Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

The Not-So-Smart

The Chinese are at it again, and even more devious! They have managed to produce a copy of the DaimlerChrysler Smart car (by the way, pronounced “Dyemler” as the “Chrysler” is silent). The more than faintly ridiculous Smart is that abbreviated runabout that looks as if it was caught in the middle of a multi-car nose to tail accident.

Smart copy.
However, back to China. Shandong Huoyun Electromobile began production of the Smart lookalike last August, but DaimlerChrysler have stepped in, complaining that the car was so similar to theirs that it was a blatant copy. The Teutonic nose was definitely out of joint. You could even say it was smarting.
Apparently the Chinese vehicle is identical in length and shares even the smaller details, such as the shape of the grille and the rear window design.
It turns out that Shandong Huoyun Electromobile could honestly say that they had never even seen a DaimlerChrysler Smart to copy. They did it by buying a toy Smart over the internet and taking the measurements from it! The toymaker should be congratulated in making such an accurate kids push-along!
However, apart from the shape, that seems to be where the similarity ends. The Not-So-Smart has electric power, and can scoot along at up to 55 kph for up to 100 km between battery charges. It also has an interior styled by Walt Disney, done in retro-style 1950’s plastic and vinyl, as opposed to the DaimlerChrysler French couturier up-market vacuum extracted manganese polycarbonate, Madame Pompadour velour or suchlike.
DaimlerChrysler, having been in business for over 100 years and with representation in all countries of the world considered home to people with deep enough pockets to own one, has crushed poor little Shandong Huoyun which was established in 2001, has 150 employees, including 31 engineers and makes a range of golf cars, electric mini-cars and all-terrain vehicles.

Real Smart.
Rather than fight the German giant, the Chinese manufacturer has not dropped its plans, but instead dropped the toy Smart on its rear from a height of 20 meters, redrawn the plans and revised the shape of the Not-So-Smart, making it 20 cm shorter, with a blunter rear.
So, if you are looking for something even shorter than a Smart, give Shandong Huoyun a call. Have they got a bargain for you!
By the way, the Shandong Huoyun Electromobile was called the City Spirit, but with Rolls-Royce now controlled from Der Faderland and in control of names like the Silver Spirit, this name could be in doubt too!


Has A1 a tyre message for F1?

From our roving correspondent John Weinthal: With Formula 1 returning to a single tyre supplier for 2007 it has been interesting to watch the impact of tyre changes in A1 GP.
A1’s supplier is America’s Cooper. F1 will rely on Bridgestone.
At Malaysia’s monsoon-sodden race three weeks ago local hero Alex Yoong drove as if laden with lead before his mandatory tyre change. Then he came alive big-time making up many places to finish 7th and setting fastest lap.
At Indonesia’s Sentul on December 10 the prime victim of new tyres was Germany’s hot new star Nico Hulkenberg. As at Sepang, Sentul started in a downpour with a water-logged circuit but Hulkenberg had little trouble soaring from third to first to lead for the first session lapping around two seconds faster than any others.
After his tyre change the roles were reversed. New Zealand’s Jonny Read finally regained the lead, pulling away from the hapless German.
However, with his late change to dry tyres Hulkenberg was able to charge again. It was not enough to overtake Reid, but the gap was cut from 19 to 13 seconds in very few laps before a Safety Car ended any further real racing.
Can Bridgestone ensure that all tyres are truly equal for F1 in 2007? Time will tell.
For the record, both A1 races at Sentul were won by Read with Hulkenberg third and second. This extends Germany’s championship lead over Great Britain, Mexico, France, New Zealand and Malaysia.
The next race is on January 21 at Taupo in New Zealand, home of the winner of both the Sprint and Feature races in Indonesia. The remaining races are Australia (Eastern Creek, Sydney), South Africa (Durban), Brazil, Mexico, China (Shanghai) and Brands Hatch (UK).


Autotrivia Quiz

Last week was not an easy one. I printed a picture of a luxury two-door sports coupe featuring a carbon fibre/kevlar body, stainless steel for all metal components, and the latest in safety technology.

Quiz car.

It was mid-engined, up to a supercharged 370 bhp output. Its first service is scheduled for 100,000 km and it has a three year unlimited distance warranty. I asked what is it? It was a Bufori.

So to this week. You’ll have to work hard for this one. What was the fuel consumption of a racing Jaguar XJ-S? Hint. It was less than 10 mpg.
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!


Four Hour Fever growing

Pizza Company racing team.

The forthcoming Four Hour Endurance race for sedans at the Bira circuit on January 7, 2007, has certainly been bringing the drivers out of the woodwork (and retirement). The interest is also not just national, but international, with ex-F1 driver Jan Magnusson hoping to compete in one of the Pizza Company Racing Team Vios cars. This will depend upon his availability as far as his other racing commitments in Europe is concerned, but at this stage he is very hopeful. He will be teamed with Thomas Raldorf, against whom Magnusson raced in the Danish karting championships, plus Jack Lemvard who won the Vios series in 2006 and PGA golfer Simon Yates, who was also a front runner in the 2006 Vios series. This car will have five drivers, with Martin Stuvic, another Thailand GoKart champion and front-runner in the Vios 2006 championship, eager to pace himself against Magnusson.
The second car in the team sees Bill Heinecke (CEO of the Minor Group) come out of retirement, having raced a Porsche GT3 a couple of years ago, teamed with Michael Freeman, an Australian who has been based in Asia for some years, but has a long background in touring cars competing in the famous Australian 1,000 km endurance event at Bathurst. The two other drivers in this car are Paul Kenny, another Aussie expat who has won a Thailand GoKart championship and myself, Dr. Iain, who has dusted off the race suit and found the balaclava and gloves. (I am also doing fitness training at the Dusit Health Club!) This will be a fun team.
The third car, also in the Pizza Company racing colours, will be driven by Urs Schonenberger, an ex-bike and kart racer, and team manager, who wants to get the feel behind the wheel. He is teamed with John Heinecke (Bill H’s son), Tony Percy (another GoKarter) and Khun Ae, the team’s mechanic who wants to show the drivers that a mechanic can do more than twirl spanners. The photo shows two of the team cars, with the view we hope the other drivers will get!
To run a three car team does take money, and in addition to the usual sponsors of the Pizza Company, Sizzler, Swensens, Jotun, Dacon and DSL, we have added in my own personal sponsor AA Insurance Brokers, who will be joining the team for the first time.
Of course there are another 27 teams all vying for this endurance title. These include that of the Thailand Touring Car champion Natavude, teamed with his number two driver “Pete” Thongjua. These are the official Toyota Team Thailand drivers for the past couple of years, so will have much factory support for their Toyota Vios. However, endurance racing is very difficult to predict. Any driver having an off into a sand trap will have dashed the entire team’s chances. I believe fast but steady will win. Join me at Bira Circuit (on the right on Highway 36 before it is crossed by Highway 331) on the 7th January for a fun day out with the family.

The forthcoming Four Hour Endurance race for sedans at the Bira circuit on January 7, 2007, has certainly been bringing the drivers out of the woodwork (and retirement). The interest is also not just national, but international, with ex-F1 driver Jan Magnusson hoping to compete in one of the Pizza Company Racing Team Vios cars. This will depend upon his availability as far as his other racing commitments in Europe is concerned, but at this stage he is very hopeful. He will be teamed with Thomas Raldorf, against whom Magnusson raced in the Danish karting championships, plus Jack Lemvard who won the Vios series in 2006 and PGA golfer Simon Yates, who was also a front runner in the 2006 Vios series. This car will have five drivers, with Martin Stuvic, another Thailand GoKart champion and front-runner in the Vios 2006 championship, eager to pace himself against Magnusson.
The second car in the team sees Bill Heinecke (CEO of the Minor Group) come out of retirement, having raced a Porsche GT3 a couple of years ago, teamed with Michael Freeman, an Australian who has been based in Asia for some years, but has a long background in touring cars competing in the famous Australian 1,000 km endurance event at Bathurst. The two other drivers in this car are Paul Kenny, another Aussie expat who has won a Thailand GoKart championship and myself, Dr. Iain, who has dusted off the race suit and found the balaclava and gloves. (I am also doing fitness training at the Dusit Health Club!) This will be a fun team.
The third car, also in the Pizza Company racing colours, will be driven by Urs Schonenberger, an ex-bike and kart racer, and team manager, who wants to get the feel behind the wheel. He is teamed with John Heinecke (Bill H’s son), Tony Percy (another GoKarter) and Khun Ae, the team’s mechanic who wants to show the drivers that a mechanic can do more than twirl spanners. The photo shows two of the team cars, with the view we hope the other drivers will get!
To run a three car team does take money, and in addition to the usual sponsors of the Pizza Company, Sizzler, Swensens, Jotun, Dacon and DSL, we have added in my own personal sponsor AA Insurance Brokers, who will be joining the team for the first time.
Of course there are another 27 teams all vying for this endurance title. These include that of the Thailand Touring Car champion Natavude, teamed with his number two driver “Pete” Thongjua. These are the official Toyota Team Thailand drivers for the past couple of years, so will have much factory support for their Toyota Vios. However, endurance racing is very difficult to predict. Any driver having an off into a sand trap will have dashed the entire team’s chances. I believe fast but steady will win. Join me at Bira Circuit (on the right on Highway 36 before it is crossed by Highway 331) on the 7th January for a fun day out with the family.


Nissan going green

Nissan Motor Co. will sell a hybrid car using its own technology in the United States and Japan sometime in the fiscal year beginning April 1, 2010, says their head office in Tokyo, according to the American AutoNews.
The announcement, from an auto manufacturer that has resisted hybrids, was part of a broad “Nissan Green Program 2010” announced this December.
Among other plans, Nissan said it will develop new clean diesel engines. A 2.0 liter clean diesel will be available in Europe soon after April 1, 2007. North America, Japan, and China will get vehicles with the clean diesel engines sometime after April 1, 2010. Nissan says its diesels will meet coming strict U.S. rules that require emissions no worse than gasoline cars.
The manufacturer also said it will expand the availability of Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFV) within the next three years. In the United States, a flex-fuel Nissan Armada will debut next year, joining the flex-fuel Titan, which has been on sale since 2004. Both will be able to run on so-called E85 fuel.
They will also launch a “test” Nissan electric vehicle early in the next decade and accelerate development of plug-in hybrid technology.
Other promises are to reduce CO2 emissions from global manufacturing plants by seven percent compared to 2005 by 2010. Target a 2010 launch for a so-called “three-liter car” which can go 100 kilometers on three liters of fuel, or the equivalent of 62 miles on eight-tenths of a gallon of gasoline. Until now, European automakers have produced a few diesel-powered 3 liter cars, but Nissan says its car will be gasoline powered.
But it doesn’t end there. They will set up a new company to develop, make and sell lithium-ion batteries, perhaps as a joint venture with an existing battery maker. In this way they can guarantee the supply of batteries for the electric vehicle.
In addition, Nissan said it will study the global rollout of its “Nissan Green Shop” program, an initiative that aims to improve the environmental impact of its dealerships. In Japan, it will introduce CO2 management tools at its domestic dealerships.
Nissan next year will launch an Altima hybrid in the US market, using technology licensed from Toyota Motor Corp. The proposed 2010 hybrid will use technology developed by Nissan. Hybrid vehicles use gasoline engines as well as electric motors to turn the wheels.
Starting in April 2010, Nissan also will introduce gasoline engine technologies that will enhance fuel economy and at the same time reduce CO2 emissions equivalent to diesel engine levels. It will combine direct injection gasoline engines with turbochargers in four-cylinder engines.
For V6 and V8 engines, it will combine direct injection gasoline engines with Nissan’s Variable Valve Event and Lift System (VEL). It will begin rolling out VEL, which reduces CO2 emissions by 10 percent, starting from 2007 in Japan and North America.
For Nissan to give all the other manufacturers four years prior notice of their intentions means that they are already well down the road as far as research and development is concerned.