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XII No.2 - Sunday January 27 - Saturday february 9, 2013


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Update by Saichon Paewsoongnern
 
 
 
Automania by Dr. Iain Corness
 

What a big mouth you’ve got Grandma!

Aston Martin Rapide S.

Is this the ultimate expression of snobbery? A four door Aston Martin Rapide S where you can take three friends round town in ultimate (well, close to at least) luxury.
However, while Aston Martin has produced some of the best looking cars on the planet (the DBS is my favorite), this new Rapide S has the biggest mouth this side of an American TV wrestler. It was right before! If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! However, Aston Martin are making positive noises, with ‘‘The Rapide S is to me, without doubt, the most beautiful four-door sports car on the market today,” said Aston Martin CEO Ulrich Bez.
OK, it isn’t all bad news. The 5.9 liter V12 engine now cranks out 411 kW, which is 64 kW more than before. This has been accomplished by using lighter, hollow camshafts and a stainless steel exhaust. The 0-100 kph sprint is now 4.9 seconds and the top speed 306 kph. Torque is also said to be much improved in the bottom half of the rev range, while the peak is up from 600 Nm to 620 Nm.
Bez continued, saying “It is a four-door sports car that uniquely combines luxury, style and sporting excitement in Aston Martin’s most flexible and accommodating silhouette. The car’s stunning visual appeal is now matched by a much more powerful and yet more efficient engine - our exceptional new AM11 V12 - which increases massively both the excitement and performance potential of the Rapide S.” That is all PR Speak I’m afraid. There is nothing truly “unique” about this car. It is up against the faster Mercedes Benz CLS63 and versions of the Porsche Panamera (though anything looks better than the porcine Porsche). In that league there is the BMW M6 GranCoupe and the upgraded Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG also capable of blistering performance. The Audi RS7 has a twin-turbocharged 4.0 liter V8 running a maximum 1.2 bar of boost pressure to produce 412 kW at 5700 rpm and 750 Nm of torque between 1750 and 5500 rpm.
The new BMW M6 GranCoupe’s twin-turbocharged 4.4 liter V8 also produces 412 kW but “only” 680 Nm of torque.
The CLS63 AMG will get the twin-turbocharged 5.5 liter V8 engine as that unveiled in the facelifted E63 AMG, with 430 kW and 800 Nm in the S-model package.
Translating all that into performance figures, the Audi delivers 0-100 km/h acceleration in 3.9 seconds and a top speed of 305 km/h with the dynamic plus package. (Very “plus”!)
BMW claims the rear-wheel drive M6 GranCoupe is capable of running 0-100 km/h in 4.1 seconds, while Mercedes-Benz sources suggest the upgraded rear-wheel-drive CLS63 AMG will boast a 0-100 km/h time as a mind-boggling 3.6 seconds with the optional S-model package.
I honestly feel that Aston Martin, no matter how svelte the styling, is lagging in the “sports car” stakes. This is not the car to drag Aston Martin back into strong liquidity.


The Bangkok GP debate

I was sent an exclusive which had been printed in the Australian Herald Sun newspaper, in which the fee for the right to stage the Grand Prix in Melbourne was released.

Bernie E the Godfather.
The Herald Sun Melbourne stated, “Victorians are paying more than $30 million (that is around 900 million baht) a year for the right to host the Formula One Grand Prix under a top-secret deal with billionaire Bernie Ecclestone.
“The Herald Sun has seen Grand Prix documents that reveal the overall cost of Mr Ecclestone's licence fee - kept secret by four successive state governments for almost two decades - for the five-year contract is close to $170 million.
“The documents, dating from 2010, expose an ‘escalator’ clause in the contract that sees the license fee rise by five percent annually - regardless of how the Albert Park event fares.
“In revelations that have sparked renewed debate about the race, the documents show the license fee climbs from $US31 million in 2011 to almost $US38 million in 2015.”
So, all is revealed! You want a Grand Prix? Bernie wants 900 million baht, rising to one billion baht in three years. He really is the heart and soul of generosity, isn’t he! (And where does the under the table come from?)
Remember too, that is just the fee for the rights, the actual costs in making the circuit, barriers and Singapore style lighting is on top.


NSX reborn

New NSX.

The North American International Auto Show saw a concept car from Honda shown under the nameplate of Acura NSX. Informed gossip has this as the fore-runner for a new, and long awaited, NSX which will be in the showrooms in two years time.
The original 1990 NSX with its alloy chassis and mid-engined layout was a stand-out at the time, with its 3 liter V6 all alloy engine complete with titanium con-rods.
The NSX was also the first production car to feature an all-aluminium monocoque body incorporating a revolutionary extruded aluminium alloy frame, and suspension.
With sales declining, the production of the NSX was stopped in 2005, and it looked as if the NSX was finished, with Honda stating that because of the financial downturn, there were no plans to resurrect the NSX.
However, this new concept NSX has appeared, and is as noteworthy in its technology as the original NSX was in 1990. This new concept features two electric motors at the front, one for each wheel (an in-wheel system as pioneered by Dr. Porsche in 1902), with a third motor and a V-6 engine sending power to the rear axle. This produces a unique AWD system without the bulky prop shaft running down the middle of the car.
It certainly looks like a revolutionary sports car, but it will be interesting to see what the released vehicle will be like in 2015.


Batteries not included?

Batteries included.

With the 787 Dreamliners grounded with battery failures (fires) and GM hit by a federal investigation 12 months ago after three battery fires in the Chevrolet Volt after crash tests, it certainly has not been easy for manufacturers using Lithium-ion batteries.
Honda was one of the first automakers - along with rival Toyota - to adopt a hybrid driveline. And like Toyota, Honda is expanding the use of battery-based technology with a new plug-in version of the popular Accord sedan, as well as a pure battery-electric Jazz subcompact.
Of course, Toyota and Honda are not the only manufacturers offering battery/electric technology. However, this is not a mainstream section of the auto industry. Add up all of the conventional hybrids, plug-ins and battery-electric vehicles sold in the U.S. last year and they accounted for barely 3.5 percent of the total market. The Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle saw sales triple, but still fall about 50 percent short of GM’s sales predictions, which called for selling about 45,000 Volts in the U.S. alone. Nissan also missed its target for the second year in a row with the Leaf battery car, said Nissan CEO, Carlos Ghosn.
Adding to the negative side of the battery industry, lithium-ion battery maker A123 declared bankruptcy. A123, despite opening several plants, developing highly-touted new technology, including a battery that could operate in extreme heat or cold, and signing deals with General Motors, Chrysler and India’s Tata Motors, the company never posted a profit. In August, it reported an $83 million loss for the second quarter. A123 finally reached a financing deal with Wanxiang Group for up to $450 million to help it stay afloat.
The only maker pleased with its 2012 results was Toyota, which saw sales of its Prius hybrid increase from 100,000 to 236,000 with the introduction of new models like the Prius c and v.
There are many reasons for the poor acceptance of battery cars by the public, on top of range anxiety. Price is one of the biggest, with battery cars carrying a significant premium compared to conventional, gasoline-powered models.
Nissan is attempting to jump start demand by announcing plans for a new entry model that will be about $6,000 less than the current base battery car. The existing Leaf models also will have prices cut by several thousand dollars.
When the Leaf and Chevrolet Volt programs began, a typical lithium-ion battery cost about $1,000 per kilowatt-hour, but industry analysts say the battery costs will have to reduce to something closer to $200 per kWh to be truly competitive.
Going back to the initial range anxiety, according to Nissan CEO Ghosn and others, this is still a major problem. Operating range needs to come up from the average of 100 to 160 km per charge. Tesla is offering an extended-range version of its Model S which can go 480 km - but the additional batteries make the car very expensive, even in the US.
Another problem is the lack of public recharging stations or battery replacement stations. Whilst there are many plans, there is no recharging/replacement station near you!
However, the North American International Auto Show had more electric/hybrid cars on offer than ever before. And battery technology is improving all the time. Fixing the Dreamliners will probably let Carlos Ghosn sleep a little better too.


The definitive F1 calendar (get your pencils out)

Mar 17 - Albert Park, Australia
Mar 24 - Sepang, Malaysia
Apr 14 - Shanghai, China
Apr 21 - Sakhir International, Bahrain
May 12 - Barcelona, Spain
May 26 - Monte Carlo, Monaco
Jun 09 - Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Canada
Jun 30 - Silverstone, Great Britain
Jul 07 - TBA, Germany
Jul 28 - Hungaroring, Hungary
Aug 25 - Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium
Sep 08 - Monza, Italy
Sep 22 - Marina Bay, Singapore
Oct 06 - Yeongam, Korea
Oct 13 - Suzuka, Japan
Oct 27 - Buddh International, India
Nov 03 - Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi
Nov 17 - Circuit of the Americas, United States
Nov 24 - Interlagos, Brazil


Do we need 300 km/h vehicles on our roads?

Audi RS7.

When I was but a young pup driving my 15 year old MG TC, there was much adverse publicity about young drivers and fast sports cars. And the TC was indeed very fast, able to get close to 120 km/h on a good day with a strong tail wind and downhill. I protested any suggestion that speed limits should be imposed on sports cars.
Now fast-forward to today and Audi has released the new RS7 Sportback which has a top speed of 305 km/h, and I find myself being unable to support the concept of cars that can deliver that sort of top speed.
There is nothing ‘wrong’ with the speed - I have done 300 km/h in a Formula 5000 Lola, but that was on a race track, and not on public roads. I am sorry, I just cannot justify that level of performance in the hands of street drivers, no matter how much money they have spent to buy their RS7.
Audi, of course, is not alone here with the recently unveiled BMW M6 GranCoupe and an upgraded Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG also capable of blistering performance.
The RS7 has a twin-turbocharged 4.0 liter V8 running a maximum 1.2 bar of boost pressure to produce 412 kW at 5700 rpm and 750 Nm of torque between 1750 and 5500 rpm.
The new BMW M6 GranCoupe’s twin-turbocharged 4.4 liter V8 also produces 412 kW but “only” 680 Nm of torque.
The CLS63 AMG will get the twin-turbocharged 5.5 liter V8 engine as that unveiled in the facelifted E63 AMG, with 430 kW and 800 Nm in the S-model package.
Translating all that into performance figures, the Audi delivers 0-100 km/h acceleration in 3.9 seconds and a top speed of 305 km/h with the dynamic plus package. (Very “plus”!)
BMW claims the rear-wheel drive M6 GranCoupe is capable of running 0-100 km/h in 4.1 seconds, while Mercedes-Benz sources suggest the upgraded rear-wheel-drive CLS63 AMG will boast a 0-100 km/h time as a mind-boggling 3.6 seconds with the optional S-model package.
The power output of the RS7 is such that Audi’s seven-speed dual clutch gearbox cannot handle the torque produced by its engine, so the RS7 Sportback gets the standard eight speed automatic transmission. It operates in combination with the latest evolution of Audi’s Quattro four-wheel-drive system, offering the choice between D (drive), S (sport) and M (manual) modes.
The RS7 Sportback gets a heavily reworked version of the standard A7 Sportback’s chassis with widened track front and rear and air suspension, plus an optional steel sprung suspension in combination with dynamic ride control as part of a package known as sport suspension plus - a move that is reflected on the new RS6 Avant. Further chassis options include a so-called Drive Select program that brings a more direct steering ratio.
However, you will not see many of these supercars on our roads in Thailand, the extremely high prices of these vehicles restrict the ownership to those with seven figure bank accounts (that lets me out), but I predict that any owner who tries to record the 305 km/h top speed on our freeways will be endangering both himself and other road users.
More than 200 km/h is nonsensical in today’s traffic.


VW also battling with the Japanese giant

Topless VW.

Volkswagen AG has already made public its ambition to be the number 1 automaker by 2018, and was even hopeful that it might take over the number 1 spot in 2012 with total sales of 9.07 million vehicles. However, Toyota returned 9.7 million vehicles to remain the global leader, despite safety recalls and many other problems for the Japanese leader.
What has to be remembered is that VW covers 12 brands these days (including Porsche) so has opportunities on different fronts and Toyota has had local problems related to the tsunami and boycotts of its models in China with the disputed ownership of some islands between Japan and China. These problems will settle during this year.
With sales in Europe still not looking up, I would expect VW sales to plateau, while Toyota will increase during 2013. We will see in December.


Will Proton’s market share fall behind Toyota?

Proton Inspira.

Once upon a time, as all the fairy tales begin, Proton was top of the tree in Malaysia, with a market share around 80 percent. All that has changed.
Leader for the past six years has been Perodua, with Proton down in December 2012 to just 17.7 percent, and Toyota now a close third at 17.1 percent share of passenger vehicle sales in the country.
“Perodua (Perusahaan Otomobil Kedua Sdn Bhd) is the runway market leader while Proton over the last few years has been a strong second. Now Toyota is closing in on Proton’s position,” an unnamed executive told the financial daily, The Edge in Malaysia.
Industry executives told the financial daily that Proton’s sales fell by over 11 percent to 140,000 units from 158,000 units a year earlier, missing the company’s target of 200,000 units by a wide margin.
Proton was established by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 1983 and Dr Mahathir had made it patriotic to buy a Proton, but the company has seen its sales slump in the last decade due to increasing liberalization of the Malaysian market.
Originally, Protons were Mitsubishi rebadged models, which provided a solid foundation for the fledgling automaker but also limited its ability to innovate.
It later succeeded in developing its own vehicle platforms independent of the Japanese carmaker but has since gone back to the practice of rebadging with the Inspira, which is based on the Mitsubishi Lancer.
Following the recent relaxation of vehicle imports and local assembly rules saw buyers abandon the local manufacturer for the increasingly abundant range of foreign makes.
According to The Edge, Proton’s lack of new models bar one for 2013 will also put it under added pressure this year, given the growingly competitive market. With both Indonesia and Thailand ramping up production, Proton is definitely in danger.


Who will pick up our youngsters?

Sandy Stuvik in Bangkok.

The scuttlebutt and rumors still center around the idea of Thailand having a Formula 1 race next year or the year after. The government has said it is ready to cover 60 percent of the fee (which goes to Bernie), with Red Bull and Singha to pick up the 40 percent between them. But the fee is nothing compared to preparing the circuit, crash barriers and lighting, as Bernie said it must be a night race, like Singapore.
Even if this did come to fruition, will it help motor racing in Thailand? The answer is no, unless we give some thought and effort into helping young talent, such as happens in other countries. We do have some Thai drivers competing in the top level of local motor sport in the GT3 class, with Lamborghinis and Ferraris, but these self-funded young men are also doing nothing to foster young Thai talent, and when they get tired of this motor racing lark, will move onto something else.
I read a most interesting report that two years ago Ferrari selected an 11 year old Canadian karter Lance Stroll to join their driver academy. The program, which was set up at the end of 2009, was devised by the Italian team to find and support talented young drivers from around the world, with the eventual aim of helping them into Formula One racing.
Montreal-born Stroll is still racing in karts, and very successfully. With Ferrari behind him, he is looking at a good future.
Another youngster who got picked up very early in his motorsport career was Lewis Hamilton. With McLaren backing him (and paying much of the bills) Hamilton burst upon the F1 scene, frightening Alonso who thought that this rookie team mate was just an upstart, with Alonso being eventually beaten by the youngster. Hamilton missed the world championship in his rookie year by one point, and then went on to claim it on his second season.
How did all this happen? At the age of ten, Hamilton approached McLaren team principal Ron Dennis at the Autosport Awards ceremony in December 1995 and told him, “I want to race for you one day... I want to race for McLaren.” Less than three years later, he was signed by McLaren and Mercedes-Benz to their Young Driver Support Program.
After winning the British Formula Renault, Formula Three Euroseries, and GP2 championships on his way up the racing career ladder, he became a McLaren F1 driver for 2007, making his Formula 1 debut 12 years after his initial encounter with Dennis. Despite all this, Hamilton has now defected to Mercedes for the next three years! (I won’t comment on how this happened.)
Across the paddock, Lotus Team Principal Eric Boullier explained their position, “With the current testing restrictions, the challenge facing young drivers aiming to reach F1 is tougher than ever. We therefore feel it is our responsibility to support them as much as possible by developing their skills both on and off the racetrack. It’s about helping them mature as individuals and racing drivers with the ultimate goal of getting them ready to make the step up to F1 in the future.”
In Thailand there is a young Thai/Norwegian, Sandy Nicholas Stuvik, now 17 years of age and rapidly becoming too old if he cannot get sufficient help soon. Like Lance Stroll, he has been a winner in karts and was a stand-out championship winner in Formula Renault Asia, but the costs, even in these lower formulae are very high. He is a proven winner and now needs someone to pick him up. He does have sponsorships, but not to the degree needed in today’s racing world in Europe, which is where he needs to be. Ferrari already have their youngster. Lotus have theirs. Who will take on this young talent? I sincerely hope Thailand will look after its own. Go to www.sandystuvik.com and meet this talented young lad.


Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I stated that a manufacturing firm in Europe sold 1,500 ‘voiturettes’ in 15 months, and hundreds of tricycles and engines. I asked which firm, and what year? The answer was De Dion Bouton in 1900/01.
So to this week. What did the Honda S600 and the 1913 Le Mans Mercedes have in common? (And I mean engineering design, not wheels and brake pedals!)
For the Automania free beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

What a big mouth you’ve got Grandma!

The Bangkok GP debate

NSX reborn

Batteries not included?

The definitive F1 calendar (get your pencils out)

Do we need 300 km/h vehicles on our roads?

VW also battling with the Japanese giant

Will Proton’s market share fall behind Toyota?

Who will pick up our youngsters?

Autotrivia Quiz

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