Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

Motorcycles at Bangkok Show

I was fortunate to have Isle of Man specialist Alan Coates covering the two (and three) wheeled side of the Bangkok International Motor Show again this year. The following is his report:
There was an environmentally green theme to the 2009 Bangkok Motor Show. The motorcycle section could have been renamed alternatively “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”!
The regular major manufacturers were present together with Zongshen Ryuka representing a Chinese interest. Local representation was by a Thai Tiger and an ever present Dirtshop. The latter exhibited a Ducati Monster, Triumph Speed Triple and BMW Adventurer as well as accessories.
For a change, the format of this years report is by category of product rather than a schedule of models presented by each manufacturer.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked whether you listen to the radio on the way to work? What was the first British car to offer such an option? And when? The answer was the Crossley in 1933.
So to this week, and an easy one. When were curved windscreens first used?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!


Sports 1 liter
The main contenders are without surprise, Honda’s Fireblade, Kawasaki’s ZX1000 and Yamaha’s R1. Suzuki showed only the GSXR750, not the flagship 1 liter version.

Yamaha YZF-R1

Honda, for whatever reason showcased a Fireblade not being the latest model, i.e., without the fly by wire braking, the “combined” ABS (C-ABS) as it is known. When Motor Cycle News (MCN) UK tested the new ABS system on the latest Fireblade they were ecstatic on its assistance to the rider under adverse braking conditions; i.e., wet / sandy or other treacherous conditions. Under normal braking the ABS does not operate, but under heavy braking it balances front and rear braking seamlessly for best effect allowing the rider to stay in control. In a second test MCN found an improvement in stopping distance of 14 meters in the wet from 80 mph compared to a non C-ABS equipped bike.
So, no vote for Honda but if you are in the market for a new Fireblade, do wait until you can get the C-ABS model.
Kawasaki showed the new for 2009 color schemes for the Ninja range by painting a ZX10R in sections. The ZX10R will be available in the traditional fluorescent green, ebony black or pearl stardust white. The underseat exhaust system has gone and been replaced by a regular dustbin sized silencer on the offside. Kawasaki had very little success with its flagship sports bike in any series of racing in the 2008 season, so not much was learned, I guess, to pass onto the road going machines. Kawasaki is probably more cash-strapped than others for development funds and indeed have already pulled out of MotoGP for 2009. So, no vote for the ZX10R.
The YZF-R1 is closely linked to Yamaha’s MotoGP winning M1. For 2009 it is equipped with an all-new 998cc inline four-cylinder engine with a crossplane crankshaft that runs with an uneven firing interval of 270 - 180 - 90 - 180. This innovative new design ensures superb throttle linearity, allegedly giving a feeling that the rider’s throttle hand is directly connected to the rear tyre. The new engine feels and sounds smoother than ever, and emits an unforgettable growl from the exhaust. Pushing out 182 PS at 12,500 rpm with 115.5 Nm of torque at 10,000 rpm, this engine is the most technologically advanced powerplant from Yamaha. In addition, the Deltabox chassis is also new giving a better balance between rigidity and flexibility. So my award goes to Yamaha’s YZF-R1.

Electric cars can go the distance
Tesla shows its electric sports car goes the distance in Rallye Monte Carlo for Alternative Energies.
The American has set an unofficial record for the longest electric vehicle run with its Roadster. This was the first round of the FIA Alternative Energies Cup and covered a 390 km drive through France.
With its recharging outlet sealed by officials the Tesla Roadster was able to cover the course from Valence, France to Monaco. The course took in highway driving, two-lane back roads and even mountain passes so speeds varied from 30 km/h up to 100 km/h.
Aside from toilet stops, the Tesla - driven by Australian Rudi Tuisk who is a part of the company’s European operation - the car not only went the entire distance but still had a further 61 km of range left in the batteries when it reached the end. Former F1 grand prix winner Heinz-Harald Frentzen drove the car during the night special stage.
Tesla is now waiting for the FIA authorities to verify the time and establish it as an official record for an electric car on a single charge. It is also awaiting official confirmation that the car averaged 45 km/h for the journey.

Honda showed the EVO6 concept machine, designated as a 6 cylinder, 6 speed automatic Sports Cruiser. The power-plant has been derived from the Gold Wing model and is 1850 cc capacity with chain drive and twin gas shocks at the rear. It looks surprisingly small and the exhaust plumbing (six into three stubs) was a joy to the eye. However, I suspect that ground clearance on cornering might be compromised.
Overall, with ABS in place it did look the part. It will be interesting to see if it follows the successful route from concept to production relatively un-changed, as did Suzuki’s B-King machine over a three year period.

Honda EVO6

Undoubtedly the main contenders were from Chinese exhibitor Zongshen Ryuka. It was difficult to choose between the bikes on their stand but the crudeness of the ZS125-50 shone through. This unbelievably low powered, over weight, dull and “messy” looking machine finally took this category. Think, “unable to pull the skin off a rice pudding” and you will have some concept of its performance.

THE Ugliest!

Bummer for Hummer?
GM says a decision on the future of its Hummer SUV brand will be made within weeks But the US industry says the decision on whether sell or fold Hummer, which GM revealed had been “under strategic review” as early as last June, won’t be known for at least two more weeks.
It is understood the divestment of both Hummer and GM’s Swedish brand, Saab, were key parts of GM’s survival plan. The world’s former number-one auto-maker has been given a further 60 days to come up with a more convincing restructuring plan by the Obama administration.
“Our efforts to sell Hummer are proceeding and there are several parties interested - and I would say really interested - in the brand,” said the GM spokesman. But no money on the table - yet.

Honda presented the CB1100R as a production prototype; modern technology for an already classic model and one that is already in demand having been widely exhibited elsewhere.
However, my eye was taken on the Tiger stand by the classic lines of their little TT150 retro machine looking like an old time TT Lightweight racer from the Isle of Man TT in the 1960’s. Indeed, the designer, to whom I spoke declared that was his design intent, to emulate features of the racing MV Augustas, Gileras and Ducatis of that era.
In my opinion he has succeeded with the tank and seat lines of the TT150, the cradle frame and the chromed guards; a pleasure to behold.

The Prettiest

Most Unloved
As predicted in the report from the 2008 Motor Show, the Honda “Sports Tourer” DN-01 has not sold well. Those having to ride them all castigate Honda for fitting the “wrong” engine, a meager 640 cc, to a machine weighing in at 270 kg dry. The result of which is an underpowered, overweight sluggard. Many also slate the concept of this machine. So it’s a unanimous vote for the DN-01 as the most unloved, and I would predict major changes if indeed it even stays in Honda’s line-up.

Most Unloved

Most Unusual
This had to be the three wheeled Spyder import from Canada. Notable features are the 1 litre motorcycle power plant by BRP-Rotax driving the single rear wheel. The front end is typical car setup but steered by handlebars. With 110 BHP hauling a mere 317 kg a 4.3 second 0 to 100km/hr is no surprise. Big bike performance with less risk of falling off comes at the hefty price of 1.6 million baht.

Most Unusual