Spa this weekend
F1 resumes with Spa this weekend. After the mid-year four week holiday, F1
returns to one of the best tracks on the calendar - Spa Francorchamps in
Belgium, a circuit that everyone enjoys (are you listening, Bernie).
Now we get a real race circuit, with Eau Rouge being the corner for those with
big hearts (and large cojones). Remember Webber’s pass on Alonso around the
outside of Eau Rouge a couple of years ago! Will Vettel be dominant again? Will
Hamilton keep his hot blood in check? Will Button smooth his way to the top, as
there is plenty of chances for rain. We will know by Sunday night.
The race will start at 7 p.m. our time.
ASEAN can kill the Vietnam auto industry
The auto industry in Vietnam is
still very young, having begun around 20 years ago with government investment.
The forthcoming ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) which will
abolish auto import taxes in 2018, could see the death of the auto industry in
Vietnam, and a significant boost for Thailand.
ASEAN + will waive taxes on car imports between ASEAN member countries, as well
as Japan, South Korea and China, who are party to the agreement.
The tax cut poses a real threat to Vietnam’s fledgling auto industry, which is
unable to compete with the price and quality of imports.
Ngo Van Tru, Deputy Head of the Heavy Industry Department of the Ministry of
Industry and Trade in Vietnam said, “If we do not make immediate measures,
Vietnam would become a big auto importer in the region.”
The auto industry in Vietnam is still very young, having begun around 20 years
ago with government investment. However, under ASEAN + that gives their auto
industry only five years to catch up with others in the group, including
Thailand. If their auto industry stumbles, then local production will stop and
Vietnam will become an importer, such as Thailand was around 50 years ago.
There are currently 18 auto makers that belong to the Vietnam Automobile
Manufacturers Association (VAMA). Approximately 30 others have a combined
investment of over USD 1 billion and an output around 200,000 cars per year.
While the target for local diesel production was set to reach 100,000 units by
2010, Truong Hai is the only company to invest in a diesel factory which will
begin production in 2014. However, will that actually happen? Previous forecasts
were for 100,000 gearboxes and 100,000 transmission systems for production in
2010. Don’t hold your breath. No investment has been made.
Other comparisons do not look good for Vietnam, which has only 210 auto parts
manufacturers, one fifth of Indonesia’s production base and one fifteenth of
According to Yoshihisa Maruta, the General Director of Toyota Vietnam, a long
term development plan, stable policies and greater incentives for auto makers
are needed to provide a necessary boost to Vietnam’s auto industry.
The GM Vietnam General Director, Guarav Gupta, called on the Government to
develop a detailed plan to support the local auto industry and boost investor
It seems that the Ministry of Industry and Trade has revised the auto industry
master plan in a bid to save the auto industry.
The Vietnam Automobile Development Plan, which looks as far as 2020, classifies
market opportunities to help producers meet the demands of market segments. The
plan aligns with current development plans to revolutionize the manufacturing
sector, according to Tran Tuan Anh, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade.
Anh said the Ministry has added three “breaking” solutions to the revised plan,
including stable policies for the auto industry, producing
environmentally-friendly vehicles (similar to the Thai eco-car concept) and
creating favorable conditions for automakers.
According to the Vietnam Automobile Manufacturers Association (VAMA), domestic
auto sales exceeded 49,800 units in the first half of this year, up 16 percent
on 2012 figures.
Car and truck sales grew 22 percent and 13 percent respectively, from 2012. VAMA
forecasts indicate sales will reach 112,000 units after a proposed 10-12 percent
cut in auto registration fees.
Referring back to the forthcoming ASEAN + agreement, currently Thailand’s 2013
Thai domestic automotive market is projected at 1.3 million units or around a
9.5 percent decrease compared to the previous year and 10 times the Vietnam
Asia Cross Country Rally at Bira
The Federal Tyres, Flex stores in Japan, and several Thai
officials and drivers were at the Bira circuit for one of the special stages of
the rally which went from Pattaya to Ubon Ratchathani then into Laos finishing
at Pakse (10th-16th August).
Holder of the number 1 plate is last year’s winner, Thai national Nuttapon
Angritthanon (Isuzu D-Max), closely followed by another Thai, Chamnan On-Sri
One well known competitor, but on two wheels rather than four, is the ex Moto GP
rider Takuma Aoki, who these days has to use hand controls, having fractured his
spine in a racing accident.
One interesting vehicle is the Japanese entry of the PHEV Mitsubishi Outlander
of Takatsugu, with co-driver Kenji Ishida stating before the rally that they
were a little concerned with water crossings and the plug-in electrics.
In the motorcycle division, again Thailand is tops with Manoch Abdullkalee with
the number 1 plate, in front of teams from Japan, Cambodia and Sweden.
Last year there were 22 vehicles and 20 motorcycles that took part in this
grueling Asian event.
Spa Francorchamps in the library
I was very fortunate in being given a book on Spa
Francorchamps 1948-1960, with a wealth of detail from the early days before
Bernie and the F1 phenomenon. The circuit was the venue for the Grand Prix de
Belgique, and it was immensely popular with the drivers of the day. See how many
of these you can remember - Emile Cornet, Johnny Claes, Andre Pilette, Paul
Frere, Jacques Scaters, Charles de Tornaco, Roger Laurent, Freddy Rousselle,
Gilberte Thirion, Alain de Changy, Jean Blaton, Andre Milhoux, Olivier
Gendebien, Lucien Bianchi and Willy Mairesse are mentioned in the foreword. Paul
Frere was a noted journalist as well as a top race driver.
Buriram circuit signs with Japanese
The mover and shaker of Buriram, Newin Chidchob, has
announced that his new track will be on the calendar for next year’s Japan Super
The new track, to be finished by October 2014, will have the Japanese Super GT
round in that month as well, so it could be tight, but Nevin is confident that
all will be right for the Hermann Tilke designed track by then.
Buriram is already notable for its football club and Nevin states that “Buriram
Province will become a sports city.”
With the future of our local Bira circuit still up in the air, local competitors
may have to get used to the five hour trip to Isaan. Other tracks include
Bonanza at Khao Yai (three hours), Kaeng Krachan (four hours) and the Enigma
track (one hour).
Despite what you may have heard, I do not believe this track will be brought up
to F1 standards, so that Thailand can join the F1 countries. To get a GP, takes
more than just having a track. Fees in the realms of billions of baht have to
change hands as well!
Which brings me to the future of our local Prince Bira track. It has supposedly
been sold, but probably more likely for the sale to be under negotiation. These
negotiations can go on for years. The Pro Racing Series has also shifted the
rounds scheduled for the Kaeng Krachan circuit to now be held at Bira. This has
been done because the motorcycle racing group who felt that KKC was a little too
dangerous for them. However, the Bira Circuit has also seen a motorcycle
competitor killed last meeting. All motor racing is indeed dangerous.
My reading of the subject is that Bira will continue as a race track into next
year (but don’t shoot me if I’ve got it wrong).
Farting cows! Please give generously
If you have ever wondered about the paperwork required to do
anything in Thailand, think about the Brits with their new Greenhouse Gases
These new regulations require UK companies that are listed on the London Stock
Exchange to report on their greenhouse gas emissions as part of their annual
directors’ report. It includes reporting on greenhouse gases including methane
and nitrous oxides, not just CO2 emissions. Affected companies will need to
include a greenhouse gas emissions statement in their directors’ report for the
first financial year ending after 30th September 2013.
The reporting shows GHG emissions across a whole fleet, by vehicle, by
manufacturer and split out by greenhouse gas. GHGs are calculated from the
actual fuel used where this is available. The regulations allow for GHGs to
otherwise be calculated by miles travelled and vehicle type.
Farmers should not smile at this. Wait till the government starts bringing in
legislation for farting cows!