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Update July 2015


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Update by Natrakorn Paewsoongnern
 
 
 
Automania by Dr. Iain Corness
 

Update July 25, 2015

Hungarian GP this weekend

Hungaroring.

As a racing venue, Hungary has a long history, with its first GP run in 1906, and regular events in Budapest since 1926. Built with state backing, and laid out in a natural amphitheater, the Hungaroring opened in 1986 and attracted an estimated 200,000 spectators.
Though the event was well organized, and the hosts very appreciative, it was felt that the 4 km Hungaroring had been laid out more in the style of a twisty street circuit rather than a bespoke road track. There were few opportunities for overtaking, though things were eased from 1989 when a tight corner was by-passed and the lap distance became slightly less than 4 km.
However, it remains a circuit that is not high on any of the drivers’ lists, unless you are after a piece of quick action behind the pits, as the Hungarian government actually erected (nice word in the sex scene) some mobile brothels a few years ago (sponsored by Viagra?). I think they are still in use today!
After the British GP, will we get the same sort of racing? Find out this weekend. I will be watching from my favorite roost at Jameson’s Irish Pub on Soi AR (next to Nova Park) and the racing begins at 7 p.m. We get there early around 6 p.m. and have something to eat and wet the whistle before the racing begins, while watching the HD channel, which is so much sharper than the others. Why don’t you join me at around 6 p.m. for a natter and some food (the Sunday roasts are great value) and amber liquids and then sit down for the Grand Prix.


Chinese auto market in trouble?

Chinese VW.

The Chinese auto market has hit a downturn, and the decrease in sales is affecting the growth of the industry in China. Where once new dealerships were springing up everywhere, now the dealers are losing money.
Take VW, for example. Volkswagen AG is offering financial assistance totaling 1 billion yuan ($161 million) to support some of its dealers in China as demand slows in its largest market, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
Volkswagen, the biggest foreign automaker by sales in China, is the latest company to extend financial subsidies to distributors hit by the slowing economy and a stock market that lost $4 trillion in market value in less than a month.
The funding will be paid to distributors selling VW brand cars made by the company’s joint venture with China FAW Group Corp.
“Dealers are facing some hardships,” Li Pengcheng, a spokesman for FAW-Volkswagen, said, indicating that VW would help the dealers out.
VW’s sales with its joint venture partner FAW fell 10 percent in the first six months of the year, according to data compiled by Bank of America Corp.
Auto sales in China fell for the first time in more than two years in June. VW and other carmakers have cut prices to attempt to keep market share as demand slows and domestic rivals lure increasingly value-conscious customers with cheaper sport utility vehicles. BMW AG earlier this year agreed to pay subsidies to its distributors in China to help cover losses after retailers stopped ordering cars from the manufacturer.
However, retail deliveries of cars, multipurpose vehicles and SUVs fell 3.2 percent last month to 1.43 million units, the China Passenger Car Association said.


Want to buy a slice of Ferrari?

Ferrari for sale.

Ferrari SpA, the legendary supercar maker is being spun off by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, which is close to filing for an initial public offering (IPO), Fiat Chrysler Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne said.
“We are days away from filing the prospectus,” he told reporters after a panel discussion at the Toronto Global Forum.
Debt-laden Fiat Chrysler is spinning off Ferrari to help fund a 48 billion-euro ($53 billion) investment program that focuses on expanding the Jeep, Alfa Romeo and Maserati brands globally. Ferrari picked UBS Group AG to help manage its IPO in New York later this year, people with knowledge of the matter said this week.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. are also due to play a role in selling 10 percent of Ferrari’s shares to investors, said people, who asked not to be named before an official announcement.
Marchionne declined to say whether UBS would manage the IPO. Fiat Chrysler may consider a secondary listing for Ferrari, most likely in Milan, he said.
The CEO also said that Fiat Chrysler hasn’t looked at making a hostile bid for General Motors Co. He has been pushing for consolidation, contending that the industry’s profitability even in peak years doesn’t generate enough returns to support investment costs. Potential partners, including GM and Ford Motor Co., have said they’re not interested.
Combining with GM yielded the most theoretical cost savings, Marchionne said. “There are other, less optimal combinations,” he said.
Fiat Chrysler rose 3.7 percent to $14.46 at 3:43 p.m. in New York, as the broader market also climbed.
Marchionne is expecting a valuation of “at least” 10 billion euros for Ferrari, which is equivalent to about 60 percent of the parent company’s market value. His targeted figure is higher than the 8.7 billion-euro average of four analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News.
Boosting profit is crucial if Marchionne, 63, is to generate sufficient cash to develop the next generation of vehicles and technologies. His only other option is to share the costs by merging with another automaker, which seems unlikely in the short term despite his efforts to cut a deal.


KERS – Is it really free power?

 

AMC Amitron.

The term “KERS” is bandied around a lot these days, but most people do not really understand what it is. KERS stands for Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems, and although it does deliver power, it certainly is not “free”. In fact, quite the opposite. If energy from KERS were really “free” then perpetual motion would be possible. And let me assure you, it isn’t.
A regenerative brake is a mechanism that reduces vehicle speed by converting some of its kinetic energy into another useful form of energy. This captured energy is then stored for future use or fed back into a power system.
For example, electrical regenerative brakes in electric railway vehicles feed the generated electricity back into the supply system. In battery electric and hybrid electric vehicles, the energy is stored in a battery or bank of capacitors for later use. Other forms of energy storage which may be used include compressed air and flywheels.
An early example of this system was the Energy Regeneration Brake, developed in 1967 for the AMC Amitron. This was a completely battery powered urban concept car whose batteries were recharged by regenerative braking, thus increasing the range of the automobile.
Formula 1 could have had KERS a decade earlier as Mario Illien created a system for Mercedes in 1999 that used hydraulic fluid pressure to recover energy lost in braking. It would have provided a 45 bhp power boost for four seconds but could have been used many times per lap, but the FIA outlawed the system before it could be raced, not wanting to allow cars to get any faster.


Found! One old race car!

Spaceframe Escort 1981.

The other afternoon I made an incredible discovery through Facebook. Many years ago (1980 to be precise) a friend John English and I built two Mk 1 Ford Escort racing cars. They were trendsetters with space frame construction, Formula 2 double wishbone front suspension and big wings across the back. The entire front was fiberglass, bonnet, wings, grille as a one-piece lift-off. For their day, they were revolutionary.
I sold my one in 1981 to a friend of John English’s, called John Lord, but after he sold it, we lost sight of it. Rumor had it that it was in a big accident and was dumped.
Some old photographs of the car had been published on the net, and then comes notification from a chap in Australia to say he had the car. Now race cars have what is called the Log Book and we asked him who was the second name in the book, and it was John Lord, the chap I had sold it to, so the identity of the car was confirmed.
Since 1981 it has had six owners, and here we are 34 years later and the little Fords that John and I built still exist and are still racing.


Bike vs car on a European highway

.Incredible footage from an Audi R8 Vs Kawasaki Ninja ZX10R Vs Suzuki GSXR1000, but it is so breathtaking, forget about the madness and turn the volume up. http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=Y2HKBQMQmbw#t=116>


Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked what car was this? It was built in the UK between 1945 and 1955. The series had models that were designated as A, B, C, D, E and F. They also had ash-framed bodies. That’s enough clues! And indeed too many clues, as quite a few got it correct. It was the RM Series Riley’s.
So to this week. What car is this? It was capable of running on petrol, as well as battery, of carrying four passengers, and employing four-wheel drive. The system is still being used today. Clue: Think pre WW1.
For the Automania free beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]


Update July 18, 2015

What happened to the German GP this weekend?

It’s not being run! This GP, steeped in history, is not being run, because Bernie and the FIA want too much from the organizers.
Past exploits in the German GP include six wins for Rudolf Caracciola and an amazing win for the Italian legend Tazio Nuvolari, driving a hopelessly outdated and underpowered Alfa Romeo against state-of-the-art Mercedes and Auto Unions. He was second by the start of the last lap, 35 seconds behind leader Manfred von Brauchitsch in a Mercedes. Nuvolari caught the German and took victory in front of the stunned German High Command and 350,000 spectators.
That was 1935, and in 1957 it was the famous win for Fangio where he broke the lap record nine times.
So no GP this weekend, but the Hungarian GP will be next on July 26. Where has everything gone wrong, I wonder? ;-))


Goodwood Festival of Speed

Nico Rosberg and Sir Stirling Moss.

With the vision shown by Lord March, the Goodwood Festival of Speed has become a major event in the world of motoring. Anyone who is anyone in the history of motoring can be found there including Sir Stirling Moss celebrating the 60th anniversary of his landmark victory at Mille Miglia in 1955; Sir Jackie Stewart, and many others, including current F1 drivers Felipe Massa, Nico Rosberg, Jenson Button and Kimi Raikkonen. NASCAR legends Richard Petty and Bobby Labonte were there. While still on the American scene, drag racing’s godfather, (Big Daddy) Don Garlits was there with stars of the modern era such as Ford’s Ken Block and his incredible 845 bhp Mustang ‘Hoonicorn’.
And it was not just the car drivers who were present, but everyone’s favorite motorcycle racer and multiple world champion, Valentino Rossi rode into Lord March’s dining room.

BMW CSL.

Five of the top Formula One racing teams were in attendance to showcase their latest championship race cars: Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren and Williams.
Four LMP1 Le Mans Endurance prototype models from Audi, Porsche, Nissan and Toyota were also on display.
Seven of the historic Mercedes 300 SLR racers were also brought along and tackled the hill climb. Another historic was the first BMW CSL.

Aston Martin DBR1

Bonhams conducted an auction sale and the prices some cars reached were just staggering. These included:
1954 Jaguar XK 120 sold for THB 19 million.
1973Porsche 911S, 2.4 liters, went for THB 20 million (I sold mine for THB 3.6 million in 1980)!
1963 Aston Martin DB4 was only THB 50 million.
1961 Porsche RS Spyder sold for THB 99 million.
With those prices, how much would the original Aston Martin DBR1 go for? Incidentally I saw the maiden outing for that car at the Charterhall circuit.
Some of the cars on display included:
Ford Focus RS - Ford’s new hyper hatch.
Aston Martin Vulcan: Stunning 1.8million, 800 bhp+ track-only hypercar.
Lexus GS-F - New M5 competitor from Lexus.
Ferrari 488 GTB - Ferrari’s 458 Italia successor is somehow even better.
Mazda MX5 - Everyone’s favorite roadster.
McLaren P1 GTR - McLaren’s track focused hypercar.
Ferrari LaFerrari FXXK - Ultimate version of the LaFerrari hypercar.
New Audi R8 – 602 bhp V10 supercar first UK release.
Honda Civic Type R - Honda’s new hot hatch (see item above).
The entire event makes me wonder if a similar style of gathering could ever be run in Thailand. We (Thailand) have enough people with enough money to get it off the ground. There are enough interesting cars sitting in garages that people would like to see. (I know of one collector who has eight cars counting BMWs and Alfa Romeos. And there are more.)
Hua Hin has an event each year which could grow if the right people gave it a push. The other alternative is the Bang Saen week. Start agitating now!


Honda’s Road Racer

Honda Civic Type R.

Honda also has a new affordable performance car coming to the market, a hot hatch, the Civic Type R. Due to be released the start of 2017, the new Type R will have a powerful new four-cylinder turbocharged engine which develops 228 kW of power and 400 Nm of torque. Honda claims it will be the fastest front-wheel drive production car in the world to have lapped Germany’s famous Nurburgring. With big quad exhaust tips, an aggressive front bumper and bodykit with big rear wing and wheels, it certainly has looks to match.


Electrifying Aston Martin

Aston Martin Vulcan.

An all-electric Aston Martin with more than 1000 Newton meters of torque and a 0-100 km/h time in the three-second range is the next target for Aston Martin.
With the $2.5 million Vulcan road racer at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, company chief Andy Palmer said that a zero-emission car is vital to Aston’s future.
“You really need a zero. I do believe we’ll be there,” Palmer said. “I see it as a strong possibility. It would be mighty fast to 100 km/h. If you look at a Tesla it’s a pretty elegant car, but an Aston Rapide is more elegant. It’s more than a pipe dream. Do I have a project that’s fully funded and fully signed-off, no we’re not there.”
Palmer says the Vulcan, which is intended for Aston drivers who want a race-style track car at their disposal, is more than halfway to a sellout of its 24 car production run.
“I’ve got more than half of them sold. I’ve got considerably more than 24 people that the industry calls hot leads.”
Palmer has only recently taken on the top job at Aston Martin but has clear feelings on the brand and what it needs for new-model development, following a deal which allows it to tap into Daimler for technology.
“As long as legislation lets me, and I’m sitting in this seat with a beating heart, we’ll have a V12 engine. With idle stop and cylinder deactivation you can make it work.”
He is also keeping a close eye on development of autonomous self-driving cars. “I quite like the idea of a button that says ‘drift’,” he said.
He also concedes that autonomous driving could be a bonus to Aston Martin, as people split their driving between chores and enjoyment.
“An Aston is a driver’s car and always should be. Almost never is an Aston the only car in the garage. I’m an advocate of the technology. I think Aston won’t be on the leading edge of that technology, although we could be because we take the Daimler electrical architecture. I think we’ll adopt it at the level of convenience. I think self parking is extraordinarily relevant to the brand. It’s extremely interesting.”
As a non-owner of an Aston Martin, to be honest, I do not see any relevance in autonomous cars to Aston Martin, always known as a driver’s car. If you have that amount of money to spend are you going to sit there and let “George”, the automatic pilot, take over? No way, Jose!
By the same token, to say that self parking is relevant to the brand - come on. You can get that technology in a Ford Focus, available in Thailand right now.


Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I mentioned that the Gordon Buehrig designed Cord 810 and 812 were incredible cars for their day. However, Cord himself eventually went bankrupt. I asked why? It was nothing to do with the cars, it was for share market manipulation and insider trading and suchlike. Similar in many ways to Al Capone!
So to this week. What car was this? It was built in the UK between 1945 and 1955. The series had models that were designated as A, B, C, D, E and F. They also had ash-framed bodies. That’s enough clues!
For the Automania free beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]


Update July 11, 2015

The ‘Bentley Boys’ resurrected

Bentley race car

In the late 20’s and early 1930’s Bentleys were driven by some well heeled gentleman with lots of dash and cash, called the Bentley Boys. One notable example was Sir Henry Birkin, who won Le Mans in a Bentley in 1929 and drove Bentleys to other victories both in Britain and the continent.
However, a press release is through heralding the return of massed Bentleys in 2016, with a 25-strong squadron of competition Bentleys that will be unleashed on the world’s racetracks in 2016.
Plans for a one-make series to rival or surpass the Ferrari 458 Challenge are well under way at Bentley’s home in Crewe, the company’s chief revealed.
“For the future we are at present evaluating the potential of a luxury one-make cup, and this could take place on four continents, for about 25 entries,” Wolfgang Durheimer, CEO of Bentley, said at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
“We organize everything. We do everything. They have high-performance racing with high-performance cars. We want to be the number one.”
Durheimer says the Bentley racers would be positioned midway between the company’s road-going Continental and the GT3 racing version of the same car, which challenged for victory in this year’s Bathurst 12-Hour race in Australia and is returning to the Mount Panorama circuit in 2016.
He says air-conditioning will be essential in the cars, since he expects the series will attract well-funded ‘gentleman’ drivers without the skill or fitness of full-time professionals.
But he is keen on the championship and what it can bring to Bentley buyers who want more than just a road car. “Once you are signed in you have luxury track time in a high-performance car. I hope that we come to a good conclusion.”
Durheimer also confirmed for the first time that the Continental GT3 program will continue beyond the original three-year commitment, which has now seen 19 cars built for racing.
“Don’t assume we stop next year. Racing is part of our DNA. We are already evaluating the potential of the next car,” he said.
“Emotionally, it can drive our company to new horizons. Internally, it helps us to work in a very disciplined way and to be competitive and win. We want to be the number one and we intend to be the winner in the luxury performance game. We like to do the extraordinary things, not what everybody does.”
That is all very noble PR Speak, but Porsche has had their GT3 series going all over the world for some years, likewise the Ferrari challenge and similar from Lamborghini. Even in Thailand we have had Lotus Elyse categories. So, it isn’t “extraordinary” at all. Must say it is a nice touch leaving the air-con in the cars, and I wonder if these men of substance will have their chauffeurs driving for them, while the owner is sipping champers in the back seat.
Of course when you produce a one-make series you do not know if the Bentleys are inherently quicker or slower than their showroom rivals.


What did we learn from the British GP?

Well we learned from Silverstone that Britain’s favorite rapper (I mean that’s why you wear your hat on back to front, sunglasses, earrings and gold chains) can get the start wrong, and yet win in the damp conditions. Hamilton (Mercedes) deserved to win.
We also learned that no matter how good the driver is, he can lose the race with poor calls from the pit wall, Massa and Bottas being prime examples of how the Williams pit managed to convert solid 1-2 positions into 4-5!
The British Grand Prix was also marked with seven retirements. Not good for the pinnacle of motor racing. The first was Nasr in the “Saubr” who did not even make it to the start line! The 19 drivers left then managed to bang into each other at the first corner, with Maldonado (“Lotus”) right in there as usual. I think he should exchange his Nomex driving gloves for a set of boxing gloves, if he continues being involved in every fracas. This time, the two very slow McLaren Hondas managed to get involved as well. Button could not continue, but Alonso managed to rejoin with a new nose and even trundled around to finish 10th, bagging a single point for the once great team. Alonso came out with the usual PR-speak with, “The whole team is incredibly focused - they’ve been working day and night to improve the car - and we all know this is a long-term project, and there are no magic solutions, but to get a decent result, and to put some points on the table, is always important. We know we’re improving, and today has been good for morale.” You could paraphrase that into, “They pay me a lot of money to sound up-beat about this dog of a car. They should take it out and shoot it!”
But back to the race, at the start the two Williams of Massa and Bottas had JATO (Jet Assisted Take Offs for the non aviation readers) and left the two Mercedes floundering. After fending off Hamilton, it looked like the Williams duo had it made - but then the pit wall decided to drive the cars instead of their drivers. Bottas wanting to pass Massa because he could catch his team mate on the straight, but forgetting that the speed differential was caused by Bottas having the stage-managed artificial DRS, while Massa, leading, did not.
While dithering, the Williams pit then botched their pit stops and when their cars emerged, Hamilton was past and gone! Rosberg was initially behind them but when the English damp arrived he could drive right around the pair of them to give Mercedes the usual 1-2.
With the conditions being changeable, if you called for the intermediate tyres at the right time you gained several places, as did Vettel in the Ferrari, scoring a lucky 3rd, whilst team mate Raikkonen got the wrong call and ended up 8th.
Kvyat (Red Bull) and Hulkenberg (FIndia) were the final two not lapped by Hamilton, who had kept their noses clean and deserved their finish in the points. In case you were wondering about Ricciardo in the other Red Bull, it runs one of those exploding Renault engines and retired yet again, making it his 6th engine for the year (it may have been even more, but I was running out of fingers). With the silly FIA rules, this will probably mean Ricciardo will have to forfeit 30 grid positions in the Hungarian GP (five places for each engine, or something equally as ludicrous).
Why teams are penalized for changing engines I do not know. They have taken enough of a disadvantage when they pop an engine in the race!


Buying a secondhand car from oil can Harry

Oil Can Harry

My Car Check in the UK has been doing a sterling job of advising purchasers what to look out for.
Second hand car buyers need to look out for a range of threats, from the vehicle not being as described (e.g. it might have been stolen, clocked speedo readings or previously written-off - history which is not disclosed) to con artists securing a deposit and then scarpering with the cash.
Unlike these traditional risks, which have remained largely static, the likelihood of falling victim to an outstanding finance issue has risen dramatically in recent years.
Roger Powell, Head of CDL Vehicle Information Services (which owns My Car Check), said, “While innocent purchasers can and do fall foul of traditional threats like clocking (turning back the distance reportedly covered), there is at least a decent level of awareness about them. By contrast, there is a serious lack of awareness about the risk of buying a second hand car with second hand debt. We need to get the message out that outstanding finance is now by far the most common pitfall awaiting UK used car buyers, which means we will be following this trend.
“Certain types of agreements, such as the increasingly popular Personal Contract Purchase (PCP), usually involve the debt being secured against the vehicle, rather than the individual. This means a lot of the cars on our roads actually belong to a finance company, not the people who drive them. Attempting to sell a vehicle owned by a finance company, an activity called sub-hiring, is illegal, but very common. Some sellers do it knowingly. Others wrongly believe that everything will be fine if they keep up the payments. The crux for buyers is that the finance company can be within their rights to seize the vehicle back.
“For the price of a few liters of fuel, our finance data can be the difference between buying a vehicle completely legally and being left hugely out of pocket with no car to show for it. Particularly in the private marketplace, many sellers are keen to pass the problem on, having inadvertently taken on a car with second hand debt themselves.”
My Car Check’s parent company, CDL Vehicle Information Services, performs over a million look-ups a day for companies including AutoExpress, CompareThe Market, Confused.com, Go-Compare, WhatCar?, Moneysupermarket, Swiftcover, and Tesco Compare.
It uses data from the police, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), the Association of British Insurers (ABI) and all major finance houses.
To help UK consumers make the right choice, My Car Check can confirm in seconds whether your potential pride and joy has ever been scrapped, stolen or written-off, has any money owing on it, has had a plate or color change and much more.
I am sure there is a need for this in Thailand, but it is some years off at this stage. However, it means buyers should be even more careful when buying a second hand car.


Natter Nosh and Noggin

The Pattaya car club meets at Jameson’s Irish Pub on Soi AR next to Nova Park. The next meeting is on Monday July 13 at Jameson’s at 7 p.m. The Car Club is a totally informal meeting of like-minded souls to discuss their pet motoring (and motorcycling) loves and hates (plus lies and outright exaggerations). Come along and meet the guys who have a common interest in cars and bikes, and enjoy the Jameson’s special menu, washed down with a few beers. Always a fun night. Be prepared to laugh a lot at some of the antics of the members (when they were younger)! The Car Club nights are only on the second Monday of the month (not every second Monday).


Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked what limousine had air suspension which raised it off the ground when the engine was started. Clue: Think ‘massive’. And it was massive. It was the Mercedes-Benz 600. Motoring journalist Paul Frere described being passed by one as a “moving array of shops.” There were three types, the four door, the six door and the six door landaulets. The engine was the same in them all, the 6.3 liter V8. If you want one, you would join the previous owners, Onassis, Hugh Hefner, John Lennon, Elvis Presley and Liz Taylor.
So to this week. The Gordon Buehrig designed Cord 810 and 812 were incredible cars for their day. Cord himself eventually went bankrupt. Why?
For the Automania free beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]


Update July 4, 2015

British GP this weekend

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 an improvement.
“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

MB GLE.


Autotrivia Quiz

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 [email protected]


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Hungarian GP this weekend

Chinese auto market in trouble?

Want to buy a slice of Ferrari?

KERS – Is it really free power?

Found! One old race car!

Bike vs car on a European highway

Autotrivia Quiz


What happened to the German GP this weekend?

Goodwood Festival of Speed

Honda’s Road Racer

Electrifying Aston Martin

Autotrivia Quiz


The ‘Bentley Boys’ resurrected

What did we learn from the British GP?

Buying a secondhand car from oil can Harry

Natter Nosh and Noggin

Autotrivia Quiz


British GP this weekend

Quality? Try a Kia

BMW wins Engine of the Year award

Physics be damned

The first SUV I have ever wanted

Autotrivia Quiz

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