Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

F1 returns to the US

USGP at Long Beach 1977

The F1 circus has struck a deal through our Bernie Ecclestone to return to America - not to Indy, but to a track yet to be built in Austin Texas in 2012. In turn that has brought out American racing fans all calling for Danica Patrick, their lady driver (though I believe ‘female’ driver is more correct), to get behind the wheel of an F1 car. I read comments like “to be the first female in F1” and similar twaddle.

There have been several female drivers in F1 over the years, including Lella Lombardi, the first female F1 driver to score points. The first to enter F1 was the Italian Maria Teresa de Filippis who raced between 1958 and 1959. She did not qualify for the Monaco Grand Prix of 1958, but had plenty of friends, being one of 15 drivers who were not quick enough, including a certain B. Ecclestone in a Connaught-Alta.

But back to the Austin Texas track. This is yet to be built and will be a purpose-built F1 track we are told, but if they get Herr Tilke to design it as is rumored, it will be as exciting as Bahrain, the world’s greatest yawn-fest. Don’t book your ticket to the US just yet.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked how many finishers were there in the World Cup Rally of 1970? The correct answer was 23, with the usual culprits all tripping over each other, but it was Ivar Hoyem who was first in and best dressed. Congratulations Ivar.

So to this week. Let’s stick with BMW. Red quarters on a BMW radiator badge denotes what car?

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

Good luck!

What did we learn from the Turkish GP?

Selfish, impetuous and reckless are just a few of the words to describe the “pass” on Mark Webber by his ‘teammate’ Sebastian Vettel. It was a move that was never going to come off and spoiled the one-two Red Bull Racing was going to receive. He was only partially in front by leaving his braking so late whilst off-line for the lefthander. He had to try and move to the right to be able to swing in left and collected Webber in the process. Young Vettel has been having a bad attack of the juvenile pouts recently when beaten by Webber in qualifying or racing. From being ‘wunderkind’ he has had to eat some humble pie, and it obviously stuck in his craw. This was not Red Bull Racing, but ‘red mist’ racing. Let us hope he has learned something from this sorry episode, but it may take some years and the maturity that brings. One of the F1 websites wondered why the Red Bull pit personnel ‘cuddled’ Vettel. That is easy to answer - cuddling is what you do for all upset children! Interestingly (for Vettel) is the fact that 90 percent of the bulletin boards place the blame firmly at Vettel’s feet.

McLaren could not believe their luck, but warned their drivers not to indulge in cut-throat racing, with coded messages like “conserve fuel and tyres”. This was after a bit of passing and repassing. Button was the loser, as he could have relegated eventual winner Hamilton, but was reminded forcibly that the ‘team’ comes first and driver egos come second.

Mercedes GP now up to 4th and 5th, with the Wily German beating the young German again. It would appear that Michael Schumacher is remembering his old skills, while Rosberg is still learning them. The move on Button on the first lap was sheer skill and delightful to watch. It was only the superior top speed of the McLaren with its magic f-duct (and don’t ask what the f’s that?) that got Button back in front.

Probably some of the best performances came from Renault-Lada with Kubica giving a workmanlike performance behind the Mercedes duo, but his teammate Petrov really did shine and had the measure of Alonso in the Ferrari until Alonso snagged the rear tyre in the Renault forcing Petrov into the pits. Until then, Alonso was nowhere, as he had been all weekend. For Ferrari’s number 1 driver to qualify in 12th is not where the prancing horse wants to be. And Massa down in 7th is also indicative of the performance of the red car team. Currently it seems more like a staggering donkey.

Sutil again dragged Team Poppadum into 9th and Kobayashi brought the Sauber into the top 10, a good effort with a very poor car.

As for the rest, they were nowhere. Liuzzi in the second Force India is no force at all, the Williams team continues to disappoint (how the once mighty have fallen), Sir Richard Branson must be regretting having anything to do with Formula 1 with both his cars three laps adrift at the end, and Chandhok at six laps down in the HRT should not even be allowed to start.

The next race is in Canada June 13.

Gone in 60 seconds?

I can personally vouch for the truth of this item, which happened when I was on a Porsche club rally, and we were coming back from Adelaide, a 3,000 km trip. Australia is a big place! We had pulled into a motel for the evening, and we were 11 cars, every one a Porsche 911.

I got out, pushed the locking button down on the driver’s door and swung the door shut. As it clicked into place, to my horror, I saw that the keys were still in the ignition. What to do? Porsches are just about thief-proof, and none of us were accomplished car thieves like Nicolas Cage in the great movie “Gone in 60 seconds”.

In desperation, I asked for the other 10 drivers’ keys and tried them in my door lock. Amazingly, the keys from the 911 parked closest to mine opened my door! And just as amazingly, my key would not open his, though his would open mine. But neither key would operate the ignition of the other car. Nic Cage made it look all so easy!

BMW goes ActiveHybrid

BMW has confirmed that a hybrid version of its 3 Series and other model lines will join the X6, 7 Series and new 5 Series hybrid despite having persevered with hydrogen power for many years, as their alternative to the gasoline engine.

BMW AG chairman Norbert Reithofer broke the news this week at the company’s annual general meeting in Munich, revealing that hybridization was a “top priority”. Dr Reithofer said, “As early as next year, the new BMW 5 Series will also be available as a full hybrid - and we are anticipating the hybridization of further models series, such as the BMW 3 Series.”

BMW 3 Series ActiveHybrid

While BMW is continuing to further develop its conventional petrol and diesel engines, Dr Reithofer emphasized the importance of hybrids in the minds of consumers and in key markets, such as Japan, which offer incentives for hybrid vehicles. “The public perceives hybrid as a sign of eco-friendliness, despite the fact that diesel engines are often much more efficient,” he said. “In Japan, for instance, the government has adopted a proposal to offer tax credits for hybrid vehicles. This has had a phenomenal effect on the market. Sales of hybrid vehicles have skyrocketed. If you don’t have a hybrid in your portfolio, soon you might not be selling any cars in Japan at all.”

The last sentence above explains much of the thinking behind the production of BMW hybrids, and you can discount all the fluff about carbon emissions as being straight out PR spin.

BMW did unveil the 5 Series ActiveHybrid at the Geneva motor show in March. The vehicle adds an electric motor and other hybrid hardware to the twin-turbocharged 225 kW/400 Nm 3.0 liter straight-six - the petrol engine which powers the new-generation F10-series 535i.

The ActiveHybrid versions of the 7 Series limousine and X6 coupe-SUV combine a 4.4 liter twin-turbo V8 petrol engine with an electric motor, although the 7 Series version is a ‘mild hybrid’ that cannot run on electric power alone.

Like the 5 Series ActiveHybrid, the X6 uses a ‘full-parallel’ (or two-mode) hybrid system that enables full-electric operation under certain conditions.

Currently all these hybrids are in left hand drive configuration and right-hand drive versions of BMW’s hybrids are still to be confirmed, so ne need to put down a deposit with BMW Thailand at present.

Dr Reithofer said this week that now ActiveHybrid technology had made the leap into series production, the company would look to broaden its availability. “Our top priority is the large model series because this is where the savings potential is greatest,” he said. “Today, our European fleet’s average carbon emissions are 150 grams per kilometer. This corresponds to a fuel consumption of 5.9 liters per 100 km.” (Note: this does not mean that the new BMW returns 5.9 liters per 100 km, the carbon emissions from a normal gasoline engine returning 5.9 liters per 100 km would be 150 gm/km.

Dr Reithofer said, “A clear statement. These low emission values are achieved despite an average performance of 170 hp or 125 kW. This is another thing that sets us apart from competitors. Our customers will always experience sheer driving pleasure.

He went on, “We want to reduce our global fleet’s carbon emissions by at least another 25 percent between 2008 and 2020. Our new models and drive technologies will support these efforts.”

BMW going fully electric as well

BMW’s forthcoming Megacity electric car will be built in Germany and launched as a BMW sub-brand in 2013 - well ahead of the company’s original schedule and some 12 months before an all-new front-wheel drive compact BMW model hits the market.

BMW Megacity

In his speech to shareholders, Dr Reithofer vowed that the Megacity would be fully sustainable and set new standards in vehicle production, such as through the use of carbon-fibre and other lightweight materials.

“The assignment we have given ourselves from the very beginning is to develop a Megacity vehicle that will be a zero-emission vehicle. And it will be sustainable throughout its entire lifecycle,” he said.

“We aim to set new standards - for example in the field of lightweight construction. We will apply carbon and carbon-reinforced materials at a scope unprecedented in series vehicle production.

Dr Reithofer also asserted that BMW was ahead of the pack in tackling future mobility and sustainability. (He is obviously choosing to ignore the all-electric American Tesla, already in production.)

“I am convinced that a company’s global footprint will gain importance,” he said. “When it comes to economic success, a company’s social reputation will increasingly become a make-or-break issue. In all these aspects, the BMW Group is leading the way.”