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Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

Update July 30, 2016

So now it’s the German GP


This Sunday is the German GP is being held at Hockenheim, not Nurburgring. It was opened in 1939, 15 miles from Heidelberg, and was used for German national car and motorcycle racing. In 1965/6 it was uprated to a design by John Hugenholz because one end was lost when an autobahn was built. The resulting circuit 6.7 km long remained blindingly quick for most of its length, with a slow section in the ‘stadium’ (i.e. grandstand) area, similar in concept to the arena course at Silverstone.

Hockenheim achieved notoriety in 1968 when, at one of the first major races held at the circuit, Jim Clark was killed in a Formula Two race following presumed tyre failure. His actual death was caused, however, by the fact that his car was able to leave the circuit unimpeded and hit a tree.

While the Nurburgring was being made safe, Hockenheim staged the 1970 German GP with a layout made slower by the construction of three chicanes. It was not a popular choice of venue but, following Lauda’s accident at the Nurburgring in 1976, Hockenheim became the home of the German GP for many years, but these days alternates annually with the ‘new’ Nurburgring.

With German cars and German drivers to the fore, there will be much nationalistic pride exhibited. Expect a thrilling race.

We will be watching in front of the big screen in Jameson’s Irish Pub, Soi AR, next to Nova Park. The race starts at 7 p.m. Thai time Sunday (Qualifying is at 7 p.m. Saturday), but get there around 6 p.m. for a good seat and join us for some dinner and a couple of drinks before the start.

What did we learn from the Hungarian GP?

Well, we learned (if we didn’t know already) that the Mercedes drivers Hamilton and Rosberg are not the best of mates, with Hamilton publicly slagging off Rosberg’s pole position at the post race press conference. This left the final podium place winner Ricciardo with his head in his hands all but shaking it in disbelief. As well as a swollen head, Hamilton is showing his true colors and becoming a loose cannon? His employers will not be pleased.

However, come race day Hamilton outdrove Rosberg with a confident and near faultless display of Grand Prix driving after winning the start. With the Hungaroring’s tight layout making passing difficult (but not impossible as Kimi Raikkonen showed going from 14th to 6th) the Grand Prix was a procession as predicted. A high speed procession, but a procession none the less.

Re-establishing himself as the Number 1 Red Bull driver, Ricciardo drove one of his usual gutsy drives to finish 3rd. while his team mate and 20 seconds behind, the rising star Max Verstappen found himself defending from Ferrari’s Raikkonen to finish 5th.

Ferrari are not on a roll, with Vettel becoming more vociferous if any driver dares to hold him up. Perhaps this type of thinking comes with being a world champion. It would appear that humility is being bred out of the current crop of “top” drivers. Eventually, 4th was as good as the Ferrari driver was going to get.

Not only did McLaren manage to get its Honda powered drivers into the top 10 in Qualifying, but Alonso managed to get his one across the finishing line in 7th. A red letter day for McLaren, but before the team started shaking hands with themselves, there was the question of track limit violations. Another new FIA rule was brought into play, where if you strayed past the designated track limits, then you received up to three warnings, and if this was exceeded, some diabolical punishment would be meted out. The FIA is currently considering punishments last used during the Spanish Inquisition.

However, his McLaren team mate, Jenson Button was not so lucky. He reported a brake problem to his pit and was given certain instructions, but these were considered an unauthorized radio communication, for which Button received a drive through penalty. Button felt that the brake pedal falling to the floor was a safety issue, and therefore did not fall under the ‘unauthorized’ category, but the FIA disagreed and gave the car running last, at that time, a drive through, to make sure he was last?

One driver who did impress was Carlos Sainz (Jnr) who brought his Toro Rosso through to 8th, a lap in front of the unhappy Russian Kvyat, who must know that he’s going to get a DCM at the end of the season.

Final drivers in the top 10 were Bottas in the Williams, who has certainly lost the fire he had at the beginning of the season and Hulkenberg (FIndia) who needs to be in a better car, or be relegated to the scrap heap 2017.

Another driver facing obscurity or Formula E, is Felipe Massa in the second Williams. Another happy dwarf who won’t be happy next year. Sorry Felipe, but that time has come.

Point score finishers:

1 L Hamilton Mercedes

2 N Rosberg Mercedes

3 D Ricciardo Red Bull

4 S Vettel Ferrari

5 M Verstappen Red Bull

6 K Raikkonen Ferrari

7 F Alonso McLaren

8 C Sainz Toro Rosso

9 V Bottas Williams

10 N Hulkenberg Force India

The next GP is this weekend at Hockenheim. Let us hope for a better race, that is what the spectators want – racing, not follow the leader.

Stopping the procession


For the past few years the F1 races have become processional. So processional that the FIA even commissioned an “Overtaking Working Group” to work out what could be done. For the first couple of years they did not do much. Grooved tyres were thrown out and slicks brought back – and that did nothing. Wings at the rear were made smaller, and that didn’t work. Wings at the front were made smaller and raised up from track level. That did nothing as far as overtaking was concerned, but it did bring a rash of muttering about wing flexibility at speed. This resulted in front wings that are so strong they could lift an elephant with one. But still there was no overtaking.

Let us now listen to what F1 legend Jean Alesi has to say. “As I see it, the biggest impact this year is clearly the tyres,” said Alesi. “Towards the end of the race things get really intense, and this is great from a fan’s perspective, creating some very exciting and unpredictable racing.”

The Pirelli tyres are quite different from previous manufacturers, with rapid wear compounds, which also hang on well for around 10 laps and then deteriorate so rapidly some drivers described the feeling like “falling off a cliff”. What this has meant is that the driver has had to think more about keeping his tyres in good shape and the strategist in the pit lane has to juggle more variables. Get them right and you have an advantage. Get them wrong and you have a driver struggling on unsuitable tyres, but not enough time to pop into the pits for a change of rubber before the race ends. As Alesi had pointed out, “Towards the end of the race things get really intense,” and they certainly do, and it leads to overtaking! Or, as Mercedes drivers have shown it leads to crashing into each other!

Muddled thinking reigns supreme?

Thailand’s road toll is the second worst in the world. That’s a fact.

I was almost run over by songthaews running the red light on a zebra crossing on Beach Road. For those who have not been to Pattaya for some time, you will find that Beach Road has pedestrian traffic lights every 200 meters. However, unfortunately all these do is to instill a false sense of security for those on foot.

Now as usual there will be ‘Think Tanks’ and measures will be instituted, which will, in theory, produce a drop in the road toll. After the minibus accidents, there will be calls for seat belts to be installed in all minibuses. Certainly a step in the right direction, but quite frankly, the effect on the total annual road toll will be miniscule at best, especially since there is no practical way of policing the wearing of the belts. Despite the well-publicized Bangkok accident, neither minibuses nor underage drivers are the prime cause.

The previous Interior Ministry told the provincial governors to put in place five measures - administration, law enforcement, traffic engineering, public relations and emergency medicine - to lower the government’s accident target by five percent from last New Year holiday, and by 10 percent for the year overall.

The Ministry urged agencies with integrated checkpoints to crack down on risky behavior and for local administrative organization-level checkpoints to oversee residents’ driving behavior. Provinces are to repair landslide-damaged roads and educate motorists; to supervise public-transport vehicles and drivers strictly; and to enforce the ban on drink-driving.

Now all that seems reasonably relevant and something as a starting point for all the committees which will be called up to propose the answers to the road toll problem.

However, the leg-work has been done already, even before the first coffee break for the Think Tank. The following statistics are readily available and a quick internet search will show that the road toll costs the country 2.1 percent of GDP. Now what were prime factors?

1. 80 percent of those killed are between 15-60 years.

2. 75 percent of the people killed are male.

3. 80 percent were riding motorcycles.

4. 85 percent had no crash helmet.

5. More than 50 percent of those injured had blood alcohol levels above the legal limit of 0.05. (Figures for blood alcohol levels of those killed are notoriously under-reported to avoid police/insurance problems.)

A treatise from one of our universities five years ago opined that “There are three major causes of road accidents in Thailand: drivers’ behaviors, mechanical failure, and road conditions.”

It does not need a Mensa IQ score to see that diverting attention to vehicle maintenance is not going to change the road toll, but driver behavior and alcohol are related and have a direct effect on the total number of people killed.

However, the greatest numbers should be attacked as the first priority. 80 percent of fatalities come from motorcycles. If it were possible to prevent these, you would have lowered the death toll by 80 percent, but that is Utopian and not possible. But – if you could get the 85 percent who were not wearing helmets to wear a helmet of a decent standard then you would produce an immediate lowering of the annual toll.

This is not Utopian. The salient figures are already there, the legislation is already there. The members of the Think Tank committees can finish their morning coffee and go home. I’ve done the sums for you.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked did an 8 cylinder radial engined plane cross the Atlantic? The answer is obviously no, as radial engines have to have an uneven number of cylinders, 7 cylinder or 9 cylinders, but never 8.

So to this week. Study the photograph – what is it, and who drove it? I want to know both.

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

Update July 23, 2016

Hungarian GP this weekend


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? Well it is in the middle of the Rainy Season in Hungary which runs from January to December, so some wet weather running is likely. There are also some fired-up drivers out there, trying to impress team principals for next year. 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 big screen. 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.

Mirai’s for sale, with one tank of Japanese gas

Toyota Mirai hydrogen car.

Toyota has brought three Mirai’s to Australia, ostensibly to evaluate the car’s performance under Aussie conditions.

However, the experimental hydrogen powered cars won’t go far, as the only hydrogen station is in Sydney and Toyota is in Melbourne. What makes it even worse, is the one in Sydney belongs to Hyundai.

Toyota has said the three cars are for assessment and promotional purposes with the fleet soon to be followed by its own mobile hydrogen fuel station, for obvious reasons.

The environmentally friendly Mirai will stay in Australia for three years for local Toyota engineers to learn more about the technology, as well as part of “key stakeholder engagement activities”, according to the car-maker.

Joining the three Mirai’s towards the end of the year will be a portable refuelling station that can top the car’s tanks up anywhere, allowing the Mirais to be transported to different parts of the country with greater ease (as long as the refueling truck goes with them).

Toyota Australia president Dave Buttner said having three examples of the Mirai in the country will help spread the word about hydrogen fuel-cell technology and increase its awareness.

The Mirai uses the Toyota Fuel Cell System (TFCS), which combines fuel-cell and hybrid technology, for a cruising range of about 550 km and a refuelling time of approximately three minutes, all while emitting only water vapour.

Hyundai Motor Company Australia imported a left-hand drive zero-emissions ix35 Fuel Cell two years ago to highlight the technology, with the hope of eventually being able to hold commercial trials, and ultimately, sell the car Down Under. However, you wouldn’t know it was there, either.

With just a spare 5 million the new Aston is yours

The world media has been full of the news that Aston Martin has teamed up with Red Bull to produce a hypercar codenamed AM-RB 001.

With the full unveiling of the concept at the company’s headquarters in Gaydon, England, Aston Martin has set an arrival date for the production version of 2018 and revealed that a maximum of 150 will be built, as well as 25 track-only versions.

Aston has revealed it will be powered by a naturally aspirated, V12 and the power-to-weight ratio is reputed to be one brake horsepower per each kilogram of weight. No definitive figures have come from Aston Martin, but it would be a fairly safe bet that the power will be around 600 kW.

To keep the weight down to 600 kg, a carbon-fiber structure will be used and expertise in carbon-fiber will from both the Red Bull Formula One team and one of the world’s leading racecar designers, Adrian Newey.

“I’ve always been adamant that the AM-RB 001 should be a true road car that’s also capable of extreme performance on track, and this means it really has to be a car of two characters,” said Newey. “That’s the secret we’re trying to put into this car – the technology that allows it to be docile and comfortable, but with immense outright capabilities.”

The significant power output will be sent to the bitumen via a “clean-sheet design” transmission, while the suspension system will also be closely related to racing technology. In the interests of weight-saving, the production car will drive only the rear wheels.

No mention of hybrid power systems was made at the release, indicating that Aston Martin has bucked the hypercar design set by McLaren, Ferrari and Porsche, all of which use hybrid technology in their fastest road cars to date.

Aston Martin’s chief creative officer Marek Reichman explained, “By definition the objectives we’ve set for the car ensures there has never been an Aston Martin – or any car, actually – quite like the AM-RB 001. The shared challenge has been finding that magical tipping point where we achieve the most efficient engineering solutions and the most beautiful styling solutions without any compromises.”

Both track and road versions of the AM-RB 001 will be built in Aston Martin’s specialized facility that was purpose-built for the construction of the company’s ultra-exclusive One-77 in 2012.

Aston Martin says the finished product will be able to lap a Formula One track as fast as a current F1 car – if not faster.

Along with all the design details hinted at, but not confirmed, the price is expected to be between 5 and 10 million dollars. Since Aston Martin has not turned a profit for at least five years, they will need to sell a lot of them!

New Mazda BT-50 no longer a Ranger knock-off

Mazda BT-50.

News is out from Japan that the next generation Mazda BT-50 will be coming down an Isuzu assembly line, joining the Isuzu D-Max and the Chevrolet Colorado.

Up till now, the Mazda pick-up has shared design details with Ford’s Ranger, and whilst Ranger has been a brilliant success for FoMoCo, the BT-50 has been left lingering.

Mazda announced that the basic agreement signed by the two auto-makers this week follows an earlier agreement between General Motors and Isuzu from late-2014 confirming that they would co-develop the next-generation D-Max and Chevrolet Colorado.

The Mazda deal means there will be three models – the D-Max, Colorado and BT-50 replacement – sharing basic architecture in a similar way to Nissan’s NP300 Navara which will form the basis for alliance partner Renault’s just revealed Alaskan and the forthcoming Mercedes-Benz pick-up, likely to be called GLT.

It is understood that the Mazda will have its own look to differentiate it from the Isuzu/Colorado models in the competitive one-tonne pick-up market, but information on possible shared powertrains is unclear.

Mazda and Isuzu have been collaborating for more than 10 years, with Isuzu building commercial trucks for Mazda specifically for the Japanese domestic market.

In a statement, the two companies confirmed that Isuzu would produce the next-gen pick-up for Mazda based on its own pick-up, adding that the agreement would allow “Isuzu to enhance its product competiveness and Mazda to strengthen its product line-up and maintain own-brand market coverage”.

Little else is known about the future Mazda pick-up at this stage, but given the announcement has just been made, it is unlikely the next-gen BT-50 would be in the showrooms before 2019.

Can’t afford the AM? Ford has the answer

If the 5 million is just out of your budget, then try the new Ford Focus RS. This truly pocket rocket has modes the driver can select, including a “drift” mode, where at the press of a button, drivers can perform a perfect “drift” (a sideways four-wheel skid) providing they floor the throttle and turn the steering wheel.

The so-called “safety” experts are throwing their hands in the air saying there is nothing stopping the so-called “drift” mode from being used on public roads. Ford’s reply, “Drift mode is targeted for track use only - a disclaimer appears on (the instrument) cluster when switching modes. We believe the drift and track modes are appropriate for racetracks, and that typical Focus RS customers will understand the need to deploy these features under controlled and safe conditions such as during a track day.”

Jumping on the ‘speed kills’ bandwagon, the “safety” experts (in Australia) are claiming road deaths in the 12 months to the end of May show the toll has increased by 9.8 percent, with 1,275 fatalities.

So far this year, road deaths are up by 14.6 percent nationally to the end of May, with 551 fatalities.

Former president of the Australian Medical Association, Professor Brian Owler, said, “They’re obviously marketing the car to young people who are interested in that type of driving. The problem is most people don’t have access to a race track. Without a race track it’s inherently dangerous.”

Save me from do-gooders. The “inherently dangerous” Focus RS 500 is not even released in Australia. Cars don’t kill people. It is people that kills people. With all the latest electronic aids, the Focus RS 500 is inherently safer than other non-performance cars on the roads, driven by your “average” driver.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked why did one of the automakers incorporate a fifth wheel in the design in the late 40’s early 50’s? The fifth wheel was used in place of parallel parking by swinging the tail of the car into position.

So to this week. Did an 8 cylinder radial engined plane cross the Atlantic?

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

Update July 16, 2016

M-B shows how to make your cars fugly

Mercedes AMG.

The AMG group (part of Mercedes-Benz) have developed the AMG sports car and the latest version is the first AMG to use the new “Mercedes-AMG” nomenclature and the first model to make use of the new twin-turbo, 4.0-liter V-8 engine. It may be the contender in the Porsche marketplace, but this new version front is far from enticing. Shoot the stylist – or was it Chris Bangle?

Autonomous car in fatal accident

Tesla S.

The anti-autonomous group are busy saying, “I told you so. That’s the end of Tesla.” However, when you look back at the history of the motor car, there have been millions of deaths from conventional cars and it didn’t stop the development of that group, did it.
Tesla Motors Inc. says the self-driving feature suspected of being involved in a May 7 fatal crash is experimental, yet it’s been installed on all 70,000 of its cars since October 2014.
For groups that have lobbied for stronger safety rules, that’s precisely what’s wrong with U.S. regulators’ increasingly anything-goes approach.
“Allowing automakers to do their own testing, with no specific guidelines, means consumers are going to be the guinea pigs in this experiment,” said Jackie Gillan, president for Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, a longtime Washington consumer lobbyist who has helped shape numerous auto-technology mandates “This is going to happen again and again and again.” (Give me strength!)
The May crash under investigation involved a 40 year old Ohio man who was killed when his 2015 Model S drove under the trailer of an 18-wheeler on a highway near Williston, Florida, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. The truck driver told the Associated Press that he believes the Ohio man may have been watching a movie. Authorities recovered a portable DVD player but don’t know whether it was playing at the time of the crash.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Thursday that it is investigating the crash, which comes as the regulator says it is looking for ways to collaborate with the industry. The agency negotiated an agreement to speed the introduction of automatic emergency braking earlier this year, frustrating safety groups who say they had no input and said carmakers’ pledges to install the technology couldn’t be enforced by law.
NHTSA is also expected to announce guidelines that will set some parameters for self-driving cars on U.S. roads. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told reporters Wednesday the agency would be as exact as it could without being overly prescriptive.
In January, Foxx and NHTSA chief Mark Rosekind announced in Detroit that they’d allow automakers to demonstrate the safety of autonomous vehicles and apply for exemptions to existing safety rules. They said the government shouldn’t stand in the way of technological progress.
In the Florida crash, Tesla’s “Autopilot” semi-autonomous driving feature failed to detect the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky, so it didn’t hit the brakes, according to the company.
The company says the cars are safer than conventional ones. Tesla said the May accident was the first known fatality in more than 130 million miles of Autopilot driving. That compares with one fatality in every 94 million miles among all U.S. vehicles, according to Tesla.
“Autopilot is by far the most advanced driver-assistance system on the road, but it does not turn a Tesla into an autonomous vehicle and does not allow the driver to abdicate responsibility,” the company said. “Since the release of Autopilot, we’ve continuously educated customers on the use of the feature, reminding them that they’re responsible for remaining alert and present when using Autopilot and must be prepared to take control at all times.”
BMW announced its own self-driving car venture partnering with Intel Corp. and Mobileye, aiming for cars on the road by 2021. Even on the day of the announcement, company executives were cautious about the limits of technology that allows people to drive hands-free.
In February, a Lexus-model Google self-driving car hit the side of a bus near the company’s Silicon Valley headquarters. The vehicle was in autonomous mode going about 2 miles per hour around sandbags in the road. Google’s software detected the bus but predicted that it would yield, which it did not, according to a company report about the incident. There were no injuries reported at the scene, the company said. “In this case, we clearly bear some responsibility, because if our car hadn’t moved there wouldn’t have been a collision,” Google said in its report. (That is as silly as the statement that accidents with farangs wouldn’t have happened if the farang hadn’t come to Thailand. Certainly the software covering autonomous cars is not yet foolproof, but human control is not foolproof either!)

What did we learn from the British GP?

Well we learned, if we didn’t know before, that England has a miserable climate, but despite this, 139,000 people came to Silverstone to watch “their” race. They were rewarded with an all the way win by Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) to make it three British GP wins on the trot, to emulate the late and great Jim Clark.
The race began after a heavy rain storm behind the safety car. One has to ask why? These are a bunch of the best drivers in the world, who should be able to handle rain, hail or snow. They do not need a nanny to make sure they have a raincoat!
After the half a dozen laps trundling round behind the safety car, the race proper began, with almost everyone diving into the pits to change to intermediate tyres, with some close shaves in the pit lane.
Immediately Hamilton left the field in his spray, and was never under threat at any time. It was a masterful drive in less than ideal track conditions. He was followed by his team mate (and pretender to the throne) Nico Rosberg who only lasted a few laps before Max Verstappen (Red Bull) pounced and swept round the outside of Rosberg to take over second. This did not last too long, and as the track dried Rosberg was able to power past the Red Bull to finish second on the track. However, following application of more FIA rubbish rules, Rosberg was penalized 10 seconds for getting radio assistance with his gearbox, demoting him to third and elevating Verstappen.
Meanwhile Verstappen’s team mate Ricciardo just slipped slowly backwards, unable to get close enough to be a threat, finishing fourth. Ricciardo later complained that the “virtual safety car” periods disadvantaged him and he had a “boring” race. I would agree that his performance was indeed “boring”. Ricciardo will have to pull his finger out, as he is being overshadowed by the young Verstappen.
Ferrari had a dreadful day, but at least Kimi produced some sort of rabbit from the hat with his fifth place (perhaps Ferrari were correct in extending the Finn’s contract). Sebastian Vettel in the other red car could do no better than ninth, including a five second penalty for gently moving Massa off the track, which actually was a racing incident and not requiring stewards enquiries. The name of this game is motor “racing”. Let the drivers race like they always used to!
FIndia had a good weekend with Perez and Hulkenberg sixth and seventh. The Mexican is certainly doing better than Hulkenberg, who was once the hottest property around. He will soon be approaching his use-by date if he isn’t careful.
One driver who did impress was Sainz in the Toro Rosso who showed the style of rally driving reminiscent of his father in coming eighth.
After that were the real also-rans including McLaren. How the mighty have fallen, taking the reputations of Alonso and Button with them.
Of interest were the fastest laps:
1 N Rosberg Mercedes 1:35.548
2 F Alonso McLaren 1:35.669
3 L Hamilton Mercedes 1:35.771
4 D Ricciardo Red Bull 1:36.013
5 F Massa Williams 1:36.141
6 M Verstappen Red Bull 1:36.407
Rosberg was the quickest car out there, but obviously unable to string them all together. Hamilton was only third and Verstappen sixth. Alonso second despite the moans.
1. L Hamilton Mercedes
2. M Verstappen Red Bull
3. N Rosberg Mercedes
4. D Ricciardo Red Bull
5. K Raikkonen Ferrari
6. S Perez Force India
7. N Hulkenberg Force India
8. C Sainz Toro Rosso
9. S Vettel Ferrari
10. D Kvyat Toro Rosso
The next race is in Hungary July 24.

Honda looking ahead – well ahead

A future Honda?

According to a report from Honda Japan, the first autonomous Honda is just four years away. “Honda continues to conduct research and development of self-driving functions and aims for the actual application of these technologies on the highway by 2020.”
Rather than throwing skepticism in the autonomous corner, Honda states that the safety advances are not just down to vehicle technology, and its ambitious plan will only become a reality with similar efforts in the areas of human safety education, telecommunication networks as well as more advanced vehicles.
Quality of Honda products is also cited as a major area the company will heavily resource and the sustainability guide quotes the philosophy of Honda founder Soichiro Honda, “We have to aim for 120 percent product quality,” he said. “If 99 percent of the products we make are perfect, that would seem like a pretty good record. However, the customers who become the owners of the remaining one percent will surely consider their products 100 percent defective.”
Giving themselves a broader global focus, Honda is transitioning into using English as its universal language, and by 2020, all international communication will be distributed in English.
Honda also expressed goals in the logistics field with supply chain optimization and enhancement looked upon as an opportunity to reduce costs, boost efficiency, reduce waste and cut CO2 production.
The old empty containers problem is mentioned in Honda’s future big picture. With more strategic management of freight, export supplies can be dispatched in one direction and the container can be loaded with import goods for the return journey, effectively cutting the movement of an empty truck for two journeys. (This is somewhat utopian, and requires that there be import goods available, something no-one has been able to provide an answer.)

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked which production sports car blanked off first gear in the gearbox and then added overdrive on the top two to make a five speed gearbox? The answer, and first in was Peter Eades who lives somewhere up in the mulga, and was the Austin Healey 100.
So to this week. Why did one of the automakers incorporate a fifth wheel in the design in the late 40’s early 50’s?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]  or [email protected]. Good luck!

Update July 9, 2016

B-Quik goes on display

B-Quik Audi.

Fresh from a superb start to the new Thailand Super Series season in Buriram last month, one of B-Quik Racing’s brace of Audi R8 LMS Cup racecars was the star at the 4th Bangkok International Auto Salon.

The #26 Audi R8 LMS Cup is raced by team leader Henk J. Kiks in Thailand Super Series, headlining ‘Super Car GTM’ category. The German sports car is entering its third season with B-Quik Racing and was driven to podium success by Henk during Round 1 of 2016, held in Buriram in May. In fact it proved to be stunning start to the season as Henk and his teammate Daniel Bilski, who is driving the second Audi this year, finished on the podium no less than four times during the ‘triple header’ held in the North East.

We get all our tyres for the TBX Retro Racer Escort through B-Quik as well, and I hear good reports from other racers.

(The Bangkok International Auto Salon is South East Asia’s biggest modified and tuning car show and is closely modeled on the world famous Tokyo Auto Salon and as usual this edition includes a selection of highly modified and customized cars that have been shipped over from Japan especially for the show.)

Standing start half mile record

If you ever wanted to know what 2,300 horsepower packed into a modern car can do, then ask madman Gidi Chamdi who set a new world record for a standing half mile behind the wheel of a highly modified Lamborghini Gallardo prepared by Underground Racing in the USA.

Chamdi reached a speed of over 380 km/h, which is a new world record for a street-legal car. It’s also the first time anyone has cracked 380 km/h in the event.

Chamdi’s previous top speed for the standing half mile was 370 km/h, which he set in August 2015. However, this was eclipsed by a 375 km/h run by KC Howeth in an Underground Racing-prepped Lamborghini Huracán just a couple of months later. Both cars feature Underground Racing’s X package which uses twin-turbocharging to extract the big horsepower numbers.

Initial Quality Study has Kia on top

Kia Rio 5.

Kia reported the fewest problems per 100 vehicles in the first 90 days of ownership, narrowly beating second place Porsche. It is the first time a non-premium brand has claimed the study’s top spot since Toyota in 1989.

21 of 33 brands improved as overall industry quality rose 6 percent compared to 2015. The study, released at an Automotive Press Association meeting in Detroit, also found that domestic brands outperformed their imported rivals for just the second time in the study’s 30 year history.

“It’s a banner year for the industry,” Renee Stephens, vice president of U.S. automotive quality at J.D. Power, said in an interview. “We’re really seeing tremendous improvement in so many areas.”

The study, which many buyers consult before purchasing a new car, looks at problems new owners have in the first 90 days with a vehicle. The lower the score, the fewer the number of defects and the higher the vehicle quality.

British GP this weekend

Dr. Farina.

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 and Hamilton are still at each other’s throats. Hamilton will be trying for the win but if form is anything to go by, the two Mercedes drivers will be fighting it out with Red Bull and Ferrari as well as between themselves.

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 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. 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 9 and the race is 7 p.m. on Sunday 10 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?

What did we learn from Austrian GP?

Well, we learned a race isn’t over till it’s over, with the traumatic lead change on the final lap, giving the race to Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) relegating his team mate (and not best friend) Nico Rosberg. That last lap contact between the two Mercedes drivers could be looked at as Rosberg pushing Hamilton up the track, or Hamilton turning in on Rosberg.

Post-race, the stewards decided that Rosberg was in the wrong and applied a 10 second time penalty. However, the popular vote was that Hamilton turned in on Rosberg and made the feeling obvious by booing Hamilton on the podium. Hamilton appears now to consider himself a minor deity, as when asked his feeling about being booed, replied, that he loved Austria, “So to have that kind of feeling for a country and then have that response when you have a win, for sure it’s not the greatest, but I forgive them. Sometimes that’s just the way it is and I don’t judge them for that.” (I’m sure the disgruntled burghers will be so happy to receive his blessings.)

With the mixed up grid after the wet Qualifying, the first lap saw much shuffling of the order behind Nico Rosberg, which was then compounded by the usual tyre “strategies”. Three tyres were allowed for this meeting, soft, ultra soft and Swiss cheese. The latter were lasting 8-10 laps, so the pits were busy.

By the time the two stoppers and the one stoppers allowed the order to settle, Hamilton was leading from Vettel and Raikkonen (Ferrari), Rosberg, Verstappen and Ricciardo (Red Bull), but tyres were again going to change the order, with Vettel’s car suffering a right rear explosion on the 27th lap, with the unhappy German hitting the fence, bringing out the Safety Car and another round of pit stops for tyres that might last more than 20 laps.

Rosberg looked comfortable at the front having already taken on new tyres and in control of the situation, while there was much passing and repassing in the middle order with Button (McLaren) showing the younger drivers some excellent race craft ending up with a 6th place, which is almost as good as a win for Ron Dennis’ team. His team mate Alonso experienced yet another battery/generating unit failure. Alonso will soon have to go for training to remember what a chequered flag looks like. To continue at McLaren next year would be nothing short of masochism.

The US team Haas continues to amaze, Grosjean being competitive in the middle order and coming home behind Button and ahead of Sainz (Toro Rosso), Bottas (Williams) and in 10th place Wehrlein (Manor) who scored the first F1 point for his team. If Wehrlein keeps this up, he and Hamilton can do some joint walking on water exercises at Silverstone.

The team which went home thoroughly depressed was Force India with Hulkenberg (brake failure), who had started from grid 2, and Perez (accident) on the penultimate lap.

It had been an exciting GP with many changes in the order, and bodes well for Silverstone’s spectators this weekend July 9 and 10.

Meanwhile, down at Mercedes, the Beatles song “Come together, right over me!” is being played on the factory PA system. However, it is obvious that the musical arranger Toto Wolff is not amused and is considering team orders to keep his naughty children under control.


1 L Hamilton Mercedes

2 M Verstappen Red Bull

3 K Raikkonen Ferrari

4 N Rosberg Mercedes

5 D Ricciardo Red Bull

6 J Button McLaren

7 R Grosjean Haas

8 C Sainz Toro Rosso

9 V Bottas Williams

10 P Wehrlein Manor

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 11 at Jameson’s at 7 p.m. 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 specials, washed down with a few beers. A couple of the members are scrutineers at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, so they may have some scuttlebutt about the F1 scene, and one is just back from driving around Australia towing a caravan! 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 which make of car was excluded from a special race in Holland, because it was just too good for the opposition? It was the DAF with its belt variomatic transmission.
So to this week. What production sports car blanked off first gear in the gearbox and then added overdrive on the top two to make a five speed gearbox?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected] or [email protected] Good luck!

Update July 2, 2016

Rotary 25 years ago at Le Mans

Le Mans Mazda 787 B.

No, this is nothing to do with the charitable Rotary organization, but everything to do with the Mazda rotary engine which won at Le Mans 25 years ago. This is still the only time a Japanese team and a rotary engine has won at the Le Mans 24 hours, though Toyota went very close this year, leading until the final lap, but motor sport can be very cruel.

The rotary engine in the 787 B was designated as a R26B, a four-rotor affair that produced an estimated 700 peak horsepower at 9,000 RPM while remaining naturally aspirated, while generating incredible noise!

The race saw the Rotary Mazda compete against the factory Peugeot team, the Sauber-Mercedes C11 and the TWR Jaguars. It was not the fastest car, but in endurance racing it is necessary to have reliability, and Mazda were able to see off all the other fancied runners, while the R26B just kept on delivering the speed to carry it to the front of the 1991 Le Mans.

Interested in a hybrid?


Lohner Porsche.

Hybrid vehicles are all around us. Most of the locomotives we see pulling trains are diesel-electric hybrids. Cities like Seattle have diesel-electric buses. Giant mining trucks are often diesel-electric hybrids. Submarines are also hybrid vehicles - some are nuclear-electric and some are diesel-electric.

Any vehicle that combines two or more sources of power that can directly or indirectly provide propulsion power is a hybrid.

Now hybrids are really nothing new (actually there is very little that is ‘new’ in the automotive world). In 1901, a brilliant engineer called Dr Ferdinand Porsche built the Lohner-Porsche. This was the world’s first ‘series’ hybrid where the electric driving motors were powered by batteries, and the batteries were in turn charged up by an on-board petrol engine generator. Porsche used two ‘in-wheel’ motors, a design that has been used by Mitsubishi in the MiEV range.

The interesting fact about Dr. Porsche’s design is that the Lunar Lander used the Porsche in-wheel electric motor concept as well.

Now whilst a hybrid is combining two different power sources, there are different ways of going about this too. One way, known as a parallel hybrid, has a fuel tank that supplies gasoline to the engine and a set of batteries that supplies power to the electric motor. Both the engine and the electric motor can turn the transmission at the same time, and the transmission then turns the wheels. With the parallel hybrid system, either gasoline or electric power can be used. Petrol can assist electric and vice versa, and both can run together as well as being the single power source, generally at starting the vehicle.

Simplifying all this, the fuel tank and petrol engine connect to the transmission. The batteries and electric motor also connect to the transmission independently. As a result, in a parallel hybrid, both the electric motor and the gas engine can provide propulsion power.

By contrast, in a series hybrid, the petrol engine turns a generator, and the generator can either charge the batteries or power an electric motor that drives the transmission. With this system, the gasoline engine never directly powers the vehicle.

If that isn’t enough complication, the Toyota Prius has what is called the Hybrid Synergy Drive. This is really a combined hybrid (sometimes referred to as series-parallel), a vehicle that can be propelled by gasoline (petrol) and/or electric power.

The Prius gets its good fuel consumption figures through many factors, including: regenerative braking, using motor-generators, which converts kinetic energy of motion into electrical energy that is stored in the traction battery.

The gasoline engine normally shuts off during traffic stops and the accessories (including the air conditioning) are powered by the battery pack. The engine is used both to propel the vehicle and to recharge the batteries (combined series/parallel). Because of the availability of extra power from the electric motors for rapid acceleration the engine is sized smaller than usual thus giving increased fuel efficiency and lowered emissions with acceptable acceleration. Two electric motor/generators are used: MG1 and MG2. MG1, reversible and up to 10,000 rpm, starts the engine and provides counter torque for the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). MG2 provides 50 kW (67 hp) between 1,200 to 1,540 rpm and 400 Nm torque between 0 to 1,200 rpm, contributing to performance and economy.

A Hybrid Synergy Drive (HSD) unit can combine a planetary gearset that behaves like a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) and is called the Power Split Device to increase efficiency. The computer controlled HSD transaxle adjusts and blends the amount of power from the gasoline engine and electric motor-generator(s) as needed by the front drive wheels and rechargeable batteries.

A sealed 38 module nickel metal hydride (NiMH) battery pack providing 273.6 volts, 6.5 Amp/hr capacity and weighing 53.3 kg is supplied by Japan’s Panasonic. There is yet another type of hybrid. This is called a plug-in hybrid (PHEV). These use a larger electric vehicle battery pack that is recharged from external sources in order to further reduce fuel consumption. The NiMH batteries in a production PHEV will be built to handle deeper discharge cycles without loss of lifespan such as the NiMH battery pack in the Toyota RAV4 EV. Operation of the vehicle will be very similar to a normal hybrid, except that the electric operation will be more prevalent. In the case of a Prius PHEV, on the highway, the gasoline engine will operate as before, leaving the car with the same ability to accelerate and use freeways. When driving in slower conditions or with light loads, the batteries will be used first in a charge-depleting mode, allowing moderate commutes at low speeds (particularly under 65 km/h) to be driven entirely on electricity. Once the batteries have been sufficiently discharged the car will automatically revert back to the charge-sustaining mode of a normal Prius operation.

While some sections of the auto industry look upon hybrids as the answer to our present crude oil ‘end of the world as we know it’ situation, but there are others that just see the combination of gasoline and electric as merely a ‘half way house’. I would agree with that sentiment. Why waste even more time and research resources on what is really very outdated technology. The newer all-electric vehicles have much more to offer us in the long run. And free us from being held to ransom by the pimps at the pumps.

However, in the EV scene, Tesla is leading the charge (pun intended)! More on that another day!

Hybrid Synergy Drive.

Austrian Grand Prix this weekend

Red Bull.

The Austrian Grand Prix returns to Austria and the Red Bull Ring. The circuit has had a revamp from Red Bull and Red Bull Racing will naturally be hoping they can get a win on home soil.

The “Ring” has seen many configurations of the track, mainly to slow the cars down, as speeds of up to 256 km/h for a lap average have been recorded previously.

The current history is interesting. Grandstands and pit buildings were demolished in 2004, rendering the track unusable for any motorsport category. Then in late 2004 and early 2005, there were intense discussions concerning whether the owner of the circuit, Red Bull, would find another use for the site, or return motor sports to the venue. There was a circuit extension proposal using part of the old Österreichring; however, Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz publicly announced that he had no intention of wasting money on a race circuit.

Despite what he had avowed before, late in 2008, Red Bull began their €70m reconstruction of the track.

With the reconstruction, the Red Bull Ring has hosted the DTM Series, F2 and also the FIA Historic Formula One Championship.

In July 2013, Red Bull announced that the Austrian Grand Prix would return as a round of the Formula One World Championship in 2014. This was confirmed on 4 December 2013 when the 2014 Formula One schedule was released and included the Austrian Grand Prix which was held on 22 June 2014.

The telecast of this year’s race begins at 7 p.m. Thai time and we will be watching in front of the big screen at Jameson’s Irish Pub (Soi AR) and we get there around 6 p.m. for something to eat and a convivial drink or two before the race starts. Come in a koala suit and barrack for Ricciardo and I’ll get Kim Fletcher to buy you a beer or a eucalyptus leaf or something.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked which car company, during the war years, offered electric windscreen wipers, as well as the vacuum operated ones? Having had a car with only vacuum wipers, I can see why electric ones were necessary. It was Ford Motor Company and my vacuum wipers were on a 1953 V8 Customline.

So to this week. Which make of car was excluded from a special race in Holland, because it was just too good for the opposition?

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]:

So now it’s the German GP

What did we learn from the Hungarian GP?

Stopping the procession

Muddled thinking reigns supreme?

Autotrivia Quiz

Hungarian GP this weekend

Mirai’s for sale, with one tank of Japanese gas

With just a spare 5 million the new Aston is yours

New Mazda BT-50 no longer a Ranger knock-off

Can’t afford the AM? Ford has the answer

Autotrivia Quiz

M-B shows how to make your cars fugly

Autonomous car in fatal accident

What did we learn from the British GP?

Honda looking ahead – well ahead

Autotrivia Quiz

B-Quik goes on display

Standing start half mile record

Initial Quality Study has Kia on top

British GP this weekend

What did we learn from Austrian GP?

Natter Nosh and Noggin

Autotrivia Quiz

Rotary 25 years ago at Le Mans

Interested in a hybrid?

Austrian Grand Prix this weekend

Autotrivia Quiz