Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

What did we learn from the Singapore Grand Prix?

Much has been said and written about the glittering night event, and it certainly was that. However, it was not a motor race if you believe in the old fashioned gladiatorial concept of drivers racing each other to the finish, particularly when the final result can be totally altered by a safety car and a ridiculous rule.
I am sorry, despite all the exclamations from ITV’s James Allen about what a “success” the GP had been and glowing reports in the popular press, the actual ‘race’ was a total farce, with the FIA’s absurd rules turning what might have been a race into a lottery. Fortunately, lotteries are legal in Singapore.
The rule that drivers cannot pit when the safety car is first deployed is stupid. They can pit later under the safety car, but only after some official buffoon says they can - but not before, and heaven help those who pit early because they are running out of fuel! Those who have to pit, or run out of fuel on the track, receive stop and go penalties. That was the case with Rosberg and Kubica. Rosberg was lucky and returned to the circuit and a clear track, but Kubica ended up behind slower cars, and with the 150 million dollar circuit design making it almost impossible to pass, that was the end of his ‘race’.
However, it was heartening for many to see the Sulky Spaniard ‘win’ his first race for over a year, especially after his car stopping on him during qualifying and Fernando screaming “excremento” as he got out of the car. The interesting part of the ‘win’ was his cutting the chicane on the first lap and gaining position, which he did not cede afterwards. This was spotted by Martin Brundle on the telecast, but was ignored by the stewards, that wonderfully wise group of officials who in a previous race had handed Hamilton a penalty for cutting a corner, even though he did cede the position immediately afterwards, and denied him even the right to appeal. Consistency? Sorry, but that is something which has never been part of FIA stewarding.
Actually I did feel quite sorry for Alonso when he was given his trophy. Obviously stolen from outside the local muffler shop!
What can you say about Ferrari? The pit crew are obviously trained by the Keystone Cops. Not only was Massa given the signal to go while the fuel hose was still attached, but he was released into the path of Sutil’s Vindaloo Special (again)! The sight of several red-suited (should have been red-faced) mechanics running back to the pit with a 20 meter anaconda on their shoulders was pure American sitcom material. There will be more than intradepartmental inquiries over that. I suggest crucifixion may be next, the Romans were good at that.
Hamilton drove well, but uninspired, Glock and Vettel ditto, Rosberg drove very well and after that it is hard to do anything but criticize. Piquet sealed his fate after destroying another Renault, Bourdais was/is hopeless, Kovalainen could not pass a Honda, need I go on?
If bright lights, VIPs, sexy Singaporean ladies, fast cars, noise, crashes, spins and PR in overtime mode are to your liking, then the Singapore Grand Prix was for you. If you consider F1 motor racing to be the epitome of the sport, then do not go or watch the ‘event’ next year. I refuse to call it a Grand Prix.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked what was the first mass produced car with recessed door handles? The answer was the Fiat 1500 of 1935. (As an aside, I really like the hidden rear door handles on the Alfa Romeos, and don’t know why they didn’t do the same for the front doors.)
So to this week. An easy one. Rene Lalique is well known among car collectors. Why?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!


Now Chrysler joins the short-circuit crowd
Latest news from the US has Chrysler saying they will have their all-electric vehicles in the showrooms by 2010, attempting to beat GM and Nissan, which has also said it will have its EV’s in the showrooms 2010.

Chrysler EV

News from GM is that the Volt will be available in Thailand in 2011 and projected price is three million baht. Then there is Tesla in the US who say they will beat everyone into the showrooms. All this is good for the motorist and bad news for the oil cartels. I am shedding no tears.

Ford Fiesta will be a world hit
The preview of the new Ford Fiesta at the Bangkok International Motor Show showed that this was a very well balanced design. At that stage, it had not been well evaluated, but since then, it has been getting rave reviews, and hopefully will revive FoMoCo in its hour of need.

New Ford Fiesta

After so many years of depending upon large vehicles, Ford has now been forced to look at the smaller end of the automotive stakes. Fortunately for Ford, this Fiesta looks like being their savior.
This vehicle is also intimately tied in to the health of the auto manufacturing business in Thailand, with a new assembly line being built for the Fiesta and its running mate, the Mazda2 at the Eastern Seaboard Industrial Estate.
Ford is launching the new Fiesta in Australia next week with two petrol engines and two transmissions, and two body styles. There will be a three-door and a five-door hatch body styles, with three specification grades and two engines on offer - led by a more powerful 1.6 liter DOHC inline Duratec four cylinder delivering 88 kW of power at 6000 rpm and 152 Nm of torque at 4050 rpm (up from 74 kW/146 Nm). This engine is mated to a five speed manual transmission.
It is a fuel miser engine and it is reported that it returns a combined-cycle fuel consumption figure of 6.1 L/100 km and produces 143 g/km of CO2 emissions (if CO2 emissions turn you on or off).
The second engine is a new entry-level 1.4 liter inline four cylinder engine that produces 71 kW at 5750rpm and 128 Nm at 4200 rpm. However, mated to a four speed auto transmission, it is more thirsty than the larger engine, only returning a fuel consumption figure of 6.9 L/100 km and higher CO2 emissions of 164 g/km. Both these engines take 91 octane and are E10 compatible. Australia will not get a European diesel.
Standard equipment across the range will include twin front airbags and an anti-lock braking system (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), plus air-conditioning, power windows/mirrors, remote central locking, a rear foglight and 15x6.0-inch wheels with 195/50-section tyres.
The midrange LX variant, available only in five-door guise, adds alloy wheels, cruise control and voice-activated Bluetooth connectivity as standard.
Electronic stability control (ESC) with emergency brake assist (EBA), twin front side airbags and a driver’s knee airbag will be standard only in the flagship Zetec variant, and is collectively available as a safety option pack on CL and LX versions. Zetecs also gain 16x6.5-inch alloys (with 195/45-section tyres) as standard.
The new “Kinetic Design” Fiesta is on average 40 kg lighter than before due to the increased use of high-strength steels - which now form more than half of the body structure and are claimed to increase the torsional rigidity.
MacPherson strut front and solid beam rear suspension configurations continue, as does a ventilated front disc and drum rear brake set-up, while a new electric power-assisted rack and pinion steering system is fitted.
Australia’s supply of the European designed Fiesta will switch from Cologne in Germany to Rayong in Thailand, which has a free trade agreement with Australia, from late 2009.
According to my sources, the Thai-built Fiesta will then be more price-competitive than ever against direct light car rivals like Toyota’s top-selling Yaris, the next generation of which could come also to Australia from Thailand, as well as other Japanese-built cars like the Suzuki Swift and Mazda2which also comes from Thailand.
I believe that only the five door models will be assembled here, but personally I want a two door. We shall see.

Query about hybrids
I received an email from one of the readers about hybrids. “Hi there, I remember reading some time ago one of the car manufacturers were experimenting making an electric car with a gasoline fueled battery recharger built into the system so plug in overnight would not be necessary an option not open to may drivers who, say, live in condo blocks. Did anything ever come of it? Regards, Richard.”

A parallel hybrid petrol/electric engine

Well Richard, you have certainly got a good memory, because the hybrid system you describe was used by Dr. Ferdinand Porsche in 1901 in the Lohner-Porsche. This was the world’s first ‘series’ hybrid where the electric motors were powered by batteries, and the batteries were in turn charged up by an on-board petrol engine generator. Porsche used four ‘in-wheel’ motors, a design that has been used recently by Mitsubishi!
The interesting fact about Dr. Porsche’s design is that this is the concept behind the new Chevrolet Volt, where the motion comes from a battery powered electric motor, but where the range can be boosted by starting an on-board petrol generator to recharge the batteries. It will be on sale in 2010, only 109 years after Dr. Porsche’s design.

Was Hamilton robbed in Italy?
The FIA debacle continues with the refusal by the sport’s governing body to hear the appeal launched by McLaren on behalf of their driver. Lewis Hamilton was given a 25 second penalty given to two hours after the race was over, trophies presented and the crowd gone home leaving dejected Ferrari flags in the mud. This demoted him from winner to third and handed the win to Ferrari’s Felipe Massa.
The FIA’s reasoning was that the penalty the stewards handed out was to be a drive-through penalty, against which there is no appeal. However, since the race was by then over, they could not have a drive-through, so the 25 second penalty was issued instead.
So, despite universal condemnation of the steward’s decision, the FIA refused to debate it and the penalty and demotion persists. If Massa wins the world championship through steward’s penalties, it will be a sorry day for world motor sport.