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Update by Natrakorn Paewsoongnern
Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

Update June 24, 2017

Motor racing history – a brief snapshot


Colin Strang.

History is important, as without history there could be no today. Man has always been fascinated by self-propelled vehicles, with the earliest example being the steam tractor built by Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot for the French government in 1771. Not only did it carry a payload of 4 metric tonnes, but he, and it, are also remembered as having the first road accident when the esteemed Monsieur Cugnot lost control trying to break at 4 km/h and demolished a stone wall in the grounds of the Paris Arsenal.

Like most retrospectives, there is always an air of romanticism when you look back at the start of any new form of racing. Myth becomes a mixture of fact and fiction, and it should not be forgotten that motor racing itself is only just over 100 years old. The Gordon Bennett races, which were the first truly international events, became fact through the love of speed and competition that the motor car gave to mankind.

The drivers then were as colorful as the racing cars of today. The wild man of the turn of the century motoring, Camille Jenatzy, AKA The Red Devil (1868-1913) was the first man to exceed 65 mph in his electric car called La Jamais Contente and claimed the world land speed record. He also won the Gordon Bennett Trophy in 1903 in a stripped touring Mercedes. The event was held in Ireland over 320 miles and Jenatzy won at an average speed of 49.2 miles per hour! Not bad for 1903!

However, his career (and life) ended when he was shot in the Ardennes by his mate who mistook him for a wild boar (and I am sure he would have been fairly wild about that too). What an end! Shot in the Ardennes (that’s a forest, not part of his anatomy).

The heroes of those days remain in the collective minds of enthusiasts today. Louis Renault was a very well known driver in the early 1900s, who used the sport to publicize his cars. Something that continues to this day, with Fernando Alonso winning the world championship in 2006 aboard a Renault.

Even Henry Ford I owed his success to the Ford racers that he built, which in turn gave him enough credibility to raise the finance to build his first Model Ts. The great American race car driver Barney Oldfield was given his start in motor racing by the same Henry Ford. Ford had built two 18 litre monsters in 1902 and Barney Oldfield took over one, raced and won at the Grosse Point fairground. What was so remarkable about Barney Oldfield’s first race was that he had never driven a car before, only raced bicycles! Or so the legend has it. No, the affinity between man, machinery and the need for speed is part of the human psyche. We cannot ignore it.

However, for most people, up to and immediately after WW II, motor sport was a spectator sport. Only the rich could really indulge themselves in racing. The Bentley boys who were so successful at the Le Mans 24 Hour in the 1930s were not just rich. They were mega rich.

Even Thailand’s first international motor racing hero, Prince Bira (after whom the circuit and kart track outside Pattaya was named) was an aristocrat from the royal house of Siam. He was a prince and it was his cousin Prince Chula who was rich enough to be able to purchase a brand new ERA for his 21 year old cousin that set Prince Bira on the road (and track) to fame.

However, it was not till after the hostilities that motor sport began to become more affordable, as new types of home-built inexpensive race cars began to appear on the British and European tracks, most of which were disused airstrips left over from the war. The small 500 cc rear-engined lightweight cars began to have a strong following, but it was not the 500 cc Coopers that were driven by such notables as Sir Stirling Moss that were the trail-blazers. That honor belongs to a Colin Strang who in August 1946 won the Prescott Hill Climb in his home built Vincent-HRD Strang Special.

Affordable motor sport was just beginning, as the not-so-financial drivers wanted to have something to fill that need for speed. However, the next step probably owed as much to kids in their billy-carts as it did to pure motor sport.

For longer than there had been motor cars, there had been billy carts, some even drawn by billy goats (hence the name). In the UK and the USA these were also called soap-box carts. However, the need for speed begins in childhood, and unofficial races down hills were soon the norm in all communities.

Today, that need for speed is still there, and so are the gravity powered billy carts. In the UK, soap box derbies are still popular, such as the Red Bull race, held at the Goodwood Festival of Speed (is there anything that Red Bull doesn’t sponsor).

This extends even to the Hill Tribes in Northern Thailand. During the Hmong New Year celebrations, “race” carts fashioned from the wooden carts used for hauling produce are entered, where Hmong boys and men will race against members of the Lisu, Engor, and Muser hilltribes. These races are sponsored by the Royal Project Foundation, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), and also the Red Bull brand energy drink. (There really isn’t anywhere without Red Bull, is there?)

But what about children who lived in areas without hills? Enterprising fathers began by putting car starter motors on the wooden carts, along with a car battery. The electric powered cart was born, which amongst other things, gave birth to the go-kart (and the golf cart).

And of course, go-karts are where we once found Michael Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton and most of the other F1 drivers of today, some of which are sponsored by Red Bull, so we’re back to where we started.

The “auto” car explained


Mind the bike.

If you are a driving enthusiast, do not read any further. This article is heralding the death of driving as we know it. The world is getting ready to hand the control of the family car to the computer. You can no longer be trusted!

The technology that is now being offered, as far as anti-collision is concerned, has actually been developed over the last 10 years, but as the modern car becomes more electronic, it has become easier to incorporate the anti-collision technology into the car’s electronics.

Take electronic cruise control for example. This works through the Electronic Control Unit (ECU) and adapts the pre-set road speed to the fuel/air mixture the engine receives. As speed drops, increased fuel/air is called for and the car speeds up. And vice versa when the road speed exceeds the pre-set level. Going downhill, the ECU can even tell the brakes to apply light pressure to bring down and control the road speed.

So the vehicles have had the ECU ‘smarts’ for some time, and all that is needed is to hook an anti-collision system in with the cruise control ECU. The human anti-collision model relies on visual interpretation of the distance and previously stored knowledge of how much distance it will need to pull up from that speed. Some of us are better than others at this! There is also the problem that when you leave two car lengths to the car in front, that space is very quickly filled with two cars and several motorcycles!

To do this anti-collision calculation electronically is done by using a form of radar. The message comes back to the car to indicate that at the current road speed, there is not enough distance in which to pull up without ‘rear-ending’ the car in front. The ECU can then shut down the fuel/air and instead of just getting the brakes pre-charged, can now apply the brakes (independently from the driver) to slow the car enough to avoid the rear end collision.

Toyota have been developing their concept of this system, which is designed to not only stop rear end collisions, but to stop you running red lights as well (it will never be accepted in Thailand where running red lights is a national pastime).

The system detects other cars, street aids and passers-by as you drive and then sends a signal to the driver if it thinks that you will not be able to stop in time. The signals are received from transmitters placed in street signs, lights, other vehicles and hand held units for pedestrians. It could also go as far as to brake the car if it feels the driver hasn’t realized the lights are on red.

The above system relies on signals transmitted from traffic lights or even people, but there is another way. Bounce the signals back to the receiver unit. This type of system has been developed in the UK with the potential to make sophisticated reversing and anti-collision safety aids an affordable accessory for the mass market. I have similar with the Mobileye unit in my daily driver.

Old drivers and bold drivers


Max Verstappen.

It is well known in motor racing that there are old drivers and there are bold drivers – but there are no old bold drivers!

It is obvious with his daring style of driving that Max Verstappen is a bold driver. Round the outside of everybody into the first corner is almost his trade mark these days. You can vault yourself up the order with bold driving, but at what cost?

Ask four times champion Sebastian Vettel after Canada where Verstappen did another of his kamikaze maneuvers and took off the front wing of Vettel’s Ferrari.

Turning into Turn 1, Verstappen squeezed Vettel and made contact with his SF70H, breaking the front wing. The German was forced to pit for a new wing, dropping him down to 18th place. He recovered to finish P4.

“Unfortunately, our race was compromised right from the start, when Vettel’s car was damaged so he was no longer able to give it his best shot,” said Arrivabene, the Ferrari team manager.

It will be interesting to see if Verstappen can curb his natural aggression (he is after all still very young) to be able to progress to being an “old” driver. I just hope he doesn’t take out too many others on the way.

Autotrivia Quiz

Which Italian had a French car manufacturing business starting in Germany and had something in common with Alsatians? Too easy! It was Ettore Bugatti in Alsace Lorraine.

So to this week. What sports car lost its engine because the name was sold to another company?

For the Automania free beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected] or [email protected]. Good luck!

Update June 17, 2017

Tesla Model 3 is real but…

Tesla 3.

Tesla entry-level Model 3 has 399 plus km range and hit 100 km/h in 5.6 seconds.

Tesla has turned the automotive world on its ear with the Model S. Affirmation came from a source in Australia who had taken a Model S for a test run and came back stunned. But the price puts a Model S out of the reach of most enthusiasts.

Tesla has now confirmed that a cheaper entry-level Tesla, called the Model 3 is being built. The Model 3 measures in at 4684 mm – 294 mm shorter than its big brother, the Model S.

The pure-electric rival to the BMW 3 Series will also take only 5.6 seconds to reach 100 km/h but the biggest news is the confirmation the from the Tesla website that the Model 3 has a range of more than 300 km – about 40 km less than Model S P75.

Whilst the Model 3 is hardly the poor relation, the early information also reveals there will be significantly less choice when ordering the final specification of your car. While a Model S owner can have more than 1500 configurations at their fingertips there’s less than 100 possible ways to order your Model 3.

Finally, while there’s less than 30 days’ wait for a Model S in the US, Tesla admits you’ll have to wait more than 12 months for your Model 3 to arrive if you order today.

Tesla hasn’t released its list of ‘premium features’ for the Model 3 yet but they’re thought to include an advance air con filtration system, panoramic roof and larger wheels.

After the Model 3, Tesla plans to release a Model Y SUV, an all-electric delivery van, a large people mover and even, potentially, a pick-up.

Anyone for a racing SUV?

Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk.

Remember this name: the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk with a Dodge Hellcat-powered 527 kW engine. Someone may bring it in to Thailand, but with the current anti-supercar climate, don’t hold your breath.

Jeep says its 527 kW/874 Nm 6.2 liter supercharged V8 comes from the crazy Dodge Charger and Challenger SRT Hellcat muscle cars that will push its first Trackhawk model to 100 km/h in 3.6 seconds and on to a top speed of 290 km/h, making it the world’s quickest and most powerful SUV.

Can anybody tell me the reason to put that kind of performance into a supermarket soccer Mum sports utility vehicle?

It is quicker than the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S which I have driven and I felt that it was a stupid performance vehicle, and this “Jeep” is even quicker. What’s next? A four seat F1 car with a boot? Just as ridiculous a concept.

Has Honda lost its way entirely?

McLaren Honda engine.

Readers who follow Formula 1 will be aware of the plight of the McLaren team, saddled with a sadly underpowered and unreliable power plant from Honda. Ex World Champion Fernando Alonso has been dragging the McLaren all over the world, demonstrating its lack of performance at every meeting.

By giving the Monaco GP the swerve, Fernando scored a drive at the Indy 500 and acquitted himself well, until the engine failed. You guessed it, another Honda.

News today however, that Honda is going to join the autonomous circus with its own self-driving technology and we should see this on the streets around 2025. Considering that Tesla has already got the technology, Nissan likewise, and Ford and BMW set to release theirs by 2021, that puts Honda only about five years behind the rest of the world. Honda has a lot of catching up to do and not just on the race track.

Sedan market poor in the US

Detroit News did not see an improvement in the overall market, but dissection of some of the figures are interesting.

GM said its May sales fell 1.4 percent to 237,156 vehicles compared to the same month a year ago. The automaker said its car sales fell 11.5 percent year on year, while truck sales slipped 3.7 percent. Crossover sales increased 15 percent from the same month a year ago.

Meanwhile, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV reported a 0.9 percent drop in May over last year with sales of 193,040 vehicles. FCA saw mixed results across its lineup. Jeep sales dropped 14.7 percent, while Ram Trucks jumped 18.2 percent. The Chrysler brand sales dropped 1.8 percent, while Dodge rose 8.4 percent. Fiat sales dipped 15.8 percent.

Results across the rest of the industry were mixed, with Toyota, Hyundai and Kia posting sales declines and Volkswagen, Nissan and Honda seeing increases in May.

Some automakers and analysts have scaled back their expectations for the year, amid high inventory levels and incentives. LMC Automotive trimmed its forecast of retail sales this year to 13.9 million vehicles as it expects a slowdown to continue in the second half of the year. The company and J.D. Power said last month that on average, it was taking more than 70 days for vehicles to clear dealer lots for the first time since 2009.

Ford said it was sticking to its forecast of 17.7 million sales for 2017, including medium-duty and heavy-duty trucks. The automaker indicated that sales in the second half of last year were stronger than the first six months of the year. GM, however, indicated the sales pace is softer than what it had expected earlier in the year.

It is easy to see that traditional sedan sales are going down, whilst trucks, SUV’s and Cross-Overs are going up, but it should not be forgotten that numerically sedan sales are still the major seller in the USA.

BEV’s again

A couple of weeks ago, the Automotive Focus Group (AFG) invited Wanchai Meesiri, the Engineering and Service Director of Vera Automotive, to present his Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) to the members,

This project has been developing for the last five years designing everything including the different types of chargers, before settling on the Euro Type 2 plug.

Having the electric side of things under control, they then set about finding a manufacturer in Thailand who could give them a rolling platform for their BEV hardware, including induction electric motors and Lithium-ion batteries.

The Thai government expressed interest in BEV’s foretelling 1.2 million on the roads by 2036, with world figures showing an annual increase of 43 percent. But at last count in Thailand there were only 52 registered.

Vera continued to look for a local supplier of rolling platforms but could not get one. To continue with the Vera project, contact was made with China and Geely Automotive who agreed to supply rolling chassis and modify their basic platform to take the two batteries, cabling and drive shafts for the BEV. Ten prototypes have been built and these are being examined now. However, K. Wanchai was cool on questions regarding governmental assistance. China is the major player in the BEV stakes planning to have 5 million BEV’s on the road by 2020.

Memo to Honda

This item is over two years old and the statistics are interesting. Mountain View, Calif. (AP) - A car built by Google that drives itself around city streets had a brush with the law for driving too slowly.

A police officer in the tech giant’s Silicon Valley hometown pulled over the prototype car Thursday because it was going a traffic-tying 24 mph in a 35 mph zone.

The officer spoke with the person in the driver’s seat but issued no citation, according to the Mountain View Police Department. Though the car was driving itself, state law requires a person to be able to intervene when the technology is tested on public roads.

The officer wanted to “learn more about how the car was choosing speeds along certain roadways and to educate the operators about impeding traffic,” according to a department blog post.

The bubble-shaped prototype has two seats. Its top speed is 25 mph.

“Driving too slowly? Bet humans don’t get pulled over for that too often,” Google’s self-driving car project wrote in a blog post. It said the cars - outfitted with high-tech sensors and computing power - have never received a ticket.

Other self-driving cars that Google has been testing on California roads and highways were involved in 17 minor collisions since May 2010, according to the company. Google has said all the collisions were minor, were not caused by its cars, and happened over 2.2 million miles of testing, including nearly 1.3 million miles in self-driving mode.

Representatives of Google’s self-driving car project have said that in recent months they’ve been trying to program the vehicles to drive less like robots and more like people - in part to reduce the number of times they are hit by other drivers expecting certain driving behavior.

Mountain View police say they regularly meet with the tech giant to make sure the vehicles are operating safely.

Perhaps they should be meeting with Honda right now.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked what Italian car manufacturer built engines of 4, 6 and 9 cylinders? Clue WW1. It was Diatto, the 9 cylinder was obviously a radial engine used in planes in WW1. From 1905 the company built two and four cylinder cars based on the Clément-Bayard, a leading contemporary French manufacturer. By the 1920s, Diatto was making quality cars of its own design, including race cars with supercharged eight-cylinder engines. Diatto also supplied frames to Bugatti which used them for their own race cars. Some Diatto racers were prepared and raced by Alfieri Maserati who left Diatto in 1926 to establish the Maserati marque with his brothers. Diatto cars were known for their innovative engineering and as early as the 1920s they were equipped with four-wheel brakes and four-speed gearboxes.

Unhappily, Diatto ceased production in 1929.

So to this week. Which Italian had a French car manufacturing business starting in Germany and had something in common with Alsatians? Too easy!

For the Automania free beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected] or [email protected] Good luck!

Update June 10, 2017

This could be most expensive car in the world

The expensive roller.

Better give the old piggy bank a good shake as this latest Rolls-Royce is tipped to cost from $17 to $20 million. It is a bespoke vehicle, and the bespoke Rolls-Royce Sweptail coupe is a limited-edition, one off created to satisfy a particularly exacting customer.

Making its public debut at the Concorso d’Eleganza at Villa d’Este in Lake Como, the vehicle features hand-crafted bodywork inspired by racing yachts, which is probably a clue as to who owns it.

It features a full-length panoramic roof unlike any other car on sale.

Rolls-Royce says the project started four years ago, when one of its most valued customers requested a car like no other. The anonymous owner worked with Rolls-Royce design director Giles Taylor to create the nautical-themed bodywork distinct from any production model.

Taylor says, “It is a Rolls-Royce designed and hand-tailored to fit a specific customer. This customer came to the House of Rolls-Royce with an idea, shared in the creative process where we advised him on his cloth, and then we tailored that cloth to him. You might say we cut the cloth for the suit of clothes that he will be judged by.”

The car features only two seats, and its interior was crafted with minimalism in mind: buttons and dials are tucked out of sight to keep the cabin uncluttered.

Hand-trimmed in moccasin and dark spice-colored leather as well as polished ebony and open-pore wood veneers, the interior also features a clock made from wood thin enough to be backlit.

Bespoke carbon fiber luggage includes a dedicated laptop holder, and the prod of a button reveals a chilled champagne bottle and special flutes.

The British marque (but owned by Germany) has not revealed drivetrain details behind the model, though it’s fair to say the brand’s existing V8 and V12 motors would provide sufficient momentum for the Sweptail.

Even if you do stumble across this car, I doubt very much that he would be amenable to a swift gallop round the block. But you could always ask.

Which company needs a car guy?

I have a friend here in Pattaya who describes himself as a “car guy”. Some of you will know him, George Strampp, who spent most of his working life with TRW (which George refers to as “Tee Arr Dubbya”). A founding member of the Automotive Focus Group as well, but now retired and spending much time in Italy each year.

The car company in trouble is Ford Motor Company, which just sacked its CEO Mark Fields, replacing him with a Jim Hackett who has spent most of his life as a high flyer in the furniture business.

Jim Hackett spent 20 years as a CEO, cutting 12,000 jobs and diversifying production to Mexico, something that the Donald will not be happy about.

Undoubtedly, Hackett will be on some enormous salary and bonus package, as compensation for being hated by a workforce awaiting the sword of Damocles.

Personally, I think Ford is heading in the wrong direction. They need a “car guy” at the top. “Hackett” sounds too much like “Hatchet”.

BMW looking at Le Mans

BMW 8 series concept.

BMW’s M division wasted little time in showing a camouflaged new 8-Series in the support program for this year’s Nurburgring 24 hour race.

It is designed to fit in with the Mercedes-AMG S63 Coupe and Bentley Continental GT at the pointy end of the performance list with a mechanical package shared with the upcoming sixth-generation M5.

BMW M boss, Frank van Meel said, “The M8 will build on the genes of the 8-Series and augment its DNA with added track ability and generous portions of sharpness, precision and agility. It all flows into a driving experience that bears the familiar BMW M hallmarks.” And so much for the PR Speak and the BMW “DNA”, such silliness really.

Stylistically, the prototype version of M8 holds true to the Concept 8-Series with a long sweeping bonnet, flowing roofline, a two-plus-two configured cabin that sets the driver well back within the wheelbase and an elongated rear.

With a newly developed electronics system that incorporates a central processing unit to constantly control the apportioning of power, the driver can choose between full time four-wheel drive, four-wheel drive sport and rear-wheel drive via the M-Dynamic driving mode controller. (I have a sneaking feeling this is the much hated iDrive by another name!)

BMW M division engineers suggest early computer simulations hint at 0-100 km/h time for the new M8 in the “low three second bracket”.

Confirming the new range topping M-car has been an integral part of the reborn 8-Series’ development program since its inception, van Meel said. “The conception and development of the standard BMW 8-Series and the M model run in parallel.”

BMW announced at the Nürburgring 24 hour race on Saturday that the M8 will form the basis of a new production-based endurance race car, the M8 GTE.

Under development at BMW’s Motorsport department in Munich, Germany, the new coupe is set to make its competition debut at the Daytona 24 Hour race in January 2018 before being pressed into action in the 2018 World Endurance Championship and its highlight event, the Le Mans 24 hour race.

The M8 GTE development program for our Le Mans comeback is in full swing, says BMW Motorsport director, Jens Marquart. “I can’t reveal anything yet, but I can promise you that it will look spectacular.”

So there you are, BMW will be back in the fray during 2018 for release in the dealerships 2019.

The best name ever, for an automotive accessory


The best name ever.

We’ve all had problems getting an engine to start, especially race engines, two stroke engines and old engines after a rebuild. The answer to your problem is an aerosol compound marketed in Australia, called “Start Ya Bastard”! There’s never been a better name!

Canadian GP this weekend

In the 1960’s the rivalry between French and English speaking Canada meant that the country’s Grand Prix alternated between Mosport Park one year and Mont-Tremblant the next. By 1970, however, Mont-Tremblant was deemed too dangerous and the race was moved full time to Mosport Park.

In 1977 the French Canadians, motivated by the incredible success of Gilles Villeneuve, decided to take the Ile Notre-Dame and connected all the island’s roads and made a circuit. The island had been the home of the 1967 World Fair (Expo’67) and was full of futuristic looking buildings.

The first F1 race was held there in October 1978. Gilles Villeneuve, in his first season with Ferrari, was yet to win an F1 race, but at his home Grand Prix he took a memorable debut victory. Following his death in 1982, the track was renamed in his honor.

With the time differential, the Canadian GP telecast will be seen at 1 a.m. Thai time. This does mean that you either watch at home with live streaming, or catch it the next day, as Jameson’s will not be open so late. Sorry.

The winners at this Canadian F1 track include Michael Schumacher who holds the record of having won seven times in Canada. It is also the scene of Jean Alesi’s single Grand Prix victory in 1995, driving the number 27 Ferrari, the same car number which was carried by Gilles Villeneuve.

The final corner of Circuit Gilles Villeneuve became well known for crashes involving former World Champions. In 1999, Damon Hill, Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve all crashed into the same wall which had the slogan Bienvenue au Québec (Welcome to Quebec) on it. The wall became ironically known as the “Wall of Champions”. The wall also was involved in a crash with Ricardo Zonta, who was, at the time, the reigning FIA GT sports car champion. In recent years, then GP2 Champion Nico Rosberg, CART Champion Juan Pablo Montoya and Jenson Button have all fallen victim to the wall. In 2011 Friday practice the wall claimed the then reigning F1 Champion Sebastian Vettel.

Before the wall was named it also claimed 1992 World Sportscar Champion and long-time F1 driver Derek Warwick who spectacularly crashed his Arrows-Megatron during qualifying for the 1988 Canadian Grand Prix.

Unfortunately, the telecast is beamed here at 1 a.m., past bedtime for Kim Fletcher and me. The next GP is the European Grand Prix June 25, 2017 and is in Baku Azerbaijan. I will refrain from commenting on this venue till later.

Neck-snapping acceleration

 The following table will give you an idea of just what a ‘supercar’ can do (this is presuming the duty has been paid).

How do those numbers look against an F1 car? The F1 car can get under 2 seconds, but when you see that the Tesla Model S P100D is right up there, and that is a sedan car, it makes you think just what will Tesla do next?

(Secs to 100 kph)
1 - Ultima Evolution Coup้  2.28
1 -  Dodge Challenger SRT Demon 2.28
1 - Tesla Model S P100D  2.28
2 - Bugatti Chiron  2.3
3 - Ariel Atom 3.5R  2.4
4 - Rimac Concept One  2.5
5 - Koenigsegg Regera  2.7
6 - Hennessey Venom GT  2.7
7 - Caterham 620R  2.8
8 - Tesla Model S P90D  2.8
9 - BAC Mono  2.8
10 - Ferrari F12tdf  2.9
10 - Lamborghini Aventador  2.9
10 - Porsche 911 Turbo S   2.9

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked how did a tricycle affect the tyre industry? Easy, the first pneumatic tyres were on a tricycle. John Boyd Dunlop put them on his son’s tricycle before adapting to his own bicycle.

So to this week. What Italian car manufacturer built engines of 4, 6 and 9 cylinders? Clue WW1.

For the Automania free beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected] or [email protected] Good luck!

Update June 3, 2017

“Connected” tyres? Still a way off says Michelin

Pilot Sport 4S.

Michelin engineering support and operational marketing manager Charles Donahoe has said that tread design changes were running a distant second to that of tyre architecture in the brand’s research laboratories.

The next major development, however, was seen as the ‘connected’ tyre that communicates wear and other factors with a vehicle’s engine management and electronic stability control (ESC) to fine-tune the operation of such systems.

However, do not expect this development in the near future.

“Tread design between Pilot Super Sport and Pilot Sport 4S is visual and it has a big influence, but where we’ve really been able to make the biggest improvements is in the compound changes and in those functional aspects,” Mr Donahoe explained.

“Under cornering force and heavy load, the contact patch changes shape and while tread design and tread pattern has an influence, the biggest influence is the architecture, so how the tyre functions when it’s pushed really hard.

“We (are starting) to understand more how we can get these elastomers to deliver different performance characteristics and work within wide temperature ranges. This really is the big breakthrough at the moment, in the understanding of those elastomers and how to mix them to really exploit (performance).”

Mr Donahoe further revealed that “the compounds are completely different” in the new Pilot Sport 4S compared with its predecessor, the seven-year-old Pilot Super Sport.

The next major development goal is to have a connected tyre. We’ve all got our smartphones (and) smart watches that record hours of sleep, heart rate, health, fitness, hours spent exercising. We’d love to have a connected tyre, where you monitor temperature, tread life, age of tyre, all of these elements that would ultimately contribute to safer driving.

“We’re talking about a world where there’s maybe no need for traffic lights, because if everything is connected then it’s all in sync. I think ultimately this larger grid is what tyres will be connected to. You’ll have a tyre that can talk to the car, a car that can talk to the larger network.”

He discussed ‘Run-Flats’, a universally unpopular development in tyre technology, admitting that the “initial drawbacks are still there (but) they’ve just been reduced,” some car brands were keeping up the pressure on Michelin for progressing the technology that allows buyers to drive briefly on a punctured tyre.

“BMW and Mercedes are the key drivers in pushing run-flat, but not for a sports application.”

Tesla P90D – an opinion on the drive

Tesla P 90D.

Bill Sherwood in Australia is an ex-race driver and an original thinker. He has just had an extended road test of a Tesla P90D. Bill’s opinion I am prepared to listen to, and I think you should too.

“First thing I noticed was the most obvious - No noise at all and no vibration, just totally smooth and quiet. The interior finish was superb and comfortable with leather seats, etc. In the middle there’s a huge 17" LCD touch-screen where you can access everything that can be configured in the car. For the drive today the sales rep had the top 2/3’s as a map and the bottom showing the reversing camera all the time, which turned out to be a good thing as the view from the inside mirror is not very good.

“The instrument panel is usually quite dark with only the relevant information displayed. The camera that looks ahead to determine the lanes also looks up to read the speed limit signs, and so when you drive along that limit is displayed as a little road-side sign icon to the left of the speed readout. If you go over the limit then the icon gets a bit larger. As objects (other cars, fences, etc.) get close to the car a small fan of light that varies in color and size appears out of that part of the car. Handy for parking, etc.

“One odd thing that happens when driving is the regenerative braking. When the regen braking is working the brake lights automatically come on as well. Out of habit I left my foot on the brake when stopped at the traffic lights but there’s no need to as it’ll hold its position perfectly still without you having to touch anything. As soon as you touch the throttle away it goes, smooth as silk. The feedback/feel of the steering is also adjustable. ‘Sport’ felt pretty natural to me.

“One lever behind the steering wheel on the left is for the cruise control and autopilot functions. One tug on the lever gives adaptive cruise control - The car will hold its speed but if there’s another car (or I assume wall, etc.) that’s going slower and so getting closer it’ll slow down to the same speed, then speed up again to either the pre-set speed or the local speed limit, whichever is lower. It’ll go right down to a complete stop and then accelerate away again, so a good thing in heavy traffic.

“Two tugs gives you the autopilot function and it worked rather well in the heavy traffic on the Brisbane roads. By law here you have to have at least a light grip on the steering wheel at all times so I did, but with zero input to it ... and it really did sit quite nicely in the middle of the meandering lane with traffic all around.

“Okay the good bit - power! Normal driving with a light touch on the throttle has it behaving just like a very smooth car. A bit more of a squeeze and there’s a *very* strong hint of a lot more power to come. A little as quarter-to-half throttle brings more acceleration than you’d ever need on the road. It really shoves you in the back very firmly indeed. The way it does it is quite unlike an ICE-engined car. No matter what conventional car you might drive, it simply will not have the instantaneous response of the Tesla. Give a normal car a prod on the throttle and for sure it’ll accelerate but it might have to go down a gear or two in the automatic gearbox to get the revs up - same with a manual gearbox - but the Tesla just *goes* instantly from any speed. No waiting, no hesitation, just instant power and lots of it.

“With the restrictions of driving around city roads in the middle of Brisbane I wasn’t going to try an Insane Mode launch off the line, but I did give it full throttle in that mode for maybe two seconds on a clear bit of straight road. I knew it’d be fast, but not *that* fast! Full throttle brings scorching acceleration. And don’t forget that the P100D is faster again. And then there’s another mode or two available to make the car faster yet again.

“The P90D had about 550 km or so range I think, so enough to do plenty of around-town trips before needing a drink or part of an inter-state run, then an hour or so at a recharge station. True, that’s a bit inconvenient but the beauty of the electric car is that when better battery technology comes along you can just swap over to the newer and better ones quite easily.

“Another very significant thing I asked about was the servicing schedule. Turns out that they only need a very minor service ‘once a year, but it’s not a problem if you leave it two years and doesn’t void the warranty’. A major service appears to be where they change the brake fluid. :)

“I could certainly be interested in a Model 3 in a year or two. They really are that good.”

What did we learn from the Monaco Grand Prix?

We “learned”, if we hadn’t learned last year and the year before and the year before, and, and, and that the Monaco round the houses event is an anachronism and quite unsuitable for F1. It is a venue to be seen at in your finery and yachting jacket and not for a motor race.

Even Max Verstappen (Red Bull) the 2017 overtaking king said, “With the wide cars and dirty air you can’t make a move and I had no real chance of overtaking here.”

There were those who did try and overtake and found out that Verstappen was correct. Even seasoned veteran Jenson Button (McLaren – with the Honda anchor engine), filling in for Fernando Alonso, misjudged and crashed into Pascal Wehrlein, with the Sauber ending upside down in the barriers. The stewards took a dim view of all this (as did Wehrlein) and judged Jenson was at fault (which he was), despite several hundred GP’s to his name, and Jenson Button now has a five-place grid penalty for the next race. Since he has officially retired, I don’t think he’ll lose much sleep over it.

However, back to the procession, sorry race, after getting pole position on the Saturday and fending off challenges from his team mate Vettel (Ferrari) and Bottas (Mercedes) on the Sunday, Kimi proved the old adage “Winning isn’t everything – but it sure beats the hell out of coming second.” He, in a rare moment of communication said, “It’s hard to say really [how it feels]. It’s still second place but it doesn’t feel awfully good. This is how it goes sometimes.”

From the Ferrari viewpoint, it was patently better for Vettel to be in front and by clever manipulation of pit stops the Ferrari pit wall managed to get Vettel in front of Kimi, a position he held comfortably to the end.

With a couple of Safety Car periods and ill-timed dives into the pits to change tyres, Verstappen found himself fifth behind his team mate and Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes). Was this another example of pit wall meddling? After all, Ricciardo had not forgotten his team losing last year’s Monaco for him, and getting the sequence wrong in Qualifying this year. Unfortunately, far from Red Bull’s drivers now being happy, both of them now have axes to grind.

And Lewis Hamilton? He remained perplexed as to why Bottas could get his car to work, and he could not. With all the retirements he did manage to come in 7th.

The TV coverage was good, but the clever television just highlighted how boring the procession really was.

Will the new owners of F1 be brave enough to grasp the nettle? Leave Monaco for the classic cars, which currently already have their day round the houses in the Monaco Classics Rally.

With 35 percent of the cars falling by the wayside, this was another indication that Monaco should be quietly dropped. The millionaire set might have a whinge into their Bolly, but the followers of Grand Prix racing don’t own yachts.


1.            S Vettel (Ferrari)

2.            K Räikkönen (Ferrari)

3.            D Ricciardo (Red Bull)

4.            V Bottas (Mercedes)

5.            M Verstappen (Red Bull)

6.            C Sainz Toro Rosso

7.            L Hamilton Mercedes

8.            R Grosjean Haas

9.            F Massa Williams

10.         K Magnussen Haas

11.         J Palmer Renault

12.         E Ocon FIndia

13.         S Perez FIndia

DNF list:

D. Kvyat Toro Rosso

L Stroll Williams

S Vandoorne McLaren

M Ericsson Sauber

J Button McLaren

P Wehrlein Sauber

N Hulkenberg Renault

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I mentioned that the Issigonis Mini’s were well known for stopping when in rain. Why? And what was done to counteract the problem? And I was not looking for the underwater fuel pumps. The distributor faced forward behind the grille. A plate on the back of the grille to deflect the water fixed it!

So to this week. How did a tricycle affect the tyre industry?

For the Automania free beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected] or [email protected] Good luck!

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Motor racing history – a brief snapshot

The “auto” car explained

Old drivers and bold drivers

Autotrivia Quiz

Tesla Model 3 is real but…

Anyone for a racing SUV?

Has Honda lost its way entirely?

Sedan market poor in the US

BEV’s again

Memo to Honda

Autotrivia Quiz

This could be most expensive car in the world

Which company needs a car guy?

BMW looking at Le Mans

The best name ever, for an automotive accessory

Canadian GP this weekend

Neck-snapping acceleration

Autotrivia Quiz

“Connected” tyres? Still a way off says Michelin

Tesla P90D – an opinion on the drive

What did we learn from the Monaco Grand Prix?

Autotrivia Quiz



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