Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

What did we learn from the Japan GP?

Well, we learned that all the hype about young Vettel being the next Schumi isn’t just hype. The kid has a real talent, and what’s more seems to have a happy bubbly personality, which makes him even more sensational when you look at the current crop of grumblers and mumblers in F1. Pole position and a lights to flag win. It doesn’t get much better than that, except getting fastest lap, but his Red Bull team mate Mark Webber took that away from him, in what had been a totally disastrous weekend.
No discussion on the Japan GP without mentioning the resulting shambles after qualifying, with six drivers up before the magistrates (sorry, stewards) for yellow flag misdemeanors and being penalized five grid slots. Yellow flags are hung out by the flag points to indicate a hazard ahead, with various degrees of danger going from single steady yellow, waved yellow and waved double yellows. Drivers who do not lift off are in breach of the regulations and will always lose out in any action with the stewards. Saying you could see the hazard and knew you could drive around it is no excuse. The stewards ruled that Brawn drivers Button and Barrichello, Alonso (Renault) and Sutil (Force India) had all failed to slow down under waved yellow flags. Alonso tried denying it, but his telemetry showed the Sulky Spaniard was being more than economical with the truth. Perhaps he wanted to dedicate his qualifying to Flavio!
The Toyota team was very happy with Trulli’s second place, but will that be enough to ensure Toyota’s place on the grid in 2010? Put your money on Toyota not getting the funding needed to maintain the team from new boss Toyoda-san, and poor old Jarno is out to pasture anyway.
Jenson Button for World Champion? It is difficult at this stage to imagine any driver looking less like a champion. After the meteoric first half of the championship with six wins from seven, he looked to be a shoe-in, but since then he has developed into a mid-field wimp, outclassed and out-driven by Brawn GP team mate Rubens Barichello (and half the field). He was extremely lucky to get the one point from eighth he was gifted after Sutil and Kovalainen came together. One would like to see a champion with personality and fire, who can deliver championship performances.
Sutil, in particular, is showing lots of ‘tiger’ in Team Poppadum and almost for the first time ever, Kovalainen (McLaren) became just as aggressive. The incident in the esses was all through Klumsy Kovalainen, but his later jump on Fisischella (Ferrari) on leaving the pits was superb.
Ferrari had the loquacious Kimi through to fourth, but he was rarely seen in the TV coverage. In fact the telecast had no continuity. A very poor effort by the director, in my opinion.
Interestingly, Kubica is much vaunted in the expiring BMW team, over Heidfeld, but it is Nifty Nick who seems to be higher up the order than the Pole (6th versus 9th).
Rosberg in the Williams continued to produce solid performances, but Knuckles Nakajima was, as usual, nowhere.
Finally, the ridiculous ‘no testing’ rule should be scrapped immediately. Without testing we are getting under-experienced drivers such as Jaime Algy and Romain Grosjean brought in who are trundling around as mobile chicanes or ending up as red flag or safety car accidents. It has also meant that Felipe Massa, trying to see if he is OK to drive in F1 after the head injury, being forced to drive a GP2 car instead of his F1 Ferrari (which should be the case to give a direct correlation to his times beforehand).

Autotrivia Quiz

1931 NAG

Last week I asked which amphibious car manufacturer sold more than 3,000 cars? The answer was Amphicar and the first in was Mo Bertrand.
So to this week. In 1931, the N.A.G. Company produced Germany’s first V8. Who designed it?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!


OMG! The Trabant is back!
Anyone who ever saw a Trabant will never forget its boxy austerity. Anyone who ever covered more than 100 km in one without it breaking down has probably thought about contacting the Guinness Book of Records. Reliability was not its strong point.
However, the butt of Cold War-era jokes, the Trabant, was the unlikely star of the Frankfurt motor show. I kid you not, and the story of how it got there is even more fanciful than the 100 km non-stop.

Trabant nT
The symbol of East Germany’s lack of progress under communist rule, the Trabant was ridiculed for its terrible build quality and smoky two-stroke engine. Families had to wait an average of 15 years to get one. And what a car did they get at the end!
Now the Iron Curtain is long gone and the humble Trabant has become a cult car. Good examples fetch good money.
This (misplaced) popularity was the main driving force behind the Trabant nT, an electric-powered concept car that has proved to be a massive hit at the show.
In fact, many German newspapers passed over cars such as the new Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, Audi e-tron supercar and the Lamborghini Reventon roadster and put the East German’s people’s car on their front covers.
A constant crowd of media gathered around the car on a small stand among component suppliers during the first two days.
But for all the excitement it is not yet clear if the new Trabant has a realistic chance of making it into production.
Here is the totally quirky thing about this ‘new’ Trabbie - the car on the stand in Frankfurt was not the result of a car-maker or even a component supplier, but a toy company that produces model cars.
A company called Herpa bought the rights to both the Trabant name and shape to produce 1/87th scale model cars from 1990.
After selling several hundred thousand of them, Herpa manager Klaus Schindler presented a design draft for a full-size car in 2007 before enrolling designer Nils Paschwatta to come up with the new concept car.
Herpa doesn’t have the money or the technical capability to bring the Trabant nT to market, but presented the concept in the hope it could attract investors and perhaps get the attention of a major car-maker as a partner.
The Trabant nT concept car has moved on from the old two-stroke, instead using an electric motor generating 47 kW. This is linked to a lithium-ion battery pack which can store enough charge to give the nT a range of 160 km.
Like the Toyota Prius, a solar panel in the roof produces enough energy to ventilate the cabin.
The Trabant nT measures 3950 mm long, 1690 mm wide, has a wheelbase of 2450 mm and weighs 1050 kg.
Herpa says the three-door model seats four adults and one child.
The design is easily recognisable as based on the early model P601 Trabant, but with some mild updates.
Instead of a traditional chrome grille, the new car has a body colored panel with a cut-out line with turned up edges which can be interpreted as a smile.
Herpa’s Klaus Schindler said the Trabant could be an instant hit because of its design and its name. “The seed is the publicity, the sympathy and the attention the Trabant brand attracts. It already has fans today,” he said.
Schindler is not suggesting the nT could be a do-everything family car. “It is a safe and reliable city and medium-range vehicle, a second car, a handy helper for service providers,” he said.
While the technology would need a lot of development, Schindler is confident the new Trabant could be on the road within three years if the company is able to attract the necessary investment.
“It could be on the road in 2012 provided that we are able to find a strong partner,” he said. If it becomes anything like the old Trabant, partners had to be strong, to be able to push it!

Great Wall not so good hitting the wall
Beware of cheap imported pick-ups says the independent Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) which handed down a two stars (out of five) for the Great Wall Motors SA220 and V240 pick-ups.

Great Wall hits the wall

ANCAP program manager and RACV chief engineer Michael Case said, “Crash statistics show that occupants of one or two star vehicles have twice the risk of receiving life-threatening injuries in a crash, compared with four- or five-star vehicles, at a time when four and five star ratings are becoming increasingly available for new car buyers.”
Victorian Transport Accident Commission (TAC) senior manager for road safety David Healy said all three vehicles experienced loss of cabin structural integrity, with poor head and leg protection at impact.
All this really means is that you should be aware that cheap imports may not have the in-built safety standards you would want for your own family.

Official Formula 1 calendar 2010
Sharpen your pencils or get out next year’s diary:
Mar 14 - Bahrain (Sakhir)
Mar 28 - Australia (Melbourne, starting at 1700 local time)
Apr 4 - Malaysia (Sepang, starting at 1600 local time)
Apr 18 - China (Shanghai)
May 9 - Spain (Barcelona)
May 23 - Monaco (Monte Carlo)
May 30 - Turkey (Istanbul)
Jun 13 - Canada (Montreal, provisional)
Jun 27 - Europe (Valencia)
Jul 11 - Great Britain (Donington Park)
Jul 25 - Germany (Hockenheim)
Aug 1 - Hungary (Budapest)
Aug 29 - Belgium (Spa-Francorchamps)
Sep 12 - Italy (Monza)
Sep 26 - Singapore (starting at 2000 local time)
Oct 3 - Japan (Suzuka)
Oct 17 - South Korea (Yongam)
Oct 31 - Abu Dhabi (Yas Marina, starting at 1700 local time)
Nov 14 - Brazil (Interlagos)