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Automania by Dr. Iain Corness
 

Kubica commits to 2014 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC)

Robert Kubica.

Robert Kubica (pronounced “Koo-bit-sa”) and his long-term sponsor, Lotos, have announced their plans for the World Rally Championship (WRC). The Pole will contest all 13 rounds of next season’s championship with a Lotos-supported Ford Fiesta RS WRC.
Following some inspiring performances in 2013, M-Sport were eager to see Kubica progress his career within the team. The Pole’s dominant display in this year’s WRC 2 series saw him burst onto the world stage in style, and M-Sport will provide him with a great platform from which to advance his career at the sport’s highest level.
Having won five of his seven WRC 2 events this year, there is no doubting Kubica’s speed and skill behind the wheel of a rally car, but it is the WRC 2 Champion’s ambition and determination which makes him an ideal candidate for the M-Sport squad.
Having made his WRC world rally car debut at the seasons closing round in Wales last month, Kubica is keen to develop and build on his experience at rallying’s highest league.
Contesting all 13 rounds of next season’s championship, there will be a number of new experiences for the 29 year old including the specialist stages of Sweden’s snow-covered countryside and the high-altitudes and soaring temperatures of the Americas.
Of course, there are few drivers who possess the former Formula One driver’s desire to succeed, following his disastrous crash which almost amputated his hand, and now armed with the Fiesta RS WRC, the WRC community should prepare for the coming of Kubica.


Renault announces joint venture with Dongfeng

The Mighty Dong Feng.

Carlos Ghosn, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Renault, and Xu Ping, Chairman of Dongfeng Motor, have signed a contract for the creation of a new joint venture company for localized production in China to be called Dongfeng Renault Automotive Company (DRAC). The final approval by the National Development and Reform Commission of China (NDRC) was granted on 2 December 2013.
This interested me since I actually own a Dong Feng! A Dong Feng Mini Truck with the large 1.1 liter engine! Now I did not buy this vehicle to use as a daily driver, but it does transport all the gear, fuel, spare wheels, tools, etc., for the race car, which is quite a load, and the 1.1 liters seems totally adequate. Now I don’t think I’d like to drive it to Bangkok, but for around town, it is excellent.
Back to Renault getting into bed with my Dong Feng. The Dongfeng-Renault joint venture will start producing vehicles in 2016. The new plant will have an initial production capacity of 150,000 vehicles per year, with the potential for double that in the near future.
DRAC’s product plan will begin with a new range of crossover vehicles under the Renault brand. At a later stage, the new joint venture will introduce a range of products under a local brand. Sales of locally produced vehicles will start in 2016.
The Renault brand is already in the Chinese market with the imported cars such as Koleos and Fluence. With the Chinese new car market being now the world’s largest, this JV provides a significant new growth opportunity for Renault.
DFG chairman Xu Ping said, “The launching of the Dongfeng Renault project symbolizes the start of a comprehensive cooperation between DFG and the Renault-Nissan Alliance. The project is a creative endeavor and practice in business model under economical globalization trends. It is a vital milestone for DFG’s self-dependent development in opening process. We expect Dongfeng Renault will bring fascinating products and customer satisfactions for the China auto market. We expect the success of Dongfeng Renault.”
Carlos Ghosn, Chairman and CEO of Renault agreed, saying, “Dongfeng and Renault, as parent companies of DRAC, have been closely working together to ensure the future success of DRAC. Our partnership agreement is part of a long term strategy. The challenge is big and we are ready for it.”
What with Nissan and now Dong Feng, Carlos Ghosn seems ready for any suggestions. Perhaps he might like to take over General Motors Holden in Australia?


Are you driving a deadly vehicle?

Came across an article by an American commentator comparing driver fatalities in differing vehicles. He based the article on the records from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) to compile and organize the statistics for crash deaths and the vehicles, but they are not current, covering model-year automobiles up to 2008.
The auto safety agency ran the stats on all vehicles with 100,000 registrations or more between 2006 and 2009, counting only the deaths of the driver (not passengers) in their statistics. In the end, the IIHS calculated a ratio of “driver death per million registered vehicles.”
Now, before reading further, note that these are figures for America, not Thailand, and there can be differences in manufacturing design for similar models that were purchased or manufactured here. Some of the models were also not sold in Thailand so I have omitted them.
Number 10 on the list was the Chevy Colorado Extended Cab. The majority of deaths (54 per million) were the result of crashes involving no other vehicle.
Number 8 was the Hyundai Tiburon, and there are a few of these kicking around here. Tiburon from model years 2005 through 2008 led to 96 fatalities per million registrations. Some 63 deaths per million registrations involved single-vehicle crashes for drivers of the two-door Tiburon.
Number 5 was the Nissan Titan 2WD extended cab pickup from models years 2005 through 2008. For every million registrations of the vehicle, 111 drivers met their deaths behind the wheel of a Titan, with a wide majority (77 per million registrations) occurring in single-vehicle crashes.
Number 3 was the Chevy Aveo four door. The IIHS determined there were 119 driver deaths per million car registrations, split evenly between multiple-vehicle crashes and single-vehicle accidents. The study also showed that smaller cars were the most dangerous for drivers, with the exception of poorly designed pickups. SUVs composed the safest class of all.
Number 1 in the IIHS list was the two-door Nissan 350Z from model year 2005 to 2008. 143 deaths per million registrations were recorded for the Nissan 350Z drivers during the study period, with 90 deaths per million registrations occurring in single-vehicle crashes.
Although these figures are not totally relevant, what the statistics do show is that in an accidents you are better off in large vehicles (especially SUV’s) rather than small cars. With our surge in small eco-car sales in the past two years, will we see an increased number of deaths in accidents? My gut feeling is yes.


Bumper bars?

Have you noticed just how today’s bumper bars just fall off the vehicles they are supposed to protect from minor bumps? Come on, that’s why they were called “bumper bars” in the first place. So, how many cars have you seen recently with tape holding the bumper bar in position, both front and rear bars? Lots, is the answer.
Of course, that is referring to new or nearly new cars. Old cars had two dumb irons out the front, attached to which was something about the size of a piece of railway line, but it was chromed. It was bolted in place and it took three days soaking in oil before you could get the nuts to move. Those were real “bumper bars” made of steel, none of this newfangled plastic stuff.
And when you think about it, just how much use is the thermoformed plastic as a bumper? About as useful as a hip pocket in a swim suit. The slightest “bump” when parking, and the retaining clips all fly off and the so-called “bumper” falls on the ground. In theory, if you could get some new clips, you should be able to affix said bumper back on the car, but like all good theories, they don’t always work in practice. New clips as a single item do not exist. They come with a new bumper, they tell me. And we were all led to believe that the new bumpers would be so much cheaper than repairing the old metal ones, with all that beating and rechroming. However, I must say that a new one is definitely quicker to replace - provided the clips came with it.
There is another problem relating to the modern bumper bar. As well as the thermoplastic thing, there is actually another metal bar inside it, spot welded to the body. In a decent sort of bump, the plastic bar does nothing other than deform, allowing contact with the metal structure underneath, which in turn squashes and bends the bodywork as well. There was something to be said about the old railway line held on with two big nut and bolts. It may not have been elegant, but it sure was practical.


Run over any bicycles recently?

Lately, the number of cyclists has been steadily rising, as have the accidents involving cyclists. Motorcycles have their headlights on during the day to make them more visible, but bicycles remain invisible.

Safer Bike riding.

I discovered this item for bicycles, called the Revolights City Wheels, possibly the safest bike lights in the world. The original innovative lighting technology is now permanently built into custom-designed wheels and is a significant step forward in improving safety for cyclists. With the current awareness and news surrounding cycle safety, the introduction of Revolights City Wheels is a great step forward.
Kent Frankovich, Co-Founder and Inventor of Revolights says, “With 360 degrees visibility and forward light projection, Revolights City Wheels provides a dramatic improvement for cycling safety over traditional bike lights. They require minimal installation and incorporate superb design, making Revolights accessible to even more riders.”
Richard Grigsby, Founder of Cyclescheme Ltd., says, “Revolights’ radically new approach to bicycle visibility is not only going to make night time riding much safer it’s going to get bikes noticed. That visibility will spawn thousands of conversations which will raise cycling’s profile in the wider community.”
Specifications:
Revolights CITY v2.0 riveted onto 30 mm deep double-wall wheels
Built with 14 g stainless steel spokes with silver brass nipples, laced to track hub
Front lights white, back lights red
Wheel size: 700 c / 622 mm
Tire Width: 18 - 25 mm tyres
Fork / Chainstay opening must be greater than 40 mm
Hub Dropouts: Front wheel - 100 mm. Single Speed - 120 mm. 8-10 gear ready wheel - 130 mm
Hub: Track wheelset - high walled, sealed bearing hub. Geared wheelset - Shimano compatible freehub wheel
Wheel Weight: Fixed Gear or Single Speed (Free Wheel) 850 gm. Geared 870 gm.
Battery life: 4 hours
Water resistant
Luminosity per wheel: 8 LEDs x 35 lumens each
Theft resistant


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Kubica commits to 2014 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC)

Renault announces joint venture with Dongfeng

Are you driving a deadly vehicle?

Bumper bars?

Run over any bicycles recently?