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Automania by Dr. Iain Corness
 

Lotus blossoming again?

Lotus Exige

The future for Lotus now looks secure again after its new Malaysian owners released their three year investment program.
Former CEO Dany Bahar had proposed ambitious plans to introduce five all-new models over five years, including reborn Elan and Elite sports coupes, a four-door grand tourer called the Eterne, a tiny City Car and an all-new Elise. However, with the retrenchment of Bahar and a take-over by DRB-Hicom, some serious accounting has taken place and the five projected models are all on the back burner.
Early last year, the Malaysian government sold its 42.7 percent stake in Lotus’ parent company Proton, which in turn was taken over by DBR-Hicom (a conglomerate with interests in manufacturing, finance and construction).
DRB-Hicom will reportedly inject more money into the struggling brand after already pouring 100 million into Lotus’ bank account over the past 18 months to keep the business afloat.
DRB-Hicom managing director Tan Sri Mohd Khamil Jamil told Malaysian media that Lotus was on the way up again with a plan focussed on expanding the existing model line-up.
“We have cleaned up and we are moving ahead,” he said, suggesting the company has fixed a number of residual financial, marketing and product planning issues left over from Proton’s management of Lotus.
Jamil confirmed Lotus would concentrate on introducing new variants of its existing models including the Exige, Evora and Elise, starting with the Exige S Roadster.
A recent rise in Lotus sales reportedly instilled DRB-Hicom with enough confidence to go ahead with the cash injection, confirming an increase in production to 40 vehicles a month, with around 85 percent of those for the export markets.


Books and the UK

Juan Manuel Fangio with a tad of oversteer!

On every trip to the UK I have managed to find some incredible book bargains, some in the new bookshops, and others in the second hand places. For example I spied a book on classic cars in Waterstones, a large British book chain, and this book with several colour plates was on special at 75 percent off. I paid six pounds 25 pence plus one new penny extra to get a plastic bag strong enough to carry it. It has everything in it from the 1901 Curved Dash Oldsmobile up to the Dodge Viper, a long time favourite of mine, a car with more neddies under the bonnet than you could ever use on the road, and on the race track it was truly awesome. All the steering was done with the right foot, and I loved it.
Another book purchase was found in a second hand gift shop on the quay at Exeter. This is a wonderfully detailed history of motor racing from 1894 (yes, 1894) until 1989. Cost? Seven British pounds ninety five new pence, or around 350 Thai baht. For that small sum I have gleaned such details as the win by Christian Lautenschlager in the 1914 French Grand Prix. His Mercedes had a 4.5 litre engine with four cylinders. Two inlet valves and two exhaust valves with an overhead cam shaft - not bad for 1914. His winning time was seven hours eight minutes for the 700 km race. It makes our present day over-pampered race drivers seem like a bunch of pansies. But I shouldn’t be so tough on them, they are a bunch of over-paid pansies.
The 1957 GP at the Nurburgring is given many pages, as it deserves. This was the race won by Juan Manuel Fangio in the 250F Maserati, coming from behind after a 56 second pit stop for fuel and tyres. Hunting down Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins in Ferrari’s, Fangio took 24.2 seconds off the lap record. You read that correctly, 24.2 seconds. Nobody had ever done something like that before, nor since. After the race, the respected journalist Gunter Molter wrote, “Fangio’s younger colleagues will now look up to him as someone unsurpassed, the grand old master of GP racing who can drive like no-one else.”
The 1967 Italian GP was also memorable, with Jim Clark in the Lotus losing one complete lap in the pits, to then chase the field, drive through it and take the lead, only to run out of fuel on the last corner and was passed by John Surtees and Jack Brabham. Surtees won by half a car. And his car? It was the Honda RA 300 with a 48 valve V12 developing 405 bhp at 10,000 rpm. Such wonderful history, and here we are in 2013 and Honda is coming back as an engine supplier!
As I turned the last page of 1989, there was another shame. It was a list of all the Formula 1 cars of that year. There were 20 different makes of cars. These days we are lucky if we get 20 cars on the grid, let alone 20 different teams. For interest, here they are: AGS, Arrows, Benetton, Brabham, Colloni, Dallara, EuroBrun, Ferrari, Ligier, Lola, Lotus, March, McLaren, Minardi, Onyx, Osella, Rial, Tyrrell, Williams and Zakspeed.
Old books are a source of information like no other. They almost make a trip to the UK worthwhile. I said “almost!”


Indian GP dropped from the 2014 calendar

Bernie and Vicky Chandhok.

The Indian Grand Prix has been cancelled for next year but is expected to return in 2015.
Vicky Chandhok, head of the Federation of Motor Sport Council of India (and father of ex-F1 driver Karun Chandhok), said the Indian event was being dropped because of an imminent reshuffle of the F1 calendar for next year.
However, Chandhok said India was targeting a 2015 return, and the Indian event, which started in 2011, was not under any threat of being abandoned forever.
“The race in 2014 is definitely ruled out and 2015 is what they are looking at,” Chandhok has avowed.
Chandhok said F1 management wanted the Indian race to be held in March in the 2015 calendar instead of October, but it was impractical to have the race in October 2014 and then again five months later.
Race organisers Jaypee Sports International (JPSI) said they would have preferred an October date, but were willing to host the race in March if needed. “If the Formula One management wants us to hold our race in March, 2015, we don’t have any problem with that.”
The forthcoming calendar is already too packed, with proposed races in Austria, Russia and New Jersey in the United States, although educated bets are that the New Jersey race will not happen next year. The Austrian circuit is owned by Red Bull, so will definitely be on, and the Russian is to be held after the Olympic Games, and will be on too. Bernie has spoken!
The Indian Grand Prix this year will be held on October 27.


New NSX breaks cover

2014 Honda (Acura) NSX.\

Honda has uncovered a prototype version of its forthcoming second-generation NSX supercar ahead of its official debut at an IndyCar Series event in the US.
This new car is a hybrid coupe that will be sold in the US under the Acura brand from late next year, followed by other global markets in 2015.
The new car (still in concept form) was shown at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, on August 4, and did one demonstration lap just prior to the commencement of the race.
The vehicle is being developed at Honda’s North American R&D center in Raymond, Ohio, and will be built nearby at the new Performance Manufacturing Centre in Marysville.
“The prototype model maintains the styling and proportions of the NSX Concept that debuted at the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, while packaging the production vehicle’s mid-mounted V6 engine mated to Acura’s innovative new three-motor Sport Hybrid SH-AWD (Super Handling All Wheel Drive) system,” Honda said in a press statement.
One of the electric motors from the hybrid system will sit between the engine and a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, while the other two electric motors will drive each of the front wheels.
The near-production NSX concept’s design is reminiscent of the original NSX while giving it an entirely modern, almost futuristic look for its second incarnation.
The first-generation NSX went on sale in 1991 and became an iconic model for the Japanese car maker, undercutting most of its more expensive European rivals on price while delivering exciting performance from its 3.0 liter mid-mounted engine. It received a facelift in 2002 before being officially discontinued in 2005.


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Lotus blossoming again?

Books and the UK

Indian GP dropped from the 2014 calendar

New NSX breaks cover