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Vol. XII No.22 - Sunday November 3 - Saturday November 16, 2013


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Update by Saichon Paewsoongnern
 
 
 
Automania by Dr. Iain Corness
 

Abu Dhabi GP this weekend

Abu Dhabi

The Abu Dhabi Yas Marina grand prix circuit hosts the GP this weekend. Abu Dhabi is the most oil-rich in the region and the 5.55 kilometer Yas Marina Circuit has been built using the motorists’ money, extracted at the petrol pumps. Roll on electric power! It was also one of the most boring race tracks and has been universally christened ‘Yawn’ Marina.
Located on Yas Island, the PR blurb said the track was set to revolutionize the design of future Formula One circuits. Boasting top speeds of 320 km/h and average speeds of 198 km/h, it features nine right turns and 11 left turns and is one of the few venues on the calendar to run in an anti-clockwise direction.
It was designed by circuit architect Hermann Tilke (so need I say more?), and Yas Marina has a waterfront setting scenic enough to rival the likes of Monaco and Valencia, complete with a hotel that even changes color, but was just as boring as that former pair of venues.
All of the grandstands, including the massive hairpin seating area, are covered to protect spectators from the desert sun, whilst the state-of-the-art pit building boasts 40 garages.
As well as the waterside marina area, there are high-speed sections, tight corners for overtaking, and even a twisty street circuit-style sector. However, none of this prevents Yas (Yawn) Marina from being boring if the F1 cars cannot pass each other.
The race will start at 8 p.m. our time Sunday (also 8 p.m. Saturday for Qualifying).


Back to the future

New Caterham-7 clone.

Caterham Cars (builder of the Lotus 7 clones) has opened the order book for the Seven 165 - its new entry-level variant of the iconic sports car, powered by a very-compact, turbocharged Suzuki engine.
Priced from €19,995 (+ local taxes), the car’s live-axle rear suspension, compact engine and low weight embody the pioneering spirit of early Sevens and represent a new entry-point to the Seven range.
The Seven 165 - UK customers will get a different version, called 160 - produces 80 hp from its 660 cc, three cylinder, turbocharged engine, enabling it to accelerate to 100 kph in a brisk 6.9 seconds and on to a top speed of 161 kph. (That is what the Caterham PR handout said, but I consider 6.9 and 161 kph rather slow, to be honest.)
With fleet-of-foot charm and handling finesse, rather than outright performance dictating the driving experience, the new car redefines the budget sports car segment while introducing new levels of efficiency and value for money to the Caterham range.
Caterham Cars CEO, Graham Macdonald, said, “As the Caterham Group as a whole grows and expands into new sectors and industries, our commitment to keep evolving the Seven is very much alive.
“The 165 offers something truly different to the entry-level market. It’s more economical, more accessible and every bit as fun on the road as other Sevens but has its own unique personality.”
The new rear axle, a throwback to early Sevens in terms of simplicity and purity of design, complements the Suzuki Motor Corporation engine and lower overall body weight, while delivering Caterham’s acclaimed, intuitive handling experience and a balanced yet playful chassis.
To meet the desired performance criteria, the Caterham Group’s engineering consultancy, Caterham Technology & Innovation (CTI), fine-tuned engine performance from its standard output of 64 hp to 80 hp, while boosting fuel economy and reducing vehicle emissions. The vehicle conforms to EU5, EU6 and JC08 emissions regulations.
Macdonald continued, “The engineering challenges we faced when developing the new vehicle were significant. The engine, suspension and the overall dynamics all needed to work in harmony and the various arms of the Group have been successful in pooling facilities and expertise to achieve that.”


Latest Smart version is electric

Not so Smart.

Mercedes-Benz’s tiny Smart city car is the champion European money-muncher of all time, and electric cars are likely to be the next big loser, according to a report from Bernstein Research in London.
The little two-seat Smart has lost a total of about $4.6 billion over the lifetime of the project. That’s the equivalent of $6,100 per car, Bernstein analyst Max Warburton said in a report, published at the same time as a survey from Foster City, California-based CarInsurance.com pointed to the Smart as the most embarrassing car to be seen in.
“Our guess for the (future) most likely failures? We’d argue electric cars - from Renault to VW to BMW - look likely to qualify. Electric vehicle evangelists seem to be enjoying a Tesla-powered rush of blood to the head, after the American company’s sales success,” Warburton said.
Renault of France has committed to spending $5 billion to produce a range of electric cars, and once said global sales of battery-only vehicles would reach 10 percent of global sales by 2020.
“But we’re not convinced that these European electric products can make money - in fact for the ones with big volume hopes like Renault, they have the potential to lose a huge amount,” Warburton said.
Warburton compiled a top 10 of losers, with reasons for their failure.
The Smart, which started life as an idea from Swatch Swiss watches rejected by VW, was too expensive to build and sales never reached high enough during its first iteration. The semi-automatic gear box was a clunker too.
“We’re not convinced the current one makes money either, even with all its fixed costs written off,” Warburton said.
Mercedes is now collaborating with Renault to make small cars more efficiently.
After the Smart came the Fiat Stilo, which lost $2.9 billion and $3,700 each time one was sold. Fiat’s sales goals for the Stilo - beat the biggest selling VW Golf - were never met. Production was established for 400,000 Stilos a year but only reached about 180,000 a year in 2002 and 2003.
3) VW Phaeton - total $2.7 billion - $38,000 a car. Tried to match Mercedes without the brand power. A new Phaeton is coming. Some people never learn!
4) Peugeot 1007 - $2.6 billion - $21,000 a car. Small car with rear sliding doors.
5) Mercedes A class - $2.3 billion - $2,000 a car. Failed the “elk-test”, toppling over in Sweden during lane-changing test which destroyed both car and sales of it.
6) Bugatti Veyron - $2.2 billion - $6.2 million a car. VW owns Bugatti. “R&D costs to rival Concorde”. Total sales so far 369, with most in the Middle East.
7) Jaguar X-Type - $2.3 billion - $6,350 per car. Small Jaguar based on parent company Ford Mondeo. Lost out because it was seen as a Ford-based luxury car. Silk purse from a sow’s ear comes to mind.
8) Renault Laguna - $2.1 billion - $4,800 per car. Big car charged with competing with the German premium manufacturers, but failed.
9) Audi A2 - $1.8 billion - $10,200 per car. Small car, expensive aluminum body.
10) Renault Vel Satis - $1.6 billion - $25,400 per car. Another failed attempt to move upmarket.


What did we learn from the Indian GP?

Well, we confirmed that Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) has been the class act all year and is now the youngest driver to win the World Championship four times. Undoubtedly the quickest driver in the quickest car, an unbeatable combination. I just wish he would stop using the extended digit. It makes him look very arrogant, and apparently he is not, but is certainly sending the wrong message to the fans.
His retiring team mate, Mark Webber had once more an alternator failure and scored yet another DNF. Red Bull has been able to produce an ultra-reliable car for Vettel, and a bucket of bolts for Webber. Or does Helmut Marko have a special remote control with a red button for Webber?
Despite Vettel’s win and consequently wrapping up the championship, the driver of the day was Romain Grosjean (“Lotus”) who started on grid 17 after a misjudgment in the first round of qualifying. From 17 to third, was a superb finish, including passing his reluctant team mate Kimi Raikkonen, who is headed to Ferrari next year and looks as if he is already packed and standing in the airport with his plane ticket to Modena.
Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) had a good race and finished in second, eclipsing his much vaunted team mate Lewis Hamilton, who might find his salary envelope a little lighter next year.
The only man who could have slowed down Vettel’s drive to the championship was Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), but the Spaniard had a GP to forget. The race began badly for him, damaging his front wing rubbing against Webber, who had been pushed over by Raikkonen. Since the regulations allow wings as wide as the front track, they are totally vulnerable. If the FIA could come up with logical regulations (which they have shown they seem unable to do) they should limit the width of the wing so that it is inside the wheels at the front. But that would be too easy.
Alonso’s team mate, Felipe Massa, who has been dumped by Ferrari for 2014, is showing an amazing resurgence of form, out-qualifying Alonso (again) and finishing fourth to Alonso’s 11th. He will be an asset to any team that picks him up, and he is another who is in line for Raikkonen’s “Lotus” seat.
The air quality at the Buddh circuit was incredibly poor. Towards the end, I thought they might have to fit fog lights, the visibility was so bad. Not a good advert for their country.
Finally, F1 racing has become farcical following the FIA’s intervention with regulations to ‘spice up’ the racing with tyres having a short life, making the drivers come in for pit stops. At the Indian GP, some drivers were coming in after two laps! This is nonsense. Pirelli, the suppliers, had been recommending teams restrict running on the soft tyre to 15 laps and the medium (prime) to just 35. This is the first time the company has openly recommended restricting running on its tyres, and having been forced to change its tyre construction mid-season and have the FIA enforce recommendations surrounding tyre swapping (where teams were running tyres on the opposite side of the car to what they were designed for), the news has certainly not done Pirelli’s reputation any good at all. If I were Pirelli, I would not be supplying tyres for 2014.


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Abu Dhabi GP this weekend

Back to the future

Latest Smart version is electric

What did we learn from the Indian GP?

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