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XI No.11 - Sunday November 4 - Saturday November 17, 2012


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Update by Saichon Paewsoongnern
 
 
 
Automania 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 drive.
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 conspiracy theory!
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 year anyway).
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 selling factor.
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 ([email protected]).


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

1,600 km/h on land!

What did we learn from the Indian GP?

It’s not all good news in the industry

Nissan doing the big push

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