by Dr. Iain Corness
Silverstone for the British GP.
The British Grand Prix will be held this weekend at the ancestral home of F1,
with the first ever F1 GP held there in 1950 (and won by Dr Farina in the Alfa
Romeo, for the collectors of F1 history).
This is a circuit that the drivers universally like, a circuit that allows cars
to pass each other (even without the DRS and other buttons or coded messages
from the pit wall), and a Grand Prix where it is likely to rain at some point.
After all, it is in England, and they cannot possibly go three days on the trot
without a good drenching from above!
The “arena” part of the circuit was used for the first time a couple of years
back and goes from Abbey to Brooklands corners, moving infield and adds an extra
760 m to the track length. You will be heartened to read that Herr Tilke was not
involved. Interestingly, this modification was actually built for the MotoGP
series, but now incorporated in the F1 series after Bernie, the patron saint of
King Midas the Dwarf Enterprises, gave it his blessing. Yes, that is the same
Bernie who has masterminded such yawnfest circuits as Bahrain and Singapore. But
don’t start me.
So who should we look out for? Mercedes is still right up there, and Rosberg was
unlucky not to get pole in Austria. Hamilton will be trying for the win but if
Rosberg’s form is anything to go by, the two Mercedes drivers will be fighting
it out between themselves.
Ferrari will be all behind Vettel, whilst Raikkonen will be shown their behind.
The red cars could spring a few surprises this weekend.
Will the resurgent form of the Williams team of Bottas and Massa still be good
on this track as well as the Red Bull Ring? I believe they will.
And the Red Bull Team will be praying that from somewhere Renault can find more
power. I have a sneaking suspicion their prayers will not be answered!
All the tail end Charlies will be tripping over each other as usual, especially
with Maldonado in the mix. McLaren, fortunately won’t have that sort of a
problem as the car is not quick enough to catch the wobblers up front.
The Qualifying is at 7 p.m. on Saturday 5 and the race is 7 p.m. on Sunday 6
July. We watch the racing, on the big screen in Jameson’s Irish Pub, Soi AR,
next to Nova Park. We get there around 6 p.m. and have something to eat (the
Sunday roasts are great value) and a small drink or two before the start. Why
don’t you come and join us.
Quality? Try a Kia
KIA on the top of the tree.
Kia has climbed to second spot in the quality rankings, just behind luxury brand
Porsche. The quality of cars and trucks made by European, Korean and US
companies has improved so much in recent years that Japanese automakers, long
the industry standard, are having trouble keeping pace.
The latest survey on new vehicle quality by the J.D. Power consulting firm also
found that despite continued problems with entertainment and connectivity
systems, quality is starting to improve for the auto industry as a whole. For
the first time since 2012, buyers reported fewer problems in new cars and trucks
than the previous year.
“The cars being built, for the most part, are very good quality coming out of
the box,” said John Humphreys, senior vice president of J.D. Power.
The industry score went up because many companies improved existing models, and
the top companies did better with mechanical and infotainment quality of new
models, J.D. Power said.
The 2015 survey of more than 84,000 US car buyers in February and March found
that Porsche was once again the top brand for quality. Kia vaulted five spots to
take second place and its sister brand Hyundai finished fourth. Jaguar, in
third, and Infiniti rounded out the top five finishers in the survey, which
asked about problems in the first 90 days of ownership.
The worst-performing brands were Fiat, Smart, Chrysler, Subaru and Jeep. The car
owners all had 2015 models.
The Korean brands have been improving quality for years by bringing consumers
into the process as they design cars, especially with electronics, Humphreys
said. U.S. and European brands also improved. The Japanese brands raised their
overall score, but the rest of the industry improved at a faster rate, he said.
Korean brands led the industry with only 90 problems per 100 vehicles, 11 fewer
problems than last year. European brands followed at 113 problems, passing
Japanese brands for the first time. Japanese brands combined had 114 problems
per 100 vehicles, two better than last year. That tied with US brands, according
to the survey.
The industry average was 112 problems per vehicle, four better than last year.
For the first time in the 29 year history of the survey, Japanese brands fell
below the industry average. Only four of 10 Japanese brands in the study showed
“There’s a shift in terms of who is doing the best in terms of industry
leadership,” Humphreys said.
The shift, he said, is significant, because Japanese brands promote their
quality and reliability, but that advantage is eroding and the Japanese will
have to find another way to differentiate themselves.
The survey is the first major assessment of quality for 2015 vehicles, and it’s
closely watched by car shoppers. Consumer Reports magazine’s influential quality
study comes out in October and includes other years.
Among the findings: Porsche, which won for the third year in a row, had 80
problems per 100 vehicles. Fiat was last of 33 brands with 161. Infiniti climbed
18 spots to fifth in the rankings with 97 problems. The Chrysler brand fell 19
spots with 43 problems.
BMW wins Engine of the Year award
Ford Motor Company has won the International Engine of the Year award for the
last three years from Engine Technology International with its 1.0 liter
EcoBoost engine, but this year, BMW was declared the winner with its 1.5 liter
gasoline-hybrid powertrain used in the futuristic BMW i8.
The TwinPower turbo 1.5 liter three-cylinder engine produces 231 horsepower; and
when paired with the 129 horsepower electric motor that drives the front wheels,
total power output is claimed at 357 horsepower and 570 Nm of torque. As the
electric motor drives the car for up to 30 km of gasoline-free enjoyment, the 76
MPGe rating of the i8’s powerplant provides excellent fuel economy to go along
with the claimed 0-100 km/h time of 4.2 seconds.
Once the battery power is used up, the gasoline engine comes online to help the
i8 operate in hybrid mode, and recharges the battery at the same time. Charging
can also be carried out by plugging into a 24 V source. Recharging time is
around 90 minutes. The future is electric, even if it is not right now!
Physics be damned
I was taught that everything on this earth could be explained
by using simple physics. I was given tommy twaddle.
A couple of weeks ago we looked at Lucas fuel pumps and how to get them going
again with a bit of physical abuse. But another bit of engineering that defies
physical laws lies in the universal joints in the propeller shaft. A kind of
metal X with case-hardened caps filled with rollers. Despite all the greasing in
the world, these things would always seize up, and you had to pull it all apart.
Remember those days?
The owners manual made it look easy. (Those were the days when the manufacturer
actually allowed you to touch the car. These days your warranty would become
null and void and you would probably be subjected to some kind of exquisite
electro-torture. Tomorrow you will be shot if you open the bonnet.) But back to
the manual, plus pix of some chap in a dust coat. “Tap the yoke lightly and the
bearing will appear” was what the good book said. Not one solitary word as what
to do when the bearings didn’t appear - and they never did.
No, the tapping physical law does not exist. You have to get the biggest cold
chisel you can and split the casing, and by the time you have thoroughly
butchered it, then the bearing will appear - in bits. “Tap the yoke lightly”
indeed! Physics be damned!
The first SUV I have ever wanted
Last week I mentioned the Ford GT 40. I noted that the GT 40 show car of 2002
was legal, but GT 40s built subsequently would have been illegal. I asked why?
Hint: do not forget the legal 2002 car in your answer. This was a typical legal
hassle. A British company, Safir Engineering, who made continuation GT40s in the
1980s owned the GT40 trademark at that time, and when they completed production,
they sold the excess parts, tooling, design, and trademark to a small American
company called Safir GT40 Spares based in Ohio. Safir GT40 Spares licensed the
use of the GT40 trademark to Ford for the initial 2002 show car, but when Ford
decided to make the production vehicle, negotiations between the two failed, and
it was all over money! They wanted too much and FoMoCo said ‘stuffem’.
So to this week. What limousine had air suspension which raised it off the
ground when the engine was started. Clue: Think ‘massive’.
For the Automania free beer this week, be the first correct answer to email