Full Course Yellows

Pizza Company Vios race team.

If you ever thought that Thailand’s motor racing was on the way down, the recent meeting in November would certainly change that idea. This was the first time for many years that I had to park so far away from the timing tower that the organizers (Three Crowns), supplied song taew taxis to take you to the pits. The pits were so full of competitors that temporary tents were erected all the way down to the pit entrance tunnel, and the ‘parc ferme’ area behind the scrutineering bay was converted to pits for the Toyota Vios and Yaris race cars.
The Vios competitors in particular turned on an incredible show, with passing manoeuvres being attempted in parts of the track where passing is not really possible. These attempts usually ended up in the wall, and at one stage there were so many cars off the track there seemed to be yellow flags displayed on every flag point. Almost equivalent to the American ‘full course yellows’.
The other classes included Minis and VW’s, as well as pick-ups and touring cars and some road-going classes in the ‘run what you brung’ category. And a smattering of motorcycle events as well.
There was also very little time between races, and the timetable actually seemed to be reasonably accurate. Hopefully this heralds an upsurge in not only interest, but also in the efficient running of the program. I have seen 28 event one day meetings in Australia, so I know it can be done. I believe that the general shortening of races is also better for the spectators. Even the catering seemed to be better than usual, and the hamburgers hot and tasty.
Well done Three Crowns. Thailand motor sport is looking healthy again. I have been told that 22,000 spectators came to the meeting, and while this looks a little too much for my guestimate, it was still a very good turn out.
By the way, there was much talk of a four hour Vios Endurance race with three to five drivers per car. Unfortunately, nobody seemed to be able to let the press know the date. This was variously given to me as being in December 2006, January, April or May 2007. If I do find out, you will be the first to know!
However, the RAAT has told me there will be an international 1,000 km race at Bira December 2007, with invited drivers from overseas, and a 1.5 litre class for Asian produced vehicles (like the Vios). 1,000 kays around Bira is something over 400 laps!

A1 considers London float

The A1 Grand Prix World Cup of Motorsport series may be floated on the London Stock Exchange next year, according to Bloomberg financial news service. The series lost US $212 million in its first season but is projecting a profit of up to US $20 million in its second season. The series founder, Dubai’s Sheikh Maktoum bin Hasher Al Maktoum, is selling his stake and stepping down as chairman. The next round of the second series is at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia next weekend. Frequent correspondent John Weinthal will be covering the meeting for Automania.

Autotrivia Quiz

Quiz car

Last week I asked some F1 history. At which race did Nuvolari and a couple of others ‘rig’ the results? It was the Tripoli GP of 1933. Nuvolari, Varzi, Campari and Borzacchini conspired to have Varzi win, which would net them shares in a purse worth USD 10 million these days! Despite many problems during the race, they did manage to pull it off, which makes today’s “team orders” look very mild!
So to this week. Have a look at the quiz car. It was found in Vietnam. What is it? And what is wrong with it?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!

Bose Suspensions and Audio systems – an electrifying experience?

In what seems a total turn-around, Bose, the makers of audio speakers that have the capability of blowing the seats out of non-reinforced small sedans also builds suspension systems designed to keep the seats, and the persons who sit on them, in perfect harmony inside the vehicle. What’s more, the suspension system is not just designed for comfort, but also for performance. It is no “select your mode” concept, this suspension can do it all, and all at the same time!

Bose suspension system
The first thing to understand is that this is no ‘breakthrough’ in controlling suspensions as we know them. Up till now, suspensions, no matter how apparently sophisticated they are follow the same basic design. There are springs to hold the body of the car off the road, and there are shock absorbers to quell the up and down oscillations inherent in the design of any spring, be that leaf, coil or torsion bar, exacerbated by the roughness of the road being traversed. Because the shock absorbers dampen down the oscillations, they are also known as “dampers”, and that is about as technical as these devices get.
Certainly there is control these days to attempt to allow more or less suspension movement. The softer the setting, the more luxurious (or soft) the ride, and more suspension travel ensues. The end result is a boulevard cruiser that leans in corners, limiting the speed at which bends are taken.
At the other end of the scale, there are the “hard” settings. At the extreme, this produces a car that follows every undulation of the road, giving a jarring or jolting ride with less suspension travel. The end result is a circuit racer that changes direction while staying reasonably flat, allowing corners to be taken at fast speeds, but the harshness of the ride limits the speed at which the passengers are prepared to tolerate the ride!
Shock absorbers, as we know them today, are basically like a piston moving in a cylinder of oil. The piston has a hole in it, allowing it to move up and down at a speed dependent upon the size of the hole, which allows the oil to move from below the piston to above the piston and vice versa. Note that shock absorbers do not hold the car off the road – the spring system does that. There are also ways in which the size of the orifice in the piston can be altered. This was first seen in the large knurled knob on the side of race car suspensions about thirty years ago. Race drivers ‘tuned’ the suspension by the number of “clicks” in either direction for different circuits, with varying degrees of hardness or softness to handle the bumpiness.
As we arrived at the electronic age, shock absorbers became more sophisticated too, with computer micro-processors sensing the movement at the wheel end of the shock absorber, and electronically varying the stiffness or softness. This explains how the manufacturer these days can let you go from ‘soft’ to ‘hard’ at the flick of a switch, but it is still a compromise situation. Trading comfort against roadholding. It’s one or the other. What Bose is claiming is that you do not have to trade comfort against roadholding – the two can co-exist!
“This is the first time a suspension system is the same for a sports car and for a luxury car,” says company founder, Dr. Amar Bose.
The Bose suspension system includes a linear electromagnetic motor and power amplifier at each wheel, and a set of control algorithms. This proprietary combination of suspension hardware and control software makes it possible, for the first time, to combine superior comfort and superior control in the same vehicle.
Inside the linear electromagnetic motor are magnets and coils of wire. When electrical power is applied to the coils, the motor retracts and extends, creating motion between the wheel and car body. One of the key advantages of an electromagnetic approach is speed. The linear electromagnetic motor responds quickly enough to counter the effects of bumps and potholes, while maintaining a comfortable ride. Additionally, the motor has been designed for maximum strength in a small package, allowing it to put out enough force to prevent the car from rolling and pitching during aggressive driving manoeuvres.
The other necessity, the regenerative power amplifiers, allow power to flow into the linear electromagnetic motor and allow power to be returned from the motor. For example, when the Bose suspension encounters a pothole, power is used to extend the motor and isolate the vehicle’s occupants from the hole. On the far side of the pothole, the motor operates as a generator and returns power back through the amplifier. In so doing, the Bose suspension requires less than a third of the power needed by a typical car air conditioner system.
The Bose suspension system is actually controlled by a set of mathematical algorithms that operate by observing sensor measurements taken from around the car and sending commands to the power amplifiers installed in each corner of the vehicle. The goal of the control algorithms is to allow the car to glide smoothly over roads and to eliminate roll and pitch during driving.
Bose’s front suspension modules use a modified MacPherson strut layout and the rear suspension modules use a double-wishbone linkage to attach a linear electromagnetic motor between the vehicle body and each wheel. The beauty of the new system is that it can be bolted in as a complete replacement unit in currently produced vehicles.
One motor noter in the US has experienced being in Bose test vehicles, in this case Lexus LS 400s with one car using standard suspension and the other the Bose suspension. He reported that the stock car “waddled over the bumps”, while the Bose car seemingly floated over them. Only the movement of the wheels over the bumps proved that this was not some sleight of hand magic. On the slalom course, which included an emergency lane change and panic stop, the standard car displayed the amount of lean, or body roll, that you would expect of a soft luxury vehicle, plus the usual amount of nose-dive under brakes. The Bose equipped car was then tried over the same course. The tester wrote, “The Bose car remained eerily flat through it all. Again, something we wouldn’t have believed had we not seen it for ourselves.
After 25 years of research, it does look as if “Suspend-by-wire” is almost here. It is likely that this could be offered as an option before the end of the decade. And for all of you who distrust computers and electrical gadgetry, Bose also promises a ‘limp home’ mode, just in case your car’s control panel tells you that you have just done an “illegal operation, and your system will shut down”! On the remainder of the drive, you will be able to listen to soothing music, however, and hopefully Bose supplied as well!