US GP this weekend
The final three Grands Prix for 2014 are in count down. With double points for
the last GP that makes 100 points up for grabs. The only players still left in
the game are the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Rosberg. With Hamilton’s current
form, he has to be the favorite, but with 100 points lying on the table,
anything could happen.
This will be the third F1 GP at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA). The circuit
is 5.5 km long and is made up of twenty turns with an elevation change of 41 m.
According to COTA, the final plan of the circuit was released on September 1,
2010, showing a design inspired by the European tradition of sculpting the
circuit to the contours of the land. The design draws from several European F1
circuits, including a recreation of Silverstone’s Maggotts-Becketts-Chapel
sequence, Hockenheim’s arena bends, and a replica of Istanbul’s Turn Eight.
Other corners were loosely inspired by the Senna ‘S’ at Interlagos and the
Österreichring’s Sebring-Auspuffkurve. A feature of the circuit is a deliberate
widening of corners, to encourage drivers to follow multiple racing lines, which
did seem to work in last year’s GP.
The circuit runs counter-clockwise, the others being Marina Bay, the Korea
International Circuit, Yas Marina, and Interlagos.
From the start line, the cars will climb to the first corner - the highest point
of the circuit - with the apex of the corner positioned on the crest of the
hill. They will descend back down the hill to navigate a series of fast sweepers
modeled on Silverstone’s Maggotts-Becketts-Chapel complex and through a blind
corner at Turn 10, taking them to the far end of the circuit and a hairpin at
Turn 11. The cars will then follow a 1.00 km straight back towards the pit and
paddock area before entering the final sector of the lap and weaving through a
series of corners modeled on Hockenheim’s stadium section. This will be followed
by a downhill, multi-apex corner with limited run-off before the final two
corners of the circuit, a pair of left-hand bends that return the cars to the
Despite influences by Herr Tilke, the circuit did see passing last year.
Unfortunately, with the time differential between Texas and ourselves here in
Thailand, the US GP, at the Circuit of the Americas (AKA COTA), kicks off at 3
a.m. our time. Even the most hardy of us have drawn the line at this one. 3 a.m.
is just too late to be sitting down to watch the GP, so we will be looking to
the internet the next morning, just as you will.
Tesla’s extended warranty
Long warranties are becoming the name of the automotive game
these days. Hyundai in Australia is now offering a seven year warranty - brave?
Foolhardy? Or just complete confidence in the product?
However, Tesla is now on the bandwagon with a selected component eight year
warranty! Tesla boss Elon Musk reporting on his blog, “The Tesla Model S drive
unit warranty has been increased to match that of the battery pack. That means
the 85 kWh Model S, our most popular model by far, now has an 8 year, infinite
mile warranty on both the battery pack and drive unit. There is also no limit on
the number of owners during the warranty period.
“Moreover, the warranty extension will apply retroactively to all Model S
vehicles ever produced. In hindsight, this should have been our policy from the
beginning of the Model S program. If we truly believe that electric motors are
fundamentally more reliable than gasoline engines, with far fewer moving parts
and no oily residue or combustion byproducts to gum up the works, then our
warranty policy should reflect that.
“To investors in Tesla, I must acknowledge that this will have a moderately
negative effect on Tesla earnings in the short term, as our warranty reserves
will necessarily have to increase above current levels. This is amplified by the
fact that we are doing so retroactively, not just for new customers. However, by
doing the right thing for Tesla vehicle owners at this early stage of our
company, I am confident that it will work out well in the long term.”
Whilst this looks very good for Tesla owners, on paper, the resale value of a
nine year old Tesla just went through the floor!
How to recognize a “classic”
There is always debate on what makes for a “classic” motor car.
A couple of years back I was approached by someone trying to work out how many
classics there were here in fun-town. My reply was, “Not many” as you very
rarely see any vehicle with classic history or pedigree sitting at the side of
the road, and a quick query amongst the monthly car club natter night
enthusiasts revealed that very few of them owned anything which, in my opinion,
were classics. The Honda Jazz, whilst being a great little car, is hardly a
For me, a classic is a car which has had significant impact on motoring history.
It is also a vehicle which has been out of production for a number of years, so
that the manufacturer’s advertizing claims and slogans have been forgotten.
“Safety Fast” was on all the brochures about MG cars, but when you think about
it, very few were ‘fast’ and even fewer were ‘safe’.
I believe there is a tendency in countries such as Thailand to confuse ‘old’ and
‘classic’. For example, Fiat must have sold very well in the late 1950’s and
early 1960’s judging by the number of battered old Fiat 1100’s that are still
around. Some of these are now half a century old - but does that make them a
MGB’s were a very successful mass-produced sports car that brought open-top
motoring to the masses in a way that the Triumph TR series did not. So according
to my definition fit into the classic category. However, what do you make of
this MGB? Goes nicely, but doesn’t quite sound the part. Why? Because it has a
Toyota Corolla engine in it too. Can we call this MGB/Corolla a classic? I know
what I think, what do you think?
My feeling is this, if we allow this in as a classic, then we have to allow
anything that looks like a classic in to the category. Bugatti T35’s built on a
VW platform spring to mind immediately, but we don’t have to go that exotic.
What about the thousands of 351 Cobra replicas? A 351 Cobra is most certainly a
classic, but is a ‘new’ one a classic too?
Another classic that has spawned whole generations of clones is the Lotus 7, and
in particular, the Super 7. An instantly recognizable vehicle which has
influenced automotive design for 40 years. According to any definition, the
Super 7 has to be a classic. But what about the Caterham? A newer and better
Super 7 without a doubt, but it is a copy of the original design. Can we call it
a classic too?
Unfortunately we haven’t got many Caterhams or Cobra replicas down here, so the
debate continues but quietly. However, let me loose in a Caterham/Cobra at the
Prince Bira circuit and it won’t be quietly, I can assure you!
For interest, here are some of my entries for a classic car category: 1973
Porsche RS Carrera (the forerunner of the ultimate Porsches), 1964 Mustang 289
V8 (the first of the really powerful Mustangs), 1966 Morris Cooper S (the first
of the mass market pocket rockets), 1946 MG TC (first introduced sports cars for
the masses to America - but ‘safety fast’?), 1958 Ferrari LM 250 (what a shape,
what a noise, what a car), 1936 Cord 810 (classic Gordon Buerhig design with the
coffin nose and hydraulic shifter), 1931 Mercedes SSKL (the first road car you
could race and win) and the 1955 Citroen 2CV complete with canvas seats (First
car made from roofing iron!).
Of course there’s lots more, but there are not too many in Thailand, I’m afraid
(though there used to be a V8 Tatra in Chiang Mai).
An optimist is someone who brings their lunch to work?
The latest figures from our local auto industry are not encouraging. The
Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) has reported that the Year On Year figures
for September showed a fall of 15.6 percent.
Domestic car sales fell by almost 28 percent, reflecting the general downturn in
the community coffers. Exports also fell in that 12 month period by 18 percent.
Some of the reasons put forward by the FTI include lower farm prices, weak
domestic consumption, tightening up of loan criteria, poor economic outlook of
neighboring ASEAN countries, a decreased demand for pick-ups in Australia and
increased competition from cheaper Eastern European vehicles, coupled with a
very slow global economic recovery.
It would look that the Thai auto manufacturing industry will need to promote the
products very heavily in the ASEAN group, in the hope that the institution of
the AEC will stimulate their economies.
But on the other side of the coin
News just to hand from the Thai Board of Investment (BOI), five manufacturers
have been given the nod to progress with the eco 2 program. These include Ford
and GM, Nissan, Mitsubishi and Toyota. Notably the future presence of VW that
everyone though would be producing a Polo sized light car for the eco 2, is not
Thailand aims to achieve annual motor vehicle production of three millions units
by 2015. The projects announced under the eco 2 program so far are expected to
add a further 800,000 vehicles from 2019.
The five manufacturers receive tax concessions in return for the commitment to
invest in expanded manufacturing facilities in Thailand.
Ford and GM’s investment plans are for about THB 1.8 Bn and THB 1.2 Bn
According to the Thai BOI announcement, Ford plans to boost the output of its
Rayong manufacturing plant by 180,000 vehicles a year, while also adding
production capacity for 2000 engines a year.
Ford already builds products such as the Fiesta, Focus, Ranger and - soon -
Everest SUV in Thailand, exporting them to Australia and other countries.
The third-generation Ford Ka five-door hatch and four-door sedan that went into
production in Brazil earlier this year could be a prospect for the new Ford
plant, with speculations that Ka production will be extended to Thailand, China
So, despite the FTI gloom, doom and disaster, the big players look to making hay
while the sun still shines.