Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

What did we learn from Brazil?

We learned that Jenson Button in his Brawn GP can drive. He showed spirit and controlled aggression and some brilliant passing maneuvers, which if he had brought these out in the second half of the year would have had people comparing him to Michael Schumacher. Button has finally shown he has the skill and daring to be top dog. He has deserved that World Championship.
Local hero Barichello started well, but then after his first pit stop was heard complaining, “What is wrong with this car?” The answer was nothing, other than a problem with the nut behind the wheel. Rubinho will not be asked to stay at Brawn GP.
Mark Webber (Red Bull) drove a faultless race, claiming the fastest lap as well, on his way to an easy victory. His team mate Vettel was compromised from the Saturday where he ended up way down the back after a dreadful qualifying. He drove well to finish fourth, but needed the win if he were to have any chance of a world championship. He is young enough and his chances are coming.
Renault saw any chance of points disappear when Alonso was hit by Sutil in the first lap’s demolition derby. Grosjean in the second Renault continues to act as the mobile chicane, with Bob Bell, Renault team principal saying, “At least he brought the car home.” After the other drivers in that seat, this was an improvement.
Jarno Trulli (Toyota) was involved with Adrian Sutil’s Team Poppadum on the first lap and the excitable Italian went storming up to the German after they had parked their million dollars of carbon fiber junk, sprinting across the track to confront him. Trulli’s protestations did not wash with the stewards, however, who decided the accident was just a racing incident, but his Italian epithets were considered ungentlemanly and fined the Roman $10,000.
My pick for the driver of the day has to be Kobayashi in the second Toyota. Brave to the point of lunacy, but with car control much better than his lack of F1 experience would make you believe. His fastest lap was only 0.9 seconds slower that Mark Webber! He was unlucky to finish just outside the points and deserves a race seat somewhere next year. His compatriot Knuckles Nakajima (Williams) does not, crashing out yet again.
I know things down in the BMW garage are tight, but sending Heidfeld out with no fuel is inexcusable. Perhaps they gave it all to Kubica who drove well for his second position? Kubica is going to Renault next year, but no indication of who will be the second driver.
Buemi in the Toro Rosso scored points again, and deserves a good berth in 2010. Renault perhaps?
Kovalainen (McLaren) tried wrestling with the petrol anaconda, dragging it down pit lane and attempting to set fire to Raikkonen to see if the iceman would melt. He didn’t and finished sixth, while Kovalainen was fined $50,000 for unlicensed pyrotechnics. Lewis Hamilton with his magic KERS button secured third after a measured race, but without any real displays of skill and daring. We also were given no shots of his girlfriend jumping up and down in the pits to demonstrate a movable superstructure. Perhaps she didn’t go to Brazil and the lad was pining.
Ferrari had a miserable day, with Fisichella even saying that so far, nothing has gone according to plan during his time with the Scuderia. It might have been his Italian dream to drive the red cars, but so far it has been a nightmare.
Unfortunately Abu Dhabi November 1 will be anticlimactic.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked which British Queen drove an electric car around the grounds of Sandringham House? It was Queen Alexandra in 1901, and the car was a Columbia made in the USA.
So to this week. What British Grand Prix team built their cars to the 3 liter formula, when the limit was 2 liters? Clue - it was 1922.
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!

 


A bummer for Hummer?
The iconic US monster Hummer, much loved by the military, has finally been sold to China’s Tengzhong with an 80 percent stake. A private entrepreneur, Suolang Duoji, will hold the remaining 20 percent stake. It wasn’t too expensive at USD 150 million, as far as brands are concerned.
Under the agreement, which is still subject to final approval by government agencies in the US and China, Tengzhong will acquire ownership of the Hummer brand, trademark and trade names, as well as specific intellectual property rights necessary for the manufacture of Hummer vehicles, but does not get the manufacturing plants in the US.
GM’s Shreveport plant in the US will continue to build the Hummer H3 and H3T until June 2010.
Since the fighting in Afghanistan will continue for a little while yet, the ready market should continue.


Final 2009 GP this weekend
The new Abu Dhabi Yas Marina grand prix circuit hosts the final GP of 2009 this weekend. Somewhat anti-climactic as both the drivers and manufacturers championships were won at the Brazil GP two weeks ago, with Jenson Button taking the World Drivers Championship and Brawn GP taking the Manufacturers Championship.
Abu Dhabi is the most oil-rich in the region and the 5.55 kilometer Yas Marina Circuit has been built using the motorists’ money, extracted at the petrol pumps. Roll on electric power!
Located on Yas Island, the PR blurb says the track is set to revolutionize the design of future Formula One circuits. Boasting top speeds of 320 km/h and average speeds of 198 km/h, it features nine right turns and 11 left turns and is one of the few venues on the calendar to run in an anti-clockwise direction.
It has been designed by circuit architect Hermann Tilke, and apparently Yas Marina has a waterfront setting scenic enough to rival the likes of Monaco and Valencia, but hopefully will not be as boring as that pair of venues.
All of the grandstands, including the massive hairpin seating area, are covered to protect spectators from the desert sun, whilst the state-of-the-art pit building boasts 40 garages.
As well as the waterside marina area, there are high-speed sections, tight corners for overtaking, and even a twisty street circuit-style sector.



Many countries looking at Thailand’s light cars
The AAT factory on the Eastern Seaboard looks to have its future guaranteed as many countries are lining up for the Mazda2 and its Ford Fiesta siblings. The facility is a joint-venture between Mazda and Ford, known as the AutoAlliance Thailand (AAT).

Ford Fiesta

Mazda Australia is investigating the possibility of importing its Mazda2 hatchback from the new factory in Thailand - a move that could significantly reduce the price of the Japanese brand’s smallest model in Australia, and it is the bottom line that drives the auto sales business.
The Thai-made Mazda2, which will be the brand’s core model in the ASEAN region, is expected to attract 20,000 sales a year across Asia.
“The Thai-produced Mazda2 will be a key element in Mazda’s future growth in the ASEAN region, which is continuing to see growing demand for small cars,” said a Mazda spokesman at the start of Mazda2 production at its new plant in Thailand, which has a free trade agreement with Australia, dispensing with the 10 percent duty rate for passenger cars (five percent from January). The retail price advantage of new vehicles imported from Thailand, which also has lower labor costs than in Japan and Europe, is substantial.
Consequently, Ford Australia has already announced it will source its Fiesta hatch - currently built in Germany - plus a new sedan derivative, from the same Thailand plant from mid-2010.
The $500 million AAT factory will supply a range of ASEAN nations with both Fiesta and Mazda2 models, and Mazda spokesman Steve Maciver has confirmed that Australia could be one of them.
“We’re obviously aware of what’s going on at Mazda at a global level and at this stage Mazda2 production in Thailand is confirmed only for South East Asian countries from next year,” said Maciver.
Like all of Australia’s Japanese-brand utilities, most of Honda Australia’s passenger car range now comes from Thailand, including the five-door Jazz and the closely related light-sized City sedan.
Similarly, an all-new light-car from Nissan, which could replace the Micra, has also been confirmed for production from March 2010 in Thailand, which is rapidly becoming the automotive production powerhouse within Asia.


Driving home under the weather
Up till recently, all the drivers in Thailand were aware of the fact that the police did not have any real way of proving you were driving with a blood alcohol reading of over 0.05. They didn’t have any breathalyzer kits. But that situation has gone. They do have kits and very shortly they will be in your province. You have been warned.

AlcoSense

I believe the best and surest way to counter claims of high readings is to have your own breath tester. For one, if you find you are over the limit, take public transport home, and two, if you are challenged you have some sort of evidence that you are not DIC.
There is a new handheld tester in the UK, AlcoSense One, and it is the lowest priced product ever to be approved by the tough US Dept of Transport Standard for Hand Held Breathalyzers.
Interestingly, a recent Drink Drive survey undertaken by AlcoSense revealed that no less than 90 percent of respondents underestimated the number of units of alcohol in a pint of lager and in a 250ml glass of wine. Both drinks in fact contain 3.4 units. The most popular answer was 2 units, almost half of the correct alcoholic content.


Top 10 cars - another survey
A recent British magazine (Octane) has published its list of the top 10 ‘coolest’ cars. Their definition of ‘cool’ that meant the cars had to be post-war, non-racing and not uptight or neurotic, whatever that is supposed to mean.
So here we go, in reverse order to keep the suspense going:

Jaguar XKSS
10. Bentley T1 James Young. More than 1800 Bentley T1s were sold, but body-builder Jim Young only built 15 of his version, which cost 10 times more than the standard H.J. Mulliner model. So if ‘cool’ means expensive, this one is right there. But for you and me? Forget it.
9. Mercedes-Benz 300SL. This one in the gull wing form is probably one that we would all vote for - unless you have already owned one and know that the air circulation inside, with the non-wind down windows is hopeless. Great one to keep in the garage and store for the next 50 years as well.
8. Jaguar E-type Series 3. Octane went for the last of the E-types, and specifically the last 49, which were all black and came with a plaque to tell you exactly that. This V12 will overheat anywhere from five degrees south of the north pole.
7. Citroen SM. This is the Citroen with the Maserati engine. Two losers in the early 70’s placed together. Think of Mussolini driving a 2CV and you’re starting to get there.
6. Buick Riviera. Built between 63 and 65 and has almost as much rust as the Fords of the era.
5. DB5 Shooting Brake. Only 10 were built by Harry Radford until he learned the error of his ways. The saloon was much better.
4. Land Rover SIIA. They’ve got to be pulling our legs.
3. Ferrari California LWB. This is more like it. A genuine classic (only 51 were built) which none of us could afford these days. Around USD 6 million.
2. Mini. This I also agree with. The Mini changed the way we thought about small cars and the Cooper S models were definitely ‘cool’.
1. Jaguar XKSS. This car was the result when Jaguar decided to turn its racing D type into a road car. One of the world’s most desirable cars. I’d make it number 1 too.