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XI No.15 - Sunday December 30 - Saturday January 12, 2013


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Update by Saichon Paewsoongnern
 
 
 
Automania by Dr. Iain Corness
 

The Bangkok F1 debate

I was honored to receive a special DVD from Phillip Neal, an enthusiast in the UK. The subject was a race in Thailand at the Bira circuit, following a demonstration in Bangkok, along the route for a Grand Prix proposed by Prince Bira in 1939. The Bangkok GP, scheduled for December 1939, came to naught with the outbreak of WW II, but fast forward to 1988, and the concept was taken up by Narisa Chakrabongse, the daughter of Prince Chula, with the idea of having Prince Bira’s famous cars to run here in Thailand.

Romulus returned.

The run in Bangkok was up Ratchadamnoen Avenue and round the Democracy monument and was also used a couple of years ago when Mark Webber drove the Red Bull F1 car in Bangkok. Back in 1988 there were 250,000 spectators to see Prince Bira’s pre-war ERA’s “Romulus” and “Remus” make the runs. That’s right, 250,000 Thais turned out to see Thailand’s most famous race car driver’s cars, and imagine what might have been, had WW II not intervened.
The race at our local Bira circuit saw many historic pre-war cars take part, some from the UK and others from Australia. In fairy tale fashion, it was the Prince’s blue ERA which took the lead on the last lap and held it to the finish. A little ‘staged’, but who cares? It was just fantastic to see it.
Fast forward again to today and we have just had the Race of Champions in Bangkok. 2012 World Driver’s Champion Sebastian Vettel was not too enthusiastic over the Bangkok Grand Prix concept. He cited an already full program of Grands Prix during the year, and also noted that less than 150,000 spectators were present at the Rajamangla stadium and that Thailand had no drivers in the top echelon for the Thai people to cheer on.
However, remember that 250,000 people turned out for a demonstration in Bangkok in 1988. There is enthusiasm for all things Thai. It is time for the powers that be in government to get behind local young drivers and foster their talent. That takes real money, not just platitudes and photo-ops.


Toyota’s Akio Toyoda is Autocar’s Automotive Hero 2012

Toyota’s president and chief executive Akio Toyoda has been named man of the year by Autocar magazine’s editor-in-chief Steve Cropley.

Akio Toyoda.

“Toyota started the year in a difficult position, yet Akio Toyoda has brought redemption to the company after a succession of damaging safety scares, then launched an extremely aspirational and impressive ‘halo’ car, the Toyota GT86,” said Cropley. “Akio Toyoda, Autocar’s man of the year, is definitely the right man for the job.”
Akio was the top man, with the runners up being:
Gerry McGovern - Land Rover design chief
Alan Mulally - Ford president and chief executive
Adrian Newey - F1 - Red Bull
Alex Zanardi - Paraolympian - 2 golds and 2 silvers in 2012
Lord Charles - March Goodwood
Ratan Tata - Chairman Tata group
Andy Green - World’s fastest man
Dr Martin Winterkorn - Chairman of the board of management, Volkswagen AG
Charles Morgan - Morgan chairman


Electric Vehicles go on trial in the UK

Zenith, a leading UK independent leasing and fleet management company, has reported very positive feedback from a trial of electric vehicles. The trial does indicate that electric vehicles have a future in business transport.
Employees have been using two Nissan Leaf models for the last three months, with the aim of assessing the real world viability of electric vehicles and in particular for fleets. Employees were given the opportunity to use the two vehicles for short, local trips or to book one for longer journeys or to use for up to a week at a time.
Tim Buchan, Zenith’s Chief Executive Officer commented, “This has been a very interesting exercise. Almost without exception, our employees love the Nissan Leaf to drive, but reservations remain around the range and charging the vehicles, particularly charging times and availability of charging points. Our employees really rated the cars for driving in the local area and they could save money on fuel by charging the cars at work. We believe electric vehicles do have a use for businesses, particularly as pool cars to be used for short journeys, for longer trips within the range or where there is an overnight stop when it can be charged. Improving charging times and practicality of charging would assist their take-up, as would increases in range. We know that manufacturers are working hard to improve technology and expect that these limitations will be overcome with further investment.
So it all comes back to range anxiety and ease of recharging for totally electric vehicles such as the Leaf. That will be the best selling point for the Chevrolet Volt, with its own on-board engine/dynamo to recharge on the run.


Motorways at night

Careful at night.

These motoring tips come from Britain’s top advanced driver, Peter Rodger of the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM). This week, with the shortest day of the year, he is advising on driving on the motorway at night.
Driving in the dark can cause fatigue - plan your journey, scheduling at least one stop every two hours. Don’t ignore warning signs of fatigue. In extreme cases, have a caffeine drink and sleep for 20 minutes while it takes effect. You can only do this once per journey; it won’t have the same effect if you do it more than once.
Share the driving if possible. Many stretches of motorway are not lit during hours of darkness - to improve your view as far as possible, keep your lights, mirrors and windscreen clean. Watch for tell-tale brake lights up ahead to foresee any changes in traffic speed or queues which you may be joining. Make sure you can stop safely within the distance you can see to be clear. If you break down, pull over on to the hard shoulder and stop as far to the left as you can, pointing your wheels in towards the left. When stopped on the hard shoulder, leave your vehicle and get as far away from the road as possible, behind the crash barrier, and up the bank if there is one.
Rodger said, “Although motorways are our safest roads, darkness brings with it additional challenges which increase the risk of fatal accidents. Plan your journey from beginning to end and take necessary precautions to keep yourself and your family safe this Christmas.”
(With our Motorway being very busy over the festive season, and the traffic here not being as ordered as in the UK, making sure you are not overtired is important.)


Does your car have a ‘black box’?

I came across an interesting item in Detroit News, where they reported that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is expected to finalize a long-awaited proposal to make event data recorders (EDRs or black boxes) standard on all new vehicles.
In 2010, Congress considered requiring EDRs in all vehicles by legislation. However, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers - the trade group representing Detroit’s Big Three automakers, plus Toyota Motor Corp and Volkswagen AG - said the government needs to take into account driver privacy.
“Event data recorders help our engineers understand how cars perform in the real world but looking forward, we need to make sure we preserve privacy. Automakers do not access EDR data without consumer permission, and any government requirements to install EDRs on all vehicles must include steps to protect consumer privacy,” said spokeswoman Gloria Bergquist.
NHTSA says the “rulemaking to mandate EDRs across the entire light-vehicle fleet could contribute to advancements in vehicle designs, and advanced restraint and other safety countermeasures.” However, many manufacturers already include them in all vehicles, including General Motors, Ford, Toyota and Mazda.
In May 2010, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers endorsed making EDRs mandatory in all vehicles, but expressed concerns that some in Congress wanted more elaborate and expensive ones than are available, despite their having been in use for 20 years.
For example, GM began widely installing the predecessor version of today’s event data recorders in vehicles in the 1990 model year, and they became standard equipment in light-duty vehicles in the 1995 model year.
So to be perfectly frank, it looks to me that the NHTSA are flogging the horse that is already dead. However, I have to also admit I did not know that these black boxes were already installed in almost every vehicle already.


Late news re the Bangkok F1 race

Singapore F1 at night.

The latest rumor is that Thailand is on the calendar for 2015, and it is a night race on Rajadamnoen Avenue. Bernie Ecclestone has apparently revealed that a Grand Prix in Thailand is likely to be added to the F1 calendar in 2015.
Kanokphand Chulakasem, governor of the Sports Authority of Thailand, said in October that he was working with F1 organisers to bring a race to the country and it appears superficially that he may have been successful.
It has been reported that 60 percent of the annual fee will be covered by the Thailand government with drinks companies Red Bull and Singha contributing the remainder.
I still remain skeptical, but it certainly could happen now that the AEC is looming, Singapore has a race and Malaysia has a race, and Malaysia is building a second circuit. Thailand never likes looking second best or even third best within ASEAN. We are, after all, the “hub” of everything, so that should include motor sport.
So will it really happen? Watch this space.
With New Jersey and Russia already set to be added to the schedule in 2014, and should Thailand then come on board, further pressure will be placed on current circuits to keep their places if the cap of 20 races is to be adhered to.


Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked which car had its bonnet changed to thinner steel during production to act as a crumple zone? The answer is just about all of them since the 1960’s. Mercedes were the first to incorporate crumple zones in 1953.
So to this week. We’ve just had Xmas and bob-sleighs. Which supercar manufacturer became involved in a racing bob-sleigh project?
For the Automania free beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

The Bangkok F1 debate

Toyota’s Akio Toyoda is Autocar’s Automotive Hero 2012

Electric Vehicles go on trial in the UK

Motorways at night

Does your car have a ‘black box’?

Late news re the Bangkok F1 race

Autotrivia Quiz

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