Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

China leads the way

Far from being a country inhabited by penniless peasants, China is literally going from strength to strength. Forget all those old jokes about China only being copycats. China is standing on its own two feet these days, and doing very well, thank you very much with China passenger car sales up 55 percent in February. The following item from Associated Press confirms that.

The Chinese are not coming - they’re here already!

Shanghai (AP) - China’s passenger car sales climbed 55 percent from a year earlier in February, despite a long national holiday, on strong demand for smaller cars and sport utility vehicles, an industry group reported Tuesday.

Sales of cars, commercial vehicles and SUVs rose to 942,900 units, while sales of all vehicles including trucks and buses rose 46 percent year-on-year to 1.21 million, according to the government-affiliated China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

Tax cuts and subsidies for small-car purchases pushed demand sharply higher last year, with total vehicle sales leaping 45 percent to 13.6 million, making China the world’s biggest auto market, as American car sales languished.

A large share of the vehicles sold in China are small passenger cars and minivans used by farming families and small businesses - the focus of the tax cuts and other policies aimed at spurring sales of fuel-efficient vehicles.

In February, automakers sold 623,100 passenger sedans, up 46 percent from the year before. Sales of multi-purpose vehicles, mainly vans and minivans, jumped 72 percent to 25,200, while sales of SUVs more than doubled to 70,300, the auto industry association said.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I mentioned that there is a car preserved in the Turin Automobile museum, which was built for the Monaco GP of 1935. It was very radical, featuring an eight cylinder radial two stroke engine, which was mounted ahead of the driven wheels - which meant it was also front wheel drive. It did not race after the early trials were not positive. I asked what was this car? It was the Trossi-Monaco.

So to this week. What engine was described as having “pistons like dustbins, moving deliberately up and down like lifts by Nogood-Waytis”?

For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]

Good luck!

What did we learn from the Bahrain GP?

We learned that anticipation can often be better than realization. After months of waiting with the unanswered questions regarding intra-team rivalry, what would happen with full tanks, which teams were the quickest, the answers were delivered in what was frankly a very boring Bahrain GP.

With the no refueling regulations, almost every team was running to preserve their tyres, fearing that they would end up with multiple pit stops. Consequently we did not see anyone really ‘having a go’, all running around at 80 percent effort. When Jaime Algywotsit (who can hardly drive out of sight on a dark night) in the Toro Rosso can set some fastest laps, which he did at one stage, five seconds off the qualifying times, this shows just how slowly the so-called hot shots were driving. Yes, you read that correctly - five seconds off qualifying times.

Back to the race, Alonso inherited first place when Vettel’s Red Bull suffered a spark plug failure (not an exhaust failure as initially thought), as up till then Vettel looked completely in control. Thankfully Alonso has stopped doing bird impersonations from the cockpit, so we were spared that. However, at the post-race conference he then dedicated his race inheritance to Ferrari president Montezemolo in a wonderful display of brown nosing. Whilst it was good to see Massa back in action, he could not hold the Spaniard and has already all but relegated himself to ‘Number 2’ status in the team.

In Red Bull, Vettel out drove Webber; in McLaren Hamilton out drove Button and in Mercedes Rosberg out drove Schumacher. Yawn.

Even Michael Schumacher on his return to F1 admitted that it was a boring race. If it was boring from where he was sitting, it was interminable from where we were sitting. “It’s the start and then after it is just sort of go your pace and not do mistakes,” he told the BBC.

Much plaudits in the general press for the HRT Spaniards, for having got there. If this had been a club race meeting at Bira, I would have applauded too, but it was not a club race. It was supposedly the pinnacle of the world’s motor racing, and they presented two unsorted motor cars, with rookie Chandhok crashing out on lap two as he hit a bump he had never seen before! Just what is the FIA doing? Bring back the 107 percent rule immediately. Mobile chicanes are not needed at the top echelon.

Lotus finished shaking hands with themselves for just having finished, in what was really a dismal showing. Is this the pinnacle? It was more like Pattaya FC playing Arsenal. Bring back the 107 percent rule.

Spectators? I thought I had spotted a few standing on one corner, but they turned out to be palm trees.

Finally, I can report with complete surety that by half way through the race there were no Virgins left at the Bahrain circuit!

The next race is the Australian GP in Melbourne March 28. If you are of a God-fearing nature, pray for a better race.

Staying on the saddle

Welcome to part three of our riding course from HiSide Tours:

The biggest single factor that will keep you alive and unhurt the longest in road riding is observation. No amount of skill can help you avoid a hazard you have not seen, whereas even a bad rider with good observation skills will be able to avoid most hazards.

Don’t try this at home!

This is not a god-given skill that some have and some don’t. It can be acquired. Firstly, of course, the more of your attention you can spend on looking around and not on operating the controls the easier this will be, so familiarize yourself with all the instruments and the operation of your bike controls so that you are not looking at them too often. If you still have to look at the clutch to change gear you should not be on the road!

Split screen. You need to develop what I call the PlayStation™ vision. Imagine that your field of vision is a TV screen and you are playing your friend at some racing game where the screen is split into two halves by a horizontal line in the middle. You are player number 1 at the top and he is player number 2 at the bottom. As you play your attention is on the top half of the screen as you avoid the obstacles coming at you, but out of the bottom of your eye you are tracking your friend’s progress at the bottom of the screen. What you don’t do is focus your attention on his half of the screen because then you crash at the top.

You need to develop a similar skill in your riding observation. Looking ahead into the distance and focusing your attention there will allow you to see things far enough ahead of you to react smoothly and avoid any hazards without sudden maneuvers. When you look into the distance you need to scan the field of vision to see the big picture. When your scanning has identified a potential hazard, e.g. a truck stopped in the middle of the road, you mentally click on it and keep scanning for other hazards. Position yourself on the road to avoid the hazard and ride around it. Too many times I see riders in front of me suddenly panic braking because they have failed to look past the bumper of the car in front of them to see a hazard I have already identified and planned for 100 meters further back. Your greatest advantage on a bike is the ability to maneuver freely, use it! Look through car windscreens, ride to the right or the left of them, look over them. Whatever it takes so you can see what is ahead of you. Choppers with their low seating position and extended length cannot do this easily, another reason why these bikes handle so badly.

There is a saying in track riding which is; “You go where you look”. And unfortunately the human instinct when faced with a danger is to look at it. So when something pulls out in front of you, your immediate instinct is to stare at it and then apply the brakes in a panic. You are suffering from “target fixation”. This makes it almost impossible for you to see any easy escape route because you cannot focus on anything except for the on-coming hazard. It is almost impossible for the normal rider to drag his attention away from a hazard once this target fixation has taken over, so you need to counteract it, before it kicks in, by focussing your attention past the area immediately in front of you. Use your peripheral vision to monitor things close up and plan far ahead, that way you will be able to ride smoothly around hazards that other less skilled riders will only see at the last possible moment.

You will not achieve this skill overnight and even vastly experienced road and track riders still suffer from target fixation occasionally when their concentration slips. So keep practicing every day on your bike or in your car.

Graham Knight can be contacted at [email protected]

Action galore at 3K - Nitto meeting

A couple of weeks ago I attended the 3K - Nitto race meeting at the Bira Circuit on Highway 36 in Pattaya. A ‘club type’ meeting, it presented non-stop action with short races scheduled one after the other, many different categories including ‘Retro’ and pick-ups and plenty of racing, plus thrills and spills.

I walked around the pits and chatted to the competitors, and the laid-back atmosphere was great fun. I wanted to speak with the owner of a Datsun SSS from the Retro class as I had raced one of these many years ago, and even though he had very little English, other drivers came to his assistance and we had enjoyable chats ‘in the round’.

With a B. 50 entry as a spectator, it doesn’t break the bank to bring the family, and the viewing area from under the tree at the hairpin at the end of the straight has become a bit of an ex-pat hangout. It is not too far to walk to the pits and the Bira Caf้ presents reasonable Thai food very inexpensively, as well as cold drinks.

The next 3K race meeting will be in May on 29/30. See you under the hairpin’s tree.

Remember there is also the ‘Pro’ Racing series at Bira with the first round on April 24/25. Again not as intense or rigidly organized as the SuperCar events, but plenty of fun.

To be repaired in der Black Forest by der Elves.