Make Chiangmai Mail | your Homepage | Bookmark

Chiangmai 's First English Language Newspaper

Pattaya Blatt | Pattaya Mail | Pattaya Mail TV

 
 
Automania by Dr. Iain Corness
 

Japan GP this weekend

Suzuka Circuit

One of the greatest tracks used in Formula One today, Japan’s Suzuka circuit is a massive test of car and driver ability. Built by Honda as a test facility in 1962, the track was designed by Dutchman John Hugenholz, the Hermann Tilke of his day (but don’t let that put you off). A huge theme park was also constructed at the track, including the famous big wheel which dominates the Suzuka skyline.
At Suzuka the race has provided the scene for many nail-biting end-of-season deciders, including the infamous collisions involving Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna. This week, will it be Pastor Maldonado, Romain Grosjean, or Felipe Massa in the colliding business? Put your money on Maldonado!
Suzuka includes some of the Grand Prix calendar’s most challenging corners. Among the drivers’ favorites are the high-speed 130R taken at over 300 km/h and the famous Spoon Curve taken at 140 km/h on the way in and at 180 km/h coming out.
With the results from Singapore still in everybody’s minds, will Suzuka be a firecracker or a fizzer? With a circuit that encourages passing, it would have to be a better race than Singapore, and I don’t care how many “celebrities” Bernie invited.
Now, important - with the time differential between here and Japan, the race on Sunday starts at 1 p.m. Thai time. Qualifying on the Saturday is 12 noon.


New M3 another winner for BMW - other than exhaust sound

New M3

According to those testers who have driven the latest model M3, the straight six twin turbo model does not have the evocative sound of its predecessors - the naturally aspirated straight sixes and the recent 4.0 liter V8.
The engine is a 3.0 liter unit with two single-scroll turbos, variable valve lift and timing and direct fuel injection developing 317 kW/550 Nm output. Fuel consumption is 8.3 L/100 km.
The final drive is an ‘active’ multi plate differential that acts like torque vectoring ensuring the rear end remains stable.
The transmission itself is a seven speed dual-clutch MDCT unit with small increments between gears to give a relative close ratio effect.
Much of the drive feel in the new M3 is even better than before. It is certainly the fastest and quickest M3 ever with a zero to 100 km/h of around 4 seconds.
Though its sounds bad, the M3 is unreal to drive offering incredible cornering, steering, braking, grip and acceleration.
The suspension settings can be from comfortable ranging up to firm depending on driver selections and the car itself is crammed with luxury kit, safety and driver assist features - it is after all the top 3-Series.
So, other than the exhaust note, there is not much to complain about with the new M3. And the price tag, which will be also the top 3-Series!


A “tiring” situation in F1?

There is a strong sentiment amongst the F1 spectators that, “It’s all artificial and nothing to do with driver skill.” That was in an email from a regular F1 viewer.
Unfortunately, for the past few years the F1 races have become processional. So processional that the FIA even commissioned an “Overtaking Working Group” to work out what could be done. For the first couple of years they did not do much. Grooved tyres were thrown out and slicks brought back - and that did nothing. Wings at the rear were made smaller, and that didn’t work. Wings at the front were made smaller and raised up from track level. That did nothing as far as overtaking was concerned, but it did bring a rash of muttering about wing flexibility at speed. This resulted in front wings that are so strong they could lift an elephant with one. But still there was no overtaking.
Three factors have been introduced - tyres, DRS (Drag Reduction System) and KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System).
One ex-F1 racer, Jean Alesi is in no doubt as to the relative importance of each one of these three factors. “As I see it, the biggest impact is clearly the tyres,” said Alesi. “Towards the end of the race things get really intense, creating some very exciting and unpredictable racing. I’m not the biggest fan of the way the DRS is working. In principle I think the idea is great, but I’m not convinced about the implementation. As for KERS (the power-boost system), it doesn’t really work for me, but let’s see what unfolds.”
So now look at the tyre situation. The Pirelli tyres are quite different in their wear characteristics, with rapid wear compounds, which also hang on well for around 10 laps and then deteriorate so rapidly some drivers described the feeling like “falling off a cliff”. What this has meant is that the driver has had to think more about keeping his tyres in good shape and the strategist in the pit lane has to juggle more variables. Get them right and you have an advantage. Get them wrong and you have a driver struggling on unsuitable tyres, but not enough time to pop into the pits for a change of rubber before the race ends.
Now, there are those who are criticizing the Drag Reduction System (DRS) which works by opening up the rear wing to decrease drag and downforce going down the straight. This allows a slipstreaming car a better chance of passing the lead car. This has resulted in more passing and repassing, but the critics say this is “artificial” too. The situation actually reminds me of Formula Ford tactics, where nobody wants to be the lead car entering the final lap as you will be slipstreamed and then beaten every time. However, I would like to see a broad yellow line on the track to show us viewers just where the DRS can be activated. It is a bit confusing at present.
The final item which is supposed to spice up the racing is the KERS button. The energy recovered during braking is stored for use to give a big boost when the driver pushes the button. At the start, it is sensational, launching the car past any other driver who does not have a fully charged KERS, or whose KERS is not working. So the three factors of tyres, DRS and KERS have made the race results more artificial. The more clever drivers and teams are working out just how to use those three factors to their advantage, just as previously drivers used to work out where and how to attack.


Local AAT to supply Australia with new Mazda2

New Mazda2

The fourth-generation Mazda2 went into mass production at the Auto Alliance Thailand (AAT) plant, which is jointly operated with Ford, at Rayong, with all of the initial output destined for Australia for November delivery.
The new model has Mazda’s SkyActiv engine, transmission and chassis technology.
With a market share of more than nine percent, Mazda Australia has one of the highest market penetrations in the Mazda world. Its Mazda2 fares even better, currently holding a 12.8 percent share of the light car segment.
Once the Thai plant has fulfilled initial Australian orders, it will start producing cars for other markets in the ASEAN group and Oceania.
Mazda’s president Masamichi Kogai said putting a new model into production at three different plants around the world in quick succession was a “huge and challenging task. We call Hofu plant in Japan the ‘mother plant,’ and we are committed to ensuring that vehicles produced in Thailand and Mexico, for our customers around the world, are built to the same high quality standards as those in Japan,” he said.
Mazda’s BT-50 pick-up is also produced at the AAT plant, as is Ford’s Ranger pick-up, Fiesta light car and Focus small car.


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Japan GP this weekend

New M3 another winner for BMW - other than exhaust sound

A “tiring” situation in F1?

Local AAT to supply Australia with new Mazda2