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Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

Like a Ferrari P4 Spyder?

Ferrari P4 Spyder.

A Ferrari P4 Spyder, if one ever came to auction would go for something over USD 10 million. They are exceptionally rare, and as far as I can ascertain, only three exist. (The photo is of a scale model.)

Well, let’s make that four full-size ones, as there is a P4 Spyder in the car yard opposite the Bangkok Hospital Pattaya on Sukhumvit Road. Pulse quickening? Slow down a little, this is a replica built by a Hungarian chap called Attila. (Attila the Hun-garian?)

The car is built using a VW floor pan, which allows the blue book to continue, as it is then officially recognized as a re-bodied VeeDub. The extra chassis parts are steel and the body is fiberglass and steel.

Attila makes these with either a VW engine or a Subaru flat four, meaning that your stunningly beautiful P4 can have any horsepower you like from 50 bhp through to 400 bhp, giving the red rocket a top speed of somewhere between 140-290 km/h. No matter what engine you want, it has to be the ultimate crumpet catcher, which will stop the traffic anywhere.

Attila can make you one from B. 660,000 if you are interested. He also makes a replica Ferrari P3/4 and a Lamborghini Countach. His phone number is 083 589 6235.

And if you want some history, the P4’s best moment came at Daytona when Enzo Ferrari got his sweet revenge over Ford Motor Company and the P4’s placed 1-2-3 at Daytona, one of America’s major circuits. It is rumored that until his death, Enzo kept a picture of the trio on their final lap of the momentous race. Quite a memento!

The Pope goes electric

Electric Popemobile.

Renault has presented the Vatican with two electric vehicles made especially to meet the mobility needs of the Pope. The vehicles were handed over to His Holiness Benedict XVI by Renault’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Carlos Ghosn, during a visit to the Pope’s summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.

The first vehicle, for use when the Pope is travelling at his summer residence, is white with the Papal coat of arms depicted on the doors. It is an ecological, sustainable-development version of the Popemobile. Based on Kangoo Maxi Z.E., it measures 4.6 meters in length and 1.8 meters in width. It is powered by a 44 kW (60 hp) electric motor and a lithium-ion battery which ensures an average NEDC combined-cycle range of 170 km.

The design of the other vehicle is very similar to that of the first, although its blue livery features a white and yellow stripe along each flank. It is for use by the Corps of Gendarmerie Corps of Vatican City for the Pope’s security.

The two cars were converted in association with the French constructor-coachbuilder Gruau. These special, exclusive vehicles can seat up to four people and are fitted with two particularly comfortable separate seats in the rear. Other specific solutions include an opening roof, removable rear side windows, hinged rear side doors and electrically folding door steps to facilitate ingress.

The two vehicles see Renault put its experience as automobile manufacturer and leader of the electric vehicle sector at the service of the sustainable development message of the Vatican and His Holiness Benedict XVI. Recognized as particularly attentive to environmental issues, the Pope has frequently underlined the need for sustainable development to safeguard Creation.

“This donation to His Holiness is a means for Renault to reaffirm its strong and durable commitment to sustainable development and respect for the environment,” said Carlos Ghosn, Chairman and CEO of the Renault Group.
So the world now has its first ‘plug-in’ Pope!

Hybrid Jaguar C-X75 coming

Jaguar C-X75

Jaguar claims its forthcoming C-X75 hybrid supercar is more technically advanced than the Bugatti Veyron.
Adrian Hallmark, global brand manager for Jaguar, who was heavily involved in the development of the Veyron believes the car will set a new benchmark for supercars thanks to its technology.
“I actually think more,” Hallmark said when asked if it would be as impressive as the Veyron. “And I’m not being arrogant because I know the project, I actually helped set up Bugatti from a sales, marketing, distribution and strategic planning perspective in my spare time; so I know a lot about the project and the company and the product itself.”
“The engine is far more challenging than the W16. The gearbox is more sophisticated than the Veyron, definitely. And then when you look at this motor and the battery technology we’ve created, the core classically engineered components are more complicated, then add to in an electric motor and the battery; and bring them all together. So the complexity is way higher and I think what we believe we can achieve, and what we’ve proven in theoretical bench terms, it that it will be an absolute breakthrough in engineering terms.”
The breakthrough technology includes that fact that the electric motor weighs only 25 kg but produces 400 Nm of torque, the battery pack consists of 300 cells and has its own separate air-conditioning keep it cool.
The 1.6 liter petrol engine is both supercharged and turbocharged and reportedly revs to 10,000 rpm and develops 373 kW (500 bhp).
Underlining the push towards hybrids, the C-X75 Jaguar development team will have five prototypes running by the end of the year. “We’re really serious about hybrids, but at the moment customers aren’t. So we’re not going to offer something that no-one asks for. We are highly advanced in our research, I mean we are leading the way with both academic and supplier industries to find alternative powertrains.”
When will the world see the C-X75? My guess is around 2020, if at all. But it certainly looks the part!

Peugeot joins the Supercar race

Peugeot Onyx

The year’s Paris motor show will see the debut of the latest (concept) supercar from Peugeot, called the Onyx, a new segment for the French automaker.

It certainly looks the part and the design makes it look like it is doing 100 mph while standing still. Most impressive, with the wide rear of the car suggesting that it is rear wheel drive, though the rumor has it with two engines, and most likely a hybrid, with the electric power plant driving the front wheels. Six exhausts through the rear bumper would suggest a V6, of which they have many to choose from.

One European blog site claims the car will be powered by a hybrid drivetrain consisting of a 1.6 liter turbocharged petrol engine producing close to 200 kW working in tandem with an electric motor capable of about 90 kW. The site says the concept is expected to use just 4 L/100 km - similar to the Toyota Prius (3.9 L).

Other reports suggest the car will be a plug-in hybrid similar to the Chevrolet Volt, which means it may be able to drive on pure electric power as well as using its petrol engine to help the car go further, as well as combining electric and petrol power for extra accelerative power.

Inside, the Onyx has a two-pod interior with racing harness and no actual seats - instead, passengers are strapped to the bulkhead inside the car. The steering wheel is an F1-style unit, with which the lights and wipers are controlled via buttons on the wheel itself.

Dual-clutch Transmissions

You may have noticed the appearance of “double clutch” technology recently. What is this new breakthrough? DCT or PDK, both refer to dual clutch transmissions, or for Porsche it is “Porsche Dual Klutch” and hence PDK (the Germans like to be different - especially Porsche). However, like most things automotive, this ‘new’ development in transmissions is anything but new.

The man who invented the dual-clutch gearbox was Adolphe Kégresse, the automotive engineer to the Russian Royal family, who is best remembered for developing the half-track, a type of vehicle with military applications, equipped with endless rubber treads allowing it to drive off-road over various forms of terrain. That was 1902. In 1939, Kégresse conceived the idea for a dual-clutch gearbox, but unfortunately, adverse business circumstances (call it WWII if you like) prevented further development.

Kegresse Half Track.

How does DCT work? A dual-clutch transmission offers the function of two manual gearboxes in one. In a standard manual gearbox there are usually five gears and one clutch to split the transmission from the engine torque input. A dual-clutch gearbox, by contrast, uses two clutches. Instead of the left foot clutch pedal, sophisticated electronics and hydraulics control the clutches, just as they do in a standard automatic transmission. In a DCT, however, the clutches operate independently of each other. One clutch controls the odd gears (first, third, fifth and reverse), while the other controls the even gears (second, fourth and even sixth - in a six speed). Using this arrangement, gears can be changed without interrupting the power flow from the engine to the transmission. In some ways this is similar to Captain Wilson’s ENV pre-selector gearbox (remember it?), where one ratio could be selected whilst you were still in another ratio. Even reverse, though this was frowned upon.

The way DCT works is quite unusual. A two-part transmission shaft is at the heart of a DCT. Unlike a conventional manual gearbox, which houses all of its gears on a single input shaft, DCT splits up odd and even gears on two input shafts. To be able to do this, the outer shaft is hollow, making room for an inner shaft, which is nested inside. The outer hollow shaft feeds second and fourth gears, while the inner shaft feeds first, third and fifth.

With DCT, no left leg or left hand is needed and it can do upshifts in a mere 8 milliseconds, and many drivers now feel that the DCT offers the quickest acceleration times of any vehicle on the market. It certainly offers smooth acceleration by eliminating the shift shock that accompanies gearshifts in manual transmissions and even some automatics. Best of all, it affords drivers the luxury of choosing whether they prefer to control the shifting themselves or let the computer do all of the work. And in most instances, the computer knows best!

With the world’s attention on fuel economy, perhaps the most compelling advantage of a DCT is a claimed improvement in economy. Because the power flow from the engine to the transmission is not interrupted followed by a call for more fuel by the engine, fuel efficiency increases dramatically. It is claimed that a six-speed DCT can deliver up to a 10 percent increase in relative fuel efficiency when compared to a conventional five-speed automatic. That is impressive numbers!

What did we learn from the Belgian Grand Prix?

What a start! If crashes are your game, then the Spa GP gave you that within 10 seconds of the start, with Grosjean (“Lotus”) clipping Hamilton (McLaren) then flying over Alonso’s Ferrari who then took out Perez (Sauber). Much deliberation by the stewards resulted in Grosjean being banned for the next race (Italian GP this weekend). A fair penalty? Review of the video footage shows Grosjean coming across Hamilton’s line, and his rear wheel hits Hamilton’s front. I would contend that despite Grosjean’s poor judgment, if Hamilton had braked and let him in, then the incident would not have occurred. Remember that this was on the run to the first corner, the corner where you do not win races, you only lose races. Asked about the accident by the BBC, Grosjean said, “It was a good start, then a big boom.” It certainly was!

The other enfant terrible Pastor Maldonado (Williams) looked as if he had done the start of the century from the third row of the grid, but like most things which look to be too good to be true, generally aren’t! It was judged to be a jump start, and the FIA has sophisticated electronics which can show this. That alone gave him a five place grid penalty for this Italian GP, but then Pastor had another of his brain fade moments and clobbered another car, putting himself out of the race and garnering another five place grid penalty on top of the other one. I am quite sure that it is only Maldonado’s USD 46,000,000 contribution to the Williams budget that keeps him in the seat. Or am I being cynical?
The star of the show was Jenson Button who was a clear head and shoulders above the rest at Spa. He was the only driver to dominate all three sections of Qualifying and then just ran away and hid, and was never challenged in the race. His team mate Hamilton really had the pouts all weekend, something he is good at. A wrong choice of wing left him floundering, but then he went public on Twitter where he posted a series of angry comments following the decision to use a different rear-wing to that of Button. “Damn, WTF!! Jenson has the new rear wing on, I have the old. We voted to change, didn’t work out. I lose 0.4 tenths just on the straight.” If that wasn’t enough he then published the data-logging sheets, where according to BBC Sport, “the telemetry sheet not only contained traces of the two drivers’ laps, showing where Hamilton was losing time to Button, but also information about the car’s settings, including sensitive data such as its ride height.” Hamilton is petulant and impetuous, I am afraid.

Other drivers worth a mention included “The Finger” Vettel (Red Bull) who scrapped his way into second and Raikkonen (“Lotus”) who fought a car which was not to his liking into third.

An interesting fight between Vettel and Schumacher (Mercedes) with both drivers giving everything. Vettel stating that “it doesn’t matter where you get Michael on the circuit, he will fight like hell - he hasn’t lost it.” He certainly has not, and if Ross Brawn could only come up with a half decent race car, you could expect to see Michael Schumacher on the podium top step.

Other drivers of note include Hulkenberg (Force India), Vergne and Ricciardo (Toro Rosso) who all finished in the top 10 and deservedly so.
Now let’s see what happens in Italy this weekend!

Three cylinder 1.0 liter baby Ford blows Lamborghini away!

A baby Ford in there

The International Engine of the Year 2012 is the Ford 1 liter EcoBoost, a very frugal three cylinder, turbocharged, direction injection petrol engine that returns fuel consumption figures of (unofficially) 2.4 liter per 100 km (118 mpg) at 56 km/h, and 5 liter per 100 km (57 mpg) at 120 km/h. That is impressive. But does this return less that neck-snapping performance?

So to show just what this engine can do, in the right hands and in the right chassis, Ford produced a unique Formula Ford race car powered by the tiny 1.0 liter EcoBoost petrol engine. This combination turned out supercar-beating performance at the legendary Nürburgring track in Germany, with the 11th fastest lap ever at the Nordschleife circuit - 7 minutes, 22 seconds - higher on the list than the 700 horsepower Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4, the 660 horsepower Ferrari Enzo and the 602 horsepower Pagani Zonda. No other three- or even four-cylinder car has posted a faster time at the legendary circuit. (However, in defense of Lamborghini, Ferrari and Pagani, it should be pointed out that the special Ford probably weighed less than 600 kg and could only carry one person.)

“This little engine has people rubbing their eyes in disbelief,” said racing driver and course specialist Nick Tandy, 28, who completed the drive. “It’s simply astonishing that a 3-cylinder, one-liter engine can deliver that kind of performance.” It should also be remembered that performance depends upon both power and weight.

Ford engineers spent several months of work on the project to switch the Formula Ford’s usual 1.6 liter EcoBoost power unit with a specially tuned version of their 1.0 liter EcoBoost.

The project team also modified the vehicle so it would be fully street legal for on-road use by fitting it with wheel covers, front and rear lights and indicators, aerodynamically designed wing mirrors and a horn. The car was fitted with a 6-speed manual gearbox and was driven on road-legal tyres. It also had no roof or windscreen wipers!

The car’s (unofficial) top speed was 255.5 km/h (158.8 mph) with a 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) time of less than four seconds. The vehicle completed the 20.832 km (12.94 mile) Nordschleife circuit at an average speed of 169 km/h (105 mph).

“We wanted to prove that size doesn’t matter by showing everyone what an amazingly capable engine we have developed in the 1.0-litre EcoBoost,” said Roelant de Waard, vice president of Marketing and Sales, Ford of Europe. “What better way than by beating some of the best supercars in the world on the Nordschleife, while using a fraction of the fuel.”

What the Lamborghini saw

What did we learn from the Italian GP?

Well we learned that Sergio Perez (Sauber) really is a spectacular talent. We learned that Alonso (Ferrari) has become a ‘real person’ and we learned that it actually was possible for Maldonado to complete a race distance without hitting anybody! We also learned that The Finger (Vettel) is not averse to questionable tactics.

However, Hamilton (McLaren) was the worthy winner. Quickest through Qualifying, unbeaten for pole position and in command all the way to the chequered flag, though he did need to watch out for Perez after the Sauber driver relegated Alonso to third, coming from 12th on the grid to second in a storming drive. Hamilton’s McLaren team mate Jenson Button was running in a strong second place until the car stopped with fuel pressure problems. That also puts Button out of the running in the World Driver’s Championship.

Popular rumor has Perez going to Ferrari in 2013 to replace Massa, and they would certainly be on a winner. He is young enough and has the talent. Massa really has passed his ‘use-by’ date, and despite occasional flashes of his old self, he is no longer A Grade material. Ferrari did not really need to give Felipe coded messages to let Alonso by - Fernando could do it easily without team orders. Alonso has also won the hearts of the Tifosi and he played to the crowd from the podium. Great PR.

Kimi Raikkonen (“Lotus”) was in the event, even though the camera chaps missed him. A fifth was his reward, but it was difficult to comment on a driver we never saw! His team mate, the stand-in Jerome D’Ambrosio, was also running, but seen even less. At least he did not take out half the field on the first lap, so obviously listened carefully to the pre-race lecture from team boss Boullier.

Mercedes remains at the back of the first group, and remains a disappointment to many. Schumacher again out qualified Rosberg and finished higher and in sixth place. Other rumors have Rosberg out of the seat in 2013, if Schumacher decides to stay! Provided that Schumi is still enjoying himself, there is no need for him to leave. His PR image is much higher than Rosberg, who remains a quiet mouse (and who would not be missed). Other rumors have Hamilton joining Schumacher, but I believe that is just a leverage tool to get McLaren to agree with Hamilton’s desires (as well as a Pussycat Doll).

Red Bull had a weekend to forget. One alternator let go on Vettel’s Red Bull on the Saturday and the crew decided it was a defective alternator and just replaced it (despite the fact that two alternators had gone west during the year) and this one expired too. On the way to expiring, young Vettel decided to give Alonso the elbow through the 300 km/h Parabolica which was frowned upon by the Italian stewards and resulted in a drive-through penalty. If this had not been given, The Finger would have been lynched by the Tifosi after the race.

Mark Webber (Red Bull) has done it again - dropped the ball within sight of the try line. From being second in the championship a few weeks ago, and in a position where he should have been fighting tooth and nail for every point, he was back to “reverse” starts and lack-luster defense. A good driver, who unfortunately will never accomplish the goals that his talent was capable of.

Team Vindaloo needs to put a bit more fire in the curry to get their drivers further forward, with only Paul Di Resta (Italy’s favorite Scotsman after his uncle Dario Franchitti) scoring points. As a team they have performed well, but Vindaloo is not a stepping stone to the front of the grid.

The next race is Yawnapore under lights with go-go dancers on the main straight and singing budgies in the pits. Let us hope for a good motor race and forget the concerts!

Volt looking good Down-Under

Chevrolet Volt

General Motors Holden has received 900 expressions of interest from potential customers for its plug-in petrol-electric Volt that will go on sale in November.

The ANCAP (Australian New Car Assessment Program) safety rating is five stars, as good as you can get, and the fuel consumption is touted as 1.2 liters per 100 km on the combined test cycle, making it the most fuel-efficient petrol-electric car on the Australian market.

The problem to be overcome for GM is ‘range anxiety’ which potential purchasers are showing all over the world. “Will I be left stranded in the middle of the Friday afternoon rush our?” With the Volt having its own on-board charging system, this is not the case, as the Volt offers no-compromise motoring of up 600 km on a tank of petrol, while doing most of their daily travel on electricity alone.

The way it works is that unlike plug-in hybrid vehicles, the petrol engine in the Volt never connects directly with the drive wheels, which are propelled by two electric motors with a combined power of 111 kW and 370 m of torque.

The 16.5 kW/h lithium-ion battery can be fully charged from a 15 amp 240 volt socket in about four hours. Then, as the battery charge is depleted on a journey, the on-board 1.4 liter 63 kW petrol engine - a version of the four-cylinder engine in the Chevrolet Cruze - kicks in to generate electricity to continue the journey for a further 500 km or more, depending on the driving conditions. It is then expected that the daily commute will be all-electric, and there is no anxiety about range. In the US, where the Volt has been on sale for more than a year, many owners state they are not using any petrol in their daily commute.

The driver can select from normal, sports and hold driving modes, with the latter used on a long trip to manually start the petrol engine and maintain the battery charge instead of depleting the entire battery before the petrol engine-generator kicks in.

No official acceleration figures have been released, although it is said to be about 9.1 seconds for the 0-100 km/h.

Safety features include a collision warning system - using a video camera mounted behind the top of the windscreen - that activates above 40 km/h to mitigate against rear-end collisions.

Other high-tech safety features include lane-departure warning, tyre pressure readings, eight airbags and a “pedestrian-friendly alert” that beeps to warn walkers of the approach of the quiet Volt when running on battery alone.

The Australian version has leather heated seats, keyless entry and start, sat-nav, rear-view camera, audio system with DVD, voice recognition and iPod and Bluetooth phone connectivity as standard features.

Will we get the Volt here in Thailand? Somehow I doubt it, but with GM’s Chevrolet models doing very well in the marketplace, it might be worth having the Volt as a niche car, to outdo the hybrids from other manufacturers.

Chevrolet Volt rear view.

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Like a Ferrari P4 Spyder?

The Pope goes electric

Hybrid Jaguar C-X75 coming

Peugeot joins the Supercar race

Dual-clutch Transmissions

What did we learn from the Belgian Grand Prix?

Three cylinder 1.0 liter baby Ford blows Lamborghini away!

What did we learn from the Italian GP?

Volt looking good Down-Under