by Dr. Iain Corness
1,600 km/h on land!
Aussie Invader looking for LSR.
Australian Rosco McGlashan has set himself the target of
doing more than 1600 km/h in a rocket-powered car called Aussie Invader 5R. The
rocket is capable of producing 62,000 pounds of thrust and the “car” sits on
solid aluminium wheels, each weighing 100 kilograms.
This concept is similar to that of previous Land Speed Record (LSR) holder Art
Arfons, with his rocket-powered Green Monster.
McGlashan is also racing the current LSR holder Andy Green with his Bloodhound
SSC (Super Sonic Car). The British team set the record of 1227 km/h in 1997 at
Black Rock Desert in the US. Now they believe they can hit 1,600 km/h as well.
In 1996 McGlashan unofficially broke the record in Aussie Invader 3, hitting
1034 km/h on South Australia’s Lake Gairdner. However, a record run must be set
in two directions within an hour, and the second run was ruined by weather, so
the speed remains ‘unofficial’.
According to McGlashan, “We’ve got the best people in the world working to get
us to the start line and then across the finish line first. It’s a fierce but
friendly competition between our British rivals, Bloodhound, but we’re well
progressed with our build and will be firing up our rocket next year.”
Unfortunately, the British team have already fired up their rocket.
Despite the past two records being set at the Black Rock Desert, McGlashan’s
team is scouting around the world for a suitable location, including Birdsville
in Queensland and the Kimberly region in Western Australia.
What did we learn from the Indian GP?
Well, we learned that Vettel and his Red Bull are the class
act of 2012, but we also saw that Alonso (Ferrari) has the greatest ‘tiger’, his
driving on the first couple of laps, where he passed both McLarens of Hamilton
and Button was superb. Alonso does not wait for the race to settle into a
rhythm, but is on it 110 percent from the minute the lights go out. Whilst
Vettel has now won four straight victories, I was more impressed with Alonso’s
Mark Webber (Red Bull) finally managed to get off the line but was then rewarded
with a bit of elbowing by his team mate, and eventually suffered
mechanical/electrical problems with a KERS that was not working. It makes one
wonder how Vettel can have such a trouble-free run and Webber consistently
experiences unreliability. Perhaps Helmut Marko, the Red Bull advisor and Vettel
fan has a red button he can push to hamper the Australian. But let’s not have a
McLaren did not have a stellar race. Fourth for Hamilton (and can somebody show
the boy how to shave off that stupid face fungus) and fifth for Button. They
were present, but not anywhere near podium finishes. And yes, Hamilton got a new
steering wheel, which was the most exciting bit of his weekend.
Massa (Ferrari) did a workmanlike job in India and finished well in the points
again, so there were no worries that Lucky Luca might tear up his 2013 contract.
One driver who was less than ecstatic after the race was the loquacious Finn
Kimi Raikkonen (“Lotus”). Wrong set-up claimed after a poor qualifying and then
in the race, “I had a very good car today but I just couldn’t do anything with
it.” His team mate, Grosjean, excelled by not hitting anyone or anything. This
for him is a new experience.
The Force India team has certainly seen a reverse of fortunes between their
drivers Hulkenberg and Di Resta. For the first half of the season Di Resta was
firmly on top, but that has changed, and Hulkenberg is now dominant. If he does
go to Sauber, as gossip is suggesting, Sauber will be getting a driver with more
of a future than their current Kobayashi and Perez (who is going to McLaren next
You can only feel sorry for Michael Schumacher. The sport’s most successful
driver ever, now traipsing around towards the back of the field, mixing it with
novice drivers like Jean-Eric Vergne. He was asked to return by his old friend
Ross Brawn, who has now kicked him in the goolies by signing Hamilton in his
place. For Schumacher, 2012 cannot end soon enough. With Schumacher’s team mate
Nico Rosberg finishing outside the points, Mercedes does not look like the team
to join for 2013. Time will tell if Hamilton’s defection from McLaren to
Mercedes was a good idea.
I actually felt a little sorry for the TV commentators who were left with trying
to say something “nice” about Narain Karthikeyan, the world’s fastest Indian
(apart from the New Delhi taxi drivers). Apparently Narain had a brake
overheating problem - perhaps left on too long? He said afterwards, “They warned
me on the radio that I had to look after them because we had to make it to the
end.” With the low budget of HRT, perhaps the brakes will also have to make it
through to Abu Dhabi as well. But never mind, I am sure he arranged for the
mechanics to get a new suit each and a free silk tie.
It’s not all good news in the industry
The motor industry in Thailand may be going ahead with very
positive growth, but the same cannot be said for Europe, which is going through
the automotive doldrums. PSA Peugeot Citroen has been losing USD 259 million a
month, despite closing one plant and 10,000 jobs, and is now hanging on with
massive loans from the French government.
Frost and Sullivan state that the problem lies not really with Peugeot, but with
the European Automotive industry and the current economic climate. Peugeot faces
two problems; one is selling cars, the other manufacturing costs.
In the current climate, consumers might have stable salaries, but the daily
expenses for food, oil, and rent are on the increase. To save money, consumers
buy less cars in order to reduce their cost of living. Especially the generation
Y, those up to 30 years old, prefer their iPhone, and social networking via
Facebook, instead of wanting to own a car anymore. This has an impact on the
Regarding the car manufacturing costs, taking a general European perspective -
if you compare a number of European countries and their respective manufacturing
costs, then the figures speak for themselves: car manufacturing costs in France
are 36 Euros per hour, in Germany 36 Euros, in Poland 6 Euros per hour, in the
Czech Republic 10 Euros per hour, and finally in Romania 3 Euros per hour.
The bottom line of this is, that it is very hard for Peugeot to compete with
cars manufactured in Eastern Europe.
Ford (Europe) is also seeing threats to liquidity, and has announced that it
will be shutting one plant in Belgium and moving production to Spain (Valencia).
GM is also shifting production of some models to the UK, rather than Europe.
Nissan doing the big push
Next year’s Nissan March?
While Honda was SCUBA diving last year to find its assembled
Brios and Mitsubishi was trying to find the Mirage in the desert, Nissan was
making a killing with its March eco-car. The demand was there and Nissan was the
only company to fill that demand.
So, spurred on with their success so far, Nissan has upped the ante with the
news of their new assembly plant at Samut Prakan, which will come on stream in
2014. This plant will produce 100,000 cars a year initially and is projected to
increase this to 200,000. With the existing plant producing almost another
200,000, Nissan is banking on doubling its output by 2016. This would give
Nissan 15 percent of the marketplace.
It now remains to be seen just what Honda and Mitsubishi will do now in
response, but they may be too late. Nissan has seemingly collared the market
with the March and now the Almera as well.
To keep abreast of all the Thai developments I recommend anyone to get a copy of
the Thai Auto Book, edited by the Automotive Focus Group president Uli Kaiser