Singapore GP this weekend
Eff Wun under lights. This Grand Prix is lauded as pure excitement under lights,
but for me, and countless enthusiasts, the excitement is not there. Narrow
street circuits like Monaco lead to processions, and I don’t care how many
singing budgies they have as ‘entertainment’. I follow motor racing - not music
concerts. If I want musical entertainment, I can go to a concert anywhere, any
time. I go to race meetings to watch motor racing. I do not need head bangers
with my F1. If the organizers really want to put on an extravaganza, then run 10
categories of races as the lead-up to the top category F1. What a novel idea -
racing cars at an F1 venue. Put on a “Retro” race and I’ll even take the
BBX/Acorn Mk 1 Escort down (even if I have to drive it there)!
Having had my gripe, the Singapore Grand Prix will start at 7 p.m. Thai time on
Sunday evening (NB: Qualifying is at 8 p.m. on Saturday).
Daimler-Benz reported that its S500 Independent Drive has
retraced the route of the first long distance auto journey made in 1885 by the
wife of car pioneer Karl Benz with the means of eight computer guided cameras
and multiple radar sensors.
Though a Benz employee was behind the wheel to satisfy the law, the 104 km
journey between the towns of Mannheim and Pforzheim was made under autonomous
power, the massive S-Class limo accelerating and slowing to the designated speed
limit, stopping at red lights and zebra crossings then re-starting under its own
cognition. The ‘driver’ did not intervene.
The revelation was made by Daimler AG head of research Professor Thomas Weber
who says that 53 km of Bertha Benz’s original journey now runs though busy towns
and villages. The journey on which Frau Benz packed her two sons aboard the
three-wheeler without her husband’s knowledge for an epic day trip was the first
long range drive, a journey regularly commemorated by alternative energy
This, however, is the first time the drive has been made without the human
element. While autonomous driving is achievable by a growing number of cars in
freeway conditions, Weber says this technology permits almost total ‘driver’
disengagement from the tedium of commuting. The caveat, such as it is, takes the
form of the S500 ID’s inability to recognize pedestrians waving the car to
proceed - which since this never happens is negligible. Even so, Weber says, “We
will ensure the electronic driver learns to recognize sign language.”
So after ‘smartphones’ we now have ‘smartcars’?
Dana expands with another gear making plant
The Automotive Focus Group reports that Tier One automotive
parts producer Dana Holding Corporation plans to build a new gear making plant
in Thailand, to open next year and produce up to 600,000 gear sets annually.
Ohio-based Dana noted the new plant in Rayong, Thailand, would supply gear sets
for its Spicer axle products distributed throughout Southeast Asia.
The Spicer product line includes axles and driveshafts for commercial vehicles,
light trucks, off-highway vehicles, and industrial engines. Specific products
include universal joints, driveshaft assemblies, steering shafts, end fittings,
wing and center bearings, and end yokes, among various others.
As for gearing, Dana develops its 3-axis gearing technologies in the U.S., and
manufactures the products from heat treated steel using face hobbing, shot
peening, lapping, and coating.
Dana supplies axles and driveshafts to automakers in the region, including Ford,
Mazda, Nissan, Suzuki, and Tata.
The company has three plants already in Thailand, employing 650 people.
Approximately 125 new jobs will be established with the new manufacturing plant.
“Dana is committed to delivering differentiated innovations for growth markets
such as Thailand,” according to Mark Wallace, president of Dana Light Vehicle
Driveline Technologies. “By expanding our gear development and manufacturing
capabilities in the region, Dana will deliver programs more efficiently, and be
equipped to handle projected market growth.”
All very welcome words in the Eastern Seaboard industries.
New Lexus LF-NX Concept at Frankfurt
Lexus’s presentation at the 2013 Frankfurt motor show was the
world-first appearance of its new LF-NX concept, described as a vision for a
mid-size luxury crossover model.
According to Lexus, the LF-NX reinforces Lexus’s leadership in hybrid power in
the premium market, being powered by a new variation of the Lexus Hybrid Drive
full hybrid system, tuned for SUV performance. It combines a 2.5 liter,
four-cylinder Atkinson cycle petrol engine with a power electric motor. At lower
speeds, LF-NX can be driven under electric motor power alone.
The car’s frontal appearance is dominated by a strong interpretation of Lexus’
spindle grille and a signature arrangement of the front lights. The daytime
running lights are given added visual emphasis by being positioned independent
from the headlamps, in a similar fashion to the new Lexus IS, and underscored by
full length LED turn signal lamps. The headlamps comprise three diamond-shaped
The LF-NX also displays a distinctive treatment of the front corners, which
separate the bumper from the front wings with a sharp vertical cut line that
narrows to a point beneath the headlamp units.
In profile, the LF-NX concept presents (according to the Lexus blurb writers)
muscular wheel arches, edged with a black protective finish that expresses its
urban crossover character. Above the pronounced diamond shape of the belt line,
the side glazing is arranged in the classic Lexus profile, which works with the
steep rake of the tailgate and integrated rear spoiler to create an athletic
coupe-like silhouette. Both the front and rear wings are formed by a series of
muscular, concave and convex curves.
At the rear the highly articulated lamp clusters project down the full depth of
the bumper, creating a sharp, aerodynamic trailing edge to the vehicle that
mirrors the detailing of the front wing design. The classic Lexus L-shape of the
lamps is scored strongly into the rear bodywork, echoing the spindle form of the
front grille. The wide lower bumper has no visible exhaust outlet, in
recognition of the full hybrid powertrain’s low emissions performance.
The concept was presented in a new Brushed Metal Silver exterior finish that
creates a striking impression of the car having been carved from a single piece
of solid metal (just where do they dream these things up).
The interior mirrors the highly sculpted approach to the exterior with powerful
forms and a highly ergonomic driver’s cockpit.
The cabin follows the “Human Oriented” element of Lexus’ L-finesse design,
presenting a dashboard divided between an upper display zone and lower operation
zone - a format perfected in successive generations of Lexus models. This
enables intuitive interaction with the concept vehicle’s next generation
technology, including touch-sensitive electrostatic switches and a new touchpad
Remote Touch Interface design. Ease of use is further supported by an adjustable
driver’s armrest (well that’s an earth shattering development).
The center console extends the full length of the cabin, bisecting the rear
seats. Its bright, brushed metal finish has also been applied to the main
instrument meters, the steer wheel, seat structure and overhead console.
The concept’s status as a premium crossover is reinforced by carved metal
surfacing around the interior, sophisticated blue instrument lighting and yellow
and black leather upholstery with contrast stitching.
Despite all that waffle, it is quite frankly, dreadfully fugly.
Where does Williams F1 get its money to stay in business?
The Williams Group holding company (WGPH) has released its
six monthly financial report.
The Formula One business recorded a turnover of £43.5m, closely matching the
half year turnover for 2012 of £43.4m. Williams Advanced Engineering, the
division of the Group that commercializes Formula One derived intellectual
property and know-how, recorded a lower turnover of £11.2m (2012: £20.2m). The
decline in turnover for Williams Advanced Engineering is due to a reduction in
pass-through contracting work.
Overall Group turnover stands at £57.7m (2012: £64.9m). The results of the
investment businesses, Williams Hybrid Power and Williams Technology Centre,
Qatar, are progressing as expected and are in line with the board’s long-term
Speaking about the results, Founder and Team Principal Sir Frank Williams said,
“Whilst the 2013 Formula One season has not brought the sort of results expected
of a team with our history and pedigree, these half year financial results show
that we are well placed to make progress with our business on all fronts.
“We have made strong personnel changes this year that will aid in returning us
to winning ways. Pat Symonds is the new Chief Technical Officer, who brings
unrivalled technical and leadership skills in addition to a proven ability to
deliver on track results. We have also announced a long term engine partnership
with Mercedes. The Williams F1 Team also announced a total of nine new
sponsorship acquisitions, renewals and upgrades for 2013, with a strong pipeline
of potential sponsors in place for 2014.”
Group Chief Executive Officer Mike O’Driscoll said, “Williams Advanced
Engineering’s profitability is up and it has enjoyed a strong start to 2013,
recently announcing exciting new projects with Nissan’s Nismo brand to build
high performance vehicles and the F.I.A. Formula E Championship where we will
supply the battery hybrid systems for all 42 cars next season.”
So Williams F1 may be down, but not out!
Jaguar releases details on its C-X17
Another release at the Frankfurt show was Jaguar’s small car
and a cross-over, currently known as the C-X17. The development of this car is
to meet the BMW X3 Series niche in the marketplace.
What the vehicles will be called is still up in the air, though we know Jaguar
has registered “XQ” and “Q-Type” with the European Union’s trademark agency. It
is thought that the new sedan is likely to be called the XQ while the crossover
should get the Q-Type.
Both models will be built on the iQ[Al] platform, a scaled down version of the
Range Rover SUV underpinning. It is light but also extremely stiff. It has also
been designed to use diesel, plug-in hybrid and even battery-powered electric
Jaguar’s latest all-wheel-drive system for the C-X17 continuously monitors grip
levels and driver inputs and uses feed-forward torque distribution to both
pre-empt and react to wheel-slip.
The C-X17 styling comes from Jaguar Land Rover design chief Ian Callum, the man
responsible for the original Aston Martin Vanquish and contemporary Jaguars like
the F-Type sports car.