What did we learn from the European GP?
Well, we learned that it isn’t over
until it’s over! The podium with Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), followed by
Raikkonen (“Lotus”) and Schumacher (Mercedes) was an incredible result that
could not have been predicted, even at mid-distance. It also showed the
depth of the influence of Ferrari, with all three drivers world champions,
one a current Ferrari driver and the other two ex-Ferrari champions.
Contrary to previous
Grands Prix at the Valencia track, there was a feast of overtaking, with
most of the overtaking moves not produced by the artificial DRS boost. With
the example being given by some of the younger drivers in the field who are
not afraid to risk all in a passing maneuver, the drivers began to push and
find their way around the cars in front. However, not all moves were
successful, and some were just hopelessly optimistic. The aggressive nature
of the racing in lower formulae such as GP2 (or Touring cars) is now the
norm in F1 it seems. Vergne (Toro Rosso) driving into Kovalainen
(Caterham), Maldonado (Williams) into Hamilton (McLaren), Kobayashi (Sauber)
into Senna (Williams) and again into Massa (Ferrari). There were more, but
that is enough to show just how F1 has changed from a competition between
gentlemen drivers to a scrum of rugby league front rowers.
I have always
considered car electrics (and now electronics) a black art, and undoubtedly
both Vettel (Red Bull) and Grosjean (“Lotus”) would agree with me. Both
sailing along, well within themselves and their cars and suddenly the fire
goes out and their race is over. Up till that point, Vettel was getting his
infamous finger ready and Grosjean was singing the Marsellaise. It would
have certainly been a podium for the Frenchman, who has shown an amazing
improvement this year, despite his DNF’s earlier in the season. At this
stage their failures are being put down to alternator problems. Are they
both running Lucas, I wonder?
Returning to the
winner Fernando Alonso, he has become today’s answer to ‘The Professor’
Alain Prost. He has matured into a very clever and talented competitor and
a long way from the sulky Spaniard of a few years ago. While it is obvious
that his win was assisted by Vettel’s electrical woes, nevertheless he
deserved the win, having not let up for the entire race distance.
third place was an overdue podium. He has now become the second oldest
driver to stand on the podium since Black Jack Brabham about 40 years ago.
While that may be so, let us not forget that Juan Manuel Fangio was 45 years
old when he was winning world championships, driving very difficult race
cars in Grands Prix lasting three hours. And they didn’t spend their time
hitting other drivers off the track. Nor did they spend their time nursing
tyres which only last 10 laps, but got on with the job of “racing”.
Mark Webber (Red
Bull) had an amazing race after a diabolical qualifying which left him 19th
on the grid, to eventually finish fourth. The Aussie is now second in the
world championship table after Alonso.
It was an exciting
GP, even though part of the closeness in running has been produced by
‘artificial’ means such as degrading tyres, DRS and KERS. However, as much
as the enthusiasts yearn for the competitive driving of the days of yore, I
think we have to accept that the new order is here and is not going to
change in a hurry.
The Editor at Large looks at life
Marcos circa 1969.
Automania’s Editor at Large is John Weinthal who recently
turned 72 (he’s always been older than me)! As a celebration (?) he sent
the following article in. I believe that anyone older than 50 will agree
with some/all of his points below:
I really quite enjoy being 72, but it
pays for me not to pretend that I am somehow different ... Truth is I am
just as crotchety as the next guy a lot of the time and while I certainly
look to the future rather than the past - not all that is gone was wrong and
not all that is new is an advance.
In the Automotive sphere.
I pine for round headlamps (and tail
lights unless imaginative like first Murano and original Maserati 3200 GT).
I want key start.
I would like to see a modern
interpretation of column auto-change allowing for three abreast front
Oddly, some might say, I am happy with
foot-operated 'handbrake' - emergency or parking brake if you get my drift.
I generally prefer minimum 50 profile
I still like manual gears - the more
I hate touch screens - on phones and
sat nav etc in cars.
I believe 'hands free' is every bit as
dangerous as hand-held while driving - the distraction of chat with someone
who is blind to the challenges you are facing on the road is the danger, not
I do not want a reversing camera (I
wrote this a long while ago before I bought Optima which has one - not
essential but can be handy).
I believe all learner drivers should
have minimum 30 minutes experience on skid pan.
I like rear opening doors - front and
I dislike dark tinted windows,
especially front and front side.
I have a general preference for British
cars - most Bentley, pre-Phantom R-R, Jaguar, McLaren, Aston Martin etc will
do ... and Marcos (John has a Marcos in Australia)!
I see no reason why I would thank you
for any electric car, either production or concept.
I fail to be convinced that there is
such a thing as man’s measurable impact on global climate.
I neither understand, nor wish to
understand CO2 emission ... let the cows, and my car, fart without
No matter how much I read about it the
(Australian) carbon tax justification does not justify it to me.
I believe that unleaded petrol and the
whole catalyst introduction was a scam (powered I understand by GM) on par
with such later events as the Millennium Bug (Y2K) and Climate Change -
formerly Global Cooling and Global Warming, not to mention reports every
decade or so of the imminent end of world oil supplies ... all classic BS
and highly profitable for the scammers.
(So that’s John Weinthal’s thoughts on
modern motor cars, and a bit on pollution thrown in as well. Many points to
The marque SAAB which looked as if it had been consigned
to history forever, may have become another Phoenix in more ways than one.
A Chinese-Japanese consortium has agreed to buy the bankrupt Swedish
automaker and plans to specialize as an electric vehicle manufacturer.
SAAB stopped production last year and
filed for bankruptcy in December after take-over talks failed when former
SAAB owner and major stakeholder General Motors refused to permit the
transfer of technical licenses to any restructured company involving Chinese
However, a consortium, known as
National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS), has paid an undisclosed sum to
secure the main assets of Saab Automobile including its manufacturing
facilities in Trollhattan, Sweden, and the rights to the current 9-3 and
their new vehicle platform also known as Phoenix (coincidence?).
The NEVS consortium is 51 percent owned
by Hong Kong-based National Modern Energy Holdings Ltd - a company that
designs and builds biomass energy powerplants for China - and 49 percent
owned by Japanese investment firm Sun Investment, which has a particular
focus on hi-tech, eco-oriented projects.
An electric vehicle based on the 9-3
and built at Trollhattan will be the proposed first model produced and will
be sold primarily in the fast-growing Chinese market from late next year or
early in 2014.
However, NEVS has confirmed it has
global sales and marketing aspirations, and that a second Phoenix-based
model will follow using “additional cutting-edge technology” from Japan.
This certainly makes SAAB another Phoenix.
It is likely that a new EV from the new
SAAB company would use the previous SAAB show-car technology with an 135 kW
electric motor driving the front wheels through a single-speed transmission,
with the SAAB ePower concept car claimed to offer 0-100 km/h acceleration in
8.5 seconds, a 150 km/h top speed and a driving range of up to 200 km.
SAAB also signed a deal with BMW a
couple of years ago for use of its 1.6-liter four-cylinder turbo-petrol
engine (as seen in Mini models), which has the potential to turn up in a
plug-in hybrid electric vehicle built China is the key destination for the
new EVs, but the global nature of the SAAB brand meant its distribution
should go well beyond China.
NEVS said in a statement that it aims
to become a leading manufacturer of electric vehicles and is currently
recruiting automotive engineers to work at the Trollhattan site to bring the
ePower to market in collaboration with Japanese and Chinese engineers.
“We will match Swedish automobile
design and manufacturing experience with Japanese EV technology and a strong
presence in China,” said NEVS chairman Karl-Erling Trogen.
“Electric vehicles powered by clean
electricity are the future, and the electric car of the future will be
produced in Trollhattan.”
Founder of majority shareholder
National Modern Energy Holdings, Kai Johan Jiang, said, “China is investing
heavily in developing the EV market, which is a key driver for the ongoing
technology shift to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. The Chinese can
increasingly afford cars; however, the global oil supply would not suffice
if they all buy petroleum-fuelled vehicles. Chinese customers demand a
premium electric vehicle, which we will be able to offer by acquiring SAAB
caption What we did 50 years
One of my old flatmates of 50 years ago (time flies when
you are in Thailand and having fun) sent the attached photo up to me. The
year is 1963, the remains of a car I am sitting on is a 1948 MG TC, and the
tow car was my $50 1953 side valve V8 Ford Customline, driven by a mate,
Roger Prior, who these days is a respected academic in Canada. The location
was suburban Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. We towed the chassis home,
with the partially operative handbrake being the only device for
retardation. You look at photos like that and you wonder just how did we
get away with it.
Remember the days before remote locking! You actually had
to unlock the front doors individually, but these days you push the button
as you approach the car, it responds with a beep-beep and unlocks
It was 1987 and I was in the UK where I was given a new Rover 825i to test
for the two week duration of my trip (motor manufacturers in Thailand who
expect full road tests after one drive around the block, please take note).
The Rover 825i was the finest machine in the MG Rover stable. With
mechanicals from the Honda Legend it had all the Japanese quality, with all
the snob appeal of the ‘very British’ Rover badge, Westminster carpet on the
floor and some polished English oak tree on the dashboard! It also came with
remote locking, and the MG Rover chap showed me how it worked, and how the
infra-red remote receiver was behind the internal rear vision mirror.
However, after a trip to the Nurburgring in Germany, on returning to the UK,
I found a problem I never expected. The remote locking failed!
I had gone for lunch in one of those quaint English style pubs. After lunch
I picked up the car keys and ventured outside into the crisp, cold British
air and strolled down towards the Rover 825i in the car park. As I walked
towards it, I pushed the unlock button, but nothing happened. No beep-beep
and flashing lights. Obviously I was too far away, so I walked closer and
pushed the magic button again. Still nothing!
It was then I remembered the MG Rover chappie telling me about the IR
receiver behind the interior rear vision mirror. Looking through the
windscreen I could even see it, a red bulb behind the mirror. I pointed the
remote at the red bulb and expectantly pressed the button. Nothing!
I lay down on the bonnet of the car, so that I could get the remote on the
windscreen, as close as possible to the red bulb receiver. With a determined
thumb I pressed the button - and still nothing.
Suddenly I heard this very British voice saying, “I say old chap, just what
do you think you are doing?” I turned round and there was the archetypal
Briton, cap and tweed jacket, and bristling with anger. “I am trying to open
my car, but the remote unlocking device does not work,” I replied. “That’s
because this is not your car, this is my car,” said the crusty and now angry
He then went on to say, “Your Rover is the one further down the car park, in
the next line!” I looked at where he was pointing, and there it was. I
pointed the remote, pushed and it beeped and flashed the lights. With
burning shame, I could only apologize profusely and offer him a warm beer.
He declined, muttering something about the fact that he was still sober and
knew what he was doing!
I am sure I am not the only one to have had this embarrassment!
Honda celebrated success at 2012 Isle Of Man TT
John McGuinness, Honda at the
The 2012 Isle of Man TT came to a close and despite the
Senior TT being cancelled for the first time in the event’s 105 year
history, the TT was an unprecedented success for Honda, who took victory in
three of the five solo motorcycle races contested and graced the podium 11
out of a possible 15 times.
Both the Superbike and the first Supersport race at the start of the week
ended with a Honda 1-2-3; McGuinness taking victory in the first aboard his
Honda TT Legends CBR1000RR Fireblade and in the latter, Padgetts Racing’s
Bruce Anstey brought his Honda CBR600RR to the second closest TT victory in
history, with a winning margin of just 0.77 seconds. McGuinness’ win in that
followed in the Superstock class - also with Padgetts Racing - aboard the
near stock Fireblade, taking the tally of Honda wins at the TT to 163.
The decision to cancel the Senior TT at the end of the week because of the
rain, deprived McGuinness of the chance to challenge for his 20th Isle of
Man TT victory, currently sitting on 19 TT wins. There appears to be no sign
of him stopping anytime soon as he closes in on the late, great Joey
Dunlop’s tally of 26 wins at the TT.
The dominant performance of Honda machines across all contested classes
proved once again that the Honda was the bike to be on to challenge the
37.73 mile Isle of Man TT mountain course, one of the most demanding in all
In the electric motorcycle TT Zero class Michael Rutter and Team Segway
Racing MotoCzysz became the first team to record a 100 mph lap of the course
in the SES TT Zero race in what is being hailed as one of the greatest
achievements in the event’s one hundred and five year history.
John McGuinness (who rides anything) closely followed Rutter home on the
Team Mugen Shinden machine with Michael Rutter’s MotoCzysz teammate Mark
Miller taking the final podium position, with all three breaking the 100 mph
mark (however, it should be remembered that the first 100 mph lap was
recorded by Scotsman Bob McIntyre in 1957 on a conventional petrol-engined
In this year’s TT Zero, despite there being wet patches around the course,
Michael Rutter quickly established a lead of over 30 seconds at the first
checkpoint at Glen Helen from John McGuinness with Mark Miller a further 3
seconds back in third.
At the next checkpoint, Rutter continued to set the pace with an average
speed of 118.730 mph and a lead of almost a minute from second placed John
The top speeds of the TT Zero electric motorcycles were also astounding.
Miller was quickest through the speed trap at 132.6 mph with John McGuinness
at 128.8 and Michael Rutter 126.6, down on the 152 mph he set in qualifying
but Rutter continued to be on the pace for the 100 mph lap and reached
Ramsey Hairpin in averaging 119.653 mph.
Rutter crossed the line in 21:45.33 for an average of 104.056 mph with both
John McGuinness on the Team Mugen (102.215 mph) and Mark Miller (101.065
mph) all breaking the 100 mph barrier.
Australian Automotive Envoy visits Eastern Seaboard
John Conomos, the Australian Automotive Industry Envoy,
came to Thailand for the Australian Auto Week, visiting many companies on
the Eastern Seaboard, and addressing the Automotive Focus Group (AFG) on the
Australian Automotive 2020 road map.
Conomos, Australian Automotive Envoy.
John Conomos is unrivalled in his experience of the Australian auto
industry, spanning 40 years beginning with British Leyland, and after BL
folded in Australia John went on and established Daihatsu Distributors where
he was responsible for the introduction of a range of small passenger cars.
From there he went to Toyota as Chief General Manager of Thiess Toyota in
1981. He then began climbing the corporate ladder within Toyota, becoming
the Senior Executive Vice President of Toyota Motor Corporation Australia
Following his retirement as Executive Chairman of Toyota Australia and
Managing Officer of Toyota Motor Corporation of Australia, positions he held
since 2004, he was appointed Chairman Emeritus and Principal Policy Adviser
to Toyota Australia, the new position becoming effective 1 July 2006.
In July 2009, John was appointed the Australian Automotive Industry Envoy by
Senator Kim Carr, the Federal Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and
Research. He had already been given the Order of Australia in the Queen’s
Birthday Honors List in June 2005, one of the highest honors one can get in
The message he had for the AFG was “innovation”. It was no longer enough to
produce a quality product - everyone today just naturally expects quality,
but what will make a product successful is by offering quality with a new
and better way of accomplishing results.
One example of this was displayed at the trade show held at the same venue
and was the Davies Craig electric water pump. Not only cast in nylon with
ceramic impeller, but driven by the car’s alternator and not a power-sapping
belt driven pump from the crankshaft.
An interesting evening of value to the AFG members.