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Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

Update October 29, 2016

Mexico at 2 a.m.

Mexican Hat Dance.

Being in the same time zone as Austin Texas, the Mexican GP starts at 2 a.m. Long past my bedtime, so sorry, no Grand Prix report, and no report of last week’s US GP either. The next GP to be run at semi-sensible hours will be the Brazilian GP November 13 starting at 11 p.m. I will be on my favorite perch at Jameson’s in front of the big screen, come and join me.

BMW reveal the latest 5 Series

BMW 5 Series.

Seventh-generation BMW 5 Series looks very much like a 7 Series and comes loaded with driver assistance items, while up to 100 kg lighter by using lightweight aluminium, high-tensile steels, and magnesium.

Codenamed the G30, BMW’s new 5 Series has front full LED headlights that is anchored to the front kidney grille, to the lower body swage lines that integrate the Air Breather side vents along its side, and its prominent tail lights, this new 5 Series looks like a small 7 Series.

The new 5 Series will come with a choice of two petrol and two diesel units initially, with an iPerformance plug-in hybrid variant, frugal Efficient Dynamics Edition, and a range-topping M Performance variant to follow later next year.

Petrol choices for now only cover the 530i and 540i variants.

The diesel options, the 140 kW/400 Nm 2 liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine in the 520d uses 4 L/100 km, while delivering a zero to 100 km/h time of 7.7 seconds. The 530d on the other hand delivers the most grunt with its 3 liter straight-six diesel producing 195 kW and 620 Nm of torque. BMW is claiming that the 530d is able to deliver a rated fuel consumption figure of 4.5 L/100 km and get from zero to 100 km/h in 5.7 seconds.

All the aforementioned variants will come paired with an eight-speed automatic as standard, with the exception of the 520d, which has a six-speed manual option.

The 5 Series now comes with an optional electromechanical Dynamic Drive active roll stabilization system that uses electric swivel motors to adjust the anti-roll bars instead of hydraulics. The feature, which comes paired with the optional Adaptive Drive system, is fast-acting, more precise, lighter, and more energy frugal. In effect the system is able to improve comfort over uneven roads, whilst sharpening its handling characteristics in the corners. Couple it with the optional Integral Active Steering rear-wheel steering, and the 5 Series promises to be nimbler than its size would suggest.

Just as its exterior uses the design cues of the 7 Series, so too does the 5 Series’ cockpit bears the same dashboard design, layout, and switchgear as the 7 Series.

According to BMW the new 5 Series is a lot roomier inside than its predecessor, which was a major bugbear. The cabin is said to now offer more elbow and shoulder room for front seat occupants, whereas the rear seats now offer more knee and legroom, while its door cut-outs have been optimized to make getting in and out a much easier affair.

Delve further into its specification sheet and features, and the 5 Series seems to take more than just design inspiration, with plenty of features that were first seen on the 7 Series have filtered its way into the new model.

Up front the 5 Series’ 10.25-inch freestanding centre multimedia screen reads hand gestures, and is touch-sensitive, complementing the use of its iDrive Controller and voice recognition system. Its head-up display has been sized up, with its projection size now around 70 per cent larger than its predecessor.

Another carry-over feature from the 7 Series is its Remote Control Parking, which allows drivers to park the car remotely through the use of the Display Key.

With market expectations leaning heavily towards autonomous driver assistance systems, BMW has suitably beefed up the new 5 Series’ list of features. The operational envelope of its optional Active Cruise Control has been extended to all speeds between rest and 210km/h. This allows the car to brake to a standstill, and automatically move off again - even when being in a standstill for up to 30 seconds - without any driver intervention on the accelerator, brakes, or steering. The system can also recognize motorway exits and roundabouts, and adjust its speed accordingly.

The 5 Series’ optional Driving Assist Plus package is loaded with features that enables it to switch lanes and even steer away from trouble autonomously. At speeds between 70 and 180 km/h its Lane Change Assistant can automatically assist in pulling a lane change manoeuver simply with the long press of the indicator stalk in the desired direction.

The Driving Assist Plus’ Lane Keeping Assistant on the other hand is able to prevent drivers from steering into hazards by automatically applying corrective steering, should the system detect the vehicle is veering off the road or in danger of sideswiping another vehicle in the next lane at speeds between 70 and 210 km/h. Meantime its Side Collision Warning system on the other hand would deliver both visual and steering wheel vibration signals should it detect another vehicle coming too close to its flank at speeds of between 30 and 210 km/h. If the system detects sufficient room to pull an evasive manoeuver, the system will steer its way out of danger.

A new addition to the Driving Assist Plus package is the evasion aid, which can execute an emergency lane change should it detect an obstacle at speeds of up to 160 km/h. The system works in tandem with the car’s stability control and sensors to determine how much unobstructed space is available in its vicinity.

The Driving Assist Plus package also includes a Priority warning feature that works in conjunction with the Navigation system Professional to deliver visual and audible warnings and prime the brakes, should it detect the driver blundering into a junction where other vehicles have priority. Likewise its Wrong-way warning system also prompts the driver if they are driving the wrong way onto a motorway, roundabout, or heading the wrong way down a one-way street.

Aside from autonomous driver assistance systems, the 5 Series boast plenty of new ConnectedDrive connective features. Its new Remote 3D View technology beams three-dimensional views of the vehicle’s surroundings to the owner’s smartphone through the use of cellular networks. The latest iteration of the 5 Series’ Navigation system Professional on the other hand boasts a quicker start-up, faster route calculation, and is said to be able to learn a new route should the driver keep diverting from a suggested route.

(Not recommended for those drivers who are worried about the digital experience, or having trouble with the remote on the Smart TV.)

When is a Weber not a Weber?

Fake Webers.

Yes, these “Webers” are hiding all the built-in hardware for fuel injection, a best-of-both-worlds solution for modern reinterpretations on a classic. The concept is laughably simple, and yet totally brilliant; the execution, at least visually, is absolutely spot-on. Jenvey developed its Heritage line with GTC Engineering, a well-known Aston Martin tuning outfit. The two firms extensively road- and dyno-tested prototype trumpets on a fuel-injected DB5 mule. But this isn’t exclusive Aston kit. Heritage horns are made in four sizes, ranging from 40 to 48mm, which should make them work for the majority of classics. They’ll fit most manifolds configurations, too, and come in pairs of two to feed rowdier engines.

Another new MX5


The Targa-like look of the new roof structure really does give the MX-5 a striking, straked look, and adds a new dimension to what is already a hugely attractive, and almost manly looking sports car.

Interestingly, all of the MX-5s that took part were fitted with manual gearboxes, because in European countries, where automatics are still seen as a soft option for less enthusiastic drivers, there is zero demand for a self-shifting version (in Australia a shameful 40 percent of MX-5s sold are fitted with auto boxes).

“It’s not that we’re opposed to the idea of automatic versions of the MX-5, and if someone wanted an auto in this new RF, I’m sure we could make that happen, it’s just that there’s no demand for such a thing,” Mazda said.

“European drivers prefer manual, particularly in a sports car like this. It makes sense.”

In smaller sports cars, I go along with manual gearboxes as all part of the fun; however, with something larger, such as Aston Martin, Bentley et al, auto would fit best.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I mentioned a car was penned in the US by a famous designer, but ended up being moved to Canada. It is 53 years old, but you can still buy a new one. The car held many records from Bonneville, including a 170 mph pass. Who was the designer, as well as what is the car? Not too difficult really, it was the Avanti, designed by Raymond Loewy, and you can still buy a new one!

So to this week. A brake system which was used in motor racing in 1954 was brought out again in 1970. What was it and which cars used it?

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

Update October 22, 2016

US Grand Prix this weekend

Ralph de Palma.

Despite the present F1 Grand Prix in Austin’s Circuit of the Americas being a Johnny Come Lately, the American race actually dates back to 1908.

(Based on Wiki) The race was initially called the “Grand Prize”.

In 1908 the Savannah Automobile Club laid out a lengthened version of their stock car course, totaling 40.44 km. Georgia Governor M. Hoke Smith authorized the use of convict labor to construct the circuit of oiled gravel. The governor also sent state militia troops to augment local police patrols in keeping the crowd in check.

The entry for the inaugural race featured 14 European and six American entries, including factory teams from Benz, Fiat, and Renault. In the race, held on Thanksgiving Day, Ralph DePalma led early in his Fiat, before falling back with lubrication and tire problems. The race came down to a three-way battle between the Benz of Victor Hmery and the Fiats of Louis Wagner and Felice Nazzaro. Wagner won the race by the close margin of 56 seconds.

The era of the F1 Grands Prix began in 1950, and the F1 race being held at the Circuit of the Americas began in 2012.

Unfortunately, with the time differential between the US and Thailand, the race will be held at 2 a.m. Thai time, which coincides with my being fast asleep and Jameson’s being closed, so no big screen and bottomless beer mugs!

Some Ferrari history

Enzo Ferrari and an Alfa.

(The following came from one of the regular readers, but no indication of the origin – I have shortened it somewhat, but here goes!)

In 1919, a young Italian car mechanic and engineer named Enzo Ferrari took part in his first car race, a hill climb in Parma, Italy. He finished fourth. Ferrari was a good driver, but not outstanding, only winning 13 of his 47 starts.

In the mid-1920s, Ferrari retired from racing cars to begin building them instead. He took over the Alfa Romeo racing department in 1929 and began to turn out cars under his own name. Annoyed with Ferrari’s heavy-handed management style, which incidentally he continued until his death, Alfa Romeo fired him in 1939.

In 1947, what is considered as the first real Ferraris appeared on the market. That same year, Ferrari won the Rome Grand Prix, his first race as an independent carmaker. In 1949, a Ferrari won the Le Mans road race for the first time and in 1952 one of the team’s drivers, Alberto Ascari, became the world racing champion winning every race he entered that year.

These triumphs were followed by eight world championships and five Grand Prix championships. It is claimed that he was hiring the boldest, most daredevil drivers he could find. Between 1955 and 1965, six of Ferrari’s 20 drivers were killed in crashes and on five different occasions his cars careened into crowds of spectators, killing 50 bystanders in all.

Ferrari tended to scorn technological advances that he did not come up with himself, so he was slow to accept things like disc brakes, rear-mounted engines and fuel-injection systems. He is reported as having dismissed aerodynamics as something used by designers with underpowered engines!

By the time he died in 1988, Ferrari cars had won more than 4,000 races. Ferrari is the only constructor to have competed in every Grand Prix since 1950.

How valuable is your “brand”?


Interbrand, an American consultancy group rates the world’s manufacturers each year by that rather nebulous entity called your “brand”. However, the ‘Best Global Brands’ report is based on three key components that contribute to a brand’s cumulative value. Interbrand describes these as “the financial performance of the branded products and services, the role the brand plays in influencing customer choice, and the strength the brand has to command a premium price or secure earnings for the company.”

Top auto manufacturer was, you guessed it, Toyota, but Mercedes is now second in the automotive section and within striking distance.

This year’s 17th annual ‘Best Global Brands’ report covering the top 100 brands worldwide saw Tesla make the list for the first time – it has taken the 100th position, or 15th among the auto-makers, with an estimated brand value of US$4.0 billion – while Nissan has emerged as the top-growing automotive brand with a 22 percent increase in brand value over last year (to US$11.1b), which places it in ninth position among the auto brands or 43rd overall.

Toyota’s nine percent increase in brand value to US$53.6b has deposed IBM for fifth place overall – leaving Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Google and, at the top of the pile, Apple, as the only brands ahead of it – but since last year Mercedes-Benz has leapfrogged BMW for second place in the automotive rankings (and ninth overall) with a US$43.5b brand value, up 18 percent on the previous year.

BMW’s brand value of US$41.5b has risen 12 percent to hold third position (11th overall), while Honda, in fourth, is well behind after a four percent slip in brand value to US$22.1b that sends it outside the top 20 brands overall (to 21st).

Unsurprisingly, the only other automaker to experience a drop in brand value this year was Volkswagen, which up until 2014 was on a fast track toward the top end of the table but has now gone backwards with two successive downturns of nine percent, losing US$2.3b in brand value over 24 months to US$11.4b and in process falling three positions in automotive (to eighth) and nine spots overall (to 40th).

Tesla’s entry in the top 100 global brands reflects more than just its EV luxury models but the services it offers as well, according to Interbrand.

VW’s diesel emissions cheating scandal engulfing Volkswagen worldwide has clearly served against it in the latest study, although fellow VW Group brand Audi has managed to avoid the crisis, according to Interbrand, increasing its brand value 14 percent to US$11.8b and moves ahead of VW in seventh place among the automotive cohort and 38th overall.

Ford and Hyundai have likewise moved ahead of VW and maintain their edge over Audi for the time being, with the Ford up 12 percent this year to US$13.0b for fifth position among the autos (33rd overall) and Hyundai, the leading Korean brand, up 11 percent to US$12.5b to be right behind it sixth (35th overall).

The last auto manufacturer in the top 50 was Porsche, up 18 percent this year to US$9.5b in brand value for that 50th position – while four others (apart from Tesla) remain in the list of top 100 brands: Kia at US$6.3b (+12 percent, 69th position overall), Land Rover at US$5.7b (+11 percent, 78th), and Mini at US$5.0b (+18 percent, 88th).

“One of the most profound shifts we’re seeing is that car companies are moving from a brand selling products to a brand providing services – shifting from OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) to experience-centric brands,” said Daniel Binns, managing director of Interbrand’s New York and San Francisco offices.

According to Interbrand, the combined value of the top 100 brands this year was US$1.8 trillion, up 4.8 percent on 2015.

The end is nigh – or is it?

Germany wants to start banning the internal combustion engine, after being one of the originators of it. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the ban doesn’t take effect till 2030.

Germany’s Spiegel Magazin reported that the country’s top legislative body was able to reach a bi-partisan agreement that hopes to allow only zero-emission vehicles on EU roads in 14 years. For the resolution to be instituted across Europe, it will have to be approved by the EU. But according to Forbes, “German regulations traditionally have shaped EU and UNECE regulations.”

To make this complex decision even more absurd, Greens party lawmaker Oliver Krischer told Spiegel, “If the Paris agreement to curb climate-warming emissions is to be taken seriously, no new combustion engine cars should be allowed on roads after 2030.”

The resolution calls on EU automakers to “review the current practices of taxation and dues with regard to a stimulation of emission-free mobility.” Creating a tougher tax burden could encourage manufacturers to push electric vehicles into production sooner, rather than later.

While larger approvals will still need to go through the legislative process, the fact that the country with the fourth-largest auto industry in the world is spearheading such sweeping change is a big sign of where we’re headed. It’s a road paved with slow-moving politicians making incremental changes and hoping the industry will warm up to the idea of not killing us all.

Ignoring the climate change proponents, where would this ban put OPEC (AKA the pimps at the pumps) financially?

Then there is the situation of getting the rest of the world to agree, fairly unlikely in Central Africa and South American countries which rely on selling fuel oil to stay alive.

Good try, Mr Green party, but it won’t happen.

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I mentioned a car was produced for 23 years and was a very successful undertaking. Unfortunately the development costs were so high it bankrupted the manufacturer and sent him to an early grave. Cars bearing his name are still sold today. What was the car? I wanted the model, not just the marque. It was the Citroen Traction Avant series.

So to this week. A car was penned in the US by a famous designer, but ended up being moved to Canada. It is 53 years old, but you can still buy a new one. The car held many records from Bonneville, including a 170 mph pass. Who was the designer, as well as what is the car?

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

Update October 15, 2016

Just how bad is our road toll?

Another statistic.

Many sources have indicted Thailand as having the second worst road fatalities in the world, and on paper that would seem to be correct, but I believe is an incorrect measurement. Always remember that there are lies, damned lies, and statistics.

The latest figure I managed to find from WHO (2013) is the Thailand road toll that year was 24,237. Bangladesh only managed to kill 21,316 in that same year.

However, these bald figures do not take into account differences in the different number of inhabitants, or the number of vehicles on the road. Looking at that we get a very different picture. Thailand’s inglorious mention is 36.2 fatalities per 100,000 people. The fatality rate per 100,000 inhabitants of Bangladesh is 13.6. The average for SE Asia is 17. Once again, we do not look good.

However, road congestion should also be taken into account, and when we look at fatalities per 100,000 vehicles, Thailand scores 74.6, and while in this region, Laos has 67.5 and Cambodia 107.2. However, these numbers are mere drops in the ocean when we look at Afghanistan at 722, Angola 992, Bangladesh 1,020.6 or Benin at 8,177.2.

Perhaps we should only look at deaths relative to traffic congestion, in which we are not good, but not as disastrous as Bangladesh, for example.

The local problem could be alleviated with application of the road rules, because we do have them. We just don’t have the application of them.

Motorcycles make up 80 percent of our fatalities, in which the vast majority was not wearing crash helmets. It doesn’t require rocket science to work out the next step. It certainly would be a step in the right direction if the police administered the wearing of helmet rule. Assisting this, if some more of the large employers of labor showed the way by blocking access to the plant for riders without helmets, a real reduction would be the result. It is possible to alter attitudes.

What did we learn from the Japanese GP?

Well, we learned that the FIA are the number 1 arranger of deck chairs on the Titanic. In the face of dwindling spectator numbers the FIA boffins dream up all kinds of new rules to “improve” the racing. These include such things as penalizing teams/drivers for engine and/or gearbox changes. This rule saw the relegation of Jenson Button (McLaren) to the rear of the grid for ditching his Honda boat anchor for another one, and Ferrari losing their second row with penalties after Qualifying with a gearbox change for Raikkonen. Who cares how many gearboxes he has? I certainly don’t. And let’s forget about the fact that drivers have to apply to the FIA for permission to (slightly) change their helmet design. Why? Because that is the only way Joe Bloggs can tell who is who. Perhaps if the cars had nice big numbers (like the Americans) drivers could wear a potty if they wanted to.

However, back to the race and the two Mercedes drivers Rosberg and Hamilton on grids one and two, with Rosberg getting the start right and streaking off into the distance, and Hamilton getting it all wrong and falling back to eighth in the first 100 meters. No mention of whether this was a deliberate ploy from the pit wall.

After lap 10 with most drivers in for a new set of tyres, places change again as Verstappen (Red Bull) goes from second to seventh and team mate Ricciardo right behind him entering the pits from fifth to fourteenth!

By the fifteenth lap, the order has settled again with Rosberg comfortably in front of wonder-clog Verstappen and Vettel (Ferrari), with Hamilton catching them very easily, the Mercedes being so much faster down the straight than the others.

Getting up to half way, Alonso receives a message from his pit “We need to push now,” the Spaniard replying “I wish! Which tyres do we push on?” In front of their national Japanese sponsors, the Honda-engined McLarens are just embarrassingly slow, with Button driving his nutzov and remaining 22nd.

Blue flag blindness seems to be evident with both the Ferrari drivers complaining over team radio. “Come on! Move out of the way,” shouts Raikkonen. “They’re seriously slowing me down now!” Vettel cursing and hand waving. “It’s ridiculous, I mean it’s ridiculous, I lost a second for nothing. ****!” And whilst Vettel may be correct, I would not limit this to color blue, as all the drivers these days do not know what a yellow flag means, and a double yellow in particular. (The Aussie Bathurst 1000 held on the same day showed several examples of this.)

So the race continued, with much dicing all the way down the field, making it an entertaining spectacle for everyone. Imagine how it would be if the spectators could identify the cars by their numbers? However, don’t expect much from the FIA other than regulation grey sox to be worn and drinking out of shoes banned as a dangerous practice. After all, what happens if Ricciardo gets tinea?

A good race on a great track.


1             Rosberg               Mercedes

2             Verstappen         Red Bull

3             Hamilton             Mercedes

4             Vettel    Ferrari

5             Raikkonen           Ferrari

6             Ricciardo             Red Bull

7             Perez     Force India

8             Hulkenberg         Force India

9             Massa   Williams

10           Bottas   Williams

No Show at the Show?

No Show Rolls-Royce.

Six major global automotive brands did not attend the Paris motor show this year. Volkswagen Group pulled its Lamborghini and Bentley prestige brands out, confirmation that a number of key global car-makers did not attend the biennial French event this year.

Manufacturers including Ford, Volvo, Rolls-Royce and Aston Martin all confirmed that they would not be attending this year’s show in the French capital, preferring instead to direct their marketing funds elsewhere. This does not augur well for the Bangkok International Motor Show in 2017.

Automotive News Europe reporting that Ford will invite potential buyers to participate in test drives across the country.

BMW-owned car-maker Rolls-Royce was another no-show. The ultra-luxury brand has chosen to hold smaller, more targeted events, such as cocktail parties, test drives and other intimate gatherings in coastal Italy.

According to Reuters, Bentley said earlier it would miss the 2016 Paris event and instead concentrate its efforts on smaller events where it could more directly market to buyers, while Lamborghini said it was re-evaluating its motor show strategy, which included looking at which locations it would be at in the future.

The cost for a car-maker to set up their often elaborate stands can push into the millions of dollars, with Automotive News Europe reporting that Audi spent €10 million ($A14.8m) for its pavilion at the 2011 Frankfurt motor show.

A number of international events have either scaled down in recent years or have been cancelled, as was the case with the Australian international motor show that was killed off due to overwhelming costs, lack of support from car-makers and slowing demand before the scheduled 2013 event.

With the Thailand motor industry looking less than positive this year, I expect there will be a scaling down in our Bangkok extravaganza as well, but I do sincerely hope the motor industry will support “our” show, as the motor show has supported the industry for many decades.

A very cheap race car

Simple roll cage.


One of the problems a novice would-be race driver has is buying a car to race. While one that is fully sorted means you just jump in and drive, it is expensive. The answer is to build one yourself.

The steps in building your world-beater are well known, and most of them can be done by anyone with just the vaguest idea of race car engineering. If you know what is the direction to tighten a nut, you have the basics to begin.

One of the cheapest categories to be in is the “Retro” class (pre 1985 sedans). Plenty of old road cars of that age, so take your time in the purchase. Try to get one with as little rust as possible.

Leaving the engine alone for the time being, you can start on the body work. Obviously get rid of rusty panels/floors etc., and now start to lighten the car.

Lightening the car is cheap horsepower. Colin Chapman (Lotus) was the prime example of this with his F1 cars. Lighter weight takes less horsepower to get the car up to speed, and doesn’t need the ultimate braking power to bring it back to stop again (though fitting good pads like EBC definitely assists).

Where do you get rid of the weight? The inside of the doors, windows, window winder mechanisms for a start. A pair of heavy duty metal shears needed here. Perspex passenger side windows and rear window, but leave the driver’s and front windscreen.

Now get rid of heavy things like the windscreen wiper motor, the air-conditioner compressor and anything else that doesn’t make the car faster. Get rid of all the seats and buy a second hand driver’s chair from your local car upholstery place. Expect to pay about B. 5,000. By this time you will be amazed at just how much weight you will have taken out. On a Toyota DX, for example, you are now probably down to 900 kg.

Now it is time for the bodywork. Get a fiberglass bonnet and boot and throw away the hinges and use pins to keep them in place. Now it is starting to look like a race car!

The next is the roll cage. There is a tendency to fabricate expensive multi-tube structures that could hold up the Sydney Harbor Bridge. That degree of complexity is not needed. A braced transverse hoop and two bars facing forwards is enough.

Probably around this time you have to start to consider the engine/gearbox package. Second hand twin cam Toyota engines are not expensive. Nissan ones are a little more so, but there are plenty of smaller capacity Toyota engines up the front. Fitting them into your body shell is not difficult either, but do use an engine hoist. Too heavy to lift with just you and a mate!

What next? Some 15 inch wheels, second hand bargains everywhere, and the same for the tyres. Get your friendly spring shop to cut a coil off the springs and you now have a lowered race car. Not the fastest on the grid, but quick enough that you can learn how to race cleanly. Go out to the races at the local Bira Circuit and have a look at the el-cheapo race cars and then go home and build your own. With what I have suggested you will have spent less than one hundred thousand baht. You won’t win, but you won’t come last either!

Autotrivia Quiz

Tatra T87.

Last week I mentioned a car that had three headlights, rear engine, a dorsal fin and they made 3,000 of them. I asked what was it? It was the Tatra T87. It could not have been a Tucker as they only made around 50 of them.

So to this week. This car was produced for 23 years and was a very successful undertaking. Unfortunately the development costs were so high it bankrupted the owner and sent him to an early grave. Cars bearing his name are still sold today. What was the car? I want the model, not just the marque.

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

Update October 8, 2016

Japanese GP this weekend

Suzuka circuit.

One of the greatest tracks used in Formula One today, Japan’s Suzuka circuit is a massive test of car and driver ability. Built by Honda as a test facility in 1962, the track was designed by Dutchman John Hugenholz, the Hermann Tilke of his day (but don’t let that put you off). A huge theme park was also constructed at the track, including the famous Ferris wheel which dominates the Suzuka skyline.

At Suzuka the race has provided the scene for many nail-biting end-of-season deciders, including the infamous collisions involving Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna.

Suzuka includes some of the Grand Prix calendar’s most challenging corners. Among the drivers’ favorites are the high-speed 130R taken at over 300 km/h and the famous Spoon Curve taken at 140 km/h on the way in and coming out at 180 km/h.

With the results from Malaysia still in everybody’s minds, will Suzuka be a firecracker or a fizzer? With a circuit that encourages passing, it would have to be a better race than Singapore, and I don’t care how many “celebrities” Bernie invites. I mean, a retired football player! Who next?

I will be watching from my usual perch at Jameson’s Irish Pub, Soi AR, next to Nova Park for the 53 lap GP of the 5.8 km circuit. We have the big screen and no cigarettes. That’s a bonus by itself! Now, important – with the time differential between here and Japan, the race on Sunday starts at 2 p.m. Thai time. Qualifying on the Saturday is 4 p.m. (I think). Join us for lunch and a couple of jars before the red lights go out.

Mercedes-Maybach makes bomb-proof limo


A Mexican stand-off? Put your money on the steer.

Here is the ultimate vehicle for anyone with paranoia. The Mercedes-Maybach 2017 S600 Pullman Guard. Fearing for your life and have a couple million dollars to spare? The Mercedes-Maybach Pullman Guard is exactly what you need.

The Mercedes-Maybach Pullman Guard is 6.5 meters long so it will be a bit of a squeeze getting it in your car port, but this is the vehicle if you want safety and style.

Measuring 6.5 meters long and weighing in at 5.6 tonnes, the S600 Pullman Guard is equipped with special steel and aramid components in the bodywork and underbody as well as bulletproof glass to protect its occupants against anything up to a small militia, so should have a ready market in South America.

Officially, the vehicle is rated VR9 for ballistic protection, the highest rating a car can achieve. It also passes ERV 2010 for blast protection, the current standard enforced in Europe.

Despite all this extra armor, the car just looks like any other Mercedes-Maybach (pronounced “My Bach” by the way) and has the identical volume of interior room.

This is no commuter car, but it is definitely a chauffeur-driven limousine seating up to four rear occupants in lavish style, with leather upholstery throughout, massive legroom thanks to the inward-facing seating layout, adjustable seats that feature calf rests, head restraints with extra cushions and increased headroom over the regular S-Class, and an electronically operated partition wall.

It also has an electronically assisted door-opening and closing function, as the extra weight in the body caused by the armor can make entering and exiting the vehicle a chore for VIPs who do not find the time to go to the nearest gymnasium.

Powering the five and a half tonne monster is Mercedes’ 6.0 liter twin turbo V12, which propels the limo to an electronically limited top speed of 160 km/h thanks to its formidable power output of 390 kW/830 Nm.

All this safety and mobile reassurance does not come cheaply, with Mercedes-Benz listing the armored limo at just under €1.4 million (54 million THB). However, if all you want is the looks, you can order one without the protection for a relatively paltry €500,000 (20 million THB).

Mercedes says the Pullman will be highly customizable, and can be equipped with crowd control devices such as sirens, flashing lights, two-way radios, an emergency starter battery and a loudspeaker/microphone external communication system.

Daimler board member responsible for Mercedes-Benz Cars sales and marketing Ola Kallenius said that the Pullman Guard was the pinnacle of VIP transport.

“Besides providing spacious seating in first-class comfort for high-ranking passengers, the Mercedes-Maybach Pullman is of course the embodiment of exclusivity at its highest level,” he said.

At the other end of the Mercedes-Benz garage is the Smart Car, which comes with a panic handle for the passenger to grip in the case of an accident. Screaming and hitting the driver does assist in lowering panic levels, so they tell me.

Hyundai H350 Fuel Cell van

H350 Fuel Cell Van.

Hyundai has gone from being a cheap Korean import to now one of the world’s leading automakers. The latest concept to be shown by Hyundai is the H350 Fuel Cell van.

Up till now, the fuel cell vehicles have tended to be passenger cars for the future, but you can add in a commercial vehicle fuel cell van, which we are told can be refueled in four minutes.

The Hyundai H350 Fuel Cell Concept, revealed at the IAA Commercial Vehicle Show in Hanover, is designed to prove that fuel cell technology can be adapted to the commercial sector as well as for passenger cars.

The van is equipped with a 175 liter hydrogen tank that can be refilled from empty in four minutes, which Hyundai says makes it a more viable alternative to slow-charging electric vehicles for commercial operators. On that score, they certainly have the electric segment well and truly dissed.

The H350’s electric motor produces 100 kW and 300 Nm, and Hyundai claims the van will produce a 150 km/h top speed and will have a range of 422 km before requiring refueling.

Equally important, the hydrogen powertrain has no impact on cargo space, with the short wheelbase version of the H350 providing 10.5 cubic meters of space, which increases to 12.9 cubic meters in the long wheelbase variant.

While there’s no immediate production plan for the H350, commercial vehicles are the next logical step for Hyundai, with the company already heavily invested in the passenger vehicle segment. This unveiling follows news last month that the Korean manufacturer will offer the first commercially available hydrogen-powered cars in Australia within two years. The ACT Government has already lodged the first-ever order for 20 Hyundai Fuel Cell Electric vehicles, due to be delivered in 2018.

The H350’s unveiling follows the report of the Mercedes-Benz Vision Van earlier this month - a futuristic commercial vehicle that paints an electric, rather than fuel cell-powered, picture of the future.

The all-electric Vision Van is powered by a 75 kW electric motor and can stretch to 270 km between recharges. While parts of the concept seem a way off (the cargo area is fully automated and it comes equipped with delivery drones that launch from its roof), the electric technology powering it is available now.

What did we learn from Malaysia?

As they say in Australia “Ripper tune, Boris!” Aussie Dan Ricciardo (Red Bull) won the Malaysian Grand Prix, after some luck when Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) dropped out with engine failure. Catastrophic engine failure.

The first corner set the action for the entire race with Hamilton up and away, but Verstappen (Red Bull) and Vettel (Ferrari) tangled, pitching Vettel into Rosberg (Mercedes) and tearing off the Ferrari left front suspension. However Rosberg managed to get going, rejoining in 17th place from previously 2nd BV (before Vettel).

The race seemed to settle for a few laps, with Hamilton in charge and Rosberg carving his way through from well behind. Another on the charge was Alonso (McLaren) who started stone motherless last after being relegated with a 35 place grid slot (on a 22 slot grid) after not eating his crusts or something equally as silly. Total FIA nonsense.

When the action and tyre changes did settle about mid-race, Hamilton was secure in front of Ricciardo and Verstappen, who then put on one of the best dices seen in years, side by side through corners 5, 6, 7, and 8 with Ricciardo coming out best on lap 39.

The next action was two laps later when Hamilton’s engine let go leaving Ricciardo and Verstappen first and second, with a distraught Hamilton raising the concept of a conspiracy to stop him winning the championship. “My questions are to Mercedes – we have lost so many engines,” he told the BBC. “There are eight drivers (using the Mercedes engines) and mine are the only ones that have failed. Someone has to give me some answers and it is not acceptable. Or someone doesn’t want me to win this year.

“It’s a brand new engine, I’ve done one race with it. I did P3 with it, qualifying, it’s a brand new engine from the three that I had. It’s just odd. There’s been like 43 engines from Mercedes and only mine have gone. Something just doesn’t feel right, but there’s nothing I can do about it. Something just doesn’t feel right.”

(It would appear that stoicism isn’t one of Hamilton’s strong suits.)

After that excitement, there was more to come, with Rosberg giving Raikkonen (Ferrari) a tail swipe and getting a 10 second time penalty for it, which did little other than show some bias against the German, who still managed to get more than 10 seconds clear of Raikkonen and claim 3rd outright.

The other strong drive came from Alonso to finish 7th from his grid position in Indonesia.

This was a great Grand Prix, and this week’s Japanese GP should be equally as exciting.


1 D Ricciardo Red Bull

2 M Verstappen Red Bull

3 N Rosberg Mercedes

4 K Raikkonen Ferrari

5 V Bottas Williams

6 S Perez Force India

7 F Alonso McLaren

8 N Hulkenberg Force India

9 J Button McLaren

10 J Palmer Renault


R F Nasr Sauber Brakes

R L Hamilton Mercedes Engine

R E Gutierrez Haas Lost wheel

R K Magnussen Renault Brakes

R Grosjean Haas Brakes

R S Vettel Ferrari Accident

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 October 10 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 mentioned that last year a vehicle clocked 140 km/h, which even the family Vios can do. But this time it was significant. I asked Why? It was Human-powered pedaled by Todd Reichert on the 19 September 2015.

So to this week. This car had three headlights, rear engine, a dorsal fin and they made 3,000 of them. What was it?

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

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