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Update September, 2019

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Update by Natrakorn Paewsoongnern
Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

What did we learn from the Italian GP?

Alexander Albon.

Quite a lot actually. We learned that the current F1 drivers and teams are a bunch of prats. The final qualifying session where the 10 cars tripped over each other and finally ran out of time and were unable to get a second crack at pole position. This was ludicrous.

The race itself showed that Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) has definitely passed his Use-By date. His race year so far has been full of elementary mistakes. He will retire at the end of this season. Or should retire at the end of this season.

Charles Leclerc, his “Junior” team partner at Ferrari, has shown himself to be a future world champion. The only factor that could hold him back is Ferrari’s unreliable strategies, though in this race in Italy it was exemplary.

The Italian GP also showed us that Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) can get rattled and pressed into mistakes. He pressured Leclerc into a mistake, but then made mistakes himself, resulting in his giving way to Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) and taking on a tyre change at the end of the race, to gain prestige and one point. Hamilton does not like to be the chaser.

Bottas had missed opportunities after displacing Hamilton and crossed the line in second, while Mercedes team-mate and world championship leader Lewis Hamilton finished third after tyre trouble and an unfortunate lock-up during the closing stages. 

"What a race," said Leclerc. "I have never been so tired. I made a few mistakes, but in the end I finished first so I am very happy." The 21 year old had had the race of his life, but there will be more.

After the two Mercedes came the two Renaults in fourth and fifth with Ricciardo and then Hulkenberg. These were the best finishes for Renault this year, and may go to silence the critics of Ricciardo’s defection from Red Bull at the end of last year.

Alexander Albon (Red Bull) showed he is no meek and mild Thai copping a poor tactics flag for not leaving quite enough racing room. Putting the elbows out has always been an accepted maneuver. Time for the stewards to stop all the nonsense with their drive throughs and grid demotions for changes in engines. (They brought that rule in when I was racing in Australia. Fortunately both my engines had the same engine number.) An amazing happening.

The next GP is in Singapore on September 22 and the telecast starts at 7 p.m. for Thailand. I watch in Fletcher’s Folly, Siam Country Club Road, 300 meters before the Chicken Cross Roads.


Preventing Heat stroke deaths in children

Detroit (AP) — By the 2025 model year, nearly all new vehicles sold in the U.S. will come with electronic alerts to remind people to not leave children behind in the back seats.

Twenty automakers representing 98% of new vehicles sold have agreed to install reminders in an effort to stop heatstroke deaths.

So far this year 39 children have died in the U.S. after being left alone in cars during hot weather. The advocacy group Kids and Cars says a record 54 children were killed last year.

 Infants and Heat Stroke.

Vehicles would give drivers audible and visual alerts to check back seats every time they turn off the ignition.

"Automakers have been exploring ways to address this safety issue, and this commitment underscores how such innovations and increased awareness can help children right now," David Schwietert, interim CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group that includes a dozen large car companies. Members of Global Automakers, an association of manufacturers based outside the U.S., also are taking part.

Automakers say the voluntary agreement will get the alerts installed faster than a government regulation, which takes four to eight years.

Only Tesla didn't agree to the reminders, but it is not a member of either trade association.

Several automakers already are offering such a feature. General Motors, for instance, has a reminder on all of its four-door sedans, trucks and SUVs starting with the 2019 model year. The system issues alerts if the rear doors were opened before the start of a trip. Hyundai has pledged to make a similar system standard on its vehicles by 2022.

The auto alliance says the agreement is a minimum and doesn't preclude automakers from coming up with more sophisticated solutions.

Kids and Cars said that the auto industry's move is a way to avoid binding government regulations.

An alert every time a vehicle is turned off wouldn't address nearly one-third of the hot car deaths in which children get into a car on their own and become trapped, the group said in a statement.

"In order for a system to be effective and comprehensive, the system must be able to detect the presence of a rear seat occupant, not just infer that there might be one," the group said.


Autopilot flaw, driver inattention causes Tesla crash

Detroit (AP) — A design flaw in Tesla's Autopilot semi-autonomous driving system and driver inattention combined to cause a Model S electric car to slam into a firetruck parked along a California freeway, a government investigation has found.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that the driver was overly reliant on the system and that Autopilot's design let him disengage from driving.

The agency released a brief report Wednesday that outlined the probable cause of the January 2018 crash in the high occupancy vehicle lane of Interstate 405 in Culver City near Los Angeles.

The findings raise questions about the effectiveness of Autopilot, which was engaged but failed to brake in the Culver City crash and three others in which drivers were killed since 2016.

No one was hurt in the I-405 crash involving a 2014 Tesla Model S that was traveling 31 mph at the time of impact, according to the report.

The crash occurred after a larger vehicle ahead of the Tesla, which the driver described as an SUV or pickup truck, moved out of its lane and the Tesla hit the truck that had been parked with its emergency lights flashing while firefighters handled a different crash.

The probable cause of the rear-end crash was the driver's lack of response to the firetruck "due to inattention and overreliance on the vehicle's advanced driver assistance system; the Tesla Autopilot design, which permitted the driver to disengage from the driving task, and the driver's use of the system in ways inconsistent with guidance and warnings from the manufacturer," the NTSB wrote in the report.

Tesla has said repeatedly that semi-autonomous system is designed to assist drivers, who must pay attention and be ready to intervene at all times. The company says Teslas with Autopilot are safer than vehicles without it, and that the system does not prevent all crashes.

CEO Elon Musk has promised a fully autonomous system next year using the same sensors as current Teslas, but with a more powerful computer and software. Current Teslas have more sensors than the 2014 model in the crash.

The report says the Tesla's automatic emergency braking did not activate, and there was no braking from the driver, a 47-year-old man commuting to Los Angeles from his home in Woodland Hills. Also the driver's hands were not detected on the wheel in the moments leading to the crash, the report said.

In the Florida crashes, one in 2016 and another in March of this year, the system failed to brake for a semi turning in front of the Teslas, and the vehicles went under the turning trailers. In the other fatality, in Mountain View, California, in March of 2018, Autopilot accelerated just before the Model X SUV crashed into a freeway barrier, killing its driver, the NTSB found.


Autopilot can steer a car in its lane, change lanes with driver permission, keep a safe distance from vehicles ahead of it and automatically brake to avoid a crash.

Autopilot gives drivers a warning if it doesn't detect torque on the steering wheel at varying intervals. But unlike a similar system from General Motors, it does not watch the driver's eyes to make sure he or she is paying attention.

Tesla said in a statement that Autopilot repeatedly reminds drivers to remain attentive and prohibits use of the system when warnings are ignored.

"Since this incident occurred, we have made updates to our system including adjusting the time intervals between hands-on warnings and the conditions under which they're activated," the statement said. Tesla said the frequency of the warnings varies based on speed, acceleration, surrounding traffic and other factors.

In the Culver City crash, the larger vehicle ahead of the Tesla changed lanes three to four seconds before the crash, revealing the parked fire truck, the NTSB said.

"The system was unable to immediately detect the hazard and accelerated the Tesla toward the stationary truck," the report said. The system did spot the firetruck and issued a collision warning to the driver just under a half-second before impact — too late for a driver to act, the agency wrote.

The NTSB found that a stationary vehicle in the Tesla's field of view is a challenge for the system to assess a threat and brake. It says that detection of stationary objects is challenging for all manufacturers of driver-assist systems.

Is this for real?

McLaren F1.

A McLaren F1 LM Specification is up for auction in the US with an expected bid of about $34m. Yes, 34 big ones.

The McLaren F1 is one of the rarest cars on the planet. And several features are supposed make this 1990s hypercar more precious than any other.

McLaren built just 64 road-going examples of the F1, only two of which were upgraded to Le Mans specification. Now one of those is up for auction at Monterey, California with the astronomical price tag.

It is claimed that the stratospheric price tag isn’t just due to its rarity.

Every F1 has an engine bay lined with pure gold. In total 16 grams were used for each vehicle. 

The car up for auction has also had its V12 engine upgraded to produce 507 kW, up from 467 kW in standard form.

This power output puts it in rare air, even among modern supercars. Among the few to eclipse the 500 kW mark are the Ferrari 812 Superfast, Lamborghini Aventador S and McLaren 720S.

The car’s aero upgrade increased the down-force to cope with the extra grunt. There were also a number of turn-of-the-century modern conveniences added including upgraded air-conditioning and a radio with a CD player. (You’re kidding me. $34 million and you get a CD player!)

The car also has an odd seating layout with one centrally located driver’s seat and then two passenger seats set back from the driver’s chair.

With about 21,000km on the odometer, the McLaren is in great condition.

But $ 34 million?

Even if the McLaren fetches the anticipated $34m, it won’t come close to the most expensive car ever sold at auction.

That honor goes to a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO that sold for $US 48.4 million at the same Monterey car auction last year.

And topping them all, a 1963 GTO sold privately in June last year for US$70 million making it the most expensive car purchase to date.


Short pockets and long arms

The $34 mill McLaren isn’t the only piece of precious metal going up for auction at Monterey. One of the four Aston Martin DB5s built for the James Bond films Goldfinger and Thunderball is up for auction with a price guide of US$4million-$6 million ($5.9m-$8.8m).

Aston Martin DB5 ex James Bond.

It comes with original Q specifications, including machine guns, tyre slashers, bulletproof rear screen, dash-mounted radar, rotating license plates and smoke screen dispenser. Lots of toys – if you have the money.


Local lad makes good

Breathtaking news that the young Thai/English driver Alexander Albon is to take over Pierre Gasly’s seat at Red Bull for the rest of the season. Unlike so many in F1 these days, Albon has been consistent and in the points.

Verstappen has won two of the last four races and Red Bull are genuinely in a fight with Ferrari for second place. They trail Ferrari by just 44 points. Gasly’s best finish this season was fourth at Silverstone. Crucially, he has not been able to play a part in a team role supporting Verstappen, their lead driver.

Albon, who was third in last year’s F2 championship, has 16 points. He produced outstanding performances to go from last to tenth at the Chinese Grand Prix and took sixth from 17th on the grid in treacherous wet conditions at the Hockenheimring. This was the first time he had driven an F1 car in the wet.

Red Bull might have promoted Daniil Kvyat to the seat but the Russian already raced for them in 2015-16 before he was similarly demoted to make room for Verstappen. The team knows what he can do so are now assessing Albon before making a decision on who will join Verstappen next year.

“Red Bull are in the unique position of having four talented Formula 1 drivers under contract who can be rotated between Aston Martin Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso,” said a statement. “The team will use the next nine races to evaluate Alex’s performance in order to make an informed decision as to who will drive alongside Max in 2020.”

Alexander Albon.

There is also the situation of money being brought to the team. It was reported last week that PTT were to sponsor Albon. Did the PTT money influence Albon’s elevation to the top team? We will never know, but we can guess.


The trouble with team mates

Over the years in F1 there have always been teams with two top drivers. It is almost impossible to take two highly competitive individuals, give them two identical cars, and expect that the two of them will work on an “after you.” “No, no, after you” basis. It takes supreme ability by the manager to keep the two cars from hitting each other. I watched a very interesting documentary on this subject, starting from pre-WW1 to around 10 years ago and looks at famous team tactics between equals. Prost and Senna shows a different side of the Brazilian.

The YouTube URL is


A two-wheeled nutter?

Have you heard of Francois Gissy? No? Well, he has done 333 km/h on a rocket propelled push bike.

The bike, designed by Gissy’s friend, Arnold Neracher, reached its top speed of 333 km/h in just 4.8 seconds and 250 meters.

“In the moment, it is scary, but as soon as you stop, you also realize how amazing that was," Gissy said of the experience in an interview with the technology website Gizmag. But he said the wind is extremely powerful when travelling above 300 km/h. “I'm lucky my head is still bolted on the body!”

Gissy sits just above the rocket, which has three thrusters and is fastened to the frame.

Francois Gissy.

This was not his first time, Gissy's previous speed record on a similar bike in 2013 was 263 km/h.

Exotic Thermo Engineering’s other inventions include a rocket-powered go-kart, a rocket car, and a jetpack called a “rocket belt.” (The latter must get the sphincter well and truly puckered!)

According to Guinness World Records, the fastest speed ever for a bicycle that wasn’t rocket powered was 268.831 km/h by Fred Rompelberg of the Netherlands, riding behind a wind-shield fitted Porsche in 1995 and assisted by the slipstream of the car.

The current unassisted bicycle speed record is 133.8 km/h — a record that a team in Toronto is trying to break.

Unfortunately, last year Gissy attempted to break his own record on a steam driven tricycle, crashed and was killed. A two wheeled dead nutter.


Zero to 100 clicks in 2.5 seconds – and it’s a motorcycle

According to Kawasaki, they have just unveiled a motorcycle that is so fast even daredevils are wondering if it is too powerful.

With a design inspired by Formula One motor racing cars and a supercharged engine that uses aerospace technology, the Kawasaki Ninja H2 covers from 0 to 100 km/h in less than 2.5 seconds.

Kawasaki Ninja H2.

 It can accelerate as quick as an F1 racing machine — if riders can hang on to it — because the supercharged engine has almost as much power as a Volkswagen Golf GTI hot hatch, but the Kawasaki Ninja H2 weighs barely one-fifth as much as the car.

The supercharger technology is so sophisticated it has been banned from international motorcycle racing since 1946, but has returned to a modern, road-going motorcycle in the search for more power from smaller engines.

The Ninja H2 is expected to comfortably overtake the previous titleholders of the world’s fastest bike including the Kawasaki Ninja ZX14-R from 2012, the Ducati Diavel from 2011, the Yamaha VMAX from 2010, and the Suzuki GSXR-1000 from 2006.

The official slogan “built beyond belief” may also go down in history as the most honest in advertising; even Kawasaki admits the Ninja H2 is “not for everyone, nor is it designed to be”.

When it comes to performance the Ninja H2 is so powerful Kawasaki has fitted a range of electronics that limit power to enable it to be ridden safely in wet weather or in slippery conditions, as well as a “launch control” mode to get the perfect start.

The brakes are bigger than those fitted to a mid-size V8 sedan.

Contrary to expectations, the motorcycle insurance industry in Australia is not up in arms over the supercharged superbike.

“There are already motorcycles on the road that can accelerate at racing car levels and many that can do more than 300 km/h,” said Swann Insurance research manager Robert McDonald.

“Generally most motorcycle owners only use these speed capabilities on organized track days. There are also many cars on the road currently that can do more than 300 km/h.”

The insurer said it was important to note the Kawasaki Ninja H2 had the latest available safety equipment, including intelligent anti-lock brakes, as standard.

“We don’t anticipate higher than normal claims rates with this motorcycle compared to other high-powered sports bikes on the road,” said McDonald. (McDonald has obviously not seen the way they ride motorcycles round here, but the purchase price will be beyond almost everyone in Thailand.)

Kawasaki Ninja H2

Engine: Supercharged 998 cc in-line four-cylinder

Power: 154.5 kW at 11,000 rpm (210 horsepower)

Torque: 140 Nm at 10,000 rpm

Transmission: Six-speed

Weight: 238 kg (ready to ride)

Brakes: 330 mm discs (front), 250 mm (rear)

0 to 100 km/h: Less than 2.5 seconds (estimated)

Top speed: 299 km/h (electronically limited, but racetrack H2R version can reach 340 km/h).

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

What did we learn from the Italian GP?

Is this for real?