So what did we learn from the British Grand Prix?
Well, we learned that the Brawny duo are not
invincible, and the Red Bulls are charging. Vettel deserved his
pole, fastest lap and win, with Webber also driving a faultless race
to come second, despite his problem in being held up in qualifying,
which he described as another of Raikkonen’s ‘vodka moments’.
UK’s new white hope, Jenson Button, did not cover himself with glory
all weekend. Apologies came from his team that Jenson’s driving
style didn’t suit the circuit. Come on, this is the presumptive
world champion! He should be able to drive a billy cart downhill,
blindfolded with his hands tied behind his back! Perhaps there were
too many right handers and Jenson prefers left handers. Apologies
not accepted. Team mate, the supposedly geriatric Barichello,
qualified second and finished third.
One of the other Brazilians, Felipe Massa (Ferrari) qualified 11th
and finished fourth, easily beating his ex-world champion Raikkonen
who was nowhere all weekend. Perhaps he should change his brand of
Williams did reasonably well, with Nico Rosberg (I don’t really look
like Leonardo DiCaprio do I?) a strong fifth. Knuckles Nakajima was
a star in qualifying but it plunged on the Sunday. “That result was
not ideal for me (agreed - 11th is far from ideal). There weren’t
any particular reasons for it (he was just generally off the pace,
then). I was pleased with my start and I thought it was going to be
a good race for me, but I was held up by the car in front before my
first stop and then it was difficult to keep up with the cars ahead
of me for the rest of the race.” Perhaps we have lost something in
Toyota finished 7th and 9th with Trulli besting Glock, but neither
covered themselves with glory.
Alonso (Renault) had a day to forget. Dicing with Heidfeld (BMW) but
unable to get through and even ended up behind his team mate Piquet.
The BMW’s of Heidfeld and Kubica were another duo that was nowhere,
other than scrapping for umpteenth places. They did have company,
with current world champion Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) who started
18th and finished 16th. How the mighty have fallen.
One team that is quietly improving is Force India and Fisichella in
10th finished above both BMWs, both McLarens, both Renaults, both
Toro Rosso’s and one Williams. Sutil, on the other hand wrote off
his car in qualifying and did not really feature after that.
Toro Rosso remained bottom of the board all weekend, with Bourdais’
moment on TV being when he ran into Kovalainen, ending both of their
chances of coming nowhere. Do not expect either to be in the GP
circus next year.
But the racing at Silverstone was almost secondary to the politics.
Note the very pointed comments made by Vettel and Webber, about
Silverstone, “It is a brilliant place for a Formula One car and
certainly destroys a lot of the other venues that have been picked
in the last few years,” said Webber. That was to counter the decree
of Bernie (bless his silver locks) Ecclestone, that this was the
last GP at Silverstone. (Cop that, Bernie!)
But Bernie’s thumbing his nose at Silverstone was nothing compared
to the FIA’s Max Mosley describing the eight breakaway teams as
‘loonies’. That Max should use the Silverstone GP to carry out this
kindergarten name-calling shows just to what level the
administration of the sport has descended. The sooner he goes, the
better. Or, the sooner the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA)
organize the alternative series (Formula One Plus?) the better.
First 500 Cooper with John Cooper at the wheel
Last week I mentioned that BMW is developing a SmartSenior system to stop the
car for you when you are having your heart attack. I asked which famous racing
driver actually died from a heart attack while driving a BMW M3 in a 1000 km
race? The answer was Denny Hulme, who was the world champion in 1967, driving
for (now Sir) Jack Brabham. He died at Bathurst in 1992, his car just slowing as
he came down the straight and slowly running along the fence until it stopped.
Hulme had died before the car even touched the wall.
So to this week. What did the first Cooper 500 have to do with Fiat Topolino’s?
This was the start of the rear engine revolution. The gearbox, by the way, was a
Triumph 500 cc motorcycle unit.
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
The anti-collision technology has actually been developed over the
last 10 years, but as the modern car becomes more electronic, it has become
easier to incorporate the anti-collision technology into the car’s electronics.
Take electronic cruise control for example. This works through the Electronic
Control Unit (ECU) and adapts the pre-set road speed to the fuel/air mixture the
engine receives. As speed drops, increased fuel/air is called for and the car
speeds up. And vice versa when the road speed exceeds the pre-set level. Going
downhill, the ECU can even tell the brakes to apply light pressure to bring down
and control the road speed.
So the vehicles have had the ECU ‘smarts’ for some time, and all that is needed
is to hook an anti-collision system in with the cruise control ECU. The human
anti-collision model relies on visual interpretation of the distance and
previously stored knowledge of how much distance it will need to pull up from
that speed. Some of us are better than others at this! There is also the problem
that when you leave two car lengths to the car in front, that space is very
quickly filled with two cars and several motorcycles!
To do this anti-collision calculation electronically is done by using a form of
radar. The message comes back to the car to indicate that at the current road
speed, there is not enough distance in which to pull up without ‘rear-ending’
the car in front. The ECU can then shut down the fuel/air and instead of just
getting the brakes pre-charged, can now apply the brakes (independently from the
driver) to slow the car enough to avoid the rear end collision.
Toyota have been developing their concept of this system, which is designed to
not only stop rear end collisions, but to stop you running red lights as well
(it will never be accepted in Thailand where running red lights is a national
The British Motor Insurance Repair Research Centre, Thatcham, has put three of
the car industry’s most hyped collision prevention technologies to the test last
year - and they have emerged with flying colours. The Volvo City Safety,
Mercedes Distronic Plus, and Honda CMBS use radar systems to mitigate and
prevent low speed collisions - which, as a category, make up 75 percent of all
While all three systems use radar technology to create impressive, and
effective, collision prevention systems, they are also vulnerable to radar’s
weaknesses. Weather conditions like fog and rain can undermine its
effectiveness, and dirt can obscure the sensor.
So, at this stage, we have the technology, but it still needs a human behind the
wheel. Thank goodness!
Nissan 370 Z coupe looks at the Porsche
Being a Porsche 911 fan, I must say that I find the Porsche
Cayman looks ugly. In fact, I don’t like it at all. I am sure that it goes
well, handles well, is put together well, all the things that Porsche is
good at - but it still looks like a squashed frog.
However, probably not too many sports coupe buyers will be looking at a
Nissan against a Porsche. But perhaps they should, as in most markets you
can get two 370 Zeds for the price of one Cayman.
The 370 Z does not have the pedigree of the Porsche, but does date back to 1969
when Nissan (then Datsun) produced the original 240Z which proved Japan could
make decent, affordable sports cars.
Unfortunately, the 240Z was followed by a series of vehicles that became
progressively heavier, more cumbersome and less attractive. However, Nissan did
learn and the new 370 Z weighs 1471 kg, which is 15 kg less than the model it
replaces. Engineers saved weight by replacing the steel doors, roof and
lift-back with aluminium panels to match the bonnet, which was already made from
the lightweight material.
Going against the trend of most new models growing larger, the new Zed is
smaller in most dimensions. It is 65 mm shorter from bumper to bumper (4250 mm),
the roof is 8 mm lower (1315 mm) but it is 30 mm wider (1845 mm). Weight
distribution is 53 percent at the front and 47 percent at the rear.
Both front and rear suspension have been beefed up and the car sits on 18 inch
alloy wheels (as did the last model of the 350 Z).
The new 370 Z comes standard with stability control, ESC and front, side and
Nissan has also fitted the new car with a pedestrian friendly bonnet that pops
up when it senses a collision, apparently to prevent the pedestrian’s head
hitting hard points by creating a buffer between it and the engine and strut
The new car’s engine is 3.7 litres. It is essentially the same as the previous
VQ 3.5 V6, but has been stroked and now features a new inlet valve control
system. Nissan says 35 percent of the components are new.
Power has been increased from 230 kW to 245 kW which is now achieved at 7000
rpm. Torque has only been improved by 5 Nm and the peak of 363 Nm is now
extracted at 5200 rpm rather than 4800 rpm as was the case with the 350 Z.
It all means the 370Z is now capable of doing the 0-100 km/h dash in 5.4
seconds. Fuel consumption has also been reduced and both the manual and the
automatics return 10.4 L/100km for a combined cycle.
The 370Z also has keyless entry and start system which means you don’t have to
get the key out of your pocket to open the door or fire up the engine. You just
hit the centrally mounted Start button.
The only problem comes when you lift the garage door. Nobody says, “Wow, you’ve
got a Nissan!” Porsche wins that one hands down!