Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

What did we learn from the (South) Korean Grand Prix?

Well, we learned that during official practice, Hispania Racing Team let Yamamoto out of the pits with a tyre warmer still on and for such a heinous offence was fined $5,000. FIA gone mad again. It could have been HRT’s new secret weapon - after all Yamamoto couldn’t get any slower.

Now to the “race”. Races behind safety cars are not races, they are processions. If the conditions are such that the (reputedly) 24 best drivers in the world can’t handle it, then don’t bother starting the event and wasting everybody’s time.

However, South Korea did better than most people thought, and despite all the dire predictions (including mine), the circuit stood up to the racing and the rain.

Alonso deserved his win. A faultless run, and although gifted the lead when Vettel pulled the pin on his hand grenade this should not be used against him. Team mate Massa also drove well to come third, but once again shows he is number two in the prancing horse stalls.

Lewis Hamilton made a lot of friends in Korea, with his “let’s get on with it” approach. He also deserved his second place. Jenson Button? What can you say about the current world champion driving a potentially championship winning car and finishing 12th? The word ‘woose’ comes to mind, I’m afraid. He complained later that the race should have finished earlier. About lap three was when Jenson was at his best…

Red Bull goes home licking their wounds. Webber blew his chances, and probably the world championship, while Vettel blew his engine in a big way. Webber has had too many crashes this year, and is probably trying just a little too hard. This leaves Alonso in control of the championship and the smart money will be on the Spaniard.

Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) had a better weekend and obviously still enjoys racing in the rain. 4th equals his best placing all year. Rosberg did not have a good weekend getting involved in Webber’s wobble and joining him in the DNF category.

Killer Kobayashi (Sauber) did not disappoint, having a go at everything within throwing distance. While mentioning Sauber, did you know the team is still officially BMW Sauber with a Ferrari engine? This is because the team was originally BMW Sauber and the FIA, those custodians of good sense and sportsmanship, said that even though BMW had withdrawn, the team name had to stay the same. Apparently the FIA does not have the resources to use a bottle of correction fluid! As nonsensical as some of the stewards’ decisions.

We will only see Petrov (Renault) for two more races. Totally destroying yet another car will have sealed his fate. Another pay driver will take his place - and he knows it, walking away from the wreckage totally dejected. Kubica, although a strong points finisher, did not drive with any of his usual fire.

And talking about pay drivers, it looks as if Hulkenberg will be dropped by Williams and a South American driver with 15 million dollars in his overalls pocket will take his place. Shame really, as Hulkenberg has steadily improved this season.

Down in the Team Poppadum camp Sutil appeared to have totally lost the plot. With team mate Liuzzi in front of him, he spent his time running himself and anyone near him off the track. With that display he has probably lost the Renault seat he wanted as well, but he did catch the eye of the stewards who rewarded him with a five place grid penalty for the next GP.

Brazil GP will start at 11 p.m. Thai time. It will be worthwhile staying up!

Pro Racing Series at Bira this weekend

The active Pro Racing promoters have scheduled a meeting at the local Bira circuit this weekend. I usually suggest viewing from the hairpin at the end of the straight, but with stray bullets possible from a gun club nearby, this area is now out of bounds! Yes, you read that correctly! Racing starts around 10 a.m. on the Sunday and finishes around 4 p.m.

A thrifty rotary? Surely not!

Mazda has been the only manufacturer to persevere with rotary engines and their engines have been very powerful, and now durable as well. However, they have always been very thirsty engines. A few years ago I put a rotary engine in a Ford Escort sports sedan and had to increase the size of the fuel tank, the consumption was so extreme.

However, Mazda has reaffirmed its commitment to not only the rotary engine concept, but even to making it somewhat ‘green’ and thrifty.

Mazda Motor Corporation president and CEO Takashi Yamanouchi said, “We consider the rotary engine to be one element of our Zoom-Zoom brand, therefore we’ll continue to develop it. We like to cherish this kind of challenging spirit we’ve shown with the development of the rotary. A (high efficiency) gasoline rotary is on its way.”

Mazda has set an ambitious 50 percent fuel consumption reduction target for its next-generation rotary engine, which will be called the ‘Sky Rotary’ if it meets the same efficiency targets achieved by the company’s thrifty Sky G petrol engines.

Mazda’s new Renesis rotary engine will feature direct fuel injection, a lightweight aluminum side housing and two rotary. Increased from 1.3 liters to 1.6 liters, this larger, more powerful rotary engine will replace the venerable 13B engine.

Mazda has also said that the new rotary engine would be compatible with hydrogen fuel, so perhaps Mazda is putting money on all the horses in the race to the future.

Focus and Ford’s new SUV for Thai production?

It is no secret that Ford is building a new assembly plant on the Eastern Seaboard to build the new Ford Focus. However, it looks as if FoMoCo may also build the Ford Escape successor alongside, since the two would have much in common from the platform to engines.

Ford Kluga SUV

Currently the Escape is built in Taiwan and South Africa, but it is hoped locally that the new Thailand plant will get the nod to be the export hub for both these models.

The current Escape is based on the old GF Mazda 626 platform, but the next-generation model will be closely related to the Ford Kuga compact SUV that was first shown at the 2007 Frankfurt motor show and currently built only in Germany.

Ford could export the Kuga with the next-generation Focus, which will also come from Germany for a year after their launch in the third quarter of 2011, while production ramps up at the Thai plant.

Expensive Electric Tuk-Tuks

A Dutch company called the Tuk Tuk Factory (TTF) has now introduced electric Tuk-Tuks to the European market.

Electrifying ride

Having had problems meeting the stringent pollution controls in Europe with the standard gasoline engines, the answer was battery power. “We took the biggest battery we could possibly imagine as a starting point, and then designed the vehicle around that battery,” said chief designer Dennis Harte. “A 15 kWh lead acid battery drives the silent and maintenance free AC motor. The chassis has been designed to carry the 400 kilos battery.”

TTF state that the Tuk-Tuks should have a range of 70 to 80 kilometers of average city use on one charge. Recharging takes 10 to 12 hours, although an optional quicker-charging Lithium battery is also available. The three-seat and cargo models are powered by a 72 V motor for a top speed of 50 km/h, while the stretched 6-seater can accomplish 35 km/h.

With estimated prices €11,000 to €14,000, this makes them a quite expensive and slow alternative to other electric vehicles. Somehow, I cannot see these catching on.

Ta-ta to Tiida nameplate?

The current model Nissan Tiida is due to be replaced by 2012. In some markets it will revert to the old Pulsar name, which has to be better than tee double I dee ay.

Tiida in the local marketplace did not seem to know what it really was supposed to be, and coupled with lack-luster marketing (not just a Nissan characteristic in this country, I might add) this has resulted in fairly mediocre sales. As a competitor to the Mazda3 and Corolla Altis it has not set the world on fire. Even with some tacked on go-faster items released recently. It still looks like the graceless lump that it is and has been since day 1.

With the Nissan Micra going great guns as the March, a good replacement for Tiida would certainly put Nissan on a better footing in this country.

Nissan have a history of coming up with totally nonsensical names for their vehicles, such as the Qashqai. Nissan said the car was named after the nomadic Turkic Qashqai tribe in Iran. In Australia it is called the Dualis after the importers pressed Nissan, saying that Down-Under it would be known as the “Cash cow”, a not very complimentary moniker.

Their other current small SUV is called the Juke. What kind of a joke is that? Nissan, you should shoot the man in the Names department!

Ford claims for new Ranger

The new Ford Ranger has been built and tested, and although it is still not released for the general public, Ford has been making big claims for this new-generation Ranger. As reported last week, this new T6 Ranger will be made in Thailand and will have ESC stability control as standard, and side curtain airbags will be available.

T6 Ranger

Ford are also touting Trailer Sway Control and Adaptive Load Control that work with the ESC and anti-lock brakes. One distinct advantage is the optional rear-view camera to provide additional protection for those in the immediate vicinity of the big Ford truck.

The T6 has traditional body-on-frame chassis construction, 230 mm ground clearance, deeper water-fording capability than its competitors and up to 1500 kg payload capacity, and the coil-over shock front suspension, hydraulically powered rack and pinion steering, and a new leaf spring rear suspension system are claimed to improve the driving dynamics.

The turning circle has been reduced to 11.8 meters and steering ratio features 3.5 turns lock to lock.

The new T6 was the largest design and engineering export project ever undertaken in Australia, and the T6 became the first truck created through the One Ford global product development strategy.

However, Mazda provided the platform chassis architecture for its BT-50 version, though Ford led the design and vehicle engineering for both brands.

The new Ranger is destined to be exported from Thailand to over 180 markets globally.

Autotrivia Quiz

It is so difficult to produce questions that are not immediately answered by Mr. Google, so this week I want you to identify the car in this photograph, and what year is it?

It is so difficult to produce questions that are not immediately answered by Mr. Google, so I asked you to identify the car in this photograph, and what year was it? It was a 1938 Horch. Beautiful. It was not a 540K Mercedes, Jim.