost 30 years. If we must
reduce automobile pollution and reduce automobile fuel consumption a large
amount in a short period of time. The only thing you should do is use existing
technologies, and as these technologies improve, you just go ahead. But nobody
did anything about it until, independently, the Japanese - Toyota and Honda.”
So there you are. We have been ignoring fuel economy by deluding ourselves that
oil was cheap and would last forever. However, it no longer is, and apparently
the oil reserves are finite. And we should not forget that while crude oil is
$130 a barrel as I write this, the Middle East is going from strength to
strength, building new cities in the deserts, paid for by you and me and
everyone who has a gasoline engined vehicle. And while governments may give lip
service to the motorist’s plight, do not forget that governments all over the
world get a tremendous rake-off at the pumps in the form of tax. The motorist
Victor Wouk and his hybrid Buick.
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