Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

What did we learn in Abu Dhabi?

We saw that Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) is the brightest new talent in the current crop of F1 drivers. Four Grand Prix wins this year and second in the championship says it all. He has matured and the mistakes he made in the early part of the year will not be repeated in 2010. Definitely a world champion in the making.
Vettel’s team mate, Aussie Mark Webber, has been upstaged most of the year, and being around 10 years older than Vettel, will have to be ready to play bridesmaid in 2010, but there will be opportunities for further wins to add to the two he has under his belt.
New World Champion Button (Brawn GP) had a crack at Webber over the final laps, but was never going to make the pass cleanly and settled for third. His soon-to-be-ex-partner Barichello again drove a good race into fourth and will give good value for Williams next year.
BMW’s final race saw Heidfeld in seventh again outdistance Kubica in 14th. Yet for some reason Kubica is rated more highly than his German team mate. Not in my books!
We also saw some lack-luster performances from some drivers who knew they were leaving their 2009 team and had (hopefully) secured places for 2010. Alonso (Renault) in 14th place six places behind Buemi in a Toro Rosso, but going to Ferrari next year. Rosberg 9th in the Williams probably going to Brawn GP. Fisichella 16th in the Ferrari, living out his nightmare. (“It is every Italian’s dream to drive for Ferrari.”) Kovalainen 11th for McLaren when Hamilton was driving for a podium finish until the brake problem sidelined him. Raikkonen in 12th six places behind raw recruit Kobayashi in the Toyota (and has been bought out of his contract and may retire and go rallying).
Kobayashi deserves a mention on his own. A great drive from the rookie to come in sixth (and my pick for man of the meeting), beating his very experienced team mate Trulli in the Toyota team, particularly when you look at the other ‘novice’ drivers such as Alguersuari (Toro Rosso) who has been a mobile chicane and completely blotted his copybook by driving into the wrong pit! Grosjean in the Renault, who has not impressed at all. Or Liuzzi (not really a novice, but drafted in only a couple of races ago) who has done nothing in the Force India.
The racing itself was very processional, and despite the novelty of racing through sunset and a hotel that changed color, could hardly be regarded as one of the best GPs of 2009. The track needs reworking on the exits of the corners to allow passing maneuvers to continue around and through the corners. The other factor of brakes which are too good should not continue to be ignored by the FIA. If the braking distances were much longer, to take at least several seconds would allow for more passing opportunities by the late brakers.
Finally, we learned that the Yas Marina circuit, with the hotel spanning the track is just the most awesome man-made structure that human beings can race on. There is no other venue which can match this one. You can forget Monaco and Singapore. Yas Marina is a sensational venue, even if it produced deadly dull racing. It is also the most obscene display of wealth by the sandy nation. Wealth which was extracted from the pockets of all motorists. We should not forget just where the money came from. I wouldn’t go as far as saying it was built on immoral earnings, but I am certainly tempted!

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked which car manufacturer began operation in Thailand in 1960, gave up in 1976 and began again in 1995? It was FoMoCo, and Ivar Hoyem was first in with the correct answer. Well done.
So to this week. 1964 saw the release of the first of the muscle cars - the Ford Mustang. However, there actually was another muscle car released two weeks before the Mustang. What was it?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!


Upgrade to new Nissan GT-R supercar
Apparently not satisfied with having produced a real successor to the ‘Godzilla’ GT-R of a couple of decades ago, Nissan has just announced upgrades, which they have called ‘Continuous evolution’ for Nissan’s super-coupe that refines performance and dynamics
The upgraded version of its GT-R supercar appeared at the Tokyo motor show last month, highlighting recalibrated suspension settings and better engine performance via an improved-flow catalyst system.
Due on sale in Japan and international markets in December, the twin-turbo V6 AWD GT-R is described as having gone through “continuous evolution” to remain on the “cutting edge of multi-dimensional performance” since its introduction in its home market late in 2007.
Nissan claims the suspension upgrade offers “enhanced, premium quality ride comfort” while “still providing the driver with a feeling of direct contact with the road surface”.
Engineers aimed to increase the accuracy of the front shock absorbers and springs, while the stiffness of the rear suspension radius rod bushings also has been strengthened.
Rear diffusers with cooling ducts, as seen on the Japanese market race-oriented GT-R SpecV, are now used across the range, improving cooling performance around the rear floor area.
Both the GT-R and GT-R SpecV use essentially the same 3.8 liter twin-turbocharged V6 producing 357 kW of power and 588 Nm of torque, although the SpecV features a high-gear boost control device that momentarily increases boost from the turbochargers to provide an extra 20 Nm between 3500rpm and 5000rpm.
With the latest upgrade, all GT-Rs are now claimed to offer improved low, and mid-range engine response with the introduction of hexagonal meshed catalyst cells that reduce ventilation/airflow resistance.
The GT-R is available in Thailand, but as usual, you will pay a premium if you want one in your garage. Interestingly, the GT-R is still much cheaper than the newly released Lexus LFA (estimated B. 50 million) and is faster.

Nissan GT-R

Getting rid of the consumption ‘blues’
With the big push to reduce dependence upon oil, some manufacturers are going all-electric (Nissan’s Leaf or GM’s Volt for example), some are going hybrid (Toyota and Honda are the leaders here), but VW has remained with the internal combustion engine, but with their new technology called BlueMotion has produced real fuel-misers in their Polo, Golf and Passat models.

VW Passat BlueMotion

BlueMotion is the best known German automotive environmental label which debuted in 2006 with the first generation of the Polo BlueMotion, and its combined fuel consumption figure of just 3.9 liters per 100 km was the best in the world for a five-seat car.
Volkswagen is now presenting the three key high-volume models in its range as newly designed BlueMotion versions which includes new common rail TDI engines, recovery of braking energy by regenerative braking (KERS), a Stop-Start system and refined aerodynamic components.
With combined fuel consumption values of 3.3 liters/100 km (Polo), 3.8 liters/100 km (Golf) and 4.4 liters/100 km (Passat), the three new Volkswagens are the world’s most fuel-efficient models in their classes. Delivery of the first Golf BlueMotion and Passat BlueMotion (each 77 kW / 105 PS) cars will begin this year, while the production launch of the Polo BlueMotion (55 kW / 75 PS) will follow at the beginning of 2010.
The new Polo with a combined fuel consumption of just 3.3 liters diesel per 100 kilometers, is aiming to become the most economical five-seater in the world. Its 45 liter fuel tank enables a theoretical driving range of 1,363 km!
Only marginally less economical than the Polo is the new Golf BlueMotion. Thanks to a fuel consumption of just 3.8 liters of diesel/100 km, it is the most fuel-efficient car in its class. Its theoretical range is 1,447 km (55 liter tank).
The range of the new Passat BlueMotion is impressive. With a combined fuel consumption of just 4.4 liters diesel/100 km and a 70 liter fuel tank, it can cover 1,591 kilometers! Today, no other car of this size (4.77 meters in length) in the world travels more economically.
With VW again being sold in Thailand, hopefully we will get the BlueMotion models, though our diesel fuel has previously not been suitable for many Euro spec cars.

Looking for reliability?
An American organization has just released their figures on car make and reliability, covering 33 models/makes. This covered models from the manufacturers from 2000 till 2009, which is probably not really fair, as eight year old cars will naturally be less reliable than one year old cars, but since all the manufacturers named had the same yardstick, it is an indication, if nothing else. Of course, these were American market models, and many of them are not in Thailand. However, here are the top 10:
1. Scion (Toyota)
2. Honda
3. Toyota
4. Infiniti (Nissan)
5. Acura (Honda)
6. Mitsubishi
7. Lexus
8. Hyundai
9. Porsche
10. Mercury (Ford)
and now for the bottom 10:
24. Audi
25. Chevrolet (GM)
26. BMW
27. Mini
28. GMC (GM)
29. Saturn (GM)
30. Jeep
31. Dodge
32. Cadillac (GM)
33. Chrysler
All the others are somewhere between 11 and 23, with some eye-openers amongst them. VW, for instance was way down in 21, and Mercedes-Benz even worse at 23. But neither did as badly as BMW down in 26.

Scion iQ

I was surprised to see Mazda in 15, as I have always found Mazda to be very reliable. But again, these were American models, some of which we do not get.
However, the all-pervading message is that Asian cars are more reliable than European or American iron. I am sure Toyoda-San will be able to use the findings in a positive way! (BTW, the boss of Toyota is Toyoda, just in case you thought I was guilty of a spelling mistake.)